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Training vs Exercising

Are you exercising or training? If you believe those mean the same thing you are not alone, but yet, you are mistaken. This is something that I feel needs addressed more often and people need to be aware of the differences between the two. Exercising is not training and training is not exercising. They are two separate things that most people try to interchange. It is important to realize the differences between the two so that you can decide which path best fits your goals. Before I delve into the differences let me first say that I don’t believe one is better than the other. Whichever one you choose should be based off of your individual goals. Yes, I have my preference but I’ll leave it at that.

Exercising

What is Considered Exercising?

Exercising or “working out” is the category most of the population falls under. The goal of exercising is simply to create a feeling of working out. You exercise for the immediate feedback you get during and immediately following the workout. The sweat, the heavy breathing, the complete exhaustion that follows the workout IS the goal of exercising. There doesn’t need to be any planning involved. One workout does not need to compliment another and because of this no real adaptation is taking place. Your exercise classes, boot-camp style workouts, CrossFit WODS, would fall under this category.

Who Should Exercise?

If you are wondering if simply exercising is what is best for you I hope this section helps clarify some things. Exercising is best for you if you are looking to just get some sort of activity in and relieve some stress during your busy life. Sedentary individuals who have been out of the game for a lengthy period or a person with a desk job looking to get some movement in their life would be examples of someone who are perfect candidates for exercising. Individuals that fall under the exercising heading don’t really have a specific goal other than to get their heart rate up and work up a sweat. Again, absolutely nothing wrong with that and is obviously far better than doing nothing.

Pros of Exercising

The major benefits of exercising versus training is the time and convenience factors. Exercising involves very little to no planning. You simply just have to get to the gym, or wherever you are working out, and do what produces the desired results (i.e. sweating, elevated heart rate, etc.) and then move on with your daily life. The simple act of moving that is involved in exercise is another major benefit. Although exercising involves minimal, if any planning, and no real adaptation towards a specific goal, the movement involved is a major plus in an ever more sedentary world.

Cons of Exercising

If you don’t have any specific goals then there really aren’t any cons to exercising. If you use it as a stress reliever, or to achieve a certain feeling then it will definitely help. The only con that arises with exercising is if you do have a specific goal in which case you are going to want to read on.

Training

What is Considered Training?

Training is quite the opposite of exercising or simply working out. Training involves working towards a very specific goal. That is the major difference between training and exercise. As stated above the goal of exercise is the workout but in training you are working towards a goal. This is a very important distinction between the two. In training you do not care about the “feeling” you have during your workout because that is not the goal. In training, depending on what it is that you are working on, you may not even sweat or be exhausted at the end of the session. At the end of a session your body may not even send back any feedback that you exerted yourself and that’s okay. In training, you are trying to force your body to create some type of specific adaptation to the demands you place on it. As stated above, this is missing from simply exercising. This attempt to create a specific adaptation is why in training the next workout session must build upon the previous one. There needs to be a built in plan to work towards the specific goal that doesn’t need to be there when just exercising.

Side note:

The things stated above is the major complaint most strength and conditioning specialists have with CrossFit. The theory behind CrossFit is “to be ready for anything” and a randomness to most workouts that they call Workout of the Day or a WOD. There is absolutely nothing wrong with liking CrossFit but the randomness of the workouts makes it exercise and not training and that is not up for debate, its simply fact. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t participate in CrossFit and still add in elements of training and I believe that’s what the best CrossFit gyms do. However, whenever randomness and a lack of planning is involved in the sessions that makes it exercise and not training.

Who Should Train?

Individuals with very specific goals should train. These could be individuals training for a marathon, or powerlifting meet, amongst other things. I want to make clear though that you don’t need to enter an actual competition to train like you are. If you have personal goals to bench a certain weight or to run a mile in a certain amount of time you are going to need to train for it with a very specific plan.

Pros of Training

The pros of training is that with a carefully thought out plan, consistent effort and discipline, and patience the specific goals you set for yourself are attainable. With training, you will create a desired adaptation that will help you achieve those goals you set.

Cons of Training

The cons of training, which aren’t really cons if you are serious about your goals, are the time and effort it takes to put together the plan. Training takes much more thinking and planning than exercise. You must have a plan that is carefully thought out and also adaptable to the certain obstacles that you will face during the process. However, the most challenging part of training is more mental than physical. It requires discipline, consistency, and most important of all; patience. Without these traits it will be very difficult to achieve your goals and will make the process take that much longer to complete.

Another con that could take place when compared to exercise is the lack of immediate feedback at times. This will harder for some people more than others. If you have never really trained for a specific goal and are a regular participant in exercise this could be a shock to the system. At certain points in training, you may not even sweat or be exhausted at the end of a workout. Again, this feeling of “working out:” is not the goal in training and thus is not a requirement for a successful session. This will be hard for some people to accept.

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10 Versions of the Push-Up

The motivation to write this article comes from a driving force to remind people that often times in life the simple answer is the correct answer. Unfortunately, what seems to happen more often yet, is over complication of simple matters. In the fitness world, novices or the uneducated are guilty of this most of the time. In my opinion this happens for two reasons. One, it just seems too simple to be true and thus something more complicated must be the answer. Two, people just want to feel or look smarter for coming up with a complicated equation to solve a simple solution. These two reasons, even though they are wrong, are the only reasons I can think of for the lack of popularity surrounding the push-up in strength training.

If you are a frequent visitor of this blog you know my thoughts on the importance using the barbell lifts to build strength no matter your goals. However, a close second is body weight exercises and for the purpose of this article specifically the push-up. The push-up has been around since the beginning of time yet most people brush it off when it is referred to as one of best exercises to build upper body strength. I can only assume that this is because most people perceive it as boring and too simple to be so effective. In reality, it still is and always will be, one of the most effective ways of building not only upper body strength but also shoulder stability and health. For these reasons, it is one of the best accessory lifts you can choose to build a bigger bench press or overhead press yet I rarely ever see anyone doing pushups in the commercial gyms I visit. This can also be because pushups are generally very difficult for the untrained individual. Now, I have never not done an exercise because I deemed it boring. Heck I’d watch paint dry if I thought it would give me a bigger bench press. However, I am also not naïve to the fact that some may find the push up boring and I also respect the push-up enough to know that it can be very difficult for some people. So in the following sections I have provided how I teach my clients to progress the push-up and also different variations of the push-up you can try with all being effective in their own way.

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How to Break Through Plateaus

It’s inevitable. You will hit a wall or plateau of sorts on your major lifts. Yes, you can cruise along for a relatively long time adding small amounts of weight each time you perform a lift. The more of a novice you are the longer this period will continue. Enjoy it and take full advantage of “beginner gains”. However, as you become more experienced and your training age increases the jumps in weight will become smaller and smaller until you hit a plateau and your increases start to flat line. At this point, an inexperienced lifter will become frustrated. He or she will continue to try the same weight over and over again until they eke out a rep even if it takes another number of weeks. On the other hand, an experienced lifter will know that this is just part of the game and will strategize and create a game plan of sorts to move past this plateau. In the following sections I have provided some of those strategies along with a few tips for less experienced lifters. Also, note that the major lifts are the bench press, deadlift, squat, and overhead press.

 

Beginners

  • Note: “Beginners” refers to anyone that is relatively inexperienced with the “big” lifts and also inexperienced with following a structured program. You can be a “beginner” even if you have been working out for years.
  • Stick to the 3-5 rule. Perform some combination of 3-5 sets with 3-5 reps.
  • Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program is perfect for this. 5 sets of 5 increasing the weight each week.
  • Start light. Give yourself time to “grease the groove” and become proficient with the technique of the major lifts. Starting light also allows for more improvement for a longer period of time.
  • Small increases in weight. You don’t need to “max” out each week. Increasing the upper body lifts by 5 pounds each week and the lower body lifts by 10 pounds per week is more than enough, if you start light. Increases smaller than this might be even more beneficial.

 

Strategies for More Advanced Lifters

Use Percentages

 

  • Once you have experience with the major lifts and your technique is at least proficient I highly recommend the use of percentages in your program. Are there programs that don’t utilize percentages all the time? Sure, I previously mentioned the Starting Strength program which I love and which also does not use percentages. However, the use of percentages will allow you to have a long term plan and goal.
  • The use of percentages ensures that you are continuing along a path that is sustainable for a longer period of time and it also gives you a clear picture of how much you are improving.
  • Two of my favorite programs that utilize percentages are Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program and Chad Wesley Smith’s Juggernaut program.

 

Same but Different

  • This strategy is probably the most difficult to follow especially if you have an inflated ego which I’m sure is not the case with most young lifters right?
  • It’s tough to follow through with this strategy because it calls for completely ignoring the lift you are trying to improve on for a period of time and doing something a little different instead.
  • It’s called same but different because in this strategy you will ignore the lift you are trying to improve upon and perform a similar exercise instead. For example, instead of performing the flat bench press you will instead program around the incline bench press. Or instead of programming the back squat you perform the front squat for a period of time.
  • This works for two major reasons. One, your mind and body gets a rest from the exercise you have been desperately been trying to improve for a period of time. In my opinion, the mental rest is just as beneficial as the physical one. Two, by working on the same movement just in a slightly different way you are actually working on a portion of the lift that may be lacking and holding you back on your “main” exercise.
  • You don’t necessarily have to do the same but different exercise for an entire training cycle but for a substantial amount of time maybe a month or 6 weeks would suffice.

I have personally done and seen this strategy work wonders in a relatively short period of time.

 

Train Weak Points

  • This is not for beginners because everything is a weak point for you. So do everything and do it often. Do not overthink this part of your programming.
  • Training Weak points will always be a necessary part of your programming.
  • The toughest thing for some people will be realizing what there weak points are. If you are one of the many people unsure what there weak points are try this; think about the accessory exercises, movements, and/or body parts that are your least favorite to execute. Those are most likely your weak points. People avoid doing what they don’t enjoy and most become a weak point.
  • If still unsure what your weak points are sit down and evaluate your program. What is missing or what haven’t you done in a while. Take note of the accessory lifts you are doing when your numbers are increasing but also take note of what you avoided when you hit your plateau.
  • You can also ask other people. Ask your lifting buddy who sees you perform the lift, ask a more experienced lifter for advice, etc.

 

Rest Days

  • Yes, rest days are important and I know it may strange coming from me, heck it feels weird typing this out. However, rest days are very important if you want to gain maximal strength.
  • This article was written to give you advice on increasing maximal strength in your major lifts when you hit a plateau. We weren’t discussing bodybuilding or any other type of training.
  • Your body needs to be as fully recovered as possible when strength is the goal.
  • If you do something the day before that is going to negatively affect your main lift the next day that is counterproductive to what we discussed in this article today.

 

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Core (Abs): How it Works and 3 Exercises to Effectively Train It

I fully expect that there will be two kinds of people that stumble upon this article. The first group will click on this article because the words core and ab are just too alluring to pass up. The second group will click on this article out of complete disbelief that I wrote an article dealing with abs or core. While it is true that I do very few sit-ups and crunches and by few I mean absolutely zero, I do train my core in ways that are more effective than doing a thousand crunches a day. Let me start off by saying that it is encouraging to learn that more and more people are understanding that sit-ups and crunches may not be the ideal way to target the abs. For those of you that have heard that there are more effective ways but are unsure as to the reasons why let me try and briefly explain.

The job of your core, for the purpose of this article I will use the term core instead of abs, is the transfer of energy throughout your body. Now, this transfer of energy usually travels from the lower body up through the core to the upper body and out the limbs but it can also happen vice versa. In order for the core to efficiently transfer this energy from lower to upper or upper to lower it must remain rigid. If the core is not strong enough to maintain its rigidness throughout whatever activity is taking place energy is lost. When energy is lost strength, power and stability (balance) suffers. So when someone says that there balance is suffering because their core is weak they may be technically correct. However, the steps most people take to correct this problem are incorrect. When your core is rigid it is tight, and your spine is long or straight. That is the exact opposite of the position your spine is in when performing sit-ups or crunches and the lack of rigidness in your core during those movements is also a problem. I haven’t even brought up the back pain associated with sit-ups and/or crunches due to the flexing of the lumbar spine that occurs. So the next question might be how do we train the core to maintain its rigidness? This might surprise most of you but the answer is not more core work, or at least not entirely. Now that you know that the job of the core is the transfer of energy it may make more sense when I tell you that we strengthen the core mainly through indirect work. Meaning the core gets stronger through movements where we typically target another area of the body. This is done mainly by lifting heavy weight while standing on the ground. Squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, and carries are all impossible to do without our core doing its job. By using correct technique during these exercises we can teach our core to maintain its rigidness throughout the movement and by progressively increasing the weights our core, along with a lot of other muscles in our body, becomes stronger. Also, if you know the correct technique for those exercises I mentioned above, you probably noticed that all of those exercises are done with a straight (long) spine. Although, in my opinion, just by adding in more heavy lifts you will see a substantial increase in core strength, it isn’t bad to add in some direct core work to supplement the heavy lifts. The best exercises to train your core in the way it needs to be trained to see results in strength are some common, old fashioned exercises. Take note that in the following three exercises you will notice that the spine is straight (long) and that the exercise is emphasizing a tight, rigid core during the movement. Exactly how we need it to be in so many other activities in and out of the gym.

Ab Wheel

The ab wheel is by far my favorite core exercise. The only problem with it is that it is extremely difficult and people quickly get frustrated with it. However, like most things in the gym, it’s important to remember that it’s not going to be perfect right at the beginning. The ab wheel is a great exercise because it forces you to remain tight and rigid throughout the entire movement or you simply will not be able to execute it. You will become tight subconsciously just like you should be with many other activities. Also, like the other two exercises below, the spine remains straight and long throughout the movement.

Can’t play video? Click here: Ab Wheel

Recommended Sets: 3-5

Recommended Reps: 8-12

Notes:

  • If you find this extremely difficult and cannot return to the starting position without falling on your elbows then just focus on the first portion (rolling away from your body) until you become strong enough to complete the entire movement.
  • Do your best to go out as far as you can each time. As you become better you will be able to go out further and further. Don’t become frustrated.

Planks

Yes, good old fashioned planks are still one of the best core exercises you can do. Recently, I have changed my approach with planks slightly. There is nothing wrong with performing planks for as long as possible. However, planks can be performed without maintaining tightness throughout the entire body. Which is why sometimes it almost becomes a shoulder exercise and anyone that has done planks can probably attest to that. Instead, I have been transitioning to doing planks for less time but really driving home the point of creating tension (tightness) throughout the entire body. If done correctly a person that can easily execute a plank for maybe 2-3 minutes will be gassed after executing a plank for one minute but focusing on creating that tension by squeezing their core throughout the entire set.

 

Recommended Sets: 3-5

Recommended Reps: 1 min

Note:

  • Perform both front and side planks.
  • For side planks maybe use less time than done for the front planks
Hanging Leg Raises

Hanging leg raises are tricky because the limiting factor may not be your core but your grip. These are tough for that very reason. However, like the ab wheel, these may have to be ugly at first in order for you to eventually get better at them. Like the above two exercises your spine remains long and straight during hanging leg raises and your core is definitely tight throughout the movement. The goal is too not swing your legs but to raise and lower them in a controlled manner. You probably won’t be able to do many controlled reps at first but doing a few reps per set at first is still beneficial.

Can’t play video? Click here: Hanging Leg Raises

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Why Women Should Lift Weights

From the title, you can infer what I will discuss in this article but what you may not realize is that this may very well turn out to be one of the most important articles I ever write on this site. I get asked all the time what is my favorite team to work with. Most assume its football with me being a former football player and the reputation for football player’s love of the weight room. Although my answer can vary depending on the time of year, and personality of the teams, most are shocked when I tell them how much I enjoy the girl teams. As a strength and conditioning coach that works with every sport at one of the biggest high schools in the state and also a personal trainer and online coach, I have the opportunity to work with literally hundreds of females. Women, no matter whether they are training for sport or just to be fit, are a lot of fun to work with. A big reason I love working with females is that whether it’s a shy high school sophomore who has little to no confidence in the weight room or a mom working out for the first time in years, the look on their face when they achieve something they might not be naturally comfortable doing is priceless.

The Misconception

Working with women often comes with obstacles that are not present with men. Of course, this is not true for all women but in my experiences it is a topic that needs to be addressed. A big part of the population has a misconception about weight lifting and its effect on women. Again, not all women but a large number are afraid that lifting weights will make them bulky and masculine looking. I get told “I don’t want to look like you” or “I don’t want to look like a guy” more frequently than I would like to recount. In my experience, most women view cardio or aerobic type classes as the type of training they need to achieve their ideal physique. They split it right down the middle, if you’re a male, you lift weights and if you’re a female you do cardio. In fact, a study in 2014 showed that of the millions of women that belonged to commercial gyms less than one-third picked up a dumbbell. I attribute this to both a lack of readily available information and misinformation thanks to social media and the internet.

Go Hard. It’s Okay. I Promise

Another misconception that I battle on a weekly basis is that resistance training is actually okay for women as long as it is light and low intensity. I can only assume this is why there are classes for women that include dancing with five and three pound dumbbells. Luckily, I did my homework and found another study that was done with college aged females. The study proved over a significant time period that a high resistance weight training program increased lean body mass, decreased fat percentages, and showed no change in body weight. It literally says at the end of the study that the results showed no masculinizing effects meaning they did not start looking like dudes.

We Aren’t the Same

Life isn’t always fair. Not everyone is created with the same genetics, skills, etc. In this case, for women who are afraid of bulking up with resistance training this is a good thing! Because women literally cannot gain muscle the same way a male can. I have told this to some women and it’s like they don’t hear me. It is a scientific fact that women cannot gain muscle like men can because women have significantly lower natural testosterone and significantly higher levels of estrogen. “But, you see those women on line that look like dudes, I don’t want to gain muscle like that.” Notice I said natural testosterone. Those women with insane amounts of muscle mass are not natural. Period.

To Get HOOGE You Have to Eat

“But I don’t want to get muscular, I just want to get tone.” Just slap me please. When someone says they want to tone up what they are really saying is that they want to gain muscle and lose fat. Also, gaining the amount of muscle mass some women are afraid of gaining does not happen overnight or even within a few months. It not only takes a lot of time and hard work to gain a significant amount of muscle but also a surplus in calories. If you aren’t eating more calories than you are expending you will not gain muscle. So for women who resistance train a few days a week and eat healthy but not in excess, you have nothing to worry about in terms of too much muscle mass. It happens all the time, someone will ask me details about my training, they comment on how much time and work I put into the gym, food, etc. to gain the amount of muscle I have, then turn around and are afraid they will gain too much muscle in a week lifting for thirty minutes. I don’t let it upset me too much because one of my favorite lines is “They don’t know what they don’t know.”

More Serious Matter

Although, I have discussed the importance of weight training for helping women achieve their ideal physique, there is a far more beneficial reason women should resistance train especially for the long term. Resistance training strengthens bone. It strengthens the bone density which in turn can fight off osteoporosis which is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue. Although both men and women are vulnerable to osteoporosis women are more prone to suffer from it especially postmenopausal. Age-related sarcopenia or muscle loss is also a concern for women. A significant loss of muscle mass as a woman ages can make everyday activities more difficult and can eventually lead to falls, which brings us back to the dangers of osteoporosis and broken bones.
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References:
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10671315.1974.10615291
http://jandonline.org/article/s0002-8223(98)00094-7/abstract
http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/33/3/190.short
http://www.acsm.org/public-information/articles/2016/10/07/strength-training-for-women
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-s/strenght-training-builds-more-than-muscles
https://www/nwacc.edu/c/document_library/get_file?uuid+1269b4e5-c398-4e1e-a07e-6700bbceb9a9&groupd=216833&filename=4%20Advantages%200f%20weight%20training%20for%20women%20by%20julie%20%20gabbard-1.pdf

Different Versions of the Triceps Pushdown

Bodybuilding style training is fun. Not only for the results that it produces but because of the variety it allows. Whereas other forms of training require some sort of strict progression in order to progress, bodybuilding not only allows for variation, it is a requirement for success. In order to accomplish their dream physique, bodybuilders not only have to worry about the size of their muscles but equally important is the shape and symmetry of their muscle groups. They accomplish this by attacking the same muscle group from different angles throughout their routine. This is where the variety kicks in. This is a big reason why I enjoy bodybuilding style training, you can do the same exercise over and over again with a slightly different twist each time. Changing the angle of the exercise ensures that you are creating a new stimulation of the muscle fibers which in turns creates well-rounded size and shape. Changing angles can be done a few different ways such as changing your grip, the handle being used, and also your body position. Although different angles can and should be used for every exercise and muscle group I have chosen to discuss the triceps muscle in this article and specifically different ways to execute the triceps pushdown, an exercise that most people are familiar with. P.S. I chose to just number the variations because well, who really has names for each of these?

Variation #1

Can’t play video? Click here: Variation 1 video 1

Can’t play video? Click here: Variation 1 video 2

This variation using two different handles is probably the most common of the ones I will discuss. This is also the more conventional push-down. Meaning elbows tucked to the side, pivoting just at the elbow, squeezing at the bottom, controlled movement on the way up. Neither handle is better than the other. Remember, we want to use as many different handles as possible and if you’re lucky enough to be at a gym that has different kinds of handles try them all at this conventional angle.

Variation #2


Can’t play video? Click here: Variation 2

This variation is unilateral which allows you to focus on one arm at a time. As seen in the above video, no handle is needed as you simply grab the cable. In this variation you are going across your body and then down. I use my opposite hand to stabilize my working arm by placing it in my arm-pit allowing my working arm to rest on it.

Variation #3


Can’t play video? Click here: Variation 3

This variation is unique because the position of your palm will change. Instead of your palm facing the floor like in most pushdown variations in this one your palm will be facing up. You can think of it as simply a reverse grip. Other than the grip, this variation is very closely related to the “conventional” pushdown shown in the first variation. You can pin your elbow to your side and press straight down towards the floor. By changing your grip you will stimulate the triceps in a different way. As with most of these variations you can also change the angle by changing your own body position by standing a different way. Depending how you stand your elbow may not be pinned to your side but as long as you can control the movement you are fine. There have been many professional bodybuilders that have said they have found great success by standing and executing an exercise in the same way they pose on stage. Bottom line, don’t be afraid to try almost anything to create a different stimulus, and if it feels good then you have found success.

Variation #4


Can’t play video? Click here: Variation 4

This variation can be tough to master at first. It is different than the previous ones because you are going to stand a short distance from the cable machine and you are also not in the upright position. Watching the above video will be most helpful for you to understand how to stand but it may help you to think of the position you are in if you have ever done kneeling cable crunches. The position of your torso is very similar except you are standing. You will need to use a rope handle for the exercise. This is a great exercise to target the hard to reach long head of your triceps, the part that runs up towards your armpit. By developing this part of your triceps you will start to create that separation of your delt and triceps that everyone loves. At the top of the movement you should feel an awesome stretch in your triceps, and if you don’t then try and reposition yourself until you do.

 

These are four variations of the triceps pushdown that I like to use quite frequently in my routines. With these four variations you are hitting the triceps in almost every way possible in a pushdown exercise. The great thing about bodybuilding style training is that there are no rules so be sure to constantly look for and experiment new ways to do old things. If it feels good then you are not wrong.

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3 Exercises for a Better Butt

I am praying that based off this title alone I don’t lose a couple hundred men subscribers. Sorry guys, have to give the women what they want also. Although I know the majority of people that will be interested in reading this article will be women, men too can benefit from these exercises. Yes, the three exercises that we will talk about today are great for building a better gluteus maximus. However, there are some benefits other than just having a better looking butt. First off, women are not necessarily the only ones that should be concerned about building their gluteus maximus. Men, especially if you are competing in bodybuilding or aesthetics, also need to develop a body that is complete. Second, a couple of the exercises covered in this article are great for developing strength in the gluteus maximus and also the hamstrings that will help in the squat and other lifts. Now back to the women, if your butt routine does not include these three exercises or some close variation you have a huge gap in your programming.

 

Barbell Glute Bridges

How:

  • Use a bar and a bar pad to cushion the pressure of the weight on your pelvic area.
  • Either have a partner place the bar on your hips if the weight is light enough or roll the bar up your legs yourself into the starting position across the front of your hips.
  • Your upper back/shoulders should be resting on the edge of a bench. Be as comfortable as possible.
  • The bar should be across the front of your hips.
  • Have your legs bent to about 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor.
  • Hold onto the bar with both hands
  • Start with your hips low. As low as possible. If you feel pressure on your lower back do not go quite as low.
  • Begin the upward thrusting movement by pushing thru your heels. You should never be on your toes.
  • Go until your hips are locked out at the top.
  • Lower your hips again. Still being careful of your lower back.
  • Repeat

Sets/Reps:

  • The sets and reps can very on this exercise depending on why you are doing it.
  • If you are focusing on the contraction and trying to get a “pump” in your glutes then use lighter weight and high volume. (i.e. 4 sets x 12-20 reps)
  • My advice would be to try and go heavier on this exercise because the barbell allows you to add heavier weight than most other butt exercises you are going to try so take advantage of that. (i.e. 4 sets x 8-12 reps)

Note:

  • No matter your goals you want to execute a full range of motion but how long you hold at the top of the movement is goal dependent.
  • If moving as much weight as possible is the goal you are not going to fully squeeze or contract your glutes at the top of the movement.
  • However, if the contraction or “pump” is the goal then you are going to pause and hold for a moment at the top of the movement focusing on squeezing or flexing your glutes.


Can’t play video? Click here: Barbell Glute Bridges

 

Cable Kickbacks

How

  • Using the lowest possible setting on the cable machine attach a cable attachment to one of your ankles.
  • Take a step or two back from the machine to create some tension on the cable.
  • Hold on to the cable pulley with both hands.
  • Depending on how tall you are the amount of lean to your upper body will differ but it always feels better to me when I have more of a lean. But then again I am taller than most people.
  • Have your feet parallel and close to each other.
  • Begin the movement by bending your knee slightly.
  • Kick your leg as straight back as possible keeping your knee slightly bent.
  • Continue to kickback and up until you feel the squeeze go from your glutes into your lower back and stop.
  • Find the height that you feel the greatest squeeze in your glute.
  • Return to the starting position keeping your knee slightly bent throughout.
  • Repeat.

Sets/Reps:

  • Because this exercise is not a strength builder you are going to want to use higher reps and focus on the contraction at the top of the movement.
  • 4 sets x 15-25 reps

Note:

  • You can also perform this exercises by using an exercise band by wrapping it around a post and your ankle.


Can’t play video? Click here: Cable Kicks

 

Reach Thru’s

How

  • Attach a D-handle to the lowest possible setting on a cable machine.
  • Face away from the cable pulley.
  • Reach down in between your legs to grab the handle with both hands.
  • Holding the handle walk out away from the pulley creating tension on the cable.
  • Pull it up and between your legs so that you are standing tall with the handle at your groin.
  • Begin the movement by hinging (i.e. shifting your weight back onto your heels) letting the handle go back between your legs.
  • When you hinge you should think about your hips going straight back and your knees being slightly bent being sure not to lock them out.
  • As you let the handle go back between your legs you should feel a good stretch in your hamstrings.
  • When you feel you maxed out the stretch in your hamstrings begin returning to the starting position by simply standing up from the hinge position.
  • You are not pulling the cable with your hands. They are simply holding the handle as you hinge and return to the starting position.
  • Be sure to push thru your heels as you are standing up and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
  • Repeat.

Sets/Reps:

  • This exercise can be done with a couple different goals in mind.
  • It is a useful exercise to warm up your glutes and hamstrings for squats and/or deadlifts.
  • If done for this reason execute just enough reps to get those areas warmed up.

(i.e. 3 sets x 15-20 reps)

  • If executing this exercise for the purpose of specifically training your hamstrings and glutes then you are going to want to do higher volume (i.e. 4 sets x 15-25 reps).


Can’t play video? Click here: Reach Thru’s

 

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Killer Back Routine YouTube Video

Check out our latest YouTube video “Killer Back Routine”.

Thanks for viewing and make sure to our website for more blogs and information and subscribe to our YouTube Channel for additional videos: Training With a “Why?”

 

 

Stop Counting Reps and Sets

Even at an early age I was an analytical person. I needed to know specifics about why I was doing something and what the expected outcome would be. I guess being this way meant that the opposite was also true, because I hated flying by the seat of my pants. I hated not having a plan and could never understand how people could just go by feel, especially when trying to accomplish a goal. So when I began weight training at the high school in the summer before my freshmen year and the coach gave us our workout sheet to record everything we did I was in nerd heaven. We recorded our sets, reps, and the weight we used. Being the nerd that I am, I made notes in the margins about technique, how the weight felt, etc. I loved seeing my improvement from week to week even if it was in small amounts. Luckily for me loving this process is probably the biggest reason I quickly became one of the strongest athletes on the team, even keeping up with kids a couple years older than me. When trying to become stronger, keeping to a strict number of sets and reps and methodically increasing the weight will work wonders. I guess what I am trying to say is that when wanting to get stronger it is always wise to have a plan.

 

Now, I told that story so I could tell this story. As told above, I began weight training as a means to be a better football player. My number one goal was to become stronger and remained my goal until my playing days were over. However, my love for bodybuilding continued to grow as I got older. In the off-season’s I would play around with certain exercises and bodybuilding techniques to see if I could get a specific body part to grow or look better. This experimenting worked and I grew bigger and more developed aesthetically. What I also did was carry over my analytical brain to my bodybuilding training. I kept notebooks upon notebooks of sets, reps, and weights used. I used the same exercises for weeks and even months, afraid to stray off script and ruin any progression I had created. This worked, to an extent. However, I eventually began hitting walls and plateaus, not seeing the improvement in muscle size or shape I was accustomed to. This frustrated me because I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing, or so I thought. I realized something needed to change so my nerd side took over and I began to research and read all the bodybuilding content I could get my hands on. What I realized was that what needed to change was my way of thinking. I had to pretty much do the exact opposite of what I had done when I was training for strength. Bodybuilding is more about feel and less about staying on script. This was an enormous challenge mentally for me. I hated the thought of just going by how I felt and not having a concrete plan. I needed to make a conscience effort to change my way of thinking and it worked! This is what I did:

Changes I Made
  • I stopped counting my reps, instead went to failure more often.
  • I stopped counting all my sets, if a certain exercise felt really good that day I kept doing more and more sets.
  • I stopped writing down my accessory exercises.
  • If an exercise didn’t feel good on a certain day I scratched it and moved on.
  • I switched up the exercises I did more often. Sometimes every workout.
  • I payed more attention to how my muscle felt during the exercise.

 

Now, I don’t want to confuse you. Weight training is about progressive overload. No matter your goals your body needs a reason to change or it simply won’t. You must consistently challenge your body’s limits in order to induce change. There are times to have a concrete plan and record absolutely everything you do. There are also times where you must go by feel and listen to what your body is telling you. In order to help you differentiate when the right time to do either one is I have made a list for each circumstance.

When to Record Weights, Reps, Sets, Etc.
  • When strength is the goal.
  • When you are following a specific program in order to achieve a certain goal.
  • When your goal is a tangible aspect such as a maximal weight or reps performed.
When Not to Record Weights, Reps, Sets, Etc.
  • When training for size and or shape.
  • When executing accessory type exercises.
  • When an exercise feels really good. (Just keep going through sets)
  • When an exercise feels “off”. (Scratch it and move on)

Again, this is just what worked for me. You may find that other tactics work for you but I hope that this gives you some idea of how different ways of thinking can lead to differing results.

As always, thanks for reading and be sure to support this site by subscribing with your email.

3 Exercises for Bicep Peak

What is the first image you get when you think of a muscular arm? For most people, the king of all aesthetic features is the bicep peak. It is the round, ball looking part of the muscle that sticks up from the rest. Like many muscles, the bicep peak is easier to achieve for some than others. A beginner might think that all bicep exercises are created equal, but they would be wrong. Yes, any type of curl will hit the entire bicep, but, again like all the muscle groups, there are exercises that are better than others for hitting a certain part of the muscle. You hit different parts of your arms by changing the angle of the exercise. This can be done either by changing your hand position or elbow position.

SEE Arms! (Part 1 of 2) OR Arms! (Part 2 of 2)

First things first, no matter what exercise you’re executing you want to be curling into your body and have the pinky side of your hand turning outwards. (See this in the videos below) Unfortunately, I’m in the group that has to work extra hard at developing the peak of the bicep and following are three exercises that have helped me see improvement.

Concentration Curls

The concentration curl is a classic. It can be done a couple different ways:

Standing w/ Dumbbell or Cable Machine

**Note: For the sake of keeping the wording simple I used a dumbbell in the instructions
but this exercise can be executed the same way utilizing a cable machine.

  • Grab a dumbbell, holding the handle closer to the pinky side of your hand. (See picture
    below)
  • With a dumbbell in one hand bend over and let the arm holding the dumbbell hang directly in front of your knee. Don’t let your elbow rest against your knee but have it hang directly in front.
  • Have your opposite arm rest on your opposite knee.
  • Shift your weight so that majority of your body weight is on the foot that is on same side as dumbbell.
  • Curl the dumbbell towards the midline of your body and in while turning your pinky out.
  • Weight is not the priority in this exercise. So be sure to use a weight that is challenging but one that allows you do get a full contraction at the top of the movement.
  • Try using both a dumbbell and the cable machine. I switch back and forth between the two.
  • Recommended rep range: 12-20

Dumbbell Grip

Proper dumbbell grip.


Can’t play video? Click here: Seated Concentration Curls

Can’t play video? Click here: Standing Concentration Curls
 
 
Dumbbell Spider Curls

The spider curl can be done a few different ways and is a great exercise for building overall bicep mass as well. However, I’ve found it harder to target peak using anything other than dumbbells. Dumbbells allow you the freedome to turn your wrist outwards getting that extra contraction in your bicep.

  • Grab a dumbbell in each hand, holding the handles closer to the pinky side of your hands. (See picture above)
  • Lay face down on an incline bench. The degree of incline can vary. Try different ones and see which angle feels best for you.
  • Let your arms hang and start the movement by holding the dumbbells in a neutral grip. (See video below)
  • Start the curl from a dead hang, don’t swing or use momentum to start the movement.
  • Curl the dumbbells up and towards the mid line of your body while turning your pinkies out.
  • If you do it right the back end of the dumbbells should almost be touching each other while the front ends are as apart as they can be. (See video below)
  • Weight is not the priority in this exercise. So be sure to use a weight that is challenging but one that allows you do get a full contraction at the top of the movement.
  • Recommended rep range: 12-20

Can’t play video? Click here: DB Spider Curls
 
EZ-Bar Drag Curl

This is the only exercise of the three that you aren’t going to use dumbbells thus making it the hardest of the three to execute correctly. By using the EZ-Bar with this exercise you obviously cannot physically turn your wrists outwards but I want you to act like you can.

  • Grab an EZ-Bar with a narrow grip.
  • Start with the bar against your stomach. (This will mean that you are starting with your arms already slightly bent)
  • Flare your elbows.
  • As you begin the movement think about curling it into your body and turning your pinkies outwards. (Again I know you physically can’t do this but act like you can)
  • Be sure the bar come all the way back down so that it leaves your stomach. This is a short range of motion.
  • Weight is not the priority in this exercise. So be sure to use a weight that is challenging but one allows you do a get a full contraction at the top of the movement.
  • Recommended rep range: 12-20

Can’t play video? Click here: EZ-Bar Drag Curls
 

These three exercises have helped me improve my bicep peak and I hope that you also find them useful. Be sure to let me know what you think of them. As always, thanks for reading and be sure to support the site by subscribing with your email. Thanks!