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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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KILLER Tricep Routine YouTube Video

Check out our latest YouTube video “KILLER Tricep Routine”.

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MUSIC:
Beatport: https://www.beatport.com

How to AVOID Cardio YouTube Video

Check out our latest YouTube video “How to AVOID Cardio”.

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MUSIC:
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SERIOUS SHOULDER ROUTINE YouTube Video

Check out our latest YouTube video “SERIOUS SHOULDER ROUTINE”.

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MUSIC:
Beatport: https://www.beatport.com

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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Say No to the Scale

I named my business “Training With a Why” because I wanted to help people develop a different way of thinking about their fitness and really their life. If you take a moment to think about, it it’s amazing how many things we do daily in our lives without thinking or asking ourselves why. We become so accustomed to thinking or doing things a certain way that it becomes automatic.

As a trainer, I am constantly challenging my clients to find the why. I find that this not only gives them a better understanding of what it is that we are trying to accomplish but is also a great source of motivation. It is harder to give up when the reason you started in the first place is in the forefront of your mind. Reading this without context I can see how some people may have a hard time understanding how someone can forget why they are doing what they are doing. However, it is fairly common for me to see people lose track of their why.

A perfect example of this is the weight scale. P.S., if I don’t go on a ten-page rant about the weight scale I’ll consider that a win and be very proud of myself if not downright surprised. This is by far my biggest complaint as a trainer. My issue is not with the scale itself, it has done nothing wrong to me, my problem is with the people that give it too much power. The scale is a single tool that can be used as a guide. Notice the phrase, “a single tool” as it is just one of many tools that can be used to track progress and in my opinion it is the least important tool as well. It can be helpful to use every once in awhile to reaffirm we are on the correct path. However, for someone who loses track of their “Why” the scale can be their number one enemy.

When someone loses track of their “Why” and begins treating the scale as the single most important thing, my headaches as a trainer begin. I can go on and on about why giving the scale too much power is a bad thing. However, I have found that the problems begin before the workouts and diet plans even take form. People get their “Why” all screwed up. What is just as bad as not having a “Why” is having a poor understanding of what the why actually is. The following is an example of a conversation I’ve had at least a few hundred times with clients over the years helping them gain full understanding of their “Why.”

Client: “I want to start working out and eating healthier.”

Me: “Okay and why is this important to you?”

Client: “I would like to lose some weight.”

Me: “Okay and what is your goal weight”

Client: “I would like to weigh (Enter very specific number here)”

Me: “And why is this important to you?”

Client: “I got on the scale last week and couldn’t believe how much I weighed.  I used to weight x amount at (enter period of time here).”

Me: “Okay and why do you believe you have to weigh X amount?”

Client: “So I can look and feel better in my clothes, bathing suit, etc. etc.”

Me: “Ding, Ding, Ding!!! And there is the winner. That is your why! Not the specific number on the scale.”

I can see why asking “why” over and over again to my clients can become annoying, but what I am actually doing is getting to the very roots of their dreams and desires. The number on the scale is not the why. It is simply a tool in tracking the progress of the true why. It is my job to help people find and understand their true “Why” and then keep it in the forefront.

It is getting harder and harder to do this with all these 10-minute ab workouts and fad diets placing too much emphasis and power on what the scale says. I’ve had clients with goals of becoming stronger, or more lean, or healthier, or a big one is to look better in their clothes. So, we train and train and they continually improve their diet and sure enough they are getting stronger every day and their clothes are visibly fitting them better. They are feeling really good about themselves and then they step on the scale and are heartbroken that they have only lost 7 pounds. Are you freaking kidding me!

This is when I have to remind them of their “Why” and how they are achieving that why. It’s like the saying I have heard many times growing up about money. Find a job that you love and the money will come. In fitness, in regards to the number on the scale, keep inching closer to the true why and the weight will come. To close this article out, I have listed a few reasons below about why you should not give the scale too much power. I hope that this will entice you to possibly change about how you view fitness and your own goals and your why behind them.

Why The Weight Scale is Not the Answer
  • Everyone holds weight differently and you should not base your weight goals off of someone else.
  • Improvement can be made before change is visible on the scale.
  • Body weight fluctuates more than you realize.
  • It is not always a reliable tool for your state of “health”.
  • Muscle weighs more than fat.
  • The mirror is a much more reliable tool.
  • It can cause you to lose track of your why.

 

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Let’s Get Started

I want this blog to be a place where people can come to for advice and knowledge in the pursuit of bettering themselves in and outside the weight room. With the help of social media, I plan to be able to interact with people who read these posts and have questions that they can ask me directly. My first challenge to you, as a reader, is to find your “Why?” Why are you in the weight room? Why is training important to you? Why
img_6047 are you currently doing the programs or exercises you are doing? These are all questions that you should ask yourself. You got the answers to these questions? Write them down, right now. The answers to these questions will lead you to the type of training you do, how often you do it, the exercises you choose, the type of food you eat, the amount of food you eat, the list goes on and on. I do not know everything. As the saying goes, the more I learn the more I realize I do not know. However, I have been doing this for a while now both personally and professionally, and I am constantly learning. I will not try and seem like I know everything. I will simply share what I do know and what works for me and the people I have trained. Training is a very personal thing. Yes, there are things that are biologically set in stone and will not change from person to person. There are, however, a good amount of variables that each person responds to differently. Things that you can expect to be covered in this blog are bodybuilding tips, strength tips, training for athletes, ways to gain mass, ways to lose fat, training for powerlifting, etc.