Monthly Archives: November 2015

Attack the Ramp!

Morning Guys,
 
Time to tackle the Ramp.
 
What is Ramping?
 
It’s a method of loading that is actually meant to improve your performance and help you break through plateaus.
 
Here is an example:
 
60kg x 10 – Non counted set as this is just to lubricate joints etc.
 
80kg x3 (starting at 40% 1RM)
100kgx3
120kgx3
140kgx3
150kgx3
160kgx3
170kgx3
175kgx3
177kgx3
180kgx2 – Stop Ramp as missed reps.
 
You can see you get a lot of volume from his method of training and it is also quite beneficial for several goals, all you need to do is change the reps (2-8 work well).
 
Once you hit your top weight you can choose to stay on that for perhaps 2/3 sets or you could back off by 20kg and do some 5’s and you could even use 80% of your top weight for the day and perform a volume boosting Density Set – 8min AMRAP, 30 Reps as fast as possible etc.
 
The options are endless and the gains are plenty.
 
I personally find ramping works very will when you link together several exercises of the same ilk (all the presses, all the squat variations etc, starting off with the mechanically most challenging version of the lift first). BY doing this you could perform a ramp of 3 and go from cleans to front squat to back squat, finally finishing with a density set if you were so inclined.
 
A multi exercise ramp might look like this:
 
Press –
Barx10 – Not Counted
30kgx5
35kgx5
40kgx5
45kgx5
50kgx5
55kgx5
60kgx3 – Move to Push Press, Starting on 60kg
 
Push Press –
60kgx5
65kgx5
70kgx5
75kgx5
80kgx5
85kgx4 – Move to Push Jerk or Jerk
 
Jerk –
85kgx5
90kgx5
95kgx5
97kgx5
100kgx5
102kgx2 – Stop Ramp
 
Now that is a lot of pressing volume, I would advise in-between sets putting in some form of pulling movements such s face pull or reverse flies for sets of 8-12.
 
This style of loading works very well for large compound movements. You will also do well to try and focus on accelerating the bar as fast as possible in the early sets too, remember to treat the early sets like you’re about to lift your max and stop the ramp once you lose quality reps or a lot of speed on your reps, you will ideally want all clean reps with no grinding.
 
Now you know the concept of the ramp take that knowledge and have a play and make some progress.
 
Enjoy,
Ross
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Lessons in Lifting and Life.

 

If I look back at the time I have spent training there are a few things I have done right, but even more that I’ve done wrong and I’ve learnt that failure teaches us far more than success ever will.
I’m going to share with you 8 Lessons that I’ve learnt that will hopefully serve of some use to you, if you have yet to learn these lessons that is.
1 – Only Care About What Those Closest To You Think.
We all want to impress and astound people with our achievements and be given some gratification or recognition but it’s not from who we might think. They say you should never meet your heroes and it’s very true.
Often times we look up and aspire to several different people and imagine how great it would be to have their approval, but is that really what matters? Or is it the idea of their approval that makes it all the more enticing? Either way, your heroes are rarely if ever who you thoughts they would be. Instead why not look closer to home and find encouragement and praise from those who actually mean something to you, rather than just another idol sat on a pedestal.
It might sound strange but you will find this far more empowering because it’s personal and not anecdotal.
2 – Be Willing To make A Sacrifice.
Comfort is something everyone enjoys. I am no exception to this as I’m sure you’re not and even though you will hear people say they enjoy a new challenge and hate the mundane monotony of daily life, how many of those same people have been saying that for countless years without action or even the slightest hint of intent.
Moving on to ‘bigger & better’ things is never what we think, well… at the start that is but once the dust has settled you can see clearly that it was worth it in the end, but that being the case, what holds people back?
Success often follows hardship and what precedes hardship is sacrifice and no one wants to give up what they’ve already got because they might not get it back. Quite the conundrum isn’t it. To move forwards we must let go of the rope we’re currently holding on to and everything that’s attached to it and this is very hard to do. Once you learn that not all sacrifice is bad you will no longer be held back by fear, thus allowing you to take that much needed step forwards, if you don’t you will look back and utter those oh so famous words “What if…” don’t be that person.
A little sacrifice goes a long way and in the end it’s almost always worth it.
3 – Tough It Out (Consistency).
Probably one that many of you will agree is very important in life, business and basically everything that actually means something, but how many of you are willing to dig deep and keep pressing on when times get hard? Not many would be my guess.
Consistency breeds results, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s when things get hard that 9/10 people will falter and give up. Be that on a diet, training program, business venture or even something as simple as maintaining a pot plant. We get caught up in wanting things too soon, or more accurately put giving up when things get hard, but if you have the consistency and drive to keep going through the struggles you will find the rewards most pleasing.
Sometimes it will get hard, suck it up and keep moving forwards, you’ll thank me in the end.
4 – Keeping A Diary.
Wait… Aren’t diaries for 13 year old school girls with a crush on the PE teacher?
No is the answer to that. A diary doesn’t have to be personal, it can be practical and that will mean it helps you spot winning trends, what works and a whole plethora of other things.
Keep a diary, you will find it much easier to create your own success if you keep a record of what worked and what didn’t, after all, we learn more from out failures than we do our successes.
5 – Learn From Failure.
How do you learn to ride a bike? By falling off, getting back on and trying again but this time you’re better prepared and one step closer to success,
I don’t know a single person alive who doesn’t hate failure. It’s not a nice feeling when you’ve put in hours of time and effort for there to be no reward, but that again is a part of life. If we succeeded all the time there would be no challenge, no reason to try new things, no purpose for anything.
Learning to fail is not what we are taught growing up and personally I think that’s a mistake. Especially in the modern world where in schools there is no longer 1st,2nd or 3rd and everyone gets a ‘medal of participation’… Seriously, what is all that about? This is setting people up for a rude awakening when they get in to the real world and discover that it’s a cruel and harsh place where people would willingly dance over their own grandmothers grave to get a promotion (yep, there are such people in the world).
If you learn to accept that failure is inevitable then you won’t be afraid of it. Failing isn’t as bad as you think, just like with most things it’s the thought of failure that is actually worse than failing. unless you fail at skydiving, that’s probably one thing you don’t ever want to fail at… EVER.
Use lesson number 4 and learn what your failures are, why they happened and how you can stop it happening again (in that particular situation that is), from your failure will be your success because you will be one step closer to your goal.
6 – Accept You’re Not Always Right & You Don’t Know It All.
A lesson in being humble.
You will get things wrong, pretty often in fact but don’t take it personally. instead see it as a chance to grow and become more than you were but smile in the knowledge that you will have lots more lessons t learn and become more than you are.
7 – Don’t Forget To Smile.
This might get you a free coffee, it worked for me the other day :).
Those are a few of the lessons that I’ve learn from my failures. In truth I could write a book but then that would let people know how many times I’ve failed and I do have an ego to protect after all.
Wait…
I said I had 8 lessons for you right?
The last one is the most important
8 – Keep Learning Everyday.
Enjoy each day and always try to learn something new everyday, it doesn’t matter what it is, where or who it’s from just learn something new.
I’ll even get you started.
Did you know that Charlie Chaplin once entered a contest for “Charlie Chaplin look-alikes” and he came in third.
Enjoy,
Ross

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Get a Grip!

Seriously, Get a Grip.

When it comes to the deadlift the most common complaint from people is that their grip gives out before they can lift any more weight. while this is quite a reasonable excuse I would also question peoples form long before I started questioning their grip.
 
There are those with naturally a strong grip and there are those with naturally weaker grip, you can’t help the hands your dealt in life, you just have to make the best of it.
 
Do you know that there are 3 main types of grip you can use when deadlifting:
 
– Double Overhand Grip
– Alternating or Mixed Grip
– Hook Grip
 
The Double Overhand Grip (DOH) will limit the total amount of weight you can lift but it’s a great way to work on technique and also test your baseline strength. The chances are if your overhand grip increases then so will your mixed and hook grip.
 
An Alternating or Mixed Grip (MG) will allow you to lift more weight because it stops the bar rolling out of your hands as you lift, you will see this grip you the most and pretty much all the Powerlifting Deadlift Records have been set with a MG. The only downside is that it can create muscular imbalances and also lead to potential injury, such as a bicep tear on the supinated hand.
 
Lastly we have the Hook Grip (HG), this is favored by Olympic Weightlifters and is as strong if not stronger than an mixed grip, however it does hurt like hell until you get used to it. If you can stick with this grip and master it then you will have some pretty formidable lifting numbers and less chance of injury through muscle imbalance too.
 
How you grip in the Deadlift is an interesting and highly debated topic among a great many people.
 
Some people will advise DOH, others MG and then there are the weightlifters who stick with the HG people who will only deadlift with straps because they have seen the Worlds Strongest Men in do it in comps and think that therefore they don’t need to every worry about gripping the bar, however they forget about the colossal amount of grip work that is in the various other events in strongman training (farmers walks, holds, arm over arm rope pull etc).
 
Does that mean lifting straps are bad? No, however too many people become reliant on them. If you have plenty of other training in your program that is heavily demanding on your grip (much like that of strongman training), the use of straps for deadlift is essential but if you don’t train that way i wouldn’t advise using them too often.
 
So what can you do?
 
There are plenty of ways you can train your grip, here is a list of some exercises:
 
– Farmers Walks
– Farmers Holds
– Dead Hanging
– Rope Climbing
– Kettlebell Swings for High Reps
– High Rep DOH Deadlifts
– High Rep Dumbbell/Barbell Rows
 
You can do these for reps, time or distance depending on the exercise you’ve picked. In the end grip is something that should be trained frequently, perhaps with a 10min finisher at the end of each training session you do. Putting in the time to training your grip will help improve your deadlift, just be patient and work hard.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Humble Dumbbell

Morning Guys,
 
Over the years there have been many methods of training that have come and gone, some for the greater good and others because they weren’t seen as fashionable anymore. The latter in this post are the ones that we will be taking a look at because even though they fell out of favor it doesn’t mean that they weren’t and aren’t great for building not only strength but also lean muscle tissue and strip fat.
 
Lets look at Dumbbell Training.
 
Now, I’m not talking about dumbbell curls, chest flies or anything resembling the typical isolation movements you will seem most people doing with these excellent tools of iron. I’m not saying that dumbbell isolation work doesn’t have it’s place or isn’t useful but there are plenty of other exercises you can do with dumbbells that will give you far more bang for your buck.
 
In the days of old there were lots of incredibly lean and strong people who trained almost exclusively with dumbbells. You will find dumbbell training has a lot of ‘real world’ strength carryover too.
 
Here is a list of 6 different dumbbell exercises that you would certainly benefit from using.
 
– Clean & Press (single or double dumbbell)
– Renegade Row
– Snatch
– Bent Press
– Get Up (single or double dumbbell)
– Farmers Walk or Walking Lunge
 
Now depending on your overall goal the sets, reps, load and rest periods will differ but for the purpose of this example we shall say that our ‘client’ is already doing the following:
 
Monday – Squat, Bench, Pull Up all for 5×3 or 5×5 on a rotation
Thursday – Squat, Incline Bench, Deadlift all for 5×3 or 5×5 on a rotation
 
However Tuesdays & Fridays have now become free and some extra training can be done. Using the list of exercises above we can create 2 workouts that will help generate a great stimulus to further enhance your strength and improve body composition.
 
Tuesday – Clean & Press or Snatch, Renegade Row, Get Up – Done in a ladder set fashion with single dumbbells. So 1 left, 1 right, then 2/2, 3/3 all the way to 10. Once you hit 10 move on to the next exercise.
 
Friday – Get Up, Bent Press, Farmers Walk or Walking lunge – Done for time, 10,15 or 20min per exercise. Starting with the Get Up will help activate your entire body, you can start light and ramp up sets of 1,3 or 5 , basically any reps you desire (personally I would go for 3 or 5).
 
If you add these two days in to your training you will not only gain strength, lean mass and improved body comp, you will also fortify your shoulders for years to come.
 
Working with dumbbells is also a great alternative if you don’t have access to a gym, or enough room for a home gym that allows you to have a squat rack or stands. You can but adjustable dumbbells that go as high as 50kg these days, if you think you can’t build good strong legs with out *squats then try doing Goblet Squats with 1 50KG dumbbell, they’re tougher than they look.
 
*Now I love the squat and the deadlift too, they are 2 exercises I personally feel should be in everyone’s program as they stimulate the most amounts of muscle possible, but not everyone has the necessary equipment and sometimes alternatives must be considered.
 
Add 1-2 days of dumbbell training to your program based around compound movements and watch new results unfold before your eyes.
 
Bonus Tip: Buy some FatGripz to attach to the dumbbell to make the exercises even more challenging and recruit more muscle with every rep.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Hot Off The Press

In the days of old the test of manliness was what we know it to be today. People didn’t run around asking one another his common question:

“How much ya Bench?”

Instead they would ask this one:

“Good Morning Good Sir, would you mind sharing with me what numbers which you press?”

Okay, it might not have been asked in that exact way but you get the idea.

It was back in the days when the Clean & Press were highly regarded as the true test of ones strength, this also used to be an Olympic event (along with some other lifts too), but it was seen as too dangerous for people to press heavy weight overhead in the ways they did, thus it was removed (with the other odd lifts as well) and the Clean & Jerk/Snatch were all that was left. This left the world without an ego movements so the modern times now favour the bench press because of powerlifting over the press (some call it Military Press others Overhead Press etc,) because it was the only pressing movement left they recognised.

Another reason people tend to favour this is because it’s easier and you can lift more weight that way. The Press, Bench Press, Incline Press, The Behind Neck Press are all part of the pressing family, it’s just that some are not as favoured as others due to their difficulty and effect on the amount of weight that can be lifted (hurting ones ego).

We have covered tips to improve both the Squat and the Deadlift, today’s will be revolved around the pressing movements, we shall start with the Press (Overhead Press) and then move in to the Bench.

On a side note, you will find if your press goes up your bench will too.

When Performing the Press there are 3 main things you want to remember:

– Assume the Position (Elbow, Wrist & Hand)

– Total Body Tension

– Press in a Straight Line

Only 3 tips while the others had 5, why only 3?

Keep reading and all will be revealed.

Assume the Position (Elbow & Wrist) –

Firstly you will now to adopt the correct pressing position. To achieve this you will want your elbows to be directly under the bar before your being your press, this means that your elbows, forearms and wrists will be in one STRAIGHT line. You want to avoid your wrists being bent backwards and in a poor position (people who moan it hurts their wrists don’t have the correct alignment and need to re-rack and start again).

If you’re sat now reading this I want you to make a fist and point your thumbs as your shoulder while having your elbow in front of your body pointing straight down to the floor. Notice what a straight elbow/forearm/wrist position looks like, now have your thumbs face each other by turning your from your forearms (like you’re holding a bar) you will find your hands are about shoulder width apart and level with your clavicle (roughly) , this is where your hands will need to be once you grip the bar. Straighten your arms out and take hold of the bar and move in until it rests on your clavicle with your elbow/forearm/wrist all lined up correctly.

Next we learn about a forgotten part of the press Total Body Tension. this can be the difference between a good press and a spinal injury.

Total Body Tension –

I’m sure you’ve seen it, you know, the reverse banana shape people take on while pressing a weight overhead (well they are actually pressing it away from them which leads to this, but that will be covered later) that send shivers down your spine as you think they’re going to snap in half. I know you’ve seen this and chances are you probably do it too, I know how easily it can happen because I used to do it too.

What was missing? Yep, total body tension.

When you set up/unrack and wall out the bar you want to grip it hard and firm, not you literally want to squeeze the bar as hard as you possible can, like white knuckle tight so that you create and irradiation effect that travels through the entire body recruiting multiple muscles and motor units ready for the press to begin (much like gripping the bar as described for the deadlift). You will also do well to secure your lower body by screwing your feet in to the floor (as with the squat) contracting your quads, glutes, core and upper back as hard as possible, you want your body to be TIGHT so that you have no power leakage at all.

Don’t forget your Power Breathing too, this will help increase inter-abdominal pressure meaning more stability and strength. Once you’ve got your body connected (as one whole unit) it’s time to get your pressing alignment right.

Press in a Straight Line –

This might sound obvious but you’d be surprised how often people try and press away from their body rather than directly over it, possibly due to too much bench and poor posture.

When you press a weight overhead you want to press in a straight line so that the bar stays over the centre line of your body, which will obviously be filled with tension and resistant to buckling in to the fabled banana shape.

There’s only one problem though isn’t there.… Your head gets in the way.

How do you solve the problem of your head being in the way? You simply draw your chin back allowing the bar to pass nicely by. Once the bar is past your head you don’t have to keep it drawn back and I would encourage you allow it to return to a neutral position so that you can finish the press with the correct alignment.

The finished press should find your biceps by or slightly behind your ears but never in front of them. This final position means your body and arms will be in once straight line (relatively speaking).

With those little tips you will find yourself hitting new numbers in your overhead work with ease, along with the added benefit of much stronger and more stable shoulders which will actually improve your bench numbers which leads us nicely on to the next set of tips which are to help you improve your bench.

The bench tips are as follows (some will look familiar):

– Assume the Position (Elbow, Wrist, Hand, back & Feet)

– Total Body Tension

– Pull the Bar Down (Between Nipples & Sternum)

– Press in a Straight Line

The tips are similar but not identical so be sure to read them carefully.

Assume the Position (Elbow, Wrist, Hand, back & Feet) & Total  Body Tension –

For a good starting grip width I would advice using the same hand spacing as you would for your press, perhaps 1-2 inches wider if it’s more comfortable but that’s down to personal choice. Your elbow, wrist and hand position will need to be in a straight line just as with the press but you also now have to think about your back and foot position as you’re led down for this press variation.

Once you’re led under the bar (eyes should be under the bar before unracking) and have taken a firm grip you want to start to grip it tight and create the irradiation effect. Your shoulder blades should be drawn down and back (towards your butt) to create lots of upper back tension as this will become important for creating a stable base. When it comes to your foot position I encourage you to have both feet flat on the floor and directly under your knees (or slightly further back), for now keep your feet flat on the floor and drive your heels in to the ground and create tension throughout your entire lower body, linking this with a tight back means you’re giving yourself the best possible (and most stable) base to hit some big bench numbers.

Don’t forget your Power Breathing here too.

Your entire body should be tight, almost to the point of shaking, if it is then you’re ready and should have someone help you unrack the bar and hold it steady over your chest ready with your elbows turned slightly in, try to bend the bar in your hands as you hold it, that will help put your elbows in the right position for you to descend in to the press.

Now it’s time for the descent…

Pull the Bar Down (Between Nipples & Sternum) –

 

Yep. PULL THE BAR DOWN.

Once you’ve unracked the bar, take one more deep breath and get in as much extra air as possible you will want to pull the bar down to your chest while pull your chest up to the bar if that makes sense, it will touch somewhere between your nipples and the top of your sternum. As you pull the bar down you want to keep the mental image of trying to bend the bar (mentioned above) your elbows will be slightly tucked meaning you can get your lats in to the movement to help you press the weight back up. Pulling the bar down also creates even more tension and can help activate the stretch reflex and help you begin the press.

Press in a Straight Line –

As this tip says press in a straight line from where you came down, it’s pretty simple really. As you press begin to exhale and grind out that lift as fast as possible. As the press makes it’s way up keep a tight grip on the bar and keep the press moving, you will find your elbows mighty slightly flare on the way up once they get past the half way sticking point, this isn’t really problem but try to avoid deliberately flaring them unless you know exactly why you’re doing it, otherwise let it happen naturally and concentrate on pressing that bar in a nice straight line all the way to a new PB.

With the Presses covered that now bring us to the end of the this bout of lifting tips, it’s time to go out and practice what you’ve learnt. Don’t be afraid to remove some weight to improve your technique, trust me you will thank me in the long run.

Now of you go and practice.

Enjoy,

Ross

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Story Time With Deadlift

Last week I felt like sharing some of the lessons I had learnt regarding the squat and some teaching points to help it improve. Today I will be doing the same but for the Deadlift, also known as the King of exercises.

Over the years I have picked up 5 tips that helped improve my deadlift and help me break through those milestone targets.

– Bar Position (Foot Position)

– Shin Position (The Hinge Set Up)

– Getting Tight (Hand & Body Position)

– Pushing the Floor Away (Begin the Grind)

– Moving as One (United We Stand, Divided We Fall)

If you’re ready let us begin.

Bar Position (Foot Position) –

Unfortunately for a lot of people they are at a disadvantage before they’ve even attempted to break the weight from the floor.

What do I mean by this?

When I see people set up the most common mistake is the bar position. Many will have it too far forwards in relation to their foot, often over the ball of the foot or the toes, this leads to them often shifting their weight (knees) forwards in an attempt to get down to the bar already making the lift inefficient.

*If you’re wondering how far apart your feet should be my advice for that would be to prepare to take a standing long jump, you will notice they are often close (around hip width apart at max, possibly closer) and facing forwards, this is how far apart your feet should be.

The bar need to be placed over the MIDDLE of your foot. If you look at your foot you will see the middle is actually very close the the bottom of your shin/ankle, people forget that their foot runs from their heel to their big toe and often measure the middle from their instep to their big toe, this is a grave mistake. If the bar starts out a little too far away then you have little to no hope of pulling the bar in with your lats and keeping it close when you’re performing the deadlift, this can lead to missed lifts and even potential injury, not to mention a dysfunctional and horrid looking technique.

More on technique later…

The next time you set up to the bar be sure to look down and make sure the bar is int he middle of your foot, it might seem like a silly tip but it’s one that most people would  benefit from knowing. I myself used to set up incorrectly and literally added 10kg to my lift when I adjusted my bar position.

Shin Position (The Hinge Set Up) –

Once you’ve got the correct bar position in relation to your foot you will need to aim to keep your shins as vertical as possible. This is an interesting topic because everyone has slightly different proportions but the overall lesson applies to everyone.

Imagine your calves are touching a box, you can even place a box behind you if you wish so that you don’t have to imagine it, you can feel it!

Keep the whole calves to box imagine in your mind (or calves touching a box of you’re lucky enough to have one) reach down for the bar.

What happened?

Did you find your knees drifting forwards and as a results your shins ended up making the bar roll forwards slightly?

It’s only move the bar slightly, that won’t be too much of a problem, right?

WRONG! Stand up, reset and start again.

The problem of the knees drifting forwards is common and often a result of years of incorrect bar placement in relation to the foot. What’s that you say? Some elite level lifters knees go slightly over the bar. They’re the elite, they can do what they like. We are not he elite so we need to get the basics solid before we can start to bend the rules slightly, though you will actually find that the elites still end up breaking the weight from the floor with their shins in a vertical (or as close as their structure will allow).

*Have your hands about shoulder width apart, so they can hand straight down naturally. use a double overhand grip for as long as possible.

Now you’ve reset and are planning to take hold of the bar again I want you to think about hinging from your hips. Stick you ass back as far as possible so that you begin to build tension in those hamstrings and start getting tight (more on this soon), keep sitting back while descending to grab the bar and you will notice your shins stay in a good position and the bar does not move.

If you struggle to achieve this them put the bar or perhaps a 4 inch block and practice taking hold of it with good shin position and lower the block by 1/2-1inch each time until you can get in to the correct position from the floor.

Once you’re able to firmly grasp the bar from this hinging movement, with vertical shins it’s time to get tight and get in to the final position read for the main lift.

Getting Tight (Hip, Back & Body Position) –

I’ve spoken about Bracing* before. I suggest you take in a good deep breath before descending/hinging to the bar, this will help you start to create inter-abdominal pressure and tension throughout the body (it also helps keep your back safe).

As you take hold of the bar with your first hand pull against the bar hard while trying to pull your shoulder blade back and down (towards your pockets), then push/screw your foot in to the floor on the same side creating all over tension on that side. Now take hold with the other hand and do the same.

Always keep pulling against the bar hard so that you’re creating an irradiation effect (this means the harder you grip the more muscle/motor units you will recruit), from here start pulling yourself slightly backwards, this will start to lower your hips in to the correct pulling position, your shins might even touch the bar as it is pull backwards towards to slightly. You know when you’re int he right position because you will feel tight and I mean REALLY TIGHT, your shins will be vertical (or as close as possible) with your entire back tight, your hamstrings loaded with tension and your shoulders inline or fractionally behind the bar (more directly over is optimal). This puts in in the correct position ready to grind out the lift. Yes GRIND out the lift, this will make sense soon.

If you’re thinking about head position I suggest keeping it in a neutral alignment, not ‘looking up’ because when people look up the crank their head back with actually dampened their neural output  capabilities. Think long spine and slightly tucked chin (not head down!). Pick a spot to look at around 3-5 feet in front of you, that’s usually the place to be.

Doing all of this takes the slack out of the bar meaning that when you begin your grind you don’t get that initial weightless pull and then hit a block, it’s just the weight moving it’s way to a new PB.

Time to start the lift….

*Adopt a plank position and completely contract every muscle possible (especially your core musculature) now try to pack out any loose areas with air by controlling your breathing – try 10 second inhalations followed by 5 seconds holding all the air in. There is a term known as ‘Power Breathing’ which is worth researching that will help you learn more ways to practice bracing correctly.

Pushing the Floor Away (Begin the Grind) –

Wait… Push the floor away. The deadlift is a pulling movement isn’t it?

Yes and No.

From the floor your upper body (back, lats, etc) are static and holding you in position, considering your legs are primarily a pushing muscle you will be pushing the floor away you get the weight moving.

You want to think that you’re pulling the bar in/towards you and perhaps even slightly back as the weight gets past the knees but in the initial part of the lift where you break the weight from the floor you want to be keeping a nice tight position (described above) and push the floor away with your feet. Now what I am about to say will sound very controversial but hear me out…

DO NOT try to explode the weight off the floor.

When it comes to explosive power that has very little use for lift a ‘dead’ weight, you’re literally trying to create something from nothing when you try to explode in the deadlift and this will lead you you shooting your hips and ass in to the air and craning the lift up with your back and snapping yourself up good. Instead push the floor away while staying tight and grind against the weight, it will move and then you can keep grinding and maybe even pick up speed as the lift ascends.

When you use this style of technique the weight might feel like it’s not ever going to move but it will, trust me. You need to stick with it and it will come up, be patient and stay tight!

If you struggle from the floor then using a 1/2-1 inch deficit will help you overcome this problem, just apply/follow the tips above.

Moving as One (United We Stand, Divided We Fall) –

This links in with people who try to explode the weight off the floor. They lose all connection through their body and this results in an ugly lift that may or may not get 3 white lights.

Ideally you want to keep your body constantly tight throughout the entire lift, this will help keep everything moving together, as one.

The deadlift is a whole body movement. It works literally every muscle you have which is why it is the King of exercises (the squat being the Queen and the Overhead Press being the Prince), but you need to keep everything moving together to get the most out of the lift. If your hips outrun your upper body you will struggle to lockout or even get the lift past your knees, you want to lock everything out at the same time so you are stood up completely straight. None of this excessively leaning back rubbish, that says to me you’re not lifting as one unit and you’re leaking power, precious power you could be using to get more lbs on the bar.

While I’m not a fan of bands or accommodated resistance for anyone who doesn’t lift in gear I find using bands from he floor can actually hep you move the body as one unit, just don’t use them all the time otherwise you will be strong at lockout but unable to move the bar from the floor.

The above tips have been learnt through years of trial and error along with hours spent attending seminars with some of the best pullers in the world and all of them run o er these basics. One problem is many will see someone like Andy Bolton, Dan Green, Eddie Hall, Ed Coan and other such greats and try to copy their technique, but there is one problem… You’re not them and no where near their level. They practiced the basics for countless  hours and you can see that their positions at certain points are almost identical, even if they start in different ways.

What are the main points to take away from this?

  • Have a Solid Set Up& Get Tight
  • Don’t Rush
  • Move as One

Now go, practice and start hitting the numbers I know you can.

Enjoy, Ross

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Do You Really Need That Specialist Exercise?

Walkouts, Partial Reps, Banded Moments, Movements with Chains, Lockout Reps, Board Pressing, the list of specialist exercises is numerous but do you really need them?

Too many people get caught up in doing things they have no real need for. I am guilty of this on the odd occasion but found that it only severed to hinder my progress in the long run because there was no need for the specialist movements.
You will find these types of exercises common for high level power lifters but they serve little purpose for us normal folk. If I had to give people some variations of lets say the big 3 I would suggest the following:
– Pause Squats
– Front Squats
– Box Squats
– Paused Bench
– Narrow Grip Bench
– Pressing Overhead or High Incline
– 1/2 – 1 inch Deficit Deadlifts
– 2-4 inch Block Pulls
– Snatch Grip Deadlift
– Overhand Deadlift
That’s pretty much it. While it’s nice and quite fun to try some of the specialist exercises there is little to no need unless you’re squatting/deadlifting 3xbw and benching 2xbw. The variations I’ve suggested will be more than enough to help keep you busy for months if you rotate them properly.
Do you need some guidance on a program too?
Warm Up Sets x4 at 3-5 reps (40,60,70,77%)
Week 1 – 10×1 + 70-80% back off AMRAP set -10min
Week 2 – 5×2 + 70-80% back off AMRAP set -10min
Week 3 – 3×3 + 70-80% back off AMRAP set -10min
Week 4 – 2×5 + 70-80% back off AMRAP set -10min
*increase weight and start over.
*2 lifts per day – EG Squat/Row, Deadlift/Press
*Lower body would work better with this programs set rep progression.
*Upper body = Volume or Ramping, try 8×8 on the volume with only 30 seconds rest on upper body pressing/pulling movements or Ramp up to a 3-5RM (meaning you do 3-5 reps and add weight each set until you hit technical failure, then you’re done).
An example day might be as follows:
Workout 1 – Squat/Pull Up
Warm Up Sets – Paused Squat x4 at 3-5 reps (40,60,70,77%)
A1 – Paused Squat – 10×1 – 100kg + 80kg AMRAP (10min time limit)
B1 – Pull Up – 8×8 – Wide Grip Body Weight/Weighted or Pull Down
*Optional C1 – Ab Roll Out – 1×12
Workout 2 – Deadlift/Press
Warm Up Sets – Overhand Deadlift x4 at 3-5 reps (40,60,70,77%)
A1 – Overhand Deadlift – 10×1 – 100kg + 80kg AMRAP (10min time limit)
B1 – Press – 5RM Ramp Start with Overhead Press and hit 5RM (You can alternate your Pressing movement to your own personal desire, one day might be overhead press, the next time around it might be bench and so on.)
*Optional C1 – Ab Roll Out – 1×12
A weeks training might look like this:
Monday – Workout 1
Tuesday – Workout 2
Wednesday – Off
Thursday – Workout 1 – Front Squat/Pull Down Neutral Close Grip
Friday – Workout 2 – Snatch Grip Deadlift/Incline Press
Saturday – Off
Sunday – Off
Repeat last weeks exercise selection, keep weights the same on SQ/DL but move on to week 2’s reps (5×2).
There is nothing stopping you from adding in a sprint day on Saturday or some CV just regulate the intensity so that is doesn’t disrupt your recovery and adaptation phases.
In the world of lifting it’s best not to try and run before you can walk. Learn the basic movements and learn then well, then once you’ve started to hit the upper limits of your natural strength (around 3xBW SQ/DL & 2xBW Bench) then it will be worth adding in some specialist exercises to help you past your sticking points.
Enjoy,
Ross

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Squats, with a Sprinkling of Technique

Today I thought I would share some information on 5 tips I’ve learnt over the years and used to improve my squat and help in achieving continued progression.

They are as follows:
– Upper Back Tightness
– Bracing
– Treat Light Weights Heavy & Heavy Weights Light
– Screw Your Feet Into The Floor
– Becoming One
Upper Back Tightness:
I often see people who lack the required tension in their upper back to push their squat numbers up, achieving more upper back tightness is actually quite easy. When you set up to the bar keep these 3 points in mind:
1 – Move your hands as close as you comfortably can.
2 – Squeeze the bar as tightly as you can and try to bend it over your back by drawing your elbows down to activate your lats.
3 – Linked in with 2, after drawing your elbows down, squeezing the bar and trying to bend it over your back try to push your elbows forwards (they might not move but it will help create more tightness).
Bracing:
You often hear the cue “Breathe in to your belly.” which isn’t a bad cue but it leaves out some important information and some people end up breathing in and just pushing their belly out. Now the technical term for this style of breathing is Diaphragmatic Breathing, it’s something we do naturally as children but lose the ability (get lazy) as we get older. Unfortunately it will take practice to re-learn this skill.
Adopt a plank position and completely contract every muscle possible (especially your core musculature) now try to pack out any loose areas with air by controlling your breathing – try 10 second inhalations followed by 5 seconds holding all the air in.
There is a term known as ‘Power Breathing’ which is worth researching.
Treat Light Weights Heavy & Heavy Weights Light:
When you see people squat you will notice they have varying degrees of technique. Their light weights looks smooth and fast while medium weights slow down and their heavy weights just look horrid.
If you get in to the habit of treating all your lifts like you’ve got your max on the bar then you will start to groove a solid technique. If you watch various videos of top lifters you will notice that all their sets look pretty much the same in terms of set up, execution and speed, yours should too.
Screw Your Feet Into The Floor:
The best way to picture this is like you’re stood in some hot sand and you’re having you ‘screw’ your feet in to it so that you can dig tot he cooler sand underneath. I am sure there are lots of you who have been stood on a beach and done this from time to time mucking around. If you haven’t then find a sand pit and practice this because it will help improve your squatting stability.
You want to feel connected to the floor and solid in your stance, while also help prevent knee collapse (valgus) and create a stable hip too.
Becoming One:
This might sound like some sort of religious scripture but in realistic terms it means using your body as one whole connected unit, meaning everything works together and there is no power leakage at any point (most people move in 2 or 3 sections). Your body goes down as one and comes up as one. That means no hips shooting up first, no pitching forwards, no knee collapse etc.
You can practice this technique by doing wall squats, goblet squats, front squats and pause squats as they will all help you to ‘feel’ your body working as one.
Bonus Tip:
To squat a lot you need to squat a lot.
Realistically to help you improve your movement pattern you will be looking at squatting a minimum of 3 days per week. I would suggest recording all of your sessions so that you can see how your form looks and make sure it’s on point.
If you’re wondering how low you should squat then that answer will be held in your own specific build and hip complex. To find out what depth you can handle assume a kneeling position on all fours and rock backwards and see where, if any, but wink or pelvic tilt occurs because that will be your limit (record this drill so you can see what’s going on).
Use the info above and get your squat from a dodgy 1-1.5xBW for 1 to a solid 2xbw for 5.
Enjoy,
Ross

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3 Keys to More Muscle

Morning Guys,

There are a few different ways you can build lean muscle, three in particular come to mind:
– Heavy Lifting
– Constant Tension
– Volume/Cumulative Fatigue
Each method will help you build muscle, along with strength but they do it through different pathways and depending on your overall goal or bias you might be better suited to one over another. Lets take a look at the differences in how each method works and what style of training is involved in each of them.
Heavy Lifting –
When you undergo a program that is largely focused on lifting heavy sub maximal loads you stimulate muscle grow because of the micro trauma (basically a high force output leads to a large amount of protein degradation in the muscle), neurological stimulation factors (more recruitment and fatigue of high threshold motor units) and hormonal factors (increase in free testosterone).
This becomes even more true when you are logically following a progressive overload where by you are trying to increase the subsequent load over X-amount of weeks. This is because it forces the muscle to adapt and become stronger so that it can continue to recruit the maximal amount of fast twitch fibers and motor units to continue it’s required performance.
An added bonus with this style of training is that it ‘wakes up’ the rest of the body neurologically and allows for more fast twitch recruitment in the following exercises.
Training in this way (heavy lifting) has a great effect on increasing muscle density and myogenic tone (basically the muscle looks ‘harder’ at rest, meaning you look as strong as your likely are), however the danger with this style of training is people will want to chase 1RM’s all the time which can be very draining on their CNS and lead to a drop in performance which is not what we want. Depending on a persons training level they will be best of using the following recommendations for this style of training:
Beginners – Intermediates: 80-85% 1RM using the 6-8 rep range in a ramping fashion
Advanced: 90% 1RM using a 3-5 rep range in a ramping fashion
*Ramping is where you add 5-10% until you reach your maximal weight with good/smooth form, you would then stay there for anywhere from 3-8 sets depending on your % of 1RM used.
Constant Tension –
As the name suggests this style of training is all about keeping the muscle in a contracted state and will certainly generate a massive pump. This style of training utilises drop sets, partial reps, isometric contractions, EQIC and any other methods to keep the muscle filled with blood and tension because the second you ease off the gas and the muscle gets a chance to relax you will lose some of the effectiveness of the set.
The weights used int his style of training are normally on the lighter side of the scale, especially when compared tot he first method described above.
This style of training is very effective because when the muscle is severely deprived of oxygen several things start to happen; unfortunately lactate production increases making it very hard both physically and mentally but if you can keep pushing through the burn you will also have a dramatic increase in hGH and IGF-1 which are two highly anabolic hormones, there is also some evidence to show that as the fatigue increases so does the activation/recruitment of some deeper fast twitch muscle fibers which lead to increases in strength along with size. It’s worth pushing through each set to reap the rewards of this training style.
How long does each set need to be?
40-70 seconds is ideal, this would be a tempo of 4-0-2-0 and will work best with isolation exercises or variations of compound lifts (dumbbell pressing, single arm rowing, leg press etc).
Volume/Cumulative Fatigue –
In the hefty book that is known as Super Training by Siff & Zatsiorsky wrote that muscle fibers not only need to be recruited but also fatigued to stimulate optimal growth. This is why those who only ever train in one style are missing out because invariably there will be some fibers that aren’t stimulated because of the one dimensional training style.
When you start adding volume work in to the mix you can certainly increase the number of muscle fiber being recruited because of the cumulative fatigue effect. Typically the added volume is better for a hypertrophy bias because the loads used will be light to moderate, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried high volume with sub maximal weights but it’s brutal and leaves you destroyed for days.
To achieve maximal benefit from this style of training you will find reps int he range of 8-12 (upper body) and 15-20 (lower body) with short rest periods (30-60 seconds) are quite effective, something like Vince Gironda’s 8×8 falls in to this style of training perfectly and he looked awesome!
If you’re a more advanced lifter then the use of Super Sets, Pre/Post Fatigue, Drop Sets, One and a Half Reps Sets and alike are great methods to help you amass some rather taste volume amounts. The reason this method works so well is that is enables you to fatigue every last fiber and squeeze almost everything you can out of the muscle in one session.
Now you know about three great methods of training the trick part is being able to apply them to a workout. Is it best to do them separately or all together? Personally I would say for the best possible results you would do well to use all three in one session but you would need to understand come principles/rules on how to apply them first.
Take a read of these:
1 – Heavy movements first (larger more CNS demanding)
2 – Intermediate movements or as some call the assistance work (8-12 & 15-20 reps respectively with moderate loads)
3 – Isolation movements (constant tension lasting between 40-70 seconds)
How might that look in a workout?
A1 – Compound Lift – 5×3 – ramping to 90%
B1 – Assistance Lift 1 – 4×12 –  (aim for 40-70 sec TUT)
C1 – Assistance Lift 2 – 4×12 –  (aim for 40-70 sec TUT)
D1 – Isolation Lift 1 – 8×8 (light/moderate load with 30 seconds rest between sets)
The above will help you not only build a body that looks good but one that is also strong too.
Enjoy,
Ross

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Build A New Body: Part 1

There are a great deal of programs floating around on the internet and today i’m going to give you another one to consider.
This will be one of several programs I will be writing for you that will help create a 12 week training cycle to help you add lean mass, strength, strip fat and feel much more confident because of the results you will achieve.
Today’s program will consist on what you will ideally be looking to do for the first 3 weeks of your training block. It will help you build a good foundation of lean mass while starting to bring up your base strength in preparation for the next 3 week block, here is what the basic outline of what the primary goals of each will look like:
Weeks 1-3 – Hypertrophy/Strength
Weeks 4-6 – Hypertrophy/Strength
Weeks 7-9 – Strength/Conditioning
Weeks 10-12 – Strength/Conditioning
The first 6 weeks is based on building the foundation, then the second 6 weeks will be about utilising/realising the strength you’ve gained from your newly built muscle to it’s full potential while also adding in some conditioning style work to help keep you lean and feeling ‘fit’ don’t worry if you think they will contradict each other, they won’t if programmed properly and the correct volume/approach is used.
So now you’ve got the basic idea shall we get started?
4-4-4 is the first method you will be using is based around the following:
– 4 Workout days per week
– 4 Exercises per workout
– 4 Sets with varying rep ranges
The days you workout are down to you, that could be Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday or whatever.
As for exercises you will want to cover the full body in as little movements as possible, I will give you two guideline workouts A/B where you will hit all the major muscle groups, here they are:
Workout A –
– Front Squat
– Snatch Grip Deadlift
– Bent Over Row
– Supinated Grip Pull Up
Workout B –
– Press – Shoulder Width
– Bench Press – Medium (narrow is you want more triceps, wider if you want more chest)
– Dip
– Face Pull – Pronated Grip W/Thumbs Facing You (think you’re hitting a double bicep pose when pull to your face)
*You can do which ever day you want first, it’s down to personal preference.
Now it’s time for the rep/set scheme I will recommend for you.
– 12,10,8,6
– Use a 4-1-1-1 tempo (4 second eccentric, 1 second pause, 1 second concentric, 1 second pause)
Suggested loading:
– 12 – 65%
– 10 – 70%
– 8 – 75%
– 6 – 80%
A very simple descending pyramid that will help you begin to build a base. As for a warm up I would advice doing what you need to do so that you feel mobile and ready, remember a good mobility routine will help you stay injury free and improve your performance and overall life for that matter (There are lots of options on YouTube, you’ve got a great book called Becoming a Supple Leopard and much more to get ideas from).
I can’t tell you your weights but the suggestion I have given will be a good starting point, but remember the stronger you get the higher these numbers will go, not only % wise but also because you will be able to lift more. Start off light so you have somewhere to go, if you start too heavy you will stagnate and can even get hurt if you’re not careful.
The above program is designed to be followed for 3 weeks, then you will move on to the second 3 week block which I will get uploaded in due course.
You will obviously need to know about nutrition as well, here is a good starting point for you:
LBMx 17-19 = Muscle Gain Caloric Range
Protein – LBM x1 = Grams per day, multiply this by 4 to get calories of protein for the day.
Carbs – Protein x1-3 = Grams per day (depending on style of training/overall daily activity, desk jockeys use x1, site workers use x3 and people in the middle use 1.5 or 2), multiply this by 4 to get calories of carbs for the day.
Fat – What ever calories are left divide them by 9 to get your fat in grams for the day.
Example Equation:
175lbs x 19 = 3325 total cals
175lbs x 1 = protein 175g x4 = 700 cals
175g x 2 = carbs 350g x 4 = 1400 cals
3325 – (700 + 1400) = 1225 cals
1225/9 = 136g fat
So these example calories/macros would be:
3225 Total Cal
175g Protein
350g Carbs
136g Fat
Get the idea?
*Eat mostly single ingredient whole foods to get the bulk of your calories, doing this will sort out your micronutrients without you having to worry too much. think 80/20 – 80% single ingredient foods 20% what ever you fancy. Just keep the callers correct and the overall macronutrient ratio sold and you can’t go far wrong.
Breakfast/AM – Fat/Protein
Snack/AM – Fat/Protein
Lunch/PM – Complex Carbs/Protein
Snack/PM – Complex Carbs/Protein
Dinner/PM – Complex Carbs/Protein
Post Workout Protein/Simple Carbs – regardless on time of day.
This will be a good place to start, you can make adjustments according to your own persona needs as you see fit.
You now have the first 3 weeks and some basic ideas for nutrition, it’s time to get in to the gym and start working (Y).
Enjoy,
Ross

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