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Becoming a Bear

The Russian Bear!
 
A simple yet sinister protocol.
 
Doing it you will achieve the following:
 
– Strength
– Lean mass gain (nutrition provided)
– Mental fortitude
– Movement skill (good form providing)
– A lesson in humility
 
This was something I found many years ago while reading the book Power to the People – Pavel Tsatsouline.
 
His protocol recommendation is picking two lifts to focus on and doing 2 sets of 5 (*1x5x100%, 1x5x90%),5 days per week, the workouts take 25-35min tops.
 
*It is suggested that you start off at 80% of your 5RM and add weight in a linear fashion, there’s no sense in going too hard too soon. Build up over time.
 
It’s a strength focused work ethic.
 
I’ve run it several times over the years and do more than two moves, putting in squats, chins and so on. I found 5 lifts was about right for me when done 5 days per week.
 
Over that time I also found that aiming for 10 total working reps was good as well. This allowed for my bodies natural ebb & flow.
 
Some days would be 2×5 as above, others would be 3×3, some 4-3-2-1 or 5-3-2, it added some variety.
 
However all in the name of maintaining and/or increasing strength while I trained for other things (combative sports).
 
If your goal is pure strength, give that a go, however if you want or need to add some serious slabs of muscle and overall weight to your frame then the Russian Bear is for you.
 
Here’s how it works:
 
Pick two lifts – my recommendations are the Deadlift & Military Press.
 
Why?
 
They are both test of strength where you need to overcome the initial inertia to get the weight moving, not to mention you can pause each rep at the bottom of the lift for even more strength progress.
 
Once you pick your two lifts to focus on you do the following:
 
– 2×5: 1x5x100%, 1x5x90%
– As many set as possible of 5×80% of first set of 5.
– Aim to hit 15-25 total back off sets
– Rest 30-90 seconds per set
– Always have 1-2 reps in the tank, don;t go to absolute fail
– When form starts to go, stop
– Train 3x per week
 
The benefit of this style of protocol is in it’s massive amount of volume.
 
It seems easy on paper, don’t be fooled though.
 
Once you hit the top end back off sets (25), you could change the lifts or increase the weight – I recommend a deload or week off before starting it again though.
 
You might be tempted to do all 3 days per week using this protocol for both lifts, you can however it’s potentially not smart.
 
Here is my recommendation for it:
 
Day 1 – Deadlift 2×5 (PTTP style), Press 2×5+AMSAPx80%
 
Day 2 – Press 2×5 (PTTP style), DL 2×5+AMSAPx80%
 
Day 3 – Deadlift 2×5 (PTTP style), Press 2×5+AMSAPx80%
 
This will be more than enough for most people.
 
Should take between 45-90min to complete
 
Over time you can build up by adding weight and sticking with the above suggestion or start doing bear deadlifts 2xper week.
 
Day 1 – Deadlift 2×5+AMSAPx80%, Press 2×5+AMSAPx80%
 
Day 2 – Press 2×5 (PTTP style), DL 2×5 (PTTP style)
 
Day 3 – Deadlift 2×5+AMSAPx80%, Press 2×5+AMSAPx80%
 
Eventually working to all three days being volume ones.
 
^^ If you did that I’d be tempted to stick with the same loading, not gospel, just sensible. The first option is preferable as once you hit the max back off work you can increase the overall load.
 
Many will not like this due to it only having two lifts, adding in one extra accessory lift for some token reps isa acceptable, however it’s up to you.
 
Just something to consider.
 
Enjoy,
Ross
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Specialise much?

A short post on specialisation.
 
It’s all about picking something you want to focus on.
 
If you are looking at your gym lifts for example, here’d be some sensible guidelines for the average gym goer.
 
If lifting related:
 
– Pick 1-2 lifts to focus on
– Increase the frequency: 2-3+ times per week
– Use the appropriate loading/rep schemes for the goal
– Set other training at a maintenance level
– Watch out for interference from other exercises
– Set a clear goal
 
If body part or aesthetically related:
– Pick one lagging body part
– Increase the frequency: 2-3 times per week
– Use the appropriate loading/rep schemes for the goal
– Set other training at a maintenance level
– Watch out for interference from other exercises
– Set a clear goal
 
As you can see the guidelines are essentially the same because it’s just common sense.
 
One thing people do when they specialise is to pick multiple things at once, often those things interfere with each other and little to no overall progress is made.
 
Sadly you can’t excel at everything at the same time.
 
If you try to be good at everything you end up being average.
 
It’s not uncommon for people to want to increase strength & cardiovascular performance in tandem, now if correctly planned it’s possible, however most people get it very wrong.
 
Training for multiple goals that may have some conflicting factors – energy system usage, global fatigue etc, is an art and this process is called concurrent training.
 
We won’t be covering that today.
 
This is a large topic to cover, as such here are some good places to start:
 
 
 
 
So some thing to consider if you want to bring up something that’s lagging.
 
If you want to focus on making something better, limit what you want to focus on.
 
You won’t lose your other gains if you set other training at a decent maintenance level.
 
Enjoy,
Ross 

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Break your pattern

7 day weeks are overrated.
 
Especially for training.
 
Morning All,
 
When it comes to frequency of training we know that we should be hitting each muscle group or movement at least twice per week.
 
You can also look at this from the standpoint of hitting the muscle or movement every 3-5 days.
 
Most people do this by running on a 7day week, which is fair enough, most people have lives after all.
 
That said, there is a more interesting way.
 
Our body is a clever thing, it will begin to remember the pattern we adopt and as such we may unknowingly sabotage our progress.
 
Have you ever though about a rolling routine for your training?
 
Now if you have no training restrictions and can train on any day then a simple 4 day split of; Pull-Push-Legs-Rest-Repeat will work very well.
 
If you are constrained to the 7 day week fear not, you can still utilise a rolling training program while hitting the optimal frequency of every 3-5 days (2 exposures in a 7 day period), you just won’t train the same workout each time.
 
Say you have only 4 days a week to train:
 
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday
 
If you use the split above it might look like this:
 
Pull, Push, Legs, Pull – Week 1
Push, Legs, Pull, Push – Week 2
Legs, Pull, Push, Legs – Week 3
 
You can see it’s a three week rotation and you’re hitting each muscle every 3-5days while also not doing them on the same day of the week, meaning some extra mental stimulation as well.
 
You also have to factor in exercise crossover.
 
^^ Deadlift & squat for example, both hit the legs and posterior chain. Perhaps you have get ups as a warm up & prowler on Leg day as a finisher, these also hit the upper body isometrically, make sense?
 
As you can see there is no lack of logical structure here.
 
Something what would be very useful is perhaps having 3 distinct workout options (think same but different), so that each 3 day block of training hits the same muscle/movement actions just with different variations of the same exercises.
 
Then you’d set yourself the task of doing each 3 day mini cycle 6-8 times, progressing by a doing weight, sets or reps as needed.
 
That would mean you have a solid program that will last anywhere from 18-24 weeks.
 
Talk about forward planing for long term gains.
 
Here is an example of different movements you may use (I will give you 3 main lifts & variations per day) –
 
Pull –
Deadlift
Deficit Snatch Grip Deadlift
Block Pull
 
Push –
Standard Grip Bench Press
Close Grip Bench Press
Incline Press
 
Legs –
Squat
Front Squat
Hack Squat
 
This is with the main lift, I’d then advise perhaps 2-3 accessory lifts, erring on the side of 2 as over the years I’ve found less is more.
 
Guess what, you can also have different options for each of the accessory movements as well, talk about variety planned in to a specific goal.
 
Now this might seem like a lot of effort, however it works, it works well to be honest, it works best when combined with optimal nutrition (calories set accordingly of your goal).
 
Give it some thought, if you can’t cray it yourself feel free to ask for some help on here.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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5 exercises you’re not doing that will change your life.

 
In the modern age the mentality of training is heavily influenced by body building.
 
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about this, however not everyone wants to be one, some want strength, others want performance and a few just want to move better and enjoy life.
 
Give the influence of BB’ing most peoples training is constructed around open chain isolation exercises.
 
Again, nothing wrong with this, however there’s so much you than you know.
 
The 5 movements below will literally change your life in the following ways:
 
– Add slabs of lean muscle
– Build strength
– Increase mental fortitude
– Strip fat
– Improve movement patters (mobility, flexibility etc)
 
Be prepared, chances are you don’t do these at all.
 
1 – Clean & Press
 
2 – Turkish Get up
 
3 – Loaded carry (farmer walk, bear hug, overhead hold, sled drag, prowler push)
 
4 – Rope climbing (or climbing in general)
 
5 – Front Squats
 
Why these 5?
 
Apart from he fact people don’t really do them I will list some benefits in correlation with their number:
 
1 – Explosive power & strength
2 – Full body coordination, improved ROM, stability, strength
3 – Conditioning (strip fat), strength, stability, mental toughness, power
4 – Helps you climb trees to get down your kite
5 – Strength, stability, ROM, posture
 
Now there is one movement that you may feel also needs to be in there and I’d agree, the deadlift should be in there as well.
 
6 – Deadlift – snatch grip variation especially :3
 
You’d be surprised the body you could build doing those exercises, however many of you won’t because they don’t fall in to the norm and fit the status quo, shame.
 
If you’re one of those who has the courage to brea away from the norm here’s a protocol you can use to make that change you’ve been looking for –
 
*Number to correlate*
 
– 5-25 total reps per movement (1,2,5,6)
– 80% + 1RM loading
– 10-20min total distance covered (3/4)
– Train 2-5 times per week
– Session length 45min tops
– Track everything and aim to progress where you can
 
Seems simple, however you have your movements, you can choose to do them with dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, odd objects and much more.
 
Just aim to break the norm if you really want to get some results.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Ah, Classic.

Two classic lines said by many –

“I can’t put on weight, and I eat loads.”

“I can’t lose weight, and I don’t eat much.”

If the above were true weight would either go up or down, if that isn’t the case then that means only one thing.

You’re not doing what you think you’re doing.

A strong mindset and accountability are interesting things.

Not everyone wants them.

Instead they a quick fix or diet pill to solve all their problems.

If it came to their work  and the staff they manage or their business they’d rain down fiery hell on their staff for not doing what they’re meant to be doing or  making poor excuses, however when it comes to themselves and making a change, well they’re different and need special attention.

Bollocks.

What we all need is to accept that the only way to change is to accept that we are the result of our own choices, for the most part*.

*Less for legitimate medical exceptions in which case see a specialist.

Actually, touching on the medical excuse above, many will claim to have an issue, self diagnosed of course and it stops them achieving a result.

Again, bollocks.

Go see a specialist, if something is wrong it will be shown, then you can start working to sort it.

Anyway, back to the point.

As a modern culture we have an untold amount of excuses ready and waiting for our own poor behaviours/attitudes, yet we wouldn’t accept them from out staff or people we’re responsible for.

We’d tell them how it was and that they need to sort it out.

Yet when it comes to people accepting they’re the problem, the blinkers come down and the ‘poor me’ attitude follows.

Ask yourself, do I want change or not?

Give it some thought.

Enjoy,
Ross

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6-10 week protocol to a new PB for you & your clients – new twist on a classic.

If you’re not interested in hitting some new PB’s, that’s cool, feel free to skip reading this.

Let’s say you are interested though, keep reading.

Below you’ll find a simple protocol to help you improve on one or multiple lifts.

This is not something you’d find in body building very often, it’s for people who chase strength.

The information in question is a favourite of many a Russian athlete oddly enough and one I’ve done many times to hit new heights.

I first learnt of this from reading older writing by Dr Fred Hatfield, if you’ve not read any of his books you should, they’re amazing resources.

As you may have guessed I quite like the Russian methodology.

Here is the premise:

– 80% 1RM is starting load, 105% is the end game
– Double Progression is applied
– Intensity is increased incrementally
– Train a 2-3 times per week
– Rest as needed
– Stay tough and you’ll reap the rewards
– Don’t get greedy, follow the protocol

This is how the classic program looks based on 3 days training per week (Mon-Wed-Fri or Tue-Thur-Sat):

*All 6x sets are at 80% 1RM, % changes will be listed below.

^^ If you don’t know yours or your clients 1RM, use an RM calculator to establish an estimated one and go from there.

Week 1
– 6x2x80% 1RM*
– 6×3* (the volume progression begins)
– 6×2*

Week 2
– 6×4*
– 6×2*
– 6×5*

Week 3
– 6×2*
– 6×6*
– 6×2*

Week 4
– 5x5x85% 1RM
– 6×2*
– 4x4x90%

Week 5
– 6×2*
– 3x3x95%
– 6×2*

Week 6
– 2x2x100% (old 1RM)
– 6×2*
– 1x1x105% (aim for a new 1RM)

Week 7 Deload

Congratulations, a new PB to help you drive up old RM’s and add some much sought after muscle/strength.

Thats the typical way to do it, however if you’re short on time then this  may be of use.

The new twist for those short on time –

If you with to do this twice per week the cycle will end up being 10 weeks long (9 with the last being a deload).

Week 1
– 6×2*
– 6×3*

Week 2
– 6×4*
– 6×2*

Finally

Week 9 – Week 10 Deload
– 6×2*
– 1x1x105% (aim for new 1 RM)

From experience you can pair two lifts together when doing this and PB on both so long as they don’t interfere with each other.

It’s also good because you get a heavy day and a light day each week meaning you can really go for it each heavy session as it makes the overall progression far more manageable.

For example:

DL & Press (or weighted dip)
Squat & Pull Up
Bench Press & Row

You’ll find that some token accessory work of say 30 reps per accessory lift is enough to help the other lifts keep up and maintain some form of muscular balance.

Here is how I planned my sessions using the twice per week training schedule. I was forced to train this way because of upcoming events and life doing what it does best, however I hit new numbers and intact made progress.

Sometimes less really is more.

Lifting Day 1 & 2:
A1 – DL – sets/reps as above
B1 – Press – sets/reps as above
B2 – Chin – 5 reps each set
C1 – Squat 1×10-20

  • I would add in perhaps some postural work and make a few sets for smaller muscle groups if I had time
  • You can also add in some CV training (sprints etc) a couple of times per week that don’t require you going to a gym

The funny thing with this is it’s so simple people will ignore it.

We live in a world where people think that unless they’ve destroyed themselves they haven’t had a good training session.

This is not true.

Especially when you look at MRV (maximum recoverable volume) vs MED (minimal effective dose), however that’s for another day.

Give the above a go and see how you fair.

Enjoy,

Ross

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Make progress with one set!

Something you may have heard or read in the past.
 
Is it true?
 
Yes, however you’ll need to know exactly what is meant by ‘one set’.
 
When people write or speak about making progress with the above, they don’t mean you literally only do one set.
 
What they mean is that you’re going to do one ‘working set’, you don’t include your warm ups in the mix, which could be was little as two sets or as many as 10 depending on how strong you are.
 
A working set is classes as an amount of reps performed at the target weight.
 
You also have the classic 3×10 by Delorme/Watkins which was as follows:
 
– 1x10x50% 10RM (warm up)
– 1x10x75% 10RM (warm up)
and finally…
1x10x100% 10RM (working set)
 
Going you one working set.
 
If we took the classic 3×8, this means 3 working sets, not including warm ups.
 
If you ever read Brawn, you’d find that lots of the programs had things like this written:
 
Squat 1×20
Press 2×5
Chin 1×6-8
etc
 
All of these are the working sets, as you cans occasionally they had 2 working sets.
 
The idea of this set is to much you to your limits and perhaps add some small amount of weight to be bar, improve the form, do it while having less rest and so on.
 
You could manipulate any variable to get progress so long as you made progress.
 
– Volume – perhaps got an extra rep at or 2 the same weight
– Intensity – lifted more total weight on the bar
– Density – had less rest than previously
– Frequency – performed this feat twice in a week instead of once
 
When you take a look at the principles behind this long spoken method of training it’s fair to say they’re pretty solid because they leave you nowhere to hide.
 
If you limit yourself to only one hard set, you’re more likely to give it your all and try to better that set in any which way you can.
 
The more modern approach of “Do all the sets & all the reps!” isn’t bad by any means, however it does often leave people working sub-optimally which is why some struggle to make any form of progress.
 
The repeated bout effect or repetition method is a solid one, that’s not being disputed, however those who get the most out of this are the ones who’ve spent a decent chunk of time hitting one hard ‘working set’ in the past.
 
You may also find working sets are called ‘top sets’ which can be found in those who follow a daily lifting routine – ala Bulgarian style training and daily maxing.
 
So, should you try this style of training protocol?
 
Yes, no, maybe, I really don’t know.
 
It certainly works, however if you’re making progress with what you’re doing then there’s no sense in changing, if not though, perhaps you might find this useful.
 
If you decide to work for top sets here are some pointers of where to start:
 
Top set recommendations:
Squat: 5-10
Presses: 5
Pulls: 6-8
DL: 3-5
Accessory lifts: 8-12
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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1-2-3 for you & me

Progress, it’s as easy as 1-2-3.
 
An old school method for strength & lean mass.
 
Morning All,
 
You may have guessed that I enjoy things from yesteryear.
 
For good reason too, I might add.
 
Everything that worked back then still works today, in fact it’s usually more effective than what most people do these days.
 
You will find many a person runs to a fitness magazine, or some form of social media for a workout routine, which is fair enough, if something is free you’d be silly not to use it.
 
The only issue is that while the info might be good, the people using it only apply around 50% effort, especially when the weights get heavy.
 
This is bad… very bad.
 
Low effort means low results.
 
This is where for those of you who are a little more focused 1-2-3 will be something you enjoy.
 
Here is what to do:
 
– Pick an exercise or two (A1/A2 fashion)
– Put some weight on the bar, say 80% of your max
– Do 1 rep, rest a little, do 2 reps, rest a little, do 3 reps, rest longer
– Add weight after each successful 1-2-3
– Do 3-5 sets
 
 
You’d be surprised how this rest pause style of protocol allows you to lift heavier than normal and get in some decent volume too.
 
You’ll find that this style of protocol is are more sustainable than a standard 5×5 with repeating weight as you can manage fatigue levels far better while still lifting heavy-ish.
 
In between each of the prescribed reps you could rest 15-30 seconds, just enough to allow you to get the next reps easily while still lifting heavy.
 
Rest 2-5min after each full set.
 
After you’ve done your reps/sets you can finish off with some loaded carries and perhaps some isolation work for weak points, or for vanity reasons, your choice.
 
This is so easy to apply you’ll probably ignore it.
 
You can use 3 week rotations before adding more total load to the bar if you choose, it will look like this:
 
Week 1: 3×1-2-3×80%
Week 2: 4×1-2-3×80%
Week 3: 5×1-2-3×80%
Week 4: 3×1-2-3×82%
And so on.
 
I’ve it a try and watch your strength, lean mass, skill in the lift and enjoyment of training soar through the roof.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Why you miss with HIIT.

Morning All,
 
HIIT (high intensity interval training) is one of the most popular training methods of a great many people these days.
 
While the concept is a solid one, it’s something that is being abused because there is only so much HIIT you can do each week.
 
Given this fact people actually end up doing MISS (moderate intensity steady state).
 
It’s not uncommon for people to do claim the do 4 and sometimes more session of HIIT per week, now the intentions are good however the body just can’t keep up with those kinds of metabolic demands.
 
I’m one to admit I couldn’t keep up with those kinds of demands and I’m actually quite conditioned.
 
If you’re one of the people doing this then I’m sorry to say that you’re not actually doing what you think you’re doing and the chances are your body composition reflects this too.
 
How many people do you know who claim to train this way, in this amount of frequency and unfortunately still have a fair amount of excess body fat, or at least more than you’d expect someone who does a lot of HIIT to have.
 
Quite a few I’d imagine.
 
One quick way to establish if your training has been successful if to test your VO2 max (the maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise, used as a way of measuring a person’s individual aerobic capacity.).
 
You will find that most of the time people who have a high VO2 Max are typically quite lean.
 
Do you know yours?
 
If not then I suggest doing a test.
 
Here is a link to some tests and also a chart of averages:
 
 
So what can yo do with this information?
 
Well, once you know your VO2 Max you can correlate working to a % of it to your heart rate (this is what you should do for HIIT), that way when you’re training you will know where your HR should be for your intervals and so on.
 
If you do this you’ll soon find that your 4+ HIIT sessions of 1hour per week are perhaps reduced twice per week for at tops 20min.
 
Here is a quick example to try:
 
If you are lifting weights 2-3 times per week, do this after two of those sessions.
 
60 interval sprints at 92% HR (this is around 85% of your VO2 Max), rest 2min.
 
Try repeating that 5 times, this means 5min of work with 10min of rest.
 
Remember that each interval that your heart rate needs to be at or around 92% for the majority of the 60 second sprint, that’s how you maximise your training.
 
If you do this 2x per week (after you’ve lifted) you’ll notice a few things happen.
 
– Your fitness improves
– Your body fat starts to drop
– You learn what real HIIT is all about
 
It’s also advised to do perhaps 1-2 steady state sessions (70% average HR) for say 30-45min, I’d probably go for the 30min target.
 
So perhaps you weekly plan looks like this:
 
Monday – Weights + HIIT – as above
Tuesday – 30min Steady State Training (run, swim, row etc)
Wednesday – Off
Thursday – Weights + HIIT -as above
Friday – Off
Saturday – 30-45min Steady State Training – as above
Sunday – Off
 
Try it and you’ll find things start to fall in to place.
 
Oh, also ensure that if fat loss/body composition is your goal then you have a sustainable calorie deficit in place and a decent nutritional protocol.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Why 5×5 has stood the test of time

Chances are you’ve heard of the classic 5×5 workout protocol.
 
Many of the greats have done it starting off with Reg Park, ranging all the way to Arnold in his early days and is still used by many lifters of today.
 
Now something to consider is that there is no one way to perform 5×5.
 
Having the freedom to change the overall loading protocol not only helps with progression it also allows people to stave off the inevitable boredom that they may end up encountering.
 
Here’s some examples:
 
5×5 – 4 warm ups, 1 working set
5×5 – 3 warm ups, 2 working sets
5×5 – 2 warm ups, 3 working sets
5×5 – all working sets as warm up work done separately
5×5 – Heavy – Light – Medium
5×5 – Wave loading
5×5 – CAT
5×5 – Max Effort – 3-5% fatigue drop each set
5×5 – RPE loading set to set – EG 8-9rpe
5×5 – EMOM
 
Essentially you can make any adjustments you feel necessary to allow you to progress.
 
A personal favourite of mine if the H-M-L loading, as you may have guessed from my previous writings.
 
Using this protocol I’d suggest picking one lift that is lagging behind and proceed to train it 3xpw using the protocol like this:
 
H: 4 warm up sets to 1 all out set of 5
M: 5 working sets at 80% of your all out 5 on H day
L: 2-3 working sets at 80% of your all out 5 on H day
M: 5 working sets at 80% of your all out 5 on H day
H: 4 warm up sets to 1 all out set of 5
Repeat the above
 
You’ll notice that this give you plenty of sessions between heavy days, 3 to be exact.
 
This will allow your body to recovery and adapt to the 80% of your old 5, when the time comes around for the next all out heavy day your aim it to perhaps add a little bit of weight or maybe even complete the same heavy 5 you did before but with better form/speed etc.
 
If you hit a weight repeat then you’d take 85% of that weight for the upcoming sessions before attempting the heavy 5 again.
 
Let’s say you again stick on that same 5 rep weight and the form is again more solid. The loading would be 90% for the upcoming sessions.
 
When this happens to be the case, after the next M day when you you 5x5x90% of your current 5RM, you’d hope to now see a new total weight on the bar.
 
Once you do you go back to the 80% of that top weight and repeat as necessary. If you hit a new weight each time you do the H day then stick at 80% of that for loading, only increase that % if you find you can’t add a tad more weight to the all out set of 5 on your H day.
 
5×5 is safe, it’s effective and it leave little to the imagination.
 
You’ll make stay progress on it for quite some time, especially if you play with the variations of it.
 
Take some time and plan out you training.
 
Remember this protocol is mostly for strength with hypertrophy as a happy side effect.
 
When it comes to the other lifts/body parts you’re not doing 5×5 on, 2-4×8-12 will be good as accessory work, well any rep range will do, just go for a total of around 5 reps on 1-3 extra movements.
 
Give it some thought.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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