Tag Archives: strength practice

4 Movements you should be able to do.

Well you don’t have to be able to do these, however life will be much easier if you can.
 
1 – A full ROM overhead squat
2 – A full hinge
3 – A get up without the use of your hands
4 – A full ROM pull up
5 – A handstand – advanced
 
Why those 4?
 
In terms of general health you’ll find it’s these qualities people lose over time and as such their quality of life depreciates, however if you keep a good amount of strength in these movements you’ll find you age proof yourself throughout the years.
 
Let’s look at them all individually.
 
1 – A full ROM overhead squat.
 
Now this doesn’t have to be with maximal loads, it’s just a movement that will show your bodies potential limitations in ankles, hips & shoulders which are common because of daily life.
 
This skill can be linked to getting out of a chair or up from sitting on the floor. 
If you’re really strong you can do this on one leg too.
 
2 – A full hip hinge
 
This is in reference to a full hip flexion with minimal knee bend while not losing upper thoracic position, it will basically allow you to lift things correctly and minimise injury while firing up your hamstrings, glutes, erectors and musculature of the posterior chain.
 
It will also cross over in to picking something up and carrying it for a distance or time, a skill we NEED in everyday life.
 
3 – A get up without the use of your hands
 
If you’ve ever watched the difference between a elderly persona and a youth when it comes to getting up you will see the difference, however keeping the ability to get up without the use of your hands shows total body connection and strength which if kept in to old age can help keep you out of a retirement home.
 
The above being said, having the ability to perform a Turkish Get Up is also a great skill to have at any age.
 
4 – A full ROM pull up
 
Climbing is something we are meant to do. The ability to pull up your own body weight is an essential skill because it shows health & strength, plus if you’ve gotten in to your golden years and have slipped over and perhaps twisted your ankle the ability to grab something and lift yourself up will be most welcome.
 
5 – A handstand
 
Balancing on your hands was an old favourite in the days past and showed not only strength and total body connection along with wrist, elbow and shoulder health.
 
Inversion is a great skill as it requires concentration, bracing, controlled breathing and calm.
 
Now these movements are very useful for overall health and longevity, if you wish to specialise in a sport then you will have different needs which may go against the best interests of your health/longevity, this is the sacrifice you make.
Being able to move is also great for your mental health too.
 
If you want to work on these then you can either take up a movement class or perhaps some form of advanced yoga.
 
Being able to move is important, don’t lose it, the difference between a young body an old one is the ability to move.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Short on time? Better back off.

The introduction and more frequent use of ‘back off sets’ has become quite popular of late.

You’ll find you can use them to determine suitable loading for your next session, increase total TUT and even help you maintain your progress if you find your gym training time has been chopped down due to life getting in the way.

In the past this has happened several times and as such a way and to be found to get in some quality work, here is an option for you, it will take anywhere from 20-30min tops, try not to spend longer than 30min (especially if your time is limited), just focus on hard work.

This protocol will:

– Provide suitable mechanical tension for strength
– Generate metabolic stress for adaptation
– Create muscle damage for new growth

All you need to do is follow the guidelines and put in all your effort, eat the calories required for your goal (I’ve written about this previously), sleep and stay focused.

Let’s get down o the details.

– Use compound movements (Squat, DL, Press, Chin, Row, etc)

– 1 or 2 per workout (A1/A2 pairing)

– Ramp up your weights each set, start off with 5’s and work to one heavy set, then add a little more weight for a 3, then finally a little more for 1 single. The triple/single aren’t all out efforts, only the 5, they’re just for extra neural stimulation.

– Take 70% of the top 5 and perform 1 back off set of 10-20 reps unbroken

– Rest is minimal between sets, go as soon as you feel ready

– 3 sessions per week is a good minimum to cover the full body

You will be in and out in no time at all.

This short style of workout will allow heavy enough loads to trigger a host of positive things and the back of set will further potentiate this.

If you find you’re doing all of this in 20min then use the extra 10 for some accessory movements (arms, calves etc).

The protocol above is nothing fancy, it’s devised to get maximum results out of minimum time and as such leaves no room for dilly-dallying.

Enjoy,
Ross

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Too hard, too often.

It’s not unusual for those who love training to go a little hard at the gym leaving nothing left in the tank and while it might seem like they will make progress this way, following this route will often leave you broken and without meaningful progress.
 
It’s an easy place to fall in to.
 
Back when what would breed the training of today was originally becoming popular (1800’s) there were two main schools of though:
 
– Daily practice of heavy lifting, near done to failure
– Cycling heavy, light and medium sessions
 
Both provided solid foundations of strength and built great physiques, as such there is a lot that we can learn from these teaching.
 
When it comes to those who like to lift heavy and often, picking 1-3 movements is all you need per session (focusing on those 1-3 for an extended period of time is also advised), it’s imperative you make sure you’re stopping well short of failure, as such this will mean each set is of limited repetitions and there is multiple sets (to get in the required volume to grow), you’ll leave the session feeling strong and potentially like you could have done more, don’t do more.
 
This style of training on the nerve can be quite taxing is you start chasing fatigue instead of performance, remember, you don’t want to start feeling tried/drained, if you do that means you’ve done too much and need to stop.
 
Take a deload every 3rd or 4th week, it will keep you lifting for longer.
 
The second option suit itself to many different goals, the former is more of a strength/performance method.
 
The use of H-L-M training sessions is a great way to train because it will allow you to have one session with maximal intensity, one that focuses on recovery and the last one that allows you to put ins one well needed work on volume/reps.
 
Some in the modern age call this method DUP (daily undulating periodisation).
 
The hardest thing about cycling is the temptation to make each session super hard and that’s not the idea, the light session is designed to let fatigue dissipate, hence why having it between the heavy and medium is ideal. You can also base your volume numbers off of your heavy day, for example:
 
H – worked up to a top set of 5
L – sets of 10 to increase blood flow and practice movement
M – 80% of the top 5 on heavy day for volume work to failure
 
You’d be surprised how well this works on either full body or split styles of training. The rep options you have for this are endless depending on your goal.
 
The reason the styles of method lost some favour over the years is because they didn’t fit in with the trend of ‘more is better’, it’s worth remembering that often times more is rarely better, it’s just more.
 
If you’re a little lost in your training give one of these a try, you’ll find not going for broke each session will not only keep you lifting longer but also give you focus and much needed progress.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Improve your deadlift in 5min

Give this post a read, it should take 5min and you will improve your deadlift.

Considering you’re all intelligent people I’m sure you’ve heard to the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC) and the role it plays in movement.

*A nice link for those who want some more science on it: http://www.scienceforsport.com/stretch-shortening-cycle/

*Here is the lay version: think pulling back and elastic band to store potential energy and then releasing it (kinetic energy is the result). “to shorten muscle you must first lengthen it”. Where you are right now do vertical jumps… Good, now do it without first bending your legs in to the starting position (preventing and pre-stretching of the muscles used for the jump)… Doesn’t really work, does it.

I want to talk about its relevance in lifting weights and how you can use it to improve your deadlift (all will become clear, trust me).

If we look at the squat and the bench press, they both have one thing in common that is missing in the deadlift.

Do you know what it is?

…..

A loaded eccentric start to the lift (bar on your back/in your hands), this helps you create tension and the potential energy to overcome the required force on the concentric portion of the lift from being in the hole, where are the deadlift starts on the floor and you’ve got no real help. It’s you VS the bar and unless you’re a well trained lifter who understands how to use the SSC or at least prime your body by creating tension (pre-loading) in the required muscles yo’ll find you can’t even shift the bar from the floor.

I’m sure you’ve seen many great dedadlifters such as Eddie HallEd Coan, Richard ‘The Ant’ Hawthorne, Andy Bolton to name a few, have a certain something about their set up. You know, when they pull against the bar taking the slack out (getting tight), followed by a brief pull down (or 3 in Andy’s case) and then effortlessly hoist it off the floor to victory. This pre-lift routine is their way of firing up the muscles required, creating tension and utilising the SSC to help them generate the force required to overcome the inertia and lift the weight. (This is harder to write down than I anticipated).

Here are some videos, watch for the points mentioned above:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRO51Qqt-I8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9Y4o_BqC0A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNvONtw-94g

The reason for this post is a simple one. I see a lot of people fail to do the following in the deadlift:

– Take the slack out of the bar
– Get tight (create massive amounts of tension/pre-load muscles)
– Not utilise the SSC
*Obviously a correct individual set up is required, if you don;t have those hire a coach and get the foundations, then refer back to this.

In Dynamite Deadlift (written by Pavel Tsatsouline & Andy Bolton) they cover a lot of great info and give lot’s of tips. One that Pavel has given throughout the years is to set up to the brain the deadlift and from standing PULL yourself in to your starting position from standing to create more tension (remember tension = force).

Enjoy,

Ross

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Limited Choice

Afternoon Guys,
 
Did you know that having a limit to how many exercises you do in a workout can actually increase it’s effectiveness.
 
The reason being that if you take out excess you’ll find that you need to maximise what you’re doing with what you have to get the most bang for your buck, thus meaning an increase in intensity and metabolic disruption which leads to more potential progress.
 
I have challenge for you.
 
It will involve 12 weeks of commitment and effort on your part, if you feel up for it then keep reading.
 
The 2-3-4 Step Guide to Break Plateaus
 
In the first 4 weeks I want you to hit the following targets:
 
– 75 reps per week, per muscle group
– 70-85% average intensity
– Hit each muscle group 2 times per week
– Use only two exercises per muscle group
 
In the second 4 weeks I want you to hit the following targets:
 
– 100 reps per week, per muscle group
– 70-85% average intensity
– Hit each muscle group 2 times per week
– Use three exercises per muscle group
 
In the third and final 4 weeks I want you to hit the following targets:
 
– 125 reps per week, per muscle group
– 70-85% average intensity
– Hit each muscle group 2 times per week
– Use four exercises per muscle group
 
Doing this will give you an idea of what it takes to put together a program that delivers what you need with minimal confusion, take some time to think this through and opt for exercises that give you the best bang for your buck, such as Squat & Good Mornings as a pairing for example.
 
Also remember that an exercise such as Weighted Chins will also sufficiently hit biceps as well as annihilate you back, pair these with deadlifts and you’ve got a great back workout.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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3 Tips to better technique.

Having solid technique is not only essential for safety but also if you want to shift big weights.
 
Solid form will mean you achieve more lifts and break more PR’s. This not only improves confidence but gains as well.
 
Here are three tips to help you improve your form:
 
1 – Sets of Singles
 
Let’s say you have a rep goal of 25 which you usually break in to 5×5, 6×4, 8×3 or any other rep scheme. Instead of doing your normal sets/reps you will simply perform 25 singles, meaning you have to put the bar back in the rack (or to the floor) and set up each and every rep. This will help you get used to nailing that first rep every time and greatly improve your form.
 
2 – 6-6-6
 
The devils scheme as some call it. You pick a weight that is RPE 6 and do 6 sets of 6 reps with a 6-0-6-0 tempo. This reduced tempo will force you to control your form each rep and improve your ability to maintain total body tension throughout your lifts.
 
3 – Video Records
 
An obvious one but something people still don’t do enough of. WE all have phones that can record short videos and this will give you the perfect opportunity to take a look at your form, after all, the camera doesn’t lie. You can use the feedback to tweak your technique as needed if you see any.
 
Use those three tips and you’ll find suddenly you start breaking plateaus and having less injuries.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Warm Up That Works Wonders

How do you currently warm up?

I was warming up for squats today and noticed some lads doing the same for bench (it is international chest day after all).

The warm up they did was not terrible by any means, it contained stretching, some dynamic work and some reps with the bar/60kg, however the form was loose and the tempo was inconsistent, by the time they got to their working sets the form had changed yet again. I had a brief chat and offered some tips to help tighten said form but the words became lost on the winds.

If you take a look at any videos of high level lifters you will find their warm up sets look almost identical to their working sets. They lift the light weights like they’re heavy and this crosses over to them lifting heavy weights like they are light.

Personally I try not to waste any reps and use every one as a chance to groove solid form and get feedback on how my body is feeling, do you do the same?

There are lots of way to warm up which become more or less relevant depending on your goal, however to help groove your form try warming up with the lift you want to work for that day. Doing around 8 sets of 2-3 reps (perhaps one set of 10 with the bar to dust off the cobwebs) of your desired exercise, you add weight to take it close to or even over your working sets for the day, this will set you up for a good session, both physically and neurologically.

It might look like this:

SQ – Bar x10, 60kg x5, 80kg x5, 100kg x3, 120kg x2, 140kg x2, 155kg x1, 165kg x1, 170kg x1, 5x5x150kg

Here is a nice little article with some good references if you want to look in to this further:

http://main.poliquingroup.com/…/Warm-Up_Tips_To_Get_Stronge…

Moral of the story; your warm ups should be the same as your working sets.

Enjoy,
Ross

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3 Simple Tips to Bench More

The bench press is the gym bro’s favourite exercise by a long long way and today I will give three simple tips to help improve those numbers so that when someone asks “How much do ya bench?” you can answer with an impressive amount.

Tip 1 – Let The Weight Settle.

People are in too much of a rush to power out their reps they don’t even notice that they are not settled on the bench properly. When I say about ‘Letting the weight settle’ it means un-racking the bar and holding it for a few seconds to allow your body to stabilise, along wth and compression in the bench foam to happen so that you’re nice and balanced (This goes for the squat, overhead press, jerk and other such movements too).

The next time you bench take out the weight and let it settle while making sure you have a solid set up (feel flat, ass on the bench, shoulders on the bench, wrists straight, the bar in the correct place in your hands etc), I can guarantee that you will find the exercises much easier, you will also be able to get tight too, which nicely brings us on to our next tip.

    Tip 2 – Getting Tight.

Getting tight is something you will hear all good lifters talk about because it’s incredibly important. When you brace correctly by breathing in to your belly (diaphragm) and actively squeeze the bar as hard as possible while contracting your back and lats hard you recruit more total muscle, this means more power and also more stability, both of which you need to bench a lot of weight.

Practice this with just the bar, dare I say it you want to get to the point of discomfort with how tense your body is because that means you’re along the right path. DOn’t forget to stay tight throughout the entire bench press movement, especially the pause at the bottom – this is required in a comp which leads to my next tip.

    Tip 3 – Pause Every First Rep

Pause reps have had their merits sung plenty of times and doing a set of entirely composed of pause reps is great for strength but it can limit the amount of volume you can achieve, this is simply due to the weight reduction you would need to have a meaningful set of pause reps. If you pause the first rep of every set of bench presses (or presses in general, then finish the rest as touch and go), you will get the benefit of control, strength, volume and patience because it will take out the need to rush, which will be very helpful if you compete in Powerlifting as you don’t want to get a red light for pressing before the command.

There you have it. 3 tips to help you improve your bench press numbers.

Bonus Tip – All The Pressing 

A great way to train is by hitting all your pressing movements in the same session, starting with OHP, followed by Incline Press, then Bench Press and finally Dips (you can use push press in this is you wish too). By training this way you will build a strong upper body and hammer in lots of volume on your pressing ability. Use a ramping style rep/loading system for this, meaning if you start on 5 reps for OHP you stay at 5 and add a little bit of weight until you can’t hit 5, then go to incline starting on the weight you failed on in the OHP and repeat, then bench and so on, the dips can be weighted or not depending on if you want volume not hem or not. Doing this twice per week is more than enough to start with.

Enjoy, Ross

 

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The Missing Link

Morning Guys,
 
The clean and press is a great exercise.
 
Do you have it in your program?
 
I find it is something that has fallen in to the shadows in recent times. That is unless you compete in Weightlifting or Strongman then this movement will not be the common.
 
Why should you invest some time in to learning this movement you ask?
 
There are many reasons ranging from the sheer amount of muscles used in the movement (pretty much the whole body), the strength you will gain by lifting a heavy weight from he floor and putting it over your head and not to mention the respect of many lifters. Just think about the impressive back and shoulders you will build from this simple movement.
 
It’s easy to look at the barbell variations of this lift and see how technically demanding the lift actually is, therefore for most people a good place to start is the double dumbbell clean and press. It’s easier to perform the clean and also forces your body to perform synchronised unilateral work, which also means that both sides of your body are forced to coordinate and become better activated and more involved than with a barbell. The range of motion is slightly greater than with a barbell and more ROM generally means more work, which means more results.
 
The dumbbell clean and press was also a very popular movement in the early days of weight lifting. Many of the founding fathers (Sandow, Park, Reeves, Stank, Grimek to name a few) used this movement with great success.
 
I’m not going to give you an in-depth guide on how to clean and press dumbbells because you can easily find such videos on youtube. In fact, here is one of them:
 
 
Is there a gold standard you want to be aiming for? Well yes there is, in the old days if you could do 12 reps (each rep starts from the floor) with 2x75lbs dumbbells (35kg) you were considered a true warrior of the iron. I’m not suggesting you start out with those, pick a weigh that allows you to hit the desired reps and start working on building your strength.
 
Try this:
 
Warm Up Sets x2 – Clean & Press
Working Sets – 3×8-12, once you hit 3×12 add weight. Add in a set of pull ups in between each set too.
Finisher – Dips – Weighted or BW 3-5x fail
 
You can have this as a stand alone workout with some assistance work added in or you can do it more frequently if you wish, however you will do well to lay off Bench Press for a while and instead substitute Dips as a finisher (like above).
 
Now go and conquer the dumbbell clean and press.
 
Enjoy,
Ross
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Straight Lines

When it comes to using barbells the is one factor that they all have in common when it comes to correct execution of the various movements, do you know what it is though?

Pretty much all of the movements should move in essentially a straight line (there may be some deviance from this in the bench press/bent over row but that’s a topic of another day).
Lets brake down the most common movements and take a look at where the bar should be and ideally what path it should stay on.
Squat:
The bar needs to stay over your mid foot, any deviation from this can result in you tipping forwards or falling backwards. So long as the bar stays over your mid foot it will travel in a straight line on both the decent and ascent, depending on where you position the bar (front, high bar or low bar) the angle of your torso will differ to accommodate this and allow the bar to stay over mid foot.
I would suggest filming this from the side so you can gauge this, if you see the bar doing anything other than staying over your mid foot and traveling in a straight line then you have a problem and will be sacrificing how much weight you can lift. It is important to brace your abs as this will help keep the body in a better overall position, remember that the body is working as one in this lift.
Press:
I am referring to the overhead press, as I said above the bench press is a slightly different topic altogether.
The press starts at the shoulder/clavicle – over the center line of your body, you will be required to move your head back and out of the way to allow you to press the bar upward in a straight line so that it stays over the center line of your body. You will need to keep the elbows and forearms directly under the bar as you push straight up, often times people will try and push the bar away from them which causes a strange bar path and also excessive backwards lean and puts extra unneeded pressure on the lower back.
You will brace your abs by taking a deep breath in to your belly, this will help you avoid losing position and once again connecting the body from head to toe. As with the squat film this lift from the side.
Deadlift:
As with the other two lifts you will want the bar traveling in a straight line once again starting over mid foot, similar to the squat the bar ideally wants to stay there, if it does it will make your body work as one unit just like in the other two lifts. You will often see that when people set up the inadvertently nudge the bar forwards and out of this position when they set up (this is due to excessive forwards knee travel), as a result they will end up having to pull the bar in to them and afire their hips up first, thus turning this in to a craning motion that only uses the lower back as opposed to a full body movement.
Once again you will do well to fil this lift from the side, that way you will also be able to see how your overall position (upper back tightness, spinal position) looks.
The main take home from this short post guys is to be aware of where the bar is in relation to your body as you’re lifting it to ensure a correct bar path. DO NOT try to do this by the use of mirrors as you will end up watching yourself and losing concentration which lacks to the skill of ‘feeling’ how the lift is. Setting up a simple camera will allow you to concentrate 100% on the lift so it’s worth doing it. After a bit of practice you will find that you’re numbers start to increase because you’re more technically proficient.
Now go and get practicing.
Enjoy,
Ross
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