Tag Archives: strength skill

3 Easy to apply methods to increase your strength TODAY!

Making changes in body composition is a goal for many people, yet when it comes to doing that you need to increase your base levels of strength.
 
Being stronger allows you to accumulate more total volume, which means more potential for muscle growth.
 
If you have hit a plateau, here are three easy to apply methods to help you boost strength.
 
1 – Dead Starts
 
Stating a press or a squat from the bottom position (a power rack or suit stand pins will be needed) eliminates the eccentric loading/stretch reflex meaning it’s pure neural output and force production, this is a great way to help strength.
 
Pick one movement and focus on this for 2-3 weeks, then change to another movement or a different variation of the lift, this can be quiet draining on the nervous system.
 
Perform said lift 3x per week start off with 8×2 and add a rep until you hit 8×3, use 80%+ of 1RM, rest as much as you need but as little as possible.
 
2 – Pause Reps
 
An old classic but one that is super effective.
 
If you’re pressing or squatting, simply get to the lowers point in the lift and pause there for a minimum of 2-3 seconds (4 is the point where most people lose all potential energy stored by the eccentric portion of the lift), build up to longer pauses over time.
 
So say week 1: 3 seconds, week 2: 4 seconds, week 3: 5 seconds etc.
 
You can also pause pulling movements, the main difference being you pause at the top of the lift (contraction peak), I believe it was Phil Learney who said if you can’t hold at the top for 3 seconds then the weight is too heavy and your back is too weak – other top coaches have said similar and I have to agree wholeheartedly with this statement. Leave your ego & your momentum at the door in pulling movements.
 
If you choose to pause deadlifts stop in either the concentric or eccentric, both are very effective at building strength – aim to pause at your common ‘sticking point’ as that’s where you’re power output is at it’s weakest.
 
2-3 week blocks advised, one lift focus per block.
 
3 – Partial Reps
 
Eek, gasp!
 
Yep, partial reps are a great tool for increasing strength, provided you have the equipment necessary to perform them with good form.
 
Say you have a sticking point, you’d simply set up the bar at the post just before it and just after it and press or squat through that small ROM to build your strength/force output in that area.
 
This could also be done in stages across the entire full ROM of a lift, might look like this:
 
A1 – Press lock out 3×3-5
B1 – 1/2 rep to 3/4 rep and hold (pressing in to the pins on each last rep as hard as possible 3×3-5
C1 – 1/4 rep to 1/2 rep press hold as above 3×3-5
D1 – Bottom of rep to 1/4 rep press hold as above 3×3-5
E1 – Full rep 3×3-5
 
Easy on paper, brutal in practice, but 100% effective in getting stronger.
 
2-4 week block advised, one lift focus per block.
 
Bonus – Cheat Rep & Eccentric Overload
 
A classic cheat rep such as a push press, or cheat curl for example. This allows you to get the lift up to the end ROM and then slowly lower the weight using eccentric training.
 
There you have it, some simple methods you can add to your training to increase your strength today.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Skills Skills Skills

Life is all about acquiring skills.

Think about it.

As kids we learn to crawl, then walk, then run an jump an play which finally lead in to minor sports and activities, however the best part about all that is the sense of achievement, wether you’re aware of it or not.

We like learning new things and more importantly being good at them, training should be no different.

That being said, there are plenty of exercises that people will avoid like the plague not because of a legitimate excuse but for the fact that they’re not good at the moment and it brings their ego down a peg of three.

If we take squatting for example.

A squat is something everyone assumes they can do, nay, they expect they can do, so when someone tries and struggles or perhaps fails to execute it with any good form they get disheartened and start to avoid the movement, usually opting for leg press or machine work.

Squatting is a skill, much the same as pressing, deadlifting, running, jumping, throwing and so on. The only difference is how quickly a person can learn that skill (major injury or medical reasons aside), some take longer than others but that doesn’t mean you should give up on it.

Something I’ve noticed in other people as I’ve gotten older is just how lacking in resilience they are. If something doesn’t happen instantly or go their way from the start they get pissy, make excuses and give up, bot a good trait to have.

Have I ever had the above attitude?

Yep, more times than I’d like to admit, however there’s no sense in lying about it so I might as well learn from it instead.

The main lesson I took away was this; thing take time, some more than others but everything comes with a cost of your time. You just have to pay it, if you really want to achieve anything that is.

I understand how frustrating it can be when things don’t go your way, oh and before you start thinking “I don’t agree with that.” stop, it’s human nature to get the hump when we don’t get what we want, just accept it, no one is here to judge you and if they are then let them, it literally has no effect on your life unless YOU allow it to.

Will you do something for me? Or more aptly put, will you do something for yourself.

Write down 3 skills you want to achieve.

Next, look at each skill and write down what you need to be doing to acquire that skill and HOW you’re going to achieve it.

Lastly, start working towards them.

Don’t give up, almost everything can be learnt/achieved if given enough time, you just have to want it bad enough.

Enjoy,
Ross

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A quote to think on

A quote from Dr. VM Zatsiorsky has always stuck with me:
 
“Train as heavy as possible, as often as possible, while staying as fresh as possible.”
 
Now this has multiple interpretations, today I will give you mine.
 
You can take from it what you will, however I’d encourage you to formulate your own.
 
To me this is a simple message –
 
Lift heavy, everyday if possible but always leave each session feeling strong, confident and ready for more.
 
Given the background of the good Dr being one of a weightlifting sports science one, it was in the interests of the Russian weightlifters/powerlifter to train as close as they could to the nerve without burning out.
 
High performance demands high intensity and high workload.
 
Now obviously there will be a point where a person needs a rest, the accumulation of volume/intensity coupled with high frequency will mean that physiologically you will eventually need to rest so the your body can adapt.
 
Personally I like the idea of training multiple times per day, multiple days in a row and learning to listen to your body.
 
I believe it was John Broz who said “How you feel is a lie.” or something similar.
 
Basically it means you can push through days where you feel sluggish because it’s in your head and your body can actually handle it.
 
Obviously this takes some time to achieve this level of awareness, however it is certainly something that is very real in the world of strength sport and performance, perhaps not so great for bodybuilding purposes but definitely for sport.
 
I’m sure you’d like to know how to apply this to your training.
 
Here is a list of movements you want to achieve:
 
Push, Pull, Squat, Hinge, Loaded Carry, Full Body
 
You might put the push/pull together, then have the squatting/hinging the day after, followed by a loaded carry day and then a full body movement day (clean & jerk or snatch for example).
 
Depending on your sporting needs you’ll plan what you need.
 
Now this isn’t for everyone.
 
I’d say pick a few movements and focus on them, work up to a heavy ish 1,2 or 3 for the day and the do some back off work if you feel up to it.
 
– Press ramp to heavy 2
– Back off 3-5x2x80% top weight
– Done
 
The high frequency will produce enough volume for the agains you desire, this is why you can have a fairly low volume on the day.
 
There is a lot of literature on training daily, if you want to know more look up John Broz, Dan John, Bulgarian/Russian weightlifting and make your own choice on giving it a go.
 
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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Quite Partial

Partial reps can sometimes be the topic of controversy but if done correctly they can help you break plateaus and overcome limiting factors, not to mention have some great crossover to athletic potential.
 
Here is a great article with lots of good science in it:
 
 
The above article covers everything I thought of so there is techicanlly no need to rewrite what has already been well written, instead I am going to give you a list of exercises to consider adding to your training to hep you break plateaus.
 
– Box Squat
– Pin Press (bench or overhead to lock out)
– Press to pins (start at bottom and press in to the pins as hard as you possibly can)
– Box Jumps
– Rack Pulls
– Olympic lifts in hang style start or power style finish
 
With the above exercises you also have various methods that involve partial reps, Im sure everyone has heard of Matrix 21’s, this is usually done on bicep curls. Along with this you could also try complex training for partial reps, here is an example of one:
 
Bulgarian complex training –
 
A complex of 4-5 exercises (similar to a giant set), going from the heaviest one to the lightest one.
 
A1. Back squat on Box: 3-5 repetitions with a load of 85-95% of 1RM Rest 3-4 minutes
A2. Power snatch or power clean: 2-3 repetitions with a load of 85-95% of 1RM Rest 3-4 minutes
A3. Jump squats: 5-10 repetitions with a load of 15-20% of the back squat 1RM Rest 3-4 minutes
A4. Depth jumps 10 repetitions from 0.5m Rest 3-4 minutes
A5. Vertical jumps: AMRAP in 15 seconds Rest 3-4 minutes
 
 
Now go add some partial reps to your workout and break those plateaus.
 
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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Waving Volume

Morning Guys,
 
*Please not this is a strength bias post.
 
Do you wave your volume workout to workout?
 
Wave loading your training volume is nothing new, it has been around since before lifting became popular. Strongmen of old would have heavy, light and medium days to allow them to train all out then have some recovery while also making progress on their skill in lifting (that’s what the light/medium days are for).
 
Plenty of people have talked about this, however I am going to give you a simple way that you can apply it to your own workouts of either 3,4 or 5 days training per week.
 
The days I would suggest for training are as follows for 3,4 or 5 days:
 
3 Day – Monday, Wednesday, Friday
4 Day – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday
5 Day – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
 
Here is how you cycle your volume:
 
Minimum weight on the bar is 80%, this is because you’re playing with the volume of your workout so you can always train heavy but not always hard as that’s what causes problems.
 
The last day of each week will be your all out day, so this might be 10×5 at 80%1RM. This is known as the Heavy/Hard Day because it has the most volume.
 
Next up is setting the Light Day, a suggestion would be to take off around 30-40% of your total volume from the Hard day, so in the example case that would be 5×5 at 80% giving you 30 reps instead of 50 at a 40% volume reduction.
 
Last is the Medium Day, this would be roughly 10-20% less than your Hard Day, if we went for a 20% volume reduction that would give you 40reps at 80%.
 
Pick two exercises. Yes, only 2. They will be your focus. Two large compound lifts will be the best option, A deadlift and press are excellent for most as is the squat and chin up
 
Arrange them in a super set like this:
 
A1 – x5 – Rest 60 Seconds
A2 – x5 – Rest 60 Seconds
Repeat until all sets done or speed/form is noticeably lost on the lifts.
 
Get the idea?
 
Here is how a 5 day week might look:
 
Saturday – Hard Day
Monday – Light Day
Tuesday – Medium Day
Wednesday – Medium Day
Friday – Light Day
 
You would still be lifting a weight over 80% of max for your chosen lifts but the cycling of volume will allow for optimal recovery and adaptation so you can add a little more weight on your hard day or push that day towards a slightly higher volume target before increase the weight. For example you may have the end target of 10×5 at 80% 1RM on Squats and OHP and only get 5×5 on your first hard day, this means you simply try and add a set of 5 each Saturday until you hit your volume target before increase the load or changing the exercise. I will leave the targets up to you.
 
I know I’ve suggested two moves only but on your light days you may add in some accessory work so long as it doesn’t change the workout in to a hard session as that defeats the object of this style of workout. So if you pick the DL/P as your main lifts you can put in some accessory leg work in the form of squats, lunges, chin ups and curls for example.
If you only have three days you have a Hard, Light and Medium Day. If 4 is what you can offer add in either a Light or Medium day.
 
People are in too much of a rush to make progress. Take your time with it. Progress in small manageable steps, cycle your volume loads each training session (not the weight, just the volume) and focus on crisp clean form.
 
Wave your volume and watch your progress increase.
 
Enjoy
Ross

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3 Tips to Dominate Deadlifts

Morning Guys,

The other day I gave wrote three tips for improving one’s bench press, today it will be the deadlift, after all, there is nothing more impressive than loading up 5 plates a side for reps.

Tip 1 – Pull Out The Slack

    If you’ve watched any top deadlift champion you will noticed they all seem to pull against the bar first, some do it with straight legs, other do it in a rock bottom position. It doesn’t matter which they do because they are all doing it to achieve the same thing, taking the slack out of the bar.

When you pull the bar off the floor it typically bends, every bar has some give in it, you must pull this out and stay tense to get it off the floor, if you don’t it will feel like the bar isn’t moving because you’ve not initiated the first pull correctly. Practice by getting tense and pulling agains the bar to feel the slack come out, once it is it’s time to drive the floor away and get your hips through as fast as possible and lock out a new PB.

Tip 2 – Keep Your Head Neutral

It’s fairly common for people to crank their neck back and ‘look up’ and while in theory this will help keep your back straight, in practice it doesn’t work so well. When you set up you want to keep your head neutral and slightly tuck your chin. That doesn’t mean looking down, your eyes can look up while your head remains neutral you know.

By keeping a neutral head position you will in effect lengthen your spine, this will help prevent rounding of the lower back and also allow a stronger neural connection, meaning you can lift more once you get this technique down.

Tip 3 – Lots of Single Arm Rows

A great many people will complain about their grip being the limiting factor, now while they are not necessarily wrong, they are not really sure of why their grip gives in. They think it’s because the grip is weak when more often than not it’s actually their upper back that is weak and as a result the brain says “Wait… we have a weak upper back… we can’t really lift this I don’t think. Better loosen the grip to prevent the stronger muscles lifting it and safe myself from injury.”.

The single arm row, or the Kroc Row is a great way of building an impressive upper back and as a result increasing your overall deadlift because your brain will now allow your to grip harder than before.

Use those three tips to improve your deadlift and start breaking your old PB’s.

Bonus Tip – Front Squat Crossover

Deadlifts can be very taxing to the body. Even reduced weight speed reps can take their toll. The front squat is a great exercise not only for building legs but also upper back strength and postural strength (through the upper thoracic). This is a must do accessory movement to your deadlift. The front squat also has a lot of crossover to your back squat and even your pressing movements as it teaches you to stay tight and breath in to your diaphragm properly.

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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