Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Tag: Bench Press

How important is the chest when bench pressing?

There was a very interesting study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research lately:

Abstract

In this study, we have used the multimodular measuring system SMART. The system consisted of six infrared cameras, and a wireless module to measure muscle bioelectric activity. Additionally, the path of the barbell was measured with special device called the pantograph. Our study concerns the change in the structure of the flat bench press when the weight of the barbell is increased. The research on the bench press technique included both the causes of the motion: the internal structure of the movement as well as the external-kinematic structure showing the effects of the motion, i.e. all the characteristics of the movement. Twenty healthy, male recreational weight trainers with at least 1 year of lifting experience (the mean +/- SD = 3.3 +/- 1.6 years), were recruited for this study. The subjects had a mean body mass of 80.2 +/- 8.6 kg, an average height of 1.77 +/- 0.08 m, and their average age was 24.7 +/- 0.9 years old. In the measuring session, the participants performed consecutive sets of a single repetition of bench pressing with an increasing load (about 70, 80, 90, and 100% of their 1 repetition maximum - 1RM). The results showed a significant change in the phase structure of the bench press as the barbell weight was increased. While doing the bench press at a 100% 1RM load, the pectoralis major changes from being the prime mover to being the supportive-prime mover. At the same time, the role of the prime mover is taken on by the deltoideus anterior. The triceps brachii, in particular, clearly show a greater involvement.

So what exactly does this mean? Well, the authors of this study found that the more weight an individual bench presses, the less and less the chest remains as the "prime mover." This actually isn't all that surprising, if you think about it, but is important for a few reasons none-the-less.

The bench press is considered a "compound" or "core" movement because it displaces load across multiple muscle groups and joints. When you bench press, the weight gets displaced across not only the pectorals, but the deltoids, triceps, etc. The joints involved include the shoulders and elbows. Compound movements are generally able to move more load due to this loading scheme across the body.

What this study is telling us is that although the pectorals may be one of the larger muscle groups involved in pressing the weight, the workload across the chest seems to peak at around 70% of an individual's 1-rep max, and any loads greater than that, and approaching closer to 100% come from recruiting the "supporting cast" - deltoids, triceps, etc.

Why this finding is important is because the training plan for an individual should be tailored to his or her goals. An individual who wishes to get a bigger chest, for example, may be better off training at less than 70% of their 1-rep max in order to increase overall workout volume without failing out due to fatigue in either the deltoids or triceps.

Not only that, but this also tells us the importance of accessory training. An individual can train their chest at sub-optimal loads all they want, but if there isn't enough effort and time invested in proper triceps and deltoid mechanics, strength, and health, they may struggle to improve their bench press 1-rep max.

Just some food for thought. 





How to: Bench Press

This guide will take you through the progressions and intricacies of how to bench press. The bench press is one of the best exercises to develop upper body strength and power. Lots of people love to bench press, especially men, however many are missing some key cues or techniques to maximize their bench press.

In my experience, most people I come across (in a training environment) have 2 main problems when it comes to incorrect or troublesome bench pressing. Either they are promoting too much anterior deltoid and not enough pectoral use, or they are not taking full advantage of using their lower bodies. Yes, the lower body is involved in the bench press as well.

Although it may seem like a pretty simple and basic exercise, there is far more going on with a bench press than what most people realize. There are also some pretty important technique flaws that hold many back.

Keep in mind that as with any form of exercise, there are inherent dangers associated with lifting weights, and if you have a history of injury or are unsure about a specific movement, it would be best to speak to a qualified medical professional such as your doctor to seek their opinion on whether or not you should partake in a particular exercise or program.

Setup

  1. You should have a sturdy bench positioned so that when you are laying down, your feet can be flat on the ground.
  2. Position yourself so that your eyes are directly beneath the bar.
  3. You should maintain 5 points of contact throughout the entire range of motion: 2 feet on the ground, glutes, upper back, and back of head on the bench.
  4. You should keep an arch to your lower back. This will help transition force from your legs, pushing heels into the ground, to your upper body. Having said that, make sure not to lift your glutes up off the bench when pressing hard.
  5. Grip the bar tight with the bar sitting in your palm rather than towards the fingers.
  6. Shoulder blades should be retracted and down. Rather than just squeezing your shoulder blades together, aim to bring the bottom tips of your scapulae together.
  7. When I am about to begin, I get my grip on the bar, pull my chest up towards the bar, lifting my back off the bench, and squeezing my shoulder blades together.
  8. Act as if you are about to break the bar like a pencil.
  9. If you do not have someone to spot you, make sure you are using a rack with safety rails to catch the bar if you cannot complete a repetition. The rails should be at a height allowing you to complete the full range of motion (bar to chest), yet not too low that it is not able to protect your chest from the bar. This needs to be taken seriously. The bench press is one exercise that can cause serious injury, even death if you do not take the correct safety precautions. If you are in a box gym, most people are more than happy to spot you so don't be afraid to ask!

Execution

  1. Take a nice deep breath and unrack the bar with straight arms and bring the bar into position straight over your mid-chest.
  2. Lower the bar to your chest, under control, without bouncing the bar off your chest. You should aim for the bar to touch your chest at the very tip of your sternum, about an inch or two below your nipple line. Hold your breath on the eccentric, or lowering portion of the lift.
  3. When the bar is touching your chest, your lower arms should be perpendicular to the bar. If not then you may need to either widen or narrow your grip. Your elbows should not be touching your sides nor flared out, in line with your shoulders. Instead, aim for about a 30 degree angle from your torso.
  4. Press the bar straight up as forcefully as possible while exhaling, driving through your heels.

Key Points to Focus On

  1. The bench press is a great way to increase the strength and size of the anterior shoulders, pectorals, triceps, etc. Having said that, make sure you avoid muscle imbalances by having a well-rounded program that also includes lifts like the overhead press and barbell row to work the posterior delts and upper back. This will not only make the shoulder more well-rounded and strong, but will also help you to better stabilize your shoulder blades, thus improving your bench press.
  2. The bar path should be straight up and down directly over the tip of the sternum.
  3. Do not use a thumbless or "suicide grip." There is a reason why it is called a suicide grip, because if that bar rolls out of your hands then that bar will end up on your chest or neck causing serious injury or death.
  4. Elbows should be close to your torso but not touching. Aim for a 30 degree angle.
  5. Maintain engaged shoulder blades throughout the entire range of motion. If you lose engagement then your anterior shoulders will be taking more of the load rather than your pectorals.
  6. Maintain your 5 points of contact throughout.
  7. Pressing your heels into the ground will help to transition force from your lower body, through your core, up to your arms and chest.




Back to Basics

Back to Basics is a program based on gaining maximal muscular strength, size, and function. This program is based on the program StrongLifts. If you haven't heard of StrongLifts then I highly recommend heading over there to check out that program. It may very well be the perfect program for you, as-is. There have been many individuals who have greatly benefited from such a program, and you can too.

Over the past couple of years, I have experimented with a program like StrongLifts on not only myself, but clients of mine as well. I have personally found that the program is missing a couple key elements or need a few adjustments made to the scheduling or programming to suit my needs. I believe that these changes and adjustments will benefit many of you as well.

Here are the main additions/adjustments that I have made:

Dynamic Warmups - I have taken some of my favourite and most useful movements to warmup the body through various planes and wide ranges of motion. The key areas of focus are the hips and shoulders. The shoulders and hips are the link, connecting strength and power from the core, out to the limbs. It is smart, and in good training practice to make sure they are warm and prepared for the work.

Warm-up Sets - I am not a big fan of the warm-up sets that StrongLifts recommends you do. Instead, I have included my own variety.

(Optional) Accessory Work - I have included some of my favourite and most useful accessory sequences to aid the main primary lifts. Especially when just starting a program like StrongLifts, I have found that many users can get the feeling of "not doing enough" by just doing 5, 5-rep sets of the primary lifts. There are a couple key aspects to note here:

  1. The emphasis and energy for the day (on strength days) should be to focus on improving numbers on the main lifts. The accessory work is there to work as a supplement. The original StrongLifts program was designed with some accessory work but too many people were focusing too much on trying to improve their numbers with their accessory lifts and neglecting the main lifts.
  2. Some days, if you are pushing for a personal best on bench press, for example, you may not even have the strength or energy to do the accessory lifts, so either don't do them at all for that day, or back off on the weights you have previously used.
  3. If you fail at getting 5x5 for your lift for the second straight workout, then skip the similar accessory for for that day (discussed in more detail below*). One may think that plateauing or stalling on a weight should require more volume/intensity, but in actuality, you probably need more recovery.

*Let's say you fail at a lift for the second consecutive workout (for that lift) and are forced into a de-load:

Strength Day 1:

Bench Press - attempting 200lbs.
Set 1 - 5 reps
Set 2 - 5 reps
Set 3 - 5 reps
Set 4 - 4 reps (fail)
Set 5 - 3 reps (fail)

Strength Day 3:

Bench Press - attempting 200lbs. (2nd attempt)
Set 1 - 5 reps
Set 2 - 5 reps
Set 3 - 5 reps
Set 4 - 5 reps
Set 5 - 4 reps (fail)

On that second workout, in this case - Strength Day 3, skip both the incline press to bent over row and dips. Both of these accessory lifts use the shoulders, triceps, and chest just like the bench press does so taking extra recovery time will benefit you more than trying to fight through the accessory lifts. You would only skip those accessory lifts for that one workout. Alternatively, if you failed on the squat for the second time on Strength Day 3, then you would have the option to do the incline press to bent over row and dips.

Exercise Selection - Just a small change to the warmup sets for deadlifts on Strength Day 2 & 4 (utilizing snatch deadlifts).

Recovery Days - I have included recovery days that focus on "active recovery" for the muscles that have been worked the previous day. I am a firm believer in active recovery, as an increase in circulation can aid in repair and recovery. This includes some flexibility training, some mobility training, as well as some core and assistance work. Keep in mind that the point of the recovery days is to allow your body to move through various ranges of motion to aid in recovery as well as strengthen your synergists.

Front Squats - When starting this program, it is great to back squat 3x/week to build up your strength. However, I really like the front squat for a number of reasons, including preparing your body for Olympic Lifts down the road, improving posture, and most importantly, making your back squat that much better. Once you are able to back squat your own body weight 5x5, I recommend you start front squatting 50% of your 5x5 back squat on Strength Days 2 & 4, in place of back squats. So, if you are 180lbs and can squat 180lbs 5x5, start front squatting 90lbs on Strength Days 2&4, increasing in weight the same way you would with the other lifts by adding 5 pounds to the next workout, every time you successfully lift 5x5.

Who is this program for?

Still making progress, 370lbs #deadlift for 5 reps #motivation #exercise #lifting

A video posted by Tyler Robbins (@trobbinsfitness) on

Men, women, young, and old. If you are interested in lifting heavy weights, gaining strength, increasing muscle mass, and just being a total fuckin' badass, then this program is for you. Keep in mind, however, that if you are wishing to gain, you must commit to the program and not worry about gaining weight. The way I see it, there are 3 types of people reading this blog right now:

  1. For some of you, gaining weight is a tough thing to do and you are willing to do anything to put on some size. Well, get ready to eat a lot and lift a lot!

  2. For others, you may be stuck in this limbo zone where you are lean and have a decent level of strength, but just haven't reached that ripped level you are looking for. You find yourself stuck between not wanting to lose any more weight and lose muscle, yet you don't want to gain weight either because you are afraid of getting fat. Well, I was stuck in that zone too until I started to eat more and lift more. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at all hours of the day (see: resting or basal metabolic rate).

  3. Finally, there may be some of you looking to lose weight and gain some strength. Fine. This program can still work for your, but if you are over 20% body fat, you may wish to start the program at a caloric deficit (eating less than you burn) which will work for a while, and you will definitely gain strength, but your strength gains may plateau quicker than others who eat at a caloric surplus. That, however, is based on the individual.

For folks who fall into category 1 or 2, all I can say is, if your goal is to gain size and strength, stick to the goal and eat and lift. There will be time to "cut" body fat later. I recommend that you partake in a program like Back to Basics during the winter when you are probably going to be covered by your clothes for much of the time anyways. That is, if you give a shit about what others think about what your body looks like.

By the way, if this program becomes popular enough, I will have a follow-up program in the spring specifically focused on getting you more lean while maintaining muscle.

The Workouts

Strength Day 1
Strength Day 2
Strength Day 3
Strength Day 4

Recovery Day 1
Recovery Day 2
Recovery Day 3
Recovery Day 4

Back to Basics Schedule

The schedule runs on an 8-workout, repeating rotation. Here is how you would incorporate the 8 workouts into a 3 week schedule.

Week 1
Monday - Back to Basics Strength Day 1
Tuesday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 1
Wednesday - Back to Basics Strength Day 2
Thursday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 2
Friday - Back to Basics Strength Day 3
Saturday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 3
Sunday - Recovery/Off Day

Week 2
Monday - Back to Basics Strength Day 4
Tuesday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 4
Wednesday - Back to Basics Strength Day 1
Thursday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 1
Friday - Back to Basics Strength Day 2
Saturday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 2
Sunday - Recovery/Off Day

Week 3
Monday - Back to Basics Strength Day 3
Tuesday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 3
Wednesday - Back to Basics Strength Day 4
Thursday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 4
Friday - Back to Basics Strength Day 1
Saturday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 1
Sunday - Recovery/Off Day

Etc.

Diet

With a quick internet search, you can find a number of Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) calculators. TDEE calculators are a good place to start to get yourself a ballpark figure as to how many calories you should be consuming. If you are interested in gaining weight, aim for at least 250-500+ calories a day over your calculated TDEE. Although I recommend putting away quite a few calories, remember that too many calories isn't necessarily ideal.

In order to grow muscle and improve your strength, you need a surplus of calories. More often than not, individuals get stuck in a limbo zone between not wanting to gain body fat so they don't eat at a caloric surplus, yet they want to increase the size and definition of their muscles.

Future edits of this blog will have some of my favourite recipes linked here.

Supplements

This is going to be a hotly-debated topic. My personal opinion is that majority of the supplements on the market are full of empty promises. Most supplements are designed to make you think that they are the "latest and greatest" in the world of health and fitness. Don't listen to the salesperson at the supplement store.

Don't pay attention to the marketing materials. I almost guarantee you that the supplements that some of these extremely fit (and/or muscular) folks who are trying to sell you supplements either don't use the supplements they are marketing themselves, or have other *ahem*....help with their results. I really like using the site examine.com to check the latest research on specific supplements. Feel free to search for some of the products or supplements you are currently taking and see if it/they are worth as much hype as you've been made to believe.

Having said all of that, I know folks will ask me what I use for my supplements, so I will share what I use. All of these are absolutely optional and should not be taken as a prescription from me.

Creatine Monohydrate - one of the most widely-researched supplements in the history of exercise science. Nothing fancy here, no other products carry any additional benefits or "perks," regardless of what someone may have told you...I promise. I take 5g in my post-workout recovery drink. More questions/info needed? Check here.

Whey Protein - Again, nothing fancy. I take a basic vanilla flavoured whey protein that I buy at Costco. You don't need any "state-of-the-art" delivery matrices or any other marketing mumbo jumbo like that. Whey isolate digests quick enough, and your body only transports so much protein per hour so don't worry about all of this marketing promising faster muscle absorption or uptake, etc. It should be noted that actual food always takes precedence for me. I never have more than 1 whey shake per day. I try and get at least 90-95% of my calories and protein from whole food sources and then have a shake when I either run out of time or am busy with other things.

Fish Oil - Fish oils (EPA and DHA) have a wide range of benefits.

Coffee - My pre-workout stimulant. Not much to say here. Caffeine - that's about it.

Vitamin D - I take 1000IU in the form of a pill during the fall/winter months (I live in Canada). During the summer I try and get as much sun exposure as I can, so along with Vitamin D in Shakeology I feel like I have my bases covered. Lots of benefits to supplementing with Vitamin D as well.

Strength Journal

Whether you use Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, some sort of journal app on your phone or tablet, or even just plain old pen and paper, I highly recommend you keep track of your 5-rep max (5RM) weights for your lifts. You can then use this information to keep track of your theoretical (calculated) 1RM.

Why is this important? Well, knowledge is power, and whether you are moving on to another program that involves using a certain percentage of your lift or just your buddy asking how much you bench, you will know your numbers. 

Q&A

What weights should I start with?

Understand that strength training is training not only your muscles, but your central nervous system as well. The goal here is not to "pump" up your muscles, like what happens during hypertrophy training. Instead, we are working to not only strengthen the muscle fibres themselves, but to also improve the mind to muscle connection. We are focusing on training the nervous system to be more coordinated and effective at recruiting high amounts of motor units to "fire" together and generate maximum force.

From StrongLifts: If you start too heavy, you’ll get sore legs which can make you feel like skipping workouts in the first week. Better to start light so your body get used to Squatting three times a week. The weight will increase quickly anyway since you’re adding 2.5kg/5lb per workout (that’s 30kg/60lb per month on your Squat). If you’ve done the Squat, Bench and Deadlift before, with good technique, you can start with 50% of your five rep max. If you’ve never done these exercises, or you haven’t lifted in years, or you have no idea what I mean with a “five reps max”, just start with these weights:

When should I increase weight?

If you can get 5 repetitions of the same "working weight" without breaking form, then increase your "working weight" by 5 pounds for the next workout you do that exercise. For example, if you squat 135lbs 5x5 during Strength Day 1, increase to 140lbs on Strength Day 2. If, however, you get 135lbs, 5x5 on the bench press on Strength Day 1, you wouldn't increase to 140lbs until Strength Day 3. The one exception to this is on the deadlift. You can increase weight by 10lbs from workout to workout. For example, if you can deadlift 95lbs for 5 repetitions without breaking form, the next workout you complete deadlifts, you can increase to 105lbs.

What if I don't lift the same weight all 5 sets?

First of all, you should at least attempt to lift the exact same weight for all 5 "working sets." Even failed sets have you lifting 1, 2, 3, or 4 reps of a weight you have probably never lifted before; that's still progress!

If you don't get 5 reps during a set, make sure to rest for 5 minutes before attempting the same weight on the next set. Remember that you are only increasing by 5 pounds on an exercise from workout to workout so your body is making gradual changes. You should not be failing by more than a rep or two unless you are seriously short on sleep, not eating enough, or drinking enough water.

Shit happens, however, so some days just won't be as good as others. Let's say you get all 5 reps for your first 3 sets and then only 4 reps on your 4th set, and finish off with just 3 reps on your final set, fine, this is still progress. The next time you do this exercise, attempt the exact same weight. If, you still can't get 5 reps in all 5 sets, then you need to de-load by 10%. After you de-load, work your way back up 5 pounds per workout as you did before. Here is how it looks:

Strength Day 1:

Bench Press - attempting 200lbs.
Set 1 - 5 reps
Set 2 - 5 reps
Set 3 - 5 reps
Set 4 - 4 reps
Set 5 - 3 reps

Strength Day 3:

Bench Press - attempting 200lbs. (2nd attempt)
Set 1 - 5 reps
Set 2 - 5 reps
Set 3 - 5 reps
Set 4 - 5 reps
Set 5 - 4 reps

Strength Day 1:

Bench Press - attempting 180lbs. (10% de-load from 200lbs.)
Set 1 - 5 reps
Set 2 - 5 reps
Set 3 - 5 reps
Set 4 - 5 reps
Set 5 - 5 reps

Strength Day 3:

Bench Press - attempting 185lbs (180lbs. was successful)
Set 1 - 5 reps
Set 2 - 5 reps
Set 3 - 5 reps
Set 4 - 5 reps
Set 5 - 5 reps

The key to this program, and any other strength program to be honest, is that each individual must keep the integrity to stick to as perfect form as possible. I am telling you right now, it is far more beneficial (and impressive) to do full squats at 200lbs than to do half or even 3/4 squats at 250lbs. If you can't do a repetition with near-perfect form, it doesn't count. Either try the same weight again next time or de-load, and work your way back up!

Keep in mind, you only de-load in weight on the exercise(s) that you failed to achieve 5x5. If you de-load on the bench press, for example, still attempt weight increases on your other lifts (squat, barbell row, etc.)

Can I use dumbbells instead of a barbell?

The primary lifts (squat, deadlift, overhead press, bench press, barbell row, Romanian deadlifts) are designed to utilize a barbell for a number of reasons including weight optimization (you can move more weight with a barbell than a pair of dumbbells) and safety. You may be able to start this program with dumbbells, however, I would highly recommend either investing in a squat rack/cage and barbell for your home gym or become a member of a gym that has the appropriate equipment.

Can I adjust the schedule to lift more often or less often?

You should allow at least 1 full day "off" from lifting between lifting days. There are many similar muscles worked during every single lifting day, so proper recovery is a must. If, however, you only lift every 3 days rather than 2, that should be fine. I wouldn't allow too many days between lifting days, however, as that could hinder progress.

Do I have to use front squats?

Of course not! This is the program that I have used. This is what I consider to be the best fit for me and should work for many of you. To be honest, you don't really have to follow anything I recommend here. I have 2 goals with sharing this information.

  1. A few people will use this program and have great success.
  2. A few people like some of the ideas and changes my program presents and uses them for their program.

I believe that front squatting, combined with back squatting will make you a stronger and more well-rounded athlete. Even if you do not play sports, keep in mind that well-rounded and physically fit "athletes" tend to do everything better and more efficient. If you can front squat and back squat efficiently and effectively, I believe it will improve your overall health and fitness.





Back to Basics: Strength Day 1

Warm-up

The warm-up shouldn't take you more than about 5-10 minutes to complete, especially once you become familiar with the exercises and sequencing. Watch the video to get an idea of how each exercise is done.

Quadruped Shoulder Series x 240 reps
Open/Close x 15 reps
Scarecrow x 15 reps
Scapular Retraction x 10 reps
Plange Push-ups x 10-15 reps
Face Pulls with Scapular Retraction x 15 reps
External Rotations x 10 reps
Overhead Squats x 10 reps
Leg Swings x 48 reps
Scorpions x 8 reps
Fire Hydrants x 20 reps

Strength

Back Squat - all sets are 5 repetitions
40% of "working weight"
50% of "working weight"
60% of "working weight"
Working Set 1
Working Set 2
Working Set 3
Working Set 4
Working Set 5

Bench Press - all sets are 5 repetitions
40% of "working weight"
50% of "working weight"
60% of "working weight"
Working Set 1
Working Set 2
Working Set 3
Working Set 4
Working Set 5

Barbell Row - all sets are 5 repetitions
*shoulders and body should be warm by this point, only a 60% warm-up set should suffice
60% of "working weight"
Working Set 1
Working Set 2
Working Set 3
Working Set 4
Working Set 5

Each exercise has anywhere from 1-3 warm-up sets with 40, 50, and/or 60% of your "working sets" weight. All "working sets" weight stays the same for all working sets. I usually round to the nearest 5-pound increment for my warm-up sets. This is where 2.5lb. weight plates come in handy so that you can micro-load your barbell with 5 total pounds.

A set of squats (180lb. "working weight") would therefore look like this:

40% - 70lbs. x 5 reps
No rest
50% - 90lbs. x 5 reps
No rest
60% - 110lbs. x 5 reps
90 second rest

180lbs x 5 reps
*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps
*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps

*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps

*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps

*There is no set rest time between warm-up sets (besides the time it takes you to load your barbell), however, the following guidelines should be followed for the working sets:

  1. If you complete all 5 repetitions with ease and no break in form, take a 90 second break before the next working set.
  2. If you struggle with one or more repetitions to reach 5, take a 90-180 second (1.5-3 minute) break prior to starting your next working set. Do not be in a rush to start the next set, as your body requires time to recover from the previous set's effort. Your central nervous system also needs time to recover.
  3. If you miss one or more repetitions, which means you either fail to lift the weight at all, or substantially break form to complete (not recommended), then rest for 5 minutes before attempting the same weight again.

If you complete all 5 working sets with the same weight then you increase your weight by 5 pounds for the next workout you complete this exercise.

Accessory

Incline Press/Bent Over Row - 6-12 repetitions per set, 3 sets

Incline Press - 15, 12, 8, 8, 12, 15 repetition pyramid set

You will notice that I do not have single-muscle and/or single-joint accessory exercises (bicep curls, tricep extensions, etc.). The main strength lifts across all 4 strength days cover essentially every muscle in your body. Coupling that with some of the accessory work to aid in strength and growth, muscles like your biceps and triceps get plenty of work. For example, during a bench press or overhead press, although your are primarily pressing with your pectoral muscles of your chest or deltoid muscles of your shoulder, your triceps are heavily involved in the movement. By doing these exercises, your triceps will get stronger and grow.

Remember that these exercises/lifts are here to aid your main lifts. All of your focus and energy should be focused on your strength work. If, however, you wish to complete the accessory exercises, do not be as attached to previous workouts' numbers and wish to increase numbers. For example, you may have pressed 40lb. dumbbells for 8 reps on the incline press, but as you get stronger and push your bench press numbers higher, you may be more fatigued by the time you reach the accessory work, forcing you to either get fewer reps or drop the weight of the dumbbells a bit.

I use 90 second breaks between each set. I complete all sets of an exercise before moving on to the next exercise. I do not super-set. For example:

Incline Press/Bent Over Row x 6-12 reps
90 second rest
Incline Press/Bent Over Row x 6-12 reps
90 second rest
Incline Press/Bent Over Row x 6-12 reps

One exception to this workout in particular is the Incline Press Pyramid Set. I use 30 second rest periods between the 15, 12, and 8-rep sets, a 90 second break at the half-way point. For example:

Incline Press x 15 reps
30 second rest
Incline Press x 12 reps
30 second rest
Incline Press x 8 reps
90 second rest
Incline Press x 8 reps
30 second rest
Incline Press x 12 reps
30 second rest
Incline Press x 15 reps

The goal with the pyramid set is to choose a weight that forces you to struggle (close to failure) on the last 2-3 reps of each set. You will therefore increase in weight on the "up" portion of the pyramid (decreasing in reps from 15 to 8) and decrease in weight on the "down" portion of the pyramid (increasing in reps from 8 to 15).

Questions/Comments/Concerns? Make sure to comment below!





Back to Basics: Strength Day 3

Warm-up

The warm-up shouldn't take you more than about 5-10 minutes to complete, especially once you become familiar with the exercises and sequencing. Watch the video to get an idea of how each exercise is done.

Quadruped Shoulder Series x 240 reps
Open/Close x 15 reps
Scarecrow x 15 reps
Scapular Retraction x 10 reps
Plange Push-ups x 10-15 reps
Face Pulls with Scapular Retraction x 15 reps
External Rotations x 10 reps
Overhead Squats x 10 reps
Leg Swings x 48 reps
Scorpions x 8 reps
Fire Hydrants x 20 reps

Strength

Back Squat - all sets are 5 repetitions
40% of "working weight"
50% of "working weight"
60% of "working weight"
Working Set 1
Working Set 2
Working Set 3
Working Set 4
Working Set 5

Bench Press - all sets are 5 repetitions
40% of "working weight"
50% of "working weight"
60% of "working weight"
Working Set 1
Working Set 2
Working Set 3
Working Set 4
Working Set 5

Barbell Row - all sets are 5 repetitions
*shoulders and body should be warm by this point, only a 60% warm-up set should suffice
60% of "working weight"
Working Set 1
Working Set 2
Working Set 3
Working Set 4
Working Set 5

Each exercise has anywhere from 1-3 warm-up sets with 40, 50, and/or 60% of your "working sets" weight. All "working sets" weight stays the same for all working sets. I usually round to the nearest 5-pound increment for my warm-up sets. This is where 2.5lb. weight plates come in handy so that you can micro-load your barbell with 5 total pounds.

A set of squats (180lb. "working weight") would therefore look like this:

40% - 70lbs. x 5 reps
No rest
50% - 90lbs. x 5 reps
No rest
60% - 110lbs. x 5 reps
90 second rest

180lbs x 5 reps
*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps
*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps
*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps
*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps

*There is no set rest time between warm-up sets (besides the time it takes you to load your barbell), however, the following guidelines should be followed for the working sets:

  1. If you complete all 5 repetitions with ease and no break in form, take a 90 second break before the next working set.
  2. If you struggle with one or more repetitions to reach 5, take a 90-180 second (1.5-3 minute) break prior to starting your next working set. Do not be in a rush to start the next set, as your body requires time to recover from the previous set's effort. Your central nervous system also needs time to recover.
  3. If you miss one or more repetitions, which means you either fail to lift the weight at all, or substantially break form to complete (not recommended), then rest for 5 minutes before attempting the same weight again.

If you complete all 5 working sets with the same weight then you increase your weight by 5 pounds for the next workout you complete this exercise.

Accessory

Incline Press/Bent Over Row - 6-12 repetitions per set, 3 sets

Dips - Max repetitions. Like pull-ups and chin-ups, if your goal is to train for max repetitions, I recommend you aim for just that on every set. If, however, you would like to increase strength and size, if you can reach 12 repetitions on sets consistently, then I would recommend using a dip belt to add weight to sets as you increase in strength.

You will notice that I do not have single-muscle and/or single-joint accessory exercises (bicep curls, tricep extensions, etc.). The main strength lifts across all 4 strength days cover essentially every muscle in your body. Coupling that with some of the accessory work to aid in strength and growth, muscles like your biceps and triceps get plenty of work. For example, during a bench press or overhead press, although your are primarily pressing with your pectoral muscles of your chest or deltoid muscles of your shoulder, your triceps are heavily involved in the movement. By doing these exercises, your triceps will get stronger and grow.

Remember that these exercises/lifts are here to aid your main lifts. All of your focus and energy should be focused on your strength work. If, however, you wish to complete the accessory exercises, do not be as attached to previous workouts' numbers and wish to increase numbers. For example, you may have pressed 40lb. dumbbells for 8 reps on the incline press, but as you get stronger and push your bench press numbers higher, you may be more fatigued by the time you reach the accessory work, forcing you to either get fewer reps or drop the weight of the dumbbells a bit.

I use 90 second breaks between each set. I complete all sets of an exercise before moving on to the next exercise. I do not super-set. For example:

Incline Press/Bent Over Row x 6-12 reps
90 second rest
Incline Press/Bent Over Row x 6-12 reps
90 second rest
Incline Press/Bent Over Row x 6-12 reps

Questions/Comments/Concerns? Make sure to comment below!