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: strength

Explosive training is also the fountain of youth...

This title may look familiar since I just recently wrote about how resistance training is the fountain of youth. Although I certainly am not here to discredit my recent blog, I am certainly here to elaborate on it a bit further based on a recent study.

When you hear about "explosive training," your mind probably leans towards young athletes and how fast and powerful they seem. You almost certainly never think about grandma and her slower pace. Well, according to the above study, explosive training is not only tolerated by individuals well into their 80's, but is highly recommended for healthy aging as well.

Resistance (strength) training is still extremely important. Using maximal, or even sub maximal loads to increase the strength and durability of muscles, bones, connective tissues, etc. is regarded as one of the most effective ways of aging gracefully.

Explosive or power training involves moving less weight, but moving said weight quicker. A really simple example would be either pushing or throwing a ball. Throwing is an explosive action. The above study found that training older individuals with explosive actions helped to improve their reflexive actions.

Strength training involves learning how to activate more muscle in order to move a desired load. Your muscles are made up of many muscle fibers. Although all muscle fibers shorten at once when a muscle contracts, only a certain percentage of them does the work at any given time. Strength training can then be considered a skill by learning how to activate more muscle fibers and therefore generate more force.

Power or explosive training is all about increasing the reaction time between your brain and muscles. The faster your brain can not only get a signal to the muscle fibers, but to also have them contract at a faster rate, the more explosive they can be.

As the study points out, many age-related problems occur due to the risk of falling. Falling happens for a number of reasons, but most often occur due to a slow reaction time. Your brain is usually pretty efficient and effective at recognizing the signs that balance is off, but the time it takes to react to being off balance and therefore correcting the balance can deteriorate over time. Explosive training helps to keep that quickness needed.

This doesn't necessarily mean that grandma needs to do plyometrics, but instead, learn to safely and effectively lift lighter weights safely and quickly.





Rest longer to get bigger and stronger

The "hypertrophy specialist" Brad Schoenfeld has published yet another fantastic study detailing not only the greater strength gains from longer interset rest periods, but the greater muscular growth adaptations too.

Longer Interset Rest Periods Enhance Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Resistance-Trained Men

Abstract

Abstract: Schoenfeld, BJ, Pope, ZK, Benik, FM, Hester, GM, Sellers, J, Nooner, JL, Schnaiter, JA, Bond-Williams, KE, Carter, AS, Ross, CL, Just, BL, Henselmans, M, and Krieger, JW. Longer interset rest periods enhance muscle strength and hypertrophy in resistance-trained men. J Strength Cond Res 30(7): 1805–1812, 2016—The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of short rest intervals normally associated with hypertrophy-type training versus long rest intervals traditionally used in strength-type training on muscular adaptations in a cohort of young, experienced lifters. Twenty-one young resistance-trained men were randomly assigned to either a group that performed a resistance training (RT) program with 1-minute rest intervals (SHORT) or a group that employed 3-minute rest intervals (LONG). All other RT variables were held constant. The study period lasted 8 weeks with subjects performing 3 total body workouts a week comprised 3 sets of 8–12 repetition maximum (RM) of 7 different exercises per session. Testing was performed prestudy and poststudy for muscle strength (1RM bench press and back squat), muscle endurance (50% 1RM bench press to failure), and muscle thickness of the elbow flexors, triceps brachii, and quadriceps femoris by ultrasound imaging. Maximal strength was significantly greater for both 1RM squat and bench press for LONG compared to SHORT. Muscle thickness was significantly greater for LONG compared to SHORT in the anterior thigh, and a trend for greater increases was noted in the triceps brachii (p = 0.06) as well. Both groups saw significant increases in local upper body muscle endurance with no significant differences noted between groups. This study provides evidence that longer rest periods promote greater increases in muscle strength and hypertrophy in young resistance-trained men.

Research has previously told us that greater rest periods are superior to shorter rest periods when it comes to strength and power adaptations, but there hasn't been nearly as much support and evidence suggesting the same for hypertrophy training.

The belief that shorter rest periods are ideal for training for hypertrophy purposes is challenged with research like this. Not only do we know that longer rest periods are superior for strength and power adaptations, research like this is indicating that longer rest periods illicit greater muscular growth as well. One could postulate that longer rest periods allow for greater recovery and therefore greater force and output on every subsequent set. More force and output on each set allows for greater overall training volume, which would increase the training load.

I also appreciate the fact that this study was conducted on trained individuals. Many strength and hypertrophy studies are conducted on non-trained individuals, who more often than not improve their strength and muscular size simply by being in the study alone (noob gains).

So, how practical is this for you, the reader?

Well, it would appear that rather than slugging through sets with short rest periods, you would be better off resting for longer periods and allowing your muscles to recover more in order to maximize the potential on each subsequent set.

The disadvantage to this training style includes the obvious fact that workouts could potentially take much longer if you are resting for longer periods and one of your primary goals includes getting stronger and increasing muscular size. Rather than waiting around between sets, however, you can get creative with your training and do good old fashioned circuits, training antagonistic movements. For example using an EMOM (every minute on the minute) setup, training bench press on the first minute, barbell row on the second minute, an accessory or core movement on the third minute, rest the 4th minute, and then repeat. This allows the time between exercises to be at least 3 minutes yet keeps you moving the entire time to save on overall workout length.





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 2

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
Quadruped Torso Twists x 10 reps/side
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 (or Front*) 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

Overhead 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

Snatch Deadlift** - all sets are 5 repetitions
40% of deadlift "working weight"
50% of deadlift "working weight"
60% of deadlift "working weight"

Deadlift - 5 repetitions
Working Set 1

*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.

**Snatch Deadlift - Just read at how great this variation to a classic is. What's nice about this setup is that you probably won't be deadlifting as much with a snatch grip versus a clean grip, so as your traditional deadlift increases (clean grip), your snatch deadlift can increase accordingly based on the percentages. For example, if you are deadlifting 200lbs, your snatch grip sets will be 80, 100, and 120lbs. As your deadlift climbs to, say, 260lbs, you will then be lifting 105, 130, and 155lbs with the snatch grip. The snatch grip deadlift forces you to squat a bit deeper since your hands are further apart so you will get a bit more activation and stretch in the posterior chain and legs preparing you for the heavy set of clean grip deadlifts.

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

Romanian Deadlift (RDL) - 3 sets of 5 repetitions completed the same as the strength lifts. Use the same weight for all 3 sets. If you get 5 reps easily, rest 90 seconds between sets. If you struggle to get 5 reps with the given weight, rest 3 minutes between sets. If you miss a rep or break form to complete a rep, rest 5 minutes before the next set.

Sumo Squat/Walking Lunges - 3 sets of 6-12 repetitions. Every set is 6-12 squat reps immediately followed by 6-12 lunging reps.

Chin-ups - Here you can essentially aim for max repetitions (3 sets). If your goal is to train for hypertrophy/strength gains, I recommend adding weight via a weight belt to keep your repetitions lower (6-12 range). This is the dip belt that I have. These should be done strict, no kipping. Trust me when I tell you that there is nothing like having a weight belt hanging in front of your genitals to prevent you from kipping to get more reps!

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:

Sumo Squat/Walking Lunges x 6-12 reps
90 second rest
Sumo Squat/Walking Lunges x 6-12 reps
90 second rest
Sumo Squat/Walking Lunges x 6-12 reps

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





How to: Barbell Row

The barbell row, like the deadlift and straight leg deadlift, is a fantastic way to strengthen your posterior chain. Although your lower body is stationary during this exercise and the movement comes via the upper body, the lower body is forced to work hard to stabilize the body during the lift.

I can't stress enough how much I not only enjoy this exercise, but highly recommend it to others who have had lower back pain. The unfortunate part about an exercise like this is that it may immediately seem dangerous to those of you with a history of back problems. Not only that, but this exercise alone will be of tremendous benefit to those of you who have postural issues (slouching, slight kyphosis, etc.).

Safe and effective barbell training is designed to distribute the load being lifted above our centre of gravity in order to use our bodies in the most mechanically advantageous way possible. A movement such as the straight leg deadlift, although appearing to be dangerous, can actually be a very safe and effective way of lifting, targeting the muscles that make up the posterior chain in order to strengthen the connective tissues there.

Keep in mind, however, 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.

The Barbell Row

The barbell row is a fantastic exercise to strengthen your upper back (rhomboids), posterior deltoids, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, and biceps. Not only that, but other posterior chain muscles, similar to those worked during the straight leg deadlift such as the hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, etc. are also working hard to maintain form throughout.

Setup

If you have a setup that uses olympic weight plates and an olympic barbell, then your bar at starting point should be approximately 9 inches off the ground. A few inches higher or lower than that should not be a problem, although be aware of the ramifications due to the height differences. Lifting weight higher than a 9" starting position could activate less muscle fiber due to less distance for the resistance to travel. However, lifting from a deficit, or having the resistance start closer to the ground may activate more muscle, form may be compromised due to a further distance the resistance has to travel.

Note: Not all weight plates are the same diameter. If you are fortunate enough to have plates that are the same diameter, then you will be able to begin practicing the deadlift with a lower weight yet have the bar start at the same distance from the floor every time. If, however, you are unable to start with 135 pounds for your deadlift (45 lb. bar + 2x 45 lb. plates) then you can use other plates to stack and create a desired height for the bar's starting position.

Approach

  1. Stand behind the bar with your feet, hip distance apart, slightly underneath the barbell. When viewing the barbell from directly overhead, the barbell should line up with your mid foot.
     
  2. Squat down to grasp the bar with a pronated or overhand grip (your palms should be facing behind you. Your hands should be just slightly wider than shoulder width.
     
  3. Look at the floor about 6 feet in front of where the bar is. Keep your eyes locked on this position throughout the exercise.
     
  4. Keep your upper back engaged by squeezing your shoulder blades and keeping the curvature in your lower back. You want to keep this neutral spine throughout the exercise but don't force the issue to the point where you are hyper-extending your lower spine.
     
  5. The toughest part from here, is maintaining a neutral spine as you raise your hips up so that your back is parallel to the floor. At this point, the bar should remain on the ground as we have not begun the lift yet. It is not only normal, but highly recommended that you maintain a knee bend at this point. In fact, depending on your arm length as well as your hamstring flexibility, many of you will have a more intense knee bend than what you will use in the straight leg deadlift. Make sure the bar remains over your mid foot as you push your glutes back and bend your knees whilst maintaining perfectly upright lower legs. In other words, your shins should remain perpendicular to the floor. This will also keep your knees back and out of the way of the bar's trajectory.

Execution

  1. Most of the work has already been completed during the setup. The main focus throughout the exercise is for your body to remain as perfectly still as possible throughout every repetition. The only thing moving is your arms and the muscles that are pulling the bar up to your chest.

  2. Grip the bar very tight and lift the bar to your lower chest. The bar should touch your chest just below your nipple line, or the very bottom of your breast bone. Think of raising your arms throughout your elbows, this will help squeeze your shoulder blades together, working the upper back.

  3. Once the bar has reached your chest, lower it, under control, back to the floor. I prefer returning the bar to the floor after every single repetition.

  4. Repeat.

7 Tips to Master Perfect Barbell Row Technique (from Strong lifts)

  1. Row Each Rep From The Floor. Because you’ll never train your upper-back fully if you let the bar hang in the air. Barbell Row like you Deadlift: with the bar starting and returning to the floor on each rep. The barbell should be above the middle of your feet when you start Rowing, same stance as on Deadlifts.

  2. Grip The Bar Like You Bench Press. For maximum carry-over to your Bench Press, your Barbell Row should be the exact opposite movement. This means no underhand grip but both palms facing you, using the same grip width as when you Bench. Thumbs around the bar and squeeze it hard for maximum strength.

  3. Pull With Your Elbows. This simple trick will help you use your upper-back maximally rather than turning your Rows into a biceps exercise. Pull your elbows towards the ceiling instead of merely pulling with your hands. If you don’t “get” it, briefly Barbell Row using the thumbless grip to get the feeling for it.

  4. Row Against Your Chest. If the bar doesn’t hit your chest, it’s like doing a partial Squat or half Bench: the rep isn’t completed and you’re not getting the most out of the exercise. So always Row the barbell against your chest. Where exactly? Same position as where you touch the bar on the Bench Press.

  5. Keep Your Upper-back Parallel. Don’t let yourself get carried away by your ego or you won’t get the most out of Barbell Rows. Be strict: your upper-back should be doing all the work. If your Barbell Rows turn into 50° shrugs or you’re cheating with your hips and knees, the weight is too heavy. Lower it. Proper Barbell Row Technique: Barbell starts on the floor, pulling with the elbows, bar against chest, chest open, shoulder-blades squeezed together.

  6. Open Your Chest. It’s – again – the same position as for the Bench Press: squeeze your shoulder-blades together at the top as hard as you can and open your chest up. Don’t try to hold the weight at the top, that’s all unnecessary nonsense because adding weight builds muscle. Simply pull the weight hard and fast against your chest, and then return it to the floor.

  7. Keep Your Head Down. Do not try looking at the mirror in front of you in your gym, or you’ll get neck pain. Don’t look at your feet either otherwise your lower back can round and hurt. Simply look at the floor below you and tape yourself from the side you want to check your Barbell Row technique.




How to: Deadlift

The deadlift is one of the greatest strength exercises of all time. Although primarily targeting the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and lower back, this compound exercise recruits muscle from nearly the entire body.

All of my explanations during this guide will refer to the use of a standard barbell and plates. Because the deadlift is essentially just lifting weight and putting it back down, these actions can be mimicked with dumbbells or other forms of resistance, although, the barbell should be the resistance of choice when possible.

Setup

DDF44481-5F54-405C-92FE-EE2489E7DEC4.jpg

If you have a setup that uses olympic weight plates and an olympic barbell, then your bar at starting point should be approximately 9 inches off the ground. A few inches higher or lower than that should not be a problem, although be aware of the ramifications due to the height differences. Lifting weight higher than a 9" starting position could activate less muscle fiber due to less distance for the resistance to travel. However, lifting from a deficit, or having the resistance start closer to the ground may activate more muscle, form may be compromised due to a further distance the resistance has to travel.

BC2A001C-5520-4D44-8269-36357F484CF0.jpg

Note: Not all weight plates are the same diameter. If you are fortunate enough to have plates that are the same diameter, then you will be able to begin practicing the deadlift with a lower weight yet have the bar start at the same distance from the floor every time. If, however, you are unable to start with 135 pounds for your deadlift (45 lb. bar + 2x 45 lb. plates) then you can use other plates to stack and create a desired height for the bar's starting position.

Approach

  1. Approach the bar and stand so that your mid foot is directly beneath the bar. When you are squatted, your shins will then come in contact with the bar.
  2. Your feet should be parallel to one another, approximately hip distance apart. Your feet should be slightly more narrow than shoulder width to allow room for your hands which will grab the bar outside of your knees.
  3. As you squat to grab the bar, your hands should be shoulder-width apart so that your arms are hanging straight down, or perpendicular to the floor.
  4. When squatted, shoulder blades should be directly over the bar.
  5. A flat back should be maintained throughout, maintaining a curve in the lower back. This can be achieved by sticking your butt behind you and driving your chest up.
  6. You should be squatted with these key points in mind:
    1. Bar over mid foot
    2. Shoulders over bar
    3. Bar touching shins
    4. Flat back, maintaining natural curvature

Execution

One of the key things to note during the movement of your deadlift is to keep your back flat (naturally curved) throughout the movement. Your goal is to lift the bar by extending at your knees first, followed by the hips. This is accomplished by maintaining a constant torso angle as your legs are extended first. Once the bar passes the height of the knees, your shoulders then begin to rise as your hips are driven forward by engaging your glutes.

One common mistake, especially when people try lifting more than they can, is for the hips to rise too soon and rise quicker than the shoulder, causing the lower back to bear most, if not all of the load. This can lead to injury.

Keep the bar centred over your mid foot throughout the movement as if the bar is "scraping" your shins on the way up. One of the primary goals of the lift is to extend the hips forward by flexing (squeezing) your glutes at the top of the lift.

Your chest should be up, which should come natural with the proper alignment of your spine. As you lift the bar, your head will move as your spine does. Once the bar reaches about knee high, think about driving your hips forward.

Do not, and I mean do NOT arch your back at the apex of the lift. Your goal during the deadlift is to lift the weight up and place (or drop) it back down. There really isn't anything to be accomplished by arching your back at the top of the lift besides herniating a disc in your back. If you wish to add a shrug or other trap work, I suggest doing that separately.

If you are deadlifting at a proper lifting station, you have the option of simply dropping the weight to the floor once you have completed the lift. However, if you are lifting on any other surface, reverse the actions of the lift by breaking at the hips first by pushing your butt back.

Grip

Overhand Grip

Overhand Grip

As long as your grip can muster the strength, I recommend gripping the bar with an overhand grip. This way, both arms are exercised in the same way. However, as you begin to lift more and more weight, you will notice that your grip strength may be holding you back from maxing out your lifts.

"Switch" or Alternating Grip

"Switch" or Alternating Grip

What happens is that the bar will "roll" out of your hands. The solution to this is a mixed grip, where one palm is facing forward and the other is facing backwards. This allows you to keep the bar in your hands by preventing it from rolling out of your grip. What happens is that the bar may begin to roll out of one hand, but will be kept in place by subsequently balanced out by the other hand facing the opposite direction.


Dumbbell Deadlift

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A lot of people do a dumbbell deadlift by placing the dumbbells out in front of their feet or at a slight angle. This is fine and may work well, but I actually prefer placing the weights beside my feet (dumbbells parallel to each other) to better align the load over my mid foot, similar to a barbell deadlift. By placing the dumbbells out in front of your feet, you are putting extra strain on your lower back and can therefore increase the risk of injury in my opinion. 

Chances are, you are going to be squatting a bit deeper with a dumbbell deadlift as well since the handles of the weights will be closer to the floor than when using a barbell. Either make the adjustments to drop your butt closer to the floor during your squat, or use a sturdy platform or riser for each dumbbell to better mimic the height of a barbell deadlift.

Preferred

Preferred

Other than that, make sure to use (for the most part) the same setup and technique used during a barbell deadlift.

I was actually going to do a quick video on all of the cues, tips, and advice to a proper deadlift, but I came across Alan Thrall's video and felt that there was no point trying to top what he has done, so enjoy!

Q&A, Miscellaneous Facts/Tips

Body mechanics and genetics actually play a pretty big part in strength training. What I mean by that is varying body types have advantages/disadvantages based on the lift being performed. For example, individuals with longer arms generally are at a disadvantage when it comes to the bench press due to the greater distance the bar must travel.

On the other hand, someone with longer arms may outperform someone with shorter arms on the deadlift because of the way their body aligns when doing this lift. By keeping the bar centred over mid foot, and under the shoulder blades (as described above), someone with longer arms has less depth that they have to squat down in order to grab the bar, and therefore get it off the floor.

Q: Should I deadlift in bare feet?

A: That is up to you. I prefer bare feet, or at least "minimalist" shoes because I feel like I have a better feel for the floor beneath me. If your shoes are too soft then you may actually have a bit too much instability to really plant yourself comfortably. Instability training may have some benefits to other forms of exercise, but lifting as much weight off of the floor as you possibly can at once is not a good time to practice that.

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Neural Adaptations and more - What does this mean for you?

It is interesting to think about observable physiological changes caused by resistance training. Time and time again I see and hear individuals speak of the "gains" made from lifting some weights.

Most people do not understand the underlying processes taking place at a cellular level within the body. This leads to most individuals speaking of making immense gains in size and strength of their muscles after just working out for a few weeks.

Where am I heading with this? Well, increases in muscular size, as well as improvements in strength are not as quick as one might expect. It is all too common for an individual to either start, or return to an exercise regimen after an extended period of being sedentary, only to marvel at how big their muscles are getting, and how much strength they are experiencing.

Hypertrophy

First of all, let's discuss muscle hypertrophy, or the increase in size of your muscle cells. The "pump" individuals experience from higher repetition resistance training is known as "transient hypertrophy." Basically, this means an accumulation of fluids in the muscle cells, giving them the feeling of being swollen. This is a temporary increase in muscle size and should by no means be considered gaining long-term size. A measurable increase in muscle size will not be witnessed until at least 16 workouts into a resistance training program.*

Strength

Another observable and motivating symptom of resistance training is when an individual gains more strength. It can be an intoxicating feeling knowing that you are getting stronger. However, experienced strength gains witnessed by a beginner to a resistance training program are not necessarily what they think they are.

We sometimes perceive our muscles as self-controlling structures that abide by an "all or none" mechanism. This is simply not true. Your muscles are made up of muscle fibers, none of which are thicker than a strand of hair. When your muscle contracts, the entire length of the muscle shortens, however only a small percentage of the muscle fibers contract at any given time.

For example, if you were to pick a pencil up off of a table, a very small percentage of your muscle is actually doing the work to move your arm. However, if you were to be picking up a ten pound weight, more muscle fibers need to be "recruited" in order to lift the weight.

Muscle fiber recruitment is orchestrated by the muscles neurons. One, often overlooked, positive adaptation to resistance training is the improvements in your mind to muscle connection. Basically, your neurons greatly improve their efficiency at "recruiting" muscle fibers.

During the first 8 weeks of a resistance training program for a beginner is the improvement of said neural adaptations.** So, even though one may be experiencing strength gains, this is not due to an increase in muscle size or any measurable improvement in the strength of the muscle itself, instead, it is an improvement in the efficiency of the mind to muscle connection!

What does all of this mean?

For the average person, this should be a convincing argument towards practicing a lifestyle of consistency, especially when it comes to physical activity and resistance training. By going through constant cycles of activity and inactivity, your results will be mostly limited to neural adaptations.

If, however, you wish to gain muscle mass and/or strength, it should be of your best interest to stick to a consistent schedule in order to improve your neural adaptations and beyond.

On the flip side of this argument, and for those who go through periods of inactivity due to injury, etc. remember that strength gains return faster to those individuals who have used resistance training previously. Not only that, but your muscles tend to return to a state of previous strength level in a much faster period of time.

References:
*Staron, R. S., Karapondo, D. L., Kraemer, W. J., Fry, A. C., Gordon, S. E., Falkel, J. E., Hagerman, F. C., & Hikida, R. S. (1994). Skeletal muscle adaptations during the early phase of heavy-resistance training in men and women. Journal of Applied Physiology, 76, 463-475.
**Moritani, T., & deVries, H. A. (1979). Neural factors versus hypertrophy in the time course of muscle strength gain. American Journal of Physiological Medicine, 58, 115-130.






P90X3 Prep!

Well, after my disappointing news earlier this week, I have spent the rest of the week recovering and brainstorming my next training block. It is a shame that I can not make it to the World's Toughest Mudder this year, but at the same time, I am excited about my short-term training goals leading up to the release of P90X3 on December 10th!

For those of you who don't know already, I will be running a  P90X3 Challenge Group, so that a group of us like-minded individuals can progress through the program together.

Leading up to P90X3, however, will be a hypertrophy/strength/mass gaining hybrid that I have concocted that will aim to fulfill a few goals: 

  1. Put on some mass. 
  2. Improve strength. 
  3. Work on specific areas for hockey (I am back playing men's hockey on Sunday nights). 

The idea here, is that I will be heading into P90X3 in good physical shape, but with some weight to lose. The timing will be perfect, since we will be starting just after the holidays, so I can focus on getting my diet in perfect order, and 'cut' the best I can with X3.

My hybrid will consist of Body Beast workouts, alongside Tony's 1 on 1's (schedule below). I will be playing around with some of the rep ranges, however, but before we delve into why I am doing this, let me give you a crash-course on "core" vs. "assistance" exercises. 

"Core" vs. "Assistance" Exercises
Strength and power repetition ranges are intended to be done by "core exercises". A core exercise is one that recruits one or more large muscle areas (chest, shoulder, back, hip, thigh), involve two or more primary joints, and receive priority when one is selecting exercises because of their direct application to sport.
"Assistance exercises" on the other hand, usually recruit smaller muscle areas (upper arm, abdonminals, calf, neck, forearm, lower back, or anterior lower leg), involve only one primary joint, and are considered less important to improving sport performance.

If you are familiar with Body Beast, you will know that majority of the workouts (roughly) use 15-12-8 repetition goals. I am going to be aiming for 12-8-6 repetition goals for all "Core" exercises (using the above terminology). So, for example, chest presses, squats, shoulder presses, etc. will be considered "Core". Specific exercises, such as bicep curls, triceps kickbacks, etc. will still use the 15-12-8 repetition goal range.

6 to 12 repetitions is the "magic zone" when it comes to hypertrophy (muscular growth), but the closer to you get to 6 (6-8 reps), could be considered "functional hypertrophy," as the muscles also gain some strength as well. When working major muscle groups, across multiple joints (chest press - elbows, shoulders), the forces placed on the body can be displaced and 'handled' better by the body. 

Since I am playing hockey on Sundays, that will essentially work as my "cardio" workout for the week, because I know a lot of you like to use that term. Me personally, I like to think of any workout that elevates your heart rate above resting levels for an extended period of time (what workout doesn't?!?) as a "cardio" workout.

The only two workouts that will NOT be following the mention repetition goals will be my legs days (Tuesday/Thursdays). Tuesdays will be about improving the plyometric nature of my muscles, so that they function better on the ice. I also really enjoy the very hockey-specific exercises in Tony's 1 on 1 - Plyo Legs, specifically the lateral jumps, and 4-corner jumps as they mimic the actions used when skating. Legs Thursdays will be my own concoction of some really heavy squatting, deadlifting, and step-up to reverse lunging. Since I will be doing deadlifts on Legs Thursdays, I will be omitting them from any routines the day before or after (Back/Bis on Fridays).

You may notice double chest days during my "Phase 2" workouts. My chest has always been a trouble spot for me, so I will be attempting to put some mass on in that area, enough said! 

Finally, I will be dabbling with some forearm work (great to improve my strength and explosiveness of my shot), and core work - both of which I will be playing around with a few ideas of my own. Once I get a good routine, then I can share them with those interested. 

Oh, and one last thing. I don't have my "off" or "recovery" weeks planned as of yet. They will most likely be a 3x/week mix of total body workouts, such as Tony Horton's Road Warrior, Body Beast Total Body, and maybe a Focus T25 workout or two! 

Schedule: 

Phase 1 (October 7th - October 27th)

M - BB Build: Chest/Tris + Abs
T - TH 1on1 - Plyo Legs
W - BB Build: Shoulders + Abs
Th - Legs
F - BB Build: Back/Bis + Forearm work
S - Off
S - Hockey

Phase 2 (November 4th - November 24th)

M - BB Bulk: Chest + Bulk: Back (no deadlifts)
T - TH 1on1 - Plyo Legs
W - TH 1on1 - Diamond Delts + Just Arms
Th - Legs
F - BB Bulk: Chest + Abs
S - Off
S - Hockey
 
Phase 3 (December 2nd - December 22nd)
 
Week 1 - Phase 2
Week 2 - Phase 1
Week 3 - Phase 2
 
December 23rd - December 28th - Off

December 29th - Start P90X3! 





Intermittent Fasting Q&A and Follow-Up

This is a follow-up to my "A Diet I Can Count On!" blog that I wrote the other day. 

 *DISCLAIMER*  - The intention of this blog is not to tell any of you how to live your life or to preach about a diet plan that everyone should follow. I have received several requests about my "new" diet, so I am detailing what I have been doing. This diet plan is not for everyone. Diet plans should be tailored to each individual's needs similar to how different athletes train for different sporting events. No one diet is right for anyone, so you should find a diet plan that works for you, makes you feel good, and is sustainable. Any questions beyond this blog can be commented below, or you can e-mail me and I will either respond to your questions directly or will bring them up in a future blog.

   What is considered as a 'strength training day'?

In my blog, I detailed how I fast on non-strength training days. I consider a strength training day a day in which I am attacking one or a couple of specific muscle groups with multiple sets with muscle failure in mind. These would include my heavy lifting days, the Body Beast 'lifting' days, and even P90X or P90X2 workouts that involve resistance training or push-ups and pull-ups. 

This is kind of a vague answer, but everyone will be different. Some days I may choose to fast after a workout like P90X Plyometrics, for example, both other days I may eat immediately afterwards. That is one of the nicest aspects of IF for me, in my opinion, is how flexible it is. If I feel like fasting, a few hours after a workout is not going to make my muscles fall apart, but at the same time, if I am feeling weak or run down, then I will eat! 

 Why IF on cardio days and not strength days? 

Strength training causes muscular breakdown. Also, and potentially more important, is the fact that resistance training causes muscle glycogen stores to be depleted. Research has shown that there is a magic 60 minute window (approximately) following a strenuous resistance routine when the muscles are craving replenishment of sugar and a bit of protein. Having said that, that 'window of opportunity' is not absolutely set in stone, and nobody should be attached to that number. 

During cardiovascular exercise, there is some muscle breakdown, but it is generally not as severe, especially if you exercise regularly. As your body becomes more efficient from regular exercise, it also becomes better at meeting more of its energy demands through aerobic respiration. The more your body relies on aerobic respiration, the more it pulls from stored energy stores (fat, or adipose tissue) and less from stored glycogen stores in the muscles. 

 Do I IF on rest days? 

Absolutely I do. In fact, rest days are the best days to IF, in my opinion. A couple things to note, however. If you are 'bulking' or aiming to gain weight, your calorie intake should be the same on recovery days as it is on lifting days. Your body is rebuilding and repairing from the damage done to it during your lifting days, so you still need plenty of calories. The only difference here, is that you will be taking in the same amount of calories, just in a smaller window of eating. Happy eating! 

If, on the other hand, you are looking to lose weight, your recovery days should be slightly less than you are used to on your days of exercise, again, with a smaller eating window!





Strength and Conditioning Tips

I have compiled a helpful list of training tips below that I am sure everyone can learn something from, enjoy!

Training Time

This tip is actually a twofer (broken into 2 parts). Men and women alike are always asking when the best time of the day is to work out, so that is why this is broken into two. For men (generalizing here), they want to know when the best time of day is to work out to grow big, strong muscles. Many people will tell you that working out in the afternoon or evening is the best time for muscle growth for a number of reasons, but simply is not true. The Journal for Strength and Conditioning Research has said that consistency is the key here. If you only have time to hit the weights in the morning, do that! The study showed that men made equal strength gains regardless of what time of day they worked out.

Similarly, women (again, generalizing) want to know when the best time of day is to exercise to burn fat. Again, consistency is the key. There are pros and cons to exercising either morning or night. For example, exercising in the morning can rev your metabolism for the rest of the day, whereas exercising in the evening has the potential to burn more calories as your body's metabolism is potentially at its highest. As I have said before, doingsomething is always better than doing nothing, so if you only have time in the morning to exercise, do that! I personally exercise in the morning because that's what fits my schedule, but if it doesn't suit you, then fine!

Pack on the Protein

I see this one time and time again. People think that in order to grow big, strong muscles, they need to cram as much protein into each meal as possible. Studies have shown that eating 30 grams of protein in a meal yields the same benefits of eating 90 grams does. This is a perfect example of "more isn't necessarily better". Instead, you should aim to have protein in small doses throughout the day. Keep one thing in mind, however. Protein seems to have this aura attached to it now that it is this wonderful "weight-loss" food. Protein still has calories, and ingesting too much protein can still result in unwanted body fat if unused, so make sure your diet is properly proportioned. Not only that, but if all you are doing is eating protein all day, you will likely be missing out on important vitamins and nutrients that can only be found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables!

Muscle Loss

For the longest time, there was this belief that as people age, their muscle tissue decreases. This is in fact true, but this is a sort of chicken-and-egg problem. Does your muscle tissue disappear because you age, or because you stop using your muscles as you age? Studies are now showing that it is in fact possible to continue muscle growth with strength improvements later in life. Yes, men have lowered testosterone as they age, but there is more to it than that. Once you hit the age of 65, sure, you may not be making major muscle gains, but you can still use resistance training to reduce the loss of muscle. Not only that, men and women can greatly benefit from resistance training throughout life to help strengthen bones, muscles and connective tissues!

Do It For Your Brain

Sure, many people like to exercise to try and look a certain way. Unfortunately, many personal trainers will market these types of things to you as well. I have a swift kick of reality for you though. Unless you have tremendous genetics, or photoshop (or a combination of the two), you are never going to look like some of those models or Hollywood celebrities. Not only that, but chasing "the perfect image" will only end in disappointment and despair. Instead, you should exercise to feel better about yourself in your own skin, not to mention the mental and body benefits that comes along with it. Think of how great you feel after a good workout. Wouldn't that be great to bottle that up and take a swig of that every day for the rest of your life?

Go Fast and then Go Home

I probably sound like a broken record here, but unfortunately some people just don't get it. I see and get asked by people all the time why they are not getting/seeing results from working out an hour or more at a time. I then see them slowing jogging on a treadmill or elliptical. Instead, why not try HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and cut your workout times in half? Chronic cardio should only be used if you are training for...wait for it...a cardio event such as a marathon or triathlon, etc. Instead, most people can get into their gym, exercise using HIIT principles for 20-30mins and then be done with an even better workout than something that takes twice the time.

A study done by McMaster University in Hamilton found that men who performed sprint interval training for a total of 2.5 hours (including recovery) over the course of 2 weeks has the same results as the group who performed endurance training for a total of 10.5 hours over the same time period. Yes, its alright to go back and read that again. 1/5th of the time for the same results! Another study following a group of 15 women found that high-intensity exercise (40 to 45 minutes approximately four times weekly at a mean HR of 163 bpm) reduced body fat by about 5 percent over the course of 15 weeks versus a virtually unchanged percentage in the group that performed exercise at a lower heart rate (132 beats per minute).





Day 363 - Periodization

Traditional periodization models are broken down into cycles. Macrocycles are the largest and usually involve an entire sport year, but can last up to 4 years for an Olympic athlete for example. Macrocycles are made up of 2 or more mesocycles which can last anywhere from several weeks to several months. Going further beyond that, mesocycles are broken up into microcycles which are usually a week long but can be as long as 4 weeks each.

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