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 and conditioning

I'm Back on Google Helpouts

I gave this a go last year with pretty good success. Now that I have a more concrete schedule and time to spare to help others online, I am giving this one another shot! If you are interested in getting some advice or help with anything health and fitness related including programming, dietary advice, scheduling, etc. please visit the following link to schedule an Helpout with me! I am also able to take my webcam into my home gym to help with form advice and cuing.

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.


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.


  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.


  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.

World's Toughest Mudder Training Volume 2

Well that didn't take long did it? I haven't even started my training program and already I am making adjustments! 

I have just returned from the Beachbody Coach Summit in Las Vegas, and the hype surrounding Shaun T's newest program - Focus T25, has me itching to give it a shot, so i will! 

Starting today (June 24th), I will be supplementing Focus T25 with my Strength Training. The only real adjustment to my schedule is that I will be lengthening my strength phases slightly, and removing the Body Beast phase.

Since the workouts are only 25mins in length, they shouldn't hinder my strength gains too much. I will also be pushing my runs to Saturdays, so even though the Focus T25 schedule is 5 days long with a "double" on Fridays, I will only be doing 1 Focus T25 workout on Friday, but adding a run on the 6th day. 

Take a look: 

Alpha Strength Phase - June 24 - July 20 

24 - Strength Workout 1 & T25 Cardio
25 - T25 Speed 1.0
26 - Strength Workout 2 & T25 Total Body Circuit
27 - T25 Ab Intervals
28 - Strength Workout 3 & T25 Lower Focus
29 - 5km Run
30 - Off
1 - Strength Workout 4 & T25 Cardio
2 - T25 Total Body Circuit
3 - Strength Workout 1 & T25 Speed 1.0
4 - T25 Cardio
5 - Strength Workout 2 & T25 Ab Intervals
6 - 5km Run
7 - Off
8 - Strength Workout 3 & T25 Total Body Circuit
9 - T25 Speed 1.0
10 - Strength Workout 4 & T25 Lower Focus
11 - T25 Cardio
12 - Strength Workout 1 & T25 Ab Intervals
13 - 5km Run
14 - Off
15 - Strength Workout 2 & T25 Cardio
16 - T25 Total Body Circuit
17 - Strength Workout 3 & T25 Lower Focus
18 - T25 Total Body Circuit
19 - Strength Workout 4 & T25 Ab Intervals
20 - 5km Run
21 - Off

No Weights Recovery - July 22 - July 28

22 - T25 Total Body Circuit
23 - T25 Ab Intervals
24 - T25 Total Body Circuit
25 - T25 Cardio
26 - T25 Lower Focus
27 - 5km Run
28 - Off

Beta Strength Phase - July 29 - August 31

29 - Strength Workout 1 & T25 Core Cardio
30 - T25 Speed 2.0
31 - Strength Workout 2 & T25 Rip'T Circuit
1 - T25 Dynamic Core
2 - Strength Workout 3 & T25 Core Cardio
3 - 5km Run
4 - Off

5 - Strength Workout 4 & T25 Dynamic Core
6 - T25 Core Cardio
7 - Strength Workout 1 & T25 Rip'T Circuit
8 - T25 Upper Focus
9 - Strength Workout 2 & T25 Speed 2.0
10 - 5km Run
11 - Off

12 - Strength Workout 3 & T25 Core Cardio
13 - T25 Upper Focus
14 - Strength Workout 4 & T25 Speed 2.0
15 - T25 Rip'T Circuit
16 - Strength Workout 1 & T25 Dynamic Core
17 - Off
18 - 6km Run

19 - Strength Workout 2 & T25 Rip'T Circuit
20 - T25 Dynamic Core
21 - Strength Workout 3 & T25 Core Cardio
22 - T25 Dynamic Core
23 - Strength Workout 4 & T25 Upper Focus
24 - 8km Run
25 - Off
 No Weights Recovery Week - August 26 - September 1

26 - T25 Rip'T Circuit
27 - T25 Core Cardio
28 - T25 Rip'T Circuit
29 - T25 Dynamic Core
30 - T25 Speed 2.0
31 - 5km Run
1 - Off
 Transition Week - September 2 - September 7

2 - X2 Core
3 - 10km Run
4 - Yoga
5 - X2 Total Body
6 - Off
7 - 8km Run
8 - Off

Performance Phase - September 8 - October 5

S - Recovery
M - *bonus* 3x5 Bench Press - X2 Chest, Back, and Balance
T - *bonus* 3x5 Back Squat - P.A.P. Lower
W - Recovery
Th - *bonus* 1x5 Deadlift - X2 Base & Back
F - *bonus* 3x5 Overhead Press - X2 Balance & Power
S - 8km, 10km, 14km, 12km Run

Recovery Week 4 - October 6 - October 12 

S - Recovery
M - Yoga
T - X2 Core
W - 10km Run
Th - X2 Total Body
F - Recovery
S - 17km Run

 Polish/Focus Phase - October 13 - November 9

S - Recovery
M - *bonus* 3x5 Bench Press - 30/15
T - 10km, 12km, 14km, 12km Run
W - *bonus* 3x5 Back Squat - X2 Base & Back
Th - Recovery
F - *bonus* 3x5 Overhead Press - X2 Total Body (core moves in place of Pull-Ups)
S - 22km, 27km, 32km, 10km Run

 Recovery Week 5 - November 10 - November 15

S - Recovery
M - 30/15
T - Yoga
W - Recovery
Th - Recovery
F - Travel Day

World's Toughest Mudder - November 16, 17 2013! 

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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