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How To Look Like An Olympic Athlete

34577979 - muscular man skipping rope. portrait of muscular young man exercising with jumping rope on black background

With the Olympics underway, millions around the world stare in awe at the amazing athletic feats in everything from boxing to sprinting to  kayaking — and yes, even rhythmic gymnastics.

Jokes aside, every athlete at the Olympics is among the best in the world at their respective. sport. None ended up at the Olympics by accident.

But one group of athletes stands out from all the rest: the power athletes. And the events themselves aren’t even the most captivating part. It’s their blend of incredible athleticism, power, and lean, muscular body. It all add up to you looking at your training and asking:

“How can I look like an Olympic Athlete?”

A body that’s is show and go.

A body made of substance, with a little sizzle.

In this post, I’ll show you four exercises that bring you closer to the total package. And while they’ll make you stronger, leaner, and more athletic, I can’t guarantee you’ll be swift like Bolt or yoked like Klokov, or shredded like a gymnast.

But I can promise that if you take action and focus on developing these skills with the program I have below, you’ll build your ultimate athletic body.

The Components of Looking Like an Olympic Athlete

 

How Can You Build Olympic Strength?

There are multiple types of strength, but for simplicity, let’s address relative strength and absolute strength. Relative strength is the amount of strength relative to body size. All else being equal, smaller individuals have higher relative strength. Think of your middle-school fitness tests when the 90-pound wrestlers would destroy the pull-up test while big kids struggled. This reflects your ability to control or move your body through space (relative strength), as in most movement-based sports like sprinting.

Absolute strength refers to the maximum amount of force exerted regardless of muscle or body size. Greater amounts of absolute strength favor those with higher body weight and, in general, larger individuals like Olympic throwers or heavy weight wrestlers.

Throwing it back again to your middle-school days, faster-maturing kids with greater absolute strength absolutely destroyed their counterparts in tackling or blocking drills.

Relative Strength & Absolute Strength

Strength training improves your performance primarily due to increased nervous system activation. Increased nervous system activation via strength training does two huge things for your training:

  1. Increases muscle fiber recruitment
  2. Increases speed at which the body sends electrical signals to the muscles

Take a look at the following chart:

Bodyweight Deadlift Max Absolute Strength Relative Strength
185 pounds 405 pounds 405 pounds 2.2x bodyweight
205 pounds 405 pounds 405 pounds 1.97x bodyweight

Notice that while the larger lifter has the same absolute strength as the lighter lifter, his relative strength is less than the lighter lifter. If you’re a dedicated gym rat, your objective is to get stronger, leaner, and more athletic. Both absolute strength and relative strength are needed to maximize your high-performance beastliness.

Developing greater absolute strength builds greater relative strength. You develop greater absolute strength by improving technique on big lifts, improving neuromuscular function, and in many cases, increasing bodyweight. When body weight is kept the same, an improvement in absolute strength improves relative strength, thus improving your ability to generate force on exercises like jumps, bodyweight exercises, and moving your body through space like an Olympic bad-ass. 

To improve both maximum and relative strength, you need to emphasize multi-joint exercises to stimulate larger increases of anabolic hormones (Hansen et al., 2001). For well-rounded strength development, combine heavy strength work like presses, rows, cleans, and squats with relative strength exercises like chin-ups, jumps, and sprints with maximum explosive intent.

So what’s the best?

When in doubt, the basics are best. If I had to pick one lift, I’d pick the squat. More specifically, the front squat.

The Front Squat

FrontSquat

Read More: How to Front Squat

Olympic Abs

Most high-level sprinters have athletic bodies that make the gods envious.

So, what’s the key?

Genetics aside, sprinting!
Similiar to high intensity weight lifting, sprints can trigger the release of anabolic hormones that help you build muscle and burn body fat.
Your glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and hips generate insane amounts of force during a sprint. Your spine works on stabilizing you and transferring power through your body. Altogether, this builds stronger legs and activates a youthful-like athleticism while triggering a massive hormonal shift in your body.

Sprinting has an impact on three hormones that help you look better naked:

Testosterone

Testosterone is the major masculinizing hormone in your body. Greater testosterone levels will improve your energy, help you build lean muscle and cut body fat. I’d wager you’d be happy with all three of those things.

Growth Hormone (GH)

GH is released in response to large muscle contractions and is further stimulated by training without long periods of rest. Triggered by metabolic stress (the stressful environment in which you’re gasping for air and your muscles are on fire), GH is often described as the fountain of youth. It slows the aging process, aids in the metabolism of fatty acids and boosts protein synthesis.

Insulin

Huge muscular contractions promote greater insulin sensitivity. This results in improved nutrient partitioning. In other words, your body gets better at breaking down nutrients for energy and muscular recovery instead of storing them as fat. With better insulin sensitivity, you’ll improve your cardiovascular health, build lean muscle and reduce body fat.

Adding Sprints:Hill or incline sprints are best because they greatly reduce the risk of injury. It’s mechanically impossible to over stride while running up a slight inclination, which decreases the risk of the dreaded hamstring pull.

Running up a hill also shrinks the distance your foot covers on the ground, decreasing joint stress on your hips, knees, and ankles. Fewer injuries, better conditioning, and burning fat?

Yes, please.

Sprint twice a week as an individual workout or after a lift.

Here’s a sample six-week progression. Make sure you warm up before starting and repeat each interval 8 to 12 times.

Week One: Sprint 10 seconds, rest 50

Week Two: Sprint 11 seconds, rest 49

Week Three: Sprint 12 seconds, rest 48

Week Four: Sprint 13 seconds, rest 47

Week Five: Sprint 14 seconds, rest 46

Week Six: Sprint 15 seconds, rest 45

Sprinting is a mainstay in all of my Power Primer Programs for a good reason: They work well for developing an athletic, shredded body.

Olympic Power and Explosiveness

Explosive exercises improve your workouts by teaching your nervous system to fire faster, helping you jump higher, run faster, and throw further.

Even more, explosive exercises recruit high-threshold motor units (HTMU’s)—units within each muscle to fire simultaneously for improved strength. And as the icing on the cake, the more HTMU’s  you can recruit, the more muscle you’ll stimulate to grow during workouts.

Altogether this means explosive Power Primer exercises help you move faster, lift heavier, and build more muscle—three key traits to looking like an Olympian.

Read More: Four Training Splits to Build an Athletic Body

Exercises:

The Olympic lifts would fit well here (and rightly so), but a lot of gyms frown on “aggressive lifts” and dropping big weights.

Shame on them.

And while you could flip them the bird and find a better gym, that’s not always practical.

Therefore, if you allowed to the Olympic lifts like power cleans, please continue doing so.

PowerCleans

Otherwise, here’s my favorite alternative: The Squat jump.

You’re probably wondering what happens when you combine squatting and jumping, right?

Magic, of course.

The truth isn’t really that far out: Using the same movement pattern (squatting and jumping) with both heavy and light resistance improves intermuscular and intramuscular coordination: two factors in your central nervous system’s ability to perform movements faster and with more power.

When your goal is looking athletic and building explosive power, then explosive training like this is exactly what you need to bridge the gap between strength and speed to build an athletic body.

There are three phases to completing a jump squat: loading, exploding, and landing.

Loading: Set up with feet about shoulder-width apart in an athletic stance with arms up at chest height; simultaneously swing the arms down, while bending the hips and knees to load your legs.

Exploding: Rapidly swing the arms up while driving your feet into the ground, extending the hips and knees, and then taking off. Fully extend the arms overhead to fully extend the body with the ankle, knee, hip, trunk, shoulder, and ear all being aligned.

Landing: Bend your knees into a squat position and absorb force evenly through the foot, not just through the toes. Keep your chest and head up, looking directly ahead. Your shins should be vertical and knees straight to avoid joint stress.

How many: Three sets of five reps with 60-90 seconds between sets. Perform on a lower-body training day, before or in place of a squat.

How you can Look like an Olympic Athlete

Most people plateau in the gym and stay mediocre because they continue doing what they’ve always done in the past. They lift only heavy and focus only on the weight or muscle. They neglect rep quality and explosiveness. 


This mistaken approach is not performance training.

A solid strength foundation remains essential. 

But to build your best looking AND best performing body focus on:

*Getting more explosive

*Generating strength fast, with exercises like cleans and jumps

* Conditioning to build wicked endurance and shred fat

 

How To Look Like An Olympic Athlete

 

There’s no better tool to bridge the gap between the body you want and the athleticism you deserve than my latest program The Power Primer, 2.0.

I’ve created eight months worth of programming to get you Strong, Shredded, and Athletic. This isn’t a program for athletes.

It’s for those of us that refuse to accept pathetic athleticism at the cost of building your best-looking body.

Here’s what Power Primer users are saying:

“The Power Primer program uniquely blends the best methods to improve the way your body performs, looks, and feels. For both athlete’s and nonathletes, the workouts are comprehensive, effective, and really fun. Anyone looking to develop an athletic body that looks as good as it performs will really enjoy this program.”
– Brian Y.

“If you’re looking for a program, this is it. Athlete strong, burning fat, hypertrophy with an in depth video guide of all the exercises. Coming from a minor league baseball player I follow the program as is and has been nothing short of awesome.
– Brad J.

It’s time to bridge the gap between athleticism and aesthetics.

It’s time to unleash the Power Primer and build your leanest, strongest, and most athletic body to date.

There are three workouts: fat loss, performance, and muscle gain. When combined,  they help you build your best body.

Coupled with a comprehensive video guide and optional full nutrition guide, you’re getting over eight months of workouts for less than your favorite bourbon protein powder.

Get the Power Primer Today.

Athlete Strong in 12 Weeks

 

The Power Primer: How an Embarrassing Story lead me to focus on Athleticism

hormones

( First, I have a story. Honestly,  it’s not a story I like to tell because it was embarrassing and a difficult time. Still, I’m sure you can relate.

At the end, I’ll tell you about my latest Workout, the Power Primer 2.0. The Power Primer is three full workout programs (36 weeks) of top-notch programming to help you build a body that performs like a top athlete…and looks good naked. But I’ll get to that later.  ) 

As a kid athleticism was never an issue.  I played a ton of sports, ran around the neighborhood making forts and playing pick-up games.

But, I was small and weak. Puny even. Especially compared to my classmates.

As a result, I was timed. I lacked confidence in how I looked, and how I performed playing sports.

This built up until at all once, it came to head.  It was high school gym class in late October. In Wisconsin, the frigid temperatures meant the ground was rock solid. Every time you hit the ground, it felt like falling on a pile of rocks.

We were playing flag Football…where the idea is to pull a flag rather than tackle each other into oblivion. Well, that’s the idea anyways.
Being a smaller, fast dude I was playing safety. My job was to run anyone down who might score.

The other team lined up and through the ball to Jason. Jason was the token overdeveloped, terminator of a dude that dominated every sport. He caught it and sprinted in my direction.
Soon, I was in the last place a puny unconfident dude wanted to be: between Jason and the end zone.

Jason had two options; race past me, or run through me.

Naturally, Jason decided I provided less resistance than a blade of grass. So he lowered his shoulder and sent my helpless corpse tumbling to the turf as he gliding to the end zone.

I looked up at the overcast sky. I heard the jeers. And then I lay there ,motionless for a moment.
Physically, I was a mess.

My wind was gone. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut.

My body ached and throbbed after getting tossed like a lifeless doll across the turf.

And that was just the start.

Mentally, I felt weak, pathetic, and insignificant.

I peeled my carcass off the grass, stumbled to a knee, and caught my breath.
As I stumbled to the sidelines, chin down and arm cradled at my side, the jeers and taunts grew louder.

I walked away from everyone: friends, teachers, and classmates.

I stood there, staring blankly into nowhere. I just wanted to be alone.

The skin on my cheeks tightened and my eyes got big. I held back tears of embarrassment. But my cheeks blushed, illustrating exactly how I felt inside.

Fuck it.  

Why was I even bothering with this stuff?

Then, I snapped out of it. Instead of moping around and feeling sorry for myself, I got pissed.

Pride, passion, perseverance.

I heard the voice of an old coach saying these words. Whenever a game got tough, that was his credo.

That did it. It was a turning point.  Why let some asshole like Jason ruin me?

From there on, I dedicated myself to training.

To getting bigger, stronger, and better. To forge a body and will harder than iron.

Fast forward eight years. Sixty pounds of muscle and a ton of enhanced confidence later, I was a coach.

Sixty pounds of muscle and a ton of enhanced confidence later, I was a coach.

Helping athletes and other dudes get strong, jacked, and athletic was my passion.

And then it happened.

I was at a seminar, working with other trainers and a handful of coaches on sprint technique.

Problem was, I hadn’t done much in the way of sprinting, jumping, or sports in a few years.

Competitive and intramurals sports were over.

Now, I relegated my fitness to lifting heavy shit and the bi-monthly sprint workout.

We all stood in a line, facing the instructor, and began a skipping drill.

I tried my best to mimic the drill he covered, but to no avail. I skipped awkwardly, like a teenager who had just finished his growth spurt. Bewildered by my lack of coordination, I lost focused and stumbled over my own feet.

What in the fuck was I doing?

Rather than the athleticism I’d had my whole life, I looked like a convulsing teenager who had just seen his first FULL BOOB.

The same crushing embarrassment took hold. My skin flushed. This time, I cracked a joke.

It was my new coping mechanism. But I wasn’t really fooling anyone, least of all myself.

Despite a fake smile and a few jokes, my gut wrenched. I stood there, embarrassed and dumbfounded.

Sure, I was strong, lean, and pretty built. But where had all l my athleticism gone?

Further, I asked what’s the point in all this heavy lifting, counting macros, and dedication if we ignore the basic idea of improving athleticism?

That’s the problem I’d set out to fix. First for myself, and then for hundreds of clients who wanted to be the total package: strong, lean, and athletic.
Today, more than ever, many of us are weak. Many kids drop out of sports by age 12.

Overprotective parents don’t help. Neither do sedentary desk jobs.

Neither do sedentary desk jobs.
And despite the increasing popularity of fitness, actual sports and athleticism are quickly going down the shitter.

 

The result?

A fair number of strong and lean bodies, but piss-poor athleticism and power.

To steal from Nate Green’s masterful rant titled “For the Guys who Don’t Workout.

“But you gotta understand the gym doesn’t define me. I am not my broad shoulders. I am not my six-pack. I am not my freakin’ biceps.”

Sure, your broad shoulders, six-pack, and biceps are great. But you deserve more. You deserve a capable body and the unconquerable will that comes with building athleticism and powerful performance.

And that means changing your training to incorporate values of athleticism, namely, explosive power.

After working with hundreds of clients, I’ve found that adding in explosive power to be the best method for getting what we all want: a strong, shredded, and athletic body.

That’s exactly what these five exercises deliver: a blend of strength, athleticism, and explosive power to unleash your inner athlete.

By adding these five movements alone into your training, you’ll be light years more athletic than the average meathead.

5 Power Primer Exercises to Build Athleticism

Jump Rope

Jump ropes aren’t a stupid tool you force-fed in Elementary school. They’re a badass old-school tool that boosts athleticism and shreds bodyfat.

Let’s dive into boosting athleticism first.

Jumping rope develops speed, agility, and coordination for sports. Sprinting is great too ( and I’ll cover it later), but for dudes who haven’t run around the block in five years, jumping into full-speed sprints is asking for injuries.

You wouldn’t jump into near-maximal lifting after a long layoff, would you?

Nah. You’re smarter than that.

The same philosophy applies to sprints. You must first condition your joints and ligaments, especially the Achilles tendon, for high-speed impact.

Even better, the jump rope is a one of the safest conditioning tools for two reasons:

First, jumping rope is a self-limiting exercise, meaning that when your form breaks down the exercise ends.

To be successful skippin’ the ole’ rope, you’re forced to stay in an aligned, joint stacked position, stabilizing your core under the load of movement.

bach performance jump rope, athleticism, power primer, the power primer
This teaches your core to hold position under movement while preventing the chances of overuse.

Second, jumping rope is low-impact despite a high number of foot strikes. This keeps the joint stress low and conditions the Achilles tendon for explosive movement. Achilles tendon injuries are alarmingly common in weekend warriors.

The jump rope provides one of the best prevention tools around. It is exceptionally effective both as a low impact athleticism and conditioning tool. For most, jumping rope two or three times per week for 10-15 minutes provides a huge boost.

Squat Jump

The squat jump is one of the best exercises to improve your power and get more athletic, especially if your gym doesn’t allow Olympic lifts. Squat jumps mimic the squat and a vertical jump, bridging the gap between jumping in sport and squatting in the gym.

In the short term, these explosive exercises improve your workouts by activating high-threshold motor units to fire and recruit more muscle during training. This means you’ll be able to lift more weight and stimulate more muscle growth and strength during workouts. 

 

In the long-term, you’ll recruit more muscle fibers with less effort.

This makes it easier to call all more muscle to action and smash heavy weights, thus helping you build a strong, lean, and explosive body.

How to do it: There are three phases: loading, exploding, and landing.

Loading: Set up with feet about shoulder-width apart in an athletic stance with arms up at chest height. The loading phase uses downward arm swing with flexing at the hips and knees to load your legs.

Exploding: Swing your arms up while extending your hips and knees, taking off on the balls of your feet. Extend the arms overhead and aim to extend the body with the ankle, knee, hip, trunk, shoulder, and ear all aligned.

Landing: Bend your knees into a squat position and absorb force evenly through the foot. Keep your chest and head up, looking straight ahead.

How many: Three sets of five reps with 60-90 seconds rest. Perform on a lower-body training day, before a squat or deadlift.

Hill Sprints

Sprinters have some of the world’s best bodies. And while correlation does not equal causation, sprinting is a basic skill in sports and gets you shredded.

So what’s the key?

Sprints create a physiological response like high-intensity weight lifting.
In sprinting, your glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, and hips generate insane amounts of force while your spine stabilizes and transfers power.
This builds stronger legs and youthful athleticism while triggering a massive hormonal shift in your body.

 

Three hormones that help you look better naked are affected by sprints:

Testosterone – The major masculinizing hormone in your body. Greater testosterone levels improve your energy, improve sex drive (wee!), build stacks of lean mass, and cut body fat.

Growth Hormone (GH) – GH is released in response to large muscle contractions and is further stimulated by training without full recovery.

Triggered by metabolic stress, the stressful environment when you’re gasping for air and muscles are on fire, GH is referred to as the fountain of youth. GH slows the aging process, aid in fatty acid metabolism, and boost protein synthesis.

Improved Insulin Sensitivity – Huge muscular contractions stimulate improved insulin sensitivity, which improves markers of cardiovascular health, builds lean muscle, and carves body fat off your body.

Further, improved insulin sensitivity improves nutrient partitioning. That means your body improves at breaking down nutrients for energy and muscular recovery rather than fat storage.

What to Do: Hill or incline sprints are best as they reduce injury risk. The hill makes it mechanically impossible to over stride, decreasing the risk of the dreaded hamstring pull.

Further, running up a hill shrinks the distance your foot covers to the ground, decreasing joint stress.Sprint twice per week, as an individual workout or after a lift.
After a warm-up, sprint all out for eight – twelve rounds of sprints.

Here’s a sample six-week progression:

Weeks One and Two: Sprint 15 seconds, rest 45 seconds
Weeks Three and Four: Sprint 20 seconds, rest 40 seconds
Weeks Five and Six: Sprint 25 seconds, rest 35 seconds

High Pull

I love cleans, but for a lot of lifters, years of heavy loading and poor thoracic mobility make it impossible to catch the bar with the elbows up. Enter the high pull.

The high pull uses explosive hip extension, teaching the glutes, quads, and hamstrings to generate insane amounts of force while your core stabilizes your spine and elbows drive the bar up.

As a result, the high pull helps you develop explosive athletic power and builds a jacked and athletic body. After a few weeks of high pulls, you’ll notice thicker glutes and hamstrings to pair with thick traps and cables for forearms.

High pulls are great on both upper and lower body days. Since they’re explosive in nature, make high-pulls the first exercise you do in training to get more athletic with sets and reps like 3-4 sets of 3-6 reps.If you want to add a bit more size, add them after your main lift for 4-5 sets of 6-8 reps.

Clean Grip Reverse Lunge

Most lifters have tight hips, achy knees, a weak upper back, underactive abs and tons of asymmetries between their legs. If I told you I had an exercise that takes care of all these ailments and makes you more athletic and resistance to injury, you’d say I was full of shit, right?

Well, I’m not. The clean grip reverse lunge is that exercise.

Reverse-Lunge-Side

Stronger thoracic extensors: Are you hunched over your smartphone reading this?

Tsk, Tsk!

Bad posture is an epidemic and we’re all guilty. To improve posture and shoulder health we need to train the traps, serratus, levator scapulae, rhomboids, and lats to hold position and prevent you from flexing forward. Holding the bar in the clean grip does exactly that.

 

Less Knee Stress: Holding the barbell on the front of your body limits the weight you can use. That means less joint compression on the knee and spine.
Further, stepping backward keepings your shin vertical, limiting shear stress on the knee. By reducing shear and compressive stress, you’ll keep happier, healthier knees.

Better Abs: Holding the bar on the front of your body forces your entire core to engage, keeping your vertical so you don’t fold like an accordion.

Fix asymmetries: The clean grip reverse lunge requires dynamic stabilization and single leg strength. This works the major muscles in your leg and what’s termed the lateral subsystem, a group of neglected muscles (quadratus lumborum, adductors, and glutes) to stabilize each leg and generate strength.

Medicine Ball back Toss

The medicine ball back toss is one of the best exercises to get more athletic for two reasons:
1. You get to throw stuff.
After a long day, or just for the hell of it, it’s fun to throw heavy stuff around.
2. Explosive Hip Extension.
Explosive hip extension is the driving force behind taking off in a sprint, maximizing your clean, squat, or deadlift, and jumping. Adding a medicine ball is just another way to add explosiveness to the same movement pattern while having a bit more fun.

Instead of squats or deadlifts, add medicine ball back tosses in the beginning of your workout for 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps.

The Power Primer 2.0 is here!

Most lifters fall into the trap of endlessly pursuing one goal at the expense of all other training parameters.

That’s fine for elite athletes. But for the rest of us, we’re after the total package.

There’s no better tool to bridge the gap between the body you want and the athleticism you deserve than my latest program The Power Primer, 2.0.

I’ve created eight months worth of programming to get you Strong, Shredded, and Athletic. This isn’t a program for athletes.

It’s for those of us that refuse to accept pathetic athleticism a the cost of building your best-looking body.

It’s time to bridge the gap between athleticism and aesthetics.

It’s time to unleash the Power Primer and build your leanest, strongest, and most athletic body to date.

For less than you spend on protein powder each month, you’ll have all your workouts expertly planned, organized, and guided by a custom video guide from now until 2017.

Get the Power Primer Today

Athlete Strong in 12 Weeks, Power Primer


1. Gould D, Petlichkoff L. Participation motivation and attrition in young athletes. In: Smoll FL, Magill RA, Ash MJ, eds. Children in Sport. 3rd ed. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics; 1988:161-178.

Four Training Splits to Build an Athletic Body

The Power Primer

We’ve both been there. Your bar speed is explosive on every rep, and you’re adding strength regularly.

Your skin is tighter, shirt sleeves stretching, and muscles bulging as you’re building muscle and losing fat simultaneously.

You’ve got tons of energy, feel athletic, and are crushing your training.
Then WHAM. Like getting hit by a semi, your progress comes screeching to a halt.

Suddenly, your joints ache. Without four cups of coffee, you’re unmotivated, mentally foggy, and exhausted. You get through one or two easy warm-up sets and you’ve had enough–the gym is the last place you want to be. Suffice to say, your training sucks.

Except for the occasional finisher, brutal conditioning workout, or off day you should make constant gains and enjoy training. That’s why when your training takes a sharp dive off the deep end and your progress stalls it’s time to change.

Not just your grip or your stance. Nor a change from front squats to back squats.

No, I’m talking a monumental shift. A new training split. Yes, your long-term training principles should remain constant, but you need new methods. As long as you’re adding weight to the bar, moving like an explosive athlete, eating well, and sleeping enough then a new training split is what you need to build an athletic body.

The Power Primer, athletic body

 

And despite what some coaches say, there’s no one size fit’s all approach to training splits. A bodybuilder shouldn’t train exactly like an athlete, nor should a powerlifter train exactly like a weekend pavement pounder. Your training depends on your goals, energy system requirements, schedule, and individual differences.

That said, let’s review the best splits to help you build a stronger, shredded, and athletic body.  I’ll explain the good and the bad of each, giving you the knowledge to pick your next training split so you can build the lean, athletic look you’re after.

Either way, a new program is exciting—renewed motivation will have you attacking each workout with eye-splitting intensity.

Decide your goal, stick to sound principles, and pick the training routine that best fits your goals.

Upper Lower Training Split

Upper-lower training splits are a novel progression for total-body training splits to allow more recovery and training volume. Upper body and lower body days alternate for 4 workouts in a 7-day training split.

Pros: Upper-Lower training splits are a great progression from total body training and work well with most populations looking to gain size and strength concurrently. Upper-Lower splits allow greater training frequency for quicker learning and mastery while still using significant loading, aka big ole’ weights like a boss. Upper-lower splits offer a moderate training frequency and Moderate-high volume for gains hypertrophy.

Cons: There are unbalanced training times with upper body workouts taking much longer than most lower body sessions. Upper-lower training splits offer shorter recovery time between training sessions compared to body-part splits, which may hinder recovery if you’re not getting enough sleep, working on tissue quality, nor eating enough steak. (P.S. here’s my favorite steak recipe)

Lower body training is brutal; doing it two times per week might be too much for the weak minded.

Example:

Monday: Upper Body (Push Strength Emphasis)

Tuesday: Lower Body (Squat Pattern Strength Emphasis)

Wednesday: Off/active recovery

Thursday: Upper Body (Pull Strength Emphasis)

Friday: Lower Body (Hinge pattern strength Focus)

Saturday/Sunday: Off

Total Body Training Split

Total body training splits are maximally efficient and train the body as a unit rather than it’s component parts.

Pros: Total body splits are maximally efficient for those short on time and looking for full body stimulation. High frequency of stimulation for muscles and moderate training volume suits many goals, such as fat loss, strength building, and muscular hypertrophy. Total body training is good for building an athletic body and allows movement training like sprints.

Minimized “fluff” forces workouts to focus on the essential, not 13 variations of lateral raises. Total body workouts are great for beginners, fat loss, and general health. It’s easy to integrate other training modalities around total body routines as most movements and muscles are hit during each workout.

 

Cons: Low intra-workout volume will minimize metabolic stress related hypertrophy, so it’s not the best for your sweet, sweet biceps gains.

Plus, stronger lifters tend to struggle with recoverability from training legs 3x+/week. It’s a difficult split to train more than 3-4x per week without knowledge and self-awareness for auto-regulation.

Among all programs, these are the universal “best” for most busy dudes. They cover all your bases and eliminate the fluff. 

Example:

Monday:

1.Power Clean 5×3

2.Bench Press 3×6

3.Lunge 3×8-12

4a.Farmer Walks 3×30 seconds

4b. Dips 3x 30 seconds timed set

Tuesday: OFF/conditioning

Wednesday:

1.Push Press 5×3

2.Deadlift 4×6

3.Chin Up 3×8-12

4a.Plank 3×30 seconds

4b. Biceps Curl 3x 30 seconds timed set

Thursday: OFF/conditioning

Friday:

1. Back Squat 5×3

2. Bent Over Row 4×6

3. Dumbbell Bench Press 3×8-12

4a. Kettlebell Crosswalk 3×30 seconds

4b. Hip Thrust 3×12

Saturday/Sunday: Off/Conditioning

3. Push-Pull Training Split

Push/Pull Training splits break training up by movement pattern. The movements on the posterior side of the body are predominantly responsible for pulling actions like deadlifts and chin-ups while the front/anterior side of the body is responsible for pushing actions like push-ups.

Unless you’re a glutton for punishment and want to try legs four days per week, pair legs on pull days.

Pros: Push-Pull routines are suitable for intermediate-advanced trainees. Push-pull routines are an economical way to train and allow for flexible planning. Moderate training frequency is better for skill acquisition, meaning you’ll learn movements and exercises faster.
You can combine push-pull routines combine with other training splits to create hybrid programs like an upper-lower push-pull routine.

Cons: Push-pull splits are limited with athletic populations unless you break up upper and lower body sessions. In this case, it becomes difficult to maximize training efficiency. Push-pull routines are a bit advanced for beginners looking to maximize their gains.

Example:

Day One: Pull (legs/hamstrings, back, biceps, lower back)

Day Two: Push (chest, shoulders, triceps, legs/quads, abs)

Day Three: OFF

Day Four: Pull (legs/hamstrings, back, biceps, lower back)

Day Five: Push (chest, shoulders, triceps, legs/quads, abs)

Day Six: OFF

Day Seven: OFF

4. Intensive/Extensive Training Split

Giggity.

These are my favorite.

The intensive/extensive split bases training splits on the neural demands of a workout. For example, a heavy/explosive day is often followed by a metabolic/higher volume day.

This also corresponds with conditioning.

So, a workout focused on jumps, cleans, heavy squats, and sprints is neurally demanding as it drains your nervous system. Without ample recovery between intensive training sessions, you’ll feel like garbage and injury risk will sky-rocket.

Instead of back-to-back heavy, you’d want to make your next session higher rep, less intense (in terms of loading and explosive exercises), and focused more on the pump.

Three or four days of training per week works best.

Pros: Intensive/Extensive training splits are advanced programming strategy for athletes looking to take the next step. Great for building an athletic body and training movement skills like acceleration in coordination with resistance training. Intensive/Extensive splits offer a sound progression for developing greater levels of performance.

Cons: Intensive/extensive training splits are advanced and complicated to design. IF your primary goal is to look great naked, you’ll want to eliminate *some* of the movement training and focus more on higher-rep work for better muscle building. Workouts are longer in duration on intensive days due to neural recovery demands of intense exercise.

Get Athletic an Athletic Body:

This example uses a Push-pull split (mentioned above) with movement training if you’re a competitive athlete.

Monday: Speed work (before if competitive, conditioning if non-competitive athlete), Olympic lift+ compound push exercises

Tuesday: Metabolic/ change of direction (before if competitive, conditioning if non-competitive athlete), Pull Emphasis

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Speed work, Olympic lift+ compound push exercises

Friday: Metabolic focus, pull emphasis in weight room

Saturday/Sunday: Active Recovery

 

 

Look Good Naked:

This is focused on keeping you athletic, but a bit more on body composition so you look hot.

Monday:  Olympic lift+ compound push exercises, Heavy and explosive. Light conditioning.

Tuesday: Pull Emphasis, high rep (8-15+) and hypertrophy focused. Hard conditioning.

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Olympic lift+ compound pull exercises. Heavy and explosive, light conditioning.

Friday: Pull Emphasis, high rep (8-15+) and hypertrophy focused.

Saturday/Sunday: Hard conditioning 1x, active recovery

 

5. Primary Mover + Opposing Supersets

Also known as non-competing supersets or agonist, antagonist supersets these training splits work opposing muscle groups together. For example, a dumbbell bench press and a chest supported row.

Pros: Non-competing supersets are good for building muscle and achieving training balance.

You don’t want to be lopsided or injury prone, right?

Increased blood flow to antagonist muscle groups may improve performance and metabolic stress-related hypertrophy. Non-competing supersets are flexible and can allow for 3-6 days of training based on training age. Supersets are easily done to maximize training efficiency.

Cons: Difficult to integrate movement skills, but you can easily use jumping rope or sprinting as conditioning as a second workout.  A bit advanced for beginners and tough to recover from for older dudes.

Example:

Monday: Chest+ Back

Tuesday: Legs optional Shoulders, sprints

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Chest/Back, sprints

Friday: Biceps/Triceps

Saturday/Sunday: active recovery/off

 

Training Split Considerations:

Above all else your training must be specific to your goal. IF that means getting jacked and athletic, then stop wasting your time on useless body part splits.

No matter how #beastmode you go– you won’t be a stronger, leaner, and more athletic by spending half your time curling in the squat rack.

How much time will you dedicate to training? Regardless of how “busy” you are you still have 24 hours like the rest of us. I don’t say this to be a dick, but it’s true.
You have the time to prioritize training if you want your dream body. Regardless, weigh how committed you are and pick a training split you know you’ll crush. For most dudes, that means crushing a total body training split so they cover all their bases.

Remember, a so-so training split done consistently is better than the best training split done inconsistently.

Training Experience: How strong and experienced are you in the gym?

For most guys, they’re best off crushing total body or upper lower training splits to get strong, explosive and athletic. Still, make sure you’re varying training as you gain strength and experience to prevent plateaus and minimize joint stress.

Recovery: The body is an integrated system. Rather than looking at recovery based on how your muscles feel you must take into account everyday stress, the nervous system, sleep quality, and nutrition.

For example, for a the past few years I crushed training in a high-end performance facility. That meant tons of sprints, jumps, throws, coffee, and explosive demonstrations. All these short, high-intensity bouts added up quickly, and I had to dial back heavy lifting, sprints, and jumps.
Now that I train fewer clients, write more, and demo less, I’m more recovered and can train harder more often.

Stress is systemic, everything counts and should be factored into your training.

Your Training Split to Build an Athletic Body

If your current training isn’t helping your build an athletic body, then  you need to analyze your training, recovery, diet, and supplementation to fill in the gaps.

It doesn’t need to be complicated– find a program that fits your schedule, allows hard, athletic training, recover, and stick to it for the next 12 weeks. Then, reassess things once gains slow down and revisit this article to shock your body into new growth.

thePowerprimer athlete strong

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Most lifters fall into the trap of endlessly pursuing one goal at the expense of all other training parameters.

That’s fine for elite athletes. But for the rest of us, we’re after the total package.

There’s no better tool to bridge the gap between the body you want and the athleticism you deserve than my latest program The Power Primer, 2.0.

I’ve I’ve created a Full Eight Months worth of programming to get you Strong, Shredded, and Athletic. This isn’t a program for athletes.

It’s for those of us that refuse to accept pathetic athleticism a the cost of building your best-looking body.

It’s time to bridge the gap between athleticism and aesthetics.

It’s time to unleash the Power Primer and build your leanest, strongest, and most athletic body to date.

Think about it.

For less than you spend on protein powder each month, you’ll have all your workouts expertly planned, organized, and guided by a custom video guide from now until 2017.

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1. Gould D, Petlichkoff L. Participation motivation and attrition in young athletes. In: Smoll FL, Magill RA, Ash MJ, eds. Children in Sport. 3rd ed. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics; 1988:161-178.

Four Tips to Build an Athletic Body

Jump over boxes

[A variation of this article was published as a guest post on NickTumminello.com]

Building an athletic body isn’t just for competitive athletes. It’s for everyone. Or it should be.

Why not be able to  run, throw, jump, cut, and play a recreational sport at the drop of a hat? Unfortunately, this isn’t as common as it should be.

Much more common is this:
*  29-year-old Bryce pops his hamstring playing beer-league softball.
* Or 31 year-old Laurie sprains an ankle chasing her daughter.

Let’s soar up to 30,000 feet for a moment to consider the big issue:

If your training isn’t improving your quality of life, or improving your ability to play a sport you enjoy, what exactly are you accomplishing?

This article explains how to apply principles I’ve learned working with both athletes and general population clients. I’ll explain how tweaking your training can power up your performance —  and minimize your chance of injury.

We can all use a performance upgrade, whether it’s a competitive playing field, or kickin’ it with your buddies every Thursday night with beer league softball.These principles, when applied as directed, will help you build an athletic body.

Maximum Strength with the Big Three is Overrated:

What’s the top tip most coaches preach as it pertains to building an athletic body?

If you said getting stronger, you’re correct.

training to failure, athletic body

While strength is important to build a foundation for the development of speed and power, it’s overvalued if you endlessly chase strength PR’s to the determinant of improving your ability to use it, relative strength, and movement.

Before you punch your computer screen and call me an idiot, hear me out. I’m not saying Maximum Strength isn’t important to build an athletic body.

It is.

It’s vital.

But, there are more ways to build strength than the powerlifting movements. There’s no magical touch associated with a heavy loaded barbell.

Your body understands stress, and that it needs to generate force and recruit motor units to overcome an external stressor, not that there’s a loaded barbell.

What’s more important is the muscles recruited, amount of force needed to overcome the resistance, and integrating movement that matches the demands of sport. This can be through a unilateral exercise, a barbell, kettlebell, weighted sled, or your own bodyweight.

It’s not the tool that’s important. It’s that your body is working in a specific movement pattern, recruiting the correct muscles, and generating force when you need it. 

Furthermore, for non-competitive lifters, there are diminishing returns with endlessly chasing strength PR’s as it pertains to becoming more athletic.

Athletic Body, bach performance jump rope, Build an Athletic Body, eric bach jump rope, athletic body,

Example: a 200-pound man has the goal of running faster and jumping higher. Currently, he’s well trained and has a back squat max 375 lbs.

Would he be better off using a specialized program to get your squat to 405, or adding lighter, more explosive exercises to maximize his ability to rapidly generate already-present strength?

If you picked more explosive exercises, good for you!

Your body specifically adapts to the imposed demands.

Maximizing the carryover to your sport requires you train movements and patterns that are specific to the demands of your sport, such as explosive jumping and sprinting.

Instead of just lifting heavy, focus on maintaining your strength base. Improve your relative strength and power in the movements you need for performance.

Power —  the ability to generate strength rapidly —  is vector specific. Huh? That means to optimally develop power for a given activity, you must train it in the direction, with joint angles, and recruitment patterns most similar to your activity.

At the end of the day, strength is vital. Tere’s no denying that. But it’s time to move past the “ bro,  just get really strong” argument. You need to move and generate power in the directions you need. Otherwise, you’ll limit your performance.

Jump and Throw

Building an athletic body requires your muscles to work  together. That means increasing the ability of your body (muscles, joints, ligaments, and nervous system) to function as a complete unit.

Jumps and throws take major movement patterns, such as the squat or press, and change the typical demands from a pure-strength exercise to an explosive speed or speed-strength exercise.

Working with lighter loads and focusing on explosive movement more directly correlates to the demands of most sports. You’ll  improve your ability to move and generate force in the movement patterns needed for performance.

Adding jumps or throws to your training can increase neuromuscular capabilities. You’ll transfer your strength into usable athleticism and power. The result? Better performance.

Throws, Jumps, and Upper Body Plyometrics:

To maximize carryover from training to your activity of choice, include jumps and throws that most similarly match the demands of your sport or workout. These exercises are best performed after a dynamic warm-up and before lifting.

Try 3-4 sets of 3-6 reps with 90-120 seconds of rest between sets. Below, I’ve listed my top three favorite variations, with a few other suggestions listed underneath.

Overhead slam: Explosive shoulder extension while preventing spinal flexion.

Sports Action: Think volleyball spike, a swimming stroke, or swinging an ax for the lumbar jacks in the audience.

This works the explosive shoulder extension, forcing the lats, triceps, posterior delts, and pecs to rapidly generate force. It also forces your core to work double time, transferring force from overhead towards the ground while preventing your spine from flexing forward.

How to do it: Use a non-bouncy medicine ball (8-12 lbs.) and hold it overhead.

Brace the abs like you would before someone pokes you in the stomach. Now, with the weight overhead and abs braced, throw the ball to the ground while keeping eyes straightforward and minimal trunk flexion.

Your goal is to throw as hard as possible without bending through the waist or rounding in your shoulders.

Inline Plyo-Push-Up:  Emphasize horizontal pressing power

Sports Action: Pushing an opponent away from you.

Compared to a clap push-up, elevating the hands on a bench allows larger individuals to generate maximum force with less compressive stress on the joints while maintaining a neutral spine position (non-saggy push-up position).

How to do it: On a bench, assume a push-up position with the hands aligned with the shoulders, legs fully extended, abs braced, and back straight. Don’t allow the hips to dip.

Lower yourself rapidly to the bench and then explosively push your body away. The energy should make you rock back to mid-foot or heel if your relative strength is high.

As gravity carries you back to the starting position, slightly bend the elbows at impact to reduce stress and “stick” the landing with minimal movement through your torso. Re-set and repeat.

Dumbbell Squat jump: Explosive triple extension, a speed-strength variation of a vertical jump.

Sport action: Explosive triple extension, jumping in basketball, vertical propulsion.

Squat jumps mimic the squat and a vertical jump, bridging the gap between jumping in sport and squatting in the gym.

How to do it: There are three phases: loading, exploding, and landing.

Loading: Set up with feet about shoulder-width apart in an athletic stance with arms up at chest height. The loading phase utilizes a simultaneous downward arm swing with flexing at the hips and knees, thus loading up the legs.

Exploding: Rapidly swing the arms up while driving your feet into the ground and extending the hips and knees, and then taking off on the balls of the feet. Fully extend the arms overhead and aim to fully extend the body with the ankle, knee, hip, trunk, shoulder, and ear all being aligned.

Landing: Bend your knees and drop the hips into a squat position, absorbing force evenly though the foot. Keep your chest and head up, looking straight ahead. Hold a vertical shin position to minimize excessive shear stress and valgus/varus positions of the knee.

Analyze: What’s the Risk/Reward Trade-Off?

Everyone come from various backgrounds that create bias towards different training disciplines. It could be powerlifting, strongman, bodybuilding, Olympic lifting (my bias), or something else.

With so many different opinions and experts on training, how can you select the exercises that are best for you?

Instead of thinking of any exercise as the next best thing, step back and consider each exercise a tool to get the job done.

The tool that is best both matches the movement patterns needed for your sport, and minimizes the risk of injury.

For example, we can all agree that the squat is a phenomenal exercise for developing strength and power.

But how important is sub-parallel squat depth?

In the case of a competitive weight lifting, going to extreme depths, even with butt wink and (loss of lumber stability) is a demand of the sport. In this case, an ass to grass squatting is warranted, as it’s directly required in competition.

But, what about Bryce, who popped his hamstring playing softball? He’s an average dude at the gym, just wanting to look better for summer and crush a few homers.

In this case, Bryce loses lumbar stability below parallel in his squat. The risk of low-back injury (either acute or chronic) with an ass-to-grass squat outweighs the potential benefits of building athletic muscle.

This isn’t to say that squats are a bad exercise for him, but in the context of depth, he’s better off working within a stable range of motion.

Each exercise is a tool, rather than an end-all be all to performance. Pick the tools and techniques with that complete the job while minimizing risk, and maximizing rewards. 

Exercise Order Based on Neural Demands

When it comes to performance, the nervous system is the Captain.

To maximize performance and reduce injury risk, the most neurologically demanding exercises must be performed early in the workout, when the body is fresh. 

Most sports require explosive sprints, jumps, cuts, swings and throws to drive performance. If you’re performing exercises to improve, like cleans for a vertical jump, yet already ran 3×400 meter sprints and did heavy squats, your nervous system is probably too torched for super high power outputs, meaning the nervous system won’t send signals fast enough to allow sound technique and performance.

As a result, you’re setting yourself up for sub-par training and performance at best, and injury at worst.

If your exercise selection doesn’t jive with your goals and allow you to generate force, while also increasing injury risk, then you have a big problem.

Keep intense movements like sprints, jumps, and heavy lifts early in your workout. Then move onto higher rep, less neurally demanding exercises later on.

Four Ways to Build an Athletic Body

  • Put the most explosive exercises first in your training
  • Stop obsessing over max weight
  • Jump, throw, push, and run
  • Look at your training from a risk/reward perspective

Once you have a foundation of strength and basic movement, it’s time to focus specifically on your goals.

Looking To Build an Athletic Body?

I have Your Solution:

Get Stronger, Leaner, and More Athletic

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