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build strength

Shut Up and Get Strong


High-Rep drop sets, density circuits, and complexes are all sexy training methods that help you crush training plateaus.


But there’s a problem: Most lifters aren’t strong enough to actually reach a plateau. Instead, they’re program hopping, weak, and minoring in the minutia.

I see it with clients all the time:

One week it’s density training circuits to get shredded. Two weeks later, they’re bulking with German Volume Training. These are all great programs when properly planned, but too much exercise and programming variety is hurting everyone’s gains, yours included.

The bottom line is just get strong, that’s nearly always my first focus with new online and in-person clients.  Hit a double bodyweight deadlift. Bench press 1.5 times your weight for reps. Clean your bodyweight.

All of these physiological goals will go a lot further for building a lean, muscular, and strong body than every sexy training methods on the interwebz.

The basics are this:

  • Without a solid strength base, drop sets and crazy finishers are pointless. Stop majoring in the minor and get strong first to build muscle.


  • Building strength makes you more explosive. Strength builds a base for speed and power so you can develop athleticism.


  • Building strength allows you to build more muscle. Focusing on strength means you’ll be able to achieve greater metabolic stress and force muscles to grow.


  • Strength is important to losing fat. Working on strength preserves muscle and increases metabolic rate while in a caloric deficit.

I love variety. Some days I want pizza, and the other days I want ribs. All days I want steak and maybe some bourbon.
In training,  I like to change it up, but I make sure the most important task is covered: improve strength. Sure, bourbon and steak drop sets, complexes, and sexy methods make an appearance, but they’re secondary to strength.

Improve performance and place a premium on strength development and you’ll reach any goal faster.

This article received a lot of positive feedback, with a big shout out from my good friend Dr. John Rusin, as he covered it on the Strength Doc Podcast for his article of the week while adding tons of incredible coaching insgiht.

Listen Here:

Shut Up and Get Strong on the Strength Doc Podcast


Read it Here:

>>>Shut Up and Get Strong<<<

25 for 25:Training Tips to Build Muscle, Strength, and Athleticism-Part 2

I told you I’d be back. I’ve got over a dozen more tips to help you build muscle, strength and athleticism intermingled with lifestyle advice that’s made my life much more enriching and enjoyable.  If you haven’t read part one I strongly suggest you do so here ===> Part 1

If not then here’s the cliff notes version:

  1. Take everything with a grain of salt and find out why
  2. Hip Dominant exercises for bad knees
  3. Play more
  4. Stop training to failure
  5. Put more Pull in your training
  6. Train heavy while dieting
  7. Carb Backloading is awesome
  8. Deload your training for the love of god
  9. Perform mini-workouts
  10. There is no perfect diet
  11. Sacrifices must be made
  12. Read more, learn more
  13. How you train is what you get

14.Bruce Lee is the Man

Take any one of these quotes and live by it. My favorite is “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”

bruce lee knows how to build strength, muscle, and athleticism
Photo credit: http://marcus-chai.blogspot.com


15. Go Neutral 

Neutral hand position will place a greater amount of work on pushing and pulling muscles without compromising the position the shoulder joint. By dispersing the weight over the entire hand the load is spread evenly through the arm, maintaining forearm and elbow health. In pressing exercises keeping the elbows tucked decrease shoulder joint impingement. A neutral grip is your best choice with the presence of shoulder pain.

16.Stop Being a jerk

This should be a no-brainer but more people than not would rather trash someone or call them out rather than provide a solution. This is disgustingly prevalent in the fitness industry where we preach caring about people and improving lives. The hypocrisy is alarming.  Step up and be a leader, not a prick.

17.Have Free Days

Not all training needs to be recorded, planned, and calculated. It’s important to take time and do the things you enjoy in training. Stop being so  stingy and have some fun. 

(Note: I do this weekly, keeping one day where I don’t keep track and hit my biceps, calfs, lats, or whatever other exercise I’m looking to bring up. It’s made my training much more fun. )

18. High Frequency Training 

High-Frequency training is the best option for beginning lifters, athletes, and those looking to acquire a new movement skill as training movements with a high-frequency rapidly improves motor learning and skill acquisition. In other words, you’ll learn what to do and perfect your technique faster. In you’re a beginner then full body workouts are your premier muscle-building workout for improvements in both size and strength. ====> Learn More About High Frequency Training

 20.Everything has a risk/reward

This has become evident as I train a predominantly athlete population. Too often everything is said in absolutes because it’s influential writing.

“ Box squats are “the best way to do squats for strength or performance.”

You “must do the Olympic lifts to be athletic.”

“maximal strength is the most important quality to train.”

Those are all valid points, but everything has it’s place and everything is a tool.

No-one will have the same form–there are anatomical limb-length differences, injuries and bony junctures that require unique considerations. You just might not be built to do a specific lift, regardless of what the hottest  program on the market says. Consistently trying to jam square pegs into round holes will leave you beaten, broken, and weak.

Sorry, this won't help you unless you're training for the circus
Sorry, this won’t help you unless you’re training for the circus

21.Countdown sets > High Rep Sets

I’m not a huge proponent of high-rep training. In pursuit of reaching the numbers on a workout people sell out on technique and heave weight without care for form or control. In most cases I stick with countdown sets over high rep sets, here’s why:

  • Improved rep quality
  • Increase in total training volume
  • Increased cardiovascular demand
  •  Increased load at set reps

Here’s how to break it up:

  • Instead of 8 Reps per set Countdown 4-3-2-1
  • instead of 10 Reps per set Countdown 5-4-3-2-1
  • Instead of 12 Reps per set Countdown 6-5-4-3-2-1
  • Instead of 15 reps per set 7-6-5-4-3-2-1

22.Stop Multi-tasking

Don’t be the “10 year guy” who despite his hard work, lives the same life with the same body, same frustrations, and exact same goal. It’s probably that guy we all know doing 3 sets of 10 with 135 on the bench press every day.

Drop the act and get awesome by narrowing your focus. Here’s How:

1.Multitasking is less efficient. Switching back and forth between tasks zaps focus and takes more time.

2.Multitasking is complicated, leaving you more prone to mistakes and stress.

3.Multitasking makes you GO CRAZY. In this age of information we need to reign in terror and find a calm medium.

the Solution:

Pick a big goal. Following the goal, pick out what small, behaviors you can do each day for two weeks that will help you reach you goal. Once you have mastered and tracked that goal for two weeks, add to it with another behavior.

Main Goal: I want to gain 10 pounds of muscle

Behavior 1: Lift weights 4x per week focusing on squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and chin ups (check off everyday for two weeks)

Behavior 2: Consume a post-workout shake of 50g protein and 100g carbs. (check off everyday for two weeks)

Behavior 3: Get at minimum 6 hours of sleep per night. (check off everyday for two weeks)

Get the point? I work with my clients to add one behavior at a time for 12 week blocks. Taking things step by step, focusing on one goal at a time yields real, practical change no matter the goal.

P.S. Use this ===> Goal Tracking Sheet

23.Take Creatine

Creatine is the safest, most researched, and effective sports performance supplement on the market. In addition, creatine is now being researched as a study and cognitive aid. If you’re looking to increase your work capacity, strength, and power then it should be a supplement staple.

Get more creatine knowledge bombs from a post I did for Tony Gentilcore here: Creatine: Cutting to the Chase 

24.Practice what you preach and find a Mentor

Book and scientific knowledge is very useful, but it won’t make you stronger, shredded, athletic, or a better coach unless you apply what you know. Don’t be an internet hard-ass who critiques everyone, get uncomfortable, learn, and better yourself.

Admittedly I’ve struggled with criticism in the past—until I sought out mentors and coaches to learn from. Train hard, find someone better at it than you, and listen.

25.Do Floor Presses

Don’t get me wrong—I love the bench press, but my body doesn’t always agree. I still barbell press, but my heavy days are more shoulder friendly with the floor press. Plus, you’ll negate leg-drive and get the more pure-upper body strength exercise and develop a ton of deadstop-starting strength.

Get the details in an article I wrote for T-Nation here: Master the Floor Press

26.Travel More

Listen, you come up with every “yeah, but” excuse in the book but they’re all just a  cop-out.  At 25 I already notice how much more difficult it is to travel—commitments at home to my fiancée, my dog, my job, and my Facebook community all make it difficult. Regardless, I still book a trip every couple months because it helps me:

  1. Live life as an adventure
  2. Connect with more people and understand the world
  3.  Gain some damn culture!

You won’t regret leaving your weekends of watching movies on the couch—go explore, learn, and try something new.

Still not convinced? Read this: Travel while you’re young

27. My Mission is to give you the Tools to Take Control


Closing Thoughts:

I could keep going but this beastly post is over 2,000 words and nine pages, but at least I have a head-start for the next few years. No doubt this list will change and continue to grow. I have many ways to improve but being a young dude I’m looking forward to the challenges of becoming a better coach, leader, and person.

Hopefully these tips help you take control and get better, too.

In Strength,


25 for 25:Training Tips to Build Muscle, Strength, and Athleticism-Part 1

Considering I turn 25 at the end of this month I thought it’d be cool to spin off 25 Tips for 25 Years.  Yep—Training Tips to build muscle, strength, and athleticism tossed in with a few bits of randomness to guide your pursuit of a strong, shredded, and athletic body.

Well, That was the plan.  Then I couldn’t stop writing so you’re in for a few bonus tips.

Nuff’ chit-chat, lets get down to business.

 1.Take Everything with a Grain of salt

I used to believe everything said by my peers —whether it was from a popular website or word of mouth from someone in great shape if It was on the web or important enough to share it must be true. Problem is everyone has their biases and is a product of their unique experiences. It’s best determine things for yourself by becoming educated with experience in the gym, under the bar, on the field,  and through science.

Bottom Line: Try to take something from every experience and apply it to make yourself better,  but also ask ” why do they think this, what is there past, and does this necessarily apply to me.” Success speaks, but question everything with an open mind and find out “why”.

2. Focus on Hip Extension Dominant Exercises 

Most people are unable to master the basic “hinge” position and as a result use their lower back for most exercises, stick to potentially dangerous machines, and can’t reach full hip extension.
The result?

Pancake asses, back injuries, and no explosive power.
Tisk, Tisk.

Flip the script and master technique with  exercises like Romanian Deadlifts, trap bar deadlifts, hackey pulls, cleans, and glute-bridges. In addition to growing a glorious set of butt cheeks you’ll be training movements that transfer athletically, resist back injuries, and improve your posture.


Luckily I had great parents growing up that taught me you reap what you sow and instilling the value of hard work.  Problem is I have issues relaxing and turning the switch to “off” until recently.
Hard work is great, but being all-work and no play is recipe for burnout and a pretty unhappy life.
Work hard, but  value un- winding and doing things for pure enjoyment.

Take some time to Play

P.S. go do something fun immediately after reading this.

4. Stop Training to Failure

Performing an exercise to failure consistently zaps the central nervous system (CNS) and will leave you exhausted and unable to train hard consistently. There’s a difference between what you feel and what’s creating an actual training stimulus. Keep the burn-outs to a minimum or at least stick to low-risk exercises like bodyweight movements or isolation exercises.

5. Use a 1:2 Push: Pull ratio

I’ve had Cranky and crunchy shoulders for years but I’ve still made pushing the most weight I could a priority.
That’s a damn good question. It’s probably because XYZ program from (enter your favorite major fitness site) said I need to train a big bench press or I’m a sissy destined to be small, weak, and un-athletic.

Personally, it’s no longer worth blitzing my shoulders to add 5 lbs to my bench, so I overhauled my training with a push-pull ratio of 1:2 and even 1:3 with carefully planned heavy pressing to fill my ego.  The result—Healthier (and bigger) shoulders, better posture, and a thicker yoke. Add in chin-ups whenever you pass the bar, do 100 band-pull a-parts daily, and perform a pulling exercise between every set of pushes.

How To Do Pull-Ups


6.Train Heavy When Dieting

Let’s make this clear—doing a significant cut really sucks, but the results are well worth it when you get that six pack or fit back into your “skinny clothes”. Problem is most people blitz themselves with high volume and low loads when in a caloric deficit.

That’s a No, No. Too much volume will be more than you’re able to recover from, zapping your energy and wrecking your hormones. 

Instead, use loads of 85+% of lifts to maintain/improve testosterone production, maintain strength, and preserve muscle mass when in a caloric deficit.

7.Erghh ma Gerd Carb Backloading 

 I’ve spoken ad-naseum on carb cycling and the importance of food choices over other factors, but carb backloading is awesome.

What it is: Eat a diet focused around healthy fats and lean protein for the majority of your day. Then, have large qualities of carbohydrates (if it fits your goals) at night.

By keeping carbs towards the end of the day you’re allowed more freedom to eat socially—large meals at night where you relax and enjoy good company. The increased carbs at night promotes relaxation and serotonin production, helping you sleep like a post-Thanksgiving turkey bender.

8. Take a Damn De-load Week

Like most of you I’ve fallen prey to the thought that more exercise is always better. Problem is if you never back off with a deload  you’re really limiting your performance gains and opening the door for injury.

It’s so important that I wrote an entire post on the deload and how to do it. Click here for the piece I did for Dean Somerset ==> Recovery and Adaptation: The missing piece in Training Program


Jump out of your chair and do 20 push-ups and 20 squats. Feel better?
Thought so.

Intersperse bodyweight workouts throughout your day whenever you get the chance: Do Push-ups, pull-ups, squats, or whatever floats your boat. You’ll feel better and accumulate a ton of training volume that adds up big time.

10. Read 1+ Hour/Day

I’m an avid reader, but it wasn’t always that way. Like anything else reading is a skill, you must extract the information you’re consuming and absorb it like a sponge.
You won’t get a better education value than spending $20 on a book every few weeks. There are people much smarter and better at things than you and I; invest your time in critically reading their work and you’ll hone your craft rapidly.

Vary your reading and get a blend—marketing, training, business development, sci-fi, 50 Shades of Kinky Grey it doesn’t matter, read things that challenge your mindset with the intent to learn. If you pick up a few things and disregard the rest of a book it’s perfectly fine.

Here are five of my favorites:

  • The Power of Less by Leo Babauta
  • Seth Godinà anything by him is gold
  • Supertraining by Siff and Verkhoshansky (get your exercise nerd on!)
  • The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
  • Why Zebras don’t  Get Ulcers By Robert M. Sapolsky

11.There is No Perfect Diet

Food choices are the key, not how and when you eat them. Intermittent fasting, carb backloading, six-meals per day, and Atkins are all great, but there is no perfect diet. Find what style of eating best suits your busy lifestyle, and then implement it with high quality food choices and discipline.

Hello Meat Sweats
Hello Meat Sweats


How far you fly depends on how hard you’re willing to work and what sacrifices you will make. Going out to get blitzed on Jager-bombs every weekend might be fun, but it’ll negate your diet and hard-work from the gym.   While you don’t need to completely neglect things you enjoy, step back, and see where you can improve.

13.You get what you train for

If you train like a bodybuilder you might build some solid muscle, but probably won’t be too athletic. Same thing with powerlifting, you’ll get strong, but will it transfer to looking good naked and being a high-performance beast? Nah. You MUST train for what you want. If you’re training is imbalanced your results will be imbalanced. If you don’t jump, run, cut, throw etc. you won’t be athletic, you’ll look like Tarzan and play like Jane.

Closing Thoughts:
“Wait, what? I thought you said 25?” I didn’t forget, but I know you and I can only focus on a blog post for a few minutes. Anymore and I start drawing random animals on the “paint” application and you’ll browse ESPN for the latest arrested athlete.
Anyways, some of those may be old-hat, but i’d implore you take these tips to heart and improve where you find holes in your life and training. Whether it immediately improves your training balance or makes you smarter I’m willing to bet you’ll take your training up a notch.

In Strength,

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High Frequency Training: Your Strength Building Solution

Expert Tips to Build Muscle, build muscle

High Frequency Training is a hotly debated topic.

Some “experts” say you should demolish every muscle once per week, blitzing the body part split. Others say focus on an upper-lower or total body split because training major movement patterns more frequently will stimulate faster gains in strength and size.

I’m with High Frequency Training. Here’s Why. 

Training Frequency the number of sessions performed per unit of time, is the most important training variable for building size, strength, and skill mastery for beginners.

For those looking to gain muscle and strength frequent training is the premier and logical choice for the fastest gains. Unfortunately, most people still follow bodybuilding body-part split routines popularized in every fitness magazine over the last three decades. These routines aren’t ideal for anyone except high-level bodybuilders.

Get Your 12 Week HFT Mass Program Today

Consider the Following:

If you’re learning a new language is it best to study for five hours one day per week, or 45 minutes seven days per week?

Would you be stronger performing squats in 52 workouts per year or 104?

I would go with 45 minutes per day, seven days per week and 104 workouts without a doubt.

But Why?

Consistent exposure to stimuli is vital for learning new things and movement patterns.

The Research on High Frequency Training

In 2000 the study Comparison of 1 Day and 3 Days Per Week of Equal-Volume Resistance Training in Experienced Subjects 25 experienced participants were randomly separated into training groups. Group one performed one day per week of strength training with three sets to failure, with rep ranges moving from three to ten reps per set.

Group two performed workouts three days per week with one set to failure per day, while working in the same rep ranges. Volume was kept the exact same, yet group two had greater increases in both lean body mass and improved one-rep max strength. With total volume held constant, spreading the training frequency to three doses per week produced superior results in both strength and muscular hypertrophy.

high frequency training

In a 1997 study titled Isometric torso rotation strength: effect of training frequency on its development 33 men and 25 women were tested for rotational strength before and after 12 weeks of training. Groups were split into training groups that exercises one, two, or three times per week.

Although there were not major differences between groups training two or three times per week, strength was significantly increased compared to the one time per week training group. Once again, a higher frequency than one time per week was shown to improve strength gains.

In a 2010 study titled Anabolic processes in human skeletal muscle: restoring the identities of growth Hormone and Testosterone it was found that repeated phases of net protein balance, which can be generated in response to repeated bouts of resistance exercise and protein ingestion, underpins muscle hypertrophy.

This shows that frequent exposure to training increases protein synthesis at the cellular level, leading to greater amounts of muscle growth.

High Frequency Training for Hypertrophy and Strength

Full body workouts are the premier and logical choice for beginners. The more muscle you stimulate frequently the more muscle and strength you’ll build, with three or four workouts per week being plenty.

high frequency training

To set up your own full-body workout start with a dynamic warm-up to activate muscles, lubricate joints, and prepare the body for activity.

Before hitting the weights start with some box jumps or medicine ball slams to fire up the central nervous system to lift more weight. Two or three sets of three to five reps should be plenty.

Pick an upper body push, an upper body pull and a compound lower body exercise.

This includes squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, push-ups, chin-ups, rows, cleans, overhead presses, and glute bridges.

Stick with four or five sets of two to eight reps with one or two minutes of rest between sets. Multi-joint exercises should be practiced with a high training frequency and technically mastered for both safety and results.

Plan ten minutes (yes, only ten) at the end of your workout of free time to do things you want to do, whether it’s abs, biceps curls, or somersaults across the floor.

Have fun and enjoy yourself. I highly recommend a qualified coach to get you off on the right foot.

Upper/ Lower Splits

If you’ve been training for a solid year while making significant strength gains you can get more creative.

I recommend intermediates move to an upper-lower split, with halves of the body being hit at least 48 hours apart. Pick two presses and two or three pulling exercises performed in alternative sets on upper body days. Always train strength first and add weight to the bar, but feel free to add in some higher rep work to build those “pretty bumps.

According to The Mechanisms of Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training.” Chasing the pump is alright, as the accumulation of metabolites from exercise requires the use of anaerobic glycolysis resulting in the buildup of lactate, hydrogen ions, and other metabolites.

high frequency training

This metabolic stress leads to greater muscle fiber damage, furthering the need for tissue repair and nutrient shuttling to the source of damage.

Lower body workouts should be at least 48 hours apart as well, with 72 being ideal for maximum recovery.

Just like the upper body workouts train strength first and add weight to the bar, but feel free to add in some higher rep work to stimulate the metabolic environment to promote further muscle growth.

Here’s a sample lower body day: 1×10/each

  • Walking knee hug
  • Cradle walk
  • Straight leg march
  • Dynamic quad stretch
  • Forward lunge
  • Reverse lunge w/reach
  • Spiderman’s
  • Sub-Scap Push-Ups
  • Body Weight Squats
  • Box Jump 3×3

Weight Room:

1.Front Squat 5×5

2a.Romanian Deadlift 4×8

2b. Side plank 4×30 seconds

3a. Bulgarian Split Squat 3×12-15

3b. Hanging leg raises 3×10-15

4. Free time/ intervals/ Pretty bumps

*Note: If you’re a competitive athlete this isn’t a program for you. You’ll need more specialization and movement included early in the session. Many athletes succeed with total body programs because they place a premium on recovery. 

 Routines that train movements or muscles only one time per week are not optimal for high-performance strength development, especially for beginners. I recommend training each movement pattern at least twice per week for the best gains in strength, muscle, and performance.

High Frequency Training for Athletes and Skill Mastery

 “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” –Vince Lombardi

For learning a new movement or athletic skill the more frequently you practice the quicker it’s learned, eventually leading to unconscious competence—being able to perform a skill correctly without conscious thought.

Training skills to the point muscle memory is imperative for athlete success and transfer from the weight room. Practicing solid body position and movements like triple-extension to perfection will reinforce movement in the field of play.

athletes, sports performance, high frequency training


These same principles apply to anyone learning a new skill or movement. The more frequently you practice perfect technique the faster the learning process and subsequent gains.

Movement skill development must be grooved correctly until it becomes automatic and follows the following continuum: (Landow, 2013)
Unconscious Incompetence: Athlete looks clueless, unable to comprehend what is needed.

Conscious Incompetence: Athlete understands what’s needed, unable to produce it.

Conscious Incompetence:  Athlete can reproduce with much needed concentration, but not in series.

Unconscious Competence: Automatic near perfection execution without thought.

Training for athletic gains is a process that can’t be served due justice in this post, but matching movement patterns to movements required in sport is a key step. (No, this doesn’t mean throwing 12lb baseballs.) For more in-depth sports performance specialization read this & this.

It’s a Wrap ( In Dr. Dre Voice)

The process of perfecting a skill, whether it’s shooting free throws or lifting technique, takes much practice. Total body and upper-lower training splits provide higher frequency training to maximize strength and muscle-building gains with compound lifts.  

Put the leg extensions and seven variations of biceps curls on the back-burner and get back to what’s essential: high-frequency training with big movements, your strength building solution. 

Get Your 12 Week HFT Mass Program Today


McLester, J., Bishop, E., & Guilliams, M. (2000). Comparison of 1 day and 3 days per week of equal-volume resistance training in experienced subjects. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 14(3). Retrieved from http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2000/08000/Comparison_of_1_Day_and_3_Days_Per_Week_of.6.aspx

DeMichele, P. L., Pollock, M. L., Graves, J. E., Foster, D. N., Carpenter, D., Garzarella, L., Brechue, W., & Fulton, M. (1997). Isometric torso rotation strength: effect of training frequency on its development. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 78(1), 64-69. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9014960

Landow, L. (2013, August). In Loren Landow (Chair). Train to win. Steadman Hawkins Sports Performance Train to win performance mentorship, Denver, Colorado.

Phillips, S., & West, D. (2010). Anabolic processes in human skeletal muscle: restoring the identities of growth hormone and testosterone. Physican and Sportsmedicine, 38(3), 97-104. doi: 10.3810/psm.2010.10.1814

Schoenfeld, Brad. “The Mechanisms of Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24.10 (2010): 2857. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

photo credit: planetc1 via photopin cc

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

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