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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 for an athletic body.

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. 

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


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.

crossfit, training splits, build an athletic body, athletic body, power primer, power primer 2, eric bach power primer

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. 



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


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


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.


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


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

 training splits, build an athletic body, athletic body, power primer, power primer 2, eric bach power primer


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.


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

>> Get The Power Primer 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 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.

Get the Power Primer today.

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.

Fitness Guide to Parkinson’s Law: How to Lose Fat Faster


Flashback to 2014.

My days all started the same: Up at 4:00 a.m., a cup of black coffee, and heading to the gym.

Then, in a caffeine infused blitzkrieg, the day was on. Clients from 5 am to 6 or 7 pm, with a few one-hour breaks.

These one-hour breaks were a godsend. Besides getting off my feet, they were long enough to do meaningful work but short enough to create a sense of urgency.

Bach Performance was a baby at the time, a spot for me to explore my brain and write about fitness to help my clients, friends, and family. But, despite a lack of time, I made big moves.

Fast forward to today: Bach Performance is my full-time job. Rather than five or six days and 50 clients, I hold a limited clientele with three to four days and 25-30 sessions per week.

My schedule is self-determined, and more or less, I do what I want every day.

But that also leaves me more time than I’m used too. There are no extraneous demands on my time, so common sense would say I would get exponentially more work done, right?



Logically that makes sense, but we live in an illogical world.

If everything worked as it seemed, we’d lose stubborn belly fat on the Twinkie diet….as long as calories were in check. By following progressive overload and adding 5 lbs on the bench press, we’d go from a Zero pound bench to 520 lb bench in two years.

That isn’t always the case.

Until six months ago, I had all the time in the world. I didn’t have as many client deadlines and let time slip through my fingers.

Instead of spending my time writing programs, I was geeking out to BroScience videos.

Or reading every Packers’ article on Bleacher report.

Or, #ing my face off on Instagram.

Then, the question hit me like a cold slap in the face: Why wasn’t I hitting my goals?

It wasn’t having too much time, it was a lack of urgency with the limited time I did have.

I’d fallen prey to Parkinsons Law. Coined by famous Brit Cyril Northcote Parkinson, Parkinson’s Law sits at the forefront of productivity hacking and is the focus on Parkinson’s book, Parkinsons Law: The Pursuit of Progress(1).

P.S. Get your free eBook 25 Expert Tips to Master Muscle Growth here. Offer expires 10/31/16.

Parkinson’s Law: ‘Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

Parkinson’s law means that if you give yourself six weeks to tackle a project that you can handle in one week, procrastination seeps in, the task get’s complex, and you’ll freak out until it’s done.

The same meaningless, productivity-zapping stress happens with fitness.

In particular, fat loss around the New Year.

Tell me if these proclamations sound familiar:

This year, I’m going to lose 20 pounds and look awesome in my swimsuit.

Reality: You can do this in two or three months.

This year, I’m going to workout consistently.

Reality: This year is a long time. Focus on working out consistently this week, then each of the following.

By assigning the right amount of time and focus to a goal, you’ll decrease stress and the complexity of said goal, increasing your chance of success.

I’ve seen Parkinson’s law crush the fitness goals of hundreds of people, all under the pretense that there’s always tomorrow.

There’s not. We’re guaranteed nothing and time in a finite resource.

It’s time to have a sense of urgency, working smarter and faster, rather than longer and harder. Here are the action steps you need to accomplish your fitness goals in less time.

P.S. Get your free eBook 25 Expert Tips to Master Muscle Growth here. Offer expires 10/31/16.

Set Tight Deadlines

Deadline set by teachers, clients, or bosses have an immediate sense of urgency. Still, it’s a new ballgame when deadlines are self-imposed. We struggle to attach the same focus and intensity on self-imposed deadlines.

This is what cripples most people from the start—they aren’t aggressive enough on their gameplan.

Try This: Designate time to your goal:

Three months to lose 10 lbs. of body fat.

Then cut it in half.

Six weeks to lose 10 lbs. of body fat.

“Goals are often something to aim for, rather than always achieve.” Bruce Lee

An aggressive deadline forces aggressive action, which this is precisely what you need. Channel your competitive streak and apply it to fitness.

believe, lose Fat Faster

If you’re a gamer, pretend you’re on a time sensitive mission.

If you’re an athlete, pretend it’s six weeks until the season starts, and your roster spot and workout bonus (there’s a reason for these) depend on it.

By attaching a sense of urgency and competition to your goal you’re setting the table for high-quality action and rapid progress.

Define your M.I.T.’s for the Following Day:

Pick the 1-3 Most important tasks (M.I.T.’s) you will complete towards your goal.

You have six weeks to lose 10 lbs, so we’ll start there.

Number One: Track your food and hit your macros (Mike Vacanti has an epic post here). Diet is king for fat loss, after all.

Number Two: Perform your Fat Loss workout, such as Blended Training for Fat Loss.

Number Three: Walk 10,000 steps.

Of these three steps, hitting your diet is the most important task for losing ten pounds, followed by your workout and extra activity.

Base hits lead to runs the same as homers do, and over time, many more runs. Focus on consistent wins on MIT’s and you’ll achieve your longer-term fat loss goals.

Own the A.M.: Be proactive, not REACTIVE.

Willpower is highest in the morning and the best time to take care of your M.I.T.’s.

This is the time to be proactive and take massive action towards your goals, rather than react to the demands of others.

Personally, my writing is 200% better at 5:00 A.M. than 5:00 P.M., when I’ve answered emails and had meetings. Later in the day, I’m much more concerned with what I’m going to eat for dinner and Snapping pictures of Rocky on SnapChat (bachreric, btw ;).

Yes. This is a real unicorn mask.
Yes. This is a real unicorn mask.

If I don’t own the morning, my days aren’t productive.

In Fitness, the same principles apply. My 5:00-8:00 am clients have historically been my most consistent clients by a mile, and it’s due to more than caffeine.

They’re proactively working out before the chaos of the day gives them a reason to skip.

The same applies to your diet.

If you wait until the end of the day to track your macros, you’ll skip it or way overshoot your numbers.

I can’t stress this enough, but for 90% of people getting up and nailing your workout early is a game changer.

There’s a reason Mike Vacanti trains Gary Vaynerchuck at 6:00 A.M., or that Phil Knight crushes his workouts at 5:00 A.M., and Richard Branson all workout early in the day (3).

As the day goes on more important work crisis come up and give you an easy (albeit lame) excuse to skip your training.

Eliminate the issue and start training early in the morning. These tips here will help.

Eliminate Distractions

“It’s hip to focus on getting things done, but this can only happen when we remove static and distraction. “ – Tim Ferriss

In today’s fast-paced world, having internal focus is a rarity.

It’s sad, but true.

Rather than falling prey to internal A.D.D., take action and eliminate the noise.

To get anything meaningful accomplished discipline alone won’t cut it. Instead, take action to end distractions. To get work done, use websites like Self-Control and throw your phone in another room.

When you’re working out, leave your iPhone in your bag pick up a don’t skip more than two songs and leave your phone in your gym bag.

For fitness information, pick out two websites and eliminate the rest. Program hopping and yo-yo dieting are huge reason people never see results. Don’t even risk falling in love with the next big fad diet.

Most programs from good coaches work well, follow them to their completion and eliminate distractions.

We’re an ADD-ridden bunch and we’ll get lost for hours on LOLCatz if allowed. Eliminate distractions and focus on the essential.

P.S. Get your free eBook 25 Expert Tips to Master Muscle Growth here. Offer expires 10/31/16.

Attach a Reward

All goals are reward driven.

There’s an emotional key behind every goal whether it’s more confidence, better health, finding love or being more attractive.

There are also external rewards. As psychologist B.F. Skinner puts it, positive reinforcement strengths a behavior by providing a reward for completing a task.

In school, this could have been a pizza party for turning all your homework in on time.


pizza, lose Fat Faster, Parkinsons law

Or, getting A and a star sticker on each assignment.

“The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount.“ BF Skinner

As external rewards apply to fitness, I won’t advocate pizza for reach workout, but you can attach external rewards.

Small rewards like a compliment from a coworker or social reinforcement on Facebook are important.

Bigger rewards, like winning cash in a transformation content, buying new clothes at the end of a diet, or going to the beach for a long weekend and kickin’ back a few cocktails in your new bikini, are also important.

Whatever your goal, understand what emotionally drives your decision. Then, apply extrinsic rewards that reinforce and motivate you to take massive action. With an aggressive timeline, social support and rewards push you to achieve more in less time.

Take Action and Lose Fat Faster

Parkinson’s law is more than a productivity theory for entrepreneurs, it’s a thought process that forces you to take positive action in all areas of life.

Set a tight deadline, focus on the essential, take action, and set-up rewards to make it happen.


Are you struggling to set goals, hit deadlines, and build your best body?

Sick of spinning your wheel and not seeing results despite your hard work?

Join Bach Performance Elite Online Training for the expert coaching, accountability, and motivation to build your best body. Only two spots left this month, apply here: Elite Online Coaching 



Links and Helpful Resources:

  1. Parkinsons Law: Read the Full book here.
  1. Bruce Lee: My daily reading is Striking Thoughts. Be like water my friends.
  2. Seriously, check out this list of Successful people who workout early.
  3. Tim Ferriss: Four Hour WorkWeek
  1. We all need a basic understanding of Human Psychology. This article and this book are good places to start


5-Minute Micro-Routines to Build Muscle

Online Personal Training

High frequency training is one of the most important factors for muscle growth, yet it’s habitually neglected.

What gives?

Rather than opt for frequently training muscle most dudes train sporadically and as a result, stay small, un-athletic, and softer than they want to be. Basically, they develop the “dadbod,” unintentionally. Well, I’m here to change that.

In today’s post I’m going to show you the strategy I use with my online clients to help them:

  • build more muscle
  •  move like athletes
  •  cut body fat

Starting today, you’ll have the blueprint to accelerate progress. You’ll build an athletic body, no matter how busy you are.

It all started….

…with a message from my online client Jake:

“ Eric, I literally can’t get my workouts done right now. I’m so damn busy and can’t get workouts in with my current schedule. That’s why I keep missing the scheduled sessions.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t a rare message.

Most of my clients are extremely busy. They lack  the time to find and execute the training programing best for them. That’s why they hire me.

Back to the story.

In this case, Jake was already following a condensed, minimalist training routine. Once his schedule got exceedingly busy, training sessions started falling by the wayside.

This causes two major problems:

First, without frequent stimulation and reminders of a goal, people take a  “fuck it” attitude and revert to past behaviours. They don;t stay the course when things get busy.

This means half-assed workouts and poor dietary decisions. The result? No results. The lean, athletic body they wanted doesn’t happen. One missed workout turns into two or three. A snowball effect takes hold. 


Second, you can’t win with sporadic workouts. Consistent training is essential. So are small wins along the way in your fitness journey. They build momentum for long term success.

Beyond the psychological havoc inconsistency brings, it’s physically impossible to build a high-performance body if you don’t train consistently.

Aim for Consistent, Small Wins

Instead of scrapping the whole plan when you get busy, it’s best to implement simple routines that take place at the same time each day. Mornings are best. You’ll reinforce goals, achieve small victories and eliminatesdecision fatigue.

Here’s What to Do:

  1. Pick two or three exercises and do them every morning right when you wake up. Pick one from the Following:

Upper Body Exercise:

Push up; feet elevated push-up, chin up (get a simple, 30 dollar doorframe chin up bar), Pike push-up, and elbow tap push up

Trunk Exercise:

Mountain climber, plank, push up plank, side plank, glute bridge, bird-dog, elbow tap

Lower Body Exercise:

Bodyweight squat, split squat, step back lunge, forward lunge, lateral squat, toe-grab bodyweight squat, single leg RDL

  1. Perform the exercises in order for sets of 5-10 reps for five minutes without rest.

That’s it.

Take your morning pee and do a simple routine.

Why 5 Minute Micro-Routines Help you Build Muscle

Seven days per week for 5 minutes each adds up to a lot of additional training. At the end of the week, you’ll have busted out an additional 35 minutes of resistance training extremely dense microcircuits.

To quantify the volume: let’s say you do 45 push-ups during each workout.

In 30 days, that’s an additional 1,350 push-ups in a month.


If you did an additional 1,350 push-ups next month, would you be bigger and stronger?

Without a doubt you would be biggest, stronger, and consistently making progress, and that’s without taking your other training into account.

Wrap Up

You’re busy. I get that.

Still, there’s no excuse to completely abandon your training. You, me, and Richard Branson have the same 24 hours.

You CAN make time to make progress if you want it.

Dense, high frequency training is the best way to add muscle fast when you’re in a time crunch. More specifically, five-minute morning routines create tons of additional training volume for muscle growth while “winning small” each day to keep you on-track and engaged in your progress.

More importantly, these small circuits reinforce why you’re training in the first place, leading better consistency with your big training sessions.

Take action and get started.


P.S. How much are you getting from your current workouts?

Have you really changed your body and your life over the last six months, or even two years?

Most people jump from program to program. Others hit the same workout they’ve done since high school.

Neither is a good option.

A lack of variety never allows the body to change, while too much variety never allows you to get good at anything.

Rather than being disappointed despite your efforts, let me do the planning and coaching for you. I charge depending on your coaching package. I offer three separate tiers. There is something for every budget.

If you’re a serious action taker and ready to get results: let’s do this thing.

Bach Performance: Must Read Fitness Articles of the Week 9/5/15


Message of the Week:

“To Hell with circumstances; I create opportunities. ” – Bruce Lee


I love this quote, and anything by Bruce Lee for that matter. Nothing in this life comes easy.

Not the body you want. The health you deserve. The success you crave. We can’t wait for it, we have to grab opportunity by the horns and take advantage. 
If the opportunity isn’t obvious, keep grinding and make things happen. Your success is up to you. Don’t focus on the haters on the naysayers; rather, focus on getting better every day. 
Better every day will create your opportunities. 

Eric’s Updates

Okay, I must admit, one of these articles are from last week.
First, I wrote an article for T-Nation last week covering auto regulation. If you’re unfamiliar with auto-regulation, really give this a look. I’ll show you how to make adjustments in Flexible Training for Faster Gains.

When you’re a beginner, straight work sets work great to stimulate massive gains in strength, performance, and muscle. That changes when you get stronger.
Ramping sets are you answer.

Here’s how to Ramping Sets for More Strength

Lately, I’ve received a ton of questions regarding the equipment I use for training. After an awkward endeavor with an athlete at our gym and a foam roller, I had to write this post. All of these tools play a big role in my training and recovery. Here are my go to gym bag essentials.

Training Update

I’ve been playing around with a ton of Olympic Lift variations to improve my explosiveness and activate a greater number of muscle fibers before strength and hypertrophy work. This week’s training video is on the barbell jerk.

Client Update

My client Jenna has been crushing her workouts as of late. A track athlete, Jenna has worked her ass off to build strength, which is paying off with more explosiveness, power, and as you can see: Hops. Keep up the great work Jenna!

Looking to Upgrade your Training? 

Swing in and fill out the opt-in form here, and I’ll get you leaner, stronger, and more muscular by Christmas. I’ll get back to you ASAP for the next steps.

Recommended Reading and Videos

  1. Annihilate or Stimulate, which is Better? by Tony Gentilcore
  2. How to Self-Publish a Niche Book from an Off-the-Grid Eco-Home in Uruguay by Jonathan Goodman

  3. Wheat Thins and Pringles: Equals 84 by Mike Vacanti

4. Barbell Landlines by Elite Sports Services (hey look, I’m doing demos!)

5. How to Build a Successful and Rewarding Career in Fitness by Precision Nutrition

6. The Real Judgement-Free Zone by Christian Thibaudeau

7. Why I stopped Caring About Leanness by Propane Fitness

8. The Final Word on Carbs at Night by Jason Ferruggia


Interested in being featured on Bach Performance Must Read Fitness Articles or becoming a contributor?
Contact us here, and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

4 Benefits of Total Body Workouts

photoshoot kettlbell


-Total body training improves workout efficiency by minimizing the fluff to get you strong and muscular in a hurry

– You’ll hit major movement patterns multiple times per week in a variety of intensities and rep ranges to stimulate the most number of muscle fibers

– When in a time-crunch, total body training is best for making huge strength gains despite a lack of training time

Some experts say you need to work every body part individually once per week. Others say work the body as a whole, integrated unit.

I side with total body training, especially if you’re a busy professional, or student.
You don’t have all day, or time each day to hammer your palmaris longus and flexor carpi ulnas because your uncles bodybuilding magazine said so.

Instead, you need workouts that offer the best bang for your buck.

Time efficient with enough training to build muscle and strength, but efficient enough to get you on with your life. That’s where total body training comes in. Here are 4 Benefits of Total Body Workouts.

1. Potentially Faster Gains in Strength

If strength is your goal, it’s imperative to perform movements that allow you use the most weight and greatest number of muscles. Compound movements such as squat, deadlift, and bench press variations are really FULL-body movements that build total body strength.

Back in 2000, a study compared 1 day and 3-days per week of equal-volume resistance training (McLester, et al 2000). Twenty-five experienced subjects were randomly separated into training groups.

Group one performed one day per week of strength training with three sets to failure, using 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 between the two groups was exactly the 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.

Related: High Frequency Training

2. Build Muscle Faster

For those interested in size, while it’s true that isolation work (think: bicep curls, pec deck) is great for hypertrophy, unless you’re a competitive bodybuilder – and most you aren’t – the more you stimulate a muscle to grow, the less likely it will grow. Basically, endless isolation is a poor use of your time, unless you already have a significant base of total body strength, and time your curls, bro.

Plus, It doesn’t make sense to train your “legs” one day only then wait the magical 5-7 days to train to squat again.   With full-body training – assuming appropriate loads and rest – you’re “targeting” any given muscle group 2-3x per week, for a great training frequency.

3. Total Body Training is More Time Efficient

If you’re busy with family obligations or a fast-paced career you have minimal time to train.
I get it, most of my clients are extremely busy with a limited schedule, too.

Instead of trying to perfect everything its best to pick the most effective exercises in a total body training split.  You burn a heckuva lot more calories in a given session when you perform a full-body training session as opposed to just doing an “arm day” or “shoulder day.”

4. Focus on the Essentials

The truth is that most people will only be in the gym for an hour, warm-up included.  When you factor in the inevitable gym selfie and#gymlife tweets, the actual time training really isn’t that much.

While I can harp on being hardcore and just getting your work done, social media isn’t going anywhere. To maximize your training, in spite of a lack of focus, total body training eliminates the fluff and focuses on the essential movements.

Focus on the big lifts like squats, chin-ups, deadlifts, presses, and sprints in your  training. Sometimes getting in, hitting the major lifts, and creating a physiological response is your best option.

Related: Guide to Minimalist Lifting


Want Help Getting Started?

You want a body that is both show and go, I get that. You want to be strong, shredded, and athletic enough to conquer what life throws at you and look like an athlete doing it, I’ve helped hundreds of clients get the ball rolling, and training for their goals, no matter how busy they are. If you’re looking for that kind of help and guidance too, let me know. I’d be happy to work with you. In fact, I have a few spots open in my Elite Online Coaching. If you’re interested, fill out an application with the form below and I’ll be in touch. 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

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[Four Benefits of Total Body Workouts]Some experts say you need to work every body part individually once per week….

Posted by Bach Performance on Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Build Muscle Fast with High Frequency Training

41422139 - closeup portrait of a muscular man workout with barbell at gym. brutal bodybuilder athletic man with six pack perfect abs shoulders biceps triceps and chest. deadlift barbells workout.

Key Points:

– High Frequency Training produces a greater increase in anabolic hormones and increases protein synthesis to help you build muscle.

– High Frequency Training increases the speed of motor learning, helping you learn new skills, lifts, and exercises faster.

– High Frequency Training can rapidly improve strength and accelerate muscle building in beginners and advanced trainees.  

Get your 12-Week HFT Mass Program Here!


Pirates are mean.

We agree on that, right?

Now, imagine this—you’re jacked out of your mind and sailing off a beautiful coastline with tons of sexy woman, kind of like Bruce Wayne when he takes the entire Russian Ballet on his Yacht in The Dark Knight.


Soon, you’re boat is tracked down, sought out, and attacked by the unkempt pirates. Upon boarding, you’re immediately targeted as the alpha male and the ultimate threat to disrupting their piracy– shit.

You’re not a master ass-kicker like Bruce Wayne and are promptly at sword-point with an ultimatum– teach the scurvy-laden pirates how to get as jacked as possible in twelve weeks to attract beautiful women or they’ll kill you.

Now What?

It’s a grim situation, but you have a short time to turn these pirates into jacked pieces of man-candy for the Russian Ballet.

Their training history isn’t too different from lots of other dudes—they’ve been training on bodybuilding style splits for years. They even dedicate an entire day to their arms.

Deep in your cell, you contemplate, “what is the best way to gain muscle fast?”

Do I train each muscle once per week, or would it be better to train each muscle every 1-3 days for a high-frequency training stimulus?”

Upon further analysis, it’s become clear that there are major limitations with typical, bodybuilder training splits given your short time frame. High-frequency training is the answer.

Problems with Body-Part Splits and Low-Frequency Training

Sure, high-level bodybuilders get away with tons of isolation and body part splits, but they have a huge base of training experience, strength, and volume that has accumulated for decades.

Furthermore, nearly every decision they make is based on improving their physique, a luxury most pirates people don’t have. You must work within the confines of your lifestyle and time commitments to maximize the results of your training

  • Low-frequency training limits motor learning, as you’ll gain skill by practicing more often. Constant practice is a must to acquire any new skill—training your body is no different.
  •  Most guys that eat for mass don’t stimulate big muscles enough, nor train hard enough to support their insane caloric intake. As a result, get soft and pudgy, not big and jacked. High frequency training accounts for dietary slip-ups by providing frequent spikes in protein synthesis due to more frequent muscular contractions.

High-frequency training routines are the premier choice to build size, skill, and strength.

High Frequency Training Builds More Muscle


The more often you stimulate a physiological response through muscular contractions, the more you create an anabolic response and boost protein synthesis, allowing you build more muscle.

Here are the Key Reasons high frequency training Is Better for Helping You Build More Muscle:

  • High frequency training stimulates frequent increases in protein synthesis, testosterone, and human growth hormone

Each time you train and eclipse your bodies’ minimum essential strain (MES), you trigger an anabolic response in the body.

This means protein synthesis increases, helping you repair damaged muscle tissue. In addition, strength training creates an acute increase in testosterone and growth hormone (Craig, 1989 et al). Obviously, the more often you can stimulate an increase in anabolic hormone levels without overstressing the body, the better off you are for building muscle. 

high frequency training

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 are a 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. 

Okay, enough research. What does this actually mean?

Well, training frequently stimulates increases in anabolic hormones like human growth hormone and testosterone while increasing protein synthesis.

By frequently increasing protein synthesis and anabolic hormone levels you’ll create an environment ripe to get you jacked, saving you ass from those dirty pirates.

Get your 12-Week HFT Mass Program Here!

High Frequency Improves Strength Gains


Placing an emphasis on strength training  will directly build muscle if done by beginners while advanced trainees will progressively build muscle as a byproduct of greater work capacity.

With that in mind, getting strong must be an emphasis if you’re looking to build muscle as it helps you lift more weight for more reps, increasing training volume for greater stress to your muscles.

Build Muscle Fast with High Frequency Training, high frequency training



Furthermore, 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 split into training groups that exercises one, two, or three times per week. Although there were not major differences between groups training 2-3x per week, strength was significantly increased compared to the one time per week training group (DeMichele, 1997).

Once again, a higher training frequency improved strength gains.

Then, in 2000 a study titled “Comparison of 1 Day and 3 Days Per Week of Equal-Volume Resistance Training in Experienced Subjects” took 25 experienced participants and randomly separated them 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 the exact same, yet group two (high frequency training group) had greater increases in both lean body mass and improved one-rep max strength.

With total volume held constant, spreading the training to three doses per week produced superior results in both strength and muscular hypertrophy.

 High Frequency Increases Motor Learning

Once again, remember your predicament: Angry pirates will kill you if you don’t help them build muscle in the fastest way possible.

If you have a novice pirate with poor technique on the squat, are you only going to do it once per week?

No, of course not.

For learning a new movement, lift, or athletic skill the more frequently you practice it, the quicker it’s learned. As it pertains to lifting, learning new movements increases competency in the gym, allowing you to make faster gains in strength while building your work capacity for hypertrophy.

For novice lifters who are stronger than their technique allows, high frequency training gives them frequent practice to hone their skills and improve faster.

Important Considerations for High Frequency Training

Of course, there are many things we must consider with training frequency and setting up a program.

Haphazardly exercising daily or multiple times per day is a first class ticket to overtraining, wrecking your body, staying puny, and getting your head cut off by pirates.

That in mind, the following considerations are essential to productive high-frequency training.

Defining High Frequency Training

High frequency training is a relative term, so for all intensive purposes, high-frequency training is more often than you currently train. In most cases, this comes out to 2-3 times per week for each muscle group with a variety of stimuli and rep ranges.

Keep intra-workout volume low to promote recovery

If you’re training major muscle groups frequently then destroying them early in the week hinders your ability to train later in the week.

Keep a moderate intra-workout volume to promote recovery and maximize growth. You’ll end up with a higher weekly volume without crippling soreness for better recovery and better muscle growth.

Use Mini-Circuits to Stimulate Muscle Building

I routinely recommend mini-bodyweight circuits to busy clients and those looking to improve body composition for the same reason—you always have 5-10 minutes to get better.

do more pull-ups, high frequency training for mass, high frequency training

No excuses, you will find time if your goal is important.

In the case of high frequency training, mini-workouts to stimulate muscles will induce bouts of protein synthesis and increases in anabolic hormones to get you jacked.

Use this brief circuit, all you need is a doorframe chin-up bar or a mini-band. Hit this workout 2-3x/ week on non-training days or 8-12 hours apart from a typical training session.

1a. Chin Up 3-4×5 or band pull-aparts 4×15

1b. Push-Up 3-4x-15-20

1c. Bodyweight Squats 3-4×15

Vary Neural Demands to Preserve the Nervous System

You can’t train hard, heavy, and explosive every single day. That means if you go all out with heavy, neurally demanding training it should be followed by lighter weight and less explosive work.

On example here is the extensive, intensive type training split to balance the nervous system and prevent overtraining.

In other words, one day is spent working with more explosive exercises and higher overall training loads and another day with submaximal weights and higher training volumes.

 Build Muscle Fast with High Frequency Training

A typical week of training would be outlined by optimizing recovery while still pushing volume and frequency to stimulate huge gains in lean muscle mass.

High frequency training is the answer

Without a doubt, you’ll see faster and better results with high frequency training. With recovery and nutrition the same as a body-part split, high-frequency training yields better results in less time, especially in drug-free natural lifters. 

Strength and performance are highly neural in nature; being able to practice these movements frequently improves neuromuscular coordination faster.

Since you’re training more frequently, you’ll increase work capacity throughout your entire body, allowing you to train harder and longer in the future.

Plus, you’ll stimulate anabolic hormones and protein synthesis more often to build more muscle than training with less frequent, body part splits.

It’s time to drop the body-part split act and get serious about building muscle. High frequency training is the answer.

Get your 12-Week HFT Mass Program Here!

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

MacDougall JD, Gibala MJ, Tarnopolsky MA, MacDonald JR, Interisano SA, Yarasheski KE. The time course for elevated muscle protein synthesis following heavy resistance exercise. Can J Appl Physiol. 1995 Dec;20(4):480-6

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

Phillips SM, Tipton KD, Aarsland A, Wolf SE, Wolfe RR.  Mixed muscle protein synthesis and breakdown after resistance exercise in humans. Am J Physiol. 1997 Jul;273(1 Pt 1):E99-107

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


High Frequency Training for Bigger Arms in Six Weeks

Lifting Tempo, Fat Gripz Review

Key Points:

  • Total body High Frequency Training gets you the fastest results in the shortest time. 


  • After years of training results become harder to come by– to see rapid results you need a focused approach.


  • All the volume in the world doesn’t mean jack-shit if you don’t apply tension to the muscles—pursue strength and total body movement.


  • Decrease training on non-focus muscles to maximize recovery of your arms.
  • Don’t specialize too long unless you’re interested in being weak, puny, and un-athletic.

I overheard a conversation the other day that went along the lines of “I don’t care if I build big arms, I just want to be “functional.”



What the hell does that even mean?

Functional of a training program is determined by your goals.

If being jacked is the goal then a massive set of pythons is as functional as it gets.

high frequency training

Say goodbye to your toothpick arms, it’s time to build thick guns that are both show and go.

There are tons of “specialization” programs around, but most share a common flaw–they abandon high-performance training.

Even worse, most trainees specialize before they’re strong enough to benefit; neglect major exercises like squats and deadlifts for 12lb cheat curls, setting themselves up for perpetual disappointment and no more muscle to show for their efforts.

As a result, overzealous lifters with poorly constructed programs never actually get stronger and thus, never get bigger. By neglecting performance they leave huge gaps in training, ignore strength, and never build a foundation to build muscle.
Then, these same dudes focus on specialized programs too long, leaving them weak, puny, and un-athletic.

You’re better than that. 

If you put in the work, you’ll have your cake and eat it too–a body that performs and looks like an athletic bad-ass.

high frequency training

Once the foundation is built short-window specialization adds the finishing touches to build big arms. That’s accomplished with this plan–a total body routine with focused isolation work to pound your arms into growth.

Why Specialization?

Let me know if this sounds familiar: After years of training, rapid gains become difficult to come by.

You’re pissed, impatient, and want results yesterday.

You keep getting stronger, but the journey only yields a few measly of muscle… if you’re lucky.

Over time, this builds a great physique, but when you’re short on patience you need a different approach.

This is where specialization comes in; instead of throwing a set of hammer curls at the end of your routine use a short, intensive approach to shock the body into growth.

This method has been popularized by Christian Thibaudeau and my man John Romaniello and tested by thousands: Periods of six to eight weeks of focused destruction bring up lagging body parts faster than the “slow and steady” approach.

How Specialization Works

You’re “strong like bull” from your squats, pull-ups, presses, and deadlifts. Hell, you’ll even develop some hops, speed, and athleticism outside of the gym.

This is great, but solely training for sport and strength leaves gaps in your “show” muscles.

You want to look good and play good; it’s time you get both with focused assistance work to stimulate hypertrophy.

  • Training volume decreases in non-specialized muscles.
  • Continue to train strength and movement to prevent drops in strength and athleticism.
  • Increase in training volume to target muscles for focused growth for set period of time (6-8 weeks).
  • Decrease in training volume after the specialization to allow of super compensation and full recovery.

The body only has a select reserve of recovery resources—you can’t specialize in your arms and train for a marathon, it won’t work.

By targeting exercises that and increasing volume on exercises that emphasize the arms while reducing volume in other exercises you’ll target recovery resources to the area most in need—your arms.

Training Splits

All the volume in the world doesn’t mean jack-shit if you don’t surpass the bodies minimal essential strain (MES), induce an anabolic response and apply tension to force your muscles to grow. 

Nothing accomplishes these tasks better than total body movements.

I’m talkin’ squats, hinges, sprints, presses, pulls, lunges, and carries. These exercises make up the brunt of well-designed weight training programs, specialized or not.

Design Your Workout with the Following Components

Movement Training

Everyone’s an athlete, and athletes move. Spend some time doing low volume sprints, hill sprints, stairs, and/or change of direction work after your dynamic warm-up or with 10 minutes of conditioning twice per week.

A little bit goes a long way to not looking like a goon outside the gym.

Explosive Exercises

Explosive exercises like jumps, throws, and push-ups jump-start workouts to increase neural activation, improve explosiveness, and maximize muscle fiber recruitment for later exercises.

Compound Exercises

Compound exercises provide the backbone for your strength foundation. To emphasize greater growth in the arms my favorite lifts are as follows:

high frequency training
photocredit: http://shredforless.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/front-squat1.jpg
  • Squats: Front squats, back squats, box squats, and Goblet squats
  • Press: Floor press, pin press, push press, close grip bench press, single arm press, dumbbell bench press variations
  • Pull: Supinated bent-over row, dumbbell rows, inverted rows, neutral grip pull-ups, chin-ups, rope climbs
  • Lunge: lunges, split squats, Bulgarian split squats
  • Carry: waiter walks, farmer carries, single arm carries, overhead carries

Isolation Exercises

Face it; you have a closet bodybuilder inside of you. Feed the beast with a diet of biceps and triceps isolation. At least two exercises per workout are necessary. Emphasize, “feeling” the muscle do the work to create muscular and metabolic damage to stimulate muscle growth.


Unilateral Exercises

Unilateral exercises prevent imbalances from stalling your training, injuries from manifesting, and achieve greater activation of motor units. Greater muscular recruitment and balance will yield better gains.


Volume, Frequency, Intensity, and Progression

To get stronger, more athletic, and jacked you need to train more often. Training frequency, whether you’re an athlete training or adding mass, is one of the most important factors to getting the fastest results possible. 

Related: High Frequency Training: Your Strength Building Solution

Ideally, you’ll train arms every training session. To optimize your training for muscle growth total volume and frequency are kept high while volume during each session is kept in check. Too much volume in one workout will overshoot your recovery and trash your next workouts, don’t be too aggressive.

Varying Intensity

While you’ll be adding slabs of meat onto your humeri there’s also a major emphasis on total body strength development.

To minimize gaps in strength and hypertrophy you’ll perform sets of 1-15 reps at varying intensities. Strength movements are trained early in each workout to emphasize continual strength gains.


Progression is simple—progressive overload on your strength exercises each week of the program.

3-5 sets of 3-5 reps is plenty.

Don’t go wild on every set of the day or you’ll overshoot your recovery capabilities.

Remember, the increase in training frequency for your muscles will be plenty to stimulate growth.

Training Schedule

best training days on this program are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday Or Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

This allows time for full recovery of muscles between workouts since you won’t be going berserk on lower body training.
Overall, this schedule maximizes recovery to boost muscle growth.

Get the High Frequency Training Workout

Consistently get stronger in all your lifts for the next 4-8 weeks to stretch your shirtsleeves.

Once you finish the program drop all isolation work on the arms.

All. Of. It.

Even the curls.

The goal is recovery and allowing the hard work of the last few weeks manifest into additional hypertrophy, neglecting this WILL trash your results.

If you choose eight weeks wait at least a month before starting a specialization program on the arms again. Then, re-engage a full assault on the arms for additional hypertrophy.

Final Thoughts

Once the foundation is built short-window specialization adds the finishing touches. This isn’t time to abandon a total body training style to focus on one measly body part—you can still make massive gains with some focused specialization. Train with specialization for six to eight weeks at a shot, then back things off for rapid arm growth—this is the most effective way to build big arms.

Get Your Massive Arms Program Today

High Performance Exercises You Should be Doing: Goblet Squat

athletic d

Walk into typical gym and a few things stand out: The bro in a cut off t-shirt, the old dude wearing bikers spandex stretching spread eagle on the mat, and the same cardio queens snappin’ Instagram selfies on the elliptical.

Even more perplexing is the same people doing the same exercises day after day, week after week and not making jack-squat (pun-intended) for progress. While there are staple movements that make up the brunt of great programs variation is important both for progression and to minimize imbalances.

Case in point, the goblet squat.

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The goblet squat is a movement most everyone (injuries non-withstanding) should perform. Still, all I see are barbell squats and front squats, often with hips shooting up early, poor depth and varus/valgus issues at the knee. Despite being a natural movement squatting with sound technique has somehow become a lost art.

Between sedentary jobs and inactive lifestyles basic movement quality sucks for most clients. Among most exercises what’s supposed to be a squat ends up looking like a quasi-modo twerking with a steel bar on his back. As you’d imagine, it ain’t pretty. Squats are a great tool, but like anything else, how you use the tool is most important. A hammer is great when hitting a nail, as long as you strike the nail instead of exploding your thumb.

As it is, the goblet squat is my preferred exercise when introducing the squat to new clients. Whether I’m working with an inexperienced athlete or a desk jockey with the mobility of a screwdriver, the goblet squat is an idiot-proof way to teach body awareness and squat mechanics.

The squat is a common screening tool with athletes and clients who come into SHSP. Most times I’ll start with a bodyweight squat with the arms at shoulder width, progresssing to an overhead squat to see how thoracic mobility limitations are playing a role in movement. Most often knees start begin shaking, the heels leave the floor, and all hell breaks loose. More than common mobility restrictions like poor dorsiflexion or tight hips my concern lies with the lack of stability during the movement. The fact that so many athletes run around in the chaotic nature of sport with major instabilities sets off the alarms faster than deadlifts at Planet Fitness.

That in mind, the last thing I want to do is stick someone with mobility/stability issues abound under a bar and squat the living day-lights out of them. Instead, I’ll opt for goblet squats as my initial mode of lower body training.

Besides a wicked awesome name that conveys images of Lil Jon and his Crunk Juice goblet, the goblet squat offers a multitude of benefits.

high performance, goblet squat
Photocredit: http://www.uglyducklinghouse.com/pimptastic-if-i-do-say-so-myself/


Goblet Squats for Muscle Building:

Few exercises stimulate total body hypertrophy like squats. Problem is, most people suck at them. Piling volume on-top of dysfunction is a huge no-no, and squats are a frequent perpetrator. You won’t be able to load goblet squats heavy like barbell squats, but you maintain great form and not snap your spine in half during longer duration sets.

Sound like a win? It is.

Aim for 3-5 sets of 10-20 rep goblet squats. Add pauses, mid-rep holds, and load these bad-boys up 100+ pounds if you’re able. This creates tons of muscular damage and accumulate of metabolic by-products from hard-work—setting you up for rapid lower body growth.

Want to Simplify your Fitness and start making progress today? Click Here.

Practice Squat Technique:

Those with poor coordination are better candidates for the goblet squat. Since the compact weight is held in front of the athlete it’s much easier to stabilize than a long, unstable barbell. Add in the fact that goblet squats strengthen the anterior core, upper back, and create tension with lighter loads you have a winner.

Increase anterior core engagement:

Anterior bar placement keeps the torso vertical, preventing the hips from going into excessive tilt, and requiring greater oblique and rectus abdominus involvement to prevent flexion. This change in the position is similar to front squats as it alters the center of mass and places a greater emphasis on the quadriceps, upper back, and supporting muscles of the trunk. The spine stays more vertical, lengthens the lats, reduces shear stress on the spine and requires extra core involvement to keep you vertical.

goblet squat, high performance
Photocredit: superiortrainingshc.blogspot.com


Vertical Spine position and less shear stress on the spine:

Per the increase in anterior core engagement, the spine stays vertical, lengthens the lats, reduces shear stress on the spine. Altogether, this requires extra core involvement to keep you upright. During de-load periods heavy goblet squats opposed to back squats deload the spine and nervous system.

Want to Simplify your Fitness and start making progress today? Click Here.

 Minimal Equipment or Space Needed:

If you’re traveling or don’t have any room to squat because some hair-gelled douche is curling in the squat rack then goblet squats are an awesome substitution to hammer your legs. In all seriousness, exercise doesn’t need to be complicated, it just has to be effective. Find out more on Exercise Minimalism in my three part series here, here, and here.

Teach upper-back tightness during lower body exercises:

Too many novice lifters don’t realize the importanace of keeping the upper back tight because they don’t lift enough weight to get stapled forward. With even moderate weights, the goblet squatter feels his upper back and must retract the shoulders to hold ideal position.

Teach tightness in the hole without significant loading:

Many young athletes and inexperienced lifters lose lumbar stability in the bottom of the squat, bounce out of the hole, and lose integrity of the lumbar spine.

No bueno.

To engrain tightness and technique in the bottom of a squat goblet squats with a pause are perfect. The anterior load forces anterior core engagement and abdominal bracing when the lower back is most prone to injury– the bottom of a squat. Adding a pause allows time to check alignment of the hip, knee, and ankle to prevent pronation/supination of the foot and valgus/varus stress on the knee.

How to Goblet Squat:

Enough about epic gainz you’ll get from goblet squats, here’s how to do them.

Hold a dumbbell (or kettlebell) with both hands underneath the “bell” at chest level, and set your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing slightly outwards (a). Push your butt back like you’re sitting in a chair and descend until your elbows reach the inside of your knees. (b). Keeping your heels flat, pressing jnto the floor, pause at the bottom of the squat, and return to a full standing position. If your heels rise push your hips further back and work on partial ranges of motion until mobility and form improve (c). Repeat for three to four sets of 8-10 reps.

Here’s a video of my beastly client Raven hitting some goblet squats. Despite the fact that he hits 700lb squats for fun it’s still important to ingrain movement skills to limit potential weaknesses and deficiencies.


Goblet Squat Coaching Cues:

          Think tall chest with the shoulders squeezed down and together

          Brace the trunk like you’re taking a punch rather than arching the low-back

          Push the knees our to open the hips

          Keep the knees in alignment with the shins to prevent valgus/varus in the knees

          Descend to your deepest depth without losing lumbar integrity (a.k.a. buttwink. Which is not about the Hamstrings, a must read by Dean Somerset)

          Reverse directions, driving the feet evenly into the ground and returning to a stall standing position. Squeeze the glutes at the top, rinse, and repeat.

Sample Goblet Squat Progression:

The bodyweight squat and overhead squat are two tests used for assessments for good reason: they show coordination and movement in a basic movement pattern.

I prefer this progression as it reinforces movement quality in a limited range of motion (ROM) and gradually increases ROM and difficulty as the trainee advances.

Bodyweight Squats to Box>Bodyweight Squats with Pause> Goblet Squat to High Box>Goblet Squat to Lower Box>Goblet Squat with Pause>Goblet Squat

From here, you can take your goblet squat to a front squat or back squat with a more refined movement pattern and better total body stability.

Wrap Up

By now you’re well versed in the goblet squat. The goblet squat is great for teaching technique to beginners, re-inforcing correct mechanics, and a deceptively awesome tool for hypertrophy. Yea, it’s not ideal for maximum strength and power development, but lets be real—more trainees would benefit from building sound mechanics of a goblet squat before piling weight on a faulty foundation. Whether you’re new to squats or can’t squat due to hair-gelled curl in the squat rack guy the the goblet squat is a high-performance training tool you should be doing.

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How To Front Squat: And How it Makes You a Diesel Gym Beast

front squat vs backsquat

Why does the front squat get thrown under the bus?

Better yet, how come no-one knows How to Front Squat?

Join the Community and Get the Beastmode Front Squat Guide, 100% Free


When you hear about the ultimate lift for an explosive lower body and huge squat numbers most are referring to back squats. It’s the most popular squat variation around and part of the big three in powerlifting.

I love the back squat, it deserves its credit, but you’re leaving huge gaps in your explosiveness, muscular development, and training by neglecting the front squat.

For starters, front squats require hard work, which most gym goers avoided like the bubonic plague, opting to post every gym P.R. and dozens half-naked selfies on Facebook. This startling trend combined with lifters staying content with their classic leg presses and smith machine squats has led to anemic leg development, un-balanced physiques, and movement patterns ripe with dysfunction.

Few exercises match the high-performance benefits of the front squat, even the back squat. It’s time to leave your ego at the door, walk on the wild side, and attack your weak-points. Give the back squat, leg press, and leg extension a rest; it’s time to front squat.

Why You Should Be Front Squatting


  • Increase depth achieved and glute activation: Anterior placement of the barbell allows greater depth during front squats. Muscle activation of the gluteus maximus also increases with increased hip flexion (squat depth), and the subsequent concentric action of hip extension. [Caterisano et al].
  • Improve core strength: Anterior bar placement keeps the torso vertical, preventing the hips from going into excessive anterior pelvic tilt, and requiring greater oblique and rectus abdominus involvement to prevent flexion. Everyone benefits from a stronger anterior core and few exercises challenge the core like front squats.
  • Huge Quad Development: Deeper knee flexion from greater depth during the eccentric a more upright posture, and narrower stance all lead to greater knee extension during the concentric and thus huge quad development.
  • Decreased lumber and knee stress: Anterior bar placement forces lifters to attain an upright posture, decreasing shear stress on the spine. Gullet et al found significantly lower compressive forces at the knee compared to back squats without compromising muscle activity in the quads or hamstrings. If you have a history of meniscal injuries and your knees sound like firecrackers front squats are a great option due to lighter loads being lifted compared to back squat.
  • Front Squats Increase your Power Clean: Whether you’re a competitive athlete, weekend warrior, or want to look better naked Olympic lifts are a valuable tool. Stronger hip extension, stronger anterior core, and a direct transfer to the “catch” phase of cleans illustrates why front squats aid in developing the power clean. There’s a reason front squats have been an Olympic lifting mainstay for decades—they work.
  • Increased Thoracic Extension and a Stronger Upper Back: Let’s be real here—Most dudes have the posture of Smeagol from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.


front squat

Front squats require scapula and clavicle elevation and upward rotation to keep the elbows up and the bar in proper position. This requires the traps, serratus anterior, levator scapulae, rhomboids, and lats to work in conjunction to hold position and prevent you from dumping the bar forward.

I’ve had dozens of clients improve posture, mobility, and strength of the thoracic extenders with front squats. Being able to maintain thoracic extension will aid your deadlift too, and I know you love you some deadlifts. 

  • Total Body Mobility and Stability: Front squats require significant mobility and stability in the hips, knees, ankles, and shoulder—something everyone in today’s “sit-in the office, go home and play XBOX” society needs. Increased mobility requirements and maintaining position under load will pour concrete over the greater movement foundation.
  • Total Body Strength Gains: Regardless of your goal improved strength will increase your success. Building strong quads, a strong, resilient anterior core, glutes, and explosive hip extension will improve all other training qualities in the gym.
  • Increased Muscle Mass: Squats are widely considered the “king of hypertrophy”. They’re a vital piece in mass building due to hormonal adaptations from progressive overload and total body training stimulus. Anecdotal evidence from Olympic weightlifters, bodybuilders, and personal experience makes one thing perfectly clear—Front squats build massive quads and a thick upper back.

With all of these kick-ass benefits, it’s a no-brainer that front squats deserve your attention.

How To Front Squat: Biomechanics 

Front squats and back-squats are quite similar: They require total body strength, stability, and power through hip and knee extension and flexion, dorsiflexion of the ankles, and a rigid core to resist flexion and folding like a napkin under the bar. Despite these similarities there are significant differences; most notably, anterior bar position during the front squat.

This change in bar position alters the center of mass and places a greater emphasis on the quadriceps, upper back, and supporting muscles of the trunk. The spine stays more vertical, lengthens the lats, reduces shear stress on the spine and requires additional core involvement to keep you vertical.

how to front squat

This keeps the lower back tight by default—lumbar flexion and learning forward “dump” the bar before excessive flexion takes place. TThis built in safely mechanism teaches proper abdominal bracing, posture, and overcoming a significant load when first learning how to front squat.

“Are front Squats worse for my knees?”

Well, not necessarily.

Research in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning by Gullet et al compared the biomechanics of the front squat and the back squat. The front squat and back squat elicited very similar muscle activation despite the front squat weight being 70% of the back squat load.

The back squat had more compression on the spine and knees (due to larger loads in my estimation), with greater torque in the knees. So, overall muscle activation was the same with a lower load, less compressive joint stress to the knees and back, and less shear stress then front squats.

This backs up my experiences as an athlete and coach—you’re less likely to be injured during a front squat than a back squat. All things considered, achieving a comparable training effect with less external loading and joint stress is a good thing. 

From an anatomical standpoint arguabley nearly every muscle plays a role in the front squat, but for simplicity stake we’ll leave it at these: the quadriceps, gluteus maximus, adductor magnus, soleus, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, erector spinane, anterior/lateral deltoids, supraspinatus, rhomboids, upper/middle/lower traps, levator scapulae, serratus anterior, rectus abdominus, and obliques are all needed to stabilize the load and complete the lift.

Muscles are an integrated system that must work together to produce efficient movement, few exercises work as many of them together as front squats.Let’s find out how to front squat some damn weight!

How To Front Squat

Watching Youtube videos isn’t enough to learn how to Front Squat –you actually need to master the component pieces and integrate them to maximize your front squat.

Grip: There are multiple ways to grip the front squat, but the “clean” grip is the best option. The clean grip involves wrapping your finger tips around the bar and keeping the elbows high. This trains the catch position of the clean and provides maximum control barbell—ideal for safety and athletes who use the clean as a mainstay in their training.

As few as two fingers wrapped around the bar is acceptable when the elbows are elevated. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for many lifters to get in proper position when learning how to front squat. In this case, regress the grip and work on flexibility.

how to front squat
Front Squat w/2 finger clean grip

Clean Grip with straps: This grip is similar to the clean grip but uses straps to hold onto the bar when there are mobility restrictions with the regular clean grip. This is a great grip to use while improving mobility and working towards the clean grip. Christian Thibaudeau shows you the clean grip with straps here.

How to Front Squat
front squat clean grip with straps

Bodybuilding Grip: The bodybuilding grip involves resting the bar on the top of the shoulders with hands over the bar and elbows kept high. This is great for beefcakes with the mobility of a fork, but it sucks for controlling the barbell and for athletes. Use this grip as a last resort when severe mobility or wrist limitations are present.

how to front squat
bodybuilder front squat grip

Set the Bar against the neck: There’s no denying it—getting the bar in proper position sucks. Racking a loaded barbell against your throat and performing squats gets you out of your comfort zone and builds toughness. (I heard front squats give you big cajones, or something). Once you select your grip, the barbell must stay against the base of the neck with the chin tilted up to keep the joints stacked and bar close to the torso. Failing to do so will allow  your elbows to drop, the bar to crash, and you peeling your tattered carcass off the floor.

Elbows Up: It’s Simple—Force  the“elbows up” during the entire front squat and you’ll be in good shape. Failing to drive the elbows will result in a loss of spinal position, kyphotic posture, and dumping the bar forward during the squat.

Abs Braced and Breath: Front squats create a “lengthening” of the core when the elbows are elevated. Use the anterior core to create stability by bracing and staying neutral in the trunk rather than arching. Proper breathing and pulling air into your gut becomes increasingly important during front squats as the valsalva maneuver increases intra-abdominal pressure to provide an internal belt of support.

Breathe into your stomach and brace like you’re taking a punch from Mike Tyson after stealing his tiger. If that doesn’t work, here’s a great video on the abdominal brace by Chris Duffin. Gather as much air as possible before descending into the squat—you’ll need it.

Walkout: Grip the bar, drive the elbows high, brace the abs, and squat the bar out.

Left foot out.

Right foot out.

Re-settle, breath, and go. The front squat is a different animal than your typical squat; keep the feet closer to shoulder width with very slight toe flair.

Execution: After the walkout gather your air, sit back slightly, and break at the knees and hips simultaneously while driving the elbows high. Keep a vertical spine and descend to the deepest depth possible without compromising spinal integrity—more on butt wink later.

Hold your air as long as possible, drive the elbows up, and stand up until the hips are fully extended. Exhale and walk the bar all the way into the rack, push against the safety hooks and squat the weight down—no sloppy split-stance bar dumping allowed.

Front Squat Depth

The anterior load of the front squat and increase in anterior core activation allows for a deeper squat without compromised spinal position. Unfortunately, butt wink still occurs. Sub-parallel squats aren’t for everyone, bony hip anatomy, anterior core weakness and posterior chain weakness are frequent culprits that prevents an an ass-too-grass squat.

Blasting heavy-ass squats with a curved lumbar spine is recipe for acute injury and long-term dysfunction, regardless of what anyone says.

 This should be avoided with mobility and stability being trained until further depth is achieved without compromising spinal position. Mobility and stability will improve with increased front squatting and time—stop slamming square pegs into round holes because bro-science says “ass-to-grass squats or you’re a sissy. ”

how to front squat
Good spinal position vs. bad spinal position

 P.S. Bret Contreras does a great job of explaining Butt-wink here, I highly recommend you check it out. And yes, I know this is a back squat picture above. 

How to Front Squat: Common Issues and Cues

1.)   Elbows Drop: Failure to keep the elbows high is the result of mobility restrictions, being lazy as poo on a hot summer day, or weakness in your upper back.

It becomes exponentially more difficult to keep the elbows up after 5-6 heavy reps on front squats; keep reps lower and increase submaximal training for practice. Avoid excessively arching the low back into lumber hyperextension for elbow position; instead, build a stronger core and improved thoracic mobility with this drill from Eric Cressey.

2.)   Chest Caves: This happens because the elbows dropped (see below) or improper set-up. Ensure the barbell is against the base of the neck and the elbows are kept high during the entire set to maintain posture and bar position.

3.)   Falling Forward: The anterior load is pulling you forward, you need to get the hips back slightly at the initial descent (pop that booty) and keep the elbows high. Drive the heels into the ground during the concentric portion of the exercise.

4.)   Falling Backward: You’re sitting back too far. Every exercise is a tool—use it the way it’s meant to be trained. In this case use a smaller hip hinge at the start of the squat and allow the quads and anterior core to do their job, it’s front squat not a good morning or back squat.

5.)   Spread the floor to prevent Valgus collapse: Unless you’re a fan of grotesque knee injuries and months of rehab it’s best to avoid valgus collapse. Despite a few (slim few) elite power lifters having great success with the knees diving on a back squat this technique is best avoided. Slightly push the knees out during descent of front squats to maintain stacked  joints and proper tracking of joints.

6.)   Grip: If the bar is misaligned imbalances will be referred down the kinetic chain. The clean grip gives the most control over the bar, use it. Peel a few fingers away from the bar, (as few as two fingers suffice with the clean grip) to gain control and take stress off of the wrists. Work on tissue quality and length in the forearms, wrists, and lats to improve comfort with the clean grip.

7.)   Weak Anterior Core: If you’re weak in the anterior core you’re going to have a host of problems; specifically, maintaining vertical spine under load. Practice front squats multiple times during the week and add in a heavy dose of abdominal rollouts, planks, pallof presses, and farmer walks.

Front Squats Build Muscle

Anecdotal evidence from bodybuilders and Olympic weightlifters shows us front squats are great for total body muscular development; specifically, massive quads and a thick upper back. Here are some additional muscle-building considerations:

  • Greater Hip flexion and depth require greater hip extension and gluteus maximus recruitment on the concentric portion of the exercise– both important for greater gluteus maximus activation.  As a side note it would be interesting to see where the trade-off ends in muscle activation between increased squat depth (with a front squat), and increasing stance width and activation of the adductors and gluteus maximus in a wide, powerlifting squat. (Paoli et. Al)

  • Front Squats are a fantastic builder of the quadriceps due to anterior bar placement and high amounts of knee flexion.


  • Keeping the elbows high forces the thoracic extenders to work their ass actin off and adds additional volume for building your “yoke.”


  • The front squat was shown to be as effective as the back squat in terms of overall muscle recruitment, with significantly less compressive forces on the knee. [Gullet et al] This becomes increasingly important with increased training age.


  • Front squats should be done with a full range of motion, as they result in more thigh muscle growth with full reps than partial [McMahon et al].


  • Training the quadriceps at long muscle lengths (greater knee flexion) results in higher muscle activation than training at shorter muscle lengths, finish your reps.

Front Squats Build Massive Strength


Squats are dubbed “the king” of all exercises for good reason– they provide huge gains in total body strength and muscle. While this title refers to the back-squat I’ve already touched on the similarities between front squats and back squats in terms of muscle activation.  Say what you want, but anyone who front squats big weights will be damn strong, both in terms of relative strength and absolute strength.

Here are some additional strength building considerations:

  • I’ve mentioned this already, but it bears repeating– Front squats require less relative load for similar muscle activation of the quads, glutes, and hamstrings while decreasing stress on the spine and knees.
  • Front squats are particularly beneficial for those competing in weight lifting events because it is an essential component in performance of the clean. (Fry et. al)
  • Additional stress to the thoracic extenders is beneficial to all pulling movements: deadlifts, squats, rows, and pull-ups are all potentially improved.
  • Huge anterior core training stimulus will improve carryover to other compound lifts.
  • It’s a damn squat. If you squat heavy with good form and a plan you’ll get as strong as an ox.

Front Squats are Better for Athletes


When working with athletes it’s imperative to understand that everything in the weight room is a tool; risk: reward analysis must be taken into account. I prefer front squats as my primary squatting method with athletes for the following reasons:

  • Front squats are beneficial for those competing in weight lifting events because they’re an essential component in the execution of the clean. [Fry et. al]


  • Anterior bar position means less shear stress on the spine and provides a more back-friendly alternative to back squats for older athletes, taller athletes, and athletes with back issues.


  • Squats mimic the biomechanical demands of athletic endeavors like the powerful hip extension needed for sprinting, jumping, tackling, and skating. Moreover, the abs braced, neutral position is vital for athletes to be maximally efficient and avoid “dumping” during movement.


  • Front squats are a tool for potentiation and long-term improvements in acceleration and maximal sprint running. Performance is improved from performing squats (30%, 50%, and 70% 1 RM) as part of the athletes’ warm-up 4 minutes before sprint trials, leading to long-term benefits after sprint training by allowing the athlete’s neuromuscular system to perform at a higher level during each training session [Yetter et. Al].


  • Greater anterior core activation due to anterior bar placement—I’ve never seen any athlete with too much anterior core strength.


  • Similar muscle activation is achieved with front squats as back squats with a lighter load, leading to  less compressive and shear stress on the knees and spine. It is clear that the front squat may be advantageous for individuals with knee problems such as meniscus tears and general joint health when compared with back squat [Gullett et al]. The spine handles compression well—lumbar vertebrae are huge. Unfortunately, shear stress with compression is recipe for injury and cranky backs.

The Ultimate Front Squat Progression


It’s not a good idea to load an exercise without establishing stability through an acceptable range of motion and ironing home good technique. To learn how to front squat you need a progression– here it is.

BW Squat: From standing position push the hips back and break at the knees, descending with the hips until parallel is reached with the arms extended at shoulder height with the chest up. Extend the hip and knee to stand back up. Rinse and Repeat.

Goblet Squat: Grip a kettlebell or dumbbell underneath one end and hold at chest height. Keeping the chest tall and abs braced descend by breaking at the hip and knee until the proper depth is achieved. Extend the hip and knee, returning to a full stand.

How to Front squat, how to goblet squat

Goblet Squat W/Pause: Grip a kettlebell or dumbbell underneath one end and hold at chest height. While keeping the chest tall and abs braced descend by breaking at the hip and knee until proper depth is achieved, pause while staying tight, and extend the hip and knee, returning to a full stand.

2 KB Front Squat: Hold two kettlebells at chest height  and stand tall with the abs braced. Keep the kettlebells “up” while breaking at the hips and knees simultaneously until proper depth is achieved. Extend the hip and knee, return to a full standing position

2 KB Front Squat w/Pause: Holding one kettlebell in each hand at chest height stand tall and brace the core. Keep the kettlebells “up” while breaking at the hips and knees simultaneously until the proper depth is achieved and pausing without losing tension. Extend the hip and knee, returning to a full stand.

Bar w/Pause: Using a clean grip (2 fingers only if necessary) break at the hips and knees simultaneously, keeping the abs braced and elbows up as you descend to depth. Pause while maintaining a “rigid” core, then stand up by fully extending the hip and knee. Yipee!

how to front squat

There are many ways to “skin the cat” when it comes to squat progressions, but this technique has worked best for me when teaching novices how to front squat.

You combine anterior loading, torso rigidity, a lower-body training stimulus, and the ability to hold positions under load before moving onto the barbell. Perform each rep with intent and gradually load as technique improves. Don’t worry– tell your ego you’ll be piling plates in no-time.

P.S. Who came up with the term ” There are many ways to skin the cat”? Freaks. 

Additional Considerations

Ask yourself—If your body can’t get into proper position under load should you be going there? Unless you’re okay with piling strength on top of dysfunction it’s best avoided. The performance increase may be worth it for lifters trying to boost a total, but for athletes and general population using the front squat as a tool for performance rather than mode of competition it’s not worth it.

Should you Wear a Weight Belt for Front Squats?

When it comes to using a belt a few situations must be taken into account. Compared to deadlifts and back squats there is less compression forces due to lighter load and less shear stress due to a more vertical spine position. I coach my clients to brace the abs, negating the need for a belt in most cases.

If you’re a powerlifter circumstances are different—they need to learn how to push their abs out and apply more force when lifting. Still, keep belts for the rare top-end set, not for your ugly-biceps curls and sub-maximal work. Dr. Stu McGill summarizes it perfectly here “Many people adopt belts in training for one of three reasons:

• they have observed others wearing them and have assumed that it will be a good idea for them to do so.

• Their backs are becoming sore and they believe that a back belt will help.

 • They want to lift a few more pounds.

None of these reasons are consistent with the objective of good health. If one must lift a few more pounds, wear a belt. If one wants to groove motor patterns to train for other athletic tasks that demand a stable torso, it is probably better not to wear one. Instead do the work to perfect lifting technique.”

Front Squats and Lifting Shoes

For competitive lifters I recommend Rogue Do-Wins  or a similar lifting shoe for front squats. I did a full review on the Rogue Do-Wins here. For Athletes and other lifters the choice is optional—if you need to improve ankle mobility to squat deep then lifting shoes are an option “hack” your depth, but is going to a position you’re body doesn’t achieve naturally worth the extra five pounds?

I’d recommend sticking within your limits and increasing your active range of motion rather than using equipment to achieve greater range of motion.

Personally, I’ve used Chucks, Olympic lifting shoes (Rogue Do-Wins), and typical tennis shoes with great success– 300lb cleans and a 365lb front squat in Nike Frees without issue related to footwear. The point is, if you’re strong, you’re strong. Heel lifts are an accessory, if top end weight is your primary goal then try the shoes, but the difference isn’t as great you’d think.

Simple Routine: High-Frequency Training and Front Squats

Let’s be real here, you didn’t read all this to NOT get a sweet workout program. If you have trained properly for at least one year, are well-versed in weightlifting,  and have made significant strides in your training then you are in the perfect place. This program is NOT for beginners, but intermediate and advanced lifters.

This program will help you build significant strength, muscle, and improve your athleticism unlike many crappy body-part split routines you read in bodybuilder magazines and websites. Bodies that look like Tarzan and play like Jane are no good—you deserve more, you deserve better.

If you’re up to the challenge then you need to bring it to every workout. Each workout you’ll be training with a focus on either maximum strength, volume for hypertrophy, or speed for athleticism and additional gains in strength and muscle mass.

Front Squat Finisher

I’ve professed my love for the occasional finisher here, and here. During one particularly creative (read: tormented) workout session I designed a finisher solely for front squats. This is a very advanced test of physical and mental grit. If you’re a good squatter, tough as nails, and without injury, give this a shot. Killer Front Squat Finisher.

Wrap Up

Like any exercise a risk: reward analysis is necessary to determine what’s the best tool for the job. That said, the front squat is everything you need and then some to become a diesel beast in the gym and on the playing field. Everyone from bodybuilders, athletes, and weekend warriors benefit from decreasing joint stress, increasing total body training stimulus, and attacking common weak points like thoracic extension and the anterior core.

Leave your ego at the door and focus on your front squat— they’re likely the missing link to fixing your chicken legs, caveman posture, and finally become a diesel beast in the gym.

Train Smarter, Train Harder, Perform Better

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Bach, Eric. “5 Plateau Busting Finishers.” Schwarzenegger.com. Schwarzenegger.com, 3 Mar. 2014. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://www.schwarzenegger.com/fitness/post/5-plateau-busting-finishers>.

Bach, Eric. “Killer Front Squat Finisher.” Elite FTS. Elitefts.net, 13 June 2013. Web. 30 May 2014. http://articles.elitefts.com/training-articles/killer-front-squat-finisher/

“Barbell Front Squat.” Barbell Front Squat. ExRx.net, n.d. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Quadriceps/BBFrontSquat.html>.

Breathing and Abdominal Bracing for Strength. Dir. Chris Duffin. youtube.com, 2013. Film.

Bench T-Spine Mobilizations. Dir. Eric Cressey. youtube.com, 2013. Film.

Caterisano, A., R.F. Moss, T.K. Pellin-ger, K. Woodruff, V.C. Lewis, W. Booth, and T. Khadra.The effect of back squat depth on the EMG activity of 4 superficial hip and thigh muscles.J. Strength Cond.Res. 16(3):428–432. 2002.

Contreras, Brett. “Bret Contreras.” Bret Contreras. Bretcontreras.com , n.d. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://bretcontreras.com/squat-biomechanics-butt-wink-what-is-it-what-causes-it-how-can-it-be-improved/>

Fry, AC, Smith, JC, and Schilling, BK. Effect of knee position on hip and knee torques during the barbell squat. J Strength Cond Res 17: 629-633, 2003. Graham, J. Front squat. Strength Cond J 24: 75-76, 2002.

Gullett, JC, Tillman, MD, Gutierrez, GM, and Chow, JW. A biomechanical comparison of back and front squats in healthy trained individuals. J Strength Cond Res 23: 284-292, 2009.

McGill, Stuart. “On The Use Weight Belts.” . the National Strength and Conditioning Association, 1 Mar. 2005. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://www.backfitpro.com/pdf/weight_belts.pdf>.

McMahon GE, Morse CI, Burden A, Winwood K, Onambélé GL. Impact of rangeof motion during ecologically valid resistance training protocols on muscle size, subcutaneous fat, and strength. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jan;28(1):245-55

Paoli A, Marcolin G, Petrone N. The effect of stance width on the electromyographical activity of eight superficial thigh muscles during back squat with different bar loads. J Strength Cond Res 23: 246–250, 2009.

Yetter M, Moir GL (2008) The acute effects of heavy back and front squats on speed during forty-meter sprint trials. J Strength Cond Res 22:159–167

Master Pull-Ups: Eight Tips To Pulling Prowess

Most everyone craves an athletic, cut physique but they fail to master the basic, multi-joint exercises that work best.

Case in point—Pull-ups. “But wait, all you have to do is grab the bar and pull your body, and chin to the bar…right?”

Not so fast.

Many dudes do “pull-ups”, but few master pull-ups, neglecting to do them properly or enough to build significant strength, muscle, or upper-body training balance despite the popularity of imaginary lat syndrome (medical abbreviation: ILS). The dichotomy between real results and and over-inflated I.L.S. strutting egos is terrifying. No upper body exercise is a better measure of relative physical strength than the pull-up, and it is grossly neglected. If you can’t do a proper pull-up you’re looking at an obvious mish-mash of issues that need fixing: you need to improve your strength, improve the push-pull balance in your training, and lose some fat. Therefore, the goal of this article is to review pull-up variations, execution and share he best tips to master pull-ups.

Whether you’ve mastered pull-ups with additional weight or have yet to do your first pull-up you owe it to yourself and your collection pre-shrunk t-shirts to expand your pull-up repertoire and become a vertical pulling beast. The benefits are huge. You’ll build a bigger and healthier upper body. You’ll add slabs of muscle to your lats, traps, forearms, and bicep.  Plus,  “I heard” knocking out pull-ups like a champ improves awesomeness %1,000 and makes Meg Griffin Mila Kunis swoon over you.

 Convinced yet? I thought so.

Master Pull-Ups with these Pull-Up Variations:

The pull-up is performed with the palms pronated, or facing away from you. The pull-up places a greater emphasis on the rhomboids, traps and lats as well as the brachialis and brachioradialis muscles. Chin-ups are performed with your palms facing you, known as supinated. This grip is typically easier than a pull-up and emphasizes the biceps more. Still great for training the lats, this is one of the best exercises for building big arms. Parallel grip pull-ups, known as the neutral grip, are performed with the palms facing each other. Neutral grip pull-ups are the easiest and safest of the three grip variations. The neutral grip is easiest on the wrist, shoulder, and elbow joints and is the most common pull-up among Bach Performance clients.

How to perform Pull-Ups

Most pull-ups are executed with half-extended arms and a full body seizure in effort to get the chest to the bar. Don’t be the idiot who only cares about rep quantity. Instead, master the quality. An exercise is only as effective as it’s execution. Start by grabbing the bar with your arms extended and shoulders retracted. Keep tension in the bottom position, avoiding  the relaxed, dead hang position. The dead hang position is best avoided as it places additional stress on the shoulders and elbows. It won’t bother you immediately, but long-term pulling from the dead-hang is problematic for consistent, long-term training. To master pull-ups squeeze the glutes to avoid over-arching the lower back while pulling the elbows down, bringing the chest to the bar and actively depressing your scapulae, finishing with your chin to the bar. Lower yourself under control, maintaining tension during the eccentric before repeating for desired reps. Can’t do Pull-Ups? Read “How to Do Pull-Ups” below: Part 1 Part 2


1.)  Select grip and width

2.)  Hold the bar with tension maintained in the lats and shoulders while squeezing glutes.

3.)  Drive the elbows down, pulling the elbows to neutral. 

4.)  Depress your scapulae and pull your chin over the bar.

5.)  Lower your body under control, fully extending the arms.

6.)  Maintain tension and repeat for prescribed reps.

7.) Here’s  a Fantastic video by Eric Cressey to help clean up your chin-up. Prepare to have your mind-blown. ===> Clean up your Chin Up

Eight Tips to Master Pull-Ups

1.) Drive the elbows down

You’ve seen it, a few “bros” barely extending the arms for sets of herky-jerky quarter-rep pull-ups. It’s as ineffective as it is stupid looking. Without extending the arms most tension is kept in the forearms and to a lesser extent, the biceps. Unfortunately, this limited range of motion fails to fully incorporate the lats. Pull with the elbows to build some serious wings and a well-developed back.

2.) Stop Spastic Reps

Yes, I mean swinging and kipping, the sacred cow of Crossfit. This isn’t a pull-up. Kipping is a difficult, technical lift to rapidly accelerate the body to the bar and back down. Unfortunately, this rapid swing and subsequent rapid deceleration places tons of stress on the shoulders and elbows. It’s a technical skill that requires practice, but unless you’re competing in Crossfit competitions you’re better off mastering pull-ups, real pull-ups. Oh, and don’t do this either:

3.) Challenge Your Grip

Get strong from all positions and use various grips and tools—Fat Gripz, off-set grips, rings, towels, baseballs, wide, narrow, supinated, neutral, and pronated grips. You have no reason to be weak–Get strong pulling from various angles and modalities to minimize weak-points.

4.) Resisted Sets

Chin-Ups are best programmed like any other compound lift, with progressive overload and eventually external resistance. Keep in mind heavy, near maximal sets are extremely taxing on your nervous system, so intelligent programming and appropriate rest periods are a must. Train for strength with weighted sets between 2-6 reps, shooting to equal your chin up max (bodyweight+ external resistance) with your bench press max–Very difficult to do, but those who get close are jacked, athletic, and weight-room bad-asses.

5.) High Rep Sets

If you’re looking to build muscle, increase local muscular endurance for a sport like climbing, or “shock” your system into massive hypertrophy then high-rep pull-ups belong in your repertoire. If you do fewer than 5 pull-ups use a thick band for band-assisted pull-ups and to get the necessary training volume. If you’re a pull-up boss, able to knock out 10+ at a time with great form then try this drop-set:

  1. Pull-Ups (wider than shoulders, pronated grip) for 3-5 reps. Rest 15 seconds
  2. Neutral Grip Pull-Ups (shoulder width, neutral grip) for 3-5 reps. Rest 15 seconds
  3. Chin Ups (shoulder width, supinated grip) for 3-5 reps. Rest 90 seconds

Repeat this for two to four work sets, avoiding muscular failure until chin-ups at the end.

6.) Ditch the Dead-hang

Relaxing the shoulders and arms at the bottom of pull-ups removes muscular tension and places all the stress on the ligaments and tendons of the elbows and shoulders—recipe for future dysfunction and injury. Long-term vertical pulling is great for upper body strength and stability, when done correctly. I’ve found clients that stick with the “dead-hang” position are more prone to shoulder and elbow issues than those who stay slightly retracted. pull up positioning, deadhang pull-up, master pull-ups

Dead-hang position (left) versus slightly retracted (right)

7.) Lose Fat

Unless you need the additional bulk for sport or improving your powerlifting total, dropping  body fat will improve health, performance, and your chances with the Mila Kunis (maybe).  Few exercises test and build relative strength like the pull-up, dropping a few pounds will instantly boost your numbers, improve your ability to train with high volume, and help you master pull-ups.

8.) High Frequency Training

Think back to when you first started riding a bike: When you took off your training wheels you struggled right away and probably took a digger, and scrapped your knee. It wasn’t until you practiced over, and over again that you become proficient. The same persistence is required as you seek to master pull-ups. To make rapid improvements you need high frequency training. Training two pull-up variations per week will help you master Pull-Ups due to improved neural efficiency, muscular strength, size, and endurance. Train one workout per week with high reps and one workout with an emphasis on heavier resistance and lower reps. In both cases avoid failure—this only develops poor technique and zaps your nervous system. If you struggle to do many reps take 50-75% of max reps and do smaller, technically perfect sets, like four rep sets instead of eight. Practice doesn’t make perfect; rather, perfect practice makes perfect.  

Wrap Up

It doesn’t take complicated exercises nor “super-advanced” programming to build a strong, shredded, athletic body– it takes hard work and mastering the basics. Pull heavy, pull light, pull frequently, and pull correctly to  master your pull-ups—they’re a vital tool for building upper body health, strength, and mass.
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