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Seven Laws of Building Athletic Muscle

I almost quit.


I failed as an athlete trying to build athletic muscle and as a college meathead trying to re-establish some semblance of athleticism. I wasn’t’ happy with my porous results and I wouldn’t be happy unless I had the best of both worlds—being athletic and muscular. Not one, not the other, but both. What’s the point in being a muscle bound sluggish Ogre or lacking confidence?

There’s more to building athletic muscle than deadlifts and lifting weights. Instead of being ripe with dysfunction and scrawny you must ditch the old school “body-part splits,” “insanity workouts,” and “ the Westside or Die” mentality. There’s no perfect recipe.

Forget these tools, they’re only a method of training. What’s needed are sound principles to make real change and get things done. Your body should exude confidence in your abilities and perform in the world, not just the platform. These seven things will build explosiveness, lean muscle, shred body fat, and boost your confidence.

sprints, building athletic muscle
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rethwill/8752384617/

1.)  Movement is a Must

The most common tip to become a better athlete is “get stronger.” This is important, but sports are more about movement than being strong. An over-emphasis on building strength is as dangerous as minimizing it. Without a base of movement it doesn’t matter how strong you are, inefficiencies in movement will hold back your high performance training. Sports occur with jumps, throws, sprints, cuts, hops, and reactive movement, not barbells and dumbbells.

Besides, sprints keep your fast twitch muscles firing on all cylinders and maintain explosiveness as you age. Perform jumps and throws before workouts. Sprint and do change of direction drills two or three times per week to keep you athletic and lean.

2.) Build a base of strength

There are multiple types of strength, but we’re focusing on absolute and relative strength.

Relative Strength is the amount of strength relative to body size. This reflects a person’s ability to control or move their body through space. All else being equal, smaller individuals have higher relative strength.

Absolute Strength is the maximum amount of force exerted regardless of muscle or body size. Greater amounts of absolute strength favor those with higher bodyweight and in general, larger individuals.

Building a base of strength improves relative strength (when size is in check) and improves your ability to generate force.

building athletic muscle
Building Athletic muscle require heavy lifting

Why this matters:

You want a body that performs as well as it looks. Both absolute strength and relative strength are needed for high-performance gains. Greater relative strength can be driven up by greater absolute strength and tested through activities that require moving the body through space—jumps, chin-ups, sprints, and bodyweight movements in sport.

Plus, you’ll increase nervous system activation, leading too:

1.  Increases muscle fiber recruitment: the number of muscle fibers being recruited.

2.  Increases speed of rate coding: the speed at which the body sends electrical signals to the muscles.

These both lead to greater adaptation and improvements in workout performance and help you build lean muscle. Build your strength base, it improves your ability to build lean muscle, strength, boosts your endurance, and shreds body fat.

3.) Progressive overload

I hate to break it to you, but squats, cleans, presses, pulls and lunges are still the best for building lean muscle and strength. Too maximize these exercises you must progressively overload the body. That means add weight, decrease rest, and increase training volume. Push your body beyond its abilities or you won’t grow. Get comfortable being uncomfortable or get left behind.

4.) Keep Isolation Isolated

By isolation exercises I’m referring to the typical bodybuilder exercises: lateral raises, biceps curls, and the like. Except for a few exercises at the end of your workouts these isolation exercises are inefficient and a waste of time. They’re a piece of the puzzle for building muscle, but everything has its place. With a limited amount of time to train you’re better off building strength and explosiveness. Get strong, and then worry about isolation, as it’s needed. For others use isolation as it’s needed to prevent injury and improve movement. Here I’m referring to your rotator cuff exercises, activation exercises in your hips and trunk and the like. Make them a piece of the puzzle, but not the main focus of your workouts.

5.) Pride, Passion, and Perseverance.

“Pride, passion, and perseverance.”

“Pride, passion, and perseverance.”

I remember my High-School Football coach preaching these terms over, and over, and over again. I used to think he was full of shit, but he’s right. These three terms are vital to your success on and off the field.

Pride to put your best foot forward and pursue your goals no matter the circumstances. Passion to be relentless and put in the time when no-one is working. Perseverance to push through plateaus and struggles that will occur. Attacking training with pride, passion, and perseverance is imperative to building athletic muscle.

“Knowing” what to do is great, but it won’t get you results. Put in the work!

6.) Exercise Risk/Reward

Everything is a tool and requires a risk-reward analysis.

building athletic muscle
Sorry, this won’t help you unless you’re training for the circus

The behind-the-neck overhead press is a great muscle builder, but creates shoulder impingement and dysfunction in lots of individuals. Is the trade-off worth it?

No. Each exercise is a tool, not the end-all-be-all. There are dozens of exercises to train the same muscles, pick a better option.

7.) De-loading Exercise

Train all you want, but without an emphasis on recovery you’ll end up beat up, weak, and un-athletic.

Training hard is rarely the missing piece for progress. That title goes to recovery, the vital component that most athletes neglect. Intense exercise causes tons of stress: joint & ligament stress, muscular damage, neural fatigue, and hormone disruption are all factors that must be taken into account and is highly individualized to each athlete. Beginners may be able to go for months without backing down; however, advancing athletes require individually specialized programs to maximize training gains. De-load, do recovery workouts, use soft-tissue therapies and contrast showers for better recovery.

Building Athletic Muscle Wrap Up

There’s more to building muscle and being athletic than your strength numbers. Get off the platform and into the world. You have to move, move well, and move often in a variety of ways. You have a finite amount of resources for training; pick exercises wisely, train hard, and be persistent. There you have it. These principles are key for building athletic muscle without turning you into a bloated ball of fail.


About:Eric Bach, CSCS, PN1 is a strength coach at Steadman Hawkins Sports Performance in Denver, Colorado. As an author Eric has been featured in publications such as T-Nation, eliteFTS, and the PTDC. He is the owner of Bach Performance where he coaches clients to take control of their lives, helping them become stronger, shredded, and more athletic. Get your Free Ebook 101 Tips to Jacked and Shredded Here.Athletic Muscle Building

FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/bachperformance/
TWITTER: twitter.com/Eric_Bach


If you want all of this programmed into a workout to finally build the body you desire join Bach Performance Online Coaching today. I’ve got a ton of projects coming an awesome things for you coming up, so stay tuned and join the Bach Performance community for exclusive offers and updates.

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Have a tip to add? Drop the Comment Here, I’d love to see it!


photo credit: oscarandtara via photopin cc

Recovery and Adaptation: The Missing Piece to Most Training Programs

It’s been a week already and I’m feeling deprived of Football. I guess this isn’t a bad thing, as it’s freed up time for taking selfies in the mirror (just kidding…kinda), wedding planning, writing, and researching the latest knowledge bombs in the industry. One thing I’ve been focusing on is the importance of recovery and proper de-loading in the process of adaptation.
If you don’t emphasis recovery then you’ll significantly limit your ability to make training gains and jack-up your chance of injury.

Sounds pretty important for building strength, getting shredded, and developing athleticism doesn’t it. I dove headfirst into the process of recovery and adaptation in my latest post, this one for my pal Dean Somerset, an expert training North of the border in Canada…eh. It’s was a huge honor to put this together for Dean so I hope you take away something valuable. 

Yea, we’ve all been there. Two dudes in cut-off smedium t-shirts screaming while a third quivers under an overloaded barbell. “Awesome Bro!” is yelled across the gym  while confused onlookers shake their heads and chuckle. [Note from Dean: I prefer my shirt size as extra-medium, as smedium is slightly too tight for this guy. There’s a point I won’t cross.]

While improper form and the “broisms” are the brunt of jokes, they do have something right—effort.  Rather than gliding along on the recumbent bike, or trying to stand on a stability ball, they’re pushing their bodies beyond homeostasis. Stimulation is the first step to improving performance and building a strong, shredded, and athletic body.

The next phase is equally vital: recovery. Training creates a stressful response to the body that over-time, can to become too great to recover from. Without emphasizing recovery training adaptations can’t take place. Here’s how to maximize your gym efforts.

==> Continue Reading Here <==

P.S. Like this post? Hit that twitter button or Facebook like on the left side of your screen!

Creatine: What’s the Deal?

Hey guys, i’ve got some exciting stuff today. I reached out to one of my idols in the Fitness industry Tony Gentilcore a few weeks ago to write a guest post. I anxiously waited around my email, checking constantly and drinking vodka to pass the time– okay, not really vodka– until I got a response. Tony was a very down-to earth dude and was thankful to have my contributions.
I was pretty jacked, I might have even peed a little. Okay, joking again, that’s weird.

Anyways, I’d really appreciate it if you would head over to his site and check out the post and drop me a comment.

Ready? See you there.

Creatine: What’s the Deal?

Creatine. We’ve all heard about it, but what’s the deal? I get boat-loads of questions regarding the safety and effectiveness of creatine.

Does it make me look better naked? What are these crazy ethyl-ester pills and shiny Pre-workout jugs promising a Skin Searing Pump?

With all the products and information it’s no wonder there are questions.  I’m going to dig in and tell you what creatine is, how to use it, and what to expect.


Creatine Monohydate
Creatine Monohydrate

What is it?

Creatine is a natural amino acid most commonly found in red meat,but also produced in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. In the body creatine becomes a fuel source for short duration high-intensity activities such as weight training, sprinting and jumping where phosphocreatine is converted to ATP.

The amount of creatine consumed through the diet and produced naturally in the body are low; supplementation increases available levels.

Continue Here… Creatine: What’s the Deal?



Strong. Shredded. Athletic.




The Deload: The Path to Bigger, Faster, and Stronger

This morning, I messed up and forgot to feed my dog. So, being the nice guy I ran home to feed Rocky Balboa between clients. I flipped open my laptop  for a quick email to find my latest article is live on Breaking Muscle. 

This articles dives into the most forgotten part of the training continuum: Recovery. You see, without proper recovery gains in the gym aren’t maximized.

Poor recovery can stop fat-loss in it’s tracks, zap your strength, performance, and depress your immune system.  Since these are the major reasons most people train, recovery is a pretty big deal.

The most effective way to boost recovery is scheduling recovery workouts, often combined to form a deload week.

This is a week of lower intensity, lower frequency  training used to promote exercise recovery. I take all these variables head-on, providing you a solid game plan for success.

Ready to check it out?

<<Continue Reading >>

Deload bigger faster stronger

photo credit: sirwiseowl via photopin cc

Strong. Shredded. Athletic.


Busy Man’s Carb Cycling: The Uber Convenient Way to Shred Fat and Build Muscle.


Far and away, this is one of the most popular articles on Bach Performance.
If you’re looking to maximize fat loss, Carb Cycling is an important strategy.
And while you’re burning fat, here’s a Free workout to maximize fat loss and retain lean muscle. Thanks for being here.

Hook me up with the Free Fat Loss Program, Eric!


If you’re looking shred fat, build muscle, and improve your overall health, then carb cycling is your answer. Carb cycling is a fairly advanced nutritional strategy and can be extremely time-consuming. Building separate menus, calculating nutritional requirements and prepping all of your own food can be tedious work.

When time is one of your biggest barriers to healthy eating the best options aren’t always feasible.

 Fortunately, as easy as I’m about to make it, carb cycling will help you consistently eat healthy without having to measure and track your calories. Boom!

Picture This: It’s early fall and Saturday around noon. College football season has arrived. You’re at your local alumni sports bar with your buddies. Everyone’s ordering, microbrews, nachos, chicken wings, and fries..food galore, a gluttonous paradise.

*Note: I’m probably there with you.



*Note: I’m not condoning the food options above, but I’m a realist.

The waitress makes her way to you, what do you do?

The decision shouldn’t be whether you can crush a few nachos and beer with your friends, it should be “ did you earn your carbs?”

Depending on the day, carb cycling allows you the freedom to enjoy some of your delicious, higher carb, and sometimes less healthy options with less damage to your diet.

Carb cycling is a highly effective dietary strategy that maximizes your body’s ability to build pounds of muscle and burn slabs of fat simultaneously.

What is Carb Cycling?

Carb cycling is as easy as it sounds and is as simple as cycling carbohydrates on weight training days (high carb) and non-workout/cardio days (low carb).

High Carb: Due to the repeated muscle contractions of resistance training your body will have an increased insulin sensitivity. With this increased response to carbs your body will drive nutrients into your muscle cells, aiding them in repair, growing them, and providing you with more energy.

Low Carb: On the non-lifting days you keep carbohydrates low because there isn’t the same increase in insulin sensitivity. Without carbs flowing through the bloodstream the body is forced to burn stored fuel, or body fat. By minimizing carbs a few days per week the body becomes more receptive to insulin, so when you do indulge on the sugary goodness your anabolic response will be maximized.


To rehash, Lifting? Carb up and support your muscle-building workouts.

Intervals or taking the day off? Avoid carbs and maximize your fat burning.

Sample Workout Schedule and Carb Intake

Monday: Lower Body Focus /High Carb

Tuesday: Upper Body Focus/High Carb

Wednesday: Off Or Sprint Work

Thursday: Upper Body Focus/High Carb

Friday: Lower Body Focus/High Carb

Saturday: Upper Body Focus/High Carb

Sunday: Off Or Sprint Work

Low Carb Day

Breakfast: 4 egg scramble, 1/2 tomato, 1/4 avocado

Snack (Optional): Handful nuts and carrots

Lunch: Mediterranean salad w/cucumber, tomato, feta cheese, chicken, feta cheese w/balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Snack (optional): Supershake, omit fruit and grains

Dinner: Sirloin steak, broccoli, and small salad

High Carb Day

Breakfast: 3 egg scramble with spinach, 1/2 cup oatmeal with blueberries

Snack (Optional): Shake with 1 scoop vanilla protein, 1 cup berries, 1/2 cup cottage cheese

Lunch: Sandwich loaded with lean meat and veggies

Dinner: Sweet potato, barbecue rubbed chicken thighs and cauliflower

Snack (Optional): Shake with 1 scoop chocolate protein, 1 orange, 1 cup spinach, 1/2 cup cottage cheese


Common Issues and Questions

How Low is Low Carb?

On low carb days shoot for under 100 grams of carbs. A simple trick is to replace the grains/starches you eat with leafy, fibrous greens.

I’m not looking to build muscle, only lose fat. Is Carb Cycling still for me?

Yes! Carb cycling is great for a fat loss diet. When you’re consistently low on calories and carbohydrates you may see reductions in metabolic rate, thyroid hormones, sympathetic nervous system activity, energy levels, and sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen (Berardi and Andrews 368).

This leads to a plateau that stops your fat loss in it’s tracks, yikes!

When you cycle carbohydrates back into your diet you raise leptin levels, a powerful fat burning hormone that down-regulates when calories are low. Essentially, you trick your body into burning more fat.

Can I pig out on High Carb Days? You did use examples of fries, beer, and wings….

Although carb cycling does afford my flexibility in your food choices I wouldn’t advise crushing junk. As tasty as it is, the combination of high fat, high carb, high alcohol containing meals is a perfect recipe for gaining weight. Adipose weight. I wouldn’t recommend it.

I’m very sensitive to carbs. I look at bread and put on a spare tire, how can I carb cycle to add muscle, but not additional fat?

If you find your adding body fat ditch carbs until after your workout. By keeping carbs until you workout you will utilize stored fuel up until and during your workouts, increasing your fat burning. Then, carb up after the workout to take advantage of your insulin sensitivity.


That’s a Wrap

Carb cycling is the most effective way to maximize the benefits of carbohydrates in your diet.

It doesn’t need to be complicated, just focus on healthy food options and staying true to your carb cycling schedule to reap the rewards of proper nutrient timing.

Hittin’ the weights? Boom, carbs baby!
Hook me up with the Free Fat Loss Program, Eric!

Day off or intervals? Replace grains with greens, no problem.


Berardi, Jon, and Ryan Andrews. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Second. Precision Nutrition Inc., 2012. 368. Print.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/santos/162994388/”>chotda</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/83096974@N00/1091167314/”>In Praise of Sardines</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

Activity Specific Warm Ups

Today I had my first officially published article through ACE Fitness, one of the most well respected fitness organizations around. BOOOOOOOOOOOYAHHH! So first, thanks for reading and your support of my blog, as feedback I receive is vital to improving myself as a trainer and writer.

But Anyways, this is an article I put quite a bit of effort into researching, writing, editing, and developing as I see it as a very under-utilized and lack luster piece of most programs.

Activity specific warm ups are important!  They safely prepare the body for activity, rev up the nervous system, and get you mentally in-tune to destroy your next training session. Whether you’re an elite athlete or someone just starting a fitness routine having a planned warm up is vital to having your best quality workout and staying injury free. Without further ado check out the link below and please let me know what you think.

Thanks for your support!


Specific Forms of Muscular Strength in Athletes- Explosive Strength

Different physical activities require different physiological capabilities. When looking from a sports performance aspect, the body will react positively to any new stimulus in the initial stages.

However, for future advances in strength and performance, adaption becomes much more specialized to the unique physiological demands of the sport. Depending upon the sport and level of mastery the need for specific forms of muscular strength becomes more apparent as the level of competition increases.

For example, as a high school football player a defensive tackle (A) has a full back squat max of 450 lbs, very respectable regardless of size.

This back squat represents maximum strength, or the athletes’ ability to exert maximal isometric muscular force without a time limit. This same athlete does a phenomenal job and is invited to an All Star game with other skilled High School athletes. When lining up and going head to head with another player, the same athlete faces an opponent (B) with a 400 maximum squat, but is much quicker at the snap of the ball. Although athlete A may display a greater maximum strength, as the level of competition increases so does the need for explosive strength, the ability to produce maximal force in a minimal time as displayed by player B.

Explosive strength is the ability to produce maximal force in minimal time. It is very important for the development of power.

Power (P) =Force (F) x Velocity (V)

Well, okay, I don’t play Football, so why do I care about explosive strength and power?

Explosive strength and power are very important to athletes who need to develop force in a short amount of time. This includes activities such as sprinting, cutting, juking, hitting, throwing, swinging, kicking, evading, hoping, and diving. Even at the end of a race a marathon runner sprints to the finish line and can greatly benefit from power training.

Explosive/power training allows for better recruitment of type II fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are built for high force activities, muscular hypertrophy, and allow better recruitment and control of muscles. Explosive training that activates type II muscle fibers is very beneficial for aging populations and the battle against sarcopenia (muscle loss).

How Can I incorporate explosive strength training/power training into my workouts?

Ideally, power training should be performed either before a strength session or as its own session completely. The biggest thing I preach to my athletes and clients is to lift everything explosively because if you are not generating the most muscular force and speed on a movement, you are not training that quality to its full extent. Warming up with the 45lb bar on your bench press? Cool, still perform each rep as if it were a max-out attempt.

Great tools to incorporate into your training after a warm up would be medicine ball throws, body weight plyometrics (jump variations, plyo push ups), Olympic lifts (find a qualified coach such as yours truly), and/or dynamic effort training days (power/strength movements w/20-60% 1RM) with maximal speed.

Training explosive strength is vitally important for athletes, but all populations can benefit. Whether you are trying to dunk a basketball, play a professional sport, or prevent muscle loss with aging, explosive strength training/power training should play a vital role in your fitness regimen.


Verkhoshansky, Yuri, and Mel Siff. SuperTraining. 6. Rome: Verkhoshansky, 2009. 19,107. Print.

Functional Training: You’ve Been Duped.

You’ve all been duped.
 Heres’s why: A few weeks ago I spent some time in a typical “big box gym.”

Surrounded by people struggling through wobble boards and 10lb bosu biceps curls,  I nearly ran for cover to avoid being clubbed with a stray, flailing dumbbell.  This is not functional training. Rather it is  inefficient and potentially dangerous training.

Functional training is training for a specific cause, to improve a certain function for better performance. This could be a sprint mechanics session to improve a sport, a high-volume weight training routine to build muscle, or some high intensity intervals to shred fat.

Specifically, training should match the biomechanical (movement), energetic, and coordinative aspects of the sport or activity being trained for. Is there a sport that requires this?

gym fail 2

Functionality Is Goal Dependent

For a Powerlifter it’s completely functional to perform near-maximal lifts and good mornings to strengthen the lower back, but this same function doesn’t apply for someone rehabbing a lower back injury.

If your only goal is to look good naked then functionality will be focused on bringing up body parts that have the greatest visual impact on your physique. In this case, performing curls, triceps extensions, and various shoulder raises are completely functional because they bring you closer to your goal of bigger arms.

What Functional Training Is Not

You know those half balls, small pumped up disks, wobble boards, and stability balls? Ditch em’! Unless you are trying join cirque du soleil using these devices they are pointless and potentially dangerous. Looking to increase stability? You better be stable on one or two feet on solid ground, where sports are being played. The only thing unstable surfaces improve is your ability to use an unstable surface. That’s it.

In athletic populations it’s best to avoid these devices as reduce power output, a vital factor for sporting success. In this research study by Eric Cressey and colleagues at the University of Connecticut unstable training was shown to dilute performance gains in healthy, training, division 1 athletes.


How Unstable Surfaces Limit Athletes

When standing on an unstable surface energy being applied to support the body is being dispersed. This is known as a power leak and leads to decreased power output– a key attribute for nearly all sports. Unstable surfaces used in training are a limiting factor and limit power productive in training, to the detriment of sports performance.

As stated, functionality is goal related. If your goal is to be stronger use progressive overload and multi-joint movements. If your want to excel athletically maximize specific movement patterns for your sport and top it off with specific resistance training protocols.  If you want to be shredded use a combination of a great diet, anaerobic/aerobic training, and heavy resistance training to hold onto muscle in a caloric deficit.

Wrap Up

Define your goals and what you are looking to achieve in your training. Stick to evidence based protocols and if needed, contact a professional who has done it before . Blind-folded Bosu ball sandbag squats are recipe for sub-par gains, not high-performance.    Stick to tried and true methods for rapid results to build a strong, shredded, and athletic body.



Cressey, E.M., C.A. West, D.P. Tibiero, W.J. Kraemer, and C.M. Maresh. The Effect of Ten weeks of Lower-Body Unstable Surface training on Markers of athletic Performance. ” National Center for Biotechnology Information.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research ns 21.2 (2007) :561-567 PubMed.gov.Web 28. June 2012. <http://www.ncbj.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=$20Eric%20Cressey>.

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