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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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How To Hang Clean: A Progression for Total Body Power

The Internet is hilarious.

Endless troves of quality information on every topic available and people still find a way to be blatant liars and jerks, especially as it pertains to training websites. I’m thoroughly convinced that everyone on internet forums is a beast in the gym and on the playing field—and that lifting HYOGE weights is ALL that pertains to fitness and performance. Even more troubling are the “form and lingo” police and the assumption that Olympic lifts equal Crossfit.


How to Hang Clean, Crossfit With CrossFt booming the Olympic lifts are the fitness “flavor of the week,” leaving the internet lurkers waiting for articles pertaining to Olympic lifts, either claiming this is Crossfit or slamming the article for having pertinence to Crossfitters. Before my head explodes let’s get this clear: Olympic lifts Do Not Equal Crossfit. Crossfit does not equal Olympic Lifts.

Far from it, I use weight training as a tool to increase performance, not the end all measure of performance unless I’m working with competitive lifters. To optimally use any tool, safe and efficient form is vital. Case in point, the hang clean. For athletes it’s not imperative to master every single nuance of the exercise; rather, to maximize timing, coordination, and hip extension to get a carry-over for on-field performance, not a lifting total.

In my latest article for T-Nation I teach you step-by-step how to hang clean and avoid a plethora of issues like poor hip extension, starfish legs, excessive knee valgus, and a gross lack of coordination. Plus, you’ll discover some major benefits of knowing How To Hang Clean:

Hang Cleans Build Muscle

Knowing How to Hang clean is great tool to get absolutely jacked. They not only stimulate your forearms, traps, and glutes, but nearly 200 muscles in the body to provide a huge anabolic surge and training effect.

Hang Cleans Build Athleticism

The clean is the top-dog in resistance programs for improving performance as it requires triple extension of the hips, knees, and ankles in a coordinated, explosive pattern – a movement that simulates the triple extension in sprinting and jumping. If you know how to hang clean then you have a huge tool for improving performance.

Hang Cleans Get you Shredded

Knowing how to hang clean, and technically executing them gets you absolutely shredded. Hang cleans, especially when performed with a full front squat or low catch, are metabolically demanding. The explosive nature and muscle recruitment requirements will leave you floored when done with proper technique and short rest.

Furthermore, I discuss why you should hang clean over the full power clean for your goals. Basically, it’s the best article ever and it makes your training better in every imaginable way.

Continue Reading



photo credit: Amber Karnes via photopin cc

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

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

If not then here’s the cliff notes version:

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

14.Bruce Lee is the Man

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

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


15. Go Neutral 

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

16.Stop Being a jerk

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

17.Have Free Days

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

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

18. High Frequency Training 

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

 20.Everything has a risk/reward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

21.Countdown sets > High Rep Sets

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

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

Here’s how to break it up:

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

22.Stop Multi-tasking

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

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

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

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

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

the Solution:

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

Main Goal: I want to gain 10 pounds of muscle

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

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

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

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

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

23.Take Creatine

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

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

24.Practice what you preach and find a Mentor

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

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

25.Do Floor Presses

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

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

26.Travel More

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

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

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

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

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


Closing Thoughts:

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

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

In Strength,


Master the Floor Press

Happy take your girlfriend out to Dinner Day! Before you indulge in steak, seafood, bottomless Italian food, and wine (Boom-Pow!) I’ve got something for you– And it’s not a last minute savings on roses.

Nope, It’s much better.

It deals with the bench press and how to change the exercise to limit shoulder pain while maximizing gains in strength and size.

Master the Floor Press
Photo Credit: ttp://www.flickr.com/photos/ennuidesign/2715839620/

You see like most guys I’ve always gravitated towards the bench-press and full contact sports. Unfortunately, this is recipe for shoulder dysfunction and pain. But pain be damned, if I want to bench press, I’ll bench press whether it’s painful or not…right?
Not so fast.

I love the bench, but pushing up huge weights isn’t always practical or worth the risk or future injury. Instead, I’ve opted for a smarter option that still allows me to get my press on without pissing off my body– The Floor Press.

Yes, it’s as easy it sounds. The Floor press is performed while laying on the ground and is a great way to limit the range of motion that’s most impactful on the shoulder. In addition you take the lower body and any potential lower back pain out of the press by flattening the legs, still allowing you to build explosive strength in the triceps, chest, and shoulders.


Continue Reading  >>Master the Floor Press <<

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