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Part 2 Training Essentialism: 4 Tips to Improve Workout Consistency

In our last post we covered a few things. First, we covered the most important parts of your workout, the 80/20 if you will, that give you the most bang for your buck. Training for one goal while ensuring progressive overload in the major movements is key to long-term results. If you haven’t read part one What Every Workout Needs please do so now. 

Moving on– here’s how to workout consistency. Knowing what to do is great, but a plan is 100% useless unless you take actionable steps to get’er done.

The biggest problem affecting your training isn’t exercise selection, sets, reps, weights, or even your motivation. Those are all important, but the problem is more simple than that.

What do you think it is?

….

…..

……

Workout consistency. I don’t mean consistency in the sense that you’re unwilling to put in the time; rather, you gnaw off a bigger chunk than you can chew. Your determination exceeds what your capable of each day. You have a job, school, family obligations,  a million projects and people vying for you attention and time. If it were possible, you’d run on 28-hour days to fit everything in.

Sound familiar?

Training four or five times per week with strength work, mobility, and conditioning is great, but sometimes it’s impossible to do everything. Instead of the perfect plan you need a plan that’s focused on your goal while accounting for the constraints of your life. Small wins accumulate big over time. That’s why the best coaches start grand goals on a small scale–the best path is taking small, progressive victories to get big results.

It’s like a drive in Football, unless you’re the Raiders: Four yards, two yards, five yards, first down. Another first down and then it hits—big play touchdown! Progress is the most effective form of human motivation—to get success need to set yourself up for success with the right play calls.

how to improve workout consistency

Improving Workout Consistency

With the following tips you’ll have everything you need to focus on your goals plus the motivation and attention to reach them. Information is only as good as how you use it. Grab a pen, piece of paper, and customize your goals to the following tips. You’ll set yourself up for huge gains in the gym and eliminate the guilt of missing workouts.

1. Know what you’re capable of Doing Consistently 

If you have kids at home, a job that requires 60 hours per-week, and long work trips planned then a five-day per week body-part split over the next two months isn’t practical. Instead, budget the time that you’ll be able to get to the gym under any circumstance. Move to a total body routine and hit the major muscles in each workout for 2-3 workouts per week. Add in 20 minutes of sprints one day and a walk a few more places. The program isn’t 100% perfect for your goal, but a program performed with focus and intensity consistently will beat the perfect program performed sporadically every time.

Know what you’re cable of doing and execute.

2. Forget about Tomorrow

Being overwhelmed with responsibilities make it difficult to get your training in. Today’s workout becomes, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” There’s always tomorrow and another day. Problem is, the “tomorrow” mindset becomes next week, and suddenly, you haven’t hit the gym in six days. Focus on the now and win the day.

3. Schedule Training like an Appointment

Treat exercise like an obligation as you would a meeting at work and stick to it. The biggest, baddest dudes in your gym make exercise a priority no-matter what. Once you add workouts to your calendar and block time off they become part of your routine. When others come up look at your schedule—are the mandatory?
If not, turn it down or move it to another time.

Your workout is time for you. Sprint, lift heavy steel, throw different implements, and have fun. Building your body is much more powerful than your one-rep max, it’s about the focus, workout consistency, and effort you put forward towards the big picture.

4. Focus During Your Workout

The less frequent your training sessions the more important intensity becomes.
Drink extra coffee.
Boost up your pre-workout.
Blast some Lil Jon and get out of your mind.

I don’t care, do whatever it takes to go balls to the wall when you hit the gym. Going through the motions is for losers—get in and get after it.

 

Wrap Up

You’re busy and determined—that’s a good thing. Don’t let training fall by the wayside; rather, optimize your training with what you’re capable and willing to do.

Know what you’re cable of Doing Consistently.

Stop putting it Off Until Tomorrow.

Schedule it like an Appointment.

Get in and get after it.

With this information you have everything you need to build a leaner, stronger, and more athletic body. Quit majoring in the minors, it’s time to get to maximize your training on your terms.

Recommended Reading:

Training Essentialism: What Every Workout Needs 

 

 

Last Chance To Win some cold hard Cash While Building Muscle

Are you looking to improve workout consistency and Accelerate your Muscle Building?

Join my latest Fitocracy Group Minimalist Mass building.

This isn’t a program just for powerlifting, bodybuilding, or for athletes — it’s a combination of these disciplines to get you the best results in the shortest time possible.

You’ll lift heavy, occasionally chase the pump, and move like an athlete.

Workouts will be brief, intense, and goal oriented, and will pack on the kind of muscle that looks and performs like a muscular athlete.

Join NOW before the group closes for good: on October 27th

photo credit: Runar Eilertsen via photopin cc

photo credit: linda sellers via photopin cc

Discover the Fat Loss Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Fat Loss Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Over the past week, I’ve received a number of inquiries regarding intermittent fasting. It was due to my recent blog “My Training Principals” that got a few people interested. Read that here.

I figured it was appropriate to delve more into the world of intermittent fasting and enlighten you guys on what it all entails. I wanted to go a bit deeper on this one…

 

Intermittent Fasting isn’t a diet. You aren’t counting points. You don’t cut food groups from your diet and you don’t need to reference any era (i.e. Paleolithic, or the mythical era during the reign of Morador and Gondor). In the most  simple explanation all you’re doing is eating during a specific time frame throughout the day/week and choosing not to eat during the remaining time.

There are a couple of ways to do this.

The first would be considered the Lean Gains approach (16 hour fast, 8 hour feast) which was pioneered by Martin Berkhan. Simply put, all you do is eat during a specific time period of the day . For example you start eating at noon and finish eating at 8.  That is an 8 hour feastingwindow. The remainder would be a 16 hour fasting window.

Just so we are on the same page you technically already do this, just in reverse. Here’s an example

  • 6:00 am: You wake up
  • EAT ALL DAY
  • 10:00 pm: You go to bed

You were in a feasting window for 16 hours. You fasted (slept) for 8.

(It’s also acceptable to have a 6 hour or even a 4 hour feasting window.)

The second would be the Eat Stop Eat approach by Brad Pilon. He simply suggests that you take 1-2 24 hour periods off from eating throughout the week.

The 24 hour period doesn’t mean you will miss a whole day of eating. If you finish eating at 7 pm on Monday you can eat again on 7 pm Tuesday. This method will give you the benefits of fasting without the need to stop eating for an entire day.

Brad provides you with in-depth research about metabolism and overall general health in his book. I highly recommend you read it.

 

How does Intermittent Fasting Work?

Think of it this way. When you eat food your body spends the next couple of hours processing that food. Due to the fact that it’s immediately available in your blood stream (sugar) your body uses that as energy rather than your fat stores.

If you’re fasting your body doesn’t have any “food” or energy to use so it pulls it from your fat stores rather from the glucose in your blood stream or the glycogen from your muscles and liver.

Here’s a great write up from Steve over at NERD Fitness 

Why does this work?  Our bodies react to energy consumption (eating food) with insulin production.  Essentially, the more sensitive your body is to insulin, the more likely you’ll be to use the food you consume efficiently, which can help lead to weight loss and muscle creation.

Along with that, your body is most sensitive to insulin following a period of fasting

Your glycogen (a starch stored in your muscles and liver that your body can burn as fuel when necessary) is depleted during sleep (fasting), and will be depleted even further during training, which can further increase insulin sensitivity. This means that a meal immediately following your workout will be stored most efficiently: mostly as glycogen for muscle stores, burned as energy immediately to help with the recovery process, with minimal amounts stored as fat. 

Compare this to a regular day (no intermittent fasting).  With insulin sensitivity at normal levels, the carbs and foods consumed will see full glycogen stores, enough glucose in the blood stream, and thus be more likely to get stored as fat.

Not only that, but growth hormone is increased during fasted states (both during sleep and after a period of fasting).  Combine this increased growth hormone secretion, the decrease in insulin production (and thus increase in insulin sensitivity), and you’re essentially priming your body for muscle growth and fat loss with intermittent fasting.

This in a nutshell is why you would IF.

 

Why were we told to eat 5-6 meals a day?

You, your parents, me, Tim Tebow, and even the guys from The Hangover were all told that you must eat 5-6 meals a day or eat every 2-3 hours.

Here are some of the main reasons why we were taught this:

  1. It will keep the body’s metabolism up, thus increasing thermogenesis (fat burning), resulting in weight loss.
  2. Eating 6 small healthy meals a day you will decrease your appetite and hunger. This may help some dieters control hunger and calorie intake.
  3. It helps balance your blood sugar.

Sooo, these all seem to be pretty valid points. Right?

Not so fast my friend

lee-corso1

Let’s Tackle These One by One

#1. Supposedly eating 5-6 meals a day will rev up your body’s metabolism thus creating a fat burning furnace allowing you to lose weight.

Sounds good in theory and I believed this for a very long time. As more time has gone by and more studies have been done it just doesn’t have much validity.

Here’s one study that states that it’s not true and here’s another study that shows no evidence that eating 6 meals a day increases metabolism, thermogenesis or weight loss.

This last study further proves the point.

Simply put, if eating 6 meals a day were to put you in a fat burning zone it would be so minuscule that it really wouldn’t make a difference.

#2.  Eating 6 small meals a day will decrease your appetite and hunger.

Once again it sounds great. From my understanding: If you frequently eat you’ll be fuller throughout the day so the next time you eat you won’t eat as much because you just ate and now you feel full? Is that right?

Here’s a study that shows no hunger suppressing affect.

Hopefully more research is done in regards to hunger and appetite as it’s pretty scarce.

#3. We have been told that it can help balance your blood sugar levels. Now this, my friend, would probably be the biggest, most important one of them all.

The theory is your blood sugar levels spike so eating quality foods frequently will keep them level throughout the day. This in turn would help keep you lean and functioning properly.

Here’s a study discussing your blood glucose during a run after a fed state and a fasted state. And another interesting study showing that blood sugar is maintained during a 48 hour fast.

This study shows that it takes roughly 84 hours of fasting before our glucose levels are adversely affected.

Disclaimer: This doesn’t mean people can’t be lean, look good and feel healthy if they eat 6 meals a day. It’s just stating what you’ve been taught or told might not really be true or there are easier ways in which you don’t have to obsess over packing your meals or spending every 2-3 hours eating.

Why Intermittent Fast?

Well, here are a couple of reasons why you should take a look a this approach

1. It’s easy. You don’t have to worry so much about always eating. You can still pack food and prepare like you normally would but you won’t have to stress about eating every 2-3 hours.

2. There is a high probability that you will lose weight and body fat. These approaches have provided phenomenal results for thousands of people looking to get rid of body fat.

3. All of these reasons from my previous blog and read this:

  • It increases growth hormone production. Studies have shown it raises growth hormone levels in both men and women.
  • It normalizes your insulin and leptin sensitivity. Insulin and Leptin are hormones that play a crucial role in energy production and fat storage. If both of these are normalized it can regulate your blood sugar levels, which can prevent type two diabetes and potential weight gain.
  • It reduces inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Inflammation is your body’s natural response to threats from germs, harmful toxins, environmental pollutants, injury, stress, and other things.
  • It helps with appetite control. Ghrelin is an enzyme produced by stomach lining cells that stimulates your appetite. By fasting ghrelin becomes more stable helping you keep your hunger in check.
  • It can possibly improve gut bacteria. A healthy gut is one of the most important things you can do to improve your immune system so you won’t get sick, or get coughs, colds and flus. You will sleep better, have more energy, have increased mental clarity and concentrate better. A healthy gut can also help you get lean.

Intermittent Fasting Guidelines

  • Do the best you can to avoid calories during a fast. Drink coffee, green tea or water and avoid calorie filled drinks i.e. gatorade, soda, juice during the fasting period
  • BCAA’s can be beneficial during your fasting periods to help with muscle growth and repair.
  • Try and keep your feeding period consistent. If you eat from 12-8 do your best to keep that regular.
  • Be active, don’t sit and think about food. You shouldn’t do this anyways but while fasted keep busy.
  • Cycle your macronutrients. For example, some days you might go higher carbs other days you might go lower carbs. Base it off of your activity during that particular day (more activity more carbs)
  • Don’t binge. When your feasting window is open this doesn’t give you the green light to shove anything and everything down your throat. Eat quality food and eat until you are full.

Where to Start?

This is the million dollar question.

Figure out which works best for you. Some people like the Lean Gain approach because it fit’s there overall lifestyle while others love the simplicity of Eat Stop Eat. Either way figure out a feasting window that will give you an opportunity to eat a few meals. Once you have the schedule set start by making small changes.

Slowly work your feasting window down to an eight hour window and see how your body feels. Everyone is different as some people have a difficult time initially. Others, jump right into it without much of a problem.

Remember this is a lifestyle and something that you can do the rest of your life. You still need to eat clean, exercise often and most importantly get plenty of sleep. If you don’t do these three things then intermittent fasting won’t be effective.

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

About the Author:

Dave Dreas is a certified personal trainer in Phoenix, AZ. He is the creator of ModestlyRefined.com and co-owner of Arizona Training Lab. As a former All American College basketball player, he spent years in the strength and conditioning world working with collegiate and professional strength coaches. He is currently a MuscleTech Sponsored Athlete and Reebok Ambassador. For more information he can be found at modestlyrefined.com.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE

People who have issues with blood sugar regulation, suffer from hypoglycemia, or have diabetes should speak to a doctor before Intermittent Fasting. Other categories of people that should avoid Intermittent Fasting include those living with chronic stress and those with cortisol dysregulation. If you fit into these categories I highly recommend you check with your doctor or dietitian before adjusting your eating schedule.

Have done IF? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Drop by Facebook and tell us about it!

Part 1: Training Essentialism: What Every Workout Needs

Doing less but better is what every workout needs for more efficient training and faster gains. As a trainer, I have the privilege to meet and get to know many successful clients.

Most of them hold high status jobs, make great money, and live the “American dream.” Unfortunately, most are consumed and overwhelmed by all pressures around them. They’re eager for success in all walks of life, willing to take on more and more opportunities. Every opportunity is a “yes” and performed with enthusiasm. Determination and passion are enviable traits, but always saying “yes” leaves you focusing on the trivial many, rather than the vital few.

Plain and simple, saying “yes” is akin to reading every fitness blog and magazine around and getting information overload. Having too much information clouds our vision of what important.  Applying every training style to your workouts over-complicates training and leaves you confused on how to train.Tweet: You can anything, but not everything. You must selective.

In this first of three posts I’m going to dive into what your exercise program needs. By eliminating the trivial bull-shit in your workout we’ll maximize your training. Every decision is either a hell yes, or an absolute no.

Defining Training Essentialism:

Before deciding what is essential to your training you must be clear on your goal. Focus on one thing at a time to accomplish your goal.  I want to “lose 10 lbs and add 50 pounds to my deadlift,” doesn’t work, you need just one. Look for the minimum effective dose, the 20% in your 80/20, or the few variables that lead to the most success.

Drop the bicep curls, get good at pull-ups.

Drop the hamstring curls and do deadlifts.

Train the body with total body workouts three times per week instead of missing 1-2 workouts per week with a 5-day body part split.

Understand the Fear of Missing Out

Flashback ten years ago I read every fitness magazine, book, and blog I could get my scrawny little fingers on. I ate every tip up—every tip, suggestion, and exercise was something I had to add immediately to my workouts. I gained a ton of knowledge, but not results. A common misconception is that if you can fit something in, you need to. Busyness is rewarded as more valuable over productivity or less. This concept is known as the fear of missing out and is relevant across all areas of life.

“To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”- Lao Tzu

It wasn’t until I simplified training that I started seeing great results. Pointing your focus in one direction at a time yields superior results to focusing on 10 factors.

training essentialism, what every workout needs
Photocredit: picture: http://glennstovall.com/blog/2014/06/02/learning-to-say-no/

Focus on One Goal:

What is your through and true number one goal? This should be clear. In the examples below I have included the most common goals and vital components to reaching them.

Building Muscle: Progressive overload in big, multi-joint movements. Train with enough volume to build muscle and eat enough calories to support muscle growth.

Unleashing the Inner Athlete: Incorporating movement skills like acceleration, top-end speed, and agility mechanics. Build strength and power to express strength on the field. Relative strength is key.

Building Strength: Progressive overload in the major movement patterns. Minimize weak points in training to prevent injury and improve strength.

Lose Fat and Look Great Naked: Be in a caloric deficit to lose fat while training to maintain strength to preserve muscle mass.

What all Training programs need:

Every good training program has essential qualities that improve training, regardless of goal. Occlusion training, slide boards, tempo training and the hottest eastern European squat program are all great, but the human body hasn’t changed significantly over the last hundred years. The exercises, methods, and progressions that worked best years ago still work best today. Your training doesn’t need complicated methods, your training needs to create a stress above baseline for physiological adaptation. Focus on the quality ver quality in your workouts. Save for specific injury considerations all training routines should have the following:

 Progressive overload:

You must overload the systems current level of fitness to receive a training effect. Serious work must done. You should sweat, strain, and let out the occasional uncontrolled grunt.  Tweet: “ no strain, no gain.” Volume, intensity, increased range of motion, and shorter rest periods are all potential variables.

Improve your health and wellbeing:

If you’re getting hurt physically or mentally hurt from your training you’re training wrong. You need a baseline of conditioning and exercises that are pain free. Discomfort and strain is necessary with pain and injury kept minimal.

Workout Movement Patterns:

Compound basic movement patterns always have and always will be the driver of success in your workout program. The body moves as an integrated unit in sport and life; you’re training should reflect that.Instead of curls, leg extensions, and biceps curls do deadlifts, presses, sprints, and pulls.

The basic movements are the squat, carry, hinge, lunge, sprint, push, and pull. These movements require the body to stabilize, transfer, and product force acrossed many joints like movements in life. I include core work and conditioning work is essential in every routine. You have no reason to be out of shape or set yourself up for injury due to pathetic cores strength.

These are my favorite exercises from each movement pattern:

Squat: Front squat

Hinge: deadlift/ any Olympic lift

Lunge: Bulgarian split squat

Carry: Single arm farmers walk

Press: (vertical) push press

(horizontal) Floor Press

Pull: (vertical) narrow grip chin-up

(horizontal) Dumbbell one-arm row

Core: paloff press

Conditioning: hill sprints

In all actuality you don’t need more than 2-5 exercises to get a great workout. Cover your bases with the basic movement patterns, improve with progressive overload, and reap huge rewards.

Workout Quality Over Quantity:

A stunning what happens when technique takes precedent over weights. Injuries fade, performance increases, and confidence sky-rockets.

Overload is still important and necessary for gains, but piling weights and volume on a faulty base of movement sets you up for injury.

Stay tight on your deadlift rather than losing lumbar position and snapping in half. Learn how to land on a jump without knee valgus (diving in) before performing dumbbell jump squats. Learn how to sprint efficiently before blowing a hamstring.

“It is quality rather than quantity that matters.” – Seneca

Workouts must fit your schedule:

A workout program that doesn’t fit your schedule is a program that won’t be done consistently. This, above all other factors is necessary to see results. Check out this post on a friend of mine who made a huge transformation. If you’re slammed with work this month and your schedule doesn’t allow for five workouts get one that has three workouts. Hitting workouts 75% of workouts while missing 25% is a huge problem. All well-designed workouts play off of one another– missing a piece throws off the balance of the program.

Be Enjoyable Most of the time:

You have enough obligations in life. Working out with a routine you hate isn’t one of them. Take time to enjoy yourself while you’re getting better. Save for the occasion set of high rep squats, training should be fun. If weights aren’t your thing that’s fine—incorporate bodyweight movements, get out and go hiking, and enjoy yourself. Being in shape isn’t about your one-rep max, it’s about being able to do what you enjoy and maintaining good health.

Wrap Up:

Do less, but do it better.

This isn’t a quick tip or strategy; rather, a mind-set to apply to all facets of life. In the gym you don’t need to “isolate” every muscle group and choose one-body part for every day of the week. You don’t need a thousand different tempos, a complex eastern European squat program, and forty exercises to make progress.Worry about every minute detail approach leads to over-analyzing, and sub-par results.

Simplify.

You need progressive overload on a few exercises.

You need to train consistently.

You need to train with focus and intensity.

The rest is fine and wonderful, but when all else fails, simplify.

 

Recommended Reading:

http://jasonferruggia.com/really-essential/

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Photo credit:

McKeown, Greg. “The Essentialist.” Essentialism. New York: Crown Business, 2014. 6. Print.

 

 

Jump Squats to Bust Your Squat Plateau

Before we get to the meat of today’s post I have a few housekeeping items to cover:

1.  I have three elite online training spots remaining through my online training platform with Trainerize.

The platform itself will never go away,  and will always be available to start whenever you’d like, but this will be the only time you’ll be able to purchase month #1 at a discount.

All you have to do is fill out the coaching form here, work with me to execute a kick-ass plan, and damn, you’ll be lookin’ good! The app lets you bring your online training with you to the gym with full videos, descriptions, and tracking software through your smartphone app. The app is free and allows us to communicate, make changes, and alter your training as needed to keep your high performance gains coming. Pretty snazzy stuff. 

2. In a few weeks I’m rolling out a brand new group training program on Fitocracy. What is it?
Minimalist Muscle Building. I designed this program for one thing in mind: Big results with minimal equipment, and minimal time. Workouts don’t need to be complicated marathon sessions, they just need to be effective. Here, we maximize program efficiency to get you results in the most efficient means possible. Plus, it’s free join Fitocracy and an economical way to get great coaching with me in a small group setting.

Check out the group here and join today, you won’t be disappointed. Here

Now, if some douche-canoe at your gym gripes about you having your phone out in the gym under the impression you’re taking selfies you can say back “Back off!” I’m Getting Swole with Bach Performance!”

Jump Squats to Bust Your Squat Plateau

Having great squat technique and lifting respectable weight has tons of benefits: tons of trunk and core stability, improved, athleticism, lean muscle, and overall enhanced sexification.

The thing is: Plateaus occur and they’re very hard to conquer.

The biggest mistake I see people make is only focus on maximum strength rather than explosiveness. Yea, it’s great to be strong, but it’s epic to display strength fast in the form of power. When you have both you open up a whole pandoras box of awesome athleticism.

The kicker?
You need to know how to improve explosiveness in a way that enhances your squat numbers and athleticism without excessive risk to your body. Luckily, I have you covered. There’s a whole host of benefits and considerations you will see. In my recent guest post on Blood and Iron I discuss jump squat variations, show some videos of my jumping skills,  and which types of jumps you need to  incorporate to jump past your squat plateau. Plus, there’s a pretty sweet workout to safely and incorporate jump squats into your program.

Continue Reading…….

 

Exercise while Traveling:What You Must Know

Oh shit.

After a two-hour boat ride into the Pacific Ocean it hit—diarrhea.

There was instant sweat and gurgling in my gut. Problem is, I swam with a strong current to a Hidden Beach off the Mexican Coast. I was on my honeymoon seeing the Marietas Islands, “the one place” I needed to see in Puerto Vallarta.

Oh well. I Michael Phelps’ed my ass back to the boat before I could drop a surprise for un-suspecting snorkelers. I made it and sprinted to the nearest bathroom.

The woman’s bathroom.

I didn’t care—my heart rate redlined, my ass clenched, and I made it.

exercise while traveling
I took this Minutes before Destruction came rumblin’

For two weeks I didn’t touch a barbell, didn’t lift a weight over 50lbs and didn’t track a workout. Normally, I track every workout detail ad-naseum, but I went on vacation with no plan. As it ended up, swimming so I didn’t dump my pants was the hardest exercise over two weeks of vacation.

I’m dedicated in the gym- exercise is in the fabric of my being, but we all need a break from the mental and physical challenges of work and training. Vacation should be vacation for your mind and body. That doesn’t mean vacation is a free for all license to gluttony, it should be balanced. Here are the strategies Lauren and I use to minimize the damage while enjoying our vacation.

Top 5 Fit Travel Tips

  1. Make Health(ier) food choices at the resort.
  2. Emphasize leans cuts of meat, fish, fresh vegetables, and minimally processed meals.
  3. Hit some unstructured gym sessions (more on this later) to loosen up and jump-start the day. Travel workouts are never more than 25 minutes.
  4. Walk everywhere and engage in some recreational activities that don’t involve the pool bar. Go kayaking, swimming, hiking, paddle boarding, or jet skiing.
  5. Bring Healthy choices to airports like nuts, healthy protein bars, dried fruit and the like.

That’s it. Most of the trip we explored beaches, devoured strange food, and relaxed poolside.  I didn’t “sneak” 80-pound kettlebells past airport security, bring a heap of supplements, or bitch when I couldn’t deadlift hyoge weights brahh.
Vacation is the time to remove yourself form the 9-5, your obnoxious cell phone, and experience your life. Leaving the work mindset is essential for mental and physical health. Moreover, if you engage is physically demanding jobs or training you’ll reap huge rewards by taking a break from the gym to emphasize recovery.

exercise while traveling
mmm Octopus

The Importance of Exercise Recovery 

You neglect recovery in your fitness routine. You’re not alone, it’s nearly universal.  To improve your “fitness” or performance capabilities the process of general adaptations must take place. The cliff notes version is thinking of exercise like scraping your knee. You scrape your knee, the inflammatory process takes place, and you get a scrape. If you have a scrape and you pick it (gross) does it heal? Or continue to bleed, scab over again, scar, and take forever to heal? To recover you must allow your body to heal.

According to Practical Programming for Strength Training by Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore, here are the stages of GAS and their relation to training:

Stage 1: Alarm or shock. Alarm or shock is the immediate response to stress and can include feeling flat, soreness, and stiffness. A slight reduction in performance occurs at this phase. The more advanced the athlete, the greater the stress needed to induce the shock phase.

Stage 2: Adaptation or resistance. Adaptation occurs as the body responds to the training and attempts to equip itself with the tools to survive exposures to stress. In training this can include hormonal adaptations, nervous system adaptations, and tissue building. Adaptation is unique to each individual and varies due to training age and work tolerance in proximity to the genetic ceiling. A gym newbie may recover from this within 24 hours – while an advanced trainee may need months to disrupt homeostasis and adapt to higher training levels.

Stage 3: Exhaustion. This occurs when the stimulus is too great for the body to adapt. This is most applicable to moderate-to-advanced athletes, and signals that excessive high magnitude, frequency, and duration exercise should be avoided.

You’ll survive if you miss a dynamic effort bench day and five other workouts. Neither workout, nor week of workouts makes or breaks your physique. In the greater spectrum of a lifting career one week off from training is a tiny amount of time. Relax and recover, your body needs it. Period time away restores hormone levels to baseline, and leaves you like a hungry pride of lions in the Serengeti. Once you return to the gym you’ll be firing on all cylinders to maximize workouts.

Simple Travel Workouts

While I don’t seek out top-notch gyms when I travel I do look for serviceable facilities. Most hotels and resorts are increasingly health conscious and provide cardio equipment, open space, plus a few janky dumbbells to accommodate exercise while traveling.

Here’s what my hotel offered: dumbbells, pink foo-foo 3lbs-50lb hex dumbbells, pull-up/dip station, a “cybex” circuit of machines, and cardio equipment. Nothing-special right?

Here are my workouts (to the best of my memory) from two weeks of travel. These were set-up in circuit fashion for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps per exercise.

Workout 1

  • Dips
  • Goblet squats
  • L-Sits
  • Spiderman push-ups
  • Step back lunges w/overhead press

Workout 2

  • push-ups
  • single leg hip thrust
  • pull-ups (varying grips)
  • front planks
  • bodyweight lateral squats

Workout 3

  • L-pull-ups
  • side planks
  • db clean and press
  • dumbbell split row
  • biceps curl

Exercise while traveling is best kept simple. There’s no need to complicate workouts, especially on vacation. Your body is the machinery behind the workout whereas equipment is only a tool. Master the machine and the tool becomes more effective.

To maximize workouts while traveling emphasize basic movement patterns like pushes, pulls, lunges, squats, planks, and sprints. These movements performed without equipment and easily intensified with minor tweaking.

How to Make Any Exercise Harder:

  1. Make Exercises unilateral: Greater balance, proprioception, stability, and strength requirements  Try this: Switch from a bodyweight squat to a pistol squat or an overhead press to a single arm press.
  2. Change Exercise Loading: Dumbbells only up too 50? Don’t sweat it muscles. Move resistance away from your center of gravity. Try this: Top- Dumbbell Lunges. Instead of holding dumbbells at your side for lunges “rack” them on top of your shoulders to challenge your body.
  3. Use Time under tension methods: Instead of counting reps work against the clock. Timed sets are a powerful method to focus on the execution of each rep rather than aiming to finish the set. Besides, keeping muscles working for 30-45 seconds elicits tons of tension and metabolic stress on the muscles—perfect for muscle growth. Try This: Stuck with only a dumbbell for squats? Hold a dumbbell in the goblet position and perform reps for time rather than a set number of reps.
  4. Metabolic circuits: Metabolic circuits are my favorite intensity booster while traveling. They get me out of my typical strength/power zone and blast me with short rest-periods on simple exercises. These are great when you’re short on time and looking to maximize your workout. Try This: Pick a push, pull, lower body exercise, and core exercise.Let’s say push-up, pull-up, goblet squat, and plank. Perform 4 sets of 10 for each exercise and 30-60 seconds for your plank. Keep rest minimal between exercises. P.S. These are a shitty choice with technical lifts like cleans. 
  5. Combo exercises: Combine exercises to increase efficiency and increase difficulty. Obviously a box jump and push press wouldn’t be good, so use your head. Try This: Instead of a lunge and overhead press performed independently combine them into a step back lunge with a press. You’ll be floored by the coordination these exercises require.
  6. Narrow base of support: A narrow base of support requires greater balance and control for a wide range of exercises. Unilateral exercises are the first that come to mind, but even modifying typical bilateral exercises presents a challenge. Try this: Instead of keeping your feet apart during push-ups and planks bring your feet closer until they’re touching. This decrease base of support creates an extra challenge.
  7. Increase body angle: Increasing your body angle will increase the load supported by your body. Try this: Instead of 10 easy push-ups on the ground elevate your feet on a bench or nearby chair. Too tough? No problem, flip your hands and elevate them on the chair for a regressed push-up.

Exercise While Traveling

It’s Okay to take it easy.

exercise while traveling
Uh oh. There’s no protein powder in those.

There’s no need to devise and a complex plan for exercise while traveling. Master basic movement skills, increase the difficulty as required, and enjoy yourself. You’re on vacation for a reason—drink a beer, enjoy the sunset, and relax. You’ll be back and better than ever in no time.

 

Rippetoe, Mark, and Lon Kilgore. Practical Programming for Strength Training. Wichita Falls TX : The Aasgaard Company; 2nd edition , 2009. 

Complex Pair Training: PAP Explained

I’m officially half of a Complex Pair– married, tan, and still awful at Spanish…which didn’t work out well with the taxi drivers in Mexico. All in all I was in Mexico and Minneapolis for the better part of two weeks getting married and honeymooning. Everything was great as I used the time to enjoy time with my wife, refresh my mind, and rest my body with cheese-cake, push-ups, and cervezas.

Note: (As a result, I felt like a ball of fail and was kindly greeted by double leg cramps during squats today.)

complex pair, pap, Complex Pair training

Fitness is an industry…

filled with trends and troughs. Some fancy-pants method pops into the limelight and becomes THE magical way to rapid results and then magically disappears overnight. Only the time-tried and best methods last long-term.

Case in point, Complex pair training.

Also known as Post Activation Potentiation (P.A.P.), complex pair training is an advanced method that utilizes a light, explosive movement (i.e. speed: Jumping) paired with a heavy movement ( heavy squat, >80% 1-RM) to increase nervous system activation, strength, and total power.

Sounds pretty badass, right? It is, but it’s also very advanced; requiring planning and some beastmode skills to maximize it.

post-activation potentiation, PAP, complex pairs, Complex Pair training
Still some power in those hops!

Today I’m sharing my own spectacular iteration on complex pair training on Elitefts. For advanced athletes complex training provides a great recipe to shatter plateaus in athletic, strength, and muscular development. Plus, there’s a bomb-diggity complex pair workout program included.

Complex Pair Training: What you need to know:

  1. Post-Activation Potentiation is the driving force behind the benefits of complex pair training.
  2. Complex-pair training can improve power and rate of force development (RFD).
  3. Complex training works best in trained, advanced level athletes. Unless you can move a decent amount of weight, this isn’t for you. If this is you, then stop watching Miley Cyrus twerkin’ it, go pick up heavy stuff, and raid the fridge.
  4. Adding five pounds to the bar each workout might work when you’re a rookie, but not once you’ve advanced as a trainee.

Long-term gains aren’t achieved solely by linear workouts. Soon, your linear periodization and small to medium T-shirts no longer get the job done.

You’ve hit the dreaded plateau…

Luckily, there are numerous strategies to bust through your current levels of strength, power, and muscular development. The time has come to add strategically designed training to stimulate new gains.

Enter complex-pair training—an advanced training strategy to add spring to your static training, produce new slabs of muscle, and develop a powerful physique.

This advanced strategy combines a high-intensity strength training exercise followed by an explosive exercise that mimics the biomechanics of the strength training exercise, such as a deadlift and a broad jump. The driving force behind complex training is a phenomenon known as post-activation potentiation.

 

What Is Post-Activation Potentiation? Click me and Find out 🙂

How To Front Squat To Build Muscle And Look Great Naked

Before diving into the front squat thank you for being here. This is one of our the most popular articles of all time. It’s a thick read, but we’ve taken the liberty to provide a full front squat guide and a bonus Chiseled Muscle Cheatsheet Grab them both here. Thanks and enjoy the article. 

-Eric


 

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. Word on the street is a big back squat is what helps James Bond stay at it after all these years. The Bond rumor may or may not be true but the fact is this: The back squat is arguably the best lift you can do to get stronger, more athletic, and look better naked. 

Or is it?

The way I see it, the front squat is the best lift you’re not doing and a better choice than the back squat for most people. By the end of the article, you’ll be able to judge for yourself. Either way, one thing is clear: the squat movement pattern is required if you want to be strong, athletic, and look great naked without living in the gym.

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🔥Back Squats Vs Front Squats by@bachperformance🔥 – Which is better for you, the back squat or front squat? For most people, I’d say the front squat. Before you you crucify me and quote your favorite training manual, consider the following exceptions: – 1. If you’re a competitive or aspiring powerlifter, by all means, go back squat. It’s your direct competition. Ignoring your main lift would be like telling Aaron Rodgers to stop throwing a Football. – 2. If you can back squat without pain, butt-wink, or turn it into a good-morning, then by all means back squat. I find the number of people in this category few and far between. – 🔥Why You Should Front Squat Instead of Back Squat🔥 – 👉Improved Posture: You spend the majority of your day as an internally rotated ball of flesh, caffeine, and flexion. The same movement pattern you’re stuck in all day is exacerbated with the heavy compressive load and trunk flexions of a back squat. Compression and shear stress are a common recipe for disk injury. – 👉Less stress on your spine: Because front squats are anteriorly loaded, your spine stays more vertical. This reduces shear stress on your spine and improves anterior core engagement to reduce flexion-based injuries to your low back. – Translation:You’ll build a greater core strength, improve your posture, and still crush your legs. In the interest of maximum gains with minimal risk, the front squat is an all-around better exercise than the back squat for the majority of people. – Back squats are great, but most people suck at them and don’t have the time, knowledge, or patience to fix the underlying mobility and stability restrictions necessary to do them safely and effectively. For my athletes and busy execs, I opt for front squats, there’s less risk and a greater reward to keeping them healthy, athletic, and jacked. – 👉I understand the front squat is a tough exercise to learn on your own, so I put together a guide to teach you everything I know about the front squat. I’ll show you a step-by-step progression to learning the front squat. – 🔥Want a copy? 🔥 – All you need to do is comment “Give it to me” in the comments AND send me a DM and I’ll get it over to you. -Eric

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The Front Squat is the Real King for complete strength

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 of half-naked selfies on 💁‍♂️Instagram. 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. Wasting time with ineffective training is the poison. Doing less, but better, with some squats mixed in is the antidote.

Why you need to front squat

  • 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]. This means potentially better booty gains. 
  • Improve core strength: Anterior bar placement keeps the torso vertical, preventing the hips from going into an excessive anterior pelvic tilt, and requiring greater oblique and rectus abdominus involvement to prevent flexion. A stronger anterior core can prevent flexion based injuries to keep you training longer and harder. 
  • 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 lumbar 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. This means potentially more gains with less pain. This guide will help with knee pain as well ;). 
  • 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. In the interest of getting laid, appearing confident, or improving performance Smeagol posture is bad news. 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 make 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.

[P.S. Don’t forget your free progression cheatsheet and front squat specialization workout. Get them here.]

 

The Biomechanics of the front squat: A How-To Guide

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.

This keeps the lower back tight by default—lumbar flexion and learning forward “dump” the bar before excessive flexion takes place. This built-in safety 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 arguably every muscle plays a role in the front squat. But, due to the brevity of our attention span, we’ll leave it at these: the quadriceps, gluteus maximus, adductor magnus, soleus, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, erector spinanae, 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: Master the fundamentals

Watching Youtube videos isn’t enough to learn how to Front Squat –you actually need to master the component pieces and get under the bar. 

Grip: There are multiple ways to grip the front squat, but the “clean” grip is the best option. The clean grip involves wrapping your fingers around the bar and keeping the elbows up and in. This trains the catch position of the clean and provides maximum control barbell.

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 how below. 

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 allows your elbows to drop, the bar to crash, and you peeling your tattered carcass off the floor.

Elbows Up and In 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 to prevent injury and improve strength

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.

 

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📌FRONT SQUAT By @Bachperformance📌 – 👉Want bigger quads, stronger abs, and better posture? Does Bill Belichick win football games? The answer to both is obviously yes. -
The front squat is one of the best exercises you can do. -
This video is an example of building strength, not testing it and crumbling in an injured heap. -
On big lifts like this front squat go heavy, but keep 1-2 reps in the tank. -
👉Remember why you train: it’s to get better consistently, not go balls to the wall #hardcore for the ole’ #fitfam.
Here are a few quick benefits of the front squat:
-
1️⃣Improve core strength and less spinal stress (2,3). -
2️⃣Build muscular quads, glutes, and upper back(2,3). -
3️⃣Improved posture and upper back strength (3). -
4️⃣Compared to back squat, less joint stress and better muscle activation with same load (1). -
5️⃣ FOLLOW #Bachbuilt for more exercise demos. -
Resources: 
1️⃣Caterisano, 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. -
2️⃣Gullett, 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. 3️⃣The school of hard knocks aka actually lifting and seeing if it works instead of relying on studies. – 👉Know someone who needs to stop bustin’ their shit and get jacked without getting hurt? Send them here❗️ – #frontsquat #quads #tarpsoff #body #legdays #legworkout #jacked #swolemates #maxmuscle#strengthtraining #musclebuilding #gainmuscle #buildmuscle #quadzilla#bulgariansplitsquats #highprotein #bigquads #gymlife #gymbros #quaddamn #heavyweights #lightweight #lightweightbaby#strengthandconditioning

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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: why it matters to you

The anterior load of the front squat and increase in anterior core activation allows for a deeper squat without compromising spinal position and risking injury. 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 preventing an ass-too-grass squat.

Blasting heavy-ass squats with a curved lumbar spine is a 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. ”

 P.S. Bret Contreras does a great job of explaining Butt-wink here, I highly recommend you check it out. 

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.

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 powerlifters having great success with the knees diving on a back squat this technique is best avoided. Slightly push the knees out during the descent of front squats to maintain stacked 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.

How Front Squats help you build massive muscle

Anecdotal evidence from bodybuilders and Olympic weightlifters show 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. Basically, because you squat deeper your glutes work harder and voila, a greater muscle building stimulus. (Paoli et. Al)

  • Front Squats build big quads due to anterior bar placement and high amounts of knee flexion.
  • Keeping the elbows high forces the thoracic extenders to hold position, adding training volume to build your upper back.  
  • 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 create massive strength gains

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:

  • Front squats require less relative load for similar muscle activation of the quads, glutes, and hamstrings while decreasing stress on the spine and knees compared to back squats. This screams less risk, more reward. 
  • 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 well-designed plan you’ll get as strong as an ox.

Front Squats are Better for Athletes

 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 weightlifting events because they’re an essential component in the execution of the clean. [Fry et al]. Many of my clients clean so this improves multiple factors a once.
  • 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 lifters intolerant to shear stress. 
  • Squats mimic the biomechanical demands of athletic movements like the powerful hip extension needed for sprinting, jumping, tackling, and skating. Moreover, maintaining the abs braced, neutral spine position under load 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]. Hell, even if you’re not an athlete it’s cool to be fast
  • Greater anterior core activation due to anterior bar placement. Having too much core strength is as likely as a snowball not melting in hell. 

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. The spine handles compression well—lumbar vertebrae are huge. Unfortunately, shear stress with compression is a recipe for injury and cranky backs.

 

 How to Front Squat: The Ultimate 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. Yippee!

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. 

The Front Squat: Questions and Answers

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 and getting hurt, NO.  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 a 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 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 powerlifting circumstances are different—you need to learn how to push your 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 you must lift a few more pounds, wear a belt. If you want 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 an elevated heel for front squats. 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 ankle mobility rather than using equipment as a crutch.

The Ultimate Front Squat Workout

Let’s be real here, you didn’t read all this to NOT get a sweet workout program. Download your front squat workout and bonus Chiseled Muscle Cheatsheet here.

This program will help you build significant strength, muscle, and improve your athleticism, unlike many routines you read in bodybuilder magazines and websites. 

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 furious finishers 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.

The Final Word On Front Squats

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 perform at your peak and look great naked in the process. 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.

Grab your Ultimate Front Squat Progression and Specialization Workout here. 
 

 front squat

Resources:

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

How to do Pull-ups: A Surefire Progression to Pull-up Proficiency Part 2

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of the pull-up progression on Monday. Click the link before continuing, or this will happen.

He'll visit you if you skip ahead.
He’ll visit you if you skip ahead. Photo credit:frabz.com

Seriously. Okay I’m kidding that was excessive, but skipping ahead of baseline movements is bad news.  Go read part 1 of your sure-fire pull-up progression here.

This post will be my last for the week and into next week since I’m currently Florida, attending a masquerade party–which also triggered. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m assuming that wearing a speedo, cowboy boots, and a mask won’t work. That said I get free drinks and food for a few days while working on my sunburn. Nevertheless, it’s time for business.

You’ve practiced your inverted row variations and blasted a few with your feet elevated –good job! Now, things get tricky. Pull-ups require a vertical pull, much more difficult than horizontal. The strength built up rowing your bodyweight will help, but further planning is needed before pull-ups.

Negative Band-Assisted Pull-Up: Using a band will lessen the load on the most difficult portion of the pull-up—the bottom. Use a high tension band, stepping into it from a box. With your chin above the bar lower your body, brace the core, squeeze the glutes, and lower until the arms are fully extended. Step  back to the box and repeat for two or three reps. The body is stronger during the eccentric portion exercises, so this engrains the range of motion and strength development in the pull-up.

[Use a band rather than a standing, assisted pull-up machine when possible. If you’ve reached this point you’re strong enough to control your body with a band-assist.]

 

women band assisted pull-up
Photo Credit: Band Assisted Pull-Up

Band-Assisted Pull-Ups: After gaining eccentric strength and control it’s time to perform the eccentric and concentric portions of the pull-up. Stand on the band with core braced and glutes squeezed, driving the elbows down until the chin passes the bar. Lower yourself under control and repeat for reps. Re-set between reps if needed, working with 3-8 reps per set.

Negative Pull-Ups: I program negative pull-ups with band assisted pull-ups for rapid improvements. Negative pull-ups through the entire ROM without use of any band-assistance is a great strength building exercise. Jump up to the bar OR step from a box with your chin above the bar. Keep reps slow as the arms extend, aiming for 4-5 seconds per rep for 3-5 reps per set. 

Pull-Up grip progression: Congrats! You’re ready to tackle Pull-ups, but it’s not that simple. Certain grips and hand positions are easier than others. First, use a shoulder width neutral grip (thumbs pointing back). You’ll be stronger in both a neutral and supinated (palms facing you) grip before moving to a true pull-up. Begin with these variations before a pronated (overhand grip) pull-up.

 Pull-Up Progression Programming

Pull-ups are no easy task—when 0-3 reps are your max then every chin-up is near maximal effort. This is extremely taxing on the central nervous system. Spread your practice throughout the week so theres plenty of time for recovery and avoid failure.

Each training session should include a variation of this progression, building strength and muscle to improve your chin-ups.
Since pull-ups are your primary goal start your sessions with a challenging variation; remember, pull-ups are a near maximal exercise, use plenty of rest between sets.

  • Pull-ups are the priority, plan them first in your training session.
  • Train between one and six reps per set, picking a total rep goal of 15-25 total reps in the workout. However you break up your sets is up to you.
  • Use rest pauses if you approach technical failure. Rest 10-15 seconds between reps to complete your sets.
  • Rest 60-120 seconds between sets. Remember, if you can’t do a chin-up nearly every rep is maximum effort.
  • Avoid failure. Avoid failure. Avoid failure.
  • Have a well-rounded exercise program focused on building total-body strength. Deadlifts, squats, presses, and lunges will strengthen your entire body.

Sample Program

Weeks 1-2: Focus on part 1 variations, 45 degree rows, inverted rows, and feet elevated inverted rows. Pick one variation each day and work up to 4-6×6-10 reps.

Week 3: Begin training negative band-assisted pull-ups for sets up to six reps per set. Pick the most difficult horizontal row you can perform and aim for 20-25 reps in your workout.

Week 4-5: Your eccentric strength and control has improved, so it’s time to pick things u with band assisted pull-ups.  Aim for sets up to six using a large band. Break sets up as needed until you hit your total rep goal. Pick the most difficult horizontal row you can perform and aim for 20-25 reps in your workout.

Week 6-8: Ditch the band, it’s time for un-assisted negative pull-ups. Control reps and take between 4-5 seconds on each rep. Use rest-pause technique as needed, aiming for 15-20 total negatives. Pick the most difficult horizontal row you can perform and aim for 20-25 reps in your workout.

Week 7-10: Get your mind right, it’s pull-up time! The time it takes you to master your first pull-up is specific. Different limb-lever lengths, body fat % and distribution, training experience, and gender will all play a factor. Use neutral grip or chin-up grip variations first before progressing to pull-ups.

How To Do Pull-Ups

This program is by no-means a cure-all. Schedule and training experience are highly variable, so do what fits your schedule. Its best to progress slowly if needed and be consistently successful. However, should you be feeling strong after a few negatives then jump ahead and give pull-ups a shot. Pull-ups are no easy task, doing them successfully shows great strength, determination, discipline. Armed with these suggestions you’ll be well on your way to pull-up prowess.

It’s Time to Build the Body You Want With the Time You Have

It’s not time for another cookie cutter magazine workout.
It’s time for a customized approach to maximize your results and improve your life, not consume it. Fitness will become a lifestyle. You’ll take control of your life and build your best body. But my words only go so far.

The bottom line is…

My Clients Get Great Results.

Will you join them? Learn more here. 

 

 

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