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15 Expert Tips: How to Improve Athleticism

You want to be healthy, nimble, and strong so you have the ability to be thrown into any situation, whether it’s lifting, playing a sport, running up the stairs, or should the moment arise, self-defense and come out on-top.

Even more, you want to lose fat, build muscle, and look great naked. 

Unfortunately, most programs fail miserably at helping you build a body that performs as well as it looks. Living under a barbell and only chasing maximum strength isn’t the answer. This will leave you unbalanced, beat-up, and sore.

Neither is trodding along the treadmill for hours each week. 

So, what’s your solution?

Train like an athlete. 

You’ll build the physical ability to handle whatever life throws at you and build a great looking body to boot. 


 

 1) Value Relative Strength As much as Absolute Strength

There are many factors to consider, but heavy strength training is a tool for improvement, not the end-all be-all in performance. 

Does spending all of your time training towards building more strength outweigh the benefits of higher relative strength (being strong for your size), and corresponding improvements in agility, speed, power, and coordination?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but no. Not if you’re joints are getting beat up and your training is one dimensional. bodyweight training, Expert Tips to Build Muscle, How to Improve Athleticism

This is not to belittle training heavy. It’s needed as a foundational piece for every person, but chasing personal strength records as your sole goal in the gym is a great way to beat the snot out of your joints and end up as a one trick pony.

Yes, build a base of maximum strength, everything else will improve. Then, strive for a more balanced approach and get strong for your size. Move beyond the barbell, incorporate body weight training, sprint, jump, and move like an athlete.

 

Related: Find out Seven Ways to Improve Relative Strength

2) Develop Unilateral Strength and Power

David Dellanave of Dellanave.com

If you want a more athletic, and dare I say functional, type of strength prepare to get comfortable with unilateral work. Unilateral exercises, those done with one limb rather than two, are ideal for preventing injury causing imbalances and developing athletic unilateral power. 

Let’s look at two great movements to make this happen:

The first is the skater squat or airborne lunge. This is a challenging movement that is fantastic for building single leg strength. Don’t be put off by this bodyweight exercise – most people have to progress from a Bulgarian split squat to develop single-leg strength and stability to prepare for the unsupported, skater squat.

The skater squat is like a pistol squat, but instead of the non-working leg being outstretched in front of you, the hip is flexed and you tap the knee of the non-working leg on the ground near your planted foot. Here’s one of Ben Bruno’s guys doing it:

In most cases, you’ll want a little weight to act as a counterbalance to aid in balance. To progress the skater squat slightly reduce the range of motion by tapping the knee to a yoga block rather than on the ground.

This increases the difficulty of the exercise by requiring additional eccentric control, an essential skill for preventing injuries. Gradually increase the range of motion until you’re going all the way to the ground.

This increases the difficulty of the exercise by requiring additional eccentric control, an essential skill for preventing injuries. Gradually increase the range of motion until you’re going all the way to the ground.

The second unilateral power exercise is the split stance one-armed push press, one of the most underrated exercises for athletic power development. Working with one arm negates the bilateral deficit and allows you to move a ton of weight for massive gains in strength and power. The push press requires other transfer of force from the power body until a full-body, coordinated movement.

When done from a split stance, the push press forces stability through the hip and trunk to get you strong and stable from head to toe. 

Integrate these two staples into your strength and conditioning program and you’re going to be a force to be reckoned with on the field.

3) Jump Rope to Improve Coordination

Hitting the weights hard and eating well is important, but improving athleticism requires coordination, not just brute strength. After all, you don’t want to be the guy tripping over his own feet dancing at his wedding, right?

Take heed of athletic greats like Muhammad Ali, Walter Payton, and Floyd Mayweather and make the jump rope a staple in your training. You’ll build great conditioning, shed fat and improve your athleticism while bringing up those anemic calves of yours.

Start slow and build your skill by using the jump rope for 100 skips in your warm-up. Soon, you’ll be skippin’ rope like Rocky Balboa.

 

4) Improve Functional Mobility and Reinforce with Strength and Stability

Dr. John Rusin, the Strength Doc.

“If you have goals of becoming an elite athlete, functional mobility is a pivotal aspect of high performance.”

If your first thought in achieving Gumby-like mobility is with the addition of more stretching and foam rolling to your training program, think again.

Whether stretching and rolling works is still under academic debate but one thing holds true; neither of these modalities are going to streamline translatable mobility like the pristine execution of accentuated loaded eccentrics to your training schedule.
In other words, get off the foam roller, and focus on using big barbell lifts with a slow tempo. 

johnrusin, How to Improve Athleticism

You have most likely already had a taste of the basics of accentuated loaded eccentrics in foundational barbell movements like the Romanian deadlift. With the operative word being “accentuated,” this type of training method is largely dependent on the execution of prescribed tempos and extended ranges of motion.

Increasing the time under tension during the eccentric phases of big compound movements while moving into the last 10% of available range of motion will strategically micro-tear facial layers and muscle tissue, while also retraining neural receptors to adapt to extended ranges of motion under load.

In other words, you’ll build strength, stability, and flexibility all in one.

Give it a shot, and remember this method can be used for nearly any movement pattern or muscle group. The key is in the execution– own your movement, challenge your body and reap the benefits of Olympian level mobility.

5) Incorporate Basic Movement Patterns Like Skipping

Tony Gentilcore of Tonygentilcore.com

Want a humbling experience?
Try skipping like you used to do as a kid.

It’s funny: I’ll say to someone, “we’re going to warm-up with some skipping drills,” and many will roll their eyes and chuckle as if to say “dude, really? Skipping?” Then I watch them skip and I’m the one who ends up laughing.
Unfortunately, most folks have spent YEARS in front of a computer. Now, their idea of athleticism is taking the stairs over the elevator. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance you don’t move a lot or well anymore and as a result, have poor coordination and athleticism.

By integrating skipping into your warm-ups you’ll begin rebuilding sprinting mechanics and coordination without the risk of injury. Here’s a quick progression of an a-march into an a-skip.

 

Look easy?

Give it a shot.

It’s a nice way to “extend” your warm-up and introduce SOME form of athletic movement…especially if your workouts have been walking to the water cooler between sets of curls and bench presses.  

6) Do Heavy And Explosive Training First 

When setting up any training program or workout, you need to place more neurologically demanding exercises early in each session.

Why?

How well you perform your exercises is exponentially more important than “how many reps” or how much weight you move. Thus, optimizing technique is essential to improve your performance and reduce your chance of injury.

Let me explain.

Exercises that are neurologically demanding like explosive lifts, sprints, jumps and heavy compound exercises place the most demand on your nervous system. If you don’t do them when you’re fresh, your technique will fail and you’ll be more likely to get injured.

This is why despite the many good qualities of a certain type of exercise ending in “fit” so many people end up injured. Blasting exercises like power cleans and snatches after red-lining your heart rate doesn’t allow your nervous system to recover and thus, your technique goes to shit.

weight-lifting-for-women-2, How to Improve Athleticism

To get strong, jacked, and athletic, follow this basic order of exercises.
1.Explosive, high-speed exercises. Jumps, sprints, Olympic lifts.

2. Heavy strength training moves. Exercises like squats or deadlifts where you’re focused on 1-5 reps fit here.

3. Moderate rep (5-12 rep) hypertrophy exercises. 

4. Isolation and high rep muscle building exercises. 

5. Cardio/conditioning/finishers.

If you’re looking for a step by step plan to optimize performance and build a bad-ass physique, join thousands of lifters who’ve taken the Power Primer Challenge by clicking here.  

7) Build your Base of Strength to Improve Athleticism

Ben Bruno of benbruno.com

For most gym-goers, a basic strength- training program will go a long way in improving athleticism. Keep the specialized exercise programs for more advanced athletes and hammer full-range-of-motion strength training.

benbrunoTraining with good form and in a progressive manner (adding weight to the bar consistently) will give you a bigger bang for your training buck than a lot of the fancier “sport specific” drills, especially until you have a foundation of strength.

Emphasize major lifts like deadlifts, squats, bench presses, and rows with sound technique.  Get strong and develop your base of strength. This way, you’ll build the foundation to make gains and successfully use those fancy exercises down the road.

8) Move Explosively Everyday

Nick Tumminello of Nicktumminello.com

If you’re like most lifters, you stopped rapid, explosive movement years, if not decades ago.

Rather than solely lifting heavy, incorporate explosive movement and do something fast every day.Being jacked and strong is nice, but expressing strength fast and generating tons of power separates the contenders from the pretenders.

That means you should sprint, throw, punch, or jump regularly. 

Moreover, rather than spending countless hours refining technique on Olympic lifts, it’s best to use exercises with an accelerated learning curve to train the same qualities: explosive power, nervous system activation, and activation of high threshold muscle fibers.

This bridges the gap between strength and speed, prompting your nervous system to function at full speed, improve your coordination, and improve the firing rates of your muscles on big lifts. 

Add in jumps for the lower body workouts.

On upper body workouts, add in explosive throws or push-up variations.

 

A good starting place is three sets of five reps directly after your warm-up. In short time, you’ll improve neural activation, better recruit muscle fibers, and prepare your body to be stronger and more athletic in sport and in life. 

9) Incorporate Multi-planar Training

Travis Pollen, the Fitness Pollenator

As an amputee, I might be a little biased, but single-leg training with the aforementioned exercises will improve athleticism and minimize injury causing imbalances, especially if you’ve been spending all your time on conventional barbell exercises.

Train unilaterally: multi-planar split squats and lunges, single-leg stiff-legged deadlifts, single leg hurdle jumps, even single-leg hang cleans.

travispollen

Most lifts take place solely in the sagittal plane, yet sports are chaotic and take place with frontal, sagittal, and transverse plane movements. In other words, most training doesn’t match what you do on the playing field or in life.

Life takes place in by moving 360 degrees, not in a squat rack. You need to get out and move in multiple directions with different movements to maximize the real-world carryover of your training. 

While you must master basic exercise first, incorporating movements that require greater stabilization throughout the entire body will undoubtedly improve a variety of qualities that contribute to athleticism. There are the obvious ones like strength and power and then some less obvious ones, too, like mobility, stability, balance, and proprioception.

10) Build Up Multi-level Strength

Chad Landers of Push Private Fitness

 To improve athleticism get stronger, both in an absolute and relative sense. 90% of people will never have the issue of being too strong to excel in sports. As a result, improving strength and training with a variety of rep ranges sets your infrastructure for speed, stability, power, and of course, building an aesthetically pleasing physique.

It’s imperative to note that you don’t need to train at 90, 95% of your one-rep-max, save that for the powerlifters.

Instead, hammer the 3-5 rep range with 80% 1-RM in the “big lifts” like squats, deadlifts, presses, cleans, rows and pull-ups. This is a weight you can handle for 6-10 reps. This way, you’ll still build strength without getting beat up, sore, and exhausted.

 

11) Improve Rotational Strength and Power

Kennet Waale is the coach and founder of Move Strong and www.kennetwaale.com.

 Power is vector specific, meaning if you want to build rotational power for sports like tennis, baseball, beer-league softball, or golf, then you need to train rotation directly.  The two exercises below are thoroughly explained in the videos regarding execution to help you build rotational strength and power. 

Don’t let your ego come in the way – start light; master the movements and progress the weights and tempo as you go. Soon, you’ll be swinging and punching harder with specific rotational power.

Recommended weights:

  • Males +70kg start with: 20kg Kettlebell
  • Males -70kg start with: 16kg Kettlebell
  • Females +60kg start with: 16kg Kettlebell
  • Females -60kg start with: 12kg Kettlebell
  • Stick with the above weights for the first three weeks before you decide to increase it when technique is optimal.

 

The Dragon Press Half Rotation

The Lateral Clean


 

12) Improve Thoracic Mobility for better Overhead Movement

Dean Somerset of Deansomerset.com

Modern sedentary society has left many of us keeled out our smartphones and computers. The result?
Worse posture than quasi-modo and chronic shoulder pain that robs you of gains in the gym and athleticism in everyday life.

The solution?

Improving your thoracic mobility specifically through improving your breathing patterns and glute engagement. 

Stay with me, as I know it sounds crazy, but the implications are pretty powerful. For breathing work, inhalation involves the expansion of the rib cage and extension of the thoracic spine, helping you pull in larger volumes of air during inhalation. As a result, this increases movement in thoracic mobility and stability for overhead movements like shoulder presses.

For the glutes, their glute contraction has a massive impact within a very short period of time to help increase thoracic drive. In a situation where the glutes aren’t being used, the pelvis can be held with a bit more anterior tilt, which causes a compensatory movement of the lumbar spine into more lordosis, extension, or most commonly, arching. 

To balance this out, the thoracic spine winds up getting more kyphotic or flexed so as to keep your head vertical over your feet and keep you from falling over.

To fix this, squeeze your butt during overhead exercises. This pulls your pelvis into posterior tilt, which reduces the drive on the low back into extension and thus reduces the drive into the thoracic spine into flexion. It’s a simple tip to improve performance, improve shoulder mobility, and decrease back pain. 

The combined aspect of breathing in more air, opening the lungs, and flexing the glutes, increases thoracic extension range of motion rapidly, which can help put you in a better position to overhead press while stabilizing the pelvis for less discomfort and pain in overhead movements.

13) Don’t Sacrifice Nutrition

Kedric Kwan of Kedrickwan.com

With all the training sessions and high demands on game day, athletes have an extremely high-energy output. And if you train like one?

Well, you’re burning a lot of energy as well. But don’t use an increased energy output as a “get out of jail free card” to eat whatever you want. 

If you’re a recreational athlete and scarf skittles like Marshawn Lynch, you’ll turn into a slob rather than a high-performance machine.

24990516_l

Even though most of us aren’t looking to be a stage ready bodybuilder anytime soon, improving body composition will also improve your athletic performance. 

Seriously, body fat doesn’t produce force the way muscle does and will decrease relative strength by increasing bodyweight.

The better your body composition is and the higher the ratio of muscle you have to fat, the more force you’re cable of producing. This force, under the right training conditions, will enhance your athletic potential.

By periodizing your nutrition, being aware of your food intake and using specific supplements will help improve your body composition.

Instead of eating everything in sight thinking you’ll burn it all off during training or competition, focus on your body composition with proper nutrition.

Besides, who doesn’t want to be a badass on the pitch while looking jacked on the beach?

14) Incorporate the Medicine Ball Back Toss for Explosive Power

Joey Percia 

One of the best ways you can improve your athleticism, explosively jumping ability, is the backward medicine ball toss for height. I like the throw for height opposed to distance because it decreases the likelihood of over extending the low back in an attempt to get more power, which is a common fault for beginners and those new to the movement.

Most people who haven’t jumped in years let their arms flop around like wet noodles or tuck them tight to the side like pencil diving in a pool.

Don’t be that dude.


Not only is this disadvantageous for jumping but it’s an awkward thing to see. This movement gives the client a basic understanding of using an effective arm swing, gets the CNS jacked up for stronger lifts and more explosive power. Plus, it’s fun to throw stuff. 

15) Start Sprinting to Improve Athleticism

Option One: Sprinting before lifting is ideal for improving performance because it fires up your nervous system to improve heavy and explosive training. 

This comes with a risk versus reward trade-off as sprinting done before training must be enough to spark the nervous system, yet low enough in volume and intensity to not fatigue the body and hinder lifting ability. When fatigue is managed your strength performance, conditioning and athleticism will skyrocket.

After your dynamic warm-up (try this one), do some sub-maximal speed drills like skips and low-intensity sprints for 5-10 minutes.

Perform sprints two days per week. Start with 5 sprints of 10-20 yards with 30-60 seconds of recovery and add one sprint per week, maxing out at 10 sprints.

 

How to Improve your Athleticism: Wrap Up

Your body is an integrated system and should be trained as such. When in doubt, training to improve your athleticism gives you the ability to dominate life outside the gym while building your best looking body.

Your homework: Take a few minutes to review your training and ask, “Where can I improve my training?” With these expert tips, the ball is now in your court.

Take even one of these 15 tips, implement it, and start building your strongest, leanest, and most athletic body today.

 

Four Hardgainer Cardio Solutions

I think you’ll agree with me when I say:

Conditioning is the most overlooked aspect of building athletic muscle, especially for skinny dudes. After all, you need to do is eat, hoist huge weights, and eat some more and you’ll easily build muscle.

Or is it?

In today’s post, I’ll show you how to escape from hardgainer hell and improve your conditioning while simultaneously building high-performance muscle.

Building slabs of high-performance muscle isn’t just lifting and crushing your diet—you need specific conditioning for hardgainers for optimal muscular development, workout efficiency, and overall health.

What’s the point in being strong and jacked without the ability to use or sustain your athleticism?

conditioning for hardgainers

Yea, gaining mass is hard work, and along with the hard work comes a fear of over-conditioning and as a result, stalling muscle growth. Don’t fall for the belief that conditioning will zap your training to the detriment of your health and athletic performance.

When it’s all said and done the real badasses are strong and well-conditioned machines, not just muscular.

Don’t be like most scraggly hardgainers who avoid conditioning like it’s an Ebola-laced napkin. Your gains won’t hemorrhage out of all your orfices, far from it.

I’ve been around the block and spent my time as a hard-gainer. I’ve done moderate steady state cardio, kept volume super-low, and even skipped conditioning completely.

As a result, I’ve grown a smidge bigger, but I always lose athleticism, and gain a ton of fat.

Drop the “conditioning keeps me small” sob story—it’s time to maximize your training with well-planned and precisely executed conditioning. With these four conditioning methods you’ll build renewed athleticism and get jacked with minimal fat gain in your escape from hardgainer hell.

1) Low Volume Sprints

 Option One: Sprints Before Lifting: 

Sprinting before lifting is ideal for improving performance in athletes and potentiating the nervous system for heavy lifts and explosive training. This comes with a risk vs reward trade-off as sprinting done before training should be enough to spark the nervous system yet low enough in volume and intensity to not fatigue the body and hinder lifting ability.

Moreover, sprinting is a technical movement that needs practice. The most most nuerally demanding and explosive exercises need maximum focus and energy and thus, must done first in a workout.

That’s why jumps get scheduled before Olympic lifts or heavy strength work. The neural demands of sprints need full focus and energy for maximum performance at the beginning of your workout.

Perform low volume, short distance sprints before training rather than long-duration sprints when you’re already gassed and fatigued. Two days per week perform five sets of 10-20 yards with walk-back recovery and adding one sprint per week is ideal.

This way, you’ll condition the body to high velocity, high impact movement without excess stress and training volume to interfere with your gains. 

hardgainer conditioning

Option Two: Sprints at the end of your workout:

I’m a huge fan of sprints, agility drills, and movement skills, but there’s a catch:

Performing any coordinative skill under excess fatigue runs the risk of engraining a poor movement pattern and subsequent injury.

In other words, sprinting while exhausted from your hardgainer training is a great pop yo’ hammies, especially if you haven’t sprinted in ages.

While sprints are obviously a great exercise, and not inherently “bad” or dangerous, they’re a skill that requires mechanics and practice before piling on tons of volume, a process to which most gym rats aren’t willing to dedicate time.

That said, sprints as a conditioning tool do them with sub-maximal speeds and on a hill or incline. Using an incline and submaximal speeds prevents over striding and most hamstring related injuries.

If you go with this option sprint two days per week on a treadmill or hill. Don’t worry about the specifics; work your ass off for 10 minutes with 5-10 second sprints and 30-60 second rests. Increase your speed before the jacking up the incline to technique.

            Do your Sprints:

As a performance coach first I prefer sprints before any lifting because of the neural demands mentioned above. Being strong is important, but being athletic is more about movement than just being strong in the gym.

Without a base of movement it doesn’t matter how strong you are, inefficiencies in movement will hold back your high performance training.

Sprints fire up fast-twitch fibers and potentiate your nervous system for greater muscular recruitment and strength to keep your strong and shredded as you escape hardgainer hell.

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 2) Conditioning Complexes

Before going any further there is a clear distinction between complex pairs and conditioning complexes.

Complex pairs use a heavy strength movement and an explosive lighter movement in sequence to improve explosive performance. Complex pairs are an advanced training method for elite sports performance, which I covered in depth here on elitefts.

When it comes to conditioning I’m referring to barbell complexes: A series of major movement patterns performed in-series without rest. Better yet, complexes only take 5-10 minutes at the end of your workout to keep you lean while you get big and jacked.

Regardless of strength levels I’d recommend starting with an empty barbell. Speed and full range of motion are more important than weight. Besides, adding too much weight will hinder your recovery and conflict with the rest of your intelligent programming. Move as fast as possible through each exercise (with good form, ahem) and without putting the bar down. Your heart will be pulsating through your t-shirt, your lunges will scream, but damn you will be glad you did these.

“Rookie”

  • deadlift 4×12 rest 0
  • hang clean 4×12 rest 0
  • Military press 4×12 rest 0
  • front squat 4×12 rest 60-90 sec
hardgainer conditioning
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaredpolin/4560294699/

“The Olympian” 

Hang Snatch 3×10 Rest 0

Push Press 3×10 Rest 0

Hang Clean 3×10 Rest 0

Front Squat 3×10 Rest 0

Front Squat Reverse Lunge 3×10 Rest 0

High Pull 3×10 rest 60-90 sec

**Note: If you don’t know how to properly perform these exercises avoid this sequence. Never perform exercises without proper training, but even more with overhead lifts such as the Olympic lifts.

“The Widow Maker”

Overhead Press 2×10 Rest 0

back squat 2×10 Rest 0

reverse lunge 2×10 Rest 0

hang clean 2×10 Rest 0

front squat 2×10 Rest 0

  • bent over row 2×10 Rest 0
  • Romanian deadlift 2×10 Rest 0
  • Front Squat lunge 2×10 Rest 0
  • biceps curl 2×10 Rest 0
  • front squat hold calf raise 2×10 Rest 90-120 sec

Complexes are an ideal conditioning tool for hard-gainers once per week because they’re of short duration and high-density. As a result, the conditioning affects span beyond the immediate workout because of exercise post-oxygen consumption (EPOC). In other words, your heart rate stays jacked up for greater cardiovascular benefit to keep you leaner while your building muscle.

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3)Jumping Rope

Hardcore exercises like sled pushes and sprints get all the glory, but one old school tool doesn’t’ get the attention it lightly deserves: the jump rope.

Jumping rope is low impact and not-overly catabolic—two huge factors in recover for hardgainers. Beyond that, jumping rope is safer than most conditioning drills for two reasons.

First, jumping rope is a self-limiting exercise: to jump rope without failing you must stay in an aligned, joint stacked position while moving, forcing your trunk to stay engaged and resilient under the load of movement. If you miss mess up, welt your calves or triceps, or catch a toe, the exercise ends. All of this makes it extremely unlikely to over-do it; and, even better, nearly impossible to incur injury.

Second, jumping rope is a low-impact movement, despite a high number of foot strikes. Here’s why this is important for us formerly skinny guys: the lower impact does not create a hyper-catabolic environment that will erode your precious hypertrophy like other repetitive impact exercises. In other words, you will get shredded without about dropping lean body mass.

For hardgainer conditioning Double-Unders and the Runnin’ Man are my two go-to conditioning drills with each being performed twice per week with at least 48 hours between workouts.
So, if I did double-unders as my focus on Monday I would wait until Wednesday or Thursday until my next jump-rope conditioning session.

Double Unders:

Exactly like it sounds—whip the jump rope two times in a row with one singular jump. Work up to sets of 10 and use a lighter rope, like the Cross Rope Burn set. Rests 30-60 seconds and continue on for 10-15 minutes or until your lungs and calves explode, your choice.

Runnin’ Man:

No, you don’t need the Running Man outfit Arnold wore in the movie, but that will increase your anabolism 400%. Fact. Seriously, I’m kidding. But, seriously.

Run in place while skipping the rope. Not only will this improve your coordination, it’s a deceptively tough conditioning workout. Go for time and work up to 10-15 minutes of continuous “running.” The impact is far less than your traditional steady state cardio or plodding along on the treadmill.

 

As it stands, the jump rope is the ultimate low impact tool for accelerated fat loss, conditioning, and improved athleticism for hard gainers.

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4) Sled Work

I’m a huge proponent of sled-work as a conditioning tool. Hardgainers are terrified of conditioning exercises overloading their recoverability and zapping their hypertrophy.

Besides building muscle, sled work gets better: 

Sleds have no eccentric stress—the stress incurred on the “negative” of resistance training exercises that causes the most muscle damage. For this reason, the volume accumulated with sleds won’t hinder recover to the same extent as other training methods.

Once the force applied to the sled exceeds that needed to overcome friction all muscular actions are concentric, resulting in increased total training volume and thus, increased protein synthesis for muscle building. For this reason, sled work is great to improve conditioning and muscle building without stressing the body past its recoverability.

In other words, sleds are a top tool to help you minimize fat gain and improve conditioning—especially if you’re a hustlin’ hardgainer with muscle building ambitions.

Hardgainer Cardio Solutions

It’s important to prioritize weight training as it’s the driving force for muscle building. Regardless, well planned conditioning is imperative to improve work capacity, improve athleticism, and keep you lean while you’re bulking. Conditioning one to three times per week, but absolutely no more.

Sample Conditioning Routine

Monday: Upper Body Training
Tuesday: Lower Body Training+ Sprint work

Wednesday: Off or Jump Rope

Thursday: Upper Body Training

Friday: Total Body Training + Sled Work
Saturday: Off

Sunday: Off 

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Wrap Up:

The hard to swallow fact is you still need some conditioning even if you’re looking to gain mass. Hypertrophy training is no reason to get fat and out of-shape—it’s a cop out for laziness and poor planning even for the locked in hard-gainer.

Train with these four conditioning methods you’ll build renewed athleticism and get seriously jacked with minimal fat gain in your escape from hardgainer hell.

 

P.S. Find This Article Helpful?

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[A variation of this article was published on T-Nation]

14 Expert Tips to Build Muscle

ramping

I think you’ll agree with me when I say:

Few of us are lucky enough to have hit the genetic lottery for building muscle.

Some guys get huge with “one click” protein powder purchases and staring at a loaded barbell.

Here’s the kicker:

These lifters few and far between.

For the rest of us, we need years of dedicated training, eating, and recovery to gain a few pounds of lean mass. 

You need to put in the time, stay consistent, and persevere through to reap the rewards of your iron labor. I’ve enlisted the help of some of today’s top Strength and Physique coaches to put together the top 14 Expert Tips to Build Muscle.

These methods are time tried muscle-building techniques with thousands of clients hours and dedication built to help you build mass.
Enough beating around the bush, implement these 14 expert tips to build athletic muscle mass.

1) Strength Improves Muscle Building Capacity

Building greater levels of strength creates an overload stimulus in the body, requiring adaptation to take place in response to stress to handle future stressors.

Muscle fibers break down and require repair. During repairs, the body forges a larger, stronger muscle fiber to be resilient to future stressors.

accelerate hypertrophy, Expert Tips to Build MuscleIt gets better:

Stronger muscles and a super-charged nervous system allow the use of greater training loads to achieve greater levels of metabolic stress, mechanical tension, and muscular damage, which are the three primary methods of muscular hypertrophy, as shown in The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training (3).

Placing an emphasis on building strength directly builds muscle in beginners while advanced trainees will progressively build muscle as a byproduct of greater work capacity. Getting strong must be an emphasis if you’re looking to build muscle.

2) Incorporate Frequent Bodyweight Training to Build Muscle

Must guys jump the gun with endless isolation exercises and insane training programs without reinforcing the basics.

Before you jump into two-hour workouts and hammer every isolation exercise practice bodyweight exercises until you’re an absolute bad-ass at moving your body.

That means add in push-ups daily, get a doorframe chin-up bar, and do bodyweight squats.

For the love of god, please don’t kip, per the video below at  0.08:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOds38c4YNQ

Adding 50-100 push-ups to your daily routine before work or school is a great way to increase training volume in a few short minutes.

Incorporate mini-workouts throughout the week with your bodyweight and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by more muscle and better movement quality.

3) Vary Your Training Tempos and Rep Ranges
I’m a huge fan of lifting explosively to supercharge the nervous system and build power, but it’s not the only answer for building muscle.
Your muscles need tension from heavy and explosive lifts, but they also need metabolic stress and muscular damage to maximize muscle growth.

biceps, Expert Tips to Build Muscle

Start your workouts with an explosive exercise like jumps or throws, move to a pure strength movement for greater tension, and then incorporate longer duration sets for more metabolic stress and muscular damage.

The variation will challenge a greater number of muscle fibers to stimulate a greater growth response to help you accelerate hypertrophy.

4) Don’t Sweat the Olympic Lifts for building muscle

Bret Contreras of BretContreras.com 

If you suck at Olympic lifts, don’t sweat it. As it pertains to muscle building, you’re better off sticking with exercises you already know that create a similar training effect.
In the case of Olympic lifts, we’re talking about explosive hip extension.
You will derive similar benefits from implementing the kettlebell swing and hex bar jump squats.

These two exercises have a rapid learning curve and yield similar joint torques and muscle activations compared to cleans, making them a more time efficient muscle builder.

5) De-Load to Reload and come back stronger

Until this week you’ve been adding slabs of muscle, and hitting personal records in the gym. Now, you’re fried.
Progress has stalled. Warm-up sets feel like a piano on your back, and motivation is fading. In fact, you’d rather try a Tracey Anderson workout than lift another barbell. What gives?

How Adaptation Works

To address the problem we look to the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) by Hans Seyle to analyze how changes in performance actually happen. GAS states that the body goes through a specific set of responses (short term) and adaptations (longer term) after being exposed by an external stressor.

The theory holds that the body goes through three stages, two that contribute to survival and a third that involves a failure to adapt to the stressor.

accelerate hypertrophy, accelerate muscle building, Expert Tips to Build Muscle

Deload frequency varies depending on the athlete, training age, goals, sport requirements, and number of workouts per week.

Here is a sample micro-cycle with a built-in deload. Volumes and intensities are for a compound exercise, such as a power clean and for the moderate-to-advanced athlete.

• Week 1: High Intensity/Low-Moderate Volume, 4×3, 85-92.5% 1RM
• Week 2: Moderate Intensity/Moderate-High Volume, 5×5, 75-85% 1RM
• Week 3: Very High Intensity/Low Volume, 4×3, then 2,2,1,
• 85-100% 1RM
• Week 4: Low Intensity/Low-Moderate Volume, 3×5, 50-60% 1RM

With more lifters, flip weeks one and two, and three and four, for better performance benefits during the highest intensity workouts.

• Week 1: Moderate Intensity/Moderate-High Volume, 5×5, 75-85% 1RM
• Week 2: High Intensity/Low-Moderate Volume, 4×3, 85-92.5% 1RM
• Week 3: Low Intensity/Low-Moderate Volume, 3×5, 50-60% 1RM
• Week 4: Very High Intensity/Low Volume, 4×3, then 2,2,1, 85-100% 1RM

Now, here’s the deal:

There is an inverse relationship between intensity (1RM) and the number of reps per set. Training in both manners, if you can even do it, is a recipe for overtraining. For this reason, varying intensity and volume through workouts is ideal to allow recovery and maximal effort.

On deload weeks training is still performed in an effort to preserve the neuromuscular pathways of training without actually breaking down the body. This works well for form and speed work to preserve form and muscle mass.

Cool, eh? That means yes, you can still do your glorious bench press or deadlifts on deload weeks, but not as heavy.

6) Modify your rest periods to fit your training goals

Few training variables get less respect in the gym than rest periods. Luckily, these exercise rest period guidelines will have you resting your way to gains in no time:
Don’t follow the same exercise rest periods for workouts ad-nauseum. As loading parameters and volume change so will the rest period and active recovery exercise.

Expert Tips to Build Muscle
If you’re torched after two minutes, take another minute. You know your body better than a timed rest-interval; however, keep exercise rest period in the ballpark to match your goals.

As it pertains to training for muscle gain it’s best to vary your rest periods. Strength plays a huge role in muscle building, but not all rest periods need to be 2-3 minutes when building muscle.
The pump and metabolic stress from short rest periods between sets is a vital stimulus for muscle growth as well.

According to Brad Schoenfeld, the accumulation of metabolites is the result of short rest and long tension exercises. These require the use of anaerobic glycolysis, resulting in the buildup of lactate, hydrogen ions, creatine, and other metabolites. So yes, if you’re looking to get jacked then a nauseating pump with short rest is perfect for training.

What’s the bottom line?

Training for muscle growth requires a well-rounded approach. Emphasize heavy weights/low reps (1-6), moderate weight with moderate reps (8-12), and the occasional higher rep sets (15+).

Hitting all rep ranges maximizes stimulation of the muscles to you build tons of muscle.  Rest periods of 2-5 minutes, 45-90 seconds, and 0-30 seconds fit the various rep ranges, respectively.

7) Error: You eat too much food

Jason Maxwell of JMAXFitness 

Most people think that most guys eat too little when trying to put on muscle. I feel like the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Now, guys eat too much food when trying to put on muscle.

The problem with this is obvious: they end up getting fat. Just because you’re training hard, it doesn’t mean that you can eat 4000 Calories per day. Think about this logically for a second.

Research shows that the rate of muscle gain is dictated by how much training experience that you have. A beginner is able to gain 1-1.5% total body weight per month, an intermediate can gain 0.5-1% total body weight per month, and an advanced trainee can gain between 0.25-0.5% total body weight per month.

If you’re trying to put on muscle (without the fat), you only need to eat enough to gain muscle at the speed that you are capable of. For example, if you’re 200 lbs and are an advanced trainee, you might only gain 0.5 – 1 lb. of muscle per month (on average), so your nutrition should dictate this.

Using an approximated model, this means that you only need to be eating an extra 1750 – 3500 Calories per month. This is approximately an extra 58 – 117 Calories per day (above maintenance level).

That’s like two or three stinkin’ bananas. Two! Eat enough to build muscle, but don’t get out of control unless you want to pile on tons of body fat.

8) Train muscles according to their functional anatomy and fiber type
Menno Henselmans of Bayesian Bodybuilding

One piece of advice that’s extremely well received is not to train every body part the same way. Instead, you want to train each body part according to its functional anatomy and its muscle fiber type profile.
Each muscle has a different fiber type composition. Some muscles are fast twitch dominant while others are slow twitch dominant.

Muscle fiber type composition is largely genetically determined and has important muscle-specific training implications. Fast twitch fibers respond best to low volume, long rest intervals, high intensity, and low frequency.

Expert Tips to Build Muscle, 4 Explosive Exercises to Make You a Beast

Slow twitch fibers, in opposition, respond best to high volume, short rest intervals, low intensity, and high frequency.

Perhaps most importantly, fast twitch muscle fibers have significantly greater growth potential, roughly 100% more than slow twitch fibers. Even in untrained individuals, they’re normally over 20% larger, and it’s not uncommon for them to be over twice as large.

The fiber type composition of each muscle varies per individual, but as with most physiological characteristics, people don’t differ that much. In the general population, differences in the percentage of slow twitch muscle fibers are normally above 5% but usually below 10%. So, you probably aren’t that special in this regard, even though your momma said you were.

Find out the specific breakdown of muscle fiber type-based hypertrophy training check out this great post by Menno on JMAXfitness, and head to his personal blog.

9) Basic progressive overload is still king
It’s sad how many guys train for years yet remain the same size, still benching 135 for three sets of ten, year after year.

To make progress you must stress the system above what you’re currently doing whether it’s via more weight, more dense training, or a higher total volume.

Pick your program, stick with the same lifts, and add weight to the bar. Whether it’s 5 x 5, Starting Strength or 5/3/1, the principle is the same – stress the organism beyond its current capacity to create a higher level of stress.

As a result, the body creates stronger muscles, stores more fuel, and grows.

10) Optimize Your Workouts based on neural demands

When setting up any training program or workout, you need to place more neurologically demanding exercises early in the week, and early in each session.
In other words, neural demands are the requirements placed on the nervous system for the ideal execution of an exercise.

With high-speed and high weight exercises like sprinting, cleans, or a heavy deadlift the nervous system is the driver of performance.
If you’re blasting cleans with excess fatigue the nervous system fails to send signals to the muscles fast enough to allow technique execution of the exercise. This leads to missed lifts, altered technique, and potentially wreckin’ yo gains.

Expert Tips to Build Muscle, build muscle

Keep the high-intensity exercises like sprinting, cleans, or near-maximal lifts with full recovery in the beginning of your workouts.
Exercises towards the velocity portion of the graph (i.e. speed) are obviously faster and more sensitive to changes in technique than slower speed exercises like heavy deadlifts or squats.

To get jacked to the max start your workout with explosive movement like sprints, jumps, or throws and then hit the weights to get stronger and create muscular damage to stimulate hypertrophy.

For more information on maximizing your workout for muscle gain check out this post for Roman Fitness Systems on exercise order for optimal muscle building.

11) Use Creative Monohydrate to improve work capacity

Creatine is arguably the best muscle-building supplement of all time as it directly improves your ability to perform short duration, high-intensity exercises like sprints and heavy weight lifting.

The body only stores a limited amount of creatine, so adding 5-10 grams daily will improve your work capacity on high-intensity exercises for a greater training response. As a result, you’ll be able to lift more weight for more reps to gain more muscle. 

 

On workout days dose it pre and post-workout with your beverage of choice. Taking creatine with a protein or carbohydrate beverage increases absorption, as the increased insulin response will pull more creatine into the muscle tissue.

Tweet: A recovery drink works better than vodka red-bull, trust me. :http://bit.ly/1Ow4zucTweet: A recovery drink works better than vodka red-bull, trust me. :http://bit.ly/1Ow4zuc

On non-workout days creatine works well in the morning with a drink such as green tea. Using a warm drink helps dissolve creatine better, so the bottom of your beverage doesn’t taste like a sandbox.

12) Micro progression is the Key to Macro-Results

Travis Pollen, the Fitness Pollenator

Eat more and get progressively stronger, it’s that simple. Consistently add weight to the bar and consume 300+ more calories than your baseline to promote an anabolic state and increase your work capacity.
While you’re at it, forget the bodybuilder split, and train your entire body every session: something for your legs, something for your core, a pushing movement, a pull, and occasionally, high-intensity intervals.

From week to week add a little weight and keep your eyes on the long term. A weekly increase of 5 lbs. on a lift would be 260lbs in a year, a massive improvement for anyone.

The progressive overload doesn’t need to be weekly, but it must be consistent. Building muscle doesn’t happen overnight, but string together several weeks and months of hard work, and gains will be aplenty.

13) High-Frequency Training Builds Mass Faster

 Would you be stronger performing squats in 52 workouts per year or 104 workouts per year?
Logic says to go with 104, but why?
 

Consistent exposure to stimuli is vital for learning new movement patterns, allowing you to become better at exercises faster.

While this doesn’t mean you should train every movement pattern daily, performing total body training routines a few times per week will accelerate hypertrophy is most lifters.

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

bodyweight training, Expert Tips to Build Muscle, Expert Tips to Build Muscle

Group one performed one day per week of strength training with three sets to failure, using rep ranges moving from three to ten reps per set. Group two performed workouts three days per week with one set to failure per day, while working in the same rep ranges.

Training volume between the two groups was the same, yet group two had greater increases in both lean body mass and improved one-rep max strength. With total volume held constant, spreading the training frequency to three doses per week produced superior results in both strength and muscular hypertrophy.

A 2010 study on anabolic processes in human skeletal muscle found that repeated phases of net protein balance, which can be a generated response to repeated bouts of resistance exercise and protein ingestion, underpins muscle hypertrophy (Phillips, S., & West, D., 2010).

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

14) Hammer the Basics, Then Get Creative 

Bryan Krahn, the man behind BryanKrahn.com

There are two big stumbling blocks for guys looking to get big: lack of respect for the essentials, and a lack of creativity.

For the first one, you have to do the bodybuilding basics before all else. That means eating a significant calorie surplus, lots of protein, a good amount of “good” fat, and reasonably frequent meals.

Expert Tips to Build Muscle

Yet people seem to want to “hack that” — they want to fast most of the day and shovel food at night, or do some weird macronutrient cycling voodoo, or use overly hyped supplements.

What a waste of time. Even if what you’re doing works — and it might — why risk it when you can just do what others before you have done. And grow.

The lack of creativity stems from your body’s ability to adapt. Even the absolute best workout will eventually quit delivering results, cause your body has adapted it. So you have to change exercises up, use different rep ranges, exercises, rest intervals, even tempos.

And you have to stop just training your strengths. Maybe getting your chest to finally “grow again” requires strengthening your “unsexy” upper back? Or maybe it requires simply learning to “bench for a big chest instead of a strong bench press.”

It all boils back to humility. Accepting that you don’t know everything yet, and that some others before you are light years ahead of you.

Wrap Up Expert Tips to Build Muscle
Consistent, hard training in the presence of enough calories is a no-brainer to accelerate hypertrophy.
Coupled with these tips, you’re truly setting yourself up for success to finally build the strong, shredded, and athletic body you desire.

Tweet: Here's What the Experts Say about Building Muscle: bit.ly/1Ow4zucTweet: Here’s What the Experts Say about Building Muscle: 

• Strength Improves Muscle Building Capacity

• Hammer the Basics, Then Get Creative

• Error: They eat too much food.

• Train muscles according to their functional anatomy and fiber type

• Don’t Sweat the Olympic Lifts for building muscle

• Use Creatine: You should be anyways for the numerous health benefits that are beginning to appear.

• De-load

• Modify rest periods to fit your goals

• Multiple Tempos/ Set Durations

• Train with a High Relative Frequency

• Micro progression is the Key to Macro-Results

• Optimize Your Workouts based on Neural demands

 

Train Smarter, Train Harder, Perform Better

Building a high-performance body can be difficult. But, it doesn’t have to be.

Join our Private Facebook group, it’s free. 

AND WILL HELP YOU LOOK BETTER NAKED ????

OUR COMMUNITY IS FOCUSED ON SIMPLIFYING FITNESS SO YOU BUILD YOUR STRONGEST, LEANEST, AND MOST ATHLETIC BODY…WITHOUT ALL THE INFORMATION OVERLOAD.

 

Resources:

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

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

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

Find This Article Helpful?

 

The Right Way to Do Box Jumps

how to box jump correctly, right way to do box jumps

As a coach it’s imperative that every exercise I program in has a specific goal in mind.

After all, the goal of training is to create a physiological response to improve performance towards your goal, not populate your YouTube page with cool stunts and feats in the gym.

Case in point: Box Jumps.

how to box jump, The Right Way to Do Box Jumps

More specifically, box jumps as a conditioning tool are a terrible choice in terms of risk reward. Furthermore, there are no medals for having a high box jump and it’s time to stop with the insane attempts.
Instead, use the box jump as the high performance training tool it’s intended to be:

  • for potentiating the nervous system of gains in strength and size
  • a low-impact explosive exercise to protect your knees, yet incorporate athletic movement
  • re-inforce optimal landing and joint mechanics to prevent injury

Head to T-Nation to check out my latest post, where I’ll cover the ins and outs of the box jump and how to maximize it’s application in getting your Stronger, Shredded, and more Athletic.

The Right Way to Do Box Jumps

The Super Sexy Secret to Building an Awesome Body

One week it’s the paleo diet. Then, it fits your macros (IIFYM). But Hey, don’t forget intermittent fasting, it’s so easy a caveman can do it, bro. And that’s just diet.

How about CrossFit? Should I train like a powerlifter and just get hella’ strong? How about training like an athlete so my body is both show and go?

To be frank, the number of possibilities for training and exercise are startling. With so many options, what are you to do? This is a question I’ve been trying to to answer for years. As it stands, one factor reigns king over all other factors for building an epic body: Consistent effort over all is the secret way to build an awesome body. 

Luckily, I’m not the only one who has come to this conclusion. Today, my good friend Mitch Calvert of Mitchcalvert.com drops by with an awesome guest post to tell you exactly what you need to hear about training hard, consistent effort, and the best methods to get your training back on track this New Year. 

Enjoy!

-Eric

In the information age in which we live, it’s very easy to fall into the ‘paralysis by analysis’ trap, jumping from one diet or exercise program to the next depending on what’s the flavour of the month. Problem is, it’s also a first class ticket to mediocrity rather than high-performance training and a bad-ass body.

secret to building an awesome body
Photo: schwarzenneger.com

Train Like A Warrior

I swear, the weightlifters and bodybuilders who came before the internet were better off. They got into the gym and lifted weights, emulating the big guys who came before them, and didn’t always stick to a pre-programmed workout regime day-in and out. They had fun, pushed their limits and got huge and strong beyond comprehension.
It just seems as though these guys were more willing to bust their balls, put in the work, and get things done at no cost.

Do you think Arnold Schwarzenegger trained solely based on the results of a peer-reviewed scientific study or only when he felt like it?

Hell No.

He got in there, hoisted huge weights, ate like a machine, and made sacrifices to get great results. It’s great that science is starting to catch up with the experience of bodybuilders – with studies actually looking at guys and girls who work out with some form of intensity – but there’s more than one way skin the cat (Eric’s Note: I’ve never tried, but I’m sure there are). 

In all honesty, you’re selling yourself short to a mediocre body if you refuse to do something that hasn’t been backed by science.

Even worse, scan the gym next time you’re in. Here’s what you’ll see: Some bro checking his cell phone, another trying to pick-up girls at on elliptical, and a few buddies hanging by the water fountain gossiping about how their fantasy team sucked this year or their boss is riding them hard at work. I respect that the gym is a social place, but Where’s the intensity?

Having the perfect plan written down won’t get you results. The science isn’t going to do the work for you. Your pre-workout won’t do it either.

After a certain point of development, you need to get into the gym with a mindset built on kicking ass. Cut the crap, put your headphones on and go to work. Be a warrior, and you”ll reap what you sow. A diamond without pressure is a lump of coal. Rather than make excuses, it’s time to polish things up, and get down to the basics of old school, intense training.

The Best Methods to Boost Training Intensity

You don’t need some fancy new scheme and equipment to boost intensity; rather, you need proven methods to test your mettle and shatter plateaus in the gym.

Contrast Sets 

These movements involve pairing a loaded movement with an unloaded one. As Lee Boyce explains it, the fast twitch muscle fibres will be stimulated by performing a set of heavy front or back squats, for example, and then by pairing the compound movement with bodyweight jump squats.

As a result of the contrasted loading the fast twitch fibres “think” that they still need to recruit themselves in the quantity (and intensity) they needed to during the heavy squats when performing the unloaded movement.

Theoretically, the nervous system becomes hypersensitive and recruits a greater amount of muscle leading to greater gains in explosiveness and strength to get you jacked.

Some examples of pairs include Bench Press with Plyo Push-ups.  Rep out 5 of the main compound lift and then finish off with 5 reps of the secondary movement as explosively as possible. Not only will these build explosiveness, there is a hidden metabolic benefit to improve conditioning and get you shredded.

[Eric’s note: Contrast sets, when used to boost performance are a very advanced method using post activation potentiation. Learn more about them here]

secret to build an awesome body
http://beastlifestyle.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Arnold-Franco-Squatting.jpg

Drop Sets

Drops sets require you to do a target amount of reps and then, upon technical failure, drop the weight and rep out another set, then repeat again. Alternatively, you can do a drop set without decreasing the poundages by lessening the level of difficulty with each set.

For example, with incline dumbbell bench presses, start at a 45 degree angle, rep out 8-10, drop to a 30 degree angle and rep out again, and then flatten the bench and do one more set all in quick succession.

The cumulative volume, metabolic stress, and muscular damage will great test your mettle, but help you build muscle and jump-start stagnant training.

Partial Reps

Once you have completed all the reps you can with good form, you maintain your form, but only do smaller, half reps, sometimes even quarter reps. These should still be done in a controlled manner and certain exercises aren’t very well suited to them. Some examples that do work include quarter reps on a lying leg curl machine after you’ve completed all your full ROM sets – this will pump your hamstrings full of blood. Try to hammer out 20-30+ quarter reps.

Similar to drop sets, partials add tons of metabolic stress, and muscular damage will great test your mettle to help you build muscle and jump-start stagnant training.

Widowmakers

I’m not going to sugarcoat this– widow makers are brutal work and must be done with sound technique, spotters, and all necessary safety measures taken. That said, you reap what you sow.

Here’s How it’s done: After you’ve completed your working sets for a muscle keep the heaviest weight on the bar. Instead of doing another 8-12 rep set, you’ll aim for 20 reps with sound form through rest pauses and true grit.  This will be a grind and force you well beyond your comfort zone.

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”- Bruce Lee

It’s OK if you don’t make it, but the goal is to push beyond those mental barriers holding you back. Unless you’re a really advanced trainee, exercises with the most risk of injury (where form can be difficult to maintain) should probably be avoided, i.e. deadlifts. Props to Dante Trudel (DoggCrapp Training originator) for turning me onto this method.

Supersets & Trisets

This is when you do one exercise immediately followed by another, not necessarily with the same muscle group. For example, pair bicep and tricep movements together and rotate back and forth. For further intensity (and some cardio) you can pair three exercises – trisets – in a similar fashion.

A Word of Caution

The Secret to Build an Awesome Body is consistent effort t and intensity. That in mind, there’s a risk reward with every activity and risks rise when you work beyond your typical limits. Still, growth must be forced, it doesn’t just happenYou want to push your limits, not beat up your joints or risk a serious injury.

The techniques listed must be incorporated as part of a periodized workout program.  If you’ve had a month-long layoff from the gym (for shame!), don’t jump into high volume workouts with drop sets and widowmakers right off the bat. You’ll get plenty of stimulus/results simply from easing back into it and progressively increasing the volume and intensity over weeks at a time. Train hard but train smart. The pursuit of muscle is a marathon, not a sprint!

About the Author:

Since 2010, Mitch Calvert has been working privately with clients, helping them break through their mental and physical plateaus towards sexier and healthier bodies.

In January 2015, he’ll be releasing Endomorph Evolution, a body recomposition program for guys with fat boy genes. Find Calvert Fitness online at www.mitchcalvert.com and join him on Facebook.

The Secret of Absolute and Relative Strength for Athletes

Key Points:

-Absolute strength and relative strength are both vital to athletes, but more attention must be paid to relative strength for athletes.

– Strength is a key component for athletic success, but of one of many components

-Further increasing strength levels may reach a point of diminishing returns in athletic performance if the pursuit of strength is overemphasized other components of sport.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Absolute strength gets all the glory, but relative strength for athletes reigns king. In other words, being strong isn’t enough; you need to be strong for your size, too.

Wait…What?


“I thought being super strong was a cure all?”

relative strength for athletes

There’s a reason athletes don’t train exactly like powerlifters, and a reason powerlifters don’t train exactly like athletes. They require different skills, have individual needs, and limited resources to train.

To be honest, not everyone needs to be jacked out of their minds or squat 400 plus pounds to be a better athlete. Those guys are a dime a dozen– by lifting progressively heavier weights, cramming enough food down your gullet, and sleeping enough you’ll get big and strong. 

On the contrary, you rarely see smaller guys performing insane feats of strength in sport. Think 5’8″ Nate Robinson throwing down Tomahawk dunks amongst 7’0″ centers. His relative strength is exceptional and when combined with sound technique, you have explosive power. 

Why This Matters

As a relative strength athlete and coach of relative and absolute strength athletes I’m fortunate to have an improved perspective on what my athletes need to emphasize to maximize training and carryover into sports. Athletes spending too much time adding plates to the bar reach a point of diminishing returns if it causes un-necessary allocation of training and recovery resources and extra body mass.

Stop Taking Every Strength Building Article as the End all Be All

Contrary to what’s pushed in most major fitness publications absolute strength isn’t the end all be all–you must be relatively stronger than your competitors to gain a distinct advantage in sports that are based around speed, power, and movement.

You may love lifting heavy as much as anyone, but there is a point when “strong” is strong enough and the risks of pursuing further strength enhancement outweigh the rewards.

Relative Versus Absolute Strength 

I want to be crystal clear–absolute strength is essential for athletes. To be relatively strong you must have a base of absolute strength.

Relative strength= absolute strength/bodyweight

However, athletes that move their body through space such as gymnasts, sprint athletes, and combat sports with weight restrictions reach a point of diminishing returns when training for maximal strength and size. If training is too focused on improving maximum strength above other training variables then we’re missing the boat on training athletes to their sport.

Take the following example:

Ben Johnson, juiced or not juiced, was an absolute beast on the track and in the gym. With a 600lb+ squats at 170-180lbs he was absolutely stronger and relatively stronger than his competition, but would training to improve his squat as the primary mode of training necessarily improve his performance if other training suffers and he potentially gains weight to accommodate his training?

Here are some hypothetical numbers:

625lbs squat at 175lbs= 3.57x/bw

650 lbs squat at 185lbs= 3.51x/bw

Or a More practical Example:

405lb squat at 200 lbs = 2.025 x/bw

425 lb squat at 225 lbs = 1.89 x/bw

As you see,  being  stronger in an absolute sense doesn’t always mean stronger in a relative sense, which is more important for movement. This difference might seem minor, but if the additional weight results in being a step slower, or losing the ability to decelerate the body is the athlete really better? I’d venture not.

Relative Strength for Athletes 

There are many factors to consider, but heavy strength training is a tool for improvement, not the end-all be-all in performance. Does the allocation of resources towards building more strength with potential gains in size outweigh the benefits of higher relative strength and corresponding improvements in agility, speed, power, and coordination?

No, not when the athletes sports are mostly movement based.
You may be looking to get as big as a house for cosmetic reasons or for lifting more weight–that’s fine and there are always exceptions for absolute strength athletes like lineman, and strongman competitors. However, if you’re looking to get the most out of athletic  movement then gaining absolute strength and size isn’t always as important as improving relative strength for athletes.

Lets Discuss:

It’s important that lifters, competitive athletes, and trainers all understand the basis and limitations for certain styles of training. Training and improving absolute strength does a lot of great things, but it’s not the end-all be all to performance. Being absolutely strong isn’t enough– believing that is simply promoting another unquestioned training myth.  The real bad-asses are relatively strong– and able to run, jump, cut, and move their body like high-performance machines.

I know I’m opening a pandora’s box and going to get some flack for down talking absolute strength, but it’s a discussion that needs to be had and I want to hear your thoughts. Drop me a comment below and lets start the conversation. 

photo credit: Gil Laury via photopin cc

10 Sure-Fire Ways to Squat More Weight

Squats are lifting loyalty for curing chicken leg syndrome’ and building high-performance muscle mass for good reason–they work.

Squats develop total body strength, stimulate tons of total body muscle growth,  and improve athleticism. Yep, the squat reigns king among bang-for-your buck exercises.

Problem is, most lifters have the mobility of a cast iron skillet and lack ability to execute the squat safely and effectively.

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This poses a huge problem—If you don’t squat safely and effectively a powerful tool becomes limited at best, dangerous at worst. To maximize the squat you need mobility to reach proper position and the stability to control movement through the  intended range of motion.

“To maximize the squat you need the mobility to reach proper position and the stability to control movement through the intended range of motion.”

It’s time to maximize your squat potential through improving technique, mobility, and execution to take your high-performance training to another level. With these 10 Sure Fire Tips you’ll be Squat More Weight, build more muscle, and improve athleticism in no time.

1.) Train for Maximum Strength

Obvi bro…right?

Here’s the thing—despite the fact that you need to train heavy to build maximum strength of people still neglect heavy weights. Yes, training with submaximal loads will spare your joints and nervous system to a degree, but to maximize submaximal training you need a base of absolute strength.

Training at 60% 1-rm for speed is much more effective when your 1-RM is 1.5-2x bodyweight. Sorry bub, you won’t get much squatting with a 135lb max and trying to be explosive with loads of 75-85lbs.

While heavy lifting is generally defined as 85%+ maximum effort for multiple sets of one to five reps, It’s best to avoid missing lifts. Missing lifts zaps your nervous system, engrains poor technique, and wrecks your confidence—a death sentence for your training or that of your clients.

Hit reps the you know you’ll make and save yourself for the occasional max-out attempts, unless you want to wreck your nervous system and technique.

2.)Train Submaximal Reps for Power

Strength-speed and speed-strength are synonymous with power. They produce a sky-high power output compared with longer-duration, lower-velocity maximum strength exercises.

“Compare a tractor-trailer and a Ferrari. It’s great to have a ton of horsepower, but for high performance, it’s best to generate horsepower rapidly.”

 

For breaking lifting plateaus or achieving more weight-room transfer from athletes, power development is key. Compare a tractor-trailer and a Ferrari. It’s great to have a ton of horsepower, but for high performance, it’s best to generate horsepower rapidly.Remember: Power= Work/Time

Most research shows that maximum power is achieved through moving moderate loads at high velocity with loads of 40-60% of your 1RM. Depending on the athlete, there will be differences within this range and some experimentation will be needed to find what’s best.

For a big squat, speed squats are ideal for power development and technical practice. These can be used as long as a decent base of absolute strength is present and technique isn’t an issue.

3.)Train Speed and Speed-Strength

Speed-strength works the lower-load, higher-velocity component of the force velocity curve to train explosive power. Once again, the greater your base of absolute strength, the easier it will be to express explosive strength. For most lifters, keep the emphasis on explosive jumps that match the biomechanics of the squat closest, i.e. jump squats.

 

 

There are tons of variations that address speed of movement, landing mechanics, and power without too much risk. Your best choices are broad jumps, vertical jumps, and box jumps to increase your rate of force development and explode through sticking points. Stick to single-response jumps and ensure sound landing mechanics before moving to multi-response jumps.

[Side Note: If you’re an athlete that requires speed for on-field dominance there needs to be a premium placed on it. In this case intense movement skills like acceleration and top end speed should be the first priority in your training, not lifting maximal weight.]

 

4.) Squat Twice Per Week

Multiple squatting sessions per week maximizes technical and neuromuscular efficiency through training at variable intensities. Squatting twice per week allows you to focus on one heavy and one speed session. Separate these sessions by 48-72 hours for full recovery.

“Targeting the squat pattern with multiple sessions per week while addressing the force-velocity spectrum leads to greater gains in power, strength, and explosiveness.”

I like to combine a speed-strength method before squatting, followed by maximum strength (85-95+%) on the first squat day. On the second day, I’ll emphasize a pure speed movement with a submaximal strength-speed squat (40-75%). Targeting the squat pattern with multiple sessions per week while addressing the force-velocity spectrum leads to greater gains in power, strength, and explosiveness.

5.) Train to YOUR depth

Yes, building a big squat is great and should improve multiple performance parameters.

But the key word is “should.”

Too many coaches and athletes sell out for big totals in the “big three” and being hardcore with ass-to-grass (ATG) squats no matter what.

While ATG will earn you props on the interwebz, it doesn’t mean anything if you’re risking injury to the lumbar spine. If you squat to depth without a tuck – keep going. But if you can’t maintain position due to lack of core control or bony hip anatomy, don’t force a deep squat. 

6.) Cycle in Front Squats

Yes, back squats take the title as the King Builder, but front squats offer a plethora of benefits:

  • Increased core integrity, allowing greater depth without compromised spinal position and, thus, greater relative muscle activation at lighter weights compared to the back squat.
  • Similar muscle activation of the back squat without as much joint compression and shear stress due to using less weight.
  • Increased strength requirements of the thoracic extendors to hold position – a bonus for desk jockeys with kyphotic posture.

If you’re into 3,000+ word blogs full of biomechanics, research, and front squat nerdin’ then check out this full post.
Otherwise, here are a few highlights:  https://bachperformance.com/training/how-to-front-squat/

Benefits of Front Squats:

  • Increase core integrity and greater depth for greater relative muscle activation. By staying upright and activated in the anterior core you’re less likely to have “butt-wink”.
  • Similar muscle activation of the back squat without as much joint compression and shear stress. Less weight, same muscle activation and lower risk of injury? Count me in homie.
  • Increase strength requirements of the thoracic extendors and anterior core to hold position and resist flexion. Meaning your abs and upper back work harder during the exercise.

7.) Spread the Floor

Allowing the knees to buckle in, known as valgus collapse, is a great way to reinforce poor mechanics and set yourself up for a significant knee injury. Prevent valgus collapse by spreading the floor and pushing the knees  out during the squat. This emphasizes hip and posterior chain development and skyrocketing your squat numbers.

Yes, some high-level powerlifters let the knees dive in during their squat, but you’re not the genetic freak and powerhouse they are.

Letting the knees cave engrains dangerous technique, especially if it leads to uncontrolled valgus collapse in sport or recreation activities. In other words, don’t be an idiot and let the knees cave in– you’ll probably bust your shit and end up in rehab rather than the gym.

8.) Train the pause

If you’re squatting to depth, you need to be stable in the bottom position. Train the pause by using submaximal loads and squatting to maximum depth while maintaining trunk integrity (this means no butt-wink). Unless you’re training for a big total and need to hit certain depth, the risk versus reward IS NOT worth a rock-bottom squat under load in the presence of butt-wink.

9.) Bend the Bar

Don’t be lazy with the bar. Get your Hulk on and try to bend it around your body. If you’re not actively applying force to the bar, the bar will act on you – jumping off or burying you in failure.

“If you’re not actively applying force to the bar, the bar will act on you.”

Drive your elbows down and back to engage the lats, provide a larger shelf for the barbell, and create additionally stability in the trunk. Solomonow, et al concluded that over 200 muscles are activated during squat performance. Use them all to maximize your squat performance.

Additionally, you’ll prevent the bar from jumping off your back during explosive squats, improving rep quality and decreasing injury risk. You don’t want to be that chump who loses a barbell behind your back during training anyway.

 

10.) Rack at the correct height

We’ve all seen it: a rack set-up too high, a calf-raise walkout followed by the poor sap nearly cracking his skull when re-racking. Besides inappropriate barbell loading, improper rack set-up is the most preventable way to get injured.

Set the rack up with the barbell set between nipple and shoulder height, low enough to allow you to squat to weight out and easily re-rack, as well. Make your mark and write down the “notch” in your workout log until it’s habit.

 

Wrap Up

Sick of getting planted by your squats?
Good. Implement these 10 Sure-Fire Ways to Squat More Weight and you’ll be adding plates in no time.
As always, Optimize your technique first, and then start piling on plates for long-term success.

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

 

References:

1. Solomonow, M., et al. “The Synergistic Action of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament and Thigh Muscles in Maintaining Joint Stability.” Am J Sports Med. 1987 May-Jun;15(3):207-13. Accessed November 18, 2014.

photo credit: Derek Walker Photo (Derk Photography) via photopin cc

Escape from Hardgainer Hell: Nutrition for Hardgainers

For some dudes building muscle is easy. Add protein and creatine to their diet mixed with any  training and voila: 10 pounds of muscle in a month.

I’m not that guy.

In fact, I could pull off skinny jeans and small t-shirts no matter how much I thought I ate or how hard I trained.

It sucked.

That all changed one hot, muggy afternoon.

I just got done peeling myself off the turf at Football practice after I was absolutely trucked by a teammate. My teammate wasn’t a prick; I just provided less resistance than a blade of grass.

It was embarrassing, humiliating, and a huge wake up call to change. I read everything on nutrition and training I could, trying to implement it all at once.

Still, I failed miserably. My desire desire to change was so great that I changed everything whenever I read a fancy supplement label with giant promises or a new training routine.

When it comes to building muscle, information overload is a surefire way to fail.

Much like a Hail Mary pass your efforts will probably end up with a turnover and failure. It’s much better to dink and dunk your way down the field, taking what you can and creating small wins on a daily basis until you spark a big play.

Much like training, you wouldn’t jump into heavy singles without first building up and practicing technique with heavy loads.
Nutrition for hardgainers is no different.

It’s time to stop being the object of ridicule despite busting your ass. By implementing these hardgainer nutrition laws one at a time you’ll see the light and earn your pass out of hard gainer hell.

 1)Drink Liquid Meals Before, During, and/or After your Training

Ironically, when I’m working with clients looking to lose weight one of the first things we look to clean up is the intake of liquid calories. As it stands, my number one strategy to gain the first few pounds of hard-gainer muscle is to incorporate liquid calories before, during, and/or after training. The benefits are huge. Since you’re already guzzling fluids to rehydrate during workouts it’s easy to sneak in 500+ calories for improved exercise recovery, protein synthesis, and tissue repair.

Nutrition for hardgainers

What you need:

-Blender because well, you need to blend the damn thing

Fruit for flavor, high quality nutrients, and carbohydrates for energy

-Spinach or Greens, you wont even taste it and the added veggies are vital to balance a high-protein diet

Protein to support muscle growth and tissue repair

Topper/Texture adder for additional nutrients and to bring the whole recipe together

Optional: Creatine monohydrate to support high performance training, or a greens supplement to fill nutritional gaps.

Raspberry Chocolate Goodness:

This shake is an awesome post-workout shake, quick breakfast, or a healthy sweet treat option. If you are looking for fat loss keep this decadent treat for a post-workout treat due to the carbohydrate count.

Ingredients

-1 Cup Raspberries (frozen)

-2 Scoops Chocolate Whey Protein

-1.5 Cups Raw Spinach

-1 Cup Coconut Milk

– ½ cup water, ½ cup ice

Bottom Line: In all seriousness supplements make things much easier. If you’re busy then $2 for two scoops of protein per day is a no-brainer compared to cooking up an extra ½ pound of chicken for a similar protein equivalent. Both from a financial and time perspective protein supplements like Biotrust or Onnit are a godsend. Make a batch of Supershakes like the shake listed above.

 2) Track Your Calories for Self-Awareness

Tracking calories is a pain in the ass.

Tracking Calories is an in-exact science at best.

Still, if you’re not gaining weight the reason is simple—you’re not getting enough calories. Simple and straightforward, multiply your bodyweight by 18 to find the minimum number of calories you need.

Therefore, if you weigh 160 pounds… 160×18= 2880 calories

Thermogenics are simple–if you’re in a caloric surplus you will begin adding weight to your hard gainer frame. When it comes to “energy out,” the body’s energy needs include the amount of energy required for maintenance at rest, physical activity and movement, plus food digestion, absorption, and transport. “Energy in” is simpler: how many calories you’re putting into your body. Altogether, you need to put in 300-500 more calories than you’re burning for a positive energy balance.

How to Create a Positive Energy Balance:

Seriously—EAT MORE

If you’re not gaining weight the hard truth is you need to eat more. All the training in the world won’t do anything for you if you’re not putting enough fuel into your body. You need tons of fuel to support your hard training and even more to build muscle. You can’t build a brick wall without bricks—get your calories in.

Bottom Line: The science is in-exact, but self-awareness is priceless. The biggest most jacked guys in the world count their calories because it instills self-awareness and discipline on exactly what it takes to accomplish your goal. Count calories using Myfitnesspal for the next two weeks and monitor your weight every other day. This way you’ll see the amount of food needed to reach your goals and develop eating habits that match your goals.

3) Don’t Fast if you want to Gain Muscle

I understand the draw of intermittent fasting for fat loss, overall health, and working around a hectic schedule, but a restricted eating schedule is the last thing under-eating hard gainers need to gain muscle. Hardgainers simply can’t eat 4 cups of rice and 16oz of steak at dinner- they think a chicken breast and one sweet potato is eating big.
While you don’t need to eat every two or three hours or drag a cooler to work you must make time to get your calories in. If you’re dead-set on intermittent fasting for muscle gain don’t go over twelve hours without eating, you wont get enough calories in to support muscle growth.

Bottom Line: It doesn’t matter how many bricklayers you have; if there aren’t enough bricks you won’t build a foundation. The same logical applies to building muscle—all the training is for naught unless you eat enough calories to support muscle growth.

4.) Balance Acids and Bases:

Look bones: You’re crushing your diet, training hard, and making headway in your escape from hard gainer hell. Problem is, you reek like a toxic dump, your stomach is in fits, and your digestion is garbage.

What gives?

Digestive health is huge indicator of what’s going on side your body while you’re preoccupied with pumping your pecs and squatting a house. When muscle building is the goal, hard gainers opt for high-protein foods like tasty dead animal flesh to support their hard training. The tradeoff is on imbalance between having too many highly acidic foods (meats) and not enough bases (leafy greens) that results in symptoms from increased inflammation, acid reflux, diarrhea, and constipation. Any way you look at it health suffers unless the body is in balance between acidic foods and base foods.

Nutrition for Hardgainers
Get your greens while knowing at bambi’s femur

Without a balanced approach to eating training, recovery, and overall health suffer due to an acidic environment. Basically, you should be eating a handful of veggies while you’re gnawing away at your next sirloin.

Tips to Balance Your Diet:

– Have 2 “handfuls” or two cups with of veggies with each meat based meal. Eat one before diving into your protein source to jump-start the digestive process.

– Incorporate fermented foods like raw sauerkraut to improve digestion. Not only is it great on Brats (I’m from Wisconsin, dontcha know), raw sauerkraut and other fermented foods are rich in digestive enzymes and bacteria to aim in digestion.

  • Kudos on the Scrawny to Brawny program, blending spinach into protein shakes is an easy way to balance acids and bases in your diet. From here on out, blend spinach into your shakes. Trust me, you won’t even taste it.
  • Take a greens supplement like ONNIT Superfood. Not only can these replace a multi-vitamin, but they’ll also improve your digestion, immune function, and counteract a high protein diet. Plus, most of us struggle to get our veggies. Pick up ONNIT Superfood and have it you’re your creatine first thing in the morning.

Bottom line: Health is the first wealth and an unhealthy body is unlikely to be optimal for training. Without our health in line, we won’t ever build lean muscle and improve performance anyways so it is always best to focus on health first.

5.) Don’t Fear Fat

If you haven’t caught onto the theme yet calories are the supreme ruler for your hardgainer nutrition. Without enough calories your muscle building workouts are all for naught. One of the easiest ways to increase your calorie intake is to increase your intake of higher fat foods because fat contains 9 calories per gram of fat.

Avoid fat phobia—an increase intake of fatty foods like grass-fed meats, raw nuts, and cooking with virgin unrefined coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil has been shown to increase anabolic hormone levels like testosterone to support healthy energy, libido, and muscle building.

 

hardgainer nutrition
Behold the power of grassfed beef
  • For example, by using 2 tbsp. of olive oil to prepare our meals 2x per day, we can “sneak in” over 60g of fat and 540 calories into our diets.
  • Further, if we eat 3 handfuls (1/4 cup) of mixed nuts per day, which may be an extra 300-400 calories, depending on the size of your hands.
  • If we go with 4 whole eggs for breakfast instead of 3 egg whites and 1 whole egg, that’s an extra 18g of fat and 162 calories.

 

Bottom Line: Fatty foods are the most calorically dense and will drastic bump in calories for building muscle. Furthermore, fats in your diet will support anabolic hormone levels, libido, and energy for better workouts, more muscle, and 2000% more awesome manliness.

6.) Hyper Hydrate

Body water in humans varies with age and sex, but the body is composed of 40-60% water. Than means for a 160lb dude 80+ pounds of your water are composed of water.

80 pounds.

Needless to say, proper hydration is key for tons of bodily functions:

  • Water acts as a solvent to dissolve chemicals
  • Water transports nutrients to and from cells
  • Waste management
  • Water plays a role in the synthesis of proteins, glycogen, and other molecules
  • Water acts as a catalyst for metabolic reactions in the body
  • Water lubricates joints and tissues
  • Water helps regulate temperature

Our demands for water obviously increase with hard training. The enhanced metabolic rate of muscle contraction requires a larger delivery of nutrients and oxygen along with faster waste and heat removal from the body to continue training. Even the most experienced athletes struggle with water intake despite the fact that 1-2 % reduction in bodyweight from water loss leads drops in performance through muscle cramping, decreased endurance, loss of motor skill, and a loss of muscular strength.

Bottom Line: As much as 60% of your body and 75% of muscle tissue is water. If you’re dehydrated you’re not performing up to your maximum potential and limiting growth. After training, muscle repair requires fluid for nutrient absorption to maximize recovery. Get dat water bruh.

 

Implementing the Goodies

All the information is the world is great, but it takes a thorough plan to implement change.

All the information is the world is great, but it takes a thorough plan to implement change. (yes, it bears repeating)

Start for the first two weeks by adding a super shake like the recipe listed above after every workout and off day for breakfast.

Next, start tracking your calories for the following two weeks.

By one month from now you’ll be consuming an extra 500 calories/day in shakes with a huge bump in awareness of what’s going into your body.

At the end of one month that’s at least a bump in 15,000 total calories, or an extra 7.5 days worth of food to help you build muscle. Slowly add fats, additional water, and keep your health a priority while you bulk.

COMMIT AND PERSEVERE

Ending your hard gainer hardships isn’t about the perfect plan; rather, it’s about consistent behaviors that manifest into long-term change. If you’re a scrawny dude who sticks to a routine and diet for three days and then flips out when his abs lose a vein, only to switch to a fat loss diet this is for you.

The road is tough, but you must stay the course and persevere through the tough times. Muscle growth and getting jacked only take place in the presence of excess calories and amino acids for muscle fiber repair. If you’re gaining too much body fat look back at your food log and clean things up—health is still important.

Keep your goal, persevere, and crush your nutrition. If your goal truly matters I’m challenging you to step to the plate and see things through.
You’ve got this—now win the day.

P.S. 

[Stuck as a Hardgainer? I’ve been there and I’m here to help. This week I’m taking 20% off all Bach Performance Online Training until 11:59 pm Friday Only. That means four months of World-Class workout programs, Nutrition, Weekly and Monthly Skype Calls with a fifth month 100% Free. Apply NOW before spots are gone.]

 

Now, let’s hear it from YOU – what are your TOP SOURCES for muscle gaining information? Drop your comments below!

photo credit: cranrob via photopin cc

photo credit: ratterrell via photopin cc

Shake Up Your Muscle Building Diet

Building muscle is brutally tough work. Some dudes might even say it’s impossible.

Like most of my clients you probably want a strong, high-performance body that’s ripped, muscular, and by all accounts, capable of handling anything the world throws at you. You already train smart, are dedicated to high-performance training, and you eat a decent diet. Still, you aren’t getting jacked.

It sucks; I’ve been there too.

I missed the boat in my own training for a long time. Suffice to say, I spun my wheels with every training tool, program, and diet imaginable. Before I dive into your diet I have to tell you the truth: No matter what you’re looking to accomplish you must first define it. Define your goal qualitatively and quantitatively.

Qauntitative: I want to build ten pounds of muscle and weight 170 lbs

Qualitative: I want to build confidence to ask Jessica Alba on a date. Good luck by the way.

muscle building diet
photo credit: http://actresspose.blogspot.com/2012/02/pictures-of-jessica-alba.html

The point is, no goal will ever feel complete without an ending in sight. Without a definitive stop point you’ll lose aim of what you really want to accomplish and in turn, fizzle out. Definable paint a vivid picture of what success really means to you. Once you’ve taken this step, the real fun begins–like taking specific actions on a consistent basis to build a new habit and new behavior.

Truth be told, people don’t miss their goals because they don’t care, they miss there goals because they a.) Never define success, and/or b.) Never take small steps to adopt a new behavior.

The number one biggest problem guys trying to build muscle make… 

Is still not eating enough to gain calories. Despite how much you’re eating the hard truth is if you’re not gaining weight you’re still not eating enough. If you’re building a wall it doesn’t matter how many bricklayers you have, if you don’t have enough bricks the wall won’t get built.

Some days you run out of time or room in your stomach. Tough– you’ll have to push through. You either make time to get your goals accomplished or you don’t. If your not willing to make sacrifices and get out of your comfort zone then you’re just being lazy.

in the words of Sweet Brown, we ain’t got time for that. Fast forward to 24 seconds.

I’m not here to harp on you and call you out for a lack of effort. Instead, I’m here to help you carve your path out of hard-gainer hell with this one sure-fire solution– adding one Supershake to your diet each day. Uno. One. One measly protein shake each day will change your body and start a new muscle-building habit.

Not Chalky Weight-Gainers, Just High Performance Nutrition

Health is the first wealth and must be priority. Skip the classic gainers like MEGA-MASS 3000 filled with 90 grams of sugar, heavy metals, and sub-par protein. Instead, opt for high quality whey protein, all natural ingredients, and a high-performance blender for meals on the go.

Nutrient packed, tasty, and convenient these simple shakes will add 500+ calories per day without taking up time or room in your stomach.  These my top four muscle-building protein shakes to support your high performance training and muscle building diet.

These are all Precision Nutrition inspired and Bach Performance tweaked to based on self-experimentation and feedback from Bach Performance Clients. They all taste dank as hell, are filled with high quality ingredients, and will impress all those new dates you’ll be bringing home with your chiseled physique.

P.S. I highly recommend you check out Gourmet Nutrition for dozens of delicious and healthy meal options to support both muscle gain and fat loss.

What you need:

-Blender because well, you need to blend the damn thing

Fruit for flavor, high quality nutrients, and carbohydrates for energy

-Spinach or Greens, you wont even taste it and the added veggies are vital to balance a high-protein diet

Protein to support muscle growth and tissue repair

Topper/Texture adder for additional nutrients and to bring the whole recipe together

Optional: Creatine monohydrate to support high performance training, or a greens supplement to fill nutritional gaps

It’s much easier to make a few shakes at a time, throw your shaker in the fridge, and grab it as you run out the door. Here are my top-four favorite Super shakes to help you pack on the pounds.

High Protein Piña Colada:

This is an awesome post-workout shake, especially when the weather gets warm. This shake is packed with protein and high-performance super foods like coconut, green tea, and pineapple. I’ve found its best to play around with fluid amounts until you determine how thick’n chunky you like your shakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cups ice
  • 50 grams protein (1-2 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 2 tablespoons of shredded, unsweetened coconut (texture and flavor overload added flavor)
  • 1 cup green tea Or 1 cup water (pick one, one)

Mixed Berry Blast:

The Berry Blast is my go-to when I’m in a rush with 5 a.m. clients. I’ll whip up a batch and fill up two shakers. Generally, I’ll down one as I wake up and throw the other back post-workout. To maximize post workout efficiency and restoration of glycogen stores  drop out the Virgin Unrefined coconut oil to minimize fat intake.

muscle building diet

Ingredients

–       1 cup frozen mixed berries

–       2 scoops vanilla protein

–       2 tablespoons milled flax

–       1 cup spinach

–       1tablespoon raw, unrefined coconut oil

–       1 cup green tea or water (pick one)

Nutty Buddy:

This a high calorie shake with a decent amount of fat. I use this a lower-carb snack option and its best used sparingly. That said, you might roll over and pass out with a smile on your face after downing this nutty beast.

Ingredients

–       2 scoops protein (I prefer vanilla, but chocolate works here too)

–       1 cup spinach

–       2 tablespoons milled flax

–       2 tablespoons peanut butter

–       ¼ cup pecans (cashews also work)

–       1 cup water or Green tea (pick one)

Raspberry Chocolate Goodness:

This shake works best as a post-workout shake, a quick breakfast, or a healthy desert. If you are looking for fat loss keep this decadent treat for a post-workout treat due to the carbohydrate count.

Ingredients

-1 Cup Raspberries (frozen)

-2 Scoops Chocolate Whey Protein

-1.5 Cups Raw Spinach

-1 Cup Coconut Milk

– ½ cup water, ½ cup ice.

Directions: Yes, these are all the Same.

  1. Place all ingredients into the blender in this order. Seriously, this order works best:
  • Ice first
  • Frozen fruit over fresh
  • Throw in veggies- spinachor Onnit powdered greens wont even be tasted but provide a huge influx of awesome phytonutrients for those lacking in the Veggie department.
  • Protein powder—gainz bro. I recommend Bio Trust.
  • Nuts, Seeds, and Toppers I add nuts and seeds to most shakes for flavor, high quality nutrients, and fiber. Nut butters work well, although the name still disturbs me. Nut. Butters. Weird.
  • Liquid—I prefer water or green tea between ½-1 cup. This is highly variable as more liquid means a thinner shake. Play around with your preference.
  1. Blend for 30 seconds or until desired consistency.
  2. Drink and enjoy, a finish with push-ups to increase anabolism and muscle gainzzz by 500% bro. I’m kidding. Seriously. But really, do the push-ups anyways.

How to Implement It:

Building muscle isn’t impossible, you need a clear picture or where you’re going and what success looks like. After that, it’s all about making small changes that have a long lasting impact.

Start by drinking one shake everyday and watch the your shirt sleeves stretch and your our strength to skyrocket. Then, after a few weeks drop by and comment below on your favorite shake and we’ll chat from there.
Yes, building muscle is really that simple.

For You:
Looking for more muscle gaining tips? Join the Bach Performance Community for Free Updates and your Free E-book 101 Tips to Jacked and Shredded here.

Want to expedite the process?

Stop by and fill out a brief Online Training Application for one of my last three Online Personal Training Slots! Hurry though, they will be gone in the next three days!

Other Great Articles and References:

Gourmet Nutrition Cookbook

Busy Mans Carb Cycling

Ultimate Guide for Lean Gains: Carb Cycling

Scrawny to Brawny: Paul Valiuis

High Performance Exercises You Should be Doing: Goblet Squat

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

Even more perplexing is the same people doing the same exercises day after day, week after week and not making jack-squat (pun-intended) for progress.

While there are staple movements that make up the best muscle and strength building programs some variety is needed to reduce your chance of injuries and attack your weak points.

Case in point, the goblet squat.

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

Despite being a natural movement squatting with sound technique has somehow become a lost art.

Between sedentary jobs and inactive lifestyles, basic movement quality sucks for most folks. Among most exercises what’s supposed to be a squat ends up looking like a quasi-modo twerking with a steel bar on his back.

As you’d imagine, it ain’t pretty. Squats are a great tool, but like anything else, how you use the tool is most important. A hammer is great when hitting a nail, as long as you strike the nail instead of exploding your thumb.

As it is, the goblet squat is my preferred exercise when introducing the squat to new clients and beginners in the weight room. Whether you’re an inexperienced athlete or a desk jockey with the mobility of a screwdriver, the goblet squat is an easy way to teach body awareness and improve your squat.

Here’s A Sample Progression For Your Squat

Start with a bodyweight squat with the arms at shoulder width, progressing to an overhead squat to see how thoracic mobility limitations are playing a role in limiting movement.

At this point, most peoples knees begin shaking, their heels leave the floor, and all hell breaks loose. More than common mobility restrictions like poor dorsiflexion or tight hips my concern lies with the lack of stability during the movement. The fact that so many folks run around playing sports with major instabilities sets off the alarms faster than deadlifts at Planet Fitness.

 

With this in mind, the last thing you want to do is hop under a heavy barbell and squat your face off until your form is rock-solid.  This is where the almighty goblet squat comes into play.

Here’s a quick demo from my YouTube Page, which you should probably subscribe to.

 

Goblet Squats for Muscle Building:

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

You won’t be able to load goblet squats heavy like barbell squats, but you maintain great form and not snap your spine in half during longer duration sets.

Sound like a win? It is.

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


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Practice Squat Technique:

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

Increase anterior core engagement:

I cover this thoroughly when talking about front squats here, and the mechanism responsible for strengthening your core with goblet squats and front squats is largely the same.  Anterior bar placement keeps the torso vertical, preventing the hips from going into an excessive tilt, and requiring greater oblique and rectus abdominus involvement to prevent flexion.
This means your spine stays more vertical, lengthens the lats, reduces shear stress on the spine and requires extra core involvement to keep you vertical. In a nutshell, proper front squats and goblet squats protect your back from shooting a disk across the room and sending you to the ER.

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

 

Vertical Spine position and less shear stress on the spine:

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

 Minimal Equipment or Space Needed:

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

Teach upper-back tightness during lower body exercises:

Too many novice lifters don’t realize the importance of keeping the upper back tight because they don’t lift enough weight to get stapled forward. With even moderate weights, the goblet squatter feels his upper back and must retract the shoulders to hold the ideal position. As a bonus, this will keep you from getting the oh so sexy quasi-modo posture.

Teach tightness in the hole without significant loading:

Lots of folks lose lumbar stability in the bottom of the squat, bounce out of the hole, and losing spinal integrity. If you feel yourself rounding forward when you squat or your hips shooting up before your chest, this could be you.

No bueno.

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

In other words, adding pauses and slow tempo to reinforce your technique keeps your body from breaking down into potentially injury-causing positions. 

How to Goblet Squat:

Hold a dumbbell (or kettlebell) with both hands underneath the “bell” at chest level, and set your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing slightly outwards

(a). Push your butt back like you’re sitting in a chair and descend until your elbows reach the inside of your knees.

(b). Keeping your heels flat, pressing into the floor, pause at the bottom of the squat, and return to a full standing position. If your heels rise push your hips further back and work on partial ranges of motion until mobility and form improve

(c). Repeat for three to four sets of 8-10 reps.

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


 

Goblet Squat Coaching Cues:

Keep your chest tall with your shoulders squeezed down and together.

Brace the trunk like you’re taking a punch rather than arching your lower back.

Sit between your legs and open your hips. Push your knees out while you’re at it.

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

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

Sample Goblet Squat Progression:

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

I prefer this progression as it reinforces movement quality in a limited range of motion (ROM) and gradually increases ROM and difficulty as you get stronger.

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

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

The Goblet Squat Challenge

Think you’re too advanced to use goblet squats effectively? Ahh, it’s time to be humbled my friend.
As covered in my work on T-Nation, the goblet squat challenge is as follows: ”

When loaded heavy, the goblet squat is a brutal exercise that challenges the strength of your legs, anterior core, and upper back. Add in an iso-hold on the front end and you have a battle for the ages.

The Challenge

  1. Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell. Between 40-80 pounds is plenty for seasoned lifters.
  2. Hold it at chest height and descend to the bottom position of the squat. Hold in the bottom position for 15 seconds.
  3. After 15 seconds, stand up to full extension then perform as many full goblet squats as possible, up to 15 reps. If you can bang out more than that, go heavier.

Start with 40 pounds until you complete the full iso-hold plus 15 reps, at which point you increase the weight by 5-10 pound increments in subsequent workouts.”

In my experience, most men should start with 65 pounds and progress from there. Women will do well with 40 as a starting point. Work your way all the way to 100+ if you can and #gobletsquatchallenge and tagging @bachperformance on Instagram.  Here’s a quick demo:

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Time for a taste of my own medicine… — Since last weeks post on the #gobletsquatchallenge was shared by @testosteronenation I’ve received at least 40 videos from challengers. — Here’s my round with an 80 lb dumbbell, a 15 second pause, and 16 reps… I had to add one extra for good measure. — Here’s the challenge: When loaded heavy, the goblet squat is a brutal exercise that challenges the strength of your legs, anterior core, and upper back. Add in an iso-hold on the front end and you have a battle for the ages. . The Challenge: . 1. Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell. Between 40-80 pounds is plenty for seasoned lifters. . 2. Hold it at chest height and descend to the bottom position of the squat. Hold in the bottom position for 15 seconds. . 3. After 15 seconds, stand up to full extension then perform as many full goblet squats as possible, up to 15 reps. If you can bang out more than that, go heavier. . 4. Start with 40 pounds until you complete the full iso-hold plus 15 reps, at which point you increase the weight by 5-10 pound increments in subsequent workouts. . Form is still the determining factor – if you find you're not hitting full depth or your form falters, lower the poundage and continue working at it. Completing a set with over 65 pounds shows impressive mobility, stability, mental toughness, and endurance. – Eric Bach, @bachperformance — Tag me, @testosteronenation and the #gobletsquatchallenfe in your video. — Ready… go! . . #tnation #gobletsquat #legday #quads #glutes #gluteworkout #kettlebellworkout #bodybuilding #strengthtraining #strengthandconditioning #workoutchallenge

A post shared by Eric Bach (@bachperformance) on

 

Wrap Up

By now you’re well versed in the goblet squat. The goblet squat is a great teaching tool for beginners, a slam dunk for improving your technique, and a deceptive tool for building bigger, stronger legs.

Yea, it’s not ideal for maximum strength and power development, but let’s be real—more trainees would benefit from building sound mechanics of a goblet squat before piling weight on a faulty foundation and getting hurt.

Whether you’re new to squats or can’t squat due to hair-gelled curl in the squat rack guy the goblet squat is a high-performance training tool you should be doing.

A final note before you go…

Are you ready to build functional strength and muscle without all the aches and pains?

Then I Come Bearing Gifts.

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