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Archive for April, 2010

Ugh! Energy system development! I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but I hate cardio, I hate intervals, I hate complexes, I hate Tabatas, and I hate high reps. In fact, I hate anything that involves multiple repetitions. To me, heavy lifting is where it’s at! Sometimes my lower body workouts will consist of five singles of heavy squats, three singles of heavy deadlifts, and a couple of low rep sets of heavy hip thrusts before calling it a day. Yes, I’ve had workouts that had me performing around 14 repetitions in the entire workout (not including warm-ups). What can I say, I’m a low-rep kind of guy! Force me to perform a set of 10 reps and I’m liable to throw a tantrum and walk home. Oh yeah, my gym is my home so never mind (I have a garage gym). While this strategy may be great for strength, it leaves much to be desired for hypertrophy and fat-loss.

Recently my weight has climbed to 240 lbs and I need to lean out. In Scottsdale, you really need to be lean in the summertime as there are always times where friends, family, and co-workers are having barbeques and pool parties which require you to take your shirt off. So I decided that in addition to cutting down on my carb intake, I’m going to start performing complexes at the end of my workouts.

Here are some unique complexes that I performed after yesterday and today’s workouts:

Barbell Complex

In the first complex, I am using a barbell loaded to 135 lbs. I perform 6 reps of:

1. power curls
2. bent over rows
3. push presses
4. full squats
5. good mornings
6. glute bridges, and
7. floor presses

Here’s the video:

Here’s what I like about the barbell complex (I know, technically you’re not supposed to set the bar on the ground in a barbell complex – I cheated)

- I’m kind of obsessive-compulsive about nailing each movement pattern, and with this complex I get in a quad dominant movement, two hip dominant movements, a vertical press, a horizontal press, a horizontal pull, and a vertical pull (if you consider the power curl vertical which I realize is a stretch).

- The exercise order flowed very well which makes it easy to remember.

- I feel like the body’s large muscle groups get hit hard with these exercises and as my work capacity increases I’ll get much more out of it. Nobody has ever doubted the effectiveness of axial loading!

Here’s what I will do differently next time around

- I just read my friend John “I Missed the Boat by Not Referring to My Abs as ‘The Situation'” Romaniello’s article on TMuscle entitled Complexes 2.0 – Optimize Your Fat-Loss Workouts where he discusses different techniques that can be utilized to optimize your complex methodology.

- Next time around, I’m going to perform more reps with the easier exercises and I might tinker around with the order like John suggests. Sadly, I feel like I could easily perform 20 reps of each exercise on its own but I’m in such mediocre condition right now it was hard just doing 6 reps of each during the complex.

- Next time around, I may experiment with different exercises as there are so many good ones to substitute in (power cleans, power snatches, hang cleans, hang snatches, jump squats, wide grip upright rows, deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, reverse lunge, military press, barbell curl, barbell hack lift, etc.).

- Next time around, I’m going to perform the exercises much more explosively.

JC Band Complex

In the second complex, I am using a pair of blue JC Bands. I perform 5 reps of:

1. chest press (left foot forward)
2. chest press (right foot forward)
3. row (left foot forward)
4. row (right foot forward)
5. body bend (left)
6. body bend (right)
7. Pallof press (left)
8. Pallof press (right), and
9. squat to face pull

Here’s the video:

Here’s what I like about the band complex

- It reveals how strong your hips truly are from various directions. My friend who is much stronger than me at squats and bench press couldn’t walk out as far as I could as he couldn’t stabilize his body to get a good workout in his prime movers. It was as if the bands turned a Silverback gorilla into an ameba; he was all over the place. As he gains strength in his stabilizers and coordination with the bands, he will be able to get a much better workout. The stronger you are, the farther you can walk out which gives your hips (in this case the glutes, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, adductors, and hip rotators – which usually act as prime movers but with these band exercises they act as stabilizers in an isometric fashion) an even better workout. Strong weightroom guys initially suck at these until their smaller stabilizer muscles catch up in strength and their bodies learn to transfer force throughout the upper, core, and lower regions.

- It gives the shoulder stabilizers a great workout too. Whenever I use the JC Bands for some hard upper body work my rotator cuff muscles are very sore the following day.

- It reveals left/right asymmetries. As you can see, I’m more coordinated with my left foot forward than with my right foot forward. This type of training will help eliminate those asymmetries to build a more balanced, coordinated body.

- Watch the scapulohumeral rhythm on the chest presses! It looks like a push up plus, ableit an open-chain one. This movement requires a ton of serratus activation and scap protraction. Lots of freedom of movement for the scapulae on all upper body presses. The combination of rotator cuff and serratus activation on the presses along with the mid trap and rhomboid activation on the rows and face pulls make this workout an excellent shoulder conditioner.

- People underestimate how strong these bands are. I estimate that if I walk out far enough and perform a chest press I can have the equivalent of 300 lbs of tension at the end range of the movement. I bet most viewers will watch this video and assume it’s easy. Try it! Most are very surprised with the level of difficulty.

- You can’t get nearly as good of a conditioning workout with cables as you can bands as the bands are perfectly suited for explosiveness with their elastic nature. If you trained explosively with a cable column the weight stack would end up busting.

- Talk about full body integration! Everything is working together; you have transfer from the hands all the way into the ground with everything contracting in between.

- The bands allow you to hit a variety of directional load vectors: anteroposterior, lateromedial, torsional. You get core-stabilization from all directions.

Here’s what I’ll do differently next time around

- I just read my friend Nick (The Italian Stallion) Tumminello’s article on T-Nation entitled Six New Tabata Workouts for Fast Fat Loss where he shows an awesome complex with the JC Bands.

- Next time around, I’m going to perform the exercises much more explosively.

- Next time around, I’ll get better intuitively at judging the right distance necessary to provide optimal tension for each exercise.

- Next time around, I may experiment with different exercises as there are so many good ones to substitute in (band shoulder press, band lat pull, swimmer’s pull, one arm fly, sprint starts, speed alternating punches, speed alternating rows, hip rotations, etc.)

Conclusion

I think it’s wise to perform a variety of complexes in order to condition the body to all types of directional load vectors. Complexes can be performed with barbells, JC Bands, kettlebells, dumbbells, bodyweight exercises, trx systems, the grappler, battle ropes, Indian clubs, etc.

Hope you enjoyed the videos!

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New Ideas

There’s a huge advantage to having a garage gym. If I get bored, I walk into my garage and start looking around, trying to think of new things. In case you didn’t see it, last week I came up with a good idea to make people go all the way to the ground when performing single leg hip thrusts in order to ensure full range of motion and stress muscular starting strength rather than elastic reactive strength. Here is a video showing the new technique. Most folks would be using two benches for this variation.

Bottom-Up Single Leg Hip Thrust

That was last week, now onto this week. One thing that’s been bothering me lately is the hip rotation exercise I came up with last year. A recent glute study I performed indicates that it leads to more glute activation than heavy squats, deadlifts, and/or hip thrusts! But something Mike Boyle said a while back kept resonating with me. He said something along the lines of, “If it doesn’t look athletic, it’s probably not athletic.”

In the past, when creating many of my glute exercises I wasn’t thinking of the sport-specific population. Rather, I was thinking of the figure and bodybuilding population. My goal was simply to maximize glute activation regardless of what the exercise looked like, not to maximize positive transfer over to sporting actions. For this reason, I often externally rotate my hips when performing back extensions; it leads to increased glute activity. However, this could interfere with running mechanics so for sporting purposes it would be wise to keep the hips in neutral and the feet straight ahead during back extensions to increase lateral hamstring activity and more closely mimic the dynamics of running.

When thinking up a hip rotation exercise last year, I simply played around with my foot stance and the direction of the band resistance to allow the gluteus maximus to contract as hard as possible in a rotational setting. However, the exercise never looked very athletic.

Tonight I went out to the garage and tinkered around with my form, trying to use what I knew about some of the popular stances in sport-specific training; tall kneeling, half-kneeling, standing parallel stance, standing split stance, etc. I tried out the standing split stance and found that it works really well with the band and cable hip rotation. I used to call the exercise “hip external rotations” but really one hip is externally rotating while the other is internally rotating so from now on I’m going to call them “hip rotations.” These exercises are amazing glute exercises in terms of glute activation. In fact, you can get your glute activation up higher with this exercise than in any other exercise out there if you learn how to do it properly. We often think that hip extension is king for the glutes but give this variation a try for a month or so and see if it might change your mind. Luckily, these variations “look athletic” and will transfer very well to sports. Specifically, the exercises teach rotational stabilization in the lumbar spine while the hips and thoracic spine rotate. This will lead to improved power output in rotational activities such as swinging a bat, racquet, club, etc., as well as throwing a punch, football, baseball, javelin, etc. You really want to teach the glutes to maximize their contribution during rotational actions. Most coaches will say “it’s all about the hips” when referring to striking, swinging, or throwing. This exercise can increase the contribution of the hips while allowing for a stable lumbar spine during sport activities.

Here are two variations; band and cable hip rotations. Personally I like the band version more but I am very strong in the glutes. Bands may not be practical for beginners. The band version works the end-range of the movement better, while the cable version works the initial-range of the movement better. It’s hard to tell but the glute of my rear leg is absolutely on fire during these movements. It may look like an oblique exercise (it certainly works the obliques really hard as there is stable transfer through the core) but if you do it right it’s a glute exercise.

Band Hip Rotation

Cable Hip Rotation

Next, I looked at my incline bench and came up with a great idea. I realized that I could take the seat off and convert it into a nifty glute apparatus. Some individuals have access to incline presses where the seat can be removed so this variation may be something those folks are interested in trying. Some might say, “Why not just do them off of the floor?” The floor limits range of motion. Just like any other exercise, when you increase the ROM you make it much more difficult.

Single Leg Hip Thrust off Incline Bench

Then it occurred to me that I could use a band and perform a bilateral hip thrust against band resistance.

***Warning: If you belong to a commercial gym, I don’t think you should try to pull this off in that setting. In fact, don’t be surprised if something like this happens if you try to occupy the incline press by performing humping motions rather than working the pecs at a commercial gym.

Consider yourself forewarned. Anyway, here is a video showing this technique.

Band Hip Thrust off Incline Bench

The last thing I thought of was something that I recently heard Mike Boyle talking about during one of his staff meetings (lately he’s been posting clips from his staff meetings on his website). When discussing core stabilization, he said, “You want a straight line between the shoulders and the knees.” When most individuals perform ab wheel rollouts, they bend at the hips and use too much range of motion which interferes with glute contribution and takes tension off of the core during the top of the movement (the standard way allows for built-in intra-set rest periods between reps). If you are strong enough, perform ab wheel rollouts in the manner shown in the video below. Basically, you shorten the range of motion and keep the glutes fired throughout the duration of the set. This is beneficial for a couple of different reasons:

1. It helps keep a stable core which prevents the low back from extending
2. It slightly posteriorly rotates the hips which decreases hip flexor contribution and increases abdominal contribution.

Here’s the video:

Ab Wheel Rollout With no Hip Bending

That’s all for now! Hope you enjoy the new ideas.

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Yesterday Mike Boyle posted the following article on his website StrengthCoach.Com. I found it so inspiring that I emailed him and asked if I could repost it on my site. He was kind enough to grant my request.

When I read articles like these I’m always humbled by the tremendous amounts of passion and hard work some coaches have put forth throughout their lives. And possibly no one has put forth more than Mike Boyle. While my training methods sometimes differ from Mike’s (he’s more of a systems-guy and a strength coach while I’m more of an improvisation-guy and a personal trainer), I always listen carefully to what Mike says knowing that he has remarkable credibility with his vast experience and education. Mike has undoubtedly earned my utmost respect. Here’s his article:

My Top Coaching Influences

Michael Boyle

A blog reader posted this question recently and got me thinking. Who were my top coaching influences? I put a little thought in and came up with this list. Initially this was going to be a Top Ten but the more I thought the more the list expanded. Apologies to those I left out. I have been very lucky to have met so many great coaches.

Arthur Boyle. My dad was a high school phys ed teacher who also coached football and basketball (a sport he didn’t really play beyond high school). He went on to be a high school principal. Truth is I never saw him coach when I was old enough to “get it” but I learned a lot. I know he won what amounted to State titles in the 1960’s in basketball even though he was a college football player (it was called the Tech Tourney then). My father showed me that coaches could coach any sport. It didn’t matter what they sport they coached or what sport they played. I think this helped when I began to coach hockey players at BU. I also learned that some of my father’s most loyal fans were former managers who kept score books and ran errands. My dad innately knew how to treat everyone with respect. Lastly, I learned racial tolerance. My father coached lots of young African American kids in the sixties and loved it. I didn’t even know what prejudice was until I was much older. My dad was a Vince Lombardi era guy who often echoed the old adage “it’s not whether you win or lose but, how you play the game”. My dad believed that as do I.

Mike Woicek- Mike Woicek is an NFL legend. He has the most Super Bowl rings in NFL history, six, three with Dallas and three with New England, actually more than any player. In 1978 and 1979 he was the resident director in my dorm at Springfield College. Talk about lucky. For two years I sat in his room, listened to oldies, drank a few beers and worked my way through a box of Strength and Health and Ironman magazines. Mike introduced me to plyometrics, and the old Soviet Sport review, the predecessor of the Yessis Journals. Mike was my mentor during my early years at BU and was probably the single greatest influence on me as a strength coach. Mike was so far ahead of his time in the late seventies that it was comical. As a former track thrower his perspective on sports training was really progressive.

Bruce Buckbee- everyone who reads this will say “Who is Bruce Buckbee?” Again in the wide world of luck and serendipity Bruce came to Springfield College for Grad School at the same time as Mike Woicek and was my instructor for a course called Weight Training. Prior to Bruce’s arrival Weight Training was a simple and boring class. Bruce however had just come from University of Hawaii where he trained with the legendary Bill Starr. How about using Bill Starr’s Strong Shall Survive and being taught by a guy who had just been taught by Bill himself? We learned the Big Three ( squat, bench press, and power clean) from the book that coined the term) I was at Springfield College learning from a guy who had just finished training with a legend. At the same time I was chasing two other future legends around like Sam Leahey.

Rusty Jones- the third part of the Springfield connection is another NFL legend. Although Rusty does not have Mike’s rings he has had more teams in SuperBowls than anyone except Mike. Rusty was a graduate assistant football coach at the time and a nutritional pioneer in the 80’s. Rusty and Mike are actually the two longest tenured guys in the NFL. Wonder why the word lucky keeps coming up.

Jack Parker- my fourth influence is not a strength coach at all. Jack Parker is the winningest coach in NCAA history at a single institution with over 800 wins at Boston University. Yes, the same school. Coach Parker has been the head coach for 37 years. Next to my father I don’t think there is anyone in the world I respect as much as Coach Parker. I have had the pleasure of being part of about 500 or 600 wins of his wins as well as two National Championships and have learned so much along the way. I learned about coaching, I learned about fairness, and I learned about grace under pressure. I have been able to be in a locker room after National Championships wins, National Championships losses, and devastating player injuries. You learn valuable lessons in all these situations.

Vern Gambetta and Don Chu- Vern and Don fit together in my mind because they were the guys I wanted to be when I first attended NSCA conferences in the 1980’s. Both men came from track backgrounds and were instrumental in changing the field of strength and conditioning. I can remember watching them lecture and thinking to myself “imagine if I could ever captivate a room the way they did”. I read everything they wrote and bought every VHS tape they made. I idolized them. I wanted to be them. I hope today when I speak I do them justice.

Gary Gray- I don’t know if anyone had as significant an impact on my mind as Gary in the last twenty years. Although I don’t agree with everything Gary says or does, there is no mistaking the effect he had. In the early 1990’s Vern Gambetta told me I had to go to a Chain Reaction conference. I went to Phoenix and came away a changed man. I entered the room a meathead powerlifter and left a functional training guy. When Gary began to explain the concepts of function my entire world changed. The coolest thing is that it all made sense. These days I think the concept has gone to far but, that doesn’t change the things I learned at that first Chain Reaction seminar.

Johnnie Parker- I met Johnnie when he was the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the New England Patriots. Johnnie was the consummate coach and the consummate professional. When I lecture I see myself emulating Don Chu and Vern Gambetta. When I see myself as a coach, I see a guy that wanted to be Johnnie Parker. Johnnie was confident yet humble. He believed in the basics but was always learning and progressing. The most important thing to Johnnie was coaching. He coached from morning to night and pretty much stayed out of the limelight. Being in Massachusetts I took advantage of his generosity and visited him in Foxboro. With Johnnie it was just about getting players better and keeping players healthy. Everywhere Johnnie Parker coached teams went to SuperBowls and guys became Johnnie’s guys. There is no better testament to your ability than the loyalty of your players.

Al Vermeil — Al might be my favorite person in the field. I always say I want to be Al when I grow up. I don’t know anyone in our field who is more enthusiastic about learning than Al. He is the kid in the candy store. I brought Al in to do a seminar for my coaches a few years ago. The night before the seminar I brought him to the facility to observe our coaches and athletes. After about thirty minutes I expected Al to be ready to leave. Instead, he was ready to coach. He looked at me and said “can I coach some kids?”. I was dumbfounded. I had to drag him to dinner two hours later. Al Vermeil, he of 9 world championship rings in two different sports, stayed on the platforms and coached like a GA. Kids had no idea who this enthusiastic old guy was, but I did. I’ll never forget that night. It made a lasting impression on me and again showed me who I might be when I grew up. I am fortunate to be able to call Al a good friend and to be able to spend time with him every year at the Perform Better Summits. I often laugh in his lectures because the smartest people at the seminar never miss a chance to hear Al.

Mike Clark- Mike was the first of the Whiz Kid PT’s . The first time I heard him speak I thought “wow, this kid is smart”. Mike was like a physical therapy encyclopedia. I personally think he was the guy who fast forwarded many of us into the marriage of rehab and training. Gary Gray was a visionary thinker. Mike was the practical application guy. Mike took physical therapy and training and made them one science in a way no one else ever had.

Gray Cook – the original son of a preacher man, Gray has the ability and charisma to reach any audience. Gray may have influenced the way I program more than any one person over the past ten years. Mike Woicek and the others above built my foundation but Gray was a guy who changed much of the house. Another of these Whiz Kid Pt’s, Gray has single handedly changed coaches in every professional sport. Because of Gray the Functional Movement Screen is now the gold standard screening tool in our industry.

Mark Verstegen- Mark was one of the first Whiz Kid strength coaches. To be honest when I first read about him in Outside Magazine I was sure I wasn’t going to like him. Crew cut, snarling ex-linebacker? Not my type. Boy was I wrong. The guy could coach and was a great judge of character. I met some great guys through Mark who are also good friends today. I went to IPI to observe and came away with a friend for life. Both of our dad’s were high school principals and we grew up with the same values. Although he was 10 years younger, I felt like I had met my little brother in the world of strength and conditioning.

Alwyn Cosgrove- Alwyn was a great influence because he called me out at a time in my career when I needed it. To make a long story short, Alwyn reached out to me to connect on a few occasions and I was “too busy” to respond. Alwyn’s response was to tell Ryan Lee that I was a bit of an ass. When Ryan communicated that to me I simply said “oops”. Alwyn was right. I had been a bit of a jerk. Alwyn taught me a valuable lesson and I thank him for it. Alwyn also taught me another much more valuable lesson. He taught me that life is a gift and should be lived every day. As a two-time cancer survivor Alwyn inspires me to live better every day.

Ryan Lee- Many who read this will say Ryan Lee? However I think many of us in fitness and strength and conditioning owe a great deal to Ryan Lee. Ryan revolutionized our field. Ryan empowered us as coaches to realize it was Ok to make money. It was OK to try to develop a business. I can remember Ryan looking at me and saying “Is your stuff good? Then why are you ashamed to sell it?” Like many things in many professions people took Ryan’s advice the wrong way and took Ryan’s advice in the wrong direction, However, we have to realize not to shoot the messenger.

Chris Poirier- Chris Poirier is the man behind Perform Better. Chris saw the future and the future was education for trainers, coaches and therapists. Chris is probably the best businessman I know. Not because he knows how to make money but because he understands people. Bill Falk, the founder of MF Athletic, gave Chris a chance to develop a small offshoot of MF Athletic into a company that is now the leading education provider in our field. Chris’s idea was simple. If you give someone quality education you create customers. A simple and brilliant idea. He would say to the speakers “Don’t sell, teach”. If you educate them they’ll naturally become customers. It was a brilliant business idea that made industry names out of many of us. Without the Perform Better tour, I’m not sure where we would be.

I know when I publish this I will remember someone I left out. However the most important thing for me is to say thank-you to all the people who influenced me whether mentioned or left out. Without you I would not be the person I am today.

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In this article I’m going to try to please the male readers, female readers, and trainers. If you’re simply looking for a good butt workout then skip down to the bottom of this article. But if you want some substance and you really want to understand the glutes, then you should probably read the entire article.

Ladies

Okay ladies, you say you want a nice butt. You like to talk about how you’re going to get your butt into top shape. You get envious when you see a woman with a perfect butt prancing around. Well here’s your opportunity! I’m going to give you the ultimate program to improve the appearance of your butt. Best of all, it’s free!

The World’s Best or Worst Relationship Advice Ever…

I’ve trained enough women in my time as a personal trainer to know that most of them would do just about anything to get their man to pay more attention to them. I’m far from a relationship expert but here’s one thing that women could stand to learn about men. We are all very shallow. Have you ever witnessed the crap that an attractive woman with a perfect booty can get away with? She can tell stupid jokes and every guy will laugh. She can nag at her boyfriend and he’ll cave in and comply with her every demand. She’ll get job opportunities that she doesn’t deserve. In essence, she can get away with practically murder. Why do guys act like this? Because the mere thought of getting to see her naked turns us into robots!

Want to know the single best thing you can do to get your man’s attention? Work overtime on your booty! I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying it’s a fact of life. Even women have a hard time keeping their eyes off of a woman with a perfect booty even if they have no lesbian tendencies! It’s almost hypnotic. As a matter of fact, I bet this article alone would cause most men’s’ testosterone levels to rise 30% just from looking at the pictures. Sexual attraction is biochemical; don’t ever underestimate the role of hormones when dealing with relationships.

Admit It! It’s Hard to Look Away!

If you can transform your booty into something like this your man will become your puppet. How do I know this? At my Scottsdale studio called Lifts several guys came to my gym to personally thank me for making their girl’s butt look so good. My female clients would tell me that their men were turning into perverts, groping them constantly throughout the night. One of my clients said she had to start pretending she was asleep to avoid her husband’s persistent sexual advances.

The good thing for women is that men are pretty lenient with booty size as long as there’s good shape. Seriously, as long as your booty is round, firm, and perky it can be small like that of Jessica Alba or Anna Kournikova or big like that of Kim Kardashian or Vida Guerra. Throughout this article analyze the booties on the various women. There exists one common theme; they’re all round and delicious.

Men

Men, I realize that many of you want a nice butt but you’re not allowed to admit it. It’s just not manly to work the glutes. So I’ll do you a favor and word everything in this article toward women. Just know that the same advice that applies to them applies to you.

Okay men, let’s fantasize for a minute. Envision a world full of Reef bikini models scouring the Earth. Everywhere you go you see scantily clad women running around showing off their perfect booties.

Of course this vision is impossible but right now I’d estimate that less than one out of a hundred women have butts like the girls in the picture above. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say that 1% of woman have a rockin’ behind. What if we could triple that and take it to 3%? That’s three times the number of great booties out there roaming the Earth. How can we turn this dream into reality?

Let’s make a pact. Anytime you hear a woman complain about her butt, send them to this article. Email the link to as many ladies as you know. If you’re a trainer, start implementing the methods herein and teach your clients how to perform the newer exercises you’ll see later in the article. We have to at least try!

Perhaps you are in a relationships. I don’t care how much you love your girlfriend or wife, you know you’d be a little more “into” her if she looked like this:

Women Don’t Listen to Their Boyfriends!

Unfortunately, from my experience women don’t listen to their boyfriends and husbands. You can tell them exactly what to do and they won’t follow your advice. Whether it’s the whole, “Never a prophet in your own land” phenomenon, or they simply feel more confident when they pay for the advice or hear it on television, you probably have a hard time getting through to them. So make me out to be the bad guy. Direct them to this article. Whenever they complain about their butts or vow to “get their butt in shape,” you tell them that the Glute Guy has laid out a perfect plan for them.

Trainers

Personal trainers, would you like to become the best trainer in your area at sculpting booties? Would you like more clients?

At the risk of sounding cocky I believe that I’m the most effective trainer in the world at delivering quick and dramatic results for individuals who wish to make their butts look better. In this article, I’m going to reveal my secrets. I’m going to hand them over to you so you can be a “master butt sculptor” and a “glute guru.” But first allow me to go off on a tangent.

When I had my Scottsdale studio, I was turning out nice booties like they were on an assembly line. Here’s an example of one of my client’s results over the course of year:

I took a risk and chose to not renew my lease in hopes that I could become a popular fitness writer so I could spread my methods. The way I saw it, as a personal trainer I could only affect dozens of clients. However, as a writer I could “train the trainers” and affect literally thousands of clients. If I can get you aboard, the number of people I affect can raise exponentially.

Abandon Your Ideals and Get the Job Done!

I know a lot of strength coaches and personal trainers. Some of the coaches work for teams while some have their own facilities. Out of all of the coaches I know who own their own facilities, all of them take on personal training clients. Sure, they train a lot of athletes, but they also train regular folks. Most regular personal training clients come to trainers for body sculpting purposes! It is our job to deliver to them the results they want. If a male client wants big biceps but you’re so anti-bodybuilding that you won’t prescribe him a single biceps-isolation exercise, or if a female client wants a nice butt but you won’t prescribe her a single glute isolation exercise then you are doing them a disservice. The reason why celebrity trainers get popular is often due to the fact that they’re the best at listening to what their clients want and designing a program specific to those needs. Most coaches and trainers are too hung up on their own ideals to maximize their effectiveness as trainers.

Should We Train Women Like Athletes or Bodybuilders?

This question comes up a lot. The answer is neither. Bodybuilding exercises such as leg press, hack squats, leg extensions, and leg curls serve no purpose in a woman’s routine. These exercises act on the quads and hamstrings, not the glutes. The quickest way to get a great booty is to focus on glute exercises. Every lower body exercise a woman performs should hit the glutes hard. When you do this, the quads and hamstrings get plenty of stimulation but the glutes grown in proportion to the legs. You don’t want the quads and hams to grow while the glutes remain dormant. This will make the glutes look even worse as they will be overshadowed. However, certain bodybuilding methods are advisable when training women. More on this later in the article.

Furthermore, when you train athletes you get them as strong and powerful as possible regardless of the physique adaptations that are imposed. Sport-specific exercises like power cleans can build up a woman’s traps too much. Even squats and deadlifts if progressed upon over and over and over can get a woman’s quads and backs too big. However, many sport-specific methods are advisable when training women.

What Caused Me to Write this Article?

To be honest, I try really hard to write about all kinds of fitness-related topics. I don’t want to “type-cast” myself into a trainer who only specializes in the glutes. Truthfully, I’m very interested in all the body’s muscles, joints, and systems. I love sport-specific training, max-sprint speed development, bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, strongman, MMA, and physical therapy. About the only thing I’m not that interested in is endurance events and any sport or event where the hips don’t move through much of a range of motion. However, I can’t help but write about the glutes when I keep seeing room for improvement in the fitness industry.

In the past week alone I’ve stumbled upon several online forms of media which enticed me to write this article.

The Brazilian Butt Lift Infomercial

First, while I was working on a TMuscle article late Monday night (sometimes I keep the television on in the background just so I feel like a normal human being who stays connected with the outside world), an infomercial caught my eye. It was called The Brazilian Butt-Lift. A Brazilian trainer named Leandro Carvalho who is referred to as “the supermodel’s secret to a perfect butt” has supposedly created the ultimate plan to sculpt a woman’s butt to perfection.

Although Leandro has also been referred to as the “Butt Master,” and “Tush Technician,” I could create a much better program. I’m not saying the program would sell better (to make an infomercial work there are lots of things to consider. Infomercial companies usually end up making fun-looking dvd’s with a lot of dancing, including bands for resistance because they’re easy to ship, a simple diet plan, and a whole lotta shady science), but I am saying that the program would work better.

Here are some things I noticed throughout the infomercial:

Bad

1. There was a ton of lumbar compensation during the various exercises by the models. You want the glutes performing the movements; not the spinal erectors!
2. There were misleading graphics and information inferring that the glute medius and glute minimus add to the lower-outer shape of the glutes. This isn’t true; they’re smaller muscles that located on the upper-outer glutes.
3. I didn’t see a single bridging movement being performed. Bridging movements reign supreme for glute activation and constant tension.
4. The program included tons of lunging and squatting movements despite the creator’s claim that they aren’t optimal because they bulk up the quads. I’m not saying lunging and squatting movements are bad; I’m just saying that it was a blatant contradiction.
5. There were misleading before/after photos involving women who in the after-pics would excessively arch their low backs and anteriorly tilt their pelvises to create the illusion that the shape of their butts improved when in actuality they simply altered their postures.
6. Lots of fun dancing that may burn a lot of fat but won’t do much for butt sculpting
7. There appears to be a lack of progression schemes. People start at totally different levels. One person may be able to start off squatting against resistance while another may take months to build up the strength, mobility, and stability to be able to perform a bodyweight full squat.
8. No weights for more advanced customers. Sure, you can get a great a great butt with just bodyweight exercises, but weights will allow you to get there much quicker.

This is Bullshit! I Guess Nowadays You can Completely Fabricate Anatomy

This is More Realistic

Good

1) Leandro spoke about how the butt needs variety and can’t be sculpted optimally by just hitting it from the same angles over and over. Amen! Hallelujah! This is what I’ve been preaching for the past several years! Unfortunately I wasn’t popular until several months ago so no one heard me shouting.

Many of these things are to be expected from an infomercial (especially a Beach Body infomercial; they have it down to an exact science).

Valerie Waters on Fitcast

Earlier this week I was listening to a podcast featuring Valerie Waters. She mentioned that she is known in Hollywood for her ability to get women’s butts looking very good in a very short period of time. While I have no doubt that she does a great job at sculpting booties, I am positive that she could do better. I hope that she reads this blog so she can become even better at what she does.

In this article, Valerie lists her top 3 butt sculpting moves as the Valslide reverse lunge, high step up, and standing donkey kick. Obviously Valerie is going to be a bit biased since she is the inventor of Valslides.

While these are excellent glute exercises, there are even better ones for sculpting the butt. For the record, I like the Valslide reverse lunge. Some individuals see more glute activation by using Valslides than they do with a regular reverse lunge due to the ability to better control the eccentric component of the exercise. However, in advanced exercisers it flip-flops. For example, I’m advanced and I see less activation when I use Valslides in comparison to reverse lunges with the same amount of resistance because I am able to more effectively use the hip flexor muscles of my rear leg to contribute to the lift which decreases the contribution required from the glutes of the forward leg. And while high step ups are amazing and often underrated for glute development, donkey kicks have much room for improvement as they are way too easy for most individuals. We need to set the bar high if we want to better the world’s glutes!

Adam Campbell on Dr. Oz

The other day I saw that Adam Campbell from Men’s Health Magazine made an appearance on The Dr. Oz Show. He did an excellent job as he gave the thumbs down to the thighmaster and butt-toning shoes. He also did a great job recommending Valslide lunges and glute bridges. However, many individuals find regular glute bridges too easy. Beginners start out at very different levels. Some can’t do a single bodyweight bilateral glute bridge while activating their glutes significantly, while others can bust out a hundred repetitions. In fact, I once trained a stripper who busted out a hundred bodyweight glute bridges during her warm-up in her very first session with me. I told her to do 20 and she cranked out 100 in probably 50 seconds. It was crazy! Obviously her job and “extra-curricular activities” gave her a head-start on typical clients but you have to inform people how to progress in an exercise or you’ll turn the advanced clients off. I sure wish Adam would have told the audience that they can place a dumbbell in their lap for extra resistance once they are able to perform 20 repetitions.

I’m obviously very advanced in glute strength but I can do ten barbell glute bridges with 495 lbs. A bodyweight glute bridge gets my mean and peak glute activation to around 20% and 35% mean and peak activity depending on the exact location of the electrodes. A barbell glute bridge gets my mean and peak glute activation to around 65% and 140% respectively. Without the use of resistance, many individuals get short-changed.

What a perfect opportunity to spread the word about the barbell glute bridge – on National television! Oh well, it will have to wait for another day.

Valerie Waters “Exercises for a Great Butt” Video

Just recently I came across this video by Valerie Waters. Again, lots of Valslide lunging. That’s one good movement, what about recommending some bridging or quadruped movements? We need multiple angles!

Mike Boyle Interview With Valerie Waters: “How to Get Your Best Butt”

How To Get Your Best Butt! Episode #19 from valerie waters on Vimeo.

A couple of weeks ago I saw this interview with Mike Boyle. While I certainly agree with much of what Mike is saying, I wish he would have said to people, “learn how to do single leg hip lifts.” Single leg hip lifts are an amazing exercise that Mike programs for his athletes (I call them single leg hip thrusts). He even figured out a crafty way to use band resistance for them. Mike’s been recommending bridging movements for many, many years now.

Remember, we need lots of angles for optimum glute development. Squats, lunges, deadlifts, single leg hip lifts, etc. In my opinion Mike missed out on a great opportunity by intentionally “dumbing it down” for the audience. Too many experts and gurus do this these days which is unfortunate. Don’t avoid speaking about a great exercise just because the audience may not know what it is. Instead, take the time to teach them the exercise or at least mention it. People are pretty resourceful these days. If they don’t know of an exercise many will look it up on Youtube or Google or it will plant a seed so that next time they hear about it they will be sure to look it up!

Physiologically, How do we Transform a Booty from Pathetic to Perfect?

Most women don’t understand what needs to take place in order to go from flab to fab in the glute region. Their butts are often flabby and wide so all they can think about is making their butts smaller. This makes them want to starve themselves and perform a ton of cardio. While they certainly need to whittle off the fat, they usually don’t have any muscle or shape underneath their fat so they would be left with nothing but a flat, saggy butt after the fat had melted off. In order to have a nice looking butt, a woman must have muscular shape to give it the sought-after round, perky, and lifted appearance. You want glute depth, not width. It’s not easy to build glute muscle so they must train hard and intelligently. The good news is that exercises that work the glutes are difficult so they significantly raise the metabolism. A simple booty workout is actually a form of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) so the workout will burn fat off of the butt while simultaneously adding muscular shape. This is how you get a nice butt! Look at all the pictures in this article. Nearly all of the girls have more glute muscle than a typical woman.

Benefits of Using Different Exercises to Hit Different Angles

Let’s say that all a woman ever does for her glutes is squats and lunges. Unfortunately squats and lunges always hit the quads really well but for some individuals they don’t hit the glutes very hard. Some individuals don’t use good form and therefore fail to hit the glutes during squats and lunges, and some individuals simply have unique anthropometries (body-types) which prevents their glutes from getting maximally targeted from squats and lunges even if they’re using great form. To obtain the best butt possible, we need to hit the glutes from a variety of angles with a plethora of exercises. Look closely at Ronnie Coleman’s glute fibers. When analyzing the fibers, it makes sense that they’d need a variety of exercises to maximize their potential.

Special Glute Experiment – More on Exercise Variety for the Glutes

A few months ago I decided to conduct a unique experiment where I placed electrodes on the glute medius, upper glute max, mid glute max, and lower glute max and performed a variety of hip extension, hip abduction, and hip external rotation movements while measuring the electromyography (EMG) activity in the various muscle parts. Here is a chart that shows the results of the experiment (the top number is the mean or average activation according to maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) while the bottom number is the peak or highest activation according to MVC):

The Winners

Based on this experiment, here are the top three exercises in terms of mean and peak activity for each muscle part:

Glute Medius

Mean: Quadruped Hip Circle, Band Standing External Rotation, Barbell Hip Thrust

Peak: Quadruped Hip Circle, Quadruped Band Donkey Kick, Quadruped Hip Extension

Upper Glute Maximus

Mean: Barbell Hip Thrust, Band Skorcher Hip Thrust, Quadruped Hip Circle

Peak: Quadruped Hip Extension, Barbell Hip Thrust, Bird Dog

Mid Glute Maximus

Mean: Band Standing Hip External Rotation, Band Skorcher Hip Thrust, Barbell Hip Thrust

Peak: Band Standing Hip External Rotation, Band Skorcher Hip Thrust, Cable Standing Hip External Rotation

Lower Glute Maximus

Mean: Deadlift, Band Hip Thrust, Band Standing Hip External Rotation

Peak: Single Leg Hip Thrust, Shoulder Elevated Single Leg Hip Thrust, Deadlift

As you can see, the results were pretty shocking. My findings indicate that the glutes show varying levels of activation in the different regions of the muscles depending on the exercise performed. Of course, we already knew that the various heads of the delts, pecs, and traps have varying roles and levels of activation depending on the exercise, but this study indicates that the same is true regarding the glutes and possibly more muscle groups.

This experiment has huge implications for sport-specific training and figure training as maximum glute activation appears to be region-specific and requires a variety of movement patterns to optimize activation across the entire spectrum of muscle fibers.

This experiment also lends validity to “low-load activation training” as the glutes seemed to be highly activated by certain simple bodyweight movements such as quadruped hip extensions, single leg hip thrusts, bird dogs, and quadruped hip circles.

It also has huge implications for research as it shows that data will be considerably different depending on where the electrodes are placed on the glutes for EMG experiments.

What in the Hell is the Skorcher?

The Skorcher is a machine I invented to be able to perform hip thrusts with extra range of motion and band resistance. I am not having it manufactured so you will not be able to perform Skorcher hip thrusts. Just perform barbell hip thrusts instead. Here’s a video of yours truly performing band Skorcher hip thrusts while rockin’ out to Miley Cyrus!

What Rep-Range is Best for the Glutes?

Most texts state that the gluteus maximus are a 60-68% slow-twitch muscle. This lends support to going light for high reps. However, an overwhelming amount of journal studies show that the glutes don’t activate much in simple tasks such as walking or standing from a seated position. This lends support to going heavy and/or explosive for lower reps. Anecdotally, bodybuilders have realized that the lower body tends to respond best to higher rep ranges. However, I believe that we should utilize low reps, medium reps, and high reps when trying to build the glutes and shape the butt.

Just consider the exercises themselves. Some exercises lend themselves better to heavy weight for lower reps such as squats and deadlifts. Some exercises lend themselves well to medium reps such as hip thrusts, pull throughs, and walking lunges. And some exercises lend themselves well to high reps such as side lying abductions and side lying clams.

Going Too Heavy and Going Too Light

Let’s say I prescribe a client really heavy pull-throughs or walking lunges. In the case of the pull-through, they’ll stumble and lose their balance and fail to work their glutes. If you go too light you won’t work the glutes either so there’s a happy medium that must be reached with pull-throughs. The same goes with walking lunges. Go too heavy and you won’t maintain forward momentum. It’ll look like a static lunge followed by a farmer’s walk. Again, a happy medium must be reached to work the glutes the best, form can’t be compromised but there needs to be ample tension on the glutes. Here are examples that illustrate this concept:

Benefits of Doing Squatting/Lunging Movements

These movements work the quads really well and they work the glutes best in a position of deep stretch. Because of the eccentric activity in the stretch position, they lead to the highest levels of glute soreness and inflammation. This muscular damage is a critical part of hypertrophy adaptations. Several journal studies support this last statement. Many folks believe that the squat or lunge is the best glute exercise. Maybe they’re right; maybe they’re wrong.

Benefits of Doing Deadlift/Good Morning Movements/Back Extension/Reverse Hyper Movements

These movements work the hamstrings really well and they move the hips through a full range of motion while hitting the glutes pretty hard. Many folks believe that the deadlift is the best glute exercise. I’ve heard some say that the back extension is the best. Maybe they’re right; maybe they’re wrong.

Benefits of Doing Bridging/Kickback Movements

These movements keep the knees bent while they move the hips through a full range of motion. Because of the bent knees which decreases hamstring contribution and increases glute contribution and the emphasis on end-range contraction, they lead to the highest levels of cramping or “pump.” This pump is a critical part of hypertrophy adaptations as well. Several journal studies support this concept despite what many naysayers believe. Most of my clients believe that barbell glute bridges, hip thrusts and pendulum quadruped hip extensions are the best glute exercises due to the fact that they “feel” their glutes working most in these movements. Maybe they’re right; maybe they’re wrong. We don’t know enough about hypertrophy to know for sure.

Benefits of Doing Abduction/External Rotation Movements

Abduction exercises often hit the upper glutes really hard while external rotation movements hit the entire glutes really well. In fact, as you can see in the chart above the band external rotation is an amazing glute exercise…most likely the best glute isolation movement in existence. It’s difficult to master, but if you can do it, you’re glutes will respond very favorably! Doing these movements first in a routine often allows the client to feel their glutes working more on subsequent exercises which is a huge plus.

Why Most Personal Trainers Fail

Many personal trainers fail at delivering great glutes to their clients because of several reasons. First, they don’t adequately understand the concept of progressions. Most start their clients off with too much weight or too difficult a variation to handle. Second, they don’t understand corrective exercise. Many clients can’t automatically perform squats or hip thrusts. They need to improve their ankle, hip, and thoracic mobility, they need to learn how to activate their glutes, they need to improve their flexibility in various muscles, etc. You can’t just throw a bar on someone’s back and tell them to squat. Start out with bodyweight, progress or regress as needed and use corrective strategies to get the clients moving properly.

Why Most Strength Coaches Fail

Some strength coaches fail at delivering great glutes to their clients because they are too rigid in their beliefs to the point where they are anti-bodybuilding. Female personal training clients often come to coaches/trainers to improve their physique. This requires the coaches to step out of the box and borrow some techniques from the bodybuilding world. Get over it! Some of these methods flat out work, and you’re not going to injure anyone as long as they use good form.

The Plan

1. Screen
2. Warm-Up
3. Progressions
4. Advanced Protocol

Screen

Ideally prior to your first workout you’d receive a proper screening. I’m biased toward the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) but in order to use good form on various exercises you need to have proper levels of mobility and stability in the various joints.

Warm-Up

Ideally for each workout you would warm-up by completing a circuit consisting of drills from each of the following five categories. The screen would determine which drills and how much of each category should be performed prior to the workout. The warm-up should last around 20 minutes:

1) Foam Rolling/Trigger-Point Therapy – this addresses soft-tissue quality and density, gets rid of trigger points, breaks up adhesions, and increases blood flow to allow for better contractility and flexibility

2) Static Stretching – this addresses soft-tissue flexibility. In general, all of the muscles that act on the hip – from extensors to flexors, abductors to adductors, and external to internal rotators, need to be loose.

3) Dynamic Mobility Drills – this addresses mobility and ensures that joints like the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine can move properly to allow for proper movement during exercise performance

4) Core Stability Drills – this addresses core stability and ensures that you are able to brace the lumbar spine and move at the hips and thoracic spine in order to produce proper motor patterns

5) Glute Activation Drills – this addresses glute activation and ensures that your glutes are turning on and firing properly so you will use them during your workout

Warm-ups are for everyone; beginners and advanced. Nobody is too good for them. We all need to make it a habit of going through the motions of a proper warm-up so our muscles don’t tighten up and/or quit activating.

Progressions

Ideally you would start at the most basic exercises and demonstrate proficiency before moving on to a more difficult variation. For example, you must demonstrate that you can squat and lunge with bodyweight before you hold onto dumbbells or place a barbell on your back. Before performing barbell hip thrusts, you must be able to demonstrate proficiency with bodyweight hip thrusts.

Start with simple bodyweight exercises like squats, static lunges, single leg reaching RDL’s, glute bridges, quadruped hip extensions, and side lying clams. Once your form is perfect and you feel the exercises working the right muscles and you are controlling the movement, move onto more difficult variations like bodyweight walking lunges, Bulgarian squats, single leg glute bridges, and bird dogs. Once you master those, finally you can move onto weighted movements and more advanced variations.

What if I Just Jump Right into the Advanced Protocol Even Though I’m not Ready for it?

You will not be able to use good form, you will most likely injure your low back or knees, and your glutes will not look any better than before. In fact, they’ll probably look worse since you won’t activate them much (so they won’t grow) but you’ll definitely activate all the synergists which pick up the slack for the weak glutes (erector spinae, hamstrings, quads, etc.). This means that the other muscles will grow but your glutes won’t so they’ll look even smaller and more pathetic. Go about things wisely and start at the bottom and move up gradually.

Advanced Protocol

At last! This is what you’ve been waiting for. The advanced program! It is important that you’ve spent adequate time preparing your body to perform the following program and that you have the necessary levels of mobility & stability to perform each of the movement patterns correctly. Without futher ado, here’s what you’re going to do when the time is right:

1. Pick an Abduction/External Rotation Exercise and do 2 sets of 10-20 repetitions

Options: x-band walk, band standing abduction, band seated abduction, band/cable hip external rotation

* On these movements you must focus on “feeling” the glutes doing the work.

2. Pick a Quad-Dominant Hip Extension Exercise and do 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions

Options: full squat, box squat, front squat, Zercher squat, walking lunge, high step up, Bulgarian squat, pistol

3. Pick a Hip-Dominant Hip Extension Exercise and do 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions

Options: deadlift, sumo deadlift, trap bar deadlift, Romanian deadlift, rack pull, single leg RDL, good morning, back extension, reverse hyper

4. Pick a Bent-Leg Hip Extension Exercise and do 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions

Options: hip thrust, glute bridge, single leg hip thrust, pull through, pendulum quadruped hip extension

*On these movements you want shorter rest times and you want to try to force as much blood into the glutes as possible. Think constant tension and think “pump.” You should be waddling like a duck after these movements.

How do I Perform Some of these Movements?

Here are some videos that can help you out. I took some videos of my niece who trains with me once per week for the past six months or so. If a 13 year old girl can do it, so can you!

Pause Squat

Here is my niece doing 3 pause-squats with 95 lbs.

Deadlift

Here is my niece doing 5 deadlifts with 115 lbs.

Bottom-Up Single Leg Hip Thrust

Here’s my niece doing a new variation I just made up; I call it a bottom-up single leg hip thrust:

Barbell Glute Bridge

Here’s my niece performing a barbell glute bridge with 95 lbs for 30 reps! (Ideally her knees would stay a little more stable):

Hip Thrust

Here’s an entire video I filmed showing how to do a proper hip thrust:

Band Hip External Rotation

Here I show how to do a proper band hip external rotation. Cables can be used for this exercise as well.

What if I Want to Do a Full-Body Workout, Not Just a Glute Workout?

No problem, just alternate between lower body and upper body movements and throw in a horizontal press (bench press, push up), vertical pull (chin up, pull up, pulldown), vertical press (military press, seated db military press), horizontal pull (one arm row, inverted row, seated row), and ab/core exercise (plank, side plank, Pallof press, ab wheel rollout, bodysaw, suitcase carry, landmine, cable chop, cable lift).

So one workout could look like this:

band hip external rotation
push up
front squat
chin up
sumo deadlift
db military press
barbell glute bridge
one arm row
ab wheel rollout

If doing full body workouts just do two sets of each exercise.

What if I Want to Work My Butt Out at Home and Don’t Have any Equipment?

You can still get a great workout. Here are a bunch of great glute exercises you can do at home:

How Often Should I Work Out?

My niece is seeing great results training with me one day per week (but she also plays volleyball throughout the week). Most people see the best results when they hit their glutes three times per week. Really strong people like myself see better results when we hit the glutes twice per week. I’ve trained some clients five days per week and hit their glutes hard every day with great results.

Bottom line – The number of days isn’t too important and depends on the training split, the training load and intensiveness, how advanced the lifter is, etc. I recommend 3 full body workouts per week or 4 upper/lower split workouts (meaning 2 upper body and 2 lower body workouts per week) for most women.

Conclusion

There you have it! That’s the secret to amazing glutes! Now spread the word so we can live in a world like this:

Read Full Post »

If you want to get “accepted” in the strength & conditioning industry, I’ll let you in on the secret. Just don’t rock the boat! Use the FMS, have your clients foam roll, do mobility drills, develop single leg stability and strength, follow the joint by joint approach, develop core stability, and utilize “accepted” equipment and exercises.

Although I’m in favor of the methods listed above, I’m not always in agreement with the mainstream especially as it pertains to “unsafe” exercises. What do you do when a new fad comes along that goes against what your past experience has taught you? Do you go with the flow in order to get interviewed on the popular podcasts, posted on the popular websites, or invited to speak at the popular seminars? Or, do you stand your ground knowing that it won’t win you any fans in the industry? I’m proud to say that I am the type of guy who stands his ground. I will not cave until I am completely convinced that I should change something, and there are certain trends in the industry that leave me unconvinced at the moment.

I must admit, sometimes I have a hard time taking certain individuals in the S&C community seriously. For instance, when I listen to some of them speak boldly about exercises or concepts in which they have limited or no experience, I realize that they’ve been brainwashed. Many are so wrapped up in theory that they become “addicted” to the science even if it doesn’t add up in the real-world. You see, I’m an advanced lifter who has been training for seventeen straight years and is still trying to increase his strength, muscle mass, and power. You can’t pull the wool over my eyes very easily.

Many strength coaches these days are anti-back extensions and reverse hypers. While I appreciate the logic behind these folks’ arguments, I am still a big supporter of these lifts. For the record, I have no problem with a strength coach who has years of experience with these exercises and arrives at the conclusion that these lifts are not worthwhile. I do, however, have a bit of a problem with rookie strength coaches who have never spent a significant amount of time with these apparatuses and simply regurgitate what they’ve heard from their mentors.

I also have a problem with guys who are so passionate about being “anti-back extensions and reverse hypers” to the point where they’re irrational and absurd. From listening to some of these guys speak you’d think that lifters’ discs would explode and squirt gel across the weightroom the second they performed a back extension or reverse hyper. Sometimes the mindset of today’s younger generation of strength coach ticks me off! In conversing with some members of this crowd I realize that they think I’m an absolute idiot for prescribing back extensions and reverse hypers, yet I’ve had my glute ham developer, 45 degree back extension, and reverse hyper for four years and have trained myself as well as hundreds of clients off of them while they’ve only seen pictures of them or read an article or two about them.

We often forget that the online S & C community is a small sample of the total S & C population and that just because one’s favorite gurus have iron-clad beliefs about a certain topic, it doesn’t mean that they are completely correct or that hundreds of strength coaches and trainers out there aren’t having great success with the very same methods that are being denounced by the online community of coaches. For example, I know of a handful of top sprint coaches who list the reverse hyper as one of their top five exercises for speed development. Unfortunately, their voices aren’t heard because they’re so busy training sprinters.

Moreover, I’m shocked at the number of younger strength coaches who will see a video clip of a coach prescribing a high-caliber athlete an exercise like a back extension or a sit up and will race to the forums to post something like, “Oh my God! Can you believe that (insert athlete)’s coach was having him do (insert bad exercise such as back extensions, reverse hypers, sit ups, bent over rows, good mornings, flies, pullovers, hanging leg raises, or leg presses)! He’s so behind the times. It’s a wonder that these (coaches/trainers) get hired with such a lack of knowledge!

If a coach is having great success with a particular lift, and it seems to be transferring over to his or her athletes’ sports performance without creating any perceivable harm to the athletes’ bodies, then why on God’s green earth would that coach abandon the exercise?

When we omit certain movements, we raise the risk of allowing our athletes to get weak in a particular movement pattern. I’ve witnessed plenty of strong athletes who can squat and deadlift a ton of weight yet struggle to execute twenty bodyweight back extensions or reverse hypers. What does this tell you? They’re weak and need more strength endurance in their posterior chains!

It is this coach’s belief that variety greatly reduces the need for strict periodization and that one should alternate accessory lifts frequently. Furthermore, there’s nothing wrong with having a huge pool of exercises from which to choose. I believe that strength coaches should have their handful of “money lifts” as well as a plethora of accessory movements on hand to slate into their athletes’ programs.

In this article I’m going to roll through some of the arguments in favor of and against back extensions and reverse hypers. I’d like for you to be the judge.

Arguments Against Back Extensions and Reverse Hypers

1. Deadlifts and especially trap bar deadlifts are a safer hip dominant lift
2. Most folks do them incorrectly and compensate with their lumbar spine
3. Repetitive flexion-extension wreaks havoc on the spine
4. They require adequate levels of hamstring flexibility, anti-flexion core stability, hip flexor flexibility, and glute activation
5. Deadlifts and squats are much more effective due to a more pronounced eccentric component, more total-body muscle activity, and increased testosterone-release
6. “Supported” lifts or lifts that support part of the body train muscles without improving upon integrated, coordinated movement
7. In sport-specific training the isolation of joint actions is not worthwhile
8. They lead to significant amounts of shear loading on the spine even if executed properly

Arguments in Favor of Back Extensions and Reverse Hypers

1. While deadlifts, good mornings, squats, and lunges have axial, vertical directional load vectors, back extensions have anteroposterior, horizontal directional load vectors and reverse hypers are one of the rare lifts that have cyclical, dynamic directional load vectors due to the pendulum reorienting itself throughout the lift
2. These lifts can be done properly with all hip extension and no lumbar extension, and if done properly this tells a lot about the athlete in terms of hamstring and hip flexor flexibility, core stability, and glute activation
3. Just like we “isolate” for core stability, it’s a good idea to “isolate” for hip strength…whether it be hip extension, hip flexion, hip abduction, hip external rotation, etc.
4. It’s never unwise to hammer the posterior-chain which is often a weak link among lifters and athletes
5. Reverse hypers are therapeutic for the low back
6. These lifts will improve squat and deadlift strength as well as sprinting speed
7. These lifts have impressive levels of hamstring and glute EMG activity
8. Anything that strengthens the posterior chain might lead to less low back pain and injury

Let’s take a closer look at the various arguments against straight leg hip extension exercises:

1. Deadlifts and especially trap bar deadlifts are a safer hip dominant lift

Anyone with any weightroom experience knows that deadlifts involve much higher incidents of acute injuries. In fact, I can’t think of one strong deadlifter who has never aggravated his or her low back at some point from heavy deadlifting.

The case could be made that back extensions and reverse hypers lead to higher incidents of chronic injuries but I don’t agree. More on that later.

2. Most folks do them incorrectly and compensate with their lumbar spine

I agree. Most folks do in fact perform these lifts incorrectly. However, most folks also perform squats, deadlifts, and lunges incorrectly. It’s our job as professionals to teach our clients and athletes how to perform lifts properly. Shouldn’t we exhibit high expectations for our clients and athletes and “expect” them to learn how to perform lifts correctly? Think about how many times you “coach” squats and deadlifts. If you apply this same amount of “coaching” to other lifts they will get it.

3. Repetitive flexion-extension wreaks havoc on the spine

I am a big fan of Stuart McGill. I believe he’s a great person, a passionate researcher, and an impactful presenter. The science behind his work makes perfect sense. Bend the spine back and forth enough times and the intervertebral discs will eventually rupture. However, I take his research with a grain of salt.

Considering that 80% of individuals suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives it is important that we figure out exactly what is causing this pain. Is it weak glutes? Weak core? Repetitive flexion-extension? Poor back endurance? Quad-dominance? Tight hip flexors and poor posture?

It is my opinion that a weak posterior chain and weak glutes in particular are largely responsible for the alarming number of low back pain in the U.S. The flexion-extension argument just doesn’t hold up in the real-world. There are many folks that perform crunches, sit ups, and back extensions their entire lives and never experience back pain. If there were indeed a “set number” of flexion-extension cycles, every single individual who performed crunches would have disc-related injuries. Although it’s not en-vogue these days to go against the great Dr. McGill, you can’t ignore this simple fact.

The world record for sit ups was set by a Brazilian gentleman named Edmar Freitas who did 133,986 sit ups in 30 hours. He’s also done 111,000 sit ups in 24 hours. If we were truly dealt a fixed number of flexion-extension cycles, Edmar would have likely used his up during his remarkable feats and would have herniated a disc on sight. He’d have been carried off the premises in a stretcher. All boxers, wresters, and bodybuilders would have herniated discs as well. Edmar has probably executed over a million sit ups in his life yet he’s still able to walk around with an intact spine.

What does this tell you? I’ll tell you what it tells me:

1) Clearly we don’t have a fixed number of flexion-extension cycles
2) Strong muscles and proper form can buttress against shear and compressive loads, and
3) The intervertebral discs can clearly regenerate themselves to a certain degree

At any rate, I have no problem with folks who decide to abandon more traditional ab exercises like crunches, sit ups, leg raises, and side bends, and instead concentrate on performing solely stability exercises like planks, side planks, Pallof presses, ab wheel rollouts, bodysaws, chops, lifts, and suitcase carries. While I still program straight leg sit ups and hanging leg raises, I’ve found myself programming core-stability exercises much more often and traditional ab exercises much less often. However, back extensions done properly do not involve spinal flexion or hyperextension!

You be the judge; does it look like my low back is going into unsafe levels of flexion or hyperextension? I should mention that the two videos below showcase subtle technique alterations from “standard form” that increase gluteal contribution and decrease erector contribution:

As you can see, my low back doesn’t flex or extend even when holding onto a 100 lb dumbbell and draping a miniband around my neck which probably offers another 50 lbs of resistance to the top of the lift.

What about reverse hypers? Here’s a video clip of Smitty from the Diesel Crew explaining how they perform their reverse hypers:

As you can see, it is possible to perform reverse hypers without flexing or extending the lumbar spine as well. If you tell me that this form is just too hard for people to master then I will think you’re a crappy trainer. Remember – high expectations and quality coaching!

4. They require adequate levels of hamstring flexibility, anti-flexion core stability, hip flexor flexibility, and glute activation

Proper squats require adequate levels of hip, thoracic spine, and ankle mobility; should we avoid them? Are you okay with your clients or athletes not being able to perform proper back extensions or reverse hypers? If they can’t do them right, it means that they either have crappy hamstring or hip flexor flexibility, poor levels of core stability, weak glutes, improper motor patterns, or simply an insufficient knowledge of form. Personally I’m not okay with my clients or athletes suffering from any of the aforementioned dysfunction and I intend to fix their movement patterns. If someone like me can do them correctly, then I surely expect them to do them correctly and will keep working with them until they get it right.

5. Deadlifts and squats are much more effective due to a more pronounced eccentric component, more total-body muscle activity, and increased testosterone release

I would actually agree with this statement. However, back extensions have an eccentric component that is more accentuated up top in the contracted position, while reverse hypers have an extreme eccentric component if you perform the exercise correctly and stop the pendulum from pulling your low back into flexion.

When you hold onto the handles in the case of the reverse hyper, you activate the forearms and lats and transfer energy from the hands down through the arms, back, and core. In fact, the process of holding onto the handles and adding a lot of weight to the pendulum makes the reverse hyper an excellent total body exercise. If you doubt me, I recommend palpating someone’s erector spinae all the way up and down the spinal column to see how hard they’re contracting during the lift.

The last thing I want to mention is that there have been a couple of studies that have come out in the past year or two showing that increased testosterone release from lower body exercise does not impact muscle protein synthesis in upper body muscles. This means that we may be wrong about “squats and deadlifts” causing upper-body growth due to increased testosterone release. Maybe the increased upper body growth from squats and deadlifts is simply due to the development of a strong set of erectors which allows for more weight to be lifted during upper body exercises like bent over rows, t-bar rows, bent over rear delt raises, and barbell curls.

6. “Supported” lifts or lifts that support part of the body train muscles without improving upon integrated, coordinated movement

At first thought I would tend to agree with this statement. However, upon further consideration one realizes that this is not in fact true. Since these lifts can hone in on muscular weak links and improve strength in the integrated, coordinated total-body lifts like squats and deadlifts, they lead to improved integration and coordination in a round-about manner. In other words, if you strengthen the hip extension pattern and the posterior chain in general, you’ll get stronger at squatting and deadlifting and more powerful in running and jumping.

Furthermore, is integrated, coordinated movement the sole objective of sport-specific training?

7. In sport-specific training the isolation of joint actions is not worthwhile

What happens when you get an athlete with virtually no glute development? Don’t you try to isolate the glutes with quadruped and bridging patterns in order to increase activation and hypertrophy? What if an athlete has weak hamstrings? Don’t you prescribe Russian leg curls or glute ham raises? The bottom line is that there are times when we need to increase the size of a certain muscle as well as times when we need to increase the muscular endurance of a muscle, both of which warrant isolation.

When you really think about it, nearly everything we do in sport-specific training is “isolation” work. In sports the body is all over the place. In the weightroom, we’re very controlled. Squats isolate double extension. Plyometrics isolate triple extension. Planks isolate core stabilization. Static stretching isolates muscles. So do mobility and activation drills. We foam roll individual muscles. When we bench press we isolate horizontal pressing. But in sports we combine several joint actions at once and usually move our upper and lower bodies simultaneously.

In sport-specific training we get individual parts strong so we can assemble them together on the field, court, or ring with the right timing patterns to create powerful movement. Although it’s wise to focus on “money exercises” that give you much bang for your buck, it is still okay to program some more isolated work as accessory movements. That said, I have a hard time seeing how anyone could really consider a hip extension movement “isolation training” when there are over 20 muscles involved in hip extension including large muscle groups such as the glutes, hamstrings, and adductors.

Here’s another way to think about it: Stronger deadlifts equal faster sprints. Reverse hypers equal stronger deadlifts. Therefore, reverse hypers equal faster sprints. In mathematics we call this the transitive property of equality. If stronger deadlifts truly lead to faster sprints, then anything that strengthens the deadlift therefore leads to faster sprints. In this manner a grip exercise could increase sprinting speed if it strengthens the grip which happens to be the limiting factor in one’s max deadlift.

Obviously if you’re limited on time, go with standing movements. Standing lower body movements like squats, deadlifts, lunges, and power cleans reign supreme for a variety of reasons, but supine, prone, and quadruped lower body movements can supplement standing lifts very well and lead to synergy in training adaptations. In other words, 2 plus 2 doesn’t equal 4; it equals 5.

8. They lead to significant amounts of shear loading on the spine even if executed properly

Deadlifts also lead to significant amounts of shear loading especially at the bottom of the lift when bent over and even more significantly when the lifter keeps his or her hips high when deadlifting. This technique is characteristic of taller lifters. When we pick up plates or dumbbells off the bottom rack, we experience large shearing forces on the spine. In fact, any supine, prone, or quadruped hip extension movement or standing hip extension movement that involves bending forward significantly is going to produce large shearing forces.

It is important to expose the body to forces from different directions as Davis’ law and Wolff’s law state that the body’s tissues can strengthen and restructure themselves to better prepare for the types of forces to which they’re regularly exposed. If we avoid certain directional loading patterns then injuries will arise in sporting situations as soon as the body is greeted with unfamiliar directions of force. With proper progression and mechanics, you can perform heavy back extensions and reverse hypers and not have to fear spinal injury, and you’ll even safeguard the body to prevent injuries in competition.

Summary of Arguments in Favor of Straight Leg Hip Extension Exercises

Back extensions and reverse hypers may be more “specific” to top-speed sprinting and may transfer better due to the more specific-nature of the directional loading pattern (horizontal vs. vertical) in comparison to squatting, lunging, and deadlifting patterns. Since the glutes contract very hard at the top of these movements at end-range hip extension, they may help add much needed power to that range of motion during athletics. This range of motion includes the critical stage of ground contact in sprinting.

When an athlete can demonstrate proficiency at heavy back extensions and reverse hypers, you know that he has adequate levels of hamstring and hip flexor flexibility, anti-flexion core stability, and glute activation. In other words, you can feel confident that their backs aren’t going to round forward or hyperextend very easily, their glutes are strong and can turn on when needed, their hamstrings are loose enough to allow for a healthy range of forward bending motion, and their hip flexors are loose enough to allow for full hip extension.

Strengthening the posterior chain in general may increase squat and deadlift strength in addition to staving off low back pain and injury. Many individuals have witnessed their back pain disappear once they started performing back extensions and reverse hypers. In fact, some experts argue that the reverse hyper is quite therapeutic for the low back as it rotates the sacrum and may “pump” fluid into the intervertebral discs. Although this sounds great in theory, it may or may not be true. Anecdotal evidence seems to support the notion.

In the clip below, I perform a heavy set of reverse hypers while allowing the sacrum to rotate. I have been performing reverse hypers for four years and am one of the individuals who feel that it’s benefited my back health tremendously.

As Dr. Stuart McGill has often mentioned, pain is very specific to the individual’s injury, dysfunction, or pain-mechanism. For example, a flexion-intolerant person better keep a strong arch while he performs back extensions or reverse hypers and avoid going too deep or he’ll certainly feel it the next day. Conversely, an extension-intolerant person better brace the core hard and avoid going up too high on back extensions or reverse hypers or he’ll certainly feel it the next day. I should mention that arching the low back slightly in comparison to flexing the low back helps buttress the spine and protect the low back from shear forces by 23-43% (McGill). As a matter of fact, simply bracing the spine and contracting the core musculature increases spinal compressive loading by 12-18%, yet the act simultaneously enhances spinal stability by 36-64% (Granata and Marras, 2000). Some individuals get an uncomfortable tingling sensation when they perform reverse hypers. This is usually due to tight hamstrings and glutes and clears up with stretching and continued use of the reverse hyper.

The last thing I want to mention is that many high-level coaches are in support of the reverse hyper including Louie Simmons, Dave Tate, Kelly Baggett, Joe DeFranco, Erik Minor, Christian Thibaudeau, Martin Rooney, James Smith, Jason Ferruggia, and Charlie Francis. You certainly cannot call this list of coaches a bunch of idiots as these folks are some of the top minds in the S & C industry.

How Do I Use Reverse Hypers in Training?

1. I prescribe bodyweight reverse hypers to beginner males and amateur women that I train
2. I prescribe heavy reverse hypers to all sprinters that I train
3. I prescribe them infrequently (maybe every other week) to most athletes that I train
4. I personally perform them when I notice that I have trouble getting the bar moving in the initial portion of a max deadlift

I hope that I’ve done a good job of trying to persuade strength coaches to being open-minded about back extensions and reverse hypers. Thanks for reading my article!

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I wanted to write this blog to alert my friends in the fitness industry who are considering attending multiple Perform Better Seminars this year. Perform Better is currently offering a “VIP Special” that allows you to attend as many seminars you’d like during an entire calendar year for $699! I was already planning on attending all of the different seminars so I’ll break down the savings for you:

One-Day Learn-By-Doing Seminar $149
Two-Day FMS (Functional Movement Screen) Seminar $379
Three-Day Functional Training Summit $349
Results Business Seminars $349 (I plan on attending the first seminar in 2011)

Total $1,226

Total with VIP Discount: $699

Granted, I’m not factoring in any early-bird discounts or taxes, but you get the point. If you’d like the discount, call Perform Better at 888-556-7464 and tell the customer service agent you’d like to talk to Chris Poirier about the VIP discount.

For the record I am very happy with Perform Better. Not only do they put on the absolute best seminars worldwide, they also have excellent customer service. Last year there was a thread on the StrengthCoach.Com forum asking which company had the best customer service out of all the different fitness equipment companies and every strength coach and personal trainer on the forum who responded chose Perform Better. I have to agree, as there was an incident earlier this year where Perform Better made an error and under-charged me for an item I purchased by one-hundred dollars. When they realized their mistake, with no hesitation they told me that they would honor the price they quoted me. How often does that happen in today’s economy?

I also have to credit the Perform Better Functional Training Summit for much of my success this past year. Last year I attended the 3-day seminar at Long Beach and met Mike Boyle, Eric Cressey, Martin Rooney, Gray Cook, Robert Dos Remedios, Bill Parisi, Vern Gambetta, Mark Verstegen, and Alwyn Cosgrove. I have to laugh now because I approached each of them at the end of their seminars and handed them an article I wrote on glute activation. These are all coaches who are about as far as you can get at the end of the “sport-specific” continuum, yet the article I gave them included some information about machine exercises and used some bodybuilding terminology. Now that I know a lot more about the industry, I can just envision the look on their faces as they read the article. They were probably thinking to themselves, “This guy just isn’t quite there yet!”

At any rate, I lucked out because at the time Mike Boyle had been considering programming the shoulder-elevated single leg hip lift into his routine and I gave him some ammunition to justify its inclusion with my glute EMG data. Coincidentally he was thinking about writing an article on the single leg hip lift calling it “the best exercise we never do.” Although he never wrote this article, he did post several videos showing different variations of the exercise over the next several months, in addition to mentioning my name on his blog a couple of times, posting a couple of my articles on his site, and mentioning me in his podcast on several occasions.

I piggy-backed off of this success by making sure to tell T-Nation that Mike Boyle had recently published a couple of my articles on his site so they would take me more seriously. This led to T-Nation posting several of my articles on their site, and the rest is history. Now I’m pretty well-known in the industry.

As a matter of fact, for the most part I was completely unknown in the fitness world as of last August. Since then I’ve published an eBook and been a part of over 30 articles online. I would venture to guess that I’ve been involved in more published articles in the last year than any other individual in the fitness industry. For this reason I’m declaring myself “rookie of the year” in the fitness industry. :)

I hope that I can continue to rise in popularity as next year I want to be writing for Men’s Health and speaking at the Perform Better Seminars! Wish me luck! Although I went off on a bit of a tangent, I have the Perform Better seminar to thank for much of my success. Simply put, if you want to get well-known in the industry you have to network. It is much easier for someone like Mike Boyle to post one of your articles on his site when he’s met you face to face. That’s just the way things work. I’m looking forward to meeting even more like-minded folks this year! Hope you enjoyed the blog.

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How I Learn

In today’s blog I’d like to inform my readers as to exactly how I currently acquire knowledge pertaining to strength & conditioning. I probably spend 4-5 hours per day reading, watching, and listening to new fitness-related media. Some days when I’m researching it might be closer to 8 hours per day. Several days per week my entire waking hours will consist of fitness-related activities: writing, training others, training myself, reading, watching videos, etc. Obviously relevant fitness-related information is specific to each individual, as we all have our own interests. For example, a researcher may only rely on journals for information, whereas a powerlifter might only want to visit powerlifting websites for info. Personally, I am extremely interested in sport-specific training, bodybuilding, and powerlifting. I am mildly interested in nutrition and not very interested in endurance sports like running or triathalon training.

First I should mention that I do not like rehashers. If everything that comes out of your mouth or everything you write is exactly the same as Mike Boyle, Gray Cook, Mark Verstegen, Eric Cressey, Charles Poliquin, or Alwyn Cosgrove, then you’re a follower, not a leader. Way too many folks in this industry simply wait for their favorite guru idol to come out with a strong opinion and then rehash it. I prefer to not spend time on these folks’ sites.

In this industry the top thinkers tend to rise to the top. For cases in point, I believe the top four smartest folks in strength & conditioning are Eric Cressey, Christian Thibaudeau, Mike Boyle, and Kelly Baggett. I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve read or heard something they said or wrote and was blown away by the logic behind their comments and the simplistic manner in which they express their thoughts. I may not always agree with these guys, but I always appreciate their brilliance and thought-processes. I look forward to the day when I will be mentioned in the same sentence as these top-minds in strength and conditioning.

Without further ado, here are the ways in which I learn:

Best Websites

1. TMuscle.Com

In my opinion TMuscle is by far the greatest strength training website that ever existed. Over the past twelve years, the world’s best strength training authors have been T-Nation contributors. From past authors such as Ian King, Charlie Francis, Joe DeFranco, John Berardi, Paul Chek, Alwn Cosgrove, Jeremy Frisch, Charles Poliquin, Charles Staley, Tim Henriques, and Chad Waterbury to more recent authors such as Mike Boyle, Jim Wendler, Nick Tumminello, Eric Minor, Scott Abel, and Clay Hyght. Then there are the constants who have been writing for T-Nation for many years such as Christian Thibaudeau, Dan John, Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, and Dave Tate. No other website even comes close to featuring this many talented writers. I can’t thank T-Nation enough for all the free learning they have provided me over the years!

As a matter of fact, if you were to spend an entire week reading every one of Christian Thibaudeau’s articles and Eric Cressey’s articles you’d probably be more knowledgeable than 99% of personal trainers and gym-rats! It’s unfortunate that the site has recently decided to reduce its number of weekly training and nutrition related articles to two per week instead of the four weekly articles they’ve always featured. Waking up to a new T-Nation article was a part of life for me!

2. Elitefts.Com

Elitefts does a great job at putting out quality content over a broad range of topics in strength & conditioning. Although not quite at the level of quality-content as TMuscle, Elitefts posts many excellent articles and the absolute best in the industry regarding the sport of powerlifting. Any time you get to read articles written by Dave Tate, Jim Wendler, Louie Simmons, Martin Rooney, Alwyn Cosgrove, and James Smith you’re in for a treat.

3. StrengthCoach.Com

StrengthCoach.Com belongs to Mike Boyle and is in my opinion the best site in the industry regarding sport-specific training. You will find weekly articles by actual strength coaches who are in the trenches with athletes week-in, week-out.

4. Higher-Faster-Sports.Com

Higher-Faster-Sports.Com belongs to Kelly Baggett and contains a great number of free articles written by Kelly. In fact, just as in the case of Christian Thibaudeau and Eric Cressey, if you were to spend an entire week reading all of Kelly Baggett’s articles you’d certainly be a vertical jump and speed expert.

5. Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions go to EliteTrack.Com (probably the best site in the industry regarding sprinting-related material; the site features blogs written by Mike Young, Vern Gambetta, and Carl Valle – three guys that know an awful lot about strength training as it relates to Track & Field, in addition to many journal articles pertaining to Track & Field), Wannabebig.Com (a strength training site that has featured many top-notch writers including Alan Aragon, Nick Tumminello, John Berardi, Eric Cressey, and Alwyn Cosgrove), ElevatingFitness.Com (a more recent site that features many blogs and articles written by many of today’s top experts in strength & conditioning), and SportsRehabExperts.Com (a site that I don’t belong to but have heard only good things as it contains articles and podcasts by many top physical therapists and corrective exercise specialists in the field).

Best Podcasts

1. The Fitcast

The Fitcast is hosted by Kevin Larabee, Jonathon Fass, and Leigh Peele. Often Tony Gentilcore will join in as well. I’ve really enjoyed what Jonathon Fass has to say about most topics, and Kevin Larabee is becoming very knowledgeable himself having surrounded himself with so many top thinkers in the field.

2. Robertson Training Systems: In the Trenches Fitness

In the Trenches Fitness is hosted by Mike Robertson who does a hell of a job giving his fans free information month-in, month-out. I’ve really enjoyed the interviews he’s conducted and the interviewees he’s sought.

3. The Strength Coach Podcast

The Strength Coach podcast is hosted by Anthony Renna who interviews Mike Boyle, Alwyn Cosgrove, and Gray Cook nearly every episode. A strength coach is featured on nearly every episode as well, and the team at Perform Better often comes on for product or seminar updates.

4. Strength & Conditioning Webinars

I do not have a membership to Strength & Conditioning Webinars but I have heard great things about the site. It is hosted by Anthony Renna as well and features interviews with popular strength coaches.

Best Blogs

1. Tony Gentilcore

I firmly believe that Tony Gentilcore is the most humorous individual in the fitness field and a guy whose personality really shines through in his blogs. Equally important is his vast amount of training knowledge. I highly recommend his blog!

2. Nick Tumminello

I believe that Nick Tumminello’s Youtube videos are second to none in the fitness field. You can really tell how much a guy knows by the way he speaks and moves in his exercise videos, and Nick really knows his stuff. Nick doesn’t shy away from controversial topics and always provides high-quality content. Nick and I speak on the phone from time to time and I can extremely honored to have him as a friend.

3. Amped Training (Matt Perryman)

Many people in the fitness field have never heard of Matt Perryman. This is unfortunate because he’s extremely intelligent. I absolutely love his blogs and have many similar interests. I believe that if Matt were a little more “politically correct,” and had a little more drive he could be one of the most popular coaches/writers in the field but I’m pretty sure this doesn’t matter to Matt. At any rate, you should definitely read his blogs.

4. Optimum Sports Performance (Patrick Ward)

I believe that Patrick Ward is one of the most well-researched guys in the field of sport-specific training and corrective exercise. He lives close by and I’ve visited him on several occasions. I’m proud to call him a friend. His blogs are always top-quality. I look forward to reading anything Patrick writes.

5. Mark Young Training Systems

I believe that Mark Young is another extremely bright individual who virtually flies under most people’s radars. Mark is very knowledgeable about bodybuilding, sport-specific training, and corrective exercise. I’ve spoken to Mark over the telephone and correspond with him often via email. He’s another guy who I am proud to call a friend. His blogs are always high-quality and informative.

6. The Athletic Development Blog (Joe Bonyai)

Joe Bonyai recently began blogging and so far I’m very impressed. His video clips are amazing and his form is so technical one can’t help but wonder if he’s human or a robot. He is very knowledgeable about sport-specific training.

7. Robertson Training Systems (Mike Robertson)

Mike Robertson is always putting out great stuff, whether in article, manual, podcast, dvd, or blog format. He’s one of the guys who first started bridging the gap between physical therapy and strength training. Many thanks Mike!

8. Eric Cressey

As previously mentioned, Eric is a bit of a genius. I am often mesmerized at his presentations and articles. In addition, he may be the second funniest guy in strength & conditioning next to his partner Tony.

9. Charlie Weingroff

I just started reading Charlie Weingroff’s blog and it is top-notch. Charlie is a renown strength coach, physical therapist, and powerlifter. I’ve met Charlie before and he is a very humble, talented guy. I would do just about anything to be able to hook a cable up from his brain to my brain and upload everything he knows about physical therapy, assessment, and fundamental movement patterns.

10. Jason Ferruggia

I like Jason’s no B.S. attitude toward strength training. I enjoy reading from guys who I can tell really bust their butts in the gym. You can tell in an author’s writing whether he actually trains hard or not and I can definitely tell that Jason lifts like an animal. He’s a great source of information for general hypertrophy and strength training.

11. Kevin Neeld

Kevin Neeld is an extremely intelligent individual. I really wish that Kevin put out more articles and blogs. I also wish that Kevin didn’t focus solely on hockey as he’s got too much knowledge to share with the rest of us and therefore should refrain from “pigeon-holing” himself into one category. From the few articles I’ve seen from Kevin he is without a doubt in the upper echelon of writers in terms of Kinesiology knowledge.

12. All Things Strength (Robbie Bourke)

I believe that Robbie does a really good job on his blog. Although he’s fairly young, he’s very knowledgeable. I especially like his interviews. Great job Robbie!

13. SprintStrong (Tim Egerton)

Tim does a really good job of linking up high-quality Youtube videos in his blogs that pertain to strength training for Track & Field. I really enjoy his site.

Best Magazines

1. Men’s Health Magazine

Men’s Health is an excellent magazine that features excerpts and articles from most of today’s top strength coaches.

2. Muscular Development Magazine

Although many individuals in the strength & conditioning industry would laugh at me for reading Muscular Development every month, I look at it as my “secret weapon.” First, the magazine contains numerous scientists and journal research abstracts. Second, I love bodybuilding and enjoy reading about how the top pros including Jay Cutler, Branch Warren, Victor Martinez, and Kai Greene actually train. Each month I’m like a fat kid who’s been given a piece of cake when my Muscular Development Magazine arrives.

Best Seminars

1. Perform Better Seminars

I will only put one name down for seminars because no other company even comes close to putting on high-quality seminars as Perform Better. To get a chance to see Juan Carlos Santana, Martin Rooney, Mike Boyle, Alwyn Cosgrove, Todd Durkin, Vern Gambetta, Gray Cook, Mark Verstegen, Stuart McGill, and Robert Dos Remedios speak at the same venue is mind-boggling! These seminars are the absolute greatest networking events as well.

Other Media

1. Facebook – I love Facebook for networking purposes. Each day I run through the newsfeeds and am left with around a dozen great blogs, articles, and videos.

2. Twitter – I love being on Twitter for the same reason I love Facebook; each day I am provided some great, free material to read pertaining to strength & conditioning.

3. Youtube – Thank God for Youtube as it has allowed fitness writers to film video clips to embed into their articles and blogs for detailed demonstrations.

4. Textbooks/Books/eBooks/Manuals – I always try to read a couple of books at a time. For instance, right now I’m reading Trailguide to the Body and Biomechanics and Motor Control of Human Movement.

5. Journals – I am very lucky to be able to access full text journal articles; a privilege that I take advantage of quite often when researching a particular topic.

6. DVD’s – In the past year I purchased Mike Boyle’s Functional Strength Coach 3.0 and Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, and Bill Hartmann’s Assess & Correct. Both were outstanding. I enjoy watching training videos of top bodybuilders and powerlifters as well.

7. Conversations – As I mentioned earlier, I am lucky to have a few colleagues in the industry who I chat with from time to time. This is an amazing privilege that will only expand as I meet more like-minded folks and do more networking.

8. Training – This should go without saying, but unless you train hard yourself and train plenty of other folks in the form of personal training or being a strength coach, you’ll have a very difficult time maximizing your learning, incorporating the knowledge you’ve learned from others, and/or improving upon existing methods.

That about wraps things up for this blog. I hope you enjoyed learning about how I learn! Furthermore, I hope to spark some individuals to broaden their horizons and start learning from some of the same folks who continue to educate me on strength & conditioning topics.

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