I apologize for the really long blogpost – I intended to post a random thoughts blog last week but didn’t get around to it. As time went on I thought of more and more stuff, hence the long post. Anyway, this is definitely the most random post I’ve ever written.
1. If the Blog is Rockin’, Don’t Come Knockin’!
Last Thursday my blog had 5,969 views. I started this blog last November and had 119 total views that month. A year later I’m averaging over 4,000 views per day. As of a few minutes ago I had over 110,000 views for the month of October and there are four days left in the month. I’ve worked very hard on this blog and am very proud that it seems to be one of the most popular blogs in strength & conditioning. Below is a chart that shows the blog’s rise in viewership.
2. Epic Conversation in “Training Women” Blog
Following my “Training Women” blog, I had some amazing dialogue with several people but most notably from my friend Karla. I’m glad she had the guts to call me out as it led to an amazing discussion. I felt like I threw down some serious knowledge in the comments portion so I recommend you read through it if you have time.
3. Raise the Bar for the Glutes!
I don’t want to sound like an asshole, but we really need to raise the bar for the glutes. It’s very important to get clients and athletes moving well with their own bodyweight. Many times I have to regress exercises as far back as possible in order to start them off with an appropriate exercise variation.
Hell, I had a female client several years ago who was very tall, uncoordinated, top-heavy, and weak. It took me an entire year to get her to do a bodyweight full squat. Believe me, I understand the vast range of fitness between sedentary and athletic individuals.
But we need to raise the bar for the glutes and have high-standards if we want to see nice butts, fast runners, and reduced low-back pain. Bodyweight movements just don’t cut it.
Barbell squats, barbell deadlifts, barbell hip thrusts, barbell Bulgarian split squats, etc. are where it’s at for the glutes. Dumbbells, cables, bands, and kettlebells can be used to but we have to progress past bodyweight (unless the client is sprinting, cutting, jumping, etc.).
I think I could do 10 straight minutes of bodyweight glute bridges, low step ups, or clamshells. For me bodyweight glute bridges are like jogging – pure endurance work. Bodyweight glute bridges activate my 20% of glute MVC for me. Conversely, 600 lb barbell glute bridges activate well over 100% of glute MVC (this is possible because MVC is an isometric measurement) for me. I realize that I have strong glutes but every grown man should be able to glute bridge at least 225 lbs.
I bet if we found a frozen Neanderthal and unfroze him he’d lay down and bust out 30 reps with 225 on the glute bridge without even warming up.
In our glute articles we can’t be satisfied with bodyweight movements…we have to keep showing pictures of barbell movements so people know where to aim. Of course we can tell them to master their bodyweight before loading up, but if all we ever show in the articles are pictures of someone doing bodyweight glute bridges, low step ups, and clamshells, then we set the bar way too low and don’t give people something for which to strive. (I hate that I’m not supposed to end a sentence in a preposition – that sounded strange)
4. Barbell 1-Leg SLDL
I have never really pushed the barbell 1-Leg SLDL to see how much I could lift. Last Wednesday I busted out 2 reps with 225 and 1 rep with 275. I felt slightly unbalanced and uncoordinated, but I know if I kept at it I’d quickly be able to use 315 or so.
This is important because it indicates that there may be a considerable bilateral deficit with deadlifting. My max deadlift is around 565 right now. I’m hoping to get it to 600 one of these days (although 585 which is 6 plates per side sound really cool too). Here’s a vid of the bb sl sldl (I don’t really keep the leg straight but I keep the hips high and do down until the bar touches the floor while focusing on sitting back and keeping the chest up).
5. Fat Pets
Whenever I see pet owners with fat pets it diminishes my faith in humanity. Seriously, we’ve gotten pretty damn pathetic. Here’s what I tell people in that situation.
1. Stop feeding Junior table scraps.
2. Stop filling his entire bowl full of food every day.
3. Start out with half a bowl per day and see if he loses weight.
4. Just keep tinkering with the amount until you reach an equilibrium and you’re happy with your dog’s (or other pet) weight.
5. Then just keep it at that level.
If your pet is fat, it’s your fault, not the pet’s! This pisses me off very much. The dog deserves more competent owners.
6. Ultimate Fighter on Spike
I’ve been watching the Ultimate Fighter this year and wanted to say three quick things.
1. Josh Koscheck is just too immature for my liking. I used to really like him (I still think he’s a great and exciting fighter) but now I’m a little annoyed. Cocky fighters need to get humbled.
2. GSP is a class act.
3. I’m very glad that the UFC and MMA trainers in general seems to be improving in their strength & conditioning. It’s not uncommon now to see guys doing trap bar deadlifts, inverted rows, using the battleropes, etc.
7. Back Extension Instructional Video
Here is how I teach back extensions at my garage:
This needs to be watched by everyone! Back extensions are an amazing glute exercise if done correctly.
8. Professor Richard Hinrichs Drops Some Knowledge
A couple of weeks ago I posted a video on ACL Biomechanics. In case you missed it, here was the video:
I showed my professor the video and he dropped some serious knowledge on me. Here was his response:
The first error was a time 3:02. You said that the larger moment arm for the quads (than the hamstrings) allowed the quads to produce more force. The word you wanted was torque here. The same force with a larger moment arm produces a greater moment or torque, not more force. And torque is what is important when trying to extend the knees. The second error you made is at time 4:16. I think you must have misunderstood one point I made when comparing males and females in the timing of the coactivation of the hamstrings and quads in landing. Contrary to what you might expect, females turn on their hamstrings significantly sooner in the landing process (not later) compared to males–as if to recognize that their hamstrings are weak. It is the quads to hamstrings strength ratio that is so much higher in females than males that seems to be the risk factor for ACL injuries.
Rick is a brilliant man and I am very happy to be learning from him. He’s exceptionally knowledgeable about the ACL and swimming biomechanics. I still get an A for effort!
9. The Fuzz
I’m curious as to what my readers will think about this video. Check it out:
10. Creatine on the Nose
I’ve taken creatine for so long that I don’t mix it anymore. I just put the scoop in my mouth and then wash it down with some liquid. The other day I got some on my nose when the scoop touched it. Later that day, about five minutes prior to having to train a client I noticed in the mirror that I had a bunch of white powder on my nose.
I’ve never used cocaine in my entire life but I was thinking about how funny it would have been if my client showed up and saw the white powder on my nose. What else could they possibly assume? Thank God I noticed it!
11. Anthropometry & Attachment Points as it Relates to Big Lifts
I get a lot of questions from people who ask me stuff like, “Why can I deadlift so much more than I can squat?” Actually I should expound upon this in an “ABC: Ask Bret Contreras” post but for people in this situation, know that it’s perfectly normal.
Most women can deadlift much more than they can squat (at least in my experience). The main reason why some men can squat more than they can deadlift is because they aren’t proficient in the deadlift. With practice they almost always deadlift more than they can squat real quickly. Over the years I would say that on average I put 50-80 lbs on a typical guy’s deadlift “instantly” just by teaching them the correct starting position. Most try to deadlift like a squat, and when they learn how to maximize their leverage in their hips they set an instant PR (not because they got stronger, but because they never learned how to deadlift).
I’m talking raw lifting, not geared powerliting. Wearing gear changes things a bit as the squat briefs and suits add some serious spring to the squat…but the deadlift suits don’t do much for the deadlift.
Furthermore, it’s quite common for a taller lifter to be able to deadlift way more than he or she can squat. For example, a 5’8″ female lifter may be full squatting with 65 lbs but deadlifting with 175 lbs. This is not uncommon and has everything to do with human Anatomy. More specifically, it has to do with anthropometry (the relationship between body segment lengths) and the where the tendons attach on the bones.
Leverage is huge for lifting and people don’t quite understand from a biomechanical perspective how critical “leverage” is….just by taking a couple of inches off or putting a couple of inches on a particular bone or moving the tendon insertion a couple of centimeters out can lead to much higher abilities of the muscles to move some serious weight.
Those who are well-versed in Biomechanics are able to create equations using Anatomy, Physics, and Mathematics to solve for muscle forces required to move resistance based on the moment of the resistance arm (resistance times lever distance). All you need to know are bone lengths, tendon attachment points, amount of resistance, and joint angles. Can you see why I freakin’ love Biomechanics?!
12. What’s a G6?
There’s a popular song on right now called “Like a G6” by Far East Movement.
I didn’t know what a G6 was so I had to look it up. It’s a reference to a jet airplane that Gulfstream Aerospace makes called the G650. So technically the song-writer’s are off – there’s no G6, just a G650.
You can read about it here.
13. TC Luoma is the Real-Deal
A few weeks ago I met with TC Luoma, the editor-in-chief of T-Nation. I love writing for T-Nation and I’ve always wanted to meet TC. His Atomic Dog column was a riot and I bought 4 copies of his book back in the day – one for me and one for each of my brothers. My brothers all loved the book so much that when I told them I was meeting with him they acted like I was meeting an A-List Celebrity. We had some good conversation.
Here’s a video of him talking about his book (which is called Atomic Dog – Testosterone Principles).
I believe that every grown man should own this book.
Isoholds are a good thing to toss into a workout from time to time. They’re not too CNS demanding, they can increase flexibility and add stability to new mobility gains, and they can increase muscle activation by awakening dormant muscles. Plus, variety is always nice.
Good choices of Isoholds that can all be done with bodyweight are static lunge holds, Bulgarian split squat holds, good morning holds, chin up holds, push up holds, inverted row holds, glute ham raise holds, back extension holds, and reverse hyper holds.
A sixty second Bulgarian squat hold might be the most grueling exercise in the entire world. Sounds easy but it’s not!
Try this variation I learned from Jeremy Frisch! It’s tough!
15. Smart Blog Readers
I want to give a shout-out to my blog-readers. I think I have some of the smartest blog readers on the web. Often there are very good conversations following some of my blogposts. I appreciate all of the comments that my readers leave very much.
16. Weak Point Training
I’m often amazed at how many lifters assume that you can bring up a weak point in a matter of days. For example, I get lots of emails from people asking me whether they can get a great butt by next month.
This leads me to a funny story. A couple years ago at my training studio Lifts, my trainer Jordan and I trained this 19 year old girl (we’ll call her Leslie) and her mother at the same time. Leslie had a great body to begin with and a beautiful face, but she didn’t have much of a butt.
Within six workouts that spanned over the course of two weeks, all of a sudden her butt was amazing. Seriously it was one of the greatest butts imaginable. Round, perky, etc. It went from completely flat to perfect in two weeks!
One day Jordan asked me if I noticed how great Leslie’s butt was looking and I replied to him saying, “Yeah, I don’t want to feel like a pervert or anything but I’ve never seen such rapid results in my entire life as a trainer.”
Later on that day we were training Leslie and her mom and her mom said to us, “Can you believe how great Leslie’s butt is looking? It’s remarkable.”
Both of us looked at each other and replied with something like, “Um, yeah, I guess so. I hadn’t really noticed.” We were both too chicken to tell the mom that we had noticed!
On the other end of the spectrum, I had another client who was a bit frustrated with her lack of positive results in her glute region. I tried everything with her. She got much stronger but didn’t improve much in her glutes. We did plenty of hip stretching, low load glute activation, and glute strengthening from every angle with every major glute exercise, and still it seemed like she was going no where in this regard (well, her body got much better – she lost fat and gained muscle, but her butt didn’t seem to change much).
But she kept training hard, week in and week out. After she’d been with me for a year, I dug up her “before” picture and was blown away. Her butt had improved markedly we just didn’t realize it because the adaptations occurred so slowly.
The moral of the story is that with hard work, everyone can improve the shape of their butt. For some people it takes a few weeks, whereas with others it can take a year or two. But with hard work and consistency you can overcome poor genetics and dramatically improve the shape of a particular body part. Just don’t give up.
There are plenty of bodybuilders who have “reversed” a weak bodypart and turned it into a great bodypart but it often takes them years to do so.
17. Kinematics vs. Kinetics
Most people don’t know the difference between Kinematics and Kinetics.
Kinematics describes motion without considering the forces that cause the motion. Kinematics just describes things like joint angles, range of motion, velocity, vectors, etc.
Kinetics is concerned with the relationship between motion and its causes. Kinetics looks at things like forces and torque.
Kinematic variables (translations, rotations, etc.) are related to their respective kinetic variables (forces, moments/torques, etc.).
18. Getting Stronger by Using Steriods and Gaining a Ton of Weight
This “random thought” is probably going to piss some people off. Years ago I remember scanning through a T-Nation thread by Mark Bell (known as “Jackass” on this thread and in the movie “Bigger, Stronger, Faster” he’s known as “Smelly”). This thread started in 2004 and Jackass looked really good (see below). He looked strong, athletic, and was a great looking guy. Here’s a collage from his early years.
Several years later, the thread was still going (in 2008) and he looked like this:
He looks fat, unathletic, and disgusting. But very strong! As the years went on his strength went up but his looks went down.
Right now I am 6’4″, I weigh 225 lbs, and I am natural. I don’t wear any gear when I train and I don’t take any anabolic steroids. I can full squat 365 lbs, bench press 300 lbs, and sumo deadlift 565 lbs. By powerlifting standards this is laughable.
I remember talking to Dave Tate a while back and I asked him how much I’d need to weight to “balance out my leverages” for powerlifting. At my height, he told me I’d have to weigh 350 to ever amount to anything.
I have no doubt that Mark Bell is a kind dude. I shook hands with him at this year’s Mr. Olympia convention. His brother’s movie was one of the coolest movies I’ve ever watched. Mark is ten times stronger than me, but I try to think of him when I’m fighting the urge to get stronger at the expense of staying lean.
I’ve always wanted to get my bench up to 500 lbs. I’ve always wanted a 500 lb squat. Deadlifting 600 lbs would be awesome too.
I bet if I learned how to squat in briefs and a suit, and learned how to use a bench shirt, and trained specifically for powerlifting while taking anabolic steroids and eating like a horse for 3 years, I would probably get to an 1,800 lb total in powerlifting. Big deal? There are guys totalling 1,000 lbs over that.
It would be really fun to move that kind of weight, but what’s the point? I’m not genetically gifted to set powerlifting records. I’ll never be an elite lifter. And I would end up looking just like Jackass. He has made the choice to go down that route and I respect him for it. Sometimes I think it would be fun to open my own powerlifting gym, hang out and train with huge beasts all day long, and enter competitions several times per year. I know that Mark has his own powerlifting gym in Sacremento (Team Supertraining) and has tons of friends in the sport, and I believe he and his wife started up their own powerlifting magazine called Power. My hat is off to Mark.
But at the end of the day I don’t want to go down that road. I have a decent looking face and I intend to keep it. While Mark chose to let his looks slide in efforts to raise his powerlifting total, I choose to keep my looks and never be that strong. This doesn’t mean that I’m complacent with my strength, as I’m still trying to get stronger and reach my strength goals (especially a 600 lb deadlift). It just means that I have to keep reminding myself that I train for strength and aesthetics and that I want to build solely muscle, not muscle and a ton of fat. To each their own.
19. Joe Kenn Quote
I heard a Joe Kenn quote a couple of weeks ago that I love. He said,
I AM THE RESEARCH!
I’ve been using this quote myself. In my humble little garage in Scottsdale I’m doing some good things that I’m very proud of. I know for certain that I’m “ahead of the research.”
By the way, I really enjoyed Joe’s “The Coach’s Strength Training Playbook” and definitely recommend it.
20. The Social Network
For those of you who have not yet seen the movie “Social Media,” go see it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so captivated by a movie in my entire life. It was so intriguing! I’m usually only that impressed by movies like “Braveheart,” “Gladiator,” “The Last Samurai,” “Heat,” “American Gangster,” etc., but this movie was awesome.
21. Conversation with a Drunk Girl – Contreras is Dumber than a Box of Rocks!
Three weekends ago I was at a wedding in San Diego and I was approached by a drunk girl at the reception at the end of the night. She wanted me to go back to her hotel and go skinny dipping with her in the ocean. I was not attracted to her at all, so this was not an option.
She was getting really frisky and started feeling my pecs, then she said, “I’m ready to take my clothes off!” I said, “Why wait for the beach when there’s a fountain right over there?” She wasn’t phased by my comment and then said, “You’re coming home with me, right?” To get her off my back I told her that I had to go to the restroom, and then ran off to find the groom to say goodbye.
Apparently I pissed her off because as I was leaving the reception I overheard her telling her friends about me. She said, “Yeah, he’s totally hot but he’s dumber than a box of rocks.” Hell hath no fury like a woman scorn!
22. Quad Dominance
The other day I was watching a friend’s soccer game and I was able to “see” which athletes effectively used their glutes and which ones relied mostly on their quads. After training people for so many years you develop a s
sense for watching movement on the field. The glutes are hip extensors, hip abductors, and hip external rotators. So important for running, jumping, cutting, throwing, and swinging.
23. Glute Ham Raises Don’t Work Much Glute!
Why do people think the glute ham raise works a ton of glute? Why, why, why? The glute ham raise is primarily a hamstring exercise!
I can hold onto a 30 lb dumbbell and do a glute ham raise and it only gets my mean glute activation up to 18% of MVC. However, it does get my mean hamstring activation up to 82% of MVC.
All the glutes have to do in a glute ham raise is keep the torso erect and hips extended via isometric contraction. It’s not that hard. The hard part of a glute ham raise is controlling the descent which is eccentric knee flexion and then raising the body which is concentric knee flexion.
Here are a couple of different ways to do glute ham raises (also called Russian leans, Russian leg curls, Nordic leg curls, manual glute ham raises, manual leg curls, etc.)
24. Men’s Health: GET FIT RULE
I saw this in Men’s Health and completely agree!
“The best exercise program in the world is the one you enjoy doing.”
Most people think you need to get sore to see results. I try my hardest to prevent soreness in my clients, as I train them frequently and am always having them strive for PR’s.
I was reading in Muscular Development Magazine the other day that Jay Cutler (current Mr. Olympia) rarely gets sore from his workouts and he said that Ronnie Coleman (former Mr. Olympia) rarely got sore as well.
Some places are a little more prone to soreness than others – like the pecs and quads. The point is that you shouldn’t “try” to get sore. It shouldn’t be a goal of yours. If it happens or doesn’t, so be it. What matters is that you’re consistently going up over time, moving well, and engaging in intelligent training. If Ronnie and Jay aren’t getting sore and they’re annihilating a specific bodypart with 30 sets in a single session, then you don’t need to get sore either for max strength or size gains.
26. Speed & Agility Revolution
A colleague of mine named Jim Kielbaso wrote an amazing book a few years ago that I don’t think many people in Strength & Conditioning have heard of. It’s called “Speed & Agility Revolution” and it’s an amazing book. I don’t think I’ve read another book like it; it breaks down the mechanics involved in speed and agility training and is very comprehensive.
27. Chalk One Up for Personal Trainers!
28. Female Strength Coaches
As many of you know, I’m currently taking a graduate level Biomechanics course at ASU. I think there are 25 guys and 5 girls in the class. I’ve heard many in the S & C field discuss how more women need to get involved in strength & conditioning, but it’s not happening. It’s a male-driven field and men are much more drawn to the profession than women.
There are plenty of women becoming Physical Therapists, Registered Dietitians, and even Personal Trainers, but not many becoming Strength Coaches.
Congratulations to the women out there who are trainers and strength coaches. The world needs you! Men, we need to go out of our way to mentor and empower women who are interested in the profession.
29. Heavy Half Squats for Valgus Collapse
While I believe that valgus collapse is a full-range phenomenon and that individuals need strong hip abductors and external rotators (mainly glute medius strength as it has the best moment arm for this purpose) through the entire range of hip flexion/extension, I’ve been having some success with prescribing heavy half squats and cueing my clients to make sure they keep their knees out.
This strategy, in combination with hip abduction/hip transverse abduction isolation movements and squats with a mini-band around the knees, seems to be helpful in this regard.
30. Conversation with Dr. Carl DeRosa
Last week I drove to Flagstaff to have a discussion with Dr. Carl DeRosa, one of the world’s most intelligent spinal experts. I learned a lot of interesting things from him and found him to be extremely intelligent and surprisingly well-versed in strength training. His two sons were both involved in Olympic lifting, plus he’s a Physical Therapist, Professor, Researcher, Lecturer, Author, and an all-around good guy!
I was in such a good mood on my drive back home that I was rocking out in my car while flipping through the stations. I hadn’t heard Billy Idol’s “Mony Mony” in ages and was singing up a storm while driving home. I felt like Tom Cruise singing to Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” in “Jerry MacGuire.”
If someone had a hidden camera on the drive home they could have blackmailed me for a lot of money.
That’s all for this week. Hope you enjoyed the randomness!