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Archive for the ‘Strength Training’ Category

I was just going through my Youtube videos and I thought it would be a good time to bring some of them back for review.

Here are nine different instructional videos:

Hip Thrust

Squat

Deadlift

Band Hip Rotation

Back Extension

Glute Ham Raise

Box Squat

Rack Pull

Bodyweight Hip Thrust Variations

50 Exercises With JC Bands – Here’s a video of me showing 50 different exercises you can do with the JC Bands. This is a damn good product and probably one of the best portable pieces of equipment for providing a great full body workout. Also, I’m an innovative son-of-a-bitch!

How I Do My EMG Research

Maximum Power Production –

Home Butt Workout – ladies should do this workout several days a week for a healthy butt!

Load Vectors – I filmed this one around 16 months ago! Crazy how time flies.

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Female Strength Levels

We see a lot of Youtube videos these days involving people performing astounding feats of strength. It’s important to not get discouraged or biased when watching these videos. For example, I can full squat around 365 lbs right now, but there are Olympic weightlifters who can bust out 900 lbs. I can deadlift around 565 right now, which is one of my best lifts. But the world record is over 1,000 lbs! If I compared myself to these individuals I’d feel like a sissy!

It’s important to be inspired by these freaks of nature, but it’s also important to always keep things in perspective. When I used to train at commercial gyms, people were very impressed with my workouts. For commercial gym standards, I’m pretty strong. It’s not everyday you see some guy squatting with over three plates per side while going rock bottom, pulling over five plates per side in the deadlift, or hip thrusting with over four plates per side, nor is it common to see a guy performing chin ups with two plates strapped around his waist. I’m very proud of these feats as it’s taken me many years to reach these levels, and when you’re 6’4″ tall some lifts just don’t come easy.

Perspective

Think about it. Approximately 2/3 or 67% of people in the United States are either overweight or obese. It is quite rare for an overweight or obese individual to be able to perform a proper repetition in the squat, lunge, push up, or chin up.

As for the remaining 1/3 or 33% of the female population who is of normal weight, probably only a 1/3 of them perform proper resistance training. This means around 10% of women are “competing” with you for strength. As a matter of fact, I’d venture to guess that if you are a woman and you can perform a chin up, you’re in the 95th-pecentile in terms of upper body pulling strength. To reiterate, if you took a random sample of 100 women I doubt that more than five could bust out a full range chin up.

While many women are biased because they base their perception of female-strength off of what they see advanced women doing in the gym or what they’ve seen on Youtube videos, I’m here to give you the real-life breakdown in terms of female-strength. I can speak about this with confidence as there aren’t many trainers out there who have trained more women than me in the past decade. At one point several years ago I had over 30 female clients and I managed to train them all by myself week in, week out.

Below is a chart that I created based on my experiences in training hundreds of women over the past decade.

I thought about including front squats, sumo deadlifts, barbell glute bridges, Bulgarian split squats, glute ham raises, close grip bench press, lat pulldowns, chest supported rows, seated rows, inverted rows, and dumbbell curls, but I opted to keep it simple.

Assumptions

  •  No anabolic steroids (this changes everything)
  • Typical anthropometry (height, weight, body segment length ratios)
  • Of normal age range (16-50 years old)
  • Proper form (full range of motion – no partial reps)

Women taking steroids are in a league of their own as they are manipulating their physiology to function more like a man. Actually some of them are exceeding normal male testosterone levels as our juevos only create around 10 mgs of testosterone per day. These women should not be taken into consideration when determining female strength levels.

Anthropometry plays a huge role in the display of strength. It is not uncommon for a tall women to front squat just the barbell but deadlift with over 135 lbs. Women with a tiny upper body with shapely legs may never be able to do a chin up no matter how lean she gets. Bodyweight reverse hypers are an excellent exercise for this type of client as their ratio of lower body weight to upper body weight makes it quite challenging. Conversely, this type of client can bust out bodyweight 45 degree hypers like it ain’t no thang and needs to hold onto dumbbells to make it challenging.

It’s quite impressive for an elderly women (60+) to be able to squat and lunge with her own bodyweight and deadlift and press with a barbell.

Last, exercises need to be taken through a full range of motion to be considered legit. I’ve seen women who can partial squat 95 lbs for ten reps but can’t do a single rep to parallel or deeper with the same weight. I’ve seen women bust out three partial range chin ups who can’t do a single rep when attempting to start from a dead hang and stopping at their sternum. I’ve seen women claim to dumbbell military press a ton of weight, but when forced to use a complete range of motion by starting at shoulder level and progressing to lockout while keeping a tall spine, it’s whole different story.

Beginners

Typical, untrained women don’t show up at my doorstep being able to bust out barbell full squats. Beginners need to start off with their own bodyweight, ensure proper levels of mobility, stability, and motor control, and use basic progressions. They need to build a foundation by gaining flexibility, getting their glutes to activate properly, learning how to stabilize their core, and building up some scapular muscles so they can perform exercises with proper form. They need to progress optimally in range with range of motion, reptitions, resistance, and exercise variation. For example, goblet squats are a good intermediate exercise that bridges the gap between bodyweight and barbell squats. Barbell glute bridges come before barbell hip thrusts, and rack pulls come before deadlifts. Dumbbells for upper body are often necessary to bridge the gap between bodyweight and barbells. Bands can be used for assistance on chin ups. The angle on inverted rows and push ups can be elevated to make them easier.

Be the Best “You”

I used to envy others and try to compete with my friends in terms of strength. While being competitive is certainly fine, it’s important to realize that some people will naturally have an advantage with certain exercises and rep ranges. One individual may be horrible at squatting but excellent at deadlifting or vice versa. One individual may not be good at maxing out but excels at performing higher repetitions. One individual may suck at upper body pressing but rock the house with upper body pulling. Just be the best “you” possible and try to set personal records consistently when training.

If you’re at the “advanced” or “elite” stage in any of the exercises listed above, be damn proud of yourself, as that means you’ve trained hard and consistently. Hopefully this chart will help many women keep their strength in proper perspective.

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In the glute eBook I wrote over a year-and-a-half ago, I included a section that discussed exercise-naming. I find it intriguing that many lifts are named after people or countries. For example, the hack squat, Jefferson lift, Pallof press, Dimel deadlift, and Cook hip lift are named after people, and the Bulgarian split squat, Russian leg curl (aka Nordic hamstring curl), and Romanian deadlift are named after countries. I suppose that I could have named the barbell hip thrust the “Contreras Hip Thrust” (which ironically several coaches including Carl Valle and Mike T. Nelson have called it), but naming an exercise after one’s self is pretty vain (even for me).

Often exercises named after countries are improperly attributed to a country that didn’t invent or popularize an exercise. I opted against “The American Thrust” because it doesn’t give any clues as to how the exercise is performed. The hip thrust sounded good to me because you simply thrust your hips forward. I know that Mike Boyle doesn’t like this name because to him the term “thrusting” implies low back flexion and extension, so he refers to the exercise as the “shoulder elevated hip lift.” When I hear the term “thrust,” I think of hips, not the low back, but I digress.

Why am I talking about this? 

Last week, I posted a video by Timothy Ferris that shows how he does the hip thrust. Here it is below in case you missed it.

Another thing I talked about in my glute eBook is something I learned from Maxwell Maltz, a cosmetic surgeon turned self-help guru who wrote a book called Psycho Cybernetics in 1960. He talked about “experts” vs. “inperts.” Experts are those who are classically trained, up-to-date with current information, and think inside the box. Inperts are those who are trained in other areas, can view a new field with a unique lens, and think outside the box. Surprisingly many of the world’s great discoveries come from inperts.

What I like about a guy like Timothy Ferris, who just wrote a new book called The Four Hour Body, is that he is a very bright guy and he’s obviously no stranger to exercise. Since he wasn’t classically trained by a particular University, Professor, Coach, or Institution, he thinks outside the box.  He didn’t perform my hip thrust exercise the way I showed the public around fourteen months ago (see below).

Instead, he performed the exercise the way he felt them work his glutes the best, which was to hinge at a spot lower down on the back and move the fulcrum closer to the hips. When I saw this video, I was a bit skeptical. From my knowledge of Biomechanics, I figured that the lift would be a little bit easier than my version and allow for slightly larger loads to be used, but I wasn’t sure if it would increase gluteus maximus activation. I was also curious as to whether it was dangerous for the spine.

I reserved any judgment until I actually performed the exercise. I’ve now performed the exercise on two occasions; once on Friday and again today. I can tell with absolute certainty that Timothy’s method works the glutes harder than my version. Both times I performed the exercise my glutes were so pumped up that it altered the way I walked. No exercise has ever had this effect on me and I’ve been training hard for 19 years. Tim helped make an awesome exercise even better. Below is me performing the hip thrust – Timothy Ferriss style.

I was right; this style does make it a bit easier. I was able to get 12 reps with 405 lbs, whereas with the traditional hip thrust I can get 8 reps with 405 lbs. The padding on the bench protects the spine so there’s no need to worry about that. The new variation is a bit tricky, as you have to prop yourself up to get your torso higher up on the bench. Notice that the elbows are resting on the bench.

The American Hip Thrust

Here’s where the “American Hip Thrust” comes into play. I don’t know what to call this variation. We have the Contreras variation and the Ferriss variation, but from now on I’ll probably stick with the Ferris variation in my own training and the training of my clients. Since there’s no “Contreras Hip Thrust” there shouldn’t be a “Ferriss Hip Thrust.”

It is important to note that there is not a single exercise that is prefaced with the word “American.” There exists no “American bench press.” Although Romania gets their own deadlift and so does Russia (the Russian deadlift is another term for the good morning), there’s no “American deadlift.” Although plenty of exercisers worldwide have been bridging and doing “air thrusts” on Swiss balls for years, heavy barbell hip thrusts with the shoulders elevated onto a bench originated in America, out of a small notorious garage in Scottsdale, Arizona. Why don’t we show these other countries what America does best? We thrust! We thrust long, we thrust hard, and we thrust often! Our glutes know no bounds!

Okay, so according to this Pubmed article France edges out the U.S. in sexual intercourse (thrusting) frequency.  But we’re second at 138 times per year! And according to this article, Brazil outlasts the U.S. in sexual intercourse (thrusting) duration. But we’re  second at 28 minutes per bout! I’d like for all the countries of the world to fear our glutes! They should wake up gasping for air in the middle of the night due to nightmares involving our glutes chasing them down. When they think of American athletes, this is what should come to mind:

Okay, so neither of the athletes above are American, and considering that 2/3 of Americans are either overweight or obese I doubt that the world fears our glutes. But if more people attended gyms and got strong at the American Thrust, we’d see a huge improvement in glute strength, power, and aesthetics. Remember, what’s good for muscular size (cross-sectional area) is good for strength and power (rate of force development). As the late sprint coach Charlie Francis said, “Looks right, flies right.”

I don’t really expect people to call the exercise the “American Thrust,” I just thought it would be a fun post to write. In truth I just don’t know what to call the new variation. You can call it whatever you want, just make sure you do it!

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Around eight years ago, my friends got together for a slow-pitch softball game. Although I hadn’t swung a bat in years, I managed to crank out five out-of-the-park homeruns that day. One of them cleared the fence by at least a hundred feet. I was pretty surprised…as were my friends. My hitting power sky-rocketed from just getting stronger in the gym. I didn’t do any form of “sport-specific training,” I just got strong at exercises such as squats, deadlifts, walking lunges, back extensions, bench press, weighted dips, military press, chin ups, bent over rows, and one arm rows. Times like these made me realize the importance of strength as it pertains to unleashing your maximal power potential.

Since this time I’ve trained a whole-lotta people, I’ve read a whole-lotta books and articles, and I’ve continued to train hard myself. And I still believe that just getting stronger at basic, compound movements is critical for power. However, power is directional specific, and while strong muscles will get you pretty far, you can get a little bit further if you engage in some specific forms of strength training. I believe that in order to achieve optimal rotary power, one must get strong at big, compound lifts, while also performing rotary strength exercises, rotary power exercises, and practicing specific sports skills.

Below are five excellent rotary exercises that will help maximize your explosive rotational power.

1. The Explosive Rotational Landmine

This is quite different than the normal landmine. Notice the footwork. This allows you to move around the bar and reposition yourself so you can get maximum explosiveness on each rep. Make sure you put the women and children to bed before attempting this exercise – it’s no joke!

2. Overhead Lateral/Rotational Press

This is an amazing core exercise that works the core as a lateral flexor and a rotator.

3. Band Hip Rotations

I’ll keep ranting and raving about this exercise ’til I’m blue in the face. It’s a very difficult exercise to master. You have to set up with your body angled inward a bit toward the line of pull of the band. This way you keep constant tension on the hip rotators as you twist. To reiterate, you don’t line up facing the band, your back foot is further away from the band than the front foot. This exercise activates the glutes like crazy, trains the glutes in their hip external rotation function, and “bridges the gap” between the weightroom and the field. It works the hip internal rotators on the front leg, hip external rotators on the back leg, internal obliques on one side, and external obliques on the other side. It’s the best core exercise that you’re not doing at the moment! If you don’t feel this working the glutes big-time then you’re doing it wrong. Keep working it until you get it right. Monster-mini jump stretch bands work best for this exercise.

4. Low-High Rotary Pull

Here’s an excellent core exercise that works the lower body, core, and upper body pulling musculature in one movement.

5. Low-High Rotary Press

Here’s an excellent core exercise that works the lower body, core, and upper body pressing musculature in one movement.

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas as to how you can go about increasing your rotational power through specific rotary strength training. Spend some time on these and you’ll be belting home runs out of the park like McGwire in no time!

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While there are many differences between bad trainers and good trainers, one of the biggest differences is the form that you’ll see poor trainers allowing their clients use in comparison to the form that good trainers insist upon with their clients. The problem is that bad trainers just don’t know what good form is supposed to look like and they’ve never been trained to look at movement with a critical eye. On a side note, they also don’t know what to do in order to fix poor movement but that is the essence of being a great trainer.

Three Types of Trainers When it Comes to Form

There seem to be three types of trainers in my opinion:

1. Wannabe Strength-Coach Physical Therapist types who are way too scared to ever load anyone up and are way too critical of form and therefore stink as personal trainers or strength coaches because they never get anyone strong or looking their best.

2. Ignorant Meathead types who just keep loading up the exercises with no concern for how the form looks and are therefore horrendous trainers and coaches because they end up injuring everyone they train.

3. Great coaches who know the balance, which is actually 90% in the direction of the Physical Therapist types. You’ll see what I mean by this throughout this blog.

I’ve now posted five different videos of Karli (my client) training her lower body. I think it will be worthwhile for my readers to roll through these videos and see what I see. On a side note it’s hard filming these videos because normally I’d coach more throughout the sets but I can’t see much as I’m looking at the camera and not her form. So Karli is getting robbed a bit due to my desire to film these videos, which I do because it serves the greater-good. More women need to be training this way, and the more videos I film the better butts we can create. Karli doesn’t mind as she’s just happy that she feels her glutes working like crazy during our workouts and her butt and legs have improved since I’ve been training her. I’m always contorting my body in the power rack to get these cool angles of Karli lifting – it’s pretty funny.

Here’s a picture of Karli prancing around Chi-Town in a bikini for Halloween; she went as a shark attack. Somebody is proud of their legs!

Five Karli Workouts

Moving on, here are the videos, followed by my observations.

Observations:

1. Very happy with Karli’s workout this day.
2. High Box squats – to be nitpicky she plopped down a little too hard on the box and her knees caved in (valgus collapse) slightly, but still very good form.
3. Sumo deads – to be nitpicky her head/neck wasn’t in neutral, she didn’t use compensatory acceleration and drive the hips through, and she didn’t stand tall enough, but still it was great form
4. Hip thrusts – perfect!

Observations:

1. Not too impressed with myself as a trainer on this day. Didn’t cue enough, went a little too heavy, allowed a little too many energy leaks.
2. Zercher squats – a little too much trunk leaning and valgus collapse toward the end of the set.
3. Chain deficit deadlifts – pretty good; didn’t quite look as natural and fluid as I’d like
4. Full range Bulgarians – awesome!
5. Band 45 degree hypers – perfect!
6. Single leg Skorcher hip thrusts – to be nitpicky I allowed cervical flexion, and on a few reps she didn’t come up to full extension.
7. Cable horizontal chops – very good but could look a little more fluid, and the vectors on the right and left sides weren’t symmetrical.

Observations:

1. I wasn’t too thrilled with myself on this day either. Allowed a little bit too sloppy of form.
2. Front squats – on max attempt form broke down a little too much for my comfort even thought it was a max, some spinal flexion and valgus collapse going on. With 95 lb set a “valgus twitch” was present on each rep at mid-range, and there was too much foot pronation. I know that Karli can do better, but I didn’t cue enough. Turns out she barely ate that day in efforts to lose weight for Halloween, which she didn’t tell me about until the next day. Welcome to the realities of being a trainer!
3. Sumo deads – Immaculate!
4. Hip thrusts – Great.
5. 45 degree hypers – Perfect! I actually prefer the kyphosis you see in the video – it leads to higher glute activation. This is hard to figure out but if you keep an arch throughout the spinal column you end up using tons of erector spinae, whereas if you allow the kyphosis you get much less erector contribution and more glute and hamtring contribution.

Observations:

1. Great workout! Form was amazing.
2. Low box squats – Great! Very impressive.
3. Sumo deads – Awesome.
4. Hip thrusts – Perfect.
5. Reverse hypers – Flawless!

Observations:

1. Very happy with this workout.
2. Front squats – awesome! Much better than last time. Some slight valgus but nothing too be concerned about.
3. Dumbbell full squat – there’s only one word to describe it – Beautiful!
4. Deadlift – decent; some cervical extension and some lumbar flexion during the second set. Nothing to be too concerned with.
5. Single leg hip thrust – great! Some cervical flexion but I don’t worry about this too much.

Conclusion

I hope this blogpost has taught many of you a thing or two about exercise form. A good trainer or coach knows how to get people strong while adhering to good form. They look at the various joint kinematics and see what’s going on at the foot, ankle, knees, hips, pelvis, lumbar spine, thoracic spine, cervical spine, scapulae, and shoulders. They look at rhythm, acceleration, and tempo. They know if something looks right or doesn’t. Being a good trainer is about a lot of things – being a motivator, a nutritionist, a role-model, an expert, etc.

But most important – being a good trainer is about delivering results! Getting people stronger, fitter, healthier, sexier, leaner, shaplier, more confident, pain-free, less prone to injury, and more “dialed in” with their health.

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Training Women

When I first started training clients full-time, I assumed that I’d specialize in training athletes. I bought all sorts of equipment from Elitefts including a huge power rack/platform with all the accessories (box squat box, step up attachment, monkey chin bar, dip bars, band peg attachments), a 45 degree hyper, glute ham raise, reverse hyper, competition bench press, incline press, deadlift lever, chalk bin, bands, chains, specialty barbells, etc. I situated the equipment in my garage and was in awe at how manly my gym appeared! I was well on my way to be the next Joe DeFranco.

What happened next was unexpected. A bunch of female friends and relatives of mine started requesting that I train them. At first, I told them, “I’m not sure, my equipment is more geared toward training athletes.” They’d say, “Cool, when can I start?” I quickly realized that women like this type of training and all of a sudden I’m training tons of women.

Next thing you know, I open up my own studio and within three months I have 55 clients; probably 45 of them were women. If you train a few women well, out of nowhere you’ll have tons of female clients through word-of-mouth advertisement as they love to tell their friends about their trainer. I’ve really grown to love training women over the past five years, and here are some things I’ve learned along the way:

1. Women Can Tolerate More Training Frequency than Men

A very recent study showed that following a bench press training session, men took 48 hours to return to their previous levels of strength, whereas women took only 4 hours (Judge & Burke, 2010). Women are simply not as physically strong as men (especially in upper body strength) and don’t tax their muscular and nervous systems to the extent of males. For this reason, they should not be trained the same way as men and should be prescribed higher training frequencies. One of the primary reasons why my female clients get extremely strong and dramatically improve their shape is due to the fact that I train their entire bodies very frequently to take advantage of their superior recovery abilities.

2. Total Body Training is Best for the Majority of Women

In my experience, women do best with total body workouts. This is closely related to topic number one above. They can recover quicker and therefore probably detrain quicker as well. Men will swing a sledgehammer at a nail and whack it down in one attempt, and then take a nap. Women will take a hammer and continue to tap on the nail until it’s all the way in, and then move onto the next nail. What I’m getting at is that women should not perform bodypart splits or even lower/upper splits. It doesn’t matter how many times a woman trains with me per week (once, twice, three times, four times, or even five times), each session I’m going to hit her entire body. The trick is to give them a great workout without creating too much fatigue or soreness the following day.

3. Women are Often Intimidated, Self-Conscious, and Insecure

Women initially fear weight training and don’t want to be surrounded by a bunch of libidinous men leering over them, grunting, and throwing around heavy weights. Many like to train with fellow females so they don’t feel threatened, and they need reassurance and guidance. Women appreciate a confident trainer so make sure you exude confidence in your methods and in their ability to succeed. Most important, they thrive off of compliments! Notice the little things and compliment good effort and you’ll have a client for life.

4. Women Have Anatomical and Physiological Differences

Women are anatomically and physiologically different than males. They have wider q-angles which predisposes them to knee injuries, they are taught to “sit like a lady” which probably reinforces valgus-collapse over the years, they produce on average a tenth of the testosterone of males, and their estrogen, progesterone, FSH, and LH fluctuate throughout the month according to their menstrual cycles. They have different strength balances than men (less hamstring:quadricep strength ratio, greater lower body:upper body strength ratio) and their muscles fire differently than men as well (glute and hamstring timing often fires earlier due to a perception of weakness).

For these reasons, it’s important to teach proper mechanics, strengthen the posterior chain, and be understanding of mood-swings when training women because often it’s not their fault.

5. Women Can Ditch Flexibility/Mobility Work in Favor of Stability/Strength Work

Women are much more flexible on average than men. In fact, many are hypermobile. For this reason, they often do not need to do any stretching or mobility drills. They already possess good flexibility and many have laxity in certain joints. For this reason, it’s wiser to focus on stability and activation exercises in addition to some basic strength movements during the general dynamic warm-up rather than static stretches or mobility drills. If you have 50 minutes to train a female, most of that 50 minutes should be used for strengthening and conditioning. If strength exercises are taken through full ranges of motion then they’ll retain joint mobility while adding stability and strength to the joint which is exactly what they need.

One drawback of hypermobility is that many women over-extend their lumbar spine when they lift. It’s common to see women excessively arching (hyperextending) their low backs when they squat, deadlift, do push ups, hip thrusts, back extensions, and ab wheel rollouts. You need to teach them how to control their cores and maintain neutral spines.


*too much lower back arching

6. Fun and Variety Never Did a Woman No Harm

Women like to have fun during their workouts and they appreciate variety. Make them laugh from time to time; you don’t have to act like a drill-sergeant. Conversely, don’t be afraid to lay down the law when necessary. There are so many great exercises and women like learning little tweaks from time to time. Here are some of the main exercises I employ when I train women:

Quad Dominant: full squat, front squat, goblet squat, elevated dumbbell squat between benches, high box squat, low box squat, lever squat, Zercher squat, step up, Bulgarian split squat, walking lunge, reverse lunge, single leg box squat

Horizontal Press: torso-elevated push up, push up, dumbbell incline press, dumbbell bench press, barbell incline press, barbell bench press, close grip bench press

Standing Hip Dominant: conventional deadlift, trap bar deadlift, sumo deadlift, rack pull, Romanian deadlift, single leg RDL, good morning, pull through, kettlebell swing

Vertical Pull: close grip lat pulldown, wide grip lat pulldown, negative chin up, chin up, parallel grip pull up

Prone, Supine, or Quadruped Hip Dominant: back extension, single leg back extension, 45 degree hyper, single leg 45 degree hyper, reverse hyper, hip thrust, barbell glute bridge, single leg hip thrust, pendulum quadruped hip extension, pendulum quadruped donkey kick, Russian leg curl, glute ham raise, gliding leg curl, slideboard leg curl, stability ball leg curl

Vertical Press: dumbbell seated military press, dumbbell military press, barbell military press, dumbbell push press, barbell push press

Sagittal Plane Core: plank, bodysaw, stability ball rollout, ab wheel rollout, straight leg sit up, hanging leg raise, Turkish get up

Horizontal Pull: one arm row, inverted row, feet elevated inverted row, seated row, band seated row, face pull, chest supported row

Frontal/Transverse Plane Core: side plank, 45 degree side bend, Pallof press, cable hip rotation, cable woodchop, landmine

I throw in the following for variety as well:

Conditioning: complexes, tabatas, airdyne intervals, sled work, slideboard intervals, car pushes, jump rope, burpees, mountain climbers

Power: plyometrics, sprints, agility drills, jump squats, one arm snatches, med ball tosses

You don’t have to do all of this every single session, but try to plan well-balanced programs.

Utilize paired-supersets and you’ll be able to squeeze in more work and density in your sessions.

7. Women Love Athletic and “Manly” Training

Most women don’t know this, but deep-down they love feeling athletic and “hard-core.” Over time they will love it if you get them to be able to perform a chin up or a proper push up (without hips sagging). They love pushing cars around as they never realized that they could do it. They will learn to love deadlifting if you teach them well. Women love getting strong; it empowers them. When they realize that heavy lifting won’t automatically make them overly muscular and that if often causes them to lean out and improve in shape, they’ll be setting records left and right. It’s your job to get them to realize this.

Here’s my friend Joe Sansalone’s girlfriend Neghar Fanooni doing Romanian deadlifts with 1.5 times her bodyweight. Weight training obviously did her body good!

8. Women are Competitive…With Thine Own Selves

Many women do not like competing with men or with other women, but they love competing against themselves. Start off slow and know how to regress and progress exercises. Bump them up slowly but surely and pretty soon they’ll start getting strong. Keep a journal and log every workout. Tell the female client what she did last time she did the exercise and she will try her best to beat it. Often women will beat their records every week for months on end when they first start training.

9. Often Women Won’t Pony Up Any Feedback

Women are often too intimidated to offer feedback. Sometimes they’ll tell you something and you’ll ask them why they didn’t tell you sooner. They’ll reply with, “You never asked.” This is why you need to ask a ton of questions. Before every session ask them if they’re sore anywhere. If their low backs are sore skip the deadlifts. If their adductors are sore don’t go into deep ranges of hip flexion and opt for high box squats and rack pulls. Ask them if the exercise “feels right” and where they feel it working. Ask them if they like their program, ask them if there is anything they’d like to be doing that they haven’t been doing. The placebo effect is well-documented and very effective; if a client believes in the program then they will achieve better results.

10. The Glutes Make a Woman

Women can buy breast implants, but getting a nice butt takes hard work. The glutes get activated best from high-load or high-velocity movement. Research shows that the glutes don’t get activated much from simple activities like standing up from a chair and walking; the body chooses instead to rely on the quads or leave the job for the more economical and elastic-storing hamstrings. Most women will come to you with poor glute activation and development due to the fact that many stop being active after high school. If you can make a woman’s butt look nicer, everyone around her will notice and she’ll start getting compliments left and right. Now she’ll be hooked on fitness for life because she won’t want to lose her nice booty. It sometimes takes time for the glutes to come around; if it took ten years for the glutes to atrophy away and sag they’re not going to come back in one week. If you’re a good trainer, for the most part every client will feel their glutes working very well within two months. Hammer the glutes every single session and they’ll respond best.

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In 2006 Charles Staley and Keats Snideman wrote an article for T-Nation called Pulling Your Chain For Massive Gains! Same But Different, Volume I. This article did a great job of summarizing part of my philosophy of strength training. Here’s an excerpt:

Ever notice how two supposedly inviolate principles of resistance training are basically contradictory?

On the one hand, the Principle of Specificity states that in order to realize a specific adaptation (or response), you need to perform a specific type of training to elicit that response. For example, if you want bigger biceps you’ve gotta do curls. If you want maximal strength, you’ve gotta focus on heavy loads. If you wanna raise your estrogen levels, you’ve gotta watch Oprah every day.

On the other hand, the Principle of Variability predicts that the same type of training, performed week-in and week-out, will lead to habituation, which is just a highbrow term for nervous system boredom. Eventually your body gets so accustomed to the training that you get zero results. Is this phenomenon sounding intimately familiar to any of you?

At Staley Training Systems, we actually think of these two principles as opposite extremes along a single continuum. The most successful trainees are those who manage to find the “sweet spot” in this specificity-variability continuum. The process of finding this sweet spot is the “same but different” concept.

Essentially, it’s all about finding the “best” exercises for your particular objectives, and then finding jillions of different ways to perform these exercises, so that 1) you’re always doing the best movements, but 2) you’re not habituating to your training sessions because every time you do one of your best exercises, you’re doing it in a different manner than last time.

Variations at BCSC aka Bret’s Garage

Squat

full squat
goblet squat
front squat
low box squat
high box squat
Zercher squat
parallel squat
safety bar squat
cambered bar squat
manta ray squat
pause squat
speed squat
sumo squat
squat against chains
squat against bands

Deadlift

conventional deadlift
sumo deadlift
trap bar deadlift
deficit deadlift
rack pull
Romanian deadlift
snatch grip deadlift
dumbbell deadlift
negative accentuated RDL
speed deadlift
deadlift against chains
deadlift against bands

We also do tons of:

Single leg work: Bulgarian squat, high step up, walking lunge, reverse lunge, single leg RDL, single leg hip thrust, single leg back extension, pendulum quadruped hip extension, pendulum donkey kick

Bilateral posterior chain work: Hip thrust, barbell glute bridge, Skorcher hip thrust, good morning, back extension, 45 degree hyper, reverse hyper, pull through, glute ham raise, Russian leg curl, gliding leg curl

Then there are explosive lifts, sled work, plyometrics, ballistics, strongmen drills, EQI’s, etc.

Finally, we have upper body and core work!!!

As you can see, it’s quite advantageous to possess a huge arsenal of exercises. It prevents habituation and stagnation and makes lifting more fun! By rotating lifts yet sticking to the same basic movement patterns, we get really strong at what matters while still keeping safety in mind.

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