Hey there. Last week I had a new article published on Bodybuilding.com called 8 Moves for a Crazy Strong Core, but I just realized that I never shared it.
If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a noise? Deep thoughts for you this Tuesday morning.
Truth be told, I actually didn’t even know it was published until my friend Tony Gentilcore shared it on his blog, which was a nice surprise. Anyway, as you can probably guess from the title, the article shares some challenging core exercises for you to try. I think you’ll like it.
You can read the article HERE.
Also, don’t forget to check out Bret Contreras’ new 2×4 strength program that was just released yesterday. I think it’s a great product and it has already been getting a lot of great feedback, so be sure to check it out while it’s on a big sale. You can read more HERE.
Today I have a guest blog post from Bret Contreras, the brains behind the awesome new training program called 2×4. As someone who trains hard and strives to get stronger but isn’t involved in powerlifting, I really like how Bret appreciates strength in different forms. I think/hope you’ll like it, too. With that, I’ll turn it over to Bret.
Confession time. I love my squats, bench press, and deadlifts. Having competed in two powerlifting competitions, I can say with confidence that there are few things as exhilarating for a lifter as setting a PR on the platform. That said, I’ve never agreed with the powerlifting mantra that lists the three powerlifts as the ultimate three exercises in existence, with every other lift being relegated to the category of assistance/accessory exercises. It all depends on the goal, and many lifters just want to look and feel good.
After spending more than two decades in the gym, I’m quite confident in my ability to identify feats of strength. In fact, when I conjure up images of feats of strength in my mind, I realize that the defining factor is simply whether or not it impresses me. I can be impressed by absolute strength or relative strength, and I certainly take anthropometry, age, and gender into consideration. Moreover, I’m equally impressed with sets of 3 reps, 5 reps, 10 reps, and 20 reps as I am with maximal singles. Some lifts can be conducive to maximal singles, whereas other lifts are conducive only to moderate and higher reps.
Here are 20 things that impress me in the gym:
• A maximum deadlift (conventional or sumo) with 2.5X bodyweight barbell load or more
• A maximum parallel squat with 2X bodyweight barbell load or more
• A maximum pause bench press with 1.5X bodyweight barbell load or more
• A maximum strict military press with bodyweight barbell load or more
• A maximum power clean with 1.3X bodyweight barbell load or more
• A maximum strict chin up with .5X additional bodyweight or more
• 1 or more strict Nordic ham curls with bodyweight (no arm assistance)
• 5 or more reps in the Bulgarian split squat with bodyweight barbell load
• 5 or more reps in the hip thrust with 2X bodyweight barbell load
• 5 or more parallel front squat with 1.5X bodyweight barbell load
• 5 or more reps in the dip with .6X bodyweight additional load
• 5 or more reps in the close grip bench with 1.3X bodyweight barbell load
• 5 or more reps in the incline press with 1.2X bodyweight barbell load
• 5 or more reps in the Pendlay row with .9X bodyweight barbell load
• 10 or more reps in the one arm row with .5X bodyweight dumbbell load
• 10 or more reps in the barbell curl with .6X bodyweight barbell load
• 10 or more reps in the leg press with 4X bodyweight load
• 10 or more reps in the 45-degree hyper with .5X bodyweight dumbbell load
• 20 or more feet elevated inverted rows with bodyweight
• 50 or more strict push ups with bodyweight
For a 200 lb male lifter, this equates to a 500 lb deadlift, 400 lb squat, 300 lb bench press, 200 lb military press, 260 lb power clean, 100 lb chin up, bodyweight Nordic ham curl, 200 x 5 Bulgarian split squat, 400 x 5 hip thrust, 300 x 5 front squat, 120 x 5 dip, 260 x 5 close grip bench, 240 x 5 incline press, 180 x 5 Pendlay row, 100 x 10 one arm row, 110 x 10 barbell curl, 800 x 10 leg press, 100 x 10 45-degree hyper, bodyweight x 20 feet elevated inverted row, and bodyweight x 50 push up.
As you can see, there are many ways to demonstrate strength and pull off impressive feats in the weight room. The various exercises will transfer over to one another, so building one lift will improve another lift, which will improve another, and so on. Furthermore, working on various pulling and pushing movements for the lower and upper halves keeps the body in balance, so variety is a good thing. However, we can’t perform each and every lift week in and week out or we will overtrain and spin our wheels. Therefore, we must be selective with our exercises and prioritize the lifts that work best for our bodies.
Not everyone is built for heavy barbell squatting, deadlifting, and benching, but nearly everyone can perform movements that are similar in nature to these lifts. Let’s say that a lifter pushed him/herself hard week in and week out on solely single leg exercises for the lower body and solely dumbbells for the upper body. Guess what? He or she would see amazing results over time in terms of both strength and physique improvements.
If you are gradually gaining strength without compromising good technique on a handful of movements that combine to work the entire body, then your program is working for you. But if your strength is stagnant, your joints constantly ache, or your physique hasn’t improved in months, then it’s probably time to switch things up. Many roads lead to strength gains, so don’t get pigeonholed into one approach if it’s not panning out. Experiment to find what works best for your anatomy and physiology.
FYI: Bret’s new 2 x 4 product was just released today and is currently on sale for a limited time. I checked it out and the program is fantastic. He’s put a lot of time into the program both in terms of writing it and testing it, and he actually used it to help him finally break the 600-lb barrier in the deadlift. It’s a 14-week plan that integrates heavy strength work along with special submaximal training and assistance work, and the program will get you familiar with your indicators of progress and various personal records on key lifts. Bret’s guinea pigs saw huge gains on the program, especially the deadlift (and you know I love me some deadlifts).
What I especially liked is that the program can be modified based on your preferences. If you want to build powerlifting-specific strength, you can go that route, and if you want to build strength in other lifts such as single leg, dumbbell, or posterior chain exercises, which is more my speed, then you can go that route too. There’s also a whole section on safe exercise substitutions if you can’t do any exercises in the program for whatever reason, which I really like.
In addition, I feel that the bonus products that come with the gold package are top notch. In fact, I actually think they’re probably the best part of the product if I’m being really honest. The biomechanics of the squat and deadlift document will teach you how to analyze technique so you can make better training decisions, and the glute tips document portrays some pretty fascinating data from Bret’s lab. I learned a lot from the bonus products and it was my favorite part of the program. I highly recommend getting the gold package and feel that you’ll be very happy with the resource. I think Bret could have charged way more for this product and still had happy customers, but since he didn’t, consider yourself lucky and get it while the gettin’s good.
You can read more about the product and everything that comes with it HERE.
Hey all! Just wanted to let people know that I’m opening three online training spots. I’m limiting my online training to three clients at a time right now to ensure that they get my full attention, and my clients that started in January are finishing up so I have some new openings.
If you’re interested in some online coaching, please send me an e-mail HERE with the subject: “Online Coaching Inquiry.” In the message, please write a paragraph describing your goals and a little bit about yourself. If I think we are a good fit, we can discuss rates and when we’ll get started.
Please know that I require at least a three month commitment from you in the beginning because I believe it takes time for a program to work, and in the beginning, it’s going to take some tweaking to get it right. The max time I allow is six months, but most clients just do three. Part of my goal in the online training process is to teach you what I’m doing so you can then go off and do it on your own.
Serious inquiries only please.
Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.
I’ve been riddled with the flu this past week and just got back to being a normal human again this past weekend. This has been a very frustrating past couple weeks for me training-wise, and if I’m really honest, my training hasn’t been where I want it to be for the past couple months.
Training is like that though. After your first few months or even your first few years of training hard, progress stops being linear and you go through those periods of weeks or months where it just doesn’t pan out how you’d hope. The key during these times is to just keep putting in the effort and doing the best you can, and usually if do that, you work yourself out of the funk and things start going back up again. The key is to not let setbacks get you down and kill your spirits and your drive.
Anyway, in today’s blog post I want to share a few row variations that I like a lot and think you’ll like too.
Six months ago I wrote an article for T-Nation about The Countdown Method, and in the time since then I’ve started using “countdowns” for chest-supported rows, and I must say, it rocks.
The gym doesn’t have a chest supported row machine so I use a barbell, but if your gym has a chest-supported row machine that’ll work great.
Start by doing five reps followed by a five-second iso hold where you hold the bar flush against the bottom of the bench. From there, go straight into four reps followed by a four-second hold. Then three, then two, then one. After the last rep, trying holding the bar at the top for as long as you can. So in total you’re doing 15 reps with at least 15 seconds of holds.
Here’s what it looks like in action. I prefer using a close-ish overhand grip (it’s harder but I feel it more), but you can use whatever grip you’d like.
You won’t be able to use as much weight as you might think, so leave the ego at the door. You can also do the same thing using dumbbells.
If you want to add a unilateral element to this, try Batwing Countdowns where you do one arm a time.
I wrote about Batwing Rows a few years ago HERE, and this is just that in countdown form.
Batwing rows are chest supported dumbbell rows where one arm rows while you do an isometric hold in the top position on the other side. For a countdown, do five rows with one arm while you hold the dumbbell in the opposite hand in the top position and then repeat on the other side. Then do four rows on each side, then three, then two, then one. Ditch the ego and concentrate on using good form. These are also a lot harder than they look, so bear that in mind when choosing a weight. I think I’m using 35 pound dumbbells in this video and it was reasonably tough.
While these don’t do a lot of good for the ego, they’ll do a lot of good for the upper back, and that’s a tradeoff I’ll gladly take any day of the week. It’s also a great way to work the upper back without stressing the lower back.
Give both of these a try and let me know what you think.
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Also, I’ve been using my Instagram more recently, so if you’d like to follow along with me and see what I’m up to, you can do so HERE.
Today I just want to share a “fun” (well I think it’s fun, but I realize I’m not exactly normal) circuit involving all isometric holds.
Unfortunately, I tweaked my back recently using a leaf blower of all things (isn’t it funny/annoying how it also seems to be stupid, random stuff that sets backs off?) so I’ve been laying off the heavy lower body work. Instead, I’ve been doing a lot of Bulgarian split squat iso holds as a way to continue to work my legs without pissing off my lower back.
Anywho, I digress. The circuit.
Start with a 30 second L-sit chin-up hold, then do a 45 second Bulgarian split squat iso hold on each leg, then finish up with a 60 second feet-elevated pushup iso hold, all with no rest in between other than what it takes to transition between positions.
This might sound easy while you’re sitting at your computer reading it, but trust me, it’s brutal. It’ll have you panting and sweating, and it’ll test both your body and your mind.
See, told you it was fun.
You can obviously tweak the times of the holds according to your current capabilities or where you do it in the workout. If you do it first, you’ll be able to do longer holds, whereas it’ll be harder if you do it at the end of the workout. Generally though, the chin-up hold will be the hardest, then the Bulgarian split squat hold, then the pushup.
If the L-sit chin-ups are too much, do a regular chinup hold or an inverted row hold.
If the Bulgarian split squat holds are too much, do regular split squats with both feet on the floor.
If feet-elevated pushups are too much, do regular pushup holds.
No matter how you slice it, it’ll be a good challenge and work your whole body.
Give it a try and let me know what you think, and if you like, please share it with your friends. And please don’t cuss me out too much while you’re doing it.
And remember, for more of these shorter type of workouts/challenges, remember to check out Jen Sinkler’s Lift Weights Faster program which she released yesterday. I’ve had a few people write to me already who have bought the program, and the feedback so far has been awesome. Check it out HERE while it’s on a huge sale.
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