I haven’t been blogging much as of late because I’ve been super busy with work at the gym, but I wanted to make a quick blog post today sharing some of the recent articles I’ve had published recently in various places so you can check them out. I like to try to post them as they’re published, but I realized that I’m getting way behind!
1. The Toughest Way to Do a Set
Here’s an article I had published on T-Nation sharing something I call elevator reps. To find out what they are and see videos of how to do them, check out the article HERE.
2. You’ve Probably Never Used a Barbell Like THIS
I was recently interviews by Women’s Health magazine about how to use the landmine for reverse lunges and single leg RDLs. I’m a huge fan of these two exercises and use them a lot with my clients so it’s cool to see them gaining some traction in the mainstream since I first introduced them a couple years ago. To read the article and see how to do those two exercises, go HERE.
3. How to Do a Pull-up (Or Add More Reps)
I was also interviewed by Daily Burn as to how to improve your pull-ups. Check out that article HERE.
4. Break the Rules, Build More Muscle
I recently had an article in the July issue of Men’s Fitness magazine sharing some different ways to use the equipment in your gym to expand your exercise arsenal. For those of you who train in commercial gyms (or trainers who train clients in commercial gyms), I think this could be very useful. You can see the print article in the July magazine, but you can also see the online version HERE.
5. I’ve been dealing with a shoulder injury for the past eight weeks that has kept me from doing any real upper body training. As such, I’ve devoted my energy to rehabbing my shoulder and focusing my hard training on my legs. Injuries suck but the key is to stay positive and focus on what you CAN do rather than what you CAN’T do.
I’m frustrated by the injury, but I’m still doing the best I can and recently hit a new personal best on Bulgarian split squats of 300×10.
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That’s all for today. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!
I have a guest blog post for you today from Chad Waterbury, the creator of the new HFT2 training program. Like Chad, I’m a big proponent of high frequency training, and I think this post will give you some great insight into how to increase the frequency in a safe and effective manner. Take it away, Chad!
We all agree that training a muscle more frequently can make it grow faster. But how do you accomplish that without frying your nervous system or adding hours to your current training plan?
In 2001 I started experimenting with ways to train an underdeveloped muscle four or more times per week. This High Frequency Training (HFT) approach took many years to hone because I had to learn tons of valuable lessons along the way (mainly, what not to do).
So if we all agree that more frequent training can build muscle faster, the next logical question is: How do you recover from the increased demand? This is what I learned.
1. Keep the extra workouts as brief as possible: Since none of us want to add a lot of extra time to our training schedule, I had to figure out ways to trigger muscle growth as quickly as possible.
One strategy is to perform an intense squeeze for 3-5 seconds at the beginning of a set when you can actually recruit the largest motor units (they won’t come into play at the end of a set). When you know exactly how to quickly recruit the right motor units, the extra workouts take only 5-10 minutes.
2. Use minimal equipment: I’m a minimalist when it comes to training equipment. All I use are kettlebells, dumbbells, a barbell and rings or a pull-up bar. Luckily, this equipment list is easy to have on hand.
The workouts should not only be brief, but they should also be designed to do at home. If the extra workouts require a gym or esoteric equipment, it’s more likely you won’t succeed. And in many cases, body weight exercises work exceptionally well.
3. Spare the joints: Any HFT exercise should stress the muscle more than the joints. If you use an exercise such as a lying triceps extension, barbell bench press or leg extension, your joints will take more of a beating than the muscle you’re trying to build.
This is another reason why an isometric squeeze is an ideal method to increase your training frequency. If the exercise is performed correctly you’ll overload the muscle while sparing the joint. Here are two examples, (one for the calf, the other for the biceps):
Calf Raise Iso-Squeeze (3 sets of a 10-second squeeze in the morning and evening)
How to do it: Stand on your left leg, then rise into the peak contraction of a calf raise. Squeeze this peak contraction as intensely as possible while driving through the big toe for 10 seconds. Repeat with the right calf. Do 3 sets in the morning and 3 in the evening with 2 minutes rest between sets (don’t rest between right and left).
The key is to do this without holding on to anything for support. It’s much tougher than it sounds!
Ben’s note: I’m going to give this protocol a try myself. My calves need it!
One-Arm Hang Iso-Squeeze (3 sets of a 5-second squeeze in the morning and evening)
How to do it: Get into the mid position of a chin-up (elbows bent to 90 degrees) with your hands a few inches apart. Then quickly grab your left wrist with your right hand. Hold this one-arm hang and squeeze the biceps hard. Repeat with a right-arm hang. Do 3 sets in the morning and 3 in the evening with 2 minutes rest between sets (don’t rest between right and left).
To get the most out of this biceps builder, hang from a position that’s most challenging to your biceps. For some guys that means they’ll hang a little lower or higher based on their strength level.
The two aforementioned examples will help add muscle to the biceps or calves while sparing the joints. However, if you want to learn the unique, targeted methods I use to increase the size of any muscle group, check out my newest muscle-building system, HFT2.
Ben’s note: HFT2 is only on sale until midnight tonight (Tuesday), so check it out soon before the price bumps up. You can find out more details HERE.
Today my friend Chad Waterbury released a new training called HFT2. HFT is short for high frequency training, which is a concept I use heavily in my own training and with my clients.
You’re getting the finished product of the program, but I’ve spoken to Chad on a near weekly basis for the past four months about this program and have seen it come to fruition, and I think it’s a very good program. I actually gave him a testimonial, and I don’t do that often unless I really believe in the program.
Chad also includes a bunch of really good instructional videos to go along with the program, as well as workout logs to help track your progress. So in short, he gives you the blueprint for success, it’s just up to you to put in the work.
I’ve never been one to make a cheesy sales pitch, but if you’re looking for a new training program to try, I’d recommend giving this one a whirl. If you’ve never used a high frequency approach, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised—I know I was. And if you’re used to high frequency training, Chad’s program will help you figure out how to plan everything so you aren’t beating your joints, which is the hardest part of high frequency training.
It’s on a big sale this week for the product launch, so check it out while the price is a steal.
You can read more about it HERE.
A few weeks ago I made a blog post called Two Single Leg Challenges that shared…wait for it…two single leg challenges.
I’ve had quite a few people write in to me that they tried the challenges and enjoyed them, so I thought I’d share a few other single leg challenges that I’ve been using.
See, I’ve been dealing with some shoulder issues the past month and haven’t been able to do much upper body training at all. For me though, training is like a therapy and I feel much better about life when I get a workout in for the day, so I’ve changed my lower body training so that I can train 4-5 days a week: more for mental than anything if I’m being honest. I just love to train, so when I can’t do upper body, I change my lower body training so that I can train more often.
Thing is, high frequency lower body training can be tricky because heavy deadlifts, squats, and lunges can take their toll on your lower back and knees. For that reason, I’ve been doing two heavy days a week and then 2-3 lighter days. And it’s been working like a charm.
I almost always do trap bar deadlifts on Mondays, and I’ve been doing heavy Bulgarian split squats on Wednesday or Thursday.
The other 2-3 training days I do lighter stuff like bodyweight Bulgarian split squats, reverse sled drags, and skater squats. I also do non lower back intensive posterior chain stuff on most days: stability ball leg curls, glute ham raises, hip thrusts, and single leg hip thrusts.
My workouts are pretty short. An hour on heavy days, and 30 minutes on lighter days. On the lighter days, I’ve doing a lot of single leg challenges with just my bodyweight or a light weight vest. I shared two of the challenges here, and here are two more.
1. 200 Rep Challenge
This is a brutal challenge where the goal is to complete 200 reps (100 per leg) in under 6 minutes. Start by doing 30 per leg, then 25, then 20, then 15, then 10, resting as needed. Here I’m completing the challenge with a 30 pound weighted vest. Holy burn!
To modify this challenge to make it a bit easier, do 50 reps per leg instead of 100, breaking it down into mini sets of 20, 15, 10, and 5.
2. Tabata Bulgarian Split Squats
Here you do 20 seconds of Bulgarian split squats followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of eight rounds. Alternate legs each set, so four sets per leg. Strive to get at least 12 reps per set.
To modify the challenge to make it more manageable, increase the rest intervals and gradually shorten them over time.
Note: Some fitness professionals take issue with calling something a Tabata that doesn’t mimic the exact Tabata protocol. I totally get that, but you have to realize that I write more for regular people than trainers, and as such, I prefer to use terminology that people understand. I truly don’t care what an exercise or a workout is called. So this isn’t a true Tabata, but for ease of use, that’s what I’ll call it. You can call it whatever you’d like, but give it a shot.
I recently hit personal bests on both trap bar deadlifts and Bulgarian split squats, so I’m very happy with that despite being bummed about not being able to do an upper body stuff.
When I was training mostly athletes, and good athletes at that, I used to think of squat jumps and rear foot elevated squat jumps as pretty basic exercises and assumed that with a little practice most people could do them pretty well.
Just about every athlete I worked with could do squat jumps and make them look pretty athletic, and I can’t recall even having any of my athletes complain of pain when doing them. In fact, it was usually my regression for people that couldn’t Olympic lift for whatever reason.
Here is an example of one of the kids making them look ridiculously easy, even with a weighted vest.
Rear foot elevated split squat jumps took athletes a little practice before they got the hang of them, but for people who were already proficient with regular rear foot elevated split squats, it usually only took them a few times before they got the hang of them and could do them well.
Again, here is an example of one of the kids getting some pretty serious hang time and making it look like a walk in the park—again with a weighted vest.
I’ll admit that working with good athletes spoiled me and made me take a lot of things for granted as a coach. Athletes pick things up extremely fast—even really advanced stuff—and make coaches look good. Damn kids.
When I transitioned from working as a strength coach to working as a personal trainer working with non-athletes though, I quickly realized that squat jumps and rear foot elevated split squat jumps actually aren’t that easy for most people. A lot of clients struggle to do them well and find that they bother their knees, hips, and/or lower backs. Squat jumps no longer looked athletic, and rear foot elevated split squat jumps were basically out of the question for the vast majority of my clients, both due to knee pain and just because they were too difficult.
If you’re a strength coach working with athletes, you might not have this issue. If you’re a personal trainer, then you can probably relate to exactly what I’m describing.
If you or your clients struggle with regular squat jumps of rear foot elevated split squat jumps, try using a little assistance from rings or suspension straps.
Set up with the rings or straps at about shoulder height when you’re standing up straight and then perform the exercises just like you normally would but use your arms for a little assistance.
Here is what the assisted squat jumps look like:
And here is what the assisted rear foot elevated split squat jumps look like:
You can also do alternating split squat jumps, like so:
The rings help with balance and let you use your arms to generate a little more oomph as you push off and to help absorb some of the force upon landing.
I’ve been able to use these assisted jumping variations with clients of all ages and abilities. Some jump higher than others obviously, but it works well for a lot of different clients. I use the assisted squat jumps all the time, and though I just started using the assisted rear foot elevated jumps about two months ago, they are quickly becoming one of my favorite exercises.
Most of the assisted jumping variations I’ve seen before involve setting up behind the anchor point so the straps are at an angle. I’ve tried them this way, but I much prefer setting up with the straps more vertical right underneath the anchor point because I find it allows for a more natural jumping pattern and lets you use your arms to absorb more of the force upon landing.
Even though I can personally do regular squat jumps and rear foot elevated squat jumps just fine, I’ve been using the assisted version myself and doing them explosively because I’m finding it lets me get a little more oomph in my jump while at the same time taking some of the stress off my knees. So I think they have value both as a regression for clients who struggle with the regular version and as a variation for more advanced clients.
Give these a try and I think you’ll like them.
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