Training

Improve Posture and Shoulder Health With TRX YTWs

This article was originally written for STACK.

TRX YTW's are your one-stop shop for bulletproof shoulders and a jacked upper back.

This exercise combines three moves in one to target the rear delts and traps. Building these muscles will improve posture, performance and shoulder health. It's perfect for offsetting the effects of too much sitting throughout the day or too many pressing exercises in a workout program.

Best of all, you don't need any additional weight to perform this exercise. Your body weight will provide more than enough resistance.

Instructions

  1. Grab a pair of TRX handles, face the anchor, and lean back (the more vertical you stand, the easier).

  2. With your palms pronated (facing toward your body), raise your arms above your head to form a "Y". Don't bend at the elbows.

  3. Briefly pause and squeeze, then lower your arms to the starting position.

  4. With your palms pronated, bend the elbows at 90 degrees and rotate your hands upward toward your ears to form a "W".

  5. Briefly pause and squeeze, then lower your arms to the starting position.

  6. With your palms neutral (facing each other), raise your arms out to your sides to form a "T". Don't bend at the elbows.

  7. Briefly pause and squeeze, then lower your arms to the starting position.

Throughout the motion, avoid "swinging" your hips for added momentum. Keep your lower body quiet to keep the focus entirely on the upper back.

Try 4 sets of 15 reps (5 reps each way) toward the end of your next shoulder or upper-body day.

Try These 3 Landmine Exercises for Stronger and Healthier Shoulders

This article was originally written for STACK.

Has your shoulder routine gotten stale? Tired of doing the same shoulder exercises week after week, month after month? Are heavy barbell overhead presses leaving you broken and in pain?

Then I've got just what you need.

Here are three shoulder exercises using the landmine that are guaranteed to help you build bigger and stronger delts, pain-free.

Band-Resisted Landmine Shoulder Press

Overhead presses are crucial for building a set of broad shoulders. Unfortunately standard barbell overhead presses often lead to irritating shoulder and lower-back pain. The landmine variation, however, puts much less stress on the shoulder joints and is a great pain-free way to stack muscle onto the front delts and upper chest.

There are multiple ways to set your feet, but I prefer a split stance with the opposite leg of the pressing arm forward for the greatest stability. With Landmine Presses, the lift actually becomes easier as you reach the top of the movement. To add accommodating resistance, loop a band around the barbell and your back foot. This will not only make the lockout tougher, it will force you to slow down to control the eccentric portion of the lift, leading to greater hypertrophy.

Landmine Lateral Raise

The plane of motion on this exercise is unique and actually works all three heads of your shoulder (front, medial and rear) simultaneously. With a standard dumbbell, cable or machine lateral raise, you are raising the weight directly to your sides, specifically aiming to target the medial delt. The landmine lateral raise begins with a front raise and then curves outward to a lateral raise.

Stand perpendicular to the barbell with one hand holding the end of it on your opposite hip. Keep your arm straight as you lift and allow the natural arc of the landmine to guide the movement. And keep it light; the bar alone should be enough.

Landmine Reverse Fly

This exercise is great for targeting the chronically under-trained and neglected rear delts. It will also hammer the musculature of the upper back and even work the core.

Stand facing away from the landmine, hinge your hips and maintain a flat back. From there, simply raise the bar outward while keeping your arm straight. Again, the bar alone is plenty of weight. Choke up a bit if necessary to lighten the load.

5 Best Stretches to Reset Your Body After Sitting

This article was originally written for STACK.

The vast majority of us sit far too long each day. Whether you're an athlete in school or a weekend warrior who works throughout the week, you simply aren't standing as much as you should. This leads to many problems.

Muscles tighten up, joints become stiff and your posture gets all out of whack. This can lead to pain or even an injury if you're not careful. It's difficult to undo hours of sitting, but there are a few exercises that can help correct these problems.

Here are five moves that you can do each and every day to help maintain your body.

Couch Stretch

Target Area

  • Hips

  • Quads

Instructions

  1. Drop to half-kneeling position with your back knee on the ground, close to a bench, box, wall or other fixed object. The closer you are to the object, the more difficult the exercise will be.

  2. Make sure the front leg is in a stable lunge position directly in front of your body, with your shin vertical (knee over heel).

  3. Keep your mid line tight throughout the stretch. Do not over-arch your back.

  4. Squeeze your glutes and practice moving your hips forward to increase tension.

Do 2-5 minutes total each side

Elevated Pigeon Stretch

Target Area

  • Hips

  • Glutes

Instructions

  1. Lay one leg flat on top of a bench, box or other fixed object (approximately knee-to-hip height), perpendicular to your body.

  2. Keep your back tight and squeeze your glutes.

  3. Practice rotating your upper back and/or leaning forward to intensify the stretch.

  4. If you experience any knee pain, bring your foot closer to your body or let it hang off the object.

Do 2-5 minutes total each side.

Corner Pec Stretch

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Target Area

  • Chest

  • Shoulders

Instructions

  1. Face a corner in a room where two walls come together at 90 degrees.

  2. Extend your arms to your sides at a 90-degree angle, and place your forearms and hands on the wall.

  3. Maintain an upright posture with your "chest high" as you lean your chest closer to the corner.

Do 2-5 minutes total.

Quadruped T-Spine Extension/Rotation

Target Area

  • Thoracic Spine

  • Shoulders

  • Lower Back

Instructions

  1. Get into the quadruped position (on your hands and knees with your hands directly below your shoulders and knees below your hips) and place one hand on the back of your head.

  2. Rotate your upper back inward so your elbow points toward your opposite knee.

  3. Briefly pause, and then rotate your upper back outward so that your elbow is pointing toward the ceiling.

  4. Keep your lower back tight and avoid rounding throughout the movement.

Do 3x10 each side.

Dead Hang

Target Area

  • Lats

  • Shoulders

  • Upper Back

Instructions

  1. Hang from a pull-up bar or other fixed object with your arms fully extended.

  2. Keep your head straight, core tight and shoulders up by your ears.

Do 3-5 minutes total per day

Get Strong for MMA With Loaded Carries

This article was originally written for STACK.

Loaded carries are one of the best bang-for-your-buck exercises for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitors, MMA fighters and grapplers of any kind. They strengthen the core and build an iron-clad grip. They improve posture and correct underlying imbalances. Most of all, they challenge mental toughness.

Core

When it comes to strengthening the core, adding resistance is critical. Most athletes settle for endless bodyweight exercises and stationary Planks to get six-pack abs, but once you graduate past a beginner level of fitness, those things do almost nothing for you.

Loaded Carries are optimal for building the core, because they allow you to load heavy—and they simulate scenarios that you would actually encounter on the mat or in the real world. In order to maintain an upright posture when performing a heavy carry, your abs, obliques and lower back must all be engaged to stabilize your body.

Grip

The ability to hold, control and pull opponents is obviously extremely important in grappling.

It doesn't matter how strong your legs are or how polished your technique is if you can't get a solid grasp on your foe. Your hands are the first point of contact in a match, so training them is vital. A strong grip also enables you to lift heavier on other key exercises such as Deadlifts.

The prescription is simple: Grab something heavy and walk with it.

Posture

Many fighters suffer from a head-forward, shoulders-rounded posture due to the positions they frequently take while training and competing. Many of these athletes also sit at school or work for a significant portion of the day. On top of all that, common daily activities such as driving and texting put a strain on the neck and shoulders.

So what's the solution? Carry heavy stuff.

The proper position for a loaded carry is head up, eyes forward and shoulders back. A great cue is to "put your shoulder blades in your back pockets."

Loaded carries using correct posture stack muscle on your traps and upper back, and they work wonders in pulling your shoulders back into alignment.

Muscular Balance

It's very common for grapplers to have strength imbalances, many of which go unaddressed for some time.

Think about it: How often do you explode off your left leg for a takedown versus your right? Throw over your left hip versus your right? Left jab versus right hook?

These differences may seem subtle, but over the course of weeks and years they can add up to a significant disparity. The solution is not to train your "weak" side more often and neglect your "strong" one. Instead, load them equally, but individually. Carry an object in one hand or on one side of your body for a period of time or distance, then switch to the other.

Mental Toughness

Loaded carries are hard. They work nearly all of your muscles and truly challenge your conditioning. You'll get blisters on your hands, sweat in your eyes, and cramps in your stomach. Your forearms and traps will scream in pain.

The only question is, despite all of that, are you still going to hold on?

In many ways, heavy loaded carries are a test of will more than strength. Of course strength is a factor, but I've witnessed tons of athletes who are physically "weaker" outlast those who are superior simply because they are willing to endure the pain. They just want it more.

How to Perform a Loaded Carry?

Pick up something heavy and walk.

Seriously, it's that simple.

Dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, medicine balls, groceries, or even a wheelbarrow—they all work. Carry for distance or for time, and continue to load heavier, in different positions, or with different objects as you progress. Remember: Head up, eyes forward and shoulders back.

Start implementing loaded carries today to immediately improve your performance on the mat.

4 Supersets For Arms

This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

Supersets are a great way to intensify your workouts and add volume to your sessions without adding time. A superset is done by alternating between exercises of opposing muscle groups with little to no rest between.

For example, performing a triceps movement immediately followed by a biceps movement. Doing so allows one muscle to rest while the other works, and prevents you from wasting any time sitting around at the gym.

Here are 4 supersets using 4 different pieces of equipment to build bigger arms.

Barbell: Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press + Standing Barbell Curl

The close-grip bench press is an excellent mass builder for your triceps and is a great accessory movement for improving your regular bench press. The standing barbell curl allows you to really overload the biceps and build serious size and strength. Because these movements can and should be performed using a relatively heavy weight, do them first (or toward the very beginning) of your arm workout for 4-6 sets of 6-8 reps each.

  • Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press: Put your feet up on the bench or hold them in the air at 90 degrees to eliminate any leg drive and put full tension on the upper body.

  • Standing Barbell Curl: Once your biceps are fatigued, use your hips to slightly assist in “cheating” the barbell up, and then very slowly lower the bar back down (3-5 seconds).

EZ-Bar: EZ-Bar Skullcrusher + EZ-Bar Preacher Curl

The EZ-Bar skullcrusher targets the two largest heads of the tricep- the long and lateral heads. The EZ-Bar preacher curl puts direct emphasis on your biceps by keeping your elbows at a fixed position and eliminating the possibility of any momentum or assistance from other muscle groups. This superset should be performed toward the beginning or middle of your routine for 4-5 sets of 8-15 reps each.

  • EZ-Bar Skullcrusher: Vary the “touch point” on every set. For example, bring the first set to your chin, second to your nose, third to your forehead, and fourth behind your head.

  • EZ-Bar Preacher Curl: At the end of each set, perform a few partial reps (lift the bar only ¼ or ½ of the way up) to fully fatigue the muscle.

Dumbbells: Incline Dumbbell Tate Press + Incline Dumbbell Curl

The incline dumbbell tate press (or elbows out triceps extension) is an excellent exercise for building the lower triceps, which play a huge role in compound movements such as the bench press and overhead press. The incline dumbbell curl targets the long head of biceps, the most visible portion of the biceps. These isolation exercises should be done in the middle of your workout for 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps each.

  • Incline Dumbbell Tate Press: Keep the dumbbells touching throughout the movement until the very top near-lockout position.

  • Incline Dumbbell Curl: Fully rotate your wrists at the bottom “hanging” position between each rep and fully supinate your wrists at the top (pinky finger to the ceiling).

Cables: Straight Bar Cable Pushdown + Straight Bar Cable Drag Curl

The cable pushdown is a staple of almost every arm routine and can be done using a variety of attachments including the straight bar, rope, V-bar, and even a band. The straight bar cable drag curl keeps constant tension on the bicep from the bottom of the movement all the way to the top. This superset should be used toward the end of your routine for 3-4 sets of 12-20 reps each.

  • Straight Bar Cable Pushdown: Use the ¼ rep method- push the bar all the way down, but rather than coming all the way back up, only raise the bar ¼ of the way and press down again. Then raise all the way up. That’s one rep.

  • Straight Bar Cable Drag Curl: Run the stack- once you reach failure (or 20 reps) with your starting weight, immediately drop to the next highest weight and go until failure (or 20 reps) again. Do so until you have reached the lightest weight on the stack.

*Bonus Finisher: Bodyweight Skullcrusher + Underhand Inverted Row

This bodyweight superset is much tougher than it appears, and can be used as either a warm-up or killer finisher for your next arm day.

Using a Smith Machine, start on a relatively low setting (where the movements are harder) and perform 10 reps of each exercise. After each set, raise the bar to the next highest setting and perform another 10 reps each. Continue doing so for 5 total sets – 50 reps each.

Take Home Message

Supersets such as these will make your next arm workout much more effective and efficient. These pairings save time by using the same piece of equipment and create a massive pump by eliminating any excess rest periods. Try this workout in the order above, or take bits and pieces to make your next arm workout your best yet.

How To Build Your Delts

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This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

Nothing makes a physique look more impressive than pair of broad, round shoulders. Big, wide shoulders fill out a t-shirt and give the body that universally admired V-taper shape. Here are some training tips, exercises, and advanced methods to build massive delts.

Hit the Shoulders From All Angles

Deltoids can be broken down into three specific muscle areas: anterior (front) delts, medial (middle) delts, and posterior (rear) delts.

To build impressive shoulders, you must train all three muscle groups evenly. Hitting the delts from all angles- including overhead presses, front raises, lateral raises, bent over flys, and more will keep the shoulders healthy and ensure that no area gets left behind.

Use A Variety of Rep Ranges

The deltoids respond to all rep ranges, from low to high, and should be trained as such.

For example, heavy overhead press variations can be performed in lower rep ranges (<8) to build size and strength (primarily in the anterior delts), while the medial and rear delts respond better to moderate to high reps (8-20). For a complete shoulder workout, use a varied approach.

Maximize Time Under Tension

Shoulders respond extremely well to longer time under tension – that is, the amount of time a muscle is under direct stress during a set.

There are a number of ways you can extend time under tension (aside from just adding more reps) including tempo reps, isometric holds, drop sets, supersets, trisets, and giant sets. All of these methods are excellent for increasing muscle growth in the delts.

Train the Rear Delts Daily

In today’s society, most of us are sitting at desk, driving in a car, or slouched over while texting and watching TV for a vast majority of the day. This, along with a ton of heavy pressing in most bodybuilding programs, results in bad posture and puts the shoulders at a greater risk of injury. To offset these circumstances, train the rear delts daily with light weight and high reps. A few sets of band pull aparts or face pulls during your typical warm up or cool down will work wonders.

Deltoid Exercises

Behind-The-Neck Press

The behind-the-neck press is a superior alternative to the typical overhead press because it targets all three areas of the shoulder more effectively (the overhead press primarily only works the anterior delt). To perform this exercise safely, lower a barbell behind your head to ear level and press back overhead.

Do not attempt to lower the barbell to your neck or use momentum to “bounce” the bar back up. Practice slow and controlled reps without fully locking your elbows to keep constant tension on the shoulders.

Arnold Press

The Arnold Press was made famous by legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. The exercise is similar to a dumbbell overhead press, except you start the movement with your palms facing inward with your arms in front of your body. As you press up, you rotate your hands until your palms are facing outward at the top of the motion. This variation has more range of motion than the typical overhead press, resulting in more time under tension, and puts an additional stress on the front delts.

Cable Face Pull with Rope

The cable face pull using a rope attachment is a great rear delt builder because it allows you to use more weight than most other exercises for this body part. You can grip the rope using an overhand or underhand grip, and can vary pulling to either your forehead, nose, or chin. Keep your elbows up and drive them backward as you pull while really squeezing the shoulder blades.

Advanced Deltoid Variations

Dumbbell Lateral Raise – Run the Rack

Running the rack with dumbbell lateral raises delivers a monster pump and is a great way to keep the shoulders under tension for upward of 2-3 minutes. Grab a pair of dumbbells (let’s say 20 pounds) and do as many lateral raises as possible with good form. When you reach failure, immediately re-rack the 20’s, grab a pair of 15’s, and keep going. Do the same for the 10’s and 5’s. Try performing this sequence 2-3 times with minimal rest between sets.

Chest-Supported Dumbbell Y-W-T’s

This exercise is great for the rear delts. It will keep your shoulders healthy and can be used as a warm up or finisher. Get a pair of light dumbbells (10 pounds or lighter) and lie chest-down on an incline bench. Raise the dumbbells up and out in front of you so that they are in line with your spine to form a “Y” shape. Lower the dumbbells, and then raise your elbows (in a rowing motion) and rotate your shoulders (bringing the dumbbells near your ears) to form a “W” shape. Finally, lower the dumbbells then raise them out to your sides in a fly pattern to form a “T”. Try to do 10 of each without resting in between.

Take Home Message

The delts are a very complex muscle group. To build them, target them from all angles, use a variety of angles, and maximize time under tension. Emphasize rear delt training to offset the abundance of heavy pressing in training routines and the habits of everyday life. Use advanced training methods, such as drop sets and supersets to increase workout intensity and maximize growth.

4 Barbell Deadlift Variations

This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

The deadlift is an absolutely essential exercise for anyone who lifts weights. It recruits more muscles than any other movement, targeting the posterior chain from the upper back to the hamstrings, builds the core, and strengthens grip.

Deadlifting is not strictly reserved for professional athletes and elite powerlifters. The casual gym-goer can massively benefit from this exercise, as well.

However, not everyone can deadlift the same way. Nor should they.

The conventional barbell deadlift is a great exercise, but it’s not for everyone. Those with a history of back issues or poor mobility may find it painful and unsafe to do the movement correctly. Doing the conventional deadlift exclusively also limits the potential strength benefits that come with other forms of the movement.

Here are 4 barbell deadlift variations to try for safer, more effective workouts.

Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift is a variation that uses a wider stance and narrower hand placement to shift more of the work from your lower back to your hips and quads. Here’s how to perform:

  1. Set up with the bar close to your shins, feet wider than shoulder-width, and toes pointed outward.

  2. Bend down to grip the bar at shoulder-width. Your knees should be pushed out and track directly over your feet.

  3. Before lifting the bar off of the ground, take a deep breath, brace your core, and engage your lats.

  4. As you lift the bar upward, drive through your heels, keep your back flat, and thrust your hips forward.

  5. Briefly pause at the top, then lower the bar in the same manner you lifted it, keeping the bar close to your body at all times.

Benefits

  • Less stressful on the lower back

  • More hip and quad dominant

  • Shorter range of motion

  • Requires less mobility to properly execute

Snatch Grip Deadlift

The extra-wide grip on a snatch grip deadlift increases the range of motion and further engages the upper back and traps.

  1. Set up with the bar close to your shins, feet at (or just narrower than) shoulder-width, and toes pointed slightly outward.

  2. Grip the bar at, or near, the outer rings of the barbell.

  3. Before lifting the bar off of the ground, take a deep breath, brace your core, and engage your lats.

  4. As you lift the bar upward, push through your heels, keep your back flat, and thrust your hips forward.

  5. Briefly pause at the top, then lower the bar in the same manner you lifted it, keeping the bar close to your body at all times.

Benefits

  • More emphasis on the upper back and traps

  • Extended range of motion

  • Increases leg drive

  • Improves grip strength

Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift (RDL) requires a fixed-knee position to isolate the hamstrings and glutes. It is unique because, unlike most other deadlift variations, the the RDL does not start from a “dead” position on the floor. Instead, the RDL begins from the upright position with the bar in hand, and the first motion is the eccentric portion of the lift rather than the concentric. Because the eccentric portion of this movement can be emphasized, it is excellent for hypertrophy.

  1. Hold the bar at about shoulder-width, with your feet just narrower, and the let the bar rest on your thighs. Keep your knees slightly bent throughout the movement.

  2. Take a deep breath, brace your core, and hinge your hips backward.

  3. As your hips sit back, drop the torso, keep your back flat, chest up, and shoulders back.

  4. Lower the bar only as far as you can go without further bending your knees or rounding your back. You don’t have to touch the ground.

  5. Briefly pause at the bottom, then thrust your hips forward and return to the starting position.

Benefits

  • Increases hamstring, glute, and lower back development

  • Better for hypertrophy (muscle building) because of eccentric phase

  • Improves hip mobility and hamstring flexibility

Deficit Deadlift

A deficit deadlift is performed while standing on an elevated surface, which increases range of motion, ultimately making the lift more difficult. This variation is often used to help lifters improve their speed off of the ground and recruit more leg drive.

  1. Stand on a plate, box, mat, or other stable object (1”-3”) with your feet at, or just narrower than, shoulder-width.

  2. Set up with the bar close to your shins, and grip the bar at about shoulder-width.

  3. Before lifting the bar off of the ground, take a deep breath, brace your core, and engage your lats.

  4. As you lift the bar upward, push through your heels, keep your back flat, and thrust your hips forward.

  5. Briefly pause at the top, then lower the bar in the same manner you lifted it, keeping the bar close to your body at all times.

Benefits

  • Increases range of motion

  • Increases time under tension

  • Targets quads, glutes, and hamstrings

  • Strengthens conventional deadlift from the floor

Take Home Message

The deadlift is an important exercise that should be part of your training regimen. But remember there’s more than one way to do it. Using variations of the conventional barbell deadlift like the sumo, snatch grip, Romanian, and deficit deadlift will better ensure safety and improve your long-term progress and overall strength.

5 Cardio Exercises That Build Muscle

This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

Cardio is an important part of any well-rounded training program. Unfortunately, the dreaded “C” word is avoided like the plague by meatheads and gym rats around the world.

Most fear that excess cardio will result in muscle loss (or they’re just lazy), so they tend to neglect it completely in their workout regimen. But not all cardio is out to “steal your gains”.

Here are 5 cardio exercises that burn fat and build muscle.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High intensity interval training (HIIT) consists of short, all-out bursts of work followed by brief, timed rest periods. The goal is to get your heart rate up to near max levels quickly, allow your body to recover, and then do it again.

HIIT can be used to target any muscle group based on exercise selection, and has been proven to preserve- and even build- muscle. This style of training is extremely efficient, and has a list of benefits including:

  • Increased metabolism

  • Increased anaerobic capacity

  • Increased natural growth hormone production

  • More fat burned after exercise than steady state cardio

HIIT is extremely versatile. You can use a variety of methods, exercises, and equipment to deliver a full fat burning and muscle building workout. Here are a few examples:

  • EMOM: Perform 10 burpees every minute on the minute for 10 minutes.

  • Tabata: Alternate 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times per exercise (4 minutes), for 4 different exercises (mountain climbers, jumping jacks, squat jumps, and plyo push ups).

  • 1:1 Hard/Light Intervals: On the stairmaster, alternate 30 seconds of max effort work (fast pace), followed by 30 seconds of low effort work (slow pace) for 15 minutes.

Walking Lunges

Walking lunges are a perfect blend of strength training and cardio, and correct so many health issues common in today’s society. They also increase metabolism and burn fat much more effectively than steady state cardio.

Most people have tight hip flexors, a weak core, and poor posture due to sitting behind a desk or steering wheel all day. Walking lunges stretch your hip flexors and actively engage the core, increasing flexibility and alleviating lower back pain. Most people also have an underdeveloped posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, back) as a result (again) of sitting all day and habitually emphasizing the “mirror muscles” (quads, chest) in training.

Lunges activate the posterior chain and really fire up the leg muscles that are typically neglected. Lower body strength will go through the roof. Lunges also build the musculature around the knee and further protect you from devastating injuries such as ACL tears. Implement walking lunges into your routine today by doing the following:

  • 10 minutes of continuous walking lunges post-workout.

  • Lunge 400 m (one lap around a track) as fast as possible.

  • Between sets of any exercise, instead of a typical rest period, lunge to the end of the gym and back.

Sled Drags/Pushes/Pulls

The sled is an incredible tool for piling on muscle and cutting fat. Sleds come in all shapes and sizes, and you can push, pull, or drag them in many ways to target different parts of the body.

For example, pushing the sled forward works the glutes and hamstrings while pulling the sled backward fires up the quads. You can even attach straps to a sled and do rows (upper back), presses (chest), and more.

Sled training allows for maximum work with minimal recovery because there is no eccentric loading. With typical muscle building exercises, the eccentric portion of the lift is what creates the most stress to the muscle which leads to soreness. Sled exercises are also low-impact, and pose very little threat to joints and ligaments. Here’s how to use it:

  • Push a heavy sled as fast as possible for 20-40m, rest for 1-2 minutes, and repeat for 5 sets.

  • Push a heavy sled as far as possible in 10-20 seconds, rest for 1-2 minutes, and repeat for 5 sets.

  • Alternate pushing and pulling a moderately light sled 50m continuously for 10 minutes.

Loaded Carries

Loaded carries are an essential component of overall strength, and have a huge carryover to all styles of weight training and life in general. They can also be used for a killer cardio workout.

The idea is pretty simple. Pick up something heavy and carry it somewhere. You can carry it at your sides, overhead, or even in front of you. You can also use a ton of different equipment including barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, sandbags, and medicine balls.

Loaded carries build an iron-clad grip and a rock-solid core. They strengthen your forearms, biceps, triceps, shoulders, traps, upper back, abs, and obliques. Here’s how you can use them to burn calories while you build:

  • Carry a heavy object 50-100 m, rest for 30 sec-1 min, and repeat for 10 sets.

  • Carry a heavy object as far as possible in 15 seconds, rest for 15 seconds, and repeat for 10 minutes.

  • 10 minutes of a continuous loaded carry variation with a relatively lighter object.

Sprints

When you watch the Olympics, which athletes’ physique do you most admire? Most likely, it’s the sprinters.

Sprinting is extremely effective for building fast-twitch muscle fibers while burning fat. It’s also a great way to build strong hamstrings and glutes and get ripped abs and obliques.

Step off of the treadmill and get outside to sprint, preferably on a field or track. Or, find a hill with a gentle slope. Here are are a few sprint workouts that you can start doing today:

  • 5 sets: Sprint 50m-200m with a 1:4 work/rest ratio (Ex: Sprint 30 sec, rest 2 mins).

  • Sprint 50m, then jog 50m, and repeat for one mile.

  • Sprint up a hill, slowly walk down, and repeat for 10 rounds.

Take Home Message

Cardio doesn’t have to mean an hour on the elliptical or treadmill and it shouldn’t! Long bouts of steady state cardio have been proven to increase cortisol levels and break down muscle. Instead, opt for exercises such as high intensity interval training, walking lunges, sled drags/pushes/pulls, loaded carries, sprints that build muscle while burning fat.

The Best Posterior Chain Exercises

This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

What is the Posterior Chain?

The posterior chain consists of the series of muscles on the back side of the body, including the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. It is made up of some of the biggest and most powerful muscles in our anatomy. A well-developed posterior chain is not only vital for strength and explosiveness, it’s important for overall health and well-being.

Why Is It Important?

For athletes, the posterior chain is the driving force behind nearly all key movements.

Strong hamstrings and glutes propel the body forward when running to catch a pass, jumping to grab a rebound, and pushing off the mound to throw a pitch. In combat sports, a solid posterior enables competitors to both shoots for takedowns and prevent them. Powerlifters and weightlifters rely on accessory posterior chain exercises to bring up their numbers in the key lifts.

For regular gym-goers, placing an emphasis on posterior chain training is crucial because it is typically neglected in bodybuilding-style training splits.

The Average Joe is notorious for habitually overtraining the “mirror muscles” (chest, biceps, abs, quads) and leaving the scraps for the posterior. Even on the dreaded leg day, most people prioritize quad-dominant exercises such as squats and leg presses over more hamstring and glute-dominant movements. This pattern creates a major muscle imbalance which not only leads to an irregular physique, it leaves people more vulnerable to injury.

For the average person, training the posterior chain can help alleviate the effects of a lifetime of bad habits.

The typical “desk jockey” sits for an average of almost 10 hours per day. Between typing on a computer, commuting, and watching TV, the majority of people’s lives are now spent sitting. Sitting for an extended period of time tightens and shortens hip flexors and causes inactive glutes, ultimately leading to lower back pain. Tight hips are also often the cause for bad posture and poor mobility. Posterior chain exercises can drastically reduce these issues by activating the glutes and opening up the hips.

As you can see, a well-developed posterior chain is extremely important for everyone. Here are three key exercises to build your backside to improve athleticism, strength, and posture.

1. Deadlift

When it comes to posterior chain exercises (or all exercises really), the deadlift is king.

No other movement is more functional and more all-encompassing than the deadlift. From shoulders and traps to lower back and core to hamstrings and glutes, deadlifting strengthens nearly every muscle in the body. World class powerlifters and the average-Joe at the gym alike can benefit from picking objects off of the ground with proper technique.

Best of all, deadlifting will never get boring. There are dozens of variations of this essential exercise to satisfy lifters of any age, gender, or experience level. Here are just a few options:

  • Conventional Deadlift (feet hip-width, hands outside of the feet)

  • Sumo Deadlift (feet outside of shoulders, hands inside of the feet)

  • Snatch Grip Deadlift (feet hip-width, hands extra-wide)

  • Trap Bar Deadlift

  • Rack Pulls (shorter range of motion)

  • Deficit Deadlift (longer range of motion)

  • Romanian/Stiff Legged/Straight Leg Deadlift (hamstring and glute emphasis)

  • Dumbbell/Kettlebell Deadlift

When deadlifting for maximal strength using heavyweight, stick to a low rep range (1-5 reps) and perform this exercise first on training day. If using one of the variations as an accessory exercise, use a moderate weight and a rep range of 6-15 reps.

2. Glute-Ham Raise

Warning! This exercise is TOUGH. But it doesn’t get much better than the glute-ham raise (GHR) for direct posterior chain development.

The GHR specifically targets the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and calves and is used by strength and conditioning coaches far and wide as a key accessory exercise. In addition to making athletes stronger and faster, this movement helps prevent injuries such as ACL tears and hamstring strains. Glute-ham raises also allow you to train the posterior chain without putting a heavy load on the spine (contrary to squats and deadlifts), so this is a great option for people with back issues.

The GHR is a staple of many speciality gyms but is often not available in the average commercial gym. Here are a couple of ways to simulate the movement if you don’t have access to a GHR:

  • Kneel backwards on a lat pulldown machine (facing away from the pulley) with the back of your ankles pinned below the knee pads. Lower yourself as slowly as possible until you reach the ground (or until you break form) and then push yourself back up to the starting position.

  • On a mat or padded surface, have a training partner hold the back of your ankles so that they can’t lift off of the floor. Lower yourself as slowly as possible until you reach the ground (or until you break form) and then push yourself back up to the starting position.

For beginners, start with bodyweight only or even use bands for assistance. Once you can comfortably do 10+ reps with good form, challenge yourself by wearing a weighted vest (or holding a plate) or doing super slow and controlled eccentric reps.

3. Hip Thrust

The glutes are the largest and most powerful muscle in the human body, and nothing lights them up quite like the hip thrust.

Hip thrusts activate the glutes at a much higher level than squats or deadlifts. Regularly incorporating this exercise into your training regime will not only improve the appearance of your backside, it will increase your acceleration and speed.

Hip thrusts can be done with bodyweight alone or with equipment such as:

  • Barbell

  • Band

  • Dumbbell

  • Kettlebell

Hip thrusts are extremely versatile and can be performed at low (3-5 reps) to very high (20+ reps) rep ranges. I particularly recommend using isometric holds on this exercise- that is, holding a “squeeze” for 2-5 seconds at the top of each rep. Feel the burn!

Take Home Message

The posterior chain is an extremely powerful group of muscles. Training it properly will improve athleticism, strength, and posture, and give you a more well-rounded physique. Incorporate these three exercises into your workout routine today to start feeling stronger and healthier!

Use Superset Workouts To Slim Down & Size Up

This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

If you’ve hit a plateau in your weight loss or muscle building, look no further than supersets.

A superset is done by performing two exercises consecutively, with no rest between.

This technique has been used for decades as a way to increase training volume (more volume = more muscle) without adding hours to your time in the gym. By rotating between exercises with little to no rest, your heart rate stays elevated (burning more calories) and you’re able to complete more sets and reps in a shorter period of time.

Supersets have been a staple of my workout routine for years, and I use them with all clients no matter what their goal or gender may be. Here are a few ways I like to implement supersets into my training programs:

Antagonist Supersets

Antagonist supersets are done by pairing exercises for opposing body parts such as chest/back, quads/hamstrings, and biceps/triceps.

This method was a favorite of the G.O.A.T., Arnold Schwarzenegger. By performing exercises of opposite muscle groups back-to-back, you allow one side to rest while the other works. This prevents any one muscle from getting over-fatigued, and enables you to still lift reasonably heavy weight without ever truly resting.

Examples:

1a. Barbell Bench Press

1b. Wide Grip Pull Up

2a. Leg Extension

2b. Leg Curl

3a. Straight Bar Cable Curl

3b. Straight Bar Tricep Pressdown

Compound Sets

Compound sets combine two exercises for the same muscle group.

In contrast to antagonist supersets, this method is designed to push a specific body part to total fatigue. You won’t be able to lift quite as heavy, but you’ll attack the muscle with more exercises and intensity. Try to pair exercises that hit the muscle from different angles to get a complete workout.

Examples:

1a. Barbell Bench Press

1b. Dumbbell Incline Press

2a. Wide Grip Pull Up

2b. Barbell Bent Over Row

3a. Barbell Military Press

3b. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Tri-Sets and Giant Sets

Tri-sets and giant sets take compound sets to the next level by combining 3 or 4 (or more) exercises into one long, grueling set.

Rest as little as possible between these exercises. These mini-circuits are great if you’re short on time and need to completely destroy a specific muscle group.

Examples:

1a. Wide Grip Pulldown

1b. Underhand Grip Pulldown

1c. Straight Arm Pulldown

2a. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

2b. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

2c. Dumbbell Front Raise

2d. Bent Over Rear Delt Fly

Cardio Acceleration

Cardio acceleration pairs a typical bodybuilding exercise with a plyometric exercise, resulting in a full body, high-intensity workout.

This method will have your heart pumping and your metabolism on fire. Cardio acceleration cuts down workout time by integrating high-intensity cardio into your weightlifting routine. The combination of these two techniques turns your body into a fat-burning furnace long after you leave the gym.

Examples:

1a. Dumbbell Bench Press

1b. Jumping Jack

2a. Seated Cable Row

2b. Squat Jump

3a. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

3b. Tuck Jump

Take Home Message

Supersets were common practice back in the day, but have become a more and more infrequent method of training in recent years. Too often, I see people sitting around on a piece of equipment, swiping through Instagram, then lazily picking up the weights to begin an almost lethargic set.

I’m here to tell you that the “3 sets of 10 with 2 minutes of rest between” protocol is NOT going to get you results you want.

Incorporate methods like these supersets to really stimulate muscle growth and accelerate fat loss.

Training to Failure

There is a common thought among most people that the “harder” a workout is, the better is. Often, people consider it a good workout only if:

  • They sweat through their shirt
  • They come close to throwing up
  • They are so sore they can’t move
  • Their Apple Watch tells them they burned a bunch of calories

Truth is, that stuff doesn’t really matter much.

Since day one, I’ve been fighting an uphill battle with my athletes (whether they know it or not), that training to complete failure every session is NOT the best approach. Any jack wagon off the street can write you a workout plan that will make you throw up. It’s easy.

What’s not easy is creating a workout program that will actually make you BETTER. One that will make you stronger, leaner, and healthier over time. One that will teach you proper technique and emphasize progressive overload. One that will keep you coming back for more.

Every session you have with me will not leave you completely wrecked, nor should it. My workouts are hard, sure, but not life threatening. Because tired DOES NOT equal better.

THAT BEING SAID...

I do think there is still a place for pushing limits. A place for testing what you’re made of, both physically and mentally. My athletes know I refer to this as “The Dark Place”.

We don’t go there often, but when we do, it’s rough.

Don't Forget Intensity

We always discuss the “perfect” training program.

What’s the best split?

How much volume?

Machines or free weights?

Morning or night?

Often, these variables get in the way of the most important thing- intensity.

A “so-so” plan done with 100% intent and focus ALWAYS trumps a “perfect” plan done with so-so effort. Don’t get so busy contemplating the minutia that you forget to do the work.

Microdose Your Mobility

If you’re neglecting mobility exercises, you probably have tight muscles, poor lifting technique, and even worse posture.

If you’re spending the first 30 minutes at the gym every day laying on the floor stretching, you’re probably not spending enough time actually working out.

The solution?
Microdose your mobility.

The most effective way to get your mobility work in is by breaking it up into short, 2-3 minute segments throughout the day. Just focus on one or two exercises at a time, then get back to whatever you were doing.

If you work a desk job, this is a game changer. Getting up every 30 minutes or hour and mobilizing for just a couple minutes will have a significant impact over time.

When you get to the gym, just focus on stretching and activating the key areas that you’ll be working that day rather than meticulously going over every inch of your body. An effective warm-up shouldn’t last more than 10 minutes.

Some areas to focus:

  • Ankles
  • Glutes
  • Hips
  • Thoracic Spine
  • Upper Back/Shoulders
  • Lats
  • Pecs

There are a ton of exercises that will target each of these areas. Find a few that you feel working (and that you enjoy), and practice them routinely. A few minutes a day goes a long way.

Stop Chasing Soreness

One of the biggest myths in fitness is that if you didn’t get sore, you didn’t get a good workout.

No pain, no gain.

For the longest time, it was my only metric. If I wasn’t sore, I didn’t work hard enough.

Now, I know that’s bullshit.

On my current program, 10 Weeks to Beach, I run an upper/lower split. It’s a 4 day workout plan with an optional 5th upper body “pump” day (which I obviously do every week). Among other things, one of the reasons I do this is so that no one body part is too sore to function.

I’ve done the programs where my chest is so sore that I can’t spread my arms out wide. Where my biceps are so sore that I can’t extend my arms. And, of course, where my legs are so sore I can’t sit on the toilet.

I’m not saying soreness is always a bad thing (in a weird, masochistic sort of way I even kind of enjoy it). And I’m definitely not saying that I’m never sore. Some days, I still have trouble getting on and off that toilet.

What I am saying is that soreness is NOT necessary.

When my dad calls and says that he has a tee time the next morning, I want to be able to go out there and swing a golf club.

When my buddy tells me to meet him at the gym in an hour to play ball, I want to be able to shoot.

When I randomly jump into a boxing or jiu jitsu class at Paradigm, I want to be able to perform.

When my daughter wants to run around in the backyard, I want to be able to keep up.

I can’t do any of that if I’m too sore to move.

The people that I work with, and the people that I’m making this program for, want to make lifting weights a PART of their life. Not their ENTIRE life.

I have guys who play on high-level adult softball teams. Guys who play 18 holes every weekend. Guys who run pickup basketball games throughout the week. Even guys who are professional fighters.

I want to ENCOURAGE and SUPPORT those activities. Not sideline them because they’re too sore.

Separate pain from progress.

Soreness does not equal hard work.

Hard work equals hard work.

Loaded Carries: The Missing Movement

The 6 Essential Movement Patterns are:

  • Squat
  • Hinge
  • Lunge
  • Push
  • Pull
  • CARRY

Most people get plenty of exposure to the first 5, but what about number 6?!

Loaded carries are the best exercise you’re not doing. They build a rock solid core, strong grip, stable shoulders, and a big upper back. They’re also one hell of a mental challenge.

Best of all? They’re as simple as they sound- just pick something up and walk.

Kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, med balls, sand bags, plates...they all work. You can carry them at your sides, in front of your body, overhead, or on your back. You can go long distance/time with light weight, or short distance/time with heavy weight.

Add these to your program at least once a week, and you’ll never take two trips to unload the groceries again.

3 Tips for Perfect Kettlebell Swings

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Kettlebell Swings are one of the best all-purpose exercises available to athletes. They can improve power and explosiveness, level-up conditioning, and build a rock-solid posterior chain. Here are 3 tips to help you get the most out of them:

1. Start with the Kettlebell In Front

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Starting the swing with the kettlebell directly between your legs or from standing often makes it tough to generate momentum and puts a ton of stress on the lower back. The proper starting position should be with the kettlebell on the ground, just in front of you. Setting up with the bell out in front allows you to sink into a strong neutral spine position, with your arms extended and hips back. From there, your first move is to pull the bell high between your legs, like you’re a center hiking it to a quarterback.

2. HINGE!!!

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The kettlebell swing is a hip hinge, NOT a squat. Keep soft knees (slightly bent), but don’t bend them further as you move through the exercise. Instead, break at the hips- pushing them back and forth as you go. Don’t let the kettlebell sink below your knees. Doing so will put a ton of pressure on your lower bacl. Instead, keep it close to your groin, using your hips and posterior chain to explosively propel the kettlebell forward.

3. Finish Tall

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The finished position for the kettlebell swing is a tall, vertical posture with glutes squeezed and core engaged. At the top end of the movement, the kettlebell should be “floating”- that is, you’re no longer forcing it upward with your arms and shoulders. The bell should only travel as high as your initial hip snap allows it to, not any further by using the upper body. Trying to force the weight up higher by hyperextending will only put unnecessary strain on your lower back.

3 Tips for Perfect Band Pull Aparts

Band Pull Aparts are an essential exercise for correcting posture, improving shoulder health, and building a strong upper back. Here are 3 tips to make sure you do them right:

1. Shoulders Down & Back

Shrugged shoulders while pulling puts too much focus on the (already overactive) upper traps. Actively focus on keeping your shoulder blades retracted to target the lower traps and rear delts.

2. Hide Your Ribs

Credit to my friend Mitch on this cue. Maintain a neutral spine and avoid arching at the back- even when the movement gets tough.

3. Straight Elbows and Wrists

Bending at the elbows and wrists as you pull will burn out your arms long before your back. A slight bend in the elbow throughout is ok, but squeeze the band tight and keep your knuckles pointed forward.

Lead By Example

I love having my little guy in the gym with me.


A really interesting statistic I learned from Ben Greenfield from his recent appearance on the Onnit Podcast with Kyle Kingsbury is that the *NUMBER ONE* indicator of a child's performance on a Bleep Test (the test we all took in PE where you run from one side to the other- which generally indicates a kid's fitness level) is how physically fit the child perceives their parents to be.


Isn't that crazy?!


It's not even about how fit the parents actually are, but rather how fit the child THINKS they are.


So what does that mean for parents?

  • Bring your kids to the gym.
  • Involve them in your workouts.
  • Do fun, physical activities with them.
  • Educate them on a healthy lifestyle.

As any parent will tell you, kids pick up things faster than you could imagine. They're always watching, listening, learning.


Do your child a favor and lead by example.

The Case To Compete

“No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” - Socrates
 

Recently, I’ve read a lot of articles from fitness pros urging people to steer clear of bodybuilding competitions. They argue that it’s an ugly sport- full of drugs, big egos, unhealthy practices, and emotionally damaging behavior. To their credit, they’re not totally wrong.

But it’s not all bad. In fact, I would argue that competing has some very distinct advantages. Advantages that extend well beyond the gym. Take a look behind the curtain, and you’ll find that stepping on stage could be exactly what you need.

Yes, YOU.

No, I’m not talking to those of you who are just beginning your fitness journey. Nor you “weekend warriors” who sprinkle a bit of exercise into your schedule to stay healthy (which there’s absolutely nothing wrong with).

I’m talking to you, the guy or girl who has spent 5-6 days a week in the gym consistently for years. You, who has tried every workout program and nutrition plan under the sun. You, my fellow fitness professional. You, who has reached a level of commitment and dedication unmatched by 99% of your peers.

If you’re one of those people, congratulations! You’ve probably already built a body that you should be very proud of. But like the great poet Meek Mill once said, “There’s levels to this shit.” I believe, that at least once in your life, you should take your physique to the highest level, get as ripped as possible, and compete in a show.

Here’s why.

Put a Date on the Calendar

It’s definitely possible to reach a high level of fitness without competing. You can get pretty shredded and pretty strong, especially by “normal” standards. But without a date on the calendar, there’s no way you’ll reach your peak potential.

A date on the calendar creates a sense of urgency.

It gives you a deadline.

It provides a purpose for all of the hard work.

If you’ve been hitting the gym consistently for a long time with no date on the calendar, I’m willing to bet you’ve hit a plateau. Unfortunately, it’s very possible that you look exactly the same as you did 6 months ago, a year ago, or even more.

I was stuck in that trap for years- going to the gym almost daily and eating *pretty* good year-round, but my physique never really changed. It was only when I decided to sign up for a competition that I was able to take things to the next level. The very scary, very real thought of standing up on stage being judged is the kick-in-the-ass that can take you from 95% committed to 100%.

Establish a New Level of Discipline

As I mentioned earlier, working out regularly and eating healthy isn’t easy. It takes a great deal of discipline. But the discipline it takes to compete (and win) is on a totally different level.

Prior to competing, I ate right probably 90% of the time. I prepped all of my meals and filled my grocery cart with tons of lean protein and veggies, but I also indulged in treats pretty often.

Anytime someone brought donuts and kolaches to work, I was all over it.

Going out to eat? You can bet I’m knocking down a full basket of tortilla chips and drinking a margarita or two.

But when it’s competition season, those things just won’t cut it.

When you compete, you establish a new level of discipline. Not just in your training and nutrition, but in all aspects of life. You realize how far you can push your mind and body. That dedication truly spills over into every facet of life, if you’re open to it.

Learn More About Your Body

When you’re getting ready to step on stage, your body becomes a science experiment. Every little addition or subtraction has an effect on your appearance. You take your training and nutrition to such an extreme level that you begin to notice which exercises and foods truly work for you. The diet and workout advice handed out by the masses may be great in theory, but as any good trainer will tell you- everybody is different.

As a beginner, the big rocks are really the only thing that matter.

Eat real food.

Train hard.

Be consistent.

But as you get to a more advanced level, you have to focus on the small pebbles, too. For example, chicken breasts are “healthy”, but not every single person reacts well to chicken. Some could feel and look better on beef. Some people’s bodies react extremely well to early morning training. Others may be better on afternoons or evenings.

You can’t ever directly apply any other person’s methods and expect them to work the same for you. Instead, you must learn through trial and error. Experiment!

When you compete, you’ll learn a ton about your body that you can apply for the rest of your life. You may find that you should cycle on and off certain foods. Or what body parts respond to training volume faster than others. Or whether you perform better fasted or with 2-3 meals in your body prior to training. At this advanced level, it’s all about the details.

Get As Shredded As Possible

Just once, don’t you want to see what your body looks like at it’s fullest potential? To see how far you can push your physique? The “on stage” look isn’t sustainable year-round. You’ll only have it for a few days, or maybe even a few hours.

But it’s worth it.

It’s worth it to know what you look and feel like at your absolute peak. It’s worth it to push yourself to the limit for a few months. Not to prove anyone wrong or to show others that you have what it takes, but to experience the gratification that comes with hard work, sacrifice, and dedication.

Competing isn’t for everybody.

In fact, it’s not for most people.

But if you’re one of those who I described in the intro- someone who has been itching to take their already “good” physique to the highest possible level- face your fears and get on stage.