Back Workout of the Week – Winter 2013 Week 5

Week 5: Week 5 modifies the intensity, increasing volume again.

Training Goals:

  • Volume is ramped back up for one week and weight is decreased.
  • Improve pull-up strength by performing pull-ups prior to rowing exercises.

Week 5: Hypertrophy/Muscle Building

Warm-ups: Warm up your upper body and a little pre-hab shoulder work

  • Shoulder internal rotation and external rotation
  • 3 x 15 with a moderately light weight – just enough to get the shoulders burning for the last reps
  • Alternate right and left, internal and external for each set

Pull-ups: We’re working on increasing pull-up strength, so we start your back workout with pull-ups.

  • Add weight to your first set, such as:
    • Weight belt to hang weight plates
    • Hold a dumbbell between your ankles
    • Weight vest
  • If you cannot get at least 5 pull-ups on your own, use assistance
    • Assisted pull-up station
    • Resistance bands, set up for reverse resistance
    • Use the minimum assistance required to get at least 5 reps
  • If you can get at least 10 reps on your own, add weight to your subsequent sets
  • Use double overhand, wide grip
  • Perform 4 sets to failure

Barbell Rows, Dead Stop:

  • What is a dead stop set barbell row?
    • Dead stop barbell row technique
    • We’re using dead stop barbell rows this week to eliminate the use of any momentum and isolate your upper back. The reps should be tougher, and your back should work harder.
  • Weight:
    • You should be somewhat warm after pull-ups, but if you need a couple of warm-up sets to get to your working weight, take them
    • Use your 10 Rep Max (10RM)
    • You will use the same weight for all sets unless:
      • If you can’t get at least 8 reps without any cheating decrease the weight
      • If you get more than 12 reps without cheating on any reps increase the weight
  • Sets/Reps: 5 sets x 10 reps
  • Rest: Keep rest relatively brief to keep the intensity up (2-3 minutes)
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps if necessary

Dumbbell Rows, Supported: As with the barbell rows, dumbbell rows will be supported to minimize any use of momentum to make the sets and reps easier.

  • Weight: Use your 10RM weight, you should use the same weight for all sets
  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets to failure
    • If you get less than 8 reps, reduce the weight
    • If you get more than 12 reps, increase the weight
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes), no rest between one arm and the other within a set
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps for this exercise

Hammer Curl/Lat Pull-down Superset: Use this superset to pre-exhaust (and hopefully completely exhaust by the end of the workout) your biceps so that your lats have to do more of the work.

  • Weight:
    • Hammer Curls: Use your 10RM
    • Lat Pulldowns: Use your 10RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3 supersets
    • Hammer Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps
    • Lat Pulldowns: 3 sets of 10 reps
    • Start with hammer curls
    • Complete lat pull-downs after your hammer curls
  • Rest:
    • No rest between lat pulldowns and hammer curls
    • Short rest between hammer curls and lat pulldowns, 1-2 minutes
  • Complete your curls with proper form, and minimal use of upper body momentum to curl the weight. Concentrate on initiating the pulldown with your lats.

Hammer Curl/Cable Row Superset: Continue the bicep pre-exhaust, and perform high rep cable rows to engage more of your back muscles in the rows (rhomboids and lower/mid traps):

  • Weight:
    • Hammer Curls: Use your 10RM
    • Cable Rows: Use your 20RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3 supersets
    • Hammer Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps
    • Cable Rows: 3 sets of 20 reps
    • Start with hammer curls
    • Complete cable rows after your hammer curls
  • Rest:
    • No rest between cable rows and hammer curls
    • Short rest between hammer curls and lat pulldowns, 1-2 minutes
  • Complete your curls with proper form, and minimal use of upper body momentum to curl the weight. Concentrate on initiating your row with your lats and squeezing your shoulder blades tightly at the end.

Assessment

  • Emphasis this week is on thoroughly exhausting your back and biceps. The volume is higher this week and by the end of your workout you should be completely spent.

Workout Plan: 2013 Winter – BWOW Week 5 v1 – Web

BWOW workouts this cycle:

 



Back Workout of the Week – Winter 2013 Week 4

Week 4: Week 4 focuses on building back strength.

Training Goals:

  • Volume is reduced, and weight is increased.
  • Improve pull-up strength by performing pull-ups prior to rowing exercises.

Week 4: Strength Building

Warm-ups: Warm up your upper body to prep for your back session

  • Face Pulls
  • 3 sets x 15 reps with a moderately light weight

Pull-ups: We’re working on increasing pull-up strength, so we start your back workout with pull-ups.

  • If you cannot get at least 5 pull-ups on your own, use assistance
    • Assisted pull-up station
    • Resistance bands, set up for reverse resistance
    • Use the minimum assistance required to get at least 5 reps
  • If you can get at least 10 reps on your own, add weight to your sets, such as
    • Weight belt to hang weight plates
    • Hold a dumbbell between your ankles
    • Weight vest
  • Use double overhand, wide grip
  • Perform 4 sets to failure

Barbell Rows, Cluster Sets:

  • What is a cluster set? You will perform a set of 5 reps and rack the bar. Don’t unwrap your wrists or take your hands off the bar. Rest 8 seconds and continue the set, rowing to failure. Do not use excessive upper body momentum for today’s sets.
  • Weight:
    • You should be somewhat warm after pull-ups, but if you need a couple of warm-up sets to get to your working weight, take them
    • Use your 5 Rep Max (5RM)
    • You will use the same weight for all sets unless:
      • If you can’t get 5 reps with good form in the initial part of the set, decrease the weight
      • If you get more than 5 reps in the second part of the set after the 8 second rest, increase the weight
  • Sets/Reps: 5 sets x 5 reps plus reps to failure after the 8 second rest period
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes)
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps if necessary

Dumbbell Rows, Unsupported: Dumbbell rows will be unsupported. You should be able to row slightly more weight than doing them supported on a bench.

  • Weight: Use your 10RM weight, you should use the same weight for all sets
  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets to failure
    • If you get less than 8 reps, reduce the weight
    • If you get more than 12 reps, increase the weight
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes), no rest between one arm and the other within a set
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps for this exercise

Chest Supported Rows: Use whatever chest supported rowing machine your gym has. Goal is to eliminate any cheating, and emphasize just the muscles in your back for these sets. Concentrate on squeezing your shoulder blades together at the end of each repetition, pausing momentarily before lowering the weight again.

  • Weight: Set the weight to your 15RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets x 15 reps
    • If you get less than 12 reps, or cannot keep your chest on the bench, reduce the weight
    • If you get more than 20 reps, increase the weight
  • Rest: Keep it short, 1-2 minutes

Standing Hammer Curls:

  • Weight: Set the weight to your 10RM
  • Sets/Reps: 4 sets x 10 reps
    • Minimize upper body momentum to cheat
  • Rest:
    • Keep your rest short, 1-2 minutes maximum

Assessment:

  • Emphasis this week is on moving more weight and building strength. Volume isn’t as high, if you need to increase the intensity, shorten your rest periods.

Workout Plan: 2013 Winter – BWOW Week 4 v1 – Web

BWOW workouts this cycle:

 

 



The Night Before Christmas…all Through the Gym…

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the gym…

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas

and all through the gym

not a dumbbell was stirring

not even those pretty little pink ones…that are much too light for even the girls there…

 

When all of a sudden, there arose such a clatter

I rushed to the front door, to see what was the matter…

It was the friggin powerlifting team, trying to get in

and they were getting madder and madder…and MADDER!

I said ‘now go away we’re closed, go away you can’t stay,

Go eat your turkey, and stuffing, and ham…and whey.

Max effort workout on Christmas Eve? That’s just not right,

Go fill up your bellies, watch football, hang stockings this night.’

 

‘Open up this dang door!’ I heard the heavyweight bellow.

‘Ok, Ok, calm down you big scary fellow.

I’ll open the door if you’ll relax and all just be mellow

But rerack your weights when you’re done, they make my legs all jell-o!’

 

They rushed to the back, with plates soon clanking and clattering,

a big white chalk dust cloud on everything besmattering.

Shouted words of encouragement, that were all none to flattering,

all business these guys, weights left no breath for chattering.

Again at the door I could hear a loud pounding,

over the din in the back, more urgent it was sounding.

‘What could it be now!’ through chalk cloud I wheezed

Whoa! it was Santa Claus, and he looked not a bit too pleased

 

He shook at them his finger, ‘Naughty list! Every one of you and all!

You frighten young children, and shake noobs from the exercise ball,

with heavy ass deadlifts you drop to the floor with such gall!

You get nothing this year, not under the tree nor your stocking. Nothing, nothing at all!’

Replied the big guy ‘yes we’ve besmirched squat rack curlers, booted them from our shrine

ridiculed upper body whores, half squatters, and other such swine.

We’ve bent many bars, dropped heavy weights, hoarded plates, called them mine,

and scattered knee wraps and belts, brought in our gym bags, to hell with the sign’

 

‘But before you pass judgment, in that long list of which you speak,

just look at little Tiny Timmy, once puny, scrawny and quite weak

his body shriveled and sickly, no pecs with which to press

and those legs, his squat and deadlift 1RMs, I’m sure you can guess’

 

‘We’ve broken him down, built him up, made him lift, sleep and eat.

We’ve piled weight on his back till he couldn’t get to his feet

Made him lift until failure, when he could do no more reps we roared REPEAT!!!

Now State records he’s earned, and HE’s WON HIS FIRST MEET!!!’

 

‘Now off on your way, back to the eve’s errands with you

and take with you MY OWN list, and it’s a long one too!

Bench shirts and squat suits, tight knee wraps that leave your skin blue

mountains of chalk and weight belts, why a gym bag quite full

of all this good stuff that builds big squat, bench and pull!’

 

Now Santa Claus knowing not what to say, slinked off in silence, his gait now a drag

‘cuz he knew records and gold medals were not in his bag

Once through the door, I swear I saw him scratching his list

and I’m sure the powerlifting team will never again be missed…



Back Workout of the Week – Winter 2013 Week 3

Week 3: We’re going to start increasing the weight this week.

Training Goals:

  • Moderate volume and increasing weight for both back and biceps to begin ramping up strength training.
  • Improve pull-up strength by performing pull-ups prior to rowing exercises.

Volume this week will decline, along with a corresponding increase in the weight you lift.

Week 3: Strength Building

Warm-ups: Warm up your upper body to prep for your back session

  • Shoulder internal rotation
  • Shoulder external rotation
  • 3 x 15 of each
  • In addition to warming up, light internal and external rotation is a good pre-hab exercise to help you maintain good shoulder health

Pull-ups: We’re working on increasing pull-up strength, so we start your back workout with pull-ups.

  • If you cannot get at least 5 pull-ups on your own, use assistance
    • Assisted pull-up station
    • Resistance bands, set up for reverse resistance
    • Use the minimum assistance required to get at least 5 reps
  • If you can get at least 5 reps on your own, add weight to your first set, such as
    • Weight belt to hang weight plates
    • Hold a dumbbell between your ankles
    • Weight vest
  • Use double overhand, wide grip
  • Perform 4 sets to failure

Barbell Rows:

  • Weight:
    • You should be somewhat warm after pull-ups, but if you need a couple of warm-up sets to get to your working weight, take them
    • Use your 10Rep Max (10RM) for barbell rows for your first 2 sets
    • Increase weight to your 5RM for sets 3-5
  • Sets/Reps:
    • 2×10 at 10RM weight
    • 3×5 at 5RM weight
    • Increase weight if necessary; you should be within 1-3 reps from failure on each set
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes)
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps as necessary

Dumbbell Rows, Supported: Dumbbell rows will be supported on the bench this week, and work up through increasing weight before finishing off with a drop set.

  • Weight: Your goal is to start with the weight you used last week, if you can’t get 15 reps with this weight, you might want to drop the starting weight slightly. You will use a heavier dumbbell for each set.
    • Set 1: 15RM
    • Set 2: 10RM
    • Drop Set: 5RM/15RM
  • Sets/Reps:
    • Set 1: 1×15
    • Set 2: 1×10
    • Drop Set: Row to failure, switch to the weight you used for set 1 and without resting row to failure again. Do the drop set first with one arm, then the other.
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes)
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps for this exercise

Cable Rows: Increase the weight significantly on the cable rows this week; repetitions decrease and they are not supersets.

  • Weight: Set the weight to your 10RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3×10
  • Rest: Keep it short, 1-2 minutes

Standing Barbell Curl/Lat Pull-down Superset:

  • Weight:
    • Barbell Curls: Approximately your 10RM
    • Lat Pull-downs: Approximately your 20RM
  • Sets/Reps:
    • Barbell Curls: 3×10
    • Lat Pull-downs: 3×20
    • Start with curls, complete all reps with proper form
    • Complete a set of lat pull-downs after each set of curls
  • Rest:
    • Take 1-2 minutes rest between curls and lat pull-downs
    • Perform curls immediately after lat pull-downs (no rest)

Assessment:

  • Volume declines, but remains moderately high, while weights lifted should increase noticeably. You might not feel as smoked this week, but should have still completed a significant amount of work.

Workout Plan2013 Winter – BWOW Week 3 v1 – Web

BWOW workouts this cycle:

 



Overcoming Weaknesses in Your Bench Press

To build the strongest bench press possible, identify and overcome your weaknesses. Here I break your bench press down into the possible weak points, and give you approaches to correct them. You’ll notice that some of these corrective actions overlap.

Training Maturity: Before you start worrying about weaknesses in your lift you should be at a relatively mature level in your lifting. Before you start working on your weaknesses:

  1. Perfect your bench press techniqueThe training approaches I share here will have limited effectiveness if you have poor bench pressing technique. While improving your technique your bench press max may decline in the short term, but in the long run you will be much stronger, and have much lower chance of injury.
  2. Build a solid foundation of strength. Before working on your weaknesses, develop your overall bench press strength. I recommend working on your fundamental bench press strength until you reach at least an intermediate level of strength on the bench press. (Strength Standards for Bench Press: http://www.exrx.net/Testing/WeightLifting/BenchStandards.html)

There are three potential points of weakness:

Now that your technique is fundamentally sound, and you have a solid strength base, let’s look at where your weak points may lie, and how to improve them.

  1. Weak off the chest
  2. Locking out at the top
  3. Failing at the ‘sticking point’

Weak off the chest: If you fail at the chest with heavy weights and are unable to press off the chest, this indicates a weakness in your pectorals and a lack of explosiveness. You can address these weaknesses with a number of improvements in your technique, your strength levels in certain areas, and building greater explosiveness.

Key Technique Points: To improve your power off the chest, focus on techniques to improve stability at the chest.

  • Full body tightness: Keep your body tight from your feet through your traps. Do this by maintaining a strong leg drive throughout the press, and using that leg drive to establish an arch in your back.
  • Keep your chest up:  Take a deep breath into your lungs before bringing the bar to your chest. Hold your breath until you press through your sticking point. This helps you keep your chest up throughout the press. Feel your pecs stretching across your rib cage as the bar comes down, ready to snap explosively and drive the bar back up.

Strength Improvements and Training: Improving your strength in certain areas using these techniques can help you improve the power of your bench press off the chest.

  • Chest/Pectoral strength: The pectorals are your primary mover to drive the barbell off your chest. Obviously, a strong bench press requires strong pecs. Strategies to improve your pectoral strength include:
    • Bench pressing at a strength building intensity range, sets of 3-5 reps.
    • Wide grip bench pressing, flat or decline. Note: wide grip pressing can put increased tension on your shoulders, if you have shoulder injuries or limited shoulder mobility take care using wide grip bench presses.
    • Pre-exhaust your triceps. Perform triceps isolation exercises prior to benching, and super set triceps work with your bench presses. With your triceps pre-exhausted, your pecs will be forced to do more of the lifting.
    • Supplemental bench pressing, any variation, in the 10-15 rep range for hypertrophy.
  • Upper Back/Lat Strength: The back is your primary stabilizer for the bench press when the bar is near the chest. A strong upper back will give you a powerful platform to press from. For an optimal bench press, your back strength should be in relative balance with your bench press strength. Your back training volume should be balanced with your chest training. Emphasize free weight, compound rowing exercises.
  • Shoulder/Anterior Delt Strength: Strong healthy shoulders are important supporting muscles for the bench press. Include overhead pressing and incline benching in your training program to strengthen your anterior delts. Note: Your shoulders are a relatively vulnerable joint. Take care to use perfect form and manageable weight when performing overhead pressing and incline pressing exercises.

Explosive Training: Improving the explosiveness of your bench training will condition your body and central nervous system to engage more of your muscle fibers at once to give you a more powerful drive off the chest. Concentrate on driving the bar off your chest with all of your power instantly.

Note: This does not mean you should bounce the bar off your chest. The bar should touch your chest lightly, and come to a stop before pressing it back up. If you have a tendency to bounce the bar off your chest, practice pausing at the chest before pressing.

  • Speed Bench Press: Include some speed benching in your weekly training program. Speed benches should be at a sub-maximal weight, light enough so that you can drive the bar off your chest explosively with perfect bench press technique. Condition yourself to drive each repetition up off your chest with more speed than the previous rep. My preferred sets and reps for speed benching is 9×3 at 50-70% of your 1 rep max (1RM).
  • Accommodating Resistance: Using bands and chains allow you to press a larger weight to lockout while the weight is lighter at the chest. Set the weight to your target at the top end (example if your target weight is 315, you might use 230lbs bar weight and 85lbs of chain). At your chest where the weight is lighter, drive the bar up as hard as you can.

Locking out at the top: Failing to lock your bench press out at the top may indicate a relative weakness in your triceps.

Key Technique Points: Lockout technique emphasizes locking out your elbows versus raising the bar.

  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together tightly. This prevents you from lifting your shoulders off the bench during the lift, greatly improving your bench stability and reducing the range of motion of the lift. Note: this is a good thing, this technique eliminates unnecessary range of motion. Think about trying to squeeze a quarter between your shoulder blades, and hold that position throughout the entire range of each repetition.
  • Concentrate on locking the elbows, not pushing the bar upward. The bench press is complete when your elbows are locked. Instead of thinking about raising the bar, think of simply locking your elbows.
  • Squeeze the bar, and try and pull it apart. This can help you activate your triceps, and turn your pecs and triceps into a rubber band ready to snap tight, propelling the bar upward.

Strength Improvements and Training: Your triceps are the primary movers to lock out the bench press. Improving your triceps strength will improve your lockout strength.

  • Triceps Strength: A strong lockout on your bench press requires strong triceps. Effective triceps training is based on a foundation of compound triceps exercises.
  • Lockout Training: Build your lockout strength by including heavy lockout training in your program.
  • Accommodating Resistance: Using bands and chains allow you to overload your bench press at the top end. Since the weight is lighter at the bottom of the bench, you can drive it up harder. This allows you to increase the top end weight above what you could normally press.

Failing at the sticking point: The sticking point is the point in your bench press where your pecs decline in force production and the emphasis transitions to your triceps. This should be at about the midpoint of your bench press. The key to getting past this transition point is getting the bar moving off your chest with enough speed so that the bar’s momentum carries it right past the sticking point and on to where your triceps have enough power to complete the lock out.

Key Technique Points: To drive the bar off your chest with enough power to get past your sticking point, you need to keep your entire body tight and keep your chest up. These points have been previously addressed.

  • Maintain full body tightness by establishing strong leg drive and holding a tight back arch.
  • Keep your chest up by taking a deep breath into your lungs and holding it until you are past the transition point.

Strength Improvements and Training:

  • Accommodating Resistance: Using bands and chains, the resistance increases as you press the bar up. You have to drive it off your chest with enough speed, and keep driving the bar through your sticking point as the weight increases.
  • Lockout Training: Using a lockout technique, set the starting position (rack lockout position, number of boards) to the approximate point at which your bench is at its weakest. Start your press from this point at a dead stop.

Explosive Strength: Practice initiating the press off your chest with all of your power so that the bar speed and momentum carries it through your sticking point.

  • Speed Bench Press: Using sub-maximal weight, practice driving the bar off your chest as explosively as possible. Concentrate on bar acceleration throughout each repetition until lockout, and try to drive each repetition up faster than the previous one.

Perfect your technique, build your strength foundation and then address the weak points in your bench. Use these approaches to maximize your bench press strength.



Back Workout of the Week – Winter 2013 Week 2

Week 2: you’re back after the punishment from week 1? That is a good sign!

Training Goals:

  • Maintain high volume training for both back and biceps to build a solid foundation for future training, and other lifts.
  • Improve pull-up strength by performing pull-ups prior to rowing exercises.

We keep up the massive volume for week 2, but have made some small changes to let you bump some of the weight up slightly. Some portions of this weeks training are the same as last week – this is on purpose.

Week 2: Volume Training

Warm-ups: Warm up your upper body to prep for your back session

  • Light shoulder dumbbell raises (front, lateral, rear) – 3×15
  • If you need more warm-ups, do a few light sets of lat pull downs

Pull-ups: One of our goals this training cycle is to increase your pull-up strength. If you can already complete 10 pull-unassisted, you might want to change the program order and do your pull-ups after barbell rows.

  • If you cannot get at least 5 pull-ups on your own, use assistance
    • Assisted pull-up station
    • Resistance bands, set up for reverse resistance
    • Use the minimum assistance required to get at least 5 reps
  • If you can get at least 5 reps on your own, add weight to your first set
  • Use double overhand, wide grip
  • Perform 4 sets to failure

Barbell Rows:

  • Weight: Select your 10RM for barbell rows
    • Increase the weight slightly from last week (5-10%)
    • Should still be a weight you can get 10 reps without using rowing cheat technique
  • You should be somewhat warm after pull-ups, but if you need a couple of warm-up sets to get to your working weight, take them
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 reps at this weight
  • On your 4th set, complete rows to failure, using some cheat technique to get as many reps as possible
  • On your 5th and final set perform a drop set: perform rows to failure, rack the weight and have training partners peel off weight and continue to failure again without resting.
    • Complete 2 drops, for example, if your starting weight is:
      • 315: drops will be 225, then 135
      • 225: drops will be 185, then 135
      • 135: drops will be 115, then 95
    • Keep your hands on the bar while your partners remove the weight
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes) except during the drop set
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps for this exercise, you will not be able to hold the bar without them to effectively work your back

Dumbbell Rows, Unsupported:

  • Weight: Select your 10RM weight dumbbell
    • If you did not get sets of 10 last week, keep the weight the same, and try to get more reps (10)
    • If you did get sets of 10 reps last week, bump the weight up this week
  • Perform 3 sets to failure
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes)
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps for this exercise

Hammer Curl/Lat Pull-down Superset: You completed this superset last week. We are going to pre-exhaust your biceps so that your lats have to do more of the work

  • Weight: Select a weight you can get the sets and reps in the appropriate ranges. You should be able to move the weight up slightly from last week
  • Start with hammer curls, complete all reps with proper form
  • Complete lat pull-downs after your hammer curls
  • Rest:
    • Take 1-2 minutes rest between hammer curls and lat pull-downs
    • Perform hammer curls immediately after lat pull-downs (no rest)
  • Complete a total of 3 supersets

Hammer Curl/Cable Row Superset: You completed this superset last week also. We continue with the bicep pre-exhaust, and perform high rep cable rows to engage more of your back muscles in the rows (rhomboids and lower/mid traps)

  • Weight:
    • Continue the superset with the same weight for hammer curls
    • Select a weight you can get 20 reps with on the cable rows
  • Squeeze each rep on the cable row tightly at the top, pinching your shoulder blades together
  • Rest: same as for the previous superset
    • Take 1-2 minutes rest between hammer curls and cable rows
    • Perform hammer curls immediately after cable rows (no rest)
  • Complete a total of 3 supersets

Assessment:

  • Intensity was slightly lower than last week, but volume remains high. Because of the lower intensity, you should be able to perform each exercise with slightly greater weight than week 1. Back and biceps should be completely fatigued when done.

Workout Plan: 2013 Winter – BWOW Week 2 v1

BWOW workouts this cycle:

 



A Perfect Setup Leads to a Bigger Squat

A perfect squat setup can be the difference between a successful lift and a failed lift. As a powerlifter, I train to make this portion of the squat as efficient as possible. These powerlifting techniques can help any strength trainer not just powerlifters, take advantage of them.

Don’t rush it. There is no excuse for your setup to not be perfect on every set you do from your first warm-up to your last working set. You have more control over the setup than you do over the actual lift. You have time to think about what you are doing every step of the way. Take advantage of this fact, and make it perfect every time.

  • Hand placement: Hand placement is of course somewhat dependent upon your flexibility, but the closer you bring your hands in, the tighter you will be able to keep your upper back, providing more support to the bar.
  • Bar placement: Bar placement can be affected by a number of factors (muscles targeted, individual body proportions, upper body flexibility). Generally speaking, however, placing it across the back of the delts versus on top of the traps allows you to generate the greater power.
  • Foot placement: Place your feet under the bar in a standard conventional deadlift stance (approximately hip width apart, toes pointed forward); this will give you the most stability as you lift the bar out of the rack.
  • Breathing: Take a deep breath and tighten your core before unracking the bar (Squat Breathing Technique). This creates a very solid, stable core and allows you to support the weight of the bar. Continue to hold your breath until you have walked the bar out.
  • Rotate your hips under the bar: Keeping your back flat, shift your hips forward by rotating at the bar and your shoulders – do not flex your lumbar spine to push your hips forward.

Rotate at the shoulders to shift your hips forward

    • Unrack the bar: Lift the bar straight up using your legs, primarily your quads; if you have not properly rotated your hips under the bar, this looks like a good morning, making the bar feel much heavier.
  • Walk the bar out:
    • After unracking, pause briefly allowing the bar to settle briefly before stepping back.
    • Watch your feet as you walk out so that you can place them exactly where you want them.
    • Your first step should be straight back. This will allow you to clear the rack so that you don’t bump it on the way out. It should be a short step, your toe should not move much farther back than the heel of your other foot.
    • Move your other foot back into your squatting position.
    • Shift your first foot straight out into your squatting position.
    • Practice this walkout to minimize shifting and shuffling once you’ve walked out.
    • Let the bar settle briefly again, begin breathing again and your are ready to squat.


Practice these steps from your very first warm-ups, and make them automatic. Done right, the correct setup can make the weight feel much lighter, giving you greater confidence in your lift!



Power Recipe: Sweet Potato – Tuna Mash

Ok, diet isn’t my specialty, but here is a tasty concoction I’ve developed that is easy to throw together, tastes phenomenal, and is a great balance of carb and protein. It makes for a powerful lunch on your heavy lifting days!

Doesn't that look tasty!

 

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz canned tuna
  • 1/2 cups chopped sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 slice bacon (hey, I’m a powerlifter, be happy it’s not a donut!)

Directions:

  1. Fry up bacon over medium high and drain off bacon grease
  2. Add potatoes and onions. Cook 15-20 minutes until sweet potatoes are cooked through and softened.
  3. Add spinach and tuna and continue cooking until spinach is fully cooked

If you want a leaner option, you can remove the bacon, or replace it with turkey bacon.

Nutrition:

Calories

304.7

Protein

30.1

Carbohydrates

37

Fat

4.7

 



Barbell Rows: ‘Cheat’ Technique for Massive Strength and Size Gains

If you train with me you quickly learn that I am religious about lifting with proper technique. As a matter of fact, Brute Force Strength Rule #1 is: Perfect your technique on every lift; regardless how long you have lifting, continuously look for ways to improve your form. When you lift with proper form, you will generally lift more weight and reduce your chance of injury.

The barbell row, however, is an example of an exercise that you can effectively use some cheating to increase your strength and size. When done correctly you can lift more weight and complete more reps than you can with strict form without significantly increasing the risk of the exercise.

When should you use the cheat technique?

  • At the end of your sets to complete additional reps that you could not otherwise complete
  • To finish off your workout with a set at a weight that you cannot complete with strict form
    • Should be a slight, incrementally higher weight increase used to prepare you for heavier lifts

When should you avoid using ‘cheat’ techniques?

  • If you’re new to the barbell row, first learn and perfect proper technique without using any cheating
  • If you have issues with your lower back or similar physical limitations, I’d recommend against cheating on barbell rows

Barbell Row ‘Cheat’ Technique:

  • Set up for the lift just as you do for your proper barbell row
  • Perform as many reps without cheating as you can – keep your upper body stable, minimize use of momentum
  • When you need to employ the cheat technique, just as you start to bring the bar up, bring your upper body upwards slightly to start the bar moving (rotation is at your hips)
  • Once the bar is moving, use the bar’s momentum to help complete the lift as you simultaneously lower your upper body back down to the starting position

 

Using cheat for additional reps:

 

Using cheat for additional weight:

 

If the end of your set starts to resemble a combination of a shrug and an upright row (a ‘shrow’), it’s time to set the bar down and step away.

Safety:

  • Do not use a weight you are unable to safely support in the rowing position
  • Make sure you are able to maintain a flat back and straight spine throughout your set

    Shrow Factor 10...

 



Back Workout of the Week – Winter 2013 Week 1

I introduced the Brute Force Back Workout of the Week (BWOW) a while back (Brute Force BWOW 1). I had bombed out of the USA Powerlifting Open Nationals in 2010 because I couldn’t successfully hit any of my bench press attempts. What does that have to do with back training you ask? That entire training cycle I didn’t work my back or biceps at all, two huge stabilizers for your bench press. I was unable to control the bar as it got to my chest, and couldn’t complete a single bench press.

After that I went on a rampage for a year and a half, punishing my back and biceps with a different high intensity workout every week. My back size and strength exploded. So did my bench press, earning me the bench press gold medal at the International Powerlifting Federation Masters World Championships in 2011 and 2012. BWOW grew out of this training success.

 

I’m resurrecting BWOW with the idea of applying a periodization scheme to my back training, just as you would for your other core lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift). Week 1 will be a very high volume back workout.

Week 1: Volume Training

Warm-ups: Warm up your upper body to prep for your back session

  • Light shoulder internal and external rotation – 3×15
  • If you need more warm-ups, do a few light sets of lat pull downs

Pull-ups: One of our goals this training cycle will be to increase your pull-up strength.

  • If you cannot get at least 5 pull-ups on your own, use assistance
    • Assisted pull-up station
    • Resistance bands, set up for reverse resistance
    • Use the minimum assistance required to get at least 5 reps
    • If you can get at least 5 reps on your own, add weight to your first set
    • Use double overhand, wide grip
    • Perform 4 sets to failure

 

Coffee getting through it on beard power alone

Barbell Rows: This will be a very high volume set of lifts!

  • Select your 10RM for barbell rows
  • You should be somewhat warm after pull-ups, but if you need a couple of warm-up sets, take them
  • If you are training with a partner with a similar 10RM, use the lower of the two 10RMs
  • Set a timer for 15 minutes
  • Alternate sets, performing barbell rows to failure
    • If you have a training partner, you will alternate with no rest, as soon as your partner finishes you will begin rowing; your total rest should be 30 seconds or less
    • If you do not have a training partner, take no more than 30 seconds rest between sets
    • I recommend using wrist straps for this exercise; you will likely not be able to hold the bar without them to effectively work your back

Dumbbell Rows, Supported:

  • Select your 10RM weight dumbbell
  • Perform 3 sets to failure
  • Use wrist straps if necessary (again, for dumbbell rows I recommend using straps to effectively work your back)
  • Rest until you are fully recovered between sets (3-5 minutes)

Hammer Curl/Lat Pull-down Superset: We’re going to pre-exhaust your biceps so that your lats have to do more of the work

  • If you’ve done the rest of your workout correctly, your rep maxes on these exercises will be relatively meaningless; select a weight you can get the sets and reps in the appropriate ranges
  • Start with hammer curls, select a weight you can (still) get 8-12 reps with proper form
  • Take 1-2 minutes rest and continue the set with lat pull-downs, using a weight you can get 10-12 reps
  • Take 2-3 minutes rest between each superset
  • Complete a total of 3 supersets

Hammer Curl/Cable Row Superset: We’re continuing with the bicep pre-exhaust, and performing high rep cable rows; this allows us to engage more of your back muscles in the rows (rhomboids and lower/mid traps)

  • Continue the superset with the same weight for hammer curls
  • As with previous superset, take 1-2 minutes rest between hammer curls and cable rows
  • Select a weight you can get 20 reps with on the cable rows
  • Squeeze each rep on the cable row tightly at the top, pinching your shoulder blades together
  • Take 2-3 minutes rest between each superset
  • Complete a total of 3 supersets

BWOW Man Down!

Assessment:

  • Coffee: Rated the workout at about an ‘8’ on our Smokdedness Scale. It was a challenging workout, but we have gone through tougher sessions. That being said, he did text me ‘Curse you Ken Gack!! My back and biceps are destroyed’ the morning after, and biceps were burning for a few days.
  • Gack: Rated the workout at about a ‘7’ on our Smokdedness Scale. It was a challenging workout, but the conditioning component of the core lift (barbell rows) eclipsed the strength and hypertrophy component.

Workout Plan2013 Winter – BWOW Week 1 v1 – Web

BWOW plans for this cycle: