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Big Bench Tip #4 – Non-Bench Training

You all will love today’s tip. It results in larger ego muscles, a huge upper body, and most importantly, when these results cause people to ask ‘how much do you bench’, you actually can say ‘a lot’ (I don’t , however, recommend using that exact reply to customs agents…or other law enforcement agencies, they generally aren’t amused…so I’ve heard).

I call this the non-bench training to train your bench.

I generally don’t follow workouts you find in the literature. I don’t believe in one size fits all workouts, and feel a lot of them are posted to sell magazines or web site views. I also generally don’t believe in ‘workouts’. Notable exceptions are some of the proven strength training program templates you find out there and, of course, BWOW. That painfully long introduction is to say this isn’t going to be a workout plan. It is meant to tell you what to train to build a bigger bench.

Pectorals do not build a big bench. Your pectorals are simply one piece of the puzzle. A powerful bencher has learned how to turn their entire body into a bench pressing machine. Your pecs help you drive the bar off the chest, but they do not do it alone. If you do not have a powerful back, your press off the chest will be weak. Did I mention that if you do not have a powerful back, your press off the chest WILL be weak? A powerful back gives you stability at the chest. Working jointly with your biceps, it allows you to control the bar as you bring the bar to your chest. Pressing with a strong back is like pressing off a granite slab, it helps you thrust the bar explosively off your chest. A strong back is also responsible for a huge upper body, and the classic v-taper.

Strong pectorals do not help you with a strong lock out. Your pecs can help you press the bar, but as we discussed in Big Bench Tip #1, finishing the bench is about locking your elbows, not pressing the bar up. A strong lockout is created with powerful triceps. What is the sticking point in your bench? It’s the point where your pecs begin to weaken, and your triceps must begin to take over the lift. Your triceps play a major role in half of your bench press. They also play a major role in over half of your arm size…

How do you put this knowledge into action? A good training program balances upper body pushing with upper body pulling. You should have as many pulling sets in your weekly program as you do pressing sets. Given it is a smaller muscle group, your triceps don’t (necessarily) warrant as many weekly sets as pushing or pulling, but they do warrant more than the finishing isolation exercise on chest day (and they really should never be insulted with tricep kickbacks). Include at least 3-4 sets of a compound lift for the triceps, and then finish them off with the isolation exercises.

Including the right non-bench bench press training in your program will build an impressive bench press as well as an attention getting, balanced upper body build.


Deadlift Mechanics: The Setup Position

A good deadlift, as with all over big lifts, starts with a good setup. There is more to the deadlift than grabbing the bar and standing up. Here are a few quick pointers to effectively find your setup position.

Stance

  • Feet should be hip width apart. Line up the outside of your feet with the outside of your hips. Your legs should be perpendicular to the floor.
  • Grip the bar just outside your hip width. If possible your arms should also be perpendicular to the floor. If you have relatively wide hips, your arms may angle out slightly.

Setup Position

When you drop into the setup position to begin your pull, here are a few markers you can use to find that good starting position for a strong pull.

  • Your shins should remain perpendicular to the floor. As you rock back into the starting position, rotation should be around your knees, bringing your hips down and your head and chest up.
  • Your shoulder blades should be directly over the bar. Keeping upward tension on the bar and your arms straight as your rock back, continue rocking back until your shoulder blades rotate back over the bar.
  • Keep your back straight and flat. You can do this by taking a deep breath into your lungs, tightening your core, and squeezing your shoulder blades tightly downward – try and tuck them into your back pockets.

Setup Hints:

Don’t waste time thinking about your setup. Once you get your grip on the bar immediately take your breath, tighten your back, and rock back into the starting position. As soon as you are in the starting position immediately begin your pull.

 


Back Workout of the Week – Winter 2013 Week 8

Week 8: Week 8 finishes off the program with a devastating amount of volume.

Training Goals:

  • Weight is moderate, volume is very high.
  • Pull-up strength is tested, let’s see if you’ve improved.

Week 8: Strength Building

Warm-ups: Warm up your upper body with some shoulder pre-hab work.

  • Shoulder Internal and External Rotation
  • Sets/Reps: 3 x 15 with a moderately light weight, your shoulders should still be burning when you’re done
  • Alternate right shoulder then left, internal then external for each set

Pull-ups: Week 8 let’s test your pull-up strength – how many pull-ups can you do without assistance

  • Use double overhand, wide grip
  • If you cannot get any pull-ups on your own, you can use assistance – use the same amount of assistance you used week 1:
    • Assisted pull-up station
    • Resistance bands, set up for reverse resistance
    • Use the minimum assistance required to get at least 3 reps
    • Perform 3 sets to failure

If you want to continue or accelerate your pull-up progress, consider doing your pull-ups more frequently each week, at the beginning of a workout.

Barbell Rows – 30 second incremental sets:

  • Get a good drink of water before you start these sets, you won’t be unstrapping from the bar until you’re done!
  • If you need, warm up to your 10 Rep Max (10RM) weight; you don’t want to be aggressive with the weight selection for today’s workout, we want to maximize the reps you can complete
  • Weight: Use your 10RM
  • Sets/Reps: Reps are incremental every set, and are timed; it’s easiest if you have someone timing the reps for you
    • You will perform your sets every 30 seconds:
      • Start your sets every 30 seconds – 0:00, 0:30, 1:00, 1:30
      • Notice that you do not get 30 seconds of rest for each set; 30 seconds includes your set and your reps
      • It works best to have your timer call out when you have 5 seconds to start so you can unrack the weight and be ready to go
      • When you rerack the weight, don’t unstrap your hands, you won’t have time to strap back up
    • Your reps are incremental
      • Set 1 you perform 1 rep; set 2 you perform 2 reps, continue to increment with each set
      • Keep going until you cannot complete all of your reps in the 30 seconds
  • Rest: The longer your set takes, the less rest you have
    • If your set takes 5 seconds to complete (likely your first 5 sets or so), you will have 25 seconds of rest, if your set takes 20 seconds to complete, you will have 10 seconds of rest.
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps, you will need them. If you do these right, your grip will be smoked even using straps.

Dumbbell Rows, Unsupported, Drop Set:

  • Weight: You will use 2 dumbbells:
    • First Dumbbell: Use your 10RM
    • Second Dumbbell: Use a dumbbell about 20% less than the first (if your 10RM is 150lbs your second dumbbell should be about 120lbs; if your 10RM is 30lbs, your second dumbbell is 25lbs…and you likely haven’t been doing BWOW for very long).
  • Sets/Reps:
    • 3 sets
    • Complete as many reps as you can with the first dumbbell, drop it and immediately continue with the second dumbbell
    • Repeat with your other arm for 1 set
  • 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, again, you will need it.

Standing Hammer Curl/Lat Pull-down Superset: Pre-exhaust your biceps, then perform your lat pull-downs to force your upper back to perform the majority of the work

  • Weight:
    • Hammer Curls: Use your 10RM
    • Lat Pull-downs: Use your 10RM
  • Sets/Reps:
    • 3 sets of 10 reps with both hammer curls an lat pull-downs
    • Start with the hammer curls
    • Complete lat pull-downs after your curls
  • Rest: Keep rest relatively short, 1-2 minutes
    • No rest between lat pull-downs and hammer curls
    • Short rest between hammer curls and cable rows, 1-2 minutes
    • Keep your technique strict. Limit your use of upper body momentum for both the curls and lat pull-downs.

Cable Rows:

  • Weight: Use your 20RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets x 20 reps
  • Rest: Keep rest relatively short between sets, 1-2 minutes

Standing Barbell Curls: You may add standing barbell curls if your biceps aren’t smoked by now

  • Weight:
    • Set 1: Use your 10RM
    • Set 2: Bump the weight up slightly from set 1
    • Set 3: Bump the weight up again from set 2
  • Sets/Reps: Complete 3 sets to failure; try to complete at least 10 reps on all sets
  • Rest: Keep rest relatively short, 1-2 minutes

Assessment:

Ok, I’ll be honest. The intent of this workout is to completely smoke your upper body. Your back and biceps should be totally exhausted when you’re done, and your conditioning should be taxed as well. Enjoy!

Workout Plan: 2013 Winter – BWOW Week 8 v1 – Web

BWOW Plans for this cycle:

 

 



Back Workout of the Week – Winter 2013 Week 7

Week 7: Week 7 focuses on lifting more weight and building strength.

Training Goals:

  • Weight is kept high, volume is moderately high.
  • Pull-up strength is addressed by performing pull-ups prior to rowing exercises, and performing pull-ups with added weight.

Week 7: Strength Building

Warm-ups: Warm up your upper body with some shoulder pre-hab work.

  • Face Pulls
  • Sets/Reps: 3 x 15 with a moderately light weight

Pull-ups: We’re working on increasing pull-up strength, so we start your back workout with pull-ups, all sets will be with added weight if possible.

  • Add weight to your sets, such as:
    • Weight belt to hang weight plates
    • Hold a dumbbell between your ankles
    • Use a weight vest
    • If you cannot get at least 3 reps without added weight, don’t add weight
  • If you cannot get at least 3 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 3 reps
    • Use double overhand, wide grip
  • Perform 4 sets to failure
    • On your last 2 sets, perform a drop set: complete as many reps as possible with added weight, then drop the weight and continue to failure again

Barbell Rows:

  • 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
  • Weight: Try to increase the weight slightly from last week
    • Set 1: Use your 10 Rep Max (10RM)
    • Set 2-4: Use your 5RM
    • Set 5: Drop Set – 1RM, 3RM, 5RM, 10RM
      • Set up your weight without collars for quick weight changes; use two training partners to change the weights for you.
      • Start with your 1RM, and row to failure.
      • Rack the bar and have your partners change the weight to your 3RM, and continue rowing without rest. Don’t take your hands off the bar or unwrap them if you are using wrist straps. Row to failure.
      • Rack the bar and change to your 5RM and row to failure.
      • Rack the bar and change to your 10RM and row to failure.
      • Weights don’t have to be strict selections; select weights you can easily change quickly.
  • Sets/Reps:
    • Set 1: 10 reps
    • Sets 2-3: 5 reps
    • Set 4: As many reps as possible; use some cheat technique to get additional reps
    • Set 5: Until you (nearly) regret googling BWOW, and your back and biceps are burning.
  • Rest: Take enough rest for your muscles to be fully recovered, except during your drop set (3-5 minutes)
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps if necessary

Dumbbell Rows, Supported:

  • Weight: Use your 10RM, try and bump the weight up slightly over your previous 10RM

Note: If your gym does not have heavy enough dumbbells for the massive back strength, a common problem for BWOWers, particularly if you lift in a commercial box, you can wrap a chain around your wrist to add additional weight to your dumbbell rows.

  • Sets/Reps:
    • Set 1: 10 reps
    • Set 2-3: Row to failure, try and beat 10 reps
  • 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

Lat Pull-downs:

  • Weight: Set up 1 plate above your 10RM on the lat pull-down machine
  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets to failure, try and get at least 10 reps without cheating with upper body momentum
  • Rest: Keep rest relatively short, 1-2 minutes
  • Keep your technique strict. Concentrate on initiating the pull-down with your lats, minimize your use of upper body momentum.

Standing Hammer Curl/Cable Row Superset: Pre-exhaust your biceps, 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 cable rows, 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.

Standing Barbell Curls:

  • Weight:
    • Set 1: Use your 10RM
    • Set 2: Bump the weight up slightly from set 1
    • Set 3: Bump the weight up again from set 2
  • Sets/Reps: Complete 3 sets to failure; try to complete at least 10 reps on all sets
  • Rest: Keep rest relatively short, 1-2 minutes

Assessment:

  • Overall volume this week remains close to that used the preceding weeks. Weight should increase somewhat, and work both your back and biceps very well.

Workout Plan:  2013 Winter – BWOW Week 7 v1 – Web

BWOW plans for this cycle:

 

 


Back Workout of the Week – Winter 2013 Week 6

Week 6: Week 6 increases the weight to be lifted, and maintains a relatively high volume of heavy sets.

Training Goals:

  • Weight is increased and volume remains moderately high. This should be a challenging week.
  • Pull-up strength is addressed by performing pull-ups prior to rowing exercises, and performing pull-ups with added weight.

Week 6: Strength Building/Hypertrophy

Warm-ups: Warm up your upper body with some shoulder pre-hab work

Pull-ups: We’re working on increasing pull-up strength, so we start your back workout with pull-ups, and use added weight where possible.

  • Add weight to your first two sets, such as:
    • Weight belt to hang weight plates
    • Hold a dumbbell between your ankles
    • Use a weight vest
    • If you cannot get at least 3 reps with added weight, don’t add weight
  • For remaining sets, 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 10 reps or more on your own, add weight to your subsequent sets as well
  • Use double overhand, wide grip
  • Perform 4 sets to failure

Barbell Rows:

  • 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
  • Weight:
    • Set 1: Use your 10 Rep Max (10RM)
    • Set 2-3: Use your 5RM
    • Set 4: Use your 3RM
    • Set 5: Drop Set – 1RM, 3RM, 5RM, 10RM
      • Set up your weight without collars for quick weight changes; use two training partners to change the weights for you.
      • Start with your 1RM, and row to failure.
      • Rack the bar and have your partners change the weight to your 3RM, and continue rowing without rest. Don’t take your hands off the bar or unwrap them if you are using wrist straps. Row to failure.
      • Rack the bar and change to your 5RM and row to failure.
      • Rack the bar and change to your 10RM and row to failure.
      • Weights don’t have to be strict selections; select weights you can easily change quickly.
  • Sets/Reps:
    • Set 1: 10 reps
    • Sets 2-3: 5 reps
    • Set 4: 3 reps
    • Set 5: Until you feel like puking, and your back and biceps are burning.
  • Rest: Take enough rest for your muscles to be fully recovered, except during your drop set (3-5 minutes)
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps if necessary

Dumbbell Rows, Unsupported:

  • Weight:
    • Set 1: Use your 15RM
    • Set 2: Use your 10RM
    • Set 3: Use your 5RM
    • Try and push the weight slightly above your previous RMs
    • Note: If your gym does not have heavy enough dumbbells for the massive back strength you’ve built in the last 5 weeks, you can wrap a chain around your wrist to add additional weight to your dumbbell rows
  • Sets/Reps:
    • Set 1: 15 reps
    • Set 2: 10 reps
    • Set 3: 6 reps
  • 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

Lat Pull-downs:

  • Weight: Use your 10RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Rest: Keep rest relatively short, 1-2 minutes
  • Keep your technique strict. Concentrate on initiating the pull-down with your lats, minimize your use of upper body momentum to cheat.

Standing Barbell Curl/Cable Row Superset: Pre-exhaust your biceps, and perform high rep cable rows to engage more of your back muscles in the rows (rhomboids and lower/mid traps):

  • Weight:
    • Barbell Curls: Use your 10RM
    • Cable Rows: Use your 20RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3 supersets
    • Barbell Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps
    • Cable Rows: 3 sets of 20 reps
    • Start with barbell curls
    • Complete cable rows after your barbell curls
  • Rest:
    • No rest between cable rows and barbell curls
    • Short rest between barbell curls and cable rows, 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:

  • The weight this week should be challenging, and the volume should leave your back and biceps completely spent. Try and push the weight up above your previous maxes, without sacrificing technique.

Workout Plan: 2013 Winter – BWOW Week 6 v1 – Web

 



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:

 

 



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:

 



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:

 



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...