My buddy Chris Lopez, from the Jersey Strength Pit chatted me up about strength, nutrition and philosophy.
I recently got back on the horn with my good friend Chris Dillon to discuss some special training considerations for women. This is a three part series and any questions and comments are encouraged and appreciated. In the first part, Chris reveals his favorite hair care products and best places to buy day old bagels in the tri state area.
In this second part, Chris discusses the need for plyometrics for paraplegics.
If I was a woman and could only do one exercise, it would be deadlifts, but if I was a guy and could only do one exercise, it would be deadlifts. See the what I did there? This is a good series and, as always, it was great to connect with Chris.
When developing strength & athleticism, there are certain muscle groups that deserve more attention than others. Sure, we want to be strong top to bottom with no weak links, but not all muscles are created equal. The two groupings that usually need the most attention are the abs and the ass, guts and butts. The glutes are the largest single muscles in the body and, as the primary hip extensors, are the driving force behind nearly all athletic movements. Stronger glutes help you run faster, jump higher, hit harder, and on a side note, can improve your sexual performance. The glutes however, cannot function optimally if the pelvis isn't correctly positioned and stabilized, which is predominately controlled by the abs. Weak abs usually allow a prominent anterior pelvic tilt, while adequate ab strength and control will ensure that forces around the hip and lower spine are properly controlled and will allow for the glutes to do their job. Improper strength and control of the trunk muscles can also lead to back and knee pain or injuries. Similarly, weak and poor functioning glutes have been linked to low back pain.
Thus, getting these muscle groups working properly is of prime importance for health, fitness, sexual and athletic performance enhancement. Improving yourself physically isn't just about making time to get to the gym. It's about making it a part of your lifestyle. There are tons of things you can do at home, during quick breaks at work or in any time crunch that can improve your situation. If you're serious you'll make time, not excuses. Below is quick video of my favorite things to do anywhere, anytime, with no equipment, to strengthen, stabilize and mobilize your gut and glutes, which improves the functionality of your hips, which will make you more awesome.
Performing these exercises is a good idea, but don't forget the main point here is to strengthen and improve mobility and stability in the muscles around your hips. There are many ways to achieve this, this video is just the tip of the iceberg. Bodyweight Training is awesome and can be performed almost anywhere with minimal equipment, but my biggest passion still lies in the iron. Feel free to share your favorite hip and ab strengthening and mobility drills below. Many others are sure to benefit from your knowledge. Also, NEW Consummate Athlete T-Shirts are available now. Click on any pic below to get yours today!
The man without self-reliance and an iron will is the plaything of chance, the puppet of his environment, the
slave of circumstances. Are not doubts the greatest of enemies? If you would succeed up to the limit of your
possibilities, must you not constantly hold to the belief that you are success-organized, and that you will be
successful, no matter what opposes? You are never to allow a shadow of doubt to enter your mind that the
Creator intended you to win in life's battle. Regard every suggestion that your life may be a failure, that you are
not made like those who succeed, and that success is not for you, as a traitor, and expel it from your mind as
you would a thief from your house.
Orison Sweat Marden
There is something sublime in the youth who possesses the spirit of boldness and fearlessness, who has proper confidence in his ability to do and dare. The world takes us at our own valuation. It believes in the man who believes in himself, but it has little use for the timid man, the one who is never certain of himself; who cannot rely on his own judgment, who craves advice from others, and is afraid to go ahead on his own account.
It is the man with a positive nature, the man who believes that he is equal to the emergency, who believes he can do the thing he attempts, who wins the confidence of his fellow-man. He is beloved because he is brave and self-sufficient.
Those who have accomplished great things in the world have been, as a rule, bold, aggressive, and self-confident.
They dared to step out from the crowd, and act in an original way. They were not afraid to be generals.
There is little room in this crowding, competing age for the timid, vacillating youth. He who would succeed today must not only be brave, but must also dare to take chances. He who waits for certainty never wins.
"The law of the soul is eternal endeavor, That bears the man onward and upward forever."
"A man can be too confiding in others, but never too confident in himself."
Never admit defeat or poverty. Stoutly assert your divine right to hold your head up and look the world in the
face; step bravely to the front whatever opposes, and the world will make way for you. No one will insist upon
your rights while you yourself doubt that you have any. Believe you were made for the place you fill. Put forth
your whole energies. Be awake, electrify yourself; go forth to the task.
A young man once said to his employer,
"Don't give me an easy job. I want to handle heavy boxes, shoulder great loads. I would like to lift a big mountain and throw it into the sea,"-- and he stretched out two brawny arms, while his honest eyes danced and his whole being glowed with conscious strength. The world in its heart admires the stern, determined doer.
"The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows whither he is going."
"It is wonderful how even the apparent casualties of life seem to bow to a spirit that will not bow to them, and yield to assist a design, after having in vain attempted to frustrate it."
"The man who succeeds," says Prentice Mulford, "must always in mind or imagination live, move, think, and act as if he gained that success, or he never will gain it."
"We go forth," said Emerson, "austere, dedicated, believing in the iron links of Destiny, and will not turn on our
heels to save our lives. A book, a bust, or only the sound of a name shoots a spark through the nerves, and we
suddenly believe in will. We cannot hear of personal vigor of any kind, great power of performance, without
Some of my greatest inspiration comes from the wisdom of those powerful men of the past that had to endure more hardships on any given day than most of us living today deal with in a lifetime. Learn to live a stronger life, avoid the easy way out, choose to lift the bigger stone and walk the higher road. The Russian Lion has many lessons I continue to learn from on a regular basis.
Check out The Consummate Athlete for new training programs, insightful articles and tutorials to make you more awesome.
Mike Rojas, owner of Strong 101 Gym in California, likes to alternate between bilateral and unilateral movements. He uses a lot of push up variations to support his benching and a shit ton of rows. Clear it is, my friend.
Isaac Wilkins, Beyond the Barbell, is pretty geeky about stuff, which is good because his training is not random. He is a fellow Underground Strength Coach and plans things well and knows how to make adjustments based on how many athletes are training and what available equipment they have, including other variables as well. What may be the perfect plan for one athlete in a fully equipped gym may not be possible for a group of athletes in a warehouse gym, especially if you lack equipment and space. In this case, bodyweight training is ALWAYS a great option.
Brian Doberdruk, from The Strength Lab in Wilmington, Ohio, trains young athletes and focuses on injury prevention and unilateral movements while taking a bodybuilding style approach to his accessory lifts. Wise man.
Mike House, owner of House Strength Camp in Houston, is a Kettlebell Champion and a strong dude, his response was in regard to kettlebell training in specific. Movements like the kettlebell snatch, long cycle, or biathlon require a bit of skill and technique. After training those high skill movements it is a good idea to lower the skill level and train just heavy swings to improve the grip strength and condition the body. Heavy doubles are fantastic as well. I will add that one of the best KB accessory drills is training with a big glove, like an oven mitt, or soft cotton gloves that make it harder to grip the bell. After just a few minutes your grip will be on fire, trust me. Get Kettlebells HERE
James Smith, Diesel Strength & Conditioning, keeps it simple and adds volume with heavy weights. I dig it. If the main exercise of the day was pressing, he says its a great idea to do lots of pulling for your accessory lifts to create balance of the musculature. No argument here. A little gun show and bodybuilding with bodyweight training to feed the ego is great for anyone who doesn't want spaghetti hanging out of their sleeves, and also some games to build camaraderie is super swell.
Tyson Bradley, owner of Altitude Athletics in Bozeman Montana, has a brilliant approach with his FIRE Method. He runs an athletic facility that utilizes a lot of Olympic Lifting. He uses a lot of light weights for accessory lifts to promote health and compliment the heavy weightlifting.
Travis Stoetzel is a stallion of an athlete, a friend and coach in the Heart of America. He uses a classic WestSide approach and his conditioning and physique resembles Rocky at his finest when he busted up Ivan Drago in that paradise of Russia. Travis uses a lot of variations to get strong & shredded. Check out THIS ARTICLE for 20 of the BEST bodyweight exercises that will boost your strength and physique.
This has been a fun week of training as I'm getting deeper in to the Dirty 35 Project. I am currently in Cycle 2 of Phase 3. What the hell does that mean? Well, basically, Phase 1 was very simple, I did 2 very basic full body workouts, and alternated between them every training session and added about 4% weight every week and ran a linear progression until I hit a brick wall. That lasted about 5 weeks through a single cycle.
Then came Phase 2 where I broke up the training a bit to allow for more recovery between training sessions. Instead of a linear progression with the loads, I did a step loading process where I stay at the same weight a little longer before progressing to the next level. I also broke up the training with an upper/lower split. This Phase lasts about 8-10 weeks and is broken up into 2 cycles.
Finally, enter Phase 3. This Phase will last much longer and have many cycles. This is basically a "Conjugate System for Athletes" if you will. There is more need for recovery, the weights are getting heavier, there is much more dynamic work involved, and there is an equal balance of speed and strength with barbell and bodyweight elements. Each Phase is building off of the previous Phase. Too often I see the same lame bodyweight exercises being performed with no logical progression to increased complexity. It often comes down to doing more reps, faster. But the need for increased complexity is evident and thats what I am trying to do. This is not really a conditioning program, but you WILL get very conditioned with the amount of practice. This is a strength and skill program that focuses on gaining mastery of the basics and eventually moving closer and closer to refinement of advanced skills.
I may never master these skills, but I am being diligent and putting in the work every day. With the use of bodyweight training I can train more frequently without pain, without having the burden of getting to the gym or needing more recovery. I am not trying to be an olympic gymnast or weightlifter, or join the circus, but I am enjoying the process of my training. I am not rushing things and I feel better than I have in years. The combination of strength, stability and power, using a mix of barbell, kettlebell and bodyweight training in an organized manner has had a profound effect on my training and body composition, with the help of a solid nutritional plan, of course.
I don't even pay any attention to my nutrition anymore, it is just second nature and things are falling into place and I always feel refreshed, loaded, and ready to train, with the added bonus of decreased bodyfat and showcase GunZ that make the ladies drool, Yo. The Dirty 35 Project, and many other programs, are available at The Consummate Athlete.
My preferred nutrition plan for optimal strength, performance, recovery and body composition is Carb Back-Loading because it is simple and effective. I do not have time to weigh and measure food, nor do I care to, and following these simple rules allow me to live my life without being a slave to my diet, like many body builders, and still gain the strength and physique goals I am looking for. It's really about minimal sacrifice and maximal gains. I'm not saying you can eat whatever you want anytime you want, but if you train hard and follow the rules, you can have more fun and get better results. If you have any questions or comments, please post up, I'd love to chat with you and simply answer your questions. Check out the weeks training highlights below.
One last thing, if you are interested in attending a cool workshop and you can be around Birmingham, Alabama at the end of January, I am involved with a group of awesome guys who are putting on great weekend of strength and philosophy education. Check out Mental Meatheads and see what we are all about. We have Elliott Hulse, Jason C Brown and Chip Conrad in the house along with myself, with this group of talent, it's gonna be one heck of a fun weekend.
Cluster training is not a new concept, nor am I trying to tell you that you need to do them. But, if you haven't done it before or not for a while, maybe you could give it a shot and see if your condition improves. Here's the basic concept:
Every 2 minutes you perform a cluster of exercises based on the goals of the day, being strength, speed, etc. The cluster could be 1 rep, 3 reps, 5 reps, etc with a short rest between each cluster, repeat a few times, then rest longer before the next cluster. Pretty simple. Instead of doing a straight set of 12, for example, you would do 4 clusters of 3 reps as one set. Its still 12 reps, but you can use much heavier weight. Some people like it, some don't, but you'll never know how you feel about it without trying it out. The following video describes one particular way to use clusters with squats, but the options are endless. You can play with the sets, reps, and rest periods to get yourself stronger and better conditioned.
Here's a little motivation to get you rockin some presses and get moving & groovin everywhere and anywhere you go. No excuses for no time to hit the gym, just get inverted and get your upper body strong. I have a ton of progressions for bodyweight pressing from beginner to advanced, but the most important thing to remember is, you'll never get better or stronger if you don't practice all the damn time. Step number one for a stronger upper body using bodyweight only is: spend some time on your hands. Until you get that through your thick skull, don't even think about step two. This video is just about getting out and having some fun. With all the intense training you do, you have to make time to play.
Bodyweight Training is, in my opinion, the best way to get your upper body stronger, healthier, more impressive looking and more useful. I'm always including some form of it in my training programs. Sometimes its bodyweight only, other times I use is as assistance for weightlifting. Either way, it rocks. If you're interested in a done-for-you program that works, and is guaranteed to get you insane results of increased strength and usefulness, not to mention a much more impressive physique, you'll want to check out Zach Even-Esh's Bodyweight Bodybuilding. This is an awesome resource that eliminates any excuse for not having the time to train or hit the gym and get great results. Check it out HERE.
First of all, before embarking on anything strenuous in your life, you'll want to make sure you don't waste any time talking to a doctor, or basically anyone of any authority for that matter. Most of them don't know shit about you or themselves, or the thing in which they claim to be an expert. Furthermore, they will probably scare you in to a stupor with ridiculous information, tell you to take it easy and try to sell you a bottle of pills. They can't possibly fathom your desire to want to change your life for the better, become a stronger man, and walk with a badass attitude that demands respect amongst your peers. In no particular order of importance, I'm gonna rattle off a bunch off shit you need to do to get bigger and stronger. What is most important is dependent on the individual.
1. Get more rest
In our quest for massiveness, we tend to always want to Go, Go, Go! Go BIGGER, Go HARDER, Go POOP in the potty... Without rest, you won't recover, get stronger or bigger. Without adequate rest, your T levels will drop and leave you feeling stagnant. Get to bed by 11:00 every night and make a habit of relaxing without tv or electronic lights for at least an hour or two before bed. There are all kinds of holistic relaxation techniques that might be foreign to you, make you feel awkward by being forced to relax and or concentrate on nothing, but if it helps you get more Zzz's and in turn increases you T's, you might want to check it out. Drink some chamomile tea or melatonin or something. Improving your sleep sleep habits is just one of many ways to improve your quest for improved muscle and strength gains, check out these 12 Simple Muscle Building Tips.
2. Take it easy on the cardio
If your goal is to gain size, do not over do the cardio. Both kinds of cardio: slow, steady state cardio and short high intensity stuff, just back off for a bit, and slowly add it in a little as you begin to grow. It will eat up too many calories that could go towards your massiveness. It will also cut in to sleep and recovery time. I know you don't want to get fat or lose your conditioning, but stay true to your current goal of getting bigger and more jacked, and back off the cardio and conditioning temporarily to allow those muscles to expand. After a few weeks when you get back in to some "cardio" training, avoid any slow monotonous treadmill stuff, it's not only boring but fairly ineffective unless you have a lot of spare time on your hands. Opt for short, high intensity finishers to burn the fat and keep you athletic in minimal time.
3. Don't fear the fat
Consuming lots of high quality fats (not mayonnaise covered french fries) can positively affect testosterone levels. Stick to the good stuff like avocados, olives, nuts, coconut, wild fish and grass fed beef. An occasional burger and fries won't hurt, but treat the shit like the holidays. Not the gubment holidays that come every other Monday and Friday to get a long weekend, but like the kind of holiday where you actually get a present, like Knobber day, I mean Valentines Day.
4. Increase protein consumption
More isn't necessarily better, but you have to find the right amount for you, and many people under-eat for muscle gain. I hear it all the time, "I eat a ton, dude!" Sure, once in a while you eat a massive meal, like a whole pizza when you're stoned, then you go in a food coma and barely eat the next day. For increased size, you need to take that same big meal and repeat that action 5 more times that day, and do it every day for months and years on end. Most people don't have the "guts" to do it. If you want to be 250 pounds, get in the habit of eating 250 grams of protein a day, every day.
5. Manipulate carbohydrate intake
Carb cycling is a popular concept and it works. You can minimize your fat gain while size and strength by manipulating your carb intake. On days you train, eat a ton more carbs than on days you don't. There are many variables here, educate yourself on macronutrient cycling and timing. You'll need to consume about 20 calories per pound of desired bodyweight per day, and a large portion of that will be carbs. So a 250 pounder will need about 5000 cals to grow. Don't fuck around with all the Paleo jazz, leave that for the health nuts. Squatting over a quarter ton isn't about being healthy, it's about getting freakin strong. If your main goal is health, eat clean, do some swings and goblet squats, and walk a lot. This is real talk. It's gonna be real hard getting 5000 calories a day from spinach. Potatoes, rice, oatmeal and cherry turnovers are your friends, get close with them.
6. Add weight to the bar
Obviously you're going to have to lift heavier than ever before if you expect your muscles to grow. If you don't give them a new stimulus they won't have any reason to adapt. Don't be a traitor to yourself and lift like an average pussy. This isn't an invitation to lift with shitty technique, but week after week, add some plates to the bar, keep the sets in the 4-8 rep range, stick to basic compound movements, and say your prayers. You'll need Jesus in your corner in a few weeks. A sample workout progression for a main lift might look something like this:
1st set: 70%, 10 reps
2nd set: 70%, 10 reps
3rd set: 80%, 7 reps
4th set: 85%, 5 reps
5th set: 90%, 3 reps
7. Keep it simple
Gaining muscle has little to do with advanced technique. I know you need solid technique to lift big weights, but let me explain what I am talking about. All these fuckin pencil neck gurus keep telling people that everything is wrong and any movement not done with perfect spinal & hip alignment will cause instantaneous antiperipheratory countercombustion compounded with hyperphalactic hepatitis. Again, you should always try to use proper technique, but when pushing your limits, shit might get ugly on occasion. Experience will let you know what to push and when to back off. Another big point here is don't focus on skill training or advanced movements. Keep it simple with powerlifting basics like squats, deads, presses and rows. Learning how to snatch does not belong in a muscle building program, especially if you're slow or the least bit unathletic. If you already know how to do it decently, thats a different story, it can help. But learning a new skill and spending a ton of time practicing technique with feather weights and pvc is time wasted building mass on your frame. Read this great article by my buddy Zach Even-Esh, Top 11 Muscle Building Exercises.
Barbell exercises are more effective for gaining size and weight than their bodyweight counterparts. Choose back squats over pistols, or heavy rows over pull ups. While some bodyweight drills can get you very strong, they won't get you big, look at any gymnast out there, while their chest and arms are ripped and strong, and they look very impressive on TV next to other gymnasts and coaches, let one stand next to an NFL running back for a minute, and you'll quickly see what an extra 85 pounds of muscle looks like. Gymnasts are strong, ripped and athletic as hell, but it's significantly easier to be ripped at a buck fiddy than 235. If size is your goal, lift big weights, but don't do anything that might get you laughed at on the YouTubes.
8. Take good supplements
If your nutrition is not on point, don't worry about which supplements to take, they won't help. But, if you're eating the right way to support your goals, you're preparing your meals, you're not skipping meals, etc. then you can try utilizing some creatine, glutamine and protein supplements like beef gelatin. Don't get caught up in the trendy stuff, stick to the basics, and add a good multi-vitamin regularly. I'm not a pharmaceuticalist, it's not my thing, I like to lift, but you can not deny the proven benefits of some of the most popular supplements on the market. First, focus on eating, lifting and resting, then play with one or two supps at a time and see for yourself if they benefit you. Thats the only way to know. Take notes and be meticulous in your practice to see if you're making gains, or merely dropping dollars. What works for one guy might not work for another, you just gotta start with what works best for most people most of the time. Most likely you are not in the top or bottom ten percent of the population that nothing works for.
9. Avoid excessive power training
Training for power means moving very fast. Speed and power is a great thing, but remember what your immediate goal right now is, getting bigger. Stay focused and don't train like a 145 pound boxer. Medicine ball throws and kettlebell swings are cool for athletes, but they won't pack slabs of beef on your thighs so your quads hang over your knee caps (which is flippin awesome, btw). Power training makes you lean and ripped, not necessarily big and strong. Power is merely an expression of ones strength, without adequate strength, power training is crap. Anything that you can move very quickly will not help gain size as much as moving in a more controlled manner with greater focus and time under tension. Stay focused on the goal and what exactly you are trying to accomplish. There are dozens of different ways to squat, each one can elicit a different response. Everything you do, you should ask yourself "Why?" When you know why you are doing something and what you are trying to accomplish, then the answer to "HOW" to do it will make more sense. Again, power training is great, but remember the goal here. For strength AND size increases, power isn't your best option.
10. Stop over thinking
Some of the dumbest guys I know are big and strong. That doesn't mean that all big, strong guys are dumb, far from it. The point is, many people tend to over think and under do. If you want to get bigger, stronger, boost your confidence, increase your sexability, and acquire all the other magical side effects that come with Swolitarianism, you'll need to gradually and consistently increase 1. the amount of weight you are moving, 2. the amount of food you are eating, 3. the amount of quality sleep you get daily, and 4. the frequency in which you are doing it. Many times the best thing you can do, is stop thinking about what you're going to do next and simply follow a program designed to get you the results you want. That way you can just execute instead of doing all the planning as well.
It's tough, and anyone can do it a few times, or once in a while, but the ones who stick with it for a long time (many years) will reap the rewards of delusions of grandeur and disproportionate epicness. We didn't even touch on all the fruity secondary stuff like recovery and mindset. I'll leave that for another time. Let's just assume that you're committed and you don't need your hand held with constant coaching/cheerleading. I love when someone tells me they have been training for years now and finally broke a certain PR, got their first muscle-up, or finally did xyz, and they expect a fuckin balloon party and the whole gym to stop and give them a pat on the back with a mental blow job. That's what is supposed to happen when you train! You're SUPPOSED to get better. But my lack-luster, unemotional response is why I will probably never excel in the fitness coaching business. I don't blow smoke up your ass and tell you how awesome you are, I show you how to get MORE awesome with every new step forward you take. It doesn't mean I don't care or never get excited, I just know what is supposed to happen with consistency and hard work. Now all you gotta do is put in the work.