Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Site!

Hey guys, although its far from finished and much a work in progress, here is my new blog site http://www.dustinlebeltraining.com

Check out today's post on some pretty killer kettlebell complexes!

See you over there!


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Same But Different - Sandbag Density Circuit!

The russians have a pretty neat philosophy when it comes to periodizing their training...using a conjugated and "same but different" approach, you can change around many variables within your program so that you can continue to avoid adaptation and continue to progress.

So why is this of interest of you? Well, if you're like me and only have one single sandbag or one single kettlebell, then you have to learn to manipulate volume, intensity and exercise variation to prevent not only boredom, but also bring your work capacity, power endurance and overall strength to new heights.

For fighters that don't have a ton of extra time or energy to devote to strength training, this is humungously important! That, and I like simplicity. One sandbag, one kettlebell, one man (heh)...

But anyway, since I've decided to devote my summer to getting as creative as I can with just a few tools, I'm staying the path and always searching for that "same but different".

Here's a pretty challenging sandbag circuit I put myself through the other day - taxing exactly the energy system used in combat sports.

After a warm up using bands and calisthenics, I put a 15 minute time cap and tried to complete as many rounds as possible of the following. Just 3 movements - total body movement, an upperbody pushing movement and an upperbody pulling movement.

1. sandbag shouldering x 8 (4 each side)
2. sandbag floor press x 8
3. sandbag bent over row x 8

This form of training is called "density training" made popular by Charles Staley and Ethan Reeve and is amazing at getting you to "step your game up" just so that you don't get outdone by yourself!

I love using density training as a simple means of tracking my progress in a super efficient, time effective manner. You either get more reps or you don't.

This is so simple, yet can be deceptively HARD trying to beat your own records every time out!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Litvi Band Sprints!

(Linford Christie looking JACKED...train like a sprinter, hint, hint!)

Throughout the week I get in 3 solid sandbag strength training sessions, and then twice per week I leave open for any other additional "gpp" type stuff...high rep kettlebell work, calisthenics, or sometimes just some light mobility work followed by an extended "dynamic warm up".

It differs, and I give myself the option to maybe try some new shit out and experiment a little.

Right now my goals are a little loose and more along the lines of just bumping up my overall work capacity, so I can do this.

Well the other day I REALLY wanted to get outside and run some sprints - litvi sprints to be exact. You know, swing or snatch a kettlebell and then sprint 40, 50, or 60 yards, rest, and then repeat just twice or maybe 3 times more. Its such a simple workout that can leave you ON THE FLOOR...Dan John says it might be the shortest workout of all time!

The only problem was that once again it was freakin' POURING outside (what else is new for the summer??). But then I got a little "innovation out of necessity" and decided to try doing some litvi BAND sprints...which begs the question, why didn't I think of this before?

Band sprints can be especially brutal, especially if you sprint against the top resistence for a second or two before being "thrown" backwards. Coupled with some FAST highish rep kettbell swings, the combo is hell on your heart and lungs (and never mind your legs feeling like JELL-O!).

So here's the workout, warm up and all...

Stationary Warm Up x 2 sets
Squats x 10
Jumping Jacks x 10
Seal Jumps x 10
Highland Flings x 10
Pogo Jumps x 10
Lunges x 10 (5 ea)
Side Lunges x 10 (5 ea)
Wideouts x 10
Gateswings x 10

Upperbody Bear Crawl Series:
Forward Bear Crawls 2x10 yards
Backward Bear Crawls 2x10 yards
Lateral Bear Crawls 2x10 yards
Spiderman Walks 2x10 yards

Litvi Band Sprints x 3 sets
Kettlebell Swings (2 hands) x 20-30 (depending on size of kettlebell)
Band Sprints x 10

Finish with maybe some upperbody work like dips and chins...or do nothing else and call it a day!

Short and sweet, baby!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Get After It!

"get up, sucker!"

In sports, lifting, business, and life the mind is a very powerful weapon and it can either work for you or against you - all depending on your thoughts and actions each and every day. There are two sides of the pendulum...you can either have a mindset for prosperity, wealth, and limitless opportunity, or you can be on the other side...always complaining, blaming others, wondering "why me" and never getting anywhere.

What most people fail to understand is that you CAN change the way your mind works and you CAN acheive the success that most people think of as impossible or "not for me"...but it all starts with your HABITS and your priorities.

Here's just 2 things to daily that will literally transform your life and start leading you down the path to success...all you have to do is start. NOW.

1. Study mindset and attitude every. single. day. Read books by Napolean Hill, Dale Carnegie, Dan Kennedy, Donald Trump, Jeffrey Gitomer, etc...watch motivational videos online (there are tons on youtube) and constantly be in a state of positive energy. I'm not saying that you need to be happy go lucky every second of everyday, but you need to FLOOD yourself with positive thoughts and affirmations CONSTANTLY for your own attitude to change. Start thinking like the people who's books you read and soon you will start BEING like the people who's books you read. One of my favorite videos to help me "flip the switch" is this one with Will Smith...

..."JUST DECIDE" is perfect. Just decide to do something, and then START doing it. It might not be perfect, but you're doing it and there's no turning back.

2. Write down your goals. Not just one time and then leave the piece of paper sitting in a drawer, but EVERY DAY and leave the pieces of paper visible so that you can't stand the thought of seeing them again without having acheived those goals.

That's part 1.

Part 2, you need to write down the precise steps that you need to take to acheive those goals. If you want to "lean up", then write down EXACTLY what bodyfat percentage you want to be at, what weight, etc and then write down everything you need to do lose that body fat...your grocery lists, your dialy meal plans, your daily and weekly goals, the whole nine yards. If you want to put 50lb on your squat, then you need to write down how you are going train to acheive that goal, how you are going to deload, how you are going to EAT to support that goal and so on.

If you read something or think of something new that will help you, then WRITE IT DOWN. I carry a little notebook with me pretty much at all times and am constantly jotting things down..this keeps me "mentally organized" and allows me to retain a lot of those thought impulses that often times people just forget about.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fun Odd Object Workout!

Here's a fun workout to try, using a heavy sandbag, keg, and sled...quite the mixed bag!

I am having so much fun with my workouts lately, but not only are they "fun" (my word for f'n crazy!), but my strength and muscular endurance have gone through! I feel stronger than ever and I'm breaking density records left and right with my trusty sandbag.

Just because you are limited on time, equipment, space, or anything else, that does not leave you with ANY excuses. There are no rules or limits...just the balls and desire to succeed and make it happen!

Here's the workout:

warm up w/light sled dragging...presses, rows, forward dragging, and backward dragging 2x150' each...it was hot and humid out yesterday and this brief warm up served me plenty!

on to the good stuff...

a1) sandbag floor press x 5 sets
a2) sandbag bent over rows x 5 sets

...the floor presses supersetted with rows are an awesome upper body combo...try and limit your rest periods to next to nothing for more power endurance - simulating a grappling match!

b1) HEAVY sled dragging 4x200'
b2) keg carries (zercher/bearhug) 4x200'

...the sled dragging should be done as heavy as possible for those sets of 200 feet...walk forward and backwards. The keg carries are just torture after a heavy set of dragging. Grapplers or fighters need to learn how to hold static positions even when under huge amounts of fatigue and heavy carries will do the trick!

P.S. You need to pick this up...Zach Even Esh's 12 Month BEAST Program!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Article Over At Diesel Crew!

Hey guys, check out this article I wrote for the Diesel Crew, where I discuss even MORE sandbag training strategies! Just Click Here for the article!

P.S. Let me know what you think in the comments section!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Insane Transformation!

Check out this vid of one Zach Even Esh's athletes going through a classic Underground Strength Session.

This beast went from 160 to 220lb in just 2 years and still has plenty of room left to grow! While this seemingly overnight transformation might sound crazy, down in Edison New Jersy this kind of stuff is common place.

What's really crazy is that this is just one example of the many BEASTS that Zach is creating down in the Dirty Jersey, and they ALL follow his program from the Underground Strength Manual!

From wrestlers, to mma fighters, to football players, to baseball players, to brazilian jiu jitsu competitors to law enforcement, the Underground Strength Manual has been in an integral part of their training.

While the training is very hard and for the serious ONLY, I suggest you make your path a little easier and get on board...CLICK HERE FOR ULTIMATE NO B.S. STRENGTH TRAINING MANUAL!

How Do You Thrive? 3 Things That Have Been Helping Me Along The Way

I think in order to be successful in sports, in lifting, in life, you need to find what you THRIVE on...what habits produce the best results FOR YOU.

For me, its taken some time and some discipline to discover these things, but when I "strike gold" - it was well worth the effort and my life is easier and far more productive.

Here's a list of some things that I've noticed help me along the way...

1. Waking up early and having at least 30 minutes of quiet time to myself. This is GOLDEN and not enough people do it. I like to get up at least 60-90 minutes before I have to leave to go somewhere, and take that time to drink coffee and write, read, watch motivational videos, or just eat breakfast and reflect.
When I was fighting, I would spend that time shadow boxing. Its a small amount of time that payed (and pays) huge divedends, and knowing that my first hour of being awake is super productive and focused allows me to relax a little the rest of the day.

2. Taking the time to plan ahead. My workouts, my meals, my clients training programs, my day, my week, my month...I'm not completely on point with this time management stuff yet, but making the effort sure has made me a lot better! It boils down to being pro active with your life and taking just a little bit of time to save a whole lot of hassle.
The people that don't want to do this are probably very satisfied where they are with their income, their lifting and their physique and live completely stress free lives. Oh wait...

3. Eating like a caveman/Low carb/whatever...it's taken a long time to finally accept this, but I thrive off of low carb eatin'...I feel better, look better, and perform better, so why should I ever change? I decided a few weeks ago to take the plunge and did a full 12 days of as close to zero carbs as I could before I did a 2 day carb up (more on that later).
Days 1-5 were tough, including dreams about eating carbs and some crappy workouts, but once my body made the "switch", I swear I have never felt or performed better! For the past 2 weekends, I have done 2 full day refeeds, but after this past weekend, I'm thinking that's not such a great idea and I'm better off eating mostly meat & veggies with some fruit thrown in once in awhile. The carb ups, while delicious, made me feel bloated, tired, and not feeling like doing jack shit. Without carbs, I think more clearly, am more focused and have energy throughout the day. I'm not saying carbs are evil by any means, but this has just been my experience so far!

So what are some of the things that you do make yourself more productive, more efficient and better at what you do? Let's see some comments!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Making The Time!

Hey everybody, I hope that you all had a kick ass weekend and were able to get in at least a little R&R (or if you worked, it was super productive!)!

Being that today is Monday, its a perfect time to "start fresh" and really get things cookin' for the rest of summer.

Can you believe that it's already July 20th?! Where does the time go??? Are you on track to acheive your goals?

Unfortunately, time does not slow down or stop...we can only make the most of what little we have.

Its easy to blame our circumstances or to blame other people for our "lack of time", but excuses are a dime a dozen.

What are you doing EVERY SINGLE DAY to set yourself apart, to attack your goals, and maximize your time?

Are you watching reality tv re-runs, or going through what Eban Pagan calls the "ocd loop?"

Do you find yourself obscessing over the details and never getting anything accomplished towards getting the major reward?

Now think about your training or athletic goals...are you still doing the same things you were a year ago? 2 years ago? When was the last time you made any REAL progress?

As Dan John has said, success is a habit. If you want to make big changes to your performance, then you need to take a serious look at your habits.

Start everyday off with a bang...read something or watch something motivational. Get inspired. Then eat a good breakfast. If it means getting up 30 minutes earlier, then do it...that time to yourself is invaluable and will set the tone for the rest of your day.

Quit letting other people and mindless activities suck away at your time. Be ruthless and cut off the fat. Prioritize your time and who you spend it with, or it will slip away and you'll be left wondering where it all went.

P.S. If you're looking to TRULY maximize your time with your training, Zach Even-Esh has an awesome product out...The Real Man Muscle Building Course...it's definately worth a shot if you're serious about your results and you're tired of wasting time!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Way...

I love fast paced, high intensity workouts that deliver a knockout punch - the kind that builds strength, power endurance, and ridiculous work capacity.

I know, I know, its not exactly "by the books", but really not much in life is. Think about the most successful people that you know of, and they probably - in some way or another - do things THEIR WAY.

Sure, they might have mentors and the most successful people are always learning from others, but its their own path that gets them to where they are.

If you're trying to take your game to the next level then you absolutely HAVE to think outside the box and as Bruce Lee would say, "absorb what is useful".

Building raw, aggressive strength and conditioning is not rocket science, but with the right mindset and willingness to go against conventional wisdom - you can CRUSH your competition to dust.

The tools are basic...barbells, sandbags, kegs, kettlebells or dumbbells, a pull up bar, a makeshift dragging sled, and maybe some bands and you have yourself an entire arsenal for forging yourself into a monster.

The best guys in the strength and conditioning biz are the guys who threw away the key and never looked back...you need to start doing the same and finding your own way!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

5 Sandbag Routines That Take 15 Minutes Or Less!

While sandbag training offers a ton of variety within one's training program, most of the time, guys like you and me just want the meat and potatoes - hit it hard and heavy and get the heck out!

While smaller sandbags can be used for a multitude of movements, and are definitely worthy of being in any athletes strength program, most of the time guys will make 1 general sized sandbag and want to tear it up asap.

There are DOZENS of movements, if not more, that can be done with a medium to heavy sized bag, but today we're going to take a look at the BARE BONE BASICS and see all of the different routines you can do using the same movements.

The Russians call this "same but different" - you see, training is all about manipulating volume (how much you do) with intensity (how "heavy" relative to a 1 rep max, but often just though of as how hard you work - either way, both need to regulated). If all you did was the exact same routine week after week, well, don't expect any different results.

You will be just as strong, in the same condition, and just as muscular as you are now. Once you learn how to apply the "same but different" philosophy to your training, you will find that there are HUNDREDS of ways to attack the same movements and continue to get results.

So here are my top 5 sandbag training routines, each taking 15 minutes or LESS, using a medium to heavy sized bag. For most hard training athletes, this is around 100-150lb give or take. The movements performed are the essentials of sandbag training and will get you stronger from head to toe.

Routine 1: Nifty 50
Pick ONE full body movement and get a total of 50 reps, broken up however is necessary to get the job done most efficiently. Record your time and try to beat it the next time out.

Sample Movements for Nifty 50 (using a bag around 60-70% of your bodyweight for advanced trainees)
power clean
clean and press
loading to a 36" or greater platform
power clean & zercher squat
shoulder + shoulder squat

Routine 2: Nifty 50 Divided by 5
Take 5 sandbag movements and perform each for 10 reps, not moving on until all reps are completed for each movement.

1. clean and press x 10
2. shouldering x 10
3. power clean & zercher squat x 10
4. shoulder + squat x 10 (5 each side)
5. power clean x 10

Routine 3: 5 minutes per movement
Pick 3 movements and work each for 5 minutes; trying to get maximum reps in the allotted time.

example 1:
clean and press x 5 minutes
shouldering x 5 minutes
zercher squats x 5 minutes

example 2:
shoulder & squat x 5 minutes
power clean x 5 minutes
bent over row x 5 minutes

sample 3:
power clean + zercher squat x 5 minutes
clean and press x 5 minutes
bearhug or zercher goodmornings x 5 minutes

Routine 4: Make It Complex
This is a sandbag complex in which you are going for maximum rounds in 15 minutes
1. clean & press x 4-6
2. shouldering x 4-6
3. zercher squats x 4-6
4. bent over rows x 4-6

Routine 5: 100 reps of Misery!
Complete all 20 reps of each movement before moving on to the next...this is brutal!
1. clean and press x 20
2. shouldering x 20
3. bent over rows x 20
4. zercher or bear hug reverse lunges x 20 (10 ea)
5. goodmornings x 20

So gives these a try, on alternating days if possible and let me know how they work out (no pun intended) for you! Once you get a general idea on how to program your training, start mixing and matching movements on your own! Good luck!

Friday, July 17, 2009

5 Quick Finishers For The Weekend

Hey everybody, just a quick one for today, but I wanted to give you guys a few quick n' dirty finishers that you can throw in at the end of your workouts this weekend. Finishers are an awesome way to improve work capacity, energy system development, and mental toughness. Not everyone believes in them, but I do!

Here are a few that will really get things cookin' after a tough workout...

1. Carries of any kind...keg, sandbag, farmer, sloshpipe...pick something up and carry it for time or max distance...better yet, do it with a bunch of different implements!

2. Kettlebell Quickies...I like doing snatches for 20, 15, 10, and 5 reps each arm w/out putting the kettlebell down. The "combat complex", which I stole from Zach Even-Esh is also a favorite. 1-3 sets will be plenty!

Here it is:
1. snatch x 5
2. clean and press x 5
3. squats x 10
4. reverse lunges x 5 each leg
5. high pulls x 5
6. bent over rows x 5
7. 2H swings x 10

3. HEAVY sled dragging...while I love to use the sled as an extra workout and usually just drag for a set time, putting on a bunch of weight and dragging for shorter distances of 100-200' is a great way to finish a workout.

4. Band Pulling...great for grapplers, working various pulls for a set time will torch your grip, lats, and upperback. Everyone needs to be doing more back work, so this is a perfect addition to your workout! Check out Jim Smith's aka Smitty's article HERE

5. Timed Keg Shouldering or Timed Picking Up Anything Heavy....sandbag power cleans, sandbag loading,sandbag shouldering, and tire flipping all work good here. Check out this vid from Synergy Athletics...

So give 1 or two of these a try and let me know how it went! I hope everyone trains hard over the weekend (or rests hard haha) and enjoys some of this summer weather...it won't last forever!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Recovery 101: 5 Quick Tips

Recovery and Regeneration are finally getting some recognition in the world of sports performance, but while many people are searching for a magic cure, they would cover a lot of ground by just focusing on a few things...

1. Sleep. I know, how many times do we need to hear it...but sleep is important. More important is to NOT stress out on the days you don't get that much (shit happens). In the meantime, pick up some ZMA (zinc, magnesium & b6 will do), some melatonin and sleepy time tea for the best nights sleep of your life! I think that whether you get 8 hours, 9 hours, or 6 hours, the key is the quality of the sleep.

2. Nutrition. Post workout, during, post workout...obviously this stuff is important, but recently I've been reminded how important FAT and protein is. I've ignored this advice from guys like Dan John, Steve Maxwell and Charles Poliquin until now and I've been experience some of my best workouts ever. Do you need 300 grams of protein per day? No. But, if you're anything like me, drop your carb intake, jack up your fats and watch some pretty amazing things happen.

3. Daily Meditation/Relaxation/Time To Yourself. Its amazing to me just how undervalued "alone time" is...but you should take some time every day to visualize your goals and remember the things that are important to YOU. So take a few minutes to shut down your engines, recharge your batteries and get back to neutral...

4. Deload! So you push, push, push...every workout is a total thrasher, you feel good, you're setting pr's and then all of the sudden the warm ups start feeling heavy, you feel sluggish during the day, and you can't fall asleep at night...but you keep on going. And going. And then you wonder why you can't make any progress. There's alot of information out there about this, but a good idea is every 3-6 weeks to cut your intensity and volume in half. As Dan John says, make sure your Highs are HIGH and your lows are LOW.

5. Cut the excess. Similar to deloading, but a look more in the overall picture, get rid of the shit that isn't doing anything for you but cutting into your recovery time. I'm all for building a huge work capacity, and throwing in extra workouts and such, but sometimes you need to be ruthless with your approach and just cut down to the essentials. Cut to the core of your training and start to understand what's working and what's not.

If I Could Start All Over Again - Building The Base For Strength!

Although this post can be for "newbies", this is more for the guys who have been doing this for a long time and need to revamp their program. One thing that I frequently think about, is "what if I could start all over again?" - what if, knowing what I know now, I could go back in time and start training myself all over again?

One thing for sure is that I would first build an excellent base using bodyweight only exercise, and I would MASTER those movements. I would learn how to do push ups CORRECTLY, bodyweight squats CORRECTLY, lunges in all directions, recline rows using some thick rope or tow straps, tons of bear crawl variations in all directions and hand walking drills like partner wheelbarell walks.

As I got stronger I would do harder variations of push ups, like divebomber push ups and incline push ups. I would do tons of parallel bar dips, pull ups and chin ups with different grips, and a ton of posterior chain work in the form of glute ham raises and single leg hip pops. I would practice handstand push up holds until I could knock out some reps, single leg squats aka pistols, one arm push ups and single arm recline rows. I would get in insane shape using a simple jump rope and by doing tons of burpees.

Wait a second, I already do all of this stuff - even at my "advanced" training age. The point I'm making is that even when you have youre base already built, its important to go under regularly scheduled maintenence. If you're an athlete looking to get stronger and more "functional", bodyweight training will help you get there. How many weak guys do know that knock off 20 strict pull ups or sets of hanstand push ups? The problem with bodyweight stuff is that its HARD and can be very humbling especially if you're a "weights only" guy. No one likes going from being strong in the weightroom, to just average or worse when it comes to basic bodyweight movements.

I'm not saying that bodyweight training is the ONLY way to build your base up, but it should be the FIRST step towards developing strength, conditioning and overall athleticism. Bodyweight training will ALWAYS let you know how you're progressing (or regressing) and will keep you in fight shape for the long haul if you make it a regular part of your program.

If you're a wrestler or combat athlete reading this, then this should all be a "no duh" for you - nothing is more functional than moving your own bodyweight around in different planes of motion. But if you're a gym rat or athlete from another sport, then bodyweight training still has its place to help shed bodyfat and pack on some slabs of muscle!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Look Like a Spartan..Try This Simple Kettlebell Routine!

Hey guys, give this quick total body workout a try using just one kettlebell and a chair or bench. Its so simple that many would over look something like this, but a 24kg kettlebell will put most men on the floor!

Warm Up with some light calisthenics and/or mobility & activation work and then on to the good stuff...

a) clean and press x 10/8/6/4

b1) single arm kb floor presses 4x10-15
b2) single arm kb rows (strict)4x10-15

c1) bulgarian split squat 3x12-20
c2) single leg rdl 3x12-20

Breakin' it down:
* For the clean and presses, rest only as needed, but for a real burner try and get all the reps in without putting the kb down.

* Be sure to roll to the side and use your opposite hand to help get the kb into position for the floor presses to protect your rotator cuff. Pause every rep with your tricep completely on the floor and keep your elbow tucked. When rowing, keep a flat back and the kettlebell on the outside of your legs.

* For your bulgarian split squats (what you'll need the chair or bench for) and the single leg rdls, you will holding the kb in the opposite hand of the leg doing the work. Use perfect form and be sure to get a full range of motion.

* No or very little rest between upper body and lower body supersets. Your sets should look this floor press left/floor press right/row left/row right x 4; quick break; b.split squat left/b.split squat right/sl rdl left/sl rdl right x 3. Over.

For muscular endurance, work capacity and yes, even hypertrophy, throwing this guy in once in awhile as a change of pace would not be a bad idea! Have at it!

Accelerated Muscular Devlopment...With Sandbags & Kettlebells!

Hey guys, I hope everyone had a great weekend and If you live in New England then you I hope definately enjoyed the beautiful weather and maybe got some outdoor training in!

Speaking of outdoor training, Jim Smith over at Diesel Crew has put out his 3rd installment of their sandbag and kettlebell training program. If you already didn't know, Jim is also the creator AMD - Accelerated Muscular Devlopment, a super powerful muscle and strength building system. What Jim has done is taken the proven AMD system and has applied it to sandbag and kettlebell training - which is right up your ally! Really, this is great stuff and the fact that it's F-R-E-E makes it a no brainer to at least give an honest try!

All of the workouts are posted on the Diesel site, but for convenience sake, here they are right here...

Week 1 (also posted a few weeks ago on this blog):
1) Sandbag Clean and Press, 3x6
2) Sandbag Clean and Squat, 4x8
3) Sandbag Floor Press, 4x8
4) Sandbag Good Morning, 3x12

Week 2
1) Sandbag Back Squats, 4x8
2) Sandbag Lunges, 3x6 each leg
3) Kettlebell Swings, 4x15
4) Kettlebell Step-up to Press, 3x6 each leg

Week 3
1) Sandbag Overhead Squat, 3×8
2) Sandbag Rows, 4×10
3) Sandbag Rowed Good Mornings, 4×8
4) Sandbag Turkish Get-ups, 3×8

So that's 3 kickass (and free) sandbag and kettlebell routines that you can use throughout the course of the week or as an "odd object day" in addition to your regular barbell and dumbbell training.

P.S. Don't forget to take a look at AMD - Accelerated Muscular Devlopment and get yourself a copy TODAY. Action takers only, though....the weak get eaten!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Its What You Don't Do

"Sometimes, instead of what you do in the weight room, it's what you don't do that will lead to success."

That quote is from Jim Wendler in an interview he did for TMuscle. First of all, his approach to strength training is brilliant and over looked and you should read the article and buy his e-book just for that.

But what really struck me was that one quote...and that's a pretty good philosophy for success in anything, not just the weightroom.

Most people get so overwhelmed by the little stuff that they forget about what's important and what will actually drive them forward. All too often people spend a lot of time in that "middle zone" and never push them selves to that edge.

They are their own worst enemies.

You see, getting anything worth having is hard. And it takes a lot of work.

But not as hard as most people think and not nearly as long, either.

Its funny how it happens, but a clear focus on your goals while using your biggest levers with ultra consistency will lead to some pretty amazing things.

In order to do this and to understand this you have no choice but to cut the fat and get rid of what's not working and what is simply not necessary.

This takes a little bit of ruthlessness and honesty on your behalf, but the pay off is peace of mind and actually getting results for once.

With that said, let's look at 3 things NOT to do in regards to strength and conditioning...

1. Don't stress out over which "program" to follow. Have a plan, have a goal, and know that you have to do xy and z to get there...but leave a little wiggle room. Follow a program that works, yes, but keep a general plan in mind and realize that sometimes life happens.

2. Don't obscess over the details. A row is a row, a chin is a chin, a press is a press, a lunge is a lunge (any single leg movement)...3 days a week or 4? Sled dragging or prowler pushing? None of this stuff really matters...train hard using movements that work a lot of muscle, vary your intensity and volume, rinse and repeat.

3. Don't drive yourself into the ground week after week...you have to learn how to deload and give the body a break so that it can come back stronger. This is hard to do for guys like you and I, but absolutely necessary. A down week every so often (every 3-6 weeks, usually) is good for the body and mind. I like the advice of "working out" with your nutrition...use that time to really dial in on your eating and your habits.

Let's face it, anyone who has been strength training for a long time has done all 3 at some point. Its human nature to tinker, and we all like to fool ourselves sometimes that we're "different" and that we don't need to back off or take breaks (newsflash: we are not all like snowflakes). Be concise with your goals, clear with your limitations, and let the big things take care of everything else.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How I Passed The SSST...EASILY

So yesterday I had full intentions on just getting in a quick 15 or 20 minute sled dragging session - hittin' up my lower and upper body - as an extra workout mainly because I just felt like doing "something". Their are numereous benefits to dragging a sled for distance or time on your "off" days, and during the summer this is one of my favorite ways to train.

However, as luck would have it, right as I was about to head on outside, it started POURING. Shit.

Not to be outdone, I still felt like getting in a quick workout and decided to do some kettlebell snatches in the form of the Secret Service Snatch Test. For those that don't know, the SSST is very simple - complete as many total snatches with a 24kg bell as possible in 10 minutes. You can switch hands as often as you'd like and set the kettlebell down whenever you want. To pass the test you have to complete 200 total repetitions.

Now, I didn't psyche up for this or do anything special to train for this. In fact, I didn't even warm up. I just went into the garage and started snatching away.

10 minutes later, I'm wondering what all of the fuss is about. I didn't break any records, but I did get in exactly 200 total reps in the 10 minutes. The cool part? I took my time, didn't really rush to get the reps in, and had room to spare. I also wasn't anywhere near to being the "hot mess" that people describe themselves being after they take the test.

So how have I been "training" for the SSST?

For starters, I use a basic strength program probably 75-90% of the year - lots of squatting, pulling, pressing, weighted chins and the like. I'm not crazy strong by any means, but I have a decent base. I've noticed on the forums that too many guys are trying specialized routines to pass the test and they can't even deadlift double bodyweight. Number 1, get stronger.

For the last few months I have also been building up my work capacity using sandbags, sled dragging, bodyweight, bands, and of course kettlebells. Sure, I'm having "fun" with my training, but don't get me wrong - this stuff is BRUTAL! Take for example a quick sandbag circuit that I did today for 4 sets:

1. sandbag shouldering x 6
2. sandbag power cleans x 6
3. sandbag zercher squats x 6

I finished with some kb floor presses and single arm rows EDT style and called it a day.

Its workouts like these that have shot my work capacity through the roof...they're short, yes, but I pack in a lot of volume in those 15-30 (rarely ever more) minutes. So I think that you have to train with a variety of intensities, volumes, and movements to get the best results...not just a 24kg kettlebell.

My point? You can use many different means to get to the end...build a huge base and usually just getting stronger is a great cure all.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mutant Work Capacity Using Sandbags!

For developing MUTANT work capacity and insane trunk, back, hip and back strength sandbag training delivers on every level.

For grapplers and fighters, training with sandbags will get as close to "sport specific" as you can get - every movement is literally a FIGHT with the bag!

For guys looking to put on some muscle, shed some fat, and get stronger, sandbags will challenge you in ways you never thought possible.

So get yourself a moderately heavy sandbag (60-70% of your bodyweight will do) and set a timer for 15 minutes. This is a simple workout, but don't let that fool you! You are going to be doing just two movements, with the goal being to squeeze in as many rounds as possible in the 15 minutes.

1. Sandbag Clean and Press x 3-5
2. Sandbag Carry (zercher, bearhug, etc) x 100'

Although you wouldn't really need to do anything else, but if so inclined - throw in some sled dragging for the upper and lower body and then call it a day. Good luck!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Attack Your Weaknesses!

Today's post is about something that i've been thinking a lot about lately, and it relates to attaining anything worth having in life.

You see, most of the people around you probably live their life in constant multi tasking mode - they have a million different things to get done and they try to get it all done all of the time. In training, in business, in relationships - multi tasking sucks.

We're all guilty of this at some point, and that's what usually keeps us from ever being GREAT at something - not our genetics, not drugs, not our childhood, not any other excuse that we can come up with - just the fact that we never have clear, consise goals and never take deliberate action to achieve them.

Unfortunately we live in a world of instant gratification - we want things yesterday - and this mentality keeps us in a constant state of mediocrity because we're never giving ourselves enough time to ever truly master anything.

The truth is that if we actually had the discipline to take immediate action on our weaknesses and to attack our problems at the core, instead of finding a million different excuses to move on to the next thing - we would make progress that much faster.

In life, the best thing to do is to block off your time. Quit procrastinating and get things done according to the schedule you set for yourself. This is a little secret that all successful entrepreneurs use to maximize their time and minimize the bull shit. Get the big things done first and forget the minutia. Even if you don't own your own business, this works for planning your meals, your workouts, time with your family, etc around your busy schedule so that you can fit everything in...no more excuses!

In training, you need to make an honest self evaluation and attack what is weak. If you are 20% bodyfat, then you need to spend the next 3 or 4 months hunkering down and losing the fat. Set up your training and performance goals accordingly and don't try and do what most people do - ie "I want to be 5% bodyfat, increase my squat by 200lb, have a 40" vertical, climb mount everest,...". Focus on that ONE thing, check it off, then move on to the next. Same thing if you need to get stronger - don't go try creating your own bastardized program while following the velocity diet and running HIIT sprints 5 days a week. That hasn't worked and it won't work. Instead, follow in the " footsteps of greatness" and try a simple program that works such as Westside for Skinny Bastards, Jim Wenlders 5-3-1, Glenn Pendlay's 5x5, etc and spend a long time devoted to adding weight to the bar.

Take the time to sit down and think about your goals and take immediate action to get the most important things out of the way first. Check it off, then move on. Live in the now, but stay laser focused on the big picture.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

28 Things I Like

Alright, here's a quick 28 really cool things that you can do for strength, conditioning, or overall athletic development. These are in no particular order and straight off the top of my head. Here we go

1. Sled dragging for time - 10, 15, 20 or even up to 40 minutes for strength, muscular endurance and overall gpp.

2. Timed sets with bands - goodmornings, leg curls, rows, face pulls, tricep extensions, pull throughs, pull aparts, curls. Try for sets of 2-5 minutes.

3. Litvi sprints. perform 8 crisp front squats, snatches, swings, or overhead squats and immediately sprint 40-60 yards. rest as needed and repeat for 3 sets. You can do this with a sled also.

4. Using a towel for all of your upperbody pulling work - rows, chins, shrugs and watch your grip strength go through the roof.

5. Complexes - use a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebell, sandbag, keg - whatever. for fatloss, condtioning and even hypertrophy, complexes are the ultimate bang for your buck.

6. Pendlay rows. Made popular by olympic weightlifting coach and monster, Glenn pendlay, you want to keep your back parallel to the floor and row explosively to your abdomen and return the bar to the ground each rep. Read why here http://stronglifts.com/how-to-perform-the-pendlay-row-with-correct-technique/

7. Heavy dumbbell snatches. I love these for explosive power and power endurance. Perhaps my best "indicator" lift when I want to find out how things are going with my training.

8. Blast strap upper back work. recline rows, face pulls and scarecrows should be done by everybody - weighted, unweighted, high reps, low reps - just do a lot of them!

9. Kroc Rows. Heavy high rep one arm dumbbell rows helped powerlifter Matt Kroczaleski bring his deadlift up to over 800lb once he started using over 200lb dumbbells for CRAZY high reps (30+). His pr is 300x12 (that's with one arm) I think, so get to work!

10. Rope climbing. For serious grip and pulling strength, rope pulling and recline rope pulling is a must have, especially for wrestlers and combat athletes.

11. Zercher squats, lunges and goodmornings. I like these with a barbell, sandbag or even a keg. For lowerbody strength, isometric upperbody strength and core strength zercher movements pack a serious punch.

12. Kenneth Jay's vo2 max snatch protocol. Snatch for 15 seconds, rest for 15 seconds, snatch with other hand for 15 seconds and repeat while trying to keep a 7-8 rep cadence.

13. Pull ups of all kinds with all different kinds of grips. Harry Selkow has some cool ideas related to pull up performance over at the elitefts q&a...check it out. Bottom line is that everyone should do a lot of pull ups.

14. Density Training ala Ethan Reeve...I love his 10 minute barbell combos (power clean-hang clean-power clean or power clean-hang clean-push jerk every 30 seconds for 10 minutes). Using the "reps on the minute" approach is a great way to pack in a ton of volume and keep your reps crisp.

15. Chaos shrugs courtesy of the Diesel Crew...loop an average band through your dumbbell or kettlebell handles and shrug away.

16. Weighted timed push ups ala Joe Defranco. Throw some chains over your back and get in as many reps as possible in 30 seconds. rest and repeat for 3 sets.

17. Timed sets with a kettlebell...swings, snatches, and recently Rob Pilger said that Louie Simmons reccomended timed single hand cleans for his fighters...generally, Louie Simmons is right about a lot of things.

18. Josh Henkin's Ultimate Fitness Challenge. This involves shouldering a heavy sandbag for 10 reps in 1 minute, resting for a minute, and then repeating for 2 more sets. Guys 180 or under have to use a 120lb sandbag, 180-220lb a 150lb bag, 220-270lb a 170lb bag, and for any monsters that are 270 and up - a 200lb bag.

19. Sled dragging for strength. Load up that sucker and do sets of 30 yards (backward and forward) with a lot of weight as a great finisher for a lower body session.

20. Thick bar rollout + cleans or clean and presses which I stole from Joe Hashey over @ Synergy Athletics. Serious core + upper body work. Make your own thick bar by just wrapping a towel around the bar. Do these heavy for sets of 5-8 or lighten up and go for time in the 2-5 min range.

21. Hill sprints. Very little if any technique is needed, and it only takes a few trips to get in a serious conditioning session.

22. Jumping rope. For coordination, foot speed, timing, rythym, and conditioning, jumping rope is tough to beat. Most people get frustrated because they suck at first, but its just like riding a bike...

23. Sandbag carries. Most people probably these off because they're so simple, but bear hug or get a heavy sandbag in the zercher position and just walk for time or distance and you will quickly realize a missing component in your strength and conditioning program.

24. Scap push ups, prone y's, t's,w's, wall slides, and some soft tissue work for healthy shoulders (in addition to deadlifting, rowing, face pulls, and the like). A lot of people write this stuff off as pussy prehab work - that is until they tear a labrum (as I have). Start doing this stuff frequently and make sure to pull A LOT.

25. Prehab circuits on "off" days - in addition to what I said above, putting that stuff along with some glute activation work, core stability stuff (I know), hip mobility work, etc together in a circuit is a good way to break a sweat and still feel like you're doing "something" without thrashing your body.

26. Thick bar curls, rows, pull ups, presses, and deadlifts. If you use nothing but a thick bar for everything for a little while, you would probably get seriously freaking strong. If you don't have a thick bar, make your own by wrapping a towel around your barbell.

27. Tabata front squats. Courtesy of Dan John, the 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off protocol of front squats is a brilliant idea for fat loss, conditioning, and mental toughness. You can "tabata" just about anything, but front squats work best. Strong guys, try these with 95-115lb, weak guys try ~65lb. Get 8-14 reps per 20 second set...that 10 second rest goes by QUICK.

28. Front squats in general... with a CLEAN grip. Besides the obvious of jacking up your legs, your upper back, core and everything in between will get crushed from front squats. Nobody does 'em because they hurt, but somewhere in Bulgaria there is a 165 pound guy front squatting 550 for a double.

So there's some food for thought...don't forget to check out my article 22 Mistakes That Fighters Make! Have a great weekeend!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Article Over At Synergy Athletics!

Hey everybody, I hope everyone is kicking ass and taking names with their training and having a freakin' ball getting stronger!

Check out this article I wrote for Synergy-Athletics, where I go off about 22 of the biggest mistakes I see fighters and martial artists making with their training. I pull no punches and give you just the straight talk!

Just Click Here! to check out the article and feel free to give me any feedback over at Synergy-Athletics or over here in the comments section!

Keep on killin' it!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Backyard Strongman Training 101

When it comes to building raw strength and a rugged physique, there are many training methods and tools to get the job done. Whether its powerlifting, old school bodybuilding, hardcore calisthenics, kettlebells - there are many ways to skin the cat - and once you "break the chains" of the regular gym routine, you'll be pleasantly surprised with how much FASTER you achieve results (and how much more FUN training can be!). However, an often overlooked form of training, a kind of training that builds super human strength, conditioning and mental toughness, is old school strongman / odd object training. Using just bare bone basic equipment, and a hell of alot of attitude, you can be well on your way to unleashing the beast and building a tough, rugged physique that is stronger than it looks!

The fact of the matter is, that if you're stuck in the cozy confines of your local or home gym - you've become comfortable, you've become complacent. Barbells and dumbbells are excellent training tools, no doubt, but there's just something about getting outside with some heavy, awkward implements and carrying them, dragging them, loading them, throwing them overhead, etc. Your body's stabilizers will go into overload... your grip, upperback, core, and the muscles of the posterior chain will be challenged far beyond that of a regular squat or deadlift.

The best part is that most of this basic equipment can be either found for free or purchased for very cheap. With just a few various odd objects, you have yourself a complete outdoor gym, with only your imagination limiting the possibilities. Here are some of the bare bone basics for your new "backyard strogman" training course:

- Sandbags. You can start out with one medium sized bag (~50-70% of your bodyweight), or maybe make several different sized bags. A lighter one for various rotational and throwing movements, a medium sized one for clean and presses, shouldering, loading, etc and a heavier one for carries and low rep loading drills.

- Kegs. Similar to a sandbag, but just a different feel overall. The water sloshing around inside makes a 100lb keg will rock your "core" in ways you've never felt before! Like sandbags, you can start out with one medium sized keg, but eventually try to acquire (ahem!) several different sizes.

- Dragging Sled or Tire. You can purchase a sled from company's such as EliteFTS, or simply go to your local tire yard and find a tire in the 100-200lb range, attach an eye hook to it, and get 2 10' tow straps and you'll have your own homemade sled. Sled dragging for the lower and upperbody is an awesome way to jack up your conditioning, muscular endurance, or even hypertrophy for lagging bodyparts.

- Sledgehammer. Using a 12-20lb sledgehammer for various swings and chops is an oldschool to jack up your grip, upperbody, core, and is a super hard conditioning workout.

So now what do you do? I'm glad you asked, here's a sample training day using some of this basic equipment.

- General Warm Up X 5-10 Minutes (jumping jacks, squats, push ups, chin ups, mountain climbers, walking lunges, etc)...get a sweat going!

First we'll get in one of my favorite total body strength & power movements - sandbag shouldering.

a) sandbag shouldering x 20 total reps (10 each side). Break as long as needed in between each rep or break the sets of up into 4's or 5's.

Next we'll hit up an energy system circuit for 3-4 rounds. Try to move through this circuit quickly and only rest once all 3 movements have been completed.

b1) keg clean and press x 10
b2) backward sled drag x 100'
b3) sledgehammer swings into large tire x 15 left & right

Finally, you're going to finish the workout with a heavy sandbag carry

c) sandbag carry 2x200'. This will have your heart beating out of your chest and will fry your grip, upperback and core! A great way to finish a workout and develop some old school rugged strength!

So there you have it - 5 pieces of equipment that are virtually free (or very cheap) and a sample training day that will send your body into shock and have you wondering why you've spent all that time in a regular gym!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2 Day Template For The Busy MMA Fighter

Hanging around a lot of fighters and martial artists, I've noticed that when it comes to their strength and conditioning, most of them are merely doing a lot of guess work. Maybe they're like you and they've read articles online or in magazines, or maybe they got advice from a coach or someone else in their gym. Either way, it seems like everyone has an opinion nowadays as to how fighters should train...and most of them are DEAD WRONG. I could write an entire book on the subject of strength & conditioning for fights, but for the purpose of this article I just want to guide you in the right direction.

First, here's 3 things off the top of my head I've observed

1. Most fighters are OVER TRAINED. In MMA for example, you might train 2 or 3 disciplines in one day, with each coach having their own agenda and their own opinion of how much work you should be doing. I get that and I see that there's not much we can do right now to fix it.

2. Most fighters feel the need to be doing SOME type of daily conditioning work. Read above. The fact is that your skill sessions are going to the most specific conditioning sessions that you can do, and much more than that is over kill.

3. Most fighters just don't have a CLUE as to how to structure their strength & conditioning sessions, monitor volume & intensity, and now when and how much to push or back off. With fighters this is an extremely fine line, more so than any other sport, in my opinion.

So now that we know that you're just plain old doing too much work, its always a safe bet to start with a minimalist approach and then add things if needed or warranted. Remember, you're a fighter first and foremost - strength training is just general work to get you stronger and in better condition so that you can display your skills harder, longer, faster than the other guy.

With that said, here's a sample 2 day program for an MMA fighter who trains 1-2x a day, 5-6 days a week, but still needs to get a little stronger and maintain his or her conditioning. This is a TEMPLATE and not a specific routine, so feel free to play around with different movements...get stronger but HAVE FUN!

Day 1:

- warm up x 2-3 sets

1. push ups x 15
2. band or recline rows x 15-20
3. bodyweight squats x 30
4. reverse lunges x 15 each leg
5. mountain climbers/groiner series x 6 each (ea side)

a) total body movement 4-5x3-5

- sandbag shouldering
- clean and press (sandbag, dumbbell, kettlebell, barbell)
- dumbbell snatches
- dumbbell clean and jerks
- sandbag loading drill

b1) upper body push 3x6-15.

- weighted push ups
- parallel bar dips
- dumbbell pressing (flat, incline, or or overhead)
- barbell floor presses
- hanstand push ups

b2) upper body pull 3x6-15.

- chin ups/pull ups
- weighted recline rows
- barbell rows
- sandbag rows
- dumbbell rows

c) lowerbody (knee extension) 2-3x6-12; but don't be afraid to hit up some super high reps once in awhile in the 20-30 rep range.

- squat variation (barbell, kettlebell, sandbag, zercher, front etc)
- lunge variation (barbell, kettlebell, sandbag, etc)
- step up variation (" ")
- bulgarian split squat variation (" ")

d) posterior chain (hip extension) 2-3x6-12
- romanian deadlifts (barbell or dumbbell)
- glute ham raises
- snatch grip deadlifts
- pull throughs
- sandbag beyond the range pull throughs
- sandbag power cleans
- sandbag good mornings

So there you have it, a sample template to follow 2 days a week. Allow 2-3 days between each workout and keep track of your progress!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sandbag and Kettlebell Mania!

Check out this training session I did over the weekend...

All you'll need for this killer workout is a heavy sandbag, a kettlebell and some jumpstretch bands. I kept my rest periods super short and was able to finish in about30 minutes.

Warm Up x 3 sets
1. kb squats x 10
2. kb swings x 15
3. push ups x 10
4. band rows x 15

a) sandbag clean and press 3x5
b1) kb one arm floor press w/light band 4x8-12
b2) kb one arm rows w/light band 4x8-12
c) sandbag shoulder + squat 3x6
d) timed snatches (15:15 protocol) x 5 minutes

The 15:15 protocol snatches were something I tried after reading about guys like Kenneth Jay and Jon Hinds using similar programs to get their VO2 Maxes through the roof. It consists 15 seconds of work followed by 15 minutes of rest - alternating hands for each interval - and can be brutal when you get in the 10+ minute range if you maintain an 8 rep cadence with a 53lb kettlebell.

So give it a try and post a commnet if you come up with any sandbag and kettlebell combo workouts of your own!

Top 8 Kettlebell Movements For Fighters!

Above, one of the BEASTS that trains at the Undeground Strength Gym, courtesy of Zach Even-Esh

Kettlebells are all the craze these days, and for good reason. They are an excellent training tool for developing a strong grip, upper back and posterior chain, especially. The problem that I see with most athletes training with them, is that they are trying every new movement under the sun without paying attention the to basics first. Its fine to have a lot of variety in one's training program, but remember what you're trying to accomplish. If you're trying to get in "fight shape" or shred body fat, the most grueling of kettlebell movements are what you need to be doing - there is no way around it! Unfortunately, this leaves only a handful of movements compared to the plethora that you can find else where on the likes of YouTube.

Done for timed sets, complexes, or circuits with hardcore calisthenics, they will be a fine addition to whatever else you're doing now. For building a "bullet proof" body and the type of conditioning needed to dominate opponents in the ring, I recommend most men getting a single 24kg kettlebell and start hacking away with the following movements.

1. Snatches
2. Swings (one handed, two handed, or even with a towel for added grip work)
3. Clean and Presses
4. High Pulls
5. Bent Over Rows
6. Squats (with both hands, or single hand in the "rack" position)
7. Lunges
8. Turkish Get Ups

There are a ton more variations of the them, but these 7 movements are the basics and, in my opinion, should be drilled and used to their maximum benefit before going on and purchasing a heavier bell. Just the snatch and swing alone, done for super high reps or time, are excellent for building lactic acid tolerance. I often will throw in a quick 2-5 minute set at the end of my workouts, where I switch hands every 5-10 reps without putting the sucker down. Everything from my grip to my calves get torched with these short "finishers".

I also love toting my kettlebell around to various outdoor locations, where I'll mix in various movements with pull ups, dips, push ups, sprints and jumps for an awesome total body workout. There's nothing like tossing around a cast iron kettlebell and pumping out natural body weight movements outdoors on a hot, sunny day. Get out of the gym once in awhile this summer, forget about your "routine", and just work hard for 30-45 minutes. I'm convinced this stuff does wonders for the body and soul.

So, go ahead, shell out the dough and get yourself what everyone's been talking about. You will literally never outgrow it, and there are a ton of different ways to kick your own ass!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

5 Movements For a Devestating Clinch!

Anyone who has seen the utter destruction of Rich Franklin at the hands of Anderson Silva - on two occasions - knows just how important a strong clinch game is. While the technical nuances of the clinch need to be PRACTICED and practiced often in order to become super efficient, there are ways to increase the type of strength needed to have a clinch that sends shockwaves of fear into your opponents. If we examine the clinch, it's obvious that you need tremendous grip strength, neck strength, lat and upper back strength, crushing or isometric strength from the upper body, core stability and rotational strength, as well as a super strong posterior chain to deliver powerful blows and throw your opponent around the ring or cage. Yes, actual sport practice is THE BEST way to hone your skills, but by increasing your strength across the board while building your skill base at the same time, you will get the best of both worlds.

While most of the so called "MMA strength coaches" out there would prescribe a whole bunch of sport specific drills that have little actual training effect, I'm going to give out some of the methods I know for increasing strength and muscular endurance for a truly devastating clinch. Here are five of my favorite movements to use

1) Zercher Squats

Our first order of business is building a tremendous BASE to work from, and what better movement to do that the zercher squat. By holding the bar in the crooks of your arms, not only is this a powerful lower body movement, but also a great core and upper back lift with emphasis on upper body isometric strength. Ideally, these can be done for a 'sub max' effort. Something like 4-8 sets of 2-6 reps, depending on your training goal for the day.

2) Thick Bar Chins

Secondly, we want to develop insane pulling and grip strength. Thick grip pull ups and chin ups are what the doctor ordered. You can make a thick bar by simply wrapping a towel around your chin up bar. This will force your grip to work very hard while building a strong back and biceps. Use different grips - palms facing you, palms facing away, close grips, medium grips, wide grips, etc - they are all good and you should try to incorporate as much variety as possible.

3) Full Contact Twists

My next favorite movement for developing a seriously strong clinch is the full contact twist or barbell Russian twist - whatever you want to call it. You can either grab the end of the bar or grab the plates and rotate from side to side. This is called a "core exercise", but really your lats, shoulders, and chest are also very actively involved.

4) Thick Bar Curls

What?! Curls?! Before you think I'm crazy, we are going to be doing HEAVY thick bar cheat curls. Once again using a towel to turn our barbell into a thick bar, these will hammer your grip, biceps, and upper back -crucial for strength in the clinch.

5) Reverse Rope Climbs

Using a thick rope you are going to start in the face down position and climb hand over hand until you are just about standing and then lower back under control. The lower you go and the more you keep your body forward, the more difficult this movement will be. This movement is a personal favorite that will BLOW UP your forearms, triceps, chest, shoulders and lats and not to mention is an excellent core stability movement (yeah, I can't believe I said it either!).

So give some of these a try, and maybe even have 1 day per week be your "clinch" strength day and you work each of these movements or their variations on that day for a full body training session.

Give this full body "clinch strength" session a try:

a1) Zercher squats 5x5
a2) Thick bar chins 5 x max reps
b1) Reverse rope climbs 3x6 up and down
b2) Thick bar cheat curls 3x8
c) Full contact twists 2x8 each side

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

All Pulls Day!

Many people think that balanced training is to use a 1:1 ratio of pushes to pulls, thinking that this simple approach would solve their muscular imbalances.

They include a horizontal pull for every horizontal push, a vertical pull for every vertical push, a hip extension movement for every knee extension movement and so forth. Unfortunately this is NOT fixing the problem.

In actuality, most people need AT LEAST a 2:1 ratio, if not even greater. You're upper back musculature, glutes and hamstrings can never be too strong!

A great way to combat this is to include a total body pull only day in your weekly programming. So if you train 3 days a week using a lower/upper/total split or 3 days per week total body, that third workout would include nothing but lower and upper body pulls.

While most people tend to just throw in extra posterior chain work and upperback work as an afterthought (after their squats and benches), by having a completely seperate and extra day set aside you would be able to use sufficient load and get in a good amount of volume - more than you normally would, anyway.

A good example of one of these days would be (after a warm up, of course)

a1) snatch grip deadlifts off platform 5x4
a2) mixed grip pull ups 5x6-8
b1) weighted glute ham raises 4x8
b2) weighted recline rows, chest supported rows or thick bar cable rows 4x8-12
c) sled dragging upper back complex x 5-10 consecutive minutes
sled scare crows x 12
sled face pulls x 12
sled rows x 12

So for packing some serious muscle to your posterior chain, lats, and upperback and not to mention taking a preventive measure in correcting your imbalances, try throwing in an all pulls day once a week in addition to your other days with various pushes, squats, single leg work and of course, more pulling.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Complexes For Muscle Growth?

When most people think of classic hypertrophy training, they refer to the usual "8-12reps with a 4-2-0 tempo", but as Russian Weightlifter Vasily Alexeev found out, tempo - besides being incredibly boring - is not nearly as important as total time under tension.

This article (pg 3 - Science of Big) gives us some more insight into how time under tension and FAST eccentrics (weight lowering) can lead to muscle growth. This would explain the phenomenom of guys getting jacked with stuff like barbell complexes, high rep kettlebell work, sled dragging, and the like.

While most tend to think of that kind of work as just "conditioning", Vasily used complexes and such to pack muscle on to his students.

Check this out...

“Usually the athletes lift barbells and then immediately drop them. This takes several seconds,” comments Dmitri Ivanov who interviewed the maverick lifter. “According to Alexeev’s method, the athlete finds himself under the weight for a period of two or three minutes. The entire body must sustain this prolonged effort, as the athlete completes several consecutive exercises
without letting go of the equipment. The weight of the barbell is relatively light, but the varied work with it affects every muscle cell. By the end of the two-week session, all of Alexeev’s students had increased their bodyweight as a result of muscle growth—and at the same time they’d increased their abilities.”

Pretty cool stuff, huh?

In talking about complexes, Dan John also notes the increases of muscle growth in his athletes.

His explanation?

"When you watch a sophomore boy handle Complex A with 155 for three complexes of three reps each, you have to realize that this is a very strong human being, even if he's just 15."

The great part about complexes is that you can get in a serious workout in just 15 or 20 minutes (and sometimes even way less) - packing in a ton of volume in a very short amount of time.

Let's take a look at some of our options with complexes and all the different tools that you can use...

Barbell Complexes
Dumbbell Complexes (two handed or single hand)
Kettlebell Complexes
Sandbag Complexes
Keg Complexes
Sled Dragging Complexes
Grappler Complexes (or just take two barbells and throw them in a corner)

I'm going to say that one should train exclusively with complexes, but definately throwing them in a few times a week would be a great addition to your training. Any athlete can benefit from complexes, but combat athletes especially would benefit from the huge amount of time under tension. Its one thing to have great levels of maximal strength - and its the base for all athletes to work from - but its another thing to be able to express that strength for a period of several minutes.

For the guys looking to pack on some size, try one of Dan John's or Alwyn Cosgrove's complexes for 3 or 4 sets with some decent weight and wonder how they wouldn't help put on some muscle.

Here's a new video from the Diesel Crew, demonstrating a serious sandbag complex

If its good enough for the Diesel Crew, then its good enough for me! Start rethinking your hypertrophy training and don't be afraid to sway from the masses!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Power of Sled Dragging!

above, one of the FREAKS at Joe Defranco's gym crankin' out some sled pulls

Hope everyone is having a great weekend and is killing it with the weights (or sandbags, kegs, tires, and sledgehammers haha!)...I just got done with a serious sled dragging session and was reminded how POWERFUL this simple tool really is!

I began with a lighter sled and did the following:
- scarecrows
- face pulls
- tricep extensions
- ankle dragging (forward, backward, laterally)

I just rotated between those for about 10 minutes before adding some plates, where I hit the "meat" of my sled dragging session for another 10-12 consecutive minutes:
- forward dragging
- backward dragging
- pressing
- rowing
- explosive "cleans"/high pulls

So think about it - in just around 20 minutes I crushed every single muscle on my body, especially the posterior chain and upperback. My heart rate was through the roof and I was sweating bullets, and I'm not going to lie I had a great "pump" going on! The best part is that I won't even be sore tomorrow because there is no eccentric when you are dragging the sled... which is exactly why if you're looking to pack on some size, then sled dragging is a great addition to your program either at the end of your regular workouts or as a an "extra workout" like I did today.

What I did today was just a small sample of what's possible with the sled, so be afraid to keep trying new things and being innovative with your dragging! This stuff has serious carry to every single sport I can possibly think of (even bodybuilding!) - so get to it!