Foundation For Successful Barbell Squatting

How to prepare yourself if you’ve never done barbell squats.

The back squat is one of the most intimidating exercises in the gym.You put yourself in a vulnerable position where weight is on your back and you’re also fighting against gravity. It’s not like the deadlift where you can simply drop the weight if it’s too heavy or the bench press where you can find ways to maneuver through.

If you’ve never squatted with weights you might be nervous. Luckily, there are ways to get yourself mentally and physically ready to squat with weight on your back.

Technique

Before you add load to a movement make sure you can do that movement with your bodyweight. One of the prerequisites to back or front squats should be bodyweight squats. Bodyweight squats will help you develop proper movement pattern. When you skip this step, you put yourself at risk of having some compensations when you start using a barbell. These compensations usually come from muscle imbalances or previous injuries. Once you get comfortable with your bodyweight, I recommend doing some Goblet Squats with a kettlebell or dumbbell. Goblet squats will teach you how to brace when squatting as well as improve your squat depth.

Muscle Development

Imagine a knight going into battle without his armor. That’s what it’s like doing barbell squats without developing the necessary muscles. Your armor is your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and other muscles that you use for squatting. I talk about the best squat accessory exercises in a recent post. The only one that I wouldn’t recommend for new squatters is the Goodmorning because it involves putting a barbell on your back just like the squat.

Build Power Base

It’s one thing to have the muscles need to squat and it’s another thing to be able to use them powerfully. One thing that really helped have a smooth start with my barbell squatting was having a solid power base. Having power helps you move the weight faster and easier so you won’t have to grind and struggle as much. That’s why I love doing speed work. Before I ever stepped under a barbell my speed work came in the way of plyometric jumps and sprints. These exercises will develop your fast twitch muscles, which are the ones primarily responsible for moving heavy weight.

Squatting with weight on your back can be intimidating but if you prepare your body for it you’ll be setting yourself up for success. By focusing on technique, muscle development, and power development you’ll be setting the stage for successful barbell squatting.

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Nose Breathing Exercises For Better Workouts and Recovery

(Short read) Yogic breathing exercises to help you get better results

What if I told you there’s something you can use to give you energy before a workout and calm you down after? This tool doesn’t cost a dime. It also won’t put a bunch of caffeine and strange chemicals in your body. This may sound crazy but the tool I’m talking about is your nose. I’ve previously talked about the importance of nose breathing for stress management. I’ve recently starting using some Yogic nose breathing exercises to help me prepare for my workouts and recover after. The exercises are so simple, I’ll share them below.

Pre-Workout

Save your money and ditch the pre-workout supplements. You’re your own source of energy. All you need to do is breathe in and out of your right nose. Doing this puts you in a more alert state of mind. In yogic traditions, the right nostril is related to the masculine energy, the type of energy that makes you want to take action. This is the place you need to be when getting ready to crush some weights or do any intense workout. I do 3 rounds of 6 breaths before my lifting sessions and I always feel energized as a result. This is very useful if you didn’t sleep well the night before.

Post-Workout

For post workout recovery you’ll do the breathing exercise through your left nose. In yogic traditions, the left nostril is related to feminine energy. This is the type of energy you should tap into post-workout to help you cool down. I speak from experience when I say this works. Just like with the right nostril, I usually do 3 rounds of 6 breaths but you can do more or less as you see necessary.

Nervous System Health

Everything you do is possible because of the nervous system. If you want to be more efficient in any activity you do, you’ll need to strengthen your nervous system. This next breathing exercise does that by getting the two hemispheres of your brain working together. It’s called alternative nostril breathing.

The way to do this breathing exercise is to breathe in through one nose and out the other and vice versa. Do three rounds of six and you’ll feel your head feel a lot more clear. In terms of timing, I like to do this at night or after a yoga session.

There you have it. You can tap into different levels of energy as you see necessary just by using your nose. These are useful for fitness purposes but can be used in other areas of your life. If you’ve been on your fitness journey long enough, you’ll know that fitness is an analogy to life.

Right and Left Nostril Breathing- http://total-yoga.org/right-vs-left-nostril-breathing/

Alternative Nostril Breathing Benefits- https://chopra.com/articles/nadi-shodhana-how-to-practice-alternate-nostril-breathing

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Why You Should Train Your Posterior Chain

(Short read) The importance of building your posterior chain

The posterior chain (back side) is arguably the most important part of your body is often the most neglected. If you’re not training your posterior chain then you’re missing out on some serious gains. Last week, I tried good mornings for the first time in my life and it was a wake up call for me. I only did 85 pounds using a barbell but after that first set my hamstrings were on fire!

Benefits of Building Your Posterior Chain

Athletic Performance: If you want to be a successful athlete, you’ll need strong posterior chain muscles. To jump or sprint, your glutes and hamstrings are doing a lot of work. To throw a ball or a punch with power, your hips and glutes will be highly engaged.

Weight Room Performance: Your glutes and hamstrings play an integral part in various weight room exercises. The most obvious one is the deadlift. If you don’t feel your glutes and hamstrings while deadlifting a decent amount of weight then something is wrong. In my experience, when my glutes and hamstrings were strong, deadlifts felt easier. The posterior chain is also important for the squat, especially the low bar back squat.

Injury Prevention: Strong glutes and hamstrings will reduce your risk of injury in a number of ways. One way is that the stronger your glutes are, the less work your lower back has to do when lifting an object/weight. Your hamstrings are one of the biggest stabilizer muscles for your ACL. A lot of times people who suffer torn ACLs, have a weakness or deficiency in their hamstrings.

Look Better: Who doesn’t like a nice pair of glutes? If you want to maximize your aesthetic gains, you need to train your posterior chain especially the glutes. In addition to looking nice, I find having strong glutes helps me stay upright and maintain good posture. A strong posture is also visually appealing.

Best Posterior Chain Exercises

Below are the best Posterior chain building exercises that I’ve used. If you want strong glutes and hamstrings, do these exercises.

  • Sprints/Hill Sprints
  • Barbell Hip Thrust
  • Kettlebell Swing
  • Bulgarian Split Squat
  • Extreme Isometric Lunge
  • GoodMorning

In the comments below, tell me your favorite posterior chain exercises!

My Favorite sprint workouts- Sprints, Sprints, and more Sprints

More about the benefits of kettlebell swings- Get an Awesome Body With Kettlebell Swings

Why you should start doing the Bulgarian split squat-Squat Replacement

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How To Gain Confidence in any Lift

How to gain confidence in any gym exercise.

One of the biggest keys to performing well in the weight room is confidence. When you’re confident you’re less likely to be affected by limiting beliefs.When it comes to gaining confidence when performing a lift, the best solution is to do that lift more frequently. If you don’t want to do the lift multiple times per week, you can try a high set, low rep workout. This is the closest thing to training frequently.

The key to making the high set, low rep approach work is by choosing a weight you’re comfortable doing. I’ve had good experience with this approach when using it for speed squats. You can use a normal tempo when doing this. The concept is simple. The more you do something, the more confident you are in doing it. The more confident you are in doing it, the more competent you’ll be. This is why many have gotten good results using Pavel Tsatsouline’s grease the groove technique.

I wanted to work these principles in a recent squat workout I had. I have decent competency with the squat but I wanted to take it to another level. Below is a simple squat workout I did which follows the high rep, low set training approach. The reps were at a regular tempo.

Squat Workout

  • Back Squat: 20 sets of 2 at 225 pounds. 1 minute of rest in between sets.

I chose 225 pounds because that’s a weight I can do easily. In context, my squat max is currently 385 pounds, beltless. You can adjust the weight to fit your strength levels.

  • Suitcase Carry: 4 sets of 30 second carries. 2 sets for each arm. Rest 1 minute in between each carry

I added the suitcase carry because it’s a great exercise to build core strength. It also teaches you how to brace your abs, which is crucial when squatting.

  • Extreme Supported Squat: In order to do this find something to hold onto. Once you do, you’ll sit yourself in a bodyweight squat slightly below parallel. Set a timer for 5 minutes and hold yourself up as much as possible. During the 5 minutes you will slowly lower yourself in the squat. You can drop once time runs out.

I learned about this through Sports Chiropractor Dr. Tommy John. The benefit of this is that it builds strength endurance, which will lower your risk of injuries. I notice that my knees feel great every time I finish the slow eccentric squats.

*Warning: The extreme supported squats feel miserable while doing them.

Closing Thoughts

The workout above is something I did for my squats but you can apply the same principle to any lift. Beyond lifting, you can apply it to any movement or life skill you want to gain confidence in.

Video link to Extreme Supported Squat demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67hA3uLnYIM

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Quote of The Week- Mind and Body

How the mind can limit or propel us in our fitness journeys.

“ Your body can stand almost anything. It’s your mind that you have to convince “- unknown

Your body is capable of more than you think, you just need to let your mind get out of the way. How can you explain a mom who can lift a car to save her child’s life? In a lot of those stories, it’s just a regular person who isn’t following some crazy strength training program. Even if she was, there’s no strength training program than can prepare you for such an incredible feat of strength. This is prime example of how the body is capable of incredible things.

To get great results in fitness, we often have to overcome a mental barrier. That mental barrier can be many things including, you doubting your ability to achieve a physical transformation or it could be that you think a physical task is impossible.

A great example of the mind allowing the body to do great things is endurance athletes. Running ultra marathons are obviously strenuous in the body but I believe the mental battle is even more difficult. Imagine starting a marathon and constantly thinking about how long you have to run and how uncomfortable you are. Imagine having to battle your thoughts as well as the obvious fatigue in your body. Think of how difficult it’d be to complete the task.

For all you lifters, imagine getting ready for a lift and picturing yourself failing or thinking about how heavy and overwhelming the weight will be. Maybe you’ll perform great due to the fear of failing. You might also be too crushed by your doubts and fears to have a successful lift.

Your Mind is Your Ally

On the flip side to this, your mind can be your biggest ally. One example is just from my personal experience. I still remember the days that the thought of me being able to squat 300 plus pounds sounded insane. All of that changed when I changed my environment. I went to a gym where many people were squatting in the 300s and 400s, and they weren’t all massive beasts. Seeing this opened my mind to believe that squatting more than 300 pounds was normal. I never looked back since.

Your mind can either be an ally or enemy in your fitness journey. If you choose to make it an ally, there are many things you can do to make it possible. As mentioned earlier, one way to make your mind work for you is to surround yourself with people who have what you want to achieve. Be around people stronger, faster, or healthier than you. The list goes on depending on your goals.

Another tool you can use is positive affirmations affirmations . By repeating positive affirmations, you’re sending a message to your subconscious mind to help you achieve your goals. This works because when you say these affirmations, you’re constantly getting a mental picture of your success. How can you have fear and doubt when you keep seeing yourself achieve something.

In addition to the tools above, I also recommend meditation . Meditating teaches you how to observe your thoughts but not be attached to them. This comes in handy anytime a possible detrimental thought comes when you’re trying to achieve something. In addition to thought detachment, meditation teaches you how to be present. Being present is the key to achieving peak performance. When you’re present, you’re only concerned about what you’re doing. You don’t care about every little detail. The example I gave earlier about the mom is a good example of someone who’s fully present. That mom who’s trying to save her child isn’t concerned about how heavy the car is or whether her bones might break. She’s focused only on the task of saving her child.

I hope this post will help you move past your mental barriers so you can achieve great fitness results. When we’re in control of our minds, we can do amazing things.

Fitness Quote of The Week- Patience

The importance of patience in your fitness journey.

“ All great achievements require time” – Maya Angelou

This quote applies to fitness results and anything meaningful that you want to achieve. We live in the age of instant gratification. If we don’t achieve fast results we give up. Having this approach to your goals will lead to mediocre results. If it’s something is so easy to get, then what’s the point?

Everyone you see that’s doing incredible things in fitness took time to get to that point. The people you see with incredible physiques took months or years of hard training and discipline diets to get where they are. Some of the people who that you see lifting large weights struggled to get to that point. Some of them dealt with all kinds of adversity to get there.

If it’s so easy to get then where is the excitement ? Where’s the satisfaction that you get knowing you put in the work to get it ? That you truly earned it. Sometimes you’ll have the fortune to get to your goals quickly. Other times, it’ll take time and dedication. It took me years to get where I’m at in my fitness journey. It’ll also take me years to achieve some of my current goals.

Remember that every step of the journey is an experience itself. In each step you have the opportunity to learn and grow. The things you learn in your journey will be what you use to accomplish the goals you’re currently pursuing.

Fitness Quote of the week- Quality over Quantity

(Short post) quote on choosing quality over quantity

“ Don’t count the days, make the days count “- Muhammad Ali.

This quote can be applied to your workouts. Focus on the quality of your workouts rather than the quantity. You’ll get further with a few a high quality workouts each week than several sloppy workouts.

When you focus on quality over quantity, you’re present to your workout. When you’re in your workout, you have the opportunity to learn something new. You’ll also enjoy it more because you’re feeling the whole experience.

By focusing on the quality of your workouts, you’re less likely to get injured. You’ll respect your workout recovery so you have quality workouts.

Having this approach will also bring a shift in mindset that will help you in the long run. When you’re focused on the current workout, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’ll achieve your fitness goals. You won’t be thinking about what could go wrong in the future. By not focusing on those thoughts, you’ll be more resilient and confident in what you can do. Our minds are our biggest obstacle if we let it.

Fitness Quote of The Week- Consistency

(Short read) the importance of consistency

“ I train to be the best in the world on my worst day “- Ronda Rousey

This quote from a former UFC champion is about consistency. You may not be training to be a world class athlete but you’re probably training to reach a fitness goal. If it’s a worthwhile goal, it’ll be one that challenges you.

On your mission to achieve the goal, you’ll have some days that you don’t feel like training. You’ll feel tired, stressed, or something else. Unless you’re sick or severely exhausted, you should do something. Something as little as mobility work or extra stretching will help in the long run. One of my personal workout principles is to always show up.

When you show up, you may not be going 100 miles per hour but you’ll be doing something. Even if you lower the intensity of an exercise significantly, you’ll still be working on those same movement patterns. This can make you more efficient the next time you do the exercise.

If you’re trying to lose fat and you normally run 2 miles a day, running half a mile will help you more than sitting on the couch and doing nothing. Personally, I prefer sprints over jogging.

Just show up. That small amount of progress gets you closer to your goal than the day before. The added benefit of always showing up is it always gives you an opportunity to learn.

Quote of The Week- Importance of Challenges

The importance of challenging yourself in fitness.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you”- Fred Devito

This is straight to the point. If you want to achieve any meaningful fitness transformations, you’ll have to challenge yourself. You’ll have to do workouts that scare you a little and make you uncomfortable.

Many fitness gurus will try to sell you on a miracle diet or workout to get quick results. This isn’t reality. Anyone you see with a great body or lifting big weights had to put in the work to get there.

Doing heavy compound lifts is challenging. Saying no to delicious junk food is challenging. Sprinting up hills is challenging. These are the types of things that will transform your body.

Fitness is as much mental, as it is physical. Your body won’t be the only thing that transforms when you challenge yourself physically. Your mind will too and you’ll develop that fitness mindset.

Quote of The Week- Keep Trying

(Short post) This quote is for anyone who’s struggling to get the fitness results they’re seeking.

“ No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of anyone who isn’t trying.” – Tony Robbins

This quote is for all of you that feel struck in your fitness journey. We all hit that wall where it seems like we’re not getting anywhere. The key is to not be hard on yourself. Just keep working.

To any of you that feel guilty about cheating on your diet , don’t sweat it. Try to learn from the experience and start fresh. Learning to forgive yourself when you slip up is the key to longevity.

I hope this quote helps you break out of your funk and move closer to your goals. I’ll make it a habit to share a quote each week.

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