How To Build Incredible Core Strength Using a Dumbbell

The Suitcase Carry is one of the best exercises for building core strength.

You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe ” – Fred Hatfield

Core strength is one of the most important factors in any physical performance. Without it, you’ll be missing out on a lot of power and will be at risk of injury. I know that increasing my core strength will be crucial for me to get back to pre-pandemic form. I recently invested in a 50 pound dumbbell so I can start doing one of the hardest core exercises known to man. It’s called the suitcase carry.

As you know by now, I’m a big fan of loaded carry exercises like the Goblet Carry and Farmers Walks. The Suitcase carry is the hardest loaded carry variation I’ve tried. The movement is just like it’s name. You hold a dumbbell to your side just like you would for a suitcase. Think of a Farmers Walk in which you only have a dumbbell on one side of your body. If you don’t feel your core engaging while doing this exercise then you must be from another planet. The level of core tension when doing suitcase carries is unreal.

If you want to build serious core strength all you need is to grab a dumbbell and start walking. You can also use a kettlebell or an actual suitcase. Just like any lift, the key to making this work is not using too much weight but using enough that it’s a challenge. You’d be surprised with how little weight you can use to make this exercise challenging

How I Incorporate Suitcase Carries To My Routine

I typically do Suitcase Carries after doing short sprints. My rep and set scheme is as follows.

  • Left hand Suitcase Carry for 30 seconds
  • 1 Minute Rest
  • Right Hand Suitcase Carry for 30 seconds
  • 2 Minute Rest
  • Repeat

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

My Week With Easy Strength

Last week I talked about Easy Strength, one of the most respected strength training programs around. What separates Easy Strength from other strength training programs is that you’ll hardly ever use weight that makes you uncomfortable. My curiosity pushed me to try out the program for at least a week. My initial challenge was choosing the right weights. I didn’t want to choose something too light or I’d feel like I was wasting my time. I also added some moderate cardio after my main workouts.

Day One of Easy Strength

The movements I chose were squats, deadlifts, weighted chin-ups, dumbbell overhead press, and farmers walk. After doing my regular warmup routine, I did the following workout.

Barbell Back Squats: Two sets of five at 205 pounds. I normally do 330 pounds for my working set.

Deadlifts: Two sets of five at 285 pounds. I normally do 405 pounds for my working set.

Weighted Chin-Ups: Two sets of five with a 25 pound plate. I normally do 55 pounds for my working set.

Dumbbell Overhead Press: Two sets of five at 45 pounds. I normally do 60 pounds for my working set.

Farmers Walk: 100 yards with a 105 pound dumbbell.

This workout started off smoothly. I was moving the weights easily and didn’t feel like I really challenged myself. I even started to feel a little guilty until the farmers walks came. The workout called for doing a farmers walk with 105 pounds in each hand for a total of 200 yards. 100 yards down and back. I’ve never used that much weight on my farmer walk and I normally rest longer when doing them. It’s hard to measure 100 yards in a commercial gym so I did my best estimation. Carrying the dumbbells down didn’t feel that bad but taking them back was brutal. I had to stop a few times.

Day Two Of Easy Strength

The main thing that changed in day two is that my grip felt weak. It’s probably because of the Farmer Walks from the night before. I also didn’t sleep well. Despite having a weak grip and feeling tired, I did my workout. Luckily, Easy Strength doesn’t ask you to use too much weight ( except for the Farmer Walks). Maybe I just need to get my grip stronger. Everything felt fairly easy and then Farmer Walks came in. I put my ego to the side and only used 90 pound dumbbells this time.

Day Three of Easy Strength

I felt a lot better in day three thanks to a good night of sleep. My biggest challenge at this point was fighting boredom. I’m not used to doing the same workout on three consecutive days. Luckily the workout allowed me to add some weight after each set. The workout for day 3 followed a 5/3/2 rep and set scheme. The first set I did five reps for the same weight I used in the previous days. The second set I did three reps with a five pound increase in weight. Finally, I did two reps in the third set with another five pound increase in weight. When it came to farmer walks, I used 95 pound dumbbells. Day three went smoothly. The following day was a rest day.

Day Four of Easy Strength

That rest day made a world of difference. When I woke up on day four, I was ready to lift some heavy weight till I remembered the point of the program which was to get stronger without having to strain yourself. The program allows you to slightly increase the weight on this day if you’re feeling it. I guess that was good enough for me.  I went back to doing two sets of five on day four. On that day, I used 10 more pounds from what I started with. I used 95 pound dumbbells for my farmer walks on day four too.

Day Five of Easy Strength

Day five was the same as day four.

Closing Thoughts

After doing a only a week of the program, I can see why it works. By doing so many reps of a movement over time, your nervous system gets comfortable with it. Since strength is a function of the nervous system, this is very beneficial to increasing strength. Doing all those Farmer walks teaches you how to brace your core. Your ability to brace your core is critical when lifting heavy.

I reccomend this program if you don’t mind doing very similar workouts over a long period. Luckily, this program allows you to do different variations of your core lifts as the weeks continue. Easy Strength takes a lot of discipline. The discipline to do almost identical workouts every training day. Also, the discipline to not add too much weight.

I enjoyed this program because it allowed me joints to recover from the pounding of heavy weights. I also had more energy during the week since I wasn’t exerting myself too much. I definitely plan on doing the full program one day.

Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels

Below is a link of the workout template, wrote by Dan John himself:

https://www.t-nation.com/training/40-workout-strength-challenge

 

The Greatest Strength Training Program Ever?

This post is about the famous strength training program called Easy Strength. The goal is to get stronger without struggling.

As a student of strength, I enjoy learning from all the top strength coaches. I like to take things from their teachings and apply it to my training. Two of my favorite strength coaches are Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline. I’ve learned a lot from both of these legends. A strength program created by these two must be legit.

Their strength training program is called Easy Strength. The goal of the program is to get significantly stronger without feeling beat up after each workout. If you could get significantly stronger in all your major lifts without beating yourself up with heavy loads and intense training methods, would you do it?

How Does Easy Strength Work?

Easy Strength is an 8 week strength program in which you only do five main exercises. You’ll do the same workout every day for 5 days a week. Some weeks you’ll do different variations of the same exercise to avoid boredom. The key is choosing weights that you won’t struggle to move. At the end of each workout you should feel energized. It’s reccomended to choose a push, pull, squat, hinge, and loaded carry movement.

My approach: I decided to give Easy Strength a one week tryout. This will be my chance to get a feel for the program and reload. I’ve been pushing myself with heavy and explosive lifts lately so I’m sure my body will appreciate the relief. Since I’ll be doing the same movements for five days in the week, I’ll also be able to improve my lifting technique.

The five exercises I’m choosing are the squat, deadlift, chin-up, dumbbell overhead press, and farmers walk. I’m choosing these exercises because they’re the ones I train the most. The deadlift counts as a pulling movement but I’ll treat it solely as a hinge movement. I plan on doing some cardio at the end of each workout but it won’t be too strenuous.

Closing Thoughts: Easy Strength was originally created so athletes could get stronger in the weight room and still have enough energy for their sports. We’re all athletes and our sport is called life. Isn’t the ultimate goal of fitness to improve our quality of life? I get a thrill from pushing my body with heavy loads but there’s always room for a program like this. There’s so much information in the fitness industry so the best way to find it if something works is to try it. I’ll be sharing how my one week trial of Easy Strength goes.

 

Photo by Leon Martinez from Pexels

Intense Squat Workout To Start The Week!

This post is about the tough squat workout I did last night. This workout will help anyone improve their squatting strength.

Yesterday I did one of the hardest squat workouts I’ve ever done. I mentioned before that I like doing my hardest workouts at the start of the week and this workout fit the bill .

Lately I’ve been focusing on strengthening my paused squats. Ever since I began my assault on the Squat , I’ve been doing a lot of paused work. I figure that if I get stronger at my paused squats, my regular squats will be easy. The last time I tested my squat max was 3 months ago. The other benefit of paused squats is there’s no hiding. When you pause at the bottom, you’ll know if you’re reaching depth on your squat. Paused squats also prevent you from using momentum to get back up. It’s pure muscle strength.

The way I’ve been doing paused squats is doing 6 sets of 2 with 4 second pauses. I always rest 3 minutes in between sets. I went doing 315 pound paused squats to 330 pound paused squats.

Since I’m a little crazy, I decided to mix things up a little. I used cluster sets for my squatting routine.

What Are Cluster Sets?

Cluster sets are sets within a set. Let’s say you normally do four reps of an exercise. When you’re doing your reps, stop at two and rest for 20 seconds. Keep resting for 20 seconds after each rep. You’ll find that you can do more than 4 reps within that set.

If you end up doing five or six reps within that set, rest like you normally do before the next set. As you continue this rep scheme in each set, you’ll find yourself doing more reps than you normally do.

You can manipulate sets and reps in cluster sets to build muscle, gain strength, or both.

The Workout:

The goal of this workout was to get 18 total reps for the paused squats. Instead of doing two consecutive reps, I’d do one rep and rest for 20 seconds. I did 3 reps per set. My body definitely felt different working out like this. This felt more like a pure strength workout than when I’d do six sets of two. The last time my body felt like this was when I tested my squat max three months ago.

Once I got to my fourth set, I thought about giving up. I felt some fatigue in my hips. As I mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of giving up.I pushed through and did my six sets for 18 total reps. It felt great. I knew I had to adjust the rest of my workout and my following workouts in order to avoid burn out.

As someone who loves challenges , I’m glad I did this workout. It was one of the hardest workouts I’ve done in a while. The most challenging part was mental. I know I could get the reps up. I just needed to fight my inner doubts. Tough workouts like this will teach you that your

Total Body Workout For 2/21/19

I’m sharing the total body workout I’ll be doing tomorrow. This will be part of my current routine.

Fitness is an experiment. You try different things to see how your body responds. You can mix your sets and reps or follow a new workout program. Tomorrow I’ll be doing a workout I’ve never done before. I’ve done all the exercises that will be mentioned but never in one workout. This workout follows the trend I’m going in my fitness.

I’m currently doing a total body workout split. I prefer this method because it let’s me get more work done in less days. I also prefer total body workouts over bodyweight splits because I feel less soreness the following days. The only drawback is total body workouts affect your energy levels more. Different things work for different people but so far this approach has been working for me.

The goal of my workouts is to hit as many muscle groups as possible while also activating a lot of muscle fibers. I talked about the benefits of activating a lot of muscle fibers in my previous post How To Build An Impressive Body .

The Workout

Below is the workout I’ll be doing.

Dynamic Warmup

Dumbbell Overhead Press: 5 sets of 3 with 3 minute rest in between. I’ll be using 85% of my one rep max. I’ve been doing more overhead presses because I feel like my shoulders have been a weak point. Dumbbells allow me to work each shoulder equally.

Squats: 60% of my 1 rep max. I’ll do 5 sets of 3 with 1 minute rest in between. I’ll be using the Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT) method Use CAT For Strength Gainz.

Farmers Walk: I’ll carry two 90 pound dumbbells for 45 seconds and rest 2 minutes in between sets. It’s hard to do a one rep max percentage for farmer’s walks but you should aim for at least your body weight for the total weight you’ll be carrying. I’ll do 3 rounds of this.

Jump rope for 5 consecutive minutes. I’ll be switching from a steady to a fast pace throughout.

I’ll finish off with some static stretches.

What I like about this workout is that my body won’t be bored. I’ll be working almost every muscle in my body in different ways. This workout has strength, speed, and conditioning in it. If it sounds interesting, give it a try and see how your body responds to it.

Photo on <a href=”https://bestrunningshoes.com/”>Best Running</a>

Use CAT For Strength Gainz

This post is about how focusing on speed will help with strength gains

If you’re not familiar with CAT, you’re missing out.Adding CAT to your training routine will help you make major progress in your strength. I’m not talking about your pet Mr. Whiskers. I’m talking about Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT).

I have to say CAT has helped me make noticeable gains in the last couple months. My squat was stalled for a couple months and I realized I lacked speed in the movement. I mention this in a previous post Assault on The Squat pt.2 As I did more research I found CAT.

Background: CAT originated from a man named Fred Hatfield who also goes by the name Dr. Squat. It’s a good idea to take squatting advice from a guy with a name like that. Dr. Squat believed that you can get significantly stronger in your squats just from working on your squatting speed. He was the first person to squat 1000 pounds so I definitely had to look into this.

It all comes down to applying force. The key to moving 400 pounds is by applying more than 400 pounds of force, otherwise the weight won’t move. When Dr. Squat was preparing for the powerlifting meet in which he squatted over 1000 pounds, he would rarely squat more than 800 pounds. He was focusing on applying as much force on the bar as possible. Dr. Squat swears by this method and from personal experience, it works.

How To Use CAT: From what I know, the key to CAT is speed. From what I’ve read, its best used for deadlifts and squats. You’ll choose a weight that’s between 55 and 70% of your one rep max. When using CAT, you’ll lower the weight like you normally do.

The difference is when you’re rising back up. This is the part where speed comes in. The goal of the concentric/ rising part of the lift is speed. Try to move the weight as fast as possible throughout the entire concentric portion, and not just at the bottom of the lift.

How I use CAT: I use CAT for both my squats and deadlifts. I’ve been able to move heavy weight easier since adding CAT to my training. I normally do CAT deadlifts after doing heavy squats. I do 5-8 sets of 3 with amount rest in between. I do CAT squats after doing heavy shoulder presses. I also do 5-8 sets of 3 with a minute rest in between.

I like this rep scheme because it allows me to maximize the speed I use in each set. Also, the total volume is high enough for me to improve my muscle memory in the movement. To make things more fun, I like to pretend I’m using weight that’s heavier than my current max. It helps me be mentally prepared for the days that I lift heavier weights.

Closing Thoughts: Not only is using this training method effective, it’s fun too. As someone who’s into athletics, I like moving explosively. CAT has helped me improve my performance on heavy lifting days. I’ve had people tell me my heavy lifts look effortless. I think it’s because my body has because so used to applying large force on the lift, it’s natural now. I plan on using this in my training for the foreseeable future since I’ve been getting good results from it.

Here’s a couple links that also explain CAT.

https://boxlifemagazine.com/what-is-compensatory-acceleration-training-and-how-can-it-help-you-get-stronger/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/breakingmuscle.com/amp/fitness/compensatory-acceleration-training-speed-up-your-strength-gains

Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/chriswojtewicz/26736265130/”>chris.wojtewicz</a&gt; on <a href=”https://bestrunningshoes.com/”>Best Running</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”&gt; CC BY-SA</a>

Assault on The Squat!

This article is about strategies I’m using to strengthen my back squat

I’m obsessed with the back squat exercise.There’s something about this movement that makes me want more. Maybe it’s because the back squat was one of the first movements I’ve done in the weight room. I squatted before I ever benched or deadlifted. The joy I feel for an improved back squat surpasses that of any other lift.

The back squats is an awesome movement that hits nearly every muscle in your body and has a positive effect on testosterone and HGH production. It’s also an empowering movement because you’re overcoming the force of gravity to move something that’s meant to keep you down.

My current one rep max is 355 lbs but I’m determined to increase it. I’m using the high bar method for my back squat which means putting the bar on top of my traps. I’ve been told switching to the low bar stance will help me move more weight but I’m determined to see how far I can get with the high bar method.

Even though there’s many exercises that will help you boost your squat, the best way to improve your squat is to squat. Depending on your fitness needs, you can modify lifts in your favor.

Plan of Attack:

One of the best ways to get better at something is to attack your weaknesses and see how it can become a strength. With the back squat, two things I have to work on is bar speed and just getting out of the hole ( the bottom position of the squat). I’m using two squatting methods to attack these weak points.

Bar Speed: To improve my speed in the squat movement, I’ve been using Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT) squats. This method involves setting up the barbell at 55-60% of your one rep max. In this method, the lowering portion of the squat is done in a controlled manner. The concentric/ rising part of the squat is done as explosively as possible. Imagine yourself as a rocket being launched when rising in the squat.By trying to move as explosively as possible, you’re teaching your body to contract/ activate your muscle fibers quickly. The faster your muscle fibers activate, the more explosive your movement will be. Increasing my squat speed means I feel less strain in the movement.

Getting out of The Hole: The hardest part of the squat is the bottom position. If you can increase improve your ability to get past the bottom of your squat, the easier the lift will be. In order to get more comfortable at the bottom of the squat, I’ll be doing a lot of pause squats. Pause squats also teach you how to brace your core through out the lift. It also forces you to rely on pure strength rather than momentum. Paused squats have helped me in the past so I’m confident it’ll help me again.

To Be Continued….

Get Strong With Farmers Walks!

As I’m on my journey to get stronger and improve my overall fitness, I’ve improved my squats and deadlifts tremendously over the past year. One exercise I give a lot of credit to is the Farmers Walk exercise. I’m speaking from personal experience but I’m confident you’ll see improvements in those lifts if you start to incorporate Farmers Walks to your routine.The Farmers Walk is part of the weighted carries movement group. Done primarily in Strongman Competitions, anyone can benefit from this move.

There are countless benefits to doing the Farmers Walk. It builds great core strength because you have to stabilize the weight you’re holding on both sides. Your grip will improve sue to holding heavy weights for long durations. You do have to hold the weight tightly or else it’ll drop. Your legs get a good workout since you’re using your legs to walk. Your traps, lats, and others will be worked as well. This is a great total body exercise. The only training days I wouldn’t reccomend doing them are days you do heavy grip work, like deadlift days.

You can use Farmers Walks for any goal you want. You just have to adjust the weight, distance, and rest period for your specific goals. When focusing on strength, go heavier for a shorter distance, with long rest periods. For a cardio focus, go lighter, walk for a long duration, and have a short rest period. Hypertrophy would be medium weight with middle to long distance, and short rest periods. If you’re feeling ambitious, go heavy and walk a long distance.

Another way to utilize the farmers walk is to hold a dumbbell on only one side of your body. This move is called the suitcase carry. This move builds serious core strength because your core is walking hard to prevent you from tilting on one side. The heavier you go, the more engaged your core will be. I’ve been doing this move for the past couple of weeks and notice a difference in my core strength.

 

Deadlift Are Good For The Soul

If I had to pick one exercise that’ll make you feel awesome, it’d be some heavy deadlifts. I say heavy because deadlifts are meant to be done in low rep ranges (3-6) reps. I’m not including Olympic lifts because they’re more difficult to teach and learn. I don’t know about you but I feel so powerful when picking up heavy weight from the ground with such explosive ferocity.The deadlift is the best exercise for total body strength. It engages every muscle from head to toe, with emphasis on the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. I’ve heard people say that deadlifts are bad for your back. The truth is using bad form on deadlifts or any other exercise is bad for you. From my personal experience, proper deadlifting has helped me fix back issues caused by weight lifting with bad form.

The dealift is an exercise with real world application. Not only does it make you strong from head to toe, it also helps with sports performance. Due to the emphasis on powerful hip movement, the deadlift can help an athlete improve their sprint speed and vertical jump. The deadlift also teaches you how to properly lift things from the ground, assuming you’re using correct form. This will come in handy when you’re helping a friend move their furniture.

Like any other exercise, it’s important to have good form when deadlifting. Deadlifting is a hinging movement. When deadlifting, it’s important to have the barbell touching your shins on the bottom position. Slightly arch your back and keep a neutral spine. Before you lift the weight, remove some slack from the barbell by slightly pulling it. Also, squeeze the barbell as hard as you can and brace your abs. Focus on pulling the weight with as much force as possible. It’s important to commit to the lift, meaning you have top pull the weight once you get to the bottom position.

Photo credit: ResoluteSupportMedia via Visualhunt / CC BY

Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/isafmedia/6940701913/”>ResoluteSupportMedia</a&gt; via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re/b22a01″>Visualhunt</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”&gt; CC BY</a>

 

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