Quote of The Week-Opportunities

How to create opportunities for the progression of your fitness goals

” Opportunities multiply as they are seized “- Sun Tzu

This quote from the great book, The Art of War applies to anyone with fitness goals. The idea behind this quote is that when you take advantage of the opportunities presented to you, more opportunities will be available. Working out is an opportunity to move closer to your goals. When you workout, you open up the opportunity to learn more bout your body.

Going to the gym is an opportunity available to you. Going to the gym opens up the opportunity fo you to learn something new from a fellow gym goer.

The key is taking action and moving towards your goals. The more action you take, the more opportunity that becomes available to you to achieve your goals.

Something to keep in mind when it comes to opportunities is that sometimes you have to create them yourself. In terms of fitness, maybe you have to ask someone at the gym for advice rather than waiting for someone to help you. By asking for one piece of advice, you open the opportunity for other valuable pieces of advice. If you don’t have a gym membership, you still have the opportunity to improve by doing a home workout.

Everyday is an opportunity to move closer to your fitness goals. Even if you just move an inch closer, you’ll be ahead of where you were the day before.

Quote of The Week- Lifting is Safe

Why lifting weights is one of the best tools to protect yourself.

“ If you think lifting is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous”. – Brent Contreras

What is danger? Danger is something that can cause you harm. For the purpose of this post, I’m talking about physical harm. When you’re strong, you’re less likely to experience physical harm from outside forces. Any harm you do experience will be minimized due to your physical strength.

I can speak from experience from having injuries in the past that those injuries would have been worse if I hadn’t develop a strength base. This is why Brent. Contreras says being weak is dangerous.

Weak is a relative term but the idea behind his quote is to take your strength seriously because it’ll minimize your risk of physical harm. One of the best ways to develop your strength is through lifting weights.

Being strong will also reduce your risk of danger in regular life. If you ever get in a physical confrontation, being strong will make it easier for you to defend yourself even if you don’t know how to fight. If you’re strong and you look strong as well, people are less likely to want to get in a physical confrontation with you in the first place.

Being strong will reduce your risk of hurting yourself when moving furniture. Being strong will reduce the impact of a fall. It can help you in many areas of your life. In addition to lifting weights, I recommend learning how to move. Doing this will help you maximize the full use of your strength.

Ps. I meant to post earlier in the week. Sorry for the delay!

The Most Impactful Weight Lifting Protocols

The three weight lifting methods most responsible for my strength gains.

If you’ve been following this page for a while, you’ll know that weight lifting has been a major part of my fitness journey. I’ve used many weight lifting protocols but there’s a few that stand out as having the most impact for me when it comes to gaining strength and transforming my body.It’s important to understand the basics but once you have those mastered, you should look into the different training methods to see what will help you achieve your goal. I plan on sharing the lifting methods that have helped me the most with gaining strength. They’ve all helped me in different ways.

Loaded Carries

Loaded carries have been an absolute game changer. They’ve had so much impact that I still find ways to do them while my gym is closed. Loaded carries can help you with a number of goals like muscle gain, fat loss, and increased work capacity. I’ve noticed the benefit mostly in the strength department. Moving heavy weight just feels easier when loaded carries are part of my program. Maybe that’s why strength coaches like Dan John and Charles Thibadeau reccomend loaded carries to lifters.

Two things that make loaded carries special are core engagement and grip strength. Your core has to be braced when walking around with weight. This high level of core engagement transfers well to squats and deadlifts. Your level of core engagement in these lifts can make the difference between a successful lift and a failed lift. Having your core well braced will also help with injury prevention.

The grip strength I’ve gained from loaded carries have also helped me with my overall strength. Grip strength goes beyond just helping the deadlift. Try any lift, regardless of the target muscles and see how much easier it is to move the weight when you can grip the bar tightly. It’s because squeezing something tightly sends a message to your brain that you’re in danger, causing your body to tense up. Tension is one of the biggest keys to lifting heavy weights. You can benefit from the different variations of loaded carries.

Speed Work

Compensatory acceleration training (CAT) helped me tremendously when I felt stuck in my squat and deadlift. It makes perfect sense that the faster you can move a weight, the easier the lift is. The key to CAT is moving the weight as explosively as possible during the concentric/ upward portion of the lift. By doing this, you learn how to apply more force to your lifts. Force is what moves objects. In order to move 400 pounds, you need to apply more than 400 pounds of force. I’ve only applied it to squats and deadlifts but I’ve noticed great gains from CAT .

Cluster sets

Cluster sets are an awesome way to build strength. They’re a great way to get your body comfortable with heavier weight. Cluster sets allow you to do more reps of a certain weight than you normally would by taking mini breaks in between each set. If you can only do three reps of a weight, clusters will allow you to do more. I go into greater detail about cluster sets in the post dedicated to Strength Coach Charles Poliquin.

Photo by Estudio Polaroid from Pexels

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

Tendon Strength

Why you should focus on strengthening your tendons for overall strength.

It’s common knowledge that you need to lift weights in order to gain strength, but what if you don’t have access to weights? What if there’s a global pandemic going on and all the gyms are closed ? Are your strength gains doomed ? I wouldn’t be writing this post if that was the case.

I’m in the same boat as a lot of gym goers who don’t have access to weights. It can be frustrating thinking that the progress you’ve made will go away. This doesn’t have to be the case. Something that’s often overlooked in gaining overall strength is the strength of your tendons. When you lift heavy weights, one thing that happens is your tendons and joints get stronger. This is your brain sending a message to your body that this change is necessary so you can handle that stress again.

It makes sense when you think about it. The stronger your tendons are, the more load your body can handle. As a student of strength I’ve done some research and discovered that a lot of the old school strong guys really focused on their tendon strength. A lot of these guys are known for incredible feats of strength despite not being so big. During this break from the gym, I’ll be focusing a lot on strengthening my tendons to help me to at least maintain my strength.

Exercises That Will Build Tendon Strength

High Rep Bodyweight Exercises: Doing high rep bodyweight exercises is a great way to strengthen your tendons. I’ve used high rep training in the past to help strengthen my knee tendons after suffering an injury. Famous fitness coach Max Shank used high rep squats to recover from a bone bruise caused by a hyper-extended knee.   

Isometrics: Since the day my gym closed, I had the idea of adding isometrics to my training routine. A lot of the old school strongmen I mentioned earlier were big on isometric training. It’s forgotten now because it doesn’t look as cool as moving heavy weight. There are two types of isometrics that I’ll be using; overcoming Isometrics and Extreme Isometrics.

I’ve played around with overcoming isometrics before but I never did it consistently. The idea is to use all the force in your body to move an immovable object. You might ask what’s the point of trying to move something that can’t be moved. The benefit to this type of training is your activating and using a large amount of muscle fiber. You’re applying as much force, if not more than you would for a 1 rep max. I’ve mentioned in the past that the key to maximum strength is applying more force .

In relation to tendon strength, exerting maximum force on an immovable object will place stress on your tendons as well as your muscles. This stress will force your tendons to adapt so it can handle that stress next time. It’s the same concept with how your body adapts to traditional strength training. Fortunately, overcoming isometrics doesn’t compress your joints the way traditional barbell and dumbbell training does.

The other type of isometric training that I’ve been utilizing is extreme isometric lunges. I’ve used these from the to time but now I’m willing to commit to them to reap their full benefits. The idea is to hold a lunge position for up to five minutes on each leg. In addition to stronger knees, you can expect to see an increase in leg muscle size, better nervous system function, and better athletic performance. The most I’ve been able to do is two minutes on each leg. After a week of consistent isometric lunges, I can already feel a difference in the stability of my knees. 

The key to making this work is your mindset towards the exercise. Rather than treating it as an endurance exercise that you need to hold for a certain amount of time, treat it as survival. You need to mentality that you’ll die if you drop in the lunge. This mentality puts extra stress on you. With this stress, your body and nervous system will adapt to make a stronger you.

Plyometrics: the stress put on your tendons through plyometrics forces your body to strengthen them as a result. Just like with weight lifting, you don’t want to overdo plyometrics. I speak from experience when I say doing too much volume on your plyos will lead to joint pain.

One of them best plyometric exercises to improve tendon strength is the depth jump. This is also the most strenuous so do these only when you’re ready. You’ll know you’re ready for depth jumps when you can squat at least double your body weight and learned proper jumping and landing techniques. The reason it’s so powerful is that it causes an impact of up to 3x your body weight on your body. That’s a lot of stress and in order  for you to handle that stress again, your body needs to adapt.

If you want to build strength without weights, focus on strengthening your tendons. By strengthening your tendons and joints, your body will be more equipped to handle heavy weights and other external forces.The interesting thing about the training methods I mentioned in this post is that they’re also know for strengthening the nervous system. There are no excuses. Let’s get to work! Below are some resources I’ve used to help me 

Benefit of High Rep bodyweight exercises:  https://www.t-nation.com/training/8-minutes-to-awesome

What motivated me to try extreme isometrics: https://www.just-fly-sports.com/one-mans-dive-into-extreme-isometrics/

Medical research talking about the muscle activation of isometric exercises: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11717228

Photo by Leon Martinez from Pexels

Pavel’s Philosophies

This post is about how I use Pavel Tsatsouline’s training philosophies in my fitness routine.

As a student of strength, I like to learn from different different strength coaches. One strength coach that has influenced me in recent years is Pavel Tsatsouline. I’ve dipped my toes in one of his programs.

Background

Pavel Tsatsouline is one of the most respected strength coaches. He’s the Chairman of Strongfirst Inc. and has trained athletes and military personnel. I first heard of him when I was listening to the Tim Ferriss Show. Since then I’ve been reading up in his training principles and implementing them in my workouts. I’ll be sharing some the training principles I’ve been using.

Grease The Groove

This principle is about training frequency. The more often you do a movement the better you’ll be at it. This is a big reason why I’m squatting or deadlifting every workout. The more often you do a movement, the better your nervous system will respond to it. A more efficient nervous system, the greater the strength potential.

In this philosophy, the weight you use doesn’t matter that much. The key is just doing the movement. You can use this next time you’re in the gym and resting in between sets. If you see an open power rack or bench, go in and do three light reps. Those three reps won’t strain you but after an hour in the gym, you’ll see that you got in an extra 30 reps of that movement.

Maximize Tension

Pavel also emphasizes maximizing muscle tension especially for the core muscles. He recommends tightening up your muscles even when lifting light weights. This is valuable because it teaches your body how to brace itself when lifting heavy. I take advantage of this training approach when doing my speed work. Not only do I focus on moving the weight as explosive as possible but I also squeeze my core muscles as if I was getting ready to max out. Doing this improves the mind- body connection when lifting.

Pavel also recommends squeezing the barbell or dumbbell you’re using as hard as possible in order to maximize tension. I’ve noticed that this helps engage my entire body during a lift. There’s something special about how you use your hands when lifting. It sends a message to the rest of your body that it’s time to do something serious.

Good Reps Only

This training principle goes around that idea that you should focus on getting quality reps only and avoid struggling with your lifts. Pavel’s philosophy is completely against training to failure when trying to gain strength. I wish I embraced this philosophy earlier in my fitness journey. I’ve failed on lifts before and it sucks.

An example of this training philosophy is if you can 10 reps at a certain weight, do only three instead. I’m someone who enjoys lifting at heavier weights so I use this principle by doing a few less reps than I can. Instead of six reps, I do three. The key is using set and rep ranges you know you’ll be able to successfully complete.

Another benefit of this training principle is it’s good for your lifting longevity and confidence. The more you see yourself succeed in a lift, the more confident you’ll be when adding weight. The only times I deviate from this approach is when I do paused reps or maxing out. Paused squats are meant to be difficult. Even then, I try not to do more than I think I’m capable of.

Pavel Tsatsouline is one of many fitness icons I’ve learned from. For any fitness or life goal you have, I recommend studying the experts in that area.

Photo by Evelyn Chong from Pexels

Are You Getting Stronger?

This post gives you a guide on how to test your strength progress in the weightroom.

Who doesn’t love to get stronger? Strength is one of the key foundations to fitness. The stronger you are, the more likely you can achieve other goals like muscle gain, fat-loss, athleticism, and overall good health. As someone who values strength, I always wonder if I’m getting stronger.

I bet many fitness lovers can relate to this feeling. Strength progress can be tough to measure because you can gain strength in one lift and stay stagnant on another. This article will focus on exercise specific strength. There are many ways to see if you’ve gotten stronger.

One Rep Max

One of the most common ways to see if you’ve gotten stronger is to test your one rep max. If you could deadlift 300 pounds last week for a one rep max but now you can do 310 pounds for a max, you’ve gotten stronger.

Pros:

  • Lifting heavy weights is fun!
  • It’s easy to find your weak points when doing a one rep max. For example, if you’re struggling at the bottom portion of a squat, you can do pause work. If you’re shoulders are letting you down with your bench press, do more direct shoulder work.
  • Confidence boost. Nothing in the gym gives me a greater sense of confidence than lifting a new max. You just feel powerful when you do something you weren’t previously able to do.

Cons:

  • The biggest problem when maxing out is the injury risk. The weight you try might too much for your body to handle. That’s why it’s important to have a spotter or safety pins when trying out a new max. One way I try to reduce injury risk when maxing out is to use the wave loading approach I learned from Charles Poliquin.
  • Confidence loss. When going for a one rep max, there’s a risk of failing on the lift. When it comes to gaining strength, failing is something you want to avoid.

 

Five Rep Max

This is one of the simplest ways to see how much you’ve progressed in strength. For the purpose of this article, I chose the number five rep max as a measuring tool. You can also different maxes like your three rep, seven rep, etc. Let’s say you can squat 250 pounds for five reps. If you can squat 250 pounds for seven reps two weeks later, you’ve gotten stronger.

Pros:

  • This is one of the the safest approaches to testing your strength because you’re using a weight you’re familiar. It’s easy to see if you can do more reps of weight you’ve used many times.

Cons:

  • This approach isn’t as fun as testing your one rep max unless you’re doing it with your two or three rep max.

Bar Speed

Another way to test strength progress is through bar speed. This approach is best used when you’re doing speed reps. If you can move a certain wait faster than you previously could, you’ve gotten stronger.

The idea is that you’re able to apply more force. The more force you can use in a lift, the more weight you’ll be able to use. You have to use more to move 400 pounds than to move 300 pounds. I learned about this when I started doing compensatory acceleration training (CAT).

Pros:

  • You’re not stressing yourself with a heavy load. When lifting for speed, it’s recommended to use 55-70% of your one rep max
  • Boosts athleticism! Most sports involve explosive movements like jumping and sprinting. If compound lifts like squats and deadlifts transfer well to sports performance, then doing them explosively could have an even greater impact. If you see athletes train in the weightroom, they often focus on doing the lifts in an explosive manner.

Cons:

  • Risk of injury: Speed reps can lead to injury if you’re not careful. Never compromise form in order to move the weight as fast as possible. I also try to keep my foundation as strong as possible through armor building exercises .

 

Increase Your Chances of Getting Stronger:

There are several programs, systems, and training protocols to get stronger. Many of them do work. The simplest advice I can give anyone who wants to get stronger is to focus on compound lifts.Compound lifts like the squat, deadlift, bench press, and chin-up work many muscles at once. These lifts are also the best way to measure your strength because more parts of your body is involved. The bench press is a greater strength evaluator than the tricep extension.

In addition to doing compound lifts, try to get as much muscle contraction as possible through heavier loads or by focusing on speed. Good things come to those with the right habits. How do you normally test your strength?

Photo Courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/@bruno-bueno-953238

 

 

Three Things I Learned From Strength Coach Charles Poliquin

This post is about some valuable knowledge I gained from Strength Coach Charles Polinquin

This article is in honor of Strength Training legend Charles Poliquin. Poliquin died last September after decades of contribution to the fitness industry. Poliquin was one of the most well known and respected strength coaches. He trained olympic athletes, bodybuilders, and powerlifters. He was extremely knowledgeable in fitness and I learned a lot from him and his team. I might not have progressed as much as I have if it wasn’t for him.

Sprint Workouts Are Not All Built The Same

I learned that not all sprint workouts were built the same. In the early days of my fitness journey, I knew that sprints were a great exercise to do. They burn fat, build muscle, and increase athleticism. I used to just sprint thinking that was enough to get all these benefits. I’m sure the sprints I did helped me make improvements int these areas but I wasn’t aware that different sprint workouts emphasized different areas of fitness. One day I stumbled upon an old sprint workout article on one of Poliquin’s websites. I saw different ways to sprint to maximize certain goals.

I’ve shared some of these goal specific sprint workouts in previous posts. These workouts have helped me when focusing on different aspects of fitness. I learned how to sprint specifically for athletic performance, fat loss, and muscle gain. Knowledge is power.

 

Different Strength Building Rep and Set Schemes

The great Charles Poliquin thought me different strength building methods that have helped me tremendously.  When I started focusing on strength, I just focused on the regular progressive overload approach. This approach works but sometimes you have to mix things up, especially if progress starts stalling. One of them is Cluster Sets. I mentioned cluster sets before but it’s worth repeating. Cluster sets are sets within a set.

An example is if you’re comfortable doing three reps per set for an exercise. Instead of doing all three reps continuously, you’ll stop at two reps rest for 20 seconds and do another rep. By taking short rests during each set, you’ll find yourself being able to do more reps per set and more reps overall.

Another strength building protocol I learned from him is wave loading. I’ve used wave loading. Wave loading is a way to help you work up to a new max. I use wave loading whenever I want to test a new max.

1st Wave:

  • 3 reps at 90% of one rep max
  • Three minute rest
  • Two reps at 95% of one rep max
  • Three minute rest
  • One rep at 98% of one rep max
  • Three minute rest

2nd Wave:

  • Same number of reps and rest time, the only difference is you’ll add five pounds to each set.

3rd Wave, if you have enough left in the tank:

  • Same as second wave but with another five pound increase in weights.

Earn Your Carbs

The idea behind earn your carbs is you should only be eating carbs on days you do challenging workouts. Since carbs are used for energy, there’s no point in eating a bunch of carbs if you’re sitting on the couch all day. You don’t need energy to watch TV. This idea focuses mainly on simple carbs like rice, pasta, and bread. since they’re the ones that contribute mostly to fat loss. You can still get carbs from fruit and beans.

This is one of the simplest pieces of advice for anyone trying to lose fat.I try to follow this principle as best as I can but I love eating carbs. I’m not perfect.

Closing Thoughts

As a student of strength, I’m truly grateful for the knowledge that Charles Poliquin has shared. I’ve made great progress in my fitness journey thanks to him. He’ll always be a legend in the fitness world.

Below are links from two of his main sites.

https://www.strengthsensei.com

https://www.poliquingroup.com