Attack Your Weaknesses!

One of the simplest yet overlooked ways of getting stronger is finding your weaknesses and making them strengths. I love using different training methods but sometimes it pays off to do the simple thing. This is why I place a lot of importance on self-awareness. With self-awareness, you can know what areas you need to work on. This applies to fitness and life in general. The first and simple step is identifying your weakness(es). Once you identify them, you attack them.

How To Identify Your Weaknesses

There are two ways I identify my weaknesses, soreness and sticking points. This why I like to focus on compound lifts. With soreness, I like to see what parts of my body have extra soreness. These extra sore body parts are the ones I need to work on more. For example, if your triceps are extra sore after bench pressing, you can do close grip bench press or skull crushers to address your weak triceps. I always prefer compound lifts but isolation exercises can help you target weak points.

The other way is by looking at my sticking points. The best way to know your sticking points is by lifting heavy. When you’re lifting heavy, you’ll notice what parts of the lift you have the most difficulty, thus you’ll find what’s holding you back from getting stronger.

How To Attack Your Weaknesses

The two ways to attack your weaknesses is strengthening the weak muscles or doing sticking point specific exercises. The first one is a no brainer, if you have a weak muscle group just train it. There are various ways to really target weak points. You can use single limp exercises like the Bulgarian split squat and bent over rows. You can do isolation exercises like the skull crushers, glute bridges, and hamstring curls. Bodyweight exercises are also great for targeting specific weaknesses, especially joint weaknesses. If you’re a lifter without access to weights, you can use this time to do bodyweight exercises that target weak points.

For sticking point issues, paused work and overcoming isometrics will help tremendously. Doing paused squats has helped me improve my ability to get out of the bottom position. You can do pauses at any position that you feel you’re weak at. Overcoming isometrics are specifically done to break through sticking points and can lead you to incredible strength gains. There’s so many ways to use Overcoming Isometrics but the most common way I’ve seen is with a barbell, power rack, and safety pins.

The idea is to push the barbell against the safety pins at various joint angles. You’ll select the joint angles you struggle in the most.Since you won’t be able to move the pins, you’ll be exerting maximum force. Doing this teaches your body to exert a lot of force at that particular position. The more force you apply, the easier it is to move the weight.

How I’m Attacking My current Weaknesses

My two current weak spots are my triceps and my hip flexors. I noticed my tricep weakness from struggling at the lockout point on my bench press. I saw my hip flexor weakness from doing squats. My hip flexors are often sore after I finish doing squats.

For my triceps, I’ve been doing a lot of isolation exercises as well as cross crawl movements that engage the triceps. I’ve definitely noticed improvements in my lockout strength since placing a stronger emphasis on tricep training..

For my hip flexors, I’ve been doing band work. The exercise involves me lying on my back and placing my feet on the bands. Once I’m set up, I bring each knee to my chests , with the band acting as resistance.

I’ve also been doing hurdle jumps at a local track. These automatically engage the hip flexors based on how I have to tuck in my legs to get over the hurdles.I’ve noticed a difference in my power when squatting. I’ve also been able to engage my glutes more when I lift.

Another way I’m targeting my hip flexors is to look at the cause for hip flexor weakness. I’ve made it a point to stand up more each day. Sitting for too long weakens and tightens hip flexors. I’ve also been stretching my hip flexors so they can be strong and mobile.

Below is a link to a Stack article with great information on Overcoming Isometrics:

https://www.stack.com/a/overcoming-isometrics-the-weird-exercises-that-can-instantly-make-you-stronger#:~:text=%20For%20example%2C%20contrast%20training%20for%20the%20upper-body,minutes%20and%20repeat%20for%203-5%20sets%20More%20

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The Power of Self-Awareness in Fitness

How self-awareness will help you achieve your fitness goals faster

As I take time to reflect on my fitness journey, I realize that one of the keys to the progress I’ve made is self-awareness. Self-awareness is crucial to your success in fitness and all other areas of your life. For the purpose of this page, we’ll focus on fitness.

When you have self-awareness, you can be honest with yourself. Self-awareness will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Self-awareness will help you see areas in which you can improve. Self-awareness is beneficial for the mental and physical aspect of fitness. 

The Mental

Fitness is as much mental as it is physical. That’s why I’m a big fan of fitness affirmations. To amplify the power of affirmations, you’ll need to find out what thoughts and beliefs are holding you back. This is where self-awareness comes into place. A lot of times we’re not aware of limiting beliefs till we do some reflection.

If you feel stuck at some point in your fitness journey, it might be because you have a certain belief holding you back. Maybe you don’t think you’re worthy of attaining an attractive body. When you have more self-awareness, you see how dumb a belief like this is. If you put in the effort through proper exercise, diet, and sleep then you deserve to have an attractive body.

You might even be afraid of getting hurt in your pursuit of strength or athleticism. This belief could come from injuries you’ve had in the past that have nothing to do with your current position.As someone who’s had previous injuries, I had to do some self reflection to see how those experiences are currently limiting me. My reflection helped me see that those injuries were a result of bad decisions and that I’ve learned from them. As a result, my confidence during workouts increased and so did the progress.

The Physical 

Self-awareness is also important in the physical aspect of fitness. Being self aware in the physical aspect means taming your ego. How can you get stronger if you don’t know your weaknesses? When you’re self aware in the physical aspect, you’ll look see what body parts are holding you back during your lifts.

Being self aware can help prevent injuries as well. When you have self-awareness you can be honest with yourself about your form when performing a lift. You can make the necessary changes to your form so you can lift the weight properly and reduce your risk of injury. When you’re self-aware, you know how your body is feeling on a particular day and you can decide what level of intensity is appropriate for a particular workout. 

How To Increase Self-Awareness in Fitness

Yoga: Improved self-awareness is one of the many benefits of yoga . This is especially through when it comes to your body. Another name for this is body awareness. Doing yoga gives you a strong sense of what’s going on throughout your body, good and bad. 

Meditation: Meditation is a great tool to improve self-awareness. Not only does it help reduce stress hormones and improve nervous system health, it also makes you aware of your subconscious thoughts. These are the thoughts that drive your daily behavior without you being aware of them.

Written Thoughts: I’m a big believer in taking some time to write down your thoughts. It helps you see what’s necessary for your personal growth and for the achievement of your goals. When it comes to fitness, it’s only necessary if you find yourself in a rut. I’ve found that when I feel stuck in my fitness journey, writing down my thoughts have given me new life. This can be used for those who don’t want to sit down to meditate. Don’t worry about this if things are going smoothly. 

Self-awareness is important in fitness and in every aspect of your life. When you improve your self-awareness, you improve your chances of getting what you want out of life.

 

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The Best Day To Do Your Hardest Workout

This post is about why your hardest workout should be at the start of your week.

Most people dread Mondays because it’s the start of the work week. I love Monday because that’s when I get to do my hardest workout and set a tone for the rest of my week. The opportunity to take a significant step closer to my goals give me a reason to look forward to Mondays.

There are so many reasons to have your hardest workout on Monday. Unless you workout on weekends, you’ll have the most energy available on Mondays. Energy levels will depend on what you do on the weekend.

Momentum

I love doing my hardest workouts on Monday because it sets the tone for my week inside and outside of the gym. It gives me a sense of confidence going into my following workouts.The momentum I get from a tough Monday workout spreads through the rest of my week. Working out is as much mental as it is physical. Nothing feels better than starting your week off with a sense of accomplishment. When you accomplish something great in one area of your life, you naturally feel like doing that in other areas as well. This must be what they meant by an object in motion stays in motion unless acted on by an unbalanced force. In your case the motion is the momentum you get from completing a challenging workout.

After a tough workout, I feel like I can handle any challenge life throws at me. When you’re in the middle of a tough workout, the easy thing is to quit. By doing it anyways, you can build the mental toughness needed to handle life. I don’t dread going to work because I know I have the mental toughness to deal with the stressors that might come my way.

Sense of Relief

Working out hard on Mondays also gives me a sense of relief. I have one less thing to worry about as the week goes on. During the week, you can face stressors such as work, personal, and relationship issues. By getting one challenge out the way, it’s like a weight has been lifted off your shoulder ( no pun intended ) . With one less thing to worry about, you can fully focus on other things that need to get done. Yes, there will be other workouts to do but they’re not a concern since you just did the hardest workout of your week.

Increased Energy

I also like the energy boost I feel after working out. I can use that energy to be productive in other aspects of my life such as getting things done at work. It may sound crazy that your energy will increase after completing a challenging workout but that’s how it works. The key is doing a workout that challenges you but doesn’t leave you drained. The idea that you have to destroy yourself to have a great workout is a complete myth. You can challenge yourself to the point of discomfort without feeling like a zombie when you leave the gym. Working out with reckless abandon is a recipe for injury.

Closing Thoughts

You can do this on Sunday too if it’s not the day you use to rest. The idea is to set the right tone for your week. Start your week off with a challenging workout and see how you handle the rest of your week.

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Assault on The Squat pt.2

This article is about what I did to boost my squat performance

(Long Read)

In a previous post I mentioned my plan to boost my squat performance.My 1 rep max was 355 pounds before I implemented my plan. It’s time to share how it went.

The two main methods I used to make an improvement were paused squats and CAT squats.

Workouts:

During this training phase, I kept my normal routine but made some adjustments help my goal of getting a stronger squat.One change was squatting twice a week every other week. The week in between I’d do a heavy deadlift day and a light squat day. My light squat days were focused on explosiveness.

Paused Squat Workout:

In my main squat workout, I focused primarily on paused squats. Below is the workout I’d did.

1. Paused Squats- 315 pounds, 6 sets of 2 with 4 second paused. I chose this weight because it’s a weight I’m mentally and physically comfortable moving. Also, it’s heavy enough to make my muscles work harder after a 4 second pause. I’d rest 2 minutes in between sets.

2. Bulgarian Split-Squats: 3 sets of 3 with 90 pound dumbbells.I followed the paused back squats with Bulgarian split squats to target my legs more directly.

3. Cardio: I usually finished the workouts off with 5-7 minutes of jump roping.

CAT Squat Workout:

On my speed focused squat days, I used Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT) squats. I read that CAT squats should be done with 55-65% of your 1 rep max so I chose 215 pounds as my working set. I aimed for 6 sets of 3 so each of my reps were as explosive as possible. Sometimes I’d get carried away and do more sets. Moving explosively is fun. I did this workout the same days I bench-pressed. I did this workout every week.

Core Work: I also did some direct core work. I used to do these but for some reason I stopped doing it for months. I chose alternating leg raises as my core work. The key to making the most of this is bracing your core as if you’re about to get punched really hard in the stomach. This move builds core coordination, allowing all your core muscles to fire as one unit when performing a heavy lift.

Progression:

During the period of using this approach, I was getting more comfortable with my squat. My speed on the cat squats improves drastically so I moved up to 225 pounds. I also got in a groove with my paused squats. I went from being relieved to be done with 6 sets to wanting to stay at the squat rack all day. I knew this was a good time to test my one rep max.

Outcome:

After 5 weeks of using this approach, it was time to test my squatting strength. Below is the workout I used to test my squat. I rested 4 minutes in between each set.

3 reps at 330 pounds

2 reps at 340 pounds

1 rep at 355 pounds

3 reps at 335 pounds

2 reps at 345 pounds

Now it’s time to test my max. I went for 360 pounds. 360 went up smoothly and I felt good enough to go for more. After a 4 minute break, I went for 365. 365 felt so easy. I didn’t strain at all. After another 4 minute break, I was ready for 370. I went for 370 but I got stuck halfway through the lift and my spotter helped me finish.

After 5 weeks, I gained 10 pounds on my squat. I think I could’ve gotten 370 if I didn’t run out of gas.The previous sets felt easy but the nervous system can be tricky. I’m also happy that I at least got past the bottom position on the missed reps. I think the paused squats are a big reason for that.

Learning Points:

Paused squats are great for getting past sticking points.

The key to improving lifting performance is applying more force to a lift. You need to apply more than 400 pounds of force to move a 400 pound weight.

CAT squats will teach you how to apply more force when squatting.

Paused squats help your deadlift performance because it teaches you to unleash great force from a dead stop position. Paused squats also causes major glute activation

What’s Next?

I plan on continuing this approach to boost my squat. I’m a big believer in these two strength building methods. Pausing at the bottom of your squat takes away the momentum factor that plays into regular squats. It also gives you better awareness of your squat depth so you don’t cheat any reps.

CAT squats obviously boosts squatting speed but it’s known as a great way to boost strength as well. The purpose of CAT squats is to apply the type of force you’d do for a heavy weight into a light weight. The more force you put into a weight, the more likely you’ll be able to move it. This training method was created by a man named Fred Hatfield aka Dr. Squat. I’ll take squatting advice from a man named Dr. Squat any day. The journey continues!

The Power is in Your Hands

This post is about using your hands to boost your workout performance

Lifting heavy weights is awesome. There’s all kinds of changes you can make to improve your lifts like stretching a certain muscle or changing your body position. I recently learned about a hack I can use that will help me with any lift.The key is in how you grip the weight. Grip strength is obviously important in a lift like the deadlift but it can also help your other lifts.

Try doing a lift while passively holding a weight. Now try the same lift while gripping the weight tightly and see if there’s a difference. I briefly mentioned this in a previous article Get Stronger With Light Weights  . I learned about this technique from legendary strength coach Pavel Tsatsouline. This technique has been very useful for me when I do any of my heavy lifts.

The more I thought about it, the more it makes sense. Lifting heavy triggers the Flight or Flight response in your body. Flight or Flight is when you’re in a very stressful situation and your body’s natural response is to run away or fight. This is your body’s way to protect you whether you’re being chased by a wild animal or have heavy weight on your back.By holding onto a weight as if your life is depending on it, the flight or fight response multiplies. By eliciting a greater fight or flight response, your body is forced to “fight” or generate greater force in your lift. How else can you explain those stories about a mom lifting a car to save her baby that was stuck under?

This is probably why my lifts usually improve the better I get at Farmers walks Get Strong With Farmers Walks!. The farmers walk strengthens your grip and your core. The stronger your grip is, the easier it is to hold onto a weight tightly. A stronger grip also allows you to squeeze the bar harder and elicit that flight or fight response in your body to generate greater force.

Get your hands stronger!

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Use Your Mind For Amazing Results

When it comes to achieving your health and fitness goals, your mindset can be your biggest asset. When you have belief in your abilities, you’d be surprised about what your body can do.

My First Experience With How The Mind Can Influence Performance

I remember one time I was doing squats. One of my friends who was an experienced lifter saw me. He noticed that I kept looking down when I was squatting and recommended I look up. I followed his advice and noticed that the squat felt a lot easier. I told him this and he insisted I add more weight to the bar. I was hesitant because in my mind I couldn’t see myself lifting significantly more than I was doing. With my friend spotting me, I added 20 pounds to what I was doing. After some successful reps, my friend convinced me to add another 10 pounds. Despite my hesitation, I added a total of 50 pounds to what I was originally doing. In my next squat session, I increased the weight of my working set by 20 pounds.

Mind Hacks I’ve used To Boost My Workouts

Over time I used various techniques to make sure I have the right mindset during my workouts. The most obvious one is listening to aggressive music to pump me up for my workouts. I’ve also had success by repeatedly saying ” I’m strong ” in between my sets when lifting heavy. Constantly telling myself how strong I am gives me the expectation of doing well in my next working set. It’s like having a cheerleader with you as you’re lifting. I recently stumbled upon a new way to mentally prep for my workouts.

Another mind hack I use sometimes is the power of my imagination. When I’m about to lift a challenging weight, I picture my self as a gorilla that’s about to lift the weight. By doing this I’m seeing myself as the one in charge of the situation. I’m the one imposing my will on the weight rather than the other way around. I use the gorilla but you can use any animal that represents strength for you.

The Mirror Technique And It’s Origin.

I recently learned about a different mind hack that helps with workout performance. It’ called The Mirror Technique and I became aware of it after reading Claude Bristol’s book The Magic of Believing. I’d recommend reading this book if you’re open minded to things. The background behind the mirror technique is one day the author was invited to a party in which the host got very intoxicated. The host was expected to give a speech that day but he was so drunk. The author witnessed the host stumble into one of the house bathroom. The host looked into the mirror and told himself that he was stone cold sober. The author was in shock when the host suddenly stood firm and behaved like a man that was completely sober. Clatude Bristol reccomends using this technique to get your mind to believe anything.

Applying The Mirror Technique To Health and Fitness

I recently used the mirror technique one night when I was about to bench press. I had to use the bathroom before I began my working set. Luckily it was a private bathroom so I decided to try the technique out. I stood in front of the mirror and looked at myself right in the eyes. As I stood in front of the mirror, I repeatedly told myself how great I was at bench pressing. I told myself things like  ” I have an amazing bench press ” and ” I’m so strong”. I added some expletives too so I could add emotion to it. After my little pep talk, I was so pumped. I had a new level of confidence as I approached the bench. It’s not a coincidence that the weight I was using felt lighter than normal. I also had the confidence to attempt a new PR. I used a spotter just to be on the safe side. I successfully completed the lift with a little assistance. I promise my spotter didn’t have to curl the weight for me. I used the momentum I had from my pressing session into the rest of my workout. I now use the mirror technique on most days. My go to line is ” My body is Strong, healthy, athletic, and attractive”. Saying this gives me a sense of confidence in my body. You can use the mirror technique for any fitness or life goal you have.

Going forward I plan on using the mirror technique and other techniques to make sure I’m mentally ready for my workouts. When you approach your workouts with the right mindset, you’ll be amazed at your results.

 

” As you think, so shall you become “- Bruce Lee

 

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Get Stronger With Light Weights

This article shows you how to gain and maintain strength while lifting with lighter weights.

I’m obsessed with strength. Strength is the most important fitness quality other than mobility. Getting stronger will make you better at any physical activity. Getting stronger will help you be a better athlete, build muscle, and burn fat. Being stronger is also useful when you’re moving furniture or have to protect yourself from danger. There’s something empowering about having a body that’s capable. Strength is sexy. I’ve always thought the only way to get stronger is by lifting very heavy weight ( 85- 100 % of your one rep max. You can actually gain significant strength by lifting lighter weights (70- 85 %of your one rep max). Don’t get me wrong, I love lifting heavy weights Strength Vs. Hypertrophy..  Lifting heavy weights for low reps and good form will definitely get you stronger. The only issue is if you’re trying to get stronger, lifting heavy all the time will wear you out. It can be tough on the joints too. It may sound crazy that lighter weights can bring significant strength improvements but it works. The way this works is by focusing on muscular contractions. I recently learned about this method of training. I wish it was covered more online.

When you’re lifting a lighter weight, you need to approach it as if you’re about to lift a weight near your maximum capacity. Focus on contracting/flexing your muscles hard throughout the reps. The reason this works is that when you’re lifting near your one rep max, you automatically activate more muscle fibers. Your muscles contract hard as a survival mechanism to protect you from getting crushed by the weights.By consciously contracting your muscles hard, it sends a message to your brain that you’re lifting a heavy weight. You brain can’t tell if you’re maxing out or using comfortable weight because your muscle contraction is so intense. Some of my fitness idols like Elliot Hulse and Pavel Tsatsouline are supporters of this technique. I also learned that legendary strongman Max Sick (Maxick) used similar methods of training to develop his amazing strength. He would outperform men twice his size in contests of strength.

I love using this approach when doing the back squat. My current max on the back squat is 355 lbs and I weigh 180 lbs. I usually use 285-95 lbs for this approach. I like to keep my reps low at three, the way I’d  if I was lifting closer to my max. I usually do 5-6 sets so I can get enough practice with this technique.Another reason to keep the reps low is because it’s easier to concentrate on each rep to make sure you’re contracting your muscles correctly. With each rep, I contract my muscles as hard as possible.

This approach is also useful for days that you actually do lift heavy. By contracting your muscles hard during your warm-up sets, you allow your body to prepare for the heavier weight. You won’t feel as overwhelmed when you hit a heavier weight. Regardless of what lift you’re doing, focus on squeezing your abs, glutes, and hand muscles. You’ll notice a major difference when you contract these muscles compared to when you don’t contract them. Certain lifts will require you to contract different muscles but the three muscles I mentioned will have the most impact on your lifting performance. This works best with compound lifts like the bench press, deadlift, and squat.

To get better at this approach to lifting, I do total-boy muscle contractions from time to time. The way I do it is to flex every muscle below my neck as hard as possible for six seconds. I also clench my fists as tightly as possible. Do three sets of this with a minute break in between sets.By improving your ability to activate muscles consciously, you’ll also be improving your mind-muscle connection.

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This approach shouldn’t be seen as a complete substitute from lifting heavy. You still need to use heavy loads if you want to maximize your strength. I like using this method as a way to complement my heavy lifting. What workout strategies have helped you gain strength?

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