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

Photo by Leon Ardho from Pexels

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

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>

Get Stronger and Better at Home

This article is about simple ways to get in better shape at home.

I’m a big believer in going to the gym, especially the right gym Why The Gym You Go To Matters. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the things you can do at home to get in better shape.The most obvious you can do is eat right and do home workouts. Rather than doing full workouts, I have habits that help me get better results in my fitness pursuits.

Pushup Routine: This routine is especially useful when watching tv. Every time there’s a commercial break, drop down and do 10 push-ups. Doing 10 pushups at a time isn’t hard. By using this approach, you’ll easily fit in more exercise to your schedule without straining yourself. The muscles worked in the pushups will help your performance in other exercises like the bench and shoulder press.

Squat in The Bathroom: Every time you go to the bathroom, do 10 body weight squats. This has the same level of simplicity as the pushup routine. Not only will you burn more calories by getting more exercise but this squat routine will help you improve your squat technique.

Walk Barefoot:

Walking barefoot is something simple you can do at home. The most obvious benefits of walking barefoot are strengthening your feet and ankles. This will help you perform better in any athletic activity. Walking barefoot has also been shown to improve spinal health.

Cardio: One of the simplest ways to get a cardio workout at home is treating a pillow like a punching bag. The idea is to get a pillow that you don’t really use and have someone hold it up in the air for you. Set a timer for one minute and do different punching combinations on the pillow. This is easier on your joints than a punching bag. Doing this with the right intensity will give you a killer cardio workout.

Simple 8 Minute Workout:

I had to sneak in a workout. I learned about this workout from an article written by fitness coach Max Shank. It only takes 8 minutes but it’s very challenging. Do this before you’re going to take a shower. There are many variations to this workout but the way I do it is listed below.

Do as many pushups as you can for 3 minutes.

Do as many squats as you can for 5 minutes.

The benefits of this 8 minute workout includes improved joint health, muscle endurance, and better conditioning.

Health and fitness are a lifestyle. You can get better no matter where you are. Once you make the decision to commit to fitness, you’ll always find ways to improve.

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!

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….

Squat Replacement

The barbell back squat is known as the king of leg exercises. It’s one of my favorite movements to do.The problem is not everyone can squat or wants to squat for a number of reasons including fear or injuries. I always recommend having  the back squat or front squat in your arsenal. One alternative to these movements is the single-leg Bulgarian split squat. This exercise has helped me tremendously over the years. It helped me recover from a knee injury because it strengthens the VMO muscle that stabilizes your patella tendon. This also means it’s a good exercise for injury prevention. Unlike the leg press and leg extension, the split squat engages many muscles. You’ll feel your glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors when doing split squats. It also engages your core so you can balance on one leg.Split squats have also helped me improve my squats due to the leg work.

Unlike the front and back squats, split squats can give your legs a heavy workout without stressing the spine. I still love doing back squats and would like to do front squats eventually but split squats have their benefits as well. Split squats can be used as an accessory exercise or as the main lift if you want to go heavy. You’ll be surprised how much weight you can push with your one leg.

Split squats are also great for athletes since most sports movements involve using one leg at a time. The stronger you are, the greater your athletic potential. Pushing off with one leg mimics the motion of sprinting and jumping off one leg. The Bulgarian Split Squat will also train your balance, which is important in keeping your body injury free when playing a sport.The movement is very similar to a lunge. The main difference is that your back leg is resting on a bench with the front of your ankle touching the bench. Some people prefer to do it with the front of their toes touching the bench. With your one leg that’s touching the floor, move down like you would do for a lunge. Once your front leg makes a 90 degree angle, push back up. I recommend practicing with your body weight so you can get comfortable with the movement.

I’m a big supporter of more bang for your buck exercises and the Bulgarian split squats passes the test. It builds stability and balance in your legs to prevent injuries as well as recover from injuries. It builds leg strength and muscle that can help with big lifts like squats and deadlifts. Split squats also great for helping athletic performance. I promise you won’t regret adding split squats to your arsenal.

 

Photo by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. Fifth Fleet on TrendHype / CC BY

Choose Five Exercise Movements

If you could only do five exercise moves for the rest of your life, what would you choose? Walking doesn’t count because you can walk anywhere. You can walk to the kitchen. You can walk to the bathroom and you can walk to your car. When choosing five exercise moves, I want to incorporate different types of movements and different muscles. I’m sure I’ve left out a lot of great movements but the five I’m choosing are based off of my personal experience. As I continue my fitness journey, I might find some exercises to replace with the ones on this list.Here’s my combination of five exercises. It’s in no particular order.

Leopard Crawl: The Leopard Crawl is a cross-crawl movement done on the floor. It has been popularized by Tim Anderson of Original Strength. I chose the Leopard Crawl because it incorporates the same muscles as the bench press such like the chests, triceps, and shoulders. I’ve also noticed improvement in bicep strength from doing this move. The Leopard Crawl has also improved my posture tremendously because when doing this move properly, your hips sink lower than your shoulders and your neck is facing up. This move is also great for core strength. The Leopard Crawl will also improve your mobility. This dynamic movement has improved my coordination and made my Central Nervous System more efficient.

Here’s a link to the site I learned this movement from:

https://originalstrength.net/2013/09/05/how-to-crawl/

Deadlift: I chose deadlifts because it’s the ultimate strength building exercise. It works every muscle in your body. The deadlift transfers to other areas in your life like playing sports and picking up furniture.

Barbell Back Squat: I chose the barbell back squat because I love how it makes me feel. It feels great to overcome a force that is  trying to keep you down. The squat builds physical and mental toughness. It’s also the best exercise to develop leg strength and muscle if you’re using proper form.

Sprints: Similar to walking, you can do sprints in your regular life. Whether that comes from running from a stray dog or chasing the bus. Jokes aside, I chose sprints because of the fat loss benefits it provides. Sprints also teach your body to move fast in case you do have to chase the bus or you’re playing sports. I’ve been in the best shape when I consistently did sprints.

Farmers Walk: I chose the Farmers Walk because of the strength benefits it provides. I’m a big believer in the idea that the stronger you are, the easier everything else is. Doing Farmers Walks is the “easiest” way to get stronger. The Farmers Walk teaches my body how to stabilize itself. The Farmers Walk will also prepare you for situations in which you have to carry something heavy over a distance. You can manipulate the weight and distance used for Farmers Walks if you want to get stronger or burn fast. At the very least, the Farmers Walk will make you more efficient at carrying groceries to your house.

Bonus: It hurts a little not to include the barbell hang clean because it’s a fantastic total body movement that teaches your body how to move explosively. I’m at the beginner stage with this movement but maybe I’ll replace one of the moves I chose once I get more proficient at Hang Cleans.

If you could only do five exercises, what would you choose?