Category Archives: Strength

Posts about strength

Why Women Should Lift Heavy

Ladies, you can’t be afraid of the weights!  

I get questions all the time from girls like “Tank, how do I tone my arms” or “How do I get a tighter butt?” or “How do I lose weight but put on muscle?”

My one and only answer?  Lift weights and lift heavy.

The generic is response is “But I don’t want to get big muscles and look like a linebacker.”

Girls are always afraid of this, but let me be the first one to tell you that this is nothing to be afraid of!

If it was that easy to pack on muscle, you would see many more jacked dudes walking around.  Trust me, it isn’t that easy.

Why is it not that easy?

Most of it can be attributed to two key differences between men and women: hormones and diet.

First of all, a lot of the muscle growth in men is attributed to hormone production.  Since you ladies have much lower levels of hormones like testosterone, you need not be afraid of looking like a science experiment.

Diet is another contributing factor.  A lot of jacked up dudes are consuming far in excess of their maintenance levels.  You rarely need to force feed yourself calories, especially since it is not your goal to get huge in the first place.  Eating a balanced diet with proper nutrition will yield you great results.

Want to look like this girl?

tighter butt

Think this girl looks like this because she lives on a treadmill and does set after set of crunches?  No!  She lifts weights and she lifts heavy.

The normal female desires of getting toned and losing weight really just translates to building muscle and losing body fat.

Weight lifting does both of these for you.

The “toned” look is the by-product of having a good amount of lean muscle mass.  You can’t actually tone a muscle.  If you want better arms, you can’t bicep curl and tricep kick-back your way into success.  You need to work your entire body by lifting weights and putting more muscle onto your frame.

Lifting weights not only builds muscle, but it boosts your metabolism long after you have left the gym, putting you in prime fat burning mode.  If you develop a routine and lift weights with regularity, you will be a fat burning machine 24/7!

How do I do it?

Start by budgeting at least 3 days of your week to lift weights for 1 hour.  Workouts should consist of total body movements.  Compound exercises are king; avoid isolation exercises.

Don’t know what exercises to do?  Pick from this list.  Perform 4 per session.

Make sure to do a proper warmup and keep the number of sets per exercise to 3-4 in the beginning.  Each set can be performed for roughly 6-12 reps, depending on the amount of weight you are using.

Lift as heavy as you can in this prescribed rep range.  Lifting heavy burns far more calories than really high rep programs and is a major metabolism booster, burning even more fat during your recovery periods.

Make sure you increase your intensities each set (progressive overload).  As you get stronger, you can start with more weight and progressively go for heavier weights.  You should be improving each week in the beginning.

Rest periods should be short, no longer than 90 seconds in between sets.  The reality is that females require shorter rest periods than males, so 90 seconds is being generous.  You should be able to perform sets with as low as 30 seconds of rest in between sets, depending on how hard you are working yourself.  Do not rest too long!  You must challenge yourself and crank up the intensity to get results.

Strong is the new skinny!  Don’t be afraid to pick up some weights and lift with the boys.  Truth is, I’ve seen girls that can outlift a lot of guys these days and they look good doing it.  Plus it will be a big boost to your ego by seeing the stunned looks on guys faces around your gym after you dominate them!

Evolve!!

— Tank

Why We Train for Strength to Achieve Mass Gain (Part 2)

This is part 2 of a 2 part series.  For part 1, click here!

By now you’ve heard my sermon on training for strength.  I generally talk down on the “bodybuilding” approach; I passionately believe that the majority of us should be training for strength, not strictly for mass gain and appearance.  See my post on training like an athlete; it is one of my favorites and I bet it will change how you look at your training regimen.  However…

Bodybuilding has it’s place.  For bodybuilders (and I mean people who are competing or have aspirations to compete), it’s the logical, standard approach.  And it may even work for the average Joe (which is the majority of the people in the gym, whether or not you want to admit it) for a little while…but it will never work permanently; just like my approach for training for strength won’t either.

**Note** If you aren’t familiar with the concept of linear periodization, google it and make yourself smarter.  It is the foundational rule of strength training and one that everyone should know.strength training

Anyhow, back to this post.

Bodybuilders stop here.  Read my post on training like an athlete and part 1 of this series, and work those styles into your regimen when you need to switch it up.  I can guarantee it will work wonders for you.

Now, average Joes, gym rats, and about 90% of the gym population, LISTEN UP!  This post should really hit home for you.  You should be doing the direct opposite of my bodybuilding friends; aim to increase your base strength and mix in the bodybuilding only as a short period of your overall routine.

Just using a bodybuilding approach is great for beginners;  if you’ve never picked up a weight before, I bet you can make some serious gains quick.  I am a prime example of that.  Using a high volume, body part split routine I gained 40lbs in just over 4 months as a rookie.

But I quickly hit a plateau.  Boom!  My gains came to a screeching halt.

Now I’ve completely reversed my training style.  Now the bodybuilding/hypertrophy period of my training is relatively short compared to my strength period (roughly only 3-4 months of the whole year).  That means that about 75% of the year I’m training strictly to get stronger, while bodybuilding and time off make up the remaining 25%.  A lot of times I’ll work in a bodybuilding type movement into my daily workouts, while sill doing a majority of compound type strength exercises in low rep ranges.

This approach has served me and my training partners well; it allows you to make significant and systematic strength gains, while allowing you to put mass on your frame without getting that “puffy look” that a lot of guys get from doing too much volume.

You can also use this style to bring up your weaknesses and help improve your big lifts.

Lets say I want to add some weight to my bench press; taking a bodybuilding approach and doing some direct triceps work can help build my synergist muscles and help me put up bigger numbers.  My deadlift is slacking?  Time to attack the hamstrings.  Get the idea?

You may also hit a time in your training where your actual size prohibits you from advancing your strength gains.  I’ve reached sticking points to where I needed to get physically bigger for me to achieve the strength goals I had.  I only weigh 175lbs, but I routinely squat over 400lbs.  Not a bad feat, but I have reached a limit to where my body just simply cannot handle the load I put onto it.

Powerlifters often talk about “eating past their sticking points”, meaning they simply try to gain weight to improve their lifting ability.  Using the bodybuilding approach for part of your training regimen to concentrate strictly on mass gain can help you get stronger.  Get bigger to get stronger.

strength trainingBottom Line

Bodybuilding is a great supplemental training style to add to your regimen.  But do not do it all the time if you are not an aspiring competitor!

Add some bodybuilding to your daily strength workouts, and you can do a few months of bodybuilding per year to help bring your mass gains up to par if you are not happy with your progress.  Use bodybuilding to bring up your weaknesses and synergistic muscles that will help you in your big lifts like the bench press or deadlift.

Mass gain from bodybuilding will also help you get stronger in the long run by making your body more capable of handling huge weights.

Just remember, the stronger you are, the better off you’ll be.  Even if you want the bodybuilder look, the stronger you are, the more weight you can use, the bigger you will get!

Evolve!!

— Tank

 

Why We Train for Strength to Achieve Mass Gain (Part 1 of 2)

Preface

I will always promote the idea of getting stronger, first and foremost.  This requires me to show normal gym rats why they should train to get strong, and why they shouldn’t emphasize the high volume bodybuilding approach that they mimic off other dudes in the gym or read in all of the muscle magazines.  I am not slamming bodybuilding routines; in fact they can be very valuable and I still use them in my program. But what I am saying is that for those of us not trying to compete in a bodybuilding show, high volume training sessions should only be a very small portion of our training program.

Alright, now that that is out of the way, lets kick this thing off!

Base Strength

Training for strength kinda seems like a no-brainer.  After all, lifting weights at the gym is allegedly called strength training.

But how I see people train most of these days is far from it.  In reality, what I usually see is people lifting like bodybuilders (85% or less than their one rep max in high volume sessions) in order to get a more visually pleasing body.  The vast majority of us are not bodybuilders!  So why are you training like one?!?!  Nothing wrong with trying to look good and get bigger, but there is a better way to go about it.

strength training

Increasing your “base strength” levels will lead to long term mass gains and can be accomplished by simply training to get stronger.

Base strength is the low end level of any given person’s strength ability, like the weight a person can do, for say, 20 reps without warming up.  So if a guy can squat 600lbs at max effort, his base strength may be squatting 300lbs.

Ok, so what does having great base strength mean for mass gain?

Well, if you are like most smart lifters, you follow some form of periodization, usually a strength phase followed by a hypertrophy phase.  And if you are simply trying to get bigger or get a more impressive physique, you are probably emphasizing the hypertrophy phase.  Perfectly logical.

However, lets think about this in a different way.  Training for mass gain you are operating at 85% or less of your one rep max for reps of 6-12 a set for the most part.  But what if your 85% could be done with much more weight?  Wouldn’t you put on more mass because you are using more resistance?  You betcha!!

At the end of a 12 week cycle, who is going to have a bigger chest?  The guy who can bench 225 for 12 reps a set, or the guy who can bench 185 for 12?  The 225 guy obviously because his base strength levels are much higher.

Make sense?  This is why I emphasize training for strength.  The more we improve our base strength, the more weight we can use during hypertrophy training, meaning the bigger we can get.

Lesson learned?  Do not neglect the “strength” part of strength training.  Cut down the reps, crank up the resistance, and train like an athlete.  You must train to get stronger, regardless of your overall goals.  Strength is the foundation for which all fitness achievements are built upon.

Stay tuned for part 2 over the weekend, where I give bodybuilding its credit as a supplemental tool to your training program!  I will also give you a pro-con list to these 2 vastly different training approaches.

Evolve!!

–Tank

Food For Thought

There is also a flip side to this concept but I have yet to see it tested or proven one way or another.  If an athlete can improve his base strength levels by 50lbs (for example increasing his bench from 200lbs to 250lbs), will his absolute max strength improve as well?  Will training for base strength lead to an ability to surpass previous one rep maxes?

I suspect the answer is no, but the body is an amazing thing.  This may be something I evaluate in the future and try on myself.

 

23 Ways to Kick Ass in Life and in the Gym

Guys, this post fires me up.  It’s a quick hitting list that will help you make immediate positive changes in your life, and will lead to unreal gains in the gym.  These are not hard to follow, so you have no excuses not to.  Besides, who doesn’t want to kick ass?

Take these and use at least half of them.  If you want to be a real ass kicker, live by them all.

#1 Wake Up Early — The earlier you wake up, the more you get done in the day.  The more you get done, the more successful you are.  Plain and simple.  From my experience, not many good things happen at night anyway.

strength training

#2 Lift Heavy — Whether you just want to look good naked, or you want to compete in strongman competitions, you gotta lift heavy.  Building foundational strength is the key to gaining mass, burning fat, and shattering your previous limitations in the gym.

#3 Be Confident — Look around you and pick out the most successful people in your life.  I bet you 100% of them are confident.  Confidence will make you not only feel good about yourself, but it will shine to anyone who is watching you.  When you go out to a social setting, who attracts the most attention?  The confident “successful” people do, not the wallflowers.  Confidence breeds success.

#4 Embrace Failure — Failure is not a bad thing.  It is an opportunity.  Everyone fails.  If you haven’t failed at something, you aren’t challenging yourself enough.  Push your limits.  If you fail, learn from it.  You will come back stronger and ready to kick ass, and eventually you will succeed.

strength training
#5 Take Risks
— Success doesn’t come to the timid.  Ask some of the most successful people in the world how they got there, I guarantee they took a few risks along the way.

#6 Turn Weaknesses Into Strengths — Weaknesses are limitations and you never want to limit yourself.  Identify where you are weak and attack it; don’t be afraid of it.  If you want to get better at something, you must improve your deficiencies.  I know where I’m weak and you better believe that is where I’m concentrating a lot of my time.

#7 Read Daily — Ever heard the phrase “train smarter, not harder”?  Hardcore meatheads might scoff at this remark, but there is merit in it.  If you train or live like an idiot, chances are you won’t be going very far.  Read.  Educate yourself.  The smarter you are, the better prepared you will be for future challenges you may face.

#8 Lay Off the Junkfood — It’s called junkfood for a reason; it’s junk.  Don’t eat it.  Period.

strength training

#9 Do Deadlifts — Deadlifts are the undisputed #1 strength training exercise you can do.  It works your entire body and will build mass on your posterior chain faster than anything else.  If you want to get big and strong, you must do these.  Get in there, grip it and rip it.

#10 Drop the Baggage — Negative people suck.  I don’t care who it is, friends, family, colleagues; you can’t be exposed to negative influences.  You can do your due diligence and try to make it work, but don’t be afraid to cut the cord.  I’ve done it with people really close to me so I know it can be done.

#11 Set Goals — You must have daily goals and long term goals.  By planning what you do each and every day, you can ensure that you are taking the right steps towards that long term goal.  Success doesn’t happen by luck; have a clear vision and attack it.  This goes for your gym time too; have a plan before you even set foot in the door and get it done!  No more walking around aimlessly.

#12 Be Consistent — Consistency is key.  Nobody ever got good at anything by half-assing it every once in a while.  Habits are formed by being consistent, and the more good habits you adopt, the more likely you are to succeed.  You must grind it out EVERY SINGLE DAY.

#13 Train Like A Kid — Remember back in the day when we were kids?  Running, jumping, throwing stuff.  We were all athletes in some capacity.  It is easy to lose that over time, but that’s exactly how we should train.  Move around in space, sprint, throw heavy balls.  “Kid like” workouts can be fun; it breaks up the monotony and gets us back to our Primal roots.

#14 Get Outside Daily — Goes hand in hand with training like a kid.  Being outside is good for the soul.  So many of us are stuck inside for insane amounts of time these days.  Our bodies were not made for that.  Spend some time outdoors, train outside if you can, and soak up some of that vitamin D.

strength training#15 Try New Things — Doing the same thing over and over again won’t get you anywhere in life or the gym.  If you want to grow as a person, you gotta expose yourself to new experiences.  Live a little!  In the gym, your body adapts to the stimulus you apply to it.  Once it adapts, no new growth or strength will be achieved, so you have to switch up your routines.

#16 Help Others — Doing good deeds for other people makes the world a better place.  I started Primal Strength Camp to help people get stronger.  It helps them and I get a kick out of it too.  Helping each other out is a win/win situation.

#17 Daydream — Take a few minutes a day and just dream.  Think about what you want, strategize how to get there, and visualize your final achievement.  Some of my best revelations and “ah-ha” moments came from daydreaming.

#18 Stretch — “Long muscles are strong muscles”.  One day when you are old and can’t bend over to tie your shoes, you will regret not maintaining adequate levels of flexibility.

#19 Get At Least 8 Hours of Sleep a Day — You grow while you sleep.  8-10 hours is the ideal, but most Americans these days only get about 6.  Its unhealthy!  Turn off the t.v., get off the computer, and get in bed.  Sleep deprivation leads to under-performance, depression and stress.  8 hours, no excuses.

#20 Find a Training Partner — Training partners bring a sense of accountability, motivation, competition, and a visual eye to your gym sessions.  Finding a good one can be hard, but if you can find one, it can make a huge difference.

#21 Crank Up the Intensity — Being intense is crucial.  Focus and channel all of your energy into your workouts.  I have failed at  personal record setting lifts, only to crush them a few minutes later just by cranking up the intensity.  Gym time = Beast mode.

strength training

#22 Do What You Want to Do — Life is too short to be stuck doing a bunch of sh*t you don’t want to do.  Sound selfish?  So what!  Being unhappy all the time isn’t fair to you, and chances are you will be one miserable person to be around, so it really isn’t fair to those around you either.  Do at least one thing per day that makes you happy.

#23 Never, Ever Give Up — Fail, fail, and fail again.  Eventually you will succeed.  Quitting sucks; don’t do it!  You will regret it, guaranteed.  No matter what you are doing, no matter how beat down you feel, no matter how far down the road success seems, never, ever give up.

strength training

Evolve!!

— Tank

Top 5 Muscle Building Exercises

Here is a list of the top 5 exercises everyone should be doing to get stronger and build muscle mass.  If you aren’t doing them, you better start!  These are not an option, no excuses.  Get it done.

muscle building

#1: Deadlift

Nothing makes you feel manlier than stepping over a huge amount of weight and muscling it up off the floor.

In the earlier stages of my training, I made the rookie mistake of ignoring this.  Don’t be like me.

Deadlifting is the best total body exercise you can do.  Most new lifters are weak in the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, back), so immediately putting this into your routine will help bring up your weaknesses.

If you look at some of the strongest and most impressive physiques around, you will notice the size of their upper back.  Deadlifting will build mass on your traps unlike anything else, and having strong glutes and hamstrings will improve your ability in a lot of other areas; jumping, sprinting, squatting, etc.

Another often overlooked benefit of deadlifting is the improvement it will have on your grip strength.  Getting over the bar and picking up heavy sh*t will improve your grip strength exponentially.

muscle building women

#2: Squats

You know how I tell the difference between serious lifters and “pretenders” at the gym?  The size
of their legs and whether or not I ever see them squat.

You want to be strong, you gotta squat.  Quads, abs, glutes, hamstrings, I can’t think of a better lower body exercise to do.

Squatting is an essential part of your routine.  The beauty of squats is the versatility of the exercise. Bodyweight squats, front squats, back squats, zercher squats, jump squats, the list goes on and on.

But we train for strength here, so start with back squats.  Using a box is a good way to get your form down correctly before you progress to free form squatting.

#3: Bench Press

Want to build a big chest?  Get off the pec dec machine, put down the dumbbells and step away from doing flys.

Get under the bar and move some heavy weight.  Bench pressing is king.  And lets face it.  If you are trying to be an alpha male and impress some people, what’s the first thing most people will ask?

“What do you bench?”muscle building

If you have a choice, set the bench to an incline of about 30 degrees.  It’s a bit easier on the shoulders, and helps incorporate more upper chest into the exercise.  A big upper chest is what most people look for in their physique.

Bench pressing is a great upper body exercise, not only because it builds your chest, but also your triceps, shoulders, and forearms.  I never do direct forearm work and I attribute my growth there to doing rep after rep of heavy bench.

Keep adding weight to the bar and improving this lift.  Aim to bench press 1.5x your bodyweight; that’s an honorable accomplishment.

#4: Overhead Press

Picking up heavy weight and pressing it over your head doesn’t get any more Primal than that.

muscle building women

Shoulders, upper back, triceps, and core strength are just a few of the areas worked by this classic exercise.  If you perform these standing (which you should be), or progress to a full clean and press, you are talking about an awesome total body exercise.

This press is a great example of an exercise you can do with anything, anywhere.  You name it, you can press it.  Odd objects like kegs, sandbags, stones are awesome tools,
or just your standard barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells.

Regardless of how you are performing the exercise, incorporating heavy military presses in your routine will build some serious upper body strength.

**Note**  NEVER perform these presses behind your head.  I know you’ve seen people do it, doesn’t mean you should.  It’s just an injury waiting to happen, unless you are rigidly strict with your form.

muscle building

#5 Farmers Carry

Farmer carries will crush you.  If you want to build some serious mental toughness, start performing these.

The beauty of farmer carries is, like the military press, you can do them anywhere, with anything.  Sandbags, jerry cans, kettlebells, dumbells, stones; just pick up something heavy and walk around with it.

Grip strength, your entire back, forearms; they all get worked over doing this exercise.  If you perform these while only carrying an object in one hand, you will work your obliques and core.

At Primal Strength Camp, we try to emphasize this lift because it’s simplicity and versatility yield great benefits for any kind of lifter.

Honorable Mention

“Only 5 exercises?  These possibly can’t be all you need to do!”

Yep, you are right.  There are a number of exercises you should be doing that aren’t on here.  Maybe one day I’ll expand this to a top 10.

So what didn’t make the cut?

  • Pull-ups — You can argue for these over military press.  Either way, you need to be doing these.
  • Pushups — An oldie but a goodie.
  • Snatches — A great power exercise and overall strength builder.
  • High-Pulls — I’m big on building an impressive back.  These will add meat on your traps.
  • Power cleans — Awesome exercise leading up to incorporating the full clean and press into your routine.

Now What??

Start doing these NOW!  If you want to get bigger and stronger, you have to do these on a regular basis.  If you don’t, you will be missing out on some serious gains and you won’t be meeting your potential in the gym.  There is a reason these have been around forever; it’s because they work!

Evolve!!

–Tank

Primal Strength Meets Strongmen

What’s up Primal Camp???

I’ve been pumped up all day and had to write this post tonight.  I spent the day at the River City Strongman Competition in Richmond, Virginia.  Let me tell you, I saw some strong ass dudes in there today, and a few girls that would give a lot of guys a run for their money too.

The events were the axle press, farmers carry, deadlift, yoke/tire flip medley, and atlas stones.  These guys were impressive.  I saw a couple dudes farmers carry 260lbs in each hand for over 100 feet including a hair pin turn in the course, dudes were clean and pressing 250lbs for reps.  One guy who weighed 175lbs deadlifted 600.  A girl was flipping a 450lb tire like it was a paper plate.  Crazy right?!?

Their mental toughness was off the charts too.  The agony in their faces throughout these events was indescribable, yet they pushed through the pain and got sh*t done.

Watching these guys reminded of my I wanted to start Primal Strength Camp so bad.  Hell, I cranked out a workout as soon as I got home because I was so inspired.  No fads, no gimmicks, no tricks, no bullsh*t.  Just pure brute strength picking up, pressing, and carrying heavy sh*t.  Nothing more Primal than that.

Primal man was made to carry heavy stuff.  He woke up early, hunted, gathered, and carried whatever he took in back to his family.  I can only imagine he hunted some pretty big sh*t and had to carry it all the way back home.  And considering our DNA has only barely changed since those times, it’s up to us to unlock those Primal instincts.

Pick up something heavy today.  It’s what you were made to do.  Don’t waste good genetics.

Evolve!!

–Tank

Oh, by the way, I did an interview with a cool dude at the strongman competition about Primal Strength Camp and our training style, nutrition, cardio, and a variety of other topics.  I’ll post it here as well as on our YouTube channel whenever it becomes available.

Anyhow, he has some great handcrafted strength tools that you should check out.  Homemade yokes, axle bars, farmers carry handles, and a couple of very innovative tools I’ve never seen before that would be great for anyone’s arsenal to get stronger.  He’s passionate about what he does and cares about helping people out.

Check out Jack Niles and his tools at www.JackNilesStrongman.com.  Great guy, good products.

Train Like An Athlete

One of the first things I ask people when assessing how and why they train is to ask them who they want to look like.  The answers I get are almost 100% the same.  Yet, the way they train is completely out of whack with the goals they have.

Let me illustrate.  Take a look at the pics below.  Who would you rather look like?  Jay Cutler or Vernon Davis?

train like an athletetrain like an athlete

Now Jay is huge and impressive, but I’d still venture to guess that most of you picked Vernon Davis on the right.

So let me ask another question.  If you want to look like the guy on the right, why is it that you train like the guy on the left?

The majority of people I see walking around gyms these days are still doing the same sh*t they read out of bodybuilding mags that were idolized decades ago; body part splits, isolation movements, high volume.

If you are a bodybuilder, have at it.  But most of us aren’t getting on that stage any time soon.  We simply want to get bigger, and stronger, and look good with our shirts off.  Most of us want to look like our favorite athletes.  If you want to look like an athlete, you sure as hell better be training like one.

Compound exercises are king.  Squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, Olympic lifts.

Sprint, jump, move!  No more isolation, no more 80 reps of one body part training session.  Total body training, or for the intermediate to advanced lifter an upper/lower split, is where you should live.

Do you think Vernon spends his time doing bicep curls and lat pulldowns?  The dude is training for strength and power.  He’s doing pull-ups, heavy squats, clean and presses.  He’s doing total body training sessions.  And guess what?  He still looks good doesn’t he?

Choosing a training plan and exercises that recruit more muscle per movement builds more muscle.  Simple right?  Plus you can work with heavier resistance on the compound movements that will boost your strength, and eventually your mass, for you vain pretty boys…

Ditch the bodybuilding routine.  It’s time to train like an athlete.

Evolve!!

–Tank