Do You Really Need to Bench Press?

Go into any gym across the world, and one of the most prevalent lifts you will see is the bench press. It’s one of the first lifts most people learn and a staple for a ton of mass and strength building programs.

But to get bigger and stronger, do you really need to bench press?

Continue reading Do You Really Need to Bench Press?

Bent Over Barbell Rows Or Dumbbell Rows?

Row variations, aside from pull-ups, are the most crucial movements to developing your back.

Two of the most common variations are barbell rows and dumbbell rows. While both are very effective, I will not usually prescribe bent over barbell rows in any of my training programs.

Continue reading Bent Over Barbell Rows Or Dumbbell Rows?

Do You Really Need to Deload?

Deload week is one of those concepts that’s engrained into our heads as a way to force feed a recovery period into our training.

You’ll see it in a lot of prominent strength and muscle building routines, and while deloading does work, I will also tell you that the traditional deload is a complete waste of time.

Let me elaborate.

Traditional deloading typically looks like this:

  1. A planned week of rest (or light activity) following 3 weeks of intense training.
  2. Intensities ranging from 40-60% of your 1 rep max (RM) for the entire deload week.
  3. Lots of bodyweight training.
  4. Mobility and tissue work.

diagram-21Check out the training cycle above.

The traditional deload falls into the “recovery” phase. It is followed by the “supercompensation” phase, which I call the “rebound” phase where your body rebounds to come back from fatigue with a heightened level of performance.

The problem with the traditional deload doesn’t lie in its premise or concept as it relates to recovery. The guidelines for a deload are effective and have a time and place; but the problem lies in that it fails to take into account the specific needs and performance variances of the individual.

So Do You Really Need to Deload Every Four Weeks?

Of course not.

I’ve personally had intense training cycles last for upwards of 6-8 weeks before I saw any dip in performance. If I would have taken a prescribed deload week, I would have lost a week of heightened performance and gains.

Let me put it to you another way. One week of deload for every four weeks of training equates to 13 weeks off from training per year. That’s not a recipe for success.

Maybe there comes a point when you need to take a week off. That is up to you. For me, and most people I know/train, those times are few and far between. In fact, I usually feel worse after a week off and have to play catch up from taking the extra rest time.

With that being said, there are better ways to deload.

A Better Way to Deload

A much better way to approach your deload is through a concept called cybernetic periodization, a term coined by sports scientist Mel Siff.

Cybernetic periodization is essentially programming your deload days according to how the weights feel that certain day. Doing it this way allows you to account for the daily variances in your training as opposed to putting blanket guidelines on yourself.

For example, I had a girl come into the Primal Strength Gym about a month ago. We were talking and she was expressing disappointment that it was deload day.

As she was warming up, she realized that the weights felt light and her body was primed to perform. A prescribed arbitrary deload was not optimal for her progress that day. Instead of a deload, she kept pushing the weights higher and higher.

The result? She set a 10lb deadlift personal record.

Never sacrifice training performance and momentum for prescribed deload days. Ride the highs for as long as you can take them.

(Note: There is a difference between riding the highs and not being honest with the feedback your body is giving you (the key to using cybernetic periodization). Ignoring negative feedback from your body is a pathway to crashing and injury.)

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So with the concept of cybernetic periodization in mind, here are two ways to deload:

#1: Autoregulatory Deload

In non-scientific terms, I call this the “play it by ear” deload. This deload is simple in concept, but it may take an advanced lifter to recognize when to apply it.

Essentially, you have no prescribed deload days. As with any program, your training volume and intensity will cycle but there are absolutely no planned deload days (not to be confused with days off in the training program).

Instead, you deload based solely on how your body feels on that given day. This takes honest self assessment and heightened body awareness but in my opinion, this is the best deload strategy you can use.

How do you put this into practice?

  • Weights feel light and your body says it’s time for Hulk Smash?
    • Push yourself to the extreme and aim for some PRs.
  • Weights feel moderate and you have good energy?
    • Push yourself above par but no need to max out.
  • Weights feel sort of heavy and energy levels are so-so?
    • Follow the program and meet your expectations, but don’t push yourself too hard. Technique above intensity.
  • Weights feel like immovable lead and you feel like shit?
    • Deload to 40-60% of your 1RM and back off the volume.
    • Walk away after a thorough warm-up and self assessment. Give it a honest shot (some of my best days have actually come after starting sluggishly), but take the day off from the bar if need be and get some solid stretching and foam rolling in.

#2: Max Effort Deload

This one is similar to the “play it by ear” deload but it has a prescribed rest period while still utilizing cybernetic periodization.

Basically, you will plan to have two consecutive deload days within a 4-8 week training window (around week 6 is most common). They are not scheduled but you will base the deload days on how you feel in a given day.

As soon as you hit a “feel like shit” day that I mentioned earlier, your two day deload starts. In this two day window you will:

  1. Drop the intensity of your max effort barbell lifts to 40-60% of your 1RM
  2. Or drop the max effort barbell lifts entirely and focus solely on accessory work.

After those two days, you can ramp your training back up and start progressing as normal.

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Wrapping Up

  • A deload is effective and will work, but in a traditional sense, it is not optimal or necessary for training progress
  • Deload needs to be based on individual needs and feelings, not prescribed programming
  • Cybernetic periodization should be the main factor in deload programming
  • There are two optimal ways to deload
    • Autoregulatory Deload
    • Max Effort Deload
  • Deload programming requires honest self assessment and being in tune with your body
  • DO NOT sacrifice performance and training momentum because a program says you have to deload

All the best Primal Nation,

— Tank

Perception is Not Reality: Lifting Fact Versus Fiction

As a strength coach, I do a lot of reading, not only in published articles and blog posts, but especially the comments sections.

I do this for a number of reasons, the most important being education. Part of that education is being in tune with the fitness market and where people are going wrong, which helps me better educate you and shield you from all of the bullshit.

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that bro scientists, self-anointed “experts”, and gimmick pushers have completely polluted a lot of people’s perceptions and cemented their minds with false realities. Once this happens, it’s really difficult to change someone’s mind because a perception from a “trusted source” quickly becomes unwavering “truth”.

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Let me be the first to tell you, perception is not reality.

Don’t believe everything you hear. Challenge perception and seek truth through personal experience.

With that being said, let me give you some truths I’ve learned through blood, sweat, and tears in the iron game. Time to play a little game of perception versus reality.

(There are a lot of embedded links in this post that explain some concepts in detail; be sure to check them out if you need more explanation.)

Perception: Do not train muscle groups more than once a week.
Reality: Of all the training parameters (rest times, intensity, exercise selection, volume, etc.)  I’ve played with over the years, training frequency has BY FAR been the most important to making gains. A recent personal example: Over the past 6 weeks, I’ve squatted, deadlifted, benched, and overhead pressed twice a week. Results? I’ve gained 20 pounds and added upwards of 20 pounds to some of my maxes.

Perception: Training for over an hour will wreck your hormones and make you catabolic.
Reality: If you want to get good at something, do you just practice for an hour? Didn’t think so. If you peruse my website, you will see me perpetuate this perception, but mostly that was a way of me trying to get people to eliminate too much time between sets and get people to focus. The reality is that you can train for several hours at a time (and will have to if you are making a lot of strength lifts that require more recovery time between sets) and be just fine.

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Perception: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Reality: Depends on your goals. If you are trying to maximize fat loss, it’s not. Our hormonal cycles actually promote fat burning in the morning, so eating breakfast completely halts that. (If you’re trying to gain weight, just eat more later in the day.)

Perception: Eating carbs at night will make you fat.
Reality: Eating carbs all day and eclipsing your daily totals will make you fat. I eat the majority of my carbs at night (but stay within my daily allotment) and maintain 10%-12% bodyfat without a lot of high-intensity cardio.

Perception: Steady state cardio (jogging for example) is the best way to burn fat.
Reality: While your body does burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities (50% of calories from fat) versus higher intensities (35% of calories from fat), at higher intensities you burn far more calories overall, ultimately leading to more fat calories (in a much shorter amount of time).

For example, if I walk on the treadmill for an hour and burn 250 calories, I may have burned about 125 calories from fat.  But let’s say I train Primal style and run several sets of hill sprints, followed by a high intensity finisher.  In about 20 minutes, I could burn 500-600 calories, with 210 calories from fat.  One-third of the time and far more fat burn…

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Perception
: You need to do a ton of cardio and ab work to get a six-pack.
Reality: Abs are made in the kitchen. Want to drop a few pounds? Eat below your maintenance levels. You can sit on your ass all day and lose weight by just cutting a few hundred calories off your daily intake. Use a few high-intensity cardio sessions a week to augment weight lifting and a muscle building diet.

Perception: After 4 weeks of intense training, you need a de-load week.
Reality: Your body will tell you when you need a de-load week, and that could not be for a couple of months. I’ve personally had hardcore training cycles last more than 2 months, making gains the whole time, before my performance dipped and I had to de-load.

Perception: You can’t train for hypertrophy and strength at the same time.
Reality: Yes you can. Training Primal style, we do it all the time. Supplement strength lifts with higher rep accessory work and you will make gains in both.

Perception: Body part splits are the most effective for building muscle.
Reality: Body part splits are great for making newbie gains, but are not as effective as full body or upper-lower split training. Remember what I said about frequency above? Training with a body part split completely eliminates that advantage. Don’t do it…train with an upper-lower split instead.

Perception: Females who lift weights will get huge.
Reality: Women lack the testosterone production to get big naturally. Want to get “toned”? What you are really saying is you want to lose body fat and gain muscle mass. How do you do that? Lift heavy weights.

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Per
ception: Bodyweight training is not effective at building muscle and strength.
Reality: Bodyweight training is very effective if you know how to program it. This means learning the progressions and not sticking with standard variations. Check this out: Top 10 Bodyweight Exercises.

Perception: Muscle isolation is key to hypertrophy.
Reality: If your training volume for each muscle group is on point, isolation is not all that important. My arms are one of the most developed muscles on my body, and I don’t do any direct bicep work, but I work them indirectly all the time through row variations, pull-ups, and pressing. Remember what I said about frequency?

Perception: You need a ton of volume to gain muscle.
Reality: I’ve put on plenty of muscle doing sets of 6. The key is to lift heavy enough weights with an appropriate portion of volume. This means lifting heavy weights (70-85% of your one rep max) for sets of 6-8 for muscle gain.  Lifting weights less than 70% of your 1-rep max (1RM) will not produce a significant training effect.

(There is a lot more to this and I’m admittedly oversimplifying the issue. Check out my “How To Series” for me details about which body parts respond well to higher volumes, etc.)

Perception:  Circuits/intervals are great for building muscle.
Reality: Depends on a number of factors, but the key here is lifting heavy enough weights for those circuits, which means keeping your volume on the lower side. Sets of more than 12 (per exercise), because they have to be done with relatively low weight (less than 70% of your 1RM), really only train endurance.

Several recent studies have exposed this perception recently.  A university study on the popular “Bodypump” class showed participants made no changes to their body composition (no fat loss and no muscle gain) over a 12-week period. Another American Council on Exercise (ACE) study showed P90X participants burned a lot of calories (similar to joggers actually) but had no muscle gain.

The old adage here is to train to your goals. If your main goal is to burn calories, increase endurance, and increase metabolic function/fat loss, circuits are certainly a good option. But if your main goal is to gain muscle, circuits should only be supplemental (short duration/high-intensity finishers) to traditional strength training. If you want to gain muscle, you have to get under the (heavy) bar. Period.

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— Tank

8 Things I Do Every Day — The Importance of Daily Rituals

By normal standards, a lot of people would say I’m a very busy guy.

In addition to running Primal Strength Camp and the Primal Strength Gym, I still work a full-time job for the US Department of Defense. I am also a family man with a 100 pound bruiser of a dog, a wife, and a 2 year old daughter.

There are times when I do feel stretched thin and my obligations can seem overwhelming, but at the same time, nothing in life comes easy. If you want to achieve great things, you have to put in the work and make the sacrifices necessary to do the extraordinary.

Contrary to what you hear from success gurus, I don’t believe in “work-life” balance. The cold hard truth is that if you want to excel in something, that success will come at the expense of other things in your life. That means that sometimes family life may take a backseat to your career for example. Other times your family may be the priority, and other times your health and training may trump everything.

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Priorities are cyclical so don’t stress yourself out by trying to achieve a balancing act. Instead, develop some daily rituals that allow you to progress (even if just a little) and maximize your productivity.

There are certain things I do everyday to ensure I maximize my time and align with my priorities. The time I devote to some of these things shifts depending on what needs to be done on that given day, but that’s the beauty of not getting fooled into an unsustainable balancing act.

The following list is not meant to account for mundane activities, like checking email or posting in social media for example. These are meant to be more broad, thought driven activities that advance my growth as a person, family man, or coach.

Maybe some of these don’t work for you, maybe some of them will. The important part is to take what you can use and make them part of your lifestyle.

#1: Brainstorm

Some people meditate, but when I sit and think in silence I think of it more as brainstorming. This time is crucial to think about what blog posts to write, ways to advance my business, training ideas I can use with clients, and things I can do to be a better family man.

It doesn’t necessarily matter what you think about, but it does need to be productive and conducive to the advancement of your life goals. Take at least 5 minutes a day where you can be alone and visualize a success plan for yourself.

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#2: Make a To-Do List

Every day I have a meaningful list of tasks to accomplish. Typically this list gets made at night before I go to sleep, so I have a clear and precise attack plan for the following day. Having a contract with yourself that you can accomplish every day is vital to productivity and is critical to eliminate time mismanagement.

#3: Learn Something New

This comes across as very cliche but how often do we really do it? A lot of people may say they just don’t have time to read/study/learn between their day jobs and family lives. My counter to that is they are just making excuses and aren’t maximizing their time.

I drive 30 minutes each way to work. I don’t listen to music. Instead I listen to podcasts from people I admire in the strength and business industry and soak up all the knowledge I can from my hour in the car each day. This is in addition to the time I make to read books, learn from others in the gym, and what I do for my day job with the government.

To clarify, learning something new needs to be something that you can take and apply to your life/career in a meaningful way. I’m not talking meaningless trivia here, but rather things that will advance your life in a positive way. It doesn’t have to be profound, but it has to be useful.

#4: Train

I’m not the same man without crushing my training. Being a gym owner, when I’m in the environment every day, it’s hard for me to take a step back and take days off. So even if I’m not training myself, I’m in the gym soaking up the intensity and hard work that my clients and members are exuding. Just being in the gym and observing is an awesome opportunity to accomplish #3 on this list. Always remember, strong body leads to strong mind, and vice versa.

Keg Spotter

#5: Write

Keeping up this blog is no small task, but I enjoy writing and it’s therapeutic in a sense. It’s a great opportunity to share knowledge, clear my head, and reach the masses. Even if nobody else reads it, writing is a great opportunity to make sense of your thoughts and get them processed in an organized way. It doesn’t have to be a work of literature; maybe it’s just a journal of your thoughts and experiences. The important part is that you have a creative outlet.

#6: Spend Time With Family/Friends

After being gone all day, I look forward to going home and seeing my wife and kid. My daughter is two now and has me wrapped around her little finger. I can’t imagine not laying on the floor with her and reading books, giving her hugs, tending to her “boo-boos”, and chasing her around the house listening to her laugh.

Friends and family are important. Make time for them. At the end of the day, your health and family/friends are all you’ve got. Material possessions aren’t real…

 #7: Zone-Out

Zoning out to me is to totally let go of all of your thoughts and turn your mind off to the outside world. This is not a time to brainstorm or to think about all of your problems or your to-do list.

Turn off the switch in your head and just decompress. For you, maybe this is your time to meditate (not brainstorm).

For me, this means watching something on TV (even though success gurus would rip me on this) that can make me laugh and unwind.

Zoning out (especially if it involves TV as alluded to above) can become a bad habit too, so don’t let your apathy take away from all of the other important things you should be doing.

#8: Be Present

This one is a hard one for a lot of people to do, especially people with busy schedules. Do not confuse this with #7; it’s the complete opposite in fact.

It means to be totally immersed in your present environment. Not distracted by email, or texting, or TV. To be present means to be truly living in the moment. For me, a prime example is my time with my daughter. There are times where I want to be zoning out, or times where I’m trying to respond to an email or write a Facebook post, and my daughter will be competing for my attention.

Those are the times I need to drop everything and be there, focused on her. Those are the times I remember, relishing in the cute things she does, not some random post I make on social media.

Be present for the important things…it’s always worth it.

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— Tank

Built to Perform: Strength Standards For Lifters

As a strength coach, I take the “strength” in strength and conditioning seriously, regardless of what your involvement in the iron game is.

Before you say “No Tank, I don’t need to actually be strong to reach my goals”, try to name a me circumstance where “stronger is not better”.

Even if you’re not a traditional strength athlete but rather a bodybuilder or bikini competitor, the stronger you are, the better your body will perform in the weight room and eventually look on stage. There is no way around that argument…

Regardless of whether you’re a bodybuilder, powerlifter, football player, or a gym rat, you should be backing up your looks with your performance. In other words, looking jacked but lifting like a pussy ain’t cool. It’s false advertising and nobody likes a fraud.

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But what numbers should you be aiming for?

Strong can be a very subjective word depending on perspective and your audience. To Uncle Rico you might look like the next coming of Dan John but to Dan John you may look like, well, Uncle Rico…

So let me break it down for you. Here is a list of my strength standards for both men and women.  These strength standards begin with above average performance. (Being average sucks so no need to know what it means to be “okay”).

These strength standards would be accepted in most serious strength circles as a fair and accurate measuring stick.

Men’s
  • Deadlift
    • Good: 2 x bodyweight
    • Elite: 2.75 x bodyweight
  • Squat
    • Good: 2 x bodyweight
    • Elite: 2.5 x bodyweight
  • Bench Press
    • Good: 1.5 x bodyweight
    • Elite: 2 x bodyweight
  • Overhead Press
    • Good: 165lbs
    • Elite: 225lbs
Women’s
  • Deadlift
    • Good: 1.5 x bodyweight
    • Elite: 2 x bodyweight
  • Squat
    • Good: 1.25 x bodyweight
    • Elite: 2 x bodyweight
  • Bench Press
    • Good: .75 x bodyweight
    • Elite: 1 x bodyweight
  • Overhead Press
    • Good: 65lbs
    • Elite: 95lbs

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So what does “good” and “elite” really mean?

Good

Being in the “good” category means that most average people would consider your lifts strong and that it would take a decent amount of training to get to those numbers. I would call someone in the “good” category an intermediate lifter.

Kudos to being here but if you have been lifting for a number of years, you should be building off of this level and aiming to progress above these benchmarks.

Elite

“Elite” means you are stronger than 95% of the population. If you consider yourself as someone who takes strength and conditioning seriously, this is the category you should be aiming to get into. Not everyone will get there but it never hurts to have a goal.

(One caveat: While being in this category makes you stronger than 95% of the average Joes out there, this does not mean you are elite by any standard when comparing yourself to other athletes and/or powerlifters/strongmen.)

Wrapping Up

It’s not “strength training” unless you’re getting strong.

Knowing how you measure up is key to monitoring your progress and setting goals for yourself, so use these strength standards as a measuring stick for your training.

Not everyone will sniff the “elite” category, but everyone should be able to enter and exceed the “good” category. If getting stronger is your passion, build off of being “good” and work towards being “elite”.

Strength is a journey…enjoy the ride…

All the best,

— Tank

How Much Training Volume is Enough?

Training volume is one of the key components to any lifting program.

The problem lies in identifying how much is enough and how much is too much.

Training without enough volume will not induce strength or hypertrophy gains, and on the flip-side, too much training volume can lead to CNS fatigue and jeopardized recovery times. Training volume will also vary greatly depending on whether your goals are to gain mass or strength.

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Mass Gain

Primal policy for hypertrophy is to train predominantly in the 70%-85% of your 1 rep max for sets of no less than 6 reps (primarily 6-8 rep sets).

Total number of sets will vary but you should be aiming to train around 100 solid reps per muscle group per week. I emphasize per week because of my endorsement for higher training frequencies and upper lower splits (versus marathon training sessions and body part splits). I train the same muscle groups multiple days a week so my weekly training volume of 100 reps for each muscle group is split over the course of several sessions.

Each session does not have to be equal; for example on a upper-body day where I emphasize bench press, my training volume for chest will be on the higher side and I’ll round out my 100 reps for chest in a smaller workout a few days later.

Strength Gain

I don’t have any solid recommendations for training volume when training for strength because strength gains are largely focused on training intensity.

If I’m trying to increase my deadlift max for example, I may not even eclipse 30 reps in a training week. But I’m also predominantly training with weights greater than 85% of my 1 rep max, so my capacity to handle more training volume is diminished.

Bottom line? Focus on intensity and not volume.

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Troubleshooting Training Volume

While 100 reps per muscle group per week is a solid foundation to work from, like any other approach you will need to tweak your training volume as you go based on the gains (or lack thereof) you are making.

The more experienced a lifter you are, the more adept your body will be at handling higher-training volumes. If you are not gaining size with 100 reps per week, bump those numbers up to 120 and re-evaluate your progress.

You may also need to implement more training volume depending on the body part as well. Arms and calves for example respond well to higher training volumes, whereas larger muscles (like legs) take longer to recover and don’t necessarily need more reps for growth.

For some ideas on how to implement more training volume into your programming, check out this post:

How to Implement More Training Volume

All the best,

— Tank

The Importance of a Dynamic Warm Up

My first few years in the gym I would be so cranked up on pre-workout and oozing testosterone that I could walk into the weight room and start cranking out sets with authority. No warm up, no stretching, just my dumb “meatheadness” and bulldog mentality.

Fast forward to today and I don’t touch a weight without a fairly thorough dynamic warm up. Part of that is I’m 32 now and can’t meathead my way through workouts anymore, but more importantly I’m a much smarter lifter than I was in high-school and my 20’s.

I was costing myself a ton of gains by not getting my body properly fired up before training. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. Your muscles are not warm and elastic when you first start lifting, which hinders performance and mobility
  2. It takes a while for your central nervous system (CNS) to fire properly and activate your motor neurons at peak performance

Translation is that you don’t perform optimally until partially through your workout, meaning the first exercises (which are usually the most important) you are hitting are probably getting neglected or not performed to their maximum potential.

I came across this from a recent study on warm ups. Note the difference between jump performance when no warm up was performed versus a general and dynamic warm up was completed. In this case, “general” means aerobic activity (light jogging, jump rope, etc.). If you want the full study, you can find it under this title: Effect of Various Warm-Up Protocols on Jump Performance in College Football Players, by Pagaduan, Pojskić, Užičanin and Babajic, in Journal of Human Kinetics, 2012.

I’ll take another example from a very recent experience of mine. I had been experiencing pain in my lower back after squats and deadlifts. I diagnosed the problem as underactive glutes. So the other day when I was scheduled to squat, I expanded my dynamic warm up to target my glutes and get them firing in full force before I started squatting.

The result?

I had one of the best squat days I’ve had in a while and finished the training session pain free.

You can probably take an example out of your own training if you don’t do a dynamic warm up. Think about your performance in the first exercise you do and compare that to some of the things you do 20-30 minutes into your training. I bet you are much more focused, your muscles have stopped being sluggish and are firing on all cylinders, and you are cranking out sets much more efficiently than your first couple of the day.

Do not jeopardize your gains or perform sets sub-optimally because you don’t want to take the time to properly warm up. Every set matters…

Not to mention the injury risk you pose to yourself by going full Hulk smash the first 5 minutes you enter the gym…

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There are two components to a proper dynamic warm up.

#1: Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a must before a training session to break up inflamed tissue, promote blood flow, and boost performance.

I usually hit my quads, hamstrings, glutes, IT band, adductors, and any trouble spots in my upper body.

You only need to foam roll for a few minutes. I don’t advise rolling a certain area for more than “10 rolls” because too much foam rolling can actually irritate muscle tissue rather than benefit it.

#2: Dynamic Stretching

I don’t really advocate static stretching in a warm up until after I hit some more dynamic movements. Forcing cold muscles to stretch for long durations of time when they aren’t elastic isn’t optimal.

Dynamic stretches that I promote include bodyweight squats and lunges, squat jumps and other jump variations (broad jumps and small box jumps are good options), skipping, jogging, and animal walks (bear crawls and partner walks are awesome). RDL’s with only the bar are great to hit your hamstrings as well.

I also do a series of resistance band stretches (overhand and underhand pull-aparts, and disclocators).

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Dynamic stretching is an easy, low-impact way to get your CNS firing, warm up your muscles, and tune up your mobility prior to lifting.

** Now only after I have done some dynamic stretching, I will incorporate some static stretching into the mix, specifically to target my hips and glutes. **

Sample Primal Warm-Up

This entire dynamic warm up should only take about 10-15 minutes to complete.

  • Foam Roll
  • Band Pull-Apart Circuit (10 each movement)
  • Walking lunges: 10/side
  • Bodyweight Squats: 10
  • Skipping: 10/side
  • Standing broad jump: 8
  • Single-leg broad jump: 6/leg
  • Jump squats: 10

After the foam rolling, you could do several rounds of the other exercises to get your body primed for some heavy lifting. The dynamic warm up should be up-tempo with little to no rest in between exercises and rounds.

— Tank

Who is Your Competition?

Ever since I founded Primal Strength Camp, and even more so since I opened the Primal Strength Gym, I get asked “Who is your competition?”

My answer probably isn’t what you expect from a typical businessman, but my honest and genuine feeling is that I have no outside competition.

That is not me being naive. The biggest gym in my town is a mile away from me. There is a Gold’s Gym less than 5 miles away. There are other gyms scattered around the town, all within a few miles of my location.

I could easily win a pissing contest about how I’m the gym in Charlottesville (and the region) with the biggest social media following; how I’m the only one with a kick ass blog that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors; how my training knowledge is light years above other trainers; how my gym is exclusive with some of the strongest lifters in the area, and actually institutes a waiting list; and how my gym has the best and most unique equipment.

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If you ask me or any of my clients and gym members, they will tell you hands down, I have the best gym in Charlottesville.

That all sounds great on the surface and sure, it’s awesome for marketing and potential sales purposes, but it does nothing for my personal growth as a business man, a coach, an athlete, or a human being.

All of the above accolades and praise, in a way, are meaningless.

Let me clarify that thought with three examples:

#1: Most Competition is Subjective

Aside from head to head competition in sport (who can lift the most weight under identical conditions, for example), most competitions are really just subjective comparisons.

Take my gym example. How would you rate the best gym in Charlottesville? The serious lifter and person wanting to sling some serious poundage would take my gym all day, but the typical housewife would much rather take group ex over at Gold’s.

What about the Monday morning office debates about who the best NFL quarterback is? We’ve all heard it and everyone has a different answer. (The classic debate about comparing quarterbacks based on Superbowl wins versus position statistics comes to mind.)

The point is, it’s all a matter of opinion.

Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.

#2: Competition is Unrealistic

Competition is simply not realistic in most cases.

Say you wanted to be as strong as “The Mountain” Hafthor Bjornsson. Hate to burst your bubble, but you don’t have the genetics…

Just like I think it would be pretty cool to be a bassist in a rock band, I’m not going to surpass Flea from the Chili Peppers any time soon…

You need to compare apples to apples and 90% of the time, we are really just comparing apples to oranges…

#3: Competition Can Make You Drift From Your Identity

This is probably the most important reason of the three and something you must understand to achieve long-term growth as an individual.

You see, my outlook on the strength and coaching business is different than the norm.

If you ask me, I’m not in the business of making money. I’m in the business of making bad ass motherfuckers. That means I don’t take every person that walks through the door as a client or member, and I’m really focused on working with the right kind of people.

If I bring the wrong people in just to make some more cash like most gyms do, I’m letting competition pull me away from my identity and brand.

Don’t get distracted by what other people are doing. Nobody else should ever drive your progress and vision. Always stick to your values and know who you are as a person/coach/entrepreneur.

Everything else going on around you (“competition” included) is just noise…

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So Who Is Your Competition?

The above thoughts are not meant to portray competition as bad. We compete in the weight room everyday and it’s damn healthy for your mental and physical drive. You should attack the weight room (and life) with a take no prisoners attitude. If I’m training with a partner, I am out to crush him on every lift, even if he outweighs me by 50 pounds.

But competition is a slippery slope…

At the end of the day, the only competition you have is with yourself.

The minute you learn to stop comparing yourself to others (on a deeper level), and instead focus that energy to making yourself better each and every day, the more freedom and clarity you will have in your life.

Better than I was yesterday.

That should be your mantra.

Nothing else matters because at the end of the day, your personal growth is your only measuring stick.

If you plan on kicking everyone else’s ass in the gym and in life (as you should be), the path is always through self-improvement. Are you smarter than you were yesterday? Did you lift more weight than you did last week? Did you train more frequently than you did last year?

Those are equatable and measurable things.

Worrying about outside noise and comparing yourself to others is a waste of time and energy, that of which is far better spent investing in a stronger version of yourself.

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Forget about the competition. Just worry about what you see in the mirror…

— Tank

Primitive Methods. Proven Results