Tag Archives: compound exercises

Top 10 Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises are an awesome way to build total body strength and pack on some serious muscle if you know what movements to do and how to program them into your training.

The key here is learning the progressions and doing more advanced moves far beyond your everyday pushups and planks.  Mastering some of these moves will take a lot of practice (months or even years to achieve safely) but the rewards are well worth the time it takes to get there.

#1: Pushups (And Their Variations)

This is a no-brainer.  Pushups were probably one of the first bodyweight exercises you ever learned.  The key here is embracing all of the variations this exercise has to offer.  Plyo-pushups, diamond pushups, elevated feet pushups, handstand pushups, and one-am pushups are all killer movements to work into your training.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIVTUUSBYQM[/tube]


#2: Pull-Ups (And Their Variations)

This one goes hand in hand with #1.  Pull-ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises for building an impressive back, as well as developing your biceps and grip strength.  You will want to work in different grip variations for these; neutral grip, narrow grip, wide grip, palms facing out, palms facing in, and even one-arm pull-ups are all good hand placements to use.

You can also use different modalities for these; do not relegate yourself to just using a bar.  Use gymnastics rings or clock handles, or even hit up outdoor sessions on tree branches.

#3: Glute Ham Raise

These are essential for developing your hamstrings and glutes.  Almost every person I come across is weak in their posterior chain.  This will affect your performance in lifts like the squat and deadlift, so you need to work these into your training and bring up those weaknesses.  A good way to do this is to hit at least 50 of these before every leg workout as part of your warmup.

#4: Jumps (Plyometrics)

Not only are these a great conditioning exercise, but they will develop leg strength and total body power.  Standard vertical box jumps are the most common, but do not forget all of the other variations.  One-legged jumps, broad jumps, jump-squats and split-lunges are all movements to consider here.

#5: Animal Walks

You rarely see these in the traditional gym scene but these are a Primal staple.  Bear crawls and partner hand walks are my two favorites.  These will develop your shoulders and core stability, and force you to create total body tension.  You will recruit a ton of muscle to do these movements and they are a great full-body exercise.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mas-jz4kK7U[/tube]


#6: Hanging Leg Raise

This is one of my top ab exercises.  It works all of the muscles in your midsection as well as your lats.  Performing these over time will improve your grip strength and help you with exercises like farmers carries and deadlifts.

#7: Pistol Squat

This is the king of all bodyweight squats.  As one of the most advanced bodyweight movements you can do, pistol squats require a great deal of total body strength and balance.  If you think bodyweight squats are beneath you because you can squat 400+ pounds, think again.  Work up to this movement.  Whenever I see someone able to do these, I know they are a badass.

bodyweight exercises

#8: Recline Rows

These are also referred to as inverted pull-ups.  Basically you have your feet on the ground and your body is nearly parallel to the floor, and using rings or a rope, or even a low fixed bar, you pull yourself up as if you were doing a pull-up.  I have all of my big guys do these as they are at a disadvantage when trying to do traditional pull-ups at their bodyweight.  I sometimes super-set these with regular pull-ups to really light up my lats and biceps.

#9: Front Lever

Front levers are a progression from hanging leg raises and an advanced movement requiring full body tension.  At the end position of this exercise, your entire body is parallel to the ground, feet and legs straight out with your back towards the ground and you staring at the ceiling.  Think of performing a hanging leg raise, and then flattening out your entire body, as if you were laying down.

#10: Muscle Up

Very few people are able to do these and they take a lot of skill, strength, and power.  But if you can do them, you will build a lot of muscle.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOCVo_gLoCo[/tube] So now that you know all of the best bodyweight exercises, how do you work them into your training?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

Read this on some of the best ways to incorporate bodyweight exercises into your weight lifting routines.

How to Incorporate Bodyweight Exercises Into Your Training

Evolve!!

— Tank

4 Ways to Bust Through Strength Plateaus

If you’ve been lifting long enough, then you’ve probably hit strength plateaus before.  It’s inevitable.

While it’s an awesome feeling to be breaking personal records (PR’s) day in and day out, the reality is that it’s just not sustainable.  Enjoy it while it lasts because as soon as you hit a sticking point, the process of getting past it can be damn frustrating.

strength plateaus

But it’s okay.  I’m here to help.  Here are 4 surefire ways to help you eclipse those strength plateaus and get back on the fast track of smashing PR’s.

#1: Supramaximal Adaptation Training

I came across this technique in one of the bibles of strength training called “Supertraining” by Yuri Verkhoshansky.

The technique is fairly simple and the logic is sound.  The idea is that you get your body familiar with training loads that are much greater than your current 1 rep max just by supporting the weight or training with the weight in a limited range of motion.

If you have ever done drop sets, the logic is similar.  In a drop set, you take a load and do it for a specified number of reps, and then reduce the weight and do another set.  On the lighter set, the weight feels much lighter than it actually is because your body just trained with a heavier load and your body is able to pump out more reps (usually).  Drop sets are normally used in high-volume training and focused on hypertrophy, not 1 rep maxes.

Supramaximal adaptation training is built around a similar premise, but is treated in a much different way than you would a drop set since we are going for pure strength gains.

For one, the loads that you use will be considerably higher than your 1 rep max.  I used this type of training to get over a sticking point in my squat, and the loads I used to do it were over 100 pounds more than my 1 rep max.

Secondly, you will probably use this type of training for several weeks before you attempt a new 1 rep max.  For my squat, I trained with “supramaximal” loads for 2 weeks before going for a new PR.  Unlike a drop set, you don’t simply train one set with a higher load, and then immediately go for a new record.  Patience is key, and take the time to let your body adapt.

Third, this type of training is not meant to be done with a full range of motion.  For some, just supporting the weight may get you to where you need to be.  When I used this to train for a new squat PR, I regressed to box squats with the higher loads to get my body adapted to the much heavier weight.  Then when it came time for my new PR, I ditched the box and went for it.  I set a new PR by 10 pounds.

strength plateaus

#2: Set New 2 and 3 Rep Maxes

If you get stuck on a 1 rep max, it is natural for you to keep going after it until you break it.  I wouldn’t fault anyone for that as long as you are doing it smartly.  Take the time to tweak your technique, change the intensity of your warm-up sets, or even take some time off.

But sometimes, none of this will work and you are truly stuck.  No biggie.  Instead of focusing on a new 1 rep max, focus on 2 and 3 rep maxes instead.  Don’t even mess with your 1 rep max weights for a while.

If you can set new 3 rep maxes for instance, your body will be much better adapted to handling a new 1 rep max.  This sort of falls in line with the Principle of Progressive Overload, but sometimes this basic principle gets overlooked when you are trying to crush some new weight.

Like the first tip above, be patient with this.  Just because you set a new 2 rep max doesn’t mean you should attempt a new 1 rep max immediately after.  Strength is a journey and a process, not a race.

#3: Tweak Your Warm-Up

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make.

Don’t get me wrong, you need to be properly warmed up to be at optimal performance and reduce your chance of injury.  But there is a fine line between being warm and overdoing it.

You can approach your warm-up 2 different ways when you are trying for a new PR.  You can decrease the number of sets you do, but increase the intensity on each set.  This will require you to make much bigger jumps in weight on your warm-up sets.  Here is an example for bench press:

  1. 135 x 6
  2. 185 x 6
  3. 235 x 4
  4. 265 x 2
  5. 285 x 2
  6. 305 x 1 (new PR)

The second approach is to keep your warm-up sets the same, but decrease the number of reps each set and use lower increments of intensities.  A lot of guys I see will hit 8 reps or so a set, but if you are trying to set a new max, you may be expending too much energy leading up to it.  By decreasing the number of reps, you are leaving “some gas in the tank”.  Here is an example (bench press):

  1. 135 x 4
  2. 165 x 4
  3. 185 x 4
  4. 225 x 2
  5. 255 x 2
  6. 275 x 1
  7. 295 x 1
  8. 305 x 1 (new PR)

If you are a slow starter and it takes you a while to get warm, this may be your best bet.  As compared to the first approach, your body is making an adaptation to higher weights more gradually with 2 extra sets, but you are still doing less total reps (18 versus 20).  While 2 reps may not seem like a lot, if you are going for a new 1 rep max, those 2 reps may be your saving grace.

deadlift strength training

#4: Take Time Off From Heavy Lifting

There is not much to say about this one really.  The title speaks for itself.  After repeated failed attempts (over the course of weeks I mean), your best bet may be to just take some time off.

This is not a cop out or a wuss move.  Your ability to break through the barrier may just be your body’s way of telling you to take a break.  Any smart lifter always knows to listen to his body.

I had to resort to this strategy last winter with my deadlift.  I couldn’t beat my personal best. After 2 months of trying other strategies I decided to just step away.  After 3 months of not lifting heavy I came back with a vengeance and beat my personal best by 30 pounds within 2 weeks of lifting heavy again.

So, bottom line?  Listen to your body.  If other strategies don’t work, lose the ego and take some time off.  Time off should be a minimum of 2 weeks, but could span months depending on how long you have been lifting heavy.

Wrapping Up

Keep in mind also that these are just examples, and you can tweak what I’ve laid out here but still stick to the premise and logic that I’ve given you.

So give these a try when you reach strength plateaus.  I’ve personally tried all 3 of these, and they work.  The key is being patient and methodical.  Strength is a journey and lifelong pursuit.

You may spend weeks or months trying to hit a new PR, but you will get there!  Stay strong and never, ever quit…

Evolve!!

— Tank

What Rep Range Should You Use to Build Muscle?

For most of you out there looking to build muscle, the prime rep range you should be working with is 5-8.

Mind blowing I’m sure, especially if you read too many magazines or bodybuilding websites.

But for most of us who have ‘average’ genetics, are drug-free, and simply want to get jacked and ripped, a 5-8 rep range will do the trick.

The key here is pumping out enough volume with an ample amount of resistance, and you simply can’t do that by training with high-rep sets above 12.  To build both size and strength, you need to work with heavier loads.  The more weight you can use, the more muscle you will build.

rep range
Kirk Karwoski built this physique training sets of heavy 5’s.

I don’t know about you, but if I train high volume, I feel completely drained. This is because high-volume training can be really stressful on your central nervous system (CNS).

But by keeping your reps low and resistance high, not only will you be signaling your body to make strength gains, you will remain fresh as well. Plus, the trauma done to your body is less severe, meaning you can train more frequently.  The more frequently you can train, the quicker you will be able to build muscle.

“But Tank, if I cut back on my reps, I don’t feel a pump and I don’t even get sore.”

That’s a good thing my friend.  Getting a pump, while it feels nice, has nothing whatsoever to do with an actual training effect.  Sure your muscles are full of blood, but that won’t necessarily make you bigger or stronger.  Being sore doesn’t either according to scientific evidence.

You may look bigger after high-volume training, but like the pump, it’s just swelling of the muscles (scientifically termed sarcoplasmic hypertrophy).  This type of size increase does not result in any strength gains and some of that size will go away once you de-load.  You’d be far better served slapping on extra barbell poundage and building real muscle than swelling yourself up artificially.

When can I go over 8 reps?

There are times when you can aim for more than 8 reps, but these high-rep sets should only be a small part of your training.

If you aren’t performing compound lifts and are doing more isolation work like barbell curls or dips, then hitting a high-rep set here or there is fine.  In fact, to get bigger arms you may need to amp up the volume.

Even a high-rep set of 20 on the squat is effective at building bigger legs (provided your form and technique is spot on). Just remember the effect that this will have on your CNS; so don’t start crushing 20 reps sets multiple times a training session.

Never, ever do high-rep sets on deadlifts or Olympic style lifts. Your margin of error here is small and the chances of injury are increased.  It’s simply not worth it, and you should be training heavy here anyway.

As you get older and more experienced, maybe you go for more than 8 reps here and there. But what I said earlier about how sets of 5-8 keep you fresh longer applies here more than ever. As you get older, your recovery times will increase. Crushing your body with large amounts of volume is going to reduce your training frequency substantially the older you get. Depressing to think about if training is what you love!

Crank up the weight, tone down the reps, and stick to the 5-8 rep range.  Hit me up when you start to make killer gains.

If you want to know about the number of sets you should be doing per training session, click here.

Evolve!!

— Tank
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Underground Strength Coach

How Do I Incorporate Bodyweight Into My Strength Training?

Bodyweight training is an essential part of any serious strength training routine.

Contrary to what many people may believe, it is a great way to build muscle if you know how to properly integrate it into your training.  It develops stability and balance, core strength, and will become more and more important as you get older.  Plus some of the movements require some serious muscle to pull off.

Still have your doubts?  Look at any male gymnast.  Those guys train bodyweight all day long and they are jacked.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzhQVDj0iOQ[/tube]

But, like anything else that you take on, to get good at it, you need to practice.  The one thing I’ve found is that we get so busy with the other aspects of our training, like trying to set PR’s at the big barbell lifts, or gain weight by doing high-volume, moderate-intensity work, we neglect the bodyweight exercises.

Listen, I get it 100%.  It’s tough to cram everything in.  It’s hard for me to pry myself away from the bar too.

At one point, I really tried.  I got really enthralled with bodyweight training and I decided to train that way once a week, in addition to a 4 day heavy strength training routine.  I had grand plans of crushing pistol squats, and all of the inversions, and every single pushup and parallel bar exercises you could imagine.

I quickly learned something.  My intentions were good, but you can’t get good at anything by doing it just once a week.  Getting bigger and stronger is my priority, which requires heavy lifting.  But bodyweight training is still an important component and I wasn’t going to neglect it.  So I had to find a better way…

So what is the best way to incorporate bodyweight training into a regular weight lifting routine?

Strategy #1: Work It Into Your Warm-Up

Every time you train, you should be warming up.  By working bodyweight movements into your warm-ups, you are practicing them upwards of 4 times a week.

Pushups, pull-ups, bodyweight squats, jumps, and lunges are all staples of Primal warm-ups.  By the time we are done, we’ve already hit 100 reps of bodyweight work before the workout has even started.  This allows you to keep your heavy weightlifting workouts the same, but still get in an ample dose of bodyweight training.

Strategy #2: Learn the Variations

This is a biggie.  The key to building muscle with bodyweight training is learning the progressions.

pistol squat strength training

A lot of times people master pushups or pull-ups and stop there.  It’s “too easy” and they get bored.

But can you do plyo-pushups?  Inverted pushups?  Feet elevated pushups?  Bet you can’t do one-arm pushups!

“I can squat 400lbs, so what do I need to bodyweight squat for?”

Sure you can, but what about jump squats?  One legged squats?  You are a real hard ass if you can pistol squat.

Maybe hanging leg raises are easy.  How about front-levers?

It takes impressive muscle development to pull off these moves.

Learn the variations and work them into your training.  Devote 10-15 minutes of your gym day to working on them.  You don’t need to master them all of course.

Pick 1 or 2 and work at them consistently.  Over time you will get better.  Then you can work one or two more variations into your training at a time until you eventually build up a repertoire.

Strategy #3: Use Bodyweight as a Finisher

This is one of my favorites and a good way to have a little competition with yourself or your training partner.

Pushup or pull-up ladders are awesome.  You perform 1 rep, your buddy performs 1.  You 2, them 2.  3, 3.  And so on.  First person to quit loses.  It wouldn’t be uncommon to get a hundred reps or more in just a few minutes.

Circuits are good here as well by picking a variety of bodyweight exercises and performing them one after the other for a set number of reps.

This time could also serve as your opportunity for practicing the variations I mentioned above.  After a heavy squat workout, finishing the day off with several sets of one legged squats would be icing on the cake.  Benched heavy?  Plyo-pushups to add in a little explosiveness and power will serve you well.

Strategy #4: Bodyweight Only During De-Load Phases

If you are coming off a heavy duration of heavy lifting or high volume work, de-loading is something you probably need for a few weeks after several months of wear and tear.  Or maybe you are just beat up from your previous workout and need “a break”.  Bodyweight training is a perfect way to do this.

Whole workouts built around bodyweight during de-load phases are great opportunities for several reasons.  One, you are protecting your body and central nervous system from prolonged bouts of heavy lifting.  Two, you are working your body more with different movements that will train your muscles in new ways.  Three, you will have entire workouts to practice the variations as opposed to 10-15 minutes a day.

As you get older, you will probably find your de-load phases will become more and more frequent.  Hate to burst your bubble but you can’t escape it.  Your ability to recover decreases and the aches and pains will probably increase.

But incorporating more bodyweight training and easing back on some of the heavy barbell work will keep you in the game longer.  Don’t be stubborn.  Accept it and prolong your shelf life.

flag pole strength training

Alright Primal Camp.  Take these strategies and run with them.  Using these will allow you to use bodyweight every day you train, without detracting from your normal lifting routine.  Use them properly, and you can build some big-time muscle in the process.

Evolve!!

— Tank
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Underground Strength Coach

How to Build Bigger Arms

When I was a little kid, I always envied Hulk Hogan’s “24-inch pythons”.

strength training big arms

Fast forward 15 years later, and I probably trained my arms harder than anything else in the gym. Truth be told, I got good results but the rest of my body suffered. Rookie mistakes…

Now that I am a little older and a little wiser, I take a more well-rounded approach to building my arms that not only gives me more mass on my biceps and triceps, but improves my overall body mass and strength as well.

Want to make sure your gun show is a hit?

Let’s break down a good strength training approach to building bigger arms.

Top 3 Arm Building Exercises

#1: Dips

These are my go-to tricep builders.  I usually hit these after a heavy pressing exercise like the bench or overhead press.  Knocking out 4 sets of this with 12-16 reps should do the trick.  Once you can crush these with regularity using bodyweight, load up some plates on a weight belt or strap some chains around your neck and get to work.

Avoid doing these with your body straddled between 2 benches, feet propped up on one and your hands on another.  This style is a recipe for a pec tear and is not good on your shoulders.  Go with the classic approach on a dip stand.  Make sure your elbows remain tucked in; no flaring out like a chicken.

#2: Curl Variations

Everybody can do curls.  These are great bicep builders and an exercise you can do with a relatively high frequency since your bi’s are able to recover so quickly.  I tend to favor them with an EZ curl bar.  A straight bar is okay if that’s all you got, but they can be hard on your wrists and elbows.

I don’t ever recommend curling heavy.  Curl for “the pump” by using high volume and moderate weights.  Rep ranges should be in the neighborhood of 8-20 depending on the resistance and keep your rest periods low.

Work the variations into your training.  Concentration curls, reverse curls, and dumbbell work are all good.  One thing you don’t see much are power curls, but if you need to get some volume in with heavier than normal weights, these are a great way to do it.

#3: Close Grip Bench Press

Aside from dips, this is one of the best tricep exercises you can do.  Take a narrow grip on a flat bench, and press a loaded barbell.  Obviously, you will be pressing much less weight than a normal bench press, so pick something you can handle for 16-20 reps.  Again, you could work these in after a normal pressing exercise.  Here I like to keep my tempo pretty fast, almost as if I was doing speed work per Westside methods.

Focus on keeping your elbows tight to your body to emphasize your tri’s.  At least 4 sets here with 12-20 reps a piece.  Focus on volume, not intensity.strength training close grip bench press

Anything else?

When you are doing direct arm work, those are the 3 exercises that I would emphasize.  Others, like skull-crushers or dumbbell presses are fine, but listen to your body.  If you are experiencing elbow or shoulder pain, ditch them.  Injury simply isn’t worth it, and the 3 I laid out above work.  No need to re-invent the wheel.

Arm Building Principles to Live By

#1: Focus on volume

Getting big guns is all about volume.  Volume may be the most important factor to gaining mass in your arms; more so than it is in other parts of your body.  So don’t waste your time trying to train too heavy with curls or dips.  Gradually build your strength but maintain high rep ranges.

Your arms are quick to recover too.  Hit them with a higher frequency during the week, capitalizing on a day or two of rest instead of 4 or 5.

#2: Triceps > Biceps

strength training dips

Big arms are based around big triceps.  A nice peak to your guns looks nice and all, but arm size and strength is mostly concentrated on your tri’s.  So if you want bigger arms, what you are really saying is that you want bigger triceps.

Plus, the bigger and stronger your triceps are, the more success you will have in your other big pressing lifts like the bench and overhead.  In fact, I train my triceps strictly to get better at those lifts, rather than just trying to get bigger arms.  If you want bigger arms, I’m guessing you want mass everywhere else too, so the more you can press, the better off you will be.

#3: Build Your Arms with Indirect Arm Work

This is by far the most important principle to remember.  If you take nothing else from this post, please at least take this.

Spend less time doing direct arm work and hit them indirectly instead.  This will free up a ton of time for you to build more total body mass by focusing on compound lifts like the bench, overhead press, row variations, pull-ups, pushups, etc.

Even though you aren’t isolating your arms, pull-ups and row variations will build your biceps, and presses will crush your triceps.  You will be hitting your arms far more than you realize and then you can supplement this work with curls and dips, albeit spending far less time isolating just one part of your body.

Trust me, your arms won’t shrink if you don’t do 20 sets of bicep curls a week.

I didn’t touch my arms for 6 months, meaning I only did indirect arm work, and they still grew.  Since then, I’ve added curls and dips once a week in addition to standard pressing exercises on my 2 upper body days, and the gun show is in full effect.

So by following this principle, not only will your arms get bigger, the rest of your body will too.  If your guns aren’t growing as fast as you’d like, spend an extra 20 minutes a week getting in more volume but try not to sacrifice the other critical parts of your training.

strength training curls

Wrapping Up

So there ya go.

3 exercises and 3 principles that will get you bigger arms in a hurry.

If you missed the other parts of this series, check them out here:

How to Get Bigger Legs

How to Get A Bigger Chest

How to Get a Bigger Back

Evolve!!

— Tank
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
Underground Strength Coach

How to Build A Bigger Chest

Everybody loves a nice set of pecs.strength training

Aside from some bulging guns, nothing fills out a shirt better than a big chest.

“But Tank, my chest is flat as a pancake.”

It’s ok.  I’m here to help.

So what’s first?

If you want to build a rack like this, then your training should focus around 2 exercises.

#1: Bench Press

The bench is the undisputed numero uno mass builder for your chest.

If I’m going for pure strength, I’ll stick with flat bench and really load up some plates.  But for hypertrophy, you are far better off setting the bench to a slight incline (around 30 degrees) and working with loads 70-85% of your 1RM.  Flat bench will build chest width, but targeting your upper chest with the incline will help build “peaks”, and really add mass to your frame.

Bench is one of those exercises that you can “brute force” your way through it, but I encourage you to really fine tune your form.  You will get much more out of benching this way; I’d bet that your 1RM would go up at least 10lbs in some cases by just making a few adjustments.

Feet firmly anchored into the floor, legs and glutes tightened, lower back off the bench with your chest high and shoulder blades firmly retracted into the bench.  Do not simply sink into the bench.  These are all things you should be thinking of each and every rep, including your warm ups.

After a few warm up sets, you are ready to work.  Hit about 3-5 working sets.  Normal strength training law applies; 3-5 reps for strength, and 6-12 for mass gain.  You should be aiming to get stronger since the more weight you can press, the bigger you will get, but to gain mass you will need to amp up the volume.

Vary your grips from time to time.  Forget about the decline.  Throw some fat gripz on the bar to build Popeye forearms and protect your shoulders.  Dumbells are good too for this same reason.  In fact, after benching for a few months with a barbell I encourage you to switch to dumbbells for a while to save you from some wear and tear.strength training incline press

#2: Pushups

This classic can be easily overlooked, but truth be told, aside from bench this should be your go to chest destroyer.  The beauty of these is that you can do them anywhere, anytime, with countless numbers of variations.  Your goal should be to perform at least 20 normal perfect pushups before even thinking about doing any of the other variations.

women's strength trainingQuickest way to get better?  Do them every single day.  Even if they are not a core part of your training that day, at a minimum they should be worked into your warmup.  I will also do these as a finisher, typically in ladder fashion.  1 pushup, 1 second rest.  2 pushups, 2 seconds rest.  3, 3, 4, 4.  You get the idea.  All the way up to 10.  That will get you 55 reps in less than two minutes.  Keep working at these and you will be a pushup master in no time.

Just make sure you are doing them properly.  You’d be surprised how many people think they are doing them right, but they aren’t.

Your body should be aligned as if you were doing a plank.  Legs, glutes, and core tight.  No saggy ass or arched back.  Your elbows should be tucked towards your sides and pointing backwards; do not let them flare out to the sides.  Hands about shoulder width apart and your thumb should line up just under your armpits.  Lower yourself down until your chest almost touches, and then press yourself back up.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIVTUUSBYQM[/tube]

 

“But Tank, only 2 exercises?  What about dumbbell and cable flyes, dumbbell pullovers, and the pec deck machine?”

Good question.

Listen, I know it is easy to get wrapped up in doing all of this other chest sh*t that you read in magazines, but unless you know how to program them into your training properly, they can be a waste of time.

First of all, machines suck.  Don’t use them.  And dumbbell chest work (aside from presses) is usually isolation.  If you don’t know how I feel about isolating your muscles, read here and hereCompound exercises are king. 

Now if you are trying to add more volume to your chest work and need to save wear and tear on you joints and shoulders, dumbell flyes and other isolations may be okay for a few sets a week, but they should never be your focus.  Beginners (those who have been training for less than 2 years) need to stick the basics.  If you are more advanced, you may be more qualified to work these into your training.

Besides, if you are benching properly with the right program, and mastering the pushup variations, you really don’t need to worry about anything else.

“Alright Tank, what else should I know?”

Glad you ask!

Strengthen Your Triceps

strength training triceps

Your tris are a critical part to any pressing movement, and other than your chest, the main muscle used in the two most important chest exercises.  So it is natural to train up your triceps to help you bench more weight and for more reps.  And I’m not sure about you, but whenever I do pushups, my triceps are the first thing to go.

Dips are my go to here.  I keep my rep ranges moderate to high, usually in the 12-20 range.  As you progress, strap on a weight belt and add some plates to the mix.  Perform these on a dip stand.  Propping your feet up on a bench is a recipe for a pec tear or shoulder problems…

You can also do exercises like skull-crushers or behind the neck dumbbell presses, but some of you may experience elbow pain as you crank up the weight.  If this applies to you, back off the weight and/or reps and just focus on dips.

Rope pull downs on cable machines?  Nope!  Remember, machines suck.

Stretching

I’ll admit I wasn’t as privy to chest stretching until I did a cycle of DoggCrapp.  I know that sounds funny, but if you aren’t familiar with “DC”, you should check it out, especially since you are reading this article and trying to gain mass.  It is a great program.

Anyhow, following DC protocol, you have to stretch your muscles in between each exercise for 60 seconds.  The chest stretch was my favorite.  You simply take two dumbbells that are light weight (I did 40’s), lay on a flat bench, let them fall out to your sides and hold them there for a minute.  The position should look like the very bottom of a chest fly.  Brutal, but worth it.

women's strength trainingIf you missed my post on how to build bigger legs, you didn’t hear me talk about how long muscles are strong muscles.  The longer the muscle, the more room you have for adding mass.

Bottom line?  Stretch!

That’s it people.  You’ve got the recipe for building a mountain of a chest.  Now go and make it happen.

When your man-cleavage starts busting out of your t-shirts, don’t hate me…

Evolve!!

— Tank

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