Tag Archives: conditioning

5 Habits For A Stronger You

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. — Aristotle

True story, Aristotle must’ve been a smart guy. He was also a big believer in physical fitness and getting stronger, both in mind and in body.

The quote above speaks volumes and encompasses a huge aspect of success and excellence. The problem is, we as humans aren’t the best at maintaining positive habits. The most successful people are not necessarily the ones with the most talent, but the ones with the most consistency. The act of getting stronger is no different.

So what do the strongest people on the planet do on a consistent basis that separates them from the weak?

Continue reading 5 Habits For A Stronger You

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.)

arnold-bench-press
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

Building Lifting Programs: 4 Vital Characteristics

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll notice I don’t put a ton of lifting programs up on my site.

That will probably change in the near future but for now there are many reasons that I don’t. The overarching reason is because I pride myself on educating lifters so they can think for themselves, not just follow a program blindly. The fitness community is inundated with thousands of lifting programs that people can follow, but ask the average user to develop their own program and describe the inner workings of their training and they likely can’t.

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime”

I’d much rather teach you how to do your own programming so you can sustain yourself over a lifetime, rather than trying to find the next greatest thing after the end of an 8-week cycle.

Log-Press
So in designing your own lifting program, what are the major factors that you need to develop it around?

#1: Your Goals

Far too often when I talk to someone about lifting, they don’t have a clear definition of what their end game is. When embarking in lifting programs, you need to train to both your short-term and long-term goals.

Do you want to add on mass? Or do you want to gain total body strength? Maybe your goal is lift specific and you want to add 25 pounds to your bench press?

You need to have your end game in mind. If you want to add mass, doing programs meant for powerlifters may not add a lot of hypertrophy, and inversely, if you want to get stronger, high-volume bodybuilding style programs probably won’t get you there.

All of your training must be done with intention.

Never Change The Goal
#2: Volume-Intensity Relationship

To induce a training effect you have to stimulate your body with enough volume under heavy enough loads.

Training to your goals will take care of a lot of this dynamic. Strength seekers will favor less volume with more intensity and the mass seeker will probably favor more volume with lighter intensities.

Knowing the relationship between volume and intensity is paramount and may take some manipulating to make the gains you are looking for. Throughout the course of your training life, you will come across periods where your body needs more volume to induce growth, whereas other times you may need to add weight to the bar to boost your gains. Unfortunately there is no magic recipe for this. This comes down to your knowledge as a lifter, understanding what your body is telling you, and your ability to manipulate your programming to what your body needs.

For some general guidelines on volume and intensity check these out:

How to Add More Volume To Your Training

Crank Up the Intensity

What Rep Range Should You Use to Gain Mass?

#3: Training Frequency

This is how often you train, and more specifically, how often you are stimulating your various muscle groups.

Depending on how you break-down your training sessions, your training frequency may vary but typically you should be training at least 3 or 4 days a week.

Your training frequency will also be dictated by the volume-intensity relationship as higher-volume or intensity sessions may require more time in between training sessions. Rule of thumb for Primal lifters is that you allow for 48 hours rest in between muscle groups.

#4: Exercise Selection

This is a big one for me. I’m a firm believer in recruiting more muscle to build more muscle, so I favor a lot of compound lifts. However, you must be careful when using a lot of compound movements and ensure that you are getting proper recovery and not over-training your nervous system.

This is not to say isolation movements don’t have their merits, but you just have to know when and how to use them.

arnold-squat-franco-300x271
In Summary…

There are four major components of program design:

  1. Your Goals
  2. Volume-Intensity Relationship
  3. Training Frequency
  4. Exercise Selection

These are the only things you need to think about when designing a lifting program.

Any time I write a program for Primal, I am building it around these components. So as you progress in your lifting career, these are the things you need to think of in order to give yourself the proper programming to make both short and long-term gains.

As a parting thought, I want to finish by saying that there is no such thing as a perfect program. It just doesn’t exist.

Something may work for a while, but your body will adapt and your gains will stall. This doesn’t mean the program is garbage, it just means that you need to manipulate a portion of the program to reach your desired end state. This is what I call the 25% rule. To read more about the 25% rule, stay tuned for my next post…

— Tank

Training Finishers for Fat Loss and Muscle Gain

Want to boost fat loss, improve your conditioning, build some extra muscle, and increase your mental toughness, all in less than 20 minutes?

Adding training finishers to the end of your workouts is an extremely effective way to do all of the above.

Most of the time Primal finishers take the form of either high-intensity cardio, a hard hitting bodyweight circuit, or a strength movement with a conditioning component built around improving mental toughness.

Since finishers are meant to be high-intensity, you only need to do them a few times a week and are not meant to be done after every training session. Doing finishers too often will jeopardize your recovery times and strain your central nervous system (CNS), and if you are working your ass off during the main components of your training sessions, they just aren’t necessary all of the time. Keep your finishers to 20 minutes in duration or less.

battle rope finishers

High-Intensity Cardio Finishers

Primal conditioning philosophy centers around high-intensity cardio and using finishers in this fashion is a perfect opportunity to burn some extra fat. High-intensity cardio burns more fat calories in a shorter period of time than steady state cardio like jogging or the stair climber, and it will have a long lasting metabolic effect, boosting fat loss for up to 24 hours after you have left the gym.

Here are some examples of high-intensity cardio finishers:

  1. Battle Rope Finisher: 3-4 rounds of battle rope for intervals of 30 seconds to 90 seconds or more. Non-stop movement of the ropes switching between rope slams (single and double arm variations), rope jumping jacks, and shoulder rotations. Rest 1-2 minutes between rounds.
  2. Hill Sprints: This is the most classic and effective fat burning cardio you can do. 5 – 10 sprints with 1-2 minutes rest in between rounds will do the trick. Your rest period includes time spent walking back down the hill.
  3. Sled and Prowler Work: Weighted sled pulls and sprints, and loaded prowler pushes make for brutal conditioning finishers. Pulls/pushes for 50 feet or more with short breaks in between movements work best.

Bodyweight Circuits

Bodyweight circuits are one of my favorite finishers to not only boost fat loss, but also build muscle and throw in some extra volume to my training sessions. You can do circuits with light resistance as well, but if you worked hard enough during the core of your training session it probably isn’t necessary. Bodyweight yields a good training effect while minimizing wear and tear on your body that increases recovery times. Using a circuit that recruits the entire body will boost the effectiveness of the finisher.

An example would be:

1a) Pushups x 10
1b) Recline Rows x 10
1c) Jump Squats x 10

Perform each exercise consecutively without rest in between. Completing all 3 constitutes one round. Rest 30 seconds to 2 minutes after each round. Perform 3-5 rounds.

Strength and Mental Toughness Finishers

These are my favorite finishers to use. I like leaving the gym knowing I gave it everything I had and really testing yourself at the end of a training session is a sure-fire way to end on a high note. The strength component of this finisher should involve heavy weight but with a movement that has little risk for technical error or injury. With this in mind, I often turn to heavy farmers carries or carrying odd objects like kegs, sandbags, or stones.

You will get a strength, muscle building, conditioning, and mental toughness training effect with this kind of finisher. I also like combining this type of finisher with high-intensity cardio as a form of contrast training.

A couple examples of this type of finisher would look like:

  1. Kettlebell farmers carries for 150 feet.
  2. Heavy object carries for 150 feet in a variety of positions (zercher, shouldered, cleaned, overhead). Keep in mind risk for technical error and increasing the difficulty with different positions since you are already fatigued from your entire training session.
  3. Farmers carries for 50 – 150 feet followed immediately by a hill sprint.

farmers carry finishers

Wrapping Up

  • Finishers are a great way to boost fat loss, improve conditioning, increase muscle mass, and build mental toughness.
  • The best finishers can be high-intensity cardio, bodyweight circuits, and strength and mental toughness movements.
  • Do not perform finishers after every training session because they can jeopardize your recovery times and increase CNS fatigue.

— Tank

Implementing a Full Body or Upper Lower Split

The only two training splits I recommend are either full body or an upper lower split.

Body part splits and bodybuilding style training has its place for supplemental programming, but it’s ill-suited (as a primary focus) for the average gym rat or athlete who wants to get both strong and huge. Training full body or with an upper lower split recruits far more muscle, allows you to train much more frequently than body part splits, and will build both size and strength concurrently.

If you want a more detailed look into why I advocate against body part splits for the average gym rat, read this: Ditch the Body Part Split

upper lower split

I favor an upper lower split personally because I think it has a few advantages over full body training, but I’ll give you examples of both just so you can decide for yourself what suits your needs and schedule more.

Full Body

For a full body split, it’s pretty straightforward. You train your entire body each training session so no movement is off limits.

The disadvantage to full body training is that your training sessions will typically be longer than normal and your recovery times increased. You may also be hard pressed to fit everything you’d like to do in a single training session.

As a general rule, no matter what the split, I train my biggest/heaviest lifts first and follow that with assistance work and specialty training such as plyometrics and explosive movements. Several days a week, I will end with 20 minutes of high-intensity cardio.

Here is an example full body training plan:

  1. Big Lift (Bench, squat, overhead press, deadlift)
  2. Assistance (row variations, tricep and bicep work, hamstring and posterior chain movements, floor presses, squat variations, single-leg exercises, etc.)
  3. More Assistance (different movement from your 1st assistance exercise)
  4. Bodyweight or Explosive Movement (push-up and pull-up variations, dips, kettlebell cleans and snatches, barbell hang cleans, heavy push presses, plyometrics)
  5. Core Work and/or Conditioning (sprints, hanging leg raises, medicine ball throws, kettlebell swings, battle rope, weighted crunches, farmers carries)

* For some of your explosive work, if it’s really taxing, you may perform that as your second movement to reduce the possibility of technical errors and injury, as well as increase the actual training effect of the exercise. *

Training hard with a full body approach, you only need to train 3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday for example), with some light to moderate active recovery sessions on your off days.

34f18_ORIG-friday_59_

Upper Lower Split

Upper lower splits are a progression from full body training and are what I typically use in my own training and with my clients. Your training sessions are split into upper body days and lower body days.

The upper lower split is more flexible than a full body split and allows you to hit your entire upper/lower body within a reasonable time frame (a typical training session would be about an hour). It also allows you to train more frequently, several times a week for both your upper and lower body.

Sticking with some of the considerations I laid out above (heaviest lift first, etc.) an upper lower split would look something like this.

Upper Body

  1. Big Lift (bench, or overhead press)
  2. Upper Body Assistance
  3. Upper Body Assistance
  4. Bodyweight or Explosive Movement
  5. Core Work and/or Conditioning

Lower Body

  1. Big Lift (squat, deadlift)
  2. Lower Body Assistance
  3. Lower Body Assistance
  4. Bodyweight or Explosive Movement
  5. Core Work and/or Conditioning

For an upper lower split, I take a 2 days on 1 day off approach. A sample schedule would be something like this:

Monday – Upper
Tuesday – Lower
Wednesday – Off Day/Active Recovery
Thursday – Upper
Friday – Lower
Saturday – Off Day/Active Recovery
Sunday – Off Day/Active Recovery

If you are looking for some set and rep guidelines for both full body and upper lower split programs, check out these two articles:

How Many Sets To Build Muscle?

What Rep Range To Build Muscle?

If you want an 8 week program centered around an upper lower split, check out Uncaging Your Primal Strength. You can download it from my programs page. It comes complete with an exercise list, rep and set guidelines, and built-in printable training worksheets.

Since its release, people from all over the world have been crushing the program, breaking strength plateaus, building muscle mass, and shredding body fat.

I also have a ridiculous deal going on for 3 of my eBooks, where you can get Uncaging, The Primal Mind, and Primal Strength Nutrition for a 30% discount. Don’t miss out before I come to my senses and raise the price back to face value!

If you want something even more dynamic and personalized, check out my online coaching portal: Primal Online Coaching.

By investing in online coaching, you will get 8 weeks of personalized programming, video critiques of your lifts, and a lot of interaction with me. Why not invest in the same training that is producing the nationally ranked athletes and record holders from the Primal Strength Gym?

Online Coaching Sign Up

— Tank

How to Improve Your Pull-Ups

The pull-up, sometimes referred to as the “upper-body squat”, is one of the best tests of your relative strength (strength to bodyweight). It’s one of the greatest upper-body builders there is and one that all serious lifters should train to master.pull ups

But pull-ups give a lot of people problems and it can be one of the hardest exercises to improve on…until now.

Use these methods to improve your pull-up performance.

#1 Do Not Train to Failure

This is by far the most prevalent violation of training your pull-ups. With any other exercise, you usually implement some form of progressive overload and you don’t train maximally day in and day out. But yet, I often see people doing set after set of pull-ups until failure and then wonder why they are not making progress.

You must treat your progression in pull-ups just as you would any other exercise and not train maximally every training session. By implementing some sort of pull-up specific training plan with progressive overload, I can almost guarantee you that your performance will improve.

#2 Train the Regressions, Progressions, and Variations

If you are trying to increase the number of pull-ups you can do, work in some variations that allow you to do more reps. Recline rows work well here and give you the ability to develop your pulling power and really initiate your lats. Vary your grip positions as well (narrow, neutral, overhand, underhand, wide).

For those of you who can already do 10 or more pull-ups and want to further increase your ability, strap some weight to a weight belt and do weighted pull-ups. Then, when you go back to pure bodyweight pull-ups, your movement will feel much lighter.

#3 Train Assistance Movements

There are a ton of row variations. Rows are one of the main exercises I recommend for building your back and by improving your pulling-power in other row movements, you will be improving your pulling-power on your pull-ups too. Single arm dumbbell rows, barbell rows, recline rows, and lat pull-downs are all great for improving pulling power.

#4 Modify Your Rep Ranges in Your Variations and Assistance Movements

This one is important. If you are trying to increase the number of pull-ups you can do, you probably need to add in some more endurance work. Lifting heavy the majority of the time will work wonders for your strength, but say you are stuck on a 5 pull-up max, training heavy with low rep sets on all of your assistance work may not benefit you.

If you want to increase your reps on pull-ups, try increasing your reps on rows and other similar movements as well, so you are conditioned for more endurance that high-rep sets of pull-ups require. For most of you training Primal style, that means throwing in high rep sets of 12 or more on your pull-up specific movements, rather than typical strength rep ranges of 3-8.

#5 Use Your Latspull ups

This comes down to a simple tweaking of technique, but I’ve found that this one adjustment can add up to 3 solid pull-ups on your current max. You must initiate your pull-ups by firing up your lats and not by pulling with your biceps. Cue yourself to drive your elbows down and back when you start the movement; this will engage your lats and take the emphasis off your biceps, giving you much more pulling power.

#6 Improve Your Grip Strength

The more grip strength you have, the easier any lift will feel. Pull-ups are no different.

Train your grip strength with farmer carries, barbell pulling movements, and the use of fat bars. If you don’t have access to fat bars, invest in a pair of Fat Gripz. They are always in my gym bag, and I use them every single day. You can pick up a pair through Primal, on the right hand side of this screen.

#7 Cut Body Fat

Extra weight might help you put up bigger numbers in leverage based exercises like squats and deadlifts or some sport specific activities, but in most other cases it’s worthless and unhealthy. Trimming excess weight will help you move more efficiently and improve your mobility, not to mention make pull-ups a hell of a lot easier.

— Tank

Plyometrics Training For Strength and Explosiveness

You’ve heard me mention plyometrics before here and here.

They are key at developing explosiveness and athleticism and should be an important component of a well balanced strength training program.  You will need this explosiveness when trying to build strength for the heavy barbell lifts like the bench and deadlifts.  Plus they are vital in developing general physical preparedness and work capacity that will allow you to increase your training volume as you progress.

There are a ton of jump variations you can do, but for most of you these 3 will do the trick.

#1: Box Jumps

Most gyms have some sort of box you can jump on.  Nothing complicated here.  Just jump onto the box.  Jump higher and higher as you progress.

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

#2: Hurdle Jumps

This simply means jumping over things.  In a standard gym sitting, you can jump over benches or boxes.  If you are training outside, this is where park benches and other objects come into play.

#3: Long Jumps

These are the most advanced because they require a great deal of explosiveness and athleticism already.  You have to be very careful on cushioning your landings, and be aware of the pounding your joints, knees, and legs take in the process.  I do not recommend this for beginners, but as you progress, you can work these in.  Make sure your technique is sound and you have a strong core before doing these.

Knowing you need to focus on these 3, how do you incorporate them into your training?

Programming Considerations

I’d treat them just as any other exercise.  They count towards your overall training volume and the higher/further you jump counts towards your training intensity.  The higher/further you jump, the less reps per set you should perform.  Fifteen or less total reps split up among 3-5 sets would work.

Daria+Klishina+2013+European+Athletics+Indoor+lSjZNVWNHMnx

I tend to work my jumps in at the end of my workouts or after my big compound lift.  If I’m jumping for a low vertical, I’ll use them as a conditioning finisher.  If I’m going for high verticals, I’ll make them a focal point of my training after heavy squatting for example.  One thing you can do to work in jumps mid-training is superset heavy squats with box jumps to really build up your explosiveness and leg strength.

One important distinction here is to not treat jumps as high-intensity cardio alone.  While they do make a kick ass conditioning exercise, you also need to treat them as a way to develop explosiveness.  The more explosive you are, the better you will perform on your big lifts.  That’s why it’s important to test yourself and continually try to jump higher and further, not just for reps and time.

As far as frequency goes, you could jump a couple of times a week.  Work in your plyos on the same days you are training lower body if you can.  If you must jump the day after lifting heavy squats or deadlifts, crank your intensity (height/distance) down to no more than 75% of your max effort.  Just like lifting weights, jumping for prolonged periods at 100% max effort can be stressful on your central nervous system (CNS).

Evolve!!

— Tank

Imperfection Training

Imperfection training is a big part of what Primal Strength Camp is all about.

I first read about the idea of this type of training in the book “Supertraining” by Yuri Verkhoshansky.  If you’ve never heard of this book and are serious about strength training and muscle building, you need to invest in it.

Consider this statement:

All-round sports training must include the capability of coping with unexpected and sub-optimal conditions. In certain sports where accidents or unexpected situations often occur, such as the martial arts, parachuting and motor racing, participants are taught how to cope with events that can have serious consequences. This type of preparation needs to be adopted far more extensively in all sports so that the athlete is able to anticipate threatening situations, react much more rapidly to unexpected circumstances, take action to avoid or minimise injury, and cope with sub-optimal conditions by practising with imperfectly executed movements.

When I first started training outside with odd-objects for fun as a way to break up the monotony of the gym, I immediately noticed that my gym strength didn’t translate to the real world.

The real world IS a “sub-optimal condition”.  Nothing is ever perfect.  But our bodies get so damn accustomed to moving so rigidly in the gym (almost always in a linear fashion) that we are ill-equipped to handle unexpected movements and uneven loads.  This is why I had trouble lifting kegs and sandbags when I first started.  I was already using imperfection training without even realizing it.

One thing I think we can all relate to is helping somebody move furniture.  You can bench 300 pounds and squat twice your bodyweight, but if you ever try to move some weird shaped couch or get a dresser up some stairs, I bet it kicks your ass.

Anyhow, if you are interested in possessing “real-world strength”, the concept of imperfection training and working it into your routines is a no-brainer.  This especially goes for athletes because nothing you ever do in a game situation is perfect.  Rarely are you moving in a linear fashion like most of your exercises in a gym (they may be dynamic like Olympic lifts or jumps, but are still not chaotic).

“Creating chaos” in an exercise form is not totally accomplishable.  There is only so much you can do and you will never be able to mimic the things you will encounter in real-life situations, but there are things you can do to help bridge the gap.

#1: Lifting Odd-Objects

Kegs, stones, slosh pipes, and sandbags are all good tools to use here.  Cleans, clean and presses, overhead presses, and sandbag shouldering are all examples of movements to perform.  None of these tools have evenly distributed weight, especially in the case of kegs (only partially filled) and sandbags.  The water and sand will continually shift making each and every rep of the movement different.

#2: Uneven Carries

Farmers carries are an awesome exercise, but rarely do you see variations in style.  Uneven carries require different sized loads to be carried in each arm.  For example, two different sized kettlebells.

At Primal, we like to take things a step further and carry two entirely different objects altogether.  In one hand we may have a 50 pound kettlebell, but we will have a 100 pound sandbag in a shouldered position in the other arm.  Or carrying the same sized object in two different carry positions; one at your side and one in a cleaned position is a good example.

Ever used a slosh pipe?  This is an uneven carry extreme and a Primal favorite.  A 10 foot pipe filled only partially with water, the water is constantly changing positions side to side, creating full body tension in an effort to keep the pipe upright and stabilized.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c93mGtzBhJs[/tube]


#3: Outside Sled Work

Most of the time you see sled work, trainers have their people pulling/pushing the sled on turf.  That’s good and all, but it certainly makes it a hell of a lot easier.

We train with our sleds outside in parks, often times in tall, dry grass or patchy fields at best.  It may go from fairly easy to impossible in a split second if you snag it on a dirt pile or high-patch of grass.  Doing it this way, you have to be very focused on keeping your legs churning and burning, similar to how you would see a running back trying to push the pile in a short yardage situation.

#4: Dynamic Throws

Heavy throws are a great way to build strength and total body power and explosiveness.  Aside from normal medicine ball work, kegs and sandbags and even stones are a great tool to use for these.

strength training
Keg tossing will develop some serious explosive power. This will help you off the ground with your other lifts too, like deadlifts and the clean and press.

If you are trying to build some “functionality” behind all of that gym muscle, imperfection training is something you need to consider for your training arsenal.  Use some of these ideas and run with them.  The beauty of this style is it allows you to be creative.  When you get so bogged down in traditional training, throwing a little chaos into your world can be a really rewarding and refreshing thing to do.  Training this way once or twice a week in addition to your normal routine should reap you some benefits.

Just do it responsibly and with some thought behind it, because just like sports, some of these movements can lead to injury.  You should be concentrating and focusing on moving efficiently during this training just like any other gym session.

Evolve!!

— Tank

Cardio For Getting Shredded

It kills me every time I walk into a gym and see 50% of the real estate covered in cardio machines.cardio

People churning away, reading magazines on a stationary bike, watching tv on the elliptical, chatting with their friends on the treadmill.  They are totally crushing the ‘fat burn program’ on that $3,000 heap of metal. They will be doing that for hours multiple times a week.

The problem is that there are far better ways to get shredded in much shorter amounts of time…

Steady State Cardio and the Fat Burn Zone Confusion

First, let’s clear up a misconception.  Word on the street is that you burn more fat during low intensity steady state cardio, such as walking or jogging.  Totally false.

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).

Confusing?  Let me put it this way.  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…

Pretty eye opening right?

Get off the treadmill, crank up the intensity, and do work!

cardio

So what exactly do you do?

You have a number of options.

Hill Sprints or Sprint Intervals

Sprint hill.  Jog back down.  Repeat.

Sprint intervals are the same concept.  Sprint 20 seconds, rest for 20.  As you get better, increase the duration of the sprint and decrease your rest time.

Sled or Prowler Work

Load up the sled or prowler, strap yourself in and get to work.  Pull or push for distance.

Lately, I have been loading up a prowler with about 60% of my bodyweight and sprinting 40’s while pushing it. About 4 sprints with this is enough and a great finisher to heavy weight lifting.

MetCon (Metabolic Conditioning)

MetCon is really just a fancy word for interval training.  It is a short duration, fast paced workout designed to kick your metabolism into high gear and turn you into a fat burning machine for long after you have left the gym.  Under the MetCon realm, there are a number of options:

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

  1. You could lump hill sprints and sprint intervals into this, but when I think of HIIT, I use it with weights and different exercises.
  2. Weight circuits, where you pick 5 or so exercises, and perform them all consecutively for specified reps, with no rest in between.  That is one set.  Do several sets.
  3. Intervals, where you pick one exercise (say bodyweight squats), perform for a timed duration, then rest, and repeat is another.  Plyos work well here too.

Random Guidelines for High Intensity Training

women's cardio

  • Coupled with a 4 day a week weight lifting routine, 2 sessions a week should be enough.  Anything more and you are jeopardizing your recovery times.
  • Sessions should last roughly 20 minutes or so.  Anything more is overkill.
  • This is not meant for everyone.  If you cannot perform high intensity training initially, start with steady state cardio until you are capable.
  • High intensity is not an excuse for poor form.  Form trumps all.
  • Train outside when possible.
  • Metabolism is a function of muscle mass.  The more muscle you have, the better your metabolism is, and the more effective your training will be.

All the best!!

— Tank

Anatomy of a Kick Ass Training Session

A lot of people ask how I plan and organize my training sessions.

There are a million different ways to train out there; some good, some bad.  I don’t train the same way every day.  The key to breaking up the monotony and daily grind (as well as making permanent progress in general) is having a dynamic training schedule.  But there are rubrics you can use as the foundation for building your training program.

Let me break down one of my all-time favorite sessions for ya real quick.  I’ve found it is one of the best ways to get in the gym, move some serious weight, build some muscle and work capacity, and get the hell out, all in less than an hour and a half.  Anytime I need a “go-to” workout, this is it…

Phase 1:  The Warm Up (15 minutes)

The warm up should be fairly high paced and take about 15 minutes or so, depending on how strenuous you want to make it.

My warm ups usually only entail bodyweight, like several rounds of band stretches, bodyweight squats, walking lunges, high jumps, pushups, jogs and sprints, and lateral movements like shuffling.  Mix in some foam rolling to get everything loosened up and you should be good to go.

Have a plan, and execute it.  You should be concentrating during the warm up just as much as you would be if you were about to set a personal squat record.

This is also a great time to work on your weaknesses when you are fresh; and since you are warming up before every workout, you are attacking those weaknesses with much more frequency.  Weak on pushups?  Add an ample dose to your warm up.  If you want to be good at something, you should be doing it every day! 

big lift training session

Phase 2:  The Big Lift (30-45 minutes)

A lot of my workouts are focused on going heavy on one of the big lifts (squat, bench, overhead press, deadlift).  I’ll pick one big lift to do per training session and perform it immediately after the warm up.

Four to five warm up sets usually work for me, then I’ll perform 3 working sets according to whatever my training goal and program is at the time.  If I feel I didn’t get enough, I’ll throw in some drop sets to finish the lift off.

Phase 3:  Assistance Work (20-30 minutes)

After the big lift, I’ll focus on assistance work that is meant to add size and help me to pull more weight in one of the big lifts.  Three or four exercises here will do the trick, working sub-maximally (70-85% of 1 rep max) for 6-20 reps per set, depending on the exercise.  I’ll usually do 4-6 sets per exercise.

Pushups, pull-ups, dumbbell push and pull variations, rows, good mornings, and dips are all examples of exercises to do here.  Pick exercises that will help build some muscle and will increase your ability to perform one of your big 4 lifts.

women's training session

Phase 4:  The Finisher (5 minutes)

This phase is built around conditioning and increasing your work capacity.  Heavy farmers walks, battle rope circuits, sled pulling, prowler pushing, and sprints all work well here.

Pick an exercise that isn’t necessarily strength focused, but will take some mental toughness and heart pumping effort to complete.  This phase is meant to be short and sweet, and help finish your workout with a bang.  Do not overdo this since it’s not meant to make you puke and keel over, but you should feel good and crushed when it’s over.

Wrap Up

There ya have it, a bad ass rubric for planning a complete muscle building training session! 

Sticking to this kind of template has never done me wrong, and if you are unsure of what you should be doing in the gym, this is a damn good place to start.  Now go out and crush it!

Evolve!!

— Tank