Tag Archives: muscle building

The Four Pillars of Strength, by the Strongman Jack Niles

Whats up Primal Camp?

I am psyched to bring you a guest post by my friend Jack Niles from jacknilesstrongman.com.  I met Jack a while back at a strongman competition in Richmond, VA.  He was there selling some of his awesome homemade strongman equipment, some of which I bought and still use on a weekly basis.  Check out his store.  He is offering free shipping from now until Christmas, so time to get yourself some early presents!

Jack also just won his age division at the Virginia state powerlifting meet, so he knows about true strength and how to kick some serious ass.  You should add his blog as a must read to your strength training library.  Here is a taste of how he approaches strength and overall physical fitness.  Enjoy!


JN — A well rounded program to increase strength has a minimum of four components. Organizing a program around these four tenents should allow you to increase your overall fitness a great deal if applied consistently for atleast 8 to 12 weeks. I will be glad to post specifics on each area individually later.

1. Periodization: A strength program needs to be periodized. It is not possible to always lift heavy and make gains. The body needs to recover. A three week period is good: One light week of each exercise. One week using medium weights for each lift, one heavy week of each exercise. Then start over adding but 5 lbs to each of your lifts.

2. Flexibility. Lifting heavy tightens your muscles. Stretching reduces injuries. A quick simple stretch routine is the ancient yoga “sunrise salutation.” Google it is quick to learn and a good total body stretch.

3. Cardio: The heart is the most important muscle. You need three sessions minimum a week. 1 session of 20 minutes of high speed exercise, 1 session of 30 minutes of medium speed exercise and 1 session of 40 minutes of slow speed exercise.

4. Plyometrics: Power is the ability to move a mass quickly. Plyometrics are used by strength athletes to develop explosive strength. One way to do plyometrics is to do exactly the same lifts as you normally do with half the weight. Do three quick lifts with an emphasis on speed. Rest a minute or less then repeat this. 24 reps or 8 sets of 3 reps is a good plyometric routine. Heavy lifts can be done during the first part of the week and plyometric lifts of the same exercise can be done later in the week.

— Jack Niles


Ditch the Body Part Split!

I’d venture to guess that most of you landing here at Primal Strength Camp for the first time train using some kind of body part split.

Does your routine look like one of these?

Chest                                               Chest and Tri’s
Arms                                                Back and Bi’s
Legs                                                Legs and Shoulders
Back and Shoulders                        More Legs

I bet it is fairly similar.  What I’ll also bet is that you are not a professional or aspiring bodybuilder.

So let me break the bad news to you; unless you plan on getting on that stage any time soon to compete, you are sabotaging yourself.

Body part splits are “gain killers”.  Stop doing them.  You can’t keep working out the way these awful muscle magazines or the meatheads at your local gym tell you.

Recruit More Muscle to Build More Muscle

Seems like a straightforward concept right?  The more muscle you can stimulate in a given period of time, the more growth you can trigger.

The key to accomplishing this is through total body workouts, or for the intermediate and advanced lifter, an upper/lower split.  Instead of just training your chest and triceps in a given workout, using your entire body recruits far more muscle resulting in much bigger gains.

body workouts

Want a real world example?  Think about male gymnasts.  Ask any dude out there if he would want to look like a gymnast and I bet he can’t tell you no with a straight face.  Those dudes are jacked!

Think they look like that because they focus half their gym time in a given day on their biceps?  No!  They train total body each and every day.

By recruiting more muscle, you will make far bigger strength gains than you would training with isolated body parts as well.

Eliminate the Garbage 

Workouts consisting of squats, clean and presses, pull-ups, and pushups are going to recruit far more muscle than one consisting of lat pulldowns, bent over rows, preacher curls, and concentration curls.

Cramming a total body workout into a single training session forces you to eliminate the crap and choose your exercises carefully.  Ditch the isolation movements and feed yourself a steady diet of compound exercises and plyometrics.

Most of us aren’t bodybuilders so there is no sense in training like one.  You will get far better results training like an athlete.


Looking at the split routines I laid out in the beginning of this post, you will see it takes 4 days of work to fully train the entire body.  Add in a prescribed two days of rest, and your week of training is over.

Now let me ask you, who ever got good at anything by practicing once a week?  Because that is exactly what you are doing if you are following a body part split; the way the spit works out, you hit your chest once a week, your back once a week, etc.

With total body workouts, or upper/lower splits, you are hitting your muscle groups with at least twice as much frequency meaning you are triggering twice as many growth phases. In any given year, if you are only training each body part once a week, that is 52 growth phases.  Lose the body part split and you are already up over 100 growth phases. That should blow your mind!

Now ask yourself, who is going to be bigger and stronger at the end of the year?  The person growing 52 times a year or 100?

And since you are not spending inordinate amounts of time on any one body part, your recovery times for muscle groups are cut in half, leading to more growth time and avoiding a possible onset of overtraining.

strength training body workouts

So what is the best training split?

I’d start with none!  If you are experienced, switch to an upper/lower.

If you need a jumpstart, check out this post on a full body or upper lower split.

Implementing a Full Body or Upper Lower Split

If you want an entire 8 week program based on using an upper lower split, then join the thousands of others in Primal Nation and download Uncaging Your Primal Strength from the right hand side of this page.

Have questions, feel free to email me via the contact form or drop a comment here on this post and I’ll be glad to help!


— Tank

5 Tips To Improve Your Bench

What’s the most common question people ask to test your strength?

It’s “how much do you bench?”

Like it or not, it is the most asked question among the millions of meatheads out there.  Now, you don’t want to go embarrassing yourself so what can you do to boost your numbers? Start with these 5 strategies.

bench press

Remember, veteran lifters may take months just to add a few pounds to their personal bests, so be persistent, meticulous, and whatever you do, don’t give up.

#1 Tweak Your Technique

This seems like a no brainer answer, but the truth is, when you are attempting a record lift for the first time, some of your technique may fly out the window and you just try to muscle up the weight with sheer Primal instincts.  You may be doing mostly everything picture perfect, but one subtle aspect may be out of place that is causing you to fail the lift.  Small arch in your lower back, shoulder blades retracted, expanded chest, and tight torso are all postural things to look for.  Don’t fight the bar on the way down.  Pull it into your chest and explosively press it back up.  Slow grinding reps will kill your one rep maxes.  These are just a few things to keep in mind.

#2 Death Grip the Bar

This is a subtle adjustment that can deliver huger results.  Gripping the sh*t out of the bar (and I mean really white knuckling it with everything you got) puts a huge amount of tension on your upper body, especially your arms and stabilizers.  This radiant tension allows you to recruit more muscle fibers for the lift, thus you are able to move more weight.  This technique goes with any lift by the way, not just bench press and you should be utilizing radiant tension for all of your training.

#3 Build Stronger Triceps

A lot of guys underestimate the role triceps have in your bench press.  If you’ve hit a wall, try making your triceps stronger first.  Close grip bench press, tricep extensions, heavy overhead dumbbell presses, weighted dips.  Stay away from the cable machines.  Crank up the weight and hit these early in your workout.  Don’t wait to the very end after you are already crushed; you won’t make the kind of gains you need by saving it until the end.  Make them a priority.

#4 Master Your Warmup

If you are going to hit a record lift, you have to be warm and your muscles have to be prepared to do the work.  But there is a fine line between being warm and being gassed.  I usually hit about 4-5 warmup sets before I get into “working” mode.  My sets consist of moderate weight, progressively getting heavier, with no more than 5 reps per set.  A few of those I may do 3 or less, depending on how I feel.  You do not need to crank out sets of 12+ reps; all you are doing is wasting energy and killing your potential for a record lift.  Don’t under-do it either.  You can’t press heavy weight cold turkey, so take the warmup seriously and prepare yourself for the big weight.

#5 Gain Some Weight

This might seem extreme, but “eat past your sticking points” is a common motto.  If you are already putting up decent numbers, you may simply need to gain weight for your body to be physically capable of setting new records.  I may very well be at this stage.  Currently I weigh in at 175lbs, and have been stuck at a 300lb bench for a few months now.  My goal is to jack myself up to 185 and see what I can bench then.

Now this list isn’t exhaustive, but it is meant to open your mind to some things you may not be doing and get you on track to break through your plateaus.

Give these a shot, and I’d bet that doing a few of these together will help you set a new personal best.  But remember, success doesn’t happen overnight.  You need to be methodical and persistent and put in the work to make it happen.  This could take weeks, if not months, but keep on grinding.

— Tank