Neanderthal No More, Part V
The complete guide to fixing your caveman posture!
By Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson
It's been a while since Part IV so those of you following this program are probably chomping at the bit for the conclusion. Chomp no more, because this is it!
The program contained in this article is designed to reintroduce more of the traditional exercises that you've grown to love while still maintaining the emphasis on postural corrections through appropriate prioritization and volume manipulation. Essentially, it's one step closer to the balanced training programs you should seek to create. Remember, we shifted the balance in the opposite direction to start to take care of the problems created by lack of balance in previous programs.
This program will last three weeks (and is meant to follow the first program outlined in part IV), after which you'll want to have a back-off week consisting of markedly lower volume. Oh, and even if you're not following the entire "Neanderthal No More" program, you'll still learn some new exercises you've probably tried before.
Here are the goods:
Pre-workout: Normal dynamic warm-up, but include 3x10 side steps (per leg) with the ankle band. (Descriptions and pics to follow.)
A) Rack Pull with exaggerated scapular retraction
Tempo: 21X3 (two seconds to lower, one second pause on the pins, explode up, three second scapular retraction at the top)
Rest: 90 seconds between sets and before B
B) Rack Pull with exaggerated scapular retraction: back-off (feeder) set
Load: 70% of working weight from A
C) Lunge off 6" box
Sets: 3 per side
Rest: 45 seconds between sides
D) Kneeling Squats
Rest: 60 seconds, during which time you should stretch your hip flexors
E) Full Contact Twist
Rest: 30 seconds between sides
A1) Chest Supported Row
Reps: 6-8 (week 5), 5-7 (week 6), 4-6 (week 7)
Rest: 60 seconds before A2
A2) Incline Dumbbell Press
Reps: 6-8 (week 5), 5-7 (week 6), 4-6 (week 7)
Rest: 60 seconds before return to A1 and A2
B) Chest Supported Row: back-off (feeder) set
Load: 75% of A1 working weight
C1) Bent-over Laterals with 10-second iso-hold on last rep
Rest: None; proceed immediately to C2
C2) Prone Lower Trap Raise with 10-second iso-hold on last rep
Rest: None; proceed immediately to C3
C3) Dumbbell Cuban Press
Load: 7% of 1RM Bench Press
Rest: 2 minutes before repeating tri-set
D) Bar Rollout
Rest: 90 seconds
Pre-workout: normal dynamic warm-up, but include 3x10 side steps (per leg) with the ankle band.
A) High Bar (or safety squat bar) Low Box Squat
Rest: 2 minutes, during which time you should stretch your hip flexors and calves
B) Seated Good Morning
Rest: 90 seconds, during which time you should stretch your IT band
C) Extended ROM Bulgarian Squat
Rest: 45 seconds between sides
D) Reverse Hyper
Rest: 60 seconds
E) Uneven Barbell Side Bend
Sets: 3 per side
Rest: 30 seconds between sides
A1) Double D-Handle Seated Row
Rest: 60 seconds before A2
A2) Weighted Dip
Rest: 60 seconds before returning to A1 and B
B1) 1 1/4 Inverted Row
Rest: None; proceed directly to B2
B2) Band Retraction
Rest: 2 minutes before return to B1
C) L-Lateral Raise
Rest: 90 seconds
D) Single-Arm Dumbbell Protraction
Sets: 3 per side
Rest: None; alternate back and forth between sides
E) Prone Bridge
Reps: 1 really long one!
Rest: 120 seconds
Note: No tempo here. This is the same exercise we used in the GPP portion of Part 4, but you're just going to do two sets for maximum duration. If you find that you can hold this position for more than 60 seconds, have someone add a 45-pound plate or two to your back. Keep the abs as rigid as possible.
Side Step with Ankle Bands: Weve used variations of this exercise with others and ourselves pre-training, during training, and on off-days. As girly as they may seem, you really can't go wrong with them, as the hip abductors need constant stimuli in order to counteract the tightness that almost everyone has in the TFL/ITB, iliopsoas and adductors. Loading isnt all that important here; you're just working on activation.
Basically, youll need either bands with Velcro cuffs on each end that allow you to wrap them around each ankle, or regular bands that you can double wrap to get around your feet. When doing side steps (or other variations), you have to concentrically work with the lead leg abductors and eccentrically with the trailing leg abductors (provided that you control the movement speed and don't let your feet get too close together in between reps).
Rack Pull with Scapular Retraction: Set the pins in a power rack to a point about an inch below your kneecaps. From here, just do a top deadlift: fire your heels into the floor, thrust your hips forward, and lock out the bar with a glute squeeze.
Heres the kicker: when youve locked the bar out, pull the shoulder blades together forcefully and maintain this retracted position for three seconds. This is a phenomenal exercise for upper back thickness, forearm and grip development and deadlift lockout strength.
Lunge off 6" Box: Place an aerobic box in front of you (yes, they really are good for something), just short of where you'd normally land for a regular dynamic lunge. With your chest up, take an exaggerated step forward, landing on your left heel. Sink into the lunge until your right knee is very close to or lightly touches the ground. Drive back off the heel to the starting position. The extended ROM (range of motion) will really blast your VMO and glutes, two important determinants of knee stability.
Kneeling Squat: Set up some padding on the floor at the base of a power rack and position the bar so that it's slightly below shoulder level when you're on your knees on the padding. From a kneeling position, slide under the bar as if you're going to squat it and unrack the weight. At this point, you'll be upright with a 90-degree angle at your knees.
From here, simply push the butt back while looking straight ahead or slightly up. When your butt makes contact with your calves, fire your glutes in order to push the hips forward. You'll really be able to feel the glutes working at lockout (as they should with the lockout of a deadlift). You'll not only be surprised about how much weight you can use on this, but also with how sore your posterior chain is the next day!
Full Contact Twist: Take a barbell and position one end of it in a corner. Youll want to load plates on the opposite end for resistance. Using an alternate grip, grasp the barbell at the weighted end with the arms extended and your back to the wall. Using the core musculature, rotate the torso until you face toward the wall. On the eccentric portion of the movement, lower the barbell under control to the starting position.
Chest-Supported Row: Youre probably familiar with this exercise already, so a full description is unnecessary. However, remember a few important components:
1) Initiate the movement with scapular retraction; the arms should just come along for the ride.
2) Keep the chest pushed out against the pad. Never lean back to move the weight with "body English," as doing so will just recruit the hip extensors.
3) Keep the neck vertical and chin tucked. In other words, you should be able to tuck the chin without staring down at the floor.
Incline Dumbbell Press: Nothing too exciting here. Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie on your back on an incline bench. Before pressing the dumbbells up, make sure to retract and depress the shoulder blades. This will not only give you a more stable surface to press from, but it'll also keep your shoulders healthy and allow you to use more weight! Drive the dumbbells up in an arc to a point just over your chest, then lower under control to the starting position.
Bent-over Lateral: You may have used this in the last program due to lack of a rear delt flye machine. If so, don't sweat it, we've changed the recommendations enough to allow you to keep it in there for a few more weeks.
Bend over at the waist, placing the weight on the heels and keeping the chest up. From the starting position, squeeze the posterior deltoids and raise the dumbbells to a point parallel to the ground. Squeeze at the midpoint and then return slowly to the starting position. Don't use the upper traps; this isn't a shrug!
Prone Lower Trap Raise: This is the same exercise that we used in Part IV; however, now were going to do it with both arms at the same time. Whether you do it bent-over or prone with your chest supported on a bench is up to you; just make sure that youre getting plenty of scapular retraction, keeping the thumbs pointing up, and raising the arms to 9 and 3.
Dumbbell Cuban Press: Perform an upright row until the dumbbells are just below your armpits. At this point, hold the elbows steady while externally rotating the humeri. At the completion of this movement, there should be 90-degree angles at both the shoulder and elbow. Then, simply press the dumbbells overhead, curse our names, and lower along the same path to repeat for reps.
Bar Rollout: Load a barbell with a plate on each side and set it on the floor. Kneel down in front of it with your hands just outside shoulder-width. Make the abs as rigid as possible and let the bar roll out in front of you. Go out to a point where your lower back wants to sag, and then squeeze the abs to return to the starting position.
High Bar Low Box Squat: Again, Louie and Dave have written extensively about how to box squat properly, so were not going to beat a dead horse here. The only difference between the standard version and our version is that we're putting an emphasis on depth to increased glute and VMO recruitment. Key points to remember here include sitting back as far as possible, keeping the chest up, squeezing the glutes, and forcing the knees out to explode off the box. For full details, see Dave Tate's article HERE.
Seated Good Morning: In a power rack, get under a bar so that its resting across your upper traps. With a wide grip and the upper back tight, sit down on a bench that puts your knees at 90° of flexion. Make sure that you have a relatively wide stance to allow for appropriate range of motion. Maintain your lordotic curve, tight upper back and chest-up position while lowering the upper body until your torso touches your inner thighs.
At this point, forcefully drive the head back as you dig the heels into the floor and allow the hip extensors to fire your torso upward. When the trunk is upright, reverse the directions to begin the next rep. Focus on feeling the hamstrings and glutes not just the lower back.
This exercise can do wonders for individuals that have a hard time coming out of "the hole" when squatting, and obviously has a carryover to core hip extension movements (e.g. deadlifts, standing good mornings, Olympic lifting).
Extended ROM Bulgarian Squat: This exercise is identical to the version we described in Part IV, with the only difference being we're increasing the ROM to further blast our VMO and glutes. Set-up and performance of the exercise are identical, but this time you'll put an aerobic or low box where your foot would go. This adjustment makes the exercise much more difficult, so you should consider reducing the load until you get acclimated to the movement.
Reverse Hyper: Louie Simmons and Dave Tate have talked for years about the benefits of this exercise, so if you arent incorporating them, now is the time.
Lie facedown on a reverse hyper machine with your arms grabbing the bar in front of you. Squeeze your glutes and swing your legs back to a point where they're in-line with your torso, making sure to keep your legs as straight as possible and lead the movement with your heels. Squeeze your glutes, hamstrings and lower back at the top, and then lower under control to the starting position.
Im sure many of you are thinking, "What if I dont have a machine?" Be creative and improvise! John Davies has talked about doing them off the back of a pick-up truck. Another viable option is to jack up the front and back of a Roman chair or glute-ham machine, and lie backwards on it so your hands can grab the back and your hips are hanging off the front end. For added loading, have someone place a dumbbell between your ankles.
Uneven Barbell Side Bend: This one will make you hurt for a few days, so consider yourself forewarned. Position a barbell in a rack as if youre going to do squats. Instead of loading plates on both sides, though, put the weights on one side only (you might want to double up on clamps just to be safe). Position the bar across your upper traps with a relatively wide grip; be sure to keep the scapulae retracted and upper back tight.
With the feet shoulder-width apart, do a side bend to the weighted side. Dont allow the knees to bow inward or the opposite hip to "slide" out; the legs should remain perpendicular to the floor the entire time. Perform the desired number of reps and then switch over to the other side.
Double D-Handle Seated Row: This is a normal seated row, except youll be using two D-handles as your attachments. These handles allow you to supinate your forearms as you row. Begin the movement with the handles at arms length and a neutral grip (palms face one another). As you row, supinate so that the palms are facing up when your scapulae are retracted. This supination will also give rise to a fair amount of humeral external rotation, which certainly bodes well for your cause, hunchback.
Weighted Dip: If youve been training for more than a week, you know what a dip is. If possible, perform these with weight, making sure to keep the chest up and squeeze the triceps throughout.
One and One-Fourth Inverted Row: Also known as the "fat-boy pullup," this is an upper back exercise with a good carryover to the bench press.
Set a barbell up on the pins in a rack (or just a Smith machine; scary that they actually have a good use, huh?) at about mid-thigh. Now, position yourself on the floor under the bar with your hands positioned as if youre going to do a bench press. Instead of pressing the bar, pull yourself up until your sternum touches the bar. In order to modify resistance, change the position of your legs and feet. The progression from easy to difficult is as follows:
1) Knees flexed, feet on floor
2) Knees extended, feet on floor
3) Knees extended, feet elevated on bench
4) Knees extended, feet on bench with weight plate on chest
You want to keep your entire body in a straight line; dont allow the hips to sag. Remember that were doing one and one-fourth reps, so after touching your chest to the bar and retracting the scapulae, youll drop one-quarter of the way down and then go back up to the bar before returning to the floor. Thats one rep. Enjoy.
Band Retraction: This is a simple exercise that doesnt quite provide us with enough loading to make it a primary movement, but it works perfectly as a follow-up to a bigger exercise.
Loop a mini-band around the post of a power rack so that the middle of the band is in the middle of the post. Put your elbows in the ends of the bands, and just try to squeeze your shoulder blades back and together. You dont have to worry about your arms taking over the movement here, but make sure to keep the movement nice and controlled so momentum doesnt take away its effectiveness. Note that the chin is tucked in the photos; this is important, as we don't want you to reinforce that protruded chin/forward head posture.
L-Lateral Raise: With a dumbbell in each hand and the elbows flexed to 90°, perform a lateral raise to 90° of humeral abduction. Once your upper arms are parallel to the floor, externally rotate your humeri so that your forearms are perpendicular to the floor (as in the mid-phase of a military press).
Single Arm Dumbbell Protraction: Set up as if youre going to do a one-arm dumbbell bench press. With the dumbbell in the up position, simply protract your scapulae. Think of punching the dumbbell through the ceiling without flexing the elbow or significantly moving at the glenohumeral joint (were looking for scapular motion only here). Hold at the top for a count, and then allow the scapulae to retract.
This exercise helps to strengthen the serratus anterior, which holds the scapula tight to the posterior aspect of the rib cage. You'll be able to use some decent weight on this exercise, but don't get caught up in adding pounds if it's compromising your form. Holding the protraction is far more important than the weight utilized here.
Well, it's been fun, but you're on your own now. Where you go from here is entirely up to you. You can either continue the trend we've sought to establish with positive daily postural habits and a balanced training approach, or you can go back to a life of slouching at your desk and training only what you can see in the mirror.
Hopefully, we've set the record straight: a few sets of lat pulldowns and leg curls simply won't cut it and will actually make the problems worse in many cases! For those of you who have stuck with the entire program, we encourage you to post some "before" and "after" photos to show the stubborn Neanderthals what they're missing!
About the Authors
Eric Cressey, BS, CSCS is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science at the University of Connecticut. He graduated from the University of New England with a double major in Exercise Science and Sports and Fitness Management. Eric is a competitive powerlifter with training and coaching experience in athletic performance, rehabilitation, and general conditioning settings. Feel free to contact him at [email protected].
Mike Robertson, M.S., C.S.C.S., U.S.A.W., is the Director of the Athletic Performance Center (APC) in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The APC offers sport performance training, injury rehabilitation, and personal training services to its clients. Mike received his Masters in Sports Biomechanics from the Human Performance Lab at Ball State University. Mike has been a competitive powerlifter for the last three years and is currently the USA Powerlifting State Chair in Indiana. To contact Mike, please send an email to [email protected].
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