When it comes to exercise performance, especially the more exotic movements I often prescribe, most people grasp the big picture but miss the finer points. To remedy this, I created this "toolbox" series to help experienced lifters fill in the blanks and newer lifters learn about some very effective exercises. Here's the newest installment!
Reverse Band Barbell Toss
Category: Dynamic Effort – Supplemental
Muscles Targeted: Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
Exercise Description: I've seen bench press throws prescribed by several
coaches over the years, but personally I never liked the idea of tossing
a barbell up in the air and catching it. A medicine ball is one thing, but
a barbell crashing down on my head is totally different. Trust me, if it
was to hit anyone on the head it would be me!
I did, however, like the idea of teaching the body to absorb force and the
dynamic effect of pressing through the lift with zero deceleration. So a
few years ago I set up this modified version that'll provide some of the
same effects (but not entirely the same because of the reduced loading and
Here's what you do. Set the barbell up in the rack with a set of Jump
Stretch average bands. I like to have people start with what
I call "balanced weight."
This is the weight it takes to zero out the bar right above your chest. With
a 7.5 foot rack, this will be around 115 pounds. At this weight the barbell
will hover right at your chest level.
When you have this weight loaded, rack the bar in the J-cups and position
yourself to bench press. Unrack the bar and lower it to your chest as you
would a bench press. Perform a few reps to get used to the weight (it'll
be very light). After a few reps, toss the bar a few inches out of your hands
and catch it on the down stroke.
Now just release and catch. Try tossing a little higher each rep but control
the force you toss with. This will be a high rep movement (in the 20-30 range).
With each set add more weight. How much you add will be up to you and what
your comfort level is. Remember, the goal is to not smash yourself
in the face. Use the pins and/or spotters just in case, and keep the weight
at a moderate level.
This isn't intended to replace your normal dynamic bench work, but as an
additional or supplemental movement. I've had great luck using this movement
for shoulder and pec rehabilitation.
Pure Cable Flyes on Incline
Muscles Targeted: Pecs
Exercise Description: This is one I tried for the first time a few days
ago. Dr. Ryan Smith has been making the trip out to bench with us, so I've
been using his expertise to come up with new movements that'll help build
and stabilize my pecs and shoulders. I come up with the stuff and then ask
his advice. Right away I knew this movement was a winner.
Since I've torn or injured my pecs more times than I've seen Paris Hilton
on TV, I've been looking for a movement that would completely isolate the
pec region without having to rely on a one dimensional pec-deck machine.
To do this movement you'll need to get some type of ankle
I personally like the leather version but have had a hard time finding them,
so nylon may be the best bet. I also found the incline bench to offer a better
range of motion with the cable than a flat bench.
Attach a strap to each wrist and get on the bench. Keep your chest up high
in the air like you have a string on your sternum pulling you toward the
ceiling. Now do your flyes. Since you're not holding a dumbbell or cable
handle, you can't lead with your hands or use your forearms to aid in
the movement. You feel the pecs working right from the start and continue
throughout the entire range.
Barbell Good Morning
Category: Max Effort and Supplemental
Muscles Targeted: Lower Back, Hamstrings, and Glutes
Exercise Description: If you haven't guessed by now, I love the good mornings.
I feel everyone should do some form of this movement; it's one of the best
exercises you can do for strength development. When programmed correctly,
it can be a huge difference maker in any program.
I also feel that the good morning is a great form of chaos training.
By this I mean if you miss a squat because you fall forward, how would you
recover from it? Or if you fall forward while pulling a deadlift or any other
pull, how would you recover? You'd have to arch your way back into position,
hence a good morning.
Now what could you do to strengthen the body so this wouldn't happen in
the first place? Yep, a good morning!
To do a good morning, place the bar across your back as you would a squat.
Take a moderate stance. Before you lower, fill your abdomen with air and
brace yourself as tight as you can. Keep this tightness as you bend over
by pushing your ass back and keeping your back in a natural arched position.
You'll feel like your toes will want to come off the floor.
When you reach the bottom position (just above parallel), think of arching
your upper back up as you drive your hips in. There will be a slight bend
to the knee.
To illustrate the power of good mornings, I'll use my wife as an example.
Traci had some training experience while in school but this was limited to
just messing around in the weightroom from time to time. After moving to
Columbus to train at Westside, she'd come to meets with me to handle the
details and for support.
At one of these meets, she was approached by Dorris Simmons (Louie's wife)
in regards to training at Westside. Traci didn't want to be a powerlifter
but wanted to get into better shape. More importantly, she wanted to strengthen
her lower back because of problems she was having with it.
During her first visit to the club she was asked to pull a deadlift (this
is what everyone else was doing). Her back hurt too bad to pull the bar!
She was then pulled off the basic Westside plan for lower body and was told
to focus on only a few movements dealing with lower back and abs. These included
hanging leg raises, pulldown abs, reverse hypers and good mornings. These
movements were done every time she stepped into the gym.
The first good morning session was done with a broomstick and then progressed
to good mornings while standing on a band with the other end of the band
around her upper traps. Her torso was the weakness and these movements were
So how did it work? Eleven months later, she squatted 365, bench pressed
240, and deadlifted 315... in the 123 weight class.
The key is to begin and train at the level you're at. If you're too weak
to do a good morning, then use a broomstick until you can use a curl bar.
Then move to a barbell and so on. Her best good morning before the meet was
225 for three reps.
Last note: If you use good mornings for max effort work, then I'd advise
you to keep the reps to 3-5. For many years I used singles and triples, and
to this day I feel triples worked much better because the load was on the
spine for a longer duration and the weight was lower, thus keeping the form
and technique tighter.
Upper Back Good Mornings
Muscles Targeted: Upper Back
Exercise Description: One of the other biggest weaknesses I see with lifters
is the upper back. This causes problems coming out of the bottom of the squat
and makes the lockout of the bench press much harder. There are many things
to correct this, but this is one of the best I've seen and used. I have to
give credit to Louie Simmons for this one.
You'll need to use a safety
squat bar to do this movement.
Get under the bar, unrack the weight, and take a moderate to wide stance.
This is a very simple movement to do and you can use the pictures as a guide.
Start in a standing position and let the upper back round forward as your
hips stay in the same place. From this point, arch your upper back back into
the start position. I wish there was more I could say to describe this, but
that's about it!
This is a movement where higher reps (10-15) with multiple sets (3-5) will
work better. Make sure to keep your upper back as tight as you can when you're
in the start position. To top this off, add in 15-20 shoulder shrugs at the
end of your set.
Hamstring Plate Slide
Muscles Targeted: Hamstrings
Exercise Description: We've been building a huge exercise index at EliteFTS.com.
We have three people dumping movements in this index with the goal of 1000
movements. One movement placed by a coach on our Q & A board, James Smith,
is the hamstring plate slide. When I first saw this I had to give it a shot.
To perform it, sit on the ground with a plate in front of you (the plate
needs to have a lip on it). Hook your heel on the lip of the plate and slide
back so you get a full extension on the leg. Now curl the plate to you. At
this point you can do one of two things: You can move your body back and
pull again or you can push the plate back with your foot and pull again.
What I really like about this is there's no eccentric loading. This makes
it a great movement for adding extra volume to your hamstring training without
the need for extra recovery.
That's it for this installment. Until next time, load the bar, kick some
ass, and break some records!