Make it Harder

How to Make Easy Exercises More Difficult and More Effective


There isn't a week that goes by in the gym where some
yee-haw doesn't point to a pair of 10-pound dumbbells lying on
the floor and yell, "Hey TC, you using


In 2 minutes, the yee-haw will be asking another guy the same
question. Funny guy. Lots of laughs. I knew another funny guy in
Korea. Tail gunner. They splattered his guts all over the

Anyhow, I guess that stupid joke is the gym equivalent of
"Hot enough for ya'?"

What I usually say, if I answer at all, is that a good lifter
can make 10 pounds feel like a 100. And it's
true, too, because there are all kinds of ways of making
conventional lifts harder, and figuring out those ways is kind of a
perverse hobby of mine.

Here's a list of a few of my favorites:

Compromised Lunges

Alwyn Cosgrove showed me this one and it's a humbler. You
take a strong man and convince him to try this and chances are
he'll be so humiliated he'll give up lifting and start
that florist shop he's always dreamed about.

You know how to do a conventional stationary dumbbell lunge,
right? Sure you do, funny guy. Let's say you can do them
comfortably while holding onto 45-pound dumbbells. Big

Now exchange the 45-pound dumbbells for one 90-pound
dumbbell (double the weight). Hold the dumbbell at shoulder height
with your right arm and lunge forward with the right leg. After
doing the pre-determined number of reps, switch sides and

If you can't do it, your glutes are too pathetically weak
or your core stability is lacking.



Real-World Squats

Let me ask you a question: how often in your life do you walk up
to an object hanging from a tree, carefully place it on your
shoulders, and lower it to the ground?

Hunters typically don't find dead deer hanging in trees.
Generally, the thing's lying on the ground and they have to
pick it up.

What I'm trying to get at is the conventional squat is
screwed up. It's not a real-world movement. Our entire motor
program, from childhood on, was developed to pick things up from
the ground instead of the opposite.

That's probably why a lot of people have trouble learning
how to do the squat.

Well, I've adjusted the movement. I've made it more
"real world," but in doing so, I've also made it
harder – and consequently, more effective.

I rarely start my squat from a standing position. Instead, I
place the loaded bar onto the safety bars of the power rack and
start from the ass-down position.

Doing it this way makes you understand gravity a whole lot
better. Gravity demands that you use less weight.

And, if you pause in the down-position for 4 seconds (let the
bar rest on the safety bars while still holding on), you also get
to understand inertia a whole lot better.

This squat is to a conventional squat what calculus is to
balancing your checkbook.

Reebok Deadlifts

If a bar travels a greater distance, it involves more work,
right? So why not make the bar travel farther while doing
deadlifts? The old trick is to use 25-pound plates instead of
45's so the bar is closer to the ground at your starting
point, but at some point you'll need more plates than a 7-foot
Olympic bar can accommodate.

The solution is those Reebok Step Platforms that are lying
around gathering dust in the corner of virtually every gym in

Just place the platform underneath the bar so that the bar and
the platform look like a plus sign (+) when viewed from above.

(Placing the platform that way makes you keep a narrower stance,
thus lengthening the range of motion even more.)

There's one last thing you can do to make it rougher. Use a
snatch grip (in other words, place the hands wide apart).

Together, the platform, narrow stance, and snatch grip make you
seem like you're lifting the bar from the depths of Hell
instead of just the plain old floor.



Terry Cloth Mania

Most of us know the trick of wrapping two dishtowels around the
pull-up bar and grabbing onto the towels instead of the bar, but
you can use towels for just about any rowing

Try using them for one-arm dumbbell rows and bent-over barbell
rows, too. It's harder because all of a sudden you're
using a semi-supinated grip to do rowing or pulling motions. Your
nervous system gets corn-fused.

Not only that, but you're working your grip for the first
time since you helped your dad build that birdhouse in the garage
and he let you use the hammer.

Flex Band Biceps Curls

The single greatest weight training invention of all time,
except for the weight itself, of course, is the rubber band. Now
I'm not talking about the rubber band on your newspaper, of
course, or even those huge mothers that come on bunches of
broccoli. I'm talking about the big suckers that Dave Tate
sells on his EliteFTS site for
about 20 bucks.

Most of you know about using dual bands for deadlifts and
squats, but the uses for a single band are almost infinite.
What's so cool about them is that in most cases, they
completely change the force curve of almost any

For instance, in most cases, what's the hardest part of a
dumbbell curl? The first part, right? Your arm is in a mechanically
disadvantageous position – particularly if you're
long-limbed – and inertia is your enemy.

Using a band completely changes the equation! With the band, the
last part of the movement – when the dumbbell is near the
shoulder and the band is completely stretched – is the hardest

Plus, the pull exerted by the band as it struggles to contract
to its normal size places enormous eccentric stress on the biceps.
It's freakin' beautiful!

Of course, you have to use a lot less weight, but who

Simply place a pair of dumbbells about a foot in front of you
and about a foot apart. (If you place them on their ends,
they'll be easier to pick up.) I recommend using dumbbells
that are about 70% of the weight you'd normally

Step on the band, making sure you're standing exactly in
the middle.

Now bend over and pick up the dumbbells and curl away. It's
a little tricky at first but you'll get the hang of it

Flex Band Straight-Leg Deadlifts

These are badass. If you stopped getting any real significant
stimulation from straight-leg deadlifts, that's about to

Simply place your barbell on the floor in front of you. Step on
the band, bend over, and place the other end of the band over your
neck. Now grab the barbell and proceed with the movement.

"Fight" the resistance of the band on the way

Flex Band Squats

There used to be a time when my glutes fired effortlessly.
Cheerleaders could huddle around my glutes during a cold November
day and warm themselves. That stopped for some reason. The suckers
stopped firing, not so much as a spark, let alone a fire. My
deadlifts started sucking mightily.

Enter Flex Band Squats. As soon as I started doing these, the
slumbering giants awakened.

Double loop the flex band and slide it over the outside of your
knees. Walk like a penguin over to the squat rack and position
yourself under the bar. Take the bar out of the rack, but before
you squat down, push your knees out as far as you

Now squat while simultaneously fighting to keep the band
stretched with your knees. Don't relax them at all during the



You won't use as much weight, but if your glutes have been
dozing on the job, they're about to wake up.

This is also a great movement to do at home without weight. I
swear, if you did Flex Band Squats – sans weights – during every
commercial in a typical segment of The Ultimate Fighter,
you'd soon have legs like Tom Platz.

Flex Band V Sit-Ups

I remember a particular study that determined the V Sit-up to
activate the most abdominal muscle fibers. I can't prove
it's true, but I believe it to be true.

The trouble is, it's a movement that takes some
coordination. Not only that, it's hard to add resistance to
it. If you add ankle weights, you're liable to make yourself
unstable and catapult yourself through the plaster wall and into
the beauty parlor next door.

The flex band fixes that. Put one end around your neck and the
other end around your feet and lie flat on the floor. Grasp the
flex band and simultaneously raises your torso and your straight
legs so that you form a "V".

The flex band will want to accelerate the first part of the
movement, so fight it. Similarly, the band will want to stay
contracted as you go back to the starting position so the effort
will be magnified.

Additionally, you can pull on the band with your hands to
"shorten" the band. This will make the movement that much

Very cool.

Miscellaneous Flex Band Movements

The flex band also works great for dumbbell flyes and dumbbell
presses. Just wrap the bar around your back, grab it with both
hands, and pick up a pair of dumbbells. Again, the bands change the
force curve completely and turn both movements into a completely
new kind of beast.

Similarly, they're also great for doing push ups at home or
on the road. Strapping a band across your back (depending on the
length of your limbs) is like doing push ups with a 75-pound
toddler playing horsy on your back.

Cluster F**ks

I have Christian Thibaudeau to thank for these. The concept
simply involves doing one rep of a movement, putting the bar down,
resting 10 seconds, and then repeating it.

Five reps – resting 10 seconds between each one – equals
1 set.

The trouble was, I went into these without thinking about it.

I loaded up a bar for deadlifts and put on more weight than
I'd normally use for sets of 5. Sure, why not? I'm
resting for a whole 10 seconds between reps. I might as well light
up a cigar with that much time.

Sure, I'll be refreshed and recharged!



If I'd taken a minute to think about it, I'd have
realized that the 10-second "rest" completely eliminates
the stretch-shortening cycle, or plyometric bounce.

Doing 5 non-stop reps of a movement is much easier than coming
to a complete dead stop! By doing the 5 "rested" reps, I
have to set myself up and overcome inertia 5 times rather than just

Consequently, I have to use less weight than I normally

Regardless, I'd be hard-pressed to think of a better
bodybuilding technique, especially when it comes to the big

Smart Leg Curls

I've written about these before, but I've never seen
anybody doing them other than Charles Poliquin, despite the fact
that they're the ONLY way to do leg curls!

These are done on the conventional leg curl machine, but the
movement requires some concentration. As you raise the weight, flex
your foot (hard) so that the toes are pointed towards the knee.
Maintain this flexed-foot position during the entire concentric
portion of the movement.

Then, as you lower the weight, point the toes away from the body
for the entire eccentric portion of the movement.

Got it? Feet flexed down on the way up and feet pointing away on
they way down.

As has been explained in previous Testosterone articles,
the gastrocnemius is one of the muscles that assist the hammies in
flexing the leg towards the butt. In this variation of the
movement – since we're weaker lifting a weight than we are
lowering a weight – we allow the gastrocs to assist the

However, on the lowering portion of the movement – where
we're stronger – we want the hamstrings to do all the work they
can. So we inactivate the gastrocs by pointing the toes away from
the body.


That's just a few of the ways I know to make your life
harder. How about you? You know any ways to make me