Ask Me Anything

I get a lot of great questions in my T Nation Community Coaching Lab. If you have a question for me, just drop it there. Meanwhile, here are some recent Q&As you'll find interesting.

Law Enforcement Workout

Question: What sort of workouts do you recommend for someone in law enforcement? I need to be powerful and agile, but I want to maintain the appearance of "being a hassle" to dissuade anyone from putting that to the test.

First, preventing people from wanting to test you has a lot to do with how you carry yourself. It's not just about being jacked. In fact, being super jacked can make some people want to try you out even more. But in most cases, "looking the part" will be more helpful than not and can actually help you with the projected attitude.

While I must warn against chasing several rabbits (goals) at the same time, you can still achieve a decent level of development in several capacities with a proper structure. Try a lift-specific approach.

1. Warm Up and Do Explosive Work

At the beginning of your workout, before lifting, use explosive work to amp up the nervous system (after warming up). Start every session with around 15 minutes of explosive work. Not non-stop, of course. Something like 3-5 sets of 3-5 jumps. You can actually use anything that can be done explosively. And don't be content with explosive – be violent.

Stuff like:

  • Jumps
  • Medicine Ball Throws
  • Prowler or Sled Sprints (30 meters or less)
  • Heavy Bag Work

2. Focus on One Big Basic Lift

The meat of your workout starts with the main lift (or the variation you select) trained for strength. For example:

  • Day 1: Squat
  • Day 2: Bench
  • Day 3: Deadlift
  • Day 4: Overhead Press

3. Do Assistance Work

Then do 3-5 assistance exercises for the muscles involved in that basic lift. Train these assistance exercises mostly in the hypertrophy zone.

For example:

  • Day 1: Squat – Quads, Hams, Glutes
  • Day 2: Bench ¬– Pecs, Delts, Triceps
  • Day 3: Deadlift – Upper Back, Lats, Traps, Biceps
  • Day 4: Overhead Press – Delts, Triceps, Core

4. Finish With Loaded Carries and Metabolic Exercises

Finish every workout with loaded carries and/or metabolic exercises.

My favorite options:

Loaded Carry Options

  • Farmer's walks
  • Zercher carries (see video)
  • Overhead walks
  • Prowler pushing
  • Sled dragging
  • Sandbag carry

Loaded Carries Medley

Combine two or three of the above exercises as a circuit.

Loaded Carry and Metabolic Exercise Combo

Combine one of the loaded carries above with one of the metabolic conditioning tools below as a superset:

  • Kettlebell swings
  • Kettlebell snatches
  • Clubbell swings
  • Air bike sprints
  • Rowing ergometer sprints
  • Ski erg sprints

Your goal here is to improve work capacity by shooting for a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio. Use a duration of 1 to 3 minutes of continuous work. Shoot for a total of 8 to 12 minutes of work. Aim to increase intensity and effort level rather than duration.


Question: How does an over-50 lifter improve his lower body if heavy squats and deadlifts are no longer an option due to injuries?

Hard to answer without knowing exactly what those injuries are. But if squats and deads are all you can't do, and you can still perform leg presses, hack squats, pendulum squats, leg extensions, leg curls, split squats, etc., there's no excuse not to train the lower body.

In fact, if we're talking about hypertrophy, the squat and deadlift aren't even the best lower-body options for most! If you can do any of the exercises mentioned above – even if you can only do two of them, like hack squats and seated leg curls – you'll still be able to build your lower body pretty much optimally.

Even if you can only do one of the listed quad exercises and one of the hamstrings exercises, you can still make solid gains if you do 6-10 work sets of those two exercises. It might get a bit boring, but it'll work.

Your situation would be more problematic if you couldn't do any of the listed exercises without pain. If that's the case, a good option might be to use the Prowler or a sled for your lower-body training.

A few years back, a 63-year-old former bodybuilder came to me for help because he couldn't train his lower body with any traditional exercise. What we did was use the Prowler and sled, done in various fashions, to build his lower body. It worked! In fact, it worked so well that he decided to enter a bodybuilding competition. He beat guys 30-40 years younger, and his legs were his best body part!

Here's the thing, though: building legs this way isn't pleasant because the length/distance of the sets required to stimulate growth will get you in a state of severe lactic acid accumulation and can be challenging for the lungs.

Since it doesn't have a loaded eccentric, it also means that you have to do it more often (to accumulate more volume) for it to work. He did it three days a week. But the fact that it doesn't cause muscle damage actually allows you to recover fast enough to do it that often.

When it comes to loaded carries and sled work, I typically use the "10 meters = 1 rep" equivalencies:

  • If you're using it to build muscle, this means sets covering 60 to 100 meters.
  • If you're using it for strength, think 10 to 50 meters.

You must use a load that makes it hard to finish the prescribed distance. This distance is NOT done by running. You must use a "walking speed" to produce the muscle tension required to trigger hypertrophy.

Try 2-4 pushing or pulling styles for 3-5 sets each, then rest 2-3 minutes between sets.


For example:

  • Prowler push with low handles (hips higher than shoulders): glute focus
  • Sled drag backward in a half-squat depth: quad focus
  • Prowler push mid-position (hips and shoulders in line): hamstring focus
  • Sled sideway drag: adductor and abductor focus

Question: What are your thoughts on using straps for farmers walks?

If developing grip strength isn't one of your main goals, use straps all the time with farmers walks. Straps allow you to use more weight, maintain better posture, and cover longer distances.

Even if your goal is maximal strength, with distances from 10 to 30 meters I'd still recommend straps, at least on the heavier sets. That will allow you to use anywhere between 10 to 30% more weight, which will better overload every muscle involved.

Heck, lifting straps are used more and more these days in strongmen competitions! And contrary to what people believe, even farmers walks with straps will strengthen your grip, just to a lesser extent.

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Christian Thibaudeau specializes in building bodies that perform as well as they look. He is one of the most sought-after coaches by the world's top athletes and bodybuilders. Check out the Christian Thibaudeau Coaching Forum.