Lemme guess — you’re really busy.
You juggle work, family, school, and a nasty little HBO addiction that you just can’t quit.
Between all that and dragging your sleep-deprived butt to the gym four days a week, time is in real short supply — so the last thing you have time for is another 12-page article on choosing the right loading parameters for training the flexor digitorum superficialis (no offence Coach Tumminello).
Well, we hear you crying and feel your pain. So we rounded up a few of the T NATION strength training Jedis and challenged them to come up with some helpful tips or cool tricks that will spice up your very next workout.
The catch was, they only had 140 words max to get the job done.
As you will see, you can drop a lot of knowledge bombs in only 140 words — check it out!
Scenario: Give me something cool that I can try at the gym tonight that will improve my workouts and leave me with a big, fat smile on my face.
Do one thing completely different than what you normally would and stick with it for the next four weeks, minimum.
Try drastically changing something about the way you do your sets. If you always do straight sets of one exercise and then move on to the next, switch to doing antagonistic supersets. So instead of doing three sets of inclines, alternate three sets of inclines with three sets of rows. If you always do that switch to straight sets and do three sets of inclines in a row.
If you always rest two minutes between sets, cut your rest periods to 60 seconds. Or vice versa.
If you always go to failure, switch it up and focus on lifting as fast as possible, using Compensatory Acceleration on every rep and stopping your sets when your speed slows down.
Most lifters are in serious performance ruts and don’t even realize it. I feel sorry for their girlfriends.
It’s not so much a trick as it is injecting some common sense in your training. Utilize the exercises that will give YOU the most gains. Not all exercises work equally well for everybody. Here are some tips:
- If you have long arms and long legs relative to your torso, your limbs will respond best to unilateral exercises.
- If you have short legs, the squat and its variation is pretty much all you need for optimal leg growth.
- If you have short arms you will need little, if any direct triceps work. Various presses and dips will do.
- If you have short arms and a long torso, you will need a lot of assistance work to improve your deadlift.
- If you have long arms, you will need more direct biceps and triceps work to make them grow.
Stretch! If you’re working your upper body, stretch your lower body in between sets. If you’re working your lower body, stretch your upper body in between sets. This method won’t impede strength or power and will improve future workouts by allowing for better movement efficiency.
Maybe the hot little minx on the elliptical will see you stretching and un-label you a typical meathead, which could lead to a conversation or a future date. This would definitely put a big fat smile on your face.
For a great muscle-boosting change of pace, do this workout:
Deadlift for 50 reps with a load that’s equal to your body weight
Push-ups for 100 reps
Chin-ups for 50 reps
It doesn’t matter how many sets it takes, just work hard and keep cranking out the reps until you reach the target number. Rest 10-20 seconds between each set. Then, move on to the next exercise. Burn through those three exercises as fast as you can and you can call it a day. Tomorrow, you’ll be sore as hell.
Controlling and directing emotional arousal is a powerful tool when it comes to highly in-grained motor skills that require little dexterity.
Think back to a situation in which you felt hatred towards something or someone. The cop that hassled you, or the boss that humiliated you because he could get away with it. The girl who fucked you over.
Back then, all you could do was grit your teeth and carry on.
At the gym, think back to that moment; close your eyes and let the buried rage that you controlled then return and overtake you. Spin that emotion through your head; reliving every detail until your body shakes, your vision tunnels, and all you can feel is adrenaline.
Now step onto the deadlift platform and rip that fucker off the floor. You just pulled a PR.
Adding bands to many normal exercises is a great experience. This “trick” only leaves you with a smile if you enjoy both results and pain. The bands (which resemble giant rubber bands of differing thicknesses) utilize a principle called Accommodating Resistance. This means that as your muscles gain a mechanical advantage over a weight (like when you are locking out a bench press or squat), the bands create more resistance to match that advantage.
This makes the exercise harder and forces your neuromuscular system to respond with more muscle activation. In addition to more recruitment, the bands create more eccentric tension when lowering the weight for potentially more muscle damage and subsequent size and strength gains.
My favorite band exercises are: barbell bench, deadlifts, squats, triceps pushdowns, hyperextensions, and even for assistance doing chins. Smile on that!
Okay, I have 140 words to tell you something that will improve your workouts in the gym today. I can say it in four: BUY A FOAM ROLLER.
Everyone is focused on the workout, but no one spends enough time getting ready. Remember, foam rolling is self-massage for poor people. Most of us would love to get a massage every day, every week, or even every month, but this is just not a reality.
The truth is, five minutes a day with a foam roller will change your life. You can get a twelve inch one for about $15 that will fit in any gym bag. Work on the hips, lower back, upper back, and adductors. I guarantee that not only will you notice a change, but also friends will ask to borrow your roller.
(I’d tell them to buy their own).
This will sound like a mirror trainee’s dream come true, but it actually works.
For your bench workout, perform one set of 5 curls 90 seconds before every bench work set.
Preacher curl 5 reps with 80% of your max
Bench set 5 reps with 75% of your max
Incline seated curl 5 reps with 80%
Bench set 4 reps (with more weight obviously)
Chest-supported on incline bench hammer curl 5 reps with 80%
Bench 3 reps (more weight)
Reverse preacher curl 5 reps with 80% of your max
Bench 2 reps (more weight)
Hammer grip dumbbell preacher curl 5 reps with 80%
Bench 1 rep (more weight)
Continue on until you reach your 1RM for the day. Should be a PR!
The next time you do one-arm overhead presses with a kettlebell or dumbbell, try using thoracic extensions for increasing strength. Just before you begin to press, round your upper back slightly, then as you start to press, stick your chest out and pinch your shoulder blades together forcefully. Do NOT arch your lower back, but concentrate on your upper back. This will not only allow you to lift heavier, but has positive effects on thoracic mobility and posture.
Muscles have both a contractile component and an elastic component. For athletics, you want to take advantage of the elastic component to allow for better performance. For hypertrophy, you want to force as much contraction as possible by eliminating the elastic recoil at the bottom of the movement.
Set up for a dumbbell bench press, lower the dumbbells to your chest and hold for a three count. Try to accelerate the dumbbells as fast as possible to the top of the movement and return to the bottom position for another count of three. To avoid letting the muscles relax, do not lock out at the top of the movement. This will maximize the time under tension and allow for greater hypertrophy. Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps and your chest will feel like it is going to explode.
Jim “Adam Lambert” Wendler
To ensure your next workout is even worth mentioning, make sure it includes at least one or more of the following:
Running hills, dips & chins, neck exercises, squats, benches, deadlifts, and cleans. Looking for opportunities to help others is never a bad idea either.
By the way, what a painfully gay question. What are you going to ask next, how do I bring up my calves? Please.
For those of you who train biceps the following tips can add a 3-5% strength increase to you biceps curl.
When you arrive at the gym do the following after a brief warm-up:
Lie in the prone cobra position for 2 minutes (lie face down, support upper body on elbows and relax, allowing your low back to hyperextend).
Perform 4 sets of progressively heavier isometric shrugs. Place barbell in power rack, shrug weight up and hold for 5 seconds, keep head in neutral position and shoulders back. Perform 1 rep per set. Use as heavy of a weight as you can with good form. Use straps if necessary.
Now you are ready to train biceps and you should be able to use more load than usual.
If your shoulders rise and fall when you take a big breath, then you’re sacrificing weight on the bar and leaving reps behind. You won’t be able to get a full breath of air, so you can’t maximize intra-abdominal pressure to grind through the hardest reps. The crocodile breath, a yoga technique that I picked up from Gray Cook, will help you re-learn proper breathing.
Lay facedown and take ten deep breaths, filling the belly up with air while letting it cause your lower back to rise and fall. Do this before each working set of your biggest lift. When training with maximal loads, or in nearing the end of a tough set, take a big belly breath at the top of the rep, before you descend, and hold that breath until you’ve begun moving through your sticking point.
Try what I call Preloading the workout, by doing two things before you leave the house in the morning. First, grab your crockpot or slow cooker and drop some root veggies in the bottom of the pot. Toss in a whole fryer chicken (to make it better, cut an apple in half and use it as “stuffing” to keep the fryer, well, whole), and then pour in some frozen peas. Put it on low cook.
Second, grab a 4 or 6 inch PVC pipe and cut it (or just get the guy at the store to do it) about a foot across and toss it in your gym bag.
When you get to the gym, instead of warming up with a bunch of worthless junk, find space on the floor, and roll out your IT bands, your hammies, and your mid back. Yes, I know the PVC pipe is harder than foam; it’s also cheaper and works better for my more muscular athletes. Now, jump in and get your workout. When you finish, take a few more minutes to roll. When you go home, your food will make the place smell great. Let the meat fall off the bone, and make yourself a plate of quality protein and veggies.
Try doing a calf raise after each back squat rep. Make the movement flow with the squat, not like a choppy add-on. This will help vertical jump, leg power, and overall muscle recruitment. Hold it at the top for 1-2 seconds before the next rep. Better balance will come with practice.
Also, you can add both a simultaneous shrug and calf raise at the top of each deadlift rep. Perform this similar to the squat described above.
This is also great for improving calf size and strength.
That’s it! Until next time — keep Tweeting!