16 Tips for Stronger Muscles, Joints, Mind & Body

Why exactly 16?

I don’t know. But it has a nice ring to it. And nobody could hit top shelf dropping the knee on a one-timer better than #16 Brett Hull.

Let’s roll…

1. Stop Overanalyzing

“My upper pecs are lagging so should I incline bench at a 28.35 or 33.12 degree angle to target and get them to grow better?”

“I’ve been eating a gram per pound of bodyweight of protein a day but the newest study referenced in XYZ magazine said anything below 1.2758 grams will not maximize muscle growth for a 5’9″ ectomorph natural lifter. What should I do?”

“I want to start 5/3/1 but how can I also include eccentric quasi-isometric fat bar reverse lunges supersetted with seated submaximal dynamic effort Smith machine behind-the-neck-presses in the program?”

Stop.

Just fucking stop.

Getting stressed out over training and nutrition does nothing but kill progress in the gym. I can understand a dude demonstrating some ADD tendencies over that stuff a few weeks before a powerlifting contest or a photoshoot for a fitness magazine.

But a regular guy with the 9-5 office life, trying to get more hunky for the ladies?

Come on now, gimme a break.

Lift heavy, lift smart and get stronger over time. You’re all set.

Dieting is an even simpler concept…

A) Don’t eat shit.

B) Eat more to gain weight. Eat less to lose it.

That’s about it. You’re welcome.

2. Do More Bodyweight Work

We all know someone who has banged up a shoulder while benching or tweaked their lower back on squats. But how often do you hear someone busting a joint during a set of push-ups or pistol squats?

It doesn’t happen.

That’s because bodyweight training is much, much easier on the joints, tendons and connective tissue than heavy barbell lifting.

And if you still believe you can’t get strong and jacked on bodyweight stuff, all I can say is go google pics of guys like Brandon Wynn, Yuri van Gelder or Jake Dalton, and tell me their upper bodies don’t look amazing.

Case in point - Brandon Wynn

Case in point – Brandon Wynn

3. Follow a Sleep Routine

While implementing set times when you go to bed and get up is highly beneficial for increasing sleep quality, that’s not what I mean by a sleep routine here. I’m talking about a set sequence of actions done prior to bed that maximize the quantity and quality of tonight’s sleep.

For that, I HIGHLY recommend some light reading for 30-60 minutes before bed (fiction is perfect for this purpose), with all electronic devices turned off by now.

Something I’ve experimented with recently and have grown to like is practicing deep belly breathing lying on my back with the feet up against a wall, which is a great way to shut off all the thousands of thoughts running through your head, and help shift the body from sympathetic into parasympathetic mode.

Parasympathetic

We also use this technique as part of our cool-down procedure after a training session with my hockey players

20-25 breaths in this position never fails to elicit a strong urge to fall asleep.

4. No Snoozing

Picture a successful person waking up in the morning. Does he hit the snooze button and bury himself deeper under the blanket, afraid to face the world on yet another grim day?

Hell no.

Why?

Because he’s excited to get up and can’t wait to go after the goals he has set for himself.

So no more snoozing for you.

Hit the ground running and tackle the day with everything you’ve got from the first moment you’re given.

snooze

5. Make the Muscles Do the Work and Get a Pump

You should never feel an exercise in the hips, knees, low back, shoulders or elbows. Muscles only.

So all you guys using bad form to hoist more weight on something like a pulldown or hip thrust, you need to lighten the load and focus on feeling the lats, glutes or whatever (note: advanced lifters can get away with using less strict form as they know what they’re doing).

6. Bitch Less

There is a lot to complain about in the world… if you’re a pussy.

Spend less time complaining and more time managing what you can control.

Things you can’t control:

– the weather

– what others think of you

– “the economy”

Things you can control:

– your thoughts

– your mindset

– your actions

– your “personal economy” a.k.a. finances

7. Reset the Deadlift

Having been to numerous gyms over the years, I’ve seen my fair share of crappy deadlifts. Most of them have been performed with a rounded low back and a bounce off the floor.

Stop doing that right now.

Unless you’re a very good lifter with picture-perfect technique, which most guys definitely aren’t, you won’t be able to stay tight repping deads like that.

Instead of thinking of pulling a set of 5 reps, think of doing 5 singles with a short reset afterwards, where you take a deep new breath into your belly and get tight again before the next rep.

8. Reset the Spine after Every Deadlift and Squat Session

A few months ago, I tweaked my right lower back doing split-stance RDL’s with a warm-up weight. Rookie mistake.

I had been on a roll up until that moment following a high-frequency training program, which included heavy pulls from blocks, box squats and other exercises directly stressing the spine.

Not one to give up my beloved deads, I began seeking a solution that would allow me to keep pulling twice a week while alleviating back pain, and found a cure in this:

Reset the Spine

Immediately following a lower body session, I would spend a few minutes in the above position (sans the attractive brunette and the beach, unfortunately).

The result?

Back pain went away in a couple weeks.

If you’re experiencing low back pain after heavy squats and pulls, give this one a try.

9. Train with Higher Reps

Low volume, high intensity training is great for getting strong and something I highly recommend for beginners.

But doing nothing but doubles, triples and fives on the squat, bench, deadlift and overhead press will wear down the shoulders, elbows, hips and knees once you’re moving decent weights on those lifts.

That’s why you gotta bump the reps higher and train in the 8+ rep range from time to time.

10. Vary Exercises

As I mentioned above, hitting it heavy on the big compound lifts will get you strong, fast… but beyond the beginner stage, you gotta introduce some more variety to your training.

If you don’t, your joints will take the toll.

I’m talking about exercises like:

– chin-ups

– push-ups

– dips

– rows

– glute hams

– single leg squat and deadlift variations

– direct abdominal and low back work

– direct arm work

The purpose of those exercises, when done in a higher rep range – as advocated in #9 – is to build muscular strength and size, and prevent imbalances that could lead to injury.

11. Do Thoracic Spine and Shoulder Mobility Exercises Before Overhead Pressing

Lack of shoulder mobility, a common trait among hockey players and office workers, manifests itself as discomfort in the shoulders or compensation from the low back when overhead pressing.

Doing a couple FMS breathing exercises, such as the rib grab exercise demonstrated below by Sean Skahan of the Anaheim Ducks, helps increase shoulder range of motion in an instant.

Thus, you’ll want to include them as part of your warm-up on days when lifting overhead.

12. Drink with a Purpose

While I would never encourage boozing the weekend away with your “friends”, I’m not saying you should never drink the hard stuff. Actually, bumping it up a notch or two over a piss-tasting Heineken would be the right move more often than not in my book.

Vodka, jäger, tequila… who cares. The point is…

When you drink, have a purpose.

Are you drinking at home alone, watching a shitty chick flick? Are you hitting the clubs and liquor trying to pull some tail with your pack of bros?

What a waste of health and time.

When you do have that drink or a few, make it count.

Have a glass of wine with an attractive female you’re about to pull back to your place by the evening’s end.

Celebrate reaching a professional milestone by treating yourself and a colleague to a savory garlic marinated steak dinner followed by one or two delicious choices on the dessert menu and a couple strong vodka shots at a fancy restaurant.

Drink up to that childhood friend who has had your back through all those years you’ve known each other on the night of his birthday.

Any lazy schmuck can find an excuse to drink.

Those with direction and forward momentum in life will not need one.

13. Pair Exercises

I’ve written about the merits of pairing/supersetting exercises for strength and muscle gains here and here, so no need to delve deeper into that in this post.

14. Drop the News, Read a Book

I’ve said this countless times before but it bears repeating…

Get offline and read, dammit.

And make sure you read for information, not entertainment. Fiction is fine as a sleeping pill or for passing the time on a plane but you’re missing out big time if that’s all the reading you do.

Also understand that information for information’s sake is useless.

There’s a vast difference between the information you get exposed to via the media (which should be limited, if not cut out completely), and information you can apply into improving your life instantly – could be related to strength training, finances, learning how to cook delicious meals, getting introduced to a fun new hobby, or what have you.

Must be slow news day, mate

Must be slow news day, mate

Why read about today’s news when you could be gaining wisdom for tomorrow?

Makes no sense to me.

15. Warm Up Properly

Coming across a guy who knows how to warm up properly to a heavy top set is about as common as spotting girls you wanna get down and dirty with at a feminist rally.

Here’s how Larry Lifter prepares for a set of 5 on rack pulls with 200 kg on the bar.

100×10

150×8

200×3 (shit that was heavy)

Here’s how to do it the right way…

60×5

100×4

140×3

160×2

180×1

200×5 (smoked it)

16. Don’t Hate, Do Hustle

When you see a rich/successful person, what’s your first reaction?

Belittling and undermining their achievements, convinced they didn’t get to where they are based on merit and effort, but on luck and connections?

Or do you applaud them for having succeeded, becoming even more determined to hit your own goals in life?

You can never achieve anything great with negative thoughts running through your mind.

Negativity kills productivity.

Every second you waste thinking spiteful thoughts or hating someone for who they are or what they’ve done is another moment you could be out there improving yourself and getting ahead.

“If only…” and “Must be easy…” are dead giveaways coming out of the mouths of those who will never amount to anything in life.

Not you though, you’re better than that.

If you enjoyed this article, please do a brother a favor by liking, commenting and sharing it with others who might dig it as well.

Thanks!

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About the Author Yunus Barisik

Yunus Barisik, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for an elite junior hockey organization based in Espoo, Finland. He has trained hundreds of hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.

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  • Joe Pipitone

    I could not agree with you more about body weight work.

    People have forgotten just how effective push-ups can be–when done correctly.

    The only problem I have wit body weight work–and I have talked about this myself–is that I feel people will not take them seriously–and then get hurt.

    They will be like, oh it is ONLY push-ups, if you know what I mean.

    Deadlifts are great, but, once again, you need to stop messing around worrying about how much weight you can bounce off the floor–and get serious and do quality reps, yes, even if it means using half as much weight.