How to Warm Up for Peak Performance – Part 1

ivan-stoitsovNot many people realize this but implementing a smart warm-up protocol before lifting weights could easily help you increase performance and get more out of your workouts in the gym.

The two biggest mistakes people make when warming up for a strength training session is a) they skip it or b) they overdo it.

Newsflash: Floating around on the elliptical for 15 minutes while reading US Weekly is not a very useful primer for lifting heavy stuff.

Neither is performing a few arm circles and leg swings, then proceeding to load a barbell with the heaviest weights you can handle three minutes after you have walked in through the gym doors.

A proper warm up should get your core temperature up to the point where you’re sweating, it should lubricate the joints, prime the nervous system for the upcoming working sets and it should both activate and pump up the muscles.

One thing you should remember is that you don’t want to kill yourself during the warm-up, thus sapping your energy before the actual workout has begun but you also shouldn’t be afraid of a little pre-fatigue to the point where you’re simply going through the motions and getting no real benefit of what you’re doing.

In this article we’ll take a look at how to setup an intelligent warm-up plan, which will allow you to lift more weight while decreasing the risk of injury. I’ve broken the protocols into upper/lower templates, because many of our clients follow upper/lower training programs.

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Research Corner March 2014 – How Many Sets Should You Perform for Optimal Strength Gains?

deadlift-francoSide note: This article contains excerpts from my book Next Level Strength Training.

When it comes to designing strength training programs, there are only a handful of variables you can change. These variables include (among others):

• How many repetitions you perform

• How often you train

• Which exercises you choose

• How many sets you do

• Whether you perform a full range of motion in the movement or only partials

• The speed with which you perform an exercise

Training volume, intensity and frequency are all interdependent factors. Generally speaking, the lower your training intensity, the more volume you need in order to reap rewards and vice versa. Likewise, when frequency is high (i.e. daily training or multiple training sessions per day), intensity and volume can’t remain high for long periods of time as this will compromise the body’s ability to recover, leading to plateaued or even diminished strength levels and possibly overtraining.

In this installment of the Research Corner, I’ll try and boil down what really constitutes effective training parameters for the natural, non-gifted strength trainee with the goal of strength and hypertrophy gains as far as the amount of total sets is concerned. Continue Reading

Good Reads of the Month: February 2014

boratNo cutesy introductions needed for this post.

From now on, I will be combining a few solid training related articles (and other assorted articles related to topics I deem worthy of a holler) I’ve come across on the interwebz into a short list at the end of every month.

Here are three that made the cut for the month of February.

Enjoy.

• The Truth by Jim Steel

67 Tips on Happiness, Fulfillment & Life by Jason Ferruggia

Weight Training Programs: 5 Reasons You Aren’t Getting Stronger by Eric Cressey

7 Simple (But Valuable) Shoulder Saving Tips

ava_cowanAnyone who trains hard with a barbell in search of continuous progress will get injured at some point.

It’s not a question of “if”, but “when”.

One of the most common ways barbell training can inflict damage on your body is in the form of shoulder injuries.

A bum shoulder can make life virtually miserable. Almost all upper body pressing goes immediately out of the window. Setting up and gripping the bar hard for a set of squats doesn’t exactly ease the discomfort you’re feeling. Not to mention even flipping through TV channels with a remote controller becomes a pain in the ass once the pain in your shoulder gets severe enough (talk about a First World Problem!) 

However, the worst part is that once the damage has been done, the healing process usually takes quite a while. Some days your shoulder will feel almost 100%, the next day it will get irritated during a light warm-up set, and you’re back to square one.

I say all this because I’ve been there and know how much having an irritated shoulder sucks. Walking around with a shoulder injury severely limits what you can do in the weight room. Consistency is the biggest factor in making sustained progress, and you can’t be consistent if you are always injured.

Here are 7 practical ways to rehab an existing shoulder injury or prevent it from happening in the first place…

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The 5 Key Elements of an Effective Strength Program

pisarenko_squatA common misperception among the general fitness crowd is that all weight training systems are created equal.

Just as playing table tennis with a buddy in your garage is very different from playing Wimbledon tennis, not all exercises, training programs, methods or practices, and set/rep schemes constitute useful strength training when the objective is pushing your numbers up in the gym.

The magic word here being STRENGTH training.

Never before have going to the gym and making healthy lifestyle choices been as trendy as they are nowadays. General fitness and exercise recommendations are receiving more and more face time in mainstream media each passing day through various articles and news reports. Consequently, everything from Bosu balls to 100 air squats gets lumped together as “strength training”, when this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Call it “working out”, “getting toned” or “breaking a sweat”. But don’t call it something it’s not.

It ain’t strength training unless you’re getting stronger.

These five pointers will serve as your guide to creating a strength training program that actually produces results: Continue Reading

How to Get Your First Real Chin-Up

chinsFor as long as I can recall, I’ve been doing chin-ups of all sorts.

I did them at school.

I did them at soccer practice.

I did them in the army.

Now I do them in the gym or in the park, usually with rings.

What I’ve noticed, however, is that rarely can women do chin-ups. But not because it’s physiologically impossible for females to pull their bodyweight over a bar. It’s because, unfortunately, too many women fall for the general claptrap that chicks can’t chin.

I’ve never been one to conform to public opinion or what the majority of people think. So all I will do at this point is quote the great American philosopher, Ice Cube, and leave the matter at that:

“Do ya thang, man, fuck what they lookin’ at!”

Show me a woman who can do 10 chin-ups and I’ll show you a woman who is lean and strong.

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Top 10 Hip Hop Songs to Train to

NasHip hop is dead.

That’s what Nas said back in 2006, referring to the music industry and the state of hip hop music at the time.

As Nas implied, what people call “rap music” these days is not up to par with the 90’s when Ice Cube, DMX, Dr. Dre, 2Pac, Jay-Z, and the likes took over the scene.

I’m a hard rock/metal kinda guy at heart. Nothing gets me more fired up for a training session than blasting out some In Flames or Iron Maiden on the loudspeakers. But playing that stuff over and over again gets tiresome really fast.

A good hip hop training mix is my go-to choice of music in situations where you still want to listen to a track bringing some anger, aggression, and intensity without blowing your eardrums to pieces, for instance when practicing on the gymnastics rings or jumping rope.

Below are some of the most kick ass hip hop songs on my playlist.

#10 Jay-Z ft. Rihanna & E.S. Posthumus – Run This Town

ES Posthumus spinned Jay-Z’s original version, which lacked the punch in my opinion, into one of the best pump up songs I’ve heard in recent years.

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