Monday, August 1, 2016

Top 5 Free Weight Exercises for the Hamstrings

Q: What are other good exercises for the hamstring other than deadlift? I have a home gym but I don’t have a lying leg raise machine. Thanks.

My Answer: In the hamstring chapter of High Tension Exercises for Muscular Growth, I list out the best hamstring builders.  They are categorized as either leg curl variations or deadlift variations.  So if you don’t have access to leg curl machines, then concentrate on the deadlift variations.  You can build some rather thick bundles of steel just from the following exercises:

Barbell Romanian deadlift

Single leg dumbbell Romanian deadlift

Deficit Romanian deadlift

Good mornings

Floor glute ham raise

The floor glute ham raise is a body weight exercise that resembles the leg curl, but it is extremely tough to do.  It requires that you have a training partner to hold your legs down, or you can secure your ankles underneath a heavy piece of equipment.  You’ll slowly lower your torso under control.  When your body reaches the floor, push off in an explosive manner and do another rep.  You may only do 1-3 reps.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Training for the SWAT Pull-up Test

Q: I’m going to be applying for our department’s SWAT team.  Part of the physical test is a 2 mile run and pull-up test.  You got to do at least 2 pull-ups with 50 extra pounds.  Problem is I can’t even do a pull-up with just my body weight.  Sad, I know.   Any way I can train to do a pull-up?

My Answer: If you are having problems doing pull-ups, then here’s how you should progress:

  1. Do you need to lose weight?  Obviously if you are overweight, then that makes it harder for you to do pull-ups.  So if you’re overweight, then embark on a fat loss program.
  2. If you can’t do any pull-ups, then you will need to do negative pull-ups to build up your strength: 
  3. Once you are able to do a pull-up,  then you’ll need to do high frequency training to increase your pull-up endurance.  Set up a pull-up bar at home and one at the office.  Every time you pass by the bar you do a pull-up or two.  Don’t go beyond 5 reps, just do a few reps each time you come to the bar.  Essentially you’re practicing the skill of pull-ups as frequently as possible.
  4. Once every 2 weeks test out your pull-up max.  See how many pull-ups you can do in a single set. Once you can do more than 10 pull-ups, then start adding a little bit of weight.  Add more and more weight over time till you reach 50 pounds.

You should find out how the weight is attached to you for the pull-up test.  Is it 50 pounds in a rucksack?  Or is it a 50 pound weight hanging off a weight belt?  Are you doing pull-ups in full tactical gear?

You should find this out, because how the extra weight is distributed on your body is going to affect pull-up difficulty.  The extra weight will shift your center of gravity, so pulling with a 50 pound kettlebell or dumbbell is going to feel very different from a 50 pound rucksack.  So train accordingly.

One last bit of advice: increase your grip strength.  Increasing your grip strength will increase your pull-up strength.  If you do pull-ups on a thick bar, it will increase your grip strength.  It is more difficult of course, but you will get more grip and pull-up strength development.

Train with a thick bar, and when you switch from a thick bar to a thin bar, you will be able to do way more pull-ups than before.  A lot of people do pull-ups at the gym where the pull-up stations have thin one inch thick handles.  But when they try to do pull-ups at a playground or jungle gym where the bars are thicker, they can’t do as many.  So find out how thick the bar is for the pull-up test.  You don’t want to be surprised.

If you don’t have access to a thick pull-up bar, then you can place Fat Gripz on a thin bar.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Muscle Building on a Busy Schedule

Q: What’s the best way to build muscle when you have the least amount of time?

My Answer: It depends on what kind of schedule you have.  In Strength and Physique: Training the Busy Bodybuilder I show you how to workout on a busy and unpredictable schedule.  This book will show you how to train on a low frequency program to maximize muscle growth.  So if you can get to the gym only 2-3 times per week, then this book is for you.

Now you can also go in the other direction and train frequently, multiple times throughout the day.

I know what you’re saying, “James, I just told you I have very little time to workout.  How can I train multiple times throughout the day?”

You have to audit your schedule and squeeze out time to train any which way you can.  Instead of doing an hour long workout which would block out a portion of your day, you can fracture the workout into mini workouts and inject them in between other activities.

For example, Peary Rader had a one day arm specialization routine where you would do a set of biceps and a set of triceps every hour on the hour for 12 hours.  Lifters who did this would add up to 3/4’s on an inch in arm growth.

Pavel Tsatsouline has a similar training concept called “greasing the groove” (GTG) where you would do pull-ups every time you pass by a pull-up bar set up in your house.

You can apply this concept of mini-workouts to a busy schedule.  Choose 2 body weight exercises and do a set of each every hour on the hour.  I would do something like a push-up variation and a squat variation.  The beauty of doing body weight exercises is that you can do them anywhere at any time and you don’t have to go to the gym.  If you can install a pull-up bar at your office or place of work, then I would add a set of pull-ups too.

Do this mini workout multiple times throughout the day, five days a week for 2-3 weeks.  Then for 3-4 weeks just do the mini-workout once a day, 5 days a week.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Staggered Sets for Grip Strength

Q: Hi James, 2 questions for you: 

  1. Several of your exercises, like the heavy squatting routine, requires up to 4 minutes of rest periods. James, I have ADD. I can’t wait around 4 minutes when I want to get in a solid effective heavy-based workout regimen. How do you recommend spending those minutes of rest instead of being stressed out just pacing around and my mind wandering and feeling like I’m wasting time? 
  2.  As for deadlifts, the weight I can lift is severely limited by my grip strength. Using wrist supporters allows me to deadlift up to 225 lbs instead of 95 lbs without them. However, one of my most important strength training goals is to improve my grip strength. Grip strength is VERY important to me. What would you recommend I do? Use other equipment like thick bar kettlebells for grip strength training and use the grip wraps for the deadlift? And are those grip wraps safe anyways?  

Thanks for your help as always. Love your blogs. 

My best,
Larry K.

My Answer: The long rest periods are there for a reason.  When you rest for up to 4 minutes between sets, it is to allow for full nervous system recovery.

Some workouts call for long rest periods, and these workouts are part of the decompression phases.  In decompression phases you're purposely pulling back on the amount of work per unit of time to build more muscle and strength.

Now if you have a hard time waiting around for a few minutes, then I suggest you do staggered sets.  Staggered sets are when you intersperse sets for smaller body parts into sets of larger muscle groups.

For example, you can intersperse sets of grip work in between sets of heavy squats:

  • Squat: 5-7 reps
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • One arm dead hangs
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • Squat: 5-7 reps
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • One arm dead hangs
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • and so on and so forth
If you want to build up your grip strength, then staggered sets of grip exercises are a great way to do it.  Here are some exercises to build grip strength:

Thursday, March 3, 2016

10 Must Have Items For Your Home Gym

Nothing beats the convenience of a good home gym! You never have to battle traffic on your way to a crowded facility where you then have to wait forever for equipment. Plus, the music is always your style and the post-workout smoothies are so much more affordable. Speaking of cheaper, just think of all the money you’ll save in memberships, fees, and gas! No matter your budget, when you invest in a home gym, you’ll start seeing a positive return on that investment almost immediately.

But what equipment should you have in order to still maintain your ideal physique? We at Modernize have put together the 10 must-have items for your home gym that will keep you healthy and looking good!

Nothing says strength training like a long line of dumbbells, but sets like that can run you thousands of dollars and eat up valuable floor space. If your home gym’s square footage or budget won’t allow for that, then opt for adjustable-weight dumbbells which give you virtually the same versatility at a fraction of the cost.

Kettlebells are a fantastic addition to any exercise program, regardless of where you work out. Since their center of gravity shifts as you move, they are able to add an intensity to each rep that you just can’t get from dumbbells. Be sure to get a few different sizes so you can make adjustments depending on the exercise you are performing and as your strength increases.

Barbell with Weight Plates
Hands down, the best tool for strength training is barbells. By fighting against gravity in the most natural movement a person can make, barbells build your power, strength, and muscular size faster than any other piece of equipment you can own. If you are concerned about keeping your floors in optimum condition, then opt for bumper weight plates that will cushion the blow whenever the bar is dropped.

Adjustable Bench
An adjustable bench will give you the versatility to optimize each exercise by adapting to fit whatever you needs may be. Many can be configured in over 50 different ways, allowing you to perform hundreds of different lifts from chest presses to crunches to hip thrusts.

Pull-Up Bar
If you are looking to build strength in your arms, back, chest, and abdominals simultaneously, then a pull-up bar is a definite must have because of its adaptability. By making simple changes like grip, hand placement, and body motion, you can isolate the exact muscle group you want to target.

Jump Rope
No workout is complete without an element of cardio. If you have the room for a treadmill or stationary bike, then go for it. But if you don’t, then a simple jump rope will give you all the positives of an aerobic workout without eating up crucial floor space.

Plyometric Box
Box jumps are able to exercise fast-twitch muscle fibers in your quadriceps that you are just not able to isolate with leg presses or leg extensions. This motion also ramps up your metabolism, burning fat like no other. For your home gym, choose a plyometric box set with varying heights so you can switch up your workouts as you get stronger. 

You, certainly, can workout on any type of floor surface, but rubber is the way to go. Half-inch thick rubber mats will soften the sound of a dropped barbell while giving enough cushion to keep your equipment (and flooring) in good condition.

Injuries, even small ones, are the best way to put a damper on positive momentum when it comes to weightlifting, and a major injury can end your ability to exercise in this manner altogether. That’s why a mirror is a must have for any home gym. By carefully watching each repetition, you can correct errors in your form immediately, rather than only knowing you were wrong once it hurts.

Whiteboard and Markers
When you are in the midst of an intense set, all your energy needs to be focused on maintaining proper technique and rep counts, not trying to remember your circuit order. The inexpensive addition of a whiteboard and markers can keep you on track in the simplest way possible.

Although each person is unique in their physical makeup and the workouts required for them to attain their ideal physique, these ten must haves will aid everyone universally in achieving their goals.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fat bar training equipment

Q: You had mentioned in a previous blog post a site to purchase thick bars. Can you remind me the name of this site again? Thank you.

My best,
Larry K.

My Answer: It was the Heavy Handle. I don't think they make the Heavy Handle anymore.  Which is unfortunate, because it was truly a unique and effective piece of equipment for thick bar training.

You may want to consider Fat Gripz.  It's an inexpensive way to do fat bar training.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What it's like to be both cop and trainer

Q: I was just wondering what its like to be both a cop and a personal trainer. I thought about doing that too.

- Sage

My Answer: There are very few people in the world with both backgrounds. You can really only do one or the other.  I've talked a little bit about this before:

PT or LE?