The Aesthetic Lens for the Strength Athlete
By Julia Ladewski

Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, “Man, my shoulders/arms/chest/legs could use a little size”? Have you ever taken a long, hard look at your programming and wondered why your bench/overhead press/squat/deadlift have stalled? As athletes of the strength game I think we’ve all done that. Sometimes we take a stab in the dark as to how to fix it and sometimes we have a legitimate plan. It’s easy to look through the strength lens to fix the aesthetic problems, (e.g. my bench is weak, so if I build that up, my chest will get bigger) but have you ever looked through your aesthetic lens to fix your strength problems (e.g. my quads are small, so if I bring those up, it will help my squat)?
This basic concept came to me recently. Last May and June I competed in a figure show and two physique shows. Considering I only had three months to prep and diet I fared well, but also learned some very important lessons in the process. As I look back on my pictures I can see two distinct areas that were lagging behind – my shoulders and my quads. “If I ever do another show,” I thought, “I’m definitely going to need to bring those areas up.” As I slowly transitioned out of bodybuilding training back to powerlifting I realized that my raw squat wasn’t where it should be, and my bench press had stalled. I put 2 and 2 together and realized my aesthetic weaknesses were also my strength weaknesses. I can distinctly remember thinking,“If I can bring up my shoulders and quads now, I bet my lifts will improve as well.” I’m sure this concept is not new, but I think my revelation is one that can help a lot of strength athletes who have never considered it. Consider the young man with no lats. I bet his bench suffers, particularly off the chest.
How about the middle aged mom with poor posture and no upper back? I bet she has trouble keeping position in the squat. The meathead dude with no glutes? Can’t lock out a deadlift.


Matt Mendenhall didn’t have any aesthetic weaknesses

Needless to say, I decided to address my weaknesses. My normal powerlifting template was a 4 day a week plan that followed a conjugate style of training. I had 2 lower body sessions and 2 upper body sessions. I had to find a way to add my shoulder and quad specialization to what I was already doing. What follows is how I incorporated more quad and shoulder volume into my training and how it has helped my geared powerlifting as well.

Lower Body Max Effort Days:
After completing my max effort squat or deadlift for the day I performed one of the following for 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps:
• Front Squat (shoulder width stance)
• SS Yoke Bar Squats (shoulder width stance)
• Manta Ray Squats (shoulder width stance)
• Leg Press (shoulder width stance)

Upper Body Dynamic Days:
After completing my speed bench, I performed one of the following:
• Floor Press
• Incline
• Benching with a Catapult/slingshot
• Dumbbell press

While those movements definitely added volume to my bench, I decided to move my shoulder work to the day after my upper body dynamic day. This allowed me to do a little more volume than I would if I kept it on bench day.

Extra Shoulder Day:
This day had an overhead press exercise followed by accessory shoulder work done Mountain Dog style.
• Overhead press
• Swiss Bar overhead press (varying grips)
• Dumbbell overhead press
• Arnold press
• Side Laterals (reps, slow eccentrics, chains, etc)
• Partial Side Laterals, heavy

After a few months of consistently doing the above I noticed that not only had my raw strength increased, my shirted bench and geared squat were on the rise as well. In March of 2013 I squatted 413 in full gear, and in November (after focusing on my weakness) I squatted 375 in just briefs. At the same meet in March I shirt benched 275. Just a few weeks ago I doubled 260 (which will be my opener in March), and hit 280 for an easy single.

Try this approach yourself. Take a long hard look at your aesthetic weaknesses and see what you can take away from it to help your strength gains. Devise a plan and be consistent with it. Your results will soar to new heights.


On July 18 of this year former record holding powerlifter Ryan Celli won the middleweight division of the NPC Masters Nationals bodybuilding competition.

Ryan was an absolute standout as a powerlifter at various times having both the best raw and equipped totals and or individual lifts.  What many don’t know is that he was a bodybuilder before he ever ventured in the powerlifting arena.


Years of incredibly heavy lifting have taken its toll on Ryan’s body.  The injuries and wear and tear have forced him to train differently, more like a bodybuilder, so returning to bodybuilding was a very natural transition.


The transition paid off, BIG!  The NPC Nationals are the top amateur bodybuilding competition in the world.  The Masters division is no exception, and winning it is quite an accomplishment.   We at AtLarge Nutrition want to congratulate Ryan on his accomplishment.

Ryan’s AtLarge Nutrition Supplement Regimen:

BCAA+ – 2 scoops every training session (7 days per week)

ETS – full serving every evening before bed (7 days per week)

Yessica Martinez – New Age Strongwoman Blog #2

I’m always talking about how much I love the gym.  I want to tell you why.  I love the gym because it is a constant.  It is never in a bad mood (although sometimes we are), it never judges, and it’s always ready when you are.  Bottom line, it will always be there for you.


The past couple of weeks have seen consistent training and eating.  Well, at least until school started…  School and work are the necessary evils of our training lives.  They have to take priority (unless your training is your work).  They may interfere with training, but rather than get frustrated I see it as an opportunity to grow.  It forces me to find ways to be more efficient in all aspects of my life.  Don’t look at the necessities of life as negatives, look at them as the challenges that permit you to be the best version of yourself possible.

My training is still going strong!  My routine hasn’t changed much since my last blog, but the results have.  I’m hitting PR’s every week, 5 lbs. here, 10 lbs. there, and more reps!  For example, this week my squats went from 4 sets of 5 reps with 185lbs to 3 sets of 8 reps with 195 lbs.  My 2-board bench press when from 3 sets of 5 reps with 170 lbs. to 3 sets of 8 reps!  I also got a PR on axle push presses moving from 6 sets of 3 reps with 90 lbs. to 3 sets of 8 reps with 110 lbs.


To close this blog I want to say one of the reasons I am doing the blogging thing is because I want to let people know that training is not all rainbows and butterflies.  As I was noting above about work and school, life can get in the way and things happen.  I hope to be a source of inspiration for others, much like Tay Dresch, Jen Petrosino, and Laura Phelps are for me.  We are all in this together!

Tay-DreschTay Dresch is a strength athlete Yessica admires

Strength Training for Athletics – What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt Your Training

Strength training for athletics has transformed from a taboo practice 50 plus years ago to the norm today. It is so pervasive even pre to early teenage athletics include it in their regimens.

The evolution of strength training methodology for performance enhancement has been haphazard at best. The methods of Olympic lifting, bodybuilding, and powerlifting are all used and claimed by their various proponents to be the best, but there is no general consensus, and if you went to 10 different strength coaches you would get 10 different ways to train an athlete in the same sport.

I’m not going to use this article to argue for a particular methodology, rather, I am going to provide you with what comes as close to being scientific law as possible when discussing human physiology and exercise, and how to apply that information. Specificity of adaptation, or the S.A.I.D principle as it applies to physical training is the most misunderstood and or misapplied principle in exercise. The key thing to understand here is that the adaptation of both the skeletal muscular and nervous systems to training is extremely specific.


One need look no further than the virtual plethora of defined forms of strength to see how varying stressors elicit unique changes in the skeletal muscular and nervous systems. Below is a brief, non-comprehensive list with basic descriptions:

Starting strength – maximum force production capacity in the first 30 milliseconds

Explosive strength – the ability to develop maximum force quickly

Reactive strength – the ability to quickly move from an eccentric to concentric contraction

Speed strength – the ability to move light loads quickly

Strength speed – the ability to move moderate loads quickly

Static strength – increased muscular tension with no change in length – the ability to hold a given load in a static position

Maximal strength – the maximal volitional force an athlete can generate in a given movement


By definition, and at face value, starting strength and explosive strength seem to be nearly identical, but each adaptation is so unique they have virtually no relationship to each other. In other words, you can improve one and not the other.

Another, perhaps more relatable example of training specificity comes from the science of motor learning. Motor learning studies have shown that activities, and the skill they require, which seem very similar when observed have virtually no carryover from one movement to the next. For example, a proficient tennis player will not be proficient as a badminton player without sufficient practice (and vice versa). Both sports are racket based, but they are completely different from your nervous system’s perspective and thus the skill (which is a function of neural acclimation to a movement pattern) acquired for one sport does not transfer to the other.

The lesson to be learned is that strength training should not be used with the idea it will directly enhance performance. For anyone beyond a rote beginner to strength training, increasing their squat will not directly translate to increasing their ability to jump. Far too many strength coaches are under the mistaken belief that simply increasing maximal strength will make an athlete better, or similarly, that because Olympic lifting is considered to be “explosive” it will make their athletes more explosive. It simply isn’t true, and the specificity principle proves that. Olympic lifting involves the use of heavy loads. There is no correlation between how fast you can move a load which is 70-80% of your 1RM (one repetition max) and how fast you can explode off the line in football, or how high you can jump to get a rebound. Both of those activities rely on explosive strength which can only be significantly developed with very light loads.


Don’t be confused, I am not saying that strength training has no use for athletics. What I am saying is that it is most often misapplied. A proper training program will address the specific needs of the athlete (and therefore sport). For example, an offensive lineman will want a combination of sheer mass and explosive strength as well as some degree of maximal strength for when locked up with another bull of a human being. Hypertrophy specific training should be used to develop the sheer mass, sport specific movements, or lightly loaded exercises which are very similar in movement pattern to sport specific activities for explosive strength, and powerlifting exercises for maximal strength.

The smart strength coach, or the self-directed athlete seeking to optimize performance should familiarize themselves with the myriad forms of strength and how they are developed, and then use that information to design a program which will develop the qualities needed in order to optimize performance.

Follow our newsletter for the next installment which will confuse the heck out of you by telling you how increasing your maximal strength CAN aid sports performance 😉 .

by Chris Mason


AtLarge Nutrition athlete Ryan Celli is preparing for the bodybuilding pro qualifier, the NPC North American Championships this coming weekend. Ryan is a truly unique athlete in that he has also been a professional powerlifter and has held multiple records in the sport.

Ryan will be competing as a middleweight in the Men’s Open, Masters 35, and Masters 40 classes. He is coming off a win of the 35 year old class at the NPC Men’s Nationals just a few weeks ago. We wish him the best of luck. Get that Pro Card Ryan!