The Concurrent Training Effect Blog #4

The Concurrent Training Effect Blog #4

The first three blogs of this series provided a basic understanding of the molecular underpinnings of the concurrent training effect (the blunting/elimination of the hypertrophy and strength response when both strength and endurance training are performed concurrently).  This edition is going to take that knowledge and use it to recommend specific training protocols focused on mitigating, and potentially even eliminating it.

The primary training factor which seems to drive the concurrent training effect is the intensity of the endurance exercise being performed.  Closely following intensity is frequency, and when high intensity is combined with high frequency the effect is maximized.

Recommendation 1:

As noted in blog #3 both AMPK and SIRT1 are activated by high intensity endurance exercise.  As both can inhibit mTORC1 one clearly does not want them activated when strength training is performed.  What has not yet been noted is that both will return to baseline levels roughly three hours after activation from intense endurance exercise.  The simple conclusion is that there should be at least three hours between an intense endurance session and a strength training session.  CrossFitters take note, if you are going to do an intense endurance session, and can only train once that day, skip the strength training afterwards (or prior to).  If you can do more than one session, intense endurance in the morning followed by strength training in the evening would be ideal.

This couple needs to wait at least 4 hours before any endurance work...
This couple needs to wait at least 3 hours before any endurance work…

Recommendation 2:

As noted above, frequency of high intensity endurance training is a factor in the concurrent training effect.  The molecular reason for this effect is unknown, but empirical evidence and personal experience indicate that no more than three sessions at greater than 70% of VO2max are best for mitigation of the concurrent training effect.

Recommendation 3:

Blog #2 focused on the molecular machinations relative to the hypertrophy response to strength training.  It was noted that mTORC1 is the driver of hypertrophy.  It was also noted that the mechanical stimulation of strength training was not the only manner in which mTORC1 is potently activated post workout.  A huge skeletal muscular spike in the uptake of the BCAA leucine occurs immediately after strength training.  Leucine itself is a potent stimulator of mTORC1.  The recommendation is thus to make sure plenty of blood-borne leucine is available.  Below are some specific recommendations using ALN products:

1) Take one serving of ALN Finish immediately after strength training.  Within 30 minutes, and preferably as soon as possible, take one serving of Recover as well.
2) If fat loss is the primary goal replace Recover above with Nitrean, or take two servings of Finish and skip either Recover or Nitrean to minimize total caloric intake.

ALN's Finish
ALN’s Finish

Recommendation 4:

Strength training immediately after an endurance session of low to moderate intensity (no more than 69%) is fine.  In fact, strength training immediately following a low intensity endurance session positively influences the endurance adaptation while simultaneously not impairing the hypertrophy and strength adaptations.

We aren’t done yet.  I am going to do more research and we are going to learn even more about the concurrent training effect and how to control it.  

Chris Mason
Owner
AtLarge Nutrition, LLC

The Concurrent Training Effect Blog #2

This 2nd edition of The Concurrent Training Effect blog is going to focus on the molecular underpinnings of skeletal muscular hypertrophy.  Understanding the driving force behind the molecular response to strength training can provide us insight into why concurrent strength and endurance training can negatively affect muscular hypertrophy and strength.  In addition, a better understanding can lead to ways to mitigate the effect and optimize progress.  If you are a CrossFitter, or any other form of hybrid athlete this blog is for you.  Keep reading…

Mike Mentzer - knew a thing or two about muscular hypertrophy.
Mike Mentzer – knew a thing or two about muscular hypertrophy.

A Very Cursory Overview of the Science:

The currently agreed upon molecular key to skeletal muscular hypertrophy is the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR).  mTOR exists in two complexes with mTORC1 as the type associated with muscular hypertrophy.  mTOR is most commonly activated via growth factors, but with strength training its activation is executed in an entirely different fashion.  An unknown kinase gets activated causing a chemical cascade resulting in the potent stimulation of mTORC1.

Mechanical kinase activation is the not the only manner in which strength training stimulates mTOR.  We have all heard of the post-workout anabolic window for nutrient consumption.  The following molecular explanation is THE reason the post-workout window has been so widely touted (and misrepresented equally as often) in the fitness world.

After an intense training session (and for several hours) the skeletal muscles pull a significantly greater amount of the amino acids leucine and glutamine from the blood.  The leucine individually is a potent activator mTORC1 and augments the previously mentioned kinase based mTORC1 activation.  The increased glutamine yet again enhances this synergistic effect as the resultant transport of glutamine out of the muscle further up-regulates leucine intake.

Start and Finish provide both leucine and glutamine (as well as other great stuff).
Start and Finish provide both leucine and glutamine (as well as other great stuff).

The Bottom Line

Bottom line, and there is a lot more to it than described here, the end game for strength training induced muscular hypertrophy is it is almost totally dependent on mTORC1.  One can thus reasonably deduct that endurance training can somehow blunt mTORC1 activation, and or its ability once activated to execute its normal spike in protein synthesis and the resultant muscular hypertrophy.

The next installment of The Concurrent Training Effect blog will focus on the manner(s) with which endurance training may effect mTORC1.

Squatting for Hybrid Athletes, Functional Fitness Trainees, and CrossFitters

I will go on the operating assumption anyone reading this blog has heard of CrossFit. The term is pervasive in today’s fitness culture and has even begun to be used in general popular culture. In addition to CrossFit, there is another term that has worked its way into the collective fitness consciousness and that is functional fitness. Finally, hybrid athlete is now being bandied about in the fitness world. What all of these terms have in common is they reference a level of fitness that goes beyond the training specialization focus of the previous several decades.

CrossFitters, those who train for functional fitness, and hybrid athletes all become more physically fit across a broad spectrum. CrossFit in particular addresses virtually all of the components of physical fitness: strength, strength endurance, endurance, and skill. A high level CrossFitter is going to be above average at virtually any form of physical fitness.

One thing that each of these forms of varied training have in common is they include movements which are hard on the knees. All of them include some form of running, most of them jumping, and most of them some form of strength training.

The human body is a wonderful machine, but overuse injuries can and do occur and the knees are no exception. Strength training is a key to overall fitness and performance enhancement, but strength training for anyone other than a competitive weightlifter or powerlifter should be used as a means to enhance performance in their sport of choice. Unfortunately, that is NOT what occurs at most boxes and gyms, even at the highest levels. One need only watch training videos posted by strength coaches, box owners, and others to include Division 1 and professional athletes. Poor form is the order of the day, and that is nothing short of a recipe for disaster for the athlete(s) in question.
If you CrossFit, train for functional fitness, or are a hybrid athlete the majority of your lower body strength training should consist primarily of properly performed box squats. The reason for this is simple, box squats train all of the musculature of the traditional back squat, but they reduce the forces directed to the knees. It should be clear, but in case not, reduced knee stress when strength training makes injury on the field of play during execution of the athlete’s sport less likely. It also makes injury in the gym less likely. In short, it does exactly what strength training should do for an athlete by increasing the force production potential of the involved musculature without increasing the chance of injury.

I know, you CrossFitters are thinking this blog does not pertain to you because the box squat differs too much from Olympic style squats. You are concerned your Olympic movements will suffer if you heed my advice. In truth, you DO need to practice Olympic style front and back squats, but not in the manner you think. What you want to do is incorporate the actual Olympic lifts in order to build skill for those movements, but use box squats to increase the force production capacity of the involved musculature. The increased strength production capacity in your lower back, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes from box squats will then translate into bigger Olympic lifts once you master the skill of the movements. All the while you will be reducing stress to your knee joints and increasing your chances of remaining injury free which is a key to athletic progression.

Watch the video below of Laura Phelps demonstrating both perfect, and improper box squat form. This video was from a Westside Powerlifting Certification class for CrossFitters. Your author is narrating.

Poor box squat form is almost as bad as poor free squat form. Whether you are a coach or an athlete, learn to box squat like Laura. Make box squat variations (different bars if you have them, and different box heights) with perfect technique the primary source of your squatting volume for strength training and you will reap the benefits of enhanced athletic performance and reduced injury rates.

Sequence Your Training for Optimal Results

Sequence Your Training for Optimal Results

by Chris Mason

With the recent massive increase in the popularity of training multiple fitness components simultaneously (CrossFit being the driving force of this movement) the topic of exercise sequencing for optimal results has become particularly poignant.

CF gals

Physical fitness and performance are comprised of many different specific attributes. For example, strength has many forms all of which contribute to the body’s ability to move through space. Strength can be viewed as a spectrum ranging from starting strength (the ability to produce maximal force in the first 30 milliseconds of movement), to explosive strength (the ability to very quickly, albeit not quite as quickly as starting strength, generate a high degree of force), to maximal strength (the ability to volitionally produce the highest force possible). Muscular endurance, the ability to produce relatively low levels of force for prolonged periods, also has a strata with things like speed endurance and strength endurance.

Clean

Each attribute above and more must be trained in order to excel physically across a broad spectrum of performance markers. In short, you must get good at a lot of stuff to be a well-rounded athlete. The decathlete has historically best exemplified the all-around athlete, but the best of the best CrossFitters now equally well personify one.
As training time is limited for most athletes those that seek to be all-around machines must organize their training to permit optimized adaptation to all physical traits which are being worked. If all, or multiple attributes are to be trained in a single session the order should be as follows:

1) Technique or skill work
2) Speed work
3) Strength work
3) Endurance work of all forms with speed endurance work being done first to be followed by lower intensity prolonged exercise

Following the order prescribed above will allow for maximized results within the confines of training multiple attributes in a single session. A similar order should be followed when training will target multiple attributes via individual sessions over the course of several days. Care must be taken in those situations to permit recovery of the nervous system after endurance work prior to the next skill, speed, and or strength session. Either a day or two of rest or active rest are recommended.

A Special Note about the Nervous System and Performance

Technique or skill work for athletics are generally understood to be essentially wholly a function of the nervous system. What is perhaps less generally well known is that strength and speed work are also almost exclusively the domain of the nervous system. They may be less known in the scientific sense, but we can all empirically appreciate it as each of us have tried, at one point or another, to perform a high intensity activity when already fatigued from a lower intensity effort and know the sense of a lack of coordination and explosiveness which are manifest at such times.

The Why

In a simplified nutshell, lower intensity prolonged activities exert a negative effect on the nervous system in the short and mid-term. They reduce coordination, increase reaction time, and increase the chance of injury when higher intensity activities succeed them prior to complete recovery.
There is a paucity of scientific explanation for the specific causes of this central nervous system fatigue (central fatigue). One generally agreed upon factor is an increase of serotonin (5-HT) in the brain. This is thought to occur due to an increase in brain levels of free tryptophan (f-TRP) which is an amino acid precursor for 5-HT production.

During prolonged exercise f-TRP transport across the blood brain barrier increases due to two main causes. One has to do with tryptophan and albumin. Tryptophan (TRP) binds to albumin in the blood. During endurance exercise, blood borne fatty acid levels increase. Fatty acids displace TRP from binding to albumin thus increasing f-TRP.
The other main cause relates to branched chain amino acids (BCAA). F-TRP (i.e. unbound TRP) competes with the BCAA for transport to the brain thus a decrease in circulating BCAA will result is more f-TRP being able to pass to the brain. Prolonged exercise decreases circulating BCAA as the skeletal muscles take them up and oxidize them for energy.

A Wrap

While the science as to the specific physiologic cause(s) of central fatigue is scant, there is no lack of scientific and empirical evidence verifying the existence of central fatigue as a result of prolonged endurance exercise. There is also no lack of scientific and empirical data verifying the proper sequencing of exercise for specific adaptations. Take care to properly sequence your training and you will permit the best results possible.

Chris Mason

Chris Mason is the owner of AtLarge Nutrition, LLC and an accomplished author in the fitness genre. He has written for numerous websites and magazines to include The CrossFit Journal and Iron Man Magazine.

Nitrean Natural Has Launched!

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Our new Nitrean Natural
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We are incredibly excited about the release of Nitrean Natural. We have always felt that we offer the finest protein supplements available, but this product line truly sets the industry standard. Here are just a few of the highlights:

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Shock Your Legs!

Time to grow some legs – already got them..? Time to make them even better. This

program will shock your entire lower body into growth very quickly. Be warned, it

isn’t easy and at times you may feel the urge to quit – don’t do it!

Phil Hill has some of the most amazing legs ever!
Phil Hill has some of the most amazing legs ever!

If there are two things that stop guys or girls training their legs hard, they are:

• It’s hard, and you don’t like hard

• If you have weak legs or under-trained legs, it seems embarrassing to start with

smaller weights

If you are guilty of the first point, this programme probably isn’t for you… unless you

want to make a change and challenge yourself (which I highly recommend).

If you are guilty of the second, there is one solution – face your fear and get down to

the nitty-gritty of a supremely effective leg shocker.

On the other hand, if you do hit the legs hard but they have stopped growing, other

factors come into play:

1) Exercises used for too long a time with insufficient variation have caused a

plateau

2) Too few exercises choices that are preventing the needed muscles getting the

attention to grow

3) Over-training – using high volume or high intensity training methods too

frequently or for too long

If points 1 and 2 apply, no need to worry – this program is your ticket. If point 3

applies, take 2 weeks of downtime, or easier training to gain sufficient restoration

before starting this routine.

Tom Platz is the undisputed all-time quad development freak of bodybuilding.
Tom Platz is the undisputed all-time quad development freak of bodybuilding.

This is not a traditional bodybuilding leg training program – it is a little different, and

the reasons for this are:

• There are a greater selection of exercises that are often not used in a traditional

body-builder’s arsenal

Now, what will this program do for you? It will:

• Build crazy amounts of muscle

• Raise your squat

• Raise your deadlift

• Increase your sprinting and jumping ability

• Allow you to do all of this year round with a very high time economy

Sound too good to be true? Let’s test it out and get cracking on the nuts and bolts of

the matter.

The program is performed 2 times per week, preferably with 72hrs in between

sessions.

Ben Johnson knew the importance of strength training for athletic performance.
Ben Johnson knew the importance of strength training for athletic performance.

Day 1:

Warm-up – choose from one of the following:

• Seated vertical jumps (on box/chair/bench) – 3-4 sets of 5-6 maximal height

jumps

• Seated vertical jumps(on box/chair/bench) with light dumbbells – 3-4 sets of 5-

6 maximal height jumps

• Seated vertical jumps (on box/chair/bench) with light ankle weights – 3-4 sets

of 5-6 maximal height jumps

Maximum strength – Choose one of the following and work up to a 1RM

• Deficit deadlifts (wide or close stance)

• Below parallel box squats (front or back, wide or close stance)

• Snatch grip deadlifts

• Below parallel pin squats (front or back, wide or close stance)

• Rack pulls

• Full Olympic squats (with brief pause at the lowest point)

Assistance work: choose from one of the following:

• Exercise A: Deficit deadlifts or snatch grip deadlifts – 6-8RM

• Exercise B: Hanging bent leg raises or hanging straight leg raises – 8-15RM

• Exercise C: Below parallel wide stance front box squats or below parallel wide

stance front pin squats – 5-6RM or 3RM

• Exercise D: Alternate arm dumbbell suitcase deadlifts or alternate arm barbell

suitcase deadlifts – 6-8RM(per side)

One heck of a seated good morning!
One heck of a seated good morning!

• Exercise E: Seated good mornings or thoracic extensions – 6-10RM

Day 2:

Warm-up – choose from 1 of the following:

• Maximum broad jump – 10 sets of 1 rep

• Maximum broad jump with light ankle weights – 10 sets of 1 rep

• Maximum broad jump with light dumbbells – 10 sets of 1 rep

Follow immediately by:

• Sub-maximal broad jumps – using about 70% of your max broad jump do 8

sets of 3 reps emphasizing short ground contacts. Use the same resistance as

the max broad jumps used in each session. Rest 15 seconds between sets.

Assistance work:

• Exercise A: Broad jumps or rope pull-through – 3-4 sets of 5-6 maximal

distance jumps/8-12RM

• Exercise B: Kneeling broad jumps or kneeling pull-through – 3-4 sets of 5-6

maximal distance jumps/8-12RM

• Exercise C: Backwards sled drags or leg extensions -16-20 steps/8-12RM

• Exercise D: Straight leg sit-ups or decline straight leg sit-ups – 8-12RM

Pallof press
Pallof press

• Exercise E: Pallof press or pallof press & static hold – 8-12RM/15-30 second

hold

Notes:

• The amount of sets can be decided according to your ability to recover – as a

guide, with the amount of time you will have for your workouts, 2-4 sets will

work well. Rest periods should stay at a maximum of 2 minutes.

• If you need extra work on a weaker muscle/muscle group, simply increase the sets by 1 or 2

and reduce the sets by 1 or 2 from an exercise/muscle that is a strength.

• Seated vertical jumps are performed by sitting on a surface then jumping up from

that surface as high as possible with maximal vertical leg drive. Immediately

descend to the surface and do another rep. There should not be long pauses

between each rep. Rest 60 seconds – no more, no less between sets of all

5-6RM jumping exercises, rest 15-60 seconds for 1RM jumps and rest 15

seconds for sub-maximal broad jumps.

• The limits of a persons maximum strength will cap whatever they can do for

reps. The best way to build maximum strength is to work up to the heaviest

weights that can can moved with volitional, controlled effort

• Maximal strength is best trained where you are weakest. For example, if

you fail out of the hole when doing Olympic squats or fail to lockout heavy

deadlifts, rack pulls and below parallel squat variations are very sensible

choices. On the other hand, if you are weak to start heavy deadlifts off the

floor, snatch grip or deficit deadlift variations are sensible choices.

• Working up to a 1RM is great. It doesn’t have to be done every week, but

it can be done if you want to. A 1RM max that trains your particular weak

point should be attempted no less than once per month. Other weeks can

consist of 2 or 3RM maxes or occasional deloads.

• Work up to around four or five 1RM or near 1RM attempts once per week at

around 90-100% of your max for that day.

• If you would like to continuously progress on this program simply

rotate the rep ranges of the exercises here or slightly change the exercises e.g.:

Change from body weight broad jumps to broad jumps with ankle weights

or switch to dumbbells. Switch from deficit deadlifts for 6-8RM to deficit

deadlifts or snatch grip deadlifts for 3RM etc – this will help prevent excessive

accommodation

• Keep training sessions to 60 mins at most

• You can do each session once per week or once every 6 days. For example, day

one on Monday, day two on Thursday, day one again on Sunday and so on.

• Don’t spend forever maxing – allocate 10 or 15 minutes at most to this section

– any more time will eat into other work that needs doing. Rest 2 minutes

between sets of 1RM.

• Before commencing high intensity jumps in a warm-up, do one set of 10 easy

jumps and one set of 10 moderate jumps

The author, Will Vatcher
The author, Will Vatcher

Will Vatcher is a strength & conditioning coach based in Cambridgeshire, England. He has published articles online on several major websites, including interviews with experts such as Louie Simmons, Fred Hatfield & Natalia Verhoshansky

You can contact Will at willvatcher@hotmail.com

Having it all, Power, Strength, AND the body of an Adonis!

Power-lifting involves the relentless pursuit of all-out strength. In this sport, competitors pour all of their energies into moving the heaviest weight possible in a single, spleen-bursting, hernia-inducing effort. Their maximum successful poundage for the bench press, squat, and deadlift are added together to give the grand total. The highest total wins. Simple…well, apart from the spleen bit.

Bodybuilding is exactly what it sounds like…the aim is to build the ‘perfect’ body as decided by contest judges on criteria such as muscle size, symmetry, proportion, and condition.

Size and strength are both highly sought after byproducts of training…but so is looking good with no clothes on! So what if we could have it all? Power, strength, AND the body of an Adonis?

There are rare individuals (generally, you hate them for having what you don’t!) who have achieved both. Try to look past the envy and become a part of the fraternity. If you’re quick, you might gain founding father status, considering the lack of membership in this exclusive club (they don’t offer discounted joining fees either…I’ve tried). However, entry will cost you a healthy dose of blood, sweat, and tears.

One of those rare people is  Mariusz Pudianowski. Now this guy is a freak, and Mariusz, if you’re reading, I mean that with the utmost respect and admiration. He hasn’t merely achieved a high level of functional strength along with looking pretty good…no, this guy doesn’t subscribe to anything mediocre. He simply dominates the strongman competitions as World Champion and he sports a year-round physique that would normally require a month-long bodybuilder-style diet-down to don the baby oil, hit the stage, and win!

World Champion Strongman, Mariusz Pudianowski sporting his year-round muscular, lean physique

Why not you? If he can be great at both the functional and decorative aspects of strength training, surely you can improve your raw stats as well as shedding bodyfat to an all-time low, right?

‘But Mariusz must have great genetics, and can afford top sports nutrition and have trainers at his beck and call’, I hear you say, but I don’t buy it. I’m willing to bet that the harder he works, the better his ‘genetics’ are.

It’s time to maximise your genetics and finally reach your potential! Follow me on the trail to the best of both worlds.

Training for either Powerlifting or Bodybuilding

Bodybuilders tend to lean towards sessions that are:

  • Short and intense
  • Planned around body-part splits, hitting a muscle or group HARD and from different angles
  • Stimulate as many fibres as possible through high volume training in order to maximize growth

Bodybuilders also tend not to stray too far from the 10-15 rep range (and generally, never go lower) in order to stimulate maximum muscle growth

Powerlifters, on the other hand, don’t care about the girth of their biceps or working their calves to failure. Their focus is purely on:

  • Training competition movements, the squat, bench, and deadlift
  • Longer training sessions to accommodate the rest periods needed between sets of near-maximal lifts
  • Neural and physical recovery; the CNS plays a major role in heavy lifting and needs to recover for the next attempt.
  • Assistance work, though not to pursue muscular definition, but purely to strengthen the secondary and synergistic muscles (such as the triceps and anterior delts) for their role in the bench press.

Generally, powerlifters stick to a max of 5 reps and work up to single-rep loads. This is more in the accepted strength training range and also more closely replicates the competition requirements.

Eating for either Powerlifting or Bodybuilding

Diet obviously plays a major role in each sport as well to fuel workouts, recovery, and body development. Key features for each athlete’s diet would be as follows:

For both:

  • Adequate calories
  • Sufficient protein, carbs, and fats

This is pretty much where the similarities end. I spoke to a competitive bodybuilder and a high-level powerlifter about their diets. Here is a rundown of what each said, starting with our bodybuilder:

  • Sufficient protein intake based on bodyweight (1.5 g per lb)
  • Seven meals daily, evenly spaced, no longer than three hours apart
  • Supplementation from protein shakes (four daily)
  • Limited carbs during all afternoon meals (bar the post-workout meal)
  • Protein at each meal paired with carbs OR fat, but not both
  • Huge water consumption (manipulated along with sodium and carbs during pre-comp preparation)

In contrast, here are the general diet guidelines according to our powerlifter:

  • No calorie counting
  • Meal frequency based on hunger
  • Protein with every meal
  • No restrictions on macronutrient pairings
  • Calories from food, not supplements
  • Supplements for joint integrity

Admittedly, these are the habits of only two individuals, but they illustrate the main qualities that each one values in a diet. The bodybuilder will often eat based purely on nutritional need and won’t put a premium on satisfaction, instead following more rigid, scientific guidelines. This approach ignores hunger and focuses on specific guidelines to treat the body essentially as a machine. Diet might even be more important to a bodybuilder than training! It plays a big role in the final physique product and is manipulated largely throughout the training year to provide not only fuel and recovery, but to serve as a primary tool in fat loss.

The powerlifter seems pretty content with his diet as long as protein intake is high enough to support tissue growth and repair and he steers clear of supplements that aren’t completely necessary. This diet is more dictated by satisfaction as long as it sticks to the basic rules. The only function of food intake, aside from any individual physique-based goals, is to fuel training sessions and allow for recovery and energy to do it all over again.

I’ll admit, these training styles and diets sound like polar opposites, but there are still similarities:

  • Effort towards the end goal
  • Protein

That seems to be it.

Powerlifter, Donnie Thompson eats for brute strength and boasts a World Record 2,850lb total

Achieving the best of both worlds

So, assuming you put in the effort and follow a sensible balanced diet with enough calories, what should you do in the gym to get the ‘Mariusz’ look?

Regardless of whether your focus is getting stronger or leaner, I’ve put together a body-part split to target both, with enough volume AND emphasis on the three main lifts.

Each training day has a specific emphasis:

  • The Big 3 will be trained once weekly with adequate rest for neural recovery and adaptations to take hold (between sets and workouts)
  • Superset component in each day 
  • Conditioning circuit in each day

This plan ensures that the main strength work takes priority while the body is still fresh and energetic. Supersets are a tried-and-true system used by bodybuilders as a way to work a muscle that is already in a state of fatigue (two exercises, same muscle) or to provide a rest for the agonist while the antagonist does the work (non-competing superset).

The conditioning circuit is designed to raise the heart rate and boost metabolism while preserving and even developing muscular strength and size.

This plan also includes a power move to ‘prime’ the nervous system for high-power motor unit recruitment prior to the day’s main lift. This is not done to failure, but generally 2-3 reps shy of fatigue with an emphasis on speed of movement.

The Program

Monday:

Bench, Upper Body Push

  • Plyo pushups 3×5 (CNS primer)
  • Bench 3×5 (build to 5RM), 2x3RM, 1x2RM, 2x1RM – rest as required
  • Standing military press & lateral raise (superset) 1×12, 1×10, 1×8 – 1 min rest
  • Tricep dip & EZ-bar lying extensions (superset) 1×12, 1×10, 1×8 – 1 min rest

Conditioning Circuit (2 circuits, 1-2 mins rest)

  • Kettlebell swing x20
  • Pressups x20
  • Walking lunge x 20 steps
  • Kettlebell squat-press x 15
  • Kettlebell swing x 20 

Tuesday:

Squat, Quads, Calves

  • Jump squats, weightless 3×6 (CNS primer)
  • Squat 3×5 (build to 5RM), 2x3RM, 1x2RM, 2x1RM
  • Bulgarian split-squat & Goblet squat (superset) 3×12 each leg
  • Straight leg hops (30secs) & Single leg calf raise (full ROM) x5 each leg (slow) x3

Conditioning circuit (2 circuits, 1-2 mins rest)

  • Split jump lunges x 10
  • Kettlebell single arm swing x 20
  • Step-ups x 20
  • Static squat x 30secs

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday:

Deadlifts, Upper Body Pull

  • Clean pulls 3×5 (CNS primer)
  • Dead-lifts 3×5 (build to 5RM), 2x3RM, 1x2RM, 2x1RM
  • Romanian deadlifts & step-ups (superset) 3×12
  • Pull-ups (alter grip each time) & face-pulls  (superset) 3×12

Conditioning circuit (2 circuits, 1-2 mins rest)

  • Kettlebell high pulls x 15
  • Bodyweight row x max reps
  • Reverse lunge x 10 each leg
  • Bent-over reverse fly x 15
  • Kettlebell high pulls x 15

Friday:

Abs, Arms, and Metabolic Conditioning

  • Close grip underhand chin-ups 3 x max
  • Close grip bench press 3 x 8
  • Alternating bicep curl (start at top) & dumbbell decline extensions (superset) 3×12
  • Barbell roll-outs 2 x max
  • Cable wood-chops & Paloff press (superset) 2 x 25

Conditioning circuit (2 circuits, 1-2 mins rest)

  • Kettlebell clean & press (right arm) x 10
  • Kettlebell renegade row x 20
  • Kettlebell clean & press (left arm) x 10
  • Kettlebell swing x 25
  • 1 min max-effort rowing

Saturday and Sunday: Rest

Before you get into the programme, I want to add a quick aside about nutrition. Clearly this is a different type of training than your regular heavy lifts or hypertrophy sessions, so it’s important to fuel it correctly and to recover correctly.

You don’t want to go too crazy on the additional calories, but at the same time, you need to take in calories at a level slightly above your maintenance intake to make sure you have the energy to complete the sessions in a quality manner.

Another of our writers, Daniel Roberts, gives more detail on this subject, including macronutrient percentages and pre- and post-workout nutrition in his article, “To bulk or to cut – That is the question”.

Wrap-up

Here is your mission, if you choose to accept it: Unleash your biggest, strongest, AND leanest physique ever!

Try this program as an addition to or as replacement for your current program or mix a couple sample days into your regular routine. A few simple changes to your current routine might be all that you need to unleash your leanest, strongest, and most powerful physique ever.

Take a before photo, indulge me for a month with single-minded focus and intensity, and take an after photo. Then….take it to the beach!

Written By Stuart Gatherum

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About Stuart Gatherum

Stuart Gatherum is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by way of the NSCA and runs Stuart Gatherum Personal Training in Englands South West. He works with a variety of clients of hugely varying goals. Also on the resume are roles as a college lecturer in Gym Instruction and Personal Training as well as freelance writer covering exercise and fitness.

His exercise philosophy: Consistency, frequency and effort yeild fantastic results. His exercise motto: Go Hard or Go Home Stuart can also be found blogging on his website – www.stugatherum.com

Q & A with Westside Barbells’ Louie Simmons

Louie Simmons is the owner of Westside Barbell and a living strength training legend! He is one of a very select group of powerlifters who have totaled ELITE in 5 different weight classes and Louie is one of only a couple of men over 50 years of age to have squatted 920 lbs or more, the first to bench both 500 and 600 lbs, and the only to have totaled 2100 lbs! (over the age of 50)

Louie has worked with twenty-five World and National Champion powerlifters, twenty-seven lifters who have totaled over 2000 pounds, and a World Record holder in the 400-meter dash. He is a strength consultant for the Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and numerous college football teams.

We were lucky enough to have Louie answer some questions from our members. Read on, you’re in for a treat!

“Old School” percent-based training programs

Q: Mr. Simmons, I’ve heard of people having success with the following “old school” percent-based system (on what would later become DE Day):

SQUAT and BENCH

  • Week 1: 70% x 8×3
  • Week 2: 75% x 8×3
  • Week 3: 80% x 6×3
  • Week 4: 85% x 5×2
  • Week 5: 80%x2, 85%x2, 90%x2

DEADLIFT

  • Week 1 – 15 singles @ 65%
  • Week 2 – 12 singles @ 70%
  • Week 3 – 10 singles @ 75%
  • Week 4 – 8 singles @ 80%
  • Week 5 – 6 singles @ 85%

Do you still recommend these programs to lifters?  Why or why not? Thank you very much for your time and answers to my questions.

Louie Simmons: That is a very, very old template and I no longer recommend it to our athletes.   We found it to be too restrictive as it doesn’t allow for the lifter to expand his training on a given day based upon his needs. For instance, if halfway through a cycle the lifter realized he needed to do more low box squats because his form was falling apart in the hole,  a percent based system does not allow for the variance in training required to fix the problem.

The other concern with percent focused systems is that they essentially preclude the use of bands and chains.  The alterations in load due to the accommodating resistance of bands and chains makes it too difficult to accurately calculate percentages as they are meant to be used in such systems.  This is why at Westside we went to using max singles with the conjugate system.  It takes the calculation out of the equation. 

The program as you outlined above can work just fine for beginners, but it is not optimal.  Westside is a constantly evolving system of methods. We are always looking for something new that will take us to an ever higher level of achievement.  If you look at some of my older articles, and then information I am putting out now, you might see what appear to be contradictions, but in reality you are seeing the evolution of Westside training.   When you have a chance, go to www.westside-barbell.com and read the articles we have published.  They will get you up to speed with our most effective and current programs.

I have also recently put all of my knowledge together in one place in my new book, The Westside Book of Methods Here you will find a collection of information thru experimentation of some of the greatest lifters, Olympic sprinters and NFL Players.

Training athletes vs. full meet Powerlifters

Q: I have a question regarding your methods when training an athlete, specifically a football player. What methods or template do you use with these athletes?  How do you train them differently than your full meet powerlifters like Greg Panora and Tony Bolognone?  In addition, what kind of conditioning work do you use for athletes?  Thank you in advance for your time.

Louie Simmons: Great question!

First, athletes need to be powerful (generally speaking) in the same muscle groups as powerlifters, so their squat, bench, and deadlift training is very similar.  

Squat training for athletes will generally use more 3 rep max exercises such as good mornings, squats with bands, and squats with safety or buffalo bars.  These 3 rep sets are still max attempts like the maximum effort (ME) singles for the powerlifters.  Athletes will box squat, but we will vary the box height more often as it is imperative for them to develop maximal hip, glute, and hamstring strength at different angles so they can optimize their explosive power from the static positions they will find themselves in on the field of play. 

Deadlift training is done for singles. When doing reps it is very easy for the athlete’s form to slowly break down potentially putting them in a vulnerable position for injury.  In addition, we want football players to work on maximal explosiveness for single movements.  They don’t have to go up and down multiple times per play, but they have to execute play after play so we want to train them to be able to repeat explosive single movements with a minimal loss in power.   

Bench training for football players involves both single and 3 rep max sets depending on the exercise.  We include a great deal of assistance work for the triceps, upper back, and shoulders as well.  Shoulder work, especially for the rear delt, is imperative for the athlete in order to help avoid injury.  For dynamic days (DE), we have them use 5 rep sets instead of our more traditional 3 rep sets as we feel this encourages some hypertrophy while simultaneously working on speed development. 

Football players need explosive power in the lower body and nothing works that like jumping.  We include weighted jumps using ankle weights and or dumbbells in their regimen.  We have several athletes who can jump onto a 20” box while holding 2 x 70 lbs dumbbells! 

Trust me, when you get to being able to jump on a 20” box holding 140 lbs your unloaded explosiveness and jumping ability will be everything you want it to be. 

Many coaches seem to have things backwards and try to condition their athletes with weight training.  Unfortunately, this only has the undesirable effect of making the athlete weaker, slower, and thus more prone to injury.  At Westside, conditioning comes from general physical preparedness (GPP) work primarily via sled pulls and Prowler pushes. 

On average, a football player runs about 14 yards per play.  This precludes the need for using excessive distances for GPP work.  With that said, an athlete should always train to be able to exceed the on the field demands he will face.  We have found a distance of 40-60 yards for pushes and pulls to be ideal. 

GPP work is not always as intense.  If the athlete is beat up and tired we will use a lower intensity variation such as walking for 1-1.5 miles with ankle weights.  We use the ankle weights to increase the intensity of the exercise just enough to get some blood flowing which I believe aids with tendon and ligament recovery. 

Finally, we work on flexibility and mobility.  One cannot optimally harness their developed power and speed if they are tight and lacking in mobility.

Preventing injury and improving health of shoulders

Q: Mr. Simmons, I saw an article a while back about you having to have partial shoulder replacement surgery.  What do you recommend relative to bench press form injury prevention techniques?   A lot of us older longtime lifters have bum shoulders and would love to prevent further injury and or improve the health of our shoulders. 

Thank you so very much, it is a pleasure to have access to someone of your knowledge.

Louie Simmons: It’s great to hear from someone who wants to take a proactive approach to preventing shoulder injuries!

Bench form directly correlates to shoulder wear and tear.  I trained and competed without a bench shirt for many years and always flared my elbows when pressing.  In those days, flaring the elbows when benching was the accepted norm.  Unfortunately, so were shoulder injuries.  With the advent of the bench shirt, lifters were compelled to use a slight tuck of the elbows.  This equipment induced alteration in form had the dual effect of allowing the lifter to get more out of the equipment AND was better for the shoulders placing less stress on the joint. 

Rotator work, as well as a focus on rear delt training helps to prevent injury by increasing shoulder stabilization during heavy pressing.  The addition of proper stretching further protects the joints by increasing mobility.

My personal favorite exercises for shoulder pre and rehab are Indian club swings, kettle bell swings, and Bandable Bar presses.  All are available at www.westside-barbell.com

Indian Club and Kettlebell Swings

Indian clubs vary in weight from 25-45lbs (depending on the style of club).  I swing them under control over and around my head (see picture for an idea of how this looks – if you purchase them from our site they also come with an instructional DVD) for 2-10 minutes.  I normally perform 10-12 “reps” alternating hands every 30 seconds.  I try, and recommend to others, to mix things up sometimes swinging them both forward and backward. 

Kettlebells are excellent for shoulder health as an injury preventative and form of rehab.  I highly recommend the works of Pavel Tsouline for information on how to best use them.  My kettlebell shoulder exercise of choice is what I call “lazy kettlebell catches” which are a variation of a kettlebell hang snatch.  Instead of catching the kettlebell at full extension, I catch them halfway up at shoulder level.  I find this exercise to be excellent therapy for my shoulders.

 

Louie Simmons performing backwards swings with Indian Clubs

 

Louie Simmons demonstrating Indian Clubs

Bandable Bar

This unique bar is made from bamboo.   At Westside we hang kettlebells from the ends via mini jump stretch bands (bands and bar available at www.westside-barbell.com) and perform bench presses.  The combination of the highly flexible Bandable Bar, jump stretch bands, and kettlebells results in an incredibly chaotic movement.  This chaos makes it an amazing rehab/prehab exercise for the shoulders.  4-5 sets of 15-50 reps will work wonders for your shoulders.  See the video below to view this very unique movement in action. 

 

Bamboo Bandable Bar 

 

Bamboo Kettlebell Chaotic Presses

If you take the above advice, I am confident your shoulders will thank you!

Strongman Training

Q: Coach Simmons, how do you recommend one train for strongman?  Thanks so very much for your time and consideration.

Louie SImmons: We had a strongman visit us not too long ago.   He trained the same as our powerlifters with respect to the core exercises.  We had him do considerably more GPP work and varied his accessory training using some strongman specific movements (ex. Overhead presses after his main bench exercise).  

With weights, the bulk of his training was with low box squats, good mornings, deficit deadlifts, and band pulls.  We took him from barely pulling 500 lbs to 800 lbs!  We did not train deadlifts for reps with our view being that absolute strength will provide the strength endurance needed for his meets.  In other words, if you can pull 800 lbs for a single, you can pull 700 lbs for reps.  Conditioning should come from GPP, not the weights.  This is ALWAYS true and I cannot emphasize it enough.  Weights are for absolute strength and GPP for more generalized endurance. 

We skipped powerlifting gear with the exception of briefs.  He would not be competing in a suit so we felt that training with one would serve no purpose. 

Rehab for a herniated disk

Q: Louie, I am a coach and have several athletes at the high school level who have herniated disks as a result of poor coaching in the weight room. They haven’t squatted or pulled in a very long time and I want to be able to rehab them to the point where they can. What is the best way to accomplish this?

Louie SImmons: If you have access to a Reverse Hyper™, get them on it.  If not, get one.  This is not an advertorial for my own product; I truly feel it is THE key to back injury prehab/rehab.  I invented it after having broken my own back.  In fact, I have broken my back twice and rehabbed myself to the point of being able to set a record squat of over 900 lbs in my 50s! 

The beauty of the apparatus is it provides traction while strengthening the back.  Discs will not heal without traction, and strengthening the musculature is all-important to regaining one’s lower back health. 

Have them swing their legs forward such that they can see them prior to beginning the extension (this optimizes the traction).  Have them avoid over-extension at the peak of the movement. 

Use the Reverse Hyper™ on both DE and ME days.  Slowly return to squatting with box squats using foam on the box to reduce the impact.  Use chains prior to bands, and wait to use bands until core strength has returned to a significant degree.  Slow and consistent is the key.  

Written by Travis Bell (answers provided by Louie Simmons and edited by Chris Mason)

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So You Want To Hit a PR?

You know that feeling when you walk into the gym and everything just seems to fall into place? The weights that you have attempted countless times in the past feel like a warm-up, and personal records (PRs) are set and eclipsed with ease!

The PR is an integral component to your short and long term success in the gym.  PRs allow you to measure progress, configure goals, and serve as a tremendous motivator.  When you hit a PR it literally creates a feeling of euphoria.

A PR need not be defined as your 1 repetition maximum.  It can be anything from running a mile in under six minutes, to finally hitting that 225 lbs x 10 bench press, to completing 50 chin-ups in only 4 sets.

Setting a PR is not just a matter of getting lucky or “having a good day” – there are 5 main factors that you can control to help drive peak performance:

Diet

Consuming the right nutrients can be crucial to your success.

  • Days Leading up to PR – Increased protein intake becomes a focus.  Most trainees find it easiest to ramp-up their protein intake via the use of supplements.  My personal choice is Nitrean Protein by AtLarge Nutrition which consists of a unique blend of 3 fractions of whey, casein, and egg proteins.  A generalized surplus of calories is also important. From my experience, the window of opportunity for dietary manipulation begins 3-4 days out from the PR attempt.
  • The Day of the PR Attempt – On this day it is crucial to take in a surplus of total calories with an emphasis on carbohydrates and fats for energy. Do not eat unusual foods that may upset your stomach.
  • Pre-Workout Meal – Instead of a meal with regular foods, I recommend a high calorie shake (I use MAXIMUS Weight Gainer by AtLarge Nutrition) be consumed 2-3 hours prior to the attempt.  Depending on how I feel and the nature of the attempt, I may have a simple carbohydrate source such as dextrose or fruit after the shake in the intervening time prior to the attempt.  Some trainees like to use a pre-workout supplement containing stimulants to get “up” for the attempt.  This is fine so long as care is taken to make sure the supplement does not interfere with your warm-ups, focus, or your stomach (common problems noted with the use of many pre-workout supplements).  I recommend a banana, a couple of spoons of honey, and 200 mg of caffeine as an effective pre-workout “stack”.

Sleep

Sleep is integral to optimal physical performance.  You must be well rested prior to PR attempts.  Eight hours of sleep per night is the generally accepted benchmark, but some people may require more depending on factors such as total physical activity (ex: if they have a physically demanding job) and stress.

Central Nervous System

If your PR attempt is going to involve heavy loads, you want to have your central nervous system (CNS) “primed” for the event via proper training in the preceding weeks.

Heavy resistance training is a tremendous stressor to the CNS and one must take care to both allow for adequate recovery time, and to train as heavy as possible as often as possible.  This balancing act can be tricky, but the protocol listed below is one that has worked very well for me:

  • Week 1: Heavy (75-85%)
  • Week 2: Light (65-75%)
  • Week 3: Maximal Effort (95-105%)
  • Week 4: De-load (50%)

The above load schedule does not detail set and rep recommendations.  For clarity, below you will see specific loads (based upon a previous best of 275 lbs x 3 reps), sets, and reps:

  • Week 1: 245 lbs x 3 sets of 3
  • Week 2: 210 lbs x 3 sets of 5
  • Week 3: 210 lbs x 3, 245 lbs x 3, 285 lbs x 3 (PR)
  • Week 4: 155 lbs x 3 sets of 10

Warm-up

Immediately prior to the PR attempt, a proper warm-up is crucial.  Care must be taken to gradually warm-up the musculature and then move on to heavier loads which will do the same for the CNS. The use of relatively heavy loads during this process must be tempered with the fact that one does not wish to fatigue the body such that the PR attempt is compromised, rather a gradual increase in loads used which both stimulate and do not overly fatigue is ideal.  Isolation movements can also be incorporated to prime specific muscles which are to be used in a compound exercise PR attempt.The following sample warm-up is based upon a PR attempt of 300 lbs in the bench press:

Generalized Warm-up: 5 minutes walking on elliptical trainer at low resistance.

Light Stretching & Dynamic Warm-Up: 2-3 minutes of upper body stretches, arm swings, shoulder mobility, etc.

Isolated warm-up for involved muscle groups:

  • Pushups – Body weight x 2 sets of 10 reps
  • Triceps Pushdown – 50 lbs x 15 reps

Movement Specific Warm-up & Work Sets: (using Bench Press as an example)

  • Empty Bar (45 lbs) x 10 x 2 sets
  • 95 lbs x 10
  • 135 lbs x 7
  • 185 lbs x 5
  • 225 lbs x 2
  • 255 lbs x 2 **
  • 275 lbs x 1
  • 300 lbs x 1- PR!
  • Attempt 305-315 lbs assuming clean lift @ 300 lbs.

**This is the first “work set” where you should add chalk, put on wrist wraps, flip hat backwards, or do whatever else you plan to do on your max attempt.

Note: Some athletes may utilize neoprene sleeves and or anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen for problem areas like elbows or knees.  Please discuss any medications or injuries with your doctor prior to moving forward in your routine.

Mental

The mental aspect is a major factor in setting PRs.  You simply cannot optimally harness your physical abilities without the capacity to 100% focus on the task at hand.  Heightened mental focus and physical arousal are keys to setting PRs.  While there is individual variance in how to best achieve the requisite state, there are certain methods that work for nearly everyone:

  • You must attempt to block all distractions from your mind.  A sound technique involves taking a few moments prior to the PR attempt to close your eyes and mentally rehearse the lift.  Visualize yourself successfully completing the PR.  Try to see, smell, and feel all that you will during the actual attempt.  In short, make the mental attempts as realistic as possible.
  • Build up your adrenaline prior to the big attempt. For some people this means getting angry or “fired up” while for others it is just a calm focus of energy. Stay in control and do not expend any valuable energy with anything unnecessary.

Wrapping things up

It is generally recommended that you go for heavy PRs (using loads greater than 80% of your current 1 repetition maximum) no more than once per month.  With that said; remember that PRs can take nearly any form and need not be 1-3 repetition lifts.  These other types of PRs can be attempted with greater frequency.

As you can see, PRs are a must for any dedicated trainee.  Follow the guidelines set forth in this article and you will be well on your way to your personal physical goals.

Now, go break down your barriers and set some new personal records!

Written by Tom Mutaffis

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Strongman Technique Series

Technique can be the difference between trophies and injuries in any sport.  This phenomenon is even more prevalent in strongman where extreme loads are coupled with high skill component movements. 

The sport of strongman incorporates lifts which are vastly different than most strength trainees normally encounter in the gym.  This can make them an excellent source of variety for powerlifters and other non-strongman strength athletes.  It also presents unique challenges to the strongman training neophyte. 

In my experience, the strongman movements which present the most formidable of these technique challenges are the log press, tire flip, and Atlas stones.  The balance of this article will address the lifts individually and will also provide helpful hints to ease your transition from strong guy to STRONGMAN. 

To see any of the below techniques in action view the video link at the end of this article.

Log Press

Included in almost every strongman contest, the log press is the most common test of overhead strength, and often a key event by virtue of being placed first in the meet. There are two variations of this event, the max log and the log for reps.

Tom Mutaffis - Log Press

 Proper Execution:

  1. Row the log into your lap and then squat down holding your elbows high.
  2. Clean the log to your shoulders by rolling it up your body. You will have to be very aggressive and really snap the log into the racked (essentially resting on the shoulders) position.
  3. Once the log is racked be sure to keep your head slightly up with your elbows held high.
  4. Begin the press/jerk by squatting down slightly and then firing the log off of your chest as you extend your hips and legs in an explosive upward movement.
  5. As soon as the log clears your head try to bring it (your head) through by moving it slightly forward and altering the path of the press slightly to the rear.  
  6. Make sure to hold your lockout at the top and, if possible, make eye contact with the judge while awaiting the good lift command. 

General Tips

  • The more leg and hip drive you can muster, the more powerful your press/jerk will be.  The Olympic lifting technique of a squat or split jerk is also used by many strongmen.  If you can master either of these techniques they can be a very effective tool in your arsenal.
  • Assistance exercises in the gym should include front squats, close grip bench presses, barbell push jerks, and power cleans.
  • Wearing flat-soled shoes will help to maintain balance.  The use of a power belt can help the lifter to stabilize their torso during the press.  It can also provide a platform to rest the barbell on if the continental clean technique is being used. 
  • Many lifters are docked reps in competition due to poor form and or improper technique.  Their haste to pound out the reps causes them to lose focus and get sloppy.  Don’t let that happen to you! 
  • Breathing is especially important during a press for reps event.  The best time to do so is with the log in your lap. 
  • Experienced pressers and strongmen can work on mastering a singular motion pressing technique which is more efficient and thus a time saver during press for reps events.  When performing this technique the lifter simply skips the rack phase of the clean and press.  A strong strict press and a very fast clean are keys to success with this technique.  The fast clean generates increased momentum to help the lifter bypass sticking points in the press. 

Tire Flip

The tire flip is a very common strongman event.  Proper technique can make a huge difference in both the weight of the tires that can be used and the speed in which the movement can be executed.

The size of the tire dictates the optimal technique to be used.  Larger/heavier tires require a double movement technique while smaller/lighter tires allow for a single motion. 

Smaller / Lighter Tire – One Motion Technique:

  1. Place your hands palms-up underneath the tire.  Keep your feet back and drive your chest into the tire.  This allows you to use your body as leverage to break the tire from the ground.
  2. Continue to drive your chest into the tire and simultaneously thrust forward and upward.  Walk forward as the tire raises.
  3. Once the tire clears your knee use your leg to briefly hold it in place while transitioning your hands from under the tire to a pushing motion (if you are extremely explosive you might find that your chest can be used in the same fashion as described for your leg).
  4. Follow the tire as it falls and re-grip as quickly as possible remembering to keep your legs back.

General Tips for Lighter Tire:

  • Skip the use of a belt as it can just get in the way of a smooth execution of the motion.
  • Give the tire a final push at the very apex of the movement.  This force, in concert with gravity, will literally cause the tire to skip forward providing for additional distance with each flip.
  • Always remain aggressive with the tire.  Time is most commonly lost during the transition between flips.  Stay focused and move as quickly as possible at all times.
  • If for any reason one hand/arm loses grip during the ascent phase of the flip abort the movement immediately (unless your knee is supporting it at the time).  This can help to avert a torn biceps or other injuries. 

Heavy Tire – Post & Flip Technique:

Begin as described above for the light tire.  The variance begins when you clear your knee.  At that point you post the tire on your thigh.  This is accomplished by wedging your leg beneath the tire and literally resting it briefly upon your leg.

  1. Once the tire is posted on your thigh you will want to try to pop it up while simultaneously either pushing on the top of the tire, or driving your shoulder underneath the implement.
  2. Make sure to maintain good body leverage and keep leaning into the tire to finish the lift.
  3. Re-group and attack the tire again.  With heavy tires it is acceptable to take a brief moment to make sure you are prepped for the next flip. 

General Tips for a Heavy Tire:

  • Always make sure to have your body leaning into the tire to optimize leverage.
  • Focus on an explosive transition from the post.
  • Minimize the time you are holding the tire in the post.  The less time holding the tire the more energy conserved.
  • Master form with sets of singles, then graduate to sets of 3-7 reps.

Atlas Stones

Atlas stone lifting is a staple in strongman contests.  It is also one of the most technical and therefore challenging lifts to master for those new to the sport. 

The lift consists of 2 main components, the lap and the load.  Setting up properly is key to a successful execution of the movement.

Setup for Atlas Stones:

  • The Atlas stones are round and relatively smooth making for an odd object that is very difficult to grasp.  Tacky is a sticky pine resin that is allowed by the rules and should be applied to the forearms and chest (if the competitor is not wearing a shirt).  This substance will greatly improve your ability to hang onto the stones as they are hoisted.
  • In lieu of, or in addition to, the use of tacky it is common practice to use either protective sleeves or athletic tape as a measure of protection for the forearms.
  • Be sure to properly warm-up your biceps. 
  • Heavier lifters may want to avoid the use of a belt as the stone can pinch the skin of their belly against it.

The Lap:

  1. Mentally gear-up for a big lift.  Begin by standing slightly back from and centered relative to the stone.
  2. Bend over and grip the stone tightly being sure to make as much contact with your hands and forearms as possible.
  3. Squeeze with all of your might and begin to row/stiff-legged deadlift the stone to break it from the ground.
  4. As the stone nears your knees squat down and pull it into your lap.  With a particularly difficult stone you can sometimes bend at the knees a bit earlier and literally roll the stone up your legs into your lap.

Loading an Atlas Stone:

  1. From the lapped position fire your hips forward and drive the stone up your body rolling it to your chest as you stand erect.
  2. Load the stone onto the platform.

Note – For higher platforms you may have to explosively pull the stone up your body and place it on your shoulder, then load.

General Tips for Stone Loading:

  • Make sure to start with the stone 6-8” away from the platform.
  • Extend your lower back as you move from the lapped to a standing position.  At the peak of the movement you should be leaning back slightly as you use a heave of your chest to help thrust the stone to the platform.
  • A close stance with your feet is beneficial for the load as it will make you “taller”, and thus make the load easier, especially for the higher platforms.
  • Training without tacky can be of benefit as it will improve your ability to hold the stones.

Strongman training is a great way to enhance overall bodily strength and general athletic prowess.  Start light, master the techniques, and then go BIG!  

Written by Tom Mutaffis

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