Author Archives: Bret

Hallelujah! Thank you Menno Henselmans and Eric Helms

Former bodybuilder and Mr. Olympia champ Ronnie Coleman once said, “Erbody wanna be a bodybuilder, but nobody wanna lift no heavy ass weight.” I’m going to alter his comment to apply to my field: Everybody wants to be an S&C expert, but nobody wants to read and/or conduct research.


If you’ve been a regular follower of mine for some time now, then you’ve probably witnessed me express my disdain for modern experts in strength & conditioning and sports nutrition. I’m not talking about the younger up-and-comers – they get a pass since they’re green. I’m talking about the established folks who have been writing, speaking, and consulting for many years and whose sole livelihoods comes from the fitness industry. You’d think that at some point these folks would gravitate toward science to answer burning questions that naturally arise within them over the course of their careers.

We have an entire field of experts who speculate and offer advice, and yet they don’t possess the necessary skills to be effective or correct. Many times there’s research to support or refute what the experts are saying but the experts are unaware of it. Usually the answer to a particular hot topic/controversy in S&C could be easily determined by conducting a simple RCT, but the experts don’t know how to conduct a study, write up a study, or submit a study for peer-review. I’m definitely not saying that an expert can’t offer valuable insight without having a PhD. What I am saying is that experts would be far more effective if they better understood the scientific method, basic statistics, and evidence-based decision making. This applies mostly to the outspoken experts who veer outside their scope of expertise and seem to have an opinion on everything rather than the humble experts who stick to what they know and defer to other experts in matters not pertaining to their knowledge-base.

Lately I’ve been disenchanted with the field. I’ve personally challenged numerous experts to debates, several of which happened privately behind the scenes and therefore my readers are unaware of, and to date none of these individuals have accepted my challenges. Experts these days seem more interested in appearing right than actually being right. They’ll resort to all sorts of logical fallacies just to try to win an argument rather than considering the possibility that they’re wrong.

Alas, now there is hope, as evidenced by the fascinating, professional, highly-intellectual, and well-informed banter between my colleagues Menno Henselmans and Eric Helms.


Cliff notes: Menno believes that the research clearly shows no value in going over 1.8 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight per day, whereas Eric believes that research supports that there is indeed value in going higher depending on the circumstance and tends to recommend 1.8-2.8 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight per day. I’ve always recommended 1 gram per pound of bodyweight per day and I tend to go higher for myself, but I would love it if Menno’s advice accurately pertained to me since I find carbs and fat to be much tastier than protein in general. I appreciate how Eric pointed out individual differences in his retort, and I’m overwhelmingly impressed with Menno’s command of the research and statistical skills.

From left to right: Bret Contreras, Menno Henselmans, Alan Aragon, Eric Helms

From left to right: Bret Contreras, Menno Henselmans, Alan Aragon, Eric Helms

However, this article represents much more than optimal protein intakes. This article is what true S&C and sports nutrition is all about. It single-handedly restored some of my faith in our field, and I hope it sets a trend for how professionals go about improving understanding and conducting themselves in the future. Menno and Eric are the good guys, and I want my people to follow them. Bravo to you Menno and Eric, bravo!

To Follow Menno, click on these links:

Menno Website

Menno Facebook

Menno Personal Facebook

Menno Twitter

To follow Eric (and his 3DMJ team), click on these links:

Eric Website

Eric Facebook

Eric Personal Facebook

Eric Twitter

November Strength & Conditioning Research Questions

Hi fitness folks! Do you know the answer to the November S&C research review questions? If not, you ought to subscribe to our research review service. To subscribe, just click on the button below and follow the instructions…


Strength & Conditioning, Power and Hypertrophy

  1. Which improves sprinting performance more – vertical or horizontal jumps?
  2. Which improves sprinting performance more – plyometrics or resistance training?
  3. Can a short-distance, heavy sled tow improve sprint running performance after 12 minutes?
  4. Can repeated maximal power training improve repeated sprint ability?
  5. What is jumping interval training and can it improve rate of force development?
  6. Can functional HIIT simultaneously increase strength and fitness?
  7. Which improves sprinting performance more – horizontal or vertical power training?
  8. Does adding elastic bands to free weights improve strength gains?
  9. Can pneumatic bench press training improve free weight bench press 1RM?
  10. Is the leg press as good as the back squat for increasing jumping ability?
  11. Which improves squat 1RM most – block or weekly undulating periodization?
  12. Do drop sets produce better results than one set to failure?
  13. How does kettlebell HIIT compare with sprint interval cycling?
  14. What is the best warm up for different sports?


Biomechanics & motor control

  1. Is the force-velocity relationship linear during loaded jumping?
  2. Does the force-velocity relationship differ across groups of elite athletes?
  3. How should jump squats and push jerks be programmed to improve jumping ability?
  4. How do compression shorts affect vertical jump ability?
  5. How do coaching instructions affect drop jump biomechanics?
  6. Do the medial and lateral hamstrings display different muscle activity during sprinting?
  7. How long do increases in hamstring muscle fascicle length caused by eccentric training last?
  8. How fast are the first and second pull phases of the snatch in Olympic weightlifters?
  9. Does a pronated grip lead to more back muscle activity during an inverted row?
  10. Does the thickness of the push up bar affect shoulder muscle activity?
  11. Does using a TRX or wobble board for push ups affect shoulder muscle activity?
  12. Does hanging kettlebells on the barbell in the bench press increase muscle activity?
  13. How does lumbar extension angle affect hamstrings muscle activity?
  14. Are muscle strength and size related to eccentric leg stiffness during jump landings?


Anatomy, physiology & nutrition

  1. Which is best for weight loss – diet, exercise, or diet plus exercise?
  2. Does caloric restriction make muscles more efficient?
  3. Does insulin affect muscle protein synthesis or breakdown?
  4. Impaired insulin action in the human brain: causes and metabolic consequences
  5. Does taking steroids increase your risk of a ruptured tendon?
  6. Did endurance running really cause unique gluteus maximus development in humans?
  7. Does peripheral fatigue cause reductions in voluntary activation?
  8. How can we measure parasympathetic activity levels in athletes?
  9. Can your parasympathetic activity levels predict how much you gain from doing HIIT?
  10. Can cold water immersion cause faster parasympathetic reactivation after Rugby matches?


Physical therapy & rehabilitation

  1. Can the FMS predict injury in active populations?
  2. Can the FMS tests identify the presence of absence of dynamic stability?
  3. Can foam rolling the hip flexors improve hip and knee flexibility?
  4. Can foam rolling reduce pain in the tender spots in calf muscles?
  5. Do people with cam femoroacetabular impingement squat differently?
  6. Which type of lunge is best for the hip muscles and which is best for the knee muscles?
  7. What is the best way to improve the single-leg squat movement pattern?
  8. Is poor ankle dorsiflexion related to hip adduction and internal rotation in a step down test?
  9. How do physiotherapists rehabilitate patellar tendinopathy in practice?
  10. Which is better for improving scapulohumeral rhythm – the full-can or empty-can exercise?
  11. What speed maximizes the VMO to VL ratio during the wall squat?
  12. What hip rotation position maximizes gluteus medius muscle activity in the pelvic drop exercise?


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November Strength & Conditioning Research Preview: High Intensity Functional Training Edition

The S&C Research review service comes out on the first day of every month. Here is a preview of the November 2015 edition, which comes out on Sunday. Each edition covers a wide range of exciting new research but this edition has a special theme of High Intensity Functional Training (HIFT)!


What is High Intensity Functional Training (HIFT)?

HIFT is simply high-intensity interval training (HIIT) but performed with resistance training equipment. The term HIFT was originally put forward by Heinrich et al. (2014) to describe a combined training program involving free weights resistance training exercises, gymnastics, and calisthenics, all performed at a high intensity and with minimal rest.

Other researchers have made different suggestions about what to call HIFT. For example, Smith et al. (2013) proposed the term “High Intensity Power Training” and other researchers have simply called it HIIT using resistance training equipment (e.g. Meier et al. 2015). There is no real consensus yet about what to call it, so for this article at least we are going with HIFT!


Why do HIFT and not HIIT?

One of the main intended benefits of HIFT is that it can be different, interesting and even fun wherever possible. Another key characteristic of HIFT is that it makes use of novel implements, like kettlebells, battling ropes and medicine balls, as well as traditional resistance training tools like barbells and even bodyweight. HIFT is designed to be more enjoyable than HIIT but to produce a similar metabolic response.

Additionally, it has been suggested (based on observations of HIFT in some studies) that HIFT might be able to produce simultaneous improvements in wider range of fitness qualities than HIIT, as well as similar changes in body composition. However, until recently, few studies had actually compared HIFT with HIIT. To find out what happens when researchers compare HIFT with HIIT, keep reading…


How does kettlebell HIFT compare with traditional sprint cycling HIIT?

The study: Comparison of cardiorespiratory and metabolic responses in kettlebell high-intensity interval training versus sprint interval cycling, by Williams & Kraemer, in Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2015)

What did the researchers do?

The researchers compared the immediate effects of a HIFT workout using kettlebells with a similar sprint interval cycling workout on heart rates, oxygen consumption (VO2), and total energy expended (all measured using a metabolic analyzer).

All subjects performed both 12- minute workouts on different days. The kettlebell HIFT workout involved 3 circuits of 4 exercises using a Tabata protocol, which involves 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times over 4 minutes. The 4 exercises were the sumo squat (single- handed or two-handed), two-handed swings, clean and press (dominant arm), and sumo deadlifts (single- handed or two-handed). Kettlebell weights ranged between 10 – 22kg across subjects and exercises. The sprint interval cycling workout involved 3 bouts of 30-second Wingate sprints with 4 minutes of rest between the first two sprints and 2.5 minutes of recovery after the third sprint.

What happened?

The researchers found that the average heart rate was higher during the kettlebell workout than during the cycling workout (149.16 ± 7.4 vs. 139.69 ± 7.85bpm), average oxygen consumption was greater in the kettlebell workout than in the cycling workout (22.6 ± 1.48 vs. 19.9 ± 1.01 ml/kg/min), and total caloric expenditure in the kettlebell workout was greater than in the cycling workout (144.9 ± 6.6 vs. 122.0 ± 7.3 kcal). Therefore, the kettlebell workout produced greater average heart rate, higher oxygen consumption, and greater energy expended than a traditional sprint cycling workout. Whether the same results would be observed if the work-to-rest periods were matched is less clear.

How does combined HIFT compare with rowing HIIT?

The study: Multimodal high-intensity interval training increases muscle function and metabolic performance in females, by Buckley, Knapp, Lackie, Lewry, Horvey, Benko & Butcher, in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism (2015)

What did the researchers do?

The researchers compared the long-term effects of 6-week program of indoor rowing HIIT and a program of HIFT, comprising a circuit comprised of multiple different exercises, on changes in maximal aerobic capacity (VO2-max) (as measured by an incremental treadmill test), maximal anaerobic power (as measured by a 30-second cycling Wingate test), muscular strength (as measured by the 1RM in back squat, overhead press and deadlift), muscular endurance (as measured by the number of repetitions at 70% of 1RM back squat), and athletic ability (as measured by standing long jump horizontal distance).

What did the researchers find?

The researchers found that both the HIFT and rowing HIIT groups displayed similar improvements in maximal aerobic capacity (7% vs. 5%) and anaerobic power (15% vs. 12%). However, only the HIFT group displayed increases in squat (by 39%), overhead press (by 27%), deadlift (by 18%) 1RM, back squat muscular endurance (by 280%) and standing long jump distance (by 6%). HIFT therefore seems to be able to produce similar benefits in aerobic and anaerobic fitness to HIIT, while also improving several measures of muscular strength and athletic performance.

Get the full review!

The full edition contains far more than these brief summaries. It is packed full of 50 detailed reviews covering a range of topics relevant to strength and conditioning and physical therapy professionals alike. It only costs $10 per month so sign up by clicking below!




Hip Thruster 2.0: Band-Resisted Deadlifts and Better Band-Resisted Hip Thrusts

Hi fitness friends. I’m pleased to announce the new Hip Thruster 2.0 design. Basically, we did the following:

  1. Switched the default color from red to metallic (this was my call; the new color exudes manliness IMO). Custom colors are still available.
  2. Used Sorinex’s laser-cutter to have thinner metal (I love this sleek new look).
  3. Augmented the design (Sorinex took it upon themselves to carry this out) to assemble and ship easier
  4. Provided band pegs on the foot plate to allow for band-resisted deadlifts and other band-resisted exercises
  5. Switched the primary band peg design to resemble a “T,” which allows for more versatility
  6. Wrapped the padding on the back support to increase comfort

HERE is a link to the Hip Thruster website.

In the video below I review the key changes.

Below are some pictures that showcase the new model.

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