Author Archives: Bret Contreras

February Strength & Conditioning Research Questions

Hi fitness folks! Do you know the answer to the February 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. Is resistance training to muscular failure necessary for increasing strength?
  2. Does training to failure take longer to recover from?
  3. Do high and low load training to failure lead to similar increases in strength?
  4. Which type of strength training periodization is best for recreational trainees?
  5. Does volume load increase more in low or high load strength training?
  6. Does blood flow restriction enhance strength gains with eccentric strength training?
  7. Can machine-based strength training lead to free-weights strength gains?
  8. Can internal cues selectively increase muscle activation in different muscles?
  9. Can low load, slow movement squat training increase muscle size and strength?
  10. What type of morning exercise is best to enhance afternoon performance?
  11. How do elite powerlifters taper?
  12. Does balance training add anything to strength training for improving balance?
  13. Does strength training improve running economy in highly trained runners?


Biomechanics & motor control                         

  1. Are the hamstrings the main source of horizontal force during sprinting?
  2. How can you optimize an athlete’s force-velocity profile?
  3. Which hip thrust variation is best for training the upper and lower gluteus maximus?
  4. How does hip abduction angle affect gluteus maximus activation during glute bridges?
  5. How do strength, size, and fiber type affect the size of the PAP effect?
  6. How does strength affect the size of the PAP effect after ballistic and non-ballistic exercise?
  7. How are the loss of peak torque and rate of torque development related to fatigue?
  8. What is the relationship between EMG amplitude and repetition number during sets to failure?
  9. How does repetition duration affect muscular activation and blood lactate response?
  10. What is the role of the ankle plantar flexors in vertical jumping?
  11. What factors influence the size of the PAP effect for vertical jump height?
  12. Can the Nordic hamstring curl improve knee flexion strength and hamstring activation?


Anatomy, physiology & nutrition

  1. How do mechanical tension and metabolic stress contribute to hypertrophy?
  2. How does intramuscular anabolic signaling produce muscle hypertrophy?
  3. Does concurrent training produce different signaling responses to strength training?
  4. Does the creatine loading phase lead to increased blood pressure?
  5. Can leucine supplementation protect against muscle loss during bed rest?
  6. Does low-energy sweetener consumption affect energy intake and bodyweight?
  7. How does exercise intensity affect appetite-regulating hormones?
  8. Does resistance training lead to increased spontaneous physical activity?
  9. What is the anatomy of the proximal hamstrings?
  10. Do caffeinated energy drinks increase strength through neural mechanisms?
  11. Is coffee beneficial for skeletal muscle?
  12. Does ammonia inhalation increase maximum strength?


Physical therapy & rehabilitation

  1. How do high-intensity-moderate-duration and low-intensity-long-duration stretches differ?
  2. Are increases in ROM associated with increases in stretch tolerance after stretching?
  3. How do different methods of stretching affect muscle architecture and strength?
  4. Are hamstring injuries increasing in professional soccer?
  5. Do hip flexion and knee extension hamstring stretches have different effects?
  6. Is short biceps femoris muscle fascicle length a risk factor for hamstring injury?
  7. Does hip flexor restriction reduce gluteus maximus muscle activation?
  8. Can exercise benefit the intervertebral disc?
  9. Which is best for spinal stability: expiration or abdominal bracing?
  10. Is loading rate higher in runners who suffer stress fractures compared to those who don’t?
  11. Do higher training loads always lead to increased risk of injury in athletes?
  12. Can massage aid performance recovery?
  13. Can long-term leg press training reduce patellofemoral pain?


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February Research Preview: Leg Press Edition

The S&C Research review service comes out on the first day of every month. Here is a preview of the February 2016 edition, which comes out next Monday. Each edition covers a wide range of exciting new research but this edition has a special theme of the leg press!


Why talk about the leg press?

The leg press attracts a certain amount of controversy. Some strength coaches regard it as a very useful tool, while others consider it totally useless. Among those coaches who regard it as a useful tool, most would be confident saying that it can develop muscular size, but often stop short of claiming that it can increase functional lower-body strength and power.

In reality, there has always been a fairly decent body of research showing that the leg press is useful for increasing functional strength in diseased populations when working in rehabilitation settings (Karlsen & Helgerud, 2009; and Wang et al. 2010). In such cases, long-term programs of leg press training improve walking efficiency, walking economy, and treadmill walking test time-to-exhaustion performance. Similarly, the leg press improves functional strength in the elderly (Correa et al. 2012; Ramírez-Campillo et al. 2014; and Pamukoff et al. 2014), including balance recovery, vertical jump height, number of bodyweight squats in 30 seconds, and short-distance sprint running ability. And leg press training even improves functional performance in young, untrained subjects, as Wawrzyniak et al. (1996) found that performance on a maximal single-leg hop for distance test was increased.


Does leg press training improve balance and jump height in amateur athletes?

The study: Effect of combined sensorimotor-resistance training on strength, balance, and jumping performance of soccer players, by Manolopoulos, Gissis, Galazoulas, Manolopoulos, Patikas, Gollhofer, and Kotzamanidis, in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2015)

What did the researchers do?

The researchers compared the effects of leg press alone with leg press resistance training in combination with sensorimotor (balance) training on:

  • Balance (measured by the ability to maintain a stable one-leg stance posture on a force plate)
  • Strength (as measured by 1RM leg press and maximum voluntary isometric contraction [MVIC] force)
  • Rate of force development (RFD) (as measured in an isometric leg press set-up)
  • Vertical jump height (as measured by squat jump performed on a force plate)

They studied these effects in a group of 20 amateur soccer players, randomly allocated into either a combined group or a resistance training only group. All subjects trained 2 times per week for 6 weeks. Both groups performed 5 sets of 8 repetitions to muscular failure on the leg press exercise, while the combined group also performed balance training involving 4 exercises for 5 sets of 30 seconds, with 30 seconds of rest between sets. The balance training was initially performed using a balance board and later with a soccer ball.

What happened?

The researchers found that the movement of the center of pressure (COP) in both the anterior-posterior and medio-lateral axes decreased in both groups after training, but there was no difference in the size of the change between the groups. Similarly, vertical jump height increased in both groups, but the increase was similar in both groups. The researchers found that the leg press 1RM, MVIC force, and RFD measured at all time points increased in both groups, but there were no differences between the two groups. Therefore, the leg press resistance training program improved balance and vertical jump height in amateur soccer players (as well as 1RM leg press, MVIC force, and RFD). But adding another balance training intervention did not improve these effects.


Does leg press training improve measures of pain and also affect patellar realignment?

The study: Effect of leg press training on patellar realignment in patients with patellofemoral pain, by Peng & Song, in Journal of Physical Therapy Science (2015)

What did the researchers do?

The researchers compared the long-term effects of either leg press training and leg press with hip adduction training on:

  • Patellar alignment (patella medio-lateral tilt angle and medio-lateral patellar displacement)
  • Pain (measured with the visual analog scale [VAS] for pain).

The subjects were 17 patients with patellofemoral pain lasting >1 month, with the onset of pain being unrelated to trauma, randomly allocated into either a leg press group or a leg press with hip adduction group. All of the subjects performed a program of resistance training using the unilateral leg press exercise 3 times per week for 8 weeks, with 60% of 1RM for 5 sets of 10 reps. The leg press group used the leg press exercise, while the leg press with hip adduction group performed the leg press exercise while also carrying out simultaneous isometric hip adduction against an elastic resistance band.

What happened?

The researchers found that neither of the patellar alignment measurements were altered by either of the leg press interventions. This indicates that neither leg press training program affected the alignment of the patellar in individuals with patellofemoral pain. Despite the lack of change in either measurement of patellar alignment, there was an improvement in pain scores in both groups, implying that they were equally effective. Since there was no control group that performed no exercise training, it is unclear whether this reduction in pain occurred as a result of the exercise training or purely through the natural course of the condition. Even so, since the beneficial effects on pain occurred in the absence of any changes in patellar alignment, this suggests that patellar malalignment may not be a key contributor to the problem of patellofemoral pain.

leg-press (1)

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2016-01-18 01.19.58

Glute Lab Seminar #2

The next Glute Lab seminar will be held on Saturday, February 27th in Phoenix, AZ.

The seminar will start at 10:00 am and end at 6:00 pm. We will spend several hours reviewing the science of glute training, then have lunch, and then move on to all of the various glute exercises. The lecture covers all of the most up to date research including data from my PhD thesis. Lunch will probably be Chipotle, on me of course. The practical will cover variations of squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, split squats, back extensions, lateral band walks, floor glute exercises, and more.

Although the first seminar was a big success, I received some excellent feedback from the attendees, so this one will be even better. The attendees from the first seminar came from all over the United States, which was very cool.

Just a heads-up. The last seminar sold out in one day. We kept a waiting list and have already sold 5 seats for this seminar, so there are only 15 seats remaining since I’m limiting the seminar to 20 total attendees. Cost is $399 and you’ll pay through PayPal.

If you’re interested in attending, please email Maleah at

Below are pictures from the first seminar.

2015-12-16 15.15.30 2015-12-16 15.16.06 2015-12-16 18.43.58 2015-12-16 19.00.00 2015-12-16 19.18.03 2015-12-16 19.33.57 2015-12-16 19.54.12 2015-12-16 20.03.40 2015-12-16 20.05.23 2015-12-16 20.05.39 2015-12-16 20.09.02 2015-12-16 20.40.30 2015-12-16 20.51.14 2015-12-16 21.08.37 2015-12-16 21.09.41

2016-01-16 13.21.16 2016-01-16 13.21.45 HDR 2016-01-16 16.04.44 2016-01-16 16.19.12 2016-01-16 16.21.06 2016-01-16 16.45.06 2016-01-16 16.49.22 2016-01-16 16.56.23 2016-01-16 16.57.22 2016-01-16 16.59.58 2016-01-16 17.01.33

2016-01-16 17.23.00-1 2016-01-16 17.29.15 2016-01-16 17.46.22 2016-01-16 17.53.47 2016-01-16 18.02.42


2015 Highlights and Random Thoughts

Hi fitness friends! 2015 was certainly an interesting and productive year for me. I hope that you all also had a fantastic and fruitful year.

Check out my 2015 highlights and other items of interest since my last Random Thoughts post:

2015 Highlights

  • Obtained PhD in Sports Science from AUT University

  • Co-author on 12 published peer-reviewed journal articles (35 total to date)

  • Presented in USA, UK, Norway, and Spain

  • Arguably got into the best shape of my life

Bret 225-lbs

Probably my best look at about 225-lbs. Right now I’m back up to 237 lbs but looking to start leaning out again.

  • Set numerous gym PRs at 38-39 years of age (squat 430, deadlift 405 x 20 reps, deadlift 500 x 10 reps, 16 bodyweight chin ups, bench press 335 lbs, hip thrust 725 lbs).

Of Random Interest:

1. 100 kg (220 lb) Barbell Hip Thrust Challenge

Fellow strong hip thrusting peeps, check out Derrick Blanton nailing 40 reps with 100 kgs (220 lbs). It took him 4 attempts over a 3 week period to accomplish this feat.  Now, he does use a tad shorter bench at 14.5″ – I use a 16″ bench for comparison. That can make hip thrusting slightly easier but he finds this to be a more comfortable height. This a brutal feat, nonetheless. The most reps I’ve ever hit with 100 kgs was 25, and I couldn’t imagine getting 15 more reps. Congrats, Derek! Think you can beat Derrick’s 40 reps or my 25 reps? Give it a try!

2. Attentional Focus for Maximizing Muscle Development: The Mind-Muscle Connection

Check out this paper I co-authored with my buddy, Brad Schoenfield, which has just recently been published ahead of print. This is a fascinating topic and the article can be downloaded for free at the moment. Click on the PDF icon under Article Tools at the link to download HERE.

My amigo and co-author Brad Schoenfield in Barcelona

3. Becoming a Better Human Seminar: Last Week for Early-Bird Discount

I’m presenting next month at the Becoming a Better Human Seminar in Regina, Saskatchewan. I was on the phone yesterday with my friend and co-presenter Alan Aragon, and I don’t think we quite realized how cold Saskatchewan is this time of year. Alan lives in LA and I live in Phoenix and methinks we might be some cold weather sissies. The only cold weather I hope to deal with will be in running from the hotel to the car.  Also there will be my buddy Eric Helms, a super-smart bro who is currently getting his PhD from AUT University in New Zealand (same school I attended), and Mike Tuchscherer, an innovative and freakishly strong powerlifter. Canadian friends who live close to Regina – you better be there! We need your warm bodies to huddle up with and prevent hypothermia. This is the last week to receive the early-bird discount (closes on Jan 17th). Learn more about the event HERE.


4. Reddit AMA

I recently participated in another AMA on Reddit to chat about Strong Curves and answer a few questions. This was a fun experience, as always. You can follow along with the conversation HERE.

5. Olympic Weightlifting Research by Chris Beardsley

Olympic Weightlifting fans, I have a treat for you. Chris Beardsley of Strength and Conditioning Research sifted through the research on Olympic lifting and summarized almost 300 studies. You can check out the summary for free HERE.

6. Bench Press Research by Adam Bentley

Love to read and think about the bench press? You will definitely want to take a look at Adam Bentley’s review article summarizing the research on this popular exercise HERE.

7. Finally Nailed a 315 lb Full Squat

I’ve always found squats to be incredibly challenging, so I’m very proud of my recent 315-lb for 10-rep full squat PR. At 6’4″, I have a large ROM with these. I actually measured it and it’s 29 3/8″ (74.6 cm). And by the way, I’m wearing blue sweatpants (courtesy of squat sponge) not jeans LOL, many of my followers thought I had jeans on. Maybe if I ever get to 365 lbs for 10 reps, I’ll wear blue jeans and a blue jean jacket, but I’d have to be way stronger and way cooler to pull off that feat. 

8. Gym Wildlife

Nothing like a good laugh at the expense of us gym-rats to brighten your day. Behold, and observe the gym and its inhabitants as you’ve never quite seen them before.

9. PTQ Volume 2 Issue 4

I serve as Editor-in-Chief of Personal Training Quarterly and our latest publication is now available. If you are an NSCA member, click on the link to learn more about strength training for endurance athletes to training for sedentary office workers, as well as insights for improving communication as a personal trainer.  Read more HERE.

10. Strong by Bret: Coming Soon

Soon you’ll be able to follow the same program I use with my Glute Squad clients. I’ll be releasing Strong by Bret in the near future, so stay tuned for that.

Love training my lovely Glute Squad Ladies. Be on the lookout for a new program based on their workouts in the very near future.

I love training my lovely Glute Squad Ladies. Be on the lookout for a new program based on their workouts in the very near future.

Well, friends, I think that wraps up my 2015 highlight reel and recent updates. I hope that you enjoyed the random information I’ve shared as much as I have. I look forward to what’s in store for 2016 and wish you all a healthy and happy year!