Category Archives: Guest Blogs

Eat, Lift, and Condition to Lose Fat and Maintain Muscle

Eat, Lift, and Condition to Lose Fat and Maintain Muscle
By Marc Lewis and Travis Pollen

With summer just around the corner, fat loss and concurrent muscle preservation is on just about everyone’s mind. The trouble is, there’s a whole lot of gimmicky — not to mention conflicting — information out there, especially when it comes to extreme diet and workout methods that supposedly yield lightning fast results.

The truth is that you don’t need to employ a bunch of hocus-pocus or fancy tricks to improve body composition (i.e. lose fat). In fact, just sticking to the tried-and-true basics the majority of the time will absolutely enable you to meet your beach body goals — no crazy diets or trickery needed.

Here are 10 nutrition and training tips to guide your beach body journey.



1. Increase energy expenditure through exercise BEFORE reducing calories.

Why: Energy balance is the main determinant of weight management. An energy surplus equates to an increase in body mass, and an energy deficit equates to a decrease in body mass. The most common mistake people make when attempting to shed fat is simultaneously reducing caloric intake and increasing exercise energy expenditure.

The problem with this strategy is twofold: (1) it creates a magnified energy deficit (i.e. caloric reduction plus increased energy expenditure) and (2) it reduces your “caloric bank.” If you’re in a magnified caloric deficit, you will lose body mass too fast to maintain your hard-earned lean body mass, which in turn will negatively affect your basal metabolic rate (i.e. the amount of energy your body uses for basic life function) (1).

In order to improve body composition, the main goal must be to decrease body fat while keeping caloric intake as high as possible. This will provide you with enough calories to minimize any loss of lean body mass and create a greater caloric bank to draw from to combat plateaus (1).

How: Using an app like MyFitnessPal, identify the number of calories you’re currently taking in. Obtain your body composition by whatever means is available to you (i.e. bioelectrical impedance, skinfold calipers, etc.). Using your body mass along with your body fat percentage, calculate your fat mass vs. fat-free mass. Additionally, identify the number of calories you are taking in to maintain your current body mass. Once you start implementing the training methods presented below, monitor your body composition while maintaining your current caloric intake and using your body mass and body fat as control variables.


2. Implement a small to moderate caloric deficit.

Why: Crash dieting or greatly reducing your daily caloric intake (i.e. >500 kcals per day) negatively impacts your metabolic rate, which ultimately makes it more difficult to reduce body fat and train effectively (2, 3). The magnitude of these negative adaptations are likely proportional to the size of the caloric deficit. Therefore, small to moderate caloric deficits are the way to go for short-term body composition change, as well as for long-term metabolic health (1).

How: When seeking to reduce caloric intake in order to improve body composition, focus on small-to-moderate caloric reductions of 300-500 kcals per day, which equates to a weekly caloric deficit of 2100-3500 kcals, and ultimately, a reduction in body mass by 0.6-1 pounds per week. This pattern of weight loss will assist you in reducing your body fat, while minimizing the loss of lean body mass. As suggested by Trexler et al. (2014), although this may decrease the rate of weight loss, it will attenuate negative adaptations that can challenge body fat reduction.


3. Get your protein.

Why: When attempting to reduce body fat through an energy deficit, increasing your protein intake has been suggested to attenuate losses in lean body mass (4, 5, 6). Additionally, high protein diets (i.e. >25% of your total macronutrients) have been shown to increase satiety and thermogenesis (heat production) (7). In addition, the pattern of protein intake outside of the immediate post-exercise recovery period appears to be important for maximizing myofibrillar protein synthesis (MPS), while inducing a more positive whole body protein balance (5).

How: Protein consumption of approximately 1.8-2.7 g/kg/day have been shown to preserve lean body mass when training in an energy deficit (4, 6). The consumption of approximately 20-25 grams of leucine-rich protein (i.e. chicken, beef, whey protein, eggs, etc) every 3 hours post-exercise has been suggested, along with consuming at least 20 grams prior to sleep (5). This practice will assist in maximizing MPS, which will promote recovery between training sessions by enhancing skeletal muscle remodelling and allowing you to maintain lean body mass.

4. Fuel to train.

Why: The ability to train effectively during each training session is really what builds lean muscle mass, cranks up your metabolic rate, and allows you to burn more calories during the other 23 hours of the day that you’re not training. To train effectively and truly maximize every session, you must be properly fueled. When attempting to reduce body fat, many people utilize calorically restrictive diets that interfere with their ability to maintain adequate training frequency, volume, and intensity. Strength training without the proper fuel blunts leucine uptake by the muscle, mTOR signaling, and ultimately, muscle protein synthesis (8).

How: It is suggested to consume at least 20 grams of leucine-rich protein (i.e. chicken, beef, cottage cheese, whey protein, etc.) at least 60 minutes prior to training, while consuming a mixed meal (i.e. fat, carbohydrate, protein) within 3-4 hours prior to strength training (8). A good rule of thumb is to consume approximately 20-30% of your daily carbohydrate intake (depending on gastrointestinal tolerance) within 3 hours prior to training, which provides adequate energy to train and recover. When performing conditioning early in the day and resistance training in the afternoon, it is vital to refuel fully in order to maximize the cellular signaling that facilitates muscle hypertrophy (8).


5. Condition fueled, not fasted.

Why: The concept of “fasted cardio” is based on the theory that low glycogen levels cause the body to shift energy utilization away from carbohydrates and increase lipolysis in order to mobilize stored fat for energy. Schoenfeld (2011) suggested that even the premise of this concept is flawed, since it considers only the energy utilized during the training session when determining the optimal method for fat loss. As Schoenfeld points out, energy utilization associated with fat burning must be considered over the course of several days, since substrate utilization is determined by multiple factors (9).

Additionally, when attempting to reduce body fat while preserving muscle mass, every bit of muscle tissue matters. It’s been shown that proteolysis (i.e. the breakdown of protein) is increased when performing aerobic exercise in a fasted state (9). Finally, performing any type of high-intensity training, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), in a fasted state will most likely impair performance, thereby blunting the positive effects of the training.

How: Eat before you condition! This doesn’t mean you have to eat for conditioning the same way you would for strength training; it just means that you need to consume at least some protein (i.e. 20-25 grams) and some carbohydrates prior to training. To lose body fat while preserving your hard-earned muscle, consume a mixture of BCAAs and dextrose prior to training.



1. Focus on big-bang-for-the-buck, full-body lifts with sufficient training volume.

Why: For the umpteenth time, spot reduction is a myth! All the sit-ups and curls in the world won’t shed that stubborn belly and arm fat. Sure, isolation exercises can help shape and define a particular muscle. However, they won’t burn calories and melt away the fat that’s hiding those muscles in the same way that full-body, compound movements will. Compound movements provide the hormonal, neural, and cellular adaptations needed to maintain lean body mass, while simultaneously ramping up caloric expenditure. Additionally, compound movements allow you to go heavy (in order to recruit the high threshold motor units that have the highest capacity for growth) and work multiple large muscle groups at once, which in-turn makes for more efficient training.

How: Make multi-joint lifts like the squat, deadlift, hip thrust, lunges, bench press, overhead press, dips, pull-up, and the row the foundation of your program. Perform two or three of these exercises for adequate volume at the beginning of every training session. When training with higher loads, about 25 total reps are optimal (i.e. 5 sets of 5, 4 sets of 6, 8 sets of 3). At lower loads, a total of about 50 reps is the magic number (i.e. 5 sets of 10, 4 sets of 12, 3 sets of 15).


2. Hit a variety of repetition ranges.

Why: One of the most common misconceptions, even among seasoned lifters, is that muscle is built only in the 6-12 repetition range. It is certainly true that a significant portion of hypertrophy (i.e. muscle growth) will occur within this window. However, in order to maximize muscle gains — and trigger each of the various mechanisms of hypertrophy (10) — both lower and higher repetition ranges should also be covered (11).

Moderate- and high-repetition sets will induce muscle damage and metabolic stress (also known as “the pump”), while maintaining the use of high-load, low repetition sets will facilitate the use of greater absolute loads at submaximal intensities. Only when all three strategies are employed in synchrony can we reach our full muscular potential.

How: Not surprisingly, the compound lifts discussed above are ideally suited for all three mechanisms of hypertrophy and repetition ranges. For an in-depth analysis of how to manipulate training variables (sets, reps, tempo, and rest) to invoke the various mechanisms, see Bret and Travis’s recent T-Nation article, “The 3 Essential Workout Methods for Muscle.”


3. Utilize undulating periodization.

Why: Undulating periodization is suggested to be superior to other forms of periodization when peaking for a specific event isn’t a concern (12, 13). To reduce body fat while minimizing losses in muscle, the training program must allow for somewhat frequent variations in training parameters like volume, intensity, rest period, and tempo. These fluctuations will allow for the maximizing all of the factors associated with muscle hypertrophy, while simultaneously giving you the freedom to “auto-regulate” your workout based on other stressors in your life. Undulating periodization also reduces the risk of progress stagnation, which tends to be associated with an overemphasis, or specialization in a certain volume and/or intensity.

How: There are a multitude of undulating periodization schemes. One simple and easy to implement example is daily undulating periodization, which elicits the desired response by cycling through training sessions emphasizing multiple loading schemes over the course of the week. It’s important to note that although the bulk of each session’s sets and reps should be consistent with that particular day’s emphasis, work can also be done in other ranges (i.e. one or two “back-off sets” following heavy strength work).

A sample week of daily undulating periodization might look like this:


4. Incorporate metabolic resistance training for its dual muscle-building and conditioning benefits.

Why: If anything over 5 reps is cardio, as some hardcore powerlifters will assure you, then why not take advantage? By metabolic resistance training (MRT), we’re referring to circuit-style workouts utilizing low-load, low-skill, high-rep compound movements and standard resistance training implements. Traditionalists might eschew this method of conditioning, preferring time-honored machines like fan bikes or even good old-fashioned hill sprints, but in truth — when programmed intelligently — metabolic resistance training has a slew of benefits.


MRT provides an adequate stimulus for maintaining muscle, while simultaneously ramping up the fat-burning furnace. It increases the metabolic cost of exercise (600-700 kcal/hour) by increasing excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) (14, 15, 16), or that feeling that you’re still burning fat well after the last rep, which you actually are! Due to the glycogen-depleting nature of high-intensity exercise, our body shifts its focus to replenishing those glycogen stores post-exercise, which in turn increases lipolysis and the utilization of free fatty acids as fuel (16). In fact, EPOC increases exponentially with high-intensity exercise (high intensity of load or effort), as opposed to the linear increase associated with submaximal intensities (16).

Moreover, MRT allows you to increase your work capacity through improving lactate clearance, thus enabling you to perform a greater volume of work at higher relative intensities (16). In sum, MRT is an ideal method for improving aerobic and anaerobic metabolism, while efficiently and effectively torching unwanted body fat.

How: MRT should involve compound exercises for the full body. It’s most easily carried out in supersets (two exercises performed back-to-back in alternating fashion) or circuit form. Some exercises to consider include squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, bench press, push press, rows, and dips.

The work load should be approximately 60-65% of your 1-RM for 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps. The intensity of effort should be very high (i.e. RPE 8-10 on the 10-point scale). Rest should be no longer than 30 seconds between rounds of supersets and no longer than 2 minutes between rounds of a larger circuit (17). An example of an MRT circuit might be 3 rounds of 15 goblet squats, 15 repetitions on bench press, 15 ring rows, and 15 deadlifts. Push the pace, but rest as needed in order to maintain form.


5. Condition strategically with a mix of intensities (of both resistance and effort) and durations.

Why: Every minute of conditioning must serve a purpose. That is, spending mindless hours on the elliptical or stationary bike will not help you reach your body composition goals. Nor will having an “every-day-is-game-day” mentality and going balls to the wall session after session. In order to lose fat and preserve muscle when conditioning, the key is to strike an optimal balance between shorter, higher intensity efforts and longer, lower intensity bouts.

Cardiac output, or steady state, training at low-to-moderate intensity (i.e. 25-30 minutes cycling at 50-70% HRR) can be an extremely useful tool, as well. Cardiac output training assists in recovery by improving the clearance of metabolic byproducts, improving the quality of sleep, and improving the body’s ability to replenish glycogen stores. In addition, cardiac output training can improve autonomic nervous system control (i.e. sympathetic vs. parasympathetic balance), which directly impacts recovery and improves mood. Finally, as its name implies, cardiac output training is also great for the heart, thereby allowing you to keep a healthier engine.

How: Incorporate at least one day per week each of metabolic resistance training, high- or low-intensity interval/tempo training, and cardiac output training (i.e. 25-30 minutes cycling at 50-70% HRR). When incorporating interval training into your program, select an appropriate work-to-rest ratio based on the primary energy pathway you are utilizing.

If you’re performing high-intensity interval sessions involving a 30-second all-out sprint, then an appropriate rest period would be 3 minutes (1:6 work-rest ratio). This allows for the primary energy system being taxed —  anaerobic glycolysis, in this case —  to recover, which will allow you to perform the sprints as close to full capacity as possible. In contrast, if you’re doing aerobic intervals, such as 3 minutes of work, a rest period of 3 minutes will be adequate to recover in order to perform the interval near full capacity (1:1 work-rest ratio). Perform cardiac output training at least once a week for 25-35 minutes at 50-70% of your HRR.


Don’t Be a Stiff!

Remember, muscle growth and fat loss are a combination of the stress of training and the ability to recover from that stress. Sometimes life gets in the way — maybe the baby kept you up all night, or you were forced to grab a lower quality pre-workout meal than usual. When this occurs, it’s important to “auto-regulate,” or tweak training parameters to coincide with your current physiological and psychological states. Moreover, don’t feel guilty if you slip up every now and then on nutrition or if you have to skip a workout. It’s okay to live a little! Just be sure to jump right back on the wagon.


  1. Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, & Norton LE. Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 11 (7), 2014.
  1. Garthe I, Raastad T, Refsnes PE, Koivisto A, & Sundgot-Borgen J. Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 21, 2011.
  1. Chaston TB, Dixon JB, & O’Brien PE. Changes of fat-free mass during significant weight loss: a systematic review. International Journal of Obesity. 31, 2007.
  1. Murphy CH, Hector AJ, & Phillips SM. Considerations for protein intake in managing weight loss in athletes. European Journal of Sport Science. 2014.
  1. Perez-Schindler J, Hamilton DL, Moore DR, Baar K, & Philip A. Nutritional strategies to support concurrent training. European Journal of Sport Science. 2015.
  1. Churchward-Venne TA, Murphy CH, Longland ™, & Phillips SM. Role of protein and amino acids in promoting lean mass accretion with resistance exercise and attenuating lean mass loss during energy deficit in humans. Springer. 2013.
  1. Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, Wolfe RR, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M. Protein, weight management, and satiety. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 87, 2008.
  1. Baar K. Using molecular biology to maximize concurrent training. Sports Medicine. 44(suppl 2), 2014.
  1. Schoenfeld BJ. Does cardio after an overnight fast maximize fat loss? Strength and Conditioning Journal. 33(1), 2011.
  1. Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24(10), 2014.
  1. Schoenfeld BJ, Contreras B, Willardson JM, Fontana F, & Tiryaki-Sonmez. Muscle Activation during low- versus high-load resistance training in well-trained men. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 114, 2014.
  1. Miranda F, Simao R, Rhea M, Bunker D, Prestes J, Diego Leite R, Miranda H, De Salles F, & Novaes J. Effects of linear versus daily undulatory periodized resistance training on maximal and submaximal strength gains. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 25(7), 2011.
  1. Rhea M, Ball S, Phillips W, & Burkett L. A comparison of linear versus daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 16(2), 2002.
  1. Da Silva RL, Brentano MA, & Martins Kruel LF. Effects of different strength training methods on post-exercise energetic expenditure. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24(8), 2010.
  1. Elliot DL, Goldberg L, & Kuehl KS. Effect of resistance training on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Journal of Applied Sport Science Research. 6(2), 1992.
  1. Paoli A, Moro T, Marcolin G, Neri M, Bianco A, Palma A, & Grimaldi K. High-intensity interval resistance training (HIRT) influences resting energy expenditure and respiratory ratio in non-dieting individuals. Journal of Translational Medicine. 10, 2012.
  1. Haltom RW, Kraemer RR, Sloan RA, Hebert EP, Frank K, & Tryniecki JL. Circuit weight training and its effects on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 31(11), 1999.

About the Authors

Marc Lewis, M.S.(c), CSCS, TSAC-F, ACSM-EP-C, ACSM-CPT is the owner of Winston Salem Personal Training in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, while also serving as a graduate teaching/research assistant in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


Twitter: @mtlewis14


Personal Training:

Travis Pollen is an NPTI certified personal trainer and American record-holding Paralympic swimmer. He is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Biomechanics and Movement Science at the University of Delaware.





Proper Hip Thrust Technique: Head and Neck Position

Bret’s Introduction

Ben Bruno is kind of a big deal. He’s known as one of the most innovative trainers in the fitness industry, and he’s provided useful information that is being put to use in gyms around the world. You may recall that he wrote THIS guest blog for my site 6 months ago which provided 12 tips for better hip thrusts. You also might remember Ben from the Evolution of the Hip Thrust blogpost, where Ben’s videos were featured numerous times. I’m going to give today’s article from Ben a thorough introduction as I believe that the advice contained within is very important.

For quite some time, I’ve been noticing that my best clients in terms of glute capacity tend to flex their necks during hip thrusts. I do it, Diana does it (see picture below…this picture was taken around a month ago during a set of hip thrusts), and several of my clients do it as well. Now, some of you who have been reading my blog for many years will recall that several years ago, I noticed that my best clients tended to round their upper backs during back extensions. However, it still took me time to realize that I should actually coach and cue the rounded thoracic spine approach when teaching back extensions (see HERE) for greater glute activation.

Diana hip thrusting - note the head/neck position which prevents overarching of the spine and encourages slight posterior pelvic tilt.

Diana hip thrusting – note the head/neck position which prevents overarching of the spine and encourages slight posterior pelvic tilt.

Along the same lines, before last week, I hadn’t yet thought of coaching and cueing a flexed head and neck position during hip thrusts. When Ben called me last week to discuss the epiphany he had for this article, I immediately began utilizing it more with my clients with great success. I should mention that I have found that I’m even more lenient than Ben in terms of the amount of neck flexion I’m okay with – Ben prefers slight flexion, but I prefer moderate flexion.

This flies in the face of how many coaches teach the hip thrust – with neutral spine and neutral head/neck, but I think we modeled this off of squats and deadlifts, where high erector spinae activation is vital, and which likely doesn’t apply to hip thrusts. Please give it a try, as I’ve found that it works very well with the majority clients. That said, some folks who experience neck pain when moving into flexion or those with individuals with pronounced kyphosis are better off sticking to neutral. 

Proper Hip Thrust Technique: Head and Neck Position
By: Ben Bruno

I love hip thrusts and use them with just about all of my clients, men and women alike.

For men it’s generally more of a secondary exercise that I use later in the workout after squats, deadlifts, and single leg work, or on days where I want to give the spine a break from heavy loading but still want to achieve a training effect for the posterior chain. The being said, we still focus on progressive overload.

For many of the women I train though, it’s actually my primary lower body exercise. Most of the girls I train want to improve their glutes without building up their thighs, and for that goal I think the hip thrust fits the bill better than any other lower body exercise. As such, I treat it as a primary exercise and do it first in the workout and then follow them up with squats, deadlifts, and single leg work as secondary exercises.

What I like most about hip thrusts is how “user-friendly” they are.

I define user-friendly by several criteria:

  1. Safe: I’ve never seen or even heard of anyone getting hurt from hip thrusts.
  2. Quick learning curve: Most clients pick up hip thrusts very quickly and there’s generally a very steep learning curve, meaning they can pick up the movement quickly and start to get a training effect right away.
  3. Fits many different body types: A lot of clients just aren’t built to squat well and find a continual uphill battle to do so with good form. The same goes for deadlifting, as a lot of folks have an extremely hard time deadlifting from the floor with a neutral spine despite lots of practice and mobility work. Hip thrusts on the other hand seem to work for just about any body type with slight form and setup manipulations.

That being said, while people generally pick up hip thrusts very quickly, there’s one issue/mistake that I see a lot of people make both when they’re first starting out and as they get stronger and strive to use heavier weights, and that’s arching the lower back too much and going into anterior pelvic tilt as they thrust up. (See related post: Quit Going So Darn Heavy on Hip Thrusts: Train Your Glutes, Not Your Ego)

This is usually well-intentioned as it comes from trying to get full hip extension and a complete range of motion, but overarching is both potentially dangerous to the lower back and also ineffective for training the glutes, as you want the stress on the glutes and off the lower back as much as possible. To work the glutes optimally in the hip thrust, I think you want to maintain a neutral spine or even a slight posterior pelvic tilt.

That being said, I don’t like to instruct my clients to posteriorly tilt the pelvis as they end up doing it excessively, which I also don’t think it optimal.

So the challenge then becomes: how to achieve the ideal spine position in the simplest way possible?

I’ve found that while the problem is occurring in the lower back and pelvis, the answer actually lies in the head positioning, and more specifically, the eyes.

Most people tend to crank their head and neck back as the thrust, presumably to help gain momentum to lift more weight. What’s more, a lot of people keep their heads cranked back even as they lower their hips, so their butts are on the floor while their necks are overly extended and their eyes are focused on the ceiling or even the wall behind them.


Hyperextension: Bad

This position clearly puts a lot of undue strain on the neck, but it also sets you up to go into excessive lumbar extension and anterior pelvic tilt.

As a coach I think it’s a good idea to keeping your cueing as simple as possible, so I’ve found that rather than explain the spinal biomechanics of the hip thrust to clients, which will just confuse them and cause them to overcompensate the other way, I just tell them where to look, and the head position ends up cleaning the positioning of the pelvis and lower back on its own. (Bret’s Note: Don’t bust THIS detailed explanation out on lumbopelvic hip complex biomechanics during hip thrusting when training a client, just tell them where to look like Ben says).

The instructions are simple. At the bottom position of the hip thrust when your butt on or just above the floor, you should be looking at the wall directly in front of you, which makes for a neutral neck position. And you should return this position on each rep.

Starting Position

Starting and Ending Position

At the top position, focus on where the wall meets the ceiling. Doing so will again create a neutral neck position, or even very slightly flexed. As long as the neck isn’t flexed excessively you should be fine.


Slight Flexion: Good

Moderate Flexion: Good

Moderate Flexion: Good

It’s important to note that while some neck flexion is fine at the top, you don’t want to overdo. A little moderation goes a long way. Here is an example of what you don’t want to do.

Hyperflexion: Bad

Hyperflexion: Bad

It’s really that simple. I’ve noticed that altering the line of sight and the head position cleans up the movement pretty much instantaneously and gets clients into the right positioning without the need for confusing and complicated cueing.

Also, I used to instruct clients to strive for a straight line from the head to the knees at the top position of the hip thrust to encourage a full range of motion and complete hip extension, but I think the cue can be confusing to some folks and lead to excessive arching and anterior pelvic tilt. So now I made a slight adjustment and cue a straight line from the shoulders to the knees (while focusing the eyes where the wall meets the ceiling), and that’s helped tremendously as well.

I think these slight modifications will really help and lead to better and safer hip thrusts for you and/or your clients.


Ben is a personal trainer in Los Angeles and publishes a blog and free newsletter at

You can connect with him on social media as well.




You Tube:


A Typical Day in the Life of Ben

Bret’s Conclusion

Something interesting that I noticed when viewing the pics embedded in this article. I wasn’t focused on my trunk position, just my head/neck position. But you can see in the pictures that spinal posture follows head/neck posture. In the hyperextended neck picture, the spine is hyperextended, and the more flexed the neck gets, the less extension you see in the spine…in fact the last picture you see spinal flexion with ample posterior pelvic tilt.

In the future, I need to conduct a study to examine the effects on head/neck position on 1) spine posture, 2) pelvic posture, 3) gluteus maximus activation, 4) erector spinae activation, and 5) hamstring activation. In the meantime, simply use the tips Ben provided and cue/think of eye gaze direction, as that solves the problem most of the time. So simple!

I’ll end this blogpost with screenshots of my clients doing hip thrusts and some pics I found off of the Internet. Note the natural tendency for neck flexion along with the lack of spinal extension, which is what we want. This way the glutes push the hip up instead of a global extension from shoulders to knees. In fact, when reviewing videos, I noticed that the only time my head goes back into extension (along with that of my client Ciji and some others who are prone to hyperextending their spines) is on the last rep of a challenging set when I can no longer maintain proper lumbopelvic position. That is very important to note!

Bret - neck flexion

Bret – neck flexion

Booty Queen Amanda Kuclo (Latona) - neck flexion

Booty Queen Amanda Kuclo (Latona) – neck flexion


Gaby – neck flexion


Sohee – neck flexion


Mary – neck flexion


Camille – neck flexion


BJ Gaddour – neck flexion

Random Internet woman - neck flexion

Random Internet woman – neck flexion


A Simple Tip for Olympic Weightlifting Training

A Simple Tip for Olympic Weightlifting Training
Robert A. Panariello MS, PT, ATC, CSCS
Professional Physical Therapy
Professional Athletic Performance Center
New York, New York

When instructing the non-Olympic Weightlifting athlete who has never performed Olympic Style Weightlifting (OSW) exercises or exercise alternatives (i.e. pulls), one error often observed occurs during the athlete’s upper extremity involvement during the exercise execution. Inexperienced athletes will often excessively pull the barbell with their arms instead of allowing a proper lower extremity contribution for vertical barbell velocity and successful exercise performance. This instructional exercise offered to me years ago by my good friend Al Vermeil will provide feedback to the athlete and assist in ensuring an appropriate lower extremity contribution for proper technical exercise performance.

The Exercise Starting Position

The athlete assumes a “hang” position exercise posture while holding a wooden dowel positioned against the popliteal fossa at the posterior aspect of the knee. A clean or snatch grip is incorporated upon the dowel depending upon the specific exercise of instruction (Figure 1).

The Exercise Execution

The athlete slowly extends their body vertically while allowing the wooden dowel to rise against the posterior aspect of their legs, concluding in a position of triple extension on the balls of their feet with their shoulders shrugged (Figure 2). The exercise is then repeated at faster tempos to generate a greater exercise velocity performance via the lower extremities.

Figure 1 The Starting Position                                             Figure 2 The Exercise Execution

Figure 1 The Starting Position                    Figure 2 The Exercise Execution

The position of the wooden dowel offers a “bar pathway” posterior to the body thus eliminating the upper extremities from the exercise equation. Since the arms are not a contributing factor to the exercise performance, the athlete is now provided with feedback as they sense the lower extremity involvement during the exercise performance. This is the same lower extremity sensation that should occur during the actual OSW exercise performance with a barbell positioned anterior to the body.


Neural Flossing for the Strength and Conditioning Professional

Neural Flossing for the Strength and Conditioning Professional
By Dr. Chris Leib

Neural flossing is physical therapy technique that uses specific exercises to improve mobility to different tracts of the nervous system. Recently, neural flossing has come into vogue in the strength and conditioning community1-4. The utility of such techniques in this sector, however, are questionable at best.

Examples of the lack of understanding and misapplication of neural flossing are far too easy to come by in the popular fitness media:

  • A post on Livestrong.com1 described flossing of the sciatic nerve as a “massage” for the nerve when it becomes compressed by muscles and/or bones.
  • The Wilmington Performance Lab site2 confidently claimed – without scientific reference – that scar tissue adhesions around the sciatic nerve are the most common cause of sciatic nerve-like symptoms. It went on to add, also without reference, that “fortunately, this compression and poor tissue quality surrounding the nerve can be alleviated in most individuals with neural/spinal flossing.”
The slump test: a common neurodynamic assessment

The slump test: a common neurodynamic assessment

The true value of neurodynamic techniques actually lies in the ongoing assessment process that focuses on an individual’s unique injury-specific symptoms, not so much in the techniques themselves. The trouble is, this process of assessing symptomatic response falls outside of the scope of practice of many of the strength and conditioning professionals promoting these exercises.

In the absence of pain, neurodynamic techniques can indeed be performed safely in a strength and conditioning environment. However, in a healthy individual, the nervous system is dynamic; it naturally moves in conjunction with muscle and joint action. Therefore, neural mobility is often already incorporated into good functional movement and mobility practices through dynamic warm-up, making specific neurodynamic techniques superfluous.

All this being said, with their recent proliferation into the broader fitness community, neurodynamic techniques have become needlessly mystified. I present the concepts below in an effort to erase misconceptions and allow for improved communication and referral networks between coaches and clinicians. I also demonstrate the proper application of the techniques into a dynamic warm-up in a strength and conditioning setting (video #3 below).

Criteria for Neurodynamic Treatment

The Maitland Australian Physiotherapy Seminars (MAPS) curriculum describes three major criteria when considering whether neurodynamic treatment would be relevant to a patient’s symptoms:

  1. Does the neurodynamic assessment technique reproduce the comparable sign (the patient’s chief complaint)?
  2. Is the response to the assessment technique different on the side of complaint versus the uninvolved side?
  3. Can the symptom be sensitized (i.e. changed by motion from a distant joint)? For example, is upper arm pain made better or worse with motion at the wrist?

In cases where all three specifications are met, the treatment techniques are actually fairly similar to those used for assessment. Variations are simply made to duration, frequency, and loading strategy (i.e. distal to proximal vs. proximal to distal) based on patient response.

It’s in these subtle adjustments that the techniques become so valuable. It’s also here, in the skilled adjustment process, where the scopes of practice between healthcare practitioners and strength and conditioning professionals diverge.

The Seven Major Neurodynamic Techniques

Below, I’ve put together video demonstrations of the seven major actively-performed neurodynamic techniques described by David Butler in his revolutionary text, A Sensitive Nervous System.

The techniques are as follows:

  1. Upper Limb Tension Test (ULTT) 1 biasing the median nerve
  2. ULTT 2a biasing the median nerve
  3. ULTT 2b biasing the radial nerve
  4. ULTT 3 biasing the ulnar nerve
A relationship between the nerve branches of the upper extremity:

A relationship between the nerve branches of the upper extremity:

The median nerve originates in the brachial plexus (network of nerves in the cervical, pectoral and axillary region) and travels down the front of the upper extremity crossing the anterior shoulder, elbow, and wrist (under the carpal tunnel) and ends in the hand.

The radial nerve comes out of the brachial plexus and travels into the posterior arm and then spirals to the anterior arm before spiraling back to the posterior forearm and wrist.

The ulnar nerve comes out of the brachial plexus and travels down the posteriormedial aspect of the arm, forearm and wrist. Compressing this nerve at the elbow creates “funny bone-like” symptoms.

See video #1 here for a demonstration of ULTT’s:

  1. The straight leg raise (SLR) biasing the sciatic nerve
  2. Slump test biasing the sciatic nerve

sciatic nerve

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body. It originates from nerve roots L4 through S3 in the sacral plexus and then crosses the posterior aspect of the hip, knee, ankle and foot (branches into tibial and common fibular nerves once crossing the knee).

  1. The prone knee bend biasing the femoral nerve

femoral nerve

The femoral nerve, the largest branch coming off of the lumbar plexus, originates from L2-4 and then passes the deep anterior structures of the abdomen (psaos and iliacus) and groin (inguinal ligament) and then travels into the anterior thigh

See video #2 here for a demonstration of lower limb tension tests:

Take note of the use of the word biasing when describing the nerves being assessed. Too often we learn movement assessments and techniques under the guise of isolating structures. In the case of neural motion, it’s both scientifically unproven and anatomically impossible to isolate motion to a specific nerve branch. Moreover, from a practical standpoint, it’s not necessary to isolate any structure in order to assess the need for a neurodynamic approach.

complex system pose

In this complex system of systems, is it really reasonable to think we can isolate a stretch to any one specific nerve?

Neurodynamics in Dynamic Warm-up

The third and final video below is a discussion and demonstration of dynamic mobility exercises that incorporate all of the above-mentioned neural mobility techniques. These movements can be used by both clinician and coach – in the absence of pain – as a dynamic warm-up and as corrective counterbalances for chronic positioning (i.e. sitting, standing, etc.).

See video #3 here:

Remember, the value of specific nerve flossing or neurodynamic techniques lies in the assessment process, which should be reserved for the hands of a licensed health care professional only. As a strength and conditioning professional, it’s wise to find a clinician you trust and can build a referral relationship with. This way, your clients can get out of pain faster, and you can get the most of out of their physical performance.



About the Author

Chris Leib of is a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with nearly a decade of experience in treating movement dysfunctions and enhancing human performance. He has written for and and has a versatile movement background with a variety of certifications as both a physical therapist and fitness professional. Chris considers physical activity a vital process to being a complete human being and is passionate about helping others maximize their movement potential. Be sure to follow him on Facebook and YouTube.


Special thanks to Travis Pollen of for help turning this piece into something readable and hopefully valuable.