Category Archives: Strength Training

Second Powerlifting Meet Results

I finally did it! I got the 600 lb deadlift. It took me six years to move from 550 lbs to 600 lbs, but I got there. For the past several months, I’ve been training my butt off (or better yet, on).

BC

First Meet Results (Last Year)

HERE is a link to my first PL meet one year ago where I attained a 375 lb squat, a 287 lb bench press, a 562 lb deadlift, and a 1,223 lb total at a bodyweight of 220 lbs. This article also details my experiences as a first time competitor. My goal at last year’s meet was to pull off a 400 lb squat, 300 lb bench press, 600 lb deadlift, and 1,300 lb total, but I wasn’t quite there yet. I needed another year to make this come to fruition.

Second Meet Results (Yesterday)

Yesterday, I weighed in at 236 lbs and attained a 413 lb squat, a 314 lb bench press, a 601 lb deadlift, and a 1,328 lb total. I gained 16 lbs and added 38 lbs to my squat, 27 lbs to my bench press, 39 lbs to my deadlift, and 106 lbs to my total. I PR’d on all three lifts for the day.

Raw Powerlifting

I prefer raw powerlifting over geared powerlifting, however, one day I’d like to train for a geared meet as I think it would be fun and it would allow me to better understand the differences. I’ve messed around with knee wraps and squat briefs and they added around 60 lbs to my squat on the first attempt, so I wonder what adding in a squat suit/bench shirt and several months of practice would do for my lifts. Both meets I’ve done so far were with the 100% Raw Federation – they do an outstanding job. If you’re thinking about competing, click on the schedule tab and plan a meet, you will be very happy with your decision.

I want to help promote the sport of raw powerlifting. That was the point of the Operation Get Strong and Sexy series – to show women that powerlifting doesn’t automatically bulk you up and to help encourage women to compete. I will tell you that the camaraderie is amazing at these events – everyone is so helpful, friendly, and supportive. It’s invigorating.

What excited me almost as much as attaining my deadlift goal was the feedback I received at the meet. I was approached by approximately 6 different lifters whom each informed me that my articles have been extremely helpful to them. Two of these individuals are top lifters in Arizona, with legs the size of tree trunks. One said that the hip thrust has helped his squat and improved his pelvic tilt. The other said that the hip thrust has helped his deadlift lockout. Two of the people found me through TNation, which reminds me that I need to write an article for them ASAP – I’ve ben slacking! Two women approached me and told me that I was the reason they entered the contest. Another woman told me that she uses my methods with all of her clients (she’s a trainer) and told me that the results have been incredible. Hearing this feedback makes it all worth it!

Upcoming Strength Goals

My goal for the next year is to duplicate yesterday’s performance at a bodyweight of 220 lbs. Then I wish to total 1,400 lbs.

It’s not easy to be setting PR’s at the age of 37, after 22 years of lifting, so patience and good training are the keys. Not just hard training – smart AND hard training. Training hard without also training smart usually leads to injury and stagnation.

Video of the Meet

Below is a video of the meet, with my commentary:

Reflections

Squats and bench went very well. I don’t think I could have mustered up another 5 lbs on either lift, so it’s great to feel like you didn’t leave any room in the tank. I thought I’d get my 3rd deadlift attempt at 612 lbs, since 601 lbs came up fairly easily, but I suppose I was a bit fatigued. I would have went 9/9 if I’d have gotten it, which would have been astounding. Oh well, I’ll hit it down the road.

I can’t decide which deadlift stance I like most; my lockout is strongest with conventional, I’m strongest off the floor with sumo, and semi-sumo seems to be a good compromise. When you’re 6’4″ tall, squats and bench sure feel better with some extra body mass. I remember talking to Dave Tate 6 years ago and he told me that I’d need to weigh 300-320 lbs to be a competitive world class powerlifter at my height – I agree with him.

I prefer to weigh around 225 lbs, and I don’t see myself gaining another 100 lbs any time soon, so I suppose I’m content with being a mediocre powerlifter for now. I have some of the worst genetics for displaying powerlifting strength. My femurs are freakishly long, and I struggle to grow my quads and triceps. Most of my friends could bench press 225 lbs in high school (several could bust out 315 lbs); it took me 5 solid years of lifting to bench 225 lbs. At 15 years of age, I couldn’t bench press the bar. I literally got stapled to the bench and my friends were amazed at how incredibly weak I was.

I therefore feel like I represent the average lifter. We’re not all cut out to be powerlifting champions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t compete. We should compete with ourselves and be proud of our accomplishments, even if we don’t rank nationally. I’m walking proof that with consistency and determination, one can achieve steady strength gains over the years.

I feel that it’s very important to train with strong lifters if you want to achieve great results. This year I’ve been training at Revolution Training in Tempe, which I feel helped a lot as it expanded my strength expectations. Revolution and Die Hard Gym in Peoria are the two best powerlifting gyms in Arizona, to my knowledge.

Training Leading Up to the Meet

What do I attribute my strength gains to? I’ve been sticking to the 2 x 4: Maximum Strength program that I created, which is officially launching on April 14th. I know I announced a March 10th date, so I apologize for that. What can I say? I have a serious case of OCD and am a huge perfectionist. I added in another bonus (5 Cutting Edge Glute Training Tips – I showcase EMG findings from various case studies), and I also perfected the Biomechanics of the Squat and Deadlift bonus. There won’t be any more delays, I promise.

In particular, the front squats and block pulls in the 2 x 4 program have been very good for my strength, as have the pause reps. But it’s not just the exercises; it’s also the intertwining of the volume, frequency, and intensity. I’ll expound upon this in a future article.

block pull

Learning Proper Form in Strength Training

I have three simple rules when it comes to form:

  1. Due to anatomical differences, good form will necessarily look different from one lifter to the next
  2. All beginning lifters must master the basics
  3. Once a base of strength and muscle has been built, form adjustments can be made depending on the goal

Allow me to elaborate. Sometimes I read articles by various strength & conditioning experts and my jaw drops. I wonder if any of them really train people or pay attention to joint angles and biomechanics.

For example, I recently read that a good squat looks the same for every lifter. Having trained thousands of people in my life, I can assure you that there are many ways for a squat to look right, and that different lifters will have markedly different squat form depending on their body structure. I liken the torso, femur, and tibia to a lightning bolt. Everyone has a unique “lightning bolt,” and your lightning bolt will highly influence the joint angles inherent to your maximal squat form.

Lightning Symbol

Read THIS blogpost to see how pelvic and head-of-femur anatomy will influence squat form, but femur length, ankle dorsiflexion ROM, and body segment length ratios highly influence squat form as well. Arm length will highly influence deadlift form, and forearm length to humerus length ratios will highly influence military press and chin up form.

Nevertheless, there are various rules that must be learnt by beginners. All lifters must initially learn to brace their spines, hinge at their hips, keep their knees out in a squat, squeeze glutes at end-range hip extension, and so on and so forth. These are non-negotiables. Beginners must learn how to control their lumbopelvic region during heavy lifting and learn how to keep as much tension as possible on the active components (the muscles) rather than the passive components (the ligaments and joint capsules).

Good Form

After a couple of years of lifting, assuming that the lifter has built up appreciable levels of strength and muscle mass, then form can begin to be altered depending on the goal. If the goal is to demonstrate maximum strength, then the lifter may adjust technique in order to allow for greater loads to be lifted, as long as the lifter understands that these form decrements increase the risk of injury. Because the lifter learned the rules, he or she now understands how to bend the rules and get away with it. Don’t get your Konstantinovs on without first learning how to pull with an arch!

konstantin

Grip Training for Deadlifting

Let me tell you from personal experience – having a weak grip sucks! If you’re genetically predispositioned to having a strong grip, then chances are, you cannot relate. Your grip most likely grows stronger from simply holding onto heavy dumbbells and bars when performing dumbbell bench, dumbbell incline, one arm rows, pull-ups, and of course deadlifts. Sort of like the guy whose calves grow huge from squatting and deadlifting without doing any special calf work, if your grip never fails you despite never training it in the gym, then consider yourself lucky.

However, if you’re like me, and you’ve dropped numerous maximal deadlift attempts, then you know how frustrating inferior grip strength can be. Many lifters resort to using wrist straps. While I have nothing against wrist straps per se, you can’t use them on the platform if you ever compete in a powerlifting competition.

handshake

Don’t be this guy!

Therefore, I recommend building an internal set of wrist straps by strengthening the hell out of your grip musculature. I never thought that I’d one day be able to bring up my grip strength to where it didn’t hamper my training. I was wrong. I speak from experience when I tell you that it’s actually quite easy to turn the tables on a weak grip and take your grip strength from a weak link to a strong link.

5 Categories of Grip Training

Before I discuss how I went about building my grip strength, allow me to teach you some grip science. Grip experts generally tend to categorize grip training into 5 broad categories as follows:

1Crushing Grip – The grip closes off and crushes down on the implement. Think deadlifts, shrugs, rows, cleans, chins, etc. Also think hand grippers and gripping machines.

2. Pinch Grip – Brings the thumbs into play. Think of putting two plates together and picking them up, then holding them for time

3Open Hand Grip – Hand is open but fingers aren’t clenched. Sometimes only the fingertips are touching the implement. Think thick bar holds, fat gripz, etc.

4. Extensor – The fingers can extend too, which is the opposite of gripping. This is often ignored and neglected. Think of rubber bands wrapped around the fingers and other webbed tools that allow you to extend the fingers against resistance.

5. Wrist Strength – The wrist joint is a stabilizer for the finger joints, so the wrist can be strengthened in all directions. Think wrist curls, wrist extensions, wrist roller, lateral lever maneuvers, etc.

With that said, here’s how I went about strengthening my grip so that my deadlift is finally limited to what I can pull and not what I can hold onto. 

Exercises

One Arm Static Hangs

To perform the one arm static hang, all you will need is a pull up bar or a squat rack. Set up as you would for a double overhand pull up. Once you’re set, drop one hand and hang there as long as you can. You want to maintain some tension in the shoulder and upper back muscles of the working arm; don’t just hang freely.

If you find that you are swinging too much during the hold, you can stabilize the body by holding onto one of the posts of the squat rack with the free hand. Just make sure the working arm is holding the vast majority of bodyweight.

One Arm Static Hang

I like these because they don’t load the spine like farmer’s walks and db shrugs, which can be valuable when already deadlifting twice per week. I could do a one-arm hang for 30 seconds in my prime, but be aware that the material and thickness of the bar dramatically influences your hang duration.

Grippers

Grippers consist of two spring-loaded handles that you hold in your palm and squeeze together. Most lifters have used these at one point or another, or at least seen them.

To use the gripper, hold it in one hand so that one handle rests under the fingers and the other handle rests in the palm of the hand. Squeeze the gripper as far as you can, ideally until the handles touch. If you find that you can barely move the gripper, then you need to regress to a lighter gripper that provides less resistance. Just as with every exercise, range of motion is a big component.

I’m still not very strong at these, but I can do 30+ reps with the trainer (Ironmind Captains of Crush) and 6-8 reps with the #1, which is a lot more than I could do when I first started.

Gripper 1 2

Double-Overhand Grip During Deadlift Warm-Up Sets and Bent Over Rows

When you see lifters going for big pulls, they almost always rely on the over/under grip since this style allows for the heaviest loads to be used. Going to double overhand significantly increases the grip challenge.

There’s nothing wrong with using a mixed grip for the heaviest sets of deadlifts. However, I recommend utilizing the double overhand grip for your warm up sets on deadlifts. Basically, you want to use a double over hand grip while you’re working up in weight, and once the weight becomes too hard to hold on to, switch to a mixed grip. This will bring your grip up to par in due time.

Screenshot 2014-02-06 13.13.59

The double overhand grip applies to bent over rows as well. If you’ve experimented with both overhand and underhand rows, you’ll know that you can lift more weight using an underhand grip. By programming more double overhand rows, your grip strength will benefit much more so than if you were to use heavier weights with an underhand grip.

basic bent over row

I do my double-overhand bent over rows with 185-225 lbs, and I can double overhand deadlift around 365 lbs.

Bench Squeezes

Bench squeezes are very simple yet effective. I got this exercise from my powerlifting and strongman friends, and while it may look like not much is going on, the benefits have spoken for themselves.

Simply stand or kneel over a bench so that you are perpendicular to it. Grab along the side of the bench with both hands. Grip the padding (avoid using the thumbs), squeeze down as hard as you can, and hold for time.

Bench Squeezes

I will typically hold my bench squeezes for 15 seconds in duration.

Holding the Last Rep of the Last Set of Heavy Deads for Max Time

As mentioned before, a double overhand grip is good for the sets of deadlifts leading up to the heavier working sets. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t build any grip strength when using a mixed grip on your heavier deadlifts.

Once you’ve reached your last working set and you’ve switched to a mixed grip, a static hold at the top for time is a great way to build additional grip strength with loads greater than what you can hold using a double overhand grip.

On your last rep of heavy deadlifts, once you’ve locked out up top, stand there and hold onto the bar for max time. Remember to squeeze the glutes and maintain a neutral spine. Don’t let the bar down until it begins slipping out of your hands or you start to bend forward. I learned this from watching Konstantin Konstantinovs deadlift. He’s pulled well over 900 lbs, so clearly this strategy works well for him! I’ll generally hold onto my last rep for an extra 10 seconds at the lockout.

Deadlift Doubleoverhand Grip

Farmer’s Walks

The farmer’s walk is a classic strongman exercise that has carryover sports and is excellent for developing grip strength and core stability. You may carry heavy dumbbells, heavy kettlebells, a trap bar, or farmer’s walk implements if you have access to them.

Grab the dumbbells in each hand, stand tall with the upper back muscles engaged and a neutral spine, and start walking. Don’t let your posture erode, and don’t rest the dumbbells on your sides.

farmers walk shoulder position

Left: not so good posture                 Right: good posture

Take small, controlled steps and maintain good form for 30 to 40 yards. Grip the weights firmly without letting the implements hang in your fingertips. I like using 150 lb dumbbells for these, but not many gyms go over 120’s, which is where a trap bar or farmer’s implements come in handy.

farmers walk

Dumbbell Shrugs

Dumbbell shrugs are another simple yet effective tool for strengthening the grip, plus it gives you an excuse to perform a targeted trap exercise to help build your yoke (I don’t have female clients perform shrugs). Hold onto a dumbbell in each hand and stand tall with a neutral spine. Grip the weights firmly and use your upper traps to pull the shoulder blades upwards as high as you can.

DB Shrugs

Avoid allowing the head to jut forward during the movement and don’t go too heavy to where you can’t achieve proper range of motion. Just as in the case of the last rep of deadlifts, you may perform a static hold for time if you find that your grip strength supersedes your trap strength. I like to perform 20 reps with the 120-lb dumbbells.

Frequency and Volume

Now that I’ve provided you with the exercises and methods I used to turn my weak grip into a strength, let me give you some program design tips as this is equally important as the exercises.

A good program will already have you using your gripping muscles. As I mentioned earlier, you’ll be grabbing a hold of dumbbells and bars throughout the training week. Therefore, you don’t want to overdo your grip training, which is very easy to do. A VERY common mistake I see lifters do is adding in a ton of grip training to their routines, which can backfire on the lifter in two ways. First, it can fatigue the grip excessively so that performance on deadlifts is limited on subsequent training days. Second, it could lead to injury. Do not make this mistake.

All you need to do is add in 2-3 sets of extra grip work 1-2 days per week. I performed just 2 sets of grip work twice per week, in addition to the double overhand warm-up strategy and deadlift isohold strategy discussed earlier in the article. Usually I’d perform one or two sets of the gripper or bench squeezes, then perform one set of static hangs, farmer’s walks, or shrugs. That’s it! Just a couple of sets. It builds the grip without overly fatiguing the grip muscles.

Conclusion

For the first time in my lifting career, I can adequately hold onto anything my posterior chain is capable of hoisting. I pulled 565 lbs the other day and my grip wasn’t phased – I hand onto it for an additional 10 seconds at the top. Had I been told this two years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. Not only does my grip strength exceed my hip hinge strength, but chins, pulldowns, and rows also aren’t limited by grip strength, which is an added benefit. And I did it all with low volume and consistency – only performing a few sets of extra grip work per week. I never need to use wrist straps in my training unless I’m lifting at a commercial gym when traveling and I have to use a cheap, smooth, un-knurled barbell without chalk.

You may have noticed that I only performed crushing grip exercises. Since I was primarily interested in strengthening my deadlift grip, I stuck to the specificity principle. This isn’t to say that I don’t feel that pinch grip, open hand grip, extensor, or wrist strengthening is valuable. If total grip strength is a priority, then these forms of training should each be incorporated into the mix. However, if deadlift grip strength is your priority, then just 2-3 sets performed twice per week will do the trick. Once your grip is up to par, you’ll notice that you tend to greet friends in the same manner as Arnold below – it’s a natural consequence of grip strengthening.

Core Stability Training for the Advanced Lifter

Core stability training has been all the rage in the fitness field over the past decade, for good reason. Learning to move at the hips while keeping the spine stable is crucial for new lifters. While most lifters and trainers are well aware of simple core exercises that are properly suited for beginners, many aren’t well-versed in progressing these exercises to suit more advanced lifters. Too many lifters extend the duration of basic planking drills as their primary method of progressive overload, which builds strength endurance. But what about strength and power? A strong, powerful core is needed to stabilize the body during heavy lifting and explosive sporting actions.

In this article, I’ll go over some of the most effective core exercises that more advanced lifters can add to their libraries and discuss ways to make some of the classics a little more challenging.

abs

The Core

Before I delve into exercises, let’s first discuss the core. The core refers to more than just the abs. It encompasses the entire musculature of the torso, including the abdominals, obliques, erectors, glutes, hip flexors, lats, adductors, and more. The core acts on the shoulders, scapulae, spine, pelvis, and hips. At the spine, it can produce, reduce, and resist spinal flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation. It is responsible for transmitting forces from the upper body to lower body. Please read Strategies for Optimal Core Training Program Design for a comprehensive article on core training which I wrote with Brad Schoenfeld. As you can see, proper core training will require more than just a couple of sets of crunches or hanging leg raises!

Unfortunately, many lifters don’t train the core in its entirety, which leads to sub-optimal results. While the core doesn’t require a ton of extra attention, assuming a lifter is already performing squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, chin ups, presses, and rows, additional exercises are indeed needed to fill gaps. To train the core completely, one must consider the joints in play, the possible actions at each joint, and the common force vectors the lifter is seeking to strengthen. When training core stability, you’re enhancing the body’s ability to resist movement, hence the exercises can be considered “anti-movement exercises.”

Exercises

Sumo stance band anti-rotation holds

The sumo stance band rotational hold trains the ability to resist rotation. Since the sumo stance is wider and has a bigger base of support, more weight can be used than in a traditional stance band rotational hold. You want to find the sweet spot where you’re going as heavy as possible without leaning or twisting during the set’s duration.

First, attach a band to an immovable object. Power racks are preferred, but machines work well too. We typically use a pro-mini or light long band (see Elitefts, Sorinex, or Rogue for bands), but the band you use will be dependent on your strength levels. You can use a lighter band and just walk out further for more resistance.

Take the free end of the band and grip it in both hands, double overhand.

Sumo AR Hold Grip

Walk the band out until the desired amount of tension is reached, take a sumo stance, with knees slightly bent, in an athletic stance with good posture. Keep a fairly upright torso with the hands near the chest.

Keeping the spine in neutral, extend the arms straight out in front of you so that the elbows are fully extended and the hands are chest level. You should be out far enough that when you extend your arms, they make a 90 degree angle with the band.

Sumo AR hold 1 2

This exercise may be done for time or reps. We typically do 2-3 sets of 10-20-second holds on each side 1-2x per week. Cable columns can also be used for this exercise. HERE is a video.

Loaded RKC planks

The RKC plank looks very similar to a normal plank, with a few subtle differences. In the RKC plank, the elbows can be further out in front, which lengthens the lever. The feet and arms can be closer together, which narrows the base of support. Finally, the pelvis is posteriorly tilted with a giant glute squeeze, which causes the anterior core, along with the glutes, to fire much harder.

RKC PLank Loaded Good

We will place between one and four 45 lb plates on the low back of the lifter. Rather than attempt to hold for longer time, we attempt to use more load or alter technique so that the static hold is more challenging. Even with advanced lifters, 20 seconds is about the max time we’ll go for with this movement. We typically do 2-3 sets of 10-20-second holds 1-2x per week. HERE‘s a video (without the weight).

Hollow body holds

The best core exercises often seem overly simple, but when performed correctly, they are very challenging. This is definitely the case with the hollow body hold.

The hollow body hold trains anti-extension, and will be performed for time rather than reps. Again, 15-30 seconds for 2-3 sets 1-2x per week is sufficient to get an ideal training effect from these. HERE is a video you can watch (I miss my beard and mohawk!).

Hollow Body Hold 1 2

First, lie on your back with the legs straightened out and the arms extended overhead. From this supine position, you’ll elevate the legs and arms off the floor and press your low back into the ground, flattening out the lumbar spine and holding tension in the core. Make sure you elevate just enough so that your anterior core is really fighting the extension moment being created, if you go too high, you’ll make the exercise easier and cheat yourself on the benefits it provides. Dumbbells and ankle weights can be used to increase the difficulty of the exercise. HERE is a video you can watch (I miss my beard and mohawk!).

Loaded dead bugs

Another classic anti-extension core stability exercise is the dead bug. However, this drill is not challenging enough for the typical advanced lifter, so modifications are in order. Slowing the movement down and holding the bottom position while exhaling fully on each rep will increase the difficulty, but many lifters will move past this point quickly as well. When body weight is too easy, we load the movement up to achieve progressive overload.

Dead Bug Loaded 1 2

Ankle weights may also be added to the lower extremities if they are available, but it’s typically the arms that get ‘too light’ first. Just 5-10 lbs will add enough difficulty for most lifters, but you can go heavier than this so long as you control the movement. You’ll set up for a regular dead bug holding a weight in each hand (dumbbells or plates may be used). Lower opposite arm and opposite leg to just above the ground, exhale and return to the start position before lowering the next pair of limbs.

Dead Bug Ankle Weights

The dead bug is one of those movements where it’s up to the lifter to make difficult. You can go through the motion without engaging the core very much, or it can be one of the most challenging anti-extension drills in your library. So make sure you’re staying tight throughout the movement, and do not let the spine hyperextend or the pelvis anteriorly rotate. We prefer to keep our lumbar spines flattened out on these, but a neutral spine and pelvis is preferred by many trainers. 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps on each side performed 1-2X/wk is recommended. HERE‘s a video.

Landmines

The landmine trains the torso’s ability to resist motion – the bar actually induces lateral flexion torque, rotation torque, and flexion torque on the spine, so the core has to work hard to remain stable. Not only is it a fantastic core exercise, it’s fun and jacks the heart rate up pretty high as well.

You’ll need to set up in front of a landmine or grappler unit, but if one is not available, a barbell stuck into a corner will suffice as well.

Pick up one end of the landmine either fist over fist or with an interlocked grip. How far away you stand will depend on your arm length and height. Once your grip is set, the forearms should make a 90 degree angle with the bar.

Landmine Grips

In an athletic stance, keeping the core engaged, extend the arms out in front but don’t lock them out completely. Drop the landmine down towards one hip without bending the elbows. While maintaining some distance from the landmine, return to the start position and drop to the other side.

Landmine 1 2

The majority of the motion should take place at the shoulders. Remember, you’re trying to resist spinal motion, so keep the core braced and don’t let the weight control you. For variety, you can pivot and rotate around the bar (see HERE), and if you have a grappler, you may do them like THIS. If performing these, 2-3 sets of 10 reps on each side 1-2X/wk will suffice.

Ab wheel rollouts

The ab wheel rollout is a great progression once you’ve mastered planks and stability ball rollouts. The rollout trains anti-extension and may be progressed further by adding a band to the ab wheel.

First, kneel down on some type of padding (the Airex Balance pad works great for this). Take the ab wheel in both hands and center your body over it. Before descending, extend the hips, squeeze the glutes, and engage the core. This alignment should be kept throughout the movement.

To descend, think about sinking your hips to the ground as your arms extend forward – don’t envision reaching with the arms. Once you’ve hit the lowest point, pause for a second then, pull the arms back underneath the body until the start position is reached.

Ab Wheel Rollout 1 2

Make sure to not allow the low back to arch or the pelvis to anteriorly tilt during the movement. Another common mistake is allowing the hips to flex too much on the way up. This motor strategy utilizes the hip flexors to pull the body backward, but it’s not ideal.  Think of this exercise as a moving RKC plank. We do 2-3 sets of 6-15 reps 1-2X/wk. HERE is a video for you to check out. If the kneeling version is too easy, try negatives from the standing position, as shown HERE. If this is too easy, be like Ross Enamait and do them one arm with a weighted vest HERE, or utilizing a ramp HERE, or pausing isometrically HERE.

Ab Rollout Hips Flexed

Too much hip flexion – see pic above for proper form

Off bench oblique hold

The off bench oblique hold trains the body’s ability to resist lateral flexion. You can think of it as a loaded progression for the side plank.

Set up in a GHR laterally, with the bottom foot out in front and the top foot behind you. The GHR pad should be positioned at the side of the hip. Your hips and knees should be fully extended, the glutes should be tensed, and the torso should be completely straight. Grab a dumbbell with the bottom arm and return to neutral. Hold this position for the prescribed duration. 2-3 sets of 20-30 second holds once or twice a week is sufficient. You can also do these off of a standard bench. HERE is a video.

Side Bend Hold off GHR

Side Bend Hold Foot Position

Suitcase hold

The suitcase hold is another anti-lateral flexion drill, and is very easy to set up. Simply place a dumbbell or kettlebell on a bench or step. Stand next to the weight so that it is at your side. Pick it up with the hand and stand tall. You want to keep the shoulder girdle engaged, spine neutral, and glutes squeezed throughout the duration. Make sure you don’t go so heavy that you have to lean or rest the weight on your side to get through it. Go heavy enough for a good challenge, but be able to maintain good alignment the entire time. A barbell can be used in a power rack to enable even heavier loading. 2-3 sets of 20-30 second holds once or twice a week is sufficient. HERE‘s a video.

Suitcase Hold 1 2

Conclusion

I’ve provided you with some very challenging core stability exercises. The RKC plank, hollow body hold, dead bug, and ab wheel rollout will strengthen your anti-extension spinal stability strength. The off bench oblique hold and suitcase carry will strengthen your anti-lateral flexion spinal stability strength. And the sumo band anti-rotation hold and landmine will strengthen your anti-rotation spinal stability strength. Many of these exercises will strengthen the pelvic and hip musculature as they strengthen the spinal musculature since the movements require stability at all three body regions.

If you’re astute, you might be wondering about anti-flexion spinal stability strength. If you read this blog, then I’m assuming you already perform squats and deadlifts, in which case you’re very effectively strengthening spinal anti-flexion stability. A stronger core can improve performance and prevent injuries. If you’re an advanced lifter seeking challenging core stability drills, give the exercises mentioned in this article a try.