Today’s Grill the Guru episode features Charles Poliquin. If you don’t know why I’m grilling gurus, CLICK HERE to read why. My colleagues deserve a level playing field and how can anyone compete with someone who simply fabricates stories? Without further adieu, here you go:
Three Reasons Why I’m Grilling Poliquin
REASON ONE: Over the past month, a few of Charles’ underlings have emailed me to inform me that Charles has been telling them that barbell glute bridges and barbell hip thrusts don’t work and that they’re dangerous for the lumbar spine. These informants are PICP-certified coaches (Poliquin’s certification), and they’re emailing me to notify me about what Charles is saying and to let me know that they’ve been prescribing them to clients with great success, defying their cult-leader’s orders.
Sidebar 1: Charles likes to take pot-shots at other trainers and fabricate stories. In THIS post from a while back, Charles, presumably talking about Mike Boyle, said the following:
Recently, one functional-training guru has been promoting back split squats for athletes, but the back foot is placed on a platform that is much higher than either Spassov or I recommend. The result is that this type of squat places the lower lumbar vertebrae in extreme hyperextension, which should provide chiropractors with many new clients.
Sidebar 2: Here’s some more b.s. on box squats:
My Response to Charles
1. Charles, apparently you don’t realize that everything “experts” say about other “experts” gets back to them. For instance, the instant another expert criticizes me in an interview or in a forum, I receive several emails from mutual fans. Times are a changin’, and I don’t think the internet is going to continue tolerating arrogant cult leaders. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but social networking is helping to create a huge fitness community and it’s not as easy these days to hide. Give up the act broseph!
2. It seems that you can’t stand when other coaches or systems get attention. You resort to bashing the coaches’ methods and making up shit about the method being dangerous. Charles, I’ve been prescribing box squats for years and nobody hurts themselves if you teach them properly. Many of my strength coach friends will attest to this as well. I’ve been employing Bulgarian split squats for years with a higher box than you propose and nobody hurts themselves. Many of my strength coach friends will attest to this. And I’ve been employing hip thrusts and bb glute bridges for years and nobody hurts themselves as long as you teach them properly. Many of my strength coach friends will attest to this. If you’re such a good trainer, why can’t you figure out how to coach these lifts properly like we have?
3. Charles, have you changed your mind and apologized to your readers for being wrong when THIS STUDY came out? If it’s too hard for you to grasp, I’ll spell it out for you – the back squat placed more loading on the spine and the hips than the box squat. I find it amusing that you didn’t review the study on your blog (cherry-picking).
3. Your own certified trainers are ignoring your advice and using good judgement by employing methods you denounce. If this were me, I’d be embarrassed. Doesn’t this tell you something?
4. I highly doubt that you’ve ever gotten under a barbell and thrusted the weight up. You seem like a guy who does endless curls so he looks good in his t-shirts but doesn’t give a shit about glutes. If you did, you’d probably start doing hip thrusts. At any rate, if you’ve never spent a month getting stronger at a particular exercise, don’t talk about it – you lack expertise.
5. My clients don’t hyperextend their spines when thrusting heavy weight. If a client does this, wouldn’t this indicate that dysfunction exists and therefore be something you wanted to fix? Isn’t this indicative of weak glutes? You’re okay with your athletes having weak glutes? Newsflash – just like you can teach someone to keep the core stable and move at the hips in a deadlift, you can teach someone to move at the hips and keep the core stable in a hip thrust. Athletes deserve a coach who has high expectations.
6. Do cult-leaders even know that they’re cult-leaders? Do you want your trainers to think critically or to accept your word as gospel? I’m really curious – are you really seeing powerlifters whose hips are screwed up from box squats? I prefer to hear from Louie Simmons, Dave Tate, or Joe DeFranco on this – guys actually employing the exercise. Are you really seeing athletes being sent to the chiropractor from Bulgarian split squats? I prefer to hear from Mike Boyle on this – someone actually employing the exercise. One of my colleagues trains hundreds of athletes per week and they all perform Bulgarian split squats with their rear foot on a bench, and none of them have ever gotten hurt. This jives with my experience too. If hip thrusts and bb glute bridges were dangerous, more people would be posting on forums talking about their injuries – it’s not happening. Nobody hurts themselves with properly taught box squats, Bulgarian split squats, or hip thrusts…so I presume you’re just making this shit up. If so, that’s pretty pathetic.
7. In THIS article you promote lumberjacks and pull-throughs, yet hip thrusts and bb glute bridges, which involve the same motion while allowing for more stability and heavier loads (which you claim is important in THIS article), don’t work? Be consistent with your logic.
8. Don’t you have researchers working for you? How come I, a one-man army, can find so many faults with your articles? I have a document I keep titled, “Questionable Articles.” On this document I paste the links of articles from other experts that I happen to disagree with. Half of the links belong to you and your team. If you’d like to learn something I can send you the links and point out your errors. Step it up Team Poliquin.
REASON TWO: A couple of weeks ago, Charles posted this video:
Flash forward to 8:54, here are Charles’ words:
You have a trend in the last few years for functional movement patterns and multiple direction patterns, blah blah blah. And if you look at it, anyone who espouses that A) never got strong, B) could never get anybody stronger, and C) never made anybody better in the sports field.
I presume that when you spoke of multi-directional patterns that you were referring to me (load vector training)? I’m unaware of any other coach who has been as outspoken about directions/vectors as me, so I’m pretty sure I’m right about my assumption. And with the functional movement patterns I presume you’re talking about Gray Cook and perhaps Mike Boyle again?
My Response to Charles
1. I espouse functional movement patterns and multiple directional patterns, and I’m pretty strong. In fact, I just received word from my University that I still own the record for the highest hip extension torque ever recorded on the isokinetic dynamometer, and we’ve tested dozens of professional athletes including many of the world’s best rugby players. My other joint torques were very high compared to the athletes as well. I can deadlift 565lbs and hip thrust 500 lbs as a natural lifter. My twin bro lifts weights (squats and deadlifts) and my hips are 5″ bigger around than his, proving that I walk the walk. So you’re wrong about statement A.
2. I espouse functional movement patterns and multiple directional patterns, and I’ve gotten plenty of clients incredibly strong, and much if this is due to methods I learned from Louie Simmons and Dave Tate. After 2 months of training my client Karli, she was sumo deadlifting 225 x 5, she started at 155 x 5 (below is the video). So you’re wrong about statement B.
3. I espouse functional movement patterns and multiple directional patterns, and I’ve gotten people better on the sports field. In fact, using mostly Westside Barbell Club techniques, I trained a hockey player for 2 months and got him a pro contract. This was his third year trying out, the previous two years he was incredibly weak. But I put 50 lbs on his weighted chin, 50 lbs on his bench, 80 lbs on his low box squat, and 190 lbs on his deadlift in 8 weeks. He was crushing players during his try-outs and playing at his all-time best. I just ran into him the other day and he let me know that to this day he’s never been in such good of shape. I’m sure I could find hundreds of other coaches who espouse functional movement patterns and multiple direction patterns who would share similar stories. So you’re wrong about statement C.
4. Are you suggesting that athletes shouldn’t get strong in multiple direction patterns and should only get strong in the sagittal plane? If so then I think you’re an idiot. I agree that the primary emphasis should be placed on getting stronger at bench, squats, deads, chins, military press, and rows. But it’s not very hard to add in some hip thrusts, cable hip rotations, slideboard and hip abduction work, half-kneeling cable anti-rotation presses, etc. Failure to do so doesn’t optimize the athlete’s strength/power, especially their agility and rotary power, and it might predispose them for injury if they lack hip stability in certain directions.
5. Why does getting strong have to be limited to one direction? You go ahead and get your athletes strong in just the axial direction. The coach who gets his athletes strong and powerful in the axial, anteroposterior, lateromedial, and torsional vectors will outperform your athletes.
6. Are you suggesting that you don’t care about functional movement patterns, meaning that you don’t care if your athletes can initially do things like the bodyweight squat, lunge, hip hinge, bridge, push-up, etc.? You don’t want to check their ASLR or shoulder mobility before you start training them? I sure do, and I feel sorry for your athletes if this is the case.
7. Why are you afraid to name names? If you disagree with someone, confront the person like a man, like I’m doing in this post.
REASON THREE: Just recently, Charles posted a blog about glute training HERE. The title is, Glute Training Made Simple.
In the article, the two exercises that Charles recommends for glute development are the full squat and the glute ham raise. Here are the highlights:
Charles provides this quote:
As you might suspect, the single best exercise for developing the glutes is the full squat – and this is evidenced in the gluteal development of Olympic style weightlifters.
Then he mentions research from the Caterisano 2002 study.
Then he suggests the wide stance squat as an alternative squatting method.
Then he recommends the glute ham raise.
Then he provides this quote:
…the glute ham raise is a more natural movement than the isolation exercises that are often featured in glute-training fitness videos.
My Response to Charles
1. Based on what your henchmen have told me, I suspect that this article was your way of trying to appear like you’re the expert on glute training. I think that you are jealous of my success and this was an attempt to take attention off of me and onto you. And you couldn’t even mention barbell hip thrusts or barbell glute bridges by name…you tried to plant seeds in your reader’s heads so they’d dismiss loaded bridging by thinking they’re non-functional and dangerous. If so, that’s incredibly pathetic. Seriously.
2. I now have a huge team of coaches, trainers, and lifters who have seen far better results in terms of gluteal development from weighted bridging and thrusting than they have with squatting. At any rate, let’s delve deeper.
3. I’m calling out you and your team of researchers right now. Let’s see if you guys have any integrity and biomechanical sense. Please answer me the following:
a) Are the muscle moment arms of the hip extensors consistent throughout the hip flexion/extension axis? If not, which hip extensors have the best leverage down low in a squat versus up high?
b) Is maximum voluntary contraction of the gluteus maixmus consistent throughout the hip flexion/extension axis? If not, where are the glutes activated to the greatest degree – in hips flexed positions or hips extended positions?
c) Is hip extension torque in a squat consistent through the hip flexion/extension axis? If not, where do the hips receive the highest torque?
d) Which exercise requires more hip extension torque on the hips – the hip thrust or the squat?
e) Which exercise activates the glutes to a greater degree – the hip thrust or the squat?
f) Which exercise places more mechanical tension on the glutes – the hip thrust or the squat? (You’ve been a HUGE proponent of TUT, rightfully so, so which exercise puts the glutes under more TUT?)
g) Which exercise creates more metabolic stress on the glutes – the hip thrust or the squat?
h) Based on these answers, which is likely better for gluteus maximus hypertrophy – the hip thrust or the squat?
i) What is the gluteus maximus EMG of the glute-ham-gastroc raise? Better yet, what is the role of the gluteus maximus in a glute ham raise?
j) If you take the knee flexion component out of the ghr, hold onto a heavy db, and simply perform a heavy back extension, now what is the glute activation?
k) What would create more hip extension torque, a ghr or a heavy back extension?
l) Based on these answers, which is likely better for gluteus maximus development – the ghr or the weighted back extension?
4. If you and your team don’t know the answer to these questions, I’d be happy to help you out and provide the answers. But then you’d have to admit that you don’t have all the answers and your guru status would be shattered.
5. Oly lifters have good glute development from squatting but there’s a world of women out there who squat, lunge, and ghr yet still have poor glute development. Only when they get strong at hip thrusting can they really achieve their maximum glute potential. Furthermore, Olympic lifters have excellent back development. Does this mean that the power clean is the best back exercise? Couldn’t the weighted chin or bent over row be better?
6. Have you ever performed a set of hip thrusts? If so, what was your experience? What weight did you use? Did your glutes cramp up or get a burn? If so, kudos. If not, and if you felt it all in your low back, this means you have dysfunction and you need to fix it (just like if you couldn’t deadlift without flexing your spine, it would indicate dysfunction that you needed to fix). And if you haven’t tried them, then why are you telling your trainers they’re dangerous?
7. Please re-read the Caterisano 2002 (squat depth/EMG) study critically and tell me what the major flaw in the study design was. There’s a really big flaw and I want to see if your team can spot it.
8. Why are you recommending wide stance squats – I thought you said that box squats were bad for the hips. Wouldn’t wide stance squats then be bad for the hips? Please be consistent with your b.s.
9. Based on EMG and torque analysis, the ghr is a good hamstring exercise, not a good glute exercise. Take a look at the picture in your article of Mary Pier performing a ghr. If you want to maximize torque loading on the hammies you need to place the foot plate higher in relation to the pad. This is simple trigonometry. Better yet, elevate the rear of the ghd so you start the movement with the body slanted downward. This creates more average knee flexion torque throughout the movement.
10. How is the ghr movement more natural than the bb glute bridge or bb hip thrust? I am of the belief that the bb gb and bb ht is more natural than the ghr. It’s just loaded bent leg hip extension; that’s all.
11. So let me get this straight – you’re a proponent of isolation training as long as it involves the arms (all sorts of curls, etc.), but not when it comes to glutes? At least the arms get worked in a full range through compound lifting (bench, chins)…the glutes don’t get worked in a full range when squatting. Furthermore, the core can limit what people can squat or deadlift. For these reasons, it makes even more sense to perform targeted glute training, especially considering the higher joint torques and levels of muscle activation. If you can’t understand this then I can’t take you seriously as a scientist. It means you’re trying to be a guru and not a good practitioner. Be consistent with your rationale.
12. Since you made fun of people who can’t get strong, and my hip extensors are stronger than yours, does this make me automatically right (logical fallacy but I’ll take it)?
13. I challenge you to a contest. Take your five best before/after pictures of people you’ve trained in terms of results in gluteal development. I’ll take my best five and we’ll compare who’s seen better results. Are you up for it?
14. Your article, Glute Training Made Simple, could have been much simpler, if that’s what you were going for. Here’s what you could have said: Obtain a double bodyweight hip thrust for ten reps and you’ll most likely be pretty damn pleased with your glutes.
15. There’s a science to glute training and we’ve made tremendous progress in this aspect of sports science in the past few years. Your failure to acknowledge this progression doesn’t advance the field. If you want average results, just squat and ghr like you proposed. But if you want to maximize the drivers of hypertrophy (mechanical tension and metabolic stress), then bb glute bridge and hip thrust like crazy. Still squat, deadlift, lunge, etc., but make damn sure to emphasize bridging and thrusting strength.
Charles, you have a lot of people who look up to you and trust you for top notch information. Would you like to address any past gems that are highlighted in THIS article from Dr. Fred Hatfield’s site and highlighted below?
After several weeks of performing external rotator cuff work I prescribed, he power snatched 286 pounds for 3 reps. In fact, working these muscles also helped his pressing strength, because after six months of training he increased his incline bench press, using a 3-inch-thick bar, from 285 pounds to 525!” (find this quote HERE) I’ve never been able to raise anyone’s incline press 240lbs in 6 months from focusing on shoulder external rotation. I’m pretty sure it was the incline presses you prescribed, not the external rotation imbalance.
“I realize how anabolic food is every time I go teach in the Dominican Republic. Last time I taught a Biosignature Modulation course in the DR, the students took my body fat Monday morning. I was at 8% and weighed 198 pounds.
Now, there’s no such thing as grain-fed in the DR; they can’t afford it, so cows eat grass. And if you eat a mango over there you have to eat it over a sink because it’s so juicy. The eggs too are far more anabolic. They’re orange and full of omega-3s, like all eggs naturally were thousands of years ago.
A DR avocado tastes like butter it’s so rich in nutrients. Eating avocados over here is like eating fiberglass once you’ve had a DR avocado. It’s like having sex with Pamela Anderson then having to have sex with Rosie O’Donnell.
Anyway, five days later, after eating only Dominican Republic foods, I weighed 209 at 6% body fat. My business partner came to finish the seminar, took one look at me and said, “What happened to you?!” (find this quote HERE) This is probably the most outrageous claim ever made in the field of S&C by any expert. You’re saying that due to the process of anti-oxidation, you gained 13 lbs of lean mass and lost 3 lbs of fat in 5 days from eating secret Dominician food?
I don’t think that you that you could pull this off with a starved and malnourished former Mr. Olympia hooked up to an IV with a steady course of amino acids, EFA’s, anabolic steroids, growth hormone, IGF-1, insulin, and thyroid hormone coursing through his veins 24 hours a day. Maybe so, but definitely not with a natural lifter with a reasonably healthy diet. I don’t think 5 days of the healthiest of foods could put on half a pound of muscle mass while concurrently shedding half a pound of fat, but certainly not 13 lbs of muscle gain and 3 lbs of fat loss. A bodybuilder juiced to the gills hopes to achieve that in a solid year of doing everything right.
“I have routinely seen 2-10% gains in strength 24 hours after such treatments (referring to deep connective tissue massage).” (find this quote HERE) In what exercises? Could I get a week’s worth of massages and then finally bust out a 600 lb deadlift? I think not, and I don’t think you’ll find any research to support this to the slightest degree.
“…approximately 40 percent of the power for sprinting and jumping comes from the glutes and 25 percent from the hamstrings.” (find this quote HERE) I’ve read around 300 papers on sprint and jumping biomechanics and related topics and am friends with some of the world’s top researchers in this area…in fact a brand new study was released on the topic last week. The glutes are important but not that important in sprinting, the hamstrings are incredibly important, as are the hip flexors and other muscles. The quads are more important in jumping. Your percentages are definitely off.
Charles, please leave glute training to those of us who intensively study glute biomechanics and those of us who have actually worked hard to increase their glute size and have seen great results themselves and with their clients.
Furthermore, please stop making shit up and accepting dysfunctional glutes – clients and athletes deserve better than that.
If you don’t like the barbell glute bridge or the hip thrust, simply admit that you don’t like them. But don’t say that they’re dangerous when they’re not. I think I’ve trained 400 people in the past 6 years and nobody ever hurt themselves hip thrusting. Teach them proper form and it’s one of the safest lower body lifts around.
Last, quit acting so cool and pretending you’re better than everyone. You’re a personal trainer, not a celebrity.
If you clean up your act, I’ll lay off you. But in my experience, standing up to bullies stops them dead in their tracks. But I’d be happy to continue my grilling. I have around 10 articles waiting to critique. And I’d be more than happy to have a recorded debate with you.
If you’d like we can discuss the role of the external rotator during the incline press and the transfer of dynamic rotator cuff work on incline press performance, the benefits and drawbacks of antioxidation on muscle hypertrophy, the value and limitations of massage as it pertains to strength gains, and the biomechanics of sprinting, in addition to the biomechanics of glute training and the dangers of box squats, hip thrusts, and Bulgarian split squats.
I’d be happy to arrange for a colleague (we can find a neutral party) to record a podcast where you and I discuss these topics. I’ll even be nice. My guess is that I won’t hear back from you and your team.
I decided to film this video where I discuss some of the things I talked about in this blogpost.
* FYI: I’ve been training a group of 6-8 figure/bikini competitors and each session we do three sets of hip thrusts. The girls are getting stronger every single week, and nobody ever gets hurt. I filmed a video and will post it next week, showing how easy it is to hip thrust heavy with good form.