Random Thoughts

Fitness Friends, here are 14 random things for you this week, on the topics of arm-wrestling, grocery bag farmer’s walks, lunges, push-ups, high-rep hip thrust faces, barbell single leg hip thrusts, t-handle swings, and Bondarchuk.

1. Arm Wrestling

When I taught high school Math many years ago, the senior wrestlers and football players were always challenging me to arm wrestling contests. The next day my elbow would be all jacked up – and sometimes the pain would persist for several days. I finally came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth it since it interfered with my lifting progress. These days I have no problem forfeiting an arm-wrestling challenge or other challenges in order to preserve my training status.

I say, “It’s okay dude, your shoulder internal rotation strength is probably stronger than mine. Want to challenge me in hip extension strength?” Don’t get me wrong, arm-wrestling is manly and badass, and there’s a ton of technique and grip strength involved in the sport. But at 36 years old you can’t get away with what you could when you were a teenager, so you have to be wiser about the activities you engage in.

This is a 1987 ad for Camel cigarettes. As you can see, there aren’t many things manlier than a good old-fashion arm-wrestling match.

2. Carrying Grocery Bags Inside

Sometimes I’ll stock up on groceries, and I will never make two trips to carry them to my condo. I’ve had times where I’ll rig 16 bags in each arm and proceed to farmer’s walk the bags to the elevator, hold them isometrically while inside the elevator, and then walk them to my condo kitchen before crashing down in agony. It’s a guy thing I suppose – sort of like asking for directions. I will NOT make two trips to bring the groceries inside no matter how many bags I have.

3. High-Rep Hip Thrust Face

I posted a video in a blog the other day showing me doing a set of high-rep hip thrusts. High rep hip thrusts to failure are funny; it looks like you can keep going but all of a sudden you hit a wall and can’t do another repetition to save your life. What’s more – they cause you to make really funny faces at the end of a set due to the excruciating booty burn. I pulled up Jen Sinkler’s high-rep hip thrust face from The Sexy Challenge. Whose is better – Jen’s or mine?

4. Important Biomechanical Study on Lunges

HERE Chris Beardsley is at it again, cranking out the best summaries in Sports Science. I say this every time Chris posts a new blog, but this is a very important study for strength coaches, so check out out.

5. The Biomechanics of the Push-Up: Implications for Resistance Training

HERE is a brand-new study I (along with my fitness friends) got published in the SCJ on the push-up exercise. If you have access to NSCA’s  journals, I recommend that you pull it up. I especially like the charts.

6. Lamar Gant’s Jacked Spine

If you don’t know who Lamar Gant is, you should. He was the first man to deadlift 5X bodyweight. His freakishly long arms gave him a huge advantage in the deadlift, but did you know that he had severe scoliosis too? Whether this is an advantage or disadvantage is up for debate – read THIS 1984 Sports Illustrated article for more info on that topic. Anyway, check out his spinal curvature below.

Would you have imagined that this man could have built up to a 5X bodyweight deadlift? Here is a video:

7. Kettlebell Swing Form and Magic Happy Drinking Bird Dipping Toy

Someone posted on my Youtube video of Marianne’s swing form that she looked like one of these:

This would actually be a good teaching tool to show folks how to hinge at the hips!

8. Making Meaningful Inferences About Magnitudes

A blog reader posted THIS link after he listed to the last Strength of Evidence Podcast. For those interested in Statistics as it pertains to Sports Science, this is a must read.

9. Ben Bruno’s Youtube Channel

If you haven’t subscribed to Ben’s Youtube Channel, you’re missing out. There are hundreds of videos at your disposal, and he consistently comes out with some of the best exercise variations in the field. Many of the exercises are incredibly misleading – upon watching Ben do them you’d mistakenly assume that they’re easy. But this is not the case; most of Ben’s exercise variations are highly advanced and are ideal for lifters seeking to maximize muscle activation while minimizing joint stress.

10. Barbell Single Leg Hip Thrusts

HERE is quarterback Tim Tebow busting out 135 pound single leg hip thrusts. There used to be a video but it looks like it was taken down. If I recall correctly, he was performing sets of 10 or so with that weight. Below is Ben Bruno doing them.

I just wanted to mention that some folks tend to be more “natural” at these than others. Kellie Davis and I struggle with 65-95 pounds, and to us they’ve always felt a bit “off.” However, Ben (and I presume Tim Tebow) feels these tremendously in his glutes and feels like he still gets all of his gluteal power into the exercise. I feel like much of my gluteal power is left on the plate when I do these, but I’m sure if I stuck with them they’d eventually start feeling more natural.

11. What is the Max Weight that Can be Swung from a Homemade T-Handle?

On my last TNation article on heavy swings, a reader asked what the max weight I’ve swung using the homemade t-handle. Here is a video of me using 200 pounds:

12. Simplifying Bondarchuk

HERE is a cool pdf that you can download on Anatoli Bondarchuk’s thoughts on training.

13. Interview with Aragon, Helms, and Norton

HERE is an interview with 3 dudes that I highly recommend that you follow (especially if you’re interested in physique development, hypertrophy, fat-loss, etc.).

Alan Aragon

Eric Helms

Layne Norton

Not only are all 3 of these guys incredibly brilliant and evidence-based, but they’re also extremely genuine with their time and knowledge that they share.

14. Training Partner Charles Staley

Some people don’t know that Charles Staley also lives in the Phoenix area. We’ve been training together for the past few months and it’s been very nice having a consistent lifting partner. We have some seriously thought-provoking conversations. Sometimes we’ll even bust out the markerboard and markers and draw graphs or stick figures of lifts to break down the biomechanics of various exercises. Charles is competing in a powerlifting event in a couple of weeks and I’m excited to see how he does!

That’s all folks! Have a great week. – BC

I’ll leave you with a picture of Sam. She trains with me sporadically when she’s not traveling the world as a model. So beautiful! But she needs stronger glutes just like every one else :)

63 thoughts on “Random Thoughts

  1. Juliet

    NEVER make two trips for groceries. I usually line them up on my forearm to hold them but invariably lose feeling in my arm during the trip. Perhaps I should start employing proper farmers walk technique, eh?

    Reply
  2. Marianne

    Haha at the hip thrust expressions. It’s a close call, but I think Jen wins. 
    Sammie lacked this expression, therefore she must’ve had a few more reps in her!

    The bird drinking water dipping toy cracks me up! I don’t think I could use the example with a straight
    face.

    Reply
  3. Neal W.

    I can single-leg hip thrust 110 x 8, and I only weigh 160lbs and have hardly been practicing hip thrusts.

    Weird.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      I think it has to do with hip anatomy (width, retroversion, Q-angle, etc.). I should start doing these more often and see if I can get much better at them.

      Reply
  4. Andrea

    Lol, at #3, the hip thrust face. The fact that the pics are a bit grainy makes them even better. I agree with Marianne…I think Jen gets the prize for best “O”, er, hip thrust face.

    Reply
  5. Andrew Griffin

    One of my favorite forms of “cardio” is making the ten minute trip to the grocery store, loading up my arms with grocery bags and then carrying them all the way home. The best part is entering the elevator with another one of the residents while I am in agony as my grip starts to fail and fingers begin to go numb. People must think I am a lunatic.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      When I was in Auckland last year I’d walk my groceries home 2 blocks from the store each week. A case of Coke Zero in one hand and a bunch of bags in the other hand. The workout was excruciating! So I can relate.

      Reply
  6. Dale

    Lamar Gant was a freak of nature. Some ventured that his profound scoliosis actually made him a veritable deadlifting machine in that his spine bent 90 degrees *laterally* when deadlifting. Ghastly but effective.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Yep; that was discussed in the Sports Illustrated article. Crazy that this could actually help, but it makes sense. I mean, biomechanically it makes sense, but biopsychosocially it’s hard to comprehend that this didn’t cause Lamar excruciating pain or exacerbate his condition.

      Reply
      1. Sven

        Wow, he says he could have pulled even more without the scoliosis, though! If he’s right, that would be mind-boggling.

        Reply
  7. Kellie

    The facial expressions side-by-side are hilarious.

    I do the same thing with groceries and I live in a single family home with a driveway about 20 yards from my kitchen. I couldn’t imagine going up to the top of a condo building. BTW, I do farmer’s carries in my front yard with a trap bar and Josh thinks that I am going to scare all the neighbor ladies who are walking laps around the block at the same time. Ha!

    Great post!

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Before I outfitted my garage gym I had a “fight club” in there. I bought a giant wrestling mat to cover the entire garage floor. There were heavy bags, a speed bag, and tons of mits, armor, gloves, etc. Twice per week I’d invite 3-5 of my gym friends over and we’d spar and train, of course with the garage door up. Needless to say, the neighbors never messed with me haha!

      Reply
  8. Rich

    Thought the Bondarchuk article was a great read as it relates to just how much strength is enough and how many exercise variations does one need.

    Reply
  9. Heidi

    Re:#2
    Elevator? I respect you and your glutes enormously, Bret, but elevator? How many people have the opportunity to stair-climb, loaded with groceries no less! You’re on the sixth floor, right? So five flights? C’mon! ;)

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Tough crowd haha. I don’t think I could walk up five flights of stair with all my groceries – that would be a serious workout!

      Reply
  10. Yuri

    Hi Bret,

    For those that don’t have access, could you give a quick summary of some interesting points from the push-up study ?

    Also, have you ever seen planche push-ups/holds and variations being studied ? I’m very interested in the EMG on these. I’d guess that it would mostly be incredible activity in the front delts and serratus anterior ? What do you think ?

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Yuri, check your email. You have a present waiting for you. The variations you speak of have not been examined in the literature, but of course I’d imagine high front delt/tricep/pec activity along with many core muscles. Cheers!

      Reply
  11. Charles Staley

    My biggest pet peeve in life (other than being told I can’t order undercooked meat) is grocery store baggers who load your groceries into as many bags as possible, for reasons that I’ll never understand. Doesn’t 35 pound of groceries still weigh 35 pounds regardless of how many bags you put it all in?!?!?! Sheesh. Then (come to think of it) they ask me if I need help out to my car. Do I look crippled?!?!?!

    Reply
  12. ruth

    dude, its not a guy thing . . . even a 51 year old grandma like me struggles here way into the house with ALL of her groceries in hand. no other way to do it! a little harder to do today after i started a glute program inspired by your videos. ouch. but thank you :)

    Reply
  13. ruth

    hey bret, is it possible to get a summary of your findings re pushups at all? i don’t have access to the journal, but would love to know the most efficient positioning for my goals (strength and hypertrophy). CHEERS!

    Reply
      1. ruth

        HAHAHAHAH . . . i like your phrase . . . making some people ‘get better at sucking’… having ONLY JUST learned how to activate my glutes by pressing out with my feet (crossfit style) i have to agree with you. this hand out iis going to really help my ROM and form. thanks again.

        Reply
  14. Adrian diems

    Lucky Bret-great and very informative article, Sam does not need anything, she is just beautiful, if you do not want her as she is I take her any day of the week, about arm-wrestling-occasionally some of my friends challenge me to arm and fingers wresting contest-I take the challenges by betting drinks when I am on the bar with them, and when I am at the gym I challenge friends to squat 20-reps beginning with 135 Lbs-some of my friends squatted 10 or 12 reps then quit. Again Bret, Sam your friend’s model is just a beauty this is why she is a professional model. Bret, Thanks for your random thoughts-every time you write them I am eager to read them immediately. ….Adrian,Carthage College, Kenosha, Wisconsin

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Oh I totally agree Adrian…Sam is absolutely stunning. But the agency tells her what they want and I try to comply. Trust me I’m sure to compliment the heck out of her every time I see her.

      Once I squatted 225 x 30 (I was doing HIT “one set to failure” and I weighed 250 at the time) in an all-out 9 minute set done “breathing style.” I’ve never done them again haha!

      Reply
  15. Libby Wescombe

    Hey Brett! Was wondering if you have any suggestions for the best assistence exercises for helping to maintain a neutral lordosis and strengthen the lumbar erectors for doing heavy deads. I have deloaded the weight for a couple clients and taken them back to square one with just the bar, but as soon we work up to any weight over @ 40 kg the back immediately starts rounding. I was thinking good mornings, RLDs…did you have any other suggestions? Thanks heaps! Love your work :)

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Libby did you read this? http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/a_strong_case_for_the_rounded_back_deadlift

      There are reasons why people are stronger when rounding. As for assistance lifts – kb swings, RDL’s, good mornings, back extensions, reverse hypers, etc. are all good. Here’s a badass exercise as well:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_bMeu-ciT0

      But much of it is just building up the discipline to maintain good form and not going too heavy where you exceed your ability to keep the arch.

      Reply
  16. Bibabu

    Last time I tried arm wrestling my humerus twisted when my forearm was perfectly vertical … and broke.

    Tension is not a

    Reply
  17. Jim Thompson

    Hi Brett! Love your blog! I wondered if anyone else was using the “sipping bird toy” analogy to teach hip thrusts… I haven’t seen one since my grampa’s house in the 70’s… it was from a souvenir shop in the Black Hills. I was a bit afraid that everyone would think I was nuts. Apparently those things are still around.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Hi Jim, I like the idea of using them to teach swings, not hip thrusts (since legs are bent). Of course, the legs bend in a swing too, but the point is to teach hip hinging which is imperative in lifting prowess.

      Reply
  18. Arturo

    I wonder if the Lunge study could be applied to Bulgarian Split Squats.

    I have always wondered why both, Forward Lunges (with dumbells) and Bulgarian Split Squats (with DBs again) give me quite a “pump” in the Quads, but the next day(s) the soreness is never in the Quads, but glutes/hams (lunges) and glutes/hams/adductors (bulgarians). I guess it all makes sense now… if the quads help mostly during the negative phase and not that much during the positive.

    If all I do are these movements, does this mean I will have tiny quads for life? :D heh heh.

    Reply
    1. Derrick Blanton

      Two other variables to consider:

      1. Full ROM. This means ass covers calves.

      2. Slow twitch fibers.

      My quads are never more sore than when I do 100-rep sets of ATG goblet squats, or even body weight squats. Much more so than even heavy squat protocols which seem to destroy my HS and adductors. I’m wondering if you need a more continuous time under tension to make growth happen?

      A quick look at the world of sports reveals that massive quads are built in cycling (partial ROM, slow twitch), speed skating, as well as Olympic lifting (full ROM, fast twitch).

      We have here a conundrum!

      Reply
      1. Bret Post author

        Anecdotally, bodybuilders (who all do high-rep leg extensions among other things for quads), as well as speed skaters and sprint cyclists (who do high rep squats and powerful cycling and skating) have the best quad development in the world, and it’s known in those circles that the quads have an affinity for higher rep ranges.

        An article we reviewed in our research review service last month discussed how concurrent training involving cycling and lifting actually increased quad development (but impaired VJ and RFD). I’d love to see a more specific study conducted on this topic!

        Reply
    2. Bret Post author

      Yep; with squats, lunges, and I’m sure BSS, the quads are heavily involved with lighter loads but their contribution doesn’t increase nearly as much as the hip’s contribution as loading increases toward maximum.

      Reply
      1. Derrick Blanton

        BC, you have noted before that you have found quad activation during HT’s to be extremely high. Reading this lunge study made me consider this a bit further.

        I think it’s a form flaw to have that high of an activation for quads during HT’s. It’s an attempt to go to the well grooved “quad well” again, rather than tap the sleeping giant, glutes.

        You need just enough quad to stabilize the knee and set the hip up to fire, and no more. Further than that and you are trying to do a concentric closed chain knee extension, a “sissy squat”, and that is not where the leverage is. The leverage is at the hip.

        This also relates to the Lombard’s paradox, and as my HS are getting stronger, I’m feeling it my squats more and more. There is a point where there is a baton handoff, and the HS are extending the knee, and the quads go from agonist to synergist!

        Thoughts?

        Reply
        1. Bret Post author

          My thoughts are that you’re a brilliant S.O.B. Derrick. I will elaborate on this topic in the future…I actually have a lot to share about it. – BC

          Reply
  19. Amy Scheer

    Could you have predicted this many comments on grocery bags? I have to add my 2 sense, because I feel like I talk about grocery bags a lot at the gym. Stay with me here… as a 1.5 year victim of chronic tennis elbow, which moved into golfer’s elbow, which then snapped and I’m now waiting on the results of an MRI last week, I encourage people to make sure they have a nice firm grip on those bags, fingers as tight into a fist as they can. Same goes for grabbing that milk jug out of the frig–full grip. Unless you’re a grip specialist and can roll a frying pan, your forearms will eventually protest if you don’t use both sides (by dangling bags or milk handles on your fingertips). And you’ll end up like me. Just sayin.

    (I’m open to new insights on the fine art of bag holding.)

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Ugh! More nightmare stories. Sorry to hear Amy. See the link above for the caribiners haha! They’d definitely help in this regard.

      Reply
  20. maureen

    My hubby likes to refer to me as his little bag hog…I always load up all the bags and leave him with the keys…someone has to get the door…

    Reply
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  22. Aaron

    Thanks for sharing the Lamar Gant story! I actually cried when I read that. I have scoliosis and spondylolisthesis and was told at the age of 20 that I could never lift again by a misinformed chiropractor. That was the start of an 18 year fitness and health decline that I have only recently begun to recover from. Seeing stories like Lamar’s are so encouraging to me.

    Reply
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