25 Random Thoughts for Strength Coaches and Personal Trainers

Lately there’s been a lot of activity going on in my brain so I thought it would be a good time to write an article to express my many thoughts. Often I have a good idea that doesn’t warrant its own article so from time to time I’ll just lump a bunch of thoughts together into a “Random Thoughts” article. Although the topics in this article are all over the place, I believe it will be extremely beneficial for any coach or trainer to read this entire article carefully and view all of the videos. Most strength coaches have some personal training clients and most personal trainers train some athletes so we all need to have a good understanding of strength, power, speed, conditioning, fundamental movement, fat loss, nutrition, hypertrophy, corrective exercise, and sport-specific training. Some of the stuff I discuss in this blogpost isn’t being discussed anywhere else, while some of the stuff I stole from other writers in the field, so please enjoy.

1. Does The 10,000 Hour Rule Guarantee Success?

Mike Mahler wrote an excellent article last week that got me thinking. He quoted Geoff Colvin from Colvin’s book entitled Talent is Overrated and discussed his thoughts on the matter.

Extensive research in a wide variety of fields shows that many people not only fail to become outstandingly good at what they do, no matter how many years they spend doing it, they frequently don’t even get any better than they were when they started.

-Geoff Colvin: Talent is Overrated

This led me to consider the whole “10,000 Hour Rule” discussed in Malcom Gladwell’s book entitled Outliers. Gladwell believes that success depends largely upon simply practicing a skill over and over until 10,000 hours of experience is reached. This may give some people false hope. Time and experience doesn’t guarantee success. Due to talent, intelligence, and plain old luck, some individuals will rise to the top quickly in any field they choose whereas others will plateau at a certain level above which they’ll never rise. If you look at the movers and shakers in Strength & Conditioning, you’ll realize they’re all very smart and talented.

Cases in point; Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson. I considered these guys experts when they hadn’t yet reached puberty. All kidding aside, we owe a great deal of gratitude to Eric and Mike because they got a lot of us old meatheads to start thinking about mobility and activation because they spoke the language of “Meathead.” I can remember wanting to say to them, “Take your stupid ankle, hip, and t-spine mobility drills, and take your sissy glute activation drills and stick them up your rear-end!” All I wanted to do was squat, bench, and deadlift as heavy as possible. I certainly didn’t want to think about the efficacy of my warm-ups. But these guys were deceptively strong and they knew what they were talking about, so we listened. Eric and Mike are intelligent, talented individuals who squirmed their way into “Expertville” prior to meeting the 10,000 hour quota. Not only that, they dramatically impacted the fitness world with their articles on T-Nation.

On a side note, I’m glad I listened to Eric and Mike. From doing simple SMR, flexibility, mobility, and activation drills over the years during my warm-ups I’ve stayed very healthy. I get injured far more seldom than others who have similar lifting goals. As a matter of fact, I rarely ever suffer even minor injuries despite training heavy week in, week out. I just did a Functional Movement Screen and got 2’s and 3’s on every test – something that few muscle-bound guys like me could do.

On another side note, although I’ve put in far more time than 10,000 hours in this field, it’s not just my experience that is causing me to rise in popularity; it’s largely due to my intelligence. At the risk of sounding cocky, my mind explores areas that other writers’ don’t. That’s why many lifters, trainers, and coaches enjoy reading my stuff; I think of things that they don’t and therefore help them be better at what they do.

Conversely, there are plenty of individuals in the fitness field who will never make it to the top simply because they aren’t smart enough, they aren’t talented enough, or they just don’t have good luck. Read Mike Boyle’s article entitled “My Top Coaching Influences” and you’ll realize how valuable of a role luck plays in achieving success.

Last, success is very dependent on personality as well. Most of the top guys are all class-acts who are extremely passionate about their methods yet still respectful of others. There are a lot of very intelligent individuals in the fitness field who will never go very far simply because they are too critical and too negative. We’re all out there helping people get into better shape and improving the lives of our clients and athletes. Most of us are all good people deep down. Furthermore, there are many different paths that can lead to success. There isn’t only one right way out there. Two coaches can have entirely different methods and deliver similar results in terms of athleticism. I’m all in favor of debate, but it is possible to disagree with someone respectfully and get your point across without sounding hateful and bitter. If you want to be successful in this field, take a lesson from the leaders and keep it positive.

2. Do various lifts transfer better toward certain aspects and phases of movement than others? For example, let’s consider the sprint cycle during maximum speed sprinting. ***This is very important since sprinting speed is the most coveted quality in athletics for good reason – it matters!

I’ll expound upon this topic in a future article but it appears that different lifts are required to optimally strengthen the muscles in all the ranges of a sprint cycle during maximum speed sprinting. In any given movement you want optimal strength and power throughout the entire range of motion. Although speed is highly dependent on timing patterns and contraction/relaxation sequences, you need good mobility, strength, and power in the hips or you won’t be winning any races or setting any records.

In Mel Siff’s masterpiece entitled Supertraining, he debunked the popular, yet erroneous view that the same muscles are dominant throughout the full range of movement. Different ranges of movement rely on different muscles and varying proportions of muscles.

For example, during hip flexion, lying ankle weight hip flexion may strengthen the muscles better in the stretched position, whereas standing ankle weight hip flexion may strengthen the muscles better in the flexed position. Employing one method without the other may yield suboptimal results in hip flexion strength, flexibility, and stability.

During hip extension, squats and lunges may strengthen the hip extensors better when the thigh is flexed forward but deadlifts and even more so hip thrusts may strengthen the extensors better when the thigh approaches neutral and moves rearward into hip hyperextension. Remember that the ground contact phase consists of two phases; eccentric braking and concentric propulsion. Research shows that the forces at this range are so great that the extending hip will actually be pulled into flexion and lose its rearward velocity for a brief moment. Do you really want an athlete’s hips to be weak at this range of motion? I’ve trained athletes who were great squatters but stunk at hip thrusts. By bringing up their hip thrust their end-range hip extension strength increased and so did their sprinting speed.

You want squat and lunge movements to strengthen initial hip extension range of motion, deadlift movements for mid-range hip extension, and hip thrusts, barbell glute bridges, pendulum quadruped hip extensions, reverse hypers, and back extensions for terminal range hip extension. Power movements such as jumping lunges add power to initial range hip extension ROM, jump squats and power cleans add power to the mid range, and sled sprints add power to end-range.

Furthermore, at ground contact, glute ham raises and Russian leg curls may be beneficial for eccentric braking and strengthening the dual functions of the hamstrings as well as the calves at this critical juncture. Perhaps half-squats would be an excellent choice to increase leg-stiffness and minimize energy leaks in relation to vertical forces at ground contact. So would all of the various forms of plyometrics.

Of course, sprint work is where you take the newly strengthened and more neurally activated muscles and ranges of motion and assimilate and coordinate them into your motor patterns. Yes, I just used the word AND four times in one sentence. I never claimed to be Lou Schuler!

While it’s important to get strong at the big basics, it’s also important to understand biomechanics, provide sound variety, and master the art and science of program design. It is possible to incorporate various squat/lunge, deadlift, straight leg hip extension, bent leg hip extension, and hip ext/knee flexion movements as well as Oly lifts, jump squats, plyos, and sprint work into a training system if you really know what you’re doing.

This kind of thinking was in line with what Russian scientists from many decades ago talked about but unfortunately from my experience American coaches don’t have a good understanding of these kinds of concepts. It’s not rocket science either; it’s common sense. If you lift weights and pay attention while training you get a feel for which regions of accentuated stress the various muscles and ranges of motion receive. Here is an illustration from Yuri Verkhoshansky’s book entitled Special Strength Training. I highly recommend this book! I will write an entire blog about this topic in the future and expound about what I’ve briefly discussed in this article.

3. We like to train core stability in a variety of directions and environments. For example, core stability can be categorized as static or dynamic. Depending on the load vector, it can also be classified as anti-extension, anti-lateral flexion, anti-rotation, and anti-flexion for the lumbar spine. We want to be able to control the lumbar spine in any direction. Are back extensions and reverse hypers the ultimate dynamic anti-flexion core stability exercises?

For lumbar anti-extension training we’ve got planks, bodysaws, dead bugs, fallouts, and rollouts. For lumbar anti-lateral flexion training we’ve got side planks and suitcase carries. For lumbar anti-rotation training we’ve got Pallof presses, soft-rolls, hard-rolls, chops, lifts, and landmines. For lumbar anti-flexion training we have slow, controlled, properly performed reverse hypers and back extensions, as well as bird dogs. This last category is actually simultaneous lumbar anti-flexion and anti-extension training because weak individuals will try to flex and hyperextend their lumbar spine to let their erectors perform the movements rather than the glutes and hamstrings. More accurately, they try to make their erectors prime movers and their glutes and hamstrings stabilizers, whereas proper form has the erectors as stabilizers and the glutes and hamstrings as prime movers.

If your athletes or clients can’t demonstrate what’s being done in the two videos below then you’ve got a problem that will surface when squatting, deadlifting, or engaging in high velocity sports.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wot50I03KRc&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1] [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oouwtgx1lgk&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

4. Is the chin up the ultimate dynamic anti-extension core stability exercise?

When I conducted my EMG studies, I was shocked to find that the bodyweight chin up led to the highest levels of lower rectus abdominis activation. It surpassed every ab exercise imaginable – even ab wheel rollouts and hanging leg raises. I wrote a T-Nation article that should be published soon that further discusses the matter and includes a chart listing the core activation of a variety of core exercises. Is it indeed possible that the chin up is the ultimate lumbar anti-extension core stability exercise if you do it correctly?

Notice in the video below; most individuals perform the chin up like the first two examples; they hyperextend their low back or flex their hips for momentum and improved center of gravity. In the third example, the spine is kept relatively neutral. Couple this with muscular legs and you’ve got a very challenging dynamic core exercise on your hands! Bottom line – keep the core in neutral when you do chin ups to make it an effective core stability exercise.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fu7LhGyF9O8&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

5. Is the superman exercise a valuable tool?

I’ve found that the superman is a very valuable training tool for one purpose; to teach individuals what bad hip hyperextension feels like. This is the only time I ever allow the superman to be performed. I often have people do it and then I say to them, “Feel how your low back is overarching and your lumbar muscles are performing all the work? Whenever I have you do an exercise such as back extensions, deadlifts, or good mornings, I never want you to feel this sensation. I want the movement coming from the hips and the glutes and hamstrings performing most of the work.”

I’ll often show them how to hyperextend their hips (which is natural as the hips can hyperextend 10 degrees with bent legs and 20 degrees with straight legs which we do whenever we walk) by seeing if they can demonstrate the second example in the video shown below. It’s difficult but you raise your hips by squeezing the glutes as hard as possible.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6Y0bSLKM28&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

6. Is there really just one way to do an exercise?

As trainers and coaches we need to recognize that there is more than one way to skin a cat. People are always in search of “proper form” but proper form depends highly on the individual’s anthropometry as well as the goal of the lifter. In the video below I demonstrate four ways to perform squats, deadlifts, and bench press; the safest way, the strongest way, the way that stresses a muscle the most, and the most sport-specific way.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngX2G_HyWJI&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

7. In program design, should we be performing 4 sets of unilateral (single arm or single leg) exercises?

Let’s consider a Bulgarian split squat (Mike Boyle calls it a rear-foot elevated split squat or RFESS). If you perform a set correctly, your entire body is working hard. The quads, glutes, and hams of the front leg are working hard, the hip flexors of the rear leg are working hard, and the upper body and core muscles are stabilizing the load. It’s a full body exercise! In fact, my EMG research shows that the static lunge and Bulgarian squat work the hip flexor muscles on the rear leg harder than any other hip flexor exercises!

Now let’s consider a one-arm row. The lat, rhomboid, mid trap, rear delt, biceps, brachialis, and forearm of the working side are firing like crazy. The triceps, front delt, and pecs of the non-working side are firing to stabilize the load. You’ve got an external oblique on one side firing and an internal oblique on another side firing to stabilize the torso. Again, this is a full body exercise.

So working one side is really it’s own set. Working two sides is two sets. If we perform 4 sets we’re really performing 8 total sets which is a ton of volume. If you use a proper load these exercises get you extremely winded plus they can induce a ton of soreness, which is why I often prescribe just 2 sets of Bulgarian split squats and one arm rows.

8. In program design, should we skew the volume of horizontal pulling for optimum shoulder health as well as hip dominant exercise for optimum low back health?

If you want to stay injury free, I recommend that you stray from the norm and move away from the notion that opposing movement patterns should be balanced in programming. Instead, I recommend that you perform twice the volume of horizontal pulling than horizontal pushing, as well as twice the amount of hip dominant exercise as quad dominant exercise. There are a ton of great rowing movements (one arm rows, chest supported rows, elbows out chest supported rows, face pulls, inverted rows, standing cable rows, seated rows, etc.) many of which can all be performed with supinated, neutral, or pronated grips. Don’t be afraid to perform two different rowing movements in a single upper body or full-body workout. Conversely, I don’t believe it’s necessary to perform an overhead pressing movement or a vertical pulling movement in every single upper body or full body workout.

Along these same lines, I believe that each lower body or full body workout should include both a more straight-leg, hamstring dominant hip exercise or hip extension/knee flexion exercise (deadlift, good morning, glute ham raise, slideboard leg curl, gliding leg curl, back extension, reverse hyper, Russian leg curl) in addition to a bent-leg, glute dominant hip exercise (hip thrust, barbell glute bridge, pull-through, pendulum quadruped hip extension, bottom-up single leg hip thrust).

This skewed programming will go a long way in bullet-proofing the shoulders and low back.

9. For max strength, do bodyweight exercises, kettlebell exercises, and TRX exercises cut it? Do single leg RDL’s cut it? Single leg hip thrusts? Pistols? Planks?

Of course one must master bodyweight exercises before adding load. But after that, should we move onto different movements?

I’m more of a strength guy. Many of my colleagues keep me in check by programming simple bodyweight movements like push ups and inverted rows. When I do push ups or inverted rows, I usually wear a weighted vest or stack plates on top of me. I hate high reps and am always trying to figure out a way to make an exercise harder so I don’t have to do so many reps to get a good workout. How do you think I thought of barbell glute bridges and hip thrusts? When I do chin ups and dips, I add weight via a hip belt. I even place weight on my low back when I perform planks.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRnkX3RATpM&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

In recent years we’ve seen a “back to the basics” movement as well as a surge in popularity of kettlebells and TRX systems.

For sport-specific training where the first rule is to do no harm, I believe that these bodyweight, kettlebell, and TRX exercises are extremely valuable.

However, if you are like me and your goals are to get stronger at the powerlifts (squat, bench press, deadlift), then these movements just don’t cut it. For these reasons, I like the one arm row and chest supported row over the inverted row. I like the deadlift over the single leg RDL. I like hip thrusts over single leg hip thrusts. I like the Bulgarian squat over the pistol. I like increased stability, I like dumbbells, and I love barbells!

10. Classic books

I believe that not enough lifters truly appreciate our roots in strength training. I try to learn about what the greats from back in the day used to talk about. Much of my thought-process was shaped by the following classic books. Granted, most of them aren’t from too far back, but these books paved the way for different schools of thought. If you haven’t read them yet, you should.

-Only the Strongest Shall Survive – Bill Starr
-Brawn – Stuart McRobert
-Beyond Brawn – Stuart McRobert
-Super Squats – Randall Strossen
-Dinosaur Training – Brooks Kubik
-Keys to Progress – John McKallum
-The Steel Tip Newsletter – Dr. Ken

11. Glute Bridge Isoholds

I just performed these for the first time the other day. Although I wouldn’t recommend these in certain situations, I believe they have great value in many sport-specific circumstances. The glutes and hamstrings stay extremely activated during the entire static hold.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zfBSlZApqs&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

12. Front Squat Harness

The front squat harness is the best tool available for ensuring an upright torso. The bar placement out in front of the chest actually makes this exercise a hybrid front squat/Zercher squat movement. Awesome core and quad exercise!

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uTVgVxmJto&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

13. Hip Thrusts Transfer to RDL’s and Dimel Deadlifts

I haven’t performed RDL’s or Dimel deadlifts in ages, but the other day I decided to throw them at the end of my workout. This was after performing heavy squats, sumo deadlifts, and Bulgarian squats. I cranked out 20 reps in around 30 seconds and felt that I could have gotten 30 reps if I really wanted. I got stronger at these from hip thrusts and barbell glute bridges. I’m just popping my hips forward by squeezing my glutes as hard as possible.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmPoB4mb63I&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

*Please ignore the “She’s a Maniac” song in the background. It’s my sister’s CD. I promise.

Dimel deadlifts are usually performed with 30-40% of one’s 1RM. In this case I’m using a higher percentage of 1RM plus I’m not arching my low back as much as possible as arching the low back and anteriorly rotating the pelvis puts more emphasis on the hams and less on the glutes. I’m trying to use as much glute as possible on this lift. I’d call it an RDL but I think the Dimel deadlift is a better description since the pace is pretty rapid.

14. Glute Ham Raises Don’t Work Much Glute!

Think about it; all your glutes are doing is stabilizing the torso. Even if you perform the glute ham raise by first performing a back extension and swinging through into a glute ham raise, it still isn’t that tough for the glutes. My EMG experiments show that a bodyweight glute ham raise activates the gluteus maximus with a mean of 14% MVC and a peak of 44% of MVC. Contrast this to a barbell plus band resisted hip thrust, which yields 119% and 235%, respectively!

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aI3ML0B9mQQ&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

Don’t get me wrong, the glute ham raise is an awesome hamstring exercise that you should be doing from time to time. However, if you want to hit your glutes, do pull throughs, bottoms-up single leg hip thrusts, barbell glute bridges, hip thrusts, or pendulum quadruped hip extensions. Or even give band hip rotations a try. Below is the pendulum quadruped hip extension.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VT3K-Nkn7bw&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

15. Single Leg Training for Sprinting Speed

Rob Williams who I recently met at a seminar got me thinking about this topic. He noticed that although the 40 yard dash times at the NFL combine this year were very impressive, the players ran with a ton of lateral (side-to-side) movement. He wondered if the culprit is heavy bilateral lifts with wider stances. Think about it; is all an athlete ever performed was powerlifting-style squats, sumo deadlifts, and hip thrusts with a wider stance, it might encourage more hip abduction and lateral movement when running. Could these athletes be faster if their sprint mechanics was better and more linear? I think so. This plays a case for narrower stance bilateral lifts and especially single leg training since there is no hip abduction or external rotation during these movements.

16. Hip Range of Motion Needs to be Considered

Think about a forward lunge vs. a walking lunge. In the videos below, notice the range of motion in which the hip is under extensive loading. Tons of loading out in front, but not so much at all near terminal hip extension. However, the walking lunge does appear to have a little more stress on the hips than the forward lunge due to the fact that the lifter is moving forward in addition to upward. This introduces a little bit of anteroposterior movement in addition to axial loading. The forward lunge would place more stress on the knee joint and would be better suited for deceleration and backpedaling speed, whereas the walking lunge would be better suited for acceleration.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy_H7YFcB84&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1] [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=So1gN8C3x60&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

In a study done by researchers at the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska found that the recumbent bike activated 1/4 the gluteus maximus muscle as walking. Think hip range of motion under load for the glutes. My research showed that a leg press with 700 lbs activated 9% mean and 26% peak glute activation in reference to MVC. Again, compare that to a barbell plus band resisted hip thrust, which yields 119% and 235%, respectively! It’s all about hip range of motion under load.

17. Arching the Low Back and Anteriorly Rotating the Pelvis Increases Hamstring Activation and Decreases Glute Activation

I alluded to this earlier, but the glutes like to posteriorly rotate the pelvis. When you overarch and anteriorly rotate the pelvis, you put more tension on the hamstrings and less on the glutes since you aren’t letting them “do their thing.” This is why studies always show increased glute activity in a deadlift over an RDL. Several studies confirm this in addition to my EMG studies. My recommendation; arch but don’t overarch, don’t rotate the pelvis, and squeeze the glutes hard throughout hip extension movements.

18. Integrative-Isolated Continuum

There’s no doubt about it, standing ground based barbell and dumbbell exercises are the bee’s knees! You’ve got total body integration with lots of prime mover activity with transfer all the way from the hands through the core, past the feet, and down into the ground.

Standing technical exercises are at the far end of the “integrative” continuum and include exercises such as cleans, snatches, split jerks, Turkish get ups, overhead squats, and even sled pushes (though not a barbell lift).

Next to this are standing “not-so-technical” lifts such as squats, front squats, deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, good mornings, barbell lunges, power cleans, power snatches, push presses, barbell bent over rows, barbell shrugs, and barbell curls. Non-barbell exercises such as kettlebell swings, cable chops and lifts, and even standing cable or JC Band presses, rows fit into this category as well.

Then you’ve got seated, supine, prone, kneeling, supported, quadruped, and upper body closed-chain movements that work a lot of muscle. These include incline presses, bench presses, seated military presses, chest supported rows, inverted rows, chins, dips, push ups, hip thrusts, glute ham raises, back extensions, reverse hypers, planks, and side planks.

Finally, at the far end of the “isolative” continuum you have seated or lying isolation movements like flies, leg extensions, leg curls, seated calf raises, preacher curls, cable kickbacks, and crunches.

I’ve heard some people say that hip thrusts aren’t very functional since they aren’t performed while standing. Well, in the hip thrust you still have transfer through the feet, you’ve got even more total hip extensor (over 20 total muscles) mean and peak activity than any standing exercise, but more importantly, you’re training the sprint vector (anteroposterior loading) pattern, which you can’t do with a barbell from a standing position. Even so, if you are a strength coach and this is your philosophy (standing exercises only/anti-hip thrust), then I better not see you doing bench presses, incline presses, chest supported rows, glute ham raises, Russian leg curls, chin ups, dips, inverted rows, push ups, planks, side planks, or ab wheel rollouts, since none of them are performed from a standing position. That would make you a hypocrite!

It is obviously my belief that standing exercises should comprise a huge part of a strength coach’s program, and supine/prone exercises as well as closed-chain body leverage exercises offer excellent supplementation to balance out the standing exercises and create a comprehensive, well-rounded routine. Think directional load vectors, not just kinetic chain type, body positions, ranges of motion, number of limbs, and type of resistance. Better yet, just use common sense when you work out and figure out which exercises are best for various purposes.

19. This is a Great Exercise that Gives You an Excuse to Isolate Your Pecs

If any exercise has the ability to target the inner chest, it’s this! Plus, it’s an unbelievable rotary stability exercise. In other words, it works the hell out of the core while it hammers the pec.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qcwr_RsDHq8&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

20. Squats and Deadlifts are Not Interchangeable!

I hear people all the time say that squats and deadlifts are interchangeable. In fact, even King Louie Simmons mentions this as he likes the box squat which has more of a “sit back” action and involves more posterior chain.

Some say that the deadlift is a squat with the bar moved out in front of the body. Depending on anthropometry, some individuals may feel that the squat and deadlift are similar in biomechanics, but for others the lifts are worlds apart. It also depends on the type of squat and deadlift. Obviously a full front squat with an upright torso looks nothing like a Romanian deadlift with a full hip hinge.

Consider the taller lifter with long everything. He will deadlift with high hips and use mostly posterior chain to conduct the movement. However, when he squats he will use more quad and less hamstring even if he has considerable forward lean.

I get what these folks are saying, as it’s important to consider the effects of muscular contribution from moving around position of the load while squatting and deadlifting, as each position is unique. You’ve got neutral position (hex bar), behind the back position (hack lift), low bar (squat), high bar (squat), manta ray (squat), safety squat bar (squat), racked (front squat), cambered bar (squat), Zercher (squat), snatch-grip (deadlift), clean grip (deadlift), and sumo grip (sumo deadlift).

21. Elvis Was the King!

If you ever doubted how awesome Elvis was please watch this six minute Suspicious Mind video from 1970 in its entirety. Things get interesting 2:30 into the video, and at 4:30 they get even more interesting. He busts out a Cossack squat with excellent mobility and stability and demonstrates great hip thrusting prowess throughout the video! At 3:45 he practically makes a girl faint.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTYg2Q-vDJ0&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

22. Being Tall Has its Advantages

At a height of 6’4″ tall, every time I wash my clothes I have to stretch out my shirts length-wise before I put them in the drier or they’ll end up looking like half-shirts. In order to prevent my shirts from shrinking in length, I simply grab a hold of the top and bottom of the shirts when they’re wet and pull them apart in four different places. This serves as an awesome lat, rear delt, and scapular retractor exercise. Consider that I may have 20 shirts, at 4 pull-aparts per shirt that adds up to 80 reps of activation work for my upper back. Okay, maybe this random thought was a stretch (no pun intended).

23. Best Tools for the Job 

I recently bought the tiger tail and am very happy with my purchase. If you are a trainer or lifter and you want to deliver the best possible Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) therapy possible, then you can’t just have a foam roller. The foam roller is the best tool for rolling out the back and possibly the ITB band. The tiger tail is the best tool for the tibialis anterior, calves, and quads. If you have a partner they can use the tiger tail on your forearms, arms, and lats. The lacrosse ball is the best tool for the arch of the foot, the upper glutes, in between the shoulder blades, and the upper pecs.

If you really care about SMR then you need to have all three tools. Of course, a skilled LMT on hand 24/7 would be even better but unless you’re a multi-millionaire this is just wishful thinking.

24. I Don’t Have a Lisp

In my YouTube videos it sounds like I have a lisp. I don’t. Something’s quirky with my digital camera. If you ever get to meet me, you’ll see that I speak like a semi-normal human being.

25. Fitness Summit

Tomorrow I’m leaving to Kansas City to speak at the 2010 JPFitness Summit. The presenters are yours truly, Nick Tumminello, Alan Aragon, Lou Schuler, and Ryan Zielonka. I’ll be giving a presentation on Load Vector Training which I believe is pretty awesome. I’m looking forward to meeting a bunch of great people and having a good time. Nick may be the most creative right-brained thinker in Strength & Conditioning, Lou has edited more fitness books than Moses. Okay Moses probably didn’t edit many books but I suspect that they’re the same age. Ba da ching! 🙂 And Alan and Ryan are some of the smartest guys in the Nutrition world. In short, it’s going to be a great event!

It’s not too late to sign up, so go here if you want to attend the event.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqnD_5OITy4&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&border=1]

That’s all. Have a Great Week! Hope you enjoyed the thorough article. Wish me luck in Kansas City!

25 Comments

  • Joe says:

    Bret,

    Just curious, but do you suspect the glutes would get even a marginally decent effect (at least compared to those EST options listed in the chart in the article) if using a Versaclimber Set on a challenging level of resistance and with a long enough stroke/ROM/”step” length?

    Or do you feel it would likely hit the hamstrings to a much greater degree and be relatively low in the glute department? I suppose this movement would be somewhat akin to a high step up, albeit with less of a need to stabilize in the frontal and transverse planes than a high step up.

    As for the single-arm cable fly, for someone after hypertrophy, could you mix up performing a braced version with the “free” version depending upon when, where, and how you want to use it in your program if maximal hypertrophy is your goal, or do you think that regardless of what anyone might claim, the free version, despite requiring far more rotary stability and neural drive to other musculature would still give you more than enough pec activity (especially on account of being a unilateral movement to begin with) all on its own, without having to resort to bracing yourself on something with the free hand.

    On the one hand, I wouldn’t want to perform a braced version all of the time and pass up the rotary stability benefits of the movement, but it seems like a solid pec movement gets even better if bracing yourself with the free hand. Or perhaps start with a few “free” sets and finish off with a set or two braced.

    Either way, I fully intend to use said movement from multiple angle…..ah the beauty of bands and cables.

    Thanks for sharing another thought-provoking and extensive piece, I am almost as disappointed as I am excited when I see new material from you, since I know that it isn’t the type of stuff to be taken lightly and will always make me think.

  • Thanks Joe! I think the versaclimber would give the glutes a great workout in the manner in which you described. And you’re right, it would be akin to a high step up which always shows extremely high levels of peak EMG activation. As for the single arm cable fly, you could defintely brace the free hand. I bet it would still be challenging for the core and might help lead to increased pec activation due to irradiation and stability. Great idea! Thanks again!

  • Tom McDonald says:

    Thanks for a wealth of knowledge, espescially the various how to videos. I always wanted to know why so many different ways of squatting, benching, and deadlifting are seen in programs and around the gym. Also your glute training really helps my squat and deadlift but I do get a lot of strange looks at my gym, they have never seen loaded bridges and thrusts.

    • Thanks Tom! I quit working out at the gym down the street a few months ago and stick to my garage now but nobody said crap to me when I did hip thrusts or glute bridges because I can deadlift more than they can leg press. In fact, since I’m so strong people would approach me and say to me, “I’ve got to let you teach me how to do some of those exercises sometime.” So just keep getting stronger and eventually you’ll be the authority in your gym. I used to laugh when I’d see girls doing single leg hip thrusts in between two benches. They would see me do it and then they’d incorporate it into their routines. Feels good to be a trend-starter.

  • Mark Young says:

    “Yes, I just used the word AND four times in one sentence. I never claimed to be Lou Schuler!”

    Classic quote!

    Excellent post Bret! You know you don’t get paid for blogs right?

  • Scott Brady says:

    Awesome post Bret. Really enjoyed it.

  • Zing says:

    EPIC POST

  • Tom says:

    where did you get your tiger tail from?

  • Once again, great stuff Bret!

    I’m happy to hear the Bulg. SS and Static Lunges work the hip flexors so well. Sounds like it would make sense to count them as hip flexor (strengthening) exericises… therefore, if using them in a particular training block, would you reduce, or eliminate other hip flexor (strengthening) exercises in the program?

    Thanks,

    • Yes; they are a hip flexor strengthening exercise and they would strengthen the hips in a stretched position. So all you would need to do is add in a typical band or cable standing or lying hip flexion to strengthen the contracted position (which is important for psoas activation). These two methods would lead to a balanced hip flexor strengthening program. I should add that Usain’s sprint coach Glenn Mills believes in strengthening the hip flexors for sprinting.

  • Howard Gray says:

    Posted this by mistake somewhere else… whoops

    Thanks for the myriad of info – I enjoyed it!

    Cheers for bringing up the volume issue with unilateral exercises – something that has to be considered especially with beginners who can only handle so much. Also it was interesting to see the EMG readings from the Bulgarian Squats – do you know of any data on how much force is going through the rear leg? Need to get on a double plate force platform and try it out. I am sure it is significant – and this would further complicate the unilateral vs. bilateral “argument”.

    Good luck in Kansas City, then start work on the 25 separate articles 😉

    • I’ve done that before; posted a comment in a different blogpost than I intended…Wordpress is surprisingly complicated sometimes.

      I’m not sure about the force going through the rear leg but I’d love to see researchers one day test it out on double force plates to give us some indication. This definitely further complicates the unilateral vs. bilateral argument.

      Thanks Howard! I always enjoy and appreciate your responses.

      • Howard Gray says:

        No worries Bret
        Once in Tennessee I will try do get on that – I will be using the summer to re-learn all the lab stuff anyways – it has been a while!
        Let us know how your talk went, and if you were able to get the rotten fruit stains out of your shirt and tie! 😉

  • On the 1,000 hours commentary:

    Intelligence is a prerequisite to success, but you don’t need to be a genius. Many moderately intelligent people are highly successful, due to other talents or skills; and many highly intelligent people cannot achieve high levels of success.

    Personality plays a big role, as stated above, but also drive, work ethic, creativity, industry knowledge, and skill set.

    The most important factor, I believe, is knowing your strengths and limitations. If you have a realistic sense of those, you can hire people who do great work in areas where you are merely good, competent, or even lousy, and focus your energy on the areas where you do your best work.

  • bodybymitch says:

    Wow… that was a ton of content in one post…

    Especially liked #’s 4 / 6 / 19

    I’m going to start integrating this stuff right away…

    P.S. Loving the TMuscle posts 🙂

  • Bret, where did you get your front squat harness?

    Thanks!

  • Baptiste says:

    This is a great post man good work !

    The “inside the muscles” articles at Tmuscle are great but as you said in the articles, “more research is needed”

    Keep up the good work 😉

  • Jack says:

    Fantastic article! You’re becoming one of my favorite writers! Read all your articles on T-nation and I love your writing and insights.

    Congrats to you and thanks again,
    Jack

    ps – great interview on Nia’s website.

  • Nick Horton says:

    Hey Brett,

    Thanks for the post, this is great. And your glute bridge iso-holds redefine the term “bad-ass”!

    OH, I just purchased your glute book and have only just started reading. There’s a TON in there. I’ll make sure when I’m finished to write a review on my blog and a link-back.

    thanks,
    Nick Horton

  • cliff says:

    Hi i was wondering please if you could put my mind at rest when i perform elevated split squat exercise all the tension is in the elevated leg and not the squatting leg.what am i doing wrong. advices would be gratefully received

    many thanks

    Take care

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