More Random Thoughts

By January 20, 2012 Random Thoughts

Okay folks I’ve got some more randomness for you, here you go:

1. Facebook Fan Page

I recently started a Facebook Fan Page so please hit like so you can follow me on there. I’ve been posting most of my fitness stuff to that page lately instead of using my regular page.

2. Contreras Files Volume II

I recently wrote another edition of the Contreras Files for TNation HERE. In this post I discuss a lot of different things, much of which has just recently been published or is published ahead of print, including:

  • Stretching doesn’t affect DOMS
  • Dynamic effort hex bar deadlifts with 40% of 1RM will match the peak power outputs of the Olympic lifts
  • Full range of motion exercise trumps partials for both strength and hypertrophy
  • Various methods for improving sprint acceleration
  • The biomechanics of the kettlebell swing
  • Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors
  • Strength training practices of professional Strongmen
  • Lower back loads during resistance training, sport and functional activity
  • Neck training
  • The updated RKC Plank (with video below)

If you click on the video and go to Youtube, you can read the comments underneath the video, they’re hilarious!

3. Coach Nick Gill: Ironman Race for Cystic Fibrosis

My friend Nick Gill (head strength coach for the All Blacks; a New Zealand rugby team that won the World Cup last year) is trying to raise $3,000 for an upcoming Ironman race in March. All proceeds go to the Cystic Fibrosis Association. If you have change to spare then please donate some HERE. To my Kiwi readers – he helped win you a World Cup it’s the least you could do! 🙂

4. Hamstring Strain Injuries: Are We Headed in the Right Direction?

My friends Jurdan Mendiguchia and Matt Brughelli recently got an article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. You can download the article HERE. Jurdan and Matt are freaky intelligent. This is a top-notch article on the hamstrings so if you’re a strength coach make sure you read it. The authors point out that hamstring injury and re-injury rates haven’t improved in 3 decades. We like to boil things down and take a reductionist viewpoint on things but with the human body factors are interrelated as shown in the conceptual model provided by the authors below. Understanding this model will go a long way in improving your knowledge of hamstring injuries.

5. Strong Curves Update

My friend Kellie Davis and I have been working hard to complete our Strong Curves book which should be available later this summer. We recently went to Las Vegas and shot pictures for a couple of days and then returned to Phoenix to shoot more pictures and videos for a couple of days. Here are some highlights.

6. Crappiest Personal Trainer Ever

When Kellie and I were filming the video promo for Strong Curves I witnessed something that I just have to get off my chest. A brand new client was receiving his first training session with a personal trainer. For the beginner’s first session, the trainer put him through this routine for his entire workout:

  • Bosu ball push ups (dome facing down, hands gripping the Bosu platform) 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Bosu ball cable crossovers (dome facing up, standing on the Bosu ball) – 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Front planks – 3 sets of 30 seconds holds
  • Walking on the treadmill – 20 minutes

Great job you stupid jackass! You officially provided the absolute worst strength training routine for a beginner client that I’ve ever seen in my life. Nothing for the legs or back, just a couple of unstable surface exercises for the chest/triceps, a core stability exercise and some cardio that the guy could have done anywhere. Step it up personal trainers!

7. Back Extension Height

If you really squeeze the glutes as hard as you can at the top of a back extension you’ll pull your torso up a bit higher which makes the movement much more challenging for the glutes. This is hip hyperextension which is not to be confused with spinal hyperextension. I can do 50 reps if I don’t hyperextend my hips and I feel it mostly in the hammies, but if I do it this way 30 reps kills me and I feel it in my hammies and my glutes. Here’s a vid:

8. Deficit Reverse Lunge – Knee Dominant Fashion

Here’s a tweak on the deficit reverse lunge to make the movement more knee dominant. This smokes my quads if I really try to focus on using the top leg to its full extent. Here’s a vid:

9. Ben Bruno Build a Better Workout

My friend Ben Bruno wrote a great Livestrong article and I absolutely loved his program. To me it’s sort of a Body for Life meets  Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning with a Ben Bruno twist. I like the way Ben thinks when it comes to training. Anyway, I gotta give some serious props to Ben on this one as it’s one of the best routines I’ve ever seen and I don’t usually like other people’s routines.

10. NFL Wide Receiver Sam Giguere Training

Here is a video of Sam Training. All I can say is that this is some serious athleticism. Beautiful!

11. Is Your Corrective Exercise Working?

My friend Elsbeth Vaino filmed this video and I really liked what she had to say. Even better was the guy in the background breathing really heavy while Elsbeth was talking haha! Having filmed tons of Youtube videos myself in various gyms I have to laugh when these things happen as you usually don’t realize it until you get home and watch the video. Anyway, watch the video as Elsbeth gives some good advice.

12. Jen Grasso’s Favorite Glute Exercises

Jen Grasso listed her ten favorite glute exercises HERE. I always enjoy hearing about how others train their glutes.

13. Training Around Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI)

Kevin Neeld has written an excellent blogpost about training around FAI HERE. Watch the video embedded in the link – it’s one of the most serious cases I’ve seen so it makes for an excellent case study. Trainers, strength coaches and physical therapists need to understand FAI so definitely check this one out.

14. Single Leg Squat Stand

Here’s my friend Elsbeth again discussing all the exercises she likes to perform off of a single leg squat stand. Very cool!

15. Gliding Leg Curl

The gliding leg curl is an excellent hamstring exercise that I came up with several years ago. It never caught on like I hoped it would, which is unfortunate as it’s a really good hamstring movement. I’ve seen a couple of videos and usually people don’t keep the hips elevated sufficiently throughout the movement and they don’t pull their bodies forward enough. Keep the hips sky-high and pull the body all the way up and forward via knee flexion. This way you’ll really work the hammies. Here’s a quick video:

Okay that’s all folks! Hope you’re all having a great week. BC


  • Josh says:

    Brett, Great post. I have been dealing with FAI for about 3 years now. I have completly lost my glute med hypertrophy (basicly a dent in my right glute) and some of my glute max. I have been trainign around it for awhile but can’t seem to get the hypertrophy back. I’ve used cycles of your glute programs and have increased my strength, but not size.

    Any thoughts?

    • Bret says:

      Josh, it’s very hard to make recommendations without working with you in person. FAI is tricky and I’m not a physical therapist, so assuming FAI is your only issue I’d just advise you to get stable and strong in the available ROM you have. I’m sure this is what you’re already doing but just stick with it and mix up rep ranges and exercises. Sorry to not be of more help.

  • Bret,
    Great article! Love your stuff, and so do my clients.
    Looking forward to watching them attempt the Gliding Leg Curl.
    Keep the content coming!

  • Neal W. says:

    RE: Ben Bruno’s program.

    This is the same type of program that I write for people (friends/family) when they ask me for fitness advice (I’m not a trainer). Seems like common sense to me.

    • Bret says:

      Neal – the beauty is in the details, for example how Ben utilized the ABA, BAB style seen in Body for Life, how he programmed a hip dominant and upper body press on one day and a knee dominant and upper body pull on the other day, and how he utilizes the most effective exercises with the best risk/reward ratio (assuming they’re done correctly) and works the whole body effectively each session. It is somewhat similar to the ten-minute routine I wrote last week, but even more creative, which is why I give this two thumbs up.

  • Steven S says:

    Can you explain what a “dynamic effort” hex bar lift is? (I know what a hex bar is, just not the dynamic effort part.)

    • Bret says:

      Steven, this is “Westside Barbell Club” terminology and most lifters are familiar with it due to the popularity of the Westside Method. It simply means that you lift a submaximal load with maximal acceleration/velocity. I believe that Louie Simmons implemented this terminology based on the work of Vladimir Zatsiorsky who discussed the 3 primary ways to maximally load the muscles (maximal effort, dynamic effort, repetitive effort) in his book titled “The Science and Practice of Strength Training.” So if your max hex bar deadlift was 400 lbs, you’d take 160 lbs and lift it as explosively as possible.

  • Derrick Blanton says:

    Hey Bret, great job, and hope you are now pulling 600 with an intact bicep tendon. I love the gliding leg curl, and actually started working it in after your original article a couple of years ago. I came up with a couple of tweaks it to make it more challenging:

    First, make it a unilateral movement, with one leg on the box and the other hip flexed.

    Second, use suspended TRX straps held close to the body. The straps will sway, er, glide towards the box effectively taking the shoulder out of the movement, stabilizing the torso, and shifting more of the focus onto the hips.

    Third, set up where the torso is lower than the feet.

    Finally, “climb uphill” by digging the heel into the box, and try to “touch the opposite leg to the ceiling”. Has a sort of glute-ham raise effect as the working leg is flexing the knee while simultaneously extending the hip. You have increased the load by lowering the torso, shifted the entire load to one leg, and further stabilized the torso.

    Plus it now feels like a movement with an intention, “to kick the sky” if you will. I find cues like “tear the bar down” on pull ups, or “push yourself through the bench” on bench press really get more activation for me.


    • Bret says:

      Derrick, Ben Bruno and I were talking the other day and we both feel that the barbell makes it more challenging for the hips, yet you feel the opposite. I’ll experiment with this again and make my final determination.

      I do feel that the TRX version is ideal for many folks for several reasons, so I love what you’ve come up with – especially the cues.

      I have a very hard time keeping the hips high when I perform single leg gliding leg curls. I can do them but they’re not with perfect form. Can you do these while keeping the hips high?

      Anyway, I’d love to see a video so if you have time film yourself and reply to this with the link.

      • Derrick Blanton says:

        Hi Bret, you and Ben are battle-tested, so you prob. right.

        To me, the barbell version is great, but it just feels a little awkward, which is code for unstable. Maybe it feels harder to me b/c my CNS is slightly inhibited due to balance concerns. As I learned from you, “Maximum stability = maximum activation”. My body seems more concerned about not falling, then completing a feat of strength. In effect, it is “torn” between whether to hang on to the barbell, or commit to the new point of contact at the heel. Something about being “unshackled” turns on my CNS!

        Video will tell if my hips are held high, my gut says no, don’t know if that diminshes the exrc. Maybe a regression, progression from hips down (glute contribution) to hips high (hamstring isolation, glute pure stabilizer)?

        I can tell you that I do feel a pretty intense hamstring contraction! But then again my glutes tend to overpower my hams at every turn so it prob. doesn’t take that much.

        Try to make that vid this weekend!

      • Derrick Blanton says:

        Tried to keep my hips high throughout the entire set, but then I re-watched your video and realized that you were resetting your hips between reps, rather than holding a plank all the way through. Darn it! But I think I like trying to stay stiff throughout the movement. (Insert joke here).

        The steeper the angle, the more awkward the barbell version becomes. My shoulders aren’t sure what to do with the rapidly decreasing angle of torso to bar, and you can see this inhibiting the movement. There is a natural urge to row to the bar which actually makes it harder b/c you are slowing the horizontal glide with a vertical force.

        Anyway, I definitely feel it in my hams, big time. They are sort of cramping up. It’s wonderful. 🙂 Great movement, and doesn’t cause a lot of DOMS, much like hip thrusts. It’s a good complement to one leg RDL’s.

  • moss says:

    hi! can anyone clarify something for me.

    Is the “hex-bar deadlift” (aka “trap bar deadlift”) a true deadlift variant or is it, as some people contend, a squat variant? knee-dominant or hip-dominant?

    • Derrick Blanton says:

      moss, the variable to consider is the relationship of the hips to the knees when the bar breaks the ground. If the hips are higher than the knees than it’s more of a dead lift (hip dominant, hinge, etc.). If the hips are lower than the knees than it’s more of a squat (knee dominant).

      I actually just posted about this very topic on Ben Bruno’s blog with a video showing a DEFICIT trap bar dead lift which is a pretty pure squat movement pattern. Another variation on this is the old school “Hack squat” with the barbell held behind the body.

      Generally, though a traditional TBDL is still more dead lift than squat.

      Sorry BC if I’m overstepping. I’m feeling prolific today!

      • Bret says:

        Definitely not overstepping Derrick. I agree, I see some people trap bar deadlift with very high hips as if it’s a standard deadlift, but most shift the load rearward which increases the moment at the knees and reduces the moment at the hips. For this reason Stuart McRobert in “Brawn” referred to it as a “squat lift” – half way in between the squat and deadlift.

        I’d still say it’s hip dominant but a bit less hip dominant than a deadlift and a bit less knee dominant than a squat if that makes sense.

        Great question.

        • moss says:

          thanks guys! excellent replies.
          perhaps it should be renamed has “hex-bar SQUATLIFT” (“trap bar squatlift”)…

  • Jay says:

    Hey Bret, hows it going?

    Nice tip on the back extension machine. I was watching Giguere’s vid, was great to say the least. A mix of weights and sports specific training. Was wondering what your opinion is on sports secfifc training, not the western term, but rather the Soviet’s version of sports specific, or SPP, dynamic correspondence, etc. The work of Verkoshanky, Yessis and Bondarchuk. They all produced crazy throwers, claiming the key is more special exercises like weighted throws and twists. It seems it is at odds with the western way of training, which the Soviets would consider too genreral in nature to carryover to sports performance.

    Thank Bret,


    • Bret says:

      Jay – I’m discussing this in an upcoming “The Contreras Files” so I don’t want to talk to much about it. Many coaches don’t believe much in it but I’m a huge believer. I know why the coaches say these things but I don’t agree with them…but I see their point and there’s a way to make both sides happy (meet in the middle) to deliver the best possible results.

  • Kellie says:

    Great reads! Um, #6… this is what I’m up against. I assume you are talking about my gym…

    Ben’s workout is really great. Can’t wait to share it!

    And Elsbeth, if you are reading this, you look amazing!

  • Blaine says:

    Hey there, am I glad I found this website! Reminds me of “it’s all in the hips,” something I tell my clients often! I wonder, Bret, what you think of single legged kettlebell swings, cleans, presses and snatches of developing dynamic stability in through the hip as well as correcting dominant-side strength imbalances. Not sure if this is the appropriate place to ask, but it seems relevant to this post.

    • Bret says:

      Hi Blaine, my initial impression is to assume single leg kettlebell work isn’t very effective, but my hunches have been wrong before, especially as it pertains to single leg RDL’s. So before answering you I’d need to experiment with it (and if I saw a video of an advanced lifter doing them with precision and evidence of considerable muscle force then I’d vouch for them). But before that happens my guess is that it would be too unstable. Give it a try and see what you think. Of course it would develop hip stability but would it be better than simple single leg RDL’s, skater squats, etc.? That’s what I’d wonder.

  • Michael says:

    Hey Brett, I started doing 45 degree back extensions again after seeing your videos on them and they feel great. One detail I was wondering about is the knees. Are you supposed to keep them locked out or do you always keep a slight bend?

    • Bret says:

      Most people do fine with locked knees. Maybe 10% of people find this problematic and experience discomfort. In this case I have them bend the knees and it usually solves the problem. Cheers!

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