October Random Post

By October 22, 2018 Random Thoughts

Hi Fitness Friends!

Here are links to articles I thought were interesting, all of the podcasts I’ve participated in, and my best Instagram posts in the past couple months.


Why Do Resistance Training Studies Differ in Their Findings? A Lesson in Sampling Variance

THIS article by James Krieger aptly explains why we often see different findings in sports science research.

Training Frequency for Strength Development: What the Data Say

THIS article by Greg Nuckols goes over the data for frequency literature – creating his own meta-analysis of the current research.

Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men

THIS is the most recent published article I was a part of. The purpose of the study was to evaluate muscular adaptations between low-, moderate-, and high-volume resistance training protocols in resistance-trained men.

The results shocked us…we didn’t expect to see a dose-response with volume up to 48 sets per week, but we did. This gives credence in my opinion to specialization phases where you attempt to bring up a certain muscle group.


Beast Fitness Radio

In THIS podcast, we talk about the importance of exercise variation, individual response to exercise, and optimal training frequency.

Mike Barbell: Science and Aesthetics

In THIS podcast, we talk about different aspects of training and my personal coaching anecdotes from working with high level bikini competitors.

School of Muscle

In THIS podcast, we discuss what the best exercises are to build muscle, how to balance the mind-muscle connection and lifting more weight, and more.

The Competitive Edge: Fitness Uncensored

In THIS podcast, I share my insight on how to optimally grow your glutes.


Here are some of my most popular recent Instagram posts:

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Below is the hip thrust pyramid scheme I’ve been prescribing to some of my clients lately. I have each of them performing this protocol once per week for 4 weeks as follows: ▪️ Set 1: Select a load that you can perform for around 15 reps. Set 2: Select a load that you can perform for around 10 reps. Set 3: Select a load that you can perform for around 5 reps. Set 4: Select a load that you can perform for around 20 reps (know that you’re fatigued by this point, so you’ll have to go lighter than normal) and add a miniband around your knees (@the_hip_thruster Loop works perfectly for these). ▪️ Tip: Choose weights that are easy to load and unload, and don’t be so obsessive about nailing the number of reps perfectly. ▪️ The ladies are using around 225lbs, 275lbs, 325lbs, and 185lbs for each set, respectively. These are the loads that you’ll stick with for the entire 4 weeks. Perform each set close to failure, resting approximately 3 minutes between sets 1 and 2 and 2 and 3, and 2 minutes between sets 3 and 4. Add up the total number of reps each week. ▪️ On week 1, you will likely get around 50 total reps. On week 2, strive for around 60 total reps. On week 3, push for around 65 total reps, and on week 4, 70 total reps. ▪️ This is an awesome form of progressive overload that has you getting stronger in every rep range. Make sure you don’t resort to “junk” reps; you want a full lockout with good spinal mechanics. You can touch the bar down between reps or reverse in mid air, just make sure you use the same ROM each week. ▪️ This workout is to be done at the beginning of your session. Only use this protocol 2-3 times a year. You can and should hip thrust 1-2 additional days throughout the week, however, but go with pause reps, B-stance, 1.25 reps, or other non-traditional variations. ▪️ Strong by Bret members, you’ll be doing this on Day One so be prepared; you’ll also be doing @therock’s thrusting protocol on Day Three. 😈 ▪️ Thanks to my models @cabalstrong10, @domscottfit, @chrisannanorthrup, and @brianna_fit_. They’re on week 3 right now and kicking butt. Shown are each of their last two sets of the pyramid. #gluteguy #glutelab #thethrustisamust

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In 2014, I conducted a pilot experiment with my interns @serrano.fitness and @joeypercia. Basically, the three of us did a bunch of exercises while hooked up to electrodes and measured the EMG activity of select muscles during various exercises. We found that we could indeed significantly alter the elicited level of muscular activity by focusing or not focusing on a particular muscle during a lift. Check out the glute activity in the back extension when you try versus try not to use your glutes: 6% compared to 38% of MVIC. This is with the same load, effort, speed, and form. But does this enhanced activity translate to greater muscle hypertrophy? My buddy @bradschoenfeldphd and I recently conducted a training study showing that the biceps grew bigger when participants focused their attention on the muscles (internally) versus on the environment (externally). This paper was recently accepted for publication. Bottom line: don’t be afraid to squeeze your glutes if you want them to grow to their full potential. Bodybuilders have long touted the importance of the mind muscle connection, it’s great that we now have some evidence supporting their theory. I will post a link to the full write up of this experiment on my story. #glutelab #gluteguy

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Exercise variations exist on an unstable to stable continuum. For lower body ground based movements, on the far left, you have variants that involve free weight single leg performance, possibly while standing on a wobbly device or placing a wobbly barbell on your back. On the far right, you have variants that involve machine double leg performance, possibly on a smith or plate loaded lever device. Traditional barbell variants would lie between the two extremes. The point of this post is to discuss the role stability plays in eliciting strength and hypertrophic adaptations. With strength adaptations, it's all about specificity. Wobbly training will make you the strongest at wobbly training. Barbell squats and deadlifts will make you the best at powerlifting. And machine training will make you strongest at machine training. But what about building glutes? Glute EMG activity is reduced with unstable training assuming relative load and effort are controlled. The brain will limit muscle activation of it senses instability (can’t fire a cannon out of a canoe). So unstable is inferior for building muscle, but what about barbell versus machine? We need more data on this. The same goes for transfer to performance. For improving explosive actions, unstable is inferior, but we don't have enough data to address what's optimal between barbell versus machine training. The vast majority of coaches would predict that barbells offer just the right amount of stability to maximize hypertrophy and transfer to sport. However, machines could have a slight edge. We've been performing a ton of plate loaded lever exercises at Glute Lab with much success. We love our lever reverse lunges, lever single leg SLDLs, and smith machine B-stance hip thrusts. And we've experienced zero injuries in six months of being open. We will have to wait for future research to inform us as to what best builds muscle and best transfers to sport, but it'll be either barbells or plate loaded machines, not wobbly training. You can absolutely include some unstable training into your regimen, just make sure you always include stable variants! #gluteguy #glutelab

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Here’s a video I made with the lovely @katiecrewe this weekend. Look at her form – it’s immaculate. Follow her for solid fitness information. We filmed our top 8 bridging/thrusting exercises. If you’re not incorporating some of these into your programs, you’re missing out. Happy thrusting my friends. #Repost @katiecrewe ・・・ I had the pleasure of meeting @bretcontreras1 in person over the weekend, whom I admire a great deal, to get schooled on all things butts 🍑 #luckyme 🙆🏼‍♀️. He’s a super smart dude and if you care about growing your glutes and understanding the science behind it, you should reeaally be following him. OK, here’s the butt stuff! – Here are 8 variations of hip thrusts (or glute bridges) that you can use depending on what equipment you have available or if you want to change things up. Can confirm, they all 🔥. While being consistent, making sure you’re putting quality ‘practice’ into movements, and challenging your body to lift more over time are all necessary, it’s a good idea to try different things to see what works best for you 🤗. Play around with your stance widths, foot position, and different variations to see where you get the best engagement…and keep yourself interested/entertained. As always, use a pad and avoid eye contact at all costs 👀#yw #happythrusting #glutelab #gluteguy #thethrustisamust #hipthrust #hipthrusters

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Around 6 years ago, my followers began using the term “sweet spot” in reference to the load that they felt maximized their glute activation during hip thrusts. I had very strong clients who could hip thrust 315lbs for 5-10 reps, however, they felt their glutes working the most when they used 185lbs. Naturally, they wanted to know whether they should stick solely to their sweet spot load or go heavier, even though they didn’t feel their glutes working as much. ⁣ ⁣ My advice is to use a variety of loads and try to get your glutes to feel all of them. I remember when I hip thrusted 815lbs, my hamstrings almost seized up and I barely felt my glutes working at all. That said, I am able to feel my glutes working very hard with a legit 3RM and 5RM. And of course, with anything above 10 reps. ⁣ ⁣ Oftentimes, you cannot feel your glutes because your form deteriorates. This is not always easy to detect, but you don’t achieve as much hip extension (less glutes), you arch your back more (more erectors), and you push more with your legs (more adductors, hammies, and quads). If you’re stricter during heavier sets and at the end of lighter sets, you will feel more glutes. ⁣ ⁣ Nevertheless, it’s okay to use your sweet spot load most of the time. A good rule of thumb could be to use your preferred weight with 60% of your sets, with the remaining 40% split between going heavier and going lighter. ⁣ ⁣ Variety is good, and you should experiment with different set and rep schemes as well as tempos (pause reps, etc.). The goal is to gradually raise your hip thrust sweet spot over time, with a big emphasis on gradual. It won’t go up by 100lbs in 2 months; think more like 20lbs every 4-6 months, and the rate of increase diminishes with more years of lifting experience. ⁣ ⁣ #glutelab #gluteguy #thethrustisamust

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I can’t keep a plant alive even though there are only two variables (assuming good soil): sunlight and water. When a plant is dying, do I water it more or less, or do I give it more or less sunlight? Or maybe it’s a combination of the two. ⁣ ⁣ Human muscle physiology is much more complex. ⁣Many of you are failing to see progress in the gym and are wondering why you’ve seemingly plateaued. If your glute gains are stagnant, consider one of these 8 variables. ⁣ ⁣ 1️⃣EFFORT: Most people train hard in terms of raising their heart rate and sweating, but most don’t train hard when it comes to progression. To build muscle, you have to place increasing amounts of tension on the muscles over time. This requires you to gain strength and set PRs (personal records). ⁣ ⁣ 2️⃣TECHNIQUE: Proper mechanics sets the foundation for progressive overload. A PR is only a PR when the same form and range of motion is utilized. Make sure you focus on the muscle while you lift. ⁣ ⁣ 3️⃣PROTEIN: You want to consume around 1g of protein per 1lb of lean body mass per day. Many people fail to consume this amount. ⁣ ⁣ 4️⃣CALORIES: You’ve gotta feed the muscle to burn the fat. Food fuels intense workouts. I’m not saying you have to be in a massive surplus; I’m simply saying that you need energy to train properly. ⁣ ⁣ 5️⃣SLEEP: Sleep is necessary to repair muscle and energize you for your workouts. ⁣ ⁣ 6️⃣STRESS: You cannot gain muscle optimally if your stress is through the roof. Manage it. ⁣ ⁣ 7️⃣EXERCISE: I get it – you like to train. But many of you will never see ideal results because you’re exercising too much. You don’t see bodybuilders trying to juggle resistance training, aerobics classes, spin, yoga, Pilates, HIIT, running, and plyos. Train like a beast in the weight room in a well-fed and rested state, then go home and recover. Some additional exercise is okay, but there’s a clear interference effect if you go overboard. ⁣ ⁣ 8️⃣EXERCISE SELECTION: Do your hip thrusts and a few other glute exercises you love. ⁣ ⁣ Booty building is a 24/7 endeavor. Make sure you’re working hard on all aspects to put yourself in the best position to gain strength and muscle. #gluteguy #glutelab

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Most of you are underdoing it on effort and overdoing it on volume. This is my glute workout from Monday night. I did 6 total sets – that’s it. But I hammered those sets so hard I was completely wiped out. I do 6 more sets for glutes on Thursday nights and it’s all I can recover from if I train this hard per set. Most of my female clients do around 36 sets a week for glutes. Some do less and some do more. I do 12 sets lately. But my glutes are growing because I’m gaining strength and exposing the muscles to increasing levels of tension. Smith hip thrust 12 plates x 16 reps 14 plates x 8 reps 16 plates x 2 reps 10 plates x 20 reps Seated hip abduction Stack x 40 reps Stack x 40 reps Many of you are doing so many sets but it’s mostly junk volume. Sets that don’t create a hypertrophic stimulus. I have clients come to me bragging how they do 30 sets of glutes 4 times per week and when I train them they’re crushed from 12 sets in one hour because I push them to the max on those sets. I’m not saying you should just do 12 sets a week or that you should take every set to utter failure. I’m merely suggesting to stop worshipping volume and start focusing more on setting PRs and doing the proper amount of sets that allows you to fully recover and continue making gains. My buddy @bjgaddour does just 3-6 sets per week for hammies and has some of the best hamstrings this side of the Mississippi. I believe that women can and should do more volume than men, but if you’re doing 60+ sets per week for any muscle then you’re not pushing your sets hard enough and you’re just going through the motions. Less can be more in the weightroom if you up the intensity of effort, train closer to failure, and utilize progressive overload. #gluteguy #glutelab #thethrustisamust

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Several years ago, @mountaindog1 was talking about doing leg curls before squats. He said they just felt better when he did this. People who did hip thrusts and glute activation work before squats were saying the same thing. @biolayne would do a big glute squeeze before he descended into a squat; he felt more powerful when he did this. Bodybuilders “pre-exhaust” a muscle to make sure it gets fully worked during compound movements, but studies showed the opposite. For example, if you perform flies or cable crossovers prior to bench press, your pecs don’t activate more, but your front delts and triceps do. ⁣⁣ ⁣ Two years ago, I performed leg curls prior to back extensions, and I couldn’t complete my normal 3 sets of 30 reps. I could only perform 3 sets of 20 reps because my glutes were cramping so bad. Last week, I performed leg extensions and leg curls before frog pumps and got the biggest glute burn of my life. ⁣Recently @alex.sterner has been performing calf raises before Nordic ham curls because it causes him to feel more hammy. What am I getting at here? All of these things have me thinking about potentiation and inhibition during resistance training. ⁣We need research to pinpoint the precise mechanisms that contribute towards these sensations. The nervous system can detect fatigue and steer neural drive to synergistic muscles. @megan.kineticadvantage has some brand new data on this. Pumped up muscles that are engorged with blood can alter mechanics. Pre-activation can acutely increase EMG activity or diminish it if too much fatigue sets in. Simply performing an exercise before a compound lift can make that lift “feel better” by increasing body temperature and mobility. Some of this could also be due to placebo effect. ⁣ ⁣ I encourage you to experiment along these lines. If you haven’t already, try performing low load glute activation or leg curls prior to squats, deadlifts, or back extensions. Try fatiguing the hamstrings, quads, and/or adductors prior to frog pumps or glute bridges. Try performing hip thrusts last in a lower body workout in a fatigued state with lighter loads. ⁣See if any of these tricks help you feel more glutes. #glutelab #gluteguy

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Don’t get me wrong, I love the pump and I love feeling the burn. Up until 12 years ago, however, I had never felt a burn or obtained a pump in my glutes. Regardless, they had grown markedly larger from simply getting stronger at squats, deadlifts, leg press, lunges, and back extensions. Many of my clients who possess the best glute development rarely get sore from their workouts. And many of them rest a great deal in between sets and don’t pant or sweat as much as the average gym-goer. But these same clients are strong AF and train for progressive overload. When I first started working with @tawnaeubanksmccoy, I had her ditch all the back exercises that she was doing and solely focus on chin ups. She went from performing 1 repetition to 10 reps in just a few months and her back got noticeably more muscular, despite the reduction in volume and variety. Start prioritizing getting stronger and setting PRs (personal records) over the pump, the burn, and feeling exhausted and your muscles will grow. #glutelab #gluteguy #bootybybret

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This pyramid (thanks @helms3dmj for the idea) provides a logical framework for showcasing the relative importance of the mechanisms that contribute to growing muscle based on the work of @bradschoenfeldphd. As you can see, the bulk of your gains will come from placing increasing amounts of tension on the muscles. This is achieved by progressively overloading your training sessions. You need to be doing more over time – more weight, more reps, more sets, etc. But getting stronger doesn’t always mean that the targeted muscle is receiving a greater tension stimulus. You could fail to do so by altering your technique, using momentum, skimping on range of motion, and/or relying more on other muscles to do the job. This is why the mind muscle connection must be utilized in concert with progressive overload. One strategy without the other is inferior. You must mentally focus on the muscle you’re trying to grow in order to see maximum hypertrophic results. The lion’s share of your efforts in the gym need to be centered on setting different kinds of PRs (low rep records, high rep records, volume records, etc.) while keeping the same stellar form month in and month out. You can theoretically achieve even better results by adding in some methods to target pathways involved in metabolic stress and muscle damage. But don’t get carried away with these as it’s tempting to place too much emphasis on getting a pump, feeling the burn, or being sore as hell. Some muscle scientists believe that there is only one mechanism that causes muscles to grow – tension. Their model is depicted in the second image (swipe left). Nobody can say for sure which model is correct as of yet, but the point of this post is to focus your efforts on the most important aspects of muscle building. Soon I will summarize a recent article published by Brad and colleagues that discusses the first line sensors and signals involved in skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Bottom line – we don’t know squat and have much to learn and rule out before we can tease out the optimal ways to train for muscle growth. Until then, it makes sense to use model #1 as a framework but that’s just my opinion. #glutelab #gluteguy

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I think many of you may find this interesting. My buddy @drnadolsky and I have been experimenting lately. We wanted to know what would happen if we quit squatting and deadlifting and just did hip thrusts, leg extensions, and leg curls. We’ve been doing it for a month and 1) we feel amazing, 2) we have no knee or back pain, 3) we have noticed no decrements in leg or glute mass, in fact we feel like we may be gaining in these muscles, 4) we have more in the tank for upper body training than usual, and 5) we’re getting strong AF at these 3 lifts. The point of this post is NOT to try to convince anyone to try this. I program squat and deadlift variations for nearly all of my in person and online clients. They’ve been my bread and butter lifts for twenty years. But if you’re feeling extra beat up lately, you may want to give it a try. It’s refreshing to know that you won’t shrivel up if you aren’t hitting squats and deads. Also some people get pain with hip thrusts, with leg extensions, or with leg curls, so training must always be modified to the individual. #glutelab #gluteguy

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One Comment

  • Alex says:

    PreExhastion Study: I think the results that you are finding are logical. In terms of structural engineering, when a single truss members reaches it’s max stress, the other truss members must pick up the extra load. In the case of a bench press where the triceps and chest form a ‘force couple’, if you pre-exhaust the pecs, then the body compensates by working the triceps harder. In the case of the squat, by pre-exhausting the hamstrings, you would expect more activation in the quads to compensate. I think the studies that describe a set to failure also back this up in terms of activation in stages of the various types of muscle fibers.

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