Greetings brothers and sisters in fitness! It’s time for another round of Random Thoughts from yours truly.
Here are several items that I hope you find as interesting as I do:
1. New Glute Lab Seminar Dates Announced: November 5th & December 3rd
The next Glute Lab Seminar is November 5th in Phoenix, AZ. There will be another on December 3rd, also in Phoenix. The cost is $399 and there are 16 seats available for each seminar. First come, first served.
In the morning, I will lecture on the science of glute training and program design. You will receive a pdf of the slideshow, which I update each month to include all the latest research. All of my past attendees receive a new pdf every time it is updated.
After a catered lunch, we will then have a learn-by-doing practical where I will showcase the mechanics, cueing, variations, and progressions of glute bridges, hip thrusts, squats, deadlifts, back extensions, split squats, hip abduction, and more.
To finish the day, we’ll have a Q and A, we’ll take some fun pictures, and you’ll receive some free gifts.
You will leave much more confident and knowledgeable about your glute training and strength training in general. My attendees are always happy with their decision to attend.
Please email my assistant Maleah at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested. I hope to see you there!
2. Hip Thrust 10-Year Anniversary October 12th
The 10-year anniversary date of when I thought up the Hip Thrust is quickly approaching and I have been preparing an article for T-Nation highlighting what we’ve learned along the way. I intend on including my top-20 favorite bridging variations. I have narrowed the list down to nine for a sneak peak on Instagram. I hope you try some of these variations out soon if you are not already including these in your workout programming.
Here's a glimpse of the video I filmed the other night – this includes 9 of my favorite bridging variations but the full length video will include 20. With so many ways to bridge and thrust, everyone can find several variations that they feel working their glutes thoroughly. #gluteguy #glutelab #frogpump #frogthrust #hipthrust #hipthrusters #barbellhipthrust #bandhipthrust #singleleghipthrust #glutebridge #barbellglutebridge #thethrustisamust #glutetraining #glutescience #glutepump #gluteburn @the_hip_thruster
3. Upcoming DUP Post/Strong by Bret DUP Training Cycle Starting October 3rd
An awesome new blogpost is in the works on how to design your own DUP (Daily Undulated Periodization) plan based on my review of the literature, conversations with colleagues, prior experience with the twin study, and my own recent experience following a DUP protocol. This high-frequency approach to training the big lifts has definitely started moving my bench in a kick-ass way (I just benched 315 lbs for 4 sets of 2 reps!) so I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with my followers and Strong by Bret Members.
If you’d like to join my program and give DUP training a spin, sign up for a free two-week trial of Strong by Bret by October 3rd. There are two membership options to choose from so if you would like form checking feedback and advice, be sure and pick the Inner Circle option. Otherwise, stay tuned for my upcoming article.
Bench is finally kicking some ass! Big shout out to @helms3dmj who inspired me to step it up in my training. He made great progress this year by upping his benching volume and frequency, so I decided to give it a whirl and utilize a daily undulated approach like him. Tonight, I did: Bench 315 x 2, 315 x 2, 315 x 2, 315 x 2 Squat 365 x 1, 385 x 1, 405 x 1, 365 x 1 Speed Dead 405 x 5, 405 x 5 I've benched 315 x 2 two years ago but never for 4 sets. Methinks I'm at my all time strongest with bench but I'm gonna wait until next week to verify if I can best 335 lbs. Been doing 4 straight weeks of 6's, 2's, and 4's for bench and it's worked like a charm. Just doing singles on squats right now until my quad DOMs diminishes. Then I'll move to triples, doubles, and singles throughout the week. Also took it easy on my pulls because I want to try to hit something big on Friday. Perhaps 545 x 5 if it's there. But the real star of today was @emilytbofitness. Her bench is kicking butt too. She did: Bench 105 x 2, 105 x 2, 105 x 2, 105 x 5 Squat 205 x 2, 205 x 2, 205 x 2, 205 x 2 Deadlift 185 x 4, 185 x 4 I actually shut the camera off prematurely during her AMRAP last set of bench – she got 5 reps and not 4. The cues to "row your chest to the bar on the way down" and "push your body away from the bar on the way up" helped her tremendously. She moved back to high bar as low bar was irritating her shoulder during squats. Went really easy on deadlifts today so she can kick butt on heavy sumo deads on Friday. My vids are normal speed but hers are sped up 1.4X so I could squeeze everything in. #gluteguy
4. The Best Advice for Women Who Lift – T-Nation
THIS T-Nation article features the advice of many fitness industry pros, myself included. While I do not agree with all the recommendations, I believe that many women would benefit from following my advice and reigning in the volume of their workouts as well as having a more focused approach to strength training. I may elaborate more on this topic in the future as it is something I observe on a daily basis.
5. California Dreamin’
Sayonara, Phoenix! I’m in San Diego for the month. I’ve rented a condo down on the beach and life is good. I think I could get used to this.
Top left: Paparazzi @joelcontreras2 snapping secret photos of me while "working" this morning and getting my California tan. Top right: Taking Brody for a stroll on the boardwalk, paparazzi @angiejc1 snapping secret photos of that. Bottom left: Cooling off in the ocean with Joel and Brody. Bottom right: Watching the sun go down. #pacificbeach #lifeisgood
6. Intriguing New Jumping Research
The S&C Research Review service comes out on the first day of every month. The latest edition is about to drop so now is a great time to subscribe if you’d like to stay up to date on the latest in sports and conditioning research. This month’s preview topic is Vertical Jumping. You can check out the research preview and subscribe HERE.
7. October Strength & Conditioning Research Questions
Can resisted sprint training with a sled load of 20% of bodyweight improve sprinting ability? What causes the sticking point in the bench press, the squat, and the deadlift? Interesting questions! Click HERE to see the rest of the October Strength & Conditioning Research questions and subscribe to the research review to learn the answers to these questions and more.
8. New Deadlift PR!
Check out this bad ass training session from Friday night. I set two PRs. First, I sumo pulled 585 lbs for 2 reps. Then, I followed it up with 615 lbs – the most I’ve ever pulled.
I told you all I'd have a massive pulling session today! Dos PRs for this guy: 585 x 2 615 x 1 I only slept 4 hours last night so I had to really get myself fired up. 300 in the background, loud ass music, Monster energy drink, and lots of yelling did the trick. I think I could pull 630 right now but I'm gonna be patient. Then I close grip benched 275 for 3 sets of 5, concentration curled 40 lbs for 3 sets of 8, and frog pumped bodyweight for 170 reps (PR) and 50 reps. #gluteguy #glutelab
9. Want to Hip Thrust 2,200 pounds? The Hip Thruster has you covered.
That would be one helluva PR. Check out below to see what happened when The Hip Thruster team loaded up the unit with 2,200 lbs (1,000 kgs). So thrust on with your bad self and know that this sturdy piece of equipment can handle heavy loads with the greatest of ease.
Out of curiosity we decided to load our hip thrusters with 2,200 lbs (1,000 kgs) to see how they'd fare. They handled it like champs. Your hip thruster can take a lickin' and keep on tickin'! #thethrustisamust #Repost @the_hip_thruster with @repostapp ・・・ Worried about going too heavy with your thrusts?! We've got you don't worry. On a sunny day in August we put the US and European Hip Thruster units to the test. We loaded them up with 1,000kg (2,200lbs) and they were still going strong. How's that for a strength test? 💪🔥 Huge thanks to Scott at @metal_rhino for hooking us up. Ready to put a unit to the test? [Link in bio] #thehipthruster #hipthruster #hipthrust
10. SAWEH Episode 7 Interviews Part 2 Somerset, Contreras, Schoenfeld – Eric Helm
You may recall that I presented at the 2016 AFPT Conference in Norway this past August. While I was there, I sat down with my friend and PhD candidate, Eric Helms, to discuss glutes, hip extension exercises, and more. My copresenters Dean Somerset and Brad Schoenfeld also participated so methinks you’ll enjoy this interview. Why do I look like a plump and portly LOL?
11. 5-Steps to Arming the Public Against Charlatans and Fraudsters in the Fitness Industry – Alan Aragon
12. Fitinfoclub Interview: Episode 41 – Glute Galore
I was recently featured on the Fitinfoclub podcast to talk shop and discuss how I got into the fitness industry, my PhD research, and (surprise surprise) glutes. You can check out this podcast HERE.
13. High-Speed Hamstring Performance and Injury Prevention
If you are a strength coach, an athlete, or a fellow sports science fanatic, you should take a look at THIS article from Michael Zweifel to see some cool shit pertaining to hamstring training. Michael is a highly innovative dude and I’m glad Joel posted this on his Just Fly Sports Performance site.
14. PTQ Volume 3 Issue 3
NSCA members – check out Personal Training Quarterly, 3.3. This was an excellent issue, with articles on disrupting unhealthy habits with environmental modifications , hypertrophy training, and a research review on motor control exercise for low back pain. Nick Tumminello, Lee Boyce, and Justin Kompf all contribute so definitely take a look if you can HERE.
15. NSCA Personal Trainers Conference 2016 & NSCA Rocky Mountain Regional Conference
October 14-16 I will be in Jacksonville, Florida presenting at the NSCA Personal Trainers Conference and on December 10th I will be in Scottsdale, AZ presenting at the NSCA Rocky Mountain Regional Conference. Click on the links or pictures to learn more and I hope to see some of you there.
16. Strength & Conditioning Research Infographics
Check out the latest from this incredible collection of SCR infographics, courtesy of Chris Beardsley.
The evidence is mounting that a range of exercises are necessary, if athletes want to achieve complete hamstrings development. This new study shows that 4 different exercises produced very different responses in each of the 4 hamstrings muscles and 3 main regions (proximal, middle, and distal) when measured using MRI from pre- to post-exercise. This suggests that both hip extension exercises (e.g. Russian belt deadlift and hip extension conic pulley, as in this study) as well as knee flexion exercises (e.g. Nordic curl and flywheel leg curl, as in this study) are necessary to achieve increases in muscular strength and size of all hamstrings muscles and regions.
Many studies have now shown that higher training volumes are effective for achieving greater improvements in both muscular strength and size, although we still do not know exactly why it happens. This study is an example of one of many. Interestingly, repetition strength proved extremely responsive to the greater levels of work done in the higher volume groups. This could imply that higher volume is beneficial for muscular endurance (and not just work capacity), perhaps because of greater metabolite build-up and subsequent metabolic stress.
We often assume that adding load will in an exercise will increase how hard all of the muscles work in the same way. So when it comes to lower body training, we assume that how hip-dominant or quad-dominant an exercise is remains constant, irrespective of whether we are using a 15RM or a 3RM weight. This is not actually true. In fact, as we add load, many lower body exercises become much more hip-dominant, even including the conventional deadlift, as this study shows. So when you are programming exercises, take account of the load. When using light loads with lower body exercises, you may need to add in extra, dedicated hip extension movements (such as back extensions, pull throughs, glute bridges, or hip thrusts), but when using heavy loads you may need to take some out.
In the wider fitness industry, we often see people making the assumption that in order for exercises to transfer successfully to sport, they must take the form of ground-based, fundamental movement patterns. In this model, exercises like squats, lunges, and deadlifts are claimed to be the only ones that can produce improvements in sprinting, jumping, or agility tests. However, there are actually a number of studies that show improvements in sports performance from machine-based training. This remarkable study demonstrated an improvement in sprinting ability in a group of elite male soccer players, after training using (open chain) lying leg curls with eccentric overload. It therefore showed that the aspects of an exercise that determine transfer to sport are not limited to the movement pattern, but include other factors such as the muscle group being trained (the hamstrings are key to sprinting ability), and the mode of the contraction (eccentric muscle actions are very important during sprinting).
Although traditionally only deadlift and lunges are used for training the hip extensors (medial and lateral hamstrings, gluteus maximus, and adductor magnus), there is evidence that some exercises emphasize each of these muscle groups to a different extent, and also that some exercises target different regions within each of the muscles more than others. This important study provides some insight into how the different regions of three of the hip extensor muscle groups (medial and lateral hamstrings, and adductor magnus) are worked by the leg curl and the lunge. The results underscore the importance of exercise variety!
"Muscle training frequency" is the number of times that a muscle group is trained each week. This is a separate issue from "workout frequency", which is just the number of workouts performed per week. In fact, the same number of workouts can be performed (e.g. 3 workouts per week) but they can be carried out in either a full body routine (all muscle groups worked 3 times per week) or a split routine (each muscle group only worked 1 time per week). This study investigated what happens when muscle training frequency is altered, but workout frequency (and overall weekly training volume) remains the same.
In recent years, many strength coaches have begun using the split squat (either with the rear foot on the ground or with the rear foot elevated) as an alternative exercise for the standard back squat. However, the split squat should not be viewed as a completely identical exercise to the back squat but performed with most of the load through one leg. In fact, the exercise displays slightly different characteristics. Most importantly, it appears to activate the hip extensors (hamstrings) slightly more than the back squat, and the quadriceps slightly less.
Full range of motion (ROM) training produces greater gains in strength and overall muscle size, compared to partial ROM training. In addition, full ROM training causes much weaker joint angle-specificity in strength gains compared to partial ROM training, probably because it produces a very different pattern of regional hypertrophy. These findings are all reported in today's study! The very joint-angle specific gains in strength after partial ROM training are likely caused by joint-angle specific changes in muscle activation, although these changes were not measured in this study.
This important study shows that when hip and knee extension force are produced at the same time (as in a squat or leg press), then the knee extensors are more highly activated than if the exact same knee extension force was produced in isolation. In contrast, the hip extensors are less strongly activated. So exercises that involve less knee extension (hip thrusts, deadlifts, pull throughs and back extensions) will tend to produce much greater hip muscle activation than those that involve more knee extension (squats, lunges, and leg presses), although there are other factors involved of course!
Accentuated eccentric training is where the eccentric phase uses a heavier load than the concentric phase. This can be accomplished in a couple of different ways. These days, one of the most common ways is to use a flywheel device (as used in this study). However, accentuated eccentrics can also be performed by using weight releasers on a barbell, so that the lowering phase is made heavier than the lifting phase. Either way, accentuated eccentrics provide a larger stimulus to the muscle to increase in size, and this is probably a key reason why this training method also leads to greater gains in strength.
The hex bar deadlift is often used as an alternative to the straight bar deadlift. However, it involves more knee muscle involvement, and less hip and low back muscle involvement, as well as enabling a greater load to be lifted. Therefore, if maximal force production is required, the hex bar makes a good choice, as it enables the most weight to be moved (most efficiently), by distributing the barbell load most evenly over the body. However, to train the low back and hip extensors, the straight bar deadlift seems superior.
Many athletes train using sets that are not performed to muscular failure, but stop before the bar speed begins to slow down. This method of training is often suggested to be more effective for enhancing gains in power. This new study tested two programs of back squat training, in which one group trained with a small loss in bar speed over the course of the set (a 20% reduction) and another group trained with a larger loss in bar speed over the course of the set (a 40% reduction), which is approaching muscular failure. The results could challenge what you believed about using training to muscular failure in athletes.
There are two major groups within the hamstrings: the medial hamstrings (semitendinosus and semimembranosus) and the lateral hamstrings (biceps femoris short head and long head). Both groups are activated in most hip extension and knee flexion movements exercises, but the balance between them during each exercise is not the same. So which exercises target which parts of the hamstrings?
Training with either heavy or light loads can produce similar levels of hypertrophy. However, this study shows that training with light loads is able to produce greater gains in volume load compared with training with heavy loads, even though the changes in muscle size are similar. Training with lighter loads could therefore help to develop work capacity more effectively than training with heavy loads, because of the larger increases in volume load that result. Blocks of lighter load training could therefore be useful to include early on within an overall program, to enable higher volumes of training to be performed in the future.
In the fitness industry, we are quite used to the idea that muscles can change size quite markedly over time. Even so, muscle size varies a great deal between individuals, even before they start strength training, especially in the large muscles of the hip, like the gluteus maximus. In this study reporting a cross-section of individuals attending a clinic for imaging scans, we can see that there is quite large variability between individuals in terms of hip muscle volumes, especially when it comes to the larger muscles, such as the gluteus maximus.
The back musculature is made up of several muscle groups. The main ones are the latissimus dorsi, upper and lower spinal erectors, the (lower, middle, and upper) trapezius, the teres major, and the rhomboids. Traditionally, bodybuilders have used a combination of vertical exercises (lat pull-downs or pull ups) and horizontal rowing exercises for increasing the size of the back musculature. Often, they will say that the vertical exercises are useful for targeting the lats and therefore increase back width, while the horizontal exercises are better for targeting the other back muscles, and therefore increase back thickness. But is this true?
For many years, researchers and bodybuilders believed that short rest periods were better for increasing muscle size, which we attributed to the greater levels of metabolic stress that could be produced by avoiding longer rest intervals. However, as this recent study shows, longer rest periods actually turned out to be better for both strength and size in trained individuals, and this is probably because they allow more volume to be performed, assuming that you still do the same number of total sets (short rest periods increase fatigue and mean that you do fewer reps overall).
It is very well-known that both static and dynamic stretching can increase flexibility both temporarily (immediately before a flexibility test) and also over long-term programs. To a lesser extent, it is still fairly widely appreciated that stretching a muscle of one leg has a temporary "cross-over effect" that produces an increase in flexibility of the opposite leg. Even so, this remarkable study showed that what we have been calling a "cross-over effect" after stretching is probably slightly inaccurate. Rather, it seems that stretching has a "whole body effect", probably because of an overall, centrally-mediated increase in stretch tolerance.
In the last few years, there has been a change in our understanding of how heavy and light loads affect gains in muscular strength and size. We used to think that heavy loads produced greater gains in muscular size than light loads. However, more recent research has shown that so long as the light load sets are taken to muscular failure, this leads to similar changes in muscle size. But that does not mean that training with heavy and light loads has exactly the same effects! Training with heavy loads is superior for improving strength (over a 2-month period), while training with light loads is superior for increasing muscular endurance.
Changing the trunk angle from an upright position to a forward leaning position during the lunge exercise alters the proportional involvement of the hip extensors and knee extensors, increasing the role of the hips. It seems likely that this change happens because of an alteration in the joint angles of the front leg, particularly the change in hip flexion angle (leaning forward increases peak hip flexion).
Variable load training involves changing the load during each repetition. The point of using variable load training is to match the strength curve of the lifter more closely with the external load. By matching the strength curves, the total amount of work done in each repetition can be higher than with constant load training. The potential to do a greater amount of work in a single repetition and over the course of a set of repetitions might be what causes the superior increases in muscular endurance (also called "repetition strength") that we see in this study.
There are a great many different rowing exercises, which is a testimony to their effectiveness for training the back. However, they are often treated as interchangeable within a training program, rather than complementary. But is this true? Do all rowing variations produce similar results, or are some better for some back muscles than others? This study is one of the few out there that provides some answers.
Intuitively, we all know that stress impacts our training. However, only relatively recently was this demonstrated with any degree of certainty. In this study, a large number (135 subjects) of undergraduates with varied (but generally fairly little) strength training experience carried out 2 workouts per week for 12 weeks. At the end, the changes in strength were measured, and compared between the subjects who had low life stress, and those who had high life stress. The low stress group achieved greater gains!
This study showed that there are quite substantial side-to-side differences in hip, knee and ankle net joint moments between legs in the barbell back squat. This suggests that bilateral exercises may not necessarily train both legs effectively, and that supplementing the standard back squat (and other bilateral exercises, such as deadlifts) with unilateral exercises may be necessary for maximizing sports performance. In addition, this study shows a clear trend for the squat to become more hip-dominant with increasing load. This is similar to what we have seen previously with the lunge and with the conventional deadlift. This second point also has programming implications. To use the squat to increase quadriceps size, focusing on lighter loads is probably best. The lighter loads will make sure that the knee extensors are primarily responsible for lifting the weight. To increase squat 1RM, training often with higher percentages of 1RM is key, because the inter-muscular coordination you need for heavy loads will then be practiced regularly in your training.
Well, friends, that’s all I have for now. I’m hoping that I see some of you at the next Glute Lab Seminars later this fall.