The Trap Bar Deadlift

I’d first read up on the Trap Bar Deadlift in Stuart McRobert’s 1991 Hardgainer bible, Brawn, back in 2010. It’d been listed by him as a possible Deadlift variation. The Trap Bar, designed by Al Gerard, is a rhombus shaped bar, fixed to two plate loaded ends. It’s purpose was and is to make the Deadlift movement safer and more comfortable when handling relatively heavy weights. Also, the bar has two sets of handles; there are two high handles, parallel to each other on the bar. You can also flip the bar over and pull using the bases of the handles. Some bars also come in a hexagonal shape.

It should be noted, however, that the Trap Bar was named after the Trapezius muscles in the upper body. In fact Paul Kelso wrote a whole book on how to perform trap exercises using the Trap Bar. But for the sake of this article we will only be discussing the Trap Bar Deadlift.

Simply flip the bar over if you wish to use it’s low handles.

Some benefits of this incredible bar include:

  • Greatly mitigates stress on the lumbar spine
  • High handles for those with limited hip range of motion (ROM)
  • The parallel direction eliminates the need for a mixed grip
  • Reduced anterior deltoid stress
  • More stimulus on the quads, glutes, and abs.
  • You will see an increase in both your size as well as your strength – best of both worlds!

As you can see above, the Trap Bar Deadlift, while still a hip hinge exercise, can force your body to adapt to new stimuli, all while protecting key areas from a potential injury if you’re already headed in that direction. More on that later. Here’s how to properly perform the Trap Bar Deadlift using the bar’s high handles.

  • Step inside the bar
  • Brace your core as if you were performing a traditional Deadlift
  • Grabbing the handles, lift your chest up and keep your spine neutral
  • Push from the floor as if you’re performing a leg press
  • Exhale at the top, inhale again and smoothly bring the bar down
You might find it easier to maintain a neutral spine with the Trap Bar Deadlift as opposed to a traditional Deadlift bar.

Much like a traditional Deadlift, where your shoulders land after you straighten your back out will determine where your hips land during the set up. While this exercise does come off as more of a squat since your quads are targeted more than your hamstrings, never force your hips to go lower than they are. This even goes for if you chose to pull with the low handles, which will emulate the traditional pull a little more due to the lower leverage. And while this is a fantastic Deadlift variation, don’t think it doesn’t come with some cons.

  • Grip Problems – the handles on the trap bars tend to be on the thinner side. Upon performing this move for the first time early last year, I found out the hard way just how easy it is to really tear the skin off your palms. If you have this problem then make sure to put a generous amount of chalk on your palms before gripping the bar.
  • Limited Weight – I’d asked my Instagram followers just a few days ago to tell offer their views on the Trap Bar Deadlift. One follower made the incredibly insightful statement that, while he found it to be his 2nd best accessory lift for the traditional pull, the biggest downside is that most commercial gym trap bars “cap out at 405”. Sadly this is very true, and even the bars in some hardcore gyms are the same.

Upon my first use of the bar early last year, I did so to give my anterior delts a much needed break, as well as provide a new stimulus to my quads. Shortly before the gyms shut down my quads were measured at 24 1/4 inches, a quarter of an inch thicker than they were three weeks before that measurement, and I know I have the Trap Bar Deadlift, along with other lower body accessories to thank for it. I started using it again seven weeks ago because I had just come back from a TFL (Tensor Fascia Latae) strain and wanted as little pressure on my lower back and sacrum as possible.

I highly recommend use of the Trap Bar for those who are either recovering from an injury or trying to prevent one from occurring, those who are training for the military, as it’s now a staple of their fitness assessment, and just about anyone looking for something different on their journey to overall size and strength, regardless of your goals. In fact, if you’re a Strongman competitor you can definitely use the Trap Bar to perform farmer carries!

Do you perform the Trap Bar Deadlift in your routine? Why? What are your goals? Tell me in the comments!

Works Cited:

McRobert, Stuart. (1991). Brawn. Nicosia, Cyprus. CS Publishing Ltd.

Chelated Magnesium

There’ve been quite a few articles, and videos, regarding the Top 3 Natural Testosterone Boosters and in the case of some videos, whether or not you should incorporate them into your own regimen. If you haven’t seen them already here’s a quick spoiler alert: they are Vitamin D3, Zinc and of course Magnesium. And one more spoiler alert: of course you should be taking them! I kind of alluded to the benefits of Zinc and Magnesium as individual minerals in a recent article I wrote on ZMA’s. So I decided to write something a little more specific, as there are at least few types of Magnesium on the market.

Quick Run Through On Magnesium’s Benefits

Let’s first start of with a brief rundown of the benefits of Magnesium for those of you who might be unaware. Magnesium is a mineral that is crucial for:

  • Relaxed Muscles
  • Relaxed Nerves (This can help if you suffer from depression)
  • Possible Boost In Athletic Performance
  • Decreased Insulin Resistance
  • Improves PMS symptoms

And some food sources of Magnesium include, but are not limited to:

  • Cooked Spinach (cooking spinach increases the amount of Magnesium in it)
  • Almonds
  • Avocados
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Dark Chocolate (the real stuff, not Milk Chocolate)
  • Salmon

While there are quite few natural, readily available sources of Magnesium, most of the general public is still deficient in this amazing mineral. Part of this can be directly related to diet, hence why such minerals are available in supplement form. But it also can be related to absorption. Magnesium is chiefly absorbed through the small intestine, its absorption being dependent on the amount ingested. As we age, we produce less stomach acid, therefore limiting the amount of mineral we absorption. Other factors may block its absorption as well, such as interactions with other vitamins and minerals and especially medications.

So What Is Chelated Magnesium?

By definition, to chelate (KEY-late) means to boost the absorption of a mineral or vitamin. This is done by binding a mineral to an amino acid, ensuring the mineral won’t interact with anything else once it’s ingested. Therefore, a Magnesium in chelated form won’t require as much stomach acid as a non chelated form. It also will absorb better in the small intestine, not requiring as much water to do so. That alone, in my opinion, makes Chelated Magnesium far more effective that any other source.

This is important because, as mentioned before, most people do not acquire enough Magnesium in their diet. I alone mentioned in my ZMA article that I do not eat salmon (or any fish for that matter!). And don’t forget that some of us out there might not like any of the other food sources of Magnesium, or they’re on a specific diet for any number of reasons. So that’s why it’s important to supplement with any minerals your diet might be lacking in.


Suggested Use is four tablets, one with each meal. I wouldn’t do that right away!

The Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of Magnesium for males 19 and up is 400 – 420mg, with the RDA being set at 300 – 320mg for women. If you use Solgar’s Chelated Magnesium, one serving size consist of four pills. While it’s recommended that one pill is ingested with each meal, I’d do so with caution. Being that Magnesium is a muscle relaxer, it can also loosen your bowels. And since stomach problems and diarrhea are two common side effects of consuming Magnesium, I wouldn’t recommend taking four pills daily.

While I personally take just half a pill with my last meal, I’d say start with just one pill a day during your final meal. Historically, results on any Magnesium use are varied from one individual to another. So with Chelated Magnesium, your own use should be more instinctive. If your diet includes at least any of the foods mentioned above, then you’re already on the right track, which again is why these pills are only meant to supplement your diet, not be the only source of the mineral.

HG 2.0: The Digital Revival Of Hardgainer Magazine!

Announcing: HARDGAINER 2.0

HARDGAINER print magazine—HG 1.0—was published every other month from 1989 until 2004, for 89 issues. All the issues of HARDGAINER 2.0 will be brand new and published monthly. HG 2.0 is not a digitalization of the issues of HG 1.0. “Why are you bringing HG back?” you may ask. Because its message is still sorely needed today, and because I’m full of energy and enthusiasm to publish it again. I lost my mojo for a while because I was so exhausted by work and the rigors of my life outside of work. But today, my life is much simpler and I can comfortably devote my full working life to the magazine. HG 2.0 is digital, not paper format. (A print training magazine isn’t viable today.) But it looks like a magazine, not a website. And you’ll be able to read it across your devices. Some of the most trustworthy authors from HG 1.0 will contribute exclusive, new articles alongside exclusive, fresh content from other exceptional, trustworthy authors, including some from a new generation of writers and coaches. And today, I’m much more knowledgeable about training than I was when I published HG 1.0, and a better writer and editor. HG 2.0 is based on the same principles that HG 1.0 was founded on. So, it’s devoid of synthetic (drug-fed) muscle monsters and free of the drugs, egos, fraud, training nonsense, and endless ads and commercial messages that are endemic in the mainstream. And it’s not a photo album or a catalog of food supplements. I’ll publish the first issue of HG 2.0 on April 10th. And how to order will be made public on that day, so you can receive your first issue as soon as you’ve signed up. The first issue has 60 pages. The training experience of the authors in it totals around 400 years. Not just any type of training experience, though, but mostly abbreviated training. HG 2.0 is a one-of-a-kind, monthly feast of inspiration, motivation, and premium instruction for building muscle and strength without using bodybuilding drugs. HG 2.0 will focus your attention on a single, time-tested, time-efficient, and highly effective way to train—abbreviated training properly applied. But this trustworthy, specialized approach has different interpretations, to accommodate the needs of all trainees. And the magazine is for all gainers, not just hard gainers. HG 2.0 will be even better than HG 1.0 because your subscription will get you more than just a magazine. More on that later. Whether you’re a man or a woman; a bodybuilder or a strength trainee; use free-weights, machines or a mixture of the two; train in a home gym, commercial facility or elsewhere; or whatever your age; HG 2.0 will help you no end.

Welcome! 💪👊👍

This is a direct statement from Stuart McRobert, the legendary Iron Man Magazine columnist, author of books such as Brawn, Beyond Brawn, and of course, Hardgainer Magazine. Stuart released this statement this past week on Chris Donlon’s Abbreviated Training group on Facebook. Needless to say, the announcement was met with overwhelmingly positive responses.

The History Of Hardgainer Magazine

Starting in 1989, Stuart McRobert, already carrying a reputation for his articles in Iron Man Magazine, parlayed that into his own magazine. Hardgainer – the term which McRobert himself coined – was the ultimate answer and salvation for anyone willing and ready to look past the more mainstream magazines that are more tailored to advanced athletes and bodybuilders. Hardgainer catered to the drug free crowd, as well as those who might not have the time to three times a week or more. Therefore, old school, basic routines, such as the 20 Rep Squat Routine would be introduced to a new generation.

With Hardgainer Magazine, you were provided with:

  • Templates for simple yet effective Bodybuilding routines
  • Basic Powerlifting routines
  • Nutritional guidaince
  • Injury and recovery guidance

That’s the short list. But read between the lines. While McRobert might have coined the term “Hardgainer” he made clear something I said in a previous article: to be a Hardgainer is not a death sentence. All you need to do is get serious, use your instincts and train smarter. Hell, if I, with my lower than average genetics kept using body part splits that the pros use I never would’ve squatted 350lbs or deadlifted 410lbs.


Beginning in 2018, Chris Donlon began the Abbreviated Training group on Facebook, noticing the lack of useful information on basic, effective training for drug free athletes of all kinds following the 2004 retirement of Hardgainer Magazine. As explained in his own statement regarding the revival of the magazine, after some time he contacted Staurt McRobert and convinced him to join Facebook and ultimately his group. Both Donlon and McRobert realized their ideals and views on training and nutrtion were so identical that it inspired McRobert to revive Hardgainer Magazine on a digital platform.

So why is this a big deal? Because there is way too much information on training from experts who, while meaning well, offer advice that’s way to generalized. It’s a big deal because the man behind the magazine and the earlier aforementioned books has been in the situation that most of us with not the best genetics have been in. Stuart McRobert was the one of the first to let it be known that yes, you cannot be as big as Mr. O. But there’s still hope if you’re willing to train not just harder, but smarter.

If you want to join the Abbreviated Training group on Facebook, you may do so by clicking here. I hope to see you there.

Find Your Squat Stance!

I had mentioned in a previous article that, in order to squat safely, with proper depth, and in a way that’s relative to your frame, that you might need to find the right stance for you. Therefore, I decided to delve into this topic a little more, partially because I neglected something important in my last brief demonstration. More on that momentarily.

The following drill, which I origianlly used in 2018, will help you to find that sweet spot. You never want your legs to be too close together or too wide when you squat. Having your legs too close together could mean they make contact with your stomach, which could mean you won’t hit parallel. Squat with your legs too wide and you’ll see why some Westside Barbell squatters are often scrutinized, as your adductors can potentially reach the end of their extensibility before you even hit parallel.

This is the second time I’ve called out Westside Barbell. But with all due respect to Louie and the gang, don’t squat like this. Seriously.

Before you try this out it might behoove you to foam roll your adductors in order to loosen them up, if you have one available.

Always remember to keep your spine as flat as you can and your head in line with your spine.
  • Start off by standing straight, your heels shoulder width apart and your toes out about 30 degrees.
  • After taking note of where your heels are positioned in relation to your shoulders, squat down as low as you can. Keep in mind that toe positioning can have a direct effect on just how low you can get. So if you needed, you might have to point your toes out more than 30 degrees.
  • Place your elbows against your knees, and your palms together. Begin to shove your knees as outward as you can. If your adductors are not flexible enough then this will ultimately function as a stretch. If needed stay in the bottom position for a few seconds. If you’re fatigued by this, stand up, rest a few seconds and then resume stretching your adductors using the elbows. Fatigue might be a sign of limited flexibility.
  • Here’s the part I grossly neglected. Once your bottom positioned has been established, your back must be as flat as can be. It should ideally be at a 45 degree angle. Do not try to move into a vertical position with your back at any time.
  • Once all the pieces are established, ascend by driving your butt straight in the air. Do not ascend forward. This is what will keep the weight distributed throughout your whole foot and not shift it to your toes. Since establishing Hip Drive is the goal, the hips should be your driver, not the knees.

It’s important to remember that the Squat is not a Leg Press, it’s a Squat. Therefore, the hips have to take control at first, especially if strength and/or power is your goal. Hip Extension and a flat, horizontal back must come before any other pattern is initiated. Eye gaze is also important. Make sure your head is in line with your spine. I was taught a few years back that if you look up too much, you will not only compromise your set bottom position, but it will also alter the trajectory of your ascension. The only time I ever raise my head up in the squat is when I’m retracting my scapula, setting myself up underneath the bar, before I even unrack the bar. A good way to develop this motor pattern is by performing Supinated Pull Aparts. But once you have all of this establish, you may experiment with focusing your gaze in a slightly higher position.

My References:

Rippetoe, Mark. Starting Strength. Wichita Fall, TX. The Aasgard Company. 2005

Open Your Hips Up With The Frog Stretch!

Do You Have Tight Hips?

Have you been working from home since the current pandemic put the world in a state of lockdown nearly a year ago? Do you often find yourself to be inactive during the day? If you squat, do you feel pain in your hip flexors? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions then you probably have tight hips.

Tight hips, as hinted at above, are caused by prolonged periods of inactivity. If not addressed, your major hip flexors, including your Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL, not a Starbucks drink) and your Psoas will will become weaker, leading to tightness and ultimately pain. And if you squat in the gym (and I don’t know why you wouldn’t be!) then this will negatively impact your mobility and stability. The more you ignore this problem, the closer you are to getting hurt, especially as the load increases.

Enter The Frog Stretch

The Frog Stretch (or Mandukasana if you practice Yoga regularly) is a great hip opener I briefly alluded to in a recent article. The benefits and carryover of the Frog Stretch include:

  • Improved Hip Flexibility
  • Improved Squat Stability and Mobility
  • Decreased Pain In Key Areas Of The LHPC Including Hips and Lumbar Spine

How To Perform The Frog Stretch

Before you get started you might want to have with you a foam roller and especially a yoga mat, and make sure it’s long. You will want to warm up before performing the Frog Stretch because trust me when I tell you this will hurt like hell; therefore I prefer either taking a hot shower or placing a foam roller under your adductor muscles, rolling each side 10 – 15 times. Performing this stretch on a bare floor of any kind may put too much pressure on your knees, so placing a yoga mat underneath you will greatly reduce any shearing forces. If you’re in a gym and you happen to be wearing knee sleeves, those work fine as well. All of this is optional, but highly recommended.

  1. Get down to your hands and knees. If using a yoga mat, be sure to fold the ends up and place your knees on the folded sections. Be sure place your forearms parallel to the floor, inside your legs, your spine neutral, your head looking forward.
  2. Breathe in and out as you slowly move you legs more and more outward, leading with your knees. If you feel tightness, stop and hold where you are. This is where the move will become painful.
  3. Hold in areas of tightness for about fifteen seconds before trying to move further. If it’s too difficult to do so, you may stop, and take a thirty second rest before trying again. Repeat this for as many times as necessary. Do not forget to breathe.
  4. Once you get to a point where your body is as low as it possibly can go, at which point your stomach should be a few inches from touching the floor, you can either hold that position for as long as you like or you can slowly rock your hips back and forth. This clearly turns a static stretch into a more dynamic movement.

Never force your legs to go farther than they physically can, especially if you are new to this move. It will take a little bit of time to attain enough flexibility here. The first few times I tried the Frog Stretch were absolutely painful, as well as a wake up call in terms of just how tight I really was. You might not ever like to do the Frog Stretch (and I sure wouldn’t blame you!), but I find it to be absolutely necessary for anyone, especially any squatter, who’s lacking in hip mobility from sitting all day, also making this an excellent corrective exercise.

You can perform the Frog Stretch any time you wish. I personally prefer to do so after my initial warmup and directly before I perform any major compound movement, in-between squat sets, after I’m finished training and before I go to bed at night. Performing the Frog Stretch in-between sets is probably not that necessary for most of you, but I feel better knowing my hips are staying fully opened before the sets begin to get heavier.

Remember that when I do this I’m going by instinct; training should equally be as instinctive as it is organized. Try the Frog Stretch today and see where it fits best in your own routine. But I do promise you that you will thank me. Your hips might as well.

ZMA’s: Do They Work?

The following article is not a paid advertisement, nor am I sponsored by any supplement companies to promote their products.

ZMA’s have been a bit of a hot topic of discussion for a while now. Some kingpins in the fitness industry as well as lifters of all kinds swear by them. Others think ZMA’s are a joke, and are unnecessary so long as your diet is on point. So what the hell is this pill that’s all the hubbub?

ZMA is really just a combination of two minerals and one vitamin that, while crucial to your diet, can still be lacking: Zinc (Z), Magnesium Aspartate (MA) and Vitamin B6. Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits of each individual mineral as pertains to the purpose of this supplement:

  • Zinc – required for cellular growth, nervous system maintenance and a strong immune system. Since the body does not produce zinc on its own, we need to increase the zinc in our bodies with food. Main food sources include: red meat, poultry and seafood, in particular oysters.
  • Magnesium – required for bone strength, calms nerves and relaxes your muscles, which also proves beneficial for loosening your stools.
  • Vitamin B6 – may reduce depression symptoms and improve your mood. Food sources include: poultry, salmon, potatoes and bananas, making it pretty easy to obtain enough of this Vitamin throughout the day.
Oysters are considered to be a main source of Zinc. Too bad I won’t touch ’em!

There’s also a lot of talk regarding the potential benefits of inclidung ZMA’s in your own regimen. These include:

  • Improved Sleep (Magnesium)
  • Increased Testosterone Levels (Zinc)

The jury however, is still on the fence about ZMA’s, as mentioned at the beginning of this article. According to a randomized controlled trial, going all the way back to the tail end of 2004, forty one healthy, injury free males between the ages of 18 and 50 were split into two groups with each group being assigned to take either a dextrose placebo or a commercially available ZMA supplement 30 – 60 minutes before going to sleep for eight weeks. According to the results of that study “Results of the present study do not support contentions that ZMA supplementation increases zinc or magnesium status and/or affects training adaptations in experienced resistance trained males with normal zinc status. These findings are in contrast with the notion that ZMA supplementation can increase zinc and magnesium status, anabolic hormone status, and/or strength gains during training”.

According to another, more recent study using a similar RCT format, eighteen football players between the ages of 18 and 25 were also assigned to take either a ZMA or a placebo for eight weeks. It’s important to note that their diets were designed by a nutritionist. In the end, the testosterone levels in both groups saw a similar increase. This led to the conclusion that “extra doses of the micronutrients present in the ZMA do not bring any additional benefits, either in the body composition or in the hormonal levels in subjects under adequate diet”.

So what about this pill’s supposed ability to help you sleep? After all, for every person who claims to have wild dreams with spin off episodes, there are just as many that’ll tell you it’s all in your head. Just remember what I mentioned earlier about Magnesium acting as a muscle relaxer. Taking Magnesium before you sleep will help you fall asleep much faster.

The Verdict

In terms of whether or not a supplement as controversial as ZMA works, I can only speak from my own personal experience. I began using ZMA via the suggestion of a powerlifter once I realized that taking melatonin before bed post workout would no longer work (a story for another time). So I brought the True Athlete brand and, upon going to bed after my next day of training I proceeded to ingest three pills as instructed. It was one of the deepest sleeps I’d had in a long time.

Ok so it wasn’t this deep of a sleep. But I definitely can say I’m out or the count!

To address that claim of having wild dreams: it’s true as far as I’m concerned! My dreams have been a little too vivid at times. All too real. And sometimes that’s not a good thing, believe me.

What’s important to remember is that ZMA is a supplement. While most supplements are mere snake oil, I feel like it can be beneficial, especially for those who don’t or cannot get enough Magnesium or Zinc on their diets for any number of reason. Zinc and Magnesium are found in Oysters and Salmon, respectively, and I for one do not eat seafood. Also, for some who might be reading this, certain foods, such as red meat can be a a little expensive.

In regards to increases in my testosterone; I don’t know that taking these increased my strength levels. Any alleged testosterone booster won’t do that anyway. But I might’ve noticed changes elsewhere upon waking up. I’ll just leave it at that.

As for it’s ability to help you sleep. Let’s get this clear now: ZMA is not a sleep aid. However, with a dosage of 450mg for men and 300mg for women (if you take the True Athlete brand), you’re taking in just over the Recommended Daily Amounts (RDA) per gender. That’s more than enough to relax you just before bed.

To finish this off, while I don’t believe that ZMA is ideal as an strength booster, I do believe it helps me relax after I’m finished with my training sessions. However, at the end of the day, you should be your own judge and see for yourself if you wish. I speak as someone who really doesn’t rely on supplements the way I did when I was younger. But if you’re lucky, you might have a good night’s sleep.

Long Live The Blade

I’d like to use this space to congratulate Dexter Jackson on his recent retirement following last month’s 2020 Mr. Olympia contest, which saw the coronation of Big Ramy as the new Mr. Olympia. After 21 years, multiple Arnold Classic championships, multiple top placings in several Mr. Olympias over the years and, of course, his long deserved 2008 Mr. O win, it was time for the Blade to call it a day. But why am I using this space to discuss a competitor in a category I don’t usually discuss? Because his physique offered the one component that his biggest rivals didn’t bring: consistency.

Official Muscular Development Magazine - Massive Biceps & Triceps - Dexter  Jackson's 8 Great Exercises---> /15376-massive-biceps-triceps-dexter-jackson-s-8-great-exercises.html#.WusdXJch3QU  | Facebook

It was the fall of 2008. The Mass Monsters were the most popular of bodybuilders going back to the early 90’s. You know who I’m talking about. These guys set the bar pretty high in terms of size and conditioning. But they also set the bar low, in my opinion, in symmetry, taking away any kind of balance.

Balance. While I’ve never tried my hand at a bodybuilding competition, I’ve always viewed Bodybuilding competitions as more of a living art display than a sport. And if you’re going up there to be judged on your physique, that physique ought to be well proportioned. It should be as lean as it is muscular. And the bubble gut? It boggles my mind that some bodybuilders won the Olympia with that crap! But that’s a story for a another time.

Battle of the Bubble (gut) who wins it?? : bodybuilding
This is gross. Change my mind.

So I was surprised when I read the Mr. Olympia Report in Flex Magazine, where I learned that after years of consistently placing in the Top 5, Dexter Jackson beat defending Mr. O Jay Cutler to win what would be his sole Sandow trophy. This win was automatically different than other Mr. O wins of the better part of the last two decades. At just 5″ 6′ and a contest weight of 215lbs, this was the man to beat a much larger behemoth in Jay? It was surreal.

In an age where size was everything, Dexter brought back the total package of size, conditioning, and symmetry.

But more than that, it was a breath of fresh air for once.

The moment Dexter Jackson broke the glass ceiling placed atop the Bodybuilding world nearly two decades earlier.

Dexter’s win over the much larger Jay Cutler, someone who aside from his size had those stereotypical American looks, gave me hope that just maybe the focus in Bodybuilding as a whole would revert back to the aesthetics and symmetry reminiscent of an era gone by. In the same way the a wrestler like Bret Hart made wrestling the main focus in the WWF following the Hogan/Steroid Scandal, just maybe Dexter Jackson could usher in a new era on substance over flash in Bodybuilding. Dexter had broken the proverbial glass ceiling after all.

Of course, that wasn’t to last. Jay Cutler came back with a vengeance the next year to reclaim his Mr. Olympia title. But I still didn’t like it, I didn’t care how much leaner he was this time around. But there were two things that neither Jay Cutler or most bodybuilders had during this time. Balance.

Balance is why Dex was able to compete at a high level for years, always placing in the top 5 in high profile events all the way up to the age of 51. Dexter could’ve easily settled for the Men’s Physique Division, where symmetry and balance are king over all else. He’d probably win 1st Place every year. But Dexter was about defying the odds. Dex, to me, is comparable to Rich Gaspari in the 80’s. He wasn’t nicknamed the Dragon Slayer just for fun. At just 5″ 9′ he not only beat out much larger competitors, he also placed 2nd behind Lee Haney in three consecutive Mr. Olympias.

Lee Haney vs. Rich Gaspari - 1987 Epic Olympia Showdown - YouTube
At one point during Lee Haney’s record breaking eight title reign, his biggest threat was the smaller Rich Gaspari.

Dexter Jackson was a legitimate throwback to the previous era because, much like those bodybuilders, he returned to the stage at every competition with the same delivery. Every time. His proportions, his low bodyfat (no bubble guts here!), his penchant for perfection. I like to think that there’d be no Phil Heath without Dexter Jackson.

Arnold Classic 2015!!!

So, what can we learn from the illustrious career of The Blade? That the best path to success sometimes is the road less travelled, to kind of quote Robert Frost for a second. That all it takes sometimes is your own individuality to break the glass ceiling, thus giving others like you a chance. Dexter Jackson’s legacy will be that, in a world filled with Mass Monsters, a true total package broke the mold and reminded everybody about all of what’s supposed to be good about Bodybuilding as not just a sport, but as a spectacle. And for that Dexter, I thank you.

Can Hardgainers Squat Successfully?

Here’s an argument I’ve seen and heard for a while regarding tall or lanky lifters and their ability to squat:

Can they do it??

And depending on who you talk to or which article you read the answers will vary. Some will suggest that it can be done. On the flipside, of course, there are some popular trainers saying that it can’t or at least shouldn’t be prescribed to clients at all unless they’re aiming to be a powerlifter. Some will argue that, unless the lift in question is the Deadlift, multijoint, barbell exercises probably shouldn’t be performed at all. I say that unless these people are trainers experienced with lifters of all builds, or are lanky or tall themselves, they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

Read that last line again so it sinks in.

Yes, we tall and lanky lifters have the odds stacked against us. Our longer arms and legs increase our range of motion, forcing our bodies to work harder as we try to push ourselves out of the hole in the Squat, as we try to push the bar away from us in the Bench Press. This in term makes it harder for us to put on any kind of size. This is what makes us “Hardgainers”.

So does this mean that squatting is impossible for guys like us. Unless you’re suffering an ankle or knee injury, the short answer is: Hell no! As Rocco Lampone told Michael Corleone in the Godfather: Part 2 when asked to try and kill Hyman Roth, knowing deep down he’d never make it out alive, it’s “difficult, not impossible”. All we need to do is make a few modifications to make squatting easier on us, and here are a few suggestions on how to accomplish this:

Use A Wider Stance

I want to make this clear before I go any further: this article as whole doesn’t just pertain to powerlifters. Regardless of your own goals, you should always perform any exercise in a manner that’s practical and safe for you. Also, when I say you should try squatting in a wider stance don’t just assume you’re being expected to squat like a geared lifter straight out of Westside Barbell. In fact, there’s a simple way to determine your individual squat stance.

While standing with your feet shoulder width, your toes out about 30 degrees and your palms together with your elbows out, squat down. Once you’ve squatted as far down as you can go, use your elbows to shove your knees out as much as possible without tearing your hip flexors. Once your shins have reached a vertical position and aren’t bowing, you’ve found your proper stance. I’d recommend practicing it a few times before your squat sessions for mental reinforcement.

If you’ve done this and determined that a wider stance is best suited for your build, here are a few things to remember:

  • A wider stance will help prevent you from squatting too low. You can hit parallel or even slightly below, but you’ll feel more of a stretch at that point. With the reduction in range of motion, you not only will reduce the chances of having butt wink, which would only stress your lower back, it will also assist you with a proper ascension with using relatively heavy weights.
  • Your posterior chain will do most of the work. As I’ve said in the past, most “hardgainers” will rely on their hamstrings and glutes naturally, and thanks to their longer femurs. This is not a bad thing. Yes, your quads will get work when you squat with a wider stance, of course. You will grow muscle there. But in our case, the stronger our posterior chains are, the more that carries over into other lifts.

Squat In The Low Bar Position

Being that I’ve squatted exclusively in this position for more than five years, I’m just a little biased towards this style. Their are a few reasons why I essentially have a man crush on the Low Bar Squat, all of which I’ll explain in a future article. What’s important here is what it will do for you as a long legged lifter. The downside to squatting in a Low Bar positioning for those of you that are new to this is that, thanks to the bars placement on your scapula instead of your trapezius, you will find yourself leaning more than you’re accustomed to with a traditional High Bar Squat. The upside is that the change in bar positioning will allow your hips a wider range of motion (the one time range of motion is advantageous) to help you sit back in the bottom portion of the move. This alone will, much like with using a wider stance to squat, activate your posterior chain.

Improve Your Mobility

Are you leaning over when you squat, even after you adjust your positioning? Are you feeling tightness or even pain in your Psoas Major (Hip Flexors)? Is that tightness hindering your ability to squat to at least parallel? To bring your legs to an appropriate stance relatively pain free?

Your mobility is probably lacking. Not to worry, it’s pretty common, especially if you’ve been working from home since March. All you need to do is work on your ankle mobility and especially your hip mobility. There are many ways to do this and the equipment requirement would be absolutely minimal.

If the problem is with your ankles there are many explosive movements your can do to strengthen your ankles including even calf exercises. For hip mobility, one of my favorite drills is the Defranco Agile 8, an eight exercise drill generally used as a dynamic, pre-exercise warmup to loosen up your entire Lumbo Pelvic Hip Complex. It includes a lacrosse ball exercise, two foam roll exercises for the IT Bands and the Adductor muscles, several dynamic stretches and one static stretch. One stretch I’ve begun to use nearly every day is the Frog Stretch, a yoga stretch I’ll write about more in a future article. But what I will say is that, since I’ve incorporated it into my routine, my hips are largely pain free, which of course carries over into a pain free wide stance squat.


Biomechanics. They’ll never be on our side as “hardgainers”. But with a few modifications and some adjustments to our flexibility, there’s no valid reason to just skip out on the strength building, muscle building, calorie burning King of all exercises. So can you as a “hardgainer” Squat and do so successfully? Absolutely, so long as you learn how to work around your frame. Should you Squat as a “hardgainer”? Hell yeah!

Use This Simple Hack To Relieve Shoulder Pain!

The Resistance Band Pull Apart is a fantastic exercise I love to use frequently. It’s proven very useful to me as a prehab exercise to warm up my upper back and Posterior Deltoids before performing Squats or Bench Presses as well as reinforce neuromuscular efficiency in those areas. I also rely on pull aparts to reinforce proper posture both in myself and in my clients. They’ve very much come a long way since the Westside Barbell crew introduced them to the states decades ago!

But as always, too much of one thing is never good. While traditional pull aparts primarily target your Posterior Deltoids, they do indirectly hit your Anterior Deltoids, thanks to your hands being in a pronated (hands down) position. If you’re like me and many other lifters, you’re probably either using pull aparts to warm up with set sets or your supersetting pull aparts with your bench and squat sets. Benching indirectly hits your anterior delts and, if you squat in the low bar position as I do, those anterior delts are most certainly being stretched out. Needless to say, your anteriors are taking quite the beating when being worked through three exercises!

The Supinated Band Pull Apart

There is, however a way to reduce the stress and pain your anterior delts are receiving, and all it takes is one small adjustment with your pull aparts. There’s a reason why powerlifters tend to bench with their arms in a 75 degree angle: the angle takes the stimulus placed on the anterior deltoid and transfers it to their triceps. In that same manner, you can simply change your hand positioning as follows:

  • Brings your arms out in front you and shoulder width
  • Make sure your palms are facing up, your thumbs pointing outward
  • Without moving your arms, retract your scapula until the band touches your chest

With your palms now in the supinated position (palms up), the stimulus is removed from the anterior delts and, in turn, the posterior delts are activated more. And if you’d like to increase your scapular mobility, you can using one more simple hack.

  • With your palms still in a supinated position, bring your resistance band a few inches above eye level.
  • From here, begin to retract your scapula, while pulling down toward your bottom chest.


My biggest recommendation is that, if you’re new to this, go ahead and start of with just a single layer of a mini resistance band. Make sure you can consistently hit 15 reps before using both layers of the band. After you’ve consistently hit fifteen reps using both layers you may then use a light band and aim for up to ten reps consistently. After you can do so you can then try using a heavier band for an even lower rep range if you wish. I increase the band sizes and decreases the rep ranges when I superset Supinated Band Pull Aparts with either Bench Press or Squats.

This will not only help you to save your shoulders, but it will also increases your scapular mobility, which is so crucial, especially when you have a heavy bar on your back!