The Defranco Agile 8

Think back to your days taking that lame old gym class in school.  Remember that gym teacher with the polo shirt, track pants and a clipboard who looked either way too skinny to even appear to be remotely in shape, or like he was never in shape at all?  You might or might not recall that all you wanted to do was play dodge ball; yet he might’ve made you work a bit first.  He’d have you jog in place for a good minute give or take, followed by jumping jacks.   He’d probably follow that up with having you run around for a minute.  Then, he make you perform static stretches, such as reaching down to your toes.  Well, turns out they were actually on to something.

Dynamic Stretching is crucial for a few reasons:

  • It increases your heart rate, pumping blood throughout your body faster.  This will bring your body temperature up, and in turn stretch your muscles more efficiently.
  • It also improves your mobility, which doesn’t just improve your training progress, but it will also prevent injuries better than static stretching.  Static stretching with cold muscles will cause an injury.

Are you currently working at home like most of the workforce in the country?  Would you normally be sitting down if you were at your job right now as I’d be?  Do you ever feel hip flexor pain when you’re squatting or even when your setting up to do any kind of Bench Press variation?  Does your lower back tighten up when you perform either of the two moves I just mentioned?  If you answered yes to just one of these questions, then you have a tight lower back or hips.

Your Lumbo-Pelvic Hip Complex, made up of your glutes, hips and lower back are crucial to everything regarding your posture, spinal stability and therefore optimal exercise performance.  If your hips aren’t loosened up before you begin any kind of training you will get hurt.

Enter the DeFranco Agile 8.  The brainchild of World Renowned, New Jersey based strength coach Joe DeFranco, the Agile 8 is a fantastic way to increase your heart rate, warm your body up for your training and of course, loosen your entire Lumbo-Pelvic Hip Complex in order to help you come out of your training injury free.  I first read about this in Jim Wendler’s book 5/3/1 For Powerlifting and ever since I started performing it just this past October, it’s done wonders for my hip mobility.  It’s a fantastic, well organized combination of Self Myfascial Release, Dynamic Stretching, and Static Stretching.  All it takes is eight moves, a foam roller, a lacrosse ball and at most ten minutes of your time.

The DeFranco Agile 8

  1. Foam Roll IT Bands – 10 – 15 rolls each side
  2. Foam Roll Adductors – 10 – 15 rolls each side
  3. Glute Piriformis Myofascial Release with Lacrosse Ball – 30 seconds each glute
  4. Rollovers Into V Sits – 10 reps
  5. Fire Hydrant Circles – Forward and backward circles 10 times each legs
  6. Mountain Climbers – 20 reps
  7. Groiners – 10 reps followed by ten second hold
  8. Static Hip Flexor Stretch – 3 sets of ten seconds each leg

Recommendations

As mentioned earlier, this is a combination of Self Myofascial Release, Dynamic and Static Stretching.  Since it also increases your heart rate I highly recommend you perform this combination before any and all training sessions.  And since a good portion of us are stuck at home and are mostly likely sitting, I’d perform this everyday at least once or twice a day, before you even begin your work day and somewhere in the middle of the day to break to monotony of sitting all day, and to reinforce loose and pain free hips and lower backAlso, that elementary school gym teacher of yours would be proud!

Try This Resistance Band Training Circuit!

Welcome to another quarantine edition of the blog here!  I hope you’re all staying safe and inside.  Remember, the sooner the curve flattens, the sooner those gyms open back up.  In the meantime, here’s a brand new workout designed by yours truly, consisting entirely of resistance bands.  But before I show you this routine, here’s a brief synopsis on why resistance bands are such a great tool when it comes to any style of training:

  • Constant Tension –   Not only do resistance bands create external tension in the same manner that barbells, dumbbells and cables do, but the tension remains throughout any exercise you perform.  That alone makes resistance bands equally as beneficial in building muscle and strength!
  • Convenience – even the thickest, heaviest band on the market is still small enough to put in your travel bag and perform a brief on-the-go workout if you’re away from home or your gym.  And of course, you can easily take them with you to your gym and use to perform some prehab exercises before your workout officially begins.
  • Cost Effective – compared to dumbbells, resistance bands are very affordable, especially if you’re either on a budget or simply don’t have the space in your home for a gym of your own.

And now for the workout itself.  This’ll be a full body routine, of which I’m a huge fan.  And much like my beginner bodyweight/resistance hybrid program, this will be comprised of mostly compound movements in order to stimulate all major muscle groups.  This is a circuit in which you’ll perform each exercise one after another, without any breaks.  You’ll hit as many reps as you can within a minute before jumping straight to the next exercise.  This is a great way to build up your endurance and your work capacity, both of which are crucial to your ability to recover from more brutal workouts.

The Routine 

  • Good Mornings
  • Pull Aparts
  • Rows
  • Thrusters
  • Pushups
  • Curls
  • Planks *

* Bands not required for Planks.

This circuit can be performed any time throughout the day, especially if you want to break the monotony of sitting at your laptop all day.  If you want a challenge, however, try to repeat this circuit two times after a few minutes rest.  I recommend mini bands strictly for the sake of keeping the flow of the circuit consistent throughout, although you’re more than welcome to use a light band for greater tension if you wish.

Buy Resistance Bands Today!

Westside Barbell Mini Band

https://www.elitefts.com/pro-monster-mini-restistance-band.html

 

Six Ways To Work Through Isolation

So in the last 24 hours, Social Distancing protocols are officially extended until April 30th.  That’s certain to put a damper on a lot of things for many of you who might be reading this.  Whatever plans you might’ve made in advance that involve a social gathering of sorts will most likely be postponed.  Were you furloughed from your job due to lost revenue?  Is your business considered non-essential?  Do you rely on daily social interaction to feel personally satisfied?

The loss of any of these could lead to a number of emotions, especially anxiety over your future.  If you’re working from home, like I am, those fears will most likely won’t pertain to you.  But staying home from too long could also make you too comfortable, creating a lazy demeanor the likes of which you never knew you had in you!  As nerve wracking as this pandemic has become, it’s also provided for many of us, myself included, a unique opportunity for you to accomplish all those things you’d never do because you had no time, or so you say.  I’ll be using this article to discuss ways to counteract those two emotions during this difficult, making you as productive at home, as you are in the office.

  1. Set Up A Routine – the sudden change in your life might prompt you to sleep in, sit on the couch, followed by going to bed much later than you normally would.  I’d think twice about doing that.  If you’re anxious, not having a plan of attack for the day might lead you to get lost in your thoughts, something that’s not healthy for you at all right now (or ever!).  Make a list (written or mental) of things to do every day including a time to wake up everyday (I don’t mean the crack of noon either!) as well as things you might want to accomplish but would never get the chance to do under normal circumstances.  Also, unless you’re in education like I am, you’ll eventually have to go back to work and, depending on how soon that is, you’ll want to be physically and emotionally ready.  I wake up everyday at 6am, stretch, exercise briefly, take a brisk walk around the block and even make a smoothie before starting my work day at 8:30.
  2. Exercise Daily – now if you read my articles often then this one is a no-brainer.  But for everyone else, this could open up a whole new world for you.  Are you that person that claims that you won’t go to the gym because you  “don’t have time”?  Here’s your chance!  I’m not saying you have to do much.  You can just take a brisk, ten minute walk around your neighborhood first thing in the morning, and the increase in your heart rate will cause greater blood circulation throughout your body, thus providing you more energy throughout the day.
  3. Focus On Stretching and Mobility – Are you working from home?  Unless your posture is fantastic and you understand your anatomy a few things will happen.  You will have hip flexor pain, especially if you’re sitting in front of a computer all day.  When you sit down, you’re hip flexors, also known as you’re Psoas Major, are in a flexed position.  Sitting for long periods of time also weakens your gluteus maximus, which will cause lower back pain.  And if you’re in a situation where you are sitting for several hours at a time this will cause tightness in those areas as well as potentially pain.  This obviously is a detriment to us in terms of any physical activity.  Also, most people tend to hunch over when they’re sitting in front of a computer all day.  That means your shoulders will most likely roll forward, tightening your chest and weakening your upper back.  Nothing says shoulder pain like an overactive pectoral region and an underactive upper back.   That’s why is so important that you take at least ten minutes every so often to perform routines like the Defranco Agile 8, which works to loosen your Lumbo-Pelvic Hip Complex (LPVC).  You should also foam roll your upper back and especially your pectoral region, as well as using resistance bands if you have them available to you to strengthen your posterior deltoids in order to prevent shoulder pain and bad posture.
  4. Eat Better – many of you probably choose not to cook for the same reason you say you choose not to go to the gym.  Well, you now have plenty of time.  I understand that grocery shopping right now might be nightmarish, but if you have $100 and a supermarket with somewhat stocked shelves, find yourselves some skinless chicken breasts, some fresh veggies (or even frozen), brown rice (now’s not the time to eat fast digesting carbs like white rice!) and you can have yourself a few decent, easy to cook meals that require very little prep time and almost the same amount of time to cook (brown rice does take longer to boil than white rice, unfortunately).  You’ll be tempted to buy TGIF potato skins, and pizza rolls.  But remember, if you’re overweight, this is the best time to experiment with changing your diet and training yourself to stick to it!  Oh, and don’t forget to stick with only water – room temperature at that!
  5. Virtual Interaction – as I mentioned before, some of you are feeling the emotional pain of isolation from the rest of society.  And while I’m not the biggest fan of talking to people on social media, as I feel it personally makes me feel lonely to begin with, there are multiple platforms were your friends are getting together right now to hold interactive chats, movie nights, dinners where people are ordering take out in a creative attempt to emulate those nights were you’d normally have your friends over your house and scarf down a pie from the pizzeria down the street.  You can use apps like Skype or Zoom (which I’m only learning about now!) to keep in touch with your loved ones or your friends right now.  Are you as big of a music fan as I am?  Bands even are using these platforms to hold concerts!
  6. Sleep – this could’ve easily been used as part of Set Up A Routine, but I chose to make this a separate piece for one reason: I know you probably are either sleeping in too late or not sleeping enough.  And that’s why I wanted to reiterate this point to reign it all in.  If you’re going to work on your physical and emotional well being sleep rules everything around you (see what I did there?)!  Getting seven or eight hours of sleep each night will help to relieve stress, anxiety, inflammation, will improve your memory and even help you lose weight.  And when you do go to bed do you play on your phone, texting your buds before you go to sleep.  That will stop here as the harsh light from your phone will alter your circadian rhythm, tricking your mind to stay awake regardless of how tired your body is.  Instead, do whatever it takes for you personally to get nice and comfortable under the sheets for an easy rest.  I personally take cold showers every night, as the body requires a cooler temperature in order to relax, although that’s a story for another article.

Feel free to comment below, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.  Do you agree with these points?  Disagree?  Would you add anything to this list?  In the spirit of people getting together in this tough time let’s talk.  This along with all my articles is an open forum.

My Sources:

https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/circadian-rhythms.aspx

Stuck Without A Gym? Try This!

How’s everybody?  If you’re reading this I really do hope you’re safe and healthy.

If you’re living anywhere in New York (state and city), New Jersey or Connecticut, then you know by now that all three of these states have ordered that all gyms and fitness centers are to close indefinitely, possibly for the next 2 weeks to a month thanks to the spread of Covid-19, also known as coronavirus.  And like you, I’m not happy at all about the fact that I can’t kick ass in my own gym for bit.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways you can train from home or even in a park if you’re nearby one!  In fact, I took and entire month off from the gym in August for unrelated reasons, choosing to train at home with just the few pieces of equipment available to me.  You can do the same if you have the following:

  • Lacrose Ball
  • Foam Roller
  • Mini and/or Light Resistance Bands (constant tension, making this a very suitabe replacement for weights!)
  • Yoga Mat (optional)

I try my best to treat these bodyweight/resistance band programs like any other program involving barbells and dumbbells, via changes in tempo, the addition of bands for extra tension, etc.  And one of the best ways to do so is to incorporate exercises that somewhat emulate your usual exercises.

First off, just like any other gym routine,you must warm up, especially your Lumbo-Pelvic Hip Complex.  Without a loose lower back and hips, you can potentially hurt yourself.  My go to warmup routine for months now has been the DeFranco Agile 8, as seen below:

After you’ve loosened up your hips you may begin this routine.  As you might know I’m a fan of full body routines as well as concentrating on compound movements for total stimulation, which will absolutely be crucial for a few weeks.  Here’s the routine:

  1. Banded Good Mornings – 3×20
  2. Banded Pull Aparts – 3×20 (x/x/x tempo)
  3. Bodyweight Squats – 3×20 or to failure if you want to challenge yourself.
  4. Bodyweight Pushups – 5×10 once you can hit all 50 reps challenge yourself with a mini resistance band around your back, your hands holding it down.
  5. Resistance Band Overhead Press – 5×10  Once you’ve hit all 50 reps try to use a light resistnace band on the last set the next time you perform the routine.
  6. Planks – 30 seconds per side, trying to increase your time under tension each day your train.

For your first week, take 3 minutes between sets and 5 minutes between exercises.  The following week you’ll shave 30 seconds off each rest period.  So instead of resting five minutes between exercises you’ll rest just 4 and a half minutes.  Likewise, you’ll then be resting for just 2 and half minutes between sets.  And you’ll repeat this process the following week.  This’ll help you develop your General Physical Preparedness, as this program was designed to not only be effective with all the muscle groups it hits, but to not be time consuming.

Try this out for a few weeks and tell me how it worked for you.  Remember, this is a tough time for all of us; but never let that be an excuse to sit on your couch, eat horribly and waste away.  The only way to really get past this is to stay healthy and you won’t accomplish that by being a sloth.

 

Variations In Band Pull Apart Tempo

Resistance Bands.  It’s been not even a year since I last wrote about the benefits of these amazing contraptions popularized by Louie Simmons and the boys at Westside Barbell, including but not limited to continued tension throughout an exercise and compartmentalization, as you can take them everywhere you go.  I even offered a few exercises you can perform with these bands in the name of posture, and shoulder health and strength, in particular the Band Pull Apart.  The Pull Apart is a fantastic way to train your shoulders and upper back every day if you want to (and you should!) both before and even during your training sessions, as well as on your days off from the gym.

Did you know, however, that much like dumbbells and barbells, you can train with resistance bands using varying speeds and holds to accomplish different goals?  When it comes to traditional barbell and dumbbell training, regardless of your individual goals, different speeds or tempos bring different results.  For example: we know that in order to build muscle while performing and exercise, it’s recommended that dumbbells in particular are moved in a slow, controlled motion, especially during the eccentric portion of the movement.  This will force your body to break apart more muscle fibers in your targeted muscle group.  On the flipside of that coin, it’s often recommended to move the weights as fast as you can for the sake of developing strength or power.  Don’t forget that both speed and strength are the two components of power.  No emphasis on eccentric movements.  No isometric holds.  The concentric portion is the emphasis here.

So with those details in mind, why couldn’t we train with resistance bands in the same manner as we would with barbells and dumbbells, especially since bands do offer the added benefit of lasting, non stop tension?  I have been playing around with this idea in my own training for a few weeks now and I’ll now discuss with you my three preferred tempos for performing Resistance Band Pull Aparts:

  1. X/X/X – No eccentric, isometric, or concentric aspects of this tempo.  This is meant to be fast, but technique is still crucial.  Perform these both with the band both above the nipples and even below, as if you were setting up to bench press, to loosen up and strengthen the tendons in your shoulder girdle to avoid an injury.  Recommended set/rep range: 3-4×20.
  2. 2/1/2 – Two second eccentric contraction, one second isometric hold, two second concentric contraction.  This is ideal for muscle building since, much like with dumbbells and barbells, this forces a given muscle group to use more muscle fibers.  This will not just aid in providing upper body balance between the posterior and anterior chains, it’ll also give you a strong upper back!  Recommended set/rep range: 3 – 5 reps per superset (explained down below!).
  3. Isometric Holds – Simply retract the scapula and hold it in place for as long as possible.  What this will do for you is reinforce in your mind the idea that the scapula absolutely must stay retracted during major compound movements such as the Bench Press and especially if you Squat in a low bar position as I do.  If those shoulder blades aren’t nice and packed together your bench will suffer due to lack of stability and your low bar squat will suffer since you won’t have a proper “shelf” to rest the bar on.

Tips

  • Perform the fast tempo pull aparts, as stated above, before doing anything else to loosen your back and shoulders and strengthen your tendons.  This will help prevent injuries from what would probably have been a stiff posterior deltoid.
  • Perform the more controlled pull aparts in supersets preceeding most upper body compound moves such as the Overhead Press, the Bench Press and it’s multiple variations and even the low bar Squat for the reasons stated above.  You can do these during during your warmup sets and even your working sets for 3 – 5 reps per superset and no more, as you’ll still need your energy to perform your other upper body exercise following the pull aparts.
  • Superset the Isometric Hold Pull Aparts before performing any relatively heavy set.  The emphasis here, again, is mental reinforcement.  These will reinforce keeping your shoulders back and your upper body stable while still making it nice and strong.  Can’t go wrong there!

Band Recommendations

I personally own a red mini resistance band I ordered off the Westside Barbell website and an orange light resistance band I ordered off the Elite Fts website.  I currently use the red mini band for all my speed work including fast tempo pull aparts and even back extensions.  I’ll use the orange light band for slower tempo, muscle building pull aparts as well as the isometric holds.  What I recommend is to try to perform as many light band pull aparts as you can on your days off to build as much muscle back there as you can.  Don’t forget that a big back usually makes for a strong bench press.

My Article On Resistance Bands For Shoulder Training

unitedinstrength.net/2019/05/20/resistance-bands-for-shoulder-training

Resistance Bands I Use:

https://www.elitefts.com/pro-light-resistance-band.html

Westside Barbell Mini Band

Train With Me Today!

https://www.trainerize.me/profile/unitedinstrength/Mike.Alexander

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The Benefits Of Sodium For Improved Performance

There’s some controversy surrounding Sodium.  It’s that classic condiment we all love to sprinkle on our food for a tastier, more enhanced flavor.  But for the longest time, many health experts have been warning us all about the dangers of Sodium.  And rightfully so, as the American diet in general contains so much Sodium, that many of us risk ailments such as Hypertension, Stroke, and Kidney Disease.  Sodium also retains water, which could lead to bloat.  It wouldn’t be virtuous of me to not admit that this did happen to me.  Around this time a year ago I weighed in a 193lbs.  The problem was it wasn’t all muscle, but rather bloat as 20 of those pounds consisted of water I couldn’t seem to rid myself of.

However, if used in the right setting and appropriate time, such as training for athletic performance of any kind, Sodium does have it’s advantages.  In fact, the body is more reliant on Sodium in order for it to function than some of us may realize.  Sodium does offer valuable benefits.  So here are a few benefits of Sodium as used accordingly for improved athletic performance.

  • Muscle Contractions – we sweat out Sodium during any form of intense training.  And without the right amount of Sodium in the body your muscles might cramp up, a major no-no, especially if you run.  So maintaining a decent amount of sodium will prevent that.  This alone is why I, along with many others, tend to sprinkle some form of salt into our drinks before we train.  It’s also why runners and Crossfiters rely on packets of flavored sodium gel while in competition.
  • Hydration – sodium increases blood volume, which may sound contradictory at first.  Increased blood volume can lead to water retention, which can lead to certain ailments.  However, higher blood volume in athletes will regulate their body temperature, which in turn leads to a proper heart rate.  Both of these things combined lead to higher endurance levels, so you can train for longer.
  • Improved Strength – if you’ve been following Stan Efferding on YouTube for the last two years then I don’t need to tell you how much of an advocate he is of Sodium for improved Strength and Performance.  As mentioned earlier, sodium retains water.  However, it should be noted that the water is drawn into the muscles, just like Creatine Monohydrate.  That intracellular hydration is exactly why your strength increases, meaning you can stop spending money on Creatine powder every month and save a good $13 – $20 per month!

In Conclusion

Sodium may have it’s drawbacks, which are very well known and not to be ignored.  But if used appropriately, in moderation, and in the right settings, especially if you’re training with a sports based goal,  sodium’s benefits are equally as important.  Don’t forget to maintain proper sodium levels to avoid any hindrances in your own training, regardless of your goals.  As I mentioned before, you can simply spinkle a little bit of Himalayan Sea Salt into a glass of water before you train, as well as into whatever your intraworkout drink might be.  This will ensure that you stay hydrated, and that your strength levels are optimal.

My Sources:

Sodium for Runners: The Top 5 Benefits & Best Sources

https://barbend.com/sodium-salt-benefits-for-athletes/

Glute Bridge Modifications

In my last article, I spoke about the benefits of the Glute Bridge, along with a tutorial on the exercise.  Now, we’ll further discuss modifications that can be made to the move to further work the Posterior Chain by simply elevating your feet.  Along with further strengthening your hips, this simple modification will also strengthen your hamstrings as well as stretch your hips.  In turn this can help reduce low back pain if that’s something you’re currently dealing with.

Glute Bridge With Slight Elevation

For this modification I’m only stressing the slight elevation because, while most people would perform this using a medicine ball, I simply do not have one.  So, if you’re on the same boat as I am, you can simply perform this using any kind of small platform.  In my case, I’ll be using my foam roller.

  • Much like the traditional Glute Bridge, you ‘ll begin by lying on your back, your hands to your sides, in front of your shoulders.
  • Place your feet on the medicine ball, or chose apparatus, this time with your feet as close together as possible, as this while further reinforce stability.
  • Once you’re set up, begin to raise your hips until they are mid line with your legs.  Because you’ll be raising your hips higher than usual, you can drive through your heel as needed.  Make sure you feel your hamstrings working while performing this move.

Glute Bridge With Feet On A Bench

For this modification, it’s highly recommended that you use a bench in your gym.  But, if you decided to perform these at home, as I prefer to do, you may once again use a platform of your choice.  Therefore, for this demonstration I’ll be relying on my coffee table, as seen above.  Luckily it isn’t glass!

  • Once again, lie on your back, hands to your sides, in front of your shoulders.
  • When setting up the bench, make sure the bench is facing you horizontally, not vertically, therefore, your feet will have room to rest.  Make sure that, as you set up your foot positioning, that your legs are as close to the table and in as straight of a line as possible.
  • Raise your hips as high as you can, until they are mid line with your legs.  This will be more challenging.  So make sure you keep nice and tight while raising your hips.

If you’re like me and you have issues with setting yourself up for bench pressing, this might serve as a great way reinforce keeping your core and lower body tight.  I’ve already seen the change in my own set up.  I can raise my hips higher while packing my shoulders together, and I’m able to activate my entire lower body before I even place my feet on the ground.

My Article On Glute Bridges:

https://unitedinstrength.net/2019/09/09/theglutebridge/

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The Glute Bridge

 

If you’ve been following me for the last year, then you already know that I’m a big believer in isolating and strengthening the lower back, especially before performing a major compound lift.  It’s why I perform Back Extensions every workout, and most recently wrote an article about it.  But there other exercises that you can perform that not only workout the lower back, but have other benefits as well.

The Glute Bridge

The Glute Bridge, is another Posterior Chain focused exercise, one in which the the Gluteus Maximus, Medius and Minimus.   These three heads make up the support system for your hips in terms of movement and especially flexibility.  Here are few of the benefits of performing the Glute Bridge every day.

  • No More Back Pain.  Are you someone whose job requires sitting for most of the day, if not all?  That’s a common cause for back pain in most people.  When you sit down for extended periods of time, you’re weakening your glutes.  Doing so causes the muscles to pull on the lower back.  In fact, when I twisted my lower back in 2011 while on the job, the Glute Bridge is one of the exercises my physical therapist prescribed for me to do at home.
  • A Stronger Core.  Much like I discussed in my article on Back Extensions, most lifters, regardless of their goals, tend to just train the muscles they see, not understanding the importance of the muscles in the rear.  This is can absolutely lead to muscle imbalances, potentially leading to an injury.  Remember that your core is not just your abs, and that training your lower back can help to improve your posture, as well as overall body strength and get rid of imbalances.  And by the way, if you keep tight during the exercise, you will in fact train your abs as well.
  • Improvement In Squat And Deadlift Performance.  I recently ran a poll regarding this subject on my Instagram account.  Most of my participants voted that they felt Glute Bridges did help their Squat and Deadlift performance.  It’s easy to see why.  Not only do Squats and Deadlifts, rely on a warmed up and strengthen Posterior Chain for maximum performance, but the Glute Bridge, much like the Squat and Deadlift is essentially another Hip Hinge variation and they all go hand in hand.  Strong glutes make for strong hips, making for a far more powerful lift.

How To Perform The Glute Bridge

There are many variations of this exercise, but for now we will only look at the most basic variation.  One recommendation I’d make to anyone getting ready to perform this move is make sure your hip flexors are loosened up.  As mentioned earlier, most of you ready this probably sit all day, so going into this cold could lead to pain in that area.

You should always stretch your hip flexors before performing any hip hinge variation!

You should foam roll your entire body, especially your hip flexors, and follow that up with the static hip flexor stretch for three sets at ten seconds each.

     

  • Lie down flat on your back, your hands in front of your shoulders, your knees bent around 45 degrees.
  • Inhale, then raise your hips until they are mid line with your femurs as you exhale.  This is to be done in a controlled manor.  Never push through your feet, although it might be tempting the first few times.  When your hips are mid line with your femurs, hold at the top for a few seconds.
  • Slowly bring your hips back down.  This is one rep.  Continue this for up to 12 reps if possible and repeat for two more sets.

Recommendations

  • Perform these everyday.  If you sit all day long it’s imperative that you keep you lower back strong to avoid back pain.  Performing this move everyday will ensure that your glutes are as strong as your hamstrings, which also play a part in lower back health.
  • Once you master this basic bridge there are other variations you should attempt, placing your feet on either a medicine ball or a platform depending on what you have available to you.  You can also test your flexibility by trying the Wrestler’s Bridge, a bridge some lifters rely on to improve their Bench Press arch.  You can also continue to perform this basic move and just add weight via a kettlebell, a dumbell or especially a barbell.  Some gyms, such as mine, might also have a Glute Bridge machine.  If your gym is one of them you might want to give it a test drive today.
  • I personally know some powerlifters who chose to incorporate this move into their routines as an accessory movement.  That’s totally fine.  But my preference would be make the Glute Bridge the first exercise you perform before hitting anything else.  This will ensure that your back is fresh while performing the movement, as well as warming the area up before performing a major lift, ensuring that you’re less likely to get hurt because your lower back was tight.

My References:

10 Benefits of Glute Bridges That Really Do Make A Difference

https://www.t-nation.com/training/defranco-agile-8

My Article On Back Extensions:

https://unitedinstrength.net/2019/05/11/back-extensions-for-a-stronger-workout/

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Tales Of The Sardinian Strongman: In Memory Of Franco Columbu

You’ve heard me say that I don’t like when people call me a self-made man. You’ve even heard me say that you’re part of the reason I could never accept that label.

But I wanted you to know why. From the minute we met in Munich, you were my partner in crime. We pushed each other, we competed with each other, and we laughed at every moment along the way.

When I finally got to America, I was alone. I’d left my family, my country, my whole life behind. So when I asked Joe Weider to bring you to train with me, it was because I knew I wasn’t the same without my best friend. I could thrive without money, without my parents, but I couldn’t thrive without you.

I am devastated today. But I am also so, so grateful for the 54 years of friendship and joy we shared. The pumps, the chess games, the construction work, the meals, the pranks, the life lessons – we did it all together. We grew and we learned and we loved. My life was more fun, more colorful, and more complete because of you.

I will always miss you. But I’ll also know that a part of you lives on in me, in Debbie, in Maria, and in the millions of people you inspired every day you lived. And I will be there for Maria and Debbie, so you can rest now with no worries.

I love you Franco. I will always remember the joy you brought to my life, the advices you gave me, and the twinkle in your eye that never disappeared. You were my best friend.

Love always,

Arnold

It’s still a shock to everyone in the Bodybuilding community two days later, and most people, especially best friend Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be reeling from the death of former Mr. Olympia Franco Columbu for a while.  In a time where Bodybuilders were as strong and they were muscular, the Sardinian Strongman was most likely as close to the real deal as it got.  He was an athlete from his teen years, starting off as an amateur boxer in his native Italy.  From there he’s competed in powerlifting, bodybuilding and even in the early World’s Strongest Man competitions.  So here are a few quick facts about Franco Columbu:

Franco Had Incredible Lung Capacity

With his athletic background alone, Franco developed plenty of stamina and cardiovascularity.  He could be seen from time to time performing this classic early-era Strongman event, as seen here in Pumping Iron.  This feat requires a strong diaphragm and great lung capacity, a testament to how well conditioned he was compared to many of his counterparts.

He Was Incredibly Strong

Image result for franco columbu deadlift

Franco was just 5′ 5″.  But what you might not understand is that it absolutely worked to his advantage when it came to hitting big numbers on the Squat, Bench and Deadlift.  I address the issue of different body types on my Instagram from time to time.  For taller lifters with longer leverages, the body finds itself working harder to finish a lift than someone of Franco’s size.  Due to his shorter leverages, it was easier for him to complete a heavy set, because the distance the bar traveled between the start and finish points were nowhere near as far as perhaps Arnold.  In fact, Franco is the one who helped Arnold with his own Bench Press numbers upon meeting in Munich, Germany in the mid 60’s.  Franco’s heaviest numbers in competition are as follows:

Squat – 655lbs

Bench Press – 525lbs

Deadlift – 710

The 1977 World’s Strongest Man 

Much like the early days of the then-Gracie owned UFC, in which fighters of various disciplines came together to compete against one another, the original concept of The World’s Strongest Man was for athletes of varying strength related disciplines to come together to see who was the strongest.  Sounded good on paper, minus the fact that this was put together for CBS mainly for entertainment.  In turn, none of the competitors were necessarily trained for the scheduled events.  However, Franco, along with Lou Ferrigno, were the two contestants representing the Bodybuilding community.  As history would show, however, Franco would wind up in 5th place after dislocating his knee in a rather grotesque fashion.  He’d clearly have no choice but to retire from Strongman after that.  But he’s also be perhaps the first man to compete in the holy trinity of strength sports, Powerlifting, Bodybuilding and Strongman.

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