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.

Conclusion

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.

Tips

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!

Why Tall Lifters Should Worship The Deadlift

So let’s discuss anthropometric measurements! It was 2010 when I read an Iron Man Magazine article written (I think) by Ron Harris, in which he breaks down which compound movements were ideal for long limbed lifters in terms of specialization. He’d said that the Deadlift was ideal for that group, and, as someone with long arms and femurs, I understand why. I’ve spoken in the past about range of motion in regards to these lifts. Work=force X distance.

The longer your arms, the bigger a pain in the ass it is to Bench Press. The longer the legs, the bigger a pain in the ass it is to Squat. It’s not impossible, just harder. But with the deadlift, those long arms are actually your savior! Watch any short armed lifter pull in the conventional Deadlift style and the distance between the floor and the point where the bar stops traveling is longer, hence why guys like Dan Green have relied on the Sumo Deadlift to break several records including a few of his own. As a long armed lifter, that distance the bar travels will be significantly shorter. Look at Powerlifting legends like Lamar Gant, whose arms were longer than his 5’2″ frame yet he still pulled five times his own bodyweight. Or even a strongman competitor like Thor Bjornsson, who’s pulled 1,104lbs with long limbs and being 6″9′.

In fact, I imagine that the reason a lot of strongman competitors are so tall or lanky is because a lot of what they do requires them to pull or at least lift of the ground. Think the farmer’s carry or even lifting atlas stones. So if you’re a lanky lifter and you feel like there’s no hope for you, think again. I’d know, as I’m lanky and my best numbers come not from benching or squatting, but from pulling. It’s also those primitive lift anyone can do in the gym! And if you’re looking to learn this amazing feat of pure, raw strength, DM now or come see me at Strong And Shapely Gym in East Rutherford, NJ on Saturday, November 21st, where we can meet in person and discuss your strength and nutrition goals!

The Lying Banded Dislocation

If you’ve been reading my articles for a while (and thank you if you have been!) then you already know that I’m a big proponent of using resistance band exercises such as Pull Aparts and Dislocations not “just” because using bands is a convenient way to keep the shoulders loose during your training days, but it’s also a great way to help you develop better posture. That’s especially crucial if you sit at a desk all day, the worse thing you can do to your body.

However, once I started to train clients over a year ago I began to notice something happening with them that I didn’t notice when performing Banded Dislocations on myself. When their arms reached the halfway point, which would be up in the air, their lower backs would arch. The arch itself was not that extreme, but it did raise a red flag for me, as the spine should always be in a neutral position as much as possible.

The Lying Banded Dislocation

In order to still be able to use this exercise effectively, without causing any unneeded spinal problems, the following variation will help you to prevent a unnecessary back pain as well as still loosen up your shoulders. All you’ll need is a mini resistance band, and either a towel or a pillow.

  1. Take your mini resistance band (you can also use a dowel rod or broom stick if you wish) and make sure to hold it at shoulder width or even slightly over shoulder width.
  2. Lie prone on the floor, your arms out in front of you and elbows locked, your face down on your pillow or towel.
  3. Using either a slow or moderate pace, begin to raise your arms up and over your head until the band or rod touches your lower back, just like a standard shoulder location. Then bring your arms back in front of you. This is one rep.
  • Always make sure to retract your scapula when performing this variation.
  • You notice that the range of motion is clearly limited. Don’t let that deter you; even with your arms starting out in front of you this is equally as effective. The difference is that since you’re now lying on the floor, your stomach now has something to press against, preventing that unwanted lower back arch.

Hardgainer: A Death Sentence?

I think I know you. You were that skinny kid who couldn’t fill out like the other kids around you. Your siblings, while having not even the slightest clue about how the body works, shame you for not looking like everyone else. Your arms are long, you’re pencil necked, you’re chest is nothing more than a shell caging an anxious heart. But worst of all? You’re weak.

So you hit the gym for no other reason except you no longer are willing to be a pushover. But it isn’t as easy as it looks, is it? Everyone around you is making progress, while you’re toiling away on every machine, every station, relying on every 8 to 12 week cookie cutter program you can find and even wasting your money of supplements that do nothing for you. At some point, you’ve probably heard the term Hardgainer and wondered if that’s what you are, and perhaps what you’re destined to always be. There have been articles written on the topic; and with the release of one book, one man even made a career based on helping hardgainers.

By definition, a Hardgainer is someone who simply finds it hard to put on any kind of muscle. But is that all there is to it? What really determines whether or not a person is a Hardgainer? And can this be worked around? The short answer is: of course it can be worked around! First off let’s tackle the decades old, somatotype that’s oft used to characterize the hardgainer, the Ectomorph.

The Ectomorph

Here are a few physcial traits of an ectomorph

  • Thin frame
  • Narrow hips, face, shoulders and shallow chest
  • Long arms and legs
  • Long muscle bellies

And that alone, thanks to stereotyping, goes hand in hand with the alleged emotional aspects of an Ectomorph:

  • Social awkwardness
  • Self-consciousness
  • Artistic tendencies
William Herbert Sheldon - Alchetron, the free social encyclopedia
William Sheldon PhD. I wouldn’t trust him to determine my physical potential. Neither should you!

All of these seem to make sense, even as I look at myself and my own personality. But therein lies one major red flag. The creator of somatotypes, William Sheldon, PhD, wasn’t a doctor who specialized in orthopedics, as most doctors who work with athletes are. He was a psychologist and you better believe that’s a problem. Psychologists of Sheldon’s era were the same people who used propaganda under the guise of Public Relations to feed us the belief that smoking cigarettes would make women thin, and that our wardrobe choices are what define our outer most personalities (ex: the music we listen to). Feel like a sheep yet?

All of this is just a psychological ploy. The skinny kid walks the halls in his school, gets laughed at and shamed by the other, far more developed looking kids, and becomes self conscious. See the pattern yet? And how do I know this? Because I, too, fell for this. And to think, all it took for me was to learn how to work around my not so great genetics, and to realize I had asthma; and before I knew it I was pulling off physical feats I once thought to be impossible thanks to a lifetime of psychological and emotional conditioning! So there are without question two components of utmost importance that must be understood in order for you to not just defy genetics, but meaningless, yet potentially harmful, psychological stereotypes:

Training

Maybe you’ve heard this before, I know I stress this point alot; but here are a few pointers that’ll help you realize your own physcial potential:

  • You must utilize full body workouts two to three days a week (less if your schedule doesn’t allow for optimal recovery time).
  • Each training day must include the basic compound movements and/or their variations.
  • Understand that Range Of Motion will not always be your friend depending on your goals and you will possibly have to make tweaks in your own training.

Nutrition

  • You should be in a caloric surplus while sticking to healthy options as much as possible. All. The. Time.
  • Increased macronutrient intake. The daily recommended protein intake for a sedentary person, for example, is 0.8g per kilogram (2.2lbs) of bodyweight. Yours should be anywhere from a gram to 1.5g per pound of bodyweight. Likewise, your carbohydrate intake should be anywhere between 2 to 4g per pound of bodyweight, which is crucial for glycogen storage both before and especially after your training is complete.
  • Sodium. Of its many benefits for training, the most important, as it relates to this article, is that it boosts intracellular water retention, just like Creatine, but minus the extra benefits I don’t have the time mention here.

I myself have stuck with these over the years, going from being told before a show I played with my band that my drumsticks where essentially an extension of my arms, to using those arms to deadlift more than double my bodyweight as well as pack on size like I only imagined in my wildest dreams!

August 2002, age 18, just before I started college. I was at most probably 140lbs if I was lucky, no meat on me. Hell, I was gross! Outside the venue before this gig my friend told me my drumsticks were basically an extention of my arms.
March 2020, age 35, just days before gyms were to shut down thanks to the current pandemic, and also with a 45lb increase in muscle mass.

There’s a 45lb weight difference between the two pictures presented here. All I did was pay close attention to how and how often I ate, as well as training consistency and intelligence. If I can add muscle to my thin frame and offer a handshake that makes most people weary of ever extending their hands to me ever again, you can as well. So is being a Hardgainer a death sentence? I’d call it a societal state of mind, and one that can be and must be reversed.

Pulse By Legion Athletics

Disclaimer: The following are my views alone. I am not sponsored by Legion Athletics, nor am I being paid by Legion Athletics for this review.

To say that Mike Matthews has come a long way in the Health And Fitness industry would be a gross understatement. In the eight years since the release of his best selling men’s fitness book, Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, he’s parlayed it’s success into his own Fitness empire including his inaugural book’s women’s spinoff, Thinner, Leaner, Stronger, a blog featuring informative, science based articles, an online coaching service utilizing personal trainers hand picked by Mike Matthews himself, and of course his quality supplement line, all under the umbrella of Legion Athletics.

Pulse

Much like Mike Matthews himself, his products are the real deal. Each product’s ingredients and dosages are determined based on scientific, peer written reviews and journals. You will never find a Legion Athletics supplement containing any filler, artificial sweeteners or secondary bi products to help drive down costs. So don’t be too surprised if Pulse alone might be a tad pricey, but it’s worth it.

Here’s Pulse’s bare bones nutritional profile based on their recently revised formula:

  1. L-Citrulline Malate 2:1 (8g)
  2. CarnoSyn Beta Alanine (3.6g)
  3. Betaine Anhydrous (2.5g)
  4. Caffeine Anhydrous (350mg)
  5. L-Theanine (350mg)
  6. AlphaSize Alpha Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline(Alpha GPC for short) (300mg)

Just six ingridients make up this profile. But I’d like to turn my attention to Alpha GPC, the latest addition to Pulse’s profile. Replacing L-Ornothine completely and even reducing the amount of Beta-Alanine in Pulse in order to provide balance to this new formula, Alpha GPC, as explained even on Legion’s own website, increases the activity of a chemical in the brain known as acetylcholine, which is used by nerves to communicate with each other, and provides the brain with glycerophosphate, which can improve its health and function. This therefore carries over into:

  • Increase in Growth Hormone Levels
  • Increased Power Output
  • Decrease in age related cognitive decline

Caffeine Dosage

If you’re reading this then you certainly don’t need me or even Mike Matthews to inform you that Caffeine can increase alertness as well as increase the amount of energy your body burns throughout the day. But did you know that the 350mgs found in one scoop of Pulse is actually 20mgs over what’s found in a Starbucks grande? That part I learned from Legion’s website!

That’s personally the most caffeine I’ve ever ingested in any preworkout I’ve ever tried. So is it really necessary? I’d personally say it depends on individual preferences and needs such as your performance goals, the time of day you’re training and whether or not you suffer from anxiety. While some preworkout labels recommend you don’t take anything past a scoop, Pulse recommends that you take two scoops if you know your training is to last more than an hour. That’s 700mgs of Caffeine.

However, the generous dosage of L-Theanine evens out the playing field smoothly, reducing the mental stress that would result from the fight or flight response caffeine usually agitates. Having said that here are a few of the noticeable aspects of Pulse I’ve personally experienced since I began using it in the fall of 2018:

  • Increased Mood – after a long, stressful day of working with kids, followed by a long commute home, avoiding people and hitting the bed are all that matter. But within minutes of taking Pulse, and especially thanks to the 350mg of L-Theanine, I’ve felt nothing short of ready to do just about anything anywhere. I might or might not have become quite the chatterbox.
  • Increased Strength and Endurance – With feeling tired comes that feeling of weakness. It’s hard to progress in the weight room if you’re not feeling strong, or awake for that matter, especially if you train at night as I’d normally do. In fact I dare say I’d never be able to hit my first 400lb deadlift in spite of snowy weather last year without Pulse!
  • No Crash – In fact, I still feel nothing short of energetic even hours after I leave the gym. Although this could be a problem if you take more than a scoop and are training at least four hours before your bedtime.

Final Thoughts

Pulse is without question a preworkout I’d recommend to anyone. It’s the real deal, as I mentioned earlier. Its bare bones profile is the very thing that makes it so effective. It’s equal parts energy without the jitters and focus without the stress. If I had to make a recommendation or two, however, I’d suggest trying their stimulant free alternative if you happen to suffer from anxiety or if you cannot avoid training at night and struggle to sleep afterwards.

The Banded Good Morning

Are you experiencing lower back pain from sitting for most of your day? Does your lower back tighten up when you perform certain compound movements, especially in the case of the Bench Press? Based on your situation, are certain exercises or stations such as the Back Extension simply not available or you just want to save time? Then the Banded Good Morning is the exercise you don’t even realize you’ve been looking for!

The Banded Good Morning is essentially the resistance band alternative to the barbell exercise. But here are a few of it’s benefits:

  • It trains and strengthens your entire posterior chain the same way the Barbell Good Morning does.
  • It can develop motor patterns as it pertains to the barbell version of the exercise, which will go along way in guaranteeing your safety if you choose to try the barbell exercise.
  • You can use this as a quick way to warm up your posterior chain before beginning your routine to strengthen your lower back and prevent an injury, or even as an accessory exercise after your main work is finished
  • You can perform these anywhere

Much like Pull Aparts for your shoulders, the Banded Good Morning can be performed in the gym or even in your own home. All you need is a mini resistance band or light resistance band:

  1. Place a single layer of a mini or a light resistance band directly underneath the middle of your feet.
  2. With your knees slightly bent, bend over in order to bring the remaining layer around and behind your neck.
  3. There should be two layers, one on each side of you. Make sure to retract your scapula and hold on to the band in as low a position on the band as possible, or wherever you feel comfortable.
  4. With your knees slightly bent, slowly bring your hips back.
  5. Maintain a neutral spine while bringing your spine as close to perpendicular to the floor as possible until you begin to feel tension in your hamstrings.
  6. Squeeze your glutes and bring yourself back to the starting position.

Tips

  • Make sure to keep your head up, your eyes looking in front of you as you descend towards the floor. This will ensure your spine stays neutral during this portion of the movement.
  • If you’re lanky like I am or are simply tall, be sure to point your toes out either 30 degrees or enough that you feel your glutes tightening. Us long legged lifters have to much slack in the form of our hamstrings; and that one small tweak makes all the difference in making sure your glutes and hamstrings are activated and can feel the movement. I therefore also recommend positioning your feet outward when you deadlift for the same reason. Don’t forget that exercise is equal parts technique and feel.

20 Rep Squats For Big Legs!

As mentioned in my last article, gyms may or may not be opening again depending on where you live. In fact, I might’ve even offered a very basic routine for those of you who are preparing to head back to the weight room with the goal of rebuilding your very strength foundation. But there’s always more than one way to skin a cat, and just maybe that previous routine might not be the most exciting way to help you grow. Maybe you don’t need or want to do deadlifts based on your goals. So this old school routine is for the bodybuilders out there!

Brawn, 3rd Edition: McRobert, Stuart: 9789963916313: Amazon.com: Books

The 20 Rep Squat Routine

I first heard about the 20 Rep Squat Routine in Stuart McRobert’s classic Hardgainer bible, Brawn. The Squat alone is stressed to the max in McRobert’s book. Here are a few reasons why this routine is so revered:

  • It’s basic: Most variations of this routine are full body routines. And for the most part, they consist of solely compound exercises. And as I’ve said numerous times, there’s no better way to get more bang for your buck than full body routines consisting of compound movements.
  • Real Cardio: it’s no secret that the Squat is the exercise that burns the most calories. But it also increases your heart rate more than any other exercise, which inevitably leads to an increase in your metabolism. Imagine performing a top set of 20 breathing squats – and you’re absolutely taking your time between every single rep. If you don’t feel your heart pounding near the middle of that set you’re doing it wrong.
  • Massive Growth: high reps for legs are far more effective for your quads thanks to the extra growth stimulus it provides. If you stand and walk all day then your legs need extra stimulation to grow. This will without question provide systemic growth for the entire body.
The Complete Gym Encyclopedia!! : TOM PLATZ "The Quadfather" LEG ...
Squatting for high reps gave Tom Platz the single best set of wheels in all of Bodybuilding.

The routine was first addressed in the classic book Super Squats: How To Gain 30 Pounds Of Muscle In Six Weeks, by Randall J. Strossen Ph.D, and was innovated by John McCallum; but according to Stuart McRobert, Iron Man Magazine founder Peary Rader used the 20 Rep Squat Routine in the 1930’s to gain 80 pounds within a year and eventually become a weightlifting champion. Some golden era bodybuilders such as Tom Platz turned his own legs into practical weapons of destruction because he used this approach…or sometimes double!

The Routine

Before I start I must stress that, from my own experience using this routine, this is far more of a mental game than it is a routine. If you’re not focused, you won’t be able to last past the fifteenth rep, especially if you’re new to this.

I’m intentionally providing you an abbreviated version of this routine which can be found in Brawn because I want you to focus on maximum growth stimulus, especially if you’re just starting over or if you identify as a Hardgainer. You will only perform one top set of squats after a few warm up sets. Make sure that your top set is not too hard, but is still challenging, it’s the only way this will work.

There are a few ways to perform this routine. You can perform the following three days a week:

Squat – 1×20 (top set only) immediatley followed by breathing dumbbell pullovers

Bench Press

Bent Over Rows

I’m letting you decide the rep schemes for everything to following the squat. I could easily prescribe 3 set of up to twelve reps; but I feel like this part of the routine should be determined by instinct, especially after a brutal squat set of 20. Also, if you feel like the squat is draining your ability to progress on the bench press, you may precede the squat with the bench press if you need. Also if three days a week proves to be too much, simply perform this twice a week instead

Here’s another version based on a variation I developed in 2011 based on my schedule and recovery time.

Day 1

Squat – 1×20 (top set only) followed by breathing pullovers

Day 2

Bench Press

Chin Ups

Dips

Crunches

This is essentially an upper body/lower body split. But since I’m trying to stress abbreviation for the sake of growth stimulus and recovery, if you can’t get in three days a week due to commitments of any kind, this might be an optimal option.

The first routine in particular should just be performed for six weeks. Any attempt to continue past that could potentially lead to physical and mental burnout.

This is a fantastic routine for beginners all the way to advanced lifters. A recommendation I’ll make right now is to try to squat your bodyweight for a top set of 20. I pulled that one off a year ago and saw great results in not just the size and shape of my quads, but the carryover it provided as an accessory move to my heavy sets during my main squat day as well as my deadlift strength.

Make no mistake, it’s an absolutely brutal routine, but put in the work and you’ll love it!

My References:

McRobert, Stuart. Brawn. Nicosia, CS Publishing, 1991.

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Returning To The Gym? Try This Routine!

Good news for some of us: gyms have already reopened (albeit with a capacity limit) or will be opening soon (my neck of the woods doesn’t have a set date yet)! Let’s face it, though: sure, you may have been doing your best to keep in shape from home, and I’ve even provided a few home training ideas of my own. None of that matters though, once you’ve returned to the iron. The ability to perform multiple bodyweight squats or pushups may help you keep your pump, and may even help you get a little stronger. But unless you were fortunate enough to afford some kind of home gym, your body is deconditioned.

When your body is deconditioned you may have developed anything from muscular imbalances to lack of joint flexibility and especially since we’ve all been working from home, a lack of core stability. So don’t think for one second that you’re going to be able to walk through those doors in dramatic, movie-like fashion and start right where you left off. This is even more important if you’re naturally thin, lanky or tall. Some of you might even have to start over again. There’s a reason why I chose to use that old picture of me from a few years ago as this article’s main picture – I’m one of those people!

Compound Movements

Sick of me talking about this yet? Well this bears more importance now than ever. Because regardless of your interests, and strength levels, full body training with strictly compound movements and a laser sharp focus on large muscle groups will be the way to go for a while. Full body training three times a week will:

  1. Increase Testosterone Production
  2. Boost Fat Loss
  3. Increase Training Frequency
  4. Offer Shorter Training Periods

That last one is the more important than even fat loss. I don’t want you fraternizing with your friends who’re bound to act like they haven’t been in a gym in years. If you were smart enough to keep yourself active during this time away and they only waited for their precious gym to reopen you’re already ahead of them – keep it that way! With that in mind here’s a sample two phase, nine week routine I came up with to help you rebuild your strength base.

Phase 1 (Weeks 1 – 3)

Back Extensions – 3×10 (add weight and/or mini resistance bands when comfortable)

Squat – *5×5

Bench Press – 5×5

Deadlift – 1×5

Phase 2 (Weeks 4 – 6)

Back Extensions – 3×10

Squat – 5×5

Bench Press – 5×5

*The first two sets will be warm ups sets at 60 and 90% of your desired weight.

Chinups/Deadlifts – 5×3/1×5

Phase 3 (Weeks 7 – 9)

Back Extensions – 3×10

Squat – 5×5

Bench Press – 5×5

*The first two sets will be warm ups sets at 60 and 90% of your desired weight.

Chinups/Deadlifts – 5×3/1×5 – Deadlift frequency will now be reduced to once a week

I believe in taking inspiration from things I’ve tried and believe work, and making them into my own. Therefore, this routine borrows from elements of Reg Park’s legendary 5×5 routine and the Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength Routine. For example, a prior wrist injury makes it diffucult for me to perform Powers Cleans, as Starting Strength prescribes in Phase 2 of their routine. On the other hand, I do not believe in performing three fixed Deadlift sets via Reg Park’s routine, because my back was getting very tired near the end and I was very close to hurting myself. So one main set it is!

Once you get to Phase Two of this routine, you’ll alternated between Chinups and Deadlifts. So if you perform Chinups on Monday, Deadlifts on Wednesday and Chinups again on Friday, you’ll begin the next week with Deadlifts and so on. This provides your lower back a chance to recover as this is a linear program. How you increase the weight per session/per week is up to you.

So if you think you can make 20lb jumps on the Deadlift for a while, then by all means go ahead! But just be mindful that muscle memory will not help you so much after such a long layaway, no need to rush just to get back to where you were before March. You can do so without getting hurt! In fact, by the time we get to Phase 3 of this routine, I want you to reduce your Deadlift frequency even more to even once a week. This will give you time to let your lower back recover by either performing chin ups twice a week so you can build up your upper body, or you can even just finish up after you finish benching.

Use rest days to foam roll, stretching or even do some sort of conditioning, whether it be hill sprints, burpees, or whatever may work for you. Have you been taking walks everyday since the lockdown began? Keep walking. Keep your heartrate up!