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5 Ways to Improve Your Conditioning!

I’ve never been a huge fan of the word cardio.  Not because I don’t like cardio but more so because of the stigma attached to it.

When I hear the word cardio, I automatically think of people sitting on a recumbant bike pedaling away while reading the latest issue of People magazine.

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Training and Life Lessons From the Last 15 Years – Part 2

I’ve got a few more things I’d like to share with you about my time in fitness industry.  If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, I strongly suggest you do, there’s some good shit in there!

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9 Ways to Break Through Stubborn Training Plateaus!

So it’s Monday and it’s bench day – naturally.  You’re happier than a 9 year old boy at Disneyland.  You get to the gym and immediately head over to your favorite bench.  You feel pretty good and you think today could finally be the day you set a new record.  You start with a couple of light warm up sets to get the juices flowing before you start to add weight to the bar.

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What I Learned from the 2015 Crossfit Open…

The 2015 Crossfit Open is officially over and was it ever an eye opener! The competition was fierce and the workouts were humbling to say the least. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Crossfit Open, it’s a worldwide competition to find the fittest man and woman on Earth (believe it or not, there is no other contest to determine this).  It’s a 3 stage process that includes the Open, Regionals, and then the Crossfit Games.

I’ve been competing in the Open since it’s inception in 2011.  As a fitness professional who is passionate about training and always enjoyed some good, healthy competition, this was and still is a natural fit for me.  I know there’s a lot of pundits out there that turn their nose up at Crossfit, but if Crossfit can get over 200,000 people worldwide to participate in this thing they must be doing something right.  Any fitness enthusiast who appreciates elite athletic performances should take a closer look at what is happening in the Crossfit community.  There were some absolutely mind-blowing performances during this year’s Open that would make even Stevie Wonder do a double take!

The Open is a 5 week process that consists of 5 different workouts with one workout being performed each week.  Each workout presented a different challenge and targeted different aspects of one’s overall fitness.  Absolute strength, relative strength, muscular endurance, and aerobic/anaerobic conditioning are some of the main elements that are tested across various exercises and time domains (i.e. long workouts vs. short workouts).  As someone who enjoys being challenged and always looking for different ways to get the best results, I was able to learn quite a few lessons from this year’s Open.

Here’s what I learned from each workout:

Workout 15.1/15a – For the first time ever in the history of the Open, there was a 2 part workout. Part 1 (15.1), being a traditional 9 minute AMRAP (as many rounds/reps as possible) of 15 toes to bar/10 deadlifts (115#)/5 snatch (115#) followed immediately by 15.2 – 6 minutes to establish a 1RM clean and jerk.

15.1 was a true test of core strength and muscular endurance with toes to bar being the limiting factor in this workout.  You needed to be able to perform this exercise in high volume if you wanted to separate yourself from the rest of the field (assuming you had no issue with 115# deadlifts and snatches).  The ability to move one’s body through this range of motion at high intensity requires a degree of core strength that no amount of situps or crunches could ever duplicate.  For all you meatheads out there, add this exercise to your repertoire to build a titanium core.

15.1a was curveball to say the least.  Traditional thinking would lead anyone to believe that testing a 1Rm max under a state of fatigue would be completely ridiculous.  How can anyone expect to lift anything close to their max if they’ve just completely exhausted themselves with 9 minutes of some crazy bodyweight/barbell complex?  The truth of the matter is that most participants were able to hit 90%,  if not more, of their 1RM – myself included.  Whether it’s a combination of adrenaline from being in a competitive environment and conditioning your body to do anything at any given time, maximal strength can still be expressed under a reasonable amount of fatigue.  In no domain other than Crossfit would this type of performance ever be revealed.  Who says strength needs to come before conditioning?

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Workout 15.2 – This workout was a repeat from 2014 that included a challenging couplet of overhead squats and chest to bar pullups.  You had 3 minutes to complete 2 rounds of 10 overhead squats (95#) and 10 chest to bar pullups, the next 3 minutes you to had complete 2 rounds of 12 reps of each movement and the rep scheme kept increasing by 2 reps until you could not  complete the reps within the 3 minute period.

Can you say “Pullup City!” This workout definitely epitomizes Crossfit with its high demand for pullup capacity.  Kipping or butterfly pullups go without saying if you expected to do well in this workout.  Much like 15.1, the barbell movement was not the limiting factor unless you really struggle with overhead squats.

There’s always been a lot of debate over the value of kipping and butterfly pullups. Here’s the deal, if you want to do more work in less time then kipping/butterflying is a must.  If you simply want to get strong and build more muscle then you can get by without ever learning to kip or butterfly.  Having said that, the ability to kip or butterfly can help you squeeze out a few extra reps if you are working to failure on any given set.  This will lead to more time under tension putting greater stress on your lats, biceps and forearms which can ultimately lead to increases in strength and muscle mass.

Making sure you have a solid base of strict pullup strength is key before progressing to kipping or butterfly in order to reduce the risk of shoulder injuries.  Kipping/butterfly pullups also make a traditionally strength based exercise more metabolic because of the speed and volume that they can be performed.  This movement definitely isn’t for everyone, but for the stronger, more athletic gym rats this exercise will definitely add shock value to your training.

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Workout 15.3 – This was a workout that separated the men from the boys.  For the first time, there was a workout that started with muscle ups.  It was a 14 minute AMRAP of 7 muscle ups/50 wall balls/100 double unders.

High skill gymnastics, muscular endurance, and aerobic capacity were put to the test on this one.  Being technically proficient in all 3 movements was important as there was a small degree of “interference” in this workout.  Interference is when the same muscle groups are being used across multiple movements.  In traditional strength and conditioning workouts, this could be referred to as “pre-exhaustion,” or “contrast training” and has many benefits but in Crossfit workouts, this is suicide.  Being efficient would reduce the amount of energy used and muscle fatigue throughout the workout.  There was no heavy barbell in this workout so absolute strength was not a factor.

The ability to perform high skill movements at a steady yet fast pace are commendable feats of human performance.  This workout really gave new meaning to energy system training.

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Workout 15.4 – Yet another test of high skill bodyweight exercise in this couplet of handstand pushups and power cleans.  This 8 minute AMRAP looked something like this:

3 handstand pushups

3 power cleans (185#)

6 handstand pushups

3 power cleans (185#)

9 handstand pushups

3 power cleans (185#)

12 handstand pushups

6 power cleans (185#)

15 handstand pushups

6 power cleans (185#)

18 handstand pushups

6 power cleans (185#)

etc

In the world of Crossfit, the handstand pushup is the new pushup.  This workout was a great test and really pointed out my weakness (well one of them at least).  The power cleans were moderately heavy but again not the limiting factor in this workout.  I’m not quite sure if there is any direct substitute for the handstand pushup as it presents its own unique set of challenges.  Just do more handstand pushups I suppose.

One thing is for sure, no amount of shoulder pressing and push pressing can prepare you for the stability and strength required in the handstand pushup.

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Workout 15.5 – No Crossfit competition is complete without the infamous thruster.  In the grand finale, we had a fairly straightforward yet lethal couplet of rowing and thrusters.  For time: 27/21/15/9 row for calories/95# thrusters.

Nothing crazy here, just go hard and fight through the pain.  I’ve always said the thruster is pound for pound the toughest barbell exercise and is utterly destructive when paired with anything.  In a true test of grit and pain tolerance, this workout symbolizes what people fear most about Crossfit.  “A wolf in sheep’s clothing” if you will, this workout left the biggest, strongest and baddest flat on their backs.

[youtube id=”S_1ctfuSYfc”]

After this thorough analysis, there are a few major areas that I need to address to have greater success in the future including:

Shoulder mobility – I’ve always had strong and stable shoulders however, I’ve never had the greatest shoulder mobility, specifically external rotation.  This has always hindered my thrusters and clean and jerks.  A long and concerted effort is needed to improve this and will greatly enhance my movement efficiency.

Muscular endurance – There have been many cases during workouts where my muscles will give up before my lungs.  A combination of muscle stiffness and larger muscles makes it difficult for them to work for extended periods of time.  Handstand pushups and chest to bar pullups were a perfect example of this.  I do lots of mobility work but more is needed along with some soft tissue work to break down my sticky muscle fibers.

Lose weight – I’m fortunate that my weight does not fluctuate too much throughout the year (210lbs) but my ability to pack on muscle easily doesn’t work in my favor so much when it comes to high volume bodyweight exercises like muscle ups and handstand pushups.  To be more competitive, I’m going to need to shed a few pounds of muscle.  Time to dust off my running shoes and start jogging!

Overtraining – 3 out of the last 5 years, I’ve come down with a cold either in the first or second week of the Open.  It could be purely coincidence, the time of year, or possibly that my body was in an overtrained state that was made vulnerable through intense competition.  In the future, I need to keep a closer eye on my training volume and intensity leading up to the Open to ensure adequate recovery.  There’s nothing more frustrating than to train hard all year only to have your body break down right when you need it most.

Pacing – Believe it or not, Crossfit workouts require a lot of strategy and pacing to be successful.  Very rarely is it like a drag race where you just put your foot on the gas and hope your engine doesn’t explode before you cross the finish line.  Over the years, I’ve learned how to pace myself better through workouts but this is always an area that can be improved by getting to really understand the limits of my body.

Programming – The most successful people always have someone to model themselves after.  The best athletes have coaches to guide and monitor their progress.  I’ve always taken things from various coaches and made it my own and I’ve had reasonable success. The problem is, it’s too easy to systematically leave gaping holes in my training.   I would like to see how my performance would change if I follow some other successful programming.  Hey, even the best barber needs to get his hair cut by someone else, right?

The fitness game is constantly evolving and the limits of human performance are continually being stretched to new thresholds each and every day.  As someone who tries to maintain a panoramic view of the fitness industry, Crossfit has done a bang up job of getting more people off their asses and training with some intensity while defying what we think we are physically capable of.   I know my training regimen over the next few months will be inspired by my experience in this year’s Open.  With nothing to lose and everything to gain, I’m excited to see how the next few months shake out. “Do more work in less time.”  I’m still shockingly impressed by the genius of this concept.

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Fitness Finishers: 7 Lethal Finishers to Get You Shredded!

Growing up, I was a big wrestling fan, I mean huge!  Macho Man Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, you name it and I was all about it.  I lived to see all of my favorite stars go head to head and beat the snot out of each other (yes, I knew it was fake even back then).  But, what I loved most was watching the way these guys would end their matches.  There was always something to look forward to, a special move that would leave their opponent out for the count – a FINISHER.

This was something that always made the matches exciting and gave everyone something to look forward to.  It was what made each wrestler unique and notorious all at the same time.

You’re probably thinking “what does all this have to do with fitness?”  Two reasons actually.  First, I just really liked wrestling as a kid and I thought I’d make that mainstream information.  Second, the most electrifying and devastating part of a well programmed workout is also known as a finisher.

RandySavageHulkHogan

wrestling sure was good back in the day!

Depending on who you talk to, the finisher may be the most dreaded or the most welcomed portion of a workout. There are a few characteristics that make a finisher truly effective:

  • Highly metabolic – your conditioning is definitely put to the test
  • Includes a variety of compound movements – the more muscles working the better
  • 5-15 minutes long – long enough to do damage but not so long that intensity is compromised
  • You’re spent – it’s called a finisher for a reason

The primary objective of any good finisher is to:

  • Increase metabolic conditioning – both aerobic and anaerobic systems will be targeted
  • Burn more fat in less time – higher intensity yields greater fat burning potential
  • Preserve muscle mass – compound movements help to maintain lean muscle
  • Make workouts more challenging and exciting – beats sitting on a treadmill for an hour

The sky’s the limit when it comes to putting together killer finishers.  The key things to keep in mind are your current fitness level, exercise selection, and how much you’re willing to suffer!  It should go without saying that intensity is definitely the name of the game here.

Over the years, I’ve definitely put myself as well as others through some pretty epic workouts.  However, there are a few spicy ones that come to mind.  Here are 7 finishers that will hopefully one day go down in the hall of fame.

1. “Death by burpees” – Anytime you hear the words “death by” you should be afraid….. very afraid.   The “death by” rep scheme is where you perform 1 rep of an exercise, the next minute you do 2 reps and you keep adding one rep every minute until you cannot complete the full rep count within the minute.  It gets intense pretty fast but makes for a great conditioning workout.  Your workout would look like this:

1st minute – 1 burpee

2nd minute – 2 burpees

3rd minute – 3 burpees

4th minute – 4 burpees

etc. until failure.

A good goal would be to get to 15 minutes or more.  Burpees….Never leave home without them.

2.  Thrusters – The thruster is likely the most feared barbell exercise.  It’s potency is not to be underestimated.  This full body exercise will get your heart pumping and send your metabolism into overdrive in no time! Your thruster workout will look like this:

Every minute on the minute for 8 minutes: perform 8 thrusters.

Start on the minute and perform 8 thrusters. The time remaining in the minute is your rest. Repeat for 8 minutes – 64 reps total).

Use a moderate weight that will allow you to complete all the reps in the allotted time.

Sounds simple enough, but the short rest periods will catch up to you pretty fast leaving you gasping for air and drenched in sweat in a mere 8 minutes!

3. Row 100 calories for time – Rowing sucks.  But it delivers one hell of a workout.

Fellas aim for 5 minutes or less.

Ladies aim for 6:20 or less.

Things to remember:

  • Maintain long and powerful strokes.
  • Don’t go out too hard from the start.
  • Keep your breathing controlled.
  • Try keep a consistent pace.
  • Save some gas for the final 20 calories.

3.  Wall/balls and double unders – These two exercises were made popular by Crossfit and for good reason – they will humble even the biggest and strongest specimens on the planet.  The combination of throwing a medicine ball to a 10ft target paired with a high skill conditioning exercise like double unders will serve up an extra large can of whoop ass! Your workout will look like this:

In 10 minutes, complete as many rounds and reps of:

1a. 15 wall/balls

1b. 30 double unders

(men use a 20lb ball/women use a 14lb ball)

Aim for 6 full rounds or more.

Things to remember:

  • Try to keep a steady pace for the entire 10 minutes.
  • Break up the wall/balls early to prevent “redlining” and taking too many long breaks.
  • Stay relaxed and don’t get too frantic with your double unders.

Wallballs

Tombstone_Piledriver

not sure what’s worse, wall/balls and double unders or a tombstone piledriver

4.  Box jumps and pushups – These are two great body weight exercises that make for an effective full body workout.  Your workout will look like this:

1a.  Box jumps 21/18/15/12/9/6/3

1b.  Pushups    21/18/15/12/9/6/3

You can approach this workout in 2 ways:

  1. Try to keep all sets of pushups and box jumps unbroken and rest 45-60 seconds between sets (rest only after you’ve completed a set of box jumps and pushups).
  2.  Complete the entire rep scheme as fast as possible.

The first option may be better for beginner to intermediate lifters and the second option will definitely challenge advanced lifters.  Either way, you’re gonna get a fantastic workout.

5.  Dumbell snatches and split jumps –  All you need is a dumbell and some heart for this little ditty.  Your workout will look like this:

1a.  Dumbell snatch 5ea/6ea/7ea/8ea/9ea/10ea arm

1b.  Split jumps 5ea/6ea/7ea/8ea/9ea/10ea leg

Again, you can either do unbroken sets with short rest periods (45-60secs) or complete the entire rep scheme as fast as possible.  Choose a weight for the dumbell snatch that is challenging to do 5-6 reps with and use that weight for the entire workout.

dumbbell-snatch-25-of-your-body-weight

sometimes a single dumbbell is more than enough…

Things to remember:

  • Make sure you get full range of motion with your split jumps (back knee touches the ground and full extension of knees and hips in the air).
  • Make sure you get full range of motion with your dumbell snatches (dumbell touches the ground at the bottom and arm and legs fully extended at the top).

6. Clean and Jerk/Back Squat Complex – There’s nothing like a good barbell complex to put hair on your chest (or give you that bikini body if you’re a lady).  Disputably the most effective way to burn calories and hence burn fat, barbell complexes are must if you’re looking to get shredded.  Your workout will look like this:

1a.  Clean and jerk 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8

1b.  Back Squats     1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8

Use the same weight for both the clean and jerk and the back squat.  The limiting factor in this workout will be the clean and jerk so use a weight that you can clean and jerk comfortably 4-5 times.

Try to perform unbroken sets with short rest periods (45-60secs) or complete the entire rep scheme as fast as possible.  Get ready to sweat, this one’s gonna cook.

7.  Kettlebell swings and stairs – Nothing fancy here, just good old fashioned work.  Sometimes keeping it simple is the most effective way to go.  Your workout will look like this:

1a.  Stairs              3/4/5/4/3

1b.  KB Swings 15/15/15/15/15

Fellas try a 24kg kettlebell.

Ladies try a 16kg kettlebell.

Depending on your fitness level and mobility, you can either use the Russian or American swing.  For the more advanced lifter with no injuries, you can use the American swing. For beginners or anyone with shoulder or lower back issues, the Russian swing will be a safer option.

Annie-Thorsdottir-KB-Swing

the American swing definitely packs a punch!

Try to perform unbroken sets with short rest periods (45-60secs) or complete the entire rep scheme as fast as possible.

If you don’t have access to a staircase, you can do shuttle runs instead (i.e. 50/75/100/75/50 meter shuttle runs).

We all want to get the best results in the least amount of time possible but unfortunately that means you’re going to have to endure a little pain and suffering to get there.  It’ll be all worth it when you have herculean strength and a body that would have given the Ultimate Warrior a run for his money.

ultimate-warrior-2

rest in peace Warrior!

What other exercises do you like to use for finishers? Drop a comment below!

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How to Burn Fat – The Definitive Guide…

Training in essence is quite simple – training objectives that is.  Let’s be honest, most people fall into one of two major training categories – fat loss and muscle building.  Of course, there are other goals such as strength, work capacity, endurance and things like that, but most of us are either trying to achieve some combination of fat loss and increased muscle mass.

Today, we’re going to look specifically at fat loss and the most effective ways to shed those dreaded jiggly bits.  Notice how I used the term fat loss and not weight loss?  The problem isn’t weight, it’s fat!  Just because you lose weight doesn’t mean you’re any better off than you were before.  The idea is to improve your overall body composition to become healthier, stronger, and fitter overall.  Achieving this takes a little more than simply going on a cabbage soup diet and riding the elliptical for 2 hours a day.

What it comes down to is being smart and strategic with both your training and nutrition. If you’ve been training for any length of time whatsoever then you’ve probably made a few mistakes along the way including:

  • long, monotonous cardio sessions at the gym
  • crash dieting only to gain back the weight you lost and then some
  • switching from weight training to cardio exclusively
  • using light weights and high reps to try and get ripped
  • drastically cutting your calories
  • endless ab workouts that still leave you with a flabby belly
  • training 7 days/week

It’s all good though, making mistakes is part of the training process.  Learning from them is what’s going to take you to the next level.  Now let’s get down to business.

There are many ways to achieve great results but I’m going to outline some of the most effective methods that will burn fat AND preserve muscle mass.  That’s right, you have to be able to keep your hard earned muscle in the process otherwise what’s the point? Unless you just want to be skinny fat and have the strength of a 10 year old boy then you better listen up.

Here are some proven methods to burn fat in a SENSIBLE and SUSTAINABLE fashion:

1. Lift – Most people that want to lose fat will usually decide to take up jogging or some other cardio activity first.  Not the best move. The first step to burning fat is to actually build muscle and the only way to do that is to lift.  Studies have shown that people who weight train exclusively lose more fat than people that do aerobic exercise exclusively. Muscle is the engine that burns all fuel, the more you have the easier it is to burn fat.

2. Use big lifts – Once you’ve decided to start jacking weights, you’ve got to make sure you’re using the most effective exercises and those are the big compound lifts.  Exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses, and chinups use lots of muscle groups and elicit the greatest metabolic response compared to isolation exercises.

46-arnold-schwarzenegger-leg-squat

lift big to get lean

3. Interval train – There are numerous studies that point to the effectiveness of interval training.  Methods such as HIIT (high intensity interval training) and tabata are prime examples of how better results can be achieved in a fraction of the time.  As opposed to steady state cardio, interval training forces you to work at higher intensity causing you to burn more fat while preserving lean muscle tissue.  Greater improvements in aerobic conditioning have also been shown with interval training versus traditional cardio.  If you’re pressed for time and want a killer workout, give some of these firebreathers a try:

  • treadmill – 1min on/1min off x 8 @ 15% incline
  • sled pushes – 40 meters x 10 (60-90sec rest between rounds)
  • burpees – 30 seconds on/30 seconds off x 8

froningsled

sled pushes = intensity!

4.  Do steady state cardio after interval training – Now I know I just said that steady state cardio is inferior to interval training but all forms of exercise have value depending on how and when they’re used.  Studies have shown that interval training helps to effectively release fat cells into the bloodstream to be used for energy.  However, sometimes not all of those fat cells get used.  Something as simple as 10-15 minutes of steady state cardio after a hard session of intervals can be an effective way to pick up the leftovers and burn even more fat.  Think of this as the icing on the cake.

5. Fasted cardio – The idea here is to perform your cardio sessions first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.  This is also when your growth hormone levels are highest and insulin levels are lowest.  At this time, your body will efficiently use fat for energy.  Both steady state cardio and interval training will be effective at this time.  If you’re not a morning person or accustomed to training on an empty stomach then you may find it hard to workout at your normal intensity levels.  If the quality of your workouts are suffering too much then you may be better off training at other times during the day when your output is higher.  However, this is definitely a great option for those of you who like to get your workouts over and done with first thing in the morning.

6.  Complexes – This is disputably one of the most effective fat burning methods.  Complexes are when you perform a series of compound movements in succession with little to no rest in between each movement.  These complexes can be done with barbells, dumbells, or kettlebells as long as there is sufficient overload.  The overload allows you to burn more calories and maintain strength and muscle mass while you melt the fat off your body.  Here some complexes that never disappoint:

  • barbell complex – 10 hang cleans/10 thrusters, 9 hang cleans/9 thrusters etc… 1 hang clean/1 thruster (rest 60-90 sec between sets)
  • dumbell complex – 10 db squats/8 db bent over rows/6 db push presses x 5 (rest 60-90sec between sets)

When performing complexes, use the same weight for all the movements and keep strict rest periods to keep the intensity high.  The combinations are endless, they key is to go hard to get the best results.

Check out the video below of Rob Orlando crushing the “bear” complex.

[youtube id=”8IQftORtxqk”]

7. Crossfit – Yes, believe it or not, Crossfit is a fantastic way to rev your metabolism and shed some serious fat.  Much like complexes, Crossfit uses a wide variety of functional movements and when performed at high intensity you get one hell of a metabolic stimulus!  The intensity (doing more work in less time) is what makes Crossfit so effective (and controversial).  The proof is in the pudding, all you have to do is look at the physiques of some of the top competitors.  Of course, Crossfit isn’t for everybody but it’s hard to argue some of the tremendous results it delivers.  If you’re looking to spice up your workouts and shock your body, give Crossfit a try.

8.  Train 4-5x per week – Workout frequency is just as important as workout intensity.  To ensure you are getting enough metabolic output, you should be training  4-5 days/week.  This will keep your metabolism elevated and enhance your fat burning efforts.

9.  Keep your workouts under an hour – If burning fat is your number one priority, then your workouts should be shorter and more intense.  No more long, arduous sessions at the gym.  Focus on quality exercises and being efficient with your time.  Full body strength complexes or 15-20mins of strength work followed by 15-20mins of interval training is the way to get things done.

10.  Train explosively – Not enough good things can be said about the benefits of developing power.  Using explosive exercises like sprinting, plyometrics, and Olympic weightlifting are phenomenal for fast twitch muscle fiber development and smoldering fat cells.  To learn more about training for power click here.

powerclean

in the land of strength, power is king..

11. Get plenty of sleep – During sleep, the body has an opportunity to repair itself and set the stage for optimal fat metabolism.  Growth hormone and testosterone levels increase during sleep and are vital to burning fat.  Keep your hormones and metabolism in check by getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

12.  Eat only when you’re hungry – Sounds simple enough but you’d be surprised how quickly we turn to food to be social or to kill time.  If you listen to your body more and only eat when absolutely necessary, you’d be surprised how much less you’d consume.  I’m not suggesting you starve yourself just simply be more conscious of your intake.

13.  Eat plenty of protein – Adequate protein intake is necessary to preserve lean muscle and will keep you full longer.  This reduces the urge to snack on refined sugars and processed foods. Aim for at least .75-1 gram per pound of bodyweight.

14. Eat healthy fats – That’s right, eating fat will help you to lose fat.  Healthy fats found in foods like fish, avacado, nuts, and eggs don’t spike insulin levels the way refined sugars do.  This means that your body will better use these foods for energy rather than storing them as fat.  Also, these foods contain more vitamins and minerals making them a better food choice overall.

nutsssssss

15. Take caffeine before training – Caffeine has been shown to stimulate the release of fat cells into the bloodstream to be used for energy.  A cup of coffee 30-40 minutes before a workout can be enough to jumpstart your metabolism not to mention provide a nice energy boost before your workout.  If you’re sensitive to caffeine then less potent options like green tea may be more suitable.

16. Keep most of your carb intake around training – It’s important to maintain a reasonable carb intake even when trying to lose fat.  To help fuel your workouts consume some carbs 30-60 minutes before training.  Nothing too heavy, something that digests relatively quick like fruit is a good option.  To maximize recovery, consume fast acting carbs within 30-60 minutes post workout.  Your carb intake can be higher at this time since you are less likely to store excess carbs as fat.  Listen to your body and consume enough carbs to give you the energy you need to train without feeling sluggish or depleted but not so much that you are gaining weight.

17.  Cut calories effectively – If you’re the type of person that likes to count calories then you need to make sure you reduce them in a rational manner.  What I mean is that you don’t want to cut your calories too drastically.  If you do, you run the risk of 3 major pitfalls:

  1. slower metabolism  – the body is now burning less fat at any given time.
  2. reduction in lean muscle – the body is now burning muscle instead of fat for energy.
  3. increase in fat – restricted calories can lead to cravings for unhealthy, calorie dense foods that promote an increase in fat.

Don’t cut calories by more than 500 per day to ensure normal metabolic function.  It’s also important to note what calories you are cutting.  For example, you don’t want to reduce your calories from protein too much as they are needed to preserve lean tissue.  Manipulating fat and carb intake may be your best bet depending on what your consumption levels are at currently.

Sensible and sustainable are the key words to take home.  You can definitely use more extreme methods to cut fat but life will be miserable and you’ll most likely gain every single pound back and more.  Training should be enjoyable and rewarding and these methods will ensure it stays that way.

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Words of Wisdom: 41 Fitness Rules to Live By…

Here’s the deal.  If you’re looking for a quick fix, an easy out or some magic pill then this fitness game probably isn’t for you.  If you’re dedicated, open-minded, and enjoy pushing your physical and mental limits, then I’d say you have a fighting chance of not living your entire life as a snot-nosed weakling.

Like any other game, the fitness game has rules (or at least they should be rules, then you could dropkick any fool who tried to break them) that when followed your chances of success increase tenfold.  In other words, the goal is to train hard, get great results and not look like a complete douchebag in the process.

Not to sound like an old man, but with age and experience does come wisdom.  It would be an injustice for me not to pass on the few “pearls” I’ve learned over the years (I’m still learning by the way).

Here are 41 fitness rules to live by:

1. There are NO RULES! – The strongest, fittest and most bad-ass physical specimens walking the face of the earth didn’t get there by following some cookie cutter program in a textbook or magazine.  They got there through trial and error, hard work and discipline, and defying conventional wisdom.  Keeping an open mind and the ability to adapt will keep your training fun and rewarding.

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2. Not all exercise is created equal – If it were, then long walks on the beach would be all we need.  We have to stress our bodies in specific ways to achieve a desired result.  For example, heavy deadlifts and sled pushes produce a drastically different result than a 10km jog.  If you want to be weak and look malnourished then jogging will meet your needs but if you want a body that’s worth a double take, then you’ve got to push weight – on a regular basis.

3. There is no ideal program – You can search high and low trying to find the “perfect” program but it simply doesn’t exist.  What does exist are effective programs that when properly applied produce fantastic results and ineffective programs with no substance that are a complete waste of time.  Anything that forces you to work hard and makes you better than you were yesterday is an ideal program.

4. Compound movement is and always will be king – It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get bigger, stronger or lose fat, the answer is always to use compound exercise.  I’ve yet to see an effective program that didn’t contain a squat, deadlift, press or row, but I have seen a ton of shitty programs filled with curls extensions, and crunches.

5.  Universal machines are expensive but provide little value –   Pick up a dumbbell or a barbell and learn how to move weight through natural ranges of motion that aren’t predetermined by a machine.  No one’s ever asked you what your max “pec deck” is.

6. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” – Advancements in technology has changed the way we communicate and live our lives.  In some ways better and in some ways worse.  The abundance of choice we have nowadays has distracted us with useless “wants” however the best results are still achieved when we fulfill our basic “needs.”  Needs such as our primal need for a healthy diet and regular exercise.  A stalk of broccoli was good for you 50 years ago and it still will be 50 years from now much like a chin-up or a lunge.  We’ll never outgrow the basics.

7. The “Big 3” will never go out of style – To further elaborate on #6, the big 3 (squat, bench, and deadlift) and its variations are the foundation of almost any good strength and conditioning program.  Become a master of these exercises and everything else is gravy.

8. Nothing great was ever achieved without intensity – Whether your goal is strength, hypertrophy, work capacity, or fat loss, training at high intensity is undeniably the way to go. Shorter rest periods, more time under tension, steeper inclines, and higher speeds are just a few ways to get to the promise land faster.

9.  No program will work unless you do – It’s not enough to just show up.  You have to put in work and lots of it.  The world’s greatest program is useless without effort.

10. Reserve low intensity cardio for active recovery – A light jog, a long walk or a bike ride are great ways to flush out toxins and keep your muscles loose until it’s time to hit it hard again.

11. Don’t neglect accessory work – Use unilateral exercises to address imbalances and weaknesses.  These exercises aren’t as glamorous as the big lifts but are necessary for proper activation, stability, and strength.  Exercises like single leg deadlifts and single leg glute bridges are an excellent choice.

12.  You don’t always have to go heavy to get stronger – Let me clarify.  You don’t need to always train in the 90% or above range to increase your strength.  Just the other day, I hit a 455lb back squat and I haven’t put more than 400lbs on my back in over 5 years! Don’t underestimate the strength that can be developed at higher rep ranges.  Good quality sets in the 5-15 rep range can produce some shocking results.  It will also be easier on your joints in the long run.

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13.  Don’t neglect your overhead strength – Lifting weight over your head is an often under trained movement pattern.  Like I mentioned earlier, it’s important to train through all major planes of motion to avoid muscular imbalances.  Strong, healthy shoulders will allow you to get more out exercises like benching and chin-ups.

14. Maintain healthy thoracic mobility – Overhead strength does not exist without sufficient thoracic mobility.  Many of you have been unlucky enough to have a job where you sit at a desk all day.  This absolutely destroys your posture and inhibits a lot of major movement patterns including overhead range of motion.  Work on your thoracic mobility to avoid neck and shoulder problems.

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thoracic mobility is critical for overhead movements

15. Lifting shoes can save you a lot of pain and frustration – If you have poor ankle mobility (i.e. you have trouble squatting to full depth and keeping your heels on the ground) then Olympic lifting shoes may be the answer to your problems.  Not to mention, they just look cool.

16.  Hang cleans and hang snatches are the way to go – Olympic lifts performed from the “hang” position are excellent for beginner to intermediate lifters. There’s less room for error (i.e. early arm bending and the bar coming away from the body) and promotes explosive triple extension (hips, knees, and ankles extend simultaneously).  These movements are simply too good to pass up.

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keeping the bar close to the body is essential in Olympic lifting

17.  Strength can solve most problems – Want to run faster? Jump higher? Want a bigger chest and shoulders? 9 times out of 10 the answer is to simply get stronger.  The more weight you can lift, the more force you can produce and the more you can stimulate your muscles to grow.

18.  Women who look best in yoga pants don’t do yoga – Random thought but the irony was too good not to mention it.

19.  Ladies, your ideal body is just a few squats and deadlifts away – Your fat loss efforts will be more successful under the bar than on an elliptical machine.

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20. For beginners, training is a sacrifice, for veterans it’s a way of life.

21. Bodybuilding is not for the general public – Bodybuilding works but the workouts are too long and boring for the average Joe to stay committed long enough to get any results.

22.  Less is more – Training doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective.  In fact, there are a relatively small amount of movements worth doing on a regular basis so don’t waste your time with all the “fluff.”

“It’s not daily increase but decrease – hack away the unessential!” – Bruce Lee

23.  The “ideal” body can be achieved with basic strength training, high intensity conditioning, a high protein diet and limited consumption of processed foods PERIOD.

24. Yoga’s greatest value is in active recovery – In the strength and conditioning world, flexibility and mobility are often overlooked and yoga is a great way to address this.

25. Exercise is the best preventative medicine on the planet – The only catch is that it’s hard work and you have to do it regularly.

26.  The secret is to gain momentum – Newton’s Law of Inertia can be applied to fitness as well.  It basically states that it takes less force to keep an object in motion than it does to put it in motion in the first place.  In other words, the hardest part about training is to simply get off of the couch and get started.  Once you’ve established the habit (which for most takes about 6 weeks) and gained some momentum, it’s far easier to stay committed.

27. Overtraining is like the moon – We know it exists, very few have experienced it and it’s so far away that it’s not something the average Joe needs to be concerned about.

28.  Lifting weights is the new prescription medication – Decreasing testosterone levels? High blood sugar? Low bone density? Lift.

29.  Lifting weights fast is the new cardio – Barbell and dumbbell complexes, and intervals using big lifts are the way to shed fat and build a strong set of lungs.

30. If it comes from European descent it’s a good thing – i.e. TURKISH get-ups, BULGARIAN split squats, ROMANIAN deadlifts, RUSSIAN kettlebell swings…

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bulgarian split squats aren’t glamorous but they work!

31.  Develop your posterior chain – The best way to develop strength, power, and athleticism is to develop your hip extensors (glutes, hamstrings, and lower back).  Kettlebell swings, sled pushes, and deadlifts are a great start.  Well developed glutes and hamstrings make for an admirable physique that is more resistant to injury not to mention you’ll be as strong as an ox.

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32.  Train your weaknesses – If you suck at an exercise do it at least once a week.  Either at low intensity or high intensity just do it.  Doing what you’re already good at might feel good but it doesn’t make you any better.

33.  A weight vest is a great investment – Another random thought but it’s such a great training tool.

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sky’s the limit with a weight vest!

34. Variety is key but don’t stray too far from the basics – Switching up grips, loading (front vs back), and tempos are easy ways to keep the body guessing.  However, don’t get so creative that the objective of the exercise is completely lost.

35.  Don’t neglect your conditioning – 5-10 minutes of a high intensity finisher at the end your workouts is enough to maintain a good level of conditioning.  It’s far easier to stay lean year round than it is to try and lose 20lbs every summer.

36.  The “listen to your body” conundrum – Veterans need to listen to their bodies more and learn how to take their foot off the gas sometimes and rookies need to learn how to push through discomfort and understand that pain is only temporary.

37.  Compliment your barbell work with high rep bodyweight exercises – Absolute and relative strength are the foundation of a well rounded fitness program.  For every bench press there’s a pull-up, for every deadlift there’s a push up.  You get the picture.

38. Dan John put it nicely – “Put weight overhead. Pick it up off the ground. Carry weight for time or distance. The body is one piece.”  If you’re doing all of these things on a regular basis it’s pretty hard to lose.

39. Crossfit is hard not dangerous – It’s tough, it’s really tough but that’s what makes it so appealing.  If we never pushed the boundaries, no one would’ve ever climbed Mt. Everest and we never would’ve put a man on the moon.  Not all of us are cut out to test the limits of the human body but that doesn’t mean those limits shouldn’t be tested.

40. Veterans are intrinsically motivated and don’t need a reason to push themselves. Rookies are extrinsically motivated and need to book a tropical vacation before they start to take things seriously.

41.  Can’t we all just get along – Bodybuilders, powerlifters, Crossfitters, and anyone that just enjoys being in great shape all share a passion for training.  It makes no sense to judge and ridicule someone else’s training methods if they are achieving their goals and having a good time in the process.  Let’s be honest, everyone steals ideas from everyone so it’s hypocritical to condemn another “system” of training. Bodybuilders use powerlifting methods, Strongmen use bodybuilding methods, and Crossfitters use everything in between so I don’t see what all the fuss is about.  The people that complain about how unhealthy they are but are too lazy to do anything about it are the ones that should be worried.  The rest of us that put in work day in and day out should be open to new ideas and know that there is more than one way to workout.

I hope you enjoyed these few pearls of wisdom, I’m sure I’ll have more for you as time goes on.  Until then, train hard and train with a purpose.

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97 Ways to Stop Being Average and Become an Alpha Dog!!

Are you an average Joe? Are you someone that just goes through the motions just to get shit over with? Do you think you have more to offer but don’t know how to get out of your funk? Not to worry, you’re not alone.  Only a very small percentage of people wake up in the morning excited to start their day.  It’s time to be one of those people.

You can break out of your shell and live life by your own means by changing your habits and the way you think.  It’s time for you to become a leader, someone who exudes confidence, someone who never gives up until they achieve success.  To quote Eric Thomas “it’s time to be allergic to average!”

Here are 97 ways to step your game up and become an alpha dog.

1. Pay your bills ON TIME and IN FULL – Life is way less stressful without debt.

2. Do something that scares you – Facing your fears builds character.

3. Stop hitting the snooze button – It screws up more than your sleep cycle.

4. Eat more vegetables – Even if they’re not organic it’s a step in the right direction.

5. Sweat – Do this regularly, it’s what your body was meant to do.

6. Cut back on sugarFresh fruit is cool but anything you can buy at 7/11 has gotta go.  Besides the taste, the stuff is basically poison.

7.  Stop buying stupid shit – “Too many people are buying things they can’t afford, with money that they don’t have… to impress people that they don’t like!” – Will Smith

8. Lift weights – Muscle breeds confidence.

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9.  Run uphill – Do you want to be strong and powerful or weak and slow?

10. Set goals – It’s OK to have ambition.

11. Set smaller goals – Small victories lead to HUGE victories.

12. Believe in yourself – Believing is seeing. You can only be successful once you allow yourself to be successful.

13.  Learn how to cook – It’s healthier, cheaper and the ladies will love you!

14. “Eat meat, veggies, nuts seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar” – Greg Glassman

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15. Be on time – Punctuality shows you’re organized and that you care.

16. Be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave – Dedication and hard work always beat natural talent in the long run.

17.  Don’t be a hater – Criticizing other people’s goals and achievements is a waste of energy and makes you look like a fool.

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18. Dress to impress – You can never look too good for the occasion. Look professional. Feel professional. Be professional.

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19. Study successful people – The easiest way to be successful is to model the habits and character traits of those more successful than you.

20. Read books – Not magazines or the newspaper. Books.

21.  Go to bed early – 10-11pm at the latest. You’ll feel better and be more productive.

22. Take naps – One of the best ways to maximize recovery and get more out of your day.

23.  Save money – You never know when that “rainy day” will come but when it does you better have an umbrella!

24.  Everything in moderation – Live life and have fun, just know your limits.

25. Learn an Olympic lift – A power clean at the very least. It will work wonders for your fitness.

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26. Sprint – Anyone can jog, sprinting takes real effort.

27. Keep a clean home – It’s true, cleanliness is next to godliness.

28. Don’t believe the hype – Take everything with a grain of salt. Mass media prides itself in telling you what you want to hear.

29. Challenge the status quo – “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm” or going with the flow.

30. Uplift others – Make it your mission to better yourself as well as make others better and the world will be your oyster.

31.  Pursue your passion – Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

32. Build a legacy – Do you want to be remembered for something? We all have talents worth sharing.

33. Learn how to communicate -Life is about building valuable relationships.

34. Be realistic not delusional – It’s OK to dream but don’t get your head stuck in the clouds.

35. Think outside the box – Traditional thinking is what keeps you stuck in your same old routine.

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36. Take responsibility for your current station in life – Take credit when credit is due but have the balls to take the blame when things don’t go your way.

37. Wake up early – No one ever got shit done waking up at 11am.

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38. Be competitive – Find something you care enough about that you want to fight for it.

39. Be a student of the game – The learning never stops. Become a master of your craft. Eat, sleep, and breathe what you do best.

40. Eliminate unnecessary stress – Separate yourself from negative people that will only bring you down.

41. Don’t let other people’s opinions influence you – People will always tell you can’t do something. Mostly because they’re too scared to try themselves or because they just don’t want to see you succeed.

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42. Squat regularly – There isn’t a sport or activity that squatting can’t help.

43. Deadlift regularly – Lifting heavy shit is gratifying.

44. Stay lean all year round – There is something to be said for having a six pack in the dead of winter.

45. Interval train – It hurts way more but it’s totally worth it.

46. Take supplements – Only if you’re not eating like shit then they might have some value.

47. Speak your mind – Get your point across and don’t always be so worried about offending people.

48. Stop and smell the roses – You can’t hustle 24/7.  Every now and then you have to stop and appreciate everything you have.

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49. Work for happiness not money – Money, benefits and “security” sometimes aren’t worth it if it’s sapping your energy and making you miserable.

50. Trying puts you ahead of 90% of people.

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51. Do shit that matters – You’re too busy playing video games, watching TV, or dickin’ around on social media. Find a way to improve your life and the life of someone else.

52. Be confident  – Know your strengths and know your weaknesses. Leverage your strengths and outsource your weaknesses.

53. Be humble – Be grateful for everything you achieve and never forget the struggle to get there.

54. Be content not complacent – Don’t be greedy but don’t be lazy either.

55.  Have an opinion – But don’t be opinionated.  There is more than one way to get shit done.

56. There is no off-season – The hustle is year round.  Training, nutrition, business, life. It’s a lifetime commitment.

JAY-Z VS DRAKE WHO HAS THE BETTER QUOTES HIP HOP LYRICS GOD DAMN HARD HUSTLING HUSTLER WALLPAPER JIPOSHY

57. You can’t please everyone so don’t bother trying.

58. Take risks – They’re opportunities dressed up in disguise.

59. Get rid of useless junk – Declutter your mind and your surroundings.

60. Learn how to dance or play an instrument – Tap into your artistic side, the ladies also love this.

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61. Focus on what’s important – Start each day with your most productive tasks first.

62. Visualize – Every success starts with an idea.

63. Don’t gossip – “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

64.  Don’t hold grudges – Living well is the best revenge.

65. Live within your means but slightly outside of your comfort zone – Be conservative with your spending but liberal with your ambitions.

66. Become an expert listener.

67. Don’t be too proud to get your hands dirty – Everyone’s got to start somewhere and for most of us that’s the bottom.

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68. Take action – Most people love talking about what they “hope” to achieve. It’s the few that actually do something that are remembered.

69.  Laugh – Man, I definitely love a good laugh.  It’s one of life’s greatest medicines.  Find the humor in things especially yourself.

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70. Have only one fear – The fear of being average.

71. Be loyal to your family and friends – Without them you have nothing.

72. Invest in yourself – You are your greatest asset, make it as valuable as possible.

73. Play a sport – Be athletic, build comradery, and learn how to trash talk!

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74. Walk the walk – Take your own advice, nobody likes a hypocrite.

75. Start a business – Even if it’s small and doesn’t make a lot of money it will empower you.

76. Reduce your dairy intake – Like an 80″ TV, it’s not a necessity.

77. Cut the grains – Unless you like feeling bloated all the time.

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79. Be in touch with pop culture – Don’t let it consume your life though.  Kim and Kanye’s life isn’t that amazing.

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80. Learn how to create value – Having the ability to solve people’s problems and improving their lives is the name of the game.

81. Travel – See the world and all it has to offer so you can realize how lucky you really are.

82. Stand up for what you believe in – Have principles and don’t be afraid to stick to them.  There’s already too many yes men in the world.

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83. Don’t discuss religion in public – Controversial.

84. Don’t discuss politics in public – Highly controversial.

85. Don’t discuss Crossfit in public – You’re better off discussing religion or politics…

86. Eat breakfast – Give yourself a fighting chance to have a productive day.

87. Listen to your body – Train hard when you feel good and take your foot off the gas when you’re feeling beat up. You can’t PR everyday.

88.  Eat less snacks – You’re not that hungry, you’re just bored.

89.  Find a good soft tissue specialist(s) – The fitter you get, the more important maintenance becomes. Even a Ferrari needs regular oil changes.

90. Work on your mobility – It’s not glamorous but it needs to be done if you want to train hard and pain free.

91. Try a Crossfit workout – Even if it’s only once, it’s something every fitness enthusiast should experience.

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92. Listen to old school hip hop – It’s just great, feel-good music.

93. Wear Air Jordan’s – They’re timeless and they’re comfy.

94. Never give up – Failure is almost inevitable but that’s what makes the journey so rewarding.

95. Don’t try to “keep up with the Joneses “ – Stay in your lane and run your own race.  Your achievements happen on your schedule not someone else’s.

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96. Read this blog regularly.

97.  Share this with your family and friends.

That’s my rant for today.  I hope these few tidbits help you rise up and get more out of life.

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27 of the Most Ridiculous Health and Fitness Myths Debunked..

Health and fitness is a booming industry and the demand to look, feel and perform better has never been higher.  With that, comes a lot of information and advice; some good, a lot bad, and some down right ridiculous.  This has made it next to impossible to decipher quality information from pure fallacies made up for the sake of telling people what they want to hear.

It’s no wonder so many people struggle with reaching their health and fitness goals; they’re too confused to make any progress! Drink 8 glasses of water per day.  Lift light weights to get ripped and toned.  Crunches are the best ab exercise to get a six pack. These are just a few of the most common myths looming in the fitness industry today.  It’s time for the hard truth and to put some of these myths to rest.  Here are some of the most common and RIDICULOUS  health and fitness myths debunked.

1. You can turn fat into muscle – Muscle and fat are two separate tissues that cannot be converted into one another. Both fat and muscle can be increased or decreased depending on diet and activity levels. Muscle is muscle and fat is fat.

2. Crunches are the best exercise to get a six pack – Getting a six pack is more a product of eating a clean diet and reducing body fat than any ab exercise you do in the gym.  If you want to see your abs, you need to get lean and that starts in the kitchen. Oh, and crunches are a shitty exercise by way.

3. Squats are bad for your knees – If this were true, I don’t think toilets would ever have been invented.  If squats were food, they’d be raw broccoli.  The truth is squats performed incorrectly are bad for your knees.  When done right, its hands down one of the best exercises in the gym.

4. Deadlifts are bad for your back – Another controversial exercise but again the danger lies in having shitty form. If deadlifts were food, they’d be spinach.  It doesn’t get any more functional than being able to pick an object up off the ground.  Another gem of an exercise once you get the right form.

5. Crossfit is dangerous – I love this one.  So is race car driving. So is NFL football. So is downhill skiing. People have suffered far more serious injuries from these activities but there never seems to be any controversy surrounding them.  Crossfit can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t use appropriate progression but the same can be said for learning any athletic activity.  Not exercising for 10 years, eating and drinking excessively, and working a high stress job – THAT’S DANGEROUS!

6. High rep Olympic lifting is dangerous – This method of training is quite popular in the Crossfit community and has got the general public in a complete state of paranoia. Come on people, smoking is dangerous, drinking and driving is dangerous, high rep Olympic lifting is just hard.  Just because something is hard and requires some skill and athleticism doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.  ANY exercise performed for high reps and under a state of fatigue will increase the risk of injury. There is no evidence that high reps are doing the body any harm. In fact, one could argue that it’s having the opposite effect as evidenced by the everyday participation in Crossfit boxes across the globe.

7. You can’t get strong doing Crossfit – Crossfit sure does get a lot of press.  Contrary to popular belief, there is a great deal of strength training in Crossfit. All you have to do is look at the top performers and you’ll see some pretty impressive numbers.  500+ lb deadlifts, 400+ lb squats, and 300+ lb clean and jerks! Most people will train their whole lives and never hit those numbers.

8. You can’t put on muscle doing Crossfit – Last word on Crossfit I promise.  The ability to get big and strong doing Crossfit is definitely in the realm of possibility, it’s all in the programming.  There’s more to it than just endless burpees and kipping pullups. 9 times out of 10, you’re doing something with a barbell and that provides a lot of opportunity to get jacked!  Ironically, most guys that go to the gym are training to hopefully one day have the body of a Crossfitter.

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the real danger lies in standing on the sidelines

9. Lifting weights will make you bulky – If I had a nickel for every time I heard this one I’d already be retired.  The truth is ladies (yes ladies I’m talking to you) you don’t have enough NATURAL testosterone to build muscle mass the way men can.  In fact, lifting weights is the most effective way to  burn fat, increase bone density, and sculpt your body.  The body you want is just a few squats and deadlifts away.

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ladies, there’s no shame is moving some weight!

10. Use lighter weights for toning and getting ripped – Let’s put an end to this “toning” thing right now.  There is no such thing as toning.  You’re either building muscle or you’re not.  Your muscles already have tone, that’s what makes them muscles.  What you’re after is definition and that comes from reducing body fat.  As far as using light weight goes, this does not help you get ripped any faster.  Getting ripped is about getting lean and getting lean is all about what you do in the kitchen regardless of how heavy or light you lift at the gym. In fact, lifting heavy will help you to better preserve your muscle mass as you start to cut weight.

11.  Muscle weighs more than fat – What weighs more, a pound of concrete or a pound of feathers?  Don’t answer that.  Time for a little physics lesson.  Muscle does not actually weigh more than fat, muscle is more DENSE than fat.  Density is the weight of an object relative to its volume.  This means that a pound of muscle is smaller and takes up less space than a pound of fat.  This explains why a 200lb person with 10% body fat looks smaller than a 200lb person with 25% body fat.  Who says you never use physics in real life?

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muscle is more DENSE than fat!

12. Carbs are bad for you – Ridiculous. I’m not even sure when this phobia of carbs even began.  Your body’s main source of energy during intense exercise, GLYCOGEN, comes from carbohydrates.  What’s bad are shitty, processed carbs that provide no nutritional value.  Quality sources from fresh fruits and vegetables are optimal for health and nutritional balance.

13.  You can eat whatever you want as long as you workout – Sorry to break the news, but just because you workout doesn’t give you a free pass to eat whatever you want whenever you want.  In fact, exercise increases your appetite and if you’re making crappy food choices, you could end up putting on excess weight and body fat.  Eating sensibly will actually help you reach your goals faster with less effort in the gym.

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not exactly the ideal post workout meal

13.  Jogging is the best form of cardio – Jogging is certainly the most CONVENIENT form of cardio but hardly the most effective.  Now, it certainly beats sitting on the couch eating a bag of baked Lay’s (at least they’re baked right?) but it’s a far cry from the best form of cardio.  Long distance running can be quite catabolic (muscle wasting) reducing your ability to burn fat and increase the risk of chronic injuries.  Shorter and more intense forms of cardio such as interval training are more effective at increasing cardiovascular endurance, reducing body fat, and preserving lean muscle tissue.

14.  Stretch after you workout so you don’t get sore – There actually isn’t any scientific evidence that stretching reduces muscle soreness. Muscle soreness is actually a product of microtears in the muscle fibers as a result of the stress that was put on them.  Stretching can provide temporary relief of stiffness and increase blood flow but does not reduce the level of soreness experienced after a workout.

16.  Lifting weights makes you slower – If this were true, the strength and conditioning industry would cease to exist.  Name a professional athlete (a good one) that doesn’t do any strength training. You can’t because there aren’t any. Lifting weights is actually one of the most effective ways to improve speed due to increased force production from stronger muscles.  Carrying excess muscle mass can make you slower simply because you have more weight to carry around.  However, an effective strength training program can make you bigger, stronger, AND FASTER!

17. Yoga and Pilates make you strong – If we’re talking about spiritual or emotional strength then maybe, but if we’re talking about good ol’ fashioned strength that allows you to lift heavy shit then it’s a hell no!  Yoga and Pilates have many benefits but strength is not one of them.  Without sufficient overload (resistance on your muscles), it is next to impossible to build any sort of notable strength. Pump some iron if you want to get strong.

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nobody ever got strong from just doing the “downward dog”

18.  Low fat is better for you – Sometimes.  Low fat versions of foods can sometimes be higher in sugar which spikes your insulin levels and will cause you to store more fat.  Eating high quality fats like avocados and fish are better for regulating your blood sugar levels and keeping you lean.  Read food labels carefully and watch out for excess sugar.

19. Milk does a body good – No it doesn’t.  One of the biggest farces in the health industry today.  There is nothing in milk that is a necessity in the diet that can’t be found in other foods.  In fact, most people, with the exception of those from Eastern European descent, are somewhat lactose intolerant.  We are the only species that drinks milk beyond infancy so that should tell you how “vital” it is to our diet.

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20.  Eating late at night will make you fatter – What time of day you eat isn’t as important as the total amount of food you’ve eaten throughout the day.  If you have already met your daily caloric limit then eating late snacks will push you over the edge. The excess calories is what causes you to store fat not eating them late at night.

21. Longer, slower cardio burns more fat – This is only partially true.  When you work at low intensity, a larger percentage of the calories you burn come from fat.  For example, when you are sitting on the couch watching TV, you are burning almost 100% fat! We all know how effective that is don’t we?  Even though you burn a larger percentage of fat at low intensity, the OVERALL calories and fat burned is more at higher intensities.  For example, if you burn 500 calories going for a 45 minute jog and 75% of those calories came from fat, you burned 375 fat calories. However, if you burned 700 calories from 45 minutes of interval training, and 60% of those calories came from fat, you would have burned 420 fat calories. More calories and more fat can be burned at higher intensity and you can preserve more lean muscle tissue.

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hill sprints trump jogging any day of the week

22. Women need to do different exercises than men – If there’s one arena where men and women should be treated equally, it’s in the gym.  What’s good for the dudes is good for the gals.  The only difference between men and women when it comes to training is the adaptation to training. This is due mostly to differences in hormones and the distribution of muscle mass.  High quality exercises will serve both sexes equally well.

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what’s good for him is good for her

23.  Machines are safer than free weights – Universal exercise machines were created to make exercise more convenient not more effective.  They serve more as a marketing tool to attract naive customers to join their gyms.  In fact, if you don’t know what you’re doing, machines can be just as dangerous, if not more, than free weights.  Using improper form and/or too much weight can put you at risk for serious injury. Proper coaching and instruction is the key regardless of the equipment you’re using.

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you can never go wrong with some good ol’ iron

24. Drink 8 glasses of water a day – I’m not sure where this one came from but I do admire the intention to keep us all hydrated.  The truth is that everyone’s hydration needs are different depending on a variety of things including your food intake, activity level and muscle mass. A more active and muscular person will need to drink more water than a sedentary person who is half the size.  Also, the food you eat also contains water and that is never factored into your daily intake.  Using your thirst and the color of your urine are good measures of your hydration.  8 glasses may be a good starting point but it’s hardly an exact science.

25. Egg whites are healthier than egg yolks – Unless you are on a very restricted diet, there is more than one good reason to eat the yolk.  There are loads of vitamins and minerals found in the egg yolk including vitamins A, B12, and D as well as calcium and omega-3s.  The egg yolk provides far more nutritional value despite the extra calories (16 cals in egg white vs 71 cals in egg yolk).

26. If you aren’t sore, your workout wasn’t hard enough – Muscle soreness is definitely a sign that you stressed your muscles and they will need some time to recover but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  You can have a great workout and have little to no muscle soreness and that is completely acceptable.  Depending on how long you’ve been training, you may not experience as much soreness as a beginner.  Use progress as your measuring stick for the quality of your workouts.

27. Cleanses are great for weight loss – You know what’s great for weight loss? Eating less and exercising more.  You can lose a couple of pounds from a cleanse but that is usually water weight that is gained back once you start to eat regular food again.  The body is actually quite efficient at cleansing itself with the kidneys and other antibodies.  Eating nutrient dense foods, staying hydrated and limiting your intake of processed foods will be way more beneficial than any cabbage diet.

I hope this sets the record straight.  Your path to greatness should now be a little more clear.  Train hard and enjoy the ride!

What other issues do you struggle with when it comes to fitness? Drop a comment below!

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How to Build Muscle and Get Extremely Chiseled – 4 Unconventional Methods..

Do you love training as much as I do? Are you constantly searching for ways to make your workouts more effective? Do you live for the endorphin rush you get from a great workout? If you answered yes to all of the above, then there’s a good chance you have what it takes to rise head and shoulders above everyone else in the gym.

In part 1, I stressed the importance of not only “showing up” but making your workouts potent if you want real results.  In the Pure Payne Method, I outlined a basic template for a kick ass strength and conditioning program. Now I want to take it one step further and show you even more ways to improve your strength, build muscle, and just get fit as hell!!

Besides the big lifts and basic bodyweight training, there are some other highly effective and often overlooked training methods that deliver results in a big way.  The methods I’m going to reveal to you all have one thing in common – POWER!

That’s right, if you really want to spice things up, you need to start adding power development to the mix.  Simply put, power is the combination of strength and speed.  Training for power comes with huge benefits including:

  • Increased muscle mass
  • Increased strength
  • Increased explosiveness
  • Increased fast twitch muscle fiber development (the shit that makes you look amazing)
  • Increased athleticism
  • Reduced body fat

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Hershel Walker – the epitome of power!

Now, if that doesn’t get you excited you might as well stop reading now.  But if you’re fired up and want to add more intensity to your training then you have come to the right place.  Now, I’m going to show you 4 ways to develop power, amplify your workouts and take your fitness to a whole new level.

1. Olympic Lifting – The fastest and mightiest of the barbell lifts, the clean and jerk and the snatch, sit on a pedestal as one of the best group of exercises a human being can perform.   These full body exercises recruit a ton of muscle mass and ignite your nervous system making them an ideal choice for strength and muscular development.  However, with great benefit comes great risk due to the high degree of technical proficiency needed to do these movements.  Not to worry, if you’re new to Olympic lifting there are variations you can use that still provide lots of benefits and reduce the risk of injury.  Some typical variations include:

  • Hang cleans/hang snatches – The “hang” position is when the barbell starts above the knee rather than on the ground. This essentially will help to strengthen and develop the major part of the movement – the second pull.  The hang position allows less room for error (i.e. early arm bending and the bar coming away from the body)  and forces you to be more explosive with the barbell.
  • Clean pull/snatch pulls – One of the most difficult aspects of olympic lifting is the ability to receive or “catch” the barbell properly.  This hassle can be avoided by doing “pulls” instead.  Clean/snatch pulls allow you to start with the bar on the ground and generate maximal force without having to catch the weight.  This is a great way to lift relatively heavy loads without risking injury from improper catches.
  • Dumbbell variations – If you aren’t comfortable with a barbell, you can always opt for dumbbell variations that can be quite intense as well.  Dumbbell snatches and dumbbell cleans performed with 1 arm or 2 arm variations are excellent alternatives and far less technical than using a barbell.

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barbell and dumbbell variations both deliver HUGE results

Whatever variation you choose, always remember that these are “fast lifts” and the more explosive you can be the better.  Check out the video below to see how to perform hang cleans with good form.

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2. Sprinting – I remember the good ol’ days when I was a kid in elementary school and we’d spend an entire recess having little 50, 60, 70 yard foot races to see who was the fastest kid in our grade. Man, that was fun and it was damn good exercise too!  I don’t know about you but I can’t remember the last time (with the exception of the Olympics which is once every 4 years) I saw an adult do anything that resembles anything close to a sprint.  It seems we’ve opted for the more convenient and far less effective alternative – jogging.  You don’t need to aspire to be the next Usain Bolt to incorporate sprinting into your training but if you want to get chiseled like a world class athlete then you should strongly consider it.  Here are some options for sprinting:

  • Wind sprints – Good old fashioned all out sprinting.  30-60 meters will get the job done. Walk back and repeat or rest 2-3mins between efforts.
  • Hill sprints – The only thing better than running really fast is running really fast UPHILL!  Hill sprints will definitely put hair on your chest (unless you’re a woman of course, then it will just give you incredible hips and thighs).  Find a hill or use a treadmill (10-15% incline) and try 20-60 second intervals with a 1:1 or 1:2 work/rest ratio.
  • Resisted Sprints – Another great way to intensify your workout.  Like I always say “when in doubt, add a little more weight.” This mantra applies to sprinting as well.  You don’t need a lot of resistance though, just enough to make you work harder but not so much that you lose your running form.  Parachutes, weight vests, and sleds loaded with 10-15% of your bodyweight are great options.

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Usain Bolt – world class power and a world class physique

3. Plyometrics – The former Soviet Union knew what they were doing when they popularized this training method.  Plyometrics is essentially jump training.  The act of jumping recruits a ton of fast twitch muscle fibers and is one of the most effective ways to develop explosiveness.  Popular and effective plyometric exercises include:

  • Box jumps – Basic jumping onto a 20-30″ box is an excellent way to develop lower body power. Single leg variations are also an option for you keeners out there.
  • Split jumps – One of my personal favorites.  Split jumps or jumping lunges can be humbling to say the least.  The glutes and quads will get punished but rewards are well worth the pain.
  • Lateral jumps – There’s something about jumping sideways that slaps you across the face and completely shocks your body.  Jumping over a hurdle or onto a box laterally challenges your athleticism and makes for one hell of a workout!
  • Clap Pushups – A great upper body plyometric exercise.  Your chest, shoulders and triceps will be lit up after a few sets of these. Like a pair of Air Jordan 3’s, the clap pushup is a classic that will never go out of style.

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Air Jordans and clap pushups – timeless classics that never go out of style

4. Sled Pushes – Did someone say prowler? Disputably one of the most intense conditioning exercises in all of fitness, sled pushing will leave you speechless (because there will be no air left in your body to speak).  8-10 intervals of 30-50 meter pushes will have you spent but every muscle in your body will thank you for it. Stay low, push hard, try to breathe, repeat. Check out the video below to see how Joe DeFranco lays the smack down with the prowler!

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The name of the game my friends is power.  If your goal is to pack on serious muscle, build superhuman strength and have a body carved out of granite then power is your ticket to the motherland! You can use these exercises on their own or pair them together  with other strength exercises to really crank things up. It’s time to get in the trenches and get to work. And remember, doing what others are unwilling to do is the key to success.

Have you got your copy of The Pure Payne Method yet? If not, hurry up and subscribe below to become a powerhouse!

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21 Warning Signs that Your Workout Routine ABSOLUTELY SUCKS!

The health and fitness industry generates over $75 billion annually worldwide.  That’s a lot of gym memberships.  What’s even more staggering is that approximately 67% of that revenue is wasted due to under utilization.  Basically, that means 2 out of every 3 people that have a gym membership don’t even use it.  That’s over 50 billion dollars flushed down the toilet!  Now, these stats are primarily a reflection of big box gyms that provide very little service or value and don’t include fitness studios, Crossfit gyms, and other strength and conditioning facilities.  Even when you add these training facilities to the equation though, you’re still looking at least $45 billion wasted on an annual basis!

These stats tell me 2 things:

1. There is an extremely high demand for services that will help people look, feel and perform better.

2.  There are very few people that ACTUALLY look, feel, and perform better.

For the 33% that actually show up, only a small percentage of them make any progress whatsoever.  The abundance of choice inside fitness facilities combined with a lack of knowledge by most gym goers is a perfect recipe for failure.  The key is to avoid the pitfalls that the majority of people make.  Some warning signs that your workout routine could be lackluster include:

1.  You do too much isolation work – Too many people spend way too much time working the smallest muscles in their body (i.e. biceps, triceps, calves)  only to achieve equally small results.  To get the best bang for your buck, don’t waste your time with isolation exercises that do very little for your overall strength and muscle building pursuits.  Use more compound movements like the squats, bench presses, and deadlifts to make real gains.

2. You do too much upper body work – You know what they say, “friends don’t let friends skip leg day.” It’s quite tragic that guys will neglect the largest muscles in their body and deprive themselves of optimal testosterone production.  Don’t be a pussy, train your legs to get big and strong everywhere else!

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3. You do too much long, slow cardio – If you’re still sitting on the elliptical or stationary bike for an hour trying to burn more fat then you got a long road ahead of you.  They key to fat burning is intensity and anabolic (muscle building) activity.  Long slow, cardio is both catabolic (muscle wasting) and time wasting.  Start lifting more weights and doing intervals to get more results in less time.

4. You jump from program to program – Consistency is one the keys to success in the gym.  If you are constantly jumping from one program to the next you’ll never get a chance to make any real progress.  Give yourself at least 6-8 weeks before switching your training split or exercises.

5. You don’t sweat – As silly as this sounds, there a lots of people who exercise (or do what they think is exercise) and never sweat.  If you’re not breaking a sweat, you’re not giving your body a reason to get better.

6. You still do crunches – Honestly.  If you want to build a strong core use plank variations, FULL situps, russian twists, hanging leg raises , ab wheel rollouts, or anything other than a futile little crunch.  If you want to see those beautiful abs, remember six packs are made in the kitchen not in the gym.

7. You don’t do burpees – You can hate them all you want but that doesn’t mean they aren’t one of the best bodyweight exercises you could ever do. Improve your conditioning, burn more fat and get more out of your workouts with the dreaded “B” word.

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8. You measure your fitness by how much you can bench – Don’t get me wrong, I love me some bench press but it’s hardly a measure of my overall fitness level.  A little less bench and a little more #2 and #3 and you’ll be onto something.

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9. You only do exercises you are good at – This compliments #8 as a lot of people will only do the exercises they enjoy or what they think matters.  This is a surefire way to develop muscular imbalances, chronic injuries, and an undesirable physique.  Try to train at least one weakness every time you’re in the gym. Something as simple as a 1 arm dumbell row to offset all that benching will go a long way.

10. You’ve been doing the same routine for ages – I mentioned that consistency is important to success but variety is equally important if you want to break through plateaus and continue to make gains.  If you’ve been doing the same exercises in the same order with the same weight for the same reps since Maury Povich was a hit show then it’s time to switch it up.  Without variety, your body has no reason to improve.

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11. You think you can out-exercise a bad diet – Just because you workout 2 hours a day, 5 days a week doesn’t mean you can eat pizza and drink pop on a regular basis without any consequence.  Consuming excess calories and empty calories will still cause you store fat no matter how much you exercise.  Stop fooling yourself and clean up your diet if you really want that beach body.

12. You’re not getting stronger – One of the marks of a good training program is strength.  If you are hitting the gym on a regular basis and seeing no improvement in your strength then something is missing in your program.  I’m not saying you should be setting PRs every week but there should be a slow and steady increase in most of the exercises you are doing. If you’re not getting stronger, you’re getting weaker and that’s a low down dirty shame.

13. You’re not getting leaner – If you’re goal is weight loss or to reduce body fat then you better be watching your diet, interval training, and lifting heavy.  0 for 3? Time to go back to the drawing board.

14. You don’t work on mobility – If you’ve been training for any length of time then you’ve probably had your fair share of little tweaks along the way and if you haven’t consider yourself lucky.  Taking the time to focus on mobility and soft tissue work (i.e foam rolling, lacrosse ball, massage, chiropractic, general stretching) can go a long way in the prevention of soft tissue injuries as well improve movement efficiency.

15. You train like a body builder but you look like a sumo wrestler – I still can’t believe how many people still train with body part splits even though they lack the genetics, discipline, and intensity to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Full body workouts mixed with high intensity conditioning will get you to where you want to go a lot faster.

16. You think more exercise is better – Some people just don’t know when enough is enough.  Working out 3 hours a day isn’t necessarily better than 2 hours a day and 6 days a week isn’t necessarily better than 5.  More exercise means a greater rise in cortisol (the muscle wasting and fat storing hormone) which will only make you feel like crap and make you weaker in the long run. The body needs time to recover and rebuild and it can only do so when rest is in proportion to training volume and intensity.  Aim for more QUALITY workouts and less quantity.

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17. You think you can’t build muscle AND burn fat at the same time – You don’t have to go through the long, drawn out process of “bulking” and then “shredding” to get the body you want. With an effective training program, you can increase strength, muscle mass, and reduce body fat simultaneously.

18. You follow too many fad diets – Building a lean, athletic physique takes discipline, sacrifice, and time – more time than most people want to put in.  Looking for a quick fix by jumping on some celebrity diet may meet your short term needs but it won’t be the answer to long term, sustainable gains.  Like Jason Ferruggia says “the secret to being an overnight success is 10 years of hard work.”

19. You are overly concerned about supplements – The highest quality protein powder isn’t going to do jack for you if your training is all over the map.  Don’t worry about protein powder, BCAA’s, creatine, pre-workouts, or any other distractions on the market until you practice sound nutritional habits and consistent training.

20. You ALWAYS lift heavy – Now I know I’ve said that lifting heavy is vital to a good training program but if you’re always lifting at 90% or higher it’s gonna take a huge toll on your joints and nervous system.  Not even world class powerlifters and olympic weightlifters train heavy all year round and they’re the strongest lifters in the world so why should you?  Dial back your training loads and allow some time to recovery to make more long term gains.

21. You’re not using the Pure Payne Method – Yeah I said it. Now sign up for it, it’s FREE!

Take heed of these warning signs and adjust your training accordingly.  Don’t be another statistic, instead be one of the few that ACTUALLY looks, feels, and performs better.

What can you do right away to improve your training routine? Drop a comment below!

 

 

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The One Piece of Equipment You REALLY Need to Get in Shape! Hint: It Ain’t a Barbell..

I’ve been doing this a long time.  Working out and training people that is.  For over 13 years, I’ve been putting myself and others through rigorous workouts and finding great success with many and little to no progress with others.  That’s right, not every person who’s crossed my path has transformed their body into a picture of chiseled granite. Not everyone will.  That’s the hard truth that me and every other passionate trainer out there are going to have to swallow. Having said that, there are definitely some common characteristics I’ve observed with those who have achieved their goals and gotten into great shape.

Obviously, great programming followed consistently will pay huge dividends. For now let’s put aside sets, reps, intensity and all the other “fitness ideologies” that are so heavily debated these days and take a look at the more intangible side of becoming a physical specimen.  Let’s take a look at what REALLY separates the STRONG, LEAN, and CONDITIONED from those that are too scared and/or lazy to even break a sweat.  I’m talking about the most powerful tissue in your body and it sits right between your ears….

A BULLETPROOF MIND

It seems the proper mindset is the driving force behind reaching any type of fitness goal.  I’m not talking about some fleeting motivation that comes around every January and evaporates like morning dew in mid February.  I’m talking about a mindset that is built to last, fortified with an indomitable foundation, and impervious to futile distractions.  This is the cloth that champions are cut from. These are the doers, the people you read about, the alpha dogs if you will..

A bulletproof mindset is comprised of many things including but not limited to the following:

1. ENTHUSIASM – Ralph Waldo Emerson once said ” Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”  When was the last time you saw someone that was in great shape that dreaded going to the gym?  How often do you see that shredded guy lollygagging his way through a workout just to get it over with?  The hard truth is if you don’t wake up excited to hit your next workout you might as well refill your bowl of Doritos, loosen the drawstring in your pants and just bask in your mediocrity.

2. BELIEVING IS SEEING – That’s right, I didn’t write it backwards.  It sounds sounds simple enough but this may be one of the biggest roadblocks to people’s success.  The hard truth is most of you wish you were in better shape but very few of you BELIEVE you can really take your fitness to the next level.  Stop and ask yourself “Do you really think you can get a six pack?” “Do you really think you can do 10 unassisted chinups?” If you don’t think you can succeed why even bother starting an exercise program?  Your wishful thinking has to be turned into concrete confidence. Your determination and will has to be greater than any other external force.  Middle class thinking won’t get you a first class body.

3. THREAD IT INTO YOUR DNA – The strongest, fittest, and leanest don’t get that way by casually working out here and there.  They get there because its a part of who they are; their character, well-being, and happiness are directly intertwined with how well they take care of their bodies.  Make looking and feeling the best you can a purpose in your life.  When a day you haven’t trained feels like a day you haven’t lived, then you have armed yourself with the weapons you need to build a better you.

4. THE JOURNEY IS THE REWARD – Most of us train to achieve some desired goal or result (i.e. get a six pack, lose 10lbs, deadlift twice your bodyweight, etc.) and this is a great way to stay motivated and consistent with your training.  However, the reality is good habits implemented on a daily basis are what separate the good from the great.  Waking up on time, staying hydrated, and treating every rep like it’s your last are just a few of the little things that lead to huge success.  I wake up every morning excited about the PROCESS of becoming better.  The hard truth is there is no destination!  ” The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.”  If you think you’ve arrived, you’ve only made a pit stop.  Every squat, every pullup, every burpee is your reward for not taking the easy way out.  ENJOY THE RIDE!!

5.  GO THE EXTRA MILE – This can be taken both figuratively and literally.  For some of you, getting to the gym and running an extra mile may be exactly what you need to do to step your game up.  The hard truth is you need to go above and beyond the call of duty.  This could mean getting to the gym early, working on your mobility, a few extra sets of cleans, whatever the case may be it’s not enough to just “show up” or “punch your time card.” Hold yourself to a higher standard.  Ask yourself “Am I doing everything I can to be the best I can?”  Nobody ever got to the top just by doing the bare minimum.  I challenge you to push yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of and see where it takes you.

Remember, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste” so rise above the average Joe and do what others are unwilling to do. Then, and only will you stand a chance.

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The Secrets to Eating Healthier, Building Muscle, and Becoming Insanely Fit!

Getting to the gym consistently and putting in quality workouts can be challenging enough for most people.  Couple that with the necessity to eat a clean diet can make getting in shape a daunting task.  With the abundance of information available to us, it’s hard to decipher what is accurate and what is complete rhetoric – especially when it comes to nutrition.

Paleo, Atkins, South Beach, vegan, low fat, high fat, the list goes on and on.  At the end of the day, our bodies are all different and respond differently to a variety of foods.  So what is the right way to eat for optimal health and performance?? The answer is a resounding – IT DEPENDS.

Depending on your goals, body type, metabolism and a plethora of other factors, your nutritional intake is going to vary.  However, I’m a firm believer in principles and general rules of thumb.  This means that there are definitely certain types of foods we ALL should be eating more of and others that shouldn’t be within 50ft of us.

I recently stumbled across a great resource that eloquently lays out how to approach our dietary habits.  It’s quite informative and entertaining at the same time (which is why I was able to read the entire thing without falling asleep).  Some of the most popular questions are answered in this resource:

  • Do I need to take vitamins and other supplements?
  • How important is it to eat organic?
  • Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?
  • How much should you eat in one sitting?
  • How many times/day should you be eating?
  • When and where should you be eating?
  • When is the best time of day to eat?
  • What are the most dangerous foods you should avoid?
  • What’s the easiest way to tell if the food you’re eating is good for you or not?
  • Should you keep a food diary?
  • How many calories should you eat per day?

All these questions and more are answered in this special report!  Find out how to get a kung fu grip on your dietary habits by subscribing below to get this SPECIAL REPORT FREE!  Plus, you will also receive the Pure Payne Method, a 6 week training program aimed at building a STRONGER, LEANER, and more CONDITIONED  you!!  Trust me, it’ll be well worth your time!!

 

 

 

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DECK THE HALLS! – 9 Ways to Stay Fit During the Holidays…

It’s that time of year again! The holiday season is officially upon us – LET THE GLUTTONY BEGIN!  Chocolate, egg nog, cake, cookies, gravy, mashed potatoes, wine, beer, you name it – BRING. IT. ON.   Studies have shown that the average person gains 5-10lbs over the the Christmas holiday season.  This would be a pretty impressive stat if they were talking about muscle.  With busy schedules filled with corporate parties, and dinners with family and friends combined with little to no physical activity makes the body a prime fat storing facility.

The good news is the holidays don’t have to derail your training or destroy your physique.  With a few simple tips and a little bit of discipline you can avoid the holiday bulge and actually make some gains during this festive time.  What better gift could you give yourself than a stronger and leaner physique?? I can’t think of one.  Enough semantics, let’s get down to business and take this holiday season by storm. Here are 9 tips to stay fit during the holidays.

1. Keep working out – If you already go to the gym, now is definitely not the time to take a break and if you don’t there’s no better time to start. Maintaining a regular training regimen is key to keeping your metabolism revved up and maintaining that precious muscle tissue.  Programs like the Pure Payne Method can definitely help you stay on track.  Things can get hectic during the holidays but staying consistent with your training will save you a lot of headache come January.

2. Lift heavy – There’s no better way to build and preserve strength and muscle mass than to simply lift heavy shit.  Further, this will make you more efficient at burning fat and fending off all those empty holiday calories.  You can’t go wrong with the bench press, squat, and deadlift to keep your body in check.

3. Use intervals – Keep your training intensity high with intervals so you can burn more fat in less time.  This is a great way to train if pressed for time and want to get more bang for your buck.  EMOMS are an effective way to get full body workouts in 15 minutes or less!

4. Eat a healthy meal before you go out – One of the worst things you can do is show up to your company Christmas party absolutely starving.  You don’t want to be that guy with his head buried in his plate shoveling food in his face like it’s the Last Supper.  This will certainly guarantee that you will over indulge pushing you over your caloric limit.  Having a small, healthy meal before hitting the town will allow you to eat more sensibly when you arrive and curb any temptations.  Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.

5. Don’t have seconds – If you’ve followed #4 then this will be less of a problem.  Food quality is important but is meaningless without proper food QUANTITY.  9 times out of 10 having a second helping is never in your best interest.  Avoid the food coma and have ONE well balanced serving of food. That’s all your body really needs anyway.

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Even at the Last Supper there was portion control

6. Replace starches with colorful vegetables – An easy way to increase the nutrient density of your meals is to replace your starchy carbs with more colorful veggies. For example, replace mashed potatoes and gravy with a garden salad with a vinaigrette dressing on the side or replace pasta with steamed broccoli and bell peppers.  More nutrients, less bloating. Everybody wins.

7. Mix alcohol with soda or water – If you’re gonna drink, which you probably will, then reduce the damage by mixing your drinks with soda or water. This reduces your sugar intake which reduces the consumption of empty calories and the severity of hangovers.  Having less drinks overall will probably help the cause too.

8. Have only one dessert – If there was ever a time to demonstrate some self control, it would be at the dessert table.  Pick your favorite one, have a small piece and step away from the table. FOREVER.  Like I mentioned in #7, sugar will sabotage all of your hard work and effort in the gym.

9. Stay hydrated – an easy way to curb your appetite and suppress cravings is to simply stay hydrated.  Staying hydrated will help you to snack less and regulate your blood sugar levels. Keep a water bottle with you and sip periodically throughout the day.

A little common sense, discipline, and moderation will get you through the holidays unscathed.  This year is your chance to be in the small percentage of people that actually get FITTER in the month of December.  Make every meal and workout count this month and you’ll be laughing in New Year.

What’s your biggest weakness when it comes to nutrition? Drop a comment below! Don’t forget to subscribe below to get The Pure Payne Method and other great articles FREE!

 

 

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5 Quick Fixes to Improve Your Back Squat…

When it comes to training, it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or if you’ve been pushin’ weight for 20 years; you can never stray too far from the basics.  Exercises like the bench press and the deadlift should always be in the rotation.  There’s another big lift  you can always count on, “old reliable”, “the godfather”, I’m talkin’ about the back squat.  Like the saying goes “when in doubt, SQUAT.”  I’m not sure if that’s an actual saying or just something I like to say but it sounds pretty good to me!

Just like a house that stands on a solid foundation, the back squat is fundamental to a good strength and conditioning program.  The benefits are countless: lower body strength development, lower body muscular development, athletic development, core strength, and a faster metabolism to name just a few.

As important as the back squat is, it’s value is in direct proportion to the ability to perform it correctly.  In other words, if you can’t squat you ain’t doing squat.  That’s a lot of squats in one sentence.  There are a few key things to keep in mind in order to get the most out of this exercise.  Let’s take a look at some quick and simple fixes to get the most out of this exercise.

1. Keep your shoulder blades pinched – It’s important to keep your shoulder blades “pinched” together while holding the barbell.  This provides more support for the barbell and prevents unnecessary rounding of the back throughout the movement.

2. Break at the knees first – The squat is initiated by bending the knees first THEN pushing the hips down and back.  If you try to  break at the hips first, there will be a tendency for excess forward lean at the torso. Keeping a relatively upright torso will take stress of the back and onto the legs where you want it.

3. Turn your feet and knees out slightly – By rotating your feet and knees out in an “11” and “1” formation will allow your hips to descend more freely making it easier to reach full depth. Also, if you have poor ankle mobility, this make it easier to squat without your heels coming off the floor.

4. Push your knees out – With your feet turned out, it’s important to remember to push your knees out both on the way down and the way up.  This will prevent the knees from coming to far over the toes and maintain tension on the hips rather than the knees.

5. Maintain neutral spine at the bottom – Ideally, you want to be able to squat below parallel but only if your strength and mobility allow you to.  If your lower back is rounding at the bottom, you’ve gone too deep and adding stress to your lower back.  Squat as deep as you can with the best form you can.

Not enough good things can said about the squat but training smart and staying pain free are critical to your success. Keep these tips in mind the next time you get under bar.

The video below illustrates some of the key points to squatting effectively.  Check it out.

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Are there any other exercises you struggle with? If so, drop a comment below! Don’t forget to subscribe below to get more great articles!

 

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My 10 Favourite Rep Schemes that ALWAYS Deliver!!

The internet has been a gift and a curse.  Information has never traveled faster.  Also, the amount of information that is available to us is downright overwhelming.  I’ve found this to lead to paralysis by analysis.  As someone who enjoys acquiring new and useful tidbits, I’m often overstimulated by the simplest of Google searches.   For example, the other day I was looking for a new restaurant to try out only to find myself completely glazed over by how many choices there were.  In the end, I just picked a place that I was familiar simply because it was too stressful to make a decision.  The fitness game is no different.  With so many experts and so many philosophies on how to get results, it’s easy to find yourself confused about what the “right” program is.  How reps/sets should I do? How much rest should I take? Is 12 weeks too long? The reality is, MOST programs are good as long as you stick to them and put in your best effort.  Now when I say MOST programs, I’m referring to the ones that incorporate proper progression, intensity, and good use of the big lifts.  As you know, I’m a big believer in the big lifts serving as the foundation of ANY effective strength and conditioning program.

In the 14 years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve seen and tried a lot of different things.  I can say without a shadow of a doubt that there are definitely some tried and true rep schemes that will always deliver.  If your goal is to increase strength, muscle mass, or overall work capacity, these rep schemes will never get old. In no particular order, here they are:

1. 5×5 –  A classic strength building rep scheme that never disappoints.  Bench, squat, deadlift, it doesn’t matter.  Pick one challenging weight for all 5 sets or slowly increase to your heaviest 5.  Either way, if you hit it hard, you’re gonna get strong.

2. 5/3/1Jim Wendler is world famous for bringing this rep scheme to the masses.  A simple but effective progressive overload scheme that works for lifters of all levels.  If you’re pressed for time, give 5/3/1 a try.

3. 10/5/5/5/10 – This is one I use with my clients a lot.  I like to sandwich the heavy sets with higher rep sets.  The first set of 10 is to ensure proper warm up prior to hitting the heavy sets and the last set of 10 is aimed at muscular endurance after they have been pre-exhausted from the heavy sets.  That last sets of 10 can be quite deceptive after some heavier loading.

4. 9/6/3/6/9 – Inspired by old school bodybuilding, this pyramid scheme is a great strength and muscle builder.  Essentially,  a “light/medium/heavy/medium/light” scheme that can be very challenging with the right loading (i.e. 70%/80%/90%/80%/70%).

5. 21/15/9 –  If you’re a Crossfitter and you’re reading this, I don’t need to say anything more.  This is arguably one of the most potent rep schemes in when performed at high intensity.  “Fran”, a classic Crossfit workout, comprised of thrusters and pullups paired together and performed with this rep scheme will have you begging for mercy in 5 minutes or less! Again, simple but very effective.

6.  3/6/9/12/15/etc. – Another great rep scheme courtesy of Crossfit.  Set a clock for a desired amount of time (i.e 8mins), pick two movements (i.e. deadlifts and burpees) and perform the designated reps for each movement climbing the ladder as high as you can within the time limit.  A beautiful blend of strength and conditioning. If you want something quick and dirty, I highly recommend this one!

7. 10/15/20/25/30 – That’s code for 100 reps.  This high volume rep scheme is great for conditioning and bodyweight (i.e pushups, pullups, situps) movements. Pick an exercise and follow that rep scheme with a 60-90sec break between sets of  pair it with a heavy barbell movement and you have yourself quite a meaty workout!

8.  30 – A somewhat random and very open ended number but can be quite potent depending how you approach it.  For example, you can pick an exercise and weight and do 30 reps at that weight. You can pick a weight that you can try to do unbroken reps or heavier loads and get 30 reps done in the least amount of sets possible.  You also have the option of doing 30 reps for time which can be quite devastating.  Any way you slice it, 30 is great!

9. Max reps – This requires a little more mental fortitude but if you can endure a little suffering it will be well worth it.  Pick a weight and do as many reps as you can unbroken or as many reps as you can in a certain amount of time.  All aboard, lactic acid city here we come!!

10. Every minute on the minute (EMOM) –  Although not a specific rep scheme,  this form of interval training is great for building muscular endurance and work capacity.  Generally, whatever exercise you choose, your reps shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds to complete leaving you with a least 30 seconds rest prior to the next interval.  8-20 minutes of this type of training and you’ll get one kickass workout!

The world of strength and conditioning is constantly evolving but as much as things change they also stay the same.  As long as you attack your workouts and step out of your comfort zone from time to time, the rep scheme you use is simply a formality.  Don’t sit on the sidelines trying to find the perfect program; get in the trenches and start doing work!

P.S. When you train with me, you’ll get workouts that use these highly effective rep schemes and a lot more!

Apply to train with me below.

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5 Quick Fixes to Improve Your Deadlift…

There is something very gratifying about lifting heavy things.  It satisfies a carnal instinct to be in control and exude power.  One of the best ways to demonstrate this is with the deadlift.  I’ll be first to say that a training program without deadlifts is like a cheeseburger with no ketchup – it’s alright but with a little fine tuning it can be PHENOMENAL.  The bench press and the squat pack a punch but being the biggest of the big lifts, the deadlift has tremendous benefits that can’t be denied.  Grip strength, glute/hamstring strength,  and upper back strength – yes UPPER BACK are just a few of the benefits of this great exercise. If a deadlift was food, it would be broccoli.  Raw broccoli – not the stir fry stuff that’s drenched in soy and teriyaki sauce.  Like any exercise though, in order to reap the benefits, it must be executed with proper technique.  For that reason, the deadlift can sometimes get a bad rep due to crappy lifting form leading to injury.  Here are a few tips to make this lift both safe and effective.

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The 7 Habits of Highly Fit People…

We are all creatures of habit in some way, shape, or form.  I enjoy a cup of black coffee every morning while I check my email and prepare for my day ahead. As well, my afternoon naps are a definite must to get me through the day.  Our daily routines are what shape and mold us into what are.  In Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he outlines 7 key habits that a vast majority of successful people share.  These traits were found to help people become successful in business and in everyday life.  Similarly, there are habits that are shared by those that are killin’ it at the gym and getting great results.  Here are 7 habits of highly fit people, see how many of these are a part of your repertoire.

1. Journal your workouts – It has been said that those who keep journals of their daily activities and write down their goals are more likely to be successful than those who don’t.  Keeping a journal of your training helps keep you accountable and allows you to better track your progress.  Making note of little things like you’re energy levels  during your workouts or any aches and pains you may have had that day can provide a lot feedback for future workouts.

2. Post workout nutrition – We all know how important nutrition is to training – at least I think we all know. Making sure to get adequate protein and carbohydrate intake after a workout is important for recovery and replenishment of nutrients.  It does you no good to break your body down during training if you aren’t refueling it properly to rebuild and repair.  Get a shake or some high quality food in you within 60 minutes of training – PERIOD!

3. Sleep – With our lives becoming more hectic, sleep is becoming more and more of a limited resource.  However, that doesn’t change the fact that our body still needs it.  In order to get the most out of your workouts and recover efficiently our bodies need sleep and lots of it – I’m talking 7-9 hours a day.  This will help regulate your cortisol (stress hormone that prevents your body from burning fat)  levels and rejuvenate your nervous system.  If you don’t want to be slob, get to bed earlier and try to increase the quality of your sleep.

4. Intensity – This could be one of the most neglected habits of 98% of gym goers.  I’d like to thank Crossfit for not only defining what intensity is but also getting people to work harder than they ever thought possible.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, showing up is only the FIRST step to making gains.  Ask anyone who is in great shape and they’ll tell you that you’ve got to go hard if you want to go to the next level.  As they saying goes “everything you want lies just outside of your comfort zone” including that 6 pack and 500lb deadlift.

5. Consistency – Doing something right is good. Doing something right OVER AND OVER AGAIN leads to greatness.  The biggest, strongest, and fittest all put in time and lots of it.  They say it takes 10,000 hours to become and expert at something and building a body that looks and performs well is no exception.  Guys like Matt Chan, Jason Khalipa, and Dan Bailey (all pictured above) didn’t just wake up one day with physiques like that.  What you’re looking at is the cumulative effect of putting in solid work day in and day out.  Take each workout one day at a time and remember – the journey is the reward.

6. Mobility/Active Recovery Days – When you’re putting your body to the test on a regular basis, it’s important to take a step back and focus on the less glamorous things every once in a while.  Stretching, foam rolling, massage, chiropractic are examples of ways to keep the body supple and revving on all cylinders.  Deloading and  low intensity conditioning are also great ways to restore the body.  The better you get at the big things, the more the little things matter.

7. Train your weaknesses AT LEAST once/week – One of my favorite athletes of all time, Michael Jordan, came into the NBA demonstrating superior scoring ability. That wasn’t enough for him. In 1988, after a couple of seasons under his belt , he went on to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.  He also won the MVP award that year, making him the first player in history to win both awards in the same season.  That’s what I call turning your weaknesses into strengths!  Now, for the rest of us mortals, if your list of weaknesses is too long  just keep training and take it one workout at a time.  For the more advanced lifters, take the time to balance out any deficiencies at least once per week.  If you’re conditioning sucks, do some more interval training, if your overhead strength is lacking, work your shoulder presses and push presses. Whatever the case may be, don’t shy away from weaknesses and maybe one day you can walk with the athletic gods too.

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The late, great Aristotle once said ” we are what we repeatedly do, excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”  I’m pretty sure he was talking about jacking weights when he said that too.  Regardless, the take home message is great habits lead to great results.  If you aren’t already practicing these habits, step your game up and start now!

Are there exercises that you struggle with? Let me know and drop a comment below!

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5 Ways to Have a Great Workout When You’re Feeling Tired…

I don’t know about you, but I find it tough to go balls out in every single workout.  Some days it doesn’t matter what I do, everything just feels heavy and I feel gassed just lifting my gym bag out of the trunk of my car.  I still try to give it the old college try but some days there’s just less gas in the tank for various reasons. Not enough sleep, sore from a previous workout or poor nutrition are just few things that leave me feeling weak and sluggish.  Not to worry, just because you’re not feeling 100% doesn’t mean your workout has to be a complete write off.  A few small adjustments can make the world of difference.  Here are 5 ways that I’ve found help to not only salvage a mediocre workout but also make it worthwhile and productive.

1. Longer warm-ups – Sometimes the body can be like an old car when the engine just needs time to warm up before you pull out of the driveway.  An extra 5-10mins of light cardio, stretching, and foam rolling can help to get the blood flowing and wake up that old nervous system.  Getting a good sweat going will also loosen up the joints and mentally and physically prepare you for the work ahead.

2.  Go lighter – Sounds simple enough but sometimes it’s hard to leave your ego at the door and just do what your body will allow on that given day.  You can’t set PR’s every time you step into the gym – at least I can’t.  That doesn’t mean that you still can’t have a productive workout.  Taking your lifts down 5-10% can be just enough to allow you to get through a tough workout instead of quitting halfway and feeling like a complete waste of space.

3. Do more accessory work – When you’re energy is low, this is a perfect opportunity to work on the less glamorous  things.  Lunges, single leg deadlifts, dumbell rows, and pushups are examples of great exercises that attack your weaknesses but are far less demanding than the big lifts. This will give both your nervous system and muscular system a break and a chance to regenerate.

4. Focus on your strengths – This may sound like a slight contradiction to #3 but sometimes when you’re not feeling the greatest the best way to get your mojo going is to pick 2 or 3 of your favorite exercises and have at it!  What better way to lift my mood and redeem my workout than by doing what I’m good at?  Just because my energy is rock bottom doesn’t mean my self esteem has to be too!

5. Suck it up princess – If I only worked out when my body wasn’t sore and tired, I’d probably train once MAYBE twice per week.  At some point, you have to accept that life will always be busy and you have to make health and fitness a priority.  Greatness is never achieved without a certain degree of sacrifice and fortitude.  The Pure Payne Method is a free workout program but there is still one cost – EFFORT! At some point you have to ask yourself how bad do you want it and make a decision.

Next time your feeling 50/50 about training keep these few tips in mind and see how if you can get a better workout.

Do you have a hard time staying consistent with your workouts? What is your biggest obstacle? Drop a comment below!

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3 Quick Fixes to Improve Your Bench Press…

It’s funny and somewhat ironic that the bench press is disputably the most popular barbell exercise in the world yet so few of us actually perform it correctly.  I’ve been benching for almost 20 years and I’m still refining my technique.  The good news is you can avoid the pitfalls that I and many others have fallen victim to with a few simple fixes.  Here are 3 quick fixes that will help you to push more weight and reduce the risk of injury.

1.  Keep your feet in line or slightly behind your knees – Believe it or not, the bench press is actually a full body exercise when performed correctly.  By moving your feet back and pressing them into the floor you are creating leverage with your lower body.  This provides stability allowing you to generate more force against the bar.  If you’re shorter, you can put your feet on plates so you don’t over -arch your back.  Your feet should NEVER move at any point while benching.

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GOOD FOOT PLACEMENT

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BAD FOOT PLACEMENT

2.  Keep your shoulder blades pinched back throughout the entire movement – A great strength coach and “shoulder guru”, Eric Cressey always emphasizes protecting the shoulders during upper body lifts.  By retracting or “squeezing” your shoulder blades together and keeping the back of your shoulders pressed against the bench, you are stabilizing your rotator cuff and preventing any unnecessary loading on the shoulder capsule.  The key is to stay “pinched” from the bottom to the top of the movement to protect the shoulders.

armsBAD SHOULDER POSITION

   arms2GOOD SHOULDER POSITION

3.  Keep your elbows in – A common mistake people make is they tend to press the bar with their elbows flaring out.  This can be due to lack of tricep strength and can lead to excessive stress on the shoulders.  By keeping the elbows in, you can better recruit your pecs and triceps making the movement more efficient and  taking the stress off the shoulders.  As well, if you have a hard time bringing the bar all the way down to your chest, keeping your elbows in will most likely reduce any shoulder impingement that is restricting you.

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BAD ELBOW POSITION  

elbows2GOOD ELBOW POSITION

There you have it, 3 quick and simple fixes for more strength and less pain.  Check out the video below from the strength gurus at Westside Barbell.  These guys know their stuff!

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