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How to Fix Your Overhead Squat

The frustration must be absolutely maddening. I’m shocked you haven’t pulled your hair out or punched a hole in the wall yet.

I can’t think of a more humbling exercise than the overhead squat.

On the flip side, there are few exercises as impressive as a nice heavy overhead squat.

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1 Exercise that will Solve All Your Problems…

Don’t misinterpret the headline, this article isn’t about an exercise that’s going to reduce unemployment rates, pay your mortgage and put your kids through college.

However, it is about how you can build strength, improve your conditioning and get an awesome workout with very little time or equipment.

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18 Ways to Build FREAKISH Strength!

It doesn’t matter what circle you roll in whether it’s bodybuilding, powerlifting, Crossfit, or pretty much any sport with the exception of yoga (not really a sport), everyone seems to be on a quest for more strength.  If you’re in the gym and you’re moving weight, you’re trying to get stronger in some way, shape, or form – or at least you should be.

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The Great Debate: Russian vs. American Swings

I find the fitness industry so ridiculous sometimes it’s comical.

It doesn’t matter where you turn, there is some kind of controversy or drama.  It’s can be more cliquey than high school sometimes, I swear.

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5 Common Mistakes that are Ruining Your Power Cleans

Now, before we get started, I just want to say that you’re already leaps and bounds ahead of 90% of gym-goers due to the simple fact that you even want to dabble with the Olympic lifts.  As you already know, Olympic lifts aren’t for the average Joe, they’re for the strong, athletic type that’s after serious gains.

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How to Improve Your Pull-up Game!

I’ve had the luxury to help hundreds of people over the course of my career.  For those that were committed and took my advice seriously, they made tremendous gains.  That’s right, not everyone that crossed my path transformed their bodies into the perfect picture of health.  That’s OK though, not everyone is willing to do what’s necessary to get the results they want.

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17 Training Mistakes that are Killing Your Gains!

I’m no stranger to failure.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the multiple mistakes I’ve made over the years.  A little over 8 years ago, I had the opportunity to take my first crack at self employment.

A friend and I opened a gym together thinking that we knew it all.  Boy, were we ever wrong.

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How to Deadlift Like a Boss!

If you’re looking for a quick fix stop reading now.  If you’re looking for a secret exercise that’s going to add 50lbs to all your lifts then this blog isn’t for you.  If you’re looking for someone to hold your hand and do the work for you, I’m sure there’s a daycare center in your local area that will meet your needs.

I’m looking for people who want to learn the most effective ways to become better and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.  I need people with that “wax on, wax off” mentality that “Danielson” had in the Karate Kid.  No excuses, no whining, just shut up, do the work and have faith in the process. I’ll never lead you down the wrong path as it’s in my best interest to provide you with all the tools you need to be successful.

Now, let’s get down to business.  If you’re still reading at this point, it means you are serious about making serious gains and eager to start waxing some cars (Mr. Miyagi was wise beyond his years).

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you need that “wax on/wax off” mentality

The topic of discussion today is the mighty deadlift.

For anyone that is trying to pack on serious muscle and get as strong as possible, it only makes sense to deadlift and deadlift WELL!  When performed correctly and when your body is dialed in, no other exercise will allow you to lift as much weight as a deadlift.  Make no mistake about it, the deadlift may not be a highly technical lift but it gets butchered more often than not for a number of reasons including:

  • starting with the hips too low
  • initiating the lift with arms instead of the legs
  • rounding of the lower back
  • trying to squat the weight up
  • weak hip extension

These are just a few reasons why so many people struggle with deadlifts and end up with all kinds of injuries.  You aren’t going to be another victim though, you are going to be the envy of all your boys at the gym when they see the kind of weight you’re gonna be moving.

To become a master of the deadlift, there are some key areas you need to strengthen and develop including:

  • Posterior chain strength – The lower back, glutes and hamstrings need to be strong as titanium if you want a big deadlift.
  • Grip strength – Pulling big weight means you need need to have a strong grip to hold on to that S.O.B.!
  • Upper back strength – Often neglected, upper back strength is critical to a strong lockout.
  • Hip hinge ability – A solid and efficient hip hinge is what separates the men from the boys.
  • Grit – To move big weight, you can’t have a casual attitude.  You need to be able to dig deep and lift like your life depends on it.

To be a strong deadlifter, your technique should also be solid and effortless.  You shouldn’t have to think too hard about your body position and what muscles you are using.  Getting lots of practice at lighter loads will help to refine your technique until it just becomes automatic regardless of the weight.

Here are a few quick tips to perfect your deadlift form:

  • keep your feet about shoulder width apart or slightly wider
  • keep your hands just outside of your feet
  • push your knees against the inside of your arms to help activate your hips
  • look down and slightly forward
  • pull the “slack out of the bar” before initiating the lift – this helps to engage the lats
  • keep your hips above parallel with tension on the hamstrings
  • lock your arms and flex your triceps.
  • initiate the lift by pressing your feet into the floor and pulling simultaneously
  • focus on using your hamstrings and glutes to extend your hips at the top of the movement.
  • breathe out at the top of the movement.

Check out the video below to see what deadlifting like a boss looks like.

[youtube id=”_zCklkqWVp8″]

As well as refining your technique, there are also a number of exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles used during a deadlift.  These accessory movements, as they’re sometimes called, are just as important as the deadlift itself if you want to move big weight.  Here are some really effective accessory exercises that will help you build that brute strength that is so necessary for big deadlifts.

Bent over barbell rows – This exercise is one of the best exercises for upper back strength and muscle development.  This will strengthen your lockout at the top of the movement.  3-4 sets of 8-10 reps will do the trick.

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Russian kettlebell swings – The kettlebell swing is phenomenal for reinforcing the hip hinge.  The swing requires you to explosively extend the hips using power from the glutes and hamstrings making this a natural carryover to the deadlift.  The key is to use a relatively heavy kettlebell and swing it with lots of power to really strength that posterior chain.  The Russian swing is the preferred option since it shifts the focus more onto the lower body rather than the shoulders with the American swing.  Try 6-8 sets of 20 at the end of your workout and let me know how your hammies feel the next morning!

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Farmer’s walks – There’s no doubt a strong deadlift requires a strong grip.  Sometimes that can be the limiting factor when you start to approach failure.  Farmer’s walks are hands down the best way to toughen up your grip.  Mix it up with heavier loads for shorter distances and moderate loads for longer distance to build more endurance.  Never let grip strength be the reason you miss a lift again.

Glute/Ham raises – This is a badass exercise.  I’ll warn you, it ain’t for newbies.  Lifting 75-80% of your bodyweight with just your glutes and hamstrings takes some serious strength.  Elite powerlifters and sprinters swear by this movement.  Start slow and try some negatives first until you can build up the strength to do full reps.

Deficit Deadlifts – To increase the difficulty of any exercise, simply increase the range of motion of that exercise.  Deadlifting from a deficit will increase the eccentric loading of the low back, glutes, and hamstrings forcing them to contract with more force.  You don’t want to go quite as heavy when working from a deficit but you really want to focus on keeping neutral spine and maintaining tension on the posterior chain.  Reduce your load by 10-20% when working from a deficit.  Throw these in every couple of weeks to shock the body and keep things interesting.  Try 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps.

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a couple of inches can make a world of difference

Hill Sprints – Does deadlifting make you a better sprinter or does sprinting help you to become a better deadlifter?  Another case of the chicken and the egg I suppose. One thing’s for sure, deadlifting and sprinting go hand in hand.  Sprinting is another great way to build strong glutes and hamstrings.  Just another reason to quit jogging and build some impressive strength.  Add in some workouts dedicated to sprinting and power development and watch your numbers go through the roof!

sprinting-runner

sprinting is excellent for the glutes and hams!

As you can see, the key to deadlifting like a boss is developing a strong posterior chain, grip strength, and upper back strength.  Of course, good technique will go a long way as well.  Getting lots of practice, build strength with these accessory exercises and you’ll be pulling double your bodyweight in no time!

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You are now ready to do battle!

If you have any other questions about deadlifts, feel free to drop a comment below.

Don’t forget to subscribe below to get your FREE 6 Week training program and Special Nutrition Report!

 

 

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How to Perform the Perfect Push-up..

It doesn’t matter what type of exercise program you’re doing, it’s almost guaranteed that you’re going to have to do a push-up or some variation of it.  This exercise is a staple in most law enforcement and military training programs and is one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do.

The irony is that despite how common this exercise is, it gets absolutely butchered most of the time.  Some of the most common mistakes include:

  • wrong elbow position – elbows flaring out to the side
  • wrong hand position – hands internally rotated
  • inability to maintain plank position – lower back and hips sinking
  • improper head position – looking up
  • improper range of motion – not able to touch chest to the floor

Despite being a convenient exercise (i.e. no equipment and little space required) it isn’t a simple exercise.  Having the ability to press a large percentage of your body weight for multiple reps requires a fair amount of relative strength.  Therein lies the struggle.  To become a master of the pushup, use these quick fixes.

Keep your elbows below your shoulders – The elbows should be at approximately a 45 degree angle to you rib cage when performing a push-up.  This takes stress off the shoulders and places it on the chest and triceps which is what you want.

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improper elbow position

elbowsin

proper elbow position

Externally rotate your hands – Keep your hands slightly turned out at an “11” and “1” position.  This will prevent the elbows from flaring out and activate your lats to stabilize your shoulders throughout the movement.

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improper hand position

hands

proper hand position

Keep your core tight – The push-up can be thought of as a moving plank.  This makes it extremely important to maintain a solid core throughout the full range of motion.

Flex your glutes – To also help maintain proper plank position, be conscious of flexing your glutes to stabilize your hips.

Keep your head in a neutral position – There should be a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.  Looking up puts excess strain on your neck and will cause you to arch your back excessively.

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improper head/hip position

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proper head/hip position

Lose weight – You might be strong as on ox under the bar, but if you struggle to move your own body weight, it might simply be due to the fact that you’re too heavy to move your weight efficiently.  You skinny bastards have the upper hand for once!

Check out the video below to see what a perfect pushup looks like.

[youtube id=”Eh00_rniF8E”]

If you struggle to perform a proper push-up with full range of motion, then there are many progressions you can use to work up to a full push-up.

Keep in mind, all of the above rules still apply even though you are doing progressions.

  • Push-ups from the knees – This is the one of the simplest progressions as it requires you lift lower percentage of your body weight.
  • Hands elevated push-ups – The next step would be to try push-ups with your hands elevated.  This will challenge your core strength a bit more while still lifting a lower percentage of your body weight than a full push-up.  The angle you perform these will depend on your strength and ability to get full range of motion.
  • Isometric pushups – To break through sticking points, you can try isometric holds at various points in the movement.  Start at the top position and lower yourself down to a point that is challenging and then hold that position for 5 seconds.  Try 2-3 sets of 5 repetitions.
  • Negative push-ups – Performing negatives is a great way to build strength and stability.  Start at the top position and lower yourself down slowly.  Aim for a 3-5 second tempo. Try 2-3 sets of 5 repetitions.

Check out the video below to see how to perform a negative pushup.

[youtube id=”WC2q2miXqoo”]

Aside from modifying the range of motion, you can also build chest and tricep strength using these exercises:

  • Bench press – Arguably the best exercise to develop chest and tricep strength.
  • Dumbell chest press – A great alternative to the barbell bench press as it will challenge your stability and strength.
  • Strict shoulder press (barbell or dumbbell) – Although a vertical press, the shoulder press will help to build strength and stability in the shoulders and strengthen the triceps which are all required to be proficient in the push-up.

If you’re pretty comfortable with the push-up and can do at least 30 reps unbroken, then give these advanced exercises and variations a try.

  • Feet elevated push-ups
  • Spiderman push-ups
  • Close grip push-ups
  • Ring push-ups

ringpushupsringpushup2ring pushups are great way to challenge your core strength and upper body stability

  • Clap Push-ups
  • Dips (ring or straight bar)

ringdips

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ring dips will really test your upper body strength and stability

Becoming a master of the basics is secret to success in fitness. Work on your push-up game and don’t be another victim of sloppy form.

 

 

 

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How to Build Strong Shoulders and Prevent Nagging Injuries

I’ve always referred to training as a journey and I always say “the journey is the reward.”  What I forgot to mention is that along this journey there may be a few bumps in the road.  Depending on your training age, genetics, and lifestyle, you may have an injury or two along the way.  If you’ve been training for a long time and never had any setbacks consider yourself lucky – maybe you should even write a book!

The point is, although injuries do happen from time to time, you can overcome them and become even more resistant to them in the process.  Being disciplined and taking a systematic approach is the key.

It’s safe to say that I’ve had my fair share of sprains and strains over the years – 3 achilles tendon ruptures and multiple hamstring strains to name a few.  As a result, I’ve had to learn how to work through and around various aches and pains.  Over the last few months, I’ve been suffering from some bicep tendonitis in my left shoulder.  I have good days and bad days.  Do I ever get frustrated? Absolutely.  Have I stopped taking my body for granted and become more strategic with my training? Absolutely.  Have I become wiser and more savvy as a result of dealing with this injury? ABSOLUTELY!

Coincidentally, this brings me to our main topic of discussion – building strong shoulders and preventing nagging injuries.  There are a number of factors that contribute to shoulder injuries that include but are not limited to:

  • Bad postureKelly Starrett said it best “sitting is the new smoking.”  If you sit at a desk all day then you aren’t doing yourself any favors.  Excessive sitting leads to rounded shoulders, tight traps and pecs and destroys your shoulder mobility.
  • Over development of the pecs – If you’re a meathead that lives and dies by the bench press, then you will most likely run into shoulder problems at some point in your training career.  Too much pec work pulls the shoulder joint forward making it vulnerable to impingement and other chronic injuries.

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too much heavy pec work can lead to shoulder problems

  • Poor thoracic mobility – Also known as the “T” spine, thoracic mobility plays a huge role in your ability to perform overhead lifts without putting stress on your lower back.
  • Poor external rotation – Having trouble holding a proper “rack” position in a front squat or thruster?  Your external shoulder rotation is most likely limited.
  • Hyper active upper traps – Unfortunately, when we are stressed we tend to carry it in our neck and shoulders which makes these muscles hyperactive (they compensate for other muscles that should be doing the work).
  • Weak back muscles – A strong upper back is necessary to stabilize the scapula and keep the shoulder joint in a neutral position.  Muscular balance is critical to healthy joints.
  • Over use – You CAN have too much of a good thing.  Because the shoulder joint is involved in so many exercises it can easily become overused and develop chronic injuries.  Knowing how to moderate training volume can save your shoulders a lot of stress in the long run.
  • “Behind the neck” exercises – Loading the shoulder from behind the neck puts it in a very vulnerable position and can lead to dislocations and ligament tears.  Play safe and keep the weight in front of you.
  • Not “packing” the shoulder – During certain exercises like a chin-up or a push-up, the shoulder acts as a stabilizer and can only do so if it is in a “packed” position.  This is done by engaging your lats and rhomboids to pull your shoulders blades down and together. This protects the shoulders and makes the movement more efficient.

bad-posture1

“sitting is the new smoking”

The shoulder joint is a complex structure comprised of a number of muscles, ligaments and bones allowing it to move through multiple planes of motion.  The recommendations outlined will help to build strong healthy shoulders, prevent various chronic and acute injuries, as well as help to actively rehabilitate common shoulder dysfunctions.

If you want to have what Eric Cressey refers to as “bulletproof shoulders,” there are 3 main areas you need to address in your training:

  1.  Strength – The ability to load the shoulder joint and move those loads efficiently.
  2. Stability – The ability to load the shoulder joint and HOLD those loads efficiently.
  3. Mobility/Flexibility – The ability to move the shoulder joint through various ranges of motion without any pain or restriction.

To develop these areas,  there are many approaches you can take but at the same time it’s important to have a solid foundation which is built on basic fundamental exercises.

To develop strength, the following exercises should serve as the foundation of your training:

Overhead Exercises

Depending on the current state of your shoulders, overhead exercises may or may not be in your best interest.  If you have strong, healthy shoulders with good mobility, then going overhead will only reinforce those movement patterns.  If you suffer from an impingement and lack the thoracic mobility to lift overhead efficiently, then you might have to address these issues first.  If you’re pain free, these exercises should be a part of your shoulder training:

  • Strict Shoulder Press
  • Push Press
  • Strict Dumbbell Shoulder Press
  • 1 Arm Dumbbell Push Press

The strict presses and push presses are the best for overall strength and muscular development.  Single arm variations are also a great option to address any muscular imbalances.

tspine

your thoracic mobility will determine your ability to go overhead

Pulling Exercises

Too often, injuries like tendonitis and impingement are a result of bad posture, and over development of the pecs and anterior deltoids.  This pulls the shoulder joint forward making it more difficult for it to move freely overhead or in any direction for that matter.  To offset this anterior rotation, it’s important to develop strong back muscles such as the lower traps, rhomboids, rear deltoids and lats.  The law of gravity states the “what goes up must come down.”  The law of healthy shoulders states “for every push there must be a pull.”  Here are some pulling exercises that your shoulders will thank you for later:

  • Pull-up/Chin-ups
  • 1 Arm Dumbbell Rows
  • Bent Over Rows
  • Inverted Rows
  • Incline Dumbbell Rows
  • Face Pulls
  • Band Pull Aparts (front and overhead)
  • “Y”s, “T”s and “W”s

inclinerow

inclinerow2

incline dumbbell rows are great for the lower traps and rhomboids

Pull-ups and chin-ups are vertical pulls that strengthen the lats while the rowing exercises and pull aparts are horizontal pulls that will target the lower traps and rhomboids.

Rotator Cuff Exercises

I mentioned earlier that the shoulder is made up of a number of different muscles.  There are two main muscle groups that make up the shoulder – the deltoid and the rotator cuff.  The deltoid has 3 heads (front, lateral, and rear) and the rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor).  The rotator cuff sits under the deltoid and holds the shoulder joint together.  These muscles, if weak and neglected, can lead to a host of shoulder problems.  It’s important to take the time to strengthen these muscles  in isolation to protect them from strains and tears.  Here are some rotator cuff exercises:

  • Internal/External rotation with shoulder abducted/adducted

The external rotators generally pose the most problems and more time should be spent strengthening them.

Stability Exercises

Strength and stability go hand in hand which leads us to the best exercises for building shoulder stability:

  • Kettlebell Windmill – Builds shoulder stability while develops hip and lower back mobility.

windmill

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windmills are great for shoulder stability and lower back/hip mobility

  • Turkish Get-up – Builds shoulder stability while develops core strength and balance.
  • Overhead farmer’s walk – Builds shoulder stability while develops core strength and balance.

overheadwalk

the overhead walk will BULLETPROOF your shoulders

  • Overhead lunge – Builds shoulder mobility while develops core and leg strength.
  • Overhead squat – Builds shoulder mobility while develops core and leg strength.

The limiting factor in these exercises is the ability to hold and stabilize weight overhead. This is arguably the best way to build shoulder stability.

Mobility/Flexibility Exercises

Keeping your shoulders healthy also requires adequate mobility/flexibility through all the major planes of motion – flexion/extension, internal/external rotation, and abduction/adduction.

Here are some great mobility/flexibility exercises to get the shoulders moving freely:

  • External rotation with stick
  • Handcuff stretch with band
  • T-spine stretch on foam roller
  • Shoulder dislocates with stick
  • Towel stretch

Towel-stretch-IR

towel stretch

handcuffstretch

handcuff stretch

It’s important to note that too much mobility/flexibility (aka laxity) in a joint can be just as bad as not having enough.  If you have lax shoulders, then your primary focus should be on building strength and stability to prevent injury.

The shoulder plays either a primary or secondary role in a wide range of upper body exercises which makes it so critical to keep them healthy if you want to train hard and continue to make gains.  Don’t wait until shit hits the fan to start taking care of yourself.  Use these exercises as a PREVENTATIVE measure to a long lasting, pain free training regime.  Check out the video below for a great shoulder warm-up routine!

[youtube id=”j0U-09otG04″]

If you liked this article, subscribe below to get more articles like this sent directly to you and you’ll also receive 2 FREE ebooksThe Pure Payne Method and the Special Nutrition Report!

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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.

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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.

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rest in peace Warrior!

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

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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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The Fitness Bucket List: 16 Must-Reach Milestones for the Die Hard Gym Rat!

If you’re competitive and have spent a fair amount of time under the bar then you’ve probably made some notable accomplishments.  Maybe you’ve dropped a waist size, maybe you can finally do a chin-up, or maybe you’ve managed to get to the gym consistently for 3 months straight.

These are all things to be proud of and definitely deserve a pat on the back.  However, I want to take it one step further and look at some SERIOUS feats that only the truly committed could ever achieve. Lifetime accomplishments if you will.

This is for the die hard gym rat, the intermediate to advanced lifter, or someone that simply lives and breathes fitness.  This is for the top 10% that eat clean, train hard, and can bend a barbell just by looking at it!

Now, you’re certainly not going to win any powerlifting competitions or the Crossfit Games with any of these feats but you can certainly consider yourself an accomplished and fit individual. You’ll definitely be on another level compared to most of the people at your gym.

We are going to look at 4 major performance categories: barbell strength, bodyweight strength, conditioning, and body composition.

This is for that 10% that eat clean and can bend a barbell just by looking at it! Click To Tweet

Barbell Strength – Will measure how strong you are in some of the major barbell lifts in absolute terms and relative to your bodyweight.

Bodyweight strength – Also known as relative strength, will measure your strength in the major bodyweight exercises.

Conditioning – Will measure both your aerobic and anaerobic conditioning with various training modalities.

Body composition – Measured as body fat percentage. Looking good takes hard work and discipline too!

The objective is to reach all of these milestones before you retire your jersey and hang it in the rafters.  Ideally, you will have the ability to hit all of these benchmarks at any given time.  See how you size up.

Here are 16 fitness milestones for the die hard gym rat:

Barbell Milestones:

1. Bench press – 315lbs or 1.5x body weight for men/ 135lbs 0r body weight for women

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2. Back squat – 365lbs or 2x body weight for men/ 205lbs or 1.5x body weight for women

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3. Deadlift – 455lbs or 2.5x body weight for men/275lbs or 2x body weight for women

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gotta love that “deadlift face”

4. Overhead squat – 185lbs or body weight for men/120lbs or .75x body weight for women

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5. Clean – 275lbs or 1.5x body weight/ 165lbs or body weight for women

6. Standing Shoulder Press – 165lbs or .75-.8x body weight for men/85lbs or .65-.7x body weight for women

A 315lb bench press is probably the gold standard as far as bench press is concerned.   If you’re really scrawny (i.e. less than 180lbs) then 315 probably isn’t in the cards for you.  However, 1.5x bodyweight is fantastic nonetheless.  When it comes to the deadlift, once you cross over that 400lb mark that shit is just straight up heavy!  Kudos to you if you can pull 455.

The overhead squat will possibly pose the most problems for most if you have any shoulder mobility/stability issues whatsoever.  It’s arguably the least trained barbell exercise as well.  The clean is also a movement that takes some time to master making 275lbs quite an accomplishment.  Like the saying goes “If it was easy, we’d all be doing it and we’d all look great with our shirts off.”

If it was easy, we'd all be doing it and we'd all look great with our shirts off. Click To Tweet

Bodyweight Milestones:

7. Strict Pull-ups/Chin-ups – 15 for men/8 for women

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8. Push-ups – 50 unbroken for men/30 unbroken for women

9. Dips – 30 unbroken for men/20 unbroken for women

10.  Strict Handstand Pushups – 15 unbroken for men/8 unbroken for women

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11.  Muscle-ups – 5 unbroken for men/3 unbroken for women

Keeping a good balance of absolute and relative strength is the key to being functionally fit.  This is also one of the main objectives in the Pure Payne Method.  Fellas, I hope all those years under the bar didn’t make you too big and heavy cause it would have shown in this section.   This is also an area where the ladies may struggle more due to less strength and muscle mass in the upper body.  It’s not often you see a woman do dips or handstand pushups but when it happens it’s a work of art!  As for muscle ups, one could argue that getting a single muscle up is already enough to start poppin’ bottles! The good news is though, once you’ve got one under your belt, it’s far easier to start getting multiples.

Conditioning Milestones:

It’s time to dust off the lungs and get ready to breathe hard – REALLY HARD!  Despite not being a huge fan of long slow cardio, the distances tested in this section are long enough to test the appropriate energy systems but not so long that you’ll burn 20lbs of muscle trying to complete them. The aerobic system (primary system for activities lasting longer than 2 minutes) is usually trained at low intensity for the purpose of burning fat (although some muscle is burned too).  The anaerobic system (primary system for activities lasting less than 2 mins) is an often undertrained and underestimated one.

12. Run 1 mile – 7 minutes for men/8 minutes for women

13. Row 2000m – 7:20 for men/8:20 for women

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14. Burpees – 100 in 8 minutes for men and women

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15. 100 Meter Sprint – 13 seconds for men/14 seconds for women

The tests that stand out to me are the 2000m row which should not be underestimated as anyone who has ever done this test knows it’s a crippler!  As for burpees, we all know the story with those, you’re just going to have to dig deep into your mental recesses to get through that one. The 100m sprint should also be interesting.  If the last time you sprinted was at your high school track meet or 10th grade basketball tryouts then you might be in for a little treat when you try to turn on the afterburners.  Explosive power is often the most overlooked aspect of any fitness program.

Body Composition Milestone:

16. Body fat percentage – 12% or less for men/ 18% or less for women (can be measured with calipers, hydrostatic weighing, or DEXA scan as long as you use the same measure each time). This is the range where you’ll have some vascularity and you’re abs will show. This is also a range that isn’t too extreme and sustainable with a little bit of work.

Although I’ve never been an advocate of training purely for aesthetics, I would be naive to ignore the hard work and discipline it takes to achieve a lean physique.  For some of you, this might be the most challenging test because it will require you to change your eating habits beyond what you are comfortable with.

If you scored well in one category but poorly in another, don’t sweat it.  You’re probably guilty of training your strengths and avoiding your weaknesses like the plague.  Take it on the chin and use this as motivation to rethink your training and develop a more diverse approach to your workouts.

One last thing, check out this video of Rich Froning overhead squatting 255lbs for 15 reps! Unbelievable!

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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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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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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!

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