How to program for strength and muscle gain – an expansion

Ok… so ever since I wrote my Idiots Guide to Programming piece, I’ve had people come and ask about sets and reps, and exercise selection. Which is kind of annoying because I left it out of the original post on purpose because I genuinely feel it’s too broad an area to get specific in a blog post about, and because someone is DEFINITELY going to take something I say here, apply it poorly and then blame me because they’ve been an idiot.

But I’m a complete whore and people have been asking, so I’ll deliver – but with the express qualifier of – don’t blame me for your stupidity.

Now that that’s out of the way, allow me to remain ambiguous. What follows are some general guidelines on reps/sets and exercise choice, but first, some general points about general things, generally speaking.
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The importance of hand position in the squat

“My wrists hurt” is probably one of the most common complaints I hear off people squatting, and the good news is it’s really bloody easy to fix. Think of it this way…

“Straight wrist = strong wrist” and “Bent wrist = bad wrist”

The pictures below do a better job of explaining the position than any text can. Essentially rather than the bar sitting in your hand, it sits across it. I think it’s a safer, less painful position, and I personally find it a lot more secure to for keeping the bar on my back, and the external shoulder rotation tends to force thoracic extension as well which will increase your squat and protect your lower back. It’s simple fix with lots of positive benefits. So….

GOOD                                                   BAD
   

GOOD                                                   BAD
    

One thing to be conscious of is that as you try to drive the elbows forward out of the bottom of the squat (like you should be doing), you’re trying to create thoracic extension and keep your chest up. Having “soft” wrists so that you go from the “good” position to the “bad” position while you’re doing that does not create thoracic extension and just loads the absolute hell out of your wrists.

It might take a while to work into that position because it does require a good level of flexibility and could be uncomfortable while you’re trying to adapt to it, but I believe it’s worth it in the long run. So give it a try and let me know what you think.

….and yes, I know. My forearms are jacked.