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.

Quick Tips – Volume 3

Push something, pull something, do something for your legs… and do it 2-4 days per week.

If you just based your workout around those three simple things, you’d probably be more healthy, have increased injury resistance, be more in balance and achieve your goals faster.

It’s simple, it’s VERY quick, and it’s “functional” in the strictest sense of the word.
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Powerlifting Equipment – A Beginners Guide

Powerlifting has 3 big debates – squat depth, drugs and supportive equipment. The last one is what I want to discuss today. What follows is a quick and dirty history around powerlifting equipment as I know it, and where it is today. It’s not meant to be comprehensive, but to give a better idea as to what it is, how it works and why it’s not “cheating”.

EDIT: 1,400 words later, and “quick and dirty” should read “tedious and boring”

Let’s start with an analogy before looking at equipment on a lift by lift basis… Imagine you’re at a race track. You want to learn how to drive a car around a track and there’s 2 dudes there. One’s a Touring Car driver, he’s got awesome skills in his saloon car, perhaps a bit rough and ready but he can get around the track a hell of a lot faster than most. The other guy’s an F1 driver. He’s a master of taking the absolute limits of technology and extracting ever last little drop of speed and power out of it.
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One For The Ladies – Why Lifting Weights Won’t Make You Big and Bulky

Almost every girl who steps into the gym for the first time has the same concern when their trainer suggests a weights program – they’re going to ‘bulk up’ and become some muscular monster with chunky veins everywhere (sound familiar??). Nothing could be further from the truth. Weight, and particularly strength, training in conjunction with mobility and conditioning work will give you that toned body which you’re after. So let’s plough on and see why you shouldn’t fear weight training…

What weights WILL do:                             What weights WON’T do:
   
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Technical Failure

It’s not going to be very often that you hear me refer to something Charles Poliquin says as a positive, but there’s at least one concept of his I really love – technical failure.

Reps stop counting once your form breaks down beyond a defined technical standard. For example, that’ll be bouncing or bum lifts on the bench, not breaking parallel with your squats, or not getting your chin over the bar for chin ups and pull ups.

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