That Cover Model Look – Ben Coker

When we see a female cover model, there are two aspects of the physique that women aspire to have. The first is the ‘leanness’ or level of fat on the body achieved on the whole by effective nutrition and calorie expenditure. The second is the shape of the muscles on the body that give the female body a desirable shape. Many fail to appreciate that it is the hypertrophy of the body’s muscle fibres that develops those much admired contours that women seek.

In this article I will clarify the mechanics behind successful exercise selection and ordering in a programme that will yield a cover model body. I will also dispel some myths and stigmas that surround women and weight training.

Full Article

Advertisements

The Jungle Gym – Interview with Ben Coker & Jamie Bolton

EK: Boys, welcome back from the Jungle Gym. From the video footage you’ve already posted we can see it was quite an experience. To kick off our interview today can you tell us – what was the most challenging aspect for each of you whilst in the ‘Jungle Gym’?
a
Jamie: Thanks it’s great to be back, the Jungle Gym was quite a trip to say the least! For me, the most challenging aspect was learning to forget the ‘norms’ of at home, and to have to really think outside the box. Of course, this led to its own problem and in trying to create more options very quickly I ended up with ‘paralysis by analysis’, i.e. too many options in exercise selection, from the tools I created.

So the old simple message of ‘keep it simple, stupid’, suddenly became my mantra for the trip. I honed in on the most effective movements, whatever they happened to be in each scenario, and then I hammered away at them. Why make it more complicated than it needs to be!

Ben: Food. From my experiences in the Jungle gym I found that my rough maintenance level is and or was about 3500 – 4000kcal! I say was because the heat out there will have increased my basal metabolic rate. Regardless I require a relatively large amount of kcal to keep my level of muscle mass. Give me a bar and I can keep my back growing or at the very least maintained by hitting various grip chins for volume. But without the level of nutrition…trust me its hard to keep hold of energy hungry muscle mass!

EK: Certainly, we all know how important nutrition is in this game. How was it that you actually managed to keep up some form of decent nutrition and some continuity whilst travelling?

Ben: For me I went straight to my old friend. Milk. For those of you who know me I put away milk by the litre, commonly consuming 4L of organic full fat a day. The same was true for travelling. I don’t care about what people say about dairy/ full fat milk being the devil and linked to all sorts from heart disease to diabetes…its bull. There is plenty of unbiased research out there backing me up, plus the fact I consumed 4L a day for pretty much a year and every time I get a check up I’m passed as very fit and healthy, but that’s not for today’s discussion!

No matter where you are, there is a good chance you can get milk. Its packed with vitamins & minerals and has a near perfect blend of macronutrients…and it’s cheap. So for me I sourced out milk and kept tanked up on it. Now despite what anchor man said, milk is actually  good choice at hydrating you too, and so I regularly sipped on milk as we were out and about. Feeding and coping with the heat. Win win.

Of course I didn’t just drink milk. I ate lots too. Again, for those of you who know me, I am easily pleased in the food department. ‘Boring’ foods suit me to the ground and whats even better is that they make me grow. Eggs like milk can be found in most places, are cheap and pack good macros, nutrients and kcal. Picking up eggs be they scrambled, fried or even in omelets was relatively easy and i relied on them whenever we had a chance. Oh I’m forgetting a tiny point – the cholesterol in eggs helps in your body’s testosterone production.

Jamie: One thing in particular is trying to eat like the locals do. Why? Because they can’t afford any expensive, processed food. Instead they’re eating locally grown, natural produce; and what’s more, it’s going to be incredibly full of nutrients compared to anything at home.

It’s also worth adding that if you know you’re going to be really remote like I was in Uganda, and that meat may well be extra scarce / expensive, then it might be worth taking a whey protein supplement with you, like I did with MP’s Whey Impact Blend . If you can, even bump your protein up so it’s getting close to even just 0.75g/lb it’ll make a world of difference.

EK: Jamie, you were staying in an extremely rural location whilst in Africa. Can you briefly describe the location and shed some light on your methods of training whilst there?

Jamie: I was in a place called Kanungu, in rural south-west Uganda. We’re talking dirt roads, long-drop toilets, and power for a couple hours per day (if you’re lucky). Real basics. But incredibly refreshing in looking at what you really need to live with.

As far as training went, the TRX was a great tool to bring along with me, but knowing I was in the same location for 6 weeks, I didn’t stop there. I had a local carpenter knock up a log press and 2 farmers handles, at about £9 a log. And I made a ‘Jerry Bar’ out of four 20litre jerry cans, some wood and rope.

It's amazing what you can construct very quickly in the jungle gym

The biggest adjustment was to using fixed loading, be it bodyweight or the logs. In other words, no ramping up. This lack of loading was a problem, at first. Then I adapted and worked around it. Bodybuilding techniques like pre and post-exhaust made an appearance, and working in a circuit fashion worked very well too. Most of all, I really attacked my conditioning, the one thing that can always be improved.

EK: Give us an example of the most improvised bit of training equipment used in the ‘Jungle Gym’

Ben: Whilst in Cambodia we travelled to Sihanoukville and there we found a nice secluded beach. That being great in itself (as we could avoid the street sellers) we actually stumbled across a piece of drift wood in the form of a log/branch. Being the opportunists and training fanatics we instantly interpreted this object of a sled! Out came the TRX straps and so the training began. An improvised yet extremely easy way to get a workout done. Below is a compilation we made of various exercises we performed with this drift wood sled…

a
EK: What factors in your improvised training do you feel were important in enabling you to keep your strength levels so high and even improve in some cases?

Jamie: For me, it was all about drilling my conditioning, when my conditioning steps up, good things really seem to happen. On top of that, I followed Ben’s advice and zoned in on accumulating some volume in my training to make up for the lack of loading, and this seemed to make a world of difference.

Ben: My goals were more geared to keeping good shape and muscle mass as opposed to my strength levels. I knew from experience that what strength I may lose, I would gain back quickly when I got regular access to a gym back home. That aside I did employ a few tactics into my training that I feel helped keep my strength levels so high.

Firstly, If I found a gym with adequate poundage, I made a point of making the first compound of either my upper push, upper pull or leg day, heavy. Make the most of the heavy weights if you find them and pile on the volume after.

Secondly, I lifted explosively on every rep. This is something I do regardless but I feel its effectiveness came to light whilst I was away. By trying to explode through the lift you serve to keep your CNS firing and not let it get sluggish and lazy. I even incorporated heavy rock shot puts In Sihanoukville as a method of keeping my pressing movement patterns firing.

EK: You mentioned making the most of any gyms you could whilst travelling. What type of access to gyms did you actually have?

Jamie: In Africa, none. It was all about what I was able to create from the local environment, or use my bodyweight to accomplish. Africa was hard work in that respect, but being pushed to think outside of the box, it really made me think about what was ‘necessary’ and what was more ‘nice to have’ but not ‘need to have’. It got better in Asia, just about.

Ben: In Thailand (bangkok) there were a few of the big ‘health spa’ gyms about so whenever we passed through Bangkok (twice minus the day we left) we hit one of them and made the most.

In Laos, Cambodia and the rest of Thailand we found a few gyms, all pretty spartan, some better than others though. It became all about going back to basics and trying to get the best out of the bad gyms and making the most of the gyms that were, well, actually gyms!

EK: How did you make the most of, lets say, one of the better gyms, in the instances you happened to stumble across one?

Jamie: In short, we nailed it. We both did some pretty sadistic levels of volume and pushed ourselves to the brink. But hey, we never knew when the next ‘good’ gym would turn up. You make the most of those days to put some extra work ‘in the bank’ to make up for when you can’t.

Ben: As Jamie said volume is crucial and I harked on to him a fair bit about it. When travelling around you don’t necessarily know the next time you going to have any opportunity to train. For me this lead to one sensible solution…beat the hell out of the muscles your training in each session. Forget stimulating and not annihilating…I obliterated the muscles and gave myself the luxury of needing a whole week to recover! It simply means you have to train less often.

Being relatively unaccustomed to volume training, Jamie actually put on body mass by adopting this principle into parts of his training. I think he secretly thanks me for it but he won’t admit it.

EK: Conversely, when posed with a ‘sub standard’ gym should we say, how did you make the most of what was their to ensure an adequate training effect?

Jamie: By not using any of it! Unless you’re giving me a rack, or even just a barbells and some plates, I may as well make the most of my bodyweight and the TRX instead. There’s no point in using something sub-standard when you’ve already got a very versatile piece of kit with you at all times – yourself.

Ben: In Hue we found a ‘gym’ that looked like something pre pumping iron. A barely functioning relic of the past. Despite visiting that place all I used in there was the pull down frame to perform 20 sets of 10 pull ups…I told you It’s all about the simple things that work and the volume! Here is a clip of that infamous place…

a

EK: Jamie, you managed to actually put on muscle mass whilst away. Could you attribute this to any particular aspect of your training whilst away?

Jamie: Sure. For a start, I really had to dabble into high rep ranges. I can’t remember the last time I went above 8 reps before I left, apart from the odd widowmaker squat. Suddenly, 15 reps became low. That and keeping the diet in check and bam, I grew. Simple really!

EK: Ben, coming from a bodybuilding background and being a ‘big guy’, did your approach to training in the Jungle Gym differ from Jamie’s in anyway?

Ben: The biggest difference was in the food. I needed more. I train following a bodybuilders approach though and Jamie that of pure strength. Resultantly my volume was higher still than Jamie’s. Its the way I like to train and I am accustomed to it. Being at a relatively high level of development I find that I require that extra volume to keep such muscle mass and fullness. I also hit isolation or accessory movements a lot more after my main lifts. Again its a volume issue but also aesthetics. For example, with shoulders, I put a lot more side lateral, upright row and reverse fly movements into my workouts what ever way I could whereas Jamie was pretty much content on the main pressing and pulling movements. I went out my way to get extra work done and resultantly my workouts were longer.

EK: From your experience what pitfalls do you feel potentially await any future travellers?

Jamie: Expecting to do too much. I set out with this glorified idea of doing nearly daily bodyweight activity. Didn’t last for long. You have to remember that you’re away travelling and there to enjoy it. So it’s important to be minimalist in both your expectations and your approach. By the end I was training just 2 days per week. And I got on just fine.

Ben: I agree with Jamie and we spoke of this matter frequently when out there. Stressing out will only serve to reduce your Testosterone levels and ramp up your cortisol levels. The mechanics are to long winded to delve into here but essentially your body only has a finite ability to make testosterone or cortisol (via the conversion of cholesterol and in turn pregnenolone). As one goes up the other goes down. Keep the cortisol (stress) down by getting the weight of not leading the perfect training life off your back. Every little helps. Plus as Jamie said, you are here to life live and experience the world. After all what’s 6 weeks out of your whole life?

EK: In hindsight, could you have better prepared yourself for a length time away? Or put another way, are there any things a traveller could do in the build up to going away that would help them on the road?

Jamie: I’m not sure I could have prepared any better, as part of the experience is that it’s a vast unknown quantity. The one thing I’d say that is important though, is to start thinking about it in advance and how you’ll approach it. In other words, if you’ve got minimal training time, what are your real bang for buck, go-to exercises. And what do you do if the equipment isn’t there. What’s your back up plan? With that in mind, it might be worth investing some time into reading up on advanced bodyweight movements, as you might need them a lot.

Ben: One tactic that I use often before going away is purposefully ‘overreaching’ as its technically known. I up my training volume and intensity the couple of weeks prior to going away, reaching a point of mild over training. This means that when I go away, I can actually not train for a week to two weeks and still be supercompensating (diet dependant). In the case here that equates to a third of my time away!

I would also like to address the issue of flexibility and being able to let the mind broaden to different training practices, as when your on the road you ARE going to have to do things that aren’t in your normal training. If you are not mentally prepared this can be stressful. Knowing you will have to adapt and then thinking about how you can do that before hand lessens the blow when your presented with less than ideal conditions. It also means that you can get training done instead of being left scratching your head or worse, giving up and not training!

EK: As a final take home for our readers, If you could ‘coin’ the principles of how to train whilst on the road or away from mainstream training, how would you do so in as few words as possible?

Jamie: Think outside the box, use the local environment to your advantage, and most of all – enjoy it!

Ben: In true Coker style…Basics. Volume. Milk.

Shotgun Movements – by Jamie Bolton

It’s 2012. The apocalyptic events predicted by religion and popular media are running riot. The 12 Horsemen, Solar storms, magnetic pole reversals, you name it. It’s happening.What’s worse, a crazed gunman has roamed into the Elite Kinetics Performance Facility and is now holding a shotgun to my temple.

The world may be ending, but worse yet is the EK team held hostage....

“Tell me the secrets. Give me the answers. What movements should I be doing?”

To top it off, it appears he’s got a limited brainspan and can only remember five, yes five, movements in total.

“I want to build a lean, muscular physique, but I won’t use more than five movements.”

I’m usually loathe to pick favourites as everything has its time and its place in a program. Well maybe except bosu-ball dumbbell presses amongst other retarded movements, but you get the picture.

These have no place in any program

But this guy does have a shotgun to my head, so I’m inclined to do what he asks!In the all encompassing field that is strength training, I try to pick movements that are just that. With these 5 movements I am trying to address all the key qualities this guy needs to be developing in order to meet his goals:
1. Strength
2. Power
3. Hypertrophy
4. Conditioning

Finally, we need to address all the key movement patterns and structures in the body, otherwise we are going to end up with some seriously unbalanced development over time. I don’t want our armed friend here to come back and complain!

So this is what I’d prescribe:

1. Complexes

A complex is a series of exercises performed with a barbell back to back without letting go of the bar. I’m slightly cheating here as it is technically more than one exercise, but since it’s continuous, I’m counting them as one! There are many ways of setting these up, but my favorite is the JB Complex.

You can set these up in as many ways you can imagine really. I wrote more here recently on the beauty of complexes if you want to see a bigger list of their benefits.

2. Trap Bar Deadlifts

Possibly the uncrowned king of the lower body exercises.  It gives the benefits of both the squat and conventional deadlift without the drawbacks of both. The squat is a great lower body movement, but since the bar is placed across the upper back, upper body involvement is well, limited. In contrast, the conventional deadlift gets far more upper body involvement, but the weight distribution often leads to temptation for form to weaken and lower backs to round.

From a cost-benefit perspective, we get the best of both worlds using the trap bar deadlift. We get the desirable upper body involvement of the deadlift, but the weight distribution of the squat with the movement firmly through the heels.

3. Power Clean & Press

The Power Clean & Press is a great movement for developing total body explosiveness. It’s impossible to do one slowly. To top it off, it engages and taxes almost every muscle in the body. As a result, this movement will help add slabs of muscle all over your frame. And the increases you’ll see in power and neuro-muscular coordination will make you a faster athlete too. What more could you want?

4. Pull Ups

A full, properly-executed set of pull ups is one of the best movements you’ll see in slapping on precious width and thickness to the back of a body.

The Latissimus Dorsi attach all the way along the spine. In other words, its one HUGE core muscle. And is key in pulling strength, overall trunk stability in pressing, posture and general longevity. Not that the Pull up solely relies on the Lats, the rest of the upper back comes in to play too. Real bang for your buck. Forget the lat pulldowns.

It’s also a 2-for-1 exercise in as much as varying the grip width, and  whether using a pronated or supinated grip, changes the emphasis on varying parts of the back. But thats an article for another day.

Form is crucial, each rep from a dead hang please. No pathetic half reps allowed.

5. Farmers Walks

Great overall body strength & conditioning movement. To reiterate what Ben Coker said here, they’re a great way to build the back, traps, legs, core and grip.

When you include farmers walks in a program, everything else can’t seem to help but go the right way. They’re an awesome, primal movement pattern that needs to be hit. Leave them out at your peril!Programming

Our crazed gunman then returns and demands:

“How do I put all of this together?”

Like this:
A. Complexes 3×8
B. Trap Deads 3-5rm max
C. Power Clean & Press 5×5
D. Pull ups 3x max reps
E. Farmers Walks 4x50m

Complexes are a great way to warm up the entire body for the rest of the session. 3 sets of 8 does nicely here.  With Trap Bar Deadlifts, we want to work up over as many sets as needed to a strong 3-5 rep max. Everytime we get 5 reps, we add weight the next session.

Similarly with the power clean and press, we aim for 5×5, adding weight from set to set until we can’t get 5 reps, plus these should feel light after the heavy deadlift. With Pull ups, we want to cause as much fatigue as possible to maximally stimulate the upper back, so we go to positive failure on each set. Finally, we hit 4 lengths of 50m with the farmers walk to fry what’s left of our shotgun pal.

Try the above for a great total body workout if you are short on time or just want to get back to basics. Perform twice per week and hit some basic conditioning like hill sprints 2 or 3 times per week on top and suddenly you’ve got a pretty decent program.

Wrap Up 

The reality is obviously that we don’t have to limit ourselves like this. But sometimes adding exercises doesn’t necessarily mean added results.As Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler.”

It’s always a useful exercise to go through your training and work out what exercises are really adding value to your program, and what is just there for the sake of it. Getting back to the basic, shotgun movements can be a great way to keep your training simpler and more effective. Sometimes less is more.

A Simple Method for Complex Results – by Jamie Bolton

If I said I had the secret to take nearly every trainee one giant leap towards their goals, most would laugh.
.
“Here we go again. Yet another site. Elite Kinetics sells its soul to the devil and starts pushing some silly equipment / supplement / <insert silly nonsensical item>.”
.
.But I’m not about to do that. I’m not pushing any product here. What I’ve got here isn’t some one-size-fits-all crappy answer. It’s complex. Actually, it’s complexes. And in fact, it’s probably the one thing every trainee could do with adding to their program.
.
I’m sure I’ve got you all on the edge of your seats now. So I won’t wait any longer.
.
Complexes
.
Dan John defines complexes as “...a series of lifts performed back to back where you finish the reps of one lift before moving on to the next lift. The bar only leaves your hands or touches the floor after all of the lifts are completed.

In other words, multiple exercises back-to-back with no rest in between. Typically with a barbell, but dumbbells or kettlebells, work just fine too.

Sounds simple? It’s not. It’s brutal. It’s hell on earth. Sometimes – it’s chunder time.

So why on earth are we doing them? This is why:

  • More time on the basic movement patterns
  • Increase training volume in a time-efficient way
  • Fast, total-body warm ups
  • Strength endurance development
  • Increased calorie burn
  • Rip off body fat
  • Increase work capacity and overall conditioning

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? It is. Let me give you some examples.

Javorek Complex #1
.
Istvan ‘Steve’ Javorek is the godfather of the complex. The man who came up with this great weapon. Here’s his barbell complex #1:
.
Barbell upright row x 6
Barbell high pull snatch x 6
Barbell behind the head squat and push press x 6
Barbell behind the head good morning x 6
Barbell bent-over row x 6
.
.
The JB Complex
.
I may not be the first to do this one, but I do it all the time, so I’m putting my name on it damn it! This is my usual warm-up complex, and as several of my trainees can attest to – most definitely a favourite of mine:
.
Push up (hands on barbell) x 6
Barbell Row x6
Barbell Hang Clean x6
Barbell Push Press x6
Barbell Back Squat x6
Barbell Good Morning x6

.

Dumbbell Hell

Let’s not forget our friend the dumbbell. Dumbbells provide an additional stability component as they move separately from one another. Here’s a great example:

DB Renegade Row x5
DB High Pull x5
DB Military Press x5
DB Thruster x5
DB Lunge (DBs at shoulders) x5
DB Squat x5

.
Implementation
.
Complexes can be used in a multitude of ways. Each for slightly different purposes, yet the benefits are common to all.
.
Warm ups. I hate lengthy, boring warm ups. Heck I used to not bother. Until I found complexes. A couple rounds of complexes for (without exhausting myself) and I’m good to go. My body is ‘warm’, heck I’m usually sweating at this point. Moreover, my mind is ready. Ready to hit the metal.
.
Finishers. I always include some form of finisher/conditioning at the end of a session. Complexes are a great way to do just that. You get all the benefits mentioned above, and you don’t need to worry about special equipment like prowlers, farmers handles etc. 2-4 sets of 8 reps and you’ll be smoked.
.
Extra Conditioning. Sometimes on ‘off’ days you just want to do something. For me, this is that something. Get a great conditioning hit and more time on the basic lifts, without detracting from recovery. In fact it may help recovery. What’s not to like?
.
Putting your own complex together
.
You can set these up in any manner you can think of really. There are only two considerations to remember. One – end with the toughest exercise. Two – make the bar move in some logical order from front to back, i.e. don’t do back squats followed by rows then good mornings and so on. A better option would be to put the rows first. But then, how does the bar get from rows to back squat? Time to add in some presses. You get the picture.
.
Finally, sets and reps are arbitrary really. You can go with what I’ve prescribed above. You can up the reps to 8 or more. Or you can drop the reps and up the weight. These really are your oyster. A great, albeit (very) sadistic option is to go through these set by set as ladder reps, i.e. 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps.
.
Have some ‘fun’ with these and experiment. And if you come up with an awesome one – let me know!

Farmers Walks: The Overlooked Solution To Many Problems – by Ben Coker

The idea for this article came after a chat I had with two friends who are both training powerlifters. The context of the conversation was this: 6 weeks out from a meet one of them wanted to do ‘something a bit different’ and do some strongman stuff to break from the grind of competitive lifts and band/speed work etc. The other suggested it would be detrimental to the meet preparation. After listening on the debate I said that actually I think its a great idea, putting forward the question, ‘Do you know the benefits that heavy farmers walks can bring to your competition lifts and other lifts in general?’ After a brief silence I explained…

Farmers walks are one of the simplest and most function exercises ever. Period. Standing and walking are primal essential functions of human life and this exercise is just that. Stand up with a heavy weight and then walk with it a given distance. Every major muscle group is involved in this exercise, and not only that, dependant on the working distance, great stress can be put upon the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Marius reaped the benefits of heavy farmers walks!

Lets think about the muscular actions and anatomical movements that are occurring and how they can benefit competition lifts and main compound lifts in general.

The farmers walk trains the entire posterior and anterior chains; the traps down to the forearms including the entire spinal core musculature. I hope your ready. Here it is from head to toe:

Farmers walks build monster traps. The upper traps are recruited to hold the shoulder girdle in elevation or at least maintain neutral. This distributes some of the load off of the spine making the weight feel lighter and thereby helps you keep proper posture. How do strong upper traps benefit other lifts?

  • If you are a raw bencher than the mechanics of the lift require the bar to be positioned higher up the body as you raise and lower the bar. This means that the upper back especially the shoulder girdle need to be stabilised and this is accomplished greatly in part by having a strong upper trap contraction.
  • When deadlifting strong traps are needed just as they are in a farmers walk to help distribute some of the load off of the spine making the weight feel lighter and enable better form of spinal extension.
  • When overhead pressing the upper traps play a huge role in lifting the weight. A shoulder press involves elevation of the shoulder girdle and that is the main role of the upper traps.
  • When squatting having strong chunky traps will not only allow you to tighten up and squeeze the upper back more (giving more stability and force transmission from the legs) it also means that the bar can sit more comfortably and stable on your shoulders. Ever wondered how Koklayev can squat 290kg with no hands? That’s part of the answer.
  • When bicep curling, if your upper traps aren’t strong enough to stabilise the shoulder girdle the weight you can curl greatly drops.

 

Farmers walks build a back of gorilla-like proportions.  The upper back (including lats) and all spinal erector muscles comes into play to ‘pin’ back the shoulder blades, maintain spinal extension, prevent spinal rotation and also lock the arms in position as the weights being carried want to oscillate. How does a strong back benefit other lifts?

  • When bench pressing (raw or with gear) a strong upper back, including lats, are needed to secure the scapulae and provide a solid platform for the pressing muscles to act off of.
  • An integral part of the deadlift is a strong upper back. This enables an efficient transfer of force from the legs down to the arms by ensuring a stable shoulder girdle and preventing the weight from swinging forward (i.e. arms moving forward) as to maintain a shorter lever arm and less torque through the lower back. Needless to say having strong spinal erectors will enable you to maintain spinal extension under greater loads, which in the deadlift will allow a greater transfer of energy from the legs to the shoulder girdle and down to the bar – a bigger lift.
  • The upper back includes the lower trapezius muscle group and this muscle plays a role in scapulae adduction (key for deadlift shoulder girdle stability) but more importantly is its role in upward rotation of the scapulae. Any overhead press involves upward rotation of the scapulae. Not only is a strong upper back needed to maintain cervical extension but also strong lower traps are needed to assist in and ensure the correct movement of the scapulae in upward rotation. This is key not only for strength purposes but also shoulder health. It is also key in overhead pressing movements to have a strong spinal erectors to enable you to keep a strong upright platform for you to press the weight off of.
  • When squatting upper back strength is vital to ensure maintenance of spinal extension, and a tight grip on the bar. If your low back is weak then you will struggle to squat any type of decent weight and risk injury through not being able to keep spinal extension and allowing maximal energy transfer from legs to bar. How many people ‘fold’ when squatting as their upper back is simply poor. Maybe you’re one of them?
  • Going back to the bicep curl (because I know people out there still want to curl a car). If your upper back sucks, your shoulder girdle will not be stable enough to curl heavy weights. How many guys do you see curling, hunch back with their shoulder blades pointing out their back like a directional sign. Guys drop the curls and work on your Kroc rows.

 

Farmers walks develop the whole of your legs. You have to be stupid to not understand that walking with a stupidly heavy load requires a lot of lower body recruitment. Granted, they won’t build muscle or strength in the legs like squatting and deadlifting but their role in maintaining an upright posture is crucial. The glutes and hamstrings are needed for propulsion and in achieving full extension at the hip and knee. If you can’t extend the hip and the knees under a heavy load how do you expect to keep your spine in an upright position? You can’t. All you will do is put more torque stress through the spine which is tiring and potentially dangerous for spinal longevity. Carrying over to other lifts, simply think deadlift and squat lock outs and stabilising your torso during an overhead press and you should appreciate how maintaining hip and knee extension is beneficial.

Farmers walks develop a scaffold pole of a torso. The core is a whole body working together concept and farmers walks involve just that. Due to the various torques that exist in all planes of movement during a farmers walk it’s no surprise that these give all your core musculature a battle – that includes the major muscle groups as well as the deep musculature. The cross-over of having a rock solid core needs not preaching. In short: a strong core allows energy transfers through the body to be more efficient. Better transfer of energy means more force output, thus improving all lifts not to mention the health and longevity benefits.

Farmers walks will give you an iron claw. Grip strength – the bane of many lifters. Stop moaning and using straps. Instead, get some farmers walks done. A strong grip is associated with nearly all lifts. Studies have proven that squeezing the bar whilst squatting, pressing, and curling will lead to more motor unit recruitment. Not to mention the fact that strong grip strength means you can hold more weight without straps, key for strength competitors. Oh, and bodybuilders, I forgot you don’t need superhuman grip strength to excel in your sport. Fair point I agree but I ask you this: forearms look amazing when they look like dinosaur legs right? You bet they do. Do farmers walks as a finisher and get your forearms to epic proportions.

There you have it. I ask you now, ‘do you think farmers walks will help improve your lifts?’ If your answer is still unsure, seeing as I can’t slap you, I will leave you with this note instead. The more you become trained the more you have to put in to get returns. When your a newbie you can put in say 1 unit of effort (training, diet, rest etc) to get 10 units of results (size, strength etc). As you become seasoned and further away from your pre-training state you find that you have to put more units of effort in to get less units of result. That’s why pro lifters don’t keep growing or getting stronger at the rate that weed does who had just started going to the gym and now actually eats something more than a bowl of coco pops each day!

Take this idea back to my lifter friend preparing for his meet. He is continually getting down with the grind of his competition lifts. He is experiencing diminishing returns for his effort (not his fault it’s just how the body works). He can however try to maximise improvements in his lifts given what time he has. I suggested that investing time in movements like the farmers walk is likely to increase his chances of putting 5kg on his bench press in a few weeks then simply continuing to pound away on benching movements. Why? If you haven’t figured it out yet, the benching movements are relatively highly trained compared to the accessory muscles. Therefore in a few weeks the lesser trained muscles will improve at a greater percent than those more highly trained. A few weeks after giving this advice I happened to see the guy post the following as his Facebook status: ‘What a week! 3 new PBs and a 230 Deadlift!’ Enough said. Get walking. Farmers Walking.

Building a Bad Ass Fighter – by Ben Coker

I have numerous associates that are involved in fighting sports and resultantly I am frequently asked about training programmes to help develop ‘specific conditioning’ for a fighter for upcoming fights. The physical demands of professional fighting are intense. Muscular strength, power and endurance are all crucial to success. It is clear that training must be aimed to increase all of these. How do we develop all of these at the same time? Well it isn’t as daunting as it first appears as I will explain.
.
I don’t want to go into strength training in this article as the area that causes most confusion lies in developing ‘specific conditioning’ for a fight a.k.a. the muscular endurance. A side note: In terms of pure strength training for a fighter I feel success is obtained in just the same way it is for any athlete: include all the main compound movements; Squat, deadlift, row/chin up variation, overhead press, bench press. Do them heavy and do them fast, this means pure strength days and speed days.  ‘Specific conditioning’ is achieved by mimicking a fight by doing the anatomical movements that occur in a fight separated by no or short rest periods to develop the oxidative capacity of the muscles involved as well as developing cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. Cutting to the chase here are the exercises that i consider to give a fighter in training ‘bang for his buck’.
.
Tornado ball
This exercise works all of the stabilising muscles of the torso as well as developing power from the hip. This movement mimics that of punching from the hip, developing the power in the legs and hip and then enabling it to be transferred through the torso by strengthening its stability.  (Hulse’s reference to it not being a conditioning exercise is in the context of the exercise alone. Used as one exercise in a circuit it can be used for conditioning whilst developing power).
.
.
Renegade rows
This exercise would benefit a fighter who has mounted an opponent in an attempt to ‘ground and pound’. Through developing sagital, horizontal and frontal stability, this exercise will allow a greater transfer of power through the torso and thus delivery through the arm to the opponent.
.
.
SA T-bar jerk press (1st exercise in video)
The first exercise shown here offers a unique movement that develops power in the arms, shoulders and especially the legs and hips. A great exercise to develop punching power using a straight arm…no ‘windmilling here’.
.
.
Sandbag or Turkish get ups
Get ups are fantastic at strengthening and stabilising your body as you move from supine to standing. Lets face it no fighter wants to be stuck on his back and not have the strength and stability to be able to stand up when there is a external force attempting to pin him down.
.
.
Barbell glute bridges
Glute bridges are a great exercises for developing power in hip extension which is key for developing punching power but more specifically enhancing the ability to throw an opponent of off you if you are supine and they get some wise idea about attempting to pummel your face in. Train this movement heavy and fast and you’ll be amazed at how easily you’ll be able to throw an opponent off of you!
.
.
Burpees
This grandad of exercise still has its place. It develops eccentric strength and concentric power in the chest and triceps as well developing muscular endurance. It strengthens the core musculature of the torso and develops power and muscular endurance in the legs and glutes. If you can bang these out effortlessly even when weighted then you’ll have no problem springing up off the mat repeatedly, crucially getting to your feet quicker…which is where the fight is won.
.
.
Battle ropes
This  fantastic exercise and its variations works the entire upper body strength, endurance and stability.There is a strong focus on your core, arms, grip, anaerobic and aerobic systems whilst remaining non impact. Even the legs and glutes can be worked when performing larger movements. These are also great for developing the rotator cuffs which are crucial for shoulder health when shoulder is exposed to extreme velocities
.
.
Farmers walks
This exercise is overlooked for the many benefits it provides to the whole body in terms of strength, stability and conditioning. I wont delve into the exercise in further detail as it is the focus of an upcoming article. Just trust me when i say they are a must!
.
.
Towel/ rope chins
Grip strength for a fighter is crucial when it comes to grappling! Not only will farmers walks help with that but towel/rope chins are fantastic at giving you an iron claw. For those who think outside the box try Towel T-bar rows too as an alternative.
.
.
Sled Rows
These are great for developing grip, upper back strength and muscular endurance.They also force you to tighten up your complete abdominal and lumbar musculature to provide a stable platform. These are key to strong grappling.
.
.
Bear hug carries
It’s all well and good having strong biceps, pectorals, lats, legs and glutes but they need to put to practice and trained in a functional way. Bear hugging a heavy bag or other large object and carrying it over a distance will have your arms and grip screaming, your back and chest pumping and your lungs burning! For the grapplers and wrestlers out there this is a must.
.
.
Wrap up
.
This is no means an extensive list but it gives exercises that I feel are great for developing a formidably conditioned fighter. Stay tuned for upcoming articles that delve more into further conditioning ideas. As an idea on how to create a decent circuit consider the following:
.
Towel Chin ups – failure
Farmers walk – 25m
Renegade rows – 8 reps per side
Bear hug carry – 25m
Burpees – 20reps
Barbell glute bridges – 10reps
Tornado ball – 10 secs
.
Remember these aren’t meant to be easy. Choose as many exercises as you wish, perform as many reps as you wish, rest as little as you can. Don’t get lazy. Push your limits. Enjoy.
%d bloggers like this: