Coker’s Mass Shakes – by Ben Coker

After my previous articles ‘Belly up Mr Hardgainer’ and ‘Bulking on a £3 Budget’ and numerous other big eating emphasises in other posts, I have received a lot of questions regarding options for other protein shake recipes that I use.

Therefore today I though I would share a few more of my blended shake recipes that I use when bulking. Nothing ground breaking here but I understand sometimes people just like to see  something in writing. Remember options are endless based on your tastes, metabolism and goals!

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Breakfast

Shake 1

2 scoops MP impact whey protein
100g oats
500ml full fat organic milk
banana (av. 120g)
Rasberries (123g)

Total kcal 1079

Shake 2

1 scoop MP impact whey protein
1 cup Greek yoghurt
500ml full fat organic milk
50g oats
1 banana (av. 120g)
dried apricot 50g

(add water to vary thickness)

Total kcal 1000

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Post post workout

I use a basic whey and dextrose shake immediate after workout to increase gastirc emptying and maximise the nutrient uptake immediately after exercise. Use this shake within the next hour window.

Shake 1

2 scoops MP impact whey protein
200g oats
80g dextrose
500ml chocolate milk

Total kcal 1549

Shake 2
2 scoops MP impact whey protein
200g oats
2 bananas (240g)
500ml skimmed milk

Total kcal 1329

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Evening

Shake 1

2 scoops MP impact whey protein
50g peanut butter
20ml extra virgin olive oil
500ml full fat organic milk

Total kcal 1042

Shake 2

1 scoop MP impact whey protein
1 cup Greek yoghurt
500ml full fat organic milk
25g oats
50g cashews

(add water to vary thickness)

Total kcal 1116

Hopefully after seeing these recipes you will be instantly formulating some of your own liquid mass gainer ideas.  Get in the kitchen and experiment!

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GVT for Legs, Back and Shoulders – by Ben Coker

Are your back, leg and shoulder workouts leaving you lost on how to keep inducing hypertrophy? Are any of these body parts lagging behind? Or do you simply like a gruelling challenge of manliness? Enter German Volume Training.

German volume training offers a demanding workout in the simplest format. One exercise, 10 sets of 10 reps. This type of training provides a shock to the system to help break hypertrophy plateaus (through the sheer volume of mechanical stress and your body’s huge hormonal response) and offers a testing but refreshingly simple break from training monotony.
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Sure people might already know this BUT how many actually practice it?
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Here are some GVT training sessions for back, legs and shoulders that I use. They test your metal and officially declare you insane but they certainly let you know what your really made of. This type of training session should not be performed frequently as they can drain your body and CNS like nothing else, leaving you over trained. Used wisely though these sessions will inject impressive ‘boosts’ in your hypertrophy.

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In order of sanity:


10×10 Wide Grip Upright Row

This will provide you with the sensation of a thousand knives piercing your your shoulder girdle! But quite simply this volume will leave your shoulders and upper back looking like the Himalayas and will do wonders to your V taper.

Keep the rest low, 1min max and push through the burn. Don’t be a wimp as to be honest these are tame compared to the rest. (A note of caution, if you suffer from shoulder impingement this may not be a suitable choice due to the orientation of the shoulder joint in this movement).
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10×10 Wide Grip Pull Ups (no swinging or kips)

If you can do 10×10 wide pull ups its an impressive feat. Heavy boys don’t use your bodyweight as an excuse! Become a master of body weight pull ups and get lats that block out the sun. Be warned after set 3-4 life becomes hell. Dig deep and drag your ass up. After all, how badly do you want a Dorian Yates looking back??

Rest on these should be no more than 3 minutes but if rest on the last few sets is longer its no big deal in the grand scheme. Just don’t abuse the rest and take like 10 minutes between sets!
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10×10 Back Squat

Performed with 2 minutes rest and done arse to grass 10×10 squats will have your legs like jelly, your vision blurry and your stomach uneasy! Again about midway through set 4 the world looks and feels a little bit different! On the good side they will make your legs resemble those of a tyrannosaur! Or Branch Warren…

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10×10 Barbell Deadlift  

When I tried these I said aloud to myself ‘You’ve officially lost the plot, this is your craziest idea yet’ and I still agree. These are by far the hardest GVT session I can think off and extremely taxing on the entire body. After set 3 it feels like its job done, time to do some rows… not today! Only 3 times that extra to go! I can’t really do justice to the endeavour, it’s simply gruelling on the highest level.

Be sure to know good form in the later sets and I advise a spotter for motivation and to monitor your form in case it breaks down!

I used this workout before a went a way on a week and a half holiday and boy I needed every day as rest and continued grazing! My entire body was in seizure…and it felt amazing! This will put serious mass and crazy thickness on your legs, back, shoulders and forearms given ample nutrition and recovery.

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Wrap up
If you are lost on how to keep inducing hypertrophy, you have lagging lags, back and or shoulders or you simply want a gruelling challenge of manliness give these GVT ball busters a go. Remember don’t use these every session as it can be too demanding for your body (barring maybe the upright rows) and you will lack the part specific benefits of other movements. I like to throw one in every few weeks to keep me mentally stimulated and physically growing.
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A final not on what weight to use for your 10 sets.  It up to you. If your a softy your gonna use a comfortable weight and rest lots. If your more like me then you’ll go as heavy as you can go and rest as little as you can physically manage.

You won’t necessarily be able to judge correctly the weight on your first attempt. That’s fine, just adjust accordingly next time. That’s if there is a next time…

Mistakes of Bulking Part 2 – by Ben Coker

Last week I posted about 5 key areas for failure when pursuing hypertrophy, focusing on food. This installment of bulking mistakes focuses on 5 common training errors…
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1) Not doing the basic muscle building lifts enough or even at all!

Too often the main compound lifts are neglected in programmes. They are either not done which is just plain dumb or they are done but with the premise of doing them because one knows they should! These people do them just to get them out the way so they can do the easier exercises!

‘All aboard for no gains!’

The lifts that are hardest get the best results. Compounds must form the vast majority of your programme. Isolation exercises from a hypertrophy perspective add shape to a huge mound of putty. With them we can add little extra bits of size to get a complete stage shape. These little extra bits put on to an already large piece of putty yields impressive illusions for size and density. But you can’t sculpt or shape if you have no putty to work with in the first place (ie limited muscle mass). In this case adding little bits to a little will yield slow and unimpressive gains. So unless you have a 17+ inch biceps for example, curls should hardly appear in your split but heavy chins should.

Ditch the curls...

2) Lack of intensity

Often people don’t do enough work for muscles to force the best growth out of them. It is essential for hypertrophy that we actually make the muscles work through fatigue. This isn’t about strength and letting the CNS fully recover for another 1RM, this is about working the target muscles hard and forcing them to grow.

Built with intensity.

If you are not sweating then believe me your intensity sucks! Work hard and push through fatigue to get optimal results. Upping your intensity may mean ditching your ego and lifting lighter but hey ego gets you no where intensity does.

There also needs to be a decent accumulation of work done for a movement pattern or exercise in a session to make it worthwhile. I’m talking mainly about doing enough working sets here. Too often people warm up to a working weight then switch to the next exercise. 3 working sets mean just that 3 sets where your working with the top weight for that session!

3) Poor body splits and recovery

This can be the undoing of many programmes. Often the right exercises are in a programme but how they are combined and spread out is woeful at times.

Doing arms one day then back the next, or doing chest one day then shoulders the next are good examples of this. The splits are good in that they could contain the heavy compound lifts to work the muscles well but done back to back  over training occurs and the second session is not performed optimally enough and can actually hinder recovery and progress from the day before.

It is essential that you get 2 days rest between hitting body parts directly to get the best out of each session. Failing to do so leads to under recovery and a subsequent lesser performance in the next session which over time will lead to an accumulation of over training and lost results. Doing a back workout, followed the day after by a leg session that involves deadlifting is going to lead to under performance on the deadlift. Little things like this add up across many splits preventing optimal training and growth.

Remember if you train like a madman and you will get more out of the days when you are not training but you need to have those rest days to actually realise this! Ensure that your spilt allows for enough rest days where your body doesn’t have to deal with any training stimulus at all and can focus solely on repair and growth.

4) Missing out key body parts that give the appearance of fullness and density.

Side delts are vital in giving you a wider appearance from the front and back. As a result they help to accentuate your V taper. They also tie in the traps to the arms to give a fuller, denser appearance.

Rear delts are crucial in making you look thick and complete from unflattering 45degree angles. They also give a finishing touch to the upper back, helping to build that mountain range that is visible through the back of a t-shirt. Its worth noting that in bodybuilding, it is the rear delts that stick out the furthest in the most muscular pose, highlighting their importance in the size illusion.

Rear delts make a most muscular physique!

Without a thick set of sweeping hamstrings you quads will never look big! Neglecting hamstrings will leave your legs looking puny and ill sightly despite what quad size you have. Not only this but big hamstrings can actually build bigger quads as it allows you to squat and deadlift more! Whatever way you look at it if you don’t have big hamstrings you won’t have big well rounded legs. As the bodybuilding saying goes ‘a good set of hamstrings is an overdeveloped set of hamstrings.’

Calves. All I can say to this is how silly it looks when your as wide as a house up top yet are walking on match stick calves! Calves are a very impressive muscle group when well developed and often if someones calves are of epic proportions then you can bet that they are gonna be massive up top.

So ego lovers if you wont people to gawk at how big you instead of laugh at how unbalanced you are…get some calves.

5) Changing programme every week when the scales haven’t gone up as much as last week.

Building muscle is a long endeavor and gains are non linear in the way they appear. Trust in your training and ‘stay the course’. Keep training hard and consistently and give those result time to show themselves because they will. Programme hopping will get you nowhere. Fact.

Nutrition: Building a Basic Diet – by Jamie Bolton

In the previous article in this short series, we established the fundamental ‘laws’ of nutrition which underpin all successful nutritional programmes. 
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Now before you read on, I need you to be honest with yourself. Is  implementing those laws in that article yielding newfound results? If so, then stop reading. Stop right there.  This isn’t for you. Seriously. Why add more detail? All it will serve to do is complicate matters. Keep it as simple as possible. Likewise, if you are struggling to follow the laws then do you really think adding more detail will make it easier? No. It will just cloud things further.

If the previous piece however, made perfect sense and you found yourself nodding along realising you follow all of the laws, and would appreciate a more thorough understanding, read on.

In this article I will go into a bit more depth around the 3 macro-nutrients – what they are, good sources of them, and why we need them. I’ll also show you how to pull it all together and hopefully do all this without going too sciencey on you!

Protein

As far as the performance athlete should be concerned, protein is the building block of muscle. So we want plenty of it or we won’t recover or grow optimally. To touch on a popular analogy, if the body is a house, then protein is the bricks, if you don’t provide enough your house won’t ‘grow’ very quickly, if at all.

The best sources of protein are: meats, fish, milk, eggs & protein powders.

How much? Aim for 1g/lb of bodyweight as an absolute minimum. 1.25g/lb is a better ‘minimum’, and all the way up to 2g/lb can be beneficial. This might seem a lot, and it probably conflicts with what you’ve heard, but I’ll provide some simple anecdotal evidence – ask any big guy how much he eats – it will fall more within this realm then the textbook definitions.

Some meaty food porn. Get plenty of protein.

For those who want more evidence that that, here are some good pieces to read here and here.

Fats

Fats are the boo-boy of the media. The nutrient they love to hate. Low-fat this and low fat that. I’ll tell you now – they’re wrong. Fat doesn’t make you fat – excess calories do. Fat most definitely should not be avoided.

Fats are the low-activity energy source for the body. Any non-strenuous activity, from sleeping to even walking is mainly fuelled by fatty acids.

Getting the right kind of fat intake is crucial for optimal hormonal balance. Additionally, vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, so limiting your fat intake is also limiting your vitamin intake. Fats are sources of essential fatty acids, i.e. the body can’t do without them.

There are 3 kinds of fats, and we want to consume all of them.

  1. Saturated. Good sources: meats, eggs, whole milk and coconut oil.
  2. Monounsaturated. Good sources: red meat, whole milk, olive oil, nuts, avocados.
  3. Polyunsaturated. Good sources: salmon, grass-fed beef, sunflower seeds, walnuts.

Aim to get about ⅓ of your fat intake from each of the types of fat. Polyunsaturated tends to be one of the more awkward to get plenty of and so supplementing with a fish oil supplement can be useful – in particular omega 3.

How much? Aim for about 0.6g/lb when maintaining or cutting, and look to up intake to about 0.8g/lb when bulking.

Oils, Avocados, Nuts & Seeds - all great sources of fat

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are the instant-energy nutrient of the body, and are used to fuel intense activity as well as being the brains preferred energy source. Again carbs have been attacked in the media and low-carb crazes touted as the way to go. Again, the media is wrong.

A great analogy with carbs is to think of your body like a car and its gas tank. If your gas tank, your glycogen (carb) stores in your muscles, is full, and you continue to pour in more gas, what happens? Well, it spills over. The body is the same, but instead of gas going everywhere, fat does. But we do want to keep a full ‘tank’ so we need to tailor accordingly.

The main differentiation between carbs is the speed at which they are digested. Some will talk of this as being about simple vs complex carbs, but maltodextrin (a popular ingredient in ‘weight gainers’) is a ‘complex’ carb yet digests as fast as simple sugar. Instead, we use the glycemic index (GI) to look at how fast a portion raises blood glucose (sugar) levels. Also, we must bear in mind the total number of carbs in a portion, i.e. carrots have a ‘high GI’, but unless you want to eat a kilo of them, it doesn’t matter!

Some people will trash talk high-GI carbs as if they are the devil, but they have their place, as do the seemingly preferred lower-GI carbs. The rule of thumb with carbs as I have found, is to eat according for what you are about to do, or have recently done. And I mean this both in terms of quantity and type of carb.

What all the discussion boils down to is the interpretation of how to manipulate a hormone called insulin. The short story is that insulin is a storage hormone. When blood sugar levels rise, insulin is secreted to bring it back to baseline. This is useful around a training session as we can use it to pack our muscles full of fuel when they are craving it. But outside of these times, if we crank it up too much, we may end up driving carbs into fat stores instead (as the tank is ‘full’). So at these times, it is better to lower carb portions, and eat lower-GI carbs so as to ‘top off’ glycogen stores, rather than dumping excess carbs on the body and causing fat gain. For a more detailed discussion, see here.

Good sources of both high and low GI carbs include:

High GI carbs – raisins, white rice, white potatoes.
Low GI carbs – fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal.

Fruit & Veggies - great low GI carb sources

Let me give you some examples. If you are about to have a heavy squat session, then you would take in some quick-acting carbs beforehand, like raisins. After, since your muscles are going to be craving fuel, you could follow up with some white rice, and in sizeable portions too. A bit later on, you might follow up with a smaller portion of sweet potatoes, which are slower digesting to ‘top off’ glycogen stores.

In contrast, if you were about to sit down at a desk all day, then its best to minimize the size of carb portions and stick to the lower GI variety, in particular fruits and vegetables, since you are not about to be very active at all.

How much? Carbs really are the macro-nutrient that follow your goals, in other words, step them up if you are in a mass phase and step them down when in a leaning phase. In a mass phase, aim for 1.5-2g/lb. If at maintenance, aim for 1g/lb. And in a lean phase, aim for 0.5g/lb.

Putting it all together

I realise some of you are probably groaning at the fact that this will involve some maths, but it is your body, surely its worth the investment of a few minutes with a calculator!?

To give you an idea of what it looks like for a 200lb male:

  • Mass phase – 250g Protein, 160g Fat, 300g carbs = 3640 calories
  • Maintenance – 250g Protein, 120g Fat, 200g carbs = 2880 calories
  • Lean phase – 250g Protein, 120g Fat, 100g carbs = 2440 calories.

For a 140lb female, it would look like this:

  • Mass phase – 175g Protein, 112g Fat, 210g carbs = 2548 calories
  • Maintenance – 175g Protein, 84g Fat, 140g carbs = 2016 calories
  • Lean phase – 175g Protein, 84g Fat, 70g carbs – 1738 calories

And don’t forget to apply the laws of nutrition. For instance, we want to focus carbs around a training session. I would aim to get somewhere pushing toward 1/3 to 1/2 of the days carbs in this period.

To outline what a typical day may look like, a mass phase for our 200lb male could look something like this:

Breakfast – 100g of oats, 6 eggs, 500ml whole milk.
Lunch – 200g Salmon, 100g brown rice, 2 avocados.
Pre-training – 2 scoops of protein & 100g of raisins
Post-training – 200g chicken & 2 baked potatoes
Dinner – 200g steak (cooked in olive oil), 50g walnuts, steamed veggies

That may sound like a lot of food, but that’s what it takes to grow!

Similarly, for our 140lb female, a typical day in a lean phase could look like this:

Breakfast – 4 egg omelette with 30g cheese, 1 orange/apple
Lunch – 150g Tuna, 2 eggs hardboiled, mixed in a spinach salad with olive oil dressing.
Post workout – 200g chicken & 75g brown rice
Dinner – 200g Lamb steak, pile of steamed veggies

The key with the lower calorie meal plans is to focus on volume of food. We don’t want foods that are dense in calories. Instead we want lots of vegetables and fruits, which fill you up but aren’t heavy on calories.

Finally, remember to regularly re-weigh yourself and adjust the diet accordingly. The amount of food you ate to take you from 200lb to 220lb won’t be the same amount you need to get to 240lb – you need more! Likewise, on a leaning phase, as you drop bodyfat, you will need less calories, as you aren’t lugging around as much weight as before, so every activity requires less energy.

Summary

Using what I’ve provided here and in the previous two articles, you should now be able to put together a solid nutritional program. I want to re-iterate what I said in the very first article – focus on simple, wholefoods that great-great-granny would recognise. You can make a lot of different approaches fit into the template I have outlined here, and there is absolutely no reason to make your food choices ‘boring’.

Finally, remember, nutrition is a VERY individual thing. You may find that you can’t gain weight with the mass phase numbers, in which case – add more calories until you do. Equally, you might find yourself going a bit overboard and gaining a bit too much fat for your liking, in which case, step things down a little, in particular on the carb / fat front. But as a guideline, these numbers should work well for most people.

The Spartan Approach to Assistance Work – by Jamie Bolton

Assistance work is a funny topic.Some people have a list as long as their arm when it comes to it, and hit muscles from every conceivable angle and with every possible piece of apparatus to ‘maximise’ their gains. Others pick exercises which exacerbate their weaknesses, rather than correcting them, leading to muscular imbalances, posture problems and ultimately sub-optimal performance.

For example, with someone struggling to improve their bench, they may find that doing extra accessory work on pecs (with various flies & presses maybe) is not the remedy to the issue. The issue may be to do with poor scapulae stability, lack of trap and upper back strength and stability (raw lifters especially), lack of lat strength and stability (lifters in gear especially) or tricep weakness.

What it boils down to, is that your assistance work may not even be assisting! First of all lets remember what we are actually trying to achieve when it comes to assistance work. In fact, if you haven’t done so already, I’d recommend that you read the ‘8s of training’ parts one and two to remind yourself what each part of your training structure is designed to achieve, but I digress.

Assistance work comes into play after we have completed our main lift or movement of the day, and typically, we are trying to achieve one of two things:
1. Accumulate more volume for the target muscle groups that work in our main lift/movement.
2. Bring up weaknesses in either terms of performance and/or aesthetics.

The second reason is an often cited one, yet  for probably ⅔ of lifters out their they don’t have weaknesses in the sense they perceive they do. The reality of most people’s situation is that everything is a weakness. Unless you can cite some proper reasoning for why something is a weakness, chances are it isn’t. By this I mean, for instance, weak triceps hindering your bench lockout, a judge at a contest commenting your rear delts effect the shape of your back badly, instability at the hip causing power loss out the blocks when sprinting, and so on.

As you may have noticed from some of my stuff by now, I’m a big believer in minimalism and keeping things simple. We can apply the 80/20 principle again here, i.e. that 20% of what you do is responsible for 80% of your results. What I’m going to propose here thus may sound outlandish, but hear me out. I want you to use two, yes just two exercises for your assistance work.

20% of what you do gives you 80% of your results

What this forces you to do is think about what you are choosing and focus on exercises that provide the most ‘bang for your buck’. Sometimes I’ll go further and only pick one assistance lift. Look at it like this, if I’ve ramped up and done some heavy squats as my main movement, followed up by some trap bar deadlifts for volume, and finish off with some sled pushes and pulls for conditioning, do you honestly think I am losing anything by not doing more?

Moreover, if you do have a long long list of assistance work to get through, I find it detracts from the workout in the sense that you may find you have to ‘pace’ yourself too much, as it seems like there is so much more to do. By limiting assistance work to two movements, it allows you to really focus on what you are doing. Not least, it saves a good amount of time. And don’t misinterpret that last bit, I’m not calling for minimising gym time, what I’m calling for is maximising quality of time in the gym.

Now here’s what I want you to do. For the next two weeks, limit your assistance to two movements that are the best investment of your training time. And if afterwards you really believe you need to add more back in, then do it, but only after two weeks. And don’t add it back just for the sake of of it.

To give an idea of how this may look, I’ll give some examples.

For the bodybuilder, on back day. You might start with deadlifts, and then for assistance follow up with bent-over barbell row and pull ups.

For the powerlifter on bench day, you start with bench press (you would hope!), and follow up with say dips and chins.

For an athlete, after doing power cleans, you might follow up with front squats and military presses as assistance.

In particular, I realise that every bodybuilder out there will be screaming, “that’s not enough”. And quite possibly they may be right, and require the extra volume to grow optimally. But I’d still recommend trying it, you may find yourself surprised. But for the performance athletes, I honestly believe that once you go too far beyond two assistance movements all you really serve to do is detract from recovery and future performance. Especially when you throw into the balance that you have conditioning work, skill work and the like lined up on your schedule also.

To finish off, one last prescription is required. Sets and reps. Now, with the main movement already done in our workout at this point, what we are really trying to achieve here is the accumulation of volume. That leaves things pretty open, and that’s kind of the way I want to leave it to you. Anything sensible, from 4×6-10 right the way up to 5×10-15 can work here. To really switch things up sometimes I’ll even do 10×3 with a weight I could move for 6 reps initially. The point is to get in some volume to support that main movement.

Finally, don’t forget to be a bit flexible with it if you need to. If you’re feeling like crap for some reason that day and the session isn’t quite going to plan, then there’s no real harm in backing off a little, there’s no point in beating yourself up. Equally, on those days where you feel great, don’t be afraid to push it a little more and amp it up a bit.

Wrap Up
That’s the spartan approach to assistance. Why use more than you need to do the job? Try doing just two assistance movements only for 2 weeks and get back to me.

“It is futile to use more to achieve what can be done with less.” Occam’s Razor

Get Some Form – by Ben Coker

Today I want to talk about 3 exercises that are very often performed wrongly and it irritates me massively to say the least! Especially when you consider the growth these exercises done properly can induce, you’re shortchanging yourself by using sloppy form. Remember practice makes permanent so practice with perfect form! 

Squats

Get some depth. I don’t care who you are or what sport you do squat ass to grass. The most common cop out is but ‘when do you ever have to go that low in a sporting scenario?’ My polite reply is ‘when do you ever see anyone who goes to full depth not be greatly stronger and more powerful at half depth or even stronger and more powerful still at a quarter depth? If you train a movement at its hardest it can only mean your on field strength and power will be greater! For those of you looking for big legs I don’t really need to say much just find me a picture of a top class weightlifter who has small weak legs. For those of you pushing PBs don’t cheat yourself as the truly strong guys your trying to impress ain’t giving you any respect for that calf raise you just called a full squat!

Another thing that grinds me is when people squat by ‘breaking’ at the knees not at the hip. Kick your ass back as if you were about to decent onto a chair (you should feel a stretch in your hamstrings) and then sit between you legs. Do not simple let your legs fold under neither you and let your knees track forward. You’re in a weaker position and you will end up getting injured. Too many supposed ‘coaches’ watch their athletes do this many times daily and fail to correct it. If your unsure of your form use mirrors and a coach that knows what hes doing. If he doesn’t then there are plenty of videos on you tube from Dave Tate and Eric Cressey (to name a few) that you can show the fool.

No quarter squats thanks!

Deadlift 

Here is the real back breaker! If you look like Quasimodo when you deadlift then you’re not ready for that weight, simple. Granted the nature of a PB means that perfect form is not possible as the body is stronger than perfect form will allow but lets not take the piss here. Some lifters are simply ignorant to the fact that they lift with poor form but this excuse is frequently bandied about by those that are so gung ho on getting super strong that they are rush their progress. I see it all the time and both are harboring a ticking time bomb which will cause ‘boom’ time in their spine! Even the worlds best deadlifters can kept a back that is near enough straight at their upper most resistance levels so get hold of a mirror or a truthful training partner, check your form and or ask them to tell you whether you back rounds when you lift. If it does back off the poundage and work on form! Coming from a guy who has had back surgery trust me you don’t want to f*** with your back. If your a newbie just take care of the form and get it right from the start and the pounds will take care of themselves.  If you’re a guy rushing PBs have a reality check, slow down and consolidate that strength. After all Rome wasn’t built in a day neither was Andy Bolton!

Andy Bolton - not built in a day....

Dumbbell rows 

How should I put this… a dumbbell row is well, a row movement. It is NOT a ‘pull the dumbbell in any way, shape or form I can, including mini squats and an additional boost from lumbar spine rotation, to get the weight up’ movement. Your not kidding anyone when you throw a dumbbell around with no control or thought, looking like your gonna snap in half at any second, especially when your back is no wider than a pencil and no thicker than a sheet of A4 paper! Get a weight you can manage, ‘drag it’ up and back to the hip, leading with the elbow moving the weight primarily with the upper back muscles. Period.

‘Drag’ that dumbbell row
Summary 

Remember there is no shame with using a lesser and weight using correct form, and making that form permanent. If this means putting your ego aside, do it as your ego is probably getting you laughed at. The serious lifters in any gym are not fooled by the masquerades put up by the masses. They can cut through the crap and see someone who is getting on their grind, keeping their head down. In fact its those guys that usually make the gains and end up being the ones people want to emulate!

Pull Heavy to Move Fast – by Ben Coker

There is a common misconception that lifting heavy weights will make you slow among sprint coaches. Many will stick to body weight and plyometric workouts, using only weights that are sub maximal and moving them fast if any weights are used at all. Lifting around 50-60%1RM and doing speed work isn’t wrong but it’s only one possible way to address the issue. 

When lifting heavy weights the nervous system is forced to recruit as many motor units as possible to move the weight. In sprinting, surely you want to have all of your fibres at maximum efficiency, ready to all contract at the same time for maximum force output. Now yes you can partially get this from trying to move a weight fast or indeed sprinting itself but there’s more. If you try to move an even heavier weight fast then your body is forced to recruit even more fibres. What I’m getting at here is the concept of motor unit potential. Have you ever noticed that when you’ve lifted a heavy weight when you release it and perform the same anatomical movement without the weight it feels extremely light? Your brain still thinks it needs all the fibres it had just recruited to do the movement. Simply put for a short period after lifting a weight all those fibres that were activated are on standby in case you have to perform the movement again.

This phenomenon only last a short time (seconds) so we must be quick. I’m aware that many track/gym facilities are substandard but if you have access to a sled or a lifting platform that is near a track then you’re sorted.

Approach one: Potentiate then perform – aka contrast sprints

Choose an exercise that requires hip extension and knee extension (the drive of sprinting) that allows for large weights to be lifted. I prefer squats, deadlift or sled pulls. Next set out a sprint distance you want to train over. Perform 2 repetition of the exercise at about 80-90% 1RM then get to the start line promptly and then sprint the distance. Why 2 reps? Well it takes about this time for your brain to fully recognise the force needed to move the weight. In a sense the first rep is ‘sluggish’ as the body wakes up and its the 2nd and even 3rd rep (if the weight isn’t too heavy), that the body produces most power as the relevant motor units are now all awake and firing together. If your pulling the sled/prowler simply choose a weight at about 80-90% 1RM then pull/push the sled/prowler for between 5-10m. It is important not to overdue it as the effect is lessened if fatigued! Remember we are activating not fatiguing ourselves here.

Plyometrics are used to accomplish similar results but they recruit fibres by quick lifting whereas lifting heavy recruits fibres by creating the need for many fibres to lift the weight. One must also remember that if one attempts a 1RM then by definition they are moving the weight as fast as they can, no matter how slow, it is at maximum speed! 

Approach two: Pure heavy pulling sessions mimicking sprinting

Here I am speaking specifically about the use of sleds and prowlers. Continued use of pulling heavy in a way that mimics sprinting means the body will eventually adopt and be able to pull a given weight faster over time. Now you’ll have to be mad to try and disprove that this won’t carry over into being able to propel your body weight faster if you’ve become accustomed to pulling a damn heavy sled at a worthy pace! It is worth noting that to pull a substantially heavy sled or prowler involves the person naturally getting into the correct or optimum position for the drive phase in sprinting! If you don’t quite simply the thing won’t move! So in using sleds and prowlers you are also grooving correct body angles and positions for sprinting as an added side benefit!

Wrap up
Not only do these exercises carry over into an immediate sprint, allowing one to groove quickness of limb movement but I speak from experience in saying that this approach also makes you faster in the long run. But if that isn’t enough then have a browse through the training methodologies & youtube pages of trainers like Joe Defranco, who are hugely successful in producing elite athletes year in year out and frequently use both techniques in their programmes. I’ll leave it at that.
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