quick tips archive
Power is the foundation of high level athletic performance. To build power you must move quickly, aggressively, and explosively. Exercises like weighted jumps, resisted sprints, power cleans, push presses, kettlebell swings, and other running and jumping variations all help to build power. The key is that every rep must be done as explosively and aggressively as possible. Keep the reps low, keep the rest periods long, and focus on achieving maximal performance with every single rep that you do. Good luck!
The key to long term leanness is muscle mass. Starving yourself, living in a state of chronic caloric deprivation, or performing excessive amounts of cardio based exercise for the explicit purpose of burning off hordes of calories will ultimately serve only to burn you out, make you weak, slow down your metabolism, and atrophy your muscle tissue. On the contrary, an individual who has spent years building up an enduring base of lean muscle mass will typically have a roaring metabolism and, should they choose to do so, be able to maintain a relative state of leanness all year long without starving themselves or really putting in much additional effort in that regard. The muscle mass is the secret to the leanness, but that takes years of grueling and consistent effort to build.
Consistency is the most important factor. The man who shows up to work every day for the next 10 years is going to be bigger, stronger, faster, leaner, more muscular, more powerful, and in better shape than 99% of the population. Fuck your genetics and fuck your excuses. Consistency is the most important factor. Show up for every workout, eat enough food, and get some damn sleep. Now do that for the next decade and suddenly your genetics won't look so bad anymore.
Do weighted hyperextensions! The plain old hyperextension is probably one of the most underrated pieces of equipment in the gym. This exercise builds a bulletproof lower back, big & strong hamstrings, and rock solid glutes, but most people don't go heavy enough. The trick is to bear hug a dumbbell when you do these and keep yourself in that 10-15 rep range. Banging out reps all day long with body weight only or a light plate held to your chest certainly has its own value, but turning this exercise into a true strength & hypertrophy endeavor requires heavier weights and that is where the REAL magic happens. Just to give you an idea, I do most of my work using 150-175lbs, but I have even experimented with 200+ pounds.
Move more. This is going to sound really lame to the 20 somethings out there, but just try to move more. One day you're going to wake up and you're going to realize that you aren't quite as spry as you used to be, but the best way to ensure that you keep moving well is to simply keep moving. Try not to sit for too long at any one time, stand up every hour at work and walk around for a few minutes. Don't be afraid of the far end of the parking lot. Go for a walk or a light run every day. Just move more. As basic as it is this is probably the single most important piece of advice that anyone who cares about long term health and quality of life can take to heart.
Bridge the gap from "strength" to "speed." Athletes are constantly inundated with exercises designed to build explosiveness, some legit and some gimmicky. But you will become much more explosive in the long run if you build some maximal strength first. After 1-2 years of spending the majority of your energy focusing on building strength and muscle then you can shift gears into the realms of strength-speed, power, and speed-strength. The point is that you are building a bridge from strength to speed. Once you've built it you will want to walk back to the other side every now and then to add some reinforcements throughout, but the major groundwork will have already been laid and traversing back and forth at that point will be a much faster process.
Training vs Peaking. Peaking is not training and training is not peaking. They have different purposes and end goals and thus require different approaches. I believe it was the oft both maligned and praised Louie Simmons who first said "the wider the base the higher the peak." Well, training is building up your base - improving the minimal amount that you are capable of doing any freaking day of your life, no matter the conditions or circumstances. Peaking, on the other hand, is riding out a wave that you've already caught.
By peaking you are simply realizing strength (or endurance or whatever it is that you've trained for) that is already there. You do this by optimizing the conditions for displaying it, but the physical adaptations have already been made. The house has already been built, it just hasn't yet been prepped for display. Training is what built it though, not peaking. That's not to imply that peaking isn't necessary or useful for competition because it certainly is, but for recreational purposes it is wholly unnecessary and even detrimental as it simply results in an opportunity cost (i.e. productive training time is lost to the peak for no real purpose or gain).
Do Your Damn Farmer's Walks. The farmer's walk is the quintessential loaded carry. You pick up something heavy in your hands and you walk with it. Not only is this one of the easiest weight room movements to learn it is also arguably the most functional strength training exercise in existence. I've personally been called on to move shit around more times than I would care to recount, and I assume I'm not the only one! Until we have personal robots to lug around our suitcases, carry our groceries, move our furniture, etc. etc. etc. (hell, I would even argue that shoveling snow falls into this category), it seems that possessing the ability to transport heavy shit from here to there without breaking your back in the process will be a useful skill to possess.
But it goes beyond just the surface level, readily apparent, specific functionality and skill transference of the exercise itself back into real life. It isn't so much just that the loaded carry overloads and mimics an activity that we need to occasionally be prepared to do, and ensures that that capacity does not degrade, so that when we are called upon to occasionally do it we are prepared to do so safely and efficiently with great ease and minimal risk to ourselves in the process. But it's also more so the effect that it has on the body in totality. It's not so much that simply possessing this capacity can save you in a pinch, but more so that the act of performing it, cultivating it, and improving upon it keeps your body healthy, strong, and overall resilient in ways that normal weight training does not...
Mental Strength. A well designed training program is an indispensable part of reaching your maximum potential, but no training program, no matter how perfectly designed it may be, is going to be capable of driving progress forever. Training programs come and go. There is one constant, however, that is always there, either nudging you forwards or holding you back, every single time you step under the bar: the mind. The thing no one ever mentions when it comes to strength acquisition is mental strength. Mental strength is the precursor to massive physical strength. Without cultivating the former, the mind simply cannot fathom or tolerate the brutally intense work the body requires to obtain the latter. A weak-minded person will not appreciate the fact that every single training session is a battle, each one part of a greater war. Some battles are won and some battles are lost, but, regardless of the outcomes, they must all be hard fought. When the low hanging fruit has all been plucked, the weak-minded lifter will cease to become stronger.