A while ago we looked at the superbly simple 'Rice Digs' - essentially just burying your hands in a bucket of rice, and moving them in different ways. Good fun.
If you're ready to step it up a notch, try these. Ryan Pitts demonstrates the beachside equivalent - Sand Digs.
First of all, what are when people do shrugs they tend to think only about the small area that's actually visible toward the ears (unless you are Johnny Jackson, then that part is huge).
But if you be so inclined and look at the graphic, you will notice that the traps are quite big and cover a large part of your back.
Secondly, the traps elevate and lower the shoulder blades so the traditional way of rolling the shoulders back and forth is not a good idea. Get a feeling for moving your shoulder blades without engaging the arms. A good idea is to have a training partner touch you in the lower trap area while doing reverse shrugs at the lat pull down.
On a side note, I find this an extremely helpful technique with so-called out of sight muscles such as hamstrings, traps or midback. Studies have shown that each set becomes about 30% more effective, if we have the sensation of the touch on the working muscle. Quite neat.
People usually do not have any problems feeling the visible part of the traps, but that only a small portion of the muscle, as stated above.
Aside from being a fun lift, there are a few other reasons you will want to include this lift in your workout.
If you are looking to develop maximal power, I don't think you can find a weighted exercise to beat the clean pull. It is fast, fun, explosive, and works all the major muscles that help you jump higher and be more explosive. Training your explosive strength also trains your muscles to more readily activate the higher-threshold motor units. If you want to lift heavy, you are going to need them.
This one exercise can dramatically improve your power output giving you a greater ability to exert force at higher speeds. It teaches you to be explosive, working on the powerful triple extension of the hips, knees, and ankles.
This increased power is invaluable to every athlete, providing the explosiveness necessary to gain that important half step on the competition.
Athletes and non athletes alike will also benefit from:
There is also the benefit of added muscle mass. The clean pull works every muscle in your posterior chain adding a great deal of upper body thickness, especially through the upper back and shoulders. This is perfect for both bodybuilders and athletes.
And of course there is the issue of safety. This is an extremely safe lift. There isn't an eccentric component, but because of the incredibly fast bar speed, you can't handle the same load as a deadlift or squat. Never will you have to strain to finish the lift like you would with the squat, bench, or deadlift. All in all, the clean pull has an extremely low injury rate.
Just like with every other exercise, there are going to be some differences and variations with technique. But what I have outlined here is a great starting place. Follow the instructions below and you'll have a solid foundation to build upon, plus you'll have a safe and effective workout.
This may be the most important part of the lift because without a good starting position it's extremely difficult to adjust during the lift to get a good rep. Without the proper setup, you are doomed before the bar leaves the floor.
The setup for the clean pull is a lot like a deadlift, but with a few subtle variations. Let's get started. Since there's no better starting point than the ground, we'll start with the feet and work our way up.
Your feet will be flat on the floor about shoulder width apart, in the same position they would be if you were about to do a vertical jump. Your weight is evenly distributed throughout the entire foot.
With the bar resting against your shins, firmly grasp the bar with an overhand grip just outside your shins. When standing and still holding the bar, your hands will be on the outside of your thighs, just missing them.
There are two grips that you can use...
The 2 grips are very similar. The only real difference is how far apart your hands are.
The snatch grip is the wider of the two. Because it is so much wider, it requires more flexibility and will reduce the amount of weight you can lift. For simplicity, let's stick with the regular clean grip. It's the more common of the two. After you master the clean grip, the snatch grip will be an easy transition.
Straps are something to avoid at all costs, so adopting a hook grip will become essential if you want to move big weight. You might as well get started now while the load is light. It's going to be uncomfortable at first, so get use to it with light loads. Taping your thumb will help somewhat, and is totally acceptable.
To do a hook grip, you are going to take an overhand grip. First, you're going to wrap your thumb tightly around the bar. Then you will grip the bar and your thumb with the rest of your hand. Depending on the size of your hand and your comfort level, you may only get one finger around your thumb, but shoot for getting your first 2 fingers around your thumb, your trigger, and middle fingers.
Now that you have a firm grip on the bar, rotate your elbows outwards so they are in line with the bar. Picture your elbows pointing out towards the weights at the end of the bar.
The set up for the clean pull is a lot like the deadlift. The major difference is in your shoulder position. In the deadlift, your shoulders are either directly over the bar or slightly behind it. In the clean pull, your shoulders are in front of the bar. There are different schools of thought on this approach, the Chinese go with the frog stance so their shoulders aren't as far over the bar. I don't recommend this for anyone but the competitive Olympic lifter. Instead, you will want your shoulders to be well in front of the bar. Make sure to keep a flat back and your chest up.
Before you pull, take a deep breath. Make sure your shoulder blades are pulled back and your chest is nice and high. You are set, ready to begin the first phase of the pull.
I've been a fan of the Good Morning for almost as long as I've been lifting weights - great exercise. Here are a few basic progressions, as well as some stretches that work extremely well with these.
Incidentally, the band stretches he demonstrates are fantastic. Give them a shot.
I think I've discovered a new word for Webster's Dictionary: GripWalking. My word processor doesn't like it. Well for a number of years carrying small (or large) weights for distance has been used by strength enthusiasts. The "Farmers Walk" is a familiar strongman (300+ lbs) exercise, although I have heard of carrying a "Fat Man" Blob (end of a 100 lb Roundhead 50+ lbs) about 91 feet. As hunter-gatherers 50,000 yrs ago we certainly carried spears and rocks as weapons, so we're made to do this.
That's a bit much for my term GripWalking. I'm talking about < 15 lbs in one hand at a time, switching hands, and walking a couple of miles. Small dumbbells <5 lbs have been used to walk with, although they are held in the usual fashion not requiring a persistent grip effort.
The most common form is to carry 1 or 2 lbs in each hand, not much for gripping. If you bump up the weight (5 to 10 lbs), use a round object that requires grip effort, now you're talking about GripWalking. I've started this after training with many grip tools: hand crushers up to 250#, Blobs, plates sideways, and balls 3" to 5". Various GripWalking objects are seen in this photo:
The steel ball bearings are what I use but are somewhat pricey. They are also used for massage of sore muscles. I started with a 3.5" ball bearing @ 6.4 lbs and have worked up to a 4" @ 9.5 lbs. I have a 5" @ 18.5 lbs, but can't hold it long enough, establishing my limits for GripWalking. Here's what I do normally:
A dragon flag is typically performed lying face-up on a bench or on the ground with your hands grasping a sturdy object behind your head for support. From here, the objective is to lift your entire body up in a straight line, stacking it vertically over your shoulders in the top position.
Here's a quick video demonstration :
The reason for this, as I mentioned earlier, is as much about your brain as it is about your body. Whenever you try to get your body to do something that it isn't used to doing it has to build a new neurological pathway to make it happen. Your brain has never had to send that specific message to your muscle before so it must blaze a new trail in order to arrive there. It is also psychological in the sense that you might be a bit intimidated by the exercise itself. If this is the case, hopefully you can avoid falling into the "I can't" trap. Don't defeat yourself before you've even tried - when you believe, you can achieve!
However, before you start working on learning the pistol squat, there are a few prerequisites that you ought to have out of the way to ensure a solid foundation. You should be able to perform a proper two legged squat with resistance that is equal to your body weight (ladies this goes for you too!), or if you aren't into going for one rep maxes, you should be comfortable squatting at least 65% of your body weight for multiple reps.
Additionally, maintaining good posture, keeping your knee (on the squatting leg) from tracking forward in front of your toes, and achieving parallel depth are all essential components of any safe, effective squat - regardless of if you're using one or both legs.
Now that we've gotten that taken care of, there are a few ways to approach training your body to do a one-legger. One method is to start from the bottom up. While sitting down on a bench, lift one foot off the ground. Lean forward and use the heel of your other foot to push into the floor while squeezing your abs tight, puffing your chest out, and reaching your arms out in front. Once you get to the top, try to lower yourself slowly and repeat. You will likely lose control during the lowering phase and wind up plopping down onto the bench at the bottom. That's fine for now. In time your control will improve to the point where you no longer need to sit on the bench.
Another method to employ while practicing towards doing a one legged squat is to practice from the top down. Stand on a bench, a bit off to the side with one foot hanging off the edge. Squat down so that one leg drops below the level of the bench. Make sure you stick out your hips and butt, and lean forward a bit - otherwise your balance will be off. If you are having a hard time balancing with this, hold onto something to guide you. A resistance-band that is securely in place or a cable machine balanced with a full weight stack are great options. A broom handle works well too if you are doing these at home. If you have a training partner, have them assist you by either holding your hand or standing right by you so that you can grab them if you lose your balance. This is an exercise that I will literally hold my client's hand through the first time they try it!
Interesting exercise, if the floor allows. Heavy Dumbbell Sliding.
Nice work Adam. That's some serious weight.
Brilliant idea - Assisted Clapping Push-Ups.
Give this a go - much, much harder than it looks. Nice one.
Maria Mountain demonstrates several great exercises for hip mobility. Good stuff.
Dogman demonstrates both the barbell and kettlebell jerks. Nice one.
Increase the grip component of several exercises with the simple addition of a towel. Good stuff.
Nick Newman discusses his first encounter with a very interesting training approach : assisted jump training. From the blog :
Assisted Jump training enables the athlete to perform high intensity jumping exercises while at a reduced body weight. Under these conditions the athlete can produce greater take off velocities than what would normally be possible.
A couple of interesting pistol variants in here. Nice one.
Training for the Dinnie Stones. Nice one.
A simple variation of the humble kettlebell swing. Nice one.
Just got yourself some rings? Peter has a few ideas for putting them to work.
Adam demonstrates the Reverse, Double Underhand and Double Overhand methods of bending. Nice one.
Dot Drills from a push-up position - love it.
A great box jump variety. Nice one.
Doug Fioranelli demonstrates a great kettlebell exercise - the Figure 8 with Uppercut. Nice one.
Nice work Adam.
This is an interesting variation on the humble keg lift - use the hub. Nice one.
Now this is my kind of training. Good stuff.
And I thought Rock Tossing was fun. Love it.
C.J. Murphy details a progression to full pull-ups using Blast Straps. Nice one.
One more reason to love outdoor training - Rock Tossing.
Ben Edwards does some great stuff. Here he is demonstrating a Scott George Mouse Pinch. Nice one.
Yep, these are as exhausting as they look. Wheelbarrow Plyo Pushups.
Looks like I'm not the only one who sees chin-up bars everywhere. Good stuff.
Here's a quick look at some serious grip training in preparation for the coming contest season. Nice one.
Now this is my idea of log training. Love it.
What's the most fun you can have training with a sledgehammer? Throwing it for distance. Good stuff.
Max working with the 40kg bells. And yes, this exercise is as exhausting as it looks. Good stuff.
More DIY squat goodness - this time using a few home-made plates. Nice one.
Some very strong training in this clip, including a 104kg 2-Handed Europinch. Nice one.
One of my favourite exercises with a medium length of thick rope - Rope Circles.
An interesting bit of neck and jaw work using a t-shirt and a plate. One to think about.
Before the stones comes the Bear Hug Deadlift. Good stuff.
If you haven't seen much of the Bulgarian Bags in action, CPS takes a brief look at a simple upper body routine. Nice one.
NorthPoint's Rebecca Pedrick demonstrates several varieties of pull-up, ideal for anyone just learning the exercise. Good stuff.
Looking for a challenge? Try a few Handstand Pushups on a Medicine Ball. Nice one.
These are tough. Great things.
This looks great - a 'Walk and Throw' with a 32kg kettlebell. Nice one.
Paul Zaichik discusses a couple of very interesting hip exercises. Nice one.
Atlas stone loading using only one arm - good stuff.
Via Fight Geek : this is a great series of exercises - the Wrestler Get-Up Progression.
Another great way to get the kids involved in your training.
One of the simplest exercises to do with bands - Pulldowns. Good stuff.
From the latest Minute of Strength - an interesting ab exercise, the Strongman Crunch.
A very interesting combination - a 'partial and hold' with a weighted Husafell replica. Nice one.
Greg Walsh demonstrates the Macebell Pendulum Shove. Good stuff.
Not sure what these are called, but it's a great idea. Nice one.
MTB Strength takes a good look at the Bulgarian Split Squat. Nice one.
Take the bus to work? Could this be the future of your morning workouts? Interesting idea.
Another brief dose of box jumping from foam. Love it.
First and foremost, logs are free. That's right, I said FREE. (Who doesn't want something that's free?!) Logs can be found abundantly in woods and forests and cut to one's own specifications. If the woods or a forest is not an option for some, then scouting for telephone poles new or used is a great alternative. Three of the logs I currently use were all taken from a huge long section of telephone pole that was treated. I stumbled upon it accidentally and it was great find.
Secondly, the workouts that can be done with a log are awesome. Haul it, squat it, carry it, press it, FLIP IT! No matter which exercises are performed they're all tremendous strength builders, hands down.
Thirdly, utilizing an alternative method/object, (i.e. the log) to get fit provides a great opportunity to bring about new mental and physical stimuli, not to mention a lot of fun!
One of my favorite exercises to do with a log is flip it end over end. Somewhat similar to a tire flip, the Log Flip incorporates most of the same muscle groups, (i.e. hamstrings, glutes, lower back, arms, traps, entire core, shoulders) and can be performed in place or over a distance. The weight and size of the log is dependent upon the user. I have three logs that vary in weight; 160lb, 135lb and 100lb respectively with a forth on the way that weighs 250lb+.
Knocking out a few handstand push-ups at 250lb. Good stuff.
A spot of thick bar work over at the Underground Strength Gym. Nice one.
Here's an interesting idea - Deficit Deadlifts with 4 kettlebells. Good stuff.
Looking for a challenge? Try a few Warrior T Push-ups. Good stuff.
The Unbreakable One enjoying some hefty floor press lockout work. Nice one.
Looking for a way to make your Box Jumps a little more challenging? Add a weight vest, and begin seated. Nice one.
Jason demonstrating a few Front Lever Pulls. Good stuff.
No equipment? No problem.
Jason Trott shows off another great tyre exercise, the Tire Farmers Walk. Good stuff.
USA Jungle Gym has posted clips of several of their distinctive exercises, including a personal favourite - Log Flips. Good stuff.
Here's an unusual dip variation - the Korean Dip.
48kg kettlebell snatches with bands attached to belt - interesting idea.
This looks like a great combination - Chain Suspended Thick Bar Zydrunas Presses. Nice one.
Another great one from the Diesel Crew - the One Arm Floor Press. Good stuff.
Here's a push-up variation you don't see too often. Kettlebells on Kettlebells.
Another great one from the Diesel Crew - Cable Tricep Extensions With a Twist. Good stuff.
If you've read Steve Jeck's Of Stones and Strength (great book incidentally), you'll recognise this. The Bricklifting Bear Hug.
Here's a brief look at Dane Miller (Garage Strength) enjoying a little conditioning work. The Burpee Box Jumps are superb.
If the standard sandbag get-ups aren't challenging enough, grab your weight vest. Nice one.
Here's a great sled-dragging variation - The Plough Horse.
Push Jerk Recoveries are great for building overhead support strength (and downright fun, once you get the timing right).
Not quite sure what to call this (Reverse Hang Cleans perhaps), but it looks great.
Just when you thought you'd seen all varieties of the jump, here comes an interesting one - Box Jumps from Foam. Good stuff.
Here's a great exercise combo from Joe Hashey's Bull Strength manual - 'stone' lifting and Moving Men. Good stuff.
If the idea of matching Jacob Hall's 100 burpees seems a little optimistic, have a go at the Reverse Burpee. Nice one Nina.
What do you get when you mix a treadmill with a PowerWheel? This.
Bands are great for explosive movements like this. Nice one.
Via Body by Long : a great set of (extremely) thick bar clapping pull-ups. Good stuff.
From the incredibly inventive guys over at The Pound, a great training idea - a Sandbag Obstacle Course. Love it.
Via Gymnastics Coaching : looking for a challenge? Try a Russian Leg Lift or two. Good stuff.
This is a great way to incorporate chains into your ab training. Good stuff.
These are very interesting exercises - all variations on the step-up. Good stuff.
A different way to use foam in bench training. Very interesting idea.
You've probably noticed that I love a bit of sandbag training. Here's John Kelly of Nogueira Fight School demonstrating a great exercise, the Sandbag Get-up. Good fun.
Scott Sonnon in action. Brilliant.
Virtual Shovelling - interesting idea.
Here's a very interesting idea - a Modifed Farmers' Hold with Bands.
Mike does some great stuff, including a variety of slightly unusual exercises. Here he is demonstrating the Hybrid Row.
Via Parkour Elements : even railings can become humble workout tools. Bodyweight Rows.
These are great - with a Bulgarian Bag, kettlebell or anything with a bit of weight. Good fun.
Strange name, great exercise.
Adam Steer explains the CST Leg Swoop. Nice one.
Here's a great way to warm up the shoulders - the Pass Through. Good fun.
While many grip strength feats are easier for those with larger hands to perform, hub lifting might just be one of the feats that is easier for the smaller handed athlete to perform. I believe this to be so because the smaller handed individual is able to grasp the hub implement closer to the center of the hand. When a larger handed individual takes a grip on a hub, much of the hand will fail to come in contact with any of the gripping surface of the hub, so leverage and mechanical advantage is decreased. This bottoming out effect is caused by the fingertips hitting against the flat surface of the plate.
The Stand Press - like a Floor Press on a bench. Very interesting idea.
Another great move from the Diesel Crew - the Diesel Row. Somewhere between a Pull-up and an Inverted Row. Nice one.
UPDATE 31/07/11 : The video below was available when this post was written, but has since been taken down.
Apologies for that.
I never get tired of watching box jumps. Good fun.
The L Chin-up - good fun.
Great exercise - the keg/sandbag lift. Enjoy.
No barbell handy? Grab a bike. Nice one.
Trap bars are great.
Pistols not quite challenging enough? Steve Maxwell has a simple solution - start from the bottom. Nice one.
Another great one for getting a workout in when traveling - get-ups with impromptu training equipment. Good stuff.
A great step on the road to kettlebell juggling - the Swing To Open Hand Catch. Good fun.
Dave Whitley takes a brief look at the Kettlebell Bent Press. Nice one.
Here's an interesting way to quickly add weight to push-ups - grab a sandbag.
Volleyball Coach Orlando Rondon demonstrating a 54" hurdle jump. Nice one.
Bands are great for workouts whilst on-the-road. Here's a brief look at one of the many exercises available - Band Face Pulls.
Travis Bell demonstrates some Foam Benching. Love it.
A quick exercise - the Rack Chin-up. Good fun.
No ropes? Grab a beach towel.
The guys at Riot Training demonstrate some of the many ways to use a Viking Press machine. Nice one.
Ever seen a Slosh Pipe Getup? Over to Matt Roben.
A great one for shirted benching (and for checking a lifter's form, particularly at the point where the bar touches the chest) - the Reverse Band Row.
This is actually the first exercise I can recall seeing someone perform (in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens - great spot for outdoor training) : Stair Squat Jumps. Good fun.
John Sifferman takes a look at the staple of many core-training programs - the humble crunch. With an addition or two, of course.
Another interesting sandbag exercise - the Sandbag Wall Press. Nice one.
I love speed deadlifts (or any deadlift variation for that matter), and this is a simple way to set them up. Good stuff.
There are structures in the body that can be honed to the point where their edge will never fail you. I am referring to the tendons of the wrist; responsible for incredible power in the lower arms. Once these tendons are built, they will last a life time. A great example; look at the forearms of any man who labored his whole life. In his 70's or 80's, his shoulders and back may appear frail, but those wrist tendons are still popping out like steel cables. The most shining example can be found on the powerful frame of Lawrence "Slim" Farman, known to the world as "Slim the Hammerman". King of leverage lifting, he is still performing in his 70's and he is AMAZING. Slim's tendons are massive, built from a life time of demolishing stones with a 16lbs cutting sledge, and a million hours of intense steel bending and hammer levering workouts.
I am not going to promise you the Hammerman's strength from taking on this material, but I will put money on stronger hands and forearms from these investments.
Ever tried the Squat version of the Kettlebell Beakers exercise? Here it is in action. Love it.
Two great sports-specific exercises from Mountain Athlete : Ski Hops and Sandbag Getups. Good stuff.
Bridges are great - here are a couple of interesting variations. Good stuff.
Here's an unusual exercise from Rae Crowther - Pop-up Dummy Punching.
One-armed Upright Row. Great exercise.
I love sandbag training. Here's the Sandbag Half Moon.
Bicep work doesn't usually excite me, but the chin-up component of this one had me intrigued. The Nilsson Curl.
Here's another one to try out - the Threading Elbow Lever Bridge. Looks great.
These are great (and harder than they look). The Training For Warriors Body Crawl Series. Love 'em.
These are great - Single Leg Squat Jumps. Enjoy.
Love throwing the kettlebells around? Try this - the Pistol Grip Kettlebell Toss. Great fun.
Jason Marshall performs a Kettlebell Bent Press with a 48kg bell. Nice one.
At Jacksonville Beach Elite Fitness : nice and simple. Box Jumps.
GS snatch - Generation of only enough explosive power to get the bell overhead but not more. HS snatch - Generation of maximal explosive power.
Martin Rooney notes a couple of great headstand variations. Good stuff.
Looking for a way to get out of breath in a hurry? Grab a training partner and try Wheelbarrow Walks Up Stairs. Good fun.
Progressing through Quadruped Draw In variations. Very interesting.
The Diesel Crew demonstrates a couple of great ways to incorporate kettlebells in deadlift training - including Kettlebell Deficit Deadlifts with Chains. Nice one.
Martin Rooney notes a very interesting exercise - the Reverse Snatch. Looks great.
There are several dip varieties in this clip, including the plyometric variety - Hopper Dips. Love 'em.
I love training with resistance bands. They're the ultimate combination of a versatile training tool and a way of modifying existing exercises. Superb.
To highlight the beauty of the humble band, here are a few nuggets from the archives :
Lisa Shaffer demonstrates the Kettlebell Step Up Press. Interesting variation.
Sleds are great things. Here's an interesting variation.
Over the past few weeks there have been some incredible entries to the Instructional Video Competition, including the random selection below.
Like to add yours? The competition is running for another two weeks - details here. It's a good one.
There's a great exercise in this clip - the Standing Back Bridge. Much more challenging than it looks. Good stuff.
Phil Scarito demonstrates how to use a towel (and a training partner) to improve hinging in the kettlebell swing. Interesting idea.
Pail Zaichik takes a detailed look at two common varieties of front kick. Good stuff.
Kevin Buckley demonstrates the Double Kettlebell Get-up. Great exercise.
Partials are great things. Performing lifts through only part of the usual range of motion can yield tremendous benefits; enabling you to work with heavier weights, enjoy a greater grip element and focus on weaknesses in your technique.
To highlight the beauty of the partial, here are a few gems from the archives :
It may look strange, but it's a great exercise. Kettlebell Walking.
How do you set up for the bench without upsetting your elbows or shoulders? Smitty has the details. Nice one.
Bands are great for this sort of exercise. The Standing Band Crunch.
No dip bars handy? Try this rack-based variation. Great idea.
Mop heads? Genius.
Adam does it again. Nice one.
Another great idea - band-resisted work on the Power Wheel. Love it.
Love this idea - perfect for high-rep work at the end of a solid bench session. The Band Hand Walk.
Troy Anderson takes a look at the basic process of flipping a heavy tyre. Good fun.
I love the versatility of bands. Try the Sumo Walk.
Via Fight Geek : a demonstration of wrist push-ups. Good stuff.
Looking to switch up your burpee workouts? Try these.
It may look a little strange, but it definitely works. The Lateral Squat Walk.
Via RMAX : Scott Sonnon demonstrates two great versions of the Yaw Press. Good stuff.
Grab a couple of bands, and a training partner. Jeff Tucker discusses the Band-supported Handstand Push-up. Superb.
Chris Mason, Phil Harrington, and Justin Tooley sampling a very unusual exercise. The Bamboo Kettlebell Chaotic Press.
This is a very interesting push/pull combination. The Truck Pull Simulator.
Love this one - Dumbbell Rotations in the Rack. Good fun.
A major part of learning a new skill is seeing how someone else does it (before having a go yourself, of course). If you're looking for inspiration for the Instructional Video Competition, take a look at these :
Possibly the best way to add weight to push-ups - chains.
Push-ups are underrated. Here's a quick look at 10 variations.
The team at CrossFit Boston learns the Power Clean and Push Jerk. Good stuff.
Here's an event you don't see often enough - the Yoke Press. Good stuff.
From the weekend's European Grip Championships, a bit of one-handed deadlifting. Good fun.
There are several lifts which are rarely seen these days in commercial gyms; yet are ideal in a number of ways. If you're ready to expand your routines a little, take a look at these :
Get to the event a bit early? Try a few sets of these - Bleacher Climbers.
Here's a great burpee variation - the Roller Burpee. Nice one.
If you've ever had someone ask you 'what can you do with a kettlebell', send them here. A demonstration of a number of basic kettlebell exercises.
This one is much, much tougher than it looks - the Buddy Carry on Stairs. Love it.
Via Fight Geek : Rolles and Igor Gracie demonstrate a great exercise, the Tow Sprint. Love it.
Hold dumbbells that weigh a combined 10 to 50 percent of your one-repetition maximum. Perform five slow squats followed by five speed squats and then five jump squats.
No chin-up belt? No problem.
CrossFit Oldtown note two great videos (first one above) on rowing technique. Although a Concept2 is being used here, the ideas apply to almost any rowing machine.
I love mixing a bit of bodyweight training into my routines; especially when travelling. If you share this passion, take a look at these :
Another great tutorial from UrbanCurrent - the Two-handed Vault.
Rolles Gracie on neck training? Superb.
The kettlebell uppercut. Nice and simple.
The skill is very simple to describe but hard to do. Here we go:
- Take the ab-wheel.
- Get into a pushup position while holding an ab wheel.
- Now instead of rolling it toward your head, roll it toward your feet and back.
If you can roll the wheel with straight arms down to the point where the wheel will touch your pubis (lower front of hipbone) and bring it back up to the pushup position, you should hurry and take Paul Hamm's spot in the Olympics.
A 186kg / 409lb shoulder press - not bad at all.
If you've ever tried a bit of sled work, you know just how versatile a sled + rope setup can be. Here's a simple rope pull in action.
Via CrossFit Oldtown : there are several ways to add weight for push-ups.
Via Fight Geek : Scott Sonnon demonstrates the kettlebell Quarter Get-up. Love it.
MMA Training's Muay Thai 101 series begins with the Fundamentals of Leg Kicks. Nice one.
I like this one. Martin Rooney takes a brief look at a few ways to train the 'anterior chain' - primarily the abs, hip flexors and quads. The first exercise he demonstrates does this beautifully. The Sit and Switch.
The third installment of All Around Strength's Core Exercises that Really Work. Some great ideas in there.
Interesting variation - the Kettlebell French Walk.
CrossFit does it again - this time with the Clean and Throw. Love it.
There are some great exercises in this clip - particularly the deceptively simple four corners drill at the start. Nice one.
There are many, many varieties of push-ups - including this. The Plyometric Medicine Ball Push-up.
If yesterday's One Backflip Every Day video got you in the mood to test out your own flipping abilities, here's a look at a few of the finer points. Nice one.
Lockout exercise for the Clean and Jerk. Good stuff.
Looking for yet another simple outdoor exercise? Try the Overhead Tire/Tyre Throw.
Another great clip from the CrossFit Journal (full video in the July 2008 issue) - this time looking at handstands. Good stuff.
Don't have a kettlebell yet? No problem - grab a dumbbell and try some of these.
Muscle-ups aren't challenging enough? Just add weight.
An unusual combination. Dumbbells, bands and a bar.
A simple way to add some plyo fun to barbell curls - drop and catch the bar. Repeatedly.
Looking for a simple way to add weight to your handstand push-ups? How about a loaded backpack.
Via Muscle Chat : some serious neck work. Unusual idea.
Ryan demonstrates a great club exercise - The Tornado. Nice one.
Nice and heavy. Perfect.
The birth of a new sport? Escalator Spinning.
Another great clip from the World's Strongest Arms DVD - Magnus Samuelsson on gripper training. And yes, that's a CoC #4 he's repping with.
Via Fight Geek : this is certainly one way to get the blood pumping. Backflip Burpees.
No truck? No car? Try pulling a golf cart.
The Hip Lift - nice and heavy.
Another great exercise - the Kick Out.
An aptly-named exercise. Give it a go, and you'll quickly see why.
Average to Elite takes a look at a great exercise - the Kettlebell Half Snatch (aka the Kettlebell Health Snatch). Good stuff.
Via Fight Geek : this is a great video, show exactly how various kettlebell exercises apply to BJJ. Nice one.
I love weighted chins.
Ready for a look at a couple of gems from Combat Core? These are brilliant.
Short ROM, high reps. The Keg Deadlift.
Via Fight Geek : car pushing becoming just a little easy? Here's one way to switch things up. Nice one.
Looking for a simple way to do weighted Back Extensions in your home gym? Try this setup.
Another great way to train with a tyre. Use it as additional weight for pull-ups.
Love some of the ideas in this clip - especially the various forms of 'walking'. Good stuff.
Josh does an interesting exercise as part of the circuit above - an Overhead Tire Run (exactly as it sounds - lift a tyre over your head, and run). Nice one.
If the Harlem Seals' exercise on top of the rack got you thinking 'a little closer to the ground, please'; try this. Decline Negative Abs.
Via Hood Workout : I'm not sure what you'd call this exercise (the behind-the-back thing), but it looks great.
Steve Maxwell demonstrates another great one - the Rotating Chin-Up. Excellent idea.
This is an interesting variation on the triceps press - using a horizontal motion. Good stuff.
In the mood for some tyre work, but not sure whether to start dragging or flipping? How about both at once.
A lift rarely seen these days - the Hip Lift; demonstrated here by Icelandic Strongman Reynir Sterki. Nice one.
Want to vary your keg work a little? Have a go at the Vertical Keg Press.
If the recent Fight Geek piece got you thinking about Medicine Ball training, here's a little more to throw in to the mix - the Med Ball Matrix. A great way to warm up.
Throwing a keg over a bar at 16'. Love it.
An excellent, deceptively simple exercise.
UPDATE 08/0911 : The video below was available when this post was written, but has since been removed by the user.
Apologies for that.
The Shamrock team demonstrates a great exercise - the Seated Rope Sled Pull. Good fun.
This is an interesting exercise - the Key Press.
Beautifully simple. The Plate Lift.
Flags getting a little easy? Try them with ankle weights.
Warming up for a little Zercher work? Grab the bands.
Nola Hessom demonstrating a great kettlebell exercise - The KB Windmill.
A few good exercises here; particularly the Suspended Hand Walks. Very interesting idea.
If you're planning to compete in the upcoming Virtual Meet, you may be wondering exactly what a military bench is. Here it is in action; with 180kg (400lbs). Incidentally, that's the kind of spotting I like - there if needed (rather than to assist in the lift itself).
Rick mentioned the idea of hanging kettlebells via the bar (for the bench press) a while ago. If you're curious to see what it looks like, here it is in action.
I love Clubbell training.
Snatch-grip High Pulls. Interesting combination.
Travis Bell demonstrates a deceptively simple exercise - the Super Pullover. Love it.
Via AtLarge Nutrition : looking for a slightly heavier way to do a little rotator work? Try the H-Roll. Good stuff.
Up for a challenge? Try a few Incline Truck Pulls. Love 'em.
This is a great test of coordinated strength. The Two-Man Tyre Flip (or Tire Flip, if you prefer).
Another interesting exercise idea from Raw Training - the Rotating Bag Snatch.
It's always great to find new chin-up variations. Here's the Three Blocks Pull-up.
One of the many superb exercises in Combat Core - the Reactive Row. Love it.
I love doing this one - the One-Handed Deadlift (front version).
Duelling Stones on the Base Station. Excellent.
I love exercises like this that look easy - until you try them. The Sandbag Zercher Walk.
Overhead Keg Toss. Good fun.
Here's a quick training technique for all the dog lovers out there (and Adam, I'm looking in your direction). Love it.
Looking for more ways to drag your sled? Try using one arm at a time. Good fun.
Another great idea via Ross Enamait. Securing a tyre (or tire, if you prefer) vertically for sledgehammer training.
This looks great - the Atomic Push Up. No suspension trainer? Why not make one.
And you thought burpees were hard.
Kettlebell Beakers: 88-pound ketttlebell hanging on each side of the bar, x6, x6, x6. Basically you do a regular bench rep, then a rep off a 3-board, then a regular bench rep, back and fourth. Hard. We tried to bench the 88s hanging from bands and we nearly got killed. I was laughing so hard I nearly fell down.
An interesting move from football training (and when I say football, I mean 'soccer'). The Pull and Hop.
Love this. A Steinborn lift using a lump of tree. Perfect.
All-round Strength Training's Sally takes a close look at the Overhead Squat. Good stuff.
L-Sit Walks. Challenging at any age.
Another great exercise idea via Rick Walker - heavy kettlebell shrugs. Good stuff.
A while ago I discussed the superb Zercher Squat, although the only videos I could find looked at the second part of the lift (rather than the full, deadlift from floor, exercise).
Here's Adam Glass demonstrating the complete Zercher. Good fun.
Tried the Front Squat Harness? Great thing.
Deadlift using 3" bar. Nice one.
Via Fight Geek : Medicine Balls are great things - here are several ways to train with them. Good stuff.
Got to get myself a keg. Great things.
Jonathan MacFarlane in action once again - this time with a 140kg steel log clean and jerk. Good stuff.
There are many, many ways to drag a sled.
Elliott Hulse demonstrates the Face Pull - a great exercise.
Ben Hanson demonstrates several basic sandbag exercises (with a 185lb bag, no less). Here he is enjoying a little pressing. Good stuff.
Interesting execise - Bench Bottom-ups.
This is a variation that deserves a little more time in the sun - the Inclined Log Press. Good fun.
Via Rif's Blog : This looks like a great exercise. The Clubbell Hammer Swing.
Ready for a bit of warm-up work with the sledgehammer? Grab a tyre and knock out a few of these. Good fun.
Love the description :
To stretch the right levator scapulae, put your right hand behind your back as if you're getting handcuffed, then look down toward your left foot while pulling your head in that same direction with the left hand. You'll feel a stretch along the right side of the back of your neck.
And yes, it works.
Bamboo's great for a lot of things, but I can honestly say I've never tried this. The Bamboo Crazy Plate Press.
Very interesting piece of equipment.
The Inman Mile is a great exercise; effectively a supersized version of a Farmers' Walk. Although there are several variations (see below), the most common versions are :
1.5 x bodyweight, barbell across shoulders : This is the version recognised by the USAWA, and occasionally appears at USAWA sanctioned events. Their definition is :
The lifter will have loaded onto his/her shoulders a weight equal to 150% of bodyweight. The lifter will then carry the weight a distance of one mile. Gait is optional. Resting is allowed, but neither the lifter nor the weight may be supported. Records will be kept in both pounds and time. Should the weight be touched by any aide once the lift has begun, the event is terminated. The lifter may be handed refreshments during the lift.
For obvious reasons, this is usually performed outdoors.
1.0 x bodyweight, dumbbells or Farmers' Walk handles : This is the same as above, with the major difference being the position of the weight. Not only is it much closer to the ground (although as my lawn will attest, it still carves out a chunk of dirt when you drop the bells), but there's a much greater emphasis on grip.
For this reason alone, the 1 x bodyweight is usually more than enough.
As with most exercises, there are a number of ways to vary things a little. A few suggestions :
Reduce the load : 1.5 x bodyweight is a lot heavier than it sounds - particularly over that distance. And if you're doing an 'Inman Stroll' (same thing, over a distance of 1.5 miles); it'll get old in a hurry.
Try cutting back the load a bit - especially when you're just getting used to it. Your traps will still be acutely aware of the exercise.
Reduce the distance : the other obvious change is simply to reduce the distance. After all, a mile is an exceptionally long way to carry that sort of weight.
Work up to it.
Allow the weight to be put down during rest breaks : this one makes a big difference. When it comes time for a pause, put the weight down. It'll still be there when you start up again.
Use a Strongman Yoke : if you've got access to one, use a Strongman Yoke. This is a great piece of equipment, and is perfect for exercises like this.
Time to make some noise. Decline Push-Ups with Chains.
This is a particularly brutal exercise I just noticed over on EFS : The Kneeling Barbell Jump. Very impressive.
Jason points to another great burpee variety - the Burpee Snatch. Oh yeah.
Plate Choppers - great exercise. Nice and simple, nice and quick.
Demonstrated here by Hannah "The MINX" Johnson.
So you're looking to up your game a bit, and add a few more cards up that muscled sleeve of yours? Well here's a few ideas, to help take you above some of the common sticky plateaus that combat athletes can run into from time to time. We added some explosive total body movements, resistance bands, partner moves, some burpee conditioning, and a bit of forearm and grip training.
Lateral Lunge Press- Load your back leg with as much weight as you can, and spring off that leg as you press the weights forwards, upwards, or overhead.
Lateral Lunge Press Step-up- Same as the above mentioned exercise but adding a step-up to the mix.
Band Sprints- Choke a couple of heavy duty resistance bands (Jump Stretch Bands used here) around a fixed object while wrapping the opposite end around your waist. After that it's as creative as you want to be, run as fast as you can and drop into a grasso lunge. Some ideas to make things more combat related are to have a partner at one end, sprint over, shoot in, and practice take-downs with resistance, or you can always set an object far away and run over to pick it up.
Band Punches- Choke a band around an object and attach the opposite end in either the nook of your elbow, or right along you palm, whichever you prefer. When it's around the elbow it makes hooks a bit more difficult to do.
Double Band Press- Essentially just choke a couple of bands around a fixed object (half rack shown here) and press away. The bands will really activate your abdominals because as you press forward the elastic resistance will pull you back. Also great for rapid punching with lighter bands.
Band Straddled Box Squat Jump- Could I have said that any easier??? Wrap a couple of bands bandolier style so that they form an X over your body. This makes things like walking, running, jumping, and squatting a bit awkward. Slowly lower yourself down onto a bench or box that you're straddling and explode up in the air, landing back on the outside of the bench. This one gets the heart pumping and is awesome for conditioning.
Lateral Swing Reverse Hyper- Using a bench or a ball do a reverse hyper, but instead of moving up and down, maintain a tight posture so that you're entire body is parallel to the floor. While keeping everything tight, swing your legs and hips laterally in a slow and controlled manner as far to each side as you can. To add a combat oriented version slide yourself more up onto a bench and keeping your hips on the bench swing as fast as you can side to side. Straddling makes things a bit easier, but is also a bit more realistic when gaining side control or passing the guard.
Partner Squats- No weights, no problem! Just grab a partner and heave them over your shoulder. Squat away, make sure to go even on each side. For some combat emphasis, fireman them, and squat. This one really can be a doozy on the core because of the odd object nature of a person.
Burpees- Just the standard type of burpee, start standing up, squat down and place your hands out in front of you as in a push up, followed by a push up, and a stand to jump.
Forward and Backwards Burpees- A regular burpee but instead of jumping up at the end of the movement, trying leaping forwards or backwards.
Lateral Burpees- A regular burpee with a lateral hop at the end instead of a vertical one.
Twisting Burpees- A regular burpee with a twisting jump at the end instead of going straight up.
Up-Down with Forward Leap and Front Tuck- A watered down burpee without the push up is an up down, and instead of going straight up leap forward, land and do a front tuck roll to a stand. You may want to have a lot of room for this one.
Lateral Up-Down- Basically an up-down but instead of going up, you jump sideways.
Jumping Lunge Up-Down- This one is a bit more complicated but you drop down onto one leg as if preparing for a sprint, jump straight up in the air as you would for a jumping lunge, and land on the opposite leg repeating the previous step.
Up-Down with Knee Tucks- Drop into an up-down and jump up tucking your knees as close to your body as you can.
Wrist Roller- Not really directly relating to combat but the forearm strength derived can be an added bonus. Josh has come up with yet another way to make a seemingly easy exercise into a difficult and yet effective exercise. Instead of rolling your wrists upwards or downwards you use your fingers to gently roll the weight up. This takes much more time, but yields fantastic results as you can see. Watch closely since this one is learned easier by visual, than by explanation.
Hope you enjoyed this article as there are many more compilations on the way.
Yet another reason to invest in a decent pair of rings - the Ice Cream Maker. Love it.
Think of it as a coupling between two pipes. The stronger the coupling, the more pressure that can be handled within those pipes. Your body is very similar. Now there are a few things that your core does; I'd explain what core stability is, but to some (especially on T-Nation) it's a buzzword. So let's just say that it's your ability to maintain any position throughout any plane of movement, whether it's standing up, upside down, on your sides, in a handstand, on your tip toes, etc.
That's the stability portion, and All Around Strength loves a strong core. In fact all the authors have benefited greatly from direct core training. All the movements in this video fall into one or more categories; flexion and/or extension in the transverse or coronal plane, rotation, and lateral flexion and extension. So here are a few explanations of some of the exercises to go along with the video.
NB : For a great collection of exercises similar to this one, head over to 29 Things to do with a barbell in the corner. You won't be disappointed.
In this week's Minute of Strength newsletter : a great use for a bath towel. Undulations.
Now we shift our emphasis to the lower body. Twisting squats and circular squats are next on the agenda. I would strongly avoiding the temptation to load the weight up. Go for higher reps, especially on the twisting squats as this can improperly load the spine and cause injuries. The twisting squats is a bit difficult to explain, and a picture and video just does the job better. A circular squat is a wide stanced squat in which you lower more towards one side, weave through to the other, and come up on the other side.
Via the Diesel Crew blog : A quick video demonstration of the band setup for a dumbbell bench press. Good stuff.
Incidentally, doing push-ups using the same band setup (just upside down) is good fun. The twist stops it from accidentally hitting you in the back of the head.
Whether you're after some extra mass, iron bar strength or the pumped, veiny look that Ronnie Coleman has been showing off for years; forearm training deserves to be taken seriously. This article looks at several ways to do just that.
The muscles of the forearms control several movements of the wrists and elbows, and the relevant exercises all move the hands or bend the arms in some way.
For the sake of simplicity, there are four primary movements to consider. Once you know what they are, it's a fairly simple matter to add weight and repeat the action. They are :
lift your hand straight back (bending at the wrist) : imagine performing push-ups, and think about the position your hands are in relative to your forearms.
press your hand directly forward (bending at the wrist) : the opposite of the above movement. Push-ups on the backs of your hands.
rotate your hands (with hands at 90deg to the wrists) : think of push-ups again, and point your fingers out to the sides; without moving your forearms. Now point them in towards each other (again without moving your forearms).
hammer : imagine hammering a nail, drinking a beer or shaking hands with someone. The arm bends at the elbow, and the hand (held vertically) bends at the wrist.
As I mentioned above, the exercises are really only repeating the actions; with an increased level of resistance. A few ideas :
Wrist curls : these can be supported (table-top or preacher bench) or unsupported (seated or standing), using a dumbbell, barbell weight plate or any other heavy object you can hold in one hand. To perform, turn your hand so it's on its back (palm to the sky), grab your chosen object and - bending only at the wrist - lift it skyward as far as you can. As you'll quickly see, the range of motion is a tiny one (a couple of inches or less).
For a reverse wrist curl, simply turn your hand over (palm toward the ground) and perform as above. Once again, the ROM is only a couple of inches or less.
Wrist roller : one of the simplest pieces of equipment you can make for your home or commercial gym is a wrist roller. This consists of nothing more complex than a section of pipe/baseball bat/length of turned wood (I use an axe handle - without the head, of course) and a chain or cord to hold something heavy. Attach a plate or two, hold the handle at arm's length (in your best zombie pose) and roll it up as if it were a newspaper.
Using one in a commercial gym :
Also worth a look : a DIY Axle-mounted wrist roller on IronOnline
After some pondering, and questioning what else we could do with a barbell, the authors of All Around Strength decided to try and become flying squirrels using 2 Olympic bars, and 2 45 lb. plates. The set up is very simple, put a plate on each end of both bars, and all of a sudden you've got a nice set of parallettes.
But unlike solid parallettes these ones move sideways and offer a new plane of unstable training. Obviously if we had all day we could come up with all sorts of interesting exercises, but here's a few ideas. The main concept we were able to train well was abduction, and adduction.
So here are some of the exercises we came up with, and hopefully these can help spark some interest or give a new idea or two. I will say that if you do these, it's at your own risk, they're not very stable and it is very easy to fall or get injured.
The Angry Cat, or semi dive bomber abduction and adduction; not sure how to describe it, just watch and see.
Nothing beats finishing with an L-Sit.
Here's the set up.
Now we add two barbells to the mix, and essentially double the fun.
Here's the setup, essentially same as the first, and altering the distance between the barbells can shift the arcs and angles a bit differently.
UPDATE10/09/11 : The video below was available when this post was written, but has since been removed by the user.
Apologies for that.
In this week's Minute of Strength newsletter, Anthony demonstrates the benefits of the kettlebell towel (or t-shirt) swing. A great way to correct several technique errors in the swing itself.
This partial lying pull-up is a very interesting exercise - definitely one to add to the grip-training arsenal. Anyone else tried it?
Just got a chance to watch the second part (video above - part I here) of the Diesel Crew's Advanced Pull-up Variations series. Take-home point (for me personally) - the Reach-ups. Should slot nicely into the current OAC work.
You've seen a select few doing these in the gyms, but you may wonder to yourself whats the point of learning how to do this exercise. Truthfully what's the point of learning any new exercise, won't crunches and leg raises get you stronger? They might, but the windshield wiper exercise does something a bit more unique. It adds several components to a core exercise that crunches and leg raises fail to do. They incorporate static contractions, with a component of rotation and some lateral flexion. Couple that with the role of gravity and an angle that can be unfamiliar to some, and a sense of balance and kinesthetic spatial awareness, and you have a whole new animal. So let's briefly discuss what this exercise can do for you. It can add core strength, it can add rotational power, it is impressive to some to watch, it's a whole new challenge, it helps with kicking, and scissor takedowns, and last but not least it can help strengthen the back stabilizers for other more difficult exercises like the back and front levers.
At this point if you're still interested, then continue reading, if not, maybe this will be some food for thought. The hanging wind shield wiper is basically a hanging L-sit in which your lower back is parallel to the ground, and your legs swing together from side to side. Those who have very strong cores in terms of pound for pound strength may find this exercise a bit easier. Those who play sports with rotation being the bread and butter of movement may find this exercise beneficial to their training, but also not quite as difficult.
So let's start from the ground and work our way up. The most closest relative to the hanging wind shield wiper is known as a lying hip swing. To do this you like on your back and pike your legs so that they create a 90 degree angle between your torso and your toes. You may want to have your arms spread out fairly wide with palms down because as you rotate your hips and allow your legs to swing towards the ground you will find that you may have to push very hard with then hands in order to keep from rolling over. It's always a great idea to train at mixed tempos. I won't recommend slow and controlled movements all the time, because different speeds do different things, and a fast hip swing is very beneficial, just like a slow one can be.
If this is not a problem and you can bang out 20 to 30 reps, then it's time you graduate a step further up the ladder. Some ankle weights can be useful to further create a challenge especially if they're 5 lbs or greater per each weight. Or even a medicine ball between your ankles which helps you bring the adductors into play. Once that becomes simple let's make things a bit spicier by adding a plate to the mix. This next exercise really helps you hone in on the feeling you might get from the hanging windshield wipers because it adds rotation in two separate directions. You start as you would the lying hip swings except that you now hold a plate (10-25 lbs. is a great start). You allow your arms to drift in the opposite direction as your legs, and it activates the obliques to a very high tension to keep your spine supported.
Alright now that some of the strength aspects have been covered, lets work our way even further up that ladder and begin to get the body in a more realistic position and add some more changes in order to get this skill. The next version of the exercise is called a stability ball supine hip swing. The main difference between this and the hanging windshield wiper is that your weight is supported by the stability ball. However the hand position starts out wide, and as you get stronger you work your way in towards shoulder width. This presents a whole slew of unique challenges because the balls are not as quite of a stable surface as one might, but when you're hanging your core strength and overall ability to stay tight will be even more difficult than work on the ball. Once you get the hang of this, allow the ball to roll in the opposite direction that your legs go in; for instance if your legs swing to your left, the ball rolls a bit to the right.
Now that the technique is hopefully smoothing out, and your neuromuscular facilitation is where it should be, you want to make sure that you have the requisite strength to hold yourself up in these particular positions. Here's some exercise that we feel may help you attain this goal, seeing as if you've made it this far you're 75% give or take towards completion of the exercise. The Hanging Pike, or hanging leg raises as they're also known, help you maintain a tight position that is very similar to how you'll be, except parallel to the ground. You want to be able to hold this position for at least 5-10 seconds without swinging or arching your back in order to hold the windshield wiper. From there you want to make sure you can hold yourself parallel to the ground without falling, and this can become taxing to the the shoulder girdle, as well as the middle back, arms, and forearms. Basically you can hold on to some bars, and roll yourself up into a ball, until your back becomes parallel to the ground. If you can hold this for 10-15 seconds it's time to move on. This can be thought of as a position similar to that of a front lever, except that your legs are bent. Logically we would want to extend the legs, so extend your legs so that you form a 90 degree angle between your feet, and hips, and work on holding that for the same amount of time.
Now that you're somewhere between 3rd base and home plate it's a good idea to try out your skills and see if you can do it. If you can, then congratulations you've accomplished a new technique that is not as easy as it looks, and one that will help bring your core strength and rotational power to a whole new level. Here's what it looks like;
If for some reason things didn't work here's a couple of rotational core exercises that you can use to help you build some more strength before you re-attempt this exercise. The first is a ground based rotational exercise known as the Standing Russian Twist. You place a barbell against a wall, or in a corner, interlock your fingers at the very top of the barbell and while keeping your feet planted, hips straight, and head facing forward; allow the weight to drift towards your hips while keeping your arms as straight as possible. Another variation of this is to allow your feet to pivot, tack on some heavier weight and work at swinging the weight in an arc like movement from above the head to each hip.
The very last exercise to help supplement your strength is an Incline Russian Twist where you lock your feet under a decline bench, and then twist the weight in front of you as low as you can to each side while keeping the core engaged and very tight.
ThreeOMs' Aaron Cantor demonstrates a series of asanas leading up to and including some handstand work. A great progression.
Repping with the front lever. Very nice.
Aikido fans may find this familiar. The strangely mesmerizing art of knee walking.
Via Davis Training Systems - a 565lb trap-bar deadlift. Nice one.
Britt demonstrates one of the lesser-known ab exercises - the Standing abdominal band pull. Good stuff.
This afternoon someone asked me what frog jumps were. Well, they're fairly close to the 'leap frog jumps' at the end of this video. Essentially just jumping in and out of a full squat; often up and down stairs. Torturous things - love them.
A quick demonstration of one of my favourite ab exercises - the Dragon Flag.
New Jersey Strongman Rob Orlando enjoying a few record-breaking axle presses. Thanks Jedd.
NB : if you're training alone, a weighted barbell over the ankles isn't a bad option. Just use the smaller plates - and a towel - to keep the gap to a minimum.
Recently on the Virtual Meet forums, James Santi mentioned the Hockey Deadlift. After watching the video [streaming, 1.4mb .flv download] I was left scratching my head; I'd seen a similar exercise before, but not with that name.
As many long-term readers of Under the Bar will recall, Kris mentioned the dumbbell equivalent (*) after coming across it in Bill Pearl's excellent work, Keys to the Inner Universe. If you can get your hands on a copy, it's a good read.
Regardless of the name, it's definitely a great exercise.
* In the dumbbell version, the weight is lowered three times; left, middle and right. The Hockey Deadlift version appears to omit the middle.
Brian Carson points to a Combat Conditioning video [streaming, 22.9mb .flv download] showing Matt Furey demonstrating the Dand (the 'Hindu Push-up' in his vernacular). It's a great exercise; particularly as part of a morning bodyweight-only workout.
Mark Reifkind points to video of a great kettlebell exercise variation - the Tactical Turkish Get-up (TGU). Now that's some serious stability.
Julia Ladewski's latest newsletter contains several interesting Plank variations, notably the Side plank with kettlebell (pictured). Looks like a good one.
The Ice Chamber demonstrates a great exercise - the Kettlebell windmill. One I'll definitely be experimenting with.
Bloody Dove has a tutorial up on that action-movie favourite - the 540 Kick. Good fun.
I love coming across new exercises, or re-discovering older ones. Yesterday I watched an old show on Jackie Chan's stunt training, and noticed a push-up variation that doesn't seem to get much attention : the Reaching Push-Up (pictured). Simply move your hands out in front of your body and perform push-ups as normal.
As with the ab rollout (if using the full ROM), this push-up variation places more stress on the lower back; whilst giving the abs and shoulders a little more to think about. Very unusual.
Jason C. Brown demonstrates just some of the ways that a kettlebell may be gripped (prior to pressing, snatching and so on). Very interesting indeed.
The Ice Chamber's Kelley Hinds demonstrates the Barbell Snatch. A great exercise.
From Glasgow Parkour : a brief look at Parkour conditioning for the upper body and core [streaming, 6.9mb .flv download]. There are a couple of very interesting variations in there - particularly the Hanging Knee Raises to Elbows (pictured). Definitely one I'll be adding to my workouts.
Very nice tutorial.
We live in a society that judges on physical appearance. Having big legs is ok, but no one notices. Big arms make you seem too narcissistic. A big chest makes you look like Captain UpperBody; a superhero no one wants to dress up like during Halloween. So that leaves the yoke as the essential body part to develop.
Besides which, a well-protected neck is always a good thing to have.
What is the yoke?
To anyone who loves the iron, the yoke is simply the collection of muscles that sits around the neck and makes it look as though you're permanently wearing one of those inflatable travel pillows. Those muscles help protect your neck from all sorts of damage (which is why you'll often see footballers, wrestlers and MMA athletes working them seriously).
For a slightly more anatomical look at things, the yoke consists of :
If the first exercise that came to mind when you read the word 'yoke' was the humble shrug, join the club. Listed below are several other ways to hit the traps, but the shrug is at the top of the list for a good reason - it works.
The traps help with several movements of your arms above your head (picture the movement of a pull-up, for starters). The top shelf always gets a little harder to reach after a solid deadlift day.
Rear Delts (Posterior Deltoids)
These are simply the muscles at the back of the shoulders, and help to raise your arms behind you (think of a rear lateral raise).
Neck (Several muscles, all designed to rotate and tilt your head in various directions)
This probably brings to mind helmets, neck harnesses and formula one racing drivers (if that last one surprises you, think about the G-forces those guys are repeatedly subjected to as they go around corners). There are several muscles involved, but they have a common purpose : to help protect the cervical spine. And rotating/tilting the head of course.
Another interesting exercise idea from Physical Subculture - Alternating Windmills.
The Hack Squat is an exercise that seems to be commonly associated with a machine; however the barbell version is indeed a thing of beauty. If they aren't forming part of your current routine, perhaps it's time to give them a shot.
The exercise is usually thought to be named for its creator - or at least the first to openly harness its powers - wrestler George 'The Russian Lion' Hackenschmidt; or 'Hack'. As a wrestler he was seemingly unstoppable; competing in over 3,000 fights from 1889 - 1908 and winning all of them . Yes, he was that good.
George Karl Julius Hackenschmidt (he was of Swedish descent, if you're wondering why he doesn't have a Russian name) was famous for many strength feats (including some that remained unequalled for an astonishing 50 years). The Hack Squat is at the centre of some of these (including a staggering 550 reps with 110lb).
A word on the name
Although it is seemingly self-evident that the name 'Hack Squat' comes from the short version of his own name, Hackenschmidt claimed in The Way to Live that the name actually came from the word hacke, meaning 'heel'. Either way, the name 'Hack' is entirely appropriate.
Load up a bar and place it on the floor. Stand just in front of it, with feet roughly shoulder-width apart, and grasp it with a double overhand grip. Stand up.
The bar itself will mainly move vertically (there's very little horizontal motion). As with a deadlift, think of your hands simply as hooks, keep your back straight and move upward until you're standing upright.
Although this is primarily a quadriceps exercise (especially for the Vastus Medialis), a number of other muscles come into play. These include :
* Gluteus Maximus
* Adductor Magnus
* Erector Spinae
* Trapezius, Middle
* Levator Scapulae
* Trapezius, Upper
* Rectus Abdominis
Things to consider
As with other Squat varieties, there is a greater emphasis on the glutes when below parallel. Range of Motion is as important here as with any other exercise (with the usual exceptions, of course).
If you are unable to perform the full-range lift, simply set the pins of a power rack to the lowest position you can manage and perform them from there.
Keep the feet flat on the floor. If your legs are too tight to allow this, stretching is a better option that elevating the heels (standing on plates, for example). That said, elevate the heels if you find it's still necessary to perform the exercise.
During the upward portion of the exercise, push with your heels rather than your toes. This will help minimise the stress on your knees .
The Barbell Hack Squat's a great exercise - simple, inexpensive and quick to perform. If it isn't already part of your current routine, give it a run.
2. Barbell Hack Squat
3. Hack Squat
Fortunately my home gym doesn't have a lot of spare room, or I might just be tempted to try this - walking lunges with 585lb [streaming, 2.3mb .flv download]. OK, perhaps with a somewhat lighter load. For now, anyway.
What is the Zercher Squat?
To the uninitiated, the Zercher Squat is a strange beast. Instead of the bar being held across the shoulders (slightly higher or lower for Olympic Weightlifters, Bodybuilders and Powerlifters); it's held in the crook of your arms. The inside of your elbows, if you like.
It teaches you exactly how to squat. It teaches you to push your knees apart. Push your chest up. Push your buttocks out. The whole nine yards.
The Zercher Squat was one of the many cruel and unusual exercises created by St Louis strongman Ed Zercher (1902 - 1995). Zercher's own home gym resembled a junkyard more than a basement, and was filled with such toys as anvils, wrecking balls and assorted pieces of machinery. Sounds perfect.
This is one of the rare exercises where using a thick bar actually makes it more comfortable. A strongman yoke with an adjustable crossbar is great; a thick (2.5" - 3") barbell is also a good choice.
The lift comprises two stages, although it is common to see only the second one being performed in gyms.
The weighted bar begins on the floor, and is deadlifted (using a conventional, or shoulder-width stance) to a point a little above the knee. Aim for the lower quad muscles, rather than your kneecaps.
Slowly squat down; balancing the bar at this point on your lower thighs. Slide your arms under the bar until it reaches your elbows. Now stand up.
Simply reverse the process to complete the exercise. That's one rep.
NB : You may notice that this movement resembles the action of lifting a heavy stone, and it can be a great way to help train for such an event.
How to hold the bar
Regardless of how you hold the bar, there'll be some pain involved. Whilst you can probably ignore it when there's 50kg on the bar, it's a different story when the bar weighs 200kg.
There are three things to consider here. Experiment with them and find the combination that feels right to you. They are :
How your hands are -
How your forearms are -
What the bar is resting against -
The videos below show a variety of these combinations.
This week's Minute of Strength newsletter features an interesting video of the kettlebell windmill; including a slight adjustment for anyone performing the exercise with a minor shoulder injury. Enjoy.
10,000 swings over 6 weeks? Sounds like fun.
I love these things. As you can see, it's exactly what the name suggests - a pull-up performed using only 2 fingers from each hand.
Although I've never tried rock climbing, these are often known as Climbers' Pull-ups; and a couple of climb training techniques will come in handy. The training tool you'll need is known as a Fingerboard.
Fingerboards don't have to be fancy to be effective (the picture here shows the one regularly used by climbing coach Dave McLeod); although there are various commercial offerings if you prefer. Dave discusses the use of a fingerboard here; Moonclimbing also has some great information on this type of training.
Why would you want to do this?
Finger strength. You can never have too much. You'll also give your hands and forearms generally a good going over. If the hangs and pull-ups are out of the question at the moment, keep in mind that you can use bands to support some of your weight and make things a little easier. Temporarily, of course.
Campusing. And you thought the fingerboard was hard work.
Just when I thought I'd seen all of the squat varieties, All around strength has a new one - resting the bar on one shoulder. Definitely one to try.
NB : All other things being equal, a finer material will feel more difficult. The shot just has less give, and will quickly prove challenging. Rice is a good starting point.
At least for the lunges.
A shoulder injury, cooler weather and plenty of reading to do here on Straight to the Bar :
Mike Bruce briefly looks at a very interesting partial exercise - the One Arm Partial Row [140kb, .pdf]. I might just give that a go.
There's an interesting discussion on the Dragon Door forums on the merits of dumbbells vs kettlebells. For anyone considering the purchase of their first kettlebell, some of the differences noted were :
the ability to do many swings safely with a KB. With a large enough DB you would take your knees out with a pronated grip. With a semi-supinated grip your elbow could not handle the volume.
I'd add the following :
Not to mention the fact that throwing a large chunk of iron around is just downright fun.
Campusing is a rock-climbing training technique, making use of the decidedly evil campus board. Developed in 1988 by climber Wolfgang Güllich (german site only), the board consists of a series of strips affixed in a ladder-like fashion. The entire board is angled to around 20°.
On the rare occasions bands make their way onto the chin-up stage it's usual to have them helping out in some way. Whether looped around the bar or simply helping to offset your bodyweight, they're usually somewhere near the top of the rack/chinning bar.
Switching things around - affixing them to the rack's base or low pins - feels quite strange at first, as your path is suddenly controlled. I've never learnt to be an acrobat, but I imagine it's a similar feeling stepping into the training harness for the first time.
Where do you put the bands?
After a bit of experimentation I ended up with the combination shown in the picture. This involved two bands (Iron Woody blue bands in this case) which were looped around low pins in the rack. The other end of each band was looped over a weight belt, which held things in place nice and firmly. This provided around 12"-14" of motion; easily adjusted by moving the pins to a higher or lower setting.
The picture clearly shows the final position, but there are two ways of getting the bell there in the first place :
Either way, start out light (John recommends a 20lb bell), crush that handle and curse when it hits you in the back of the arm. Did I mention that it isn't easy?
Pavel goes into more detail on the DVD, but briefly :
The Long Push Press
From the newsletter :
The push press is a "cheating" press that allows you to use a leg kick to help your arm and shoulder to put up the weight.
Clean the kettlebell and go into a full front squat. Drive out of the squat and push press as you are nearing the top of the squat.
The Backup Press
Again, from the newsletter :
Clean the kettlebell and start pressing it in the familiar outward arc. As soon as the kettlebell clears your chin, push its body--not the handle, not your arm, but the ball itself--with your free hand. Don't push straight up, but up and to the side. You will feel the pec on the backup side if you do it right.
The Loaded Clean
Once again it's over to Pavel :
...when you do your kettlebell cleans. Even though you do not plan on pressing the kettlebell, load your body as if you will. Tense the glutes, brace the abs, "root" your feet into the deck, flare the lats, crush the handle. Pause momentarily, a coiled spring of tension, then drop the kettlebell. Five sets of five will do the job.
Time to grab my favourite toy and try these out.
The Hang Clean is a deceptively simple exercise. As you'll no doubt have ascertained if you've ever watched someone attempt one, timing is everything. Actually, a bit of practice doesn't go unwanted either.
I began doing these as part of my journey to the Front Squat. On reflection, however, that may be the wrong way around. If you already have enough flexibility to use a Clean Grip in the Front Squat, performing front squats is a great way to get used to the final stage of the Hang Clean.
What exactly is a Hang Clean?
If you're sitting there thinking 'this is great, but I'm not quite sure what a Hang Clean is', a bit of video [.avi, 298kb] will help out. Basically it's a power move which involves lifting the bar from just above knee height to shoulder height.
Performing the Hang Clean
The Hang Clean is generally broken into four stages. These are :
1. Starting position
Begin by deadlifting the bar (conventional stance and double-overhand grip). Bend knees slightly, lean forward (bending at the hips, keeping back straight) so that the bar is just above knee height.
NB: keep the elbows pointed along the bar so it's possible to pull it close to your chest.
This is essentially a Power Shrug (sometimes called a Hang Jump Shrug). Drive the hips forward and shrug the bar straight up (keeping the arms straight). Rise onto the balls of your feet.
A great tip here from Coaching the Double Knee Bend  :
When coaching this, it is advisable to get the athlete to think about the shrug initiating the triple extension in the legs: Whilst this is the reverse of what actually happens, if the athlete attempts to consciously "Jump & Shrug", the reality of our experiences has seen the "shrug" component of the movement coming too late in the sequence, and rather than continuing the upward movement of the bar after the jump, it comes when this vertical movement has ceased.
This is where the timing really plays a role. Once the bar is as high as your Power Shrug will take it, bend the arms and lift it even higher. At the same time, bend the knees and get the elbows under the bar; catching it on the front of the shoulders. You should now be in a quarter Front Squat position.
4. Front squat
The easy part - stand up. It's just the final part of a Front Squat.
To return the bar to the ground, just bend the knees and straighten the arms; lowering or dropping it (if you have bumper plates and a lifting platform) under control.
Where it often goes wrong
This takes a bit of getting used to (as I've been discovering lately), and there are a number of common mistakes to be aware of in the meantime. Things to watch out for :
The Serratus (sometimes known as the 'boxers' muscle) is perhaps best thought of as the '3 fingers' on your side, below each arm. Its job is to hold the scapula (shoulderblade) against the thoracic wall (rib cage). The Serratus Crunch comes in two main forms, each of which is described below.
This is the one described in Arnold's book, and the one most likely to find a place in my own routines. Hanging from a chinning bar (using a shoulder-width, pronated grip), simply raise your legs directly to one side, and then the other. Lift them as high as possible, and try to keep the movement slow and under control.
The Sots press is a fairly recent (as far as these things go) exercise, named after great Russian weightlifter Viktor Sots (pictured). If you were watching top-level Olympic weightlifting in the early 1980s, chances are you've seen him on the platform.
Despite its relative newness, the Sots press is little more than a combination of two well-known exercises: the squat and the overhead press. It's a great mix.
Performing the Sots press
It's a fairly simple affair, consisting of 3 basic steps :
Things to bear in mind
The first step mentioned above - clean the kettlebell - is a relatively simple matter once you have mastered the Swing. If you haven't got to this stage, or you're not yet comfortable with the Clean, get to that point before trying this exercise.
Warning: they're much harder than he makes them look.
Incidentally, if you want to see some video of someone making these look ridiculously easy, go no further than Ross Enamait. There are a few on the Low Tech, High Effect video [.wmv, 5.1mb] , and The Home Gym [.wmv, 6.1mb] trailer. Good stuff.
There are several ways to hold the bar for the Front Squat. If one method doesn't feel right, or your current flexibility or injury precludes it, try one of the others. It really is a great exercise.
From Zach Even-Esh: The picture says it all. If you're looking for something a bit different, grab a length of thick rope and try this. It's more difficult than it looks.
The wall squat is a bodyweight exercise that I'd laregely overlooked until I noticed Marc Bartley recommending it to someone trying to improve his wide stance squat depth. If you're in the same boat, here's a look at this deceptively simple bodyweight movement.
Performing the Wall (aka Ski) Squat
This is the straightforward part. If you're just getting into training, don't currently have any equipment at your disposal, or simply fancy something a bit different - try this.
Stand with your back against a wall - preferably a smooth surface (a mirror is ideal). Put your feet slightly out from the wall (about 30cm/1' is a good starting point - this will change according to your build and goals), and cross your arms across your chest.
Keep your knees slightly bent and your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. If you're used to squatting with a bar, adopt the same width and ducking (feet turned slightly outwards). If not, just use a stance that feels comfortable.
Now the fun part. Keeping abs tight, slowly slide down the wall until you can feel it in your quads, then squeeze your glutes and slowly push back up. Look straight ahead as you slide, and keep your chin slightly tucked. Repeat.
Don't try to hold your breath or do anything fancy here. Just exhale on the way down and inhale on the way back up.
The depth to which you slide, as well as how long you stay down there, the number of reps, rest breaks and stance are all variables that can be adjusted to suit your goals.
If your balance isn't all that great, try putting your palms against the wall (with arms straight down) as you slide. Once you feel comfortable with that, switch over to having arms folded across the chest.
Another possibility is to start adding weight. This is easily done by holding a plate across your chest or holding dumbbells by your sides.
A popular variation is to place a fitness ball behind your back. Whilst this helps stop your shirt from ending up tucked under your armpits, it increases the need to keep your abs and obliques tight; if you move in any direction other than vertical you'll know it in a hurry (usually as you chase the ball across the room).
The answer to that really depends on your goals. Somewhere around the 3-5 rep mark for 5-6 sets should be a good starting point. You should notice that you can squat a bit deeper over this time.
Keep your heels on the ground throughout the movement. Squat depth will gradually improve with practice.
This excercise works quads, hamstrings, glutes and abs. Using a narrower stance shifts the emphasis slightly toward the quads; squatting deeper increases glute involvement.
EliteFTS Q & A
To perform the super plank, begin in a standard push-up position. Get down onto your forearms (ala normal plank - as pictured), return to the push-up position and walk your hands up toward your feet (getting as close as possible). Reverse the movement, rinse and repeat.
This is a version of the triceps kickback that I first performed a couple of years ago, and subsequently managed to overlook. Whilst reading Bruce Lee's The Art of Expressing the Human Body recently I noticed the same exercise (pp116-117) described by Lee as :
From a standing position, with the barbell held behind you so that it touches the back of your thighs, keep your arms stiff and raise the barbell upward, at the same time inclining the torso forward until it reaches a position parallel to the floor. Raise the bar just as far as it will go, and then give a little extra lift at the end to fully contract the inner [medial] head of the triceps.
I like this exercise for a few reasons.
Definitely worth keeping in the arsenal.
Virgil Aponte demonstrates [streaming *] a move that slots neatly into the one-armed push-up progression : band-supported one-armed push-ups. After trying these out this afternoon (using a slightly different method to hang the band), I can safely say it'll take a bit of experimentation to find the perfect band/height combination. The Iron Woody green band (as pictured) feels about right for me at the moment.
Something to keep in mind is that the band only remains in place (around the shoulder) with the hand held behind the back - I initially tried a few standard push-ups with the majority of weight being supported by the non-band arm (just to estimate which band to use), and the band kept slipping. Doing them with the hand behind the back was fine.
* .flv file can be downloaded via KeepVid.
Continuing yesterday's step theme :
When I was a kid my family would head over to Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens quite often, which is a massive area containing trees to hide behind, hills to roll down etc. All great fun. The thing that really sticks in my mind, however, is a guy with 'tree-trunk' thighs who seemed to love using the Gardens' massive stone steps for exercise each weekend. I wondered how it was possible to build legs that big using steps.
The Step-up - as the name implies - is nothing more complex than stepping up onto an object, then stepping back down from it. Although it is an incredibly simple exercise, there are a few things to be aware of.
Factors to consider
Perhaps the most important of these is the height of the step. The basic exercise works the hips and thighs, and the step height adjust things in favour of the quadriceps or hamstrings. A higher step works the hamstrings harder, a lower step targets the quads (1).
According to Anatoly Bondarchuk, the 'normal' or ideal step height (for those with perfectly balanced quad and hamstring strength) is such that when the leading leg has the foot flat on the step, and the corresponding thigh parallel to the ground, the trailing leg has the toes just touching the ground (but the heel elevated) (1). This will naturally vary from person to person, and the use of a weight plate is common to bridge small gaps (it's unlikely that your training partner will have exactly the same requirements as you).
In addition to the step height, speed and number of reps both play crucial roles in determining the effectiveness of this exercise (for your personal goals). The usual rules apply - in general the reps will be lower and the breaks longer when training for maximum strength, and the reps higher/breaks shorter for hypertrophy goals.
The starting/finishing distance of the feet from the step also makes a difference, with a larger gap emphasising the Gluteus Maximus and a smaller gap emphasizing quadriceps (2).
The target muscle group is usually the quadriceps, though the weighting of this can be adjusted by altering the step height and gap as indicated above. Other muscle groups involved are (2) :
* Gluteus Maximus
* Adductor Magnus
* Gastrocnemius (Second Leg)
* Gastrocnemius (First Leg)
* Erector Spinae
* Trapezius, Upper
* Trapezius, Middle
* Levator Scapulae
* Gluteus Medius
* Gluteus Minimus
* Rectus Abdominis
As you can see, this is well and truly a compound exercise, and targets similar muscle groups to the squat.
The simplest form is a bodyweight-only step-up onto anything of a reasonable height (usually something below knee height). The speed, number of reps and step height will all play roles in the effectiveness of this exercise for your goals. Because of this flexibility the step-up can be used as a warmup, conditioning or strength training exercise.
As per the bodyweight step-up, performed whilst holding a dumbbell in each hand.
As per the bodyweight step-up, performed whilst holding a barbell across the shoulders in the same manner as for a back squat.
Step-ups wearing a weight vest
As per the bodyweight step-up, performed whilst wearing a weight-vest (such as the V-Max).
This exercise was born of necessity (not quite enough space in the home gym) : the Hanging Leg Extension. There's enough room to perform Hanging Knee Raises, and enough room to extend the legs once you're a couple of feet off the ground. Unfortunately, Hanging Leg Raises are out as there isn't enough space to raise the feet through the first 30 degrees or so.
The Hanging Leg Extension is simply a blend of the two (Hanging Knee Raise and Hanging Leg Raise). To perform it, hang from a bar, raise the knees as high as possible toward the chest, then extend the legs. Your body will be in an 'L' position at the end of it.
Simply reverse the procedure to complete the exercise.
This exercise neatly fits in the progression to L-pullups, and is slightly more difficult than a standard Hanging Knee Raise.
The most recent edition of T-Nation's Exercises You've Never Tried series (#18) encouraged me to re-read the earlier articles in search of lost gems. Amongst them I found this treat - the Anconeus Sidekick - which soon formed part of an ever-growing Triceps-blasting arsenal.
The Anconeus is the oft-forgotten 4th elbow extensor. To perform the sidekicks, kneel down beside a bench and use it to support your upper arm. Move your upper arm so that it's at right angles to your torso (and parallel to the floor), with your forearm hanging straight down. Pick up a dumbbell with a pronated grip (point your thumb down), and raise your forearm to horizontal (your upper arm won't move).
Follow it up with your usual tricep work.
Looking for something different to spice up ab training? Try the Zercher Decline Situp.
Bud's recent post To Squat or Not to Squat got me thinking about some of the lesser-known varieties of squat, and a brief conversation with my dad on Bruce Lee pointed us both in the direction  of the Jefferson - or Straddle - Squat.
This is little more than a variation on the usual Jefferson Lift (itself a reasonably uncommon exercise), and begins in the same manner. The difference : after the bar is lifted to the highest point possible (without causing yourself injury - try it and you'll see what I mean), bend the legs and squat down about 10cm/4" and return to the top. Overall it shifts the emphasis slightly toward the thighs from the usual low back work.
Another consideration is that grip strength plays quite a large role in this exercise; perhaps even moreso than in a conventional deadlift.
1. Bruce Lee - The Art of Expressing the Human Body (p120)
Benefits: far less stress on shoulders and elbows. Perfect.
The idea is simple - lie on the ground, press a weight in the air and stand up with it (without it touching the ground). However, it's a little more challenging than it sounds.
- Lie on the floor, in a supine position (i.e. face up), next to an appropriate size kettlebell.
- Use both hands to press the kettlebell vertical - directly above your shoulder. Once in position, keep your elbow locked, wrist straight, and your eyes on the kettlebell.
- Post your foot close to your buttocks (same side as your working arm.)
- Allow the weight to drift slightly forward, then push off your posted foot and sit up. It is acceptable to allow your free arm to assist slightly in sitting up.
- From sitting, slowly move to the kneeling position. This can be done a number of ways. The main thing is to move slowly, keeping your working arm perpendicular to the ground and to finish in well supported, 3-point kneeling position.
To see a video of the movement (which may make things a little easier), check out this one [.mpg, 29.9mb] from Lisa Schaffer at No Fear Fitness. If you're just beginning your kettlebell journey, you may like to read Lisa's Kettlebell Smart Start [.pdf, 1.3mb].
There isn't much you can do to alter this one apart from changing the weight of the bell itself. Start with a lighter one (no more than about 8kg); which should fit neatly in the palm of your hand.
This exercise can also be done (using a slightly different technique) with dumbbells - once again, keep them fairly light.
Things to consider
Obviously this is one for outdoors, but remember that the bell will keep tumbling after it hits the ground; so be prepared for some odd-shaped indentations in the lawn. If you're near a beach, I suspect sand is the ideal surface for this.
Former US Olympic Weightlifting coach Jim Schmitz talks about the origins of the Romanian Deadlift (RDL) - at least by that name.
Dragomir Cioroslan (a Romanian weightlifting coach at the time) described the exercise as follows :
Pictured demonstrating the exercise is Nicu Vlad, once coached by Cioroslan.
Bud mentioned yesterday that he'd like to hear more about my current training - which is anything but structured at the moment. With the rack + weights expected to arrive by the end of next week, I've decided to hold off on purchasing a short-term membership to any of the local gyms (although I'm still keen to head over to Sydney Uni and check out the ScrumTruk) and instead have contented myself with a combination of bodyweight, Total Gym and kettlebell work.
Although I'm not following any particular routine (that situation will change once I add the free weights to the mix next week), the exercises I do are generally taken from the following lists :
Push-overs (see Ross Enamait video [.wmv, 5.1mb])
Various jumps (including Catching Air - also on abovementioned video)
Front pressing (2 hands, 1.5 hands, 1 hand)
Pull-up (2 hands, 1.5 hands, 1 hand)
Seated rows (unilateral and alternating)
Pullovers (unilateral and alternating)
The one-armed push-up certainly got a bit of attention following the Rocky movies, but has unfortunately slipped away from prime-time in recent years. Having seen them mentioned in an article I came across yesterday, I decided to give them a go - quickly discovering just how difficult they are.
Performing a one-armed push-up
The technique for these is not all that complicated. Begin in a standard push-up position, separate your feet a little more (for stability), and move the supporting hand slightly closer to the centre line of your body. Tighten your lats, abs and glutes. Pull yourself to the floor - don't attempt to fall and catch yourself. Imagine screwing yourself into it.
The first time I tried this, I got about a quarter of the way down before acquainting my nose with the ground. Not wishing to repeat this (at least the nose/ground part), I decided to try out the following series of exercises for a week or two :
Standing push-up, one arm, sideways in doorway
Standing in a wide doorway, a couple of feet or so from the far side, lean over sideways and push back to vertical with one arm. Move back a little and try again - repeatedly moving back until you feel almost ready to fall over.
This can also be done against a wall - the door frame simply affords a better surface to grip.
Kneeling push-up, one arm
The same as the full version outlined above, supporting yourself on knees rather than feet.
A standard push-up with one hand on the floor, the other on a box (or anything that gets it a few inches off the ground). The height of the box, as well as its distance away from your torso, will determine how difficult this one is.
Offset push-up (stabiliser)
As above, using a box around 6" high, and well out to the side. The hand on the box is used for balance only, not to raise and lower your body.
One hand pull-up (on Total Gym)
This in itself has a progression (although a very short one) - I started with the most difficult version I could do comfortably (several reps with good form).
Starting with the incline at its steepest (for this machine) - which reduced my bodyweight to around 44%, or 36kg - I performed pull-ups with one hand grabbing the handle, and the second grabbing the wrist of the first. The further down the wrist, the more difficult the exercise. A week or so was enough to move from hand-on-wrist to hand-behind-back for 5 reps.
One hand push-up (floor)
Once I can comfortably do 10-12 reps on the Total Gym (as described above), I expect to be able to do a rep or two one-handed on the floor.
There are three main muscle groups I intend to strengthen for these : lats, delts and obliques. The first two are obvious; the obliques are worked a lot more in the stabilisation of a one-armed push-up than you may realise.
Having a somewhat limited set of tools at my disposal, most direct lat work will be from variations of the kettlebell row. If the equipment wasn't an issue, I'd also do a little seated row and one-handed pulldown work.
Rather than trying to hit only one part of the shoulder, a few solid sessions of kettlebell pressing should make a world of difference. I'll probably support this with the kettlebell equivalent of the standard dumbbell raises.
These get a fair bit of work in exercises such as the Slingshot and Suitcase Deadlift. Kettlebell versions of Side Bends will also feature, not to mention the various forms of crunches.
There are two more exercises I'll keep doing on the Total Gym which will no doubt help this obsession more than a little:
Behind-the-neck chin-ups (Total Gym)
Lying supine on the Total Gym, reach up and grab the bar overhead. These feel similar to behind-the-neck presses, and have the same tendency to hurt shoulders a little if you're not used to them. Still, I subscribe to the theory that they shouldn't harm healthy shoulders; and a couple of weeks of doing them occasionally seems to have borne this out.
Front press (Total Gym)
As with the one-armed pull-ups, there's a short progression with these. Start by lying face down, with hands on the bars near the floor (it's basically a handstand push-up on an incline). Once you can lower/raise yourself under control, move one hand to the wrist of the other arm. Once again, move your hand further down your wrist (and eventually off it altogether) as you get stronger.
In a week or so I'll evaluate my progress. In the meantime, any suggestions on this proprosed progression are more than welcome.
This is done by taking the arms completely out of the equation. Tie a rope to the bell, loop the other end around your back (the rope should be long enough to let the bell hang around knee height at the start) and thrust away. It's probably best not to do this one in a busy gym (unless you're ready for the comments).
Kettlebell golf swing
The second exercise is the Kettlebell Golf Swing. Standing with knees slightly bent, hold the bell with both hands (via the handle) and swing it in front of your body from side to side (not too high - you're putting here, not teeing off). Initiate the swing with your hips, and move your knees in the same direction as the bell. Pavel's video (8.26mb) demonstrates this clearly.
As with the other swing variations, this is great as part of a warmup.
Ketttlebell Shoulder (Seated) Press
Sit down on the ground with your legs straight (but knees not locked) and splayed out a little. Place the kettlebell on the ground between your thighs.
Grab the bell's handle with one hand and clean it (bring it to shoulder height, with the ball resting aginst the top of your forearm). As a second movement, press it directly up until your arm is straight. Keep looking straight ahead throughout the press.
Reverse the two movements (bring the bell all the way to the ground), and repeat.
As with the Kettlebell Floor Press, this can be performed with one or two kettlebells; either in unison or alternately. It can also be done standing as a Military Press, or seated on the end of a bench.
As you've probably guessed, there is a slight tendency to tip over backwards when doing these. This is overcome by flexing abs and glutes, which is why there is a different feeling between the seated and standing versions of this exercise.
Another thing which increases stability is holding your breath during the press.
For this you'll need a small, light kettlebell (8kg or so - it depends on your hand size and strength). Turn it over and pick it up in one hand, without using the handle. Quickly pass it back and forth from one hand to the other.
This one is perhaps best done against the clock (rather than counting reps). It's hardly an exact science.
Using a heavier bell (perhaps a 1-1.5 pood), grab the handle and pass it from one hand to the other around your body. As fast as you can (this is definitely a safer one outside).
Once again, do it for time rather than reps.
One-handed kettlebell swing
Start by bending at the hips, bend knees and let your right hand hang down between them (as if you're about to do a pull-through); holding the kettlebell a few inches off the ground. Swing the bell back and forward a bit, and on the second or third swing explosively straighten the hips and lift the arm to above shoulder height (keeping hold of the bell). Lower the bell in the same arc, and repeat.
The idea is to keep hold of the bell at all times, but it's definitely one for outdoors just in case.
Most variations increase or decrease the amount of grip work involved. To make things easier, just use two hands or a lighter bell. If you're looking for a challenge, lubricate the handle with a bit of soap or wrap the bell in a strong towel (grab the towel, not the bell in this case).
The first time I tried this, I was almost doing a front raise and could really only feel it in my shoulders (as expected). By increasing the hip action, the bell moved higher and there was a lot more lower back work. The amount of work suggested it'd be a good exercise to follow something that hits the lower back more intensely such as deadlifting or a heavy set of good mornings.
It'd also be great as part of a warmup for squats or deads, as it's primarily a hip movement.
Starting with feet about shoulder-width apart, and the kettlebell in front of the left foot, bend forward at the hips and straighten the legs (don't lock the knees). Grab the bell with the right hand, straighten, then lean straight forward and touch the bell to the ground between your feet. Straighten once again, the lean forward and touch the bell in front of your right foot. That's one rep.
Repeat the process using the left hand, working from the right foot to left.
Find a few feet of rope, cable, washing line or anything similar that comes to hand. Feed this through the handle of the kettlebell, grab the rope about 4" either side of the bell, and lift until both hands are above sternum height. Lower slowly and repeat.
Altering both the distance between hands and bell and the type of cord will make this exercise more or less difficult.
This can also be done as a High Pull (start with kettlebell on floor, rather than a hang position).
Start by lying on the floor with the upper arm (on the side to be worked) out at 90° to the torso, and the forearm at 90° to that (reaching overhead). Place the bell within grasp of the fingers.
Flaring your lat, squeeze the bell hard, and straighten your arm. The bell will now be hanging almost overhead. Slowly return it to the starting position - that's one rep.
This exercise can be varied by twisting away from the bell during the lift - extending the range of motion. If you have two kettlebells available, simultaneous and alternating versions can be done.
Differences from the Dumbbell versions
Although the same muscles are worked, there is a little more focus on the wrists when using kettlebells. This is from the larger grip, as well as the increased stabilisation requirement.
Despite Sydney being in a severe drought at the moment it seems to have been raining a bit lately. During a brief sunny period I grabbed the kettlebell and raced outside. Having said that, here are a couple of simple KB exercises that can easily be done inside. Safe from inquisitive dogs who haven't yet formed an opinion on the strange black thing with a handle.
One arm kettlebell row
NB : this is definitely one for outdoors. Just in case.
I first saw these on the Westside Bench Press Secrets video (1999 version), and decided to give them a run. They are to the Overhead Press what lockouts are to the Bench Press - using pins in a power rack to limit the motion to the top 2-3 inches.
A word of advice - sit up straight and use some sort of back support. I first tried these on a steep incline bench, and found myself sliding down it every rep. Not quite what I had in mind.
A recent comment from Bud prompted this brief list of some of the older exercises I occasionally use.
Bathiak : As with the Dand, Matt Furey has remarketed this one as a 'Hindu Squat'. These have been used with great success by wrestlers and martial artists for centuries. Even Louie Simmons has been known to do a sumo-stance version.
Bradford Press : Named for former US Heavyweight lifter Jim Bradford, this is a great way to hit the shoulders in their entirety. And you thought an Overhead Press was fun.
Dand : This is what Matt Furey refers to as a 'Hindu Push-up', and is often confused with the slightly different Dive Bomber Push-up. This is only one of many push-up varieties I occasionally employ; though certainly one of my favourites.
Hack Squat : If you've only ever performed these using a Hack Squat machine, try the deceptively simple barbell version. The original and best.
Jefferson Lift : Although the origins of the name are unknown (to me at least), the exercise itself is fantastic. Essentially a deadlift with the bar held between the legs.
Neck Bridge : Also well-loved by wrestlers and martial artists. This one is somewhat controversial, and possibly better put in the 'advanced' category. Once again Matt Furey has tried to rename it and sell it as his, but there you have it.
Neider Press : Another one with uncertain origins (although shotput champion Bill Neider seems the most likely source), this is used by boxers (it simulates a punching action) and powerlifters alike. The plate version is also fun.
One-armed chin-up : Also in the 'exactly what it sounds like' camp - and exceedingly difficult - is this wonderful exercise. There is a progression, but it's a long one.
Zercher Squat : One of strongman Ed Zercher's great legacies. Often performed incorrectly (it's not a comfortable one), it's a squat with the bar held low, and in front of the body; in the crook of the elbows. Beautifully painful.
Zottman Curl : Another legendary strongman, another great exercise. This is a bicep curl with a twist - and your forearms will thank you for it.
The bottom, or bottom-up squat (sometimes called 'dead stop squat') is simply a squat performed starting from the lowest position. This is usually done in a power rack from pins that mean your thighs are horizontal.
How does this change things? It affects the squat in a couple of ways, which may or may not be appropriate for your training. Personally I love them. The differences :
Remember that the stretch reflex can be very useful at times. Bottom squats are great things, but not always appropriate. If you're training to be explosive from a dead stop (as in Olympic Lifting), they might be worth giving a go. On the other hand, if your chosen sport keeps you moving around the majority of the time, the usual varieties of top-down squats may be more beneficial. Personally, as I enjoy weight training purely for fun, I employ both bottom-up and top-down methods. It's up to you.
More information, references and other fun things to try
The picture is from Bud Jeffries' 1,000lb bottom squat. His challenge for anyone to duplicate this is ongoing.
If you've stopped doing pistol squats because they're no longer challenging enough, try these. John Davies has found a way to eliminate the stretch reflex in the basic pistol, and turned it into an unholy beast.
This is just a quick look at several of the popular - as well as a couple of the less well-known - rowing exercises for the back. Naturally, there are many other ways to work the same muscles (particularly the lats), including the many varieties of pull-ups and pull-downs.
The walking squat is exactly what you'd expect. Walk a couple of steps, squat, walk a couple more, squat etc. This is actually far more tiring that it sounds (particularly if your endurance is anything like mine) and it isn't a bad idea to start with dumbells, kettlebells or anything else that you can just drop when you get tired. Besides, walking around a commercial gym with a loaded bar on your back is definitely going to attract a bit of attention.
Think of it as a Farmers' Walk with attitude.
I enjoy rotating my exercise selection regularly - it keeps things moving, the body adapting and prevents workouts from getting boring. Today I was reminded (reading John's blog) of an exercise that I had first seen over a year ago, considered interesting and promptly forgotten.
Welcome the Cuban Press. As with the Zottman Curl, the Cuban press is limited (in terms of the weight you can hoist) by one small part of the lift - the rotation.
According to a number of sites around the web, as well as photos in trashy fitness magazines, a lot of people seem to think the rotation part makes up the entire exercise. Unfortunately (or fortunately, for anyone with a slightly masochistic nature) that's only one part of three.
This is a deadlift performed with the same grip as Olympic lifters use for the Snatch. The grip is wide and overhand (both hands), which shifts the emphasis slightly to the upper back (one of the reasons Olympic lifters always seem to have large traps); although the usual players still get a good going over.
To determine the appropriate grip width, stand with your arms out to the sides. The distance between the elbows is the same as the desired distance between the first/second fingers on each hand (in my case, that puts the ring fingers on the rings).
The wide grip increases the distance the bar has to move; it also reduces the amount of weight which can be lifted. Start a little lighter than for a conventional deadlift.
This is definitely one to try out when no-one's looking - especially if your balance is anything like mine. As the name suggests, this is a normal two-handed deadlift, with the only difference being that only one foot is in contact with the ground at any time. And no, resting the other foot on top of the first is not allowed.
Tonight I stumbled across an exercise that will now form part of my upper body routines - the Seated Half Press. Although it looks like a shoulder exercise, it's actually for the lateral head of the triceps. And a new triceps movement is always welcome.
To perform the movement, put a bench in a power rack and set the pins just above head height (the bar should be touching your hair). With the bar directly overhead, take a shoulder-width grip and point your elbows out to the sides. Press, pause at the bottom and repeat.
Seated Half Press 10@20/44, 5@30/66, 5@35/77, 3@40/88
Aside from a few bodyweight-only exercises, I like to treat the abdominals as any other muscle group - with as heavy weights as possible. This is particularly true of the obliques, and a favoured movement is the one-handed rack pull.
This is essentially the same as a dumbbell side bend, only using a barbell. The length of the bar makes it that much harder to control - consequently there is a lot more grip and wrist work involved than the humble side bend. It's also much more fun.
This is just the plate version of a dumbell side press. Hold a plate in each hand (by the shoulders) and extend your arms sideways until they're straight. Pull them back in again. Mutter a few harsh words, and do it all again.
Inspirational music for this one - 'Jesus Christ Pose' by Soundgarden. You'll quickly see why.
Setup: I choked two Iron Woody Large bands (about 68kg/150lb) at the top of the rack, and put my hands in the bottom of them. Feet were elevated to bench height (slightly below the starting drop of the bands).
This setup increased the use of stabilisers for both the vertical and horizontal (the bands have a tendency to spread apart) plane. Much harder than I thought it was going to be.
The Power Shrug (aka Jump Shrug) is about as close as I ever come to the world of Olympic Weightlifting. It's basically a combination of a slight jump and a shrug. The movement is made of two basic parts - the dip and the rip. The dip involves a slight bending of the knees and a lowering of the bar (under control); the rip is somewhat more violent, involving the straightening of ankles, knees and hips as well as a shrug.
Timing is key, and its an art I've yet to master.
As this is pretty close to an isolation exercise (for the anterior deltoid) I tend to slip these in after a bit of pressing.
In a never-ending quest to add a little wrist work to my routines - as well as generally avoiding isolation movements - I decided to try a few one-handed barbell curls. The length of the bar makes this a far more difficult movement than a dumbell curl, and simply keeping the bar horizontal proves quite a challenge.
Another thing in its favour is the way in which cheating is discouraged - anything but a slow and steady curl will see the bar quickly falling to one side. Fantastic.
This is a great exercise for the lats. I generally do this in a power rack (the home gym isn't big enough to do it anywhere else), with the barbell sitting across the pins at their lowest setting.
Straddling the bar - and standing close to the weights at one end - lift the bar using both hands. Keep the elbows tucked in and bring the plates toward your chest.
I like to partner these with chin-ups, which also keep the lats warmed up.
This pair of exercises - particularly the Hanging Knee Raise - are high on the favourites list. Both of them fall into the category of 'ab exercise with additional benefits'; largely in the form of some grip work.
Hanging leg raise
Hang from a chin-up bar (I usually use a medium-width, pronated grip for these). Bending at the hips, raise your feet toward the bar; keeping your legs straight. Perform this as slowly and strictly as possible - don't use momentum to swing your legs up.
Hanging knee raise
The only difference in performing these is that your legs are bent throughout the movement. This is slightly easier, and if you can't do the straight leg raise, try these. Much better than crunches.
A few things to remember:
I generally perform this as a high-rep warmup, finisher or as part of a feeder workout. It seems to nicely stretch the spine after a bit of deadlifting.
I first saw this in a fitness magazine (I know, it was before I realised just how bad they are) some time ago - a great way to hit the obliques.
Stand with a plate held at arms' length in front of you, and move it from side to side. Move your arms to about 45 degrees, and you'll quickly feel your obliques.
This exercise can be made a little more difficult by performing it whilst kneeling, or whilst seated.
This exercise was first seen in an article by Coach John Davies on T-Nation. It's designed as a high-rep warmup movement; though I occasionally use it at the end of a workout (particularly after deadlifting) or as part of a light feeder.
To perform the Waiter's Bow, clutch a weight plate across your chest. With legs slightly bent, bend forward at the waist until you reach about 45 degrees. At this point you should feel a good stretch in your hamstrings.
Hit the hamstrings from several different angles. Another one for feeder workouts or a quick warmup.
NB: thinking about cheese and bacon pull-aparts really doesn't help this :)
I first saw Dave Tate performing the unusual looking pull-through some time ago, using a cable machine. As my home gym is not equipped with such a beast, I waited until getting my hands on some Iron Woody bands before trying a variation of this wonderful exercise.
To perform a band pull-through, start by looping a band around something low and horizontal (I generally use a pin from the rack, at its lowest setting) and straddle it - facing away from the anchor-point. Reaching between your legs, grab the band with both hands and stand up. The movement is similar to that in a SLDL.
To work the lower back, keep the legs straight whilst doing this. For a bit of ham-glute action, bend the knees a little.
These are certainly worth trying, although using bands is a little uncomfortable.
I first saw them on the Westside Dead Lift Secrets DVD, though the guys at Westside Barbell have undoubtedly been doing these for a long time.
To do them, simply anchor one end of the band with your feet and loop the other end over your head (so it sits on the back of your neck). Perform Good mornings as usual.
Helps to strengthen the VMO. Often overlooked by powerlifters who squat with the emphasis on the hamstrings and hips. This is prehab for the knees.
This exercise was employed to great effect by powerlifter Matt Dimel (hence the name), who used it to help move his squat from a respectable 820lb to a massive 1010lb in just two years.
This lift is similar to the main part of a Romanian deadlift. Using a narrow stance, medium overhand grip (at the rings) and a comparitively light weight (30-40% of your deadlift 1RM), stand up with an arched back. Squat down with the glutes pushed back, not letting the knees travel forward. Lower the bar quickly to just below the knees; then return explosively to an upright stance. The entire movement should be fast, and is usually done with reasonably high reps (20 or so).
Not being the proud owner of a Rolling Thunder handle, I was thinking about alternative ways to combine deadlifting and grip work. I ended up performing single-handed dumbell deadlifts using an adjustable Olympic dumbell; only loading plates onto one end. The other end proved to be slippery enough to give the hands a good workout.
DB vertical grip deadlift (each hand) firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
I'm a little unsure of the origins of the Neider Press, however the first person that springs to mind is strong-shouldered Bill Neider, who won the gold medal for the Shot Put at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. As I'm a little reluctant to start throwing heavy objects around the room, the Neider Press seems like a perfect alternative.
This movement is similar to doing a bench press whilst standing up, with the bar moving horizontally from the top of the chest to arms' length in front of you. Needless to say, gravity is not your friend whilst doing these.
Note: I've recently started doing these with a plate (held like a steering wheel), so as to add a little grip work.
George Zottman (pictured at left) was a Philadelphia strongman in the 1880s/1890s. In this photo Zottman, aged 57, still had massive forearms by any standard - measuring 16 1/2 " here. Relaxed they were still a suitably impressive 14 1/2 ".
It's fitting then that the movement he is most famous for - the one that to this day carries his name - is the Zottman Curl.
This is a dumbbell bicep curl with a twist - quite literally. The weight is curled using the standard supinated (palm facing up) grip, with the wrist angled back slightly so as to make the bicep do all the heavy lifting. At the top of the curl the wrist is straightened and the hand rotated 180 degrees, before being slowly lowered to the start position. The hand is then rotated 180 degrees and the cycle begins again.
This movement succeeds in working both the biceps and forearms, and is a great way to warm up the entire arm.
An uncommon, but highly effective, movement.
The Bradford Press is named for former US Heavyweight lifter Jim Bradford, an olympic lifter, who had a reputation for being able to press any weight he was satisfactorily able to clean. After doing a few sets of these I can understand why.
The exercise looks similar to a Military Press, except that the weight is moved in an arc from in front of the head to behind it; and back again. This manages to work all parts of the deltoids, as well as giving the forearms something to think about. An unusual, but highly effective, movement.
UPDATE : This lift owes its origin to Strongman Charles Jefferson, not Thomas. Thanks Jan.
The origins of this lift are a little more difficult to find than those of many other weird and wonderful movements from the strongmen of old. The only strongman I've come across with the name of Jefferson is Thomas Jefferson 'Stout' Jackson (1890-1976) of Texas; though I can't find any link with this particular lift.
Ed Zercher was a St Louis Strongman (pictured here performing an unsupported leg press), who famously trained using equipment looking more at home in a junkyard than a gym. His basement was filled with pieces of old machinery, anvils, wrecking balls and assorted odd-shaped heavy objects. Clearly strength was a passion.
The name Zercher is survived by a couple of lifts, primarily the Zercher Squat. Deadlifts are also occasionally performed, holding the bar in the same unusual way.
For both the Zercher squat and deadlift the bar is rested in the crook of the elbows. This shifts the body's centre of mass much further forward than in the case of a front squat or traditional deadlift. The hands are then crossed, made into fists, clasped together or held in whatever way feels most comfortable to the lifter.
In the case of the squat, these were originally performed free-standing. The bar was deadlifted from the ground (using traditional methods) and rested on the upper thighs whilst the lifter carefully squatted down. The lifter would then proceed to hook their arms beneath the bar and stand up again, before reversing the process and returning the bar to the ground. These days the lift is often started with the bar already raised (via the pins of a rack, blocks or anything else at a convenient height), and only the squatting motion is performed.
For the Zercher deadlift the bar begins much lower - on the ground if possible, or at the very least on the lowest pins of a rack. Taking a wide stance, the lifter's arms are hooked beneath the bar in the same way as in the squat. The hips are lowered, and then the lifter raises the back and straightens the legs simultaneously. As the body's centre of mass has been shifted forward by holding the bar in this unusual way, much more stress is placed on the hamstrings than in a traditional deadlift; which focusses on the spinal erectors.
The Zercher lift
Wally's Place: The man behind the Zercher lift
ABC Bodybuilding forum: The Zercher Deadlift
Always on the lookout for new exercises and variations to add to my routines, today I stumbled across the little-used Hise Shrug. Invented by 'the father of American weight training' Joseph Curtis Hise - who is perhaps best known for popularising the flat-footed squat in the 1930s - the Hise Shrug is a wonderfully simple, yet torturous, trap builder. As the exercise is painful even when performed correctly, it doesn't have the same widespread appeal as its shrugging cousins.
The Hise Shrug is essentially a shrug performed with the bar resting across the traps, as if you were about to perform a high-bar squat. Even following several sets I was constantly reminded of my first squatting session - it's not a comfortable movement. As it's widely reported to be an effective trap strengthening movement however, it'll make many repeat performances alongside the humble barbell shrug.
Whilst looking through a few of the older T-Mag articles the other day I came across a mention of the Bradford Press, one of the less well-known movements favoured by The Renegade himself, John Davies.
The Bradford Press is named for former US Heavyweight lifter Jim Bradford, an olympic lifter, who had a reputation for being able to press any weight he was satisfactorily able to clean. After doing a few sets of these I can understand why.
The exercise looks similar to a Military Press, except that the weight is moved in an arc from in front of the head to behind it; and back again. This manages to work all parts of the deltoids, as well as giving the forearms something to think about. An unusual, but highly effective, movement.
Before I got into these I started with 9 sets of explosive flat bench presses, washed down with a few of the close-grip variety to hit the triceps. After the Bradford presses came a quick upper back session in the form of chinups. Rather than invest in a dipping belt I added plates to a length of heavy gauge chain, which I looped around a normal weight belt. My arms will tire long before the chain/belt combo starts to weaken.The routine :
Final note : I've started to notice that I'm naturally beginning to favour compound movements over isolation exercises, which I hope is a good thing overall. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.
JM Blakley is well known in powerlifting circles for bench-press abilities, and the JM Press is a magnificent tricep building exercise to help with this particular lift.
The JM Press is similar to both a close-grip bench press and triceps extension (aka French Press), and lies inbetween them. Think of it as a close-grip bench in which the bar is brought to a point just above the upper chest/lower face (the length of your arms will determine this). The upper arms are kept at a 45 degree angle from your torso.
NB : The bar should move in a straight line up and down. In order to minimise shoulder involvement (and keep the workload on the triceps, as designed), keep the elbows tucked in. The bar is raised by straightening the arms, not by pushing with the shoulders.
www.jmblakley.com. Currently disabled.
Building the Perfect Beast
George Karl Julius Hackenschmidt (aka 'Hack' or 'The Russian Lion') was a strongman and championship wrestler in the early 1900s. He is now best remembered for a squat technique - the Hack Squat. This exercise focuses attention on the quadriceps - largely on the vastus medialis. In performing this lift in 1902 he knocked out a staggering 550 reps with 110 lb.
This is a pretty simple lift to get used to, and visually it is similar to completing a deadlift with the bar behind the back. Start with the bar elevated (using a rack, blocks or anything else adjustable) to a point about 4-6 inches below your glutes. Place a block of wood or a couple of plates on the ground in front of the rack, which will be used to elevate your heels by an inch or so.
Standing with your back to the bar, grab the bar and walk forward until your heels are on the block of wood. Keeping your back upright, and your glutes in the same vertical line, squat down by letting your knees come forward as far as possible. Once your knees have gone as far as they can, lower your hips. Reverse the process and return to the start position.
NB : Be careful not to round your shoulders, and make sure your hips are beneath your shoulders at the bottom position of the lift.
EXRX (Exercise prescription)
George Hackenschmidt: The Russian Lion