Welcome to Straight to the Bar

Scott Andrew Bird. Artwork by Vince Palko.
Yes, I love the deadlift.
If you’ve just joined us, welcome. Here you’ll find everything that grunts, groans and ticks in the world of strength training. The 30-second summary :


Straight to the Bar is the online home of serious fitness enthusiast Scott Bird, and looks at the many training approaches, essential techniques, uncommon exercises and superb equipment to help you become as strong as humanly possible.

In short, this site is the home of all things strength.

Whether you’re a Strength Athlete, Performing Strongman, Strength Coach, Personal Trainer or just someone who enjoys picking up insanely heavy objects; come and join us at straighttothebar.com.

Who's Behind Straight to the Bar?

Scott Andrew Bird
Straight to the Bar is run by serious fitness enthusiast Scott Bird. Scott is a writer, photographer and a guy who just loves this stuff. He's been at home in front of a computer for more years than he cares to remember (OK, 30) and is now making amends for years of many mistakes noted in the De-constructing computer guy articles (part 2) on T-Nation. For a much more detailed bio, head over to Scott’s personal site : scottandrewbird.com.

In addition, a number of writers (from all parts of the fitness world) have joined the team here. This has helped to look closely at several areas; including grip, Strongman, bodybuilding, Powerlifting and a whole lot more.

To give you an idea, I’ve listed some of my favourite articles below, but first - a quick word on the content : while it's quality stuff, there's a lot of it. Feel free to pick out your favourites, bookmark them, add them to Instapaper/Evernote/Pinboard; Stumble them and share them with your friends. Dive in.

And now for the articles themselves. Enjoy.

    DIY Equipment

    Ready to build your own? It's a great way to try new forms of training.

  1. DIY Gym Gear : How to Make Your Own Clubs - Scott Bird
    Build your own. Good fun.
  2. Making your own gym equipment : DIY grip tools - Scott Bird
    You want a grip tool that does what? Make one.
  3. How to Build Your Own Sandbag - Derek 'Body By D-Rock' Peruo
    It's easier than you may think.
  4. DIY: Home-made Gym Equipment (part II) - Scott Bird
    Build it yourself.
  5. DIY: How to Build an Olympic Weightlifting Platform - Kat Ricker
    Beautiful.
  6. DIY Hanging Handles, psuedo "rings" - Kat Ricker
    Brilliantly simple.
  7. The Sled - Fight Geek
    Extremely creative.
  8. How to make your own bumper plates on a budget - Mehdi
    Quick, simple and inexpensive.
  9. How to Make a Rack-Mounted Wrist Roller - Rory Hickman
    Love your wrist work? Same here.
  10. How To Make an Adjustable Slosh Pipe - Joe Hashey
    Light weights, nice and challenging.
  11. Fattening Up the Chin-up Bar - Scott Bird
    A great way to thicken up any bar at all.
  12. The Fat Bar - Max Shank
    Incredibly simple, incredibly brutal.
  13. Let the voting begin - Scott Bird
    There were some brilliant entries in the DIY Equipment Competition.
  14. Old-Time Strongman Techniques

    Fantastic to watch, learn and do.

  15. Bare-Handed Nail Driving Basics - Ryan Pitts
    Want to learn how to drive a nail through a board with your bare hand? Here's how.
  16. Blast from the Past : The Forgotten Lifts (part II, III)
    Although these lifts aren't often seen in commercial gyms, they're absolutely superb. Give them a run.
  17. Tearing A License Plate - Chris Rider
    Yep, that's as hard as it sounds. Superb.
  18. Unusual Goals Require Unusual Measures - Jeff Wilson
    How do you train for something like this?
  19. The Human Rack Lift - Mike 'The Machine' Bruce
    You've got to see this.
  20. Jaw Lifting : What, Why and How - Ryan Pitts
    Training, technique and just a dash of determination.
  21. Pleasure Spiked with Pain : Training for the One Finger Lift - Jeff Wilson
    A superb feat - if a little painful.
  22. Building A Neck Of Steel - Mike 'The Machine' Bruce
    So you want a strong neck? It's actually quite simple.
  23. Hands, Wrists & Forearms

    This is where the fun (and real strength) begins. Love it.

  24. Nails : Converting imperial to metric - Scott Bird
    Next time you pop down to the hardware store, take this.
  25. Why Bend Steel? - Adam T Glass
    Simple question, great answer. Point your non-bending friends here.
  26. Straight to the Grip Contest (part II, III, IV, V and VI) - Jedd Johnson Getting ready for your first grip contest? Here's what to expect.
  27. The Many Types of Blobs - Jedd Johnson
    What's a Blob, and where did it all begin?
  28. Lifting the Inch Replica Dumbbell (part II, III, IV and V) - Jedd Johnson Want to train with a replica Inch? Here's how.
  29. Shot Tossing for Dynamic Grip Strength - Jedd Johnson
    Shot tossing? Great fun.
  30. Hammering Strength into the Wrists (part II)
  31. Leverage lifts: Reverse engineering turned to a breakthrough in power - Adam T Glass
    These lifts are downright fun.
  32. Free Weights

    The 'normal' things you'll see in the gym.

  33. The Step-up : a Real Squat Alternative? - Scott Bird
    Squats are undoubtedly key, but have you tried heavy step-ups lately?
  34. Holding the bar in the Front Squat - Scott Bird
    There are many ways to hold the bar.
  35. Bars, Plates, Hooks and Collars - Scott Bird
    Ready to hit the garage sales? Here's what to look for.
  36. A Little Yoke Work : 10 Exercises for a Bigger Neck - Scott Bird
    Traps maketh the man.
  37. Buyers' guide : the Power Rack - Scott Bird
    Ready to buy a rack? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
  38. Addressing Weaknesses in The Squat - Rick Walker
    Work on weaknesses = massive PRs. Here's how to find them.
  39. Innovative Training : Band Suspended Weight - Not Just for Bench - Justin Andrushko
    And the bands begin to play.
  40. 29 Things to do with a Barbell in the Corner - Jason Kirby
    This is absolutely superb.
  41. Specific Training for the Transverse Abdominis: Belt It In - Kat Ricker
    Time to tighten your built-in belt.
  42. Workout music : soothing or aggressive? - Scott Bird
    How do you like your tunes?
  43. 10 of the best : Parkour television commercials - Scott Bird
    Love watching Parkour? So do I.
  44. Taking advantage of your location : At last - some real outdoor space - Scott Bird
    Ready for some serious outdoor training?
  45. The Investments (part II, III, IV, V and VI) - Adam T Glass Several tools which form the basis of a great training plan.
  46. From Running to Kettlebell Swings - Jordan Vezina
    Why run when you can swing?
  47. Back To The Future : The Power Of Bodyweight Exercise - Adam Steer
    The training tool you always have with you.
  48. Outdoor Fitness: Log Flippin' - Daniel Lapic
    This is seriously fun.
  49. Blast from the Past : Squat Variations - Scott Bird
    There are many ways to get your squat on.
  50. Conditioning

    Time to get the sweat flowing.

  51. Why Conditioning is King - Dean Coulson
    What conditioning is really all about.
  52. Evolution of Sandbag Training (Part II)
  53. Conditioning without trying : Walking 10,000 steps per day - Scott Bird
    Time to go for a walk.
  54. Suspension Training 101 - Derek 'Body By D-Rock' Peruo
    What can you do with a TRX? Over to Derek.
  55. The Heavy Bag (Gimp) - Fight Geek
    Thinking about getting a heavy bag? Make sure you read this first.
  56. Recovery

    Ever get that 'just run over by a truck' feeling?

  57. Biphasic Sleep : 30 Day Summary - Scott Bird
    I switched to Biphasic Sleeping in September 2006, and have never looked back. Love it.
  58. Recovery and Regeneration for the Strength Athlete - Patrick Ward
    Tips for better recovery.
  59. Using Pulse Rate to Determine Rest Break Length - Scott Bird
    Use the pulse, Luke.
  60. Fix Your Body with a Foam Roller: The Basics - Derek 'Body By D-Rock' Peruo
    What exactly do you do with a foam roller? This.
  61. Strains and Sprains - Scott Bird
    What's the difference between a strain and a sprain?
  62. Diet & Nutrition

    Eating well makes a massive difference to your overall training.

  63. Fuel and Rest - Scott Bird
    There's a good reason I eat so much.
  64. 8 Glasses of Water Per Day? - Scott Bird
    Where did the current guideline of '8 cups per day' come from?
  65. The Truth about Honey - Sam Cox
    Honey has a lot more going for it than you might think.
  66. Transitioning to a Paleo Diet - Methuselah
    Ready to try Paleo? Great. Here's how to begin.
  67. Other

    There's always a new way of looking at it.

  68. Visualization : The Vision Wall - Girlwithnoname
    This is a very creative idea.
  69. Give it Away : Donating Disused Training Equipment to Charity (part II) - Scott Bird
    What happens to it when you update your home gym?
  70. Checklists and Complex Problems - Adam Stoffa
    How do you tackle complex problems like athletic performance? Like this.
  71. Starting your fitness journey : 10 things to consider - Scott Bird
    Where do you start? Right here.
  72. Ready for a Virtual Meet? - Kat Ricker
    This is a brilliant idea. Cheers, Kris.
  73. Training Partners - Fight Geek
    Sometime it's great to train with someone like-minded.
  74. Get Mental! The Psychology of Strength - Josh Hewett
    The thinking side is half the challenge.
  75. Small Victories - Josh Hanagarne
    Improve what you can improve, every day.
  76. Give Your Workout a Name! - Fight Geek
    This helps more than you'd believe.
  77. Working out in the Heat - Scott Bird
    It's getting hot in here.

Like to contribute something? I love hearing about how other people are training; if you’d like to write an article, record a video or tell us about a site you’ve discovered, get in touch.

The Basics

There are two main parts to any physical transformation goal - whether you’re looking to become obscenely strong, bulk up, lose some excess bodyfat or any combination of these. Let’s take a brief look at both.

Strength Training

As the name implies, this is simply anything you do that’s intended to make you stronger. That could involve lifting, throwing or dragging almost any heavy object on a regular basis.

If you’re just starting out, and have no idea of how & where to begin, the following will be incredibly helpful :

(As an aside, Josh is great to work with - if you ever get a change to have him train you in person, take it.)

I’d also encourage you to take a look at the article Starting Your Fitness Journey. Some great ideas in there.

Nutrition

This is the other side of the physical transformation coin : often overlooked, yet equally important. Eating well can help you sleep better, recover faster, spend more time in the gym, avoid illnesses and a whole lot more. No matter what your training goals are, make sure you fine-tune your diet (everything you eat and drink) whenever possible.

Naturally, this doesn’t need to happen all at once. When I started, my diet was abysmal. An unplanned junk-fuelled mess.

Over the years it gradually became cleaner and cleaner, as I cut back on some things and replaced others with healthier options. It’s now quite clean, healthy and organised.

If your own diet is closer to the ‘unplanned junk-fuelled mess’ state than you’d like, articles like these should help sort things out a bit :

I also got a lot of value out of John Berardi’s various articles and courses. If you’d like to check these out, his Precision Nutrition program is a great place to start.

The Equipment (What it is, Where to get it and How to use it)

It’s safe to say that I’ve used a lot of training equipment over the years. Some of it for testing, but much of it to satiate my own curiosity. I absolutely love this stuff.

That said, you can do a lot without any equipment at all (though a few things certainly make life easier). If you can’t afford to buy any gear right now, or haven’t exactly got the space, you can get a great workout in just using your own bodyweight.

To give you an idea, here are a few ideas for doing exactly that :

More common, however, is the establishment of some sort of home gym. This doesn’t have to be a dedicated room or anything (though it’s great if it is); an unused corner will do just fine. My first home gym was set up in the corner of my bedroom (in a rented apartment, on the 3rd floor - so if you’re worried about noise, don’t be.)

To replicate many aspects of a commercial gym, and enable numerous exercise possibilities, you really only need four main things :

A power rack, a bench, a bar, and weight plates.

There’s a lot of other stuff you can get of course, but it’s amazing how much you can do with these four things. They’ll let you progress at your own rate (everyone has different starting points, goals & abilities), and will very much be the core of your home gym. Permanently.

Got Questions? No problem at all. Hit us up on Google+, and check out the Equipment Guides on this site. They’ll explain what everything’s for, how to use it, and where to get it.

The Gymchats

The Gymchats are weekly discussions on a range of strength-training topics. Quite apart from being fascinating discussions in their own right, they're a lot of fun.

Started back in Feb 2009 by Scott Bird, they were initially held on Twitter (and called 'Twitterchats'). In Aug 2011 they moved to Google+, and were renamed 'Gymchats'.

In Sep 2012 we started doing video versions of the Gymchats, now hosted by Strongman and Personal Trainer Josh Hewett. These take the form of a Google+ Hangout, and are subsequently stored on Youtube for later viewing.

How the Gymchats Work (and How to Take Part)

These discussions take the form of interviews with various fitness professionals. In addition to the questions asked by Josh directly, everyone watching live is able to fire in their own on the topic being discussed.

It's a great blend.

To find out the topic & URL each week, all you need to do grab the Strength & Fitness Newsletter (part of the Straight to the Bar Strength Kit), and you'll receive all the details. And as a bonus, you'll also receive tips on strength-training technique, unusual exercises and a whole lot more.

The Community

When it comes to sharing information, the fitness community is second to none. No matter what your goals are, whenever you want to ask a question or learn more about something; there’s always someone to ask. On the main site, Google+, Twitter and many, many others.

Here are just some of the ways (and the places) we love talking about various aspects of strength-training and nutrition :

The Straight to the Bar Flickr Group : this group is open to anyone who’d like to share photos of their training environment, the competitions they’ve attended, unusual gym equipment they’ve seen and a whole lot more. To check out the photos, and to add yours, swing on by.

Tutorial Videos on Youtube : whether you’re looking for inspiration or you just want to see how a particular exercise is done, check out the collection on Youtube. There’s some fantastic stuff on there.

Weekly Gymchats on Google+ : there’s a bit of detail on these above, but essentially they’re weekly discussions looking at specific areas of training & nutrition. Great places to ask questions on all kinds of things.

The Straight to the Bar Community on Google+ : finally the big one, the G+ Community. As you’ve probably guessed by now, this is the ideal spot to discuss your own training, and to get information on any training-related topic that you’re not quite sure about. Fantastic place.

 

As I noted above, this really is a superbly helpful community. Any time you’re not quite sure about something, just ask. Wherever you are.

Books I Recommend

I love learning, and have always been surrounded by a fantastic collection of books, videos and magazines.

This is certainly the case when it comes to health & fitness works - it's fair to say that I've checked out a lot of them over the years. Sharing everything from basic exercise techniques to the many, many ways to fine-tune your diet.

Here are a few personal favourites.

The Primal Blueprint

The Primal Blueprint

Mark Sisson

Hardback | Paperback
Confused about what to eat, how much to eat; even when to eat? This book will help you get the most out of your food plan. Superb.
Diesel Crew Bending eBook

Diesel Crew Bending eBook

Jedd 'Napalm' Johnson

eBook If you're new to the world of nail bending, this is the perfect book to get. It'll show you the exact techniques you'll need to get started right away. Written by world-class bender Jedd Johnson.
Card Tearing eBook

Card Tearing eBook

Jedd 'Napalm' Johnson

eBook This is a fantastic book. If you've ever considered learning this incredible strength feat, the Card Tearing eBook is the perfect place to start. Love it.
Functional Correction Manual

Functional Correction Manual

Tim Hull

Paperback If you ever wake up with that 'just run over by a truck' feeling, you need a copy of Tim Hull's Functional Correction Manual. Not only will it help you to locate and repair the problem, it'll give you a hand in preventing it happening in the future. Superb book.
Precision Nutrition

Precision Nutrition

Dr John Berardi

Paperback When it comes to body transformation - whether that's a increase in strength, packing on a bit of muscle or losing a bit of excess fat - this is the perfect place to start. Dr Berardi's Precision Nutrition.
Bruce Lee : The Art of Expressing the Human Body

Bruce Lee : The Art of Expressing the Human Body

Bruce Lee & John Little

Paperback
If you've ever watched a Bruce Lee film and marveled at his strength, speed, agility, endurance, flexibility or muscularity, this book should take pride of place in your collection. Unlike many other writings covering everything from Lee's training methods to nutrition, this book is based not on the recollections of people around him; but on Lee's own notes. Brilliant.
Strength Training Anatomy

Strength Training Anatomy

Frederic Delavier
Paperback
This is a fantastic book. As Josh explains, it superbly shows what's going on while you train. Love it.
101 Fitness Myths

101 Fitness Myths

Maik Wiedenbach

Kindle eBook
A superb combination of fitness mythbusting and no-nonsense advice. If you're not quite sure where to start, grab this.

And if you're a strength coach or personal trainer, check out the books Derek found invaluable when setting up his (commercial) gym. Fantastic place.

Stay Informed

The Strength & Fitness Newsletter (part of the Straight to the Bar Strength Kit) is currently sent out each Monday, to more than 200,000 people (thankyou!). In it you’ll find details of the latest articles on the site, unusual exercises, videos and tips on training and nutrition.

Check out a few recent editions, and sign up (absolutely free) over here : straighttothebar.com/subscribe.

Finding a Personal Trainer / Physiotherapist / Nutritionist etc

As you might expect, Straight to the Bar works with a number of Personal Trainers and Strength Coaches. If you're ready to take your fitness and strength development to the next level, these guys and gals can really make a difference.

For the ones I personally recommend, head over here :

straighttothebar.com/recommendedtrainers

NB : if you're looking for something specific - or someone based in a particular location - just ask in the Community on Google+. Lots of great trainers in there.

Keep In Touch

I love hearing from everyone here; your thoughts and ideas on how and why you train. It’s a fantastic community.

The best place to drop me a line (either publicly or privately, completely up to you) is on Google+; I also use Twitter and Facebook on a regular basis. Wherever you are, it’d be great to hear from you.

Final Thoughts

Scott Andrew Bird.
Self portrait, Edinburgh.
I started this journey more than 10 years ago, and it really is incredible what a life-changing thing it’s been. Whether you’re looking to shed excess fat, bulk up, gain some serious strength or a mix of these; welcome. With a little focus and effort it really will transform your life.

Keep Lifting.