Straight to the Bar

All Things Strength

HELPING YOU GET STRONGER SINCE 2004

Drawing of Scott Andrew Bird performing a deadlift.

Drawing of Scott Andrew Bird performing a deadlift.

Welcome to Straight to the Bar

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 in the Home Gym

Scott Andrew Bird in the Home Gym

 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; share them with your friends. Dive in.

And now for the articles themselves. Once again, thankyou.

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 'The Mighty Kat' Ricker

      Brilliantly simple.

    7. The Sled - Kira Robert Clarke (Fight Geek)

      Extremely creative.

    8. How to make your own bumper plates on a budget - Mehdi Hadim (Stronglifts)

      Quick, simple and inexpensive.

    9. How to Make a Rack-Mounted Wrist Roller - Rory Hickman (Stronger Designs)

      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.

Old-Time Strongman Techniques

Fantastic to watch, learn and do.

    1. Bare-Handed Nail Driving Basics - Ryan Pitts (StrongerGrip)s

      Want to learn how to drive a nail through a board with your bare hand? Here's how.

    2. 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.

    3. Tearing A License Plate - Strongman Chris 'Haircules' Rider

      Yep, that's as hard as it sounds. Superb.

    4. Unusual Goals Require Unusual Measures - Jeff Wilson (Basic Instinct Fitness)

      How do you train for something like this?

    5. The Human Rack Lift - Mike 'The Machine' Bruce

      You've got to see this.

    6. Jaw Lifting : What, Why and How - Ryan Pitts (StrongerGrip)

      Training, technique and just a dash of determination.

    7. Pleasure Spiked with Pain : Training for the One Finger Lift - Jeff Wilson

      A superb feat - if a little painful.

    8. Building A Neck Of Steel - Mike 'The Machine' Bruce

      So you want a strong neck? It's actually quite simple.

Hands, Wrists & Forearms

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

    1. Nails : Converting imperial to metric - Scott Bird

      Next time you pop down to the hardware store, take this.

    2. Why Bend Steel? - 'Unbreakable' Adam Glass

      Simple question, great answer. Point your non-bending friends here.

    3. Straight to the Grip Contest (part II, III, IV, V and VI) - 'Napalm' Jedd Johnson (Diesel Crew) Getting ready for your first grip contest? Here's what to expect.
    4. The Many Types of Blobs - 'Napalm' Jedd Johnson (Diesel Crew)

      What's a Blob, and where did it all begin?

    5. Lifting the Inch Replica Dumbbell (part II, III, IV and V) - 'Napalm' Jedd Johnson (Diesel Crew)n Want to train with a replica Inch? Here's how.
    6. Shot Tossing for Dynamic Grip Strength - 'Napalm' Jedd Johnson (Diesel Crew)

      Shot tossing? Great fun.

    7. Hammering Strength into the Wrists (part II)
    8. Leverage Lifts: Reverse Engineering Turned To A Breakthrough In Power - 'Unbreakable' Adam Glass

      These lifts are downright fun.

Free Weights

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

    1. The Step-up : a Real Squat Alternative? - Scott Bird

      Squats are undoubtedly key, but have you tried heavy step-ups lately?

    2. Holding the bar in the Front Squat - Scott Bird

      There are many ways to hold the bar.

    3. Bars, Plates, Hooks and Collars - Scott Bird

      Ready to hit the garage sales? Here's what to look for.

    4. A Little Yoke Work : 10 Exercises for a Bigger Neck - Scott Bird

      Traps maketh the man.

    5. Buyers' guide : the Power Rack - Scott Bird

      Ready to buy a rack? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

    6. Addressing Weaknesses in The Squat - Rick Walker

      Work on weaknesses = massive PRs. Here's how to find them.

    7. Innovative Training : Band Suspended Weight - Not Just for Bench - Justin Andrushko

      And the bands begin to play.

    8. 29 Things to do with a Barbell in the Corner - Jason Kirby

      This is absolutely superb.

    9. Specific Training for the Transverse Abdominis: Belt It In - Kat 'The Mighty Kat' Ricker

      Time to tighten your built-in belt.

    10. Workout Music : Soothing Or Aggressive? - Scott Bird

      How do you like your tunes?

    11. 10 of the best : Parkour television commercials - Scott Bird

      Love watching Parkour? So do I.

    12. Taking Advantage Of Your Location : At Last - Some Real Outdoor Space - Scott Bird

      Ready for some serious outdoor training?

    13. The Investments (part II, III, IV, V and VI) - 'Unbreakable' Adam Glass Several tools which form the basis of a great training plan.
    14. From Running to Kettlebell Swings - Jordan Vezina

      Why run when you can swing?

    15. Back To The Future : The Power Of Bodyweight Exercise - Adam Steer

      The training tool you always have with you.

    16. Outdoor Fitness: Log Flippin' - Daniel Lapic

      This is seriously fun.

    17. Blast from the Past : Squat Variations - Scott Bird

      There are many ways to get your squat on.

Conditioning

Time to get the sweat flowing.

    1. Why Conditioning is King - Dean Coulson

      What conditioning is really all about.

    2. Evolution of Sandbag Training (Part II)
    3. Conditioning Without Trying : Walking 10,000 Steps Per Day - Scott Bird

      Time to go for a walk.

    4. Suspension Training 101 - Derek 'Body By D-Rock' Peruo

      What can you do with a TRX? Over to Derek.

    5. The Heavy Bag (Gimp) - Kira Robert Clarke (Fight Geek)

      Thinking about getting a heavy bag? Make sure you read this first.

Recovery

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

    1. Biphasic Sleep : 30 Day Summary - Scott Bird

      I switched to Biphasic Sleeping in September 2006, and have never looked back. Love it.

    2. Recovery and Regeneration for the Strength Athlete - Patrick Ward

      Tips for better recovery.

    3. Using Pulse Rate to Determine Rest Break Length - Scott Bird

      Use the pulse, Luke.

    4. 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.

    5. Strains and Sprains - Scott Bird

      What's the difference between a strain and a sprain?

Diet & Nutrition

Eating well makes a massive difference to your overall training.

    1. Fuel and Rest - Scott Bird

      There's a good reason I eat so much.

    2. 8 Glasses of Water Per Day? - Scott Bird

      Where did the current guideline of '8 cups per day' come from?

    3. The Truth About Honey - Sam Cox

      Honey has a lot more going for it than you might think.

    4. Transitioning to a Paleo Diet - Methuselah (Pay Now, Live Later)

      Ready to try Paleo? Great. Here's how to begin.

Other

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

  1. Visualization : The Vision Wall - Girlwithnoname

    This is a very creative idea.

  2. Give it Away : Donating Disused Training Equipment to Charity (part II) - Scott Bird

    What happens to it when you update your home gym?

  3. Checklists and Complex Problems - Adam Stoffa

    How do you tackle complex problems like athletic performance? Like this.

  4. Starting Your Fitness Journey : 10 Things To Consider - Scott Bird

    Where do you start? Right here.

  5. Ready for a Virtual Meet? - Kat 'The Mighty Kat' Ricker

    This is a brilliant idea. Cheers, Kris.

  6. Training Partners - Kira Robert Clarke (Fight Geek)

    Sometime it's great to train with someone like-minded.

  7. Get Mental! The Psychology of Strength - Josh Hewett

    The thinking side is half the challenge.

  8. Small Victories - Josh Hanagarne

    Improve what you can improve, every day.

  9. Give Your Workout a Name! - Kira Robert Clarke (Fight Geek)

    This helps more than you'd believe.

  10. Working out in the Heat - Scott Bird

    It's getting hot in here.

Yes, we love talking about strength-training. Welcome.

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.

NutritionThis 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 Facebook or Twitter, 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, Facebook, 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 : 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.

 

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.
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.
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 While we’re on the subject of grip work, you might like to try your hands at a little card tearing. Highly recommended. If you’re just getting started and would love a bit of instruction, this is definitely the book to get. Jedd Johnson’s Card Tearing eBook.

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 : https://straighttothebar.com/strength-kit/.

NB : there are also several daily newsletters available, for those that like a slightly heavier dose of health & fitness information. You’ll find those at :

And yes, they’re absolutely free.

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 drop us a line, or hit me up on Twitter.

Keep In Touch

Twitter Lists

Twitter Lists

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 via Twitter, or the site’s Contact page. I’ve also been known to use Facebook from time to time.

Wherever you are, it’d be great to hear from you.

Final Thoughts

Scott Andrew Bird.

Scott Andrew Bird.

I started this journey more than 17 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.