As we are about to enter a new month, a new challenge will begin. Last month, it was the deadlift every day program. This month, I decided to go with High Rep Back Squats!
A quick history on where this came from...
A few years ago I read the book Mass Made Simple by Dan John. In this book, he outlines a very basic program designed to put on muscle mass. Each of these workouts ended with High Rep Back Squats. Looking through the progression for these squat sessions had me a little scared and I never tried them myself. I also never put an athlete through this program...until this summer. I had to put together a 6 week training program for Princeton's heavyweight for wrestling. He needed strength and he needed mass. Enter the high rep back squat!
These high rep squats put on mass for two reasons: time under tension (TUT) and volume. TUT refers to how long the muscle is under strain during a set. When you perform high rep squats (10-50 rep range) the muscles could be under tension for 25 to 115 seconds! By putting the muscle through bouts of strain for that period of time, the muscle experiences "damage" by breaking down. The same could be said for volume. Volume is multiplying the # of sets by pounds by # of reps (ie, 1 set x 135 pounds x 50 reps = 6750. Compare that to performing 1 set x 250 pounds x 5 reps = 1,250). The higher the number for training volume, the more work the body performs. When the muscle repairs, it will come back bigger!
Want a Squat challenge of your own? Try the "To Fifty" workouts at the end of your training session.
Here is how it works:
Want a copy of the progressions? Contact Chris today!
The motivation for The Good Life Column came from an issue that arose almost one year ago. I was having pains in my chest and weird "tremors" in my heart some nights before I fell asleep. I decided to go to the doctor. After a few tests and some conversation, the results came in: my blood pressure was 153/91 (normal is considered to be 120/80) and my heart rate was 14-16 beats per minute higher than normal. I was in a state of hypertension. For a 28 year old who works out 5-6 times a week and eats pretty damn good, something did not make sense. The doctor wasn't phased at all. He told me to relax more, have some fun, take up meditation or try some yoga. That is exactly what I did!
Over the course of this past year, I have decided to experiment with different relaxation methods. If it meant that it could potentially make my blood pressure return to normal, I was in! I have done yoga, hot yoga, ran more often, meditation, quit caffeine...then started drinking it again...then quit again...then, well, you get the idea, and a few of other things I'd rather not mention. Just the other night I went over to Revolutions on 378 in Bethlehem and participated in their Paint Nite event. I have to be totally honest here, this was not exactly my idea for a fun night out. It took a little coaxing from my girlfriend, actually a lot of coaxing, but I gave in and decided to attend. It was my first time in Revolutions and the place is pretty sweet. There were about 14-18 people in the class and one instructor. Like most things I have tried this past year, it is mostly women. If it wasn't for one other guy, I would have been the only dude in there! But anyway, the instructor was great as she walked us through the process of painting on a canvas (as you can see by the picture above, I will not be quitting my day job anytime soon). The great thing about these Paint Nites is that you can do whatever the heck you want. You can let your creativity shine because there are no grades for this art project. You can literally do whatever you want! Who doesn't like that?
So how does painting tie in with health and wellness? To put it simply, it enables you to relax. It is a low stress, low stakes way to unlock your creative potential. Painting, or coloring, is a relaxation technique that has been used for over 100 years. This activity enables you to let your mind go to places that it never would if you were instead trolling Instagram or Facebook. Even if you are not digging the whole Paint Nite thing, you can go on Amazon.com and purchase an adult coloring book and get the same benefits! It should come to no surprise, people all over the world are stressed out, both physically and emotionally. These stressors come from the way we live, the way we eat, the way we sleep, and the way we spend our waking hours. With that being said, the fate of your health is largely in your own hands! Don't be like me and wait until something is wrong. Take control of your life now and I can promise you, you will be a much happier and healthier individual.
The next Paint Nite at Revolutions is September 23rd at 7:00 pm. Click here for more details! Maybe I will see you all there!
For the month of August, I decided to address one exercise that gives me the toughest time: THE DEADLIFT! I wouldn't consider myself weak in this lift, but the exercise does not come easy to me at all. Growing up, the bench press became a favorite of mine because I was pretty good at it. As the years progressed, so too did my favorite lifts. After benching like crazy, my focus was on the front squat because I knew it would make my power clean better (for the record, it did!). Then I became a "kettlebell guy" and tried to get as strong as I could in the core KB lifts. But never was the deadlift something I bragged to friends about...
I have tried a few different training methods to improve the deadlift. I tried Jim Wendlers 5/3/1 program with the Hex Bar and my deadlift greatly improved. I thought to myself, this strength is going to translate to the barbell. Once again, I was humbled with the lift. After the struggle, and maybe a little depression, that ensued after my lack of strength, I moved on to the Westside Barbell program. If you aren't familiar with Westside (Not California, his gym is located in Ohio. Speaking of California, the movie Straight Outta Compton was one of the better movies I have seen in recent memory. Go check that movie out!), google Louie Simmons and you'll get an abundance of resources on this man. He is "The Godfather" of power lifting here in America. After completing a phase or two of Westside, I saw some gains and weights that were once a challenge for me became a little easier. But yet, I was still not satisfied. So I moved on...
Next Man Up: Dan John. I modified his Even Easier Strength Program and cut it back to 20 days. I also did not complete all the lifts each day. But I never missed a deadlift workout. So the first ten days looked like this:
Day 1: 2 x 5
Day 2: 2 x 5
Day 3: 1 x 5, 1 x 3, 1 x 2
Day 4: 2 x 5
Day 5: 2 x 5
Day 6: 2 x 5
Day 7: 6 x 1
Day 8: 1 x 10
Day 9: 2 x 5
Day 10: 1 x 5, 1 x 3, 1 x 2
After I completed the first ten workouts, I repeated the same rep scheme for an additional 10 workouts. To summarize the training, I performed the deadlift Monday thru Friday, altering the weight for each session and cycling through the different rep options. If the weight felt light, I continued to increase the load. If I felt tired or the weight was feeling heavy, I took it easy. It was truly about "feel". On Day 19 I set a personal record for a 5 rep max. On Day 20, I broke that 5 rep max record by 10 pounds. The program worked so well that I stopped doing it (another one of my genius ideas)!
The program was a success but throughout the process, I finally realized one thing regarding the deadlift: STRENGTH IMPROVEMENTS TAKE TIME. RELAX AND ENJOY THE RIDE! My next challenge for this month: High Rep Back Squats. Here is hoping this goes well, stay tuned!
Sometimes, when I read about the "right way to create a training program" I think of this scene. The material is presented in a way that makes your goals seem "unsolvable". The fitness world creates a scene that sells you on the idea that there is only one way, or person, who can solve your fitness problems...they think they are Will Hunting. There are 21 Day Challenges everywhere, Beachbody Coaches out the wazoo, Crossfit is huuuuge, Death Races, Powerlifting, Olympic Lifting and so on. How are we supposed to know what is right for us? To top it all off, the information is presented in a complicated way. We need clarity, not rocket science to get us to our goals. We need reasonable and we need simple. Here is how to solve a few program design problems.
Problem #1: The idea that we have to work ourselves to exhaustion everyday.
Physically, this is not possible and is quite dangerous. For the sake of simplicity, working to maximal levels of exertion every training session will leave you depleted and potentially injured. On top of that, it is just not possible to sustain over the long haul. So you may start a program that kicks your butt for 21 days and you drop 7 pounds but then what? Next thing you know, those pounds start creeping back on and you search for the next 21 Day Fix that will get you "back on track". Here is a better option: Complete reasonable workouts each and every day. The longer it takes for the weight to come off, the more likely it is to stay off!
Problem #2: Not sticking to the plan
Dan John is my go-to guy in regards to training. He has a simple saying that goes like this "Plan the hunt. Hunt the hunt. Discuss the hunt". (For the record, I too, struggle with this one!) Create a plan for yourself, FINISH the plan, and then discuss what went well and what didn't. If there are too many changing variables, it is impossible to know what worked and what didn't. AND DON'T JUMP FROM PROGRAM TO PROGRAM! Whatever you decide to start, I beg of you, finish it!
Problem #3: Lack of Patience
Legendary Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable preaches the "Patience for change". Generally speaking, we, as humans, severely lack the patience for change. Every exercise you do during training is a skill that needs practice. Some skills we will be better at then others. For those skills we are not good at, practice them more, be patient, and never forget the Gable saying.
Now on to the training program
Speaking of coach Gable...
He once said that "if something is important to you, do it everyday. If it is not, don't do it at all". This concept can be applied to your training as well. This is what we call "Greasing the Groove". Think of your body like a bicycle. When you don't use that bicycle for a long time, it could get a little squeaky. Apply a little grease and those kinks can be worked out. Here is how this concept applies to training: Lets say you are awful at doing chinups but you own a pullup bar. To grease the groove with the chinup, you need to practice it. Remember, if it is important, do it everyday. Each time you walk by the bar, do one rep. That is it. Some days you might do 1-2 reps, other days it could be 7-10. I can promise you that after one month, you will see a great increase in repetitions. I worked with someone recently who practiced pushups every evening. After one month, he went from doing 35 repetitions in one minute to performing 62 repetitions in 60 seconds. There are no rules on how many reps you do in a day or how many days you do it each week. Just understand, the more you practice it, the easier they become. After one month, move on to the next skill that you'd like to improve on! After you decide on which exercise to focus on this month, follow the plan below...
Here is a simple training template to work from:
Gently move your body for about 5 minutes to "wake-up" the mind and body.
Stretch what is tightening. Hit an area a little harder if it feels tight. Easy enough, right?
If you ever used a foam roller, this would be a good time to roll out some areas.
Bodyweight Exercises (10-8-6)
There are tons of progressions for these moves. I am going to keep it very simple. Perform a squat, a pushup, and a pulling motion. For example, 10 Split Squats, 10 Pushups, and 10 Bodyweight Rows. Next time through, perform 8 reps of everything, and last round, 6 reps. Progress each exercise to challenge yourself. Now, you are officially "warmed up" and ready to train!
The Workout: 6 Moves
KB Push (Military Press)
Hinge (KB or Barbell Romanian Deadlift)
Squat (Goblet Squat)
Carry (Pick up heavy weights and carry them around)
6th Move (whatever the heck you want to do!)
Some days you may have time to do the warm-up, bodyweight progressions, and the workout. Other days you may not. The cool thing about it is that you can do some stuff at home. Try to get the workout in 2-3 days, the bodyweight progression 2-3 days, and warm-up as often as possible! "Grease the Groove" on an exercise and really practice it each month. Most importantly, aim to move your body for 30 minutes each day. Lift, walk, run, hike, bike, yoga...you get the idea. Just move that body of yours!
Oh yea, I forgot about the most often asked question: How many sets and reps? If fat loss is your goal, which it is for the most of us, I recommend changing the reps every 4-6 weeks. Start with 10-8-6, then 3 x 12, then 5 x 5, then 2 x 20, and any other combination you can find out there on the internet. The exercises don't necessarily have to change, but when you alter the reps, the body will continually be challenged in different ways which will get you the desired result!
Chris is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and member of the National Strength & Conditioning Association. He has recently served as a high school football and wrestling coach. Chris loves swinging kettlebells around, watching football and reading books!