The Ten Rules of Progressive Overload

Reblogged from http://bretcontreras.com/progressive-overload/

The Ten Rules of Progressive Overload

In this article, I’m going to teach you how to go about progressive overload – the most important law in strength training. Perhaps you’re new to lifting and you’re wondering exactly what progressive overload is. Well, progressive overload simply means that you’re doing more over time. For example, you could be adding some weight to the bar, doing more reps, and/or having more productive training sessions. You won’t find many comprehensive articles on this topic as it’s pretty difficult to write an all-encompassing article pertaining to progressive overload. Due to the large variance in the fitness abilities of people when they first embark on a training regimen, it’s a little more complicated than simply telling someone to “add 10 more pounds to the bar each week,” or “do 2 more reps with the same weight each week.”

Unfortunately, I can’t give you a precise prescription. In order for me to know exactly how you should progress, I have to be with you, watching you train. Since I can’t be there with you, I’ll give you some advice to adhere to, which should make your life easier. Here are the ten rules of progressive overload:

1.       Progressive Overload starts with whatever you can do with perfect technical form

Let’s say you’re brand new to a particular exercise. You’ve seen all sorts of Youtube videos of strong lifters hoisting hundreds of pounds. You think you’re a strong cat, so you load up the plates and find that the exercise just doesn’t feel right. It feels awkward, unnatural, you don’t feel the right muscles working, and it even seems jarring on the joints and potentially injurious. This exercise is definitely not right for you, right? Wrong! The exercise is probably right for you, but your approach was all wrong.

Do not concern yourself with what others use for loading. When you begin an exercise, start out as light as possible and gradually work your way up. Let me provide you with two examples – the starting point for the weakest non-elderly and non-injured beginner I’ve trained as well as the starting point for the strongest beginner I’ve trained. Chances are you’ll fall somewhere in between these two individuals.

The weakest beginner I ever trained (a middle-age woman who had been completely sedentary for around 15-years) had to start out with bodyweight high box squats on the adjustable step-up platform so that she was only descending around 8 inches before sitting on the box. This same client also performed glute bridges, step-ups from a 4” step, and hip-hinge drills – all done with just bodyweight.

But guess what? She was squatting, hip thrusting, step-upping, and deadlifting. Granted, she was performing the most remedial variations of those exercises, but this is what was right for her at the time. Within six months she was doing goblet full squats, barbell hip thrusts, Bulgarian split squats, and deadlifts from the floor with 95 lbs.

Box Squat

Conversely, the strongest beginner (a high-school wrestler) I ever trained was able to use 185 lbs for full squats, 225 lbs for deadlifts, 225 lbs for hip thrusts, 155 lbs for bench press, and could do Bulgarian split squats, single leg hip thrusts, and chin ups with great form. Though he was an athlete, surprisingly he had never lifted weights before. Sports had strengthened his legs and upper body so that he was able to start out at a much more advanced level than most beginners. Even my (at the time) 13-year old niece, a very good volleyball player, full squatted 95 lbs, trap bar deadlifted 135 lbs, and single leg hip thrusted (all with excellent form) in her very first weight training session.

But these people are not you. You’ll find that due to your unique body type, you’ll have an advantage with some exercises and a huge disadvantage with others. Long femurs? You probably won’t set any squat records, but your weighted back extension strength is going to kick some serious butt. Long arms? Kiss your bench press records goodbye, but you’re gonna be a deadlifting rockstar.

Figure out where you belong on the regression-progression continuum (this is basically a list of each variation of an exercise from the easiest possible version to the most challenging version) and start getting stronger.

2.       Progressive Overload for beginners involves a few tenets

Progressive overload methodology is different for beginners compared to more advanced lifters. It’s also different for men compared to women and for those carrying a lot of muscle versus those not carrying much muscle. For example, I can’t just tell a woman who is brand new to strength training to just add ten pounds to the bar for squats and deadlifts each week. First of all, chances are some work has to be done just to get her to squat and deadlift properly, before ever focusing on load. Some clients should start out with partial range lifts such as bodyweight box squats and rack pulls and simply work on “progressive distance training,” whereby the range of motion is slightly increased each week. If you keep squatting your own bodyweight (or rack pulling 65lbs) for 3 sets of 10, but each week you descend an inch deeper, that’s progressive overload. Eventually you’ll be using a full range of motion and can then concern yourself with adding load.

With exercises that have you moving a significant portion of your body, such as squats, hip thrusts, back extensions, and lunges, you must master your own bodyweight before adding load. I like my clients to be able to perform 3 sets of 20 full-ROM reps with bodyweight exercises before adding load.

Reverse Lunge

Furthermore, many lifts require very small jumps in load over time, and attempts in these particular exercises should usually involve jumps in repetitions instead of load. This applies to lifts that utilize smaller loads, for example curls and lateral raises, in addition to challenging bodyweight movements such as skater squats, single leg RDLs, single leg hip thrusts, and prisoner single leg back extensions.

This is especially important for women or smaller men when access to smaller plates (1.25lb or 2.5lb plates) or smaller jumps in dumbbell (ex: 17.5lbs) or kettlebell loads aren’t possible. Think about it – going from 50 to 55 lb dumbbells is a 10% jump in weight. However, going from 10 to 15 lb dumbbells is a 50% jump in weight. You cannot expect someone to make a 50% jump in load and execute the same number of repetitions as the week before, but you can expect them to get another rep or two with the same load. So let’s say that one week you perform dumbbell rear delt raises with 10lbs for 10 reps. The next week, rather than up the load to 15lbs, try performing 12 reps with the 10lb weights. When you get to a point where you can do a couple of sets of 20 reps, then jump the weight up to 15 lbs.

Hammer Curl

3.       Progressive Overload can be achieved in a variety of ways (12 primary ways I can think of)

Remember, progressive overload is simply “doing more over time.” There are many ways to go about this. In this article, I’ve already mentioned progressing in range of motion, repetitions, and load. In the beginning, you want to progress in range of motion and form. Yes, if you do the same workout you did the week before, but with better form, that’s progression. You “did more” for the neuromuscular system in terms of motor patterning and even muscle force since using better form involves relying more on the targeted muscles.

After proper form and full range of motion are established and ingrained, now it’s time to worry about progressing in repetitions and load. But these aren’t the only ways to progress. Here are all the practical ways I can think of:

  • Lifting the same load for increased distance (range of motion)
  • Lifting the same load and volume with better form, more control, and less effort (efficiency)
  • Lifting the same load for more reps (volume)
  • Lifting heavier loads (intensity of load)
  • Lifting the same load and volume with less rest time in between sets (density)
  • Lifting a load with more speed and acceleration (intensity of effort)
  • Doing more work in the same amount of time (density)
  • Doing the same work in less amount of time (density)
  • Doing more sets with the same load and reps (volume)
  • Lifting the same load and volume more often throughout the week (frequency)
  • Doing the same work while losing body mass (increased relative volume)
  • Lifting the same load and volume and then extending the set past technical failure with forced reps, negatives, drop sets, static holds, rest pause, partial reps, or post-exhaustion (intensity of effort)

Just remember, improvements in form and ROM come first, and increases in reps and load come second.

4.       Progressive Overload will never be linear

Many strength coaches love to tell the story about Milo of Croton to illuminate the merits of progressive overload. Legend has it that Milo used to pick up a baby calf every day and carry it around on his shoulders. As the calf grew, Milo got stronger. Eventually Milo was hoisting a full-size bull and busting out sets of yoke walks like it ain’t no thang. Pretty sweet story, right?

Milo

Unfortunately this story is a crock of bull (pun intended). First of all, a half-ton bull would be way too awkward to carry due to the lopsided nature and sheer size of the animal. But this is irrelevant.

No gains from weight training, be it mobility, hypertrophy, strength, power, endurance, or fat loss, will ever occur in a linear nature. The body doesn’t work that way. Adaptations happen in waves. Sometimes you’ll make big jumps in a single week in a particular quality, while other times you’ll stall for three months in another quality. Over the long haul, everything goes up, but it’s a windy road. There are physiological reasons for this phenomenon, which is beyond the scope of this article.

However, let’s pretend for a minute that you could make linear progress for an entire year on a particular lift. A 10lb jump per week equates to 520lbs in a year. Even a 5lb jump per week equates to 260lbs in a year. Moreover, a 1 rep jump per week equates to 52 reps in a year, while a 1 rep jump per month equates to 12 reps in a year. You won’t gain 260-520lbs in a year on any single lift. And you won’t gain 12-52 reps on most lifts either.  It just ain’t happening. Some sessions you’ll be surprisingly strong and make big gains, some sessions you’ll simply tie your previous efforts, and some sessions you’ll actually be weaker and go backwards. But every six months you’ll likely be stronger and fitter.

Chart

These charts depict a woman’s progress over a one-year period in bodyfat percentage and lean body mass in kilograms. She made the most dramatic transformation I’ve ever seen to date, but notice the non-linear adaptations. Also notice the drop in muscle, despite doing everything right. This woman gained a ton of strength on squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, bench press, military press, rows, and chins, she never missed a training session, and she ate perfectly for an entire year, yet she lost around 11 lbs of muscle during her year-long pursuit of getting into contest shape of below 10% bodyfat. Nevertheless, she won her first figure competition and is now a popular figure competitor.

5.       Progressive Overload will never be as fun as it is during your first 3 months of lifting

If you’re a beginner, sit back and enjoy the ride! Your rate of strength gain during your first three months of proper weight training will be higher than at any other time in your life. Each week you will slaughter personal records. Getting fifteen reps with something that you got for only ten reps the previous week is not an uncommon occurrence. This is mostly due to rapid gains in intermuscular coordination. Just don’t get spoiled, your rate of gain will slow dramatically and pretty soon you’ll be just like the rest of us – fighting like hell for those PR’s.

6.       Progressive Overload for veteran lifters requires serious strategy and specialization

As a beginner, you can pretty much do anything and gain strength as long as you’re consistent. After a couple of years of solid training, however, you have to be clever about your programming in order to continue to reach new levels of strength. You’ll need to rotate your lifts, plan your program designs intelligently, fluctuate your training stress, and tinker around with methodologies. Eventually it becomes very difficult to pack more pounds onto a particular lift or even gain another rep.

7.       Progressive Overload is much harder when you’re losing weight

Unless you’re a beginner, it’s highly challenging to increase your strength while simultaneously dropping significant weight. In fact, simply maintaining your strength while losing weight is a form of progressive overload as you’d be increasing your relative strength (strength divided by bodyweight) and therefore “doing more over time.”

Chin Up

Some lifts are more affected by weight loss than others. Squats and bench press tend to take a big dive, whereas deadlits can sometimes stay put. Your strength endurance on bodyweight exercises for the upper body will see a huge jump when you lose weight, however, so enjoy the boosts in reps on push-ups, chins, dips, and inverted rows.

8.       Progressive Overload sometimes has a mind of its own

Quite often you’ll do everything right, but you won’t get stronger. The plan just won’t work. You’ll be lifting hard, adhering to an intelligent plan, eating well, and sleeping right, and yet you still you won’t set any PR’s. Other times, you’ll do everything wrong, and you’ll somehow gain strength. Your training can be derailed, your diet and sleep can go down the gutter, but you’ll go to the gym and set a PR. This makes absolutely no sense and flies in the face of sports science. Nevertheless, this is just how the body works sometimes. Physiology is tricky and multifactorial. Don’t get cocky when this happens and think that you’ve stumbled upon the secret system (excessive partying, eating junk food, and training sporadically). Whenever you engage in these behaviors for too long, it will backfire on you, so stay on track to the best of your abilities.

9.       Progressive Overload should never be prioritized over proper form

At any point in time, if you really want to set a PR, you can just be lax on your form and likely set a record. For example, you could round your back excessively during deadlifts, bounce the bar off your chest with bench press, or use a little more body English with curls. However, this is a slippery slope that’s best avoided. Progressive overload only works when you challenge the muscles to do more over time, and your muscles will not be forced to do more if your form gets sloppy. Moreover, you won’t be setting any personal records if you’re injured or constantly in pain.

10.   Progressive Overload requires standardized technique

The only way you will ever know whether you gained strength or not is to perform the lifts exactly the same way each time. In other words, true strength gains require proper depth, tempo, and execution. Many lifters lie to themselves and pretend that they’ve gotten stronger, but their ranges of motions diminish or their form goes out the window. These lifters didn’t get stronger, they got sloppier. Federations in the sports of powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and strongman have created rules for their various exercises. It may be worth your while to learn these rules so that you always perform them properly in training and when testing your max. Assuming you can perform the lifts properly, always squat to parallel or deeper, always lock out your hip thrusts and barbell glute bridges, and in general always control the weight through a full range of motion.

Kellie Glute Bridge

Hopefully these 10 rules will keep you on track. I have one more piece of advice to share with you. Even the most seasoned lifters often have to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. Sometimes we get caught up in chasing continuous PR’s to the point of altering form, relying on the wrong muscles, skimping on ROM, or training through pain. Once per year, I recommend “resetting” your strength levels in your pursuit of progressive overload. Throw everything you’ve done in the past out the window and start over using the best possible form through a full range of motion. This is your new baseline. Now work on adhering to that same form while doing more over time. Your body will thank you in the long run for engaging in this simple yet effective practice.

Wendler 5/3/1

A Hardcore Look At Wendler’s 5/3/1 Powerlifting Routine

Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 powerlifting system is popular because it works! Wendler’s has you training 3-4 days per week on a rotating wave system.

Workout Summary

Main Goal:
Increase Strength
Workout Type:
Split
Training Level:
Intermediate
Days Per Week:
3
Equipment Required:
Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells
Target Gender:
Male & Female
Author:

Workout Description

Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 powerlifting system is rapidly growing into one of the most popular powerlifting and strength building training routines on the planet. Several years ago, most powerlifters I knew ran the Westside Barbell system. Westside was the gospel, and there was no other. But today, things have changed. A good portion of my friends are running Wendler’s 5/3/1, or a Westside/Wendler’s combination. Westside is still king, but Wendler’s 5/3/1 has proven itself very worthy of consideration.

In this guide to Wendler’s 5/3/1, you will find information on 2, 3, and 4 day splits. You will also find information on a Wendler’s 5/3/1 and Westside hybrid program. I have also included detailed assistance work information, including possible variations mentioned in the Wendler’s 5/3/1 e-book. Please support Jim Wendler and Wendler’s 5/3/1 by purchasing his e-book.

Wendler’s 5/3/1 Core Components

  • 4 to 5+ Week Mesocycle. A mesocycle of Wendler’s 5/3/1 lasts 4 weeks if you train 4 days per week, and 5+ weeks if you train 3 days per week. If you workout three times per week (Monday-Wednesday-Friday), you will rotate between 4 core workouts. If you workout 4 days per week, you will hit each workout once a week on the same training day.
  • 4 Core Workouts. Wendler’s 5/3/1 consists of 4 core workouts:

Workout ASquat and assistance work.

Workout BBench Press and assistance work.

Workout CDeadlift and assistance work.

Workout DOverhead Press and assistance work.

  • 3 Days Per Week. As stated, if you use Wendler’s 5/3/1 and workout 3 days per week, you will rotate between the 4 workouts. Over the course of a mesocycle, you will perform each of the 4 workouts four times, for a total of 16 workouts. A week week mesocycle looks like this:

Week 1. ABC (Monday – Workout A, Wednesday – Workout B, Friday – Workout C)

Week 2. DAB

Week 3. CDA

Week 4. BCD

Week 5. ABC

Week 6. D

  • 4 Days Per Week. If you use Wendler’s 5/3/1 and train 4 days per week, your mesocycle will last only 4 weeks. Your workout schedule should look something life this:

MondaySquat Day

WednesdayBench Press Day

FridayDeadlift Day

SaturdayOverhead Press Day

  • Workout Waves. Each workout is performed 4 times during the course of a Wendler’s 5/3/1 mesocycle. Simply stated, you will have 4 bench press workouts, 4 squat workouts, 4 deadlift workouts, and 4 overhead press workouts. Each specific workout (A-B-C-D) is comprised of 4 waves, or 4 different workouts. These waves are:

Wave A. Warmup, 75% x 5, 80% x 5, 85% x 5

Wave B. Warmup, 80% x 3, 85% x 3, 90% x 3

Wave C. Warmup, 75% x 5, 85% x 3, 95% x 1

Wave DDeload wave – 60% x 5, 65% x 5, 70% x 5

Wendler’s 5/3/1 Complete Mesocycle Breakdown

Now that we’ve looked at the nuts and bolts of the Wendler’s 5/3/1 powerlifting system, let’s put them together into a structured mesocycle. Please note that the following tables do not include assistance work. The letter (ABCD) following the core workout is the corresponding wave that you will be performing on that training day.

Wendler’s 5/3/1 Mesocycle
3 Days Per Week
Week Monday Wednesday Friday
1 Squat – A Bench Press – A Deadlift – A
2 OH Press – A Squat – B Bench Press – B
3 Deadlift – B OH Press – B Squat – C
4 Bench Press – C Deadlift – C OH Press – C
5 Squat – D Bench Press – D Deadlift – D
6 OH Press – D
Wendler’s 5/3/1 Mesocycle
4 Days Per Week
Week Monday Wednesday Friday Friday
1 Squat – A Bench Press – A Deadlift – A OH Press – A
2 Squat – B Bench Press – B Deadlift – B OH Press – B
3 Squat – C Bench Press – C Deadlift – C OH Press – C
4 Squat – D Bench Press – D Deadlift – D OH Press – D

Exercise Substitution

For each of the 4 workouts (ABCD), you may substitute the primary workout with an appropriate replacement at the start of a new mesocycle. The following are examples of acceptable substitutions:

Assistance Work

How much assistance work you do is up to you. Natural lifters should try to be in and out of the gym in 60 minutes. If you can’t “hit it” in that period of time, you need to take a long, hard look at the rest periods you are taking between assistance work sets. A quote from Jim Wendler on training duration:

“People laugh and call me lazy, while they twit around in their three-hour workout making zero progress. Sometimes, instead of what you do in the weight room, it’s what you don’t do that will lead to success.”

In the Wendler’s 5/3/1 book, the following assistance plans are presented:

  • Boring But Big. Main lift, the main lift again @ 5×10 (50% 1RM), and another accessory exercise for 5 sets.
  • The Triumvirate.  Main lift, and two assistance exercises – 5 sets each.
  • I’m Not Doing Jack Shit.  Main lift, and nothing else.
  • Periodization Bible by Dave Tate.  Main lift, and 3 exercises – 5 x 10-20 reps each.
  • Bodyweight.  Main lift, and 2 bodyweight exercises such as the pull upsit upsdips, etc.

Here are some sample assistance work plans based on your goals.

Strength Builder Assistance Work

From the Wendler 5/3/1 E-Book.

Squat Workout

Bench Press Workout

Deadlift Workout

  • Deadlift: 5 x 8 x 50%
  • Hanging Leg Raises: 5 x 12

Overhead Press Workout

Bodybuilder Assistance Work

From the Wendler 5/3/1 E-Book.

Squat Workout Day – Assistance Option A

Squat Workout Day – Assistance Option B

Bench Press Workout Day – Assistance option A

Bench Press Workout Day – Assistance option B

Deadlift Workout Day – Assistance Option A

  • Chin Up: 4 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Bent Over Dumbbell Row: 4 sets of 15 reps/arm
  • Back Raises: 4 sets of 10 reps (with bar behind neck)
  • Hanging Leg Raises: 4 sets of 15 reps

Deadlift Workout Day – Assistance Option B

  • Lat Pull Down – 4 sets of 10-12 reps
  • Bent Over Row – 4 sets of 15 reps/arm
  • Reverse Hyperextensions – 4 sets of 12 reps
  • Hanging Leg Raises – 4 sets of 15 reps

Overhead Press Workout Day – Assistance Option A

Overhead Press Workout Day – Assistance Option B

Wendler’s 5/3/1 Notes

One rep max. When you first start Wendler’s 5/3/1, use a realistic one rep max (1RM). It’s better to start a little below your estimated max and work into Wendler’s 5/3/1, then it is to over-estimate your 1RM and waste a mesocycle. Powerlifting is not a sprint – it’s a marathon. Don’t kill yourself out of the gate. Jim Wendler recommends starting at 90% of your 1RM on your first mesocycle.

The last set. Jim Wendler recommends going all out on the last core set each workout. Remember, core work is either squats, bench press, deadlift or overhead press. On this last set, do as many reps as you can with the given weight. Do NOT use this approach for de-load workouts.

Adding weight. After completing each mesocycle, add 5 pounds to your 1RM total for bench press and overhead press, and 10 pounds to your squat and deadlift 1RM, and recalculate your percentages. If you run Wendler’s 5/3/1 for a year, this progression pattern will add 50 pounds to your bench and press, and 100 pounds to your squat and deadlift. Be patient, and stick with the plan!

2 Day Per Week Approach

For those who can hit the gym only twice a week, you can use the following template:

This is a 4 week cycle. Hit the primary, core exercises first, and add in appropriate assistance work. Remember to limit your total workout time to about 60 minutes.

Wendler’s 5/3/1 and Westside Hybrid

Wendler’s 5/3/1 is a very flexible training system. Because of this, the door is wide open to integrate Wendler’s with core/key components of the Westside system.

Some trainees may want to utilize dynamic effort (DE) days from Westside training. How you structure this integration is up to you. Some trainees may be able to do both heavy squats and deadlifts on a single day, and then use the second posterior chain day of that week for dynamic effort (DE) work. Some may choose to do heavy Wendler squats with DE deadlifts, and heavy Wendler deadlifts with DE squats.

Another possible integration between Westside and Wendler’s would be to drop the heavy overhead pressing day, and instead, insert overhead pressing movements on your bench days. This would free up one training day each week for DE bench work.

Sample Westside/Wendler’s 5/3/1 program structure.

  • Monday – Dynamic effort (DE) bench press. Heavier overhead pressing.
  • Tuesday – Wendler’s squat day. Dynamic effort (DE) deadlifts.
  • Thursday – Wendler’s bench press day.
  • Friday – Wendler’s deadlift day. Dynamic effort (DE) squats.

For assistance work, use exercises that address your weaknesses. Please remember that this sample hybrid program is only an example, presented to get you thinking about the possibilities. There are many ways to combine Westside and Wendler’s, and many reasons why someone would want to do so.

When jumping into a hybrid routine, always proceed with caution. Start slow, and work your way into it. Don’t set up the hybrid with too much work. It’s better to get the feel of a hybrid program, and then to add work, then it is to kill yourself and have to pull back on work.

Final Notes

Far too many younger trainees are looking for magic routines and training systems. Wendler’s 5/3/1 powerlifting system is not magic. It works if you work hard, and stick to it. Wendler’s generally needs to be run for multiple cycles, so don’t choose this routine if you’re not willing to stick with it. If you’re a younger lifter, and not sure if you’re ready for a powerlifting routine, consult more experienced lifters on the Muscle & Strength forum.

There are many heated debates about which training system is the best. Remember that the key to success on any program revolves around your drive to succeed.

Morer Push, pull , legs

Monday Legs(3-5 sets each 8-12 reps for all besides olympic lifts)
Squat
Lunges
Leg press
RDLs
Lying Leg curls
10sets 8-10 reps for calves

Tuesday Push 1(same scheme as before)
incline bbell bench
decline dbell bench
dbell or arnold press
incline fly
side lateral raise
tricep pushdown
overhead rope ext or decline skulls

Wednesday Pull 1
Snatches-4×5
weighted pull ups
barbell row
dbell row
bbell curl
preacher curl
rear delt exercise

Thursday rest

Friday Legs 2
power cleans-4×5
front squats
hack squats
dbell rdls
leg curls
10 set 8-10 reps calves

Saturday Push 2
overhead press
close grip bench
incline dbell or machine
flat bench dbell press or fly
tricep pushdown
overhead rope ext or decline skulls

Sunday Pull 2
Deadlift
T-bar rows
lat pulldowns
weighted chin ups
bbell curl
hammer curls
reverse delt exercise

rest a day then repeat

Hamstrings In My Sights

T- Nation.Com

Hamstring Hell: Sliding Leg Curls

by Ben Bruno – 8/13/2013
Hamstring Hell: Sliding Leg Curls

Here’s what you need to know…

• Sliding leg curls are the real deal. They hammer your hamstrings in a unique and painful way.

• Unlike some exercises, they can be trained with higher frequency, which makes them ideal for fast hypertrophy gains.

• Sliding leg curls can be systematically progressed or regressed to match your strength level so you can experience consistent long-term gains.

Sliding leg curls are no joke. I’ve absolutely buried top athletes with those “wussy” sliders. And I’m talking super strong guys that can squat and deadlift obscene weights and do glute-ham raises like nobody’s business.

From a programming perspective, not only do they absolutely torch the hamstrings while being easy on the lower back and knees, they can also be done with a higher frequency, which is beneficial for building both size and strength.

However, like any exercise, you can eventually get good at sliding leg curls. That’s when you need to use progression, and sliding leg curls can be progressed to the point of being downright tortuous.

So here are some devilishly effective progressions of the standard sliding leg curl. All of these can be performed using a slideboard, sliders, or anything else you can McGyver. Just use them on any slick surface.

Remember, the key is to find the right progression for your current level and then strive to move forward from there.

1. “Squeeze” Sliding Leg Curl

These are just regular sliding leg curls done while squeezing something like a small foam roller or medicine ball between your knees. Here’s what it should look like, as demonstrated by Eirinn Dougherty.

I’ve seen coaches and trainers use this method with glute bridges and I just applied it to sliding leg curls, which is really a bridge derivative even though it’s more of a hamstring exercise than a glute exercise.

Interestingly, I started trying it as a way to get more bang for the buck by strengthening the adductors, but I quickly noticed that exercise form started to improve when athletes were forced to squeeze something.

People tend to screw up sliding leg curls by flexing at the hips (i.e., letting the butt sag), which takes the glutes out of it and greatly diminishes the usefulness of the exercise. However, when they’re forced to squeeze something, they do a better job of keeping the hips up and the glutes engaged. So besides working the adductors, it’s also become a good teaching tool.

You can also use heavier implements as you progress to increase the challenge to the adductors.

2. Resisted Single-Leg Sliding Leg Curl

Single-leg sliding leg curls are a great progression once you’ve mastered the regular version, but how can you employ progressive overload beyond just doing a ton of reps?

Well, two ways, and both can be great depending on what you’re looking to achieve.

The simplest method is just to put of small plate on top of the slide pad, or if you’re using a slideboard, put a small weight on a towel.

A little weight goes a long way, so even five pounds will make a big difference and ten pounds will transform the exercise into an absolute monster.

Another option is to drape chains, a weighted vest, or even a weight plate over your hips.

I like this method because it increases the challenge for the glutes on what’s otherwise more of a hamstring exercise.

3. Body Curl

Body curls are a great progression/variation from sliding leg curls. Instead of keeping your torso fixed and sliding with your feet, keep the feet stationary and move your body back and forth.

They work best with a slideboard, but you can make due by putting a couple of sliders underneath a plate and resting your shoulders on top of the plate.

Plate with slidersThe form cues for body curls are the same as for sliding leg curls, meaning you want to keep the hips up by thinking about keeping a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.

 

I have a light weight on my hips in the video, but start with just bodyweight.

4. Barbell Hamstring Body Curl

Once you’re comfortable with body curls, you can begin to load the hips to increase the challenge for the glutes. Start by using chains or a weighted vest, but eventually you can progress to using a barbell like you would for barbell glute bridges.

 

5. Single-Leg Body Curl

I’ve done tons of hard hamstring exercises, but single-leg body curls may very well be the toughest of the lot, even when just using bodyweight.

 

It took me a long time to progress to them, and even when I could do regular sliding leg curls with 135 pounds on my hips, I still couldn’t even do one rep of these bad boys.

To build up to doing the true single-leg version, try the single-leg eccentric version, which is also a great exercise in its own right.

Bridge up normally, then push out on one leg and pull back in with two legs.

 

Be prepared to walk funny afterwards.

How to Incorporate Them

Add these exercises in towards the end of lower body workouts after your heavier work, or add them in on off days or upper body days for supplemental hamstring work.

You can do them up to four times a week without issue because they’re very easy on the joints. It’s definitely an exercise that lends itself well to higher frequency training, making it a great choice if you’re looking to bring up lagging hamstrings.

When you first start doing them you’ll likely struggle, but make it a goal to get good at them and work through the progressions outlined. You’ll find that your hamstrings will get bigger and a whole lot stronger in the process.

Probably the biggest thing holding you back from adding sliding leg curls is your own insecurity about doing something that isn’t “manly.” Get over yourself! Try these sissy exercises – I’ll bet you’ll be humbled and sold all at once.

12 Mistakes You’re Making In The Gym

12 Mistakes You’re Making In The Gym

Not Bringing Your Music

I could go into detail on this one but do us all a favor and make sure you bring your best jams. Most people with bubbly personalities or to many friends in the gym tend to talk to much. That means not only are you messing my workout up but your also hurting yours.

Music is also a beast motivator. There is nothing like getting ready for a lift listening to that one song that gets you fired up. I remember when I wrestled in high school and the one song I would listen to before every match was “Break Stuff” By Limp Bizket. I don’t know why, it just got me fired up.

What gets you fired up!? Make a play-list of your top 10 most motivating songs and hit shuffle. Your workouts will get better.

Only Doing Your Skill Set

We all do it in more areas of our life than fitness. We like to do what we are good at. It’s time to step it up. Do something new. If all you do are lunges and leg press because you think your beast at them then try one of the other hundred ways of working legs.

It’s nice to be really good at a few things but you want to be good at as many things as you can. It also gives a challenged to your workouts. Doing something new usually causes you to either drop weight or spend more time mastering…it’s like your starting from scratch! Embrace it, you haven’t always been a beast!

Focusing On The Little

Unless you’re competing for your pro-card and taking buckets of steroids you don’t need 6 different arm exercises on arm day. I have learned so many weird bodybuilding tricks over the years that it would be confusing to explain them all. One thing I have learned, is if you focus more on the major muscle groups and worry less about how much your wrist twists at the top of your bicep curl then your doing fine.

Stop adding all these filler movements and exercises and talk about different angles and blah blah blah. The average person doesn’t need that. Yes, angles play a role in lifting but not as much as you think.

Plan It Out

Where are you going to go? What are you going to be doing between sets? What exercises are you going to do first? Which ones are your compound exercises and which ones are not? How much weight did you do last time? How are you going to change your program up this week to support progression? Most of these questions need to be worked out before you start moving around.

Call me old school but I am getting back into writing everything down so I know where to challenge myself next week and what needs to change for the next month cycle. Sure you can just walk in to a gym and start moving stuff around but you’re not going to get far. So if you’re serious about seeing results, start writing.

Protein Powder

It’s not that big of a deal. There are thousands of brands of protein supplements on the market. There is no way I could tell you which ones are the best out of them all. I can say that getting an organic, grass fed whey would probably be the best but I personally don’t do that. Costco sells a giant tub of 100% whey protein that I have been buying for years.

Lately, I have gotten away from drinks and turned more to chewing my protein…. to each his own. Watch the carbs, sugar and any other filler crap that they put in those other powders. If your whey powder tastes like a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato then odds are it’s not the best for you.

Lifting With Your Boys

I have lifted with small groups of guys before and the majority of the time gets spent messing around and getting too much of nothing done. Stick to one partner or none at all (see my next point). The more people you have the less you can get done. 45 minute workouts turn to 1:15 minute workouts.

You may have all the motivation and drive in the world but banking on the rest of the guys your with to have that same drive…don’t hold your breath. Stop using the gym as your social hour.

Lift Alone

I am blessed to have a beast partner that pushes me and is always down to try new things. We are seeing results and getting things done. I have had partners in the past that always showed up late or never at all, never really changed much up. I just wasn’t there to do that and like anyone else time is precious.

These kinds of partners are not going to help you get results. You’re better off lifting alone and getting more things done. “But I need a spotter” I answer this in my next point.

Lift Till You’re Blue In The Face

Do me a favor for a few weeks try not going to ultimate failure and then some with every set. Tone it down some. Do as many reps as you can with perfect form then hang it up. You can do this with any rep range whether it’s a low rep or high.

Do what you can with good form and leave it alone. This protects your central nervous system from being over worked and not being able to help repair your body after your workouts. You will feel better and recover faster for the next lift.

Lift With Your Girl

As long as you two part ways the minute you walk into the door. Odds are she is afraid to do anything heavy and will walk over to a few machines and end up in the stability ball and band area. If you take the time to explain to her the importance of doing heavy weights and compound exercises and she is on board, then let her join you.

My wife is pretty rocking. She will do just about anything I tell her to as long as it’s not going to put her life in danger (although sometimes there is always that chance). She is willing to push heavier weights and stay away from the bosu balls. Total respect for you ladies doing work in the gym!

Being A Member Of A Globo Gym

Meat market, drama, and clickish tendencies is what I hear the most coming from these places. They are great for the classes and variety of equipment but if you’re like any other social person your workouts could turn into a social hour. I’m not knocking them completely. Total respect for the guys and gals who go into those places and grind out killer workouts and not get mixed up in all the mess!! BUT….The hottest gyms are the little hole in the wall studios you see around town.

Working for Old Dominion University as a trainer for a little while gave me somewhat of a feel for the bigger gym atmosphere. Spending most of my career in small studios has really allowed me to grow a passion for the smaller studio feel. It’s just better. You get the family atmosphere and depending on the owner you can find some pretty odd objects to use in your workout.

Doing Olympic Lifts With Straps

I have heard horror stories of noobs trying to hang clean or full clean weight and actually breaking their wrists because of the weight and lack of proper technique. You can’t clean tons of weight and expect your wrists to have the proper range of motion (along with the rest of your arms) as a noob. If your new to the clean then go light and work on your catch and ROM when its at rest (top position).

Catching with your elbows pointing straight out and landing the bar across your upper chest and delts. If your grip is suffering then spend some extra time on your off days working on grip exercises. Check this video out! Start with these and use some chalk until your form and wrist/arm ROM is on point. By then you shouldn’t even need straps to do them. Win-Win situation.

Bring The Celly

Leave the phone in your car. In today’s day you probably send well over a thousand texts a month…if not more. You don’t need to have that thing right on your side the whole time. Facebook, twitter, emails etc. all get sent to our phones which means your probably checking some kind of notification every few minutes. This is time away from your lifts. Whatever it is can wait.

If it’s an emergency then let those people know where you are. What happened to just calling the main building the person was in. That’s what intercoms are for right? Now, if you’re doing everything I say then you’re probably lifting at a small local studio therefore they can call you there almost directly.  Don’t worry, I am guilty of this too! I hate it when I catch myself wasting time looking at an email or post. It’s all about productivity.

Go after it!

Consider this workout

A;
Squats (olympic style)
SLD
Flat BP
Rows
Military Press

B;
Squatting, while keeping the barbell locked out overhead
Deadlift (normal one)
Incline BP
Chin-ups
Dips

The squatting like in workout B, forces you to use much lighter weights, it’s heavy and hard. You need to stabilize your whole body, and shows you why you need a strong core!!!!
I use the heavy weights on the deadlifts in workout B, and in the olympic squats in workout A (lower weight when doing the SLD)…

You could add some core work (crunches + hypers), one bicep curl exercise for your girl and maybe calf raises if your calves are lacking…

Rotate the workouts;

Week 1; Monday A, Wednesday B, Friday A.
Week 2; Monday B, Wednesday A, Friday B.

Sandbag Exercises

If you’re only using your sandbag for alternative versions of standard exercises like Back Squats, Deadlifts and Overhead Presses then you might just be missing out on some of the greatest benefits of sandbag training. The unique size, shape and properties of your sandbag means that there are a number of highly effective exercises that you just can’t do with other traditional free weights like barbells, dumbbells and kettle bells.

While it’s always tough learning and perfecting new exercises, the trade off is that you’ll bust through plateaus, add some new excitement into your programming and dramatically improve your strength and conditioning. So what are you waiting for?!

Shouldering

Stand astride your sandbag and grip it tightly around the middle. Using the power from your legs, hips and back lift the sandbag powerfully up onto one shoulder. Return the bag to the ground and then repeat, lifting onto the opposite shoulder. Shouldering is an excellent exercise for both strength and conditioning and it transfers well into daily activities like lifting.

Shoulder Getups

The getup is a tough, fully body exercise that is more traditionally performed with a kettlebell held in an outstretched arm. This variation, where the sandbag lays across one shoulder, means that you are unable to utilise the strength in your arm. This forces more core activation, strength and stability.

Lay flat on the ground with the sandbag draped over one shoulder. Powerfully roll onto the opposite forearm and turn your hips to the same side. Move up onto your hand and get your knee underneath you – as if going into a lunge position. Stand up fully before returning to the start position.

Bear Hug Squats

The bear hug is such a great sandbag movement to perform and few other exercises rival it in building brute strength. Simply grip your sandbag in a bear hug position and squat downwards, ideally until you break parallel with your thighs. Keep your feet flat throughout the exercise and try to initiate the exercise by ‘sitting backwards’ into the squat. Although it is natural to perform bear hug movements with a slightly rounded back you should still aim to maintain good posture.

Try This Workout

5 Bear Hug Squats

10 Shoulders (alternating shoulders)

1 Shoulder Getup on each side

Repeat for as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes. Aim to complete each round without setting down your sandbag.

Wave volume training.

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WAVED VOLUME
Many people do great on volume routines. Many have never been able to get volume to work for them in the least. By waving the volume you can get a volume responder to do MUCH better both in terms of size, and strength. And can very often get guys that have NEVER been able to make gains using volume do extremely well. This is only one of an endless number of possible variations, and one that is not the best wave for guys with poor recovery ability. For guys with less than good recovery more weeks should be spent on lower volume and the ramp up should be fairly steep, and only held a few weeks. If you are creative you can do a lot with this system and get size gains you were never able to get on lower volume in some cases. I could post 10 sub-styles. But you probably get the basic idea. The wave loading can be peaked, and dropped back down immediately, or waved back down slowly. Waving it back down slowly is best done with a shorter, steeper duration ramp.

Waved Volume
WEEK 1-2
Day one Sets Reps
Bench Press 2 sets 8 reps
Low Incline Dumbbell Press (15-30 degree) 2 sets 8 reps
Dips 2 sets 10 reps
Lateral Raises 2 sets 12 reps

Day Two
Overhand Grip Pull-Down/pull-up 2 sets 8 reps
Chest Supported Row, or Cable Row 2 sets 8 reps
Dumbbell Curl 2 sets 8 reps
Grip Work Your Choice 2 sets 10 reps

Day Three
Rack Deadlifts 2 sets 6-12 reps
Leg Press 2 sets 15 reps
Resistance Abs 2 sets 10 reps
Leg Press Calves 2 sets 10/15, 15/30 reps

WEEK 3-4
Day one Sets Reps
Bench Press 3 sets 8 reps
Low Incline Dumbbell Press (15-30 degree) 3 sets 8 reps
Dips 3 sets 8 reps
Lateral Raises 3 sets 8 reps

Day Two
Overhand Grip Pull-Down/pull-up 3 sets 8 reps
Chest Supported Row, or Cable Row 3 sets 8 reps
Dumbbell Curl 3 sets 8 reps
Grip Work Your Choice 3 sets 12 reps

Day Three
Rack Deadlifts 2 sets 6-12 reps
Leg Press 2 sets 15 reps
Resistance Abs 2 sets 10 reps
Leg Press Calves 2 sets 10/15, 15/30 reps

WEEK 5-6
Day one Sets Reps
Bench Press 3 sets 8 reps
Low Incline Dumbbell Press (15-30 degree) 3 sets 8 reps
Fly 3 sets 10 reps
Dumbell Overhead Press 3 sets 8 reps
Lateral Raises 4 sets 8 reps
Skull Crushers 3 sets 8 reps
Tricep Extensions 3 sets 8 reps

Day Two
Overhand Grip Pull-Down/pull-up 3 sets 8 reps
Supinated Grip Pull-Down/pull-up 3 sets 8 reps
Chest Supported Row, or Cable Row 3 sets 8 reps
Barbell Curl 2 sets 8 reps
Dumbbell Curl 2 sets 8 reps
Grip Work Your Choice 4 sets 12 reps

Day Three
Rack Deadlifts 2 sets 6-12 reps
Squats 2 sets 6-12 reps
Leg Press 2 sets 15 reps
Resistance Abs 2 sets 10 reps
Leg Press Calves 2 sets 10/15, 15/30 reps

WEEK 7-8
Day one Sets Reps
Bench Press 4 sets 8 reps
Low Incline Dumbbell Press (15-30 degree) 4 sets 8 reps
Fly 4 sets 10 reps
Dumbbell Overhead Press 4 sets 8 reps
Lateral Raises 4 sets 8 reps
Skull Crushers 4 sets 8 reps
Tricep Extensions 4 sets 8 reps

Day Two
Overhand Grip Pull-Down/pull-up 4 sets 8 reps
Supinated Grip Pull-Down/pull-up 4 sets 8 reps
Chest Supported Row, or Cable Row 4 sets 8 reps
Barbell Curl 4 sets 8 reps
Dumbbell Curl 3 sets 8 reps
Grip Work Your Choice 4 sets 12 reps

Day Three
Rack Deadlifts 2 sets 6-12 reps
Squats 3 sets 6-12 reps
Leg Press 2 sets 15 reps
Resistance Abs 2 sets 10 reps
Leg Press Calves 3 sets 10/15, 15/30

There are many variations on all these themes and one can truly most any trainee if modified for the individual.

Good luck and good training!

A look at Rippetoe’s program

Write up for Rippetoe’s program

 

 

Well ever since I’ve been running this blog I’ve enjoyed helping beginners out just like I was helped out when I began lifting. I have discussed a few starter programs such as Stronglifts 5 x 5 but never the program which is older and was actually the catalyst for all other programs like Stronglifts & Madcow. I decided to write up an extremely detailed layout of it. It’s called Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength Routine:

*note the dip/chin isnt in the original program

Here is a routine from Mark Rippetoe’s book called “Starting Strength”. You can buy the book at www.startingstrength.com. It includes endless useful info that all beginners should learn. But as for the program he suggests, his clients that he gives it to on AVERAGE gain 30-40 pounds in about 6 months or so which is amazing gains.

The program is as follows:

You alternate Workout A and Workout B every other day, 3 times a week. So you could either do Mon, Wed, Fri or Tues, Thurs. and Sat. Depending on what works best for you.

Example:

Week 1:

Monday – Workout A
Wednesday -Workout B
Friday – Workout A

Week 2:

Monday – Workout B
Wednesday – Workout A
Friday – Workout B

Etc.

For the actual workouts read below:

Note: This doesn’t include warm-up sets

**Means this is OPTIONAL**

Workout A (sets x reps)
3×5 Squat
3×5 Bench Press
1×5 Deadlift
**2×8 Dips (if you cant do these or no assist machine then do Decline Dumbbell Bench Press with your hands Facing each other)

Workout B
3×5 Squat
3×5 Standing military press
3×5 Pendlay or Bent Rows (or power cleans)
**2×8 Chin-ups (recommended mainly if doing the cleans)

Assistance work:

Most people cant get it through there head that compound lifts also work your arms plenty and always insist on direct arm work. As quoted by Madcow, “Don’t fuck with this. Every bodybuilder seems to have Attention Deficit Disorder and an overwhelming desire to customize everything.” If you are one of these people note that you have the option of doing the dips and chins which give PLENTY of arm work. Abdominal work is fine to do also if needed.

I recommend weighted decline sit-ups and/or Hanging Leg Raises at 2×8-10.

Weight:

As for the weight, make sure that you use the SAME weight throughout the sets. For example if I do the first set of Squats with 200lbs then I do the other 2 sets of squats with 200lbs.

Every week make it a goal to increase each of your lifts by 2.5%. Meaning if I lifted 100lbs for my Bench Week 1 then Week 2 I would try for 102.5lbs. If I did 200lb Squats Week 1 I would try for 205lbs in Week 2. Sometimes you will be able to do more but don’t mess with your form just to lift more.

Warm-up Sets:

Before all your working sets it is best to do a few warm-up sets. Specifically for your first lift. You don’t have to do the whole thing for the other lifts but definitely the first.

What you do is you ramp your weight up to your working sets.

For example:

2x5xbar (sets x reps x weight)
1x5x85
1x3x125
1x2x155

And the working set weight would be 175.

If you are lifting your working sets under 150 I would cut out the 3rd warmup set of 1×5 because it wont be needed.

The Lifts:

**Used some references and quotes from Madcow.**

Barbell Squat: These should be full range Olympic style squats. Use the full range of your body – that means as low as you can go which for almost everyone is past parallel. If the top of your thighs aren’t at least parallel it’s for sh!t. If you think this is bad for your knees going low, you and whoever told you that are relying on an old wives tale. Anyone who knows the human body will tell you that below parallel is MUCH safer on the knees whereas parallel and above put all the sheer right on them and doesn’t allow proper transfer of the load to the rest of your body (this is how your body was designed).

Rest a barbell on the upper portion of your back, not your neck. Firmly grip the bar with your hands almost twice your shoulder width apart. Position your feet about shoulder width apart and your toes should be pointing just a little outward with your knees in the same direction. Keep your back as straight as possible and your chin up, bend your knees and slowly lower your hips straight down until your THIGHS ARE AT LEAST PARALLEL TO THE FLOOR. Once you reach the bottom position, press the weight up back to the starting position.

Video: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/2003/barbellsquat.wvx

To be honest ATG (Ass to the Grass) squats work the best IMO. What you do is you go ALL the way down until your hamstrings touch your calves and keep the same Olympic squat form.

Barbell Deadlift: Each rep is deweighted fully on the floor. No touch and go. This is called the ‘dead’lift because the weight is ‘dead’ on the ground. You can touch and go warm ups but that’s it.

This is a very complicated exercise so here is bodybuilding.com’s detailed instructions on this lift.

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/exer…rbell+Deadlift

Video: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/2003…ontofknees.wvx

Flat Barbell Bench Press: Lie on a flat bench and firmly position your feet flat on the floor a little more than shoulder width apart. Keep your back flat on the bench! Using a grip broader than shoulder width, hold the barbell above your body, then lower slowly to the middle of your chest. Without bouncing the weight off your chest, drive the barbell up over the middle of your chest until your arms are straight and your elbows are locked. Lower the bar down slowly.

Video: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/2003…essideview.wvx

Standing Barbell Military Press: Standing overhead presses. Supporting weight overhead is a fundamental exercise and stimulates the whole body.
Raise barbell to your chest with your hands shoulder width apart. Lock your legs and hips. Keep your elbows in, slightly under your bar. Press bar to arm’s length overhead. Lower to your upper chest or chin (depending on what is comfortable).

Bent Barbell Row: Raise barbell to your chest with your hands shoulder width apart. Lock your legs and hips. Keep your elbows in, slightly under your bar. Press bar to arm’s length overhead. Lower to your upper chest or chin (depending on what is comfortable).

Video: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/2003…barbellrow.wvx

You could also do Pendlay Rows which IMO are also better. This illustration below is a great demonstration for them.
http://www.forum.bodybuilding.com/at…7&d=1140759947

Power Clean: This is also a very complicated exercise so here is bodybuilding.com’s detailed instructions on this lift.

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/exer…me=Power+Clean

Video: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/vide…powerclean.wvx

Chin-Up: Hold the chin-up bar with a supinated grip (palms facing you) with your hands about 6 to 8 inches apart. Pull yourself up and try to touch either your chin or upper chest to the bar. Return slowly to the starting position. Do NOT swing back and forth! Using this grip works more of your biceps than your back or lats.

Video: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/videos/2006/chinup.wvx

Dip: Using the parallel bars, grip the handles and push yourself up to your starting position. With elbows close to body and hips straight, lower body until shoulders are slightly stretched. Push body up in same posture and repeat. You can bend and cross your legs or keep them straight.

Video: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/vide…estversion.wvx

The Diet:

If you are bulking, which is what people usually do on this program, you need to be eating like there is no tomorrow. 3000-4000 calories a day. Make sure you get 1 to 2 x your bodyweight in protein (in grams) and more than that in carbs. Mark Rippetoe also suggests that you drink up to a gallon of milk a day and plenty of water.

Your bulk could be clean but its hard to do so. I suggest just going all out and getting any protein you can get your hands on. For example lean grilled chicken and egg whites is best but if you want to gain that muscle fast then ground beef, steaks, whole eggs, cheeses etc is great. Eat a lot of oats, pasta, wheat bread, yogurt, cottage cheese, tuna, etc.

Make sure you get a huge breakfast. Mark recommends 4 huge meals a day with breakfast being the largest. Make sure all your meals have plenty of both carbs and protein! Also look into getting a PWO shake for post workout to get some carbs DIRECTLY into your system when your done lifting. Then an hour later eat a meal. Its also good to eat a snack before bed. Just remember to get big you need to eat big because eating is 90% of your muscle gains.

Good luck and above all have FUN!