May 26, 2022
You have spent a lot of time building boulder shoulders, but have you ever thought about stretching them? The shoulder is a shallow ball and socket joint that has an incredible ability to move in multiple directions. This allows you to grab things, throw, hug your family, and most importantly, lift weights...powerfully. Strengthening the deltoids to do all of this is great but stretching the deltoids plays an equally important role in the health and longevity of your shoulders.
Shoulder stretches are a must because they help you maintain shoulder mobility and muscle flexibility, which in turn boosts your performance. Plus, deltoid stretches can help you reduce tension and soreness.
In this article, we’ll go into the anatomy and function of the deltoids, the benefits of stretching them, when to stretch, and the 13 best deltoid stretches for improved range of motion and reduced muscle tension.
The deltoids are a large triangular-shaped muscle made up of three heads, the front, lateral and posterior deltoid. The three muscle heads originate from the clavicle (collar bone) and scapula (shoulder blades) and insert into the upper humerus (upper arm bone).
The deltoid muscle lies over the ball and socket joint. It powers movements of the arm and protects and stabilizes the shoulder joint. It also gives your shoulders that boulder look when you flex (that is, if your delts are well-built).
Here are the main movements for the deltoids with the specific deltoid muscle used.
|Shoulder Movement:||Deltoid Muscle:|
|Shoulder Horizontal Abduction||Lateral & Posterior|
|Circumduction||All Three Heads|
All in all, it's important to strengthen the deltoids via the above actions for better shoulder stability and strength, as well as to stretch them to maintain good mobility and flexibility. It's the most mobile joint, and with that, it is also the most susceptible to injury. A lot of people take shoulder mobility for granted, but if you were to lose it, you'd realize just how important optimal mobility is for even the smallest things in daily life.
Shoulder Strength + Shoulder Mobility = Shoulder Durability (aka resilience!)
You probably know all of the benefits of strengthening the deltoids. But what about the benefits of stretching them? Well, here are a few of the main points:
1) Improved Performance:
Being a shallow ball and socket joint with a huge range of motion, a big responsibility of the delts is to allow for all that mobility, and to do so in a stable manner. If you have tightness, achieving a full range of motion will be difficult. This will decrease movement efficiency and you will be leaving gains on the table. To best build muscle, a full range of motion is important.
2) Less Soreness & Pain:
Stretching the deltoids after a workout helps the shoulder muscles return to their resting length faster and this may reduce soreness after a workout. When you stretch the shoulders after a workout, it brings healing blood flow and nutrients there to help start the recovery process. Also, you may find that stretching your shoulders helps alleviate deltoid pain caused by a lack of movement over an extended period of time (i.e. sitting at the desk or on the couch too long).
3) Injury Prevention:
When the deltoid muscles are sore, tight, or not adequately flexible, movement compensations will occur. This leads to other muscles and joints doing things they are not really designed for, which is often what injuries are made of. By stretching your deltoids before and after exercise, you can reduce your chances of a shoulder injury. Plain and simple.
Note: Shoulder mobility is also important for exercises like front squats and even back squats. To hold the bar in position, you need good shoulder mobility. As such, should mobility plays an important role in exercises that don't directly involve the shoulders too!
When you think you’re stretching the muscle, it is not the only thing you are stretching. The fascia which surrounds the muscles like webbing is getting stretched too. Think of the fascia as taffy you eat at the fair. When it is cold, it’s harder to stretch and chew, but when it is warm it’s easily stretched and eaten.
So, when you want to improve the recovery and flexibility of the deltoids, the best time to stretch them is after training when the shoulders are warm because it’s more likely you will see better flexibility results. Holding your stretches for 30+ seconds works well.
But that doesn’t mean stretching has no benefit when the shoulders are cold. Moving your shoulders through a full range of motion, and holding the end range for 5-10 seconds each rep - which is called dynamic stretching - will optimize your mobility, release muscular tension, and help you get your shoulders ready for the work ahead.
Here are 13 of the best deltoid stretches to keep your shoulders performing well and feeling good.
Shoulder circles are a dynamic stretch that moves your shoulders through a large range of motion and lubricates the shoulder joint by bringing blood flow to the area. This movement is shoulder circumduction which involves all the movement of the shoulder joint and all three deltoid muscles. This is an oldie but it’s a solid exercise to warm up the shoulders.
How to the Standing Alternate Arms Circling Shoulders:
The standing Phelps is a dynamic shoulder stretch that involves repeatedly opening up your arms and chest and then swinging your arms across the body, hugging yourself or slapping your back. It is sometimes called a dynamic bear hug stretch. This stretch opens up the chest, shoulders, biceps and upper back. Be sure to switch which arm swings on top with each rep.
How to do The Standing Phelps:
The standing wring the towel exercise works more as an isometric exercise because you are holding the arms at shoulder height. This alone will have you feeling all of your shoulder muscles. But wait there is more. You’ll turn your head to the right while rotating your right hand to the ceiling. And then to the left, while you rotate your left hand up and right hand down. This works on external and internal rotation of the shoulder to get your rotator cuffs ready for action.
How to do The Standing Wring the Towel:
This deltoid stretch is part mobility and part dynamic stretch. Mobility because you are training shoulder circumduction which is training all the shoulder movements. And stretch because you are opening up your chest and anterior deltoid with the stick reaching overhead. This is a great move to get the shoulders ready for anything.
Note: You can also use a resistance band for this stretch.
How to do the Stick Pass Around Stretch:
The standing reverse shoulder stretch is a static stretch that opens up your chest and stretches your anterior deltoid and biceps. You control the intensity of this stretch by how high you can raise your hands behind you and how long you can hold it. This is a good stretch to perform after an intense shoulder and/or chest workout.
How to do the Standing Reverse Shoulder Stretch:
The reverse shoulder stretch is similar to the standing one above except your doing it from a sort of seated position, your arms are propped up behind you, and your hands are spread apart a bit. Essentially this allows for an even deeper stretch of the front delts. This is a great static stretch to release tension in your shoulders and upper chest after a workout. If you do it before a workout, just don't hold the stretch long or go too deep too fast.
How to do the Reverse Shoulder Stretch:
The standing doorway shoulder stretch is similar to the classic chest doorway stretch except you’re raising your hands above your head. Here you’ll get a little more of a stretch in your biceps and anterior shoulder and less chest. You will need a doorway high enough to straighten your arms overhead
How to do the Doorway Shoulder Stretch:
The one-arm behind the back shoulder flexor stretch stretches your anterior deltoid, middle deltoid, biceps, and chest, and works on the external rotators of the shoulder. With a lot of us internally rotated from sitting down with our devices, this stretch acts as a good reset from the hunched posture. If this stretch causes shoulder pain, it's best to avoid it and do some other stretches on this list.
How to do the One-Arm Behind the Back Shoulder Flexor Stretch:
The shoulder stretch using a towel is a catch-all upper body stretch. This excellent stretch stretches the chest, shoulders, triceps, and lats. Best of all you’ll control the intensity by how hard your pull up and down on the towel to create a tug of war between your left and right side. This creates a great stretch for all the muscles mentioned, and particularly for the front deltoid and side deltoid.
How to do the Behind The Back Shoulder Stretch with Towel:
The rear (aka posterior) deltoid stretch is what’s called a passive stretch where you’re relaxed and make no contribution to the range of motion. Then you use an outside force (your other arm) to create the stretch. This way you’ll get a better stretch and be able to control the intensity. This is one of only a few stretches for the hard-to-reach rear deltoid.
How to do the Crossbody Rear Deltoid Stretch:
The kneeling one arm cross-body stretch is another great posterior deltoid stretch. This is also called the thread the needle stretch, which is a common one in yoga. From a kneeling position, you’ll reach underneath and across your body to stretch the rear deltoid and lats. You can also use your body as leverage to deepen the stretch, but ease into this stretch as it can be intense.
How to do the Kneeling One Arm Cross Body Stretch:
The arm-up rotator stretch is not exactly a deltoid stretch but it stretches the important rotator cuff muscle called the teres minor, which has a responsibility of external shoulder rotation. This is not a stretch that needs to be done often and is best performed before a workout to get your shoulders ready for action.
How to do the Arm Up Rotator Cuff Stretch:
The arm down rotator stretch stretches the supraspinatus and infraspinatus, which are responsible for external and internal rotation of the shoulder. The supraspinatus also assists in lifting your arm above your head. Keeping them flexible and strong will go a long way to keeping all of your shoulder movements up to snuff.
How to do the Arm Down Rotator Cuff Stretch:
Besides the deltoid muscles, there are several other muscles acting on the shoulder joint which affect the mobility and stability of the shoulder joint. They are:
Why are we mentioning all of this now? Well, for good shoulder mobility, you also need good mobility and flexibility of these muscles too!
Strengthening the deltoids is important for performance and vanity. But stretching them periodically will maintain and improve their flexibility, and mobility and help prevent shoulder injuries from slowing you and your gains down. We hope these stretches will keep your shoulders relaxed, flexible, and stable for many years to come. Just don't forget to do them!
The final thing to note is that if you are dealing with shoulder pain, and you have any concerns about the seriousness of the pain or if these stretches are right for you, please consult a doctor or physical therapist.
May 25, 2022
Looking for a new back workout? Or maybe you’ve never actually had a back workout designed for your specific goal. Well, back day just so happens to be our favorite due to the massive amount of weight we can pull as well as the drastic effect it can have on our physique. While the chest used to be the muscle that got all the hype, we believe guys should actually be spending more time on the back, as thick backs don’t lie. That being said, not everyone is in the same situation, so making a single back workout for everyone doesn’t make any sense. Therefore, we’re going to do the unbelievable and write out 5 free back workouts for various situations and goals. We got you, and it's our pleasure.
The 5 back workouts you’ll find are:
For each back workout, we will teach you how to progress so you can gain muscle and strength over time. Got it? Let’s go.
There are multiple back muscles that make up the “back.” While they more or less all work together for most movements, you should still have a good idea of their basic function and structure.
The latissimus dorsi (or the lats for short) are the largest muscle in your upper body and sit on either side of your back. They’re a large and flat muscle that runs from the base of the spine to approximately 2/3rd of the way up. Its origin is up and down the spine and is inserted in the humerus. The lats are responsible for multiple shoulder movements, including::
The trapezius are two large trapezoid-shaped muscles that sit on the upper back. That being said, while most people think of only the upper traps that sit on the upper of the back behind the neck, the traps are much larger than people think. The traps start at the base of the neck and then run down to about mid-way down the back. Further, they branch out to the sides and attach to the scapula.
Altogether, there are 3 main parts:
The rhomboids are a set of smaller muscles shaped like rhomboids that attach the scapula to the spine. Technically, there are two sets:
Together, these muscles are very important scapular stabilization muscles and perform the following functions.
The posterior deltoids are one of three shoulder muscles known as the deltoids. The posterior delts sit on the posterior side of the shoulders and play a major role in drawing the shoulder back.
The erector spinae is a large set of muscles that sit on either side of the spine. While most people think of the erector spinae as just the “lower back,” this muscle actually runs down the entirety of the spine. There are actually three different parts of the erector spinae that start together at the base of the spine but then branch out as they travel up, almost like 6 big roots (3 per side) branching out to aid in the stabilization of the spine. These 3 muscle groups are the:
The primary function of these muscles is flexion, extension, and stabilization of the spine.
As seen, the back is full of quite a few different muscles that are basically responsible for all pulling movements. That being said, there are a few movement patterns you want to include in your training to hit every muscle appropriately, as well as train the back the way it’s supposed to work.
Training the back properly will bring a ton of awesome benefits. Here are the top reasons to follow one of the back workout programs.
One of the worst mistakes you can make when training is to put all the emphasis on the chest while ignoring the back. This will be a disservice for multiple reasons.
Quite simply, you CAN NOT look big if you don’t give your back enough attention. As we said, we believe you should actually give your back more attention when compared to your chest.
When comparing the anterior muscles to posterior muscles, weak posterior muscles are responsible for a much higher percentage of injuries and ailments in people. A list of these can include:
Heck, even shoulder pain and elbow pain can be caused by weak scapular muscles. For example, a major cause of tennis elbow is weak traps as they aren’t able to provide a stable scapula for the shoulder to function from. As a result, the elbow must compensate and receive too much stress.
Training the back is relatively easy. Basically, any pulling movement is going to hit the back muscles. Even though there are some smaller back muscles like the rhomboids, there aren’t any rhomboid-specific exercises as anything that causes scapular retraction will train them. That being said, even though there are a bunch of muscles in the back, it’s not really too hard to train them. You just need to be sure to hit the main movement patterns listed above and be done with it.
Now that you know some basics of why training the back are important and what it should involve, here are your workout plans. Be aware that these are going to include two sessions as training muscle groups twice a week has been shown to be optimal for strength and hypertrophy.
This back training workout plan is designed for those purely interested in getting stronger. Therefore, strength is the main goal which means emphasis is on big movements with heavier loads. That being said, you will do some isolation/smaller movements which are primarily to strengthen joints and improve shoulder stability.
|Deadlift||4 sets||4 reps|
|Bent Over Row||4 sets||6 reps|
|Chin Up||3 sets||8 reps|
|Single Arm Dumbbell Row||3 sets||8 reps each arm|
|Circuit w/Cable Rope Attachment x 3 sets:|
|Face Pull x 10-12 reps|
|Rope Upright Row x 10-12 reps|
|Hammer Curl x 10-12 reps|
|Rack Pull (at knees)||4 sets||4 reps|
|Chin Up||4 sets||6 reps|
|T-Bar Row||4 sets||8 reps|
|Kroc Row||2 sets||15+ reps|
|Front Barbell Shrug||4 sets||4 reps|
|Circuit w/Cable Straight Bar Attachment x 3 sets:|
|Straight Arm Lat Pulldown x 10-12 reps|
|Bicep Curl x 10-12 reps|
|Back Extension (on hyperextension bench, not cable machine) x 10-12 reps|
For progressive overload, you’re primarily going to rely on simply adding weight to the bar for 4 weeks. On the 5th week, you’ll perform a deload week where you will just use the same rep scheme but drop the load by 50%.
In the 6th week for the deadlift and rack pull, you will work up to a heavy single and perform 3 singles. You want to work up to what feels like a 95%1RM or a weight you can get twice. Then in the 7th week,, you will return to the weight you used in the 4th week and continue.
For the other movements, in the 6th week you will take about 10% of the load you used in the 4th week and continue.
For the circuit, don’t stress too much. Simply add weight and work up to RPE8-9.
This back training workout plan is for those purely interested in building mass. This means that it will include a lot more smaller exercises with moderate weight and moderate reps. However, there will still be a bit of strength oriented movements.
|Deadlift||3 sets||5 reps|
|Chin Up||4 sets||6 reps|
|T-Bar Row (Neutral & Wide - 2 sets each)||4 sets||8-12 reps|
|Lat Pulldown||3 sets||8-12 reps|
|Reverse Cable Fly||2 sets||12+ reps|
|Straight Arm Lat Pulldown||2 sets||12+ reps|
|Back Extension on Hyperextension Bench||3 sets||12+ reps|
|Rack Pull||4 sets||4 reps|
|Pull Up||3 sets||8 reps|
|Seated Cable Back Row||3 sets||8-12 reps|
|Lat Pulldown (Close Neutral Grip)||3 sets||8-12 reps|
|Helms Row||3 sets||8-12 reps|
|Reverse Cable Fly||2 sets||12+ reps|
|Back Extension||3 sets||12+ reps|
For progresive overload, you’ll follow two methods. For the set rep scheme, you’ll add weight to the bar (or increase the load on chin-up/pull-up). Every 5th week, take a deload week and decrease the weight
For the Deadlift and Rack Pull, you will take a deload every 5th week and decrease the load by 50%. Then in the 6th week, you will take about 10% off from what you did in the 4th week and begin the process again.
This program is for ya’ll you want a good mix of strength training and hypertrophy training.
|Deadlift||4 sets||4 reps|
|Bent Over Row||3 sets||5 reps|
|Kroc Row||2 sets||15+ reps|
|Lat Pulldown||3 sets||10-12 reps|
|Barbell Front Shrug||3 sets||5 reps|
|Face Pull||3 sets||12+ reps|
|Reverse Cable Fly||3 sets||12+ reps|
|Rack Pull||4 sets||4 reps|
|Chin Up||3 sets||5 reps|
|Pendlay Row||3 sets||6 reps|
|Helms Row||3 sets||8-10 reps|
|Reverse Cable Fly||3 sets||10-12 reps|
|Back Extension||3 sets||10-12 reps|
|Straight Arm Lat Pulldown||3 sets||12+ reps|
For progressive overload, you’ll follow two methods. For the set rep scheme, you’ll add weight to the bar (or increase the load on chin-up/pull-up). For the movements with the rep range, you’ll increase reps until you are able to increase the laid and still hit the lower end of the rep range.
For the set rep scheme (other than chin-up), you will take a deload every 5th week and decrease the load by 50%. Then in the 6th week, you will take about 10% off from what you did in the 4th week and begin the process again.
If you don’t like training with a barbell, this back workout is for you. In this calisthenic back workout plan, you’ll see how to make the most of the limited movements possible to train the back with calisthenics. Further, we’re going to also assume you have access to some basic bars. That being said, the key to progressing with a calisthenics program is to increase the difficulty of the exercise. That being said, there will only be one session that you will repeat twice a week.
|Chin Ups (or Pull Ups)||5 sets||7-8 RPE|
|Australian Rows||5 sets||7-8 RPE|
|Face Pulls||3 sets||7-8 RPE|
|Push-Back Push Up||3 sets||9 RPE|
|Bent Over I-Y-T||3 sets||9 RPE|
For progressive overload, you will need to gradually increase the difficulty of the movements. Below is a list for some of the exercises you can do to increase the intensity.
Chin-ups/Pull-Ups: You will gradually want to transfer the load to one arm over time. You can do this by:
This plan is for those who might be stuck at home who only have a pair of dumbbells to use. Therefore, it will only include dumbbell back exercises. That being said, anyone can use this plan if they want to include a different stimulus for a cycle but we would advise to add chin-ups if possible.
Due to the lack of possible exercises, there will just be one session but we advise to run it twice a week.
Further, because this is written for those at home with a limited amount of dumbbells, there won’t be exact rep schemes. Instead, you’ll just use RPE.
|Bent Over Dumbbell Row (Overhand Grip)||3 sets||7-8 RPE|
|Straight Leg Deadlift||3 sets||7-8 RPE|
|Single Dumbbell Row (Neutral Grip)||3 sets||7-8 RPE|
|Dumbbell Pullover||3 sets||7-8 RPE|
|Reverse Dumbbell Fly||3 sets||7-8 RPE|
|Dumbbell Shrug||3 sets||7-8 RPE|
|Bent Over High Row||3 sets||7-8 RPE|
Notes: For the bent over high row, just bend over slightly when you perform these.
Assuming you don’t have a ton of dumbbells to choose from, you aren’t really able to increase the load. Therefore, you basically have two choices:
If you do have a few different size dumbbells, we suggest you try to use bigger ones as you get stronger. Other than that, you’re only only going to be able to do so much if you are going to be in this position for a while. Therefore we strongly suggest you try to buy a bigger set of dumbbells or invest in a multi-weight dumbbell.
5 awesome back workout plans for any situation. As you work through one plan, feel free to look through the others to give you ideas on how you can alter your current plan to add variability as time goes on. At the end of the day, variability and continuing to implement progressive overload is the key to long-term success. Swapping exercises and swapping rep schemes is the best way to keep moving forward. That being said, any of these plans are guaranteed to kickstart your growth and add mass and strength to your back.
May 24, 2022
Is there anything more rewarding and aesthetically-pleasing than achieving quadricep separation? It’s the ultimate gym-goer’s goal to look down and see the chiseled lines of each quadriceps muscle. While not an impossible task, it does take some serious work and the right quadricep moves. And that is where we come in! We’ve compiled the 13 best quad exercises to help you make massive gains.
In addition to highlighting the best moves for ultra-defined quads, this article will also cover the following:
Read on: Quad separation may soon be yours.
The quadriceps family contains four muscles in the front of the thigh: vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris.
Strong quadriceps are essential for:
You can target the quadriceps, but total isolation isn’t possible - or quite frankly, necessary. With lower body movements, the glutes and hamstrings are still somewhat activated. But the exercises in this article place most of the work on the quadriceps, making the front thigh muscles the primary movers. Emphasizing them in this way will make them bigger and stronger.
The best quadriceps exercises are the ones that enable you to position your body in a way that emphasizes the front thigh muscles, such as squats, lunges, leg press machines, and step-ups. Simply adjusting your foot and leg positioning emphasizes the quads. For example, moving your legs higher up on a leg press machine's footplate emphasizes your glutes. Lower the feet toward the bottom of the plate, and your quads will do the brunt of the work. Apply the same strategy to lunges and squats: Lean forward slightly to keep the work out of the hamstrings and on the quads.
There are several key variables to keep in mind when targeting the quadriceps, including load position, body position, stability levels, and equipment options.
Here are the all-time best exercises to build big, strong quads.
This move emphasizes 3 of the four quadriceps muscles, the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. This how-to explains how to do a high bar back squat, but another option is the low bar back squat. In the low-bar squat, the bar lies across the shoulder blades. While research has found minimal differences between quad activity in the two bar positions, a study did find the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis were activated more in the eccentric part of the low-bar squat1. Switching the bar position up is a great way to get the rectus femoris more involved with this exercise.
Rep range: 3-5 sets of 8 to 12 reps per set
The front squats form is similar to the back squats but with one main difference. The bar is in front of the chest rather than behind the neck. The bar adjustment further emphasizes the quadricep muscles, of which all four are activated. Research comparing the back and front squats found that the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis are more activated when holding the bar in front2.
Rep range: 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps per set
The hack squat is a machine exercise great for beginner lifters, those looking to target the quads, and those with back issues. The machine helps to stabilize the back during movement. While this exercise activates all of the quad muscles, the vastus medialis works particularly hard. Hello, teardrop definition.
Rep range: 3 sets of 10-12 reps per set
If you don't have access to a hack squat machine, here are some good alternatives to the hack squat that work the same muscles.
You can use bodyweight, dumbbells, or a barbell for this movement. There are different ways to place your body in this exercise to target different lower body muscles. To emphasize the quadriceps, keep the torso and shin upright in the movement or keep the torso upright and the shin forward.
Rep range: 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps on each leg
The Bulgarian split squat uses the same form as the split squat, except you'll elevate the back foot. This change is a great progression from the split squat as it puts your balance and stability to the test. You can use your body weight, one or two dumbbells, or a barbell. The vastus medialis and rectus femoris activity are very high in this movement, with moderate activation from the vastus lateralis3.
Reps: 3 sets of 8-12 reps per leg
The rectus femoris is the primary quadricep mover of the forward lunge; however, research shows that the vastus laterals and vastus medialis also put in significant work4.
Reps: 3 sets of 8-12 reps per side
Have knee pain? Check out these lunge alternatives for bad knees.
Warning: This quad-isolating exercise’s name is extremely misleading. The sissy squat does an exceptional job hitting every quad muscle and can target the rectus femoris, something not all lower-body movements can do. Unless you’re an advanced lifter familiar with the sissy squat, you don't need to add weights. Just your body weight will be more than enough.
Reps: 3 sets of 6 reps each
A narrow stance on the leg press will put the outer thighs to work, meaning the vastus lateralis is highly activated. By altering your foot positioning, you can emphasize certain muscles of the lower body. Keeping your feet shoulder-width apart will target the entire lower body, while a wide stance will hit the inner thighs. High foot placement targets the glutes and hamstrings, and lowering the feet will target the entire quad group.
Reps: 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps
This version of the leg press also does a great job targeting the outer thigh, meaning your vastus lateralis will be strongly activated. Use this quad exercise to observe whether muscle imbalances exist between the two legs.
Reps: 2-3 reps of 8-12 sets per leg
Leg extensions can do no wrong. It develops the rectus femoris and the vastus intermedius and manages to hit the other two vastus leg muscles.
You can also do these unilaterally. Working your left leg first, then your right leg.
Reps: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
No leg extension machine? Here are the best leg extension alternatives.
If you need a slightly easier variation of this exercise, ditch the dumbbell and use your body weight. If you want to make it harder, only use one dumbbell, placing it in your hand opposite the leg doing the work. All of the quadriceps muscles are activated in this movement, but research shows this exercise emphasizes the vastus lateralis the most5.
Reps: 3 sets of 8-12 reps on each leg
The goblet squat is your go-to if you’re struggling with squat form, bad posture, or inflexibility. Because you hold the weight in front, the hips open more than in other squats to enable you to lower between the legs. No quad muscle will go ignored with this move, but the vastus medialis gets the most attention.
Reps: 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps
If this exercise is new to you, start with a shorter box, working your way up to a taller one as you perfect the move. Due to the high energy required for this exercise, place it at the beginning of your routine when your legs are nice and fresh. Every quad muscle must work to make this plyo move possible, with a special emphasis on the rectus femoris.
Reps: 3-4 sets of 5 jumps
Research advocates for most lifters to train each muscle group twice a week for optimal strength and muscle gains6-7. The ideal setup following this format is two upper-body days and two lower-body days. If your goal is quadriceps growth, both lower-body days should incorporate quad exercises. Aim for 10 sets of quadricep exercises weekly, and don’t train them on back-to-back days. Split it up, hitting the quads once earlier in the week and toward the end of the week.
Following these quad exercises will set you on a path for thick, muscular quads. Here are a few parting tips that will further assist in your strength training goals.
If you need more volume in your quad training, use these dumbbell quad exercises for even greater quad growth.
More Leg Exercise Content:
May 23, 2022
You need these barbell shoulder exercises as the shoulders can seriously make or break a man’s physique. Having a set of boulders sitting on the top of your arms can have a massive impact on that yoked look so many guys are looking for. In fact, one of the first features of an attractive man are broad shoulders. However, the same goes the other way. A guy with no shoulders can look significantly less dominant than he is if he had some developed shoulders.
That being said, many guys actually fail to create any resemblance of strong shoulders let alone a set of boulder shoulders. One of the reasons is that too many guys only focus on little isolation movements with dumbbells or cable machines. Those can definitely add some pop but to really create a set of huge shoulders, you need to use the barbell.
This article will go over all you need to know about how to use the barbell to blow up your shoulders.
The shoulder muscles are actually known as the deltoids which are a very important set of three different muscle heads that sit on top of the arm. These three shoulder muscle heads are vital as they are responsible for manipulating the arm to push, pull, move in circles, lift up….literally everything. Shoulders have this ability to maneuver in so many directions because the shoulder joint is what’s known as a ball-in-socket.
Basically, the top of the humerus (arm bone) is shaped like a ball which sits inside of a socket formed by the scapula. What this does is allows the humerus to rotate freely in just about any direction. In order to move in so many directions, it requires the three muscle heads spoken about above. These three heads are known as:
Together, the three heads can also contract together to help lift an object overhead as well as provide general stability. Think about a new tree planted and the gardener will put up rope in all directions to keep it stable. This is the same idea except your muscles stabilize your arm, not a tree.
As mentioned, most people tend to think of dumbbells or isolation exercises for “best shoulder exercises”. While there certainly are great dumbbell shoulder exercises, if you're not using the barbell to forge your delts, they’ll probably never see their true potential. Here are the best reasons to use the barbell to train the shoulders.
1) You Can Use A Heavy Load For Strength Training:
The first main benefit is that you’re able to use a bigger load with the barbell when compared with any other implement. This makes it vital if you're wanting to build strong shoulders. As mentioned above, even if you’re only concerned with bodybuilding, you still need strong shoulders to build more volume and protect your joints from injury.
2) Build Foundational Strength:
The barbell is the most important piece of equipment in the gym to build foundational strength. Dumbbells and cable machines are great but use of those should always come after your barbell training. Using the barbell will build the foundation you need in the shoulders for a lifetime of lifting.
3) Hit All Of Delts (And More):
The barbell is going to not only stimulate every single deltoid, you’ll also train your upper back, core, and upper back (specifically the traps). Due to the bigger load and stabilization needed, every muscle will get hit. Plus, there are even exercises to specifically target the delts individually.
Here are the 9 best barbell exercises you need to include in your shoulder training.
First up on the list is the push press. The push press is the only power movement on this list and while some may argue that power exercises aren’t the best for building muscle mass, due to limited mechanical tension as the laid is moving quickly due to momentum.
While there’s some truth to this, with the push press, you still must catch the weight above your head and hold it in an isometric hold. This not only requires your deltoids to carry this load, you must also stabilize it as well. Still, unless you’re dropping the bar to the ground (which we really hope your not unless you're working in a professional environment), you must still perform the eccentric portion as well.
Either way, the push press will definitely improve the strength of your deltoids while also acclimating them to a heavier load. In theory, this can make a lighter weight feel lighter than normal and allow more reps.
The military press is the king of exercises for pure shoulder strength. It’s one of the primary barbell movements to develop raw strength. Unlike the push press, the military press is done with strict body control which means no bouncing or movement from the body. This means that you purely rely on your delts and triceps to move the weight.
That being said, the military press is notoriously hard so too many guys choose not to do it. Guess what. Those guys probably have small shoulders. Together with the push press, the military press lays the foundation for your shoulder musculature. Further, it’s perhaps the best exercise to increase shoulder strength which plays an intricate role in creating muscle mass
That being said, you’re going to want to do the seated variation for even bigger gains. That’s because the vast majority of people are able to press more weight during that seated variation due to being more stable. While we also love the standing variation, you’re already doing the push press and overhead carry for added stability training so you might as well and take a seat on for this one and press more weight.
Isn’t the barbell bench press a chest exercise? Meh. It is but it’s also an amazing exercise for the triceps as well as the deltoids, specifically the anterior deltoids. In fact, you won’t find a guy with a big bench press and small anterior delts (or triceps). As you’re likely already performing the barbell bench press, next time, try to think about your shoulders and use a mind-muscle connection to train the delts.
The incline barbell bench press is yet another great “chest” exercise that’s going to train the shoulders as well. In fact, when we look at the bench press, incline bench press, and military press; we see that they are actually similar movements ranging from completely flat to vertical. It’s performed exactly like the flat bench barbell press except you sit on an angled bench. Also, the barbell will be brought down further up on the chest by a couple inches.
The Z-Press is the most challenging shoulder exercise you haven’t tried before. Predominantly seen in the strength community, the Z-press is basically a military press but sitting down. On the ground. The Z-press is performed by sitting on the floor with your legs out in front of you. What this does is require excessive mobility in the posterior and thoracic spine as well as the shoulder structure. Other than that, the movement is performed the exact same way as a normal overhead press.
The overhead carry with the barbell is an awesome exercise to train the shoulders isometrically. It differs from holding the barbell overhead after a military press or push press overhead as you are going to hold the load locked out overhead for a longer period of time. This is an absolutely brutal movement that will apply a stimulus to your shoulders that you can’t get anywhere else.
The easiest way to perform the overhead carry is to set up a barbell on a rack. Next, just perform an overhead press until your arms are fully locked out. From there, keep your arms locked out and walk for the prescribed distance.
Be aware that you’ll need some room to perform this exercise.
The upright row has gotten a lot of flack for being “bad for the shoulders”. This is generally thrown around blatantly by those who don’t read any context. The upright row is perfectly safe as long as you follow two rules.
That’s it. Follow these two guidelines and you're going to be fine with the upright row.
More importantly, the upright row is the only compound movement that targets the middle deltoids so if you want the “pop”, you need to do this.
Have shoulder pain when doing upright rows? Here's the fix.
The landmine press is one of the most underused exercises for shoulders. It works on a pivot making it a great choice for anyone dealing with any type of shoulder issues as you press out in front of you at an angle rather than above your head. We specifically like to use the landmine for hypertrophy work with higher reps.
The landmine press is incredibly easy to perform. All you need to do is set up a landmine and load the barbell. Kneel down at the end of the barbell and pick it up. Bring the load to your chest and then press away by extending your arms.
You can also perform single arm presses by bringing the barbell to whatever hand you’re holding it with. From there, just press away.
The face pull is perhaps one of the more common exercises performed for the posterior delts and upper back. Performing the face pull is an awesome way to help strengthen the entire scapula musculature as well as the delts. Plus, it’s a great way to improve shoulder mobility. That being said, most people perform this movement using a rope attachment on the pulley system. What many people don’t know is that you can easily perform a variation with the barbell.
To perform the face pull with a barbell, you’ll take a wider grip with your arms slightly wider than shoulder width apart with an overhand grip. You then bend over as in a bent over row and pull the bar up towards your face. Concentrate on trying to keep your elbows high. Start light with this exercise until you develop good technique.
In order to really elicit noticeable change in the delts, you’ll want to include some shoulder specific training twice a week. This has been shown to be the ideal training frequency for optimal strength and muscle growth. At the same time, you’ll want to train the entire rep range for both strength and muscle hypertrophy.
For strength, use loads of 85-95%1RM with a rep range of 2-5. Below are some exercises that are ideal for strength training.
(You can also use these for hypertrophy work as well)
For hypertrophy, use lighter loads of 80-70% with a rep scheme of 8-12+. Below are some of the best exercises for hypertrophy work.
The Z-Press is a bit different as it’s a blend of strength and hypertrophy training but its real purpose is more to build stability in the shoulder joint. That being said, use lighter loads similar to the hypertrophy work.
For the Overhead Carry, your best option is to use either distance instead of rep range. For example, walk 3 X 10m one week. Then the next week, increase the load.
For all of these, all you need to do is apply progressive overload and add weight or reps every week. If you do that, all you need to do is sit back and let physiology take over.
Never worry about having puny shoulders again. These barbell shoulder exercises are going to create the mass and strength you need to look like you actually lift. That being said, in order to optimize your shoulder training, you should still add in a few isolation exercises. Our favorites are:
Add those on top of the above barbell shoulder exercises and you’ll reach your perfect physique soon enough.
May 22, 2022
When it comes to making gains in the gym, there are many misconceptions about what it takes to build muscle. These myths include needing a gym membership, using machines to gain strength, and splitting strength training into specific body parts, like a “back and bi” day and “chest and tris.” The good news? None of these are necessary. You can build muscle at home or at the gym, with only dumbbells, hitting the entire upper body in the same workout.
This upper body workout using dumbbells focuses on compound movements, so you get the most bang for your workout buck, and it’s great for a wide range of lifters, whether male, female, just beginning, or at an intermediate experience level.
In this article, you’ll learn about:
You do not need an at gym routine to sufficiently work your muscles. Dumbbells and the right exercises are all you need to see some serious upper body muscle gains.
The upper body includes several muscle groups: the chest, back, shoulders, and arms. The core isn’t technically part of the upper body, but it's important to strengthen it 2-3 times a week. Many of the moves in this routine require core stabilization, so your abdominals are getting a workout in - no sit-ups required.
Here’s a look at the muscles targeted in this upper body workout using dumbbells.
You can build muscle with just dumbbells whether you're at home or in the gym. Although it takes hard work, the concept of increasing muscle mass is pretty simple. You need to fatigue the muscles to the point that micro-tears develop in the muscle fiber. The next important step in the process is rest when the fibers repair. As mini tears repair, the body rebuilds the muscle tissues back bigger and stronger than before. You do not need machines or fancy equipment to fatigue your muscles. Remember that muscles are dumb. They don’t know (or care) whether you use machines or free weights. They need to be fatigued.
Some of the benefits of using dumbbells include:
A bonus: Unless you’re going to build a gym at home, machine-based workouts require you to be at the gym, whereas dumbbells enable you to work out pretty much anywhere.
This upper body workout using dumbbells is for beginners and intermediate lifters alike. Beginners should start with less weight, while more experienced lifters should use heavy weights that enable them to complete the recommended reps and sets, but just barely. These upper body exercises with dumbbells routine are for both men and women and ideal for those wanting to gain muscle at home. This routine emphasizes compound exercises, meaning every movement hits multiple muscles simultaneously.
The benefit to this is that the eight exercises in this free weight upper body workout target all of the major muscle groups multiple times, ensuring you avoid spending hours in the gym trying to hit the whole upper body. You can also personalize this routine to fit your goals. Build muscle mass using heavy weights and sticking to the 8-12 rep range. Build muscle endurance and lean out using slightly lighter weights and higher rep ranges, between 15 and 20, with less rest in between sets.
Before jumping into your workout, take 5-10 minutes to perform a few dynamic bodyweight warm-up exercises. It will warm up your muscles, increase body temperature, improve blood flow, and loosen up the joints before working the upper body.
The dumbbell farmer walk will target the upper back, the rotator cuff, deltoids, triceps and biceps, and forearms. It’s also working the core and many of the lower body muscles. It's really a great exercise for the entire body. If you want total body strength and a formidable grip, this dumbbell exercise is it.
This upper body exercise works all major back muscles, the latissimus dorsi, traps, rhomboid, and rear shoulders. It also engages the posterior deltoid, biceps, and pectoralis muscles. No bench? No problem! Find something at your house sturdy enough to brace yourself on, such as a kitchen chair.
The pectoral muscles, triceps, and anterior deltoids are hit hard in the dumbbell bench press, and the movement engages the rhomboids and lats to keep the back tight throughout the movement. If there is no bench around, you can also do this movement lying on the floor. You can also switch it up by sometimes performing this movement with an inclined bench, which emphasizes the upper pecs even more.
The main muscles in this movement are the biceps, deltoids, and triceps. The press and curl also activates the pectoral muscles, traps, and forearm muscles. This exercise is excellent for the shoulders as it hits all three parts of the deltoid muscle - crucial for achieving round, defined shoulders.
The dumbbell chest fly targets the sternal muscle fibers, and growth in this area contributes to creating a defined chest. It’s also going to strengthen the muscles in the front of the deltoids, as well as the biceps. Secondarily, you'll hit the triceps and forearm muscles. One more note: If possible, it’s always a good idea to lift with a spotter, who can hand you your dumbbells once you are on the bench and set up for the move.
The primary muscles worked in the pullover are the lats, pecs, and serratus anterior. The posterior deltoids, triceps, and biceps will also all be activated.
This upper body exercise is great for building some boulder shoulders. It'll also hit the traps. If you want to add some width to your shoulders and create that 3D look, this exercise is it.
Your back muscles will love this exercise, but this full-body move also activates several other upper body muscles, including the front of the shoulder, the biceps and triceps, and forearms. Your core will also get a great workout. If you’re a beginner, start with very light dumbbells as you get used to the movement. Complete 1-2 rounds of this exercise at the end of your routine, continuing to failure.
There are so many options when it comes to working out with dumbbells. Sticking to the same movements each week is effective because it enables you to track your weights, sets, and reps for the exercise, ensuring you continue improving - whether adding one more rep or increasing the weight used. Sometimes, though, adding variation is a nice break in your routine.
Here are a few options that you can substitute into your upper body plan.
Make sure to properly cool down with a few exercises and stretches after finishing your upper body workout.
Using all of the exercises we went over above, here is a great dumbbell workout for upper body strength, endurance, and muscle hypertrophy (building muscle).
Walk for 30-60 sec
One-Arm Dumbbell Row
Dumbbell Bench Press
Arnold Curl and Press
Dumbbell Chest Fly
Bent-Arm Dumbbell Pullover
Single Dumbbell Shoulder Raise
Perform this upper body dumbbell routine twice a week for optimal muscle-building results. Research on the frequency of strength training muscles shows that training each muscle group twice a week is best for strength and muscle gains4-5.
For best results, aim for 10 sets per muscle group weekly, and thanks to compound exercises, this routine will get you there. Avoid performing these dumbbell exercises for the upper body on back-to-back days. Ideally, if you have an upper-body day on Monday, follow it with a lower-body day on Tuesday, rest on Wednesday, and prepare to hit the upper body again on Thursday. You can vary this schedule, but make sure there are a few days in between your upper body days, so your muscles have time to recover.
Building muscle and leaning out are two different gym goals requiring separate dietary plans.
If you’re hoping to lean out:
If you’re hoping to build muscle:
Set yourself up for muscle building success with a few last-minute tips:
Want more upper body workout routines? Here are 5 upper body workouts for strength and hypertrophy!
More Dumbbell Exercise Resources:
May 20, 2022
Every gym-goer knows that no strength training routine is complete without glute-targeting exercises, as this powerhouse muscle group is crucial to almost all major lower-body movements. However, after putting them to work in the gym, making time for glute stretches is just as important.
The glute family is prone to becoming tight and underactive, which quickly wreaks havoc on nearby muscle groups, including the hip flexors and lower back. Not only do tight glutes, hip flexors, and lower back muscles make it hard to complete your deadlift and squat reps, but that tightness and pain will also occur in everyday movements, like taking the stairs or even standing up from a seated position.
Adding glute stretches to your leg day routines ensures they are warm before exercising and optimally lengthened after your weight lifting session. Using these glutes stretches throughout the day will also counter the effects of sitting for long durations (thanks, desk job).
In this article, we will discuss:
After reading this, you’ll never skip a glute stretching session again.
The gluteus maximus, medius, minimus, and piriformis make up the glute group and provide movement and stabilization at the hip joint, enabling you to perform essential daily activities. They are also crucial for running and weight lifting moves, such as deadlifts, squats, and side leg raises. Each glute muscle plays an integral role in hip movement; however, their functions vary.
Not only is the gluteus maximus the largest and heaviest muscle in the body, accounting for 16% of the total cross-sectional area, but due to its size, it can generate a large amount of force. Located at the back aspect of the hip joint, it is the most superficial of the gluteal muscles.
The gluteus medius is a middle-sized, fan-shaped gluteal muscle located between the gluteus minimus and maximus and originates on the hip bone. It's normally what people refer to as the side/upper glutes.
The smallest and deepest muscle of the glute family, the triangular-shaped gluteus minimus is responsible for stabilizing the hips during activities such as walking, running, or balancing.
The piriformis is a flflat and pyramidal-shaped muscle lies deep to the gluteus maximus muscle. It is also a member of the external hip rotator family.
Because the glutes are such a large muscle group and integral to most lower body movements, they are susceptible to tightness, which can lead to a host of other problems, including:
So, what causes glute tightness? Gluteal inactivity, such as sitting at work all day, can lead to the glutes becoming weak, atrophied, and tight. The glutes then rely more heavily on other lower body muscles, such as the hamstrings, adductors, hip flexors, and low back muscles, and the increased demands placed on these muscles lead to pain and injury1. In addition, bad posture, tight hip flexors, not properly warming up or stretching during workouts, muscle imbalances, poor exercise form, and a tough workout session can all contribute to tight glutes.
The bad news is that when your glutes are tight, it can lead to a long list of issues with surrounding muscles. The good news is that it makes it easy to determine if you need to start a regimen of glute stretches ASAP.
Your glutes are likely tight, if:
Glute stretches may even help speed up your recovery and reduce soreness after a hard workout.
Here are the best glute stretches for before and after your workouts. We will provide info on how to perform the stretch dynamically (before workouts) and statically (after workouts or on off days).
This stretch loosens the entire glute group but does a great job of focusing on the gluteus maximus.
Static: Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch sides. Repeat 2-3 times.
Dynamic: Alternate between extending and bending the leg. Bend the knee, hugging it to the chest for 5-10 seconds, and then straighten. Continue for 30 seconds; switch sides.
Only continue forward for as far as you can comfortably go for this gluteus maximus-targeting stretch. If you can't reach the floor, don’t push it. It’s something to work toward.
Static: Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch sides. Repeat 2-3 times.
Dynamic: Alternate between sitting up and gently folding over the crossed leg, holding this position for 5 seconds. Continue sitting up and leaning forward for 30 seconds before switching to the other side.
This stretch hits all three gluteus muscles and is going to help release tension in your lower back.
Static: Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds. Rest for 5-10 seconds, and then repeat 2 more times.
Dynamic: Hug the knees to the chest for 5 seconds. Lower them back to the ground, and then back toward the chest again. Repeat this movement 10-15 times.
This stretch targets the entire glute family. This move gets bonus points for also targeting the hip flexors, which will lead to better flexibility and range of motion.
Static: Hold for 20-30 seconds before repeating on the other side; repeat 2-3 times.
Dynamic: Alternate between hugging the knee for 5-10 seconds and briefly relaxing it. Continue for 30 seconds; switch sides.
You can modify the positioning by angling the outside of the shin on your bent leg backward and positioning the foot on the bent leg closer to the opposite hip. The stretch targets the gluteus medius, minimus, and piriformis.
Static: Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and then switch legs; repeat 2-3 times.
Dynamic: Lower the trunk to the ground, and then push through the palms to raise the trunk up. Repeat the alternating movements 10-15 times; switch sides.
This muscle will stretch the entire glute family, including the piriformis. As your flexibility increases, you can bring the ankle of the bent leg closer toward the head for an even deeper stretch.
Static: Hold for 20-30 seconds, performing 2-3 times on each side.
Dynamic: Outwardly rotate the bent leg, pulling the knee and ankle toward the chest. Hold for 5 seconds before loosening the grip and internally rotating the bent leg back to its anatomical position. Continue for 30 seconds; switch sides.
When tight, the piriformis can turn your inner thighs more toward the front of the body. This stretch targets the piriformis to help avoid this unwelcome posture change.
Static: Hold for 20-30 seconds; complete 2-3 times on each side.
Dynamic: Move the bent knee across the body, using the opposite hand to pull the knee toward the opposite shoulder. Hold for 5 seconds, before moving the leg back to its anatomical alignment. Keep the knee bent. Immediately bring it back across the body. Continue this movement for 30 seconds before switching sides.
Targeting the glute muscles and the outside of the hips is a particularly great stretch for the gluteus medius.
Static: Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds, and then repeat on the opposite leg; complete 2-3 sets.
Dynamic: Pull the left leg toward the chest, and hold for 5 seconds. Lower the left foot to the ground, keeping the knee bent. Once the foot touches the floor, grasp the back of the left leg, again pulling it toward the chest. Repeat for 30 seconds; switch sides.
Primarily targeting the gluteus medius and piriformis, this stretch opens the hips and prevents or alleviates hip and low back pain.
Static: Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat on the other side; perform 2-3 times.
Dynamic: Start by standing, shifting the weight to your left leg. Outwardly rotate the right hip and knee, and bring the right foot over the left thigh. Sink into the partial squat, holding for 5 seconds. Stand back up, maintaining balance; keep the leg bent and knee outwardly rotated. Return to the partial squat. Continue the movement for 30 seconds before switching sides.
This move primarily targets the hip flexors, the psoas, and the iliacus, which tend to become short and tight, particularly if you’re struggling with tight glute muscles. To deepen this stretch, contract the glutes while holding.
Static: Hold the position for 30-45 seconds, repeating it 2-3 times. Complete the repetitions on one side before moving to the other side.
Dynamic: Slowly move in and out of the stretch position by leaning forward into the right hip for 5 seconds, and then moving back to the starting position, with the left knee under the left hip and the right foot in front of the right hip. It should look like a slow rocking motion. Repeat 30-45 seconds and then switch to the other side.
This move targets the gluteus medius, minimus, and tensor fasciae latae, although the piriformis and superior gluteus maximus fibers will also get a mild stretch.
Static: Hold the abducted leg for five seconds, before repeating the movement 10-15 times. Switch sides and repeat.
Dynamic: Making sure to keep your movement controlled, you can pick up the pace of this stretch by raising the leg to the side and bringing it back to the midline without holding at the top of the stretch. Raise your leg a little bit further each time.
Referred to as Malasana or garland pose in yoga, it is an excellent stretch for the hips and groin. While it works to loosen your hip flexors, it also strengthens the glute muscles.
Static: Hold for 20-30 seconds, repeating 2-3 times.
Dynamic: Hold the stretch for 5 seconds, and then stand. Squat again, holding for another 5 seconds. Continue for 30 seconds
Sometimes the tension in the glute muscles turns into knots and trigger points that are hard to stretch. The piriformis and gluteus medius are the most prone to developing myofascial pain. Glute myofascial release relaxes the muscles, releasing painful knots and trigger points. You don’t need a foam roller for these exercises, either. A massage ball, or even a tennis ball, can be used to replicate the same movements and reach the deep gluteal muscles.
To target the gluteus medius, rotate so the foam roller hits the side and upper part of the glutes. Work the form roller from the hip joint to the top of the pelvis. To hit the gluteus minimus, slowly lean your weight forward and backward as you foam roll. This subtle movement enables you to work deeper into the gluteus medius and minimus.
Glute stretches should be done a minimum of 2 to 3 times a week. Hold each stretch for at least 15 seconds, up to 1 minute, and repeat 2 to 4 times6. Stretch on days when you perform lower-body exercises. Dynamic stretches warm up the glutes and activate them for exercise, while static stretching after a workout alleviates tension and reduces inflammation. Static stretching is also great to incorporate throughout the day, particularly if you have a job that requires a lot of sitting. This strategy keeps the glutes activated and prevents them from tightening throughout your workday.
Who doesn’t love lower body gym days? It’s hard to beat the feeling of pushing your glutes to the max, but just be sure to counter that by spending time on glute stretches before and after strength training. Otherwise, it may lead to tight glutes and hip flexors, causing pain, tightness, and dysfunctions.
And since many of these stretches improve your range of motion and flexibility, you’ll likely also see more gains during lower body workouts. You’ll be able to squat deeper, comfortably abduct further, and perform step-ups with more ease. To further improve your performance, add some glute activation warm-up exercises to your routine.
More stretching content:
May 19, 2022
Nobody really likes lunges, but we know our legs need them. Training your legs bilaterally all the time, with exercises like squats and deadlifts, can lead to strength imbalances between sides. Not only that but your training will likely become stale. This is where lunges come into play.
Adding lunges into your routine will help you to strengthen imbalances, improve overall muscle development and definition in your legs, and they can even boost your athletic performance. And if none of this means anything to you, lunges burn a ton of calories for improved fat loss. The lunge is without a doubt a staple exercise.
One of the best things about lunges is they are so versatile too. There are many lunge variations that you can do to emphasize certain muscles or areas of a muscle group for better definition and growth. You have forward lunges, walking lunges, lateral lunges, rear lunges, lunges with one dumbbell, lunges with two dumbbells, and so many more.
In this article, we’ll cover the following:
If you often complain about lunges (we understand, they will take the life out of you if you do them correctly), then think of lunges as bad-tasting medicine that is good for you. You want to get better, don’t you? Then get to lunging.
If lunges aren't a staple in your routine, here are a few reasons why they should be...
1) Improved Fat Loss:
All lunge variations train the large muscles of the quads, hips, and hamstrings which help you burn calories, improve your fat loss efforts, and build muscle. Because you’re training each leg individually, you’ll double the reps you usually do for bilateral exercises. This means double the fun, right? Lunges are great to build muscle and to lose weight!
2) Core Training Without Crunches:
Lunges are lower body unilateral exercises that automatically throw your body off balance. Training in a single-leg fashion increases the number of stabilizing muscles needed to remain upright and this includes your core muscles. The rectus abdominals, obliques, and lower back work harder for you to remain upright and to keep your spine neutral. So, while lunges are a leg exercise, you will get great core strength benefits from them too.
3) Better Muscle Development & Definition:
Because of activities of daily living and a heavy reliance on bilateral lifting, most people have a dominant and non-dominant side. This can lead to strength imbalances and one side is bigger than the other. Performing unilateral exercises like lunges help reduce muscle imbalances and leads to better muscle development between sides. Another great thing about lunges is the range of motion is good so you can really dig deep into your leg muscle fibers to create definition.
4) Improves Your Strength Numbers:
Reducing muscle imbalances and improving muscle development between sides may help improve your bilateral lifting technique and overall strength numbers. Because when you’re stronger lifting on one leg, this leads to being stronger lifting with two.
5) Boosts Athleticism:
Besides all that, lunges are great for improving athleticism. They will train you to have better hip, knee, and core stability, which means improved balance, coordination and agility.
Related: What Muscles do Lunges Work?
Let’s start by saying there is no better or worse when it comes to both of these exercises just different. Because it all depends on your goals, workout experience, and what you are comfortable doing, and this differs from person to person. There is room for both in the same program because they complement each other. Getting better and stronger at one will lead to improvements in the other.
The main differences between the two are obvious. The reduced base of support in a single leg stance means you’ll use less weight than bilateral squat, have an increase in core activation, and the engagement of lower body muscles will vary between squats and lunges. For example, squatting to parallel predominately uses quads but lunges engage more glute minimus, and medius and the adductors are called on more for stabilization in a single-leg stance.
Squats are great for building muscle mass, and strength while improving performance in and out of the gym. Lunges are fantastic for ironing out strength imbalances, increasing volume for better muscle development, and improving body coordination. There is room for both in the same program because one is not better than the other.
Here are the 7 most important types of lunges to add to your routine. Each lunge variation will offer a unique stimulus and emphasize different muscles.
The forward lunge is a quad-dominant exercise because stepping forward into a lunge, the knee bears most of the stress. This is a great exercise if have healthy knees and good hip mobility but if you don’t it’s best to skip this one. The forward lunge gives another option to train your quads other than split squats and will drive your heart rate up also.
Muscle Emphasized: Quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
Benefit Of The Forward Lunge: Strengthens quad strength imbalances between sides and will train your knees to absorb force better.
How To Do The Forward Lunge:
Reverse lunges are the friendliest of the seven lunge variations because stepping back makes it a hip-dominant exercise. This means the reverse lunge puts less stress on your knees than other lunge variations on this list. If you suffer from knee pain, this is a godsend. Reverse lunges strengthen and mobilize the hips to improve mobility for exercises like barbell squats and deadlifts.
Muscles Emphasized: Glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
Benefit Of The Reverse Lunge: Here you can vary the step-back length. A smaller step back puts more focus on the quads and a larger step back put more emphasis on the hamstrings.
How To Do The Reverse Lunge:
The lateral lunge, aka side lunge, develops strength, stability, and balance in the frontal plane (side to side plane). This improves your ability to go from side to side which is especially handy on the field of play when you need to change direction quickly. Lateral lunges improve your adductor mobility to help prevent groin injuries also.
Muscles Emphasized: Glute max, mini and med, adductors, and quads
Benefit Of The Lateral Lunge: Strengthens the smaller glute muscles the minimus and medius and the adductors which are all important for knee health, preventing groin strains, and improving hip mobility.
How To Do The Lateral Lunge:
The walking lunge is basically a moving forward lunge. The forward step, alternating legs with each rep, takes the front lunge to a different level because of the balance and coordination needed to perform it well. This variation challenges the quads and glutes through a larger range of motion for booty-and-quad-building benefits. This is truly one of the essential leg exercises in a bodybuilding program.
Muscles Emphasized: Glutes, quads, adductors, and hamstrings.
Benefits Of The Walking Lunge: The walking lunge not only build your glutes but adds a cardio component as too.
How to Do the Walking Lunge:
There are no rules for how far you should lunge forward with each step. Some people prefer short steps while some will take even a few feet with each step. In the end, the larger the step, the more the glutes work, whereas the shorter the step, the more the quads work.
Split squats are probably the first exercise you should try on this list. If you cannot stay upright and stable doing these then you will not have much hope doing it while performing a moving lunge. This is a quad-dominant exercise help improve leg drive which is important when squatting up from the ‘hole’ and or when you’re pulling from the floor.
Muscles Emphasized: Quads, adductors (inner thighs), and gluteal muscles.
Benefit Of The Split Squat: Builds unilateral strength in your glutes and quads for improved deadlift and squat performance.
How To Do The Split Squat:
Bulgarian Split Squat is also known as the elevated split squat. The elevated range of motion compared to the split squat gives you extra time under tension to improve your hip mobility, leg drive, and muscle-building potential. If you were to do one exercise on this list to improve your barbell squats and deadlifts this would be it because of the leg drive benefits, it provides. This exercise isn’t the most liked on this list but it is brutally effective. Enjoy.
Muscles Emphasized: Quads, hip adductors (inner thighs), and glutes.
Benefit Of the Bulgarian Split Squat: The elevated range of motion improves leg drive and muscle-building potential on each leg.
How To Do The Bulgarian Split Squat:
The curtsy lunge resembles something you would do when your meet the queen. This exercise works in the rotational plane, and it works the quads and glutes from different angles. The step behind fires up the neglected glute mini and med which are important for knee health and single-leg balance. Because of the narrow base of support of this lunge exercise, this challenges your balance so go easy with load here.
Muscles Emphasized: Glutes (emphasis on side glutes - glute medius and minimus), quads (inner and outer thighs), and hamstrings.
Benefit Of the Curtsy Lunge: Training the internal and external rotation of your hips helps improve hip mobility and builds a killer set of glutes.
How To Do The Curtsy Lunge:
Besides sets, reps, tempo, etc. there are different ways you can load the lunge which can make it easier or difficult depending on how far the load is away from the legs. Plus, added movements like a twist or knee drive will affect loading and balance. Here are the major loading variables for the lunges above.
Training the lunge with one dumbbell throws your balance off even further as your body is fighting the offset load. This is great if you want to increase your core strength and improve balance.
Loading with two dumbbells provides more load for better strength and muscle-building and is a little easier to do than one dumbbell.
The front rack position is further away from the legs, increasing the lever between the working muscle and the load. This makes your legs work harder if you’re using the same weight as the goblet or holding dumbbells by your side. Plus, your upper back and anterior core are working harder to maintain a neutral spine.
The goblet squat made famous by Dan John can be used for so much more, including lunges. Holding the dumbbell in the goblet position is easier than the front rack position and acts as a counterbalance to allow you to get into some lunge positions easier. Plus, it provides anterior core and upper back engagement too but comes at the cost of loading. Big dumbbells are awkward in this position.
This can be with hands, dumbbells, kettlebells, or a weight plate. This is the most difficult position as the lever between the legs and load is at its greatest, This position demands strength from the upper back, shoulders, core, and lower back. Your balance, stability, and form all need to be dialed in. When you’re looking to increase the intensity without increasing the load the overhead position is the winner.
The barbell allows you to load the lunge heavier because you have the stability of your upper back and spine to support the load and grip isn’t an issue. This is great for added strength and mass. But your need good shoulder mobility to get the barbell into position and this variation require some setup and space to perform.
Lunge with knee drive increases hip flexor action on the knee drive side and hip extension strength on the other side. This is great to improve balance and to drive the heart up but not so great for loading due to the lack of stability. Again, this all depends on your goals and what you want to achieve by doing lunges.
Lunge with a twist is great when you want to throw yourself off balance to increase your core strength and your ability to rotate through the hips and upper back. But it is difficult to load unless you’re using a weight vest, so it's usually done as a bodyweight lunge.
Try forward and backward lunges! To do this exercise, you will step forward into a front lunge then instead of pressing back up into a bilateral stance, you will bring the forward leg all the way back into a rear lunge. You'll need some good coordination for this one.
Yes, you can certainly build muscle with lunges. Like all other exercises, progressive overload and increased time under tension are key. And this muscle is built with a variety of set and rep ranges. As a rule, when you do more reps, you do fewer sets and when you perform more sets it’s advisable to do fewer reps.
For example, 2 sets of 15 reps per side or 3 sets of 10 reps per side. Performing fewer reps allows you to load heavier, doing more reps, you load a little less.
Lunges are not a typical strength exercise like a squat, bench, or deadlift so there is no need to go crazy with heavy loads with fewer reps. It’s best performed with moderate weight and reps to get the muscle-building benefits. Three to five sets doing between 24-60 reps per side is a great starting point.
Set and rep ranges like:
Variations of this work for building muscle and burning fat.
There is no better or worse lunge variation, only different plus it all depends on your goals and level of training experience.
If you’re looking to improve your performance with your barbell squats and deadlifts, the split squat variations work best because they increase leg drive from the floor and the bottom of the squat. Plus, if you’re a training beginner reverse lunges and stationary split squats work best because they are the easiest of all the 7 variations above.
Furthermore, when you’re looking to improve athletic performance and your movement from side to side, side and curtsy lunges work best because they mimic what happens on the field of play.
Finally, when you’re suffering from knee pain then reverse lunges work best because it is a hip dominant exercise as opposed to the traditional lunge (front lunge), which is more knee dominant. There is no better or worse, it all depends on what fits your goals best.
The seven lunge variations here have a place in most programs to improve balance, core strength, strength imbalances between sides, and to improve muscle development between legs. These will help improve your lower body bilateral lifts and improve your performance in and out of the gym.
May 18, 2022
Ab training has been a confusing and conflicting topic for many fitness fanatics for years. Some never train them for fear of a blocky waist, some train them daily to try and get them as cut as possible, and some train them for two weeks at the end of a leg workout only to forget about them for the next three months. Regardless of where you currently fall on this ab training continuum, it’s important to know how best to train them. By developing that knowledge, you can make informed decisions and remove any doubt about how to maximize your ab workouts. This article will cover the 9 best dumbbell ab exercises to build a defined midsection based on the functions and anatomy of the abdominal musculature, and give you tools of how to incorporate them into your training.
The muscles making up the midsection that can be seen from the front are known as the anterolateral abdominal wall. This is made up of 5 muscles, ranging from deep-lying to superficial. The deep-lying musculature, like the transverse abdominis and pyramidalis, have functional roles, holding organs in place, increasing intra-abdominal pressure, and preventing hernias.
In this article, we will focus on the anterior core muscles that concentrically and eccentrically contract during ab exercises: the internal obliques, external obliques and rectus abdominis. The external obliques and rectus abdominis just so happen to be the muscles giving the mid-section a defined, well-developed and aesthetic look.
The internal obliques are the middle later of the lateral abdominal wall, sitting superficially to the transverse abdominis and beneath the external obliques. It is a broad and thin muscular sheet, with fibers that run diagonally up the abdomen.
Origins and insertions:
The internal obliques have multiple origins and insertion sites. The anterior fibers originate from the iliopectineal arch, found on the lower section on the outside of the pelvis. The fibers angle downwards towards the midline on the front of the body, linking up with the transverse abdominis before inserting into the pubic crest and pecten pubis at the front of the pelvis. The lateral fibers come from the top of the iliac crest, the uppermost part of the pelvic structure. These fibers run towards the front of the body, forming the rectus sheath, and inserting into the linea alba running down the center of the abdomen. The fibers angle horizontally and slightly upwards from the origin to the insertion points. Finally, the posterior fibers originate from the posterior iliac crest and thoracolumbar fascia. Their fibers angle diagonally up the torso and attach to the lower three ribs.
In short, the internal obliques originate from various parts of the pelvis, attaching closer to the midline of the abdomen. The fibers angle slightly down - in the case of the anterior fibers - or upwards in the case of the lateral and posterior fibers.
Like most muscles, the function of the internal obliques is determined by their origins, insertions, and fiber direction. When they are contracted bilaterally, at the same time, the trunk is flexed. If you contract one at a time, the trunk flexes laterally and rotates ipsilaterally (i.e. towards the same side). Crunching your torse to the left means the internal obliques on the left-hand side are contracting.
These are the largest and most superficial muscle of the lateral abdomen. Sitting on top of the internal obliques and transverse abdominis, the external obliques give you a defined and chiseled look to your midsection, framing your abs.
Origins and insertions:
The external obliques originate from the outside surfaces of ribs 5-12. The attachments get gradually wider on the rib cage as you go from rib 5-12, starting just outside nipple width at rib 5 and ending around the back of the torso at rib 12. The fibers run diagonally from the origin to its insertions - the linea alba, pubic tubercle, and anterior iliac crest. As mentioned before, the linea alba runs down the middle of the abdomen, while the pubic tubercle and anterior iliac crest are located around the pelvis. In essence, the muscle runs diagonally down from the ribs to various points closer to the midline, perpendicular to the internal obliques.
Although the fibers run across not alongside the internal obliques, the external obliques carry out essentially the same functions. Their unilateral contraction causes lateral trunk flexion and rotation towards the side contraction, while bilateral contraction causes trunk flexion.
This is the muscle that spring to mind when anyone mentioned ab training. The rectus abdominis is responsible for the often sought after 6 pack abs, sitting as the most superficial anterior abdominal muscle. The segments that make up the 6 - or even 8 blocks in some cases - are caused by tendinous intersections. Unfortunately, no amount of ab training will change how many of these sections you have, but well-developed muscles can make these intersections deeper, creating more visible and deep-set abs.
Origins and insertions:
Originating from the pubic symphysis and crest at the pelvis, the rectus abdominis runs vertically up the abdomen inserting xiphoid processes and costal cartilages of ribs 5-7.
The primary function of the rectus abdominis is trunk flexion. However, it also acts to prevent lordosis and tilt the pelvis anteriorly. While the rectus abdominis is one muscle, it has multiple sections - often referred to as the lower and upper parts of the abs. The upper abs are more active during trunk flexion, and the lower abs work more on controlling the pelvis. However, they don’t work independently, so both will be stimulated during either action just to varying degrees.
Like any other muscle, the rectus abdominis and internal and external obliques grow best when standard principles of hypertrophy are applied to training. You should pick exercises that:
Exercises like planks and carries have their place in resistance training. These can be excellent overall exercises; however, they fail to meet these criteria, making them an inefficient way to directly develop deep cut abs. Moreover, if you’re training program contains heavy compounds like squats and deadlifts, the muscles of your midsection are heavily stressed isometrically anyway. This is especially the case if you incorporate unilateral standing exercises. The exercises below are focussed on maximizing hypertrophy, so isometrics won't be included.
With the above parameters in mind, below are the best ab exercises with dumbbells.
To keep things nice and neat, we are categorizing these weighted ab exercises by:
Despite them being two different muscles, the internal and external obliques work in synergy to produce trunk flexion, lateral trunk flexion and trunk rotation. The exercises below will target both the internal and external obliques simultaneously.
Unless specifically targeted, it’s rare for trainees to perform trunk lateral flexion in the gym. Side bends force you to stretch the obliques underload, a great driver of muscle hypertrophy. This stretch is relatively uncommon, with the obliques generally used to stabilize the trunk, in exercises like lunges, without a full range of motion. Lateral flexion is also a part of daily life, used when picking up the shopping, so strengthening these muscles in various ranges can only benefit your functional mobility.
This exercise will train the obliques on the opposite side of the dumbbell. It can help you develop a better connection with the exercise if you use the non-dumbbell holding hand to try and feel your obliques on the working side.
One thing to be aware of is this exercise does not fully shorten the obliques. If you want to take them through a full range, pair this with an exercise like decline Russian twists (below) or even a cable side bend focusing on shortening the muscle.
Russian twists, named because of their use as a conditioning tool in the Russian army, are commonplace in gyms globally. Their original version is performed by having your legs hover in the air and the upper and lower body in a V-shape, twisting to touch a weight down on each side. However, their form is hard to standardize and quickly becomes a hip-flexor test and neglects the goal of the movement, rotation. Adding a decline bench to secure your legs lets you focus on the obliques with added stability. These also allow you to train the obliques through a full range. As you twist to the right, shortening the right-hand side, the left obliques get a fuller stretch and going the other way does the same for the other side. One final benefit is that these train the rectus abdominis isometrically, especially the lower section, to hold the decline position. This means they can be a one-stop shop for an ab session if you’re short on time or just want to add a bit of volume to the whole midsection.
Unlike regular side planks, this variation lengthens and shortens the obliques through lateral flexion. They are also very easily accessible - not requiring heavyweight, which side-bends can, or a decline bench. This makes them an excellent option for a busy gym or home training.
You should aim to keep your head, body, legs and feet in one straight line. If you find the range of motion too short, you can elevate your feet on a bumper plate.
The lower abs can be hard to train and connect with for many, feeling the movements in their lower back or hip flexors. The dumbbell exercises below should provide you with stability and tips to make the most of your lower ab without falling into common traps.
One of the most common - and commonly butchered - ab exercises is the hanging leg raises. Done correctly, these force you to lift your legs by tilting your pelvis and crunching your abs. If you’re strong enough to perform these properly, they can be a great addition to your lower ab training.
This exercise often turns into swinging, momentum, and hip flexors. If you can’t perform this with straight legs, you can shorten the range of motion and make it easier by keeping your knees bent.
Much the same as the hanging leg raises, this exercise focuses on the lower abs by controlling the pelvic tilt, working to prevent lordosis and bring the ribs and pelvis towards each other. Using the roman chair supports the lower back, giving you a surface to push into, adding stability. This makes the exercise easier to control and allows you to focus on contracting the abs without worrying about swinging backwards and forwards.
Like the hanging leg raises these can be made easier by bending your knees to reduce the length of the moment arm.
The final lower ab movement is similar to the above but easier to perform. This makes them a solid option for a second ab exercise when you might already be fatigued or if you’re struggling to perform lower ab exercises efficiently. A second benefit is the bench means there is a definitive start and stop point, making them easy to track, standardize and ultimately progress.
The upper abs are generally associated with the trunk flexion and crunching motion people perform. This is typically what people think of when someone mentions ab training to them. The exercises below are variations to help you get the most out of upper ab training, improving on some common exercises.
Despite this being in the upper ab section, this exercise attacks the whole rectus abdominis. This makes them another great movement to get the most bang-for-your-buck with your ab training. Additionally, they’re simple to progress and track, with a clear start and endpoint. Finally, unless you’re flailing around, these provide stability and let you really focus on the abs.
Swiss balls have gotten a lot of attention. Some herald their added instability as a great way to increase exercise difficulty and core activation, while others dismiss them as a way of decreasing weight used and deflecting attention from target muscles. In this case, the swiss ball is used because of its shape and malleability and not instability. By crunching on the ball and not the floor, you allow your lower back to arch and ribs and pelvis to separate, increasing the stretch on the abs. As previously mentioned, stretching under load is a great way to elicit hypertrophy, making this a very viable option.
Much like the swiss ball, Bosu-balls have come under fire for some of the weird and whacky exercises people perform on them. Despite their perceived benefits and downfalls, they make a great addition to ab training. The ball side acts like a swiss ball, allowing you to stretch the abs further than you could on the floor. One additional benefit of the Bosu-ball is the flat back. This lets you set up in one spot without fear of the ball rolling away or changing position on your back. This variation mixes the stability and range of motion of regular and swiss ball crunches, making them an excellent weapon in the arsenal.
These are performed almost identically to the swiss ball crunch.
Just like any other muscle, abs need to be trained with adequate volume and frequency, and with considered exercise selection and progressive overload.
The midsection has been separated to help understand the functions and which dumbbell exercises target each area best. However, the obliques and upper and lower abs have huge crossover, and it’s almost impossible to train one part without another. For example, you might perform a hanging leg raise for the lower abs, but co-contraction of the obliques also causes trunk flexion, and the upper and lower abs can’t be isolated from one another. This means you don’t have to perform an exercise targeting each section of every session. You could train abs twice per week - one session using an oblique and lower ab exercise and the other using an upper and lower ab exercise - and get adequate volume everywhere. This is emphasized by their contribution to compound movements.
If you aim for 4-6 sets per week per section, spread across 2-3 sessions, you would likely be getting adequate volume, and you can always add more if it’s required. Finally, because of the difficulty isolating the abs, with the lower back and hip flexors keen to spoil the fun, lower rep ranges (4-8) are often impractical. Aiming for 10-15 reps on your first set can help prevent the reps from falling too far in subsequent sets.
Repeat for 2-3 rounds. Rest as needed between exercises and rounds.
You could switch between these two workouts for a month or so then switch things up once it becomes easy. You should also aim to progressive overload by adding reps (to the high end of the rep scheme) and then adding weight by using a heavier dumbbell.
Well-developed abs can make the midsection look defined with deeper cuts. However, this is dependent on your body fat levels. Regardless of your abs development, if your body fat levels are too high, your abs won’t show. So, train your abs hard with and without weighted ab exercises, but remember you’ll need to work on your diet to ensure they can be shown off. As the old saying goes, “Abs are developed in the gym and revealed in the kitchen.”
More core workout content:
May 17, 2022
The Clean and Jerk is one of the two Olympic lifts. It’s a full-body movement that involves cleaning the barbell from the floor and then jerking it overhead. It relies on power production in both the lower and upper body. Further, it’s arguably more straightforward to learn than the snatch, the other Olympic lift. The only problem is learning chess is “more simple” than learning the snatch. Therefore, you will still need significant guidance to learn this movement.
This clean and jerk guide is going to attempt to do just that. You’re going to learn:
Before we go any further, we want to be clear that the clean and jerk can take quite a long time to learn and perfect. We strongly suggest that you continue to refer to this guide, and if you can, grab a specialty coach, at least for a couple of sessions. That being said, you can learn it on your own and we are going to try to teach you how.
The clean and jerk is one of the two Olympic lifts and is the “heavier” of the pair. In reality, the clean and jerk is actually composed of two movements, the clean and the jerk (obviously), which are performed back-to-back. Both of these movements must be completed to count as a good lift. This fact requires you to concentrate on your upper body power just as much as your lower body power.
In a very tiny nutshell, the clean and jerk consists of you walking up to a loaded barbell, cleaning the bar up to your shoulders, and then after you catch the barbell and are steady, jerking the bar overhead. Your arms must be fully extended to complete the lift, and you must bring your feet together.
That was a very basic explanation, but we will go over this movement in depth below.
Clean = Bringing the bar from the floor to a front rack position (aka clean position) in one swift, explosive movement.
Jerk = An explosive overhead pressing movement that involves both the upper and lower body to get the bar fully extended up overhead.
At its core, the clean and jerk is a true power exercise. The word “power” can be misunderstood and is often interchanged with “strength .”While they are related, when talking about performance variables, strength and power are quite different. The simplest way to distinguish these two is that strength is slow strength (like a heavy squat) while power is fast strength (like a squat jump). Power is the relationship between a load and time or space.
The Strength and Conditioning Journal provides three formulas to calculate power1:
As you can see, with either formula, power is concerned with how fast an object can move. Everything about the clean and jerk screams power as it relies on you to generate enough force, in a concise time, to propel a heavy load vertically the length of your body. You must then use power again to drive the load overhead.
The clean and jerk is going to be a total body workout, so every muscle in the body will be involved more or less, either as a prime mover or a stabilizer. However, here are the major muscle groups trained and their function.
The lower body will be the primary muscle group responsible for producing power. Literally, every muscle below the waist will be involved.
Back And Traps:
Every back muscle will be responsible for maintaining a flat back during the initial pull. If you curl over, you’re going to fail this lift, so you need a powerful back to withstand the forces. After the lower body gets the bar moving upward at high velocity, the upper back and traps perform a powerful shrug to continue this movement upwards.
A powerful shrug can make or break your lift. Also, have you ever wondered why Olympic lifters have massive traps? This is why.
Shoulder And Tricep:
The shoulder and triceps will then finish out the movement, for the most part. Ideally, the shoulder and triceps will only have to provide minimal force to fully extend the arms. This will be due to the jerking motion created by the rest of your body, which you will learn. However, even if you get the bar above your head with very little effort from the shoulders and triceps, they are still going to need to be able to hold a heavyweight above your head as you stand up.
The clean and jerk is primarily going to be used to enhance power in the upper and lower body. In fact, the clean and jerk is often the preferred power movement of many strength & conditioning coaches. Here are some of the reasons why:
1) Increase Power Production In The Upper And Lower Body:
The primary reason to include the clean and jerk is to increase power production in the upper and lower body. It will place stress on every muscle in the body and require each one to produce power. If you want to increase the power in both your upper and lower body, the clean and jerk is hard to beat.
2) Improve Your Athletic Performance:
Unless you are training to compete in Crossfit or the Olympics, one of the main reasons people will perform the clean and jerk is to improve their athletic performance. As mentioned above, it is the most complete exercise to improve power production in both the upper and lower body. This is important for athletes as power is one of the most essential fitness variables. For example, increased power can improve:
Studies have repeatedly shown that clean and jerk can improve athletic performance as well as overall weightlifting performance2.
3) Improve Your Motor Skills Through Enhanced Neuromuscular Efficiency:
It’s clear that the clean and jerk is a very efficient power movement, but how does that occur? Increased power production is the result of your neuromuscular system working better together. This means that your brain can communicate better with your muscles to tell them to produce more force. At the same time, the movement is actually highly complicated. This not only improves your neuromuscular system as well, but it will make you much more coordinated.
4) Improve Your Other Lifts:
A higher neuromuscular system combined with greater coordination and greater power production will improve just about every other movement that you perform. Everything from running and jumping to squatting and deadlifting. It would be hard to find a movement that the clean and jerk won’t improve. It’s an actual total body workout that has a ton of benefits. It’s not just for the Olympic weightlifting community.
Let’s break down the clean and jerk into some more detailed steps. Here, you’re going to learn the setup, hand position, and all of the other specifics of the clean and jerk. Still, be sure to read the next section as well, as we’ll teach you methods to learn this movement more effectively.
The clean and jerk can be broken down into several sections:
We’ll go through each of these to make it as simple as possible.
The initial setup is getting into position to perform the movement. However, this is a vital part of the movement as it will dictate how well you can perform the movement.
The 1st pull occurs when bringing the barbell from the ground to your knees.
The 2nd pull occurs once the bar pasts the knees and ends after triple extension.
The pull under and catch consists of you actively pulling yourself under a bar while dropping into a front squat.
The recovery is when you stand up from the deep front squat position.
The jerk consists of jerking the bar overhead.
The finish occurs by bringing your feet together.
Congratulations. You just performed the clean and jerk with proper technique!
If you’re like most individuals who attempt the clean and jerk for the first time, you’re probably thinking, “I definitely did not do that correctly”. The clean and jerk are very complex. Combining them is even more so. So, let us give you some important tips on training for it.
The most common way to learn the snatch is to perform “segment training". Segment training is when you take a complex movement with multiple parts and break it down into smaller segments. You then practice those smaller segments independently and then eventually put them all together.
Still, there are several ways to put the segments together.
It doesn’t really matter what one you choose as they are all effective. The point is not to train the clean and jerk as one movement right away.
There are quite a few variations that can help you practice specific segments of the clean and jerk. Some of the more common clean and jerk variations are listed below.
High Pull: The main focus of the clean high pull is to help exaggerate the 2nd pull and triple extension. To perform it, you will basically perform the clean and jerk but stop after the 2nd pull. Essentially, you’re not going to squat and catch the bar. Instead, this clean and jerk variation aims to get the bar as high as possible. Emphasize high elbows and a powerful shrug.
You can also try using a snatch grip to change it up. Instead of grabbing the bar outside your legs, use a snatch grip, placing your hands on the ring markers.
Power Clean & Jerk: The power clean and jerk is precisely the same as the clean and jerk, except your not going to perform a front squat or split jerk to catch it. You are going to do a power jerk. After the second pull, you will catch the bar on your shoulders with minimal knee bend (you won't go into a full squat). This requires you to pull the bar for a longer length. At the same time, you can give your knees a rest. In fact, this is the preferred method for many non-competing athletes as it’s technically easier to perform than the clean and jerk but still elicits similar increases in power.
(Power) Hang Clean & Jerk: The hang clean and jerk can also be performed as a hang power clean and jerk. The primary variable of this variation is that you will not pull from the ground. Instead, you will deadlift the barbell up and then perform a hip hinge to lower the barbell to somewhere on the thigh. This will be the starting location. Doing so will put most of the emphasis on the 2nd pull to produce a powerful triple extension.
You can also lower the bar to your lower thigh or upper thigh to alter the need. If you start higher, it forces you to produce more power with a smaller triple extension as your hips are extended more.
The jerk we described above in the 'How to Perform a Clean and Jerk' section is known as the split jerk and it is the most common method for Olympic weightlifting athletes. However, there are two other types of jerks that are also acceptable in Olympic weightlifting competitions for the clean and jerk exercise.
The three jerks are:
All three are acceptable forms in competitions, but the split jerk is the most popular since it generally allows for the greatest load potential. That said, practicing all three can be helpful for improving your overall strength in the jerk. A lot of pros use the split jerk in competition, but also use the power and squat jerk in practice.
As you learn the clean and jerk, feel free to implement different variations of the jerk itself to see how they feel for you.
Because the clean and jerk is a power exercise, you would do better by using lighter weight. As it is a power exercise, you can actually produce more power with a smaller load as you can move it faster. Therefore, studies show that lighter loads of 40-60% allows a lifter produce the most power as it provides an optimal blend of weight and speed3. Most lifters can spend the majority of their time in this zone. If you are able to continue using the good form at heavier weights, you could venture up to 70% or even 80% once in a while. However, the key is in the cleanliness of your reps.
If you want to build a higher 1RM, you could then spend more time in the higher ranges of 70-90%. Still, you should move back and forth in between each loading zones to manage any build-up of fatigue.
That being said, you never want to use high reps with the clean and jerk. Remember, the primary purpose is to increase power. This is best done by performing a rep as “crisp” as possible. When you start to pile on reps, you will get fatigued regardless of how light the load is. When this happens, your form will suffer, and you will actually be hurting your progress. Below are the rep schemes we would suggest for the different loads:
Rest 2:00-3:00 minutes between sets.
Also, you don’t have to always train the full clean and jerk as it can be a very taxing movement. Play around with different schemes. For example, for one training day, you could train:
Then another session that week train the whole movement. Don’t forget about the variations and alternatives (see below). They are great exercises to use to improve the clean and jerk and they also provide a lot of great benefits too.
When training the clean and jerk, the number one rule is to not be in a rush! Take your time and treat every single rep like you’re on the Olympic stage.
For whatever reason, maybe you can’t perform the clean and jerk. No worries. Here is a quick list of 3 alternatives you can perform that will also increase your power production.
The squat jump is an easy way to produce lower body power without the technicalities. We prefer using either dumbbells or a trap bar when performing these, as they are much safer than jumping with a barbell on your back.
Put a vest on and do some box jumps. This is an awesome plyometric exercise for power production. Like the squat jump, it’s a very simple yet effective exercise to increase lower body power production.
This is similar to the high pull we spoke about above but consists of using a sumo deadlift stance. A little bit of a different stance to change things up. Perform the movement in the same manner by trying to pull the barbell as high as possible.
The biggest piece of advice we can offer is to take your time and be patient. If you can, grab a trainer or a skilled friend. Watch videos and also take videos of yourself. One of the best ways to improve your lifting is by video analysis in slo-mo. It allows you to actually see what’s going on and what you need to fix. That being said, have fun with it. Once you learn it, we can promise you will start seeing massive improvements in just about every other area of your fitness.
When you are ready, you can also learn The Snatch!
May 14, 2022
The triceps are a primary mover in every upper body pressing exercise. Think about it - they help power bench press, push ups, overhead press, and dips. On top of all that, most people try to increase the size and strength of their triceps with isolation exercises. After all, this muscle, which makes up two-thirds of your upper arms, is important on so many fronts, both in and out of the gym. Not to mention, a well-developed set of triceps looks very impressive.
Now, like any other muscle, the triceps can get tight and overworked. In fact, the triceps are quite susceptible to becoming tight considering how often they are used in daily life and workouts.
Even so, the triceps usually get overlooked when it comes time for stretching. It’s likely because people just don’t know how to stretch the triceps. If that’s the case with you, it won’t be anymore…
We are here to provide you with the best triceps stretches for before and after your workouts. By stretching your triceps, you’ll help them achieve an optimal length, which is great for improving range of motion, recovering faster, and even reducing soreness.
Before we begin, it’ll actually be very helpful if you understand the anatomy of the triceps and all the benefits you’ll reap from stretching this horseshoe-shaped, posterior, upper arm muscle.
The triceps, which is more formally known as the triceps brachii, gets its name because it has three separate muscle heads.
Tri = Three.
They are called the long head, lateral head, and medial head, because that’s exactly what and where they are in relation to the muscle itself. It’s very straight to the point.
But, don’t get confused, it is still one single muscle.
Each muscle head has a different origin point, but they converge and insert in the same place on the elbow.
The main job of the triceps as a whole is elbow extension.
However, let’s dive a little deeper into the anatomy and function of each individual muscle head, as there are some nuances you should learn. This will help you understand how to target the muscle better during workouts and how to stretch it fully.
Again, any time you press or extend your elbow, you have your triceps to thank for that. When it comes to pushes and presses, the triceps really take over about halfway up the press. It’s the lockout muscle.
You all know the benefits of strengthening the triceps: improved lockout, strength, size, and better elbow stability. But what about the benefits of stretching the triceps? Well, here are a few:
1) Improved Range Of Motion And Performance:
When a muscle is tight, achieving a full range of motion will be difficult and the triceps are no different. If you have tight triceps, it may decrease your performance on the sporting field and leave gains on the table with all of your pressing movements. This is why dynamic tricep stretches are important before a workout, especially if they are feeling tight, which often happens since they are typically worked during more than one session per week.
2) Better recovery:
Stretching the triceps after training helps the muscle return to its resting length faster and may help reduce soreness. When you stretch the triceps, you bring blood flow there to start the healing process after a workout.
3) Injury Prevention:
Triceps stretches engage all three heads of the triceps muscle and help to keep the elbows functioning properly, but let’s focus on the long head for a moment. Remember how the long head acts on the shoulder joint too? By stretching your triceps before and after upper-body exercises, you can reduce your chances of shoulder injuries. A well cared for long head muscle is key for shoulder stability and shoulder health.
To stretch the triceps, you simply have to perform the opposite of elbow extension, which is elbow flexion. When your triceps contract, your biceps stretch, and vice versa. So, to stretch your triceps, you will flex your elbow in certain ways and hold the position.
Also, as we’ve mentioned, the long head acts on the shoulders, so certain shoulder movements with holds will stretch the triceps, such as the popular overhead triceps stretch.
Besides static stretches, you have dynamic movements that move your triceps through a full range of motion, which in essence, stretches your triceps. This is similar to when you are actually working out. If you are using a full range of motion, you are doing a form of dynamic stretching. But make no mistake, it’s not the same as static stretching (holding the stretching position for an extended period of time) or purposeful dynamic stretches (full range movements with short holds in the stretched position), so it’s important that you do both.
With the tricep stretches below, you’ll see how all this works. But first, let’s talk about when to stretch, so you really understand each of the stretching movements to come.
When you want to improve the recovery and the length of your triceps, the best time to stretch them is after training when the triceps are warm. You’re more likely to see better results from static stretches when your body is warm. Holding a tricep stretch for 30 seconds to 2 minutes here works well.
It’s not just the muscle itself that gets stretched, the fascia that surrounds the muscle like webbing is also getting stretched. Think of the fascia as taffy. When the taffy is cold it is harder to stretch but when the taffy is warm it is easily stretched.
But that doesn’t mean you should only be stretching when the triceps are warm. Before a workout, you should be doing dynamic stretches. These are stretches that you hold for 5-10 seconds, moving in and out of the stretch. Essentially, they a movements with a full range of motion and usually involve slight holds at the end range. These will help promote blood flow, release muscular tension, and optimize range of motion to help get your triceps ready for the work ahead.
Here are 8 great triceps stretches (2 are actually triceps foam rolling exercises) to insert before and/or after your training for improved recovery and flexibility.
The anconeus muscle is a small muscle located at the elbow, attaching to the humerus and ulna. It is engaged during triceps extension but is there to provide support and stability. This stretches the triceps and anconeus from a different angle and is a great stretch for those who don’t have the shoulder mobility to place their hands all the way behind their head.
The overhead tricep stretch is an oldie but a goodie. But if you don’t have good shoulder mobility or your feel any pain with this stretch please stop. Here you will control the intensity of the stretch by how far you can place your hand behind your head. Plus the amount of pressure you apply to the elbow. Both will alter the intensity of this stretch. The overhead tricep stretch is great for your triceps as a whole, but especially the long head.
The triceps dip stretch is similar to the dip exercise, but you hold the bottom position to stretch your triceps using your torso as resistance. Not only will you stretch your triceps, but this one opens up your chest and shoulder muscles too, as well as your lats. You can alter the lean and the bend of the elbows to increase or decrease the intensity of this tricep stretch.
The tricep stretch against the wall is another great triceps stretch that allows for a really deep stretch. Much like the other stretches above, you can control the intensity by how close you are to the wall and by how my pressure you apply to the wall.
The reaching down triceps stretch is similar to the overhead triceps stretch except you are stretching both triceps instead of one. By actively reaching down you can control how intense the stretch is and adjust it according to your needs. If you have trouble putting your arms behind your head, avoid this variation.
This tricep stretch has you reaching across your body instead of going behind your head. This is a good basic stretch and is also perfect for anyone who has any issues with their elbows or shoulders but still needs to stretch their triceps. You’ll be able to adjust the intensity of this stretch by how hard you push it and into the back of your elbow. Plus, with this stretch, as a bonus, you’ll stretch the hard-to-reach posterior deltoid too.
Foam rolling the triceps is one of those hurt-so-good exercises. Yes, it hurts, but it will loosen up the muscle for a better range of motion if you do it before training, and it brings healing blood flow for improved recovery if you do it after training. When performing this triceps foam roll exercise, focus on the sore spots of the triceps and be careful not to roll into too much pain. This will negate the benefits of this exercise.
The tiger tail triceps roll is performed with a tiger tail foam roller but can be performed with a PVC pipe or something similar if you don’t have one. Here you can apply as much pressure as you can handle to the sore spots on your triceps. Plus, as a bonus, your quads get some love too.
You probably spend a lot of time strengthening your triceps in your exercise program, so you should be spending time stretching and rolling the triceps too! It will benefit your upper body strength and performance as well as the health of your elbows and shoulders. These 8 tricep stretches and rolls performed before and after your workout routine will release muscular tension and improve your triceps' flexibility and range of motion big time.
We recommend doing a couple dynamic triceps stretches before your workout and a couple of static triceps stretches after your workout. You don't have to do each tricep stretch in one session. You can switch the stretches up each time if you’d like. Also, incorporate some foam rolling into your routine once a week. You can foam roll a little before your workout and a little after. There’s no need to spend more than a few minutes rolling out your triceps! Happy stretching and rolling!
More Stretching Content:
May 12, 2022
We know you love training but are you training too much? Is the big bad overtraining boogeyman gonna get you? Is overtraining even real? Or maybe, you're just experiencing a little burnout. What's the difference? And by the way, how fine is the line between overreaching and overtraining?
That's a lot of questions, and this article will attempt to answer them all and more. We will go over what you need to know about burnout, overtraining, and overreaching.
Table of Contents:
We hope you're not burned out reading yet cause we haven't even begun.
Burnout and overtraining are two terms that are used to describe a general decrease in performance or motivation to go to the gym. While sometimes used interchangeably, we believe the symptoms of overtraining and burnout are very different.
In fact, the difference is recognized even now by sports psychologists, with research being conducted to distinguish the causes of each1. If you are a coach or sports psychologist, it would be very important for you to know the difference so you can treat them properly for your clients.
Regardless, these two are definitely related and can exacerbate the other, but we feel it's important to distinguish the two. If these are two different conditions, then that means there are different causes and different solutions. Therefore, let's look at burnout and overtraining separately so that we can identify the symptoms.
When we refer to "burnout," we are talking about a condition created by an overload of stress that causes an imbalance in one's life. This stress can come from your family, social life, work, and training. The stresses and pressure can become too much until one feels like they're always on the go, and one can never rest. In a cruel twist of fate, this overload will cause a person to become distant and disinterested with what they once loved due to never being able to relax.
It's even more twisted that it's really only possible for highly motivated individuals to really experience burnout as this group puts unrealistic expectations on themselves.
How this might look in the fitness world is giving yourself the goal of being the #1 bodybuilder in your state. Therefore, you train and train and train, but you're not getting the results you want, so you start canceling dinner dates or missing family events so you can train. Or maybe you can't enjoy yourself at a party because you can't risk having a beer. While you might be fine physiologically, your mental health begins to take a beating as you're not enjoying what you're doing, and there seems to be no answer.
Other examples could come from being over-obsessed with your diet, looks, or whatever. What used to make you happy has become a chore, and worse, you're not getting the results you were hoping for. You begin having trouble managing your family, job, and relationship because you can't risk messing up your training or nutrition.
Unfortunately, this is quite common in the fitness world and arguably more common and even more serious than overtraining. Actually, when compared to overtraining, you’re probably much more likely to catch some form of burnout.
While burnout is a sign of too much mental stress, overtraining is a sign of too much physical stress. It can happen when someone is working out too much with inadequate recovery.
In a perfect world, a person will recover before they go train again, particularly for the area they are working that session. But with overtraining, there is still leftover fatigue, so when you go to the gym, you pile on more fatigue. This excess fatigue compiles over time until it reaches a point where your performance is dramatically affected.
However, overtraining can affect a lot more than your performance in the gym. You can develop symptoms from overtraining like:
This decline in performance isn't necessarily caused by damage to the muscles though but actually from the inadequate recovery of the central nervous system and improper levels of hormones. It all starts with the overproduction of cortisol, which then alters your adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine levels through a series of reactions. This is similar to dominoes falling one by one and creating more and more chaos.
At the same time, we also need to say that many people can over exaggerate overtraining. It’s not going to happen in a week and it likely isn’t going to happen to guys running average training programs. Our bodies are resilient and they can take a lot of stress before they have overtraining symptoms. So while we want you to be aware of overtraining, we also don’t want you to freak out every time you wake up and are a little tired.
Overreaching is another term that is sometimes used with these conditions. However, overreaching is drastically different as it's done on purpose and is a planned period of time.
It's done to elicit a response known as supercompensation. This is your body's adaptive response to excessive stimulus so that your body will be able to handle that same stimulus easily in the future. In fact, super-compensation is at the heart of progressive overload.
Therefore, overreaching is when a coach will put excessive stress on an athlete, usually an experienced one. However, they know the athlete won't be able to handle it for long so they will then allow the athlete to recover for an extended period of time. Essentially, it is strategic overtraining.
It's a bit more complicated than that, and we will write up another article on this in the near future, but that's really all you need to know for this article.
In reality, burnout from training has similar symptoms as any other type of burnout, such as occupational burnout. Unfortunately, burnout is not as easy to spot in the early stages as overtraining is.
However, here is a list of signs and symptoms of burnout. We will try to list in the order it may appear. But keep in mind, it is far from a definitive guide as everyone is different.
Symptoms of burnout in fitness:
As you see, many of these symptoms are quite common in everyone at some point in their life, at least the first three, and many even experience number four at some point.
There are a lot of signs that could develop due to overtraining. Some of the very first signs and symptoms of overtraining you may experience are:
If you experience any of the above. Stop training. Give yourself a week of rest, or whatever you need to recover.
These are the first warning signs, and they will only get worse. You'll hear this more than once, but you can't out-train overtraining. We'll talk about what to do below.
If you do continue to train, you can expect to experience these overtraining symptoms, which can have long term effects:
None of those sound fun at all, so do yourself a favor and pay attention to the first group of symptoms.
Unfortunately, burnout can actually be harder to treat than overtraining. Well, the cure is actually quite simple and simply consists of a person stepping away from the sport or activity that is causing chaos in their life. However, getting a person to do that depends on their relationship to what's causing the burnout.
For example, if it's someone who just got a little overzealous with their training, a couple of buds could slap him on the back of his head, tell him to cool it with the curls, and hit the bar. If the guy could let it go easily, then he'd be able to get over it fairly soon.
However, if the person has developed an unhealthy obsession with a sport, it could require professional mental health. It's not uncommon for athletes to form their identity with a sport, and telling them to let it go can be like telling someone to shoot their dog…it's not going to happen.
If the burnout is at a level where it has caused serious psychological issues, they need to speak to a professional therapist (i.e., not us) and start dealing with it. Like any obsession, it can take some time to fully recover.
In either case, the person will need to sit down and reevaluate their life goals. We are not therapists but writing these things down can help tremendously. When you write, it allows you to see what your life looks like and also forces you to acknowledge what’s happening.
The bad news is that we have heard of some very, very rare cases of people who developed such a bad case of overtraining that they never fully recovered. Remember, overtraining is actually caused by dysregulation of your hormones. Anytime you mess with your hormones for a prolonged period of time, you are putting yourself at risk of long-term damage. However, the good news is that long term effects of severe overtraining syndrome is very, very rare, as mentioned.
That being said, you will have a much shorter recovery time by spotting overtraining early as recovery time will grow exponentially as you pile on your overtraining. Therefore, you'd be wise to chill if you think this may be happening, as, again, you can't out-train overtraining.
If you do catch a case of overtraining, the best way to treat overtraining is to simply cut back on your volume and intensity significantly. Think about it like a prolonged deload. Also, if you're dieting, you may need to stop for a while as being in a caloric deficit does put stress on the body.
This doesn't mean you need to bulk, but you should be at maintenance at a bare minimum to give your body plenty of fuel. However, if you have been in an extreme caloric deficit, you’ll likely need to be put on a reverse diet and possibly see a professional.
You may also want to include some light recovery work to replace the time away from intense training. We're talking about simple walking or a cycle around the park. Just be sure not to turn it into a HIIT session!
The above would be enough for mild cases. If you have a more severe condition, you're going to likely need to just stop training altogether for some time.
However, at the its heart, overtraining is simply caused by a program that does not properly balance training with recovery.
Here are some basic things you can do to mitigate your chance of developing overtraining:
We saw that these two are clearly different, but there is also plenty of overlap. Further, some practices can definitely help with mitigating the development of burnout or overtraining.
1) Be Honest With How Much You Can Handle:
If you have read SET FOR SET for any length of time, you have heard us many times before talking about the importance of choosing the proper frequency. In our opinion, there's really no reason the majority of the population needs to train six days a week. Five days a week can even be a lot. Four days tend to be the sweet spot for most people and can help fight both burnout and overtraining.
First, it's only four days meaning you have plenty of time to explore your other interests or work on relationships. Secondly, it's only four days, so you have three full recovery days. You would need to train pretty damn hard to develop overtraining on four days a week. If you’re not sure what to do, give this program a shot: 4-Day Upper Lower Split.
Therefore, just be honest about how many days you can commit when you start a program. If you're unsure, you can handle five days and train for four days. If you're not sure, you can train for four days, train for three days. You're going to be much happier, and your relationship with the gym will be much healthier.
2) Take Deload Weeks Or Time Away:
Similar to above, take a deload or even time away. To be honest, it's not uncommon for us to just step away from the gym for a month when we feel we need it. And for the love of God, don't be that guy bugging his girlfriend to go to the gym on holiday. We're not saying just be a lazy fat ass, but if you're stressing about training on holiday, you are probably developing some unhealthy habits. Instead of going to the gym, going swimming, kayaking, ATV, hiking...just go outside and enjoy yourself!
The point is, don't be afraid to take time away. In fact, while we might not always plan a deload, we will use three-day weekends or vacations as our deloads. Love the gym and love living life. They're not mutually exclusive. Actually, they're quite complementary and you’re missing out if you forgot to enjoy life.
3) Incorporate A Hobby Or Cross-Training:
Similar to the above, find another athletic hobby or get involved in cross-training. For example, MMA and boxing are awesome complementary activities for weight training. You get to spread your social circle, have a sport that works different muscles and movements, AND you'll get fit as heck too!
Other awesome options are:
Again, the point is to have other interests and hobbies to engage in. Therefore, let's say you're just not feeling the gym. Instead of getting anxious, you can now grab your board and go surf, knowing you're not being lazy. Better yet, you're having fun!
Burnout and overtraining are both serious conditions that can affect your performance and your quality of life. The good thing is that they're both easily preventable. If you do feel that your burnout is more serious than accidentally taking on too much work, reach out to a coach or friend or someone you can talk to. We're often enemies of our minds too often, and talking can greatly alleviate this stress.
And above all, unless you’re getting paid, don’t take training so seriously. By all means have goals and pursue them with 100% effort. We just don’t want you to live a life full of no fun just so you don’t mess up your gainz. After learning all about overtraining and burnout, you can see there clearly is such a thing as "too much of a good thing".
1. Main LC, Landers GJ. Overtraining or Burnout: A Training and Psycho-Behavioural Case Study. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching. 2012;7(1):23-31. doi:10.1260/1747-95188.8.131.52
May 12, 2022
If you have a small back, it’s probably ‘cause you’ve been ignoring the T-Bar Row. Big mistake. T-bar rows are perhaps the best exercise you can perform to add mass and strength to your entire back. And yes, we do have the bent over row in mind when we say that. Not that the bent over row is a bad back exercise, because it’s awesome! And that should tell you how much awesomer the T-bar row is...at least in many cases.
This article will go over what you need to know about t-bar rows:
It’s time to say goodbye to your small back - we know it’s small because you haven’t been doing T-bar rows ;)
The T-bar row is a compound movement that uses a simple machine consisting of a platform to stand on as you straddle a bar fixed at one end. On the non-fixed end (the end you hold), a handle is attached that shoots off on either side, making it resemble the letter “T.” In addition, most T-bar machines also consist of handles that keep going straight to allow a neutral grip. Lastly, a weight collar attached to the end allows you to load plates. This essentially creates a bar that can pivot as you lift it while allowing you to easily add or take away weight.
The T-bar row is one of those exercises that is a bit of a mix between free weights and a machine. It’s not a pure free weight exercise as the bar path is fixed to an extent. However, it’s not really a machine as it’s merely just a rod that can pivot.
While the path is fixed in terms of the arc, it will make going up and down (as it’s on a pivot), the load can still sway left or right. Compare this to the Smith machine where the load can only go up and down. That being said, we would say it heavily leans more towards being a free weight exercise as there is a lot of stabilization going on.
Standing vs Chest Supported T-Bar Row Machines:
Some T-bar row machines will place you in a standing position and some T-bar row machines will have a chest support which has you leaning forward. The main difference between the standing T-bar row machine and the chest support T-bar row machine is that you can go heavier when standing as it allows for more momentum to be used, whereas the chest supported T-bar row creates a strict form. Both are good in their own right and the same muscles will be worked.
Landmine T-Bar Row With Barbell Set Up:
T-bar rows can also be done with a barbell landmine set up (or simply shoving a barbell into the corner of a wall) and the right attachments. With a landmine set up, you can connect various attachments to the free end of the barbell (a T-bar row handle and/or a D-bar handle attachment) and perform the T-bar row in the exact same way as you would with a T-bar row machine.
So, if you don't have a bonafide T-bar row machine, but you do have a barbell and some attachments, you can still do T-bar rows and all of the following information still applies.
Note: You could even do a T-bar row without handle attachments by placing your hand stacked on the handle of the barbell just below the loaded sleeve. No excuses not to do T-bar rows over here! And we love all the T-bar row variations.
As you’ve already heard us say a few times, we love this exercise. You could probably guess that’s because there are a ton of benefits. If you did, you would be right. Here are the top benefits of the T-bar row.
1) Can Be Used For Mass And Strength:
Many exercises tend to be either better for strength or hypertrophy for whatever reason. T-bar rows really lie in the middle and can be used effectively for both. It’s great for building strength as you can safely load a lot of weight and perform reps with good form. This is due to it being on the pivot, which tends to be just enough “help” to make this possible.
On the other hand, you can use lighter weight to get a lot of volume for hypertrophy work. Still, there are multiple grips that let you hit the muscles from various angles, which is vital for optimal muscle growth.
2) Allows Multiple Grips To Hit The Muscles A Bit Different:
As alluded to above, T-bar rows allows multiple different grips that can be used to provide a slightly different stimulus for your upper body. For example, here are a few different grips and how they will affect muscle activation differently.
This ability to use different grips makes the T-bar row machine extremely versatile and easy to use. Plus, you can use different grips in the same session. For example, most people can use more weight when using the underhand grip. Therefore, a common practice would be to perform as many reps as possible with your overhand grip and then perform a drop set. However, instead of dropping weight, you just switch to the stronger underhand grip and rep it out.
3) Easy To Load And Unload:
When you start using big weight, this actually really is a big deal. One of the most annoying things about free weights is loading the barbell. However, the collar on the T-bar row is elevated, making it very easy to swap out weights. This makes it extremely easy to load as well as perform drop sets. Again, this might seem like a lazy benefit, but when you just finished loading a ton of plates on a deadlift, it’s nice to be able to just throw a plate on a collar and go.
4) Safe To Use:
Because the load is fixed to a rod that pivots, it can add a bit of safety when compared to performing the bent over row. Because it’s fixed, you are able to stay sturdier and keep a tighter back. As mentioned above, this tends to make it easier to perform rows with correct form even when using heavier loads. All of the above can make it a bit less stressful on the back (but you’re still gonna feel it, in a good way).
When it comes to the muscles you’ll train, it’s literally every single muscle in your back AND your biceps. In fact, it will even train the erector spinae with an isometric hold as you will be leaned forward in a similar fashion as the bent over row. Other than that, the other primary back muscles trained are going to be the lats and traps.
The T-bar row exercise is fairly simple to perform with proper form. However, there are a few important cues. Here’s how to perform T-bar rows:
The most important things to keep in mind when performing the bent over row are your back angle and driving your elbows back. It can help to think about pushing your chest forward as you’re pulling the load up, as if you’re driving your chest forward. We hope these t bar row tips help you get better muscle activation.
The T-bar row exercise is going to definitely enhance your back training. That being said, there are a few ways you can program it and use it to build mass and strength. Therefore, here are a few methods you can use to enhance your training.
a) To Build Strength:
To build strength, you’ll want to use loads at or greater than 85% of your 1RM. As you probably don’t know what your 1RM is, this would be a weight that allows you to perform 6 clean reps. When training for strength, we like to use four or five sets to ensure we are getting enough volume at this load.
You can use any handle grip, but we would suggest using the neutral grip or underhand grip once in a while, as these allow the heaviest load. Again, feel free to still rotate through the hand grips occasionally.
b) To Build Mass:
To build mass, you’re going to want to use a lighter load from around 80-70% 1RM. As you’re able to perform more reps, you can just use three sets. For these, we could recommend messing around with the wide grip as it’s a lighter hand placement anyways. Further, the standard overhand grip works well, but you can play with any of the grips.
As mentioned above, a fun way to perform T-bar rows as a last burnout set is to put on a weight and first perform reps with the most challenging grip. Then, once you reach a point where you’re a few reps before failure, you can use the next grip. Continue this until you get to the neutral grip that allows you to lift the most weight.
What this would look like is:
Wide Grip → Standard Overhand Grip → Underhand Grip → Neutral Grip
Again, this is just a unique version of the droplet that you can perform with the T-bar row.
If you’re really wanting to train your back, train it twice per week and include the T-bar row both days. On one day, you’re going to want to build strength and train to build mass on the second. This is a great way to optimize your training to ensure you get the best of both worlds.
T-bar rows are simple, effective, easy to perform, and versatile. Plus, it’ll definitely increase the size of your back. There’s really not much else to say about this exercise, so do yourself a favor and start making the T-bar row a staple of your back training. It definitely needs to be part of your back training routine.
If for some reason you can't do the T-bar row exercise, good news, we have some great alternatives to T-bar rows for you. There are also many dumbbell rows that you can do. Check out these dumbbell back exercises.