ADD BANDS FOR BIG GAINS: BAND TRAINING FOR

SQUATS AND DEADLIFTS

by Cory Gregory

I confess, I thought bands were stupid and useless. I was so wrong! Learn what bands are, how they work, and how you can apply them to your training. You won't be sorry!

When I first heard about bands, I thought it had to be a joke. I could only picture those cheap tubing bands people use for rehab. All I could imagine was some lame infomercial workout, or an aerobic class filled with plastic steppers and 3-pound dumbbells.

But when I started studying the famed Westside Barbell and its legendary Westside Method, and I entered a world filled with real bands, dynamic squats, and deadlifts. My eyes were opened to a new kind of training. I didn't see some pathetic tubing; instead, I saw people lifting heavy weights and using massive bands covered with chalk, dirt, and sweat. Theirs were some of the fastest and most explosive squats and deadlifts I had ever seen in my life.

Now this was some band training I could get into. After that experience,

I did alI could to learn about band training. I wanted to know how bands were utilized and how beneficial they could be. I started applying them to my powerlifting workouts.

HOW BANDS WORK

Bands are effective because they make the weight get proportionally heavier throughout the range of motion. In other words, the band pulls the weight toward the floor. Even the smallest band can add 50 pounds to the bottom of a deadlift, and 200 pounds at the top. In essence, bands help you learn how to accelerate.

Each band, depending on its size, offers varying degrees of resistance. Heavy bands work great with squats because they teach acceleration coming out of the hole. Mini-bands are best when used with the deadlift because they teach you how to finish the movement with explosiveness.

BE A BAND GEEK

 When I used them correctly, the benefits of using bands were immense—I was completely sold on implementing bands into my training regimen. My training, especially when it came to powerlifting, was forever changed for the better. These days, my explosiveness has reached new levels and the speed on all my lower-body lifts has increased substantially.

When I started applying the bands into my workouts, my contest squat was 500 pounds in a single-ply suit.

In just a year and a half, my squat skyrocketed to 700 pounds in a multi-ply contest. I know that band training helped me get to that level. I'm certain that applying bands into your squat and deadlift routines will help increase your lifts.

BAND PROGRAMMING

For programming, I followed the man who pioneered using bands in powerlifting: the great Louie Simmons, creator of Westside Barbell. His method includes 8-12 sets of 2 reps of dynamic squats with light, average, or heavy bands; followed by 5-8 sets of 2 reps of dynamic deadlifts with mini-bands right after. Do these lifts once per week and you'll see amazing increases in your speed and explosive output. I usually work bands in six-week waves.

BAND TRAINING AT A COMMERCIAL GYM

Bands are a great tool for all levels of fitness. It's obviously great for powerlifting, but squatting and pulling with bands has a place for many people. It's perfect for athletes and a must-have for anyone looking to gain strength.

If you work out at a commercial gym, it might be difficult to do this type of training. But, it's still possible—here's a video to help you set up.

3 TIPS ON HOW TO INCREASE YOUR BENCH PRESS

 by Cory Gregory

MusclePharm's Cory Gregory gives you 3 great ways to blast through bench press plateaus: board pressing, band press downs, and by improving your elbow tuck.

Here’s a shocker: I was always a fan of the bench press. I know, I know, not a big surprise since every male from 15 years old on up loves the bench press.

Like any Arnold-idolizing lifter, I wanted a huge bench press from the moment I started lifting and my story isn’t that much different from millions of others. For me, I wanted to bench press 300 pounds before I graduated high school, which was a pretty good feat considering I weighed just 165 pounds.

Well, I bench 300 on a straight press, getting 250 with a competition pause during a meet.

Like countless others, I always loved to bench press. It’s the ultimate ego lift for pretty much any lifter, but

in theory, I was bound to get better at benching considering the vast amount of time I spent doing it. I certainly made improvements, but I eventually stalled out. Still enamored with the lift, I took to studying different methods to get my bench improving again. I studied more powerlifting-specific ideas and I came across bench press training from the legendary Louie Simmons and the famous Westside Barbell.

I became engrossed with benching with boards, tucking your elbows and band pushdowns, a trio of great keys for improving a bench press. Benching with boards and band pushdowns improved my bench a great deal, and tucking my elbows was a massive technique improvement that helped my bench shoot up.

If you’re as pumped about improving your bench press as I continue to be these are two exercises and one form improvement that can make a world of difference. I will go over each one and, if followed, your bench could be headed in the right direction.

tucking your elbows

What I realized quickly is that most people bench with their elbows way out, putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the shoulders. In fact, they were out so much and so high, it’s a wonder one of them just doesn’t blow right off.

It’s also a surefire way to develop bicep tendonitis (a.k.a. benchers shoulders), which is something that happened to me along the way. My bicep tendon was overused, my rear delts were weak and weren’t even being activated during my benching, and anyone who is this way starts to develop that rounded, no-trap look. It’s not an ideal thing and it certainly doesn’t lead to a big bench.

By tucking your elbows, you essentially make the bench into more of a close-grip power movement. It requires more tricep involvement, less rotator cuff (and less stress on your biceps) and you activate your lats significantly more to stabilize the weight.

Your risk for injury is much less and, once you practice and get the technique down, your speed off the chest is increased significantly.

BOARD BENCHING

It’s not uncommon for people in normal gym to raise an eyebrow when they see a guy doing board benches. Maybe they think that guy is cheating or not going all the way down, so what’s the point.

Well, what that guy is doing is training his nervous system to handle some heavy-ass iron. If you know what that feels like then it becomes easier to handle and your body won’t be in shock once you start handling some heavy weight.

The exercise is used with 1, 2, 3 or 4 two-by-fours stacked on top of each other, and it almost looks like a grade-school paddle. It could also give you flashbacks to the famous paddle scene in “Dazed and Confused.”

Regardless, it’s a valuable tool and using them allows you to overload different areas of your bench. At my best, I was able to bench 550 in a shirt to a 3-board (video below), and I also did 455 raw to a 3-board, which really overloaded my triceps and allowed me to move some serious weight.

If you don’t have boards, simply find something else like a phone book or some random pads lying around in the gym.

Personally, I think the 2-board and 3-board are the most effective, allowing you to get stronger in some weird and difficult areas of the movement. Go outside the norm, use this proven lift and watch your bench reach new levels.

BOARD PRESSDOWNS

I found out all I needed to know and how important band press downs were in one article. According to what I read, Louie Simmons fixed a lifter’s bench one time simply by telling him to do 3 sets of 30 reps of band press downs every day.

This particular lifter had a strong chest, but his triceps were his weak point and he struggled to lock out heavy weight. Well, you’re only as good as your weakest link and this guy was failing at the end of the bench because of his triceps.

The band press downs were the perfect fix and they can certainly be a valuable tool for your bench as well. The band tension gives you an incredible burn and puts a serious amount of blood in your triceps, allowing you to really build up your triceps and improve your lockout.

These have become a staple in my training for the last few years and it’s really paid dividends as far as muscle growth and performance.

GO BUILD A BIG BENCH PRESS

So, there you have it – two exercises and one technique change to add into

your workouts. Hopefully these introductions or reminders get your bench moving in the right direction again. Put these to good use, good luck and get to benching!So, there you have it – two exercises and one technique change to add into your workouts.

TRAINING THE POSTERIOR CHAIN: DON’T BE AFRAID OF

BARBELL GOOD MORNINGS

 by Cory Gregory

Is your lower back and core a weak link in the chain? Cory Gregory presents you with several barbell good morning variations that will help you build strength and muscle.

“A weak back equals a weak man.”

I wish I had come up with this, but instead the credit goes to the legendary Louie Simmons from the famed Westside Barbell. It’s one of his favorite sayings, and, yeah, if Louie says it then it’s definitely true.

For me, I’ve got some first-hand knowledge and now I can certainly say, “strong back equals a strong man.”

I always pictured myself as a powerlifter during the off-season/winter seasons while I competed in bodybuilding. The problem, though, was I kept getting

hurt and every injury always happened to be in my back and posterior chain.

For a guy who always liked to squat – a pretty uncommon theme for a lot of lifters, unfortunately – it made things very inconvenient and it’s also why I shied away from doing a lot of barbell good mornings and deadlifts.

It wasn’t necessarily how I wanted to train, but I was in a serious Catch 22: Keep training like I was, doing the wrong stuff with the wrong form and keep getting hurt, or don’t train the posterior chain at all and end up weak as hell in that area. Obviously, neither of these options was going to work for me, so I had to figure out something.

I got to studying and that’s how I found out more about Louie and his methods. Not only did I find that awesome quote from above, but I found out that one of their main “Max Effort” movements on Mondays was, in fact, good mornings

When I watched it, I was blown away. These monsters were destroying heavier weights for good mornings with more than I was squatting, and I was no slouch in the squat department. After a little more research, I knew what I had to do. I also knew if I wanted a strong lower back, I needed to man up, fix what I was doing and get strong at good mornings.

It certainly didn’t come overnight, but I was off and running on my quest for heavy – and proper – good mornings. I started with three reps at a whopping 135 pounds, getting coached by former Westside Barbell super heavyweight Tim Harold. This is a man who knew plenty about good mornings. Standing 6-foot-6 and 410 pounds, Big Tim could deadlift 855 pounds and could do a good morning with 700 pounds.

So, yes, Big Tim was an expert when it came to good mornings.

As for my start, Tim had this to say: “Cory, your abs look good, but your core is weak as hell.” Message received loud and clear. The next step was actually learning how to properly good morning, and Tim made sure to get my technique nailed down while also learning how to pull with a sumo stance.

With that came an intense focus and attention to detail when it came to technique, but believe me, good mornings can make your spine and posterior chain as strong as a T-Rex.

My 3-rep good morning went from 135 to a stout 335, while my deadlifted skyrocketed to 575, done while weighing 208 pounds. In the process, my back became thick and strong, while my hamstrings became noticeably more developed from the constant good mornings.

Now that I was doing them correctly, my posterior chain had some thick slabs

of muscle hanging from it, and I had nearly a triple-bodyweight deadlift to show for it.

These days, I don’t use quite as heavy of a weight when I good morning, but that level of strength I built in my back and posterior chain has paid big dividends. Now that my form is spot-on, I’ve stayed injury free and I can load up 225 and rep it out.

This can be a fearful exercise and technique is a major part of this compound movement, but I’m here to tell you not to be afraid of heavy good mornings. When done correctly, they can work wonders for you like it did for me. After all, a strong back equals a strong man.

Here are some great good morning variations to put into your own routine:

wide stance good mornings

BAND good mornings

SUSPENDED CHAIN good mornings

THREE WAYS TO BETTER YOUR BENCH

By The Editors

MOVE FASTER:

When training your one-rep max, slow and steady does not win the race.

ANCHOR YOURSELF:

Imagine there is a weight across your toes, and glue the entire sole of your foot to the floor.

DITCH THE FALSE GRIP:

Wrapping your thumbs around the bar will make you more explosive.

THE ULTIMATE TRX BEACH BODY WORKOUT

By Brent Bishop

The 20 minute, six exercise routine to burn fat, sculpt muscle, maximise strength & enhance endurance

Whether you have booked a one week vacation at your favourite sun destination, or you want to get outside this summer and take advantage of the great beach weather without jeopardising your workout, this is your 20 minute, kick ass, beach routine to get the job done!

 

MEET YOUR  WORKOUT PARTNER

One of the most versatile, scalable and convenient exercise pieces available to date, the TRX, weighs less than one kilo and is ultra-convenient as it makes a great travel companion to ensure you stay on track. As you will see, with the right routine this must-have piece of workout equipment can be an integral component to helping you take the monotony out of your existing program.

 

 JUST ADD SAND…

To kick things up a notch, taking your TRX workout to the beach not only saves you time, but takes your training experience and results to a whole new level. Bringing the resistance and instability properties of sand-based training into your existing routine can get you out of that plateau and bring back an element of challenge to your workout.

     After a sand-based workout like this, you will naturally find that all your joint stabilisers of the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles have been forced to react to this unstable and unpredictable surface. Not only is this amazing for developing stronger and more stable joints, you will also find that training in the sand will fatigue your muscles quicker and require more functionally intense contractions, translating to increased athletic strength. Due to the requirement for recruiting more muscle fibres, your cardiovascular system also has to keep up with the oxygen demand. The resultant effect – you benefit from becoming a stronger, faster, leaner and a more agile athlete. So, if you are bored of your indoor routine and want to ramp up the intensity to break that plateau, grab a TRX and just add sand! Here is your 20 minute, six exercise routine to burn fat, sculpt muscle, maximise strength, enhance endurance and leave you looking amazing on the beach!

THE TRX BEACH WORKOUT

Dynamic Warm-Up

Find a starting point as your marker on the beach, like a tree, beach chair, etc.

1 Jog with high knees for approximately 15 metres away from  your marker.

2 Complete deep walking lunges back towards your marker.

3 Straight leg walking kicks, 10 per side, back towards marker.

4 Low side shuffle 10 strides away from marker and 10 strides back.

5 Repeat this dynamic warm-up twice.

 

The Workout

Use the trunk of a palm tree or a fence to attach the TRX approximately 7-8 feet from the ground.  Adjust length of the TRX so it hangs approximately 1.5 feet from the ground (this will be good for most exercises). All exercises should be completed so that the last couple of reps are challenging, but just attainable without sacrificing form.

Note: This entire routine can be completed with or without shoes. Be sure that your sand surface is free of debris such as sharp rocks prior to beginning this routine without shoes.

#1 Body Row – Upper Back & Postural Muscles

Hold handles of TRX with arms straight and feet firmly planted into the sand. Keep core tight and all joints in a straight line. Begin by squeezing your shoulder blades together while pushing chest up and out. Pull your body between the handles and return to starting position. Complete 15-20 reps.

TIP: To increase difficulty, increase length of TRX and/or walk you’re feet closer to the anchor

#2 Suspended Push-Up Pike – Chest, Triceps,

Shoulders & Core

Place feet through the straps of the TRX and position hands on the ground. In a suspended position keep your core tight and lower into a deep push-up. Forcefully return to starting position, while hinging from waist and rising your hips up. Try to elevate your hips directly above the shoulders. Return back to straight position and drop immediately back into a push-up. Repeat for 15-20 reps.

TIP: To increase difficulty, perform plyo push-ups, where your hands leave the ground and then come back down to absorb the landing of each push-up.

#3 Depth Jumps – Quads, Hamstrings & Glutes

Begin in a partial squat position; swing arms back, then forward while simultaneously jumping. Land through the mid-foot while immediately absorbing your landing in a squat. Repeat immediately for 10 jumps away from TRX, then 10 jumps back.

TIP: Try to cover as much distance as possible with each jump.

#4 Trunk Power Twist – Abdominal Wall, Obliques & Lower Back

Hold both TRX handles or place handles in a locked singular position. In a staggered stance, stand laterally to tree with the leg closest to the tree backward and the other leg forward. With arms and body straight and posture intact, face the tree while keeping legs in lateral position. Tighten torso, exhale and forcefully twist away from the tree so that you are now lateral to the tree. Repeat for 12-15 reps on both sides.

TIP: Keeping elbows straight and moving feet closer to anchor will

increase difficulty.

#5 Single Leg Kamikaze Lunge – Entire Leg, Core, Chest, Triceps & Shoulders

Place one foot in both TRX straps (OR place handles in a locked singular position). Get into position with back leg suspended and front leg forward. Keep upper body posture tall and hips facing straight ahead. Lower your body into lunge position attaining a lower than 90° angle. Forcefully drive through front heel, jumping into the air. Absorb landing on front foot (mid-foot) back into deep lunge position. Place hands on the ground, kicking lunging leg back beside suspended leg. Complete a deep push up  then return back to starting position. Repeat for 12-15 reps on both sides.

TIP: To increase difficulty, add a plyo push-up instead of regular push-up.

#6 Bail-Out Plank – Obliques, Abdominal Wall, Lower Back & Shoulders

With feet suspended in TRX have top leg forward and bottom leg backward. Position yourself in a side plank with forearm on the ground (keep shoulder directly above elbow) and opposite arm extended in the air. Keeping hips as high as possible and core tight, reach top arm under body, allowing your body to rotate without changing leg positions. Reaching as far as possible, scoop a handful of sand and forcefully pull it forward, then return to original position. Repeat, digging out sand with each rep for 12-15 reps. Fill the groove back in with sand and repeat sequence on opposite side.

TIP: Do not let hips drop upon rotation.

To maximise time and results from this routine, complete this sequence without rest in between each exercise. Take 2 minutes rest only after completing all 6 exercises; then repeat entire sequence a second time. To further challenge yourself, use your watch to time how long it takes you to get through the first set of all six exercises and then try to beat that time (without sacrificing form) on your second set.

     Add this killer routine three times a week to your training regimen and maximise your time at the beach by getting in the work first, so you can play later!

Dissecting Your Abs

By Alex Savva   |   Photos of Diego Sebastian by Jason Breeze

Taking a hard look at abdominal wall anatomy

The perfect physique is incomplete without a hard-as-nails abdominal section. We all want our abs to look like they’ve been etched from stone. Figure and physique athletes respect great core muscles. That said, the midsection is one of the top areas the body loves to store fat. It’s also one of the last areas to go when you’re eating right and exercising hard.

 

Changes in hormonal levels due to aging, stress and lack of proper sleep add more unwanted belly fat to your physique too. Even for competitive bodybuilders, the abdominals are often the last body part to get ripped before a show.

But before you even think about training and dieting for a sick six-pack, you need to understand the abdominal musculature and the function of each area so you don’t end up doing a thousand crunches a day in the hopes of waking up one morning with ripped abs. You’ll be sorely disappointed if that’s your game plan. Let’s take a look at the different muscles before we begin with a workout.

 

Core

This area is comprised of a number of muscles from the abdominal area, hip, and lower-back region. The main musculature in the core is the transverse abdominis, which is your deepest layer of abdominal muscle.

Action: Stabilises the spine and rectus abdominis.

 

Rectus Abdominis

Commonly referred to as the six-pack, this sheet of muscle runs laterally and originates at the pubis and pubic symphosis. It inserts into the xiphoid process of the sternum and costal cartilages five to seven. The rectus abdominis has thin bands of connective tissue that give it that six-pack appearance.

Action: Flexes the trunk, increases the abdominal pressure, and Stabilises the pelvis.

 

External Obliques

These muscles run diagonally downward and towards the centre of the body. They originate from the lower eight ribs. The external obliques insert into the linea alba, pubic crest and tubercle, anterior superior iliac spine, and anterior half of the iliac crest.

Action: To rotate, laterally flex the trunk, and compress the abdomen.

 

Internal Obliques

As the name states, these muscles lie under the external obliques and run diagonally upward and towards the centre of the body. They originate on the thoracolumbar fascia, anterior two-thirds of the iliac crest, lateral two-thirds of the inguinal ligament. The internal obliques insert into the lower three or four ribs, linea alba, and pubic crest.

Action: To rotate, laterally flex the trunk, and compress the abdomen.

 

Transverse Abdominis

Also referred to as the transverses, this is the deepest layer of muscle that is wrapped horizontally and medialward around the abdominal area. Think of this as your built-in weightlifting belt. The transverse abdominis originates on the lower six ribs, thoracolumbar fascia, anterior three-quarters of the iliac crest, and lateral one-third of inguinal ligament. It inserts into the linea alba, pubic crest, and pecten of the pubis.

Action: Compresses the abdomen.

 

Upper & Lower Abdominals

Simply put, there are no such muscles as upper abdominals and lower abdominals. What you need to understand is that the rectus abdominis is a sheet of muscle that is not split into two separate parts. If this were the case, you could independently contract your upper abs without affecting your lower abs and vice versa. But due to the structure of the muscle, it just isn’t possible.

When mentioning upper and lower abs, trainers and coaches are simply referring to a specific area of the same muscle. Many individuals say they feel more of a burn in the upper region of their abs when doing weighted ball crunches and in the lower region of their abs when doing hanging knee raises. That feeling or burning sensation on the rectus abdominis muscle varies depending on the exercise.

 

Advanced Abdominal Exercises

There are many ab exercises out there and it’s one of the body parts trainers get asked about most frequently. Try mixing up your core routine by integrating some of the exercises described here. These moves are advanced and should only be attempted by those who already have a strong core and are injury-free. You can do them as a circuit at the end of your workout (to make sure your core is strong during your big lifts) or you can mix them into your training regimen.

Decline Sit-Up & Twist

TARGET: Internal & External Obliques

START: Hook your legs into a decline bench and lie back with your hands

behind your head.

MOVEMENT: Perform a full sit-up and twist to one side at the top. Slowly lower yourself back down under complete control. Make sure you don’t come up too high, as this will remove the tension from the abs. Repeat for 10 to 12 reps.

Hanging Knee Raise

TARGET: Rectus Abdominis

START: Hang from a chin-up bar with your arms fully extended. Keep your shoulders pinned down and back.

MOVEMENT: Draw your knees up past your waist. Squeeze your abs at the top of the move and slowly lower your legs back down. You can add a twist at the top of the move to engage the obliques further. Aim for 12 to 15 reps.

Straight-Arm Rope Pulldown

TARGET: Transverse Abdominis/Core

START: Grab a rope attachment from a high pulley and stand about 60 centimetres back. Lean forward slightly, keep your shoulders pulled back and down, and draw in your core. Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground.

MOVEMENT: With your arms straight, start at chin level and pull the rope down to your thighs. The advantage of using the rope attachment is that you can go into a deeper range of motion by pulling the rope apart at the bottom of the move. Slowly return to starting point and repeat for 10 to 12 reps.

Weighted Cable Crunch

TARGET: Rectus Abdominis

START: Grab a rope attachment in each hand and start by kneeling about 1 to 3 feet from the cable stack. You will have to experiment with the weight and distance from the apparatus.

MOVEMENT: Take the time to find what’s best for your body. From the start position, keep your hands behind your head. Pull your abs in and crunch down, flexing from the hip. Focus on keeping constant tension throughout each rep. Slowly resist the weight back to the starting position and repeat. Aim for 12 to 15 reps.

Cable Chop

TARGET: Internal & External Obliques

START: Stand with your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart. Grip the cable with both hands and hold it above your right shoulder.

MOVEMENT: Chop the weight down and across your body towards your left hip. Resist the weight back up and across your body to the starting position. Do 10 to 12 chops and then switch to the other side.

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