THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF RAHUL HARSH RAJE

Sharing nuggets of knowledge and ideas accumulated on health, strength and fitness based experiences. While here, feel free to hit the comments section and share your invaluable feedback about the blog's betterment. Have fun.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Strength Training: The silent suffering we all must undertake





Question: What makes us great?
Imagine a slice of life where I spend all my time getting better at my techie desk work. I'm sure the individuals involved in analytics and study of systems' behaviours will tell you that it is never going to be a linear journey upstream for me. Eventually, we are all destined to run into a state of chaos and hardships, professionally, before we even start seeing something even remotely like success and acclaim. My take on greatness exemplifies those select few who have the appetite to savour such tough times and win the fight with themselves over whether to go through such times or to sit back and stay within the comfortable confines of ordinary life.

But there's more to these tough times than just going full frontal, piercing through the snow. Have you heard many great guys singing praises of themselves going through the shitty times ever? I, for one, haven't. Much like success, greatness leaves clues as well. The secret to greatness, as my immature pursuit for it found out, lies in taking up the hard life and not speak of it broadly.

Silence builds an inner strength. A strong character is forged in peace. The hammers that produce character seldom make any sound.

And how do we, the millennial somethings, make this calculated form of hardships a part of our lives?

Here is a good news: Training for strength in any form, mostly lifting progressively heavier weights provides just the right amount of stimulus combining the pain, hard work, labour, satisfaction of creating something worthwhile and the discipline that the life of a desk jock living his twenties or early thirties in 2016 lacks.

For the readers who love posts with bullet points:

1. When the immovable iron is crushing you under its impossible weight, all you can think of is to be grateful to be alive. Hatred, envy, money, power and other vices seldom have a place in your thoughts.

2. There is hardly any feeling as good as the realisation that a gruelling training session just got over. I have developed a sense of thankfulness over the years, every time I am getting done with the lifting for the day.

3. If you are of the masochistic kind, step it up a bit by training alone and without any music. It's a very time-honoured way of developing a realisation within oneself of how easy the life outside the gym really is. We have luxuries we rarely notice. Some of these are the facilities like internet, entertainment, comfortable living spaces. posh transportation and many other delights that our feature-rich life is unknowingly blessed with. Trust me, all of them revolve in front of my eyes, when I am struggling through a set-after-set ordeal of repetition barbell squats in a lonely gym.

Image courtesy: https://www.animalpak.com
4. Hard workouts shape your thoughts. I got the idea to write this blog post exactly when I was crushing and getting crushed by double my bodyweight on the bar in a garage gym with the sound of road rollers constructing a road outside the gym as the only music available. You have nothing consoling surrounding you except cold emotionless iron bars and piles of iron plates gazing at you in hopes that you understand that you are not going to enjoy the entire experience. Sounds familiar doesn't it? Yes, life's like that too.


5. It's an almost evolutionary phenomenon how getting under a heavily loaded bar on a bench or preparing for a gigantic deadlift with our shins getting scratched by the barbell knurling forces us to empty our minds and focus only on the biggest purpose  in front of us. Purpose. It's a lovely paradox how we need an activity totally contrarian to our daily lives to remind us what the purpose of life really is. Ironically, I walk out of the gym with a better sense of the goals and purposes of my life.

Image Courtesy: https://www.t-nation.com
6. Being desk bound makes us lazy. I started looking at seemingly simple tasks of daily life as epic and troublesome activities. Simple grocery buying, meal preparation, household cleaning, gardening and similar essentials begin to make us tired. Taking care of children and being a worthwhile spouse all demand a substantial amount of personal calibre. Individuals who train with an eye towards progress and diligence have a surprising carryover of these virtues to the day-to-day chores of a time-crunched family living. They are near-flawless creatures that can equate the physical transformation skills to the efficiency gap that needs to be filled in their daily lives.

7. It makes us patient. There is no button available to suddenly transform life from tough to easy in the gym, sadly. There is no device to make you lift a pile of locked iron automatically. We need to make ourselves move. It takes time to master the skill of strength. And like all valued challenges of life, this silent patience built in the gym stays with you for life.

8. Hard training is a kick in the (proverbial)balls. It cautions us of how exceedingly sheltered our lives are getting. It makes sure we never forget that, in spite of us having a family, an army of friends and a circle of like minded individuals standing by our side, life is a quest one undertakes alone. Believe it or not. All the people who are there as a backing do have their role. But a man's or woman's true worth gets exhibited in those lonely dark hours when they walk alone through difficult situations. The sooner someone realises that life is a an interspersed journey of group jogging in the park and solo walk through the dark woods, the better. It's those solo walks that needs us to work on.

Image Courtesy: http://jcdfitness.com/
Greatness has a lot to do with a daily dose of misery. Some recognise misery as a happy state of progressing. The others need to understand that not going through hard knocks frequently is the reason why they cry like a weakling at the basest, minimal calamity that life suddenly throws at them.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Rackless Squat: How far can we go with minimalism on the Barbell Squats

If there's one thing that most gyms in hotels or apartments have got a solid issues having, it's the squat rack/squat stand/power rack/anything where an Olympic bar can be set before squatting it properly.

"What if I told you there are no racks in the gym now? Good luck bringing that bar down to earth from there."

In crunched up times such as this, most trainees resort to

1. Not squatting at all
2. Using Dumbbell based variations such as the Goblet Squats
3. Attempting to reclaim their man-card on the leg press machine
4. Utilise deadlift variations as the workaround for back squats

However, there are subtle limits to all of the above approaches:

1. Not squatting at all: It could be a definitely acceptable method if the trainee under consideration already has issues with squatting and is medically advised to utilise other leg strengthening movement patterns. For the rest of us who have no business making excuses, it is serious training time and opportunity missed not squatting with a heavy bar on our backs.

2. Using DB based variations such as the Goblet Squats: Often in the middle of two training cycles which incorporate heavy squatting, some fruitful variation can be introduced in the form of Dumbbell or kettlebell loaded squats such as the very effective Goblet Squat. The Goblet squat is a very productive exercise in its own right and is a superior hip mobility and squat movement training tool. As coach Dan John might suggest, it is one of the most effective movement to train the primal squat pattern for someone really new to squatting. For the others who have had a significant history of squatting, the idea of relying solely upon Goblets might lack the degree of structural influence that regular back squats can produce.

3. Attempting to reclaim their man-card on the leg press machine: The leg press is a great training machine. It allows trainees to reach impressively high levels of muscular loading and create localised hypertrophy, especially for training in the 10 to 2 repetition range. In other words, the leg press is the Back-Squat-challenged sloth's wild card into hoisting insanely huge loads while training legs. But that entirely is its problem as well; the leg press is a non kinetic movement. Considering the fact that rarely do we encounter situations in the real world where we are stuck with a tonne of weight supported on the soles of our feet while we are braced on our backs on the ground, the leg press becomes devoid of a very big portion of the real world, usable strength that we can otherwise own. it thus stays as a great staple, secondary or ancillary move, but can seldom if ever replace it's mother, back squats. Not to mention how the tilting of the pelvis around the coccyx region during the bottom position of the leg press can raise significant questions on spinal safety considering nobody leg presses lesser than a house.

4. Utilise deadlift variations as the workaround for back squats: Programs such as Pavel's Russian Bear keep the high volume deadlift routines as a utility that can produce a dramatic hypertrophy effect in the legs which is comparable to how the back squats can bless the legs of a trainee. If there is one program which has made me never miss Back Squats when I did not have a squat rack, it has to be this one. However, all good things come to an end and there comes a time when even this magnificent Press/Deadlift combo program requires a shift of pace. The space then gets desperate to get filled up with the old fashioned squats

To summarise, just like every other big movement, the barbell squat becomes seemingly irreplaceable in its grandiose right.

Let's look at the squat closely, It is a basic primal movement and is the chosen manoeuvre when a heavy bag of sand/cement needs to be carried for a distance or supported/hoisted over a platform by construction workers. This might be a possible hypothesis on how the squat really came into existence. When it comes to squatting without the rack, we are more concerned with the part where the bar is put on the shoulders rather than the squat itself.

Cleaning and pressing the bar will almost always be ruled out as a method of choice since we can never out-clean or out-press our squat. Especially after finishing a gruelling set of squats, we can not rely upon the strength of our shoulders to press the weight and bring it back in the front.

Enter the...

The Contrarian Approach to mounting the bar during the Squat

Not until recently did I found a picture of Andy Komorny doing a weird version of squat where the bar wasn't straight across his back but was rather at an angle to the vertical. Reading through the pages of Pavel Tsatsouline's Naked Warrior, I discovered that it was in fact a lift where you pick up a loaded barbell right from the ground and then lever it over your back until straightening it fully into the top position of a squat. How incredibly raw! At first sight, I did have my reservations as to how dangerous can this movement be, but something inside me told me that I had had my aha moment.

I researched this further and found that it is called the Steinborn Squat Lift, named after the legendary strongman credited with the discovery of the barbell back squat(the world knew only the deep knee bend before him), Henry 'Milo' Steinborn.

The exact directions for executing a Steinborn lift are as follows:

The steps below roughly collate into the above sequence
Image Courtesy: Breaking Muscle

1. Place the loaded barbell on the ground. The longer the barbell, the better. My personal experience has been training in a gym with a six feet long barbell being the longest. I am six feet tall and trust me, this becomes a real menace, while mounting the bar during the Steinborn lift. I'm an object of entertainment for those minutes for everyone in the gym.
2. Keep a rubber matting, mattress or some similar cushioning surface that has sufficient give in it under one end of the barbell. This is the end about which the barbell is very soon going to get upended.
3. Pivot the barbell about this end by picking the other end. This should look like a Landmine unit being lifted levered on the other end. By now the barbell will be standing on one end supported by you with your hands on the other end.

Peary Rader performing the Steinborn style squatImage Courtesy: Squat University

4. Plant one foot about six inches from the bottom end and get under the barbell . Place your neck approximately near the centre of the bar by transversely tilting your spine. Careful; this is the tricky part. As you lock your head near the centre of the bar, also simultaneously squat down to allow the bar to slowly descend from a vertical to a horizontal position.
5. By now, the bar is slanted across your back and you are in a near bottom squatting position. The next step is to slight pull on the upper end of the bar with your grip and push on the bottom end with your other arm, all this while allowing the back to absorb any sudden jerks resulting from the grounded end of the bar coming up form the ground.
6. Well done. the bar is now atop your back, and you are in the bottom position of the squat. Bottom. That is where you start squatting the Steinborn way.
7. While dismounting the bar, reverse the sequence of steps given above.

Looks weird but that's a Steinborn Lift unmounted correctly
Image Courtesy: Bodytribe Fitness

And here's the entire lift in action. This is a crazy Steinborn Lift done by Scott Campbell. That's 425 pounds!


So, you see, the part where you get the bar on your back from the ground is actually the most technically challenging part and not the squat itself. As such it demands utmost focus and practice before you can start lifting really big numbers in this lift. Which is in fact a blessing in surprise(as you will see shortly below). The list of positive benefits from the practice of Steinborn lift are manifold.

1. Since this is a very intimidating lift, most folks will have no business lifting their usual squat poundage in the Steinborn. This means that there is an automatic upheaval of technique and the lift becomes safer, especially for trainees who regularly overestimate their squat strength and end up with a sloppy and pain/injury inducing squat. As such several coaches even suggest using the Steinbron squat as against the squat from the racks for teaching the squats.
2. Following from the previous point, The compromised position of the bar in the beginning requires that you stay entirely tight right from the beginning, lest you risk bar slippage or tilting. A tight or stiff squat is almost always safer and more effective. These merits once again place it in a staple list of moves for learning the squat.
3. Once you have reached a respectable expertise level in the Steinborn lift, you are now equipped with the ability to squat in almost any gym that has an Olympic Barbell; no racks and stands needed. Of course you will very rarely be able to squat super heavy using this method. but that single trade-off is covered by the huge boost in the squatting technique that you experience.

The record set in the Steinborn lift is 553 pounds made by Henry Steinborn himself. It is a frequently contested lift in the All Around Weightlifting World Championships.

This lift does have many more subtle details, though I believe that the mere act of getting started with it might be the first step towards learning much more about this unexplored movement. As I keep practising it, many more ways of making it better and safer keep dawning upon me.



A lost lift which has the potential to solve your grave gym issues that can take you out of the squat-less training ruckus and enable you to reap the benefits of the capability to barbell squat in virtually any gym in the world. Use it and never leave gaps in training programs again, even when you travel to the most impossible destinations. Do expect the startled onlookers give you gazes of astonishment.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

11 Commandments of a travelling weight trainee

Travelling is inevitable, necessary and immensely enjoyable. People more travelled always tend to show a higher sense of understanding about how the world works, how people think, how different professionals operate and how that rare recipe of sushi tastes.

I know what avid readers of this blog might have started thinking by now: how can we carry our implements of training all around the world so that we can both be in our peak shape and exploit the benefits of a globetrotting lifestyle?

Though the answer to this question can be both tough and extremely detailed, it's always easier to boil thing down to a bullet pointed list. Here are some key and handy check list items you can enlist before you start packing your bags for a trip to the Caribbeans.



1. Carry enough nuts:

Nuts are a power house of nutrition. Commonly used nuts such as cashews, Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts etc should definitely be kept handy while you are off to a long trip where there is going to be no access to quality nutrition for elongated periods of time.

How much of nuts should I consume? As a standard serving size, do not over-analyse, a handful is usually enough at a sitting. You can try an assorted combination of almonds, walnuts, raisins, peanuts etc. The essential fatty acid profile of nuts usually place them very high in the pyramid of energy rich foods. Acting as a slow-release energy giver, do keep your pack ready before you set off.

2. Master the art of bodyweight training :

Apart from being a primal and differently effective form of exercise, bodyweight training is also going to be your friend in strength while on the move. That is mostly due to its ready availability practically everywhere you are. Waiting for a cab/bus? How about squeezing a set of one leg calf raises. Short on time and need to catch an early morning flight to a far flung exotic holiday? How about a timed circuit of push up - bodyweight squat - vertical jump complex? The combinations of exercises and their organization seems endless. With application of sound programming principles, a lot can be done without sufficient training hardware around.



3. Strategically overtrain in the days leading to a long trip:

This is a strategy which most athletes usually use when a lot of travel is on their calendar. Often, it is not only the unavailability of a gym, but aso the unavailability of time in between frequent hops of flights, buses, cabs and stopovers at airports, which makes training a distant possibility. Your only insurance in such odd times is an overly fatigued state that is yearning for recovery all the time. This can be achieved by taking training up a notch on the days leading to the travel. Perhaps some extra volume on the deadlifts and squats without hurting yourself in the process. This does leave you with a foggy brain at times and you might lack your usual antelope like alertness during the initial few days of the journey, but this ensures that you have the training effect alive and you do not need any additional training while you are recovering.



No more searching for training options in odd, desolate placed and you might even focus more on climbing up a rock by a waterfall and get yourself photographed, in all the spirit of travel.

4. Invest in a quality suspension trainer:

Although the one I use is a TRX suspension trainer, feel free to use any brand or version of a suspension trainer, as long as it gets the job done. In fact, two long straps of durable, inflexible material with plastic handles or loops attached to them will fit the prescription pretty good too. The most important aspect is the compactness and versatility in the form of almost every human movement that can be loaded using bodyweight on a suspension training.



 In fact, many of the movements done on a suspension trainer can also be augmented using aids such as a loaded backpack or a weighted vest (More on this shortly)

5. Parallettes:

Parallettes not only reinforce your wrists while doing upper body pushes, but are also very handy and easy to store training implements. Handstand pushups on parallettes have the added benefit of increases bottom range of motion. In fact parallettes mimic the action of gripping a fixed external weight as against pushing with the palms flat on the floor while doing bodyweight pushes which can add a tangent that trains the grip too.



6. Ab Wheel:

A deceptively small looking abdominal roll out wheel can be a very formidable and evil addition to your training travel collection. In fact, very strong and jacked dudes grinding very big numbers on the bench, dead and SQ have been seen struggling doing a technically correct abdominal wheel rollout, even on their knees. Of course, graduating from a knees supported version to the one done on toes is itself going to be a futile journey, giving ample training opportunity to last for months, if not weeks. Extended training avenues such as these are big assets when training on a minimalist footprint. And we haven't even yet factored the advanced ab wheel rollout versions such as the one arm and the one arm one leg rollouts.



7. Resistance Bands :

Resistance bands offer a very space-friendly option to add compounded resistance to any bodyweight exercise. Moreover, bands have the advantage of progressively graduating the amount of resistance which an exercise utilises since the further you stretch a band, the more tension it generates and the greater challenge it places on the worked muscle groups.



Increasing resistance with bands is simple, just keep adding bands or simply use a band with higher tension rating. Initially originated as a clinical tool mostly used for therapeutic purposes by chiropractors and physical therapists, bands have come a long way to becoming a go to choice of powerlifters and general fitness enthusiasts alike for adding an accelerating resistance load to their exercises.

8. Research for gyms in and around your hotel if you are going to live in a metropolis:

While you are making the most intricate choice for your hotel and holiday plans, do make it a point to consider if the hotel you are staying with has a gym in it. In fact, I remember emailing this hotel in Jakarta that I was supposed to be staying in, repeatedly about whether they have a gym. Of course their little bothered staff did not care to ever respond which compelled me to put together this blog post on the same subject as a result.



 In most cases though, going the extra mile to determine training facilities in the vicinity of where you are going to stay will forever lend you an edge and will ease up life, without you having to search for help in new places.

9.  Have a backpack and stuff to load in it:

When you are already at a training expertise level where plain old pushups, squats, dips, pull ups etc do not present enough challenge to tickle your muscle cells, it's time to use training aids such as old backpacks loaded with plates or heavy objects to use while performing these exercises. It can transform simple push ups into a formidable exercise, which I sometimes find harder, yet safer than a heavy bench press.

Your usual luggage can also be used as a push up weight

10. Walk a lot:

This is one form of physical activity that comes as a complimentary staple anytime you are out on a long expedition. Moreover, if your holiday requires you to be on a long trek with a heavy gear on your back for seven continuous days, there is absolutely nothing left inside you that can recite the words 'e-x-e-r-c-i-s-e'. Shopping through streets and changing railway station platforms carrying luggage can leave you gassed in no time and doing it over and over for several days is an experience the legs and calves can remember for days.



11. Keep your eyes open in your hotel room:

Be ingenious and innovative in using cupboards, windows, doors, balconies, lofts, any sturdy furniture etc to serve as places to do pull ups, bodyweight rows, depth jumps etc from. However, watch out that you really do not get overzealous and break apart any of those stuff and end up paying the hotel, the cost of our muscle building ambitions. Be reasonable in your screening of the furniture and similar items guaging the strength of materials wisely, without spoiling the room's interior decoration in an attempt to do muscle ups on top of an unbalanced wooden cupboard.

Travelling shouldn't now leave you with that glitch that keeps on telling you that something better could have been done to stay in shape. The options listed above will cover most of your fitness essentials on a very economical budget. Give these sharp ideas a try and we'll be the ones bumping into each other while walking on a beach on Krabi Islands.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

How important is sleep really for us?

I am really sleepy as I speak to you. And this has been a result of not sleeping well, inspite of knowing how messed up it is going to make me look.

If you are like me, sleep might come to you as only slightly more important than work. In fact, if most of us had our way, we would swing a magic wand and let go of all the need we have for sleeping and make a very fashionable use of all that time to do cool stuff.


Alas, life (and biology)!

However taking a moment to get off our all-night-safari-jeep and appreciating what good sleeping nicely does to us will make you reconsider your stand. Here's some of the goodies that sleep is loaded with:

Do check out another piece I've written on the subject of sleep's importance for health and fitness nuts, HERE!

1. A well slept night can be the difference between a confident lift and a shaky one where your eyes are burning and you are guessing in the middle of a weight, why the hell am I doing this?


2. Training requires you to effectively remember the lifting technique or the act of moving the weight from one point to another. Remember those days when you used to memorize vast chapters before history exams? Somehow we used to remember better when we were fresher as compared to the when we were sleep deprived. It works the same way with weight training.

3. Imagine that you suddenly find yourself under a weight weighing twice or even more times your bodyweight. To come out alive of such a situation, you might require significant degree of alertness to quickly tighten up yourself and generate sufficient tension to support the weight without injuring yourself.

 Sleeping properly can thus help you stay more awake during your heavy training sessions where you might be required to generate force and tension to prevent injuries. I myself have suffered insurmountable spinal pain from lifting heavy when I wasn't fresh. Here is the first hand account.

4. It's a cascading damage. One less than optimal training session renders the very next one ineffective due to a misplaced target weight milestone which in turn brings the performance during the next one down which will be the lower denominator for the next in line, and so on. A properly recovered and alertness and focus driven session can bring your lifting numbers back in place.

A sharp focus, right from the start of the lift requires to have slept properly.

Now this doesn't mean that for someone who has followed his or her sleeping hours like a religion will never experience symptoms of partial recovery during lifting. Sometimes we miscalculate the amount of rest we might require, a common phenomenon in busy lives. Moreover, when surpassing a current max weight, most trainees might need to stay at that new max longer than they might expect. Overreaching without sufficiently recuperating on previous endeavors of surpassing can force you to stop any ongoing training and wait till you feel fully fresh and ready again to conquer the next target weight.

5. Often not recovering enough is what renders a bad rap to lifting too. Most trainees who aren't sleeping enough even after going through intense weight training programs start to experience visible signs of damage and incomplete repair. I myself start to develop facial acne. Hair-fall and dark circles around the eyes AREN'T uncommon too. So is loss of appetite. Accumulating stress can also jettison a high cortisol response resulting in a peculiar fat deposition profile (a classic case of how exercise based stress can also make you fat).

People can conveniently ignore the sleep-gap in this situation and the only element to be blamed becomes the training. Try to not fall into such misunderstanding and ensure adequate sleep adherence.

ironically, a seemingly lethargic sleep is when you are most actively reaping the benefits of hard training.
Ever felt immensely fuller and more focused, clearer in the head after a longer than usual sleep? Chances are that you have been seriously underslept in the recent times. Try to use these reasons as an excuse to get to bed earlier tonight and become a higher bad-ass than you are.

Feel free to shower your thoughts on the subject of sleep for better health and looks. Hit share if you loved the post!

Friday, 20 May 2016

Random Traning Insight: The Front Squat and The Drag Curl

A better set & rep scheme for the Front Squat:

Low repetitions are a better choice than high reps when it comes to the front squat. A recent inclusion of front squats in my current program further strengthened this thought.

Front Squats a rare mix of two entirely different classes of muscles involved. On one hand, we have the highly heterogeneous mix of fast and slow twitch fibers residing in the lower body(the quadriceps, VMO complex, the calves) and on the other, we have a big combination of mostly fast twitch only upper body muscles like the mid back and neck muscles which play a key role in executing a technically correct front squat. As a result there is a varying fatigue curve against time for all the involved muscle groups. In all possibility, your upper body muscles responsible for keeping the bar in place might get exhausted way before the lower body muscles might even start experiencing symptoms of fatigue.
Due to the frontal placement of the load, the front squats are merited with loading the quadriceps to a higher degree than back squats


Basically, the front squat requires you to keep your elbows elevated and scapulae depressed during the entirety of the set. As such, it places tremendous demands on your lower trapezius and rhomboids, both of which are not very slow-twitch dominant muscles(The Rhomboids are approximately 55 percent fast twitch and the lower trapezius is )

Significantly involved in stabilization of the cervical spine and the neck region is the sternocleidomastoid, a muscle that is about 65 percent fast twitch, that makes it a muscle that can have a very high level of activation for a relatively shorter time. The entire neck musculature is also called into play during the front squats since the need to keep the bar directly above your mid foot makes it roll back a lot a times choking you. The exacerbated requirement to breath deeply and retain such breaths makes the entire neck musculature to remain in overdrive throughout this period.

The role of spinal erectors is priceless in an exercise like this which requires more midline stabilization under the load than any other lower body exercise. Again, the muscles that run along the spine such as the erector spinae might start to loose peak activation levels much before the quadriceps, VMO or the calves. Trying to stay upright under the bar starts to become a struggling affair.

In light of all the above constraints, the most effective way of utilizing front squats in a program targeting muscle hypertrophy is to use lower number of reps per set and in turn trying for a higher number of sets to match the volume used in case of a back squat. This ensures technical correctness and sufficient muscle building potential derived out of execution of this exercise.

The Drag Curl as opposed to the plain old bicep curls

One of the exercises in my current program called for a movement to train the biceps. The choice here mostly becomes the barbell curl(and very obviously so). However, this age-old choice might come with a set of challenges:

1. It's a single joint movement
Although you might utilize isometric and limited range-of-motion assistance from your back and hip muscles to execute really heavy bicep curls, the exercise by definition remains a single joint one and as such mandates minimal to near zero involvement of other muscle groups.

This does comes with increased risk of joint use injuries especially around the elbow and wrist joint. At the same time, jerky and small range of motion movement especially at the lumbar spine in case of incorrectly executed cheat curls can leave one with an injured low back.

2. You really cannot go as heavy as you'd really want to in regular curls
Following from the previous point,  we have all never been able to go real heavy in bicep curls without sacrificing some form. You know, that real 'big-wheels-on-each-side' kind of weight.

The solution to this set of problems came to me as a great exercise devised by one of the brightest geniuses of the iron sport, Vince Gironda.  The exercise is "Drag Curls".
Vince Gironda - The Iron Guru

Drag Curls allow you to use your shoulders to hyperextend your humeri while also curling the weight at the ellbows. Here's how it goes:
1. Pick a barbell with about shoulder wide grip and stand straight with a shoulder wide stance.
2. Drag the bar along your upper body all the way up to your lower chest with the barbell touching your body at all times. You do this by simultaneously flexing the elbow joint and hyperextending (pulling the barbell back towards you) the shoulder joint
3. At the top position, your arms are fully flexed, your elbows are pulled back behind your body and the bar is in contact with your upper chest.
4. Do not elevate your shoulders. This is not a shrug.
5. Reverse the movement in a controlled manner all the way down to the point where the barbell is hanging in your arms to complete one rep

By using multiple joints here, you immediately get rid of both the issues faced in a standard curl. You will be surprised to know how heavy you can go in a drag curl compared to a conventional curl. Bigger weights are always the precursor to bigger muscles and involvement of both the shoulder and elbow joint to balance the loading makes it a much safer exercise as well.

For the same reason, you also happen to recruit more number of muscles giiven your range of motion is good. You do get a good recruitment of the upper traps, the posterior heads of the deltoids and good grip work since you are lifting a bigger weight now.

Hopefully these pieces of information will benefit the trainees who haven't come across these thoughts so far. Try utilizing these tools in your quest for strength and hypertrophy. Let me know of your questions and experiences in the comments below. Would love it if you share the post as well. Cia, until then!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Reasons why you can have a belly without being really fat!

The appearance of a rotund, swollen abdomen is a classic litmus test for a person being termed as fat or not. In fact, with the age of the internet warriors and evolution of 'fat shaming' the appearance of a pot belly can give someone a totally novel set of undesirable adjectives.

However, from my experience with my own self as well as a large number of people I continually keep consulting with on a personal basis, the problem of such an appearance may not necessarily lie in only accumulation of a high amount of body fat around the waist.


Here's a quick list of some reasons we would have never thought of that can lead to that out of shape appearance when we wear close fitting jeans
If you suddenly need into sqeeze into your regular jeans, you should read on the following post!


1. Anterior pelvic tilt/tight hip flexors:

The people I consistently train with in the gym know one thing about me and that is, I always begin my training session with that same old boring dynamic hip flexor mobility drill which looks something like this:

The way I spend a majority of my life, which isn't much different from what this blog's audience must be doing is mostly sitting on my butt while I am doing something(or pretending to). This does two things to our lower body musculature.

 a. It shortens the length of the muscles which help us in folding at the hip joint in the frontal direction, aka Hip Flexion. The muscles groups responsible for this are grouped under the category hip flexors such as:

i.  Iliopsoas or inner hip muscles

ii. Psoas major
iii. Iliacus muscle.
iv. Rectus Femoris, especially around the proximal origin point at the hip jointAt the same time, an equal and opposite development also happens. The length of the muscle fibers which are antagonists to hip flexion also takes place. Particularly the hamstring muscle groups, the gluteal complex and several para spinal muscle groups that help you 'straighten up' or extend at the hip joint.
A cool info-graphic showing the muscle groups involved and directional vectors they act in to control the tilting of the pelvis
The muscle groups just mentioned above have all one common purpose, apart from causing the requisite movement at the involved joints: They server the purpose of protecting the spine during sudden and unnatural shocks which can take the spine out of its neutral alignment. These muscles achieve this by producing compensatory action at their particular joint and saving the spine(which being the backbone is the most crucial element to be protected) from any irreparable damage.

What this entire fiasco is all about is maintaining the length-tension relationship of any muscle fibers along its length. The length-tension relationship vastly determines how much force can be produced by the contraction of a muscle. When it comes to your biomechanical health and integrity, the force production potential of the above mentioned muscle groups can determine how much they are fulfilling their purpose.


When the pelvis is in its neutral position, it allows for the most amount of space between each vertebra as they are aligned in their natural curves. Coccyx – lordotic, Sacrum – kyphotic, Lumbar – lordotic, Thoracic – kyphotic, Cervical – lordotic. Curves of the Spine
And now for how is all that shit related to making you look bloated. When the above phenomenon of tightness in hip flexor is caused. it results in your pelvic floor going out of alignment and start appearing like this:


Can you notice the way the anterior aspect of the abdominal wall on the skeleton to the right above is not really straight, rather it slants its way down and back giving rise to a somewhat rotund appearance. If the skeletal images aren't making it clear enough, here's another graphic which should throw more light on this development:


The unfortunate guy on the right appears to have a higher amount of girth around his waistline in spite of not really being a very fat guy in general.
The girl in Fig 1C has appearance of a pot belly that isn't there.
For the ladies, prolonged use of high heels as well might result in anterior tilting of the pelvis and cause the aforementioned symptoms:

How should we really take care of it? Simply reversing the changes which the muscle groups mentioned above have experienced. Practicing the dynamic hip flexor mobilizations such as the one mentioned in the video at the start of this section should be a good help. Focus on elongating the hip flexors on the frontal portion of your upper leg and groin as you you squeeze your glutes and push your hip bucket forward on all repetitions.

2. Widening of the waist muscles due to hypertrophied oblique muscles:

Remember the old school bodybuilding advice which warned against using lateral flexion movements such as the weighted side bends which can cause the appearance of a wider waistline than usual. The exercise is done with a positive intention of strengthening the external obliques in this plane of movement. However, the enlargement of these muscle groups can significantly increase the ratio of your waistline width to your shoulder width. The result is what is referred to as a square waistline. This can especially be a deal-breaker for the female trainees who are aspiring for a figure or bikini competition.

A better approach for oblique strengthening can be to utilize anti rotation drills such as the paloff press and not going too heavy on these movements.
If you'd still feel like incorporating the plain old side bends and also savvy the side plank variations, a deeper look at their waist enlargement potential reveals that more than the exercise itself, the loading strategy is what needs a makeover. Ditch the "heavier is better" thinking and go for a moderate weight on your side bends, for moderate to high reps.

In fact, side planks done in the hardstyle fashion can be a good choice. While you do your planks, ensure that you are generating gradual and maximal tension throughout all the muscles of your body from head to toe while you are planking. Also, maintain a steady breathing pace throughout the duration and limit your plank sets to not more than 10 seconds. Planks performed in this manner should add durability to your big movements such as the squats, deadlifts, pull ups etc and not lead to excessive enlargement of the obliques while simultaneously delivering an anti-flexion capability.

3. A history of powerlifting based practice.
Think of an automobile tyre. You are going on a rough terrain in your pick up truck and you suddenly start feeling more jolts and jerks than you usually do. At the same time, you start feeling a slowness and the acceleration drops. The first thing you will be checking is the amount of pressure in your four tyres. And if by any chance,we find the pressure ot be less in any one of the, we immediately know the reasons for the uncomfortable journey. Fuller pressure with more air present inside the tyres helps produce a better force against the ground and propel the car forward.

When you are descending into the bottom of a heavy squat, your abdomen is braced against your upper legs(provided you have squatted to a substantial depth), the amount of air you can engulf inside your abdominal cavity will only determine how much throttling you can produce as a result of this bracing which will help you rise up from your bottom position.
Now unlike the automobile tyre which comes with a standard rating of pressure that it can withstand, quite oddly, your abdominal cavity does not come with a set level of pressure that it can engulf. And as a result of this, as  the amount of weight that you are lifting keeps increasing, so does the amount of deep breathing which you do while performing that lift. And if you look at the construction of your abdominal cavity, its an adaptable structure which can stretch out and enlarge itself over prolonged demand of enlargement due to all that increasing breathing requirements.

This results in an overly enlarged gut on most heavy lifters which perform lifts such as the squats and presses using the power breathing techniques.
Konstantin-Konstantinovs
But in-spite of this enlarged belly look, we should still remain cognizant of the fact that appearance of a belly due to this reason should be a good thing since it symbolizes that we are using correct lifting and force production technique while doing our heavy lifts. Advanced lifters having spent decades practicing and studying the science of strength understand the principle of breathing behind the shield to produce as much force while moving a super heavy weight. It's an adaptation which just follows closely when you are an expert lifter.

In fact, I have myself experienced such comments questioning my somewhat enlarged belly as my weights in squats, deadlifts and presses kept going up and I kept practicing belly breathing throughout them, over the years.

So, do not take it as a sign of higher adiposity and feel proud that you have been practicing a good force production technique for moving really heavy iron.

4. Lack of quality sleep

I remember those days when I have had one of the most gruelling and textbook perfect training sessions of the month. And yet the first question I hear from onlookers in office is "What he hell happened, how come you gained that pot belly overnight? Not going to the gym these days hmm?"

The sheer devastation of such questions aside, there is in fact solid science behind why such a contradictory scenario can happen with anyone. When I evaluated my week that day, I wasn't really sleeping up to the mark. My night was either composed of a late doze off or suddent wake up in the middle of the night, or of course an early rise in the morning which was inevitable.
That's my face when I listen to Boss' question on a morning I haven't slept well!

Lack of sleep makes your body sense it and respond with releasing a stress busting hormone called cortisol. While corisol release has its own place when you need a producive drive of alertness in the morning as you rush for work, elevated levels of cortisol when you are trying to sleep may mes up your sleeping ethics entirely. And on top of that, this elevated stress may in turn trigger more cortisol response. A higher than normal release of cortisol has been associated with an increasing trend in obesity and even diabetes. On the other hand, quality, deep, inception like sleep for at least 7 to 8 hours, if you can afford it, has been linked to a steady release of human growth hormone, the fountain of maintaining muscle, recovering from your training sessions and keep the fat off. In the constant fight between Cortisol and HGH, due to a regular loss of sleep, basically, Cortisol is winning. And along with it, its allies, poor state of mind, altered moods, lack of focus, loss of skin health, eyes with dark circles around them, messy recovery from workouts and yes of course, accumulated fat, especially around the abdominal region are winning. You appetite drops considerably. Wait, let me correct that, your appetite for the foods ou reallly need dies. And you suddenly start fulfilling your emotionally driven hunger pangs with foods such as candies, extra cheese burgers, sweets and the like. The resultant phenomenon is we turning into a fatter guy than we intended to be inspite f training really hard and eating quite clean during all other times.

The solution? It's simple. Simple but not easy. Take off from anything you are doing by 10:00 to 11:00 PM at night and jump straight into the bed with the light off. I know you have all heard of the quotations saying about successful people that they either wake up at 4 o clock or go to sleep at that time. Well, I'm not sure about you but if I was that guy who wants to be successful, I would rather prefer being the one waking up at 4. That's how nature want us to live. And anyone wishing to disturb that homeostasis shall face consequences such as resultant obesity out of the malpractices and latered lifestles. People working in night shifts and BPOs are living examples showcasing the ill effects of extremely altered sleep cycles. I might sound like a broken record by mentioning this point countless times on this blog but it bears repeating. Pay attention to your sleep and more health problems of yours than you can imagine shall get solved on their own. Trust me on that one!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Positive Body Image and Acceptance: My Take


Recently, a very fabulous post by strength coach extraordinaire and founder, Girls Gone Strong, Molly Galbraith made the rounds over the internet. Molly made an excellent point which badly needs to reach out across the millions of people trying to change the way they look through exercise.

This is my body. This not a before picture. This is not an after picture.This just happens to be what my body looks...
Posted by Molly Galbraith on Friday, January 1, 2016


Molly is an accomplished strength coach and articulates brilliantly why both women and men should stop fretting upon the way they look and end up using the wrong fitness modalities with an emphasis on only the 'Appearance'. Instead, a focus on performance and movement quality while choosing an exercise method or program can take us significantly further in our quest for a perfect body.

Individually unique bodies can be taken to their own individual levels of perfection with training consistently.
An important tangent though gets drawn here: eventually, there will be people all around us who will be quick in misusing Molly's advice into becoming extremely casual about their appearance and taking their physical condition and body composition to the very granted. In other words, these guys might take self-image acceptance to an altogether different level and forget that forming a positive self-imagery is only the first step of a series of uncomfortable changes which we may need in order to just keep getting better, it's not the end of it Developing a positive outlook towards whatever way we look like to start with is actually just a way to prevent us from going astray from our ultimate goal(no matter how long we take in reaching there) and trigger a series of other positive changes within our bodies such as making reasonable and sustainable food choices, developing an appetite for physical activity and fostering of an attitude bent towards traveling to newer places and meeting newer people.

Using positive body image formation as an excuse to simply not do anything to change your current state of health is a surefire way to sabotage an intelligent perspective and bastardize a smart way of thinking into a self-destructive mindset only doomed for nowhere. Just be careful and try not to fall into the trap of fooling yourself into being unable to distinguish between self-acceptance and self-over-pampering. It's a rather easy trap to fall into and needs an eye of attention to distinguish.

Accepting the way we look

Acceptance of our current situation is the first step in becoming better and in the realms of physical transformation, this also necessarily includes stopping to curse ourselves and derogate the way we look.

Here's another way of looking at it. A really cool analogy on similar lines was given by renowned strength and conditioning coach Dean Somerset some weeks back:

The other day I was thinking about dinosaurs and body image, because of course I was.Dinosaurs are bad-ass as fuck....
Posted by Dean Somerset on Thursday, December 10, 2015

Now, what can possibly beat THAT? Positive explanations like these fill you with self-reaffirming imagery and thought process that is paramount to have before you get your new exercise suit on and get to the gym on your year long spree.

This also tells us in a very logical manner that in terms of the way we look, all our bodies are unique. The individual skeletons which we all posses are all characteristic of our own selves and there is no sense in longing to change our natural biomechanics and joint-matrix to resemble someone else's. Usain Bolt has a charaterstic skeleton and muscle belly formation and fiber running length, which might be altogether different from Michael Phelps'. And they are both champions.

There can be individuals with a broad shoulder skeletal structure and we may all envy them on the masculine T shaped
look they always wear effortlessly. However, we cannot alter the length of our shoulder girdle naturally (without surgical intervention of course, which becomes a great damage filled ordeal itself)
Each of these guys were unique in their shapes: Different and perfect in their own right.

In fact, there have been bodybuilding legends who differed from each other in the specific shape and silhouettes which their bodies had. Sergio Oliva has an entirely different physique with prominent,  thick, rocky bulges than the streamlines Frank Zane with defined muscular lines and not a single square centimeter out of proportion. While vascularity is considered one of the hallmarks while judging the details in a competitive bodybuilding line-up, champions such as Flex Wheeler or the eternal icon of the sport, Arnold himself were known to not sport any alarming levels of vascularity ever. Yet they all kept winning and they never attempted to become each other. Rather what these pioneers in physical transformation and self-image improvement did can only be termed as:

Becoming a better version of ourselves


Most bodybuilding zealots may often come up with questions such as how to make the upper chest more developed in comparison to the lower aspect, or how to make the peak of the biceps appear higher or how to make the lower abs get more developed in comparison to the upper abs. Well the answer to all these curious questions lies in the understanding that any amount of training cannot completely alter the individual shape of someone's muscles' articulation and the way the muscle fibers run along lines and originate and insert at different points for different people. What training in fact can help people with is magnifying what nature has already bestowed them with. Hypertrophy or muscle surface area enlargement of a muscle fiber can have a unique trend differing from individual to individual. Because of the innervation and muscle attachment points, some of the folks might remain perpetual strugglers when it comes to calf development. While some of the guys having a relatively long neck might get enormous trapezius development and still feel they are not there yet. Same goes for people having longer limbs in general.
Lou Ferrigno: A result of targeting the complete muscle to grow and not selectively growing parts of it.

Now, all of these individuals might still keep getting incredibly stronger in their lifts, and which I posit should be the primary goal of a program which is even targeted towards making you a lean and big machine. For any muscle group to gain visual appeal, which can be defined by factors such as

1. Muscle Definition
2. Muscular Separation
3. Symmetrical development
4. Vascularity
5. Density

etc, we can follow this simple two step process:

a. Identify the biomechanical function of the muscle group, eg: flexing the elbow for the biceps or rising up on your toes for the calves, etc

b. Start practicing that movement for a given amount of training volume spread over a given block of time progressively increasing the difficulty of performing that movement.


Those who did not catch the drift of what just came out of my keystrokes above, we are talking about progressive resistance training here. Practicing big basic heavy movements will eventually cause your involved muscle groups to get bigger. With this increasing size, eventually there will come a point when the adjoining bellies of the muscle groups will enlarge enough to convalesce into each other and the resulting ridge like formation creates the 'separation' effect. The phenomenon happens to cover the case of pectoral development really well where appearance of a line like ridge of separation is expected over the sternum region.
This pectoral symmetry of Franco Columbu was caused by increasing the size of the entire muscle and not selectively training hoping to increase some portions of the muscle.

Of course, a low body fat percentage is going to be paramount in the appearance of any detail which has developed for any muscle group.

...be yourself; only better! 

We have a large number of misplaced ideals when it comes to analyzing our bodies and most of it can be blamed upon the heavily Photoshopped and professionally photographed images of the cover models we look at on fitness magazines. Replacing our ideals to the right standards can create the positive base to start from which many of us might require. It's high time we reassess how we judge our own physiques. And as it turns out, it is way incorrect and away from how it is supposed to be. The first step of any physical or mental transformation is always going to remain the acceptance of the way we are and only working upon improving the state we are in to a better self.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Hair Raising Posts for the Week: Episode 2

An invigorating list of articles and references for the year: here goes a list of eye-cathing and head turning fitness and health reads that undoubtedly deserve you, the wider audience's attention.

Should Women Take Creatine?

https://followthelita.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/creatine-ingredients.jpg

Dr. Cassandra Forsythe answers what every woman(and even many men) have been wanting to know about this supposed God of all supplements and why creatine might actually be the substance you may need to include in your grocery list, right now.

If long term health and continually improving performance are your goals, do not give this article a miss.


Kettlebells Are Cool, But What About My CHEST?
http://media.cleveland.com/kristel/photo/chest1png-8ffd5aa9ed40cde9.png

Phil Ross, Master RKC, explains how you can keep your chest development at par with a Gorilla's while still adhering to training using a pair of kettlebell and your bodyweight. I'm a big fan of training that has a small equipment based footprint. There's a huge stablization based benefit attached to training with both your bodyweight and kettlebells, so this form of training done with an emphasis on hypertrophy goals is definitely a bonus-giver.

Female Calisthenics WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2015 [HD
]



This fabulous video shows an assemblage of the most ruthlessly skilled female callisthenics athletes that might put even the most driven bodyweight training zealot to question their training ethic. This even was held in Moscow in mid 2015 with athletes coming in from over 15 countries. Use this video's adrenaline equivalent of seven Red Bulls to charge yourself before you enter the gym today.

The Shoulder Training BibleThe-shoulder-training-bible
A somewhat older article by Christian Thibaudeau where he elicits the emphasis that one can lay upon the big movements, followed by accessory multi joint movements and how the single joint movements can be injected into a program design targeting shoulder hypertrophy. I have been a fan of Thibaudeau's program design paradigm and have experienced impressive improvements from this approach in the past.


Older adults: Build muscle and you'll live longer
http://static1.squarespace.com/static/51b6509ae4b01c921f51cd6f/t/53ed4e5ee4b0c741572d6c04/1408061023382/
New UCLA research suggests that the more muscle mass older Americans have, the less likely they are to die prematurely. The findings add to the growing evidence that overall body composition -- and not the widely used body mass index, or BMI -- is a better predictor of all-cause mortality.

There you go. Have your training workout mojo sniffed in from these power packed articles and do not forget to share the fun !

Simple fixes you can do to your exercie program that can do wonders!

The other day, I had a friend of mine, Sam who happens to train at the same gym as mine, have a couple of questions he loved to share with me. It appeared this trainee friend had a host of issues he was facing with his exercise program. After going through his questions, it came out that although the amount of weight he was able to lift was getting good, he still wasn't able to build as much muscle on his frame as he wanted to.

Other things revealed that he had been facing several forms of joint injuries here and there in his newly started training history. It would sometimes be a back pain that would not go away after a heavy deadlift, or a shoulder joint irritation after a heavy bench press day. But some for of training related injury would always remain associated to Sam's exercise time.


On questioning him further about the way he exercised and trained, the following came out as the salient features of his exercise program:

1. Sam had been following exactly the same exercise program since almost an year now.
2. Sam's exercise program was typically a Bodybuilding styled split where he trained a single body part per day. In fact, this was why he was always taken by surprise when he saw me training in a whole body per day fashion.
3. This is how Sam progressed in each of his exercise sets:
    Set 1: A relatively light weight. Sam would go all the way till 15 to 20 reps on this one. But what was peculiar about his approach here was that Sam may keep doing the set till he could no longer do a rep. In other words, he reached muscular failure on a set where he wasn't really challenging his strength by any appreciable standards.
    Set 2: Here, he would increase the wight slightly and aim for somewhere like 10 to 15 repetitions. But since Sam must have already exhausted his strength reserves  by reaching muscular failure on his previous set, his ability to perform this heavier set with quality technique is lost. Sam ends up doing a lackluster performance while another thing happens. Since he is fatigued, Sam starts losing the focus and freshness which he visualizes while he imagines doing the exercise during the rest of the day.
    Set 3: The weight gets heavier. But so does the fatigue and the ability to perform precise repetitions. It is now that when Sam is doing the 6th of his target 8 brutal reps when he experiences that slight joint pain.
    Set 4: Finally, Sam reaches the most productive set of the exercise, all drained out both physiologically and psychologically by continually reaching failure on his previous sets. While performing his movement under the heaviest weight possible in the most fatigued state possible, Sam has just predisposed his joints to a high risk of injury without the maximum support of his adjoining muscle groups. He performs a way less than optimal set of 4 repetitions and racks the weight wondering what really went wrong from the last week.

And this was only the first exercise of the session.


This led me into thinking on giving him some simple cues which can be utilized without overloading him with more changes than he can handle. The following is what came out as the postulates of our brief discussion:

1. Move towards a total body split: The single body part per day split which he was following was having an entire week elapsing before he could train that muscle group again. Looking at his current training proficiency, which isn't unlike many of us in the general population aiming towards getting better in training, he was not at a level which demanded him to be taking a week off before he could train the muscle group again.

A total body split where you train all muscle groups using several multi-joint movements in a single session allows a higher frequency of training per muscle group on a weekly basis. Movements trained more frequently get learned by the central nervous system more effectively, leading to higher advances in strength.


Additionally, bigger movements trained more often lead to more volume of work done as compared to an infrequent single muscle group per day approach which is one of the most followed training split around, all thanks to bodybuilding magazines being the primary source of information for aspiring strength trainees.

2. Do not hesitate in taking longer rest intervals:
It has almost become a norm now to take mega abbreviated rest intervals, among the weight training population. The rationale is understandable: to capture the effects of human growth hormone release, lactic acid build up and generate a greater metabolic stress hopefully resulting in a very anearobic effect leading to fat loss.

But here's another take: ultra small rest intervals leave your cardiovascular and central nervous systems, the operating systems responsible for keep your weaponry running during a heavy set, all gasping for breath. You end up remaining more tired than you are supposed to before you begin the next set which is most probably going to be heavier than the earlier one. With less than the required firepower at your disposal, you are most probably doomed to end up sabotaging technique and as much progress as can be reaped from this set.

Longer rest intervals give you the time to focus more on the next set, get psyched up and gather your resources in order to attack the weight generating more tension and keeping your joint matrix safe and secure. While you end up giving up the opportunity of the metabolic effect from the short rests, you gain an even bigger advantage from a high quality heavy rep. When it comes to long term continued progress from training, movement quality is unbeatable compared to other metrics.

3. Be more broad minded when it comes to repetition ranges and experiment with low rep ranges: Low repetitions allow you to expand your horizons and lift heavier weights than high rep training can ever offer. Training in a higher percentage range of your one repetition max brings with it a whole lot of benefits such as Type II muscle fiber activation which contribute to strength, speed and more explosiveness altogether. Heavier low rep and high set training also results in more muscle density.




You can even maintain your current training volume while still going low rep. Just flip the number of your sets and reps. eg: if you are doing 4 sets of 10 reps, try doing 10 sets of 4 reps now and see how your results change forever. Push this flip switch especially with the big movements and you will likely experience a totally different stimulus from training.

4. Drop that obsession with reaching muscular failure on every set: The feeling of inability to execute another rep with technical dexterity on your last repetition is tantamount to a feeling of accomplishment. Some trainees may never get that satisfaction from their sets without reaching muscular failure. But what they may fail to realize is that reps executed with proper emphasis laid upon movement quality can deliver a pain free range of motion and render the joints mobile, and muscles flexible. The CNS is better able to learn movement patterns when it is fresh. As your fatigue level rises during a set, technique gets compromised and the CNS may always learn the technique which is executed in a faulty manner. The human mind and body may always opt for the path of least resistance.
Training to Failure has a place, and that's not everytime you train.

5. Do not train everyday: Many trainees emphasize quantity over quality and believe that training 6 to 7 days a week will always beat training lesser number of days such as 3 to 4 days. Insufficient recovery may hinder continual progress and in this case, may disallow the trainee from aspiring to a higher training poundage.

And in a real world scenario such as today's, more training days per week can also conflict with a busy working class lifestyle resulting in a higher probability of missed training sessions. Our training is only as effective as it is consistent. Training lesser number of days per week may not only offer us a window of opportunity to recover more, but can also give an incentive in the form of more chances to travel during the weekends of the off days from training.


Let us not forget that we are not our training session. Our life out of the gym will almost always be more important and what we do out there will always be more helpful to the world in general than what we do on the gym floor. As such getting the most out of our time in the gym becomes a key target.

Hopefully Sam walked away from the bench outside the gym that day with something that will change the way he looks at training for the years to come.