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.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Deadlift behind the back and artificial testosterone

Question: I love deadlifts. But more than once have I experienced excruciating low back pain while executing the lift. At one point, I felt this slight spark in the low back/tail bone-ish region while putting the weight back down and then suddenly, OUCH.. I realized it's all over now. The weights I used were indeed heavy and I might have gone a few extra reps on that set. I am a long limbed guy with a sedentary desk jock lifestyle. What could possibly be going wrong here? Am I doomed to never be able to deadlift again?

The Solution: Although long limbed individuals have an unfair advantage with deadlifting, compared to their T-Rex like shorter limbed, longer torso's friends, a continuously seated lifestyle presents an entirely different picture altogether.

So, while a nearly neutral/naturally curved spine looks like the one on the left, the spine of a taller guy with a lot of sitting in his or her life displays an anterior pelvic tilt like the one on the right

That's how you would look if you were sitting with an anteriorly tilted pelvis.

This is most seen with office goers who are unfortunate enough to have a chair that sways back way too far and has a lot of play in the backrest. Chairs that are not upright enough. Something like this:
Anyway, what this does to a super heavy deadlift, especially when done for reps is that, while your glutes get exhausted and fail to trigger fully, the compromised spinal erectors fail to do their job fully as well.

The result is an ouchie.

But I'm sure you are not going to let go of the heavy deadlifts and the gains that come along that easily.

Let's revisit why it happens especially during a deadlift. The devastating demands placed by a deadlift on your entire body aside, the deadlift especially requires a trainee to have forward bending capabilities.

Of course the trap bar deadlift would have been my first suggestion here, but, really, how many gyms around the world that you would travel to would have the hex bar or the trap bar?

The solution to his problem is a deadlift done behind the back.

Yes, something like that does exist, in case you were wondering.

Here's a great deadlift behind the back in action. And by the way, it is not to be confused with a barbell hack squat, which deserves an altogether different blog post on its own.

To state the technique simply, try to execute it as you would a standard deadlift. Just have the bar behind you.

Behind the back deadlifts force your torso to be more upright and eliminates all the low back pain triggers associated with anterior pelvic tilt.

Trainees having had episodes of back pain in regular deadlifts have reported to be able to lift greater poundages in this deadlift variation compared to the standard pull. Which makes it a really great overall hypertrophy drill in case conventional deadlifts are getting contra-indicated for trainees with low back pain.

It's also a fantastic quad-builder. Like really fantastic. Give it a try for some time to witness your quads acquiring that tear drop shape, often even better than regular squats.

Your hamstrings might come in the way of the bar moving up, requiring you to push your hips forward a bit during the mid-lift, which is totally fine. Keeping the chest high and shoulders back throughout helps through this.

So, to put back pain behind you, put the bar behind you.

Question: That friend of mine told me that I may need to inject some artificial testosterone inside me. That's really going to help me with so many things that are going wrong with my health, physique and life in general. But I am kind of worried. Is it really worth all that hype? Am I going to get hurt? Will it benefit me? Should I take it?

The Solution: Well, in my experience so far, to answer you in one sentence: The cons of artificially injecting testosterone far outweigh the pros.

Unless you are someone medically advised for a hormonal replacement, you're better off not taking artificial T.

Which does not mean that you do not need to have your testosterone boosted naturally. The immense benefits of higher testosterone such as increased muscle mass, improved confidence, strength, vigor and vitality and a higher libido cannot be undermined at all.

My take would be to employ the naturally proven ways to enhance testosterone release inside your body such as :

1. Do a lot a back squats
2. Pull a lot of Deadlifts
3. Do all those other big movements such as rows, pull ups and presses.
4. Consume adequate healthy fats. Few people look at it this way. A testosterone molecule is produced by the aid of Omega 3 fatty acids. Walnuts, Salmon, Canola, Flaxseeds are all great sources. If nothing works, supplementation is really fine too.
5. Eliminate undue stressors. Never ever miss sleep.
6. Even herbs such as Shilajit have a proven capability since ages to act as a natural testosterone balancer.
Back Squatting with huge weights for reps beats any testosterone injectible in boosting your T levels in the optimum manner
There's so much more than can delver high testosterone secretion if done correctly and consistently for months and years.

And if you are still not convinced to not go the syringe route, here's what can happen when you quit consuming artificial testosterone. While the normal levels of serum testosterone in healthy males can range circa 1000 ng/dL, super-ambitious juice junkies are known to boost that up to 2000 or even 5000 ng/dL and I have read about some top end bodybuilders to have even boosted it up all the way to 10000.

This chronically suppresses the testes' natural secretion capability. And once we quit, we may need to live all our life with an under or no production of T. Leading us to gynaecomastia and related low-T conditions. And we end up losing way more than what we could have ever gained from the needle. Including our manhood.

The choice, as always, is yours.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

How To Use Time Between Workouts To Your Advantage

Along with the few something hours you spend in the gym every week, go those enormous number of other hours that you spend 'outside' the gym that are making or breaking your progress.

If you have come to realize your workouts have become a consistent grill-house with nothing more than missed lifts, you may like to read on.

Your mind is treating you like it's a wrecked up truck having traveled 2500 Kms across the country's highways when you come to train in the morning? The following tactics can help you destroy these woes.

They did for me.

1. Collect the desire to achieve the tough lift or Exercise Throughout The Day:

Why is that 20 rep set of squats with a crushing weight on shoulders so necessary to you? If you come to list down, the reasons may fill up pages. Take just a handful of them and keep reminding yourself why would that next lifting session be more important to you than anything else.

It might help to keep a notepad handy to pen down such motivational mind boosters. You can be creative, like:

I want to fit in those old Jeans

I want to appear more defined on the beach

I want every girl in the neighborhood to run after me

If you need to go through such a struggle to put on your old jeans, make it a reason to crush your next workout.

You get the  drift. Be creative. Collect Ideas. All through the day. Especially when you are not training. Then use them as fuel to not let you drop the weight on the floor on the last but one rep in the next session

If you have trouble imagining reasons to train, read something from Charles Staley, Dan John, John Rusin or Pavel Tsatsouline as starters to help you get on the right track.

2. Practice All-Day Positivity like it's in Style:

Ever notice how the days you feel like shit in the gym have all something in common, Something catastrophic happened in your life the day before. That made you lose sleep. And a lot of negative stuff creeps in along with it too.

The last thing you could think of during a disturbed and distressed state like that would be 400 Pounds crushing your grip while you attempt to stand up with it.

Thankfully, there's an age-old, time tested and simple way to put an end to all of this.

Throughout your day, catch yourself drowning into a pool of negative thoughts. Then fill your mind with the opposite.

You know its' hard. But you got to pay the price of results. Somewhere. Even if it is outside the gym. In your thoughts. And more so, since these are exactly the sites where it makes the difference.

I've found that staying positive throughout the day, and even during the training session helps.

Taking that 20 rep squat example again, merely changing my mindset from

"...ugh... and I have to do those 20 humongous reps all the way again.... for why??"


"Okay. Lets see, what we got here. One rep. Twenty times. Something tells me I can do it."

made all the difference, fore me.

'Maybe' is a powerful word.

3. Use (correct) video aids to boost your motivation

The greatest thing about the internet is that it has made impossible levels of information available globally. This also means that a marine vet from a totally remote corner of the world, making a 3 minute motivational training montage on facebook makes his work available to someone in need of a mental push in an altogether different part of the globe.

While not all of them are legitimate though. Unless you are deriving inspiration from a sloppy video made by some internet-ass-hat, videos of correct exercise technique made with an eye to showcase exercise perfection stand up there on the number one position for mind-boosters.

Some personalities require getting psyched up in the pre-workout period. And for many, training without music is tougher than surviving a nuclear explosion.Find out what gives you the most 'psyching-up' stimulus to set the ball rolling for you while you train. Then use it.

Take me for instance. I keep feeling like questioning my decision to invest my time and resources into exercising every now and then. Then I just watch an Olympic lifting video by hook grip or a Jesse Graph video showing her ravaging the American Ninja Warrior Challenge. All of a sudden I feel motivated to hit the gym with unstoppable force.

If you haven't yet witnessed Jesse Graph Showcasing poetry in motion, you haven't seen anything.
It worked for me. It will undoubtedly help you.

4. Grind through the urge to sleep late

My mornings were sleepy.

My Nights were unbelievably awake.

I kept wondering for weeks what I was doing wrong.

Then one day, I tried this seemingly bizarre experiment of getting to bed one hour early. The exercise was a real drag and convincing myself to get up from the couch at 11 PM was mind numbing intense. But I did it.

Turns out it fixed the issue altogether. Mornings were never fresher. Workouts were never more focused.

If you still did not gather some hints, we are emphasizing the ever-potent importance of getting sleep here. This biological process seems to have become forgotten.

I'm not going to bore you with all the sleep improvement tactics again. The internet is flooded with them all. I only wish to reaffirm to you that if there is one thing you can do today to make you extremely satisfied in the gym and life, it has to be getting to bed earlier. Even if by a few minutes. Each one of those minutes, is going to pay YOU many times. Make that smart investment today.

5. Visualize the next training session repeatedly long before it happens.

Visual imagery helps. Period.

At times during the day, I keep reminiscing on thoughts of performing my next challenging lifts or exercises. I don't just visualize them, I visualize them with complete difficulty that they are going to pose to me. I include my crushing grip on the bar. I factor in the bar breaking my form. Even the sweat dripping over my nose. And the annoying individuals in the gym distracting me between my set of belt squats with the ".. yo, does that build your abs?" jibe.

You see when one has gone through this rigorous premonition repeatedly throughout the days leading to the next lifting session, nothing seems new.
Visualization, whether right before a set, or all throughout the day, is always powerfully beneficial.

What separates you from a remarkable performance is the fear of the unknown before you begin your set.

Visualization transforms the unknown into the familiar.

Like always, keep dropping me your questions and thoughts on how we can improve your reading experience at

Saturday, 23 June 2018

The Old Fashioned Expander: Possibly your best friend on the road

I know. I know.

The mere mention of the term 'Chest Expander' draws confused frowns from most of you all, practically telling me to question my sanity.

Who even uses these primitive pieces of equipment today? Seriously? Who would even be ready to get insulted in a party claiming about how they could just do a front chest pull with another spring added, for reps?

For others who might be wondering, what the hell is a chest expander, this is what it looks like. Remember now? You must have seen it hanging in a lonely corner of sporting goods stores, if you're lucky

Aside from being used as an exercise equipment, a chest expander, or Strands, as they were more popularly known as in the old time British and German strength training circles were mostly used to demonstrate feats of strength and stunts.

The extents to which competitors used to go to accomplish a feat during Strandpulling Competitions

Let me set the stage for this formidably simple invention in exercise science almost a century old now. I have spent the last few months incorporating it with my usual weight training workouts. During my travel, chest expander workouts were the only stuff I did, along with very few bodyweight drills.

And this has been one of the smartest decisions I have made in my training lately. Inclusion of cable based training has resulted in visible changes in my upper body muscularity as told by multiple friends. And all of that when I am only using two 20 minute something sessions a week, alternated with my usual barbell lifting course.

And as I found, there are a lot of merits to keeping it the first thing in your traveling case:

1. It's insanely portable
2. It's virtually damage proof
3. It can give you a terrific resistance training workout in situations where time and infrastructure are luxurious commodities
4. There are movements you can train on the springs which are seemingly impossible to perform using free weights
5. Continuing on point 4, an expander hits deeper muscles of your back which are often not worked by conventional free weights.

Now, this doesn't mean that all merits of free weights can be undermined. The optimum approach would be to integrate some select movements done on an expander or cables along with your free weights during your regular workouts. While on the road, you can still continue your expander movements, even if you aren't lucky enough to get a hotel gym.

But, it's just a CHEST expander, right? What about the rest of my body?

Old time strongmen (the ones who lived in the age of real strength and health, preceding the 1950s) termed the entire circumferential girth of the upper body, including, the latissimus dorsi, mid back and the pectoralis muscle groups as the CHEST. This also included the amount of expansion gained by the rib cage, often as a result of deep breathing. Training with an expander resulted in tremendous gains in these measurements. Hence the name.

And yes, you can, as we shall see, train the rest of the upper body, back, shoulders, arms and forearms in an excellent fashion using a chest expander.

While the expander has been around since almost a century now, what made it really fade away into the dark background?

I'm not totally sure, but it has to do with the fact that it puts an end to a lot of business opportunities of fitness equipment manufacturers. I mean, who would really buy an elaborate multi gym set up for their home when they get to know that they can do a significantly huge set of exercises with just a set of springs attached to a wooden handle?

By the way, expanders have evolved immensely over the years. They now even come in the form of exercise tubing and cables. Two of the most versatile ones based on my experience being:

1. The Lifeline USA cable set
2. The Hook

What makes springs and cables so special? Or so Different?

"Okay, tell me more about this gimmick of yours."

While being around for nearly a century certainly pulls it out from a gimmick list, what does make an expander special is its ability to provide progressively greater resistance as its length increases during a repetition.

In other words, the longer you pull it, the more resistance it provides.

As you keep getting better at an exercise, keep adding reps. And then, cables or springs depending upon which design you're using. When that expires, use springs of higher tension to add resistance.

So, you see, it's THAT simple to keep upgrading the challenge levels with this deceptively simple exercise equipment. No gigantic weight plate stacks needed.

"Alright, I'm sold. Tell me more about it."

While there are almost dozens of exercises that can be done with a chest expander, there are a some timeless classics that have been creating stronger bodies since ages.

"How many reps do I do here?"

For a pure strength emphasis, a couple of sets of 6 to 8 reps usually work the best. But looking at often how the maximum resistance of a chest expander is limited by the number of springs that are possible to get attached, very few trainees would use an expander for pure strength work.

Thus, for using an expander for the very purpose it works the best for, muscular hypertrophy, a wide range of 8 to 15 reps and a couple of sets works great.

Let's look at nine staple chest expander movements:

1. Overhead Downward Pull

With the expander in your arms raised overhead, pull the handles outwards with the elbows STRAIGHT till the springs get fully stretched and are touching your mid back at the bottom position of the exercise.

2. Front Chest Pull

Hold the expander in front of you, pull apart the handles, leading with the elbows till the arms are completely straightened as the springs get outstretched horizontally to their maximum limit.

3. Back Press

Hold the expander behind your back with both hands and press the handles out until the arms are straightened fully and the springs are stretched to a high degree of tension.

4. Front Press

Just like exercise no 1, hold the expander in front of you, though this time, instead of pulling, PRESS both arms outwards till they are fully straight and the cable is stretched to a high degree of tension. remember, although the finish position of this exercise looks like exercise no1, do not confuse the two. This is a PUSH and not a PULL.
The Legendary John Grimek Showing how to start a Front Press

5. Curl:

Pretty self-explanatory. Anchor one handle of the expander below your right leg while working the right arm. Pull the other handle with the right arm flexing your elbows till the handle almost touches your shoulder. Repeat on both sides.
Alfred Danks: A pioneer in Cable Training

6. Reverse Curl

Similar to exercise 5, just pronate your hands, or turn your knuckles up while curling the handles.

7. Archer's Movement
One of the most staple movement that can be done on an expander. Hold the expander in front of you with both hands while one arm being fully extended while the other bent at the elbow. From here, pull the handle with the bent arm till it is fully stretched while keeping the other arm stationery. Repeat with both arms. This one's a tremendous tricep builder.
The finished position of an Archer's movement resembles that of Exercise 1.

8. Military Press
Lock one handle of the expander by the side of the hip and position the other one near the opposite shoulder. This should resemble the bottom position of a military press. From here, press this arm up till fully extended. Repeat with both arms.

9. Wrist Curls

Outstretch the expander in front of you with both the hands, with the arms hanging straight. From this position, stretch the spring by flexing and extending the wrist, while maintaining the tension on the springs at all time. The range of motion will be very less here. This exercise can be done by keeping the expander both in your front as well as the back.

10. Neck Press-Out

Stand upright, cables behind the back and resting against the back of your neck. Knuckles are facing
inward. Stretch the expander laterally to arms’ length, then bring arms forward, resisting the cables with your neck. Once you get the hang of this exercise, it becomes a tremendous neck-builder.

While this is by no means a complete list of exercises possible and the possibilities are as many as one's imagination can allow, these are still a great start.

It does come with one limitation that you cannot train the lower body on it with really enviable intensity. But hey, you cannot get everything, right?

Besides, it's best in my experience to use Exapanders as an addition to a free weight program based on squats and deadlifts.

The only lower body-ish dill I did with the expander was a cable resisted supine hip bridge of sorts. The bands had to be really fastened into place using the hands and making them stay on the ground was a real struggle. defeating the stability needed to perform a really stiff hip bridge. Nevertheless, it did provide a significant degree of resisted hip extension.

'Expand' your training horizons.

Start reaping the benefits of training with springs, cables or resistance bands to fill in the gaps in your strength formed after following only a conventional free weight lifting program for years. Just pack it in your bag and you will never be disappointed with your training on the road.

And though it goes without saying, Expander workouts are as beneficial to women as they are to men.

Strandpulling workouts do not need to be boring. Make them fun variations, or often even challenge based sessions to strike an interesting break to your usual training.

Enjoy your new found upper body muscularity, thanks to a century old, almost forgotten tool.