strength training

Full body training splits for strength and size

Another guest post for breaking muscle today, looking at the benefits of using full body training splits for the development of strength, muscle size, and aiding fat loss.

Unfortunately full body training splits are often underutilized, in which they are frequently recommended for beginners as a way to get 'introduced' into a gym setting.

I sat unfortunate because full body training splits are hands down the most time effective method of training, and can cause vast improvements in both performance AND body composition (with what is a relatively small time commitment).

Find out how to implement them HERE

Seriously, click the link..... You know you want to

Smash Through Your Training Plateau: Increases in Both Volume and Intensity

When we think about gym related progress, we typically consider the load we are capable of lifting. Whether we are talking about a 10 rep max (RM), a 5RM, a 3RM, or a true 1RM, we tend to measure progress by improvements in strength.

And, ultimately, there is nothing wrong with this.

A direct strength measure (such as that seen in RM testing) provides us with a tangible measure of progress. As such it can give us a clear demonstration that the hard work we have been putting in is genuinely paying dividends.

Unfortunately, this train of thought can have some repercussions.

One of which is the way it can influence an individual’s perspective of progress. This results in the thought that the only way to progress is to throw more weight on the bar. This describes progress through increases in intensity.

 

Progressing through Increases in Intensity

By adding more weight to the bar, we increase the load we need to lift. This describes an increase in intensity.

Increasing intensity is one of the key ways we can make an exercise (or exercise session) more challenging, subsequently implementing the principals of progressive overload and allowing us to become stronger.

So say hypothetically we are doing 3 sets of 5 deadlifts as our main strength work, and to progress we add 2.5kg to the bar each week. As a result we continue to do 3 sets of 5, but the weight at which we perform it at increases. This elicits tangible improvements in strength, and follows the principals of progressive overloads perfectly.

But, unfortunately, this can’t go on forever.

Eventually we will hit a bit of a plateau.

During which, we may no longer be able to hit our prescribed number of reps.  Or, we can hit them, but our form deteriorates badly after each rep, until the 5th rep looks less like a deadlift and more like a 7 car pileup.

This is when progressing through increases in volume can become extremely valuable.

 

Progressing through increases in Volume

By increasing the amount of volume we perform each session we are still implementing progressive overload into our training, but doing so in a different manner (without adding any weight to the bar).

So building on the above example, say hypothetically we do reach our current ‘upper limit’ in regards to exercise intensity. In this scenario, we can’t go any heavier because our form begins to break down significantly (which is obviously not a good thing). Rather than increasing the weight, we can start performing additional sets at the same weight.

So from 3x5, we can go the 4x5 the following week, and then 5x5 the week after that.

This allows us to progress by increasing the amount of volume performed at a given intensity each session (which can also trigger additional muscle hypertrophy). While this in itself is a form of measurable progress (we are undertaking more total work per session AKA progressive overload), it can also have another key benefit.

By increasing the amount of reps we are performing of a particular movement each session, we can improve our technical proficiency of that movement. As our ability to express strength relies heavily on the capabilities of our nervous system, this can lead to improved neural efficiency, and subsequently increased strength.

By allowing ourselves to improve our performance of a movement at a given weight through increase in volume, we can then set ourselves up for future increases in intensity (which we can now handle).

 

So using the above examples, we can manipulate increases in volume and intensity to elicit a solid training response. This might mean starting with a weight that we can perform for 3x5, and then adding a set each week until we can perform it for 6x5.

Once we master this weight at 6x5, we increase the weight (progressing through increases in intensity) while also reducing the volume back down to 3x5. We then start the process again with the new weight.

Which would look something like this:

Week 1: Deadlift 3x5 @150kg
Week 2: Deadlift 4x5 @150kg
Week 3: Deadlift 5x5 @150kg
Week 4: Deadlift 6x5 @150kg
Week 5: Deadlift 3x5 @155kg
Week 6: Deadlift 4x5 @155kg
Week 7: Deadlift 5x5 @155kg
Week 8: Deadlift 6x5 @155kg

Using both intensity and volume to improve we can set ourselves up for long term, sustainable progress, that is visible each session!

 

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Why your athletes need to do more than just squat and deadlift

As someone who works in a gym setting day in day out, it is pretty easy to accept that I enjoy strength training (like, a lot). Strength training is, in my opinion, the most effective means of increasing physical performance and building a high resilience to injuries.

And I know many coaches would agree.

As a result, due to this affinity for strength training, most of us gravitate towards trying to improve the big 3 (Squat, Bench, and Deadlift).

Hunter Bennett Performance

Which is fine. The gym is our domain. It is where we work, where we train, and where most of us learn and hone our craft.

There is no reason not to good at demonstrating strength in our domain.

The issue is when this style of training seeps into the programs of our clients.

This does not matter whether they are high level athletes or 80 year old retirees. Unless they are powerlifters, they do not need to become incredibly strong in these particular movements.

While these movements are important (with particular emphasis on the squat and deadlift, and their role as fundamental movement patterns), and should make up a large portion of your clients training, they are not the be-all-end-all.

Most of your clientele are not competitive powerlifters, they have individual needs that need to be addressed, and as such should receive individualized programming to meet those individual requirements.

For those from athletic populations, having a high level of relative strength is important, but once that has been achieved do they actually need to get stronger? The difference between a 2 x body weight deadlift and 2.5 x body weight deadlift on performance will be minimal. Once they have appreciable levels of strength, it is time to focus on improving other qualities, such as power.

Not to mention that athletes need to be resilient to injuries, have single leg stability and single leg strength, have the ability to run fast, jump high, and change direction rapidly (just to name a few) – and if you think that this can be accomplished by only squatting and deadlifting then you are very, very wrong.

Yes those movements can contribute to improving those physical qualities, but they are a very small piece of the puzzle.

This holds very true for those from the general population as well.

While the squat and deadlift are important movement patterns that need to be learned and trained, it is our job to get our clients moving and feeling (and often looking) better. This does not mean they need to deadlift 3 x bodyweight.

Sure, strength is important – it builds tissue resilience and will stave off age related declines in function – but building strength in different movements such as single leg squats, rows, and single arm pressing variations is important as it builds well rounded and resilient individuals who can handle anything that life throws at them.

Furthermore, these same clients are most likely training not only for health, but to improve body composition as well. And while squats and deadlifts have the potential to increase muscle mass, again they are only a small component of a much bigger picture.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love squats and deadlifts. They are important movements that need to be trained and learned, but they are not the only thing that needs to be trained and learned.

People have individual needs that need to be addressed, and it is extremely naïve to think that all of these needs can be met by merely squatting and deadlifting.

Program to the requirements your clients, not to your own personal preferences.

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Why Simple is almost always Better than Sexy

While the title of this blog post may suggest an intense debate over what style of lingerie is best, I actually wanted discuss training (as per usual...).

Each and every week there seems to be a new method of training, using some new fandangle piece of equipment that is suggested to help you build more muscle, become stronger, and increase athleticism (often in a fairly short amount of time).

These methods often include things like agility ladders, suspension trainers, unstable surfaces, among a heap of other unique pieces of equipment.

Now while I won’t say that these methods don’t have any merit at all, people often become focused on these a little too intently, and as a result, lose sight of the bigger picture.

 

The Big Picture

The bigger picture is simple (and unfortunately not all that sexy).

Assuming you have no abhorrent and glaring movement deficiencies, basic strength exercises should make up the bulk of your training. This holds true whether your goal is to improve athleticism, increase strength, build muscle, or lose fat.

Simple barbell movements have been the staple of exercise programs for decades. Funnily enough, this is for an extremely good reason.

They work.

Squats and deadlifts (and their single leg variations), presses, and rows should make up the bulk of your training. These exercises are large compound movements that require the simultaneous work of a number of different muscle groups, and subsequently use a heap of muscle mass.

Additionally (ultimately because of the above), it is with these movements that we can use significantly greater amounts of external load.

This makes them extremely beneficial for hypertrophy (due to the increased mechanical tension associated with increased loading) and fat loss (due to the huge energy expenditure associated with the large amount of muscle mass used).

Furthermore, looking at the movement’s occurring at specific joints, these exercises replicate those of ‘athletic’ movements such as jumping, bounding, and sprinting. It therefore makes sense that by becoming stronger and more powerful in these movements, we are going to improve our ability to perform those more athletic movements.

These movements can be performed a number of different (simple) ways to help us achieve our individual goals:

Strength: Heavy weight and sets of 1-6 repetitions
Hypertrophy:  Moderate weight and sets of 6-15 repetitions
Power: Light to moderate weight and sets of 1-5 repetitions moved EXPLOSIVELY with INTENT.

See, simple (and kind of sexy?).

While there is a place for sport specific exercises, suspension trainers, unstable surfaces, and in some cases, machine based exercises, we should not forget that basic strength exercises still reign supreme.

They provide a fantastic way to put on mass, build strength, and improve athleticism, and as such should ALWAYS make up the bulk of our training.

 

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Exercise Selection and Risk vs Reward

I have a number of staples in my training programs.

You can guarantee that most of my clients (myself included) will perform some sort of squat, hinge, single leg squat, push, and pull.

Pretty simple really.

But this does not mean that every client deadlifts from the floor.
It doesn’t mean that every client bench presses.
It doesn’t mean that every client back squats.

While these exercises may seem important, they’re not (competitive powerlifters are the exception here). It is really the stimulus that these exercise provide that is the important thing.

Which brings us to the title of this blog post.

Hunter Bennett performance personal training adelaide

Risk vs Reward

With training, we are trying to provide a specific stimulus to reach a specific goal. As such, each exercise should provide a way to reach this goal.

The way to get to this goal is going to be different for each person.

This is why we need to weigh up the benefits and risks of our exercise selection, dependent on the individual, and their individual goal.

For example, if we have someone who wants to build lower body strength, but back squats with abhorrent (AKA makes my eyes bleed) technique, then should we use back squats to build lower body strength?

In short, probably not.

Because the risk of injury (squatting under load with nasty form) far outweighs the benefits.

We can gain lower body strength through the use of squat regressions (such as the goblet squat) and single leg loading (split squats etc.).

Sure, we can try to progress to a full back squat gradually.
But that isn’t essential.

But building lower body strength is.


This train of thought can be applied to a number of different scenarios.

For example, if we have someone who wants to build upper body strength and mass, but doesn’t have the mobility required to overhead press.

Then maybe we shouldn’t have them overhead press.

Instead, we can use neutral variations such as landmine presses, while focusing on improving shoulder mobility. This allows us to reach their goal safety, while also building the mobility required for overhead pressing.

 

Similar in athletic populations.

If you have an older athlete who needs to develop power but has no experience Olympic lifting, should we Olympic lift?

Again, probably not.

Not necessarily because they are dangerous, but because the learning curve is so steep they may not actually see a whole lot of benefit from them. Instead we can use jumps and throws to develop power, as they require less technical proficiency.

This may be different for a youth athlete, where building technique is important. In this scenario, teaching the Olympic lifts will be well worth the time, as it will prepare them for the training rigors expected at a higher level of competition.

 

This doesn’t mean that you stop using specific exercises all together. It just means that you weigh up the risks of performing a specific exercise with a specific individual.

And if the risks outweigh the benefits of using that particular exercise, then opt for a variation that provides the same stimulus, with less risk.

Simple.

 

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Why the Front Squat is King

As an exercise, the front squat is heavily overshadowed by the barbell back squat.

It is considered a ‘regression’ in certain circles, where it is used as a mere stepping stone allowing you to move towards a full back squat.

Ultimately, the front squat does not get the love that it truly deserves.

That’s why I am here to tell you that it should be a staple in your training if your goal is to improve strength and overall athleticism!

hunter bennett performance adelaide personal training

 

The front squat smashes the anterior core

Most wouldn’t think it, but one of the key benefits of front squatting is the load it places the muscles of the trunk.

Due to the bar position being slightly in front of the torso, it effectively tries to pull the spine into flexion. This creates a HUGE demand on the muscles of the anterior trunk to maintain a nice upright spinal position, making it a fantastic way to build core strength and stability.

This actually leads quite nicely into our next point…

 

It’s hard to cheat a front squat

During a heavy set of back squats, it is pretty common to fatigue through the erectors of the lumbar and thoracic spine.

This results in ‘caving’ of the trunk, causing a movement that kind of looks like a squat / good-morning hybrid that places a large amount of shear force on the spine.

This cannot happen during a front squat due to the bar position. If we lose our upright position during the front squat by caving forward, we will lose the bar.

This actually makes it a safer variation, while limiting poor movement patterns and poor compensations.

 

The front squat demands mobility

To perform a deep front squat, you need good mobility at the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine.

By front squatting often (and addressing any serious mobility requirements) we can improve mobility and movement quality, while also improving our strength throughout a large range of movement.

This can go a very long way in improving our ability to improve strength in the gym, reduce our risk of injury during athletic movement, and improve our overall athleticism.

 

Front squat strength directly carries over to athletic movements

Simply looking at the front squat we can see its similarities with a number of athletic movements.

The upright trunk position during the front squat is very similar to that we see during jumping, bounding and sprinting. So it makes sense that getting stronger in the front squat can directly improve our capacity at performing these athletic movements.

Additionally, due to its ability to build strength in hip and knee extension, it can also improve our ability to accelerate, change direction rapidly, and perform jumping and bounding movements.

 

The front squats improves squat and deadlift strength

The upright torso position of the front squat places a serious demand on the quads. This helps improve knee extension strength, which directly improves our capacity to perform other movements.

Obviously, this carries over directly to the back squat. Having strong quads is only going to improve your ability to squat more weight. Also, considering that the front squat can significantly improve strength of the spinal erectors, it will improve our ability to remain upright in the back squat. This improves our capacity to perform the movement, making it more efficient (AKA stronger) and safer.

Secondly, improve quad strength will significantly improve your deadlift strength off the floor. The first portion of the deadlift (floor to knee) is VERY quad dominant, and as a result front squats can seriously improve deadlift strength.

So, there you have it.

To summarise: Front Squats = Gainz

I would recommend using front squats as the core movement on one lower body day per week for lower reps (4 sets of6 reps, or 5 sets of 4 reps, etc.), and then as an assistance exercise on your other lower body days for slightly higher reps (3-4 sets of 10-12 reps).

If you want to get in contact with me with any training enquiries, fill out the form below and i will get back to you ASAP

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Training vs Exercising. There is a Difference.

There are many different ways to describe the attempts and efforts we make to improve our body composition or physical capacity, but ‘Exercising’ and ‘Training’ are hands down the two most common terms I personally hear on a daily basis.

And so what, right?

People can call it whatever they want, if it refers to the same thing?

well, maybe not?

What if i said that Training and Exercising are actually inherently different from one another?

Because In my personal opinion there is a significant difference, and by changing your mindset and the terminology you use from’ exercise’ to ‘training’, you can begin to make massive jumps forward in achieving your personal goal.

Hunter Bennett Performance, Adelaide Personal Training, Lose Fat Build Muscle

 

Exercising

Firstly, exercising.

Exercise is physical activity for the sake of physical activity. 

It is exercise performed for TODAY, and for today only.

Exercise is often done for the sake of raising the heart rate and getting a bit of a sweat on.

People who ‘exercise’ typically perform the same sort of routine over and over because it does meet their immediate needs - to perform physical activity today.

And honestly, there is nothing wrong with this.

It is great way to meet the recommended weekly requirements for physical activity, ultimately providing us with the minimum required stimulus to stay healthy and manage weight gain.

This is fine. It keeps our cardiovascular system working efficiently, and significantly reduces our risk of developing a number of diseases and disorders.

But what if you have a specific goal you want to achieve?

I don’t care whether it is strength related, performance related, or body composition related.

Merely ‘exercising’ will not cut it.

Training

Enter training.

Training is different.

If you have a specific goal in mind, then training is essential to effectively achieve that goal.

If you want to run a marathon, become a better athlete, or compete in a physique contest, performing a group exercise class 4 days per week is not going to cut it.

You need to follow a clear track that will lead YOU to YOUR specific destination. 

Training involves reaching small, specific goals that lead directly to the achievement of your overall goal.

Each individual exercise you undertake is a small, specific step leading to the end of your journey.

Each set and every individual repetition is well thought out, and implemented with this final goal in mind.

You do these things not because you can do them, but because to reach your goal, you need to do them.

With that in mind, training is performed efficiently.

If you don’t have a valid reason for doing a specific exercise (AKA it doesn’t help you reach your overall goal), then you shouldn’t be doing it.

If you’re a sprinter, you don’t need to be jogging 10km on your rest days.

If you’re a powerlifter you don’t need to be doing 4 sets of Bicep curls at the end your session.

If you’re a marathon runner you don’t need to be bench pressing double body weight.

This doesn’t mean you throw out entire rep ranges, or stop doing certain exercises forever, it just means you need to focus on what is specific to your current goal and make that your priority.

Training has a focus on your individual needs.

This may mean addressing weak points, or correcting individual imbalances or dysfunctions.

It means addressing the areas where you are deficient, while also improving those which you are already good at.

Using a running as a specific example, your goal might be to run a marathon. You have good aerobic capacity, but are weak and have poor movement quality.

Increasing strength becomes a priority, as does improving your efficiency and quality of movement.

This occurs through specific exercise and training recommendations. Not through doing ‘whatever you have always done’ in the weight room.

Training results in measurable improvement.

This means that you actually PROGRESS through training. Whether it is getting stronger, getting faster, or getting leaner, when you are training (and training EFFECTIVELY) you will see improvements in yourself.

 

Now, exercising is fine. Some people enjoy working hard and getting a sweat on for the sake of it. And again, there is nothing wrong with that.

BUT

If you have a specific goal you want to reach, and find yourself doing the same thing over and over, you are exercising when you should be training.

And it is now time to make that change.

 

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Paused Squats to Build Strength and Size

Paused squats to build strength and size

Squats are an exercise that get A LOT of attention.

They are considered the ‘king’ of exercises by some, while described as a living hell by others.

I guess I personally fall somewhere in between. I enjoy squatting. There is something very rewarding about hitting a new squat PR. And the quad pump after a set of high rep squats? I’ll let Arnie answer that one….

Thanks Arnie...

Thanks Arnie...

BUT…

I suck at them.

They have never felt natural to me. It took quite a bit of work just to get comfortable squatting to depth. And once I actually started to add load, I was weak.

Like REALLY weak.

Now I’m not one to force a square peg into a round hole (so to speak), and if this was a client who didn’t necessarily need to back squat to see reach their desired goal, I wouldn’t have forced it.

But this was ME. And I wanted to be able to squat lots of plates.

Maybe not a clever goal by any means, but I wanted to get good at something I wasn’t particularly good at (still do in fact… lots of room for improvement).

So I squatted. My lower body sessions typically involved both back and front squats, and while I did see improvements, they came slowly, and I still didn’t feel 100% ‘comfortable’ squatting.

So I started playing around with different squat variations, and happened to strike gold.

Hunter Bennett Performance, lose fat, build muscle, increase strength, personal training

 

Introducing Paused Squats

I started using paused reps after my heavy squat sets as an assistance exercise, and actually started seeing some improvements! My squat got stronger, I felt much more comfortable squatting under load, and my jeans got considerably tighter!

A paused squat is pretty much just a squat where you pause completely (as in STOP DEAD) at the bottom of the squat for 2-3 seconds (or longer, for the masochists out there) for each individual rep.

If you think it about it, it makes sense. Most people are weakest at the bottom of a squat, and as a result this is where they tend to feel least comfortable. By spending a bit more time in the bottom position of the squat, we can get a little more comfortable in that position.

Here’s a quick video of me pumping out a couple.

If we look a little deeper (pun intended...), there are a couple of serious benefits that paused squats provide over regular squats.

 

They build strength out of the hole.

It is pretty common to see people drop into squat really quickly, and then bounce back up. While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this, it does have a couple of issues.

When we drop quickly into a squat, we rely on two things to get us out of the hole. The first is the muscles ability to use the stretch shortening cycle (SSC) effectively. The SSC describes the storage of elastic energy during the eccentric portion of a movement, followed by the use of that energy for the concentric portion of that same movement.

So using the squat as an example, during the descent the quads and glutes are lengthening under load. During this eccentric loading they are storing ‘elastic’ energy in the muscle and tendon tissue. By descending rapidly (and spending minimal time in the hole) this energy can be used effectively to help produce a concentric action (the up portion of the squat). Now while this can be a good thing, it is not something we want to become too reliant on during the squat. If we rely solely on the SSC to get out of the hole, we are likely to limit our strength development in other areas of the lift (eg. Just after we bounce out of the hole).

Secondly, it places a large amount of stress on the passive structures of the hip. The hip capsule and its surrounding ligaments take majority of the load as we rapidly drop into the bottom position. This means we are relying on these structures for stability in the bottom position of the squat rather than the muscles surrounding the hip and trunk. This can lead to hip issues and potential injury.

By pausing at the bottom of the squat we completely eliminate the SSC from the lift. This forces us to stay completely tight in the bottom position, and we are required to rely on the muscles around the hip to provide stability and maintain a solid position. This allows to build strength in the bottom position of the squat, which can increase our strength out of the hole.

Additionally, by increasing our strength out of the hole we can also limit the stress placed on the passive structures of the hip, and even improve our ability to use the SSC out of the hole on regular squat sets due to the improved muscular strength in that position.

 

Improves Squat technique

Good squat technique is essential to a big squat, and a large component of good technique is the ability to maintain a neutral spine throughout the duration of the lift. Often people will hang out in the bottom position of the squat, losing spinal position and relying on those passive structures to keep them upright.

By pausing in the bottom you can’t rely on these passive structures to maintain a good trunk position, you have to earn it. This teaches you to remain ‘tight’ throughout the duration of the lift, which will allow you to produce more force coming out of the hole.

I know for myself personally, by increasing this sense of stability in the bottom of the squat, I started feeling more comfortable squatting under load.

As a bonus, maintaining a healthy spinal position throughout the entire lift is also going to significantly reduce the risk of injury, or risk of developing low back pain.

 

Greater potential to build muscle

By pausing mid-way through a rep we increase the total amount of time under tension (TUT) the muscles are under. TUT is considered a key mechanical trigger to muscle growth, and by increasing it we can increase muscular hypertrophy as a result.

If you want massive quads (silly question, everyone wants massive quads) then paused squats are a great variation to implement into your training as an assistance exercise.

 

 

Programming Considerations

I typically program paused squats as an assistance exercise after heavy squats or deadlifts on one of my lower body days, and then as a core lift on one of my other lower body days.

I like to use 3-4 sets of anywhere from 2-8 reps using a 2-3 second pause in the bottom.

Try them out for 4 weeks and I can guarantee your technique and strength will improve. 

 

If you want any more info, contact me via the form below and i will get back to you ASAP!

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Muscle Confusion is a joke - How to Actually see training results

We have heard it all before.

The suggestion that constantly changing our exercise selection is good because it either;

1) ‘confuse the muscle into growing’
or
2) ‘keeps the muscle guessing’

The thought process behind this is that by constantly changing exercises, workloads, sets, reps etc. the body cannot ‘get used’ to a specific training stimulus. And , as a direct result, we see greater muscle growth, greater increases in strength, and a greater rate of fat loss.

Funny fact.

Muscles don’t have the capacity to get ‘confused’ or make ‘guesses’. They are muscles.

They can contract, causing them to get shorter, which creates movement at a joint.

The End.

Ok so maybe not the absolute end.

BUT.

There a couple of big issues that come with trying to 'confuse' our muscles through excessive variations:

1) It doesn’t allow the central nervous system (CNS) to adapt to movements. By allowing the CNS significant time to adapt, we become stronger at those movements, which results in greater improvement in strength and hypertrophy.

2) It doesn’t involve any specificity. We normally train towards a specific goal. Whether that goal is to improve athletic performance, increase lean mass, jump higher or bench press a Mack track, it doesn’t matter. Each goal is specific, and as such needs a specific, individualized exercise plan that leads us towards that goal. By changing exercises every week we lose that specific, goal orientated, aspect of training.

muscle confusion, hunter bennett performance, strength, fat loss, muscle

 

The real way to progress.

Fortunately, there is something that we can do to ensure consistent results from our training.

Unfortunately, it isn't new or sexy, it doesn't have cool catchy name like 'muscle confusion', and it will require ACTUAL effort.

But, on a positive note, it works.

In fact it is arguably the only thing that can cause legitimate, long term change.

 

Progressive Overload.

Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed on the body during exercise over time. This allows the body to gradually adapt to this increasing stress, growing bigger and stronger.

A great example of this:
step 1). Pick 1 big exercise (think deadlift) that you can perform twice per week.
Step 2). Find a weight you can lift 5 times.
Step 3). Do 5 sets of that weight.
Step 4). Once you can lift that weight for 5 sets of 5 reps, increase weight by 2.5kgs.
Step 5). Repeat step 3 and 4 again, and again, and again.

Now I realize this is a very simple example of progressive overload, and in regards to specificity, is probably only going to work towards someone’s goal of deadlifting a shit ton of weight (which is a pretty solid goal). But I can guarantee if you did this for 6 months (with the occasional deload programmed in) you would be bigger and stronger at the end of it than if you had changed exercises every week.

Now how would you apply this to a more complex goal? For example improving someone’s acceleration?

You might start using unloaded box jumps as a way to improve power, and split squats to improve single leg strength. Over time we can increase the external load added to these exercises to stimulate strength and hypertrophy (progressive overload). Once you feel the individual has ‘maxed out’ these exercises, you can then progress them to more complex exercises (for example, squat jumps and a reverse lunges). The external load used during these new exercises can be increased gradually ('progressively', even......) until we start to plateau, and then we repeat the process. Change the exercise SLIGHTLY and continue to add load. 

This way we can progressively overload an exercise that is aimed at achieving a specific goal, and we only vary an exercise when progress stalls on that specific exercise. Additionally, the exercise variation should be small (for example a split squat to a reverse lunge). This allows continual and gradual progress, as the new exercise builds on the components of the exercise that came before it.

See, it shouldn’t be confusing. It should be simple and logical (and actually produce RESULTS).

If you want to get in contact me, or are interested in training with me, please fill out the form below. 

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The Most Effective Way To Split Squat - Maximise Your Results!

Split squats. You might be doing them wrong.

It’s fair to say I have a bit of a love hate relationship with split squats and their variations. I love them because they are a fantastic way to develop single leg stability, strength and power (which can even carry over into squat and deadlift strength!). They place significant load on the lower limb, making the great for hypertrophy, and as they are a single leg exercise, they can eliminate and correct unilateral strength and stability differences. As a result, split squats can have direct influence on improving athletic performance, and as they also place a massive metabolic demand on the entire body, as such they are a fantastic exercises to use for fat loss.

The reason I hate them?

They are sheer brutality.

Seriously.

Try and punch out a couple of sets of 12 per side and feel good about life afterwards. It’s impossible (trust me).

Despite their brutality, I honestly think I would have put at least one split squat variation in 90% of the programs I have written. This is because not only are they great for athletic populations, they also have direct carryover activities of daily living (walking upstairs, standing up from a sitting on the floor etc.)

And recently, I have been seeing more and more people performing them in the gym. This in itself is fantastic – as I said, they are an awesome exercise that can be implemented effectively to meet almost any goal. The only issue with this, is that I have seen many (MANY) people performing them wrong.

Now, what do I mean by doing them wrong?

Well when people typically coach a split squat one of the most common cues that I hear is ‘chest up’. This cue is said with the intent to keep a nice neutral spine, saving load through the lower back, which is all well and good. The issue though is the resulting movement often looks a little bit like this (thanks google images).

Not the best looking split squat i have ever seen....

Not the best looking split squat i have ever seen....

Now while this doesn’t look horrible by any means, there is a couple of things that draws my eyes. While he is maintaining a nice upright posture (chest up, right?), it is actually causing two issues. Firstly, it is causing him to hyper-extend his lumbar spine, resulting increased extension forces on the spine. This is also most likely impacting his ability use his anterior abdominals to stabilise the spine (similar to anterior pelvic tilt position). Secondly, this hip and trunk position results in a huge amount of load placed on the anterior part of the hip capsule, causing unnecessary strain on the passive support structures (ligaments, cartilage) of the anterior hip.

To eliminate these issues I teach split squat variations with a slight forward lean of the torso coming from the hips, similar to that seen in the image of strength coach Jordan Syatt below (again, thanks google)

Good split squat, slight forward lean at the hips.

Good split squat, slight forward lean at the hips.

Now I realise that this is a different variation to the first image, but the same principals apply, and the differences are pretty apparent. There is no hyper-extension of the spine, ensuring a neutral spinal position, and as a massive bonus, by increasing hip flexion slightly, the glutes are put in a more advantageous position meaning they will work harder during the movement!

The focus should be on ‘sliding’ the hips back as you descend into the squat, whilst keeping the distance between the top of your pelvis and the bottom of your sternum constant throughout the duration of the movement. This ensures that you load through the hips correctly, and also makes sure you maintain a nice neutral spine throughout the duration of the exercise.

 Have a go at this next workout and notice the difference!

 

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