How to do Barbell Rows

Back MusclesLike pull ups, heavy rows are one of the best exercises to train your back. The king of rowing exercises is the standing barbell row, but the problem is that too few people perform them properly.

You might see the following common technique flaws in people executing barbell rows:

  • momentum – using the posterior chain to generate momentum, instead of using the muscles of the back and arms
  • rounded back – weakness in the lower back or hip tightness can cause your lower back to round, which is bad for the spine
  • standing upright – you have to bend over nearly parallel to the floor in order to work the upper back properly

As I mentioned last week, you can fix all of these issues by switching from barbell rows to inverted rows, or you can learn how to perform barbell rows correctly.

Let’s talk about how we can best use barbell rows in our training routines.

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Top 6 Leg Training Mistakes

Don’t Waste Time Training Legs the Wrong Way!

Leg Training Mistakes
Your legs are the foundation of your physique. With their bulging tear drops, incision-like cuts, and shredded striations, prize leg development can win you a contest. Lagging leg development can also lose you a contest. Additionally, having strong legs makes it that much easier to develop a strong upper body. Here are 6 mistakes most athletes make when training their legs. These tips apply both to active bodybuilders and newbies, so pay attention!

The Top 6 Leg Training Mistakes

  1. Not Training Legs At All

    A lot of people completely avoid leg training. Why? Personally, I find it hard to understand. But there’s obviously a reason why they do; theories are they already have some preconceived notion that their legs are developed beyond what they are in actuality, or they see leg training as “hard”.

    It’s true that leg training can be painful, and you generally are sore afterwards, but many bodybuilders grow to love that soreness, as with other muscles. Avoiding leg training is a critical mistake, and you can’t build a house without a foundation.

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How to Deadlift

How to Deadlift

How to DeadliftDeadlifts are one of the primary, fundamental exercises for all serious weight training programs. Deadlifts work 100% of your legs and they require functional stability from 95% of the rest of the muscles on your body. Using proper form, deadlifts will help you get stronger, gain more muscle, and burn more calories than any other single exercise after the squat.

Deadlifts build lower back and hamstring strength, and they teach you to keep your lower back tight against a heavy load, which is critical to avoid injuries when lifting objects from the ground or floor. Unfortunately, this is also why deadlifts have gained a bad reputation of causing a variety of injuries, including spinal injuries and hernias.

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How to Squat

How to Perform Squats

SquattingThere are many different lifts that a weightlifter can do to increase their strength, speed, and power. All kind of weightlifting is great for your body, but I prefer to not waste time in the gym lifting with tunnel vision, going from machine to machine and seeing little results from my hard work.

Instead, I would rather do 3-4 exercises with maximal intensity to wipe out my whole body in order to reap a maximal anabolic effect. The most well known and most dreaded of these exercises is the squat.

Rules to remember when squatting:

  • Keep the lower back straight and mostly flat; do not round your back!
  • Keep knees pointing out slightly, do not let them creep inwards as you push yourself up.
  • The bar should rest on upper trap muscles and the rear heads of the shoulders.
  • Push from your glutes (butt), not your knees; your hips should raise first and everything else should raise with them.
  • Fill your stomach with air before descending and keep it tight with your chest out while pushing up.
  • Push up with your eyes focused 30-45 degrees above normal eye level.
  • Try to keep your knees behind your toes to avoid injury.

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High Intensity Intervals are Far Superior to Endurance Cardio

Male Sprinter

I don’t HATE endurance cardio. I’m trying to give it a chance, albeit a slim chance.

It has its purpose in workout routines, especially for those who are untrained, obese, or have health complications that make high intensity training dangerous. But I can’t just blow off the continually mounting evidence (for the past 15 years) that high intensity interval training is optimal for fat loss and for developing speed, power, muscle, and even endurance!

For many years now, hardcore trainers have been touting the superior effectiveness of high intensity intervals for fat loss. But still, trainers, athletes, housewives, couch potatoes, televangelists, martial arts instructors, teachers, doctors, and pretty much anyone outside of the ‘hardcore trainer’ group suggests that if you want to lose weight you have to either walk everyday or jog for at least an hour a day 4-5 times a week. Wake up people!

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Make Your Own Motivation

TBT: This is a post I wrote back in May of 2007. These were my thoughts on motivation, prioritization, and how to make the most of your training. It pretty much all still holds true.


We all have priorities in life. Some of mine include finishing the move into my new house, running a successful website development business, keeping my girlfriend happy, spending time with my son, staying strong and healthy, and not getting fired from my day job. What are yours? Can you list your top 5 and assign priority values to them? I have done this, and what I have found is that staying strong and healthy continues to drop below those tasks that involve either family members, or putting lOOt in the bank (or more accurately giving lOOt to bill collectors).

How can we reprioritize in order to keep our gym goals intact?

I don’t want to get small or weak or fat, and neither do you. In my time, I have seen too many men with joint, neck, back, or hip issues, or perhaps they are just overweight with big pot bellies. Years ago I swore this would not be me. So, how can we redirect some of that focus back into the gym? How can we, when faced with working 14 hour days in order to make a million dollars by age 40, still exercise? Where can we draw some of this motivation that I am talking about. I have a couple suggestions that you could try, some of which I am testing out right now.

  1. Get a lifting partner that will show up on time for each workout. Find someone that isn’t going to talk about his/her friends, or work, or a party, or kids… find someone that wants to FOCUS on training when it’s time to train.
  2. Tell others about your plan (blog about it?). If you tell others what you plan to do with your body, you will hold yourself more accountable for your own progress. After all, no one wants to be embarrassed by failure.
  3. Realize that you aren’t good to anyone else unless you are healthy. If you are always tired, hurt, or sick, you are no good to your family or co-workers. Suck it up and get healthy!
  4. Sometime in your life, you will need to be strong. Perhaps something will fall on you or a loved one. Perhaps you will need to move the contents of an entire house by yourself. Maybe you will need to fight off an attacker, or push a car out of the snow, or rescue someone from a burning building. No matter what the aggressor might be, you will inevitably need to be strong for one reason or another. Why not prepare for it before it’s too late.
  5. Find some good ass lifting music. I personally prefer Static-X, Pantera, Avenged Sevenfold, Staind, Godsmack, Powerman 5000, Korn, Slipknot, Linkin Park, Marilyn Manson, System of a Down, Disturbed, Nickelback, Type O Negative, Evanescence, Tool, Rage, Soundgarden, Audioslave, Incubus, Queens of the Stone Age, (Hed) P.E., Megadeth, Motley Crue, Stereomud, Lamb of God, Ill Nino, Sevendust, Faith No More, Hatebreed, Mudvayne, Shinedown, Taproot, Theory of a Dead Man, Foo Fighters, and Three Days Grace, just to name a few.

My Solution

I have a son that I want to inspire to be strong and healthy. I have a girlfriend that, quite frankly, I want to impress with visions of a Greek God, feats of strength to rival Hercules, and the skill to defend her from predators. These abilities prove to her that I am a male worthy of mating… frequently, if you catch my drift. I have this blog that visitors will be reading, and I don’t want to embarrass myself with failure. I have a business to run, and I want prospective clients to be wowed by my dedication to life and ability to multi-task. Finally, I want to get in better shape, faster, than the guy on Better Body Journal, for he is one of my nemeses in this game of strength.

Find your solution and make your own motivation. Formulate your goals, and make it happen!

2015 Intermittent Fasting Updates and The Importance of Meal Timing

Intermittent Fasting for Health

The benefits of Intermittent Fasting (IF) continue to turn up in research and studies.

  • improved insulin sensitivity, blood glucose, and lipid levels
  • relief from inflammation
  • improved metabolic efficiency and reduction in body fat composition
  • increased energy, decreased lethargy
  • improved mood and mental clarity
  • reduced LDL and total cholesterol
  • helps prevent, slow progressing, and possibly reverse type 2 diabetes
  • protection from cardiovascular disease
  • improved pancreatic function

And of course one of the best benefits of IF – less time spent agonizing over meal planning and perfecting your diet.

Intermittent Fasting for Health

For 18 years I’ve studied nutrition, changing my diet around to meet my current goals – bulk, cut, health, lean gains, etc… I’ve done a 0 carb diet, low fat meals, I subsisted on a Chanko diet once for a month, tried paleo eating, juicing, hell at one point I even ate nothing but apples and canned tuna for about 4 weeks straight. So far nothing has been as easy or felt as good at intermittent fasting.

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Working Out With the Pros

Every Type of Athlete Can Benefit From Working Out

It takes a ton of work for an athlete to climb up the ranks and be considered one of the best in their game. Natural ability and determination will only take you so far and for many, hard work is the factor that tips the scales in their favor. Ever wonder what kind of workout routines the top pros utilize to continue their success? You’re about to find out, but beware; these routines are not for the faint of heart. You might think P90X is difficult, but wait until you see what these athletes do on a daily basis.

The God of Clay 

Rafael Nadal
As one of the best tennis players to ever grace the clay courts (or any court for that matter), it would be a common mistake to think that Rafael Nadal was simply born to play tennis. The more accurate answer would be that he does have a natural gift but it’s his drive to be a better player that has fueled his success, which includes a maniacal workout routine. The seemingly never-ending energy that radiates from the Spanish pro is electrifying and it’s easy to see late in a match when his stamina is still going strong and opponents are struggling to keep up.

In the off-season, Nadal’s workout routine takes about 40 hours per week across six days, which makes staying in shape an intense job. With the aid of a personal doctor and physio expert that are on-hand for all of the workout sessions, the tennis pro pushes himself to the limit and makes sure that he will be in perfect shape once the season starts. Rafael Maymo, Nadal’s physio trainer, is charged with the task of massaging the muscles to both start and end a workout session.

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21 Tips to Sprint Faster

How to Sprint Faster

UPDATED 3/22/15: Updated to reflect some changes in the tips that might help you sprint even FASTER!

Sprinting is the foundation of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and will make your legs big, strong, fast, and powerful. Sprints are great for developing endurance, but also for developing lean muscle mass and speed strength.

Ever seen a skinny sprinter? I didn’t think so.

Sure, squats are the almighty kings of the Gym Exercise Kingdom; but sprints are like the kings of the Functional Exercise Kingdom whose jacked-up, super-lean army of massive wheels is constantly trying to overthrow the squat as the #1 top leg exercise.

SprintingFemale Sprinter

You think you can sprint, but can you?

Here are 21 tips you can follow to improve your sprinting:

  1. Start on the correct foot. When standing, have someone push you lightly from the back. The foot that moves first should be your front foot in the starting blocks. It will move first and fastest (push off with your front foot).
  2. Explode out of the starting blocks. Getting a jump on the competition out of the blocks is vital to sprinting faster. Starting strength and starting speed are always important aspects of maximal effort exercise. To get that quick jump, your leg angle should be about 45 degrees, your stride should be short, and your arms should help you gain that initial momentum.
  3. Touch the ground only with your toes. Aside from pushing off with your toes, your toes should really be the only part of the foot to come in contact with the ground. Anything else will just slow you down.
  4. Push off with your toes. You should be pushing off with the toes of your rear leg to maximize propulsion.
  5. Kick your own butt. Once your toes push off at the end of your stride, your legs should follow through by essentially kicking your butt with your heel. Practice butt-kicks while warming up before a sprint. Update: a reader says, “you shouldn’t be kicking you butt with your heel. it should pass through beside your knee”.
  6. Run with a circle. (No, not IN a circle, WITH a circle.) Your foot movement should be circular, not elliptical. Videotape yourself from the side while sprinting to check this. Your toes should touch down only in the bottom quadrant of the circle in the direction you are running.
  7. Use dorsiflexion to increase propulsion. As soon as your toes push off, you should pull your toes and feet up towards your shin. This helps you to sprint faster by causing the calf muscle to contract and propel the body forward.
  8. Don’t break your stride. When your toes touch down they should already by moving backwards, thanks in part to a circular foot motion and the dorsiflexion mentioned previously. Stepping straight down breaks your stride.
  9. Kick your knees up. At the top of your stride, your thigh should approach a parallel angle to your running surface. Practice high knee kicks while warming up before a sprint.
  10. Shorten your stride. Your foot should not land out in front of your body, rather it should land directly under your center of gravity. This is a common misconception when sprinting. By touching your foot down in front of your hips, your foot will actually act more like a break than an accelerant.
  11. Increase the speed of your stride. In keeping your strides shorter, you should also be able to quicken them. The more times your toes push off behind you, the faster you will run.
  12. Swing those arms. Make an L shape with your arms. Pump your fist as high as your chin and pump your elbow back as far as possible for momentum.
  13. Conserve energy. You’ve got your stride and your arm swing. Any other motion just wastes precious energy. That includes unnecessary tension in any other muscle groups. Stretch and shake the tension out of your body before a sprint.
  14. Sprint short distances. To maximize speed you want to train only when you are the fastest. That means you should not sprint for longer than 20-30 seconds in one burst. After 30 seconds your effort will naturally decrease to submaximal, and you don’t want this.
  15. Eat carbs. You should consume some complex carbs before your sprint session. Consider eating some fruit an hour before training.
  16. Update: You should be looking down in the drive phase of the race but slowly start to look forward after about 30m. Looking anywhere else will make your body want to run in that direction, which is wasted energy. That includes looking down after the 30m mark.Do you want to run down into the ground or in a straight line, straight ahead? Right. So don’t look down. Looking down also impairs your breathing.
  17. Harmonize your breathing. Rather than breathing randomly, you should breathe in with your nose and out with your mouth in a steady rhythm with your strides. Find a rhythm that works best for you and stick with it long enough to make it natural.
  18. Accelerate at all times. Ideally you should be moving faster at the finish line than at any other time during the sprint. You never want to decelerate during the sprint, as it trains your body to be slower. If necessary during a long sprint, you should pace yourself by sprinting with moderate speed at first and increasing acceleration through the finish line.
  19. Lift weights. You might be surprised to know that all of the muscles in your body are required for sprinting, with the possible exception of the biceps which really aren’t good for much except chin ups.
    • Hamstrings are the most important muscle for a fast sprint.
    • Quadriceps are the second most important muscle for a fast sprint.
    • You are going to need strong calves for pushing off with your toes.
    • Your shoulders, chest, and back need to be strong for pumping your arms.
    • The core needs to be strong to keep your body straight and aligned properly.
    • A strong neck will help keep your head from bouncing to and fro while sprinting.
  20. Get a little help from your friends. Train with people who are faster than you. Constantly striving to catch someone, will provide the motivation you need to get faster. Training with someone slower than you will not be as challenging.
  21. And finally: practice. If you want to be a good sprinter, get out and practice. Run a wide variety of sprint lengths including 20, 40, 60, 80, 100, and 200 meters. You might tend to slow down towards the end of a 200 meter sprint, but always strive for positive acceleration.

How to Perform the Pallof Press

The problem with most rotational movements is that they produce shearing forces on your lumbar spine. One of the foundations of biomechanics is that you don’t place your spine into a simultaneous state of rotation, flexion, and side bending, and you especially don’t add an external load.

Pallof Press

This eliminates a number of popular abdominal exercises such as dumbbell side bends and the twisting abdominal machine. Exercises like the Russian twist should be performed with care, making sure that the trunk is flexed rather than the spine.

There is a quick and easy solution to the inherent problems with twisting exercises – don’t twist.

Enter: The Pallof Press!

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