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Archive for the ‘muscle building anatomy’ Category

Build a Big Back with Pendulum Rows

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Last year, in May, I performed a Strongman Show during the Bodybuilding Contest at the Empire Classic Fitness Expo in Spokane, Washington.

I also assisted with several other events that were part of the Expo, including a Strongman contest, and that’s where I met Luke Ehlis, one of the competitors in the Strongman Contest.

Luke had been a bodybuilder prior to the Strongman Comp, and I was extremely impressed with his prowess in Strongman.

Let’s face it – you don’t often see competitive bodybuilders who are able to crossover in Strongman competition and excel, but Luke did.

What’s even more impressive, to me, about Luke is that he trains primarily in his garage, not some giant warehouse gym, not some fancy fitness center, but his own garage gym at his home.

I’ve stayed in touch with Luke since the contest and have an interview with him planned, and since then, I’ve enjoyed watching Luke’s videos on Instagram and Facebook, because the dude is an innovator.

One of the things I saw him do recently was what I refer to as a Pendulum Row. In a recent video, he attached a Bar to his Reverse Hyper device, and used the hanging weight as the resistance for his Bent Over Rows.

I thought that was awesome, because I knew it would feel completely different from a regular Bent Over Row.

This past weekend, my lifting partner, Lucas Raymond, and I got the chance to try out these Pendulum Rows, and they are KILLER!

Build Your Back with Pendulum Rows

These are so stinkin’ Intense, brotherrr! The swinging action of the Reverse Hyper makes the weight pull away from you at the highest point of the Row. What I was trying to do was to get a good, solid pause at the top of the movement, but it was HARD!

To challenge our grip more, we used the FBBC Crusher, which is a free-spinning thick bar handle, much more difficult to use than the Rolling Thunder, plus, we were flexing our wrist into a partial gooseneck position, which made these even more difficult to do.

I’m telling you right now, these are a WINNER for your back training. The way you have to brace your core on these is just plain sinister. You feel them BIG TIME in your back. Try them if you dare.

Stay tuned for an interview with Luke Ehlis, as soon as I can get my act together.

All the best in your training.


P.S. August of Arms is coming. GET READY.

P.P.S. If you want even more cool ideas to build a bigger upper back and thicker set of traps, check out YOKETOBER:

Avoiding Plateaus in Your Training

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

When it comes to strength training, fat loss, flexibility and athletic development, the last thing you want to encounter is the nasty P-word.

I Beat Them With This Stick.


What is the definition of a Plateau? I checked out the dictionary and here are the first two definitions.

    1. a land area having a relatively level surface considerably raised above adjoining land on at least one side, and often cut by deep canyons.
    2. a period or state of little or no growth or decline: to reach a plateau in one’s career.

Definition 2 is the one we want to avoid – the point in your training where your growth and development ceases.

No More Training Plateaus

Today, you’re gonna learn two ways to demolish your training plateaus and to keep them from ever showing up in the first place.

The primary cause for plateaus is lack of variety. People get in the habit of doing the same stuff all the time in their training, never varying from the norm, and as a result, their results drop off and they see the same numbers going up in their lifts, the same movement quality in their sports, and the same body in the mirror every day.

What I’ve got for you today are a couple of examples of how you can slightly modify the Deadlift, and more specifically in this case, the Trap Bar Deadlift, in order to break through plateaus and enjoy continuous Gains, PR’s and Progress.

What’s cool is, you can use the same exact amount of weight on the bar, but make that weight feel more challenging in your hands with just a couple small changes.

Trap Bar Deadlifts with Straight Weight

Here are some clips from a recent Trap Bar Deadlift training session. I am using Fat Gripz on the handles because I am preparing for a Deadlift and Hold in an upcoming Grip Contest, the Holdfast Gauntlet.

So, nothing out of the ordinary. Just pulling straight weight and going for 5 sets of 2. With the Fat Gripz added, this was a bit too heavy to get all the doubles I wanted.

But let’s imagine that I completed all 5 sets of 2 reps.

Now, let’s look at a couple of ways to modify the lift in order to make it slightly harder.

Trap Bar Deadlifts with Chains

With Chains attached to the Trap Bar, the weight in your hands gets heavier as you lift the bar further. This allows you to hold heavier weight at the top, as if someone is throwing a couple on 10’s on each side once you hit lockout.

So, what you could actually do is perform your first few sets of, say 300lbs, with straight weight. Then, you could do a few more sets with chains added to make the lift target your lockout strength more and make it even more taxing on your grip.

Trap Bar Deadlifts Pulling Against Band Tension

Now, let’s look at a way to make the same movement, with the same weight, even harder – Bands. With these giant rubber bands placed over the bar, the challenge to keep hold of it all the way to lockout is increased even further for both the hands nd the lower back and glutes.

Now, these videos were all taped during different sessions with different weights used, but the potential is there for you to incorporate all three techniques in the same workout to gradually increase the difficulty of the sets, and to help you plow through plateaus in your training.

Where to Get Chains and Bands

Chains and Bands are available in many places, and many of these suppliers operate through In fact, here is an entire page of various Lifting Chain Suppliers

That page will give you a whole variety of options, including different chain sizes, and packs of various chains so you can save on shipping and get a better value.

Training Bands are available there too. There used to be only on good supplier of exercise bands, but now there are lots of them. Go to this page, Fitness and Strength Training Bands, and you will find all kinds of different bands to choose from.

Where to Get Fat Gripz

Naturally, if you don’t have Fat Gripz yet, I consider them a must. These thing stake up no room at all and they go on so fast, you waste no time at all. They are a fraction of the price of thick-handled dumbbells and barbells, and make more sense for the person who is just looking to increase their hand strength but not interested in accomplishing world-class feats of Grip Strength.

Grab your set here => Get Fat Gripz

Screw Plateaus!

With these kinds of tactics, you’ll never have to worry about Plateaus in your training again. Any time you start to see stagnation in your training, you can start adding chains and bands into your training in order to shock your muscles and your mind into additional growth and strength increases.

And, you can head these plateaus off before they can even set in by including this type of work in your training on a regular basis. It is very popular to throw in band and chain training once a month to your target movement, and every 3 weeks of training is what Josh McIntyre highlighted in the recent interview I did with him.

You are going to feel like a MACHINE when you start including these things in your training. Especially, the chains, due to the awesome mechanical sounds they make. Its like training inside a Strength Building Factory.

All the best,


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How to Correct Muscular Imbalances

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Fixing Muscular Imbalances

My friend Rick Kaselj, with whom I worked on Fixing Elbow Pain and Fix My Wrist Pain, has a product which has become an ongoing series called Muscular Imbalances Revealed.

Every August, he puts out a new edition of this program, with new guest experts, and this year he has put out a new installment on correcting issues throughout the body.

The new edition this year focuses on unconventional training tools, and how they can help correct weaknesses and imbalances through the upper body.

Much of the features of this program entail the use of equipment I have talked about often here at

Here are some samples of this Muscular Imbalances Revealed installment:

    Sledge Hammer Training – Great for the Grip, Sledgehammer Training also gets your heart going while also training the core and glutes. It is also a great contrast training methdo for those who perform a great deal of kettlebell work.
    Ring Training – If you have weaknesses in your shoulders, chest, or back, this type of training will find it and correct it. Much more chaotic that training with barbells, benches, and dip stations, Ring Training makes you learn proper stabilization.
    Sled Training – If you aren’t including some type of sled work, they you most likely have not optimized your lover body recovery. This type of training has become a staple for many powerlifters and strongmen all over the world.
    Tire Flipping – One of the Strongman events that creates the most power, this is a great exercise for strengthening the posterior chain as well. The hammies, glutes, andd lower back are much too weak for some people, and this can help correct that.
    Reverse Stretching – Most people don’t stretch enough period. This section shows you how you can perform essential stretching to correct muscle and fascia issues to address flexibility issues that are hindering your strength development. If you have seemingly tried EVERYTHING in order to fix your imbalances and it has not worked, then this just may be the information you need.

Over the course of this week, the authors have put out samples of their portions of the program, and I have assembled them all here for you.

Sledge Hammer Training with Travis Stoetzel

Ring Training with Tyler Bramlett

Tire Flipping with Travis Stoetzel

Reverse Stretching with Isaac Ho

As you can see, this isn’t the same old boring re-hashed B.S. you’ve probably seen 100 times before
. These guys are showing you how you can take unconventional tools and use them to improve your training in ways you might not have thought of before.

To get this program and start viewing it right away, click here = > Muscular Imbalances Revealed: Unconventional Tools.

All the best in your training,



Bench Press Tip: Activate Lats for Stronger, Safer Bench Press

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Building a Bigger Bench Press

Dino Bravo – World Bench Record – 1988

It goes without saying that the Bench Press is one of the most popular lifts that are done in the gym.

And no wonder – it’s one of the best lifts for building upper body muscle, especially the chest, shoulders, and triceps. On top of the mass building potential of the Bench Press, it is also a great lift for building upper body strength.

In this post, I am going to cover a subtle adjustment you can make when you Bench Press to increase the weight you are able to press, the number of reps you can perform, and the safety of the Bench Press itself. When you can increase those three factors, your potential for size increases and strength gains is practically guaranteed.

The Power of the Lats in the Bench Press

Many trainees do not think about the lats when they Bench, because the lats are part of the back and are prime movers in rows and pull-ups, but the lats actually play a very important role.

Unfortunately, they do not realize that the lats are there to provide stability to the shoulder during the Bench Press. When the lats are activated properly, they provide a much better foundation for the shoulder, and this can be HUGE for your confidence under the barbell, when you are benching.

So, since the lats are so important, it makes sense to get them involved in the Bench Press as soon as possible, correct?

Well, many lifters miss the boat on that one as well. In fact their problems begin right from the moment they prepare to take the barbell out of the rack or hooks.

You can see exactly what I am talking about in the short video below.

Activating the Lats RIGHT AWAY for a Bigger Bench Press

I really want to thank Todd Hamer, strength coach from George Mason University, for showing me this technique modification. I met up with him at the Juniata Strength Clinic in June and asked him to take a look at my Benching Technique, and this has been a big help to me. It starts each new Bench Press set off with a completely different feel.

This way of un-racking the barbell may only be slightly different from what you are doing right now, but the way the bar feels in your grip and as you support it in the ready position is not. There is a night and day difference between these two techniques, and when you get this right, you can begin to see big improvements in your Bench Press.

And what’s great is, you can use this pulling lat activation method on your other Bench Press variations, such as Incline Bench and Decline Bench.

Let me know how you like this technique. Give it a try and leave a comment below.

All the best in your training.


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Build Bigger Traps by Intensifying the Shrug

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Build Bigger Traps

Dave Batista – BIG TRAPS

A common body part that lags behind other body parts is the traps. Many lifters I have spoken with have asked if I know any good ways to build the traps up besides normal shrugs. Today I will share that with you, but first let’s look at what the traps are designed to do.

Functions of the Traps

The traps, or trapezius, (so-called because altogether the three sections of the muscle are shaped like a trapezoid) is a muscle with many functions. While they are most visible at the top of the shoulder, they also extend down the back.

There are 3 segments of the trap, each with a different responsibility.

Image Source: Wikipedia

1. Upper Trap: Primarily responsible for elevating the shoulders and shoulder blades. Secondarily responsible for pulling the shoulders and shoulder blades back.

2. Middle Trap: Primarily responsible for pulling the shoulder blades together.

3. Lower Trap: Primarily responsible for pulling the shoulder blades down.

Now, when it comes to “building big traps” most people think of the section of the traps above the collar bone and shoulders. Dave Batista, pictured in the image at the top of the page, had some of the biggest traps I have ever seen in all my years as a wrestling fan.

Classic Trap Building Exercises

The classic exercise for building big traps are Shrugs and their variations. These are usually done with a barbell at the front of the body or with dumbbells at the sides of the body.

However, just because Barbell and Dumbbell Shrugs are what “everybody does” doesn’t mean everybody loves them.

Here are a few reasons why Barbell Shrugs and Dumbbell Shrugs fall out of favor with some trainees. Maybe you agree…

1. Barbell Shrugs, when done in front of the body, can be hard on the back if you have back injuries, especially when you start getting into serious weight.

2. Barbell Shrugs can also be done behind the body, but they can be uncomfortable on the shoulders and can force poor posture.

3. Dumbbell Shrugs are a fairly safe alternative, but some gyms are limited in their heavy dumbbell sizes and may not have loadable dumbbells that can be used to go heavier.

4. Because Dumbbell Shrugs are often done with lighter weights, you can find yourself doing very high rep sets in order to get the feeling that you have accomplished some effective muscle-building stimulation of the traps.

Because of all of these things, and possibly others you can think of, today I am going to show you one way you can intensify the Shrug to help build bigger traps.

In my garage gym, the heaviest matched dumbbells I have are 100’s. For anything higher than that, I use my loadable dumbbells and 25-lb plates. However, it is hard to do Shrugs with 25’s on loadable handles because the plates roll up your thighs, so to keep the movement legit, I have to stick with the 100’s until I get bigger dumbbell pairs.

I have gotten to the point now where I can perform upwards of 20 reps with my 100’s, and it doesn’t even feel like I have stimulated the traps unless I have already pre-exhausted them with another movement, like High Pulls. Unfortunately, those are tough on my back, so I don’t do them that much.

Instead, I have found a way to make the traps work even harder on every single repetition of the Shrug. You see, as listed above, the upper two portions of the trapezius are involved in pulling the shoulders back, as well as elevating them.

If you perform a shrugging movement, and then combine that with pulling the shoulders back, you will feel a much more solid contraction when you combine both movements. Even though the change is subtle, it has a big effect.

Try it now, even without weight in your hands and you’ll feel the difference.

Now, you can obviously just pull your shoulders back while you shrug in order to engage the traps differently, but I have found that there is a better way to accomplish this by combining bands with the exercise.

Watch the video below to see exactly what I mean.

Band Resisted Shrugs to Build Bigger Traps

So, as you see in the video above, the heavy band resistance makes you fire the traps and other musculature of the upper back intensely. This creates a movement that hits the traps in a much different way to help build them better.

Putting it Into Action to Build Bigger Traps

If you try this, I encourage you to start out with light dumbbells and band tension. This way, you can get used to the feeling of this movement, which is much different from a normal Shrug. Then, over the course of a few short sets, work up in weight and tension.

Also, you can play with the point the band is rigged to the structure. Since shooting this video, I have movement my anchor point higher for an even better feeling with this movement.

I think you will be surprised how much harder it is to perform Shrugs in this manner compared to just holding dumbbells. To give you an idea, I can Shrug the 100’s for more than 20 reps, and have yet to hit 15 reps with the blue bands on without taking a rest period mid-set.

Suggested Trap Building Workout

Barbell Clean or Log Clean – 6 Sets of 2
Overhead Lifting (Military Press, Dumbbell Press, or others) – 4 Sets of 3
Horizontal Band Resisted Shrugs – 4 sets of 10 to 12
Grip Training: Open Hand – Work up to a Max, then perform 10 doubles with 70 to 80% of Max

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All the best in your training.