One of the biggest parts of strength training has nothing to do with how big you are, the loads you use, the volume you perform, or the time you spend in the gym.
Most people have those aspects pretty well covered.
This is something totally different that most people never give a bit of attention to…
Today, I am interviewing someone who knows a great deal about that. Logan Christopher.
Interview: Get Better Results in the Gym Through Mental Training
Jedd: Logan, thanks for doing the interview. Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got your nickname, the Physical Culture Renaissance Man.
Logan: I have to thank Geoff Neupert for calling me that in the first place. For those that don’t know, physical culture is an old term to describe all different aspects of health and fitness. And renaissance man is the term used to describe someone who is good at a wide range of things. The term is usually applied to people like Leonardo Da Vinci for his amazing work in art, music, sciences, invention and more. So basically this term refers to someone who is good in all different sorts of strength and fitness areas. If it’s related to strength I’ve probably done it. Some of the things I’m more or less regularly working on are heavy lifting, bodyweight training including hand balancing and gymnastics, oldtime strength feats, grip strength, kettlebells and more.
Jedd: Logan, what does it mean to “Think and Grow Strong?” Your DVD Set is the first I had heard of this, and I think I have an idea, but tell us more.
I came up with this title based on the famous wealth and business book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Everyone has heard the stories of old ladies lifting cars off of their family. Well if a person has that amount of strength stored within them strength training isn’t really about getting stronger but unlocking the power already within us. As you mentioned proper physical training is crucial and there is soooo much information available on that. Many people reading this will be quite versed in how to train to get stronger.
But very few people pay attention to the mental side. What I have found with myself and clients is that how you use your brain will instantly effect the amount of strength you can put forth, thus you can literally think and grow stronger.
Jedd: There have been some strength feats that I just knew right away I was going to attain and I did. Why is it that the way you think can have such a profound effect on something like strength training?
Logan: Just think about it for a second. When we’re exerting strength our nervous system is sending signals to tell the muscles to contract. If the CNS sends a stronger signal than you can contract harder and thus be stronger. And its not about trying any harder. In fact, with many of these drills you get better results with less effort. I recently did a simple experiment using hypnosis and curls. I saw a 27% improvement on reps using my weaker arm than what I could do with my stronger arm.
Basically you mind is going to direct EVERYTHING that you do. If it is optimized it just makes sense that you will see instant effects in performance. This stuff is actually easy once you understand how it works. But it only took me several years of studying it all to put it together 🙂
Jedd: Are some people born better able to optimize this mental strength than others?
Logan: Yes, just like some people are born physically stronger than others. But they’re all trainable skills. Many people, when they see what I can do, assume I was always strong. That’s not the case. In fact I was a very weak and scrawny kid growing up. Although I was fairly smart I wouldn’t say I was mentally strong either. If anything what I did have was a strong will to succeed, and that too is a trainable skill.
Jedd: Is this about repeating a mantra? Having motivational posters in the gym? What all is involved in this?
Logan: No, no, no. A mantra is a form of affirmations. While they can work mantras are the weakest of any techniques I’ve seen. The problem with them is that if you don’t believe what you’re saying you’re actually going to be affirming the opposite of your desire. You have to be careful of these limiting beliefs, but once you know how, they’re actually quite easy to change once you’ve identified them.
A motivational poster can do something but its not going to double your reps. Let’s talk about motivation. If you need to be motivated it means there is conflict between different parts of yourself. One part wants to achieve a goal and another wants to sit on the couch and eat cheetos. You can work to integrate these parts of yourself and then be congruent as you work towards what you want. And if you’re in this state than no motivation is necessary.
Some of the main techniques of what I teach come from Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Hypnosis, Visualization and Energy Psychology. There are different ways to help you achieve whatever your strength training goals happen to be by using these methods.
Everyone knows about visualization but few people practice it, at least regularly. But even with that I’ve found there are much more powerful tools. As an example visualizing yourself doing an exercise may help. But if you change HOW you visualize in specific ways, which changes your mental programming, you will definitely see an improvement.
Jedd: OK. So it’s not just about practicing Mental Programming, but also about How You Do it. Awesome. Another thing that caught my eye about your Think and Grow Stronger Master Course is that you talk about “manipulating your past, present and future.” How is this possible?
Logan: Time isn’t something that is real, in the sense that its not a physical thing. All it is is a mental construct that has many uses, but people also become trapped by it. All you really have is the present. In your mind you can go to the past and the future. Any exercise in goal setting is working towards a future time. You can also change how you frame the past. Just how much is possible with it? I think an example will show you what sort of manipulation you can do.
At the Wizards of Strength Workshop I led Matti Marzel through a drill. He was already quite strong in that he did two handstand pushups against the wall on just the index finger and thumb of each hand. At the time this was the best he could do. I led him through a little drill accessing how he programmed this exercise within in his mind. I had him step into the future where he had continued to practice this exercise. In this state he had more for a “feeling of owning the exercise”. I had him step back to the present bringing that feeling with him. He then did another set and was able to get 4 reps. He doubled what he could do by manipulating his mental programming and the future.
Jedd: When I played baseball, my dad always said I “wore my emotions on my shirt sleeve.” What exactly do emotions have to do with all of this?
Logan: The emotions are intimately tied into your thinking processes. Psyching up is a form of mental training that is common among strongmen and powerlifters. To get into this state people use anchoring, even if they’ve never heard of that term. What are they doing? They’re doing something to trigger their emotions, usually anger, to enter an altered state where the can lift heavier things. And it works. BUT there are better methods and while it works for non-complex heavy movements, psyching up does not work as well for everything else. Different emotional states are more or less useful for different lifts and exercises.
Jedd: Logan, I truly believe having your Mind right is a huge factor in success with strength training. I have seen people wrap up horseshoes and steel bars and then just before they attempt the bend they say, “I’ve never been able to get this.” And sure enough, they fail. I would love to put together a resource to help people improve this, but your Master Course is amazing. Please tell people about it and how to get it. I know you are planning on retiring it and it won’t be around much longer.
Logan: Limiting and empowering beliefs are such a huge aspect of success in any field. These not only directly responsible for your success or failure in training, but whether you even train and how you do it in the first place!
The Think and Grow Strong Master Course is a huge amount of information. It originally began as a monthly program but is now available all in one set. Ten modules cover all of the areas I’ve discussed and more. In total there is a binder full of written manuals, 12 DVD’s and 5 CD’s. The CD’s have hypnotic tracks that all you have to do is listen to in order to help you get stronger, gain muscle or lose fat. And they work.
But I’ve decided to retire this course and pull it off the market. I’m doing this to make way for new information in the future like my upcoming book Mental Muscle. So once this month is over it is gone for good. But right now you can get it for about one third of the price.
My guarantee is that with this course alone you’ll be far beyond any personal trainer and even sports psychologist out there in knowing how to properly use mental training.
I only have a few copies left and if they don’t sell out right away I’m pulling them off the market for good at the end of this month.
Jedd: Think about this guys:
It’s likely that you have spent a decent amount of money in acquiring training information in the forms of books, videos, certifications, etc. The great thing about mental training is that it builds on top of whatever knowledge you currently have. Regardless of how you’re training or what you’re training for it can be added on top to act as an accelerator for your goals.
If you want an edge on your competition, whether you are in strength sports, more classic sports, are a coach, or just want to look better, this could be the final piece to the puzzle to make your preparation complete.
Get it here while you still can for 1/3 the regular price:
Think and Grow Strong Master Course
All the best in your training,
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Tags: get bigger, get leaner, get stronger, how to build muscle, improve strength, lose fat
Posted in how to build muscle, how to develop strength, how to improve fitness and conditioning, how to improve strength, how to lose weight and get in better shape, strength training powerlifting, strength training to improve athletic performance | No Comments »
Programming Your Movements for Muscle Gains
In Part I of this Build Muscle The Right Way Article Series, I spoke about the three most important keys I use for building muscle and gaining strength at the same time: Multi-joint Movements, Training for Power and Speed, and Working for Muscular Balance. You can read Part I here: Keys to Muscle Building.
Sample Upper Body Training Split
In Part I, I put a lot of emphasis on maintaining antagonistic balance so that you do not develop muscular imbalances that will cause you trouble later on down the road. Also as I stated Part I, if you perform your complementary Push and Pull movements on the same day, it can be easier to keep everything balanced. However, because I spend so much time training for Grip Strength, I run out of time in order to accomplish everything I like to do, so I split the two days up. Lately, my split has looked like this:
- Week 1 – Day 1: Push, Week 1 – Day 2: Pull, Week 1 – Day 3: Lower, Week 1 – Day 4: Grip Specific
- Week 2 – Day 1: Pull, Week 2 – Day 2: Push, Week 2 – Day 3: Lower, Week 2 – Day 4: Grip Specific
In other words, I go Push, Pull, Lower, Grip for the first week and then flip flop the Push and Pull so it goes Pull, Push, Lower, Grip the second week.
Sample Upper Body Push Workout
Here is a recent workout I did for Upper Body Push. This workout took place on a Monday. It was followed by an Upper Body Pull Day on Tuesday and then a Lower Body Day on Thursday. One week later, I followed the schedule and did my Upper Body Pull Day first and the Upper Body push day second, etc.
Optimally, the order of this day would go like this:
1. Overhead Power Movement: Requires the most skill and energy, so it should take place first
2. Bench / Incline Bench: Because the body is supported on the bench, even after doing a big movement like the Overhead Variations, I still feel strong on the bench going second.
3. Auxiliary Bench Movement: Examples could be Speed Bench Against Bands, Incline Bench, Dips – All these are awesome, especially if your shoulders are feeling good.
4. Isolation Movement: If isolation movements are your thing, you can include them here or you can do another auxiliary movement, work on the rotator cuffs, or bring up a weakness in your upper body (triceps, etc)
On this day, I started off with Bench Press, although often I will actually start off with Overhead Press, especially if I am using the Log. I was able to work up to an unassisted single of 365 on the Bench Press, for the first time in about a year. My all time best is 405 with a spotter.
Speed Bench Against Bands
In order to perform this one correctly and get the most out of it, you should be moving the bar much quicker than this. I should have either used lighter bands or lightened the bar weight, but I did not.
My back was feeling a bit seized up after the heavy benching, because I was actually arching pretty hard for me. That is about all the angle I get. If I worked on my thoracic mobility more, I think I could get a better arch. Anyway, because my back was tight, I stuck with Military Press instead of a more powerful movement. Like I said, I like to do a Push Jerk, Push Press or a straight out Jerk movement first, but it didn’t work out that way this week.
Gironda Lateral Raise Complex
This is a combination I never even knew about until I reviewed the book, Vince Gironda, Legend and Myth. In that book he has what he calls the 8 Sets of 8 Keep-You-Honest Workout and the finisher for Upper Body Day is Side Laterals followed immediately by what he calls the Dumbbell Swing, but I have affectionately called it the Pirate Ship. Regardless of what you call it, it mimics the movement of the Pirate Ship ride at the amusement park in the way the arms swing rhythmically back and forth.
I don’t want to say that this movement pairing or even that just doing the Pirate Ship movement “fixed” whatever was aching in my shoulder the last few weeks, but after doing it every week for roughly 6 weeks straight as my finisher for my Upper Body push day, my shoulders have felt outstanding! I was able to perform dips pain free, getting my rib cage to touch the cross-bar on my dip station for the first time I can remember in years, and I was able to Bench 365 touch-and-go style for the first time in ages. I encourage you to try this out. At the very least the combination pumps your shoulders with a very nice burn.
This is how I set up the strength training muscle building workouts. Because I work a variety of percentages of 1RM, a variety of speeds, and train volume as well, I have been fairly successful at building muscle and strength at the same time as long as I am eating enough calories, staying injury free, and getting enough sleep.
I have had several months in a row now where I have been free of lower back injuries so I have not missed many workouts and recently my strength levels and size have increased.
Now that the latest Grip Contest, Gripmas Carol 2011, is out of the way, I plan on adding conditioning work back into my weekly routine separate of my workouts and cleaning up my diet as well in an effort to trim down a bit and get just plain ripped to shreds in 2012.
If you want to watch some of the stuff that I do for conditioning and fat loss, I can certainly film it, but only if you are interested. I don’t know if this is something you want to see or not on my site, so please leave me a comment an let me know.
Thanks and all the best in your training.
For further information on building muscle, check out Smitty’s AMD Program by clicking the image below. This is one of the best Muscle Building Programs on the market, shares many of the same principles I am sharing here, and includes many other ways to keep you healthy and balanced in order to build muscle the right eway.
Tags: bench press, bench training, how to build muscle, pushing workout, upper body workout
Posted in accelerated muscular development, how to build muscle, how to improve fitness and conditioning, how to lose weight and get in better shape, muscle-building-workouts, strength training muscle building workouts, strength training workouts | No Comments »
Weighted Rope Curl Ups
I do a small amount of personal training here in my facility. I am lucky enough to have found some guys who will literally try anything I challenge them to do, and they often end up performing the exercises just as well if not better than me. One morning this week, my trainee and good friend Mark was here and I had him do an exercise for his Biceps that he said hit them very well. He liked it so much, I knew I had to try it later on in my workout as well.
Equipment Needed for This Lift
The way we performed this exercise was with a rope. The rope is about 6 feet long. If you do not have a rope, a towel will work fine as long as it is a nice thick towel. An old beat up towel is probably going to rip on you so don’t try it. We used two Pony Clamps to secure the weight onto the rope. That’s all you need!
Benefits of This Lift
I feel this lift is best used as a finisher for the Biceps. What I look for in a Finisher is something that just outright blows the Biceps up, pumping it full of Blood. I do the rest of my larger movements influencing the biceps (Chin-ups, Barbell Curls, etc) first and then use isolation movements like this to bring massive amounts of blood and expansion in. In addition, the pump and increased blood flow helps to fend off and recover from inflammation in the elbows and forearms (tendonitis, epicondylitis, etc).
How to Perform This Lift
The basic way to perform this lift is to grip the towel with the elbows positioned about 90 degrees. From there, you will take your top hand and shift it beneath the lower hand, keeping the hands in contact with one another with each re-grip.
Other Variations of this Lift
Instead of just maintaining a consistent angle of about 90-degrees, you can also vary away from that angle. In the video below, I start out with two sets where I keep my elbow angle around 90 degrees and then finish with a third set where I move throughout the ROM, changing a few degrees at a time. Both variations worked well for an awesome pump.
I definitely suggest you give this exercise a try. My arms were blown up for about an hour afterwards, and I even hit a bunch of Grip, so I’d imagine if this was the last thing I did, I would have had a pump for much longer.
Weighted Rope Curl Ups
Now here is a quick demo. Sorry for repeating some of this information in the video. You will see that once I get up to 75-lbs, this exercise is damn challenging. Feel free to change up the weights to make the exercise work for you.
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All the best in your training,
Tags: arm training, bigger biceps, build forearms, how to build muscle, muscle emass
Posted in accelerated muscular development, forearm injury prevention recovery healing, how to build muscle, how to improve fitness and conditioning, muscle-building-workouts | 2 Comments »
If you take out questions about Grip Training, one of the most common questions I get is how to set up a program in order to put on muscle.
With this post, I want to list a few principles I follow in my training. Next week, I will cover some how to select the right movements and how to program them.
3 Keys to Building Muscle
These are the three main keys I follow in my training when it comes to exercise selection. Now, of course there are other things that go into it, but these are the main three things.
1. Multi-Joint Movements
If you want to put on muscle and develop strength, then you have got to get lots of muscle involved in order to do so. The best way to get lots of muscle involved is to select exercises that involve movement over more than one joint. Examples are Bench Press, Overhead Press, Squat, Deadlift, Bent Over Rows, Clean, Snatch, and other movements that are similar in movements to these.
Now, if you take a look at the exercises I listed, you will see that there is often movement taking place at two or more joints. For instance, with the Bench, there is movement at the shoulder and at the elbow, plus if you approach the movement like a Powerlifter does, you are using even more muscle across other joints as well.
Movements such as the Squat, Deadlift, Cleans, and many Olympic lift breakdown drills involve even more joints. With these we are working over the knee, hip, back and possibly the ankle, shoulder and elbow, meaning even more muscle is being involved.
In other words, select movements that are working larger portions of your body and keep isolation movements to a minimum.
2. Train for Power and Speed
I like to incorporate exercises of increased speed in my training. What I am referring to is explosive movements that produce an increased power output, such as Cleans, Jerks, Snatches, Stone Lifting, and other movements where virtually the entire body is working together in order to move large loads very quickly.
Another way I like to accomplish this is with Accommodating Resistance using exercise bands. I have bands of many different strength levels in order to be able to use this concept on different movements.
The Bench Press is a good example of how to employ bands in your training. Remember when using bands that the purpose is to move the bar quickly against the resistance in order to train the fast-twitch muscle fibers to fire quickly. These muscle fibers need to be stimulated like this, but most guys are missing this aspect. I say this, because when I ask people who email me about this they say they have either never heard of this type of training or haven’t bought into it. I am a firm believer in it and have been experimenting with how to incorporate it in different ways aside from just with barbells in my training and with my clients (these guys kick ass).
3. Work in Balance
One of the recent times someone wrote in, they wanted to know how to put muscle on their chest and shoulders and I asked them what they were currently doing. Their answer? Bench Pressing two days a week and Shoulder work on another day. Essentially three Upper Body Pushing days and each one was balls to the walls intensity.
One of the things I always tell people is that if you are trying to fill out your shirt, you’ve got to remember there are two sides of it to fill. You don’t want to be like Tom Cruise in the movie Knight and Day and look like your back muscles are non-existent.
There needs to be a balance between your pushing and pulling exercises in order to pack on muscle on the upper body, and do it safely. Remember, we are doing something that is supposed to be good for us, not something in order to set ourselves up for imbalances, poor posture and pain down the road.
What I suggest people do is for every movement where you are pushing something, try to also incorporate a movement where you are pulling. If you can pick out complementary or contra-specific movement patterns, that is a bonus as well. For instance, a complimentary movement pattern for the Bench Press would be Bent Over Rows or Seated Cable Rows (although, I’d suggest the Bent-Over variety in order to have a Ground Based Movement – another post for another day).
One other thing to think about with Balanced Training, keep in mind that if you are going all out for maxes on the Bench every time you do it and then you do Bent Over Rows with a fraction of the weight, that doesn’t count as balanced. The loading and effort need to be similar in order to realize benefits.
One good way to do this is to perform your Upper Body Push and Upper Body Pulling movements on the same day and match up the loading and effort that way. If you do it like this, it is easier to monitor than if you do it on different days.
Do You Have Muscle Imbalances, Currently?
If you have been following traditional programs and have not taken things such as antagonistic balance into account with your program, you could be headed for some issues. Unfortunately, imbalances can develop from more than just the way you program you workouts and your exercise selection.
Time seated in a car, time at your desk, time at home in chairs, and other considerations that affect posture can really do a number on you.
If you think you run the risk of having imbalances because you slouched in your seat in high school for years (like me), spend a lot of time at a desk at your work (like me), or have muscular imbalances due to an injury or something else, you should consider checking out Rick Kaselj’s Muscle Imbalances Revealed – Upper Body Edition.
I recently made Rick’s acquaintance on-line and began following some of his work and he has an impressive background. A few months ago he came out with a 2.0 Program for lower body and now he has updated his Upper Body Edition as well.
The sizable clientele he has worked with and the expert backing he has gotten is unbelievable. I strongly suggest you give his program a look if you are a candidate for imbalances. Here is my link: Muscle Imbalances Revealed by Rick Kaselj.
All the best in your training and look for Part II coming next week.
Tags: how to build muscle, put on mass, set up a program, strength training
Posted in how to bench press, how to build muscle, how to improve fitness and conditioning, muscle-building-workouts, strength training muscle building workouts, strength training powerlifting, strength training to improve athletic performance | 2 Comments »
Powerful Pressing Power AND Core Strength With an Important Lesson
In this new article I am going to discuss something that is of great importance.
But first, something really cool.
One Arm Dumbbell Press on Swiss Ball
This movement is awesome for:
- increasing pressing power
- improving core strength (anti-rotation, statics / dynamic isometrics)
- improving shoulder stability
We cycle in this variation once in a while after the lifter / athlete demonstrates proficiency with horizontal and vertical pressing AND horizontal and vertical pulling (*Remember, we must create a balance in the volume of movements).
As the lifter goes through the range of motion of the press there is a torque across their torso that is very significant and this must be stabilized. Once stabilized and braced and with the shoulder retracted and packed back, the lifter will begin their set.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSON #37
In the video you’ll hear me instruct John (the second athlete in the video) to switch hands on the press. During his set I am always observing, instructing and providing lifting cues for form. I saw his rep was slow and he was losing stability. Once I see this, I must immediately jump in and instruct him to switch hands or end the set if he has already lifted with both arms.
This is the key.
NO GRINDING REPS. There is no need. In a fatigued set where the reps are grinded out, that is when injuries occur. Also, if every set is taken to this “failure”, overtraining is much more likely. We want to see quality reps and complete focus by the athlete. They must be “in” the set the entire time. As my good friend Rob Pilger says, “Fatigue makes cowards of men” and fatigue also puts the athlete into a compromising position. Do you let them grind the rep out in a bad movement pattern, or do you cut the set and get another rep on the next workout?
My 20 years in the trenches advice? Cut the set.
- Stabilize and Brace Core
- Retract Shoulder
- Drive Feet Down
- Stabilize and Brace Core
- Retract Shoulder
- Drive Feet Down
- Drive Dumbbell to Lockout and Reset Your Air
- Slowly Return to the Starting Point*
* Key Note: A neutral grip is preferred for athletes as this is the most advantageous and safest position.
One Arm Dumbbell Press on Swiss Ball
Cool Testimonial for AMPED
You have to see this testimonial for AMPED Warm-up. It is from Nicolas Amp (yeah I love his last name!) and it is awesome. Not only does he provide great feedback, he also sent me a picture of him watching AMPED in his car during a traffic jam! Check it out!
“As a strength coach, it is my responsibility to make sure my athletes get the best from their workout and do not get injured. Every training programs, no matter how good they are, can not be performed well without a proper and well-designed warm up protocol. This is where AMPED comes in action! Everything you need to know about warming up is explained. Self-myofascial release methods, mobility training and activation… everythig is in here. I’ve been particulary interested in mobility training and what I’ve found in AMPED totally answered my questions. Thanks to AMPED, I’m confident I’m going to bring my athletes to the next level. If you are a serious strength coach, you have to get AMPED!” — Nicolas AMP
Tags: anti-rotation core strength, combat athletes, core strength workouts, dumbbell pressing, fighters, how to build muscle, how to increase core strength, how to increase your punching power, john franchi, mma, muscle building workouts, pat audinwood, pressing power, shoulder stability, swiss ball, ufc
Posted in accelerated muscular development, core training workouts, core workouts for athletes, how to bench press, how to build muscle, strength training muscle building workouts | 2 Comments »
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