Tout dans la vie est une question d'équilibre d'où la nécessité de garder un esprit sain dans un corps sain.


Everything in life is a matter of balance therefore one needs to keep a healthy mind in a healthy body.


E. do REGO

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Question of Strength: Vol 49 by Charles Poliquin

Getting a Grip on Deadlift Technique

A: Use a regular pronated grip, but use straps (not wraps!). You want time under tension for muscle development, which means doing sets of more than five reps. Without straps, the strength endurance of your gripping muscles will fail long before you exhaust the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

Now, for those who do compete in powerlifting, it's a good idea to switch your hands around in the mixed grip during practice — sometimes with the right hand facing you, sometimes the left. Alternate from set to set. If you always use the same style of mixed grip, you could set yourself up for a biceps tear.

For competition, use whatever feels best to you.

That's One Fast Snatch


A: Try a speed snatch.

This is a good exercise for anyone who needs to improve his or her vertical jump. Shoot for five sets of six reps (5 x 6).

It's a Wrap!


A: I don't recommend a lot of this type of equipment for most athletes. More often than not, they perform in an unprotected environment. Why train in a protected environment if you can't use any of that gear when you're competing in your sport?

But if you're a powerlifter, wraps and sleeves will help you lift more weight. For example, wrist wraps (not straps!) make it easier to support the load on a max bench press. You need to train with the wraps on for at least three weeks before a meet to get used to them.

For the average trainee, I'm neutral on the use of knee and elbow sleeves. If you feel better using them, fine, but they're not something I go out of my way to recommend.

Lat Specialization Tricks


A: The "rules" of specialization vary by body part, but the basic concept is to increase the volume for that muscle group. You can do that by increasing the number of sets per workout, or by training it more often.

Here's a good trick for lat specialization:

Train heavy on Monday, four to six reps per set. On Tuesday, use different lat exercises, but do eight to 10 reps. On Wednesday, use higher reps, as many as 15 to 20 per set, again with different exercises, which should deplete the final nanograms of glycogen from your muscles.

Your goal is to overtrain the lats, then take four days off from lat training before you hit them again. Here's a sample program:

Monday (full recovery between sets)

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest (sec)
A1) Narrow parallel-grip chin-up 5 4-6 4011 120
A2) Dip 5 4-6 4110 120
B1) One-arm dumbbell row 5 6-8 3012 120
B2) Incline dumbbell press 5 6-8 32X0 120

Tuesday (incomplete rest intervals)

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest (sec)
A) Close parallel-grip lat pulldown 4 8-10 2011 60
B) Seated cable row to the neck 4 8-10 2012 60

Wednesday (giant sets)

Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest (sec)
A1) Mid-grip chin-up 3 6-8 30X0 10
A2) Twin-handle parallel-grip lat pulldown 3 8-10 30X0 10
A3) 45-degrees lat pulldown 3 10-12 20X0 10
A4) Wide-grip lat pulldown 3 12-15 20X0 10
A5) Iron cross lat pulldown 3 15-20 10X0 10

From Thursday through Sunday, avoid direct lat training.

This system doesn't work with every body part. With calves, for example, a better method is to pair it with a strong body part, like arms. So you do a set of biceps curls, and instead of taking a normal rest period, you rest just 10 seconds (or however long it takes you to move over to a calf-raise station), do a set there, rest 10 seconds as you return to wherever you were doing curls, do your next set, and repeat.

Calves can also be trained every other day. Every 48 hours, in other words – something no sane person would attempt with bigger muscle groups. (Try it with deadlifts, if you don't believe me.)

Speaking of Calves ...


A: Here's a quick and dirty solution:

If that doesn't make your calves grow, nothing will!

Best Squat Alternative? The Squat!


A: My first question is, what medical condition are we talking about?

I ask because, in my experience, people who ask me this question are actually saying, "I'm a lazy fuck and I don't want to squat. What can I do?" They just want me to justify their use of the leg press or something.

Listen, anything that hits the knee and hip extensors should also be "impossible" to do if you have a true medical condition that prohibits squatting. And if your back is sore, then leg presses are also going to be intolerable. Same thing with "bad knees." Now, some of these people may think they can leg press without trouble, but it's only because they're not going down very far.

My answer for this one, without knowing more about the medical issue, is simple: Fix the medical condition, then do squats!

Purdy Abs


A: For starters, you have to get your diet in order to get as lean as he is.

Next, remember that the major compound exercises — chin-ups, deadlifts, and squats — build up the abs better than most ab exercises. That includes the inferior rows of the rectus abdominis, which give that V-shape you covet.

Pull-Up Bad-Assery


A: First, let's define a good pull up. It's an overhand, wider-than-shoulder-width grip, and at the top of the movement your clavicles or upper pecs hit the bar.

A guy I knew once, who worked for a national ski team, would do 23 single-arm pull-ups off the end of a diving board in an empty swimming pool.

I also knew a bodyguard who could do a controlled, one-arm, one-finger pull-up — 30 seconds up, 30 seconds down. That guy was, not surprisingly, also a great mountain climber.

Abs First, or Abs Last?


A: Yes, that's true. If you're going to squat and you do a bunch of ab work beforehand, your ability to control that load will be compromised. Anyone training with high loads using free weights should not train abs first in their workouts.

Direct ab exercises are finishers, not starters.

Cardio First, or Weights First?


A: Weights. Always.

It's related to the rule of motor-unit recruitment. Always start with what's hardest to recruit, then finish off with what's easiest.

Now, do you want my totally honest answer? Fuck the treadmill. Lift for an hour, then go home and work on your diet for fat loss.

Overtraining Field Test


A: Here's a simple way to tell: Record your body weight every morning when you wake up, after going to the bathroom. If your diet hasn't really changed recently, and yet you suddenly see a 3.5% drop in body weight, then you're probably starting to overtrain, which is another way of saying you're under-recovered. The change is caused by a loss in muscle mass.

So if you're an experienced athlete and typically weigh 200 pounds, then suddenly drop to 193 almost overnight without trying to, you're overtrained. The solution is to back off the number of total sets you do in training, but not the intensity.

The Most Important Thing for Old Farts


A: Quality of sleep. It's the most underrated health indicator and recovery factor.

High-quality sleep means putting your head on the pillow and not waking up until the next day. You also want to wake up at the same time every day.

But quantity of sleep isn't the only problem. Erratic sleeping patterns are also bad for your health and your physique. If you wake up in the middle of the night to go pee, it's not good sleep.

Remember, all the anabolic-hormone cascades depend on the quality of your sleep. A lot of males with low Testosterone levels can be cured simply by fixing their sleep patterns.

A low estimate is that 68% of the population doesn't sleep properly. When I work with pro teams as a consultant, the first thing I do is teach them all the tricks I have for improving quality of sleep.

Now, a young guy can go out on Friday night, hunt for quiff until 4 a.m., then go to the gym on Saturday morning and deadlift without it affecting him much. Eventually, though, it starts to take a toll on you. Many men these days start to see a decline in Testosterone at age 31. Thirty-one is the new 50.

If you're not sure if you're getting quality sleep or not, this is your standard: You should always wake up under a teepee. If you don't have a boner so solid you have to do a handstand to take a morning piss, your Testosterone levels are probably low.

Speed Snatch

Narrow parallel-grip chin-up

Question of Strength: Vol 49

Mid-grip chin-up

Question of Strength: Vol 49

Twin-handle parallel-grip lat pulldown

Question of Strength: Vol 49

45-degree lat pulldown

Question of Strength: Vol 49

Wide-grip lat pulldown

Question of Strength: Vol 49

Iron cross lat pulldown

Question of Strength: Vol 49

About Charles Poliquin

Question of Strength: Vol 49

To read more about Charles Poliquin's training methodology and his strength-coaching certification courses, go to his website.

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Exercise Myths: 6 Ab Mistakes That Are Holding You Back

Getty Images

Getty Images

1. Myth:
To get rock-hard, you have to work your abs every day.
Why: Abs need rest and recovery: It's only during rest that your muscles build. "Three to five days a week of consistent, dedicated abdominal training should get you strong, sleek abs," says Kathy Kaehler, trainer and author of Kathy Kaehler's Celebrity Workouts.

2. Myth: A good ab workout takes half an hour.
Why: "If it takes you that long to feel them working, you're doing something wrong," says Kaehler. "I trained Jennifer Aniston about three days a week, and we did no more than five minutes of abs each time." Check your form, don't use momentum and focus on quality rather than quantity.

3. Myth: Super-slow crunches make you stronger.
Why: Taking as much as a minute per crunch doesn't make you stronger than regular crunches do. In fact, ultra-slow ab work is less effective. Ideally, your workout should help you do everything better, from kickboxing to picking up a suitcase - neither of which you do in slo-mo.

4. Myth: The best time to train your abs is at the end of your workout.
Why: "It makes no physiological difference when you train abs, it only matters that you do it consistently," says abs researcher and physical therapist Gilbert Willett, M.S., associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. So the best time to work them is simply whenever you're most likely to do it. "But if you do abs at the beginning of your workout, make sure you warm up first. Getting blood moving prevents many types of injuries during a workout."

5. Myth: You can't get a six-pack by doing Pilates.
Why: "Pilates exercises your core, so if you practice it regularly and combine it with diet and cardio, it can give you a six-pack," says Kimberly Lyons, a personal trainer in L.A. But Pilates isn't a six-pack guarantee. "How your abs look has a lot to do with your genes, how lean you are, how long your torso is and how tall you are."

6. Myth: You won't get firm without a weight machine.
Why: You don't need weights to build sleek and sexy abs, although some competitive athletes do use them to build extra strength. "Many weighted ab machines aren't designed for women," says Lyons. "If you don't fit into the machine properly, you might stress your body in the wrong spot." Her advice: Stick to the floor - it's cheap, effective and available everywhere.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Five Habits of Defective Squatters by Mike Robertson

It pains me to see ugly squats. Seriously. Physical pain, nausea, and nervous ticks all occur when I see the average gym goer hit the iron and try to squat.

The only thing I can imagine being worse are the clowns who still hang out in the Smith machine so they can "hit their glutes and hams harder."

A few weeks ago, Eric Cressey wrote an article titled The Seven Habits of Highly Defective Benchers, and it was fantastic. So yes, this is blatant plagiarism at its finest. (Plagiarism between Eric and me is fine, though, because for the first two years we wrote for TMUSCLE, everyone thought we were the same person anyway!)

Most importantly, however, his article got me thinking about my favorite lift, the squat.

As I've espoused in earlier articles, I'm definitely not the world's greatest squatter. But for someone with long legs and a short torso, but a will to squat more weight, I've done alright for myself. And hopefully over the course of this article, I'm going to help you take your squat to the next level as well.

Here are my top five habits of defective squatters. Learn or be crushed.

Habit #1: Losing Your Low Back Arch

Losing your lower back arch in the hole of a squat is a surefire way to not only lower your training poundages, but to put your body at increased risk of injury as well.

When you lose your neutral spine position, you not only stretch the posterior ligaments that support your spine, but you lose the ability of the deep spinal erectors to produce a posterior shear force. In layman's terms, you increase the likelihood of spraining a ligament or herniating a disc in your back, neither of which sounds like a whole lot of fun!

While many think that some simple hamstring stretching is all it takes to rectify the problem, that's a pretty rudimentary way to look at it. What you have is a stiffness imbalance between your hips and your lower back.

"Stiffness" is a fancy way of saying relative flexibility. In this case, the muscles that surround your hips are less flexible than the muscles that surround your lumbar spine. When you move into deep hip flexion (i.e. a squat) and the muscles of your hips are stiffer than your lumbar spine, you're forced into lumbar flexion instead. If you want to fix this, you have to balance the stiffness.

Will old-school static stretching help? To some degree, sure. However, that's only one part of the equation. Instead of just working on the hips, why not focus on fixing the hips, the lumbar spine, and the motor pattern all at the same time?

This is what I described to some degree in the Mythbusters Vol 3 article. Foam rolling combined with dynamic and static flexibility work for all the muscles supporting the hips is important. Couple that with some serious core training (which I'll discuss later), and you'll be well on your way to success.

Finally, maintaining a neutral spine will lead to more hip recruitment and a better transfer of energy to the bar. Not only will you be safer, but you'll be moving more weight to boot.

Beyond the remedial hip and lumbar spine work, you'll need to couple that with squat training that works within your functional range. This is the range of motion that you can squat without losing the arch in your lower back. This will vary depending on the type of squat you're performing (front squat, back squat, safety bar squat, etc.).

In this case, squat to a box that's just above the point where you'd lose your arch. Over the course of a couple weeks, continue to lower the box until you're squatting to a depth you're comfortable with.

Habit #2: Knee Caving

Another common flaw in squatting is knee caving, especially when coming out of the hole.

Now, we could argue biomechanics until we're blue in the face. Is it weak adductors? Weak glutes? Weak hammies? And depending on what research we're looking at, almost any of those answers could be valid. For now, though, I'm with functional movement guru Gray Cook — instead of isolating a muscle, let's just try and correct the pattern.

Knee caving, like losing your low back arch, reflects the idea of an energy leak.

Now, I know what some of you are going to say: "But I've seen world class Olympic lifters squat that way and they aren't injured!"

First off, you don't know that they aren't injured. World-class athletes are quite often paid to compete, so they're willing and/or forced to train through a lot of things they probably shouldn't train through.

Second, and I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you probably aren't world class. Remember that a lot of the best strength athletes in the world are at the top merely because they're genetically predisposed to handle ridiculous training volumes and programs.

Just because they do it, and can get away with it, doesn't mean you should.

This is a simple tip that works time and again. Take a mini-band from EliteFTS and double it up around your knees. As you sit back/down, make sure to keep your knees out. Ideally, maintain a neutral alignment between your feet, knees, and hips.

If you're used to letting your knees cave, it may take a little while to get the hang of it, but you'll be rewarded, again, with safer squats and more weight on the bar.

Habit #3: A Shit Setup

If your setup sucks, your squat is going to suck. Period.

The setup determines the rest of your lift. If you don't lift your chest prior to initiating the rep, your chest will be caved over throughout. If you don't set your arch in the beginning, you'll never get it set.

Think of it like this: Whatever little issues you have before you squat will only be magnified when you actually perform a rep. What's worse is if you perform an entire set, you'll most likely get worse and worse as the set goes on. This entire issue can be resolved by dialing in your setup.

My first squatting article for TMUSCLE, 10 Tips for Flawless Squattin', covered the setup almost exclusively. The keys to an efficient setup are:

While this is just a brief recap, I'd highly recommend going back and reading the entire article.

Have you ever watched a great free-throw shooter in basketball? While their techniques may all be different, one thing that's universal is their individual routine. The same should be said of your squat setup.

Make sure that you do everything exactly the same on each and every rep. Grab the bar in the same place, set the bar in the same spot on your back, walk out and setup the same, etc. Do this for every rep, from your warm-ups with the bar to your work sets. The more routine you make the light weights, the lighter the heavy weights will feel.

Habit #4: You Suffer from Dough Boy Core Syndrome

The name of the game when squatting is transferring energy. While your legs and hips provide the strength, your core has to transfer that strength upwards to the bar. If it's not rock solid, your squat is going to suffer.

This is why I'm confused as to why people think squatting and deadlifting is the only type of core training you need. Sure, if your core strength and stability are already up to par, it may be all you need as you're already balanced.

But what if it's not? If your legs are consistently stronger than your core, do you think continuing to squat will magically fix the problem?

In this case, you need to focus on dedicated ab/low back training with a heavy emphasis on core stabilization. It just so happens that I've written several articles on this topic, the most recent of which should help you out quite a bit.

Read Complete Core Training. Start using several of these exercises at the commencement of your training, or even on your off days. Watch your squat grow.

Habit #5: Avoiding the Squat

The absolutely, positively, worst habit you can get into is simply avoiding the squat.

I can't tell you how many average gym goers I've seen who do this. They complain about their knees, their backs, or their bad levers, basically giving 1001 reasons why they can't squat.


The only reason I can say this is because I've been there. I had a powerlifting meet in 2002 where I deadlifted 505 pounds and squatted 380. For you math majors out there, that's a 125-pound difference!

I then realized I needed to get serious about my squat.

I'm a big believer in working your way through the various training programs. If you're a rookie, almost anything is going to get you stronger — 3x8, 3x10, 4x12, just friggin' squat!

As intermediates, you need that healthy balance of volume with intensity. The Modified 5x5 Squat Program that I outlined previously took me from that 380 to a respectable 530 in about two years.

From there, we can talk Sheiko, Westside, or a host of other methods. At the elite level, I think it's the program you really buy into psychologically that's going to give you the best gains.

This one is brutally simple. If you suck at squatting, bitching and moaning about it to anyone who'll listen isn't going to help. You need to get your ass under the bar and work tirelessly on improving your technique. Over time, your confidence will grow and your weights will go up. I promise.


Squats never have been, and never will be, an easy lift. In fact, they may be the hardest lift you'll ever perform.

But in that same breath, taking your squat to newfound heights may be one of, if not the most, rewarding things you can do in the gym.

Take the time to critically analyze your squat, and take the steps necessary to bring it up. Whether your goal is to add slabs of muscle or to simply squat more weight, you won't be disappointed with the results.

Five Habits of Defective Squatters

Hate it or love it, the squat is a big deal.

Five Habits of Defective Squatters

Squatting to a box will teach you how to keep your lower back arched.

Five Habits of Defective Squatters

You have no excuse not to squat.

About the Author

Mike Robertson, M.S., C.S.C.S., U.S.AW., has helped clients and athletes from all walks of life achieve their strength, physique, and performance related goals. Mike received his Masters Degree in Sports Biomechanics from the world-renowned Human Performance Lab at Ball State University.

Mike is the president of Robertson Training Systems, and the co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training. Be sure to sign-up for his free newsletter or Podcast when you visit his site as well.

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bigger Muscles, Shorter Workouts by Clay Hyght

I've been training for more than 20 years, and I'm pretty sure I've tried it all: high-volume body-part splits; high-intensity, low-volume splits; high-frequency training; low-frequency training; even total-body training.

If I were forced to pick just one style of workouts to do for the rest of my life ... well, I'd be pissed! But once I got over it, I'd pick high-intensity, low-volume training with a body-part split. Nothing I've tried produces dense, granite-like muscle tissue quite like this system.

I can't recall even a single training cycle in which I did this type of workout and didn't make incredible progress. In fact, the primary reason I deviate from it at all is boredom.

On the one hand, saying that you get bored with a program in which you get stronger with each and every workout is about as weird as complaining about the monotony of sleeping with Playboy centerfields night after night, when there are so many less-attractive women you could be seducing.

But on the other hand, the fact you do get sick of these workouts is a pretty good sign that you need to use high-intensity splits in short, strategic increments. A little goes a long way. Your body makes progress, but your brain knows when you've had enough.

Let me show you how you can take advantage of high-intensity workouts to make huge gains in size and strength.

What to Expect

As with just about anything else in life that offers big rewards, high-intensity splits have plenty of risks and potential drawbacks.

First, as I noted, is the boredom, or mental fatigue, or whatever you want to call it. Most of us are used to leaving the gym feeling wiped out. With high-intensity splits, you always leave the gym feeling like you could do more.

But more is not better. In fact, it's worse. (If you don't believe me, just lie out in the sun from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. without sunscreen. Same idea.) You'll get the best results when you resist the urge to throw in another exercise or do "just one more set."

But there's an easy way to get around this problem: When the urge to try something new becomes overwhelming, despite the success of the low-volume program, follow your instincts and move on to something different.

Second, high-intensity training can be tough on your joints. But it doesn't have to be.

For maximum safety, not to mention effectiveness, you want to lower the weights in a slow and controlled manner on every rep. Make a slow and smooth transition to the concentric part of the lift, and accelerate as quickly as possible to activate the maximum number of motor units.

By controlling the negative and changing directions slowly, you'll limit the stress on your connective tissues. When you follow with a fast and powerful lift, you'll get maximum stimulation of the muscles you're targeting.

Third, you just can't do this workout without mental toughness. You have to approach it the way a fighter goes after his opponent. No, the weights won't fight back, but you have to realize you're up against a formidable enemy: your last workout.

Finally, you have to overcome your aversion to keeping a training log, and recording every rep of every set. If the goal is to top your previous performance, you have to know what that involves.

Look at it this way: You wouldn't enter an archery competition and try to shoot blindfolded. (And if you would, you should at least give everyone fair warning so they can hide behind something an arrow can't penetrate.) But chances are you've trained for years without ever writing anything down. That's okay for some types of programs, where the goal is a subjective feeling of muscle exhaustion. It's not okay for high-intensity split routines.

There's nothing subjective about your goals in this program. Every time you walk into the gym, you're there to beat your performance in your last workout. You have to improve, even if it's just going up by five pounds or adding one rep.

Without a logbook, you're just pissing in the wind.

Hard, Harder, Hardest

In the workouts that follow, I employ most of these intensity-boosting techniques:

Straight sets to failure: One of the most basic ways to boost intensity is to train to concentric failure. In other words, continue each set until you can no longer apply enough force to move the weight.

This is harder than most people train, but I don't think it's so taxing that you'll overtrain your muscles if you do more than one set. You can do two sets of an exercise, and occasionally even three sets.

Rest-pause: The phrase "rest-pause" is used in different ways in different contexts. The basic idea is that you extend a set by pausing between reps to allow your muscles to recover. Trainers have come up with multiple ways to use the technique.

I use a triple rest-pause set no more than once per exercise. It works like this: You take a set to concentric failure, re-rack the weight, rest 20 to 30 seconds, and do another set to failure. Then you re-rack the weight again, rest, and do a final set to failure.

You can use the triple rest-pause set with almost any exercise. The only exceptions are compound, low-back-intensive lifts like squats and deadlifts. Fatigue may cause you to use bad form, which could be dangerous.

One triple rest-pause set per exercise is plenty.

Isometric holds: Upon completion of your last rep in a set, hold the weight in the contracted position for a long as possible. It's safe, effective, and gives your sleepy motor units one hell of a wake-up call!

Iso-holds work best on exercises where there's tension in the contracted position. It's really hard to keep yourself at the top of a pull-up, for example, which is why it's a great exercise for iso-holds. But on other exercises, like presses and curls, you can hold the weight for a long time in the top position. So if you were to try iso-holds with those, you'd want to lower the weight a bit to increase the tension.

Use it judiciously. If you're doing multiple sets of an exercise, use an iso-hold for the final rep of the final set.

Partials: These are similar in nature (and in the amount of trauma they induce) to isometric holds. When you get to the end of a set and can't complete another full rep, you do a few partial reps to take your muscles to complete exhaustion.

Some of the best exercises for partial reps are calf raises and machine pullovers. With a good spotter, though, you can do partials with just about any exercise. You just have to get to the easiest part of the range of motion and avoid the hardest part. So on a bench press, for example, the spotter would help you get the load off your chest after you've hit concentric failure. Then you'd do partials in those last few inches before lockout.

As with isometric holds, don't do more than one set of partials on any given exercise.

Forced reps: I'm not a huge fan of forced reps — in which your training partner or spotter helps you complete the concentric portion of a few reps at the end of a set -- simply because they're too easy to abuse, and they make you reliant on someone else to up the intensity of your workout.

If you want an example of how bastardized this technique has become, just go to any public gym (or "family fitness center") at 5:30 p.m. on a Monday and watch what goes on at the bench press stations. Count how many times someone says "all you!" when it's really about 50-50.

But just because the knuckleheads misuse it doesn't mean it isn't a great tool for boosting intensity ... as long as it's used sparingly. A couple of forced reps on one set of one exercise per workout go a long way.

I didn't include them in these workouts, but they can be a legitimate tool, if used wisely and sparingly.

Negative reps: When you slowly lower a weight that's heavier than anything you could move concentrically, you'll induce more microtrauma within your muscles than you can with any other training technique. It's like dynamite. Blow up the stuff you're trying to blow up, and it's a great tool. But the potential for collateral damage is huge.

I prefer to use a less traumatic version of negative reps. Instead of starting with a weight you can't lift concentrically, I like to use a weight you can lift multiple times, and only use a slow negative after you've hit concentric failure. Since the weight you're lowering is lower than your one-rep max in that exercise, you avoid annihilating a muscle to the point that it's FUBAR.

Another variation I avoid is "forced negatives," in which a spotter helps you perform more than one negative rep after you've hit concentric failure with that weight. One negative rep, following your final concentric rep, is plenty.

But there is a safe way to make that single negative rep even tougher: Do an iso-hold after your final full-range-of-motion rep, and then do the negative. Don't do this on an exercise in which your knees, shoulders, or lower back would be traumatized. But on lat pulldowns or chest-supported rows, it's dynamite — a great tool if you know what you're doing with it.

Making It Work

Volume and intensity have to be inversely proportional; otherwise, your gains will be as stagnant as pond water.

But what about frequency? With lower volume, you should be able to train each muscle group more often, right? The answer is ... it depends. As a general rule, I suggest training each body part once every four to seven days. But when you use the intensity-boosting techniques I just described, and which are included in the program I'm about to show you, once every five to seven days is plenty.

The best advice I can offer:

I like to finish a workout with one set of 15 to 20 reps. Then, as hyperanemic supercompensation (aka the pump) occurs, stretch the muscle for as long as you can stand it. This pump/stretch technique helps expand the fascia around the muscle, giving you a larger muscle belly over time. It also reduces hypertonic adhesions (aka muscle fibers getting stuck to each other), which decrease performance.

The following workouts are an example of how you can use a variety of high-intensity techniques to train your back.

Back Workout 1

Exercise Sets Reps Intensity-boosting technique(s)
1) Rack deadlift 2 4-6 Straight sets to concentric failure
2) Chest-supported row (overhand grip) 2 4-6 After concentric failure on second set, do an isometric hold and a negative rep
3) Low-cable row (neutral grip) 1 6-8 Triple rest-pause set*
4) Machine pullover 1 15-20 After concentric failure, do as many partial reps as you can

Back Workout 2

Exercise Sets Reps Intensity-boosting technique(s)
1) Pull-up 1 6-8 Triple rest-pause set, finishing with an isometric hold and negative rep*
2) Barbell bent-over row (underhand grip) 2 4-6 Straight sets to concentric failure
3) Lat pulldown (underhand grip) 1 6-8 Triple rest-pause set, finishing with an isometric hold and negative rep*
4) Chest-supported reverse flye (lie face-down on an incline bench set to a 30-degree angle) 1 15-20 After concentric failure, do as many partial reps as you can

Final Notes

You may want to do one or two warm-up sets for several of the exercises, especially the first exercise of each workout, and any exercise in which you're doing straight sets to failure.

Train your back once every five to seven days. Do Workout 1 the first time, then Workout 2 the next week, and rotate until you decide to change programs.

Control the weight on each and every rep — high-intensity training doesn't work if you let the weight control you.

Although the sample workouts are for your back, you can use this template to train any body part, as long as you pay attention to my precautions and use these high-reward, high-risk, high-intensity techniques with all the respect they deserve.

Finally, and perhaps most important, remember this:

This is the one time in your life where it helps to look like a complete psycho. The more social distance you create, the bigger your muscles will get.


Triple threat: Rest-pause sets, combined with an iso-hold and slow negative, gives you upper-back development in triplicate.


Row time: High-intensity techniques act as a thickening agent for your back and arms.


Fly away: Partial reps at the end of a set prepare your rear delts for takeoff.


About the Author

Clay Hyght, DC, CSCS, CISSN has been a competitive bodybuilder for 16 years and an NPC Judge for many of those. Residing in Danville, CA, Dr. Clay works with some of the top competitors in bodybuilding and figure. For more fitness tips or to subscribe to his free newsletter, visit his website.

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Longévité: des aliments gagnants et d'autres, nuisibles

16 avril 2009 - On ne vantera jamais assez les bénéfices d’une alimentation saine et diversifiée pour la santé. Une étude suédoise vient d’en faire une fois de plus la preuve.

Les hommes qui consomment régulièrement une grande variété d’aliments santé - légumes, fruits, produits céréaliers, poisson, etc. - réduisent considérablement leur risque de mortalité par rapport à ceux qui lèvent le nez sur ces denrées, concluent les chercheurs.

De façon analogue, les hommes qui se délectent d’aliments nuisibles - viandes rouges, produits laitiers riches en gras, plain blanc, sucreries, etc. - risquent de mourir plus jeunes que leurs semblables qui consomment ces produits avec modération.

L’équipe de recherche s’est penchée sur les habitudes alimentaires de 40 837 hommes suédois, âgés de 45 ans à 79 ans. Au cours de l’année 1997-1998, chacun des participants indiquait à quelle fréquence il consommait 96 aliments présentés dans un questionnaire. Parmi ceux-ci se trouvaient 36 aliments santé. Les participants qui consommaient au moins d’une à trois fois par mois un aliment santé recevaient un point, pour un maximum de 36 points.

Les hommes qui ont obtenu un résultat de 28 ou plus ont réduit leur risque de mortalité de 19 % par rapport à ceux qui ont obtenu un résultat inférieur à 20. Plus spécifiquement, leur risque de décès par maladies cardiovasculaires a été réduit de 29 % (pour des taux de mortalité compilés jusqu’en 2003, dans ce cas). Entre 1998 et 2005, 4 501 hommes de la cohorte sont décédés.

Des aliments nuisibles

L’équipe de recherche suédoise s’est aussi intéressée à l’effet de la consommation de 16 aliments jugés nuisibles. Les hommes qui ingéraient un des 16 aliments au moins trois fois par semaine recevaient un point, pour un maximum de 16 points.

Résultats : les hommes qui ont obtenu un résultat de cinq points ou plus ont augmenté leur risque de mortalité (toutes causes confondues) de 21 % et leur risque de décès des suites d’une maladie cardiovasculaire de 27 %, par rapport aux hommes qui ont obtenu un résultat situé entre 1 et 2.

Les chercheurs n’ont constaté aucun lien significatif entre la consommation régulière d’aliments sains ou la faible consommation d’aliments nuisibles et le risque de décès par cancer. Cependant, les chiffres sur la mortalité par cancer n’ont été notés que durant cinq ans, ce qui est un peu court, étant donné le temps que met la maladie à se développer.

Les auteurs de l’étude se sont basés sur les recommandations de l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé et sur plusieurs grandes études épidémiologiques pour déterminer leur liste d’aliments sains et nuisibles.

Voici quelques-uns des aliments sains retenus par les chercheurs : carotte, betterave, brocoli, tomate, haricot de soya, pomme, banane, orange, petits fruits, pain de blé entier, avoine, poissons et fruits de mer, produits laitiers faibles en gras (lait, yogourt et fromage), noix et huile d’olive.

Et quelques exemples d’aliments nuisibles : viande rouge, charcuterie, produits laitiers riches en gras, pain blanc, gâteau et biscuits.

Dominique Forget – PasseportSanté.net

1. Kaluza J, Håkansson N et al. Diet quality and mortality: a population-based prospective study of men, Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Apr;63(4):451-7.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Congenital amputee Kyle Maynard's long road to Saturday's MMA debut

  • This time, Kyle Maynard left home and made his way to Auburn, Ala., a week early.

Two years ago, when he almost made his amateur mixed-martial-arts debut, Maynard held a greater concern about all his fight meant and how much it was despised in the MMA community. He had been home in Suwanee, Ga., where his MMA interest began more than two years before as a high school senior.

But too many people didn't want him to fight. They didn't like the idea of an accomplished high school wrestler who was born with no arms or legs below the elbows or knees with an awesomely inspirational personal story participating in an Atlanta amateur event. The Georgia body that sanctions such events didn't like the idea either, so officials denied Maynard a license to fight, and the issue went dormant.

Until recently. With another push made mostly on his own behalf, Maynard is scheduled to make his delayed amateur MMA debut on Saturday at Auburn Fight Night at the Auburn Covered Arena in Auburn, Ala. The fight's announcement caused major ripples in the international MMA consciousness and reopened the debate about Maynard's place in MMA.

Maynard has tried to avoid that debate this time, changing his Internet home page away from the number of MMA websites he reads daily and moving his training camp to Auburn instead of Georgia.

Still, he's surprised his fight has caused such uproar, and this time he's not reading about it.

"With the Internet being an open, anonymous forum, people feel like they can say anything, things they probably wouldn't say to my face," Maynard told ( on Tuesday. "That doesn't really surprise me as much.

"It just surprises me how many people fear the sport is so fledgling that if I got hurt, it would end it."

Many in the MMA community have worried this fight is simply a freak show with a money-hungry promoter pulling the strings and talking Maynard into a fight because of a guaranteed big gate.

But Maynard and fight officials say the opposite is true. Maynard initiated the idea, fought for his Georgia license, appealed after its denial and is the public-relations front man for the Auburn show. He's making many of the calls himself, setting up many of the details.

When a reporter calls the Auburn Covered Arena to ask about the buzz surrounding the fight and says his name is Kyle, the receptionist quickly chirps, "Oh, hi Kyle!" But it's not Kyle Maynard, and she apologizes. She explains that it's pleasant to get a call from Maynard because of his passion for the event and his attention to the minor details.

So he calls, what, once a week?

"He calls all the time," she says.

Still, many hold concerns that Maynard will not be safe in an MMA cage. Even though the rules won't allow him to be kicked or kneed in the face, many wonder how he can protect himself from blows, and how could he expect to win a fight except for decision?

"Would I allow a fighter with limited arms and legs in the state of Ohio?" said Bernie Profato, executive director of the Ohio Athletic Commission. "Put simply, no."

But the fight is on, ending a nearly two-year-long saga that made national news for a license denial in Georgia and perhaps even bigger news for the fight's move to Alabama, where there is no licensing body for MMA.

Promoters are not making the opponent's name public because they feel Maynard and fight officials are facing enough heat that they don't need to add another name to the list. Maynard supporters feel he has a strong chance to win because he has the strength of a much larger person but will be fighting 135-pounders.

Whatever happens, the weekend's event will gather plenty of MMA attention, and supporters say that detractors will be surprised with how competitive the fight will be.

"I was extremely concerned about Kyle fighting mixed martial arts until I got to know him better and saw all the things he can do," said David Oblas, president of Undisputed Productions and the fight's promoter. "Once you get into Kyle Maynard the athlete, you see he's quicker and stronger than most people, his arms extend long enough to protect his head, and his power to punch is tremendous.

"As the sport of MMA grows larger, we're getting more amateur fighters who don't have a damn clue. They train in their dad's garage, and because they watch 'The Ultimate Fighter,' they think they can fight. Kyle studies this; he knows what he's doing. I feel safer putting Kyle Maynard in the ring with no arms and no legs than almost all of the 0-0 fighters out there."

And this time, Maynard says he isn't fighting to show people he can. He says he's doing it to show himself that he can.

Path to MMA

Maynard was born March 24, 1986, with a condition called congenital amputation, which left no elbows or knees or limbs below them.

His story, famously chronicled on numerous television talk shows and in his 2005 book "No Excuses," includes a desire at a young age to begin wrestling. After finding a coach to give him that chance, Maynard lost all of his matches during his first two seasons of competition.

By 2004, he competed in the Georgia High School Sports Association wrestling championships and finished his high school career with a varsity record of 35-16.

His story then jumped into the national consciousness as Maynard made appearances on shows including the "Oprah Winfrey Show," "Good Morning America" and "Larry King Live." He won the 2004 ESPY award for Best Athlete with a Disability.

But Maynard wasn't only a wrestler. His passion extended to building his body, where he met similar success. In 2005, at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio, Maynard set a world record for modified bench press with a lift of 360 pounds.

Since, Maynard has become a motivational speaker, author and student. He also continued his wrestling skills in submission grappling tournaments in the Atlanta area, from which he met several figures in the Georgia MMA community.

Soon, he would approach those figures with an idea that, admittedly, made them uncomfortable at first.

A years-long passion

Maynard's MMA interest began in earnest with a 2004 phone call from Randy Couture. The MMA legend heard Maynard's impressive story and invited him to Las Vegas and into his dressing room during a UFC event.

The next spring, still stirring from the experience, Maynard was at the Arnold Sports Festival and noticed amateur registration for an on-site MMA event. He was spotted by noted MMA and weightlifting trainer Steve Maxwell, who pulled Maynard aside and showed him some remedial techniques.

Maynard lost the fight, but he quickly fired up his computer when he returned home.

"I was awestruck," Maynard said. "I was just floored."

Maynard quickly found an MMA gym in Athens, Ga., where UFC veteran and would-be light-heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin trained. Again using the moxie that served him in overcoming other obstacles, Maynard made contact with Griffin through a mutual friend and set up a lunch.

There, Maynard grilled Griffin on MMA.

"I was just getting more and more sucked in," Maynard said.

In the three years since that lunch, Maynard was been training for and learning about MMA. He earned a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu from Paul Creighton, who runs a school in Duluth, Ga.

Soon, Maynard felt he was ready to be tested in the cage.

Struggling to fight

The Kyle Maynard MMA controversy began nearly two years ago as Oblas was leaving a weigh-in for one of the fights he was promoting and his cell phone rang. Maynard, whom Oblas knew from the Atlanta area, was on the line.

"He said, 'I want to talk to you about something,'" Oblas said. "I'm thinking, 'OK.' Kyle says, 'I want to fight MMA on one of your cards in Atlanta.'"

There was silence for a few seconds as Oblas digested the request. Oblas asked if he could call Maynard back in a few minutes.

"It hit me like a ton of bricks," Oblas said.

Once he recovered from the initial surprise, Oblas phoned Maynard and began planning the fight, which was set to appear at one of Oblas' successful string of Wild Bill's Fight Night events in Atlanta on Sept. 14, 2007. Oblas began promoting the fight, and he and Maynard applied for Maynard's fighting license, thinking there would be little resistance.

Instead, problems emerged. At an August 2007 meeting, the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission denied Maynard a license to fight by a 4-0 vote, citing concern for his safety in an MMA event.

"The fights are brutal," J.J. Biello, the GAEC chairman who is paralyzed from the neck down, told the Los Angeles Times soon after the ruling. "I feel for the fellow, but I've also seen fighters carried off to ambulances on stretchers. In all good conscience, I don't think Kyle can defend himself."

Maynard demanded he would appeal, and he lined up affidavits from trainers and ring doctors and videotapes to prove his point that fighting didn't endanger him more than it did any other fighter. The appeal didn't go far.

Oblas, meanwhile, had more problems coming. On Sept. 4, 2007, the GAEC fined Oblas $500 and suspended him as a promoter for three months for promoting Maynard's fight before he was licensed.

"Our argument was that if you look at every single fight in Georgia, the same thing has happened," Oblas said. "But I was punished, and I accepted it."

No excuses, redux

The idea of a Maynard fight then gathered dust. For several months, Oblas continued with his daily business and the promotion of his Wild Bill's Fight Night events.

Several months ago, the idea resurfaced when Maynard suggested Alabama as a site, which forced Oblas to reminisce on his college days. A 1998 graduate of Auburn University, Oblas had always wanted to promote a show at his alma mater, and the realization that no licensing would be necessary for Maynard rekindled the thought of his amateur MMA debut.

Oblas and Maynard scouted the location and liked the feel of the college town. They worked putting fliers on every post possible, scheduling Maynard to speak to fraternities and other campus groups about his motivational tale and why he wants to fight MMA.

It hasn't been easy setting up an opponent, either. If you win, you've beaten the guy with no arms and no legs, so of course you were expected to win. But if you lose, you've been beaten by the guy with no arms and no legs.

Maynard just wants someone who will be an honest opponent.

"Kyle wants someone who will not hesitate to punch him in the face," Oblas said.

Oblas, frankly, has faced moments of exhaustion from the fight preparation, but then Maynard will call with another idea for promotion or marketing. He wants to fill the 7,000 seats and make this a legitimate event. He wants to get a rowdy crowd to treat him like any other MMA fighter, like it would any of the other 20 or so fighters who will appear in the cage Saturday night.

The difficulty and opposition have worn on fight officials. All, it seems, except for Maynard.

"I don't know how he deals with it," Oblas said, "when it eats at me this much."

Controlling the cage

Cam McHargue first began fighting in competition 22 years ago. After 12 years, he retired from fighting and started a career as a referee and instructor with two martial arts schools that has seen him become a respected figure in Georgia MMA.

With that background and experience, McHargue has what some would consider an undesirable responsibility on Saturday. He will be the referee in the cage when Maynard fights, and he'll be the one with the task of making sure MMA doesn't destroy Maynard, as many fear.

Photo Kyle Maynard trains for his upcoming MMA match.
(Associated Press)

He's glad, though, that he's the one with the opportunity.

"I don't want some quack in there," McHargue said.

McHargue has known Maynard for several years after first making contact with him in Atlanta's circuit of submission grappling tournaments. The two have sat and talked about different aspects of MMA, and like seemingly everyone else who has discussed the topic with Maynard, McHargue has been impressed with his dedication and interest in the sport.

So McHargue didn't hesitate when Oblas e-mailed asking if he would be interested in being the referee for Auburn Fight Night.

The rules, in fact, actually work in Maynard's favor, McHargue said. Because he has no knees or legs below them, Maynard is always considered a downed fighter, so his opponents cannot strike him with their legs or feet.

The necessary close combat gives Maynard a fair and very real chance, he said.

"I think Kyle's going to win this fight," McHargue said. "If the opponent tries to engage him, Kyle is strong enough to take him down. Kyle didn't have an accident part way through his life; he was born like this. He hasn't had to adjust, so he knows how to handle all the moves he needs.

"Kyle has the body and strength of a 200-pound person, and he's fighting 135-pounders. From a strength standpoint, it's just not fair."

The biggest question

So how, exactly, does Maynard fight?

Maynard laughs at the question, but he understands it. For those who haven't seen him grappling or rolling in training, it might seem strange to think about him performing jiu jitsu moves or striking an opponent.

He can do both, he says. Although submission grappling was his foundation block for training, he has built more experience. Because his opponents can't strike him from leg distance, he waits for them to move closer, blocks as much as he can with his arms and works to get that opponent to the ground for blows or grappling.

"My arms go from shoulder to elbow; it's not like I have no arms at all," Maynard said. "Five weeks ago I did a 420-pound butterfly press, so I have the power in my arms to deliver strikes. If I had to guess, I'm probably stronger than a lot of 135-pounders."

Which is his advantage. While he can't do all the moves, supporters say, Maynard has the unbalanced strength to at times submit and yes even pound.

"I mean," Maynard said, "I can punch back."

Closing in, heating up

As the fight has neared, message-board and Internet chatter has increased. From anonymous fans to respected MMA officials, many have showed concern that letting Maynard into the cage could cause him serious damage.

Not just that, some say, but it's unfair to any opponent.

"With the situation with his limbs, it certainly limits your submission attempts, which is difficult," said Nick Lembo, a legal counsel to and acting head of the New Jersey Athletic Control Board who also heads the Association of Boxing Commissions' MMA committee. "It's part of the sport, and you're changing the sport. Then also there was a concern with chokeholds, with being able to recognize that he was tapping out.

"I commend him for his efforts and abilities. He's a talented and outstanding wrestler, but when you for whatever reason medical or otherwise start taking away facets of the sport and say, 'This is not permitted, you can't do this, (and) you can't do that,' then it's not the sport."

Other state officials agree that the fight causes some concerns.

"How many times does he get punched in wrestling?" said Profato, whose Ohio Athletic Commission regulates more MMA shows than any other U.S. state. "There's just less protection from being struck. It's unfair to put somebody in there who has an automatic competitive disadvantage. I don't think I would let him fight."

But, to many, Maynard was born a fighter. Whether it was struggling for normalcy in daily actions, a chance in high school wrestling or a shot in MMA, Maynard learned how to battle. He might not have taken a punch to the face in an MMA cage, but he has faced his share of verbal body blows in the past two years.

With just days remaining before his first exam on the topic, Maynard is like most debuting fighters. He has butterflies, and he wants to prove to himself that he can win.

"Hopefully," Maynard laughed, "I go more than 30 seconds."

Award-winning newspaper reporter Kyle Nagel is the lead features writer for

Check out more UFC News at This story originally appeared on and is syndicated on Yahoo! Sports as part of a content-partnership deal between the two sites.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Things You Should Know How To Do #1: The Pull-Up by Nate Green

Here at TMUSCLE, we take pride in our contributors' ability to come up with new exercises, or show you how to build your most-neglected muscles, or even make you think about training in entirely new ways.

But every now and then, it helps to go back to basics, and review what all of us should know about some classic exercises, but many of us don't. Case in point: the pull-up.

Go ahead, scoff. Or cough. Or floss. Or whatever you do when you're pretty sure someone's full of shit. You know that completing a pull-up or a chin-up is as simple as getting your chin over the bar.

Except that's not actually what you're supposed to do. According to Eric Cressey, the chin-up should really be called a chest-up, if for no other reason than to remind guys to keep pulling even after their chin passes the bar.

So maybe a few of us don't know as much about this exercise as we thought we did.

And many of us who know how to do a pull-up may not be able to do enough of them to get all the benefits they offer in terms of building strength, upper-body muscle mass (obscure fact: the lower part of our pectoral muscles and the long head of the triceps are involved in a minor way when we do chin-ups through the full range of motion), and even core stability.

So the goal of this article, the first of a series, is to review what you should know about the exercise, and then show you how to get much, much better at it. If you're stuck at single digits in chin-ups (the ones with the underhand grip) and pull-ups (overhand grip), the program we offer later in this article aims to help you double the number of reps you can do.

The benefits are huge. You'll build bigger and stronger lats, traps, shoulders, and arms. And when you get to the point at which you can knock out sets with extra weight attached to a dipping belt ... well, let's just say that nothing focuses an athlete like a 45-weight plate hanging so precariously close to all that is important in life.

But First...

How many pull-ups should you be able to do? Is there any link to the amount of pull-ups you can do and the size of your testicles? While I can't help you with the latter, strength coach Charles Poliquin has a general rule for the former: "Anybody in the weight room should be able to do at least 12 pull-ups."

He's talking about 12 consecutive reps, not lifetime achievement.

Mike Robertson doesn't think that's too far off. "I'd like to see my guys get clean sets of eight to 10 reps," he says.

So how does the average guy measure up? My guess is somewhere between the world record (46 consecutive pull-ups in one minute) and the Marine Corps' minimum requirement (three pull-ups with no time limit).

I realize that's not all that helpful, which is why I did a comprehensive, scientific study (in other words, I watched a lot guys try to do pull-ups at my local Gold's over the past week, and asked a few TMUSCLE contributors what they thought) and came up with this: the average TMUSCLE reader can do about five pull-ups, while the average guy on the street can probably only do one.

And since I don't concern myself with random people on the street, I figure five is a good place to start and build on.

Aren't Lat Pulldowns Just as Good?


"In the long run, pull-ups are definitely better, as they greatly increase the role of your shoulder and scapular stabilizers," Robertson says.

The problem, he adds, is that very few people do pull-ups correctly. "If you can't get your chest to the bar and actively depress your scapulae at the top, you aren't ready for chins or pull-ups."

If that's the case, the lat pulldown can help you bridge the gap. But only if you do it right. And the hell of it is, a lot of people don't even do lat pulldowns correctly. Don't believe me? Watch the action at the lat-pulldown station for a few minutes. You'll see older women pulling the bar down to their stomachs and meatheads stopping their reps six inches short of their eyebrows.

Both are using horrible form, for different reasons — the untrained newbies don't know they're supposed to use weights that are heavier than a window shade, and the veteran bodybuilders don't know a weight is too heavy when they can't pull it down to their upper chest with fully retracted and depressed shoulder blades.

You can practice the correct form right now with air pulldowns. Sit up straight, pretend you're grabbing the bar using the same grip you'd use on a pull-up or pulldown (your hands just beyond shoulder-width apart, or whatever width you use on a barbell bench press). Now pull your shoulder blades together and down as you bring the imaginary bar to your chest.

You should feel as if you're pushing your chest out to meet the bar. If your chest isn't moving, if all the action is in your shoulders and lats, you aren't doing it right.

Once you have that movement mastered on the lat pulldown, it's time to move onward and upward.

The Perfect Chin-Up

The chin-up is the forerunner to the pull-up, since it's generally easier to do and still works a lot of the same muscles, including your lats and lower traps. And since your biceps come into play, it's also a mass-builder for your arms.

Robertson even uses a static-hold chin-up (holding for 20 seconds at the top) to enhance lower-trap recruitment, which helps ward off shoulder problems.

To perform the perfect chin-up, grab the bar underhand with your hands slightly less than shoulder-width apart. Start each rep at a dead hang, and then pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar. Hold for a beat at the top, and then lower yourself with control. Don't flop down like everyone else — you'll lose tension in the working muscles.

The Perfect Pull-Up

Grab the bar overhand with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Start each rep at a dead hang. "Set" your scapulae by arching your back slightly and pushing your chest out. This will ensure you're pulling with the correct muscles and not just using your arms. Pull yourself up until the top of your chest touches the bar. Hold for a beat at the top, and then lower yourself with control. Again, don't flop down. You want to keep your upper-back muscles under tension.

Repping Up

Too remedial? Okay, fine, let's assume you're a typical TMUSCLE reader, and you can do chin-ups and pull-ups with perfect form. The problem is that you can't do a lot of them. You know the biggest benefits come when you knock out sets of 10 reps, whereas right now the only way you can get 10 reps is with two sets of five.

We asked our coaches for some strategies, and they delivered five ways to double your rep total in a matter of weeks.

Strategy #1: Volume

Let's say your one-set max right now is six pull-ups. Poliquin suggests dividing that number by two, and doing 10 sets:

"Do 10 sets of three, and in subsequent workouts try to increase the total number of reps until you can do 10 sets of six. The day you can do 10 sets of six, then you'll be able to do 12 by yourself. I've seen people do that in three weeks."

Strategy #2: Negatives and Static Holds

Go to your last rep — doesn't matter if it's your third, fourth, fifth, or whatever — and on the last one lower yourself as slowly as possible. Take 30 seconds or longer, if you can. The goal is to increase strength endurance in your working muscles by continuing the set past the point of momentary muscular failure on the concentric part of the exercise.

If you normally get stuck at the same point in the pull-up (a few inches short of the top, for example), try holding yourself there for 20 to 30 seconds. Research on isometric muscle contractions has shown that they're useful for increasing strength in a narrow range — 15 degrees above and below the point of the hold, give or take. So you can improve your strength exactly where you need it with isometric holds.

Strategy #3: Neutral Grip

Maybe you have some shoulder issues, and regular pull-ups aggravate them. Or perhaps there's a significant gap between your performance in chin-ups and pull-ups — you can do six of one, but only a quarter-dozen of the other. The neutral-grip chin-up allows you to split the difference.

In the latter situation — you can do pull-ups without pain, but you're just not very good at them — the problem could be with your elbow flexors. Your biceps are strong, and give your back muscles a lot of help on chin-ups. But on pull-ups, your biceps are more or less neutralized, with the arm power coming from your brachialis (a thick, strong muscle that lies between your biceps and your humerus) and brachioradialis, the forearm muscle that crosses your elbow joint and assists the brachialis in elbow flexion.

The neutral grip splits the difference — all three elbow flexors are engaged, giving your brachialis and brachioradialis a chance to catch up with your biceps.

If your gym doesn't have a pull-up station with neutral-grip handles, you can take the triangle bar from the low-row station, set it over the pull-up bar, and pull yourself up to alternating sides. (Just make sure to hold onto the bar with one hand after your set is finished, and bring it down carefully. I don't want to name names, but a certain TMUSCLE editor admits to carrying scar tissue on his hairless scalp from the time he let go of the handle at the end of a set.)

Strategy #4: Band Aid

Get a basic exercise band, loop one end around the top of the bar, and place one ankle in the other loop. Now you have a boost that allows you to increase reps until you can do higher-reps sets without assistance.

According to Mike Robertson, band-assisted chin-ups offer several benefits:

Strategy #5: Grease the Groove

Practice, practice, practice. For a week, tell yourself you have to do one perfect pull-up every time you walk past the bar and no one's using it.

You can also buy a doorway pull-up bar, and set it up in your home. Just make sure your doorframe is strong enough to support your body weight. (You'll want to clear this with your wife or girlfriend first. They get kind of touchy about that whole alter-the-domicile-without-asking thing.)

Double Your Pull-Ups in Eight Weeks

"To get someone from five to 10 pull-ups, I'd start with higher-volume hypertrophy work for the first three weeks," says trainer Chris Bathke. "We need to build your pulling muscles."

Try this eight-week program from Bathke, and double the number of pull-ups you can do. The workout assumes you'll do upper-body pulling exercises twice a week, separated by at least two days.


Workout 1:

Workout 2:


Workout 1:

Workout 2:


Workout 1:

Workout 2:


Workout 1 (test day):

Workout 2:


Workout 1:

Workout 2:


Workout 1:

Workout 2:


Workout 1:

Workout 2:


Workout 1 (test day):

The Next Level

Now that you've hit double digits in pull-up reps (or if you could already do double digits before you started reading, and this is the first part of the article that applies to you), it's time to add some weight.

Looking for a benchmark? Poliquin, who has admittedly high standards, offers this: "Anyone who can do three dead-hang pull-ups with an additional load equivalent to 66% of their body weight is pretty damn impressive."

Thus, to hit the Poliquin Standard, a 180-pounder would need to do three pull-ups from a dead hang with an additional 120 pounds dangling from his waist.

Assuming you aren't at that level already, Robertson recommends this program:

One workout a week for four weeks, do weighted pull-ups or chin-ups — 5 to 8 sets, 3 to 5 reps. After four weeks, go back to body-weight chins or pull-ups for max reps. "You'll be surprised at the improvements," he says.

If you're not looking to impress King Charles, here are two variations you can try, partly because they're slightly different movement patterns that should stimulate new muscle growth, and partly just for the hell of it.

Side-to-side pull-up

Start in the dead-hang pull-up position. Instead of pulling straight up, pull to your left side, touching the top of your left pectoral to the bar. Descend under control, then do the same thing to the right. You can also go side-to-side for two reps before descending: pull to the left, hold at the top, transition to the right, then lower yourself. Start the next rep by pulling to your right.

Towel pull-up

Get two sweat towels, wrap them around the bar, grab the ends, and do a neutral-grip pull-up. This really stresses your grip and forearms. If you can hold on for more than three reps the first time you try it, consider yourself a stud.


If you rarely get above the bar, you're truly missing out on one of the best mass-building exercises there is — not to mention the opportunity to observe the ancestral dust on top of the power rack.

For those of you who want to go from single to double digits, try the eight-week program. For those who want to get from one set of 10 or 12 to multiple sets with 10 or more reps, try some of the other techniques and advanced versions of the exercise.

While you're trying them out, let us know what other exercises, techniques, and essential gym knowledge you'd like us to cover in this series.

The Pull-Up

The benefits are huge...

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