Where Strength and Size are the only goals

Archive for September, 2012

Sunday 30th September 2012

I’ve had to change my training days around a bit to fit in with work etc, so today I just did a few lifts to fill in a gap and will do my planned session on Tuesday. Revisited the hack squat today and it felt much better so I tried a widowmaker to see how it felt (usually do them on leg press, but it’s getting to a stage where it feels uncomfortable due to my knees/thighs driving into my body at the bottom, and the abdominal pressure is causing a little niggle where I broke my rib last year). Well, the DOM’s kicked in almost straight away! and at the stage of writing this approx 3 hours after session, my quads are killing me! Oh dear .. and I’ve got a Spin class to teach tomorrow at 7am – that’s going to be fun!

Press 70kg x5x5x6 – went for the 7 but it wasn’t going to happen so didn’t over do it!

Face pulls (level 8) x15x15 – I’ve really got to find out what the weight measurements are! however the way I see it, as long as I increase reps/level used then it’s an improvement whatever the weight is!

Weighted dips 21.25kg x12x10x7x6 – hit the same weight as last time, but less rest (around 60s)

Hack squat 90kg (80kg on machine and I’ve been told sled is worth 10kg so I’m going with it for now!) x20

Friday 28th September 2012

A tough session this morning, legs and lower back are sore from yesterdays 2 hours of Spin 😦 Making more effort to stretch hip flexors as I’m sure they’re getting tighter every class! Deadlift form seems to have gone all over the place lately so I’m going to take a big re-set next session and really try and get my glutes/hammies working more on the pull. I’m definitely ‘squatting’ the weight up with my quads rather than pulling it. Ah well, Technique first and all that – the hip flexors are not helping!

Press 67.5kg x5x5x7 – definitely getting the hang of the new wrist position, felt stronger today than last session.

Extended chin set – 8,4,4,2 and 7,4,4,3

Weighted dips 21.25kg x12x9x7x6

Romanian Deadlift 135kg x5x5 – not going for max reps on these, just trying to get a good stretch and use posterior chain more to lift.

Deadlift 147.5kg x4 – put the bar down after 4 as I’m really not happy with how I’m pulling at the moment, going to drop to 120kg next session and focus on nailing it!

Are your calves Hench enough?

According to bodybuilding standards, the calves should be the same width as the arms. Are yours? Do you give them the same amount of training? probably not! As they tend to remain hidden most of the time it is easy to forget them, but who remembers when Arnold steps out of the car in the movie ‘Twins’? .. Before you’d seen any more you knew this guy was going to be Hench! Having powerful looking calves makes a statement, whereas nothing looks less Hench than skinny little ankles and calves poking out of shorts!

The calves are notoriously hard to develop, most people hit them with a ton of volume to little or no avail. Yet again, it seems little to no results don’t seem to count for anything and people keep on plugging away .. Well, I can certainly advocate the Doggcrapp method, I’ve used it myself and it works. If you want to bring your calves up to standard try these out once to twice a week at the end of a session.

Single set of calf raises 12-15 reps (on a leg press, standing smith machine calf raise or any variation that gives a full stretch at the bottom. Aim for a 10-20 second negative (lowering) and a 10-20 second hold in the full stretched bottom position, then explode as quickly as possible back to the top. Be prepared to have your pain threshold tested!!

Tuesday 25th September 2012

Legs a little sore from yesterdays 7am Spin class – eurgh! Far too early to be doing that sort of thing! Ah well, it puts money in the bank.

Bench 112.5kg x5x5x6 – Still keeping the reps more controlled, no bounce off chest. It’s definitely harder out of the bottom, but I’m feeling stronger for it.

DB Hammers 17.5kg x15x11 – these are getting sloppy, too much swing so I’m going to swap out for a different curl variation next session.

Yates row 95kg x10x9x7

Squat 135kg x5x5x10 – took an early re-set on these due to my legs being sore from spin and I’ve been going too low and losing tension in the bottom so again working on technique. Filmed from the side today to check depth as it’s hard to tell from previous angle. Looks like I’m shooting the hips back a little at the bottom so going to work on that.

Got another class tonight – core and stretch so going to hammer my abs as much as I can whilst teaching and use the stretch element to get at my hip flexors!

Sunday 23rd September 2012

More focus on technique again today, also tried out the Hack Squat machine today, but after a few warm up sets jacked it in. I really don’t like the feel of this particular one, was an odd position and could feel too much pressure on my knees. Maybe I’m using it wrong but I can’t see how! Warmed up with 3 rounds of  inc bench, chins, rev crunches on incline bench and pullthroughs as usual.

Inc Bench 92.5kg x5x5x7 – kept it tight with no bouncing off chest, butt came off bench on last rep though, probably should have left it at 6 instead!

Kroc rows 40kg x20

DB flyes 17.5kg x11x8x5x4

Cable pullover (10) x12x9x7x5

45 degree leg press 260kg x20 – really trying hard to keep my butt down, getting harder to do as the weight goes up!

Why I love Doggcrapp .. !

Well at least that’s his internet nickname! It is also known as DC Training to most –  Dante Trudel has trained many bodybuilders and has a distinct knack for getting people into the 300lb category. His methods are extreme and sometimes controversial, but they work! Now I’m not saying I want to be 300lb, or a bodybuilder, but his basic principles can be applied to anyone – genetic potential and steroids aside, if you want to be the biggest you can naturally be, his methodology still stands. Here are just two of his excerpts:

“Training is all about adaptation. In simple terms you lift a weight and your muscle has one of 2 choices, either tear completely under the load (which is incredibly rare and what we don’t want) or the muscle lifts the weight and protects itself by remodeling and getting bigger to protect itself against the load (next time). If the weight gets heavier, the muscle has to again remodel and get bigger again to handle it. You can superset, superslow, giant set, pre exhaust all day long but the infinite adaption is load—meaning heavier and heavier weights is the only infinite thing you can do in your training. Intensity is finite. Volume is finite (or infinite if you want to do 9000 sets per bodypart)…everything else is finite. The Load is infinite and heavier and heavier weights used (I DON’T GIVE A CRAP WHAT SOME BUCK 58 POUND WRITER FROM FLEX MAGAZINE SAYS) will make the biggest bodybuilder (add high protein, glutamine and drugs to the mix and you have one large person).”

“No matter what the method someone uses to gain super strength gains-it’s imperative they do so. Again if you put someone out on a deserted island with 135LBS of weights he can superset, giant set, high rep, superslow etc etc squats, deadlifts and benches to his hearts delight…the sad story is his gains will quickly come to a halt because his limiting factor is the amount of strength he will gain. He has 135LBS to work with. You take that same guy on a deserted island and give him squats deadlifts, and benches and an unlimited weight supply that he constantly pushes, in 5 years I’ll show you a big Gilligan” – Dante Trudel

Notice I haven’t mentioned his actual programming, (I’ve tried it myself and it’s savage) I just wanted to illustrate the idea that it doesn’t matter what the programming is, it’s the progression that counts. If you want to be stronger, you need to need to add weight/reps every workout and give your body a reason to be! Whether you want to be a powerlifter, a bodybuilder or just a beast, the general principle remains. Get stronger to get bigger!

Thursday 20th September 2012

More technique work on my lifts – tried out a new grip on my overhead press today. As opposed to holding the bar in a ‘rack’ position (i.e. after the catch in a clean or a front squat), tried Johnny Pain’s version where the wrists are locked. After several warm-up sets, I knew this was a much more difficult way of pressing so had to take a re-set from the last time I pressed. Started with 65kg to see how it went and it certainly feels like more shoulder work is being done! More work on my deadlift as well, really trying to pull more with my hamstrings and glutes and less with my quads as before. Again, even though I’ve taken a re-set, the bar still feels really heavy so I know I must be getting it right!

As always, warming up before my session with chins, pull-throughs and hanging knee raises. I’ve also started to log my conditioning work as a friend asked me if I did any as it wasn’t on my blog! At the moment I’m teaching a lot of fitness classes so these are my workouts!

Press 65kg x5x5x6 – with new wrists locked grip and keeping upper body tight as possible at the bottom of the lift. No more bouncing off the collarbone!

Extended chin set – 7,3,3,3 and 6,3,3,2

Weighted dips 21kg x12x9x7x6

Romanian deadlift 132.5kg x5x5 – these are really starting to tax my grip after the chins, so sticking with them! they also really help me to focus on my glutes/hams when deadlifting

Deadlift 145kg x7 – Although I’ve taken a re-set, my form is improving and so these feel harder than before as I’m using the long-ignored muscles I’m supposed to!

Got 2 hours of spin to teach tonight so going to have to give the hip flexors some serious stretching later!


Something different .. ?

When was the last time you tried something different in your workout? A friend and mentor of mine wrote this article for T-nation last year where he suggests using a sandbag to break through plateau’s, improve grip and core strength, stabilise shoulders and as an absolutely killer conditioning tool!

A worthy read for anyone looking to get stronger, I would also recommend his book, hence advertising it on my site! Here Matt not only gives clear and concise instruction and programming, but also how to make your own sandbags at a fraction of the price! For a more specific guide he has also co-written a guide for MMA & combat sports.

To be truly Hench, it is not only about what you can do in the gym, but also how you can apply it to everyday life. What is the use of being big and strong if it’s only in a gym with a barbell/dumbbell? If your walking past someone struggling to lift something and they see this big guy walk past so ask you for help, do you want to be able to just heave it up with apparent ease to demonstrate your Henchness, or try and help, but struggle to hold it? Give a sandbag workout a try and be prepared to ache in places your not used to! You can get Matt’s books here.

On the book subject, ‘hench’ is now completely finished, and I’m now taking steps to get it published. I’ll keep you updated 😉


Tuesday 18th September 2012

After watching some of my videos back, I’m really trying to hone in on my technique in order to get maximum benefit from each particular lift. Took a re-set on my Bench Press as I’ve definitely been ‘bouncing’ it off my chest . Started doing Yates rows again, so trying to get a feel for them in my Lats as opposed to a kind of power shrug that most do! I was watching some clips of Dorian Yates training yesterday, although I agree he’s a beast! I’m not going to start bodybuilding or anything. His philosophies on intensity however are inspiring, I like the fact that he only does one working set of each lift, but at maximum intensity (for bodybuilding purposes he usually throws in some partner assisted negatives on the end or some partials as well).

Bench 110kg x5x5x6

DB Hammer curls 17.5kg x14x11

Yates row 90kg x10x8x8

Squat 152.5kg x3x2x5 – Bar slipped a little on second set so just racked it as it felt unstable!

Build a bigger back with Yates rows

You wouldn’t believe how much mis-information there is on this! Just a simple search on google will give you thousands of differing opinions on whether it is a good or bad movement, some will claim it’s no good at all! I would say take a look at Dorian Yates and ask yourself, does this man look like he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to a big back? I really like this lift, it feels like it’s really hitting the lats hard performed properly, and unlike standard barbell rows or Pendlay rows, there is far less stress on the lower back. The biggest problem most have is executing the lift properly. Dorian used to use an underhand grip, but as the weights used were getting huge, he ended up doing the inevitable and injuring his bicep tendon and now uses a narrow overhand grip instead. The main two mistakes most people make are flaring out the elbows, and pausing at the top of the movement. This is a power movement and should be treated so. Use the heaviest weight you can and keep the body still! For a more in depth definition here’s the man himself.

Sunday 16th September 2012

We took the kids out yesterday so trained today instead. Tried out a few different movements today, some incline bench with a barbell (instead of usual dumbbells on a saturday session) and rigged up a cable pullover as DB pullovers have a shorter range of motion. Really liked these, felt them much more in the lats – tend to feel the DB version in the triceps despite trying as hard as possible not to bend my arms!

Incline bench 90kg x5x5x10

Kroc rows 37.5kg x25 – only one set after a couple of shorter warm-up rows now as per recent article on them


DB flyes 17.5kg x10x7x5x4 – really felt these in my shoulder (ant. delt), probably from the incline bench first

Cable pullovers (level 9) x12x10x8x6 – still don’t know what the weight stack is!

Leg press 250kg x20 – Had to sit and recuperate for a good 5 minutes, these really took it out of me!

Why you should do chins/pull ups

Just a quick post of a couple of articles today – 10 reasons you should do chin ups and try gymnast extended chin set

Thursday 13th September 2012

Tried a seated press to try to combat the lean back in my overhead press, wasn’t too bad, but had to drop the weight a little to compensate

Seated Press 70kg x5x5x5

Extended chin set, wide overhand, medium overhand, medium underhand, narrow underhand for max reps with 10 secs between each – 6,3,3,2 and the same again 6,3,3,2

Weighted dips 20kg x12x9x6x5

Romanian deadlift 130kg x5x5

Deadlift 160kg x5 – Going to take a re-set here as although I hit the reps, my form was awful!

Tuesday 11th September 2012

After yesterdays post I’ve stopped doing decline sit-ups in warm-up as despite trying not to arch my back, it still does and the old hip flexors are tight enough! started doing roman chair knees to chest instead without fully extending at the bottom, so as not to arch!

Taken my grip a little wider on my bench press as my grip has got quite narrow so triceps doing most of the work. This meant the bar felt heavier despite only moving out a little, but just managed the prescribed reps today.

Bench 122.5kg x3x3x3 (video here) – Lost grip in right hand at bottom of first rep, but managed to push it off chest from a dead stop despite this – May have got another rep or two if it wasn’t for this 😦

EZ bar curls 35kg x11x10

Machine rows 90kg x 11×8

Face-pulls on cable, level 7 (again no weight markings) x15x15 – practicing technique on these

Squat 150kg x4x4x7 – (video here) was supposed to be 5’s but felt quite heavy first set so kept to 4’s, will go for 5’s next week especially as I managed 7 on the last set, thanks Andy for the impromptu spot! Last two reps right knee drifting in, need to really tighten that up, going to try and widen stance and see if it helps.

Again got class tonight so will use it to stretch hip flexors and work on some reverse crunches. (Heck, if I have to teach, might as well make it helpful to my cause!)

Kroc row technique and are crunches really bad?

Some of you may have heard of Kroc rows, some may even have used them in a back program. I personally have a real love/hate relationship with them as when performed correctly they are brutal! – Here’s the ‘Kroc’ himself on how to perform them correctly.

As for crunches, never has a particular exercise been more villainised than these! When addressing lordosis or anterior pelvic tilt (or even just plain abdominal training), a full sit-up is far more damaging as it engages the hip flexors which take over the movement once the lower back leaves the floor/bench. The very muscle needing to be stretched/loosened in all but the majority of people, not strengthened or tightened! Crunches can help to shorten the rectus abdomnis and ‘pull the pelvis forward but far better are reverse crunches – Not only can they help alleviate Lordosis as the pelvis tilts posteriorly to initiate the movement, but also do not aggravate Kyphosis like crunches do as the upper back stays on the ground, shoulders can be kept retracted and the head/neck relaxed.  Of course this would be in conjunction with lengthening aforementioned hip flexors and quads and strengthening glutes and hamstrings. As these are a relatively easy exercise for anyone with a strong core from lifting, i.e. if you can perform 10 or more easily, try using a decline bench (head at highest level), hanging knee raises to chest (avoid straight leg raises as these will make you arch your lower back) or hanging knees-to-elbows (without swinging or using momentum).

Saturday 8th September 2012

Changed my warm-ups slightly as the GHR’s I’ve been doing were using a kind of modified back extension and I wasn’t really able to do them properly on. So now doing 3 rounds of chin’s, dip’s, decline sit-ups and cable pull throughs. Not really doing set numbers any more but aim to increase weight each set on the pull throughs as still aiming to strengthen up my posterior chain. Also after yesterdays rant, thought I’d better go up a weight on the dumbbells!

Flat DB Bench 35kg x12x9x7x6

Body rows x14x12x11x11

Flat DB Flye 15kg x12x10x8x6

‘V’ grip pulldown to chest x9x7x4 – No idea what the weight was! It said number 12 on the stack?

45 degree leg press 240kg x20 – I meant to increase to 220kg after last week but used the wrong plates! Got to about rep 15 and started to struggle, but I was determined to get the 20 as planned so again thought about my rant, and gave it all! Felt really weak afterwards and could barely stand so I think I nailed it intensity wise!

Rest Day Rant .. Bodybuilding Methods For Natural Lifters

How many of you see people training multiple sets to failure at every angle possible for chest development? How many sets should people be doing of curls? Why perform squats, then leg extensions, then lunges, then several different calf movements when working legs?

We have been polluted with these ridiculous bodybuilding methods for years, and despite the fact that nobody ever seems to make much progress from these, we continue to train in the same manner. Men’s fitness magazines to this day push high volume training and splits as a good thing, yet any personal trainer who has been around for a while or bothered to do some research on more than just one type of training should be able to tell you otherwise (I say should, as I have encountered many a complete idiot in the industry as well as some very knowledgeable trainers).

I myself used high volume training and although I did gain some weight in the short-term, most of this was just due to increasing the amount I was eating, alongside what is affectionally termed ‘the beginner effect’.

I’m not saying that no-one will benefit from high volume, there’s plenty out there who have, but this is structured volume like GVT or otherwise – The type of high volume I’m talking about is the classic split – Let’s take Chest & Triceps as an example split – several sets of flat bench, followed by incline, decline, some flyes or crossovers and then onto tricep extensions, pushdowns and maybe some dips to follow. Sound like something you’ve seen? Has this person made significant gains in the last year? Most likely not.

If you want to get bigger or stronger, you need to increase the weight on the bar, or the number of reps your performing with that weight. Adding another 4 sets will not help if you’re still only managing 10 reps every session with that same weight. I read a great article the other day where the author wrote “What if someone added 20kg to the bar, put a gun to your head and said ‘do another rep!’ You’d do it!, how about if they said ‘do two more or I shoot your wife?’ Again, you’d do it. How many sets would you do at that intensity? and do you think you would then go and perform 5 more sets of a different exercise using the same bodypart?”

How many of us are working at that level of intensity? If you are training without a log book your holding yourself back already. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing if you’re not taking note and increasing the intensity with either weight or reps each time you hit the gym – how do you know your progressing? You don’t! Cut all the crap, get a log book, start writing it down and start adding some intensity to your workouts!

Thursday 6th September 2012

It’s complete! The ‘Hench’ training ebook is finally finished. The last photo’s were taken today, I have a small amount of editing to do and then I will start the publishing process. Watch this space for progress.

Due to time constraints I had to train early today, it was hard to get going, but still had a pretty good session.

Press 75kg x3x3x4 – jumping up 2.5kg from last week was a killer! I also found out from some of the other members that the different makes of weight plates (York, Olympic, Jungling etc) are slightly different in weight despite being labelled as the same! I guess the old spit and sawdust type gym isn’t always ideal, and when pressing today definitely noticed the difference as bar felt unbalanced so had to swap the plates.

Weighted chins 25kg x7x6 – still struggling to increase weight/reps with these, need to do more frequency work I think.

Weighted dips 15kg x12x10x8x6 – Again will jump up 5kg as felt strong on these

Romanian deadlift 120kg x5x5 – decided to only perform 2 sets of these and the third as conventional deadlift and just keep an eye on my form. I filmed the second set of romanian type to see how my technique is and feel I still need to tighten up.

Deadlift 157.5kg x6 – felt good, I think doing the R.D’s first helps me to get more of a feel of engaging my hamstrings & glutes before the lift.

Weighted decline sit-ups 20kg x10x10x10

Got 2 hours of spin to teach tonight, been a while so I think I’m going to be sore tomorrow!

Tuesday 4th Sept 2012

It’s almost done! I managed to get almost all the photo’s done today to illustrate ‘Hench’, just a couple to re-take as they’re a bit blurry and then the publishing process starts.

Training went pretty well today, stayed at 120kg for bench as only did 3’s last week, and increased on squat but dropped to 3’s as first set was killer!

Bench 120kg x5x5x6 – video here, typically someone walked across the camera on the last rep, but didn’t obstruct too much! A little disappointed I only got 6 on last set, however total of 16 reps compared to last weeks 13 so it’s all good!

Seated alt DB curls 17.5kg x14x13 – feel like I’m swinging these a bit so will go back to standing EZ bar curls next session

Machine row 85kg x15x11x8x8

Squat 150kg x3x3x5 – last set was a real struggle, but got my intended 5. Right knee rolled in, but managed to push it back out (can’t really see that on video so will change angle next time.

Didn’t bother with any Ab work as I’ve got to teach a 30 minute ‘core’ class tonight (not great, but a man’s got to make some money!)

Rest day reading .. Are ‘cheating’ reps really that bad?

When it comes to performing exercise, there is so much contradiction it’s hard to muddle through. From forced reps to partial reps to ‘cheat’ reps – everyone has an opinion and everyone loves to tell you who’s wrong! Here‘s an article from Elite FTS and here, one from T-nation discussing this issue. Neither of which I hasten to add, advocate for a moment ‘cheating’ as a beginner or even an intermediate lifter in some cases, but only when you reach advanced level’s of strength and/or size and are looking to break through into new territory. I personally cannot stress enough the importance of form and believe it should be something you strive to improve all the time and focus on every single session, but let’s not forget there are benefits that can be had from ‘cheating’. After all what is a negative rep if it’s not cheating at the start and benefiting from the overload on the negative phase to come back stronger next session?

Recently I posted a video of my overhead press and commented that there was too much layback. However, this enabled me to lockout at least the last two reps of my set. If I was being really harsh probably the last three! Where these last few reps beneficial? Potential injury aside, I think so. Although I stand by the fact I need to tighten up my form (to reduce that injury potential), those last reps would have provided a stimulus for my muscles/CNS and I will be stronger for it when I re-visit the bar. To reduce injury potential I would have been better turning the last rep into a push press and perhaps I’ll try that next time!

Of course, if you are a competing athlete or weightlifter, then cheating or not locking out a lift whilst competing is an absolute ‘no-go’, and I am in no way condoning the use of  ‘cheat’ reps for these types of goals. However my goal is not one of competition, but of size and strength. In the journey to getting ‘Hench’ I feel that the occasional ‘cheat’ or partial rep may well be beneficial in certain exercises, as a finisher for otherwise fatigued muscles or to force some extra growth. But this is just my opinion, I would suggest you make your own decision! If for anything else you could increase DOMS and could then potentially reduce your performance in the next session!

Saturday 1st September 2012

Got some more pictures taken today with the help of a friend! Thanks buddy 🙂 Otherwise got my session done, revisited a few things I haven’t done for a while so probably going to be sore tomorrow!

Incline DB Bench 32.5kg DB’s x12x9x6x5

Kroc rows 35kg x20x20

Incline DB Flyes 10kg DB’s x12x10x8x6


DB Pullovers 30kg x12x10x8x6

45 degree Leg Press 200kg x20

Roman chair leg raise x12x12x12

A good session, but went a bit light with a few of the exercises, not such a bad thing as won’t hurt so much tomorrow! Will jump up to 15kg on flyes and 40kg on Kroc rows next time, and shoot for 220kg on the leg press. Going to get plenty of stretching/foam rolling in over the next couple of days as already starting to stiffen up!