Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Apr 1, Dumbbell Lateral Raise | How to Do Lateral Raises

The dumbbell lateral raise is a classic isolation dumbbell shoulder exercise. It targets the lateral deltoid, and is therefore most effective for adding mass to the outer shoulders to make them broader and more "capped."

On this page, you will find out exactly how to perform this movement and learn if it is an appropriate exercise choice for you.

The video below shows proper dumbbell lateral raise technique.

Video credits: YouTube user "fatlosspro"

Set Up. Fetch a pair of dumbbells that you can actually handle (most guys use entirely too much weight and then wonder why they can't feel their delts working). Then, find an clear space to perform the movement; preferably in front of a mirror so you can monitor your form. Hip-Width Stance. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.Lean Forward Slightly. Flex your knees and lean your torso forward slightly. This allows you to have the room needed to hold the dumbbells in the proper position (see next bullet).Hold Dumbbells in Front of Your Thighs. With dumbbells in hand, let your arms extend down. Hold the ends of the dumbbells in front of your thighs (they can make contact).Bend Arm Slightly. Bend your arm at the elbow joint, no more than 30°. (You will maintain this position for the entire movement.) This is the starting and ending position.Positive Repetition. Begin the movement by raising your arms up, as outlined below. Raise Arms. Raise your arms up laterally (i.e. to the sides) in a smooth arching motion until your elbows are aligned with your shoulders and your upper arms are parallel to the floor.Don't Use Momentum. Use your delts to do the lifting. It's cheating if you generate momentum by pushing through your legs or swinging your torso. Only once you've mastered the exercise is it okay to use a little momentum to use heavier weight for overloading the muscles the lateral delts to a greater extent (aka "controlled cheating"). But until then, don't do it.Elbows Above Wrists. Be sure that your elbows remain slightly higher than your wrists throughout the movement. If you allow your wrists to go above your elbows, then you'll be focusing more on the anterior deltoid than on the target muscle (lateral deltoid).Pinky-Side Up. Throughout the motion, you should be tilting your hand slightly so that the pinky-side of your hand raised higher than the thumb-side. Imagine that the dumbbell is a beer bottle and you're pouring it out with your hands.Tempo. Aim for about 1 second or less on the positive repetition.Midpoint. Once your arms are parallel to the floor, you will have reached the midpoint. Flex & Pause. Once at the midpoint, pause briefly while flexing the lateral deltoids.Tempo. Aim for a tempo of between a half-second and a full second.Negative Repetition. Finish the movement by lowering the weight back down to the starting position, in the same path as the positive rep. Tempo. Lower the weight at a controlled pace. Aim for no less than 1 second on the negative repetition.Repeat. Repeat the movement for a given number of repetitions. Dumbbell lateral raises are generally most effective with moderate reps of 8-12 or higher reps of 12-15. However, once you really get the hang of the exercise, you might find that lower rep ranges of 6-8 or even 4-6 are helpful in spurring growth.

This Exercise Is Best for Intermediate & Advanced Lifters, Not Beginners. The dumbbell lateral raise is no doubt a useful shoulder exercise. But it's important to remember that it's only an isolation movement, not a compound movement; meaning that its benefits are constrained to a specific area. And so, it only makes sense to do this exercise when you have the specialized need of targeting the outer deltoid for muscle building purposes...

...And to be quite blunt, if you're a raw beginner, you don't have any business doing this exercise because there's no reason for you to build mass on an itty-bitty part of your physique when your entire physique is lacking. Instead, your focus should be on mastering technique of major compound lifts, gaining strength as fast as possible and building a base of muscle over your entire body. You'll hit your outer delts sufficiently with big coupounds like the overhead press and bench press.

On the other hand, intermediate and advanced weight lifters are among the appropriate candidates for this exercise. If you're an intermediate or advanced weight lifter, you've developed your technique, size and strength to the point where:

Your outer deltoids may actually be lagging compared to other muscles (this isn't possible for a beginner, whose entire physique is lagging).Training the outer delts is actually time effective; whereas, beginners would basically be wasting time doing this exercise because they could make much faster progress by trading an isolation movement for a compound movement.

So if it sounds like the dumbbell lateral raise may indeed be a good addition to your training regimen, then go ahead and give it a shot. Although your gains may not be immediately noticeable, I think you'll be satisfied with the longer term results.

One final point: It's important to realize that if you have naturally sloping shoulders, your potential for capped, "bowling ball-esque" outer deltoids is limited since sloping shoulders are largely a product of your genetically-determined bone structure. Obviously, this isn't some magical exercise that can alter your DNA, so it can only do so much for your shoulder aesthetics. That said, it can still make a noticeable difference and is a worthwhile investment of training time for the right person.

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Mar 25, Rectus Abdominis | Abdominal Muscle Anatomy & Exercises

The rectus abdominis is comprised of vertical muscles running on the anterior wall of the abdomen. These muscles extend inferiorly from the symphysis pubis to the lower coastal cartilages and xiphoid process superiorly.

The linea alba, the midline connective tissue separates the two parallel muscles of this muscle.

On this page, you can find all information you'd want about the abdominals. Learn its anatomy, view pictures and discover the best exercises for training it.

Use the table of contents (TOC) on the right to easily navigate through this guide.

AbdominalsAbsSix packThe SituationWaistWashboardRectus Abdominis



Xiphoid Process5th, 6th & 7th Lower coastal cartilages


Flexion of the lumbar spineIntra-abdominal pressurePostureRespiration^ up to TOC

Abs WheelBicyclesCaptain?s ChairCrunches on Swiss BallGorilla Chin CrunchLeg Pull-InProne PlankReverse CrunchesSit UpsVertical Leg Crunches^ up to TOC

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Aug 20, Mixing Yok3d with Another Pre-Workout Supplement | Supplements Q&A

Question: Can I take Yok3d and another pre-workout powder, together? Or will this harm my body?

– Anonymous

Answer: Taking Yok3d plus another pre-workout supplement should not cause any problems.

The only negative side effects that could realistically occur would be a headache and some nausea. This would only happen, though, if you were consume too much total caffeine or other stimulant. The same thing would happen if you had too much of just the Yok3d supplement, itself.

In other words, it's the cumulative quantities of the stimulant ingredients (e.g. caffeine) from both supplements that would matter; not the actual mixing of different pre-workout supplements.

So, I would go for it, but start with smaller servings of each supplement and taper up from there. That way, you'll avoid the possibility of a headache and stomach ache from too caffeine or other stimulants. Also, you'll be able to zero-in on your optimal dosages for each supplement.

Please note, however, that I do not know your personal medical history; and furthermore, I'm not a qualified medical professional. For matters such as these, it's always a smart practice to consult a qualified physician. (See full disclaimer).

– Alex

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Oct 15, 16 y/o: Gaining Muscle, Isolation Exercises & Best Form of Cardio | Muscle Building Q&A

Question: Hi, I'm 16 and have one year left before I graduate high school. Nearly all the guys in my grade go to the gym. We're all trying to gain muscle mass. I have 3 things to ask you:
Should I increase my bodyweight every month? If so, by how much?I've been told that, for each small muscle group, I should do 3 exercises for 3 sets of 8 reps. Is this true?Is walking the best form of cardio to do when trying to build muscle mass?I hope you can answer these questions for me. Thanks a lot!

– William (Cardiff, United Kingdom)

Answer: Thanks for the questions. It's cool that weight training is such a common activity with kids in your school. Almost nobody at my high school lifted seriously, if at all.

Now, to answer your questions...

If you've only recently started lifting weights, then you should definitely be gaining weight every month. The actual amount of weight depends on a number of personal factors (e.g. bodyweight, age, strength progress, body type)...

...Generally, though, the average guy your age should expect to gain an average of 3 pounds per month, for the first several months of training.

That said, don't try to gain weight just for the sake of gaining weight. Your goal isn't to simply increase the numbers on the scale.

Rather, the weight you gain should be relatively lean mass. In other words, a majority of the weight should be muscle mass. Some fat gain is a necessary evil for most people. But the point is that the fat gain should be limited. (Note, too, that some of the weight you gain may be from water retention.)

If you haven't done so already, please read my article: bodybuilding diet. It explains how to plan your diet by calculating your daily caloric and macronutrient requirements.

If you plan your diet correctly and stick to it, then you needn't worry about gaining too little muscle or too much fat (assuming you train properly and get enough sleep).


Don't take any training advice from whoever told you that. Unless you're an advanced bodybuilder, that is entirely too much training volume (total sets x reps) for small muscle groups. You'll get nowhere fast with such a poorly suited training approach.

Contrary to popular gym dogma, beginners don't need any isolation training for great gains.

In fact, performing more than a few sets of one exercise for one minor muscle group, per workout session, can actually be counterproductive to your overall muscle building and strength progress.

Instead, you should focus on compound exercises, which work multiple large and small muscle groups at once. This will most definitely get you big. But more importantly, it will get you strong, which in turn will allow you to get even bigger.

I recommend doing the MYx8 routine. It's perfect for someone like you. Plus, it does allow you to do 3 sets of one isolation exercise (bicep curls or bent over lateral raises) at the end of each workout.


Walking is certainly a good exercise in general. However, it won't give your cardiovascular system much of a challenge, since you're young and I'm assuming, in decent shape.

Plus, walking burns calories at a relatively slow rate. (I realize you're trying to bulk up, but burning extra calories can help to minimize fat gain).

You may have seen or heard of competitive bodybuilders doing walking for cardio in order to maximize fat loss while minimizing muscle loss...

...However, they typically only do this a few weeks out from a contest, when they're at such a low bodyfat percentage that muscle loss from more intense cardiovascular activity is actually a threat. And they do it for multiple hours at a time in order to actually burn enough calories.

My advice is to do 20-40 minutes of moderate intensity (i.e. jogging pace) cardio, two times per week. This isn't limited to just running on a treadmill. It can be any other type of activity, like biking, swimming, rowing, playing basketball, or jumping rope, among many other activities.

– Alex

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Monday, November 28, 2011

So You’re About To Hit A Plateau, Now What?

Greg is about to hit a plateau on his 9th week of StrongLifts 5x5, and wonders whether that's normal. Please read the email he sent me...

Hi Mehdi,

During your suggested 12 week "trial" of StrongLifts 5x5 should I stall on any of the lifts? What is the statistics for people that make it through all twelve weeks without stalling? I only ask because I am certain I will stall soon (I start week 9 on Monday).

I know you outline the order for which one can expect lifts to stall so I guess the more general question is at what week should most lifters begin to stall (on any lift) in the 5x5 program?


How can you be "certain" that you will plateau? You have no idea of what you're capable of until you try. More than once I've coached guys, swearing they were about to hit a brick wall, and who then (to their surprise but not mine) achieved 5x5 MORE EASILY than last workout... even though they lifted 5lb more.

To answer your question: there are guys hitting a plateau their very first week on StrongLifts 5x5 because they ignored my advice and started too heavy. There are also guys hitting plateaus in the fifth week because they ignored my advice and tried to run 27 miles a week on top of StrongLifts 5x5. And there are other guys like StrongLifts Member Norman (44y, Texas) still adding weight every workout 21 months in on StrongLifts 5x5, with a 560lb Squat.

As you can guess, some guys never hit a plateau at all the first 12 weeks, just like others stall all over the place. The majority of guys will hit a plateau on the Overhead Press and Bench the first 12 weeks but not everyone will stall on the Squat and Deadlift during that same period. I have not bothered collecting statistics (and will most likely never do so) about this, because...

Hitting plateaus is not the end of the world, it's part of the game. And if you read George Leonard's MASTERY you know it's where the real fun is.Some would say it's looking for excuses to be mediocre instead of asking the right question - what can you do in order not to hit a plateau?

After all, doesn't it make more sense to look at the things you can do in order not to hit plateaus, instead of worrying about how many guys are stalling? If it does, here are 5 things you should look at...

Eat - no way you're going to achieve a 225lb Squat in 12 weeks if you're eating 1300 calories a day. Eat 3000kcal minimum.Sleep - chronic lack of sleep impairs recovery, kills motivation and will make you feel weak. Sleep 8h a night on average.Prioritize - running 4 times a week plus StrongLifts 5x5 is too much, too soon. Do StrongLifts 5x5 for 12 weeks, then add stuff.Accelerate - lifting slow just doesn't work for strength gains. Accelerate the bar as fast as you can, especially on your warm-up sets.Tape - tricks like using your hips properly can easily boost your Squat by 30lb almost overnight. Tape yourself, best way to master technique.

Obviously, a POSITIVE MINDSET is crucial. Because if you don't even believe that you can do it, if you actually expect to fail, then what do you think will happen? I'm sure some guys will share in the comments how they thought they wouldn't make it, but then blew themselves away by doing it. So could you.

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May 24, 14 y/o: Can I Gain Muscle WITHOUT Supplements? | Muscle Building Q&A

Question: Hey, I'm 14 years old and I want to know if I can build muscle without supplements, protein bars and shakes, or a hardgainer diet. Note that I currently have a daily intake of 50-70 grams of protein. I also drink 10 glasses of water every day.

– Brigham

Answer: Brigham, thanks for the question. It's an important one to ask before you even consider spending any of your hard-earned dough on supplements...

...So I'll get right to answering it – Yes, you most definitely can build muscle, and plenty of it, without any supplements. There are plenty of guys out there who take no supplements at all, yet they managed to upgrade their physiques from frail to freak-of-nature status.

The fact of the matter is that many (if not most) supplements on the market are garbage; and thus, only act as an alternative to flushing your money down the toilet.

I'm not saying that all supplements suck, because there are some great products that do help you build muscle. However, even the best supplements only give you a slight edge; and that's assuming you're doing everything else correctly to begin with (i.e. diet, sleep, training). See weight lifting supplements for more on this topic.

You also asked if you need to be on a "hardgainer diet" to gain muscle, but it's not clear to me what exactly you were referring to with this term.

If you were referring to the name of a specific diet system (e.g. Atkins Diet, Anabolic Diet, etc.), then the answer is no. There are a bazillion different diets systems out there that you could possibly use to gain muscle. On the other hand, if you were simply using "hardgainer diet" as a general term for a high protein/high-calorie diet, then yes, that is a requirement for building muscle...

...Although most gym-goers don't follow this practice, you gotta put some real effort into your diet if you want to gain more than just a minimal amount of mass. While training is essential, your diet can make or break your muscle building results.

As for how to go about making a basic diet plan, read this how-to bodybuilding diet article, and follow its guidelines for the "bulking" diet.

In terms of protein, unless you only weigh 50-70 lbs, then 50-70 grams per day is not enough. As you'll discover when you read the bodybuilding diet guide (previous link), you should increase your protein intake so that you're eating 1.0-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, each day...

...This is where a simple whey protein supplement can be helpful/convenient, because getting all your protein from whole foods can be a little challenging.

But again, whey (or any other supp) is NOT a necessity. Although it may be a bit difficult to get all your protein requirements from regular whole food, it's far from impossible. As I mentioned in my article on article on whey protein myths, I did just that for about a year when I began lifting at age 15, because my parents wouldn't let me buy whey protein powder (they *thought* it was dangerous).

If you have trouble eating enough protein, and protein supplements are out of the question, don't fret. I have a few quick suggestions for cost-effective, easy-to-prepare and easy-to-consume foods that are high in protein: milk, eggs and canned tuna. They may not be the most delicious foods, but they get the job done quick, and without breaking the bank. For a much longer list of high protein foods, see muscle building foods.

It's great that you're getting into weight lifting at your age. Just be patient and don't be overzealous in your training by adding weight at the expense of proper form. I realize you didn't ask about training in your question, but I am making this point because you're 14 and more likely to push it past the limit. It may seem highly unlikely that you'll get injured, but just trust me on this – I ignored this advice when I was around your age and had to learn the hard way that I wasn't invincible.

But if you make proper technique a habit and remain committed to your diet and training regimen, you'll be an animal by the time you're in you late teens – with or without supps.

Keep lifting,

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

May 28, 300 lbs Ex-Powerlifter: I Need to Lose Weight! Cardio on MYx8? | MYx8 Q&A

Question: Hi Alex. I just started doing your MYx8 Routine. Today is day 3 for me. I'm a former powerlifter and I competed during high school and into college. However, I have not been steadily going to the gym for almost years. I found your workout and think it will be a great start to getting back in the gym. I am a police officer and am looking to switch departments, this is my motivation for going back to gym. That and I'm 28 years old and weighed myself at just short of 300 lbs. I am pushing myself everyday. I have an obstacle course which involves clearing a 3 ft. hurdle and a 5 ft. wall, running for 100 yards, climbing through a 4 ft. window and then running the 100 yards back to the beginning. I should have been taking better care of myself prior to this point, but now I have a goal. I will be performing the course at the beginning of July, just over a month away. I am curious if you have any suggestions that would help me achieve this. I am trying to lose weight quickly for it, but don't want to do it in an unhealthy manner. Is it ok to do cardio everyday with your MYx8 routine? I have been doing cardio everyday (except yesterday) and following your routine since Thursday of last week. I am trying to change my life and make myself healthier and stronger. I am using Nano Vapor Hardcore prior to workouts and post-workout protein shakes.

I appreciate any help that you can give me!!

– David

Answer: David, I'm glad to hear you're so motivated. Goals are a prerequisite to motivation, which in turn leads to success. Without goals, people tend to flounder around aimlessly and see stagnation or regression. However, I can tell you're ahead of the game and on the road to progress because of your precise direction and obvious dedication to changing for the better...

...Of course, you probably knew all that. But I just wanted to say it because it's refreshing to help someone with a genuine desire to change, and who is seeking an intelligent and healthy approach (as opposed to a superficial "quick-fix" solution, which only leads to temporary and sloppy results).

That said, I'll start off with question on cardio: "Is it ok to do cardio everyday with your MYx8 routine?"

And the answer is... No. Your body needs time to rest and recover. You should have at least two off-days per week. That means two complete days where you do no lifting and no cardio whatsoever (preferably, two consecutive days).

I realize that taking time off may make it seem like you're missing out on making progress. Trust me, I know the feeling of wanting to be in the gym every day. But the fact of the matter is that if you don't take these days off, you'll end up slowing your fat loss and losing too much muscle mass and strength. As the saying goes, "less is more."

As for how allocate your cardio sessions during the week, I recommend doing two higher intensity session between weight training sessions (e.g. if you're lifting on a M/W/F schedule, then do these cardio sessions on T/TH). Assuming you choose to do 3 other days of cardio (although you can do less if desired), you should do them on your weight training days. However, these should be done at a relatively low level of intensity compared to your other cardio sessions, so as to avoid messing up your recovery. And if it's possible, try doing these low-intensity bouts of cardio at some time after your weight training sessions; thus preventing any interference with your strength on lifts.

Also, based on your message, I wasn?t sure if you actually had access to the obstacle course or not. If you do, then I urge you to use that frequently as part of your cardio sessions, if you're not already doing so. This would immensely improve your chances of passing the test, by reinforcing your aptitude of the specific tasks through repetition.

As long as you feel that the Nano Vapor Hardcore is helping you during workouts, and is worth the price, then that's fine. I've only tried Nano Vapor a couple of times because I got some free samples several months ago. I don't remember any specifics of my experience, but I can recall that it was a positive experience.

You also mentioned that you have a post-workout shake, which I'm assuming is whey protein and some type of carbohydrate source. That's great, so keep up with that. I'll note, though, that there is a misleading dogmatic attitude online that you absolutely need a shake with fast digesting protein and fast digesting carbs (i.e. whey protein and dextrose/high-GI carbs). But the fact of the matter is that you don?t necessarily have to have either of these. You can get the same results with whole foods if you so choose.

That said, I always drink post-workout shake whey protein and some kind of mixable carbohydrate source (e.g. dextrose, maltodextrine, honey, Gatorade, etc.). Why? Because it's convenient and it's easy to drink if you've got an uneasy stomach after an intense workout. Plus, it's a very cost-effective option.

Read more on weight lifting supplements. Just remember, supplements and post-workout nutrition are only a small part of your overall diet plan. And this brings me to my next point...

...If you truly wish to begin transforming your body, it's doesn?t matter if you train like a beast on a top-notch program, or if you're taking the best supplement stack to mankind. That stuff, by itself, is not enough. The #1 factor that separates successes from failures is diet. You MUST take the time to make a smart diet plan, and then consistently adhere to it.

I'm stressing importance of nutrition, not only because it really is so crucial, but also you do didn't mention anything about your diet in your question. So in case you haven't already set this up, I'll push you in the right direction.

First off, you need to read up on how to create a bodybuilding diet plan. As you'll see in that article, there are two basic types of diets. One for bulking (gaining muscle) and one for cutting (losing fat). So obviously you're going to want to follow the cutting diet guidelines.

Setting up your diet plan might seem a bit confusing, at least to begin with. But to make it simple, realize that by far the two most important things to focus on are: Figure out how many calories per day you need to lose weight. A good starting point for the average person is to multiply your bodyweight in lbs X 13 calories/lb. However, since you inferred that your body fat percentage is significantly higher than the average, you may want to start out by multiplying your weight by 12 or 11 (e.g. 300 lbs X 12 calories/lb = 3600 calories per day.Figure out how many grams of protein to eat per day. The rule of thumb is to multiply your bodyweight in lbs by 1.0-1.5 grams/lb. Since you have a significant amount of body fat, it would be more accurate for you to multiply your bodyweight by about 1.0 grams/lb (e.g. 300 lbs X 1.0 grams/lb = 300 grams of protein per day). I don't recommend using 1.5 grams/lb, because protein is only needed for your lean body mass (i.e. not fat mass).My only other advice is to get plenty of sleep each night (i.e. 7-9 hours), and to drink plenty of water each day (i.e. about 1 gallon).

As long as you keep up your dedication and positive attitude, there's no doubt that you'll reach your goals and then some.

Keep lifting hard,

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Aug 23, Partial Squats | How to Do Partial Squats with Proper Form

Partial squats, or "partials" for short, are an advanced exercise technique used to help bust through plateaus and sticking points on the traditional squat exercise.

Partials involve doing only part of the range of motion of a full squat repetition. However, they are meant to be done for one to a few reps, using heavier weight than that your one rep max.

The the range of motion of your partials should generally be determined by your sticking point within the range of motion of a traditional squat (i.e. the point at which you struggle, squatting up from the bottom of a full repetition).

For many folks, their sticking point is halfway through. This is why it's common to hear partial squats referred to as "half squats." But you can also do partials with 1/4, 3/4, etc. of the squat's full range of motion.

By using heavy weight within a specific range, this squat variation forces your body becomes more accustomed to handling heavier weight. And more specifically, it emphasises the quadriceps and improves your strength and explosiveness within the chosen range of motion.

Video credits: YouTube user "koklyaevmisha"

Set Up. For safety reasons, you should always do partials in a power rack. Set the barbell on the rack pins to right below shoulder height, just as you'd do for regular squats. Proceed to load the bar with the desired amount of weight. Set Safety Catches. Decide the range of motion that you're going to train based on where your sticking point is (e.g. half squat). Then set the safety catches accordingly (i.e. the barbell should touch, or almost touch, the safety catches at the bottom of each partial rep).Get Under the Bar. Position yourself underneath the barbell. It should be resting across your upper back, atop the trapezius. The trapezius should cushion the bar so it doesn't press against your spine.Unrack & Assume Stance. Unrack the bar and take a step away. Assume a comfortable and slightly wider than shoulder-width stance.Breathe & Brace. Take a deep breath and hold it in. Tense your body, especially your abdominals.Negative Repetition. Squat down in a slow and controlled fashion. Continue until the bar touches, or is just above, the safety catches. Do not slam the barbell, or try to bounce it off of the catches. Also, don't rest the bar on the catches. Tempo. Go slow enough to maintain control over the weight. This will take around 1-2 seconds, though it can vary based on how far down you're squatting, how heavy the weight is and how fatigued you are.Positive Repetition. After reaching the bottom of the range of motion, squat back up. Extend your legs until you are standing up straight with your knees locked. Tempo. Squat up as explosively as possible without losing control or sacrificing proper form.Repeat. Repeat the movement for the desired number of reps. Partial squats are most effective using heavy weight and a lower rep range of approximately 1-6 reps.

Partials Are Best for Advanced Lifters. The purpose of partial squats is to bust through plateaus and sticking points. You do this by performing only a portion of the full range of motion using heavier weight than you could otherwise lift on regular squats.

Therefore, this technique is most fitting for you if you're an advanced trainees, because truly challenging plateaus (as opposed to easy-to-break plateaus encountered by less experienced lifters) are a common occurence in your training.

Additionally, as an advanced trainee, your body can safely handle and respond to extra heavy loads.

On the other hand, beginners and intermediates should stick with good ol' fashioned traditional squats. As a beginner or intermediate, you can overcome any plateaus you may encounter through much simpler and safer means...

...For example, breaking through a plateau as an beginner or intermediate may be as simple as increasing or reducing your squat training frequency (i.e. number of times you squat per week); or changing the number of sets and/or reps you perform for squats.

Ironically, a whole lot of beginners unknowingly perform partial squats instead of full squats. For whatever reason, they just don't (or can't) perform the full range of motion. If that sounds like it might be you, then start squatting deeper! (If you really can't squat any deeper without using crappy form, then start stretching your quads and hip flexors to improve your flexibility.)

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Aug 25, Squat with Chains | How to Do Chain Squats with Proper Form

The squat with chains, or chain squat, is an advanced technique for increasing your overall squat strength and explosiveness. It adds a new layer of dynamic intensity to your squat training.

Squats with chains are different from traditional squats in that it makes the load heavier at the top of the rep and lighter at the bottom of the rep. Whereas, the load is static throughout the movement with regular squats.

Thus, you train explosiveness when doing squats with chains because the reduced weight at the bottom of the rep translates to the ability to squat up rapidly and powerfully. In fact, it forces you to squat up with great force since you need to generate enough momentum to counteract the increasing load as the chain is picked up.

Additionally, you emphasize the latter portion of the positive repetition – especially the lockout – because the weight becomes heavier as you begin picking up the chain's slack while squatting up.

Set Up. This should be done in a power rack or a squat rack. Start by putting the barbell on the pins, just below shoulder level. Adjust the Safety Catches. If you're using a power rack, adjust the safety catches to prevent the barbell from going beyond the bottom of the range of motion, in case of a failed rep or accident.Add Plates. Load the weight plates before attaching chains to the ends of the barbell. A 2006 study shines some light on the optimal load to use. According to the findings, the optimal total load (including both chains and plates) is around 85% of your one rep max. Of that, eighty percent should be non-chain weight. Note that this study was on squat training using band resistance (see band squats and reverse band squats), not chains. Still, it provides relevant insight and applicable information.Attach Chains. Figure out the chain weight and length to use. Attach the chains accordingly. The optimal chain weight, based on the findings of the above-mentioned study, is 20% of the total load. Optimal chain length varies based on your objective – The shorter the chain, the lower the point in the range of motion will be when the load starts decreasing. For this tutorial, I'll outline the standard practice for chain length: When the barbell is racked, there should be a few inches of chain draping onto the floor. This way, the ends of the chains should be only slightly touching the floor after you unrack the bar.Unrack the Bar. Get underneath the bar. It should be resting on your trapezius muscle tissue, not against your spine. Proceed to lift the bar off the pins and step back.Negative Repetition. Lower your hips, drop your butt and bend your knees. Go Parallel or Lower. Continue until the top of your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.Tempo. Perform the negative in a controlled fashion. This should take about 1-2 seconds. Slow down as you approach the midpoint.Midpoint. The midpoint is at the very bottom of the range of motion. It's the transition point between the positive repetition and the negative repetition. Tempo. Do not pause here for more than a split second. Don't "bounce" through the midpoint, either. Bouncing puts your knees at risk for injury.Positive Repetition. Squat up explosively. Flex! Keep your whole body tense while flexing your glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings with focused intensity.Tempo. Aim for a tempo of zero seconds. That is, go as fast as humanly possible without sacrificing proper form.Repeat. Chain squats are generally used to build strength and explosiveness. Thus, heavy weights (see step 1, bullets 2 and 3) and lower reps (i.e. approx. 1-5) are most effective.

Chain Squats Are Best for Advanced Lifters. Squatting with chains is best left to the big (and strong) boys (and girls). It is meant to improve specific weak aspects (i.e. explosiveness, lockout) of an already strong lift...

...So if your squat itself is weak – which is the case for beginners and intermediates (at least, relative to their potential squat strengths) – then squatting with chains is a misallocation of your training time and energy. Instead, the more sound decision is to stick to traditional squats until you truly reach a more advanced level of strength and conditioning.

The only time I'd say it's fine for intermediates (not beginners) to squat with chains is when advised by a competent strength coach, for the purpose of training a sports specific skill/ability.

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