This was a video I took on Tuesday of this week, just me having a little bit of fun in the gym.
That’s 455lbs. Of course, I can do much more than that using two hands :)
The body will respond in amazing ways if you force it to. Anything you can imagine is doable if you’re willing to put in the work. Don’t listen to those who doubt you and tell you that you’re unable to reach any goal (strength, aesthetics or otherwise).
Some people say things like “It’s 80% diet and 20% training” or “50% training and 50% diet” and I think both of those are way off the mark: It is 100% dedication to the proper training and nutritional program for your goals!
Own this day – you are all champions!Boyd Myers
Personal Trainer San Antonio, Figure Contest Prep Coach
Owner, San Antonio's Top Personal Training Studio
16613 Huebner Rd (corner of Huebner and Bitters)
I’ve received numerous questions about my personal favorite lift, the dead lift, and wanted to write a little about it this morning.
Should I be dead lifting if my goal is ____________?
Probably the most often asked question, with the blank being anything from strength, aesthetics, losing fat, gaining muscle, functionality, sports performance, etc. In short, my answer is usually a great big “YES”.
First and foremost, the dead lift simulates the most basic of movements: picking an object up from the ground, so it is the absolute base for all functional movements. While performing the dead lift, up to 70% of the muscles in the body are activated, including all of the largest muscle groups in the body. Large muscles worked equals more energy expended, a greater hormonal response, and more muscle fibers recruited forcing increases in strength and muscle size. More lean body mass means a higher metabolism (all things that I regularly discuss here on the blog).
Also, the dead lift is my favorite “core” exercise – the glutes, lower back, hips, psoas, and abs are all significantly recruited by the dead lift.
How much weight should I be able to lift?
Before worrying about how much you can lift, I’d worry about how much you can lift properly. Remember, each rep is a “set”, so you must focus on resetting everything each rep.
-Don’t move the bar to get into proper position. Walk over to it and position your feet correctly.
-Your foot stance should be shoulder-width stance with toes slightly pointing out.
-The bar position should be about 2-4″ from your shins when standing, with your laces under the bar.
-Now make a big chest & lift it up, pulling the shoulders back. By keeping this position at all times, your back will never be able to round.
-Look forward during the entire lift, NOT down, to avoid rounding your back.
-Your grip width should be neither too small, as then your hands will touch your legs on the way up, nor too wide, or you have to pull the bar higher. Use roughly a 20″ grip width.
-When you grip the bar, put it close to your fingers, not in the palm of your hand to minimize callouses and torn skin.
-Pulling the bar with bent arms can tear your biceps muscles, so keep them straight and tighten your triceps.
Now, begin the lift:
-Pull the bar by pushing from the heels and bringing your hips forward. Never pull back with your lower back or raise your hips too high. If you deadlift correctly, you’ll feel the most stress in your upper-back, glutes & hams.
-Shoulders should be directly over the bar, with hips low.
-Make sure the bar is against the shins and pull up in a straight line.
-The closer the barbell to your shins, the better.
-As you push, dig in from the heels and keep the bar in contact with your body during the entire lift, rolling it over your shins and thighs. The closeness of the bar to the body minimizes stress on the lower back and allows more weight to be moved.
-Bring your hips forward and squeeze the glutes hard, continuing to the end of the lift.
-When you bring the weight down, do it controlled but not slow. The rule: hips unlock first, then knees. Keep the chest up and continue looking forward as the bar travels down wards, keeping it in close contact with the thigs until it reaches knee level. Now flex at the hips first to return the bar below knee level, and then bend at the knees until the bar is on the floor.
Now, how much should I be able to lift?
If you are a novice dead lifter, mastering the mechanics are paramount. Any exercise can lead to injury, so the more technical the exercise, the more opportunity for injury. Again, LEARN THE MECHANICS. Fortunately, exercises that recruit the most amount of muscle fibers improve rapidly. At first, 1/2 of your bodyweight may seem challenging, but you’ll realize that you’ll get to your bodyweight, to 1.5 to 2 times the amount of your bodyweight in a relatively short amount of time. Elite lifters will often get into the 2.5 to 3 times their bodyweight with proper training and progression (I can actually dead lift more than three times my bodyweight for one rep).
No matter your exercise goals, there is a place for the dead lift in your regimen. Any exericse that strengthens the entire back, glutes, legs, forearms and biceps is a must for any exercise goal, and I feel that the dead lift transfers well to most other lifts, meaning adding it to your regimen should improve other staple lifts that you may already perform.Boyd Myers
Personal Trainer San Antonio, Figure Contest Prep Coach
Owner, San Antonio's Top Personal Training Studio
16613 Huebner Rd (corner of Huebner and Bitters)
After I posted yesterday’s workout for my client Jonah, I received a few comments about that type of training – let me qualify a few things.
-The type of training he is getting ready for is VERY calisthenic based.
-He spends up to 2 hours per day in the pool, as that is the most difficult part of AF PJ/CCT Training
-He runs over 40 miles per week
-He is 5’10″ 165lbs
One thing that a lot of people who cruise blogs may not understand is that not everyone is training to lose weight or to look like a bodybuilder. Jonah’s top priority is to be ready to take whatever they throw at him at his selection school, and our training days are drastically different from that of say, a Bikini or Figure Competitor.
Unfortunately, most personal trainers don’t get this: a specific workout depends on:
-the client’s condition (to include injuries, pains, strengths, weaknesses, and abilities)
-the client’s goals
There’s no one size fits all!!!
Working out is more than breahting hard and breaking a sweat – there has to be a method to the madness and every movement, every set, every workout must have a purpose!!!
Hey San Antonio,
No, she isn’t my mother, but she is a 38 year old mother of three.
I took this video to help her make some slight corrections in her form (keep her behind down a bit longer and not roll her back), but understand she is still very new to dead lifting, and the fact that she’s doing it with 225lbs is amazing.
For the ladies that still believe that you get big and bulky lifting weights, does she look big and bulky? She has a complete six pack:
And she’s not wasting her time doing hours of cardio every week – she follows my guidelines and keeps it brief and very intense.
Here’s the vid!
For mobile fitness tips, text FITNESSTRAINER to 90210 – I won’t spam you, but I will send you helpful tidbits on training and nutrition!
I have several irons in the fire at once. I own my personal training studio and train full time. I train several people online and advise athletes and competitors all over the world, so sometimes, my schedule conflicts with others so I have to multi-task often.
I’m also an Agency Director for a mobile marketing company and had an important business call to tend to at 10:30am yesterday with my national director. Only problem with that was that clashed with my workout time. So, I took the call, contributed my information while asked, and manged to stay busy during the call.
While I absolutely hate when people don’t focus in the gym and chat it up on the phone instead of working out, I didn’t have much of a choice but to be on this call.
Here I am, fielding a question on my business call:
Life doesn’t wait, and weights don’t wait. I could’ve found an excuse, but it is up to me to take care of my body and my responsibilities.
Efficiency is key! ;) Make your life work around YOU!
Personal Trainer in San Antonio
Owner, San Antonio’s Top Personal Training Studio
16613 Huebner Rd (corner of Huebner and Bitters)
Text BOYD to 90210 for my mobile business card!
My allergies are killing me today! Welcome home, Spring (and the green oak powder all over the cars this morning)! I’m finally upright, but it has been a struggle today.
Of course, this post isn’t really focused on my personal training business or fat loss, just a quick update on the progress of my own goal.
As I have mentioned a time or two over the last several months, I am in pursuit of a record that just a few short years ago, I would’ve considered completely unattainable, the raw bench press record (raw means doing so without the assistance of gear, such as a bench press compression shirt, etc).
My last major attempt was for 635lbs, and I did it with what I felt was ease. I’m not saying it wasn’t an all out effort, but I definitely feel like I had more in the tank. Instead of making an attempt at a few more pounds, I’m going to take a little down time and recovery from some injuries, sicknesses allergies, aches, pains, etc. Not time off, just cutting my volume down for a few weeks.
During this journey, I’ve definitely run into some physical obstacles that I personally had doubt that I’d get over. I do not have the typical build of a bench presser – while I am very “thick”, so to speak, I’m not really “round”, have long arms for my frame, and very small joints. So aside from anything else, I’ve got to pay extra special attention to staying injury free.
So for the next several weeks/months, I’m focusing on getting myself to 100% health – mentally and physically. I’m kind of exhausted and while I intend to keep this as my primary focus, I gave myself 18 months for a reason: chasing a goal like this is brutal on the mind and body, and there is a reason why the current record has stood for the last 6+ years. I mean, it’s not like anyone isn’t personally in the gym trying to get stronger!
I’m by NO means slowing down or backing off – just taking time that I had initially scheduled to allow myself to prepare for another huge attack on the weights. Kind of like an Olympian that trains to every 4th Summer – I have to wind down, recover, recharge and get ready to my next intense run. In training circles, this is known as “deloading”, and it is the point of which the body recovers, grows, and changes in response to long periods of intense training.
When will it be time to make my next intense run? I’m listening to my body on that one. While I fully intend to train with intensity and work on getting stronger, for now, recovery and health are my two primary training factors. I’m going to self-evaluate every two weeks and see where I am physically, see how I feel mentally and then determine on whether I’m ready to go insanely hardcore for 6 straight months – by that point, God willing, I should be getting pretty close to a 700lb bench, just 15lbs away from the ultimate bench press mark. Getting the mind and body ready to lift as heavy as you can is different than typical training – the mental strain to force yourself to lift as much as you can for one to three reps and to constantly improve isn’t easy, especially when you’re getting to a point of which no one has ever been! To make a few steps forward, sometimes I have to take a step back and recover.
Keep YOUR eyes on your goals – don’t let yourself be sidetracked. Whatever other people are using for excuses as to why they fail, you should use those things for reasons to succeed!
As I pursue my ultimate goal of the raw world bench press record of 715lbs, I find myself answering a lot of questions about the bench press and what guys can do to help themselves increase their bench. As of Wednesday, my last bench session, I was able to do 7 sets of 615lbs for one rep. My goal for mid-March is a one rep bench press in the mid-600s. I’ve wanted to take the time to write an article on bench pressing, and now, I’ve done just that.
While I do train a few females that enjoy trying to improve their bench, I’ll admit that this post is mostly for the guys. I haven’t written directly to my fellow males in a while, so let’s do this for the weekend, guys.
The primary focus of the general public today is fat loss, as well it should be – as a whole, we are the most obese society in the history of the world. There’s a huge focus on self-image in today’s society, and the paradigm has shifted for most gym-goers today – in the 80s, guys wanted to be strong, big and muscular like Arnold, Rocky and Hulk Hogan. Now, many guys would prefer to slide into the skinny jeans and stand in front of Abercrombie with no shirt on invite people in.
Somewhere along the line, people really believe that there is a different way to train when it comes down to being lean and defined versus “being big”. Truth be told, you either gain muscle or lose it, and nobody in the world is able to get insanely large over night, totally out of control without being able to stop it. The best way to look more defined and toned and ripped and (insert whatever term you like), increase lean body mass. I’ve always said: “You can’t ‘rip’ skinny”.
When someone finds out that you train with weights, they will always have one question for you: “So, how much do you bench?” For most, it isn’t a concern or something they even know the exact number to. Most guys lie about it. Others go in the gym, do a partial rep or bounce the bar off of their chest and claim they can bench a weight that they really can’t. And many, many people? They became frustrated with it years ago because it never seemed to increase outside of their first few months of training. Or even worse, they injured themselves doing it. 99% of these instances were simply due to form and training mistakes.
I hear a lot of guys say things like “I’m just not built for bench pressing”. This is absolute bullshit, period. If you increase the density in your back and chest, you’ll have a much less distance to make the weight travel. I’m NOT what you’d think of when you think of one of the world’s best benchers. My arms aren’t insanely huge (they’re bigger than average at almost 19″ around, but most guys with my bench press are in the 20s), and they’re long. I’m not shaped like a barrel with legs – I actually focus on staying somewhat lean, and my abdominal circumference does not go over 34″ (at the belly button). In fact, I look more like a bodybuilder than a world class power lifter (I do compete in both). So throw stereotypes out the window!
Also, don’t hide behind genetics. I was, by no means, born a great bench presser. I was about as “lanky” and awkward as one could be in my late teen years. I do intend on writing a post about what I’ve done very soon, but understand, this is something I have worked very hard on. In fact, bench pressing was actually a weakness for me as little as 5 years ago. Not anymore. My point? If you want to be have an impressive bench? Do not give up – it has required much more work for me than it probably would someone who was born looking like an NFL linebacker, but the fact that I’m now one of the best bench pressers on the planet makes it so much more worth it. Anything is possible with hard work, discipline, consistency and effort.
So, how do you increase your bench press?
First and foremost, learn the proper form. Most people think there is a difference between how “a power lifter benches” and how “a bodybuilder benches”. This myth was probably developed by some bullshit magazine or full of shit pro bodybuilder that has no idea how he became insanely large, but really believes it has something to do with his ability to “isolate” a certain muscle group and “feel the pump”.
-Feet on the ground! I see guys with their feet up on the bench all of the time. EVERY major lift starts in the feet. Aside from looking like an idiot and risk moving left to right and killing yourself, you’re taking away a lot of your ability to push through the ground and move serious weight. Remember, proper form is always first. Handling the most weight you can handle with proper form is the signal for muscle growth. What’s more, they should not be relaxed on the ground – get the feet up under you to where your body is in a “coil”. The glutes and shoulders must be on the bench with a slight curve in the lower back.
-Elbows tucked. Remember what I said about a power lifter bench versus a bodybuilder bench? This is where they typically deviate. There is not a PL vs BB method: there’s a right way to bench and a wrong way to bench. The “BB” method is the way you tear your pectoralis major. When you see a lot of people bench, there arms at 90 degrees out from their sides. The elbows should be to the side, and in most cases, the pinkie or ring finger (or maybe the middle finger for longer arm guys) should be on the lines of the bar. If you are too close, most of the leverage comes from the shoulders and delts. Too wide and you put most of the pressure on the pecs. The key is to utilize all of the muscles in their most advantageous position. When you pull the arms in, the shoulder blades should be “pinched together” – shoulders back, chest forward.
-Don’t bounce it, period. The descent is slow and very controlled, with a pause at the bottom.
-Use a full range of motion. I don’t know why I see guys moving the bar an inch. And I don’t know why a lot of guys don’t touch their chest. THAT is how you tear your shoulders and elbows up. Touch the bar, every rep.
-Most guys touch too high on their chest. You should actually be touching the lower part of the chest, near the upper abdomen. THIS is where you’re keeping the pecs at the most advantageous position and will be able to generate the most force for the concentric portion of the lift.
-As you are lowering the bar, focus on breathing into the stomach – learn to exhale using your diaphragm.
-Don’t overdo it. I see guys that want to bench 3-4 times per week. That’s simply too much. Why I do have several different strategies I like to use to focus specifically on improving my bench, none of those strategies has me performing the bench more than 2 times per week, period. Remember, the body changes at rest, not during training.
-Considering the previous bullet, understand that to become a better runner, you must run. To become a better swimmer, you must swim. To be a better bench presser, you need to perform the bench. There’s no “Well, if I can db bench press this much, I should be able to bench ___”. Sorry, it’s not like that whatsoever. Train specifically for your goals.
-Perform the different variations of the bench (decline, dumbbell, etc), but always remember that the flat bb bench press should be the basis of your bench workout.
-Put the same effort in heavy exercises such as dead lifts, squats, and rows. There are a few reasons for this.
First, by lifting heavy, you make the body acclimate to, well, heavy weight. I do believe there is a transfer over from deads, squats and rows to bench press. You’ve trained the central nervous system on heavy weight response. By no means am I saying that anyone who can squat 750lbs can bench press 600. There are many huge squatters in the world but very few 600+ pound benchers. Really, there aren’t that many 500lb bench pressers. But if you train heavy, your entire body will respond positively.
Also, remember that the body is symmetrical (top to bottom, left to right, front to back). I really believe that training the muscles in the posterior of the body (lats, rhomboids, etc) play just as much a role in being a great bench presser as having a powerful chest, shoulders and tris. It goes without saying that strengthening the triceps and shoulders will improve the bench press, but don’t discount the importance of having a wider, thicker back for having a big bench press. Bent rows and db rows are key, because both are performed on nearly the same plane as the bench press (chest/back parallel to the ground).
-No exercise progress is as dependent on a spot as is the bench press. I cannot tell you how important having a training partner that I trust is for helping me bench press. I don’t need a partner for any other lift. I have no problem performing heavy squats or dead lifts by myself. However, being able to train at maximum capacity on bench press demands a good spotter.
Just any spotter won’t work. If I have 500 or 600 or more on the bar, there’s no way I’m just hitting just any guy in the gym up for a “lift off” or to “keep an eye on me”. When you’re at maximum capacity, the stakes are high, and when I’m benching the kind of weight that I need to train with, the slightest mistake can result in serious injury or worse. I’m leaving nothing to chance. I know that most people have a lot of trouble finding a serious workout partner to work with, but it is absolutely essential if having a big bench is one of your goals. Trust is key!
Communicate with your spotter. It’s important that your partner understands exactly when it is time to let go of the bar, grab it, assist, etc.
-Train all parts of the movement, but only when it is time. If you’re benching your bodyweight, there’s no reason to start doing board presses, floor presses, bands, chains, etc. There is quite a lot of progress you can make by simply learning how to bench and taking the time to actually progress before you begin focusing on the different parts of the movement.
When it IS time to start using partials, pay attention to where/why you’re having issues with increasing your weight. Is it a form issue? Is it due to stability in a certain part of the lift? Are you lacking explosion? Identify issues and correct them (another great reason for an experienced partner). I use video for this purpose. Once I see a video of myself, I know exactly what to work on and improve.
If you’d like an experienced bench presser’s opinion, feel free to send me a link to your video and I’ll gladly critique it.
-Remember, Training Specificity. If your goal is to increase your one rep bench press, you need to train near that rep threshold. Laying out a specific bench press routine is beyond the scope of this article, because the reasons that people are limited in bench varies greatly from one person to another. I do believe that the greatest benefit comes from volume. Understand that you cannot max out each and every week and expect to make progress, intensity must be cycled. A typical bench session for me consists of warming up and acclimating to a certain weight range, and then performing 7-12 work sets at a particular rep range. While most progress will be made in the 1-3 rep range, the 4-5 rep range (at lower weight, obviously) has it’s place as well. I work with slightly different hand placements in each workout as well.
Rest between sets is important too. For some reason, people feel the need to rush when their in the gym. When you are focusing on becoming extremely strong and you’re training at or near maximum capacity, it’s important to have complete rest between sets. You aren’t going to go from a 185 bencher to a 405 bencher overnight, especially if you’re resting 1-2 minutes between sets. If you are training at 3 rep max capacity, you’ll need as much as 4-5 minutes rest between sets. Stop thinking that more is better and that you need to do as much as possible. You’re working to introduce your body to a new form of overload: HEAVY.
-Until you’re near your maximum capacity, you have no business working with a bench press shirt. I had to include this, because I see guys that can’t bench 365 raw working with a bench shirt. While raw benching is my focus, I totally understand shirt training, but 99% of the people in the gym that are breaking out their bench shirts have absolutely no business in doing so.
Bench pressing is a science, and to be honest, this is just the tip of the iceberg on what to focus on to become an elite, or even a very good bench presser. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of focus, but is completely doable, no matter what your current bench press is right now.
In the future, I intend on writing much more on this topic, and have toyed with writing an eBook designed to help individuals improve their bench press.
Until then, don’t hesitate to ask any other questions you may have on how to improve your bench press!
Of course, most of my questions are fat loss and body transformation related, but occasionally, I get a question on athletic performance, which is what I have here. Great question left in the comment section from a Division 1 College Football Player about squats. Too good not to share on the main page of the blog!
Hey Boyd – love the blog man. I’m a sophomore football player at Nebraska and realize the importance of training optimally. I have to say that your blog is one of the best fitness resources that I’ve come across and I thank you for your time and effort on producing such a high quality product. Trust me, me and several of our guys read it on a regular basis.
My question is about squats. You discuss how different exercises transfer well to different activities, and what is optimal for functionality. Of course, most people will tell you that squats are the granddaddy of all exercises, but would you say they are the most important exercise for a high level football player?
Thanks for the write in! Comments like that always make me more motivated to keep working hard on this blog. This thing is definitely my baby, and I’m always happy when someone finds it useful.
Let me explain something that I often delve into when someone asks me about one exercise versus another exercise – view each exercise as a specific tool. You can use many tools to get a job done, so there’s no reason to ever throw away a tool that has use. Hack squats, split squats, front squats, back squats: they are all phenomenal tools.
In this case, both squats are great tools for developing explosive power and strength when done in the proper rep range (sub 6 reps). Reason is that other supporting muscle groups are more apt to tire out then the major leg muscles, and that obviously puts the trainee at a higher injury risk.
In the case of football, I believe that the front squat is a bit more “transferable” to the gridiron, form is paramount, and the lower extremities bare the load more so than the lower back does, allowing for better recruitment in the quads and hamstrings.
The key to getting max benefit out of any squat? Depth. I see some people doing them to 90 degrees or higher. If you can’t bury it, as I say, “ass to the grass”, you’re doing too much weight. Drop the poundage, and take your butt to the floor.
Again – utilize all the tools you have available, but for developing strength, speed and explosiveness, make front squats (deep) one of your primary training tools.
I realize that a lot of readers haven’t seen this, but since they (they being the cult weirdos that are wasting their time with Crossfit) have found my blog and feel the need to email me regularly, I thought I’d post this up… With some bonus footage ;)
They aren’t doing this in CrossFit:
Have you recently spoken to a CrossFitter? Probably went a little like this:
Ok, on with the post!
I have pissed off most of the P90X crew by simply telling them that their baby (P90X) is not a “pretty baby” by evaluating P90X as nothing more than a glorified calisthenic and cardio program that is extremely limited in it’s ability to help individuals make more than meager progress after their initial change. Simply put, the results diminish rapidly after the initial progress.
Most people aren’t looking at fitness programs and fat loss endeavors through scientific eyes, nor they do want to hear that their training program is supposed to be challenging (hence the term WORKING out), the nutrition requires sacrifice and discipline, and that change does not happen overnight. They look for hype and what everyone else is doing and what will require the least amount of agony: the least dedication (only 10 minutes per day!), the least sacrifice, the least muscle pain, the least effort. Not saying that some of these workout programs aren’t challenging, because most of them will cause you to breathe hard and break a sweat, and do provide some utility for many exercisers. However, drastically changing the body requires a unique program designed for the individual, not simply throwing “shit on the wall to see if it sticks”, which is what these one size fits all, designed for the masses programs do. Everyone has different needs and experiences – those needs must be considered when designing the program, and just following the rest of the sheep will just make you one of the crowd – and the crowd that I see when I walk the streets of most cities is a pretty average (at best) crowd. Don’t be a sheep.
Before I go on, I have to bring up the Basic Laws of Training and ask you to read that article. Right off, a simple understanding of those principles will let you see where most programs designed for the masses fall short (they don’t pay attention to Individual Differences, ignore Specific Adaption, Don’t Vary Intensity, etc).
With all of that being said, MOST programs have something to gain from them, and as I’ve stated numerous times, doing ANYTHING is better than DOING NOTHING. Everything works for a time. Some guys/gals train with Strongman Principles. Some with HIT. Some with P90X. All will WORK, at least for a period of time.
Of course, the latest rage in the fitness community is CrossFit. As I am writing this in my studio in North San Antonio, I know that I cannot walk outside and throw a dead cat without hitting a CrossFit studio, as there are several in the immediate area.
For those who aren’t familiar, what is CrossFit? CrossFit describes several affiliate gyms and their types of workouts that are typically high intensity forms of weightlifting, sprinting, kettlebells, ropes, strongman, gymnastics and many other types of training. Affiliates create a “Workout of the Day” and often use a scoring and ranking systems to transform workouts into sport.
Don’t get me wrong: I have an in-depth understanding of the CrossFit Principles and approach to training, and have been using many of the same core exercises, similar principles of cross training, and other similar aspects of CrossFit in training programs to simply provide variety and skill development in many of my clients’ training programs for many years. I am in no way saying that CrossFit cannot be challenging nor intense. It focuses on most every aspect of fitness (cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy) and many times, in the same workout.
I mentioned it above: doing anything is better than nothing. Is CrossFit the be all, end all workout program that it’s pundits would like you to believe?
No, I don’t think so… And I understand that the cultists are going to go absolutely berserk and litter me with tons of comments and messages: I know that many people have made great progress from CrossFit (and will write to tell me so), but that does not mean it is the perfect workout program: in my opinion, it is mediocre at best.
First and foremost, you have only one ass – that means you cannot sit on two horses. How is that relative? In changing the body, your results are quite limited when focusing on contrasting goals at one time – focusing on every aspect of fitness will lead to a lot of wasted progress in the long term (Ever known of anyone training for a marathon and a powerlifting meet at the same time? No, because it is IMPOSSIBLE). While CrossFit is very effective at laying a general base level of conditioning, once this is established, progress would be, like P90X, very limited. CrossFit’s promotional materials imply that this type of training addresses all the strength and conditioning needs of an athlete, but the principle of specificity teaches that if you try to excel at everything, you will not reach the highest levels at anything.
Many beginners often complain that they find the programs overzealous, that they’re under-prepared to perform many of the exercises (trust me, cleans, snatches, jerks, dead lifts – these are all exercises of skill the require many hours of coaching to perfect) and that “everyone is different” is pretty much tossed out the window. “You’re a CF’er now, Dammit! Suck it up, cream puff…” I disagree with the “learn by the fire” mentality: without assessing muscular imbalances, there is a high risk of injury in performing any of these exercises. I perform a series of tests to ensure that any client is prepared to perform these exercises. While I’m certain that many people have performed CrossFit for years without injury, the risk is simply too high without proper assessment of beginners without performing corrective exercises to ensure that muscular imbalances have been eliminated before performing high these high skill movements. While I regularly utilize these movements in many of my training protocols, rest assured that I am closely monitoring every inch of the movement, no matter how experienced the trainee is – the slightest relaxation of form can and will lead to injury. And if the client already has an injury history? You’re damn right the program MUST be tailored with these considerations and must be prefaced by corrective exercises before performing these movements.
In many CrossFit WOD’s (workout of the day), it simply looks like someone chose exercises and rep schemes out of a hat and pieced them together with little regard to order of exercises or if some exercises. “Pre-exhaustion” with some exercises inhibits one ability to perform other exercises with optimal form and muscle activation, increasing injury risk and limiting the effectiveness of the exercise (for example, would it make sense for someone who was attempting to set their personal record on bench press to completely burn out on push ups prior to attempting the bench press?), as well as increasing the risk of injury. This is especially true when utilizing Olympic Lifts, which CrossFit uses as a staple.
Many exercises are simply used better for specific objectives. The dead lift is a strength/power exercise and doesn’t lend itself to high reps/muscular endurance – but is routinely performed at high reps in CrossFit workouts. Workouts Grace and Isabel feature 30 rep clean and jerks/snatches – I’m sorry, but I cannot recommend that protocol under any circumstance.
From the viewpoint of a competitive fitness athlete, no competitor who primarily does CrossFit as their training has ever won a major bodybuilding show or power lifting meet: while most people aren’t aspiring for these goals, it’s tough to consider their training as elite of that they prepare individuals to be exceptional at anything beyond CrossFit. Fortunately for CrossFitters, there are “CrossFit Games”, which they can compete in.
The workouts simply do not do enough to increase lean body mass at anything more than a snail’s pace beyond the initial adaption phase that ANY fitness program has (the overcoming of disuse phase). Normal people will read this and think that they don’t want to become huge muscle monsters, and that isn’t what I’m referring to – slight increases in lean body mass are necessary for metabolic increases. If muscle is not growing it is atrophying (or going away). Loss of lean body mass leads to a lower metabolism, higher risk of injury and worsened health.
I routinely have male clients drop their body fat percentages from the mid 20% into the single digits and drastically changing the way they look – along with females with three or more children seeing defined abs for the first time: I assure you that this requires a bit more than body weight work, super-setting with 400 meter sprints, and a random order of exercises.
CrossFit is designed to make a person average at the different aspects of fitness. But what happens when you’re ready to take your body to the next level? To drastically change your appearance or take your performance beyond that of average? You need a more specific solution that isn’t a program for the masses.
Don’t think for a second that nutritional issues can be solved with a one size fits all approach. Every client has different nutritional requirements, and nutrition isn’t going to provide you with a custom nutritional strategy based on your needs and condition.
If you want to belong to a cult that wears cute shirts about “Pukey the Clown” or “WOD KILLA”, and become better at Freeze Tag, Hide and Go Seek and the Monkey Bars? Then by all means, find a CrossFit Gym now. If you want to throw shit on the wall to see if it sticks, follow a workout with no progression, do technically challenging lifts in a state of exhaustion (that should be performed at peak energy levels with constant expert supervision), taught by novice coaches with one to two days of training in these lifts, no program (workout thrown together with no thought of periodization or progression), then CrossFit is just what you’ve been looking for. The workouts are designed with ONE purpose: to be challenging. However, understand a challenging workout doesn’t necessarily mean an effective one. There are many better alternatives for drastically changing your body and increasing your level of fitness.
If you want to obtain rapid results from someone who spent more than a weekend obtaining a Level 1 Certification for $1000, who has real life experience working with people from all walks of life and understand the differences in each person’s condition, injury and exercise history, then find a real fitness expert and stay out of the PE Class that is CrossFit… Yes, you’ll break a sweat. You may lose a little weight and make some friends. But in no way is it an optimal training program for body transformation or specific activity performance. As I did with the P90Xers, I’ll welcome all tactful responses and respond directly to each of them.
I took the time to put some of my own training videos in one spot, and the link is on the right side of the page: Walking The Walk: Boyd’s Training Videos.
This is just a collection of me “doing what I do”. I realize that many of my clients aren’t looking to become insanely strong or compete in a bodybuilding or figure competition. No worries – I train every client based on their goals and their capabilities – I’m not a one size fits all trainer, this is just me having a little fun while I workout!
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the vids – I’ll be updating it regularly (that 605lb bench press will soon be replaced by a 635lb bench press!)
Hey San Antonio,
Today is the end of the first week of my newest phase of training, as I focus on an 800lb dead lift (currently at 765) and adding 5-8% to my bench press one rep max (currently at 605) over the next 6-8 weeks.
I’m training with a pulled groin right now, so I decided to throw myself a curve ball – you see, I believe that dead lifts are meant to be done at a very low rep scheme for maximum gain from the exercise. Nonetheless, any exercise that recruits 3/4 of the body’s muscle fibers will do an absolute number on the cardiovascular system when performed in a high rep scheme with moderately heavy weight.
Here’s me with 405lbs for 19 reps. Yes, 19, I thought I was at 20, my workout partner told me 20, and then when I uploaded and recounted, it was only 19. Oh well, guess I slacked a little ;) Oh, and the music is an attempt at humor (haha):
As I mentioned, the pulled groin is excruciating on the eccentric and is limiting my stance as to how wide I can stand and how far I can drop, but it’s much better than it was a couple of weeks ago.
Step out of your comfort zone and test yourself at something different!
If you’ve worked out for any amount of time, male or female, whether you care or not, you have been asked one question: “So how much do you bench?”
On occasion, I’ll discuss my own training here on the blog. I’ve written extensively over the last few months about my goals of becoming the best raw bench presser in the world. From a training standpoint, this goal simply consumes me. However, I only bench one day per week and pay equal attention to other movements, such as my squat, stiff-leg dead lift and conventional dead lift (another lift that I am at a world class level at). Nonetheless, my sights are clearly set on the raw bench press record, which currently stands at 713lbs (Scot Mendelson).
My last phase of training focused on very high volume. In a given workout, I’d do anywhere from 9-15 sets of bench press, typically 1-3 reps. The goal was to be as strong as possible for each lift, so the rest period between sets was high. Depending on what needed extra work, each bench day also consisted of accessory work, which is designed to focus on areas that needed improvement so that the entire movement could gradually improve. Week after week, the training load (weight) increased, as did how much work I did. This is simply how you force yourself to become stronger.
After 8-10 solid weeks of progressively lifting heavier and heavier, I focused on two weeks of recovery, or “deloading” as I often refer to it. Now that the deload is over, it’s time to start again.
During my last training phase, I focused on training the squat, dead and bench pretty evenly. For now, the bench will become the primary with the dead lift the secondary focus. The squat, which is key to overall physical development, is going to be the third of the three lift focus.
At the end of the last training phase, my one rep maximum numbers were as follows:
Bench Press: 605lbs
Dead Lift: 765lbs
Here is an example, rough outline of my bench press training for the next 5-6 weeks, using the 1RM of 605lbs:
Week 1: 60-65% x 5 reps x 5 sets.
Week 2: 70-75% x 4-5 reps x 5-6 sets
Week 3: 80-85% x 3-4 reps x 5-6 sets
Week 4: 85-90% x 2-3 reps x 6 sets
Week 5: 95-100% x 1 rep x 5-6 sets
Week 6: 100-105% x 1 rep by 4-5 sets
Week 7: Max out
In addition, I will also be using other variations of the bench press (dumbbell, decline, floor presses, etc). Each workout, as mentioned above, will also consist of accessory work for the muscles that help support the pectorals (delt and tricep work).
The repetition is the most important training variable (assuming that weight is relative to the number of reps you perform). If someone says do sets of 8 reps, that means 7-9 are ALL that you can do, period. You should not be doing 8 rep sets with weight you can do 15 reps with. You should not do 12 rep sets with a weight you can do 20 reps with, and you should not do 3 rep sets with a weight that you could do 10 reps with (get my point?) – your body will adapt to rep scheme quicker than ANY other variable, so train for the stimulus (1-2 weeks) and then alter the rep scheme. It doesn’t have to be drastic, but train specifically – if you are training for all out strength, keep the reps relatively low.
For you looking to “lose weight” and “tone up” – don’t be afraid to delve into the 1-6 rep range. The shock it provides your body is an excellent way to stimulate muscle growth, increase metabolism, strength and appearance. Don’t worry, you are not going to magically become big and bulky overnight (((rapidly rolling my eyes))).
I mentioned my squat and dead lift focus as well. Another exercise (and it’s variations) that I focus on quite often is the row. Most people don’t understand the importance of having a strong (thick) back to be a great bench presser. I’m not a genetically great bench presser. Hell, even a few years ago, it was by far my worst of the major lifts. I recognized it as a weakness and using science and experience, turned it into a definite strength.
My squat and dead work, as mentioned, will remain relatively heavy. I think this is important for multiple reasons, mainly that the body learns to handle heavy weight at many different angles and adapts accordingly. I have no doubt that my dead lift and my squat ability contribute directly to not only my overall muscle development of muscles that may not be involved in those lifts, but also my ability to handle extremely heavy loads on the bench press.
Nonetheless, I’m looking at the first of March for me to blow past my current one rep max of 605lbs, with a goal of somewhere in the neighborhood of 635 (I’ll say 625-640 to be safe) before I switch focus for a few weeks to simply maintaining my 1RM on the bench and give squats and dead lift a higher priority (which will allow my bench muscles to recover and respond appropriately to their higher volume).
I will mention that on occasion, I will be doing accessory work on non-bench days as well, and may do some additional bench work on weeks when recovery feels high (more than likely on dead lifting days). But for the most part, I’ll be following my plan closely with little deviation (in fact, I knocked out week one on Tuesday afternoon).
Nonetheless, that’s a quick look into my own training goals right now – I’m motivated, healthy and driven to become the best! What’s your focus?