In the last post I spoke about High Intensity Interval Training for Strength Athletes and the benefits this way of training can have on the human body.

This week I want to go through a routine in which I highly recommend and a great finisher at the end of your workout. Try this at the end of your next workout and feel the burn:

Medicine Slam Balls – 15 – 30 seconds

Kettlebell Swings – 15 – 30 seconds

Rest – 15- 30 seconds

Perform 3 – 8 Sets depending on you fitness level.

Now to go through the coaching points of how to perform these exercises correctly in order to avoid injury:

How to do Ball Slams

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent and a non-bounce medicine ball held overhead.
  2. Throw the ball down to the ground in front of your feet with as much force as possible. Exhale during the movement and contract the abs powerully.
  3. If possible, catch the ball as it bounces from the floor. If there’s no bounce at all, keep the ab muscles engaged and pick the ball from the floor.
  4. Lift the medicine ball back the the starting position and repeat.

Notes:

  • It’s important that non-bounce medicine balls are used for ball slams else it’s likely you’ll end up with a broken nose! Dead balls are a popular choice as they’re rubber balls filled with sand and will deform when impacted, with minimal bounce.
  • Test how bouncy the ball is before starting the exercise!

How to do Kettlebell Swings

Place one kettlebell between your feet. Push back with your butt and bend your knees to get into the starting position. Make sure that your back isflat and look straight ahead. Swing the kettlebell between your legs forcefully. Quickly reverse the direction and drive though with your hipstaking the kettlebell straight out. Let the kettlebell swing back between your legs and repeat. Switch arms with each set.

Below I have posted a video from my youtube channel showing myself implementing the routine myself! So you can be assured it is tried and tested!

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become a familiar workout style. HIIT uses repeated high-intensity exercise bouts interspersed with brief recovery periods to improve endurance and efficiently activate fast-twitch muscle fibers. But what if you are a Strength Athlete or Powerlifter who avoids cardio because you’re afraid it will burn away all those hard-earned gains? Can HIIT work for you?

The short answer is, yes! In a 2017 study, men 25-70 years of age who performed 12 weeks of HIIT along with strength training experienced increases in VO2 max, insulin sensitivity, mitochondrial function, fat-free mass, and muscle strength. HIIT improved the oxidative capacity, or efficiency, of mitochondria regardless of age—as long as study participants did strength training and HIIT together. Participants who did strength training alone didn’t experience these benefits. [1]Image result for kettlebell swing

HIIT can help you with quick fat loss for a more shredded look. If you compete as a strongman or woman, you can use HIIT to train your fast-twitch muscle fibers to excel at atlas stone carries, yoke walks, and log cleans. Powerlifters can use it to beef up their initial pull for the deadlift.

You can make these improvements by using a variety of exercises while doing short HIIT workouts in the middle of or after your weightlifting program. All you need is your body weight, some space, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, some simple equipment.

Squats, burpees, lunges, sit-ups, and push-ups—and the dozens of variations of each—are essential parts of a HIIT workout. You can also incorporate sandbags, kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, and resistance bands.

A Typical HIIT Workout For Strength Trainers

A typical HIIT workout has 5-8 exercises performed for 30-60 seconds each, interspersed with 20-30 second rest periods. While bodyweight exercises are all you need to get an awesome interval workout, strength athletes may want to use weights in at least half the exercises in their HIIT workout. Lifters should also have 2-3 exercises that target the upper body during HIIT, which tends to go heavy on the legs.

Eddie Hall – 2017 Worlds Strongest Man explains how he uses the technique of 1 minute on and 1 minute off. He discussed how as a strength athlete you will never need to be fitter for more than 1 minute so any longer you are just wasting your energy.

One of my personal personal favourite is the rower. For this I normally incorporate a 15 second off and 15 second off method on the most resistant setting. This doesn’t sound hard but trust me a few minutes of this and you will feel it!

Overall I believe HIIT training is a great way of training that can be utilised in any strength / powerlifting programme either at the end of your workout or on your ‘rest’ days. It is a great way of burning extra fat without having to repetitive cardio for long periods of time!

References

1. Robinson, M. M., Dasari, S., Konopka, A. R., Johnson, M. L., Manjunatha, S., Esponda, R. R., … & Nair, K. S. (2017). Enhanced protein translation underlies improved metabolic and physical adaptations to different exercise training modes in young and old humans. Cell Metabolism, 25(3), 581-592.

Face Pulls are a great warm up exercise before a Bench Press workout or any upper body routine for that matter. You use a cable pulley machine to pull the weight toward straight toward your forehead. Exercising the rear delts will prevent muscular imbalance and build overall shoulder strength. This exercise isn’t hard to do as long as you pay attention to your form.

They are a great exercise for the rear delts, trapezious and upper back muscles. Robert Herbst, a 19 time World Champion Powerlifter and Personal Trainer once said “They help keep the shoulders squared and back so someone doesn’t get the pulled-forward look from doing too much chest and delt work. They also help build a thick upper back as a base to arch onto for a power bench press.”

Strong shoulders are critically important for everyday activities of lifting, pressing, pulling, and rotating your arms. The deltoids are the powerhouse muscle group of the shoulders—responsible for all overhead actions (putting items up on high shelves, lifting a child onto your shoulders, or even playing basketball).

Face Pull Instructions:

Facing a high pulley with a rope or dual handles attached, pull the weight directly towards your face, separating your hands as you do so. Keep your upper arms parallel to the ground.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you get the most from this exercise and prevent strain or injury.

Poor Form

The most common culprit when it comes to doing face pulls incorrectly is simply not understanding what you’re supposed to be working. This is a rear delt exercise, so you should feel it working the back side of your shoulders into your upper back between your shoulder blades. If you start pulling the attachment toward your chin or neck, if your elbows start pointing down instead of out, or if you fail to keep your palms facing in, chances are you’re going to feel it more in your biceps and back. If you do, double check your form. If the arms are not at right angles to the body, you are performing a pull-down rather than a face pull.
Too Much Weight
It’s also pretty common to overload select too much weight. The rear delts are a smaller muscle group, and if you’re not used to working them, you’re going to need to go lighter than you would with other shoulder exercises. If you find you’re using momentum to pull the attachment toward your body, or if you can’t control the weight as it returns to the stack, pulling your body forward, then you should probably reduce the amount of weight you’re trying to lift. To target the rear delts effectively, you need to make sure you’re not inadvertently recruiting additional muscle groups to take over to perform the exercise.
Modifications and Variations

If you have access to heavy-duty resistance bands, you can hang them over a high attachment point, like a pull-up bar, and mimic the movement using bands. This is good for those who are new to training the rear delts, but the bands might not provide enough resistance to challenge advanced exercisers.

If you don’t have access to a cable machine or resistance bands, you can do dumbbell exercises designed to target the rear delts, such as the rear delt dumbbell flys. It’s not a perfect replacement for face pulls, but it does target the same muscle groups.

Safety and Precautions

If you have any back or shoulder problems, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about whether this exercise is appropriate for you. If you feel any pain during the exercise, stop

In this article I will talk about the exercise instructions and benefits of a great exercise called the ‘Skater Squat’.

There are different ways of doing this exercise but I prefer to do it on a BOSU Ball.

BOSU BALL SKATER SQUAT INSTRUCTIONS:

1) Begin with a pad or BOSU ball placed directly behind you and your feet hip-width apart.

2) Transition your weight to your dominate leg and lift the opposite leg slightly off the floor. Keep your neck neutral and maintain a straight back. This will be your starting position.

3) Slowly descend by pushing your hips and butts backwards. Continue descending until the knee of your bent and raised leg lightly touches the pad or BOSU ball.

4) Upon contact, push through the heel of your stationary leg and return to the starting position. This is one repetition.

5) Repeat for the recommended number of repetitions and then switch legs.

BENEFITS OF THE SKATER SQUAT:

1) Creates knee and hip stability.

2) Trains a stable arch.

3) Quad and glute/hamstring development.

4) Develops single leg strength.

5) Teaches neutral spine.

6) Transfers to the landing position of a HOP or 1-2 Stick (essential drills for developing bulletproof knees).

7) Decreases the risk of ACL and other knee injuries by teaching the ankle/knee/hip to be strong and stable.

Below is a video demonstrating the the exercise. I implement this into my leg routine for good reason, single leg training is great for sorting out any imbalances and preventing injury. Researchers recommended an unstable surface, such as the BOSU ball for rehabilitation of lower back conditions. This no-load balance training improves the strength and conditioning of your lower back muscles, important in your ability to perform everyday movements. If everyone would add Skater Squats to their regimens, we would have a drastic decrease in ACL and other knee injuries.  Sprinting and jumping would also improve.

As a competitive powerlifter my weekly workouts consist of Squats/Bench/Deadlifts and Push Press. In this post I will take you through a Push Press session where I test out my brand new Bench Blokz!

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the Bench Blokz. My weakness is the lockout part of the Bench Press so this piece of kit is great for adding a bit more weight than you are used to. Although, as this was my first time using them I didn’t want to go any heavier than normal, just for safety reasons! I would recommend first time using just go as heavy as you normally would just to get a feel for it. Next session I will definitely go a bit heavier to test the waters! I wouldn’t use it as a main lift movement but certainly a great accessory for an upper body workout.

Push Press – 90.5kg x 4 Reps

How to:

1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and grip the bar with your fingertips, elbows pointing forward.
2. Rest the bar on the front of your shoulders.
3. Drop down into a shallow squat, centring your weight under the barbell.
4. Press up through your heels.
5. Drive the bar directly above your head until your arms are straight.
6. Lower the bar down to your chest.

Maintain a neutral arch in your spine throughout the move.

Bench Blokz Press – 120kg x 6 Reps

Benefits of using Bench Blokz:

By bringing the bar down to the Bench Blokz instead of all the way to your chest, you effectively shorten the distance the weight has to travel. This allows you to lift heavier loads since you don’t have to press the bar as far. You can also zero in on sticking points, which are the most difficult portions of the exercise. Using the Bench Blokz at various heights can also allow to train through injuries effectively and when attempting to rehab an injury.

Fitness Instructor Stourbridge & Birmingham

The Bench Press is one of the most important upper-body exercises to have in your gym routine. Not only is it crucial for upper-body muscular development, but it’s an exceptional strength builder. Many people think the bench press is just a chest exercise, but done correctly you also use your triceps, shoulders, back, and even your glutes. It’s a complex movement that can cause injury if done with bad technique.

If you’ve been doing the bench press without being too concerned about how you’re doing it, it might be time for you to take a step back and focus on improving your technique.

Layne Norton, PhD gives a great description on how to perform the bench press, not only effectively but also safely:

How To Bench Press – The Complete Guide

Set Your Feet

Although your foot placement isn’t as crucial on the bench as it is for the deadlift or squat, it’s still important. Your feet are the start of a strong base and are where you’ll draw your power from.

Try to keep your feet back toward your butt as far as you can while still keeping them flat on the ground. Depending on your height and body type, this is going to look a little different for everyone. The point, though, is to plant your feet firmly so you can generate power from the ground through your entire body.

Position Yourself Under The Bar

Like your foot placement, your back position is going to look unique to you based on your build and mechanics. Essentially, though, you should set up far enough under the bar that it’s easy to unrack, but not so far under it that you hit the pegs on the way up. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to stay tight and protect your shoulders. Imagine trying to crush a grape between your shoulder blades, and push your upper back into the bench.

Arch Your Back

This is a little bit of a controversial topic, especially among bodybuilders. Many bodybuilders think that arching your back is just a powerlifting move, but arching your lower back will actually help you maintain a neutral spine and keep your back tight and protected as you press.

If you’re not into powerlifting, your back arch doesn’t need to be that exaggerated. However, always keep a slight arch in your lower back. If you’re a powerlifter, arch your back as much as you can to minimize the distance the bar has to travel.

Set Your Grip

Grab the bar tightly and with authority. Grip the heck out of it! Hold the bar as far down your palm as possible. If the bar is too high in your hand, or even in your fingers, your wrist will bend backward. A straight wrist provides optimal force.

Your grip width will depend on your body type and goals. People with longer arms will need to grip wider, as will those who are looking to push maximum weight, such as in competitive powerlifting. Those with shorter arms will need a narrower grip, and if you’re lifting primarily in hypertrophy rep ranges, this may be a better position for the majority of your lifting.

However, I don’t like exaggerated grips in either direction. Most people will grip around the barbell rings or just inside them. I don’t recommend a false grip because it can be dangerous. Wrap your thumb.

Brace And Unrack

Take in a deep breath, unrack the bar, then let the breath out. Don’t waste energy lifting the bar off the rack, especially if it’s loaded with a lot of weight. If you don’t have a partner to help you, drive your back into the bench so hard the bar just pops off.

Breathe In And Lower The Bar

Before you move the bar downward, take another deep breath. Hold that breath and use it to brace your abdominal wall. As you do this, think about bending the bar into a U-shape with your hands. Bending the bar will allow you to tuck your elbows naturally to engage your lats and protect your shoulders.

Hold your breath until you get past the concentric sticking point of your press, then breathe out forcefully as you push.

Touch Your Chest

Where you touch the bar on your body will depend on how long your arms are and where you grip the bar. Whatever the case, your forearms should be at 90 degrees from the ground in this bottom position. If it’s more or less, you may lose force.

If you have long arms and a narrow grip, you’ll touch farther down on your body. If you have short arms and a wide grip, the bar will touch higher on your chest. Most people will hit anywhere between their top ab and their nipple line. Wherever the bar hits you, try to hit the same spot every rep.

Push With Leg Drive

Once the bar has made contact with your torso, initiate the upward movement by tightening your glutes and driving your legs into the ground. No, that’s not cheating. Using leg drive will allow you to stay tight and bench more weight.

Remember, breathe out forcefully through the sticking point. As you press up, think about throwing the bar back. The bar should move in a slight arch or “reverse J” pattern.

Where Most Bench Presses Go Wrong

As you can see, the bench is actually more complex than most people initially think. The most common problem I see is people bouncing the bar off their chests. This is problematic not only because it puts a lot of pressure on the sternum, but also because it’s impossible to keep your body tight if you’re bouncing the bar. Besides, if you’re bouncing the weight off your chest, how can you say you actually lifted it?

Most people don’t breathe or brace properly, either, so make that a priority—both when you unrack, and before you lower the bar. You’ll be amazed by how much more weight you’ll be able to move if you brace your abs with a big breath.

I also see many people flaring their elbows because they believe it will lead to more pec-muscle recruitment. Even if it does, flaring your elbows is not worth the danger. Flared elbows mean your lats aren’t engaged and you’re benching inefficiently.

It’s also common to see people roll their shoulders forward at the top of the movement, unlocking their shoulder blades as they push up, and moving their feet. Anything that veers away from a tight body and pinched shoulder blades leads to weak, dangerous lifts. Keep stable and stay tight.

Bench Press Equipment

Although you don’t really need anything other than your own body in order to do a bench press, there are specific pieces of equipment you can use to make your bench press safer and more effective.

Tools generally come into play when you’re getting into competitive lifting. The more competitive you are, the more the equipment matters. If you’re just starting out, don’t worry about the gear too much, just focus on perfecting your form.

Wrist Wraps

The most important pieces of equipment I use on the bench press are my wrist wraps. To move the most weight, you need to create the maximum amount of force. In order to do that, you need to keep your wrists vertical. Wrist wraps can help keep your wrists in a straight line, so I always recommend them.

Your wrap should completely cover the wrist joint, so it should be long enough to wrap a little bit above and below the wrist. I prefer a wrap that’s 18-24 inches so I can get enough revolutions to wrap above and below my wrist. However, you can get wraps anywhere from 12-36 inches. Tightness is a point of preference. In general, though, wrap as tight as you can without causing pain or numbness. This will give some support to your wrists under a heavy load.

Footwear

Your feet are your base. They connect your body to the ground, so what you put on them matters—yes, even when benching! Generally, footwear comes down to personal preference, but it’s helpful to have something on your feet that will help you grip the floor when you press.

I like to use weightlifting shoes because they have an elevated heel, which makes me feel like my feet connect to the ground better. They also have a really grippy bottom to keep my feet from sliding. Other people, though, prefer to use shoes with very flat soles, like wrestling shoes or Chuck Taylors. Whatever your pick, try to keep your footwear consistent every time you bench.

Chalk

I like to put chalk on my shoulders and upper back—wherever my back comes into contact with the bench—to prevent me from sliding up on the bench itself and help me create a more stable base.

Chalk isn’t a bench necessity by any means, but if you’re going heavy and you happen to have a partner, have him or her put some on your upper back. You may actually notice a difference in your numbers and stability.

Go Forth And Bench!

Now you have the tools to bench safely and effectively. The bench press is a skill, just like the squat or any other major lift. The more you practice your bench press, the better you’ll be at it. Start light and work up in weight as you begin to understand the movement and feel more comfortable doing it.

Below I have put a video link to Dr Layne Norton’s Complete Guide to Bench Pressing so you can hear from the strong and smart man himself.