Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Every rep is your 1-rep max.

Every rep is your one rep max.

Think about that for a second.




When you are preparing to take a heavy weight you take it seriously. You dig in your heels. You pay attention to your grip, your posture, your tightness, your stance, your coach's cues. You get a little excited and scared at the same time. Your 1-rep maximum (or a new 1-rep max, which by definition you've never lifted before) is a heavy weight.

But if you want to make the most of it, treat your warmup reps the same way.

Benching 5 x 45 as your first set? Make it five good, hard reps. Punch the weight up fast. Grab the bar with authority. Dig your shoulders into the bench and tighten up like a drumhead. Push each rep up with gusto and determination and speed, and pull each rep back down like it's the heaviest weight you've done.

Conversely, treat your heavy sets like the empty bar. Don't fear it, it's just a little bit heavier version of what you've been doing the whole workout. Probably less reps, even. Grip it and dominate the weight. Tell yourself it's nothing you haven't done for rep after rep all workout - and you have.

Then go get it done.

The way to do this is to make every rep a 1-rep max. Don't just rip out a few lackadaisical warmup sets, or a few early work sets with not quite perfect form, or not as fast or strong as you could have.

When every rep is your one-rep max, your one-rep max just another rep.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Obesity and Caloric Calculator

The Lancet has published a series of PDFs on the subject of obesity here:


For my money, the best thing is the calorie calculator tool. Unlike the Precision Nutrition tool (which estimates safe weight loss), this one will give you the numbers needed for any goal no matter how ridiculous (although it might warn you it's ridiculous).

What's great is that you can estimate calories needed for weight, gain, too. If I want to put on 10 pounds in 30 days, I need to take in another 1200 kcals a day according to the calculator, over a maintenance level of 3800 kcals. Sweet! Costco, here I come!

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Back to posting

I have finally completed my offline challenge of moving and getting internet, so I will resume regular posting ASAP.

Thank you for your patience with my absence.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Jim Wendler on Good Mornings

Jim Wendler has an excellent post up on getting all you can out of the Good Morning:

Good Morning

This reminds me of another excellent article on this much-maligned exercise, Good Morning or Bad by the late J.V. Askem.

Before you do another set of GMs, read both articles. You won't regret it.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dan John on Training 2x a Week

You can gain on 2x a week - many of my clients do, and I do.

Dan John has a nice plan for it, too, with a few variations and a solid look at accessory work.

Two Times a Week for Twice the Gains

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Raw deadlift

750 with nothing but a belt, by Jason Nunn:

Nice lift, and nice form - the shaky legs tell you how heavy that is, but it's a pretty lift.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

905 Squat

Here is a nice motivator for your next squat day: Chad Smith squatting 905 pounds without a squat suit or much in the way of support gear - just knee wraps and a belt.

Nice and deep, too. No question about it being parallel or not, he's clearly below parallel.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

My Plate

The idea of taking eating advice from Uncle Sam instead of mom and pop has been on a few people's mind recently. Probably because of the recent revision of the "food pyramid" into the "food plate" graph.

The irony of learning how to eat from a government agency whose main job is to help the producers instead of the consumers is already pretty sharp.

Personally, I've done well doing the opposite of everything I learned to be healthy eating during the 80s and 90s. So the government recommendations always seem to be "advise from the dark side" or bizarro world advice to me. Apparently I am not the only one, as both a Cressey Performance intern and Precision Nutrition have taken a crack at how to eat. So has Jason Nunn:

Healthy Food Options: Why You Should Never Take Nutrition Advice From Your Government

Precision Nutrition MyPlate

Is a Calorie Really A Calorie?

I do believe in being informed, but I'm not a fan of perpetuating incorrect information by passing it along. Even "myth busting" tends to reinforce the myth through repetition. So I'm not even bothering to link to the official myplate, just to the "corrected" versions by people with a better track record for producing healthy clients.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Sore back after deadlifting

I get this question a lot, too, so it's nice to see Mike Robertson address it:

Back Soreness After Deadlifts

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Losing Weight

To make up for yesterday's NSFW weight gaining post, here is a W/FS post on breaking a weight loss plateau:

The Dreaded Plateau

The author is a figure competitor, and has a firm grasp on training and weight loss. It's a tactic that will work if you're stalled on a weight loss and you are already on a good diet. You can't jump start a "stalled" weight loss program that isn't actually a weight loss program, so if you are just eating normally and maintaining or gaining body fat . . . following her advice won't help. Get things rolling, stall out, and then try this advice.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gaining Weight

Over on the (extremely, thoroughly) NSFW blog Chaos & Pain, there are a pair of articles aimed at gaining weight.

For folks trying to lose weight, the very idea that it can be hard to gain weight sounds pretty crazy. Guys who can't gain weight? Lucky guys, right? Eat whatever they want and stay skinny?

That's only great if you want to stay skinny. It's actually a bit of a curse if you don't.

The human body craves homeostasis. Basically, it wants to remain as it is. You have to work hard in the gym to convince it to gain muscles, consistently eat right to either gain or lose weight, and put in the time for cardio work to gain heart and lung fitness. If you don't, or don't do it consistently, your body will not change.

For guys trying to gain weight, putting in that effort to change is key. And these two articles over on Chaos & Pain round up a few ways to put on weight. Some of them are flat-out crazy, but they all point in the direction you want to go - more reps of fork-to-mouth, consistently, and steadily. Eating like it's homework.

Part 1

Part 2

If you are trying to lose weight, the articles are still informative. If you daily diet looks more like these bulking plans than a lean protein + veggies + healthy mix of fats . . . you know what you need to fix!

Again, I'll reiterate the warning - there is an 18 & Up consent button to click for a reason on C&P. Expect gratuitous nudity and curse words all over the place. But the advice is smart and well supported.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

RKC Snatch Test

Last week, my strength coach had me do the RKC Snatch Test. It made for good conditioning, and since I was doing a full-body workout it was a good choice. You will - eventually - use every part of your body during the snatch test.

What is the RKC Snatch Test? It is one part of the certification process for the Russian Kettlebell Certification. For men, it generally involves the 24kg kettlebell (about 53 pounds). For women, the 16kg kettlebell (about 35 pounds), with a goal of 100 reps in 5 minutes.

How did I do? Not great; I got 81 reps in 5 minutes without putting the kettlebell down. I paced out 20 in 1 minute and 40 in 2 minutes, so had I been able to stay on pace I'd have just nailed 100 reps by the end. But I had to slow down after a while because I just couldn't keep it up. Yet. I still count this as a good result, because I'd never done 81 snatches with a 24kg kettlebell in one workout, nevermind in 5 minutes. I'd done around 70 or so in 5 minutes with the 16kg and 20kg a while back, so this was a marked improvement. It was also a good workout, although it left me quite sore the next day!

So how do you get more reps? The usual approach is the get stronger, get better, and get more conditioned.

Getting stronger would mean being able to snatch a heavier kettlebell than the 24, such as a 28kg (62 pounds) or 32kg (70 pounds). That makes a 24kg kettlebell a smaller percentage of your 1-rep maximum.

Getting better means getting more technique in the snatch, so it is less costly in terms of energy, and so each rep is faster. Better technique means you expend less energy on a smoother, faster rep and can transition from one hand to another with less difficulty.

Getting more conditioned means you have more energy to expend. Since conditioning is specific, this means more kettlebell snatches. Nicely, this feeds directly into "getting better", too, if you have a good coach to watch your form.

There are a few articles on the RKC snatch test. Two are of especial interest here:

How to Pass the Current RKC Snatch Test


Boris on the RKC Cert and doing a snatch test.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lots of Pullups

Just a reminder that Chad Waterbury put up an article about extremely high frequency pullup training over on T-Nation:

12064 pullups in 5 months

It sounds nuts, but since he's advocating doing them from rings, TRX straps, etc. - free swinging handles instead of fixed bars - I can see how that would limit elbow strain issues. But it's still a lot of pullups, so heed his advice if you choose to go for it and pull up like crazy.
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Short break!

Due to work and other administrative tasks, I'm taking a short posting break. See you guys later in August!

I will try to occasionally update if I find something very interesting to pass along. Tell a Friend

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tax Soda, Subsidize Vegetables

You may have seen this article by Mark Bittman about the (increasingly popular) idea of taxing unhealthy foods.

But if you don't live near New York City, you might have missed this radio interview, on the Leonard Lopate show:

Mark Bittman interview

It's an idea that's coming, no matter how you feel about it. I know I have my doubts - what government thinks is "healthy" and "unhealthy" often lags the nutritionists, who often lag the cutting edge. I'd hate to see "unhealthy" foods like butter, eggs (both saturated fat bombs), protein powder (processed!), or meat (more fat!) taxed. But if it's soda and sugary snacks . . . I have less of an issue. The people who overeat soda and sugary snacks tend to pass on their medical costs to me, so it's not a cost-free issue for society.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Even More Pullups

People love writing articles about pullups, and I love reading them.

Here is another new one over at T-Muscle (Usually NWFS)

I like the 1.5 rep pullups, and the nice mention of hands-free pullups (which might make a good progression or hand injury rehab variation).

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Free Stuff

If you aren't on the Elite FTS mailing list yet, you should join now.

Besides the usual deals, sales, and so on, they also give away the occasional e-book, like the one they are giving away right now.

Elite FTS Mailing List

It's not a spammy list, although you will get a notice for every sale. It's not a newsletter but the gems like this big ebook are worth the price of admission ("free.")

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