Blog

“Whats wrong if I never feel chest flys whenever I do them? I only feel them in my shoulders?”  I got this question yesterday on Twitter, and its a very common one  “I do XYZ exercise, and I dont feel it in XYZ bodypart, whats wrong?”  The most likely answer? That exercise does not work for you.  There a maxim in training  “adapt exercises to people, not people to exercises”. Not every movement that exists is always going to be effective. Exercises are based upon PATTERNS of movement, and while there are universal patterns of movement, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all exercise Some of the most common exercises that are very overrated  1. Chest flys-chest flys are often not felt at all in the pecs, and for good reason: they biomechanically do NOT stretch the pecs much for many people, it depends on your sternum+ribcage+shoulder structure whether they will work for you or not. Flys are not mandatory at all for chest development  2. Upright row-Tends to tear up the shoulders of many people, especially when done with a narrow grip. Use a moderate grip if you do them 3. Barbell Bench press-hugely stressful on the rotator cuff, and benching too often always leads to injury. Barbell bench press should be rotated and is not mandatory for chest development.  4. Barbell Back Squats-Again, body structure and anthropometrics. Not everyone is built to squat with a bar on their back, there are many many many other squats variations besides back squats you can do.  5. Barbell deadlifts from the floor-Hip extension is hugely important, but the deadlift is a mediocre musclebuilder, and pulling from the floor is an arbitrary height. The people that love deadlifts are good at them, but not everyone is going to get the same benefit from the barbell. Many variations exist 6. Barbell Bent Over Rows-Most people do not have the body structure to move weight and not experience excessive low back stress. A good exercise, but once loading gets to certain point, it taps out 7. the Olympic lifts-very very very few people have the body dimensions to ever be good at olympic lifts. In many cases they will simply be injurious to the knees, hips, spine, and shoulders in the long term.  8. Burpees-Can be great to get heart rate up, but also get sloppy fast, can be a lot of impact on the wrists, and are rarely done properly with good technique

 

I’ve gotten this question a lot over the course of my career, and while I’ve written about it before, it’s worth talking about again. I know a lot you readers are females, or you have wives/girlfriends/daughters. So hopefully this is informative for all The question is one that has become unfortunately “hot” due to social justice politics. One one hand, female empowerment is very much a social force. On the other, there is an incoherent denialism of biological gender difference that does both sexes a great disservice. Trying to talk about training differences can be a weirdly tense subject, That said, this is my email list, so I don’t have to bullshit anyone.  To frame this question of “training differently”, you have to ask the simple question of “are there biological differences between men and women”.  Obviously YES. There are distinct differences that inform the training process. To be clear though, the difference is not in the exercises. There is no such thing as man exercises and women exercises. Asking if women should train like men is misguidance, it’s based on a flawed premise. Women should train like homo sapiens.  The differences arise in the physiological considerations, and how this impacts exercising in the first place. It’s a complex topic in this regard. 

Kirsten Dunst played Mary Jane WAY back in 2002, When the “original” Spider-Man with Toby Macguire came out,  I was watching it last night, and while I am normally excellent at suspending disbelief when watching Superhero films, there was was one scene that was fucking ridiculous The Green Goblin blows apart the suspension rig of a Trolley Car, and in mid-air, on a hoverboard, he somehow GRABS the cable of the car, and starts towing it up,  Aside from the abomination of physics with the hoverboard, I can buy into that. He’s super soldier enhanced, wearing an Exosuit, whatever I’ll go with it And then, Spiderman attempts to rescue Mary Jane and the suspension trolley car full of kids, and he then grabs the trolley.  He’s Spiderman, he’s got the strength of a Spider, whatever, I’ll go with it BUT then Mary Jane, who is holding on to Spiderman, she loses her grip, falls like 100 feet AND GRABS THE EDGE OF THE TROLLEY CAR I swear I’m not mad. I’m just an asshole when it comes to watching movies sometimes.  “Its a movie Alexander”  I know, but the grip thing just drives me crazy. She should have been bulldozed when she hit the trolley car, probably knocked unconscious if not killed outright, and then fallen into the water Ironically, it would have been more realistic her surviving a 200ft fall to the water below. Seriously.  Anyways, this affrontation led me to start writing an article on Grip strength, specifically for improving your deadlift. But it applies to anyone, even people that don’t deadlift Never Drop A Deadlift, 7 Grip Exercises I’ve talked a lot about grip in the past. Its major factor of health: it predicts mortality, cardiovascular health, and functionality in aging, even lean body mass.  Grip is important, every client I’ve ever had, I’ve done “gripwork” with them. This gripwork is NOT complicated however. While there are programs designed especially for grip, it’s something that can in fact be easily incorporated into any training program. I include it every week in the Daily Workouts for people.  These are 7 Ways I program grip training with clients 1. Heavy DB Carries-Simple and direct. Grab a pair of Heavy DBs as you can hold, walk with them as far as you can. I favor time over specific distance with these. 3 sets of about 45 seconds seems to be the sweet spot  3 sets x 45 seconds 2. Direct Bicep and Forearm work-So simple no one thinks to do it. Your grip strength is going to be heavily influenced by how strong your arms are. Most pro bodybuilders have surprisingly strong grips, without ever prioritizing grip in training, and I would attribute much of this to their arms being exceptionally developed (among other muscles of course). Arm work can be done in one workout, or broken up over the week 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps of Pronated, neutral, and supinated girl curls. You could do just one variation, or do all of them 3. Fat Grip Rows, Curls, and Chins-These are quite simple, you just attach Fat Gripz (rubberized grip that make the handle extra thick), to whatever the implement is, and then you do the movement. This can be incredibly humbling when you first do it, but over time your grip strengthens immensely. Also excellent for arm hypertrophy obviously, and cheap as well. I recommend Fat Gripz constantly to people.  4. Kroc Rows-Something of a classic exercise now, a Kroc Row is simply a heavy 1-arm DB row, done for max reps. My favorite way to do them for both grip strength and hypertrophy 1 set with Fat Gripz for max reps 1 set without straps for max reps, normal handle 1 set with straps for max reps 3 working sets total  Your back and grip will be DONE after this.  5. Weighted Chinups and Pullups-No doubt this may be too advanced for some people, but for the clients Ive had perform weighted chins and pullups, they also experience a noticeable increase in grip strength. This is done without straps of course. Sets and Reps can vary, anywhere from 2-6 sets, and 5-10 reps a set  6. DB Shrugs-No straps on these either. You can do these as Meadow shrugs, with a 3 second peak contraction at the top, or a bit faster, with not so long a peak contraction. Shrugs in the 15-20 rep range build grip endurance immensely, simply from having to hold on to weight for a long period of time 7. 10 second Deadlift eccentrics-These can tear you up, despite how short they are. Eccentric Deadlifts are a movement I got from my buddy Martin Licis, a Pro Strongman who placed top 10 in the most recent Worlds Strongest Man, and he is only 25 years old. These are simple to setup. You load up the bar with whichever weight you have missed with, you grip it with your competition stance and grip, and then you slowly lower the bar in 10 seconds. Martins rarely does more than 3 reps like this and he’ll use 110% for the load, which means he has to unload the bar, rerack, and then reload it again. 

Do you have weak feet? Most people do, and they go their whole lives never realizing how their lack of foot strength is negatively affecting all of their movement.

Have you ever been somewhere, and the sheer volume of noise makes you want to murder everyone that’s talking? Maybe, maybe not. Such was my own experience this past weekend. I was celebrating my girlfriends birthday with her and her family, and we went to a club in the downtown area. This place was LOUD. Not just club loud, but rather shake the drinks on the counter loud. You could hear NOTHING. And to add to the volume, the place played a different song in different rooms of the club. This created an utter cacophony from the 8th circle of hell, as if you got caught standing between two rooms, you had entirely different songs blasting you in the eardrums. Now, my girlfriend, her hearing is not that great. She loves loud music, clubs, and her family is “loud” in general. Myself, I have hypersensitive hearing, especially for certain frequencies. Subsequently, this put me into a very very bad mood. After about 20 minutes, I was DONE. I had a massive headache, could not think straight, and had to outside for 15 minutes away from the crowds to decompress and let the headache subside. I needed QUIET. My girlfriend was surprised by all of this, and asked me how I go to clubs. My answer, I DON’T. If a place is way too loud, I leave. So while I’ve gone out many times, Im always selective, and I never put myself anywhere that’s auditorily aggravating. I never thought much of this nor even told another person until this weekend. Quiet is underrated in modern society. We all live in an information abundant society and we idealize the ability to be hyperconnected, wired in, and “aware” of what is going on 24/7. Digital information in the brain has the same effect as physical clutter in the environment, it crowds us, mentally surrounds us, and slows us down. The irony being, we can access “information” so fast, that we are deluded into believing we think faster because of it; we don’t. The overload creates options fatigue, and indecisiveness. It makes it harder to focus. On a mental level, this is stressful. And on a practical level, it makes it damned hard to make decisions, even simple ones. Something as mundane as doing a “DB chest press” becomes 15 different decisions before you’ve even chosen to do anything. Compound that with trying to “eat healthily”, or trying to decide who’s supporting you and who is not, or what to prioritize at work or what to prioritize with kids or what to do for a career, So on and so forth, and life is a series of decisions that we fight and battle to make. Most of the modern world in fact is essentially a streamlining of decision making. All the technology we have to make things go faster, all the professions that exist to learn specialized pockets of information, and do the work for you. The world is more and more specialized, new experts arise and innovations happen daily. How do YOU make sense of all of it? If you’re self aware, you likely research and try to find people who can “make sense” of information. If you’re not aware, or if you exasperated, you might simply avoid making decisions at all. This is common. So long as the world gets more and more complicated, and it will, you will NEED to always be making sense of change.

The following article is by Mike Mahler. I have referred to it so many times over the years that I asked his permission to use his content and share it on my site.