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Tips of the week front squat challenge

Tipps der Woche Frontkniebeugen Herausforderung

If you can do that, then you are officially hardcore. If not, then just trying will make you hardcore. Give it a try!

The trainer Dan John has a "fun" challenge where you perform 50 classic squats with your bodyweight on your back in one set. However, I tend to favor front squats - especially if you're pushing yourself to your limits - because keeping the weight in front of your body will help you keep your form under control. Having the bar at the back of your neck will allow you to force one nasty repetition after another, but with front squats you're more likely to drop the bar if your form drops and you bend too far forward.

To adapt the front squat challenge above, your goal is to perform 50 front squats in 4 minutes. You can split these 50 reps into as many sets as you like and time your rest intervals yourself. The clock starts ticking when you remove the weight from the rack and the time ends when you put the bar back down after 50 repetitions.

The four-minute front squat challenge

Start with a weight that you can do 25 to 30 reps at a time (i.e. very light), with the ultimate goal being to complete 50 reps with your bodyweight on the bar.

The key is to work on your gait so that you don't run out of strength too soon. I originally set this as a 5 minute challenge and gradually worked my way down to 4 minutes - so it might be wise for you to do the same.

Women, stop obsessing about your diet and eat for more muscle

Constant dieting ruins your metabolism. Eat and train for more muscle to get and stay lean.

By Dani Shugart


Always dieting, always flabby

Some women seem to be always on a diet - which is odd, since those same women always seem to be a little overweight. After going on six diets in 2 years, shouldn't a woman be slim?

Here's the problem: Most women who continually make fat loss a priority don't realize that they would become more efficient at burning fat if they simply had more muscle. Eating to weigh less will make women skinnier, which means they have to eat less to stay that skinny. Muscle is broken down, metabolism becomes sluggish, calories have to be cut further and further, and the downward spiral eventually spirals out of control. Soon these women will claim that diets don't work.

Unless they are dangerously overweight, most women would be better off trading their scrawny body goals and fat loss game for muscle growth and permanent slimness. Continuously chasing fat loss in an unproductive way will cause their muscles to shrink more than these women realize. If they made hypertrophy a higher priority than fat loss, fat loss would eventually happen - slowly at first, but continuously and in a healthy way.

Sure, most fat loss strategies work at first - but then the body adapts, plateaus and regresses, and muscle is broken down. This is bad news - especially in the midst of a lot of strenuous exercise, because muscle loss will lead to a scrawny, yet flabby appearance and a compromised metabolism. The best way is for women not to adopt any of the classic fat loss strategies, but to make their bodies more efficient at burning fat. If they then need to diet, only a small and temporary adjustment will be needed to get them back on track. Women who are constantly dieting are either doing something wrong or are emaciated.

The solution

How can women reach a state where dieting is not necessary? By building more muscle with the help of weight training and eating like they want more muscle on their bodies. This doesn't mean eating junk - it means fueling the body with energy for workouts so they can work harder, pump nutrients into the muscles and feel the muscles working. Then when they get to the gym, they have to actually try to build muscle. How? By moving weights that are heavy enough to challenge them and by striving for the positive pain and muscle tension that is an indication that real work has been done.

This is very different from simply going through the motions with pink lady dumbbells. This type of training requires focus and a real desire to build something. It's true that it's harder to build muscle and lose body fat at the same time, but what a woman can do is build muscle so that her body eventually gets better at burning fat even when she's not necessarily trying to.

Correct your dumbbell rowing to build more muscle

Don't pull the dumbbells straight up. Instead, use a J-shaped pulling motion

By Lee Boyce


Pulling the dumbbells straight up when rowing with one arm is a mistake. Instead, pull with a more sweeping "J" motion where the dumbbell starts the movement slightly in front of your shoulder.

The one-arm dumbbell row, performed with one knee and one hand resting on a bench, is a commonly misused exercise that is misunderstood as an upper back exercise for shoulder retractor training. However, it is important to remember that the fibers of the shoulder blade retractors (like the rhomboid muscle) run more on a horizontal plane. Using a neutral grip to pull a dumbbell straight up from the floor to a horizontal body does not allow these muscles to work efficiently.

To really challenge the latissimus, you should use a slightly backward pulling motion that starts just before the shoulders and ends closer to the mid-torso.

Grip the bar firmly during the bench press

Not only will gripping the bar tightly make your grip more secure, but it will also help you use more weight.

By Travis Pollen


Gripping the bar as tightly as possible on the bench press works thanks to increased rotator cuff activation, better wrist positioning and increased aggression.

  1. Gripping the bar tightly sends a signal to the rotator cuff to contract via a process called irradiation. This gives the shoulder joint more stability, which is never a bad thing when you're moving a heavy weight across your chest.
  2. A firm grip on the bar also helps to generate a more positive wrist position. A neutral wrist can grip the bar much more effectively than a hyperextended wrist.
  3. An additional benefit of a firm grip could also be reduced anxiety and increased aggression. Often a trigger stimulus is enough to divert your attention to something more important. For example, you might be nervous about trying a heavy weight. Focusing on gripping the bar as tightly as possible can direct your attention away from this fear. It's a bit like squeezing a tennis ball when you have to endure an uncomfortable medical procedure without anesthesia.

Use stair climbing with extra weights as a conditioning workout

This is one of the best conditioning exercises you can do...if you have the guts.

By Rob King


You rarely see anyone climbing stairs with weights anymore. The main reason for this is probably because this type of training is so damn hard. I used this type of training to prepare for the Fire Fighter Combat Challenge (the hardest 2 minutes in the world of sports), but it's great for basically any type of conditioning workout.

The execution is very simple. Grab some dumbbells and run up the stairs as fast as you can. When you reach the top, turn around and run back down. Pause if necessary and repeat until your heart explodes in your chest, your lungs collapse or your legs give out - whichever comes first.

It's simple, yes, but is it easy? Don't kid yourself, you'll be done after 5 to 10 minutes.

Perform barbell curls with the Jettison technique

All you need is a barbell, a rubber band and the ability to tolerate pain.

By Brian McFadden


How to perform Jettison Curls

  1. Grab an elastic band for this torturous descending set. Place your feet on the band and keep the top of the band parallel to the barbell.
  2. Perform 10 to 12 repetitions of barbell curls with the bar and band together.
  3. Release the band without pausing and perform another 8 to 10 repetitions of barbell curls.
  4. Without pausing, put the barbell down and grab the top end of the rubber band, which is still firmly anchored under your feet, and perform as many more curls as you can.

Bands for biceps?

Do resistance bands have their place in arm training? Yes. Moving the weight without bands does not change the tension and load during the movement, which means that you lose maximum stimulation at different points of the movement due to the lever arm. If you also use bands, you can challenge your biceps at every point of the repetition.

In addition to this, the eccentric or lowering phase becomes more strenuous as the added tension of the bands pulls the weight down. This can provide an enormous growth stimulus for your biceps.

Learn Zercher squats

Yes, they're painful, but they'll also strengthen your entire body from your quadriceps to your upper back

By Christian Thibaudeau


The Zercher squat, where you hold the bar in the bends of your elbows in front of your body, can build your quadriceps better than front squats. It can stimulate your trapezius better than shoulder raises. It can give you a steel core better than most ab exercises. It can even help you get bigger biceps.

5 benefits of Zercher squats

1. gains in the upper back and increases in front squats

The Zercher position increases the involvement of the entire upper back: trapezius, rhomboids and posterior shoulder muscles. In this respect, Zercher squats can help strengthen the back for exercises such as front squats and deadlifts. If your weakness in front squats is that you lose support in your upper back during the upward movement - your upper back rounds and the bar falls forward - then Zercher squats will help you.

2. a harder contraction of the core

Zercher squats can work your core harder than regular squats. If your weak point in squats is your core, then Zercher squats will be an excellent exercise for you.

3. increased gluteus and quadriceps work

The Zercher squat is the squat variation that allows you to go down the deepest - yes, even deeper than front squats. This makes Zercher squats a good exercise for building quadriceps and gluteus. However, they are also a very solid assistance exercise to increase lower body strength in squats.

4. helpful for exercisers with longer limbs

Because you can go lower with Zercher squats, this exercise is particularly effective for exercisers with longer limbs.

5. biceps action

This exercise requires an intense isometric action of the biceps to hold the bar in place. Although this exercise is not primarily a biceps exercise, it will help to make your biceps bigger and stronger, which will be especially the case when performing higher repetitions.

Build a strong gluteus with mechanical descending sets

If this doesn't build a great athletic butt, nothing will.

By Ben Bruno


Mechanical descending sets allow you to progress to a lighter exercise or a lighter variation of the same exercise to add to your training set - a great way to build stubborn muscle. The key is to use exercises that work well together and require little or no change to the set-up so that you can move from one exercise to the next with minimal disruption.

There are many different ways to use mechanical descending sets. One is to start with a unilateral (one-legged/one-armed) exercise and then perform that exercise bilaterally (with both arms/legs). Here is a great example for the gluteus.

Mechanical descending sets for the gluteus

Since you are stronger in a bilateral exercise, a good rule of thumb is to perform twice as many repetitions in the bilateral exercise as in the unilateral exercise. For example, for the gluteus, perform five single-leg hip thrusts per side, directly followed by 10 bilateral hip thrusts.

Perform these three exercises or stay weak

Deadlifts, overhead presses and the farmer's walk are the most important exercises

By Dan John


If being strong is important to you, then you need to train these three basic movement patterns:

  1. Picking heavy things up off the floor
  2. Push heavy things up over your head
  3. Carrying heavy things over time or distance

If strength is your goal and you're not doing these things, then good luck. Yes, deadlifts, overhead presses and farmer's walks are that important. And yes, pull-ups and squats are good too, but if you can't pull twice your bodyweight up from the floor, press your bodyweight up overhead, and carry your bodyweight 100 meters, then you should work on those strength standards first and then all other goals will be more attainable.


By Ben Bruno

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