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Tips of the week Try out hollow-body holds

Tipps der Woche Probiere Hollow-Body Holds aus

Hollow body holds are a fantastic abdominal exercise. Never heard of this exercise? Gymnasts perform them regularly as part of their training program, as they mimic the position of the pelvis and lumbar spine that they regularly require in some of their competitions. What's great about this exercise is that they train strength and endurance in the posterior tilt of the pelvis.

Hollow body holds are performed as follows:

  1. Lie on your back with your arms and legs in the air and your knees bent. The lumbar spine should lie flat on the floor so that there is no space between your lower back and the floor. The upper body is slightly bent upwards towards the center of the body, but you are not actively trying to do this - it is a result of the lumbar spine lying flat on the floor.
  2. Gradually lower your arms and feet towards the floor while maintaining the position of your pelvis and lumbar spine.
  3. Hold this position for a while and press your lower back to the floor for the entire duration of the set.

Perform 2 sets of 20 seconds at least once a week.

Tip: Train one-arm bench presses with isometric holds

Adding isometric holds to this classic exercise will give your pecs a workout and boost your core strength.

By Ben Bruno


Single-arm variations of the bench press are typically performed in one of two ways:

  1. You use only one dumbbell and perform all reps for one side before switching sides.
  2. You take two dumbbells and perform the reps in alternating order: right, left, right, left, etc.

Although both versions work, if you want to give your chest muscles the rest, you should try the following challenging variation:

One-arm bench press with isometric hold

Use two dumbbells and press with one arm while holding the other at a 90 degree angle. Repeat the same with the other side in one continuous set.

The non-pressing arm should be bent at about 90 degrees so that the dumbbell is slightly above the chest, forcing the pecs on that side to contract hard the whole time. I prefer a neutral grip.

When should you perform this exercise

Perform this exercise after you have done the other press exercises of the day: 1 to 2 sets of 5 to 8 repetitions per side. Lower reps tend to work better as it would otherwise be necessary to drop the weight to ridiculously low levels, which studies have shown can have devastating effects on the ego.

As an added bonus, the core is substantially challenged to keep the body stable.

Tip: Are you natural? Then train more often

Here's why steroid-free exercisers need to train at a higher frequency to achieve optimal gains

By Christian Thibaudeau


Many people believe that training more often is the key to muscle growth. Well, they are usually wrong.

The logic behind less frequent training (three or fewer workouts per week) is that the muscle grows while it recovers. Advocates of lower training frequency claim that only users of performance-enhancing substances can train often and recover from it. They say that steroid-free exercisers need a lot of rest days to grow as a result of their efforts.

Here's why this is wrong

First of all, physical activity and more training can speed up the recovery process through a release of cytokines. Exercising more often will likely make it easier for you to recover from exercise, as long as the intensity and volume are properly adjusted.

Secondly, the more often you push your body to perform and recover from your training sessions, the better your body will become at recovering from them. Your body is designed to adapt, which means that the more often you put it through a certain type of exertion, the better it will become at dealing with the demands you place on it. So if you train less often, you prevent your body from being able to recover effectively from your training.

The training frequency describes how often you train per week. By a low training frequency, I don't mean that you train every muscle at a low frequency (once a week). You could train every day and only train each muscle group once a week. This would be a high training frequency.

Exercise has a systemic effect on the nervous system, the hormonal system and the immune system. Not to mention that there is always overlap in training. For example, the latissimus is involved as a supporting muscle in the bench press, deadlift and squat. So even if you don't train your back, your latissimus can still be involved in training.

But what if it leads to better recovery?

Let's say that a lot of rest days per week actually helped you recover. The benefit of a lower training frequency would be that it allows you to do more physical work on the days you train. For this reason, a low training frequency with a high training volume on training days can actually work quite well for some people. Get ready for every training session, but allow yourself enough time for recovery.

A low training volume combined with a low training frequency will not challenge your body's recovery abilities, which will result in low or no positive adaptations (muscle growth, strength gains). There would also be no need for 4 to 5 recovery days per week. Even the lower end of the genetic food chain can recover quite quickly from a low volume of work.

If you are someone who doesn't do well with volume, then you should use a lower daily training volume. However, the weekly training frequency will need to be higher if you want to maximize results while helping your body become better at recovering from physical stimulation.

A low training frequency combined with a low training volume would only be the best solution for those who work physically. The demands of a physical job mean that you don't have as much energy left over for training. But the physical aspect of the job will also initiate the cytokine response that helps with muscle recovery and since these people are physically working every day, they will reap the benefits of a high training frequency in terms of the ability to recover from physical labor.

Ironically, those who make good gains with a low training frequency/low training volume are the people who are genetically predisposed to build muscle quickly because they don't need much stimulation to grow.

Tip: Strengthen your ankles and your feet

This strange-looking exercise can help you avoid injury

By Joel Seedman, PhD


Poor innervation of the feet and ankles minimizes signaling and recruitment through the kinetic chain, especially to the hip. If you have weak feet and ankles, you will find it even harder to activate your gluteus.

To avoid this, you should often walk barefoot, wear minimalist shoes and perform the following exercise:

Single Leg Kettlebell Swaps


For this exercise, take a kettlebell in one hand, stand upright on one leg and place the other leg in front of the standing leg. Then take the kettlebell alternately in your left and right hand while keeping your balance on one leg.

One-legged exercises of this type are excellent for improving strength and function.

Tip: Test your lower body strength

Choose either squats or deadlifts and do this test.

By Jim Wendler


Test either squats or deadlifts. Since some people are better built for pulling exercises or squats, this gives the athlete more leeway. I also have no problem with an athlete choosing deadlifts with the trap bar. I know that every powerlifting purist will now cry "heresy!" regarding the trap bar, but I think I can safely say that powerlifters don't have to make the choices for other athletes.

The test can consist of a maximum weight for one repetition (1RM) determined using an online calculator from the maximum weight for up to 10 repetitions. (No, such a calculator will not give you the estimated 1RM weight with a high degree of accuracy. It is merely a tool that can help you estimate your performance). But using the 1RM exclusively as the only way to test an athlete's strength is quite pointless.

And let's be honest, is it really interesting to anyone whether an athlete performs a single repetition with 250 kilos or five repetitions with 210 kilos?

To convert your maximum weight for a certain number of repetitions into the estimated 1RM weight, you can use the following simple formula:

Moved weight x reps x 0.0333 + moved weight = estimated 1RM weight.

  • 2.5 times body weight: excellent
  • 2 times bodyweight: good
  • Less than 2x bodyweight: work harder

Tip: Avoid these mistakes with lat pull-ups and chin-ups

Some people actually believe that these technique mistakes represent the correct form of exercise execution, but they're wrong

By Joel Seedman, PhD


Mistake: pulling too far

Both beginners and experienced exercisers try to pull the bar too far down or pull themselves too far up during vertical pulling exercises such as lat pulldowns or pull-ups. Instead of trying to touch the chest with the bar or move the chin over the bar (both of which lead to dysfunctional mechanics), the goal should be to achieve proper activation of the upper back and latissimus. This requires several components:

  1. Ensure adequate extension of the cervical spine. This is particularly important in the contracted position. This helps to center the glenohumeral joint. Insufficient extension of the cervical spine promotes a very unstable shoulder joint and allows for excessive range of motion, as well as incorrect mechanics of exercise execution. This is the main reason why many exercisers touch their chest with the bar when doing pull-ups or lat pull-downs. This is in no way a sign of good mobility or strength, but rather indicates faulty activation patterns and a dysfunctional movement.
  2. Pull to the sternum. Another important cue that promotes ideal vertical pulling mechanics is to pull toward the sternum and not the clavicle. Pulling toward the collarbone minimizes latissimus activation because the shoulders and shoulder blades cannot be fully pulled down and rotate medially toward the spine. Pulling towards the sternum not only brings the shoulders into the best biomechanical position, but also requires a large amount of activation of the latissimus, regardless of weight. One tip that can be helpful is to imagine pulling the body away from the bar instead of towards the bar.
  3. The elbows should be pointing straight ahead. Rotating the elbows forward is another critical mistake when performing pull-ups and lat pull-downs. Regardless of the grip (underhand grip, overhand grip or neutral grip) or the placement of the hands (wide, medium or narrow), the elbows should always point straight ahead instead of to the side. This helps to activate the entire latissimus muscle instead of just the upper part. It also ensures that you are not pulling with the upper trapezius and shoulders.
  4. The bar should not touch your chest. If you follow these tips, the range of motion for pull-ups or lat pull-downs will be more compact than most exercisers would expect. In fact, using proper vertical pulling mechanics with the bar, the concentric phase ends a few centimeters above chest height instead of with the chest touching the bar.

Tip: Discover the best calf exercise

It looks weird, but it works

By Chad Waterbury


Of all the muscle-building challenges I've faced over the years, my calves have proven to be the toughest opponent. I've tried a dozen different calf training philosophies to get these beasts to grow. Eleven of these twelve have proved unsuccessful.

Since the calves receive continuous stimulation from walking throughout the day, I came up with the idea that an opposite approach might work. First, I performed calf raises at high intensity until muscle failure. That didn't work.

Then I started working with different tempo protocols, holding the stretched position for a few seconds to break the stretch-shortening cycle. I kept the training frequency at twice a week. That didn't work either.

So I increased the frequency. But I was persistent and thought it would still be a good idea to break the stretch-shortening cycle. I assumed that the elastic component of the calf muscles would interfere with muscle growth. Again, I was wrong.

Let's look at real-life evidence

I observed the best calf development in sprinters, volleyball players and soccer players. None of these athletes performed calf raises with a pause at the lowest point of the movement. In fact, their training emphasized the extension-shortening cycle. And none of these athletes trained their calves only once a week.

When I looked at the muscle actions their sport required, I realized that one important component I had overlooked was deceleration. This includes slowing down after a sprint, landing after a jump, or quickly changing directions with a soccer ball.

For this reason, I incorporated calf exercises into my training program that train this extension-shortening cycle and emphasize the eccentric phase of muscle contraction. When I combined these types of calf exercises with a relatively high training frequency per week, I had found my solution. Here is the most convenient way to perform this type of exercise:

It involves simply jumping upwards on one leg, holding a dumbbell in your hand on the side of the active leg. If nothing has worked for your lagging calves, this will give you the results you've been looking for.


By Bret Contreras

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