How to: Rack Lockouts

Everyone has something they can work on when it comes to the deadlift.  For me, it’s the lockout portion of the lift.  A way I remedy and train this weakness is by performing an exercise known as “rack lockouts”.  Assuming you know how to breath properly and your form is on point, I’ll explain how I would recommend you perform this exercise.  For you science nerds, I apologize for not breaking down every muscle that is activated in this exercise and how the temperature of the room can possibly hinder training results in the long-term.  I write for the person that doesn’t have time to read 4 page long blog posts; the person that just wants to get it done!

Alright, enough with the nerd bashing.  Here’s how you “lock it out”:

  1. Place a loaded bar on the safety bars of a power rackor any other kind of rack, around knee level. The bar may actually sit above or below the knee. I use an old school squat rack and stand on a wooden platform to bring my knees up to bar level.  My gym is not a part of the modern age, so I work with what I got.
  2. Take in a deep breath, tighten everything, and pull. The movement is very quick, so don’t expect too much excitement.  This method will, however, allow you to load the bar up with a good amount of weight, due to the fact you’re only doing half the movement.  I don’t know of anybody that doesn’t load the lockout with more weight than they can comfortably pull off the floor.  This is one of the reasons it is such a great supplemental exercise.  It primes your CNS for heavier loads down the road and allows you to strengthen the lockout portion of your deadlift with such loads.
  3. Do low reps with heavy weight.  I only recommend low reps with heavy weight due to the universal fact that this approach builds strength.  You can do higher reps, but I feel higher reps are better for muscle building and hypertrophy.  If I was going for reps, I would just do a full range deadlift.  I typically work up to a heavy single or a weight I can do for 3 sets of 3 reps.  Choose your own poison.

Simple enough, huh?  YouTube is flooded with videos on how to perform this exercise; if this wasn’t simple enough for you.

DISCLAIMER:  Please check with your doctor before taking on an exercise, or related exercises, like the one presented.  Also, find a good personal trainer to train your technique if you want to be 100% on it.  

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Deadlift / Squat / Bench Day

Here’s a video of how training went, this morning.  Hit some moderate deads and squats, while busting some training PRs on bench.  Gonna start peak training in two weeks.  Big day on October 17th!

MBM Mid-Week review

DAY 2 – Deadlifts & Squats

This is the second week of my training partner and I using our modified Bulgarian Method (MBM) routine.  Though we squatted heavy on Day 1, on Day 2 we worked up to two sets of 405 lbs. for singles.  It’s nice to see my deadlift getting stronger, considering I have been squatting as heavy as possible on a daily basis!

Next, we moved on to low bar squats with an emphasis on volume.

Exercise: Weight x Sets x Reps

Low bar squats:

  • 135 x 7 x 1
  • 225 x 4 x 1
  • 315 x 3 x 1 @9 RPE

Lastly, we hit the bench press for a few sets.  Just like the squat, we have been performing the bench press daily and reaping amazing results.  I worked up to 265 x 3 x 1 @ 8.5 RPE and called it a day!


Day 3 – Front Squats & Upper Body

I decided to start the day with a variation of the squat that I don’t do enough of: the front squat.  I normally don’t so these for the simple fact that it hurts my right shoulder.  I resolved my issue, this very morning, by placing the bar in between my shoulders and biceps.  This way, the bar isn’t sitting directly on my shoulders or choking me to sleep.  I performed 5 sets of 5 reps with 135 lbs., after warming up really good.

After hitting front squats, we assaulted our upper extremities.  Starting with our shoulders, we chose two exercises to super-set for 4 sets of 10 – 12 reps.  We chose overhead presses as the beginning exercise.  Then, we hit back; performing the same sets and reps.  Lastly, we hit 2 sets of curls and skull-crushers for 10 – 12 reps.  Worked some bodybuilding movements in for some added volume and to get the blood moving around.  Finished off the day with some light squats in the curl rack.  Your move, squat rack curlers!


Day 4 – Squats, Upper Body, & Calves

My energy levels were thrown off due to a TDAP vaccination I received yesterday afternoon.  I am not very fond of vaccines, but had to get this one for my job.  I felt achy and low on energy, but still attempted to get some work in. My shoulder was absolutely killing me from the injection, too! I performed the following, after my usual warm-up:

Exercise: Weight x Sets x Reps

Low bar squats:

  • Bar x 10 x 1
  • 135 x 7 x 1
  • 225 x 4 x 1
  • 315 x 2 x 1

Incline BB bench press:

  • 135 x 10 x 1
  • 155 x 10 x 3

After these two exercises, I hit a few bodybuilding type movements for back, shoulders, arms, and calves.  Lately, I have been quad super-setting a few movements after hitting my main lifts.  It gets me moving in different directions, builds muscle, and makes me happy.  Honestly, I do this to be happy.  Building muscle, strength, and looking fit are all just positive side effects.


I still have one more day of squats and bench left, so be on the lookout for another update.  I will leave you with a picture of one of my heroes, Bruce Lee, because I can and I want to.  Have a good day!

Week 2 / Day 1 of Modified Bulgarian Method

Since starting a program designed around the Bulgarian Method, my training partner and I have been experiencing some serious gains in the strength area.  Also, we are putting on some decent mass.  This is all happening in a very short amount of time (about three weeks, so far).  I believe our success is due to the increased frequency and the usage of autoregulation.  More on our method, later.  I may even write an eBook, depending on how successful we are in the end (if there is one).

I will, however, go over this morning’s gym experience.  Just like every day, last week, we began with squats and moved on to bench.  Here was the flow of things, after performing our usual squat warm-up:

Exercise:

  • weight x reps x sets

BB squats (low bar):

  • Bar x 10 x 1
  • 135 x 7 x 1
  • 225 x 4 x 1
  • 275 x 3 x 1
  • 315 x 3 x 1
  • 365 x 1 x 1 @ 10 RPE (Grinder!)

Flat BB bench press:

  • Bar x 10 x 1
  • 135 x 7 x 1
  • 225 x 4 x 1
  • 275 x 2 x 1@ 8 RPE (Rep PR!)

SUPER-SET

Close grip bench press:

  • 135 x 10 – 12 x 4

BB row:

  • 135 x 6 – 8 x 4

Note:  Throwing in a super-set of accessory movements, at the end of the workout, has really been helping us build muscle.  I highly recommend trying this.  We don’t go for overload, just getting some blood into the muscles and getting a great pump.


This workout confirmed that my training partner and I are on to something.  Never have I gotten such great results in both strength and body composition, simultaneously.  I will continue to update you with workouts so that maybe you can join in on the success!

My Training Approach

As a competing powerlifter, strength is my main goal.  As a wannabe Frank Zane, I like to look good in the mirror.  The common thought is that you can’t have the best of both worlds, but I beg to differ.  Since drastically overhauling my training scheme, about two years ago, I have added slabs of muscle and am stronger than I have ever been in my entire life.  I must mention that I am 33 years old, also.  This isn’t being written by a young, twenty-something year old personal trainer.  I picked up my first weight in 1994; long before most of those other guys/gals were even born.  With that now being public knowledge, I claim to know a thing or two about building muscle. Up to two years ago,  I spent most of my time doing isolation exercises and wasn’t incorporating enough of the main lifts (squats, bench, deadlifts) in my routine.  Once I added these monster movements to my routine, I started seeing some amazing things happen to me physically and mentally.


It all starts with the squat

For years, my leg days consisted of leg press, hack squats, leg extensions, and leg curls.  That’s all I did for over a decade, I bet.  Though I was working my legs pretty good, in this fashion, my lower back had grown very weak.  It wasn’t until I started having multiple muscle spasms in my lower back that I discovered my core was weak, too.  this was a tough pill to swallow because I have always sported a nice set of abs.  I finally had to accept that a nice set of abs doesn’t necessarily translate into a strong core or lower back.  Not to mention, I honestly only hit legs once a week!  I was one of those poor souls was under the impression that I could follow a “one body part, once a week” program and grow.  Was I ever so wrong.  We live and learn, right?  It was after discovering the squat that my legs began to slowly grow like baby oak trees.  I started seeing muscles in areas I didn’t know had muscle.  This started two years ago, when I was 31 years old.  I can’t imagine how huge and strong my legs would be had I started squatting in my teens.  See, when you look at someone with great leg development, it’s hard to fully appreciate that type of musculature.  You have to feel it on your own body, after earning it, to truly appreciate it.  I discovered the low bar back squat as a result of watching some YouTube videos.  I saw people of all shapes and sizes squatting this intense amount of weight on their backs and loving it.  I saw people who had strength comparable to a superhero and thought to myself, “that’s it”.  That was going to be my goal from there on out; get as strong as possible starting with the legs.  Before too long, I was performing basic 5 x 5 routines and simply practicing the movement.  I’d squat with just the bar, for most of my earlier workouts, and then add just enough weight to make 5 sets of 5 reps a good workout.  Right after squats, I performed the next movement I saw others on YouTube lifting with superhuman ability: the deadlift.

 The mightiest lift

My lower back was severely weak when I first began deadlifitng.  The fact that I was incorporating squats for the first time, too, made it an all out assault on my sciatic nerves.  Within the first year of deadlifting, I had three different episodes in which my lower back muscles would tighten up so bad, around my sciatic nerve, that I would be paralyzed for at least a week.  I could do something as simple as lifting up a stick in the back yard and my lower back would seize up; absolutely paralyzing me.  It would take either rest or an ER visit to fix things.  I know what you’re thinking.  Yes, I did keep lifting after all of this.  The only reason I continued was due to the fact that my my doctor said my spine was perfect, but my lower back was weak.  See, I needed to deadlift to strengthen those muscles.  Too be honest, I never hurt my self unless I was over doing it.  As with the squat, the deadlift workouts started with mainly just the bar and then a 5 x 5 scheme.  Never did I know that, less than two years later, I would lift 500 lbs. off the floor like it wasn’t a problem.

My most challenging lift

See, the squat is more difficult than it looks; there is so much technique involved.  The deadlift is pretty straight forward with it’s two variations.  For me, the bench is just as much of a technical lift as the squat is.  There is so much to it and it is, naturally, my weakest lift.  Everyone has that one lift, unless one is truly gifted, that just seems to lag behind.  My chest musculature is exactly how I want it, though.  I can’t tell you how many videos I watched about proper bench form;  learning about how much different the bodybuilding bench press form was different from the powerlifting form. Then, I taught myself how to program the two together in order to grow stronger while simultaneously growing muscle.  The bench has been my longest battle, so far, but I love giving it all I got.  The smallest increases in this lift feel better than my biggest increases on the others.  Except for that 500 lb. deadlift.  That felt really good.

I got so strong at all three of these lifts that I started competing in local powerlifting meets.  My numbers aren’t much to write home about, and that’s a fact I love.  I’m still so young in my powerlifting days that I have plenty of time to grow stronger and have fun while doing so.  Besides, my only competition is me.


Currently, I squat everyday; 5 days in a row.  I also bench everyday; 5 days in a row.  I hit a light to moderately intense deadlift workout twice a week.  Amongst these behemoths, I sprinkle accessory work and bodybuilding movements in for that inner bodybuilder.  I do absolutely no cardio, due to the fact that all of my workouts are so intense.  If I want abs for the beach, I just carb cycle for a few weeks.  I don’t like to get too cut up because it makes me weak.  I do, however, want to look good with my shirt off.  This is where I simply tweak the diet to match my goals for the season.  I never truly bulk, but do fluctuate in the 10 to 12% body fat range.  I’m not a huge guy, either, and was once a hard gainer.  I’m happy with what God has blessed me with and plan to do every last thing in my power to hang on to it.  Just slinging around over 300 lbs. every morning is part of it!

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Subscribe to my blog and you’ll see daily, or weekly, reviews on each of my workouts.  They get interesting, sometimes.

Quick Tips for Easy Weight Loss

If I’m not being asked for tips on how to build muscle, I’m being asked for tips on how to lose weight.  People think way too deep into this topic and don’t realize that the path is so easy FOR SOMEONE WHO TRULY WANTS TO LOSE WEIGHT.  Honestly, the key to fat loss is all about having a proper diet and cutting back on caloric intake.  Yes, you need to get active too; but in the early stages of beginning a healthy lifestyle, most people can get by on diet alone.  Follow these tips and you’ll see your body melt fat off of your body within weeks.  I’ve seen people healthfully lose up to 40+ lbs. by following the below tips (in no particular order). These are all things I’ve done, along with multiple others, and reaped great rewards in losing unwanted fat.  Some experts may disagree, but I let the results do the talking.


 Cut out the sodas

People love sodas, and I simply don’t understand why.  They leave you feeling full of gas from all of the carbonation and sluggish after all of the sugar suffocates your blood vessels.  Cut out sodas and you’ll almost guarantee fat loss.  You’ll begin to actually taste the food you eat, also, since you aren’t washing it down with a sugary beverage!

new-york-soft-drink-sugar-demo_1


Drink water

Drink it like your life depends on it.  God put water on Earth to fuel everything positive in the life cycles of many things and beings.  This fact is exactly why it aids in fat loss.  As a natural appetite suppressant, it ensures that you are truly hungry when you feel you need to fuel up (eat).  Make sure you drink it cold, too.  Cold water motivates your body to burn calories, more than room temp water,  because it uses more calories to warm up the cold water.  Didn’t know you could burn more calories by simply drinking water, huh?

Drink_Water


Cut back on bread intake

Bread can make you fat due to the fast acting carbohydrates that are rapidly converted into glucose, before hitting your bloodstream, and then deposited in your swollen fat cells for energy usage.  Unfortunately, you’re eating so many carbs everyday that your body never gets the chance to use up the majority of them.  Bread is a huge contributor to carb intake and something to truly consider cutting back on when aiming to burn more fat.  Get your carbs from more healthy sources and you’ll start noticing a difference in the way you look and feel.

A toasted slice of white bread with a skull and bones symbol isolated on a white background.


Cut out as much sugar as possible

If you have sweet tooth, pull it.  I’m joking.  Seriously, though, cut back on the sugar intake.  You can still treat yourself, every once in a while; but try to completely eliminate it all together.  Just think of the nasty belly fat it’s going to put on you if you eat it.  It’s all a mind thing, I promise.  Also, if you haven’t caught on by now, sugar is not a friend of fat loss.

sugar-skull-bad-health_fe


This ends my list of things you can immediately cut out of your diet to begin the process of burning unwanted body fat within weeks.  Along with eating the right types of foods and an living an active lifestyle, you’ll begin seeing an amazing body reveal itself as that unwanted body fat simply melts away.  You’ll begin feeling better, mentally, too.  Of course more goes into losing fat for the long haul, but following these tips will get you by for a great while.  Good luck!

 

 

4 Days of Gains

This week has been pretty crazy; dealing with a flooded house and a wrecked vehicle.  Concerning training, all was steady in the gains department.  I wrote about Monday, but the rest of the week has been a mystery to you all.  Well, here’s what really happened:

Tuesday – Upper Body

Tuesday was cool.  Strength on the bench is increasing and we annihilated shoulders with heavy shrugs.  Had to make it snappy, due to an early morning dentist appointment.

Exercise: weight x reps x sets

Warm-up (15 min)

Flat bench press:

  • Bar x 20 x 1
  • 135 x 7 x 1
  • 225 x 3 x 1
  • 225 x 2 x 1
  • 245 x 3 x 1 @9 RPE

Note:  This is the hardest movement for me to grow strong in.  I can do push-ups for days, but not bench heavy.

Flat bench db flye:

  • 20 x 12 x 1
  • 25 x 12 – 16 x 2

Super-set


Shrugs:

  • 90 x 12 x 1
  • 225 x 10 x 2
  • 135 x 20 x 1

Note: This is the only Smith Machine exercise I’ll do.

Dips:

  • Bodyweight x 12-15 x 4

 Wednesday – Squats and Deads

With my legs still sore from Monday, I performed the following:

Warm-up (20 min)

Deadlifts:

  • 135 x 6 x 1 – Conventional
  • 225 x 4 x 1 – Conventional
  • 315 x 3 x 1 – Conventional
  • 315 x 3 x 1 – Sumo
  • 385 x 1 x 1 @ 8 RPE – Sumo
  • 405 x 0 x 0 – SUMO FAIL!!

Note:  Never underestimate how important it is to rest at least three days, after performing squats, when you plan to deadlift.  This proved to me that you are not as strong when you have not had the proper rest.  Hitting sub-max weights, next week.  Tested limits, this week.

Low bar squats:

  • Bar x 10 x 1
  • 135 x 10 x 1
  • 225 x 5 x 1
  • 275 x 3 x 1
  • 315 x 3 x 1 @ 9 RPE
  • 225 x 1 x 1

Note:  My legs and back were so shot after performing that lest set of 315 that I could barely do 225 for 1 rep!

Thursday – Upper Body, Again

Warm-up (15 min)

Flat bench press:

  • 135 x 10 x 1
  • 185 x 5 x 1
  • 225 x 3 x 1
  • 245 x 3 x 1
  • 265 x 1 x 1 @ 10 RPE

Barbell row:

  • 95 x 10 x 5

Incline cable flye:

  • 35 x 12 x 2
  • 40 x 10 x 2

Seated Hammer Strength dip machine:

  • 180 (each side) x 10 – 12 x 4

Hammer Strength shrugs:

  • 90 (each side) x 10 x 1
  • 135 (each side) x 8 x 2
  • 180 (each side) x 8 x 1

Friday – Squats and Deads

Low bar squats:

  • Bar x 10 x 1
  • 135 x 7 – 8 x 2
  • 225 x 4 x 1
  • 275 x 5 x 1
  • 315 x 3 x 1 @ 10 RPE!

Note: Lower back and legs clearly too smoked to squat heavy for a third day in a week.  I like this because it means that I have much room to grow when it comes to frequency, IMO.

 Deficit deadlifts:

  • 135 x 7 x 1
  • 185 x 6 x 1
  • 225 x 5 x 1
  • 275 x 3 x 1 @ 8.5 RPE

Note:  Once again, back toasted after doing heavier squats for a third time this week.  Lowering the amount of days I squat heavy, next week, should resolve this.  Maybe only hitting a deadlift movement once per week  will help, too.

Super-Duper-Set


Preacher curl:

  • 40 x AMRAP x 4

Note:  This is performed on two separate machines: one with a close grip and one with a wide grip.  Do AMRAP on both machines, back to back, before moving on to tricep push-downs.

Tricep push-down:

  • 50 x AMRAP x 4

Lying leg curl:

  • 30 x AMRAP x 4

Close grip push-ups:

  • Bodyweight (??) x AMRAP x 4

This concludes a week of what I like to call gains.  I learned a bit, too.  I need to squat lighter, versus heavier, on more days of the week.  I also need to not go all out on deadlifts, unless feeling awesome, due to the fatigue factors I’m working with.  We’ll see how next week goes.  Gonna squat 5 days, next week!!