I always like meeting other lifters because we have something in common. No, it isn’t the act of lifting; it is an unsaid goal that we all have. We want to be better than we were yesterday. In fact we hate ourselves in our current state. This is a good hate. The kind that rises up through your heels and engulfs the body. It gives us the strength to lift that indifferent hunk of iron off the ground. It staves off the mediocrity that surrounds us day to day. Remember this when you start your week tomorrow. Run with the Lions, not the gazelles.
I’d rather be dead than average.
It sounds morbid, I know. Trust me, it isn’t a call for help or anything like that. The simple fact of the matter is that I can relate to this. I believe this quote is from Mike Bell, featured in the documentary Bigger Stronger Faster. Somebody else might have said it but that’s where I remember it from.
From time to time, I find myself wondering why we do what we do. Why does ‘average’ represent everything that so many of us don’t want to be? I’ve done average, I’ve done below average and frankly, being a nobody is pretty shit.
When I was 19 years old, I decided to make it happen. I decided to stop being who I had always been up until that point, a nobody. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not foolish enough to think that I’m famous or even terribly popular, but I’ll be damned if I’m still average, and that’s a start.
I went from having no passion, no drive, no ambitions and a very limited perception of a future, to having an exact goal, passion that would astound, the drive to work on it every damn day, the qualifications to get me there and achievements mounting up along the way.
I’m not sure if I can say that what I am doing is right, or will even work, but for once in my life I’m doing something and I’m proud of it. So why dead over average? Seems dramatic and bordering on naive, but here me out. Average to me isn’t what it might be to you. Average to me represents who I was, the mental state, the loneliness and knowing what that did to me, yeah I would choose to never be that/do that again.
I’d like to think that the experiences of depression and mental breakdown leave me in a mind set that will never again allow me to be ‘average’. I would hope that who I am now is incapable of functioning without a goal or some form of ambition. So this is me, literally living for a dream, it may not be normal nor accepted, but it’s me, and I’ll die before I give that up.
Aspire to Inspire.
WARNING – This post is solely discussing lifting/gym/fitness – If you don’t like it, leave now – You were warned.
Pick it up, put it down – The essentials of powerlifting, sadly it’s not all that simple, or least when trying to be better than average. Starting out simple, my lifts are a 175kg Squat, 120kg Bench and a 234kg Deadlift all at under 75kg (Junior). Where it gets a bit more complicated is – A) Getting here, B) Moving forward.
I’ve ran only one program designed by somebody else, everything else i’ve done is off the back of my own designs. For me, all the conventional programs lack the same thing, volume. I’m the crazy bastard that doesn’t want to leave the gym, that’ll train 6days a week for at least 2 hours, i’ll squat, deadlift and many variations of both all in one session.
A sample session for me will be:
Deadlift 4by5. 3. 2. 2
Paused Squat 3by3
Deficit Deadlift 2by8
Bent over row 4by8-10
Underhand pulldown 3by12
Neutral grip pulldown 3by15
Leg Extensions 3by12-15
Bicep curls 2by15
You see my point, the squats alone can take up to an hour. So my issue now is how do I progress. I hit the intensity, I hit the volume, the frequency, so what’s left?
Sadly this all means a refresh of training methods, going back to basics, a 3 day split and build back up, giving me a chance to work with new variables. An idea that freaks me out because that means 4 rest days in a week! Not my style.
Regardless, I’m a little stuck in this and with ambitious goals in mind (Squat 210, Bench 140, Deadlift 250) I have little choice in the matter. If anyone reading has experience at this, please do get in touch! Any advice is always welcomed.
Getting to where I am has only really taken 18 months, but quite honestly hitting somewhat of a plateau recently after some serious progression.
My approach is rather .. blunt? You see there are periodisation approaches, phases, speed work, rep work, RPE scales, percentage based work, conjugate methods, cube training and all the bloody rest. My approach? Go in, lift heavier. I don’t care if that’s your assistance lift, your 8 rep max, your bent over row or the close grip bench you neglect, just go in there and beat SOMETHING.
Okay yes this has it’s issues, for instance if you want to be a bit of a bitch and say ‘I can’t beat a PR each session’ then fine you’re right, but mostly because you have a shit attitude. Realistically there is always something to beat, take the bench as a foundation, there is paused/close/banded/chains/pin/touch/floor press/incline/spotto/axle bar/slingshot and go and then very rep arrangement of those too! Let’s be honest, your excuse is invalid.
This will get you a damn long way for quite some time. But! Then you hit the wall I have, where things get technical, and if you are anything like me, you don’t want to just do any old method, time is valuable. So now I’m reading anything and everything hoping to get this right! So again, advice is welcomed!
Anyway, if I figure it out for me, I’ll be sure to update you! Though I still take on clients for programming,as it seems to be easier helping others than myself (I’m a difficult one).
Aspire to Inspire.
If you’re reading this article, I’ll bet I know a few things about you.
First, you probably have two overriding goals when it comes to weight training – you wanna be big, and you wanna be strong. And by “big,” what I mean is that you want to look the part – muscular and lean.
Second, I’m betting that you feel torn between these two goals. In other words, on one shoulder you have – “Screw what you look like, all that matters is what you can do!”
And of course on your other shoulder, another voice is telling you, “No one knows what you can lift, all they know is what you look like.”
I know these things about you because, well, we’re all chasing those goals, and we all feel conflicted about pursuing two objectives simultaneously, trust me I am one of them.
Although there are exceptions, most bodybuilders admire the amazing strength of powerlifters, strongmen, and weightlifters, and most strength athletes want a physique that reflects their capabilities.
I’ve been torn this way since my early days of training. Granted I started focusing only on aesthetics. I wanted those damn abs. With a bit of time I came across for lifting heavy (in retrospect to my weight). Sure there is ego in there, but its an incredible feeling ripping heavy shit from the floor.
IT IS POSSIBLE TO HAVE BOTH.
So far I would say i’m pretty strong (220 deadlift today, squat 150 and bench 110) from pure determination with no coach or professional traing, just my own work. As for aesthetics, well i’ve worked for them too and compared to day 1? Shit I look like a god (by comparison).
I love to able to set an example, even if it has been done. But my beginnings, my methods, achievements and current abilities, maybe I can make my point – No matter what, you can do everything you want, anything you want, you just have to work for it.
Aspire to inspire.
I think this is an important question for anyone chasing something. The answer can direct you, motivate you and inspire you. So what’s the question?
What’s your why? – Simply means – Why do you do what you do?
That is, assuming you do something specific, or are pursuing something or importance to you.
So what do I do?
A big question with simple answers. I train, for anything and everything, I pursue my dream of inspiring others, becoming as educated as possible in my field as work and having a platform to reach others (a gym, practice and becoming somewhat known).
So for me, the WHY for training seems a little bit more simple, to inspire – doing all this is what it takes. But of course there is more. Why do I want to inspire?
That’s a little harder. The idea of being called inspirational started back when I was in need of a person like that myself. In my darker days all I wanted was that hand up, a person standing the other side of it all who would be there for me, understand, have the experience and be where I wanted to be so I knew it was possible. I never found what I needed and so I found my own way, slowly and rather painfully. However through my struggle I made a promise to myself. If (and considering how dark things got, I do mean ‘if’) I made it through it all, I would find a way to be there for anyone who was in or would be in a same place as I had been.
Now this wasn’t be saying, ‘I’LL BE A POWERLIFTING, RUNNING BODYBUILDER…THING’. Yeah that was just the road i’ve fallen down. But no matter who I become I stand by that promise. I love that its a sacrifice to commit my life in part to other. Why? Because as far as I’m concerned it’s the greatest thing I could do.
That’s my why, it’s why I will surrender friendships, embrace suffering and accept the opinions without that hand holding me up.
The point here is what is YOURS? Is your reason going to be enough to keep you going? There is immense commitment needed to pursue our dreams that we never realise before starting and you will turn back to that ‘why’ time and time again (trust me on that). Your ‘why’ MUST withstand time, doubts, failure and fear.
Aspire to inspire.
NO IT’S NOT FITNESS. Just so you don’t close it right away. Anyway, moving forwards.
If you came to a 7 foot wall, what would your first thought be? A way around it I’m sure. But that isn’t an option. So option two, you look for a hand up. Nobody there. At least for now. So lets assume by some miracle, gruelling effort and personal strength you make it over the wall after god knows how long, what’s next? Most people say if you are good at something never do it for free. Well in some circumstance that would be true, but to me, if you are good at something, you have an obligation to help others with that experience.
Getting over that wall is my experience, therefore I believe I have an obligation to others to help get them over it.
NO IT IS NOT AN ACTUAL WALL.
We all face obstacles in life, some more extreme than others, higher walls as it were. So sometimes we need a leg up, or at least somebody behind us if we fall.
I came across my own obstacles which I am unafraid to share, plenty of them in fact. If you are reading this you are either one of my subscribers (so much love to all of you) or you are one of my Facebook friends (assuming I had the balls to share this, so be kind). It’ll be very easy to laugh me off and frankly that is fine by me, I am not here for approval.
I am here as that leg up, or just a voice to guide or an ear to vent. Everything I went through I wished I had that hand up, it was one of two times in my life I prayed. Sadly I never got it. Without that I found my own way over the wall and I promised myself no matter what, if I came across the chance to help anyone else in any situation I would take it.
So whatever you are coming across, no matter how well you know me, all I am saying is:
I am here.
Aspire to Inspire.
Me and my journey – @c_j_barney
My Apparel – @pbmapparel
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Of the many physique goals in the wide world of fitness, getting a set of shredded abs is definitely one of the most difficult. After all, a defined, chiseled midsection doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere. To achieve it, you need a rock-solid game plan.
By following training and nutrition tips, and implementing abdominal work into your usual routine, you’ll be well on your way.
TIP 1 EAT SMART
Nutrition is the most important piece of the abs-gettin’ puzzle. Although you can train your abdominal muscles so they’re thicker and stronger, they won’t be visible unless your body fat is low enough. If you want abs you need to pay extra-special attention to the food you put into your body.
Your body needs a certain amount of protein, fats, and carbs, so monitor these very closely. It’s important that you play around with your own nutritional approach to see what works best for you. Remember that everyone will respond differently to any given diet protocol, so learning what helps you lean down is essential.
TIP 2 DO COMPOUND MOVEMENTS.
A compound lift like a heavy squat puts a lot of stress on your abs. Think about it: If your abs weren’t engaged to the max during a lift, you’d just crumple over under the weight. Compound exercises demand a lot of core stability from your body.
It’s important to note that if you train the rest of your body correctly, you don’t need to kill yourself with endless ab workouts to get a fully defined six-pack.
TIP 3 EXHALE
Many people make the mistake of holding their breath as they’re doing ab exercises. The lack of circulating oxygen just leads to a build-up of pressure, causing you to feel lightheaded or dizzy.
Moreover, if you don’t breathe regularly, you won’t be able to generate much strength. Your muscles need oxygenated blood to work properly. If you choke them, they won’t perform as well as you need them to.
Practice breathing properly as you do your ab work. Inhale deeply before performing the movement as you lift or crunch, make sure to exhale. Exhaling will force your abs to contract. Exhaling will also better engage your inner oblique muscles, which help with stability.
TIP 4 GET A STRETCH
While concentric, positive movement is an important segment of any abdominal exercise, make sure you don’t forget to think about the eccentric (lowering) portion as well. Stretch the abs through an entire range of motion before you contract them to engage more muscle fibers.
If you only contract and go through a small range of motion, you’ll only get mediocre results. By extending that contraction over a much larger range of motion, you put more blood into the area and see better results.
TIP 5 MAINTAIN MIND-MUSCLE FOCUS
As you perform each ab movement, be very conscious about making those target muscle groups perform the work. It’s about quality versus quantity, really focus on squeezing your abs in every rep you do.
If you just go through the motions, it’s far too easy to let your hip flexors or upper abdominals take over every movement. Think about making the right muscles contract. This extra mental effort might seem silly at first, but when you grow accustomed to connecting your mind to your contracting muscles, you’ll notice a huge difference in your workouts.
TIP 6 VARY YOUR EXERCISES
If you’ve been doing a billion crunches at the end of every workout with nothing to show for it, you need to revamp your exercise selection. Choose exercises that challenge you in new ways, and use equipment to boost the intensity of your training. Extra weight will help keep constant tension on the ab muscles, increasing the efficacy of your workout.
Aspire to Inspire.
It’s no secret that doing the same workouts with the same internal variables over and over again won’t lead to muscle growth. But you don’t need to completely abandon your routine every time you need a change.
I hate to ruin your love affair with football, but unless you enjoy standing in lines reminiscent of your childhood trip, Monday is absolutely the worst day to be in the gym—especially if you’re planning to train your chest. Ironically, if you were to hit that same gym a mere 24 hours earlier, you’d find it practically empty. I’ve come to find the most serious lifters at my gym are there on Sundays to skip the crowds.
We know you’re popular: You’ve got friends to text and conversations to catch up on with your crew at the gym. None of this changes the fact that you’ve still got a cardio session waiting for you at the end of your workout. Why not get your cardio done alongside your lifting.
Instead of sitting your butt on a bench between sets, you can speed things up, get your heart going, and burn calories at the same time. Active rest (doing a mild cardio activity between sets) will help you get a more productive workout and cut your time in the gym substantially. Try jumping rope, doing step-ups, or hitting box jumps for 45-60 seconds between weight-training sets. Just make sure you pace yourself.
Working out with a partner has some huge advantages. But creating a partner-friendly workout means finding convenient ways to load and unload weights. Nothing feels more like wasted effort than continually having to make weight changes. By using the smaller plates you can more easily make weight changes, saving time and effort. Bonus: If you do dropsets, you can simply pull off the right amount of weight without having to take off one of the big wheels and replace it with a smaller plate.
Too many lifters—at least the ones who never make any progress—come to the gym and choose weights they can lift for 10 reps, rest, and repeat. The problem with this approach is that the body has already grown accustomed to the load, and no further adaptation is taking place. You can literally train like this for years and never see progress.
Instead of hitting the usual 10 reps after your warm-up sets, choose challenging weights you can do for 6-8 reps—especially early in your workout, when your energy levels are high—and then employ sets of 8-10 later in your training session.
If you’re in fact going for 10 reps, you should barely be able to squeak out a 10th rep. When you can hit 10 reps without cheating or help, then it’s time to add a small plate to each side of the bar.
If you find that you’re taking every set to 10 reps, your internal alarm should go off. As soon as you hear yourself say the number 10, automatically add a plate to increase the overload. Don’t get lazy and work out on autopilot.
This tip applies mainly to multi-joint movements, especially for individuals looking to increase their size and strength.
Often times when training your back, your grip will give out first. Never sacrifice your back for your hands. When your grip starts to fail, put on a pair of lifting straps and you’ll be able to get an extra rep or two on each set, which translates into more muscle growth. Don’t let your grip be your limiting factor on back day. If you want to work on grip or forearm development, throw those on to the end of your workouts.
When using straps, be sure to isolate your back and let the straps do their job. You don’t need to use an overly firm grip with straps. Just press lightly on them, allowing your forearms to relax a little to send the focus of the movement toward your back.
IF YOUR WORKOUTS ARE TAKING TWO HOURS, WORK ON INCREASING THE INTENSITY (AND TEXTING LESS BETWEEN SETS) BY MAKING EACH SET HEAVIER AND HARDER.
You probably can’t sustain a high-intensity workout for long periods of time. You can, however, do a long workout with moderate intensity, but even that’s suboptimal for muscle gains. Powerlifters are known for longer workouts, but that’s typically due to more warm-ups and substantially longer rest periods between sets.
If your workouts are taking two hours, work on increasing the intensity (and texting less between sets) by making each set heavier and harder. Don’t just add more sets and exercises; that only serves to lengthen your workout.
Unless you’re a powerlifter (like myself), a faster pace does two things, it has been shown that shorter rest times and higher volume may improve your hormone activity, which means you’ll likely build size at a quicker rate. Second, it’s easier to stay focused for the duration of your session. Mental fatigue contributes to less-than-perfect focus and form, not to mention increased risk of injury.
Successful natural bodybuilders get in and out of the gym fast—in 60-75 minutes, tops. But what they sacrifice in duration, they more than make up for with intensity. Plus, you’ll save yourself an extra 45-60 minutes each day.
Learning how to keep your lower back arched correctly when training is like learning how to ride a bike: It doesn’t come naturally at first, and you’re going to make mistakes along the way. But while falling off a bike may result in only a few scrapes, using bad form and rounding your back when training with heavy weights disrupts spinal alignment and can cause permanent damage. Disc herniation can happen when you don’t protect your spine during lifting.
You can save your spine and properly target your working muscles by learning how to hold the arch in your back. This is especially important for bent-over exercises like Romanian deadlifts, bent-over rows, and bent-over lateral raises.
By having normal curvature or even a slightly modified arch in your lower back you’ll also gain stability across the core. By breathing in on the negative and having your chest up, if you squeeze your abdominals in tight you’ll increase your intra-abdominal pressure and actually provide much greater strength across your core. As an added benefit, contracting your ab muscles will actually help build them to a degree.
To check your form, stand perpendicular to the mirror, bend over about 45 degrees, stick your arse out, keep your chest big and open and bend your knees slightly. Look sideways at the mirror and check your body position, ensuring you have a tight arch in your lower back—not a humpback that’s rounded forward. You must practice this until you get it right, and few beginners naturally get the hang of it.
You’ve probably heard that you want to hit a large muscle group with exercises from multiple angles over the course of your workout. Pay attention to bench angle and hand, foot, and body position so you’re not repeating very similar movements. Incline, decline, and flat-bench presses work the pecs from multiple angles, but there are only small differences between flat-bench barbell, flat-bench dumbbell, and flat-bench machine presses.
Angle training ensures that you hit every muscle fiber, especially in muscles that have multiple attachment points. Performing a similar exercise with a different piece of equipment may help improve stabilizer muscle contribution, but going from a machine to a barbell, or barbell to a dumbbell, still hits the muscles at almost the same angle. At the very least, if you’re going to do the same exercise at the same angle with a different piece of equipment, vary your grip or your stance [with leg exercises]. A varied grip changes the emphasis of the primary muscles and the activation pattern of the assisting muscles.
9 FINISH YOUR WORKOUTS WITH LOWER-BACK AND FOREARM EXERCISES
Want to know the best way to ensure you’re physically incapable of doing anything later in your workout? T your body’s weakest links and train them to failure. For most of you, that’s your grip and your lower back.
Once your lower back is fatigued, standing upright becomes nearly impossible, let alone maintaining good form with heavy weights. For safety’s sake, do lower-back exercises at the end of your training session, most likely on back day.
Likewise, blow your grip with forearm or grip training, and you can forget about holding on to anything afterward. A heavy set of bent-over barbell rows after forearm training? Not a chance. So save the forearm and grip training until the end of your workout, with no other body parts to follow. It’s also a good idea to skip training those body parts if they’ll be necessary for the next day’s workout.
Everyone wants big muscles, but no one wants to lift heavy-ass weights. Eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman, and he was dead-on. If you’re looking for shortcuts or otherwise trying to make your workouts easier—avoiding free-weight squats, bench presses, and deadlifts, for example—I’m sorry to say that you’re taking the wrong approach.
Looking for the easy way out may also mean excessive cheating on your movements, such as bouncing the bar off your pecs when benching, or bringing your elbows forward when curling. Although there is a time and a place for cheating, relying on it takes stress and tension off the muscle, which is counter-productive in bodybuilding.
Find ways to increase the degree of difficulty and make movements harder, not easier. Add chains to your bench press, do negative reps, extend sets with dropsets, or decrease your rest intervals: whatever it takes to make a movement more difficult. When you substitute machine movements for free weights, do seated motions instead of standing, or otherwise look for ways to make your workout easier, you only short change yourself—and the results you see in the end.
Aspire to Inspire
Blogging – Well with around 2000 views, 100 or so followers (Love you guys) and as of today over 100 blog posts, I can say things are going well . It is a little odd not knowing my audience, as well as on occasion finding out some friends are reading this I didn’t even know about. Nonetheless, it’s one hell of a platform for me to work with and is effectively a storage space of valuable ideas to return to.
My goals – My goals are pretty straightforward. Compete in powerlifting. bodybuilding and obstacle races, get every qualification I need (fitness and degree), open a gym selling my apparel and work as a sports psychologist and instructor. Granted they are pretty black and white but that does not mean they easy by any means.
Methods – In terms of reaching these goals I have to give myself credit, progress if being made. In terms of training I am at a point where I could comfortably compete in powerlifting, around 1 to 2 years away from a bodybuilding comp and have a race in 5 days! As for the rest, well they are slower. my final year of my degree in Criminology and Applied Psychology begins in a month with qualifications in fitness are planned for next year. The longer term projects are my gym and apparel, I have an interested second party and designs for apparel are complete, time to bring it all together! I have to be grateful too for the growth of my platforms Instagram/blog/Facebook page (linked below). Between them all I manage to reach thousands of people which is unbelievable. Whatever it takes to change lives.
Battles – Nothing worth having comes easy. Well everything I want is certainly worth having, so of course that provokes struggle. So far there are issues I’ve made my way through, though on regular occasion they return to me, I’m not sure they ever leave. Reoccurring issues are things like body dismorphia, eating disorders and maintaining a positive mentality. Some battles are unavoidable as every one of you will appreciate. For instance, my main two issues are time and money – aren’t they always? With the money and time, I could invest in my apparel for faster growth as well as produce more designs, with even more I could start financing my own gym! But we have what we have, there is no excuse for not making the most of that!
The last of my battles are to do with the necessary mentality. To go on with all this every day without faltering isn’t easy by any means. With little appreciation from the outside world as well as those around me (few exceptions) it becomes even harder and somewhat lonely. There has to be an ongoing thought, a belief that what I am doing is worthwhile, so luckily I have that going for me to drive me through.
People – The people in our lives have a drastic effect on who we are. Too often we surround ourselves with people who cannot accept us or unintentionally cause us to close away parts of who we are. I learnt this lesson over several years and of course the hard way (seems to be a pattern in my learning methods). However today things are a little different, over time I have changed who I keep around me in both quantity and quality. I don’t really see the need for a hundred friends or the approval of the world, instead I have learnt to just be me and those who can accept that stay. Incredibly that has left me with a group measurable on both hands in quantity, but in quality? Immeasurable.
I have friends who support me, understand me and encourage me. A girlfriend who beyond my understanding not only accepts all that I am, but actually seems to be fond of it? (yes an understatement but you see the point I am making).
People say you surround yourself with like-minded people, of course they are right, I do not disagree. However when in a position like me you realise like-minded people can be hard to find, which I consider to be a privilege. No, instead surround yourself with people who, though may not be on your path, are willing to walk beside you when you falter, or will help you stand your ground when things get tough. I adore those in my life and can not thank them enough.
Hard work – This is it. The determining feature. No dream nor goal was ever achieved without hard work. So on a regular basis I find myself saying to myself, ‘are you prepared for this? Are you willing to keep going?’. I am not arrogant enough to pretend my answer is always yes. On many days I will suffer, I will want to give in and take it easy. So of course I have my fears and like every other person on this planet I fear the possible. ‘Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure’ – Marianne Wiliamson. How far I have come terrifies me as it reveals the possible of how far I could go. Would you not be scared too? To have everything you could imagine, the ideal life and world unravel before you, are you brave enough to go all out and pursue that with one sickening thought daily echoing in your mind.
What if I fail? What if it all passes me by?
This will never leave my mind sadly, but that is not to say I cannot work aside it, the fear of failure will only be lost in my ability to succeed.
Aspire to Inspire.