The Safest, Strongest Way To Deadlift

The deadlift is where it all gets serious in the weight room. There are so many moving parts, and so many things to remember, that plenty of lifters would rather just skip it altogether. The number of people who claim that deadlifts “ruined their back” doesn’t help anything, either.

So here I am, a bodybuilder—definitely not a powerlifter—speaking up in defense of the deadlift. Why? It’s one of the best movements you can do, period. If you want to add muscle, it can help you. If you’re looking to lose weight, it burns tons of calories. It will even help strengthen your lower back over time, as long as you do it right.

Why Learn the Deadlift From A Pro Bodybuilder?

Those of you who have studied the deadlift and made it an art form will likely be too advanced to benefit from most of my advice here. I’m thinking of my fellow Animal athletes like Dan Green and Pete Rubish, for example, who have already created complete deadlift guides and crushed heavy sets with the world watching.

But for the rest of us who are not focused on competing in the “big three” movements, you might find this info helpful, and find some surprising cues that will make you stronger and safer with the bar.

Why Deadlift from the Top Down?

I have always preferred to deadlift from the rack instead of the floor, for the simple reasons that it:

  • I feel it not only allows me to be more forceful in the rep
  • It also feels better in my lower back.

The deadlift is one of the only movements that normally begins at the bottom of the rep—hence the name. You don’t begin the bench press with the bar at the chest, nor do you normally begin the squat in the hole. In my experience, starting at the top of the movement allows you to better “load” the muscles involved in the movement.

The Safest Strongest Way To Deadlift

If I had to guess, it’s probably a neurological thing. Lowering requires you to turn everything on—hips, core, hamstrings, lats—before actually doing the first rep.

Of course, some people prefer to start from the floor and of course, that’s fine too. The only thing I would advise against is resetting at the bottom of each rep. From a bodybuilding perspective, I think constant tension is preferable, and stopping each rep at the bottom to reset prevents that.

This top-down approach has earned me a lot of questions over the years, but I find this to be a strong, safe, way of lifting, and before you knock it, I recommend you try it. Of course this approach definitely requires a different set-up from a ground-up dead.

Here are the essential things to remember:

1. Bend at the Knees First, Not the Hips

Once I step back and set my feet, I bend my knees first—not my hips. Do not—I repeat, do not—start the movement by bending forward at the waist. You have to resist every temptation to simply bend over.

The bar should graze your thighs, just barely clear your kneecaps, and come as close as possible to your shins. The further the bar drifts forward, the greater the likelihood that the weight will touch the ground and not move back up.

2. Keep Your Chest Up

When you step out from the rack, think “chest up” right away. Then keep thinking it as you break at the knees.

This is a classic deadlift cue, but when you perform them top-down, it’s even more essential. It’s the difference between simply bending over—which is bad news and puts you at a serious disadvantage at the bottom—and loading your hips, legs, and glutes for action.

Keep Your Chest Up

3. Keep Your Butt Down

You’ll hear people say that cueing “butt down” makes for an overly squatty deadlift, but in action, I find that’s not the case, particularly when performing reps top-down. As long as you keep your chest as high as possible, and the bar tight to your body, you’ll find the right line for a conventional deadlift.

Ideally, keep your back at as steep an angle as possible, with your chest as high above your ass as your body will permit. If your chest is high, your ass should be down, and vice versa.

4. Think Push, Not Pull

It is essential to think about the deadlift as a pushing movement. Deadlifting as a push movement? Have I lost my mind? Bear with me. If you approach deadlifting as a pull movement, you are far more likely to destroy your lower back.

It is essential to make full use of your lower body—namely the hips, legs, and glutes—in this movement. The simple act of thinking “push” rather than “pull” turns this switch on for me.

Once you reach the bottom of the movement and the plates hit the floor, try to push the floor away using your heels. Some lifters find it helpful to imagine falling backward with the weight as they descend. Of course, with all that weight being held in front of you, you won’t actually fall.

If your chest is up and ass is down, driving with your heels will force you to use your hips and glutes to drive the weight out of the hole rather than your knees and lower back. This is more powerful, and it is much safer.

5. Don’t Squeeze Your Back Until the End

It is not until the top 25-30 percent of the lift that I will actively try to contract my back. Once the bar has cleared your knees on its way up and is approaching mid-thigh, begin to roll your shoulders back and emphasize the squeeze in your back.

As far as the back muscles are concerned, the majority of the deadlift is a static hold. You are doing all that you can to maintain posture and use the muscles of the lower body to move the weight until the back muscles finally have to contract.

To recap: At the bottom of the movement, forcefully push the floor with your legs. At the top of the movement, actively squeeze your back. Push, squeeze, push, squeeze, and so on.

Safest Strongest Way To Deadlift

Two Other Crucial Deadlift Details

  • Even if you have to do it with extremely light weight, do it! Lifters often feel like they have to be moving 3, 4, or 5 plates in order for a lift to “count.” Don’t lift to look like a hero. Use the bar. Use a quarter or a single plate. Take your time with it. Master the movement. It’s worth doing.
  • Do it in your socks. If you come to the gym wearing some kind of running shoe with cushioning and a big heal, doing deadlifts in socks is far more stable because there’s nothing that can shift. Furthermore, you bring yourself a tiny big closer to the ground. Try it, and over time, it’ll be hard to go back.

Proper Form Not Maximum Power

While it’s awesome that more lifters than ever before are doing deadlifts on a regular basis, it’s crucial to practice the mechanics of proper form—not only for maximum power output and muscular development, but to ensure safety. Squat aside, the deadlift is one of the most technical lifts, and probably the one that’s most likely to cause you injury if you fail to perform it properly.

However, perform the deadlift correctly, and you’ll be setting yourself up to gain tremendous strength in your posterior chain. This will then carry over into other movements like squats and barbell rows. Whether you’re training for maximum muscle gain, strength, conditioning, or even fat loss, the deadlift should always be a part of your program. Good luck, be strong, and train safely.

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How To Survive Halloween And Still Have Fun

Halloween can be a tricky time when you’re watching what you eat; after all, the entire holiday revolves around eating candy! Fortunately, the smarty-pants here at Bodybuilding.com have developed some clever tips and recipes to keep trick-or-treating from ruining your physique.

From spooky high-protein treats to a rundown of the lowest-calorie candies, we’ve got you covered.

1. Make Smart(ish) Candy Choices

If you have a sweet tooth, making it through Halloween without a single treat is probably an unrealistic expectation. That’s fine! Embrace the holiday for what it is…to a point. But know that not all sweets are created equal.

When you’re in the store or rummaging through your kids’ bag, look for Halloween candy that’s lower in calories and fat than its compatriots to minimize the damage.

How To Survive Halloween and Still Have Fun

Here are a few suggestions that Shannon Clark offers up in her article “Best Halloween Treat Choices“:

  • Peanut butter cups or pieces over candy bars
  • Gummy bears over other gummy candies
  • Tootsie rolls over tootsie pops and suckers
  • Licorice over candy corn or caramels

Of course, even a “good” choice becomes a shady one when you start pumping fistfuls of candy into your mouth. A bite-sized chocolate bar might seem healthier than its full-sized equivalent, but remember, those minis add up fast.

2. Think Portions, Not Magic Potions

Plenty of nutrition “information” is more fiction than fact, and knowing the difference will help you make smart decisions. For instance, some people will eat chocolate-covered raisins rather than just chocolate or chocolate-covered nuts. Healthier? Ha!

Another common misconception that gets perpetuated on the web is the idea that dark chocolate is “healthy.” Yes, compared to milk chocolate, it’s usually slightly higher in flavonoids, which are thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, but it’s still full of fat, calories, and sugar.

I’m not saying not to eat it, but focus on portion control rather than seeking a magical food that you can eat endlessly. Eat a few squares of whichever kind of chocolate you like best, but don’t delude yourself into thinking you’re doing your body a favor by chowing down on an entire bag of, well, anything.

3. Fill Your Kitchen With Healthy Homemade Halloween Treats

Instead of stocking up on the same store-bought junk you always eat, prepare your own seasonal treats this year! Homemade goodies taste better, you can control the nutrition, and the ingredients often end up costing less than the premade stuff. (Have you priced those big bags of mixed candy bars lately?)

How To Survive Halloween and Still Have Fun

Savory finger foods, such as cheesy pumpkins and carrot eyes, are sure to win over your party guests. Pack some extra protein into your baked goods with monster balls and ghost brownies. Or make Anna Sward’s dark chocolate protein spiders and take sick satisfaction in biting their little heads off.

4. Keep Motivated, Keep Under Control, and Keep Training Hard

When all else fails, remind yourself why you’re watching what you eat and working hard in the gym! Surround yourself with constant inspiration, such as our We ‘Mirin “Halloween Hotties” edition or a physique transformation story.

How to Survive Halloween and Still Have Fun

Eating right isn’t just about looking good, though, and it’s not just for adults. Too much sugar can lead to serious health conditions, and if you’re a parent, the best thing you can do for your kids is teach (and show!) that fun is the real attraction of the holiday, not pure gluttony. Make Halloween more about costumes, celebration, and pumpkins than candy. Teach portion control, but then show it with your own behavior as well.

Even if you don’t have kids of your own, provide healthy choices for the neighborhood trick-or-treaters who knock on your door. Hand out Halloween pencils, stickers, little bags of popcorn, or sugar-free gum. Just don’t be too obvious—handing out toothbrushes and dental floss will likely get your house egged!

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Podcast Episode 29: Kris Gethin Crosses The Finish Line

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Listen To Podcast Episode #29

Episode 29: Kris Gethin Crosses the Finish Line. Just days after the dramatic climax of his six-month Man of Iron video series and training protocol, Kris stops by to share the amazing story, and the wisdom he earned along the way.

Publish Date: Monday, October 16, 2017

Behind The Scenes Photo:

Lee Constantinou speaks with Nick Collias and Heather Eastman on The Bodybuilding.com Podcast

Behind The Scenes Video:

Ep.isode 29 Highlights & Transcript

Highlights:

  • The ultimate question: Did he finish or not?
  • “They were falling like flies out there.”
  • What he learned from his half-Ironman a couple of months earlier
  • “I’ve done speed dating with saddles.”
  • Why victory is the absolute wrong goal.
  • “It’s the hustle, it’s the journey. That’s where it’s at.”
  • Why his training dramatically transformed at the halfway point
  • His lab results, beginning and end: body fat, muscle mass, VO2 max
  • How he sneakily pushed his VO2 max from “good” to “superior”
  • Trail running: The secret of elite hybrid fitness?
  • Arms: Still the perfect way to start the week!
  • “Seventy-seven percent of recovery and lowering your cortisol levels comes from de-stressing the mind.”
  • How he felt on the starting line
  • Will he do it again?
  • “The fourth event in the triathlon is the hospital.”
  • How his race day strategy held up
  • The supplements that made the biggest difference in his performance
  • What every bodybuilder needs to know about running: it’s all about the heart
  • “I just want bodybuilders to understand that they can experience so much more, and still be a bodybuilder.”

Transcript:

Nick Collias: They say the best workout program is the one you’ll actually follow, so do yourself a favor and go to Bodybuilding.com/plan to choose from over 50 comprehensive programs. Lifting, cardio, diet, supps. Each one explains everything you need in detail. Plus, we’ve got everything from the 1-week beginner’s plan on up to the 16 hardest weeks of your life. Man or woman, student or midlife and beyond, we’ve got your program. Just go to Bodybuilding.com/plan.

Welcome, everyone, to my birthday podcast.

Heather Eastman: Happy birthday.

Nick: My birthday happens to be whatever random ass day this gets published.

Heather: That’s true.

Nick: Really, welcome to the finish line, the last man standing or sitting over here is Kris Gethin. None other than the Man of Iron himself. I’m Nick Collias, an editor for Bodybuilding.com. Our co-host is Heather Eastman, as always.

Heather: Hello, everyone.

Nick: There’s whole other podcast out there where you talk about the Man of Iron prep. There are also 18 and counting episodes of the Man of Iron series documenting your experience. But long story short, you’ve been preparing for a full Ironman for six months. Not one year, not 18 months but just six months, right, and last Sunday, you finished it.

Kris Gethin: I did it, I completed it. That was the entire goal, it wasn’t trying to break any records because I’m not going to be going out there and trying to do that. I would run out of gas. I was very proud of myself that I was able to apply disciplinary action to take my time, pace myself, because no one was going to remember if I did it in 13, 14, 16 hours. I, and they, would remember if I did or did not finish. I paced myself and happily finished.

Nick: See, that’s a great approach to that. Something that I think a lot of endurance athletes can learn from, because they sometimes live and die by those numbers as opposed to just accomplishing the feat.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, and not just top athletes, just anybody participating. The amount of people that I saw walking on the marathon because they’d pushed it probably a little too hard, either on a swim or the bike, or both. They were falling like flies there.

Nick: This is 6 AM to what, start in the dark, finish in the dark?

Kris Gethin: Yeah, pretty much. I think I started probably around 6:30 AM. The pros started at 6, and then I put myself in a swim time, probably a little bit faster than what I could do just because I wanted to get out there.

Nick: Ahead of the writhing mass of bodies.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, and because I knew it was going to be a very, very hot day and I thought, “I don’t want to be out there any longer than I have to be, so let’s get it done with now.” I finished, probably, it was about 9 o’clock, about 9 o’clock in the evening.

Nick: My five-year-old and I were following you via the Ironman page, and I remember, it was about 8 o’clock, and I thought, “He’s probably done by now.” I looked and said, “Oh, he still had six miles to go.” I said, “Oh, that poor bastard.” Were you feeling that way at that point or were you just-

Kris Gethin: No, I felt good because like I said, I’d paced myself, I was able to run pretty much the whole way. Just a very, very slow run. I was probably running at a 10 and a half, 11 minute pace. I would stop at every single aid station except for the last lap, just to put ice down my top, down my shorts, and under my cap. In the half I did when I had to, and I perspired so much, and I struggled. This time I did it before I had to and it kept me cool, and I felt so much better for it. I didn’t feel like death warmed up when I went over that finish line.

Nick: Yeah, so let’s go back to the half Ironman because we haven’t talked since then. That was about what, six, seven weeks ago?

Kris Gethin: Yeah, about seven, eight weeks ago.

Nick: You did that, you survived it, but was it an eye opener for you, just being out there and being in that race setting like that?

Kris Gethin: Yeah, I’m very good at visualization. I’d visualized a lot leading up to that, and the same with this event. I wasn’t caught off-guard with any surprises as such, however, I know that I did push it a little bit harder than what I should have because I ended up walking quite a bit during the run. I got a respectable time, I got six hours and 19, which I was very happy about, but I pushed it in order to get that. I suffered after. This time I didn’t feel like I suffered even though I did double the amount. After the events or during the events, I felt … I hydrated very well, I took in probably more than enough nutrition. The only thing that really hurt after was my flexors and my ass from that solid saddle for 112 miles.

Nick: That’s what kept me from even considering.

Heather: Yeah, that’s what the guys-

Kris Gethin: I tell you what, I’ve tried so many saddles. I’ve done speed-dating with saddles. No matter how many I try, I just cannot find one that’s comfortable for my big fat ass.

Nick: Have you tried the full-on, like fat boy seat, the big gel ones-

Kris Gethin: With the suspension and everything, no I haven’t tried that.

Heather: That might be it. That might be the winner right there.

Nick: That’s what I put, I have this bike, a fairly slim little bike but I put the big old seat on it.

Heather: Big saddle on it. That saddle soreness, that’ll get you.

Kris Gethin: I just figured, if this event is conditioning my resolve this will condition my ass.

Nick: From the ass up, yeah.

Heather: Yeah, the guys that we had filming you throughout this entire adventure, they said that you seem like you were better after the full Ironman than you were after the half. That they saw that in you as well. I was shocked when Nick told me that you completed it in 15 hours, because I get that, I thought for sure he tried to do it in under 10 or something ridiculous.

Kris Gethin: I don’t think the pro got it underneath 10. This is what a lot of people don’t understand about endurance events such as Ironman, is that it takes years and years, and years to build up the fitness in order to bring in those times. Much like it, you’re not standing on a bodybuilding stage such as the Olympia until you’ve put in at least 10 years. At least 10 years of consistent, hard work. It’s the same, exactly the same in Ironman. These guys have built up fitness over many, many years in order to get that time and their efficiency with it. Since then, I’ve had people commenting, “Hey I’m going to do an Ironman next year, I think I could win my age category.” I have to say, look it’s great to be optimistic but you got to be realistic as well. Number one, if you’re a little bit bigger, forget it. Yeah you can do it, but you’re not going to be winning any. You’re not breaking any records.

Nick: Victory is just maybe the wrong goal.

Kris Gethin: It definitely is. It’s the hustle, it’s the journey. That’s where it’s at-

Heather: We talked about that with bodybuilding.

Kris Gethin: The worst day of my life, probably, is an Ironman because then, it’s like, “Now I’ve got to find another goal.” It’s the journey, it’s getting ready for the event as the days that live and you absorb, and you acknowledge.

Nick: Sure, and as Heather points out, we’ve had a lot of guests who say the same thing about bodybuilding shows, even though some of them are people who’ve basically never lost. They say, “Yeah, you’re not doing it for the victory.” You’re actually really doing it, if you want to do it, for the prep, for the experience, for the test.

Heather: If you love it.

Kris Gethin: Exactly.

Heather: Some people go out wanting to win, and I think those are the same people who if they go into an Ironman wanting to win and don’t win, they hate it. If you really love and appreciate the journey, then-

Nick: Even if they do win, they’ll be depressed afterward-

Heather: Yeah, exactly.

Nick: Because this is it.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, exactly. I found that through bodybuilding. I’d always go into an abyss of depression after an event. When I won it was no different. It was no different, so that’s why it very important just to focus on the journey and I think with age now, you can appreciate that a little bit more. This is something that you can possibly do when you’re in your 60s. There’s a few people that I’ve spoken to that have, that they could’ve gone pro but they haven’t. I’ve asked them why and they said, “Because I don’t want the pressure, I want this to be something that I always enjoy, and be a hobby, and something that I can do into my twilight years.”

Nick: Sure. We have had some Instagram fitness celebrities on who, they wouldn’t dream of competing. They talk … that competing’s for crazy people. I can just train and be an inspiration to everybody, why would I put myself through that if I could do this for ever, basically. That’s opened up a whole other landscape.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, for bodybuilding, for sure. If you look at endurance sports, though, it’s … Other than CrossFit, that’s a hybrid sport. They have no following, zero, and that’s always … I’ve really had to scratch my head over that, because I’m thinking, “Wow, these are people that I really look up to,” they’re on the Olympics, they’re household names, like possibly in the UK like the Brownlee brothers. However they have a terrible following. I’ve asked a couple of people about that and they said, “Well, look, I see people in the gym and in between sets, they’re taking their selfies and doing their videos. We ain’t doing that when we’re out on the bike.” Chances are our sport is quite expensive, which it is, and the people that participate in it, they’ve looked at statistics, their average income is $138,000 for the people who participate. They’re successful business people, or whatever.

Nick: Doctors and lawyers out there.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, so they’re not messing around on Instagram, they’re not taking selfies. They’re not putting out their information they’re training. They’re certainly not following any other athletes. They’re doing it for themselves. They’re doing it for their own satisfaction.

Nick: You mentioned bodybuilders and bodybuilder-style training. Your training did take a shift at the half Ironman point, it seems like. The back and bis, a lot of the super sets and things seemed like they went by the wayside a little bit, and you toned it back.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, so the reason being is, this is why I do these video trainers, I don’t just instruct people and put people through it, is because I have to experience it myself in order to better navigate it, and then translate it to the viewers so they can apply it themselves. Learn by my mistakes. I quickly realized I came into this as you know, when I came onto the show, “I’m going to build muscle, I’m going to get fitter, lose fat.” That wasn’t happening leading up to the half. It was frustrating, because whatever my mind could, I could apply to I was able to achieve it physically. This time it wasn’t happening.

I quickly realized that I was just putting in too much volume within my workouts because the volume within my disciplines, my cardio especially on the weekends, was just tapping into my muscle stores, my amino acids way too much. So then I pulled back the volume of my training, focused a little bit more on the compound movements, more rest in between sets, less repetitions. Put myself just purely in anabolic states within the gym. That really helped compensate, and there was a complete shift in my physique.

Nick: Really. What did that do to make that shift, what did it result in?

Kris Gethin: I had my lab results done at the beginning and at the end. I don’t know if I should disclose it right now. Should people have to … I think people should view-

Heather: I think we should have to look at it to-

Kris Gethin: They’ll have to watch the video series

Nick: We’ll find it.

Kris Gethin: Okay, but I’ll let you know right now that there was a significant gain in muscle that I was very, very happy with. My body fat came down, which was expected. It just goes to show that I could create that shift of increasing muscle mass. I’ll give this away. My VO2 Max went from 44, which is considered standard or good for my age group, and it shot up to 56, I think it was 56. 52, sorry, 52. 44 to 52, which is considered superior for my age group. A lot of that is dependent on genetics. I was very, very, happy that I was able to create that shift in such a short time period.

Nick: You weren’t doing a lot of VO2 max protocol style stuff, though. There’s some intervals in your program, I know, because I looked at this program every single week. You’re not doing tons of VO2 max work. What do you attribute that to?

Kris Gethin: I think-

Nick: Does the gym help that do you think?

Kris Gethin: The gym definitely helps, because I am a high volume trainer, especially on legs and stuff like that. I don’t take that much rest in between sets. There was during the week, I was hitting a little bit more resistance, like if I was on the Wattbike. If I was out on a bike, I’d push it pretty hard in those shorter sessions. On the weekends, that’s when I was just, like I said, getting comfortable being uncomfortable, and just working my aerobic capacity by pacing myself, and just going out there for long distances, and using that as a recovery ride or run. When I was, thanks to you, I found a lot of trails-

Nick: It’s a whole different world out there, man.

Kris Gethin: I loved it. Absolutely loved it.

Nick: It’s the best.

Kris Gethin: It helped my knees, it helped my hips. It made the run that much harder. I was hitting a lot of elevation, a lot of hills out there and it made it very difficult with my body weight, putting out that much more extra wattage. So that definitely helped with my cardiovascular function, because then when I would go … I was in New York a couple of weeks ago, I’m running around Central Park, I’m like, “Wow, I’m running at a much faster pace now, and it’s so much easier.” It’s like going from mountain biking to biking. You’re just going to find the road so much easier.

Nick: Right, and the trail you have to pay such close attention, too.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, I like that.

Heather: Yeah, you can’t really zone out.

Kris Gethin: I like that because then you’re that much more aware. You notice that because you’re more mentally exhausted when you come back, because you’ve had to concentrate the whole time, that you’re not going to twist an ankle or whatever. Where you do zone out when you’re on the road. It isn’t as tiring.

Heather: Yeah, I used to do a lot of trail running and it was much more fun. I’d go out without music just because you can get lost just on the trail and-

Nick: There’s people, there have been studies into it that say that you actually have a different response running in natural surroundings than you do in the city, too. You’re more efficient, and it’s better quality training generally-

Kris Gethin: Yeah, because you are more aware of yourself, and I’ve said that with the Kenyans, that’s why they’re so good. They don’t go out with their headphones. They’re not amongst the hustle bustle of people, city, that environment. They’re focusing on the sound of their feet. Making as minimal amount of noise as possible, so they have that-

Nick: Steps and breathing, that’s all they can hear.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, you got it.

Nick: You also then would go crush arms on Monday. That’s one thing that I also … All of the sudden, it’s like everything else went back. You still destroyed arms every Monday. Was that still like, “I got to do this, if I’m going to be me I still have to leave my week this way.”

Kris Gethin: Yeah, exactly, because I know that I’ve been out on a long ride, or long run on a Monday, I’m going to hit small body part on that following day. Arms, biceps, triceps, I haven’t hit my upper body and those limbs. It seems like the perfect way to start the week. Then I’d hit legs on a Tuesday once they’ve loosened up and recovered a little.

Nick: Okay, so let’s talk about the days leading up to the race. You were still deadlifting five plates with Alex Viotta a week before, I saw on Instagram. You weren’t tapering per se like somebody who’s done … When you think of a taper before a race. It was a Gethin-style taper.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, well I was asked to taper about three weeks before, as most triathletes do. I figured, I don’t really have that time to do so. A lot of these triathletes have been doing this for a long time. They can afford to taper for three weeks. I’m not that highly tuned machine as yet. I know that I can probably recover more efficiently than these people, because I’m doing the massage, I’m doing the cryotherapy, I’m taking high levels of glutamine, a lot of protein, the foam rolling or whatever it may be. I can focus on my recovery and get a little bit more aggressive with my recovery than those people. I don’t have that time on my side, so I wanted to lead into the event a little bit more and work a little bit more on my fitness. I think it was three weeks before I went up to Stanley, I did my 2.4 mile swim, and then the following day I went and did an 86-mile bike ride and went over the Galena Summit twice, which was a lot of elevation.

Nick: Wow.

Kris Gethin: Then I followed that with a 12-mile trial run the following day. That definitely wasn’t a taper. Then I went out on a threshold ride with Tritan, a local club here which destroyed me. We covered 23 miles in, it was just over an hour. That was with traffic lights.

Heather: Wow.

Kris Gethin: That pushed it hard. We continued that when I went to Texas for GASP and got some pretty badass workouts there. As soon as my last workout was with Alex hitting back. I went aggressive with the recovery then, with the massage, did cryotherapy, did oxygen therapy. Had a little bit of a relaxation and made sure that we got up to Coeur d’Alene, where the event was held, early, and I purposely located this bed and breakfast that was six miles out of town, away from the noise, where I could start using a lot of visualization.

Don’t ask me how I come up with this number, but I believe around 77 percent of the recovery and lowering your cortisol levels comes from de-stressing the mind. Your mind plays a huge roll, whether it’s you thinking that you’ll get in shape or you won’t get in shape. Thinking that you’ll recover or won’t recover. Thinking if you’ll actually finish the event or not finish the event. A lot of visualization comes into it for me then. I can only do that without the noise and hustle and bustle. Be close to myself with thoughts without any people around.

Nick: Does that mean you slept like a baby the night before?

Kris Gethin: Not really.

Nick: That’s tough.

Kris Gethin: What time do I go to bed, around 9 o’clock, or something, 8 o’clock? 8 o’clock, 8 o’clock.

Nick: 8 o’clock, okay that’s pretty good.

Kris Gethin: I was up about 2:30 or something in the morning. Yeah, not bad.

Nick: As you get to the starting line, there’s all these people there. I saw hundreds and hundreds of people. Even in the full Ironman, which is mind blowing to me. The heart pounding, or are you just ready?

Kris Gethin: I’m relaxed, very relaxed. It’s calming then, because I’ve visualized everything. I’ve visualized me going, having blisters. Having a puncher, getting kicked in the face in the swim. Everything so I know nothing’s going to be a surprise. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I’m certain that I’m going to finish. That was my goal. The only thing that happened was that someone punched the goggles off my head at one point, but I was able to catch them and put them back on. That was the only surprise.

My parents were there, they came up as well and my father had been with me for many, many years when I was racing motocross. Having him there, I don’t know why it’s just very relaxing and comforting, because he knows mentally what I go through. This time I interacted a little bit more. Before I’d be very much a recluse. I’m much better with it now, I’m more sociable with it, and I find it’s much bigger than me now. Before it was all about me. Now it isn’t, it’s about the charity that I’m doing this for, it’s about the people that are watching this and hopefully going to inspire to become a hybrid athlete. So when you think about things like that, it makes it so much easier. If you’ve got any negative voices, they quickly get drowned out by these others.

Nick: Yeah, now, oh go ahead.

Heather: I was going to say, so you talk about hybrid athlete, and one question I’ve been wanting to ask this whole time, do you think that this is something that you’ll do again?

Kris Gethin: For sure. I was talking to Sunshine earlier that I’m already thinking about doing one in Arizona. I’m already looking at that. I’ve been looking at that one, Kentucky, Florida, because I’ve spoken to a lot of people that … I spoke to somebody on the weekend, that have done eight different events, and they said Coeur d’Alene is by far the hardest. That bike route is just a killer. I use an extra six watts of power per kilo of body weight, on as little as a two percent gradient. It’s very inefficient for someone my weight and that amount of muscle tissue. I want to find something a little bit flatter next time. I’m looking at doing something different somewhere else. I’ll always be a hybrid athlete now.

Nick: It’s considered a trail race, though, those trail race up in the mountains. There’s no ass blisters, that’s the nice thing.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, I’m definitely out for that. I was somewhere yesterday and saw a half marathon post and I snapped a picture and I thought, “Remember that, it’s next month somewhere.” You’ll have to keep me informed where and when they are. Are you talking longer than a marathon, like an ultramarathon?

Nick: No, no, no.

Heather: No.

Nick: There are some, in September. I don’t know when this is going to come out exactly. There’s a beautiful one up north at McCall. There’s a 22-mile version and then there’s the 100-mile version. You can choose one or the other.

Kris Gethin: A 22 wouldn’t be an ultramarathon.

Nick: Nope.

Heather: No.

Nick: No. There are ultramarathons, there are a few 50Ks in Idaho where we live, but there are also a lot of that 10-to-20 range, which is so nice because you don’t have to prepare for it for months, you can prepare for it for weeks. At the end of it, you feel like you’ve accomplished something but you feel good. You don’t feel completely destroyed.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, I’m down for something like that. I got another question for you, then. If you do a race that’s like 30 miles, do they exist?

Heather: Yeah, I think they do-

Nick: Yeah, I mean, 50K is about 35 miles.

Heather: I know 50 miles exist.

Kris Gethin: Oh, Ks, we’re talking Ks.

Nick: Yeah, so there are 30Ks, there’s some 12Ks. There’s everything, when it comes to trails they don’t line up like marathons do. Marathons, half marathons, those things happen on streets because they’re easy to measure. If you’re saying, “Hey we’re going to go from this natural starting point to the top of the mountain and back,” they’ll call it maybe a 30K but it’s actually more like 22 miles or something. The trails just refuse to be categorized. That’s the fun of it. The 50K scene is, it’s in tents. Those guys, those ultramarathoners have a little bit more of a following than triathletes, I feel like, because-

Kris Gethin: No, I don’t think that.

Nick: They run in the Alps, they have these beautiful Instagram accounts. They’re celebrities in the running world sometimes, yeah.

Kris Gethin: Oh really? I need to look some of them up because I know Nicodemus down in San Diego, he finished the Berkeley. I think he became the 13th person to finish the Berkeley. Only 14 people have ever finished it.

Nick: Wow.

Kris Gethin: He’s got such a small following.

Nick: Guys like Kilian Jornet and Anton Krupika, they’re these incredible running celebrities. There’s a handful of them that are able to do it as a living, but they’re unreal. Those guys, they run up the Matterhorn, they run up the Grand Teton, and things like that.

Heather: Then was it that guy that ran up Everest?

Nick: Yeah, that’s-

Heather: We were talking about that when-

Nick: That’s Kilian Jornet.

Heather: You went on your run up hill a few weeks ago, we were talking about that. What’s he going to do-

Nick: Right, up the mountain in California.

Heather: What’s he going to do next?

Nick: I thought you were going to die on that one!

Heather: This guy actually did run up Everest and it took him what, 23 hours, 24?

Kris Gethin: Wow.

Heather: Yeah, and he did it with-

Kris Gethin: Insane.

Heather: With oxygen?

Nick: I believe it was without. I wouldn’t, I’m not entirely sure.

Heather: It was without. Now, some guys do it with oxygen, and they do it in 16 hours or something ridiculous. Get that glow in his eyes now he’s got a whole-

Nick: There’s a whole world of weirdness out there. You ran up that mountain in California, which is one of the toughest day hikes, even, in the United States. People don’t run that thing. You ran that.

Kris Gethin: It was a very slow run. It was a very slow run. Yeah, it was very dark by the time we were coming back down. We were using our phones and Alex’s headlamp to see where we were going. What was interesting about that is Alex had suffered from, have you heard of rhabdo?

Nick: Sure, sure.

Kris Gethin: He’d suffered from that only five days before because he ran down the Grand Canyon, because he was relocating over to San Diego. He ran down there.

Nick: He ran to his new home.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, well, along the way he stopped at the Grand Canyon, figured, “I’ll run to the bottom.” He’d forgotten his electrolytes.

Heather: Oh, dear.

Kris Gethin: He had water, but he figured, “I’ll be okay,” and he got down in very good time, but by the time he got down there it was around mid-day. Extremely hot. He started having major cramps on the way back up. Threw up, basically collapsed. Threw up on himself several times, and the only thing that got him out of it was he started covering himself in water and he sucked out the salt from his t-shirt that he had sweated through.

Nick: Wow.

Kris Gethin: He just laid there for about 45 minutes. Got himself back up, and then that was it. Then he decided to do this run with us just some days later. On the way back down he said he didn’t feel good at all. We took our time on the way back down, and the next day, we were supposed to go for a swim. I went for a swim, he went to hospital. They found out then that he’d suffered from rhabdo.

Heather: Oh dear, yeah that’s not something you want to mess around.

Nick: That’s the fourth event in the triathlon is the hospital.

Heather: Yeah, no the downhill will kill you. If there’s an art to trail running it’s figuring out how to fall gracefully downhill, because it’s more of a controlled fall than an actual run. If you can get that, then trail running is-

Kris Gethin: I kind of trot. I trot down.

Nick: How did your in-race nutrition and supplementation hold up? I know some people when they get in these events, they find, “Oh, my God, my stomach’s rebelling, I can’t eat what I feel like I should eat. I can’t keep things down or it doesn’t feel good.”

Kris Gethin: I took in everything that I’d practiced.

Nick: 20 pounds of food I saw on Instagram you had with you.

Kris Gethin: It was a lot of food and fluid. It’s a lot of food and fluid all day.

Nick: Mule out there.

Kris Gethin: I weighed everything up, and I was holding the bags when we were carrying them down to the transition and the aid station. They were heavy. I’m like, “Oh, it’s just food and drink.”

Like I’ve heard of one case of somebody losing 27 pounds in a day on one of those things. I needed to ensure, and I did err on the caution of taking in too much. Sunshine makes these amazing energy balls that are made of dates. I have my Re-Kaged protein powder in there. I have oats, there’s honey, seeds, nuts, and turmeric, ginger. I’m pretty good, aren’t I?

Nick: When are you going to start selling these things?

Kris Gethin: That’s what I told her. Get them in Tritan.

Nick: Sunshine’s energy balls.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, there you go. So, I had 12 of those things. I had an extra bag put onto my bike as well. I was eating them throughout the ride. Beforehand, I had 12- to 15 hundred calories when I woke up at breakfast, mainly in the form of oats, egg whites, peanut butter, nuts, fruits, honey.

Nick: A little bit of fat in there, too.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, have to at that point. Then before the swim, just before, I had a banana, and then they had two loops of the swim where you actually had to come out onto the beach just a little bit, and run back in. I had a gel underneath my sleeve, and I knocked that back, which I’m glad I did, because at the end of the swim I was hungry, very hungry.

Nick: Swimming has been a challenge for you, too. I remember the first time you got in the pool in one of the videos and you said, “Oh, my God, I sink like a stone.”

Heather: Yeah, that’s what I was curious about.

Nick: It surprised you. Ultimately did that feel comfortable out there? Do you feel like you have embraced the water?

Kris Gethin: Yeah, I can swim a couple of miles now, obviously, 2.4 miles quite easily. I’m not efficient. I’m definitely not efficient. Yeah, my weight is a problem, or my muscle density I should say, not my weight. If I was fat, it would be a lot easier.

Heather: It’s a lot easier to float then.

Nick: Triathletes and endurance athletes are, they have more fat on their body than people realize, that their body composition is not always the most muscular just because their bodies are trained to be so efficient. They hold onto fat reserves. It makes them great at swimming.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, and some of them are very tall, which makes them very hydrodynamic in the water as well. That’s something that I’m definitely going to be working on now. I’ve just been to the YMCA and I’ve just signed up for their masters swimming class. I really need somebody to push me and help me with my technique there more than anything. Fitness I feel is there. Then with the nutrition, I’ve made sure when I got out of the swim, I had a drink ready in my transition bag, because I didn’t want to just drink everything that I had on the bike. I wanted to keep that, so I knocked back a bottle there of 24 ounces. Then I just started hydrating for about 10 minutes, and then I started eating on the bike. I was knocking in about 500 calories per hour, and about-

Nick: That’s a decent clip.

Kris Gethin: Yeah. I was expecting to have about 32 ounces of water per hour, but I had around 24 instead. I didn’t feel like I needed it. I think I’m instinctive, where to I know what my body needs now. Then when I came to the run, that’s where I had a little bit of trouble, because I did have some solid foods packed with me, but I think that I’d front loaded that well on the bike, I just didn’t need as much food. I just had a couple of things off the aid stations, oranges, some bananas. I actually ran with a CamelBak. Not many people do that, but I’m going through so much fluid that I felt that I needed to.

I had my supplements in there, and that’s one thing that I feel that why I wasn’t so sore after the event. I supplemented throughout the entire duration of the race, all the time, so I felt like I was beginning my recovery process whilst doing the race. The typical bodybuilding supplements, the glutamine, the BCAAs, the electrolytes, my Hydra-Charge. Obviously, I had my Re-Caged, the protein isolate basically, during the ride. I had it during the run as well. Something light, something easy to digest. I think bodybuilding supplements should have their way in endurance supplements if they’re light enough.

Nick: It’s interesting, though-

Heather: That’s a good crossover.

Nick: Endurance athletes love their supplements but they often don’t take bodybuilding supplements. You’ve been taking these for a long time. Which of them do you feel like really made all the difference?

Kris Gethin: As weird as it sounds, the branch chain amino acids I felt made the biggest difference. I felt a bigger difference with the BCAAs during this activity than bodybuilding, funnily enough. I just felt that I was able to recover through my workouts, but I didn’t feel like I had the lactic acid build up at all, as much during these sessions compared to when I wasn’t taking the BCAAs. Sometimes when I travel, I’m like, “Oh, I’ll take my essentials, my glutamine, my Hydro-Charge protein or whatever. BCAAs, yeah, I won’t worry about my protein synthesis, it can stay here.” I noticed the difference and I was surprised. BCAAs become quite the dark horse.

Nick: I think that’s interesting. I remember when I was working on a piece with Krissy Kendall when she was here, about supplements for endurance athletes. We were going over the science and I remember thinking, just like it came to me, “Bodybuilders don’t need these nearly as much as endurance athletes do.”

Heather: Right, yeah.

Nick: Bodybuilders already eat so much damn protein, but endurance athletes probably could benefit more from them. When I was doing a race up in the mountains, I had this little bottle of Kaged Muscle BCAA pills that I was chewing, because my mouth was so damn dry. They tasted terrible, of course.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, don’t chew them.

Nick: Yeah, well yeah, I would say do not chew them. It made a huge difference just in terms of how I subjectively felt during the race. Do I feel like I can continue going, or do I feel like I’m getting overwhelmed by fatigue? I was amazed. Maybe it’s all placebo, but it did not feel like placebo, it felt like it was a serious difference.

Heather: No, I’d agree with you on that. I started out as a distance runner, and then I did some bodybuilding, and there was a period in there where I was still a crossover. I knew about supplements but I was still going on long runs. I would agree, that I had a much better recovery from taking supplements than I did when I was a full endurance athlete running marathons. I think there’s-

Kris Gethin: There’s no doubt about it. There’s no way I could participate in bodybuilding, training the way that I do and training to be an Ironman or triathlete without supplementation. It’s impossible. I would not recover. If I recover by 90 percent I’m only going to optimize my performance by 90 percent. I need 100 percent every time, so after I optimize the supplementation or to recover.

Heather: That’s what I love that you talk about in your Kaged Muscle, about your supplements is that, yes it might only be five percent, but if you can optimize that five percent, why wouldn’t you?

Kris Gethin: Yeah, because sometimes of course, people think I’m biased towards supplementation, or you’re just trying to sell something. I would always go back to, yeah the supplements are only three to five percent if you are 100 percent with your recovery, your training, your nutrition but why wouldn’t you want to take that three to five percent because-

Heather: It’s easy, it’s right there to take.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, exactly, because you know what? I’m getting one more rep out than you. I’m going to finish a couple of seconds faster than you every day, and that adds up.

Nick: During the race, were you talking to other athletes out there, you turning some heads, or is it a pretty solitary experience because I know they can run the gamut.

Kris Gethin: It was more solitary this time in comparison to the half, because it was less people participating. I think there was more serious athletes in this one. Yeah, there was a few people, some people would talk to me, say, “Hey you look like a powerlifter. Hey can we draft behind your calves.” That’s what people said. Somebody even shouted, a spectator, “Hey, thunder thighs, but in a good way.” I had a lot of comments because I obviously look very different out there to everybody else, but they were all very supportive. The comradery in the events I think is absolutely awesome between the participants and the spectators. Every now and again there’s a guy called Miguel, and there’s several others, but this guy called Miguel, we were with each other the whole ride, and the whole run. Except I did beat him in the run. The last loop I felt, “Well, I feel good so I guess I could pick it up a little bit.”

Nick: Let’s do it.

Kris Gethin: That’s what I did, so I left him then.

Nick: I noticed that when I was watching, I thought, “Oh my God, he has a lot left,” and then all of the sudden it was over very quickly on the results.

Kris Gethin: It was good, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted to feel good at the end, that I could do that. I didn’t want to be dragging my ass over. I would generally pass him on the downhills. He would pass me on the uphills, because the uphills are really, really bad for me. We got talking to each other, and he had done several Ironman events and this was his second time doing Coeur d’Alene. We got chatting and it’s good to get a little bit of that distraction. The day goes so much quicker then.

Nick: Helps you pace yourself, too.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, for sure.

Nick: If you got to talk, you can’t be throwing up while you talk.
So, you had a great piece come out on the site recently called “What Every Bodybuilder Needs to Know About Running.” Had some solid tips but at the end of all this are there any other tips that … Two or three things where you think, somebody who wants to be a hybrid athlete, this is what you really need to keep in mind.

Kris Gethin: I want everybody to keep in mind that it’s less superficial. A lot of people obviously want to focus on their pecs and their biceps and their delts. Is it going to be that muscle that’s going to allow you to kiss your kids in the morning? Is that going to allow you to see some amazing views that we have here in Idaho, like the Sawtooths? Is that going to allow you to have an experience at your workplace, another birthday, or whatever. It’s not, it’s going to be your heart that allows you to do that every single year, to have this experience. However, we don’t see that muscle, so people tend to neglect it, and I hate that people put it at the bottom of their pecking order over their pecs, pardon that pun.

Nick: The pec order.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, the pec order. That’s something that I really want to get through to people’s heads, because you can drastically improve your health markers. My joints feel amazing now, would you believe, you’d think that they’d be sore after the running, but because of the trail running I believe, they’re great. My health markers have drastically improved. I’ve increased muscle mass, I’ve decreased body fat, my VO2 max is up, my lactic threshold is better. Why wouldn’t you want to participate in both? It doesn’t have to be extreme. Maybe you just want to do an event such as a Spartan, such as a half marathon. Maybe you don’t, but go out there and experience the outdoors instead of the numbers on a treadmill. You can’t really be one with your thoughts at that point. You’re not going to acknowledge yourself, you’re not going to be aware.

I think a lot of people are really missing out on that. Only because I’ve experienced it, that I feel enlightened by it. I really want to try to, not enforce, inspire others to do it. I’m getting so many tags now, and pictures from people that are doing it. I was on the Fox Morning Show network on Friday. When I went there eight weeks ago just before the half, they asked me on. There’s a gentleman there called Josh, who works there. He was one of the guys that got me on with his producer, [inaudible 00:38:31], and he was following the video series and he said, “I’m going to do a triathlon.” Since then he had done three. The day before my Ironman, he was doing his fourth. He ended up winning that one in his age category.

Nick: Wow.

Kris Gethin: That’s what I absolutely love now. I love to see that more than people taking a selfie in the gym. I love seeing people actually doing both now and experiencing-

Nick: Yeah, there is room for both. It’s not an either/or.

Kris Gethin: Yeah, I’m not saying choose one or the other. I just want bodybuilders to understand that they can experience so much more, and be a bodybuilder. Because I tell you what, there’s nothing … I remember this clearly, doing the run, thinking, “Man, this is awesome. I can run a whole marathon being nearly 220 pounds, as a bodybuilder. How awesome is that?” Six months ago, forget it. Couldn’t even do a mile. It felt awesome to actually be able to do that, and there’s no way I want to let that go. Can you imagine? It’s like building up a physique that you wanted and now you just let it go. You just can’t do it.

Nick: It’s been a great journey and a great story that we’ve certainly enjoyed-

Heather: It’s definitely-

Nick: I know a lot of people have enjoyed watching. The Man of Iron series will continue all the way through the end of it. I don’t know, I’m not sure quite when it’s going to come out. We’ll time it so that maybe a couple of weeks before the last episode.

Kris Gethin: The Ironman.

Heather: Do a little excerpt.

Kris Gethin: I’d say we’re probably about six episodes away, yeah.

Heather Eastman: Yeah, we’re pretty close.

Nick: Yeah, well thank you so much for coming and talking with us, it’s been a great experience.

Kris Gethin: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Nick Collias: He’ll always be here on Bodybuilding.com, this guy’s not going anywhere.

Kris Gethin: I’ll be back whenever you want me.


What Every Bodybuilder Needs To Know About Running

What Every Bodybuilder Needs To Know About Running

Kris Gethin has fundamentally changed his approach to cardio in recent months, but if you think he’s lost his gains as well, you’re sorely mistaken. Here’s what he says every lifter should learn!


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Kris Gethin: Man Of Iron, Week 24

Back | Main | Week 25 Coming October 23

Kris’ final week before race day starts off with a bang, in the form of an exploding shaker bottle full of supplements and apple cider vinegar. But despite this inauspicious start, his final week was one of triumphs.

On “judgement day” in the lab, he discovers that his body composition has improved dramatically over the course of his six months as an aspiring hybrid athlete. Even more surprising, he experiences a dramatic improvement in his VO2 max, a classic measurement of aerobic fitness that, in most cases, is quite difficult to improve.

So is Man of Iron a success? Training-wise, yes. Health-wise, yes. Performance-wise…Kris will only know at the end of the week. Get ready for week 25, the dramatic climax to the Man of Iron series!

Training and Nutrition Tips

  • Race week is the ultimate taper. Rule 1: Don’t push it. Rule 2: If you have any doubt about your ability to follow Rule 1, don’t lift at all. Just practice what you’ll need to have mastered on race day, and make sure your equipment is up to par.
  • Kris says it elsewhere, but race week isn’t going to make your performance (although it can break it), the weeks and months leading up to it will.
  • If you’re preparing for a race, everything Kris said about his half-Ironman applies here, too. Pack your supps in checked bags if you’re flying to a destination. But most importantly, make sure you’ve practiced your nutritional and supplementation approaches extensively. Your stomach won’t like surprises on race day!
  • Most importantly, believe in what you’re doing! “You can live in both of these worlds,” Kris proclaims. “You can live as a bodybuilder and as an endurance athlete without losing muscle, and you can possibly build muscle. But remember, you have to supplement and train like a bodybuilder, and especially eat like one.”

Back | Main | Week 25 Coming October 23

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The Back Workout You'll Feel Till Next Week

Physique shows are won and lost because of the details in the competitors’ backs, and nothing says strength like having that width and thickness straining against your shirt. To achieve this, you have to go all out, and this plan is just what the doctor ordered.

Perform this workout once a week, or as a change of pace every once in a while, and you’ll wake up everything behind you and get it growing!

The Back Workout You’ll Feel Till Next Week

Technique Keys

Pull-up

You knew these were going to be included and you know why. They work! It’s that simple.

The twist is you’re going to do 3 sets with a wide grip and 3 sets with a neutral grip. This will help you target the lats from multiple angles. Can’t do pull-ups? Use a human assistant for a boost, an assisted pull-up machine, or a band. If you must, use a pull-down machine as a last resort. Body weight not enough? Add weight with chains, a belt, or a vest.

Pendlay Row

This isn’t the barbell row you’ve seen where guys are ever-so-slightly bent over. This is the old-school version where you pick it up off the floor. You’re going to feel this everywhere from top to bottom, which is good.

Don’t be afraid to break out straps if you want to go heavy, but don’t jerk and use sloppy form. You might be swearing about these over the next few days, but you’ll swear by them in a few weeks.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

You have to devote attention to each individual side, right? There is nothing better than this move to help you do just that.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

Do yourself a favor by paying extra attention to the negative here. Letting the weight drop each rep isn’t going to help you, and it might hurt you. Pause at the bottom to feel that deep stretch, then crank it back up again. If you feel momentum taking over, you’re going too fast.

Machine or Dumbbell Pull-over

If your gym has a pull-over machine, make sure you use that. (Then let your gym owners know that they are awesome, because not nearly enough people have that machine anymore.)

If not, go with the dumbbell variation. Either way, really concentrate on using the lats here and don’t focus so much on the weight. That was what the rows and pull-ups were for. Let the stretch go as far as you safely can to maximize your range of motion. Squeeze and hold the contraction for a second before continuing.

Deadlift

Deadlift

What? Deadlifts at the end? Yep, and here’s why. Since you’ve reached the end of the session, your back won’t be able to handle as much weight, so you’re going to have to really concentrate on the execution, which is the main focus of this program. This will help you develop that lower back and in the long run, your deadlift max should go up.

If your lower back can’t handle these, use a rack pull, with the bar set at around knee level. It’ll still scorch your lats, upper back, and pretty much everything else.

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How To Stay On Track When Chasing Aesthetic Results

It’s no secret most people exercise because they want to look better—and there’s nothing wrong with that! Having an aesthetics-based goal helps keep you on track in your fitness journey.

But somewhere along the way, all that perfectionistic fine-tuning can take a turn for the worse.

During my transition from amateur bikini competitor to IFBB pro, I pushed myself to chase an impeccable physical aesthetic—the only choice I had if I wanted to win. This meant significantly altering my training style to achieve very precise results.

Unfortunately, my unbalanced and unsustainable approach left me miserable and injured.

I’ve since learned from my mistakes and developed a few tips to help you avoid injury and stay focused by adopting a balanced approach for sustainable results.

Don’t Skip Muscle Groups

Unless you’re skipping one due to injury, include all muscle groups, large and small, in your training plan.

You don’t necessarily need to devote an entire session to a lower-priority muscle group, but you should find a way to hit every major and minor muscle group in your program.

There’s no muscle group in your body that doesn’t perform some function. You may not think something’s important aesthetically, but leaving a muscle untrained for a period of time is a recipe for disaster, in the form of an injury, down the road.

Don’t Skip Chest Day!

It’s not uncommon for us girls to get a bit glute-centric in our workouts, skipping other body parts like chest and arms in favor of building a perfect butt.

But just because we don’t want to build giant pecs doesn’t mean we should skip chest day completely. Although push-ups and bench presses primarily work the pecs, smaller muscle groups, such shoulders and triceps, also become involved.

Don't skip chest day

Adding chest workouts back into your plan not only helps you avoid muscular imbalances, but it can help you build better shoulders and more defined triceps. Next time you put on that little black dress, check out your defined shoulders and sexy arms. You’ll soon agree that chest day is a girl’s best friend!

To add chest to your training program, try pairing it with multiple smaller muscle groups. Some effective training splits including small amounts of chest training are chest/biceps/triceps, chest/shoulders/triceps, and chest/triceps/abs.

Train Glutes for Better Sweeps

By now, most guys have figured out not to skip leg day, lest they be ridiculed for having chicken legs. But where ladies tend to focus on their booty, men often emphasize quad-heavy programs while chasing the perfect sweep.

The next step in the evolution of bro splits is simple: Don’t skip glutes!

Regardless of how suggestive hip thrusts or other glute exercises may look (the Rock even made a joke about this) there are benefits to glute-specific training.

Not only will glute training help prevent muscular imbalances, it will help you achieve a stronger squat with better form, since your glutes act as both primary movers and stabilizers during the squat motion.

Train glutes for better sweeps

On your leg days, try including barbell hip thrusts and some hip abductor work with either cable side-kicks or the hip abductor machine. Hip thrusts primarily work the gluteus maximus and develop strength and power, while the abductor work targets the smaller gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, both of which act as stabilizers during heavy lifts.

Avoid Pattern Overload

If you’re training for aesthetics alone, you probably have a specific set of exercises you perform in a specific order to target a specific muscle.

This constant repetition—known as pattern overload—places unusual stress on the body and can often result in muscular imbalances. Left uncorrected, this can lead to injury. Baseball pitchers, for example, perform the same throwing motion hundreds of times, season after season, which is why these athletes often suffer rotator cuff injuries.

Now imagine how many times you’ve done the same movement, over and over, trying to work on that one lagging body part. If you’re not careful, this repetitive motion over a prolonged period of time could lead to injury.

Add Variety to Your Training Program

To avoid overtraining injuries, add variety to your program by changing the volume of your exercises, switching the planes of motion you train in, and shuffling the order of your favorite lifts.

Vary your training volume by building phases into your program. For example, you can increase the number of sets each week while decreasing the number of repetitions per set—or decrease the sets and weight while increasing the number of repetitions.

Multi-planar training can help you avoid injury by balancing muscle strength and giving you better total-body performance. You can select different exercises or switch to multi-planar variations of your favorites.

For example, if you like using box jumps as a high-intensity interval exercise, add a rotation to create a different plane of movement. To do this, start by standing with your side next to the box. As you jump, rotate your body 90 degrees toward the box before landing.

For example, if you like using box jumps as a high-intensity interval exercise, add a rotation to create a different plane of movement.

Switching the order of exercises in your program or trying new muscle group combinations in your weekly split are two of the easiest ways to prevent burnout and add variety to your workout routine.

If you normally start leg day with the leg press, try moving this exercise to the end of your workout. Or if you always train back with biceps, mix it up by pairing back and shoulders, or train opposing muscle groups by working back and chest.

Creating variety in your program does not mean you have to sacrifice aesthetic results. If anything, making changes to the volume, type, and order of your exercises can help you overcome plateaus, and mixing up your workout could be exactly what you need to stay focused, enjoy your training, and continue to improve long after you step off the stage.

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Why To Meal Prep, And Where To Start

You’ve seen them on Instagram: the hardcore athletes who line up a week’s worth of meals on a kitchen counter, snap a picture, and proudly tag it #moregains, #fitfood, and #goals. But who’s got time to do that except professional bodybuilders, right? You’re doing fine just going from meal to meal without planning! Or are you?

Here’s the thing: Meal prepping doesn’t have to be the all-or-nothing Tupperware party that many people portray it as. It could be a total game changer for your results even if you just prep your most problematic meal of the day (for most people, lunch), and your post-workout meal, which can be nothing more than a snack or a protein shake.

If those two meals happen to be the same meal for you, all the better! Let’s dive in and get you on the road to easy, effective prep.

Is Prepping Really Worth the Time?

“More than anything, meal prepping allows you to plan your meals based on your health and fitness goals,” says Josh Davis, CSCS, a strength coach and self-proclaimed master meal-prepper. “Meal prepping will get you better, quicker results from your training. It puts you in control of what you eat, when you eat, how much you eat, and when you ‘cheat.'”

Taking the time—and making the time—to prepare as little as 3-5 meals each week could be just the thing to bring your entire week of eating under control.

“Meal prep helps you manage temptations that arise throughout the day,” says Davis. “It helps save time. It reduces the effects of ‘decision fatigue,’ and allows you to create an organized schedule of eating that fits the pace of your day, even if you’re incredibly busy.”

If you put in the time and energy to prep nothing more than your lunches, snacks, and post-workout meals or shakes, you’re that much less likely to head through the drive-thru. Prepping also cuts down on wasted food and wasted time, because you’re buying and preparing only what you need.

Shop With Specific Meals In Mind

All the hard work of meal prepping comes on the front end.

“Look at your schedule for the week and determine how many meals you really need before you head to the grocery store,” says Talia Koren, founder of Workweek Lunch, an Instagram site that helps meal preppers prep.

Once you’ve determined how many meals you need, think about what you really like to eat.

“Cook healthier versions of the food you like to order at restaurants. Instead of settling for drab chicken and broccoli, aim for dishes like burrito bowls, Asian stir-fries, or even pasta dishes,” Koren says.

Of course, preparing to cook more interesting meals means you need to select recipes before you head for the store. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are two tried-and-true approaches:

  • Choose recipes that use some of the same ingredients, so you can cook up a bunch of chicken to use in different dishes one week. Then plan on multiple—but different—beef dishes the next.
  • Change up the meats every other day while keeping your sides dishes the same. So beef and rice one day, pork tenderloin and rice the next. The more you’re able to cook at once, the less prep and cleanup time you’ll need.

Shop, Then Prep Right Away

Plenty of people shop with an ambitious prep in mind, but once they get home, they put the food in the fridge and go do something—anything—other than prep. Often, the food they buy ends up going to waste, and they end up dreading meal prep or thinking they don’t have time for it.

Work efficiently by carving out one single time to do your shopping, prepping, cooking, and storing. For instance, as soon as you get home from the store, immediately wash and cut your veggies, light up the stove, and start cooking.

“Keep it simple when you first start,” Davis says. “Plan and prep one meal and one snack a day and give yourself time to master the process. Get a feeling for how much food you need for a week’s worth of one meal a day. Once you master the process, you can start prepping multiple meals, but don’t rush right into it.”

Make Meals You’ll Be Able to Eat

When you’re planning your meals, consider the resources you have at work. If your workplace doesn’t have a microwave, avoid meals that need to be heated. Instead, prep cold salads, stir-fries that hold up well when served cold, and simple finger foods.

If you do have access to a microwave, the culinary world is your oyster. Just make sure the containers are heatproof. It’s best to use actual bowls made of thick plastic, ceramic, or glass to heat up things like soup. But be careful taking these containers out of the microwave: They can get very hot!

Think Specifically About Your Post-Workout Nutrition

One of the best reasons to meal prep is to get your post-workout nutrition right. In addition to standard meals and snacks, take any post-workout supplements you take into consideration.

“The food you eat after a workout is your ‘recovery meal,'” says Lisa Reed, CSCS, IFBB fitness pro and owner of Lisa Reed Fitness. “This small meal is the most important and underrated part of training. Within 15-30 minutes after exercising, your muscles are like sponges and will soak up nutrients like a dry sponge soaks up water.”

Not coincidentally, right after training is also often when people who struggle with their diet find themselves attacked by cravings. Having a solid, balanced meal on hand is essential at this time!

For a seriously simple approach to the recovery meal, add a post-workout snack that’s rich in carbs and protein to your meal prepping plan, especially if you can’t sit down to eat within a couple hours after your scheduled workout. Throw one or two snacks into your meal prep carryall, along with a shaker bottle and some protein. When you’ve finished your workout, simply toss back a shake and eat your snack. Then, an hour or two later, have your full meal.

Keep Your Meals Cold When You’re On the Go

Standard lunch boxes or bags are fine if you’re carrying a single meal with you, but if you’ve got three meals, two snacks, and supplements, a basic lunch box won’t cut it. Many companies now cater to meal preppers, offering specialized bags designed to hold multiple meals and additional gear. These bags are typically insulated and come with their own food containers and ice packs to make food prep a seamless endeavor.

This might seem like overkill to someone new to prep, but plenty of fit people swear by them. Why? They make your life and your prep easier—which shouldn’t be underappreciated. If you’re going to get serious about prep, it may be an investment worth making.

One of the most popular meal prep companies, 6 Pack Fitness, offers bags with a shelving system that allows you to access individual meal containers without removing anything else from the bag.

Michael Todd, a 6 Pack Fitness representative, recommends the Innovator Mini for people new to the prepping game. The Innovator Mini comes with three containers for meals and snacks, and one for supplements. There’s also enough room for two shaker bottles. The containers sit inside an insulated shell that comes with two freezer packs that can keep food cold for eight or more hours.

Think Five Days Out

Some meal preppers like to get a whole week ahead. Others like to limit it to 2-3 days, and prep twice a week. Casey Moulton, also known as the Kitchen Karate guy, recommends that new preppers think in terms of the five-day work week at first.

“I recommend making fresh meals each week and storing them in the refrigerator,” says Moulton. “Most meals will hold up for five days in the fridge without a problem, which is usually as long as you need to store them.”

If you find that the last couple of meals each week aren’t quite up to par, either cut back to a three-day prep, or try to pick meals that lend themselves to sitting for slightly longer.

Moulton also recommends prepping and storing individual components of meals. For instance, all the chicken goes in one container, the beef in another, and the sweet potatoes in a third. Then, you can mix and match them throughout the week.

To help foods last longer, make sure the lid is tight, Moulton says, and keep things like lettuce and spinach packed separately from liquids. Throw a paper towel in with your leafy greens to keep them from getting soggy.

What about freezing meals? None of the experts I interviewed recommended that approach for the beginning meal prepper. Yes, it can be an occasional lifesaver to have a frozen meal waiting for you when there’s nothing else planned, but for most people, starting with lunch and the post-workout snack or meal is the path of least resistance.

Just Get Started!

At the end of the day, the best way to learn is by doing. If you have a plan, a few solid containers, and a carrying case, you’ve got what you need to give meal prepping a try. All that’s left to do is head to the grocery store, sharpen your kitchen knife, and get to work.

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The Top 5 Newbie Calisthenics Mistakes

There’s a guy at my local calisthenics park who likes to correct everybody’s form. The other day I watched him criticize someone for failing to do the full range of motion during a set of dips. Though the critique was rude and inappropriate, he did have a point: The person in question was barely doing half of what I would consider to be the minimum range of motion.

Ironically, when the fellow who called him out went to do his own set of dips a few minutes later, he could barely perform half of the range of motion himself!

My reason for relaying this anecdote is not (just) to point out how obnoxious it is to offer unsolicited advice at the park or at the gym, but more to highlight how we’re often terribly unaware of our own shortcomings. Pointing the finger is easy, but it takes character to turn the critical eye inward and be as objective as possible about your own training.

This applies to me, too. Nearly a decade has passed since I began sharing workout videos on YouTube. But when I started filming my exercises, I was amazed to discover that a lot of the time what I thought I was doing, and what I was actually doing, were two very different things.

Though I’ve been training calisthenics for most of my life, I’m still continually learning. I’ve also coached thousands of others over the years and I’ve noticed a lot of the same issues tend to come up with beginners, and I sometimes see more experienced people making these mistakes as well.

Don’t let the following pitfalls prevent you from making progress with your calisthenics training!

Newbie Mistake 1: Neglecting the Lower Body

One of the most pervasive stereotypes about modern calisthenics practitioners is that we don’t train our legs. Though I’ve been a longtime proponent of calisthenics leg workouts, this stereotype is not entirely unfounded. I’ve seen many folks focus so much on movements emphasizing their chest, arms, or abs that they forget about their legs entirely. This is true of many iron lifters as well.

Since your legs make up roughly 50 percent of your body, however, the fact of the matter is that if you don’t have strong legs, you aren’t really strong. The good news is that if you hit them hard, you only need to work your legs once or twice a week.

Start by mastering basic bodyweight squats—and doing lots of them. Then you can gradually progress your way up to single-leg pistol squats.

Start by mastering basic bodyweight squats—and doing lots of them. Then you can gradually progress your way up to single-leg pistol squats.

Newbie Mistake 2: Focusing on Muscles over Movements

In conventional strength training, it’s common to try to isolate individual muscles or muscle groups with single-joint exercises like biceps curls or leg extensions, but with calisthenics our muscles work more effectively when we use them together. The sum is greater than the individual parts.

Don’t get me wrong, there is more emphasis on certain muscles with certain exercises, but there is no such thing as true isolation in the world of calisthenics. Even an exercise like my beloved pull-up, which emphasizes the back and biceps, also significantly involves the chest and abdominal muscles. In fact, studies have shown that pull-ups actually recruit the rectus abdominis to a greater degree than traditional crunches and sit-ups.

Don't get me wrong, there is more emphasis on certain muscles with certain exercises, but there is no such thing as true isolation in the world of calisthenics

The question “What muscle does this exercise work?” is so common in the strength-training world that many people forget the entire concept of muscle isolation didn’t exist until bodybuilding rose to mainstream prominence.

When people ask me what muscles they work training the human flag or elbow lever, my answer is: “All of them!”

Newbie Mistake 3: Rushing Ahead

We all know how badass it looks to do a muscle-up or one-arm pull-up, but you need to build the proper foundation before attempting any high-level calisthenics. Bodyweight training is among the safer strength-training modalities, but any exercise is potentially dangerous if it is performed with poor technique or by a practitioner who is not properly prepared.

We all know how badass it looks to do a muscle-up or one-arm pull-up, but you need to build the proper foundation before attempting any high-level calisthenics.

A good baseline of strength will be achieved once you’ve built up to at least 30 strict push-ups, 10 strict pull-ups, and lots and lots of bodyweight squats. If those sound like the standards of the Century Test at the Progressive Calisthenics Certifications that my brother Danny and I lead, it’s not a coincidence.

Focus on those milestones before you begin to experiment with anything more advanced. Your joints will thank you for it later.

Newbie Mistake 4: Failing to Perform a Full Range of Motion

Though some lifters will intentionally perform partial reps, most folks who fail to complete a full range of motion believe they are going all the way up and all the down. Like my form-policing friend at the park, oftentimes we feel like we are moving a greater distance than we actually are.

This is part of why is can be helpful to have a qualified trainer to help correct your form.

This is part of why is can be helpful to have a qualified trainer to help correct your form. If you can’t find or afford one, recording video of your workouts is your next best option. Taking footage of your training isn’t just for showing off on Instagram, it’s a fantastic tool to help you objectively assess your technique. You might see the full ROM taking place in your mind’s eye, but the camera can provide a more objective viewpoint.

Newbie Mistake 5: Valuing Quantity Over Quality

While it’s great to have ambitious training goals, focusing too much on reaching a certain number of reps in a given set—or even just a single rep that you’re not quite ready for yet—can lead to sacrificing control and alignment. It’s also another reason folks sometimes shortchange their range of motion.

Ironically, when you focus too heavily on the goal, you lose sight of what’s actually happening in the moment. The truth is, you are much better off doing 5-6 strict, full range of motion pull-ups than 20 swinging half-reps.

Ironically, when you focus too heavily on the goal, you lose sight of what's actually happening in the moment.

You can still aim to get those 20 pull-ups, but if you are sacrificing form to get there, you’re better off breaking them up into multiple sets in order to ensure that your technique remains intact. Take your time and focus on doing each aspect of every exercise with care and attention.

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