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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 45

Written on June 14, 2013 at 5:03 am, by Eric Cressey

Thanks to CP coach Greg Robins, here are this week's list of tips to help out your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs.

1. Make sure you're using an appropriate set-up for chops and lifts.

2. Consider using “strongman” events for assistance lifts.

To be clear: what I am about to say is not the only time strongman training is beneficial. Furthermore, it’s hard to pigeonhole something into a token term like this to begin in the first place. The traditional strongman lifts, such as the farmer’s carry, hand-over-hand rope pull, and sled towing, pushing, and dragging are exercises from which a TON of people can benefit.

There is one class of individuals for whom these lifts can be especially useful. For lack of a better term, I just call these people “timid.” I don’t use the term negatively, nor do I intend to degrade these folks. The simple truth is that they’re a common example of a great strength conversely serving as a great weakness.

These athletes, or gym goers, are often the “hard gainers” who also tend to be a bit overly analytical. The best medicine for them is a heavy dose of big compound movements. Unfortunately, they are also somewhat predisposed to overthinking every rep and every increase in weight. This provides the obvious problem of stagnancy, thwarting any efforts to enforce a constant theme of progressive overload to get strong.

Enter the “strongman” lifts. The beauty here is in their simplicity, as well as their somewhat self-limiting properties. After our less aggressive individual finishes his or her main lift(s) for the day (they should still be doing them, albeit at a snails pace of progression), consider basing a good chunk of their assistance work around these staples. Having them push, drag, and tow a heavy sled leaves little room for thinking, and a lot of room for doing and character building. Furthermore, carrying weight has a similar advantage. Once it’s in hand there’s only one thing to do: GO!

If you or one of your athletes, fits the bill give these more of your attention. The gains you make in size and strength will be very noticeable. Plus, the mental fortitude these movements build will carry over into the rest of your workouts, and time on the field. As with any exercise, evaluate individuals ahead of time to make sure these lifts fit the person in question.

3. Give your chocolate protein shakes an overhaul.

Chocolate protein powder is a staple. If you’re trying a new brand, you always choose chocolate. If you’ve taken a tour of every exotic flavor, you always return to the old standby. Sure, vanilla is solid, but sometimes even vanilla has a shady aftertaste, depending on the brand. Chocolate is the safe choice, time and time gain.

Maybe though, even chocolate is becoming a bit stale. Another, peanut butter chocolate concoction is already turning your stomach, and chocolate banana was cast away as a viable option a few months ago. Sounds to me like you need a whole new taste to blow your mind, and make protein shakes a frothy delight once again.

Next time you’re at the market pick up some peppermint extract. If you like mint chocolate chip ice cream or York peppermint patties, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you will likely rejoice in utter chocolate mint ecstasy. Simply add a drop of this elixir to your protein shakes and see for yourself.

pure_peppermint_extract_400

NOTE: I wouldn’t use the bananas with this one either…

Here’s a quick recipe:

8oz Water, Milk, or Almond Milk
A few ice cubes
½ to 1 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1 – 2 Scoops of Chocolate Protein Powder
1 Drop Peppermint Extract
Options: Rolled Oats, Greens Powder, Handful Of Nuts

4. Try forward lunges to a step.

5. Try ascending tri-sets for muscle gains.

I’ve somehow found myself coaching quite a few figure competitors over the last few years. It’s not something I write, or even talk about much, but I am fortunate that they have had a great amount of success. It’s a pretty good gig actually. Basically, it involves being handed the best clients in the world. They are extremely focused, and will do everything you tell them – and to a “T.”  The credit belongs to them, though (and not me), so I just choose to let them do the talking.

I will share one strategy I use with them as we enter a more “hypertrophy” based focus in their training. This is also a time when we might be honing in on a certain area, trying to accentuate a body part or bring up a weak point. I call these ascending tri-sets, because that’s what they are (I’m still working on some catchy name). It basically involves moving from a big compound movement, to a more bodyweight style, or larger isolated movement, and finishing with a smaller isolated movement. The reps ascend from low to high, and each exercise targets the same general area.

You can get creative and make up a few examples yourself, but here are a few staples:

Example 1:

A1. Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press x 5/side
A2. Push-ups x Technical Failure (leave a few reps in the tank)
A3. Resistance Band Triceps Extensions

Example 2:

A1. Barbell Romanian Deadlift x 6
A2. Glute Ham Raise x 10
A3. Slideboard Hamstring Curl x 15

If you have a weak point to bring up, or are just looking to mix up your routine, come up with a few yourself and give them a try

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  • Ollie

    Greg….due to two rupture patella tendons….I’m having
    Problems getting hyperthropy in my VMO’s, can you recommend some good isolated exercises to achieve growth.
    Cheers!!!!

  • Robert Shannon

    Haven’t seen it yet so no comment yet

  • abdii

    This is off-topic but i hope you or eric answers it. Whats the difference between alternating db press and normal db press? And do you recommend O/H alt press vs normal db O/H press ?

    Thanks for the answer and the article.

  • http://www.personalbestpersonaltraining.com Kathy Ekdahl

    Oh… why did I not think of mint and chocolate shakes! This is why you are paid the big bucks. Brilliant… Great idea.

  • Hugh

    WARNING! Use just ONE DROP of the mint extract. I made the mistake of “more is better” a few years ago while on the VDIET from t-nation. I’m still trying to enjoy peppermint again…

  • http://ericcressey.com Eric Cressey

    Abdil,

    The alternating DB press will give you a bit more thoracic mobility and rotary stability.  In terms of overhead work, both are great options; variety is the name of the game.

  • http://www.bodybasics.biz Chris Litten

    Greg,

    Great content. I will definitely be trying the mint extract, although I am going to see what it tastes like with vanilla also.

    I love your ascending tri-sets concept also. Great blend of strength, hypertrophy, and endurance. To see if I am on target with your thought process, tell me what you think of this one: A1-Weighted Pullups x 6, A2-Close-Grip Lat Pulldowns x Technical Failure (scap control at start and finish of range my main indicator), A3-Inclined DB Biceps Curls x 15

    Look forward to your comments Eric. Keep on delivering solid content.

    God bless,

    Chris Litten

  • http://ronellsmith.com ronell smith

    Greg,

    The smoothie idea is stellar, certainly not one that I would have thought of. Although, being that I am a full-fledged Cressey-ite, I’m enjoying smoothies a lot less nowadays in favor or gorging on grass-fed beef.

    Thanks for some awesome tips, GR.

    RS

  • http://www.corebalanceportland.com Daniel Drozdowski

    Some really great tips. Thank you for your hard work and well thought out approach.

  • Jim

    May I ask a question? I’ve been getting a sharp, sudden pain in the inside/front of my right knee – it comes most reliably during actions like the wall ankle mobilisation. I don’t know if this is relevant, but I injured that knee a few years ago while squatting, when I was less flexible than I am today – the pain is occasionally noticeable, but never serious, during squats today. Is this an injury to be concerned about? Are there any useful workarounds/rehabilitations that I could use?

    Many thanks for creating such a useful resource!

    Jim

  • http://ericcressey.com Eric Cressey

    Jim,

    I’d encourage you to get it checked out.  These things are impossible to diagnose over the internet, and it’s outside of our scope of practice, anyway!  Sorry.

  • Jim

    That’s alright, thank you very much anyway!

  • http://www.thestrengthhouse.com Greg R.

    Chris,

    Thanks for the comment! Yes, I think that scheme look solid!

    Best,

    Greg

  • Mat Hill

    Thanks. I’d like to see a whole piece on the tri-sets work though, for more clarification!

  • http://www.StevenRiceFitness.com Steven Rice Fitness

    I use a step for squats and lunges for people with past knee pain who have a lot of apprehension of knee flexion. The height can slowly be lowered as they gain confidence and strength.

  • Jeremy Fernandes

    Not a big fan of mint/mint chocolate but will give it a try. if anyone else is in this boat, a tsp of flavored instant coffee works nicely too.

    Mat Hill

    Pick a complex movement using DB/BB
    Pick a similar movement that is unloaded / bodyweight
    Pick an isolated muscle

    Eg.
    Supinated Grip Bent Over Barbell Row
    Inverted Row
    Bicep Curl

  • Mario

    as always, great content. Please keep up the great work!

  • http://portlandtopchiropractors.com Casey Adams

    We have always found Almond Milk to be a good alternative when trying new protein shakes. Also blend some frozen berries always makes the drink taste better.


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