Monthly Archives: January 2016

7 Ways To Elevate Your Strength-Training Gains in 2016

If you feel giddy excitement for the new year, you must be envisioning what you can achieve with strength training: A chiseled, strong physique that screams sexyathleticism… A well-developed, muscled back that emerged from unassisted pull ups… A booty that won’t quit and legs you want to flaunt… And most importantly, rock-solid confidence that your body is a strong, lean, fat-burning machine.

At least that’s what I’m aiming for when I lift weights.

I want you to have a piece of the pie, too. If you practice these seven ways of elevating your strength-training gains faithfully, you will bust out more muscle and strength than you ever have before. Are you ready for it?

A Roadmap for More Muscle

You’ve probably seen those pie charts dividing the important parts of your life into categories (career, family, etc.). It’s a cool way to set specific goals, but I’ve taken it to a new level. 
That Consistency, Though…

You might notice that consistency is missing from this chart, yet it’s arguably themost important element of getting good results with lifting. That’s because consistency is the crux of every piece of this chart – you cannot practice these pillars once in awhile and progress safely and successfully long term. You must do each one most or all of the time.

And training consistently is a given. To build significant muscle and strength, you must get most workouts in. Remember that muscle is not “easy” to build, especially if you’re an intermediate lifter. But with your eyes focused on this roadmap, youwill get there.

Now for each pillar in more detail. To drill down further in each area, peruse my strength-training article database.

Warm Up Always & Optimally

If anything separates the girls who lift from the women who lift, it’s a religious warm-up habit. A good warm up means more muscle. Why? Because it increases blood flow to skeletal muscle, produces better muscle contractions, and increases neuromuscular efficiency. And these responses reduce your risk of injury and increase your performance. See why you should never skip your warm up?

Here’s my ideal strength-training warm up (in order):

  1. 5 minutes of moderate cardio to increase blood flow and heart rate (core body temperature).
  2. 5 minutes of foam rolling, in areas where you feel tight, to work through range of motion issues.
  3. 2 sets of 4-6 dynamic warm-up exercises (circuit-style), mimicing those in your workout, to activate the nervous system and prepare your joints and soft tissues for movement.

So while it’s important to warm up before every session, it’s also important to warm up optimally.

Cycle Your Workouts

If you’re already cycling your workouts, you’re probably a personal trainer, because most recreational lifters wing it. Just sayin’. Lots of people change the weight, reps, sets, or exercises depending on their mood, and before they know it they’re injured, plateaued, or have pipsqueaky results.

But you don’t have to be a personal trainer to cycle your workouts. Simply plan out your workouts out in advance, rotating heavy and light days. Take a deload week once every 4-12 weeks, depending on your level. Break your training into 4-, 6- 8- or even 12-week chunks and change variables at regular intervals (more on that below).

Whatever you do, logging your workouts is a must. How else will you know how much to lift each sesh?

More Resources: Read my articles for beginners or any level, learn about changing exercises, reps, sets, and watch my ‘scope about programming your own workouts, Or get my help to benefit from a custom, professionally designed training program (badaboom!).

Eat For Your Goals

When my online clients first come to me, they already know nutrition plays a big role in muscle building. The problem is that it can be hard to live it. Add in a metabolism that is ineffcient after years of (1) eating too little or too much and/or (2) not exercising enough, and you have a plateaued, frustrated woman lifter.

Not only is eating a well-rounded, natural foods diet important, so is eating the right amount for your goals. You need to eat more to build muscle. So if you goal is to lose fat, you need to eat less first. You also need to get the proper pre- and postworkout nutrition.

Don’t Hold Back

This is something you may need to hear: Release your fear and trust your body. Stop being afraid of getting bulky, hurting yourself, or looking stupid. Just lift, and lift hard and heavy.

Ahem, yes: You should train intelligently and cycle in back-off weeks. Don’t go to  failure on every set.


Respect Range of Motion

Every time I go to the gym, I see range-of-motion mistakes. It’s common for both experienced and beginning lifters to stop short at one end of the lift or the other, either unconsciously or to make it easier. But you’re not doing yourself any favors by shortening the ROM, and you may even cause a muscle imbalance or worse.

One study even demonstrated that muscle size and strength are greater with full range of motion [1]. You can read more about that study here. Good range of motion equals good technique. Which brings us to the next stop on your 2016 roadmap to your most bitchin’ physique EVAR.

Practice Technique

Every good lifter is a student of lifting. Effective weightlifting is a technical endeavor that requires a lot of neuromuscular control. Some lifts are more technical than others, but even personal trainers are constantly working towards perfecting their technique.

Practicing technique never ends, because your body is never static. You can develop a muscle imbalance unconsciously and start training around it, changing your technique. Record yourself, study videos, and analyze your own form or have a pro do it for you. Practice, practice, and keep perfecting as you add weight to the bar. As Dave Tate once said,

You can work technique all you want at 30 and 40 percent of your one-rep max using multiple sets and low reps, but technique is still going to be influenced by what’s on the bar. You may look good at 50 percent but 80 percent may look like shit.”

Recover Like You Train

You’ve stressed your muscles, joints, and central nervous system with a hard lifting session. Nice job! Now it’s time to rest and get bigger.

We tend to put all the importance on our time in the gym, but the real work happens in between sessions. Muscle fibers repair broken-down tissues, resuting in larger muscles. Calories continue to be burned (via EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) and glycogen stores are replaced. Most importantly, the central nervous system restores full function between brain and body.

Inadequate recovery can result in injuries and dwarfed muscle and strength. Make recovery as important as training, and read up HERE to find out how much you need.

There you have it – your path to strength-training gainz in 2016. For cardiovascular health and to help cut out a lean physique, integrate conditioning into your workout week, too. Do a 10-minute finisher using any bodyweight exercise you can do fast with good form, or add 20-minute high-intensity intervals 2-3 times a week.

Drop Everything And Train

We’ve had a few catchphrases over the years.

In the early days of Barbell Shrugged, I can remember scribbling, “Coffee, Tequila, Barbells” everywhere and on everything. It was silly, but also an effective way to define and state our mission. All we wanted to do was talk about training and have a great time doing it. And it worked!

The Window of Gains is a more recent example. It’s was still fun and on mission; but the goal was very different. We wanted to teach something practically and personally – With laughter.

That’s the challenge, right? There’s no shortage of theory and opinion in the field of sports nutrition. And yet, the world is overflowing with athletes who aren’t meeting their nutritional and performance goals. We have more available information than ever, so why should anyone be confused about what they need? Why should anyone argue for certainty of knowledge over action?

Our approach was to film a light-hearted show on the topic, and maybe slap a cartoon logo on the side of a shaker bottle. “People will see this and giggle,” we thought. “And then maybe they’ll remember that building a strong and adaptive body begins with a shake and a decent meal.”

This is the power of a phrase. A short, funny thing. It is a trigger. It is your spark. A real path of action, and results, and truly profound change.

Yes, we’ve had a few phrases over the years. Some were funny, a few were even useful. But only one phrase has proven durable and real enough to serve as our default battle flag, our rallying cry.

It doesn’t look like much at first. It doesn’t even make sense – d3&t, what is that?

The name itself is very easy to explain. To d3&t means to, “Drop Everything & Train.” As it suggests, this is a call to action. Actually, our exact call to action. The “3” in the title points to 3 o’clock, our sanctioned training time. But all the real power here is contained in the depth.

Real knowledge is about taking action. And this particular action of “dropping everything” works at three distinct, body-strengthening, life-changing levels.

Begin and discover for yourself.

Level 1 – Establish the practice

There are countless ways your training could go poorly. There are so many variables at play, so many possible goals to chase, and like I said, there’s so much theory to consider.

And it’s true, you’re going to get lost and fuck up eventually, probably more than a few times. But this is the only way that you can truly learn. In time, and with enough of the fuck-ups, you’ll start to notice that successful training means nothing more than restarting and recommitting again every day.

On balance, you will have good days and very bad days. The weights will feel light, and sometimes immovable. And toughest of all, there will be moments where the entire world feels like a barrier between you and the barbell.

That’s when you’ll make the real decisions. Day by day, will you choose to drop everything? Will you do the work?

Level 2 – Focus your intent

Touching the barbell is always a plus, but still just a start. There’s still more that needs to drop.

You might guess that the plan is very important, and it is. But it can also be a big distraction in any gym or training space. There are many great programs, written by many amazing, highly capable coaches. But as map in your hands, that program isn’t worth much on its own.

Vision and earnestness do all the driving.

So, drop everything. Every distraction of your life. Every urge that tells you to try something new, or something else, or something fancier and more complex. Drop anything that serves to divide your intent.

Go ahead, you know the answer. The time is now. There’s only the barbell, this first lift of your training session. So give the moment all the focus it deserves. Give it everything you have, and pay very close attention to the results.

You’ll quickly discover that intent is almost everything.

Level 3 and beyond – Remove the expectations

If you want to achieve extraordinary results, focus your attention. Do not try to take on everything all of the times.

But with that, it’s important to say that even focus has its limitations. Consider that the world is filled with tremendously strong and fit people who don’t feel that way inside. They might win more races than they lose, or lift immense loads, but they can’t keep from chasing bigger results.

I don’t want to discourage you, the opposite is true. You should pursue a meaningful goal, something you. Don’t stop until you realize that goal. But you should also realize that the most powerful kind of action isn’t anchored to the result.

You’ve heard of Yoga, right? Sure, there’s the physical, bendy, sweaty, incense-infused kind of Yoga. But then again, there’s a more ancient, fundamental, flowing kind of Yoga. Something for the body and the mind. More of a verb than noun, I guess.

It’s called Flow, bliss, or even just happiness. It’s not a thing to get, but the natural byproduct of a still, trained, soothed mind.

It starts happening when you get lost in a book, spin thread, write, garden, or shoot baskets alone in the backyard.

It is the high that hits the runner mid-marathon, and it’s what you can experience at will in the gym as soon as you stop caring about how strong you look.

Drop everything.

That means the burdens of your daily grind, your attachments, and your expectations for what you must become and achieve. Let it go for a while.

Just load a barbell. Grab a weight. Move and fuck around. Play! Express your skills as efficiently as possible, without any worry or concern for how much you’re lifting or the work you’re not accomplishing. That’s it, the only trick.

Once you stop worrying about the result you can finally lift for yourself. This is an opportunity to get lost with the barbell, to have a deeply rewarding time, and to connect with yourself. You will leave those sessions with a steady and clear mind, which ultimately means you will be far more effective out in the world and with the people you love.

That’s what d3&t really means to us – It’s freedom through training. Live that, and you’ll do far more than break records in the gym.

Lear more over here —