Warming-up for Better Gains: Why, How to do it, and What to Avoid

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Being a trainer you see a lot of different people and how they approach exercise and working out in general.

One thing I see MOST people NOT doing is properly warming-up their bodies to perform the work they need to do.

This is especially true when performing resistance training, particularly for big compound lifts, such as the squat, bench press, or deadlift.

In fact, I saw 4 people jump right into it within 30 minutes today while I was doing my workout. No sweat when they got there, and no practice of movement patterns for the exercise they’re about to do. Whether it’s a squat or a bench press, no warm-up at all.

Essentially, they’re working out without any thought, method, or purpose.

What these individuals fail to understand is that they’re leaving gains on the table. Sure, it’s great in theory that you should be able to just “turn-on” your body when you need to and perform on a dime, but since many people sit for long periods during the day it’s not like you’re just ready to perform. To think you have mastery over your body where you require no warm-up is foolish.

Anybody who lifts any respectable weight for their size, age, weight, sex, etc. knows this. Most of these people are ignorant, and making an excuse that you’re different doesn’t stand-up to reality.

If you want to make more gains, and not get screwed up at the same time WARM-UP.

It’s not an option.

Why Warm-up?

Warming-up is a MUST because it generates increased blood flow to our muscles, joints, and connective tissues that prepare our bodies to do physical work significantly better.

Increased blood flow equals increased oxygen to our muscles for energy, and primes our central nervous system (CNS) to better control bodily movements. This allows the body to become more flexible, mobile, and respond to the task at hand with greater readiness.

In addition, warming-up also reduces the chance for injury.

For instance, if your plan is to bench 315 for the day it’s not the best idea to put 315 on the bar from the get-go. Odds are you’ll probably fail miserably, and maybe even tear a pec (not good!).

Instead, take your time and start getting blood-flow in your muscles, specifically the ones you will use: chest, shoulders, back, and arms. Start with the bar, and add appropriate increments of weight that prepare your body for the weight you will use.

There is a little more to it than that (I’ll go over that in a moment), but keeping things simple, that way is a much better method than diving in haphazardly and hoping for the best.

Warm-up routines are an essential part to any workout or training that you’ll do, and if you want to optimize the work you’re doing make it a part of your routine every-time.


Let’s get one thing straight…


Stretching (and sometimes foam rolling) is a “PART” of your warm-up routine, but it DOES NOT WARM-UP THE BODY.

What “WARMS-UP THE BODY” is physical activity, like certain drills and exercises that elevate your body temperature and respiratory rate. Basically, anything causing you to break a sweat, and prepare you for the strenuous work ahead.


What stretching, like static stretching (SS), is essential for is increasing muscle elasticity.

In other words, SS allows your muscles to reach complete, or better, range of motion (ROM) for any movement that you’ll have to do: any pressing, pulling, rowing, extensions, flexions, etc. This allows for better mobility — flexibility in action — so you can perform better during any exercise you’ll have to do.


Yes, keep stretching, but do not think that after your stretch you are good to go. It is only part of the process.

The Warm-up Process

What does the warm-up process look like?


There are 3 basic steps to any warm-up routine, especially if you want to lift your best.


  1. Get the Body Moving!

The first step is what is says — move the body!

Pick something SIMPLE that will cause you to start and break a sweat. For example, you could go on the treadmill for 1o minutes, or you can do something more interactive and run some stairs or do some battle ropes.

In addition, this stage can also involve basic movements or exercises, like calisthenics (any body-weight exercise, like body squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, ab work, etc.) or kettlebells. It’s great to do a warm-up circuit at a lower intensity that further increase blood flow to muscles. What’s great is that exercise actively stretches the body at the same time, which is referred to as DYNAMIC STRETCHING (DS).

DS is stretching in motion, and a simple example is a lunge. A lunge will often stretch your hip flexors while you do the exercise, while increasing blood flow to your quads and glutes. It’s like killing two birds with one stone.

The takeaway: get the heart rate up, elevate your body temperature, and increase your respiratory rate with something useful. 

2. Stretching

The second component in a warm-up routine is stretching. I like doing my stretching after a general warm-up so my muscles can be more elastic and pliable. It’s also safer to do so, since stretching may cause excess stretch to a muscle that is “COLD” (shortened).

Stretch the main parts of your body, especially the muscles groups you plan on using for the day. Stretch the hips, legs, back, shoulders, chest, and arms. Spend as much or as little time as you need on stretching. I’m not a big fan of saying you should spend “x amount of time stretching”. I think that does not make sense. Stretch until you feel loose and ready for action then move on.

3. Specific Exercise/Movement warm-up

The last part of the warm-up is to do an active warm-up specific for the exercises or training you have outlined ahead.

For instance, if you’re deadlifting for the day, doing some sort of hip hinge and pull is a great way to stimulate the muscles involved in the movement pattern for that exercise. An example would be a kettle bell swing, and a pull down or a barbell row.

In conjunction, it is VITAL that you do an active warm-up within the main exercise itself to practice movement patterns and PRIME the body for the actual demand of the exercise at-hand. This will fire your CNS to perform like it should for better performance.


As you practice and warm-up within the exercise (i.e deadlift), you want to lift the warm-up weights (lighter weights) like they are heavy. Essentially, imagine that whatever you have on the bar is the weight(s) you’ll be working at. This will activate your CNS to perform at is optimal condition.

Once you do this you’ve done your job, and it’s time to crush your workout.

Example Warm-up Routine

Below is a general routine I use for the Squat:

Squat Warm-up Routine

Pre-hab Activity


Reps/Time Sets Intensity


1.        Cat/camel (cat/cow)


2 Low

10-30 seconds

2.        McKenzie Press (optional)


1 to 2 Low

10-30 seconds

General Warm-up  


Reps/Time Sets Intensity


1.        Stairs

10 stairs

(16 steps)

10 Low Moderate


Exercise Specific Warm-up (Circuit)


Reps/Time Sets Intensity


1.        Kettlebell       swings

12 to 15

3 Rounds


Little to no rest

2.        Split Lunges


3.        Back Extensions

15, 12, 10

Intra Squat Warm-up


Reps/Time Sets Intensity


1.        Squat

3 to 8 Multiple

(~5 to 6)

Low to Moderate

(start with the bar)

~60-90 seconds

This is the warm-up routine that I will use for the squat.


If you ask me that is not too long, any anything less throws me off.

As you notice, it begins with some rehab/mobility work to stimulate blood flow to my lower back (a big priority for me) with the cat/cow and McKenzie press. After I’m done, I’ll go right into stairs and begin my physical warm-up.

It works good for me because it incorporates the muscles I need (glutes, hamstrings, quads, and hips). By the end of warm-up circuit, I’m typically sweating quite heavily with my heart beating fast and my breaths nice and deep.

One thing that I did not include in the table above is stretching.

I do stretch, BUT I DO NOT FOAM ROLL

I do not foam roll because it is a useless activity to get the body fired up to lift (even before your warm-up activities).

That is why I do it at the end of the workout if I need to (rarely). When I do stretch it’ll be after the warm-up circuit (my given resting period) or sometimes after the general warm-up (stairs).

I’ll stretch my hip and shoulder complex, back, and legs. I’ll do a combination of SS and DS, like the couch stretch, the frog stretch, use a PVC pipe for my shoulder complex, and some other ones I do (but do not know the particular names to because I just made them up or can’t remember them, haha).

You may say this defeats the purpose, but I find it works well for me. I do not notice a drop in performance if I don’t stretch compared to if I do (at least for me). In fact, if I don’t stretch I find it takes me longer to get into a rhythm and do my best work, and my hips are super tight and even hurt.

What’s important after the SS and DS, however, is that I fire on my nervous system by “warming (or PRIMING my body) back up again” within the squat itself.

First, I do a couple sets with only the bar with varied tempos for each (6 to 10 reps from slow to fast or explosive) to prime my body for the squat. Next, I’ll throw a 45 plate on each side and go from there (each time lifting with intensity like it’s the goal weight for the day). Eventually, I’ll work my way up within about 5 or 6 total warm-up sets to reach my first set at my working weight (typically takes about 6 to 10 minutes).

From there I get my work done.


Warming-up may be thought of as an afterthought by some, but in order to perform at your best, maximize the work you do, and reduce the likelihood of injury, it is a MUST.


Warming-up will allow you to get started more efficiently for the work you have planned for the day, especially lifting in the big lifts (squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press).

No matter your goal — increasing strength, endurance, lean muscle mass, etc. — warming-up is a pre-requisite for any work performed.

Follow the 3 basic steps above, and you’ll better turn on your  body for its best work.

(Click HERE for my free to download LEAN MUSCLE BUILDING program). 

Let me know how you warm-up in the comments, and what you do to warm-up.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and if not a subscriber please subscribe.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

(Photo Credit)


Strength Programming Update: 2017 Quarter 2 (and thoughts on your programming)

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I finished my second strength programming cycle of the year, Quarter 2 of 4 (Mar thru May), and I’ve progressed, but have a lot to work on.

First, the good!

I got a new PR in the sumo deadlift at 475 pounds, with no belt, at ~187.5 pounds body-weight. I did try for 500 after (what the hell right?), but it was a no-go. What’s also good is that my back and knees feel good and that’s really important to me, so feeling gracious for that!

Now, the things I need to work on.

I did not get any new PR in the squat, bench press, or overhead press. Sad face 😦

This “no progress” was due to various factors. The first factor is that I strained my right shoulder, specifically my anterior deltoid. I have full range of motion (ROM), but any pressing in the transverse plane (a.k.a. the bench press) is a no-go for me. This occurred in mid April and I’m still rehabing the injury today (beginning of June). That said, however, it’s a lot better, even though I re-aggravated it coming back too soon a couple weeks ago.

The second thing is that I was training at at a higher intensity for too long than I should have, causing my body to fatigue beyond what was manageable. At the time of my program construction I failed to realize that would be the case. Beats me of how it slipped by me.

(Review my Q1 and programming for Q2 by clicking HERE)

All-in-all, progress is still progress, so I’m moving in the right direction, even though I had to put some things on hold. What’s important is that I realized my programming mistakes, and understand that moving forward.

Below is a chart below that summarizes my current stage of progress for Quarter 2 of training:

Second Quarter Programming Recap (Mar-May 2017)
Lift Starting Q1 Max (lbs.) Ending Q2 Max (lbs.) Total Increase (decrease) (lbs.)
1.      Squat 385 385 0
2.      Bench Press 295 ?
3.      Deadlift 465 475 10
4.      Overhead Press 185 ?
Totals 1340 ? 10
BODY WEIGHT 188 187.5 (~.5)

What’s next?

It’s time for me to start my new program, and I’m already into it.

What is frustrating is that I’m not sure how to progress through an injury that still needs time to heal while keeping pace with what I’m trying to do (get stronger at the same body weight). That said. I’m in a hypertrophy and conditioning stage, so I’m upping the volume and my conditioning to improve cardio endurance and also lose fat, and hopefully replace it with muscle. It’s not a lean bulk, per se, but more of a re-composition. Hard? Yes, but I know I can do it and I’m starting to feel the difference in my body already, by feeling my body be a little tighter and defined.

Regardless, I’m excited to move forward because I know my mistakes and know how to fix them. As a result, I’m going to use 5-3-1 as the base of my program while adding some additions (conditioning) to specific things that I value.

Below is what my training regimen for Quarter 3 (Jun-Aug) will look like:

Quarter 3 Training Cycle (Jun-Aug 2017)
Week Focus Adaptation
1 Volume Hypertrophy
2 Volume Hypertrophy
3 Volume Hypertrophy
4 5s Strength
5 3s Strength
6 1s Strength
7 Deload Active Recover
8 5s Strength
9 3s Strength
10 1s Strength
11 Deload Active Recover
12 Test Max
Maintain Body-weight within 187-189 lbs

As you may notice, the program is basic and simple and that’s my goal for this cycle — keep it simple. That’s why Jim Wendler created 5/3/1 in the first place. A simple program that gives you the opportunity to improve without having to think about what to do each time you go in the gym. Instead, you just work and get what you need to get done…done.

That said, I will follow the template from my own program — Lean Muscle Building — by doing a 4-day split for the big four lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press) with an extra circuit and conditioning day to make 5 total days.

Below is what my weekly workout schedule will look like (based upon my current work and life schedule):

Weekly Schedule


Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday




Squat Bench Press Off Deadlift Overhead Press


That’s my current weekly schedule, and as I experienced before, I’ll adjust if need be.

Final Thoughts

Lastly, for your own programming it is important to keep things simple, and that was one of my biggest mistakes for my last training cycle in Q2. I think I was so excited from Q1’s training cycle that I assumed I had to make things “more complex” to keep progressing. Yes, you have to do things that challenge you in new and varied ways to continue progressing, but that does not mean you make matters more complicated than what they should be. That was my first pitfall.

My second mistake is that I was a little (maybe a lot) over confident in what I could do. It is good to have faith in yourself — absolutely — but at the same time you have to be careful you do not get carried away. Again, our ULTIMATE goal is progress, and more specifically, slow and steady progress leading to BIG CHANGES over time. That’s our goal (at least mine). I jumped the gun, and that is what lead to my setbacks.

The last area I need to improve on is recovery. Specifically, getting better and more consistent sleep. This means going to bed before 11 and having a set wake-up time everyday, even weekends. Throw in short naps where appropriate and I’ll have a better chance to recover like I should. Ultimately, you can only grow and progress from hard training based on how good your recovery is.

Recover poor and you don’t have progress (or as much).

Be consistent and you will get there. I’ll remind myself of that as I continue on.

As always, thanks for reading.

If not a subscriber, please subscribe.

Click HERE to download my free Lean Muscle Building program for strength and muscle gains.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

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Thoughts on Gains: Working Around Injury

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It will happen in some severity and form, regardless of how careful and measured we are in on our training.

If you read my article on sub-maximal training you will understand that things will happen despite our best efforts at preventing  it from ever happening.

This is given proper training methodologies, and doing your best to recover.  Some injuries will just occur because sometimes shit just happens.

With that said, however, when it does, it should not leave us paralyzed and incapable of doing work and our effort to keep progressing, or at least maintaining most, if not all, of our strength.

Before we move any further, let me make clear that I am referencing minor to moderate injury and not severe injury. If you have a severe injury to any part of your body, whether a severe strain, sprain, broken bone(s), or the like, get immediate medical attention, and proper treatment with proper subsequent rehabilitation.

For all the other stuff, the minor to moderate injuries, most commonly strains or sprains to different parts of the body, it is possible to work around it, and still keep your gains and even make more.

How do you do it?

Let’s explore 3 basic steps to do so.

Step 1: Understand Your Injury

The first step in working around your injury is to understand your injury.

If you do not know what is injured, or have an idea of what it is, then it is just about impossible to do any good work without making the situation worse.

For instance, if you injured your shoulder it could be host of different things. It could be a strain to your deltoid muscle, or you could have done something more severe and torn the intricate muscles and connective tissue involved in your rotator cuff. It is important to understand differences by being able to pinpoint where and how the injury happened, is it acute or chronic, and whether or not it is something severe enough that requires medical attention.

Assuming that it is not serious and requires immediate medical attention (meaning: you have no use of that part of your body and have severe sharp pain with any movement associated with that part), it is a good idea to listen to your body by understanding what movements cause pain and discomfort.

To go back to the shoulder injury, I will use myself as an example. A few weeks back, I tweaked my right shoulder during the bench press. My set up was off and while un-racking the bar my right should was in an awkward position behind me (I was reaching too far back, essentially) causing me to feel something “OFF” in my right shoulder. It wasn’t a clear crack, tear, or anything of that sort, but an awkward feeling where I knew that something was wrong in my front deltoid area. I experienced very minor pain afterwards, but nothing serious enough to effect my performance. Fast forward a couple weeks I re-aggravate it in the bench press again — same movement pattern —  and could tell that something was off. A week later, my ego got in the way and I felt it strain (it got really tight and was starting to reach a clear breaking point).

Luckily, nothing tore completely. No pops, crunches, or anything of that sort, and good news is that I have worked through other injuries before, more serious than this (knock on wood, at least), so I know I can come back. That said, I need to understand my own injury.

Based on my knowledge, experience, research, and opinions of other professionals, I know that it involves my deltoid in some way because I have pain in pressing movements, and when I bring my arm in front and above me (where the deltoid is in play). I know it’s not a more serious injury because I have experienced a torn labrum in the same shoulder, and know the feeling and impingement it brings. Furthermore, I have full range of motion, but only pain in certain movements of the arm (elevating my arm in front of me, and horizontal/upward pressing motions). I can also do any rowing and pulling with almost no problem.

Based on these facts, and given I have swelling in the front part of my shoulder it all points toward my superficial muscle (muscle closest to the surface) — a.k.a. the deltoid. Thus, I can do corrective action to aid in the healing process of the muscle by doing things, like P-R-I-C-E (Protect, Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate), deep tissue massage (shout out to an amazing trainer at my gym named Jamie for helping me), and avoiding movements that primarily incorporate the deltoid muscle (primarily any pressing and elevating motions).

If you need help understanding your injury a simple google search on the area you hurt will help. I’m not advocating you self-diagnose yourself, and become a doctor. No. But, I am advocating you understand your body better, so some research on the area affected won’t hurt.

After you gather your research on your injury, and any evaluation from a professional, or a person with valuable perspective and knowledge of the injury, it’s time to get a game-plan going to stay in shape.

Step 2: Adjusting Your Training

Now that you understand your injury good enough to move forward and not make it worse, it is time for adjustments.

You want to adjust 2 main things:

First, is to avoid movement patterns, or exercises, that aggravate the injury in any significant way.

For example, using my shoulder injury, any pressing and shoulder elevation movements for me is a “no-go”. This will take out the bench press, overhead press, and any shoulder focused exercises, such as front raises. Do not test an injury when you know you shouldn’t be testing it. In other words, give it time to heal and come back slow and steady, which is what I failed to do. I “jumped the gun”, so avoid my mistake, and discipline yourself to let it heal (whether it’s days, weeks, or months). This is the hardest thing, at least for me, because not training a part of your body sucks. But, it needs time, so give it time.

Second, you want to continue your planned training to the best of your ability.

With my right shoulder injury, for example, I can still work legs, and pulling is not really a problem, which makes the squat and deadlift a full-go. In fact, yesterday I hit a heavy single in the deadlift at 455 pounds with no belt, which is almost my max (this week’s plan was heavy singles because I am peaking after my de-load next week). It went up the best it’s ever been, and I had no issue what soever with my shoulder.

Just because you may be compromised by an injury, in some way, it does not make you incapable at keeping pace with your expected training program, or regimen. Of course, know your limits, and gradually progress to certain thing that may cause issue for any type of injury. That said, don’t be afraid to push yourself and progress like you intend to. Keep pace with your programming plan as close to it as you can.

Step 3: Proper recovery

The last step is to do your best to perform proper recovery methods for your injury.

This includes, but not limited to:

  • Proper stretching
  • Low-impact exercises and movement to stimulate blood flow
  • Deep-tissue massage to break up scar tissue
  • Adequate rest and good nutrition to heal the injury site
  • A positive attitude.

Again, not pushing your injury beyond what is capable of is important, but completely immobilizing the injury site is a big “no-no”

Remember, blood flow = recovery.

Movement helps stimulate blood flow to tissue, especially ligaments, tendons, and other connective tissue, which provides nutrients to the injured areas for healing. No blood flow equals no recovery, so don’t forget to move.


Do movement and low impact stretching, and massage, if possible, to break up any scar tissue and knots you have in the muscle and tissue around the injury. This will help increase blood flow, and allow a more efficient and complete recovery.

Lastly, you have to have a positive attitude through this whole process. It is SO easy to get discourage and not train with the intensity you normally do, so do anything and everything to stay positive. Keep your disciplines and habits of what your training consists of, like maintaining your training schedule, prepping your meals, stretching, etc., to keep you on track.

Regardless, be smart and active in your recovery approach.


No one likes getting injured and it tends to happen when we’ve been pushing to hard, or we just have unfortunate luck. However, we can continue training in other ways, and come back stronger than before if we imploy the adjustments and practices outlined above.

It’s up to us to recover and protect our injury site the best we can to give it the time it needs to heal. Ironically, it is our obligation to not “BABY” it, as well. Keep as much movement as possible to prevent atrophy and impaired mobility, and you’ll be more efficient with the recovery process.

Keep your training at the expected level and pace you have been going for what you are able to do. This will depend on the injury, of course, but don’t be afraid to train with intensity. This is also a good time to increase work in other areas that may be of concern for you, since a chunk of your workload is taken out with injury. Continue to move forward and you’ll be on your way to more gains.

Thanks for reading.

Leave your thoughts below.


Catch you next time.

(Photo Credit)

A Message to My Clients (And All Who Workout)

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Dear Amazing Person,

You’re here or you’ve been here for a time. How’s it been so far? Think about it for a minute, and reflect on the journey that has lead you to this point, and what progress you have or have not had, thus far. Are you pleased with the progress, or find yourself disappointed? Maybe both?

Answer truthfully.

Based on your answer, write down what you have done good and what you can do better. It could be three things, or five. Write down some notes on what you have done, and what matters to you and where you want to go.

And, let’s stop for a minute. Let’s think about where you want to go. What is your plan? What is your purpose coming to the gym, being physically active, and the ultimate vision you see for yourself in your health, and where working out and training fits in. Basically, think about your why, and why you are doing this and going through this process.

If it’s just to have a good workout that makes you sweat then you are missing the BIGGER picture. Sure, a workout that makes you sweat a lot, and sore is a good feeling to have. You know what is also a good feeling? Sustained progress over time that leads to BIG changes.

In our microwave society, everything has a short-term mindset and attention span causing us to lose sight of the bigger picture of what our full potential may be. Your health is one of those “BIGGER PICTURE” things. Some would argue, maybe the most important. If we don’t have our health then what do we have? Problems. That is what we have. Chronic health impairments that plague our day-to-day lives.

Dramatic? Yes, to a degree, but can we really enjoy life and everything it brings if we are always tired, sick, and overweight? To a point, yes, but nowhere near to its fullest potential if we are healthy. Health brings clarity, energy, hunger, and passion that fills our life with great opportunity to enjoy what it can offer. When we neglect our health and become burdened with excess stress it makes it hard to accomplish. Thus, we must never neglect our bodies, and let it take a backseat because our lives are “busy.”

Everyone’s life is busy, and we all have problems. Using that as an excuse to not show up is, quite frankly, unacceptable. Improvements and the results you want, like weight and fat loss, muscle gain, increased functionality of your body, elevated vitality, etc., don’t come with excuses. They disappear when you use them. Thus, finding ways to PRIORITIZE your health, and develop disciplines and good habits that make health an integral part of your life and something you never forget is paramount.

It is an absolute necessity.

Next time you think about not going to the gym, or coming to a session, because work was hard, you feel tired, parts of your body are beat up, so what? Who cares? No one does besides you. That’s why you need to come anyway. If you went to the gym only when you felt good it wouldn’t be much, if at all. That is why you just have to show up. Show up because it’s a chance to improve you and your health.

The gym is one of the few places where it is encouraged to do better and become better openly. You do not have to hide it, and you should never forget that. The gym is your place to grow, and a tool to become a better you, and should not be thought of as just a place to “sweat” and “workout”. If that is your mentality you will get mediocre results. If you want extraordinary results, for you, elevate your mindset, and expand it by creating a vision for yourself and where you want to go. Going to the gym and working out is a core component of this physical fitness vision, but not a mutually exclusive activity. It serves the larger picture for you in this process.

Do you have to do cardio…do you have to lift weights…do you have to stretch? Yes. Yes, you do. If you want to have a strong body capable of all physical movements, with no, or little, impingement, impairment, or defect then the answer is “yes.” You have to do all those things, and more, in some way, and find what works for you and what gets you excited. This will make physical fitness at the forefront of your thoughts and not an afterthought.

Motivation certainly helps in this process, but is not a requirement, at all times.

What is THE requirement is a COMMITMENT to a better you and the process of betterment through fitness to improve physical health.

It is because it is more than physical. It is mental, and, even, spiritual. You should be able to test and connect with yourself, and discover new things about you that lead to a better you, during this ever adapting and evolving training process, no matter how small the improvements or progress that happens.

Next time you think about not showing up ask yourself how is that (not showing up) helping me?

Answer is it’s not. You cannot get better and move closer toward your goals if you do not show up, and put in the work. It is impossible. There is no magic pill, or formula, and never will be. Thus, might as well accept the process and the work you’ll have to do to achieve the greater vision you have for yourself. Remember, you cannot be disappointed in something that you did not work for.

Accept responsibility and your current circumstances and it will make a huge difference at moving forward and getting into better shape. You can get the health you want it will just take a dedicated and consistent work ethic, and some time. Coming to the gym is a healthy habit of the larger picture for achieving the level of shape and health you want. Consistently not showing up goes against this and you move further away from your ideal health for yourself.

Show up, get better, and use every little improvement as momentum to keep driving you forward. This, over time, will give you the results you’re looking for (or damn close to it).

Thanks for reading.

Best Regards,



(Photo Credit)

Thoughts on Gains: Vertical Dieting

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If you’re into lifting and don’t know who Stan Efferding is then shame on you!

(Click HERE to learn more about the White Rhino and visit his YouTube page HERE).

If you do then I’m sure you have heard him talk about his diet routine when he was competing in powerlifting and bodybuilding, especially when training with Flex Wheeler.

Listen to him enough, and you might hear him say something called “VERTICAL DIET.”

When I heard Stan say and describe this diet philosophy I got excited. The reason is  because that is exactly how I structure my own diet!

I was shocked, and excited to know that I follow the same diet philosophy as Stan. This made me say “I must be doing something right.”

Jokes aside, once Stan started to break down and share some thoughts on vertical dieting it all clicked for me. I realized that I was doing something that was maximizing the hard work I put in to the gym. This made me happy and excited to share the idea with everyone listening.

If you listen to the latest Juggernaut Training Systems (JTS) podcast with Stan (click HERE to watch on YouTube) he goes over this in more detail. He shares this was the diet he was on when he broke his records in powerlifting that helped him achieve a 2,303 total in his 40’s. Crazy.

Regardless, Stan is planning on releasing an eBook on vertical dieting in the future, but, in the meantime, I’ll break it down for you here in my own words, with my thoughts on the diet.

What is Vertical Dieting?

Vertical dieting is having a narrow selection of foods for carbs, fats, and protein that aim to maximize the nutrient density of what you are eating .

For instance, instead of having a wide spectrum of different foods on a daily and weekly basis, instead, you would have a small group of foods with a high nutrient density that constitute each macronutrient (protein, carbs, and fats).

For carbs, you may have rice, sweet potatoes, and oats. Protein, might be chicken, eggs, and steak. Fats might be avocado, coconut oil, and almonds. Throw in a select group of vegetables and fruits and you are set.

The purpose of a vertical diet is to BUILD EFFICIENCY.

Eating a narrow range of foods for each macronutrient allows this to happen because you train your body’s digestive system to be efficient at breaking down those foods, and getting the maximum nutrient absorption from it. This, in theory, causes less stress on your digestive system because it is not dealing with a diverse range of foods to digest, which may decrease the likelihood of inflammation in the gut.

This, over time, leads to less time the food is in your digestive system overall, which promotes greater meal frequency, less bloating in the gut, and enhances the chances you can use the actual nutrients from the foods you eat to their fullest potential when eaten.

Again, efficiency that leads to greater results from the nutrients consumed.

Concerns With Vertical Dieting

The largest concern with vertical dieting is whether or not you are getting the adequate micronutrients that your body needs, like vitamins and minerals.

Short answer is that you are.

This is my opinion, at least.

Vertical dieting may seem counter intuitive to one of the most popular notions in dieting — “eating a wide and diverse range of food to cover all the nutrients that your body needs” — but the vertical diet philosophy satisfies this. It’s because it is all about building efficiency at breaking down the foods you consume and the nutrients they hold. If you eat dense foods on this diet, which is recommended, then you should have no problem.

For example, if you pick carb sources that lack nutrient density, such as white bread and pasta, then you may have a problem with certain B-vitamins and fiber. However, if you pick brown rice, sweet potatoes, oats, and/or maybe quinoa as your primary sources of carbs then you are eating nutrient rich foods that provide you with plenty of micronutrients and fiber that your body demands. As a result, eating a select 2 or 3 dense sources of carbs, or any macronutrient, will give you a high return on your investment (ROI) for the food you eat.

This aids in the recovery process after hard workouts, so your muscles and surrounding tissues get the nutrients they need to repair and grow back stronger, faster, resulting in muscle hypertrophy and strength gains.

Another concern with vertical dieting is that it gets boring, and thus, not sustainable long-term.

This may be true to an extent, but if your goal is truly to maximize your muscle and strength gains then it is something that you will just have to get over.

Also, you can mix and match your food, add spices, and cook your food in different ways that make it more appetizing.

Finally, I believe the 80/20 rule applies to the vertical diet, like many other diets. For example, if 80% of the foods you eat are the foods within your vertical diet, then you can leave the last 20% to eat different types of food. This does not mean you binge on McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme over the weekend, but it means you might have something different than what’s on the menu most days.

This way you are still getting much of the benefits of vertical dieting, yet adding some flavor to your diet and breaking up some of the monotony.


Like with any diet, vertical dieting aims at giving you results. For this diet, in particular, it will help you have less decision fatigue of foods to eat. This makes preparing your food easier, which lessens the probability of eating out or choosing poor quality foods.

The vertical diet will also allow you to improve your digestive system’s efficiency at breaking down food, making it easier, over time, to absorb the nutrients found in the foods that you are eating in this diet philosophy. This will aid you in your recovery efforts after hard workouts by having greater ability to assimilate the nutrients found in the foods that you are eating. Thus, improving the likelihood for more gains.

Through this and improvements in increasing your ability to meet your meal frequency goals, along with decreasing your chances for bloating and inflammation in the gut, makes it worth trying.

If you doubt this philosophy I encourage you to give it a try because it easily fits any style of diet, such as paleo, keto, slow-carb, vegan, 33/33/33, etc. It is because the vertical diet allows you to pick and choose the best foods for you in each diet type giving you the ability to satisfy those requirements. This makes it sustainable for you while receiving the benefits of a vertical diet, as opposed to a horizontal one that allows you to eat anything in sight.

Leave me a comment down below and tell me what you think about this, and what it means for your diet.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

(Photo Credit)

Deadlift Session: Heavy Paused Singles






Deadlift day is one of my favorites, but also one of my most nervous days because I know it is going to be hard. I’m going to give you my most recent deadlift workout, and what a typical session looks like for me.

Without further or do, here we go.

Deadlift Session

(sets x reps x weight)

Warm-up Circuit:

  • Stairs: 10 total times (~16 total steps)
    • First 5 ran every step
    • Second 5 ran every other step
  • Kettlebell swings
    • 3 x 12 x 52.9lbs
  • Lunges
    • 3 x 10/10 x BW
  • Back extensions
    • 3 x 15/12/10 x BW
  • Barbell Row
    • 2 x 10 x 135
  • Stretch
    • Cat/camel, and stretched primarily back, legs, and hips

Deadlift Workout (conventional with no belt and no straps)

  • Warm-up sets
    • 2 x 3/1 x 135
    • 2 x 3/1 x 225
    • 2 x 3/1 x 315
  • Working Sets
    • 3 x 1 x 365 (paused)
    • 3 x 1 x 385 (paused)
    • 3 x 1 x 405 (paused)
      • 3 x 3 x 405 (last set ~20 second hold after last rep)

Deadlift Variation

  • 5 x 3 to 5 x 315 (RDLs)
  • 5 x 5 x 225 (snatch grip RDLs)

Power Clean to Front Squats:

  • 5 x 1 or 10 x 135 (tempo to paused reps, to normal reps)

Lat Pull-down:

  • 2 x 8 x 120 and 2 x 8 x 160

Core Circuit (3 rounds, 90 second rest b/w rounds)

  • Wind Shield wipers (on ground and hands on side)
    • x 10
  • V-up (with knees bent)
    • x 10
  • Flutter kicks
    • x 10 (counted one, two, three, 1, one, two, three, 2…)


  • Full body with emphasis on hips, back, legs, and shoulder complex

That’s it!

My emphasis on this day was variation, and I took it as heavy as I could within the limits of my programming.

(Click HERE to learn more about my current programming).

I focused on the conventional deadlift today as opposed to the sumo, which is my dominant style. Adding the paused variation was a good challenge, but it felt really good. My primary goal in lifting is to become as proficient as possible in the lift, and that is why I was doing heavy paused singles. This way I can ensure the best technique possible minimizing breakdown and injury, while building the strength effect I am aiming for to get closer to my goal of deadlifting 500 raw.

In case you are wondering, I like to do some sort of circuit to warm-up my body, regardless of what lift I’m doing for the day. This way I get my body temperature up and blood flowing fast, and I think it primes my body better to lift, in addition at being more efficient with my time. I’ve been doing this for the past couple months, and it really has helped jump-start my workouts and get me ready like I need to be.

This made the workout feel great, and then after I added variation to my working deadlift sets to mix things up, and train certain muscles and parts of the deadlift further (i.e. the hamstrings and glutes to better lock out at the top — a sticking point in the lift).

Following this, I did some minor accessory movements as the end, with a core circuit to finish things off good.

I tried not to push it too hard, since I tweaked my right shoulder earlier in the week after benching. It has been giving me some trouble since Tuesday, but that said, it felt pretty good during this session last Thursday. All-in-all good progress and I felt strong, especially since my sleeping schedule was thrown off earlier in the week.

That said, let me know what you think about my training, and what you are focusing on with your lifting and what programming you are doing.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and if not a subscriber please subscribe.

Until next time, be strong and be you!

Re-thinking the “No Pain, No Gain” Notion for Strength: A Case for Sub-maximal Training

Image result for no pain no gain


An expression that perpetuates the fitness industry, and the attitudes and philosophy of many gym-goers, and even professionals.

Believe it or not, one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, coined this terms by stating “There are no gains without pains” (source). More recently, Jane Fonda made the “No pain, no gain” attitude popular in the 1980’s, thanks to her workout videos stating “Feel the burn” (source).

Regardless of the source’s origin, this “no pain, no gain” doctrine is no more prevalent than in the lifting community and those hoping to get “BIG” and “STRONG.”

Under this attitude of training, exercises are often taken to failure, pushing beyond the pain response of muscle and the body, in order to make “GAINS.” Whether it is trying to do as many reps as possible (AMRAP) to failure, or trying to break a PR every-time someone hits the gym, this “no pain, no gain” attitude perpetuates lifting.

Nowadays, this philosophy continues on through the likes of popular fitness voices, such as CT Fletcher, and his no excuses and tough-nosed training philosophy.

Watch his “I Command You to Grow” videos, and you will see the intensity of his training, and where “no pain, no gain” fits in.

I love his intensity and my stance is not to discredit CT Fletcher, or others, and their hard work, and everything they have gone through and what they necessarily preach. I think CT Fletcher is great, but let’s be honest…there is only one CT Fletcher. If you watched his documentary on Netflix, entitled My Magnificent Obsession, you’ll understand and probably feel inspired and motivated to kick some ass in the gym and throw away any excuses, including any pain.

That said, to believe the “no pain, no gain” philosophy is the ONLY way to build muscle, increase strength, and improve performance is a fallacy.

If you want to break your body then this is a good philosophy to have.

However, if you want to be efficient with your gains, and minimize injuries, participating in the sub-maximal training philosophy is a great training method solution.

This is why I’d like you to have an open mind and reconsider the notion of the “NO PAIN, NO GAIN” attitude of training to failure and having to “HURT” yourself to build strength and add lean muscle mass to your frame.

This is not the case. That is why I am going to advocate the idea of SUB-MAXIMAL TRAINING to increase strength and add muscle, as superior to brute force ALONE.

What is SUB-MAXIMAL training?

In short, sub-maximal training is working in a moderate, or medium, percentage of your one-rep max (1RM) in an exercise, most often the squat, deadlift, bench press, or overhead press, to add strength and muscle by focusing on technique, while minimizing injury.

Simple as that.

What are the parameters?

  • The intensity, or WEIGHT, is typically within the neighborhood of 60% to 85% of your 1RM in a lift.
  • Reps are between 1 to 5, or even up to 6 or 8, depending on the percentage and focus (i.e. strength, power, hypertrophy, etc.).
  • Sets are usually between 5 to 10 working sets; meaning: the sets that matter and really count lie within the range you are working at (60% to 85%). These are your “working sets”. 
  • Each rep of every set should be done with the best technique and form you can possibly use to build efficiency.
  • Your working sets should not be “GRINDERS.”
    • This means that the successful completion of a repetition in a lift should not be so exhaustive to the point where you might fail, like any wobbling, shaking, instability, etc., that causes excessive breakdown in your technique.
    • If this is the case, you need to modify the intensity (weight), reps, or sets to avoid grinders.

      This thought — not having excessive grinders — is extremely important because one of the biggest tenets of sub-maximal training is injury prevention, and “grinders” do not fit this training style.

Again, the GOAL of sub-maximal training is to get a desired strength and muscle building effect without breaking your body for more than what is required by using an effective dosage weight (60% to 85% of 1RM).

For example, let’s say you can bench press 225 pounds for your 1RM. Based on this number, you would work in the neighborhood of 135 pounds and 185 pounds (~60-85%). Based on this example, your working sets might consist of doing 5 sets of 5 at 155 pounds. Your goal here, and every-time, is to do PERFECT REPS by focusing on technique and using as much muscle that should be involved. This includes any variation you might do, like a paused bench press.

This allows a stimulus to build strength and improve performance while minimizing the chance for injury, like those “grinders”.

Is Sub-maximal training too easy?


Sub-maximal training is not easier.

In fact, it is probably harder than going in the gym and trying to break your 1RM every-time.


Because thought is given on technique first, which requires great concentration and the development of proper movement patterns to do so. This helps you think about using all the muscles that you should be using, and if not, you are actively working on it by training at a moderate load to improve and overcome any deficiencies. Eventually, you progress and go up from there.

During this process, you will improve your neuromuscular control (how well you are able to move in an exercise, or movement) which helps increase strength. This is because the better your central nervous system (CNS) can work, in theory, the more potential you have at using, and working on, as much muscle as available. This leads to strength and hypertrophy gains, aiding in the pursuit of adding lean muscle mass to your frame.

In addition, sub-maximal training is essentially the meat and potatoes of your training. It will be the bulk of your training that is going give you the most of your desired results: building strength, muscle, athleticism, aesthetics, etc. If you are consistently going in the gym to break a PR, I can guarantee you that you will break first. No question.

I hate saying absolutes, but if you want to fight the weight every-time you workout and break a PR, you will lose…EVERY-TIME.

Where you win is being smart and that is why sub-maximal training is so beneficial to building strength and muscle because you avoid unnecessary damage to your body. This increases the longevity of your lifting career because it makes it more sustainable long-term. This will aid your pursuit of trying to get as strong as possible because a more healthy body can lift more weight.


Is There Value to No Pain, No Gain?

Short answer, yes.

Butttt…there’s a limit.

The issue is that many take it to far and push and push and push, leading to a breaking point — literally.

At the end of the day, progress is what matters, especially if you plan on increasing your strength, and overall fitness. Trying to have the best workout ever or beat your previous 1RM every-time you go in the gym does not lead to good and efficient progress, especially in the long-term. This is where sub-maximal training comes into the picture, and the “no pain, no gain” dogma stops.

Sub-maximal training gives you efficient progress by building your body up with control and not chaos. The notion of having to “feel” sore the next day is the absolute worst measurement of progress and if you are getting stronger.

A much better way to measure strength is how your body feels week-to-week and comparing numbers from one training cycle to the next.

This, however, does not excuse you from working hard and lifting with intensity when you workout. This is a must, and a given. Let’s not confuse that thought. What is important, however, is that you balance and temper your intensity and not let it consume you to the  point of breaking — what no pain, no gain is about.

Will you never feel pain when you lift?

Of course, not. Let’s not be naive.

You’re going to bang your body up no matter what…shit just happens.

However, working beyond minor aches and pains is one thing, but working through excessive pain where you feel it during your workout even though you have adrenaline and other fight or flight hormones running through your body is another thing. If that is the case stop or you will cause more damage to whatever is hurting, and further break your body.

The point is to not have serious injury and that is where no pain, no gain fails.


There is a time to be aggressive and fired-up and lift the bar and weight with no holds bar. That is one thing I like about “no pain, no gain” because it teaches you not to be a “pussy.” You need that because you are not in the gym to feel pampered and comforted. The gym is not a spa. The gym is a place to abuse your body in a controlled fashion that makes you stronger than when you came in.

But, let’s be smart about it and not take it to extremes.

That is why sub-maximal training is so effective in leading to strength and muscle gains, and improving your overall fitness during the process because it is a measured approach fueled with intensity to lift your best.

It is really that simple.

It provides balance in your training leading to tremendous results.

Even the boys from Westside Barbell understood the need for a balanced approach by incorporating measured resting periods of de-load for the body to recover throughout their training cycles.

Point is to be balanced.

Remember, those times that call for the type of aggression of “no pain, no gain” come up only once in awhile. For example, a powerlifting meet, or some sort of competition, or just to find out where you stand for your general strength training. What is important, is that most of the time, let’s say 80 to 90% of the time, you are going to be working in sub-maximal ranges to build your base strength, and put on lean muscle mass.

If you do not believe me just look at bodybuilders. They are jacked and they really do not lift heavy often. They focus on the contraction of the muscles in lighter loads to get a hypertrophic effect at building muscle using the mind-muscle connection. Why would that be different when building strength?

It is not too far off, and you only need to change certain parameters and exercises to focus on to do so.

Control your aggression for no pain, no gain in the sub-maximal philosophy and it will take you far.

Let me know what you think.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading. If not a subscriber subscribe.

Until next time, be strong and be you!


For more resources on sub-maximal training click the links below:

Submaximal loads for Maximal Results

Juggernaut Training Systems

Submaximal training experimented on collegiate football players

(Photo Credit)