Friday, December 23, 2011

Exercise for Two

Milo used plenty of stuff for resistance.

Lack of equipment doesn't have to limit a workout. The body can be used to apply manual resistance in a number of ways. Typically isometrics or bodyweight exercises are frequently used when it comes to body only work, but having a partner can expand your options.

While it's fun to compete against a friend to see who lifts heavier or does more reps, the workout can be made more competitive. Here are a few ideas.
  • Tug of War
    - Grab a rolled up towel and start pulling. To tax the grip and forearms more, put a towel within a towel (towel-ception?) to make it thicker.
  • Push or Be Pushed
    - Sort of a prowler sled substitute, attempt to drive your partner back.
    - The flip side of this, don't let your partner move you. Stand your ground as best as you can.
  • Carries
    - Either toss the other person on your back, carry them in your arms, or over one shoulder then walk for a set time or distance.
  • Perturbations
    - Have one person do an exercise as the other person throws off their balance and coordination. This can be done in the form of small pushes around the body (for example strikes during a pull-up) or one continuous effort (pressing down on the low back in a plank).
    - The person doing the exercise can shut their eyes to make the strikes more unexpected.
The more creative you are the more exercises you can do, like partner deadlifts. Also be sure you have ample space to perform these. It's a great way to spend a little time this holiday weekend rather than do the usual gym routine. And above all else it's fun to do. When's the last time you did tug of war?

Happy holidays/Merry Christmas and have a good weekend everyone!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Bench Press Made Easy

Konstantin Konstantinovs
knows how to bench.

A friend asked if I would do a video on proper bench press form or recommend one to him. I had the intention of creating a video but thought why not make a blog post.

It's up to the lifter's discretion on whether the bench press is simple or complex. Let's take it step-by-step.
Gripping the Bar

I've mentioned it before: position the bar near the palm and base of the thumb. Keeping the bar high in the hand tends to have the wrists cock backwards diminishing force output. Keep the wrists straight. However if the wrists are still lax, squeeze the hell out of the bar and try to pull it apart.

Secondly, to measure from the barbell's knurling (non-smooth part) with the thumbs never made sense to me. My friend taught me to practice the benching motion with my hands. Perform reps with only your hands and see where they align on the bar. Let that determine where to grab it then adjust if necessary.


The head, upper back, and glutes are in contact with the bench. As a result a space is created between the arching of the low back and the bench.

The further you can plant your feet towards your hips the better. Because flexibility issues vary person-to-person choose a stance that doesn't put any strain on you. For higher set benches or individuals with shorter legs, feel free to place something under each foot if you can't firmly ground them. A weight plate is the easiest to use, but aerobics platforms or hexagonal dumbbells work well too.


In 4 points:
  1. Drive/shove your feet through the floor.

  2. Pull your shoulder blades together and scrunch up your back like so,

  3. Keep your elbows close to your body and pull the bar down under your nipples or above the windpipe.

    Aim for the blue line or slightly lower.

  4. After the bar touches your body press it up.

Other Tidbits

  • Have someone help you unrack the bar. They should help move it out, NOT UP and out. This allows you to keep the back tight and saves your shoulders from pressing in an awkward position.
  • The "suicide" grip is a thumbless grip. Some lifters swear it's a stronger pressing grip but run the risk of the barbell falling on the individual. The only justification I found for it is certain folks claim it relieves pain from past elbow issues.
  • For beginners the bench press is a poor pec developer because the shoulders and triceps bear the brunt of the work. Substituting in dumbbells is a better alternative for hypertrophy.
  • The incline variation shifts an emphasis onto the shoulders whereas the decline reduces it and shortens the range-of-motion. Additionally, the incline or decline doesn't need to be a significant angle change. The fixed incline benches are an example of too much of an incline (45 degree angle).

Personal Take

I bench press on and off, but for the majority of the year it's very little. Rather I utilize a variation of it or another horizontal press. In my first year of lifting DB pressing and flies were my main chest exercises. Since the latter began to irritate my shoulder I decided to drop it.

I enjoy bench pressing but I just don't do it often. It's as simple as that.

And that's the bench press. Not too complicated, right?

Further reading for a more comprehensive approach,

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gestalt Strength

Picasso didn't draw a bunch of squiggles.

In English the German word gestalt [jes-stault] is referred to as the concept of "wholeness" (Wikipedia). During my undergrad psychology courses gestalt psychology was glossed over with the phrase "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts."

The same outlook can be adopted when it comes to training or diet.

A single workout or meal doesn't have much of an effect. Even a month's worth of efforts is small in the long run. Therefore being "good," whether it's a day, week, or month, is only a temporary marker towards your goal(s).

Every session or meal is another notch under your belt. The synergy from these yield benefits along with reaching the chosen goal, such as increased strength and body composition change. Likewise every session or meal not conducive to your objective is a step back.

The whole may be greater than the sum of the parts, but you need to ensure there are parts in the first place. Otherwise how will anything be "whole?"

Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is any other endeavor that aims to be successful.
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