Explode through your training rut with landmine exercises. The adage “variety is the spice of life” applies to your training program. Though landmine exercises aren’t intended to take the place of your staple exercises – squat, bench, and deadlift, they can serve a nice complementary role while reinvigorating your training zest. Landmines spare the joints, challenge the core, and are relatively easy to learn.  Check out Coach Joe’s article on stack: 

 By: Josh Bryant

Prison yard politics to a sermon from the pulpit, big, strong traps scream power.

We can debate ‘til the cows come home about what iron athletes are the strongest!

A majority of us would fall into three camps: powerlifters, Olympic lifters and strongmen.  The best deadlifters in the world have herculean trap development.

 Olympic lifters rarely have sleeve busting biceps, but sport big beautiful traps like they are going out of style. 

Trap development of strongmen competitors is off the chart, farmers walks, and a plethora of pulling movements build big strong traps. 

None of these athletes train specifically for physique enhancement, so common sense would tell us trap development plays a role in limit strength.

Some benefits of Strong Traps:

– Keep the shoulder girdle in proper alignment

– Helpful for staying healthy in high contact sports, like MMA, Football and boxing

-Strong traps/upper back help a lifter maintain a upright posture while squatting, furthermore building a nice rest spot for the squat bar

-strong traps are important to lockout deadlifts and any olympic pulling exercise

-strong traps are necessary to keep tight while bench pressing massive poundages, powerlifters retract their shoulder blades when bench pressing which is a function of the mid trap.  Some top raw bench pressers even elevate the shoulder girdle, a function of the upper traps. Here is the bottom  line.

For pulling big weights and building an intimidating physique big strong traps are a prerequisite.

 In street situations big traps, are much more intimidating that big biceps. Big traps scream functional power, ready to coil into combat ready weapons for battle.

Power Shrugs are my favorite but let’s look at a couple unique shrug varieties:

Dumbbell Shrugs 10-10-10 variation, this is performed by standing erect with one dumbbell in each hand, arms totally extended.  First do ten shrugs, with the dumbbell on the right side, next do ten dumbbell shrugs with just the left side, holding the right dumbbell statically, finally do 10 shrugs with both dumbbells.  This is a great exercise for symmetrical trap development, increases time under tension, stole this one from Colonel Brian Dobson.

Snatch Grip Shrugs: Paul Kelso the shrug master told me about these in a communication. These are done two different ways In the bent over position, the contraction is to the middle of the back. Standing, there are two basic alternatives: shrugging to the rear, as in finishing a deadlift, or up toward the ears. One of my favorite unconventional trap builders, are heavy farmers walks supersetted with heavy shrugs.  The traps have more than an isometric (static) contraction, they must dynamically stabilize heavy weight of farmers walks, followed by heavy power barbell shrugs, your traps are in for a thrashing and subsequent growth.   Seated Row/Scapular Retraction Shrugs:  On a seated row grasp a narrow grip handle arms extended. Retract your shoulder blades together, this will build the middle traps and give a denser look.  This is one of my favorite “prehab movements” for big benchers.

The Bench Shrug: I got this again from shrug expert Paul Kelso: Take the bench press position on the bench. Hand spacing should be the same as regularly used of perhaps a finger width or two closer.

Lower the bar with straight arms by dropping the shoulders down toward the bench and crunching the shoulder blades together; force the bar upward by spreading the shoulder blades to the side (like a lat spread) while raising the shoulders off the bench.

Use pectoral contraction to roll the shoulders up and in toward the sternum. Keep the arms straight at all times during the movement. The bar will travel only three or four inches either way.  This is a great way to add thickness to the mid traps and directly benefit your traps.

To big traps!

by Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS

For decades, plyometrics have served as a mainstay in athletic preparation. Their creation dates back to the 1950’s, when renowned Russian Sports Scientist, Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky began implementing depth jumps with his track athletes. Verkhoshansky used the jumps to in an attempt to replicate the biomechanical demands of the takeoff in triple jump in training. He reasoned that his athletes would have to use enormously heavy loads on barbell squats to duplicate the takeoff.

The depth jump was performed from an elevated surface, whereby an athlete would drop from and jump immediately after they landed on the ground. Verkhoshansky’s rationale behind depth jumps was the body absorbing forces from the landing and quickly redirecting them into the ground during the subsequent jump.

Verkhoshansky’s discovery of this new form of training, initially termed “Shock Training”, soon infiltrated the sports training community, forever influencing the design of strength and conditioning programs.

Coaches and athletes grew enamored by Shock Training and began incorporating it within their programs, grossly underestimating the demands that depth jumps imposed on the body. As we’ll soon learn, when it relates to plyometric training, “more” certainly does not equate to “better”. Coaches and athletes should consider plyometric exercises as powerful training tools which must be strategically inserted into strength and conditioning programs to yield optimal benefits. On that note, plyometric exercises have no business appearing on someone’s “WOD” and should never serve as substitutes for traditional compound exercises.

The Science Behind Plyometrics

Coaches and athletes may already be familiar with the physiological happenings behind plyometrics, for those in need of a refresher, here are some key points:

  1. Plyometric exercises involve the stretch shortening cycle, or SSC.
  2. The SSC is composed of a rapid eccentric muscle action, which stretches the elastic structures of muscles and tendons. This eccentric muscle action is immediately followed by a quick and powerful concentric muscle action.
  3. Sensory organs lining the muscles transitioning from an eccentric action to a concentric action relay kinesthetic information such as muscular tension and length to the Central Nervous System (CNS).
  4. The concentric muscle action is triggered by the myotatic stretch reflex, a neurophysiologic protective mechanism, which shortens a muscle when it becomes rapidly stretched to prevent injury.

We can conclude from above that the SSC coupled with the resultant concentric muscle action improves force output. The great amounts force output stemming from plyometrics possibly provide the CNS and muscles a potentiating effect which may improve athletic performance.

This theory lends credence to the inclusion of plyometric exercises within warm ups. Let’s see if the research has to say about the acute benefits of plyometric exercises.

Plyometrics Enhance Muscle Activation

A recently published study conducted by researchers at the University of Delaware, revealed that single legged hurdle hops performed in the sagittal plane significantly activated the gluteal and hamstring muscles during the preparatory (takeoff) and landing phases of the jumps.

Practical Application: Performing jumping exercises prior to strength training may prove helpful in activating agonist, synergist, and stabilizer muscles involved during the lifts.

Struminger AH, Lewek MD, Goto S, et al. Comparison of gluteal and hamstring activation during five commonly used plyometric exercises. Clin Biomech. 2013. [Epup ahead of print]

Plyometrics Acutely Enhance Jumping Performance

A recently published study involving professional rugby players showed that a series of plyometric jumps performed prior to countermovement jumps improved the height and peak force of the countermovement jumps.

Practical Application: Performing jumps prior to a training session or competition during a warm up may improve performance.

Tobin DP, Delahunt E. The acute effect of a plyometric stimulus on jump performance in professional rugby players. J Strength Cond Res. 2013. [Epup ahead of print]

Plyometrics Preferentially Recruit Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers

A study analyzing the effects of a high volume jumping protocol, involving 10 sets of 10 squat jumps, revealed that fast twitch fibers sustained the greatest amount of damage.

Practical Application: Plyometric exercises involve the rapid activation of fast twitch muscle fibers. Performing a set or two of low rep squat jumps prior to lower body training may help you reactivate fast twitch muscle fibers during squats and deadlifts.

Macaluso F, Isaacs AW, Myburgh KH. Preferential type II muscle fiber damage from plyometric exercise. J Athl Train. 2012;47(4):414-420.

Depth Jumps May Improve Squat Performance

A study involving depth jumps performed prior to assessment of one rep maximum squat strength, noted improvements in performance in the jump groups versus the control group. The group who jumped from 30 cm showed the greatest improvement in squat performance (1). An earlier study also including depth jumps also illustrated their capacity to improve squat performance (2).

Practical Application: Depth jumps performed from lower heights (approximately 30 cm) may improve lower body strength performance.

  1. Brandenburg J, Czajka A. The acute effects of performing drop jumps of different intensities on concentric squat strength. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2010;50(3):254-261.
  2. Masamoto N, Larson R, Gates T, et al. Acute effects of plyometric exercise on maximum squat performance in male athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2003;17(1):68-71.

Upper Body Plyometrics Improve Bench Press Performance

A study involving twelve male college athletes revealed that performing two plyometric push ups or two medicine ball chest passes 30 seconds prior to a one rep max bench press attempt improves maximum bench press performance.

Practical Application: Plyometric push ups and explosive medicine ball tosses may be effective in activating the muscles of the chest, deltoids, and triceps. Furthermore, the plyo push ups and med ball tosses could serve as a useful tool in teaching the athlete movement intention. Though the load on the bar may be heavy relative to the lifter, the goal of any one rep maximum exercise is to move the bar with great speed.

Wilcox J, Larson R, Brochu KM, et al. Acute explosive-force movements enhance bench-press performance in athletic men. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2006;1(3):261-269.

Based on extrapolations from the research and a number of years in the trenches, I have assembled a list of considerations that you may find helpful if you wish you incorporate plyometric exercises within your warm ups.

Programming Considerations

–          Plyometrics performed during the warm up should never be performed with a high volume or to failure.

–          Plyometric exercises should be performed immediately prior to the first strength exercise of the day.

–          Plyometric exercises used during the warm up should closely mimic the demands of the strength exercise which will be performed next. For instance, broad jumps before deadlifts, squat jumps before squats, and supine med ball tosses or plyometric push ups before bench presses.

–          The number of reps should be limited to five or fewer to ensure proper technical execution and to limit neuromuscular fatigue.

–          The plyometric exercises can be performed beyond the warm up and concurrent with the first strength exercise, either between sets (contrast training) or prior to maximum attempts.

–          For strength athletes, plyometrics should never be performed during deloads

–          For other athletes, the volume of plyometric training should be reduced during the course of the season.

–          Before plyometrics are included within one’s programming, which includes warm ups, they should be capable of benching at least their own bodyweight, squatting and deadlifting at least 1.5 times their bodyweight.

–          Research has indicated that plyometric training enhances tendon stiffness, causing your body to rely on your muscles to absorb and redirect force. Keep in mind that stiffness equates to more stability and more stability lends itself to greater strength.

–          Plyometrics should be reduced or eliminated from the warm ups if athletes are performing them separately in their training.

Check it out here:

Build the biggest “Hood” in the “Hood”

Behind bars, the upper chest is referred to as the hood.  Let’s take a look at an exercise that can help you build the biggest “hood in the hood!” 

For decades the incline press has been the go-to exercise to build the hood (clavicular pectoralis.)  Incline presses increase the muscular activity of the “hood” by about 5 % when contrasted with flat benches.  Activity in the front delts increases by about 80% percent.

A recent Canadian study showed that the reverse grip bench press activated 30% more upper pecs than the traditional pronated/overhand grip flat bench press, making this movement a valuable component of your “hood” building repertoire.

Muscle and Fitness Editor, Jim Stoppani, PhD explains, “The reverse grip helps keep your elbows in and your upper arms parallel to your torso. Moving your arms in this manner increases the use of upper pec muscle fibers. “

Everything is bigger in Texas! Not surprisingly, two of the largest “hoods” I have ever personally seen hailed from the Lone Star State, 1990s powerlifting/bench press champions and record holders Anthony Clark and Jim Voronin.  Both set records with a reverse grip style bench press.

Here is a cluster routine to maximize “hood” Development with the reverse grip bench Press

  • Week 1 do 60 % of your “regular” bench press max for 3 reps rest 25 seconds, repeat this for 5 minute, last set do as many reps as possible, stopping one shy of failure.
  • Week 1 do 60 % of your “regular” bench press max for 4 reps rest 25 seconds, repeat this for 5 minute, last set do as many reps as possible, stopping one shy of failure.
  • Week 1 do 60 % of your “regular” bench press max for 5 reps rest 25 seconds, repeat this for 5 minute, last set do as many reps as possible, stopping one shy of failure.

joshstrength| Training with Singles| publish|1| 7/31/2013 5:36:45 PM|by Josh Bryant

1 RM Testing

A one repetition max is the most effective way to test limit strength!

Some folks question the safety of this practice but I question the results derived from their rep max “conversions.”

Let’s take a rational look at this.

Sure, form can potentially break down with heavy weight but the same holds true with fatigue.  While doing a one repetition max, you risk some form break down, but by doing a repetition max with 85-90 percent of your one repetition max, you are still lifting max effort weights while also combatting fatigue.

In the field I have seen more injuries result from heavy reps on squats and deadlifts when contrasted to heavy singles.  The mindset for a heavy single is just that, to perform a heavy single.

  For max reps, there is no true mindset besides one more and push through the pain.  Technique is a major focus for a one rep max, but it is easy to lose sight of this while doing maximum repetitions.

Sport Specific Strategy

“Sport specific” training centers in suburbia are about as common as a boob job in Beverly Hills.  Unfortunately, “sport specific” is usually something like doing ladder drills with a weighted vest while holding a lacrosse stick above your head, bizarre would be more descriptive.  Nonetheless, the rage is you practice how you play.

Powerlifting is limit strength; you lift as much weight as you can for one repetition.  Performing sets that consist of one repetition is sport specific.

Stigmas are attached to singles.  Some believe singles are unsafe.  This is not based off of any empirical evidence.  The other idea is singles demonstrate strength, they don’t build strength because a lack of work. Hogwash!  Try deadlifting 15 sets of singles at 80 percent of your 1RM with a 30 second rest interval between singles.

Singles Guidelines and Benefits

  • Perform singles in a Compensatory Acceleration Training style (putting maximum force into the bar each rep).
  • Concentrate on technique, singles build technique.  Singles also force neural adaptations for competitive lifts. In other words, you lift one rep in a contest so you get more coordinated at lifting one rep.
  • Vary the weights; working up to a one rep max is great, lifting 15 singles is great, 5 singles at 90-95 percent is great.  Doing the same thing all the time is wrong!  Each aforementioned method of singles has benefits.
  • Piling more iron on the bar is the most obvious way to progress but also manipulate rest intervals and the number of sets performed.
  • Singles help gain strength without adding muscle mass, great for athletes looking to stay in the same weight class.
  • Try cluster sets. For instance, bench press 90 percent of your one repetition max for a single then rest 15 seconds, do this for 4 sets.  Rest 3 minutes.  Repeat.  Rest 3 minutes. Repeat.  You have done 12 reps at 90 percent!
  • Heavy singles are for advanced and intermediate trainees only.

Believe: ACHIEVE

A 2009 study published in The Perceptual Motor Skills Journal showed that when athletes believe in their competition training plans, they are more likely to be victorious in their given sport.

Am I surprised? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!

The placebo effect is a real physiological response.

A placebo literally causes your brain to release chemicals that will act like feel-good drugs without the chance of developing an addiction or receiving negative side effects.

Belief is more powerful than drugs!

Belief in Practice

A steroid user jumping program to program with no belief in what he is doing will lose to the squeaky clean powerlifter that has BELIEF in his plan of action.

I would venture to say some of the reason PEDs work is belief.

Think about it!

Unlike many traditional supplements, the consensus is steroids work.  Because the user “KNOWS” they work, he lays off the wine, women and song……….gets the diet straight……….goes to sleep at a reasonable hour, yada, yada……he makes huge gains; of course, steroids helped but belief and behavior influenced by belief helped.

Expecting Great Things

What if you took this attitude of expectancy to being a great elementary school teacher or powerlifter? I promise you will be more successful; your mind and body are an interrelated link, science proves that.

Belief and preparation will synergistically take you beyond where you ever believed you could go!

Belief and fatigue

The power of belief may even be related to fatigue. A 2009 study published in The European Journal of Applied Physiology entitled “The Limit to Exercise Tolerance in Humans: Mind over Muscle” challenged the notion that fatigue causes exhaustion and showed that exhaustion might be caused by perceived rate of effort.  “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, YOU ARE RIGHT!” – written on the wall at the Original Metroflex Gym, Arlington TX.

What does all of this mean to you?

It means: you’ve got to believe to achieve!!!!

You’ve got to believe in yourself, in your talents and capabilities, in your goals and the method you are training with if you hope to achieve being the best you can be!

Ways to Motivate Yourself

Here 10 Ways to Motivate Yourself

1.  Set short-term goals. In writing.

2.  Short-term goals should lead you to a long-term goal.  Allow for occasional setbacks along the way, but regard them as learning experiences, thereby turning those setbacks into something positive.

3.  Set a training schedule and stick to it.  Again, a good place to find such a training program is right here in