25 Days of Gifting: Athletic Greens Travel Health Package

To continue our 25 Days of Gifting extravaganza, BarBend and Athletic Greens are teaming up to give one lucky winner a travel health package!

The world’s most famous greens supplement is about to make your travel a lot tastier. This giveaway with Athletic Greens includes 3 x 20 count Athletic Greens Travel Packs and a portable Athletic Greens Shaker. Perfect to keep your nutrition on point no matter where your trips take you! 

Athletic Greens is one of the world’s most famous greens powders (and all BarBend readers can get 24% off their greens powder here). As tasty as it is nutritious, Athletic Greens is densely packed with probiotics, vitamins, minerals, and more to supplement performance.

[Learn why Athletic Greens topped our list of Best Green Superfood Powders here! We also reviewed Athletic Greens in-depth.]
Don’t miss out of any of our awesome December giveaways! Check the 25 Days of Gifting homepage for the latest.

 

Athletic Greens Travel Health Package Giveaway
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How to Survive (and Even Embrace) Rest Days

Ah, rest days… we know we need them (or so we’ve been told), yet for some reason they are so difficult. If you’re anything like me, you probably operate under the notion that more is always better. You’ve probably had thoughts like, “why train 5 days a week when I can train 6, or even better, 7?” or, “the more I train, the stronger I’ll get!” Well, here’s the thing that took me so long to wrap my head around: training doesn’t make you stronger; recovering from training makes you stronger.

You heard me right. Without adequate recovery, over time, you won’t get stronger. In fact, if you’re overtraining and under-recovering for an extended period of time, you may even find yourself getting weaker. That’s right, training too much and recovery too little can actually inhibit your progress and make you weaker. Makes you second guess your decision to skip rest days, huh?

So you know that rest days (or as I like to call them, recovery days) are important, but that doesn’t really make it any easier to stay out of the gym for a day. So are my top tips for surviving, and even embracing, rest days:

1. Dedicate the day to being productive in any area of your life outside the gym.

My biggest struggle with rest days is feeling unproductive. So for me, rest days are my “get sh*t done” days. I have extra time and energy that I’m not spending on training, so I take advantage of that and use the day to be extra productive with my work and personal projects. It’s also the day that I get things like grocery shopping, laundry, and household chores done. I like to make a list of all the things I accomplish on a rest day so I can look back on it at the end of the day and feel extremely productive, even without having trained.

2. Focus on training your brain instead of your body.

Since I can’t physically train on rest days, I use the day to mentally train, or in other words, educate myself more about training. This means reading articles (mainly from BarBend, of course), watching videos (Juggernaut and Starting Strength have some great ones), listening to podcasts (check out The Body of Knowledge), and the like—all having to do with fitness and strength training. Fitness is my biggest passion and I still want to immerse myself in it even when I’m giving my body time to recover, and this allows me to do just that! Plus, when I do get back in the gym, I’m all the more knowledgeable and able to train smarter.

3. Practice mindfulness.

Oftentimes on training days, I’m so focused on the goal in front of me that I forget to slow down and really listen to my body. I’m usually more pressed for time on training days, so slowing down isn’t really an option. Rest days allow me to take a step back and check in with how my body and mind are doing. I make a point to be extra mindful when engaging in my daily activities on rest days and to do everything with intent and purpose.

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4. Eat foods you enjoy, and take extra time to prepare them.

On days that I’m in the gym, food serves as fuel to get through my workout and perform at my best. When I get home from a hard training session, the last thing I want to do is spend time cooking and preparing a meal.

On rest days, food is something I make an extra effort to enjoy and appreciate. This means taking extra time to prepare meals instead of eating pre-prepped foods, sitting down for meals instead of eating on the go, and really enjoying my food instead of just getting it in.

5. Go outside and enjoy your surroundings.

Taking a day off doesn’t mean you have to spend the day cooped up inside, lying in bed and dreaming about your next workout (I mean, unless you’re into that). My favorite way to spend a rest day is outdoors, either at a beach, a park, or anywhere I can get a change of scenery from the usual squat racks, platforms, benches, bars, and plates. Believe it or not, the world outside the gym can actually be pretty cool!

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6. Invest time in a passion other than training, or try something new!

While training is my biggest passion, it’s definitely not my only passion, and I’m willing to bet it’s not yours either. Think about all the things you used to love to do before training was even a part of your life that you no longer have the time for. Well, guess what? Now you do! And if you can’t think of anything, why not use the extra time to try that thing you’ve always wanted to?

Who knows, you might even discover a brand new passion.

7. Spend the extra time with friends or family.

If there’s one thing that takes my mind off of how much I miss the gym (yes, even after just one day), it’s spending time with people who are close to me. On normal training days, I can be pretty solitary, as I usually have a lot to get done and very little spare time, so I use my off days to spend time with the people that I wish I had more time to see.

If your friends also train, align your rest days so that you can have time for one another and can do something non-gym related… you’ll be surprised how easy it can be to take a day off!

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8. Do something active, but not strenuous.

Like I said before, “rest” is not synonymous with “lie in bed all day and don’t move.” In fact, staying active on your rest day will actually help you recover better and avoid stiffening up. Keep the intensity low so your body is able to invest its resources in repairing and rebuilding, but do keep things moving. My favorite things to do are to go for a long walk, an easy hike, or practice yoga.

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9. Mobility, mobility, mobility!!!

If you’re reading this, you probably spend a fair bit of time strength training, but how much time do you dedicate just to mobility work? I say it all the time, but I’ll say it again: strength without sufficient mobility won’t get you very far, and it’s a one-way ticket to injury. When we lift heavy weights, we place load on our joints, but if our joints don’t have the capacity to handle such a load, over time they will start to wear down.

That’s why I like to take at least a day or two a week to focus solely on mobility — strengthening my joints through their full range of motion so that I can perform better and prevent injury. If you’re interested in longevity and continuing to practice your sport for many years to come, I suggest you do the same!

10. Remember that by giving yourself time to recover, you are actually becoming stronger.

Let’s say it again, all together now: Training doesn’t make you stronger; recovering from training makes you stronger. Now, if you ever find yourself struggling to cope with staying out of the gym and giving yourself the recovery time you need, just repeat that to yourself. Happy recovering!

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The Top 10 Most Searched Workouts of 2017 (Strength Sports Made It Twice)

There’s no doubt that 2017 has been a big year for strength sports. The fitness industry as a whole seems to be at a transitional point where a majority of gym-goers are finally starting to recognize that, “Strong is good.” In addition, strength sports are trending to becoming more mainstream and accepted by larger demographics.

Sports like weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman, bodybuilding, and functional fitness are no longer limited to their niches, and are finally being recognized by the masses. And this is a great thing for everyone, because it deepens the reach of the sports, and it introduces new faces to new passions.

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Google recently released their Year In Search data – which is basically a summary of how often terms were searched on Google throughout the year – and strength sports workouts made the top ten workout list twice. In 2016, strength sports workouts didn’t even make the list once. Check out the top ten searched workouts from 2017 below.

Top 10 Searched Workouts

1. “Murph CrossFit Workout”

This popular CrossFit Hero WOD is typically performed every Memorial Day in honor of Lt. Michael P. Murphy. Many CrossFit boxes and gyms will hold fundraisers for this workout. The workout’s composed of a: 1-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, 300 air squats, and 1-mile run.

[Check out the CrossFit athlete that completed Murph 10-times in a row!]

2. “Bungee Workout”

3. “Tabata Workouts”

4. “TRX Workout”

5. “Burpees”

A popular movement typically used in functional fitness workouts, or for conditioning work. We know this isn’t necessarily a “strength sport”, but it’s a movement that’s gained momentum due to them.

6. “HIIT Workout”

Again, not necessarily a strength sport, but HIIT workouts often include barbell and dumbbell movements, which we’re counting as a win for strength sports everywhere.

7. “PiYO Workouts”

8. “Inner Thigh Workouts”

9. “CrossFit Open 17.2 Workout”

Workout 17.2 in this year’s CrossFit Open trended extremely well on both Google and BarBend, we’re guessing because it was (in part) the workout that introduced the use of dumbbells to the Open.

This workout had athletes complete as many rounds as possible in 12-minutes in the style of two triplets. The first two rounds included: 50 foot walking lunges, 16 toes to bar, and 8 dumbbell power cleans. Then the next two rounds included: 50 foot walking lunges, 16 bar muscle-ups, and 8 dumbbell power cleans.

10. “Oblique Workout”

Concluding Thoughts

We know there was still no mention of sports like weightlifting, powerlifting, or strongman, but we’re optimistic they’ll make the list in 2018. If you look at the past year’s lists, then you’ll notice the fitness industry as a whole is starting to trend towards slightly more ‘strength’ focused work.

Hopefully next year we’ll see the recognition of strength sport workouts double on this list. Do you think it could happen?

Feature image from @crossfit Instagram page, photo taken by @squatsandpixels. 

The post The Top 10 Most Searched Workouts of 2017 (Strength Sports Made It Twice) appeared first on BarBend.

My Favorite Books for Strength Athletes in 2017

In the digital age we have an endless amount of media with endless ways to consume it. As a producer of some of that content, I thank you all for reading and sharing my work that is a speck in a vast ocean of choices. To better my product, I attempt to keep my mind sharp, open to new concepts and challenged with new ideas. Ever since I could read, I have loved books. This year I made my way through 45 of them, and these five were the best I found for shaping perspectives of coaches and athletes.

1. Faster Higher Stronger by Mark McCulsky

Technology is changing everything, including the way we train. We can now measure almost every aspect of sports performance and then analyze the data to make smarter decisions when it comes to training and competition. We can avoid overtraining, enhance recovery and lessen our mistakes on the field, taking the athlete from an also ran to the top of the podium. This book reinforced the necessity of tracking poundages, taping and reviewing sessions, understanding sleep, picking the right contests, making supportive dietary choices and doing anything you can to manage your career as a Strongperson.

Find it on Amazon

2. Behave by Robert Sapolsky

Taking a Stanford biology course online from Professor Sapolsky made me anxious for the arrival of this book. The complex subject of why humans behave as we do is made surprisingly understandable in a very enjoyable, humorous read. As a coach this book is a must. It is our job to communicate in a way an athlete will respond to in a positive manner. When you understand the mix of genetic, environmental and hormonal factors that truly dictate what we perceive to be “free will,” you can become less frustrated yourself and develop an enriched perspective of why human do such odd things.

Find it on Amazon

3. DNA Is Not Destiny by Steven Heine

“Man, that guy is way better than me. He must have awesome genetics.” We are genetic fatalists, says Heine, arguing that people have resigned their fate to what is encoded in their DNA. The problem with this commonly held viewpoint is that the more you understand genetics the less likely you are to agree with it. By seeing yourself as genetically inferior in a sport can radically effect your ability to perform. Our DNA can actually change and respond to our actions. We can not fully predict height, weight, heart disease or cancer risk simply from DNA alone. As competitors, you should forgo the thought of a fixed destiny and instead fight for your own personal future.

Find it on Amazon

4. What the Luck by Gary Smith

With an infinite number of variables that can happen to us in any situation, one must conclude that much of life has to do with luck. Running into the right contact that landed you a new job? Narrowly miss getting hit by a bus today? Perfect score on a standardized test? Smith illustrates how everyone and everything can over (or under) perform but will eventually return to the average of their potential. My big take away from this was what every successful person constantly trumpets; no matter what, you must keep trying no matter how often you fail. While it is no guarantee of success, you will better your odds.

Find it on Amazon

5. Extreme Ownership By Jocko Willink & Leif Babin

These combat hardened SEAL veterans are now executive consultants, and their message is simple: It’s all on you. Sales team fail? You didn’t communicate how to achieve success or you picked the wrong people. Production fall behind schedule? You failed to manage the problem successfully. It is easy to pass of the responsibility but you must understand, it is the tool of the weak and breeds more weakness. Own every rep of every set. Own your nutrition program. Own your sleep schedule. Own the consequences of your actions. The message is clear; once you do, you will experience freedom and a feeling of control that is quite powerful. Your life is yours and you must drive it, it is not a ride along.

Find it on Amazon

You don’t have to grab any of these suggestions though. Just pick up something and read it. It will engage the brain and in some way make you a better athlete and person. Weight training is the best thing you can do to muscular fitness, but do not neglect your intellectual training as well!

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

The post My Favorite Books for Strength Athletes in 2017 appeared first on BarBend.

When to Use Straps in Powerlifting and Strongman

All strength sports have their own little quirks; powerlifting has sumo deadlifts, CrossFit has kipping, and strongman, well, strongman kind of has a few that irk others. But it isn’t the hitching or the continental cleans that seem to rile people up the most; that honor seems to be reserved for the strapped deadlift.

This isn’t just speculation either, as I say this from experience. While running the social media for Official Strongman, I’d face a torrent of comments each and every day insisting that Eddie’s 500 pull and all the others be struck from the history books because they thought those athletes were ‘cheating.’ All because of a few inches of canvas wrapped round a bar. Fortunately we, as real enthusiasts of strength, can all agree that this isn’t some grand conspiracy and instead just accept the lifts for what they are – strongman records.

[Interested in using straps but don’t know which pair is best for you? Check out our full rundown of the top straps on the market here!]

Despite accepting the lifts of others, even seasoned  powerlifters can overlook straps in their own training, dismissing them as an easy way out. Which is such a shame as straps can add serious weight to your pulls, even when you take them off. Here’s how.

Save your grip for what counts.

When it comes to building a grip strong enough to hold on to anything you can pull off the ground, there are two distinct schools of thought. The first is simple – if you’re training deads with a high enough volume then your grip will grow build on its own and you don’t need to do any specialized hand work. For some this approach works wonders, especially for those lucky enough to naturally have a great grip, work a manual job or just have giant hands.

However, if you’ve ever lost a lift because your grip wasn’t good enough, then it’s time to start listening to the other side and adding in some supplemental grip work.

Finish off your sessions with some farmers walks, weighted hangs and fat bar rows and you’ll have mighty mitts in no time. The problem is that if you start hammering your hands and forearms with farmers walks, weighted hangs and fat bar training, when it comes time to deadlift again your grip will be smoked. This results in you being limited to even less weight on the bar, especially in the short term. That is, of course, unless you strap up for your main deadlift session, while you allow your grip to recover. As with bringing up any weakness this is something best done in the off season, so that as competitions get closer you can start to build back in your strap free deadlift with newly improved grip strength. This is especially important if, like most people, you lift with a mixed grip.  

Injury Prevention

In some of the more hardcore strength circles I’ve heard that having a torn bicep is seen as a badge of honor, a sacrifice to the strength gods, a show of dedication. And while this might be a great story to tell others once you’ve injured yourself, I’m pretty confident that it’s still a club you’re only proud to be in after the fact.

However, we all still all want to deadlift heavy, and with this comes an increased risk of tearing a bicep, especially if you pull with an over under grip. But if you bring straps into the equation for your heavier off season lifts, you can reduce this risk. This is best done by only bringing out the straps for your heaviest work sets and pulling RAW for your warm up and back off sets. This way you get the best of both worlds, reduced risk of a training injury, while still going heavy. This allows you to slowly develop the tendon strength you need while reducing the risk of losing a bicep during a training session.

The other mostly unspoken benefit is that I’m yet to see someone who didn’t benefit from mixing their grip and hand placements up every now and then. Variety is the spice of life after all. As with the previous point do this in the off season and as your powerlifting meet gets closer slowly phase out straps from your heavier sets and reacclimate yourself to lifting how you will on the day.   

Increased Load

No matter how good your grip is, there will be a point where you have to make a choice. Do you stay RAW and lift less or do you throw on a couple of plates, strap your hands to that bar and go rogue. Whether we’re talking a high rep set, a rack pull, a trap bar deadlift or a combination of all three, if straps help you hit that set harder and that’s the goal for the day put protocol aside and strap up. The exact same is true for accessory lifts where grip is going to be a limiting factor, namely rows, shrugs and pull downs.   

Using straps in training isn’t about becoming dependent on a crutch, instead it’s about using every tool at your disposal to get stronger. Just as you might use caffeine or your favorite song to help you push a little harder in a tough workout, straps can be allow you to do things your normally couldn’t. Don’t dismiss it or anything else just because it’s not the most commonly done thing in your sport.  

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

The post When to Use Straps in Powerlifting and Strongman appeared first on BarBend.

Deficit Deadlifts – Training Percentages and Carryover to Deadlift

Deficit deadlifts are an effective deadlift variation to increase leg and back strength, improve setup and body poisoning specific to pulling movements, and enhance overall deadlifting performance with lifters who express sticking points at the onset of the pull and or lack general pulling strength.

In this article we will discuss the deficit deadlift, how heavy you should do them (training percentages), and the specific carryover to the regular deadlift.

Deficit Deadlift Exercise Demo

Below is an exercise demonstration on how to set up and perform the deficit deadlift, which can be done by standing on plates or blocks. It is important to note that this deadlift variation is not for beginners or those who cannot perform a regular deadlift with integrity and proper back positioning, as it does require greater mobility and strength.

Deficit Deadlift vs Regular Deadlift

The deficit deadlift is nearly identical to the regular deadlift, with the exception that the lifter pulls from a slight deficit (standing on blocks/ plates). The amount of deficit is also important, as the larger the deficit the harder the lift is relative to the regular deadlift. The most common deficit used is 1-3 inches, which can be effective at bring about the below adaptations without drastically changing the movement and pulling technique.

Training Intensities/Percentages

Programming deficit deadlifts can be done in a similar structure as any other deadlifting movement, with the understanding that the longer ranges of motion and less than ideal starting angle will typically decrease the amount of weight a lifter can move relative to the regular deadlift. I find that when programming deficit deadlifts, sets and reps can be kept the same as in regular pulls, however training percentages are often 5-15% lower than the regular deadlift.

For example, if a lifter has a 1RM deadlift of 500lbs, and is looking to do 3 sets of 5 repetitions for a deficit deadlift, at 80% RM (of the full deadlift), they should realistically be using 340-380lbs. The important thing to remember is that loads are often lower when compared to the regular deadlift, despite relative rate of perceived exertion (RPE), and therefore should be monitored accordingly.

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Carryover to the Regular Deadlift

The deficit deadlift can have a significant impact on pulling strength, leg and back development, and overall muscle building capacities for powerlifters, weightlifters, and general fitness athletes. In the below section we will discuss five specific aspects of the regular deadlift that can be positively impacted by the inclusion of deficit training in a program.

Better Set Ups

Pulling from a deficit increases the need for tension and body awareness at the onset of the pull. Sometimes, a lifter cannot develop tension and create stability in the spine, hips, and legs at the onset of the deadlift simply because their bodies do not understand how to set up in the new positioning. By acclimating and developing body awareness and postural strength and control in the deficit deadlift, lifters will often find they can increase tension and strength in the regular deadlift following deficit training.

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Stronger Leg Drive

Pulling from a deficit increases the amount of knee and hip flexion at the onset of the pull, placing our leverages and joint angles at a greater disadvantage, therefore increasing the need for the muscles to overcome and extend the joints. By increasing the range of motion, the liter will need to utilize their legs more at the start off the lift, as the lower, middle, and upper back will not be in a good position to overcome such angles. Once trained, the newly developed leg drive (as well as the other benefits below) can equate to a stronger set up and pull.

Improved Lower Back Strength

Deeper hip and knee flexion in the start of the deficit deadlift will often also increase the amount of demands placed upon the spinal erectors and lats to resist torso/spinal flexion, specifically at the middle and lower back. Deep joint angles in the deadlift (due to the deficit) can be challenging to maintain while under load, and therefore can work to increase our strength and awareness while in those positions. The carryover is that once a lifter develops strength and awareness at those new depths, he/she will be more adept to overcome pulls from more open starting angles as well (example, going from a deficit deadlift to a regular deadlift).

Greater Acceleration Off Floor

While acceleration training in the deadlift can be dependent on more than just developing strength in a longer range of motion (such as speed strength, band training, etc) it can be impacted to a certain degree by attaining greater force production capacities at deeper angles (like in the deficit deadlift). The ability to contract, promote force, and do so in a organized recruitment of muscle fibers can help the barbell to increase acceleration at the onset of the pull. Once the deficit is removed, a lifter may have trained more muscles fibers and developed more strength/hypertrophy from simply training deeper ranges of motion at the start.

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Minimize Sticking Points at Start

The deficit deadlift can be used to increase a lifter’s ability to break through sticking points off the floor and around shin level, most likely due to increased leg drive, back strength and positioning, and barbell acceleration off the floor. By combining those three carryovers, the net effect can be that a lifter will be able to (1) overcome sticking points in the deadlift due to greater force production, (2) overcome sticking points in the deadlift due to greater back and body positioning in the pull, and/or (3) overcome sticking points in the deadlift due to approaching the sticking point with more upwards acceleration/bar speeds.

More Deadlift Variations

Check out the below deadlifting articles and learn how to increase your strength in all phases of the pull!

Featured Image: @efrain62kg on Instagram

 

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25 Days of Gifting: Lift Lab Co. Weightlifting Apparel Package!

To continue our 25 Days of Gifting extravaganza, BarBend and Lift Lab Co are giving one lucky winner a HUGE apparel package (our biggest yet!) with multiple performance gear shirts, a Lift Lab Co backpack, hat, and more!

In fact, this package is by far our biggest apparel giveaway yet, worth over $200!

One lucky winner is about to look even better on the platform! We’re teaming up with Lift Lab Co gym to give out a a Weightlifting Apparel backpack full of Lift Lab Co t-shirts and a brand new hat, perfect for showing off your training style.

Don’t miss out of any of our awesome December giveaways! Check the 25 Days of Gifting homepage for the latest.

Lift Lab Co. Weightlifting Apparel Package
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