Is Strongman Terry Hollands the World’s Strongest Bodybuilder?

Veteran strongman Terry Hollands may take his newly sculpted physique out for a foray into the bodybuilding world.

“…if I can get the dates to fall right next year, I think I’ll get on stage at some point. Me and @kateerringtonbikini were talking today about doing a sport swap… she’d be doing an under-63kg strongwoman comp and I’d do a bodybuilding show. Could be fun.”

Hollands is an elite-level strength athlete, having participated in the World’s Strongest Man eleven times, making the podium twice with two 3rd-place finishes. Today, he is ranked the Third Strongest Man in Europe. If he indeed takes the stage, he could safely call himself the strongest athlete in bodybuilding!

The two sports, though they both involve lifting weights, working out and dieting, quite obviously facilitate the development of completely different physiques. Take for instance the two present champions of each sport: there is little similarity between the bodies of current World’s Strongest Man Eddie Hall and current Mr. Olympia Phil Heath.

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Eddie Hall’s athletic success comes in spite of his high bodyfat content, but the present trend in strongman is to keep trim. It seems to harken back to the previous decade, when the chiseled abdominal muscles of 5-time World’s Strongest Man Mariusz Pudzianowski were often on display.

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Today, up-and-comers like Mateusz Kieliszkowski and Martin Licis keep a much tighter frame than most of their predecessors and contemporaries. And, famously, Zydrunas Savickas shredded away his massive belly in a single off-season.

Big Z’s muscles were so massive, however, he started appearing cut at – what was for him – the low weight of 342lbs.

Now, in another stunning transformation, Terry Hollands has whittled his frame down past Big Z’s mark.

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In a recent Instagram post, Hollands revealed himself to be lean at 6’6”, 340lbs.

At his height, he won’t exactly be going for the top prizes in bodybuilding, where the current king of the sport stands at 5’9” and the most massive man at his heels, (Big Ramy) Mamdouh Elssbiay, is 5’10”, ~295lbs. These men are beyond wide.

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Still, who can say they are not curious to see what sort of musculature a lifetime of strongman training has generated?

“Everybody want to be a bodybuilder… but don’t nobody want to lift no heavy ass weight.”

Ronnie Coleman, the 8-time Mr. Olympia winner, already proved that powerlifting strength could fortify bodybuilding goals.

A former powerlifter, Coleman once told FLEX magazine, “on the basis of [a powerlifting] foundation, we can more quickly reach our ultimate goal, which is to add more muscle mass and sculpt our physiques by bodybuilding.” There is no reason to suggest the logic wouldn’t follow for someone with a well-rounded strongman foundation.

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Of course, Hollands only seems interested in a one-off. His focus is the upcoming Giants Live strongman competition in England, January 2018. For now, fans will have to keep fingers crossed and settle for a single show.

Featured image: @terryhollands79 on Instagram

The post Is Strongman Terry Hollands the World’s Strongest Bodybuilder? appeared first on BarBend.

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How This Strongman Became a Wife Carrying Champion

In 2016, New England strongman Elliot Storey and his wife Giana became the North American champions in the unusual sport of wife carrying, a race that’s part obstacle course, part strongman, and part bonding exercise. In 2017, he returned to Maine to see if he could repeat as champion. This is his story.

If you’re thinking you’d like to enter a wife carrying competition, there are many aspects you have to understand before you even begin to train. The first thing to know is the composition of the course you’re going to face. The international standard course length is 253.5 meters (278 yards), and contains one wet obstacle and two dry obstacles.

The winning times are around one minute.

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That means you will be sprinting.

Some courses are flat (World Championships) and some courses are on the side of a mountain (North American Championships). What makes the most sense to me is to prepare as specifically as possible, so if your course is flat, practice flat; if it’s hilly, practice hills.  

If you’ve never sprinted for one minute, establish a baseline. On a track, the closest event to one minute is the 400m dash, so time yourself sprinting one lap around a track. Chances are, you’re in decent shape, but there are generally two types of 400m runners – the 800m distance-type and the 200m sprinter-type.

[Not convinced? Here are 7 reasons every strength athlete should try obstacle course racing.]

Depending on your runner-type, you’ll have different weaknesses that you’ll want to focus your training around in order to bring your best.  An 800m type will likely feel the burden of his wife more than the 200m type and will need to focus on power output.  The 200m runner-type is likely much faster through the first half of the course and will need to focus on cardio and lactate threshold in order to finish strong.

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Check out this short documentary about the author’s experience at this year’s championship

The next and perhaps most important component of preparing for a wife carrying competition is actually practicing with your wife. Whether or not you incorporate regular runs with your wife into your training, you’re going to want to devote special sessions simply to working out the proper hold, especially going over obstacles.

Not only will the extra weight and style of hold affect your normal running gait, but practice for the wife is crucial as well. Placing 50% or more of your bodyweight on your shoulders is going to raise your center of gravity. This creates an instability that requires lots of practice to be able to control. The fastest ride is a smooth ride. The wife can’t see the course to know what comes next, so she needs to be in tune with your body in order to smooth the bumps. A surefire way to lose a race is to fall, and the most common fall seems to be an overcorrection by a pair towards the end of the race, when the husband’s legs are jello.

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The Strength Training

Now that you know what to expect, it’s time to lay out a program to get yourself in peak condition for race day. As I said before, I like to prepare as specifically as possible. For me, being a bigger guy, I need to focus on my cardio and lactate threshold. The competition I have done the most is the North American Championship, so hills are always part of my training, especially as the event gets closer. My typical week has high-intensity days on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday which would be my typical gym sessions with compound movements and/or hill sprints with or without added weight.

On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, I will do 20 rep squats as my recovery and also to continue training lactate threshold. I consider 20 rep squats the single most important component of any training cycle besides getting better at the actual movement your competition entails, i.e. wife carrying.  

In reality, especially for this past competition, things don’t always go to plan. I try to anticipate that by trying to schedule multiple sessions per day (which is even tougher obviously) where I will run hills on lunch break at work or go for a run in the morning.  The key to your success is figuring out what will work for you and tailoring your training cycle in order to reach your peak.  Not to be too redundant, but if you’re a 200m type, work on your cardio by doing long runs or cycling and lactate threshold by doing one minute sprints or 20 rep squats, and if you’re an 800m type, focus on raw power in order to improve acceleration and top speed by doing heavy squats and deadlifts, shorter sprints, and plyometrics. Once you’ve put in 100% for weeks (being sure to incorporate a de-load week if your prep is longer than 4 weeks), make sure you taper for at least one week before the contest.

Image courtesy of Sasha Chipman

Race Day

It’s finally race day! This year was very different for us in a lot of ways. I have been working in California for the past year, taking on more responsibility and living out of a hotel for the most part, and Giana somehow took on even more work while being the best mother to our four children. Adding to the difficulty of preparation for us was the fact that we were defending champions. There was so much pressure to repeat, but despite less-than-ideal prep conditions, I felt confident that we could do it.

We rented a condo as usual at Sunday River, where the race was being held, for the night before the race. This was in order to see the course and not have to rush in the morning to get there and get ready (we live about 2 hours away).

The course this year looked very difficult. It was similar in 2014, which was the year we posted our worst-ever time.  Instead of one log hurdle, there was two. The Widowmaker looked deeper than ever, seemed to have more soft mud on the bottom, and had a steep entrance.  I thought to myself that if I found myself behind in the final heat, I would jump in just like at World’s and take the lead. This turned out to be prophetic.

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In the hours leading up to the race, the feeling of anxiety and adrenaline spikes is completely overwhelming. I think an essential part of the process is not only managing those feelings so you don’t waste energy, but also feeling them in the first place as I think the thrill of competition (and hopefully winning) is fueled by “getting into the zone”.  I try to run the race in my head as many times as possible while combatting the inevitable pangs of my fight-or-flight system that thinks I’m being chased by a saber-toothed tiger.

Adding to all this pressure is the presence of not only Sunday River’s film crew, but 3 separate documentaries, one of which (60-Second Docs, embedded above) is focused entirely on us.  One of the others is a mockumentary in which I think we snagged a cameo, and the other is a serious film following a fellow competitor John Lund and will culminate in July at the 2018 World Championships.

As the race begins with couples numbered 1 and 2, we check out the competition to see how deep the mud is and any other tips we can pick up.  Last year’s 4th place couple posts a time of 1:13 which for me confirmed my suspicions that this year’s course was tougher. Perennial competitor John Lund then posts a 1:05, only to get pushed to 3rd place by “Crossfit Couple” and last year’s runners-up Jake and Kirsten Barney, who blew everyone away with a 58 second run.

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This was really good for us because all I had to do was run under 1:05, and I could save something for the finals against Jake who went all out in his heat.  It’s finally time for our heat and we’re going against Team Gauvin, who got engaged at last year’s contest. They struggled through the aptly-named Widowmaker as we ran 59 seconds to qualify for the finals.

After a short break during which it is both crucial and next to impossible to stay loose, it was time for the finals. A rematch of last year: Team Blueridge from Virginia versus Team Storey, the defending, home-grown champions.

Out of the gates, it seemed like an exact repeat of last year where I got to the first hurdle first and never looked back, except this time, something happened that had never happened before. As I vaulted over the log at full speed, my feet weren’t there. As my face hit the ground, there was no time to lose as Jake and Kirsten went bounding off up the mountain. By the time we reached the second hurdle, I knew I could catch them. We entered the water almost back together, but Jake fell on his face right in front of me. I could no longer use my jumping tactic without potentially killing somebody, so I tried to go around, but I ended up falling again! As we both got up, we were neck-and-neck in the water with the finish line in sight. I urged my body with all of my being to go faster, but Jake pulled away step-by-step. The adrenaline boost that caught me up now belonged to Jake as he powered over the finish line and I resigned myself to second place and jogged home with nothing left.

Image courtesy of Sasha Chipman

The repeat was not to be, but it was the second-best possible outcome and we’re happy for Jake and Kirsten. We know we’ll get a rematch sooner or later as we both now set our sights on the 2018 World Championships.

Featured image via @sunjournal on Instagram and Sunday River.

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 How This Strongman Became a Wife Carrying Champion appeared first on BarBend.

5 Benefits of Pistol Squats

In this article we will discuss one of the most challenging unilateral leg exercises out there. Regardless of sport or goal, the ability to perform pistol squats with control and integrity can lead to increased unilateral leg development, bilateral lower body improvements, balance, coordination, and even increase sport specific goals.

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The Pistol Squat

The pistol squat is a challenging bodyweight movement that requires the highest degree of ankle, knee, and hip mobility, unilateral leg strength and movement integrity, and complete body awareness. Unlike lunges and other unilateral leg exercises, the pistol squat requires a lifter to hold their base of support across a small area (the foot). Mastering the pistol squat takes proper progression, mobility, strength, and practice, which is addressed below.

Exercise Demo

Below is a thorough exercise demo on the pistol squat, as well as a supplementary video documenting a sound warmup and mobility routine targeted to address knee, ankle, and hip mobility necessary for the pistol squat.

Benefits of the Pistol Squat

Below are five benefits one can expect from performing the pistol squat as either an advanced bodyweight exercise, weighted unilateral movement, or within a functional fitness WOD.

Unilateral Strength and Performance

The pistol squat by nature is a single-legged movement and therefore a unilateral exercise.The benefits of unilateral training have been thoroughly discussed in previous pieces. What makes the pistol squat unique, however, is that it requires little amounts of equipment yet can have a very high demand and load placed upon the body, as you can imagine. The need for increased control, mobility, stability, and strength all can increase unilateral movement integrity and help to increase bilateral movement patterns like running, jumping, and even squatting.

Muscular Activation

Increased muscular activation can often be expected from pistol squats only when they are done in a controlled and tempo like manner (as opposed to fast-paced pistol squats that heavily rely on passive tissues and joint structures for movement support, which can lead to a plethora of issues if not progressed to correctly). Increasing the time under tension, joint and muscular control, tempo, and loading can all increase the muscle activation of the leg muscles.

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Joint Mobility

The ability to pistol squat requires a lifter to have sufficient ankle, knee, and hip mobility and joint control (hopefully). The amount of joint flexion in the ankles, knees, and hips at the bottom of the pistol squat are very similar to the deep squat (bilateral, aka with both legs), and then some. Increasing one’s ability to promote force and establish a deep sense of control and confident in one’s movement throughout the full anthropometric range of motion is the key to sustaining proper mobility over time.

Balance and Body Control

The pistol squat requires a great amount of balance and body control, as the lifter must support oneself on one foot throughout a complete range of motion. Joint stability and control is needed to ensure proper joint tracking, body balance, and overall safety of the movement, making this one of the few bodyweight movements that require such high degrees of mobility, stability, balance, and body control.

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Sports-Specific Skill

Functional fitness athletes are required to express many of the attributes above at any point within a training session or competition. CrossFit athletes must master this movement for WODs and competitive event, where as runners, fighters, and other locomotive athletes can find benefit in performing pistol squats as they can enhance body control, awareness, and unilateral leg strength and function.

Bodyweight Training Articles

Check out these top bodyweight and gymnastics training articles to upgrade you at home fitness, functional workouts, and more!

Featured Image: @ondrej.houzvicka on Instagram

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Are the Somatotypes Ectomorph, Mesomorph, and Endomorph Relevant In Training?

Most athletes have heard about the three different somatotypes used to classify different body types. These include the terms ectomorph, mesomorph, and endormorph. Each somatotype ropes everyone into these three categories based on their bone structure, joint ratios, and body composition.

Since the original somatotype formulations they’ve been used by many in both the fitness and academia world as a way to classify individual’s body types. Some professionals use the classifications as a means of constructing diet and exercise plans, but how accurate are they? There are a few underlying issues with the definitions, and a few useful aspects in the areas of gym and diet that come with the three somatotypes.

This article will dive into the history of somatotypes, what the normal body types are defined as, and how following their definitions strictly can be somewhat misleading.

History of Somatotype Classification

The idea of somatotypes came about in the 1940’s when American Psychologist William Herbert Sheldon constructed a new (his) version of somatotypology. His ‘theory’ looked at one’s body’s ratios and body composition to place them into one of the three classes. When he first performed his somatotype research, Sheldon used nude postural photos of Ivy Leave undergraduates, which has since been seen as very controversial. From here, he defined three classes judging from one’s bone ratios and body composition.

Sheldon then formulated the definition of each somatotype to relate them to characteristics like one’s personality and life trajectory path. There have been plenty of critics of Sheldon’s original somatotyping research. Some criticism discusses how Sheldon’s views were often biased, or opinionated with little actual science behind them. Yet, research has seen some truths between somatotypes and various aspects of sport performance, gym performance, and nutrition habits, but not as much when it comes to personality and life trajectory paths.

Sheldon’s Original Definition of Somatotypes

Below are summaries from the book Dictionary of Theories, Laws, and Concepts in Psychology, by Jon E. Roeckelein, of how Sheldon originally defined each somatotype.

  • Ectomorph: Characterized as linear, thin, usually tall, fragile, lightly muscled, flat chested and delicate; described as cerebrotonic (intellectual), inclined to desire isolation, solitude and concealment; and being tense, anxious, restrained in posture and movement, introverted and secretive.
  • Mesomorph: Characterized as hard, rugged, triangular, athletically built with well developed muscles, thick skin and good posture; described as somatotonic, inclined towards physical adventure and risk taking; and being vigorous, courageous, assertive, direct and dominant.
  • Endomorph: Characterized as round, usually short and soft with under-developed muscles and having difficulty losing weight; described as viscerotonic, enjoying food, people and affection; having slow reactions; and being disposed to complacency.

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In Sheldon’s book, Atlas of Man, he then used a series of three numbers to define each body type. Often times, people are a mixture of all three body types, and the chances of one being a full ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph are slim. A full ectomorph in his rating system appears as 7-1-1, a mesomorph 1-7-1, and an endomorph 1-1-7.

Somatotypes, Strength Training, and Dieting

So now the question remains, how relevant are the above definitions to current strength training concepts and diet? Some coaches believe that heavily relying on somatotypes can be a way to box in one’s way of perceiving themselves, while others feel that there are some useful truths to the definitions.

After all, somatotypes don’t account for many of life’s normal factors, which include things like age, stress, training history, genetic factors, among other things. To help me gain a better understanding of somatotypes and their relationships to training and diet, I reached out to JC Deen, fitness trainer and writer.

Boly: Do you think somatotyping is an accurate way of one to think of themselves?

Deen: Not entirely because there are many factors that influence how someone’s body looks, such as diet, training, sleep, stress, as well as the genetic stuff like muscle belly length, joint size, shoulder width, and various other factors.

Boly: Do you think it can build walls around growth?

Deen: I do because if someone writes himself off as being genetically inferior, or doomed to a certain physiological outcome, then their chances of overcoming those barriers are slim due to lack of effort or consistency in any training program that could yield the results they want.

Boly: For context, how often do you have someone say they’re an ectomorph, but in reality find out they’re simply not eating + training in a way that’s comprehensive towards their goals?

Deen: It’s pretty commonplace. Lots of guys start out as skinny and under-muscled and turn into mass monsters with many years of training. it all comes down to their work ethic, drive, and consistency with training and diet. And some people are simply doing too much training while not eating enough, which will keep someone from growing and developing over time.

Boly: Are there any truths at all worth noting behind somatotyping in the world of nutrition & training?

Deen: I would say there are some truths and ideas worth considering…for instance, the typical ectomorph body is that of someone with small joints, short muscle bellies, narrow shoulders and in general, a low body fat and or low body weight. However, there are plenty of people who started out with this ‘body type’ and overcame the odds to build 30-40 pounds of muscle and completely changed their look.

The most gifted of the somatypes are those who we label as mesomorphs. They tend to have very long and full muscle bellies, big joints, broad shoulders and big bones, in general. These people are able to build strength and muscle relatively easily when compared to someone of smaller bone size and shorter muscle bellies simply due to their genetics.

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But for the most part, these somatypes are not hard-coded into our DNA because there are many varieties of body types. And people seem to overcome some of these so-called limits with proper training, diet, and long-term strategies for changing their physique.

Another thing worth mentioning is the environment someone spends most of their time in will have a big impact on their development. For instance, if someone is exposed to weight training at a young age, their chances of overcoming a certain “body type” are greater due to more time under the bar than if they started at a later date. The same goes for those who work laborious jobs and develop their physiques under the stress of manual labor.

Wrapping Up

Somatotypes have been long used as ways to define body types, but there’s much more that go into defining one’s genetic make-up, than they were originally used for. We constantly see gym-goers overcome their original body type definition, which then begs the question, how much truth should one put into the somatotypes? As Deen points out, they can be useful for some reasons, but to an extent.

The takeaway message is that somatotypes have their time and place when being applied to one’s training, diet, and lifestyle, but shouldn’t be an end all be all, as they can box one into a certain way of perceiving themselves.

Editors 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.

Feature image from @hesham.fit Instagram page. 

The post Are the Somatotypes Ectomorph, Mesomorph, and Endomorph Relevant In Training? appeared first on BarBend.

Powerlifter Stefi Cohen Deadlifts 503 lbs for 4 Reps at 120 lbs Bodyweight

This is absolutely insane. We’ve written on Stefi Cohen a lot recently, but for good reason. Most recently, we wrote an article on her 501 lb deadlift at 121 lbs body, which comes out to about 4.14x her bodyweight. And that was impressive, but the below is guaranteed to make your jaw drop.

While 501 lbs is impressive, what about 503 lbs for four reps. Yesterday, Cohen shared a video on her Instagram page that highlighted this epic feat of strength. She deadlifted 503 lbs for four reps at a 120 lbs bodyweight.

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Back in August, Cohen’s main focus was to deadlift 4x her bodyweight and take down the 123 lb all-time world record. She accomplished this feat at the Boss of Bosses IV meet by pulling 220kg (485 lbs) at a bodyweight of 121 lbs. Now it seems like she’s PR’ing every week, and pushing the threshold even further.

At the time of her world record we asked her how it felt, and what was next for her. She responded with, “I thought I would feel more accomplished, but I can’t help wanting more. 500 lbs up next.”

[Read our full interview with Stefi Cohen, which breaks down her training methods, current life goals, and future goals.]

“Also, pretty sure that’s the first time a woman’s ever done a deadlifts 4x bodyweight (raw). We fact checked with Powerlifting Watch, and we’re 98% certain.And keep in mind, this was a quote she gave less than two months ago, and she just pulled over 500 lbs for reps.

Check out her first 501 lb deadlift from September 19th below.

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Now the question remains, can Cohen hit this deadlift feat in competition? She plans to attempt 500lb or more without straps at the SPF Reebok Record Breakers meet, which is taking place on November 11th in Dublin, California.

If Cohen can hit the 500 lb pull, then she’ll push the highest raw deadlift ever performed by a woman in her bodyweight category even further. We’re excited to see what she’s capable of.

Feature image screenshot from @steficohen Instagram page. 

The post Powerlifter Stefi Cohen Deadlifts 503 lbs for 4 Reps at 120 lbs Bodyweight appeared first on BarBend.

Floor Press vs Bench Press – Which One Should You Be Doing?

The bench press and floor press are two popular upper body pressing movements to develop serious strength and muscle. In this article, we wanted to compare and contrast both lifts to better facilitate your strength, muscular hypertrophy, and pressing performance.

The Bench Press

The bench press is a gem of an exercise, allowing us to load the upper body with an insane amount of loading, increase muscle hypertrophy, and compete in competitions (powerlifting). Below is a great video demonstrating the bench press, how to perform it correctly, and more. Note, that for the sake of this article we are comparing the barbell bench press with the barbell floor press, for the sake of keeping things apples to apples (barbell vs barbell) rather than dumbbell pressing, odd variations, etc.

The Floor Press

The floor press, which was covered extensively in a previous article, is a segmented (shorter range of motion) variation of the bench press, with the intent to target the top half of the movement. The benefits of the floor press are covered as well, which states increased triceps mass and strength, better lockout performance, and makes the case for the floor press as a shoulder saving pressing option. In the below video you can see the proper setup and execution of the barbell floor press.

Floor Press vs Bench Press

In the below sections we will determine which exercise (barbell bench press or barbell floor press) is best for eliciting the desired training outcome(s).

Maximal Strength

When it comes to building serious strength, both of the movements can play a pivotal role. The bench press is the fuller range of motion lift that allows for the chest, triceps, and anterior shoulders to press the barbell, where as the floor press limits the amount of chest involvement (limiting loading and overall synchronization of muscle groups). Increasing your floor press can boost your bench press, however to build a bigger chest, arms, and press, the bench press generally will be your best bet, however adding in the floor press as a variation press of accessory lift will take your strength to the next level!

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Hypertrophy (Pectorals/Chest)

The bench press targets the pectorals/chest to a greater extent than the floor press simply because of the increased range of motion of the press (increases the stretch and loading place upon the chest). While the floor press can increase chest strength and mass as well (especially if the bar settles closer to the chest (kind of like in a board press), generally we will find more chest involvement in the standard bench press than the floor press.

Hypertrophy (Triceps)

The floor press targets the triceps to a greater extent than the bench press because of the decreased range of motion in the press (minimizes chest engagement and places greater loading on the elbow extensors/triceps). For many lifters, lockout in the bench press may be holding their pressing PRs back, which may suggest weak triceps and lock-out strength when a lifter fails once the barbell is a few inches off their chest.

Powerlifting Performance

Seeing that the competition lift in powerlifting is the bench press, it is quite obvious that the lifter must perform the bench press to succeed in the sport. That said, using the floor press in training to target sticking points or muscular weaknesses can be very effective in maximizing bench pressing performance.

Shoulder Health

Bench pressing isn’t inherently bad for your shoulders, just like squatting isn’t inherently bad for your knees. Rather, the issue comes when people press wrong, too heavy, too often, or simply neglect some normal wear and tear without properly repairing those training pains. For lifters who are predisposed to shoulder injuries, the floor press is a better place to start as it restricts range of motion and offers a feedback mechanism (the floor) for the lifter to properly lock the scapular into place. Regardless of which press you choose, proper clearance by a medical professional and thoughtful progressions should be made before loading either movement up.

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Want a Bigger Bench?

If you desire a bigger bench, I recommend you perform both the bench press and the floor press, which will help to diversify your pressing strength. Additionally, take a glance at the below articles discussing training chest, bigger bench presses, and more!

Featured Image: @jam3s_e on Instagram

The post Floor Press vs Bench Press – Which One Should You Be Doing? appeared first on BarBend.

How 7 Elite Powerlifters and Weightlifters Warm Up for Squats

Every body is different, and the warmup that’s perfect for one athlete can = be subpar for others.

As one of the most challenging movements the body can perform, there are a lot of ways people approach the back squat, so BarBend interviewed seven well-known strength athletes and coaches and asked them one, simple question: How do you warm up for squats?

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Amit Sapir

Raw with wraps squat world record holder in 4 different weight classes

After I do the banded exercises that I demonstrate in the video above, I follow that with five to ten good mornings to open up my hamstrings, then I do leg swings side to side and front to back.

Then I do a set or two of squats with an empty bar, anywhere from five to eight reps with most of them being pause reps to let my hips open up more in the bottom position. The last few reps are always proper squats with full speed and no pause.

Then I’ll do at least six warm-up sets, adding 90 pounds to the bar and decreasing reps each set until I get to about 600 pounds, then I add 50 pounds and go into my working sets.

Pretty simple but as I advanced in the sport I personally don’t need warm up percentages. I just go with how things feel and adjust accordingly. If I need more or less with a weight I do that – it’s a lot of instinct at this point and how my body is feeling that particular day.

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Jenn Rotsinger

All-time -52kg world record holder in squat (sleeves), deadlift, and total in both wraps and sleeves; powerlifting coach at Complete Human Performance

I start every workout with some form of core activation, since bracing is so important in the squat, as well as glute and quad activation. Example of exercises would include bird dogs, dead bugs, split squats, cossack squats, banded pull-throughs, and tempo goblet squats. Every person is going to be a little different and have different areas of opportunity, so warm-ups will be different.

As far as how many sets and reps of warm-up weights, I always start with the bar (and 135). At 50% of 1RM I do 3-5, then I take 30-35 (about 10% of 1RM) pound jumps doing doubles or singles until I hit my working weight. Obviously this changes if I am hitting volume at 65%, but you get the general idea.

Sometimes, when the weight or groove feels off, I repeat a set of warm-ups. As I have gotten older, it takes me longer to warm-up. Most training days, my last set is my best set. I don’t worry about fatiguing as much as I am concerned about not being warm.

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Mike Burgener

Level 5 Senior International Weightlifting Coach, Head Coach of CrossFit Weightlifting

General warm up with some light calisthenics.  Body warming mostly. I line my athletes up in a row of 3 or 4.  We first jog 25 meters down and back. Once we have jogged, we do high knees down and back. The next exercise is skipping down and back. The next exercise is lateral speed and agility, which simply means sliding sideways and changing directions every 5 meters or so. The last exercise is sprinting 25 meters followed by the junkyard dog. Then we can do any of the stretching movements if they feel that they are weak in a specific area.

Then we: do a light set of 3, heavier set of 2, then no more than 5 singles working to a heavy single. Hopefully a PR!

Dr. Aaron Horschig

Doctor of Physical Therapy, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Owner Squat University

The three areas of a well-rounded warm up include mobility work, purposeful stability and coordination exercises, and a few dynamic barbell movements prior to adding weight to the bar. Of these, foam rolling and sitting in a deep bodyweight squat are two of my favorites. Foam rolling has been shown in research to improve your mobility without any decreases in muscular performance. Sitting in a deep bodyweight squat helps establish a stable and strong bottom position, which is crucial when attempting to lift heavier weights. I would sit in the bottom of the deep squat for around 1 minute and if needed the athlete can hold onto a kettle bell or weighted plate to help offset their balance and sit comfortably.

As far as barbell movements, I like to warm up with the barbell without shoes on. During this time I recommend performing a slow eccentric descent and sitting into the bottom of the squat for 10-15 seconds before exploding upwards powerfully. As far as warmup sets, everyone will be slightly different based on their past experience under the bar. Here’s a quick breakdown of a generalized example:

set 1: 5-8 reps @ 40% (pause first rep for 5 seconds)
set 2: 5 reps @ 50% (pause first rep for 3 seconds)
set 3: 3 reps @ 60%
set 4: 3 reps @ 70%
set 5: 2 reps @ 80%
set 6: 1 rep @ 90%
set 7: 1 rep @ 95%
set 8: max attempt

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Charity Witt

GPA Junior Women’s World Record Holder, 75kg Class (447.5kg Total); APC Record Holder, 75kg Class (180kg Squat, 174.6kg Deadlift)

For squats, I like to have a dynamic warm-up. I’ll typically air squat, do high leg swings (side to side and front to back), a few high knee jumps, then I’ll take my Mark Bell Sling Shot and do banded duck walks side to side and front and backwards. After that, I’ll stretch my calves, hip flexors and groin.

Clarence Kennedy

Weightlifting coach and YouTube personality

My warm-up takes two to five minutes and is usually just short, general static stretching. (Editors’ note: You can see about a minute of Kennedy’s stretches above: pancake stretch, butterfly stretch, kneeling hip flexor stretch, cobra stretch, shin stretch.)

Then I start squatting, the sets look like this:

Bar: 2X5
70kg: 2X3
110kg: 2X3
150kg: 2X2
190kg: 2X2
230kg: 1
260kg (working set)

Image courtesy of Paulie Steinman.

Paulie Steinman

Head Coach at South Brooklyn Weightlifting Club

The most important thing about warming up is getting your body warm. An easy way to know when you are warm is that you have a light sheen of sweat on your body. This can be accomplished by using an exercise bike or a rowing machine for about 10 minutes at a fairly easy pace. We are trying to find the perfect balance between warming up without unnecessarily expending energy.

Next, you should mobilize any parts of your body that are particularly stiff. Maybe your shoulders or your hips. Our goal for mobilization is to get your body to neutral; a place where you can start warming up with the bar without any pain.

Finally, you should start with an empty bar and then work your way up to your first training workset for the day. I advise my lifter not to rest between warmup sets. It completely defeats the purpose of warming up! The first rest should be taken after the first work set, after about five warm-up sets.

Note: Paulie Steinman and Amit Sapir are contributors to BarBend. Read more from them at those links.

Featured image via clarence0 on YouTube and @jrotsinger, @charity_witt, and @ifbbproamitsapir on Instagram.

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