The Importance of Mind Muscle Connection

In the bowels on Instagram and YouTube, if you are viewing any sort of fitness, bodybuilding, or workout content, I am sure you have heard of the phrase, “mind-muscle connection”. Though it may be a simple concept, the challenge is consistent application and correct execution. Mind muscle connection was made popular by those of the Golden Era of Bodybuilding during the late 60’s and 70’s. The Golden Era of bodybuilding produced famous lifters like, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Dave Draper, Serge Nubret, Robby Robinson, and Frank Zane.

During bodybuilding’s early years, athletes chased the pump that they got when lifting seriously. The wonderful feeling of blood flushing through your muscles resulting in your skin feeling tight over the growing and pumped up muscle bellies. The champions of that era though went one level deeper into their training. The “mind-muscle connection”. The mind muscle connection is just that. A connection and extreme focus you place on the muscles at work during a certain exercise. For example, when doing a dumbbell curl, using mind-muscle connection means literally envisioning the bicep contracting and squeezing the weight at the top. Then focusing on how it then lengthens as you let the weight down slowly and the two heads of the bicep drifting away from one another.

This results in a better contraction. When you have a better contraction, you can recruit more muscles fibers to do more work. When more muscle fibers are at play they are able to be subject to training stimulus and thus yield better results after proper recovery. Mind muscle connection can greatly improve your workouts. The mind-muscle connection, like stretching and posing between sets, is one small extra step you can take to shock your muscles even more. Being in complete control of your body is a crucial aspect to training. Your mind is capable of subjecting the body to the specific stimulus necessary to produce the results you want to see.

The mind muscle connection also means you need to stay focused on your workout. It doesn’t mean you are texting between sets, or checking Instagram or talking to a friend at the gym. It means you are focused solely on squeezing your chest together in a fly, or pressing out the bench press with perfection. If you just go to the gym and are going through your workout lackadaisically, you will never tap into your true potential. I consider the gym almost like a church. You should not be texting in church or wondering about what is for lunch afterwards. The gym is no different. You are there to train. Not to socialize, watch other people workout, while you sit on a bench for ten minutes scrolling through Instagram. It is a time that you set aside to TRAIN. Having a mind muscle connection in your workouts means you are training with intent, not just going through the motions.

Though the mind muscle connection as described above is important, it is not necessary for all activity and exercises based on your goals. If you are pulling a heavy deadlift, your focus should shift to staying tight in the midsection, proper bracing of the spine, and keeping the bar in it’s optimal bar path, not on the hamstrings and spinal erectors. Focus, which is greatly involved in mind-muscle connection, is the underlying principle to be learned. Whether you are doing dumbbell lateral raises and you are focusing solely on your deltoids, or running and focusing on your pace and cadence, the focus you bring into the gym is what can elevate your workouts and assist you in seeing better results.

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Why Settlage Size & Strength?

This Settlage Size & Strength Program is a programmed designed to build some big, quality, dense, muscle, and use those bigger, harder muscles to get even bigger, and most importantly stronger! This is a long journey. Six months is a long time. Quality size and strength does not happen overnight. It takes time to make such a serious change in your body. There are many myths, misconceptions, and mistakes, people make when trying to bulk. Ever heard of a dirty bulk? Or have you heard anyone say, “I’m going to bulk”, but they still do hours of cardio so they can keep their 6 pack? I have made all these mistakes. My first bulk I stuffed my face with food, not always clean food, and gained 30lbs in three months and a substantial amount of body fat. Not to mention, I didn’t make as many strength gains as I wanted either, and I lost all the conditioning and endurance I had developed previous to the bulk. Since then I have several more bulking cycles, each better and more productive than the last. My mission with this program is to help you get BIG without gaining a crazy amount of body fat, and get STRONG.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED?

To do this program, you will need a weightlifting belt, or a powerlifting belt, shoes for squatting and deadlifting (flat soled shoes like Chuck Taylors will work great for both squats and deadlifts. If you prefer a Olympic weightlifting shoe with an elevated heel for squats, that’s fine. I use Reebok Lifters 2.0 Plus for squats, and Chuck Taylors for deadlifts) and a gym with the equipment necessary to do squats, bench presses, deadlifts, pull ups, dips, plenty of dumbbells, and cable machines/access to resistance bands of varying resistances.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I SHOULD DO THIS SIZE & STRENGTH PROGRAM?

If you are someone who looking to gain size and strength this program is for you. If you feel like you are fresh out of your beginner gains, and want to continue progressing in your lifts, this program is for you. If you are looking to get bigger for football, or put on some size for a future bodybuilding show, this program is for you. This program is designed to help those “hard gainers” and people who want to bulk up without gaining too much bodyfat.

CAN I DO THIS PROGRAM IF I AM A HARD GAINER?

Again, YES! I was what you would call a hard gainer. I couldn’t gain any weight when I was wrestling no matter how hard I tried. It wasn’t until I completely changed how I was training and how I ate that I slowly began to gain more weight.

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Day 1 of Settlage Size & Strength.  Body weight 155lbs.
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Week 8 of Settlage Size & Strength. Body weight: 163lbs.

WILL I GAIN A LOT OF BODY FAT?

If you stick to your nutrition plan and follow the workouts as they are perscribed, you should experience minimal fat gain. Notice how i said minimal, not zero fat gain. Gaining weight means you have to gain some fat along with all the muscle you are building. Don’t worry, *SPOILER WARNING* there is a leaning out phase that will be available just about the time this program comes to an end.

WHAT IF I’M A BEGINNER AND HAVE NEVER LIFTED BEFORE?

This program is scalable for all fitness levels. Whether this is the first workout program you choose, or you are a seasoned lifter looking for something new, the workouts can be scaled up or down to meet your fitness needs.

SETTLAGE SIZE & STRENGTH PRICING:

6 Month Size & Strength Program Pricing:

Program Payment Plan Cost Description
Settlage Size & Strength One Time Payment

Month-to-Month

$525 (Best Value)

$95/month

Full access to all 24 weeks of Settlage Size & Strength, private Facebook group, live Q&A’s, weekly check ins and monthly FaceTime calls.
Settlage Size & Strength (Personalized Programming) One Time Payment

$600

Full access to all 24 weeks of Settlage Size & Strength tailored specifically to your athletic needs and resources, and bodytype, customized nutrition plan, private Facebook group, live Q&A’s, daily check ins and weekly FaceTime calls.

If you are ready to gain some SIZE & STRENGTH, fill out the fields below to sign up for the newsletter!

Why #SUBMISSIONSHREDDED?

#SUMISSIONSHREDDED is a training program made for wrestlers, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and submission grappling athletes, made by a former high school wrestler, current BJJ and submission grappling athlete and life long lifter; Me. I have tried many sports, but my one love always came back to grappling focused combat sports. Through the seven plus years of training, I have utilized many different strength and conditioning programs to achieve different goals throughout my grappling career. I constructed this program based off of how I have prepared for the weight cut and conditioning training of my last two competitions earlier this year and had great success. My main goals and big focus for this program were to get stay strong, build on my conditioning, and have an easy weight cut where I can be the biggest strongest competitor in my weight class.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

To do this program, you will need a weightlifting belt, or a powerlifting belt, and a gym with the equipment necessary to do squats, bench presses, deadlifts, pull ups, dips, and plenty of dumbbells.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I SHOULD DO #SUBMISSIONSHREDDED?

Here are just a few questions for you: Do you pin most of your opponents in the first period? Do you lose the majority of your matches by points or pin in the third period? At the end of a match do you find yourself exhausted mounted and hanging on for dear life? If you answered YES to any of these questions, then this program is for you. The focus of this program is to build your aerobic and anaerobic capacity to push the pace of a match, as well as serve as a way to train to cut weight if need be.

CAN I USE THIS PROGRAM TO CUT WEIGHT?

Yes! There will be two versions available, one for straight conditioning, and one for conditioning with a weight cut bias.

WILL I LOSE THE STRENGTH GAINS I MADE FROM #SUBMISSIONSTRONG?

No! This program is still rooted in strength. This program will have you lifting heavy to maintain the strength you’ve worked so hard to obtain, but will help you become a better athlete through the development of your conditioning.

IS THIS PROGRAM JUST FOR BJJ/SUBMISSION GRAPPLING ATHLETES?

No it is not. This is an inclusive strength program designed for ALL grappling athletes. Wrestlers in competing in both collegiate, freestyle, and greco, as well as traditional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners, and the No-Gi submission grappling crowd. The athletic demands of all these grappling sports are relatively the same despite different techniques and rule sets.

CAN I DO THIS PROGRAM WHILE IN SEASON?

There are going to be two version of #SUBMISSIONSHREDDED. One for the off season, and a slightly different one meant for in season training that includes a weight cut

WHAT IF I’M A BEGINNER AND HAVE NEVER LIFTED BEFORE?

This program can be easily tailored to your experience level as a lifter. If you are someone who is just getting into sport specific strength and conditioning, you can choose the scaled version of the workouts.

#SUBMISSIONSHREDDED PRICING:

#SUBMISISONSHREDDED

Program Payment Plan Price Description
#SUBMISISONSHREDDED One Time

$260

Full acess to all 12 weeks of #SUBMISSIONSHREDDED, private Facebook group, live Q&A’s, weekly checkins and monthly FaceTime calls.
#SUBMISISONSHREDDED Month-to-Month

$95

Full acess to all 12 weeks of #SUBMISSIONSHREDDED, private Facebook group, live Q&A’s, weekly checkins and monthly FaceTime calls.
#SUBMISISONSHREDDED (Personalized Programming) One Time

$300

Full acess to all 12 weeks of #SUBMISSIONSHREDDED tailored specifically to your athletic needs and resources, and bodytype, customized nutrition plan, private Facebook group, live Q&A’s, daily checkins and weekly FaceTime calls.

If you’re interested in #SUBMISSIONSHREDDED, fill out the fields below to sign up for the newsletter!

 

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3 Days Before Weigh In From GrapplingX Elk Grove 2017

Why #SUBMISSIONSTRONG?

#SUMISSIONSTRONG is a training program made for wrestlers, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and submission grappling athletes, made by a former high school wrestler, current BJJ and submission grappling athlete and life long lifter; Me. I have tried many sports, but my one love always came back to grappling focused combat sports. Through the seven plus years of training, I have utilized many different strength and conditioning programs to achieve different goals throughout my grappling career. I constructed this program based off of how I prepared for my last two competitions earlier this year and had great success. My main goals and big focus for this program were to get crazy strong, keep most of my conditioning, and not get too big to the point where I wouldn’t make weight. In this program you can expect to get big, strong, all while still being able to make weight.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

To do this program, you will need a weightlifting belt, or a powerlifting belt, and a gym with the equipment necessary to do squats, bench presses, deadlifts, pull ups, dips, and plenty of dumbbells.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I SHOULD DO SUBMISSION STRONG?

Some question for you: Do you lose most of your matches by pin? Do you have a hard time escaping from mount? Do you have a hard time finishing takedowns or maintaining position? If your answer is YES to any of these questions. Then YES this program is for you! Strength is essential to finishing pins, as well as not being pinned. Someone can be a better wrestler than you technically and expose your back for some near fall points, but if you are strong enough to defend and keep moving, chances are you can get back to your belly and stay in the match. Of course we never want to even get in the situation in the first place.

Being a stronger wrestler will allow you to fight harder for advantageous positions and stay on the offensive. Strength in crucial to finishing a takedown. You can have the most amazing takedown technique, but if you are unable to produce the force behind it, forget about it. For you BJJ and submission grappling guys, if you can’t finish a takedown, you can’t engage fight. Even if you’re someone who plays a heavy guard game, you need the strength to hold your opponent in position and control his/her body.

IS THIS PROGRAM JUST FOR BJJ/SUBMISSION GRAPPLING ATHLETES?

No it is not. This is an inclusive strength program designed for ALL grappling athletes. Wrestlers in competing in both collegiate, freestyle, and greco, as well as traditional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners, and the No-Gi submission grappling crowd. The athletic demands of all these grappling sports are relatively the same despite different techniques and rule sets.

CAN I DO THIS PROGRAM WHILE IN SEASON?

There are going to be two version of #SUBMISSIONSTRONG. One for the off season, and a slightly different one meant for in season training.

I DON’T WANT TO GROW OUT OF MY WEIGHT CLASS. CAN I STILL DO THIS PROGRAM?

Of course you can! Through proper nutrition and training, you can still get crazy strong without having to grow out of your weight class. Although, this program is best used for someone who is already small for their weight class and is looking to get stronger for that weight class.

CAN I USE THIS PROGRAM TO CUT WEIGHT?

You can, but it wouldn’t help you cut weight at all. If you are looking for a program that is for a weight cut and /or conditioning, peep #SUBMISSIONSHREDDED.

WILL I LOSE THE CONDITIONING I

GAINED FROM #SUBMISSIONSHREDDED?

If you follow the workout program, stick to the nutrition guide, and recover well, you shouldn’t lose any conditioning. That goes to say you might not necessarily PR your mile time, but are you trying to run fast or get strong to win matches?

WHAT IF I’M A BEGINNER AND HAVE NEVER LIFTED BEFORE?

This program can be easily tailored to your experience level as a lifter. If you are someone who is just getting into sport specific strength and conditioning, you can choose the scaled version of the workouts.

#SUBMISSIONSTRONG PRICING:

#SUBMISISONSTRONG
Program Payment Plan Price Description
#SUBMISISONSTRONG One Time

$260 (Best Value)

Full access to all 12 weeks of #SUBMISSIONSTRONG, private Facebook group, live Q&A’s, weekly check-ins and monthly FaceTime calls.
#SUBMISISONSTRONG Month-to-Month

$95

Full access to all 12 weeks of #SUBMISSIONSTRONG, private Facebook group, live Q&A’s, weekly check-ins and monthly FaceTime calls.
#SUBMISISONSTRONG (Personalized Programming) One Time

$300

Full access to all 12 weeks of #SUBMISSIONSTRONG tailored specifically to your athletic needs and resources, and bodytype, customized nutrition plan, private Facebook group, live Q&A’s, daily check-ins and weekly FaceTime calls.

If you’re interested in getting #SUBMISSIONSTRONG, fill out the fields below to sign up for the newsletter!

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Why #COLLEGECUTS?

#COLLEGECUTS is a training program created for college students who are struggling to balance the responsibilities of being student and living a healthy lifestyle. I was not originally thinking of creating this program, but after several people asking me about a program for college students with goals of leaning out/losing that freshman 15, it came time to create #COLLEGECUTS! I am college student myself and have had to learn how to balance being full time student, while having three jobs, and finding time to train for a bodybuilding show, and jiu jitsu tournaments. It was not easy, but it was doable, just like how it’s going to be doable for you! I have been training since I was in seventh grade. At the time, I did not understand how people did not have time to be healthy and workout. It wasn’t until I reached college, I realized the balancing act many young adults go through while being in school. Health is often left at the bottom of the priorities list. We are young now, our bodies bounce back like nothing else, although that time will end. If we don’t make the right decisions now, we will pay ten fold in the future when our health leaves us.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED?

You will need access to a gym, or at least some workout equipment. Honestly, any gym will do. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy as long as it has a squat rack, dumbbells, barbells, and a few machines/access to resistance bands of varying resistance. Most college campuses have rec centers you can join and train at during certain hours. You will also need some solid training shoes. This program is not for someone who is going to train in their slippers.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I SHOULD DO #COLLEGECUTS?

Here are a few questions for you: Once high school athletics were over, did you let yourself go a little bit and gain some “Freshman 15”? Are you someone who has never really led an active or healthy lifestyle and are looking for somewhere to start? Do you just want to stay lean throughout the semester now that summer has ended? If you answered YES to any of these, then this program is for you. The focus of this program is to help you get healthy and lose body fat.

WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE TIME TO WORKOUT?

You never have time. You must make the time. Not having time to train is a lazy excuse. Trust me, if you are focused and getting after it, training hard, you will be out of the gym in an roughly an hour. Get in the gym. Train. Leave. No texting, checking Instagram, working on homework, or socializing by the water fountain allowed.

WHAT IF I’M A BEGINNER AND HAVE NEVER LIFTED BEFORE?

This program can be easily tailored to your experience level as a lifter. If you are someone who is just getting into exercise and working out, you can choose the scaled version of the workouts.

#COLLEGECUTS PRICING

#COLLEGECUTS

Program Payment Plan Price Description
#COLLEGECUTS

 

One Time

$260 (Best Vale)

Full access to all 12 weeks of #COLLEGECUTS, private Facebook group, live Q&A’s, weekly check ins and monthly FaceTime calls.
#COLLEGECUTS Month-to-Month

$95

Full access to all 12 weeks of #COLLEGECUTS, private Facebook group, live Q&A’s, weekly check ins and monthly FaceTime calls.

If you are ready to make a change and get #COLLEGECUTS, fill out of the fields below and sign up for the newsletter!

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Ab Training 101: Training for Performance

Here it is guys! The last article on ab training. At least for now. If you haven’t read the first two articles on ab training, I suggest you click here to catch up. In the first two articles we introduced the muscles that are involved in the construction and movement of the abdomen. Following up on that article we discussed how one can train the abs for aesthetic purposes. Training, toning, and developing the abdominals in specific ways to create that tapered, “6-pack” look. The last article will only focus on how you can train your abdominals and midsection to optimize performance.

The midsection of the body is one of the most important pieces of our anatomy. It holds the majority of our vital organs, and houses some of the largest muscle groups in the body. The spine also runs through our midsection. The spine is a very important piece of the human anatomy. Not only does it protect our spinal cord, but it keeps us from being a flimsy sack of blood, muscle, and organs. The muscles surrounding the spine play very important roles in sport and everyday activities. They brace the spine under load as well as assist in the spine in rotation, global flexion, and global extension.

It is important when training the midsection for sport, you train all ranges of motion and angles. Only training your midsection with farmer walks at your sides could lead to a weak overhead position. A weak overhead position often means an over extended lower back in pressing exercises and hanging exercises. An overextended lower back means sapped energy and power potential and an increased risk to injury. Train the midsection in both the anterior and posterior sides, as well as the lateral sides as well. Change it up! Make it weird. Carry a heavy dumbbell in one hand, and a light kettlebell in the other. Walk like that for 50ft., then switch. You want your midsection to be strong in all areas, thus being able to brace the spine and move in all areas, because in most sports very rarely does our body move in perfectly straight lines with slow, progressive increases in loads.

Some of my favorite exercises for midline performance are farmer walks, 1 armed farmer walks and carries, heavy barbell compound lifts, and occasionally rotational ab exercises. These all help in training the midsection as a whole and in sections.

Take a look at these sample workouts and see how they encompass all areas and sides of the midsection.

Midline Stability Workout 1:

5 Rounds:

100ft. Farmer Walk

100ft. 1 Arm Overhead Carry (Each Arm)

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Farmer Walks with Strongman Axles (Sub with DB’s/KB’s)
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1 Arm Overhead DB/KB Carry

This first one is a simple one I picked up from world record power lifter and weightlifting coach, Travis Mash. It is a simple workout that address both stability in upright positions in movement as well as overhead stability in movement. Perform this workout during a deload week or on a active recovery day. These carry exercises, when loaded appropriately, don’t beat you up as bad as would a deadlift or another heavy compound movement that requires a lot of midline stability and bracing.

Midline Stability Workout (Wrestling):

5 Rounds:

100ft. Zercher Walk

5 Turkish Get Ups

100ft. Front Rack Walk

5 Turkish Get Ups

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Barbell Zercher Walk
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The Turkish Get Up
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KB Front Rack Walk (Barbells and DB’s can also be used)

This is a great wrestling workout that will not only develop your midsection and ability to brace properly, but also increase endurance in shoulder stability when moving in awkward positions underload. The Zercher position for all grapplers. It forces you to hold the barbell essentially with two underhooks which any grappler knows is a staple position in grappling sports. Turkish get ups are another great exercise for learning how to support a load over head while moving. The transfer it has to wrestling is huge. Even though you might never find that exact position in a wrestling/ jiu jitsu match, you have to constantly find a way to get back to your feet if you are underneath someone with a devastating and heavy top game. Front rack walks are brutal. If you’ve never done them before, start light and start slow at first. To walk in a front rack position means you have to keep your chest up and elbows high, and not letting the weight pull your chest down and your back rounded over. In a match, when you are tired at the start of the third period, you need to be able to keep your head and your chest up and not get easily broken down. If you are a wrestler or jiu jitsu athlete who gets snapped down and put into the front head position, this is an exercise for you.

Midline Stability Workout (Bodyweight):

5 Rounds:

30 Hollow Body Rocks

30 Superman Rocks

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Hollow Body Rock
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Superman Rock

If you do not have access to any weights to do midline stability work, you can always throw this simple body weight superset at the end of your workout. The hollow body position is a very common position from gymnastics that will help with your pull up mechanics, shoulder stability/overhead position. Superman rocks help isolate the glutes and the erectors of the spine which for many athletes can go severely underdeveloped. So many people focus on training the muscles that they can see. Arms, chest, the front of the shoulders, and in most cases the rectus abdominus or what most people consider, “abs”. Superman rocks help strength the erectors and glutes which work together with the transverse abdominus to stabilize the spine.

Depending on what your goals are and what kind of athlete you are, throw these midline stability workouts in on your active recovery day or at the end of a workout once or twice a week. If you train your midsection in this fashion consistently you will find that your main lifts will improve, you won’t fall out of your wrestling stance at the start of the second period, and overall lowerback health will improve. Feel free to email me at settlagesac@gmail.com if you have questions on any aspect of ab training.

Josh

Ab Training 101: Training for Aesthetics

As mentioned in the first article of this series, the “abs” are some of the most coveted muscles to have and a popular characteristic of what would be considered a fit physique. Again, here’s a big secret for everyone. You ALL have abs. If you didn’t, you probably wouldn’t be able to stand let alone sit up straight without falling backwards. If you did not read the first article on ab training which goes into great detail on the muscles of the abdomen and their functions, I suggest you go back and check it out here.

Now on to how to train your abdominals in regards to bodybuilding, body composition, etc. Let me start off by saying a common phrase I first heard from IFBB Pro Men’s Physique competitor, Steve Cook. According to Steve, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” I have always told my clients this phrase any time they ask about abs. If your diet does not reflect one of a healthy lifestyle, no amount of crunches or hanging legs raises is going to help you see your abdominals. In order to have a visible rectus abdominus, you need to have a low percentage of body fat. If you have diet consisting of foods that lead to an increased amount of body fat, it’s no wonder you can not see your abs. It’s simple, you cannot out train a bad diet.

Let’s assume you are eating clean to begin with and you have established a relatively low level of body fat and are wanting to further develop your abdomen through specific training. There is a lot of information out there about all these different ab machines, exercises, training techniques, and most of it is hoopla. Not that those trainers on the internet do not know what they are talking about (some of them certainly don’t), beginning to train the abdomen is much simpler than it’s made out to be.

If you are just starting to train the abdominals directly, a good place to start would be to throw about 3-5 sets of ab specific training at the end of your workouts, 3-5 times a week. A simple ab finisher could look like this…

3-5 Rounds:

25 Crunches

10 Hanging Leg/Knee Raises (or 25 Reverse Crunches)

This basic workout inspired by Arnold’s own beginning ab workouts, trains both the upper abs that insert into the rib cage, and the lower abs that insert into the pubic bone. Many people often only do crunches for endless amounts of reps. Essentially half of the rectus abdominus is being left untrained! A basic ab finisher should train both the upper and lower end of the abdominals.

Once you have trained your abs consistently for about 4-8 weeks, it is time to introduce new movements that also train the oblique muscles as well as an increase in ab training volume. The ab twist/seated twist/broomstick twist is a great exercise I picked up when researching training techniques from three-time Mr. Olympia, Frank Zane. As mentioned in the previous article, Frank Zane had absolutely amazing abs. It is noted he would do 1,000 reps of ab exercises when training for the Mr. Olympia competition! The ab twist as I call them is not an exercise designed to build up the obliques like a weighted crunch would for the upper abdominals, but more so to tone and tighten the obliques to add to the small waist illusion. Frank Zane trained his obliques so hard with twisting exercises that his obliques nearly “disappeared”. Training and developing well constructed and developed abdominals requires hitting all sides of the abdomen with different stimulus and ranges of motion.

frank-zane-posing.jpg The next progression for ab training would be up your minimum for ab finishers to five days a week like they did in the 70’s. Often times, Arnold, Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, Ken Waller, and the gang would perform ab exercises at the beginning of their workout as a warm up (more on that later) as well as at night five days a week. An intermediate level ab routine could look like this…

Monday, Wednesday, & Friday:

3-5 Rounds:

25 Weighted Crunches

10 Hanging Leg Raises

Tuesday, Thurs, & Saturday*

*If you regularly train on Saturday

3-5 Rounds:

25 Reverse Crunches

25 Ab Twists (Each Side)

After another 4-8 weeks of consistent ab training in this fashion, it is time to introduce a new stimulus. More volume. The abdominal muscles respond incredibly well to volume when prescribed correctly. I mentioned before how people will attempt to create better abs by doing hundreds upon hundreds of crunches and not see any results. If that is the only ab exercises they are doing, the muscles of the abdomen will adapt and not be changed or affected by the repetitive stimulus they are given.

During the Golden Era of bodybuilding, many famous bodybuilders would use ab training as a warm up. This technique is still used today, but is rarely seen. I personally read about Arnold warming up every workout with 500 reps of Roman Chair Sit Ups, as well as specific ab training at night, but never gave it much thought until recently. During the last training cycle before the 2017 GrapplingX Brazilian Jiu Jitsu NorCal Championships, I began doing some simple ab work during my warm ups and before my heavy squats. After two weeks I saw an incredible difference. My abs were thicker, my waist was slightly smaller, and my lower abs were more defined than they were during the 2016 Tahoe Show! These “warm up” abs were also paired with my nightly ab routine that I do 4-5 times a week. Keeping the awesome results I saw in mind, I am continuing to train my abs during the warm up of my workout even during this bulking phase I am currently in. The goal is to develop them so much that even when I am at the peak of my bulk with some expected bodyfat gain, they are still relatively visible. When it’s time for the cut back down, they should in turn look better than ever.

Once you have gone through the first two sample ab workouts listed above, and you’re looking for something new, or want found that your ab training is growing stale, I highly suggest you take note of the bodybuilders of the Golden Era and do ab training both as part of your warm up and at the end of your workout or a night. It is a great way to increase the volume of your ab training as well as hit all parts of the abdomen without keeping you in the gym forever. 15 minutes in the morning, and 15-20 minutes at night has been my recent formula when training my abdominals for aesthetics. When I was training for the 2016 Tahoe Show, I would perform about 100-300 reps of weighted crunches and about 50 ab wheels every night before bed. Cory Gregory is most famously noted for his #Squateveryday, or #Squatlife training methods, although he also does weighted crunches and ab wheels almost every night before bed. His abs are self labeled, “bricks” that are similar to Zane’s ab development.

Taking from Arnold, Zane, and Cory Gregory, this is my current ab routine that has helped me develop my abs during my preparation for the 2017 GrapplingX BJJ tournament (I know you don’t need perfectly sculpted abs for jiu jitsu, but I still enjoy training to maintain my physique as well as train specifically for sport). The results of this ab training yielded results for my abdominal area even better than those at the 2016 Tahoe Show!

AM Ab Training: 6 times a week before each workout mixed in with the warm up.

3 Rounds:

15 Back Ext

5 Bodyweight GHR

10 Hanging Straight Leg Raises

25 Ab Twists (each side)

PM Ab Training: 4-6 times a week either right when I get home from Jiu Jitsu, or before I go to bed.

3-5 Rounds*:

30 Weighted Crunches w/ a 25lb plate

10 Ab Wheels

*Sometimes I will throw in an additional ab exercises to changed things up a bit. For example, reverse crunches following the ab wheels for 30 reps.

Stayed tuned for the next and final article in this series, Ab Training 101: Training for Performance. To have abdominals that look great is one thing, but having an abdomen that is both strong, stable, and sturdy is another. This upcoming article will focus on how the abdominals brace the spine and different methods of training to strengthen the midsection.

Ab Training 101: Part 1

The “abs” are often one of the most desired muscle groups to “have” when people begin to think about summer or fat loss. I will let you all in on a little secret and inform you that you ALL have abs. Everyone was born with the rectus abdominus muscle group, although some may have theirs more pronounced and revealing than others. That’s okay! Not everyone needs a six pack! Depending on what type of athlete you are and what your current goals are and what your body type is, chasing a six pack may not be the best thing for you at this stage in your fitness/athletic career. When people think of “abs”/core they traditionally think of a 6/8-pack, although the core includes many other muscles deep under one’s rectus abdominus as well as the lateral and posterior sides of the body (the back). Given that this blog caters also towards the sport of bodybuilding and people who want to change their physique along with athletes looking to enhance performance, I will address both groups. Part one of this series will be a short introduction to the abdominal muscles, their functions, locations, and different ranges of motion. The second article will address how to train your abdominal muscles for aesthetics, a.k.a, how to get a six pack. The third and final article will primarily focus on training the abs and midsection for performance in sport.

 

What Muscles Make Up the “Abs”/Core?

The main muscles of the abdomen include the rectus abdominus, the external obliques, and the intercostals. They are located on the frontal plane of the torso and run from the bottom of the chest and mid rib cage, down to the pelvis. These are the superficial muscles of the abdomen that you can see when someone is in incredible shape at a very low percentage of body fat. Some of the internal muscles of the midsection include, the transverse abdominus, the internal obliques, diaphragm, and the spinal erectors. These muscles in conjunction with one another help brace the spine, flex the torso in global flexion (bending over or “crunching”) and extend the torso in global extension (bending backwards or arching the back).

Rectus Abdominus (Image 1.A):

The rectus abdominis originates at the base of pelvis in the pubis, and inserts into the cartilage of the fifth, sixth, and seventh ribs. It’s main function is to contract and flex the spinal column, drawing it toward the pelvis. The rectus abdominus muscle is what people often call a “6-pack” or “8-pack” if their are in very good condition and have a low percentage of body fat.

External Obliques (Image 1.B):

The external obliques (obliquus externus abdominis) are located on either side of the torso originating at the lower ribs and inserting at the side of the pelvis. Their main function is to assist the rectus abdominus in flexing to spinal column forward as well as rotate the spinal column in a neutral, flexed, and/or extended position.

Intercostals (Image 1.C):

The intercostals are two thin planes are muscle and tendon that populate the space between the ribs. Their main function is to lift the ribs as well as contract and draw them together.

Transverse Abdominus (Image 1.D):

The transverse abdominus is located deep underneath the obliques and wraps entirely the spine. It’s main function is to properly brace and protect the spine in both a neutral, flexed, and/or extended position both unloaded (bodyweight movements) and loaded (weighted movements).

Internal Obliques (Image 1.E):

The internal obliques are located underneath the external obliques on either side. It’s main function is to support the abdominal wall, helps create pressure in the torso during forced respiration, and also assist other muscles of the midsection in rotation of the spine.

Diaphragm (Image 1.F):

The diaphragm is located underneath the ribs and is a large sheet of muscle that assist in respiration as well as separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity.

Spinal Erectors (Image 1.G):

The spinal erectors are located on the posterior (back side) of the torso and run from the lumbar region of the back through the thoracic region and into the cervical region. Their main function is to assist in global extension of the spinal column, as well as bracing the spine.

 

Why Do We Need to Train All Sides of Our Midsection?

The body does not just function in any one plane of movement. When it comes to abdominal training, often times people will only train the front of their midsection, leaving the sides, and back completely untouched. Sure, the sides and lower posterior muscles of the midsection get stimulus from exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, and overhead work while standing by assisting with balance and bracing during the exercise. Although, if someone is training only their rectus abdominus in hopes for a six pack, they can often create imbalances that could lead to injury. The same idea applies to sport as well. Depending on the sport, the front of the abdominal region may experience a lot of load and stimulus from being in global flexion, while the muscles of the lower back are not being stimulated to achieve eliminate muscular imbalances.

In sport, our bodies are moving in many directions. Very rarely do athletes move in a completely linear plane. In a sport like wrestling or jiujitsu, the body is often twisting, arching, and bending in many positions while under load from their opponent. When an athlete like a wrestler or a jiujitsu athlete has a strong rectus abdominus from the endless amount of crunches they do at the end of their workout, they can perform well in movements involving global flexion. Any time they need to move into global extension, such as lifting their opponent off their feet from a takedown, their spinal erectors, and transverse abdominus often have a hard time bracing the spine properly. This leaves the athlete very susceptible to injury. Take a sport like powerlifting for example, where the spine needs to be maximally braced by the muscles surrounding it to be protected and produce the maximum amount of force in a lift. In an exercise like the deadlift, if the spine is not braced the athlete risks slipping a disk in the vertebrae, and leaking force production and strength through poor technique. 

image

In a sport like bodybuilding, having well trained abs is a must. The quality of a bodybuilding competitors abdominal region is a reflection of how well they dieted and conditioned during prep, as well as how well they were able to train their abs to take a particular shape and look on stage. Not just the “8 pack”, but all sides of the abdominals. According to Arnold Schwarzenegger in his book, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, he refers to the abs at the, “…visual center of the body.” (Schwarzenegger & Dobbins, 1998). When viewing the human physique, they are naturally drawn to the abdominal area of the body. The shoulders and feet act as the points in an “X” shape across the body with the abs lying in the intersection. Well trained and displayed abs in bodybuilding are signs or being in well conditioned as well as having dense and strong physique. The muscles in the sides and lower back of the midsection must also be trained to achieve a balanced look between the anterior and posterior sides of the body.

image Frank Zane trained the obliques with the use of exercises like the abs twist to make his external obliques almost, “disappear”. They were specifically trained and developed to be tight and lean, making his waist appearing very small compared to his wide lats and large shoulders, thus adding to the illusion of the “X” frame.

    The muscles of the midsection include more than what we can see from someone’s six pack and their purpose is more than just for doing crunches. The abdominal region is composed of many other muscles that for aesthetic purposes must be trained individually, as well as trained as a whole for improving athletic performance. In the next article, we will focus on how to train and develop one’s abdominal area for the sport of bodybuilding and/or physical appearance.

 

Muscles of the Abdomen:

 

Abs-Rectus-abdominis-muscle(Image 1.A)

external-obliques.jpg(Image 1.B)

intercostals(Image 1.C)

 

Transversus_abdominis(Image 1.D)

internal-obliques(Image 1.E)

diaphragm (Image 1.F)

Spinal Erectors.png(Image 1.G)

Dates on the Calendar

I am going to start with the obvious. Goals are important. Here is another piece of obvious information. Working to achieving those goals are important. Now, for something maybe not so obvious. Having a date on the calendar by which to accomplish them by is arguably most important.

Setting a date on the calendar puts a countdown for you to accomplish those goals you set in place. It gives you a due date. If someone has a goal to, “get stronger”, that goal remains in limbo while you wait around and debate on which program to choose, what time of day to train, conjugate or 5/3/1, what foods do I need to eat, etc. All the questioning leads to indecision and no one gets any stronger. Having a date on the calendar creates a sense of urgency in your life and in your training. If you know you are going on vacation at the end of June, and it’s the beginning of April now, you have about 12 weeks to get in shape for your vacation.

Since May of 2015, I have set goals with very specific dates on the calendar by which to complete them. Beginning in May, I had a goal to gain size and strength by the end of the year. More specifically work up to 175 pounds in bodyweight by Dec. 31st. Next was in April of 2016 when I put the Tahoe Show on the calendar in August. Watching the calendar as week by week I got closer to my first bodybuilding show really motivated me and kept me accountable to training hard and sticking to my diet. After the Tahoe Show, I set out to compete in jiu jitsu again and signed up the day I got back in the dojo. I am now 31 days out from my next Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament and am counting the days till I step out on the mat and compete again.

If at any time I feel my training begin to grow stale or I no longer am anticipating getting out of bed at 4:15 in the morning to head to the gym, I look at my calendar. If there’s nothing on there, I know it’s time to reassess my goals and chose a date I expect them to be accomplished by. In Tim Ferriss’s book The Four Hour Work Week, he talks about increasing productivity setting timers and cut offs for doing different tasks. He advised to not give yourself all day to get one thing done, because you will inevitably find a way to spend all day doing that one thing. I believe the same with goals. On January 1st, 2017 you probably proudly stated that you are going to be healthier, stronger, faster, more explosive, etc. Did you give yourself a cut off date? Many times people do not set specific dates for these goals and will spend (if their even make it that far) all year working on this one goal, yet never actually achieving it.

These dates on the calendar are almost my accountability partners for training. When I want to break off my diet, the date on the calendar is there to keep me in check. The calendar tells you, “You are five weeks out from your first bodybuilding show a break in your diet now can cost you the physique you’ve spent the last 11 weeks building.” or when I want to skip out on a conditioning workout, “You have two months before the tournament. Building conditioning now will help your training sessions later on, and in turn make you a better jiu jitsu player.”

You might be thinking, “I don’t want to do a bodybuilding show!” or “I hate wrestling and jiu jitsu, I just want to be healthy!” and that’s totally okay! All of us have different passions, goals, needs, and dreams. This is not just specific to combat sports or physique competitions, but for any goal. If you have a goal to be healthier and put on a little bit of muscle and the summer starts in June, use that as your date. Write down your goal and the date by which you want to accomplish it by, and put it somewhere you will be reminded every day, on your phone, the mirror, etc. If you have a vacation coming up this summer, there’s your date. Before I leave for vacation in Santa Cruz, I want to be lean and feel confident in a swimsuit.

Marking that date on the calendar is just the little extra push I need to get through those hard days of training and I believe it just might be the little extra push you need too. Living a disciplined life includes setting goals to better yourself and others. For me, I am focused every day on May 6th, 2017. Every rep, every set, every choke and armbar is all centered around the preparation for the tournament on that date. Those goals are not true goals until there’s a date on the calendar. My goal to compete in jiu jitsu again was not legitimized until put it down in the calendar and paid the competitor fees. Until there’s a date on the calendar, your goals are nothing more than just a dream. A dream that remains in limbo till you pull the trigger and get to work. Not going on vacation this year? Already strong enough for wrestling? You think you don’t need a date on the calendar? Wrong. There’s 365 days out of the year. Pick one of those days and accomplish something powerful before that day comes. Develop the discipline to set a goal and actually achieve it.

#dailydiscipline

My Three Favorite Back Exercises for Grapplers

The following are my three personal favorite exercises to strengthen and develop the back for grappling athletes. Let me make clear that these exercises are my favorite. This does not mean they are the only exercises I do for back. I utilize many different exercises for back (a full list of exercises will be at the end of the article), but of all of them, these are my favorites and why.

Pull Ups:

Franco Pull Up

The pull up is the king and staple of old school body weight wrestling training. Not only does is help establish grip strength (which is a crucial component of wrestling and jiujitsu), it requires you to be strong with your own bodyweight. This is very important when you are competing with other athletes who are competing at the same weight as you. The exercise is simple. Hang on the bar with both arms lock out, then pull yourself up until your chin rises above the bar. Then lower yourself ALL the way down. There’s one correct pull up. Pull ups help develop the lats which make up the major vertical pulling muscles in your back. I know what you’re thinking, “When am I ever going to do a pull up in competition?” How about a snap down in wrestling? Since last i checked there was no “snap down” machine at the gym, pull ups are the next best developer of the muscles used to pull things down, and or close into your body. You can add these at the end of your workout, or if you have a pull up bar set up in your home, every time you walk by you can bust out 5-10 pull ups.

Sample Pull Up Finisher:

5 sets of sub max reps (if you can do 10 max, only do 7-8)

Deadlifts:

franco deadlift

If the squat is the greatest strength building exercise, deadlifts come in a close second. Deadlifts assist in strengthening your posterior chain (the chain of muscles running from the base of your neck, down to the bottom of your hamstrings). A strong posterior chain, traditionally means a safe back. When you’re in your wrestling stance, or in constant flexion having someone in your guard, or being in someone’s guard, having a strong posterior chain will protect your back. Deadlifts are also a great measure of strength. For grappling athletes, if you can deadlift 2x your bodyweight, and your opponent can only deadlift 1.5x his bodyweight, you are superiorly stronger. With all the lifting, throwing, and tossing in wrestling, the deadlift will help you handle your opponents with ease all while still being able to protect your spine. Take folkstyle wrestling for example. Say you start on top in referee’s position and your opponent is quick to stand up. If you want to pick him up and return him back to the mat, you need to lift him off balance and off the ground. The deadlift in all variations is just that movement. The practice of picking up objects (barbells, DB’s KB’s, atlas stones, sandbags, etc.) off the ground.

Sample Deadlift Workout:

One of the easiest ways to incorporate deadlifts into your strength training is a simple, 5×5 set up. Starting at one day a week, do five sets of five reps for deadlift and try to make each rep with perfect form, slowly adding weight each week. This works with both sumo and conventional stance.

Bent Over Barbell Rows:

Franco Bent Over Row

I should preface this by saying, any horizontal rowing motion is a fantastic exercise for the back in regards to grappling. Although, if I had to choose one, it would be the bent over row. The bent over row not only focuses on strengthening the muscles of your back responsible for pulling things to you in a horizontal plane, but also requires you to stay tight and in good position. This activates the muscles of the lower back isometrically (staying in a static position), and works the rowing muscles of the upper back, both eccentrically (lowering of the weight) and concentrically (actually lifting of the weight). Bent over Rows can be used with barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells, sand bags, etc. You can ever do them on a elevated surface to let the weights down even lower to get a stretch in the muscles during the eccentric portion of the lift. Not only is this exercise for back development, but also helps eliminate imbalances in the back. I see a lot of people do a lot of vertical pulling (pull ups, lat pull downs, etc.), and not enough horizontal pulling exercises. Imbalances in the body lead to injury and time away from rolling.

Sample Bent Over Row Workout:
Superset:

Any Chest Exercise: 4×6-8

Bent Over DB Row: 4×6-8

This can be thrown in at the beginning of a chest and back workout.

You can also apply the 5×5 method to the bent over Row to focus more on developing strength in the mid and upper back.

Current List of Back Exercises I’m Using Right Now:

Pull Ups (Use many different grips)

Deadlifts (Conventional and Sumo stance)

Goodmornings

Bent Over Rows (DB, KB, and Barbell Variations)

Banded Reverse Hypers

GHR (Weighted and Bodyweight)

45 Degree Back Extensions (Weighted and Bodyweight)

Seated Rows

1 Arm DB Rows

RDLs (DB’s, KB’s & Barbell Variations)