5 SMARTER WAYS TO TRAIN YOUR ARMS 

If you have ever train here at LIFT you may have noticed we don’t always directly train the arms because compound lifts (just a fancy word for 2 or more joints) are more efficient for our clients. Having said that, we do believe there are benefits to hitting the arms when programmed correctly.

Benefits:

Improve compound lifts

Improve shoulder health

Improve arm growth

Thinking about how you program arm training can do wonders to consistent and sustainable growth. Here is what we like to consider…

What days?

We suggest including direct arms into 2-3 days of training. Doesn’t have to be a lot, but the frequency of stimulus will help. We like having them on both of my upper days and then on a little on my circuit day before lower. Ensuring you give adequate rest will keep you feeling good and able to continue training long term.

Clean Up Technique.

Mastering the move and doing it properly will increase the overall effectiveness of each rep. Sloppy reps, will require way more volume to produce the same impact on the muscle.

Less Warm-up.

Stop wasting time and energy on warming your arms up…they don’t need that much. Think about having more intense sets in the actual training session. Save the energy, work harder during those few sets.

Growth vs Maintenance.

Designate certain days to be more intense and other days to be less intense. Maybe go heavier and more intense early in the week and less intense later in the week. A common mistake in any training is always working to near failure. It doesn’t ALWAYS have to happen. In fact, we feel training to failure should happen way less than not doing so.

Your Exercises.

Choose exercises with a greater loading potential and ones that feel good on your body. Stable exercises will be better than unstable for arm growth because you have a more loading potential. If there are exercises you see online, but feel like shit when you do them, adjust and find new ones.

Let us know if this helps or if you have questions in the comments below!

REAL STRENGTH SERIES: SHOULD YOU BE SQUATTING? HOW TO SET UP THE SQUAT...

The squat is a functional movement that our bodies naturally begin to develop from infancy. Unfortunately, some individuals begin to regress in this movement over time and now struggle to perform it properly. It is one of the foundational bilateral movements we use here at LIFT to build strength in the lower body and core. It’s rare for us to complete a training session with a client without having them perform some variation of a squat at least once. Let’s address the nuances of this essential movement in more depth..

We need 2 things; mobility and stability throughout the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine. As discussed in week 1 of the Real Strength Series, a neutral spine is required to perform this movement. Click here if you haven't already read our blog on core training as it will be imperative to squat properly.

Whether your goals are to build muscle, lose fat, or gain strength; the squat is, hands-down, one of the best exercises you can incorporate into your routine.

Today we are going to look at mobility requirements and the squat set up.


SQUAT MOBILITY


To assess the squat fully, we like to use the overhead squat assessment. It gives us a solid idea of the  areas preventing you from squatting properly due to lack of mobility.

First, we look at the ankles. Are you able to travel over the toes without the heels coming off the floor? If not, we may program some kneeling ankle mobility drills such as the examples below. If your feet and ankles aren’t functioning properly you may experience a breakdown of movement or instability of joints in the future.

Next, we look at the hips. Are you mobile enough to sink back into the hole while keeping the knees in line with the toes? If not, we tend to prescribe hip mobility and stability exercises to get those hip muscles firing properly.

Continuing up the body, the thoracic spine comes into play. Is it able to extend and keep the chest upright throughout the movement? If not, we will see the chest pointing more towards the ground instead of forward. Many times the lats tend to be tight, making it hard for the T-spine to extend.


THE SQUAT SET-UP

For the sake of this blog and the corresponding video we are using the back squat as our frame of reference when describing the squat set-up because it is the most commonly used squat variation. Let’s dive into the set up.

  1. “Meet the groove in the smooth.” By this, we mean place your hands where the rough and smooth parts of the bar meet. Some people with longer arms or tighter lats/shoulders may need to slide their hand out just a bit more.

  2. Pull the bar down tight. We want to ensure you securely have the bar on the upper trap area. To secure it fully, don't be afraid to pull it down into that muscle belly. Think about pulling the elbows down and tightening the lats.

  3. Unrack. Bring the hips under the bar, stand up, and firmly take one step back. Be sure to clear the rack.

  4. Brace. Inhale through the nose, brace the core, and start the descent. Sit down and back at the same time maintain the neutral spine.

  5. Drive Up. Staying braced, drive up through the feet. Stand tall at the top with an even tightness of the core and glutes.


Coming up on the next blog, releasing later this week, will be the following:

Progressions of the Squat at LIFT

Hacking the squat - Exercise we use at LIFT to improve your squat.

Be sure to tune back in so you can continue to master the squat. Here at LIFT our team is committed to making you the best LIFTER you can be while delivering time saving, and results driven training sessions.

LIFT Hard. LIFT Smart. Get LIFTED.







REAL STRENGTH SERIES: LET'S RETHINK YOUR CORE TRAINING

Core training may be, simultaneously, one of the most overused and most commonly misunderstood concepts in the fitness world. Whether we are at the gym, taking a yoga class, or simply scrolling through social media, we see countless fitness influencers performing incredibly complex movements and slapping them with labels such as “functional” and “core” training. Some of the most common examples include people throwing themselves to the floor and jumping back up, swinging their legs to pull up over a bar, or twisting ballistically with a free weight. Unfortunately, as sexy as these moves appear, we live in the world of physics and extreme or uncontrolled bending, twisting, extending, and flexing of the lower back is extremely dangerous. These movements do not provide a beneficial training stimulus to the core.

Everyone has his or her own definition of “the core”. For our purposes, “the core” refers to the muscles of the hips, torso, and shoulders. To keep this simple, let’s focus on those coveted six pack muscles (and a few other muscles of the trunk). True core training provides an optimal training stimulus that will improve movement, performance, strength, aesthetics, and prevent injury.

It should be understood that the term resistance training involves resisting (get it?) an external force to strengthen a particular muscle group. The muscles around the lumbar spine and trunk act as stabilizers that prevent extreme ranges of motion. Exercises such as burpees, kipping pull ups, and dynamic twists use momentum that creates excessive extension, bending, and rotation of the lower back. These excessive forces on the lower back can lead to injury and do not recruit the muscles of the trunk. The job of these muscles is to prevent excessive motion of the spine. So, how do we train the core? Enter anti-extension, anti-lateral flexion, and anti-rotation training.

ANTI-EXTENSION

These exercises include actively resisting excessive extension of the lumbar spine (think fat belly and arched back).

These exercises primarily train the rectus abdominis (think six pack abs) and external obliques (large muscles on the side of your stomach)

At Lift Chicago, our foundational anti extension exercise is the deadbug.

ANTI-LATERAL FLEXION

These exercises include actively resisting excessive lateral flexion of the lumbar spine (think aggressive side bending)

These exercises primarily train the lateral core (quadratus lumborum and the obliques)

At Lift Chicago, our foundational anti lateral flexion exercise is the side plank.

ANTI ROTATION/ROTARY STABILITY

These exercises include actively resisting excessive twisting of the lumbar spine.

These exercises train much of the core (rectus abdominis and obliques) when performed correctly.

At Lift Chicago, our foundational anti-rotation exercise is the half kneeling anti-rotary hold.

GAIT/INTEGRATED CORE TRAINING

These exercises include developmental movement patterns that are foundational to movement function and injury prevention.

This exercise category works virtually every muscle in the body, improves mobility, and teaches coordination and balance.

At Lift Chicago, our foundational gait pattern begins with the bird-dog exercise.

Now that we’ve discussed the core and its primary role as a stabilizer, be sure to take a closer look the next time you’re watching individuals perform fitness fad exercises. See if you can identify excessive motion in the lumbar spine when they dive onto the floor during burpees, or if they aggressively swing their legs during kipping pull-ups.

At Lift Chicago, we elevate your core training experience with our series of foundational exercises that provide optimal training, improved strength and aesthetics, and prevent injury. There are many examples of exercises in each component of core training that we implement once an individual has mastered the foundational movements. We create an elevated training experiencing by identifying and correcting dysfunctional movement patterns. We then prescribe individualized core exercises that address weaknesses, prevent injury, and follow systematic progressions. We do not follow the latest fad exercises or use cookie cutter programs. Leave the burpees behind and come experience the quality core training your body deserves. Get Lifted!

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Mike McClain

Director of Group Training, Strength Coach

Lift Chicago









Quick Tips to Maximize Strength

If you have been exercising for quite some time and feel you aren’t getting any stronger try concentrating on a few of these pointers! Maximizing strength is a lot more straight forward than people make it out to be. Let’s take a look at what I am talking about.

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First, simplify everything! If you want to be strong at deadlifts don’t waste your time doing 4 sets of 20 chest flies and start deadlifting! Too many times people become too fancy with exercise variations and accessory work. It is just like any skill..do that skill over and over again!

Second, master the technique. Granted your technique will vary in some ways from other people because of biomechanic differences, but honing an effective technique will go a long way. This is very important because you will need to be precise when the load becomes heavier in order to complete the lift safely. My rule is to never give up form for weight! The risk isn’t worth the potential injury. NOTE: It can weeks, months, even years to dial in your form and technique. Most coaches and experienced lifters are continuously making adjustments to their lifts in order to keep growing.

Third, violence! Yes, you need to be violent! This doesn’t mean head butting your bro before getting under the bar. You need to think about being aggressive during the lift because no one has ever moved heavy weight by being slow. Think “fast and aggressive” throughout the entire movement, not just at the start!

Last, choose correct maxes. A max is the weight you can do for 1 rep. Disclaimer: you do not ever need to attempt that 1 rep max to become stronger or increase your max.  Many times people will over estimate their max and get buried or injured. I would select a max that is going to be doable even on a “bad day”.  This way you never fail on reps, and you can train at submaximal levels and still become stronger.  You can increase the max slowly as you go (5-10lbs)/ week, but there is never shame in keeping it the same or decreasing. Listen to your body!

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