Home Training

Tom Hardy put on some serious muscle for the role of Bane in the Dark Knight Rises movie. After all, Bane is an imposing character, physically intimidating and more of a superior physical match for the Caped Crusader. Strong, commanding and powerful his presence speaks for itself.

Couldn’t we all use a little more power and strength in our lives? Does your current routine need a little kick in the butt? Maybe you need a few new moves, techniques and tips to get you growing bigger and stronger again?

The following are some plateau-busting, intensity-amplifying tactics so you can be more like Bane!

14 Superhero-Crushing Moves to Grow On

Floor clean and push pressThis move will get your hormones surging for sure! Used primarily as a shoulder strength and power builder, it will pack on serious mass all over. Simply clean the bar from the floor using hips, legs and shoulder rotation to catch the bar on your shoulders. From this position use a slight bump with your legs to press the bar overhead with your deltoids, arms and traps. This isn’t a clean and jerk per se, but more of a clean and shoulder press.

Wide-grip upright row: Simply take a grip 8-12 inches wider than shoulder width and pull up with your elbows. This will hit the middle deltoids more than a standard close-grip upright row.

Double plate raise: Want to challenge your grip and look like a beast? Try the standard front plate raise with two smaller plates instead of one that can comfortably fit in your grip. If you can do a 45 pound plate, try two 25s. Your forearms will be screaming for more!

Decline bench close-grip triceps press: You’ve done plenty of close-grip benches in your day, right? Try it on a decline bench for a better mechanical advantage and shoulder relief.

Seated barbell curl: As the name implies, the seated barbell curl will jack up your strength in no time. Sit with the barbell in your lap and curl up only the upper half of the move. On the way down don’t rest the bar, just touch and go.

Modified arching pull-up: Perform a regular, shoulder width pull-up with an underhand grip and instead of bringing your chest to the bar, try bringing your stomach to the bar.

Partial deadlift: I couldn’t help but add this one in. Start with the bar just below your knees. You can crank these out off of the end of a bench or set in a Smith machine.

Side-to-side pull-up: An old favorite of Arnold, take a close, parallel grip and alternate each side of your head up to the bar.

Floor press with dumbbells: This will hit that sweet spot for a bigger bench. Simply lay down on the floor with two dumbbells and press them up on the last half of the movement. Be sure not to rest your upper arms on the floor, just touch and go.

Feet-elevated three-point push-up: Prop your feet on a bench and hands on the floor in the push-up position. Put one foot on top of the other so only the single foot is touching the bench.

Full-range squat: You may be scratching your head as to why this one’s on the list. There is good reason: I can count on one hand in my over twenty years lifting that I have seen someone do a full-range free weight squat. If you are one of the unlucky ones, swallow your pride, cut your weight in half and get to work.

1 ½ rep front squat: If you are like many, you may have a bit of difficulty holding heavy weight on your shoulders during a front squat. Try 1 ½ rep sets. Descend with the bar and only go halfway up, descend again and then complete a full range of motion rep. That is one rep. This technique will make light weight feel like a ton!

Modified ham raise: If you find your gym without a true horizontal bench to perform glute/ham raises, but you are able to use an angled hyperextension bench then this move will be a welcomed addition. Keeping your knees on the bench, extend your body out staying horizontal to the floor. Curl yourself back in (like a leg curl) keeping that horizontal position.

Run-the-rack dumbbell calf raise: Choose a heavy dumbbell, don’t think about it too much, just do it! Perform one-legged calf raises off of the floor for each leg. Once you are finished with both legs, choose the next lighter weight and repeat. Run the entire rack before stopping.

The Insane Bane Training Program

Now let’s put these moves in a program to get you growing again and build a physique even a superhero would envy. Below is a sample program best utilized on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday schedule with Wednesday and the weekend off.

The modified moves are included along with a few additions.


Warm-up sets

Work sets


Incline barbell press

2 x 10-15

2 x 5-8

2 min.

Floor press with dumbbells


2 x 5-8

2 min.

Modified arching pull-up

1 x 10

2 x AMAP*

2 min.

Parial deadlift

1 x 10

2 x 5-8

2 min.

Floor clean and push press

1 x 10

2 x 5-8

2 min.

Dumbbell side lateral


2 x 10-15

2 min.

Floor crunch


4 x 10-20

1 min.



Warm-up sets

Work sets


Run-the-rack dumbbell calf raise

1 x 15

2-3 x entire rack

2 min.

Full-range squat

2 x 10-15

2 x 5-10

2 min.

Walking lunge


2 lengths

2 min.

Modified ham raise

1 x 10

2 x AMAP*

2 min.

Seated barbell curl

1 x 10

2 x 5-8

2 min.


1 x 10

2 x 5-8

2 min.

Hanging leg raise


4 x 10-20

1 min.



Warm-up sets

Work sets


Barbell bench press

2 x 10-15

2 x 8-12

2 min.

Feet-elevated three-point push-up


2 x AMAP*

2 min.

Side-to-side pull-up

1 x 10

2 x AMAP*

2 min.

T-bar or barbell row

1 x 10

2 x 8-12

2 min.

Double plate raise

1 x 10

2 x 8-12

2 mn.

Wide-grip upright row


2 x 8-12

2 min.

Incline sit-up


4 x 10-20

1 min.



Warm-up sets

Work sets


Seated calf raise

1 x 10-15

2 x 10-15

2 min.

1 ½ rep front squat

2 x 10-15

2 x 8-12

2 min.

Single leg press -

2 x 8-12

2 min.

Romanian deadlift

1 x 10

2 x 8-12

2 min.

Standing dumbbell curl

1 x 10

2 x 8-12

2 min.

Decline bench close-grip triceps press

1 x 10

2 x 8-12

2 min.

Lying leg raise


4 x 10-20

1 min.

*As Many As Possible

Author: Brad Borland

When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

As this question can be applied to almost any situation or project you are currently involved with, I am specifically referring to your fitness/health/muscle-building/fat loss goals.

It may not need to get that far. You could ask yourself: When was the last time I tried something different, authentic, unconventional or unique in the gym? Something most, if not all are not doing. Something that goes against the grain of conventional practice but WORKS!

I guess the first question you need to ask is:

Am I making significant gains in the gym?

You spend countless hours lifting, pushing, pulling, curling and pressing. Are you making real world, steady, consistent gains or are you following the herd’s cookie cutter, cloned training and eating plan?

The Gap

Close the gap! The gap I refer to here is the one between your goals, desires and image of what you want to accomplish and what you are actually doing with your time in and out of the gym. Don’t follow trends for the sake of following what everyone else is doing. Blaze your own trail and truly find your path to those goals.

Many talk about how they want to look or perform, but few actually look like they are trying to get there. Talking too much, resting too long, not training intense enough, missing meals, partying too much, etc.

Your actions must match your vision.


Carb backloading, intermittent fasting, long term fasting, the 5-3-1 method, 5 x 5, German Volume Training – the list goes on. Trends in fitness are not new – they have come and gone faster than a Tyler Perry movie.

Sure many of the above mentioned methods are scientifically sound with piles of research with many trainers benefitting with very significant results. But what about you? Will it work for you?

If all of these methods worked, then everyone would adopt them, put them into good practice and look the same. The fact is everyone is different, has different genetics, different lifestyles, stressors, obligations and countless other factors that contribute to how their bodies will respond to certain protocols.

Be Authentic

The point of all this is to be honest with yourself. Have a plan in place that produces results for YOU. Following what everyone else is doing without justifiable cause leads to nowhere fast. Be authentic, design your plan with you in mind and screw whoever shoots down your plan. Put it into action, work like hell and don’t look back.

Reassess, make adjustments and drive forward.

When people ask me what I am training on a certain day I usually will respond with,“Chest, back, shoulders, calves and abs” or “arms, calves, quads and hams.” They usually give me a funny look and either don’t believe me or think I am absolutely nuts!

Is it unique to me? Yes. Is it unorthodox? To the norm it is. Does it work for me? Absolutely!


All too often when someone’s energy levels are low, they often reach for a caffeinated drink or worse they eat a bunch of carbs and sugar for a short burst of energy. The energy obtained from these methods doesn’t last, and can have some negative consequences- Energy Crash, irritability, weight gain, insomnia, and even anxiety to name a few.

There are many overlooked vitamins and minerals that can keep your energy going all day long, help keep you healthy both mentally and physically, and won’t have the negative effects associated with quick fixes. This article will underline some great vitamins and minerals for good health, well-being and energy that can be obtained through foods or dietary supplements.


Small amounts of zinc are necessary in every diet to help the body produce proteins. Zinc also helps your body manufacture the enzymes that help digest your food, and stimulates your immune system.

Foods containing zinc: Oysters, Toasted Wheat Germ, Liver, Sesame Seeds, Low Fat Roast Beef, Dark Chocolate, Peanuts

Recommended Dosage: 8 mg daily for women and 11 mg daily for men                                                    r

Vitamin C

Vitamin C reduces inflammation, stimulates the immune system and restores the mucous lining of the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, vitamin C creates an environment in the digestive tract that helps control the overgrowth of yeast, bacteria and parasites.Vitamin C performs cellular functions in the body, which means it restores all the damaged cells back to the original form, while the body is resting. Vitamin C  is needed in order to properly absorb and use iron.

Foods containing Vitamin C: Oranges, Guava, Red Sweet Pepper, Kiwi, Brussels Sprouts 

Recommended Dosage: 75 to 90 mg per day/ men requiring slightly more than females                                                    r


Iron is an essential mineral needed for the manufacture of haemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen and is needed for energy production. When iron levels are low, red blood cells can’t carry enough oxygen to the body’s tissues, causing fatigue.

Foods containing iron: Red Meat, Egg Yolks, Dark Leafy Greens, Liver, Dried Fruits- (Prunes, Raisins)

Recommended Dosage: 18 mg daily for women and 8 mg daily for men                                                    r


Vitamin B12 is needed for manufacture of red blood cells (along with folic acid). B12 helps the body’s use of iron and is also required for proper digestion and how your body digests carbohydrates, the absorption of foods, the synthesis of protein and the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats all of which are directly related to energy levels.

Foods containing B12: Beef, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Milk, Clams

Recommended Dosage: 2.4 mcg per day                                                                                    r

Folic Acid

Folic acid is a B vitamin (also called B9 or folate) needed for the manufacture of red blood cells.

Fatigue is associated with both a simple folic acid deficiency as well as megaloblastic anemia. Because folic acid is easily destroyed during cooking, it is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies.

Foods containing Folic Acid: Leafy green vegetables, fruits and dried beans are natural sources of folate. Enriched breakfast cereal fortified with folic acid can also provide 100 percent of the daily recommendations.

Recommended Dosage: 400 and 800 mcg per day                                                                           r


Magnesium is needed for the production of ATP, which is the main energy-producing molecule in the body.  Magnesium is also responsible for other body functions like absorption of calcium, muscle health and producing healthy red blood cells. Magnesium provides the cells with additional fuel needed for energy production. Many of the enzymes your body needs to make energy can only be activated by magnesium. Finally, magnesium aids in the regulation of other important nutrients such as calcium, copper, zinc, vitamin D and potassium.

Foods containing Magnesium: Halibut, Tuna, Artichokes, Bananas, Buckwheat flower, Almonds

Recommended Dosage: 350 mg per day                                                    r

Photography: Alpha Design
AuthorBodybuilding.com Brandan Fokken 




Most of us growing up as little boys looked up to our dads – they were bigger, stronger and taller than us. We were always impressed with their abilities to lift, pull, carry and push. Did we not look up to them with awe and inspiration? Did we not want to one day be like them?

The pectoral muscles are visually the hallmark of strength on the human body. They signify power and dominance in one’s own personal space and beyond.  Most men have at one point or another pursued a stronger and more massive chest in his lifetime whether they were the recreational lifter or competitive bodybuilder.

Although many trainers spend countless hours on the bench press and pec deck machine, fewer and fewer actually build impressive muscularity in that area – instead they build monumental egos. They spend entire training sessions, sometimes lasting hours, and performing set after set of every movement known to man with little or nothing to show for it. Sure, they may become a little stronger and may gain a little muscle tissue along the way, but wouldn’t it be nice to work with a program that is both efficient and effective and produces respectable gains?

Hopefully this article will shed a little light on the infamously elusive greater pectoral development. This is not necessarily a strength program (although you will reap strength gains), but is a pectoral development program designed to increase muscle mass, development and balance from top to bottom, inside and out. To have a strong, well-rounded chest can put the finishing touches on a physique whether it is for the beach or the stage.

Quick Anatomy Lesson

The musculature of the chest is comprised of three two muscle groups. Let’s take a look at each and there functions.

Pectoralis Major: Located on the front of the ribcage, this fanlike muscle originates on the breastbone on the center of the chest and attaches to the humerus near the shoulder joint. The Pectoralis Major’s main function is to bring the humerus across the chest.

Pectoralis Minor: Located underneath the Pectoralis Major, this muscle originates on the middle ribs and attaches to the caracoid process of the scapula. The Pectoralis Minor’s main function is to shrug the shoulder area forward.

Although the chest area is comprised of these two muscle groups, many exercises will influence different areas of the Pectoralis Major. Incline, flat and decline presses and fly movements will all affect this area in certain ways that can dictate development in one area over another. Additionally, the Pectoralis Minor, sometimes activated through stabilization purposes, can also be targeted for specific development.

Chest Slab Action

Now that you know a little about anatomy and function, let’s delve into what makes an outstanding chest. The movements and routines presented are designed to get the most out of each trip to the gym. Remember to always use good form and not to use too much weight to compromise your safety.

Flat, incline, decline, dumbbell, barbell bench and Smith machine presses:

These groups of movements normally make up the majority of trainers’ programs. The flat bench movements emphasize the middle and lower portions of the pectoralis major, the incline working mainly the upper and to a lesser extent the middle portion and the decline angle developing the lower “pec” area. These can all be performed with a barbell, dumbbell or Smith machine – each having their own advantages.

Barbells are normally utilized for maximum loads and overall mass and development. They are good to use at the beginning of a routine so that the trainer can lift heavy amounts of weight early on in their program. Dumbbells have the advantage of being used in a unilateral manner to which the trainer can not only even out imbalances from one side to the other, but also allows the pecs to work interdependently so that a trainer can bring the dumbbells together at the top of the movement for a strong contraction. A Smith machine is best utilized near the middle or end of a routine when the joints have been fatigued and proper balance and form become an issue.

For barbell work, simply grasp the bar a few inches outside of your shoulder width (the best placement is a grip that positions the forearms perpendicular to the floor when the bar is lowered to the chest). Lower the bar to the upper chest for the incline version, mid to lower pec for the flat version and the lower pec line for the decline position. Without bouncing the bar, press the weight straight back up without locking the elbows.

For dumbbell work, execute the movement the same way but lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest and then simultaneously press them back up and slightly toward the center without clanging the weights together. Be sure not to lock the elbows to keep constant tension on the muscles.

Quick hit: An often forgotten and seldom used pec-builder is the reverse grip bench press. Mainly utilized on the flat bench, the reverse grip press can also be performed on a Smith machine (recommended). Grasp the bar with a reverse grip either at shoulder width or a little wider and have your training partner assist you with un-racking the weight. Lower the bar to your lower pec area and press back up in a controlled manner. Note: The reverse grip bench press is a great upper pec builder.

Flat, incline, decline dumbbell and cable flyes

These movements will carve detail and fill out key areas of the pectoralis major – such as the inside (with cables) and outside (with dumbbells) of the muscle. Simply lie on a flat (for middle pecs), incline (for upper) or decline (for lower) with the dumbbells or cable “D” handles in your hands and your palms facing each other. For the cable version you will be using the universal cable machine and the pulleys in the lowest position. Expand out your hands as if you were about to give someone a giant hug. Your elbows should be slightly bent to relieve tension from your joints. Lower the dumbbells or “D” rings to about chest level (or a comfortable postion) and then reverse the movement in the same hugging motion.

Quick hit: This is where the two pieces of equipment differ. While using dumbbells, do not touch the weight together at the top. Bring them together until they are about six to eight inches apart – this will keep tension on the pecs. For the cable flyes, bring the handles together for an intense contraction and squeeze.

Cable crossovers (high, mid and low)

To get that deep inner chest development and an overall complete look to the chest, nothing beats cable crossovers. These can be performed in a variety of ways dependent upon what the goal is. For the traditional high pulley cable crossover grasp two “D” handles from cables that are set above your head and stand between the two cable towers. You will start with a slight bend at the elbow to relieve pressure from the joint. Step forward a foot or two and begin with your arms wide open. Bring your arms forward and down in a huge arc as if hugging someone with your hands coming together at about beltline level. Slowly return to the starting position by raising your arms in the same arc motion. This particular motion works mainly the lower and inner pec area.

Cable crossovers performed with the cables set at or around shoulder level will develop mainly the middle and inner pec area. Execute the motion the same way as described above; however, you will bring the handles directly in front of your chest instead. Squeeze and then stretch straight back.

With the pulleys set to the lowest position (closest to the floor), the low pulley cable crossover will help develop the upper and inner pec region. Again, start wide and this time low with the handles and arc them up until they are in line with your upper pecs or even your chin for an intense upper pec contraction.

Hammer Strength and machine presses

Most gyms have some version of the machine press. Just be sure to adhere to the guidelines as with presses described above – no lockout, slow on the way down and squeeze on the way up.

Machine pec deck

Another favorite of gym goers is the pec deck machine. These are usually found with the pads for the forearms or with the long straight-arm handles (Icarian version for example). The most important point to remember when performing these movements (which is similar to the flye motions discussed above) is to keep your shoulders back and expand the chest out at all times. This will ensure the pecs take more of the stress while protecting the shoulders. Be sure to squeeze for a second or two to increase muscle involvement and contraction.

Incline, floor and decline push-ups

Not just for boot camp anymore, this old favorite has made a comeback lately, especially amongst functional and group trainers. The push-up for most trainers seeking a better pec landscape can normally be reserved for the end of a chest routine to push just a little more blood into that area. Variation include: incline for lower pecs (hands on a raise bench and feet on the floor), decline for upper pecs (hands on the ground and feet on a raised bench) and floor push-ups for overall pec torture!

Quick hit: For even greater chest annihilation try performing a set or two of 3-way push-ups as your last exercise. Start with decline, then move to flat and finally incline with no rest between sets – that is one set!

Parallel dips for chest

Also used for triceps mass, the dip can easily be turned into a major chest builder. Step inside a dip apparatus and grasp the parallel bars about shoulder width apart. As you lower your body, lean forward and let your elbows flare out. You should feel a stretch in your pecs on the decent. While staying leaned forward, press back up focusing on the chest contracting. Weight can be added in the form of a dumbbell placed between your ankles by a training partner or by a weight belt with a chain to hold plates. Note: before adding weight, master the form first with just your bodyweight.

Dumbbell and barbell pullovers

Another great chest expander focusing on the pectoralis minor and overall depth is the pullover. Although many trainers utilize this movement for isolating the back, it is also extremely effective for “finishing off” the entire pec region.

For dumbbell pullovers lay perpendicularly across a flat bench grasping the inside face of a dumbbell of moderate weight. Start with the weight directly overhead and keep a slight bend in the elbows. Lower the weight back over your head in an arc toward the floor in a very controlled manner. As you lower the weight, take in a deep breath and stretch the chest. Stretch only where you are comfortable and then reverse the motion while blowing out. Remember: deep breaths will help contract the pecs.

For the barbell version lie back length-wise on a flat bench and grasp a barbell slightly wider than shoulder width with a reverse grip. With the barbell on your chest (much like the bottom portion of a reverse-grip bench press) keep a 90 degree angle at the elbows. Rotate the weight up and over your head in an arc toward the floor. Feel a deep stretch and then reverse the motion to rotate the barbell back toward your torso. Remember to keep the correct angle at the elbows and breath in deeply on the decent.


Author: Brad Borland, MA, CSCS
Photography: Alpha Design 

For many years before I entered the fitness industry and embarked upon bikini body fitness competitions, I had considered my butt to be a pretty good one. For a small frame, I had been blessed with a large bum and it added the look of femininity to my shape. However, when training for my first fitness competition, I was told it was a bit of a problem area…..yes it looked sexy but having a large butt requires a large amount of work to tone it adequately to meet the necessary competition pre-requisits.

After a lot of hard work and specified training techniques to sculpt and lift the gluteals, I would now consider my glutes to be one of my assets. Girls….follow these tips to achieve gorgeous glutes!!!

  • 1. The gluteus maximus, medius and minimus are the three muscles that make up the buttocks. The gluteas maximus is the largest muscle in the body, which makes it the number one area to focus on if you want to build a stronger, leaner lower body.
  • 2. Don’t just train legs and expect the glutes to be covered in that workout. Take the time to do a glutes focused session at least once a week.
  • 3. Squeeze squeeze squeeze….at the top range of most gluteal exercises adding a squeeze and hold for a few seconds can intensify and increase the benefits massively. A good example of this would be squeezing the butt cheeks and holding at the top stage of a squat or deadlift upon standing.
  • 4. Range is key….the maximus especially, is such a large muscle you really must develop full range movements to get the most out of an exercise and hit as many muscle fibres as possible.
  • 5. Combine multi-joint moves to trigger plenty of nerves and fibres in and around the glutes with more isolated moves to focus on shaping the area.
  • 6. Add weight to increase the intensity of each exercise. For example, step ups are easy but combined with holding dumbells or a barbell can go a long way to developing those gorgeous perky buttocks.

Simple and effective butt workout

For each of the following exercises, reps and sets can be adapted to suit the training system you are working on, but as a basic guide aim for 2 x sets of 12-15 reps. The weights you use should be an appropriate weight to ensure the last few reps are very tough.

  • Barbell squats
  • Stiff leg deadlifts with barbell
  • One legged dead lifts holding a dumbell
  • One legged cable kick backs
  • Barbell glute bridge
  • Standing cable abduction
Emma Louise Burrows

Although almost every one views pain as something negative, it’s important to recognize that pain serves a constructive purpose. Pain is a warning signal that you may be in danger or at risk of injury.  The sensation of pain tells us that we are doing something that may cause the body damage, and in this way pain is our innate method of self-protection. Just imagine the problems that would arise if you were unable to feel pain!

There are two main types of pain: chronic and acute. Acute pain is generally short-lived and gradually disappears through the course of normal healing. Acute pain typically has an identifiable cause. Chronic pain lasts for more than six months and some chronic pain sufferers may have symptoms for months or even years. This could be the result of a specific injury or repetitive strain, or in some cases it may have no identifiable cause. This article will focus on acute pain (related to exercise) and some suggestions on how to manage it, although some of the methods I discuss may help those who suffer from chronic pain.

Bad Pain vs Good Pain

Not all pain is necessarily a bad thing. As the great English Strongman Geoff Capesonce said, “Without pain there is no gain. Without pain there is no glory.” Quite often high levels of human performance are achieved by reaching outside of one’s comfort zone and testing the limits of the body’s pain tolerance. One must learn to distinguish between pain that is good or which will lead to positive physical adaptation, and pain which is bad or indicates injury.

More often than not the difference is quite obvious. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) experienced a couple of days after a great workout could be viewed as good pain. The burning pain you might feel performing a weighted sled drag, or during the last few repetitions of a squat could be described as good pain.  Good pain is often experienced as a satisfying muscle “tightness” or achy feeling.  It’s that sensation of heaviness in the belly of the muscle that lets you know they’ve been working hard. Many serious trainees enjoy this feeling, as it can make the muscles feel alive and full!

Bad pain is usually easy to recognize.  It often has a sudden onset, and usually leaves you feeling weak or unstable.  Even if it has a more subtle onset, it would be described as more of a sharp joint pain rather than a dull muscle ache.  It might be experienced as a “pinching”, restrictive feeling that leads to a reduced range of motion and can last for several days or even weeks.  This type of pain can be quite intense and could indicate an injury that requires a break from training and medical attention. We all hate this type of pain.

The key is to learn to embrace the good pain, and learn to prevent the bad pain.

Deal with it

If you are training hard and heavy, or are competing at an elite level of performance, you are likely flirting with pain a lot of the time.  For most lifters, you can expect “good pain” to be a consistent part of your life.  Get used to it.  However, there are a couple of methods you can use to minimize or manage it.  Surprisingly, stretching is not one of them.

Contrary to what many believe, traditional static “passive” stretching does not relieve DOMS or necessarily aid in recovery.  A study done in 1999 indicated that stretching made no significant difference in the reduction of exercise related muscle soreness.  In general I advise caution while stretching muscles or joints that are sore.  A safer solution would be to use “active” stretching, or gently move through your active range of motion.

The most effective methods for reducing DOMS are the performance of light exercise for affected areas, or taking NSAIDS (such as ibuprofen).  I’m not a big fan of taking any sort of drug for pain relief, so I usually focus on low intensity exercise for active recovery and other natural methods of reducing inflammation.

Active Recovery

The key here is to use low intensity (sub-maximal), low impact exercise to promote recovery, not to try to get a training effect.  The goal is to increase blood flow in order to get more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, as well as to flush out any lactic acid.  You can choose any form of low intensity, low impact training, but my personal favorite is swimming.  Swimming facilitates a greater range of motion around your joints with minimal weight bearing.  You’ll get a good full body workout, as well as cardiovascular training, while putting minimal stress on your joints.

Psych out your pain

How well you tolerate pain and your perception of pain is partly psychological.  As such, your attitude regarding pain plays a big role in how you experience it. For example, people raised in different cultures can express pain very differently.  A stoic person may seem to have a high pain tolerance, while another individual may tend to be more emotional and will find that same pain stimulus intolerable.

Knowing this, you can train yourself to perceive pain differently and thus develop a greater pain tolerance.  Your mind has incredible power and a tremendous influence on your body.  By learning to focus your mind, you can affect hormone levels, stress, healing, and other physical functions.  Activities such as progressive relaxation, meditation, and visualization can all help you manage pain.  Deep breathing exercises and stress management techniques can also aid in pain management.

Toughen up

Another way to develop a greater tolerance to pain is through what some refer to as “body-hardening”.  Martial artists often use different body hardening techniques, such as striking a heavy bag, being struck by a bamboo staff, or having a medicine ball dropped on them, in order to “get used” to the pain or create actual tissue changes to build tolerance to it.  They learn to handle a certain level of physical discomfort.

OK, put down the whip… I’m not suggesting you abuse yourself!  However, certain types of training can certainly make you more tolerant to painful stimuli.  For example, training with odd implements (ie- strongman events) such as tire flipping, keg pressing, sandbag carries, and stone lifting places a very different stress on your body compared to traditional gym training.  You will develop a certain physical “toughness” by pushing through the friction of the tire on your body, the scraping of the stone on your forearms, and pressure of the keg on your chest.  Body-hardening can help you blast through training plateaus, train at a higher intensity, and achieve greater performances in competition.

Once again, you need to know the difference between good pain and bad pain, and listen to your body.  You better know when to stop when you are injured or if you need more recovery time.  As long as you are smart about it, in my opinion it is always better to have a higher pain tolerance.

Oil up

Another natural method of reducing inflammation and aiding in pain relief is to consume an adequate amount of essential fatty acids (E.F.A’s). Omega 3 fats in particular have anti-inflammatory properties as well as a slew of other health benefits, including:

  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Better skin and hair
  • Better mood
  • Improved concentration and memory
  • More balanced blood sugar levels

So it just makes sense to include plenty of these Omega 3 oils in your diet.  Good sources of EFA’s include fish (particularly oily fish such as salmon), nuts, seeds, avocado, flax seed oil, and other natural sources.

Cold Therapy

If you have experienced an acute injury which is causing inflammation, pain and swelling at joint in your body, apply ice rather than heat, especially for the first few days.  Ice can reduce inflammation and swelling, numb the pain receptors, and speed the healing process.  Heat could cause more inflammation and increase blood pooling in the area, thus creating painful pressure on the nerve endings.

Although real ice will be colder, the simplest option is to put a flexible gel ice pack over the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes, a couple of times a day (especially after exercise).  In the later stages of recovery vascular flushing may help to restore healthy blood flow and flush out the chemical mediators of inflammation.  Vascular flushing involves alternating shorter periods of ice and heat application.

Contrast showers are another type of cryotherapy that I enjoy regularly.  This involves showering with hot water then rinsing with cold or very cool water before getting out.  Some claim that this aids in recovery by flushing out the lactic acid.  I haven’t read evidence of this myself, but it does help improve blood flow to your central organs, and you feel great after!


If you have an injury, especially if it is recurring, you need to deal with the root cause of the problem, rather than just masking the symptoms.  This is where rehab exercises will come into play.  My recommendation is to get assessed by a good physical therapist to determine where your weaknesses are and start a progressive training plan to correct your imbalances.  In general, I believe a good rehabilitation plan should follow these basic steps (depending on the injury):

  • Assessment
  • Passive therapy (ice, ultrasound, TENS, acupuncture, tissue work, etc)
  • Active range of motion and isometric exercise (static contraction of your weak links to “retrain” them)
  • Isolation exercise for these weak links and the muscles involved with stabilizing and protecting the affected area.
  • Re-introduce compound exercises for the involved muscles to incorporate them back into the kinetic chain.
  • Progression back toward high performance training, with necessary program changes.

If you experiencing pain that won’t resolve don’t ignore it… see a professional.  I just think it’s a good idea to set high standards for the therapist you choose.  If they just sit you on the electrical stim unit then send you home, you might want to look elsewhere.


It is obviously preferable to prevent these injuries before they even occur.  Warming up properly, such as performing a dynamic warm up before training, is one simple action you can take which will help prevent injury.  Using proper lifting technique is another.  Using intelligent training principles such as micro-progression (increasing resistance with small increments over time) also helps.  You should also take necessary safety precautions, such as getting a spotter when needed.

Finally, incorporate “prehab” exercises for your weak areas, which could include external rotator cuff, rear delts, mid back, core, etc.  It’s better to spend a little extra time now correcting your muscle imbalances, rather than missing training altogether because of an injury.

Author: Josh Hewett
Photography: Alpha Design

Big, thick, wide nasty backs. It is one body part that has seemed to become more important on the bodybuilding dais in the last couple of decades. If you do not posses a good back, you might as well settle for second place.

Now, all of us cannot posses an Olympian back such as these guys, but we can develop an impressive, v-tapered, thick and wide musculature that would not only turn heads but also bring balance and strength to our entire upper body. You’ve heard of the term “strong back” and “put your back into it” – there is something to this. The back comprises some of the largest muscles in the upper body from the lumbar to the trapezius and aids in almost every movement that we do from stabilizing our torso during the bench press to supporting the barbell during squats. The back is so important in our training yet few genuinely give it the attention it requires.

Many trainees will do countless sets for chest, but neglect to put equal effort into there backs. One reason may be that it is difficult to see while standing in front of a mirror. Why train what you cannot see, right? It does not surprise me to see so many in the gym with great big pecs, biceps and quads but little to show for back, hamstrings and triceps. Their shoulders are rounded forward because their pecs are pulling the deltoids forward giving them that concave look. The back has not been trained enough and/or correctly to pull the shoulders back and give a proportionate look. The name of the game is balance. You must create that balanced mass and strength in order to have an impressive, muscular, strong physique. Having balance will enable other areas to improve and will help you avoid looking “front heavy” from the side.

Quick Anatomy Lesson

With numerous muscles making up the back complex it can be a bit confusing as to which muscle does what, so let’s take a quick look at what comprises the main muscles of the back.

Latissimus Dorsi: Giving you that coveted V-taper, the “lats” make up most of the mass on the back. The triangular lat muscle extends from under the shoulders inserting from the humerus down to either side of the small of the back covering the lumbar region. Its main function is to pull the shoulders down and toward the back.

Teres Major and Minor: The teres major is a thick, flat muscle originating from the dorsal surface of the inferior angle of the scapula and inserts into the medial lip of the intertubercular groove of the humerus. It adducts and medially rotates the arms.

Rhomboid Major and Minor: The diamond shaped rhomboid major muscle which is located directly below the rhomboid minor inserts on the medial border of the scapula. It holds the scapula to the ribcage. Its job is to retract the scapula, pulling it toward the spinal column.

Erector Spinae: These long muscles that run along the lumbar are divided into three columns: iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis muscles. They all work together to side bend and extend the spine.

Barn Door Action!

Now that you know a little about anatomy and function, let’s delve into what makes an outstanding back. The movements and routines presented are designed to get the most out of each trip to the gym. Remember to always use good form and not to use too much weight to compromise your safety.

Wide-grip and narrow-grip pull-ups

For the wide grip version use an extreme grip beyond shoulder width. Start with your elbows slightly bent and pull up to your chest focusing on cinching your shoulder blades together behind you. Arch your back and squeeze hard then return to the starting position with the slight bend in your elbows again. This will develop that sought after width and sweep in the upper lats.

For the narrow version either grip the bar with a curl grip or with a parallel grip no wider than your shoulders, but at least six inches between your hands. Pull up in the same fashion as the wide grip pull up and lower yourself just prior to locking out your arms. This movement targets the lower portion of the lat giving you thickness where it inserts near the lumbar.

Quick hit: If you find yourself having difficulty doing this movement a good trick I like to use is pick a total number of reps – let’s say 40 – and try to reach that number no matter how many sets it takes. You may get 10 on your first set, 8 on your second, 7 on your third. Keep going until you total 40. When you are able to do three or four sets of 10 or 15 reps increase your total to 50 or so.

Barbell and T-bar rows

These are considered mass builders for the overall thickness of the back. For barbell rows grip the bar about shoulder-width. Bend over keeping your back in line with your hips and slightly above parallel to the floor, pull the weight into your stomach and squeeze the weight up. Lower the bar slowly and repeat.

For T-bar rows follow the same guidelines but try not to throw the weight up and round your back. Keep a straight back and let the lats do the work not your lumbar.

Quick hit: If you find you are lacking mass in the upper lat area try doing barbell rows with a wider grip and pull into the lower chest area. You will have to reduce the weight to keep good form.

Pulley and Hammer machine rows

To really pack on some mass in the lower lat area near the lumbar try one of these on for size. For pulley rows sit with your knees slightly bent and upper body tilted forward. Simultaneously pull the handle back while straightening out your body to be perpendicular to the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the handle into your abdominals. Return to the starting position and repeat.

The beauty of hammer machine rows is that you can work one side at a time. Use the same principles as above and make sure to squeeze when pulling back.

Quick hit: If you ever feel uncomfortable doing barbell rows, affix a wide handle to a pulley row cable and do shoulder-width (or wider) pulley rows in place of barbell rows.

Parallel-grip and wide-grip pulldowns

Nothing hits the teres muscles quite like the parallel-grip pulldown. Grip a bar that is just beyond shoulder width with a slight bend in the elbows. Pull the handle down to the mid chest level and squeeze hard. Return to the top position feeling the weight pulling your lats up and out.

For wide-grip pulldowns grip the bar with an overhand grip and pull down to your upper chest level and return keeping your elbows bent and allowing your whole shoulder girdle to rise with the weight. These are a great substitute for pull-ups.

Quick hit: When doing any pulldown motion try raising your shoulder girdle in the starting position. As you pull down, lower your shoulder down and back and stick your chest out. This will ensure your back is fully engaged.

Dumbbell pullovers and lat pulls

As two of the very few isolation moves for back pullovers and pulls are great for finishing off the back. For dumbbell pullovers lay perpendicular on a bench with just your upper back in contact with the pad and your head hanging over the side. Grip the inside of a dumbbell directly over your chest with a slight bend at the elbow. Lower the weight back and behind your head in an arch until you are at least in line with your head and with your lats only, pull the weight back up to starting position.

For lat pulls stand in front of a lat pulldown or other overhead cable machine. Grip a bar shoulder width where the tension in on your lats about eye level. Pull the weight down to your thighs without bending your arms and squeeze the lats hard. Return to eye level with the bar and repeat.

Quick hit: Either of these moves is great if utilized as a pre exhaust prior to the rest of your back work. A quick three sets of moderate reps will do the trick.


The granddaddy of the back movements: deadlifts! This movement is for total head to toe thickness especially for the back. Load a bar on the ground and take a shoulder grip, bend at the knees keeping your back straight. Lift the weight off of the ground first with your legs and then straighten out you back until you are standing straight up. Return the bar to the ground in the same (but opposite) fashion.

Quick hit: If you find yourself having difficulty doing off the floor deadlifts, try doing partial deadlifts. Load the bar on a bench that is just below knee level and follow the above lifting principles. This will take a little strain off of the back if you are taller or want to take some of the leg muscles out of the movement.


Author: Brad Borland, MA, CSCS
Website: Workoutlab

Because you use your calves every day to walk aroundyou really need to shock them to encourage growth. That’s why I developed the following rest-pause/drop set training technique for calves. This high intensity method will leave your calves in severe pain but will also leave them no other option but to grow.

To use rest-pause/drop set training with calves, start on the leg press calf raise. With one 45-pound plate on each side of the machine, do 30 reps or as many as you can before reaching failure if less than 30. Add a plate to each side, rest one minute and do another 30 reps (or to failure). Continue in this fashion – resting one minute and adding another plate per side on each successive set – until you can no longer complete 10 full range of motion reps.

Then the real training takes place. After your last set, perform a rest-pause by racking the weight and resting only 15 seconds before performing as many reps as you can until reaching failure again. Do a total of three rest-pauses in this manner. Then, do a drop set by immediately stripping off one plate from each side. After reaching failure, do three more rest-pauses with this new weight. Keep doing drop sets, stripping off one plate per side at a time, and three rest-pauses with each weight until you’re back down to just one plate per side.

For the first week or two, stop here, as your calves won’t be able to handle much more work in one workout. After that, follow leg press calf raises with seated calf raises using the same technique to blast the deeper soleus muscles and maximize overall calf size.

Use this technique 2-3 times per week with at least a full day of rest between calf workouts, and alternate the order you perform the exercises by doing seated calf raises first every other workout. Also consider swapping out leg press calf raises with standing or donkey calf raises. Follow this plan for 4-6 weeks and enjoy your much-improved calves.

Calves-to-Cows Rest-Pause/Drop Set Workout

Exercise                          Sets        Reps        Rest

Leg Press Calf Raise   g  3-6*        10-30       1 min.

Seated Calf Raise           3-6*        10-30       1 min.

 How many sets you do will depend on how many plates it takes you to fail at 10 reps.

Author: Jim Stoppani, PhD