Sunday, December 11, 2016

Four Pull-up Variations

A potpourri of pull-up variations:
  1. Muscle-up
  2. L-Sit Pull-up
  3. Tucked Lever Pull-up
  4. CTI Pull-up

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Pull-up Potpourri Routine

Want to work on your pull-ups and widen your lats? The following is a pull-up/back specialization workout called the "Pull-up Potpourri Routine."

The Potpourri Routine is a forgotten bodybuilding workout that predates the invention of sets. It is the 1920's version of German Volume Training and was a favorite of John Grimek. In potpourri training, you perform 10 exercises for a muscle group, but only one set per exercise.

The Potpourri Routine works best as a muscle specialization workout.  So if you wanted to bring up the size of a muscle group lagging in size, you could apply this 10 exercises/1 set each method to a muscle group.

The Potpourri Routine lends itself well to pull-ups, since there are so many variations of the movement.  Here's how a Pull-up Potpourri Workout would look:

  1. Archer pull-up
  2. High pull-up
  3. L-sit pull-up
  4. Commando pull-up
  5. Wide grip pull-up
  6. Wide grip chin-up
  7. Medium grip pull-up
  8. Medium grip chin-up
  9. Close grip pull-up
  10. Close grip chin-up

Keep sets for all other muscle groups down to three.  Perform the Pull-up Potpourri Workout once every 5-7 days for a 3-4 weeks.  Then follow a low volume decompression program.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How to do Muscle-ups

Q: What do you think of muscle-ups?  I'm not able to do a muscle-up, even though I can do 10-15 strict pull-ups.  Any advice on how to do them?

My Answer: Muscle-ups are a great multiple compound movement, sort of like a calisthenic version of the clean and jerk.  It takes quite a bit of explosive strength to do the muscle-up.  Unfortunately it is very hard on the joints, namely the elbows and shoulders.  Repetitive muscle-ups (along with kipping pull-ups) are responsible for a lot of CrossFit injuries.

L-sit pull-up
That said if you want to build the strength to do clean bar muscle-ups, then I would focus on three exercises:

  1. L-sit pull-ups
  2. Waist pull-ups
  3. Straight bar dips.

Practice the L-sit pull-up, pulling the bar to your chest.  Over time, pull the bar farther and farther down your torso, from your chest to your stomach and eventually to your waist.

At this point it would become a high pull-up, also known as a waist pull-up or an explosive pull-up.  Think of the movement as a pull-up feeding into a pressdown.

Once you're able to do a high pull-up to the waist, then it is just a matter of transitioning from the waist pull-up to a straight bar dip.  To do this, you'll need to pull-up to the waist and when the bar bar reaches the waist, you pull the bar again and lean your upper body forward, tilting your L-sit body over the bar, then press up.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

My Favorite Strength and Bodybuilding Books

Q: "I am from Australia and just finished reading your article on widening your back. I am currently training to increase my back size but am crippled with a right shoulder injury due to a tumor being removed from it hindering me from doing heavy shoulder exercises and compound exercises which include the shoulders.

"However I have been training my back, and this is my routine 3 weeks in:

Lat pull downs 3 sets of 8-10
Seated rows 3 sets of 8-10
T bar row 3 sets of 6-8
Dumbbell shrugs 2 sets of as many as I can

"I want to do pull ups, but the strain on my shoulder stops me from doing so. Do you recommend I use a weighted pull up machine to help me pull myself up? The stiff arm pull downs will be included in my routine from now on.

"Also what do you think of this exercise: Straight arm presses (you sit down on a vertical chest press and push the weight out only using your lats keeping your arms straight at all time. Sort of like pushing your shoulders forward and then returning them again).

"Also what supplement brands do you recommend for protein and creatine? I am currently using Horleys ice whey (32grams of protein per serving and .3 carbs) and Celltech mass creatine.

"I am a personal trainer and would just like to see your insight into things, as I have just started PT a few months ago."

-Michael J.

My Answer: I don't recommend a machine assisted pull-up, because it offers no real benefit to helping you learn how to do a pull-up. Do partner assisted pull-ups instead.

As far as supplements, I prefer Biotest. They make effective high quality supplements with cutting edge technology.

Straight arm presses are fine, but why don't you just do scap pushups? These are way better. Quit fucking around with machines all the time.

Q: "When it comes to strength training and bodybuilding who are some of your favorite trainers? Do you have any favorite training books that you find yourself referencing and re-reading over and over?"


My Answer: Strength and Physique: The Articles has a recommended reading section which showcases trainers and authors who've had an enormous influence on me. In addition, you should check these books:

Q: "Does your book have suggestions on the lower ab 'pooch?' What about ways to increase lung capacity through training and ways to avoid knee strain?"

- Jason C.

My Answer: Strength and Physique:The Articles is specifically a BODYBUILDING BOOK. It is not about rehab for the knee or cardio training. It is about the nuts and bolts of physique training.

Now if you're looking to fix that pooch, then do some hanging leg raises and front levers:

Q: "Hey James. My name is Andy, and I am a police officer in NYC. I saw your 4 Shocks Technique to Widen Your Back article on 

"My main problem is my back is very weak, and I can't do more than 5 or 6 pull ups! Any tips on how to strengthen my lats, so I can do more pull ups with my body weight or other exercises to help me improve? Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again and stay safe."


My Answer: Four to five pull-ups is better than none, so don't worry. At least you have a foundation of strength with which to work on. I've written about this before: Increasing Your Pull-ups. For you, the first 2 methods are best suited for your level of pull-up strength.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Circuit Training in Hell

Q: What kind of regimen would you recommend for daily 20 minute workout sessions?  


My Answer: Depends on what you want to achieve with your workouts.  Fat loss or muscle building?  How about both?  If so, then do a 20 minute circuit:

  1. Pull-ups
  2. Front squats
  3. Military press
  4. Romanian deadlifts
  5. Inverted rows
  6. Hanging leg raises
  7. Push-ups

The above circuit can be done inside a power rack.  Cycle through the circuit as many times as you can within a 20 minute period.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Strength and Physique Q&A

Q: "Hello my name is J. L., and I read an article with your name and your skills. I have a question: I was a police officer in PA, and I was released from the department, because I failed my 1.5 mile run. I am a stocky guy and running was never my favorite thing to do. Now I am going for another department, and of course I have to run.

"Do you have any advice on what I can do to improve my run? I'm currently running a 9 minute and 30 second mile. And I have to run a 12 minute 1.5 mile. I run every other day and do strength training, and I am getting no where to achieve my running goal."


My Answer: I'm not the running expert. My fortes lie in strength training and in bodybuilding. If you're stocky, however, then you should really focus on losing some weight and dieting. Go on a vegetarian diet. If you have the discipline, then go on a vegan diet. Lose the weight training and just focus on running.

I know this runs counter to my usual training and diet advice, but most people ask me about how to gain muscle. Your focus should be fat loss to better your running time and vegetarianism to improve your cardiovascular health.

Q: "I was reading your article on workouts for police, and it looks like something I want to try. I have two questions though: The workout you show has weeks 1 and 2, and weeks 4 and 5. What do we do for week 3?

"My second question is, will this help strengthen my hips at all? I was recently told I'm getting some bone loss in my hips and was told exercise would be the way to help it."

Thanks for the help!
-Ed B.

My Answer: That was a typo, so go from week 2 into week 4. With regards to strengthening your bones, strength training will help alleviate bone loss over time. However, if you're asking that particular question, then chances are you haven't been strength training very much at all.

If that's the case, then don't start with the Return to Copland workout. This workout is brutal, and beginners and people who workout intermittently should not start off with this program. Choose a simple program first, like by 5x5, and transition to more and more complex programs over time. THEN start the Return to Copland workout.

Q: "With the books you have out on Amazon, which one of them would you recommend first [given my back condition]? With my birthday being in September, I can tell a friend of mine to give me a gift credit from Amazon. Which one [of your books] do you think will benefit me the most right now? I am sure I will get the others also but not very soon."

Thanks again,

My Answer: Well given your ataxia, I would say none of my books are appropriate for you. I know it seems a little weird for me to tell you NOT to buy my books, but the fact is, I wrote these books for hardcore bodybuilders. I didn't write them for the general public. The books are not about physical rehabilitation.

As an independent trainer, I am very frank and candid with people, because that is what a consultant does: tell it like it is. It should not be solely about money, contracts, sales or ego.

So I have to tell you that my books are too advanced for your condition. However, I'm sure you're more interested in my books not for rehab, but because you want to sculpt the ultimate physique. In this regard, you will find a lot useful information, but it is up to you to make sure you're training safely. For you, I would not recommend SPV2: Neo-Classical Bodybuilding, because the programs are very grueling and are meant for advanced bodybuilders. SPV1: The Articles and SPV3: Tactics and Strategies would be worth your investment, because both books have chapters on postural realignment and maintenance as well as physique enhancement.

Q: I have a question for you: I am a large guy (about 320), and I started working out. When I do sit-ups, my lower back really hurts. It doesn't matter if I do crunches or full sit-ups?

-Matthew V.

My Answer: If you're using every other muscle BUT your abs, then yes, it would be normal for you to have lower back pain. But at 320, ditch the ab work. You won't get a six-pack or reduce the size of your waist by doing sit-ups or crunches. Work on losing fat throughout your body overall by working out your whole body, not just your abs. This means predominantly whole body movements. A good primer on using whole body movements to generate whole body fat loss is my article Strength Training for Fat Loss.

Once you generate total body fat loss, THEN you can work on your abs.

Q: "First of all, I would like to compliment you on the Shotgun Method article! I plan to apply for the position of a police officer, and I'm having trouble finding a training regimen that incorporates: v-taper, cardio, size, and strength. If you could find time out of your day to email me your take or a training regimen, that would be awesome."

Shawn H.

My Answer: Glad you like the article, Shawn. The Shotgun Method is an excellent template on which you can design a strength program to address all your issues: size and strength exercises on shotgun days, v-taper exercises on troubleshooting days. Do some sprint intervals for cardio. But if you haven't checked it out already, then read my Strength Training for the Professional Warrior article. It addresses all of the issues you mentioned. Keep in mind, though, that police academies don't give a rat's ass about your V-taper or your size and strength.

Q: "Hello coach, I'm a fan of your blog, and I have the same 'thinking' about working out, etc. The Shotgun Method is one I really enjoyed, but since I'm in a fat loss mode, I did a few changes last week. It was a lot of volume, but I'm wondering what you think of that split? I mixed the shotgun with your Warrior Workout for fat loss:

Monday = Warrior Workout
Tuesday = Shotgun
Wednesday = Warrior Workout
Thursday = off
Friday = Warrior Workout
Saturday = Shotgun
Sunday = off

"Don't know if it's crazy, but on the scale I lost 3 pounds. Thanks and keep up the good work!"

Danny, the Rampage

My Answer: Well, Rampage, I'm not fond of blending 2 different training programs. The reason is that if the training programs have different goals, then your body gets confused and you do a crappy job at accomplishing those multiple goals. But if what you're doing works for you, then stay with it for no longer than 3 weeks and then back off.

Besides, the Shotgun Method is already a blending of 2 different training programs: one focused on bulking (Shotgun) and one focused on symmetry (Troubleshooting). Since the Professional Warrior workout addresses multiple training goals for law enforcement, it also is a blending of different training programs.

Q: "Love your blog! Quick question:

"I am currently doing a 5x5, 4 times a week routine per your site, and recently got sick and have been backtracked this week. Normally train Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and this week I got a slight cold on Sunday, and haven't been able to go to the gym.

"Thankfully today Wednesday I am feeling a lot better, but I am already behind for my routine for the week. My question is, what is a good quick training routine you would recommend to someone in my situation? Say once or twice this week, in order to basically maintain strength, or not lose their progress in the gym?

"I'll probably adjust weights for next week depending on how I feel, but it would be great to stay at the level I was, or not lose much progress from this backtrack. Thanks for addressing my question, and thanks for the great information!"

Jenaro J.

My Answer: It's a tricky thing when you get sick, but when you've recovered, just resume your program from where you left off. Since you coming off a mini-layoff, however, I suggest you cut the volume down to half and not train to failure. Jumping right back into the program full force would be too much of a shock for your system.

In other words, if you're doing 5x5, then you should bring it down to 3 sets of 5 reps wiyou can do 6-8 reps with. Next week when you feel better, resume the 5x5 program.