In this podcast, I’ll give you 10 simple, yet powerful insights that will help you maximize your gym time, prevent injury, and improve your performance.
These training tips cover everything from myths about behind-the-neck pulldowns to exploring my favorite underrated exercises.
They’ll quickly equip you with valuable knowledge to level up your fitness game and optimize your workouts.
Tune in and let me know your favorite training tip!
0:00 – Please leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts and make sure to subscribe!
00:30 – Why are behind-the-neck pulldowns a bad idea?
1:00 – Does the barbell squat irritate your back?
1:32 – Are side raises bothering your shoulders?
2:00 – Calf training tips
2:35 – Are you tipping too far forward when you squat?
2:45 – What are unilateral exercises good for?
4:00 – What grip should you use for the bench press?
4:22 – Can a weightlifting belt reduce the risk of injury?
6:10 – Is it a good idea to implement a partial range of motion training?
11:48 – What are some underrated exercises?
12:35 – My award-winning fitness books for men and women: https://legionathletics.com/products/books/
Mentioned on the Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hey, I’m Mike Matthews and this is Muscle for Life. Thank you for joining me today for another episode. This is a short episode. I like to do these shorter ones every few weeks For people who don’t want to listen to me ramble for 32 45 minutes, or don’t wanna listen to a 30 to 60 minute interview. And so, This episode has not one, not two, but a camel load of only the finest training tips this side of Damascus.
And the first one is don’t do behind the neck pulldowns, because research shows that when you do a pulldown, Behind your head, behind your neck, as opposed to in front of your head or in front of your neck, you are more likely to irritate your shoulders, and the behind the neck pull down is no more effective than the in front of the neck.
Pull down despite what many bodybuilder bros would have you believe. Okay. Training tip number two is if the regular barbell squat, the barbell back squat, if that riles your back, try a front squat or a safety. Bar squat and if your gym does not have a safety bar, you can get one and just keep it at the gym.
Or you can jerry rig one with a regular barbell and some lifting straps. If you just go search online safety bar squat with straps, you will see how to set this up. And the reason I recommend the front squat or the safety bar squat if the barbell back squat. Bothering your back is research shows those two exercises are easier on the lower back than the barbell back squat, and they are also easier on your knees.
Training tip number three, if side raises are bothering your shoulders, you might be lifting your arms too high. So what you want to do is you want to raise. Your arms until they are parallel with the floor, but no further than that. Also, if your torso is swinging around when you’re doing the exercise, the weights are probably too heavy.
So to minimize the body English, you want to lighten the load and you can squeeze your glutes with each rep. Next up is a calf training tip, and it is this train your calves with both bent and straight leg exercises because the straight leg exercises like a standing calf raise or a leg press calf raise those, emphasize the larger and the more visible.
Muscle, the gas nease as it’s called, and then the bent leg exercises like a seated calf phrase, for example, that emphasizes the smaller and the deeper soleus muscle trading. Tip number five, if you tend to tip too far forward, when you squat, try widening your stance because that can help you maintain a more upright posture, and that is going to help your balance.
Next up is unilateral exercises, which are exercises that train one limb or one side of the body at a time are particularly useful for improving sports performance because they’re better than bilateral exercises, which are exercises that train both limbs or both sides of the body at a time for improving unilateral and bilateral jumping agility and speed that has been shown in research.
And for those of us who are in the gym. Just to look good and to feel good, and who don’t care how well we can run and jump. Unilateral exercises are great for correcting or preventing muscle imbalances, and so if one side of your body is stronger than the other, and if you have been doing more or less, nothing, but bilateral exercises are mostly doing bilateral exercises for a long time, you probably have some imbalances that you might not even be fully aware of.
But if you do have. A muscle imbalance, which maybe you can’t see. Maybe it’s just a strength imbalance. Unilateral exercises are great for correcting them, and a few of my favorite unilateral exercises are the Bulgarian split squat, the single leg deadlift, the one arm dumbbell row. The cable sideways and the single arm dumbbell bench press trading.
Tip number seven, although bench pressing with a slightly narrower grip emphasizes your triceps bench pressing with an extra wide grip probably is not. Better for training your PEX than a normal medium width grip and the extra wide grip bench pressing places, more strain on your shoulders. I do not recommend it.
Number eight is regarding a weightlifting belt, which can improve your performance on key exercises like the squat, deadlift, and overhead press, the barbell overhead press. But you should know that a weightlifting belt probably does not reduce your. Of injury and counterintuitively, a belt can actually increase the risk of injury if somebody doesn’t understand how to use it and if they don’t understand that it is not meant to reduce the risk of injury and therefore encourages them to do things that they wouldn’t even try to do without.
The belt, for example, I’ve seen this before. If somebody thinks that merely wearing a weightlifting belt makes them less prone to injury, they might try to squat or deadlift or overhead, press more weight than they can properly handle and then compromise on their form to complete their sets, and that’s how you can get hurt badly.
Now the key to obtaining any benefits at all from a weightlifting belt is using it correctly. You have to activate it, so to speak, and you do that by tensing your core muscles as if you are about to get punched in the gut and then pressing your abs out and against. The belt. And what that does is it increases the amount of pressure in the abdominal cavity and then that helps stabilize your spine and it gives you a slight mechanical advantage that can result in a little bit better performance.
And I should also mention that how you wear the belt matters. A lot of people wear weightlifting belts too. And can’t use them properly. So to be able to use it properly, you want the belt to be covering up your belly button. You want your belly button to be right in the middle of the belt. Tip number nine is regarding partial range of motion training, which generally is not a great idea.
How. Ever. There are certain partial range of motion exercises that can help experience weightlifters build strength where they are weakest in the corresponding full range of motion exercises. So for example, if you struggle to lock out on a deadlift, try the rack pull. I’m doing rack pulls right now in my training.
I’ll do them for several more weeks. And since you are specifically training, Top portion of the deadlift in a rack pole, if you can get stronger on the rack pole, that will transfer over to your deadlifting. Also, rack poles are nice because you can use more weight than you can with a deadlift, and that helps you get used to handling heavier loads.
It helps you physically get acquainted with heavier loads so your hips and your knees and your back can start to adapt to those heavier loads, and then you also can get used. Psychologically, I guess, or subjectively, you can get used to what that amount of weight feels like and the type of effort that is required to move it.
I haven’t done rack poles in some time. I have been doing trap bar deadlifts and conventional deadlifts for many years. It’s been years and years since I’ve done rack poles, and so I don’t think I’ve put more than probably 4 35, maybe 4 45 on the bar on a conventional deadlift, maybe a little bit more than that on.
Bar deadlift in maybe ever. If I have put more on the bar, it would’ve been many years ago. So in the last several years of training, I have not felt more than low to mid 400 s on a bar and I am now rack pulling. And in my last rack pull session, I did 4 55 for sets of four to six. And I remember the first rep, I almost psyched myself out it.
Heavy. It felt like that bar was not gonna move. But then I realized that, oh no, I, I’m definitely strong enough to do this. If I can, you know, pull mid to high 400 s, I can definitely, for one, for one rep, I can definitely rack pull 4 55 for four to six. And so I committed to it knowing that. I can do it. And then I got four or five reps in the first set with two good reps left.
Like I could have done two more reps, good reps if I really had to. And so then what’ll happen when I go back to my regular deadlifting is hopefully I’ve gained a little bit of strength, at least in the upper part. The upper half of the. Deadlift, but I have also recalibrated my perception of load and what feels heavy.
And so if I put, let’s say, 3 85 on the bar and I wanna do a set of six to eight or something like that, it’ll feel a little bit easier. It will feel a little bit lighter than before I did this round of rack pulling. And one final note on the rack pull is it is a great alternative to the deadlift if your back or your hips.
Quite up to deadlifting. If you are injured, you probably shouldn’t even be rack pulling, but if you are just in enough pain or enough discomfort to see the red flag and to know that you probably shouldn’t keep banging away at the heavy deadlifts. The rack pull is great for reducing the amount of strain on your hips, on your lower back, while also exposing you to heavy loads and maintaining your deadlift strength.
And again, like I mentioned earlier, possibly even improving your deadlift performance when you get back to it. Okay, so coming back to this point on partial range of motion exercises, rack pull is one example. The pin press is another example. You can look that up. If, let’s say the last few inches of a bench press or an overhead press are really a grind, you really have trouble locking out the pin press can be a great exercise for training that specifically on the squat.
If you are like most people, you probably find it most difficult to get out of the hole and pin squat, or a pause squat. Those are two great exercises for training specifically to get out of the hole. When I was strongest in my back, squatting in particular, and I maxed out, I believe I did 365 for three, which is nothing too impressive, but not bad considering that I accomplished that.
Power building program, not a strength training program. I was squatting once a week. I was deadlifting once a week. I wasn’t squatting three times a week and I was doing a fair amount of body building work. And my body, my anatomy is not particularly suited to squatting. I’m six two. I have long femurs.
Squatting is hard. That has always been. Worst, one of my worst lifts bench press actually probably is my worst. But then squat is a close number two. And when I was strongest in my squat, I would squat like just, you know, barbell back squat. And then I would do, I’d do three sets, and then I would do three sets of pause squats.
And I remember at that time when I was strongest. This was my second exercise in this lower body workout. I’d already squatted. Now, I was doing my pause squats, and if I remember correctly, I was doing sets of four to six pause, which means like a two second pause at the bottom, full pause, and I believe I got up to about 2 75.
Three sets of four to six after already doing some heavy four to six rep. Barbell back squats. And so again, great exercise for improving your ability to get out of the hole when you’re squatting. And finally, my 10th training tip is some underrated exercises, some of my favorite underrated exercises for you to look up and play around with the dumbbell, step up the chest supported row.
I particularly like that exercise, the safety bar squat that I mentioned earlier. The good morning. You don’t see too many people doing that exercise, but it is a fantastic exercise. Bar deadlift. Yes, that is a perfectly valid hip hinge, deadlift exercise. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. The one arm press, you can do that horizontally for your chest or vertically for your shoulders.
The Nordic hamstring curl a weighted carry. The straight arm cable pull down and the landmine press. If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, then you will probably like my award-winning fitness books for men and women of all ages and abilities, which have sold over 2 million copies, have received over 15,004 and five star reviews on Amazon, and which have helped tens of thousands of people build their best body ever.
Now a caveat, my books and programs cannot give you a lean and. Hollywood body in 30 days, and they are not full of dubious diet and exercise hacks and shortcuts for gaining lean muscle and melting belly fat faster than a sneeze in a cyclone, but, They will show you exactly how to eat and exercise to lose up to 35 pounds of fat or more if you need to lose more or want to lose more and gain eye-catching amounts of muscle definition and strength and even better.
You will learn how to do those things without having to live in the gym. Give up all of the foods or drinks that you love or do long grueling workouts that you hate. And with my books and programs, you will do that. You will transform your physique faster than you probably think is possible, or I will give you your money back if you are unsatisfied with any of my books or programs, the results, anything for whatever.
Just let me know and you will get a full refund on the spot. Now, I do have several books and programs including Bigger, leaner, stronger, thinner, leaner, stronger, and Muscle for Life. And to help you understand which one is right for you, it’s pretty simple. If you are a guy aged 18 to let’s say 40 to 45, bigger, leaner, stronger is the book and program for you.
If you are a gal, same age, Thinly or stronger is going to be for you, and if you are a guy or gal, 40 to maybe 45 plus muscle for life is for you. Well, I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes.
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Feedback to share. Shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle f o r life.com, and let me know what I could do better, or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future. I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.