Tag Archives: Bench Press

Push/Pull and Summer Strength Project

With the new year here and spring coming right around the corner, we have been hard at work planning our events for the upcoming months. If you have been with us for a period of time, then you are aware of our annual Strength Project event that we host each year. Last year, our Strength Project kicked off in January with the addition of a fund raiser and charity push/pull powerlifting competition. Unfortunately, our plans were sidelined with the onset of the pandemic, and although we did complete our goal for the fund raiser, we were unable to host our push/pull event for our members.

 

Well, that was last year, and this is a new year. With our sights set on providing you with new ideas and events, we are picking back up right where we left off. On Sunday March 21st we will be coming back to finish our Push/pull event as well as another fund raiser to support the Pittsburgh community (more details to come). The event will be free for any member who would like to sign up, along with anyone who had previously signed up for last years event but was unable to compete.

 

Following the conclusion of the push/pull event, we will be kicking off our Summer Strength Project beginning in early April with the goal of getting everyone ready for sunshine and adventures. Our Powerful and Cardio Lab coaches will be working together on the class programming to help you reach all of your goals. At the end of the Summer Strength Project in early June, we will be holding a cookout with food, drinks, and a hands on seminar. 

 

Be sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled for more details to come regarding these events.

 

Let’s get scientific today at UF. We can discuss the force-velocity curve all day long and debate the minor details involved in lifting, and I’d love it. Yet, today I would like to give you a quick overview on the force-velocity curve and why it is important to you.

 

The Coach's Guide to Programming and Periodization: Surfing The Force-Velocity  Curve and Changing Seasons / Elite FTS

 

This image came from elitefts.com, if you are not aware of elitefts I would recommend checking them out. I have been fortunate enough to be involved with them for over a decade.

 

Notice on this curve that the top left is maximal strength. This is training when the bar is under .3 meters per second squared. For our purposes the speed at the bottom right of this graph end is at around 2.0 meters per second squared. The reason I said for our purposes is that we are looking at this graph always under load, notice the percents on this chart. What this means in practical terms is that I am not considering high level plyometrics or sprints. These do have their place yet I just want you to begin considering how this matters when dealing with weights.

 

Why is this important to you?

 

If your goal is to get stronger the single most effective thing you can do is train heavy and hard. Remember Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID principle). If you want to move more weight you must train under heavy load. Yet as you can see this curve has a lot of space under it, and we must move the entire curve up and to the right if we wish to perform our best.

 

If you have never considered what I am writing about I would recommend that you begin performing some low levels strength explosive movements. You do not need to change your overall programming in order to do this. Just add this into your warm up. Here are some examples of things you could do.

 

  1. Med Ball Chest Pass 3×10 prior or benching.
  2. Box Jumps 3×5 prior to squat or deadlift.
  3. Med Ball Scoop Throws 3×5-10 prior to squat or deadlift.
  4. Broad Jumps 3×3 prior to squat or deadlift.
  5. KB work, swings push presses, or snatches. I’d do these any day.
  6. Explosive push ups 3×5-10 prior to benching.
  7. Weighted Jumps 3×3 prior to squat or deadlift.
  8. McGill Pull Ups prior to any lift.

 

These are just a few examples,  yet there are many ways to sneak in this extra work without hurting your main lifts (and hopefully helping the main lift). As with any new idea implement this in for a few cycles, test it and see what your results are. Don’t ignore how this makes you feel as well. Maybe your numbers don’t go up but you feel better, there is something to be said for this as well.

 

 

 

 

Top Ten List: Dumb Things Lifters Do

For this Monday’s blog we are taking a humorous look at weird things we all do as lifters.

 

  1. Bug squasher squats. For the last few years I have noticed many lifters who unrack the bar and then do the bug squasher dance. Not sure when this began yet it makes zero sense and is funny to me (special shout out to Daniel McKim for the name).
  2. Slamming warm up sets. We all know that your 135 and 225 warm ups felt light. What we don’t need is a new divot in the deadlift platform because of your slam dunk warm up.
  3. While on deadlifts let’s talk about your set up. Barking at the bar while raising your arms to the heaven will not help you lift the weight. Settle down and lift the weight.
  4. Living on “pre-workout.” We all need a pick me up at times, yet if you cannot lift without one maybe you need more sleep, not more chemicals.
  5. Over-concerning yourself with records. We have all been to a holiday party (well before 2020) and heard, “my cousin’s friend is a world record holder.” Our “sport” has a record for everything so just get a PR and have fun.
  6. Making fun of CrossFit. Yes, it is an easy target yet if you can’t walk a flight of stairs maybe some CrossFit could help your GPP.
  7. Acting like bodybuilders are ego maniacs while we are humble. Sorry, reality check time. We all have egos and began lifting to feed that ego. It’s okay, and we can learn from those guys and gals in their string tank tops.
  8. RPE scales. Too often I see a video when the lifter says “RPE 8.5.” C’mon! First off, do we really need decimals? Secondly, when you miss your second rep the RPE is a 10. All joking aside with this one, be humble. It is fine to say that your set was really much harder than it should have been.
  9. Instafamous. Yes, we all know that you lifted today, and social media is a great way to learn from those around you. If you spend more time editing your videos than you did training then did you train?
  10. Missing life because of lifting. After these last 9 light-hearted comments this one is serious. Lifting is a lot of fun. Take it from a guy who has competed in more than 20 events. I have had some of the best lifers come up and offer to help me without me even asking. I have also seen people helping those who they are competing against. What I am begging of you is to live your life. See your family. If you miss a lift, it will be okay. If you have to shorten a lift to go see friends and family then do it. If 2020 taught us anything it is that none of us are islands. When I get my vaccine I will stop my lift early to buy any and all of you a coffee or beer.

 

Todd Hamer

 

Meet Recap and Reflecting Back

I recently competed in my 15th full powerlifting meet. My goal for this meet was to step on the platform healthy and achieve a 2000lb total. This is a goal that I have been working towards for a very long time, and with the help of a great support system, I was able to do just that. It didn’t go exactly as planned (although it never really does), but I was able to stay focused and under control, and managed to walk away with a 804lb squat, a 430lb bench press, and a 766lb deadlift. As I sit and reflect, I can’t help but think about the journey and how I got to this point.

 

April of 2013 was my first powerlifting meet. I totaled 1310lbs at 190lbs bodyweight. To some, that isn’t a lot. To others it is. To me, it was neither. It was simply a starting point for my journey going forward. Even though the sport of powerlifting is judged off of how much weight you can lift, for me, it has never been just about that. Each time I walked into the gym, my only goal was to be better. Yes, sometimes this meant lifting more weight. Sometimes it meant learning something new about my technique. Other times it meant failing. But even when we fail, we have the ability to grow and become better if we have the right perspective. In my eyes, even a setback or a failure was a victory, because I learned something. I knew that if I kept this mindset and continued to accumulate the small wins, then I was progressing towards my goals and continuing to grow as an individual. Small wins over the period of weeks, months, and years add up into very big victories. 

 

This doesn’t just hold true for me, but for anyone. With the same mindset, any goal is attainable. The important thing to remember is that progress is never linear, whether it’s lifting weights or in life. There will always be setbacks, let downs, failures and achievements, road blocks and detours, but the most important thing is that you never give up. Could we do things more efficiently and be smarter with some of our decisions? Of course. But every single decision we make and experience we have leads us to this point where we are at this very moment. That’s living, and that’s how we grow. 

 

It’s hard to put into words exactly what this meet and this achievement means to me. All I can say is that every time I grab a barbell or walk into a gym, I am extremely grateful to be healthy and to have the opportunity to do something that I love. Having my wife there to experience it with me along with some of my closest friends was legitimately a dream come true and something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Powerlifting has given me more than I could ever give back. It has taught me lessons, helped me grow and mature, and has introduced me to some of the best people I’ve ever known. For that, I am forever grateful. 

Setting Goals and Measuring Progress

Regardless of the time of year or what is going on in our daily lives, it is important to have set goals. These goals can be associated with life, fitness, your health, or a combination of the three. If we lack goals, it becomes hard to make progress and continue to grow as humans. Although setting goals can be a simple task, there is a process to doing it, and many things you want to keep in mind along the way in order to achieve them. Below is a system that I use with myself, along with anyone that I work with in order to reach our goals and continue on the road of progression and growth.

 

Establish a big goal: This is where you want to establish your big long term goal. What is it that you want to accomplish in six months, a year, two years, etc. There doesn’t need to be a time limit placed on this. Just write it down and keep it in the back of your mind. It’s important to make sure that this one is realistic. However, it should be challenging and should force you to grow as an individual. 

 

Establish your small goals: These are the small victories that will ultimately lead you to your big goal. If you only focus on your big goal without a plan of attack, then you will have trouble progressing and staying motivated. These small goals should be very obtainable, but again, they should push you and challenge you into staying motivated and on track. Small victories add up into big wins over time.

 

Make sure your priorities match your goals: Your daily lifestyle must match your goals if you want to achieve them. If you bust your butt in the gym, but stay up all night eating chips and watching Netflix shows, then you certainly will not be checking off those small or big goals. Everything you do outside of the physical work should be setting you up for success. This includes who you spend time with, what you eat and drink, your quality of sleep, managing your stress, etc. If you make these areas your priority, then it will be much easier to achieve your goals.

 

Ways to measure progress: Progress isn’t always measured by weight on the bar or on the scale. As a matter of fact, it should rarely be measured that way. Measuring the small factors is a great way to stay motivated, focused, and on track. With exercise, progress can be measured in many areas including but not limited to:

 

How many times per week you’re able to exercise.

The duration of your workout.

Your rest periods between sets and exercises.

Adding sets and/ or reps.

Increase in flexibility and range of motion.

Form and technique improvements.

Body measurements.

 

Daily checklist: I stole this one from Jared. Every day make a checklist of 3 things that you need to do in order to reach your goals. Just like we listed above, this can be getting 8 hours of sleep, drink a gallon of water, stretch or meditate before bed, etc. If you can check your 3 things off every day, then you will certainly put yourself in a great place to achieve those goals.

 

At the end of the day, have fun and stay positive. Approach this process as a learning opportunity as well as an opportunity to grow as an individual, and good stuff will happen. Stay strong, friends.

KISS in the Age of HIT

KISS is it. No not the band. I know CeJ looks like he could be a member of the band circa 1977, yet let’s be honest here, they only have one good song. Now that I have alienated most of the Yinzers who love KISS, let’s talk about training. KISS is an acronym for Keep It Simple Stupid. This is one of the best things I did as a strength coach to improve my coaching and my athletes.

 

How many periodization models can you name? Conjugate, concurrent, western, tri-phasic, block or even 531. The confusion in training can be too much for many people. I know I often made this mistake. I was speaking to our own Cody Miller the other day about how often I have over-complicated my programming (for myself and my athletes). While I have never been a huge fan of HIT training as a year-round training style, I do believe we can learn a lot from these people. Look at Marty Gallagher, Dr. Ken Leistner, Mike Mentzer or even Arthur Jones.

 

HIT

 

For those of you unfamiliar with this style of training, it is simple, short, and hard. Even the great Dorian Yates used many of HIT’s methods to build his impressive physique. Dorian was known for having one of the best backs in the history of bodybuilding. Yet his secret to training was simplicity. HIT stands for High Intensity Training (in their case intensity is used as a mindset not % of 1 rep max). HIT training sessions are generally short with low total sets and most sets being taken to concentric failure or beyond. Training can be done as often as 5 times a week but generally, it is done 2-4 times per week.

 

I am not advocating to change your regimen to entirely HIT training, but I am claiming that too many overthink their training and do more thinking than working. I even look at Dr. Micheal Yessis’s 1×20 program as a continuation of HIT training. The difference is Yessis doesn’t train the athlete to fail. Yet it’s still one hard set of work and then moves on to the next exercise. This style of training does have its place in the gym and should not be ignored.

 

Moral of the story

 

When in doubt, train harder. Over my two decades in the iron game, I have seen too many people searching for the answer when the answer is more hard work. Build some sweat equity and push yourself to somewhere you have never been. I know I don’t have the answer yet I know hard work is never wrong.

 

– Todd Hamer

Have Some Fun and Improve with Us

Last week I wrote about knowing our Why. Why are we here working in a gym? We are here to empower, educate and entertain everyone who enters our gym. Through this, we are offering a few different mediums to accomplish these goals. Today I want to highlight some of what we are doing and hopefully, something here will pique your interest.

 

  1. USPA Drug Tested Kabuki Open (Sat Oct, 31st 9 AM). This is a powerlifting meet that will be held under the tent here at UF. The meet is sold out, yet if you want to experience competitive powerlifting for the first time, we encourage you to stop by. The entry fee is only 5 dollars, and the tent will be heated so no worries about the weather.
  2. Getting Lean for Halloween Bootcamp (Sat Oct, 31st 11 AM). Join CeJ and Matt Grayson as they run you through a bootcamp in the parking lot of one of the finest breweries in Pittsburgh, Allegheny City Brewing. This outdoor workout will be one hour long before sharing some libation at ACB’s outdoor beer garden. This class is free for everyone.
  3. Comedy Bootcamp (Fri Nov, 6th 6 PM). This is a first for us here at UF. We will be holding a bootcamp followed by a comedy show with three local comedians. We will also have The Yard bringing food and libations. This class is also free for everyone
  4. Kabuki Squat, Bench, Deadlift Workshop (Fri Oct, 30th 3-7 PM). UF is hosting the Kabuki Squat, Bench, Deadlift Workshop in our performance lab. If you are serious about improving these lifts, I suggest you look into this workshop. Kyle Young of Kabuki Strength will cover all things squat, bench and deadlift related in this workshop. This event is 150 dollars and registration is through the Kabuki Strength website.

 

As you can see it will be a busy few weeks here at UF, and we will have more to come. As with everything we do, we will be requiring masks with anything indoors. Safety and health are of the utmost importance to us. 

Curtis’s Training Log

I am currently 2 weeks out from my next powerlifting meet. It has been one year since I stepped on the platform. As far as my training goes, one of the best things that happened over this past year was forced downtime. For 10 weeks, I was unable to train with any sort of actual equipment. During that time, I was confined to my garage with only a few resistance bands, some cinderblocks, and 2 bags of rice, that’s it. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my body was hurting and in need of a break from lifting. This was the first time in the 12 years that I have been training and took more than a week off of any barbell training, that’s 12 years of putting a bar on my back and in my hands almost every single week. We never realize it at the time, but it adds up and can accumulate a great deal of fatigue when not addressed.

 

When those 10 weeks of quarantine ended, I was mentally and physically refreshed and ready to get back into training. My body felt great, my mind was clear, and I was more motivated than I have been in a very long time. After a couple of months of getting back into the grove, I picked a meet, put a plan together, set my goals, and got to work. With the help of my training partners, I am currently feeling the strongest and healthiest that I ever have.

 

Listed below is a layout of my last 3 training sessions. One for squat, one for bench, and one for deadlift.

 

Day 1: Heavy squat:

 

Competition squat: Worked up to a top single at 755lbs.

Belt squat machine: 5 plates per side: 4×10

Leg extensions: 50lbs: 4×15

Leg curls: 50lbs: 4×15

Ab rollouts: 3×15

 

Day 2: Heavy bench:

 

Competition bench: Worked up to a top single at 425.

Competition bench: Backdowns: 345lbs: 3×2

Flat bench fatbell press: 120lbs: 4×10

Chest supported row: 90lbs: 4×10

Dead stop skull crushers: 125lbs: 4×10

Band pull aparts: Red band: 5×20

 

Day 3: Last heavy deadlift:

 

Competition deadlift; Worked up to a top single at 765lbs.

Bent over barbell rows: 185lbs: 4×10

Cable lat pulldowns: 200lbs: 3×12

Leg extensions: 50lbs: 3×15

Leg curls: 50lbs: 3×15

 

My goal this meet is to break a 2000lb total. This is something that I have been working towards for a long time. Anything can happen on the day of the meet, the only thing that I can do is prepare to the best of my abilities and trust in myself and everything that I have done up to this point. The rest has already been decided.

Time Your Rest for Greater Success

It’s no secret that all of us have the same general goal in mind each time we step foot into the gym, and that is to get better. Regardless of our specific goals, we all devote a great deal of hours each week over the course of years to better ourselves and to hopefully achieve the things that we set out to accomplish. One of the most overlooked and under rated aspects of training that can help us get there more quickly is how efficient our training sessions are. More importantly, how long we are taking to complete our workouts, and how much time we are taking in between sets and exercises. 

 

Now, I understand that for many of us, the gym is an outlet. A place where we can go to hang out with our friends, escape the stressors of daily life, and do something that we enjoy. This is absolutely a great thing in it’s own. Although if you have specific goals that you want to accomplish, you’re going to want to step it up a notch and stay focused during the entirety of your training session. 

 

There have been thousands of studies done over the years regarding the best training rest periods depending on what aspect you’re focusing on. Although many of them may have different findings, the consensus is still mostly the same.

 

Strength & Power training (1-6 reps) = 3-5 minutes of rest.

 

Hypertrophy & muscle building (6-12 reps) = 1-2 minutes of rest.

 

Endurance & Conditioning (12+ reps) = 45 seconds-2 minutes of rest.

 

Now that we understand this, we can better prioritize our rest periods to suit our goals. Although this is a very small aspect of our programming routine, it has the ability to play a huge role in the outcome of our success. If you are training solo, then grab a stop watch and see the results for yourself. If you are fortunate enough to have one or more training partners, then the best stopwatch is the pace that each of you set and your drive to keep up with each other. Remember, the main purpose behind training (either by yourself or with someone else) is to challenge and push yourself. If you are sitting around in between sets wasting time, you are doing the exact opposite. So, close your Instagram and Facebook accounts, leave your phones in the car, grab a watch, and time those rest periods. You will be surprised at how much progress you can make once you decide to push yourself a little harder.

 

Stay strong, friends!

The Power of Powerlifting

This past weekend, Union Fitness hosted the 3rd annual Iron City Open powerlifting meet. With the help of our staff, Doug Nostrant and his team of referees, along with our member volunteer spotters and loaders, we were able to have an extremely safe and successful event. I will be completely honest, this is an event that I was very unsure about happening a couple of months ago, and even up until a few before the competition. As far as I am aware, this was the first event that was held in the western PA area since before the start of the pandemic in March. 

 

What made this event special was not only the competitors that attended and the weight which they were able to lift, but all of the people who came together to make sure that everyone was safe and meeting all of the guidelines and standards necessary in order to be able to hold the event. From the outdoor tent, to the USPA referees making sure that the equipment was properly cleaned after every single lifter completed an attempt. That’s right, the bars and benches were disinfected and cleaned after each competitor touched it. You can’t ask for much more care and safety than that. All while wearing masks and face shields for 7 hours in 90 degree weather. This truly goes to show how strong the Powerlifting community is, and how much love and respect goes into it.

 

I am entering my 8th year as a competitor. During that time, I have personally competed in 15 competitions, and I have either attended and/or helped individuals in another 15 or so events. The more meets that I attend, and the more mature that I become, the more I understand and appreciate everything that the sport of powerlifting has to offer, and all of the people whom I’ve had the opportunity of meeting in the process. On the surface, powerlifting may look like a bunch of meat heads with low IQs walking around sweating, grunting, and yelling absurd statements just so they can pick something up one time and then put it down. However, if you dig deeper and spend some quality time in the community, you will meet some of the most genuine people who you’ve ever encountered, and you will witness first hand how powerlifting can help you become better in every aspect of life.

 

In powerlifting, you have to develop a plan of action and then take one step each day in order to reach that goal. It’s inevitable that you will encounter crossroads, hardships, and even frustration along the way. Over time, when approached correctly, this will equate to many small victories and lessons learned. Lessons which can not only help you become a better athlete, but can carry over into being better in your career, in your relationships, and within your own self. The best part of this is having the ability to pass on these lessons to other individuals so they can benefit from the same things which you have. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. Living, learning, and passing on.