Category: Lift Heavy Things
The Primal Blueprint is all about maximizing the efficiency of training to reduce the time spent working and increase the time spent playing. If I can figure out the minimum effective dose and get 80% of the benefits in 20% of the time, I’m all for that. It leaves me extra time to spend with my loved ones, play outdoors, go for hikes, or buckle down and get some work done. Especially if I don’t cut any corners or shortchange myself. This is why I love microworkouts, where instead of spending hours in the gym I just do movements and exercises throughout the day—have “exercise snacks”—and accrue a large training load without feeling like I spent all day in the gym.
But microworkouts aren’t the only path to make exercise more efficient, or at least feel that way. There’s also something called rest pause training, or myo rep training.
People fear the deadlift. For one, the name itself has the word “dead” in it. Two, they’ve been told for years—often by medical experts—that deadlifts are terrible for your back. “Oh, you might look/feel good now, but just you wait. One day you’ll regret it.”
But they’re wrong. The basic idea of a deadlift is sound and the movement is a foundational human one. If you look at a kid pick something off the ground, they hinge at the hips, maintain a flat back, and pick it up by extending the hips (bringing them forward). Now, there are certainly wrong ways to perform a deadlift. Dangerous ways, methods that can (some might say will) damage your back and put your future health and basic ability to function at risk. The back and all it contains, including but not limited to the spine, is a foundational human structure. It connects to and connects every other part of the body to each other. It’s riddled with nerve endings that start along the spine and run down to every muscle in the body. You ruin your back and you compromise your ability to move through the world. So deadlift, but deadlift properly.
Today, I’m going to lay out proper deadlift form and highlight some common mistakes you might be making when performing it. That way you can safely and effectively integrate the deadlift into your training regimen.
The pull-up might be the best measure of overall strength and fitness. As a simple measure of strength, it’s unmatched; you’re actually lifting and moving through space and time an entire human body. It targets almost every muscle in the upper body, and more than you’d think in the lower body. If you want to build muscle or lose body or just get fitter and stronger, there’s no getting around doing a pull-up or two or ten. If I had to choose one upper body exercise to do for the rest of my life, it would be the pull-up.
Pulling your entire weight is hard, though. The vast majority of average people walking around in this world are unable to do a single unassisted, high-quality pull-up. And half of those who think they’re doing pull-ups are doing them completely wrong, setting them up not just for suboptimal results but life altering injuries.
Today, I’m going to tell you why your pull-ups aren’t working and how you can improve them.
Everyone needs to squat.
The squat is a foundational human movement pattern and resting position. Watch a young child study the ant trail on the ground, and they don’t bend over to gawk at it. They squat down and sit in that squat position comfortably for as long as it takes. Watch Hadza tribesmen cook and share meat around the fire. They aren’t sitting on camp chairs. They aren’t standing awkwardly. They’re sitting in a squat, comfortable as can be. Go to many Asian countries and you’ll see regular people, even elderly people, sitting in a full squat as they wait for the bus or visit with friends.
To squat is to be human. It is to explore and inhabit the full range of our body’s motion. It is to remain mobile, agile, and effectively young. If you can achieve and sit in a full squat at age 70, you’ll be in the 99th percentile and, hopefully, avoid most of aging’s physical ravages and functionality degenerations.
Squatting is also an incredible exercise that targets every muscle in the body, particularly when you do so with added weight. Glutes, hamstrings, quads. Core, lumbar, traps. For that reason, squatting is incredibly anabolic, meaning it provides a total-body hypertrophic stimulus. Anecdotally, people report growing muscle everywhere after picking up a regular squatting habit, even those muscles that aren’t directly involved.
But whether you’re squatting just to maintain the ability to move into that position or squatting to train, you need to do it with proper form.
I remember back in the day, you’d see all the bodybuilders at the gym sipping on purple water from those clear shaker bottles. They were drinking water spiked with BCAAs, or branched chain amino acids, the idea being the BCAAs provide your body a steady drip of amino acids to maximize muscle hypertrophy and stay anabolic all day long. Heck, even I sipped the purple water when I was trying to gain mass. In more recent years, BCAAs have fallen out of favor, or at least become less “vital” a supplement for people interested in gaining muscle.
However, branched chain amino acids are still among the most crucial amino acids for human health, metabolism, immunity, and hypertrophy. Without adequate intake of the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine, and valine, we won’t be able to activate all the metabolic pathways we need to generate energy and utilize macronutrients. Our intestinal health suffers. Our immune system grows sluggish. And, most importantly, without BCAAs we won’t be able to trigger the mTOR pathway necessary for muscle building and repair.
That’s what everyone cares about when they talk about BCAA supplementation: muscle growth and recovery. That’s why the purple water was so common. So, what’s the deal? Do BCAAs work for muscle growth and recovery?
With gyms closed for the foreseeable future, now is the perfect time to expand your home workout. This simple, relatively inexpensive DIY parallettes project sets you up for a wide variety of dip bar exercises. Learn how to make your own parallettes with instructions, a materials list and a follow-along video with Primal Health Coach Brian. This post also includes a breakdown of a dip bar workout for beginners to get you started.
What are Parallettes?
Parallettes or planche bars can support an impressive range of exercises, ranging from beginner to advanced. Sometimes these bars are referred to as pushup bars or calisthenics dip bars, however, those tend to be a bit longer and lower to the ground. Though often associated with gymnasts, parallettes can be invaluable tool for expanding anyone’s range of bodyweight exercises.