01 August 2010

3 Exercises You Should Already Be Doing

In an effort to earn a break from the whiny, petulant responses to blog entries that don't involve me spoon feeding you people exercise protocols, I've decided to clue you in on three exercises you probably don't do, and have never even considered doing.  There'll be multiple reasons for this, ranging from the fact that you might get injured (a tremendously stupid fear, given that it's just as easy to get injured walking across the street as it is to hurt yourself lifting) to the fact that you've simply never heard of the lifts.  As such, you should all gather round the metaphorical fire as I drop a bit of knowledge on you.  Prepare to be spoon-fed, fuckers.
I had a lot of fun making this picture, mostly due to the fact that I hate babies.
Reverse Grip Bench Press

I've suggested that people do this lift in the past, but I've apparently neither explained it sufficiently, nor placed enough emphasis thereupon.  As such, allow me to introduce you to a lift I consider to be far superior to the bench press- the Reverse Grip Bench Press.  To be honest, I don't know who invented this exercise, or when.  I'll bet that it was within the last 60 years, when the bench press became tremendously popular, but it really didn't get much press until Anthony Clark hit the scene.  Clark was an absolute fucking beast, and he ended up benching over 800 lbs with this grip.  An article on Clark's exploits with this lift is what got me interested in it, and I've dabbled with it on and off for the last 15 years.  
Many people on the internet have taken to recommending that lifter avoid this lift, as it bears a high possibility of injury and is banned from use in competition.  The fact remains, however, that it's a fucking awesome lift, and if you do it correctly, you're not going to injure yourself.  This brings us, thus, to an explanation of how this lift should be conducted.  I train without a lifting partner, because I'm a lone fucking wolf like that.  As such, it's well-neigh impossible to do a traditional reverse-grip bench without a liftoff and a competent spotter.  Instead, I set up in the rack and do these from the bottom position, which bears a couple of advantages.  First, it helps with my bench power from the bottom position, and drive from a pause is pretty much the entire shitteree for raw powerlifters.  Second, unless some natural catastrophe occurs that destroys the building in which you're lifting and brings the fucking rack down around your ears, you should remain pretty well insulated from the chance of injury.  Thus, you're just going to take a shoulder width grip and start from the bottom of the lift (setting the pins in the rack at or about your chest weight on the bench, and press the bar up from your stomach.  The more you arch, the shorter the movement, and the more you can press, so arch fucking hard.  I recommend chalking the hell out of your hands to improve your grip- I'm willing to bet the vast majority of the reported injuries on this lift occurred because the bar slipped out of their hands.  
The bar should be lower on his abdomen (toward his navel), but you get the idea.

As far as sets and reps, I either do lots of singles or a few sets of 5, and change it up from day to do.  Lately, I've been hitting this one 2x a week, as I've abandoned regular bench press altogether.  Why have I done so?  Because I know a lot of people with shoulder problems, and all of those people list the bench press as their favorite lift.  Additionally, when I bench frequently, I have a harder time getting into position for BTNs and back squat.  As such, it's all reverse grip bench press for me, as it seems to have awesome crossover to the regular bench press, without all of the shoulder impingement and bullshit.

One last thing- DOING THESE IN THE SMITH MACHINE IS FUCKING STUPID.  It's like painting a bloody, double-bladed axes pink and bedazzling it.  Do it in the fucking rack or don't do it.  No one gives a fuck how much you can do in the smith machine, and telling people what you can do in the smith makes you look like an ass and puts them in the uncomfortable position of having to dispose of your body for sapping them of valuable testosterone points with your nonsense.

Curl and Press

I know- we all have the same mental image of this exercise.  Some fat broad in the gym with 2 lb, rubberized pink dumbbells, doing endless repetitions of this exercise while standing directly in front of whatever particular set of dumbbells it is that you'd like to use.  She's frequently doing this in perfect rhythm with her friend, who's usually skinny and using the same bullshit weights.  On a side note, what the fuck is with random broads thinking that they have to synchronize each repetition with that of their lifting partner?  Is there some synchronized swimming channel they're always watching to acquire this universal and bizarre training technique?  

Anyway, the other place wherein you'll see this exercise jocked is the randomly awesome but generally useless magazine Men's Health.  It's not always wrong, and the articles in that mag are generally better researched and far more educated than those in any magazine outside of Muscular Development.  In any event, it was not that bastion of douchery and consumerism that got me into the exercise, either.  The guy who's responsible for talking me into this exercise did so from the grave- Hermann Goerner.  The Curl and Press was Goerner's bread-and-butter exercise, which he did three times a week with kettlebells at the outset of his workout.   His set and rep scheme for this consisted of approximately 10 sets, going from 55 lbs. to 110 lbs. in 5½ lb. jumps (2½ kilo) jumps. These were done very strictly – usually only 1 or 2 reps with each arm, working up quickly to the 110 lb. bells.  I've done them with both dumbbells and kettlebells, and thoroughly enjoyed them.  I did them in alternating fashion, curling and pressing one bell at a time for singles. I think my form's likely a little looser than Goerner's, and I like to occasionally go really fucking heavy by turning this into a curl grip clean and one arm press They're a nice break for the joints in your arms and shoulders, which can take a pounding from more explosive movements like jerks and behind the neck push presses, and can help your log clean and press, bicep strength and size, and will generally add some low impact volume to your upper body pressing movements.
If they're good enough for him, they're good enough for you.
Jump Squats
This is another exercise that you'll generally find darkening the pages of Men's Health, but it's actually useful if you do it right.  First, I recommend you drop the fucking dumbbells- leave them to the bodybuilders and the women.  Start with your regular warmup weight in the back squat, and drop ass to grass.  Sit there for a second, so that you've got no bounce and no momentum, and then fucking explode so hard that you leave the ground.  You're not trying to set any records for height, here, but just trying to pop hard enough to leave the ground.  As I get heavier, I'll generally pause less or not at all, but still try to drop below parallel before firing out of the hole.  I'll generally work up to singles, doubles, and triples with 315, and find that it's a nice change of pace from heavy back squats, and it helps with my explosiveness out of the bottom and my overall squat depth.
Captain Kirk was all about gettin' low.

I can hear lots of you winding up- this is insane/it's only possible with steroids/injury/I'm a giant bleeding vagina.  It's not my job to convince you that you're not as weak as you think you are.  Is this a high risk movement?  No more so than getting behind the wheel of your car every day.  Can you injure yourself doing heavy jump squats?  Probably.  You could do one of two things- fall over, or snap your spine in half.  To the first, don't do it.  Falling down is stupid, unless you're Michael Douglas- that movie fucking rules.  For the second, sure, you can snap your spine right in half if you land flat on your ass on the ground, or if you land with your knees completely locked.  Frankly, if you do either of those, you deserve to injure yourself.  Your back and legs serve as giant shock absorbers.  Thereby, the force various "exercise scientists" across the internet describe as crushing one's spine in their railing against heavy jump squats is dissipated, as it's absorbed in greatest part by your thighs, rather than your spinal column.  Furthermore, the spine is in greatest danger of injury when bending or twisting, and the explosive nature of this exercise demands a vertical, or nearly vertical posture, which places you in strongest possible spinal position.  You can improve this still further by practicing soft landings (where your ankles and knees flex in concert to absorb the shock of landing), which will reduce the amount of kinetic energy that will be absorbed by your intervertebral disks by 150-fold over a hard landing.  (Zatsiosky, pp.140-141)
Shock absorbent.

In other good news, the switch from slower, more grinding back squats into explosive, yet heavy jump squats will shift some of the load in the exercise, and should alter the movement enough so that you can can circumvent some of the bottleneck effect that Zatsiorsky describes in Science and Practice of Strength Training.  The bottleneck effect occurs when a comparative strength imbalance in one joint limits the total amount of weight one can lift.  Because the exercise is performed in a fundamentally different way, and the loading protocols are significantly different, it might be possible to utilize this exercise in particular to overcome sticking points in both the squat and the deadlift.

So give these exercises a try.  They'll give you something different to do in the gym, and might turn out to be some staples in your workout.  At the very least, they'll make those sensitive parties among you pause before beginning to bitch anew.  


  1. I think I remember Zatiorsky talking about ballet dancers as an example for landing well.

    I haven't tried the reverse bench, but seems like fun. Is there any other benefit to the movement beside less stress on the shoulders? Also, I'm assuming less weight is used compared to pronated bench?

  2. Frankly, I use more weight than the pronated bench, but I'm not sure if Anthony Clark and I are simply anomalies, or if that's the norm. It is a far better exercise for the triceps.

  3. Love the jump-squat recommendation. I already do "dynamic effort" squats, as per Westside's recommendation, but I'm going to work these in on O-lift day. But...how the hell do I keep the bar from bouncing on my traps? Or does it not bounce as much as I envision it would?

    It's kinda funny, I had already added press-and-curl to my regimen a few weeks ago when I got a pair of "Fat Gripz". I use dumbbells, but I still do these in the squat rack, as it does involve a curling motion and thus necessitates the safety of the entire rack...

  4. that's a pain that reverse grip is banned from comp, I found it instantly easier to set up and perform than a regular bench. I also found leg drive came naturally to it whereas it very hit and miss doing regular bench. I know those are odd observations and perhaps entirely unrelated to the actual lift, but bottom line its a great exercise as you say.

  5. Can't believe you described the rvs grip bottom-start bench -- I've been doing them for awhile now and love them. Got a torn cuff tendon -- regular benches from the top are out. I've been alternating bottom-start rvs grip with wide-grip, pronated 1/3 bench lockouts. The shoulder is very appreciative. To all those reading, don't fear the rvs grip; the articulation around the shoulder joint is FAR better -- your shoulders will thank you.

    BTW Jamie, can you post a URL where you got the pic of that chick with the world-class glutes? I'm guessing there would be an -- ahem -- high utility factor there.

  6. Interesting on the reverse bench, might have to try that once my shoulder is sorted out.

    And try this for a chick with leg strength


  7. If you don't have access to a power rack you can set up for the reverse grip bench press by laying backwards on the bench. I find it's easier to unrack and rerack the bar from that position.

  8. I actually pulled that pic off some thread on a dumbass poker site. No fucking clue who she is.

    As to the superiority of the bench press, I started examining alternatives to the bench after I noticed that the more I benched, the more my shoulders hurt when I awoke in the morning. Since I dropped them, I haven't really seen a reason to go back, and my paused bench has gotten fairly respectable.

  9. Weird that you should say that about morning shoulder pain. I quit benching recently - all I've been doing is heavy clean and press and BTN push presses and my shoulders don't hurt when I roll over in bed at night. Will have to give the reverse grip a shot.

  10. I made the mistake of dropping the bench press entirely early on in my training because it was "non-functional" and "bodybuilderish." That's probably why it took me so long to eventually bench 315. Looking back, I should have replaced it with something like a reverse grip or close grip but instead I just stopped doing them altogether.
    There used to be a big fatfuck at the gym I went to named Dante. Flat and incline bench presses were the only exercises he ever did and to look at him you wouldn't even think he worked out. He just looked like an obese pile of shit. He would work up to 405 with ridiculously long rest periods in between his sets, up to 10 or 15 minutes sometimes, but then he would do like 15 or 20 reps with four plates. They were all bounced off his chest and would never pass in competition but it was fucking impressive anyway.

    Those jump squats might be fun to do with the pins set up in the rack like for a quarter squat and then use a shitload of weight. Just let the bar fall on the pins every time.

  11. There's some hilarious vid of a guy doing "heavy" jump squat partials. Shit almost made me piss my pants laughing. I've not tried it yet, but I feel like I've fucked up enough of my gym's bars, haha.

    MKW- they bar never leaves your traps- it's physics.

  12. Some guys do jump squat partials for girevoy sport training. It's kinda weird.

  13. Tried the jump squats today 10x3@265 on the bar. I found it was beneficial because you train yourself to always explode up. I did have an issue with the barbell rolling off my traps a bit. Perhaps I need to up the weight. I would say I elevated about 2-3" off the ground max, and less as I approached my last sets. Really enjoyed it though, I rarely train calves so I think i will include this lift twice a week for the next month to see if I get any development in that area.

    Sick post regardless, will tray the reverse bench tomorrow. Evening bithces!

  14. ps, nice link to your name maccharles

  15. The gym I go to now doesn't have any bars left that aren't bent. Great for doing squats, shitty for deadlifts.

  16. Hey Jamie, I still haven't received my t-shirt in the mail. What gives?

    You ship those bastards out or what?

  17. Got mine last week, looks like your out of luck manveet... you whiny t-shirtless sack of shit.

  18. Manveet, is that a Sikh name? If I was a Sikh my name would be Ballsdeep.

  19. post pictures of the printed shirt. I'd like to see how they look printed.

  20. MKW
    I really don't get it. How could a squat rack help with a dumbbell exercise? Is this a joke?

  21. Manveet, is that a Sikh name? If I was a Sikh my name would be Ballsdeep.

    Ya, it is. A cultural vestige as far as I'm concerned.

    btw Jamie I dont think a confirm email was able to get past the firewall for my rcmp address. My alternate email is manveetd at hotmail dot com.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

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