4-Weeks To New Muscle and Increased Performance

I am a big fan of anything that includes lifting heavy objects. Traditional Bodybuilding, powerlifting, and Olympic weightlifting routines have been a staple in my training toolbox for years. To improve your chosen weightlifting sport, you need to take your time and execute each lift with good form, proper set and rep schemes and load. You then need to rest properly between each set or else your next lift will suffer. This method will work for the majority of your training; in fact, it is imperative that you follow certain lifting rules in order to add more weight to the bar.



There will come a day where your results will come to a halt and you will see progress come slower and slower. If you are a seasoned lifter, this will happen quite a bit since the newbie gains have subsided. This is where you can mix it up and do some unorthodox training methods to ignite some new progress to happen. My favorite way to do this is to incorporate some challenging strength combos come into play. You still need to use a substantial amount of load but your body and mind need to be challenged in a different way.

When you combine strength exercises with substantial load and push yourself to either get done as fast as possible or perform as many reps as possible in a given time, good things start to happen. A huge hormonal cascade runs through the body and your neuromuscular system is challenges like is hasn’t been before. In result of this you increase some untapped strength, muscle fibers for growth and increased work capacity. Not to mention the mental capacity it takes to push through these workouts.

Below are some key reasons why these challenging strength combos work:


They Kick-start New Muscle Growth

These combos kick-start muscle growth by creating massive amounts of metabolic stress and damage to a large part of the body. This also causes the migration of satellite muscle cells.


They Increase Conditioning and Work Capacity

 If you fit in more work in less time, you force your energy systems to adapt and improve. If you are used to doing traditional 3 sets of 8-12 reps, or heavy singles and doubles, your body will be pushed to make new adaptations due to the new type of metabolic stress, thus increasing your ability to do more work.


They Burn Fat

Your goal may be to increase muscle and strength, but it is always nice to get a little leaner. These types of combos are very similar to HIIT (high-intensity interval training). Once you increase EPOC (excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption) you will keep your metabolism elevated for hours after you workout.


You Challenge Yourself Mentally

Pushing yourself to move a lot of weight, such as squatting 500 pounds takes a lot of grit, hard work and time under the bar. These combos are not for the weak minded. You must be willing to embrace the pain and push yourself beyond what you think you are capable of. That being said you can’t do these workouts all of the time, so make sure you stay fresh and take recovery seriously.

Katie Hogan crossfit


The Workouts

  • Perform each of these workouts on different days in one week. You will need the three rest days.
  • However you need to break up your split in the week is up to you.
  • I suggest doing this for only 4-weeks and then taking at least 4-weeks off from doing any workouts like these. You don’t need to stop training completely, just turn down the intensity a little and make sure you leave some in the take after the workout to stay fresh and recovered.
  • Make sure to warm-up and take care of any mobility issues or correctives that you need to do before the workout. If you do these workouts right, you won’t need to add any other strength training or conditioning exercises.
  • Track your progression and try to move a little more weight, faster and get a couple more reps in from workout to workout.


Combo #1: Chin-up and hard style swing combo

Perform 6 rounds of:

6 weighted chin ups and 10 heavy hard style kettlebell swings. The chin-ups need to be hard enough where 6 are almost impossible to get without coming off the bar. If you do fall short of the six reps, which is fine, come off the bar and rest for a bit and jump back up and get the reps in. The swings should be explosive as possible with the biggest bell you can move for 10 clean reps. No overhead swings here, so stick to the hard style Russian kettlebell swing. Set the timer and move as fast as possible and record your time and weights you used.

Kettlebell swing


Combo #2: Double kettlebell front squat and farmers walk combo

Set the timer for 20 minutes

Clean the bells to your chest and perform 8 squats. Then bring them down to your sides and walk with them for 40 meters. Repeat this combo as many times as possible in 20 minutes. It’s that simple but not easy.

Combo #3: barbell bent over row push press and stiff leg deadlift

Perform 8 rounds for time

8 bent over rows
8 push press
8 stiff leg deadlifts

Your goal is not to put the bar down until you complete 8 reps of each exercise. Eight rounds of eight may seem like a lot but don’t worry. That is all you will need that day. Rest enough to stay safe with the bar but push the pace and record your time

Combo #4: sled push/Dip/Inverted row combo

If you load the sled right, this one is the toughest.

Set the timer for 30 minutes. Perform a heavy sled push for 40 meters. You know it’s heavy enough of you are struggling to make the 40 meters without slowing down to much. Then go over to the parallel dip bar and bang out as many dips as possible with just your bodyweight. Then perform as many inverted rows as possible with your bodyweight. Then run back to the sled and repeat as many times as possible. Record your reps and time.


Talk To Me In 4-Weeks

 The traditional 5 sets of 5 reps and 3 sets of 8 reps with 3-5 minutes of rest in between sets workouts can produce marvelous results. It just won’t work all of the time for the veteran lifter. So, there comes a time when you need to get out of your comfort zone and do something that challenges you both mentally and physically. Give this workout a try in 4-weeks and let me know about your results. I think you will be pleased.

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Intermittent Fasting and Muscle Building Theory

Hey GTS readers! Today I have a great guest blog post from the people over at the Eat, Stop, Eat blog.  Brad Pilon and his team have done a great job changing peoples lives with the power of intermittent fasting (IF). If you have been a follower of my blog, you already know that I am a big fan if IF.

One question I get from a lot of people is about IF and building muscle. So, I was excited to get this guest post up on my blog from Vit Kashchuk,, the editor of www.eatstopeat.org. I hope this post can clear up some questions and give you some more clarity about the many benefits of intermittent fasting. Enjoy! eatstopeat

Fasting and Building Muscle 

Current research shows that short-term fasting is actually good for your muscles, thanks to increased growth hormone, cellular cleansing, and muscle protein synthesis. However, in this post you will not encounter any scientific findings on the subject. Instead, you’ll learn a simple yet unconventional theory that explains how it’s possible to gain muscle on a fasting diet and how the popular bodybuilding mantra “eat big to get big” can lead to weight gain.

First, let’s suppose that the “natural” state for your body is one of growth with a system of checks and balances that help prevent this constant growth. To frame it as an analogy, it’s like a having a car with the accelerator permanently stuck to the floor, and you have to regulate the sped of the gar by pushing down or releasing the brake. However, in the case of your body, there are dozens – if not hundreds – of brakes.

So, according to this theory, the body’s natural state is one of growth; therefore, you don’t need to “force” growth through eating massive amounts of food, as growth is the default setting. Rather, if growth is what you desire, what you need to do is examine the “brakes” in place that prevent growth. Remember that these “brakes” are not a negative; after all, uncontrolled growth is nothing something we would ever want!

These brakes are both intrinsic and extrinsic, meaning they can come from within your own body (such as the myostatin gene which prevents muscle growth) or from external sources (such as not working out or having excessive amounts of inflammation in the body). This is far different than the current accepted theory, which is that in adulthood the body simply stops growing and must be prodded, stimulated, and forced in order to grow further.

This theory explains the inconsistency of guidelines such as protein or calorie intake for muscle building, as well as the inconsistency of results. In our theory, a nutrient deficiency can function as a “brake” to muscle growth. However, once that “brake” is removed and you start taking in adequate amounts of protein or calories, then adding more food and nutrients would do nothing to spur more muscle growth. After all, once a brake is off, it’s off – it can’t be “more off!”

That is why muscle growth is possible with intermittent fasting. As long as you consume an adequate level of protein that calories in order to support muscle growth, and allow for muscle growth with appropriate resistance training, your muscles will grow.

As for the question of “what is adequate,” this depends entirely on the person. For example, a 5’2” woman who has a sedentary lifestyle aside from 3-4 workouts per week may be able to lose fat and build muscle on a 1,200-1,500 calorie per day diet. However, a 6’2” man who exercises for 2-3 hours per day and expends a great deal of calories at work may not be able to build muscle at 4,000 or even 5,000 calories per day.

Remember, “adequate” for muscle growth doesn’t necessarily correlate to maintaining body weight. “Adequate” levels of protein and calories relate more to the size of the “deficit” and “reserve” than one hard and fast number. It will take some trial and error to find the right number to suit your body and your desired results.

Also, it is important to understand that this number can change as your life changes. For example, if the 5’2” woman in the example above suddenly increases her daily activity level, it is likely that 1,500 calories will no longer be sufficient. Similarly, if our 6’2” man suddenly reduces his exercise to only 1 hour per day, then his previous 4,000-5,000 calorie intake may be enough to make him become severely overweight in only a couple months.

The bottom line is that building muscle combined with intermittent fasting is completely possible. A short-term deficit of calories does not seem to affect long-term processes such as muscle growth, and “adequacy” for muscle growth does not necessarily correlate to “maintenance” for body weight.

Also, the exact amount of calories or protein you need changes along with your lifestyle and activity levels. Therefore, a giant surplus of calories is not the answer to muscle growth. The more honest answer is that aiming for “adequacy” is far better for your health and desired results. However, this is trickier to pinpoint than most experts will let on, which is why this theory has not become as popular the conventional “eat big to get big” mantra despite its potential for greater success.


This post was contributed by Vit Kashchuk, personal trainer, intermittent fasting fan and editor of www.eatstopeat.org

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The Fiercely Underrated Exercise You Need to Do

In the last couple of years, the loaded carry (most notably the farmers carry) has exploded on the scene. Everyone from bodybuilders to Crossfitters has started to include various loaded carries into their routines and for a good reason; they work. At my facility, we include some form of loaded carry in almost every workout, so I am used to seeing people do them. Unfortunately, not enough people at many of the mainstream gyms are doing them. It doesn’t matter what your goals are, the loaded carry has some benefits for everyone.

Picking up heavy objects and carrying them from one place to another is something that people have been doing since the old time carrydawn of time. The act of lifting heavy objects and moving them is something that our bodies were made to do. The legendary coach, Dan John, has coined this move as one of the most functional and fundamental movement patterns that we can perform. He says the inclusion of this movement into your training program will fill in a lot of gaps in your training. I couldn’t agree more.

I am going to focus on the farmer’s carry in this article but let’s take a look at what all loaded carry exercises can do for you.

Loaded Carries

A loaded carry is where an athlete picks up and carries a heavy weight  for an extended period of time or distance. This can be done with various objects such as dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, stones, really any object that is challenging to carry.

The loaded carry possesses  an array of benefits, most notably an increase in work capacity – the ability to perform real physical work as measured by force x distance/time (which is average power). Loaded carries also help improve endurance, grip strength, core strength, and build muscle. The loaded carry is one of the best all-around movements to perform. Not to mention, it compliments major movements such as the squat, deadlift, and bench press.

There are many variations of loaded carries that can be used besides the traditional farmer’s carry (one object in each hand by your side). You can utilize unilateral carries (a load on one side of the body) to improve muscular imbalances, symmetry and core strength. The waiter carry (one arm above the head), rack carry (hand by the chest and shoulder), and the suit-case carry (one arm at your side), provide a ton of strength and conditioning benefits.

Even though there are endless ways to perform a loaded carry, my favorite overall is the farmer’s carry. It requires minimal skill and coaching and can make an immediate impact on one’s posture, motor control, and work capacity, among other benefits. Let’s dig a little deeper into what the farmer’s carry has to offer.

Building Muscle

The farmer’s carry is an excellent exercise to build muscle in the upper back area as it creates high levels of muscular tension and allows you to maintain that for an extended period of time. It has been shown to stimulate a big hormonal response for muscle growth. Strongman type movements like the farmer’s carry has been shown to increase testosterone naturally that is similar to traditional bodybuilding workouts (1).

Improving Grip Strength

During my training career, I have noticed a certain trend in regards to grip strength. Most people don’t have any. We could debate why this is, but my guess is it is because we sit more, move less and perform a lot less manual labor these days. If you ever shake the hand of manual laborists, odds are their handshake is pretty strong. Your hands provide the base for all lifting movements and can sometimes be your limiting factor when trying to get stronger. Having a stronger grip will help you with any lift and even will help strengthen your shoulders. When you start to perform a farmer’s carry with some big weight, you will quickly find out that your grip strength is a limiting factor.

Improving Work Capacity

The term work capacity has also gained some ground in recent years. Some refer to it as simply increased fitness conditioning but it is a little more than that.

Supertraining author, Mel Siff defined work capacity as “the general ability of the body as a machine to produce work of different intensity and duration using the appropriate energy systems of the body.”

The Crossfit Journal has also described it as “ the ability to perform real physical work as measured by force x distance / time (which is average power).

You can also think of it as the total amount of work you can perform, recover from, and adapt positively to.

The farmer’s carry is a great way to improve conditioning, work capacity, and mental toughness. By putting the body under a load for an extended period of time, in a good position, creates pressure in the chest and abdomen, challenging your breathing. Including the farmer’s carry in your training will provide you with one of the best work capacity and conditioning tools that can be implemented in almost all training programs of all fitness levels.

A quick side note on breathing: I am not going to turn this into a breathing article, but just understand that you MUST own your breathing during the farmer’s carry or else you will not be able to carry weight for very long nor will you experience the wonderful benefits of the carry. So, focus on your breathing!

Increasing Core Strength

A big reason that I like the farmer’s carry is that it is self-correcting, meaning if your core is not working right, you will know quickly with the farmer’s carry. You need to have a stiff and rigid spine to allow a nice, upright postural position. If you want to improve your core strength and posture, hang onto some weight, stand tall and walk.

I am a big fan of the work of Dr. Stuart McGill. He has done a ton of research on core function and the spine. Some of his research has shown farmer’s carries and other loaded carries are great exercises for training the abdominal wall, external obliques, and quadratus lumborum. These are all muscles that help create stability in the trunk (2,3).

Increased Shoulder Health

You can do all of the rotator cuff (RTC) strengthening drills you want, but you won’t be training the RTC like it is supposed to be trained. The main function of the RTC is to stabilize and loaded carries do just that.

In Dr. Charlie Weingroff’s fantastic DVD, Training = Rehab, Rehab = Training, he discusses how he uses heavy loaded farmer’s carries to improve shoulder function. Farmer’s carries help put the shoulder blades into a stable position and stimulate a proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) response to the RTC muscles. This helps create a better position for the shoulder girdle area, helping it become stronger and more stable. He also notes that you need heavy weight to do this, so don’t use a small amount of weight on these. Load it up!

JG Farmer Carry

Carry On

In the strength world, there is a funny saying us meatheads use when people ask us how to get strong and build muscle. We simply say pick up heavy weights and then put them back down. It sounds simple but it is true and it works. The farmer’s carry can be used for many training goals. Burn fat, build muscle, and increase conditioning, coordination, athleticism, rehab and performance. So as you can see, we all can benefit from carrying around some weight with good posture, proper breathing and heavy loads.

  1. Ghigiarelli  et al (2013). Effects of Strongman Training on Salivary Testosterone Levels In a Sample of Trained Males. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,  27(3), 738-747.
  2. McGill et al (2009). Comparison of Different Strongman Events: Trunk Muscle Activation and Lumbar Spine Motion, Load, and Stiffness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 23(4), 1148-1161.
  3. McGill et al (2012). Kettlebell Swing, Snatch, and Bottoms-Up Carry: Back and Hip Muscle Activation. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 26(1), 16-27.
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