She was going on a cruise and we were trying to figure out how she could “enjoy” some foods and try some things without necessarily overdoing it & making herself feel like sh*t physically from eating so much food.
We came up with the 3 bite rule.
All it is is whatever you are going to eat, cookie, ice cream, a entree, whatever.
If it isn’t apart of your regular meal, just simply take 3 bites of it, stop and wait about 5-10 minutes, and decide if you want to keep eating it.
A lot of times we “eat just to eat” or because it’s there. We don’t really practice any mindful thought to it.
The 3 bite rule will allow you to practice this mindful eating strategy, along with if you decide to not finish it, you can still get the “taste” and experience of it without overly racking up your calories!
Portion control is one of the best tools you have in your toolbelt when it comes to your fitness progress on vacation.
You can always control it no matter where you are or what you are eating!
Because let’s be honest, it all tastes the same after 3 bites anyway. At that point you’re just eating to eat, which isn’t inherently a bad thing!
Yet if you want to practice some moderation and nail down how to not lose fitness progress on vacation, consider giving the 3 bite rule a go!
Walk It Out
One of the greatest songs ever, shout out to Unk! Also big shout to you if you know this song.
Okay, really though, a goal to help practice some moderation on your vacation would be to simply get your steps in each day.
You would be SHOCKED at what this does for your metabolism.
There is something called your NEAT, Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.
This just means how many calories your body is burning throughout the day the day that is NOT your “dedicated workout” like a strength training workout or hiit bootcamp class.
NEAT takes up 15% of your total daily energy expenditure for that day.
Therefore if you make it a point to walk, be active, take the stairs, walk to the store instead of drive, take the extra stroll down the beach instead of laying on it (like I would do).
This can drastically help your NEAT which can help your calorie burn, WHICH, can help you practice a bit more moderation on vacation.
As opposed to eating more AND moving less, you may eat a tad bit more but you are also making it a point to move a tad bit more.
Not that you have to “make up for the food you eat” because you’re not a dog, you don’t need to be a good boy and earn your treats.
Yet the fact remains if you can be a bit more active and it relatively is a “low commitment” or low effort hanging fruit, it can help you out tremendously with your fitness progress on vacation.
Another pro tip on how to not lose fitness progress on vacation is to prioritize protein.
Especially in the morning.
Protein earlier in the morning can help you not be as hungry throughout the rest of the day.
If you know you are going out to dinner or lunch, you might as well set yourself up to NOT be so hungry when going into those meals.
As well as even when you do go out to eat, again, prioritize protein!
When you’re ordering, order something that has protein as a main part of the meal.
Maybe at home you would get the grilled chicken salad because you need to ensure you’re in your calorie deficit.
On vacation, maybe you get the pasta with the grilled chicken breast as the main protein source so you can enjoy the pasta, yet still hammer home the protein.
9/10 if you make protein a “focus point” with your food, everything else usually falls in place quite well.
Since protein is the most satiating macronutrient it will very much help you from overeating, which is our next point.
Stop Eating When You’re Full
I know this one seems “simple”, and it also is easier said than done sometimes.
Yet even still it holds true, when you are full, stop eating.
Again a lot of times on vacation we “eat just to eat”.
It’s there, it’s new, it’s something different….
Hell, we don’t have to cook it so why not enjoy all of it!!!
Or even more so, you are paying for it, so you better finish all of it!
I’m telling you now you don’t have to do that.
You’re not a garbage disposal.
You don’t have to finish every lick of food just because.
When you’re full, it is okay, and a “good” thing to stop eating.
This is why I like slowing down the pace at which you eat too because the slower you eat the more time your stomach and brain have to talk.
Your stomach can tell your brain you are full and you don’t need to keep eating, which can massively help you from overeating.
What About Losing Muscle?!
Okay so those were my top few tips when it comes to how to not lose fitness progress on vacation and practicing moderation along with it.
I now want to cover something that plagued me for a long while which is, do you lose muscle if you don’t workout on vacation?!
Oh man, 16 17 year old Eric ruined a lot of family vacations because I was overly obsessed about not missing a workout.
I mean, if I missed a lift, that CLEARLY meant I was going to lose all my size, strength, and lean muscle mass I had worked so hard for….
Yea, you can see where this is going.
No, I wasn’t going to lose muscle, and you don’t lose any muscle when you go on a week or two vacation man.
In fact, you will probably come back refreshed, recharged, and ready to absolutely kill some workouts if you just give yourself a chance to rest.
If you WANT to workout while you are on vacation because you just genuinely enjoy it and want to, like Nicole did, or like I do most times when I go on vacation then sure do it.
But please don’t think you HAVE to workout when you go on vacation otherwise you lose all your gains because it just isn’t true.
It takes you at the very least 3-4 weeks of not working out to start to lose muscle & strength gains.
Even then, the losses are quite minimal, and when you come back to lifting they come back rather quickly due to that whole “muscle memory” thing you’ve heard about before.
Don’t stress about it and please, don’t be like 16 year old Eric and ruin family vacations over it.
If you want to workout, sick. If not, sick too.
Either way, you’re all good homie.
How To Not Lose Fitness Progress On Vacation : Final Word!
There you have it!
You now know your three main options for your fitness on vacation.
Take the time to enjoy, and maybe over enjoy!
Still be “on track” as much as possible.
Or, practice a bit of moderation and both things can be true.
There is not inherently one right answer. There is only a “right” answer for where you are currently at in your own journey.
Please remember that.
Most importantly remember that one or two weeks of a vacation does NOT make or break your progress.
One last time, you don’t make all your progress in a week so you don’t lose it all in a week.
It doesn’t matter what you do SOME of the time, it matters what you do MOST of the time.
I really hope this helped you out and if you are interested in becoming a client in our 1:1 online coaching program, you can head HERE to fill out our application form!
In this short guide I am going to show you everything you need to know about the single arm dumbbell row form.
We will cover the different muscles worked, different variations, and most importantly the do & dont’s of this movement!
Because trust me, NOTHING is worse than going into your workouts doing things incorrectly.
It’s not only limiting your results and not using your time as efficiently as you could, but it also vastly increases your risk of injury.
Which, if you get injured, kiss those gainz goodbye my friend.
To avoid all that, let’s dive into everything you need to know about the single arm dumbbell row form.
Single Arm Dumbbell Row Form
To start us off one of the main benefits of doing the single arm dumbbell row is that you can strengthen your back muscles.
Now, just saying “your back muscles” actually is not doing much justice because there are many different parts of your back muscles you can hit.
Don’t worry, we are going to be covering that in a hot second.
I want to expand a bit on the benefits of working your back muscles.
What do we as humans do a good 6-12 hours of the day?
Either sit at a desk hunched over typing on our keyboard, or, staring down at our phone typing / scrolling.
( Hell, you are doing one of those 2 things right now in fact! ).
This makes it very easy for our posture to be very anterior dominant leading to weak posterior muscles.
Okay, those two fancy words just mean
Anterior – the front side of your body
Posterior – the back side of your back
If you are consistently in a position of being hunched over on the computer or phone, you start to develop imbalances.
These imbalances lead to poor posture and strength which then lead to injury over time.
Not to mention a lot of what people do either on a daily basis or in their workouts are what we call PUSHING movements.
These are movements where you are PUSHING things away from your body.
Think like a push up or a chest press. Or, you can think about lifting something overhead to put in your cabinet.
People do not do nearly enough PULLING movements, things like pull things into your body.
Think about it, are you ever just going around the grocery store doing cart pulls? Where you walk backwards and pull the cart into you as you walk?
You’d look more like a weirdo than you already are, right?
The biggest reason people tend to have shoulder, mid back, or neck pain is because of weakness in their posterior muscles.
Then what people try to do is “stretch” their neck, back, etc. While this can be a PART of your routine, what you really need to do is strengthen your posterior muscles (back muscles) through proper exercise.
( Hence, why we are covering the benefits of proper single arm dumbbell row form! ).
I cannot tell you how many people I have coached who I’ve helped with their neck, shoulder, or mid back pain just from simply strengthening their back muscles via proper exercise.
When you strengthen these muscles, you help the imbalance. When you help the imbalance, it leads to better posture and less stress being placed on your shoulder / neck / mid back area.
Thus, leading to less injury over time.
Help With Pushing Movements
Another benefit from getting down some good single arm dumbbell row form is actually to help with your pushing movements.
We talked about these pushing movements above and how a lot of people do them mostly in their workouts or day to day life.
That is not to say pushing movements are inherently bad, because they’re not. It’s kinda like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You gotta do your best to mix a bit of both in, ya know?
Pushing and pulling movements are no different.
In any of my programs I write inside of my Clubhouse I like to have at least a 1:1 push to pull ratio.
Meaning, for every 1 push exercise that I do I like to have 1 pulling exercise.
So if I do a chest press, I will do a single arm row.
I can give some more examples of pushing and pulling movements below.
Flat chest press
Incline chest press
Single arm dumbbell row
Rear Delt Flys
In your training program I’d encourage you to see if you are having at least a 1:1 push to pull ratio. If not, I may look to make that one slight correction.
Not only will this help prevent injury like we stated earlier but it will also actually help you get stronger at your pushing movements!
Your back provides the “base” to push from. If you work your back muscles, you are going to have a much stronger, stable base to PUSH from.
If you are looking to improve any of the pushing movements mentioned above but just can’t seem to get stronger at it, try throwing in some of these pulling movements.
I think you’d be shocked at how much they help.
Single Arm Dumbbell Row Form : Do’s And Don’ts!
When it comes to the single arm dumbbell row form, as we mentioned, there are actually multiple different ways to complete this exercise!
None are “right” or “wrong”, they’re just depending on what muscles you are trying to work!
The form will be slightly different depending on which muscle you’re targeting, yet a few things hold true for a single arm dumbbell row no matter what.
Let’s cover those first, and then we can get into more specifics. It will make more sense that way.
Whenever you are doing any sort of row variation, you typically want to think about keeping your shoulders down and away from your ears.
A cue I like to use is “shove your shoulders down into your back pocket” or “create space between your ear and shoulder”.
You do not want to be shrugging your shoulder UP as you go to do a row.
This is going to cause some massive discomfort and strain on your neck area leading to injury.
You also just won’t work your back muscles as much, you will usually end up working more of your forearm or bicep muscle this way.
As well as your neck like we talked about, it’s just not in a “good” way.
So really try to be sure to keep your shoulder down and away from your ears, tucked into your back pocket.
Do Not Pull UP
Probably the most common mistake when it comes to the single arm dumbbell row form.
You are thinking about coming UP with the weight.
I get it, you’re thinking of moving your hand up to move the weight.
I want you to try and rid your mind of that.
Instead, think about going DOWN and BACK first, THEN go up.
Again, this is going to vary slightly depending on what muscle you’re targeting, but you never want to think solely about coming UP.
This lead to you shrugging your shoulder up, using more of your bicep and forearm.
If you have ever wondered why your elbow hurts, this could be a reason why. You’re putting strain on your elbow and forearm muscles instead of your back muscles.
You’re asking your elbow and forearm to do work that your back is supposed to do. That is no bueno my friend. That will end up in an injury every time.
Think about starting the movement by going down and back almost like you’re scooping the ground with your elbow to start, then you can lead with your elbow going back and up wherever you need it to go (depending on the muscle you work).
Which that is the next correction.
Lead With Your Elbow, Not Your Hand
Okay this is actually probably the most common mistake.
Because the weight is in your hand you are thinking about moving the weight, thus, moving your hand.
I don’t want you to think about moving your hand.
I want you to think your hand is just a hook. Your hand is simply along for the ride.
Instead you are really trying to lead with your elbow and pull through your pinky as opposed to pulling through your pointer finger.
If you think about leading with and moving your hand, you’re bound to make one of the mistakes mentioned above.
Whereas if you think about leading with your elbow and pulling through your pinky, you will be SHOCKED at how much more you feel your back muscles working.
(And how much less you feel your forearm, bicep, and elbow!).
Don’t Grip The Damn Thing So Hard
When talking about the single arm dumbbell row form, this isn’t necessarily a “form” correction, more so just a tip.
Stop gripping the dumbbell so damn hard dude.
You’re choking the damn thing which again is leading you to work a lot of your forearm and bicep because you’re death dripping it so hard.
I want you to either
Get a lighter grip where you aren’t acting like you’re holding on for dear life
Go a thumbless grip
This way you will take stress off your elbow and forearm muscle and put it more on your back muscle.
I’d also recommend you using wrist straps as you get into heavier weight rows as well, I will talk about that at the end of this article.
Control The Way Down
Most people think the movement is “done” when you actually row the weight up to your body.
That’s ½ of the movement down.
The other half of the movement is you controlling what we call the ‘eccentric’.
This means on the way down.
The eccentric part is where you are stretching your muscle under load (load being the weight you are using).
This is an integral part of gaining strength and muscle so if you just kind of let gravity take the weight back down…
You are missing out on literally 50% of the movement. Which means you are missing out on 50% of the potential results.
Be sure to give a good 1-3 second count on the way down. Control the weight don’t let it control you.
Single Arm Dumbbell Row Form : Muscles Worked
Now that we know some basic form tips, one of the of the really cool parts about a single arm dumbbell row is that you can target different muscles by slightly changing up the variation.
Any sort of row variation is going to primarily target your back.
Yet, there are different parts of your back that you can look to hit!
The 4 main muscles we are going to take a look at here are the lats, rear delts, traps / rhomboids / mid back, and upper back!
The reason this is important is because to target each of these 4 areas your form is going to be SLIGHTLY different.
All of the main form tips apply from above, but do you remember the one form tip we talked about?
Lead with your elbow not your hand?
This is how you are going to determine what part of the back you are working most, where your elbow travels.
When you are trying to work more of your lats during a single arm dumbbell row, then you want your elbow traveling down and back towards your hip.
You also want to keep your elbow tight to the side of your body.
Notice how in the video my elbow is NOT going past the mid line of my body though? If you were to cut my body in half from the top of my head down to my feet (please don’t do that though, I know this article isn’t the best ever but still!)
That would be the midline of my body. During a lat focus row you do not want your elbow traveling past the midline of your body. This will turn it more into a a mid back movement as opposed to working your lats.
Therefore with those couple of things you will be hitting a lat focused single arm dumbbell row form!
Rear Delt Focus
If you are focusing a little bit more on your rear delt, you want to think more about driving your elbow back at a 45 degree angle.
Not keeping it super tight to your body but also not flaring it out SUPER wide.
Drive the elbow back at a 45 degree angle and really think about moving your shoulder back with you. Not SQUEEZING your shoulder like you’re trying to pinch a pencil between your shoulders.
More so extending your shoulder back like you’re chicken winging your arm back behind you.
Upper Back Focus
Now if you’re working more of your upper back, you are going to drive your elbow a little farther out wide at a 75ish degree angle.
( You don’t have to get out your damn protractor, but hopefully you see the difference here ).
I used to coach people going out at a 90 degree angle, but I do not coach that anymore.
Reason being is when you flare your elbow out that wide you open up your shoulder joint and make it more vulnerable.
This is where it can feel very uncomfortable and it leads to a higher risk of injury.
Therefore, keep it “wide” but not SO wide… make sense?
Mid Back Focus
Last but not least if you are working your single arm dumbbell row form to hit your mid back area.
You want to get your elbow tight to your body, driving to the middle of your body, and this time you DO want it to go past the midline of your body.
Unlike the lat focus row where you were NOT trying to past the middle of your body!
Okay, now that we know form and know what muscles we are working, lemme give you a quick tip.
Your back muscles, no matter WHAT muscles you are trying to work, are infinitely stronger than your forearm / bicep muscle.
Therefore once you start doing rows beyond just the first few weeks of you working out in the gym, I highly recommend looking into getting some wrist straps.
Reason being is because you want the limiting factor of your rows to be your BACK muscles, not, your FOREARM muscles.
If your forearms give out before your back does, then you are limiting the gainz you could be having with your back.
Not to mention if your forearm muscles have to work so hard you’re not going to work your back muscles because all you will feel is your forearms burning!
This will stall progress and potentially lead to injury over time.
Therefore, I recommend grabbing some wrist straps that you can use during your workouts.
If you are somebody wondering how to get lower in squats, boy oh boy, have you come to the right place.
It can be super frustrating, and uncomfortable, trying to get lower in your squats yet just feeling like you can’t!
We are going to dive into just “how low” do you really need to go, ways to improve your squat depth, and even some specific exercises you can do.
You’re going to get a lot of value from this guide, but please know it follows a typical reading fashion.
Meaning one thing is meant to come after the other so it would be most beneficial if you read this guide from start to finish in succession.
Rather than skimming, skipping ahead, or only going for ONE specific thing.
I figured so. I know you’re smart.
How To Get Lower In Squats
How Low Do You Really Need To Go?
The first thing we need to discuss before talking about exact ways of how to get lower in squats is how low do you really need to go.
( Is it just me or am I envisioning someone limboing everytime I say that.. )
You’ve probably seen people go ATG ( Ass To Grass) where they go ALLLL the way down there.
You then may have seen someone go to about 90 degree parallel to the ground.
Then, you may have seen Lebron James on his instagram posting a video of him doing squats only about ½ the way down.
So, what is the “right” answer here?
It somewhat depends. For the majority of people in majority of scenarios, you are going to want to get to at least 90 degree parallel in your squat.
This is essentially when your hips are in line with your knees, as depicted by that white line here below.
Now, can you go LOWER than this?
Sure, if you wanted to, AND you do not compromise by rounding your pelvis or compromising your lower back.
A lot of people try to “get lower” because they see someone else do it on instagram, yet they don’t have the proper active range of motion to achieve that depth without compromising form.
( if you don’t know what “active range of motion means”, don’t worry we will cover it a bit later in this guide ).
A picture of what I am talking about is here below.
This is one of my 1:1 online coaching clients Ralph here. He shot me over his technique video so that we could take a peek at his form. We were able to notice the back rounding and correct it!
If this is happening, then no, you do not want to push to go lower in your squats with very heavy weight on your back.
You are actively rounding your pelvis and lower back muscles, causing them a ton of unnecessary stress.
Thus, leading to injuries over time. Yet if you can do it without sacrificing form, then sure, go for it.
Going lower than parallel in your squat typically speaking works a bit more of your quads because you are able to get more of two things called
These are just fancy terms for saying that your knees can go farther over your toes, again, without compromising your form.
This allows for your quads to get a bigger stretch on them, which is why having a squat that is ATG is generally more beneficial if your main goal is to grow some massive quads.
But Wait Eric, Knees Can Go Over Toes?!
One of the worst myths when it comes to how to get lower in squats is that your knees can’t go over your toes.
Funny enough, this myth is actually the cause of a lot of knee and lower back pain.
Your knees can, and most likely should, go over your toes when you are hitting a full depth squat.
No, it is not “bad” for your knees. Think about when you are walking up the stairs.. Your knees go over your toes everytime right..
So, let’s just stop walking up stairs? I think not.
The reason people say your knees going over your toes is bad is because it CAN be bad if your heels lift off the ground.
If your heels lift off the ground then you are going to put an inordinate amount of pressure on your knees, and yes, this sh*t hurts.
Yet as long as you keep your feet flat your knees are not only fine going over your toes, but as mentioned earlier, most likely necessary!
A lot of people try so hard to NOT let their knees go over their toes they throw their butt back entirely way too far in a squat.
This turns the exercise into some weird combo of a deadlift, squat, and good morning that basically leads to a ton of lower back or knee pain due.
Don’t fall for this myth. Your knees are totally fine to go over your toes.
If you are someone who does have knee pain, I would finish reading this article because I think the things I will lay out can help.
As well as I wrote an entirely separate article on the best workout for bad knees, I can link that HERE.
How To Get Lower In Squats : What If You Don’t Get To 90 Degree Parallel?
Okay so we know it’s okay to go lower in squats as long as you don’t round your back.
The next question then in how to get lower in squats is well what if you’re not getting to that 90 degree parallel mark?
Is that bad? Is that ok?
Here is what I will say.
For the majority of people, you should be getting to 90 degree parallel. You saw a picture of Lebron James doing it because he is a professional athlete whose main goal in life is to be the best basketball player he can.
When you think about basketball players, are they squatting all the way down and jumping up to get a rebound?
No, they are half squatting down and then needing to explode up to get a rebound.
In that picture you saw, Lebron is training the squat in a “sport specific” way for this individual sport.
Now, again, he’s the top .01% of basketball players so he’s doing that to get .01% better.
The average gym goer looking to get stronger, build muscle, and have proper form does not need to be training sport specific half squats to jump to rebound a ball.
We need to be training our muscles in full ranges of motion (aka hitting 90 degrees parallel in a squat ) for a few reasons.
Muscle building – one of the most important things you can do to build muscle is train the muscle in the stretch position. In a squat, this is the bottom of a squat. That’s when your muscles get stretched the most, therefore, it is important to get to that full range of motion!
Strengthening joints, tendons, ligaments, connective tissue – We are not just training muscles here but we are also training other parts of the body. If you want to be a well rounded, strong, and functional human being to not only be strong but also prevent risk of injury, it’s important to train these other parts of the body. Through full range of motion training, you can achieve this.
Therefore I would say if you are NOT currently hitting 90 degree parallel in your squats, then I would recommend doing some of the things we will talk about right now below.
How To Get Lower In Squats : Specific Ways!
Now that we know we should be hitting at least 90 degrees in our squat, let’s talk about specific ways on how to get lower in squats.
Use Lighter Weight
Gah, I know. It’s lame.
But hear me out here. I know no one wants to lift less weight, we go into the gym to lift MORE weight and feel like a bad a**!
Taking weight off the bar doesn’t make us feel so bad a** now does it?!
No… but this is why it’s important to check your ego at the door.
You want to feel bad a** so you’re loading up the bar. You’re not chasing actual results, you’re chasing fueling your ego.
Drop the ego, back off the weight a bit, and be able to get that full range of motion.
Think about this.
You would actually see better results squatting 150lbs with full range of motion, than you would, squatting 250lbs with a half range of motion.
Why? Because of the things we mentioned earlier. You are stretching your muscles more and putting your muscles under more tension.
This will lead to greater RESULTS over time.
Not to mention eventually you WILL get stronger and you will move from doing 150lbs full range of motion to then doing that 250lbs yet with a full range of motion.
THAT is going to make you feel REALLY bad a**.
Again I know it isn’t sexy by any means, but just be sure if you feel this is you, remember why you’re working out in the first place.
You want to see results. You want to change. Don’t let your ego hold you back from seeing results.
Work In “Pause Squats”
In conjunction with backing off the weight you are lifting for right now, you can start doing something called Pause Squats.
These are the same exact thing as regular squats, except at the bottom of the squat you pause for anywhere between 2-5 seconds.
What this allows you to do is…
Learn & feel what “good depth” feels like so when you go heavier you can replicate
Teach your central nervous system it’s OK to go lower in your squat
Strengthen your muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments in that new deeper range of motion
All of these things allow for you to work on your squat depth that’s very “simple”.
I mean if you are doing squats right now, all you gotta do is keep doing squats, back off weight, and start doing 2 second pauses at the bottom.
Do that for a solid 4-10 weeks, then start back up doing regular squats again.
Now again, you WILL need to lighten the weight here because you are pausing at the bottom.
This makes the movement exponentially harder because where is the squat the hardest to begin with?
At the bottom.. If you spend more time at the bottom, where the exercise is the hardest.. You can imagine it isn’t sunshine and rainbows down there.
Yet if you add them in, tell me you don’t see, notice, and feel a massive difference in your depth!
Take A Wider Stance
Now, you may need to back off the weight to get lower in your squats…
Or, you might not. You just may need to make some other adjustments that we will touch on here.
Try taking a wider stance with your feet. Move your feet slightly outside your hip width.
This can help create more of something called external rotation in your hip.
You need external rotation to get down to the bottom of a squat. If you don’t have it, it will often feel like you just kind of “hit a wall” and can’t go any lower!
This is because your femur (your leg bone) is running into your hip socket. There is nowhere else for it to move, so, you stop!
Or, you do get lower but it is from what we talked about earlier compromising from your lower back. That’s the funny thing about your body.
If you want it to do something, it will find a way to do it. If you keep trying to get lower, even if your hips won’t allow it, the next joint up will compensate & make it happen.
That next joint is your lower back. The issue here is your lower back isn’t meant to be taking the load that your hips are supposed to be taking.
Now you have created a situation where your lower back is doing the work your hips are supposed to… Thus, leading to injury.
It’s like if a CEO gave his responsibilities to a person who was on their first day on the job.
Wouldn’t go very well, right?
Same concept here.
If you take a wider stance though with your feet, you will find you may automatically feel like you “have more room” to work with, allowing you to get lower in your squats.
Slightly Point Toes Out
Really quickly, right along with taking a wider stance, a great tip on how to get lower in squats is going to be slightly point your toes out.
Again, in combination with taking a wider feet stance, slightly pointing your toes out will allow you to create more external rotation in your hip.
These two things, I have seen, tend to dramatically improve your squat depth with a lot of the clients we have coached over the years .
“Keep Your Chest Up!”… No.
Another common, and painful, myth is that you should be “keeping your chest up” in your squat.
No, no, and no one more time for good measure.
Now, should you be letting your chest drop to the ground?
But “keeping your chest up” is one of the worst cues told by any high school football coach or trainer out there.
Now I’m not hating or bad mouthing, because I thought this at once too.
Yet when you try to “keep your chest up” you do something that is called arching your cervical spine.
Your spine is broken up into 3 parts.
Cervical spine – this is your neck area.
Thoracic spine – this is your middle back area.
Lumbar spine – this is your lower back area.
When you “keep your chest up” you arch your cervical spine, which in turn, ends up arching your lumbar spine.
This is why most people get pain in their back while doing squats. Their cervical and lumbar spine are arched like a booty pop IG girl – thus leading to some serious low back pain.
I think you want to avoid having low back pain, correct?
As well as you want to actually get lower in squats, right?!
Man, it’s like I’ve known you your whole life ;).
The way you do both of these things is by having a slight lean forward in your torso on the way down from your squat.
This is going to…
Actually keep a neutral spine as opposed to arching it (less pain)
Allow for more external rotation in your hips as well (more range of motion)
You don’t want or need it to be this super aggressive throwback. You’re not in the club on a Saturday night or anything.
You want to think about just slightly karate chopping your hips back to START the movement.
Once you start with that slight hip push back, your torso slightly leans forward, THEN, you can drop straight down into your squat from there.
You will actually still keep your chest up because your chest will still be more or less facing the wall in front of you.
If you have not ever tried this before, I am telling you right now, it will be a game changer for you for how to get lower in squats.
How To Get Lower In Squats : Hip & Ankle Mobility Work
To be very honest with you, the things I laid out above are my “top” tips on how to get lower in squats.
I have done those few things with thousands of clients over the years and it has completely changed the game for so many of them.
Now, on top of that, some people may in fact need to work on their hip and ankle mobility to allow them to get more active range of motion.
Remember I said we were gonna come back to that? Remember how I also said this guide was going to work in succession so you needed to follow it step by step all the way through?
Good, I am glad you remember 😉
A very easy way to think about active range of motion is how far can you go in your range of motion on an exercise while still actually having full control of your muscles and joints.
So in a squat, how low can you go while still being in control of your body and NOT compromising form.
Remember earlier we talked about the way people can get lower in a squat is by having more ankle dorsiflexion and knee flexion?
Well, if someone does not have the adequate ankle mobility to produce that ankle dorsiflexion, then they do not have the active range of motion to get lower in the squat.
Thus, they end up compromising at their hips or knees and getting injured.
They are going “low” in the range of motion but their joints and muscles can’t actually control that range of motion, leading to injury.
Therefore one thing you can do to get lower in squats is work on your ankle and hip mobility to improve your active range of motion.
How exactly do you do that?
Well, that could be an entirely separate article. As a matter of fact I actually made an entire mobility manual that you gain immediate access to if you join my Clubhouse as that’s how in depth mobility work is..
But for some quick, simple, and easy implementation work for mobility, I can link some here below.
Hip 90 90’s
Do about 5 reps each side
Do 5 reps each side
Hip flexor lift off
Do 5 reps each side
Run through those 3 exercises back to back for 2 rounds.
Perform this routine 3-7x per week.
Elevated ankle mobility
Do 5 reps each side
Banded Ankle Distraction
Do 5 reps each side
Squat With Ankle Dorsiflexion
Do 5 reps with 5 second holds each time
Run through those 3 exercises back to back for 2 rounds.
Perform this routine 3-7x per week.
These two routines will allow you to improve the mobility and range of motion but also strengthen the new range of motion to make it ‘active’ range of motion.
Rather than what most people do which is just stretching, which leads to a short term range of motion increase, but because they don’t spend any time strengthening the new range of motion…
They lose it and just go back to what they had before, never making any ever lasting change.
If you follow the routine laid out here, you will see everlasting change in your mobility and active range of motion!
Elevate Your Heels
Now, the one little bonus tip for you, which you may have seen some people do before, is elevating your heels.
When you elevate your heels during a squat, this automatically creates more of that ankle dorsiflexion that we talked about earlier.
It is a super easy way to allow you to get lower in your squats (On top of the things we already talked about)!
If you have squat wedges, like you see me using right here.
If you were wondering at all about how to use a diet break to lose weight, then look no further.
You have come to the right place.
A “diet break” is something that is relatively new in recent years when it comes to dieting and losing weight.
We are going to cover exactly how you are going to use this tool to your advantage to lose more fat, be more consistent, and not hate your life so much while dieting.
Sounds pretty snazzy, huh? I know.
Let’s dive in, but forreal before we do, just make sure you don’t do one of those “skim through” jobs with this article here.
You can be easily confused and implement them wrong if you don’t understand the context around diet breaks. Just be sure to reach each and every line.
How To Use Diet Breaks To Lose Weight
Before we go to how to use a diet break to lose weight, let’s go ahead and define what a “diet break” really is.
Some people have different “phrases” or words to describe a diet break.
Some people call it a “refeed” day or a “cheat” day.
Really to me, it’s all the same thing. (Although, cheat days are kinda stupid IMO. I talk about why in another article on my site!).
Essentially what a “diet break” is going to be defined as for the purpose of this article is
Taking an intentional period of time eating at or around your maintenance calories to have a mental break from dieting.
This period of time could be a day, it could be 3 days, it could be up to 4 weeks.
After the 4 week mark I wouldn’t really say you’re taking a “diet break”, you are just eating at your maintenance calories at that point.
Remember, if you are “dieting” that means you are eating in a calorie deficit. The diet break is meant to serve as a mental break (which we will touch on a bit later) which then you will get back to the deficit after!
Also notice the “intentional” component of it. This is the reason why I think the term “cheat meals” is stupid.
What are you cheating on? Your girlfriend cheated on you in high school, you cheated on your drivers test (which is scary for ALL Of us).
You can’t “cheat” on your diet by eating a bit more calories if the plan is to eat more calories.
This is essentially what a diet break does, therefore, no “cheating”.
Now, let’s dive into things a little bit more in depth.
Why Take The Diet Break?
You may be sitting here thinking “Well, Eric, why would I want to take a break from dieting if I’m not at my goal weight yet?!”.
Great question, so glad you asked.
The answer is, you might not want to!
You might be crushing it, seeing great progress, and might be in a really good groove with your nutrition.
If that’s you, kudos! ( F you at the same time because dieting SUCKS but.. GOODIE for you.. ).
On the other hand, if let’s say you’re feeling a little burnt out.
You are getting pissed off at the thought of continuing to track your calories every single day, going into my fitness pal, logging your foods, etc.
Maybe you are becoming more irritable.. More moody.. More frustrated…
Or maybe, because you have been in a deficit for a little while now, you are getting as hungry as the cookie monster each and every single night.
Any or all of these reasons would be a great reason to take a “diet break” so to speak.
Each and every Friday inside the Clubhouse we have a live Q&A via zoom where members come, ask questions, and get help!
Zoe asked me about something that was going on with her.
It had been about 6 ish weeks and she had been SUPER consistent with her calorie deficit (minus a little vacay thrown in).
She was down about 6-8 ish lbs and was doing great from a progress perspective.
Yet, she mentioned that recently she was STARVING.
Not like the “oh my tummy is a wittle hungry” thing. No, she could eat someone’s arm off and not be sorry for it.
So what I advised her to do was take a diet break. Give herself about 3-5 days of eating at or around maintenance calories (we will talk about exactly what this should look like in a bit).
Then I had a feeling she would feel a lot better and be ready to get right back into her deficit.
Sure enough, that’s what happened.
This is because when you’re TRULY in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time.
I say “truly” in all caps because I’m not talking about like 3 days you’re on it.. Then 4 days you fall off… then 2 days on… 3 days off.. I’m not talking about that game.
I’m talking about if you are 90+% consistent each month with eating in a calorie deficit, what’s going to happen is your hunger hormones are going to get a little out of whack.
There are two main hormones in your body that control hunger. Leptin and Ghrelin.
Leptin is the hormone that tells your body you are full and satisfied.
Ghrelin is the hormone that tells your body you are starving and want to eat more.
As you get longer into a calorie deficit, your leptin goes down and your ghrelin goes up.
Thus, making you one starving beast. So, for Zoe, she was able to use a 3ish day diet break to get her hunger hormones a bit back to balanced.
Which led her hunger to suffice and her energy to return. She was no longer feeling so burnt out or fed up with dieting, so, she was able to head back into her deficit and finish out her diet!
That’s just one example of how to use a diet break to lose weight. Let me give you another.
How To Use A Diet Break To Lose Weight : Decrease Stress
Again, when talking about being in a calorie deficit, this is a stress on your body.
Therefore what will happen is again, over time if you are actually consistent with your deficit, stress adds up on your body.
When this stress piles up you feel more exhausted, more stressed (shocker, right?!), more moody, less sleep, less willpower, less drive, and on and on.
Therefore using a diet break to your advantage can help lower your stress, put you in a better headspace mentally, which will then allow you to continue on with your diet much more effectively.
Way more effectively than if you just continued to try to beat your head against a brick all by “just keep going!”.
People often struggle with taking a diet break when losing weight because they feel like “oh, well I won’t see progress”.
Incorrect, you won’t see progress if you DON’T take a diet break sometimes because you keep trying to “push through”….
Yet you can’t ever end up being consistent because you’re so burnt out, right?
Therefore.. 3 weeks goes by and you see no progress because you can’t be consistent.
If you just would have taken the 3 day or 1 week diet break, you’d be able to be much more consistent moving forward, and see way more progress.
It’s almost like a slingshot effect if you will.
Take my client Tori below for example.
During Toris weight loss journey we implemented several diet breaks along the way. Some were a few days, some were a few weeks.
Yet the point being is Tori used them whenever she was feeling super burnt out from dieting, tracking, and just dieting in general.
This brings me to my next point in how to use a diet break to lose weight..
What’s The “Right” Way?
Quick recap, thus far we know that
Diet breaks are an intentional period of time where you eat at or around your maintenance calories
They can last 1 day up to 4 weeks
They physically help your hunger hormones and stress levels, which can in turn help you stick to your diet better in the long run
Perfect, so what’s the “Right” way to take one?
Well, here’s the thing, there isn’t one necessarily.
We will continue talking about my client Tori above.
Some weeks for her diet break we still tracked calories, logged everything, and just made sure we ate about 3-600 more calories than she was currently eating.
We primarily increased the calories via carbohydrates and protein.
So if she was eating say 1500 calories in her deficit, she increased her calories up to about 2000 mainly through carbs and protein.
We did this because at the time, she wasn’t really burnt out with “tracking calories”. She just wanted to eat some more damn food.
Yet, other times, we took a break from logging / tracking food in general.
She didn’t use her my fitness pal app. She wasn’t logging and weighing her food.
We came up with other guidelines instead for that week to allow her to still be mindful & Mentally have a break from dieting.
For example, her checklist during one of her diet breaks was to..
Get 2 fruits per day
Get 2 veggies per day
Drink 2 liters of water
Have protein at every meal
Take one 30 min walk
Because again, she was a bit burnt out from tracking, so we took the ‘diet break’ from THAT aspect of dieting.
Other times, we simply worked in some different foods with higher calories.
Let’s face it, sometimes it can be hard to work in ALL of the foods you enjoy into your calorie deficit, even with flexible dieting .
So some weeks what we did was we intentionally worked in some different foods whether a burger, or ice cream, or whatever it was, while having a little bit higher calories as mentioned earlier eating around maintenance.
Again, this is not a “cheat meal” or “Cheat day” because she wasn’t doing anything wrong. She was intentionally eating more food and working in some different foods she may not always have on her deficit.
As you can see, there is no “right” way on how to use a diet break to lose weight.
Yet, there is a WRONG way.
That wrong way is..
It’s Not An Excuse To All Out Binge.
I think what a lot of people confuse about taking diet breaks is they hear “eat more calories” and think..
ALRIGHT, IT’S ON! Pizza, beer, wings, ice cream for days!
5000 calories later of highly processed, greasy, and fatty foods.. They feel like absolute garbage.
Not only do they feel like garbage physically, but mentally they feel like sh*t too. Their relationship with food is not the best because when they’re “dieting” they are only eating clean and on point..
Then, if they’re “not dieting”, it’s an all out free for all.
I would strongly recommend against that. It’s one thing to work in some different foods like I talked about my client Tori. She worked in some different foods that she enjoyed during her diet break..
But she also had all of her fruits, veggies, and protein for that day.
Therefore when you’re going to take a diet break, my favorite way to do this is
Increase calories mainly via carbs – this is because your bodies hunger hormones responds well to them – as well as you will usually have more energy for workouts
Keep the foods that you’re eating more or less the same
So as opposed to adding in 600 calories of ice cream during a diet break, maybe you just go from
½ of a bagel to a full bagel
1 cup of rice to 1.5 cups
6oz chicken to 8oz
Add in some extra fruit at breakfast
You get the gist.
This way, as opposed to making it this all out binge, you are simply just increasing your portion sizes of what you’re already eating.
It’s also exponentially easier to then go back into your deficit AFTER the diet break is over because if you take a 3 day “diet break”, aka eat like sh*t for 3 days, is it easier or harder to get back to it after?
Much, much harder, right?
This is why I usually encourage people to try not to treat their diet breaks as this all out free for all. Like my client Tori did above, still practice moderation.. Still get your fruits / veggies / protein..
Still do “all the things” you know you should be.. Just have a little bit more calories and or flexibility here and there.
Or, the other “wrong” way to take a diet break is..
Every weekend just because you don’t want to stay on track, call it “taking a diet break”.
How can you take a break from something you’ve never been consistent with in the first place?
I don’t want you to use “diet breaks” as an excuse to not stay on track and not see progress.
Remember, diet breaks are a STRATEGIC tool put into place with an intentional purpose to help get you results.
Just not wanting to put in the work to stay on track and calling it a diet break isn’t going to serve you much in your journey.
How To Use A Diet Break To Lose Weight : How Often?
Okay, now that you have a good sense of what a diet break is and how it’s used, how often should you do this?
Again, there is no “right” answer and it will depend person to person.
I would say if you want some GENERAL guidelines, maybe every 2-12 weeks IF you need it.
Now, I know that’s a big range, but you have to understand everyone is truly different.
I have coached plenty of clients who never intentionally needed a diet break just because of who they were, how they thought, and the way their lifestyle was set up.
Myself as an example. Whenever I do a “cut” or a calorie deficit. I will go about 6-12 weeks of just straight dieting with no diet breaks.
I don’t have a ton of body fat to lose
I don’t live a super high stress lifestyle with kids, families, etc
I go pretty aggressive so I can get the cut done sooner rather than later
So for me, I generally don’t take a ton of diet breaks.
But if I am working with someone who I know has a very high stress life, they have 3 kids, they work night shift, and it’s just BRUTAL on them..
Maybe we would take a diet break of 3 days every 3 weeks.
Or if I know someone likes to ‘see an end in sight’ so to speak, I will say “Okay, after every 4 weeks of dieting, you are going to have a one week break!”.
That may help them be super consistent during those 4 weeks because they see that end in sight.
Or, for example, you can use diet breaks if you know you have some sort of event coming up.
Again, you need to be mindful of just saying “oh, diet break!” if you just don’t wanna be consistent or stay on track.
So it’s your rest day and you are looking for an active recovery workout routine, right?
Well, perfect, because I got just what you need my friend.
Rest days are essential for building muscle, getting stronger, and optimizing your progress in your workouts.
Why would you workout just to see no progress? No one wants that, right?
Of course not. Let’s be sure you avoid that in this guide. I will give you a few examples of what an active recovery workout routine would look like.
Yet, just be sure to not skim through. I want you to leave this guide knowing everything from A to Z when it comes to this topic.
Capiche? (My mom is 100% Italian – she always told that to me when she was being stern and strict.. So now I am telling you! ).
Let’s dive in.
Active Recovery Workout Routine : Education
There are so many places we can start with this topic, but let’s first touch on the importance of rest days.
I believe the more you know and understand a topic, the more likely you are to actually implement the strategies to succeed with it.
I get the question a lot of “Eric, do I REALLY need rest days though!?”.
Yes, yes Suzanne you do.
You doing your hiit boot camp 6 days a week and then running 5 miles the 7th day is the sole reason you aren’t seeing progress in your workouts or physique.
Don’t worry though it isn’t just Suzanne. Kevin always refuses to take rest days because, well of course, “No days off, bro” is the only way to see the gainzzz.
Rest days are critical for a few main reasons.
3 Step Process
If anyone has followed me for any amount of time they know about the 3 step process that it takes to build strength & muscle.
If that’s you, bare with me while I run through it for our new friends here!
The 3 step process is as follows.
You put a stress on your body, aka, your workouts. Working out is a stress to your system just like you have stress from work, stress from being in a calorie deficit, anything.
You put this stress on your body and your body takes a hit.
The next step is your body then recovers from that stress, essentially returning back to baseline.
Think about it. How can your body go PAST where it was (aka building muscle, getting stronger) , if it hasn’t yet recovered back to where it was in the first place?
It can’t. Your body recovers back to baseline first. Then, and only then, will your body then be able to adapt to the stress you just placed on it.
This last step, the adaptation stage is where the change happens. The result that you are looking for happens in this third step of the process.
Now, I am no math expert by any means, but I am smart enough to know 3 comes after 2.
If you skip step two, the recovery process, well then you cannot get to step 3 now can you?
All you do is end up in this vicious cycle of working out and putting stress on your body.. Only to not recover from it, not adapt at all, and just continuously keep putting more stress.
You get burnt out, exhausted, fatigued, and just pissed off because you aren’t making any progress.
This is what happens if you do NOT take proper rest days, or what we will talk about in this guide, an active recovery workout routine.
Now, how many rest days should you be taking then?
Well, it depends…
“Active Recovery Workout Routine” Meaning
When you think about an “active recovery workout routine” or a rest day, some people have different meanings of that.
Is it just lay around, total sloth mode, and do absolutely nothing?
Is it still being able to go and do your 60 min high intensity spin class?
How about yoga?
Well, let’s talk about it now.
During your regular workouts like your strength training, I usually don’t advise keeping too much track of your heart rate.
This is because for the most part I’d rather you focus on pushing yourself, lifting heavier weights, going close to failure, those fun things.
Your heart rate likely will be elevated as a result of that, but I personally don’t advise you focusing on that, unless the goal is potentially aerobic based conditioning work.
For strength training sessions, just focus on getting in there, kicking some a**, and pushing yourself.
Yet for your rest days, I do encourage you to keep track of your heart rate because it’s important that you do not have your heart rate going through the roof.
This is because having an elevated heart rate, high intensity workout takes away from recovery. It does not allow you to have the property recovery process, step 2, like we talked about above.
Having an elevated heart rate, high intensity training session is NOT considered a rest day.
Therefore hiit classes, bootcamps, running 5 miles with your heart rate elevated, that’s not an active recovery workout.
That’s just a regular workout that is adding stress to your body.
Therefore, that would mean a “rest day” or during an active recovery workout, you are looking to keep your intensity and heart rate lower.
Usually around the zone 1 to zone 2 target heart rate zone.
How can you find this?
Well, if you are wearing a fitness tracker like an Apple watch, Fit bit, Garmin, etc, it will usually tell you.
Or, the very simple way I like to tell people is this.
If you are doing your exercise and you can hold a steady conversation without gasping for air like you’re about to pass out, you’re in that zone 1 or zone 2 heart rate.
If you cannot hold a regular conversation, your intensity is too high and you need to back off during your active recovery workout routine.
Again, the reason being is because if you do exercise in this lower heart rate zone, this will NOT add stress to your body.
Therefore it will NOT take away from your ability to recover. In fact, training in this heart rate zone typically promotes recovery on your rest days.
This is very important you follow this, otherwise you will end up in that vicious cycle of working just so hard just to not see any progress. No one wants that.
So, How Many Active Recovery Workout Days Then?
Now that we know what is expected of you during an active recovery workout routine, how many should you be taking per week?
Well, I’ll say this.
At the very, very least, at least one day of this lower intensity work is mandatory.
With all of our clients that we have ever coached, whether it be inside of my Clubhouse community or our 1:1 coaching, we typically program 3-4x per week workouts.
This would mean that in turn, there are usually 3-4 active recovery “rest” days worked into the week.
From my 7+ years of coaching experience where I’ve coached thousands of REAL people with REAL lives, families, jobs, etc…
This seems to be the sweet spot of making the not only the best progress, but the most sustainable progress possible.
Alright, now that we know that at least one, up to 4, active recovery days are what you should be shooting for per week, what can you do on these days?
Let’s talk about that now.
Specific Active Recovery Workout Routine
You have a few different options here for an active recovery workout routine.
The easiest, most accessible, most sustainable one for me & my clients is always simply…
In our coaching, generally speaking our “cardio” goals are getting 5-10k steps per day on average. As close to that 10k mark as you can.
Therefore if you have a rest day from your strength training program, maybe getting out and taking a dedicated 20-40 minute walk would be a great option for this.
Or, if you want to go to the gym and hop on the treadmill for example, that’s totally acceptable as well.
Simply walking is going to get you that zone 1 or zone 2 cardio that we mentioned earlier, it will still keep you active and moving, and again it’s not incredibly demanding physically or mentally.
Which, an active recovery workout routine isn’t supposed to be super physically or mentally demanding.
The second option would be taking the same principle as above and applying it to your favorite cardio machine.
Whether it be the rower, the stair stepper, the elliptical, the bike, whatever.
You are looking to maybe spend 20-40 minutes at that low intensity, steady state heart rate level.
You aren’t looking to jack your heart rate super high, as again, this would be counter beneficial to the goal of having the rest day.
I will give you a pro tip though. If you want to REALLY optimize your active recovery workout routine, I personally would opt for either..
A sled push
The reason being is this. Again, without getting too technical, all of these modalities of cardio above do not produce something called eccentric loading to your muscles.
Eccentric loading is when for example you are going down into the bottom of a squat. The way down you are having this eccentric loading on your muscles with the weight whether bodyweight, a barbell on your back, whatever.
This eccentric loading creates something called muscle damage. This muscle damage is something your body will have to add extra recovery.
Therefore, if the goal of an active recovery workout routine is to promote recovery, it would make sense to minimize this muscle damage as much as possible.
The modalities of cardio I laid out above have little to no eccentric loading. Whereas for example something like a stair stepper or going for a run, there will be some sort of eccentric loading attached to it.
Meaning, there will be muscle damage created, which then adds a bit more stress to your body.
So if you are looking to optimize your recovery, on your rest days maybe try to stick to cardio modalities that do not have this eccentric loading.
On the flip side, if you just absolutely love to get on the stair stepper, kick your leg back in the air, and do your thing, queen.
Then go for it. The overall movement is what matters most.
A true favorite of mine when it comes to an active recovery workout routine is going to be adding in some mobility work.
Now, we could spend hours talking about mobility work in general. Yet the basis is most people, unless you are hand picked by god himself, need some work on their mobility.
The only issue is, it’s not always super fun to do. It’s a lot more fun to go push yourself in a heavy squat or deadlift than it is to do some hip internal / external mobility.
So we tend to skip it!
Yet on rest days, this can be a great way to get in that extra mobility work so you can stay injury free and gain more range of motion / control in your workouts.
In turn, leading to more progress as well!
I wish I could go super in depth in this article on all things mobility, but that would take another 4-6 hours.
What I will do though is drop below a full body mobility routine I have done myself and for a lot of our clients in the past that I think can be super beneficial.
Hip 90 90’s
Do 5 reps each leg!
Kneeling Thoracic Mobility
Do 5 reps each side!
Do 5 reps each side, slow and steady!
Elevated Ankle Mobility
Do 5 reps each side!
Do 8 reps!
If you do each of these exercises back to back in a circuit fashion, for 2-3 rounds each, you will have a phenomenal active recovery workout routine.
Yay, fun! Ab work!
Kidding, I hate doing abs. Like.. hate. It’s soooo boring for me.
But, this isn’t for me to talk about my hatred of training abs. This is to talk about how you might be able to implement them into your active recovery workouts.
You may have heard before that your abs get worked during your workouts on movements like squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc.
This is 100% a true statement.
Now, with that being said, I do still think that some EXTRA ab work throughout the course of the week is beneficial to
Gaining total body strength
Protecting your lower back
Helping posture and preventing injury
Now, the way I generally program ab training into the programs I create are by putting them into the warm ups of each workout.
With that being said, I think another great way you can go about adding in some extra ab work is by doing them as an active recovery workout routine.
As long as you aren’t doing 100 mountain climbers in a row in 30 seconds, or a 100 sit ups in a row with a 20 second break in between, then you won’t be jacking your heart rate up super high.
Which means you can get some extra core work in without sacrificing recovery.
If you want a super in depth article on how I like to program ab workouts, I can link that right HERE for you.
What I Would NOT Do On A Rest Day
I may have made this clear throughout the course of this guide so far, but if not, let me do that now.
What I would NOT do for an active recovery workout routine is…
High intensity bootcamp classes (beachbody, orange theory, spin classes)
15 mile hikes
Running 10 miles
Literally anything that is taxing on the body
Now it’s not to say you can’t do those things.
For example, let’s say you strength train 3x per week, Monday Wed Friday.
Then, let’s say you like to hike one day on the weekend.
Then, let’s say you’re REALLY active, and you want to get one run in during the week.
Okay, cool. You now have 5 high intensity workout days and 2 rest days / active recovery days from something we laid out above.
This could be an okay weekly workout split.
But to lift 4x per week, hike once per week, spin once per week, and run 10 miles one day per week…
I personally would advise against that. You don’t have to listen to me of course, I’m just one random guy on the internet.
Yet I’ve seen that story enough to know it won’t end well.. You will generally speaking end up exhausted, burnt out, and frustrated that you aren’t seeing the progress you want to see.
Remember, rest days are important my friend!
Active Recovery Workout Routine + Nutrition
That really sums it up for the activity part of the equation.
The other thing I wanted to touch on was from a nutrition standpoint. I get asked a lot “Eric, should I eat less calories on a rest day since I’m not working out?!”.
The answer is, I dunno, maybe, but usually not.
Just because you are not working out that day does NOT mean you need to eat less calories, no.
This is because whatever your goal is, whether it’s to be in a calorie deficit for fat loss.
A calorie surplus for muscle gain.
Or a calorie maintenance for maintaining your current body fat levels.
Your calories are based off of your TDEE, your total daily energy expenditure.
( If you want to find our your TDEE, you can head right HERE! ).
This means you’ve already factored in your weekly activity level into your TDEE. The calories you are supposed to hit, it’s already accounting for the fact you workout 4x per week with 3 rest days.
You don’t need to do anything else after that, you’re good. Your weekly activity level is already worked in, so you can eat the same amount of calories on rest days vs workout days if you’d like.
Now, I say if you’d like because some people like to do something called calorie cycling.
The most important thing is not necessarily your DAILY calorie goal, it’s your weekly calorie goal.
So if let’s say your daily calorie goal is 1800 calories, that is 12,600 calories for the week.
That’s the most important thing you need to hit.
Therefore some people simply like to have more calories on their workout days vs their rest days because they’re hungrier, they like the extra food after a workout, whatever it is.
If that’s you, you can do something like
4 Workout Days – 2000 calories
3 Rest Days – 1550 calories
This way you get a bit more calories on workout days when you’re hungrier and want more.
Yet you still can keep your overall weekly calories in check on your rest days because you slightly decreased calories to still hit your overall weekly calorie goal.
I also get the question of “Eric, should I still hit my protein goals on rest days?!”.
The answer is overwhelming yes, for three main reasons.
First, protein is the only macro nutrient that helps you recover and repair muscles.
So, if you’re having a rest day, and the sole purpose is to recover from the workouts you are doing..
Don’t you think still hitting your protein goal is a snazzy idea? 😉
I think so too!
Second, to piggy back off of this, there is something called muscle protein synthesis.
Just think of this as the “Godfather” in recovery processes for your muscles.
This muscle protein synthesis is how your muscles repair, recover, and grow stronger.
AFTER you workout, your muscle protein synthesis spikes for that muscle group the following 24-72 hours. So if you hit legs on Monday, Tues and Wed are the biggest days that your muscle protein synthesis is high for that specific muscle.
Therefore, if you are taking a rest day after legs and your protein is low, you are nowhere near optimizing this muscle protein synthesis.
Which means you are nowhere near optimizing your results because you aren’t fueling your body with what it needs.
Last, your body is mainly going to use your previous days worth of food as fuel for the next workout.
If you take a rest day, have super low protein, and try to workout the next day..
Good luck my friend is all I gotta say.
So for these 3 main reasons, yes, you still want to ensure you hit your protein goal on your rest days.
It is equally, if not potentially MORE important on rest days!
Active Recovery Workout Routine : Final Word
Welp, that’s about it my friend.
I told you if you read the whole way through you’d learn everything you need to know about an active recovery workout routine.
I hope you enjoyed this guide!
Along with if you are interested in coaching with myself or my team, you can fill out our application form HERE.
As well as you can check out our online fitness community & coaching group, The Clubhouse, right HERE.
Volume has many definitions and people will debate on the actual verbiage of it on the Internet.
Basically it’s how much work you’re doing (sets x reps x weight)
But that can be too confusing and problematic.
So, why not keep it simple in this guide on how to build muscle?
Think of volume as being how many sets you complete.
You want to try and get the muscle group or groups you’re trying to build in the 10-20 total hard sets per week if you want to build muscle.
Notice how I said HARD sets….If a set was not close to failure it was not a hard set.
Instead, you can put that one down as a warm up set.
For more in depth info on how much weight to lift, you can read my guide here.
Keep in mind, when you’re a beginner you’re going to build muscle just by stepping on the gym floor.
Kidding but you get the point.
So, you’ll build muscle just by doing the bare minimum.
Unfortunately or fortunately…depending on how you look at it… these Newbie gains won’t last forever.
And eventually you’ll have to adjust.
So, when you notice your progress slowing down, increase the amount of set’s you’re doing monthly.
For example, if you’re doing 15 sets for a muscle group for month 1, bump it up to 16 sets for month 2, etc.
Aim for 10-20 total sets per week for muscle groups you want to build. Make sure you’re lifting close to failure.
4. Best Muscle Building Rep Range
The old recommendation looked something like this….
Strength: 1-5 reps
Hypertrophy: (muscle building): 8-12 reps
Endurance: 15-20 reps
Well, now research shows that you can build muscle in all of these rep ranges.
You see, as long as you go close to failure, then you’ll build muscle regardless of the rep range.
(Notice how a lot revolves around this whole close to failure thing? Ok, back to the article!)
That said, there is an optimal rep range for building muscle…. And that is 6-12 reps.
Because it’s the most optimal for creating the most tension without it being too fatiguing or strenuous on your body.
If you go too heavy too often (1-5 reps), then that can place a lot of stress on your body, joints, and CNS which can make it hard to recover from and lead to an injury.
If you can’t workout then you can’t build muscle and if you can’t recover, you can’t adapt.
On the other hand, going super high reps (15+) can be problematic as well.
This uses more of the cardiovascular energy system so, even though you can build muscles at 15+ reps, your cardiovascular system could give out before you muscles do, and therefore you don’t reach muscular failure.
So, for the majority of the time, stick to the 6-12 rep range and include a little of the endurance or strength work depending on your goals.
I would say stick to 75% of your work in that 6-12 rep range, then choose either the 1-5 rep rate or 15+ rep range, depending on your goal, to get the benefits out of those.
5. Rest In Between Your Sets
Another big mistake is that people take a 30 second rest period in between their sets.
As a result, they aren’t fully recovered and therefore, can’t lift as heavy.
So, their progress goes to shit.
It’s basically trying to drive a car on an almost empty gas tank… pretty soon you’re going to break down.
For example, if you needed to lift 20 lbs for 10 reps to create an adaptation but could only lift 10 lbs for 10 reps because you were too fatigued, you’re selling yourself short.
Do you think 10 lbs x 10 reps is going to create more change than 20 lbs x 10 reps?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
So rest at least 2 minutes in between your sets so that you CAN push close to failure every set.
Trust me…You should be begging to rest. If you’re not… lift heavier.
Rest 2-3 minutes in between sets so that you can push hard every set.
6. Tempo and Form
IF you follow the above guidelines, then you will be good.
Keep in mind, you want to maintain good form for safety and to make sure you’re working the right muscles through a full range of motion.
Good form always comes first.
If you’re using momentum to lift up too heavy of a weight, then you’re not placing enough tension on your muscles to grow.
So, don’t half rep that shit and don’t use momentum.
As a general rule, think 1 second on the concentric, hold for 1-2 seconds, and then 2-3 seconds on the eccentric.
Guide On How To Build Muscle : Sample 3 Day Hypertrophy Program Template
Alright, now that you have everything you need to know on how to set up a kick ass muscles building program…
I’m going to drop a sample template below for you that you can follow if you want to get started.
Remember… if you’re close to failure on these movements, you’ll get amazing results.
1.Squat: 3×5 (25% in strength range)
3a.Reverse Lunge: 3×8-10/leg
3b.45 Degree Glute Ext: 3×10-2
1. DB Bench Press: 3×6-8
2. Lat Pulldown: 3×6-8
3a. Seated Shoulder Press: 3×8-10
3b. 1 Arm Db Row: 3×8-10/side
4a. Bicep Curl: 3×12-15
4b. Skull Crusher: 3×12-15
1. Sumo/Conventional/Trap Bar Deadlift: 3×5
2. BB Overhead Press: 3×5-8
3a. FFESS: 3×6-8
3b. Lat Pulldown: 3×6-10
4a. Chest Support Row: 3×8-10
4b. Rear Delt Row: 3×10-12
5a. Cable Behind the back side lateral raise: 3×10-12
5b. Cable Y: 3×10-12
— 1-2 compound movements
— 2-6 accessory movements based on goal
— 2-4 isolation based on goal
Also, start with your target muscle so that you can work it the hardest.
For example, want to build a bigger back? Start with a back movement.
Pick 1-2 compound movements using free weights. Then 2-4 accessory movements and 1-2 isolation exercises using a combination of free weights, machines, or cables.
Guide On How to Build Muscle: Setting Up Your Nutrition
Now that you have your strength training down, let’s dive into the second part of the guide on how to build muscle: Nutrition.
Is it possible to build muscle while losing body fat? Yea, if you’re a beginner, coming back from injury, or have a lot of weight to lose.
But ….it won’t be as much had you done it in a calorie surplus.
Imagine driving through snow… what’s going to get you to your destination quicker?
A small car or an SUV with 4-wheel drive?
The small car can get you there but it’ll be a much slower process.
So, if you want to take your results to that next level… then going into a surplus is the goal.
The reason is so that you can give your muscles the tools and energy they need to grow.
I’ll enlighten you down below:
1. Guide On How To Build Muscle : Setting Up Your Calories
Keep in mind that there is a limit to how much muscle you can build.
So, this is not a free pass to go into f*ck it mode because it’s not like eating as much as you want will lead to more muscle growth.
After a certain point, your body will just pack on extra body fat.
So, the whole “bulking season bro” mentality is a beginner’s mistake and not a good long term approach because the more fat you gain… the more fat you have to lose in the future.
That said… you WILL gain “some” body fat.
Notice how I emphasized the word “some”…
It’s completely normal and expected because not all the energy can go towards building muscle.
Therefore, the goal is to maximize how much muscle you can build while minimizing the amount of body fat you gain.
To accomplish this, I like to aim towards a 250 calories surplus.
Now, there are a bunch of equations out there on how to find how many calories you should eat.
But, the problem is there is no accurate way to know your exact amount of calories without some trial and error.
So, first I would suggest finding your estimated maintenance calories, tracking those calories for 4 weeks, and seeing if your weight roughly stays in the same range.
Then once you find your maintenance range, add 250 calories to that each day.
If you’re not gaining weight after a few weeks, then you may need to add another 250 calories again via carbs. (More on this down below)
2. Protein (4 cal/g):
Protein is going to be your best friend because it is the building block for building muscle.
Dietary protein allows your muscles to build back up bigger and prevent you from losing the muscle you already have.
Some of the best protein sources include: lean meats, lean dairy, high quality vegan sources if that is your thing, protein powders – whey or casein, and even protein bars.. although I’m slowly not becoming a fan of them myself.
Since the goal is to build muscle vs retain it, you’d want to eat a little more protein to help spike up muscle protein synthesis a little more if possible.
Aim for .8-1g per pound of your goal body weight.
3. Fat (9 cal/g):
Fat is essential to get into your diet.
It’s important for your hormones and your overall health which can have an affect on your performance and recovery.
Now, it’s not like adding in more fat will keep improving your hormone levels and health…
This is why adding butter in your coffee is just plain dumb as f*ck.
A little more can be fine but… too much can lead to more fat gain.
Think about it… you’re eating fat so eating too much will easily be stored as body fat when you’re in a calorie surplus since your body doesn’t have to do too much work to convert it.
Therefore, once you hit your minimum threshold, you’re good!
Now, look at carbs and protein… they have to go through a whole process of transforming the dietary carbs and protein into body fat which takes more energy to do.
Aim for .3-.5g per day of your body weight. Try not to exceed .5g.
4. Carbs (4 cal/g):
Yes, carbs help with building muscle!
They get stored into your muscles as glycogen and give you energy for your workouts.
This is important because if you remember…you have to push yourself close to failure if you want to build muscle.
The energy system responsible for that runs off carbs!
So, if you don’t have energy from carbs, it’s going to be hard to do that.
Trust me… this is coming from someone who used to not eat carbs because I was a carb hater.
And looking back at my workouts… they were complete dog shit and I was leaving gains on the table.
Eat. Your. Damn. Carbs.
Calculate your protein and fats, then subtract that number from your calories and that’ll be how many carbs you should eat.
Ex: 3,000 calories – (165g protein x 4 cal/g + 50g fat x 9 cal/g) = 1,890 / 4 cal per gram of carbs = 472g
Yes, it may look confusing at first but it’s actually pretty simple (or why you may want to consider hiring a coach).
When adjusting your calories, it will be done by either increasing or decreasing the amount of carbs you eat.
Need to eat more? Increase your carbs. Need to eat less? Decrease your carbs. Protein and fats stay the same.
5. Meal Timing Tip
Something worth mentioning is that it doesn’t necessarily matter how many meals you eat.
What matters most is finding a meal frequency that works for you.
Now…It may be beneficial to eat more frequently for a few reasons.
First, so you can eat enough calories.
One of the biggest surprises when clients start a bulk is just how hard it can be to consistently get in enough calories.
Spacing out your meals into small chunks can help with this.
This is also where hyper palatable foods like nut butters and nuts can also help out – just be sure to measure them out.
Also, drinking your calories through a shake can help out as well if you’re having a hard time scarfing down solid food.
So, planning out your meals and eating more often can make things less stressful.
Second, by eating protein more frequently throughout the day, you can keep muscle protein synthesis spiked which can help aid in building muscle.
Can’t beat that.
6. Guide On How To Build Muscle : Supplements
Following all of the above tips is going to get you 99% of the way there.
So, I’m not going to spend too much time talking about supplements.
I will say the three supplements that can help are creatine monohydrate, a protein powder, and caffeine.
Creatine can give your body more energy which will give you a boost in the gym, and has been shown to aid in building strength and muscle.
Plus, your muscles will fill up with more water and even look fuller too!
A protein powder such as whey or casein protein doesn’t have any magical benefits other than helping you reach your protein goals.
** If you want to get the protein & creatine that Eric personally recommends, you can get it HERE and use his code “ERIC” to get 20% off!
Lastly, caffeine from coffee or a pre workout can help by giving you more energy to lift more weight.
As you can see, there is nothing magical about these supplements. They supp-le-ment the basics.
Guide On How To Build Muscle : Be Patient and Consistent
Alright, that should have all of your basis covered.
If you follow these guidelines consistently, you will see some AMAZING results.
Keep in mind, the amount of muscle you want to build in 3 months will probably take you over a year to do so.
Unlike fat loss which is relatively quick, building muscle takes a shit ton of time.
The more of a beginner you are, the more muscle you will build.
As you gain more experience, the gains start to slow down.
I would say that you want to be in a surplus for a minimum of 6-12 months to see some serious changes because muscle takes a longggg time to grow.
Aim to gain .25% -.5% of your BW per week and that is usually a good sign of progress.
So, for example:
If I weighed 150 lbs, gaining .3-..75 lbs per week… yeah, not much and very slow.
If you’re consistently gaining more than this, dial back the calories each day by 100.
If you’re not gaining less than this or nothing at all, bump up the calories by 250.
Remember, the goal is to maximize muscle growth while minimizing fat gain.
Now, fat gain will be inevitable since you’re in a surplus so can we agree right now that you won’t freak out?
After you complete your bulk from 6-12 months, you can go back on a cut, lose some body fat, and see the new muscle you packed on.
Thank you for reading through this whole guide!
If you made it to this point, I can’t say how much I appreciate you!
Now let’s get after it!
If you are interested in coaching with myself or our team, you can fill out this form HERE to apply for our 1:1 coaching!
In this guide you are going to learn not only the differences between the sumo vs conventional deadlift.
But also which one is going to be “most optimal” for YOU. Your structure, your goals, and which to implement into your own personal training program.
Rest assured this guide will give you everything you need. I pinky promise.
Yet what you have to pinky promise back to me is that you won’t just skim the article looking for the sh*t you want to read or find out then exit out.
If you try to take things out of context with this particular article, it won’t work. You will miss something and see less results.
So, to avoid that, just read the whole thing.. Mkay?
You already pinky promised.
Sumo Vs Conventional Deadlift
There are a few distinct differences between the sumo vs conventional deadlift and I want to first start by laying that out first and foremost.
Let’s first cover the differences in muscles worked.
First, let’s go with the obvious (or, maybe not obvious, and that is okay too!).
A sumo deadlift is going to take a wider stance width, with your feet outside of hip width and toes slightly pointed out.
You can see here below.
With the sumo deadlift your hips start out a little bit closer to the bar because you can take that wider stance and “sink down” into the deadlift a bit more.
A conventional deadlift is going to take a more narrow stance, with your feet about shoulder / inside hip width.
You can also see that here below.
With the conventional deadlift, your hips start a little bit higher up & away from the bar due to your feet being a bit more narrow.
Is this good or bad? Eh, keep reading to find out.
Sumo Vs Conventional Deadlift : Muscles Worked
Both deadlift variations are going to be a total body strength training exercise (More on this later to come in this article!).
These movements aren’t like you doing something like a bicep curl, or a leg extension, or a glute kickback.
In a bicep curl, you are ONLY working your biceps.
In a leg extension, you are ONLY working your quads.
In a glute kickback, you are ONLY working your glutes.
Those are what we call “isolation movements”. They are designed to isolate ONE joint and work only ONE body part.
Either the sumo or conventional deadlift is going to work your entire body. This is called a “compound movement”.
Yes, it is going to work your legs. Yes, it is going to work your back.
But it is also going your core, parts of your biceps, your upper back, etc.
Your lats have to do a tremendous amount of work to hold and stabilize the weight, as well as help you brace your core.
It involves multiple joints. Your hip joints, knee joints, shoulder joint to a degree for stability / bracing.
This is what makes it a phenomenal total body strength training exercise.
Which btw, people often ask me…
Eric should I do deadlifts on leg or back day?!
Well, first, I don’t necessarily promote you having a “back day” as much as I would promote you having an entire upper body day.
But nonetheless, you should perform deadlifts on leg days.
Yes, your back is working, but it is working in more of an isometric contraction rather than going through a full lengthening and shortening phase a muscle goes through.
It’s almost like if you did a bicep curl and just held the weight at the middle of the movement, not going up or down, and just squeezing your bicep as hard as you can.
That’s essentially what your back is doing while completing a deadlift.
Where as your leg muscles (which ones depend on which variation you choose, so stick with me a bit longer) go through more of a shortening and lengthening phase.
Meaning more muscle damage happens to your legs, for the sake of this conversation all that means is your legs get worked more than your back does.
Therefore, you should be doing deadlifts on lower body days.
Now, Back To Muscles Worked…
Sorry about that detour there.
Getting back to muscles worked here.
Now that we know the deadlift is a total body strength building exercise, the two variations offer distinct differences.
A sumo deadlift is going to primarily work your adductors (inner thigh muscles) due to the wider stance.
Some people make the mistake of assuming the wider stance works more of your glute muscles.
No, the wider stance actually works more of your quad muscles. This goes for any exercise too so the sumo squats you are doing to help grow your glutes..
Yea, growing more adductor than glutes.
A conventional deadlift is in fact going to work a bit more glutes and hamstrings.
Now, like we said earlier, both variations are going to work all of your body.
It’s not like the sumo deadlift works NO glute and the conventional deadlift works NO adductor.
No, it all has to work to a degree.
It’s just that with the sumo vs conventional deadlift you can lead to you BIAS one or the other more.
Now, Let Me Say This…
If your goal is to use the deadlift to build muscle, you might be initially in the wrong place.
But in the long run you won’t be, and let me explain.
( You pinky promised you stay around! ).
The deadlift FROM THE FLOOR is actually a pretty sh*tty muscle building exercise.
Because one of the major components of hypertrophy (muscle building) is being able to get into that fully stretched position under load.
Think like the bottom of a bicep curl. The bicep is fully stretching your muscle on the way down and stretching it with the weight (load) in your hand.
You aren’t letting anything support it on the way down or at the bottom or you aren’t bringing your hand all the way down to a bench or a box and stopping.
You are holding the weight by your side and your BICEP has to fully stretch & resist the force of gravity at the bottom. The tension is high going into the stretch position.
This is a huge part of hypertrophy.
When you deadlift from the floor, you completely stop that stretch position. You let it hit and stop on the ground each time which means you are essentially taking away all of the tension at the bottom, which, is the stretch position.
Therefore when you deadlift from the ground, this is why I said it is a great total body strength building exercise.
Building strength and building muscle can intertwined & overlap, but they can also be two different things.
Now, are going to build some muscle deadlift, especially as a beginner to intermediate?
Of – f*cking – course you will.
But because you lose tension in the stretch position it doesn’t make the deadlift from the floor a great “muscle building” exercise per say.
Doing deadlifts are a big tax to the central nervous system.
Without getting too in depth, just think of your central nervous system as the captain of the ship.
Imagine the captain of the ship being up for 3 days straight with no sleep trying to manage and steer your ship.
Not the ideal scenario, right?
That is what happens to your body after a hard & heavy deadlift session.
You build a lot of stress and fatigue on your body that your body then has to recover from.
More so than when doing other different movements.
I often say your body only has so many “recovery points” to go around.
When you require so much recovery points from ONE exercise, that limits how much recovery points you can use to other exercises.
Which means you either
Can’t do as much volume throughout the course of a week otherwise you will not be able to recover from it. Volume is one main driver of hypertrophy.
You can do a lot of volume but then not be able to recover from the workouts you do, which, if you can’t recover from the workouts… it won’t make a difference because you won’t see changes to your body
Because the deadlift is such a total body exercise that works multiple muscles. It uses multiple joints to complete the movement.
It’s hard to get a lot of tension and focus on ONE particular muscle group.
Like the conventional deadlift for example. Yes it will work your glutes say the most, but it also works hamstring, quads, and adductors as well!
So if you are trying to really grow your glutes, you might pick an exercise like a hip thrust or even a bulgarian split squat to really nail your glutes a bit more.
Deadlifts are usually performed in a lower rep range with very high intensity / weight lifted.
I don’t usually program regular deadlifts from the floor over 5 or 6 reps max because in most scenarios I don’t believe there is a point to it.
Again the deadlift is focused on gaining strength, not necessarily building muscle.
If you were to focus on building muscle, you would probably pick something like an RDL (Romanian Deadlift) for example. You can get a full stretch and you can do a bit higher reps, maybe 6-10 reps.
Here is an example of an RDL below.
If you were to really focus on building muscle with a deadlift, you’d have to do ungodly amounts of sets to get the adequate volume ( weekly sets and reps ) needed, which in the long haul would put a ton of stress on your..
To name a few.
This is why often touted the “best rep range for building muscle” is often between that 6-12 rep range. I wrote an entire in depth guide on why that is too if you want to click here to read.
Therefore when talking about the deadlift in of itself, no matter sumo vs conventional deadlift, they might not be the best “muscle building exercise” on paper….
Yet, The Flip Side Is
Okay, so I just laid out why the deadlift WASN’T a great “muscle building exercise”.
I mainly did that so all the keyboard warriors and overnight coaches who have never actually coached anyone didn’t leave some dumb comment about it.
It may not be the best exercise on paper, but I do in fact believe (& know because I’ve seen this happen coaching thousands of people) that in the long run it can be a great muscle building exercise.
Why do I say the long run?
Because the deadlift helps you build overall total body strength.
If you are stronger as a whole, don’t you think you will be able to then lift more weight in your other movements that can help you with building muscle?
For example I mentioned an RDL.
An RDL is a great movement to hypertrophy your glutes and hamstrings.
If because you are doing say conventional deadlifts and are gaining a ton of strength, when you go do your RDL’s, you will be able to lift more weight!
If you are doing deadlifts in the 3 4 5 rep range to build more total body strength.. When you go to your “muscle building exercises” and the 6-12 rep range.
You will be able to lift more weight in the 6-12 rep range, leading to more muscle building.
Which if you lift more weight, you will be able to build more muscle in those muscle groups.
Or even take something like a bench press.
If you get stronger doing a sumo deadlift, it doesn’t “directly” correlate to getting a stronger bench press…
But it kind of does! You are able to recruit those high threshold motor units and neurologically speaking be able to be used to moving very heavy weight for lower reps..
So when you go to do a bench press which is a great strength and muscle building move, you will be able to lift more weight. Which, once again, is going to help hypertrophy that much more.
Therefore when people say the deadlift isn’t a great muscle building exercise, they are somewhat right.
Yet I believe they are also looking at it from a shortsided point of view.
They are missing the forest for the trees so to speak.
This is why I believe including deadlifts into your program will help you build both strength AND muscle building, no matter if you choose the sumo vs conventional deadlift.
What Do These Differences Mean?
Okay so you are learning some of the differences between the sumo vs conventional deadlift.
But how do we take these differences and apply them to you, your body, and your program?
Great question. Let’s talk about body type / structure.
Body Type / Structure
Now that we are learning the differences between a sumo vs conventional deadlift we can start to maybe piece together which may be best for you.
Aside from the muscles worked which we learned above, yes they work different muscles, but the sumo deadlift is really a total body strength exercise.
Personally, I would not pick a deadlift variation based on muscles worked. I’d pick it based off what feels best for YOU to perform the movement safely and without injury.
People with longer femurs (legs) do better with a sumo deadlift
People with shorter femurs do better with a conventional deadlift
Again, this is a generality. It is not always the case.
But typically speaking this is the case because people with longer legs require more external rotation in their hips.
The sumo stance allows that to happen whereas a narrower stance doesn’t allow for as much hip external rotation which can end up jamming your femur into your hip joint.
This then causes all kinds of hip pain, lower back pain, etc.
Fun Fact this is also the case for squats. This is why people with longer legs typically do better with a wider stance squat to allow for more external rotation.
People with shorter legs doesn’t need as much external rotation and they may actually get better leverage on the bar doing a closer stance, so a lot of times people pick that one.
Typically with what I laid out above, the people who have those femur lengths have a much better “moment arm” for each
Yet here is the deal. These are generalities and you need to find which one works best for YOU and YOUR body.
I have met people who are 4’11 and LOVE to sumo deadlift.
I have met people who are 6’6 and they LOVE to conventional deadlift.
I would play around with both and see which one feels most “natural” , safest , and strongest to you.
Let’s just say you are someone who picks the sumo deadlift in the sumo vs conventional deadlift debate.
Does that mean you should NEVER do a conventional deadlift?
Eh, idk, it depends.
I think there is merit to doing different variations of deadlifts to avoid overuse injury from doing one repetitive movement over and over and over again.
But I don’t think it has to be a movement that just feels like dog sh*t for you.
For example, I never do conventional deadlifts because they feel awful for me.
But, I do in fact do Barbell RDL’s for my glutes and hamstrings.
So I can change the variation up without having to do a movement that feels like hot garbage to me.
But, let’s say you like doing both!
Yes, I think there is merit to doing both and you can / should work both into your training program.
At the very least, work in different deadlift variations throughout the course of the weeks / months.
I wrote an article HERE talking about how frequently to change up your workouts and how.
Sumo Vs Conventional : Is Sumo Deadlift “Cheating”?
Let me address this question briefly because it really isn’t worth my time or yours to discuss.
Sometimes you will hear people say “sumo deadlift is cheating!”.
Live at home in their mommys basement
Don’t have anything better to do with their lives
Have no fucking clue what they are talking about
The reason people say sumo deadlift is cheating is because it seemingly requires less range of motion to move the bar.
Which depending on the person may or may not be true.
But even if it is true,
If a sumo deadlift feels incredibly better on your back and hips.. AND you can lift more weight doing it that way.. Do the f*cking sumo deadlift my friend.
I also encourage you to ask that person this question.
“Okay, well what happens if someone moves their hands farther out on a bench press? Is that cheating?”.
“Well what is someone moves their feet out on a squat because it allows them to get deeper in a squat & it feels more comfortable?”.
They won’t respond because they do that so they can lift more weight.. But it’s only cheating when you do a sumo deadlift…
Get outttaaaaa here.
Sumo vs Conventional Deadlift : Which Is Better?!
Well, I hope you got from this article that neither one is inherently “better”!
The one that is “better” is the one that works best for YOU, YOUR body structure, and YOUR goals.
I would play around with both, see which one feels best, and use that one to progress with til the end of time.
I am going to drop two videos here below on both the sumo and conventional deadlift.
These videos are pulled straight from my exercise database that is used with each and everyone of my clients.
Hope this article helped. If it did and you were interested in taking your training a step further, got a few options for you.
First is going to be my Clubhouse HERE. This is where each month we have new training programs laid out in depth for you to just plug and play. You get the program, follow it, see results.
Second is going to be our 1:1 coaching. If you are someone who knows you want a bit more in depth help and guidance, then feel free to fill out our form HERE to start the application process.
“ Are free weights better than machines “ – asked every person ever at one point in their lifting career.
It is a solid and fair question.
You see some people using machines, some using free weights, some using cable machines.
So, what is the best?!
Well, we are going to talk about what the “best” is in this article.
Before you enter the Narnia of weightlifting, just promise me your b*tch a** won’t skip through the article and read it word for word.
Yes, I just called you a b*tch a**, but it is out of love.
As well as out of getting your attention to make sure you read the whole way through because we are going to dive in depth.
I want to be sure you leave this article without any shadow of a doubt knowing which is the “best” for you.
Cool. Let’s do it.
Are Free Weights Better Than Machines
Pros Vs Cons
When talking about are free weights better than machines, I think what is often missing is something called context.
You know, that thing we all are missing these days in a 24/7, quick, short social media world we live in.
There has to be context when answering this question because depending on what you are looking for, the answer is (my favorite answer) it depends.
I encourage you to not necessarily think about which is “better”.
I encourage you to think about the pros and cons of all of them, because the truth is, they all have their pros and cons.
Let’s look at some of them for each category here below. Once we go through this, I think you will have a better understanding of when one may be “better” than others.
I am going to talk about 3 main forms of equipment here.
Machines (Machines you would find in the gym)
Free weights (barbells, dumbbells)
Cable Machines (like these here below)
Let’s first start with machines.
Machine Pros Vs Cons
When talking about using machines in the gym, there can be many pros that appeal to a large amount of people.
For starters, a machine is very SIMPLE.
You get into the machine and simply perform it how it is intended. They usually have either instructions, pictures, videos, or all the above attached to them to show how to use it.
For someone who is a beginner in the gym and may not exactly know how to perform exercises correctly, this can be quite appealing for obvious reasons.
There is little error to “f*ck up” a machine for lack of better terms.
You just kind of get in and go along for the ride.
Whereas something like maybe say a squat, a deadlift, a lunge, that requires much more of a concentration on form. You will have to spend some time learning how to do that movement correctly.
Now, I don’t think you should worry about this, because we ALL were a beginner once inside the gym where we didn’t know how to do something.
Hell, I have been lifting weights for almost 11 years as I write this, and there are STILL things I do “wrong” in the gym to this day.
Yet for a lot of people who are beginners in the gym, the idea of doing a machine that is “fool proof” for lack of better terms can be a great way to get you started in the gym.
For this reason I think machines are AWESOME.
They can get you in the gym.. Get over your fear of maybe starting out.. Get you more comfortable going in…
Through coaching people the last 7+ years I have seen that a lot of people start out at the gym on machines and then feel like they can start to venture out into other areas of the gym with a better mindset.
Therefore if this is you, I think this can be great and can be a massive pro to machines.
Another Pro Is…
Remember how we just talked about a squat, deadlift, lunge, shoulder press, etc, is inherently going to be a bit harder to learn.
One of the reasons for this is that you need to be able to control and stabilize the weight (which could just be your bodyweight for now!) through the range of motion.
Imagine if you are doing a shoulder press.
You need to take two dumbbells, in each hand, and be able to stabilize that through the whole way up and the whole way down.
That takes a LOT of work for your muscles to do, both your bigger shoulder muscles as well as your smaller stabilizer muscles.
( Hint: This may be a “pro” you see later on in the article…).
Whereas with a shoulder press machine, you don’t have to stabilize the weight through the range of motion.
That’s why the machine is there, it does that for you.
Therefore you can potentially be more confident in your movement and decrease risk of injury ( especially for complete beginners).
Even if you aren’t a beginner, you will usually be able to lift a bit heavier weight on a machine.
This is due to once again the machine takes out the stability factor, allowing you to overload the weight even more.
This is often touted great for hypertrophy (muscle building) training.
The more stability you have the more you will be able to contract the muscle & create something called mechanical tension.
More Stability = More Mechanical tension = More muscle building.
Single Joint Isolation Exercises
To piggyback off of the previous pro about stability, it makes a great pro for single joint isolation exercises.
For example a leg curl or a leg extension.
In both of these exercises you have ONE joint working, your knee joint. You are intentionally trying to isolate one muscle. As opposed to say a squat where you have multiple joints working at once, working multiple muscles at once.
Therefore since you have high stability with a machine you can focus on ONE specific joint and muscle maybe a bit more than you would be able to with free weights for example.
You can hammer home that one muscle and take it closer to failure because you don’t have to worry about stabilizing your body or the weight, you can solely focus on smashing your muscle as best as you can.
Which again, going close to failure is something that is necessary to get maximum hypertrophy.
So if you are doing exercises that you are trying to focus on one joint and one muscle at at time, machines may be a great option for that.
So, machines certainly have some pros to them.
Yet, they also have some cons. Let’s cover some right now.
One con to using machines is the fact that a machine is not individualized.
Meaning, I am writing this right now as a 6’4 250lb male with long femurs (thigh bone) and long arms.
You reading this may be a 5’3 160 lb female with short femurs and short arms.
How in the actual hell is ONE machine supposed to cater to both of us?
If I was to step into a squat machine versus if you were to step into a squat machine, we would inherently need completely different set ups / executions of the movement.
Not to mention what if you are someone who has different mobility / range of motion than someone else.
For example if I don’t have the best overhead shoulder and thoracic mobility (thoracic = middle / upper part of your spine) then an overhead machine press doesn’t take that into consideration.
It can’t change the range of motion, the angle, the bar path, the hand placement, etc. It can only go in ONE direction on ONE track.
Whereas for example if you had dumbbells and you were sitting on a bench, you can adjust the bench.. You can adjust the angle at which you press up, your hands, and where the dumbbells travel..
There are so many adjustments based on your specific needs as opposed to a machine, you are really limited to what the machine can do.
This can lead to some injury over time if you are trying to force this, kind of like trying to force a round peg into a square hole.
Is going to be actually taking the same “pro” we talked about earlier, stability.
Now yes, having the machine take the stability out of the movement for you can be a positive thing, yet, it can also be a negative thing.
Remember, context matters.
If your goal was actually to build some stability in your joints so that you can have a healthy aging process, improve balance, or simply be as strong as you can in a “well rounded” manner..
Then you would actually want to train and strengthen the stability aspect of your movements and not have a machine take that out for you.
You wouldn’t want to do a machine overhead press or a machine row, you would want to do a free weight press or row to help build stability strength.
Which, for the record, I do recommend you training your stability and getting stronger in that area because this is not just about looking good naked.
Yes, that is cool, and nothing wrong with chasing some aesthetic based goals.
Yet what also matters is maintaining a high level of health. One of the main reasons people check into a nursing home is because they can’t sit up and down off the toilet on their own.
Building strength and stability in your joints is incredibly important, therefore, I recommend training it so you can have that in your toolbox.
So as you can see, are free weights better than machines can really depend on what context you are asking from.
Machines have both pros and cons.
I mentioned I was going to briefly touch on cable machines as well, so let’s do that now.
Are Free Weights Better Than Machines : Cable Machine Pros Vs Cons
One of the great pros I love about cable machines is that you can challenge the muscle from different ranges of motion.
I spoke about this in a recent article I wrote, I can link that HERE if you are interested to read after this.
Yet what cables can do is provide a different way to hit the muscle, let’s take your triceps for example.
When you are using ONLY free weights or even ONLY machines, you might be missing out on challenging the muscle in a certain range of motion.
There are 3 main portions of the range of motion throughout an exercise.
The shortened, lengthened, and middle position.
For example if you are doing dumbbell skullcrushers, those challenge the muscle in the lengthened to mid positon.
If you are doing this tricep extension machine, again, challenges the muscle in the lengthened to mid position.
Yet, when you can throw in something like a tricep pressdown, this challenges the tricep in the shortened position.
This way you can challenge the muscle in ALL areas, which can improve your strength as well as the aesthetic appearance of the muscle.
So not only does it allow you to challenge the muscle from a different range of motion, it is very adjustable as well.
You can adjust where the cable is coming from, where you position yourself at, you can add different attachments to go unilateral, bilateral, etc.
Also, you can adjust YOU with the cable machine. You could stand or kneel. You could face it or face away from it.
There are just so many options you can do with a cable machine that it makes it hard not to be able to include it in your training.
One con that cables potentially brings about is when doing multi joint compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, RDL’s, overhead presses, etc.
The reason for this is because with the cable, inherently the resistance is coming at an angle.
You can work to position yourself as close to the cable as you possibly can, but the resistance is usually NOT just a straight up and down force like it would be in a free weight squat.
If you have a barbell on your back and you are squatting, you are fighting a force that is up and down, that’s it.
You aren’t dealing with a resistance that is coming from angles because quite frankly you don’t want to deal with that while doing those styles of movements.
Reason being is it can lead to injury over time by having more or less an “unnatural” movement pattern or force resistance.
As well as with a cable machine you are usually limited on the load you can use / the set up you can perform.
A cable stack usually tops out at what maybe 200ish?
Once you get to a certain level, you are inherently going to be able to squat or deadlift more than 200lbs.
Therefore if you ONLY used a cable machine for those moves you would be limiting results.
Because of this, cable machines are usually left to accessory / isolation movements (rows, pulldowns, bicep curls, lateral raises, etc).
I would recommend leaving the compound movements up to free weights.
Now that we know cable machines are a great option to add to the debate of are free weights better than machines, let’s now cover free weights.
Free Weights Pros Vs Cons
We have already touched on a massive “pro” when it comes to free weights so I will keep this part brief, but being able to adjust it to YOU.
Remember, everyone has different..
When using a machine, it does not take any of this into consideration.
Yet when using something like a barbell back squat, even though the barbell can’t move, YOU can move throughout your range of motion.
For example if you are like me and you have long femurs, to keep your spine neutral, you are inherently going to have to lean forward more in your squat.
Yet if you are using a squat machine where the pad is completely upright, you don’t have that option.
That is going to lead to injury over the long haul, as well as simply not being able to work your muscles as much as intended.
Yet with a free weight barbell since it can move through space ( Trippy ) you can move however YOU need to to make it work for you.
Or for example with dumbbells and a chest press.
If you are someone who needs to close your shoulder joint a bit more to be able to get a proper range of motion with your chest press, you can adjust the dumbbells as needed to face each other a bit more.
You can also adjust the arch of the weight path to fit what would work for your shoulder.
With a chest press machine, you aren’t adjusting the handles or the arch of the machine. You are confined to whatever the machine is set up as.
Therefore using free weights is going to allow for more individualization to each movement.
As Well As…
Another pro to free weights is having a “functional” workout.
Now, that term is thrown around a lot, all I mean by this is you can learn how to move & control YOUR body through a range of motion.
If you are using say only a leg press, yes it can hit your muscle as intended…
But if you are going to go outside and have to take a massive step and lunge to avoid stepping into a puddle…
You can have control of your body because you are doing lunges.
Or if you are an athlete and need to make cuts on the field / on the court…
You can have control because you were doing squats.
Or if you are needing to pick up and move heavy boxes…
You can have control because you were doing deadlifts.
There is no denying that using free weights is going to translate into “functional” movements on a day to day basis.
As well as just being able to have control of your body moving through space, which I think is often underestimated by many people.
Even something as simple as falling. Again, how do most older people get injured? By falling and breaking their hip right?
Now, to be fair, ANY type of resistance training is going to help prevent this, but lifting with free weights can help teach body awareness, which may help even more.
Briefly, this also goes right in tune with what we talked about earlier with free weights being able to train the stability factor of your muscles and joints.
There isn’t to my knowledge a better way to train stability and strength better than lifting some free weights.
To piggyback right along with that, lifting free weights is inherently going to work more of your core strength / stability.
Well, you guessed it, you have to control the weight AND Your body through a range of motion!
When you are doing a shoulder press you are NOT just working your shoulders, you are also working your shoulder stabilizers as well as your core.
Or if you are doing a deadlift you aren’t just working your legs, you are working your hip stabilizers as well as your core.
Your core HAS To work to stabilize the weight and your body / limbs moving through a range of motion.
Therefore, free weights can be a great option for ANY movement really. Bigger compound ones like squats or deadlifts for sure.
Or even smaller ones like bicep curls or tricep extensions.
Though I may give a slight advantage in some scenarios to machines or cable machines for some specific muscles in this scenario, still a really good option.
Now, there are some cons to free weights.
Again, as mentioned earlier, you are going to need to stabilize the weights. This can sometimes take away from the weight you lift in SOME exercises, or make them more difficult (though, more difficult isn’t always a bad thing!).
As well as you are going to need to learn how to control the weight / your body through a range of motion.
While this may be a “pro”, it can also be a “con” because it DOES take a little bit longer to learn.
Yet, I think the payoff is worth the work.
So… Are Free Weights Better Than Machines?!
Okay, I know you came here looking for the answer to are free weights better than machines and the truth is IT DEPENDS!
Hopefully as you can see they all have their pros and cons.. To summarize a tad bit..
I would generally pick free weights to be the STAPLE of your training program. This builds a solid foundation and generally speaking gives you the most bang for your buck (works core, stabilizers, teaches you to control your body, etc)
I would leave the bigger compound movements up to mainly free weights
Machines can be great for complete beginners starting off and or if you are really looking to isolate ONE specific muscle during a single joint exercise ( leg extension, leg curl, calf raise, bicep curl )
Cable Machines can be incredibly versatile and used for a lot of compound & isolation based exercises
A “con” might be a pro, and a “pro” might be a con, depending on your goal / how you choose to utilize the equipment you are using
Point being.. You don’t need to pick JUST ONE!
You can and SHOULD use all of them in your training program.
One isn’t “better” or “worse”. They all have their benefits and when used properly can all be great tools in your toolbox you can use for seeing the best results.
I hope this article helps you see that and if you are looking for getting your training programming done for you, I can link two great options here below that myself and my team offer.
First is going to be our Clubhouse. This is where I create a new training program each month for the group. You can check that out HERE below.
Or, if you are looking for more in depth 1:1 coaching with our team, you can fill out our application form HERE.
Either way, I hope this article helped, and look to chat soon!