By Chris Wilson, Head Strength Coach
How realistic is it to get a great chest workout with very little weight?
I’m talking about those moments when the gym isn’t an option OR you work out at home with your own equipment (and you don’t have very much of it).
The good news is it’s actually very realistic to intensely work out with limited weights. You just need to be pointed in the right direction.
Even if the only equipment you have for working out is a lousy 80-100 pounds of plate weight, a barbell and a pathetic flat exercise bench (rust is optional).
Listen, after 25 years of working out I still like doing bench presses big time like most guys. Throwing 225 lbs around for reps is fun but that isn’t gonna fly with nothing more than a measly 100 pounds of iron and a barbell in your garage.
But we all need to start somewhere and frankly most guys training from home don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on heavy duty racks and tons of weight. I totally get that.
So what would you do if you were limited on equipment?
Well, as I said, you do have options. Here is what I would do with that so called “worthless” 100 pounds and a barbell for hammering those pecs, shoulders and triceps.
Micro-Burst Chest Workout
For a period of three months and twice per week on non-consecutive days do flat barbell bench presses with the 100 pounds for no more than two sets; do as many reps as possible.
Here are some bullet points for you in part one of this workout:
- 90 days
- 2x per week on NON-consecutive days
- No More than Two Sets
- Rep until failure
The key is to always try to do more reps in each workout!
In other words, don’t settle for less than one additional rep each set per workout. Rest two to three minutes between the first and second set.
Upon completion of the second set strip the bar completely of all poundage and position it securely on the floor. If you must, use some type of wedge on either side of the collars to keep the bar from moving or rolling under you.
Get into a regular push-up position and grasp the bar with your regular bench press hand spacing. Now do two sets of bodyweight push-ups only for as many reps as possible.
Again, mimic the instruction given for the barbell bench press. Do as many reps as possible on each set and try to desperately add one additional rep to each set each workout.
You will experience a tremendous pump from this micro-burst chest workout but even better, at the end of three months, you will hold most of the previous gain factor on your 225 bench press reps. You may even make an increase in poundage or reps with 225 lbs.
I’m using 225 lbs as a bench mark since it’s such a common poundage used across the country for testing etc.
NOTE: It’s always recommended to hit a gym occasionally even if you work out at home most of the time. The gym gives you an opportunity to do more sub-maximal or maximal weight lifting safely which actually needs to be done here and there if strength is important to you.
There’s just no good replacement for testing yourself with 80-90% of your 1 rep max.
Remember, as long as you’re ‘properly’ destroying your body with light to moderate weights, it’s amazing how much strength you can retain when you go back to heavier weights intermittently.
By Chris Wilson, Head Strength Coach
Develop Your LOWER BACK with Cable Pull Thrusts
Q: I do all my training at our local gym here in town. It has all the usual stale equipment like the cable cross over machine, hyper extension bench, leg curl machines and what not. I want to develop a strong lower back but to be honest with you I am burned out on doing deadlifts and hyper extensions all the time. Do you have any novel idea’s for developing the lower back?
A: Yeah as a matter of fact I do have a novel idea for the development of the lower back and it involves the use of the cable cross over unit believe it or not. The exercise I am going to describe is called “Cable Pull Thrusts” and has been popularized over the years by Louie Simmons and the powerlifters at the Westside Barbell Club in Columbus, Ohio as an assist movement for garnering more strength in the lower back. The exercise goes like this.
Begin by attaching a triceps rope to one of the (base floor pulley) cable stations on the cable-cross over unit. Next, select a weight stack poundage that you will be using for a pre-determined number of reps. Now turn around with your back toward the pulley cable.
Assume a shoulder width foot stance and bend your upper torso forward from vertical (taking care to keep the lower back flat or slightly arched) so that you can reach down between your legs (kind of like the posture if you were going to hike a football) and firmly grasp each end of the triceps rope (palms of the hands should face each other and the arms slightly bent).
Make sure that the cable is taut (you will have to adjust your distance from the floor pulley) as this will allow you to support the weight stack throughout the full range of the exercise motion.
Now it’s just a matter of pulling on the rope and bringing your upper torso to an upright position. If you do this correctly your hands will be positioned near your groin (it will mimic the lockout of a sumo deadlift where the arms are inside the thighs).
Reverse the movement just described and allow the triceps rope to travel between your legs past your heels as far as possible. Repeat for the desired reps.
Some Points to Remember:
- Keep a very slight bend at the elbow joints meaning that you never lock-out or straighten the arms.
- You can do this exercise with the knees locked (emphasizes the lower back involvement) or with a “soft” knee bend (initiates gluteal involvement). Even though you are after more back development you may want to switch from a locked to soft knee position from workout to workout for variety sake.
Regular Sets, Plus Fast Doubles
Q: I am always looking for a way to get a Super Pump in all the muscle groups whenever I happen to train them. Do you have an idea’s along this line?
A: Here is a great method to try that works for most exercises:
Sometimes you can do what is called Regular Sets, Plus Fast Doubles. This is done on the last rep of a set.
Barbell Curls – when you complete the last repetition of a set, put the barbell down. Rest about 3-10 seconds and then do two more repetitions, rest for another 3-10 secs and do two more additional reps, rest again for 3-10 secs and complete a final two reps.
This is usually performed within the confines of the last rep of the last couple of sets of a select exercise. It makes for a terrific burnout technique as well as you can imagine.
If there is a secret when doing the ‘Fast Doubles’, it is in the 3-10 second rest-pauses. It is these rest-pauses which allow a 50-56% recovery of the involved localized muscle (in this case the biceps).