Just The Tip is a new series of posts that I’ll be weaving in to the content here at Uncommon Sense Physique. The goal is to get my training and nutrition tips out to you “hot off the press” directly after my daily workout. Let me know if you like these tips in the comments below!
Two days of rest at the weekend and a three mile walk yesterday afternoon left me feeling STRONG for this morning’s workout. And that’s not always the case, as weekends can be real busy at times. But today I took the win and had a great training session.
I have three tips on deck for you today:
- Rest intervals
- What progression looks like
- Single leg RDL form-check
One pet peeve of mine is seeing people idle between sets at the gym.
I mean, not only is it an incredible waste of time, it also fucks horribly with your tracking. Why? Because the difference between two minutes of rest and five minutes of rest is HUGE when it comes to measuring progression. So unless you’re a powerlifter where it’s important that you are able to give 100% of your effort to each of your 3-rep sets, your variable rest intervals are going to mess with tracking your progress.
Take today for example.
It was 4 x 9 on squats for me today and I am currently working to one full minute of rest, with about 10-15 seconds of walk-in, set-up and pick-up time. But when you’re gassing after a set of challenging squats, 60 seconds goes REAL FAST. So if you are not timing your rest, I assure you that you’re likely waiting multiple minutes before getting under the bar again.
Now of course, the devil is in the detail, and monitoring HRV and recovery rates IS a way of managing your rest intervals. But it still has discipline and intent at its core.
So get off the IG, stop daydreaming and work your rest intervals like you mean it.
What progression looks like
One irrefutable pillar of training is that improvement requires progression. But what does progression look like?
Sadly, most of you seem to think that progress means adding yet more weight to the bar.
Which is a shame, because while adding more weight to the bar is indeed “progress”, it quickly runs out of steam for all but newbie lifters, and for the advanced trainee, adding weight to the bar can be infrequent at best.
Progression can look like:
- Adding weight to the bar
- Adding a rep to your sets
- Adding one rep to one set
- Making 8 reps look easy when last week 8 reps was hard
- Moving just 10 lbs more on total exercise volume
- Moving more poundage on total workout volume
- Moving the same weight at a slower tempo
- Adding pauses to the bottom of your reps
- Reducing your rest intervals by 10 seconds
Long list, huh? And there are more ways too.
So look, the takeaway here is that progress is multifaceted and not as simple as grabbing a couple of nickels and increasing your bar weight. And the deeper you are into your progression (training cycle, training age etc.) the more intelligent you need to be with your levers/markers of progress.
Quick example for me today on the shoulder press.
I felt good, so my plan for progress today was adding one rep to each of my four sets of shoulder press. So 4 x 9 x 75 instead of 4 x 8 x 75.
But I only made 3 x 9 x 75 and then 1 x 6 x 75.
But that is still progress, with a net progression of 75lbs. That’s HUGE! And while I was initially disappointed to not make at least my eight reps on the last set, I quickly realized that I DID make progress!
Single leg RDL form-check
Before we get into the whole “form-check” thang, you DO know that you’re supposed to be including unilateral work in your programming, right? That you DO have imbalances in posture and muscular development? That you DO favor one side over the other?
The single leg RDL can be a tough one for many people. Between maintaining balance, holding good form and working the mechanics of the movement, there’s a lot going on.
For me, I am currently working a single DB variant of the exercise, and I do this one slightly differently than most, opting to hold the DB on the SAME side as the working leg, versus the opposite side that you’ll see from most people.
For whatever reason, keeping the load close to the working leg gives me a better contraction in the hamstring and glute. It also means I can stabilize the movement with my opposing arm when I need to.
Here’s three of the more common mistakes you can make with this lift.
- Over-reaching on the ROM via extension of your lumbar
- Not keeping your hips square during the movement
- Simply “standing-up” versus contracting your hamstring and glute
Over-reaching on ROM
I see a lot of over-reaching on ROM with traditional RDLs, stiff-legged deadlift and these single leg RDL variants. And what I mean here by over-reaching is that the extended range of motion is NOT coming from any deeper stretch in the hamstring and glute, but instead through extension of the lumber (i.e. simply bending over).
With the goal being tension and maximal contraction in the posterior chain, there is literally zero value in over-reaching on this exercise. You’ll just tire-out your lower back and create a false sense of progress with the movement.
Simply stop your descent when there is no more extension left in the hamstring – which for most of us is not that far into the movement!
Not keeping your hips square
The second issue is losing the square/neutral position of the hips. I.e. your non-working hip/glute is rising or rotating (opening) during the movement, usually as a result of you searching for more ROM or looking for more support from other muscles to lift a load that’s too heavy.
If that’s still not clear, imagine that I drove a steel rod through one hip joint and out the other side, and locked both ends into a rack. Now, you have no choice but to maintain a square hip position. So as you pivot on your working leg, the non-working leg has no choice but to go straight back and up. No swaying. No hip rising. No weird angles. Your hips stay nice and neutral.
This video has some nice coaching cues using a two-DB variant.
Practice both of the above and I swear you’ll be working at half your normal load on this movement!
Stop simply “standing-up”
The final issue I see with this movement is people simply “standing-up” from the bottom of the movement. I.e. using some momentum of the non-working leg, leveraging the over-extension of the lumbar and simply “standing-up” straight.
Contrast that to a body position that is not over-reaching with lumbar extension, has hips that are perfectly square at the bottom of the movement and fully paused before the ascent (no “bounce”).
So from that paused, hips-square position, with hamstrings at full extension, SQUEEZE the working glute and forcefully contract your hamstrings. You can immediately feel the difference. Now you can feel the target muscles working. And hopefully you’ll notice this feels VERY different from simply “standing-up”!
For extra credit, there are a number of variations on loading this exercise, including:
- Single DB
- Double DB
… point being, you might need to experiment to find your preferred variation.