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How to Squat

Common Mistakes in the Squat

Squat Variations

How to Bench

Common Mistakes in the Bench

Bench Press Variations

How to Deadlift

Common Mistakes in the Deadlift

Deadlift Variations

Bracing + Breathing

1RM Test Guide

Self Talk

High-Bar Squat

Demo Here

A squat where the bar is placed higher on your traps compared to a traditional low bar squat, where the bar is placed above your rear-delts. The higher bar positioning allows for a more upright torso angle during the squat, placing more emphasis on the quadriceps.

For full squat tutorial, see our Extended Video Library or written guides on this movement.

Substitutions 

Quad-dominant barbell squat variations (front squat, safety bar squat, etc.); other lower body compound exercises (hack squat machine, leg press, belt squat, goblet squat, etc.)

Front Squat

Demo Link

Unrack the bar across your shoulders, placing it as close to your throat (across your clavicle) as possible while still allowing yourself room to breathe. Barbell should rest behind the delts, and hands and fingers help balance the bar outside of the delts. If you are unable to maintain hand position on the bar, you can use lifting straps to hold on to the bar as shown here, or use a cross arm position with your right hand supporting the bar on your left shoulder, and vice versa.

Bend at the knee and the hip, placing an emphasis on knee flexion as it will travel farther in front of the knee than your back squat variation. Keep the torso as upright as possible and continue to keep the elbows high throughout your repetition.

Substitutions 

Quad-dominant barbell squat variations (high-bar squat, safety bar squat, etc.); Goblet Squats; Other quad-dominant compound movements (hack squats, narrow stance leg press)

Goblet Squat

Demo Link

Heel Elevated Goblet Squat Demo

Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest, perform squats to depth while keeping an upright torso. Perform with feet flat on the ground, unless specified otherwise (e.g. Heel Elevated Goblet Squat, as demonstrated above). Elevating your heels will create greater forward knee travel as you maintain your upright torso, meaning more quad-focus and knee flexion during your repetition.

Substitutions 

Front loaded (DB, KB, barbell) squat; Belt Squats; Leg Press or Hack Squat; Leg Extensions

Belt Squat

Straddle two blocks and hang the weight of a weight-loaded belt between your legs. Perform squats to depth while keeping an upright torso

Substitutions 

Front loaded (DB, KB, barbell) squat

Hip Thrust

Demo Link

Sitting on the floor in front of a bench, roll the bar so it is over your hips. Support your mid back perpendicular to a bench. Squeeze your butt and drive your feet through the floor, extending until your hips are in line with your torso. Aim to keep your shins vertical throughout the repetition to better target your glutes.

Substitutions 

Glute bridge variations (banded, single leg, etc.); Leg Press variations (especially glute focused, such as wide stance or feet further in front of you); Step Up, Lunge, or Split Squat variations

Band Abducted Squats

Demo Link

With a band on your legs above your knees, perform squats while maintaining tension in the band. Press into the band by pushing the knees out in the squat. To be performed unweighted, unless otherwise specified (e.g. Band Abducted Goblet Squat).

Substitutions 

Clamshells + Squat variation performed back-to-back

Pause Squats

Demo Link

Pause at the bottom of the squat, maintaining tension in the legs and lower back and keeping position throughout the pause. Press back up by pushing your feet into the floor and your shoulders back into the bar.

Substitutions 

Paused barbell squat variations (low-bar, high-bar, front squat, safety bar squat, etc.); Pause lower body compound exercises (leg press, hack squat machine, goblet squat, etc.)

1.25 Squats

Demo Link

Perform the eccentric portion of the squat, after getting out of the hole of the squat on the way up, change directions and return to the bottom, then stand all the way back up to complete the rep.

Substitutions 

One and a quarter barbell squat variations (low-bar, high-bar, front squat, safety bar squat, etc.)

Bulgarian Split Squat

Demo Link

In a lunge position with back leg supported on a bench and with weight loaded (barbell on back, goblet in front, or one dumbbell in each hand), sink into lunge position on front leg and squeeze quadriceps to stand back up.

Substitutions 

Walking lunge, DBbox step-ups

Single-Leg Leg Press

Demo Link

On the leg press machine, load weight appropriately (roughly half what you would use for a regular Leg Press, or more conservatively if needed). Set up as you normally would (with feet roughly shoulder width apart). Maintain your hip and torso position, and then remove one leg from the press and place it safely out of the track. Push upward on the sled, unlock the safeties, and lower the sled to a comfortable depth. From there, push back up to perform a repetition. Repeat. Aim to keep your hips square in the same position throughout the repetition.

Substitutions 

Lunge variations; Split Squat variations; Cossack squat; Box Step Ups; Any other unilateral lower body exercises.

DB Box Step Ups

Demo Link

With one dumbbell in each hand, step one leg onto a box and use that leg to drive your body to standing on top of the box. Lower down and repeat for the prescribed reps, then switch legs and repeat.

Substitutions 

Split Squat Variations, Lunge Variations; Any other unilateral lower body exercises

Bench Press

Demo Link

Your competition (or strongest) style bench press. Perform these with your strongest grip width, maintaining head, shoulder, and hip contact with the bench and your feet pressed on the floor unless specified otherwise (e.g. Feet Up Bench Press). For full bench press tutorial, see our How to Bench video, our Extended Video Library or written guides on this movement.

Substitutions 

Barbell Bench Press Variations (competition-style, close grip, wide grip, incline, decline, etc.); Push Up Variations; DB Bench Press Variations; Machine Pressing variations or any other upper body pressing movements.

Close Grip Bench Press

Demo Link

Feet Up Demo Link

Take a moderately (1-4″ per hand) narrower grip than your competition or regular bench press grip. Lower the bar to your chest with control (aim to tuck your elbows a little bit closer to your torso than a normal bench press) and press back up to lock out. Set up with your shoulders and butt on the bench and feet on the floor as normal, unless specified (e.g. feet up close grip bench press).

Substitutions 

Swiss/football bar bench, Neutral grip DB press

DB Bench

Demo Link

Flat bench press with dumbbells

Substitutions 

Pushup, flye, and cable crossover variations

DB Incline Bench

Demo Link

Use an incline bench, or angle a flat bench with plates or blocks. Bench press with dumbbells, maintaining form through each rep.

Substitutions 

Incline Barbell Bench Press; Pushups; Flye; and Cable Crossover variations

Board Press

Demo Link

Use a bench block or board to limit the range of motion of the bench press. Lower the barbell with control, complete a pause when the block or board makes contact with your chest. Can also be done with a partner holding the board on your chest.

Substitutions 

Pin press, Spoto press

T-Shirt Press

Set up as you would for a traditional bench press (unless specified otherwise, e.g. Feet Up or Close Grip). Unrack and lower the bar, aiming to control the descent through the entire range of motion. The goal of this exercise is to stop right as the bar touches your shirt, but before the bar touches your chest. You should remain actively resisting the bar at this point.

Allow the bar to become motionless (a very slight pause to ensure you are not losing control of the bar or bouncing off your chest), and then begin pressing the bar back up to your start position. You should remain in constant tension here, not allowing the bar to rest on the chest at all. Aim to keep the contact with your shirt as light as possible, but don’t stop above the shirt (make sure you touch your shirt, after all!).

Substitutions 

Spoto press, pin press

Spoto Press

Demo Link

Feet Up Spoto Demo

Unless noted otherwise (e.g. feet up, close grip, etc.), set up in your competition style (regular) bench press. Control the descent of the bar path, and rather than lowering all the way until the bar touches your chest, pause the bar before it makes contact, about 1 inch above your chest. Maintain tension during the pause, and drive back up to complete the rep.

For a Feet-Up Spoto Press variation, set up with your competition style (regular) bench press grip. Rather than placing your feet on the floor, bend your knees and place feet flat on the bench to remove your leg drive and place greater emphasis on your upper body pressing muscles.

Substitutions 

Board Press, T-shirt press, DB or Machine Bench Press variations

Bench (3s pause)

Pause for 3 seconds at the bottom of the bench press

Substitutions 

Pin press, t-shirt press, DB bench press

Kroc Rows

With one hand and one knee on a flat bench, row a dumbbell in the opposite hand from the bottom of your range of motion to the lower rib cage

Substitutions 

DB Row, cable row, chest supported row

Deadlift

Demo Link

Competition style deadlift. This can either be conventional, or sumo position. For full deadlift tutorial, see our How to Deadlift video, our Extended Video Library or written guides on this movement.

Set up with the bar above your midfoot (aim for you mid-shoelaces), and get into the start position by reaching down with your arms straight down while hinging at the hip and bending slightly at the knee. Shins should be close to perpendicular to the floor at the start of the pull. Tighten the upper back, brace the core, then pull the bar from the ground up to the hips. Think about pushing the feet through the floor while keeping the barbell as close to your body as possible.

Substitutions 

Barbell deadlift variations (conventional, sumo, trap bar); Other posterior chain compound exercises (Good Mornings, Romanian Deadlifts, Stiff-Leg Deadlifts)

Good Mornings

Demo Link

Unrack the bar with it in a low bar position. Walkout, and hinge at the hip by pushing your hips back while the bar and shoulders travel down, aiming to descend until your torso is near parallel to the ground. Control the descent and speed. Slight bending at the knee is ok to reach proper hip hinge.

Substitutions 

Barbell loaded or banded; Back extensions; Reverse hyperextensions; Stiff-Leg or Romanian Deadlifts

Stiff-Leg Deadlifts

Demo Link

Set up in a conventional deadlift position. Setup and execution of this movement will be very similar to the conventional deadlift, but should have a higher hip position, and less knee flexion. Do not completely lockout knees, but take note to keep legs more straight. Can be loaded with barbell, DB, KB.

Substitutions 

Romanian Deadlifts, good mornings

Sumo

Demo Link

Refer to our Video Library and written resources for more information on this more technical lift.

Set up with feet wide and hands inside of legs. Hinge at the hip and bend at the knee to get in a pulling position where shins are perpendicular to the floor. Tighten the upper back, brace the core, then pull the bar from the ground up to the hips. Think about pushing the feet through the floor while keeping the barbell as close to your body as possible. Extend the knee and then open the hips in rapid concession.

Substitutions 

Sumo KB/DB deadlifts, other Barbell deadlift variations (conventional, trap bar)

Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

Demo Link

Set up with your feet shoulder width apart, toes pointed forward. Shins should be close to the bar, similar to the deadlift position. Pick the barb ell up by focusing in the hip hinge, and keeping the back neutral through the entire movement. Maintain a slight bend in the knee, and push the hips back so you feel a stretch in the hamstring and glute activation.

Substitutions 

Trap bar deadlift, sumo KB deadlift

Deficit Pulls

Demo Link

Stand on an elevated plate/board/block and perform your competition style deadlift with the additional range of motion.

Substitutions 

Pause deadlifts, tempo deadlift

Low block pulls

Demo Link

Set up the barbell on low blocks so the bar is below the knees. Deadlift starting from that position

Substitutions 

Pause deadlifts, tempo deadlift

Cable Pull-Throughs

Demo Link

Lower cable machine to lowest rung. Standing with your back to the cable, straddle the cable and pull the handles through your legs and lockout the hips

Substitutions 

Hip thrusts, glute kickback, back extensions (shoulders rounded)

Deadlift (3s Negative)

Standard deadlift with a tempo descent that takes 3 seconds from the top of the deadlift down to the floor

Substitutions 

Tempo deadlifts

Split Stance RDL

Demo Link

Set up in a staggered stance, and soften the front knee slightly. Put your weight on the front foot and hinge at the hip and push your hips back. The back foot should support like a kickstand. Control your slow negative and keep your back flat.

Substitutions 

Single leg RDL, Single Leg Press, Split squat variations, Lunge variations, Single Leg Hamstring Curls, other unilateral lower body work

DB or KB Romanian Deadlifts

Demo Link

Toes Elevated RDL Demo

Perform a Romanian Deadlift using DBs in each hand rather than a barbell. Try to maintain constant tension throughout the set, not resting the DBs until all reps are completed. Can also be performed holding a single kettlebell with one hand, or one kettlebell in each hand.

Perform these with both feet flat on the floor, unless specified otherwise (e.g. Toes Elevated DB/KB RDL, as demonstrated above). A Toes Elevated RDL variation can add a greater hamstring and posterior stretch as you push your hips back during the repetition.

Substitutions 

Barbell RDLs, Split Stance RDL, Hamstring Curls

Single-leg DL

Demo Link

Standing on one leg with knee slightly bent, perform a stiff legged deadlift, extending the free leg behind you for balance.

Substitutions 

Unilateral hip hinge, split stance DL

Lat Pull Downs

Demo Link

Neutral Grip Demo

Supinated Grip Demo

On cable pulldown machine, choose a long handle. Keeping your torso upright, chest tall, and elbows pointed down, squeeze the lats/armpits and lower the handle to below your chin. Try to tuck your elbows in towards your ribs as you pull the bar down, better engaging your lats. Perform these with an overhand grip unless specified otherwise, such as neutral grip or supinated (underhand) grip.

Substitutions 

Lat Pull Over (DB or Cable); Vertical Pulling movements (Pull Ups, Chin Ups); Horizontal Pulling movements (DB Rows, Barbell Rows, Inverted Rows, Chest Supported Rows, etc.); Any other back or lat focused exercises.

Seated DB OHP

Demo Link

Get in an upright seated position with a dumbbell in each hand. Elbows should be in a 90degree angle at the start position. Push DB and fists up to the ceiling, completing the rep when elbows are locked out overhead. Return to start position and repeat.

Can be completed with back support on an adjustable bench press or without. Back support may help form at higher intensities.

Substitutions 

Standing OHP, Barbell OHP, single arm DB OHP

Bentover Rows

Demo Here

In a bent over position with back parallel to the floor (or close) and knees slightly bent, row the bar by pulling it to the lower chest. Control the bar throughout the movement.

Substitutions 

Pendlay Row, DB Row, Hammer Strength Row, Inverted row, Landmine T-Bar row

Cable Lat Pullover

Demo Link

Attach a straight bar to a cable pulley machine at the highest position. Standing facing the cable machine, grab the bar with an overhand position at shoulder width apart or wider. While maintaining a slight elbow angle, pull the bar down towards your waist. Think about leading the pull with your elbows, tucking your arms back to your torso throughout the repetition. When the bar reaches your waist, pause and control the movement back to the starting position

Substitutions 

Pullover with any cable attachment, DB pullover lying down on bench or on decline

 

DB Rows

Demo Link

Using a bench or box, place same side knee and hand on the surface. Extend free arm straight down with the dumbbell and bring dumbbell back to your hip. Can also be performed with a KB, or with both legs on the floor creating a tripod between your legs and supporting hand.

Substitutions 

Single arm cable row, single arm lat pull down

Face Pulls

Demo Link

Facing a cable machine, set the pulley at or above your eye-level and use a rope or split handle attachment. Pull the weight directly towards your face while keeping the upper arms parallel to the floor. Control the cable on the way back to the start position. Can also be performed with a band.

Substitutions 

Band Pullaparts, Prone I-T-W-Y, Rear Delt Flyes

Chest-Supported Rows

Demo Link

Use an incline bench or row machine setup to support the chest so you can take your lower back out of the movement. Keep feet on the ground or straddle the bench to get into position.

Grab the bar/DB/KB or cable and row by moving the weight back towards the hip. Control the weight to return to the start position. Your torso should remain in the same position throughout the repetition.

Substitutions 

DB row, inverted row, barbell row, any other horizontal pulling variations or machines

Rear-Delt Flyes

Demo Link

With a dumbbell in each hand, bend at the hips so that the chest is parallel to the floor. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and raise each dumbbell out and up away from the torso. Control the weight on the way back to the bottom. Option to use DB, KB or Cable machine.

Substitutions 

ITWY, band pull aparts, face pulls

Lat Pull Over

Demo Link

Laying on a flat bench, hold a dumbbell with arms extended over eye level. Lower the weight down to parallel to your head by isolating the lats, and return to the start position. Can also be performed on a cable machine or lat pull down. Maintain a constant elbow angle, and pull a rope or straight bar from a high position down towards your belly button, aiming to tuck your elbows in and back towards your torso.

Substitutions 

DB or Cable Lat Pull Over; Other lat and back exercises (lat pull downs, pull-ups; chin-ups; rows; etc.).

Pendlay Rows

Demo Link

In a bent over position with back parallel to the floor, row the bar from the floor into the lower chest and return the bar back to the floor

Substitutions 

Barbell row, Kroc rows, chest supported rows, seated cable row

Hammer Curls

Demo Link

Perform curls using DBs or a neutral grip bar. Keep your palms facing together throughout the entire movement.

Substitutions 

Neutral Grip Curls; Cable Curls; Machine Curls; Any other bicep variation

Alternating DB Curls

Demo Here

Using DBs, perform curls alternating each arm. Keep bicep and elbow close to torso and control the weight through the entire movement. Can be performed standing or seated, if not specified.

Can also be performed simultaneously (not alternating) if specified or preferred.

Substitutions 

Single Arm Cable Curl; Concentration Curls; EZ Bar Curls; Hammer Curls

Overhead Tricep Extension

Demo Here

Holding a weight above your head with your arms extended, bend at the elbow to lower the weight with control behind your head. Return the weight to an extended overhead position. This variation can be performed with DB, EZ Bar, Cables (rope/V-handle and facing away from a cable pulley), as well as standing or seated if not specified.

Substitutions 

Cable push downs, Skullcrushers; any other tricep-specific exercise

Barbell Curls

Demo Link

Stand and hold a barbell with an underhand grip, palms facing away from your body. Keep the upper arms stationary, and curl the bar forward and up while contracting the biceps. Lower and repeat for reps.

Substitutions 

EZ bar curls, alt. DB curls, hammer curl

Inverted Rows

Demo Here

With a barbell fixed in a low position in a squat rack, hang underneath the bar with your feet on the floor and your hands spaced bench press-width apart. Starting with your arms extended and your body in a straight line (with an engaged core), pull your chest towards the bar maintaining the same straight body positioning and then lower back to an extended start position. To scale this movement, bring your feet closer (easier) or further away/elevated (harder). Can also be performed with a TRX or Rings.

Substitutions 

DB Row, cable row, chest supported row

Bench Dips

Demo Link

Starting with a bench perpendicular to your body, grip the surface or edge of the bench with your hands. Keep your feet flat on the floor, bending 90-degrees at the hip and knee. Lower your body until your elbow joint passes 90-degrees, and then press yourself back up to the top by pushing into the bench.

Option to scale up (harder) by extending your feet away from your body, elevating your feet, or adding weight to your lap. Moving your feet closer to the bench and bending your knees (as demonstrated) will scale this easier.

Substitutions 

Tricep Push Down, Tricep Kick Back, Skullcrushers

Plank

Demo Link

In pushup position with forearms on the ground, maintain neutral spine by tucking the ribs and squeezing the glutes and abdominals. Maintain that position for prescribed amount of time. If the prescribed time is too short or long for your current strength, consider scaling:

Scale easier by performing your plank to your knees and/or raising to your hands (vs. forearms). Scale harder by balancing on forearms only, adding weight to your back, or by placing your hands or feet on an unstable surface like a Bosu ball or suspension system like TRX.

Substitutions 

Hanging Leg Raises, Bear Crawls, Side plank, L-sit

Suitcase walk

Demo Here

Hold a weight (kettlebell, dumbbell, etc) with one hand and walk. Switch hands with the weight and walk the same distance back. Carries are always counted by time, so do not rush. Control your pace and do your best to keep your hips and shoulders square and balanced despite the resistance in one hand.

Substitutions 

Any unilateral heavy carry; KB/DB Windmills; Side Planks

Ab or Barbell Rollouts

Demo Here
Set up a loaded barbell or use an ab-roller. Start in a kneeling position with enough room to extend forward. Initiate by pushing the bar/roller forward away from your thighs. Control the speed and distance the roller travels by engaging the core. You should feel a light stretch in the abdominals. Keep ribs down and glutes tucked, being sure not to get into a hyperextended spine position. Attach a band to the bar and fixed behind you to scale this movement easier, and a band to the bar fixed in front of you to scale this movement harder.

Substitutions 

Hanging Leg Raises; L-Sit; Planks; Sit-Ups; Cable Crunches; Any other abdominal flexion exercise

Band Pullaparts

Demo Here

Underhand Demo Here

Hold a band in with both hands and extend arms in front of you. Raise hands to eye level. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and separate the band in a fly-motion. Option to supinate grip (palms facing up) for a reverse or underhand band pull-apart.

Substitutions 

Face pulls; Rear Delt Flyes; Prone or Incline I-T-Y-W; any upper back/shoulder health/external rotation movements

McGill Big 3

Curl Up Demo Here; Side Plank Demo Here; Birddog Demo Here;

A series of 3 core exercises performed in a row: the Curl-Up, Side-Plank, and Bird-Dog

Curl Up: Lie on your back with one knee bent and the other extended on the floor. Raise your head a few inches off the ground and hover the extended leg at the same time. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, then lower back to the ground with control. Repeat for 3-8 repetitions (each rep is a 5-10 second long hold), then relax and switch sides.

Side Plank: Get into a side plank position and hold for 7-10 seconds, then lower back to the ground with control. Repeat for 4-8 repetitions (each rep is a 7-10 second long hold), then repeat on the other side. For an Advanced variation, hold for the same 7-10 seconds, but alternate sides by rolling from side to side between reps, rather than resting between holds.

Bird-Dog: Start in a quadruped position. Tuck the ribs and the hips, ensuring you do not hyperextend the spine. Extend one arm out in front of you and the opposite leg out behind you while maintaining a neutral spine. Hold each position for 2-8 seconds before lowering back towards the ground with control. Repeat for 4-8 repetitions per side. Can be performed all repetitions on one side before moving to the other side, or by alternating opposite arm/opposite leg with each rep.

Substitutions 

Any core series (deadbugs, bird-dogs, planks, l-sit, hanging leg raises)

KB Windmills

Demo Here

Take a wide stance, and angle feet. Press kettlebell or dumbbell overhead in one hand. Keep the elbow overhead locked out at all times, push the hips back and away from the direction of the toes. Hinge at the hips and reach towards the floor with your free hand. Ok to touch shoes or shin if you cannot reach the floor. Keep your eyes on the kettlebell at all times.

Substitutions 

DB Windmill, turkish getup, half getup

Bird Dogs

Demo Here

Start in a quadruped position. Tuck the ribs and the hips, ensuring you do not hyperextend the spine. Extend one arm out in front of you and the opposite leg out behind you while maintaining a neutral spine. Switch opposite arm/opposite leg. Hold each position for 3 seconds.

Substitutions 

Deadbugs, planks

Back Extensions

Demo Here

On a Glute-Ham-Developer or hyperextension machine, lock in the feet with the hip pad under the pelvis/lower trunk. Fold at the hip so you are perpendicular to the ground (with your head near the floor) and squeeze the erectors/lower back and glutes to pull the torso up above parallel from the floor.

These can also be performed with a Glute Emphasis. To better target your glutes, set up on a GHD or hyperextension machine and actively round the upper back. Squeeze at the glutes and focus on pressing your pelvis into the pad as you raise your torso and pause at the top.

Substitutions 

Good mornings; Supermans; Reverse Hyperextensions; Romanian Deadlifts;

Glute Focus Substitutions

Hip Thrusts; Glute Bridges;

Deadbugs

Demo Here

Laying on your back, raise arms directly over shoulders and knees over hips, with shins parallel to the floor. You can opt to extend legs for a more difficult variation. Tuck ribs down and press lower back into the floor.

Lower one arm back behind your head and the opposite leg down towards the floor. Control the descent and do not make contact with the ground. Instead over arm and leg over the ground. Maintain contact with the lower back on the floor and squeeze the abdominals to hold the position. Switch sides and perform same exercise with opposite arm and opposite leg.

Substitutions 

Birddogs; V-situps; hollow body holds

Turkish Get-Up Position Repeats

Turkish Get-Up

Demo Here

Starting Position: Lie on the floor with one kettlebell in one hand. Bend the knee on the same side as your kettlebell and press that foot into the ground. Extend your free arm out, palm pressing into the ground.

Punch the kettlebell upward and forceful press your extended arm into the floor so your torso rises up. Shift the weight onto the forearm and transition to your hand.

Raise the hips into a bridge, then sweep your extended leg under onto your knee.

Perform the half kneeling windmill to shift the weight evenly on knee and foot, then press into your heel to stand.

Reverse all steps to come back to the starting position.

Substitutions

Half Get-Ups; Turkish Get-Up Position Repeats; Windmills (standing or half kneeling); Suitcase Walks

Shoulder Pass Through

Demo Here

Hold a PVC pipe, broom, or band in front of your body with arms extended straight. Lift the implement up and over your head. Externally rotate your shoulders and continue to bring the pipe behind your back. Then reverse the movement to bring the pipe in front of your body again.

Keep ribcage pulled down and avoid overextension of the back. Make the movement easier with a wide grip, or more difficult with a narrow grip.

Substitutions 

Reverse grip shoulder pass through, Around the World, Down Dog Position

Half Kneeling Windmill

Demo Here

Start in a half kneeling position. Hold a kettlebell overhead, in the same hand as your upright knee. Keep your eyes on the kettlebell.

Rotate your trunk towards the ground on your kneeling side. Touch the floor with your free hand. Reverse the movement by raising the torso and punching the kettlebell back up to the ceiling.

Can also be performed with a DB. This progression is a great developer of strength and coordination for the Turkish Getup.

Substitutions 

DB/KB Windmill; Turkish Getup, Half Turkish Getup, Suitcase Walk, Side Planks

Around the World

Demo Here

Grab a PVC pipe, broom, or band in front of your body with arms locked out. Slowly rotate one arm overhead, bringing the PVC pipe over and around your head and body. Follow the revolution with the other arm and repeat. Continue in one direction for prescribed reps, and then reverse directions.

Substitutions 

Shoulder Passs Through, Reverse grip shoulder pass through, Down Dog Position

Single Arm DB Floor Press

Demo Here

Lie flat on the ground with a dumbbell in one hand. Extend your free hand out to your side for stability, or use a rack or piece of equipment to press into.

Slowly pull the dumbbell down to the body as you would in a normal bench press. Return the dumbbell to the top of the movement. Can be performed on either a bench or on the floor, if not specified.

Substitutions 

Single arm fly and cable crossover variations

Half Get-Up

Demo Here

Starting Position: Lie on the floor with one kettlebell in one hand. Bend the knee on the same side as your kettlebell and press that foot into the ground. Extend your free arm out, palm pressing into the ground.

Punch the kettlebell upward and forcefully press your extended arm into the floor so your torso rises up. Shift the weight onto the forearm and transition to your hand.

Raise the hips into a bridge. Hold that position for one count, then reverse all steps to come back to the starting position.

Substitutions: Turkish Getup, Kneeling Windmill, Windmill

Banded Lateral Walk

Demo Here

Place a glute band just above or just below the knees. Create tension in the band by taking a slightly wider than hip width stance, and bend the knees to get in an athletic stance. Take small steps laterally on one side and complete all reps. Then switch sides.

Substitutions 

Monster walk, clamshells, fire hydrants

Glute Ham Raise

Demo Here

Set up on a GHR/GHD machine with the knees slightly behind the pad and feet firmly on the platform. Start with the torso perpendicular to the floor and squeeze the hamstrings and glutes to lower until the torso is parallel to the floor.

Return to start position by pulling up with the hamstrings. Avoid breaking at the hip and hyperextending through the spine.

Substitutions 

Assisted GHR (with band), Hamstring Curl

Strict Pull-Up

Demo Here

Grip a pull-up bar slightly wider than hip width apart, palms facing away from your face (supinated grip). Hang from the bar, and pull yourself up by pulling elbows down to the floor. Continue pulling until your chin passes the bar. Descend back to the start position and repeat.

Substitutions 

Lat-pull down, assisted pull-ups, chin-ups, negative pull-ups

Negative Pull-Up

Demo Here

Grip a pull-up bar slightly wider than hip width apart, palms facing away from your face (supinated grip). Complete either a strict pull-up, or jump up to hang with biceps flexed, and chin over the bar. Slowly descend for desired amount of time, ensuring the range of motion, and time are evenly spaced out.

Substitutions 

jumping pull-ups, assisted negative pull-ups, negative chin-ups, negative pull-ups

Monster Walk

Demo Here

Place a glute band just above or just below the knees. Create tension in the band by taking a slightly wider than hip width stance, and bend the knees to get in an athletic stance.

Take short steps by bringing the heel towards the midline, then pushing the foot back out diagonally. Alternate steps between left and right. Aim to maintain band tension throughout your step.

Substitutions 

Monster walk, clamshells, fire hydrants

Overhead Press (OHP)

Demo Here

Setup a barbell on a squat rack at shoulder height. Unrack the barbell and walk out from the rack. Press the bar up over the head, pushing your head forward once the barbell passes eye level. For a more comprehensive overview, check out our longer YouTube instructional video linked here.

Substitutions 

Standing OHP, Barbell OHP, Seated/High-Incline OHP; DB OHP (seated or standing); Machine or Hammer Press; Viking Press, Push Press, etc.

Scap Pull-Up

Demo Here

Start in a normal pull-up position. From a full hang, draw the scapulae (shoulder blades) down and together, raising your body slightly. From this contracted position, slowly lower back to the dead hang start position with control. Do not bend the elbows during your repetition. The range of motion is only a few inches, and our goal is active control through the shoulder blades and engagement of the lats.

To scale as an easier movement, perform this on a lat pull down machine, and try to build up your strength and control and gradually push the resistance.

Substitutions 

Scap Pull-Up on Lat Pull Down machine; Cable Lat Pullover; Scap Push-Up

Clamshells

Demo Here

Lie on your side with legs stacked and knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Keep feet in contact with each other and raise upper knee as high as possible, without moving the hips or pelvis. Keep lower leg in contact with the floor.

Substitutions 

Fire hydrants, banded lateral walk, monster walk

Fire Hydrant

Demo Here

Start on a quadruped position on hands and knees. Keep knee in a bent position and move the knee away from the midline of the body. Pause at the top of the motion and return to the starting position.

Substitutions 

Clamshells, banded lateral walk, monster walk

Banded Shuffle

Demo Here

Place a short band around both feet. Create tension in the band by taking a slightly wider than hip width stance, and bend the knees to get in an athletic stance. Take small steps laterally on one side and complete all reps. Then switch sides.

Substitutions 

Banded lateral walk, Monster walk, Clamshells, Fire Hydrants

Strict Chin-Up

Demo Here

Grip a pull-up bar at shoulder width apart, palms facing towards you (pronated grip). Hang from the bar, and pull yourself up by pulling elbows down to the floor and flexing biceps. Continue pulling until your chin passes the bar. Descend back to the start position and repeat.

Substitutions 

Neutral grip lat pull-down, assisted chin-ups, negative chin-ups, weighted chin-ups

Band Abducted Goblet Squat

Demo Here

With a glute band just above the knees, hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest in a goblet position. Perform squats to depth while keeping an upright torso and maintaining tension on the band throughout the repetition (so that your knees do not collapse inwards).

Substitutions 

Front loaded (DB, KB, barbell) squat; Belt Squats; Leg Press or Hack Squat; Banded Lateral Walks or Monster Walks

Bear Crawl

Demo Here

Start in a quadruped position and curl toes under to press into feet and hands at the same time to raise the knees. Slowly move opposite hand and knee to move forward and then backwards. This is a core strengthening and activation movement, and your focus should be on maintaining flat shoulders and hips throughout the movement (avoid tipping). Actively engage your abdominal muscles by keeping your ribs pulled down and your pelvis tucked under your hips.

Substitutions 

Bird dogs, deadbugs

Blackburns

Demo Here

Start lying face down (prone) on the floor or bench. Raise both arms overhead with a slight bend in the elbow. Keep thumbs up towards the ceiling. Retract your shoulder blades. Slowly and with control, lower your hands in a circular motion as far as comfortably possible. Once you cannot lower the arms further in this position, rotate your arms (aiming to keep your shoulders retracted through this rotation) and complete the repetition when your hands reach the small of the back. Return to start position.

Substitutions 

Face Pulls; Prone I-T-Y-W; Rear Delt Flyes; Band Pull-Aparts; Any other upper back, shoulder health, and external rotation exercises.

Cossack Squat

Demo Here

Take a wide stance and descend into a squat while shifting your weight on the active leg. Keep the opposite leg straight and out to the side. Keep the heel or entire foot on the ground. Option to hold arms out for balance.

Substitutions 

Alternating Side Lunge; Pistol squat; Single Leg Press; any other unilateral lower body movement.

DB Lateral Raise

Demo Here

With a dumbbell in each hand, slowly lift weights out to the side until your arms are parallel with the floor. Lower back down with control and repeat. Can be performed standing or seated, if not specified.

Substitutions 

Cable lateral raise; Overhead Pressing variations; any other shoulder exercises

Deficit KB Stiff Leg Deadlift

Demo Here

Stand on an elevated plate/board/block and perform a kettlebell deadlift with an increased range of motion. Since this is a stiff leg deadlift, aim to maintain the angle in your knees and reach depth by pushing your hips back, hinging at the hip and lowering the weight while maintaining a strong, rigid torso position.

Substitutions 

Romanian Deadlift (BB or DB), Stiff-legged deadlift, Good Mornings, Reverse Hyperextensions, Glute Ham Raise

EZ Bar Curls

Demo Here

Stand and hold an EZ Curl barbell with an underhand (supinated) grip, palms facing up/away from your body. Keep the upper arms stationary, and curl the bar forward and up while contracting the biceps. Lower and repeat for reps.

Substitutions 

Barbell Curl, Cable Curls (V-Bar or EZ Bar attachment), Alternating DB curls, Hammer Curl

Front Foot Elevated Split Squat

Demo Here

In a split squat position with front foot supported on an elevated surface (aim for 2-6″) and with weight loaded (barbell on back, goblet position in front, or one dumbbell in each hand), sink into lunge position on front leg and press into the foot to stand back up.

Can also be performed facing a cable rack, holding onto a single hand attachment fixed to a low pulley. Demo Here.

Substitutions 

Split Squat Variations; Lunge Variations; Box Step-Up Variations, any other unilateral lower body exercises

DB Front Raise

Demo Here

In a standing position, hold a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping the arms extended and in front of the body, raise the dumbbells to shoulder height. Lower back down to the start position and repeat.

Can also be performed using a plate, where both hands are holding a plate at the 3:00 and 9:00 positions. Maintain an extended arm position and raise the plate from in front of your hips/thighs to up over your head. Keep constant tension here, and try to avoid resting the plate on your thighs at the bottom.

Substitutions 

Plate front raise, Cable front raise

Hamstring Curl

Demo Here

To be performed on a machine (seated or lying); using a band (examples here); or using a swiss ball (as demonstrated here), perform a hamstring curl as strict as possible. These are to be performed with both legs together, unless specified otherwise (e.g. single leg hamstring curl).

Substitutions

Examples linked above (banded, Lying DB weighted, Bridged Towel Hamstring Curls, Nordic Curls); Other hamstring focused exercises (Glute Ham Raise, Romanian or Stiff-Leg Deadlift, etc.)

Inchworms

Demo Here

Start in a standing position and bend down to touch the toes. Walk the hands out away from your body into plank position, then walk the feet to meet the hands. Repeat. If space is limited, perform these moving forwards and backwards rather than down a line.

Prone I-T-Y-W

Demo Here

Perform these lying face down flat on the floor or on a bench, unless specified otherwise (e.g. Incline would be face down on an Incline bench). Start with your arms down by your side and palms facing up. Retract your shoulder blades and reach your palms to the ceiling (this is the “I” movement of the exercise).

Perform this movement for the prescribed number of repetitions, then bring your arms out to the side, externally rotating your arms and making a “T” with your body. Retract your shoulder blades and raise your thumbs towards the ceiling.

Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions, then bring your arms out at a 45-degree angle from your body (making a “Y” with your body. Retract your shoulder blades and raise your thumbs towards the ceiling.

Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions, then (while holding your shoulder blades retracted), tuck your elbows back towards your torso until your arms make a “W” shape). Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions, then rest.

Bodyweight alone is often challenging enough, but you can also hold light weight plates or DBs in your hands for an added challenge.

Substitutions

Blackburns; Face Pulls; Band Pull-Aparts; Rear Delt Flyes; Any other upper back, shoulder health, and external rotation exercises.

Reverse Lunge

Demo Here

Deficit Reverse Lunge Demo

Starting standing upright with feet together, reach one foot back and perform a lunge. Return both feet together, and then repeat with the other foot. Alternate for the prescribed repetitions. Can be performed bodyweight or weighted (typically with DBs or KBs).

Can also be performed off a deficit if specified (as demonstrated above). For these, start standing upright with feet together on an elevated surface (roughly 2-6″). Reach one foot back and perform a lunge. Return both feet together, and then repeat with the other foot. Alternate for the prescribed repetitions. Can be performed bodyweight or weighted (typically with DBs or KBs).

Substitutions

Lunge variations; Split Squat variations; Box Step Ups; Split Stance or Single Leg Deadlift; Single Leg Press, Extension, or Curl; any other unilateral lower body movement.

Scap Push-Up

Demo Here

Starting in a push up or modified (knees down) push up position, maintain your locked-arm position and pinch your shoulder blades together as your chest lowers slightly to the ground. From there, extend and try to reach your spine up to the ceiling as your shoulder blades separate. The total range of motion on this movement is slight, so try to maintain control and a solid trunk position (not sagging at the hips).

Seated Shrug

Demo Here

Sitting on a box or bench with a slight torso angle forward, perform shrugs for the prescribed number of repetitions, pinching your shoulder blades back and together and aiming to reach your shoulders up to your ears. Can be performed with a DB or EZ Curl Bar behind your legs.

Substitutions

Standing or Machine Shrug variations; Heavy Farmer Walks or Yoke Carries

Split Squat

Demo Here

Sun Salutation

Demo Here

Move through a series of various different postures and stretches. If you’re not a yogi, don’t worry. Watch the demo link for the movements. You should move through standing, to touching your toes, out to plank, up dog, then down dog, into a lunge and back to touching the toes. The goal is to get moving and wake the body up.

Walking Lunges

Demo Link Here

Starting with feet together, take a step forward and perform a lunge. As you come back up, bring your rear foot forward to meet your front foot. Repeat with the alternate leg leading. Can be performed bodyweight or loaded (goblet with a KB, with DBs in each hand, or with a Barbell on your back or in a front rack position).

Substitutions

Split squat variations; Lunge variations; Step Ups; Any other unilateral lower body movement (single leg press, single leg glute bridge, etc.)

Skullcrushers

Demo Link Here

Laying on a bench, hold a weight (typically DBs or an EZ bar) above your body directly above your shoulders. Without moving your upper arm, hinge at the elbow and lower the weight in a controlled manner towards your skull, stopping a few inches above your face. Then reverse the movement and return the weight to the start position.

Substitutions 

Tricep push-downs; OH Tricep Extension; Dips; Any other tricep exercises

Leg Press

Demo Link

Using a leg press machine, load weight appropriately (taking warm up jumps to your working weight as needed). Push upward, unlock the safeties, and lower the sled working through as full of a range of motion as possible. Once you’ve reached this depth, push back up to perform a repetition.

Substitutions 

Any barbell squat variations (low bar, high bar, safety bar); Lower body compound movements or machines (hack squat machine, smith machine squat, hip thrust, goblet squats, etc.)

Prone Incline Curls

Demo Link

Lying face down on an incline bench, hang your arms straight up and down (perpendicular to the floor). Holding DBs in each hand and keeping your upper arms still, perform curls. Aim to minimize arm movement above the elbow and focus on contracting your biceps to perform your curls, rather than swinging and using momentum. Squeeze and hold at the top, then control back to the bottom and repeat. Also known as Spider Curls. Can be performed with an EZ Bar or straight bar. Perform with both arms at the same time, unless specified as Alternating (demonstrated here).

Substitutions 

Preacher or Concentration Curls; Machine or Cable Curls; EZ Bar Curls; Any other bicep variations

Tricep Pushdowns

Demo Link

Stand upright in front of a cable machine, lat pull down, or band attached overhead. Starting with your arms slightly in front of you and your elbows pointed down, perform tricep pushdowns. Without moving your upper arm, hinge at the elbow and press down in a controlled manner, then reverse the movement and return the weight to the start position. Can be performed with a straight bar, rope, v-bar, or band.

Substitutions 

Skullcrushers; OH Tricep Extension; Dips; Any other tricep exercises

Alternating Side Lunge

Demo Link Here

Starting from an upright position with both feet together, take a step out wide with one leg into a wide stance and descend into a squat while shifting your weight to the active leg. Keep the opposite leg straight and out to the side. Keep the heel or entire foot on the ground. Can be performed bodyweight, holding a KB (goblet style), holding DBs in each hand, or loaded with a BB (either on your back or in a front-rack position)

Substitutions 

Cossack Squat; Pistol squat; Single Leg Press; any other unilateral lower body movement.

Side Plank

Demo Here
Modified Demo

Laying on the ground on your side, raise your hips off the ground while planting your feet and your forearm. Aim to maintain a neutral spine and create a straight line from your feet through your head. Maintain that position for prescribed amount of time. Scale by raising up to your hand (with a straight arm and locked elbow), or elevating your feet on a bench or unstable surface (bosu ball, TRX, etc.). To scale easier, bend your knees at a 90-degree angle and plank from forearm to knee instead of forearm to feet.

Substitutions 

Plank, Windmills, Turkish Getups, Suitcase Carries

Cable Lateral Raise

Demo Here

On a cable machine, hold the cable in one hand using a rope or grip attachment. Slowly lift weights out to the side until your arms are parallel with the floor. Lower back down and repeat.

Substitutions 

DB lateral raise; Overhead Pressing variations; any other shoulder exercises

Tricep Kick Back

Demo Link Here

Starting with a bent over position with the torso almost parallel to the floor. Hold the dumbbell with one arm bent at 90 degrees. Engage your tricep and push the weight back to straighten the arm. Return to the start position and repeat. Can also be performed with cables rather than a DB.

Substitutions 

Tricep Push Down, Bench Dips, Skullcrushers

Cable Curl

Demo Link

Perform curls using an attachment and a cable machine. Option to use a rope, single arm handle, EZ/v-bar, or straight bar attachment unless specified.

Substitutions 

Neutral Grip Curls; Barbell Curl; Machine Curls; Any other bicep variation

Incline Seated DB Curl

Demo Link

Sit back on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Extend the arms out past the seat and complete dumbbell curls, alternating sides between each repetitions.

Substitutions 

Single Arm Cable Curls (facing away), Standing DB Curls, Any other curl/bicep variation

Hollow Body Hold

Demo Here

Modified Demo Here

Laying on your back, raise arms overhead and extend legs and feet. Press the low back into the floor and hover the feet and hands ~6 inches over the floor. Maintain tension in the core and brace the abs. Make sure you tuck the ribs down and continue pressing the low back into the floor. Hold the position for 2-3 seconds each repetition before returning to the floor.

Option to scale down by using the modified demo linked above (moderate) by keeping your hands down by your side rather than overhead. Further options to scale this movement (easiest) would be keeping your arms on the floor during the repetition, or keeping your hands on the floor while only lifting one leg at a time.

Substitutions 

Birddogs; V-situps; dead bugs

Squat

Demo Link

Competition style squat. This can either be high-bar, low-bar, or somewhere in between (hybrid). For full squat tutorial, see our How to Squat video, our Extended Video Library or written guides on this movement.

Set up with the bar on your traps. Lift the bar up straight out of the squat rack, and step back in a few steady, stable steps. Take a breath into the pit of your belly, think of expanding your trunk (creating 360-degrees of pressure around your abs and lower back), and begin your descent by breaking at the knees and hips at the same time. Descend (aiming to keep the bar in as straight and vertical of a bar path as possible) until you reach depth, which is the point at which your hip crease has descended below the horizontal plane made by the top of your knee. From there, squat back up until you are fully upright. Breathe, brace your core, and repeat.

Substitutions 

Barbell squat variations (low bar squat, high bar squat, front squat, safety bar or other specialty barbell variations); Other compound lower body exercises (Belt Squats, Leg Press, Hack Squat Machines, etc.)

Farmer’s Carry

Demo Here

Hold a weight (kettlebell, dumbbell, etc) in both hands and walk. Carries are always counted by time, so do not rush. Control your pace and do your best to keep your hips and shoulders square and balanced despite the resistance.

Substitutions 

Any heavy carry; KB/DB Windmills; Side Planks

Ankle/Wrist Roll

Demo Here

Complete wrist rotations with fingers interlocked, while rotating one ankle at a time, creating circles with the ankle.

Runners Lunge

Demo Here

Start in a plank position and bring one foot at a time as close to the same side hand as possible. To scale, plank on a higher surface like a bench.

Preacher Curl

Demo Here

Use a preacher curl station, GHD, machine, incline bench, or other surface to keep your upper arms in a fixed position, and perform a curl. Keeping the upper arms stationary, and curl the bar forward and up while contracting the biceps. Lower and repeat for reps.

Substitutions 

Barbell curl, Cable Curls (V-Bar or EZ Bar attachment) Alternating DB curls, Hammer Curl

Single Arm Preacher Curl

Demo Here

Use a preacher curl setup, an incline bench, or other like surface to perform a curl with one arm at a time. Keep the upper arm stationary, and curl the dumbbell forward and up while contracting the biceps. Lower and repeat for prescribed reps.

Can also be performed as a concentration curl: seated with your elbow pressed against your knee/thigh, use your leg as a backboard to prevent your upper arm from moving or swinging the weight with momentum (as demonstrated here).

Substitutions 

Concentration Curl; Single Arm Cable Curl (Single handle or Rope attachment); Alternating DB Curls; Hammer Curl; Barbell Curl

Leg Extension

Demo Here

Typically performed on a machine; Perform a leg extension using your quads to extend at the knee. These are to be performed with both legs together, unless specified otherwise (e.g. single leg extension). Can also be performed seated on a bench with a band around your ankles, with the other end secured against a strong anchor.

Substitutions

Other quadriceps focused exercises (goblet squat, leg press, etc.)

Curl Up

Demo Here

Lie on your back with one knee bent and the other extended on the floor. Raise your head a few inches off the ground and hover the extended leg at the same time. Hold the position for 10 seconds, then relax and switch sides. Focus on pressing your lower back into the floor. Maintain contact with the floor and your lower back, keeping your ribs pulled down and your hips/pelvis tucked under you.

Substitutions 

Any core series (deadbugs, bird-dogs, planks, l-sit, hanging leg raises)

Pull-Up Progression

As we look to improve our Pull-Ups, we’ll all be training a specific movement based on our starting level and baseline test. If you haven’t tested the particular movement, test yourself on your first available session, using this initial test number as your baseline going forward. For more information on programming or to find your starting Level, check out our information page at this link here.

Baseline Tests & Training Movements

For each of levels 1-4, please find your movement below. Perform the baseline test only at the start of the challenge (or when you first start programming, if you are just joining us). Each day and week of training will be prescribed relative to this baseline test.

How to Read “Pull-Up Progression” in Your Program

When you see Pull-Up Progression in the program, it will look something like this: “4 sets @ 50% of baseline”, which means…

Level 1 and Level 2: take 50% of your baseline test (negative pull-ups) and complete 4 sets of that time. So if you scored 4 seconds on your negative pull-up, then training calls for 4 sets of 2-second negatives. If you are unable to perform negative pull-ups, perform Dead Hangs for the prescribed percentage of your baseline test max Dead Hang time.

For Level 3 and Level 4: take 50% of your baseline test (max pull-ups or weighted pull-ups) and complete 4 sets of that amount of reps. For example, if you completed 6 reps, then training calls for 4 sets of 3 reps. For weighted pull-ups, use the same added weight that you used to perform your baseline test for each session.

Round up or down as needed based on the prescribed percentage work, but aim to hit at least the total cumulative rep goal for the session. For example, if your baseline test is a 5-second max negative, you can perform sets of 2-second or 3-second negatives, but try to get at least 10-seconds total across all sets. If your baseline test is 5 reps, you can perform sets of 2 or 3 reps, but try to get at least 10 total reps.

Substitutions 

Lat Pull Downs; Inverted Rows; Any other back & lat movements

Half Kneeling Single Arm Lat Pull Down

View Demo

On cable pulley, choose a single handle attachment at a high position on the pulley. Taking a half kneeling position (right knee down, left knee upright), grab the handle with the same side hand that is kneeling on the ground. Perform a single arm lat pull down, aiming to pull your right elbow in towards your right hip while keeping your torso upright and holding the rest of your body as steady as possible. Perform the prescribed number of repetitions, then switch sides and repeat.

Substitutions 

Any unilateral pulling or rowing movements (DB Rows, Cable Rows, Hammer Strength Rows); Lat Pull Over (DB or Cable); Vertical Pulling movements (Pull Ups, Chin Ups, Lat Pull Down); Horizontal Pulling movements (Barbell Rows, Inverted Rows, Chest Supported Rows, etc.); Any other back or lat focused exercises.

Single Arm Face Pull with External Rotation

Demo Link

Facing a cable machine, set the pulley at shoulder height using a handle attachment. Keeping your arm at 90-degrees from your torso, pull the weight directly back while keeping the upper arms parallel to the floor. Once your elbow is bent at 90-degrees, externally rotate your shoulder while holding your upper arm in position (making an L-shape with your elbow. Once your forearm has reached a vertical position, pause, and reverse the movement, control the weight on the way back to the start position. Can also be performed with a light resistance band. Prioritize movement quality and control on this exercise, rather than weight.

Substitutions 

Face Pulls; Band Pullaparts; Prone I-T-W-Y; Blackburns

Weighted Pull-Up

Demo Here

Using a dip belt, add additional weight and perform strict pull-ups. This is an advanced variation — if you cannot perform strict pull-ups for reps, please see the recommended substitutions below.

Grip a pull-up bar slightly wider than hip width apart, palms facing away from your face (supinated grip). Hang from the bar, and pull yourself up by pulling elbows down to the floor. Continue pulling until your chin passes the bar. Descend back to the start position and repeat.

Substitutions 

Strict Pull-Ups; Lat Pull Down, Assisted Pull-Ups, Chin-Ups, Negative Pull-Ups

Front Plate Raise

Demo Here

Hold a plate at the 3:00 and 9:00 positions. Maintain an extended arm position and raise the plate from in front of your hips/thighs to up over your head. Keep constant tension here, and try to avoid resting the plate on your thighs at the bottom.

Substitutions 

DB front raise, Cable front raise

Single Arm Cable Curl

Demo Link

Perform single arm curls using an handle attachment and a cable machine. Option to use a rope, or straight bar attachment unless specified.

Substitutions 

Any other single arm bicep variation

Seated Cable Row

Demo Link

Sit on the floor or a seated cable machine and hold the attachment. Pull the handle back towards the lower abdomen. Return the the starting position and repeat. Focus on pulling your elbows back behind your torso and squeezing your shoulder blades together during the contraction.

Substitutions 

Barbell Row; Dumbbell Row; Inverted Row; Any other horizontal pull/row

Cable Stiff-Leg Deadlifts

Demo Link

Set up in a conventional deadlift position and hold an attachment to a low cable. Setup and execution of this movement will be very similar to the conventional deadlift, but should have a higher hip position, and less knee flexion. Do not completely lockout knees, but take note to keep legs more straight.

Substitutions 

DB Stiff-Leg Deadlift, BB Stiff-Leg Deadlift, Hamstring Curls

Banded Face Pull with External Rotation

Demo Link

Loop a band around a squat rack or sturdy alternative at approximately shoulder height. Keeping your arms at 90-degrees from your torso, pull the weight directly back while keeping the upper arms parallel to the floor. Once your elbows are bent at 90-degrees, externally rotate your shoulders while holding your upper arms in position (making an L-shape with your elbows). Once your forearms have reached a vertical position, pause, and reverse the movement, controlling the resistance on the way back to the start position. Prioritize movement quality and control on this exercise, rather than weight/resistance.

Substitutions 

Face Pulls; Band Pullaparts; Prone I-T-W-Y; Blackburns

Single Arm Tricep Push Down

Demo Link Here

Set up with a cable in one hand, bent at the elbow. Engage your tricep and push the weight down to straighten the arm. Maintain your upper arm position, and avoid using momentum to press down the weight. Return to the start position and repeat.

Substitutions 

Tricep Pushdowns; DB Tricep Kickback; Bench Dips; Skullcrushers

Supermans

Demo Here

Laying on your stomach, extend your arms overhead and extend legs and feet. Raise the shoulders, head, feet by extending the back and squeezing the glutes. Hold and squeeze at the top, then lower to the start position.

Substitutions 

Back Extensions; Glute Ham Raise; Reverse Hyperextensions

Stir-the-Pot

Demo Here

Using a Bosu ball, set up in a low plank, with forearms on the ball. Slowly circle the bosu ball with your forearms (stirring the pot). Each rotation is one rep.

Substitutions 

Planks, Bosu Ball Plank

Pull-Up Progression Retest

Warm up using an easier scaled version of your working sets. If your prescribed variation is a deadhang or negative pull-ups, perform a couple of sets of lighter resistance, shorter duration, or assisted/lat pull down reps. If your prescribed variation is unassisted pull-ups or weighted pull-ups, perform some sets with reduced reps or weight. Remember, the goal here is to increase blood flow and prepare yourself (both mentally and physically), not exhaust yourself before even beginning your retest.

 

When you feel warm and ready, let’s perform our retest. If your initial baseline test was a deadhang or negative pull-up measured for time, we would encourage you to repeat that same test, and try to beat your total time score. If you could almost do an unassisted pull-up during your baseline test, you can also shoot for your first pull-up! If your initial baseline test was for max reps (either bodyweight or weighted), aim to beat your total rep goal from your baseline test. If you entered our challenge for prizes, don’t forget to film your retest set! Post a link to your new Instagram video next to your name at this link here to finalize your challenge submission. If you didn’t submit an initial test video, you won’t be eligible for prizes this round, but we’d love to see your progress — tag @strongstrongfriends on Instagram!

 

Remember, our goal here is progress. It can take months and/or years of dedicated training for many lifters to get their first pull-up. If you are able to improve your score relative to your baseline test, then we are definitely moving in the right direction, and we are proud of you. Improving the amount of time you can actively deadhang from the bar, or increasing the number of seconds you can lower your body during a negative pull-up is exactly our goal — development of strength in the direction of getting your first pull-up! If you aren’t able to get your first pull-up, that is 100% okay and we encourage you to keep working here and aiming for incremental progress in your variations and accessories to continue supporting your goals.

Negative Chin-Up

Demo Here

Grip a pull-up bar at or slightly wider than shoulder width apart, palms facing towards you (supinated grip). To reach your start position, complete either a strict chin-up, or jump up to hang with biceps flexed, and chin over the bar. Slowly descend for desired amount of time, doing your best to evenly distribute the tempo throughout the entire range of motion. A narrower grip will place more emphasis on your biceps, while a wider grip will place more emphasis on your lats and back.

Substitutions 

Assisted Negative Chin-Ups (using a band or assisted pull-up machine), Negative Pull-Ups

Seated Cable OHP

Demo Link

Get in an upright seated position facing a cable pulley, with handles attached at the low position.  If grip is not specified (e.g. neutral grip), use an attachment of your choosing (straight bar, individual handles, parallel v-bar, etc.).

Raise the weight in front of you, starting with your elbows bent and your forearms vertical. Press the weight up towards the ceiling, being mindful of the cable in front of your face. Try to keep your arms in front of your body while you press, to better target your front (anterior) deltoids.

Substitutions 

Seated DB OHP; Standing DB OHP; Barbell OHP; Viking or Landmine Press; Machine Shoulder/OHP; Front Plate Raise

Single Leg Glute Bridge

Demo Link

Lie on floor with feet flat on the ground. Extend one leg fully, and with the other, press into the foot to raise the hips. Squeeze your butt and drive your foot through the floor, extending until your hips are in line with your torso. Aim to keep your shins vertical throughout the repetition to better target your glutes. Press yourself the the end of the range of motion, pause for one second and return to the start position.

Substitutions 

Glute bridge variations (banded, single leg, etc.); Leg Press variations (especially glute focused, such as wide stance or feet further in front of you); Step Up, Lunge, or Split Squat variations

3-Position Cable Curl

Demo Here

Set up a single handle pulley in the low position of a cable rack. Start facing away from the rack, and take ~3 steps away so that the pulley is behind your body, and your upper arm is behind your torso (position 1). Perform curls for the prescribed rep range. Then, turn around so that you face the cable rack and your upper arm is then in front of your torso (position 2), and perform the prescribed rep range. Finally, step closer to the cable rack until you are almost standing above the pulley, and keep your upper arm directly by your torso perpendicular to the floor (position 3). Perform the prescribed reps. Now you’ve completed one set.

If you do not have access to a cable system, you can perform the same movement with DBs, focusing on arm position relative to your torso. An example would be seated incline DB curls (position 1, upper arm behind your torso); prone incline DB curls (position 2, upper arm in front of your torso), and standing DB curls (position 3, arms beside your torso).

Substitutions 

Barbell Curl, Concentration Curl, Cable Curls (V-Bar or EZ Bar attachment), Preacher Curls, Alternating DB Curls, Hammer Curl

Concentration Curl

Demo Here

In a seated position, hang your upper arm vertically (perpendicular to the ground) and rest it against your inner thigh. Use your leg to prevent your upper arm from moving or swinging, avoiding momentum. Keep the upper arm stationary and curl the dumbbell while contracting the biceps. Lower and repeat for prescribed reps.

Can also be performed as a Single Arm Preacher Curl: use a preacher curl setup, an incline bench, or other like surface to perform a curl with one arm at a time (as demonstrated here).

Substitutions 

Single Arm Preacher Curl; Single Arm Cable Curl (Single handle or Rope attachment); Alternating DB Curls; Hammer Curl; Barbell Curl

High Bar Pause Squats

Demo Link

Set up for a squat in a high bar position (bar resting on top of your shoulders). Maintaining a fairly upright position, descend in a squat. When you reach depth, pause for ~1 second (unless a set duration is defined), keeping tension in the legs and trunk. Maintain position as best as possible during the pause. Press back up by pushing your feet into the floor and your shoulders back into the bar.

For a full squat tutorial as well as breakdowns of other barbell squat variations, see our How to Squat video, our Extended Video Library or written guides on this movement.

Substitutions 

Paused barbell squat variations (low-bar, high-bar, front squat, safety bar squat, etc.); Pause lower body compound exercises (leg press, hack squat machine, goblet squat, etc.)

Side Plank Raise

Demo Here
Modified Demo Here

Laying on the ground on your side, raise your hips off the ground while planting your feet and your forearm. Aim to maintain a neutral spine and create a straight line from your feet through your head. Return to the start position, and perform prescribed amount of reps.

Scale to a more challenging version by raising up to your hand (with a straight arm and locked elbow) rather than resting on your forearm, or elevating your feet on a bench or unstable surface (bosu ball, TRX, etc.). To scale easier, perform a modified Side Plank Raise as demonstrated above by bending your knees at a 90-degree angle and plank from forearm to knee instead of forearm to feet.

Substitutions 

Plank, Windmills, Turkish Getups, Suitcase Carries

Seated Cable Front Raise

Demo Here

Sit just past arms length away from the cable machine. Hold a rope attachment from a low pulley. Maintain an extended arm position and raise the cable from in front of your hips/thighs to up over your head. Keep constant tension here, and try to avoid resting the cable at the bottom. Control the weight during your descent, resisting the rope as it pulls back towards your start position.

Substitutions 

Plate Front Raise, DB Front Raise, Cable Front Raise

Slider Hamstring Curl

Demo Here
Modified Demo Here

Find a stretch of floor that is relatively low friction (something like wood or turf, not rubber or asphalt). Start by lying down face up, with sliders or small towels below your feet (or wearing just socks). Raise the hips into a glute bridge, and perform a hamstring curl by pushing heels out away from the body, then back to the start position.

To scale this version to an easier variation, modify this exercise to alternate one leg at a time until you reach the prescribed number of reps per leg.

Substitutions

Any Hamstring Curl or Hamstring Isolation machine; Other hamstring focused exercises (Glute Ham Raise, Romanian or Stiff-Leg Deadlift, etc.)

Banded Glute Abduction in Bridge

Demo Here

With a glute band just above the knees, lie on the ground. Extend your hips into the bridge position. While in the bridge, perform reps of banded abduction, pushing the knees out and returning to the start with control. Maintain your bridge position during your entire set, and keep tension on the band during and between each rep where possible.

Substitutions 

Banded Lateral Walks or Monster Walks, Glute Bridge, Abductor Machine

Half Kneeling Paloff Press

Demo Here

In a half kneeling position (close knee on the floor), use a cable machine or a band and bring the handle to the torso. From there, extend your arms out and away from the body. The start position should be difficult to hold, and you should feel resistance as the band/cable try to pull (rotate) you. Your goal throughout the entire range of motion is to keep your hips and shoulders facing square in front of you and resist the rotation.

While maintaining extended arms, bring the handle/band up to roughly nose height with control. Once you reach nose height, lower the handle/band to belly button height with control, then return to starting position (chest height). That is one repetition — repeat until you’ve completed the prescribed number of reps.

Substitutions 

DB Windmill, Turkish Getup, Half Turkish Getup

Banded Glute Bridge

Demo Link

Lie on floor with feet flat on the ground and a band just above the knees. Squeeze your butt and drive your foot through the floor, extending until your hips are in line with your torso. Aim to keep your shins vertical throughout the repetition to better target your glutes. Press yourself the the end of the range of motion, pause for one second and return to the start position.

Substitutions 

Glute bridge variations (banded, single leg, etc.); Leg Press variations (especially glute focused, such as wide stance or feet further in front of you); Step Up, Lunge, or Split Squat variations

Training Max

What is a Training Max?

We prescribe all percentages relative to a Training Max. Your Training Max should be a number you can hit for a confident rep on any day of the week without a doubt (even when you don’t feel your best). On a good day, this is a weight you might be able to hit for 2-3 repetitions.

Not sure where to start, or how to pick a Training Max?

Don’t sweat it! Start by picking a Training Max that is a number you know you can hit no matter what for 2-3 tough reps. Each regular training week will provide suggestions on how to adjust your Training Max based on numbers you hit, so you’ll be up to speed in no time even if you start with a conservative guess.

Why do we program off of a Training Max?

We strongly recommend starting with a conservative Training Max as defined above, even if you know your true 1-Rep Max. Why? Think of it this way: your day-to-day training goes through ups and downs over the course of a week/month/cycle. This impacts your relative strength and capacity on any given day. Since your average daily training session is just that—average—we find that basing your training off of a peaked, ideal-condition scenario (like a 1RM) is not as flexible as working off a Training Max.

By programming based on a Training Max you could hit on any day of the week (similar to the concept of a “daily minimum”), we are able to plan a progression that keeps you moving forward on both your best and worst days — and everything in between. By starting with a more conservative Training Max, you will better set yourself up for long term progress as intensities climb, and ensure that you can still complete the planned work on even the worst of days while pushing for new PRs when things feel great. And don’t worry — even if your first session feels light, we’ll provide instructions on how and when to increase your Training Max from week-to-week based on your performance. After all… If your first session was hard to the point of failure, how are you supposed to build momentum and actually progress from there?

Cat-Camel

Intended as a motion exercise, not a stretch. Focus on movement throughout and in between the reps, not just stretching at the end-range of motions. Aim to move through your entire back, allowing your lumbar, and thoracic, and cervical spine (lower, mid, and upper) to flex and extend together.