by Bret Contreras July 17, 2020
Hi fitness friends! I have 15 random thoughts to share with you today, in no particular order of importance.
Many of my clients will be looking in the mirror and say something like, “My glutes have completely vanished. I literally lost all of my glute gains in the past few days.” I’ve been measuring some of their glutes on “good” days and “bad” days and the circumference doesn’t seem to be different. However, I don’t doubt that the appearance changes slightly due to water storage in the gluteals.
Many things can play a role here. Stress, hormones, a muscle pump, inflammation/muscle damage, carbohydrate intake, sodium intake, water intake, etc. However, my guess is that many of my followers have a permanent pump (“permapump”) in their glutes from 1) daily pumps associated with training their glutes, and 2) residual pumps associated with muscle damage. When they take a few days off from training, their glutes may seem to “deflate,” but it’s not muscle tissue being lost; it’s just fluid shifts. No need to fret.
So this happened yesterday. My client was joking around with me because on my IG post from a couple of days ago, I listed walking lunges as my favorite squat/lunge pattern for the glutes. She’s like, “I’ve never even seen you do any lunges here.” I said to her, “I used to do them all the time and I freakin’ love them, but they hurt my knees now.” I was feeling good at the time and had just finished doing squats and deadlifts, so I decided to do a set. I proceeded to do 28 bodyweight lunges (14 steps down the AstroTurf and 14 steps back). They felt amazing and as usual, I felt a huge stretch in my glutes as I performed them.
Five minutes later, I’m on the ground writhing around – my glutes were spasming and cramping up. An hour later, they were sore AF. I never experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) the same day of my workout; it’s always the following day (and two days later). I can’t ever remember a time where I got so sore so quickly after a workout. Today, I’ve been hobbling around and I suspect it’ll be even worse tomorrow. And I’m massively sore not just in my glutes but also my adductors.
All this from one set of bodyweight lunges (granted, I do weigh 250 lbs, but still)! What’s fascinating to ponder is that most scientific muscle-building experts at this point in time believe that muscle damage (and metabolic stress) don’t lead to muscle growth. They think that mechanical tension is the sole driver of hypertrophy. My colleague Brad Schoenfeld and I don’t believe this, but solid arguments can be made either way.
What’s also interesting to note is that getting this sore is actually counterproductive. I wanted to perform hip thrusts today and wasn’t able to. I won’t be able to perform them tomorrow either. I should have probably just done 12 steps (6 with each leg) for the first time back after a year of not performing them. Your body quickly adapts to the stress from exercises that tend to produce marked DOMS (like lunges, which contain a considerable eccentric component and stretch the muscle to long lengths) – it’s called “The Repeated Bout Effect.” The research on the repeated bout effect is pretty fascinating if you dive into it.
Last night, on my IG story, I linked to THIS recently published article on heat stress and muscle signaling. Although the study didn’t examine using a jacuzzi, it got me thinking. The times throughout the last decade where my physique looked best definitely corresponded to times I was going to the jacuzzi almost every night. This certainly could be coincidence, but it’d be nice to see a study examining whether nightly jacuzzi usage aids in building muscle.
For the past few months, I’ve been working more closely with my clients. I used to just train them all in a big group, but lately I’ve been closely watching more of them, helping them create more tailored programs, and telling them what loads to use and how many reps to attempt. Mainly I’ve been pushing them to set PRs every week in various exercises.
Some days I’m so exhausted I just plop down on the gym floor and fall asleep for a brief nap after they’re all done for the day. I used to train clients for 7 hours every day. Lately it’s more like 5-6 but 7 days per week. It’s been very challenging trying to train all of them, workout, read, attend to my business, and post on social media. However, the silver lining in this whole thing is that I’m really proud of the system I’ve been using with many of my clients.
They’re getting so F’ing strong. PRs week in and week out. I film their vids each week and intend on posting them but there are so many that I get overwhelmed and end up not even posting about them. I don’t ever want to get complacent in life to where I no longer have the drive to learn more and master my craft. How can I write the best programs possible and understand S&C most if I’m not working with people in real life on a regular basis? To be the best you can be, you have to spend a lot of hours in the gym. No way around it.
While IG has been very good to me over the past several years, I find myself missing writing articles, filming videos, providing seminars, and doing podcasts. Many of my IG posts require elaboration and are nuanced, but it’s impossible for me to do the topic justice due to caption space limitations.
I was thinking about having a weekly podcast where I simply discuss my IG posts and address various questions and comments. Basically a podcast to accompany and serve my IG content. Does this sound like a good idea or am I just being an idiot?
When I’m not dieting (which is most of the time), I’m just eating whatever I want while making sure to get in adequate protein and not go too crazy with the calories. When I’m dieting, I’m mostly eating protein along with things that make the protein taste more pleasant.
For example, eating turkey slices is boring, but dipping them in hummus makes it taste way better. Or putting a couple of over-medium eggs over the top and popping the yolks. Drinking a whey protein shake in water is boring, but using 2% milk and a little bit of peanut butter makes it taste so much better. I don’t end up eating a lot of traditional carb sources like pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, or oats, but the meal ends up hitting the spot.
The macros tend to end up working out just right if you do it this way. You get your protein in and your fats, carbs, and cals are kept in check so you lose weight gradually. And you can adhere to it because you’re not depriving yourself of tasty things.
I’m so glad I make most of my money online. I don’t rely on my gym for revenue. If I did, I’d be screwed right now, due to the quarantines.
I just want to take a moment to give shout outs to the gym owners out there who are trying your best to stay in business during these times. Many of you had to pay full lease payments for several months, only to have your light at the end of the tunnel turn out to be a mirage and end up re-quarantined.
I want you to know I feel your pain. I opened my first gym in 2006, right before the housing market collapse. I know how frustrating it is to be doing everything right as a business owner yet still be hanging on by a thread from circumstances over which you have no control.
There seems to be a lack of logic applied to the essential vs. non-essential business labels, and it’s highly frustrating to watch other businesses thrive while you’re paying rent, unable to earn any money (and many didn’t get a stipend or any loans), watching your bank account dwindle.
One of the hardest things to figure out and accept in life is that it’s just not fair. I hope things bounce back and you’re able to thrive in 2021.
I recently re-opened up Glute Lab and hired two trainers; Ashley Hodge and Adam Marley. It’s been fun watching them do their thing.
If you’re a gym owner needing to hire trainers, don’t just focus on credentials. I can teach my trainers how to write badass programs and coach the lifts properly. What I can’t teach them is how to care about people and be an entertaining trainer.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in the gym lately and it puts me in a good mood just being around my trainers and watching them interact with the clients. My advice – hire trainers who want to be the highlight of their clients’ days, not necessarily ones who read Supertraining and know all the dysfunctional labels.
Lately, I’ve found myself wanting to move to another city. Mainly I just don’t like the ways California runs the state and San Diego runs the city. I’m also paying a fortune in state income, property, and sales taxes. I don’t know why any serious business owner would stay here; Pacific Beach, San Diego, and California in general are anti-business. It’s tough because most of my family has moved out here (to S.D.) and the weather is the greatest I could imagine. It’s such a breath of fresh air in that regard compared to Phoenix (where I spent my first 40 years of life).
I’m very proud of what I’ve done here. I look at all the gyms here in San Diego…they all have amazing glute equipment. The quality of glute training has sky-rocketed here. I suspect we’re the glute training capital of the world right now. All the gyms surrounding me have one or more hip thrust machines, and some of even offering tailored glute training programs. My clients train at multiple gyms and everyone sees how they train at Glute Lab, so they end up mimicking my clients and influencing the gym owners to get better equipment.
I’ve been thinking about Oahu, Las Vegas, Austin, Tampa, and Phoenix, but one thing is that my body doesn’t handle the heat well anymore. I literally get heat exhaustion very easily now and worry that I could end up seriously harming myself if I live in the extreme heat again. People tell me I’d get island fever living in Oahu, but I see my former client Mahsa’s stories (she lives there now) and it looks like heaven. Vegas might be cool but it’s just like Phoenix in terms of weather.
I need to figure something out quick for 2021.
Being an entrepreneur in this day and age can be brutal. Before the days of social media, there was only so much you could do. Your day typically ended during normal closing hours. But these days, you can justify working around the clock. There’s always another post to make on social media and another person to respond to in your DMs.
But one thing I’ve been really paying attention to lately is being present and in-the-moment. So many of my clients are on their phones round the clock. They’re addicted. It’s such a turn-off to talk to people whose eyes are glued to their phones. I know I’ve been guilty of this in the past, but I no longer respond to every single person on IG and it’s allowed me to have better conversations and memories with people. Don’t be a slave to your phone and put it down when you’re around people who matter to you. There’s more to life that social media, followers, and money.
Recently, I’ve been taking the time to explain to my clients that “bad” workouts aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Firstly, you can’t appreciate the good workouts if you never experience the bad ones. But secondly, the iron game is a lifelong series of experiments. There’s so much to learn, and your body changes over time, so what’s best for you now might not be what’s best for you in a year or two or three.
You have to learn through trial and error. It’s hard to look at a bad workout as a positive thing, especially when you’ve been running at a high and setting PRs (personal records) on the regular. But if you pay close attention and make adjustments, bad workouts can lead to great outcomes. So don’t be too hard on yourself or get too down when you experience a lackluster training session, it’s all part of the game.
I try to stay up on the pain research but I must admit it’s confusing and complicated AF. I want to take the time to tell you some intriguing pain stories in hopes that it can plant some seeds in your head and lead to positive outcomes.
Last year, after 18 months of experiencing excruciating plantar fasciitis, I decided to get proactive about it. I bought some stretching device and it completely went away in two days. Why didn’t I get proactive 18 months prior? Apparently because I’m a serious idiot. I just assumed it would go away over time, and I was so busy writing Glute Lab with my coauthor Glen Cordoza.
For the past 15 years, I’ve begged every girlfriend I’ve had to massage my feet, calves, and shins (tibialis anterior) at night. I’d be in pain every single night and if they squeezed them for just 5 minutes, it would feel like I took morphine. I’d feel this euphoria that is hard to describe.
I figured that this was just a way of life, but around six months ago the pain went away. I don’t have this lower leg pain anymore. Why would it go away at age 43 when it’s been a thing since I was 28 lol? And I don’t know what I did to cause it to go away or what changed…
If you’ve watched my IG content for the past couple of years, then you know I’m a huge fan of the Nordic Ham Curl (NHC). We do them all day long at Glute Lab with clients. But not everyone can do them safely. I would guess that around 1/5 women (20%) feel pain in the back of their knees when they do them. Sometimes these women can do certain types of leg curls pain-free, but often they can’t. So I just have them do straight leg hip extension exercises (SLDL, 45 degree hyper, etc.) for hamstring development and it works out just fine.
One common technical fault that I teach in my seminars and wrote about in Glute Lab is the hips shooting up on squats, deadlifts, and single leg movements like step ups and Bulgarian split squats.
I’ve been thinking about this for a very long time, especially since I’ve struggled with it for decades as a lifter – when I go super heavy or approach failure, I turn my squats into good mornings and my deadlifts into stiff legs. Some would say I squat “like a stripper” lol.
The best powerlifters tend to keep their torso angle rather constant as they shoot out of the hole until the lift is around half way up.
But here’s the deal. Powerlifters have freakishly strong quads. They primarily perform squats and deadlifts. Yes ,many do assistance lifts like good mornings, back extensions, glute ham raises, reverse hypers, etc. But they don’t prioritize them in their training and they’re not obsessed with progressive overload when it comes to these lifts.
My clients (whose primary goal is glute development) will prioritize hip thrusts but also perform a ton of other lifts ranging from squats to deadlifts to single leg exercises to straight leg hip extension exercises to abduction movements.
When you do this, especially if you have relatively long and thin legs, you’re going to shoot the hips up. It’s just the way it is. You will do this because your hips and hammies are stronger than your quads, so you shoot the hips up to straighten out the knee angle so the hammies can be better contributors to hip extension and so your quads don’t have to do quite as much due to diminished lever arms.
In powerlifting, you’d note this fault and begin hammering technique (so the quads get the primary stimulus) with more volume, and you’d omit hamstring exercises and prioritize assistance lifts like front squats, hack squats, and belt squats to bring the quads up to speed.
But in glute training, shooting the hips up could be thought of as just a normal technical consequence to adhering to a well-rounded glute routine that consisted of hip thrusts, squats, deadlifts, good mornings, back extensions, Nordic ham curls, etc. In other words, it’s not the end of the world (as long as you don’t round the lower back).
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*Quick Lower Body Training Tip* Don’t confuse this tip with leaning forward. You should indeed be leaning forward at the bottom of your squats, lunges, and step ups. The angle of forward lean will depend on exercise variation, relative femur length, ankle mobility, shoe wear, relative quad strength, load, and fatigue. However, whatever torso angle you have at the bottom of the movement, that’s the angle that should stick for the first half of the rising phase. Don’t shoot your hips up and horizontalize your torso as you rise out of the hole and turn your lifts into good morning hybrids. Make sure the knees and hips extend at similar rates to prevent this from occurring. Keep the back angle solid and your performance will benefit. #gluteguy #glutelab #squats #deadlifts
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I hate experiencing DOMS for multiple reasons. An obvious reason is that I can’t stand being sore. But a less obvious reason is that I believe it leads to substantial decrements in NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). When you’re sore as hell, you don’t move around nearly as much. I’ve noticed I won’t go on walks, I don’t do as many chores and run as many errands, and I practically go through life trying to avoid bending over when I’m crippled from lunges, Nordics, etc. If you’re like me, you may want to tweak your programming so that you don’t get too sore by limiting volume on exercises that tend to get your muscles sore AF.
That’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed my random thoughts. Until next time!
by Bret Contreras October 19, 2020
As most of you already know, moved to Las Vegas two weeks ago. Click HERE to read why. Since so many of you have been DMing me inquiring about the...
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