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A New Instructional Series



I am excited to announce the release of a new instructional series: The Powerlifting Video Bundle.  With the help of my friends at Fitness University, we have created a new video set that covers in detail how to execute, train, and improve the squat, the deadlift, and the bench press.

Here is a trailer for the videos:



                In the bench press video, Josh Bryant shares his best tips and techniques to build an impressive bench press.  Josh is a bench legend himself, being the youngest man in history to bench 600 lbs raw.  For 90 minutes, Josh explains his philosophy, his favorite assistance exercises, and how he programs the lift to make gains even at an elite level.

      the-squat-cover          In the squat video, Tim Henriques spends 2 ½ hours providing high level, point by point instruction how to squat.  Proper technique including foot stance, grip, bar placement, the descent, the ascent, muscles involved are all covered.  In addition he goes over his favorite warm-up strategies for the squat, as well as how specific assistance exercises improve certain weak points.  Tim Henriques has personally taught over a 1,000 people to become personal trainers and he is the author of All About Powerlifting.



   the-deadlift-cover             In this 75 minute deadlift video, Jordan Syatt covers the execution of both conventional and sumo deadlifts.  He provides many great tips and tricks to maximize your deadlift ability.  Jordan is part of an elite few that have deadlifted 4 x bodyweight.




If getting strong is a passion for you, or if your goal is to incorporate the barbell lifts into your clients’ personal training programs, these videos will contain great tips and cues to help you do just that.

The Powerlifting Video Bundle is available as a DVD set or as a digital download.  If you haven’t already picked up your copy of the 5 star rated book All About Powerlifting you can purchase the book and the DVDs together for the special price of $54.95.  That purchases also incudes the following:

  • All About Powerlifing Program Design Bible
  • 5 competition lifting bookelts
  • “Done-for-You” workout programs all in one bundle




To get your copy of these brand new videos, go here:


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Tim’s Training Tips #1-5










Over the past several months I have been posting some training tips on Facebook.  People seem to like them and I have gotten lots of requests to condense them.  To that end I will put a collection of tips together for easy reference and post them as a blog post.  We’ll start at the beginning (where else would you start?) and I plan on this being a continuing series.

Tim’s Training Tips #1: Rest Periods

How long you rest in between sets is a very important variable and it will vary based on your fitness goal.

If you are training for STRENGTH, you want to have full recovery between your sets. For most people this is 2-5 minutes of rest (use the lower end for smaller muscles/easier sets, the higher end for bigger muscles/harder sets). Advanced lifters on crucial sets may want to rest 5-8 minutes between sets.  The basic idea here is to allow your creatine phosphate and ATP stores to near fully recharge and not to be in oxygen debt at the start of your set.  A simple tip for observing complete recovery is when breathing returns to normal.

If you are training for SIZE you want near full recovery between sets, but not full recovery to force the muscle to use additional fibers.  Generally start the set about 30 seconds before you feel totally recovered.  For most people this is about 1-2 minutes of rest. Don’t rest so short that you can’t continue to lift pretty heavy, however.

Note: some recent research shower better gains with longer rest and I think it is very important to still allow the client to lift heavy.  For beginners and early intermediates, since they are not very strong anyway, the longer recovery helps promote going heavier.  But once one has more experience, keeping the rest a little shorter than desired I believe is ideal.  I do believe there is something to the idea of “getting a pump” for muscle growth and the pump tends to dissapate with very long rest times.


If you are training for multiple set ENDURANCE or conditioning, you want the rest to be quite short. For most people this is one minute or less, :30 seconds works well in most scenarios.  With these workouts you will really be huffing and puffing.  Expect performance on each set to be well below maximal because of the very limited rest times.





Tim’s Training Tips #2: Total Exercises for Strength

If you are training for STRENGTH, generally you want to use 4-7 resistance training exercises in each workout.

If you are using more than that, it is possible you are sacrificing quality for quantity.  In addition because of the needed rest times the workout will be really long and remember the added work will tax your recovery ability.

If you are using less than that, it is possible you may not have a complete program or you may not be addressing all areas of strength development.  The big exception to this guideline is if you are performing multiple training sessions per day, in which case one will likely do 1-3 exercises per session.

Exercise selection is hugely important in developing strength, so pick the most important exercises for you and focus on them.  For more detail about exercise selection, see my “Which exercise is best?” series which starts here with a list of the best chest exercises for size, strength, and endurance.


Tim’s Training Tips #3. Exercise Selection for Strength

If your goal is to improve maximal strength, exercise selection is very important. Remember that strength is a specific skill, it is not a general trait. In order to make sure the strength you are building in the gym is as transferable as possible, use this litmus test.  Select exercises that allow you to go as heavy as possible while simultaneously requiring a high level of skill (coordination). It is important that both of these criteria be met.

For example a leg press uses a lot of weight but it doesn’t involve much skill, it likely will not build up your strength as well as a squat.

A pistol squat standing on a bosu ball requires a good amount of skill but the weight used is too light to appreciably build maximal strength, both requirements need to be satisfied.

In general this means that barbells, dumbbells, and challenging body weight exercises should form the bulk of the program for those individuals looking to build strength.



Tim’s Training Tip #4: Exercise Selection for Size

While exercise selection is not quite as important when training for size as it is when training for strength, it is still very important.  I like exercises that build size to meet the following standard.  Select an exercise that allows you to use a large amount of weight combined with the most isolation on the muscle.

When training for size it is important to feel the muscle working in the exercise, particularly during isolation (single joint) exercises.  It is likely that getting a pump in the muscle is helpful to promote muscle growth (and if you never get a pump in the muscle then you may have poor nervous control of it).

Barbells and dumbbells are still good options when training for size, but other implements such as the smith machine, hammer strength machines, and cables become much more viable options.

For more information on how to chooses exercises, refer to these two tnation articles.  The first gives guidelines on training for size and strength:

The second provides an extensive list of all the common exercises with the muscles working in each exercise:


Tim’s Training Tip #5: Pre-exhaustion

In the last tip I mentioned it was important to feel a muscle working if you are training for size. Sometimes individuals have a hard time feeling specific muscles working.  When this is the case it might be prudent to try pre-exhaustion.

Pre-exhaustion is when you perform an isolation or very strict exercise before a compound or less strict exercise for the same muscle group.

For example if a client wanted to feel their glutes more in a squat, you can perform hip thrusts before the squat; if they wanted to feel their chest during the bench press you could do pec flys before the bench.

To perform pre-exhaustion choose 1-2 isolation exercises and do 3-10 sets on that exercise.  Heavy weight is not the goal, fatiguing the muscle is, as such don’t allow for full recovery in between sets.  Then move on to your main compound exercises after that, expect that the weight you are lifting on the big exercises will be noticeably lower.

Pre-exhaustion can also be used in the following situations:

·         The person is lifting so much weight you don’t feel you can safely spot them

·         You only have access to limited weight (for example DB’s only go up to 70 lbs or something)

·         A newbie trying to learn how to contract a certain muscle

·         An individual trying to get a pump in a certain muscle

·         A bodybuilder trying to ensure a certain muscle receives more work or they want to bring up a weak point


Common examples of pre-exhaustion include the following:

     Chest – Pec Flys, Pec Deck, or Cable Crossover – then followed by the normal pressing exercises

     Back – Straight Arm Lat Pulldown or Pullover Machine – then followed by the normal pulling exercises

     Delts – Lateral or Front Raises before the Overhead/Military Press

     Biceps before back or very strict bicep exercises (Preacher Curl, Incline Curl, Concentration Curl) before less strict exercises (EZ Curl, Power Curl, DB Curl)

    Triceps before chest or very strict tricep exercises (Tricep Pushdowns, Skull Crushers, Kickbacks) before less strict exercises (Dips, Closegrip, Pullover Skull Crushers, DB Pullover Tri Extension).

     Glutes – Hip Thrusts or Bridges before Squats, Lunges, Leg Press

     Quads – Leg Extension before Squats, Lunges, Leg Press

     Hamstrings – Leg Curl (any variation) or GHR’s before RDL’s, Stiff DL’s, Good Mornings

     Erectors – Hypers (any variation) before Deadlifts (any variation) or Good Mornings

There is often some confusion around the use of pre-exhaustion.  Whatever muscle you train first (the muscle you initially – pre – exhaust) that is the muscle that works the hardest in the subsequent exercises.  It is the true the synergists make attempt to take over for the weak muscle and occasionally clients will feel those muscles, but the muscle doing the most work and receiving the most stimulus is the pre-exhausted muscle.

Because of the low weight used on the compound exercise, pre-exhaustion is generally not ideal when training for strength.  It is also less effective if the client is already quite weak and can’t lift much weight on the main exercises when they are fresh.


The goal of these tips is to provide you – the trainer, the serious lifter, the fitness enthusiast, with some actionable tips that are easy to incorporate into your workout and that will make a noticeable difference in your results.  I hope you find something useful in them.








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Some Pretty Good Stuff

                We have put out some pretty good stuff in the last couple of weeks – stuff that I strongly believe will really help you as a trainer make your clients’ programs significantly better.  To that end, I wanted to compile those various charts and handouts into one easy to find space.  If you are looking for more detail about each one of these things or if you want to download high quality versions of the media, simply click on the specific link to take you to that article.


First, we put out the Hierarchy of Strength, which attempts to rank the key variables in building strength in order of importance.  It also attempts to highlight how important each variable is:


Then we composed program design charts for the Big 3: The Squat, The Bench Press, and The Deadlift.  The idea here is that once you know which level a client is on the chart (most clients will be beginner, a few intermediate, advanced will be a rarity among normal PT clients) you can then select an appropriate weekly volume for the lift.  It is suggested to start with the minimal suggested volume and work your way up from there.  Sample programs are included to help you see these charts in action.


Squat Article:


Bench Article:


Deadlift Article:

If you find this information useful, feel free to share it with your friends and colleagues. 


Don’t forget to check back periodically to our Coming Events section to see the new CEU’s we are offering, we update that every month or two.


Remember, if you refer a friend to NPTI you receive a free CEU of your choice, a value of up to $300!

Keep learning, keep studying, applying the information in the gym on yourself and on your clients, and keep moving forward to become the best trainer you can be.


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Sleep is Overrated


                Here is a brief story I’d like to share with you.  Several decades ago – I was probably ten or so – one night I walked into my grandfather’s bedroom (kids weren’t allowed in his room so it was sort of a special occasion to be in there) to watch a baseball game with him – he was a big Mets fan.  I didn’t really like baseball but it was fun to spend time with him, I only saw him once or twice a year.  We were talking, I don’t remember the conversation but I said something about how much I love sleep.  I have always been a deep sleeper and as a kid I would just sleep and sleep and my parents would have a hard time getting me up and ready for school.  My grandfather replied that he hated sleep.  His reasoning was as follows: Think what you could get done if you didn’t have to sleep?  Since his opinion was so opposite of mine it stuck with me and I have found that as I have grown older, I have started to come around to his point of view.

        You might not expect this post from a fitness professional, but I am going to go ahead and say it.  Sleep is overrated and often a significant waste of time.  You can’t store or save up on sleep once you have fully rested.  Extra sleep is just like pumping gas into an already full tank, it spills out – in this instance as wasted time.  What if you got a decent amount of sleep but then spent that extra time doing something that you believed to be productive, imagine what you could accomplish?

                First, let’s get some definitions straight.  The general recommendation is for Americans to sleep 7-9 hours a night (1), so let’s average that and say the recommendation is to sleep 8 hours a night, or one of third of every day.  If we sleep an average of 8 hours a night each night of the week (8×7) that is 56 hours we are sleeping every week. 

                Here is my observation and a subsequent suggestion.  The human body is extremely adaptable.  If you condition it to function on lower levels of sleep it will learn to accept that as the norm, just like you can get used to drinking less than a gallon of water a day or eating only two meals if you want.  My suggestion is to learn to operate well off of 6 hours of sleep each night.  If you feel it necessary, add in a couple of extra-long nights of sleep to play catch up.  You’ll still come out way ahead in the end.  Let’s do the math:

                                                   Person A) Sleeps evenly 8 hours a night, 7 days a week.  56 hours a week spent sleeping

Person B) Sleeps 6 hours a night 5 days a week, and then has 2 catch-up days as needed with 10 hours of sleep a night.  50 hours a week spent sleeping

If person B has just one make-up day a week then they spent 46 hours sleeping each week.


In our example the person just gained somewhere from 6-10 hours a week of time to do whatever they wish, and this isn’t even an extreme example.  And 6-10 hours of time is very significant.  Here are some things you can do in that time:

  • Follow a very comprehensive, intense, effective exercise program
  • Read all of the technical data in your field (research suggests if you read 1 hour a day in your field for 7 years your knowledge will be equal to that of most world experts [2])
  • Spend time developing/mastery a hobby (writing/painting/gardening, etc)
  • Work a part time job (to illustrate the point if you were a personal trainer and you just trained 2 clients a day twice per week – for example at 7 and 8 am on Tuesday and Thursday mornings – you could make an extra 5-20k per year working just 4 hours a week).  Imagine if you put that money into a savings account or a stock portfolio and saved for several years, think what it could turn in to?
  • Volunteer in your community – you can do a world of good giving 5 hours a week to your community


                Just to use myself as an example, I would say on average I spend about 6-10 hours a week both exercising and writing.  In the past 10 years I have been able to maintain a reasonably high level of fitness and I set some records I was going after, as well as write two in-depth books (All About Powerlifting and NPTI’s Fundamentals of Fitness and Personal Training) that I am very proud of, with another novel on the way.  In addition I have probably written 150 fitness articles on various sites (most of them I was paid to write).  Many of those things were bucket list items.  I could have spent that extra time sleeping and maybe I would have had one less cold or not had the flu in certain years, but looking back on things – with the information I have now, would I trade in those accomplishments for extra sleep?  No frickin’ way, it is not even close.

                Of course if you are going to lose sleep you want to do something productive – watching reruns on TV or surfing your social media feed for one or two hours a day likely isn’t going to be very fulfilling long term.  Keep yourself focused on a task, use a time journal if necessary to adequately chart your time on various activities, and see what you accomplish.

                One of the keys to this method is that you can have an occasional catch up day and it is no big deal.  In my opinion you’ll get far more out of one long day of sleep where you get 10 hours or so rather just adding an extra hour to most days a week.  But the time you gain by sleeping a bit less on those other nights really adds up. 


Why We Sleep?

                Surprising as it is, there doesn’t seem to be a super clear answer to the question of why we sleep?  You’ll hear answers such as it is safer at night to sleep then explore your environment; we conserve energy by sleeping; it has a restorative function; it helps with brain plasticity (3).  My pet theory (which is just that so take it or leave it) is that we sleep so we can take our nerves off line and repair them so they can continue to function optimally.  We can’t make new nerve and brain cells so we have to repair them. 


But I am So Sleepy          sleep-deprived1

                Our bodies and even our physiology get very used to routines.  My wife tends to go to bed right at 10 pm.  At 9:45 she will seem alert and awake then suddenly twebty minutes later she can’t seem to keep her eyes open.  I am the same way only I tend to go to bed around midnight.  Once you have established a routine your body wants to keep it.  This can be a good thing or a bad thing.  Once you get in the routine of sleeping less you will find it much easier to maintain, but if you are used to always sleeping 8-10 hours a night in the beginning it is going to take some effort to adapt to a new routine.  It would be easy if you simply had to adapt, much like those in the military have to do, but when the option to sleep is there it can be hard to turn down.  This is why it is really important to get on healthy and productive routines.  If you start regularly including something in your routine that is less than ideal (napping at a certain time in the afternoon for example) it can be tough to rid yourself of that habit.

                I think using the example of hunger as analogy works well.  Our bodies get used to eating a certain times.  For example I usually have breakfast at 8:30 and then lunch at 11 am.  If 11:30 rolls around and I have not eaten my stomach will be growling.  But am I really hungry?  I just ate 3 hours ago.  I call these signals “fake” hunger.  Your mind is telling yourself one thing – you are hungry – but it is not a real sensation, your body is just trying to maintain homeostasis.  Even if I skipped lunch and dinner I wouldn’t “really be hungry” despite my cravings, people can go for weeks without food.  Those folks on Naked and Afraid or similar survival shows are really hungry, just because I consumed 1500 kcals instead of 2500 kcals that day doesn’t mean I am truly hungry.  Your body will do the same with sleep.  It will send powerful signals that you are sleepy or that you need sleep but it is just doing that because of your real routine.  Find something that will really keep you occupied or excited and get through that 30 minute window and suddenly you’ll discover you were not sleepy at all. 

sleep continuum

Should Everyone Sleep Less?

                Certainly there are going to be times to when you need to sleep more, and in general I would say trust your body.  The amount of sleep people get is going to be a continuum including amounts that are too little, just right, and too much.  In my opinion I think if you are regularly sleeping less than 4 hours a night that is likely to be problematic.  Iif you can’t stay awake or focused during the day that isn’t productive and of course if you suffer an accident because you fall asleep while doing something (say driving) that doesn’t help anybody.  I think 6 hours a night is a good amount to shoot for on a regular basis, sometimes you might sleep less and sometimes you might sleep more.  I think anything more than 8 hours a night is overkill on a regular basis unless it is a catch up and if you are sleeping 10 or more hours a night on a regular basis that is a giant time suckage, ask yourself if you couldn’t be more productive spending your time doing something else?

During the following times you probably need more sleep:

  • Young kids growing should get more sleep, the suggestion here is for adults
  • When you are sick or recovering from an injury or illness
  • If your immune system is suppressed
  • If you are experiencing the signs of sleepiness such as falling asleep at work or at the wheel or you can’t focus on your tasks (check diet and exercise as contributors to this as well)
  • Elite athletes might be willing to sacrifice productivity in other areas to ensure their body is adequately rested for their training/sport.

Other factors to consider:

  • If you have insomnia or other sleep disorders disregard this advice
  • If you suffer from chronic illness work with your doctor
  • Don’t double dip – if you already get a low amount of sleep and then you think “I’ll just cut another 2 hours out every night” that can quickly become problematic
  • Individual sleep requirements may vary – the trick is to find the minimum effective dose for you


                In the interest of full disclosure, I am simply sharing my opinion on this topic.  I am not a sleep expert and I have not studied the subject closely for many years.  Those two sentences alone may be enough for you to say – this is just one dude’s opinion and I really don’t give a sh*t what he says.  I am okay with that.  But most people want to be productive.  Most people wish they had more time, and the one thing they likely spend more time on than anything else – perhaps even work – is sleep.  Many people see the amount of time they sleep as some untouchable thing: ‘well of course I need 9 hours of sleep a night’ they say, but I would argue it should be the first place one should look to gain extra time.  I don’t think too many people lie on their deathbed and think “I wish I had spent more time sleeping,” but I do think lots of people would say “I wish I used the time I had more wisely and if only I had spent 5 hours a week every week doing something that I loved, imagine what could have been?”  You can either have sweat dreams with your head nestled on the pillow, or you can wake your ass up and make your dreams become a reality.  The time you are given is yours to spend as you see fit, but once it is gone you can’t get it back.  Spend it wisely and with no regrets.






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My Favorite Exercises

I believe that proper exercise selection is very important to help one achieve their goals.  If you are going to be busting your butt in the gym you want to spend your time on something that will actually give you the results you are after.  To that end I have compiled the 5 best exercises for the muscle group you want to work.  But, it is important to know what specific goal you have.  Are you trying to get stronger, get bigger, or build muscular endurance?  To help you out I am going to list my top 5 exercises for each muscle group in each one of those categories.

My Favorite Exercises for Chest

Chest Strength Chest Size Chest Endurance
Bench Press Bench Press Bench Press
Incline Press Smith Mx Bench Push-up
Decline Press Hammer Strength Press Dip
Dumbbell Press Dumbbell Press Ring Push-up
Dips Power DB Fly 1 Arm Push-up



My Favorite Exercises for the Back

Back Strength Back Size Back Endurance
Pull-ups Bent-over Row Pull-up
Chin-ups Machine Row Chin-up
Bent-over Row DB Row Inverted Row
DB Row Machine Pulldown DB Row
Cable Row Pullover Machine Flexed Arm Hang



My Favorite Exercises for the Shoulders

Shoulders Strength Shoulders Size Shoulders Endurance
Push Press Smith Mx Mil Press Handstand Push-up
Barbell Military Press Power DB Lat Raise Barbell Military Press
DB Military Press Leaning DB Lat Raise DB Military Press
Power DB Lateral Raise Power DB Rear Delt Raise DB Lateral Raise
Leaning Lateral Raise Rear Delt Machine DB Rear Delt Raise



My Favorite Exercises for the Legs

Legs Strength Legs Size Legs Endurance
Squats Leg Press Squat
C Deadlifts Smith Mx Squat Lunge
Sumo Deadlifts Squat Leg Press
Good Mornings Deadlift (any) Front Squat
Leg Press or Front Squat Leg Ext/Leg Curl Step Ups


My Favorite Exercises for the Biceps

Biceps Strength Biceps Size Biceps Endurance
EZ Bar Curl EZ Curl EZ Bar Curl
Power Curl DB Curl Suspension (TRX) Curl
DB Curl Cable Curl DB Curl
DB Hammer Curl Power Curl Band Curl
Strict Curl DB Hammer Curl Preacher Curl


My Favorite Exercises for the Triceps

Triceps Strength Triceps Size Triceps Endurance
Closegrip Bench Skull Crushers Closegrip push-up
Board Press Pushdowns Bench Dips
Skull Crushers Closegrip Bench Band Pushdowns
DB Overhead Tri Ext Dips Dips
DB Pullover Tricep Extension DB Pullover Tricep Extension DB Pullover Tricep Extension



My Favorite Exercises for the Abs (core)

Abs Strength Abs Size Abs Endurance
Hanging Leg Raise Cable Crunch Plank
Inverted Sit-up RC Leg Raise Sit-up
Cable Crunch Decline Sit-up Crunch
Dragon Flags Machine Crunch Twisting Decline


Standing Ab Wheel Dumbbell Side Bend Wood chop/Rotations


I am not trying to make the argument that you should only use these exercises listed here for the rest of your training career.  I am, however, suggesting that if you are not regularly incorporating a good number of these exercises for clients that have these specific goals, your results may end up being less than optimal.  Ultimately you want to have a litmus test for exercises; a method for determining if the exercise is likely getting the job done.  Here is the litmus test that I use:

Strength: When training for strength you want to choose an exercise that allows you to lift the most weight combined with the most skill necessary.

Size: When training for size you want to choose an exercise that allows you to lift the most weight combined with the most isolation (emphasis) on the target area.

Endurance: When training for muscle endurance choose the most challenging functional exercise that a client can complete for 20 or more reps.  A functional exercise in this instance is an exercise that moves in 3 dimensions and has a high probably of transferring to common, everyday activities.

Let’s look at the leg press for example.  One huge benefit of the leg press is that allows the client to lift a lot of weight – most clients will use more weight on the leg press than they will on any other exercise in the gym.  That fits very nicely for the first part of the guideline both size and strength.  However, the leg press involves little skill – it is a fixed machine and as such the strength developed in that lift may not transfer that well over to other activities – squats for example.  If you want to use the leg press to develop strength you need to incorporate the other barbell lifts as well.  However the leg press does a great job of isolating – or placing significant emphasis on – the target muscles, in this case the glutes and the quads.  In my opinion it may be the best exercise to develop those areas, particularly the quads.  The point of this example is to highlight how having a filter to view exercises through will help you see the benefits and negatives of each exercise and will allow you to make more ideal exercise selection for your clients.


Selecting the optimal exercises will go a long way towards improving your clients’ fitness, but don’t forget to incorporate the standard exercise program design science as well to ensure they are achieving maximal results:

  • Strength: For most sets use a heavier weight, use lower reps (1-6), and take long rests in between each work set (2+ minutes). Be sure to incorporate progressive overload in your workouts.
  • Size: For most sets use a moderate weight, use medium reps (6-12), take shorter rests in between each work set (1-2 minutes), and use a high volume of training (8-20 tough sets for the target area). Be sure to eat enough to facilitate growth.
  • Endurance: For most sets use a lower weight, use higher reps (12+, often in the 20 range), and take shorter breaks particularly if training for multiple set endurance. Be sure to keep your cardio high enough and your bodyweight low enough to handle the demands of this style of training.



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The Muscles Involved in the Key Barbell Lifts


Sometimes it is nice to have a quick resource that outlines the major muscles working in the key, compound lifts.  Look no further, here is such a resource!  5 Key Lifts are outlined with a ranking of the all the various muscles on a scale of 1 to 5; 5 is hugely involved (the agonist), 1 is very minimally involved.  In general improving anything that is ranked a 3 or more likely to help your performance on the lift.


The Squat:


The Bench Press:


The Conventional Deadlift:


The Sumo Deadlift:


The Overhead Press: