Note: Charles is here on a weekly basis to help you cut through the B.S. and get to the bottom of the biggest questions in health and training. Post your questions via social media or in the comments section below to participate in next week's mailbag.

 

Question #1: Using a Mixed Grip When Deadlifting

READER: Can I develop muscle imbalances from deadlifting with a switch grip?

 

CHARLES SAYS: Probably not, but I don’t like asymmetrical lifting postures as a rule, which is why I always either use lifting straps or a hook grip. Some powerlifters and strongmen competitors have torn their biceps on the supinated side, and although this is unlikely to happen to you, personally I’d rather do everything possible to avoid setbacks like that.

 

So if you’re not a competitive powerlifter, just use straps, or, if you are, I’d suggest learning the hook grip.

 

 

As a bit of a tangent, grip strength, at least when it comes to holding on to heavy barbells, doesn’t strike me as all that improvable for most people. In my experience, it has a lot to do with finger length. I’m skeptical about drills done with oversized handles, as an example.

 

Question #2: Proper Use of the Ab Wheel

READER: Should I be using the ab wheel at my gym? I see others using it, but never have. Is it bad for your back?

 

CHARLES SAYS: If I was going to add a core-training drill to my regular training (hey, it could happen!) it would be rollouts or possibly toes-to-bar. Here’s a nice tutorial from Eric Cressey:

 

 

What I like about the rollout is that it’s a multi-joint compound exercise that heavily engages the lats and also requires full ROM, as opposed to standard drills like crunches and sit ups that seem to end up shortening the rectus abdominis, leading to impaired posture in a lot of people. Finally, I like the inherent scalability of rollouts. They can be done from the knees for beginners or from a standing position for stronger trainees.

 

Oh, and no, when done appropriately, rollouts aren’t bad for your back.

 

Question #3: Encouraging Fitness In the Family

READER: I'm 28 and I see my parents starting to decline physically. They complain about everything hurting and their yard work being hard all the time. I know if they started training and eating a little better they would feel so much better, but they resist the idea strongly. How do I get through to them?

 

CHARLES SAYS: I wish I knew. I do know what doesn’t work, though, which is posting memes with the caption “What’s YOUR Excuse?” over a photo of an amputee squatting 400 pounds in the Amazonian rainforest using prehistoric wood and stone equipment.

 

I once had a Jewish friend of mine explain to me that Jews don’t believe in proselytizing - instead, they feel you should just be such a shining example of your religion that people will ask you about it. Training should be the same way, in my opinion. In my personal life, I never offer fitness advice unless asked. Doing so usually comes across as heavy handed.

 

Question #4: Is "Muscle Confusion" a Real Thing?

READER: Is "muscle confusion" real? If so, does it work? How long do muscles take to get un-confused?

 

CHARLES SAYS: No, it’s not a real thing. It’s basically a dumbed-down marketing-speak explanation of the law of variability, which states that unchanging, monotonous stimuli tend to lead to a blunted response from the body over time. Neurologically, this is called “accommodation.”

 

"I do know what doesn’t work, though, which is posting memes with the caption 'What’s YOUR Excuse?' over a photo of an amputee squatting 400 pounds in the Amazonian rainforest."

In essence, if you do flat barbell bench presses three times a week, before too long, your body gets to the point where it’s so familiar with the task that it no longer responds with the type of alarm necessary for a homeostatic disruption to its systems. The cure for this of course, is variation. Maybe switching to dumbbells, setting the bench to a slight incline, pausing for three seconds at the bottom of each rep, varying your grip width, or using a different set/rep bracket. There are many ways to get the job done, but the more experienced you are, the more important variety becomes. If you’re a beginner (read: P90X consumer), you don’t even need variety, since everything you do is already new to your body.

 

This Week’s Training

I’m getting back into the swing of things after being sick for a while. Only three sessions this week, but I’ll be back to my normal four-day cycle next week. Despite being sick, missing training, and losing weight, I did manage a 455 deadlift this week and some strong bench presses, as well.

 

Next week, I’ll have a workout video for you. Hope you’re enjoying the Q&A, and I’m always looking for new questions, so please keep them coming!


Significant Lifts:

 

  • Deadlift: 455x1

 

Weekly Volume:  38,052 Pounds

 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

 

Bodyweight: 199.2 Pounds

Volume: 9090 Pounds

Average Weight Per Rep: 128.02 Pounds

 

Close Grip Bench Press (Pinkies On Rings)

  • Set 1: 95 lbs × 5
  • Set 2: 95 lbs × 5
  • Set 3: 135 lbs × 5
  • Set 4: 185 lbs × 3
  • Set 5: 185 lbs × 3
  • Set 6: 185 lbs × 3
  • Set 7: 185 lbs × 3
  • Set 8: 185 lbs × 5

Notes: IQ: 149.06

 

Seated Row

  • Set 1: 160 lbs × 5
  • Set 2: 160 lbs × 5
  • Set 3: 160 lbs × 5

Notes: IQ: 160

 

Bicep Curl (Dumbbell)

  • Set 1: 80 lbs × 8
  • Set 2: 80 lbs × 8
  • Set 3: 80 lbs × 8

Notes: IQ: 80

 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

 

Bodyweight: 199.4 Pounds

Volume: 13,295 Pounds

Average Weight Per Rep: 211.03 Pounds

 

Deadlift

  • Set 1: 135 lbs × 5
  • Set 2: 135 lbs × 5
  • Set 3: 225 lbs × 5
  • Set 4: 315 lbs × 3
  • Set 5: 365 lbs × 2
  • Set 6: 405 lbs × 3
  • Set 7: 455 lbs × 1
  • Set 8: 225 lbs × 10
  • Set 9: 315 lbs × 6
  • Set 10: 405 lbs × 2

Notes: IQ: 256.42

 

High Bar Squat

  • Set 1: 45 lbs × 5
  • Set 2: 95 lbs × 5
  • Set 3: 135 lbs × 5
  • Set 4: 185 lbs × 5
  • Set 5: 225 lbs × 1

Notes: IQ: 120.23

 

Friday, April 10, 2015

 

Bodyweight: 200.8 Pounds

Volume: 15,667 Pounds

Average Weight Per Rep: 146.42 Pounds

 

Bench Press

  • Set 1: 135 lbs × 5
  • Set 2: 135 lbs × 5
  • Set 3: 185 lbs × 5
  • Set 4: 205 lbs × 5
  • Set 5: 210 lbs × 5
  • Set 6: 215 lbs × 5
  • Set 7: 215 lbs × 5
  • Set 8: 215 lbs × 5

Notes: IQ: 189.37

 

Chin Up

  • Set 1: 5 reps
  • Set 2: 5 reps
  • Set 3: 5 reps

Notes: IQ: 200.8

 

Incline Dumbbell Press

  • Set 1: 100 lbs × 10
  • Set 2: 120 lbs × 10
  • Set 3: 120 lbs × 8

Notes: IQ: 112.85

 

Bicep Curl (Dumbbell)

  • Set 1: 80 lbs × 8
  • Set 2: 80 lbs × 8
  • Set 3: 80 lbs × 8

Notes: IQ: 80

 

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