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Exciting times ahead…come join the fun at http://www.matthewblacker.com

More strength, training, fitness, humor, nutrition advice, and more! Look forward to seeing you at the new home!

Straight up moved,

Matt B

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Image  —  Posted: October 14, 2012 in Misc., Uncategorized

Hey guys, thanks for checking in.

Going to keep this one ¬†brief…a quick focus on grip strength!

An iron grip is a must! If you want to call yourself a real man, you gotta have a strong grip! I can’t express enough how much a weak grip frustrates me and how annoying it is when I shake someones hand and it’s like grabbing a dead fish! Ladies, you too should focus on having a strong grip…no more having to ask someone to open a jar or something right?! ūüėČ

Opens jars with one hand behind the back.

Not only does a strong grip come into play in your day to day living (opening that jar again) but it’s very important in the gym. There are a number of exercises that require a strong grip (deadlifts, shrugs, rows, etc) and if your grip is weak these exercises will be weak and you will be weak because you are limiting your growth/strength potential.

Some of you might be saying “what about using straps?” A good question and one that will have supporters on both sides. My belief is that you should always train to you maximum strength capability (if not slightly beyond it) before implementing any aides (ie. straps). ¬†Far too often I see people in the gym using straps at the wrong times (too light a weight) and/or for the wrong purpose (barbell curls). Please don’t be that guy!

Regretabbly, I used straps as part of my training too frequently when I was younger and as a result I am now playing catch up…trying to build up some solid iron bending grip strength!

No Straps!

Of course, being human I have my limitations and as much as I’d like to be able to deadlift ¬†1000lbs with no straps, that ain’t gonna happen! What I do know…and what I do is train to my max without straps and only occasionally and when absolutely necessary do I use them. I will seek out all other ways to use and increase my grip strength before strapping on a pair of straps.

A good rule of thumb: if your grip is limiting the amount you can lift and thereby limiting your focused muscle group strength capability; go ahead and use straps. But only after you have given it your all!

Only when the weight limits your muscle group strength gains should you use straps.

Before I strap up, the two most common techniques/aides I’ll use first are an alternating grip and/or chalk. ¬†It is amazing how much stronger you feel with some white dust on your hands. Once you wrap your hands around that bar…it pretty much isn’t going anywhere! I highly recommend you get some good quality chalk and give it a try.

Strong grip? Chalk it up.

My Saturday workout:

1.Heavy db step-ups 2×7, 1×20

2.Cheat bb shrugs 1×7,1×5, 1×10 **chalked up on this one, HUGE help** Grip strength in full effect!

3.a Standing calves 2×7, 1×20

b Incline db curl 2×7, 1×11

4.Reverse wrist curl 2×15

Pretty simple but sure got the job done! Feeling it today and my forearms, grip, and traps are in full FORCE! ¬†Still no squats but the replacements are doing an admirable job so far and legs are feeling strong. The step ups required a whole lot of mind over matter as the last set of 20 was suppose to be around 60% of the heavy working sets but due to a calculation error it was 80%. Got it done though and rocked that mofo! Goes to show ya…don’t let the weights defeat you!

Straight up gripping it,

Matt B

What’s up guys!?

Quick update on me and my training recently.

For the last coupe months I’ve been dealing with a faulty hip…technically both hips if we really get down to it. My left hip has been “clicking” on and off and I notice it when simply walking. No pain however and as such I have been able to do my training (phew!). My right hip on the other hand has been quite painful. Something to do with my hip flexor and squatting has not been fun to do. Prolonged sitting does not seem to help either…which makes sense (will save the anatomy lesson for now). Side note tip: if sitting for prolonged periods is part of your job, do yourself a favor and be sure to get up, stretch, and walk around every so often to keep the muscles, joints, and ligaments fresh and loose.

Now of course, as much of an ‘iron head‘ that I am, I have not stopped training nor have I stopped squatting. That would be just plain crazy! Even though it’s probably just what I need to do. My squat weight has struggled to go up in recent months (a sign that something may be wrong) and the pain just won’t go away.

Oh how I will miss thee...

With that being said, in my current phase of training (as of yesterdays lower body workout) I have decided to at least temporarily STOP doing squats! For those that know me, this is a sad day! However, no excuses and my training will continue and I will find ways around squats. There are a number of great options to do, though none can top the squat. But, better to stop and fix myself now so I can get back to squatting ASAP.

The key point here is you sometimes have to work around injuries and can’t be stupid or stubborn about it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve decided to change my ways and I’d much rather fix the problem sooner than later and be back to my old self than let things linger and most likely get worse! So, what can you do instead of squats? Leg presses would be a great alternative. You can pile on lots of weight and still get some decent strength and size gains. Unfortunately for me, I tried leg press and it’s a no go for my right hip. Next?! Step ups, lunges, split squats, etc. I’ll be trying a mix of these over the next couple weeks or more and see how things go. Sadly, nothing can replace the Squat and the slabs of muscle it can put on your legs but I’ll be damned if I don’t try alternatives based on current situations. The worst thing to do is stop training completely. Hell no!

With that being said, yesterdays workout:

Warm-up: including jumping jacks, flings, frankensteins, general body mobility drills, glute holds…

1)Step ups 2×7, 1×20 (Be sure to keep the back foot flat and minimize it’s involvement and drive with the lead leg)

2)BB Shrugs 2×5-7, 1×10

3a)Standing calf raise 2×5-7, 1×20 (always focus on letting the calf stretch out for a couple seconds at the bottom part of the movement before each rep)

b)Incline db curl 2×5-7, 1×10

4)Db reverse wrist curl 2×12-15

Abs.

It was a solid workout and i’m feeling nice and jacked today. Don’t make excuses with your training…find a solution.

Over the next couple of weeks i’ll be doing my best to get my hip back to squatting form. This will include massage, foam rolling, stretching, etc and taking the advise of some pretty knowledgeable guys. One in particular that has taken time to give me some tips is Keith Scott, and I thank him greatly. Check out his awesome site, he knows his stuff!!

Hit me up with any questions or comments!

Straight up,

Matt B

Dang! It is good to be blogging again…apologies for my recent, and far too lengthy,¬†absence. But, like George Costanza, I am back baby!

Joking aside, it’s time to get serious.

Re-read the subject heading: Fail to plan, plan to fail!

As simple as it sounds it should trigger some powerful thoughts and get you re-thinking many of your actions. Far too often (myself included) we all get amped up and pumped up about doing something or wanting to reach a certain goal but don’t implement a proper plan to help attain these goals. New years resolutions are a classic example and unfortunately probably the worst.

In an image conscious society many of us wish we could look a certain way. We all see muscular and shredded athletes and want to look the same ourselves. Likewise, for those health conscious individuals who know the benefits of training and want to get fitter and healthier as a result. Unfortunately for many that try, they will fail. Sound harsh? It’s meant to….if you don’t plan, you are planning to fail.

Too many people see pictures like those above and think that by simply going to the gym and doing some bench pressing, curls, and stair climber, they will magically transform themselves. Unfortunately this is not the case and won’t be the case.

You have to have a plan. ¬†A detailed and well thought out plan. Why are you going to the gym? Why are you doing the exercises you are doing? Why are you doing cardio? Why are you eating the way you’re eating? If you can’t answer these questions you won’t reach your goals and your enthusiasm for what you are doing will soon dwindle and disappear.

To be successful in your training (and in any area of life) you need to have a plan and know how that plan relates to your end goal.

So, for example, someone wants to build strength and put on size. GREAT! Don’t we all! ūüėČ

However, that’s too vague! How much and what type of strength? Break it down into smaller segments and work from there. In other words, if you currently bench press 100lbs, you should want to increase that to say, 125lbs. How much do you squat (and please don’t say you don’t squat) and then decide a reasonable increase. If you select all the major lifts and increase the weight on them…you will get stronger, period!

Now, it doesn’t stop there. You can’t just say “ok, i’m squatting 200lbs and want to get stronger so, tomorrow i’m going to squat 250”. You need to plan how you will get there. What rep and set scheme will you have to follow. How much rest periods in between sets. How often should you train each week, etc. Likewise, you will also need to analyze your diet and plan a way to eat more (if gaining size is part of your goal) and in a healthy manner.

For some people this will take some research and investigation. Reading blogs (yes, this one is a great start ;)), books, and training magazines will certainly help. Of course one of the greatest ways for the majority of people (specifically those with limited training/exercise knowledge) will be in getting the guidance from a professional (personal trainer, strength coach etc). Strength coaches/personal trainers (like myself) will be able to help you devise an intricate plan that will answer all the questions above and get you on the right path towards your goal.

Plan to succeed, work hard, and you will!

As always, hit me up with any questions you may have.

Straight up planning to succeed,

Matt B

Just do it!

Posted: March 22, 2011 in Misc.
Tags: , , ,

Watsup guys!?

I’m going ¬†to keep this one short and sweet…

Nike is a powerful and successful business and we all know their famed catch phrase: “just do it”.

That is the take home message I want to come across in this post.

Basically, if you are planning on starting a fitness/strength routine or doing something to get you more active…just do it!

Way too often, well intentioned people simply put off starting a new training program, class, or whatever it is. They say to themselves:

I’ll start tomorrow…or next week”

“This is a busy month, next month is better”

“I’ll start after my vacation”

“I need to get new gym clothes first”

Etc, etc.

When it comes down to it…these are simply all EXCUSES!

STOP!

Don’t put it off anymore…don’t wait…

JUST DO IT!

I’ve been guilty of this myself at times and i’m not saying it’s easy….but you have to believe in yourself and start today. What if tomorrow never comes? Scary thought, but you get my point. There is no perfect time to start…the only time is now!

Just do it…now…today! Not tomorrow…get after it TODAY!

In fact, stop reading this post right now and go start your training program, get to the gym, take that class…what ever it is…do it!

Ok, since you’re still reading, there’s something I want to add.

I’m not saying you have to become the next Arnold or Fitness figure champion…but, find something you like, something you enjoy and start doing it.

It could be lifting some heavy weights. It could be doing some hill sprints. It could be simply going for a fast paced walk around the neighborhood. It could be a game of touch football. Whatever it is….start now…do it…and keep doing it…and keep getting better/faster/stronger at whatever it is you started. That’s a sure way to reach your goals faster.

As they say: The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

Take that first step, do yourself a favor and start TODAY!

That’s it guys…get after your dreams…believe and succeed!

You can do it…if you just do it! ūüėČ

A random but, solid tune to get you on your way:

Straight up doing it,

Matt B

Ch..ch…ch…changes!

Posted: January 14, 2011 in Training
Tags: , , , , ,

Happy New Year! (when is it too late to say that?!) ūüėČ

With a new year comes new beginnings, fresh starts, and the perfect time to make changes.

If you feel like your training has stalled or that you’re stuck in a rut, you’ll want to pay attention to this post.

An often overlooked, yet important, training principle is program modification. What this simply means is periodically making changes to your current training routine to continue making progress and gains.

Now, depending on your goals and current level of fitness, this can be done a number of ways.

The most common is to simply change the exercises you’re doing. So for example, if you’re currently doing dumbell rows you might then switch to recline/body inverted rows. This is a great way to make progress and to keep things fresh…which will help you stay excited and commited to your program.

Hot! But changes need to be made...

There are hundreds of different exercises to¬†incorporate¬†into your program…some are crap but many have stood the test of time. Sometimes there is only one way to find out and if your body responds to a new exercise and you enjoy it…it’s a win!

There are some exercises that deserve continued use, especially for beginner/intermediates who it is necessary for in order to learn the proper technique and get stronger at these specific movements. These basic lifts would include squat, bench, deadlift, chin/pull-ups, and some olympic movements (although these are quite difficult to learn and you might be better off getting help from someone who knows these movements). If you change these exercises too frequently, it will be hard to make steady strength gains and your progress will be limited. By focusing on these core lifts repeatedly your structural tolerance (strengthening of ligaments, tendons etc) will be better able to sustain subsequently greater stress/weight in further training sessions.

With that being said, it is still necessary to make alternative changes to these movements in other ways AND on your accessory exercises. ¬†Beginner/intermediate trainees will be best served switching up their program/exercises less frequently, anywhere from every 8-12 weeks while advanced lifters can benefit from switching it up more frequently. Therefore, if you’re a beginner and you are sticking with the basic lifts, when it comes time to switching it up, you would keep the same main lift but vary the intensity. This can be done by changing the rep scheme and load/weight: if you are doing 3×5 heavy change it to 4×8-12 moderate weight. ¬†This is essential if you want to make continued gains. Another way to change up the same exercise would be by decreasing the rest time between sets.

This change is also beneficial for those that change the exercises altogether. You wouldn’t simply want to go into the gym and do the exact same sequence, sets, reps, rest, etc of a different set of exercises. While this would be ok, you would reap much better rewards by switching up the exercises AND one other variable (sets/rep scheme, rest time, supersets, compound sets, ladders etc).

Here is a simple example for illustrative puposes:

Week 1-4                                                                                  Week 5-8

Bench 5×5 ¬†(90 sec rest) ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Bench 3×8-12 (60 sec rest)

DB Row 3×10-12 ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Chin ups 3×5

Lunge 3×6-10 ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† One leg hip thruster 2×12

Skull crushers 2×12-15 ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Close grip bench 3×6-8

In the above example you are keeping the core lift (bench) but switching up the rep scheme AND rest time between sets.  You could also even change the bench to incline bench or db bench. The options really are quite endless.

The key thing to remember is you want to get excited about each training session and if you’re doing the EXACT same thing in 6 months from now as you are today, your enthusiasm will be lacking and you will find it hard to get motivated for your session and your gains will most likely not be where you want them to be.

It’s a new year and a new start. Heck, it’s a new day, a new start!

It’s time to get crack-a-lacking and make serious gains and progress.

If you’ve been using the same program for awhile….STOP! Make some changes, switch up the routine, and get back on the right path towards your goals.

Your body and your mind (including your sanity) will thank you! ūüėČ

Go make those ch..ch..ch…changes!

As always, if you have any questions/comments please fire away.

Straight up,

Matt B.

Who am I…?

Posted: November 29, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

This is a question of the ages…

Today,¬† I want to try and simplify it and give you one answer…

When you, or someone else, asks “who are you?” I want you to answer them and yourself with four simple words:

I am a CHAMPION!

Watch this and let it sink in:

“Defeat, retreat, those are not in my words.” Powerful….

Strong beliefs in yourself and in your abilities is what will help you succeed, to pick yourself up when you fall, to never stop moving forward, to never doubt and to never quit!

Ignore the sappy music…but let the words connect:

“Success is failure turned inside out.” LOVE IT!

Think to yourself, what would a Champion do?

To become a Champion takes hard work. You must never quit, you must keep pushing ahead, stay on track, and keep a strong belief in yourself.

We all have bumps along the road, but you can not let these deter you from living up to your potential….from becoming a Champion.

Underneath it all, We are all Champions…for some it just takes a closer look within, extra hard work, and gut busting commitment in the face of failure when quitting would be the easiest thing to do.

Successful people do what unsuccessful people don’t like doing.

I decided to write this post because it often needs reminding….just as much for myself.

We all have goals, whether it’s losing weight, gaining muscle or whatever the case may be, but we all experience moments of weakness and failure. It’s at these times that true champions are born! A champion will get back up, push harder, and never ever quit!

Jordan was a champion…but he put in hours of hard work. Stories of him dribbling a basket ball to and from school, spending hours making free throws etc have been often documented.

Arnold was a champion…I remember a classic story about how his legs and calves were at one point a week area for him. Which is why in many early photographs, he was predominantly pictured from the waist up. So, he would wear pants that were cut into shorts to “show case” his legs which motivated him to train them harder and make them grow. He was also known to go into the gym and squat for 1 to 2 hours straight….just squats!

Find your weaknesses and make them strong!

Champions are comfortable being uncomfortable...let that one sink in.

There are many champions to draw on. Find one that relates to you, believe in yourself that you are a champion, and get after it. But, remember one thing about becoming a champion….it takes hard work and belief that you can!

Champions look adversity in the face and say (warning, strong language): “F%&K OFF!!!”

I believe in you…but you also have to believe in yourself!

Who are you?

I AM A CHAMPION!!!

Be a CHAMPION!

Straight up and striving to be a champion,

Matt B