Intra Workout Tips, Part 1: Boost Your Second Tier

Written by Dave Thomas

The last two blogs have been about thirty thousand foot principles, more of compass on how to guide yourself with fitness rather than a down and dirty “how-to.” Today, I’d like to switch gears a little bit and give you some hard, tangible suggestions that you can take and begin implementing in your workouts for some proven results.

I’m going to stay away from the obvious stuff like, “Don’t miss squat day” or “challenge yourself on your barbell movements.” If you don’t know that, then don’t miss squat day and challenge yourself on barbell movements. But for those of who are already on top of that one, I’m going to point out workout tips involving our accessory movements that will help drive adaptation in your body, particularly when they appear in the second tier of a workout (or during a FIT class).

Goblet Squats: Go up 2 Bell Sizes

The squat is our primary movement pattern at the gym, involving more muscles and joints than any other pattern we perform. While we love the barbell variations of the squat, we should not make the mistake of underestimating the power of the kettlebell goblet squat because one, it’s a more accessible movement than the back squat and two, we work the exact same muscles!

Chances are, you’re leaving meat on the bone when we have them.

When we’re in a conditioning tier, the idea is not for the weight to be easy. Yes, we are moving quickly, but we always want to make sure there is challenge to our weight selections and you are greatly underselling your ability in this movement if you’re going through the motions.

Just moving an extra 18 pounds (which is two bell sizes), will yield you an extra 1,800 pounds of work performed in a workout that involves 100 total squat reps. As we learned last week, when we accomplish more total poundage in a given time domain, we engage more muscles, burn more calories, create more favorable hormones, and create faster, more noticeable change in our bodies.

KB Swings: Go Up 3 Bell Sizes

The hinge pattern is much easier than the squat pattern. It’s why you can deadlift way more than you can back squat, and the kettlebell swing is the close cousin of the barbell deadlift, believe it or not. Both are hinge pattern which place primary emphasis on our grip and our posterior chain, meaning…you can swing much more than you can goblet squat.

I believe that most of you are capable of going up three whole bell sizes, or 27 pounds. Hence, three bell sizes here as opposed to two with the squat.

A couple of joyous things will happen when you swing heavier bells. First, I am assuming you want your butt to look nice. We all do. Duh. Swinging a heavier bell will build more muscle in your glutes and hamstrings, making them much stronger and more capable, but also bigger and firmer. Second, swinging a heavier bell will build global strength in your CNS.

What do we mean when we say global strength?

Specifically, the kind of strength that has transfer to all other movements. Our grip is our gateway to our CNS, and when our grip strength is built we get stronger in other movements that are similar like pull-ups, farmer walks, and Olympic lifts (that all require grip strength), but we also get stronger in movements that don’t require grip strength simply because we’ve trained our CNS to be better at creating muscle contractions.

It’s nifty stuff, right?

Swinging a much more challenging bell is an easy way to cheat code your progress.

Run: Go Faster

The end.

Pull-Ups: Move Up 1 Band Color

It’s easy to choose a band level where we move effortlessly and seamlessly up and down. We’re all scared of looking “weak” and nothing exposes that like pulling on the rig and not going anywhere, right?

Here’s the thing.

We’re all weak in something, and we definitely were all weak at pull-ups at some point. Most of us even now. That shit’s hard! So it’s okay.

How to Get More Out of Your Workout

Making your bands just slightly harder with pull-ups will help us build strength in our upper body that has carryover to all other barbell movements (the movements that are best at driving adaptation), and it also targets our lats.

Now, I am not suggesting you have to go out and get jacked lats, but our lats are very, very large muscles in our body (like glutes). When we target them, we are naturally going to get more of a caloric burn and in an environment where we are building strength and improving our ability. Bigger muscles burn more calories, which is we love big, compound movements in our conditioning.

If you half-ass it, you blunt the results you can get from your workout, so this is one you wanna whole-ass.

Row: Pull Harder

Honestly, I wish we could spend an entire class on rowing, its technique and how to get the most out of it. But, I am positive that precisely two of you would show up for that, so hard pass.

If we can impart anything on your rowing it’s that you must pull harder. Channel your inner Jeff Goldbum in Jurassic Park: “Must go faster, must go faster.” Only with erg rowing, faster is not done with more strokes, it’s done with fewer, more powerful strokes. Focus on pulling the handle harder and your challenge level should go way up.

If you are operating the erg properly you should be tired every single time you get off, no matter if its one hundred meters or one thousand. The erg is relative, and we need to be applying powerful strokes every time.

That’s a wrap folks. Remember, conditioning is not just about how fast you go, but how hard you’re trying with resistance. Any chump can move fast at light weight, but doing so under loads that challenge you, that’s where the results are stashed and that’s where the most fit people at the gym live.