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Curd Hos: The Man Who Knows How to Build Strength
A Muscle Insider exclusive interview with Curd Hos, a feature so loaded with training gems for powerlifters and bodybuilders that we guarantee it’ll change how you approach lifting
When the Canada Day long weekend comes around, most people find themselves spending a weekend of good times with friends and family. In many ways, this year’s celebration of Canada’s birthday looked for me to be similar to those of other proud Canadian holidays as well. I got in touch with old friends in the Ottawa area, and I travelled the five or six hours the Friday before to be able to enjoy the festivities. The main difference, however, was that in addition to the traditional Canada Day celebrations, I was also excited to visit an individual whom I’d met briefly the month prior at the Toronto Pro SuperShow. I therefore eagerly walked through the front door of Hostyle Conditioning, the pride and joy of Curd Hos, and sat down with the man himself for an intimate interview. What you’re about to read are the stories that Curd was gracious enough to share with me as a guest of Hostyle Conditioning that late-June day.
Curd Hos on his humble introduction to the iron game.
I grew up on a farm on the Quebec side and was always a big kid. I was 6’2” and weighed 240 pounds in high school … no abs, but just a big, strong kid. No weights, just a lot of hard work. I actually didn’t start training until I left for college, something I’d always wanted to. I used to flip through muscle magazines at my buddy’s house, but it was never something that my family was into or that people close to me were doing. I didn’t play sports growing up, so I didn’t get into weight training until I arrived in college. I wanted to lose a few pounds—for the girls, you know—and I thought weightlifting was the best way to do it. So I joined a gym.
Within my first couple of weeks I could deadlift 315 pounds and squat 300, mainly because you lifted heavy shit on the farm. But I’ll never forget the first time I tried benching. I think there was 70 or 75 pounds on the bar, all fucking crooked and stuff, because there’s nothing you do on the farm that requires pushing while lying on your back. And I remember being there working out and being frustrated. I remember this little French guy comes in (and I’m half French by the way, so I’m not picking on the French: J’adore les Francais!) and he does three plates! He does like two reps and then goes outside and has a fucking smoke! I remember thinking, “What the eff just happened? I’m bigger so I should be stronger!” We know nothing when we start lifting. The bigger person should be stronger and that’s how we judge things.
I remember questioning what had just happened and I remember getting mad. I was like, “WTF?” At that time a switch went off in my head, and I decided I’d become a great bench presser. So I’d just start trying all kinds of stuff. Now we’re talking back in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, so there was no Internet to find start and finish positions, which don’t really tell you much anyway. For me it was nothing but brute strength and the time it took to work at it. I got pinned under weight all the time. But I was determined. Eventually I could bench two plates, and two plates became three plates, and by the time I was in my mid-20s I was benching four. At the time I was doing various jobs, but then I stumbled in to opening a gym with a buddy.
The Gym Business
Back in the late ‘80s, gyms were always opening and closing. You’d get a lifetime membership, and six weeks later they’d be gone. I was working and going to school. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I did have three memberships. I’d go to one facility for chest, another for legs, and I’d go to another for the girls. (I quickly learned there was nothing you could do that lasted three hours at night that was as cheap!) It was economical, it was great, and it fed into everything I was trying to do for myself.
I remember within a span of about a month three gyms closed, and I thought, “WTF?” I was working with a buddy at the time, and he was pissed too because he had lost a membership in addition to all three of mine. We were just at work and I said to him, “Fuck it, some day I’m gonna have a gym.” The next day I got a call from his boss, who told me, “I heard you said something the other day.”
I told him, “Well, I say a lot of stuff.”
To which he replied, “No it was about …”
I said, “Yeah … you know…”
And he says, “Well, do you wanna do it?”
So I replied, “What do you mean?”
And he told me, “I have an opportunity for you.”
I said, “Well, all right. What is it?”
So it was a hotel in a small town outside of Rockland, Ontario, that had a little gym in it. He knew the manager of the hotel, and they were having a hard time finding people to run the gym because it was at a hotel. So he asked me, “Would you want to be the ‘hands-on’ guy?”
I told him I didn’t have any money, but he explained I was going to be a partner, and that I’d run the gym and would be paid a salary.
So I said, “Fuck yeah, let’s do it!” A week later I had a gym. I started off small and built it up, eventually bringing in supplements and retail. But it was the gym that opened those doors for me.
Now I have come back to owning a gym again, building a facility called Hostyle. It’s not too dissimilar: selling supplements, having stores with some business issues, and even some collapses (or as I like to call them, “monumental bed-shitting”). Ultimately, I was down to one location in a basement. I was depressed. I weighed over 400 pounds. I was severely out of shape and was beaten up mentally and physically. I sat there one day and said to myself, “You’ve gotta figure a way out of this!”
I wasn’t smart enough to do anything else, so I said step one was to start working out again. I started training and started watching what I ate. At the time, The Ultimate Fighterhad just started running on Tuesday nights. It had become pretty popular, and they were doing this workout that included 60 seconds of body-weight squats, 60 seconds of push-ups, and 60 seconds of cardio, requiring you to do as many rounds as you could in 30 minutes.
I was 400 pounds, so the push-ups were no problem. The squats were tough, though. But the cardio, oh my; I had the heart of a rock! I just went up and down onesingle step in my basement for cardio. I lasted about eight minutes, not quite three rounds, and I was on the ground, devastated. But I do remember thinking, “Wow!” It was a change for me.
It was a change from traditional weights. But I stuck to it. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I did this circuit when the show was on, and within 30 days, I could keep going for the full 30 minutes, losing 22 pounds in the process.
Shortly after that, a girl came in to buy protein and noticed I had lost weight. She asked me if I would train her. I said, “Uh…okay.” And I was just starting to notice this boot-camp trend, so I told her 200 bucks per month every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m., and she said okay. That was nine years ago, and she’s still a member today!
We moved into a 1,500-square foot facility. I lost 100 pounds. Ran a few Spartan races, and by run, I mean completed. And that was the sort of genesis of Hostyle Conditioning and Hostyle Gear.
Entering Bench-Press Competitions
Although I got into lifting in the late ‘80s, I never competed in anything until 1996 because I didn’t feel I was strong enough. “I’ll wait till I’m stronger,” I’d say. Well at that point I had a 465-pound bench. I remember thinking to myself, “How fucking strong do I have to be before I compete?” So I signed up for a meet with the Ontario Powerlifting Association; it was in Toronto at a place then called Monster Gym near Martingrove and Dixie. I used to drive by that gym all the time with my wife, who was originally from TO.
I remember driving down with my buddy and being nervous. So nervous. But it’s pretty funny to look back on it, obviously. You used to have to check in your equipment.
So I walked up to the registration table and the guy sitting down says, “Name”
“1996, so I guess I’m 30 at that point…wait, 28,” I told him. “Bench only.”
“No, just running shoes.” So I showed him the shoes on my feet and my underwear because you had to show them your underwear.
So he’s writing all this down and not really paying attention, and he asks me what my opening weight is going to be.
“Oh, it’s in kilos, eh?” So I look at my buddy and I go, “What’s 440 in kilos?”
So the guy finally stops writing and looks up for the first time, looking at me and asks if I was serious. I told him, “Yeah like 440, what would that be in kilos? Whatever that is, that’ll be my opener.”
I remember the expression on his face was like, “Who the fuck are you?” because some guy just showed up in a white T-shirt and he wants to bench in a meet.
I was so nervous. I weighed about 280 at the time, and I asked my buddy what came next. I had a singlet on and we were in the warm-up area, and he asked me how I planned on warming up. Well I didn’t know. I didn’t know how long it was going to be until the competition started. A guy told us we should be starting in about 30 minutes, but because I was a heavyweight, maybe another hour after that. So my buddy asks me how long it takes me to warm up, and I told him that I didn’t know. Maybe 10 minutes.
So I waited. I waited a long time, but my nerves were killing me, so I had to start doing something. So I did one plate, then two, then three, and then jumped up to 405 and I did a triple and racked it. But as I came up, I felt really weird suddenly. I asked my buddy what was going on and he told me that everyone in the warm-up room had stopped what they were doing to watch me warm up with four plates.
So now I was even morenervous and I had to take a leak but was fully aware this was a sanctioned event, so I found the guy who signed me in and asked for permission to go the washroom. He looks at me in disbelief, pointing to its location. I’m sure all these guys in the warm-up room were looking at me like I was some kind of weirdo from the Ozarks.
My flight finally starts and I open up with a 440. Move on 450 and I finish with a 465 … whatever. But suddenly everybody is all over me. They want to know who I am. Where I’m from. Everything about me. In ‘96 I won that competition, a provincial title, and even a national title. The next year, I competed in Quebec City and I missed a 501 on my third attempt; it was some sort of lockout thing. And then I got busy again. So I competed off and on from ‘96 to ‘99 and then I resurfaced in 2002. I always came back to refocus and get myself back into training and stuff. So I won a few more provincial and national titles.
Back in the day, if you set a record you’d have to get a drug test done, so I went through a bunch of those. Life was good and I really enjoyed it, but I just got busy again with the businesses. That was it. I didn’t start back training again until 2009. I did a Canadian Powerlifting Federation competition and I got into bench shirts—the multi-ply bench shirts—and that was a whole different ball game. I think I did a 700-pound bench in one of those shirts. I did it for like two years, but I hated it. Now don’t get me wrong; it’s amazing to see these guys bench 800 and 900 pounds, but it truly is a different sport. I used to drive from Ottawa to Montreal to train with a crew that benched in shirts every Friday night. I did it because this is where all the shirt benchers trained and because it was like a guys’ night out for me. Drive for 90 minutes, take a whole whack of stimulants, get all hopped up, bench, and then drive home at two in the morning. So I was fully committed to the training, but I was also getting leaner and getting lighter. I got to a 295-pound body weight, so the shirt never felt like it fit properly. Plus, I just missed raw benching, and it was starting to suffer from over-reliance on the shirt, even though it wasn’t even fitting me right. So I gave up the shirt and competed again in raw benching in four years ago.
I competed with RPS (Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate) in 2014, and my bench was 380 before I competed, but meets always made me dial up my focus. So by the time I was ready to compete, my opener was 475. And in that first meet, I missed it. Three times. I couldn’t lock it out, and I was fucking irate. Not at people, mind you … it was all internal, as I internalize lots of things. I remember leaving that place and thinking, “I’ll be back,” while shaking a fist at them in my head. So I picked another meet, trained hard and within four months hit a 505.
So right now, I’ve got a 550 raw that I hit last April with RPS and I have a 545 with CPF that I hit this past December. I recently missed a 573 opener, so I’m chasing the 600-pound mark at 50 years of age.
Hostyle Conditioning is a combination of boot camps, transformations, kettlebells, and powerlifting at our facility. The majority of the Hostyle clientele is over 40 and our vision for them is to take a hostileapproach rather than settling into middle age.
I truly believe the best years are yet to come, but we have to get ready for them. The hard part for a lot of people once they hit 40 is that they’ve been so busy with careers/families/jobs/whatever, so we’ve put all these things first and we get to 40-something and we’re often physically and mentally damaged. We may be able to find the time and resources to start to do things but we’ve lost the confidence and self-esteem because we’re not prepared anymore. We’re just tired. Tired physically and mentally.
Our facility is about getting guys and girls (and that areat that stage) to come in and just through training, start to feel some self-esteem and feel better and build some strength. We all know that when you’ve had a good workout, the endorphin release and serotonin—there’s just a rush, we feel fantastic. What we have to do is just start with that. Start feeling better. Start moving better. Then we want to start eating better and taking better care of ourselves. We work on that here at Hostyle. We’re basically trying to get people back on track. We do it through kettlebell training and through boot camps, and powerlifting is definitely a huge influence here so we teach people how to squat and how to deadlift and bench press properly. And no matter what level the client is at, we teach them in such a way that if they ever decide they would like to compete, we’ve taught them the right way to do it so they don’t have to re-learn a groove or anything like that. We teach great habits and functional stuff right out of the gate.
Everyone who walks in here is treated like an athlete, and I want them to improve both physically and mentally. That’s our job here!
Curd Hos on Working with 40+ Year-Old Clients
I enjoy working with this demographic for a few reasons, but we do have 20-year-olds who train here. Try having a conversation with a 20-year-old. It can be tough. I didn’t like conversing with them even when Iwas 20. Everyone has stages when they want to participate and they want to learn. They also go through stages when they don’t want to listen to anyone. If a 20-year-old wants to learn and work, by all means I’ll teach them, but if they’re not interested, then it’s best if they just move on until they’re ready.
Clients who are 40 or 50 are much more honest with themselves. There’s more personal truth, so that’s where I prefer to be. My job—my vocation in life—is to help people who want to be helped so age doesn’t have to be a determining factor. If you want me to help you, I can help you.
At 40, I had to change my life around, and I feel that my personal experiences go a long way when it comes to helping others who are in their 40s. We can make mistakes in our 20s and we have time to correct them. At 40 or 50, we have less time to correct those mistakes.
Coaching Female & Male Clients
Aside from the fundamental differences between men and women, the wiring is different. I realize this may come off as sounding super sexist, but it’s really not. Once a woman decides to do something and clamps on to it, they do it. Women are much better at committing once they have decided to do something—whether it’s a six-week transformation or a competing in a meet. Not unlike women, guys want everything, but we’re easily distracted. It’s happened a billion times training with guys. All is great for the first two weeks, and then the third week rolls around and they hit me with, “Hey, my buddy told me this….” or “I saw this on the Internet….”
I get it. That’s how we’re wired. Shiny objects attract our attention. I tell these guys, “Look, just stick with this for six weeks, that’s it. Be consistent with it.” I also find the male ego is pretty fragile. Instead of a guy being honest with himself about not eating properly or resting adequately when progress stops, they’ll say, “This program isn’t working for me.”
It’s much easier to train women because they listen. When guys listen it’s awesome, but guys test my patience. I’ve also learned to tell them, “Yeah, I get what you’re saying, but you’re wrong.”
I’m able to make those decisions quicker and therefore I’m more honest and upfront with people earlier on in the process. I just don’t suffer a lot of bullshit anymore. I don’t have time … none of us has time.
Applying What I Learned 30 Years Ago
As far as things that are still relevant today, there’s the big three for sure. But there’s so much more knowledge today. Back in the day it was like you just kept running into a wall until you broke through. You had to wait until a book came out before you could learn something.
I remember being a subscriber to Powerlifter Video Magazineand it was 75 bucks per month US! That VHS would come in the mail and a buddy and I would split on it and we’d take turns watching it. Friday night was a VHS party and on Saturday morning at five, we were in the gym all pumped and excited to try something new. Here we were watching these guys who we heard about or who we read about in Powerlifting USA! I watched CT Fletcher bench long before CT Fletcher became who he is today. We’d see him train and then we’d be like, “Okay, that’s what we’re doing! Let’s go!”
It was hard to find useful info back then, and now it’s everywhere. In fact there may be too much. What took me 10 years to learn I can teach someone in like six months now, which is great, but the fundamentals are still the same today as they were then. You’ve gotta do those compound exercises. You’ve gotta squat. You’ve gotta deadlift. Especially early on to build up basic core strength. If you focus on those basic strength movements during the first three years of training, you build up a base of strength that’ll stay with you for a long, long time. It’s much harder to try to pick them up later on after years of training that neglected those main lifts. It’s just harder to adapt to them 10 years after you started training.
I also believe in a few other things that probably don’t get done enough nowadays, like, first off, how about just fucking work hard? There are too many people in the gym who are afraid of sweating. You’ve gotta make your body physically uncomfortable so it has to adapt. You have to force the physiological stress or else it’s just not gonna happen. And it’s gotta happen consistently. I don’t mean loading up a bar and risking injury, but I’m talking about doing a set, resting for 90 seconds, doing another set, resting for 90 seconds, and repeat again. Use a timer. Even myself. When I’m ramping my training back up, all that shit tightens up for me.
In this day and age, with Instagram and selfies, which we do use as tools to help us video our movements for coaching and to help build our brand, I get that, but I feel people still talk too much, don’t work hard enough, and just don’t sweat enough anymore. That’s the one thing that we always come back to here [at Hostyle]; it’s your set.
“If I Knew Then What I Know Now”
When I first started following the Louie Simmons guys as a drug-free lifter, well, you just can’t do that and do what they’re doing. If there could be one thing that I’ve said that I agree that I could be remembered for, it would be, “There’s only one nervous system.” Once your nervous system is tired from mental or physical stress or from fighting a flu, it doesn’t give a fuck and it just wants to shut down. It’s a breaker and when that breaker goes, nothing works. I think that’s the biggest thing, and whether you’re enhanced or not, you need to pay attention to that.
If you’re [drug] enhanced you can work at higher levels and more intense levels, you recover quicker and train harder, and you can dig deeper into the muscle fibres. Because you can do that, you need to pay even moreattention to proper recovery. If I had known that during my first 10 years of training, I think things would have been a lot easier on my body and I would’ve showed more progress initially. I think things would have progressed more quickly because there was a time when I was just training max effort all the time, every day. People would ask what I was doing and it was simple, I was going heavy. What are you training today? Bench. I think that’s the stuff I know about now. We have to wave intensity, you know. We have to let the nervous system cool off. We need to focus on mobility. Stuff that either just wasn’t around back then or just wasn’t prevalent. Or even simply access to information. Back then, unless someone showed you, how did you learn about anything?
I learned by watching other guys in the gym. That’s also part of my mission here. If I walk through my gym and I see someone doing an exercise and it looks wrong, I stop and ask them if maybe I could show them how to change a few things to improve their form. That’s a mandate I have for my coaches here. We do small group coaching and we’re watching form and technique. If you can make corrections right away and fix them, improve them, progress is better, the risk of injuries are reduced, and the client gets better results and they’re gonna be happier.
Gone are the days of four heavy bench days per week where I’d wonder why I wasn’t getting stronger. It’s all a part of the learning process.
The Qualities Shared By All Great Strength Coaches
Number one, they get results. They need to be passionate. Dave Tate, Louie Simmons, Josh Bryant, Kabuki Strength and Chris Duffin, Matt Wenning, there’s a whole bunch of these guys out there who are just doing it! [Editor’s note: Josh Bryant is a writer for the print version of Muscle Insider.] They compete, they work, they run their own facility. I think that when I see that in a coach, it automatically puts them in a spot where I have to respect them because I know what it takes to do that. I find those are the guys who continue to master their craft and keep getting better. I find it’s always a combination of the fact that they’ve done it, they’ve made it their life, and they’re doing it by helping others.
There are a lot of me-toosout there, but everybody has to start somewhere. I always cringe when I hear that someone is being trained by a powerlifting coach who has never powerlifted. Or a guy who tells me that he’s a powerlifting coach and that this guy is my first client. I worry about that kind of stuff, but I also believe we all have to start somewhere.
Here’s the thing: I know a lot about cardio, but I’d never train someone to run. I’ve stumbled through a couple of Spartan races and I know conditioning is important, but if someone tells me they’re really interested in improving their Spartan time, I’m gonna send them to a facility that specializes in it. It’s not that I don’t know how to do it, it’s just not in my wheelhouse. I just wouldn’t feel right taking my hourly fee and giving you something that isn’t the quality you deserve or that you could get elsewhere [that’s provided by real experts]. I wouldn’t want that to happen to me. It happens a lot today. We’re set up similar to a CrossFit gym, so people come to see me about Olympic lifting, and I ask why they want to do it and they’ll tell me they just really want to try. So I send them to a specialized Olympic lifting facility in Ottawa. Go there because you’ll get much more out of the experience overall.
On Training Programs
I’ve followed some guys’ training ideas. Wendler came out with 5-3-1 after he burned out from training. He wanted to stay active and be able to recover. I know today he has different versions of it. When it comes to Juggernaut and 10/20 Life or whatever program, there are a lot of similarities overall. I think the biggest thing that is even more important lies in the journal.
If we walked into a gym and selected 10 individuals and asked them to show us their training journal, maybe three of them would have one. If I asked those 10 if anyone was following a specific program, maybe one would say they are. The value in any of these programs lies in the fact that it is an actual program. It’s something to follow that has structure. It doesn’t matter if you feel great or if you feel like garbage, that structure tells you that it’s leg day and what needs to be done. Period. You walk into the gym knowing what needs to be done. We have to get away from the emotional response and how it affects the way we feel when we train. A program removes that for the athlete. Follow a plan and work up to stuff. This is the plan, this is what we’re doing, fucking follow it!
If I say this is the stimulus that I’m gonna put my body under for the next six weeks, name it whatever you want, and I take measurements of my body and record my lifts and retest six weeks later, you can see if it works. You have to try it first to see if it works.
I think a lifter would be wise to try any program from any of the guys I’ve mentioned today, especially if you train by yourself.
Having a coach is a little different because they’re going to critique form and keep people accountable. They wantto make it difficult. If you can rock Wendler’s shit and do a Dave Tate program and then try 10/20 for Life and the Juggernaut and you honestly work at them, then you’re in a position to judge these programs based on what worked for you. If one worked better than the rest, then do that one until it doesn’t work anymore. Your body will adapt. Overtraining? No super-adaptation. You will get used to a program.
But back to the journal. If you’re training with me but you’re not willing to use your journal to track your progress, it sucks to be you. It’s not my job to remember your shit. It’s also a pretty good indicator of how committed you may or may not be to the process!
It’s rarely a program that fails, it’s usually the person. The human. All those programs in 3-, 5-, 6-, or 8-week rotations, you’ll find a spot where everything levels off. Your body adapts to the stress in whichever program you’re following. Louie changes stuff all the time to make sure your body never completely adapts.
When stuff levels off, then you start to get bored. Does that help you train better? Probably not.
Curd Hos On Client Referrals
I’d like to think referrals happen, but I don’t think they happen enough. We teach mobility and dynamic movement in our workouts here. There are some yoga moves in there, I suppose, but I’m not a yoga place. People will ask if we do yoga here. Kickboxing? Martial arts? No, we don’t because we aren’t those places. It’s not who we are. It’s not what we want to do. It’s all about niches.
You can’t be everything to everybody because you just won’t be very good [at all of them at once]. From a coaching point of view, I think it just takes a lot of energy to try to teach everybody 10 different disciplines. If you care about it, you’ll try to be more knowledgeable about them, but if you’re swinging from one vine to another trying to learn all these different things, you may let go of two vines and once you do you know what happens then.
I’ve learned this the hard way, in business and in life. Focus. Niche. And do better. Hostyle is powerlifting, transformations, and kettlebells, and the reason why we have those three is because they all feed into one another. Those and bodybuilding, of course. We’ve got a couple of competitive bodybuilders who train here. There are other facilities that are probably better if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the bodybuilding culture, but the guys we have just like it here.
I think all young athletes need to be more fit. How many times does a preseason start and young athletes aren’t in shape? They’re not strong. They’re not functionallystrong. I believe that if you’re fit and strong, whatever sport it is, you’re gonna be better at it with training. I tell people we are the 80 percent solution, meaning we’ll make you fitter, more functional, and stronger to make you better at any sport. Once you have that, go specialize in the sport of your choice.
I’m a strength-and-conditioning coach, and we’re a strength-and-conditioning facility. It bothers me when I see hockey coaches decide they’re going to handle the strength and conditioning for their team when it’s not their thing, but they can charge an extra 50 bucks per player. I see this happening in lots of sports.
Borrow From Other Training Disciplines
The most technical term I can remember from all of my training is proprioception, which is the feeling of your body as it does something. Being aware of the muscle and being aware of the movement.
I think that’s a great lesson that we learn from bodybuilding. There is truth to the mind/muscle link. You need to feelthe muscle or muscle group that you’re working. You need to focus on it. You need to focus on the purpose of the exercise. I’ve always carried that with me when it comes to accessory work. For one, it’s accessory work, not max effort work (which hammers down the nervous system). I’m more of a volume guy for building size and strengthening your weaknesses. It’s really about feeling the muscles when you do the movements so that you can perform better when it’s time for max effort.
Borrowing The Best From Bodybuilding
I’d just like to say it should be the bench, bench, and more bench, but there’s certainly more than that. I have favourite exercises for sure.
Calves: A stubborn body part, I prefer standing as there’s better extension and range of motion. People overload the seated calf-raise machine and they can’t train the muscle group properly. Standing restricts the amount of weight you can use. Even using a step works. 5 sets of 50 work.
Hamstrings: Romanian deadlifts. If my lower back is tight, I’ll do a leg-curl machine instead. Focus on full ROM and proper form. Accessory work [movements that are not basic powerlifting exercises] is not about the weight—it’s about the volume. Sets of 30 to 50 with short rest periods.
Quads: Hack squat, but it’s about picking a movement that helps you better isolate that muscle group. A hack squat does it for me, but some people are better off using a split squat or lunge. I would do a hack squat focusing on foot placement: low weight and high reps of 6 sets to really cause a burn.
Low Back: Kettlebell swings are a great movement that forces you to work your glutes, your hips, and your lower back. Reverse hypers and glute-ham raises of course work. Try finding an exercise that isn’t easy to do, and then work on it.
Core: This is usually a person’s weakest link, and yet it affects a ton of lifts if a person’s core can’t sustain the volume. I like planks and traveling planks, they’re dirty. Kettlebell swings here, too. Also walking. It’s a great low-intensity activity. Short-distance farmer carries, too.
Biceps: Hammer curls. Most people don’t know the biceps play a huge part in bench pressing. The best powerlifters are also the most muscular.
Triceps: Rolling dumbbell press. This is so important in benching. Lots of push-downs, too. And close-grip presses, one hand-width in from a bench grip to save your wrists.
Chest: Dumbbell work—flyes, presses—even cables. Push-ups and dips. For chest and triceps.
Lats: You can’t bench, squat, or dead big weight without big, strong lats. Some people have trouble feelingtheir lats, so we train them the day before benching so they’re sore and thenyou’ll feel them. Matt Wenning likes to pre-exhaust a muscle group first with like 100 reps so the athlete can really feel the muscle working. Bench-width rows and one-arm rows varying light to heavy reps. With one of these moves I’ll go heavier for 2 to 8 reps as well as doing 15 reps.
Delts: Dumbbell work and shrugs, as well as all kinds of lateral raises. The bodybuilders have it right here, for sure. Light weight for high reps; heck, I use 12-pound dumbbells.
Traps: Wide-grip upright rows to just nipple height. You really can’t pull very high, but it creates such a good squeeze at the base of the traps. Dumbbell shrugs, too.
I think bodybuilding and powerlifting really have a lot to offer each other.
The Most-Important Supplements For Athletes
Creatine and protein are the most-important ones. Creatine causes the muscle cells to hold more water and work more efficiently. More power, more fullness.
Protein to help rebuild the muscle after we break it down. All major organs need protein. The body’s number-one priority is survival so if we aren’t getting enough protein, it can’t be bothered building muscle or recovering from muscle damage. The heart, lungs, and brain are higher priorities, so we have to make sure we eat enough.
Supplements have evolved so much nowadays. There’s really no excuse to not get enough protein. Find a protein you like and one that fits your budget, then take lots and take it consistently. One gram of protein per pound of body weight. daily Is that too much for some people? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter. No one dies from extra protein. But if you don’t have access to enough you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Supplements for Powerlifters
Beta-alanine: The industry is always looking for the next big thing. Sometimes they find it. With beta-alanine, I find it’s the most effective supplement (next to creatine) that allows the body to keep firing (muscle-wise) while holding the lactic acid in the muscle cell at bay. We all know lactic acid builds up and makes it harder to get a pump or lift heavy any longer. Beta-alanine buffers those acids in the muscle tissue so that the fatigue happens slower and takes more time to occur.
The longer you take beta-alanine, the more effectively it works. Day one is good. Days 3 to 7 are better. Day 100 is even better. This is what I’ve learned and understand about it. Basically we store more beta-alanine so we have greater access to it. Because we have it stored to use, we can get more contractions, deeper contractions. Some studies even show faster contractions.
Some people love it because they feel all tingly. There’s a great psychosomatic, pre-workout thing going on (which is why so many pre-workouts contain beta-alanine), but it’s usually only 500 to 1,000 milligrams, which will give you the feeling of the tingles, but where it really starts benefitting a lifter is with doses in the 3- to 5-gram range every day, which then builds up in your system. Combine that with creatine and you’re using two wonderful products.
Powerlifting Variations and the Common Lifter
Any variation of the big three is going to work well. Once an athlete learns the fundamentals of the basic big lifts, we need to focus on what can break through sticking points. Partial reps, bands, boards, chains.
There are physical benefits [to using those alternative kinds of equipment], but there are mental ones as well because some people get bored with repetitive training. If you want to get better at benching, do different variations of benching. If you want to improve your squat, try a wide stance, a box squat, narrow stance, kettlebell squat, and/or change the position of the bar on your back.
If someone wants to be fitter or better or stronger, these are the things to do! Hard work and time in! People ask me again and again why they aren’t progressing, and nine times out of 10 it’s because they aren’t working hard enough.
Don’t waste time in the gym. If you train the big three and their variations on a Monday for squat, Wednesday for bench, and Friday for deads, and train with purpose and intensity for only 15 minutes, you willget stronger. Period. When I ramp up for a meet for or five weeks out, my heavy benching training lasts just 17 minutes. I warm up, I focus, and I attack the weights and get it done. And when I’m done, I’m fucking done. You have to work hard. You gotta get past the romance of the lifting. We have to stop looking for something magical that’s going to help us. Put your time in and pay your dues. That’s what works.
Quickest Way To Improve a Bikini Competitor’s Physique
Have her squat, lunge, and perform glute bridges. Those, and eat more protein.
Sumo vs. Conventional Deadlifting for a Physique Competitor
One will work the lower back more (conventional) and the other will work the hips more (sumo). A lifter is going to choose the one that helps get them stronger faster. In a bodybuilding scenario, I think I’d look at where the target stress is going to help the individual. If they need more glute and lower-back development, then they should try conventional deadlifts, whereas if your hips are lagging, then a sumo squat is the answer.
On One-Rep Max (1RM) Training & The Common Lifter.
An athlete needs both fast- and slow-twitch fibre training, but time under tension (TUT) is paramount. I respond better to singles and doubles myself. However when I started to incorporate heavy 5s and 8s (especially heavy 5s), my overall bench went up dramatically. I’m on my way to 600 pounds at 50 years old because I work just as hard on my 5s and my triples as I do on my singles and doubles. I couldn’t really articulate why this was happening until I was able to sit down with Josh Bryant a while back. When you work with triples you get more first reps at a lower weight. With singles I like to work to do 5 or 6 sets, which means 5 or 6 first reps.
If I work up to 500 pounds for a single, once, I get only a brief second of time with that stress of 500 pounds. If I can turn around and take 475 for a single, but do it 5 or 6 times, it winds up being just as much muscle recruitment (almost) and nervous system firing as the 500 pounds—but much more often. As I fatigue on the 475, more muscle recruitment must take place, but because it’s 475, I can do more of it in the workout, so I spend more time in that area. That’s what I gravitated to according to how Josh explained it. That was it. I can hit that frequency more often and spend more time there, which causes more physiological stress.
You can’t always bench at 101 percent effort all the time, but if you work with 90 percent and do it more often, you’re spending more timein that zone. But even that has to rotate out. There comes a time when you have to deload. Nothing is ever linear in strength training; there will always be a crash, and deloading helps circumvent the crash.
Strongman or powerlifting? Powerlifting.
Plates facing in or out? First plate always has to face in.
CrossFit or powerlifting? Powerlifting.
Bumper plates or steel? Steel, but for keeping my business’ equipment in top shape, bumpers.
Olympic shoes vs. Chuck Taylors? Whatever running shoe is on sale.
Wings or burgers? Burgers. Wings are too labour intensive.
Fave exercise? Bench press.
Fave body part to train? Triceps.
Least fave? Any core exercise.
Car or truck? Truck.
Dog or cat? Cat.
Most influential person in your life? Whoa, that’s a tough one … [quietly] me. I feel like influence comes from the inside. This answer comes from lots of soul searching over the last four years, but that’s what I believe. I’m in charge of me. I think we should be our most influential people in our own lives. I want to be better. I’m 50, but I’m not done. This whole thing came about because I showed up at an event, and I showed up because it’s something I’m passionate about. But all this result came from me choosing to check out the Muscle Insiderbooth.
A Chest & Triceps Volume Day with Curd Hos.
A mere 16 hours after leaving the Hostyle Conditioning facility in Orleans, Ontario, I found myself back there again. The evening before, I had pretty much exhausted my phone’s battery life and was unable to take many pictures, so I asked if I could come back in the morning, and if Curd would be around. He told me he’d open the gym early in the morning but was scheduled to train chest, shoulders, and triceps in the early afternoon. He extended an invitation for me to join him and twist some steel with one of his training partners. I remained calm and told him that I didn’t want to slow him down, but on the inside I was super-excited to lift weights and maybe learn a thing or two. I left the gym with an enthusiastic, “See you tomorrow!”
Curd suggested I warm up how I typically warmed up, and it turns out we weren’t too different in that regard. He did some light band and light dumbbell work with his training partner, Lewis Kavanaugh. I did the same and stretched out my shoulders with a wooden dowel afterward.
The night before, I’d spotted a Duffalo bar on the equipment rack and, having never used one, I was really interested in trying it. “Go nuts!” Curd exclaimed as he set up his bench.
This specialty bar is often used for squatting but does allow for a deep stretch of the pecs as the lifters’ hands usually wind up much lower than they would on a traditional bar. At the same time, it doesn’t really cause any extra stress on the shoulder joint. I performed 12 to 15 reps with the empty bar and found it to be a little thicker in the palms and a little heavier than a traditional bar. I followed with 145 for 12 (as the bar weighs 55 pounds), 205 for 10, and then 4 working sets of 235 for 6 reps, focusing on just how good the bar felt!
The Heavy Work
As Curd finished up his high-rep benching sets that were coupled with light lateral dumbbell raises, he suggested I try jumping in with Lewis and pushing for a heavy single. Not that I needed any convincing, he also offered to make any corrections with form and suggestions that I could use later to help lead to a bigger bench. I benched 225 for 5, 275 for 3, 315 for a clean rep and then grinded out a 345-pound single with the big man himself as my spotter.
Curd (correctly) noticed that I tend to drop the bar to my chest and bounce it off when I’m about an inch from touching. He recommended that staying tight and trying to eliminate that bounce altogether in future sessions would indeed cause an immediate decrease in poundages and reps but assured me that the progress that would follow after staying under tension for that long would do nothing but make me strongerin the long term.
I’ve been using a false (thumbless) grip for benching for as long as I can remember, and although he didn’t suggest I change that very day, Curd explained that grabbing the bar and actually trying to grip it as hard as one can while benching forces your central nervous system to recruit more muscle fibres, which again make you stronger as the weeks, months, and years go by.
Finally, he adjusted my foot position so that they were not only further under my quads/hamstrings (as more and more lifters already seem to do), but he also suggested turning my heels out while simultaneously driving them into the floor to lock upmy lower body and better transfer power to my bench. This tweak seemed a little uncomfortable at first, but as soon as the weight was moving, that sensation disappeared.
I was very appreciative of these little tweaks, and although they weren’t put into practice on the heavier sets we were doing, they were reinforced immediately with the volume work that followed.
The Deep Water
After my 345-pound single, we took 75 percent of that weight and reset the bar to 260. What was supposed to follow was 6 sets of 3 reps with about 90 seconds’ rest in-between. I tried to focus on my foot/heel placement and stay tight under the weight for the whole duration of the rep. The result was 3 decent sets of 3 reps, one set of 2 plus an ugly rep, and a fifth set of one clean rep/one forced rep/and a third rep that Lewis’ strong lower back had to rescue lest I become stapled to the bench. The sixth and final set was wisely removed from my docket.
From there, we worked on breaking sticking points, where an empty bar was set very low on the J-hooks in a competition bench [or power rack] with safety bars placed in a position that matched a 90-degree bend in my elbows. The bar itself was belowthe safeties. But instead of doing partial reps from a midpoint to the top, Curd had me remove the unloaded bar from the low hooks and instead lay it in top across the middle of my chest. When I felt my grip and body were tight, I then pushed the barbell up against the safeties with all my strength against the immovable spotting bars while Curd counted out six long seconds as he barked out instructions and cues. These are known as isometrics, in which you train at your sticking point to build strength at only that specific angle. This was repeated for 6 sets with only about 30 to 60 seconds in between.
Curd referred to the above work as “bench-press cardio,” and from there we moved into some triceps work. After every benching set, Curd would grab light dumbbells and do different shoulder variations, and he joined us for triceps destruction that came at the hands of two exercises and a ton of volume. One, the very simple triceps push-down, had been a staple of mine for years. The other, the rolling triceps extension, was new to me.
We performed 5 sets of rolling triceps extensions for sets of 10 to 15. Curd suggested 35-pound dumbbells for me to get the form down, while he proceeded to make the 65 pounders look like toys.
The exercise starts with the lifter in a supine position on the floor holding the weights at arms’ length over your chest with hammer (neutral) grip. Here, it’s also paramount for your pinky finger and the meat of your palm below the pinky to be butted up against the inside of the dumbbell as opposed to centered on the bar. Then, lower the dumbbells straight down toward your chest and as your elbow joint hits about 90 degrees, you allow your shoulders to rollthe dumbbells toward your head as if you’re doing a skullcrusher, with each one now resting on either side of your head/ears. At this point, your elbows are now pointing at the ceiling (not flared out) and your triceps are being stretched out excruciatingly. From here, you simply reverse the movement without the triceps ever touching the floor. But instead of using your triceps to initiate the movement (as you would in a traditional skullcrusher), now roll your hands toward your feet, which brings your elbows back toward your sides. The trick is to begin an upward press when the dumbbells are in line with your chin. The pressing motion (akin to a close-grip bench press with a neutral grip) returns the weights back to the starting position above your chest with your palms facing each other the entire time.
It was a tricky exercise to get the hang of, but once I figured it out and chose an appropriate weight, its effectiveness couldn’t be denied. In between sets, we joked about the sweat designs that were being created on the rubber flooring and then moved on to push-downs. We performed 5 sets of 12 to 15 reps, and each of us was able to grind out more volume through a drop set on the final exercise. We went from a cambered bar, changing our hand positioning on each set, to Curd’s favourite bladeattachment that forces the user to grip a three-inch flat piece of metal in their hands, as opposed to a bar or a rope. I’d never used one before, but I did notice a little bit of flex in the blade, which added to great contraction at the top of the movement.
End of an Incredible Workout
This intense and educational, even funworkout ended with a protein shake from Hostyle’s shake bar. We shared a few more stories, and although I didn’t necessarily want to leave, I did have a Saturday agenda I needed to get started on.
I usually start feeling the effects of a brutal workout about 24 hours after the fact. My Hostyle chest-and-triceps workout began reminding me of the carnage within about 18 hours, especially during the six-hour drive back up north. What’s more, my chest and tri’s continued to remind me about that incredible training session for a couple more days after that.
I wish to extend a heartfelt thanks to Curd, Lewis, and the staff and other athletes at Hostyle Conditioning. The Hangar was everything I dreamed of as a lifter, and the community and camaraderie within the facility were fantastic. The city of Orleans has a true training gem within its limits, and I’ll most certainly be making my way back there again.
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*Images courtesy of Facebook