Have you heard of biohacking?
It’s all the rage, let me tell you…
Biohacking, at one point in time, was a pretty serious blend of scientific, data-driven and biological experimentation to “hack” your biology for the better.
Nowadays, everyone is a “biohacker”.
A quick Google search and you will find some of the most popular biohackers are simply: eating a paleo, or paleo-like diet, taking fish oil and vitamin D, working out outside, and maybe taking cold showers… Then there are other, a little more crazy, biohackers that are experimenting with blood letting (which is what killed George Washington), taking creatine for the brain (not body) and attempting to sleep less in order to do more.
So, as a person who eats a paleo-like diet, takes fish oil and vitamin D, works out outside and takes cold showers…I am a certified biohacker, and I didn’t even know it. I also didn’t know the posts I had written on Bulletproof Coffee, Standing Up and Intermittent Fasting are also considered “biohacks”.
I didn’t know I was a biohacker…I thought I was just a guy trying to be healthy and fit. I’m “down” with the biohackers in some aspects like the diet, certain supplementation and being outside, etc. But one thing we do not see eye to eye on is fitness. Maybe the biohackers are the geniuses and I’m “old-school”, but when biohackers talk about fitness I think smoke starts coming out of my ears.
See a biohacker wants to “hack”, so traditional fitness just isn’t cool. They need to run, or just sit, with a vest made of ice, or get vibrated to fit, or [insert new biohacking trend here]. Is that stuff really necessary? Or MORE effective? Now, before you run off attempting to get on a polyphasic sleep cycle or think you should only workout 15 minutes a day lets talk about…
The ultimate biohack in fitness. It’s called the barbell. Let me show you how it works.
I want to let you know just how versatile this biohacking beast is in your choice of; developing max strength, developing over all endurance i.e. aerobic or cardiorespiratory endurance., developing power, gaining muscle mass and developing muscular endurance.
Not to mention, training with a barbell can improve coordination, train your central nervous system and make you more mentally tough. All things that are much harder to “hack”, but let’s jump right into babrell biohacks.
Barbell Biohack Max Strength
Simply put, how to use a barbell to increase your raw, rambo-like strength.
If you want to get STRONGER you need to lift heavy stuff. Period. The aim with training max strength is to improve neuromuscular coordination, which a fancy way of saying you need to get your brain and nervous system accustomed to calling on a specific muscle, or group of muscles to complete a specific task.
And an even easier way of saying it would be, you need to practice lifting heavy weight, not just for the muscle’s benefit, but for your brain’s benefit.
Have you ever wondered about old-man strength? You know what I am talking about, the fact that your grandpa, who may never workout, has more grip or raw strength than you do. It’s because he is older and wiser…seriously, more muscle can be recruited by an older more experienced human than a young teenager who has yet to figure out his, or her, body and mind.
So how do you train to get this brain-body-barbell meld?
You need to train at a high intensity, which could mean max effort reps or attempts and even limiting rest periods.
It also doesn’t hurt to lift just for the sake of muscle growth, because if your brain can recruit more muscle (and it is there to be recruited) you are stronger. So another part of training for max strength would be lifting the barbell at a lower intensity with more repetitions. Bodybuilders are good at that one.
Lastly, change up the exercises and vary the loads to keep the body and mind guessing.
Next, let’s talk about aerobic endurance.
Barbell Biohack Aerobic Endurance
How do you get stronger for aerobic endurance like running, swimming, rowing, etc.?
Well, first off you need to purge all the info you have just read in the max strength portion…ok, not all of it, but it is not as applicable.
First, endurance vs. max strength: At a basic level when muscles grow there is a decrease in capillary density and mitochondrial volume (think tiny batteries for muscle contractions) and the exact opposite is true when training for endurance. So, training strength is beneficial for aerobic endurance, but that doesn’t mean it should be done in the exact same way as an elite weightlifter.
Someone looking to train strength for endurance should look at it in a similar way to how you would train endurance itself. Time-based lifting; for instance barbell reps done for a set time, i.e. 3 minutes as opposed to a set number of reps is a good idea. Or you can look at it as sub maximal weight and a lot of repetitions.
Lastly, do not train aerobic and strength at the same time. Strength first, always, then your aerobic work this can be split by little rest or even broken down one day strength then one day aerobic.
Alright, we have covered max strength and aerobic work with strength, now, max power!
Barbell Biohack Max Power
How can you move large heavy objects quickly, or with great force?
By developing your max power.
Power training is kind of like the matrix. You can take the blue pill (skip this portion of the article) and the story ends, you wake up in your bed and continue to lift weights like everyone else. Then there is the red pill; you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
Last chance. Alright, here we go.
Strength and power are two very different ways to train strength. While there is overlap, to speak in generalities, strength does not need power, but power does need strength. It is not easy to become a powerful athlete if you are not first a strong athlete.
Typically, you want to build a strength base, then work on max strength and then focus on power. I have covered this topic thoroughly in the article “The Missing Element in You Strength program”…
Spoiler alert, the missing element is speed.
The rate of force development (very important in sports), and dynamic efforts (moving lighter weight at a fast speed), is something Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell has mastered with his banded speed lifts. But that’s not what you HAVE to do.
Training for power can be easy, but you have to really focus on your effort, intensity and speed. It takes a great deal of concentration and isn’t the type of training where you can just “go through the motions”. You need to move quickly and explosively. You need to focus.
However, once you are honed in it is easy for you to do. Simply lift moderate weights, with good form, as quickly as you can and you are knocking out great dynamic efforts. And to really increase your ability to produce force; workouts like 3 sets of 3 reps at around 90% of your 1RM, moved as quickly as you can will do just that.
A LOT of people do not train power, and it is by no means necessary. But it is the next level.
Now, some of you are saying…I just want to get bigger.
Ok, on to mass gain!
Barbell Biohack Mass Gain
How can you use a barbell to get bigger?
Ok, maybe it is not that simple. However, to this point we have been talking primarily about performance-based lifting. Stronger, faster, etc. Not necessarily “bigger”.
Getting bigger is not always the goal of those who want strength, but A LOT of people want to get bigger. I get it. However, packing on mass starts at breakfast and is only complimented by the barbell. A.K.A you need to EAT. Got it?
Now, we can talk about the barbell. Here are the principles:
- Use the muscles and exhaust the muscles
- Use rep ranges anywhere from 5-7 and 10-12
- Rest 1-2 minutes between sets
- Fully recover (48-72 hours)
- Muscle groups in a workout – 3 or less
- Large training volume
You can find a million mass gain programs out there for free, and they will all probably work if you eat correctly. In the Mental Toughness Militia Strength & Size program I developed a hybrid which promotes the best balance of getting bigger while also getting stronger. Ask anyone who has done it, the workouts are tough, but it is very possible!
Next! Bring the pain!
Barbell Biohack Muscular Endurance
How can you keep moving when your muscles are burning and you have more reps to do?
You have to train muscular endurance.
Muscular endurance is a great practice in mental toughness; because it sucks more than any of the other training methods we have talked about. It hurts!
But is also is not complicated. It is like power training, in the sense that if you do not have a solid strength base then it will not be as beneficial to try and train muscular endurance. If you are having a hard time lifting the barbell 5 or 6 times, what good would trying 15+ reps do?
The best way to train muscular endurance is circuit training, which is kind of dead these days, so lets just say CrossFit. Good circuit training or CrossFit programming will last roughly 15 minutes, use weights around 50-70% of your 1RM, and have reps schemes in the range of 5 to 15. It is, of course, ok to go longer in duration or reps, or even shorter, but your template should start from what was just stated.
This is a good use of the sub maximal lifting method and it is ok to regularly take reps to failure.
It is tough, but is is good for you!
None of the methods I have mentioned are exclusive to barbell training, however, I believe the Barbell will give you the most bang for your buck.
For all One Man One Barbell users out there, the next update is on track to be released next month with a dozen new OMOB methods! Can’t wait to get it to you guys!