The Hammies: Russian Leg Curls and Glute Ham Raises

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Hey hardcore! Let’s go on a mental journey. You have yourself dialed. You’re getting ready to do a deadlift and while moving through it you get no hip movement. If your problem isn’t the glutes (like we have previously discussed) or the lower back (like we WILL discuss soon), then maybe your issue is that your hammies are week. Well you’re in luck! We’ve got that issue resolver right here!

Glute Ham Raises are probably the best movement for improving the glute strength. The only problem is that you need a machine/proper setup for these. So let’s moreso focus on the Russian Leg Curl. This movement can be done with your body and something heavy such as a couch.

The hamstrings are used for knee flexion and hip extension or bending the knee (as when you step or run) and when you move your hips forward (there’s our deadlift motion). So get to work in building some hardcore legs!

Russian Leg Curls Video

Glute Ham Raises:


The Front Squat

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

I know what you’re thinking… “The Front Squat is not a weakness hitter!” You’re partially right. The front squat is a fantastic compound movement. It is also possibly the best way to put emphasis on the quadriceps muscle group.

Look at that bar placement shift. The bar is nearly directly above the quadriceps in this movement. On the Low Bar squat, the move is nearly a complete posterior chain movement. That’s a huge change from a slight difference.

This means if you have a weakness in the quads, toss these in the workout. This is another accessory movement that can be bumped up to massive weight. Get in there, and start hitting it hard.

Here’s a video for this fantastic excellent exercise:

The Barbell Hip Thrust

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Today let’s take a look at the Barbell Hip Thrust. This exercise is a fantastic mover for the glute muscles. Ironically, some people have a lack of use of the glutes when doing a squat or deadlift. When they are finally activated, this can not only fix an imbalance but also increase performance!

The key on this exercise is to make sure that there is a squeeze at the end of the concentric (thrusting) movement. Athletes can get to a heavy point on these. Based on your goals, I’d tweak the rep ranges, but it is not unheard of to work up to 250 to 300+ lbs (males) for a working set of 5 or 6 repetitions.

Watch this video for an in depth breakdown of the movement:

Hitting this exercise will increase stimulation to the glutes. This will result in improvements in squats, deadlifts, sprints, and any other movement that requires gluteal movement.


By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Stretching (Static) is a fantastic tool for performance. It can relax or elongate a tightened muscle, increase Range Of Motion (ROM) of a joint, and, as a benefit of relieving tightened muscles, increase the ability to perform a movement through the right ROM by decreasing the strain the tightened muscles place on the movement throughout the kinetic chain (basically movement of the body through the desired ROM). These are all fantastic benefits!

I feel like I also need to establish what stretching does NOT do. Stretching does not prevent injury pre-exercise. Increased bloodflow through the area through dynamic exercise does this. Stretching after an exercise will NOT get rid of soreness or DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Nothing has been proven to nix DOMS, but the likely best relief is hydration, light exercise, and “rest” (lack of over-exertion). Try slowly increasing the frequency of your workouts and hopefully your bod will adapt to a decrease in recovery time. DO NOT DO THIS QUICKLY. This should be done throughout weeks, not jumping from one workout a week to hitting the same muscle 3 times a week. You will likely injure yourself that way and put into recovery for many weeks as opposed to getting where you want the right way.

Static Stretching should be performed as many days out of the week as possible; ideally 7. The exercise is low impact and will not seriously hurt you. A great way to do this is to try yoga. Most of the yoga positions provides two things; isometric pressure on the muscles “target” and a stretch to the “antagonistic” muscles. This is why so many yoga performers are so flexible.

Another great thing to look into is mobility work. For as much crap as they receive (justifiable or not) Crossfitters do a FANTASTIC job of working on mobility. Mobility in its simplest form is the ability to increase ROM for the kinetic chain. This can be done through foam rolling (SMR; which I previously discussed and support whole heartedly) and stretching. Kelly Starrett is a fantastic resource for anybody interested in looking at information on this.

Don’t neglect this necessary part of training. You will not be disappointed with the results!

Shoulder Stability

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Today let’s focus on the second ball and socket joint in the body; the shoulder. The shoulder is by far the most flexible/greatest ROM joint in the human body. It’s not even a close race with the second B&S joint (the hips). To do this, the shoulder is an immensely complex system of muscle, cartilage, and tendons that help the free range of motion. Take a look at the muscular picture:

That picture is full even without diving down deeper. Here are some other muscles and tendons that help for the motion of the entire arm:

The shoulders often get neglected for one reason or another, and it is a shame that that is the case. It can be pulled by another muscle group (pecs, biceps, tris, etc.) into a compromised position. Another reason can be a weakness or imbalance of a muscle group that controls the interior movement of the joint. For this reason, it is imperative that somebody works on their joint rotations to alleviate pain and the potential for injury of the joint.

Check out these exercise links for a list of some great exercises. I was browsing through these, and most of these are what I would suggest to build stability in this often under emphasized area.

Links for earlier pics:

Self Myofascial Release (SMR; Foam Rolling)

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

I know, I know. This isn’t a exercise movement (it is but it isn’t). I get the confusion, but the focus of this whole series isn’t really just about exercises. The point behind this whole series has been targeting weaknesses. Foam Rolling, or SMR, is just about that point. You target a tightened muscle and “release” the tightness.

So to understand SMR, you need to understand what a fascia is. In a very simple sense, the fascia is structure of connective tissue that surrounds muscles/muscle groups, blood vessels, and nerves. It sometimes binds these structures together. Like tendons and ligaments, the fascia is made out of collagen. The myofascia is a form of this and aids in the movement of muscles (transmission from muscle to bone, providing a movable surface, and provides support and protection for nerves and blood vessels during contractions).

There are a number of ways that the tissue can become restricted, as well as other focuses for SMR such as other connective tissue, but the target of SMR is to release this restriction. To do this, one must find the trigger points; areas where the muscle feels as if it has a knot. This has been the focus of deep tissue massaging for a long time. This is accomplished by either direct or indirect release.

Direct release is where constant pressure is applied to the trigger point. One can accomplish this by rolling on a foam roller until pressure is placed on the trigger spot (most likely the most painful location). At that point, the muscles being relaxed, the pressure is held on the spot until a “release” occurs (felt by pain/tension relief). Indirect release is accomplished through more of a stretching motion with slight pressure placed on the affected area.

I’ll link a few great resources for foam rolling at the end of this post. I am starting to see some very positive studies being done on the benefits of foam rolling. I think it is starting to gain steam, even though it has been around forever. I do want to caution that there can be overuse issues if this is done too frequently. There will be trauma to the body, but this is not substantial trauma. With that being said, any trauma can lead to slight inflammation. This is simply the body’s healing response. If it happens too frequently or too traumatic, the body will cause issues. That is how tendonitis occurs and this can be possible if done on the incorrect areas or too frequently.


By: Gavin Hemmerlein

So we once again step outside of exercises to an extent. We will move on to posture, which can be huge for performance as well. When posture is poor, it results in imbalances and most often pain. So, let’s fix that issue (to the best extent we can).
Look at the following picture for a list of the possible issues. The far left is correct posture.

So we see that there are listed 9 possible issues. And to be honest, there can be combinations and varying extents of each. So what can be underlying the problems?
.Your shoulders are rounded forward
.Your chin is tilted up or down
.Your head is leaning forward with your chin out
.You are carrying more weight in the abdominal region
.Your knees are bent backward or forward
.Your back isn’t naturally curving inward

There are really only 3 steps to fix these issues:
1. Find the cause. This is really the issue with anything and there is a reason there are seminars over this stuff. The only way to alleviate a problem is to find the root cause and remedy that issue. With stuff like Root Cause Analysis, 5 Why’s, and so on and so forth… I’d suggest to use this daily for your problems; including posture problems. Treat the disease; Not the symptoms.
2. Program a remedy. Once you know what is causing the problem (muscular or structural), you can start figuring out the proper way to fix it. Foam rolling, stretching, strengthening, etc… These will be your tools. Program accordingly.
3. Reassess regularly. Figure out whether what you’re doing is helping or not and adjust accordingly. This is how it is with ANYTHING in life as well. It’s a feedback system. This is how medical professions, sports, and even engineering works among a few examples. You constantly have the result feeding the rest of the future equations. Do this for your posture and you’ll be sitting pretty.

Those 3 steps work cyclically. And in the end, you’ll hopefully alleviate the imbalances and be in a better situation.

Link for the pictures:

Plate Pinchers

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

This installment is more of a protocol than an actual exercise because there are so many different ways to implement this. Plate Pinchers are a fantastic way to increase grip strength; which is a common failure point for athletes. Ever try to deadlift and have the bar slip out of your hand halfway up? Then couple these with static holds to develop out of this world grip strength!

The move is simple. Take two plates, starting light at first, and hold them in the air by pinching them together. The friction of the plates against each other will keep the plate firmly in your hand. Hold this for as long as you possibly can. Rinse and repeat. Each time will most likely be shorter than the previous due to muscular fatigue. When this becomes easy (or you’re holding the plates for way too long), up the weight! Check it out:

One way that I love to teach these is a T-Bar Row variation. Instead of using only your hands, you place the weights on one side of a barbell and row the bar into the chest. This is a more advanced technique, but the additional movement should increase the grip test even more!

Without a great level of grip strength, you’ll either resort to accessories (straps) or be limited in your big movers fairly quickly. This focus will be invaluable as you progress on your fitness journey.

Good Mornings (GM)

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

The final of the major accessory work for the posterior chain; the good morning. This exercise is super taxing on the lower back, so definitely be careful. The erector spinae group of muscles stretch from the neck/head all the way down to just above the tailbone (basically next to the glutes). They help are crucial to extension (raising the back from a parallel to the ground position) and some rotation (twisting at the hips).

While there are very many variations, I only teach a strict GM form (flat or arched back variants). You’ll see that on the next link (EXRX). The reason behind that decision is that the GM is a near compromising position for the lower back. Any variant (seated and rounded back I especially hate) put the spinal column in an extremely compromised state. I don’t care how much you can GM if next week you’re in the doctor’s office with a slipped disc.

Here’s a very great video to watch on this exercise. Some of you may know my love for EliteFTS, so here is another video. I actually teach going a little lower than JL in his form video, but this will actually keep you safer and you shouldn’t lose a much of the benefit.