Archive for Recommendations (Equip/Reading)

Your 1RM – Use it to Build Your Workout

One Rep Maxes (1RM) are critical pieces of information about yourself that can be used to craft future workouts and record your progress. Typical workouts that have 1RM’s  tied to them are bench, deadlift, and squat. These three lifts are also at times called the “big three.” Some powerlifters (or a lot of times braggadocios highschool football players) will add these three 1RM’s together in order to create an easier comparison among peers.

To determine your one-rep max, a standard route is to get one or two lifting partners together and progressively stack more weight onto the bar until you fail completing one rep. There are a number of problems with this method. First, you have to ensure you have a great lifting partner(s) that you can trust — you’ll (hopefully) be lifting a LOT of weight. Good lifting partners are hard to find, particularly when you’re lifting for fitness, as opposed to lifting for athletics (aka, with a team). Secondly, performing a 1RM is extremely taxing on the body. You expose yourself to tremendous injury risk (football players frequently tear pec muscles or quads in the off season when their team is maxing out — this has caused a number of teams to abandon the practice all together.) Also, you will need to give your body extra time to rest after putting it under uncommon levels of exertion. If you multiply this practice by 3x (bench, squat, deadlift) you’re eating into several weeks of available workout time — that is if you’re being smart/safe. Finally, performing the one rep max in small step up increments may fatigue you to the point of artificially deflating your one rep max. While this may ding your ego, it’s way better than the more common outcome… injury.

Luckily there are a number of strength researchers that have come up with formulas to help determine your 1RM without having to expose yourself to injury-inducing amounts of weight. These formulas use weights that you preform regularly at a given rep count. With these two numbers, a reasonable estimate of your max can be calculated. These same formulas can be used for all the of the big three — bench, squat, deadlift — using the same methodology.

With this data you can craft future workouts, such as pyramid workouts, gas outs (high rep workouts) etc.

Creative Fitness Gift Ideas For Your Fit Friends

Oftentimes it may seem that purchasing fitness related gifts might offend the recipient. However, for your self-proclaimed fitness-freak friends and family, there is nothing wrong with giving creative, fitness-related gifts this holiday season. For a list of a few fitness themed gift ideas see below:

  1. Enroll your recipient in a 5K, obstacle run, or other organized walk/runs. This gift is especially thoughtful if it is given in conjunction with expenses-paid travel plans to an interesting destination. For example, a 5K run through a nearby city or adjoining state, may be a fun gift idea for your outgoing fitness friends.
  2. Travel Fitness Pack – If your friends like to remain fit, but their job requires extensive travel, consider travel-friendly fitness gear. For example: fitness bands, ab wheels, jump ropes, and suspension trainers are all great, compact fitness tools.
  3. High End Supplements – if you happen to know what supplements your recipient takes regularly — investigate high-quality versions of the supplements on their list. I like many others, enjoy supplementation, but don’t often splurge on the highest quality versions. A high quality multi-vitamin, fish oils, or protein powders are good options if you are uncertain of the supplements your recipient takes.
  4. Unorthodox Fitness Trial Memberships – for those friends who enjoy exploring creative fitness outlets, consider signing them up for short-term memberships to new activities. For example, jiu jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, yoga, pilates, and adult sports leagues are available in nearly all medium-to-large sized cities.
  5. Fitness Apps – there are a lot of great fitness apps out there, but most people don’t splurge on the paid version. Instead most opt for the ad-laden, or feature depleted free versions. Consider exploring which free-fitness apps your recipient already has and buying the premium version. For the braver gift givers, consider sending an app they haven’t even tried.

Submit your Creative Fitness Gift Ideas below!

Functional Strength Gift Ideas

Strength gift ideas

Functional Strength Gifts

‘Tis the season for gift giving! Luckily offering functional strength tools/workout equipment can be both incredibly thoughtful and affordable. Offering gifts around strength training also doesn’t have the same implications as giving standard fitness equipment (ahem…you need to lose weight.) Instead building strength is incredibly useful to all genders and ages, and a great topic to build your gift ideas around.

If you’re looking for great functional strength equipment, consider gifting one of the six great fitness gift ideas:

  • TRX or other types of suspension training gear.
  • Kettlebells! Do you need help determining an appropriate weight to gift? Check out Functional Strength Lab’s – What weight kettlebell should I buy calculator?
  • Resistance Bands. These are incredibly affordable and great ideas for recipients who travel frequently. A full body workout is entirely possible and space efficient when in a pinch using resistance bands
  • In-door-frame pull up bar – body weight exercises are incredibly effective and usually safer than many free weight workout options
  • BOSU Ball – incorporating a balance component to any standard workouts only serves to make the workout more functional. For example, try repping out more than five single leg squats on a BOSU. I dare you.
  • Battle Ropes – Assuming your recipient has enough space, battle ropes are a phenomenal builder of functional strength. Battle ropes create and excellent cardio and strength hybrid workout

Please feel free to submit your own gift ideas below in the comments section. I’d love to hear new and creative fitness gift ideas!

Grip Strength for Deadlift

Grip Strength Deadlift

Deadlift Grip Strength

Grip strength for deadlift is the limiting factor for most people’s personal bests for this lift. Because of this, I recommend numerous grip workouts for increasing your deadlift max.


Try these options to increase your grip strength for Deadlift:

  • Farmer’s walk/carry – with the same weight that you use to shrug, walk around the gym until your wrists are fried.
  • Weighted Pull Ups – a lot of people forget how effective pull ups are at developing grip strength.
  • Wrist Rolls – This apparatus can be purchased or made cheaply. Find a DIY wrist roller in the DIY Equipment Tab above.
  • Pull Up Attachments – again, adding variation to your pull-ups can have massive effect on your grip strength. Check out how to make your own pull up balls or pull up nun chucks. Or do pull ups with a towel draped over the bar and one positioned for each hand.
  • Use Oversized Grips – When performing other barbell based workouts, choose the largest diameter bar possible, or add a bar widener – product listed below.

Interesting Equipment to Increase Your Deadlift Max:


Functional Strength Kit (Combat Sports)

Functional Strength Tool Kit

by: Brian Dick

The functional strength kit listed below will give you a great jumping off point for establishing your combat sports strength. If you were to enter any judo, jiu jitsu, muay thai, or wrestling gym around the country you are guaranteed to find at least one or all of these items. The list are the cheapest version of each that I could find on Amazon (with at least a 3.5 star rating.) I would also recommend checking your local Craigslist  site, as a lot of times you can find cheaper versions of these products. Not everyone is up to this challenging of workout gear, and will dump it on Craigslist.

Combat Sport Package:


Functional Strength Tool Kit – In-Home Workout

Brian Dick

In-home functional strength tool kit with links to purchase through Amazon

Below you will find an excellent starter kit for building functional strength. These tools are best suited for in home use, and for the beginner. The accessory in the bottom left quadrant are pull up balls. These are pull attachments designed by the owner’s of Functional Strength Lab, and you can find other pull up attachments at Below the pictures are a description of each item if you are unfamiliar with the products.

Pull up attachments, pull up balls

  • 45 lb kettlebell (adjust to your strength level)Great full body workout tool when space is limited and equipment is sparse
  • In-door pull-up bar (this was the cheapest for the quality one I found)Pull ups are great compound workouts, and any manipulation of your own body weight leads to increases in functional strength
  • Foam massage rollers (I prefer the longer ones) – A newer trend in fitness, but after personal use, I am a huge proponent. These massage rollers are extremely painful at first, but after 3+ uses the pain subsides and your post-massage feels amazing.
  • Pull-up ball attachments (Build maniacal grip strength – try different sizes and styles) – As mentioned, these were developed by the founder of this very site. Other attachments include egg-shaped, and dowel shaped – which we are calling Pull Up NunChucks. These add ons to the typical pull up bar, or seated row machine, makes an awkward grip with which to build tremendous grip strength.
  • Resistance bands (any will do, just ensure they have heavy enough resistance options) – Like the kettlebell, resistance bands are great for full body workouts when space or equipment are limited. I love throwing these in the bag when I go on vacations/work trips.
  • 75 cm stability ball (may be too big for some) – The stability ball can easily be used as a poor man’s Bosu ball (which commonly run +$80.) This tool is great for full range of motion core exercises and adding instability to normal press workouts or push ups.

The ERG/Rowing Machine: The Most Efficient of Your Workout Time

I must admit that I have been very disgruntled with the (predictable) influx of new gym goers that have shown up post-January 1st. However, this recent swarm has actually resulted in me trying new machines that I typically avoid when I have free range of equipment.

For example, this past week, I had planned on making a short trip to the gym (I had evening plans) for a quick cardio session on the treadmill. When I arrived, I was greeted by a packed gym, and a waiting line for all treadmills and elliptical’s. What to do…what to do? I could leave, I could wait, or I could lift. — OR — I could visit my long-ignored acquaintance, the rowing machine (or the ERG).

I knew from friends that had been rowers in high school and college that this was a phenomenal workout, but feeling much more comfortable on the treadmill, bike, or elliptical I rarely if ever attempted working out on this foreign contraption. What does ERG even mean? (Turns out after a quick visit to Wikipedia, ERG that ERG is short for ergometer, or a measuring device for the amount of work expended.)

My take on the ERG? It’s my new favorite piece of gym equipment. Being a proponent of quick, cheap, and efficient workouts I am utterly embarrassed by my ignorance of this machine. While I am skeptical of the “calories burned” metric on any workout equipment, I was floored to find that after only 17.5 minutes on the ERG (at the highest setting (10)) I had burnt 777 calories!! Even if this metric was radically off (by 30% say) it is still nowhere near the calories burnt through an equivalent amount of time on other equipment. In addition to the “calories burned” stat, I also felt that it very much complied with my struggle for functional strength gains. After stepping off of the ERG, I felt that I had just completed 3+ sets of shrugs, upright rows, and squats on a typical lifting day. Never have I stepped off a piece of cardio equipment and also felt like I had just lifted.The ERG is an amazing piece of cardio equipment, that I will add into my cardio routine from this point forward. I highly recommend that you at least try it in your next cardio day.

I was also surprised to find that an ERG is actually reasonably priced (when compared to standard cardio options) when I looked on Amazon. Maybe when I get out of school (i.e., I am back making money and not spending it) I will grab one of these to add to my future home gym (a dream of my future home owning experience.)

Enjoy your rowing!

Recommended Reading

If there was any book that I wish I would have read earlier than I did, it is The Four Hour Body, by Tim Ferriss. Before entering my MBA I worked second shift and ate horribly, and extremely late at night. I ballooned up to 245 (I’m 5’11”) and felt awful.

Just before school I tried to get back into shape by simply increasing the amount I worked out. I was able to drop 10 pounds, but still felt out of shape. In the middle of my first year of school I tore my right ACL (I had already torn my left ACL and meniscus (on a separate occasion)) and I knew that I needed to take more weight off of my knees. Luckily, just a few days before my surgery I found a copy of The Four Hour Body in a Volunteer’s of America Thrift Store. It was $2.50, and it was the best purchase I’ve made. I am now 210 pounds, and feel in great shape. Unfortunately I did not take bodyfat % figures, because I believe this figure would be far more impressive.

If I could summarize the themes/content that produced the biggest results in me they would be:

  • record your weight/bf % – whatever metric you want to change
  • slow carb diet – keep it simple. Three-four dishes per meal that you can live with for a month. This is way easier than you think.
  • workouts should be done under the Minimum Effective Load mindset. The smallest amount of effort that produces positive results should be used for workouts. The diet is where most of your gains from.
  • Increase testosterone by supplementing with selenium (3 Brazil nuts), vitamin D, and Zinc. This dramatically impacted my mood for the positive. I don’t know…or care…if this was a placebo effect. I felt it, and I loved it.
  • This was less from the book (and more from listening to Joe Rogan’s Podcast while I was on the couch after my surgery)…but…simply keep a positive mindset, be nice to people, and don’t be a dick. This is indirect, but this had a huge impact on my overall mood. Making other people feel good through kindness is contagious.


Here is a link to the book. You can obviously buy it on Amazon — or maybe get lucky in a thrift store in your area like I did.