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20 Ways to Get Bigger & Stronger

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Muscle

farmers-walkUse these tips and you’ll get jacked. End of story…

1) Make farmers walks a regular part of your program.

They build your traps, core and grip while developing tremendous total body strength and stability.

2) If your knees bother you when squatting try doing 3-4 sets of glute ham raises or bodyweight leg curls first.

I got this from Louie Simmons years ago. I’ve seen it help out with clients who had knee issues but still wanted to squat.

If you’re too weak to do glute hams properly you can flex at the hip, thus shortening the lever arm which will make them easier. Or just do leg curls on a Jungle Gym XT, TRX or furniture sliders.

3) Forward and backward sled dragging before squats is another good idea for the beat up or older lifter. That warms up the knee and gets a little pump in the muscles.

4) Another good pre-squat ritual is doing terminal knee extensions with a band. Everyone could benefit from doing this before squat workouts, not just older or beat up lifters. Do 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps.

5) When doing any type of row or chin up variation think about driving back with the elbows instead of simply pulling with the biceps.

6) If you need to bring up your calves try doing single leg calf raises followed by single leg hopping in place.

Do 10-15 reps on the calf raise with a heavy weight and then immediately hop on that leg until you can’t get off the ground anymore. Rest and repeat for 3-5 sets.

7)  Beginners can train their core by simply squatting, deadlifting and overhead pressing. That will be enough for them. Advanced guys who want to bring up their squats and deads need more ab work, though.

The worlds strongest lifters do quite a bit of loaded abdominal work.

Some of the best choices are Power Wheel rollouts, partial range Turkish get ups, Janda sit ups, decline sit ups, hanging knee/leg raises, suitcase deadlifts, 1 arm farmers walks, Pallof presses, anti rotation cable exercises and full contact twists.

8) When doing rotational core work be sure to rotate from the hips and not your lower back. Rotating from the lumbar spine can be dangerous and lead to injury.

Always brace and get the hips involved.

9) If you have shoulder issues do all of your rowing exercises with a weight that allows you to hold a peak contraction for a second or two.

That will ensure that the load isn’t so heavy that it could lead to more potential injuries.

10) If you’re doing unilateral (single limb) exercises in hopes that your strength levels will one day be equal in each limb you can stop now.

The two sides will never be 100% even. So don’t put that in your head.

If there is a huge disparity then you should do them and to try to close the gap. Just know that it will never completely even out.

11) When using jumps for the first time start with box jumps. The kind where you jump on the box and step off. Those are the easiest on the body and should always be your first progression.

12) Broad jumps are another great power exercise but be very, very careful when introducing them for the first time. Your knees, shins and core can take a pounding on those if you’re not ready.

On the first day I wouldn’t jump at more than 75-80% of your max. Ease into it over time and let your body adapt. Ideally you should do these into a sand pit.

13) On deadlifts remember to pull back, not just up.

14) There’s more to improvement and overload than just adding weight to the bar. You can’t do that every workout or you’d be squatting 2,000 pounds in a few years. Remember that you can also do your sets faster, with less rest, with better technique, etc.

15) For shoulder health do some type of pushup variation on a regular basis.

16) Try a thumbless grip on military presses. This seems to work wonders for getting the bar path right and making the exercise feel better on the elbows and shoulders.

Thanks to Smitty from the Diesel Crew for introducing me and several others to this idea a few years back.

17) Work on your ankle mobility.

Poor ankle mobility is one of the reasons some of you can’t squat to parallel while maintaining a neutral spine. It can also lead to injuries for athletes. Doing something as simple as standing on one foot and writing out the alphabet with your other foot a couple times each day can go a long way.

I’m doing it right now as I type this at my standing desk. Give it a shot.

18) Having said that, a pair of Olympic lifting/ squat shoes will improve almost everyone’s squat instantly.

It will also make the lift a lot safer because it will drastically reduce the likelihood of tucking at the bottom. You wear specific shoes for basketball, bowling, football and golf, why not get some that are specifically designed for squatting?

It’s an exercise you’ll probably be doing quite a bit and one that pays huge dividends. Click HERE for the squat shoes I use and recommend to all my clients.

You have shoes for every other sport, why not squatting?

19) If you’re going to squat or deadlift on Wednesday it would be a good idea to avoid lower back intensive exercises such as heavy bent over rows on Monday or Tuesday. Opt instead for a chest supported or inverted row variation.

20) When in doubt, do more low rep warm up sets. This will always lead to a better performance on your top end sets than fewer high rep warm up sets. If you jump straight into your heaviest set without properly warming up and exciting your CNS the weight will always feel heavier than it should.

Hopefully you picked up a tip or two there that will help you gain some new size and strength.

And if you liked this I’d appreciate you sharing it with someone who might benefit from some of these tips.


Leave a Reply

22 Responses to 20 Ways to Get Bigger & Stronger

  1. Brandon Cook October 10, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    Great tips Jason! I wish I would have “eased” into the broad jumps. Should of started with box jumps like you mention here, although I didn’t have a box so I started doing broad jumps this past spring and did way too many and ended up straining my hamstring. Oh… the valuable lessons I’ve learned this year!

  2. Jonny October 10, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    Another great post Jay. Straight to the point, and I’ll be using no.23 for sure. Always appreciate your help and information. I’ve gone back to using MGS again, as I put on half a stone of muscle last time I used it and can’ t wait to see what results I get this time

  3. Till October 10, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Another great way of ‘disarming’ broad jumps is to do them on mats and land with a tuck and roll. Freerunners do this for a reason, folks… Plus, learning how to absorb impact by rolling is a very useful skill for any athlete.

  4. joe October 10, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    Do you still also recommend squatting barefoot? I have been doing this for the past year and it has proven to be very beneficial for me. If so which do you recommend more?

    • Jason Ferruggia April 9, 2012 at 8:13 am #

      @Joe- It’s very rare that people have the mobility to do that. In most cases squat shoes are the best option.

  5. Raymond October 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    I do have trouble with squatting all the way down and not rounding my lower back so I just go for box squats. I’ve seen some people squat with a block of wood under their heels? maybe I could try that!
    I do deadlifts every week ( following MGS) and I’m nearly 50, and yeah I hate/love doing them.

    • Matty C October 11, 2011 at 5:56 am #

      @Raymond: Raymond, I see you comment on here quite a bit and you seem quite keen on training. Rounding of the lower back can be a flexibility issue at ankle or hip…stretch the buggers!!! Don’t put wood block under your feet! You’ll have very little stability and you’re only hiding from the reality of learning how to do properly. If you can’t squat heavy (and only use box squats) then do way more bodyweight squats. The purpose of training is to move better and be stronger – not be stronger and not be able to move!

  6. John October 10, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    Great list, loved it

  7. Niko October 11, 2011 at 1:21 am #

    I’m going to try the thumbless grip on the military press. For some reason I have never thought of it or seen anyone do it that way before. Great tip.

  8. Matty C October 11, 2011 at 5:57 am #

    Jason – I rate your articles highly! Awesome stuff mate! Thanks.

  9. Nick October 11, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Jason, like you, I greatly admire men like Arthur Saxon and Vince Gironda. I have to admit I am a bit relieved to know they do not favor the back squat. Now I have a question that I think others would love to hear your answer to: I keep reading that you should try hard to have your strength ratio more in favor of the hams than the quads. And “they” speak of the possibility of injury increasing the more you favor quads over hams.. Well like Saxon, I favor the “two-hand lift to the knee” far more than squats.(1Rm385lb dead/285lb squat)(one-hand barbell snatch 115lb each arm)(2 years tough lessons learned training.28yr.M.180lb) Do you think it’s too much of a “problem/risk” to have this favor for the hams over the quads? I’ve never heard this discussed. I’m not trying to get huge. Saxon strong

    • Jason Ferruggia April 9, 2012 at 8:14 am #

      @Nick- No, you want a strong posterior chain. It can never be too strong.

  10. Alex Zinchenko October 13, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    Nice tips, Jason. Some of them were totally new to me. The coolest thing about your articles is that you always find something new in them. Even if you know the subject pretty well. Thanks.

    – Alex Zinchenko

  11. October 25, 2011 at 2:47 am #

    The picture of the guy doing the farmer’s walks is insane. I used to do these with 55lbs and it was an incredible exercise for my traps and arms. Great post!

  12. Nikki March 29, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    I always enjoy your posts and find them quit useful. Thank you.

    • Nikki March 29, 2012 at 9:09 am #


  13. Nikki March 29, 2012 at 9:12 am #


  14. P. J. Striet March 29, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    Great tips as always Jason.

  15. Smitty April 8, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    Great post Jay.

  16. ryan August 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    Jason, great advice. One question on the row and pull up variations. I have hears alot about pulling the elbows down and back, but I still often feel it in my biceps. I have heard some people say pull from your elbows, by trying to pull the bar down, to get the lats into it big time, is there anything to that? again a great post