What should you be doing if you’re looking to pack on more muscle in shorter periods of time, while not being in pain and feeling your absolute best? Joining me on the show this week is a good buddy of mine, Michael Lexner, who is currently training hard to compete in the sport of bodybuilding. A lot of us may not be training to step on a stage; however, a lot of us ARE interested in packing on muscle and building hypertrophy. Dive in with us as we discuss Michael’s biggest challenges, lessons, takeaways, and most importantly, the changes he has made in his programming during his time bodybuilding.
The main topic of this episode is to discuss the importance of quality exercise selection and not being married to the implement, but instead picking the right exercise for the desired outcome. We share our tools and strategies for choosing the right exercise in your programming and knowing what equipment to use (and not to use) in order to target the specific muscle group. Michael and I jump from exercise selection to discuss the necessity of moving load to actually make your muscles bigger; it’s important to ensure you are set up properly, so that you can control the weight without failure in the actual form. We then close out the episode with our training pet peeves and how they drive us insane in the gym.
Listen in if you have a goal to pack on more muscle in the most effective way possible and to hear Michael share his top hypertrophy training recommendations. You’ll be able to take all of this and more to implement it in your own future training and programming.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode:
- [04:05] An introduction to Michael Lexner
- [07:26] The trigger that sent Michael on this hypertrophy, bodybuilding route
- [10:00] Front end of the bodybuilding journey
- [13:02] Progressive overload scheme
- [17:01] The importance of exercise selection
- [17:47] Don’t be married to the implement
- [22:29] Picking the right exercise
- [26:18] Barbell squat versus hack squat
- [30:19] The necessity of moving load
- [33:40] Finding confidence in your technique
- [38:15] Basic concepts of complexity
- [40:05] Gym pet peeves
James Cerbie: So, let’s jump into the episode today with Michael Lexner. Michael Lexner, what is going on, my man? Thank you so much for jumping on board with me.
Michael Lexner: Of course. Thanks for having me.
James Cerbie: Take care of that bicep. So, let’s do this for the people listening who don’t know you or your background, what you’re currently doing, etc., your training history. I think it’d be cool if we could just bring them up to speed. And then what I’ll say is the whole goal of the episode today is we’re going to dive into the top lessons learned in this hypertrophy, bodybuilding journey. Most people listening to this are not going to be looking to step on stage and compete in bodybuilding, but I think there’s a lot of really important lessons that they can learn from your journey in terms of hypertrophy, muscle gain, something that pretty much everyone listening to this does have an interest in.
So, we’ll track you from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced. But if you can just give a quick background on you, your training history, blah blah blah, where you’re at now and what your goals are looking like.
An Intro to Michael Lexner
Michael Lexner: Yeah, I’ll give some background of my life. I suppose it’s kind of relevant. Right. So, I started just in sports my whole life. I played college football, always kind of had a coach. So, I went to school for accounting and then never used that degree but had to get my CSCS and just continued my education via the the strength and nutrition field. So, I do some training on the side, but mostly I just enjoy the process of learning in this field.
And I came to a place I mean, I played center, so I was over three hundred pounds. I lost a bunch of weight, just my own journey, my own thing. Just doing research GNation was huge back then, obviously bodybuilding.com and just doing shit on my own, you know, losing a bunch of muscle for sure, crash dieting, but I got into a corporate life which is sweet, you know, if anybody else is in that, sick.
But I actually started having some back issues, and I started working with a PT trainer. Henry Low; you know Henry. In Rhode Island, when I lived in Massachusetts, he took me out of my back pain issues and pulled me back into training like an athlete. So, from there, it’s a progression of where you want to go. Right. Because at that point, all I could think about is back pain.
And I just want to kind of release that and then after that position, it would be all right. Now it’s possible. And so, I didn’t begin with the end in mind. It was more out of necessity. And then I was like, alright, well, what can I do? And just the progression through learning, being able to be like, all right, I’ve had this coach, I love Henry and I still go to him for physical therapy stuff.
If I’m feeling hurt, just the PRI shit that he does, just maintenance stuff. But from like a training perspective, I just graduated from where we were going and kind of moved on. Obviously kept him as a friend. I think one of the biggest lessons in this journey, and we can kind of go into some of this stuff is that you know your coach is really good when they understand that, and they want you to do that.
Right? I mean, I think my current coach with Adam Miller and N1. He said probably first or second check in he had with me, he’s like, man, someday you’re going to outgrow me, and I want you to. When that comes, just let me know. My job is to make sure you’re smarter than me one day, and you need to go to somebody else because I can’t do it for you anymore. And I think finding those types of coaches along the way, and kind of jumping from one to one along your progression has been something that’s super helpful, especially in this hypertrophy workout phase.
James Cerbie: So, I actually don’t know the answer to this, what was the trigger for wanting to go all in on the hypertrophy bodybuilding path? The end goal for you is to step on stage and win right now. For anybody that doesn’t know you, you’re humongous. You’re just going to continue to get more humungous, which is amazing. But what was that initial inflection point for you that was like, I want to go all in on this hypertrophy bodybuilding route?
The Trigger That Sent Michael on This Hypertrophy, Bodybuilding Route
Michael Lexner: That’s a good question. I mean, I think it was a number of factors. It was moving from Henry, I ended up doing mass with Pat Davidson and a bunch of people and obviously meeting Ben down in Costa Rica and meeting Ryan and seeing Ryan do his hypertrophy stuff, and he competes in powerlifting and obviously bodybuilding now, too. So, having a mentor like that, and he did a lot of my programing at that point and kind of wanting to go down that path.
And I think some of it, it’s the same thing with the back stuff. I got into it and then I was like, oh, I might be built for this. I mean, I’m a little tall for it, but I felt like my body reacted right. There’s a hormonal response. There’s a dopamine hit where like, oh, shit, I’m progressing. Right. I picked up a weight and I’m five, ten pounds heavier in three weeks or whatever.
It’s my genetics were made for this. So, if I was made to be a runner and I ran a mile real fast, maybe I want to run two miles or a marathon at some point. But I would never get there, specifically. So, it was more of playing to my strengths in life. And it was like, all right, I saw this piece. I saw her come out and I was like, oh, I can build muscle pretty easily compared to other people.
And it’s just, you know, people would say it’s an addiction or whatnot. It’s enjoyable. I enjoy the progress. I enjoy the journey, honestly. So, that’s kind of where it started. And I see the end goal of doing this. But maybe there’s something after it, right. Where I’m like, oh, this will morph into something else.
James Cerbie: For sure. So, if we can, I guess, kind of zoom back then on the front end of this journey and look at the programing, the things that you were doing. What did that look like from a bird’s eye view perspective? Because I think it’ll be cool to kind of maybe track and look at how that’s changed from you over time, because I know Adam and the guys at N1 are phenomenal, like if your goal was to step on stage and compete in bodybuilding, I don’t know if there’s anyone better. Our hypertrophy coach, Ryan L’Ecuyer is fantastic.
He is amazing. I think Ryan does an unbelievable job. I think there’s a really big difference between stepping on stage and winning at a very high level and then hypertrophy training, like there’s a gap there in terms of the specificity and the detail. But let’s zoom in kind of like early on. What were you doing? What did it look like? What did you like? And what did you dislike? I think would be kind of an interesting thing to hear.
The Front End of the Bodybuilding Journey
Michael Lexner: Yeah. So, I guess when I did training with Henry, we weren’t trying to revert back to being hurt. Right. And I get that piece, and that’s where he comes from. And that’s some of the population he does see. So, I got to a point where there is hypertrophy within that for sure. But there is a point where I don’t think, not that he wasn’t willing to push it, but I was like, all right, I need somebody to push it a little bit more.
And that’s when I jumped into that Mass program, which was kind of a complete opposite of that. Probably not the best decision, but obviously made a lot of friends doing it. It was just not probably the best decision for me in my hypertrophy stage to add a bunch of muscle. I feel like I kick the shit out myself. You reached a certain level of where you could push yourself too. So, obviously all these pieces come into play when you’re progressing on your journey.
It’s like, all right, you think you know what’s hard and then you choose something and you’re like, oh, OK. Well, you know, I’m on the floor for like thirty minutes after my workout, and I can’t breathe. And I got people coming up to me at the gym like, hey, do you need an ambulance. And I’m like no, dude. I just can’t breathe.
James Cerbie: You’re really built to get a lot of reps within a 30 second window at 6″5, 6″6. You’re really built. Just crush squats.
Michael Lexner: I’m not built for that shit at all for sure. Yeah. So, the take from that once again is it’s a kick in the dick, and that’s how Pat markets it. It’s like, hey, you think you’re training hard, but you’re not. You take that piece on with you forward. And my next progression was into working with Renaissance Periodization, and I work with Jared Feather over there, and eventually got to a point where I could probably write their programs for them.
It was it just seemed very elementary. I understand their market with their marketing to it’s kind of gen pop. Right. It’s not specifically people who are trying to compete, although he does have people who do compete. And I like it because there was a progressive overload. Right. I hadn’t really done that to a point where I was like, OK, we’re adding sets every week. And then we get to a point where you feel like shit, and then you take a step back, and then you do the same thing over and over again.
So, there was a progression there, and I’m not sure if your readership knows Ben House, but we were discussing it and he’s like, this isn’t optimal. I don’t want to kick you out of it because you’re getting good results. Right. And at the end of the day, it’s like, are you getting results? You know, then what’s optimal at that point? At the end of the day, yeah, we can’t get nit-picky about certain percentages. Did you just waste three weeks? And what is that like over ten years? You know, that’s thirty weeks. That’s half a year.
The Progressive Overload Scheme
James Cerbie: But can I interject here just super quick, just so people listening. I just want to make sure they’re following along. So, when we talk about this progressive overload scheme, just like a random example, right. We’re adding sets every week. So maybe it’s like you go three sets, four sets, five sets over the course of a three-week span. Right. We’re trying to find your tipping point of where you’re like, hey, bro, I am torched. And then we’re going to cycle back and kind of repeat that process.
Michael Lexner: Yeah. And sometimes there was progression in weight, right. We were looking for a progression in weight over time or progression, and they use RIR, reps in reserve. So, it was like, all right, first week we’re doing three RIR. Ben and Ryan are going to be laughing because we would do three RIR. You’re like, oh, did you just work that set or were you just warming up kind of thing.
And, you know, you do that for everything, and we won and you never get a stimulus. The stimulus said at the end of the day, I mean, you’re going two RIR, you’re not going one RIR in the big things. And you get at least one failure set every week in every exercise. And this is why I hire a coach. Right.
This is why I pay extra money to have him program for me, because I’m learning as he’s writing things right. I’m like, OK, this is why he’s doing it. I have my CSCS, and I don’t have a background in exercise science, but I’ll go to bed reading a textbook, butI’ll figure that out. Right. I’ll be like, oh, this is why you’re doing this. Here’s the progressive overall. This is why you took a step back this week when I told you this one thing.
And then I was like, all right, I can write this program for myself, not really learning much here relative to the money I was spending. And then I was like, I’ll spend this money elsewhere. And like I said, there was a progression there. When I was talking to Ben and he had said, I’d hate to tell you you’re not doing it because then your mindset might be switched for the other thing.
So, if you’re with a coach and you’re making progress and you’re happy with the progress, I mean, what are we nitpicking at that point? And like you said, there’s a difference between hypertrophy programing and trying to compete. Right. Like, I don’t need that step just yet. I want to get there. But right now, I’m progressing right here perfectly fine. We can argue, could I get 0.5 pounds of muscle if I went over here, maybe that’s going to be an issue at some point. And my biggest takeaway from this, I’m 6″4, 6″5.
There was a lot of pleading on my side to be like, hey, man, I don’t feel like I’m really getting quad hypertrophy with these squats. Can we try something else? And then when there was a lot of pushback of, yeah, we’re getting knee flexion, so, there has to be quad hypertrophy. And then it was like, OK, but I’m not really getting sore in my quads. Not that that’s always a super good indicator of hypertrophy, but I’m not getting a pump in my quads. When we’re doing 8 to 10 sets.
You know, I feel maybe in my back. I don’t even feel it in my hips. I don’t feel like it’s a hip dominant squat. I just kind of feel like I want to die after I squat. Once again, I’m not really feeling specifically. So, if I’m doing powerlifting, and I need to squat because it’s sport specific, then yeah, OK, I get it. It doesn’t really matter where I’m feeling it or where I’m adding muscle.
But when I’m going for a specific goal and I’m like, hey dude, I just don’t think I’m made like everyone else. You’re telling me to do 20 sets of incline in a week with a barbell, and I’m not really feeling my chest, but my shoulders are getting bigger. It was a constant pleading and a constant, well, it works for everyone else.
James Cerbie: So, are you barbell front squatting or high bar back?
Michael Lexner: High bar back. Yeah.
The Importance of Exercise Selection
James Cerbie: I think this was one place I was hoping we were going to get into, which is the exercise selection piece of this. I think that’s probably the biggest game changer for people. So, people that listen to this podcast know that we aren’t married to any implement. I’m married to an outcome. I think the fact that people are still married to barbells is fucking outrageous. We need to move on, get over it.
If you don’t compete in a sport that uses a barbell, why use a barbell? Right. And your perfect example, your anthropometrics, your biomechanics, how you’re built. You’re probably not going to get quad if you do just a barbell squat, and so with that being your goal, it’s like, well, this works for a lot of other people. Awesome, but it doesn’t work for you. So, don’t be married to the implement.
Right. So, now you’re focusing more on the hack squat. In particular, reverse band hack squat, right?
Michael Lexner: Yeah, it’s been a big change, and it’s the same thing with the barbell bench too. And I’ll go on with the journey was from there. I was down with Ryan L’Ecuyer in Texas, and we were trying to play it around. Right. I was like, man, I’ve made so many, and I get there’s a barrier between online coaching sometimes. I’ve made so many cries for help that, hey, these aren’t working.
So, he was kind of setting me up on the prime platforms of squatting. And it’s like, yeah, now I need the five-inch platform. I’m wearing heels, so I can actually get quad, right. My torso can stay straight up, so now the weight’s farthest away from my my knee joint. Now we’re actually getting weight on my quad instead of I’m doing just a kind of a hip flexion and all the weights now away from my hip joint.
Then you start talking physics, and that was something that I went to, and I was like, oh, this all makes sense. I mean, I took physics. I mean, my degree’s in accounting. I understand the math behind this. And then also Ryan showed me from a barbell bench. He’s like, man, you’re just getting all shoulder with that. You need to keep those elbows in and down. Like, this is how people bench in powerlifting, too.
It’s not like elbows out like this. It’s down. And I started getting some from benching. But with those two things, it’s hard for me to load it right. It’s like, OK, he recommended he had done the podcast with Ben House, and he was like, hey, listen to that. And then I listen to that. And I was like, oh, shit. Like, this makes sense. I can load that hack squat, and that weight’s, once again, farthest away from my knee joint.
So, now I’m loading my quad instead of me putting high heels on to squat, and now I can only squat 135. Right. Because I can’t really stand upright, and I can’t load specifically like that. And it’s the same thing with the barbell bench. You know, I can come down here all I want, but I’m not going to be able to load that as much as when I have two dumbbells and I can actually do a chest arm pass here.
And yeah, that was kind of my progression through that. And also, like I had said, you know, N1, they talk a lot about the physics of everything, right. How are you going to load a joint? You want the weight away from you. It’s like when you’re doing a walking lunge, you put that weight out in front of you, then you’re loading that hip joint. Right. You’re going to keep an upright torso.
Then you’re loading that knee joint, and it’s like that stuff clicks. And I’m like, oh, so they’re not telling everyone to do the same thing either. My femurs are bigger than your whole arm. So, yeah, it’s like it’s like I can’t be doing the same thing as someone who’s 5″5, especially in the bodybuilding sphere. Anyways, that was the progression and the jump from from coach to coach or just my journey of figuring out like, hey, what is optimal for me?
Everyone needs to look at that from an exercise selection standpoint. Right. Like if you’re barbell back squatting and your erectors are huge, but your quads are the size of your bicep. It’s like, what are you doing there? That’s cool. Yeah. That guy across the gym thinks you’re huge because you just put five plates on the thing. Good morning. But how big are your quads? Do you care about how you look? Maybe not.
That’s fine. Then go into powerlifting competition. Sweet. But then there’s an argument against that too. Like the more cross-sectional muscle you have, the stronger you’re going to be in that powerlifting competition. So, you’re going to have to do a hypertrophy phase at some point if you’re powerlifting, and you’re going to want to make sure you are specifically targeting those muscles because you don’t want to waste that hypertrophy phase, and you don’t need a barbell on your back, even if you power lift all year long. You need to do that hypertrophy phase because once again, that is going to transfer into your your lifts at the meet.
Picking the Right Exercise
James Cerbie: This is getting into a topic where I think we as an industry need to spend far more time, because I think that we’re slowly making progress in terms of slaughtering these old cows, essentially, of good and bad exercise, as per say. Right. Like most things aren’t good or bad until put within a specific context with a specific individual. Right. You’re a perfect example of we need to ask better questions. We need to dig deeper to figure out like, what’s the actual right exercise for this person to get this outcome.
In hypertrophy, I think one of the things for people listening that’s really helpful, you can audit yourself on when you’re doing an exercise, where do you actually feel like you’re failing? What is your limiting factor in the exercise you’re doing? Because if I put a bar on your back, I’m pretty sure the limiting factor is not going to be your legs. Something else is going to go first, and you can track that down to any exercise that you do.
But if you like, I really would like to get some quad hypertrophy, or I’m really trying to get more lat here. And you do the exercise, and you feel like you’re failing, but you’re not failing because of that muscle fatigue, then it’s like, OK, maybe the exercise set up and execution is wrong. Let’s start there first. Maybe we can change how it’s being performed. If we get it dialed in and it’s still not there, then maybe that’s just a shitty exercise choice for you, right?
Michael Lexner: Yeah, for sure. I mean, what I’ve been really practicing on for hypertrophy, just overall hypertrophy is just overhead snatches. They just get me huge. I feel like everyone should do that because, you know, that’s what makes your shoulder mobility good or whatever. I mean. Yeah, but like you said, where are you failing? I mean, because when I was squatting, and I can put a barbell on my back too if I want to, and I even have people who might be like, oh you just wear lifter shoes. And it’s like, oh, you don’t have ankle flexion. All right, shut the fuck up.
Yeah. First of all, I have genetic flexibility. You wouldn’t think I could touch my toes in a million years, but I can. You’re saying bullshit stuff, right? Like you’re just talking out your ass.
James Cerbie: It’s the regurgitation. It’s like they heard someone else say this thing. You probably heard it from this other someone else. It’s just like trying to pin everybody into these fucking little nicely made boxes. Right.You just have to ask more questions. Ask better questions.
Michael Lexner: Yeah. I mean, like I said, when I’m squatting, I couldn’t even tell you where I was failing. I was just like, I’m just exhausted. Yeah. Maybe my upper back. I feel like I developed lats by squatting. Seriously! I don’t deadlift off the floor anymore because after I get full hip flexion work, what else am I doing. I’m just getting thoracic flexion. Right. I mean, and what am I training at that point? So, there’s just a point where it’s like, what are you trying to get?
Are you trying to get glute? Or are you trying to show the girl across the room that you can deadlift 700 pounds because that’s fine, but let’s just be real about it, right? I’m sure girls love that shit. But if you’re trying to build your glutes, don’t say that 5″5 guy who can get into hip flexion and still grab that bar and me who’s 6″5, gets into hip flexion and can’t even grab the bar without, oh, I don’t have hip mobility. Shut up. I’ll fucking put you through a wall. Like, what do you mean? How many exercises do you want me to do pre my workout? I can get hip flexion for sure. How much more hip flexion do you want me to get and what’s even worth it at that point?
Barbell Squat Versus Hack Squat
James Cerbie: And this is where I think as we drill down and get better with our exercise selection, which is something that we spend a lot of time on, this transfers over into the athletic performance realm as well. Because even if you have athletes, like you mentioned, we’re going to go through hypertrophy phases. It’s going to happen. Right. And it’s like, why not hack squat my athletes during a hypertrophy phase? There’s no written rule of nature that these people need to be squatting with a straight bar.
Why not hack squat? That’s a better choice. I’m going to get more quad hypertrophy. I’m going to get the outcome that I’m actually chasing for these people.
Michael Lexner: Yeah, think there’s a lot of fear, right. You feel like you’re going to lose it, which is crazy because I’d get nervous if I went on vacation for a week, but like, it comes back. Right. And it’s very cool to see some of these things because I track everything, like I’m tracking my measurements every week. And those things can fluctuate so hard, especially if you’re losing weight. The last phase I was in, I was doing a more of an intensity phase.
I was doing more strength based stuff, and we were losing weight while keeping muscle. And you see all the measurements go down and you’re like, oh, shit. But within a week to two weeks back into a hypertrophy phase, those things are back higher than they were before. Right. I get the fear of of losing five pounds on your squat or going to that hack squat and then coming back to the squat and be like, I have to fucking go down 50 pounds or 100 pounds.
And it’s like, yeah, but in two weeks you’re back, right? Like, yeah. The first initial piece might be gone for a week, but you’re back with more weight on there because now you have more hypertrophy in your quads and your glutes and whatever you focus on at that time. Use the fucking leg press the right way, and you get these pieces, like you said, with the exercise selection. And, you know, those are good tools, even outside of the hypertrophy phase.
And when you’re in your strength phase, right. And what N1 does really well is how to use the leg press for specific muscle groups instead of putting ten plates on it. Cool. You can do that. But you can you do it, so you bias glute. Can you do it so you bias adductor. Where are you lacking? I don’t need you to put a band around your legs and walk right and then walk left to get glute.
You get glute in hip flexion. What are you doing? And if you can hypertrophy from that, then you’re going to be using that once again, as you say, slingshot forward into your strength based stuff. You look at someone like Ryan L’Ecuyer. The kid’s an animal. He can deadlift well over 600 pounds. And as a natural athlete, because he does hypertrophy, right? Yeah. Because he’s hypertrophied, and he knows how to target his specific muscles. And he uses those phases to go into his powerlifting.
The Necessity of Moving Load
James Cerbie: Yeah, the dude is an actual meat titan. He is yoked. The first big thing to hammer on here is just the importance of quality exercise selection. Don’t get married, oh these exercises are good. And because whoever said whatever. We need to dig deeper and think what’s the outcome we want first? And then let’s backtrack to find the right exercise for that person at that time to get that outcome.
Yeah. We need to do a better job of really funneling down and thinking through, what is this exercise actually doing? OK, so I think part two, it should be good to jump into for people because we’ve talked about this before, is and it ties into this hard work component and moving load because I’ve definitely done this before where I’m so worried about this mind muscle connection and like feeling all these things that I just I’m really limiting the amount of load that I can move as opposed to kind of like trusting in myself, being in the position.
I mean, let’s rip a little bit more weight. That’s another big one in this realm, right? You have to fucking move load if you want to make a muscle get bigger.
Michael Lexner: Yeah, and I think that was one of the I get where R.P. was saying, you know, you’re getting knee flexion, so you’re getting it. So, they’re just saying, oh, you’re set up for the squat or you’re set up for knee flexion, so, you’re getting quad hypertrophy. So, it doesn’t matter, and yes and no. Right. So, I just wasn’t set up properly. If the weight is loaded away from my knee joint and I’m squatting more upright, and you’ll see that Chinese lifters, right? Because they’re probably 5″5.
James Cerbie: They also have a different pelvic structure. They have a pelvis built to squat.
Michael Lexner: Yeah. And I mean, that’s why they’re in that sport. Right. And loading in a specific way, like you get in the hack squat, and you get your legs positioned where you need to position. And like you said, you just trust you’re getting knee flexion right now. The weight is on your back. You’re upright. You’re not going to get too much hamstring or hip in this movement. If you keep your lower back on the machine, you’re going to not change the actual lift.
You’re going to get this. And like you said, it’s not to just feel that quad because that can take off ninety something pounds. We talked about it right where I went to an N1 seminar, and Kassam came up to me and I’m just doing a row on the cable row, and he kind of puts one hundred more pounds on there and he’s like, get off that. And he starts doing and he’s like, dude, what are you doing?
He’s like, you’re not using any weight. He’s like, you’re contracting your mind and it’s transferring into the weight you’re using. And I think we spoke before about it. That might be useful at the beginning. Right. That might be useful to be like, OK, like you said, am I failing here or am I getting caught in this? Am I getting lat? Am I getting bicep? Because even you see people doing bicep curls. Oh, that’s a shoulder exercise. Is your bicep pumped? Do you feel it in your bicep?
I mean, that’s a good place to start, right. Because then you’re like, all right, I get the setup. I get now that I’m using this. And then you can get used to start ripping the weight without the failure in the actual form. And you’re just like, all right, I’m not even to think about the mind. I’m just going to get this up within the form that I’m using, and I’m set up properly for and I’ll be able to use weight without even thinking about it? You’re talking about doubling the weight. Maybe you did one hundred fifty pounds and now I’m doing two hundred fifty pounds on the weight.
So, it’s fatiguing to do the mind muscle connection stuff. Once again, cool for a beginner, cool for something that you’re trying to figure out, which exercises are right for you or which placement in the exercise is right for you. But after that, you have to take the training wheels off, and with that will come the weight.
Finding Confidence in Your Technique
James Cerbie: For sure, I think on the front end, when we are learning a new exercise and we’re experimenting with exercises, but we’ll slow it down because I do want to make sure that you’re actually feeling, giving what we want out of this exercise. Right. But once we kind of have that down, once we have the technique, once we’re pretty confident we’re kind of hitting what we want then. Yeah, like take off the training wheels. Let’s move some load and let’s move some weight because you got to.
Michael Lexner: You can have a lateral raise turn into a hip pump. You’re not even using it. So, you’re talking about within reason. You don’t have to feel your delts, but you have to make sure, all right, I can feel them by not jumping, and then go up and wait and don’t even think about it. But don’t be changing your form either. I mean, I’m sure we all see examples in the gym. You’re like, what are you working over there, guys?
James Cerbie: That’s one of those things where it’s a fine balance. And I think that’s just going to come with training and experience, and exposures. You’ll get better at getting that fine balance of being confident in your technique and then being able to focus on the load that’s being moved. So, are there any other really big takeaways you would like for people to walk away with? Because right now, I think we have the importance of exercise selection. In particular, stopping married fucking barbells, like, can we please move past that?
If I can have one contribution to the strength and conditioning community, if it could be that people stop treating the barbell like the second coming of Christ would be fantastic. And then being like this mind muscle connection bit of like, don’t baby yourself, but get the technique down and feel confident in it. But then let’s take off the training wheels, move some load. I think those are two really big nuggets that people can take with them. Are there any others that you feel like could be really important to mention or touch on?
Michael Lexner: No, I mean, I could just go into my pet peeves at the gym, but the barbell thing, it’s you just don’t see a lot of examples of it. Right. I mean, you don’t see a lot of examples of it, probably because you don’t see top level bodybuilders honestly, because they’re not doing that. Right. I mean, sometimes you see they’re on a smith machine and they’re using that.
I mean, essentially they’re kind of doing that. They’re taken away. They just put that on their back and trying to fold at the hip sort of thing. They’re trying to get that focus on that piece. Maybe they don’t have a hack squatter or whatnot, or they like to switch up the exercise selection at that point. Then you’re thinking, how many drugs is this person on anyways? But like, I’m 6″4, weighed 275 this morning.
I haven’t touched a barbell in over a year. I’ve gained a lot of muscle. It’s not something to be afraid of. I get where the initial piece comes from because you get that dopamine, right, you see your weight’s progress on an actual barbell and you’re like, oh, this is what I like, or this is what I get addicted to. Or like you said, you see your squat go up.
So, if you stop squatting, what’s going to do it? Or like someone looks at me weird because I only hack squat, and then you have to find a real hack squat too. Or like you’re like, what are you doing? The dumbbells. There’s not going to be as much as you can put on the barbell. So, you don’t feel as cool. I don’t know. At the end of the day, like you said, you have to look at your goal and if you are powerlifting, obviously you can’t get around it.
James Cerbie: If you’re a powerlifter, an Olympic lifter, a CrossFitter, or a Strong Man, you’ve got to use a straight bar. It’s part of your sport, right? I think part of the reason we’re so married to it is like we think about strength and conditioning as an industry, like we are so rooted in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. That is the grandfather of training conditioning are those sports. That’s really where things started was in those two realms.
So, I can appreciate and respect that that’s where we’re coming from. And if you compete in any of the sports I just mentioned, then you’ve got to use a barbell because it’s part of your sport. But if you’re not competing in those sports, and we’re just looking to put on strength or hypertrophy or power or endurance, then we’ve got to disassociate ourselves from the barbell or the tool and just really focus on the outcome, and then work and trackback from that.
Michael Lexner: Yeah, at the end of the day, if you’re just trying to look better naked and perform better, there’s less injury risk, right?
The Basic Concepts of Complexity
James Cerbie: Less complexity, right? It’s just basic concepts of complexity. If you draw an X, Y axis, and I think of complexity and outcome, I want to be at the lowest level of complexity that gives me the same, if not greater outcome.
Michael Lexner: Yeah. And I can jump a hack squat and still get out of it. I’m 6″4 and can hit the bottom of it and still be fine, you know what I mean. Like you could do that as well. Easily you can get out of it. You’re never going to crush yourself under a hack squat. You’re not going to crush yourself under a dumbbell. You just go done. Oh, I’m done. You don’t hit me and you’re not going to leave that thing on your chest.
And you can actually go to a point of failure where you may have not been able to go, especially if you don’t have a training partner with the other pieces. Right. And once again, it’s much harder to take your motion in your bench press or even in a squat and switch to something else with a dumbbell or hack squat. Right. You can go low back real quick with a barbell on your back and you can go shoulder real quick with a barbell on your chest.
Right. So, do you have more chance of injuring yourself from that standpoint? I mean, give or take at that point. Why be married to something when you can add in little things like injury prevention? Obviously, there’s much more. It’s probably people aren’t recovering as well.
James Cerbie: It’s a layered conversation. Like, there’s a lot there. We’re definitely not saying that if you use a barbell, you’re going to get injured. Right.
Michael Lexner: We’re just saying, if you use a barbell, you’re a piece of shit. Just kidding. Just kidding. I’m judging you.
James Cerbie: We should just make you a tank top or a T-shirt that says, fuck barbells. I love it.
Gym Pet Peeves
Michael Lexner: One second, I’ll get my pet peeves. Don’t text while you’re working out. Don’t be on the phone while you’re working out. That’s crazy. I mean, are you even working out at that point? Let’s be real. If you’re going to use the dumbbells, get the fuck away from the dumbbell rack. That shit blows my mind. The kids crawl in front of the dumbbell rack.
But yeah, I mean, and just I guess kind of on top of all this stuff is, you know, this is just one piece of it. Make sure you eat. I mean, that’s the end of the day. That’s yeah. That’s another huge piece to talk about.
James Cerbie: A very small portion of this.
Michael Lexner: Yeah. I mean, that’s the point. Right. And you can ask Ryan when he comes on the stuff, too, it’s like you’re not gaining muscle if you’re not on calorie surplus. If you’re only in a calorie surplus for a week, what are you doing? I mean, at the end of the day, you can stay skinny all you want, but there’s two pieces to it, right? I think a lot of people miss the boat on the food piece. If you’re not eating, you’re not going to get that big for sure.
James Cerbie: For sure. Yeah. We just don’t have time to like dive into everything because there’s complexity. There’s so many layers to this. We’ve hammered more on the nuts and bolts of what’s going on when you actually train. But then, yeah, we got to think about the nutrition. We have to think about the supplementation. We have to think about sleep. We got to think about the outside stressors. Are you going on 20 mile hikes on the weekend? We have to have those conversations. So, the pet peeves are, don’t text. Don’t be on your phone. And don’t stand in front of the dumbbell rack.
Michael Lexner: There’s other people in the fucking gym. Jesus Christ. Yeah. And then you steal my fucking weights off my machine like dude, you’re getting my Boston accent right away, and I’m death staring you. So, I’m going to take it right off your barbell that you just put it on, and I’m going to be like, what are you fucking doing, guy? Like, my shit’s right there.
James Cerbie: The joys of gym life. It’s just until we build our ranch and then no one’s going to be allowed to come.
Michael Lexner: Well, ask Ryan. I’ll eat Fruity Pebbles in front of him while he’s deadlifting. He thinks I’m a piece of shit. Steal all his mangoes.
James Cerbie: That’s one of my biggest pet peeves is someone setting up for a lift, and then you walk in front of them. If you’re setting up for a squat or setting up for a deadlift, and I go to pull, or I go to squat, and somebody walks right in front of me. I’m like, oh, you mother fucker.
Michael Lexner: Is ruins your concentration that bad?
James Cerbie: It’s not that bad. I just hate it. Right. Because it’s like you have a routine, you have a flow. If someone does walk in front of you, you’re like, yo, just walk behind me, walk over here, walk over there. I think it’s a bigger deal in Olympic lifts and things like that. But yeah. If you’re trying to pull big weight or squat big weight, you want to be focused entirely on that one outcome, like I don’t want anything in front of me that’s potentially distracting my brain away from like that singular task.
Michael Lexner: What about a girl with a big ass? Because then you’re talking about there’s got to be some sort of driver.
James Cerbie: It’s just ancestral Neanderthals and driven strength. It’s like the South Park episode where the girls start to have boobs for the first time. The guys all walk around, and they turn to cavemen, like oh yeah.
Michael Lexner: That’s pretty much the joke to be real.
James Cerbie: Thank you so much for coming on. If people want to find you, and you would like to be found, where is the best place for them to look?
Michael Lexner: I mean, they can look on my Instagram; I don’t really do much online, but if you want DM me or some shit, have any questions about hypertrophy training or anything like that, let me know. I’m always an open book.
James Cerbie: So, what’s your IG handle?
Michael Lexner: I’m sorry, @michaellexner. It’s pretty simple. First name and last name.
James Cerbie: Oh, fantastic. All right, man. Everybody have a beautiful week. We’ll talk soon. Yeah, that’s all I got for you, later.
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