How to Build a Killer Body I

Build a killer body with free weights and suspension straps with this old school meets new school workout.

You may have noticed one of the latest additions in your gym — those cool-looking yellow and black straps, likely from TRX International, hanging in certain sections of the training facility. Perhaps even one of your friends has a similar kit in his home gym. If you haven’t seen this gear yet, trust us, you soon will. The fitness world is witnessing the growth of suspension training, or more broadly, bodyweight leverage training, which has been increasingly used by professional sports teams in recent years and is now infiltrating the training environments of everyday gym heads like us.

According to surveys conducted by both the IDEA Health & Fitness Association and the American Council on Exercise, bodyweight leverage training will be one of the top programming trends among trainers in 2012. And there are good reasons for the explosion in the growth of this training technique: It’s a simple, versatile and very effective method for adding a new challenge to your workouts. Plus, the tools of suspension training make a nice addition to your home gym and, because they’re portable, they can easily accommodate an active guy’s lifestyle. Says, Bill Sonnemaker, MS, PES, CES, CSCS and founder of Catalyst Fitness in Atlanta, “What makes this equipment so accessible is its portability, whether at a commercial gym, personal training studio, home gym, camping trip or hotel room. It can be easily set up and used.”


Although you can get in a great workout exclusively using suspension equipment, a case can easily be made for getting a more rounded and comprehensive workout by combining suspension work with traditional workouts that use barbells, dumbbells, machines and so on. The best way to launch into suspension training without feeling like you’re a free-weight Benedict Arnold is to incorporate suspension moves into a classic push-pull free-weight regimen. And that’s what the new Reps! has created here exclusively for you.


Put simply, suspension training is just how it sounds: You either hold onto the suspension handles or suspend your ankles inside the straps and work out. The inherent instability of the suspension straps creates an additional challenge for your muscles, engaging them in different ways than with free weights. Additionally, the suspension approach forces your body to move into many new positions with which it’s unfamiliar during exercise. Hence, new neural patterns of movement may be established as you enlist muscle fibers that aren’t often engaged with more standard forms of resistance training.
Adjusting the resistance load (that is, the difficulty of a suspension exercise) is a simple matter. When holding onto the handles, the lower your torso is to the ground, the more difficult the exercise becomes. So, by moving your feet in one direction from the suspension point, you can reduce the angle of the exercise and increase the resistance. By moving in the opposite direction, you can increase the angle and reduce the resistance.
In other words, the closer you are to standing vertically the less difficult the exercise is; and the more severe the angle you create with your body, the more resistance you deliver to the working muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments.


This dynamic workout involves single sets and paired sets. The paired sets are indicated by A) and B) in both the workout charts and exercise descriptions. Perform each exercise in a given paired set back-to-back with as little rest as needed (e.g., do 12–15 reps of suspension biceps curls immediately after doing 10–12 reps of suspension rear-delt flyes, resting only as long as it takes to transition from one movement to the next).
Pairing exercise sets in this manner increases workout intensity by reducing the time between certain movements, which helps you complete more high-quality exercise in less time. Plus, it also allows you to work a greater number of muscles during a given training session, and the more muscles you work, the greater amount of calories you’ll burn!


Workout A: Upper Body Pull Day


  1. CHIN-UP

(Hits lats, biceps)
Using a shoulder-width or wider overhand grip, hang from a chinning bar, legs extended beneath you. You can cross your ankles and keep a slight bend in your knees. Slowly pull yourself up toward the bar until your chin has moved beyond its plane. Lower yourself slowly.


(Hits upper lats, mid-upper back)
Grasp a pair of dumbbells and bend forward at the waist until the torso forms a 45-degree angle or so. As your arms hang full, maintain a natural arch in the lower back. Retract your scapulae and pull up the dumbbells at an angle toward your sides, stopping when the dumbbells arrive …

Ball to the Wall for Hips

Get your hips moving better than Elvis with the wallball and box jump, two of the best hip-snap exercises in CrossFit

The explosive hip thrust is the most-often repeated technique in CrossFit, which you’ll find in kipping pull-ups, muscle-ups and dozens of other moves. “Women are more flexible through their hips, but guys seem to, ahem, understand the hip thrust a little better,” quips Justin James Hughes, a coach at CrossFit Studio City in Southern California. Here’s how to perfect two of the most powerful hip-snap moves: the wallball and box jump.



What You’ll Need: Grab a medicine ball that weighs at least 12 pounds but no more than 20 pounds, which is the prescribed weight for men. The soft Dynamax-style balls are best. You’ll also need a strong bare wall (no windows!) with a target marked at a height of 10 feet.

Setup: Stand in front of the wall with your toes about six inches away from the baseboard. Hold the medicine ball with both hands close to your chest so that the top of the ball is at chin level. Keep your elbows in and pointed down.

Execution: Drop into a relatively deep squat. Push through your heels and extend your knees. As you come up, explosively thrust your hips forward and extend your arms overhead, sending the medicine ball directly above you to the target. Catch the ball and use its momentum to drop into your next squat.

Coach’s Cues: Place a medicine ball directly behind you and make sure your glutes touch it at the bottom of the rep. “Butt balls,” as they are known, can help you learn to consistently hit the right depth, says Hughes.

Box Jump

What You’ll Need: Find a stable nonslip surface that’s between 20 and 30 inches high (24 inches is the prescribed height for men). Some high steps or a planter will do in a pinch as long as you can land with both feet on the object. If you train at home, think about investing in a plyometric box.

Setup: Stand in front of the elevated surface. Keep a slight bend in your knees with your weight on the balls of your feet and your hands and arms loose and relaxed.

Execution: Drop into a shallow squat and then explosively thrust your hips forward and bring your knees up toward your chest. At the same time, swing your arms directly over your head in a violent “ski pole” motion. Land with both feet completely on the box and fully extend your hips so you come to a full standing position. Step back down or jump both feet back to the ground.

Coach’s Cues: Coming off the box might actually be more important than jumping onto it. You can either step down one foot at a time, or jump down. Stepping down is easier on your Achilles tendons, but jumping down is far more efficient.


The Wallball/Box-Jump Workout



The workout features a favorite rep scheme of CrossFit, a classic case of stick and carrot. Perform 10 reps of wallballs and then one rep of a burpee box jump, then nine wallballs and two burpee box jumps and so forth. As the reps of one exercise ease off, the other only gets more difficult. A burpee box jump is exactly what it sounds like. Perform a burpee in front of a plyo box, but instead of finishing the burpee with a jump and clap, jump onto the box and extend your hips.


Bodybuilding: The Human Flag

Bodyweight fitness guru Brandon Carter teaches you how to rise to the challenge for one of the most difficult isometric moves: the human flag.

Some well-trained guys make the human flag look easy, but if you’ve ever tried this move, there’s a good chance you’ve come crashing down like a sack of potatoes. It requires a beastly amount of core strength, but for an extreme functional move that turns heads, it’s hard to top the human flag. All you need is a sturdy post (emphasis on sturdy!) and you’re ready to start.


Start out with a few sets of light crunches and oblique crunches to get your core muscles warmed up. Don’t push it too hard, though, because you don’t want to tire out those muscles. You’re going to need them, big-time, once you start working on your flag.

Hand position

If you’re doing the flag on a straight pole, place the hand that’ll be above your head in an overhand, pull-up position, and your bottom hand in an underhand, chin-up grip.If you’re using a pole that levels off on top (see photo), use a neutral grip for the top hand.


Once your hands are in place, hold the grip firmly and start out with your knees tucked, hips stacked vertically and the side of your lower foot resting on the ground. Engage your abdominals and obliques, shoulders and back muscles as you lean in toward the pole.

The flag

Rather than popping up explosively into the horizontal flag position, use your hip flexors and core muscles to get off the ground as high as you can. Beginners should keep their knees bent, as this
will ease the stress on the core muscles.

As you progress, you can start the flag raise with straight legs, or kick right into it with a sideways jump.


The Flag Workout

At the start, you may not be able to hold the flag for more than half a second, even with bent knees, but don’t get discouraged — it takes practice.

Do four sets of human flag raises with bent knees, 8–10 reps per side, with 30–45 seconds’ rest between sets, alternating sides after each set to make sure you work your muscles evenly.

Incorporate this workout into your abs routine three times per week and you’ll be flagging in no time.

For advanced human flag variations, watch Hit Richards in action:

Bar Gloves

Richards strongly urges using a good set of gloves when doing bar work. Gloves provide better overall grip, they absorb palm sweat that can cause slippage, and most importantly they prevent blisters.