Author: Bret Contreras

I was there once - a skinny teenager with dreams of being the next Arnold. Actually, all I wanted was twenty pounds of muscle so I could stand up to high school bullies and gain confidence to talk to girls. If I got better at sports in the process, then that would be icing on the cake. Now, as a wise old lifter with almost twenty years of weight training experience, I've learned a thing or two. I've gained a ton of knowledge "in the trenches", I've gleaned considerable insight from fellow gym rats, and I've learned from all the reading...

Almost anyone who trains with weights is chasing a strong squat, a brutal bench press, and a dauntless deadlift. These three exercises, not to mention their grand total, are so bad-ass that an entire sport was built around them: the sport of powerlifting. The “big three” are used extensively not just by powerlifters but also bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, strongmen, and athletes. They're the three most popular lifts for good reason; they activate a ton of total-body motor units, they're very conducive to maxing out, and setting a personal record on one of the lifts can make your entire day better. These lifts...

There aren't many things you can do in the gym that are "manlier" than deadlifting a heavy barbell loaded with five plates per side. It's the ultimate cool factor, the one movement everyone stops to watch (plus it means you're strong as hell). I remember reading a passage from Brawn, a book by Stuart McRobert, that said with a few years of smart training, any average Joe should be able to bench 300 pounds, squat 400 pounds, and deadlift 500 pounds. (1) That’s a good goal for sure, but not one that many guys are hitting. In my experience as a lifter,...