Max Hammer Strength

In Coaching, Fitness Programs, Reviews by Dale HillLeave a Comment

Start with a pre-fatigued muscle, finish with a maximum lift. Increase strength, power, and muscular development 

Building a strong, sculpted body doesn’t require hours spent working out—just an expert approach. And with The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, seasoned trainers Sagi Kalev and Autumn Calabrese have compiled their best, most efficient techniques into 30- to 40-minute resistance-training workouts to help you craft a powerful, perfectly defined physique in just 60 days.

Throughout the entire 60 days, you’ll focus on Stabilization, Strength, and Power to rapidly build, sculpt, and refine your physique. Combine this training with proven portion-control nutrition-the way Sagi and Autumn do in The Master’s Hammer and Chisel-and you’ll build a body that’s strong, chiseled, and defined.

As I  embark on my own 60-Day Journey with The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, I will be reviewing each workout as they present themselves in the program calendar. I will add my own insights and observations about the workouts; the comments I make are my own as an Independent Certified Personal Trainer and do not necessarily represent the Celebrity Trainers or Beachbody. Full disclosure, I am also an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and a distributor of this program and all other Beachbody products. I hope the information I provide is beneficial in your personal fitness journey.

Max Hammer Strength735x1102The Master’s Hammer and Chisel has introduced a lot of training concepts that previously have not been seen in Beachbody training programs; Pre-Fatigue Training (also known as Pre-Exhaust Training) is one of those concepts. During this workout there are 10 series of exercises that follow a common pattern: a bodyweight exercise performed for maximum repetitions in a 60 second interval followed immediately by 8 repetitions of a compound exercise with maximum weight.

Pre-fatiguing a muscle by performing a single-joint or isolation move actually forces you to work harder on the compound movement. Take the bench press for example, if you’re doing progressive sets where you’re increasing your weight and decreasing your reps with each set, it’s likely that the synergist (helper muscles, in this case your triceps and anterior deltoids), may reach exhaustion before your Pectoralis Major (the primary mover) does, preventing you from fully exhausting your pecs.

By pre-fatiguing your chest with 60 seconds of push-ups, you’re already pushing the limits of the pecs so when you ‘super set’ (go directly from one move to the next with no rest) from the push-up to 8 reps of bench press with a heavy weight, your tris and delts are relatively fresh and you’re able to push your pecs to work harder on the press – really targeting the muscle you want to work.

Pre-fatiguing introduces a different type of intensity to your training and by mixing things up, is a great plateau buster. Our bodies are masters of adaptation; if we do the same thing long enough our bodies adapt to that activity and  work to find a leveling point: homeostasis. Training advances come from disrupting that equilibrium, constantly putting the muscle tissue under stress, breaking it down (at a micro level) and forcing it to rebuild.  This technique is just another tool in your toolbox to achieve that goal.

The first series includes body weight Reverse Lunges followed by Reverse Lunges with maximum weight, complete one set on the right side then switch to the left side. Sixty seconds of bodyweight reverse lunges should be performed at moderate to fast speed, the goal is to pre-fatigue the muscle but don’t sacrifice form. You’ll notice that in the image capture below Sagi is slightly more forward pushing his front knee out shortening the angle in the forward leg and opening up the angle in the rear. Strive to maintain 90 degree bends in both knees as you drop into the lunge, keep your chest up, shoulders back and look straight ahead.

Remember the sequence is: bodyweight reverse lunge right leg for 60 seconds, reverse lunge right leg with max weight 8 reps; repeat for the left leg.

As mentioned above, the format for this entire workout is to pre-fatigue the muscle with 60 second bodyweight movement and follow immediately with a compound movement using maximum weight. You’re only doing 8 repetitions, so go as heavy as you can safely lift while maintaining proper form. Hold the dumbbells at your sides, keep your shoulders back and step back into a reverse lunge and recover. Feel the drive and power in your forward heel and quadricep as you return to a standing position.

The second series focuses on the chest and starts with 60 seconds of standard push-ups. The emphasis of this move is on the chest and Pectoralis Major, so keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart to avoid engaging the triceps as the primary mover.

Move into position for the Dumbbell Chest Press, sit at the end of the bench with your weights in your hands resting on the tops of your thighs, as you lean back you can kick up each leg to assist in getting the weight into position. Your feet should be firmly planted on the floor, your low back should be flat on the bench and the weights held on either side of your chest with arms bent at 90 degrees.

Be careful of your weight selection, the idea is 8 reps with maximum weight, however when you’re working with dumbbells you don’t have the safety of a rack to catch the weights if you fail during the set. Plan for failure. What I mean by that is understand what you’re going to do with the weights if you can’t complete the full set. My personal gym is in my garage, I have a concrete floor with 3/4″ dense rubber mats as my ‘gym floor’. The mats I use were purchased at a local feed store and are stall mats, the same we use to line the stalls for our draft horses – they’re designed to hold up under 2,000 pound horses, day in and day out. I’m not worried about dropping a 65 pound dumbbell on my mats; however if I was working out in my living room and had carpet or hardwood floors on a plywood subfloor – I’d certainly have a different outlook about dropping a heavy dumbbell on the floor. Have a plan for what happens if you fail at the weight you’re attempting.

Execute the press. Push the dumbbells straight up, fully extending your arms and return to the starting position. Exhale on the exertion and inhale as you lower the weights – Don’t hold your breath! Maintain positive control of the weights through the full range of motion.

Often the modification shown for a movement is easier in the sense that you modify the speed, range of motion or load involved in the movement. In many of the modifications in The Master’s Hammer and Chisel program, you’ll see the a stability ball replaces the bench. In a training environment, progressing from a stable base to an unstable base is just that, a progression and it is inherently more difficult. Note the shoulder positioning on the ball, it is important to support your neck when performing presses on a stability ball. The level of difficulty is increased because not only are you loading the chest muscles, you are having to stabilize your core and lower body to prevent lateral movement on the ball. Again, be cautious about the weight you select and know where they’re going to go in the event you reach failure during the movement.

The third series takes you back to working your legs with squats. Start with 60 seconds of ‘Air Squats’, take your stance with feet slightly wider than hip width, hold your shoulders back and keep your head upright and look forward. Squat down as if you were sitting back in a chair, feel the weight in your heels as you come down to a position with your hamstrings parallel to the floor. There are a few options for hand positioning, I like to bring my arms up in front of my chest as I’m moving downward in the squat and allow them to swing naturally back to my side as I come out of the squat.

In the loaded squat you will position the weights at shoulder height, palms facing inward, this may seem awkward at first and it may take some concentration to maintain the proper form as you go down into the squat, keep your abs pulled in and your core tight to protect your lower back. With the weight in front of your shoulders, this squat is going to be a greater challenge to your core and will place greater emphasis on your quadriceps. Complete 8 reps with maximum weight.

The Pull-up/Pullover series is designed to target your Latissimus Dorsi. Take a wide, overhand grip for your pull-ups and use your lats to pull your chin up to the bar. Avoid ‘kipping’ or swinging your feet to gain momentum to complete more repetitions, the idea is to focus on the large muscles of your back to do the work. Using a pull-up assist is a good transition tool to performing full bodyweight pull-ups, always attempt to do them full-range of motion without the assist first, and record how many you do, before moving to the assist. If you don’t have a pull-up bar, use a resistance band looped through a secure anchor point at or above eye level. You can see a full description of using the bands for pull-ups in the Chisel Cardio post.

While pull-ups are arguably one of my least favorite moves, the dumbbell lat pullover is probably one of my favorites. Place the weight on the bench next to you and position your shoulders to make sure you have support for your neck. Grasp the weight and bring it up over your chest, arms extended with a very slight bend at the elbow.

Lower the weight until your arms are parallel with the ground, they should remain extended and the bend at the elbow is minimal to allow clearance on either side of your head. Sagi often cues this move as thinking of your arms as two hoops going down around your head, don’t allow the weight to drop too far down, return the weight to the starting position by pulling up through the lats as opposed to the triceps. The primary joint movement is in the shoulder, not the elbow.

Just as with the bench press performed on the stability ball, the lat pullover has it’s unique challenges of balance in addition to the primary work of lifting the weight. Keep your feet firmly planted on the floor, your hips up and level, engage your core to prevent the ball from rolling side to side during the lift. It’s easier to exceed the recommended range of motion while using the ball, so focus on stopping the weight as your arms reach parallel with the ground.

The squat had us targeting the glutes and quadriceps, this series with The Good Morning and Stiff Leg Deadlift are aimed at blasting your hamstrings. there are three primary muscles that comprise what we refer to collectively as the ‘hamstrings’,  the Biceps Femoris, the Semitendinosus and the Semimembranosus. The biceps femoris is the lateral hamstring (toward the outside of your leg) and the two ‘semi’ muscles make up the medial hamstring or the muscles closer to the inside of the leg.

Perform the Good Morning by hinging your hips forward, with a straight back – lower your torso until it is parallel with the floor. Traditionally good morning’s are done with a barbell on the back of the shoulders so lifters normally will place their hands behind their head as this closely mimics the movement of steadying a barbell. In this set, you’ll just be using your bodyweight so hand placement isn’t as critical. I personally place my hands, both palms open with one hand on top of the other, in the small of my back as I hinge forward. It’s important to keep your back flat and really feel the stretch in your hamstrings.

Grasp the weights in your hands and perform the same movement, keeping the weights close to your legs as you hinge and lower your torso. The strength comes from your hamstrings and extending your hips as you raise up so be mindful not to round your back or pull with your shoulders. Keep your arms and legs straight throughout the full range of motion.

Back to the back with the sixth series. To pre-fatigue your Lats, you’ll do a traditional chin-up for 60 seconds. Take a narrow underhand grip on a chin-up bar and pull yourself up to bring your chin level with the bar keeping your elbows in towards your side. Lower down until your arms are fully extended and repeat. As with pull-ups, a chin-up assist may be used if you’re unable to do a full series of body weight chin-ups. If you don’t have a bar, a properly secured resistance band can be used instead. Grasp the handles in an underhand grip, palms facing up, assume a forward lunge position with arms fully extended and shoulder width apart. Pull toward you body bringing your elbows into your  sides, maintain the same relative width throughout the full range of motion.

There are two common methods of supporting your body during a one arm bent over dumbbell row, the first as shown below is to place one hand on the bench extend one leg behind you. The second is to place your knee and hand of supporting arm on bench. Position foot of opposite leg slightly back and to side. Executing the move is the same regardless of the setup, pull the weight up from the ground until it reaches your rib cage or your triceps are parallel to the ground, lower to the starting position and repeat.

This next series is going to focus on the adductors or inner thigh. The first move is the ‘Stay Low Sumo’ which is a sumo squat with limited range of motion. Assume a wide stance with toes pointed outward, hands may be held together in front of the sternum, lower down into a sumo squat with your knees tracking and in alignment with your feet. Pull your abs and keep your back straight; you may find that you’re able to go lower in this stance than in a traditional squat. When you come up, only come up 3/4 of the way, do not fully extend your legs and repeat. This limited range of motion will keep your adductors under tension throughout the entire 60 seconds.

Take the same wide stance as with the body weight sumo squat. Grasp your dumbbell and hold it at chest height with your elbows in and close to your sides. Once again, this is a move where I personally prefer a kettlebell because I just find them easier to hold onto in this position, no matter what you use for weight, hold it close to your chest and keep your arms tucked in to your sides through the full range of motion. lower down into a full sumo squat and return to a standing position by straightening your legs; this will be a full range of motion sumo squat with maximum weight.

Initially I was a little surprised to see the first part of this series call for a resistance band, after all, can’t you pre-fatigue the muscle by using a lighter weight dumbbell? However, after going through this first set with a band with decent resistance, I get it. My second time through this workout I actually backed down on my band selection and zeroed in on the best one to get me through the full 60 seconds and feel like I just barely made it.

B-LINESThis is probably a good point to digress and talk equipment. I own several different brands of resistance bands and the primary difference between the brands are the style of handle and connection methods. The two I use the most are the B-LINES bands sold by beachbody and the Bodylastics® brand. The B-LINES have a soft grip foam covered handle with nylon straps and a tapered molded plastic connector piece that holds the band in place while the Bodylastic® brand Bodylastichave a hard plastic grip with foam cover, nylon handle straps with a metal Ring, the BodyLastic® bands have a nylon connector strap with grommet the band is fed through, the strap terminates with a metal quick connect clip, this clip attaches to the handle ring. I like the versatility and the ability to quickly change the handles with the Bodylastic® bands (they have a variety of handle options and ankle cuff styles), however the B-LINES are lighter, I have handles for all the bands so they’re attached and ready to go, and there are no metal parts to get in the way. It’s this latter reason why I prefer my B-LINES bands for the military press. As you can see from the images below, the band is going to come in contact with the back of your hand and arm as you execute the press, I found the B-LINES to be the most comfortable for doing this move.

To position for the band military press, stand on your band, the wider your stance the greater the resistance (play around with the resistance level of the band you’re using and the stance you take to get the optimum combination for band tension and comfort in your stance). Bring your arms up so your triceps are parallel with the floor, palms facing forward, band behind your hand. Press straight upward fully extending your arms and lower to the starting position.

The seated military press with dumbbells will follow the same movement as the band press did, however your starting position will be seated on a bench with the back in the full upright position. Lift the weights so your triceps are parallel to the ground and your elbows are below your wrists. Press the weight straight up fully extending your arms and lower to the starting position. Avoid excessively arching your back as you press up and focus on keeping your core tight while maintaining a slight gap between your low back and the bench.

The Bulgarian Split Squat is a favorite in The Master’s Hammer and Chisel Program, you can various applications of it in Chisel Balance, Iso Strength Chisel, and Total Body Hammer. Just like the format in the opening series with the reverse lunge, you will do 60 seconds of a split squat with one foot up on the bench and follow that with Step-ups, 8 repetitions with maximum weight. The forward leg in the split squat will be the ‘planted’ foot on the bench during the step-ups. Once that set is done, change position and repeat with the other leg.

Positioning of your forward foot will determine the muscle activation you achieve, the further forward (away from the bench), your foot is, the more emphasis will be placed on the glutes and the muscles of the posterior chain. As you move your foot back (closer to the bench), the more the split squat will target the quadriceps.  If you do a simple search on the internet you will see people who coach this move with the ball of the back foot on the bench and some will coach it with the top of the foot on the bench. Throughout this program, you will see Sagi and Autumn set it up with the ball of your foot on the bench. This adds a greater balance element to the movement. After completing 60 seconds without weight, grab your heavy dumbbells prepare for Step-ups (the forward leg in the split squat, will be the plant leg on the bench for your step-ups).

The Step-Up will target your quadriceps and is a great exercise for people with low back problems as an alternative to deadlifts. Pick up two dumbbells and hold them at your sides, place your right foot on the bench or other stable platform, step up by extending your hip and knee, driving up through the heel of the foot on the bench. Bring your left leg up to the top of the bench and then step the left leg back down to the ground, repeat for 8 repetitions.

The tenth and final series will target your Gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, more commonly known as your calf muscles. The Gastrocnemius is the the superior muscle (closer to the surface) that forms the tell-tale heart shape of the calves, the soleus is deeper and can be seen as the muscle that bulges out on either side of the leg. The first set of calf raises are performed with the balls of your feet on an slightly elevated surface, as shown in the image below, the base of a bench makes a convenient ledge to perform the calf raises on.

Seated calf raises with dumbbells are performed seated on a bench with the dumbbells resting on your quads, hold them steady and raise the weights by lifting your heels up off the ground. You can generally go very heavy with this move as you’re resting the weights on your leg.

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