Weightlifting & Calisthenics

Table of contents

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YouTube channels

How to perform reps

Shoulder packing

  • People who recommend it:
    • Scooby recommends it for all chest, shoulder, and lat exercises: Scooby's Workshop - Shoulder Packing
    • My CrossFit trainers were always pushing people to do it.
    • I also had a trainer at Equinox who recommended it when doing lat pull-downs.
  • My experiences:
    • I didn't write it down at the time but I have a vague memory of hurting myself when using shoulder packing while doing the dumbbell bench press.  IIRC it was caused by the fact that my scapulas had the full weight of my torso and the dumbbells resting on them.  I may have just been doing something wrong (maybe curling my back could've taken weight of the scapulas and put it more on my upper shoulders?).
    • I think I have noticed that shoulder packing has helped me avoid shoulder-joint pain when doing one-handed cable flies.

Rep ranges / time under tension

  • 2017.03.02 - YouTube - AthleanX - "3 Sets of 12" is KILLING Your Gains!!
    • This video has really stuck with me.
    • The main idea is that you want to aim to keep the muscle under tension for 45-60 seconds, and have it "fail" (unable to fully contract) within that time range, with the idea that you'll have performed around 8-12 reps in that time, but with the number of reps not mattering as much as the time under tension and performing to failure.  To drag out the reps over 45-60 seconds you go up (contract) quickly and then go down slowly.
    • From my personal experience I've found that doing this makes the muscle feel like someone is holding a fire to it as I get to the 35-40 second mark, which I suspect is a good sign.  I had that feeling happen to me the first session where I started doing cable ab curls and lying leg raises and the next week I felt like my abs were significantly stronger (I could do the 20# weighted captain's chair leg raises much easier than I could the previous week).



Figure eight straps
  • 2016.11.10 - BarBend - Giants Pro Figure of 8 Lifting Straps Review
    • If you’re looking for something that will bind you to a barbell throughout various lifts — but primarily heavy, heavy pulls — these are one of the most secure choices on the market.
    • For someone who wants a strap for strictly deadlifting or other heavy movements that don’t require ample mobility, it would be worth giving the Giants Pro Figure of 8’s a try.
    • These straps are not ideal for doing any form of Olympic lifting/weightlifting. The bar remains so secure that it actually inhibits your power movements that require ample mobility. This wouldn’t be a good wrap for those who plan to use it with Olympic or power focused exercises.

Wrist wraps

  • Undated - CrossFit Invictus - 5 tips for using wrist wraps
    • The purpose of a wrist wrap is to provide support to the wrist joint during heavy or max effort lifts in pressing movements and overhead lifts. During these movements, the wrist can be pulled into excessive extension under load and result in compromised mechanics, possible injury, and failed lifts.
  • 2014.11.19 - Tuff Wraps - 7 commonly asked questions about wrist wraps for CrossFit and powerlifting
    • When performing bench press or Olympic lifts which include a snatch, clean & jerk, push press, etc. the wrists are stressed into what we call the extension position [NW: this is where the wrist is bent backwards]. Under extreme heavy loads, an athletes form can be compromised which could result in a wrist injury or not completing the lift.
    • The primary purpose of the wrist wraps is to support you when lifting weights that are greater than 50% of your one rep max. If the weight is too heavy, there is a chance for a sprain/strain injury.

Programs / Training plans

Body-region-specific notes



  • Use shoulder packing: Scooby's Workshop - Shoulder Packing
  • 2013.05.25 - YouTube - Scooby - 10 Secrets For Huge Pecs
    1. Patience - huge pecs take years to develop.

    2. Don't neglect squeezing exercises; alternate pushing and squeezing exercises (like flys)

    3. No shoulders/triceps in the 2 days prior to chest workout

    4. Don't overtrain; work your pecs every 5-7 days.

    5. When you train chest, hit it hard. Don't mix it with exercises for other regions of your body.

    6. Vary rest between sets weekly.

    7. Use drop sets when going heavy, or you won't get enough of a workout.

    8. Shoulder packing - Pull your shoulders back and down.

    9. Good nutrition

    10. Hydration




  • Men's Fitness - The 30 best abs exercises of all time
    1. Ab Wheel Roll-out
    2. Arms-High Partial Sit-up
    3. Barbell Roll-out
    4. Barbell Russian Twist (Standing)
    5. Swiss Ball Crunch
    6. Dip/Leg-Raise Combo
    7. Flutter Kick
    8. Front Squat
    9. Horizontal Cable Wood-chop
    10. Leg Raise
    11. Medicine Ball Russian Twist
    12. Medicine Ball Mountain Climber
    13. Pike to Superman
    14. Plank
    15. Pull-up to Knee Raise
    16. Push-up Rocket
    17. Resisted Reverse Crunch
    18. Swiss Ball Roll-out
    19. Medicinal Ball Seated Knee Tuck
    20. Side Plank
    21. Sprinter
    22. Sit-up and throw (medicine ball)
    23. Star Plank
    24. Straight-Leg Barbell Sit-up
    25. Suitcase Deadlift
    26. Swiss Ball Plank Circle
    27. Swiss Ball V-Up and Pass
    28. Medicine Ball V-Up
    29. Weighted Sit-up
    30. Half Kneeling Chop


Lift-specific notes

Cable fly - high / High cable chest fly

Cable fly - low / Low cable chest fly

Dumbbell chest press

Dumbbell lateral raise

  • 2010.02.01 - YouTube - Scott Herman - How To: Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise
    • TODO: Summarize this.
  • 2015.06.30 - Athlean-X - Rotator Cuff Killer (SHOULDER LATERAL RAISES!)
    • Summary:
      • Lean forward and externally rotate your shoulder to avoid developing a shoulder impingement.
      • At the top of the movement your thumbs should be pointed up.
      • You don't want your pinkies to be higher than your thumbs at the top of the movement.
      • You don't want to internally rotate your shoulder while standing straight up to put the focus of the exercise on your medial delt.
  • 2017.09.21 - Mike Thurston - How To Perform The Dumbbell Lateral Raise For Bigger Shoulders
    • Summary:
      • He sees a lot of people doing this exercise wrong.
      • You should be aiming to work your mid delt.
      • The first mistake people make is to lift too heavy.
        • This tends to cause people to initiate the movement with a shoulder shrug to build momentum, shifting tension to the traps instead of the delts.
      • Another common mistake is to shift the work onto the front delt.
        • This tends to happen if the weight is too heavy, or the person doesn't know what they should be doing, or the person just isn't paying attention.
        • What this looks like is that the person will be standing straight up, and as they get to the top of the movement they'll rotate their arms so their thumbs are pointing up.
        • It's even easier to target the mid-delt if you lean forward slightly.
      • How high should you go with the weights?
        • It depends on the person; you want to try to get to parallel with the ground but some people don't have the shoulder mobility.
      • How much bend to have in your elbows
        • If he has his arms totally straight he feels more tension in his traps rather than his mid-delt.
        • He likes to have a slight bend in his arms.
      • What he's thinking when he's doing the exercise
        • He's focusing on keeping his shoulders depressed (pushed down) as much as possible throughout the movement.
          • He visualizes trying to scrape the dumbbells along the floor.
        • He's also focusing on leading with his elbows.
          • He finds that thinking about leading with his hands tends to make him rotate at the top of the movement to get his hands as high as possible, which is not what you want.
      • Variations
        • He likes doing the exercise seated because it makes it harder to cheat with other muscles.
        • He finds the standing lateral raise slightly easier but isn't sure why.
          • What you often see people doing is bending over and swinging back as they initiate the lift, which is making the exercise easier.
        • He recommends not letting your arms totally drop so that you can keep tension on the muscle.
        • You should try to pause slightly at the top of the movement and come down slowly, as the top of the movement is the hardest part.
          • Go fast on the way up and control the negative to come back down slowly.
        • Another variation is to sit on a bench that's leaning forward a bit.
          • This is good because it helps keep you from cheating when you get tired.
        • Another variation he really likes is to do one arm at a time while seated on an inclined bench, with his other arm wrapped around the back of the bench, so that he can look in the mirror and see exactly where the tension is being placed.
      • How often you should do it
        • If you're doing the movement properly, it's "joint-friendly", so you can do it 2-3 times per week if you want.
          • As opposed to, for example, the overhead press.

Dumbbell press / military press / push press / overhead press / shoulder press

  • 2010.03.27 - YouTube - Scott Herman - How To: Dumbbell Shoulder Press
    • TODO: Summarize this.
  • 2017.02.28 - AthleanX - How to Lift Heavy Dumbbells (NEVER DO THIS!)
    • What to do:
      • Put the dumbbells at your feet, turn them horizontal, put your shoes under the handles, and deadlift the weight to your knees (turn the weights vertical so one side of each dumbbell is resting on your thigh).
      • Kick up one dumbbell at a time with each knee and let the dumbbells' weight bring you back.
      • When you want to get out of the lift, bring up your knees and push the dumbbells a little forward so that they pull you back into a sitting-upright position with the dumbbells resting vertically on your knees (the way they were before you started the press).
    • What not to do:
      • Don't kick up both dumbbells at the same time, you could fall backwards and sideways (he saw this happen).
      • Don't ditch the dumbbells out to the side or by letting your arms fall forwards with your body still horizontal, as it can hurt you with bigger weights.
      • Don't pick up the dumbbells from the floor by twisting your back to each side of the bench (i.e. not having the dumbbells directly in front of you), as this can hurt you with higher weights.

Dumbbell rows

  • 2018.05.23 - YouTube - AthleanX - This Exercise CAUSES Hernias (IT'S VERY POPULAR!)
    • He says the exercise he suspects causes the most hernias is the dumbbell row; he got his only two hernias from it, and he saw another athlete who also got a hernia from it.
    • To avoid getting a hernia, he recommends straddling the bench rather than having one knee on the bench.
    • Also, the heavier the weight you use, the more likely you are to have an issue.

Dumbbell skullcrushers

Skullcrushers vs. dips



  • 2018.06.24 - I've been trying to get back into doing deadlifts but my lower back has been killing me, to the point where I have to stop after only ~5 reps. I knew I must be doing something wrong with my technique because I remember doing these in CrossFit with much heavier weight and not feeling back pain afterwards (IIRC my hands were what hurt the most).
    • Here's what I think I may have been doing wrong:
      • Using running shoes. While in CrossFit I was using their recommended shoes.
      • Trying to look up and forward as if I was doing a squat. While in CrossFit I remember they said to look at the floor.
      • I think I may have been hyperextending my lower back.
  • 2018.10.19 - I've been using Alan Thrall's advice of sucking as much air as I can into my stomach and then flexing my stomach like I'm going to be punched in the gut, and it seems to be working great for both deadlifts and squats.


  • I was able to do 95# pretty comfortably


  • 2018.10.19 - I've been using Alan Thrall's advice of sucking as much air as I can into my stomach and then flexing my stomach like I'm going to be punched in the gut, and it seems to be working great for both deadlifts and squats.


  • IIRC I did 115# and then couldn't manage 135#

Kettlebell Swings

Mistakes to avoid:

  • If you just let the kettlebell drop straight down and stop it right at your groin without bending your knees much, you may put too much stress on your arms / elbow-tendons. From watching the pro's, it seems the proper form is to bend your knees more when the kettlebell comes down so that your quads absorb more of the kettlebell's energy.
    • [2015.05.18 - My elbow tendons and traps hurt in a way that doesn't seem good (muscle-building), and I think it's because I was stopping a 20kg kettlebell for 4 sets of 20 reps by just letting the bell come to a stop right under my groin, not using my quads much at all to absorb the weight as it came down. It makes it easier to do reps but it may cause damage over the long-term.]


YouTube channels

    • This guy has a nice body.
      • It isn't very puffed-up like a Crossfitter's body (which seems to be a result of Crossfitters dealing with higher weights).
      • He has a very low body fat percentage, which probably adds to the effect.
      • He also seems tall (e.g. long neck and torso), which probably also adds to the effect.
      • He has a pretty big chest.
      • Big delts
      • Bigger-than-I'd-expect biceps.
    • It looks like he does weighted bodyweight exercises (so using a weight vest, ankle weights, barbells hanging from his waist). So he's doing more than just bodyweight, but probably less than what a Crossfitter is doing.
    • Sample workouts:

Ab exercises



  • 2015.05.21 - I did sit-ups this morning on an exercise pad on a pool deck, and now (~5pm) I have a pain in my lower back. So it may be a good idea for me to avoid doing sit-ups.
    • From doing some reading online it looks like sit-ups don't even really work your abs as much as your hip flexors.
    • From looking online, it looks like alternatives to sit-ups are: 1) planks, 2) leg lifts, 3) sit-ups with an abmat under your lower spine.


  • Description: Go to a dip bar, keep your arms extended at your side, and then lower your body while twisting it to the side, and then pull your body back up, all the time trying to keep your arms relatively straight, so that when you go up you're kind of pulling yourself slightly into a sit-up position.
  • 2018.04.22 - AthleanX - Best LOWER ABS Exercise You’ve NEVER Tried!



Heart attacks, ruptured aneurysms

  • 2016.05.25 - Jiu-Jitsu Times - Crossfit Practitioner Suffers Heart Attack While Working Out
    • While in the midst of a barbel lift, the man felt sever chest pains that hindered his movement and made him collapse on the floor.
  • 2017.01.11 - DonnaKaz.com - Carrie Fisher, CrossFit and My Widowmaker
    • On July 19 of this year, at the age of 61, I had a heart attack. 95% of my LAD artery, nicknamed the “widowmaker,” was blocked.
    • Three and a half years ago, at the age of 59 I started CrossFit
    • The post office is just 9 blocks from my apartment but I found myself taking the bus there and back instead of walking. A steep set of stairs would leave me out of breath, just as a short and intense CrossFit WOD (Workout of the Day) would. I would still be huffing and puffing on the six block walk home a good fifteen minutes after my CrossFit workout was over. I thought nothing of these changes and chalked them up to getting old.
    • On July 19th I gave up on one part of the 360 workout – a simple 200 meter run. Going from 85th Street to 86th Street and back felt impossible. For the first time in my three years of CrossFit, I walked the 200 meter run.
    • I needed a nap that afternoon but never got around to it. By dinner time my fatigue was overwhelming. I remember shuffling around the kitchen preparing dinner for my husband, thinking a quick lie down on the tile floor would really help. After dinner, I sat on the couch with my laptop propped open and started to feel chills, like I might be coming down with the flu. As I stood up to retrieve some notes off a table, I felt dizzy. Something was very wrong. I asked my husband to bring me his blood pressure cuff and after two readings came up exceptionally high (my normal blood pressure is usually low) I began to notice a very slight feeling of pressure in the middle of my chest. When that happened I asked my husband to get me to the nearest ER. “In fact, call an ambulance,” I said, much to my husbands’ surprise. “What did you just say?” was his panicked reply. “Something is wrong with me. I think I might be having a heart attack.” I stated. “Get your shoes on. I’ll get us a cab. It will get us there faster.” he said.
    • Fatigue and dizziness accompanied by feelings of coming down with a virus or the flu are some of the understated indicators. Back pain, jaw pain, and chest pains are others.
  • 2017.01.13 - East Idaho News - CrossFitters save one of their own after heart attack at gym
    • After a full workout that morning, he was helping to clean up the weights when he suddenly collapsed and began to shake.
    • Howard Egan has a family history of heart problems. His grandfather, father and a brother all have suffered major heart attacks. He was doing everything he could to try to beat the odds and thought he was. He exercised daily — in fact, he did Spartan races last summer — was on cholesterol medication and visited his doctor often.
    • Tauna [his wife] said that they would like if we used part of the money to buy an AED (automated external defibrillator) for the gym.
  • 2017.02.07 - Reddit - r/crossfit - Heart Issues
    • It isn't clear if he had it while at the gym.
    • Today marks 2 weeks since I (29M) suffered a mild heart attack.
    • Comment: you need to always make sure you cool down and don't just collapse after a workout.
    • Comment: Heart attack at 29?!?!? Was it a congenital disorder?
      • His response: No it wasn't (...) can't really pinpoint a casue. I've always had high cholestorl since an infant. I have low testosterone, low vitamin D, and I eat like shit. But the biggest factor of them all is my genes. My uncle passed away from one at 47yrs old, my mom has high blood pressure and my grandfather is on a pacemaker.
  • 2017.02.28 - NewsMax - Did Too Much Exercise Cause Bob Harper's Heart Attack?
  • 2017.07.19 - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis athlete to compete in Crossfit Games
    • "I had some success, and then during one of the workouts a few years ago I had a heart attack," he said.
  • 2018.05.24 - DailyMail - 'He was in the best shape of his life': Tragedy as father, 32, dies from heart attack during an exercise regime on his second wedding anniversary in Thailand
    • Harley Fowler, 32, reportedly collapsed during his exercise regime in Phuket and was unable to be resuscitated.
    • I wonder if the (presumably) hotter weather in Thailand was a contributing factor?
  • 2018.07.19 - MorningChalkUp.com - Get an AED in Your CrossFit Box
    • 59-year-old Dale Cornett had just finished his workout and sat down. Seconds later he had a massive heart attack. Members of the gym called an ambulance and performed CPR until they arrived but Dale didn’t make it.
    • Each AED unit costs $1075.00 with the wall mount case costing $255.00.
  • 2018.08.27 - Syracuse.com - Athlete 'dies' at workout: How 3 Syracuse nurses in right place, right time saved him
    • It sounds like it happened while he was doing the normal warm-up run outside the gym. (I'm assuming the class started at 10am and he had arrived 30 minutes early.)
    • the 54-year-old went to work out at CrossFit Syracuse on Erie Boulevard East around 9:30 a.m. He tied the laces on his sneakers and began a warm-up run along nearby Thompson Road. That's the last thing he remembers.
    • A minuscule piece of plaque swimming in O'Polka's veins happened to reach his heart, fully clogging an artery, just when he happened to be within a few hundred yards of the nurses.
    • O'Polka had only just recovered from a hip injury, which meant he had recently been doing light workouts at his home or at Planet Fitness gym near his home. He'd only been back at the CrossFit gym recently.
    • O'Polka said those who know him well know he's extremely healthy. He said he exercises at least five times a week, in addition to walking his dog twice a day. He's never smoked, rarely drinks and eats a diet of lean meats and vegetables, skipping pasta and white rice, he said.
    • O'Polka began the run at 10:02 a.m. His heart attack occurred soon after, and the person who ran back to the gym made it there by 10:06 a.m. He was on his way in the ambulance by 10:13 a.m., according to O'Polka's wife, who reviewed the surveillance video at the gym.
  • 2018.11.02 - Reddit - r/crossfit - Death in Crossfit (Argentina)
    • Tuesday afternoon, a 38 y/o businessman died of heart failure while he was stretching after a WOD in a box near Buenos Aires, Argentina. This guy practiced crossfit competitively and actually didn't position badly in masters this year's open.
    • Comment: I'm 43 and keep after it, I don't use the age excuse, but we also have a defibrillator in our box.
    • Comment: We had a woman who had a brain aneurysm and collapsed in class one Saturday.