Complete Program To Build The Power Look

The muscles most guys focus too much on at the gym, the so-called beach muscles, are not the ones that command respect and strike fear into any bar brawler’s heart.

A big chest, biceps, wide lats and a wasp’s waist with chiselled abs, that you can make out through a guy’s shirt, are all pretty sweet things to have, but if these features don’t appear alongside some other distinct markers, then they are merely the traits of a showman. One who will be singled out by some douche bag looking for trouble at the local watering hole.

That’s because these “show” muscles alone don’t signify impressive functional strength, power and athleticism. They cry “show-but-little-go” and “gym strong”. In other words easy prey.

Power Look

Next time you find yourself in an altercation that might turn ugly, look for the development of the following muscles in your opposition – the Powerhouses of the body – and then decide whether it’s “fight or flight” for you. And I suggest “flight” if you ever face someone with a prominent display of these.

  • Neck
  • Traps
  • Upper Back
  • Shoulders
  • Forearms
  • Glutes

People still talk in awe about Tom Hardy’s body in the movie “Warrior”, in which he portrayed an MMA fighter with some unresolved daddy issues.

If you examine his body in the movie closely, it is not a six pack – which is barely visible – nor a big chest or huge biceps, that are dominating his physique. Neither is his overall bulk.

It’s the top three on the above list – Neck, Traps and Upper Back – that the actor developed for the movie that are responsible for his intimidating presence. His trainer obviously knew what he was doing.

Let’s go through these one by one and how to best get some size into these areas.

Complete Power Look Program

  1. Neck

    Martin Rooney of “Training for Warriors” and Coach to numerous MMA title holders noted that the muscles no one ever trains are the ones of the neck and feet.

    The neck is a prominent marker of a powerful physique, yet it’s not uncommon to see bodybuilders with a stack of coins where their neck should be. It’s enough to destroy a maybe otherwise impressive and balanced physique.

    Strong necks are mandatory in high-power sports. For instance, finding a world-class fighter without a strong neck is impossible. In MMA or wrestling for example, having a weak neck will increase the risk of injury and pretty much guarantee defeat.

    Wrestlers need strong necks to withstand headlocks, free themselves from other positions, but mainly to protect themselves.

    Boxers need strong neck tension to absorb the powerful strikes to their head and protect their cervical spine. If they had weak necks, their head would come clean off and their career would be over.

    A Rugby player needs a really strong neck to protect himself in tackles or a collapsing scrum. So does an American Football Player. It becomes clear then, why every time you see a muscular neck it is subconsciously associated with Power.

    Even if you’re not an athlete of these sports, you should build a strong neck nonetheless. It will  protect your spine if you do take a hit to the head, or from whiplash if you’re ever in a car crash.

    And if those aren’t reasons enough, it will give you an imposing presence, even a nice square jawline. There is no complete Power Look without a strong neck.

    Here’s a good way to ease into neck training:

    I took this technique from the book Jailhouse Strong and I think Josh Bryant got it from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters. You need to progress very slowly when building a strong neck.

    The injury risk is high and too much volume too soon will lead to a muscle soreness that is really uncomfortable, because it tends to spread into your head and will give you a nasty headache.

    Lie on your back, lift your head and bring your chin to your chest. Lower back down. Begin with 20 of these head nods, without letting the back of your head touch the ground between reps.

    Then, still keeping our head off the ground look to your left for 20 repetitions followed by 20 repetitions to your right.

    Then, bring your left ear to your left shoulder for 20 reps followed by the other side. That’s 120 reps with your head off the ground.

    Feel free to lower the reps and progress until you can do 40 reps for each movement.

    Other forms of neck training include isometric contractions, either using a Swiss Ball against the wall or your own hands as resistance. Make sure you do these for the front, side and back neck muscles.

    Just push against the ball or your hands as hard as you can and match the force, so there is no movement.

    Neck bridges can be progressed to next, but with caution. Start with your head on a high incline like a couch or a chair and then slowly lower the implement as you get stronger.

  1. Traps

    Traps are those big triangular pieces of flesh running down the side of your neck to the shoulders. The traps don’t end there though. They reach down all the way to your mid back and are responsible for some upper back thickness if well developed.

    The traps are one of the most accurate markers of strength and power because big traps will tell you that that person lifts heavy shit off the floor, over his head and carries it for distance (as in the Farmer’s Walk). You don’t get killer traps from machine or isolation work.

    Most people have an upper trap dominance, with weak, poorly developed mid- and lower traps. Too much sitting and ever increasing levels of stress are part of the reason. When stressed, your shoulders wander higher and higher.

    This upper trap dominance is also the cause of one sided training in the gym. Too little horizontal rowing movements and no emphasis on the last third of the movement, when you are really meant to squeeze the shoulder blades together.

    Guys generally use too much weight when training their back – just watch the average guy do Croc Rows, it’s all arms. The rep is rarely finished fully by squeezing the shoulder blades together.

    Most guys in the gym have no idea how to train their traps other than with shrugs – which ranks high among the stupidest exercises ever (tied with concentration curls).

    I have a rule. If the only time you can load a Barbell with 100kg or more is for shrugs, you are weak and shrugs should be at the very bottom of your priority list.

    To get impressive trap development use Deadlifts, Farmer’s Walks, Overhead Presses, Snatch High Pulls & Cleans.

    Don’t neglect your mid and lower traps by adding lots of horizontal rowing, going a little lighter at first to really focus on that last third of the movement. Traps can handle lots of work and respond best to high volume . Hit them with many sets and reps.

  1. Upper Back

    When it comes to the muscles of the back, we have always been impressed by wide lats – the ‘wings’ as we call them. There are guys with impressive width in their lats. But a wide back alone is no indicator of true strength.

    Pit a guy with a wide back against a guy with a thick back and I will always put my money on the thick back for superior strength. Real power comes from a protruding back which looks like a satellite photo of the Himalayas.

    Too many guys focus on the chest by doing Incline, Decline Bench Presses and every type of Fly in the book. Yes, they end up with a big chest, but more often than not they also sport a flat back, because all that time spent on the chest is shortchanging their back.

    To get size into your upper back, again, you need to lift heavy stuff off the floor – slow grinding lifts like the Deadlift, but also explosive lifts like Cleans or Snatches. Carry awkward objects; Handle Weights in front of the body and don’t just limit it to pressing.

    Try working up to Pull Ups where your chest touches the bar on each rep and you pause for a count of one. Do lots of rowing. Getting a powerful upper back involves more muscles than just the lats and traps. There are numerous smaller muscles that will gain impressive size too.

  1. Shoulders

    The old-school strongmen of the 50’s to 70’s had impressive shoulders. And they built them mainly through Pressing heavy stuff over their head. Back then, strict pressing the equivalent of your bodyweight overhead was a standard and not a high one at that.

    Nowadays, if someone gave me a penny every time I saw someone strict press their bodyweight, well, I’d have a penny.

    There’s no shortage of shoulder training at the gym, yet despite all the work, I know very few people that can press their own bodyweight overhead. Yet, the standing Overhead Press is still the best exercise to develop strong and massive shoulders.

    It’s really a full-body exercise, because you will get no heavy weight overhead if you don’t contract every other muscle in your body.

    Drop all the seated half-range Shoulder Presses and Lateral Raise bullshit. It’s keeping you weak. Just focus on the standing Press for awhile – one handed and two handed – and I promise you, you will get stronger and add size to your shoulders.

  1. Forearms

    You can’t develop rousing full body strength and power, without simultaneously building killer grip strength. And that death grip comes with big forearms.

    The grip is often the weak link as we continue to add weight to exercises – especially pulling exercises. That’s why supplementary work for the grip is a good idea.

    Things like Farmer’s Walks, Towel Pull Ups, Rope Climbs, Isometric holds (eg. grab a weight plate and just hold it at your side) should be added.

    A strong grip and big forearms are also the result of handling heavy awkward objects, because not everything is as “easy on the grip” as holding a bar. Someone with massive forearms will most likely be very strong.

  1. Glutes

    The glutes are the body’s engine. It’s your biggest and most powerful muscle, when it’s not dying a slow death, like in many deskbound people. Too much sitting wreaks havoc on your glutes and diminishes its ability to produce force.

    That is because when you sit, the glutes are always in a lengthened position. It’s like taking a perfectly good rubber band and holding it in a slightly stretched position for long periods at a time.

    It will soon lose its contractile force. That is why, especially if you make a living sitting down, you need to show your butt some extra love…wait, that sounded wrong. But you know what I mean.

    A muscular butt is a sign of strength, youth and vitality. It’s what guys look for in girls and vice versa. It’ll make anyone more attractive. Strong glutes are also the initiator of the most powerful movement in sports and life – triple extension of the ankles, knees and hips.

    Let’s just say, someone with strong glutes is indestructible and most likely a pretty healthy individual.

    The best exercises to develop powerful glutes are Sprints, Back Squats, Deadlifts and powerful hip hinge movements, like the Kettlebell Swing. If your training revolved around these few exercises for the rest of your life, you would still be doing pretty good for yourself.

    Now you have the recipe to build the Power Look. Focus on the areas just discussed and you will see changes quickly. People will ask you what the hell you’ve been doing and bullies will steer clear.

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