Training For Dungeon Dwellers

by Chris on March 14, 2015

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Dungeon dwellers, for those who don’t know, are people who choose to train at home. Whether it’s in your basement, garage or wherever, the point is that you choose to do your training at home instead of in a gym. I myself have joined the legions of dungeon dwellers and, while I enjoy the solitude, have learned that there are unique challenges to training at home with limited equipment. Never to fear – a little ingenuity and dedication can overcome those issues easily.

Obviously if you’re going to train at home you need some kind of baseline equipment. I’m not talking about limiting your training to pushups and situps. If you’re going to get some serious training in you need to get serious equipment. A power rack with safeties is a must, as well as a good barbell and sufficient weight plates. Dumbbells are a great addition but if money is an issue they aren’t an absolute must. You should consider adding them eventually, however.

*A note on dumbbells: I looked around a lot to find good dumbbells for my home. I wanted something cost effective, space effective and durable. I weighed the options between adjustable DBs and actually buying a pair of Hex DBs in 10lb increments from 20-80lbs. In the end I ended up going with a heavy duty adjustable set by Iron Master and they’ve been fantastic. I don’t make money off recommending them but they are great. Heavy duty, good warranty, easily adjustable and I don’t have to worry about them snapping if I drop them. End note.

On top of those necessities you absolutely need a good adjustable bench and something to do pull-ups from if you want to have productive workouts. After you have those anything else is just for fun.

ColumbuBenchNot pictured: A shiny cable crossover machine

Dungeon Workouts

One of the most difficult aspects of training at home can be feeling limited by the equipment you have available. I was never a “flavor of the month” lifter and have avoided excessive machine use like an Ebola patient for years. Even still, when I first started training at home I felt like I was restricted to only a handful of basic movements. Don’t get me wrong – those basic movements have always been the foundation of my training, and I have gone through extensive periods where they were all I performed. Still, I wanted to feel like I had the option to change up my training when necessary. The good thing is that with a barbell and even just one set of dumbbells I had tons of options. Here’s just a short list of movements and variations that I start incorporating:

Lower Body

Back & Front Squats

Romanian Deadlifts (And one legged variations)

Good Mornings

Paused Squats/Anderson Squats

Lunge variations (Front lunges, reverse lunges, Barbell and dumbbell variants)


Cleans/Clean Pulls

Bulgarian Split Squats

Natural Glute Ham Raises


All bench press variations (Flat, incline, decline, Paused bench, close grip)

Floor press

Dumbbell bench variations (Flat, incline, decline, One and two arm version)

DB Flyes

Pushups (Duh)

Reverse grip bench (Quickly becoming a favorite of mine)


Pull-up variations (Pull-ups, chin-ups, mixed grip, weighted)

Barbell Rows (Under and overhand)

DB Row variations (1 Arm DB row, Paused rows, Chest supported rows, Unsupported)

Shrugs (DB, Barbell, 1 Armed)


Military Press

Behind the Neck Press

Push Press

Dumbbell Presses

Z Press

Dumbbell Raises (Front raise, Lateral, Rear Delt Raise, Plate Front Raise)

Upright rows


Various curls (DB Curl, Barbell Curl, Hammer, Preacher, Scott Curls, etc)

Overhead DB Triceps Extensions

Skull Crushers (Barbell and Dumbbell)

JM Press


Ab Wheel (Great addition to equipment)

Sit-up variations (Decline, flat, weighted)

Leg raises

Plank variations

Obviously there are more options but the list is already long enough as is. The point is that there are enough movements you can do with just a bar and some dumbbells to keep you happy for a long time. You just have to be a little creative. I’m not one for making up movements just for the sake of variety, so I avoid shit that doesn’t get the job done as much as possible. Even with that in mind I have found that I have enough options without ever needing to use a machine.

Here’s a look at a typical training week for me:

Day 1 – Legs

A1. Squats

A2. Pull-ups

B1. Romanian Deadlifts

B2. Sit-ups

C1. Bulgarian Split Squats

C2. Ab Wheel

Day 2 – Chest

A1. Bench Press

A2. Pull-ups

B1. Incline DB Press

B2. Grip work

C1. Reverse grip Bench

C2. DB Flye

Day 3 – Back

A1. Clean Pulls

A2. Weighted Pull-ups

B1. Deadlifts

B2. Neck work

C1. Barbell Rows

C2. Ab Wheel

Day 4 – Shoulders and Arms

A1. Press

A2. Chin-ups

B1. Close grip Bench

B2. Upright Row

C. 3 Way Shoulder circuit (Front raise, Lateral Raise, Rear Delt Raise)

D1. DB Preacher Curl on bench

D2. Skull Crusher

As you can see I like to do a lot of pull-ups. Aside from that I get pretty good workouts done with minimal equipment. In fact I’ve gotten spoiled and have no interest in ever stepping foot into a gym again. My training is straight to the point, no bullshit, nobody bothers me (except occasionally my dogs or cats) and my commute time to the gym is about 8 seconds.

Training at home might not be for everybody but it’s been working great for me. I like the solitude and it lets me focus solely on my lifting. Even if you do train in a gym the point is that you can do a lot with minimal equipment. Of course change is good and jumping on a machine every once in a while isn’t going to hurt. For example, I wish I had something to do leg curls/extensions on. Until I then, I’ll just stick to squats.

Defending the Deload

by Chris on July 2, 2013

I’ve noticed a trend recently where strength coaches seem to claim that you don’t ever need to deload your training. Sure everyone has their own systems and beliefs but I am particularly fond of when coaches claim that things are completely unnecessary or don’t work.

I’m a fan of occasional deloading. Maybe not every fourth week like some coaches, and maybe not in the same fashion, but an occasional deload nonetheless. This is something I first discovered when I was a young lifter and had no idea what a deload even was. I remember having to take a week completely off from training (no idea why) and when I got back into the gym my strength was way up and I felt great. Fast forward to the present and I still deload every so often when my training is feeling sluggish, life is busy or I just feel beat up.

Why Deload?

I guess this is the first question you should be asking when reading this. After all, more time in the gym should mean better results, right? And who can afford to take a week off or not training to your max capacity?

Well, look at it this way: day in and day out you’re in the gym beating up your body. You recover when you’re at home, sleeping and eating. BUT how much do you really recover? Eventually the wear and tear from training catches up to you and you’re progress either stalls out or goes backwards. The breakdown from the gym incrementally adds up.

So a deload basically allows your body to catch up, recovery-wise. All that fatigue and wear that has built up over time that your body just wasn’t able to 100% recover from is addressed during a deloading period.

Another interesting bit of Science™ that I read recently has to do with the anabolic agents that operate in your body. Without getting too technical, there are a whole host of compounds in your body responsible for building muscle, not only hormones but signaling proteins as well. A study conducted in Japan demonstrated that chronic resistance training actually reduces your sensitivity to some of these compounds – which explains why you don’t continue to put on muscle at the same rate over the years. The study also showed that a short detraining period raises sensitivity back up. Given, the study was conducted in rats but it’s reasonable to believe that the principles transfer over to human physiology.

Chalk one up to deloading. Not only do you get to catch up on recovery, you actually make your body more receptive to training again.

So How Do You Do It?

I have a few different strategies of deloading I like to use depending on the situation – which can mean anything from the program, the goal, the client or just how I’m feeling.

#1 – Low volume, High intensity

At first glance this doesn’t seem like a deload strategy at all, but bear with me. For many people the thing that beats them up most is volume, not intensity. I’m usually one of those and if my training is going pretty well this is the method I’ll typically use. This is also the most common method I write into my programs.

For a 4 week training cycle I normally make my final week a low volume, high intensity week. This pretty much means working up to a single, heavy set and then calling it a day.

So the month might look like this:

Week 1 – 4 x 8

Week 2 – 4 x 10

Week 3 – 5 x 5

Week 4 – 3 x 5

So you’re still getting some heavy lifting in but you don’t have to hit many sets to do so.

#2 – Low everything

If I feel like I need to deload because I’m beat up or my training is starting to stall this is the way I go. I drop intensity, volume and overall workload. This is a great full recovery week. Basically you lift seriously light weights for laughably low volume and cut out most of your assistance work.

For example:

3 sets of 5 with 55% of max

Assistance work – 2 sets of 10 reps with light weight

As a general rule I will cut my typical assistance work to half of what I did the week before. Since I usually do at least 4 sets that means that I cut down to 2. I’ll also drop out a few assistance exercises, resulting in a very low overall workload.

#3 – Low volume, moderate intensity

Depending on the situation this is a different strategy I’ll use. If training is going fairly well but not fantastic this is the route I’ll take. It allows me to get a break from excess volume while still getting a decent amount of work in. You’re not lifting very heavy but you’re not doing a whole lot of volume. Something along the lines of 2-3 sets of an easy 8-10 would fit here.

This is a great strategy to use when you need a bit of a break but don’t want to take a full deload like #2.

There are really lots of different deloading strategies that you can utilize. You can modify variables like spinal loading or eccentric load. The take-away point to this is that an occasional deloading of some variable will do you a lot of good. Everybody is different and depending on your situation and recovery you may need to deload once every month, every other month or only a few times per year. Only you can know. Use your head and don’t be afraid to listen to what you body tells you.

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Training Tails E-Book Is Live!

June 25, 2013

Hey everybody I know the blog has been a little light on content lately and I apologize for that. I’m going to be putting some new posts up very soon. But that’s not what I’m writing about today. Today I wanted to officially announce to you that the Training Tails e-book is LIVE. You may […]

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New Article Up and E-Book Update

May 26, 2013

Hey everyone I realize this blog has been a little slow lately. There’s been a lot going on and I’ve been busy behind the scenes. Expect a new post sometime this week. In the meantime I’ve got a new article up over on to hold you over. Aside from some minor changes this is […]

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Secret Project Announcement: E-Book Coming Soon

April 30, 2013

Loyal Train Better Fitness supporters, If you’ve been following me on Facebook you’ve probably seen mention of an ultra-mega top secret project that I’ve been working on for the past few months. Hopefully I’ve had you filled with so much suspense that it’s triggered an anabolic adaption in your physiology. Also, if you’ve been following […]

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Q&A Tuesday – Board Pressing, Improving the Squat & Post Workout Nutrition

April 23, 2013

Lately I’ve been doing lots of Q&A sessions over on the TBF Facebook page – if you haven’t joined us over there you probably should. There’s an overabundance of awesomeness that happens there daily. The point is that I’ve been getting some cool questions over there and I thought I’d share some with you. Board […]

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T-Shirts Are Now Available!

April 22, 2013

Ok bros and brahs. I’ve been meaning to get some shirts printed up for oooooh about two years but never really got around to it. I’m incredibly excited to inform you that I finally got my ass in gear and Train Better Fitness t-shirts are now available. So if you want to look extra sexay […]

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Building A Better Bench Press

April 17, 2013

Ah, the venerable bench press. For half the lifters in the gym it is their love. Every Monday, without question, is bench day. Upon greeting a new member of the gym tribe the traditional greeting is of course “How much ya bench?” Then there are the rest of us. For us, the bench press is […]

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The Good, The Bad and the Crossfit

April 10, 2013

This post has been brewing for a long time. Crossfit. If you train seriously the name has become pervasive in your daily life. You will inevitably see someone at the gym, on the street, on the train or in the bar who “does Crossfit”. It’s everywhere. Turn on the tv and you see the Crossfit […]

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Advanced Muscle Building: Pre Exhaust

April 2, 2013

There are quite a few advanced training techniques that are just bro down to the core but none so much as the classic pre-exhaust approach. It has the best of everything: isolation movements, compound movements, a pump and muscle building. Pre-exhaust like most effective, advanced techniques is incredibly complicated, but I’ll give you a crash […]

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