Workout Tips

M&F Interview: Strength Coach Jim Smith

He literally wrote the book on strength, and now he is sharing his expertise on building your numbers without breaking your body.

jim smith interview

On Mobility

For the bench press, I like the kneeling lat stretch with a dowel rod. You can use an EZ bar if you don’t have a dowel. Kneel behind a bench and rest your elbows on it while you hold the bar in the midpoint of a curl. You should feel a stretch on your lats.

Now use your breath to get deeper into the stretch. Take a breath in through your nose and then exhale, allowing your body to relax into a deeper stretch. Take three deep breaths. This teaches your body you can stabilize in the new position and allows the muscles to lengthen as a result. 

In between the primary movement in any workout, we’ll do one to three fillers. It’s some kind of myofascial release, mobility, or activation. Any combination.

When you drop a pebble in the water, the biggest ripples are where the rock was dropped. So if you’re benching, you drop the pebble at the upper back and work your way out. We work on lat length, then release the pecs. You could do a band pull apart or a T-bar retraction superset with foam rolling of the lats and pecs. If you’re not getting leg drive on the bench, your fillers would be stretching the hip flexors and planks. You need core stability and mobility in the hips to get leg drive. If it’s a young athlete who has good range of motion, maybe they just need a little activation. An older, injured guys needs more work. You can use the main lifts as an indicator of what fillers to use and where to use them.

The goal is to keep the fillers the same duration as your rest period. So you’re not adding time. You’re making better use of time you would have otherwise been resting with. You’re increasing the functionality.

On Programming

The majority of my programs are based around the Westside Barbell powerlifting template. Two upper and two lower days a week. One upper is based around the bench press, one is about the military press, one is the squat, one is the deadlift. I alternate speed and rep work. Personally, I do more rep-based stuff these days than heavy lifting. I like getting out of the conventional rep ranges and going to 30, 40, or 50 reps. We do dumbbell bench, cable stuff, all accessory stuff like that. Not primary movements.

One of my favorites is for lat pulldowns. Pull it down and hold it for five seconds. Do five reps like that. Then do five reps with five-second eccentrics. Then five normal reps. The training effect is unbelievable. The muscle contraction is maximal. I can do that now with a heavy load. I’ve been able to work up to it.

Visit Smith at dieselsc.com.

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