Pin Variations For Strength Gains

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Concentric movements have been around for as long as I can remember. Paul Anderson, arguably the strongest human to ever walk the earth, invented the “Anderson Squat”.

Anderson would set up a loaded barbell on the ground with a hole in the middle. He would get under the bar starting in a partial squat and stand up going through a concentric range of motion.

It’s reported that Anderson would move 1000s of pounds with this variation and he credited it for helping him build his massive squat!

Pin Variations Science

Pin variations where each rep is restarted from a dead-stop has a number of great benefits. The obvious being that we are not being able to use the elastic abilities of skeletal muscle.

In essence, we are negating the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) starting from a dead stop on each repetition similar to using pauses with bilateral movements. In this case, we are starting from the bottom position performing the concentric phase of the lift.

Using pins affords us the ability to train specific ranges of motions (or sticking points) – we can develop maxes from multiple heights with these variations to give the individual information about where they may be most limited.

Most importantly though, pin work is fun and changes up our training and loading capacity. Pin variations will always be a staple for the Conjugate Method.

Benefits Of Concentric Pin Variations

  1. Variance: Anything will work but the question is for how long. Using concentric movements is simply another tool in your toolbox that can be done in a variety of ways such as different heights, different bars, and accommodating resistance (bands, chains, or both at the same time.)
  2. Supramaximal: Working a partial range of motion movements provides the neurological advantage of allowing us to use loads that are above our current 1-rep max. The advantage of this is allowing us to build confidence with weights that we aren’t accustomed to handling. In this case, we’d be looking to work a partial range of motions to increase loading capacity. This is a strategy that should be used with care though as it’s very demanding on the nervous system.
  3. Lockout Strength: We can specifically target our “mini-maxes” or our sticking points and vary joint angles that may be less favorable based on individual anthropometrics.
  4. Rate of Force Development: Improving RFD is important and by starting from a disadvantage (bottom/dead-stop) we are forced to utilize higher-threshold motor-units.
  5. Developing Tension: Max effort work requires the ability to create tension. Often times this aspect of training can be forgotten about, but with concentric movements, we are forced to develop tension prior to initiating our movement because we are essentially starting from a disadvantage. We are also unable to use the stretch reflex.
  6. Absolute Strength: Pin variations are an incredible tool to increase absolute strength improving the amount force one can exert. These are used with the max effort method regularly.
  7. Recovery: Concentric only variations do NOT illicit the same amount of muscular soreness because we are omitting the eccentric phase of the lift albeit we are working with maximal loads.

Eccentric/Concentric Pin Variations

Another use of pins is for the use of strategic stops during a lift – lowering the weight to the pins, having a brief pause, and then restarting the lift through the concentric phase.

Many of the same benefits as above apply as if we were performing a concentric variation, BUT loading capability is decreases and the recovery period between sessions is longer than that of its concentric counterpart.

Lowering to pins allows us to still break up the phases of the lift and develop one’s reversal ability – the ability to stop and start without the aid of the SSC.

Without further adieu here is the list of concentric pin variations that we use in our individual programming and that you can add to your plan to start seeing new strength gains.

The Anderson Squat

  • Used in a max effort setting – 1RM

Safety Squat Bar Anderson Squat With Chains

Anderson Front Squat against heavy bands

  • Used in a max effort setting – 1RM or Submax 1-5RM

Anderson Zercher Lift

  • Used in a max effort setting – 1RM

Front Squat to pins

  • Used in a submaximal setting – build to a 4-6RM with dead-stop on each rep
  • Used in max effort setting – 1RM

Back Squat To Pins

  • Used in a submaximal setting – build to a 4-6RM with dead-stop on each rep
  • Used in max effort setting – 1RM

Some additional Considerations:

  • Vary height
  • Use a specialty bar
  • Use accommodating resistance in the form of bands or chains or both.
  • Perform for 1-3RM (1RMs are preferred)

Jerks From Pins

Considerations for Jerks from Pins:

  • Start from bottom of your dip
  • Vary specialty bar ie. football bar or regular bar
  • Use accommodating resistance in the form of bands
  • Use push jerk, power jerk, split jerk.

Overhead Pin Press

  • Used in a submaximal setting – build to a 4-6RM with dead-stop on each rep
  • Used in max effort setting – 1RM

Safety Squat Bar Overhead Press

  • Used in repeated effort setting – build to a 8RM.

Seated Shoulder Press off Pins

Seated Overhead Pin press and options available:

  • Vary height
  • Vary specialty bar ie. football bar or regular bar
  • Use accommodating resistance in the form of band or chains or both
  • Used in submaximal setting – build to a 4-6RM with dead-stop on each rep

Pin Bench Press

Football Bar Pin Bench Press

Pin Bench Press against bands

Bench Press from Pins and options available:

  • Vary height
  • Vary specialty bar ie. football bar or regular bar
  • Use accommodating resistance in the form of band or chains or both
  • Used in a submaximal setting – build to a 4-6RM with dead-stop on each rep
  • Used in max effort setting – 1RM

Bonus: Barbell Triceps Extensions From Pins

You can even perform assistance exercises like rows & extensions from pins. Here is one of my favorites to be used in a repeated effort setting with sets of 5-8.

Closing

Concentric movements are another option for us to ensure that we are staying away from accommodation and overtraining. For some, concentric movements can be a game-changer and really help crack plateaus with strength and power development.

If you’re using these for max effort work make sure that you take note of exactly your height setting and retest in 12-weeks comparing apples to apples.

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