Friday, August 8, 2014

The Dark Side Of The Fitness Industry

I love what I do. I've spent the last 6 years working with people and helping them achieve fitness goals. I've helped people lose weight, get leaner, bigger, faster and stronger. I've been blessed with the fortune to work with an amazing array of people: world class doctors, Olympians, world record holders, prolific businessmen, well-known authors and a Holocaust survivor. Any of my awesome (former) clients who don't fit into one of those categories: you're also badass.

While I've written a lot about all the things that I like about this industry, I've never really written about the other side of the industry. The stuff that isn't so much fun that people wouldn't understand until they got into this as a career. While this post isn't intended to dissuade anyone from pursuing strength and conditioning / personal training as a career, it is intended to let people know that there are things that they might not love.

The Hours
Any personal trainer or strength coach will tell you that their schedule fucking sucks. I know VERY few people who will say "oh yeah, I love my schedule"; that's a feeling generally reserved for the owner or head of an established facility. I remember when Kelsi was training in Cambridge and was taking the train to and from work. She'd routinely get home well past 9 p.m. and then have to be up at 4:30 a.m. to get ready to catch the first train of the day. Dan used to drive 45 minutes too and from Brookline to get to work, and he'd get home late at night and eat his "coach's dinner" over the kitchen sink: bite of beef, handful of blueberries, chug of raw milk. Repeat until satisfied.

If you're a personal trainer who intends on having a full schedule, you're going to be expected to be available at the butt crack of dawn (sessions at our gym started at 6 a.m.) and for the sessions after the civilians leave work (we stopped training at 8 p.m., unless the trainer wanted to keep going). This can very easily turn into a 15 or 16 hour day. If you work in a college strength and conditioning facility the same hours hold true. Swimmers and rowers usually start training before the sun comes up and the evening lifts at BU went until close to 9 p.m. Just like in a commercial gym, this can lead to long days. I know that after Dan left our gym to run CrossFit Resilience, his days didn't get any easier. In fact, it's not uncommon for him to sleep in the gym since he will get more sleep that way.

The Money
Strength and Conditioning coaches don't exactly "get rich". Sure, there are a handful of coaches out there who've turned themselves into a brand and have achieved great financial success: Eric Cressey, Mark Verstegen, Mike Boyle and Joe Dowdell are some names that come to mind. These are extremely well-known coaches who've released products and become ingrained with collegiate and professional athletes. But for the most part, it's not a position you take because the money is so fantastic. You do it because you're interested in working with the particular population the facility caters too and because you love the industry.

As a personal trainer you can make some fairly legit money (very much gym dependent), but it all comes at the cost of your schedule. I have a few weeks of 40+ hours of personal training sessions under my belt, and I'll tell you that it's not a lot of fun. You can pound out those sessions but you'll notice that your quality begins to diminish. Personally, I found out that if I stayed at about 35 sessions a week I could make good money and still produce quality sessions that I was proud of. I wasn't quite ready to start giving out shitty sessions just to make a few more bucks.

By nature, it is a results oriented industry. This is both a curse and a blessing. You can be a great trainer with a great style of training who see's a ton of results with one group of clients and zero fucking results with another. The reason? The first group does all their homework, but the second group of clients doesn't do anything when they leave the gym besides crush Whoppers and sixers of Yuengling. Regardless of the reason, the second group of clients will go to their friends and say "that trainer didn't do shit for me, I actually gained weight while I was working with him!". And now people think you suck. However, if people adhere to your programming and consistently see the results that you intend, then you're building a solid name for yourself.

The same holds true for those of you working with athletes. You can't control what they are doing outside of the gym, and if the athlete you see on Monday, Wednesday and Friday is going home and crushing beers and pizza 3 days every weekend then the results they see from your program will be skewed. While this may not be your fault, their performances will still reflect upon you and your ability.

Too, in a college strength and conditioning facility, shit rolls quickly downhill. Very often when a team does poorly during a season the head coach will turn around and point the finger at the S&C coach. If the team is experiencing an abundance of non-contact soft tissue injuries then that's probably the right decision; but if your wide receivers have a case of the dropsies and the basketball teams only shoot 45% from the free throw line the finger should probably be pointed in another direction. It's fairly common, rightly or wrongly, for college strength coaches to get canned simply because a team performs below expectations.

Probably not the S&C coach's fault.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret: everything is bullshit. Every blog you read (I mean, except mine), every coach you listen to, every program you read: bullshit. You're reading, listening to or reading the opinion of the particular coach involved. I can share the same opinion as 10 well-established coaches that I know, but that doesn't mean that it's still just an opinion. It may be an opinion shared by smart people who can back it up with both academic and anecdotal evidence, but it's still an opinion. Despite the fact that we call it "exercise science", it's also an art that requires careful application to each individual client. A particular established protocol may work perfectly for 99% of people, but will have to be finagled for that last 1%; that's where a good coach comes into play.

It seems like I can open up Facebook any day of the week and find a thread where coaches and trainers who don't actually know each other are internet fighting about a particular theory or training method that really doesn't matter. The saying "what you eat doesn't make me shit" comes to mind whenever I see things like this. If you want to train your athletes/clients a particular way, then fantastic, that doesn't affect me even a little bit. Do you, Boo Boo.

Since everything in this industry comes down to a particular persons opinion, that ultimately means that everyone is right at some point. I may disagree with following a strict bodybuilding style program, but there are a ton of coaches/trainers out there having a ton of success doing just that. Just as I believe that foam rolling and mobility are necessary evils that all clients/athletes need to be doing, there are a ton of coaches out there who see no need for it and have clients who are training pain and injury free. I think Tracy Anderson is a total idiot who can't train her way out of a paper bag, but there are people out there who see significant "success" (however they define it) via her system. Coaches and trainers fucking love to bag on each other. It's very easy to tell your athletes that the guy in the next town does an awful job and isn't worth paying because it's your opinion. He's a direct competitor to you and you want to keep as much business with you as possible. Whatever your own opinion about various other coaches/trainers out there, the fact remains that there is a population of people out there who will find success with those people; isn't that what we ultimately want? For people to find success and happiness through exercise?

CrossFit works. Powerlifting works. Pilates works. Bodybuilding works. Soul Cycle works. Even Zumba fucking works. Anything will work if you bust your ass and consistently put everything you have into your training. A shitty program performed with full adherence is always going to be more effective than a "perfect" program performed with a lackluster attitude.

Some of these are things "we" can change (infighting, maybe even better pay!) and some are just the nature of the business. All in all, they don't change the way that I feel about being a performance coach, but I know that some of these things end up being a big deal for other people. Take everything I said with a small grain of salt and find out more information if it's of interest to you.

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Getting Big On A Budget

Most people are trying to get leaner all of the time, which is cool. But there's something insanely fun about going through a few months of just focusing on getting massive and girthy and strong as hell.

The list of things that are awesome about being Big is long: t-shirts fit better, you don't need blankets at night because you sweat so much, small children will want you to throw them in the air and you'll get a ton of pizza and beer from friends asking you to help them move. The worst thing about trying to get as big as a Mountain (see what I did there?) is how much it costs. Eating a shit ton of calories can get pretty costly, especially if you're trying to maintain some semblance of a reasonable body composition. Well, this blog post isn't going to be for those people. The topic of this post is getting gigantic and strong and doing it as cheaply as possible. There will be nothing remotely "healthy" about the food combinations and eating strategies that I talk about. If you're concerned about your fiber intake or if you're getting enough green veggies then this probably isn't the post for you.

Get Your Moneys Worth
When you're on a budget and trying to gain some weight, you need to concern yourself mainly with the amount of protein and/or carbs you're getting per dollar from a particular food source. This might cut out some of the foods you normally love to eat, but that's a sacrifice you'll need to make.

Here's a list of some foods that will give you a lot of macros and calories per dollar:
Eggs: a dozen for about $2.49
Tuna: you can usually find tuna for a buck per can (about 44g of protein!)
Rice: super carbs and you can get big-ass boxes of it for not a lot of money
White Potatoes: no idea what a 5 pound bag costs...but it's not a lot
Ground Beef: you can always find giant family packs of it on sale
Rotisserie Chickens: if you go to BJ's or Costco at like 9 p.m. on a Friday you can buy them 2 for 1!
Whole Milk: oodles of macros and it costs like 3 or 4 bucks
Turkey Breast: specifically the "hotel cut" (as my Dad calls it), but this takes some cooking
Peanut Butter: you can find big ass jars of it for cheap; plenty of calories
Beans: you can get them in any variety for cheap, and they are full of good stuff

Some notable foods left off of the list:
avocado: I adore them, but they are not particularly cost effective.
steak: if you can get them on sale, great, if not it doesn't fit the bill.
bacon: delicious and full of good fat, but expensive and provides very little protein per serving.
veggies: just not enough calories to make it worth your money.

Pro Tips
As someone who's been eating for Girth for a while (and been around other people doing the same) here are some tips that I've picked up along the way.
- Food prep: always important, but twice as important when you're eating to be giant. Always having the necessary food with you will keep your weight up and costs down. If you can cook food in vast quantities it will be even cheaper.
- Bowls and Spoons: probably the two most important things for someone looking to achieve significantly body proportions. Given the amount of food that you'll be eating, your best bet is to mash everything up into a bowl and consume it quickly with a spoon.
- Metamucil: might be a worthwhile supplement to help expel all of the incoming food products
- Condiments: food can get less delicious when you're consuming vast quantities. A bottle of ranch dressing will go a long way in getting things down your gullet.

photo credit: Lift Big Eat Big
Protein is a beautiful thing, but in order to gain some real mass you're going to need oodles of carbos as well. To the uninitiated, it may seem tough to continuously get that many calories into a meal at a time, so I'll share with you some of my go-to "recipes".

-Cup of Oatmeal with maple syrup, peanut butter and chocolate protein powder. Stir it up and get awesomer. 6 scrambled eggs with shredded cheese on top

- Bowl of Success: ground beef, beans, salsa, rice. Stir it up and get awesome.
- Tuna sandwiches (2). Make your tuna normally with mayo, spread peanut butter on both pieces of bread and put the tuna on. Consume it and get huge.
- 2 cans of tuna fish made normally. A sleeve of Town House crackers. (Thanks Cam)

- Shepherds Pie. Find a recipe and cook it. Go do front squats. Eat it with a big ass spoon.
- Meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
- Beef Stew. Not intrinsically "cheap", but becomes cheap when you cook 3 gallons of it and pour it over rice. Eat it with a spoon. Fucking gains for days.
- Box of Macaroni and Cheese with ground beef mixed in. Consume with a large spoon.

- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- Quesarito from Chipotle (if it fits your budget)
- Protein smoothies: protein powder, peanut butter, banana, ice cream, donut. You're welcome.

As you can see, as many meals as possible should contain both protein and carbs for maximum girth acquisition. Sure, there will be times when you can only get your hands on 6 or 8 hard boiled eggs for a meal, and that's fine. You're still getting good macros, but probably a little light on the calories that you'd normally want.

Any cheap meals that have a high gainz quotient that I need to know about? Let me know!

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Random Awesome Things

Every once in a while I like writing one of these random posts about stuff that I've been using in my daily life that I really really like. Some of these things may be old hat to you, but that's why it's my blog and not yours, turd.

Tri-Blend T-Shirts
If you train hard and have any moderate amount of muscle mass on your upper body you're going to want to start investing in American Apparel Tri-blend t-shirts. The material is a combination of Gods beard hair, the tail of a unicorn and cotton. They are readily available from companies like Rogue Fitness and EliteFTS and most other fitness-related companies have begun printing t-shirts on this material or a similar one. Not only do these shirts feel amazing but they fit just the way you'd want if you've spent the last several months training hard. I own (to Kelsi's dismay) about 15 or so t-shirts in this material and wear them constantly.

Pyrex Containers
After working in gyms for a long time, I've really learned the importance of prepping meals ahead of time. I've used several types of containers over the years but for the last year or so I've used almost exclusively Pyrex containers. Truthfully, you'll end up spending a little more up front for these suckers but they are worth it. You can get them in a variety of shapes and sizes and they will last forever (I mean, it's glass; don't drop it). The best thing about them is that they won't retain flavors, scents or stains from anything that you had in their before. They also won't release any chemicals when you heat up food in the microwave.

A good side benefit of Pyrex is that they all tell you the size of the container on the top lid, so you know that if you fill it up you have two cups of chicken and (if you need) can use it to figure out whatever nutrition information you may need for a meal/day.

Cold Brew Coffee
I'd noticed this stuff a few times but didn't really pay attention to it until my sister started raving about it a month or so ago. It is, essentially, coffee that is brewed with cold water rather than hot. The result is a cup of coffee that is much smoother than you're used to and without any of the acidity that people might notice with hot coffee. Since I'm cheap, I've been brewing my own at home instead of buying it at trader joe's like my sister does. Kelsi and I drink it iced and I think we both really enjoy it (she prefers different beans than I do). I'm told you can heat it up but I've yet to try.

- Fill up a large container/jar with a cover with 9 cups of cold water.
- Use whole beans (I like darker roasts, Kelsi prefers light) and coarsely grind 2 cups. (2 cups of ground beans to 9 cups water is the best ratio I've used).
- Dump the grounds directly into the water. Cover it up and give it a shake, then let it rest. I'll shake it once or twice later on to mix up the grounds. Let it sit for at least 12 hours
- Strain the liquid. I cut the bottom off of a 2-liter bottle of coke and then rolled up a little piece of felt and stuffed it into the neck of the bottle. This acts as my strainer. Fill up the bottle and let it strain.
- I've found that it stores the best in the fridge, it gets a weird film on it if you let it sit out for too many days.
- Serve over ice and enjoy!

Ace Bandages
After 32 years of sports and lifting my knees get a little achey sometimes. In order to keep training I've tried a few different products to keep my knees feeling good with various degrees of success. I have the Hookgrip knee sleeves and like them for light days when I'm doing power snatches and stuff. I got blue Rehbands for Christmas a few years ago and love everything about them...except the constant mustyness that comes with wearing them a lot. If I were able to always shower right after lifting I'd be prone to wearing them more often. I also bought a pair of light knee wraps from EliteFTS and like them a lot, but find that they are just a little too bulky to wear consistently for weightlifting movements.

During a conversation with my buddies a month or two again, Dan mentioned that he'd been using Ace bandages to wrap his knees and loved them. I felt comfortable investing the necessary $12 and gave them a shot. They are way less bulky than knee wraps, provide much more compression than the Hookgrip sleeves, and don't leave me smelling like Big Foots taint like my Rehbands. They also cost about a tenth of everything else I tried combined. Fuck me, right?

Risto Sports Compression Shorts
Weightlifters love wearing spandex. It allows you to keep the bar super close to your body and makes your ass look gigantic. My old coach Ivan Rojas started making these for us when we said that we wanted a shorts option of spandex to lift in when it got warmer out. He basically had his manufacturer take the bottom half of the singlets we have (which we all really like) and turn them into shorts. The bottom of them are lined with a rubber material which prevents them from sliding up your legs while you're lifting, and the front is double stitched with heavy duty panels to prevent any wear and tear from the bar sliding up your legs during snatches. I don't like lifting in my singlet very often and prefer spandex and a t-shirt. It's often too warm to wear my full-length Under Armour pants, so these are a fantastic option. I love them and wear them all the time!

High Rep Accessory Work
I've talked about this before, but I've been doing it more and more and can't say enough good things about it. Whether it's for me, a client or an athlete I've been including a few sets of very high rep work targeted at a few specific spots and I've seen some good success with it lately. It's not intended to be add a ton of extra stress to the lifter, but it should hit some pretty specific target areas. In my opinion, the areas that I want to hit mainly are the glutes and the lats. These are the two biggest muscles in your body (glutes are the biggest in cross-sectional size and the lats are the biggest in surface area) and there's a reason for it. They both play a huge role in trunk stability and the ability to resist/transfer forces. I've been including 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps of some of these exercises lately:
- Reverse Hyper
- Face Pulls
- Resistance Band Pull-Throughs (the glute contraction feels much different than with a cable)
- Straight Arm Pulldowns with a resistance band and a PVC pipe
- Lu Raises
- Fat Grip Biceps Curls
- TRX Mechanical Drop Set (Y's, T's, Rows)

That's it for today! If anyone knows anything awesome that I'd enjoy, leave a comment! Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Eating Strategies for Everybody

There is an absurdly overwhelming amount of information out there regarding nutritional strategies to follow. You can do cleanses and smoothies, eat raspberry ketones, shake some fucking powder on your food or drink the blood of a young cobra during the peak of the harvest moon.

Plain and simple: that stuff is all bullshit. People have known for a very long time that there is a pretty simple way to manage both your weight and your body composition. The buzzword for this that I'm going to throw at you is "carb manipulation". You may be familiar with other names like the ketogenic diet, the warrior diet or carb cycling.

This is more or less the idea that gave birth to the famed Atkins Diet. You eat more carbs and you get bigger/fatter. Eat fewer carbs and lose weight/get leaner. Simple, right? Well how did people start messing it up so much?

Mainly, because people are lazy and usually want to take the easy way out. "Well, I can just sprinkle some of this fucking powder on my loaded cheesey fries and boom I'll get my beach body!" Nobody wants to hear that they have to limit their delicious food choices because they "earned" those treats via some convoluted system in their brain.

Ok, so you're committed to changing your eating habits. Through some internet research you've figured out that there's approximately 42 different ways to manipulate your carbohydrate intake. They range from the simple variations such as carb backloading to the more aggressive carb nite. You can find a ton of information on both and see what you think for yourself.

The nice thing about carb manipulation is that it can truly be tailored to fit anyone in any situation. There are a myriad of benefits about managing your carbs during a day/week/month, but the most obvious one is your body composition. I'd love to tell you about your insulin levels, testosterone, inflammation and the effect on your autonomic nervous system but we both know you don't actually give a rats ass about it. And that's ok.

Let's say you usually eat carbs 4 times a day, every day, and your carb intake at each meal varies between 50-100g (we'll use an average of 75g). That's 300g of carbs in a day and 2100g of carbs in a week. That's a lot of carbs. If you were to follow a carb backloading style of eating and eat a whole buttload of carbs in one sitting at dinner you'd probably end up consuming 150g of carbs for the day and 1,050g for the week. A pretty substantial difference.

An even more aggressive strategy, Carb Nite, allows for 30g of (incidental) carbs per day for a week before you get one night of going HAM on whatever you want. Even if we don't consider the hormonal benefits of this, you'd probably end up consuming 600-700g of carbs that night which would be it for the week.

If you're interested in tailoring a carb manipulation strategy to your own eating, you can start off as slowly as you'd like. Limit carbs to two meals a day and only a set amount of carbs. Then start limiting your carbs to just one meal, or just after you exercise. Stay honest with yourself and don't stray from your strategy for several weeks (enough time to see some changes). Find out what works for you, your schedule and most importantly your personality. Trying to start an eating strategy that will be impossible for you to maintain is just setting yourself up for a failure that you don't need.

If you're one of the assholes lucky ones who is having a tough time gaining weight, then hold tight. I've got something for you too.

Start slow, be successful and see some progress. Then tailor your eating to meet your new goals!

Have a great day, and go lift some heavy shit!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Willpower vs. Desire

One of the things that I personally think that I'm good at is the psychology of stuff behind fitness and strength and conditioning. I'm pretty good at getting inside peoples heads and knowing what it will take to help them succeed in achieving their goals. I spent 5 years working as a personal psychologist trainer and had to learn a ton of different tricks to employ when people were standing in the way of their own progress.

One of the things that I've been thinking about a lot lately is the difference between someone having the willpower to do something and having the desire to do something. It may seem like I'm splitting hairs to some of you, but I think there's a clear and significant difference between them.

Willpower, as I've come to see it, is a passive emotion. You can have the willpower to not eat the apple pie sitting in the fridge, but that is simply not doing anything about it. The pie will sit there and you will see it and say "nope". This is well-and-good for a short period of time, but eventually willpower will run out. That delicious concoction of apple and cinnamon and pastry will continue to sit there until you finally say "fuck it" and end up balls deep in in while watching Game of Thrones some night after work. Willpower works in the short term, but you can't trust it in the long run.

This is one of my favorite shirts from EliteFTS. Reason 1 is because it's a tri-blend and they hug your traps and lats in all the right ways. The second reason is because of the quote on the back: The will to conquer is the first condition of victory.  It's simple: in order to succeed, you have to be willing to do what you have to do.

This is when I first made the distinction between having the will to do something and having the desire to do it. When you desire to do something, it's an active emotion. You are consciously thinking "no, I'm not gonna eat that fucking pie". You're not just telling yourself "ok, I'm going to get to the gym today and that will be good", you're saying "I'm going to go to the gym and fucking crush it and make some changes".

Just having the willpower to do something isn't good enough. Find motivation (either intrinsically or extrinsically) that you need to go out and actively chase your fitness goals. You're not going to get leaner and stronger by sitting back and waiting for it to happen.

Have a good day and go lift some heavy shit!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How Strong Does Your Core NEED To Be?

Core training is obviously a very important aspect of a training program. Without a strong and stable core your athletes will have a tough time transferring power from their hips into any sort of ballistic movement. Instead, they will end up flaccidly flopping around and looking like a turd rather than an athlete.

I will finally concede that simply doing your basic barbell lifts is NOT adequate for core training. I will tell myself that doing heavy front squats, presses and pulls will help you develop a strong core (they will) but at the end of the day you need more than that ::sigh::.

So now that I will admit to needing more core training, what should you be doing? I've written before about my thoughts on core stability training rather than training your core dynamically. You should be training your core with standard planks, bodysaws, various anti-rotation presses and isometric holds, stir-the-pots, heavy farmers walks and long farmers walks (uni- and bi-lateral, overhead, etc). I could go on and on, but I don't want to. The point is that there are a ton of appropriate exercises to be doing, you just need to pick the right ones for you/your clients and athletes and apply them. If your athlete can't hold a standard plank without a ton of lordosis then they probably shouldn't be doing a stir-the-pot or ab wheel rollout quite yet.

This brings me to the actual point of this post: how strong does your core NEED to be? I'm asking an actual question, not setting myself up to make some grand point. Is there an upper limit to the efficacy of some of the core exercises that we can all see out there? Does training yourself to go from a bi-lateral standing rollout to a contra-lateral standing rollout significantly increase your performance in any fashion? Or is it just fucking cool? I feel like once you've increased your core strength and stability to being able to do a hand walkout on two PVC pipes, you should be pretty much good to go regarding your core strength, right? I've seen some circus tricks being passed off as core exercises and just can't find a time or a place that I'd ever actually consider putting them into a program for someone.

As I sit here and right this, I wonder if I'm not approaching it with too much of a civilian attitude. I use Mark Bell's phrase "strength is never a weakness" pretty often, and maybe I just need to remind myself that it applies to core training as well. If you're still able to make your core stronger through exercises that look ridiculous, then maybe it's still worthwhile.

I'm conflicted. Once athletes are able to perform certain core exercises without any level of difficulty I often find it difficult to continue programming any serious amount of core work. I'll still include a few exercises, but I'd much rather use that time to focus on something else that they can continue to see solid improvement with (conditioning, body comp, power, technique).

It's a question I've been pondering in my head for quite a while, and I've mostly made up my mind. However, I love learning and I'm interested to hear anybody's thoughts on the subject! Let me know what you think! Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Manifesto

I've written a lot on my blog about my philosophy/style of training. I make no bones about thinking that "my" style is the most effective one to improve strength, power and athleticism. If I knew a better way to achieve these goals then I would be doing that.  Heck, it can even help improve your body composition if you do it with enough gusto. Despite all this, I recently got the urge to lay it all out on the line here anyway.

I've been doing this long enough that I believe that I'm at the point where my style is more or less cemented into place. I don't foresee me suddenly making any huge changes in the way that I design training programs, but I will say with 100% certainty that I will add/subtract things as I deem necessary when their usefulness to me/my clients change.

My style is largely based upon the teachings of Cressey Performance (Tony, Eric and Greg), Dan John and Jim Wendler. If I were to apply percentages to this I'd say it's probably 40% CP, 30% Dan John and 30% Wendler (that's 100%, right?). Truthfully, the 3 sources of practice listed above are really very similar in a lot of ways. The most important (in my eyes) quality that I've learned from these sources is simplicty. So many coaches want to make the programs so unique and perfect that they fuck it all up and make it over-complicated. Training is really a pretty simple thing to do.

From Cressey Performance I've learned the importance of assessing clients so that you can then correct their imbalances. I take a slightly more remedial approach to the types of assessments that I do, because I can get away with it with my particular population. When it's truly necessary for me to learn/apply a more complicated or in-depth assessment, I will. For now, basic assessments and traditional mobility exercises applied appropriately have been working fantastically. From CP I've also learned the true power of medicine ball training (Get it? True Power?). By utilizing this tool, you can teach athletes how to produce more force in an open-chain exercise using "sport specific" (God I hate that term) movement patterns that they can translate to the field of play immediately. I try to apply medicine ball training to every session of every program that I write, even if it's something as simple as slams and vertical throws.

From Dan John I learned the concepts of truly simplistic training and the 5 basic human movement patterns. Coach John has been doing this for a very long time and has moved quite a few pounds of weight in his day, so when he talks you should be listening. At one point in his life, after many years of lifting, he saw some of his best gains ever on a simple 2x/week training program. That's it. Two days per week. While I don't think everyone should be training only twice a week, the idea stays the same: the best progress will be made when applying small consistent efforts over a long period of time. If you go H.A.M. and train 6 days per week for 4 months and then get burnt out and don't train again for 4 months, then you didn't make a lot of progress. If you lift 3 days a week, feel great and make it through a full year of training then your gains are going to be through the roof. Make sure you're training all 5 movement patterns (squat, hinge, push, pull and loaded carry) then you're going to be strong and powerful.

When I heard Coach John talk at the NSCA Ohio Clinic a few weeks ago he also talked about the idea of a "perfect program" in the sense that there isn't one. No single program can account for every variable and apply every little nugget of knowledge that the coach has. It's impossible. Instead of trying to write a perfect program, focus on writing "pretty good" programs. As long as your clients/athletes are getting stronger, faster and staying healthy then you're doing a really good job.

While Coach John introduced me to and helped me understand the concept, Wendler has really helped me apply the "small, consistent efforts" idea with his 5/3/1 program template. He urges you to "start light, progress slowly and break personal records". If you're willing to put in the hard work necessary, then over time you will see a lot of gains. Training is a process, and you have to be invested in it to get to where you want to go. Jim is also a huge proponent of "moving like an athlete", which is a concept I appreciate. Athletes run, jump and throw so you should too. Chuck some medicine balls, sprint and jump over hurdles. These are simple things that will improve your athleticism drastically. He's also one of the biggest proponents of my favorite conditioning tool; the Prowler. It's no secret that I'm not big into conditioning (for myself), but when I do it, it's generally by pushing the sled. Lastly, you'll know this if you've ever written something he wrote, Wendler is a huge "no bullshit" kind of guy: no bullshit reason about poor training, no bullshit reason to not train, no bullshit exercises that don't work, just no bullshit. I like that.

These three sources are very different but have all really taught me the same things, which I apply to my program design. Sprint, throw and jump. Lift heavy barbells and lift them fast. Use basic, compound exercises (clean, snatch, squat, deadlift, press, pull and carry) and get strong as fuck at them and good things will happen. Keep your auxiliary exercises short and to the point. The best corrective exercises are often-times movement based (if you want your squat to get un-fucked, well then squat every damn day). Keep your conditioning short and sweet. There's no need for gimmicks and tricks, and there are no shortcuts to success; just hard work and consistency. Most importantly, that strength is the foundation for everything else you want to achieve. Nobody ever said "Oh, sorry I can't, I'm too strong for that".

With that being said, there's a handful of things that I truly don't adhere to. It certainly doesn't mean that these things are bad or useless, it just means that I have not found them to be as effective with my clients and athletes and have since discarded them. There's a legitimate chance that I come back to these things somewhere down the road and find them beneficial; I'm not too proud to do this. I don't think that we, as strength coaches, need to be doing a dozen corrective exercises with athletes. Two or three specific correctives (to me, mobility and activation drills) should be sufficient and anything more than that should probably be handled by a sports medical professional (AT/PT). I don't think that many athletes need a ton of conditioning outside of their pre-season phase. Athletes (especially younger ones) are playing so many sports so often that they get plenty of conditioning there. I don't believe that we should let athletes get away with sub-optimal technique on their Olympic and power lifts just because "they are athletes, not weightlifters". That's a shitty excuse for poor coaching. Does an athlete need to have a flawless snatch? No, of course not, but they/you should still be striving for it. I like my power exercises to be power exercises and my strength exercises to be strength exercises; your intention should always be to move that bar as fast as possible. Lastly, I refuse to believe that donuts are bad for you; they just taste too fucking good post-workout.

Many people who know me personally think that I'm a cocky bastard (meh), but I'm not so brash to think that I'm the only one doing what I do, or that there aren't a lot of coaches out there doing it better than I am (*gasp* is that humility?). I know there are lots of ways of getting results that I'm not utilizing, but I apply my system well and it's been effective in my utilization. I know I'm really good at what I do, but I can look at other guys on my "level" (Dan Atkinson, Dave Rak, Miguel Aragoncillo, Greg Robins, Mike Sirani, etc) and think to myself "shit, they are fucking good, how do I get there?" I know that I'm on the right track, but there's always more things for me to learn, adapt and apply. It's all a process and I'm really looking forward to it.

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!