Friday, February 25, 2011

Goal Setting

We all need to have a goal in our fitness lives, and those goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. This clever acronym was developed in the health-behavior change world as a way to remind people of how they should be setting their personal goals; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. This will set up just about anyone to have a goal that will be reachable in just a few short months. 

Be that jerk....sometimes.

Specific refers to having an EXACT goal. "I want to lose 10 pounds." Not "I want to lose 5-15 pounds."

Measurable means being able to quantify this goal. "I want to increase my vertical jump fro 29 inches to 31 inches." As opposed to "I want to jump higher."

Attainable is something that you will actually be able to do. If you are only able to deadlift 185 pounds, do not make your goal to be able to pull 500. You need to choose something that will challenge you, but is still within your reach.

Realistic does not mean "easy". It means something that you will be able to succeed at, while working hard. Saying "I will never ever eat cake or candy again" is NOT realistic. Will you never have a birthday again? People will think that you hate fun. 

Timely refers to something that can be in a relatively short period of time. If you set a goal for 3-4 months, you are much more likely to achieve it than if you set it for 15 months out. 

Just like everyone else, I have my own goals. By June 1, I want to pull 405 off the floor. By July, I would like to be able to dunk a basketball. By July 4, I will be able to see my abs, while weighing about 190 lbs. (i.e. get my BEAST MODE game up.) Over the next couple of months, I will be chronicling the steps I take to achieve these goals.

Go lift something heavy!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Go ask someone

When you need a haircut, who do you go to? The barber.

When your car isn't running properly, who do you go see? The mechanic.

When your toilet is broken, who do you call? The plumber.

When you have questions about training yourself, who do you ask? Joe, 3 cubicles over from you.

Wait, what?

Why is it that people have such a difficult time asking for help regarding fitness/wellness/strength and conditioning from qualified personnel? Everyone thinks they know their body the best and exactly what will work for them. Well, when is it gonna work? If you look the exact same as you have for the past 2 years that you have been coming to my gym, whatever you're doing ain't working. Results in the fitness world are pretty quantifiable; less fat, more muscle, better endurance, more plates on the bar. If none of the above has happened for you in the past year, you're not making gains.

So, we have no identified the problem. Who do you ask? People tend to gravitate towards different personalities for many reasons. Some people (lets use guys as an example), will go ask the "biggest" guy in their office for advice. Some will ask the "biggest" guy in the gym, or more commonly, whoever is benching the most weight. In my gym, we don't have a lot of strong guys, so seeing someone bench 225 is a shock to many people. The biggest bencher or the guy doing the weirdest exercises will be the one to get asked for advice most often. We have one of each in my gym, and neither guy knows anything. One just regurgitates everything he read about his hot new TRX workout, or the HDT sets he is doing, or the sick new KB workout he has going on. Guess what? That guy can't even deadlift his own bodyweight. Bench press guy? Literally the only thing he can do. Never even seen him do a pullup. So why do people gravitate towards them?

I have no clue. Maybe because they are free? Maybe because we are pre-conditioned to think that trainers are always just trying to sell you a session. We have a lot of trainers at my gym, and pretty much all of them are qualified to help. But, not all trainers are created equal. Everyone has their own personality, and not every one will mesh with every client. So, when you have questions, go ask a trainer. If you don't like their answer, ask a different one. Ask at the front desk about everyones backgrounds. See who interests you. LOOK at the trainers. If you think "Wow, I want to look like that tall, handsome, half-Chinese guy with the cannonball delts", then go ask him! Best case scenario, you get some great advice (*ahem* go deadlift *ahem*), and worst case scenario the guy turns out to be a jerk who only wants to sell you a session.

What this really boils down to is, stop trying to be so macho and go ask someone a question. You might just learn something.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New ways to get Beastly

This is going to be a recurring post for me. Exercises that will instantly boost your BeastMode and make you the coolest guy in your weight room.

Todays exercise is snagged from Bret Contreras out in AZ (now New Zealand). 

What it is: The Front Squat Isometric Hold is a supramaximal exercise. This means that you will be using MORE weight than you are able to actually front squat. Use either the clean grip or the cross-face grip. Load up the bar and just hold the racked position of the front squat. Be sure to engage your glutes, rectus abdominis, upper-middle back and even your obliques. Just squeeze everything. HARD.

Program it into the end of the workout, when you are doing your other core exercsies. To call this an anti-extension or anti-flexion exercise wouldn't be doing it justice. After the first time you try this exercise, you will be acutely aware of all the muscles that make up your core.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Deadlifts. Done and done. Without a doubt, it is my favorite exercise in the world. But, I mean REAL Deadlifts; not Romanian Deadlifts, not Suitcase Deadlifts, not Straight Leg Deadlifts, not Dumbbell Deadlifts. Just heavy conventional Deads.

Mr. O is deadlifting, why aren't you?

Whatever your goals might be, the deadlift can help you achieve them. Want to get stronger for sports? Deadlift. Want to gain muscle and lose fat? Deadlift. Want to improve your Riverdance skills? Well, maybe deadlifting won't help you with that, actually. But it will make your butt look great in those Riverdance pants! about those Red Sox?

Really though, the deadlift can do everything you want, and more. Everyone uses it; athletes, strongmen, olympic lifters, bodybuilders and of course powerlifters. There are tons of variations you can do to suit your specific needs, and it is really a pretty easy lift to learn/coach. Grip the bar outside your hips, get your chest up and butt back (keep that arch!), squeeze your shoulder blades, drive through your heels, and lock out your hips (crush the walnut with your butt!). Boom, laser show. That just happened.

Most people in this country are quad dominant; thats just how it is. Combine this with inactive and weak glutes caused by sitting in front of computers all day, and you have a pretty significant muscle imbalance waiting for you. The deadlift can cure this; there is no better way to strengthen all of your posterior chain muscles! Fixing this imbalance can fix alot of problems that you thought you may just have to live with; general knee pain, hip pain or low back pain to name a couple. Also, a side benefit is that every time you add another pair of 45 lb plates to the bar, you add girth to your.....hamstrings.

Great lockout...

If this exercise can do all of these amazing things to your body, why doesn't every gym in America have people deadlifting 24/7? Because if you are doing it right, its hard. Like, woodpecker lips-hard. Who knew that doing a difficult, intense, full-body exercise could reap great results?

Monday, February 14, 2011


Is this fake life? What did I just see? I was up early for 2 clients at the gym, and then I had class at noon. I had a lower body workout that I needed to get done, and I decided that going to school early to knock it out would be a good idea. The gym at my school is not fantastic, but it is not really a bad facility. The coolest thing about it, is that they have an Olympic lifting pad with a bumper plate set. This is a treat that I am not normally accustomed to, so I was looking forward to doing my deadlift workout with them. I managed to get in a pretty good training session, pulled more weight than I expected to, overall a really good workout, except that I felt like I was going to puke in my mouth the whole time.

You see, there were lots of people working out at that time (about 10 a.m.), and EVERYTHING was bad. I was the only one doing a compound lift, other than the bench press, and not a single person was using a full range of motion (ROM). As I rested between seats of deads, lunges and GHR's, I ass-hat watched (a favorite pastime of mine). Every guy benched (when the Smith machine was being used, some even used a real bench!), every guy totally blasted his biceps, there were alot of shrugs, some half-ROM overhead presses....the rare behind-the-back-barbell-wrist-curl (BTBBWC) even made an appearance! Of course, it was on the Smith machine. Actually, the Smith machine got the most use! I saw it get used for "squats", bench press, BTBBWC, overhead presses, upright rows and, of course, biceps curls. 

More useless than tits on a bull!

This hour long workout I had today provided me with several glimpses into what passes as "working out" nowadays, and it seems that as long as your'e bench pressing, your'e doing a helluva job!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Excuses are like assholes...

...they all stink, and everybody has one.

If this video doesn't make you want to get off your couch, run to the gym, and lift heavy stuff for 3 hours, then nothing will motivate you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Real vs. Perceived results

What is more important, in a commercial gym setting: results, or the perception of results? Unfortunately, the clients we see in a commercial gym are vastly different than the ones seen in a dedicated strength and conditioning facility. Not everyone who comes into our facility has the goal of getting Bigger, Faster, Stronger. Granted, the trainer has the ability (and the job) to try and sway the client into the direction of what they NEED rather than what they want. What many clients WANT, is the perception of an amazing workout. You show up for your first training session, with no exercise history and 30 pounds overweight. You meet your trainer with the arm-band and tattoo's and Ed Hardy shirt, and an hour later you leave after having done an hour of chest and tri's. You go to work for the next 3 days and can barely bend your arms, and putting on your shirt each morning requires 3 Aleve. Success! Your trainer totally kicked your ass! That is just what you wanted, someone who knows 13 different triceps extensions who can make you wicked sore for days after each weekly session!


But, thats not what our clients really need. We know now that its really most important for clients to focus on improving movement ability, soft tissue quality, improving posture and gaining strength on the good ol' fashioned compound lifts. If you are 30 pounds overweight, no amount of crunches or bicep curls is going to make a difference in your body composition. If you weigh 220 pounds and cannot do 10 legit pushups, bench pressing 75 pounds for 15 reps isn't going to help you at all.

Where is the line in the sand, though? Is there a point where results cease to matter, and the most important thing is that this particular client is simply getting into the gym? Not only are they coming to the gym, but they are starting to increase their self-efficacy. For someone like this, when do we decide that we are going to give up on squats and lunges because they hate them, and stick to leg presses and hamstring curls because they are simply WILLING to do them? It would make our job easier, but is it going to be better overall?