Thursday, March 31, 2011

Strength Training vs Circuit Training vs Strength Circuits vs Barbell Complex vs Tabata vs. Death Circuits

Phew. Thats a helluva title, huh?

So, my post from the other day "Are you getting stronger?" got me thinking about the way people work out. Clearly, there is a large gap in information between the well-educated strength coaches and advanced lifters and the average "trainer" and Joe Gym-Goer. A lot of what people do in the gym is based off of what they think they know; which bugs me more than legit ignorance. Man up, just come ask me a question if you don't know something.

Anyway, one thing many people "know" is circuit training. Circuit training is a great form of exercise that I use quite often with clients for whom I am looking to achieve a metabolic effect. It can also be a great way to gain strength in a compressed period of time; if you only have 30 minutes to train, then a strength circuit might be the way to go for you. No, it may not help improve your maximal strength, but you won't get weaker doing it.

NOTE: the above picture is NOT what I mean when I refer to circuit training. Had I wanted to refer to the pictured type of training, I would have punched myself directly in the junk. 

Lets break down the different types of "circuit" training and how they work.

Strength Training: Heavy weights. Low reps. High chance of the blonde on the treadmill jumping off to make out with you.
Example: A) Deadlift 5x5
                B1) Reverse Lunge 3x8/leg
                B2) T-spine extensions
                C1) Single Leg Slideboard Hamstring Curls 3x8/leg
                C2) Bodysaw 4x10
                D) Yell "LIGHTWEIGHT BABYYYYY" like Ronnie Coleman

Circuit Training: The umbrella term to cover all the bases. This simply means that you are performing several different exercises in a row with minimal/no rest between exercises and a longer rest between sets. In general, the focus of this type of exercise is more metabolic than strength-oriented. Nick Tumminello has developed some really good circuits, especially for his fitness competitor girlfriend.
Example: Burpees x8
                Mountain Climbers x 20
                Walking Lunges x 10/leg
                Alligator Walk x 15 yards
                Jumping Jacks x 20
                Sprint x 20 yards
                **performed 5 times with 2 minute rests in between

Example 2: DB Reverse Lunge x 8/leg
                   DB Push Press x8
                   DB Bent Over Row x 10
                   DB Cross Waiters Walk x 15 yards
                   Pushups x 10
                  **Performed 5 times with 2 minutes rests in between. 

Strength Circuits: A little bit of this, a little bit of that. A good way to get in a high volume of strength work, while achieving a good metabolic effect. If you think weight training isn't "cardio" then try out one of these circuits.
Example: Deadlift x 6
                Chinups x 8
                Pushups x 10
                Facepull x 10
                **Use a challenging weight, but only about 80% of the weight you would normally use.
                ***Try to not vomit in your mouth.

Barbell Complex: Popularized in multiple T-Nation articles, the barbell complex has become a highly utilized style of metabolic training. One of the reasons they have become so popular, is because it allows you to get some movement training in for your compound exercises. They are done by choosing several barbell exercises and performing them in succession for Xreps without ever putting the barbell down. You rest, try not to die, and then repeat. They are performed with an extremely light weight (an empty bar will crush you) and at the highest velocity possible. The amount of weight can be adjust by using a bodybar, or even dumbbells depending on the level of your client. 
Example: Cleans x 8
                Front Squat x 8
                Push Press x 8
                Back Squat x 8
                Bent Over Row x 8
                Deadlift x 8
                Good Morning x 8
                *Performed 6 times. 3 minute rest between each set.
                **Don't be a hero. Use an empty barbell. Work on velocity.
                ***Write out your workout and tape it to the mirror in front of you, no excuses.
                ****Don't use bicep curls and calf raises for your exercises.

Tabata: Masochism to the max. Developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata, these are one of the worst things I have ever done. To do these, you're gonna need to choose a big exercise that you can do fast. Real fast. Lunges will not work, because they take too long to do. Pushups will not work because you fatigue too quickly. Unfortunately, the best exercise for a Tabata is the squat; if there is gonna be external resistance, a front squat or goblet squat. It is 4 minutes of work; not too bad, right? You will perform a 2:1 work rest ratio (20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest), for a total of 8 circuits. Give it a shot at the end of your workout some day. Shit, just use bodyweight squats, see what happens. (p.s. I have had success doing these with KB swings with clients). 

Death Circuits: Not so much a style of training, as a form of torture. They can be used to help build team camaraderie,  challenge athletes to get competitive and beat each others times, or haze your new interns (I'm looking at you, Cressey Performance). Most people wouldn't do these on a consistent basis, but maybe in a team training setting; a way to finish off the week if you will. There isn't much rhyme or reason to the exercises chosen, as long as they all make the athlete hate life. 
Example: Trap Bar Deadlift x 8
                Prowler Push x 20 yards
                Farmers Walk x 20 yards
                Overhead Keg Lunges x 20 yards
                Sledgehammer Tire Hits x 10/side
                Reverse Prowler Drag x 20 yards
                Vomit on your Free's x 30 seconds

Jamie Eason thanks you for making it through that whole post!

Go give one of these circuits a shot...and make it heavy!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A curse or a blessing?

Recently, I came across something interesting in Shape magazine. Or maybe it was Self know, it could've been Oxygen magazine too. I really can't tell the difference. Regardless, it was something I recognized immediately, something that was out of place, yet appropriate for this periodical. It was this.

Stability Ball Body Bar Hip Lift?

This magazine had taken one of the newest, best exercises the Strength and Conditioning world has received in many years and bastardized it. Bret Contreras popularized / invented the exercise we know as the barbell Hip Thruster. He actually even invented a "machine" (really, a platform) on which to do the exercise with a resistance band over your lap. Through EMG studies, his own success and success with clients, the exercise took off and is now widely used. Strength coaches of all disciplines have been getting behind this exercise (pun not intended, but totally intended) for the last year or two. 

Bret took a normal rehab/prehab/activation exercise that has been around forever and did something ingenious with it: he loaded it up with a barbell! Who would've thought that taking a great exercises and adding a shit-ton of external resistance would add up to great results?

So, is this a great thing for Bret, or is it a sign of the coming apocalypse? Sure, it is a great thing that his exercise has reached the level of popularity that someone at a nationally known magazine picked up on it and figured out how to make it suck  and used it in their "workout", but is that ok? Can you be happy when your exercise is being used incorrectly and to get minimal results? Eric Cressey has pointed out numerous times that when you use an unstable surface (in this case, the swiss ball) that all it really does is  allow you to use less weight, thus decrease your results. If the exercise is described as using a body bar, what is the heaviest anyone will go? 36 pounds? I think that is where they max out. 

I am sure that, if asked, Bret would be happy that someone in the masses reading that magazine would be able to benefit from his exercise, even if it was only a very small percentage. I suppose that is the correct answer; after all, as strength and conditioning coaches we should want for ALL people to get better/stronger/faster, not just our own clients. That is what really counts, isn't it?

Still, I think I would be a little pissed if I was him. Go do some hip thrusters now.

And make sure it's heavy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New ways to get Beastly

This week's Beastly exercise is not really from one person, per se. The lineage of the exercise / method of lifting is traced back to Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell.

What it is: Resistance Band Deadlift. 

Why it is sick: Where to begin? The Westside Barbell crew has been proving the benefits of accommodating resistance for years now; take a look at the power-lifting rankings and see how many top lifters train / have trained at that gym. Accommodating resistance allows you to change the resistance being applied to the barbell at different points during the lift. This way, you can work on the parts that need to get worked on, without stressing the parts of the lift that you are good at. The resistance band deadlift allows you to lift a submaximal weight off the floor, and then have it become a max weight at your lockout point. For example, I recently bought a pair of EliteFTS "strong" mini bands. At the max stretch I can provide in a deadlift (33"), the bands will be providing 260 lbs of force. Add that to the 135 lbs that I have on the barbell, and at the very top of the lift I am dealing with 395 lbs of force. There are other ways to use these bands, and I will be going over them in the future. Not too shabby for a few rubber bands, huh?

There are many different sized bands that you can use, so start off with something light. It provides a really different feel to your normal deadlift, and will pay off with big dividends.

Now go give it a shot!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Are you getting stronger?

A few months ago, at the end of 2010, a pretty well known strength and conditioning coach got some weight off his chest. No, he didn't get lean, and no, he didn't PR in the bench press. He posted a rant of epic proportions on his blog, and he made some waves with it. Jason Ferrugia is a S&C coach from the New York/Jersey area, and is pretty well known for his no-bullshit approach to training.

It ain't strength training unless you're getting strong

Boom, laser show. That just happened.

All in all, I think it was a great (much needed) rant by a pretty well known strength coach. I see it more than a lot of coaches, being that I train in a commercial facility. I see it on a daily basis; people in the gym doing useless crap that is taking them on the long road to nowhere. Don't get me wrong, I am happy that all of these people are in the gym in the first place. That is great, I can't say enough good things about that. But, now that you are in the gym, how about doing something useful? Do you really think benching (flat, incline, decline) 3 times a week is what you need to be doing? Is a 8 exercise bicep workout your path to glory?

On the other hand, I probably know 10 guys who can see their abs year round but weigh 140 pounds. In the words of the great Alec Baldwin in The Departed "Cui gives a shit?" It's not impressive. You still look like a 17 year old girl, AND you're just as strong as that little girl too. Ferrugia is right, very few people need to have razor-cut abs year round. Being that lean all the time is just going to impair your size and strength gains. 

Just frigging eat something, dude.

9 out of 10 guys I see at my gym is skipping the most important stuff. Barbell lifts. Heavy compound exercises. Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Military Press / Push Press, Rows, Cleans. Just do them, they have been around for decades for a reason. Arnold wasn't doing TRX workouts, he wasn't doing kettlebell circuits. He was picking up heavy shit. 

This brings me to another point; guys who don't know their level. Everything in fitness works off of a baseline level; that is how you gauge your progress. Pretty much every guy I see in my gym is missing a baseline level of strength. I forget who's chart it is, and I can't find it right now, but there is a chart from a strength coach outlining what he expects the lowest levels of strength from his high school athletes to be. Needless to say, most guys in my gym wouldn't even come close to sniffing those numbers. What benefit does a kettlebell circuit provide if you can't squat 1.5 times your bodyweight? If you can't deadlift twice your bodyweight? (FYI for a 185 lb guy, those numbers are 275 and 370, not exactly ground breaking numbers.) Do you really think TRX rows are a superior exercise to T-bar rows? Using progressive over-load with a TRX row is much harder than slapping another 45 on the T-bar. 

What I'm trying to say, is that you should be strong before you are anything else. Ferrari doesn't design their sports cars with a 4-cylinder 120 horsepower engine; they start off with 500 turbo-charged horses and then make the rest of the car look great. Thats how it SHOULD be. There is nothing wrong with TRX's, or kettlebells or High Density Training, or German Volume Training....once you have accomplished certain levels of strength. 

Don't jump the gun. You've gotta walk before you run. And any other cliche that works in this circumstance. In the end, I guess its good that you are actually doing something in the gym, just make sure its worth while.

Now go pick up something heavy.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Internet Mentor + Training Environment

So, a few days ago, I made it onto the blog of my internet mentor, Tony Gentilcore. You can read the post below. For me, this is like having Larry Bird tell you that you have a good jump shot.

Deadlift Dissection

When I say "internet mentor", I mean that in the least creepy-I've-never-met-you-but-think-we-should-be-buddies way possible. Seriously though, I'm pretty sure he would want to take me under his wing and teach me the ways of lifting heavy shit while we discuss the pros and pros of Jessica Biel and her anterior pelvic tilt.

And, Boom goes the dynamite

All joking aside, I read his blog religiously and really subscribe to his methods of training. In an industry full of ass-clowns, it is refreshing to find a facility like Cressey Performance that is full of straight shooters, especially since it is 35 minutes away from me!

Now that I have finished kissing TG's ass, I need to mention a great point he brought up on his blog. The music playing while I lift sucks. Plain and simple. It is literally impossible to lift to your maximal potential with sissified pansy-music playing like that over the stereo. I understand why my facility limits the types of music we play; we cater to a somewhat older crowd; a crowd that is decidedly more Phil Collins and less DMX. 

This isn't really a huge deal for me; I just crank up the Ipod when I lift and get after it. The big problem for me is when I am working; my clients don't like trying to crank out triples on their front squats while the Goo Goo Dolls plays in the background. Having soft, sweetly sung tunes is just NOT conducive to an environment where people really wanna work hard and get better. 

Nia Shanks left an interesting comment, where she says "Go to a gym that doesn't play Justin Timberlake, and you should add 50+ to your deadlift!" And she is probably right! A gym like that has multiple ways of making you stronger: 1) loud my-Mother-doesn't-love-me music 2) chalk and most importantly, 3) people that are like minded and trying to get better. Thats the big one, for me. Anytime I am in the weight room working out and some of the other trainers are in there getting in their own workouts, I have a great lift. The atmosphere is much more energetic; people are willing to go heavier to show off, there are spotters, guys are cheering for each other. On the other hand, if I am getting ready for some heavy lifting, and the weight room is full of gym-monkeys doing biceps curls and overhead cable triceps extensions, as well as a few 70 year olds who are doing quad contractions and scapular retractions, how am I supposed to get jacked up to lift heavy stuff? Don't get me wrong, I love old people. They just don't make great training partners. 

Get it, girl!

An interesting comparison to the normal commercial gym atmosphere would be a Crossfit gym. Crossfit gyms are popping up all over the place, so they are more commercialized than they used to be. I would also think that they lend themselves as a more interesting comparison than a private strength and conditioning facility (like Cressey Performance or EliteFTS) because they are much more accessible to the general population. (I will save my opinions on the Crossfit style of training for another day) I am using Crossfit as my comparison because those gyms attract a particular type of person. People who truly have an interest in fitness, people who want to get better, people who want to challenge themselves on a daily basis. In a word: athletes. Whereas in my particular gym, we have a large number of people who have never had a gym experience before, and wanna-be meatheads who just focus on their guns. More and more athletes are leaving commercial gym settings and finding themselves at a Crossfit affiliate because they want to be around like-minded individuals. One of the best things Crossfit does is provide an amazing training atmosphere; you get put into classes, there are competitions, scores are posted, you get CHALLENGED. 

Maybe Crossfit isn't so bad after all...

In other words, athletes get to be athletes. For the same reason that competitive baseball players to go Cressey Performance, NFL players go to DeFranco's gym and hockey players go see Mike Boyle, former athletes with no outlet for their competitive nature are going to Crossfit. Say what you will about their system, but they get results because everyone who goes there wants to work HARD. 

No matter how hard I work while training in a commercial gym, there will always be some room left on the end of the bar for another plate, because it is so rare to get truly challenged there. 

I'm still gonna try, though. You should too.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My favorite clients

Women. I love training women. And no, I don't mean "I love training hot women", although I'm not gonna complain about it when it happens.

Training her was not awful.

I mean ANY women; the best ones are the ones who have never lifted anything over 10 pounds in the gym before. My favorite sessions are the one when a woman starts off with "I don't wanna get big and bulky!" Boom. Game time. I go into full on "thats-ridiculous-mode" and put the kibash on that mind-set. More often than not, I end up with a lady who takes my advice, gets some sessions with me and follows my programming. She likes the way she feels/looks and enjoys her new barbell exercises ("I used to think 45 lbs was so heavy!").

I get a great feeling from seeing self-efficacy grow within this particular population. When my 5'1" 110 pound woman pulls 135 for reps the first time. Seeing my new-mom client make her way back to the gym 6 weeks after giving birth, and crushing the circuits we are doing; and hearing her talk about how she cant wait to get back to deadlifting. The ladies who come to me before their weddings to look a certain way and blow off steam. Even the woman who told me getting stronger and fitter made a particular aspect of her relationship much better (winkwink nudgenudge).

Ya dig?
I get a sense of satisfaction from my male clients achievements as well; I've got a couple of guys who one rep-maxed their deadlifts over 315. These are guys in their 40's who pulled 85 pounds off the pins their first time deadlifting. When it comes down to it, though, I really like the sense of accomplishment that my female clients portray after a really good session of picking up heavy shit.

I also like to see the looks on the average Joe Gymgoer when he see's one of my girls in the weightroom doing pushups, deadlifts, Bulgarian split squats, farmers walks and push presses. This is when the girls really get proud of themselves; what lady doesn't feel good when she embarrasses Tommy Toughnuts by doing exercises he didn't even know existed?

Increasing self-efficacy in my female clients is great, but what I love increasing even more is their self-confidence.

Go to the gym and do something you didn't think you could!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New ways to get Beastly

This exercise comes from Nick Tumminello, a prominent strength coach who currently works with a lot of MMA fighters down in Baltimore.

What it is: A combination swiss ball rollout and pike.

Why it is sick: I do ab wheel rollouts and bodysaw's with my clients. I do slideboard pikes with my clients.  I have yet to do them at the same time. Why? I'm not as smart as Nick. This takes two fantastic all-around core exercises and turns it into a complex movement. Nothing wrong with that.

Go give it a shot!

Friday, March 18, 2011

I'm buying whatever Nike is selling.

I think this is the greatest advertisement in the history of the universe.

Besides my obvious attraction to these ads (the text, duh!) I think they actually send a really good message. In todays day and age, where the media places so much attention on how THIN Jennifer Anniston got, or how few calories Gwyneth Paltrow eats because Tracy Anderson tells her kale soup is the key to enlightenment, it is nice to see someone push the "strong, muscular, sexy woman" angle at us.

(On a separate note, did you know that despite working out with Tracy Anderson constantly, Gwyneth Paltrow has developed osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis? Good to hear that "no weight training" thing is working out for you guys. A strength and conditioning professional's first rule should be "do not hurt your client", what is the first rule for a woman who doesn't believe in any conventional strength doctrines?)

And, I'm off of it.

Women spend so much time reading these popular magazines, that they think that guys want to see supermodels everywhere we go. On the contrary, nobody likes the tall, thin, anemic look. That's not what's really hot in the streets right now; the athletic look is in. Compare the two following ladies:

Personally, I think its a no-brainer. I love that a huge company like Nike is pushing this new image; maybe women will start to get the hint soon. Lifting weights will NOT make you enormous; unless you have hidden testicles. It will take some time, but I think it won't be too long before the message starts to get across that heavy lifting for women is beneficial. It makes good things happen. With popular trainers like Tony Gentilcore, Bret Contreras, Nick Tumminello and Nia Shanks espousing the benefits, the training style for women will surely start to change. The big turn will be when magazines like Shape and Oxygen start talking about it too! (Womens Health already does!)

I'm gonna leave you with two pictures that I came across a few weeks back that does the perfect job of getting my point across.

Go lift something heavy!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New ways to get Beastly

Todays installment comes from Ben Bruno, whom I believe is interning with Mike Boyle right now. This dude personifies BeastMode. Damn near every video on his youtube channel involves him wearing at LEAST one weight vest.

What it is: Single Leg Slideboard Leg Curls

Why it is sick: Many muscles work across multiple joints. The hamstring is one of the big ones. It works as both a hip extensor and a knee flexor. Thus, it should be trained in both actions. Training the hamstrings with deadlifts, squats and cleans is fantastic, but the accessory work is just as important. Glute Ham Raises (GHR) and slideboard curls are a great way to achieve the other actions of the hamstring. And it does it in a much more dynamic way then your fancy Nautilus Hamstring Curl machine <vomit>. Plus, the hamstring is one of the most important muscles in explosive athleticism that many of us are looking for. 

If one leg is too difficult, using both legs is a great way to start off. Another way to make the single leg version more difficult would be to hold your non-working leg against your abdomen, squeezing a tennis ball in your hip (a la the Gray Cook Hip lift). That version will really test your hip mobility.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A question of motivation.

Motivation comes in many shapes and sizes. Ideally, we (as health professionals) want your motivation to be about better nutrition, lowering your cholesterol, improving your posture and changing your body composition (to name a few).

...or dancing on the beach?

To be honest, this is what most clients tell us when we meet for the first time. "I really want to get in shape so I am healthy and happy." Or, "I want to make sure I stay happy and healthy for the rest of my life!"


Lets be honest; very few people actually want those goals. Most people are motivated by things they won't admit to: they want to dominate the glass in their company basketball league, their sister's wedding is coming up, they need to win a bet or, most commonly, they want to look good naked.

Well played, Jamie Eason. Well played.

Theres nothing wrong with that, though. Theres nothing wrong with ANY of those reasons being your motivation, as long as you're honest about it. Being honest will help your trainer get you to achieve your goals faster and, hopefully, with less stress than if you were to do it on your own.

When it comes down to it, whatever gets you off the couch and working out is a good reason. Focus on your goals and figure out the best way to achieve them, and do it.

Go do it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Show and Go update

Good update today. Yesterday was the Monday workout for Week 3 of Phase 2. I was looking forward to it because of one thing in particular: sumo deadlifts. I didn't like these initially, as it was a strange feeling for me. Over time, I grew to love them, and actually think it is a stronger pull for me. Yesterday I had 2x1, 3x3.

(Don't Carrie Underwood and Justin Timberlake just get you JACKED out of your mind to lift heavy shit?)

Those were the 2 sets of 1. Not quite 1RM tests; more like greater than 90%. I then did 3x3 at 325, which was no breeze at this point. 

I followed this up with the bane of my existence; front squat grip barbell reverse lunges. I hate this exercise / love it dearly. I am not a huge fan of lunging in the first place, but this one just absolutely dominates me. Regardless of weight, it is awful. The warmup set with the bar sucks. The first working set of 115 sucks; 125 sucks; 135 blows. The only thing that sucks more than that is doing 2 sets at 135. Just. Awful.

Pretty much how I felt

I grinded out the rest of the workout (1 leg RDLs and split stance cable lifts), with moderate effort, and then sat on a bench in the weight room for 10 minutes. Once I stopped hating the world, everything felt great. I mean, I still walked like I had just gotten out of prison, but my demeanor was much better. Nothing a hot shower wouldn't fix. All in all, a fantastic workout. 

Now go find something heavy and pick it up!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Gym Etiquette

One of the most interesting things about the gym I work at, is that for many of our members, it is their first gym experience. Because of the neighborhood we are in (a more affluent, older part of Boston) we didn't start to get a younger crowd until just recently.

This creates the scenario in which we have a lot of members with really poor gym etiquette. Things that you learn as your gym-age increases is taken for granted here, and has to be taught to people in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Small things as well as big things; putting your towel in the bin, wiping down benches, re-racking your weights, understanding how "working in" works. These are the kinds of things most people learn early on in their gym life; you start off being an idiot in your shitty high school weight room, grow up a little in your college meathead gym, and then get a little more refined when you join your first $30/month gym when you get your first job.

Meat factory

By the time you get to the upscale wellness club, you've learned how to act like a human when you're at the gym (hopefully). 

Not so, at my facility. People are occasionally oblivious as to their surroundings. Guys on their phone in the locker room, people using 4 benches at a time, working in on your set without asking, leaving 95 lbs on Every.Single.Bar. 

(Seriously, who is squatting, benching, curling and "deadlifting" with 95 lbs AT THE SAME TIME?!?!?!)

This guy. 95 lbs.

Thankfully, our clients have done a pretty okay job of learning the "rules" of the gym as we have grown; for the most part. 

Here's a couple of things you can do to make everyones experience at the gym a better one:

1) If you see a guy do any exercise with 3 or more plates on one side of a BARBELL, leave him alone. Forever. He is at the gym to train, not pussyfoot around. 
2) Don't talk on your cell phone. If you can't leave life behind for 45 minutes to get in a work-out, then you don't have the time to be in the gym anyway. Plus, no one gives a damn about your conversation.
3) Leaving your plates on any implement is just plain rude. It is annoying both ways; if I have to take 80 lbs of 10's off of the bar, it is annoying. If I have to unload 400 lbs of plates off of the leg press so that I can squat, it is annoying. Don't do it.
4) If you're doing multiple sets of an exercise (which is fine) please don't take 9 minutes between sets to talk to your buddy about the Celtics game. Hurry up with your cable chest fly's so that I can do my Pallof Presses.
5) Quit the posturing; you don't need to grunt THAT loudly to curl 25 lbs. And don't chuck your DBs like that; no matter how hard you drop them, 40 lb dumbbells dont sound like 80's.
6) You're dripping sweat? Cool, its the gym. Wipe your gooch sweat off the seated row when you're done with it, though.
7) If you need to work in with someone, ask. But don't ask to work in if you have to change ALL the weights and the bar placement; that is just annoying.
8) This last one is not so common, but still pretty important: try not to stink. I know it's a gym but, please, try not to stink TOO badly.

Follow these rules, and you won't piss anyone off at the gym.

Now, go lift something heavy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More than one way to skin a cat?

I started thinking about this after reading something on Tony Gentilcore's website the other day.

The particular post is the response to the quote from strength coach Nick Horton.  In the response, Tony says "there is more than one way to skin a cat", and it got me thinking. This is something we say/hear quite often in this industry, because of the numerous styles and methods of training. Not only are there tons of training styles out there, but alot of them are efficient and effective. 

This is where the meaning splits, I think.  In one sense, there is "more than one way to skin a cat" in the way that TG meant it. Horton does a really good job with his athletes, but uses a slightly different style than they do at Cressey Performance. They utilize the same basic methods; heavy compound lifts, movement quality and increasing rate of force production.  They have the same goal, they just take different paths to get there. Neither one is "right" or "wrong", they are just different.

The other time you will hear "there is more than one way to skin a cat" is when a trainer doesn't agree with someone else's method AT ALL. This is currently the instance that I most often hear myself saying this phrase. This is the professional-courtesy type of saying. Such as "Oh yea, he is a really good trainer...ya know...there is more than one way to skin a cat." If you catch me saying this, it is a surefire way to know that this other trainer is an ass-clown.


Yes, I really do understand that everyone has their own methods; and if you are able to back up those methods with proper scientific research then by all means, train away.  If your information is strictly anecdotal however, then I am going to need some more convincing. You are going to be hard pressed to get me to agree that trainer-resisted-triceps-extensions are a more effective way to train the triceps than exercises with conventional external-resistance. 

Regardless of which type of method you adhere to; a Cressey Performance style athletic program, a Westside protocol, a GPP based method like Crossfit, or even a five day bodybuilder split <shudder>, the main thing is that you are actually working out. If you could apply some science to it, you'd be even better off!

Go lift something heavy!*

*just no bicep curls in the squat rack!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

But, I don't wanna get too bulky...

I hear this from clients on a weekly basis (both male and female clients).

Dude, shut up. Seriously.

Would you say "I don't want to go on a diet, I'm scared of getting too lean?" Or, "I don't wanna go for a run, I'm scared of getting too fast?" If getting overly big and bulky was really that big a problem, I wouldn't have a job. Gyms wouldn't be filled with guys that were 6 feet tall and 165 pounds. I think this all stems from the Muscle and Fitness and Flex magazine images that people are inundated with whenever they think of weight lifting. People start to get concerned that they will end up looking like one of the bodybuilders they see in those magazines.

Looking natural, fellas...

If getting that big was THAT easy, I wouldn't have a job. Adding appreciable muscle mass takes dedication. Perfect diet, lots of training time, flawless programming....and a shitload of steroids. No, seriously. A LOT of steroids.

The average Joe gym goer really doesn't need to worry about this; you probably don't eat well enough, train often or hard enough and hopefully aren't taking any winstrol before you lift. Given the way that most people lift weights, they aren't coming even close to the minimal essential strain they need to stimulate the muscle fibers to grow. Coming in to the facility and doing arms one day, then chest the next, and doing 45 minutes of steady state cardio is NOT the recipe for appreciable muscle mass.

Ladies? You have to worry even less; you're missing one of the key components for excessive muscle hypertrophy...testosterone!

Well, most of you are, at least. Testosterone is produced by both sexes, but the amount produced in women is about 15 times less than the amount men produce. Needless to say, the woMAn pictured about is not exactly "natural". 

What about the people who always claim "I can't lift too much, I gain muscle just by looking at a bar." Well, a few of them might be right. Very, very few of them. Interestingly, I hear one or two people a week say that about themselves, and my bullshit meter can't help but blast off. 

I find that these are people that generally like to find a reason to avoid doing what is best for them in the gym. They will do the easy stuff all day, but will always find a reason to stay out of the weight room.

Just remember; excuses are like assholes, they all stink and everybody has one.

Now, go lift something heavy, please.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Shoe Fetish

I have a problem. An addiction, almost. A sneaker addiction. Thankfully, I'm not addicted to ridiculously overpriced basketball sneakers that will sit in my closet in a box, "increasing" in value.

Nope, my current sneaker addiction revolves around minimalist designed sneakers. I think there are multiple reasons; 1) I really believe in the benefits they provide 2) I work 6 days a week and need to rotate my sneakers 3) I wear them to work out, to school, to walk the dog, to bars 4) Most of them look pretty slick.

At the moment, I have 7 pairs of "minimalist" shoes.
2 pairs of Nike Free Run+
1 pair of Nike Free Everday+

1 pair of Nike Free TR

1 pair low top Chucks

1 pair Saucony Kinvara

1 pair Vibram Five Finger KSO

Seeing it laid out like this definitely makes me feel pretty bad! The only good thing about this list, is that I got the Vibrams for free from a buddy who works for the company! Sweet deal, right? I justify all these shoes to myself because I wear them SO often, but I really don't think it is necessary. However, I am finding it pretty tough to not buy more shoes, because all of the sneaker companies are jumping on this band wagon now. Brooks, one of the big names in stability shoes, even has a pretty nice little running flat called the Green Silence, which is also an eco-friendly sneaker.

I haven't tried them on, but I have held them and they feel pretty sweet. They are really light, super flexible, just the right amount of heel cushioning that most people could pick these up and start running in them with very little practice. The same could be said for the Saucony Kinvara. They are very user-friendly sneakers. 

The latest player in the game is New Balance, with the Minimus line of shoes. They have a road shoe, a trail shoe and a "recovery" shoe, which is more of a walking or comfort sneaker.

 I went and checked the out yesterday, and I must admit I was very impressed. I tried them on, and then I was even more impressed! They were super light, and the forefoot/midfoot was super flexible. I didn't get to bounce around in them too much, but I had to really fight myself to not buy them immediately (I'll probably go back and get them today!) I wasn't thrilled with the colorway they had available, which helped hold me back. I didn't yet try on the trail shoe, but it looks really promising; just not something I physically see myself wearing around the facility. The Nike Free is still my gold standard for minimalist sneakers, but I think these could give them a run for their money!

The final pair of sneakers that I am interested in has been popularized big time by the Crossfit crowd; the Inov-8 F-lite 230. 

I have only seen these once, because I don't frequent the local Crossfit gyms, and have never handled them. A friend has given me very good reviews on them, but she still Crossfits in her Free 5.0's. I am interested in them, but most likely wouldn't purchase a pair without handling them first. 

There are dozens of other small companies that produce specialized minimalist sneakers for running, rock climbing, being a ninja, trails, etc. All in all, I really hope more companies produce shoes that function like these all do. Unfortunately for this movement towards "barefoot", Vibram is getting the most press; because it is at such a wild end of the spectrum. Since they are the most well known, they are the ones that are also taking the brunt of the blame for people getting hurt while trying these shoes out. Stupid is as stupid does, and if you are stupid enough to put gloves on your feet and try running 5 miles on day 1, then you have a whole other set of problems to worry about. 

All in all, these shoes are a great way to get your body back to the way it is supposed to be; if you spend hours in the gym working on your flexibility, mobility, conditioning and strength; then why not provide your feet with the same attention the rest of your body gets?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New ways to get Beastly

Todays edition is brought to you by Eric Cressey out in Hudson, MA. 

What it is: Overhead-Keg Reverse Slideboard Lunge.

Why it is sick: About a billion different reasons. Any lunges are good; single leg work is often an overlooked aspect of a training regimen. Utilizing the slideboard really forces you to focus on using your front leg only, and not getting any kick from your non-working (back) leg. The overhead lift really challenges your thoracic spine mobility and your shoulder stability; two very important pieces to the good posture-puzzle. Depending on your mobility level, it will also provide a good challenge/stretch to your hip flexors, something a lot of people need after sitting in their office for 9 hours. To say that this is a total body exercise would be like saying the Titanic had a little leak in the side. 

You don't really NEED to hold a keg overhead; but it looks pretty awesome. Any external resistance will suffice, although the keg adds a few challenges. Because of its awkward shape, the weight is not going to be centered through the middle of your hand; it creates a very different center of balance. In most commercial gyms you can find something else to hold overhead; a dumbbell, barbell, medicine ball, weight plate, the 95 lb guy doing endless sets of 15 pound bicep curls. Your choice. 

Now go do it!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Show and Go

So, I am currently doing Eric Cressey's Show and Go program for the second time. Yes, second time. Last year, I was reading EC's blog one day when he mentioned that he was looking for guinea pigs for the new program he was developing. I shot him an email immediately and was chosen as a participant. 4 months later, and I had great results. I put on about 10 lbs of muscle, and added 50 lbs to my deadlift. My vertical jump stayed the same, but I attribute that to the fact that while getting stronger, I also got heavier.  And yes, I could see my abs by the end. 


After...BOOM, Laser Show.

Not to toot my own horn, but beep beep. After getting these pretty good results, I made the decision that I would do this program again to get ready for summer. I play in some pretty competitive volleyball tournaments over the summer, and this program really helped me get ready to not have a shirt on in public.

So, here I am. Day 1 of Phase 2 was yesterday, and I had some steam to blow off. Started off with Sumo Deadlifts (2x2, 2x4). Felt great. 

Sorry for the funky camera angle, I've yet to figure out a good way to set up my camera at the gym. I will figure it out soon and get better quality footage of lifting.

On another note, watching yourself lift is a great way to pick up on nuances you might not otherwise notice. In this video, I really noticed how slow I am off the floor. I am going to really focus on my speed work and get the bar accelerating a little better.

Thats all for today. Go lift something heavy!!