Friday, September 30, 2011

Exercise selection and goals.

What are you goals? As a trainer, I want to be able to reach and exceed my clients goals with as much ease as possible, while exposing them to the smallest amount of risk. Of course, any time you're trying to move heavy weights there is an inherent risk involved, but some movements are certainly safer than others.

Every client coming through the door is different and will have a different goal. I focus all of my training around the idea that the basic exercises work. Improve mobility and get stronger; that's the key to getting the body you want.

However, there are many paths that lead to the same goal. Do you train a powerlifter, basketball player and desk jockey the same way? Of course not. Beyond the sets and reps being different, your entire exercise selection will be different.

How different can your exercises be? Well, let's get technical. First off, you can classify exercises as a "push" or a "pull". After that you can decide on the plane of motion, mainly vertical or horizontal. The last aspect is uni-lateral or bi-lateral, that is one or two limbs. 

Uh, yeah, this "exercise" doesn't count as anything.
Now that we've broken down the movement patterns, how do you choose exercises? Simple, use the ones that don't suck. Deadlifts, squats, pushups, pull-ups, over head presses and rows. Pretty easy, right? Well, each population of clients are going to have different needs within these specific exercises.

Mike Boyle and Eric Cressey are masters at using different exercise variations and implements in order to safely train different populations of clients. Boyle made waves with his "Death to the Squat" series, where he says he will never back squat another one of his athletes. Cressey is really well known for his use of medicine balls and sled pushes for power production instead of using the Olympic lifts. 

How many variations are there really? Well, how much time you got? Each barbell exercise has a few variations...think sumo deadlift, box squat, front squat, military press, push press, Zercher squat, etc. Now add in the different specialty bars you can get, and the options are nearly endless.

How does this all apply to different populations? Pretty simple. As Eric Cressey likes to say "there are no contraindicated exercises, only contraindicated athletes." What he means is that (almost) every exercise is a good exercise. The barbell back squat is a great exercise; but not for a baseball pitcher. The barbell deadlift is an amazing exercise; but not for a 6'9" basketball player. The bench press? Great exercise, but maybe not for the desk jockey suffering from kyphosis.

How can these specialty bars help us overcome these contraindications? There are certain bars out there that will allow you to perform the same exercise, with some modifications to the position of your body.

A Yoke Bar will let an athlete with a shoulder contraindication (mobility or repetitive stress) to back squat pain free.

The Swiss bar / Football Bar will let a client or athlete with shoulder / thoracic spine contraindications do some pressing movements with a safer range of motion due to better grip options.

A trap bar or hex bar will let just about anyone deadlift from the floor in a really short amount of time. The hex bar has handles that are a little higher, which will help people with limited hip mobility. The bar also allows the user to hold the weight at the mid-line of their body, instead of having the load anterior to the center of gravity. This allows people to pull a little more weight in a safer manner.

There are a bunch of different bars out there beyond these three: the bow bar for benching ROM, the giant cambered bar (GCB) which changes the center of gravity for the weights, making certain movements feel different. Fat bars which make every exercise a challenge for your grip. Even a barbell made with bamboo that you can attach resistance bands and kettlebells to!

Now, some people will say that if you can't do an exercise the "right" way, you shouldn't be doing it at all. I saw, who cares? If my athlete is a baseball player and not a power lifter, why do they have to be able to do a barbell back squat Ass To Grass when a safety bar box squat will work? If she is a lawyer and not competing in olympic lifting, who cares if she can perform a perfect clean or if we develop power with medicine ball throws? If my athletes and clients are getting strong, what does it matter? What you eat doesn't make me shit.

We have all these exercise variations and choices for a reason, not everything works for everybody. Would training be much simpler if everyone had the proper shoulder/thoracic spine function and could perform snatches safely? Yup, it'd be so easy a monkey could do it. I think the real trick is being able to take 5 different populations with different considerations and get them all equally strong using different methods and techniques.

Stick to the basics, try a different variation. Change takes change.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

At the "core" of strength training

Get it? See what I did there? Laugh, dammit! That was funny!

But seriously, core training is something that is talked/written about constantly nowadays. However, I still see tons of people at my gym coming in and crushing multiple sets of endless stability ball crunches, followed up by some dumbbell side bends, and then finished with some high volume captains chair knee lifts. How's that working for you? Not great, huh? Yeah, that's what I thought.

First, a basic outline of what we mean when we say "core" muscles. For my purposes, "core" refers to your rectus abdominis, transverse abdominus, internal/external obliques, erector spinae and your glutes. 

Most of your core musculature.

Your, uh...wait, what? Hey. Oh! Glutes. Yeah, these are glutes.

As you can see from the first picture, your core is much more than your 6 pack muscles. I don't feel the need to dive into the diatribe about why you shouldn't be doing crunches, but if you don't understand why I don't prescribe abdominal flexion exercises, you should go do some research. Go Google "Stuart McGill". 

If you only train flexion exercises, you are only utilizing one aspect of your core muscles. It'd be like using a Ginsu knife to only cut through fruits and vegetables; it's just a small part of what it can really do.  

(NERD ALERT) To really understand what your core is here for, you need to understand the different planes of motion: the Transverse Plane, Frontal/Coronal Plane and  the Sagittal Plane.  

The Transverse Plane covers rotational movement, Frontal/Coronal Plane refers to flexion and extension movements, and your movement in the Sagittal Plane would be lateral flexion and abduction/adduction. 

With the planes of movement in mind, we can take a look at the muscles of the core and figure out how they are intended to work. Your rectus abdominis and erector spinae are antagonist muscle groups; meaning they work together, but perform opposite actions. Your RA creates flexion, and your erector spinae help to prevent that flexion, but can also create extension (along with help from your glutes, your main hip extensors). Your TVA, which acts like your natural weight belt, helps to stablilize your mid-section/pelvis, and works synergistically with your internal/external obliques to prevent rotation. Your internal/external obliques also works with your erector spinae to prevent lateral flexion (bending at the side). 

Ok, now how does that relation to exercise? Well, pretty easily actually. Your body wants to maintain a normal, upright position (good posture). So, these muscles are all constantly working together to prevent your body from moving in those planes of motion. Don't agree? If you were walking down the street, and your erector spinae stopped working you'd be pretty screwed. Your RA would cause you to bend over into a crunch, and you'd be unable to stand up straight. (Also, your spine would probably collapse). So, it turns out after all these year that the role of our core musculature is to PREVENT motion, not create it. This not-so-recent revelation changed the way we trained our cores forever. How do the exercises we perform help us?

-Prone Plank: Anti-flexion/anti-extension exercise. Basically, you are trying to maintain a good strong posture while in the prone position. This exercise really works your rectus abdominis, TVA and your erector spinae. Too easy? Try 1-legged planks, alligator walks, the bodysaw or Ab Wheel rollouts. 

-Side Plank: Anti lateral-flexion exercise. Your obliques and erector spinae work to keep you from bending. Your RA and TVA work to keep you from folding at the waist. Too easy? Try shovel holds or shovel deadlifts. 

-Pallof Press: Anti-rotation exercise. If you don't know the benefits of the Pallof Press yet, go do some research. 

-Suitcase Farmers Walk: Anti-Everything exercise. Try it out, wake up every muscle in your body. Pick up a heavy dumbbell in one hand and walk, while maintaining strict posture the whole time. This is one of my favorite core exercises. If it gets too easy...well, you're doing it wrong. It should never be too easy. But you can switch it up and do a normal farmers walk, which Mike Boyle recently described as a "walking plank". You can also try a single or double waiters walk (DB's held over your head).

These are just a few of the core exercises that I really love to do, both for myself and with clients. Keep in mind that there ARE some flexion based exercises that I do with clients (GASP!). They are exercises that I feel don't have the negative thoracic spine/lumbar spine effects that conventional crunches do. These exercises are reverse crunches, straight leg situps with a barbell over your head, and hanging knee-to-elbow's or toes-to-bar. 

Your core is the key to being strong. Nothing else can get strong unless you're strong in the middle. It is also the key to good posture. Add heavy farmers walks into your program and see if your posture doesn't improve at all. 

Have fun with it, play around. Watch some of your lifts skyrocket as your core gets stronger. Now, go pick up something heavy...and walk with it!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What I love about training.

I just finished reading a new article on t-nation, and the last paragraph that Tim Henriques wrote spoke volumes to me. 

"Serious lifters with a few notches on their weight belts know there's no quick fix to strength. Instead, strength comes from hard work on productive exercises, and it's usually a painfully slow process, earned one excruciating rep at a time. Put some work into this program and you might find it paying you appreciable dividends down the road or on the platform."

It made me realize how much I fucking love working out, and why. Sure, there are the aesthetic benefits (we all like looking good without clothes) and there are the performance benefits (beast mode). But is that it? For someone who truly loves working out, there has to be something else. Something bigger that drives us to get into the weight room and try and move an amount of weight that makes people look at you sideways. What gives me that extra push to do things that make "normal" people scoff?

I have a fear of being average, and that pushes me. I like to be the best at stuff. Even though I'm often not the best, I like to think I am. If I don't believe that I am the best trainer at my gym, why would any client believe that I was the best? I'm not cocky (despite what my friends would tell you) but I am very confident. Whatever I do, I try to excel at. 

I love overcoming challenges. "I hate losing more than I love winning." Every time I break a weight or rep PR in the gym, a new one is set immediately. Pulled 395? 405 is next. After that? 415. Every day has a new challenge. You feel like the biggest badass in the world when you are successful at meeting one of these goals, and the failure just teaches you how to reassess. You don't miss a PR and then stop trying; you miss a PR and figure out how to come back and crush the weight the next time you try. To keep moving forward you have to keep learning. 

I honestly got this in a fortune cookie.
Those are pretty common reasons for people to work out, though. Tim's last paragraph made me think of something I'd never thought of before though. Training is one of the few areas of life where you ALWAYS get out of it what you put in. If you get in the gym 5 times a week and bust your ass doing the right exercises, and then go home and eat a flawless diet; you're going to end up on the Swole' Patrol. If you go spend 40 minutes on the arc trainer twice a week before happy hour with your co-workers, you're going to look like it. I really don't know of any other areas of life where you control your destiny to this extent.

You can go to work and put in 100% every day and be perfect, but that chode down the hall got to ride with the boss at the company golf tournament, kissed some ass and got the promotion instead of you. Same with school; some people just aren't good at it. No matter how hard I study some materials, I just don't get it. (Math and Chemistry, I'm looking at you!)

Another area where you don't always get what you put in is relationships. Sometimes no matter how hard you work at it, or want it to work, it turns out that the other person just isn't right for you or doesn't want it to work. Plain and simple, not everyone is ultimately compatible. You're left wondering where you went wrong; what you could've done differently; why you weren't good enough. You did everything in your power though.You can't force someone to love you; that's illegal. 

Not weight training though. The barbell doesn't lie, it doesn't give a damn if you had a shitty day. If you put in the work, you get the benefits. It is as simple as that. There is no squeaking by when you are holding enough weight on your back to crush your spine; only big brass balls and either glory or defeat. Your body can't fail you, only your mind can.

That is why I love training. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pecs' Of Steel

Ok, so let me be shallow for a minute. Usually this blog is about ways to improve your performance, your posture, your health or your fitness. Today, is purely about aesthetics. I love being able to get people to deadlift a lot of weight, move without pain or walk with better posture. But, I know that people also really want to look good naked.

Jamie Eason: you're doing it right.
Guys, I guess this one is really aimed at you. It will surely have benefits for you ladies as well; but it is definitely intended for the fellas.

What is one of the things every guy wants? Something that makes a man feel like a man? 

A big, burly chest. Makes you feel good. T-shirts look better. Suits look better. Women are 42% more likely to want to make out with you. (This last point has yet to be scientifically proven, but the anecdotal evidence is there. For serious.)

We all know that one of the best ways to cause hypertrophy in a muscle group is volume; lots and lots of volume. Now, one of the last things I want you guys to do is go spend MORE time on the bench press.What I do want you guys to do is learn a way to add a bunch of low intensity volume to your weekly workouts. Heres how.

This particular scheme goes by a few names...I first learned it as the Texas Pushup Challenge, and recently it was called a Volume Ladder. Regardless, the principle is the same. The former involves shorter rest periods, the latter involves a minute rest. I prefer somewhere in between.

Pick a spot, do a pushup. No, that is not a pushup. Try again; make sure your chest touches the floor and your elbows form an arrow with your upper body. Now, stand up, do a quick lap around the weight room. Now do 2 push ups. Do a lap; 3 push ups. Continue up to 10 push ups, with moderate breaks in between each set. When you get to 10, "climb" your way back down the ladder until you get to 1 again. By the end, you will have done 100 push ups, in about 10-15 minutes depending on your rest breaks. This is a lot of volume at a pretty low intensity (a pushup uses approximately 60% of your bodyweight). Try it once per week for a month, then try it twice per week. I would suggest doing it on the off day from your upper body workout, either on a recovery day or at the end of your lower body workout.

This is a really great way to get in a lot of volume with a good, functional closed chain exercise that will benefit your whole upper body. Just make sure to keep up with lots of rowing and pulling movements during your normal workouts.

You're doing it right.
Go give it a shot, when your chest is bursting the buttons on your dress shirts, you can send me a thank you card!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pain In The Ass

So, every fitness professional has one thing in common: some letters after our name on our business cards. Currently I am a American Council on Exercise (ACE) Certified Personal Trainer (ACE CPT). I am the first to admit that it is not the most well-respected certification in the industry; in fact, it is often the butt of jokes by coaches on other blogs. I'm ok with it though, because it is just something I got to hold me over and get me into the industry. My certification doesn't define my knowledge; in fact, it has nothing to do with it. I am a much more intelligent and proficient trainer than one would expect from an ACE CPT.

This leads me to my current dilemma: my cert is about to run out, and I chose to not follow up with any of the CEU's necessary to renew. The two big bodies in the strength/fitness world are the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). They are the "big boys" of the industry, but really focus on different populations. The ACSM tends more towards special populations, whereas the NSCA focuses on an athletic population. In fact, the NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) is basically the gold standard for strength coaches. 

There are lots of big names in the industry with CSCS on their business card: Eric Cressey, Tony Gentilcore, Bret Contreras, John Meadows, Mike Robertson and Martin Rooney to name a few. However, there are plenty of notable coaches who DON'T have their CSCS: Jim Wendler, Dan John and John Romaniello come to mind. Dave Tate, Mark Rippetoe and Mike Boyle once held their CSCS, but may no longer be affiliated with that certification. 

Does not having a CSCS make those guys any less knowledgable? Certainly not. Thats ridiculous; but they can get away with it because they have been in the industry for decades and are extremely well known. In fact, Mike Boyle was BANNED by the NSCA, and they no stopped accepting CEU's earned under his tutelage. 

Which, again, comes back to my dilemma. Does it really matter which certification I get? Why can't I just let my ability speak for itself? Someone can pass the NSCA CSCS test or ACSM HFS test without ever stepping foot in a gym if they study hard enough, but that doesn't mean they can coach their way out of a paper bag. 

Unfortunately, it does matter. If I apply for a job at a reputable strength facility, they want to see that I have my CSCS. Just like a big financial corporation wants to see people with MBA's. You might be a business genius, but never bothered to take that test. Does that make you less beneficial to a company? Nope, but many people won't give you a chance without those letters after your name. 

This bugs me. Instead of sitting here and being grumpy, I'm going to go lift something heavy. Something I hope all the strength coaches out there can actually do!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Strength training for teens.

I've been asked by a lot of people lately if their young teenagers should be lifting weights or not. I always return the question "Sure, why not?" and the inevitable answer is something about stunting a kids growth. 

Frankly, if you are worried about how your kid is growing, there are other things to consider. It never crosses a parents mind that they allow their young teen to go out and play football and hit and be hit; go play basketball, jump as high as they can, and land poorly; or play baseball and try to throw a 5 ounce ball as hard as they can, over and over and over. These are the things that are going to mess with a kids body; not a properly executed strength and conditioning program.

So, yes, please take your young athlete to see a QUALIFIED strength and conditioning coach. No, just having a CSCS does not make someone qualified to be your child's coach. Observe the attitude around the gym, observe the way this coach handles his athletes and try and see if exercises look like they are being supervised or are the athletes going all Lord of the Flies in the weight room?

A safe, supervised well thought out strength program is suitable for any kid old enough to be able to concentrate on something like that. It's never too early to start to ingrain proper movement patterns for squatting, hinging (deadlifts), pushing, sprinting and jumping/landing. There is a right way and a wrong way to do everything; and the right way is always the safest way. Even unloaded, or very lightly loaded olympic lifts are a great way to get your kids involved in strength training at an early age. It seems to work in other countries. 

If you introduce your kids at an early age with the right coach, they should have lots of fun and success with their training. Success here is paramount. I believe that learning how to weight train at a young age will give kids a feeling of accomplishment that you are hard-pressed to find in other areas of your life. If you set your goal at squatting 135x5, the first time you hit it you feel like a fucking beast. Like you could carry the weight of the world on your back. The best thing about hitting a goal in weight training? There is another one right in front of your face. There is no getting away from it. Weights keep you honest; the iron doesn't lie. You might be able to squeak by in history without studying, and you might be able to swing basketball practice on raw talent...but if you aren't in the weight room as often as you should be, everyone in there is going to know it when you don't hit your next goal. The confidence and self-efficacy this will build in your child will be worth its weight in gold later on in life.

Now, go keep yourself honest. Lift something heavy!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A word on supplements.

Supplementation is something almost every guy I talk to about strength training and fitness asks about. 

" take protein?"

"Is creatine going to kill me? I heard it killed some football players!"

"I'm gonna take NO X-Plode so I can get jacked!"

"The Super-Jacked-Hyper-Metabolic-Giraffe-Lung I'm taking made my preacher curl go up 10 lbs!!"

Thanks, Jackie Chan, I couldn't have said it better myself!

Here's the way it breaks down, ready? Most supplements are horse-shit. The vast majority of them aren't worth the bottle they are sold in. 

Why are there so many, then? Because fools keep buying them, looking for the magic elixir. Everyone wants to be bigger, stronger, leaner or have the ability to sustain an erection for 4 hours.

Wait, wrong supplement...

NEWS FLASH: the only magic elixir is hard work. If you want the results, you gotta put in the time under the bar. 

Wit all that being said; yes, there are supplements that are legitimate and worthwhile. The thing to remember is that they are called supplements for a reason; they are not intended to be the basis of your diet, but to take care of any deficiencies you might be experiencing in your healthy, well balanced diet. 

EVERYONE, man and woman, should be taking a high quality multi-vitamin and fish oil capsules. The benefits of these two supplements are far reaching and well documented. I even wrote a paper a few years ago on the benefits of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and their effects on the attenuation of dementia. 

Most people should be taking some sort of greens supplement as well, something like Superfood or Athletic Greens will go a long way in address anything you're not already getting from your diet. 

People who are engaged in a steady, well rounded (read: not sucky) strength and conditioning program should probably consider taking a Creatine Monohydrate and a BCAA supplement. They are both essential building blocks of muscle, and recovery times will greatly decrease when taking these supplements. No, they won't kill you. 

The majority of people who are working out consistently will also want to be on a protein supplement of some sort. The goal for a person who is working out should be to consume 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Simply, if you weigh 185 pounds, you should be striving to consume at least 185 grams of protein in a day. You know what? That's pretty hard. I have a tough time doing it, and I really work at it. Thats why we have supplements! Everyone has had a protein shake before, so keep doing it. Theres a million and one types of protein out there, so just make sure you buy yours from a reputable source. Next question? Whey or casein? Whey is a faster digesting source of protein, which is why most people take that after their workout. Casein is a much slower digesting enzyme that is easily found in cottage cheese. For this reason, a lot of guys will house some cottage cheese right before bed, so their system has something to work on all night. 

(Yes cottage cheese is kinda gross. Just eat it, it will make you diesel.)

Women, the only thing you really need to do differently from the men is to make sure you get a quality Calcium supplement that has around 600 IU's of Vitamin D in it for proper absorption. 

The last supplement I want to talk about is glucosamine/chondroitin. This is a joint supplement that has been believed for some time to help re-grow/repair cartilage in aching joints. There have been several studies done on the effects of this supplement (they usually come packaged as one pill), with varying results. Some say it works, some say its snake oil. My personal experience with it is that I feel better when I am on it. I've had several professors say the same thing to me about their experience. Maybe the placebo effect is at play? Regardless, it will not hurt you if you take it; so if you can afford it, go for it!

Remember, it's not the supplements you choose to use, but the hard work you put in in the kitchen and in the gym. Now go lift something heavy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tips and tricks for a good diet

Ah, diet. You old bastard, you. The thing that everyone needs help with, and is least likely to actually take the steps to fix. Why? Easy; bad food tastes good.

Animal Style!!!!
Really. Fucking. Good.

I'll admit it; I give in every once in a while and crush a burger and fries from BK or Wendy's. Not McDonald's though, forget that noise. 

I manage to keep a pretty tight diet most of the time; every once in a while you DO need to enjoy yourself though. What are some strategies I (and most people) use to keep on track?

1) Go to the grocery store. Buy lots of food. If you have food in the house, you are more likely to eat it.
2) Prepare your food ahead of time. This doesn't mean cooking it all at once, but it could mean that. If you make a huge pot of chili on Sunday night, you can eat it for the rest of the week. What I really mean, is take the time to get everything ready to cook. Right now in my fridge I have 3 pounds of snapped green beans and 4 nights worth of steak tips cut up and being marinated in separate baggies. When you know that all you have to do is go home, pull out some tupperware and throw it in a pan, you will be much more likely to make that for dinner instead of stopping at the burrito joint.

3) Bring food with you wherever you go. Going to work? Bring lunch and 2 snacks. Going to the movies? Sneak carrot sticks in your purse instead of Goobers. Your friends house to watch the football game? Bring your own meal so you won't be tempted to grab wings and fries with them. 

That is basically what I'm eating tonight; except I'll eat 3 times as much and no rice. 

So, now you're in the habit of going to the grocery store...what exactly should you be eating? A very popular trick is to do as much of your shopping as possible around the periphery of the store. This way you will walk through the produce aisle, the meat aisle and the dairy case. Thats really about all you need. 

1) Meat
2) Veggies
3) Eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese. 

(Yes, you can go buy deli meat and bread to make sandwhiches. Just make sure you get the better brands of deli meats.)

Basically, eat REAL foods. As legendary coach Dan John says "eat like a grown up". If your meals all consist of a protein source, a pile of veggies, and some carbs now and then, you'll be just fine. If your meals come out of frozen boxes with pictures that tell you what it is supposed to look like, you're headed down the wrong path. 

Another tip...stay away from foods that have had calories extracted from them. I recently saw a commercial for Trop50; Tropicana's new orange juice that only has 50 calories per serving. What the hell? I didn't realize orange juice was making people fat all these years, I assumed it was the chicken alfredo and egg McMuffins! 

A little test I like to run with clients is to ask yourself "If I only ate this for a month, would I gain or lose weight?" Nobody gets fat drinking OJ. Nobody gets fat eating a steak and broccoli. Everyone gets fat eating chicken parmesan and steak and cheese subs. 

Now, go have a nutritious snack and then go lift some heavy shit!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wait, what? Seriously?

According to this recent article on, Massachusetts leads the country in gym memberships per capita (1 out of 4 people have a gym membership). Well, shit, you could've fooled me!

Go walk around this city for the afternoon; tell me if you would've guessed that we lead the country in gym memberships. I wouldn't have thought so.

 (Although, to be fair, Boston wins just about everything in this country.)

The rub here is that having a gym membership 100% doesn't reflect user-ship. The total number of members at the gym I work at is, I believe, over 2000; but we certainly don't see 2000 unique visits to the gym each month. More likely, we probably have 500-700 members that come through to exercise on a regular basis. The rest either never utilize their membership, or only come in to work out sporadically. This is, in essence, how a commercial gym makes the bulk of its money. People who sign up and never utilize the facility. 

Why does this happen so much in Boston? I have a few theories. The first is that we have a LOT of large corporations with offices in the city. These large corporations, as well as smaller ones, are all jammed into a pretty small financial district. Nearly every single one of these companies offers some sort of discount on gym memberships (there are 2-3 gyms very close to this area). Employee's see it as silly to not take advantage of 60% off of a membership, so they sign up. They go once, realize the gym is packed nuts-to-butts and hate it; never go back. Conversely, I think a lot of people sign up for a gym near their home, thinking they will go work out once they get out of work. 

Nope. When they get home from work, they get changed. Sit on the couch to have a snack, and doze off. Or decide that its the best time to get caught up on "So You Think You Forgot About This Asinine Celebrity But They Are Trying To Be Relevant Again By Making An Ass Of Themselves". Or, they have the best intentions of going to the gym, but their friend invited them to happy hour or to dinner, so they go to that instead. Boom, more gym memberships not being used. 

My last theory is a simple one: people buy gym memberships here because the weather sucks, but they also don't use them because the weather sucks. 

The weather in Boston is usually gorgeous and sunny or shitty and rainy. We don't really have a lot of gray area. On a sunny gorgeous day, Suzy will choose walking to dinner on Newbury Street with her girlfriends and doing some shopping over going to the gym. On a rainy shitty day, Suzy will say "well, damn, it's awful out...I just got home, I don't want to leave the house again!" Either way, she isn't coming in to work out. 

As an amazing trainer (cough cough wink wink), I like to think I could help all of these people achieve some sort of health or fitness goal...but they have to come to the gym first!

Walk to the gym...pick up something heavy!

Monday, September 19, 2011


In light of some recent ups and downs in my life, I've had a pretty wavering attitude toward a lot of things. Thankfully, I have some really strong friends that I can lean on in a time like this. These people always have the right things to say to me to get my head straight. When you're going through a time like this, it is easy to lose sight of the really important things in your life; hopefully you have friends around you to be able to keep you focused and take inspiration from.

When I get into these moods/funks, I like to go find inspirational quotes and see what I can take from them. I figure if someone smarter and more successful than I once said it, there must be a lesson I can take from it. One quote I really like is:

"Every day, and in every way, I get better and better."

I gather a lot from this; and try to think about it every day. What did I do yesterday? How can I improve myself just a little bit more than yesterday? I don't just mean physically; but mentally and emotionally as well. 

Did I skip my multivitamin yesterday? Maybe I didn't read the newspaper, so I'm not up on current events. Did I only do a 20 minute walk with the dog instead of 30 minutes? Half-assing your homework is no good. Did you make a snarky comment to someone instead of a friendly compliment?

If you really take a look at yourself, you will find a little thing you can change on a day to day basis. I'm not suggesting you sit there and break yourself down; but be conscience of it. If you make a small change every day, it will eventually add up to a big change in your life. 

This is something I'm going to be working on as much as possible; I know I'm not perfect, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't strive for it. The same goes for you.

Think about it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Alpo Experiment

A recent post by renown strength coach and Star Wars fan, Tony Gentilcore, has lit a fire under my ass.

Technically, it lit a fire under my ass to light a fire under someone else's ass. A teammate on the volleyball team with I play with over the summer.

This guy is a tremendous athlete. Jumps through the roof. Hits harder than nearly anyone I know. As a 15 year old was clocked at 70 mph with a baseball. His major downfall? He is nearly 6' tall and weighs a measly 147 lbs. He is one of the few guys on earth who would consider Justin Bieber to have a hypertrophic physique. 

Uh, sweet tattoo, bro. Please put a shirt on.

Needless to say, I've been on his ass for some time now to gain a few pounds. Despite my efforts; he comes back with the same tired excuses. "I just can't gain weight", "I eat and eat and eat", "I'm just a skinny guy". Waaaaaahhhhhhh.

Tony's/Dan John's idea makes sense to me. The plan is to gain 15 pounds by the END of January. If he doesn't do it, he will be eating a can of dog food. If he does, I'm gonna do it. I'm setting him up for success; he is still in college with access to college food/beer, access to a weight room, I've written him proper programming and am available for advice 24/7. I've also made it an extremely public wager; challenging him on his Facebook page. 

My idea for this bet is purely selfish; I want him to make me eat the dog food. I want people to see the challenge and help push him to make me eat it. If he gains 15 pounds, and his relative strength increases along with it, he will be a far superior athlete than he is already. He will jump higher, hit harder and be less susceptible to injury. When he gets better, our team gets better. Simple as that. 

Four and a half months...I'll keep you updated.

In the meantime, I hope he is going to go lift something heavy!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Unsettling side effect of working in a commercial facility...

By far, the most awkward/awful part of working in a commercial gym is the locker room.

Not the locker room itself...but the contents. Just grossness. Things I shouldn't be exposed to.

Yeah...along those lines. 

Clearly, I'm not suggesting I walk through the locker and check everyone out. But, I have to go pee sometimes, and apparently old guys are very comfortable doing everything naked in the locker room. Gotta shave before work? They do it naked in the locker room. Pat's crushed the 'Phins last night? They stand around and talk about it naked...with their foot up on the bench. 

This is certainly the most unfavorable side effect of working in a commercial gym setting. One which would be a little less gross if they would all take my advice...


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

School is sorta lame, I think?

I'm pretty sure that I'm right. School is sort of lame.

No, I'm not suggesting we need less schooling for the kids in our country; I'm referencing the program that I am currently in. 

As a student who is in a concentration called "Fitness Instruction and Management", we really don't spend a lot of time on the "Instruction" aspect of fitness (frankly, we don't spend a lot of time on the management end either). I understand that all of the physiology classes and stuff are necessary, but I would think we should spend a little bit of time in a practical based setting learning things that will be applicable in the real world. Lets face it; very few of us will end up doing YMCA Step Tests with a client or an athlete at any point. Even less specific than that, very few strength coaches out there (short of the Olympic level) will be conducting VO2 Max tests with their athletes; it's just not necessary in order to improve on field performance. Also, the Trans-theoretical Model is good to know; but very rarely can be really "applied". 

VO2 Max is not a limiting factor here...
I am one of the lucky ones; I've been a trainer for almost 2 years now and have gotten some really valuable hands on experience with my clients. I know the best way to teach a squat is the goblet squat, and I know the most effective way to get a female client up to full pushups isn't incline pushups. How many of my fellow students are aware of these facts? A very small minority, from what I've seen. The most practical class we've had this far is called Conditioning for Performance, and it was taught by one of my favorite professors. Each week we met once in the classroom and once in the weight room. During the practical portion of each week the professor got some great speakers to come in: Mike Boyle (Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning), Eric Cressey (Cressey Performance), John Sullivan (former owner of Excel Sport and Fitness) and an Olympic lifter named Ben Fuller (one of the biggest men I've ever met). Carl Valle (from was a speaker, but he only spoke to us in the classroom because he deemed that we didn't know enough to be met with in the training facility. Lame. These were amazing speakers to have available to us, but there is really not much for us to learn from them. An hour with EC or Mike Boyle doesn't even let you get a whiff of the knowledge they posses. Boyle talked about, mainly, plyometric exercises and EC talked about (of course) assessment stuff. I remember specifically spending about 20 minutes on external rotation of the humerus.

The internship program in my concentration is, I suppose, intended to take care of all this "practical learning". The flaw in this system is that the internship is the last thing you do at the University. The other issue is, what reputable strength and conditioning facility or gym would to take an intern that had no marketable skills? What good is a training intern that can't train anyone? I guess you could be pretty hand re-racking all the weights. To be a proper asset as an intern or employee, and to learn as much as you can, one should show up on day 1 with as many applicable skills possible. 

Classroom learning is useful. It's nice to know where your masseter muscle is or what the oxygen dissociation curve is. But I challenge the importance of knowing that versus knowing why your desk-jockey client has shoulder pain when back squatting, and dumps the bar in the hole when front squatting. 

Learning is always good, I just think my fellow students need to learn more about picking up heavy shit.

Now go do it!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

One of the most important aspects of working out...


Hey're doing it wrong.
Anybody who says that the music they listen to during physical activity is inconsequential is doing something wrong. There is no way you can have a good workout (running, lifting, a sport, shoveling snow) with shitty music playing.

Disclaimer: I pass no judgement on a particular persons' choice of music; with a few notable exceptions. You should not be listening to Justin Bieber, Kevin Federline and most country music. If I see that you are, mockery shall ensue. 

With that being said, everyone likes different kinds of music, but for a good workout there are a few necessities. Fast. Drums. Bass. Loud. Thats about it. If your music can satisfy those requirements, you are starting out above baseline...good music should be able to help you transcend your mood and put you into a different place; mentally, physically and emotionally. You should have music that can relax your mind; music to get you fired up; and music to let you zone out. Here are some songs that really help me get my mind right.

Pretty Lights - "Hot Like Sauce". I didn't listen to any house/techno stuff until I was introduced to it pretty recently by a good friend; now I can't get enough. I listened to this song before every game at my recent volleyball tournament and got into my zone perfectly every time. One of my current favorite songs!

Jay-Z and Kanye West - "H.A.M". Not exactly a musical masterpiece...but it gets me fucking amped out of my mind. Just crazy amounts of adrenaline pumping. Great song to listen to during a lift.

Lupe Fiasco - "Fireman". Lupe is just a beast and he destroys this freestyle. This track gets me all sorts of pumped up. The beat is killer. His lyrics are killer. Great track to warm-up with.

Bassnectar - "Seek and Destory". From the Metallica album "Kill em All". Now this is fucking lifting music. A great remix by a talented DJ. It just makes you want to work hard; and thats the whole point of exercise, isn't it?

What are your favorite lifting songs? I hope you enjoy mine; spreading music you love should be enjoyable. Now, crank that shit up and go lift something heavy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's go time.

Well, my summer just finished. Every year for 14 years I have participated in the North American Chinese Invitational Volleyball Tournament. We play a different style of volleyball, with 9 guys on each side of the court; this produces a much faster style of play with longer rallies and more explosive scoring. We practice 3 times per week starting in early June, and play 4 tournaments between then and Labor Day weekend. There is a great cultural aspect to the sport, and I love playing every summer.

Not a Nike ad...should be though!
We had a pretty good summer, finishing the National tournament on Labor Day weekend in the top 8 out of 60 teams. The level of competition can be pretty intense, with a handful of teams having players who have played pro in the US and Europe, as well as several D1-level college players. 

Now that the season is over, it's time to get better for next year. First up? Recovery. I usually take 10-14 days off before I start lifting; all of the jumping and landing I do over the summer really stresses my body.  The good news is, I feel pretty good right now. I might just make it a week before I start lifting again, because I really really really miss it. 

After 3 months of playing ball, I'm pretty lean, but have def lost quite a bit of muscle mass. I know my strength levels have gone way down, and I know I've got a lot of work to do before next summer comes back around. Goals include a 405 deadlift and the ability to dunk (either a basketball or a volleyball). Lets get it!!

What are your goals? Start now; if anything is going to stop you, don't let it be the start!

Go lift something heavy!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New favorite shoe?

I think it's happened. I think I found a shoe that I like more than the Nike Free.

I know, you're thinking "no fucking way...this clown is Mr. Nike Free."

Well, it appears to have happened. I'm not forsaking my Free's at all, in fact I'm already looking at another pair to purchase (idiot). However, this new shoe that I have seems to cover just about every base possible.

Introducing, the New Balance Minimus Cross Trainer.
Yes, I got then in Snoop Dogg blue. Announce yourself with authority, I always say.

The Minimus Cross Trainer is nearly as flexible as the rest of the Minimus lineup, but maintains a bit more stability in the midfoot of the shoe, making it perfect for cross trainer (or even ::sigh:: Crossfit). With these shoes on, I feel as if there is just about anything I could do. Flat enough for deadlifting, low enough that my foot won't roll over the outside of the show while squatting and light enough that I'd feel great doing plyometrics or a sprint workout in them. Free's are great all around sneakers, but the heel lift tends to be a little much for deads. They are high enough that I can roll my foot over the outside of the shoe while squatting. Amazing for sprint workouts; but really have negative lateral support. 

The Free's still feel amazing to me; light, flexible and comfortable. No reason for me to give them up completely, but I can't say enough great things about these shoes. Go buy them!

Then lift something heavy!