Friday, January 27, 2012

The Weight Room Disease

There is something going around the weight rooms in this country, and it's bad. It's contagious, its prevalent and it is most certainly present in the gym you're lifting in.

It's weakness. More and more people are showing up in todays commercial gym facilities and just being ok with mediocrity. People today aren't going to the gym to get better, they are going to satisfy some asinine idea that they are supposed to be there. People walk into the facility and seem to think that just being there is going to do something to change their body or their health. The fact that you have to put in the hard work seems to escape people.

How is weakness contagious? If everybody else in the weight room is doing bicep curls and triceps kickbacks, chances are you won't find a gym buddy to help push you. Hell, weakness is so contagious that some gyms have even outlawed doing squats or deadlifts, two of the basic human movement patterns. If you don't know what you're doing in the gym, you probably won't find that role model that many of us had in our younger lifting days; the person who put you on the track to being a Savage. You'll settle for what everyone else is doing, and that sucks. What everyone else is doing obviously isn't working, since our obesity epidemic gets worse and worse with every passing year.

As a country, we have become accepting of sub-par performances. Every kid at tee-ball gets a "participation trophy". Young athletes that are too good are banned from scoring. A high school soccer team celebrates with a dance and has to forfeit the rest of their playoff's. Locally, a Boston high school football player was penalized for raising his hand during a touchdown run, which cost his team the state championship. Mediocrity has become the norm, and we punish those who are so bold as to revel in their success. This pussification of the country has extended into the way we train. The lunk alarm at Planet Fitness has reached  the status of lore. Yup, we even have a gym that prevents people from training (what they deem) to be too hard. Not only that, but they give out free pizza to their members every Friday. I guess that's not so bad because pizza is now considered a vegetable

What happened to us? When did it become ok to let your body become a pile of silly putty just so you could try and make more money? Is it really worth spending 60 hours a week at a desk, doing nearly irreparable damage to your body? When did strength become something that only certain people needed? It's one of our basic needs as human. Our ancestors relied on both their brains and their strength in order to succeed. Now more and more people rely on their brains to make a living, so we let our bodies go to shit?

Those people who do go to the gym have their focus on completely asinine ideas of what they want to look like, which is the complete opposite of what the opposite-sex wants. Women think they want to look like frail, skinny-fat super models. Men want women to look like Allison Stokke.

The StokkeShow
Guys in the gym train like they want to look like Ronnie Coleman (oodles of anabolics) or Tyler Durden (basically anorexic), but women want guys who look like Ryan Reynolds in Blade Trinity.

Jeez, dude.
The funny thing is that nobody trains the way that will get them to ANY of these goals, much less their ideal one, and everybody eats like shit. So many people are out there trying to make a buck that we have the whole nation confused. Oxygen, Self, Shape, and Muscle & Fitness shouldn't be your primary exercise resource. Mens and Womens Health, and even Mens Fitness, are close to getting it right, but are still magazines trying to make a buck. 

Keep it simple, folks. Use compound movements that let you lift a lot of weight. Do mobility and flexibility work a few times a week. Keep your bouts of cardio short and intense; use interval training. Get out of your big bulky shoes and get something lightweight and flat. For Christ's sake eat like an adult. Ditch the sugar and processed stuff as much as you can. Learn to cook real food. Lean Cuisine chicken and broccoli is not the equivalent of the same meal cooked by you. You work hard in the office, work hard in the gym. You want to be around to enjoy all that money you're making, right? Why complicate things? Go lift something heavy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Things I Like

There are a handful of things that I think are necessities for anyone trying to get into better shape. Whether your goal is fat loss, strength gains or simply looking better naked, there are certain tools that will help you get those results more efficiently. What's that you say? What are those tools? Great question!! I took the liberty of compiling a small list for you!

1) A nice solid foam roller. I got a high density 12" roller from Perform Better 3 years ago and it still works perfectly. It hasn't gotten squishy despite heavy usage, and it still makes my IT Band scream. This tool can go with you anywhere and is always useful. Ideally used pre-workout, it's also useful on a day off from the gym when you are at home. You can't underestimate the importance of soft tissue quality!

2) Metabolic Drive Low-Carb from Biotest. This is a great protein supplement that is trusted by many industry professionals. Biotest did a fantastic job making a protein supplement that tastes great and isn't filled with sugars and crap that just add empty calories in the guise of "weight gain". Trainees need to understand that protein supplementation is not just for guys trying to get hyooge. Proper amounts of protein (and carbs and fat, for that matter) play a big role in being able to achieve your body composition goals (more muscle, less fat). 

3) Resistance Bands from Elite FTS. These can come in handy for a thousand different reasons! The original use for superbands was for stretching; there are a ton of mobility and flexibility drills to do with them that can really help you unlock your potential. They are also great for rehab/prehab exercises for your hips, shoulders, thoracic spine and ankles. The most badass way to use them, though, is for accommodating resistance: attaching them to a barbell to change the strength curve. There are two ways to use them (band resisted or band assisted) but the idea stays the same. You change the way a weight feels during one portion of the lift. Example: a band resisted squat. In the hole, the weight will feel like whatever is on the bar (lets' say 225). At the top of the lift, when the bands are stretched, you'll feel the weight of the bar plus the pull of the bands. As the band stretches more, the weight feels heavier. What feels like 225 in the hole could feel like 325 at the top. It's a great way to learn how to accelerate a bar through a lift. It's a fairly advanced technique, but can be useful for many people.

4) The Show and Go Training program by Eric Cressey. I was fortunate enough to be a guinea pig for this program when EC was still fine tuning it. I experienced some pretty good results with it, and I'm confident that just about anybody could see results from it. I added 10 lbs to my body and was able to see my abs. I also added 50 lbs to my deadlift in 4 months. The big benefit to this program is the balance,  Eric is a master at creating balance out of imbalance and this program showcases that ability. Having someone else write a program for you means that you can't skip doing the shit that you hate. Eric works in variations of lifts that you may be awful at. He programs in plenty of mobility filler exercises, so you can make good use of your rest periods. Speed work. A high pull:push ratio. Everything you can think of, this program attacks. If you're a beginner wanting to get into great shape, Show and Go will help. If you've been in the gym for a while and hit some plateaus, Show and Go will help you break them. If you're an athlete getting ready for a season, Show and Go will help bulletproof your body. I highly recommend it!

5) The website! Gasp! It's a CrossFit blog! Now ask me if I give a damn? The guy who writes it provides some fantastic knowledge about weight training, and is a big supporter of women training properly. He is also a big fan of eating large quantities of real foods like beef, milk and cheese. My kind of guy. It's a great place to go and learn some things about aspects of training you might not be familiar with. LBEB also has an awesome store where they sell some really quality t-shirts and hoodies. I've already bought one for myself and for a friend!

That's a decent little list to get you going. Check some of them out, and see if you can add any of them into your own training. In the meantime, go lift some heavy shit!

Friday, January 20, 2012


I know that I'll never be perfect, but that doesn't mean that I will stop striving for it.

The strength and conditioning world is all about recognizing your flaws, and then formulating the best ways to fix them. Recognizing your flaws as a person is very important, its how we grow. But are we really able to fix all of our flaws? At what point do we say "ok, this is good enough as it is"? We (I) can drive myself crazy trying to fix all of my flaws. In my recent quest for self-improvement I have become hyper-aware of my flaws. Should I just accept them all? Tell myself that some of them are just personality traits that I'm stuck with?

To be honest, I'm unsure where to draw the line. I try to make the best out of every day, but some of these "flaws" are too big for me to ignore. I know they are things that will be self-correcting in time, but I wish they were things that didn't have such a big impact on my life. 
I try and stay positive, but it's hard. One of the good things about my job is that I need to stay positive for my clients, and it carries over to myself. I love what I do, my family is fantastic and supportive, I have clear goals and I know how I need to go about achieving them. I have a roof over my head and food to eat. All in all, things are pretty good. 

So, what is perfection? Is it having no flaws, or is it knowing how to best deal with the ones you have?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Call to Arms!

Don't fall for that crap that people are peddling on the message boards, in magazines or on TV. Get your shit in order, and get your training in order. Start kicking ass, and take out the crap that doesn't matter. Start doing and believing in the stuff that works, and do it today and forever. You want science and studies? Fuck you, I've got scars and blood and vomit. This is a call to arms for some of you. It is for me too. Stop all the things that make you a pussy and steal your energy. Get your life back. 
                             - Jim Wendler

 Words of wisdom. Cut and dry, no fluff. In the strength and conditioning world, there is a steadfast truth: if something seems too good to be true, then it is. Holding on to a vibrating weight for 15 minutes a day will not make you stronger, it will make you look like a douchebag. The recumbent bike? If you can read a magazine or watch your Ipad while you exercise, its not exercise. Exercise is hard. It's uncomfortable. Nothing worth having ever comes easy.

Yes, I own this t-shirt.
Should your workouts be fun? Yes, for sure! Life is too short to do things that aren't fun. Should they make you hate life? Yes, for sure! You can't evoke any changes in your body without ruffling a few feathers. The discomfort of a workout only lasts for a little while, you'll recover. The discomfort of being 20 pounds over-weight will last quite a bit longer. Suck it up. Do what your trainer tells you to do; you hired them for a reason, didn't you? If you think you know better than they do, you wouldn't need them. You know why you hate the stuff your trainer is making you do? Because it's what you NEED. You don't need to do more biceps curls or bench press; you NEED to get your ass in the rack and squat and deadlift. You NEED to walk around the gym carrying heavy things.

Get out of your comfort zone. Make things hard, thats where all the good stuff happens. Lift some heavy things, please!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I remember my first WOD!

It finally happened...I popped my Crossfit WOD cherry with this bitch of a workout called "Christine".

It sucked. No two ways around it, it was miserable. The workout is a CF Benchmark workout, meaning it's a workout that people can always go back to and test their time or compare against other lifters. The workout consists of 3 rounds of a 500 meter row, 12 deadlifts with your bodyweight on the bar (I went a little heavy with 205 bar weight, at 196 bodyweight) and then 21 box jumps with a 20" box.

I was dreading the row. It's something that I have little experience with, thus I am piss poor at it. The deadlifts were going to be easy, it's one of my stronger exercises and 205 isn't a big deal to me. I thought the box jumps were going to be a breeze, being that I am a jumping athlete. I wasn't wrong, but I wasn't right either. The whole thing sucked the big D.

But you know what? The fact that it was so miserable and metabolically challenging for me means that I need to do more of it. Anything that sucks that bad is a good thing. I'm not suggesting that I'm going to stop reading T-Nation and get some Zensah calf sleeves and board shorts, but I am starting to see how Crossfit can fit into traditional strength training programs. The metabolic effect was amazing, and I can only imagine how long my metabolism was elevated post-workout.

I didn't meet Pukey the Clown, but I did meet "lay on the floor until the world stops spinning and you can breathe again". Good shit, good shit.

Please, go lift something heavy, get out of your comfort zone!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Important Lessons

In this past year, I think I really started to hit my groove as a personal trainer. I learned a lot about the way that I train, and what I can do to get the best results with my clients. I'm in no way saying that I'm the best, though, I realize that I still have a lot to learn and a lot of room for growth.

The 3 Big Lessons:
1) What's good for me isn't necessarily good for my client - Sure, I know what to do with myself to get results. I also know that the ways that I do things might be the most effective and occasionally the most brutal. For a while I thought it was most important to get my clients to want to do those things. That's not the big point, however. My clients are all grown ass folks with lives of their own. Despite their desire to work hard for the 1-4 hours they see me each week, they still have stuff to do outside of the gym. This is my life, not theirs. They want to eat food that's good for them, but not everybody is ok eating chicken breasts with montreal seasoning and sauteed spinach Every. Single. Night. I still encourage them to make good food choices, but at the end of the day I'm happy that they are even thinking about their food.

2) I can only do what you can only do - As I just mentioned, I see some clients for as little as just one hour per week. That leaves them 167 other hours in the week to do whatever they want. Some of them will actually make it into the gym and do the homework I give them, but some will just sit on the couch and watch The Real Housewives of WhoGivesAShit. I understand the importance of thoracic spine mobility and try to push that knowledge onto my clients, but if they aren't going to do their homework, then what can I really do about it? I am able to do whatever I can within those 60 minutes and that is it. My only option is to work around it. If someone isn't going to do their t-spine stuff, then we are going to have to modify some of our choices. If someone won't do their static stretching, then I guess we will always pull deadlifts from an elevated position. If someone won't come in and do their conditioning work, then I guess he won't lose the weight he wants to.

3) My clients are teachers, analysts, therapists and parents; not powerlifters - I've always built my training around the major compound lifts: squats, deadlifts, benching and overhead pressing. My goal used to be to get all of my clients doing these exercises as intended. You know what, though? It doesn't matter. It's fantastic that this guy can pull off the floor, but that doesn't make him a better therapist. Is it more important for us to spend all sorts of time getting him capable of pulling off the floor, or is it just as useful to get him really strong on something like rack pulls or trap bar deads? I want my people to all have proper mobility and full range of motion, but not everyone is going to be able to achieve it. They aren't competitive athletes, but I still need to get results.

They aren't groundbreaking ideas or anything, but they are things that have affected the way I train after this past year. Always moving forward, always getting better!

Now, go lift something heavy!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Good times will be had!

Tomorrow night is a big night for my's our company holiday party! You know what that means...

This is how holiday parties for fitness professionals usually go: take a bunch of people with healthy lifestyles and fairly low body fat percentages, add in 2 hours of open bar, and multiply by the number of people who are married with kids for whom the party is a "big night out" in the city.

Boom! Shitshow. 

It's a lot of fun, and being that we are a commercial gym, its interesting to see the people who work at our other facilities. It kind of gets that high school dance vibe, though.."oh, that's the staff from that gym". There is also a fair amount of male posturing going on, which is to be expected. You get a bunch of guys who tend to be a little Alpha-ish in a room together and there is bound to be a little of that. I never do such a thing, though. No, for sure not me.

Regardless, everyone always has fun. One of the strangest thing about working in a gym is when you see everyone in "real" clothes. Normal attire at the gym says Under Armour, Nike or LuLuLemon on it. Sometimes Adidas. Seeing these people dressed up can really throw you for a loop.

My direct co-workers and I will end up heading out after and having a few more libations with just our crew, which will be fun.

Hope you all have a great weekend! If you're going to enjoy some refreshments yourself, don't forget to lift some heavy shit before you do it!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Random Thoughts

I'm gonna touch on a few random topics in today's post. I might even just say a lot of words without really talking about much at all. I get to do that, this is my blog!

Nothing to do with anything. Just funny!
The first thing that has been on my mind is how happy I am with my current eating regimen. As of January 2, I will spend a few months on the see-food diet. I see food, and I eat it. My grocery cart on Monday was a thing of beauty: 2 gallons of whole milk, 3 dozen eggs, 4 pounds of beef, cans of tuna, greek yogurt, frozen cherries, and 3 bags of spinach. Beautiful, just beautiful.

I wouldn't say I'm on a bulking program, but during this strength program I want to really give my body what it needs to get stronger. Adding a little size is ok if the appropriate strength gains come along with it.

My training partner, Dan, started a new strength program the same day that I did (Monday). We wrote our programs separately and without really talking to each other about them, and are looking to achieve different goals. We worked out together Monday night and found out the strangest thing: we were both doing front squat workouts, and had programmed basically the same workout.

 We both started off with a speed movement, then did our heavy front squats. Dan chose to do an exercise that I was going to do, but opted out of because I didn't want to overload my CNS too much. We both used a superset of Good mornings with a split squat, except I chose rear-foot elevated split squats (RFESS), and Dan went with Front Foot Elevated split squats (FFESS). We explain this deviation by virtue of who we tend to follow in the industry. Dan is very much a disciple of Coach Poliquin, while I tend to adhere to the tao of Cressey and Gentilcore. The main difference is that Dan stuck to tempo for all of his lifts, while I attacked mine as straight sets and reps.

It'll be interesting to see if the rest of our programs are similar, I think they will be. Two guys who follow pretty different schools of thought ending up with nearly identical programs. Good shit!

Last random note: Tide with Febreeze Sport is the greatest laundry detergent ever. If you're like me and have oodles of gym clothes, you'll appreciate it! It smells sort of like apples and rainbows.

Make 2012 easy on yourself. Don't complicate things.

Eat right, train right, and lift heavy shit!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What's up for 2012?

I hate New Years resolutions. They are usually just bullshit spouted by people that have no real intention of keeping them, but want to keep up the appearance that they will change something about their lives for the next year. This allows them to think that they will really better themselves.

"I'll eat healthy this year!" Arbitrary. Difficult to measure.

"I'm going to go to the gym!" For a week. Then the new season of "Real Housewives of Whatever" will start and you won't see the gym until June.

"I'm going to quit drinking and smoking and coffee!" Horseshit. Some of the hardest things in the world to quit. Plus, why would you want to give up coffee? It's amazing!

All in all, these are great goals. But why are these resolutions already doomed to fail? They are either too arbitrary, too immeasurable or just too damned difficult. Theres no real "goal" in any of those. You signed up for the gym last year, and didn't go. You tried quitting smoking last year, but you're still puffing away.

None of these goals are easy to keep track of. Sure, you can mark on your calendar that you went to the gym every Monday for 4 months. Thats great! I'm very happy that you did that...but what did you accomplish while you were there?

Goals need to be realistic and measurable.  You need to be able to say definitively that you did or did not accomplish said goal. Without further ado, here's a list of my fitness goals for the year of 2012.

1) Deadlift 2.25-2.5 times my bodyweight, which would be 450-500 pounds.
2) Squat 2 times my bodyweight, which is 400 lbs.
3) Bench press 315.
4) Clean 250 pounds.
5) Dunk something. Anything. Just dunk.

Boom. Quick and dirty, just how I like it.

My goals don't have to be your goals. You might not care how much you can squat or pull. But make your goal plausible. Lose 10 pounds is a poor choice; you can't take into account body composition changes. Make your goal to drop 2 pants sizes. Make your goal to be able to do 1 pull-up. Once you have a goal, the fun begins. Figuring out how to get there is where all the adventure is!

Now, go lift something heavy!

Monday, January 2, 2012


Happy 2012, everybody! I hope everybody enjoyed safe and fun New Year's celebrations and is ready to get back into the weight room today! I know I'm fired up for my new program!

Day 1 is my front squat day, and I'm all sorts of excited to get back to lifting heavy shit. I liked that hypertrophy program, but it just doesn't do it for me in the long run. If I'm not seeing progress on the bar, it's hard for me to quantify what I'm doing. 

I wrote last week that I had tested my 1RM for my snatch grip deadlift and paused bench press, and this past saturday I tested my military press (with fat grip) and my front squat. The numbers came out to be 165 for the military press and 275 for the front squat. Neither of these numbers are ground breaking, but I'm pretty happy with the front squat considering that I just came off of 2 months of lifting sub-maximal weights. This was the first time in 2 months that I'd seen more than 135 on the bar for my front squat. I felt pretty good, and got some videos too!

This was my 1RM attempt at 265. It felt like a grinder, but I knew I had a little more left in the tank.

My last lift, at 275, felt like the world. I felt like I had more in my legs but, as is the case with the front squat, my upper back was the limiting factor. I wasn't in danger of dumping the bar, but it was pretty close.

(Anybody notice the guy in the back doing the explosive barbell curls? Great hip drive!)

I'm going to really try and keep up with videos while I'm on this program. Knowing that my lift is going to be able to viewed by anybody will do a good job of keeping my conscious of form. Plus, being able to see yourself do anything is an AMAZING way to learn what you're doing wrong.

On a separate note, my friend Ali recently got a photo of herself doing one of the most impressive physical feats that I've seen recently, a pistol squat while standing on the handle of a kettlebell!

In terms of random badass physical feats, this one is pretty sick. Great job, Ali!

Thanks for reading everyone! Have a great day, and go lift something heavy!