Thursday, May 31, 2012

A New Favorite?

We all know that I love the deadlift. It's a pure test of man strength and a good heavy deadlift will usually cause all of the women in the general area to instantly throw their phone numbers at you. It will also make your beard grow. Which helps with the females, obviously.

The only thing I don't like about the deadlift is that, especially at max percentages, it allows for quite a bit of form breakdown. More often than not, max effort deadlifts are pulled with form that would make most of us cringe. The exception to this rule is Tony Gentilcore, whos' max effort deadlift looks about as pretty as Julie Foucher doing naked muscle-ups with Camille Leblanc-Bazinet. Oh, sure.

Make no mistake about it, my favorite exercise is still the deadlift. However in the last few months, I've had a love affair with the deadlifts' hot friend in the LuLuLemon yoga pants: the front squat. The big reason that I started front squatting so much is because my training partner, Dan, found it easier on his knees. Yup, a full range of motion, ass-to-grass front squat feels better for his knee than a box squat. We still don't really know why, but you can't argue with results.

We ran through a 6-week cycle of Advanced German Volume Training where one of our main lifts was the front squat. We've also been doing a lot of Olympic Lifting, where the front squat is a huge component. We decided to max out not too long ago and we both hit a personal best of 300 pounds. Nothing out of this world, but certainly nothing to scoff at. Unfortunately, the guy taping my PR lift effed it up. Booooooooooo that man!

My favorite thing about the front squat is that it's a self-limiting exercise: when the weight gets too heavy, you can't lift it. There are very few ways to cheat your way through a front squat. The limiting factor of this lift is, almost always, the upper back. Every front squat I've missed has been missed in the hole when my upper back can't support the weight. The up-side to this? Is that every front squat you perform is added volume for your upper back, and we all know that the upper back and it's postural muscles are amongst the most important areas to work on.

When we talk squats, there are really three kinds to mention: squats, front squats, and Olympic squats. The big differences here are knee angle and torso angle. The best representation of this is from Mark Rippetoe's famous book Starting Strength.

Furtherest to the left, we have the front squat, then the high-bar position Olympic squat and finally we have the low bar powerlifting style squat. All of these lifts are shown being done to parallel, not above nor below.

The positioning of the bar in each lift provides different bar paths, leverages and trajectories, which also means different loads are being used. The front squat requires the lightest load of the three, but often feels the most difficult. It's the most knee dominant exercise, which makes it the most quad dominant lift as well. I have found, personally, that this lift has played a big role in increasing my jumping ability.

If you don't have the ability to get into the clean-grip position, use straps or go with the cross-faced grip as a last resort. Don't just accept your forearm/wrist flexibility, however; work on your flexibility so that you can eventually work your way into the full clean grip.

Wendler is well-known for saying that he likes to get a lot of effect with as little weight as possible. This is one of those bang-for-your-buck lifts. You put a lot less stress on your body with 300 pounds than with 405 pounds.

I personally use a pretty close stance for this lift; feet are about hip width apart with my toes close to forward. Comparatively, when I do a low-bar squat, my feet are wider than hip width, allowing me to recruit more glutes/hamstrings. I think it was Boyle who said that the squat wasn't a leg exercise, it was a low back exercise.

I'm by no means abandoning the traditional squat, it's still absolutely one of the best exercises available if you want to get bigger, stronger, leaner, faster or healthier. If none of those things are your goals...well, re-evaluate your goals!

Go lift something heavy!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Future

In the last year or so, I've tried to make it a point to meet new people within this industry. Making connections is always a good thing, and knowing some of the top-tier coaches right now is definitely a good idea.  Every time I meet these guys, it's an opportunity to discuss really deep, important questions and theories.

While meeting the current crop of top-tier coaches is a great idea, I've found that something that will prove even more useful is meeting the guys in my peer group right now. When I go to attend a seminar or something similar, I'm surrounding myself with my peer group. Whether or not these guys are my age is a different question!

Meeting the other guys who are up-and-coming coaches is great for me. It gives me an opportunity to measure what I can do, what I know and what I need to know. I'm all about discovering my weaknesses, so the last one is of the utmost importance to me. What does this guy know that I don't? What has he read that I haven't?

Greg Robins is a guy that is here in my own backyard. He recently worked at Total Performance Sports in Everett, MA (which is routinely voted as one of the best gyms in America. I'd seen Greg around at some local seminars and talks, but finally introduced myself the last time I was up at TPS. I'd read his blog a handful of times already and was familiar with his work, but then he dropped the jealousy bomb on me: Cressey Performance had, for the first time, taken applications to be a coach there and he is the one who got that coveted spot! While I was thrilled for him (nice to have a local guy get the job), I was also extremely jealous. Nothing like a little jealousy to motivate someone, right?

Greg is a really smart guy (strong too), and I wish him the best of luck at CP. Tony and Eric wouldn't have hired him if he wasn't going to do a great job!

I recently met Joe Meglio at a seminar at John Gagliones' place on Long Island; where everyones last name ends in a vowel.  Joe works at a great gym with a great guy; he works for Zach Evan-Esh at the Underground Strength Gym in New Jersey. What does Joe have that I don't? Hands-on experience with high level athletes in a dedicated strength and conditioning facility. The importance of the quantity of time he has had in a S&C facility like Zachs' place can't be underestimated. While I'm sure we know the same ways to get someone strong, he has had more time and access to the right tools to get the job done. On top of that, he has daily access to a bright mind in this industry, something I still haven't had.

The last guy I'm going to mention here is the outlier. Justin Rabinowitz is another future industry leader I met at the Supreme Strength seminar, and he's the only guy here who's background isn't directly S&C. Justin is a student at New York Chiropractic College and writes a great blog. He does a great job of getting himself to seminars all over the Northeast and has made some great connections. Chiropractics is not a modality that I necessarily put a lot of faith into, but I'm pretty sure that Justin will become the kind of Chiropractor that I would be happy to send my clients to in the future. I got a chance to talk to him at dinner, and it sounds like he has learned so much more than just doing spinal adjustments. He's well versed in soft tissue work (ART, Graston technique, etc), and seems to be learning some of the pro's and con's of the different taping techniques. I can totally see this guy making some noise in the industry regarding injury care and prevention in the future, along the lines of a Kelly Starret or even Eric Cressey. Look for big things from this guy.

This list is by no means comprehensive; but these are guys who have taken the step of putting their thoughts and ideas down in a blog format (like yours truly). There are a lot of smart guys I've met recently who still haven't picked up on this idea yet (get on it, boys). The next crop of strength coaches is going to be a good one, keep your expectations high for us.

Go lift something heavy today!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blame Game

One of my favorite clients brought up an interesting topic during our Saturday morning workout. Right after she finished a round of her circuit, she started with "let's talk about goals. My posture has improved, it's easier picking up my dog (her dog is old and can't walk up the stairs), my cycling has gotten better and my knees feel better...but I want to lose weight."

A quick background on her; she is one of my weight-loss clients. She is in her late 30's or early 40's (honestly, I'm not sure) and is married with an 8 year old son. She and her husband are vegetarians (although she eats eggs and fish, thank God), and she is working on actually eating like a vegetarian and not a processed-food-atarian. She has previously had success with training and actually lost about 80 pounds a few years ago. Since then, she has put about 20-30 of them back on but has re-committed to losing the pounds. She comes to me with a few pre-existing injuries (a weird shoulder thing, a hip issue and a knee issue). Our last few months of training have been 3 days per week, with 2 days being strength oriented and one day being a metabolically challenging day.

The goal of our strength training days has been to correct some of her existed injuries and imbalances that her last trainer(s) have left her with. She loved her last trainer, and while she did a great job getting this client interested in fitness and getting into shape, as well as losing weight, she left a lot to be desired in terms of programming and actually getting someones entire body healthy. We have been utilizing compound exercises as a way to even out her body and get her baseline level of strength increased, as well as trying to gain some lean body mass.

As previously mentioned, we have also been trying to re-vamp her diet. She fell into the classic "vegetarian" diet of not eating a diet that is void of meat, but high in carbs and processed anything. Just like anyone else, she has her good days and her bad days.

She's achieved a lot of things in our last few weeks of training, but apparently she has yet to see any results regarding her most important goal: weight loss.

One of our weight loss strategies has been for her to send me daily food logs. This is not something that she is exactly religious about, but does it mostly when it's convenient. On her good days, she'll send me a log; on her bad days, I get nada. She has also supposed to have been attending some group fitness classes at her other gym (her membership is at another gym in the neighborhood, but since I'm way better than their trainers, she came back to me), but hasn't been doing a whole lot of those either.

We've overcome some important obstacles. First off, she started to take my dietary advice. She saw a nutritionist who advised her to eat 1300 calories per day and when she told me I nearly spit out my coffee and I wasn't even drinking any. I implored her to bump it up to 1800, and we settled back on 1600. She has also been trying to bump up her protein intake and has been trying to eat more eggs and fish as well as even drinking protein shakes!

So, back to our original problem: the apparent thought that the lack of weight loss was somehow related  to the workouts that I had been programming for her. It appeared, almost, as if she was placing the blame on me!

Thankfully, I am always prepared for just such an occasion. I'm confident in my ability and I'm well aware of what is going on in my clients lives that may be helping or hindering their progress. In this case, I know that she tends to be a stress-eater and a mindless-grazer. She has a bad day at work, and looks to food for comfort. She gets bored, or see's food sitting there, and eat's it without really thinking about it.

In this situation, I was able to lay it all out on the table in a pretty frank manner. I simply suggested that she do more physical activity on her own, and stop dicking around with her diet. I told her that if she was really serious about the weight loss, she needed to take care of business on her own end. She's really only under my care for three hours per week, which leaves her a lot of time to manage herself. I also told her that the programming I've had for he has been aimed at fixing her imbalances and increasing her baseline level of strength, so that we would be able to do more of the exercises that will be beneficial to her. You're only going to get so far with your goals if you can only do bodyweight squats.

I'm very lucky that this client is able to understand what the problem really is. No matter how hard our workouts are, it'll be tough for us to balance out the consumption of an entire jar of peanut butter. Many clients, however, would be completely serious when they posed this scenario to their client. How do you get your point across to someone who isn't willing to accept responsibility for their own actions? It's much easier for someone to say "you're a shitty trainer" than it is for them to say "you know, I could probably try a little harder with my diet, and I guess I could do some conditioning work on my own too. This is all my fault."

Maybe I'm lucky and I ended up with clients who were really good at taking responsibility for their own actions. Maybe I'm a beast and I've instilled the proper amount of self-efficacy into my clients that they know when something is my fault and when it's their fault. Either way, she went to Trader Joe's after our session and sent me pictorial evidence of her newfound dedication to our goals.

Eggs, salmon, avocados, berries, nuts; not a bad shopping trip. Now that I've called her out in a blog, maybe her dedication will be even more intense. What do you say, E.L.?

Have a great day, folks. Go lift something heavy. If you don't, it's no ones fault but your own.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Rant

I'm about to do something that I don't do very often, and that is go on a rant without providing any sort of resolution or answer to the problem. This is my time to be mad. Quick, somebody ask me...

I've finally found something that I dislike about this industry; and I'll generalize it as the entire fitness industry. I am really really fucking tired of fitness professionals who just don't give a shit. The worst part is that they are everywhere. I get it, though. I get that every profession has people who are good at their job and people who are bad at it; it's part of life. But the thing about the fitness industry that kills me is that the barrier to entry is so low. Almost anyone can find a certification to get that will allow them to get a job as a personal trainer. Unfortunately, most commercial gyms could give a fuck less what certification you have as long as it's nationally recognized. This means almost every commercial gym is filled with chuckledick trainers who don't know their ass from their acetabulum doing stupid exercises.

There are different kinds of bad trainers and, unfortunately, we have both at my gym. The first kind is someone who just has no idea. They may be educated in exercise physiology/science, but they have stopped learning and don't actually do anything with clients that will produce any results. This trainer will do loads of tricep kickbacks, crunches and quarter squats. This trainer sucks, but chances are they aren't going to hurt anyone, they will just waste their time and money.

The other kind of trainer, I think, is the one that pisses me off the most. This guy thinks he knows everything about everything. He may or may not have a background in exercise physiology/science, but he has worked out for his whole life. He has managed to achieve pretty good results with himself, so he obviously has what it takes to achieve results with clients. This guy spends zero time learning on his own. Maybe he peruses t-nation and reads the latest article, but all he does is read it. The deeper understanding of how to utilize that information isn't there. Even worse, he asks no questions. He see's his co-workers doing something with great effect with their clients and he institutes it without ever asking "Hey, what does that do? How does it do it? What effect do you hope to achieve?" He just does it, whether or not he is applying it correctly. This trainer will apply the correct exercises (big compound lifts), but with terrible-awful-no-good-very-bad-programming. He'll throw a bunch of shit to the wall and see what sticks. "15 different exercises for one set of 20 reps? Sure. 100 goblet squats to finish a session when the client is training again the next day? Seems like a great idea!"

What is it that both of these trainers have in common? They both think they know everything, they have no interest in learning. Their passion for this industry is non-existant. Passion trumps everything in this industry. No one is in this for the money and the fame; there are no respectable coaches out there who are household names. Nobody is retiring at 45 from this industry. Why do we do it? It's because we love it. We love helping people get healthy and be happy. We love making someone stronger and faster and better at their sport. That's why we fucking do it. If you don't love it and want to learn every way possible to get better at your job, why bother? If you can't even take the fucking time to sit down and write a simple program for your client, then go do something else. Using one workout for all of your clients for a given day doesn't count as programming. Having an obese weight-loss client spend her hour with doing 15 exercises for one set each is far from the most effective way to reach a goal. That's just you not giving a fuck and knowing how to properly program a client, or get them to understand what the best way to achieve their goals is.

Nobody in this industry knows everything, everyone is learning constantly. Tony Gentilcore recently wrote about how he was having some issues with his own body, and had to reach out to a friend in the industry to get it figured out, and get the programming to fix it. If a guy who writes an extremely popular fitness blog, writes for T-Nation, LiveStrong and Mens Health, and co-owns a nationally known and respected strength and conditioning facility continuously talks about the cool new things he learned, what could possibly make anyone else think that their level of information is perfectly acceptable?

If you're not passionate about this industry, why be in it? The pay isn't that great and the hours suck. You could be mindlessly mediocre at a lot of other jobs that would require much less effort, and you would get paid more too. It'd also allow those of us who love this industry and love what we can provide for people to get more hands-on with the people who really need it.

I have no solution to this problem, but it pisses me off to no end. For those of you who care, please go lift something heavy today!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's Your Choice.

So it's been a few (several) days since my last post, which is ok since I was in the middle of final exams at school. Everything went well, and now I'm on to my summer schedule which means a lot of working. Huzzah!!

Today's post comes as a result of basically everybody I see around me, all the time. We face hundreds of choices every day; some are super important, and some are basically inconsequential. Regardless, we still face these choices. The thing is, all of these choices compound together to decide how your day, week, month or year goes. What is an apparently minuscule choice can snowball and create big changes.

Think about how each choice affects you and the people around you. If you can spend a day making more good choices than poor choices, you will have had a great day. Some people, too, spend so much time making big choices, that they let the small ones get away from them. "I'm so busy and stressed out because of work that I'll just get pizza for dinner"...7 nights a week.

Guess what? Everyone's work stresses them out; that's why it's called work and not enjoyment. Start early in the morning. As soon as your alarm goes off, you have a choice to make. Should you stay in bed for an extra 15 minutes, or should you get up to make your coffee and breakfast? One choice allows you an extra 20 minutes of "sleep" and the other makes sure that you are caffeinated, well fed and ready to start your day. If you choose the former over the latter, what might happen? You may end up rushing to get ready, standing in line at Dunkin Donuts to get a shitty breakfast that costs more than it's worth, missing your train and getting to work late. Great way to start your day, huh? Not only are you late for work, but you wasted a bunch of calories on garbage food that serves no purpose in your body. There's nothing nutritionally sound about a Dunk's breakfast sandwich. After you ate that shit for breakfast, what's the chances you're going to have a good clean eating day? Pretty slim.

Think about how your choices will affect the people you have to deal with every day. As a trainer, I have sessions that start at 6 a.m. four days per week, which means that I get to the gym by about 5:40. I have to get up around 4:45-5 so that I have time to walk my dog and shower and stuff. If I choose to go out and have some drinks the night before, and don't get to bed until 1:30, then what happens? I'm grumpy in the morning and my co-workers won't want to be around me. I'll be sluggish and tired and my clients will get a sub-par training session. I'll be too tired later in the day to have my own workout, and I'll probably be looking to put crap food in my body all day. So, I make the choice to not go out, and to try and be in bed by 10:30 or 11 every night. Why? Because I care about my professional life as much as (if not more than) my personal life. If my co-workes and clients think I'm a lazy dick, I wouldn't be able to afford a personal life anyway.

Make your small choices into big ones. Try and understand the consequences of your choices. Finishing off your kids meal? Not something you need to do. Throw it away, or pack it up and bring it home for them to eat the next day. Go to happy hour with your co-workers three times a week, or go to the gym and do your squats and deadlifts? I'm not saying to not enjoy yourself, but do you really need to go out on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, plus your normal Friday, Saturday nights? I think not.

Take just a second to think about each of your choices today. Think about the outcome of each choice and decide if that is really want you need to do to achieve your daily goals. If it's not going to help, then don't do it. Make a better choice. Remember, the better choice isn't always the easy choice (it's usually not). Making that hard choice is what will set you apart, though.

Be awesome. Go lift something heavy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Duality of Me

It's pretty easy to read this blog and think "Oh, this guy is just some really handsome, charming, witty meathead who only talks about bacon and deadlifts." That is certainly an image that gets portrayed on this blog, but you may be surprised to know that there is a very different side of me.

This is only one part of Me
I'm a huge music guy; lately I've been listening to a lot of indie/alternative rock stuff. I love classic hip hop as well as classic rock. The recent popularity of EDM (electronic dance music) is interesting to me, and I listen to it, but it's not my bread and butter. If I were to choose a single artist to listen to for the rest of my life, chances are good that it would be Bruce Springsteen. I grew up listening to Bruce, Billy Joel and the Beatles because of my folks, and I think it was a good musical up-bringing.

Here are some songs and artists that I've really been into lately.

Fun is a group that became really popular recently because of their song "We Are Young", but after listening to that album, I quickly decided that this was actually their best song.

Young The Giant is a band that I've been listening to for close to a year now, I think. Their song "My Body" blew up, and they became extremely popular. This song, "Strings", is one of my favorites simply because of the opening chords that get played. They have a bunch of videos on YouTube where they play their album songs acoustically outside, and they are amazing. Go watch.

The Naked and Famous is a band from New Zealand who's album I love; it currently lives in my car. They have several really good songs on this release, but this one is my personal favorite.

Something that people who know the current version of me would never guess is that I'm an avid gardener. I spent four years working at a greenhouse selling plants, assembling and designing ornamental pots and doing landscape and garden design work. I was actually extremely close to going to school for landscape design...until I realized that I'd be spending 4 months gardening, 2 months raking leaves and 6 months shoveling snow.

I still really enjoy it, but have much less time to partake in that hobby. The last time I really got to get my hands dirty was when my sister wanted to install a garden in the corner of her yard. I was tapped to do the design, and I think it came out beautifully. I was initially bitten by the gardening bug as a little kid because my grandmother was an avid gardener; the peonies and tulips in her back garden were gorgeous year after year. I still suggest her trick of burying eggshells near the roots of one of her favorite plants, the Clematis.

Just because it's adorable.
I have the tendency to be a "hopeless romantic", but that is something that is currently taking a backseat to this thing I like to call "reality". It's working out pretty well for me so far.

I'm a big fan of art, of all types. Music, poetry, paintings, sculptures, you name it. The only problem is that I have no discernible artistic talent. I'm extremely jealous of people who are able to adequately express themselves through an artistic medium. When I was younger I played the drums with visions of Alex Van Halen and Lars Ulrich dancing in my head; and I was completely and totally mediocre. The only thing I can draw is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and even those are pretty shitty. It turns out that my medium for artistic expression is the human body; I'm learning how to use exercise and nutrition to manipulate the body into whatever form I want. Want a bigger chest? I can do it. Stronger arms? Done. A bigger bum? Consider it done. Want to be leaner, faster and more explosive? Let's do it.

I'll admit it, it's tough to balance out my Alpha Male Testosterone-y bacon eating side with my gentler side. I get so wrapped up in training and lifting that it's easy for me to forget about the other side, the side that helps to make me Me. I know that it is extremely important for me to keep in touch with both sides, and that without both sides of me I'll become boring and un-interesting. Keep that in mind for yourself; your life can't be all about one thing, you have to achieve some balance. I'm going to go lift something heavy (snatches today!), I hope you do too. Before you do, take a second to listen to my favorite poem. Have a good one!


Friday, May 4, 2012

The 11 Day Diet

Last Monday, April 23rd, some friends/co-workers and I decided to undergo a very extreme, rigorous and difficult body re-composition phase. Basically, we did a crash diet.

Man, that shit SUCKED. What a stupid fucking idea that was. (Pardon my language). It was truly a poor decision. "Why the hell did YOU do a diet?" many of you are saying as you read this. Why not? Did I need to do a diet in the traditional sense? Nope. I wasn't overweight or anything, it's just something that needed to be done. Honestly, I learned a lot from the past 11 days. About myself, about the way food affects me, and it reaffirmed stuff that I tell clients all the time.

What did I hope to get for results? Well, I hoped to drop a few percent bodyfat. The number on the scale at the beginning and end was arbitrary (Sound familiar, clients?), but the actual change in body composition is what I was looking for. I was/am also looking for an increased insulin sensitivity post-diet. This will allow me to really reap the anabolic effects of the hormone Insulin.

 The diet itself was pretty simple. We got to eat 1.5-2 times our calculated lean body mass in lean protein per day. We got to eat as many non-starchy veggies as we wanted (had to stay away from carrots, potatoes, beets, peas, etc) so I was eating my weight in broccoli, cauliflower, peppers and cucumbers. Protein source was chicken breast, turkey breast, tuna fish, and chicken/turkey deli meats. We used a LOT of hot sauce and mustard too. Any spices and marinades that were zero calorie were fair game. No fats, no carbs of any kind other than a bunch of fish oil, which was a necessity. Diet (zero calorie) soda was allowed sometimes, as were tea and black coffee.

My results? A total loss of 12 pounds (207 to 195) and about 4% body fat. According to our pinches, I went from 13% to 9%. The results were almost identical for the other two guys who did this diet along with me. Are the numbers exact? Nope; calipers are a great way to measure but are by no means perfect. Is it a consistent measurement that can track progress? Without a doubt.


I learned a lot about food from the past 11 days. Actually, it's not even stuff I learned;  but stuff that was reaffirmed and reinforced. Such as the importance of having good fats in your diet on a regular basis in order to keep you full and satisfied. I had meals where I would eat a pound of ground turkey and 12 ounces of broccoli, and be hungry immediately upon finishing. I mean, famished. The one "cheat" meal we had was when we went to UFood (a local healthy fast food place) and got some grass-fed steak tips and broccoli. Afterwards we were completely famished. So hungry, in fact, that we went to Chipotle and got a burrito bowl that consisted of: double chicken, onions, peppers and salsa(s). Afterwards? Still hungry. It was unbelievable how much food I could put into my stomach without being full. We are talking hungry-all-the-time kind of miserable. Food was no longer enjoyable; I knew that I wasn't going to be satisfied by any of it, and that it wasn't going to give me energy. Eating was a chore. My energy was low, my cognitive function was low and my mood was miserable.

My biggest craving was for fats. I was dying for whole eggs, milk, bacon and guacamole. That craving set in very early. Carbs weren't that big a deal for me; pasta, rice and potatoes never really crossed my mind. I did, however, really miss bananas, apples, blueberries and donuts. Yup, donuts have been on my mind constantly.

I also learned that my will-power can be as good as I need it to be. I felt stupid, honestly. I knew that I could sit down and have an apple with some peanut butter and a glass of milk and feel better in 20 minutes. It was very mentally taxing to avoid foods that I know are good for me, like eggs, salmon and berries; it was very counter-intuitive. I knew my body wanted them and that I should listen to my body, but I didn't do it. I couldn't, I wouldn't allow myself. The group that I did this with was extremely supportive; I don't believe that any of us could have done it on our own. There's something to be said knowing that you're not the only one doing something stupid.

One of the other difficult things to deal with was peoples reaction to the diet itself. "Oh my God, that's so bad for you!" Or "You of all people should know better!" Yes, I am very well aware that what I'm doing, yet I'm doing it anyway. There's a lot of reasons behind it. Thankfully, I'm the one who has to eat this way, not you.

So, how did I break this diet? On the 11th day (Thursday, yesterday) we re-introduced fats into our diets. It was like frigging Christmas Day to an 8 year old. I started off the day with 6 hard boiled eggs, 3 chicken sausages about about one-third of a kielbasa. Lunch with 4 eggs and 4 strips of bacon, and dinner was a pound of tri-tip steaks wrapped in bacon with 4 over-easy eggs. What a day. I also hit a personal record on my Clean at 242 pounds. It was certainly not a pretty lift, but please feel free to ask me how I feel about that.

Closing thoughts? Don't you even fucking think about doing this diet. It's dumb. It's not worth the results. The VAST majority of people really need to just clean up their diet and eat better on a consistent basis. The easiest thing to do with a diet like this is underfeed and starve yourself. If you're not using fish oil and BCAA's, you'll have a totally different experience. Crash dieting is NOT really an effective way to lose weight, and I can assure you that I won't be doing it again. What's good for me isn't always good for you. Please heed my advice! Crash diets SUCK.

Now, please go eat some bacon and then go lift something heavy!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Live, Learn, Pass it on

There's a few things about this industry that I really like, and very few that I don't like. For example, I love that an emphasis is being placed on movement quality, heavy compound lifts and bacon. I have had great experiences with almost all of the coaches I've met, and I love the camaraderie that this industry provides.

Personally, though, there is one thing that I really enjoy in this industry and that is teaching. For many years, I told my family that I wanted to be a teacher. It seemed like something that just fit me. My mom, however, is a teacher and talked me out of it many years. She has had a lot of problems with the school system that she works in and didn't want me to have to go through the stress that she goes through. I did manage to go ahead and find my own version of teaching, though.

I get to teach clients every day (except Sunday) how to be just a little bit better. Whether it's how to be a little stronger, a little faster or how to eat a little better. Hell, sometimes it's just teaching someone that they can try something and fail at it, and the world doesn't end. I've written before about how many lessons someone can learn from weight training, and I get to teach them. I like that.

Something that I found out that I really liked was teaching other trainers the right way to do things. In my gym I've had the opportunity to take several young new trainers "under my wing" (so-to-speak) and help them learn the ropes. These trainers have come from all walks of life: physical therapy, athletic training, music and political science just to name a few. Some come with more advanced knowledge than others, but they all come with an interest and wiling-ness to learn.

I'm in no way suggesting that I know everything - I'm the first to admit that my education and my ability is still in it's adolescence. I've still in the process of learning, and I relish each opportunity I get to do so. However, I'm very confident in the knowledge that I do possess. I feel comfortable and confident  telling new trainers the proper form for lifts, explaining why EPOC is elevated after interval training or explaining why yoga and Pilates will, in fact, NOT lengthen or tone your muscles.

I've found this to be a truth in the entire industry. Every more-experienced coach that I've met had no problem sitting down and talking shop, answering any questions and sharing information. Tony Gentilcore, Mike Ranfone, Smitty, Todd Bumgardner and John Gaglione were all really cool guys that really exemplify this trait. With the exception of the Disciples of Charles Poliquin, who tend to keep to themselves, this trait really is industry wide. Why? I think it's because theres no real secrets. No one is dying to give up their programming, per se, but the sharing of ideas and info? That's what this industry is built on. We all know that the basic compound moves are your bread and butter; that's been known for years. Everyone knows that the Prowler is an amazing conditioning tool, and that grass-fed beef and eggs are actually really good for you.

This is a great industry. I'm constantly finding something new to love about it. Now, go lift something heavy! (And if someone in your gym doesn't know how to do a deadlift, teach them!)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Things I Like

Every once in a while, I like to write a post about things that I've been doing/using that I think are pretty cool and useful. I don't guarantee that you'll think the same way, but it's worth a shot. Right?

Front Squats: I've always liked front squats, but I didn't love them until recently. As of late, it has become my favorite squat variation. I personally go with heels elevated (or weightlifting shoes) and get as low as I can. This is extremely friendly to my knees, and I feel like it has a great carry-over to jumping. I have also recently gotten into Olympic lifting, and the front squat is of the utmost importance for that. A high volume of front squats in the last few months is also the stimulus for some good growth in my upper legs.

MobilityWOD: Kelly Starret is a genius, plain and simple. He is a DPT and the owner of San Francisco CrossFit, one of the first 50 or so CrossFit affiliates. His website, MobilityWOD has changed the way I view warming up and mobility work. I've been very conscious of the fact that (as Eric Cressey says) you can't underestimate the importance of soft tissue quality for a long time now, but KStar has added elements that I have never seen before. It is some of the most innovative, effective and painful things that I have come across. This is one of those situations when I tell clients "the more it sucks, the better it is for you". Well, the majority of this mobility exercises suck to do. He uses a variety of methods to restore mobility, including banded joint distractions, self ART with lax balls, and tissue "mashing" with foam rollers, wine bottles and barbells. Check it out; seriously.

The Prowler: Yup, I know I've written about my love of the prowler before and I'm going to do it again right now. Why again? Because I just got one! I bought an Econo Prowler from my good buddy Dan, and it was a fantastic purchase. We used it in the street in front of my house already, and it's a helluva way to get in some good easy-on-the-body conditioning. Sprints and hill sprints are amazing, so is the rower and jump rope, but they all usually leave your body a little banged up. Not the Prowler, though. It's basically a bunch of single-leg eccentric-less density work. Great way to get your heart-rate going and a great way to get some extra volume for your legs. Can't go wrong with it.

My dog and my sled.
Yellow Mustard: There will be an update about this tomorrow, but I am currently finishing up a pretty awful diet. One of the saving graces (Can I say that? Saving graces? Is that a thing?) was French's yellow mustard. A man can only eat so much chicken breast, turkey breast or tuna fish before he wants to start taking peoples lives. Some yellow mustard slathered on poultry really goes a long way. Plus, its zero calorie! (If you know me at all, you know how much I hate espousing the benefits of something that has no calories.)

Mad Men: Yup, the TV show. I don't watch a lot of TV (I don't have cable) so I watch things on Netflix. This is a show my sister has been raving about for a few years, and a few friends recently got into it and convinced me to start watching. I must say, I'm sad I didn't start sooner. Great characters, great dialogue and a really good story line. The only downside is that after watching an episode, all I want to do is go smoke cigarettes, drink whiskey and demean women.**

All Things Gym:  This is a fairly new website that takes all the iron sport stuff out there and condenses it into one amazing little package. Power lifting videos? It's there. CrossFit stuff? It's there. Weightlifting news? It's there in spades. Whatever it is that you enjoy in this wild world of weight training, you can find news and videos on this site. It is certainly skewed more to Olympic lifting stuff, but that's alright. Where else can you go to find the great new MobilityWOD video and also see Mikhail Koklyaev do a 100 kg (220 pound) barbell sit-up? No where!! All Things Gym is the website responsible for first introducing me to the Klokov Complex!

That's it for today. I hope you enjoyed the post and I hope you find at least something that I wrote about today to be enjoyable or useful to you somehow. If not....I dunno what to tell you, I wrote about some pretty cool shit, there's probably something wrong with you.

Go be awesome! Lift something heavy today!

**I do not demean women, ever. My Momma would slap the taste out of my mouth.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Time Takes Time

There is something that I try to impress upon all of my clients, and anyone else that I talk to about training and nutrition.

Time takes time. This holds true for absolutely everything in life, not just fitness related goals. You want that promotion? Put in the time and effort. You want that girl? Put in the time and effort (Although, I guarantee nothing in this department. Nobody should be taking their advice on women from me. They are Unstable Creatures.) You want to drop 15 pounds or put 50 on your deadlift? Well, you guessed it, put in the time and effort. 

Nothing about training and fitness is linear. The people who will see the MOST linear progression are newbies; strength gains and weight loss can be seen easily and quickly. This is a beautiful thing because people see their results and get satisfied and invested. However, this effect wears off over time. Even the most linear progressions involve an inherent peak and valley system known as the supercompensation effect. 

Supercompensation effect of one workout

Ideal supercompensation curve during a program cycle

So, like I said, time takes time. Under ideal conditions, strength improvements can be much more linear than fat/weight loss. I hate to do this, but think about The Biggest Loser. Even those people (under ideal conditions) will have weeks where they lose massive amounts of weight, and weeks were they lose very minimal (relatively speaking) amounts of weight. 

Given that knowledge, think about what kind of results we can hope for while living the chaotic lives that we all live. You're trying to lose weight while balancing work, school, relationship, kids, dog, friends and money. These facts of life serve to disrupt your training, eating, sleeping and recovery; which all have a direct correlation to fat loss. Hormone levels play a huge role in fat loss, and cortisol (a stress hormone) is the biggest role player. If your stress levels are high, your cortisol is up. If you're eating and sleeping like crap, cortisol levels are high. If you're training too hard and not recovering enough, your cortisol levels are high. High cortisol has proven to have a high correlation with increased adiposity.

Setbacks and plateaus happen, it's part of the lives we lead. Goals will be met, you just need to remember to let time happen. No matter what you do, you can't rush your body. Train the right way, eat the right way, and recover the right way and the things you want to happen will happen. The nice thing is that days only come one at a time, so you can work to make each day perfect before you have to worry about the next one. Strive to have more "great" and "perfect" days than "shitty" days, and you'll do well. Remember that one single shitty day doesn't make or break you, just like one perfect day won't make or break you. One day of eating junk food and having some beers isn't what made you fat in the first place, it was having several months or years of that. It took some time to get you into the shape you're in, it'll take some time to undo it.

You're already in good shape? Well, be prepared to wait even longer. I forget who said this (Cressey? Tate?), but think about how easy it was to get to your first 225 deadlift. Now, think about how much longer it took to get to 315, and then how it took forever to get to 405. That's how it is with every aspect of fitness and training. The first goals are always the easiest, and it gets exponentially harder after that. Each goal takes more and more time to achieve. In the strength sport world (weightlifting and powerlifting) it's well known that the longer you've been lifting, the fewer PR's you'll be hitting. Some athletes can go a full year without hitting a new PR, or only adding 2.5 pounds to a lift. And you know what? That's okay! They are still thrilled when it happens! Why? Because they know that time takes time!

Regardless of who you are (myself included) you need to remember that good things come with hard work and effort, and everybody has peaks, valleys and plateaus (it's part of life). Any method that promises results in a week isn't worth your time. Anything that is worth having is worth fighting for. Remember that, relax and go lift something heavy!