Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Training Funk

It happens to the best of us. For the last month or so my training has been in the shitter; I've been lifting inconsistently or not even training at all. My last lift was about 3 weeks in Mexico and the heaviest I did was Goblet squats with a 50 pound dumbbell in the resort gym. Needless to say, I feel shitty.

I fell off the wagon about a week or so before I went to Mexico. Then, when I got back from Mexico I had an awful stomach bug for a few days. Right after I started feeling normal from that, I strained my left quadratus lumborum. I'm still recovering from that but I've realized what kind of rut I've gotten myself into. I'm stuck in the deadly cycle of shitty training!

The big over-riding problem is that I haven't been on a consistent program since the beginning of summer. I had been following The Outlaw Way and felt great, but had to stop because I couldn't keep it up while playing so much volleyball. Once the fall came around, I would lift sporadically and do what felt good that day, but didn't have a program to follow. I tried restarting Outlaw, but the volume of Olympic lifts that you perform wreaks havoc on my wrists.

The other problem is that I feel fucking awful about myself when I lift; my baseline level of strength has decreased so much that I just feel like a huge sissy when I go lift. Weights that I used to use at warm-up sets were now my working sets. I know academically why my strength had diminished, but I'm still not happy about it. I just felt very civilian.

So, just today I sat down and wrote myself a program. I know I always say "don't write your own program" but, oh well! I combined everything I want out of a program; athleticism, power, strength and conditioning. Everything is auto-regulated (no percentages) so I can feel out the lift every day. I cut down on the volume and variation of Olympic lifting that I was doing so that I can focus on quality reps that feel heavy for that day. The strength work is basic and allows room to go heavy; basic compound lifts for low reps. Here's the program (a 3 day split) not including warm-up.

Day 1:
A1) MB Slam: 3x5
A2) Weighted Box Jumps: 3x3

B) Clean: 4x2

C1) High Bar Squat: 5x3
C2) Romanian Deadlift: 5x5

D) Battle Rope Tabata

Day 2: 
A1) MB Overhead Throw: 3x3    (Note: that video sucks, I'll be doing that but more savage.)
A2) Hurdle Bounding: 3x5

B) Snatch: 4x2

C1) Fat Bar Push Press: 5x3
C2) Chin-ups: 5x5

D) Airdyne Tabata

Day 3: 
A1) MB Shot Put: 3x3/side
A2) Lateral Bounding to Broad Jump: 3x3/side

B) Snatch High Pull: 4x2

C1) Trap Bar Deadlift: 5x3
C2) Glute Ham Raise: 5x5

D) Sled until I Die

- The A superset is intended to neurally activate my body, and prepare me to lift.
- No conventional deadlift is being performed because of all the pulling I will be doing with the Olympic lifts and the RDL's. The TBDL is intended as a strength exercise, not as a conventional deadlift replacement. Relax.
- I will be applying the Bulgarian Method of auto-regulation to these lifts. That is, I will be going as heavy as I can with pristine form and without having to psyche myself up for a lift. If I have to get really psyched up for a set, then it's too heavy.
- Conditioning is something I need to force myself to do. The Tabata's are just short enough that I'll be able to make myself do it every day.
- There is a lacking of scapular retraction work in this program. I will be implementing a ton of band pull-apart variations in-between sets (probably during my Olympic lifts) to make up for this.

If anyone out there is looking for something new to try, give this a shot and let me know what you think! Have a great day, and go lift something heavy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

No One Cares

There's a really common excuse as to why people (women especially, but I'm hearing more men say it too) don't want to get in the weight room and start lifting even though they know they are supposed to be doing it.

Everyone is scared about what other people will think of them when they are in the weight room lifting. They think the guys who are stronger than them are going to laugh at them for what they are doing. They are scared of getting in peoples way and doing something wrong.

Newsflash: No One Cares.

Especially the truly strong people (strong mind, strong body), they are there with one purpose: to get strong(er).

This is the problem with all-women's gyms. Women are scared of big meatheads judging them so they choose an all-women's gym where they don't have to deal with them. Instead, they have to deal with the LuLuLemon Mafia on the ellipticals who are judging you on everything from your Zumba performance to your sports bra to what kind of bag you carried in.

This struck me because I was trying to convince a client of mine to go to Cressey Performance for an evaluation with Eric. She was immediately concerned about being in a facility with pro-athletes and other big strong guys. I had to stop and ask her "Do you think the pro baseball guys care what anyone else is doing? These are guys training to make or keep a contract, what you're doing is of the least concern to them."

Unless you're doing something stupid or dangerous, the meatheads in your gym only care about what the other meatheads are doing. When I'm training, the only people I pay any attention to are the people who are stronger than me: what are they doing to get stronger, and how can I apply it to myself.

Actually, in a lot of gyms, the meatheads are the ones who would stop and tell you that you were doing something wrong, or a better way to do it. The people who gained all their knowledge about training an nutrition from Tracy Anderson and Dr. Oz are the ones who are going to look at you and snicker.

No one has the right to make you feel like you don't belong in the weight room. Get in there, kick some ass, and lift some heavy shit today.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Regressed Progressions

This is a topic that I've thought about writing about for a pretty long time now, but just recently came up with the name that I've now assigned to it. Regressed Progressions are exercises that you'll seen used by bad personal trainers in commercial gyms everywhere.

Not a Regressed Progression: Still stupid
These are exercises that trainers use with that clients that are so advanced beyond the capabilities of the client that the trainer needs to add in a bunch of extra assistance.

No, I dont mean things like pull-ups with resistance bands or plate-elevated deadlifts. I mean things like TRX bulgarian split squats with the client holding the trainers hands; squats on a bosu ball with the client holding the TRX; or pushups with both hands on medicine balls with the client can't keep their core up or get their chest all the way to the ground. 

Every exercise has a progression and a regression: you need to find the appropriate variation for your client and their particular situation. One of the marks of a good trainer is to be able to apply the correct level of difficulty to the client. 

I once saw the TRX Bulgarian Split Squat with hand-holding and a half-range of motion performed by a trainer during their first workout with a client. I think this is often a clear sign of a trainer who isn't confident enough in their ability to explain to a client why a particular exercise is appropriate for them and will help make them better. Instead, it's much easier to give someone a super difficult exercise that they can't do and say "Well, this is why you need to train with me. You can't even do an single-leg overhead squat on a stability ball with one eye closed and me throwing tennis balls at you!"

The other reason that a bad trainer will use an exercise like this is because they feel that they have to give a client a show; they need to impress them by showing off variations and exercises that the client has never done before. This way the client will know how awesome the trainer is because they are doing something so hard that they can't even complete the exercise!

Stick to the basics: make sure that your client is able to do a basic exercise with proper form through a full range of motion before you progress them to the next harder variation. They will get a MUCH better training effect from this than they will from limited ROM exercises that are too difficult to actually perform. Have confidence in your exercise selection and your ability to explain why this is the appropriate variation for the client.

Have a great day, and go lift something heavy!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Percentage Based Programs

Choosing the program that you want to do is like choosing the right toppings for your ice cream sundae: they are all going to taste amazing and you'll ultimately end up happy with your choice.

To be frank, if you are looking for a program to do you can pretty much do no wrong if you choose one of the "popular" and well-known options: Show and Go, Maximum Strength, Superhero, Mad Cow 5x5, Starting Strength, Outlaw and Supreme Strength are just a few of the easily accessible programs that you can purchase/download and achieve pretty good results with.

Percentage based programs, though, often help people achieve extremely high levels of strength. Jim Wendlers 5/3/1, Chad Wesley Smith's Juggernaut Training System, and the Westside Method are some of the most popular percentage based programs that are easily available. (Note: many programs, especially in the collegiate world, will be based off of percentages of your capability). 5/3/1 and Westside are two of the most popular strength programs that are out there; they are certainly the most commonly used. Why? So many people have success with them.

They are not programs, so much as templates that allow you to design a program around their parameters but fit to your needs. These are all great aspects, but what about the negatives?

I've personally used 5/3/1 with great success with myself and my clients, and I recently used it and absolutely hated every rep of it.

What happened? Well I was dealing with a lot of school work and a lot of work work. I'd go right from work to class to work and then try and lift. I felt ragged at the beginning of every training session and no amount of caffeine would light a fire under my ass. I wanted to lift, but I was having a really tough time keeping up with what the percentages and reps were telling me to do. Every once in a while I'd come in feeling good and crush the workout, but it wasn't enough to see any progress. I had the same issue with some of my clients that I had doing 5/3/1.

I've since moved exclusively to auto-regulation as a means of controlling my weights. On days I feel good I know I can push it. On days that I don't feel great, I tone it down a little. It allows me to consistently make progress while not feeling like a sack of shit for not meeting the expected reps at a particular percentage.

There are more and more coaches training themselves and their clients on auto-regulated programs. Given the instance where your job is to lift weights in order to get bigger and/or stronger, then you're going to have outside stress in your life. Work, school, relationships, money, family; these are all things that can drag your workouts down a little bit.

What are your thoughts on percentage based programs?

Have a great day and go lift something heavy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cheat Days

Cheat Days are a part of a healthy lifestyle that many people overlook or don't understand. For many reasons, Cheat Days are seen as the last refuge of a weak mind. This couldn't be further from the truth.

First off, I'd like to say that this post is directed at people who have achieved a particular level of fitness: for men, let's say the low 'teens for body fat (under 15%) and for woman the low 20's or high teens. Above this level, your focus should be on a consistently clean diet to help lose the excess body fat.

A cheat day is useful for a few reasons; the biggest of which is psychological. There are very few people out there who can live their lives without ever deviating from their clean-eating spectrum. I read something once where Eric Cressey said he had gone several years without eating a piece of cake, even on his birthday. That just makes me uncomfortable. I really like cake. Donuts make my knees wobble and pizza makes me drool.

My eating schedule is as such: Monday-Friday I eat as cleanly as possible. I stick to my carb-backloading schedule as much as I am able to and don't eat junk. Note: I may occasionally have a donut on the way to my workout on Friday afternoon. Saturday morning I work at the gym, and when I get done around 1 o'clock I let my hair down. I end up with a day and a half of eating like a civilian and whatever that entails. I don't guard myself against anything. A buddy of mine sticks to pretty much the same schedule and his Sunday morning meal includes a Starbucks bacon egg and cheese on a chocolate chip bagel. Yup.

I'm not saying you have to go that far, but you get the idea. If you're training consistently/intensely and eating cleanly then your body is going to assimilate everything you put into it. 

The mental break that a cheat day provides is a lifesaver; after a long week of work and training, it's nice to be able to sit back and order a pizza and wings when you watch the game. Going to a barbecue with friends and having beer and a dessert makes going back to the Grind very bearable. 

For those of you who maintain a caloric deficit during the week, a cheat day gives your body the opportunity to gain back some much-needed calories for growth and allows you a little bit of a rebound effect. Essentially, this flood of calories will stimulate your body to grow and recover. 

Don't worry; you won't get fat. Your body fat percentage isn't going to go from 9 to 16 over the course of the weekend. One day of eating anything isn't going to make you fat. A month of it will, though. 

Before you go out this weekend and crush a few pizzas, be honest with yourself. How good is your diet during the week? How hard have you been training? Cheat days are a reward, not a right. If your diet has been shit and you haven't lifted in 10 days then you don't really need to reward yourself for anything. 

Think about it; cheat days are a good idea. Have a great day and go lift something heavy!

**For additional reading, check out John Romaniello

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gluten Free Recipe!

This isn't something that I do often (ever), but today I thought that I would share with you a recipe I tried recently! I usually find these kinds of posts a little cheesy, but I think that this one will be different.

In keeping with all the latest trends, this is a gluten free recipe that I made for a friends barbecue this past weekend. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, so hopefully you will too!


I'll start off with the ingredients list:
- 2 pounds of uncured nitrite free bacon
- 2 pounds of 80/20 ground beef (I opted to be a little cheap and not use grass-fed. Shhhhhhh.)
- Cheese (as much as you see fit). I used Boar's Head 3-pepper Colby Jack.
- Jar of jalapenos. Use fresh if you want. 
- Barbecue Sauce. I used Stubb's.

First, take some of your bacon and cut it up into little pieces. Fry it up and feel free to snack. Take 12-14 slices of the un-cooked bacon and create a latticework of bacon-y goodness. I'm not going to go into full details about how to create this weave: put on your big boy/girl pants and figure it out!

Fuck. Yes.
Next, take your ground meat and season it as you see fit. Salt, pepper, maybe some garlic or something. Go nuts. Smush the meat out so that it forms a thin layer that is just about the same size as your bacon weave.

Now that your meat-mat is done, it's time to cheese that son'bitch up. Use whatever kind of cheese you like, but in my first attempt at this I found that grated cheese just wasn't cheesy enough. I went with a spicy cheese and I don't regret my decision.

Now it's time to add your accoutrements. (I know you like that word.) My first attempt at this recipe used Hillshire Farms Lit'l Smokies and it came out just too salty. This time around I used jalapeno slices and took that cooked bacon from earlier and dumped it on there. This is where the recipe becomes an art, not a science. Put whatever sounds good to you on at this point: pepperoni, bacon, pancetta, canadian bacon, scallops, tater tots, onions and peppers, avocado (mmm, maybe not), pulled pork or mozzarella sticks. You could also put some of that BBQ sauce on now; but I forgot to do it. Go nuts!

The next part is the trickiest part of the whole situation: rolling your meat. The ground beef will stick to the bacon a little, so you may consider spraying the bacon with cooking spray before you lay down your meat-mat. Start at one end and just roll it up. Try to keep your goodies in their as much as possible so you get a nice layered effect. Presentation counts! Keep the meat-roll as tight as possible so the cheesy delightfulness on the inside stays there. 

Not my meat. I forgot to take a picture of this step. Shit.
Once your meat-roll is nice and tight, grab ahold of your bacon lattice and roll back the other way; gently enveloping your meat-roll in a heavenly shroud of bacon-y happiness.

Now it's time to cook. Feel free to let your Meat Log rest for a while in the fridge to help compact the meatiness. I've now cooked this both on a grill and in an oven, and I personally prefer the grill. Something as phallic as a log of meat should be cooked outside on fire. While drinking beer and throwing a football. And throwing logs over fences. 

Get your grill good and hot and drop that sucker on. I cooked it on a layer of tin foil for a while, and then finished it off just on the bar grill. This allowed the bacon to get crispy without getting burned to shit. If your meat log is good and girthy (as it should be), then it's going to take a while to cook. True art can't be rushed (remind all the civilians about this fact). Occasionally open up the grill and baste your masterpiece with the rest of that BBQ sauce. Don't be stingy either.

Smells like Success!
Once it's done, slice this bad boy up and eat it however you please. Rumor has it that it'd be amazing on a biscuit, but we ate it as is. With our hands. And no shirts on. Enjoy!

There you have it, my gluten free masterpiece that will be perfect for all of you health conscious dieters out there! Remember: cholesterol turns into testosterone!

Have a great day and go lift something heavy!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Trainer Life

I'm sure most people sit at home and think "Man, personal trainers and strength coaches have a great life". We sure do, given what a glamorous profession we work in.

Well, being a trainer or a coach does come with some pretty significant lifestyle changes. Living outside the normal 9-5 takes a lot of getting used to: we work when you don't.

Our hours are completely backwards from yours. Most trainers and coaches start training at 5 or 6 in the morning. This is so that we can get a few sessions in before everyone else has to go to work. The morning block of sessions usually goes from 5 or 6 until 11 or 12. The last few sessions of the morning are retiree's, moms or people who work from home.

The evening block of sessions usually goes from 4 until 8 or 9. This is the after-work crowd and these are usually the most popular spots. A trainer with a very packed schedule can pretty easily see 8-10 clients in a day.

What happens in the middle of the day? Those are our off hours. Thats actually when most trainers or coaches find the time to get their workout in. This is one of the big benefits; if your co-workers or friends who are trainers have the same time off in the middle of the day as you, it gives you the opportunity to train with some great partners. The Trainer Life schedule has given me and some friends the opportunity to get together on Friday afternoons to get in a great lifting session at CrossFit Resilience for the last couple of weeks.

Some trainers end up with other schedules and end up with days where you don't have to be at work till noon. These lucky bastards get to work late the night before and then actually get a full night of sleep. The difficult task is then finding ways to be productive the next morning rather than just sleeping the day away. Usually these people would run some errands and then catch a workout.

When you spend 8-10 hours a day being "on" with clients, it makes you really crave alone time. I think it's important for trainers and coaches to take the opportunity for some Me time; just a time to relax and be quiet and not talk to anyone.

The schedule is tough. It doesn't leave a lot of time for other things; definitely something to think about for anyone considering a career change into the fitness industry. If you love it like I love it, though, it's all worth it.

Have a great day, and go lift something heavy!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Improving Athleticism: Deceleration

People are always looking for ways to get faster. Coaches are always advertising their secrets to get you faster and more explosive. Is this really what you need to become more athletic though?

The real game changer, when it comes to sport-speed isn't how fast you can accelerate, but how fast you can decelerate. For team-sport athletes, there is nothing linear about what they do. Games are dynamic and you are very rarely running in a straight line with nothing impeding your progress. So why deceleration important?

Deceleration (or "breaking down") is what allows you to make cuts or to stop (duh). Straight line speed is great, but you will eventually need to go somewhere else. If you can decelerate and change directions faster than the next guy, you're going to be a better athlete. This is like a wide-receiver running a route. The corner back who is playing defense on him is going to be just as fast as he is. But if that WR can stop on a dime, change directions and go full speed before the defense, he'll be open and will have an opportunity for a catch.

How can you work on improving deceleration? Here are some great drills.

Heidens (or skater hops) are a fantastic lateral movement drill. The idea is simple: start on one leg, explosively jump to the next and athletically stick the landing. Without putting your other foot down, jump back to where you started. This drill will help improve several things: proprioception, single leg stability and power-development.

The most common drill to teach someone how to decelerate properly is the Depth Drop. It's a more advanced variation on the box jump, because rather than avoid the eccentric stress of landing (as in the box jump) you are actually only training the eccentric portion. Make sure the athlete lands athletically, and with your female athletes make sure they stick the landing with their knees OUT.

A nice progression of the depth drop is the 180 Depth Drop. Start off facing backwards, so that when you land you have to resist the rotary forces you've produced.

Depth Drop Lunges are a really cool drill I picked up from Mike Ranfone a while back. Start off on a medium-height box facing sideways, drop off the box and stick the landing in a lunge position. This drill is going to teach you to absorb your body weight in a pretty athletic position.

These are just a few of my favorite drills to help teach people how to get fast and explosive. Try some of them out and let me know how it goes! Have a great day and go lift something heavy!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Check Me Out!

Who's got two thumbs and was recently featured on a very popular and well-respected strength and conditioning blog?


I was recently in contact with Tony Gentilcore about doing some guest posts for him, and the first two went up in the last two weeks! If you haven't had a chance to check them out, here are the links:

If you like them, let either Tony or I know! There should be more to come in the future. Also, if anyone has any topics they'd like for me to cover, then let's hear them!

I'm going to be travelling to Mexico for a few days for a wedding so the site will be low on content for most of next week, but hopefully I'll have some time to do some writing while I'm down there. 

Have a great day and go lift something heavy!

Thursday, October 11, 2012


The concept of self-rewards is nothing new; people have been doing it for ages and it manifests itself in many forms. You did something good so now it's time to treat yourself.

You got a promotion at work; so you go on vacation.

You made it through exam week; so you go get blackout drunk on Friday.

You had a really good training session; so you go crush a cheat meal. 

Well, great. You did a good job. That's awesome and I'm really happy for you. But why does everyone have this underlying need for a reward?

Since we were little kids we were given performance-based rewards. It's one of the ways we learn: positive and negative-reinforcement. You pee in the potty, you get a lollipop. You do your homework, you get a gold star. Mow the lawn, you get five bucks. Throw a chunk of ice at your sisters head causing her to bleed, and you pay the consequences (Sorry about that; I love you.)

Works great with kids; but why do we need to do that as adults? Why can't the result of your hard work be the reward?

I hear this all the time regarding workouts and food. People post on Facebook about how they just "crushed a gym sesh" (i.e. 45 minutes of cardio and then some biceps blasting) so now it's time to head home and reward themselves with a pint of Ben and Jerry's.

You know what the pay-off of a good workout is? Doing it again the next day. And the day after that. The results of days and weeks and months of breaking your balls in the gym is the pay-off. Losing the weight, gaining the muscle, or being ready for your sport is the pay-off.

Thank You, LBEB.
I hear training clients do this all the time, too. "Well that was a great workout, I'm going to stop and get some froyo as a reward." Well, you did do a great job and I am very proud of you, however, your reward should be more training. Your reward should be going home and crushing a high-protein/high-carb meal, adapting to the training stress and coming back the next day stronger than before. Not fucking froyo

Even worse is when someone completes a great few weeks/months of training, see's results and then says "Oh, it's time to take a few weeks off; I earned it!" 

No, you didn't. You did something you should be doing for your health and your life. You didn't train for and complete a marathon or a powerlifting event. Even those athletes don't take a few WEEKS off, they take one week off and then get back on the grind. 

Here's the harsh reality: you didn't do anything special. You are not a unique and beautiful snowflake. You should be working out and training because you need to be healthy and strong. Your wife shouldn't make you do it. Not your doctor or trainer, either. You should be doing it because you know it's the right thing to do! Stop rewarding yourself, the reward is in the effort itself. 

Have a great day. Go lift some heavy shit!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Exercises You Should Be Doing

I know that everyone has an "Exercises You Should Be Doing" post, and there's a good reason for that; we know more than you do! There are a ton of great exercises floating around out there that Average Joe's just don't know about. Too, there are exercises out there that coach's forget about; we get into a routine with certain exercises and forget about others. This is one of those exercises.

If that picture alone doesn't sell you on this exercise, I don't know what will. Look at that guys' tree trunk legs, his girthy glutes, the thick spinal erectors and the huge upper back; all with 405 on the bar. Guy is a monster.

The exercise is the snatch high pull. It's usually used as a training exercise for the snatch, but I've found it has a lot of efficacy as a stand-alone exercise. Take a look:

So why should you be doing this exercise? It's a precursor to the snatch; which is an amazing lift. This requires you to be explosive, but doesn't require the technique of the snatch. While the full snatch is amazing, the benefits of the catch are (I think) lost on many people. While you should be working on the mobility and technique to catch a full snatch, this will work in the meantime. The wide grip forces you to engage your upper back quite a bit. It's a deadlift, with a jump, and a big shrug at the top. I don't see where you could go wrong.

Incorporating this lift into the beginning of your workout once or twice a week will help you get strong, get fast and build the big back you've been looking for. I'll leave you with a video of my shitty snatch high pulls from the other day.

Have a great day, and go lift something heavy!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Improving Athleticism: Box Jumps

The box jump is one of the most common exercises to see in any weight room in the country. Go into a big-box commercial gym, a college strength room or a personal training studio and you'll surely find people doing box jumps. But, do they know why they are doing them? And are they even doing them correctly?

You see people doing box jumps for a variety of reasons. In an athletic setting they are done as a power production exercise; in a CrossFit gym they are often done in a metabolic conditioning circuit; in commercial gyms they are done for...well, who knows why.

Why are YOU doing box jumps? The intent of the exercise is really as a power-production exercise. You're creating a situation where the athlete can jump as explosively as possible without having to worry about the stress from the landing. The eccentric portion of any exercise is where all the stress lays; so if we can take that out the athlete can perform that exercise with greater volume and intensity. It's also a great way to get athletes doing something athletic early in their pre-season programs.

Let's go over proper and improper form, as well as some useful variations.

The goal of the box jump is not to jump on the highest box that you can physically get on to. If you watch someone do a super-high box jump, all they are really doing is expressing their hip mobility. Sure, they still have some boost; but watch their hips as they get to the box. They end up with their knees up by their ears: not an athletic position.

Sure, it's impressive. I mean, I don't know if I can do that. But it's not a box jump. His knees come way up and he can't even control his landing. Plus, he took an approach which turns it into a different exercise.

A proper box jump should begin and end in the athletic position. Your goal is to jump as high as you can and just land on the box. Be explosive and think about trying to jump over the box, not just onto it. Also, make sure you step down off of the box for every rep. The box is there to allow you to avoid the eccentric stress of a jump; jumping off the box after a rep negates the point of the exercise. The eccentric portion can be explored with other exercises at the right point in the cycle.

Once an athlete gets really explosive, there are other variations to try rather than just using a higher box. That just allows the athlete to express how high he can jump, rather than making the exercise harder. For your first variation, let's take away the countermovement to the jump. For the concentric-only box jump, start off by sitting on a shorter object (a low box, some plates or even a dynamax ball).

Using a weight vest will allow the athlete to move with their normal mechanics, but they will be jumping with an added number of pounds.

Providing the athlete with (light) dumbbells to hold with alter their mechanics by not letting them use their arms to swing into the jump, but they will still be able to get the countermovement from their legs. This is an awkward movement for a lot of athletes so make sure you start with a lower box.

The last variation I'll go over is the 180-degree box jump. This particular variant is a good way to help improve proprioception in an athlete while simultaneously de-loading them. (Because of the awkward nature of the exercise, you'll use a lower box and probably won't need to add any external resistance).

I hope you enjoyed the post. I'll soon be going over more ways you can help improve your athleticism. Have a great day and go lift something heavy!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Programming 101

There are a ton of trainers/coaches in this industry. There are a ton of smart people who are strong and can relate well to their clients. What really sets someone apart from their peers in this industry, however, is their ability to write an effective program.

Writing a great strength and conditioning program is an art, not a science. You can't simply tell someone the right formula and suddenly they are capable of doing it. It takes lots of time spent reading other programs, understanding what the coaches objective is and writing your own programs.

I read every program I can get my hands on. I read Show and Go a couple of times. I read Todd Bumgardners recent 12-deadlift program (I'd love to read the program Mike Ranfone just wrote for Todd too). 5/3/1, Juggernaut, Smolov, Westside, Vertical Jump Bible; I read them all. As I read I ask myself "Why is the coach using this exercise? This rep scheme? What adaptation is he going after?"

I can then, hopefully, turn around and use that information when I write a program. I've written a ton of programs. Some have been scratched into a sheet of paper and handed off; most are kept on my laptop. I have a folder full of dozens of programs that I've written for different friends and clients. They range anywhere from 2 days a week to 5 days a week and from a 4 week program to a 4 month program. Out of these several dozen programs I've written, maybe 10 total have been executed to completion. This, frankly, sucks the Big D. I could have written the best program in the world, but I'll never know if someone doesn't complete it. The ones that have been finished have all had pretty good results so far; 20-30 pounds of weight loss and tons of strength gains. I've got a few programs out right now that I know will get finished, so I'm excited to see the results.

Programming Jedi Masters like Eric Cressey, Tony Gentilcore, Mike Robertson, Rudy Nielsen and Dean Somerset could teach you a lot more about programming than I can, but I still have some tidbits to share with you.

1) Know who you are writing for. This is the biggest lesson I've learned. Like I said before, you can write the best program in the world but if no one finishes it then it's not worth shit. I've written a lot of good programs for people that I should've known would never complete it. Be honest with yourself; if theres not a chance in hell that they will lift 4 days per week, then don't write a 4 day program. A two-day program executed perfectly is worth more than a four-day program performed half-assed.

2) Get all the info you can. Especially when you write for friends or for e-clients, you need to know everything you can. I don't mean health history and movement dysfunctions, though. I'm talking about how long they can spend at the gym and what kind of equipment they have available. Programming safety squat bar good mornings doesn't do any good if theres no safety squat bar. Prowler pushes are amazing conditioning, but it doesn't work if they don't have access to a Prowler. If you write a workout that takes 90 minutes, but your trainee can only spend 45 minutes in the gym, you won't get the results. Make sure the client has access to all of the equipment necessary, or else don't use those exercises.

3) Understand the person. Cluster sets may be an amazing way to get strong, but if the person you're writing for doesn't have the mental strength to get through a set of those then it won't do them any good. A 10x10 workout of squats/chinups may be an amazing way to build hypertrophy, but if your client is going to bail after set 5 then it doesn't work. Use techniques that the client will actually be capable of performing, and you'll get better results.

4) Make it enjoyable. As trainers, we may know that the stuff that is best for you is usually uncomfortable and unpleasant. Unfortunately when most people are faced with the prospect of doing something really unpleasant, they are going to skip it. Front squats with a 5 second eccentric and a pause at the bottom may be really good for you, but they are also really brutal. A lot of gen-pop people will end up skipping the tempo and doing something different, which may not achieve the adaptation you desire. If you try to make the program enjoyable (or at least not totally miserable) the trainee will have a higher chance of actually doing all the work you want them to do.

Have a great day, and go lift some heavy shit!