Thursday, November 21, 2013

Quick and Dirty Workouts

It happens to all of us; your day or week gets really hectic and busy and you notice that all of your training time has flown out the window. It sucks, but it's reality for those of us who don't make our living lifting weights.

All is not lost, because you can get a decent workout in in a really short amount of time. I'm not going to blow sunshine up your butt and tell you that you're going to get totally shredded and sexy with 30 minute workouts because that would make me an ass, and I'm not an ass. Usually. 

Doing a few quick workouts during a really busy week won't help you get amazing gains in fitness or strength, but it will certainly help attenuate the loss of those attributes during a busy time in your life. Depending on your goals, there are two ways you can go about putting together a workout like this for yourself, but they both revolve around the same principle. I've spoken often about Dan John and his 5 basic human movements. These movements, while not the Holy Grail of training, will provide a great basic template for anything you need to do.


Take an exercise from each category (squat, push, hinge, pull, carry) and do them in rapid succession. It's not brain science, truthfully.

A1) Goblet Squats x10
A2) Pushups x10
A3) KB Swings x15
A4) Chinups x10
A5) Farmers Walk x25yds

Repeat as many times as necessary within your allotted time frame. Again, you're not going to break any huge plateaus doing this, but it's better than not training. Using some challenging weights is going to bust your lungs much quicker than you'd expect. With the numbers of exercises available in each category, you can do this style of workout multiple times a week without overlapping exercises too often.


Again, this isn't a template that's going to get you prepped for a powerlifting meet. Nor is it a replacement for traditional strength training. But if you are short on time and still want to train, there is an effective way to do it. If you had two (non-consecutive) days a week to train and you wanted to go heavy, you could set it up like this:

Day 1:
A1) Squat: 6x3
A2) DB Row: 6x10/
A3) Farmers Walk 6x25yds

Day 2:
A1) Deadlift: 6x3
A2) Incline DB Press: 6x8
A3) Sandbag Zercher Carry: 6x25yds

Boom. Call it a week. Recover and worry about the other stuff going on in your life; just make sure to get back to a real program at the next available opportunity. Just like the conditioning program, the number of exercises you can rotate into those to fit your needs is nearly limitless. Dan John actually wrote about making some great gains in his own training while doing a really simplified 2x/week program.

If you find yourself in a pinch, give something like this a shot. Have fun with it and don't let training become a stress in your life; I'm sure you have enough anyway.

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Elite Haters Gon' Hate

Just recently, from October 20-27, the World Weightlifting Championships were held in sunny Wroclaw, Poland. If you're a weightlifting fan then it's second only to the Olympics in terms of the level of competitors that you'll get to see.

Apti Aukhadov power jerking 212kg
This years event was no disappointment; there was some amazing lifting and a bunch of records were destroyed. Unfortunately, this great weekend of competition was marred by some American athletes running their mouths for no reason. Kendrick Farris and Derrick Johnson both felt the need to talk shit, specifically regarding one of the most impressive lifters in the world right now, Lu Xiao Jun (-77kg) from China. Lu had a most impressive weekend, snatching 176kg and clean and jerking 204kg (391 pounds and 453, respectively...from a 171 pound guy). The snatch is a world record and the clean and jerk is a few kilos shy of the record. 

Kendrick, our countries best lifter and the only American male to make the 2012 Olympic games as a weightlifter, took to his FaceBook account to say this gem:

This his little buddy Derrick went on to say this:

First off; we don't know which international weightlifters use performance enhancing drugs until they test positive. If Lu was competing at these games, then he didn't test positive. Given the history of weightlifting and the current knowledge we have, we can assume that they are using, but that's it. An assumption. Secondly; it doesn't matter. Lu isn't in either one of their weight classes and neither one of them were competing at these games. To say that it'd be impressive if he could pass the USADA's testing would be like saying it'd be impressive if Kendrick or Derrick could even make the team in China. He lifts for a country that has much more lax drug testing than our own country. Lu is playing by the specific set of rules he, and most other countries, have been given He is tested around competitions and that is it. American lifters, however, are tested year round regardless of their competition schedule. 

I get why Kendrick is mad; it must suck seeing someone two full weight classes below you snatching 14kg more than you are, and cleaning just 7kg less (on his second attempt, skipped his third) than your personal best. But to say what he said really is just suggesting that the only reason Lu was able to make that lift was because of drug use. Last time I checked drugs didn't make you spend hours and hours in the gym and drugs didn't give you flawless technique. 

Do drugs help? Absolutely. Are American lifters at a huge disadvantage because of our testing policies? Without a doubt. I'm certainly not condoning drug use by any means, but it's a part of the sport right now and you have to deal with it. 

It sucks, really. Kendrick is a great lifter whom I admire very much, so I just don't understand why he needed to run his mouth about that. There were several amazing lifts by lifters of various weight classes in both genders. A woman named Tatiana Kashirina (75kg+, BW 104kg) from Russia (power)clean and jerked a world record 190kg (422 pounds) and took a swing at 192kg. In fact, a 69kg woman from China managed to snatch 1kg more than our American 69kg male lifter...which isn't great. 

Now, I'm not hating on American weightlifting. I think we have fantastic lifters and I understand the struggles they are dealing with. They compete in a wildly under-appreciated sport; their counterparts in other countries are often regarded as superstars and are treated and paid like pro-athletes. Our athletes here have to develop a living by doing CrossFit seminars and shilling supplements while toiling away for their sport in relative anonymity. Our current most famous weightlifter is Holley Mangold, and she's famous for being on The Biggest Loser. On top of that the USADA is constantly up their butts about drug-testing, something they don't have to deal with in most of the super-power countries in Europe and Asia. 

But I don't get the negativity; both towards their fellow lifters and towards the fans. Really, Derrick? You're disgusted by us? And Kendrick wants to "Bless The Gym", but only if all the lifters in there are USADA drug tested? They should prepare themselves to be butthurt at a lot of competitions where there are guys who don't have to follow our rules kicking their asses. Keep it to yourselves, guys. Just keep training hard. 

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sometimes Things Are Dumb

There's a lot of dumb stuff in this industry, that's just how it is. Whether it's people using Bosu balls as a legitimate means of training or the God awful stuff you see on late-night TV.

Some of it is just too ridiculous to take seriously, and some of the other things hit a little too close to home. For instance, a trainer at a local club here in the city recently wrote a blog post of his own that stated that he had trained for a marathon almost exclusively with group exercise classes. He went on to state that he had to run/walk his way to a 4:18 but that he was happy with where his training had left him.

Far be it for me to judge someones time, but if your goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon and you ended up having to run/walk your way to a time that's over an hour slower than you needed, I would suggest that your training left something to be desired. Spin classes and what is essentially an aerobics class is NOT going to help you become a better runner, nor will it help you become a better football player or doctor.

It scares me that there are health-fitness professionals out there telling people this stuff, because people will believe them. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Speaking of "too good to be true", everyone's favorite exercise-turd Tracy Anderson recently released a new product. As of ruining the physiques and wallets of women all over the country wasn't enough, Tracy has recently turned her attention towards men!

What's that Tracy? I can't hear you over your boobs.
Anderon's "method" promises to tire out your big muscles so that the "lesser-known" "accessory muscles" will activate. She also claims that most fitness programs only "get" to 200 muscles, whereas hers "gets to" over 400 muscles. I'd love to see how she quantifies that. She also states that you won't ever lift a weight over 10 pounds, which is sure to help you during your activities of daily living where nothing is over 10 pounds.

Dafuck? Are there really guys buying into this? Guys who would rather take fitness advice from the 85 pound twig than look like Lu XiaoJun?

Where are his "accessory" muscles?
Just wake up, people. Don't feed into the bullshit. There's nothing in this world that will replace a heavy barbell and some hard work. Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Tips To Make You A Better Trainer/Coach

I am, again, coming back from a brief period of in-activity with this blog. It's tough to muster the desire to sit down and write when I only have short breaks between school and work, sometimes I'd prefer to eat food or try and get in a lift during those breaks. Regardless, I'm going to write about a topic that has sort of become a recurring theme for me over the years: tips to make you a better trainer.

I am around enough people via school and various gyms to see a lot of dumb shit happen in the weight room. If I can open a few eyes, then I'll be happy.

1) Your clients aren't you. This one is pretty simple, but is often overlooked. It doesn't matter what style of training you adhere to for yourself; it doesn't mean your clients need to too. You may think that band-resisted low bar squats with a 7-second eccentric or heavy snatch combo's are the best way to get strong and powerful, but chances are that you probably shouldn't be approaching your clients training that way. Take the time to fully assess your clients and figure out what their goals are and the best way to achieve them. Even if their goal is to get big and strong, they probably haven't achieved the same minimum competencies that you have to need such specialized training practices. Stick to the tried and true basics.

2) Demand perfection from your clients. Again, it seems simple right? If you prescribe an exercise, expect that it be done with proper form every time. This is a responsibility for both you and your client; you need to coach it properly and they need to learn it. If you see your client doing something that  you don't like you need to cue them out of it, or stop the exercise and fix what is wrong. If you are unable to cue them or fix it, then you shouldn't be coaching that particular lift anyway. Find a replacement lift or find someone to coach it properly.

3) Know what you're doing and why. All too often I see trainers and coach's who will start using an exercise without truly understanding it. If you don't really understand what a particular exercise or variation is supposed to be doing, then how you can successfully integrate it into your programming or even coach it the right way? If you see another trainer or coach doing something that piques your interest then stop and ask them about it. I personally learned a ton from Dan Sanzo of Northeastern a year ago just by asking him why he liked dead bugs so damn much. An exercise that I previously didn't understand at all had a whole new life for me.

4) Create a change. It doesn't matter what the change is if your client is getting better somehow. Unfortunately in the fitness field we don't just change bodies, we have to change minds too. In this regard, any little bit helps. Decrease pain, increase energy, get them to change eating habits, get them to show up on time or even just help them feel better about themselves. These things may not all have a direct impact on their goals, but it will help their over-all well being. You may have the best fat-loss program in the world, but if you can't get your client to show up on time then it doesn't matter.

Hopefully you will be seeing a lot more content come out from me in the next few weeks, so keep your eyes open. Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Constants and Variables

This is a thought that I try and in all of my clients with varying degrees of success. It's something that I think is a pretty small change, but one that will help determine success further down the road in someones strength training lifetime; both as a trainee and as a coach.

The idea is that of constants and variables within each exercise. The constant should be your form and the variable is any number of outside factors: intensity, load, time, tempo, etc. Just like with a science experiment, the more variables you have the more difficult it is to determine the results of that particular experiment (in our case, an exercise).

If you squat to a different, random depth every time you squat then how could you quantify if you're getting better at squatting or not? Yes "parallel" is a guideline, but watch any number of YouTube heroes and you'll see that the definition of parallel leaves some room for interpretation. Too, someone could tell you that they can do 70 pushups in a row, but each of their reps stops at some random point in mid-air.

Every exercise you do should have defined starting and stopping points (and these can be individualized based on the needs of each different person). These points should be full range of motion (ROM) for a healthy individual and should remain constant. For a person who's limited by mobility, flexibility or strength the starting and stopping points should remained fixed until the issues have been addressed and that client has been progressed on to the next variation.

Trainers/Coaches, be rigid about this. Don't ask your clients to always perform an exercise the same way, demand it of them. Repetition is the mother of retention. Every exercise should be completely reproducible unless you want it to be different somehow.

The other half of the "constant" is technique. If your client uses a different grip every time they bench press or do chin-ups, or a different starting hip position when they deadlift then you will have a different result each time. There is no single correct form for every person, just the general guidelines you should follow to get into the ballpark. Kelly Starrett calls this "informed dicking around"; once you know the right guidelines you can decide what works best for you. Once you've found the right technique and position for you, stick with it and groove it until it's time to change it for the sake of progression.

If we have ingrained form/technique to be our "constant" then we have room to start playing with the variable. This is when you, as the coach or trainer, is able to figure out what is working and what isn't. This is actually where the fun starts; you can start using all the methods you've read about and seen in SuperTraining, Westside Barbell and T-Nation.

Beware the desire to change all the variables at once. You wouldn't take the recipe for your grandma's apple pie and then change 8 ingredients and say "hmmm I wonder why this tastes like cherry pie". If you usually squat with a narrow stance, high bar position, normal speed and weightlifting shoes you'd have no idea what was happening if you started squatting with a wide position, chucks, tempo, pauses bands and on a bosu ball. Your squat would feel like shit because it would no longer be your squat.

Just like anything else you would do, work through progressions during different phases. Add tempo for one phase, then pauses, then both, then go back to normal to see what kind of results you got. If the client hasn't gotten stronger, figure out where you went wrong. Start out with a solid grasp of the basics and move forward from there.

Have a great day! Go lift some heavy shit!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Training For Golf??

Training for golf sounds like an oxymoron, right? When you think of golfers, I bet this is who you imagine, huh? Fat bastards and old guys.

It's not so true anymore, though. Golf is something that I've enjoyed for a number of years; I was on the team in High School and while I never played a Varsity match I got to play 9 holes 4-5 times a week for 3 months every fall. In the last several years I've been unable to play for a variety of factors: no time, too expensive, no one to play with. I've had cause to pick it up again recently and was at the range for the first time in a while the other day and did some people watching after I finished hitting.

You know what I saw? A shitfuckton of restrictions and movement compensations. A good looking golf swing is a very pretty, violent action. Watch Tiger Woods swing a club and you can really appreciate how intricate it is.

The clusterfuck that I saw wasn't anywhere close to this. What I watched was a bunch of guys who spend 40+ hours bent over a desk with awful thoracic spine, shoulder, hip and ankle mobility try their hardest to recreate what you just watched.

So, what happens to your swing when you have these contraindications?

1) The poor thoracic spine mobility prevents your setup from getting into the best position possible and leaves you hunched over the ball like Quasimodo.
2) The poor scapular/shoulder mobility prevents you from locking your shoulders into a good position and lets your arms swing around like a wet noodle.
3) As you start  your backswing, your shitty t-spine mobility won't allow for much rotation, so you quickly transfer the work to your lumbar spine.
4) Your lumbar spine, however, has already been forced into flexion because of your awful hip mobility and lack of pelvic control. Congrats, you now look like the human question mark.

5) This shitty anteriorly-tilted hip position will prevent you from really engaging your glutes and won't allow for any significant power production. This is going to result in some awful weight-transfer that is going to take your swing out of it's groove.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Training While Pregnant?

Within the last day I was sent an article(s) that was about the shitstorm that was brewed up by a woman who was 8-months pregnant posting pictures of herself exercising or "doing CrossFit". (Whateverthefuck that means).

So, a woman who has been working out for her entire life continues to work out while pregnant, but decreases the amount of weight she usually uses for particular lifts....and people are mad about it?

Da Fuck?

I've had two notable pregnant clients who both have squatted, deadlifted, carried, dragged and done everything else we normally throughout their pregnancies. One of these clients stopped training about 2 weeks out from her due date simply because she was uncomfortable, as women are prone to become when they are getting ready to fire a baby out of their bodies. The other I'm currently training now and she is happy as a clam. I know another woman who's at 30-weeks and continues to train as normal, just with decreased weight and avoids certain lifts.

Yes, things will have to be modified. If you don't make any modifications for a pregnant client you're an idiot. The snatch and clean and jerk will have to be nixed when the baby belly starts interrupting the bar path. 1) you're messing with your form by having to swing the bar around your belly 2) it's not great for your back 3) God forbid you whack yourself in the belly with a bar. You may have to stop pulling conventional deadlifts and switch to sumo or to rack pulls. Squat depth may change depending on belly-size. As their belly gets bigger they become more front-loaded and balance may start to become an issue. These are all things that you should keep in mind when programming for a pregnant woman, but having them not train? That's just dumb.

It seems that much of the information we use regarding pregnant women is based on anecdotal evidence; old wives tales if you will. Why else would people keep prescribing bed-rest to a pregnant woman? Women are a hardy and resilient group. They were custom designed to handle the whole "creating a human" thing, and laying in bed resting for 9 months wasn't a luxury that they were afforded for most of history. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the dangerous, volatile mood-swings experienced by many pregnant women are a natural defense mechanism to keep them safe from predators (Note: that was a joke, I really hope I don't have a troop of pregnant ladies waiting to murder me after reading this.)

It really baffles me how people could be upset about this woman, or any woman, training while pregnant. Would they prefer she sit on the couch and eat Cheetos and drink Diet Coke for 9 months? Are people really concerned for her baby's health or do they just not understand? Do other women feel bad because they chose to use their pregnancy as an excuse to not do anything? Or is this just more backlash against the CrossFit thing?

We have a wild obesity epidemic in this country and there are tons of moms out there doing their best to keep Gestational Diabetes going strong, but people feel the need to get on this lady about her desire to stay healthy and strong? GTFO, please.

Don't be dumb about it, don't start a training program that you haven't already been doing. Don't wait until month 4 to start squatting and deadlifting. But also don't let some schmuck tell you that what you're doing is dangerous for your baby.

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

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Plank Position

The prone plank is one of the most commonly performed (and unremarkable) exercises in gyms across the country. For those of you who aren't familiar with it (really?), you get on your elbows and toes and use your abs, glutes and various core muscles to support your bodyweight.

It's the among the most basic core stability exercises you can do and carries a lot of value in teaching a client how to properly engage their abs and glutes to support their bodyweight instead of just letting everything hang on their lumbar spine.

While this is an important exercise to teach people, I have to ask the question: why do we continue to have clients hold the plank for as long as possible?

I see, very often, trainers asking their clients to hold the plank for a long-ass time. "You did 65 seconds last week, lets get 70 this week". Adding time to the plank is not the same as adding plates to the squat. Those extra 5 seconds aren't really doing anything for your client except increasing the amount of time you get to sit there and look at your watch. Above a certain amount of time (my threshold is a great 45-second plank) I feel that continuing to hold the plank is providing diminishing returns. The client will continue to get more and more tired and their form will diminish significantly. They'll be able to fight to stay up, but they'll do it with crummy form. Comparatively, you wouldn't have a client work up to a 225 deadlift and then simply see how many reps they could add each week, would you? (I hope not).

No, you'd add weight to make it harder and find other variations to build up their standard lift. The same should go for the plank. After my clients prove a particular amount of efficacy with this exercise I will simply move them on to a more difficult variation that they will continue to receive benefits from.

Here are some of the progressions and variations I like to work through:

The first progression I take people to is the one I call the foot-march plank. Essentially you're in a plank position and you alternate lifting each foot for a brief second (the video shows them holding it for a bit longer than I do). The point here is to keep your hips down in the ideal plank position rather than jacking them up into the air.

Next I'll progress up to the arm-march plank, which is a bit more difficult. It's very similar to the foot-march plank since you're taking away a point of support and adding in an anti-rotation component. This one is pretty brutal and you can get some good life out of this one.

The follow up to this one is the plate-switch plank, which starts to add some external resistance. This can also be done  by sliding a plate or a sandbag under your body. This, again, appears to be a pretty subtle change but in reality it feels like a whole different exercise.

The final plank progression (that I'll divulge to you) is one of my favorites, the bodysaw plank. I love this exercise because it requires a ton of core strength to brace yourself as you increase the moment arm through the course of the exercise. This variation itself carries with it about a dozen brutal ways to perform it. The standard is on your elbows, but to make it harder you can use straight arms, put your feet on a plate, use a resistance bad, add tempo or pauses, add a weight vest or even just use one leg at a time.

Don't be hasty with your decision to progress a client to a harder exercise. Make sure they understand bracing and activation and can really use their musculature to support their spine. Give these variations and progressions a shot and see if your clients like it more (and improve more) than just a holding a plank for 2 minutes.

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Return Of The Mack

Well that was  a hell of a hiatus. It was long enough that some people even texted me to ask if I was ever going to update my blog again.

Why do these hiatuses (hiati?) occur? Well I get busy sometimes. Several things have occurred over the past several weeks that have prevented me from really sitting down and writing. I was training and playing volleyball at the same time, resulting in the over-arching need for naps. My dear mother was briefly ill. I started training full-time at my gym, school started and Kelsi moved back to Ohio a few weeks ago. I have always been quite the creature of habit and all of these things independently and combined caused a multitude of ripples in my comfortable little pond that threw me way off track.

It wasn't just in my writing, either. My diet has been shit for the last few weeks and my training has been null and void. School and work are diabolically joining forces like Lex Luthor and Magneto to effectively kill the time I have to lift, which is really bugging the shit out of me. I like lifting, a lot. It makes me feel better. It allows me to blow off steam. I enjoy the process of going from point A to point B and reaching a goal. Not having the time to do it is annoying. That's just one of the things that is annoying me lately though, allow me to expound on some of them.

One of my least favorite things on the planet is when I take out a weight for a client and they say "oh that's too heavy". I'll respond by asking if they even know what exercise we are doing, and they will say "well, no, I don't."


That is simply a negative attitude towards training and won't help the cause in any way shape or form. You're here and paying me for a reason: my "expertise". Please allow me to exert said expertise and choose a correct weight for you.

In the same vein, I've been experiencing more and more new clients who see someone else performing a particular movement or exercise and say "oh well I'll never do that". Uhhhh....why not? Most commonly I've had this happen when viewing someone perform a loaded carry or a sled drag. Me: "Well these are basic human movements that are actually very scalable and important for your body." Client "Well it looks hard. When am I going to need to drag something behind me?" Truthfully, I don't know. But I know it's really good for you and your shitty knees. And I know that when you DO have to drag something behind you you're going to be happy that we did these.

Lastly, I get really annoyed when people say that they are coming to see me instead of their Physical Therapist. Now, let me say that I think a lot of PT's suck and are just collecting a check. Too often I see someone come in with some standard sheet of people that was printed out by their PT that they give to everybody with knee pain, regardless of symptoms. Despite that fact, they are still Doctors of Physical Therapy and I'm just The Mike. PT's have a certain scope of practice that I just can't (and wouldn't feel comfortable) delving into. If you need to see a PT, please go see a PT. Don't come to me and put that on my shoulders, because it's not fair. As good as I am, I'm not a replacement for a physical therapist.

I'm moderately apologetic that my first post back is a rant post. Shit happens, deal with it. I'll start to get back into the swing of things and write about all the good stuff that you folks love.

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

But What Supplements Should I Be Taking??

This is one of the most often asked questions that I, and many other trainers and coaches, are hit with. This phrase is most commonly paired with "what should I be eating?" and "will these squats make me bulky?"

The guys at have been helping trainers answer this question for a while now; they've done an amazing job compiling research based data on hundreds of common (and not-so-common) supplements. Their website allows you to search by common supps, stacks, provides nutrition info and has references to back up all of the data provided.

Doesn't suck, huh? It's a great way to cut out all the bullshit Bro-Science about what's good for you and what isn't. The Human Performance Matrix they developed actually shows you whether the supplement in question has a positive or negative effect in various categories; no longer do we have to assure people that creatine is, in fact, NOT an anabolic steroid.

For the average Joey BagOfDoughnuts this site can, admittedly, be a lot to ingest. If you don't know what you're looking for it's pretty easy to get lost in the oodles of information available (certainly a good problem to have). Luckily Sol and Kurtis have come out with a handy dandy guide that will clear everything right up. For fitness professionals and coaches, it's an easy reference guide for when you have a client/athlete that needs some reassurance that FISH OIL WON'T FUCKING CAUSE PROSTATE CANCER....sorry, that was dramatic. The best thing about the guide is that it does a great job linking the supplements and their health goals, which is something that is often overlooked.

Just so you know that I don't put my word behind things that suck, I was recently contacted by a rep from the BeachBody Brand, the producers of fitness masterpieces like P90X, Insanity, Brazil Butt Lift, and Insanity: Asylum. She asked if I would be interested in writing a blog post promoting their products...which means unequivocally that she (nor anyone from her company) has ever actually read my stuff because I fucking hate P90X and all the other shit that's like it. Sol, on the other hand, reached out to me via Facebook a few months back after reading a post I wrote for Tony Gentilcore that he really liked. Imagine that, somebody making an industry connection because they appreciated each others work, not just because their blog was categorized under "fitness". So, no, I don't promote stuff that I don't believe in.

The guide is pretty cheap as far as e-books go ($29) and survive for a long time as a reference manual that you can go back to check on repeatedly. Other than slipping me a copy of the guide, I'm benefiting in no way from you purchasing this thing; other than the fact that there will be more well-educated trainers and coaches giving out information.

If this sounds like something you are interested in...and it should...then GO HERE to purchase this and help support some guys who've been working their butts off to get us all some top-notch information.

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Things I've Learned: Weightlifter Edition

I recently finished my first three months of a true weightlifting program; I've yet to call myself a weightlifter because I'm not. I'm a guy who has competed once and loves it and wants to continue getting better.

The guys and I have all learned quite a bit over the last 12 weeks of training, and will continue to learn more and more from Coach whenever we see him. Here are just a few of the things that I/we have learned:

  • The most obvious thing was summed up nicely at dinner after our competition: "What we didn't know when we started lifting could fill a book...and what we thought we knew could fill an entire parking lot." Our YouTube education led us to believe a ton of stuff that had to be corrected once we started working with coach. 
  • Your best lifts happen when you're tired: the endless volume we experienced each week caused insane fatigue in our bodies. Coach said that this would force us to not try and muscle our way through the lifts and instead would force us to rely on technique. This held true even on the day of the meet where we went through a very vigorous warm-up that made me exhausted...and then helped me smoke my lifts. My 90kg snatch felt like a peanut.
  • There's no such thing as enough food or sleep or caffeine or creatine when you're on a Soviet System weightlifting program.
  • The "first pull" and the "double knee bend" that American coach's are so fond of talking about aren't really things. The way the bar comes off the ground is secondary to the position you're in when the bar is at your knees. Re-bending your knees isn't something you should worry about: just keep pulling. 
  • Speaking of the Soviet System, what we thought we know was all bullshit. Even the Soviets don't actually use the Soviet System anymore because everybody thinks they are smarter than the system. It works.
  • GET YOUR KNEES OUT during the pull. Knees out will clear up your bar path and make coach (hopefully) stop yelling at you.
  • I suffer from a common affliction called "weightlifters disease". Coach also refers to it as "pussyitis" and is quick to remind me that I have it and that I am one.
  • Weightlifting is a sport, it has to be practiced. A ton of reps at moderate intensity allows you to drill your technique. If you were practicing basketball you'd want to spend time doing drills rather than just playing games. 
  • Your squat number tells your entire life story.
  • Great weightlifters aren't always the strongest ones or the ones with the best technique, but they always have the huge cojones necessary to get under a heavy barbell. 
  • I'd much rather train the snatch than the clean and jerk...but in competition I really liked the clean and jerk over the snatch. 
  • Stop complaining. If you walked into Coach's gym and told him you were tired or hurt he'd laugh and then watch you hit or tie a PR later in the session. Just shut up and lift. 
  • Snatch Pulls are the stinky dingleberry that's left over at the end of every session. 
  • Squat every day. And then squat some more. Squats are a  beautiful thing. 
  • Deadlifts don't mean dick in the world of weightlifting. Sure, if you can deadlift 625 pounds then cleaning 300 will feel really easy, but you still have to jerk that weight. 
  • Between the belts and shoes and knee sleeves and singlets weightlifters rank right up there with wrestlers and hockey players as the smelliest athletes.
  • You're not allowed to drop a lift behind your back at a competition, even after they give the "down" signal.
  • Shut up and listen to your coach. 
That's just in the first 12 weeks. We are going to continue working with Coach Rojas to get better and I expect that we are going to learn a whole hell of a lot more.

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fat Loss Secret Revealed!!

This is what everybody out there wants to know, right? How do you burn more fat? The answer isn't raspberry ketones or the stupid fucking Tracy Anderson Method. I'm not even going to be a smart-ass and tell you that the secret is deadlifts and squats; those help, but they aren't the solution. Ready?...

Quite simply, the answer is carb manipulation. It sounds fancier than it is, too. It simply means that you alter how many carbs you eat, and when you eat them. The most basic way to lose fat is to limit the amount of carbs that you eat. For someone who is overweight/obese this will provide significant results. For someone who is already fairly lean and wants to get leaner, this will often leave them feeling like a dog turd sandwich. 

For these people, we need to manipulate more about their carbs than just how much they are eating. We need to manipulate the time of consumption as well. I've talked about it before, but by monitoring when we eat carbs we can benefit from the hormonal response to food. Your body will secrete various hormones (insulin, testosterone, growth hormone, leptin, etc) depending on the foods you eat, so we want to take advantage of that. When insulin is released it gives your body the "grow and store" signal, so we want to avoid that as much as possible. Protein and fat will keep your body running anbolically which will help to burn some fat while preserving lean body mass. 

This idea of carb manipulation / hormonal response is the basis of some of the more popular diet plans out there today: The Anabolic Diet, Carb Nite, Carb Backloading, Intermittent Fasting and the Warrior Diet. Even the Paleo Diet uses around the idea that by cutting out the majority of (shitty) carbs you will be limiting your insulin response. Fewer carbs at the wrong time and more at the right time and you'll get leaner.

So when is the right time to eat carbs? Fully dependent on your schedule. Kelsi needs to consume a lot more carbs than many people because of her training schedule; she fits in her runs and lifts around her work schedule, and they aren't always back to back. Her energy needs are higher than most, so she needs more carbs throughout the day. Still, she should be aiming to eat them post-training as often as possible.

For most people, I suggest consuming their carbs post-training. If insulin tells your body to "store and grow", then it makes sense that you spike your insulin after you lifted weights and done some damage to your muscles. That way "store and grow" becomes "huge and awesome". Give yourself a 3-4 hour window post-workout to consume the majority of your carbs for the day and then go back to protein, fat and veggies. If you train in the middle of the day, some carbs before bed will help you fall asleep and are ok to have then. Outside of that 3-4 hour period though, you should be consuming mainly protein and fat. 

It's not rocket science, just regular science. Eat more carbs and get fatter, eat less carbs and get leaner. Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Where's All The T&A???

Before you get your pants all in a twist, I'm not talking about what you think I am.

Well, not totally at least. Where have all the Traps and Asses gone??

Kelsi and I just made a 28-hour drive to spend a few days at her home in Ohio and had a very nice time. The drive went perfectly and the event we attended was great. During the 28 hours we drove we obviously made quite a few stops; when you're sucking down caffeine faster than you can spell it, you're going to have to pee a lot. During the entire trip, I couldn't help but notice that something significant was missing from essentially every person we encountered: any semblance of muscle mass.

There were skinny people and there were fat people. Short people and tall people. People who looked athletic and people who had not moved off of their couch for the entirety of their lives. Whether or not you use weights to train for sports, to look good naked or to be healthier there are certain adaptations that will happen to your body: your ass will get bigger, your traps/shoulders/chest will get bigger, and (unless you never actually hold a bar) your forearms will get bigger. Assuming that you don't train like a chuckledick, these adaptations will 100% occur. So, why then, are they missing consistently in most of our population? Well, just about everyone is fat. Or skinny fat. And they certainly don't know how to move athletically.

I just read that the American Medical Association has officially classified obesity as a disease, so that's great. While fat people keep getting fatter, the information presented to the public doesn't do them a lick of fucking good. You know why? Because they tell them that 20-minutes of raking leaves counts as exercise. Because the fucking food pyramid that people are supposed to use to guide their eating habits tells them that the majority of their diet should be made up of grains and that meat and fat is bad for them.

Oh, well it looks like that's working out well for America so far, huh? People keep getting fatter and costing us more money in medical bills and the government tells people to eat a bunch of cereal and do for a brisk 10 minute walk 4-5 times per week.

Can we please just all get our heads out of our sphincters? Eat stuff that came out of the ground. Go lift some fucking weights and run and jump a little bit. Either God or Darwin was kind enough to provide us with a "brain" to use to figure things out, please respect what they did and USE it. I'll help a little bit:

- If you're fat, stop eating all the shitty food-like-products that your diet consists of and go do some squats.
- If you're so thin and weak that you aren't strong enough to carry your laundry upstairs, please go eat a steak and do some squats.
- If your head sits atop some big ol' traps and you wear sweatpants/yoga pants all the time because your ass won't fit into your jeans, please spread the word about the health benefits of a barbell to the poor souls you encounter on the street.

Have a great day and please go lift something heavy.

Friday, May 31, 2013

What's Up For June

Starting tomorrow, I'm doing to be doing something pretty uncomfortable for me for the next month. I'm going to be under-going a month of Paleo nutrition with Kelsi.

I'm not exactly thrilled to be doing this, but it'll be good for me. We aren't really doing it for weight loss or anything, but mostly just to see what happens.

It's not going to be a ginormous change for either one of us; most of the stuff that would need to be cut out from our diets doesn't exist there anyway. We don't eat bread, if we eat pasta it's brown rice, and we don't eat junk food very often. But, when we do eat junk food we go HAM on it. The majority of my meals are clean: meat, rice, eggs, veggies. But I also enjoy a good post-workout donut or three. Too, I love a good cold Coke every now and then. Those are going to be the things that are really really hard for me to cut out.

Since I'm training for my weightlifting meet in July, I told Kelsi that I'd be more than happy to stick with this diet, until I see a decrease in performance. I already feel like crap most of the time because of the volume of work I'm doing, so if I start feeling worse then we will have to reconsider.

Now, we aren't doing the strictest Paleo diet ever. We are eating both potatoes and rice, and allowing cream for coffee (but that's the only dairy). We are allowing all fruits, in whatever quantity we desire. Peanuts and peanut butter are, sigh, not allowed.  Really, we are just going to go a month without any crap food or cheat meals.

Best case scenario is that my body comp changes a little bit and I show up at Bay States with awesome abs so I can walk around with the straps of my singlet pulled down. The other best case scenario is that when we go back to Civilian food, we both feel so awful that we don't want to eat it anymore (not a likely case).

We both seem to think that the first few days is going to be the worst, and then it'll be second nature. Stay tuned for updates!

Have a great day, and go lift something heavy!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Easy Breezy

Today will be short and sweet. It's the hottest day of the year so far and I'm baking like a toasted cheeser. It's so hot here!

Well, yesterday I had a guest post go live on Tony Gentilcore's blog about the do's and don'ts of medicine ball training. Most people use these as just another way to load an exercise, but they are much much more than that.

I also successfully used the word "flaccid" in a post about training on one of the most widely read strength and conditioning/fitness blogs out there. That's no easy task, I assure you.

Go ahead and give it a read and let me know what you think!

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

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Random Thoughts

First off, I'd like to congratulate my beautiful girlfriend Kelsi on running an amazing race this past weekend. She crushed her PR time by about 2 minutes and ran a 1:26.21 at the Boston Run To Remember and came in 4th overall. She worked her ass off for that time and I'm really proud of her! Great job, babe!

The topics for blog posts come to me at pretty random times of the day; my mind is always going and I'm always thinking of things I'd like to write about. Sometimes I remember and it becomes a post, sometimes there's not enough to write about and sometimes I just plain forget. Today I'll just throw out some quick blurbs about random shit that I have been thinking about.

I'm a lifting snob. There, I admitted it. I've been lifting long enough and tried enough things that I am certainly a snob about it; I'm not very judgmental, I just have a way that I think things should be done and want everyone to do them the same way. Example #1: I'm a squat snob now. I'm no longer impressed when I see someone squat with a low-bar position to powerlifting depth; high bar back squats taken to the basement are what really impress me now. Don't get me wrong, a huge squat is a huge squat, but I'm more impressed by depth. The volume of this weightlifting program I've been doing has also left me unimpressed by most traditional strength programs.

I've written about it before, but one of the most important things to have if you want to get better physically is a really good training group. At this point I've been training with Dan and Justin for almost 2 years. I've been training with Luis for about a year and a half, and Brooks joined us in training within the last year. We train as a group as least once a week, and are in contact about all of our lifts every day. We are a training group and friends, which is important when it's time to call someone out on their bullshit. We are all coaches too, which is good, because you always get direct feedback about your lift. We aren't there to coddle or motivate each other, but when someone has a big lift the group gets behind them. We are all well aware of each others strengths and weakness and know when to get on someone and when to back off. If you want to see some of the best gains you've ever made, find some really good lifting partners. Thanks guys.

The group at Risto Sports with Ivan Rojas

The New Balance Minimus 20v3 is a really sick shoe. It's nice and flat, super light and has a really good Vibram outsole. It's lighter than the old cross trainers, flatter than the old trails and has a better sole than their old walking shoes. It's flat enough that you wouldn't mind deadlifting in them, and they certainly feel good when you wear them for several hours while coaching. Definitely give them a shot.

I thought of this one during a conversation I had while lifting with Tony Gentilcore: diversify the types of protein that you eat. Everyone eats different kinds of veggies every night: kale, spinach, broccoli, chard, carrots, potatoes, etc. So why shouldn't we do the same with our protein? There is a plethora of delicious animals that we can choose from besides your old staple of chicken and beef. Seafood is always a good idea, but given the state of the oceans nowadays, limiting your intake a little is a decent idea. Other tasty animals you can eat are duck, venison, boar, bison, lamb and elk. Not only are these animals full of good protein, but they are not conventionally farmed animals. This means that they don't get bred, raised, slaughtered like our normal cattle do. They are most often grass-fed, free-range animals  which means that their fat is full of Omega-3's, CLA and Vitamin E; all things that we don't get from conventionally raised livestock. These meats aren't cheap, but also aren't exorbitant if you shop in the right place. Even better; if you know a hunter, pay him for some of the game they bring home. Eat more animals and taste the rainbow!

Also, check this out. There are 3 different types of eggs here: one is a store bought commercial egg, one is a store bought free-range organic egg and the last is farm fresh that I bought locally. There are some noticeable differences in the yolks, any guesses as to which is which?

That's it for today, I hope you enjoyed the post! Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Learnification Stuff

I don't do this very often, but there have been some good blogs posts lately by some coaches that I really like and admire. Since it's humid as a maw'fugga here I'll have a lazy day and point you in the direction of those blogs.

First up is an insanely good and absurdly detailed blog post from Wil Fleming about power cleans. Like, every-fucking-thing about power cleans. It's a staple exercise in almost all strength and conditioning programs, so you might as well be doing them right. Read it here.

In keeping with the really good and absurdly detailed posts, I have something from strength coach Joy Victoria. In it, she talks about just about everything regarding body fat, carbs and metabolism. Literally, every-fucking-thing. If you're carb-phobic or weight training phobic, which many of you are, please take the time to read this whole post.

Lastly, a non-exercise (directly) related post from Chris Merritt who owns and operates the Northern Virginia location of Beyond Strength Performance. I met Chris and his business partner Todd Bumgardner a few years ago at the Supreme Strength seminar and have been following their stuff ever since. Chris wrote this fantastic piece about his personal experience going through his undergrad degree in Kinesiology. It hit home to me because of recent  experiences that I've had with school and how little I actually learned there. Sure, all of my classes taught me a little something, but we only had one class where we actually got in the gym and worked with clients. This is a program/concentration that is supposed to produce coaches and trainers, and we got one class with hands on experience. Read Chris's great post here.

Three really good posts that I hope you all take the time to read today. Enjoy and have a great day! Go lift some heavy shit!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Soviet System Snatches

Yesterday was day 2, week 6 of the Soviet System template provided to me by Coach Ivan Rojas. The day called for hang power snatch (below the knee) done in 10 sets of triples. 30 working sets of snatches. 6 weeks ago this sounded impossible, now I don't think twice about it.

Just don't think about it
I decided to finally do something that I've wanted to do for a while, and that's film my whole set of snatches. Since I finally just got decent using IMovie on my MacBook, I figured this would be a good time actually do it.

Lemme tell you, filming 10 sets of snatches and keeping them in order is a pain in the ass. Since I got a shitty 8 GB iPhone I had to keep mailing myself the videos and then deleting them so I wouldn't run out of space. I got it all edited together and think it's pretty cool. Take a look:

Not perfect, I'm aware, but it doesn't suck. Here's what I see.

Sets 1&2: Feels light and moves "fast"; I move the bar over me, rather than getting under it. I think I need to sit back more when I'm at my knees? Trying to keep my knees way out like Coach Rojas told us.

Sets 3&4: I think my shoulders are too far over the bar? That will cause a poor bar path. Set 3, rep 3 was a press out. I don't think my bar path is TOO too bad.

Sets 5&6: Set 5, rep 3 I just didn't commit to getting under it. The pauses in set 5 may have been a little brief. I feel like my extension is good in set 6, but I'm not sure if I was getting into my toes too early or not. I think set 6, rep 3 might have been the rep of the day. The bar went up and instead of waiting for it, I dipped back under. Almost looks like I know what I'm doing!

Sets 7&8: Nope; set 7, rep 2 was the rep of the day. Rep 3 of that set was just a lack of commitment on my part. Set 8, rep 2 my straps came loose. When I shook them off I felt really weird, and got sweat in my eyes. Thus, rep 3 of that set was pure shit.

Sets 9,10&11: The singles at 77kg/170 pounds. These felt heavy but surprisingly good. Rep 1 felt good, and I think the bar path was actually good too. The catch position may have been a little more knees-forward than I would've preferred but I'm unsure if that's a fault or not. On rep 2 I only move my right foot; that's a little Wil Fleming-esque if you ask me. Rep 3 I thought looked good until I dumped it. I had to fight it a little and was just tired at that point.

That's what I see, but who knows if I'm right or wrong. If any coaches or other lifters happen to read this and want to give me some tips, I'd love to hear it.

That's all for today! Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Monday, May 20, 2013

The "Perfect Form" Problem

I'm going to start this out by saying that perfect form with an exercise is something that everyone should be striving for. I think it's almost unattainable in some regards, but that doesn't mean we should stop trying, right? When it comes to myself, even, I'm aware that many of my lifts are far from "perfect".

While this may look pretty good to the casual observer (I did make the lift after all) I can see several things wrong with it. Provide this video to a coach like Wil FlemingIvan Rojas or Glenn Pendlay and they would have a litany of problems with it. My goal is to compete and be successful in a weightlifting competition so I continuously work on my technique so that I can be as good as I can be.

Occasionally, though, less-than-perfect form is something that we can deal with, as coaches. Your basic movement patterns like squats, hinges and pushups should all be drilled until they are beautiful. If someone has a mobility restriction it should be addressed and the exercise should be regressed to the correct version. If your athletes can move well through these basic patterns then nothing else they do will be so awful.

If you have a college soccer player who doesn't quite get the full shrug in during her hang power cleans,  the world won't end. She is going to be safe and still reap a lot of benefits from the exercise anyway. She is going to be competing on a soccer field, not a lifting platform so a small deviation isn't going to be detrimental to her performance. If someone else is having a tough time keeping the bar against their body during a hang snatch, it's not that big a deal. It will result in them using a little less weight, but still getting a benefit. Keep on cueing them to do it the right way, but don't stop their lift and take 20 minutes to drill it. All that's going to do is frustrate them and inhibit their performance.

I work mainly with gen-pop clients, and when one of them doesn't quite get to full ankle extension during a medicine ball keg toss, I'm not going to poop my pants about it. That won't make them a better doctor or lawyer.

If there's a big problem with an exercise (i.e. inability to land from a jump, elbows flare really wide on the bench, the super-wide "starfish" catch during a power clean) then those need to be addressed immediately. If it could result in your athlete or client getting hurt, then change it post haste. Do not pass go, do not collect $200: fix it.

Every day and in every way, strive to be better. Work your ass off to achieve perfect form, but don't let it hinder your gains. Remember, to get stronger you're eventually going to have to put some weight on the bar. If your goal is to achieve a perfect medicine ball keg toss, then by all means drill that extension. If the goal is to be happy, healthy and enjoy training maybe it's ok to let it slide a little.

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Do What You Need To Do

During a recent conversation, Kelsi told me that one of her co-workers suggested to her that she needed to work on her biceps. He seems to think that her upper arms are lacking a little bit in development. Unsurprising considering this guy spends most of his workouts pumping out preacher curlz and staring at his GunZ in the mirror, waiting for them to grow.

I've never considered the fact that her arms are lacking in hypertrophy; I'm usually more impressed with the fact that in the last year she went from being able to do 0 chin-ups to doing multiple sets of 5 during her workouts. I've also never thought about it because I've been doing her training programs for the last year and I've never programmed a single set of direct bicep work. Why?

Because it doesn't fucking matter.

Kels is still a competitive runner; she finished in 5th place for her age group in both last years BAA Half Marathon (1:28:46) and the 2013 BAA 5K (19:14).  she's looking to place/win in the upcoming Run To Remember. Thus, I train her as such. She's also undertaking a very worthy cause and running every day of 2013; so why would I ask her to do a bunch of extra biceps curls and waste energy and time in the gym? Biceps size has zero correlation to being a faster/better runner. Most of what I have her doing in the weight room is going to iron out imbalances and protect her from injury. 

Asking any athlete to spend extra time in the gym doing unnecessary hypertrophy work for aesthetic purposes is a mistake by the strength coach. There are athletes who need that added mass to be better at their sport: football and rugby players who carry the ball need some armor building in the elbow joints, so do MMA fighters who always have someone trying to break their elbow. Too, football players could always stand to have some added mass around the neck area to help protect it. ("The best way to protect someones neck is to hide it between some traps" - Dan John)

Protect ya' neck: Wendler is doing it right.
So is Wu Tang

If you coach, or are, an athlete who has very specific needs and demands please don't waste their time doing unnecessary stuff. Get them the training effect that is necessary to see progress and then get them out of the weight room and start recovering. Fatigue masks fitness, so you don't want your athletes walking around dog tired.

Thanks for reading! Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Alpha Meals

So you just finished an epic workout. You squatted until you were cross-eyed and now your legs feel like jello. You're home and ready to eat. But what meal do you mash down your throat? Chicken and a sweet potato? Forget that noise; it's time to eat an Alpha Meal.

There are just some meals that you need to be eating if you want to be a savage. If you want to continue living a civilian existence, then stick to your mixed spring greens and grilled chicken breast with low-fat vinaigrette dressing and let me know how mediocrity tastes.

If you're ready to taste success, then try these meals and enhance your Girthiness.

Fried Eggs and Corned Beef Hash

Absolutely one of my favorite meals. When I'm at a restaurant for breakfast and they have good corned beef hash, I'm on it like stink on a monkey. Post workout, a meal like this will do everything to help you recover: protein, carbs, fat and there's even some veggies in there. It's fucking amazing and will make you a stronger person.

Beef Stew

Not my Moms stew...
Specifically I mean my Momma's beef stew. With a heaping portion of white rice in it. My moms fucking amazing and will help you recover from the worst thrashing a workout has given you. It's so good that Kelsi, who previously didn't even like stew, helped me finish 2 bowls for breakfast the other day. It contains everything you need to achieve gains: protein, starchy root vegetables and rice. Every awesome ancient civilization spent a large portion of their time eating stews. Why? It makes you moar awesome.

Steak and Eggs

Just a plate full of testosterone and America right there. This isn't necessarily a "recovery" meal since there aren't any carbs, but it'll make you feel good as hell. It's no secret that I'm a big fan of fat and protein for breakfast because it keeps you full and satisfied (so much so that Kels had to change her breakfast because it didn't allow her to eat enough during the day), and this is as good as it gets. Get a ribeye or sirloin (preferably grass-fed) and cook it to your liking. Make some free-range eggs over-easy and slap those suckers on top. Enjoy the T-boost and the immense satisfaction that you get from this meal. Good ol' farmer food.

Burrito Bowl

I'm willing to estimate that 80% of my meals are some variation of a burrito bowl. What exactly is it? The general contents of a burrito put into a bowl rather than be wrapped up. The tortilla is the most processed part of a burrito, so why not get it out of the way and get all of the Girthy Goodness inside? Rice, beans, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and as much meat as you can fit all serve to make this an essentially perfect meal. Use any variation you want; sometimes I eat just a bowl of meat and rice. If you're carb-backloading, it's got a ton of carbs. If you're doing intermittent fasting, it's got a ton of calories. If you need to recover, it's got all the macro's you need. If you're trying to make gainz, then you should be eating two of these post-workout.

These are meals that taste and amazing and will provide a ton of benefits. None of them are "dirty" or really a cheat meal either, so you should be able to enjoy them guilt free. Unless you're a vegan...

Thanks for reading! Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit, then eat a burrito bowl!