Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The De-load Week

I've been writing a ton of programs lately, and keep coming across questions regarding the de-load week, so I thought this would be appropriate forum in which to answer this question.

I write programs in 4 week blocks. Regarding the main lifts, volume proceeds as such: medium-high, medium-low, very high, very low (de-load). This allows the lifter to work with a variety of intensity (weights) and volume (total number of reps) throughout the course of the month. Numbers wise, it will often look like this: week 1 - 5x5, week 2 - 4x5, week 3 - 6x5, week 4 (de-load) - 3x5.

My lifters will often ask how to approach the de-load week. There's really two ways to go with it. The first is to relax and take it easy for a week. If you use a moderate load for the exercise, your de-load will come as a result of the fact that I've programmed a much lower volume for the week. After doing 6 sets on week four, 3 sets will feel like nada.

The other way to approach is to say "well, the volume is low anyway, I'll just smash weights for 3 sets";  which is totally legit as well. If you're recovering well and feel good, then maybe use the low volume week to try and bust a plateau.

As a general rule, I prefer people to take that week easy. Ingrain the movement patterns, get in your mobility work, and hammer the accessory lifts. The idea is to come out of this week and be fresh-as-a-daisy for the next 3 weeks of training. As long as you aren't taking the week off, you'll still be getting a training effect; and more importantly you'll be priming yourself for another month of getting after it.

Training Update:
In preparation for my push/pull meet, I've been doing a ton of benching and deadlifting. Last Saturday I set a 5 pound PR for myself on the deadlift at 445 pounds.

 I took a swing at 455 too, but nearly passed out. Today I was lifting at Boston University and pulled 5 singles at 425, which is about 95% of my current max. As a result, I'm pretty frigging tired. Feeling good though!

Hope this was helpful! Have a great day, and go lift something heavy!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Gotta Give Them Cake Sometimes

As trainers and coaches, we know what is best for our clients. They come to use for professional advice and we are supposed to disseminate that information as appropriate. We do deadlifts because your ass and hamstrings are weak, we do pallof presses and planks to protect your spine and we do squats because, well...

While this is all well and good, a lot of our clients have been doing the same routine or same type of exercises for years, if not decades. Old habits die hard, and people will often be hesitant when they start training the right way. 

You need to make them feel comfortable with this new "style" of training that you are presenting to them, and you can do that with treats. What do I mean by that? 

Well, you gotta give them cake sometimes. 

What I mean by this is, throw exercises at these clients once in a while that they just like. Something fun that they will actually enjoy. Don't do something that is seriously stupid like Bosu Ball Overhead Pistol Squats, but find an exercise that they will enjoy and they will derive some benefit from; however small. 

Let them hit the pec deck for a few minutes at the end of a workout to "burn it out". Do some high rep resistance band triceps extensions, or some straight leg barbell sit-ups. These are exercises that won't hurt your client or exacerbate anything too much, and will remind them enough of the "good ol' days" of doing a chest only day and then crushing some sit-ups that they will be happy with it. 

One of my favorite tricks to use for this method is high rep barbell curls, known to some people as Poundstone curls. 

This is a video of pro strongman Derek Poundstone doing curls with a 40 pound axle for about 350 reps. Most clients will be ready to be done by the time they hit 30-40, so don't expect too much out of this. Their arms will feel super pumped up which will, unfortunately, make them think it's an amazing exercise. 

Does it work? Certainly! Does it need to be a part of everyones daily session? Nope.

For an added benefit, try using fat grips on a standard barbell to challenge the forearms and get a little bit of that "armor  building" that Dan John always talks about. 

Anyone have any other tricks they use in similar situations? Post in the comments section!

Have a great weekend and go lift some heavy shit!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's About To Go Down

Well, I'm finally going to do it. I'm going to compete in a strength sport.

My buddy Luis and I (and hopefully Dan and Justin) are going to be competing in a push/pull powerlifting meet on February 24 in Revere.

A push/pull meet is different than a standard meet because we won't be competing in the squat; just the bench press and deadlift. This makes the day a little shorter and just a little less taxing on the body. I also feel a little more comfortable doing this for my first event and on such short notice.

I plan on competing in a full meet somewhere down the road, but would prefer to have 8-12 weeks to prepare so that I can put forth my best effort.

I feel good about the deadlift, and hope that I can PR even. My heaviest pull ever was 440, and I nearly pulled 445 a few weeks ago without training the lift very much. I've been really putting all of my attention into Olympic lifting and haven't spent much time deadlifting.

With that being said, I've spent even less time benching and I think it's going to show. My best ever bench was 275 with a pause, and I can't even sniff that right now. My recent training sessions have had me pressing 225-235 pretty easily. If I can sneak out a press of 250 at the meet I'll be very happy with it.

Right now, our training is consisting of 2 bench days and 2 deadlift days each week. One day is max effort and one day is more repetition work. We really just need to get our groove for each lift back, and get used to benching with a pause.

I'll keep you guys updated on training and how the meet goes!

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Juice

We all know what it is. Gear, Sauce, Gas, Roids. We, as a country, hear about steroids much more than we need to because of guys like Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire and most recently, Lance Armstrong. So the media tells us that they are evil, but do we always need to believe what the media tells us?

That same media also wants you to believe that my pretty little pit bull Lexi is going to eat my nephew Drew...instead she waits patiently for food to fall off of his face onto the floor.

I have never taken steroids. Thus, I am far from the foremost expert on the subject. But I still (surprising to nobody) have an opinion on the matter.

First off, let me say, I don't think steroids are that bad. All things considered, people using steroids could be doing far worse things to their body. So you're taking a drug...that allows you to work out more often and see better results. Well, you're exercise and lifting weights. Already this doesn't sound particularly terrible, right? There are a lot of other drugs out there with worse side effects. Of course, there's the possibility of overdosing and I can't discount that. However, I have to believe that it's harder to OD on testosterone than on heroin.

Secondly, you don't get high when you take steroids. Nobody is taking a dose of steroids and then driving impaired. Steroids don't make you hallucinate and jump off a bridge or kill your roommate. They don't turn you into a zombie like bath salts do. They help you get bigger, stronger and faster at a rate faster than you could do on your own. Steroids don't turn you into a junky, there's no meathead on the corner offering to give BJ's for another dose of Dianabol. So why do people care SO much about them??

I don't mean to come off sounding too pro-steroid, because I'm not. I don't think they belong in athletics at any level. However, they are there and they are a very real problem. Frankly, all I'd like to know is who is actually taking performance enhancing drugs so that everyone can know who is and isn't. Taking a PED doesn't make you a better athlete; there's no drug that makes you able to hit a 90 mph fastball or catch a pass across the middle of the field. Lance didn't inject himself with EPO and then go win the Tour. He, and every other athlete who's taken steroids, still had to put in long hours training and working hard at getting better at what they do. If they were so willing to put in those long hard hours, why did they have to use drugs after all?

Because our society doesn't reward losers. We all look at second place as the first loser. We want to know why you didn't win, and what you could have done differently to change the outcome. We expect super-hero caliber performances from our larger-than-life athletes. Big time stars sell tickets and merchandise and sponsorships. The expectations put on elite-level athletes of every age are ridiculous. The big deals go to the best performers, so why would these people not use something that would make them better?

People who need to speak in front of big crowds will often take beta-blockers to help keep themselves from getting anxious. Musicians and artists use all sorts of drugs to help improve their art. The Air Force gives out amphetamines to their pilots to keep them sharp in the air. Hell, porn stars even use Viagra to enhance their performance. Nobody cares about any of that, though.

There are two strength sports where steroids are not just common, they are almost necessary: powerlifting (untested federations) and elite-level strongman competitions. To be competitive in either of those, you basically need to be on steroids. So they all are, and that's ok. The playing field is once again even. Why do they need to be sauced up, though? Because ESPN wouldn't want to air a strongman event where they were deadlifting 600 pounds for reps or dragging a Honda Civic. We want to see guys picking up 1,000 pounds of truck tires and pulling fire trucks strapped to their backs. If those guys weren't all juiced up, they'd be out of a job.

Side note: Mariusz Pudzianowski was once asked during an interview "When is the last time you took anabolic steroids" and he answered by asking "What time is it?"

At the end of the day, I don't think PED's are that big a deal. We, as a country, have much more important things to deal with. I'd rather see our government worry more about how to get the economy out of the shitter or how to stop people from shooting up schools. Whether or not Lance cheated and lied about it shouldn't be the headline on every newspaper and website in the country. I think that's a worse problem than what he did.

Have a great day, go lift some heavy shit.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

101 Ways to Skin a Cat

The strength world is full of characters. You meet a lot of trainers and coaches in various settings and, inevitably, the conversation turns to training. You talk about styles, approaches, things you've read and things you've learned. Usually these conversations are harmless and you leave with a new acquaintance and hopefully some new information that you can use for yourself and your clients. Occasionally  though, you meet someone who tries to force feed you their approach to training and convince you why they are right and you are wrong.

I recently met one of these guys; a guy who trains at another commercial gym here in the city. He studied exercise and health science in school and is a CSCS as well as a CrossFit level-1. He knows someone for whom I write programming, and has seen my work. The particular person he knows has a pretty young training age and has made awesome gains with my programs. In six months she has worked up to a 200-lb squat, a 215 deadlift (could definitely pull 235), has gained 15 pounds and lost 6% body fat. Those are pretty good results for 6 months of my programming I'd say. 

When I met him, however, he proceeded to tell me why following a strict program was a poor choice. That people should be lifting according to how they feel every day; if you're feeling good, then let it rip,  If it's a bad day, then hold yourself back. I think that's all well and good, except you can do that on a program too.

If I want my client to pull deadlifts in sets of 3 tomorrow, we are going to go by how they feel. It's called auto-regulation. Regardless of how they feel, we are doing triples. If they feel good we are going to push it, but if it's an off-day or a regular day, then we'll stick to a comfortable weight.

The icing on the cake was when this guy asked me "why do you think P90X is so popular?"

That's a clown question, bro. It's popular because it promises huge results all from the comfort of your home, it's easy to cheat since no one is standing over you watching and the commercial is filled with people who are shirtless and flaunting their abZZZ.

His reasoning is that the P90X program fulfills everything that a good personal trainer should be doing: hypertrophy, power, strength and conditioning blah blah blah. I stopped listening when he said P90X was good for anything. It's good to get someone up and moving, and that's about it.

My point, after all this ranting, is that everyone is welcomed to do things their own way. What you eat doesn't make me shit, right?

I chose the methods that I use because I think they are the best. My decision has been made through trial and error with myself, with application to my clients, and with much reading/research done through what others have done themselves. If I didn't think my "way" was the best, I wouldn't be doing it.

You do your way, because you think it's the best and that's fine. If it works for you and your clients, then go for it. Doesn't bother me. Even Tracy Anderson is allowed to go do her thing. It bugs me, however, when you attempt to force your method down my throat and imply that mine isn't the best. I have a very open mind about training nowadays, I absolutely love talking shop and will do so for hours. However, if you approach me in a bar and tell me what is better for me and my clients then I will immediately recognize you as a turd.

Sorry for the rant! Thanks for bearing with me! Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Suspension Trainer Comparison

The strength and fitness world is one filled with trends. Someone is always trying to introduce something new and revolutionary and it's often met with mixed results.

A fairly recent trend is that of suspension trainers; these are not entirely new, since gymnastics rings have been in use for quite a long time, but they are still pretty new to the fitness world and even collegiate weight rooms.

There are several variations of these out there, so which should you buy? Hopefully I can help.

Gymnastics Rings are the oldest variant of suspension trainer that is out there. For a long time they only existed in gymnastics gyms and elementary school gyms covered in dust. The rise of CrossFit has really popularized ring training, and even guys like Chad Waterbury are now espousing the benefits. The best thing about rings is that they come with really long straps that are able to be hung from a ceiling. The worst thing about rings is that they have really long straps. If you're only attaching them to the top of your power rack, the rest of the straps become a huge pain in the balls. They are super comfortable for your hands, but much less comfortable if you wanted to put your feet in them for various exercises. They aren't particularly costly, with the one's listed being available for $72. I really like rings and hope to get some soon.

The TRX System is what really popularized suspension systems and remains a great product. They are very portable and very compact and extremely easy to use. They feature soft handles that are easy to grip and have loops where you can put your feet for lower body/core exercises. There is only one connection point on the TRX which makes it very quick to set up. Too, the straps are very easy to adjust the desired length. The down fall, as I see it, is that the adjustment buckles on the TRX is at the exact point where your forearms go during a suspended pushup or dips. When you do that exercise with these straps, your forearms get all sorts of fucked up and it feels miserable. It's also the most expensive system out there, with a new one being available for $189. That's a lot.

The most popular TRX copycat is the Jungle Gym XT; it is very similar to the TRX and also provides a foothold. There's not much thats bad about this piece of equipment; it's sturdy and ergonomic. I think that adjusting these straps is kind of a pain in the ass, but maybe that's just me. It's sort of just meh, and asking me to pay $79 for it is asking a lot.

Another suspension trainer that you'll see out there is the Myoforce Versus. Frankly, I think this thing sucks. They took a TRX and put a pulley on it. This way when you hold the handles, the cable is able to move back and forth. In theory it's cool and creates some sort of instability, but in reality it sucks donkey balls. We have one at my gym and I've never touched it; in fact, whenever I see it set up, I take it down. There is only one exercise that I would do with any of my clients, and it's essentially an inverted batwing row (as popularized by Dan John). It's just awkward to use and coach, and I think the negatives outweigh the benefits. I'd rather have someone get brutally strong at standard inverted rows than have use this thing. It's also painfully expensive at $169.

Lastly, my favorite suspension trainer on the market are the Blast Straps from EliteFTS. They were designed by a powerlifter for powerlifters and athletes. The handle is essentially one of the old metal D-handles that you'd see as a cable attachment at gyms and the straps are canvas webbing. These things are burly and are made to withstand a ton of use. The big bonus of these over rings is that the straps are made to be hung from a power rack, rather than a ceiling. Not a big deal. The adjustment buckle isn't super fast, but it's pretty easy to use and very simple which helps keep the cost down. The only negative of these is that you can't put your feet in them. Oh well; I don't like lower body suspension exercises anyway. I use these with my clients for suspended pushups, inverted rows and "ring" pull-ups all the time. Ben Bruno seemingly has a new use for these every month. One of the other big reasons that these are my favorite is because they only cost $50 and will last you a lifetime. Get some and use them, please.

I hope this was helpful! Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Monday, January 14, 2013

January 14th, 60 Degrees?

So it's halfway through the month of January here in beautiful Boston and it's 60 degrees. 60-mother-effing-degrees. It's mind-blowing how nice out it is right now.

I just got back from a great weekend on Cape Cod where I actually went for a run with Kelsi.

Truth be told, I made it 1.5 miles before my low right back start spasming on me and I had to finish out by walking with my sister. It was a beautiful day so I didn't care. I still ran with her and it counts!!

Fast forward to today and I'm actually a little stiff. My calves are super tight and my low back is a little sore too. I wanted to work out today but knew I wasn't going to have a good lift. I made the executive decision to go ahead and skip lifting today in favor of pushing the prowler outside.

It's an abnormally beautiful day so I figured what the hell? It's not every day I'll have this chance so I might as well take it!

I think I went about 30 yards each direction and did 10 sprints with about 30 seconds of rest in-between each one. It wasn't the most difficult conditioning I've ever done, but it worked for today. I was breathing hard and I was sweating. Boom goes the dynamite.

What'd you guys do today on this gorgeous day?

Thanks for reading! Go lift something heavy!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Passion Trumps Everything

The title of this blog is a quote that Dave Tate said in a video from a few years ago. While the whole thing may be a little over-done and showy, that's just Tate.

This quote is important to me and it's one that I've used time and time again since I first heard it 3 years ago. In this industry, passion is everything. Without it, you're sunk

There aren't a lot of industries like this one, and that's one of the reasons I love it. You don't get into it to get rich, very few trainers or coaches ever get famous. The ones that do get "famous" are usually chuckledicks. Those who last in this industry and make an impact are doing it because they absolutely love it. They love helping people achieve goals and get healthier. They love helping athletes get stronger and faster. They love applying all of this knowledge to themselves.

I can't escape from this world, and I don't want to. If I'm not lifting then I'm reading articles about strength and conditioning, or watching YouTube videos of people lifting, or texting Dan and Justin about lifting, or writing a blog about training, or writing a training program, or thinking about what was going wrong during my last snatch session. This industry consumes me and I love it.

I think this statement holds true for pretty much all of the good trainer's and coach's you'll meet. Tearing yourself away from this world has to be a conscious effort. Nobody that I know in finance goes home and reads finance blogs. Teachers don't go home and watch YouTube videos of someone else teaching.  Yet friends and I get together and we can't stop talking about training.

It's tough to get someone to understand how I feel about this industry because so few people are passionate about their jobs. Even my family doesn't understand why I'd drive 40 minutes each way on Christmas Eve morning to get in a training session. It seems absurd to people, and I can understand why, but it doesn't matter.

My passion for strength and conditioning trumps everything else. I want nothing more than to be a success in this industry, and that's what is going to happen. Keep an eye out for me in 2013.

Have a great day! Go lift something heavy!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Added Mobility

We are all very well aware of how mobility plays into the way we move, feel and perform. I've gone over the subject several times, as have just about every other coach who writes a blog. What if you're writing a program for someone who has the mobility of a sofa, but won't adhere to a program that involves 45 minutes of dedicated mobility work?

Something that people don't realize is what a good stretching effect you can get from weight-bearing exercise. Simply performing some key exercises can help you stretch out particular areas of your client/athlete that need more work.

The reverse lunge from deficit is a fantastic way to help your clients achieve more length in the anterior portion of their hip capsule. The leg moving backwards will get a big stretch right through the quads and the hips, and will get pushed down a little further because of the added weight. Because you'll be doing reps, it acts as a dynamic stretch rather than a static stretch so the client won't be too uncomfortable. This will also help to activate the glute on the same side. Lengthening the shortened area and activating the weakened area? Sounds good to me.

Too, any split stance exercise will provide a similar benefit in terms of stretching and pelvic stability. I use a ton with my clients: split stance cable rows, cable presses, landmine presses and Pallof presses are all staples in my training programs.

Tempo squats are another great way to achieve more length in the hip area. By increasing the amount of time that someone takes for the eccentric portion of the squat, you are forcing the contractile elements of the muscles involved to stretch for a longer period of time. They also suck to do...a lot.

Pushups and Pull-ups are both under-rated exercises to provide added range of motion in the upper body. The bottom position of a pushup is going to provide a big stretch across the anterior portion of the chest, assuming you make your clients do their pushups with the chest to the floor (hint: you should be doing that). Meanwhile, the bottom position of a pull-up is going to provide a ton of stretch to your lats, upper back and even your chest. With a client who is really bound-up in the upper body, just letting them hang from something can provide a huge stretch benefit.

Lastly, one of the best exercises to add some mobility work is the overhead squat. For this exercise, you need to have achieved a particular level of mobility to begin with, but it's a great way to get in more stretching. I wrote one program recently where one of the mobility drills was overhead squats with a dowel facing a wall. This miserable exercise is going to force you to open up every pathway in your body while producing stability. As stated, this isn't an exercise I would consider doing with everyone, but for those who are capable of doing it and pushing their body a little, it's a great exercise.

Any other exercises that you use to provide more mobility work? Let me hear them!

Have a great day and go lift something heavy!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Making People Better at Stuff

I write a lot of training programs for friends of, a lot of programs. Currently, there are roughly 15 people participating in programs that I've written. Just this past weekend I wrote 8 one-month programs for a pretty wide variety of people. Why am I writing all these programs? Well, it's sure not for the money since no one is paying me for them.

I don't ask anyone for money because I treat this as my opportunity to get better at writing programs. I get to see whats getting what results, what people like and what people hate. The whole group of people that I'm writing for are either trainers or athletes of some kind. They are also all very compliant and willing to do just about anything I tell them to. 

I've got a guy who is getting ready for rugby who has had the mobility of a picnic table. Kelsi is going to be running every day for a year, while training for a half-marathon and needs to keep up her strength and mobility and stay injury. Another friend is coming back from a SLAP tear and needs to get ready for her rugby season. A couple of buddies of mine made the New England team for the newly formed Premier Volleyball League, an up and coming pro volleyball league. Two friends are getting ready for their wedding next year, and another buddy is concurrently training to run a 3:30 marathon and deadlift 405 pounds in the same week. Add to that some people who just want to get absurdly strong and/or lean, and you have the motley crew of people that I'm writing for!

The interesting thing is that the programs I'm writing for these people aren't all that different. They all focus on the same things (movement quality and strength) with different shadings for different people. 

The mobility work for these programs is pretty simple (with the exception of the one guy). Lengthen the hip flexors and activate the glutes. Loosen the anterior shoulder capsule and strengthen the back while fixing the T-spine. I've got a good grasp on the mobility stuff but I'm certainly not doing anything special. Here's a peek at one of my more mobility-intense programs...This first tri-set comes AFTER a full warm-up of SMR and dynamic stretching. 

(p.s. if anyone has a cool program template they'd like to share with me, I'd love to see it. I've been writing everything using a shitty word template and I think it sucks balls and looks like dogshit!)

Every single program I'm writing is starting off with a CNS activation exercise: box jumps, broad jumps, MB slams, MB shot put, somersaults, etc. These are short and sweet; the idea is simply to fire up their nervous system and get them ready to perform.

Since I've become obsessed with Olympic lifting lately, it's showing up into my programs. Damn near everyone has some sort of Olympic lift variation in their program. Since most of these people are (unfortunately) not lifting at a cool gym with bumper plates, the exercises I'm going with are hang high pulls for both the clean and the snatch. It gets them into triple extension with a loaded barbell, so I'm happy with it. There will be some heavy pulls off the floor coming for some of them soon too. 

During the strength portion of their lift, they are all doing the normal pushes and pulls for upper and lower. A lot of people are opting for 3-day programs right now which leaves one dedicated lower body day, one upper body day and one total body day. I place an emphasis on the lower body lifts, and decide if the athlete needs to focus more on their deadlift or squat: whichever lift I deem more important get's it's own day and the other one goes on the total-body day. I'm also prescribing a metric shit ton of tempo to lifts right now; 31X0 seems to be the most common, but I'm known to throw in a 5-second eccentric now and then. 

It's also funny to see which exercises I'm currently enamored with: the front squat, close grip bench, 45-degree back extension, rear foot elevated split squat iso, resistance band Pallof press iso, RKC plank and batwing row are all getting a TON of love in programs I'm writing. 

I don't prescribe a ton of core-work; I just don't find it necessary. I usually write in 2-3 dedicated core exercises per month, and they are anti-extension and anti-rotation. If I write in a third one, it's a flexion based exercise along the lines of MB slams, reverse crunches or hanging knees-to-elbows. I include a ton of extra core work in each program by using the goblet position and offset loaded exercises a shit-ton. 

There's really not a ton of variability in my programs, with good reason: it's what I think works. When someone is in the gym doing my program, they should be able to recognize that someone else is doing one of my programs as well. Mostly because they will notice that the other person is also a savagely awesome Alpha. 

That's it for today. If you have any questions, please let me know! Have a great day and go lift something heavy!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Gym Bag

The gym bag should be an integral component of any serious lifters arsenal. With a gym bag, you can ensure that every training session you participate in is as uniform as possible. Having all of your own gear with you for every lift means that you are always prepared. You don't want to be the person who is uncomfortable during a lift because they are missing something that they are used to having with them.

My gym bag is pretty solid; I've currently got just about everything I need to make sure that regardless of where I'm lifting or who I'm with I can have the most optimal training session possible. Here's a peek at the contents of my bag.

I carry a pretty standard sized Under Armour duffel bag. They don't sell the model I have any more, but the new ones can't be that different. This bag is never emptied out and stays packed with this stuff all of the time.

This is everything laid out on my bed. Not everything in here gets used during every lift, but these are all things that I wouldn't want to not have available to me. If the gym I'm lifting at has some of these things, then I wouldn't use my own. Better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it!

Let's go through each different compartment of the bag.

This is the stuff from the little outside net-portion of the bag. Gum, Ipod and nail clippers. If I'm lifting in a regular commercial gym then I'll probably need the Ipod. I love chewing gum when I'm lifting, and having a long nail or a hang nail while you're training is really annoying.

The long side pocket is where I keep my larabars! I love these things. If my energy is a little down pre-workout then I can inhale one of these. Post-workout carbs are important so I'll often have one with my shake. If someone I'm training with hasn't eaten enough, one of these will help them get through the rest of the workout. They are pretty good for you and only have a few ingredients in each flavor. Apple Pie is currently my favorite, but I just had the Banana Bread one for the first time and it was insanely good.

This is the stuff that goes into the big side pocket on the bag; this is some of the good shit. I have a couple packets of random trail mix (cashews, almonds, dried cranberries) that serve the same purpose as the larabars. My jump rope lives in here, because it's one of the best ways to get your body temp up before you lift. I have a bag of chalk and that's where my lifting straps live (chalky straps are the best). Sports tape helps protect your thumb from the constant discomfort of the hook-grip. Java Stim is like a cup of coffee in a convenient pill form, in case you didn't leave yourself enough time to grab your pre-workout cup of joe (very important). Lastly, I carry a pack of ammonia inhalants just in case. You never know when you'll need a little neural wake-up.

Now, for the big stuff. The stuff located in the main compartment of the bag is probably the most important stuff to me. On the bottom of the picture is a mini-band from EliteFTS. This band serves a lot of purposes in terms of warm-ups. It's good to have in case the gym I'm at doesn't have any available. You can use it for shoulder warm-ups, core activation and glute/hip activation stuff. Right above that is my lacrosse ball and peanut; two must-haves for rolling out and getting the kinks out. The black roll above that is my VooDoo Floss Band which I admittedly still haven't used.

To the left of that is my shaker bottle, which is self explanatory. Good for water and protein. To the left of that is my workout journal, containing all of my workouts for the past few months. If you don't have one of these, get one!

Directly above those are my new Rehband Knee Sleeves that I got for Christmas (thanks momma!); these do an amazing job of keeping my knees warm while I lift, which makes everything just way more comfortable. To the right of the knee sleeves are my weightlifting shoes. They have a wooden sole with a wedge heel that provides me with incredible stability and some added range of motion during squats and Olympic lifts. I love these shoes and they've proven to be one of my best purchases. They will last me for a very long time. Next to the shoes is my lifting belt from EliteFTS. I don't use belts often, but when I do, I want to be comfortable with it. It's also a pain in the ass if 3-4 guys are all using a belt and have to pass one between all of them. Lastly are my wrist wraps; these help protect my wrists during Olympic lifts and pressing. I also wear them during front squats. These last four items can add up, but they are all quality products that last a long time. My father taught me that it's better to buy nice, not twice. Spend the money up-front on good gear and it will last you a lifetime.

Well, that's just a little peek into the stuff that I use on a daily basis when I lift. I like my training sessions to be as uniform as possible so that I can eliminate as many variables as possible. I accidentally put someone else's wrist wraps on a week ago and it felt like I was wearing someone else's underwear; just very uncomfortable and unfamiliar.

Anything that I'm missing that I need to add to my bag? Let me know! Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Get Your Mind Right

A really good workout doesn't just happen, there is several variables that can affect your workout positively or negatively. The music in the gym, the people training near/with you or how much cologne your trainer put on after his workout.

The biggest variable that I've found, however, is you. What you bring to the table for that hour is what's going to make or break the session. And, no, I don't mean physically. There are going to be days that you come in and you're tired, dehydrated, under-fed or over-stressed. Shit happens. But the thing that overcomes any other obstacle standing in the way of a good workout is your own mind.

Let's be real: you know you have a training session coming up, so why not prepare? You're spending some hard-earned cash on this hour, so you might as well get the most you can out of it.

There are a lot of things you can do ahead of time to make sure your session goes well: eat well, drink plenty of water, have a coffee or show up early. The thing that I've found that swings my clients to either the good or bad side is the mentality they bring with them.

If the first thing you say to me is "Oh, I'm so tired, I'm going to have such a shitty session today!" then you are setting yourself up for failure. Would you walk into a job interview and say "Well, I know you guys won't want to hire me, but..." I sure friggin' hope not.

Sure, tell me you're tired. I'm going to ask how you're feeling that day anyway, so be honest. A good trainer will always take that into consideration during your workout. If your baby was up all night crying then I'm not going to see if we can max out your deadlift; we'll be a little conservative.

You know what, though? Just get your fucking head in the game. Your time in the gym should be a sacred time. You'll be there for an hour, put all of your other bullshit aside for 60 minutes. Nothing terrible is going to happen in that hour, and if it does then you won't be able to fix it anyway. Put your phone away and forget about what happened at work. Stop thinking about the fight with your girlfriend and get your mind right. Nothing else matters for this hour except you and the weights. You need be present in that moment; whatever happened before and after is inconsequential at that time. When you leave the gym you'll have plenty of time to worry about everything else in your life.

The other thing people need to learn how to do is to channel their aggression and stress into their workout. Take it out on the weights! Blow off some steam! I guarantee you'll feel better at the end of your hour.

Any other tricks for getting mentally involved in your training session? Leave a note in the comments!

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Operation Run365

Happy New Year to you all! I hope everyone enjoyed closing out 2012 and that you're all looking forward to dominating 2013; I know I am.

I've got some goals for 2013 that I'll talk about in another time, but I want my first post of the year to be about something that is pretty important to me.

My girlfriend Kelsi is under-taking a pretty bold project starting today and she's calling it Operation Run365 (I know the site is empty, the updates will begin today).

Her goal is to run at least 2 miles every day for the next calendar year in order to raise money and awareness for InnerCity Weightlifting, an organization that we both really believe in. While running 2 miles per day doesn't sound like a whole lot, that will just be on her off days. She will be continuing to lift heavy, will be training to win a half-marathon, volunteer coaching at a high school and will probably even start doing some CrossFit competitions. She will also be eating a shit-ton of food every day and sleeping as much as possible.

While her main objective (raising money for ICW) is noble, I think that the whole idea is pretty awesome. As a trainer in Boston, Kelsi (just like the rest of us) has clients that constantly make excuses about not having enough time or energy to work out. Well, this is an exercise in making both time and energy. It won't be easy to do, and she knows it; but that's why its worthwhile.

If you have some time, please take a look at her site and consider donating. It's a worthwhile cause and any donation you can provide will go a long way in helping to make a difference in the lives of some people who really need it.

Thanks for your consideration and have a great 2013! Go lift something heavy!