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!

Monday, May 13, 2013

It's Time to Embrace Success

It's time to embrace your inner desire to get strong as a ma'fucka and jacked beyond your wildest dreams.

I've been immersed in this industry for 4 years now, and have never looked back. I spend the vast majority of my time trying to learn more about how to increase human performance in order to both benefit myself and my clients/athletes. I've accrued a pretty good bank of knowledge in my abnormally large head (with astonishingly small ears) and I've decided it's time for me to start trying to share that with a wider population of people.

As such, I want to start offering programming to those of you who are interested (if anyone is interested, that is). The system will be pretty simple: you pay me and I email you a one-month program. You do it, update me on how savage/awesome you've been getting, and then we repeat the process. Before long, you will have become the sexual tyrannosaurus that you have always dreamed of being and you will want to send me awesome gifts in the mail.

If you'd like some insight into what it's like to follow my programming you can check out this blog, written by a current client of mine or read some of these testimonials:
As a beginner lifter, my two biggest areas for improvement were mobility and mental toughness. Mike created a program that challenged my determination and in turn allowed me to make my greatest gains in strength training. He added new lifts forcing me to concentrate and actually care about what I was doing rather than just going through the movements. It was the order of the components of a session that made me determined to push myself to new limits. My mental toughness vastly improved the first week and I even went from hating mobility to wanting to complete it knowing it would allow me to lift better. Having a knowledgeable and passionate leader didn't hurt either! As a health care professional myself, my greatest compliment to Mike is his desire for continued professional development. I believe a lot of his success comes from having a professional clientele who can quickly detect Mike's honesty and effort to find the best solution for their goals. He is more than willing to continue educating himself in the best interest of his clients. Additionally, with the wide variety of populations he has worked with I would refer any patient to him with complete trust that he would safely and effectively train them.

Natalie ATC
University of Oregon '15

After gaining (at least) the freshman 15 in college and injuring my rotators cuff from volleyball, I decided to give Michael Anderson's workout program a try. Prior to that, I tried so many different ways of losing weight, which consisted of running a lot and different types of dieting- The juice diet, the south beach diet, diet pills, whatever was advertised out there, you name it.  I noticed after each diet, I almost immediately gained the weight back and more. Something needed to change.  I decided to give Michael a chance in helping me.

Michael was a fairly a new trainer when I received my first program.  We discussed what I wanted to work on, how many days am I able to commit to the gym, etc.  He set me up with a workout plan for 4x a week for 4 months.  His target was to strengthen my upper body (for improving my rotator cuff) and to increase flexibility and agility(for volleyball).  He told me not to worry about my weight- weight myself once before and once after the complete workout phase.  I met up with Michael at the beginning of each phase of the program to ensure that I learn the exercises and was doing it properly.  I was enthusiastic about the program, followed it, stuck to it, and also watched what I ate.  Regardless if I was sore or sick, I would force myself to the gym.  During the 4th month I was able to do full pushups and a couple chin-ups.  This also resulted in no pain in my rotator cuff.  I was able to spike/ serve a volleyball again without any pain!  I was also able to move much more quickly on defense; I was more than amazed.  I decided to cheat and weigh myself.  To my surprise, I’d lost 20 lbs! 
Now I am back on the program and preparing for my wedding, again using Michael's programming.  He has done so much for me and I am certain this time will allow me to look fabulous on my wedding day! 
Kim T., Boston MA.

If you are looking to grow in strength, lean muscle mass, weight lifting confidence and overall fitness, you would be wasting your time if you found Mike Anderson and are still looking elsewhere.
In several years Mike transformed my body and physical presence in the word in a way that nobody - me including - anticipated;  from soft to hard, from plump to lean and from weak to strong. I can't tell you enough about how much has much life improved in so many areas outside of the gym as well.
In my many years of training with him - and seeing so many other trainers fail where he succeeds - I credit his unique balance of a passionate motivating push and intelligently customized programming with his extraordinary results.
Do not wait:  let him evaluate your needs, write your program and guide you to where you never thought you can be so fast !  He is one of a kind and you will soon thank yourself for choosing him. 
Roman S., Boston MA. 

I have been working with Mike towards a specific group of fitness goals for just shy of a year.  I started as someone who was new to weight training and had minimal experience with my college strength coach.  When I told Mike I wanted to use weight training as a means to become a faster distance runner, he was eager to set me up with a program.

Since he knew I was new to strength and conditioning, Mike made sure he took the time to educate and teach me the basics before throwing me into a 4x/week program. With the approrpiate progressions and regressions throughout the course of the first month,  I saw exponetial growths in strength, which directly correlated to my racing times. Also, with his nutrition guidance, I was able to build lean muscle, gain strength, and increase endurance all while losing more than 5% body fat over the course of my first 4-6 months training with Mike.

His attention to detail ensures that my program will be individualized to meet my specific goals. Aside from athletic performance and body composition, Mike has also kept me injury free from a nagging hamstring injury I had been dealing with for over 6 years. 
Kelsi N., Painesville, OH. 
As a fitness professional myself, I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t program your own workouts. Before I began working with Mike, my mobility had devolved to an all time low. As competitive rugby athlete, poor mobility does not equal top performance on the field; this had to be addressed in order for me to get from a second team player to the travel team.
 Since I’ve started following Mike’s programming, my mobility and strength has improved drastically. My on-field performance has improved as well (who would’ve guessed?) and I made the travel roster this season.  Since I am also a hands on learner, Mike’s programming has helped me better my training techniques and allowed me to help my clients gain back some of their lost mobility. I cannot imagine how I would feel today if I had continued to let my physical well-being slip in the direction it had been going.
Jarrod Dyke, Boston, MA. 

I began training with Mike a year ago. I’ve worked with many trainers over the years, and while it is never difficult to find one, it is extremely hard to find an excellent one.  I struck gold with Mike.  Here I highlight only three of the many important qualities he brings to the training experience.
 First, he has a terrific ability to gauge a client’s strengths and areas in need of improvement.  This is not an obvious skill, but it was one I recognized almost immediately in Mike.  Often, we assume we know the areas we’d like to work on – not just in terms of specific body parts (women: you know who you are), but also in terms of general goals, like mobility, flexibility, strengh, or conditioning.  Ideally, a trainer builds an exercise circuit for you that not only integrates your own goals but – perhaps more importantly – reflects the trainer’s assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.  Mike did an amazing job of recognizing those areas I’d need to strengthen before I could even begin to work toward reaching my goals.  For this I have been immensely grateful.
 Second, and related to the first, Mike takes a long-term approach to training that I have found tremendously beneficial.  I can recall a period of a few weeks, for example, when we spent most of our time focusing on soft tissue work and mobility drills, both of which can leave a client wondering whether s/he has really “worked out.”  I trusted – and was later proven right – that Mike knew exactly what he was doing, and the investment in soft tissue and mobility work made it possible to transition to strength exercises that would have otherwise been impossible.  The kind of long-term view that Mike adopts is only possible because he has such a strong command of the body’s physiology.
 Third, Mike has a terrific personality.  This may seem unimportant, but I think a trainer’s sense of humor and positive disposition are key components of an excellent training session.  Mike has both, and in the moments when my muscles have screamed at me to give them a break, it has made all the difference to have Mike’s humor and smile encouraging me to push through.  Somehow I emerge from the pain smiling – only reinforcing my conviction that Mike is a rare find.  You’d be lucky to have him as your trainer.
 -Sarah Feuer
Brookline, MA

Now that you've read what some people think about me when prompted to write about me, you should be ready to find out for yourself. Your health is worth your investment and I think I'm worth it. I have experience with a vast array of clients: an 86 year old Holocaust survivor, Olympic athletes (women's Ice Hockey and women's Field Hockey), National Team-level athletes (Track and Field, Women's Ice Hockey, Women's Lacrosse) and D1 College athletes of all sports, prepped someone for the Olympic Bobsled combine, weekend warriors with joint replacements, pregnant moms, high school athletes and everybody else in between. My writing has also been featured on Tony Gentilcore's  site a bunch of times (so you know I'm not just some blog-turd). Regardless of your goal, I can help.

For $65 per month, you receive your one-month program as well as unlimited contact via email and a 30-minute FaceTime or Google hangout each month. You will also be asked to send me videos of your lifts that I will critique and send back to you using Coach's Eye. If you are ready to make the investment in yourself, please send me an email at and we can get the party started. There is no commitment and you can stop after any given month. Payments can be made via PayPal here:

I look forward to hearing from you and getting you on the road to a stronger, better you!

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Soviet System

It finally happened: I've gone full weightlifter. I've been enjoying Olympic style weightlifting for over a year now, but I had been in limbo regarding the type of programming I was following. I'd snatch until my face fell off and then deadlift or squat maybe. I enjoyed it all, but there wasn't much science to it; just random stuff each day. I definitely wasn't putting 100% into either weightlifting or powerlifting.

Enter Ivan Rojas, a weightlifting coach in Elliot, Maine. He is the owner of Risto Sports, a weightlifting equipment company, and has coached a number of high-level athletes: Carlos AndicaDiego Salazar, his wife Gwen Sisto. For those of you who don't follow Olympic lifting, you may recognize this other client of his:

CrossFit's own Annie Thorisdottir uses Ivan as her weightlifting coach. Me and my buddies set up a meeting with Ivan at his gym so we could prepare ourselves for the Bay State Games in July. If we are going to do something like this, we want to be as prepared as possible.

With Ivan at the helm, we've all undertaken a drastic change in programming. Ivan coaches the Soviet System of training, which is one of the earliest training systems available. It's a simple template that calls for high volume and low intensity as well as technical mastery of very few lifts. My own program (4 days per week) involves only the following lifts: full snatch, full clean and jerk, power snatch, hang power snatch, behind the neck jerk, high bar back squat, front squat and snatch pulls. 8 exercises, with total volume of 470 reps split between them each week and 1,880 total reps each month.

I went into this program with a PR snatch of 90.9 kg and Ivan anticipates me being able to hit 110 kg at the competition. If I can do this, I'll be almost as happy as Donny Shankle.

We are all now on our 3rd week of this program, and everybody feels pretty ragged. The volume for each of us is different (3 of the guys are doing 6 days a week, 1 is doing 5 days), but it's a huge change for everyone. We all have different volumes of exercises depending on our strengths and weaknesses. Other than feeling like crap, my snatch technique feels so much smoother than it did before. I'm hitting far more of my lifts than before and I'm sure next time I max out I'll see some progress.

I'll continue to update regarding this big training change! Have a good day and go lift some heavy shit!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Product Review: TRX Rip Trainer

Every month at the gym I train at, we have a trainers meeting. This is pretty standard fare and we often cover everything from what's happening at the gym that month to having guest speakers or product demo's. This month we had a representative from TRX come into the gym and demo the Rip Trainer.

I'll admit that I was immediately off-put a little bit because the rep reminded me of someone that I really really don't like. He also immediately started talking about how sport specific this tool is and how you can use it with anyone from de-conditioned gen-pop clients to athletes of all levels. The notion of "sport specificity" is as general and useless a term as "functional training" so my bullshit meter immediately went off. 

Turns out that the guy was ok, and just a little bit cheesy. He played some gawd awful techno crap while we used the equipment and was just a little too enthusiastic about the whole thing. 

The equipment itself is simply a Gray Cook bar attached to a Slastix band. Simple and effective. It more or less replicates a keiser or cable machine wherever you go without one. The bands come in light, medium, heavy and very heavy resistance just like a normal super band. 

The trainer took us through a series of exercises that ranged from simple asymmetrically loaded rows and presses to anti-rotation stability to ballistic swings and jumps. My heart rate got going, I was sweaty and some of the exercises were pretty challenging. Since we were working in partners I almost exclusively forgot to do my right side, so my left side felt really fucking weird. 

What'd I end up thinking about it? It was ok, to be honest. I can 100% find an application for a tool like a limited quantity. It's just another tool in the toolbox for me. I wouldn't dream of using it for an entire training session and I don't think I'd ever have anyone, especially an athlete, do anything explosive with this. For that matter, squatting with it felt awful because it changed my (normally gorgeous) squat pattern. 

The guy talked a ton about sport specificity and how he used this all the time with tennis, hockey and lacrosse players. He showed us how to swing the bar like you would use one of the implements for that sport; which is dumb. Mimicking a sporting movement with a weighted/resisted implement really just serves to change the very specific pattern that has been ingrained in an athlete. Even swinging a bat loaded with a donut has proved inefficient. Don't try dumb shit like this either.

What would I use it for? If I were training a client at a poorly equipped gym or outside at a park, I would certainly bring a Rip Trainer so that I could do some rotary stability work with them. I could also see myself using it in a gym in place of a cable machine for a different training effect on a few stability and rowing exercises. I'd also prefer to use it 1-on-1 or with as little as 2-3 clients; having 8 people using these things at once is terrifying to me and seems like a good way for someone to get hurt.

Final verdict: meh. It's a cool gimmick, but not something I would consider for anyone serious about training. Now, go lift something heavy and be awesome today!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A New Look At Old Stuff: Dead Bugs

I'm all about learning new things. Despite what people may think, I'm well aware of the fact that I don't know everything...even though they think that I always sometimes act like I do.

I am stubborn though, and often once my mind is made up about something it's tough to change it. This is particularly true when it comes to things like vegetarianism, Tracy Anderson and wearing socks with sandals. Please don't fucking do it.

One of the strength coaches at BU, Dan Sanzo, got me to change my mind about the lamest of exercises: the Dead Bug.

It's an exercise you learn really on in your fitness life, and one that I forgot about almost instantly. Whomever taught it to me didn't do a great job of teaching it, and I didn't know enough to think my way through it or ask more questions. I just went through the motions and thought "fuck this, I'm too strong and awesome for this, time to deadlift". Well now that I'm a little older, smarter and more mature (and had someone good to teach me) I've started to look at this in a whole new way.

Dan deadbugs the SHIT out of the mens basketball team. They do it as a warm-up, as a filler exercise, before practices and before games. The guys are basically deadbug pro's at this point. Why? Turns out that, when performed properly, it's a pretty awesome exercise. Here's what a good one looks like:

So, what's going on here and why is it awesome: first, you want to think about "crushing" the ground under your low back. This cue will help fire up the core musculature while preventing your ribs from flaring up. Second, you'll be squeezing the cone between your elbow and knee which is going to cause an even bigger contraction in your core.

The muscles in your trunk (abs, obliques, TVA, glutes, QL, erector spinae, etc) need to all fire up and work together to prevent any movement while your limbs move and flex/extend around them. This makes it a very safe exercise that is applicable to just about every population I can think of. There are dozens of variations and can be rotated through a program at will. No matter how good you are at them, they are never an easy exercise.

Give it a shot and see what you think, you might change your mind about an old exercise.

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