Category Archives: Training

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Big Rocks and Show and Go

In the past, I have talked about proper warmup, soft-tissue work, mobility, stability, strength training, flexibility, power (explosiveness), plyometrics, agility and the list goes on.  These are all great characteristics of a sound program but how the hell are you going to fit them all in your 60 minute “no more, no less” workout?

Seriously, if I tried to fit every aspect of training into one of my clients training programs their head would probably start to spin and they would start doing a backwards crawl up the stairs like in The Exorcist.  There is simply not enough time to get it all in and why would you want to?

A good program at some point should have all of these components, just not all at the same time.  It is hard enough to improve on an area of your fitness that may be lagging, nevermind all of them.  So what I tell all of my clients is to prioritize and start with the “big rocks” before starting to remove some of the smaller ones.

When I say big rocks I am talking about the exercises that you suck at.  You know which ones I’m talking about too.  The ones that you have difficulty doing becuase your body just doesn’t want to “move” that way such as deep overhead squats, leg raises, and other mobility exercises.

Hint: Do these first by including them in your warmup.  That way you can’t use the excuse “I didn’t have enough time.” 

For example, lets say you have the hip mobility of a 90 year old woman.  What good is it to avoid doing squats and lunges (or even worse by using the leg extension maching) and ignore lower body training?  A) Your hips are going to get tighter than Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Spears a Catholic nun.  B) That dysfunction is going to affect other areas of your body such as your head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.

Once you identify and remove the big rocks everything else you do will become cake whether your goal is strength, athletic performance, weight loss, speed, or just overall fitness. 

One program that I swear by for myself and my clients is Eric Cressey’s Show and Go training program.  This program was created for anyone interested in getting stronger, faster, and moving, looking and feeling better. 

Eric provides a progressive 4 month program that includes a 2x/wk, 3x/wk, or 4x/wk option which are each packed with a proper mobility/activation warmup, strength exercises, fat-loss circuits, interval training progressions and tons more.  He also provides a complete exercise database with videos of each exercise along with modifications depending on your fitness level.  This alone is worth the money.

Whats more is the program is completely customizable depending on your ultimate goal whether it is athletic performance, to get stronger, burn fat, get ripped or move better.  The whole time it will be helping you to bulldoze over those big rocks with the addition of effective mobility exercises.

I have seen the results in both myself and my clients and can’t speak highly enough about this program.  ===> Check it out.


Blogroll

Since starting my blog last summer I have gone from about 56 views in my first month to over 5,000 views last month.  No matter how random or off topic I seem to get sometimes, traffic keeps going up which means that people are starting to listen to what I have to say.  I’ve work very hard on this blog by staying staying up late sometimes, doing copious amounts of research, and staying in Friday nights instead of getting wasted and booty-chasing with the guys.

Well, in honor of you all reading what I am putting down I am going to start making some changes to the site.  One of the first things I have just added is a blogroll with the sites of many other strength coaches, friends, and blogs which I regularly check out for some pretty great information.  Straight up knowledge bombs if you will.

There is a lot of conflicting and just plain terrible information in the media, interwebz, and from the broskis that hang around at the local Planet Fitness.  Benching make muscle big.  Me get strong.  Squat quarter depth with 800 lbs., damn  I look cool.  T-shirt time!

I have added these links to inspire you to do some research to cut through the broscience and listen to what real strength coaches, physical therapists, personal trainers and straight up smart guys are doing.  Pick up what they’re putting down.  Smell it.  Step in it.

P.S.  It is in the right column.  Enjoy!


Bodybuilding, Flexing Those Guns, and PMR

For most males, this starts at an early age as we begin to produce high levels of testosterone almost over night.  I’m not talking about what happens when you discovered your dad’s hidden stash of Playboys, although that in itself is a pretty monumental milestone.  I’m talking about flexing your pythons while standing in front of the bathroom  mirror.

I’m going to take it back a step and start from the beginning.  At birth, most infants possess near perfect mobility as they begin to learn to move their body parts one by one.  Wiggling the toes and fingers, moving the limbs, moving the head and neck, and then eventually reaching for the milk recepticals.  Ahh the motherload.

The fascination of boobs although short-lived will begin again in a few more years but that is a story for another time.  The point that I am trying to get at is that the child is exploring new movemets in order to gain stability and control of his body.  This will continue through preadolescence  where children learn to move, stabilize and perform many complex tasks. 

This self exploration of movement culminates for many right around puberty as we begin to significantly increase in strength and become more fascinated in boobs once again.  This time though we have to work a little harder to get them which is one of the reasons I picked up my first Weider bench and barbell set when I was 15 years old.

Back then it was all bench pressing, curling, and shoulder flies so I could work those little pipe cleaners into the guns you see today.

Looking back it may not have been the most sound program but it was helping me to learn more about my body than some people do their entire life.  I used to stand in front of the bathroom mirror with my shirt off (calm down ladies) and individually flex certain muscles in various poses.  I would rock that double biceps pose like Arnold back in the day.

What I didn’t realize back then was that this somatopsychic technique was allowing me to not only locate the different muscle groups but to control them individually.  Plus it just looked badass.  Bodybuilder in training.

Most people, on the other hand, are not able to isometrically contract certain muscles on command such as their glutes or pecs.  They lack that mind-muscle connection which falls under the “if you don’t use it, you lose it” category.

When I am working with certain clients I ask them where they feel certain exercises and when the Jeopardy music starts in the background I will take it a step back and ask them to isometrically contract the targeted muscle group. 

For example, a client doing a glute bridge who feels the contraction in the hams or quads I will have stand up and practice clenching their glutes until they feel where they should be feeling the exercise.  One cue I like is to tell them pretend like their last dollar is between their butt cheeks and someone is trying to steal it.  That usually works.

Flexing or voluntary muscle activation is an important skill as it helps to prevent certain muscles from becoming dormant during exercise and certian movements.  I have talked about gluteal amnesia in the past where the glutes  don’t fire properly which will create overcompensation of the quads and other hip muscles.  No bueno.

One way to create that mind-muscle connection is to employ progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) techniques.  This is where you learn to relax by going through a series of alternate muscular tensing and relaxing phases in order to become aware of somatic tension.  The benefits of this technique are reduced muscle tension and awareness which may cause an increase in smooth, fluid, or efficient movement as well as increased range of motion around the joint.

A relaxed body will create a relaxed mind.

The takeaway of all of this is that you should learn to actively flex certain muscles like a bodybuilder.  Don’t be afraid to bust out some poses in front of the mirror and hold for a few seconds.  Learn how to control each muscle group and you will learn how to control your body.


Rules for Weightloss

The holidays are a time when most people are “social feasting” as I like to call it  and in doing so creating internal conflict on whether or not to try to stick to a diet during the holidays.  Their usual train of thought is: I’ll just wait until after New Years to make a resolution.

The scary statistic is that 92% of New Years resolutions will fail.  That means only 8% will succeed!  See, I can do math.

Here is some more math, the average American gains .4-1.8 pounds during the holidays and gains 1.2-3.6 pounds per year.  In some cases that means most of your weightgain happens between Thanksgiving and New Years.  Maybe it’s time to put down that reindeer shaped surgar cookie.

How is it that I am single handedly able to consume a 11 pound turkey, small village of Pilgrims, and 2 pumpkin pies  in 3 days and still maintain a 6 pack you might ask?  If you say by doing a million crunches you are going to get an Undertaker tombstone by yours truly.  The truth is I don’t do crunches, I probably spend less time working out than you, and also probably consume more calories.  So what is the secret?

The secret is that there is no secret.  But there are rules that you must follow in order to lose some of that excess gravy and keep it off.  Now, this isn’t a set of rules you should follow sometimes, it is something that you should make a habit if you are serious about getting the body that YOU want.

Here they are:

  1. Take a holistic approach towards diet and exercise.  Have you ever heard the expression “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”?  Numerous studies have shown that a combination of proper nutrition, strength training and cardiovascular exercise is the most efficient way to lose weight both short and long term.  I recommend 1-3 days of bodyweight or resistance training and 2-3 days of cardiovascular exercise to lose weight.
  2. Know your calories.  First and foremost, if you want to lose weight you must burn more calories than you consume (a caloric deficit).  This is an absolute must, no exceptions.  The basic way to find your daily caloric consumption for weightloss, multiply your bodyweight by 1.1 -1.3 depending on your exercise habits.  This is your target calorie intake each day, eating too much will prevent weightloss and eating too little will slow your metabolism.  (This number might be lower if you have a high MBI or high percentage of body fat percentage)
  3. Feed your metabolism regularly throughout the day.  Regularly consuming small meals will keep your metabolism revved up and allow you to burn extra calories throughout the day.  Lets say your daily calorie consumption from tip#2 is 1,800 calories per day and you are aiming for 5 meals per day.  You should divide 1,800 by 5 which would give you approximately 360 calories per meal.  Taper your meals throughout the day eating a slightly larger breakfast and a slightly smaller dinner.
  4. Perform whole body exercises.  Research shows that whole body exercises such as squats, lunges, pushups, bodyweight rows, and numerous core exercises that challenge your entire system are the best way to increase your metabolism.  If you are not able to move properly it makes it hard to exercise and in turn lose weight or reach your goals.
  5. Incorporate circuit training into your workouts.  A great way to burn a ton of calories is to perform bodyweight and/or resistance exercises back to back for a certain amount of time or repetitions.  This is known as metabolic training, circuit training or turbulence training.  This type of training is a fun and exciting way to challenge your whole body physically and cardiovascularly and will surely help you reach your goals.  Group training and/or group fitness classes are a great way to get in these type of workouts.
  6. Use interval training to rev up your cardio.  High intensity interval training has been shown to not only increase your cardiovasuclar health but will also help you burn more calories.  I recommend using the bike or rowing machine and starting slow with 10-20 second work intervals and 40-60 second rest intervals and decreasing the work:rest ratio as you become more fit.
  7. Have a program and stick to it.  Would you try to fix your car on your own or would you bring it to a mechanic?  Why wouldn’t you do the same with your body?  I recommend programs such as The New Rules of Weightlifting (for men or women), Core Performance, Maximum Strength, or The Female Body Breakthrough.  You can get most of these books from Amazon for as little as $10-$20.  For a program that is custom tailored to you then I recommend contacting a certified health and fitness professional.
  8. Write it down. One way to see results is to write it down.  Use a journal, a notebook or your Iphone.  Whatever you do, make sure you are writing things down such as your goals, your diet, your exercise program, your weightloss, or maybe even gain.  If you look at things on paper it will help you see where you are going wrong or could possibly improve.

Happy Christmahanakwanzmakuh!

Post any questions, comments, concerns below.  I will answer.


Weekend Reading: Incredible Edible Eggs, Beautiful Badasses 2 and Core Interviews

I know I wrote about this months ago but I finally had time the other day to sit down and watch Avatar.  Yes, I am slightly behind the curve on this one as I find it hard to devote 3 hours to blue humanoid crusades on planet preservation but holy crap.  My only regret was not going to see it in IMAX 3D.  Harry Potter 17 is next….haha just kidding (not really).

It has been a while since I have shared some of the great things I find on the interwesz so here are a few things to read over the weekend that is more exciting than me and the girlfriend watching Chocolat on HBO.  Johnny Depp is truly amazing.

The first order of business is to praise the food of the gods: eggs.  I am not sure of how many I have eaten in my lifetime but a few dozen a week for the past 10 years should paint a good picture.  Slowly but surely I have adopted the belief that the yolks are perfectly healthy and will not make me a fat ass.  Honestly, I spent 9 out of the past 10 years separating the white from the yolk and trashing the most nutritious part (the unborn chicken baby).  Here are Tony Gentilcore’s views on whats worse: eggs or men’s figure skating? Here is another egg article by Mike Geary on whether whole eggs or egg whites are better for you.  

My current favorite egg creation is a scramble with mushrooms, spinach, rosemary, herbed goat cheese and 4 whole eggs.  This has been my breakfast for 1 week and running…along with a potato, oj and milk.  Want to gain muscle?  Eat.

Want to lose muscle?  Go on the Twinkie Diet.  Yes, this is a real diet that helped a nutrition professor lose 27 pounds.  Good research, shitty diet.  Here is the original and here is Mike Nelson’s response.

While we are on the subject, Cassandra Forsythe wrote a great post on the great saturated fat debate.  The American Dietetic Association held their 93rd annual meeting in Boston last weekend and Cassandra helps break down some of their talks.  Check it out.

Yes, with my busy schedule I still have time to cook breakfast every day.  Early to bed and early to rise and all that jazz.  I am awake and doing work when most tigers are dreaming of mauling zebras and Halle Berry in her catwoman suit.  The truth is that most people come up with thousands of excuses for not getting shit done and one of the more popular excuses is that they don’t have enough time.  Rog Law broke it down in an epic post in the No-Excuses Guide to Getting Things Done.  My first client is typically around 6a.m. and I still wake up about an hour before I even have to leave in order to let my brain adjust to the new day by listening to a seminar or the Fitcast followed by reading on the train on my way to Fitcorp.  What do you do before 6a.m.?  Chad Howse also wrote a recent post on how to get your schedule in order, great stuff.

Next I want to redirect your attention to some videos ofBeautiful Badasses.  This series has become popular on Nia Shanks’ site, the BodyFat Solution.  It shows beautiful women lifting heavy things and just being totally badass.  Kudos to Nia for inspiring women across the world to drop their preconceived notion that women who lift heavy things will become bulky and mannish.  In reality, this is f*$&ing hot.  What do you do women to do be a beautiful badass?

Here is a post of Jason Ferrugia’s beautiful badass breaking her old pullups pr by 4 reps at a grand total of 17.  That is a truly amazing feat for any woman so props to Jen.  Here is how she did it.

Last night, my beautiful badass ditched the light weights and entered the wonderful world of deadlifting and barbell front squats.  After working with her for the past month on prep work to get her ready to handle some weight.  At 110lbs, she nailed the barbell front squat and banged out a couple sets of deadlifts with 95lbs.  On a scale from 1 to 10 on hotness that ranks up there with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore a clay pot.

For your viewing pleasure:

The last thing I want to share with you is a series of core interviews on anything and everything that will help you build the core that have always dreamed of.  My friend Mark Young is giving away these priceless interviews on his site for free.  I am appalled daily at the stuff that I see people continuing to do in the gym to train their mid sections hoping that someday a 6-pack will magically appear.  Download this series of interviews here if you are seriously looking to improve your core knowledge and training.  Enjoy!

Have a great weekend and if you don’t check back in have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


AAAHH!! Real Core Training

Working in a commercial gym I lay witness to some pretty horrific training practices.  Some so terrifying that I have nightmares of pink dumbbell monsters tying me to an eliptical and forcing me to watch Sweating to the Oldies as everyone around me is doing crunches and 1lb bicep curls.  Trust me, I have had this dream before and woke up in a cold sweat.

I know it is part of my job to educate and inform of the benefits and proper practices of exercise and strength training but there are many who are unwilling to trade in their beloved crunches for stability exercises such as planks.  There are some that I have converted to the faith of core training but they have done so begrudgingly.

Now, keep in mind that I am not bashing the crunch.  Just like any exercise there is a time and place as well as a right and wrong way to do it.  The problem is that most people lack the internal hip mechanics to properly perform a crunch as well as neglect their nether region (glutes) to keep their hips in proper alignment.  Most people sit all day in the flexed position and doing crunches may will add insult to injury.

I’m also not saying that the plank is the end-all-be-all for core training either.  Just like the crunch, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.  If your ass is up in the air (insert joke here) then your hips are in that deleterious flexed position and you are neglecting the proper posture.  When I have my clients plank, I make sure that they are squeezing the shit out of their glutes the whole time to maintain alignment and train glute function.  Believe me, this is a whole different ball game.

Now that you know where I am coming from it is time to maybe shift your paradigm a little when it comes to core training.

The first thing that I cannot stress enough is that your 6-pack (or lack there of) is NOT your core.  In actuality, there are two layers.  A deep layer that attaches to your spine and pelvis as well as a superficial layer that is targeted by doing things like crunches.  The deep core muscles which should be your focus are targeted by dynamic and stability exercises as they aid in spinal and pelvic stability.  You mean crunches don’t aid in stability?!  Hmm…

While we are on the subject of your superficial core and 6-pack muscles I cannot stress enough that you ALL have them.  The problem is that they are buried beneath layers  of processed foods, french fries and fried chicken.  Under this premise doing gazillions of crunches is doing little to no help in digging those bad boys out.

Actually, when it comes to core training it is more beneficial to focus on performing 10-15 repetitions with perfect form than to do 100 bobbing-neck crunches on a stability ball (I see this daily and a little piece of me dies each time).  Taking a minimalist approach and focusing on quality over quantity is much better than trying to impress your friends.  Slow controlled movement of the proper muscles will give you the results you are looking for.

Learning how to plank and control stability is only the first piece of the puzzle.  The rest is learning how to use that stability functionally during exercise and activity.  The core needs to be dynamic and ready to handle whatever is thrown at it in any situation to prevent injury and keep you safe.  With that in mind, do you think that just doing crunches or even just doing planks is enough to train your core?

The fact is that there is no single exercise that will train your core better than the next and you must integrate many different core exercises into your program.  There are specific core exercises such as planks, side planks, anti-rotation exercises, cable raises, cable chops, leg raises, and yes even crunches (but only if your good at the other stuff).

What most people don’t realize though is that exercises such as lunges, squats, pushups and deadlifts train your core and posture as well.  It takes a lot of core control and stability to perform these exercises and perform them well.  One of my female clients hit a PR on the deadlift yesterday of 165lbs.  Do you think she has a strong and functional core?  You better f*$#ing believe it!

One of my personal favorite core exercises (besides deadlifting) is the Kettlebell Turkish Getup.  It is one of the few exercises that trains the entire function of the core as well as hip and shoulder stability and control.  You begin lying flat on your back with a challenging weight above head and sequentially move to a standing position with the weight remaining above head.  Here is one of my 47 year old clients performing a getup as part of his metabolic circuit at the end of a session.  Do you think he has a strong core?  It is f*$#ing bulletproof!

A lot has changed in the world of core training in the past decade and even in the past 5 years.  Heck, I think it might be safe to say that the science behind core training has even evolved greatly in the past year.  One thing that has not changed though is the fact that crunches appear to be deleterious to your core if you don’t already have good core function and pelvic control.  I wrote more about that here.

My final question to you is “Has your training evolved?”  I mean, look at your technology: Iphones, laptops, Blueberries, Ipads, and Kindles.  Look how much it has improved over the past 10 years.  Why shouldn’t your core training?


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