Thursday, May 28, 2009

P for Passion. And Pain.

I recently picked up the new book by coach Dan John, Never Let Go, and so far it's very educational as well as a fun read. Dan has been training since the late 60's, and is the current National Champion in his class for discus.

In the book there is a section regarding top ten tips for fitness/long term health. Dan is a no bullshit kinda guy, and he's trained a ton of top athletes as well as kids (his day job).

Anyway, one of the tips is to have some passion. But perhaps not in the sense you are thinking, and certainly not in the way corny motivational speakers blather on about.

He's talking about the Latin root of the word, which means to suffer. To get anywhere meaningful in your training it's necessary to do things you hate, and that are really hard.

Think about it. Nobody gets overweight by doing things that are hard, or that they don't like, or eating things they don't like. If your goal is to drop 20lbs or do a double bodyweight deadlift it's going to take considerable work, and yes even some suffering (mild suffering, admittedly). Training isn't THAT hard. Your going to have to develop good nutritional habits and create a sustainable lifestyle congruent with your health goals.

If you aren't willing to suffer a bit then you might as well join the people watching TV while "working out" on the treadmill. As Dan says don't mistake sweating for hard work. You sweat in a sauna too and it doesn't mean nothin'. Hard work is lifting something until you can't do for another rep, or until you HAVE to stop.

But be careful because training like that can be addictive, and soon you might turn into one of those people that doesn't mind showing off your hard work.

By the way one of the best workshops I've ever attended was by Dan John on the subject of hip mobility/squatting/Olympic lifts.

Watch the entire workshop on video here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


As humans we often get wrapped up in our little worlds, myself included, and sometimes forget to open our eyes and take a look around. In regards to fitness this is especially true if, like me, you spend alot of time in a commercial gym, which often has less to do with applicable training - but that's another rant for another time.

One of those times I was searching around for information on agility I came across Mr. Ido Portal, and was immediately impressed by his physical capabilities. But Ido is also an accomplished trainer with a host of knowledge in training for strength, flexibility, gymnastics, and Capoeira among other disciplines.

I suggest checking out his blog for a different perspective on fitness.

Monday, May 18, 2009


I've been reading Michael Pollan's excellent The Omnivore's Dilemma and getting schooled on food.

Pollan's gig is very common sense: Don't eat foods your great-Grandmother wouldn't recognize, only eat foods from the perimeter of the supermarket, or better yet shop at a farmer's market/co-op, and slow down and enjoy your food.

Sales for fat-loss products & services in the U.S. is something around $60 BILLION a year. But the irony is that the reason people have to fork out for those products is because they have too much of the wrong stuff on their forks every day.

It really is simple. Ignore the latest headlines regarding miracle foods etc... because that is why half the U.S. population is obese, and just eat some real vegetables, fruits, meat, and grains.

As in training follow the K.I.S.S principle(keep it simple, stupid). Eat real food and do basic, hard exercises.

Getting down off my soapbox now, I highly encourage you to watch this video of Pollan talking at the Google Campus (yo Henry!) last year.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cougar Strength Clinic

It's been a very busy couple of weeks, but also productive.

First off the next Couple's Fitness Competition is happening Saturday, June 13th. We've got 6 more events lined up for you, so come on down to Santa Monica Beach and have some fun - but please sign up by May 30th. Details here.

Tomorrow I'm going up to the Cougar Strength Seminar hosted by my friend Robert Dos Remedios, the Strength and Conditioning coach at College of the Canyons. He, Alwyn Cosgrove, Valerie Waters, and others will be speaking on a variety of topics. I'll be the one furiously scribbling notes during and buying beers afterward.

Dos does great work with his athletes. Check the video - this is what a real gym should look like. Nobody sitting down on machines that make it easy, just lots of hard work, sweat, and progress. End of rant.

Lastly, Eric Cressey's More Lower Back Savers article is up. I highly recommend it for anyone that has, does, or might have back pain. And since that's pretty much everyone I know you'll digest his advice.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Save Your Low Back

Back on the research tip here. Eric Cressey just did a fantastic article on low back health. In it he draws heavily on the research of Dr. Stuart McGill, someone who's advice I've used with dozens of clients.

If are a trainer or are someone interested in back health do yourself a favor and pick up one of Dr. McGill's books - follow the link above.

Back to the article there are a couple key points I'll quote.

Broadly speaking, you can classify the majority of back pain sufferers into extension-based or flexion-based back pain.

Extension-based back pain typically is worse with standing than with sitting. These folks will present with everything from spondylolysis (fractures), to spondylolisthesis (vertebral slippage), to diffuse lumbar erector "tightness." Typically, those who suffer from extension-based back pain will have short hip flexors, poor glute function, and a lack of anterior core stability.

Effectively, the hip flexor shortness and insufficient glute contribution leads athletes to substitute lumbar extension for hip extension in movements such as deadlifting, jumping, throwing, or any other task that requires hip extension. The end result is typically some very prominent anterior pelvic tilt, as seen in the photo at right.

Conversely, flexion-intolerant individuals have more pain in sitting, as they tend to have flatter backs and therefore increased stress on the posterior ligaments of the spine. This is your classic symptomatic disc pain patient — with or without radicular pain into the legs.

Flexion intolerance is very common in office workers and cyclists, and you'll typically see folks with poor psoas function. The psoas is the only hip flexor active above 90 degrees of hip flexion, and typically, these folks will substitute lumbar flexion for hip flexion in these positions.

Unfortunately, it's been my experience that correcting flexion-based back pain can be a long battle for the exact same reason it develops: it is difficult to get a person to stop sitting so much in today's world.

Most of my clients fall into the flexion-intolerant category because they are sitting so much, while those that have problems due to sports or yoga (I see more people messed up from yoga than you'd think) are extension-intolerant.

The next part addresses something I see all the time. When someone tends to use their low back to move, instead of their hips, chances are about 100% that they have back pain or will. You've got to learn how to use your hip muscles (including glutes) and not the low back. Period.

The premise is pretty simple: you want to move predominantly at your hips and thoracic spine, and while a small amount of movement at the lumbar segments is normal, you don't want to encourage extra motion there.

As I noted above, there are specific situations that call for individualized mobilization protocols at the lumbar spine, but in terms of what you can accomplish with your own training, the general principles of "mobilize thoracic spine and hips, stabilize lumbar spine" apply.

Here's where it gets interesting. The American Medical Association (AMA) still uses lumbar spine range of motion as the qualifying criterion for allowing lower back pain patients to return to work. In other words, you needed to attain a certain amount of gross lumbar spine rotational range-of-motion to be considered "safe" to return to work.

Surprisingly, as Parks, Crichton, Goldford, and McGill observed in the discussion of their 2003 study (5), there isn't a single study out there that shows the lumbar spine range of motion is correlated with having a healthy back; in fact, the opposite is true!

Those with high lumbar spine ROM and power are more likely to be injured, whereas those with better lumbar spine stabilizing endurance are the healthy ones. And, interestingly, there really isn't any way of knowing what an individual's original "normal" spine ROM was, so they have to assume that someone had "average" spine ROM.

Yes, that study from the world's premier spine researchers was published just over six years ago (meaning that the data was probably collected at least seven years ago). Meanwhile, the AMA hasn't caught on, and chances are many doctors haven't, either, as this has been the "standard" for decades (28 years, actually, to my knowledge).

Do your back a favor and read the article.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Couples Fitness Competition

Thanks to all that came out this past Saturday for the first Couples Fitness Competition. It's safe to say everyone had a blast and probably outperformed anyone's expectations. And there were some classic comedic moments.

Equinox's Operation Manager Brad S. doing a big 'ol faceplant during the sprint relay takes 1st place in the comedy category.

Brittany Ferguson stepping up and using the same weight as the guys and hitting 90 reps in the kettlebell clean & jerk takes the ass kicking award.

Check out the video highlights

To see a picture slideshow done by the lovely Anita follow this link

Stay tuned for details on the next competition!