Monday, August 31, 2009

Couple's Fitness Competition III

I've finally edited and posted the highlight video from the recent Couple Fitness Competition III.

The events were:
1. Max reps in 1 minute of Turkish getups with a sandbag (guys 80lbs, girls 35)
2. 3 minutes max reps kettlebell snatches with one hand switch. Guys 16kg, girls 8kg
3. Metabolic circuit best time: 20 inverted rows, 100 jump rope passes, 20 box jumps, 100 jump rope passes.
4. Partner wheelbarrow relay race
5. Tug of war

The next competition is being planned for January 2010 with new formats and categories. Stay tuned for details.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I was talking with a friend today about what's really important in training, and we both agreed that it's changing someone's life for the better. And the way to do that is to learn as much as possible and always seek to improve your skills.

Now I'm not the world's best trainer. Faaaaar from it. However when a client shows me how their life has improved, that really makes my week. Just yesterday a client explained to me how losing 50lbs, removing mobility limitations, and increasing strength has boosted his confidence, energy level, relationship, and how people now treat him differently. He now impresses his young son by climbing ropes and is starting martial arts training with him.

It's impossible to put a price tag on that.

But we've still got a ways to go in this industry in terms of quality.

Read this short but insightful article by Alwyn Cosgrove. There is a lot of truth there concerning misinformation spread via dumbass trainers and the mainstream media that too often quotes the wrong people.

Awesomeness right here:
I think my mission in life is to rid the world of this ridiculous workout notion. Somehow this highly developed organism that we call the human body is not a remarkable piece of machinery that functions flawlessly as a unit, it's just random ass "parts" put together — each of which can be worked separately.

My arse.

You didn't even turn your computer on using only one muscle so why in God's name are you trying to develop a body using some sort of body part split?

And while I'm on the subject, how come fingers and toes don't get their own "day"?

Biceps get their own special recognition, what about fingers and toes and sternocleido mastoids? Or left arm on one day, right arm on another day (different body parts)? Because it's stupid, right? Well, so is splitting up your chest and shoulder "days".

There are NO athletes other than a small bunch of genetically gifted, pharmaceutical abusing individuals who use a "body part" split with any success. NONE.

Now, if you ARE one of the genetic elite pharmaceutical abusers, then feel free.

Split routines arrived on the scene shortly after Dianabol was popular. Do you see the connection?

Now before you ask me, "Can I split up my routine in some way?" Of course you can. But split it up based on what your body DOES, not based on what "part" it is. Splitting up by parts makes as much sense as splitting up by the number of freckles in that area.

And then, if you dare, glance at this article and video.

Seriously, if you have to dress up in cutoff vests and ridiculous hats in order to train a client please leave the fitness industry. But of course he's not training clients, he's creating marketing hype to make up for lack of skill and knowledge.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lose the Shoes. Get Stronger.

Today I've got a confluence of ideas for you regarding joint health, strength, and endurance.

My friend Jon Hinds, owner of the fantastic Monkey Bar Gym in my old stomping grounds Madison, Wisconsin, recently posted this video of a video analysis of someone running in running shoes and the same person barefoot.

Listen to the video commentary about what happens to the bones and joints, and you don't have to wonder why most runners will end up injured. Running shoes with puffy heels simply don't let your feet contact the ground the way they should, thus joints above take a real beating and eventually injury will occur. It's that simple.

Likewise, in the gym I prefer people to wear as flat a shoe as possible. Other than barefoot training, which is common in many of the top gyms in the country, Vibram Five Fingers are a great choice, as is Nike Frees. Vans, Converse AllStars, or other flat shoes are also good.

Here is why: A flatter shoe will be more stable, and will allow you to sit back further on your heels which will aid in recruiting your posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) i.e. the biggest muscles. Working your biggest muscles means you get better results. You'll get stronger where it counts.

Not to mention that wearing flatter shoes will put less shear force on your knees and low back.

Sound good?

But that's not all (joke). There is a book making headlines these days called "Born to Run" concerning the Tarahumara native peoples of Mexico famous for incredible distance running abilities. One of the reasons cited for the Tarahumara's legendary running is that they run barefoot or in sandals. They also rarely get injured despite running distances and over terrain we can hardly fathom.

Now, moving on to developing endurance I-let's look at a study done by Universities in Spain and the U.S. concerning the influence of strength and power on endurance.

The study (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23(5) 1482-1488) took 14 firefighters that must perform endurance tests as a part of their job and in training specifically targeted their maximal strength and power, then looked at the effect on endurance. Across the board they found that just by increasing their maximal strength and power output the firefighter's performed better in endurance tests.

To put it another way, if you have hit a plateau in running, biking etc... then more running is not the answer. It's doubtful that cardio capacity or VO2 max is what's holding you back. Likely it is that your body is not able to produce enough power in order to propel you faster. Improving muscle strength means that running at a given pace will now be easier due to the fact that said effort requires less of a % of maximal strength and power output.

The most efficient way to do this is to get follow an intelligent strength & power program using resistance training. And one key to getting stronger is developing the largest muscles using proper biomechanics and technique - i.e. the stress should be placed across the proper muscles instead of the knees and low back.

The bottom line is do yourself a favor and lose the crosstrainer shoes with the puffy heels. Once you go flat you'll never go back.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The End of Overeating

I don't usually write more than 2 blog posts per week but I've come across info so good I think you need it. Now.

Lou Schuler, author of The New Rules of Lifting and many other excellent books on fitness recently recommended The End of Overeating by Dr. David Kessler.

Dr. Kessler, former dean of Yale Medical School and UC San Francisco, puts forth a host of simple yet profound information on how and why America has developed such an obesity problem. But I won't attempt to review the book here, but just draw upon a couple of points. I encourage you to go read the book.

In regards to overeating Dr. Kessler analyzed research on caloric consumption and found that in regards to weight gain and metabolism, diet composition, genetics and many other topics we see bandied about in the media the most important factor, by far is simply the amount of food one eats.

We should all know by now that writing a food log is essential if one wants to lose fat (or gain muscle). In regards to that:
Most people do a poor job of reporting what they eat, and overweight people are particularly innacurate reporters.

I've seen figures in other sources that say most people, especially those overweight tend to underestimate their caloric intake by 40%. That's a lot of calories folks.

You need to know how many calories you should take in to reach your goals, then you need to make sure you aren't going over that by keeping an accurate food log. This is about your health and nobody else will care, so you might as well do it right. Fooling yourself only affects you and those that care about you.

And how about this complicated piece of wisdom from Dr. Kessler:
How much we eat predicts how much we weigh.

Who would've thought? ;)

Of course there is alot more to it than that, including how food manufacturers do everything they can to make sure we eat more by loading our food full of sugar, salt, and fat. So the best thing you can do is limit how often you eat out, don't buy or eat processed or fried foods, and eat more veggies and lean protein sources.

That's it.

Finally, Dan John has released the latest edition of his fantastic free newsletter Get Up. Go read it. It'll take 10 minutes and is full of simple, yet profound advice. Dan has a real knack and cutting through the crap and dispensing simple, quality advice that only someone with 40 years experience can do.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

CFC and Top Ten Gyms

A reminder to everyone that the third and last Couple's Fitness Competition of the year is two days away. Please go register here so we know who is coming.

Next, Men's Health has compiled a list of the top ten gyms in America. I know quite a few of the people running them, and am familiar with the rest of the facilities.

What they all have in common is the training involves primarily free weights, including kettlebells, ropes, rings, sandbags, and other "trendy" training tools, and hardly a machine in sight. In fact most of these places have no good girl/bad girl machines, bicep curl machines, or any other chromed out garbage that most gyms use to lure new members in. Let's hope the fitness industry and more importantly the general public starts to notice what works and what is just marketing.

And do click the links on the left side of the article as each one has some pretty good advice from trainers at the respective gyms.

See you on that beach at CFC3 in two days.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Getting It Done

I came across some excellent advice by Jim Wendler of Elite FTS fame. Jim is a powerlifter, but his no nonsense advice is applicable to everyone that wants to lose weight/get ripped/get better at their sport/lose fat. And he has a certain way with words ( in other words don't bother complaining about the profanity).

A very good friend of mine is making great progress on the program and losing weight/gaining strength. His attitude is great - he's not looking to make changes tomorrow but a lifestyle change forever. I hate to sound like a fitness 'tard but that is what most people need. He's adding in the conditioning slowly and something else he's doing...

He does 50 jumps with the jump rope between all of his sets.

This has made a huge difference, actually.

Also, make performance goals for yourself; Squat X, Bench Y, DL Z, Military XY.
Run X in Y minutes. Or do X amount of hills per week. Doesn't matter, just make a list of stuff you need to get done and do it. Apply this to your life, too.

One thing I've done is do 3 hard conditioning workouts/week. That's it. I don't care when or with what. Just get the shit done. When you start doing stuff like this, stuff starts falling into place.

Some of these goals can't be done at the same time, but while striving for one, you can make slow progress on the others. For example, if you want to get in better shape, up the hills/Prowler or whatever you choose and make slow climbs with the weights and make smart decisions with your weight training.

When the weights turn to your focus, condition just hard enough to maintain your levels but not enough to take away performance in the weight room. I'm getting longwinded now and I apologize. It's Friday and I want to go home and play music, drink whiskey and blow out my ear drums. Here is an email I sent yesterday when a young kid asked me if I cared what I looked like (if looking good was a huge priority for me):

"Do I care what I look like? I guess. It's not a priority, though. Think about it this way:

If I do the following:

Squat 700 raw
Bench 450 raw
Deadlift 740 raw

(all in a meet)

And run hills for 30 minutes 3 times a week.
Eat 2-300 grams/protein a day and don't eat much junk...

What do you think I'm going to look like?

So I just concentrate on performance and being the baddest motherfucker I can be. Shit starts falling into place when that happens. Looking good is a byproduct of kicking ass. If you want some good diet advice, try this. It always fucking works:

Eat 4 meals a day.

* Each meal starts with a 50g (or so) protein drink in water.
* After that, each as much protein as your stomach can handle (I usually eat only eggs, chicken or steak) - because of the protein drink, it's not much maybe 2-3 eggs, small serving of chicken or beef.
* Eat a piece of fruit that you like (or vegetable...whatever)

If you want some carbs after that, eat them. But you'll be so full you won't be able to eat that many. I've noticed that as long as you get enough protein, the carbs will take care of themselves. Even when going out to eat, before you go, slam a protein drink. You'll eat less "crap" and you'll be much better off. I'm not a huge fan of protein drinks (or any supplements, really) but this diet works for getting bigger and stronger. And not getting too fat.

To make it even simpler, before you eat ANY MEAL, drink a 50g protein drink. I did this during college and lost 25lbs (I was too heavy as a fullback) and never got weaker and was leaner.

The bottom line is this: no one gives a fuck what you look like, except you. And that just means you are a narcissist bastard. Girls don't fucking care, no matter what they say. They want you to be smart, funny, strong and confident. Having money helps a ton, too. Does this mean you can be a fat slob? NO. But work on being a complete person all the time and getting shit done, in the weight room, on the conditioning "field" and in school (or work) and life.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Information Overload

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend the Perform Better 3 day training summit in Long Beach. PB is always educational and a great time to catch up with friends old and new. I attended probably 20 hours of lectures and hands on workshops over the course of the weekend, not to mention talking over drinks with some of THE best coaches and trainers in the world.

If you are a trainer and aren't going to events such as this then you are doing yourself and your clients a disservice. Period.

Now it's time to catch up on some reading and throw some of the best gems out to you.

First up is Mike Robertson's podcast. He recently interviewed Men's Health nutrition columnist and old fashioned rock star Alan Aragon.

When it comes to cutting through the bullshit and giving straight up advice in regards to how we should be eating to aid in our fitness goals I haven't seen anyone better than Alan.

And the man knows how to eat a paleo cream puff!

Next up, you might have heard of Tabata intervals if you've read anything on fat loss the past couple of years. If not then let's just say it's been hyped as the most effective interval protocol. But here is the thing. Most people that think they are doing them aren't.

Here Lyle McDonald dissects the original study by Dr. Izumi Tabata and comments on the true intensity of the intervals used in the study.

Lyle's article may be more technical than you are willing to wade through so I'll reprint the key points:

It’s also relevant to note that the study used a bike for training. This is important and here’s why: on a stationary bike, when you start to get exhausted and fall apart from fatigue, the worst that happens is that you stop pedalling. You don’t fall off, you don’t get hurt, nothing bad happens. The folks suggesting high skill movements for a ‘Tabata’ workout might want to consider that. Because when form goes bad on cleans near the end of the ‘Tabata’ workout, some really bad things can happen. Things that don’t happen on a stationary bike.

As well, I want to make a related comment: as you can see above the protocol used was VERY specific. The interval group used 170% of VO2 max for the high intensity bits and the wattage was increased by a specific amount when the workout was completed. Let me put this into real world perspective.

My VO2 max occurs somewhere between 300-330watts on my power bike, I can usually handle that for repeat sets of 3 minutes and maybe 1 all out-set of 5-8 minutes if I’m willing to really suffer. That’s how hard it is, it’s a maximal effort across that time span.

For a proper Tabata workout, 170% of that wattage would be 510 watts (for perspective, Tour De France cyclists may maintain 400 watts for an hour). This is an absolutely grueling workload. I suspect that most reading this, unless they are a trained cyclist, couldn’t turn the pedals at that wattage, that’s how much resistance there is.

If you don’t believe me, find someone with a bike with a powermeter and see how much effort it takes to generate that kind of power output. Now do it for 20 seconds. Now repeat that 8 times with a 10 second break. You might learn something about what a Tabata workout actually is.

My point is that to get the benefits of the Tabata protocol, the workload has to be that supra-maximal for it to be effective. Doing thrusters or KB swings or front squats with 65 lbs fo 20 seconds doesn’t generate nearly the workload that was used during the actual study. Nor will it generate the benefits (which I’d note again stop accruing after a mere 3 weeks). You can call them Tabatas all you want but they assuredly aren’t.

Lyle touches upon a point common to just about any aspect of training. Namely that the vast majority of people simply don't train intelligently and with enough intensity to achieve the results they are after.