Monthly Archives: August 2017
Mobility means nothing without stability. The Kneeling twist with tension, is a mobility exercise I like to use with my clients to open up the hips, t-spine, and work the core. This exercise allows me to see how the range of motion is affected under tension.
My client in the video can tell you that its way harder than it looks!
The PVC drill is a method I like to use when coaching a proper hip hinge. I like to coach this drill because is gives my clients intent feed back. To preform this, place the PVC Pipe on your back and there will be three places of contact, the back of the head, upper back and top of your gluten (sacrum). Once all three points are contacted along the PVC pipe push your hips back while maintaining all three points of contact on the PVC Pipe. If you lose contact with the PVC pipe you are doing the movement incorrectly. For example:
I normally start my clients off with two sets of fifteen reps. You will learn the proper movement quickly because as i mentioned before it gives you instant feedback.
Our hips create a lot of power and its important that we learn how to harness that power, especially in the golf swing. How do you harness the power, through a proper hip hinge. What is a hip hinge? The hip hinge, is flexion and extension originating at the hip. It is a fundamental pattern, that we use in the gym, on the course, in the kitchen, the driveway picking up the paper. As you can see, we all hip hinge, every single day, but are we doing it properly? If we aren’t hinging properly, we are putting ourselves at risk for serious injury. When hip hinging, our goal is to keep a neutral spine and bend at the hips, not the lower back.
This is not always the easiest thing to do. How do we correct an improper hip hinge? The first step is figuring out what is causing the limitation. In many cases,I find the problem to be either tight hip flexors or hamstrings. This inhibits the ability of our core and glutes to be activated when we bend and causes us to use our lower back. The second step is teaching the hip hinge. A method I like to use is something I call the PVC drill. I like to coach this drill because is gives my clients intent feed back. To preform this, place the PVC Pipe on your back and there will be three places of contact, the back of the head, upper back and top of your gluten (sacrum). Once all three points are contacted along the PVC pipe push your hips back while maintaining all three points of contact on the PVC Pipe. If you lose contact with the PVC pipe you are doing the movement incorrectly.
I normally start my clients off with two sets of fifteen reps. You will learn the proper movement quickly because as i mentioned before it gives you instant feedback. Once you have mastered this exercise, it is important that you preform the same movement but under tension. Why you may ask? it is important that we learn how to stabilize and perform a proper hip hinge under tensions because almost 99% of the time we are picking or lifting something up when in that position. One of my fellow trainers, Christian Anto, showed me a great exercise for this. It is the same exact exercise as the PVC drill, however you are using a shoulder rock. Hold the shoulder rock above your head and preform the same movement.
The added tension will make it harder to keep contact with the bar but is a great way to teach the movement under tension.
I decided to pick up a new hobby. I wanted to choose one that didn’t consist of anything to do with weight training or me having to exert much physical energy into, but something that would challenge me and force me to learn something new. After pondering for a while, I got the mental stimulation I needed from a Joe Rogan Experience podcast. I forgot who the guest was, but they were talking about The Walking Dead, and the logistics of how to survive, like acquiring water, food, etc. I started thinking to myself how I would survive. I could hunt, but eating only meat would suck, what would I eat along with it? And I realized that I’ve never grown any food in my life
As I started gardening, I realized how awesome and relaxing it is. You are ultimately playing a god-like figure. You are creating this new life, caring for it through its life cycle, and at the end of its life, you harvest it and it gives you nutrition in return. I, for some reason, can’t get over how awesome that is. Call me a hippy or whatever, gardening is the shit. I also feel that it is important to learn these skills. I mean, humans have only very recently in time, not been growing their own food.
Let’s go over my setup. I converted my spare closet into a grow closet. Translation: I took all of Annie’s clothes and put them somewhere else. Since a closet has obviously much less space than my backyard, I decided I needed to use a method that was space conservative, and I also wanted limited working parts. I researched a lot, and discovered Kratky’s hydroponic method. All you do is start out a seed in something like rockwool, or clay pebbles, Jiffy pellet, etc. and beneath that grow medium, sits in a bucket or container of water and nutrient solution. As the plant grows, the roots grow down and submerge themselves, sucking up the nutrient rich water. The roots out of the water take in co2. No watering or feeding necessary once you set it up. You also need a light source to mimic the sun, and a timer that cuts the light off and on at the same time. I just use cheap shop lights you’d see in a garage and they work fine. I have been using mason jars, protein jugs, and storage totes as containers. I have 2 basil plants, 8 heads of lettuce, a big tomato plant, and I just started germinating cilantro, spinach, more lettuce, California wonder bell peppers, and a handful of strawberries.
A few weeks days ago, I harvested my lettuce. I left about 3 inches from the base, so my lettuce will continue growing more heads for me. One seed can produce multiple plants if you leave the base intact and keep feeding them. I am proud of myself for learning a new skill and following it through. I am totally addicted to gardening now, and will always be growing vegetables and herbs. I just recently ordered some peppermint, parsley, and dill seeds and I am excited to start germinating those suckers. After these lettuce finish up, I will be growing California wonder pepper plants in the big storage totes that my lettuce is currently in.
I am getting very interested in aquaponics, which is a self sustaining system that uses live fish to give nutrients to the plants through their waste products, the plants suck up the nutrients which filters the water back into fresh water that is recycled back to the fish. Next year me and a friend are going to build one at his place and see what we can grow out of it. Too bad The Walking Dead characters don’t know about aquaponics or Kratky’s hydroponic method!
Short Attention Span
I have a hard time keeping my attention on one thing for very long. I desperately try not to multitask as I recently learned that that’s more of a half ass-ing of multiple things than it is getting multiple things done efficiently and quickly. I agree. However, it is not unusual for me to have multiple books going at one time. Because I am not one dimensional and I have multiple interests, I like to spend time feeding those interests, even if it means multi-booking!
Working to Be Better
My weekly goals include continuously working to be a better coach and a better CrossFitter. I have several high level coaches that I follow and glean knowledge from, Ben Bergeron is one of my favorites. He owns CrossFit New England and is the coach of 2 time CrossFit Champion, Katrin Davidsdottir and Mat Fraser. He also coaches other Games competitors but his gym is primarily made up of GPP (general physical preparedness) athletes, much like ours. Ben’s knowledge covers a wide span, from mental training to physical training as well as training with and through adversity. His podcast (Chasing Excellence) is always informative. Ben recently released a book, aptly named, Chasing Excellence. I had been anxiously awaiting the release and picked it up through Amazon on it’s release date. He has many tidbits of knowledge throughout his book that I find helpful, not only for my own training, but also for the training for others. I’ll discuss more about it in a future blog.
Level 3 on the Horizon
Another of my current readings is mounds of CrossFit Journal articles, as well as watching hours of CrossFit instructional videos. I am currently a Level 2 Trainer but have applied for my Level 3. The Level 3 exam costs $500 to take (application fee was $150) and it consists of 160 multiple choice questions. I will have 3 hours and 55 minutes to complete the test. Some of the subject matter that is covered is, Screening & Assessment, Program Design, Coaching – to include movement, nutrition, and lifestyle, as well as Class and Athlete Management and Professional Performance and Management. The fail rate for the L-3 is pretty high. I intend on not being in that category. I am giving myself 3 months to prepare. Wish me luck and pray for me!
When it’s time to rest my mind from studying and to detach a bit from all things CrossFit, I usually have a book going that is, not necessarily entertaining, but more informative. I recently finished, Fearless, by Eric Blehm. Every American should read this! It’s about the life of Adam Brown, a Navy Seal who triumphed through much adversity to go on to be one of the best Seals the Navy had. Read it, it is truly awesome!
My current book, however, is, Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson. This is an untold story of Jews who escaped the Nazis and returned with the US Army to fight Hitler. I am constantly fascinated by stories of World War II. After seeing this book at Costco on Sunday, I told myself I could not start it as I had enough going already. Shorty after my Costco trip…I downloaded on Audible, just couldn’t help myself! While the WWII books are often dark, I am drawn to the tales of the human spirit. I love learning about those who persevered through such tragic times. We has humans today have absolutely no idea how profoundly strong the human spirit truly is. Most of us will never be tested to the degree some of those who lived during that era were. At least, I pray we won’t be. I’m in chapter 3, pick it up and read along with me.
More Time with Jesus
The other book I have going is one that I bought about 6 months ago but never started. It’s called 52 Weeks with Jesus by James Merritt. I’ve been a Christian since I was a teenager but rededicated my life to Christ when my children were in early elementary school. My walk has been up and down over the years but my faith is always in Him. I recently picked this book up again so I can try to refocus my life and get Him back to the forefront. The objective of this book is to get to know Jesus on a daily, weekly basis. The author focuses on the different aspects of who Jesus is. It’s divided into sections that are then divided into chapters, one for every week of the year. I’m really looking forward to learning more about Jesus and his many dimensions!
Explore as Much as Possible
I know this sounds like a lot to have going on but my day spans from 4:20a.m., to about 8:45p.m. When I’m not coaching or training, I like filling the air with a book on Audible or immersing myself into things that will help me be a better human. We’re never too old to learn and we’re never so good that we can’t be better. Learn, Live, Laugh, Love!
Last week I released a publication on EliteFTS.com, Back to Recovery Basics: Foundations of Recovery. Since the release, I have received a lot of responses from the article, a few of which I would like to address quickly. The first response was from a Division I strength coach, who affirmed with me the importance of recovery in his job as a strength coach and the difficulties of how to implement those strategies into a program as well hammer home the value of recovery to these players. The second is a group of current Memphis athletes who follow some of my content through their athletic trainers reposting or sharing it. These athletes’ feedback was that they enjoyed the read and learned from it and wanted to hear more.
So what is the takeaway from this? First, my goal in this series is to get realistic, understandable, and useable information out to those who can benefit from it the most: the athletes. I wanted this article series to cover information that a typical high school, college athlete or beginner strength athlete could relate to and implement on their own or with help from available staff and facilities. It is very important that these athlete’s benefit the most from this series as the earlier these recovery habits are implemented, the more resistant to injury the athlete is and their career will be longer because of it.
The second point is that we need to have an all inclusive approach to teaching proper habits to athletes to allow them to perform at their best and remain injury free. Including me, there were three different professionals that were just listed that have access to these athletes and a role in the implementation of recovery. The athletic training staff, strength staff, and medical staff all have a direct impact on the athlete and can all have a role in helping teach and develop the athlete. As multiple coaches in my athletic career have said eluded to, “If by the time you are done here all I have done is taught you how to play “insert any sport,” then I have failed as a coach. It is our responsibility to do more than just teach a game, a lift, or look at a body part when it is hurt. We all have a responsibility in the athletic and performance industry to provide the resources possible for the growth of the athlete.
I want to add coaches and parents into this equation as well, specifically for the younger athletes, as these are the most moldable athletes and the ones who are most dependent on our guidance. So if you are involved with an athlete as a coach, trainer, medical professional, or parent, please read and teach the information in this series to your athlete(s). If you have any questions, please also reach out and I would be happy to help.
What?! Seriously?! It’s already time for another face melter Bobby? Yes! Yes it is! Bringing you another smoking hot riff from yet another one of my all time favorite bands. I’ve got tons of those. Anyways, this riff of the week is brought to you by none other than the one and only Pantera. Pantera was a groove metal band out of Texas who’s first major album came out in 1989 titled Cowboys from Hell. However, the song that I have chosen my riff for is off of their second album, which was released in 92 called Vulgar Display of Power. The song I have picked for this week is titled Mouth for War. Lead singer Phil Anselmo says that this song is about channeling your hate into something productive. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Now turn it up to 11.
And here is the original studio version of Mouth for War.
Aside from working at the most kick-ass gym in the Mid-South, I have been focusing on squeezing the most out of my life. This month hosted some GREAT moments for me, and here are a few highlights
- Reunited with my training parter: Courtney and I trained together a year or so back when we were both interested in powerlifting. However, as my main strength sport love is and always will be strongman, we ended up having to split up our training time while I got under some implements. Shortly after, I fell back into the bodybuilding world and have stayed ever since. When Courtney mentioned feeling a little need to step back into hypertrophy, I pounced. And man, what a difference having a training partner makes. I knew that it was optimal to have someone to train with, but having each other to keep accountable is huge. Further, we just laugh our asses off constantly. The productivity of my training with Courtney is greatly amplified, and I think both of us are able to draw motivation from each other. Its a win all around
- WENT TO SPACE CAMP!!!! Okay, well…not really space camp. In fact, it was really just a space themed hotel and a rooftop solar bar. Thomas and I needed a little recharge weekend, so we took a quick trip to St. Louis and enjoyed a weekend off diet. We also were able to catch Tom Greens stand up at Helium comedy club (hilarious) and had a little gymcation at The Titone Pro Gym.
3. Planned out some future travel: Some awesome work opportunities presented themselves in Poland, Czech Republic, Scottland and I may even partake in a little R&R at Lake Powell here in the good ole US of A. Fun stuff ther
4. GOT TO BE ON THE IRON AND LEAD PODCAST! One of the most mentally stimulating things I get to do day in and day out if work with military selection course hopefuls. Over the past five years, I have been able to work with over 350 military personnel, assist in course design, and speak with platoon/squad leaders to help design more effective training agendas. I don’t really have much of an outlet to talk about this, and was thrilled to get to shoot the shit with David, Combs, and Jabo. Check it out here! https://player.fm/series/iron-and-lead-podcast/episode-3-military-selection-preparation
Spoiler Alert: This article exposes some of your most common and favorite ab exercises
Abdominal exercises are a key component of any good training program. Functionally, they are crucial in providing stability throughout the spine as well as connecting the upper and lower extremity during almost every exercise in the gym and during sport specific movement. Aesthetically, being able to see your own abs is a prized possession owned few and strived for by many. Whether you are on the side of the spectrum concerned about the functional benefits, the side that wants to look good with a shirt off, or somewhere in-between, there are plenty of reasons to be targeting the abdominal region during your training.
As far as selling is concerned in the fitness industry, there is no bigger demand than a six pack. This is evident by hundreds if not thousands of products, programs, and diets that promise a six pack as part their selling hook. There is neither a shortage of exercises to target the abs, and while there are great reasons to build a strong core, science says you may not be doing yourself as much good as you’d think. Some may even be experiencing detrimental effects from their abdominal training without even knowing.
To understand why the spine can experience trauma or degeneration from abdominal exercises, we must first understand the purpose of the abdominal muscles and their role in spinal stabilization. Muscles, in general, play one of two roles in the joints of the body. A muscle moves or stabilizes and protects a joint. In the abdomen, the muscles that attach to the spine are first and foremost present for the purpose of stabilizing and protecting the joints of the spine. Although it is true that specific abdominal muscles can rotate, laterally flex, or flex the spine individually, this is NOT their purpose. The abdominal muscles stabilize the spine by working together in their opposing directions of movement to create rigidity to the spine. This is what helps transfer forces between the upper and lower body during movement and keeps the spine from buckling under load. These forces in the front are matched with muscles in the back of the spine to create circumferential (360 degrees) of spinal stability. These muscles must all work together not only to align the pelvis and maintain neutrality of the spine. Without this, or when there is an imbalance, there is a loss of stability and an increase in abnormal forces being placed upon the joints of the spine.
Research shows that a large amount of disc injuries are caused by movements which utilize repetitive flexion and or rotation of the spine. These movements can occur during daily activities, work, or in the case of this article, at the gym. These types of cumulative injuries occur with improper movement at a sub-maximal rate of force. These movements cause micro-trauma to the joint which is capable of healing if given enough time. The typical result, however, is that these movements are not allowed necessary recovery and the mirror-trauma from each repetition compounds until reaching the threshold that is necessary to cause macro-trauma.
Now that we have defined what the body needs to create stability and what movements cause injury, how does this relate to abdominal exercises? Unfortunately, the movements that create positional instability by putting you in a compromised lumbar flexion or rotational position AND also produce high amounts of strain into the lower back are the most common abdominal exercises seen in the gym. These movements include sit-ups, crunches, russian twists, and any other movement that focuses on flexion or unilateral rotation. Furthermore, these movements are often done at high reps, for time, and to fatigue, which furthers the risk of instability and lower back injury. Research done by Stuart McGill says of all of these exercises, sit-ups and crunches or spinal flexion abdominal exercises are the worst and produce the most force in the lower back. Now you may make the argument that “I’ve been doing those kinds of ab exercises for years and haven’t had a back injury.” Awesome! But there are many other equally beneficial abdominal exercises out there that spare the spine and teach your spine to resist motion. Does it really make sense to put unnecessary forces into your spine with a crunch or sit-up? The answer is no.
Furthermore, if you are an individual who happens to have a back injury, some healthcare and fitness professionals may be rightfully identifying your weak core to be an issue. But, if their answer to that is doing a bunch of sit-ups and crunches in your already inflamed and injured spine, don’t be surprised when you don’t see improvement or the condition even worsens.
So what are some good options for training the abdomen? McGill’s variation of the sit-up, the McGill sit-up is a great option for singling out the rectus abdominis. Since the goal again is to create stability in the spine and torso, other exercises such as front and side planks, dead bugs, wall bugs, bird dogs, and any other exercise in which movement is created from the extremities and absorbed or resisted by the abdomen are a great option for developing core strength. This could include medicine ball throws against a wall in which the shoulder and hips are creating forces to accelerate the med ball and then decelerate it as it comes back to them.
I would also recommend to those who like to read and learn to purchase Stuart McGill’s book, Back Mechanic. This book is specifically geared towards educating the general population on proper spinal health and provide ways that you, yourself can help manage a back injury. Some of which we just covered.
I usually suggest people to eat whole foods as opposed to protein shakes, and to drink protein shakes as their last option. Whole food meals are going to be your best bet for improving body composition, and your diet should consist of mostly whole foods. I do think however, there is a time and a place for protein powder. You shouldn’t just nix them out altogether.
Times of convenience
Protein powder is just more convenient to tote around as opposed to a chicken breast. I am a full-time student, and most of my classes are back to back. Some teachers don’t care about eating in class, but some do. This is when a protein shake comes in handy. This also applies to people who work at a job that they can’t exactly take 20 minutes to eat a chicken and rice meal every 2-3 hours. Other times like traveling, and any other everyday life responsibilities could also not let you have time to eat, but you can almost always drink a shake.
When you are really pushing calories high
Another good time to use protein powders is when you are pushing calories, and are struggling to get the meals in. I have the appetite of a bird. On my high carb days, I am pushing around 5-6k calories and on normal training days around 4k. Sometimes I just don’t have the appetite to down a steak and rice meal every 2 or 3 hours. 2 cups plus of rice, and a 5-6oz steak is a lot of food volume. But If I opt for something like a whey protein shake and a simple carbohydrate such as kid’s cereal or something, that is easy to put down, and it digests quickly, so within a few hours I will be hungry again as opposed to still feeling full. However, If I was in a prep or trying to lose weight, I wouldn’t be opting for a protein shake and kid’s cereal. When you’re hungry, you are going to feel much fuller between meals eating steak and rice and veggies as opposed to a whey shake and kid’s cereal.
I almost don’t even want to put a post workout section in an article about the best times to use protein powder, but this point kind of piggy backs from the previous paragraph. I think if you can, it is best to eat a whole food meal post workout, such as steak and rice. However, after a hard leg or back day, it can be very challenging to get down a large steak and rice meal. If you are in a situation where your appetite is taking 2-3 hours to come back after a hard workout, and it’s throwing off the rest of your meal timing, you can opt out of the whole food meal and replace for some faster digesting foods. As mentioned earlier, kid’s cereal and whey protein are a great option here. Drinking calories is much easier to get down, and it won’t make you feel as full, and fast digesting powder like whey is something you can really benefit from here. If you can down the steak and rice though, opt for that.
Christian came to me around Christmas of last year wanting to start following a diet plan. Anyone who knows Christian knows he has a good bit of muscle on him, and he walks around pretty lean. I knew working with him was going to be a fun time. Christian came to me eating fairly low calories. From Christmas until we were around 8 weeks out, we were slowly pushing calories up. At the 8 weeks out mark, we tightened up a bit and made a few adjustments and coasted with that game plan until around 3 weeks out. Christian’s diet at 3 weeks out looked like the following: (please note that this wasn’t his exact diet. He may have eaten carbs instead of rice and different fats instead of nut butter. I just use meat, rice and peanut butter for examples.) He was around 190lbs at this point.
Medium carb day
Meal 1 – 5 oz meat, just under 2 cups rice.
Meal 2 – 5 oz meat, 1 cup rice, 1tbs peanut butter
Meal 3 – Same as meal 2
Meal 4 (Intraworkout drink )– 15g amino acid, 30g HBCD
Meal 5 – 5 oz meat, just under 2 cups rice
Meal 6 – 5oz meat, ½ cup rice, 1tbs peanut butter.
Meal 7 – 5oz meat, 2 tbs of nut butter.
High carb day
Meal 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 – 4 oz meat, 2 cups rice
Meal 4 – 45g amino acid, 90g HBCD.
Meal 7 – cheat meal.
Low carb day –
Meal 1 – 6 oz meat, 1 cup rice, 1 tbs peanut butter
Meal 2 – 6oz meat, ½ cup rice, 1tbs peanut butter
Meal 3 – 6 oz meat, ½ cup rice, 1tbs peanut butter
Meal 4 – 6 oz meat, 1tbs peanut butter
Meal 5 – 6 oz meat, 1tbs peanut butter
Meal 6 – 6 oz meat, 2tbs peanut butter
Let me ask you a question. Do you ever find yourself getting distracted from doing the things that you need to do to become the best possible version of yourself? I know that for myself, it is a never-ending struggle to stay on track towards reaching my goals and even completing simple tasks, such as cleaning up and doing the laundry. In this day and age, it seems like the distractions are everywhere. I get distracted from my phone, Facebook, Instagram, the T.V. and the list goes on forever. I would have preferred to scroll through Facebook instead of starting this article. Seriously, I am the master of procrastination. I will put things off until the absolute last minute, and I can’t stand the fact that I do that.
Yesterday, I was training one of my clients, and I started to ask her what she thought I should write about. I then started telling her how I put everything off until the last minute, and how I always have so many things that I need to get done that I just become overwhelmed by. Surprisingly, she told me that it was obvious why I felt that way. I was looking at everything I had to do with tunnel vision; I was seeing it all at one time, and it was overwhelming to me. It made me not even want to start any of the tasks before me. My client owns her own labeling company, and from my perspective she seems to have experienced a bit of success in her life. With that in mind, I asked her what she does to stay on top of things. I asked her if she kept a to-do list, and she said she does. However, a to-do list isn’t the end all be all to staying on track towards success and becoming the best version of yourself.
She then started to tell me how I’m already on track towards becoming the best version of myself. I’ve chosen to surround myself with like- minded people, who, in one way or another, have experienced success. Now, for those people to get to that point, they had to face struggles in their pursuit to becoming the best version of themselves and achieving what their idea of success was. Part of these struggles that the people that I’m surrounded by probably included becoming constantly distracted by even the smallest of things. It always makes me feel better to know that I’m not the only one who faces hard times in becoming the person that you want to be.
So, what’s better than a to-do list? Staying focused on 3 main goals that equal success. The first goal is accessibility. What does this mean? Accessibility means being available to many people, so you don’t ever miss an opportunity. For myself, I need to make sure that I am readily available to all of my clients, as well as anyone else in my life who may need me. Something as simple as missing an email could mean missing the opportunity of a lifetime. Even if its something small like missing a text, these things start out as small, bad habits, but soon grow into major problems. Always stay accessible.
The second goal is reliability. This means to always do what you say you will do, even if you don’t feel like it. I can’t tell you how many times I have just skipped out on doing something, or put it off to the very last minute because I didn’t feel like doing it. Get your lazy butt up and do what you say you are going to do! Did you ever have a friend that was unreliable and you always told yourself, “Man! I’m glad to have that person as a friend!” No, I doubt you did. So, I will work on being a more reliable person and friend.
The last goal is velocity. Weird, right? What I mean by velocity is performing any task in a quick, but quality-focused manner. The faster you do things effectively, the more you are able to take on. If you have something to do, don’t drag it out forever. Get it done! For myself, this means to not piddle and let things like my phone and Facebook distract me when I need to write a program, blog, or an article. I cannot even count the times I stare mindlessly at my phone, and before I know it an hour is gone. Boom! I just wasted an hour of time when I could have already finished two tasks I needed to complete.
I believe that this process is much more effective than sitting around thinking about everything I need to get done, getting overwhelmed, scrolling Facebook, then deciding to take a nap because I’m just too stressed to do anything. For most people, their idea of success is being able to live the life that they want by working in a profession that they enjoy. I’m still working on achieving the life I want, but I certainly enjoy my profession. It’s days like yesterday and conversations like the one I had with my client that make me really love what I do. I learn something new almost everyday. If you’re not learning, then you’re not living.
I hope that you can find ways to apply these 3 goals to your life and be on your way to becoming closer to your idea of success, and the best possible version of yourself. These 3 goals should work for anyone no matter what field they are in. The concept is always the same. Staying true to these 3 goals is much easier than having a lengthy, overwhelming, never-crossed-off to-do list.
It is less than a month away, everything you have spent your free time training for is finally here. Just reading that most people will get a slight feeling of anxiety which may also build over the next few weeks the closer the competition gets, and the heavier weight you start moving. Although I am by far an expert in this sport we call powerlifting here is a few things I would like to remind you about leading up to this meet.
#1- You cannot out train recovery
This time during your peak you are trying to break your body down and push it to the limit. This pushes you further into a fatigued state which will be reversed by the tapering of training and loads the last two weeks before the meet. Yes there is a science behind training and that is one of the fun parts of my job, seeing a result of something I prescribed, then adjusting according to the outcome.
#2- Risk reward Factor
These next 4 weeks this is very real, fighting off one’s ego to hit a PR in training, doing all accessories when you feel sick or you are just wrecked from a long day at work. #2 leads back to #1 and if we cannot get our bodies to walk the line of fatigue then bringing it back to be primed for the meet we have done ourselves a disservice. Follow the program set out for you and do what is called for, anything extra now can only hurt you.
#3-” Nothing you do today will make you stronger, everything you do today can make you weaker.” – David Allen
training is a progression which gets us strong over time, not all at one time. Nutrition aids us in getting to a goal over time, not all at once. So keep the progression of your training positive and increasing, try not to fail reps or have a massive form/mental break down. If this happens you have failed to follow #2 thus failing #1 as well. So try to keep #1-3 in your head during these next 4 weeks and hang on for the ride that is powerlifting on the platform, where strength peaks beyond what you previously thought possible
I just recently went on vacation to the beach and one of my favorite things to do at the beach is read. It’s very relaxing to shut down electronics, lay back on a beach chair, and enjoy a good book with the waves of the ocean crashing in the background. If you enjoy reading, give these books a try and let me know what you think.
Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides
This book was recommended by my mother who is an avid reader so when she says something is good, I typically check it out. This book is about the survivors of the Bataan Death March and the Army Rangers who rescued them. It’s a heart wrenching account of how terrible human beings can be towards each other, the dangers of cultural misunderstandings and hatred towards another people group, the human will to survive, the deep seeded relationships amongst people who go through traumatic experiences together, and the American military machine that eventually lead to victory over radical evil in WWII.
Living with a SEAL by Jesse Itzler
A client of mine gave me this book to read the week before I left so I brought it along. It’s a very quick read and full of humor. It is the author’s account of the month he hired a Navy SEAL to come live with him and train him for an endurance race. The man he hired wasn’t just any Navy SEAL but one of the toughest and probably the best endurance racers ever to have lived. It shows the differences between two completely different lifestyles and mindsets. If you are looking for some motivation to push you to new physical and mental limits, I definitely suggest giving it a read. If nothing else, look up the SEAL, David Goggins, and read his story.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Our friends, Angie and Steve Foree, who joined us on the trip suggested this book so we listened to it on the way home. It is the story of a race car drivers roller coaster of a life from the perspective of his dog. The book is very well written and the author does an amazing job of entering the mind of a dog and explaining his thoughts. If you have a dog, it’ll definitely hit you in the feels and make you go up and give your mutt a big hug and kiss, especially after a week away. Give it a read.
I’ve heard this question often the last 2 weeks and it hurts my heart to say no (seriously it does). I enjoy making people squirm, reading the regret on their face for asking me before I even make my first casting pass on the way back up their leg. The face then turns into confusion as to try and comprehend how they are supposed to “squat” with these damn things wrapped so tightly there is no blood flow to your calves. To that, you will hear me bark out, “don’t be scared of the wraps, USE the wraps and push into them!!!!!”. I would suggest people either find someone they trust to wrap them as it saves a lot of energy, or learn how to properly wrap yourself so you are not relying on others to take your squat. With many of these questions being posed to me, I am going to share with you the style of wrap I like to use when squatting along with my opinion on what wraps are good for certain lifters.
- Beginner: EliteFTS Heavies (2 black & 2 white stripes) Metal Grey or Black
- Beginner (1-2 years)
- Medium – Fast Speed on decent: EliteFTS Heavies or Patriots
- Slow – Medium Speed on Decent: EliteFTS Kraits
- Intermediate (2-8 years)
- Slow Decent: EliteFTS Super Heavies
- Medium Decent Speed: EliteFTS Kraits
- Fast Decent: EliteFTS Super Heavies or EliteFTS Kraits
This is how I wrap my knees
I feel like if counselors and therapists were called “Life Advisors” there would be less stigma placed on those who see them. Or, less stigma placed on mental health overall. When someone remarks that they have an appointment with their financial advisor, the response may typically be, “Cool, hope all goes well!” or “Yeah, I need to get one of those and get my finances in order!” What if in conversation you heard someone say, “I have an appoint with my “Life Advisor” today. An internal thought may be, hummm, I’ve got some things in my life I could use advice on. But if that same person said, “I have a therapy appointment today,” the response would be quite different or maybe there is no response at all now…because you just became uncomfortable and your inner thought goes to, “humm, she must be sick in the head.”
Everyone Needs Therapy
I don’t remember the first time I saw a therapist. If I had to guess it was probably about 18-20 years ago. If you know my story, then you know I faced a lot of adversity in my life as a young child, teenager and as a young adult. My mom left when I was 8, we had abusive step mothers, my dad emotionally checked out, the list goes on. While you’re a child going through these things, your only goal is survival. You are unaware of how these current situations will come to affect your future life choices. Some people never attain the self awareness to put the pieces together. I did however, and I knew I needed help.
I left home the day I graduated high school, and although I had aspirations of furthering my education, it wasn’t meant to be at that time. I moved out, started a new life with a new husband and a baby that would be born before the end of the year. Fast forward another couple of years, another baby on the way and the realization that the man I married was not at all who I thought I wanted to spend my life with. I had no mom to lean on, no one to put their hand on my shoulder and tell me things I needed to know and hear. My decisions were made based on what I thought was best. After awhile, it all caught up with me.
My first therapy session revealed to me just how much I needed to purge the things I had been carrying around all of those years. Things that dated back to the 8 year old little girl. It was like a lightbulb had been lit and for the first time in years I could now see the ‘reasons’ for decisions I had made in my life. My life finally started to make a little sense. Therapy was the best decision I had ever made for myself and in all honesty, the best thing I could have done for my children as well.
Tools in the Toolbox
My therapist gave me tools to use to help me recognize (and change) certain behaviors that I had picked up along the way. I used these tools often and all aspects of my life was better and I was back in control. By this point I had divorced my first husband, been a single parent of two little girls, met Steve got married and had a little boy, and I was 23 years old. My life was so fulfilled and happy for several years. Then, just like that, adversity struck and I lost my brother. It was sudden, it was debilitating. In addition to the pain and sorrow I felt, his death stirred a lot of family drama that I had been able to deal with until this point.
Back to therapy, my tool box needed filling, I was lost in grief.
Life Doesn’t Have to Be Trauma Induced
Childhood issues and tragic events need not be the precursor to receiving therapy. You might have had the perfect childhood with warm loving parents, married your high school sweetheart, raised a few children, etc. but now find your life a bit empty and you don’t know why. Therapists have such an amazing way of helping us understand how and why we feel a particular way or why certain things become stressors in our lives.
According to Psychology Today, here are some other reasons one might seek therapy:
Mental Disorders: People struggling with depression, anxiety, phobias, addiction, PTSD, ADHD, etc. may seek therapy to treat the problem and/or learn healthy ways to cope. In many cases, disorders are treated medically in conjunction with therapy.
Distress: One way therapists determine the severity of an issue is to look at how much distress it causes the individual. For example, if you’ve found yourself empty nesting this fall, you may be distressed about your child leaving home for college, while others may be delighted. If the level of distress is prohibiting your ability to sleep, eat, socialize or enjoy life, therapy may be a healthy option.
Support/Coping: Loss is a common reason for people to seek therapy. Therapy can provide a safe, supportive place for people to talk about grief, adjustment to physical illness, the end of a relationship or job, abuse issues, or any change in life circumstances that cause distress. Therapists offer coping skills to get through these times.
Communication: Many people come to therapy looking for help with their relationships. Individual, couples or family therapy can address a common source of distress: poor communication and difficulty resolving conflicts. Some therapists are highly skilled at helping people communicate their needs and feelings constructively.
Self-Exploration: Some people come to therapy to gain a deeper understanding of self. They want to know why they do what they do, why they feel what they feel and determine how much control they have over those areas. Sometimes this exploration is used to determine career, relationship and personal goals.
There Is No Shame
I can honestly say that I have experienced 4 out of 5 of these reasons over my 30 years as an adult. Becoming more skilled in each of those areas continues to enrich my life daily. I couldn’t have done it without the proper tools given to me by my therapist.
Over the last 10 years, our society has come to embrace our mental health a bit more than in the past. That being said however, we are still a society of people who stigmatize mental health issues or the need for therapy. Look at it this way, would you diagnose yourself if you had chronic stomach pain. You may find something that works as a bandaid approach, such as using antacids or pain relievers, but you can’t fix the actual problem because you’re not a doctor and you don’t have the tools. If you’re struggling with depression or certain stressors, you can use the bandaid approach here also, alcohol, drugs or ignoring the issue (hoping it will go away). You might feel better temporarily, but again, you’re not addressing and fixing the problem because you don’t have the proper tools.
Live a Full Life
If you feel as though you could be happier, more fulfilled, have a better understanding of your behaviors, or you just never worked through that break up two years ago, let me encourage you to seek the help you need. You will be amazed at how you can unlock your potential and find a healthier you. If I can help guide you in any way, please feel free to reach out to me. Everyone deserves a full life!
I’m going to be very honest: somedays, I rise each morning just to go to the gym in hopes of seeing David running so I might make fun of him. And man, he doesn’t disappoint. However, through this sibling-like tough love, I found myself feeling a little bad for him as the temperatures headed into the triple digits.
Then, one day, David displayed some tell-tale signs of heat induced illness. I don’t like that. That’s not fun for anyone. It occurred to me that perhaps a little education on managing the heat when you take your training outdoors might be nice.
A little biology on your bodys natural cooling loop: your body progressively warms up internally as you move. As your body temperature rises, you begin to sweat. Sweat then triggers evaporative cooling. For most people partaking in recreational exercise, this is enough.
BUT…we are in Tennessee. Its August. Its hot. Some of you are large. It may very well be the case that extra measures MUST be taken to safely play games in the sun. Not taking proper precautions can result in heat cramps, rash, exhaustion and even heatstroke. ALL of these conditions are completely wu-tang: nothing to f*ck with.
1.) Hydrate + Salt: This is the oldest advice in the world, and its pretty vague. However, I find it to be one of the most important preparation steps you can take. There is no hell like being miles from home and suddenly feeling the symptoms of your ill-prepared hydration method. While I generally recommend drinking enough water (half your bodyweight in oz of H2o per day), this is not sufficient advice for an endurance athlete. As you run, you lose water, electrolytes, and trace minerals. Its important to replenish what is lost. I am a HUGE fan of 1st Phorms Intra-Phormance, as it has electrolytes, highly branched cyclic dextrin, and a very solid amino acid profile that aids in pre-hydrating or re-hydrating for your outdoor activities. If you are partaking in outdoor sports and do not wish to take in HBCD, you can always get poweraid/poweraid zero to help as well. If you are in a race, don’t skip hydration stations. If you can, a camelback can literally be life saving. A note of re-hydrating: weigh yourself pre-run and post run. For every lb you lose during the run, drink 16oz of water. Throughout your day, feel free to generously salt your meals. This salt will help cellular hydration as well as overall hydration.
2.) Stick to your pacing plan, or even slow down: yeah yeah yeah. Mile time. blah blah blah speed work. The truth of the matter is that heat adds a different stressor to your training that requires that you autoregulate. Much like lifting, you don’t need to beat the crap out of yourself just because you are “feeling good.” As you are acclimating to the increased temperatures, pay close attention to what your body is telling you. Any signs of heat fatigued requires that you slow it down, or even stop. Do not take this time to blaze through the hills. The standard acceptable acclimation time is two weeks, so try to play it safe during this period of time.
3.) Avoid hours in the direct sun: Running at high noon for an hour can be incredibly draining. If this is your only option, stick to routes with ample shade. Take measures to avoid getting a sunburn, as the energy cost for nursing your skin back to health is surprisingly hefty. Wear light-weight and light colored clothing that facilitate sweat evaporation. Wear at least SPF15, preferably the non-drip formula.
4.) Run indoors: this is actually my preferred training tip for shorter running days and speed work, assuming you have a treadmill or indoor track that allows you proper acceleration. Doing the more daunting speed development drills in a climate controlled environment will ensure you aren’t battling the elements and meeting the objective of your training day.
5.) Be self aware: If you are large, heat dissipation is going to take a little more effort. A damp rag around the neck can help facilitate cooling after a run. Sure, you might look like a doofus with a scarf, but you will look like a bigger doofus if you die from a heatstroke during a recreational activity. If you begin to feel signs of heat exhaust, slow down. If the condition persists, stop and seek aggressive cooling strategies immediately. If you feel you are at higher risk for these conditions, sucker a friend into running with you.
Overcoming Injury is something that has always been a part of sports and always will be. General health and injury are also the most common reason that people have to hang the pads, weights, glove, or whatever other metaphorical sport specific equipment up. So when it comes to competing and training, having to overcome injury is not the result of drawing some sort of unlucky card, they are going to be a part of anyone’s experiences and must be handled just like nutrition, programming, or any other factor that effects performance. The issue is that many people do not approach overcoming injury in the same way that they approach nutrition, programming, etc. It takes personal responsibility, patience, troubleshooting, and reaching out to professionals to help devise a treatment plan to fix dysfunction and pain from injury. Overcoming injury is often not a quick recovery and may be frustrating, but you must trust the process and always keep moving forward.
It’s also incredibly important to not be stubborn and to listen to and learn from others who have come before you and their experiences. This Table Talk with Dave Tate goes through ways to troubleshoot two very common injuries in powerlifting. There are many things you can do on your own, but one of the most important things you can do is to get PROFESSIONAL HELP. Watch the video below to hear Dave Tate’s take on overcoming injury:
Time to get your face melted off once again! This one comes from one of my favorite bands of all time. If you don’t know the band, or the song, I question whether or not you’re a true metal head at heart. I actually surprised myself at how fast I was able to pick this tune back up. It’s been ages since I played it and I remember even when I first learned it that it was quite a challenge as far as getting the timing and the beat right for everything. Even in this video I have about two screw ups, but I’ll take it. I hope you all enjoy this weeks edition of Riff of the Week
This song is titled Lepper Messiah, and is off of Metallica’s 3rd studio album called Master of Puppets, which was released in 1986, and yes. That was in fact before my time, just before my time.
Here is the studio version of this song from the Master of Puppets album.
In episode 2 we discuss we share some more metal, drink some more whiskey, and talk about how training for physical fitness, MMA, and shooting all go hand in hand.
I used to say that anyone who can physically squat a thousand pounds surely doesn’t have any mental weakness but much like many other definitive statements that I have made, I’m about to challenge this one. I first began lifting back in 7th grade. As I started puberty, I shot up in height very quickly but my weight always lagged behind. People would comment about how skinny I was on a regular basis and during that period it had a pretty major impact. I didn’t like being called small or skinny and in my head believed that a man should be big and strong, hence the start of my weight training journey. Fast forward a couple decades and I met the expectations of my 7th grade self. I got up to 280 lbs, I had elite totals in powerlifting, I had gotten lean enough to step onto a bodybuilding stage. I had checked all the boxes for “manliness”. Then earlier this year I stopped taking testosterone, something I had been on for about 7 years. My levels fell to that well beyond the “normal” range and into the “uh oh, that’s not good range”. Fast forward 6 months from then and I’m still dealing with those terribly low numbers. But beyond the physical changes that I faced, the mental challenges were the hardest to deal with. Since seventh grade I had been focused on getting bigger and stronger and for 17 years I had continued to make progress in those endeavors but once I came off testosterone I had to watch that progress begin to landslide backwards. Spending 17 years building the framework of my identity around what I looked like and how strong I was didn’t set me up well for dealing with the effects of that framework beginning to crumble.
I am not alone in this. I’ve been around lifting and training and fitness for my entire life. People have tons of reasons for beginning their journey and everyone’s journey takes them on a different path but so many people use the gym as a way of dealing with the emotions of life. This can be both good and bad. For many, they have setup up their identity in how they perform under a barbell, how many likes they get on a video of them training, how many followers they have to share their journey with. Unfortunately social media has become a window into so many lifters psyches and while the window my look sturdy and strong, the foundation is weak and frail. Many lifters will read this and think “Man, this guy sounds like a total wuss.” I don’t blame you, I would’ve thought the same thing. But for those who may be a little too familiar with what I’m talking about, I think I can help. I am in no way claiming to have this whole mental strength thing figured out. I am sharing with you things that I have found work for me as I work my way towards daily improvements in mental strength with the hope that they will work for you too.
Do Something You Suck At
Once I stopped pursuing strength and size, I realized I had to find something else to work towards. Luckily for me anything other than strength training was going to be a serious challenge so being the extreme individual that I am, I decided to take on lots of new things that I suck at. First, I started doing CrossFit. CrossFit was a conditioning challenge greater than anything I had attempted since playing college football. Anything that lasted longer than 1 minute was a kill shot to my lungs so when the first workout I attempted lasted over 30 minutes I was pretty sure I was going to meet my maker. Combine that with all the gymnastics movements and, despite being a college athlete, I feel like I can’t even walk and chew bubble gum. I also started doing jujitsu which, for those who haven’t ever done it, is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge and the thing about jujitsu is that your size and strength don’t give you any advantage whatsoever if you don’t have the skills and technique. I proceeded to get my ass kicked on a regular basis by people way smaller and better than me. Finally, I started running. Someone (my wife) convinced me to do a warrior dash which is a 10 mile obstacle course (the longest I’ve ever ran is a 5K). And then another friend (I’m going to classify Angie as a friend here because I really
hate love hate love her) convinced me to do a half marathon. Now, anyone who knows me at all will know how shocking it is to hear me say I’m going to run a half marathon. But here is why: I really suck at CrossFit, jujitsu, and running.
While it feels so comfortable to stay in our lane and do things we’re good at, growth only occurs when we’re forced to adapt. I was as ill prepared for every one of these things as I could possibly be but that made me have to let go of my pride and in doing so I got to learn, I got to grow, and I got to gain strength not only in the CrossFit workouts, on the jujitsu mat, or on the trails but mentally as well. There was something very powerful about saying to myself “David, you really suck at this, you’re gonna suck at it for a while, and it’s gonna hurt really bad. Deal with it and don’t quit.”
Find a New Pain
There is a certain pain associated with different physical acts. As a power lifter, there is a familiar pain involved when you are getting your knees wrapped about to take your third squat attempt in a meet and the lifter in front of you takes forever. By the time you get to the bar your feet are asleep, you can’t feel your legs and you feel the weight of hundreds of pounds stressing every muscle, tendon, and ligament to the max. In football, there was a familiar pain in the 4th quarter when you’re trying to catch your breath as you sprint down the field to get ready for the next play in the last minute of a close game. All your knuckles are jammed, you’re bleeding from your nose where someone snuck a finger through your facemask, and you’ve been in an all out wrestling match with the lineman across from you but you still have to put your hand on the ground and rush with everything you’ve got. Both of those are familiar pains and that familiarity takes away their fright.
It was always easy to think of myself as tough as I watched new lifters squirm like crazy the first time they got their knees wrapped. But I was only tough in the sense that I was prepared for the pain each time and I knew exactly what to expect. A new pain, however, has a far greater power for drilling it’s way into your psyche and telling you to tap out. That has been my experience with distance running. While lifting is incredibly painful, the time frame is relatively short. Running produces a more constant nagging pain, a relentless voice inside your head that tries to make you focus on how your feet, your ankles, your legs, and your lungs are burning. It says “Just take a breather. Walk for a little bit.” Having not been used to this, a new mental battle has begun against an unfamiliar enemy. And like any other battle, while both sides will take their beatings, one will eventually come out victorious. Through that victory new mental strength is gained. Knowing that you have power over that new pain will strengthen you for the next time you face it.
Go Off Grid
As many benefits as technology has brought us it’s brought just as many negative consequences with it. I am reading a book about the Louise and Clark expedition and one of the things that is so amazing to me is their use of the english language. Their only way of communicating other than talking was through writing. If they wanted to invite someone over for dinner they had to write them a letter (much like a wedding invitation) and they would use a thousand words to describe a leaf. Now a days a text convo between two people wanting to go to dinner goes something like:
“thumbs up emoji”
In our hurry, we have become dumb. To top that off, with the majority of our physical needs met very easily (food, water, air, shelter) people have turned to the internet to meet their social and psychological needs. Now everyone uses social media for all other social pursuits: friendship, love, community. While there are benefits to it, many people get sucked so much that the social media pursuit becomes the predominant factor in their physical pursuits. Now the goal is to gain followers, get likes, and share the whole experience through a glass screen. I’m not saying don’t post on social media, I do it as well. But instead take some time off. Do some workouts that you don’t tell everyone about. Even better, get outside and disconnect. Go for a run, go for a hike, go for a bike ride. Enjoy physical activity apart from worrying about getting someone to video it. And enjoy that physical activity in nature. Few things can make you realize how insignificant you are as a roaring water fall that is millions of years old. With that realization you will be forced to separate from your self absorption and just enjoy the experience. When you start to collect experiences and lose the idol of self worth you will be free from the mental and emotional strain that comes from trying to perform for the crowd. You can focus on enjoying the experience, even if it is a painful one.
Go Forth and Prosper
While I may be putting the pursuit of physical strength on the back burner, mental strength has now become my next mountain to climb. I don’t know how tall it is, how hard it will be, or if I’ll ever summit. I just want to keep putting one foot in front of the other and give it my best effort. To anyone who can appreciate a challenge, I invite you to join me in taking it step by step.
The CrossFit Games
I sat glued to my computer screes all weekend watching the CrossFit Games. My friend Gus Vandervort participated in the Master’s 55 and older category, so of course I wanted to see his every performance! Additionally, watching all of the athletes, ranging in ages range 14-60+ are beyond inspiring!
The workouts were grueling and these athletes completed no fewer than 11-12 events over a 4 day period. Their recovery time seemed shorter each day, however with the sound of the horn at the beginning of each event, their game face was on and they were as ready as if each event was their first.
These athletes dedicate every day to being their very best. They eat, sleep, breath and train CrossFit every minute of every day. They are completely dedicated to their sport. Anything less than 100% does not lend one to this high of an achievement!
The CrossFit Games athletes are the 1% of the CrossFit population. They are the elite, and their training is quite literally a full time job. As a recreational CrossFitter, we don’t have much in common with them, so it may seem…however, I think we have more in common than we realize.
Why Are you Here?
You cannot come to CrossFit once or twice a week and expect to learn CrossFit. CF is a weekly, monthly, yearly, journey. The process to learn all of the movements and skills necessary to grow in the sport is one of dedication and commitment. If you have chosen CrossFit as your method of training, and you’ve bought into it hook, line and sinker, then that is the first commonality between us and them.
To quote Greg Glassman, “While CrossFit challenges the world’s fittest, the program is designed for universal scalability, making it the perfect application for any committed individual, regardless of experience. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change the program. The needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree, not kind.” If you show up to each class and you give 100% to learning, growing and becoming not only a better CrossFitter but also a better human, then that too is something we share with the 1%.
While watching this weekend (and years past) it doesn’t take long to see one of the greatest things about CrossFit, and that is its community. At no point during the CrossFit Games was anyone left alone on the floor to struggle through their final reps. Within seconds of the other athletes recovering from their event, they gathered to encourage the others competing along with them. In no other sport have I ever witnessed this type of camaraderie. This type of camaraderie can be experienced in every local affiliate around the globe and in my opinion, is the most important element of CrossFit.
Be a Part of Something Bigger Than You
If you’re here to just get in a good workout, then you’re doing it wrong. Be here to sweat, work and struggle beside those who are also sweating working and struggling. Be here to be a part of a community that is passionate about our sport, passionate about the changes it has made in our lives and share in our joys and our failures. A great workout is a piece of it, but it is perhaps less important than the community you are becoming a part of.
Gus went on to finish 12th place in the Men’s 55-59 division, which is pretty fantastic! He had highs and lows in his performances, but one thing that stood out the most for him was the sense of community he felt among his CrossFit brothers and extended CrossFit community. In the end, isn’t a sense of belonging what we all strive for?
Have you ever heard the cue “wedge into the bar” when hearing someone coach? If not you have not heard a damn thing said at NBS Fitness, it is a “staple cue” that many of the heavier squatters use along with a variety of others. This cue helps set the bar on your shelf which is made by muscles in your upper back. Ok cool, so why does the title mention bench? Have you ever heard the cue to wedge your back in during a bench, probably not, which could also be why you look like Gumby trying to hold weight over you.
It is now an ongoing thing that I get cussed out by Dave Tate every time I visit the S4 Compound, I’m like the step child that always messes up and gets scolded. So after my lashes, I just sat like a fly on the way and see him coach others, the last trip to the compound for the team UGSS he coached many lifters on the bench press and I picked up a few new cues. Now, these cues did not make my wedge into the bench pad but I decided to try it to implement Dave’s cues after my walk out which I was having trouble with. My Lats kept adjusting and I would slightly slide cause I did not have enough pressure pushing into the bench pad so learn from my #PovertyBench to not make the same mistakes.
To implement, after you set your feet in position BEFORE YOU DRIVE YOUR BACK INTO THE PAD, I want you to grab the bar with both hands. Now, I want you to push against the bar (needs to be a loaded bar) forcing your body to the bench and hold it there. Once you have yourself pressed in nice and solid THEN drive with your legs wedging your arch into place and locking your lats and loading your triceps and lats in preparation to un-rack the bar.
- Set up
- Push against loaded bar until upper back is pressed into bench pad
- when you cannot push any harder start leg drive and wedge (pin) back to the pad
- keep triceps and lats loaded and ready to un-rack
- keep this position the whole time
Stay tuned for article and video soon
Check out the new podcast from myself and two good buddies where we talk about everything from training to shooting to combat sports, politics, and interview some really cool people. Episode 1 is below.
14 years ago today, my dad died.
Are you all uncomfortable yet? You shouldn’t be. The subject of death is so taboo that after the initial acknowledgement of the event, we are expected to keep it to ourselves, lest we make others squirm. But for those close to death, the events that follow can be such a catalyst for profound reflection. I know it was for me. Until the last few years, I have kept it to myself and even vague-answered questions about why I feel so connected to what I do.
Don’t get me wrong: I would prefer my dad not be dead. Obviously. He was a super great guy. However, this event in my life was one of the single most influential events I ever and possibly will ever endure. I had so many experiences in formative years in my life via his sickness and his death that molded me to appreciate the human connection.
Specifically, the importance of human touch.
I know that’s a strange segue. To explain: I had never been someone who appropriately engages emotions. This was particularly the case on what was the saddest day of my life. I can remember sitting in the hospital, knowing that I was hurting, but unable to express it. I sat silently. I watched life slip away, and just absorbed the pounding in my chest.
I left the hospital suite and found an empty comfort room. I called my best friend and asked her to bring my belongings home, and informed her that my dad had died. I hung up. As I turned around, a woman approached me and expressed condolences. And then, in the most ballsy move ever, she gave vulnerable 15 year old me a hug. Something about that embrace acted as an emotional elixir.
I lost it. I felt everything. I had the most sincere cry I had ever had, and oddly felt some relief in being able to just feel my circumstances. I was far from happy, but I was able to face my emotions head on. This instant was one of many that I would ponder for years to come.
The woman didn’t say much I hadn’t heard. It was the human touch. I have always been a hugger and a snuggler, so in a lot of ways, I just assumed that physical touch was healing specifically towards me. Some consider physical touch their love language. However, as I progressed through my education, the topic of healing and its tie to touch was something that would show itself over and over.
I took a quick dive into the clinical sector of physical medicine and saw this tie more and more. Since then, I have networked with many physical therapists, athletic trainers, massage therapists and chiropractors. If they agree about nothing else, they all report that at times, the impact of just touch alone seems to accelerate healing in patients. I have had numerous massage therapists report that often clients become emotional during therapeutic massage. While emotions are extremely intangible, there seems to be a good emough of research on the matter.
Harry Harlow was an American psychologist who studied a variety of social-interaction phenomenon’s. He took particular notice of the increased mortality rate in infant orphans during WWII despite their relatively safe circumstances. His work concluded that the infants were suffering from a lack of human touch, and thus a lack of comfort. As infants lack communication skills, they often resort to physical communication and comfort. Without this, their will to live and health plummet.
In more recent time, Berkley student turn DePauw professor Matt Hartenstin sought out to find if touch communicated compassion. His trials included separating people by a barrier with a hole cut out. One participant was to stick his/her arm through the barrier and was given a list of emotions to convey through touch to the others forearm alone. Because of the variety of emotions being tested, the anticipated correct guess was anticipated to be 8%. However, compassion was correctly guessed more often than not. In fact, most emotions where correctly identified about 50% of the time. ‘
There have been countless bits of research between the two time frames above, and most research concludes that physical touch is a great medium for communication. A few other study conclusions:
– Human touch for infants improve weight development as well as mental and motorskill development.
– Touch (from trusted individuals) reduces the heart rate, relaxes the mind and increases attentiveness.
– touch can reduce muscular tonicity and result in a healthier musculoskeletal system.
Anecdotally, I find it fascinating to see people melt into hugs, as the only language a hug presents is one of love. And while my initial realization that this may be a factor came at a time when I was hurting, I am glad it occurred. My life changed dramatically as I was able to explore this phenomenon and it led me here: a career and life in the world of physical well being.
Why your training must change over the years.
When it comes to the true definition of a powerlifter I am still a novice in the sport. It has been five years since walking my scrawny ass through the front doors of NBS fitness, starting with only a map (training program) down a road leading to strength. This “map” was bias toward squatting, benching, deadlifting, and at the time over-head pressing – which no longer happens – to direct me towards my goals. Over the last five years many things have come and gone but the main lifts always stay the same, here is what has to change to allow the progress to persist.
HOW YOU NAVIGATE TRENCHES
There is a phase in powerlifting where nothing comes easy, this is the time where good names fall into the abyss, burn in the fire, or decease to be remembered for anything in the sport. Years 5-9 are where you are in the trenches fighting for it and finding out what truly works. What works must change with time, change with ability, change with goals and without these changes you can only cash in so many times before that form of currency no longer is valid. This can be closely correlated with a business, particularly the NBS facility, that has changed over the years and I hear both ends of the spectrum. Some like it some do not, but one thing remains the same, there is still the best damn equipment to get better so shut up and get better or stay out of the way. What does it mean to navigate the trenches? It means that you will fail 100% guaranteed but need to be resilient and adapt to what that failure was. If you are unable to do that, this sport will chew you up and spit you out.
Have you ever eaten something you enjoyed so much that it starts to loose its flavor or degree of “aahhhhh thats good”? the same thing happens when training for strength and it is closely correlated with your training age and your current abilities. My first program was a basic 5/3/1 program and I progressed, I bet Id still have progressed till this day on that 5/3/1 STYLE of program but I would not be where I am today without the change in programming, not to mention, I would not know many aspects of different programs without experiencing new styles. As a resume some of the programming styles that I have experienced are as follows: “5/3/1”, “Concurrent” Block periodization, “Triphasic”, and currently “Gaglione Strength”. All these programs are drastically different but aid in the same thing. So how does this give diminishing returns? the program itself does not, it is the individuals that I see running THE EXACT same program over again that do not adjust percentages, numbers, and movements to aid their strengths and weaknesses. These individuals do not understand how to reflect on success (or failure) and implement the proper training protocols to adapt.
PROGRAMMING & TRAINING AGE
Training age will also have a significant impact or programming change, for the first time ever I had a training day removed from my program the closer I got to a meet. My coaches reasoning entailed risk > reward factor and I was under heavy weight that my body needed to recover from, while in a caloric deficit. All are variables that require change, as your training age increases – and actual age for this reason – the intensity of one’s loads increase, certain programs may not be sustainable for individuals as higher levels do to volume required under such heavy weight. All of these aspects are made easier with a coach (in my opinion) that can give you feedback without your own thoughts stepping in the way.
AS EASY AS YOUR WARM UP
Just as exercises give you a diminishing return when done for an extended period of time so will your warm up. Coming into the gym and having a routine is fine but your body is resilient and can potentially (more than likely will) adapt to the warm-ups you are doing. They will become easier because your body is “educated” in the ranges of motion you are playing in and the movements you repeatedly do to get there. As your main lifts go up you will begin to find certain movements either do not feel good or, “just do not do it for you anymore”. This is why we have an NBS Fitness youtube channel which gives you numerous general warm-up variations to implement before training. General body warm-ups are fantastic for all ranges of fitness goers and depending on how competitive you are in a particular sport your warm-ups will become more specific to the movement of the day towards the end.
1) Getting Out of Bed
If you were hoping this means that you should hit snooze until 10am, sorry sleepy head. This is referring to HOW you get yourself out of bed. Luckily, this is an easy fix, and one you may be doing correctly already. There are a few reason that getting bed out of correctly is important. The first reason is that the intervertebral discs in your spine, which are primarily water filled, rehydrate while you sleep. Therefor when you wake up, they are as thick as they will be all day. If we consider this in terms of fluid pressure, this means that since your discs are full of water, they are under the most pressure during this time. As you will learn a bit later in activity number 4, the movement that puts the spine in the least advantagous position and creates the most force into the low back is flexion or a crunch/sit up motion.
Judging from the information above, it should not be a surprise that the position your back hates you for in the morning is getting up using a sit-up like movement. This couples the pressure of flexed position with highly pressurized discs and comes at a time when the muscles of the spine have not gone through movement for an extended period of time. So what’s the solution? In order to keep the spine in a neutral position while also slowly accumulating the muscles back to movement from its dormancy.
Sitting is one of the activities that we do the most frequently every single day. It is also one of the most strenuous positions for your lower back. Normally while standing, we distribute forces through the body into the ground by way of the feet. Through Newton’s Third law, an equal amount of force is transmitted from the ground back into the body. When seated, these forces are now transmitted through the low back rather than the feet. This means more strain is placed onto low back. Furthermore while sitting for long period of time many people have a tendency to slouch which can lead to higher amounts of strain in the muscles of the spine to try to keep the body upright. Because this posture causes long periods of loading and subsequently a process called hysteresis can occur. This causes elongation of the ligaments which stabilize the spine, leading to more instability in the ligaments and stress on the muscles of the spine.
So what is the solution? Since most of our population is sitting while at work, we will address solutions for workplace sitting. Solutions include utilizing ergonomic seats/chairs that create support for the lumbar spine, maintaining a good, neutral posture without rounding at the shoulders while siting, and taking frequent breaks from sitting. Stand up desks are another great way to take breaks during work while still staying productive as well. Alternating between sitting and standing is a great way to avoid the long term consequences of both activities. Because a lot of the affects of sitting come from static loading over an extended amount of time, the goal of our changes are to change the way the joints are loaded even if for a short period of time.
Breathing is the single most important activity you do. Without air, we die, but breathing has more affects on the body than just providing oxygen. Proper breathing creates a cascade of events that can affect mood, stress, hormonal balance, and for the sake of this conversation, stability in the low back.
You may not realize it, but a very large amount of people breathe incorrectly. The correct mechanism of breathing involves contraction and lowering of the diaphragm to create passive filling of the airways. This diaphragmatic or normal breathing pattern is characterized by an expansion of the belly during inspiration. Abnormal breathing patterns are often a result of what is called chest or “labored” breathing. This type of breathing occurs when an individual forcefully contracts through the scalenes, pec, and other accessory breathing muscles to expand through the chest. One of the common reasons for developing this type of breathing is the fact that our societal norm loves the look of a flat stomach and puffed out chest. Unfortunately, this is the exact mechanism that mimics and stimulates labored breathing and can severely compromise your low back stability.
So how do we fix this? Unfortunately, many times we have developed this pattern over years and years of improper breathing, so this one is often difficult to accomplish in a short period of time. The best way to address this properly is to get help from a health care or fitness professional who is competent recognizing and fixing dysfunctional breathing patterns. Because this is a pattern that has been going on for a very long time, it is often hard for an individual to not only realize that they are breathing incorrectly, but equally as hard to understand how to change that pattern. One of the tools we use at Mid-South Spine and Sports Performance to address this issue is Reflexive Performance Reset or RPR. This method is geared towards addressing the neurology behind your improper breathing patterns and helps fix compensations that might be causing dysfunctional breathing.
4) Ab Exercises
This is for all of you who are concerned about getting that summer six pack to finally show this year. Core strength is an important necessity for athletic movements and spinal health, but there is a right and a wrong way to train the core, and unfortunately many people are doing it improperly.
To understand why, we need to take a look at the function of the core during movement. In the execution of any coordinated movement whether it be in athletics, at home, or while on the clock at work, the function of the core is always to produce stability and serve as a connecting link to transmit forces between the upper and lower extremities. The production of a stable core allows us to utilize our entire body to perform movement and without it, not only will we have disruption in the kinetic chain but likely many low and middle back problems as well. Again, the function of the core is to stabilize the spine and as a unit, RESIST movement.
So what movements do we not want to do with the spine and core? Flexion and rotation. Oh shit, all I do is crunches and russian twists. Sadly, we have to learn once again that another common perception in the fitness industry is wrong. Even worse, this is one of the most common ones. Meaning most people’s spines think they are an asshole.
Still want that six pack? First, go back to the last section on breathing and remember that going around with your belly sucked in is not the answer, then incorporate these abdominal movements into your training: Planks, dead bugs, wall-bugs, McGill sit-ups, bird dogs, medicine ball plyometrics, and anti-rotational movements that force control of rotation.
5) Weight lifting
Weight lifting has always taken heat for its negative effects on the spine. It’s hard to say that there are no examples of weightlifting causing low back injuries, as there are plenty, so I will not jump on that train that all weightlifting is good or all weightlifting is bad. The reason I say this is because although everyone should undergo weight bearing activity, not everyone is prepared to do it at the same degree. Therefor what is good for one person may not necessarily be good for another person. The key here is preparedness and using correct form and leverages to accomplish the movement.
So what part of weightlifting does your back hate you so much for? It hates those of you who do not respect the necessity of good form, a good program, and a good coach. This section is a wake up call to those of you who think you can just watch a few youtube videos and pick up weightlifting like you would a new hobby or any DIY project around the house and be able to do so safely. Unfortunately, you are wrong and your back may pay for it.
If you are one of these people that approach weightlifting in such a nonsensical manner, you are either setting yourself up to be weak and experience no results, or worse, an injury. Most injuries occur in weightlifting typically because of one of three factors 1) Accidents (either legitimately by chance or subsequently because you don’t know what you’re doing) 2) You don’t understand how the body responds and recovers to training and you over stress your body 3) You don’t know how to correctly perform movements and then chose to couple that with the poor choice of adding more weight.
So how do you stop your spine from getting pissed off at you? Understand that weight lifting is a learning process, take it seriously, and then hire a trainer. A trainer will be able to analyze and give feed back on your form as well as program in a safe and structured program that will not only get you results, it will get you results safely. Any time you are embarking on the path to wellness or physical betterment it is also smart to seek the help of a qualified health care professional who understands the needs and processes that weight lifters go through and provide services to help lifters recover and progress to accomplish their goals.