Monday, December 30, 2013

Introducing the Deadlift

Tired of the leg press and abduction and adduction machines? Nice quads, but no ass? Want to see the muscular strength and development of your posterior chain skyrocket? Take the next step in your training by incorporating the deadlift.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

5 Magic Kool-Aid Exercises That Will Have You Feeling Your Best

Do you ever feel tightness in your low back? a pinch in your shoulder? a knot in your upper back? a shooting pain in the front of your shin?

The exercises here-in might just be your magic kool-aid. They are designed to "activate" muscles that may have "fallen asleep" over the course of the day (lifetime) you spend sitting hunched over at a desk. Best of all, you can do them anywhere, any time, no equipment necessary. In particular, try incorporating them into your warm-up before a session of resistance training. Or, as a way to save time, do them between sets of strength exercises.

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Fallacy of the Fallacy of High-Rep Olympic Lifting

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Recently, legendary strength coach Mark Rippetoe came out with an article criticizing high-repetition Olympic lifting. Rippetoe makes some decent points in his article, but in the end, he fails to support his claims.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

10 Signs That You Are (Or Want To Be) a Meathead

1. You do one set of quarter squats, add 200 more pounds to the bar, ponder it for several minutes, and walk away never to return.

2. You do a set of deadlifts at 50% of your 1RM with a round back, a weight belt, and lifting straps.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

So You Think You Can Olympic Lift

Are you guilty of any of the following Olympic lifting mistakes?

Setting up with the bar too far away from your shins
Pulling too early with your arms
Reversing curling the bar
Catching in the "spread eagle" postion
Taking sets beyond form failure

Olympic lifts are the ultimate expression of explosive strength and power. They are also the most technical exercises out there, requiring years of daily practice to master. At the typical meathead gym, most guys and gals steer clear of them. Of the select few individuals who do see their merits, most of them perform the lifts carelessly and sloppily. Here, I detail the five most common mistakes.

Friday, October 4, 2013

CrossFit: Not the First of its Kind

CrossFit gets a lot of hate for its high volume framework. The truth is, though, that CrossFit was neither the first nor even the latest training system to champion oodles of sets and reps. Thanks to the race-the-clock component, though, it is the most brutal.

While I don't recommend anyone go do 1000 burpees for time, high volume training -- within reason -- can be a great way to break out of the 3-sets-of-10-reps funk. Whether you're looking to gain strength or improve your conditioning, there's a type of high volume training for you.

How you might feel after your first high volume training session.
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Condense Your Workouts by Clustering

Back in the stone ages of resistance training (and still to this day in some people's programming), you'd walk into the gym, load up the barbell, and do 3 sets of squats. Then you'd head over to the bench press and do another 3 sets there. After that, you'd mosey on over to the pull-up bar and do your sets. Then reverse crunches. You get the idea.

There's nothing wrong with this method of training -– as long as you don't mind spending two hours per day in the gym, that is. But if you could do the exact same amount of work in three-fourths the time, wouldn't you?

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Top 8

I recently conducted a poll of fitness experts (read: I asked my trainer friends on Facebook) to determine the 8 best exercises. I phrased the question in this way: If you could do only 8 exercises, what would they be?

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Polling is now complete, and the results are in. The composite list goes like this...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Down and Dirty With Pull-ups and Periodization

When it comes to pull-ups, which is better: 5 unassisted or 12 assisted?


Monday, September 9, 2013

Treadmill + Stretching ≠ Warm-up

How many times have you raced into the gym amped up for a workout, forgone any type of warm-up whatsoever, hit the heavy weights, and then tweaked something? 

Whether we're pressed for time, lazy, or just plain don't think we need it, we're all guilty of inadequate warm-up from time to time. As a matter of fact, those of us who warm up with five minutes of static stretching and walking on the treadmill are guilty of inadequate warm-up every time.

Resistance training is inherently risky business. In order to reduce that risk, mobility, stability, and reactivity are obligatory before we get anywhere near a squat rack. Sure, walking and stretching increase core temperature and passive joint range of motion. However, an effective warm-up must include much more.

Pre-workout stretching does not constitute warm-up!Photo courtesy:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Harder, Better, Faster, and Stronger All At Once

Want to put on lean body mass, get stronger, and improve your endurance all at once?

Traditional training wisdom says that you can't -- that to achieve each adaptation, you must concentrate on them one at a time. Such is the premise of the linear periodization model, which calls for spending a few weeks training for each adaptation individually (muscular endurance, hypertrophy, and strength).

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Monday, August 26, 2013

'The Scientific 7-Minute Workout' Revised

In a recent New York Times article, The Scientific 7-Minute Workout, fitness columnist Gretchen Reynolds relates the findings of a couple of Florida-based strength and conditioning specialists (see the original ACSM article here).

When it comes to exercise, Reynolds reports that less is more. That is, science shows that the days of spending an hour straight on the stationary bike are over. The caveat? The few minutes you do spend training each day must be all-out, maximum effort.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

8 Things I Saw Today That Made Me Cringe

As a personal trainer, it's my job to ensure my clients practice good technique. Unfortunately, though, when I'm at a gym besides my own, I have to keep my mouth shut. After all, how would you like it if a stranger walked up to you while you were training and told you that you were doing an exercise wrong?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Plug-and-play Program Design

Program writer's block happens to even the very best from time to time. Even when we are inspired, we sometimes look back on our training log to find we've repeated our favorite movements while neglecting and undertraining others.

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One simple, practically automated way to make sure we get everything we need in the proper proportions is to fill in this "giant set" template, based on the categories laid out in The Case for Full Body, Movement-based Training...

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Little Bit of Everything

A few months ago, I took a trip with my mentor to a CrossFit gym a couple friends of ours own. The WOD that day was "Fran" – a brutal back-and-forth between barbell thrusters and kipping pull-ups.

At the time, I'd heard a lot of experts attack CrossFit. As we watched on, I asked my mentor what his own argument against this type of training was. Given his general bent towards bodybuilding, powerlifting, and Boyle-esque functional training, his response surprised me.

"I have none," he told me. "I would definitely do this workout."


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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Case for Full Body, Movement-based Training

Does your one-rep max loaded pull-up equal your one-rep max barbell bench press? If not, you may be in need of a paradigm shift from muscles to movement.

In order to hit all the major muscle groups, many folks utilize split training. That is, over the course of a week, they might do chest one day (usually Monday, when they're fresh), back the next day, shoulders and arms the third day, and legs and abs the last day. Unless you're a bodybuilder -- and even then -- this protocol hardly makes sense for several reasons.

"Split Training"
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Friday, August 2, 2013

Is CrossFit For You? Or Anybody?

People ask me all the time what I think of CrossFit. For starters, there's nothing like CrossFit in terms of equipment selection, bodyweight mastery, intensity, variety, skill development, competition, community, and progress tracking. 

That said, before you head to the nearest CrossFit box, you must first ask yourself a few questions. Can you...
  1. Deadlift without rounding your back?
  2. Deep squat without compensation?
  3. Do perfect full range-of-motion push-ups?
  4. Do strict pull-ups unassisted?
  5. Box jump without a sound?
  6. Olympic lift?

    Is CrossFit For You? Or Anybody?
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