Sunday, September 28, 2014 From the Pool to the Power Rack

When my friend and technologist Matt Canning asked me if I’d like to contribute a guest blog post to his website on what makes me successful in the pool and in the gym, I jumped at the idea.

What few maxims could I boil my productivity and inspiration down to?

To find out my top six fitness tips, simply click the link below:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Coach’s Spotlight: Tom DeVietro

I walked into CrossFit Advance one Wednesday morning just as the 8:30 class was finishing up. As always, Coach Tom DeVietro gave me a hero’s welcome upon entering. Little does Tom know that he’s the real hero.

I met Tom two years ago at the National Personal Training Institute of Philadelphia. Tom, already CrossFit Level 1 certified, had decided to go back to school for another six months. As part of his practical education, Tom seized the first opportunity to train the toughest “client” around: me.

As a congenital above-knee amputee, I present unique challenges to a trainer. Tom unabashedly put me through the wringer that first day. Afterwards, he asked me to take off my prosthesis so he could take a closer look. He was fascinated.

As the 9:30 CrossFit Advance class got underway, one woman asked, “Is this the Mike Burgener method of teaching the hang clean?”

“Nope, it’s the Tom DeVietro method!” Tom replied, as he explained the intricacies of the movement.

Where many a coach might gloss over the details, Tom began with a thorough explanation of the role of the core and breathing in the clean. Nods of understanding swept the room as Tom continued by demonstrating each phase of the progression with incredible fluidity, crispness, and patience.

As he alluded to, Tom’s methods truly are all his own. He’s constantly expanding his horizons as both a coach and an athlete. His curiosity — which extends beyond metal legs — has recently led him to participate in his first triathlon, work one-on-one with an Olympic weightlifting coach, and even engage in strongman training.

Once we were finished with our cleans, we all convened to discuss the impending WOD  a 15-minute AMRAP of double unders, wall balls, and pull-ups. Tom stressed the importance of movement quality over total reps completed. He also encouraged everyone to go hard.

“This is your fifteen minutes!” Tom roared. “You don’t get them back, so make them count!”

During the WOD, Tom darted around motivating, adjusting, and even advising people to back off when necessary. Under Tom’s watchful eye, we all worked hard yet smart.

Afterwards, Tom advised us half-jokingly to “go home, eat a steak, go to sleep, and come back tomorrow ready to do it all over again.” The funny thing is, that was probably his plan exactly.

As most of the class trickled out, smiles across their faces, a few lingered in an effort to soak up Tom’s infectious presence for a few minutes longer.

“What are you guys still doing here?” Tom said. “It’s Friday. Get the hell out!”

With his shaved head and Army Ranger background, Tom might appear intimidating on first impression. Once he begins to speak, however, he reveals a soft voice that immediately puts you at ease. The priority he gives to proper progression and intelligent programming for the individual athlete further reinforces this sentiment.

With Tom at the helm, safety and results are pretty much guaranteed. If that’s not hero material, what is?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

T-Nation: 6 Ways to Bring the Pain

For lots of folks, exercises like bodyweight squats, glute bridges, and push-ups don’t pack the punch necessary to stimulate adaptation. However, when you precede an isometric hold at the most difficult position of each of them with a heavy hitting dynamic movement working the same muscles, you have yourself one deadly combination.

And so I came up with my so-called "Deadly dynamic-static compound sets." Simply put, these are couplets of exercises targeting the same muscle groups performed in rapid succession as follows:
A. Dynamic exercise: 8-12 reps
B. Static hold: to failure

The sets can be performed by just about anybody and for just about any muscle group. In my latest T-Nation article, I describe 6 of my favorite such 'Ways to Bring the Pain:'

Thursday, September 4, 2014 “If Only:” 7 Lessons from a Record-Setting Paralympic Medalist

Sure, all newbie lifters make mistakes. But just maybe, with the proper information, many of these mistakes could be avoided. At least, that was my goal for this guest post I did for world-renowned strength coach (and all-around cool guy!) Eric Cressey.

Read about the seven biggest mistakes I made in the weight room during my Paralympic swimming career here:

...But don't take my word for it! This post was also featured in the Personal Trainer Development Center's Top Fitness Articles of the Week (August 31, 2014, edition):

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 Lower Body Training for the Amputee and Able-bodied Athlete Alike

My resistance training journey began one fateful evening, a decade ago, in a crowded high school weight room. My teammates and I, still dripping wet from swim practice, gathered around the athletic trainer as he attempted to explain the intricacies of the barbell high pull.

Fancying myself no different from my peers -- despite having been born an above-knee amputee as a result of a congenital birth defect -- I approached the bar and got to work on my first set. It didn’t feel quite right, but nobody said anything, so I figured I was doing okay. I did a couple more sets in a similar fashion and then headed home.

Lo and behold, my efforts to mainstream myself had some nasty repercussions. I woke up the next morning with excruciating low back pain and was relegated to the plate-loaded deadlift machine for the rest of the season. It wouldn’t be until eight years later that I would gather the courage to attempt another barbell lift.

What went wrong that first day? Likely a bad case of lumbar flexion, in addition to a gross compensatory pattern favoring my intact side. Could it have been avoided? With careful exercise selection and implementation, yes.

The trouble is, there's a serious lack of strength training info out there for us amputee athletes. As such, I've taken it upon myself to develop a catalog of lower body exercises geared towards the amputee -- as well as anyone looking to develop strength and symmetry in their hamstrings and glutes. And come on, who doesn't want a better backside?!

This resource is now complete and available to the masses. It even includes over a dozen short and sweet videos of me performing all the exercises.

Here's the link: