Tuesday, September 29, 2015

5 Essentials of a Kick-ass (CrossFit) Gym

In most towns across the country, there’s no shortage of gyms to choose from. Big box gyms, CrossFit gyms, boutique training studios, etc. Due to the sheer number of options, there are bound to be some good ones and some not so good ones -- be it CrossFit or otherwise. In order to help weed out the good from the ugly, here are 5 essential features to look for in a gym.

1. A non-cookie cutter approach

If you go to a conventional gym, you’re basically just going for access to the equipment. That’s it. There’s no accountability, and you’re probably just picking a random workout from a magazine, or worse yet doing your old high school football team’s routine.

Kick-ass CrossFit gyms, on the other hand, offer a hybrid of powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, and cardio sports -- all combined to make each workout different and fun. There’s also a plethora of coaches who do a legit job of teaching each of these fitness domains. At the same time, though, you don’t have to do any of those things if you don’t want! If you’re just looking for a good workout, you can just do basic, beginner fitness.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Fitness Handbook: The Story of My Double Bodyweight Chin-up

​For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a knack for pull-ups. You might say I owe it partially to my physical difference. For bodyweight exercises, the congenital absence of my left leg is actually a blessing; my prosthetic leg weighs only a fraction of what a human limb does.

Back in elementary school, I remember testing max rep pull-ups in gym class each year. Cueing up some inner rage at whichever crush had recently broken my young, naïve heart, my seven or so reps consistently scored tops among my peers. Being sore in the biceps for days thereafter was like my badge of honor.

Fast forward a decade and change to my mid-20’s, when double digit pull-ups became my norm. Needing a new challenge, I began adding extra weight via a dip belt. One day, about three years ago, I decided to test my one-rep max. After a thorough warm-up, I threw 90 pounds on the belt and asked my co-worker to film my attempt. Surprising even myself, I busted out three reps.

​And so a new quest was born: a double bodyweight chin-up....

Read the rest of my article for The Fitness Handbook here:

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Understanding Muscle Dysmorphia

Guest Post by Chris Brown

As participants in a media-driven culture, we are slowly but surely accepting what the television and the internet say is the ideal body. Male bodybuilders are expected to look a certain way, and if they don’t then they are not considered macho or even professional.

As a consequence, a 2014 study in JAMA Pediatrics showed that the average young male is more worried about his physique than his studies or even work. Indeed, 18% of boys are so concerned about how they look that they are now at risk for falling victim to depression, drug abuse, and binge drinking. When these boys become men, the need to appeal to conventional attitudes increases and ushers in Muscle Dysmorphia.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How Much Do You Actually Know About Strength Training?

Think you know strength training? Put your knowledge to the test.

  1. Which of these constitutes a pre-exhaust set?

  2. Hammer curls to Chin-ups
    Bench press to Skull crushers
    Push-ups to Bench press
    Hammer curls to Preacher Curls

  3. Bodybuilders typically use which of these training splits?

  4. Upper/lower
    Full body
    Body part

  5. What is the name of the protocol involving several bicep curls using various partial and full ranges of motion?

  6. 15s

  7. Which of the following, when performed correctly, involves knee flexion/isometric hip extension?

  8. Machine leg curls
    Physioball leg curls
    Physioball prone jackknives
    Side-lying clamshells

  9. Which of these is NOT the name of an energy system?

  10. Cori cycle
    ATP-PC System

  11. Roundback deadlifts are

  12. A method used by advanced lifters to pull more weight
    Characterized by a hyperextended spine
    100% safe
    All of the above

  13. Alternating sprinting with walking for 30 seconds each is an example of

  14. Steady state cardio
    Metabolic resistance training
    Interval training
    Tactical metabolic training

  15. Bob weighs 150 lbs and deadlifts 300. Joe weighs 200 pounds and deadlifts 350.

  16. Bob is absolutely stronger than Joe.
    Bob and Joe are equally strong.
    Bob is relatively stronger than Joe.
    Bob could deadlift two of Joe.

  17. "Moment arms" and "lever arms" are the same thing.

  18. True
    Sometimes True, Sometimes False
    What's a moment arm?

  19. Which is these phenomena has real scientific merit?

  20. Adrenal fatigue
    High reps for "toning"
    Muscle confusion
    None of the above

Thanks for playing!

Click here for the answers and explanations.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

5 Things You Should NEVER Do in the Gym (Backed by Science)

Certain exercises and training practices will break your body down over time, pretty much regardless of how well executed they are. Here’s a list of 5 Things You Should NEVER Do in the Gym, with references to the scientific literature to back each one up. Be sure to read to the bottom so you don’t miss anything.

Which of these 5 things do you do/recommend?

Deep squats
Low intensity cardio
Lift before puberty
Lift heavy weights when "toning" is the goal


1. Deep squats

Due to the excessive anterior translation of the knees past the toes and the resulting high compressive and shear forces at the knee joint, deep squatting greatly increases the risk of injury to the menisci and ACL (Escamilla 2001), as well as development of arthritis (Hefzy et al. 1998). In addition, squatting below parallel does not increase muscle activation (Escamilla 2001). Finally, the deep squat position is rarely required in the majority of sports, so its functional benefits are minimal (Schoenfeld and Williams 2012). For these reasons, deep squats should be avoided.

Monday, September 21, 2015

T Nation: Strength Training Tricks: What Works?

There’s no shortage of cues that supposedly increase strength in the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Some of them are true strength hacks, but plenty of them are hoaxes.

In order to get to the bottom of what works and what doesn't, I asked six experts for their takes. Here's the SparkNotes version:

  • For the squat, engage your lats, use the Valsalva maneuver, and descend quickly while maintaining control.
  • On bench press, squeeze the bar hard and “pull it apart.” Warm up thoroughly beforehand, but avoid excessive static stretching.
  • Before you pull your deadlift, “bend the bar” to create tension. Also experiment with touching your tongue to the roof of your mouth and locking your knees out as soon as the bar passes them.

And here's the link to the full-blown write-up:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Strengtheory.com: How to Prevent Muscle Strains

I'm a big fan of killing two birds with one stone.

Well, let me qualify that. I mean, I don't really love to kill birds. But when it only takes ONE stone to kill TWO, that just kind of gets me going.

Anyway, last semester, I did just that. I was tasked with writing a literature review of an injury for my athletic training class.

Rather than rehash ACL's or some other boring injury like everyone else, I took it as an opportunity to write about something a lot of people actually care about and could benefit from learning more about.

The topic I chose was muscle strain injuries. Anecdotally, just about everyone has suffered one, however serious. In fact, just this fall, I had one myself of my pec. It wasn't anything serious, like the guy below's, but still, it lingered annoyingly for months.

Powerlifter Scot Mendelson sporting a complete pec tear

How did I injure my pec? According to the research, just like every other idiot male age 20-40: bench pressing (without warming up).

After submitting the paper to my professor, I decided to refine and send it over to my friend Greg Nuckols, who was gracious enough to host it on Strengtheory.

In this version, my goal was to delve deeply into the science of muscle strains -- both the mechanism (cause) and the prevention -- but in simple enough terms for anyone to understand.

Without further ado, here is the link:


If you've ever had a strain or wish to prevent them in the future, be sure to give this a read!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Creative Solutions for Creating Balance from Asymmetry

Guest Post By Daragh Crowley

What the heck was Daragh having me do here? Read to the bottom to find out!

Try standing on one leg and doing a squat without shifting your pelvis or rotating. Tricky, right?

Now stand on both legs, activate your pelvic floor, squeeze your glutes on both sides, and tighten your lower abdominals. Then lift one foot, and try the squat again. Better?

On the first go-round, maybe, maybe not. But with practice, an optimally aligned single-leg squat is certainly within most of our grasps.

The thing is, if you're an amputee like Travis, you don't have the luxury of standing on both legs while engaging your pelvic floor, glutes, and abs. You see, Travis was born without a femur in his left leg. Although he ambulates well with the aid of an above-knee prosthesis, he doesn’t have the benefit of feedback from two feet touching the ground.