Wednesday, December 30, 2015

4 Strategies for Breaking Through Muscle Building Plateaus [Muscle & Strength]

Any lifter who's been in the game for more than a couple of months knows that progress isn't linear. You can't just add five pounds to the bar every single session.

When progress stalls and you can no longer just keep lifting heavier and heavier, what strategies do you have for busting through the plateau?

In my new article for Muscle & Strength, 4 Strategies for Breaking Through Muscle Building Plateaus, I describe the four best techniques for making continual progress on the gym floor.

Read all about them here:


Monday, December 28, 2015

Podcast Ep. 9 - Betsy Lane

In Episode 9 of the Fitness Pollenator Podcast, I'm joined by an amazing guest: Betsy Lane. Betsy is a longtime friend, avid bodybuilder, and soon-to-be doctor of physical therapy (after she passes her boards, of course!).

In this episode, Betsy and I discuss
  • Her background, going back to the stroke she had as a kid
  • How she trains around her challenges
  • The interplay between physical therapy and bodybuilding
  • Nutritional secrets
  • Betsy's blossoming writing career
  • Common issues Betsy sees in the clinic
  • And so much more!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Everything Works, Until it Doesn’t: How being BAD at Exercise makes you BETTER at Fat Loss

This blog post, which originally appeared on my friend Andy Van Grinsven's website here, really struck a chord with me, partially due to the swimming reference and partially due to his informative and witty writing style. I think the idea that NOT being good at something is actually BETTER for fat loss is under appreciated. Thus, I was elated when Andy agreed to let me re-post his piece on my blog. Enjoy!
Everything Works, Until it Doesn’t: How being BAD at Exercise makes you BETTER at Fat Loss
The fitness and nutrition world has gone insane. Like bat-shit crazy.
And much of it thanks to social media and the internet, where everything is true and everyone is an expert. And if you don’t agree then you can go eat a bowl of liquid mercury, because heaven forbid you have a different perspective.
Gluten will kill you. GMO's will kill you. Vaccines will kill you.
I’m of course being facetious and I don’t believe any of those things. But spend 5 minutes on Facebook and someone will try to convince you otherwise. Hell, even as a fitness professional I find my head spinning from all the “information” and “facts” found on the interwebs.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Podcast Ep. 8 - Chris Leib

In Episode 8 of the Fitness Pollenator Podcast, I welcome Dr. Chris Leib. I met Chris about a year ago at a workshop he did at our mutual friend Tom DeVietro’s gym. (As an aside, Tom happened to be the very first guest of this podcast, so if you haven’t listened to episode 1, you should!)

Not only is Chris a doctor of physical therapy, but he’s also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. While at Chris’s workshop, I was completely blown away by his hybrid approach to training, in which he fuses physical therapy, CrossFit, kettlebells, and more.

As I’ve gotten to know Chris, one of my favorite things about him is his voracious appetite for learning and assimilating new information. Lately, he can be found splitting his time between the physical therapy clinic, the personal training setting, and writing about exercise.

In this episode, Chris and I talk about...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Never Miss the Big Lifts Again (Juggernaut Training Systems)

A few weeks back, my friend Jen Sinkler posted on Facebook about a game she and her husband were playing while watching the live stream of the 2015 USA Powerlifting Nationals.

They called the game "Miss or Make." The goal of the game was simple: to predict whether the lifter would complete their deadlift attempt successfully. The catch? You had to make your determination BEFORE the lifter even grabbed the bar.

This got me thinking, what are all the things that have to go right leading up to a big lift? From training to day-of-meet preparations to simply approaching the bar, your body and mind have to be just right.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

8 Secrets to Boosting Your Energy

Guest Post by Mathews McGarry

Working hard is necessary, but it also takes quite a toll. After a few intense workouts or long days of work, it’s quite probable that you’ll feel completely worn out.

Unfortunately, sometimes getting a good night’s sleep won't be enough to recuperate completely. This means that you need a bit of an energy boost. The same as the size of any muscle in your body, your energy levels can be increased through proper training. This training, however, requires a lifestyle that's dedicated to fitness.

Here are eight things you can do in order to recharge your batteries.

This guy grew a foot of hair and increased his vertical jump by following these 8 tips.

Monday, December 7, 2015 Another Weird Trick for Improving Exercise Technique: Positional Holds

When it comes to compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and bench press, it's not always easy to feel what you're doing wrong, even when someone else points it out to you.

Recently, I realized that a tool I used while swimming for increasing the feel of the water -- hand paddles and a pull buoy -- was analogous to one I now use in the gym.

In my latest guest blog post for, I discuss this trick for improving exercise technique that makes use of positional holds against precisely placed added resistance.

If your squat, deadlift, or bench press form isn't quite right and you just can't seem to fix it, this blog could be exactly what you need.

Read all about it here: 


Also, in case you missed it last week, be sure to pick up your FREE copy of my new e-book, 50 Fit Tips: Look, Feel, and Move Better here:


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Common Injury Sites and Clever Workarounds: Part II - The Lower Body

By Eric Bach and Travis Pollen

We’re sure you’ll agree when we say that the fitness industry is chock-full of “perfect” programs, supposedly designed and refined to help you reach all your goals. These absolutes and generalizations are meant to simplify an industry rife with thousands of opinions, methodologies, and practices to fit to everyone.

While reducing complex topics down to usable pieces is important to make the science of training applicable, we can’t just blindly attach ourselves to absolutes. In no situation is this more obvious than the epidemic rates of knee, shoulder, and back pain in avid lifters. 

Whether it’s a bad back, a balky shoulder, or a bum ankle, just about everybody is screwed up in one way or another. It’s for this very reason that those cookie-cutter programs don’t, well, cut it. We’re all unique, with anatomical differences and injury histories that require a truly individualized approach to training.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 Tony Is Critical of CrossFit, But Should He Be?

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of people hating on CrossFit -- especially people hating on it when they unknowingly do CrossFit themselves!

That's right, I'm talking about people who in one breath say CrossFit kills and then turn around and do an AMRAP or EMOM.

I believe it was Shakespeare who wrote "that which we call a rose / by any other name would smell as sweet."

Perhaps these haters call their workouts by other names, but it's all the same. After all, the very definition of CrossFit is

Constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity.

Thus, any time you're doing exercise that falls under that description, it's CrossFit!

No, CrossFit didn't invent the "As Man Reps as Possible" or "Every Minute on the Minute" set/rep schemes. But it did help to popularize them, and for that it deserves some credit.

In my new guest post for The Man, Tony Gentilcore, I describe 

  • Four different CrossFit protocols that I use for myself and my clients
  • The unique benefits of each, and
  • How to implement them in your workouts.

Read the blog post here:


And after you read it (or before), make sure you pick up my new e-book, 50 Fit Tips, for FREE right here:


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Workouts

By Ryan Blair

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends regular strength training for quality of life and health. Although strength training isn't always easy, the physical and emotional benefits it provides make it well worth the effort. For example, it can increase your muscle mass, overall health, and self-confidence.

Here are five tips for getting the most out of your workouts.

1. Plan & Document

If you fail to have a long-term weight lifting plan with well-defined goals, you most likely will not succeed. The practice of lifting weights requires measurable goals, constant diligence, and detailed documentation. Consider keeping a workout journal that allows you to track your numbers, measure your goals quantitatively, and evaluate your progress. A journal is especially important if you consistently alter your workout sets and choices (as you should). Always be sure to plan reduced workout phases to prevent overtraining and injuries.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

9 Thoughts That Are Sabotaging Your Health

Today I have an intriguing guest post from my friend Mathews McGarry. Below, Mathews describes 9 ways in which unfit people sabotage their health through mindset alone. #6 is the one that irks me the most. Basically, I think it all goes to show that if you just change the way you look at things, your body will change in kind. Enjoy! -TP

9 Thoughts That Are Sabotaging Your Health
Guest Post by Mathews McGarry

Everyone would like to lead a healthy life. But then you wake up with problems caused by an inactive lifestyle, and you ask yourself -- why is it not happening? The transformation does not happen automatically, but rather it requires some effort and a certain mindset. 

Mindset represents one’s established set of attitudes. It is somehow daunting, when we find ourselves tired and drained from an unhealthy lifestyle, to muster the energy to shift from an “unhealthy” to a “healthy” mindset.

But remember, everyone has the option to choose what to do in a single day and the ability to make a decision. We owe it to ourselves because health issues can cause problems in almost every other aspect of our lives.

Here are 9 ways fit and unfit people think (and act) differently.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Podcast Ep. 7 - Jason Helmes, Anyman Fitness

By day, Jason Helmes is just a regular guy. He teaches math to middle schoolers; he has a wife and two kids. He is exceptionally tall (6 feet, 8 inches), but we won't hold that against him.

By night, he's the boss at Anyman Fitness, an online community for people "who want to learn to lean out, live well, and improve themselves permanently."

To date Jason has helped thousands of people reach their goals, and it's no wonder, given his teaching background and incredible ability to simplify fitness and nutrition. He's also a really nice guy, which probably helps.

I was fortunate enough to get Jason on for Episode 7 of the Fitness Pollenator (Video) Podcast. Over the course of the episode, Jason Helmes and I discuss

  • How he went from jock to jiggly to jacked again
  • The availability bias and the difference between popular and evidence-based fitness 
  • Making fitness a lifestyle and how anyone can do it
  • The importance of meal planning
  • How being both a teacher and mathematically-minded helps Jason as a coach
  • His eight month diet in preparation for a summer photo shoot
  • Whether or not "bulking" and "cutting" cycles are necessary
  • Why being bodybuilder lean is neither healthy nor sustainable
  • The advantages and disadvantages of being an exceptionally tall lifter
  • Avoiding "lifestyle bloat"
  • Jason's secret for building a successful (online) business
  • And more
This is one you absolutely do not want to miss!

Monday, October 26, 2015 “One Weird Trick” to Improve Exercise Technique Instantly: Proprioceptive Stimulus

Arnold probably used *a few* weird tricks in his day.

Just recently, I realized that a tool we used in the pool for improving stroke technique was exactly the same as one I now use all the time in the gym.

This "weird trick" is precisely the subject of my latest guest blog post for Dean Somerset.

Read all about it here: 

>> <<

P.S. Cool beans! This article was also selected by thePTDC as the best in Strength Training for the week!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Why Do HIIT when Hypertrophy is the Goal?

I recently reached out to my good friend Marc Lewis with a question regarding muscle hypertrophy and interval training. With Marc's background in exercise physiology and research interest in concurrent training, I knew he'd have the answer.

When I received Marc's incredibly thorough response, I realized just how lucky I am to have such a smart friend. I learned so much, I figured I'd share it here. If nitty gritty exercise science tickles your fancy, read on!

Hey Marc,

Even when someone’s primary goal is muscle hypertrophy, we still recommend a combination of cardiac output training and high-intensity metabolic training (i.e. HIIT).

In really simple terms, cardiac output training improves a person’s ability to recover, which helps them train with more volume and more frequently (thereby promoting hypertrophy). 

Why, though, do we recommend the high-intensity component? The argument you see a lot of the time is “just look at a sprinter’s body,” but you could also make the case that elite sprinting selects for muscular body types. Is there research showing that high-intensity metabolic training builds muscle?

Thanks a bunch,


Marc's All-Star Response

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Surprising Reasons You’re Not Reaching Your Fitness Goals

Guest Post by Geoffrey Chiu

Through years of experimental and observational research on human physiology and biomechanics, science has dictated the optimal way to train for specific fitness goals. The problem is, the most efficient route may not always be the most enjoyable -- especially for people new to exercise.

What often happens to beginners is that they begin to find their routine boring and monotonous. These people eventually fall off and stop working out all together; whether it’s due to boredom or a lack of progress/results. Now, much like science, where adherence is an important factor in experimental studies, adherence is also a crucial part of a beginner's long-term fitness success.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 Reaching Your Muscular Potential

Hang out for any length of time in a commercial gym, and you're guaranteed to see atrocities like triple bodyweight quarter squats, push-ups that look like they're being performed by a dying seal, and eighteen variations of bicep curls.

In my new article for, Reaching Your Muscular Potential, I thought long and hard about the most common mistakes I see people make.

In the end, I was able to boil the list down to just six things. Are you making any of the six mistakes? Find out here:

Monday, October 19, 2015

Podcast Ep. 6 - Kevin Mullins Fitness

Curious what it's like to be a TWO-TIME finalist in the Men's Health Next Top Trainer search? How about being selected as one of Women's Health Magazine's Ten Insanely In-Shape Male Trainers?

Meet personal trainer Kevin Mullins

In Episode 6 of the Fitness Pollenator (Video) Podcast, I chat with personal trainer Kevin Mullins of Washington, DC, and get answers to the above questions and so much more, including
  • How Kevin came to be a personal trainer and strength coach
  • The biggest mistakes trainers and coaches make
  • Why habit-based nutrition trumps a cut-and-dry diet plan
  • How Kevin became active in the fitness blog-o-sphere
  • What supersets are and how best to combine exercises
  • Which of Kevin's many continuing education certifications he finds the most useful

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Best Fitness Articles (Dick Talens Edition)

1. The Other Side of Strength by Dick Talens

Most folks probably think that the secret to getting ripped is sheer determination and a love of pain. In this article, Talens highlights the somewhat surprising characteristics of people he’s worked with who have successfully transformed their bodies — characteristics like humility, self-compassion, and mindfulness. If you’ve tried countless times to make a change but haven’t succeeded, this is a must-read.

Think your general practitioner is the best person to listen to for weight loss advice? Think again. According to Talens, doctors’ best tips are generally to “eat less” and “move more” — hardly a prescription for real world weight loss success. Instead of trying to follow the doctor’s terse guidelines, Talens recommends hitting the Internet, where online fitness communities (like the fitness Subreddit) that share actionable information abound.

In order to lose weight, the majority of people turn to running, even if they despise it. This choice makes sense from an accessibility standpoint, says Talens. Unfortunately, it’s actually not the best form of exercise for weight loss — especially for heavier folks for whom it causes pain. The better weight loss solution, Talens proposes, is to find an activity that you can stick to (be it walking, strength training, yoga, whatever) and strive to improve at it through what Talens describes as the principle of “activation.”

More isn’t always better, especially in the context of exercise. In this article, Talens argues that humans have finite resources in terms of time, energy, and willpower. The key to fitness success, he explains, is to maximize the return on investment of these resources. And simply doing more, more, more isn’t the right way to go about it.

5. The Word “Healthy” Sucks by Dick Talens

Nothing is inherently healthy or unhealthy, says Talens. Instead, every fitness decision must be considered in the greater context of a person’s overall lifestyle. Talens gives the near and dear to my heart example of Oreos. In isolation, most people wouldn’t consider Oreos to be a healthy food. But if a few Oreos help a person stay on track with the rest of their diet, then perhaps they aren’t so unhealthy after all.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

5 Ways Exercise Improves Relationships

By Ryan Blair

In recent years, it's becoming more and more trendy to be health-conscious. People want to engage in activities that will help not only their bodies, but also their overall being. When most people think of exercise, they generally envision activities that will strengthen their bodies. What they don't consider is how exercise can also help their relationships develop and deepen.

1. Physical Response

When you exercise, endorphins are released in your body. Endorphins help make you feel happy. When you feel better internally, you're more likely to handle your relationships in a peaceful manner. In this way, the effects that exercise have on your mood can help strengthen your relationships.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Meet Mark: The Case for Online Training

Meet Mark. Mark is a 30-something father of two and administrator at a university.

Mark enjoys being active. His primary fitness goals are simple: to look good and continue engaging in recreational sports with his buddies.

Lately, Mark’s been experiencing a plateau with his resistance training routine, though. He’s tasked me, his online personal trainer, with evaluating his current program and making some recommendations to help him break out of his rut.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Excelling at Sport with Diabetes

Guest post by Robert Turp & Michelle Stevens

There are 29 million Americans currently living with diabetes. It’s frequently described as one of the biggest health issues of the 21st Century, with those diagnosed with type II diabetes growing every year. Learning how to manage this illness is something that is very important. It’s a chronic illness that can have a big impact on someone’s life.

But how does diabetes affect sport? What happens if you dream of sporting success but currently live with this illness?

Contrary to what people may believe, diabetes (both type I and II) doesn’t need to be an obstacle to enjoying or excelling at sports and fitness. Men and women with diabetes are common in sports at all levels and have achieved some of the highest awards available on the planet. If you think diabetics can’t achieve greatness, just look at Steve Redgrave, one of the most decorated Olympians of all time. He won Olympic gold after being diagnosed with diabetes. Did his training change? Yes, of course. Did it affect his success? No.

Steve Redgrave, one of the most decorated Olympians ever

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.