Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Couple of good blogs to check out...

Randy Hauer has a great blog on his thoughts on using the KB snatch as tool for assisting with the olympic lifts - (man I have to figure out that whole links thing). you can link to Randy's blog through

Alwyn Cosgrove has an article on his site about bring up a sluggish metabolism...

Been editing DVD and audio footage for 4 more Secrets of... projects that Gray and I put together - fun stuff!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Today's training and observations...

Squat 405 x 2, 455 x 2, 475 x 2, 405 x 2

Inverted Row +#100 x 5,3,3,3,3

Bench 275 x 1, 295 x 1, 315 x 1, 305 x 1, 295 x 2

Squat PR for a double - 1st rep good and deep, 2nd rep maybe an 1" short of white lights
Inverted row - set power rack so I could hang from the bar with my feet on a bench and perform a row - really like the feel of this exercise.
Bench - I need my lats for my bench - no lats - no bench.

And I think in addition to the overload from Squatting, Benching and Deadlifting with chin-ups - it is the arch on my bench that is hitting that Lat/thorocolumbar junction and causing the spasm. Have to keep an eye on it.

Reading, writing and working quite a bit - a great time for me professionally.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

How much can you train?

As much as you deserve to!

The factors involved in this:
Training goals
Training style
What do you want to improve at doing?
Are you after results or a workout?

Nutrition: If you are not eating well - don't ask me about over-training etc...Under-nutritioned does not = over-training.

Water: If you are not drinking enough water - don't ask me about over-training

Sleep: If you are not getting enough sleep - don't ask me about overtraining

Stress: Unless you live a charmed life and have no other stress (exercise is a stress BTW) - ie...job, girlfriend/boyfriend, husband/wife, family, must take your overall stress into account - Over-stressed does not = over-trained -
it ='s over-stressed.

Training goals: Your frequency of training will depend on your goals - do you have any?

Training style: If you are a hard charger - don't expect to train everyday - at least not at the same intensity.

What do you want to improve at doing?: Bodyweight pull-ups = daily, Weighted pull-ups = 3 or so days a week - define your goals.

Are you after results or a workout?: If you just want to beat the crap out of yourself and get a "workout" in - have at it but if you are concerned with adding to your 1 rep max, or another precise goal - focus on what you need to do to get results - not what you would do for a workout.

Just some thoughts on training frequency and over-training.

BTW - you can train yourself to handle almost any training protocol - if you approach it systematically and wisely.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

My fortune tonight...

Had a bit of Chinese food for dinner tonight and my fortune cookie had this to say to me:
"A difference, to be a difference, must make a difference."

Sounds like they stole one from Yogi - but there is wisdom here. (As there was in some of Yogi's sayings)

How many times have you changed something - diet, exercise, work - and it made no difference. Maybe you got sore for a day or enjoyed doing a different exercise - but did it make a difference. BTW - a difference for me is something that brings me closer to my goals - not variety for variety's sake.

I always tell my clients that in order to change - you must change. (another profound one eh?) But you would be amazed at people that never see any results (ie...a difference) but always have a reason. They change their routine or they never change there routine - They eat perfectly or they gave up on the "diet" they were on because it did not create a difference. Then it wasn't different.

How can you effectively target a difference with an amorphous goal like - "I want to be in shape"? Round is a shape - is that what you meant????

You must know where you are - where you want to be - what it will take to make the difference.

Goals and the ability to evaluate your progress are the keys to creating that difference.

So - are you making a difference?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A small PR today:

Went to the gym today to do some deadlifts - intended on trying some semi-sumo stance DLs to switch it up for my back since I am getting plenty of load for my system from the Squats.
So on the Semi-sumo I pulled 455 x 2,2,2 - these felt good but not great. Sumo is a tough feel for me.
So I got curious and decided to pull some conventional - pulled 495 x 1, 545 x 1, 495 x 1
Previous PR was 540 at the AAU meet in Oct. - so a modest PR but considering I haven't been pulling much and I am not peaked or anything - I will take it and walk away smiling.
Planned on benching today but decided to leave with my PR.

Foam roller and stretching earlier in the day - this is becoming such a part of my routine.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Feeling good and finding more reasons to love my foam roller...

Feeling good after yesterdays workout - but have to say that only squatting once a week and doing paused squats are good for producing soreness! Love those squats!

I was working with someone today on building up to pistols and realized that since incorporating the foam roller these feel the best they have felt in a long time. After I hurt my Right knee over 2 years ago pistols just never felt the same on that leg and then my left went haywire in a deep fully flexed position so pistols did not feel good on that leg. Now since hitting the foam roller I am feeling more comfortable with pistols. Pretty cool.

Also finding that my previous hot spots are kicking out much quicker - really cool.

More tomorrow...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Training observations of late...

Weight, thoracolumbar fascia, and the tendency to break my own rules...
Weight - Once you get heavy enough in your training - you can do less training at those new weights (for a time).
The pressure within your body increases as you are able to handle heavier training weights and further impacts the CNS and recovery ability. I am now at a point where I can go in and squat over 400, bench around 300 and deadlift at or over 500 every time I go in the gym - this is great but brings with it it's own issues.
This is why Westside spends so much time on GPP and the ability to handle heavier loads in a rotation of exercises. You can continue training - you just need to build the ability to handle the heavier loads on a consistent basis. Every time a new mental or physical training barrier is breached it will take some time to be able to handle the loads in repeated workouts.

Thoracolumbar fascia - everything is connected through this tendonous/fascial junction of the body. I had some pretty good back spasms after last Monday's workout. Great squats (425 x 2, 445 x 2, 455 x 2), Chins (100# x 3,3,2), Bench (315 x 1,1 275 x 3), then Deadlifts (495 x 1,1,1) - it was a great workout but ever since I switched from pull-ups to chin-ups I have had tension in my lat - TLF junction and this is where I ended up getting the spasms. The chins ended up overloading that junction and "torquing" that area - spasms are the result.
So I will be switching off of chins for a time or at least reducing the volume. Check out an anatomy text and see just how important this TLF is to - well- everything in the body.

Breaking my own rules - I don't train others the way I train myself. My feel for where my body is and how far I can go on a given day is something I cannot have access to for others. But I would not advocate Heavy Squats, benches, Chins and deadlifts in one workout. This came about because I wanted to know what would happen during a 3 lift powerlifting meet. And I now know I can hit some good numbers in the three lifts on a given day.
But as I am fond of saying - just because you can doesn't mean you should. And I tried all 4 in one day not once just to prove I could but three times - and my back spasmed - go figure.

I train - I learn - rinse and repeat...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Quick update and then out for the weekend....

Headed away for the weekend to get some R&R so I will be back Sunday night or Monday with more blogs.

Training yesterday -
Ran some sprints in a squash court. For those of you unfamiliar with squash google it - it is very interesting. But I was using a variation on a conditioning test used in squash. You sprint the court front corner to opposite back wall corner - in the test you need to 10 (down and back = 1) sprints in under a minute. A great anaerobic sprint drill. For the Ivy league squash teams you need to do 10 sets of the 10 sprints - all 10 sets have to come in at one minute or under each and you only get one minute rest in between. A really rough test and great conditioning.
So I have decided since I am not an ivy league squash player I will set my sights on 5 sets of 10 sprints with one minute rest between sets. (each sprint coming in in less than a minute)

So today was 5 sets of 5 sprints all in 30 seconds or under with one minute rest between sets. Fun stuff.

Then later I did some foam roller and stretching on a ballet bar. I am very interested in this type of stretching and have a routine that I will go through each day at work. Also learned some new foot and ankle strengthening exercises that are ballet oriented. Great stuff.

Enjoy the weekend

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Foam roller...

It has taken me quite some time to come around to and get into the foam roller. I will discuss this in a bit of detail but first let me go into the what's and why's of the foam roller for me.

Basically the foam roller is a form of self myo-fascial release/trigger point release work. A caveat here - Deep tissue work by a skilled massage therapist is always preferred but the foam roller does allow for the individual to hit those "hot spots".

A 6" round by 1' or 3' section of "foam roll" (I recommend the PB Elite brand from ) and off you go - lay it on the floor and begin rolling sections of you body on it. You get to adjust the pressure and position and find trigger points and hot spots. Once you have found a trigger point roll the area between 20-30 times or until you notice the trigger has decreased or gone away. Arms, back, hips, legs, calves etc...if you are controlling the pressure well you can hit almost everywhere. Taking the edge of the end of the roller and "digging" into your hip flexor is one of my personal favorites.

This has made a difference for me recently - it has allowed me to release some triggers from my hips and calves that were beginning to cause some issues. Great stuff!

Why did it take me awhile to come around to the foam roller? Couple of reasons:
1. I am a bit slow on the uptake sometimes - sad but true ;)
2. You develop triggers for a reason - unless you address the reason - expect to keep rolling.
3. Screening first! Find the restricted on asymmetrical movement patterns - roll the areas involved - then apply corrective drills and viola - reduced or eliminated triggers.
4. I read too often of people falling into the trap of #2 - rolling and releasing without ever addressing the reason. This lead me to believe initially that the foam roller just wasn't that great of a tool. I mean if you keep releasing - re-triggering - releasing etc... There is something wrong with that - caveat here:
A pain stimulus or activity that will "spawn" triggers (yes - just like demon spawn!) - like an "injured" knee or shoulder or squatting ;) These things will reactivate triggers regardless of the technique used.
I am currently working with someone awaiting a medial knee compartment replacement (I started with him about 2 and a 1/2months ago) and I understand that until that pain stimulus is removed he will continue to shut off certain areas and need "rehab" type techniques. {A quick aside here - since beginning with me he is walking pain free without a crutch for short distances - pretty damn cool!}
So understand that while the foam roller is a great tool and can have very positive impact - understand what you are doing and why your are releasing and/or re-releasing certain areas.
The Mobility vs. Stability trail...

Michael Boyle has an article about a conversation he had with Gray Cook about the "stacking" of mobility and stability within the body. I do recommend you check out and see what Boyle has to say about things - great coach with interesting and great ideas. His article is very good and I just want to present this here as means of sparking thought.
And Gray and I have spent a great deal of time discussing this ourselves.
Back to our originally scheduled program.........

Follow the trail:
Foot = stability
Ankle = mobility
Knee = stability
Hip = mobility
Lumbar/Core = stability
T-spine = mobility
Scapulae = stability
Shoulder = mobility

Now what happens if the foot which is supposed to show stability becomes mobile? The ankle has to become a stability joint instead of being mobile and the knee has to then become mobile (not what it was designed for) and so on..........

This is why you must follow the chain above and below an "injury" and find out if the problem is a mobility or stability problem because the opposite is waiting for you above and below where you are having an "issue".

And now you can see why a restricted shoulder can actually be a stability problem at the feet - just follow the trail....
Pretty cool eh?
If I hear this one more time I will scream!!!!

"Since muscle weighs more than fat..." And this is from an MSN article today and that is a quote from an Exercise Physiologist and PROFESSOR at a major university saying it!!!!! It was an article related to the Body Mass Index and how it doesn't take muscle vs. fat into account since it is a height/weight chart. (more on that in a moment)

Which weighs more a pound of lead or a pound of feathers? Anyone - Anyone - Bueller????

They both weigh a POUND!
One is far denser and therefore it takes less of it to make a pound but a pound = a pound regardless of the size of it. In the case of muscle vs. fat - muscle takes up about 5x less space than fat - pound per pound.

I cannot believe that a supposedly educated individual would say something like that in a public manner. It makes me want to scream!

On the BMI - I guess height and weight charts (the ones taken from the old insurance charts) were losing their impact so they decided to repackage the information in the form of a calculation. Requiring thought and calculators must have seemed like a way to have people take their weight more seriously. But height and weight charts will never be an accurate way to assess someone's body composition or "ideal" weight. Muscle makes a difference and you cannot tell me that Tyra Banks looks anything other than awesome! She looks real and looks great - regardless of that BMI.

Want to have an idea of how you are doing - Measure you waist right around the belly button (umbilicus for the latin speakers in the crowd) - Go a step further and measure your hips and calculate your waist to hips ratio.
Is it where you want to be?

Monday, February 12, 2007

If you haven't been over the Rif's blog - I highly recommend it.

Mark is a Senior Instructor in the RKC program and has been a high level gymnast, runner, cyclist, bodybuilder and powerlifter and now Kettlebell instructor.

His wife Tracy also has a great blog where she tracks her continuing journey (she has lost over a hundred pounds using a Kettlebell and good eating and that was only the first year!) of fitness and health.

Mark and Tracy were kind enough to share Thanksgiving dinner with me a couple of years ago - they are great friends and have a lot of valuable information on their blogs.

More tomorrow...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

First day off in over a month...

First real day off in over a month so I will not be posting much today but will be expanding on the Movement Screen and the one arm push-up and pistol and my recent addition of the foam roller to my routine.

A very good Perform Better and Functional Movement Screen workshop this past weekend in New Jersey - Two very full days of information and application.

Feeling ready to train again and excited to hit the gym tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

On the road again...

Getting ready to hit the road again so I will not be posting a blog until Sunday.
I took this week (since Monday) off from training and have just been hitting the foam roller (more on that some other time) and recovering so I will be back at training this monday.

Until Sunday - have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Good article over on T-nation...

Christian Thibaudeau has a good article over on about 6 Dumb things to do with your training - and I particularly like the sections on "Overtraining" and Plyometrics.

Overtraining is perhaps more feared than most communicable diseases and Christian does a great job of breaking down the information regarding overreaching, overtraining etc...
There was a post over on the forum re:Overtraining but the question was actually a recovery question - The person was wondering if it was ok to work a bodypart again if it was still sore or "fatigued" from the previous workout. Nothing to do with the physiological condition of overtraining.

Plyometrics are perhaps one of the most misunderstood and poorly applied techniques in the field of strength and conditioning and Christian does a great job of laying out the facts and providing wonderful information.
Did you know that a 2-4 week phase of plyos should only be done 2 times a year? And that the total number of foot contacts is far - far- far less than is typically recommended? If not - read the article and Supertraining.

I like it when someone else does the writing and I can just point and say - read that!
There is some good stuff out there - but you have to be careful.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

"I think I'll test myself today..."

If you are planning on testing yourself on something you have not been training or practicing you should hear the old Lost in Space line - "Danger Will Robinson - Danger...." - playing in your head. Especially if it is a 1 rm test.

Dropping and seeing where you are with push-ups (while not a perfect idea) carries far less risk then loading an un-practiced movement pattern with a maximal load. One wrong move and BLAMMO... There goes something wrong.

Unlike riding a bike there are a great many athletic movements that need to be trained and practiced before being tested. Squats being just one example (and a personal one).
I had built a great base of strength through deadlifting and single leg squats and decided I would set a squat 1 rm (so I could run my percentages correctly). Well after hitting my first squat attempt I was told that I wasn't quite deep enough and to "go deeper" on the next attempt. So I added some weight and tried to go deeper - and BLAMMO...there went my disc. (As I said yesterday this was an old high school injury)

Lessons learned -
#1 - Practice a lift before testing it.
#2 - Sometimes a restricted range of motion is there for a reason and going beyond it may not be a good idea.
#3 - Be happy with a PR and know that you do not have to shoot for a "max".

Practice a lift before testing it is self explanatory but let me explain further ;)
You should be familiar witha movement pattern before testing it. Taking 2-4 weeks to "learn" a lift before testing is essential. This goes for strength/endurance tests like push-ups - No stress on an area > to maximal stress and fatigue on an area might not be the best way to treat yourself.

Sometimes a restricted range of motion is there for a reason.
Your body builds in restrictions and asymmetries for any number of reasons (injury, posture etc...) and once they are there - they need to be dealt with before "pushing" through them. This is an example of the Jones Maxim - Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Screening and corrective strategies are there for a reason.

Be happy with a PR - you don't have to hit a "max".
Sometimes you end up at a true maximum attempt - but as a general rule this should be reserved for meets and competition. If your previous best bench was 255 and you hit 275 - walk away with the PR - don't figure that "you had 295 in you" - cycle back work up again and by the time you "test" again you might just break that 300 barrier. Pushing for a max might be the straw that breaks the camel's shoulder.

These are lessons hard learned and recovered from.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Training mistakes...

Post today on the DD forum about training mistakes has me thinking about mine. And boy are there some good ones!

The one I listed on the forum was not focusing on Mobility, Movement and Flexibility.
This is a recurring theme for me and has been years in the making.

The ability to maintain full, free, efficient movement is of primary importance in any routine. I prefer the Functional Movement Screen as a means of assessing basic movment patterns and the joint mobility drills as means of coordinating the patterns. All to often in the past I have achieved a level of mobility and flexibility and then let it go because something shiny took my interest away - then - Hey what do you know? I end up tight again. Surprise - Surprise!

As much as I love strength and the high tension techniques - they must be balanced by relaxation and mobility drills.

How much of a mistake can this be? I mean really - how important is this?
Well - how does back surgery important sound?

Pretty important? I think so. And that is where I ended up when I finished off a disc injured in High School while squatting almost 4 years ago. I did not have the hip mobility to maintain my arch as I tried to squat deeper and - BLAMO - there went the back. (It didn't help that I was trying to set a squat PR after not squatting in a couple of years - but that is another mistake for another time {tomorrow maybe?}....) Had I been working on my hips and hamstrings I could have avoided back surgery. But hey - look at all I have learned and accomplished since then.

Lesson here is to work on your movement, mobility and flexibility - Foam rollers, massage, Yoga, stretching, joint mobility - all have a place - and before you start screaming about how you don't have time to incorporate all of these things... Target the areas that need targeted.
Hip flexors, hamstrings, soleus, hip rotators - overhead work and pec minor release - target the areas that need attention on you and re-screen and so on...(don't fall into the trap of feeling you have to hit everything - everytime {another blog for another day}...

So - How's your movement, mobility and flexibility?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Recent readings...

"The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - A Memoir" by Bill Bryson
Bryson is quite possibly the funniest author I have ever had the pleasure to read. On my recent trip to VA I was belly laughing on the planes and in the airports (ensuring lots of looks from the public). This is a look at growing up in the 50's through the through Bryson's wit and insight and is as educational as it is funny - (in case you couldn't tell - I like the book). I have read other Bryson books: In a Sunburned Country, A Walk in the Woods, and I am currently reading a Brief History of Nearly Everything and Lost Continent is on deck.

Practical Programming by Rippetoe and Kilgore
Just like Starting Strength - I do recommend this book as a good resource on understanding training adaptations and programming, but I don't agree with everything in the book. It is a good resource for basic programming and periodization with good recommendations for beginner, intermediate and advanced trainees.

Anybody else reading anything good?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Full Circle...another old post from the DD forum...

This is from May 28 of 2002 - I had interviewed with the Duquesne Club Health and Fitness Center in Pittsburgh (I had been running a hospital based wellness program in Clarion, Pa for 5 years prior to this) and had a first interest in raw powerlifting.

Well - I am back at the Duquesne Club Health and Fitness Center and I am involved in Raw Powerlifting. Weird eh....

What a wonderful and strange time it has been. I have been in the process of interviewing and accepting a new job. It is a great opportunity that i feel will really help me in my personal and professional development. The interviews and decision to change jobs is a step out of my comfort zone but one I have needed to take. It seems these changes never happen slowly as this one occured over a two week period. During that time I managed to train my nerves and have had to back off on the DL. I am going to give the Justa singles program a try since I think the DL lends itself to a singles program very well. Plus this will structure my program and prevent me from spending too much time at the top of my strength curve. I have been doing some lurking, on times when I could get on line, and it is amazing the speed and variety of topics on the board. I missed being here and hope to be back on for awhile.
I am getting more interested in raw powerlifing - anyone have any info or links I can access?? Hope everyone is doing well and training hard... and having fun... Brett

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