No Style

13 Jun


That is my favorite shirt, for obvious reasons. I get more compliments on that shirt than any other article of clothing I’ve ever owned. Bruce Lee is a legend, not only for his lightning fast, razor sharp technique but also for his philosophy when it came to martial arts. Considered by many to be the original mixed martial artist, Bruce described having a “style of no style”. Use what is effective from all styles, and discard the rest.

The other day someone asked me what I thought the best style of training was. The answer I gave was not powerlifting, or olympic weightlifting, or kettle bells. In reality there is no “best” style. There is no perfect training.

Disagree? Take a ballerina through a few cycles of 5/3/1 or any other powerlifting template and let me know if she becomes a better ballerina.

One of the most basic and fundamental principles of training is that there must be some degree of specificity involved. Many strength coaches believe that 99% of what goes on in the weight room is GPP, or General Physical Preparation training. General fitness clients may be the exception to this rule, but if we are talking about training for performance, please refer back to our powerlifting ballerina.

A good coach must be able to understand the demands of the sport/activity in question as well as the specific needs of the individual athlete, and from there begin to choose the most effective components of a training program.

Of course we can organize different types of athletes into buckets and create similar programs based on needs. Powerlifting = maximal strength, football/lacrosse = power/speed, boxing/MMA = power endurance/aerobic capacity, and so on.

The point is, there are far too many variables in training to have any one single approach.

Be wary of anyone who has a ‘one size fits all’ approach to training. This person likely does not have a very broad understanding of the training process or, even more dangerous, they do have the understanding and still believe that what they do is best.

Reading List

26 Jan

Here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve been tackling  recently:




Great piece of work by University of Minnesota strength coach Cal Dietz. This isn’t a book about a ‘training program’. Although Dietz includes tons of specific workouts and training cycles that he uses with his athletes, the core of the book is the fundamental principle of training all 3 distinct phases of muscle contraction. TONS of great info, easy to read, and easy to apply.




I got my Speed manual and DVD in the mail this week. I was able to finish the manual the day I got it, not because it’s short on info, but because its to the point and easy to read. Lots of progressions, templates, and drills to work with. Even if you know nothing about speed development this is a great place to start. Joe D, Mike Guadango, and Smitty came through again. If you missed my interview with Guadango you can check it out here:




I have nightmares about Dr. Bondarchuk. This book haunts me. I’ve taken it upon myself to learn from the Russian manuals and I kind of hate myself for the challenge. I have to look up every other word and read every paragraph 3 or 4 times just to get a vague understanding of what the hell is being discussed. So far this is probably the most difficult of any of the Russian texts I’ve read. These guys are smarter than hell though, and I want to know what they know. I’m sure I’ll have to read this 2 or 3 times to really appreciate the information. And then there’s volume II…




This actually just came in the mail today so I haven’t really dug into it yet. It’s essentially a hyper-focused anatomy text book so I’m sure it won’t be a real page turner, but a lot of smart people have suggested it as one of the most valuable resources available. Not much else to say here.




Another one that I just cracked open. The other newell strength coaches and I will be reading this together, Oprah Winfrey book club style. I read the first chapter and it was enough to get me interested. The more success/self development type books you read the more you realize they all kind of say the same things. Hard work, consistency, belief, etc… It all boils down to the fact that success is SIMPLE but not EASY. There’s a big difference.


Go learn something.

Understanding Body Position

24 Jan

When we throw around words like ‘form’ and ‘technique’ what we’re really talking about is body position. If you can first teach someone the basic body positions required during exercise, you can then apply those body positions pretty easily while performing any specific lift. Trying to coach someone in the reverse order is like teaching someone multiplication before you teach them how to count. Yeah, you probably could do it but it would take way longer and there would be a ton more mistakes along the way.

“…maximum external force developed by the muscles corresponds to a specific joint angle in each case (Verkhoshansky).”

What does this mean? It means that certain body positions are universally more efficient when it comes to stability and being able to produce force, no matter who you are. That’s why we have “technique”. That’s why there is a “right” and “wrong” way to execute a lift. The “right” way is simply a combination of the most efficient body positions you can achieve in order to elicit the most force production.

‘What are these universal body positions,’ you ask? Good question..

1) Neutral, stable spine. I’ve been to 2 very good seminars the past 2 weekends and one of the biggest points of emphasis was always maintaining a braced core and a neutral spine. This DOESN’T just mean ‘lower back’. It means not overextending at the thoracic spine and letting our ribcage fly open, and also maintaining a neutral HEAD position instead of cranking your chin up towards the ceiling on squats, deadlifts, pull ups, etc. Kelley Starrett says that ANY spinal movement under a load is leaking power. Stabilize the entire spine.

2) Scapula retracted, depressed. If you’ve ever been taught to bench press correctly, you were told to squeeze your shoulders BACK and DOWN. Locking into this position and maintaining it throughout the movement gives us the most solid base to press off of.

Try teaching someone to deadlift without cueing them to pull their shoulders back and down. What happens?? Chest caves in, back rounds out, and we’re in a broken position. NOW, cue them to pull their shoulders back and down and BOOM! Gorilla chest, neutral spine, strong and stable position.

The same thing happens in the squat. The same thing happens in the pull up. Starting to get it?

3) Arms externally rotated. Think about any pressing movement: push ups, bench press, overhead press, etc. The most efficient arm position is found in keeping the elbows ‘tucked’ rather than ‘flared’ out to the side. We reach the ‘tucked’ elbow position by externally rotating the humerus (upper arm) at the shoulder joint.

Think about squatting. When you grab the bar, your arms are in a position of external rotation. The further you drive your elbows forward (externally rotate) the tighter your scapula become, and the more solid your base is.

Solid = strong.

Whether the bar is on your back, above your head, on your chest, or on the floor certain body positions will allow us to pick that shit up and put it back down. That’s the reason we’re all here, right? Practice your body position kids, and the ‘technique’ will be there when you need it.

Train hard, train smart.


I know I got a little wordy on this one. If your brain hurts, just watch this to soothe your inner meathead.




5 Jan

One of the most important things I have learned as both a teacher and as a coach is the importance of being able to answer the question, “Why?”

People will always ask you, ‘Why do I need to do this?’ or ‘Why do I need to learn that?’ or ‘Why can’t I put that kid in a headlock in the middle of gym class?’

When the question of ‘Why?’ does arise, and I promise you it will, you damn sure better have an answer. Always have an answer. If you don’t, it’s probably due to one of two reasons:

1) There is no logical answer, which means the person is right to question you. Whatever is in question actually is meaningless and you shouldn’t be doing it. Or…

2) You don’t know enough about what is in question to provide an answer, which means you are incompetent and you shouldn’t be doing it.

Either way, you are in the wrong.

Answers are like condoms. It’s better to have one and not need it, than to need one and not have it.


On a quick side note, a couple of good guys with an entreprenuerial spirit whom I happen to be acquainted with launched a series of podcasts a few weeks back. It’s just real talk on some every day life topics. Get to know the founders of Aeternus Eternus Talent Management and listen to what they have to say @ or check out their facebook page @

BIG On A Budget

4 Jan

Now that we’ve saved all that money instead of spending it on crappy supplements, we can talk about the best bang for your buck foods that will help you get huge. A couple of points before I go any further..

First, you aren’t going to get big AND get ripped at the same time. It is possible to do both at the same time if extreme attention is payed to your training and diet, but the most effective route is choosing one goal and focusing on only that. If you want to get BIG, know that you’re going to get a little fat. It’s cool though, your mountain sized traps and bowling ball shoulders even things out a little bit.

It's okay to get chubby if you've got traps that could catch bears.

Second, the foods on this list are not all super organic, free range, natural, whatever. I’m a realist, and if you’re really on a budget you might not be putting the highest quality food into your body and that’s okay. There are much worse things you could be putting into your body besides macaroni and cheese.

Third, if you want to get big you need to EAT. You need to eat a lot. No, seriously. A LOT. Don’t call yourself a hardgainer if you’re eating 2,000 calories per day and not seeing your weight shoot up. You should forget what hunger actually feels like. You should get to a point where you despise food because you’re so tired of constantly eating. Keep that up for a couple of months and then check the scale again. Onto the list:

1. Ground Beef/Turkey – depending on the quality, a pound of ground beef will usually run you $6-$10. If you can afford it, go for the organic grass fed beef. There is a significant difference in taste and quality. 1 pound of ground beef adds up to about 640 calories, 36g fat, 84g protein, and 0g carbs.

2. Mac n Cheese – a box usually costs around $2 but you can almost always find bulk deals on mac n cheese. Depending on how you prepare it, a box of macaroni and cheese will get you around 750 cal, 45g fat, 30g protein, and 105g carbs. Mix your ground beef or turkey in with a box and you’ve got some serious gains on the way.

Everyone likes dinosaurs.

3. Tuna – canned tuna is one of the most inexpensive sources of lean protein you’re going to find. Again, look for bulk deals like 10 cans for $10 or something along those lines. A single can of tuna adds up to about 120 cal, 2g fat, 26g protein, and 0g carbs. Tuna sandwiches are a fast and super easy way to get calories in on the go. I’m a solid albacore in water type of man, personally.

4. Eggs – again, look to buy in bulk if you can. Free range eggs are more expensive and, from what I’ve seen, usually aren’t sold in packages larger than one dozen but the quality of the product will be a little higher. If you’re trying to stretch your dollar and pack some size on, buy the biggest packages you can find.

5. Chocolate milk – Lately I’ve been polishing off a 1/2 gallon of chocolate milk after really heavy workouts. 1/2 a gallon with probably coast you around $4 and you’ll be getting about 900 cal, 64g fat, 64g protein, and 140g carbs. Again, not the healthiest or cleanest way to get your weight up but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. Also, the NSCA says it’s okay:

There you have it, getting big on a budget. Get to the grocery store, fill up the shopping cart, and you’ll be too big for all your clothes in no time. Coming soon: Big on a Budget pt 2 – Bargain Shopping For Clothes That Actually Fit.

Get huge.

Behavioral Congruency

30 Dec

Tried something new this morning…check it out:

Like Riding A Bike

20 Nov

I’ve been home from Italy for exactly one month today. That one month has felt more like a year, but that’s another story. I was daydreaming a little bit today, and I was thinking about an afternoon back in Rome when my roommate and I were standing on a bridge near our apartment watching a mom try to teach her son how to ride a bike. Every single time the mom would run along side the bike holding the handle bars, but as soon as she let go the kid would coast for a few feet and then put his feet down and stop himself. (Then the mom would scream at the kid loud enough for us to hear on top of a bridge 50 yards away.. but hey, this isn’t a parenting class.)

This is actually the view from the bridge we were on. I miss having this as my morning commute.

I remember wondering why it was such a difficult concept for kids to understand – if you just keep pedaling, you won’t fall over! It wasn’t until today that I realized what the problem is. The difficulty in learning to ride a bike has nothing to do with skill. What skill is really involved anyway? Yes, a little balance helps out, but for the most part if you keep pushing your feet on the pedals, you will go.

The problem is fear. We all know that if we fall off our bike the only thing there to catch us is the cold, hard cement. People aren’t afraid of riding a bike, they are afraid of the pain that comes from falling off that bike. The thought of a bloody elbow or a fat lip paralyzes us and turns the simplest job into a mountain of a challenge.

Most of us eventually learn to ride a bike, but most people NEVER learn to silence that fear inside of us. All too often, we let fear impact the decisions we make every day. How many times have you regretted a decision because you were too embarrassed or afraid to do what you really wanted to? I certainly am not exempt from this group. My challenge to you, and to myself, is to face that fear. Fight with it. Make the decisions that deep down you really know you want to make.

Ride that fucking bike.

Master Your Mind

9 Sep

I just read a book called “The Way of the Bow” by Paulo Coelho. It’s the type of book that you will read cover to cover in about an hour, and then spend days thinking about – I highly recommend it. I wanted to share a small piece of it with you guys:

In short, there was a young archer who traveled and sought out the man who had a reputation of being the greatest archer in the world. He challenged him to a competition. The young man went first, and shot a cherry off a tree from about 50 yards away. Not bad… The master went second, and shot a peach off a tree from about 30 yards away. The master told the young man that he hit a larger target from a shorter distance, and that if the young man could repeat this shot it would prove that he was the better archer.

The young man picked his target, drew his arrow, and released. His arrow missed.

You see, even though he was totally capable of making the shot, the young archer was nervous in the face of competition and let it affect his performance. The lesson learned was that in order to master your bow, you must first master your mind.

Pay attention to this lesson. How many times have you had a speach or presentation totally planned out, just to forget every word and look like a fool as soon as you stepped in front of your audience? Neverousness and confidence are just different emotions that are controlled by your brain. Train your brain just like you train your body in the gym. Let your brain work for you instead of against you. It’ll change your life.


31 Aug

Things have been improving bit by bit as far as diet and training goes. Now that we’re settled into our apartment in Rome and doing our own food shopping I have a little more control over what, when, and how much I eat. So far it’s been a LOT of pasta and a LOT of chicken. It’s surprisingly difficult to maintain a high protein diet in the heart of Italy without auctioning off your first born child, but we’re doing alright as of now.

Training really hasn’t been anything special. Because of the equipment available I’ve pretty much broken my workouts down into a push day, a pull day, and a leg day. Legs have been the toughest to train due to the lack of any type of rack, and dumbells that don’t go above 60ish pounds. I’ve been experimenting with a lot of unilateral lifting because of the lighter weights. Dan John talks about it in his book ‘Never Let Go’ and it’s definitely a challenge. Tomorrow we’ll get our first look at the weight room in the school we’re teaching at, but from what we’ve heard it isn’t anything to speak of.

Now, onto what I actually wanted to talk about here – visualization. It’s a tremendous tool you can use in the gym, or anywhere in your life for that matter. I still remember using it the morning I put up the pull up record at Newell Strength way back in may. Sitting on a bench, eyes closed, I pictured myself standing up and walking to weigh myself. I pictured myself chalking up my hands. I heard what song was going to be playing in my head. I pictured every single rep and how it would feel.

Guess what…it worked. It happened EXACTLY how I visualized it in my head, aside from failing at 23 reps instead of the 25 I wanted.

Before you hit a big lift, practice visualizing every aspect of it. If you’re trying to set a new rep record, visualize each and every rep. It may take some practice, but work on including as many details as possible. It should feel like watching a movie in your head. Give it a shot and reap the benefits.

Train hard, train smart.

P.S.  Shout out to Stacey for allowing me to write these posts on her computer.

Winning, and the Mind of a Child

26 Jul

We’ve been working with several local little league teams at the gym for the past few weeks. These kids range from about 9-12 years old, so the majority of what we do is just developing balance, coordination, and a capacity to move their own bodies. One thing I’ve noticed though is how all the coaches can’t wait to tell me about the tournaments the team just won, how many scoreless innings Timmy just threw, etc. The only thought going through my head the entire time is, “Who really gives a crap?”

Let’s take a step back and think about our own experiences as young athletes. Do you remember how many touchdowns you scored in Pop Warner? How many bases you stole for your little league team? How many tournament trophies you won with your AAU traveling team? Does any of it really matter 10 years down the road? No.

I’m a big fan of Brian Grasso’s philosophies on training young athletes. One of his major beliefs is that youth coaches need to be able to take a long-term approach to developing athletes. Maybe your team won 20 games this year, but how many kids on your team can do 10 perfect push ups? How many of them know how to RUN correctly? From what I’ve seen over the past month these numbers are staggeringly low.

We need to prepare young athletes for the FUTURE, not the present. It is our job as sport and strength coaches to make sure these kids are learning life long physical skills, not just quick fixes that might help them win next week’s championship. Encourage improvement, and let that be the motivating factor for kids instead of overall success. Allow them to learn, think creatively, and above everything else…HAVE FUN.

Can we please stop acting like the Little League World Series actually means anything?

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