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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.


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 @

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?

Seven Words That Changed My Life

13 Jun

This is an article submitted for publication on EliteFTS a couple weeks ago. Hopefully it gets picked, but in the meantime I figured I’d share it on here also:

I saw a quote that said, “A man without a dream or a vision shall perish.” I believe this is true, and applies directly to the way we set goals for ourselves. Our goals and dreams are the things that motivate us, inspire us, and give us the hope to achieve something on a day to day basis. However, I also believe that a person who has a goal, but does not take immediate and continuous action towards turning that goal into a reality is just as doomed to perish as the person with nothing. Once we set a goal for ourselves there are a million different ways we can go about achieving it, but the one thing that will always remain the same is that first step. Taking action. That is what makes all the difference between failure and seeing your dreams come true.

            About a month ago I was sitting in my bedroom clicking through articles on Elite FTS and I remember reading ‘Functional Muscle’ by Kyle Newell. I saw under the article that Kyle was a physical education teacher by day and a strength and conditioning coach by night, and that his gym was located about 20 minutes from my home. As someone who is looking to follow the same career path, I decided I would email Kyle and see if he had any need for an intern over the summer. I could have just sat on my ass and watched TV that day, but instead I took action. I took that first step towards reaching a goal that I want to achieve in my life. Long story short, I’ve been working with Kyle at his new facility for a few weeks now and the amount of experience and knowledge I have already gained is beyond what I ever expected. Every single day I see myself coming closer to reaching my goal. To think it all started with something as simple as clicking the ‘send’ button on an email. It all started with that first step.

The point I am trying to make is that whether your goal is entering that first power lifting meet you’ve been thinking about, getting out of a lousy job and finding a career you love, losing those 10 pounds, or anything else you can possibly imagine, do not hesitate to take action. NEVER be afraid to take that first step. The second one will be easier, then the third. Chase your goals relentlessly and doors will start to open up for you, opportunities will begin to present themselves, and one day you will step back and realize how far you’ve come. All because of that first step…

The title of this article is “Seven Words That Changed My Life,” so I guess it’s about time I told you what those words are. I know they will not have the same effect on everyone as they did on me, so interpret them however you choose and hopefully find some meaning in them. Let me preface this by saying that each year on my birthday, my grandfather sends me a poem typed up on the ancient typewriter that’s been sitting in his house for much longer than I’ve even been alive. This is taken from the poem I received on my 21st birthday:

Expansive are the middle years

Filled with zip and zest and lust.

All for the taking

If you just.


10 Jun

Push yourself to learn something new every single day. This might sound like a daunting task to some people, but “something” could be as simple as one idea or even one sentence that sticks in your mind and teaches you something new. It doesn’t sound like very much, but try it for a month straight and all of a sudden you just learned 30 new things. Try it for two months, that’s 60 new ideas. Things start to add up quickly. For a great analogy that reinforces this point, check out this article on

Think about your job. You didn’t wake up one day, say “I want to be _______,” and then go get that job right away. You spent years in school learning about how the job works, hopefully put in hours of your own time, and now that you have that job you probably still spend time keeping up with new information and trying to stay ahead of the curve.

The same principle applies with training. You can’t wake up one morning and decide, “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to get stronger” and expect these things to happen without investing your time both in and out of the gym. I’m not asking you to become the next Louie Simmons and be a walking encyclopedia of training information. I’m asking you to learn one thing, anything, each day that will help you get closer to your goal.

Ron Burgundy owned many leather bound books, and he was the best news anchor in America.

After we closed up the gym last night, Kyle and I spent a few minutes talking in the parking lot. One thing he told me that stuck in my mind was that every person who lives in a house worth $500,000 or more has a library. No, it’s not because they like to show off their vast collection of leather bound books. It’s because they were hungry to learn. They wanted to be the best at what they did so they went out and got those books and read every damn one of them.

Learn or get left behind.



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