Tag Archives: strength circle

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: https://thestrengthcircle.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/mike-guadango-interview/




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 @ http://www.aeternuseternus.podbean.com/ or check out their facebook page @ http://www.facebook.com/pages/Aeternus-Eternus-Talent-Management/220409424679245?sk=info

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: http://www.nsca-lift.org/webnews/detlnews.asp?news=1532

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.

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