A Hybrid Approach to Training Beach VB

I want to expand on a thought I had earlier this year regarding training. The concept is simple, yet also complex. It goes like this. What if we combine what we know about the High/Low system, meaning matching like CNS demands with like CNS demands with the Force Velocity Curve?

Most everyone is familiar with the FV curve. If not, a quick refresher goes like this. On the Y axis is Force (watts) and on the X axis is Velocity (meters per second).

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The concept that I’m about to deploy is rooted in Charlie Francis’ aforementioned High/Low system which to drastically generalize essentially calls for having High CNS demanding movements in the field, so for him it would have been high velocity, intensive sprinting, combined with heavier, compound/multi joint movements in the weight room. The result would be a “matching” high CNS demand in the field as well as in the weight room..absolutely NO muscle confusion.

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Backtracking a bit, the conventional wisdom for most strength coaches (and this is not always their fault, sometimes it’s demanded by the sport coaches) is to “take it easy” (relative term of course) in the weight room when the team has a hard practice day. However, even though that’s well intentioned, it does a disservice to the the athlete. Imagine the shape of a wave (as you draw it on paper), or a mountain if you will. Anyway, there are peaks and valleys. I look at that as up days and down days, high stress and low stress, high demand and low demand, etc. However, if you use conventional wisdom as I explained above the athlete(s) in question never get to realize that valley, that down day, that low demand day (or better put, super compensatory day). You might be thinking why, well take out that piece a paper and draw out your training demands…Hard day at practice (easy day in the weight room), most likely it’s followed up by an easier day at practice (or worse, another hard day at practice) and subsequently then a harder day in the weight room, then a harder day at practice followed by an easier day In weight room. See the pattern here? No matter what, on every day, using the conventional wisdom, there’s always a HIGH Demand, whether it be practice or weight room related. 

The high/low system calls for high demand days to be symmetrical or paired so that once the nervous system is up and has been called into action (for lack of a better term) it can blast out all of it’s duties for the day, knowing full well that the next day will be a day that it doesn’t have to be in fifth gear (sounds pretty appealing from a psychological standpoint too!). Anyway, this was Charlie Francis’ method for when he worked with his sprinters. It’s not the purpose of this blog, but it’s material to my hybrid model.

What I’ve done, with beach volleyball in mind, is take the principles of the Charlies High/Low system and the neural demands of the movements as we place them on the force velocity curve and mold it into a three day strength and conditioning model. 


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As you can see on the picture, at the top of the curve are the highest force and slowest velocity movements. Exercises such as back squat and deadlift live in this realm. They’re bilateral, multi-joint/compound movements typically done with a higher relative percentage of our 1 rep max, and thus are considered highly demanding of the CNS. What I didn’t say earlier is that the high demands to the nervous system can come in multiple forms. They can be heavy squats or deadlifts. For obvious reasons those particular movements require a high level of neuromuscular coordination and high motor unit recruitment, which in term taxes the nervous system. That said, there are other activities, activities that are found at the far other end of the curve that equally tax the nervous system and require no external load at all. Guess it yet? Happens when you are being chased (and really don’t want to be caught)…Sprinting! Not to be confused with running or jogging or trotting or anything that looks like any 5k that I see along the bay every weekend. I mean full on, full throttle sprinting. Sprinting, while obviously requiring nothing but your own body weight does require a high level of muscular coordination and motor unit recruitment, very similar to the Squat, but sprinting is highly taxing to the nervous system due to it’s velocity, which is why its found on the opposite end of the curve. 

So as I start to piece together my days, I know I want my high CNS athletic movements to be with my high CNS weight room movements. I also know that typically Monday’s (or Wednesdays) are a great day to have a demanding weight room/practice session. Typically you’ve either played (if you’re an athlete) or rested all weekend and nothing about the work week, workout week or practice week has started to chip away at you. So Monday is *usually a great day to put a high demand day. So what does this day consist of? Sticking with the rules explained above, this “High Demand” day is going to consist of Bilateral, Multi-joint/Compound movements typically done for fewer reps and heavier weight. Think of things like Trap Bar Deadlift, Back Squat/Front Squat, Hip Thrusts, Weighted Pull-ups, Bench Press, etc..Additionally on this I would add Sprinting. Might look like the following:

  1. Dynamic Warmup 

    1. Whatever this looks like for you. I’d choose more of a transit, track style warmup

  2. Sprinting

    1. Timed 10’s or positional “get up” accelerations

  3. Weight training (as follows)

1A. Trap bar deadlift

1B. Box Jumps

2A. Weighted Pushups or Bench Press

2B. BB RDL

3A. Neutral Grip Pullup

3B. BB Bent over row

3C. Ab wheel rollout


That’s a general outline of what a high demand day could look like. Notice that I didn’t put any rep schemes in there. That’s more up to your philosophical preference as well as what phase of training you’re in with your respective team or individuals. 


I term the middle day of the week (again, this could also be the first day of the week) as the 3/4 of the way up and 3/4 of the way down the curve day, but that’s a mouthful so I’ve shortened it to “Coordination” Day. This day is primarily unilateral in nature and less demanding on the CNS. The rep ranges are likely higher on this day, however, the movements themselves are more limiting in terms of what they will allow from a load standpoint. A day such as this may look like the following: 


Dynamic Warmup

Multi directional bounds and hops/low hurdle jumps in combination with MB Throws

Weight training

1A. Hang Cleans or DB Hang Snatch (focus on speed)

1B. TGU/Reverse Crunch

2A. RFESS or Reverse Lunge

2B. SA DB Row (can be a KB as well)

3A. TRX Row

3B. Half kneeling Landmine or Bottoms Up KB Press or Alt DB Bench

3C. Side Planking variation

3D. SLDL

**1A/1B denote a superset. Perform 1A, then 1B with little rest in between, rest after 1B. Same goes for 2A/2B. The 3’s are a quad set….

The third and final day is the “Power Day.” Aligning with my thought process, this day lives in the middle of the FV curve (see above). The exercises I see falling into this day are ones that require velocity, however, you can use some weight with them. You may also term them “dynamic effort” if you’re in the conjugate crowd, others may view the following set up as a variation on “French contrast”…the effect that I want to elicit is a triggering of the nervous system because as I mentioned at the very beginning, this process was born with the beach vb athlete in mind. Most beach tournaments happen during the weekend or late in the week. This third and final day is meant to fire up the nervous system, not dampen or depress, so that the athlete or individual can reap the benefit of the stimulation for the following 24-48 hours (depending on the research that you read. The following is what this day may look like.

Dynamic Warmup

Sport specific movements or practice

Weight training (as follows)

A. Power Trio #1

1A. DB Snatch or Hang Clean

1B. DB Squat Jump

1C. Accelerated jump (with band)

B. Power Trio #2

2A. Trap Bar Jump

2B. Banded KB Swing

2C. Banded Broad Jump


The volume on this day must be kept low as well as any external resistance. The goal of this day is to stay fresh and that everything remains as fast as it should be with crisp form. Fatigue and technique break down should be avoided like the plague. 

A couple additional considerations. Without the benefit of a velocity measuring tool (such as gymaware) you must manipulate sets and reps to achieve the desired speed output. If power endurance is your goal (think late offseason) then you must combine exercises, as I did on day 3 as well as monitor rest intervals and increase the number of sets. If you as the coach have determined that your athlete requires more general strength, then on that first day you need to adjust the reps down, consider adding more sets, and ensure that the weight being moved is challenging, however that the athlete is able to complete all of the prescribed sets and reps and again remains fresh. This is arguable, however failure, while a great teaching tool in life, is not a great builder of strength, mainly because it is very hard to recover from. 

The above is something that i have no research on, no valid data, it’s merely an idea, a hunch, based off some solid principles and approaches that we know work…at least as Dan John would say, “for a while.” Again, there’s nothing new in strength and conditioning, simply people (such as me) taking familiar approaches and re-combining them in a different in hopes of eliciting a stimulus that the athlete can grow from and most importantly recover from. At the end of the day, we have to remember that our job is to augment the athletes sport, not overwhelm it. I hope this was interesting for you.





















Where did all the time go?

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Want to make your workouts more time efficient?

I had an epiphany the other morning (yes I used epiphany, and yes I misspelled it about 3x before getting it right) - i waste a lot of time in my soft tissue maintenance and warm-up. Anyone who knows me knows that I geek out on workout preparation, however my warm ups were getting ridiculous - some creeping up north of 30 minutes (i blame it on old knees). Knowing myself I typically leave plenty of time for my workouts, however that morning was different and I was pressed for time. Instead of panicking and bagging the whole thing. I put myself on the clock.

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What do I mean? Well, if you are anything like me that 5 minute foam rolling session can turn into 15 minutes in the blink of an eye. I start out with great intentions of being efficient and before I know it I’m thinking of what I have to do the rest of the day or all the bacon I’m going to eat after I’m done.  I absolutely couldn’t zone out this particular day so I set my foam rolling to an interval timer. Clearly not a novel concept by any means. If you have not tried you would be surprised how fast that 30 sec or 1 min goes.

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It went so well for my SMR that I used it for my mobility work as well. As limiting as you would think it would be it actually allowed me to fit more into time I had designated for SMR and joint mobility.

Here’s what I do

Grab your gymboss or iphone or whatever you have that has an interval timer on it. Set it for the number of rounds/body parts that you want to foam roll. Then off you go. I usually concentrate of specific area’s that I know are tight or that correspond with the workout that I have planned. This shouldn't take more than 5-6mins. My advice would be to if you are feeling like you need some extra work, set your interval timer for 30sec sets and include more body parts. If however you are good with hitting just the parts that are a problem for you, then keep it to 1 min per set and attack fewer areas.

This is a gym boss. You should have one if you're reading this. Link above.

This is a gym boss. You should have one if you're reading this. Link above.

My routine typically looks like this.

Foam Roll:

R Lat -30sec

L Lat-30sec

Right Quad-30sec

Left Quad-30sec

Right Adductor-30sec

Left Adductor-30sec

Right Calf-30sec

Left Calf-30sec

Back -1min

Bam! 5 minutes,  and on to mobility. Now, if you need a little discipline on your mobility work as well you can use the same formula. Here’s what I like to do.

Ankle Glides -30sec R/L

Bent leg swings -30sec R/L

Hip Flexor Mob -30sec-R/L

Adductor dip-30sec-R/L

Quadruped rocking -30sec

Quadruped extension rotation-30sec R/L

There it is, 5 minutes and 30 seconds and you’ve done a pretty solid job in tissue maintenance as well as mobility and then you can move on to more dynamic flexibility or to your specific lift prep work.

Warming up is always a good idea, there is no debating that but letting it engulf your workout taking too much time away from the big lifts well that is just silly. Don’t be silly, and as always move with purpose!

2019 Training "Buyers Guide"

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I’m back! It’s been a minute since I’ve blogged. However, It’s never too late to start as they say and I was inspired recently and the following is what came out. This blog post is in part a tribute to the attitude of gratitude that I’ve committed to for 2019 and beyond. Getting to spend some time recently with some of the outstanding professionals that I call friends, moved me to write this buyer’s guide. Hope it helps…

It’s been rainy (ALOT!) and since we don’t have much of this (except all the time this year) in San Diego, I don’t know if you’re like me but it sends my outdoor plans into a tailspin. That said and due in part to the rain I was inspired to write a buyers guide if you will of San Diego area gyms, coaches and trainers that I would turn to for programming, advice and or just a good workout on a rainy day.

Now, I suppose the fact that I am a performance coach in the San Diego area may make me a trusted resource of sorts. I’m not sure how much of one, but I am a resource nonetheless and the following are not all encompassing, merely the coaches, gyms, trainers, health guru’s that I happen to be familiar with and whom I’m lucky to have within my network. 

I’ll start south and move north. 

In south county, and I only put her there because she teaches at Southwestern Community College, none other than Angel Chelik . Angel is a teacher, writer, coach, trainer, athlete, you name it. When she’s not writing content for ACE, she can be found kicking people’s butt’s at Barry’s, getting students right in the classroom, you might even find her training a group of scientists as part of her corporate wellness business. Angel is an all around wealth of information.

Next up in the North Park/South Park/Hillcrest area is my good friend Phil McDougall. Phil is as bright and dedicated a teacher as they come. While some may consider Phil as a KB wizard (which he is, he’s formerly the Director of Athletic Performance for Strength Matters), he may be just as gifted or more as a movement and assessment specialist. A capable athlete himself,  Phil can be found most mornings running up one of our local mountains (with Henry of Cambridge at his hip) or swimming or swinging Indian Clubs at Palisades Park.  Phil has been and continues to be a go to resource for me for programming the everyday athlete. 

Out at San Diego State University, located in the San Diego State Rec Center is one of my best buddies, Brian Tabor and his uber successful business Strong Made Simple. A brilliant name and one that really does define how he goes about the business of getting his athletes and clients strong, and in some cases really strong. A former National Champion Strong Man, although you would never confuse him with the prototypical dude with no neck. Tabor is a gifted mover who combines a witty ability (aligned with the name of his business) to break down the complex into simple parts. He uses that skill along with his sinisterly simplistic methods of building strength that sometimes have me rethinking my methods, to get some real real world results. Brian is the king of semi private training (don’t call it small group or group) in San Diego. 

Just north of the Airport, we have my friends Derrick Truong and James Wheeler at Locomotion Athletics. Former colleagues of mine, Derrick and James have teamed up to be a pretty formidable team in the San Diego area. They’re business, which started as outdoor bootcamps has blossomed into a brick and mortar spot for fun, and functional small group training. A good blend of experience between the two of them, you’re sure to get a great workout and find solutions to whatever athletic or aesthetic goals you may have.

Moving up the beach, we come to Pacific Beach. Just like the many bars that this hot spot is known for, PB is more of a hot bed for talent in the Training/Coaching/Physical Preparation space. 

I’ll start with my friends Ryan and Missy Steenrod. Ryan and Missy can be found training people of all sorts at Tru Motion in North Park, at Center for Balanced Training In PB or out of their living room. You can also check out their outstanding resource, Death of the Desk. Both brilliant in their own right, Ryan, an expert mover and KB artist, he has a unique ability to meet a client where they’re at and then get more out of them than they though possible. Missy on the other hand is a healer, a magician at fixing bodies when they break down with her Z-Health background and keen eye. She understands the body and movement in ways that I only hope to someday. She is perhaps the best listener of any performance coach I’ve been around and it’s that ability along with her understanding of the nervous system that makes her a go to resource. These two are wholistic health personified. 

If you’re looking for an all around great large group class with a more traditional strength and conditioning component, then your go to is Performance 360. Dave Thomas (no relation) and company are blowing up around the San Diego area. With 3 locations now, they’re the spot to go if you’re looking for a progressive large group class with all elements of strength and conditioning (think olympic lifts, deadlifts, squats) combined with an amazing culture and community of young driven professionals who train hard, support each other, and don’t take themselves too seriously. Check them out if you’re looking for a good group of people. 

One of the most successful and diverse trainers in the entire San Diego area is my good good buddy, Coach Deshawn Meacham. Deshawn can be found training high end clientele out of Bird Rock Fit by day, by afternoon he’s the head strength coach of an area high school, oh and did I mention he carries a healthy stable of current NFL athletes and NFL hopefuls that train with him on a regular basis (and every Feb/March before the combine). If you’re reading this and have a Jr High or High School athlete in the family, they’ve probably been to one of Deshawn’s summer speed and agility camps. You can find more about Deshawn at www.elitecoaching.com

Last but certainly not least is my friend and the man who taught me everything I know about kettlebells, Coach Franz Snideman. Franz’s resume could fill up this entire article. I don’t think there’s a modality of training that Franz either hasn’t been exposed to at a very high level or is not an expert in. A former college sprinter, Franz can teach you running, and if running isn’t what you’re looking for he’s a former Master Instructor for both RKC and Strong First (KB Organizations), so he’s got your back with KB’s. Perhaps you just want to deadlift, I’ve witnessed Franz teach many who thought they’d never squat or deadlift to do just that or do their first pullup. The man is a teacher in every sense of the word. I would argue though that Franz is just as skilled as a ground based mover as he is anything else. I’ve personally learned Ground Force Method, amongst others movement methods within the walls of his gym located in Birdrock. For small group, private training, and semi private, Franz Snideman at FS Athletics is someone that I would turn to. 

Servicing athletes in the Sorento Valley area you have my friends Melissa and Bobby at 1RM Performance. Go in there any day and you’re sure to find a host of Volleyball or baseball players working out together. Junior high, High School and Professional athletes of all kinds find a home at 1RM Performance. Melissa Myers, a great athlete in her own right has been transforming female athletes as long as I have known her. Bobby Congalton is your baseball resource in the area. It seems like there’s not a day that goes by when there isn’t a collegiate or professional baseball player training with Bobby. 

Finally, after moving all the way up the coast into Carlsbad, you have the rad guys at Nakoa Performance. Ryan Gallop and company have what is possibly the best true family oriented Performance  training gym, that we have here in San Diego  (similar in nature to places on the East coast like Cressey, MBSC, etc). The gang at Nakoa specializes in everything from professional BMX racers and pro surfers to High School Lacrosse teams. They’re a great group of performance minded forward thinkers whose doors are open to anyone who wants to learn and get great programming. Oh, and they have a terrific and engaging front desk staff who make the best smoothies as well as an on site performance physical therapy team. 

As you’re working through your 2019 goals if ever you should hit a sticking point, plateau, need a change or simply a push, these creative friends above are the ones that I turn to. 

DEVELOPING THE YOUNG ATHLETE-A GUIDE FOR PARENTS and COACHES

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As coaches and trainers we all THINK we want to work with athletes -specifically college and pro. Seems sexy, however it's more than meets the eye - I’ve literally had to teach 18 yr olds how to skip. That being said, let's consider what age groups most of the athletes realistically fall into. The answer is middle school and high school (a very small percentage -think less than 10%- of HS athletes go on to play college sports and only 1% of them play professionally). At those ages, proper development is of the utmost importance. Without a solid foundation-nothing of significance can be built.

In life we tend to build things that mimic how our brains and bodies work. Sometimes it's mind blowing how coincidentally that happens. Not as surprising we tend to blend geometric shapes into our thinking paradigms -the food pyramid, pyramid sets, etc.

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We can use a pyramid to breakdown the training/athletic development building blocks. As a former collegiate strength and conditioning coach, nothing made me happier than an athlete that came to me fully prepared or able to squat, hinge, do a proper push up, chin up, pull-up, sprint, jump, change directions, and generally just be able to move and control their own bodyweight. Being strong and stable through their midsection as well having a sense of spatial and movement awareness were nice bonuses. Conversely, nothing was more frustrating and time consuming than an athlete that had zero ability to handle their own body weight-leading to difficulty in performance of even the most simplistic movement.

The following are 6 “ingredients” of a properly designed developmental sports performance program.

1. Core stability-the ability to control and sequence movement as well as resist movement

2. Strength-Body Weight- the ability to perform all the basic human movements correctly - Squat-Hinge-Push-Pull-Crawl and be in single leg stance

3. Balance-being comfortable in single leg stance as well as exhibiting the ability to slow yourself down

4. Footwork-establishing the neural pathways to move the feet quickly and accurately

5. Agility- ability to react to stimulus and change directions in a coordinated fashion without the need to slow down

6. Speed/Power: aka the ability to run fast and jump high. More scientifically, to produce force rapidly and use that force to display velocity in movement

Putting this all together

Allow me to piece it together (and get ready to see how my brain works)

Plain and simple, A proper developmental training program builds bodyweight strength and core stability from the center out. Incorporating age appropriate, self limiting exercise, with the unique  demands it imposes,  involuntary creates an environment  whereas when the demands have exceeded the athlete’s capabilities the athlete  will have to regress back to the point where exercise meets ability. This allows for safe progression with a diminished risk of injury.

One of my primary directives as a coach is to establish in athletes the ability to resist movement and control their bodies in what I call the demonstration of stability in the presence of movement. More succinctly put-simultaneous stability and mobility. And that’s just a small portion of the overall workout. My philosophy is also predicated around the incorporation of single leg work, hip/ glute work, hip hinging, squatting, single leg balance, rotation, pressing, pulling, anti-rotation, and even crawling. There’ll be movements you’ve never seen-however rest assured that they’re all included with the idea of better human movement leading to greater athletic potential. A three dimensional approach to overall athletic development. Much easier written than done, but simplicity is usually the best policy, especially when dealing with someone of a low training age.

Lastly,  training should be fun!! Without fun, what’s the point? Without fun, especially for the young athlete, you as a coach will be constantly fighting an uphill battle of compliance. If you can figure out how to incorporate “what they want, with what they need” in a fun, competitive atmosphere, you’ll find that most athletes have that extra gear that we all seek when it’s time to train.

Have fun, train with purpose!

Have a desk job and hate it?

For All Those Who Can’t Quit Their Day Job...Yet!

We all see them; the “independently wealthy” that clutter our Facebook/Instagram feed with post-workout selfies and the technicolor acai bowls they're enjoying with a friend (I’m guilty of this). Must be nice, right!?. They had a mid-morning beach run, on a Wednesday. Of course they're in shape. THEY have time.

But what about the rest of the world, the one’s with normal, crowded lives? Despite our “So Cal” lifestyle there’s a fairly large sect of the population you won't find us luxuriating in the weight room or loitering at the juice bar. Why? I don’t know, perhaps kids, commutes, responsibilities, a J.O.B., you name it. The only thing there isn’t enough of is TIME.

I’ve always been a believer in fitness as a lifestyle. Because the truth is, if you save being active for the "workout", you may never get the chance.

We have to carve time out of our lives for it... And sometimes be a little sneaky.

3 Ways To Be Fitness-Minded at Your Day Job

1.     Take a Stand - Have you ever heard the term “thinking on your feet”? Beyond a kitschy phrase, there is truth to it. It’s no secret that hunching in front a computer screen is not ideal for your body (and the way most of us make a living these days). It causes neck and back problems and perpetuates a sedentary lifestyle. When you are standing, your blood is flowing, you are more alert and able to think more clearly. And as an added perk, it burns calories. Stand up desks are growing in popularity but even if you (or your employer) can’t spring for a set-up, just aim to spend more time standing, pacing, moving and less time sitting.

2.     Take Out - Lunch, the reprieve in your workday. How you spend this valuable 30-60 minutes can decide a lot of things about your afternoon. I always suggest packing a lunch. It just makes sense. It saves you time, money AND calories. I like to know what I’m eating and you’d be surprised to know how many calories are often in your average restaurant meal, even a salad (!). Think protein. This meal will determine whether you experience the dreaded 3pm food coma or not. The crash after lunch is often what prompts afternoon snacking, especially carb or sugar cravings. In another blog, we’ll discuss some good lunch options.

3.     Take it Outside – Since you saved all that time by bringing lunch to work, how about getting some fresh air? Even a 20-minute power walk around the block can burn up to 200 calories. My good friend Brian Tabor of Strong Made Simple conducts a twice weekly walking group around lunchtime and it’s been a huge success. But think beyond the burning of calories. This is the mental reboot that can set the tone for your afternoon. You will be more productive, happy and acute after 20 minutes of heart pumping. Wish I hadn’t worked out, said no one ever. 

This is just too funny....

This is just too funny....

And if you have the luxury of a private office or even a private cubicle, here are 3 exercises that can be done at your desk.

Eagle Pose Arms - This will help stretch the muscles between your shoulders that are most affected by hunching at a computer.

It's huge....my photo editing wouldn't let me re-size any pics today

It's huge....my photo editing wouldn't let me re-size any pics today

Tricep Dip
 

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Squats

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Or if you really want to ramp it up...Single leg Squat to a chair

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The best thing about strength training is the ability to leverage one's own weight. This means that you don't always need a treadmill or Dumbbells. You only need you!

Happy Cyber Monday!

My "if you did these consistently, you would be more awesome" top 5...plus 3!

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Because Thanksgiving week is a great time to pretend to work, and no distraction is complete without someone’s “Top 5.”... Without further ado,  here are my top 5 favorite exercises (in no particular order)...accompanied with a short snippet on why I not only enjoy them but suggest them to all my clients, athletes and friends (who are clients and athletes).

This is you:-)

This is you:-)

1. Barbell Front Squat

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What:

Normally i wouldn’t delineate, but Kb’s are very prominent nowadays and while I wrestled back and forth with which I liked better, I always come back to the classic front squat. It’s a go to for strength coaches and enlightened personal trainers alike. I, as well as many others like me find this squatting variation invaluable due to the reflexive firing of the anterior core musculature stemming from the barbell being loaded on the front side of the body.  

Why:

Nothing (well, maybe the goblet squat) will put your client or athlete in a better squatting position than the front squat. I find it has great carryover to athletic positions along with being less dependent on someone’s shoulder mobility to be able to be performed safely.

Benefits:

All in all the front squat is a great lower pushing exercise that can help develop your ability to produce force across all sporting endeavors or just produce a pair of sexy legs-Oh and you get some sneaky core work as well. Elbows up!

2. Chin-up

What:

Chin-ups are the exercise that everyone loves to hate. Reason? Very few people can do them….correctly. I find that anything (exercise wise and within reason) that most people cannot do at all and very few can perform correctly must be good for you. It’s a vertical pulling exercise, but try a set of strict chin ups and you’ll quickly discover they’d be more accurately described as a total body exercise.

Why:

Always secretly wanted wings? Chin-up (and Pull-ups) are the surest way to fulfill that childhood fantasy. I know little else that will develop your lats (latissimus dorsi aka wings) as effectively as the chin up. If you’re a dude that wants to fill out a t-shirt better-incorporate chin ups STAT.

Benefits:

Aside from building a back that would make a brick wall jealous, the chin up is the secret weapon all you fellas out there have to looking for to sculpt those 20” pythons (shout out to Hulk Hogan). The biceps are intimately involved in performing a chin-up. And trust me, pulling up your entire body over the entire length of your arms (and then some) and against gravity….well, those biceps yours have no choice but to grow.

3. Weighted Pushup

What:

Maybe you expected to see Bench Press? Possibly even Db bench press? Because of course if we have a pull we definitely need a push, not always. For similar reasons as the chin up I enjoy weighted pushups and feel they have tremendous upside for those competing in sports or those who just want to a bigger chest.

Why:

Shoulder mobility an issue? Ever been told that your scapula “wing?” This is the pressing exercise for you. It’ll teach you, without you even having to learn (we like that these days) to control your scaps (industry term). So, while being potentially safer than other pressing exercises, pushups also serve as a tremendous compliment to the aforementioned chin up for all you V-neck wearing aficionados out there. Caution: The pushup is performed correctly about as frequently as the chin up…..which is not much. Find someone, have them teach you.

Benefits:

When performed correctly the pushup can and will build your chest, arms, core strength, even your back (what?) as well as any single exercise. Want to aid your pressing strength in other lifts? Do pushups. Want to look like a cologne model? The answer is push ups, lots of them. Want an exercise that crosses over into most sports….wait for it….It’s pushups.

4. TGU aka Turkish Get Up

Do not use this as a how to guide...hire someone to coach you.

Do not use this as a how to guide...hire someone to coach you.

What:

That’s right, the age old TGU. But you’re thinking, age old, I thought the get up was fairly new in the pantheon of popular go to exercises. Not true - The turkish get up has been around in various forms for hundreds of years - along with it’s mate the kettlebell. I get asked all the time, “what’s a good core exercise?” The right answer is always the turkish get up.

Why:

Want core strength in 3 planes? Want shoulder mobility? How about shoulder stability/rotator cuff integrity? Better yet, how about a contralateral exercise that requires co-contraction across the midline of the body all while keeping an iron cannon ball firmly position right above your dome while you carefully go from the fetal position all the way to a standing tall position and back down again??? In case you hadn’t guess - the get up is your exercise. It’s the exercise expression of our built in neurodevelopmental programming.

Benefits:

Umm, the better question may be what doesn’t the TGU support…..You’ll get a healthy dose of tri-planar core stability, mix in a rolling pattern for neurological development, you cross the midline of the body, mobility and stability in the shoulders, spatial awareness, oh and there’s also a lunge pattern just in case you weren’t satisfied.

5. Hang or Power Clean

Disclaimer: Not meant to teach the movement, just to provide context. And, I just think this is a cool graphic. 

Disclaimer: Not meant to teach the movement, just to provide context. And, I just think this is a cool graphic. 

What:

Too complicated? Nah, there are multiple iterations of this hip hinging rate of force developer. When it comes to power enhancement, this is the go to exercise. Yes, while there are other means by which to get the job done, some ways are just better than others.

Why:

Because being able to explosive move weight through triple, heck even quadruple extension (ankles, knees, hips, torso) is as impressive as it is awesome and effective. Fancy yourself an athlete? If you have a coach that can teach them, you better be practicing. Being able to rapidly generate force from your hips down through your feet and into the ground has carry over into many a sport.

Benefits:

Want to jump higher? Cleans. Want to accelerate faster? Cleans. Want more of that elusive first step quickness? Cleans. Basically, a lot of qualities tied to successful athletic performance can be traced back to the clean and its variations.

The rest...

Pissed because I didn't have a single leg variation or a horizontal row? Hey, it was TOP 5. I had to go with what I thought was best bang for your time buck. It’s not like I am saying leave them out. And for all of you that take everything at face value here are the honorable mention

Honorable Mention

RFESS (rear foot elevated split squat)

Aka Bulgarian split squat - no matter what you call it, this single leg exercise is fabulous at eliminating unilateral strength deficiencies.

SA Row - Use a KB or Db - this exercise is not only important but absolutely necessary in maintaining some semblance of balance to all the pushing we like to do.

KB Swing - Personally, it’s one of my favorite exercises and I’ll do swings up to 3x a week. It’s benefits are substantial - you can count on sore glutes and hamstrings as well as increased grip strength. It’s basically a full body exercise in one not so little cannonball with horns.

So there you have it, my top five go to exercises plus 3 that probably should have made it. Put any of those 8 into a training program and you’ve got yourself something solid. Until next time, move with purpose! Performance IQ. Boost yours.

This is NOT a nutrition post...

Are fats still getting a bad rap? Maybe it’s in the name.

Just when I thought that fats were out of the woods as macro nutrient enemy number one (Carbohydrates may have jumped on that grenade) I had a conversation that changed my mind. In my opinion fats are still, and perhaps have always been the most misunderstood macronutrient. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine and as I was explaining to her what my “man breakfast” was, its cage free eggs with pork or beef bacon (optimally, both!), she says, “be careful, you know bacon has a lot of fat.” Just as I was about to go into a long red faced inappropriately loud diatribe about how fats don’t make you fat, but being lazy, sitting at a desk (writing blog posts), “playing Facebook” all day and overeating (often times foods that are...wait for it... fat free) in fact DOES make you fat, I stopped screaming (inside my head of course) and regained my composure.

Head in hands.jpeg

I wanted to explain that fat is anabolic (muscle building) and as such, aids in recovery of said muscles and tissues (those very same ones that allow you to burn more calories at rest) and won't spike your insulin nor cause you to have a blood sugar crash, etc. etc. I wanted to say that fat is also a perfectly acceptable long term energy source. I wanted to say all of that, but I didn’t. I didn’t because I realized that there are multiple generations who grew up or were adults during the “fats are the enemy” of the late 70’s and 80’s (and probably 90’s too). They dealt with so much propaganda that I’m not sure if there is any way to re-teach millions upon millions of people that everything they were told for 20+ years (at least) is simply not true and basically just an attempt to sell more government subsidized grain and wheat. At that moment i didn’t have a solution and it felt pretty stinkin hopeless….like having the "lifting weights will make me bulky" conversation for the 10 millionth time..

I feel like she's mocking me...

I feel like she's mocking me...

Then I started thinking, maybe it’s in the name. Just think about all the negative weight the word FAT carries (no pun intended).  We call those that happen to be overweight “fat.” We also call fat in foods “fat.” Just so we're clear, fat can be both delicious and unhealthy...It's only a matter of how we're using and viewing the word. I think I've heard Dan John aliterate to this fact in his lectures. At any rate, I don't know about you but i NEVER want to associate anything negative with bacon (it’s mostly fat...get it?).  

It’s not just the lack of education, people simply have a negative connotation with the word fat. Just like we do with carbs. It’s like excited and nervous, you never knew that excited (positive) could also mean nervous (negative) until someone told you. Think about it, nobody wants to be fat, nobody wants to be called fat (at least not this spelling).  I think any reeducation has to begin with how people perceive the word fat. Sure, it’s kinda far out there, but ask yourself, what else is working? We’re still HUGE as a nation, and no no one seems to have any more sense of what they should or shouldn’t eat anymore than they know what a catch is in the NFL...It changes every week and everyone’s interpretation is different.

Honestly, this is them trying to determine if they even know what a catch is...It's maddening...I'm getting off topic

Honestly, this is them trying to determine if they even know what a catch is...It's maddening...I'm getting off topic

In our current craze we’re all down on carbs (some for good reason), however imagine the reaction if we called over weight people, “over carbed?” Maybe the next time someone needs to bag on someone they tell them that they are too carbed. Or maybe we don’t need a villain, maybe it’s as simple as referring to fats as lipids from now on. We’ll say “good lipids” instead of good fats or “mono or poly unsaturated lipids” instead of fats. Try omega 3 lipidity acids instead of, well you get the idea.

Carbs in jail...makes me laugh

Carbs in jail...makes me laugh

While this may be taking it a bit far you can see how just a name can cause us to look at something in a very negative light when there’s very little reason to. I know there is a lot to understanding all the things that foods can do within the body and all the ways various food combinations can affect us but getting people to buy in to a different thought process may be just a matter of changing around a few names. Hmm, did I just have an idea that transcends fitness and nutrition...think about it.  

GET OUTSIDE AND PLAY

surf.jpg

As you can probably tell by the title, I am a fan of recreation. It's probably why I enjoy living in San Diego. In fact, I would venture to say that San Diego may be the most "recreationally active" city in the country. Not so coincidentally, San Diego is widely considered the fittest (and finest) city in the country. 

Not everyone's living situation is the same, that's clear, but it has always fascinated me as to why the general population at large believes three 60 minute workouts per week is enough to get fit. Sure it's better than nothing and absolutely you can make headway in your health and wellness, but I consider it more of a start point, not an end. There's more we can do, and we don't even have to call it a workout. But first, lets do a little a math. 7 days a week x 24hrs in a day = 168 hours in a week. Subtract the 56 hours we SHOULD be sleeping and we're left with 112. Subtract 40 hours for work and we're left with 72 hours, also known as three full days worth of time. Now, I get it, I am oversimplifying, there's the morning commute, time with family, and how could I forget...eating. However, when I look at my weekly schedule and I'm thinking about work, social life, and misc all included, I purposefully leave spaces in my schedule for what I call Non Exercise Activity (NEAT). 

Personally I cannot imagine my only physical activity, my only revved up heart rate, my only outlet to express athleticism, and my only ability to put strain on my skeletal muscle being three one hour trips to the gym. For some people it's life, it does the trick, it's their salvation, but for me, despite being a strength and conditioning professional I would be as depressed as I was bored - even if my gym was rad AF. I would even go so far as to say that performing more than 3-4 gym workouts a week may be a bit overkill for most average Joe's. That's why I always advocate finding some additional outlets. The reason I use the acronym NEAT is because I don't want people to consider recreational activities as scheduled exercise, hell I don't want them to think about it as exercise at all, even though it is. Everyone does, or in my opinion, should have "a thing"  or multiple things that they like to do other that grunting around other men. For me, because of where I live, those activities are beach volleyball and surfing (throw in hiking as well). 

Torrey Pines.jpg

As i mentioned previously, I attempt to leave gaps in my schedule so that I am able to play or surf or hike. Full disclosure, at the detriment of productivity (at times) I often make getting outside a priority but invariably life does get in the way and I'm not able to as much as i would like. When that happens I make adjustments in my schedule to ensure that I get the activity that I need to feel like I am maintaining fitness, but also to just stay sane. See, for me, while I know and understand that playing volleyball in the sand for two hours is exercise, it's movement in multiple plans and it's explosive, I've never looked at it as a workout. Sure, I count it as part of my weekly regime and know that if I am getting to play 2-3x per week that I can check mark some boxes on some weekly fitness qualities but ultimately it goes way beyond that. I look at it as a higher order in the grand scheme of staying fit. When i am outside, i am outside....profound right?:-). I am in nature, soaking up Vitamin D and immersing myself within a community of people. In the same game I am able to express competition while having camaraderie with my fellow man, and breaking a sweat as well.  All of that blended together, like a morning smoothie, lends to better functioning human. When I am in the water, I am even closer to nature. I let the energy of the water help me to recover and exhilaration of riding a wave provide me with a thrill that I could never get in the gym...even hitting a PR. Don't like any of the above options? Perhaps running stairs serve as recreation and "getting outside" to you. If that's the case my friend Brian Tabor wrote an article about all the fun stairs you can run in San Diego county on his site, strong made simple.

Tierrasanta stairs.jpeg

My point in all of this is that you must find the yin and the yang, the building of and creating your strength and power combined with the expression of and the recovery aspects of being close to nature that all link together to make, once again, in my opinion a very well AND fit human.

Whether that is fact or just an assumption based on the weather here, I'm not sure, but being active, not just working out, but being generally (or specifically) active in addition to your regularly scheduled workouts is in my opinion the 'X' factor is attaining and maintaining the fitness and physique that you want. 

Can you REALLY negotiate your way to weight loss, physique change...and expect to keep it that way?

Anyone remember this game?....:-) 

Anyone remember this game?....:-) 

What does it REALLY take to lose weight (and keep it off)........Part One

Now, I won’t waste anyone’s time and dance around this subject with any cute coddling quip (see what i did there) about how it’s a hard uphill battle that you have to fight everyday, etc. etc…..You already know that! All the fatties scooting around at Disney World have already permanently cemented that fact home! Or have they?

Seriously, whether you’re a layperson that possess some fitness knowledge or are completely clueless, I find it hard to grasp that anyone could believe that 30-40 minutes of simple “movement” whether that be yoga, walking, biking and NOTHING else would suffice in you being able to make any drastic and permanent appearance change…Before behavior change zealot has a heart attack, I will stipulate that many times I have advised people just to “move” (including walking) because they aren’t doing anything, and something is obviously better than nothing...However, the population of people/clients that I am referring to are those that have come to me and sworn up and down that all they want to do is lose X amount of weight and keep it off. And they'll do "anything to achieve it...but....

I have been nothing short of astounded at the number of people that have come to me for help, yet want to negotiate how much they “need” to do. How about adopting the attitude of “want to do” or “get to do” or better yet “am able to do.” All three are better than talking a coach down as if he or she is trying to sell you a used car. In the end, you as the client/student has identified that there is something that you would like to see changed, whether that’s appearance, performance, health markers, or all three. First step accomplished! The next is committing to the process and finishing whatever it is that you start. Your coach may not put you on the perfect plan, however, chances are it is better/more than what you are currently doing and simply attacking it as you would a blizzard from Dairy Queen will most likely yield some positive benefits.

I'd eat these everyday if i could!

I'd eat these everyday if i could!

I mention DQ above (because I L.O.V.E. ice cream) because I am making a point that weight loss and being fit, however you personally define that, is a lifestyle. It goes beyond that, i would label it a holistic approach to changing how you take care of yourself on an hour to hour, day to day, week to week basis. To me, lifestyle changes that will result in physique changes have to be a little intrinsic. We have to own them to a degree, perhaps the better term is “get into it,” similar to how someone can immerse themselves in a new hobby such as triathlon. What it isn’t is “oh crap, I've got this thing and I want to do this for 10 days and then….” No real change takes place. Sure a person can exhibit some discipline over a week and a half but then what? That is why things like “cleanses” and the like are so counterproductive in the long term. They don’t teach you anything.

We’re all familiar with the term “tough love” and sometimes a little tough love is in order when we embark down the road of laying down a foundation for a more healthy lifestyle. Do you have to be perfect?  

Of course not! The 80/20 rule is a great compass to adhere to. I am primarily referring to re-directing one's self, however what if we were working with a client? Behavior change as I am sure most coaches have experienced is not easy to elicit. People’s habits have been ingrained for quite some time and no sweet faced muscly armed coach or trainer is going to easily get someone to suddenly make different...better decisions.

pimply faced sum bit*h....:-)

pimply faced sum bit*h....:-)

So what do we do? Well, admittedly this is a massive over simplification, but we need to lay down a series of attainable goals and then stack upon them. We also need to give a person permission to fail. It doesn’t mean we take it easy on them, (see tough love above), but we can be sensitive, and empathetic to the individual and the individual's needs. The idea in the end is to show the athlete, client, patient, that success can be had, but that it’s not going to happen overnight and the process will take some time and commitment. At this point everyone reading this (which may be in fact all of two people, including my mom) needs to take a breath, give me a moment as I step down gingerly from my soap box to rejoin the rest of society and I’ll kindly breakdown the big rocks, in my mind, to sustainable healthy weight loss.

**all of what you have read and are about to read (you and my mom) is merely my opinion...no this is not a disclaimer, it’s just fact. Yes, I do have a shit ton of experience and generally believe I know what to do to help someone achieve a greater level of fitness and athleticism, but in the end opinions are like A-holes...everyone has them, most stink, and most people are them! So take everything with a grain of salt (I have no idea what that means by the way...but I get the context, so I use it.)

STEP ONE - Physical

Clearly the most obvious. This is where we all start and when I say we I mean all personal trainers, strength coaches, whatever you call yourself...this is where our prescriptions begin. And while the physical side may not be the most efficient in getting people where they want to be physique wise (see Nutrition/Kitchen), for most, the simple act of getting their asses moving begets a cascade of good *“feels” that make the other parts less miserable.

*i don’t really get why we’ve started saying that, but it’s contemporary….like watching game of thrones, so i use it…

Starting a new fitness regimen (for some) can be fun and invigorating. It's a fresh start, it gives you something to focus on and adhere to...which is the main reason that 30 day, 6 week, and 60 day challenges are so effective. But, they must be done right, not everyone can jump into a program guns blazing.

I break people up into 4 categories.

Category one - Have not and are not currently doing anything fitness related

I would say this category is reserved for those individuals that are chronically sedentary or very obese (those two go together.. And I don’t mean to be derogatory, but we need definitions in this business). If this is you or you work with someone that you believe belongs in this category then yes, 2-3x per week of dedicated walking (short bouts), perhaps some very basic bodyweight exercise, and some lifestyle changes such as walking places you may normally drive or parking farther away and if warranted, taking the stairs when the elevator was the norm. As cautious as we’ve become as an industry, mostly due to a complete lack thereof prior, I feel like perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. What I mean by that is that the mistake I most often see is never progressing clients out of this category...As long as you’ve taken a layered progressive approach..spending a few weeks to a month laying down some consistency and then adding some additional activities is in my mind a good idea (health markers and injuries permitting).

Category Two - “The Dabblers”

They’re active, but they dabble in a little of this and a little of that. They do everything, but it's all intermittent with no consistency. There week consists of Barre, Yoga, Spin, Pilates, Bootcamp, and a jog with their dog. Weight training comes in the form of the boot camp or perhaps the high intensity yoga class they did at noon on Tuesday. Normally some variance and intermittency in your training is a good thing, however when there is a complete lack of consistency with no progress in any category, then you’re a dabbler and you add variety for the sake of variety (see class pass). Something must make up the foundation of what you do. This is a sub group, not the main group of the  “muscle confusion” crowd. Sorry if that’s you (don't be pissed Crossfitter:-). Once again, kudos for being active, and it’s MOST CERTAINLY better than nothing, but not necessarily optimal ….much like my blogging.

Category Three - Need a coach people

This group is very similar to the dabblers but they’re more addicted to the iron game. This crew runs, lifts, and does the occasional yoga class but has no real direction. Nothing they do is progressive or for a purpose. The biggest difference i see in this group is that in my mind it contains mostly guys...this group wouldn't do spin one day, bare method the next, yoga the next and orangetheory the day after that...no, this crew would go for a five mile run, and then hit the gym for “arm day.” They’re good intentioned and have enough downloaded internet programs at the ready to be dangerous….but the biggest thing they’re lacking...is you, us….a coach!

Category Four - Doing too much

Just like a category four hurricane, this group is all over the place. I see them as uber obsessive workout types that believe they can and should go hard all the time...I think you can surmise the sub culture I am referring to:-). This group crushes themselves into oblivion...some with no real direction (category three) and some who elicit similar behaviors as category two, just with much more intensity. In all fairness, we all exhibit traits from category 2-3-4 from one time or another, but I’m talking about the extreme. They’re the workout in the morning class, workout at noon, and then lift again after work types. Interestingly enough, this group, as i've observed is also bad about adhering to good nutritional principles (see step two). It would appear the prevailing attitude is that they are so active they don't have to pay attention to what they fuel with, and perhaps for a time period they don’t but as we all know, father time is undefeated and eventually we must all buckle down and at least stick to something. Not to get too far out of the scope of this blog, but this crew also has zero time to adopt any recovery - physical, emotional, psychological - strategies and as such i've witnessed some out of whack hormones, huge elevated levels of cortisol, and an eventual suppression of testosterone as a result of chronic driving the body into a hole. That is a cocktail for shitty long term development and an environment ripe to not let go of body fat.

The global perspective that i think is most often missed within the physical side of weight loss is that it doesn’t stop with the workout. As i mentioned previously, there is a lifestyle component that is critical. In my experience effective weight loss and weight management is much more effective when incorporating new and SMALL daily habits. Habits as simple as parking farther away so you can tally more steps in a day. Other options are going for a short bike ride after dinner each night or helping a friend move (although, not consistent and generally not fun), it is movement. Lastly, and perhaps most important, I encourage people, even those not struggling with weight loss, to pick up what I term Non Exercise Activities. A non exercise activity (while it is exercise) is something that you do for fun, recreationally, that you don’t go into thinking, I’m doing this for fitness purposes...Our choices in southern California are nearly boundless. Choices include beach or grass volleyball, tennis, mountain biking, swimming, and surfing...literally anything that requires you to move, but most importantly something that you ENJOY and you DO NOT consider a “workout.”

In part two I’m going to dive head first into step two, and probably the most important step...and that is what happens in the kitchen.

Strength as a skill

Strength as a skill….It’s often talked about and more often written about..But I wonder if the athletes of today actually understand what it means. I’ll do my best to break down how I view strength, why it's a skill, and it’s importance in the yearly development and preparation of an athlete.

In my mind it’s fairly straightforward but as is often joked about – Common sense is not all that common. So looking back at the skill of building strength, what does that mean to an athlete? To a weekend warrior? To your average gym goer? I think it all means that same thing. How does one acquire any skill…by practice of course. In order to practice building strength, you have to…wait for ….work on strength, i.e. lift heavy weights of rep ranges that stem from 5 down to 1.  Why do I bring this up? Why even write about it all?

I have the fortunate niche of working with beach volleyball athletes….Now, beach volleyball, while being an insanely fast and dynamic sport that requires the ultimate expression of multiple energy systems does not necessarily have what I would call the strength and conditioning “culture.” There are other sports, Football, for one, that clearly thrive on the opposite end of that spectrum…maybe even bordering on too “into it.” However, Volleyball (sand), is still acquiring that appreciation for the art and science of a progressive approach to year round strength and conditioning programming.

Like many of the myths that perpetuate the strength and conditioning world (such as “weights” make you bulky…talking to you creatures of the female persuasion) they run rampant in the beach community as well.

The conversation usually goes like this: (With someone of a low training age)

Athlete: I want to work on my vertical this year….what do I need to do?

Me: Get stronger!

Athlete: Yeah but (it always starts like this), I don't want to get bulky,  put on weight, I’m not trying to put on mass

Me: You won’t!

Athlete: Yeah, but my friend did Air Alert* (or some other internet downloadable one size fits all workout) and he/she put nine inches on their vertical in 2 months…

Me: (HUGE sigh, as i figure out a diplomatic way to tell the person standing in front of me that there’s no way that happened and unless the person in question is not human, that a properly designed, progressive strength training program is the best way to increase a person’s vertical** Especially a young athlete. )....Ok, here are my thoughts…..

As a coach, this is where you have to start breaking down some walls and cracking through some long held misguided beliefs. It’s actually a great opportunity to do some educating as well as to provide those invaluable “lightbulb moments.”  Today’s athlete (both young and old) want proof. They want explanations. More than ever, they want to know why. It’s not enough to have years of experience in the field, today’s athlete is inundated with a lot of noise, which forces us as coaches to be very concise and direct with our strength and conditioning philosophy and game plan as it relates to their training.

When I’m explaining why it’s so important to achieve a relative strength level I have always found it very useful to use analogies. One of my favorites, and probably the first one I ever heard was the “cup” analogy. If you consider strength as a cup, the more strength you have, the bigger your cup. The bigger your cup (once again, meaning the stronger you are) the more qualities you can fit inside of that cup. This is material in the sense that many young (and older) athletes get enamored with the fancy stuff...in the volleyball world, as I eluded to earlier, all they want to do is jump (in my mind, I’m like “seriously, that’s LITERALLY all you do when you're playing, why would I continue to beat that dead horse..) My point is, as an athlete if you’re worried about VBT, cluster sets, RPE or some complex set you saw on the internet but you can’t squat or clean your bodyweight...or worse yet can’t do 20 perfect pushups then one of two things is likely to happen

  1. you get hurt

  2. you never realize all the potential of those “other” qualities

The following graph is known as the force velocity curve.  

 

On the left axis is Force. When high amounts of force are applied to an object, such as a heavy barbell, that barbell moves in the opposite direction of the force (i.e. a squat). The higher the force required to change the direction of the object (bar) the higher the weight of the bar (and vice versa). So on the left (max strength) you’ll see higher force movements such as maximal deadlifts, back squats, front squats, etc.  As the velocities rise you move to categories such as strength speed, think Olympic lifts. Faster and farther down the curve you reach “Power.”  There are housed movements/exercises such as weighted jumps and medicine ball throws. Even further down you find very high velocity movements such as sprinting.

As an athlete you absolutely need to touch on both sides of the FV curve. It’s essential for complete athletic development. If you’d like an example - have you ever seen the big muscular guy that has no “pop” (explosion, what have you) or conversely the silloway athlete that can’t stand up to the rigors of a long season or can’t deal with the in game contact...Both have the same problem..they trained too much on one side of the spectrum (or not at all).

Strength’s “other” purpose

For the coaches reading this, how many times have you heard athletes say, “I don’t lift heavy because I don’t want to get hurt. I only do high reps…” It’s the most tragic oxymoron in all of sports...Your ability to remain durable is dependent on your ability to be resilient. Resilience stems from strength! It’s quite simple.  

Athletes reading this, consider strength training not only your path to heightened physical abilities but also your way to build your own personal body armor. That armor protects you against the wear and tear of your season, against impact from your opponents and helps you retain all the athletic qualities that allow you to succeed in your sport over a long season.

It was once told to me that strength and the building there of is the best corrective exercise any of us can undertake. I’ve never been more healthy than when I was my strongest (and most powerful)...I’ll asterisk that with relative strength...I do feel there is a point of diminishing returns, especially in court sports (good thing I threw that in I could feel the internet storm troopers mounting their attack). It would seem all I’m talking about is lifting weights like a meathead... Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In my opinion progress can be measured in a multitude of ways from actually moving more weight on a bar, to being more efficient with a particular movement to being able to recover quicker from a stressor.

Bottom line, if you want to be durable, move well, accentuate all your athletic potential, you need to be on a structured, variable, and progressive strength and conditioning program (note I didn’t say workout), ideally overseen by a qualified coach.

Hope you’ve all had a great offseason and good luck in this upcoming inseason.


(**I’m talking about a person of a low training age...aka someone who can barely clean, squat, deadlift (trap bar included) their body weight for 3-5 reps...Too aggressive? Ok how bout do 20 perfect pushups…)

Trainer/Coach -Coach/Trainer...What's the difference?

Despite the terms often being used synonymously there is quite a big difference between your standard personal trainer and a strength coach. Sure, if we’re talking public vs private sector, 24 hr fitness vs the University of …..the differences are clear cut. However, if we're comparing similar job responsibilities in similar industries I feel the largest and most glaring gap is in responsibility for and investment in the client/athlete.

The following is a breakdown, a checklist, or a reference guide for what i think the major differences are between your standard “personal trainer” and a strength coach. I’ve also included how and why I believe the attributes you should look for are beneficial - no matter if you’re a fitness professional or someone looking for the right answer fitness wise.

A Coach is:

  1. Philosophical

    1. Has a philosophies and principles that guide and govern how he or she programs

  2. Ever questioning and analyzing - What does this client do well, not do well, and how do we play to the strengths while accentuating the weaknesses.

  3. Always evaluating and assessing

    1. Utilizes some sort of tried and true movement assessment such as the FMS and at very worst incorporates 1-2 correctives based on the outcome

    2. A coach will know when a client is progressing based upon movement outcomes, not necessarily “is there more weight on the bar”

  4. Movement oriented

    1. Thinks movements not muscles. A coach will program from a  three dimensional perspective and will approach each session with the long term in mind. (vs. one and done)

  5. Educated

    1. Most coaches in the public sector, i.e. college and or pro, have master’s degrees.

  6. Continually seeking education and questioning what he/she knows

    1. Coaches relish the opportunity to learn from other’s in their industry. Most strength coaches hold at minimum 2 major certifications. Absolutely all of them will possess one major certification that cannot be obtained online or in a weekend. Strength coaches are typically very versatile meaning they can probably expound about PRI as well as teach you how to catch a clean.

  7. Experienced (sadly, anyone can be a trainer right out of school or without school)

    1. You would be hard pressed to find someone who refers to themselves as a coach that has not ‘volunteered’ at least 3 months of their time, if not up to a year, working for a coach or program...just to get a chance to potentially do another “internship.” Coaches often have to leave jobs after just a few years in order to move up which may be looked upon as a bad thing, however, working for different bosses at different institutions only adds to the coaches tools.

  8. Team Oriented

    1. Coaches are used to being a part of and working as a team. For example, let's say a coach, public or private sector has an exceptionally difficult client/athlete, some movement issue that doesn’t necessitate a referral but definitely needs expert attention. A coach typically has a wide network from which he or she can draw from to get to the bottom of a problem… 

  9. Consistent

    1. You can usually identify a coaches program because it is in fact a program vs. a workout. You would be able to see regressions and progressions based on the ability and experience of the trainee. You may also see a more extensive warm-up. You would also see a consistent structure to the program...It wouldn’t be 5x5 one day followed by a 20 exercise circuit the next.

 

*note: once again, not meant to offend, but meant to incite thought and reflection...and in the end these are my opinions. If you are offended, you may be part of the problem. Refer back to 1-9.

Without making this anymore of a  “we’re awesome and they suck” finger pointer exercise than it already is, I’ll close with this.

It may seem ironic that I hold these views given that I went from the public to the private sector and essentially work in the “training” world...however that has not stopped me from adhering and holding myself to the standards that were demanded when my duties were 100% coaching athletes. Despite my environment changing and my clientele taking on a different look, my job title still remains “Coach” and because of that I have not strayed from the ideals that I feel separate the two professions.

I feel just as responsible to the potential client out there looking for someone to guide their training as I do to the greenhorn coach looking for some professional mentoring. You may call it semantics, but I call it standards. Either way you slice it, if you’re currently in the trainer category and killing it, cool, stay there but if you want something more for you and for your clients, use the above as a tool to identify blind spots. We all have them, it’s just a matter of identifying them and then working on bringing them up to par with our strong points...sound familiar to anything else? (hint: that’s how training works).  The resounding sentiment is find what you’re good at, what you're not, and get to work on those aspects that you believe can propel you forward - physically or professional. As always, move, train, and live with purpose.


 

 

 

 

 

Wait, so you don't do "Chest" on Monday?

The conversation always goes a little something like this:

Me: so what do you do for your workouts?

Client/Advice seeker/inquiring potential client: Usually do chest and tri’s on monday, Legs on wednesday and Back and Bi’s on Friday’s (because, well, why not!)

Me: (in my head) OMG!!!

Me: (for real) Has that been working for you? Why do you split it like that (just curious)?

Potential Client: Not sure, I’ve always done it that way, everyone at my gym does it like that...how else would you do it?

Me: (with the voice of Bernie Casey) Well, that depends on your particular area of expertise…

One of the best movies ever!

One of the best movies ever!

 

(Deep Breath)

And I karate kick and chop everyone in the gym! Just kidding!....sort of!

However, this is a conversation I have over and over again. It’s a great exercise in understanding, as well as targeted practice in going over your principles and philosophies. It also helps you challenge and examine your belief system, which we all should do. If you are an industry person, much of what I’m about to write will be old hat (and then again, based upon what i've seen on this very interweb….maybe not), so this isn’t necessarily written for you. This is a dissertation written for the casual fitness trainee. Anyone looking for a sustainable approach to constructing a TRAINING program that not only gets them stronger but also allows them to move better and remain more durable for anything else that life throws at them. That’s essentially my elevator speech for why i do things the way I do. The following are the nuts and bolts.

 

Determining needs (with wants)

I don’t think I’ve written a program in the last 8 - 10 years without some semblance of an evaluation first. That evaluation may have been as simple as a couple performance tests to determine big rock weaknesses,  or could have been an observation of some basic human movement patterns such as the squat, lunge, push up, and hinge. Most of the time it’s a combination of all the above in conjunction with the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) to determine any movement deficiencies and asymmetries (differences between right and left). As I’ve heard guys such as Tony Gentilcore and others state, the evaluation doesn’t have to be super cumbersome and most certainly shouldn’t cause your trainee to feel like a lab rat. However, if the client comes to you with an injury history, is an athlete, or has some very specific goals it is diligent to make sure you’ve determined what the client does and does not do well from a movement perspective. Honestly, despite all your best intentions, without an evaluation you’re throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks from a programming perspective.

Programming Parameters:

If sets, reps, and exercises are the main courses as it relates to programming then frequency, duration, and ability to recover are the side dishes. They’re often not given the proper attention, but can really make a difference in whether the program you write is effective for the client. What I find when I’m writing programs for people is that Murphy’s law always reigns supreme. What I mean by that is that your best laid plans are always just that, best laid plans. A program, especially one written for someone who participates in the real world (aka a non professional athlete) rarely plays out exactly as planned. “Things” invariably pop up, life happens and before you know it that 4 week phase with the built in supercompensation week ends up lasting about 6.5 weeks and that supercompensation week is actually a week of traveling for work and living in hotel rooms.

 

I always have to consider realistic frequency of workouts, meaning number of workouts the client can realistically get in per week. I’m also mindful of duration...If I write a workout that takes the better part of an entire afternoon to complete and my client only has a 45 minute window on his/her lunch break to get it in, then it’s probably not going to be an effective regimen for that particular trainee.

 

Perhaps the most important factors to consider (outside of the goals of the client and expected time frame to completion) are what I like to term competing factors. Competing factors are what affect a person’s ability to recover from the programs that I write. If they can’t recover then they can’t come back for the next session. If they can’t do that then there’s no consistency and without consistency it’ll be hard to realize success. When I’m programming i consider a person's job, do they sit all day? That may affect what I include or exclude from a program. Is their job highly stressful? Depending on the person, me adding stress on top of stress may be the exact opposite of what he/she needs. I may also factor in a person's homelife, do they have children? Do they get enough sleep? And what is their current nutritional status...that’s a fancy way of asking how well they eat? All those elements are going to factor when it comes to someone's ability to recover from the external stressors that I’m about to add. Once I’ve acquired all of the above information, then I go on and build out the program.

Crazy shit happens...

Crazy shit happens...

 

Nuts and Bolts

After I’ve done all the assessing and information gathering I sit down to do the fun part of planning out the exercises and progressions to take the client towards his/her goals. There are a handful of staples that will be present in almost every program i write. I (and many others) refer to those as the fundamental human movements - Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull, Lunge. In my opinion you need to be good at the basics and there’s nothing more basic than the aforementioned five movements. Now, in what form the squat, hinge, push, pull, and lunge are represented will be unique to the each client's needs, wants, and abilities.

 

Research and experience has validated fairly clearly that total body workouts (vs body part or hemisphere splits) are superior in effectiveness and efficiency. I can’t imagine spending an hour or more for “chest day.” If i’m programming for a client with physique goals I tend to use a method called “tri-sets.” A tris-set is three exercises performed in a row with minimal rest in between (15-30 sec) and a more moderate rest interval (60-90 sec) after all three exercises have been completed.

I like to view the body in terms of arranging exercises in an ‘X’ pattern. The ‘X’ is nothing more than pairing a lower body exercise with an upper body exercise and finally a trunk stability exercise to round out the triset. How i go about choosing the exercises is what is unique. As I mentioned previously I always want a squat, hinge, push, pull, or lunge represented in every workout. So for example if I have a squatting movement planned (also known as a lower body “push”), I’ll pair it with an upper body pull, such as a TRX row or single arm dumbbell row. If it’s a hinging movement such as a KB Swing or Deadlift that I have planned, I would pair that with an upper body push such as a DB bench press or DB push press. A triset may look something like this:

 

A1. Goblet Squat (Lower Push)

A2. TRX Row (Horizontal Pull)

A3. Ab Wheel rollouts (Anti-extension)

 

In the example above i put in parenthesis the movement that each exercise represents.

I consider exercises in terms of their plane of movement. For example a chin up is a vertical pull. A Barbell bent over row is a horizontal pull (aka row). A pushup is a horizontal press. A shoulder press is a vertical press. Still with me? Lower body works similarly. A squat is known as a lower push or a quad dominant movement. A deadlift is termed a lower pull or hip dominant movement. I like to put “pulls” with “presses” whether its upper or lower body.

 

In the above triset example after the ab wheel rollouts i have (anti extension). I break “core” exercises down into what they resist. Rollouts force you to maintain neutral spine while moving, the work is in resisting succumbing to gravity and falling into extension, thus anti extension. The other ways the trunk resists movement is in Lateral Flexion, so we work anti lateral flexion. An example would be a side plank. And, lastly the trunk resists rotation. An example exercise would be the anti rotation press (pic). How this all ties into programming is that I tend to program the “Anti” movements earlier in the workout and may put a rotary exercise (and twisting action) later or towards the end of the workout.

 

(side note: this is how everyone should train the trunk)

A couple other programming considerations would be including more pulling than pressing, typically a 2:1 ratio. We spend most of our days hunched, reaching and working with things in front of us so the notion of doing more pulls than presses is necessary in order to counter the evils of everyday living. The other I want to highlight is including more hinging or bridging movements than squatting. Once again, we’re a quad dominant society, so some squatting is good, but more hinging is better. Highlighting hinging gets us working with our glutes and hamstrings which are large muscle groups that not only burn a ton of calories at work but also help us function pretty nicely. It also helps us have nice backsides...which no one complains about.

Damn!

Damn!

 

Below is an example of what a typical (for me) total body workout would and could look like:

A1. BB Hip Bridge

A2. Weighted Pushup

A3. Suitcase carry

 

B1. DB Reverse Lunge

B2. Single DB Row

B3. Ab Wheel rollout

Finisher: KB Swings

 

As you can see in the above example every major movement is addressed. The most functional aspect of creating workouts in this manner is that it allows you to train all the compound multi joint movements multiple times per week which allow much more bang for the buck. More exposure leads to faster skill acquisition which allows the client to progress quicker as well as get fitter. If you’re still doing body part splits and spending a ton of time in the gym, give the total body split a try. I think you’ll find that your workouts will be quicker and more effective in inching you closer to your goals.

 

If you’ve been wanting or needing a change to your workouts for the new year, check out my distance coaching product or drop me an email and we can schedule an in person consult.

 

Cheers!

Quick Holiday Workouts - Installment #3 - Christmas Edition

Hey PIQ readers, coach Rudy back for my third installment of quick and dirty workouts you can do when time is something you don’t have a lot of. The last workout we did Goblet Squat, SLDL and TGU and all we needed was a single kettlebell.

In today’s installment we’re going to add in a little ground work as well as some lunging. The common theme, as always, will be that the following will be quick, effective and challenging from a movement perspective. The best part, all you’ll need is a single kettlebell.  Here’s an inside look.

 

Here’s what you’ll need

Equipment: 1 Kettlebell 16-24k

Time: 20 minutes

Space: A little more this week - enough to crawl - I’ll explain further

Attitude: Outstanding!

Effort: Fantastic! (Never gonna change!)

 

The exercises

2H -KB Swing

 

 

Reverse Lunge

 

 

 

Backwards Crawl

 

 

Sets/Reps

KB Swing - 15 reps

Reverse Lunge - 5e leg

Backwards Crawl - 10 yds out and back (20 yards total)

Duration

Set 1: 5min work - 2min rest

Set 2: 4min work - 1.5min rest

Set 3: 3min work - 1min rest

Set 4: 2min -DONE!

 

The Workout

As you may have noticed….some new exercises this week. Backward Crawl? Here’s the Skinny - The backward crawl mimics pressing vertically. It gives us a safe, effective, and what you are sure to agree is a fun way to regress the overhead press. Other reasons include the coordination (industry term - contralateral movement) and core strength that crawling demands. Along with incorporating brand new movements, we’ll also be utilizing a brand new way of getting after it! Here’s what you’ll do - Complete 15 reps of swings, grab the KB by the horns and hold it goblet style (up to your chest) and complete 10 total reps of reverse lunges, and finish by crawling 10 yds out and back. Your goal is to complete as many cycles of that sequence as you can in 5 minutes, then rest 2 minutes. The next round will start following that break and it will last 4 minutes followed by a 1.5 minute rest period. The third round will be 3 minutes in length followed by a 1 min rest and the 4th and final round will commence following that 1 minute rest period and will last 2 minutes. Then you are done! Altogether the total work time is 14 minutes. With rest it works out to 18.5 minutes.That’s it!

Wrapping it up

Don’t be fooled by the relative short total work time. This one is a doozy and if you haven't crawled since you were a tiny tot, let alone in a workout - you’re in for a challenge. Big time! But Rudy, there’s no upper body….Give this one a go and tell me after if you needed an extra push or pull. I think you’ll find that this workout is very sneaky in it’s full body(ness). As always, have a great time with this one and stayed tuned for more.  Until then, move with purpose!

 

Quick Holiday Workouts - Installment #2

Hey everyone coach Rudy back for a second installment of quick and dirty workouts you can do when time is something you don’t have a lot of. We're another week closer to Christmas, which means more parties, cookies, and those specialty drinks that range from a glorified milkshake, all the way to the ones with every fruit ever discovered (either way, I'm sure they're all good for you;-). Because of that, kids being out of school, and requisite trips to the mall, we have distractions galore, but precious little time to nail down a workout. For that I am giving you another workout you can do in under 20 minutes and with very little space and equipment.

The last workout we did Swings, T-Pushups and 1-arm rows and all we needed was a single kettlebell. Today’s workout will be very similar in terms of equipment but different and challenging from a movement perspective.

Here’s what you’ll need

Equipment: 1 Kettlebell 16-24k

Time: 20 minutes

Space: Just enough for you and the kettlebell

Attitude: Outstanding (duh!)

Effort: Fantastic!

The exercises

Goblet Squat

Single Leg Deadlift (SLDL)

Turkish Get Up (TGU)

Sets/Reps

Goblet Squat x 10 reps

(That's my buddy Brian)

(That's my buddy Brian)

SLDL x 5 reps each side

TGU x 1 rep each side

 

 

The Workout

Ok, so here’s the skinny. This workout will last 20 minutes! You want to know how i know? You’re going to set a timer for 20 minutes and push ‘start.’ Once you’ve started the time, grab your kettlebell hold it up at your chest and squat  it for 10 reps. Next move on to the SLDL, you’ll do 5 reps per leg. And lastly, you will perform one turkish get up each side. Continue to perform this sequence until the time has ran out. Rest only as much as necessary between each exercise and after each sequence.

It may start out easy, but trust me after 10 minutes and especially after 15 minutes and absolutely after 20 minutes you will know you got a great workout.

This should go without saying, however make sure you have a proper understanding of how to perform the Turkish Get Up prior to loading it up. It is one of the more complex ground to standing movements and subsequently one of the more bastardized as well. A great way to start is to place your shoe on top of your fist and make sure you own the movement from top to bottom prior to adding a KB. 

Wrapping it up

There may not be a “true” push or pull in this one, but at the end there will be little doubt that this is as full body as full body gets. Lengthen your between sequence rest time as the workout progresses. e.g shorter rests at the beginning, longer rests closer to the end. Have a great time with this one and stayed tuned for more.  Until then, move with purpose!

 

Quick Holiday Workouts - Installment #1

Its that time of year again. Holiday parties every weekend, shopping for Christmas gifts, drinks by the fire, cookies, egg nog (I like junk food)…..working out tends to get driven farther down the list than it already is. With time at a premium and motivation low, we need workouts that can give us the most bang for our buck, help us preserve a little muscle, and stave off those unwanted holiday pounds.

I’m starting a series of quickie workouts, most can be done in 20 minutes or less. If you are someone who happens to have a few kettlebells and other assorted pieces of workout equipment laying around your house (obviously not collecting dust) these workouts can be done in the comfort of your own home -or garage in my case.

Quick workouts used to be thought of as incomplete workouts, something we threw together just to say we did something. The following is anything but that. You’ll find it not only full body but also challenging. And the best part - the necessary equipment is very minimal - nothing fancy required.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Equipment: 1 Kettlebell -16k-28k

Time: 15 minutes

Space: Just enough for you and the Kettlebell

Attitude: Outstanding!

Effort: Even better!!

The Exercises:

Single Arm Swings

T-Pushups

1-Arm Rows

Sets/Reps:

10-8-6-4-2

The workout:

Ok, so here’s what you’ll do. Take your Kettlebell perform 10 swings each arm. Then 10 pushups (5 twisting to the right, 5 twisting to left) and finally 10 rows each arm. For rest, take only as long as you need, then start the next set beginning with 8 reps each arm for swings, 8 pushups and 8 one arm rows each. You will continue to count down until you’ve reached 2. Now, depending on how you feel, you can work your way back up or finish with 5-10 minutes of Yoga or static stretching (whatever feels good and helps you cool down and shift gears back to human mode). This workout -including the 5-10 minutes of yoga -should take you about 20 minutes (not including a quick warm-up...time permitting).

Wrapping it all up

You can walk away from this one feeling confident that you’ve hit major muscle groups in the upper and lower body, got enough volume to make it count and probably mixed in a little conditioning based upon your choosen rest time. Have a great time with this one and stayed tuned for more.  Until then, move with purpose!

Why Europe isn't as fat as us (IMO) - Part Three

PART THREE

Community and Good Coffee!!!

I saved the best for last. Who doesn’t love coffee, especially great coffee!? And if you don’t, well, then I’ve got to wonder where your priorities are (and how you survive..I mean really, tell me). I’m only kidding (except, I am kind of judging:-). Whether you like coffee or not, the health benefits are well researched and have been fairly decisively determined. Long story short, a cup of joe or two is good for you. Europeans do not shy away from their coffee. If you’re not a fan of espresso, you may not like your options though. I didn’t find many, if any typical Mr. Coffee slow drip cups of coffee. Standard was an espresso, occasionally a latte, americano, or cappuccino. Prior to being there I could count on two hands the number of espresso’s I’d had (I'm a snob, I like to make mine at home). After a google search (what is the difference between…) I became quite the aficionado. The point to all this coffee talk is that it’s simple, not over thought, and enjoyed in moderation all day everyday. Take coffee out of that, sub in most other things that have proven health benefits, approach with the same attitude and we have a pretty nice equation for health and wellness over the long term.

Lastly, and this goes very nicely with coffee, food, what have you, and that is community. When is the last time you got together with friends for a meal and didn’t feel relaxed? Have you ever met a friend or a date for coffee or drinks or food or all three, and not felt a sense of peace and contentment? Picture the last time you and a group of friends got together for a beer after playing a rec flag football game or sideout at the beach? You’re stress level is most likely fairly low, life is good! 

Those feelings of being relaxed, happy, feeling connected to others puts you in what is called a Parasympathetic state (think rest and digest...also known as Thanksgiving). The opposite is the Fight or Flight feeling (Sympathetic state). The benefits of being in a parasympathetic nervous system state are an increased ability to repair and regenerate, more optimal concentration and memory, better digestion (mentioned earlier) and most importantly a lower level of cortisol. What is cortisol? It's known throughout the general public as "the stress hormone." While that's true, cortisol is not all bad, except like many substances, when we are chronically overexposed to it. If, for example we live in a state of constant stress, hair on fire, can't ever catch our breath, world is falling down type of existence - chances are we are living in a sympathetic nervous system state. Assuming that's true, cortisol is most likely elevated chronically. Where it can negatively affect us most is in the case of the hormone Insulin and weight gain. See, cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland and controlled by the hypothalamus and responds to stress-good stress (exercise) and bad stress (mental and emotional). At the onset of exercise, the hypothalamus releases cortisol so that it can up regulate the concentration of glucose (sugar) in the blood so that it is available for your working muscles. However, too much of a good thing...becomes a bad thing. Long term exposure to cortisol elevates blood sugar even when we're not working out. When bloods sugar is elevated the pancreas has to work harder to release insulin to remove the excess glucose from our bloodstream. Two things happen, if the blood sugar is not shuttled to working muscles, it's either delivered to the liver or to fat cells.  However, if blood sugar is chronically elevated, the receptors become insensitive to insulin and that is what Diabetes is. Not good! It doesn't stop at what we put in our pie hole either. Emotional stress, perceived or otherwise can also raise cortisol, which can raise blood glucose levels - As we learned earlier, it's natural in an acute state, but chronically (i.e. you're constantly stressed out or believe the world is out to get you) it's no bueno. Stress taken a step further can begin to disrupt sleep. Just one nights worth of sleep deprivation and the stress associated with it can cause insulin resistance equal to six months on a junk food diet (see earlier posts about the importance of sleep!) (Credit to Dr. Rangan Chatterjee for that nugget). Our sleep and emotions are closely tied together. Ever been in a great mood following a crummy nights sleep? Me neither. Chronic emotional stress can morph into depression. As many as 1 in 5 Americans will experience depression in their lifetimes. The final layer, in a Kings College study, depression patients with high levels of inflammation due to poor diet (see earlier posts on better food choices) did not respond to anti-depressant drugs...It seems everything is important!

There's good news though. As i alluded to earlier, community breeds feelings of goodwill. Those feelings of togetherness stem an environment of lower stress (perceived or real) which lowers cortisol, which helps to control insulin resistance, which ultimately can lower the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes. So, it would seem as i cited in the previous two posts that proper sleep, high quality food, everything in moderation (including moderation), great coffee, and a great sense of community can yield some impressive long and short term health benefits. I think it's not a mistake nor should it be a surprise that our friends across the pond, while not perfect, have a few things figured out that may be allowing them to avoid some of the health and wellness pitfalls that have befallen us. 

I hope you enjoyed this series. Feel free to follow my instagram or facebook for more entertaining and sometime insightful content. 

 

 

Why Europe isn't as fat as us (IMO) - PART TWO

PART TWO

GOOD FOOD (ACTUALLY, GREAT FOOD!)

I spent the majority of my time in Europe traveling across the Spanish countryside. I assume most people are familiar with tapas, which can consist of a lot of different foods, but are generally small in size and are meant to share. Europeans from what I saw did not eat what we would call incredibly healthy. In fact, breakfast, if breakfast exists (I’ll come back to that) consists mostly of pastries and coffee. Quick side note: I love pastries and I indulged repeatedly every day – just had to say it. Wheat? Gluten? Cream Cheese? Milk Chocolate? Sugar? How do they survive? (more on that in a sec) I just felt the Paleo community collectively dry heave. Admittedly I would shun those ingredients and probably will once again when I return to my normal routine. But seriously, how do they all not look like walking Zeppelins (or the standard oversized zombie apocalypse called Disneyland:-)?

As I mentioned earlier, breakfast sometimes doesn’t exist (I’ll explain why later). Breakfast can however, look a lot like lunch, which closely resembles dinner – now it’s starting to sound more up your alley Crossfitters (I had to). I nearly forgot to mention adult beverages. I ate in restaurants nearly every meal, mostly because I wanted to enjoy the local cuisine and atmosphere of wherever I was at but also secretly to observe what the locals ate and drank. Beer! Wine! I don’t think I had a single meal (yes lunch or dinner) where I didn’t enjoy at least one beer or glass of wine. Now you may be thinking, “of course, you were on vacation.” It wasn’t just me. It was not out of the ordinary to see most of the locals drinking beer around noon. God bless them!☺

I don't care who you are....that's funny:-)

I don't care who you are....that's funny:-)

I think the secret lies in the quality of the foods and ingredients. While yes, many of the foods are fried, just as many are baked or come fresh and the diet is based around quality meats, a lot of fish, rice, veggies, and potatoes. Most of the basics! Sound familiar to success in other areas of life…hint: weight training. They don’t put corn in everything. There’s not a lot of chemically reproduced food like substances, not much HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), it’s all pretty simple, standard and they hit repeat from day to day. I had some of the best meals of my life on this vacation and they didn’t deviate that much from one another. Fish or other seafood, rice, potatoes, soup, coffee (more on that in a second), veggies, but also desserts…. everyone loves their desserts and hold your breath, bread before dinner! I wouldn’t blame you if you’re reading this thinking, “I’m not sure how it’s possible to eat everything I just listed and remain healthy minus regularly scheduled exercise.” Glad you asked.

He's everywhere...Including my blog

He's everywhere...Including my blog

 

SLEEP

Strange thing, I had a friend in Spain who would always tell me that the sun didn’t seem to rise until abnormally late (our standards). I, of course didn’t believe it. This same friend would tell me that it didn’t seem that anyone awoke prior to 8 or 9 and nothing productive seemed to happen until 10am. Once again, I disregarded it as hyperbole. It wasn’t until I was in Barcelona that i witnessed the sunrise and sleep phenomenon first hand.. The sun didn’t rise until nearly 8am and even if I were motivated to get out and get going, the streets and cafes were ghost towns until at least 9am, with the first people starting to show themselves. Somewhere around 10am the cafe’s would fill up with espresso seeking individuals either on their way to work or tourists visiting the city. I started to think about my own daily schedule. I’m normally up by 5am and at work by 6am.  Had i mentioned that to anyone in the streets of Barcelona, I may have been whisked away and taken somewhere for evaluation. Not kidding! Think pace of life...Think about how that affects sleep patterns... I also thought about my eating schedule as I typically fast through the morning. Guess what, no fasting necessary (assuming I didn't eat at midnight)! 

Now combine that with what we’ve known for forever (and only now are seemingly confirming with a weird field called sleep science...only humans would necessitate sleep studies) that good sleep can heal the injured and make brilliant the not so bright and it became clear that the Europeans had another aspect of healthy living nailed. They sleep more!

It’s well known that most things in Europe, including dinner happen later at night, Later is somewhat nebulous and I'll try to clarify a bit.  As I mentioned earlier the first meal of the day was typically around the 11AM hour, then siesta around 2PM, a snack around 6PM and dinner around 9PM. With the ability to have a relaxing dinner and know that I was able to sleep as long as I needed to feel rested...well, I wouldn’t know what that felt like, but I got a taste of it there and it was awesome. It’s no wonder that there is a lower incidence of diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Imagine a day, week, month or year of not having to eat perfect, no cravings and no binge eating because your hormones have spiraled out of control due to lack of sleep (you know, that feeling you get when you’re super tired and all you can think about are candy bars)...It seems pretty sweet (pun intended)! Stay tuned for part 3 when I tie it all together with community and good coffee (saved the best for last)

Yum!

Yum!

Why Europe isn't as fat as us (IMO) -Part One

Part one

sipping coffee.jpg

As I sit, sipping my coffee in a cute but nondescript side street café in Barcelona, Spain I can’t help but reflect (and of course put a health/wellness spin on it). I'm writing this at the tail end of a once in a lifetime vacation across Spain and Portugal (by the time you read this, I'll be back in the states... fully back to obsessing over my diet and exercise:-). Over the past few weeks I’ve taken in all the sights, sounds, smells, and especially ALL the foods...I mean all of them! It got me thinking, my entire professional career has been dedicated to one of a couple of things: working with athletes or directly/indirectly working against the obesity epidemic, yet no one in Europe seems to pay much attention to what they eat (IMO) or be overly obsessed (bordering on refreshingly dismissive) about exercise.

Despite what I’ve witnessed firsthand and what I’ve always read, Europeans don’t suffer from nearly the health-related complications that we do as Americans from poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Until I was able to witness it firsthand I never really understood how it penciled out. I think I romantically imagined that every piece of food was transported magically from a quaint local farm right into a restaurant just moments before a dish was ordered or that every person shopped exclusively at farmer’s markets. All of course are not true and I have a few theories below where I’m going to break down why and how I think Europeans are able to stay relatively healthier* (remember, “fit” and “healthy” are two completely different entities) than us.

WALKING

Oh my god the walking! Everyone walks! Everywhere! All day! I guesstimated that I averaged five miles of walking per day based on the time spent out and the terrain covered. No I did not use a tracking device…I actually enjoyed my vacation. Five miles per day though! When is the last time you voluntarily walked five miles…or one mile? It was SOP (standard operating procedure) to wake up, walk 10-15 minutes to breakfast or to get coffee then walk 10-15 minutes back to wherever I was staying or to the next stop on the discovery tour. I love to be active, I am always moving, love to move, however were I in the US and you were to ask to walk 15 minutes every morning to get breakfast….my answer would lie somewhere between my index finger and ring finger.

Yep!

Yep!

We should all be so lucky to have walking be THE WAY, instead of something that we do reluctantly.  When coupled with all the walking I was doing as a tourist, it was no wonder I didn’t gain much if any weight despite doing ZERO of what would be considered dedicated exercise. Despite promising myself I wouldn’t analyze it I did come up with some cursory figures. 10-15 minutes’ walk was typically .4 - .6 miles in distance. I would traverse that distance a minimum of 2x per day (reality was closer to 4x per day) just for food or coffee not counting all the walking to see Palaces, Castles, and Cathedrals. My rough estimate of five miles per day may have been conservative.

Intrigued,  I started to look at it a bit deeper. I went back to Tim Ferris’s book the 4-hour body. In it he mentioned the digestive and thermic benefits of doing something active immediately before and immediately after eating. Whether I liked it or not that was happening automatically, every time! Then there was the terrain. By terrain I mean hills. By hills I mean straight up lean forward so you don’t fall back vertical ascents up some of the streets. In fact, I always felt like I was going uphill, never downhill somehow (☺), always uphill, and for some reason there were always stairs (think step ups with a verticality component).

From some of the research I read relative to walking and the caloric cost, a guy my size (6’1 195lbs) can expect to burn around 300 kcal per mile (20-25mins of walking). That figure varies and is to a degree dependent on the age of the person, the sex, the amount of muscle, and of course the terrain. Most studies were done on a treadmill, so take that into consideration. From a fitness perspective, which is blasphemous to consider since I’m on vacation but I can’t help it, I don’t feel like I have lost much from a fitness perspective. I’ve probably gained a little weight, I’m probably not quite as lean, however relative to the amount of pastries I’ve been eating……I feel great! Which leads me to the next component.

PORTION SIZE AND MEAL FREQUENCY

This probably should have been/could have been first as it’s arguably the most important aspect of the equation. We as American’s (thank Texas) are used to having everything supersized – our meals, drinks, cars, trucks, living spaces, you name it. We do everything large! Europe, not so much. It took a day or so to get used to the tiny cars, the small apartments, the incredibly tiny and scary elevators, small showers/bathrooms (I had to get creative at times), and especially the small food portions. After I got over it I started to appreciate it. It’s subtle, it’s normal, it’s what they do, and it’s magnificent. Plates are small, and despite being small, are still meant to be shared with others (tapas).

Coffees are all espresso -which, if you’re not familiar are comically small. Soft drinks come in tiny bottles (glass), no 32-64oz monstrosity. Beer’s don’t come in steins or jugs or boots or by the gallon – most of the beers I had were no more than 8-12oz. Same for mixed drinks (which didn’t seem to be as mainstream). Wine was typically what we would consider a conservative pour. You know what? It was perfectly fine. I got used to it and then I began to enjoy it. It helped me slow down and enjoy everything I was eating and drinking. It also allowed me to not over indulge or overeat. I had the opportunity to eat until I was full without the feeling that I need to finish everything that was brought to me or the temptation of overeating due to the amount of food in front of my face.  

The other interesting aspect I noticed was meal frequency. I’ll delve into the sleep aspect more in part 3, however due to the sleep patterns, I noticed an “accidental” fasting component. Breakfast, sometimes didn’t happen. Instead, brunch seemed to be the norm and brunch happened as it happens here in the U.S., around 11am. The best part, no tupperware toting spazoids or people freaking out over how many feedings they were getting in so that they could keep their metabolism stoked (btw -does anyone still believe that crap anymore?).

Two meals a day plus a snack (coffee, cigarette, pastry:-) was the norm. With that kind of frequency, doesn’t it seem reasonable that total calorie intake would be lower? It seemed like a no brainer. In part 2 I’ll delve into the “what” in terms of food selections as well as sleep and stress and how i think it plays into the bigger picture. Be on the lookout for Part 2 next week!

 

 

Venturing back inside…….The Gym

Fall is here! I think it was in the (high) fifties the other morning. Brrrrr! (Subtle San Diego brag) These frigid mornings make it a little harder to get going. Just before the holidays, when things really start to get out-of-control, waking for a morning run or gym session gets less and less appealing.

This is "hunker down" weather, made for watching movies and eating ice cream. I know, because I'm right there. Curse you Tillamook Rocky Road!

Me eating ice cream.....everyday!

Me eating ice cream.....everyday!

And this is just the beginning. The holidays tend to work against fitness goals, what with a frantic calendar of parties and traveling and the obligatory smorgasbord of delicious decadence. Why not? We think as we reach for another scone/bread roll/scoop of mashed potatoes/slab of peppermint bark.

These would have never lasted long enough to take a picture!

These would have never lasted long enough to take a picture!

Then, collectively, we decide to clean up our act for the New Year and the cycle continues...

As a strength coach/fitness professional, January is my busiest month and I’m not complaining but my goal is overall health so if I could suggest a few minor tweaks to your Holiday season, you may not end up flurrying to life on New Year's Day in a fitness panic.

1. Try for m­orning workouts - With daylight savings about to carve an hour of light from your afternoon, chances are you're not going to feel as inspired to hit the gym when you walk out of work and it's already dark. But daylight savings, in its graciousness, has given us an earlier morning. If you're like me, the early part of the day is more productive and the latter part is more… well, recumbent. If you can manage to shift your day an hour earlier, with the new daylight arrangement, you might be surprised how much better you feel and how much more you get done.

2. Take it outside - I know I just expounded on the torture of working out in this frigid weather. But if you can bring yourself to do it, you'll probably find you have more endurance. Cooler weather is great for running and cycling. And your body heats right up so you’ll only freeze for the first 5 minutes. ;)

3. Fill The Tank First – Chances are, you’ll be faced with some pretty tempting meal choices this season. Raspberry cheesecake, I see you over there calling to me. Luckily, most dinner parties or events have a veggie tray.

"Now, hold on!", you say. "If you're telling me to just eat carrot sticks..."

No no no. But when you know you're about to get in on that raspberry cheesecake, fill the tank first. Load up on the highest quality food you can find and then indulge, knowing that you're not as likely to OVER-indulge. Sometimes, once you’re not so hungry, the cheesecake craving will subside and you’ll pass on thirds (with the extra scoop of ice cream). But, keep your options open. Ya know, just in case.

4. Savor (and save) The Party - When I know I have a Friday evening party that promises to be a buffet of bad choices, I try to make better choices leading up to it. I work out a little harder and opt for cleaner eating throughout the week. That way, when Friday comes, I don’t feel guilt for the indulgence. Just to be clear, never in a million years would I advise or even jokingly suggest that someone can out train a broke down diet...but I live in the real world and sometimes, especially during the holidays, S&HT happens.

5. Indulge (ok here's the life coach bit) - You heard me! Enjoy it! By that, I’m not advocating going hog wild because ultimately, is that true joy? In the moment, maybe (but then again, so are a lot of things..wink, wink). But regret (and that gross over-full feeling) can take the thrill out of it. Because ultimately, if what you're doing doesn't align with your goals, it isn’t bringing you true happiness.

This time of year calls for a little balance. Give yourself permission to indulge on (and truly enjoying) that chocolate éclair, because it won’t kill you and you're balancing it out with exercise and an otherwise nutritious diet the other 80% of your week. 20% of the time, give yourself a break. Stress, not drinking enough water, and lack of sleep can cause weight gain just as easily as scarfing down that peppermint bark I mentioned earlier.

Besides, this time of year can be stressful. Time changes, weather changes, holidays, family gatherings, etc. all can throw us out of our routine and weigh on us (pun intended).  Exercise and chocolate BOTH happen to be excellent stress relievers - keep both in your arsenal (in moderation)-  that's just smart living. ;)

Can we eat healthy in a hurry?

I was on my way home at the end of a 13+ hr work day thinking "I'm f*&king starving,what am I going to eat tonight?" That same (potty mouth) internal dialogue is likely had by countless people (coaches and everyone else) nearly every night of the week. Admittedly not everyone's situation is as tenable as mine.  It's relatively easy for me to navigate the "what the heck am i going to eat before I pass out" problem, being that my life is somewhat simple (i.e. i don't have kids).  Whether your reality is similar to mine (meaning dinner for one or two) or it's dinner for you plus some, I'll tell you how you can make a healthy dinner in a hurry (and why you should). 

Before I get started - I am going to make a couple of assumptions. One, that you have a protein in the house, preferably thawed or freshly bought. The other being along those exact same lines and that is that you actually have healthy nutritious food, such as vegetables, in your house ready to be prepared. Assuming we're on the same page, we can move forward. If not, make a B-line to the nearest grocery store. 

Incidentally, food acquisition, and food preparation are two completely different topics that require two unique blog posts...as I eluded to, this post will pertain to the latter. 

Once again, assuming there is food in the house ready to be prepped, we have many time efficient options for making a healthy delicious dinner. 

I'll give you an example of mine tonight. As I mentioned earlier, I was driving home thinking about what I had in the house and what I could do with it. Now, I'll be the first to admit, I will not be featured on any of HGTV's many popular cooking shows...anytime soon! However, that doesn't mean I can't put something tasty together in a hurry. Back to what I made tonight...I'm driving thinking, "Ok, I have a 1.25lb package of ground turkey thawed out and ready to go." Bam, protein taken care of.  I'm very simple when it comes to how i cook proteins...typically if its turkey or ground beef I simply brown it in a pan with a variety of seasonings and I'm good.  I also had a yellow squash, zucchini, an onion, and an orange bell pepper.  Once again, no one will ever mistake me for a French chef, but I do know how to chop veggies. I chopped up the squash, zucchini, onion, pepper and sauteed them together in a pan with a little butter and olive oil. Easy, quick, and delicious. 

What i just described is very indicative of many of my meals, I'll simply switch up the proteins, the seasonings and the vegetables but I'll keep the preparation very simple -which typically equals fast and easy meals even when the thought of cooking makes me want to run into traffic.

The bottom line is this - If you have a busy, full and fast paced life (and who doesn't these days) you don't have to lose your mind in order to eat like an adult. However, in order to maintain that fast lane lifestyle it's going to take some sound and simple nutritional strategies. Buy some meat, pick up some veggies, grab a sweet potato or squash and you're set.

Of course you don't have to - as is evident by America's waistline it's easy to do otherwise, however there are always repercussions.  At best you won't have the energy to maintain your lifestyle or to do the things your enjoy. At worst, well, it'll just be worse which sucks. What I described above may sound boring, but boring may be what you need in order to get into the routine of consistently buying and preparing healthy meals--no matter how late it is or how tired you are. Eating healthy can look like this

This meal probably took less than 10 mins

This meal probably took less than 10 mins

It doesn't have to look like this

I do love Thanksgiving though!

I do love Thanksgiving though!

My point is unless you have your routine nailed down and are a whiz at cooking - your food doesn't need to be entertainment worthy. It just needs to be quick, easy, and good for you. Don't over complicate things.