If you read my previous two posts regarding the Learn to Train Seminar found here and here, you know it was AWESOME! So much to be learned, so much to absorb, so many cool people to meet… if you haven’t been to one, you should! It’s an amazing experience and one of the best weekends of my life! Below I am going to share the takeaways that I got from the lectures that were presented. There is a lot of information here so I will break them up. Obviously I won’t be able to recap it all on here, but hopefully you will be able to learn a thing or two. I know I did!
The first lecture was fromJeremy Frey who is a collegiate strength and conditioning coach and an absolute brilliant coach and lifter. He was mostly talking about what he sees with his athletes, but I find all of these ringing true for the general population as well.
Jeremy Frey discussing what he calls "Asshole Programming"
When developing a program for an athlete (or anyone for that matter), you must take into account:
3. Level of dedication
4. Other influences (lifestyle factors, etc)
What high school athletes who become college athletes are these 4 main areas (again, this applies to the general population as well in my experience):
1. Upper back
2. Posterior chain
3. Core strength
4. Dynamic flexibility
These athletes also typically have:
2. Horrible technique/bad movement patterns ingrained
3. They just simply can’t move well
What most coaches/trainers do incorrectly:
1. No preparation
2. Start using complex movements too early
3. Always use max loads
4. No warm up/not a proper warm-up
5. Don’t build work capacity or don’t build it correctly
6. No/poor coaching of technique
7. Give the kids a false sense of being strong/awesome
1. Start simple! Use body weight exercises until those have been mastered.
2. Reach a minimum preparedness level before you move on.
3. Take time to teach technique first.
4. Use proper methods of progression.
Here is the basic physical preparedness test that Frey uses to assess his athletes:
60 consecutive body weight squats
60 pushups – 2 min
60 situps – 2 min
Inverted row – 10 reps
Depth drop – 6″, 12″ (proper landing is key here)
60 bw squats consecutive
60 situps – 2 min
Inverted row – 1 rep
Depth drop – 6″, 12″ (proper landing is key here)
NOTE FROM ME: If you’re not comfortable programming sit-ups/flexion exercises for your clients and athletes, you can always substitute holding a proper plank here. I would suggest 45-60 seconds.
Frey actually has his athletes perform this test almost daily until they are able to pass it. Then they are allowed to move on to more complicated things.
******Obviously this is just the basic outline of what Frey covered, and is not a substitute for listening to his lecture. If things like this interest you, come to the next seminar! =)
We use a very similar approach at my gym. We also have clients master certain basic exercises and movement patterns before we move them on to anything more complicated. This ingrains the proper patterns, gives them confidence, and sets them up for success. This will also give them a much more realistic idea of their strength levels.
What are your thoughts? Are you a coach/trainer? Do you have a certain minimum preparedness test you like your clients to pass before they move on? Do you agree with his assessment of their general weaknesses and dysfunctions? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Wow… what an absolute whirlwind! If you caught my last blog post, you know that I spent my weekend at the EliteFTS Learn to Train Seminar in London, Ohio, and boy was it ever fantastic!
I arrived in London on Thursday, as the seminar started Friday and I didn’t want to miss a beat! Plus, I went up early to have some chiropractic work done by the awesome Dr. Ryan Smith and also film some videos of the exercises we would be teaching/coaching at the mobility station on Friday. I was convinced that I would have time to make daily updates while I was there but I was totally wrong! Every day was so jam packed with learning, coaching, teaching, socializing, and trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible that I barely has time to breathe… much less update my blog! Below I will give a quick run-down of each day, and then over the next day or two, I will summarize the presentations that were given and present you all with the major takeaways from each of the presenters (who were all amazing!)
Left for London around 10:30 am. Arrived in Columbus at 1:20. Yeah… I guess you could say I made good time. =)
Hanging out after dinner at Red Robin
I got adjusted by Dr. Ryan Smith (aka Doc). I will admit I was scared to death of getting my neck adjusted, but he made me feel very comfortable and it was actually a very cool experience. After I got adjusted, we filmed the videos of the pre-hab/re-hab exercises which I will post in the next couple of days for you all to watch. Once I left there, I met Julia and Matt Ladewski at the EliteFTS compound. Julia was coaching a group of kids when I got there and it was so cool to watch. She is so talented at coaching, especially with that age group! I was in awe. I was supposed to get a workout in, but I was tired and feeling extra relaxed after my adjustment, so I just did a few sets of chins and swings and called it a day. After that, we left the compound and checked into our hotel, and then went to meet some friends (John and Mandy Stafford and their son Nathan) for dinner at Red Robin. After dinner, Mandy, Julia and I split off from the guys and did a little shopping. Then we went back to the hotel and called it a night!
The seminar started at 9 am this morning, so we left the hotel around 8:15 (it’s a 10 minutes drive) and got there early to see what we could help with. First, I ran into my friend and Red Point Fitness nutrition client Chris Bartl! Chris has been working with us for several months now and is a fantastic lifter and super inspirational person! You can more about him here. Then Julia and I ran into Beth White Garrison, and awesome women who was there with her husband for their anniversary! How awesome is that? AND… she was sporting her GGS gear! So cool! (curious about where to get GGS gear? Click here!)
Look how great Beth looks in her GGS gear! So cool to meet her!
The seminar started almost on time and Jeremy Frey was the first speaker. He talked about his work as a college strength and conditioning coach.. His presentation was awesome! Next up was my good friend John Meadows aka Mountain Dog. John is one of the smartest people you will ever meet and is well-versed on both training and nutrition. He gave a fantastic, easy-to-follow presentation about nutrition and I definitely learned a ton! He also asked Julia and me to train legs with him on Sunday. Since we are both very familiar with his absolutely insane training programs, and we both needed to be able to walk this week, we politely declined. (although training with Dave Tate and John and the rest of the crew would have been legendary). Oh, one more thing… I got an awesome Mountain Dog t-shirt! (Pics to follow!) After John, THE Steve Pulcinella spoke and had all of us in fits! I didn’t get to hear the whole presentation because I had to take a quick bathroom break, but he was an absolute riot and shared a ton of great info as well!
After the speakers, we broke for lunch (BBQ…yum!) and after lunch, we broke into our stations. Doc and I ran everyone through a quick 5 minute upper body warm-up and then they benched. After bench, they split up into two groups: rehab/mobility, and strongman. We worked with our group for a little over an hour, and then the groups switched and we worked with the next group that long. Of course, our station tends to be everyone’s least favorite, but often it’s the one they need the most. The first group dwindled down to a dedictaed group of 6 or 7 people, but the second group did a great job of sticking around until the end.
After the hands-on session was over, we broke for dinner, so Julia, Matt, and I went back to our hotel room to clean up and get ready for dinner. Harry Selkow joined up with us and we all rode to dinner together. Having 30 minutes in the car with Harry was a blast! He is super knowledgeable and I feel blessed to know him!
Dinner was awesome… roast, turkey, potatoes, rice, pie… the whole nine yards! Since it was my night to carb up, I had plenty of everything, and then asked (OK I badgered) everyone into coming to get ice cream with me! We ended up driving through the sticks and finally found a Graeters where I got a triple scoop of caramel, chocolate, and black raspberry chip ice cream. Heavenly. Al Caslow and Mick Manley joined us on our ice cream adventure and it was really cool getting to chat with both of them. They are both super strong and very cool guys and I enjoyed my time with them!
After ice cream, we went back to the hotel and hung out in the lobby with THE CJ Murphy among others. He is practically a legend in this field and I enjoyed shooting the breeze with him. After that it was bedtime. We were supposed to train the next morning!
I am just doing my PRI like a good girl! Andy and I are going to fight! =)
Most of the coaches and volunteers got up early Saturday morning to train at the compound before the seminar started at 10. I knew I wasn’t going to be doing much, so I got there around 8:30. I did some pull-throughs, single arm bench press, chins, and swings and called it a day (after my breathing and PRI of course) of which my new enemy Andy Deck snapped a picture and promptly posted on FB since it looks like I’m in a compromising position. Thanks Andy! But seriously… I was at the EliteFTS compound with a foam roller between my knees. What did I expect?
After the training was over, the seminar was kicked off with a presentation from Chad Wesley Smith. (In case you don’t know Chad, he is one of the strongest guys in the world at the ripe young age of 25). All I have to say is WOW! Probably my favorite presentation of the whole weekend, simply because of how applicable it was to my business and my training, and while I was familiar with all of the concepts, he made me think about training in ways I hadn’t thought about it before. Very cool. After that, CJ Murphy (aka Murph) spoke about Strongman training for the general population. Also very cool and possibly applicable to my business when we move into our new space. Finally, Josh Bryant spoke about powerlifting accessory work for raw lifters… again… right up my alley! I learned so much from everyone on Saturday! I also had the chance to run into my friends Ryan Brown and Waylon Humphrey from Darkside Strength and Conditioning in Louisville and that’s always funn! After a quick break for lunch, everyone split up into their groups and started to squat. This was one of the highlights of my entire trip. Since there was no formal mobility station going on at this point, I got to walk from rack to rack and watch some of the smartest and strongest coaches in the world, coach lifters from beginner to high level intermediates. I got to see what they saw and watch how they coached and cued… it was beyond awesome. Probably one of the best hands-on learning experiences I have ever had. I walked away with lots of new tips and cues, and a lot more knowledge of the squat and how to coach it. Next up was the deadlift. Unfortunately I had to take a business call during this time and missed the DL portion…but there wasn’t much I could do! =(
After this was over, Dave Tate got up and spoke. He talked a little training and a lot of business, with plenty of life sprinkled in. He is a fantastic storyteller and I could listen to him speak for hours (and I would have if I didn’t have to go grab a shower before I came back for the cookout). The cookout was fantastic… burgers, chicken, the whole nine yards! After the cookout, dozens of us sat around chatting for hours, talking training, life, and everything in between. I had the chance to chat with Ryan Smith, lil’ Stevie, Jordan Crespi, Zach Leff and others.
After that we went back to the hotel and I ended up in the lobby chit-chatting more with Mick Manley, Al Caslow, Chad Wesley Smith, Bobby Walters, and Dave Kirschen. Before we knew it, it was 2 am and it was time for us to crash!
This day is usually the Underground Strength Session at EliteFTS. This means all the training log team members, sponsored lifters, and other staff members get together and train. I wasn’t planning on doing anything this day as my back has been acting up. I was just going to do my regular routine, until a guy asked me what I was training that day. I sighed and replied, “Umm… I dunno. Some goblet squats… maybe some incline push-ups or something.” He looked at me and said, “Really?!?!?!?” At that moment I realized… when you have the chance to lift at EliteFTS, you do one of three things:
1. Work on technique
2. Hit a PR
I did both.
Since squatting has never been what bothered my back, I decided I would squat and I would stop if I felt any pain. I did a nice and thorough warm-up and got started. I grabbed one of the power bars and set it up on the monolift and walked away to go put my Oly shoes on. In the meantime, Dave Tate walked over and moved my bar off the monolift and put his bar there. So I walked over and said,
“ahem… excuse me Dave! I was using that monolift! You have plenty of other ones to choose from!“
OK… so that’s a lie. I played a lovely game of ‘shut the hell up’ and found another monolift to use. =) After all… Dave kinda owns the place and I just felt lucky just to be there. That woulda been kind of funny though… or maybe not.
When it came time to squat, I was lucky enough to have Chad Wesley Smith, Al Caslow, and Jeremy Frey watching me. After a couple of sets I asked what they thought, and they all said… “That was pretty good.” (I almost passed out when they said that. 3 world class lifters just watched my squat and they all said it was good… WTH!?!?) They did end up cuing me to drive my elbows under the bar a bit more, bring my head back a bit more on the way up, and get a little tighter with my upper back, but those were all minor tweaks, so I was very pleased. Squats were feeling awesome so I decided to go for a PR since I already worked on my technique. I ended up working up to a single at 275 and while it was a bit of a grinder about an inch or two above parallel it flew up after that and I am convinced that with a little more sleep, less heat, and a couple of months of the right accessory work, 300 is right around the corner! =) Thanks again to CWS for the spot and the encouragement! And thanks to Bobby Walters for lifting with me and filming my squat!
After the main set of back squats, we did some Anderson Squats, and then some split squats paired with T-bar rows. All in all it was a fantastic training session! And you know what really didn’t hurt when it came time to hit a PR? Having John Meadows, Dave Tate and the crew lifting in the next rack over. Man… their intensity is something that you have to see to believe. Talk about motivating! (Oh, and watching Matt Kroc and his beautiful wife Lauren lift a couple of racks over wasn’t too shabby either. He was training arms and I think it’s more intense than most people’s max effort squat day!)
With this madness going on just one monolift over, how can you not hit a PR?
After my training session, I sat around and chatted with Dave and John Meadows a bit, and listened to Dave tell more stories. Then I got another adjustment from Doc since I had just squatted, and then I grabbed a bit to eat, and headed back to Lexington.
All in all, this past weekend was one of the most incredible weekends of my life. I spent 4 days surrounded by some of the strongest, smartest, and most selfless and genuine people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I also got to coach dozens of really smart people who sacrificed a ton just to be able to come to LTT! And best of all, the proceeds from this whole weekend went to the Make-A-Wish Foundation! Every year, the LTT seminars donate tens of thousands of dollars to the cause and I was so grateful to be a part of it!
Thank you again to Dave Tate, Tracy Tate, EliteFTS, and the whole staff and crew of coaches, volunteers, training log team members, sponsored lifters, and the attendees. Each of you played a special part in making this one of the best weekends of my life!
Ladies getting coached on their squats
I got to walk from rack to rack watching amazing coaches do their thing. So lucky!
Umm… Apparently my waist is 3 notches smaller than Chad's leg! Now that's a BIG leg! (O_o)
Finally met my FB friend Jordan Crespi face-to-face! Of course the only time we remember to take a picture is after my training session in 90 degree heat!
Chad Wesley Smith and me after my squat PR! YAY! Thanks Chad!
The "nasty group" (aka the competition group) getting coached on their bench press!
Alright guys… it’s been a while since I have done a blog post. I am positively SLAMMED with projects… all extremely exciting, but all very time consuming. Also, I know I promise you guys the 12 Basic Exercises You’re Probably Screwing Up… but I have decided to go a different direction and I will reveal that as soon as all the pieces are in place, but I promise it will be way better than what I originally planned! =) Thanks for your patience!
So… I must say I am extremely excited as I am about to head to London, Ohio for the EliteFTS Learn to Train Seminar. Last fall I was able to attend as well and I ended up being asked to help with the mobility station on the hands-on day. There are 5 stations: bench, squat, deadlift, strongman, and mobility. And you can imagine what every 300-ln Powerlifter’s least favorite station is… MOBILITY! So I will be everyone’s LEAST favorite person on Saturday… SAW-WEE! ;-)
The Learn To Train Coaches… Group Shot
If you’ve never been to a LTT seminar, you are missing out! It’s absolutely incredible! It’s a day of lecture followed by a day of lifting being coached by some of the best in the world (no clue how I ended up being able to be a coach there *humbled*). The best part? Proceeds go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation! So cool!
Jen, Joey, Ryan, Me, John, and Mikey after the UGSS!
I am really excited because in addition to the lecture on Friday and the hands-on stuff on Saturday, I am going up a day early to talk shop with Chiropractor Dr. Ryan Smith, and plan what kind of torture we are going to put everyone through at the mobility station. ::::insert evil laugh here:::: We also may be filming some exercises to beef up my YouTube library, and *BONUS* he is going to adjust me! I am so excited! I haven’t been adjusted before and I am thrilled! He’s a super smart dude so I am totally looking forward to it!
OK… as if all of this isn’t enough…on Sunday, there is what they call the UGSS or the Underground Strength Session. This is where all of the sponsored lifters from Elite come and lift at the compound. Last time I got some great coaching and I look forward to it again this time.
And FINALLY… my favorite part? I get to stay with some of my favorite people in the world… Julia and Matt Ladewski! Julia is a fellow Girls Gone Strong co-founder and one of my best friends! I can’t wait to spend 3-4 days with her and Matt!
A little more LTT fun! =)
Well folks… that’s the update for now. Sorry I have been a little MIA. Like I said, I promise the stuff coming out in the next month or two will make the wait worthwhile! In the meantime, keep checking back as I will be updating my blog with all the golden nuggets I learn at the LTT seminar! =)
So I have a real treat for you guys today! A few years ago I wrote an article for EliteFTS.com titled, 4 Basis Exercises Most People Perform Incorrectly. It was my first article for them and it ended up being a very popular article… so popular that I am working on a “Part 2 – Abs Edition,” and I decided to do some articles for my blog where I consulted some of my very brilliant friends in the fitness industry.
Not only am I in awe of their knowledge, but I am also impressed with their willingness to share their knowledge so freely with others.
Today I am going to bring you a tip from one of my favorite people in the industry, Smitty, aka Smitty Diesel, aka James Smith. Smitty has been in the industry for a long time and he is a huge influence to many other Coaches and Trainers. I remember hearing my Coach, Mike Robertson, say:
“Man… he is just so smart! I will call him up with an exercise idea and he will call me back an hour later and he will have 8 different variations of the exercise and they will all be awesome! His brain just works like that. He blows my mind sometimes.” - MR
And I have to agree! (well not about the part where I call him and he calls me back just to chit-chat training… I wish I were that level of cool! Not yet! But I am working on gaining the knowledge and experience to get even close to those guys!)
All that being said, you can read more about Smitty here and you can follow him on Facebookhere and Twitterhere.
For the purpose of this blog post, Smitty dissects one of my favorite exercises: The Deadlift. Read below as he discusses the major deadlift no-no’s and how to correct them. Without further ado, here is Smitty talking deadlifts:
No Tension – Many times lifters set up in the bottom position of the deadlift loose and without much consideration for tension. Then they try to pull the weight and their form immediately breaks down. Tension is required for everything we do in the gym and is more important as the weights increase. Tightening your entire body – sometimes called intermuscular coordination, irradiation or co-contraction – will lead to increases in strength, keep you in a good position throughout the lift, and help to reduce the potential for injury. Remember, more tension equals more strength.
Immobility – Unfortunately, most recreational lifters and athletes have poor movement. Poor movement can be defined as poor mobility or even lack of stability through a specific range of motion. For strength training, we need both mobility and stability to properly perform any exercise. And if we don’t have it, our form breaks down and we lose our ability to create tension – this is when injuries occur. For the deadlift, we need the sufficient mobility in the hips, upper back, and ankles, as well as, proper (core) stability during the movement – in accordance with our individual leverages (also called anthropometry). Dynamic mobility movements coupled with core (torso) stability and strength, will help to improve the setup and execution for the deadlift. As a side note, if a lifter can’t setup in a good position off the floor, move the bar up to a high rack pull position and progressively work your way back down as they demonstrate proficiency at each level, i.e., this is called the top-down training approach.
Push, Not Pull – One fantastic cue I use to help keep a good position off the floor is to stop thinking about pulling a deadlift. Many times during the first pull, a novice lifter’s hips will shoot up and their lower back with round. This might be a weakness issue or just simply a technique issue. Try this instead. Have the lifter get setup with a great amount of full body tension and lock their torso in place – by tensioning their entire posterior chain, bracing their torso and engaging their lats. In this position have them “push” the ground away and drive up as if they’re doing a leg press. Many times this will fix a majority of issues at the start and allow them to begin the movement safely and with the greatest potential.
Don’t Be a Jerk – As the bar gets heavier, you’ll often see a novice lifter “jerk” the bar off the floor. They are trying to use momentum to overcome their lack of strength. This is a recipe for disaster. Have them “squeeze” the weight off the floor with complete control. This is done by starting the movement with deep-belly breathing, creating intra-abdominal pressure and using this bracing to create a high degree of full body tension. Dive bombing into the bar and jerking the weight is going to get you hurt eventually and wreck yo’ back. Properly sequencing the setup will also help. It should go like this:
Find neutral standing posture => deep-belly breathe => develop intra-abdominal posture and brace => hip hinge with neutral torso (only far enough to grab the bar) => grab the bar => TENSION and lock torso in place => drive the ground away => LOCKOUT => hip hinge with neutral torso until the bar is at the knees again => return bar to the floor => REPEAT until AWESOME.
For some great videos on how to deadlift, check these out:
Author: Jim Smith | Strength Coach and Proud Dad | dieselsc.com
Many thanks to Smitty for taking time out of his busy schedule to write this post for my little blog! Like I;ve said before, you knowledge and willingness to share that knowledge with others always blows me away! Thanks again!
***(and you guys please show thanks by visiting his website and liking his Facebook page! I promise you will constantly be learning great information from him!)
Did you learn anything new from this post? Did Smitty clear up any misconceptions for you? Do you still have any unanswered questions? Let me know below! Thanks for reading and please share!
So, some of you may have seen my post from last week where I tested my maxes on squat and bench… as you can see they went pretty well. The week before I maxed out, I de-loaded, and then in the days leading up to maxing out I just did some light lifting. After maxing, my good friend and Coach Mike Robertson sent me an email basically saying, “OK…you have the next 10 days to do whatever you want in the gym. Your new program will start after that. Remember to have fun, but also remember that fun is FUN, fun isn’t STUPID!” Hmmm…what ever could he have meant by that?
Umm… well… uhh… ahem… doo-dee-doo… lah-tee-dah…:::whistles and looks around innocently:::
So maybe, just maybe I have a slight reputation for doing really ridiclous stuff occasionally. Like, I dunno… taking a Beyond the Whiteboard Challenge (a CrossFit website) and seeing how many times I can deadlift 155 lbs in 2 minutes causing my glutes and hamstrings to seize for a solid 25 minutes afterwards? (answer: 54 reps. Beating every CF female in the world who entered the contest! ;-D) Or maybe taking a Survival of the Fittest challenge and seeing how many times I can front squat my body weight of 170 lbs? (answer: 18, and I used a Safety Bar backwards cuz I’m a cheater). Or possibly he was referring to taking Bret Contreras up on his Sexy Challenge, killing myself to beat THE Jen Sinkler’s total so I could be reigning QUEEN of the Sexy Challenge only to have her crazy-ass do it AGAIN a few days later just to come back and beat ME (she is one BAAAAAAAAD chick. If you didn’t know, now you know!) And it was worth it because I front squatted my body weight again, and beat myself by 8 reps for a crazy 26 reps. Yes, I was only using 165 this time instead of 170 (per Bret’s instructions of rounding down to the near 5 lbs) but I was pumped either way.
(Side note: notice that every time I completed one of these things it was a “challenge.” Apparently the way to get me to act like an idiot is to make it a contest with the prize nothing other than bragging rights).
I can just see it now…”Hey Molly… wanna see who can eat more live taranchulas? The winner gets to tell everyone they’re more awesome than the loser! Alright Molly you go first…!”
I can totally see myself being that stupid…
So yeah… maybe now you’re starting to get an idea of what Mike thinks I might do something ridiculous when I have free reign to program my own training. So what did I decide to do this time? Another nutty CrossFit challenge? A ridiculous 1,000 pushup contest? Or maybe I tried to cage fight a giraffe? (I would totally win by the way…)
Nope… you’re all wrong. I decided to take the biggest challenge of all, a challenge from myself… to reign in my crazy ways and spend this week getting back to the basics. Yes, you read that correctly. I am taking this week in the gym to do exercises similar to what appeared in some of my beginner programs from Mike. So that means Goblet Squats to Box, Half Kneeling Cable Rows and Presses, Tall Kneeling Lat Pulldowns, Prone Row to External Rotation…and all kinds of other ‘exciting stuff.’ And I tell you what… it’s kicking my butt! Those exercises that I just listed may not look like much, but when done correctly, they can absolutely annihilate you… and we are only doing 2 sets of 12 reps! (Another good example of this is when I helped out with the mobility station at the EliteFTS Learn to Train Seminar last fall. Out of all 5 stations: squat, bench, deadlift, strongman, and mobility, all the guys and gals complained that the mobility station was the hardest! ;-D). The reason I am doing this is 3-fold:
1. We can all benefit from constantly refining our basic movement patterns. Tony Gentilcore even wrote about this recently and you can read about it here. Basically, as we become intermediate and advanced lifters, we sometimes neglect the really basic stuff that allowed us to get to an intermediate or advanced level in the first place. It’s kind of like when my brilliant friends have a hard time helping their 7th grader with Algebra. It’s not that my friends can’t do it, it’s just that they are a little rusty and need a little reminder and a little tune-up and they are good to go. Same thing with these movements patterns. I needed to be reminded to:
- Get tall through my ribcage not my lumbar spine, while keeping my ribcage down (yes, sounds weird and it’s hard!)
- Stay tight in my anterior core, obliques and glutes to help stabilize my body when my limbs are moving every which way
- What it felt like to get my chest “out” without hyper-extending my lumbar spine
And boy was it exhausting!
2. To see how I have improved, and where I still need improvement. When I first started with Mike’s programs 2 1/2 years ago, I was a disaster. I couldn’t sit in a proper half-kneeling position without falling over. Now, I can sit in a proper half kneeling position and do all kinds of chops, rows, presses, pulldowns, and the like. My training partner was shocked at how far I’d come and said everything looked fantastic! Of course, there were a few cues I needed to get in the right position (like the ones I listed above), but all in all, once I got cued, I was able to maintain that position pretty darn well. It’s a good feeling to know that all of the hard work you’ve put in has been worth it, and it’s also great to pinpoint where you still need help.
3. To exercise self-control. I have said it before and I’ll say it again — in my experience, willpower and self-control are like muscles, the more you exercise them, the stronger they become. There was a time many years ago when my self-control/willpower was absolutely pathetic. I was an, “I-want-it-now-don’t-wanna-wait-instant-gratification kind of person.” Over the last decade, I have had a lot of practice exercising self-control and I have been pleased to watch it get stronger and stronger every day. Any opportunity where it serves my best interest to practice self-control (see: above reasons) should be taken in my opinion.
I can’t lie… I would probably rather be doing all kinds of crazy rep challenges or body weight exercise contests this week (my friend Allen Tucker calls me a “closet CrossFitter”) but I decided to do what was in my best interest instead, and take it back to the basics. Have you ever done that? Have you taken time off from your hard and heavy lifting to work on the fundamentals? How did it go? Did you improve? Tell me about it below! Thanks for reading!
Today I am going to do something I haven’t done before with my blog… I will have my first guest blog post! This guest blog post was written by a remarkable man (and a Red Point Fitness nutrition client of mine) Chris Bartl. If you don’t know Chris or his story, it would behoove you to learn a little more about him, as his story is absolutely incredible. You can read it here.
A couple of weekends ago Bartl competed in a Powerlifting meet where he was hoping to break some major records, but unfortunately, the day didn’t go as planned. He wrote about his experience and what he learned from it, and posted it for all of us to read on Red Point. I felt like his lessons were very important and needed to be shared with more than just the RP community, so I asked if I could re-post it here and he obliged. Without further ado, here are the extremely wise lessons Bartl learned from his last meet.
NOTE: This guest blog post contains strong language. If you are easily offended by this, you may want to skip this post. Bartl’s writing is very raw and honest and I did not want to censor him or change his story in any way.
“After having one of the worst powerlifting competitions of my brief career this past Saturday, Sunday was good day of reflection for me. I really had to come to terms with what went wrong and what I need to fix for my next meet. Looking back there were many things that went wrong that day but instead of focusing on everything that went wrong, I decided to really focus and break it down to what I feel were the most impactful yet easily fixable issues from that day. Taking a page out of Molly’s blog a couple weeks back, here are Chris’s top three lessons learned from my meet:
1. Dropping that much weight that close to a meet is not very conducive to keeping my strength levels up.
Yes I realize that I can lose weight quickly and I can do it pretty much whenever I really focus on it, but to try and drop over 20 pounds in around 4 weeks leading up to a competition does not do well for strength levels. Technically I lost 23.7 pounds in 27 days but what’s more important is that I lost a huge percentage of my strength during the process. When I really sat down to think about it, I should have seen the writing on the wall during my de-load week as movements and easy weights actually felt heavy and slow. Another aspect of the weight loss is the fact that by training for this meet at a heavier weight my gear fit and acted in a particular way. Dropping that much weight altered the way all of my gear felt and changed the way it worked. My squat suit was so loose it really gave me no support or pop at the bottom of my squat and I had to use an extra suit I have for the deadlift. I also have extra bench shirts so while I was able to use a smaller shirt it had been used to the point where it was stretched and I don’t think gave me the pop I needed.
Somehow I made a shirt two sizes smaller work but I still couldn’t scratch my nose
2. No matter how mentally strong you think you are, you can always be stronger.
While warming up for my squat I nearly missed my last warm up attempt with a weight that I normally don’t have to think about. It’s a weight that I crush in practice and have smoked in competition in the past. Since I struggled with it, my coach and I decided to lower my first attempt which I have never had to do and honestly it was tough mentally to stay focused (will go into more depth about this on #3). After not even getting out of the hole on my first attempt, my head went to a dark place and as a powerlifter, once your mind goes there you are all but dead in the water. It took everything I had to try and stay positive for my second attempt but with such a bad first lift, I just knew I wasn’t going to have a good second attempt. Despite all the positive remarks from friends and other competitors, I bombed the squat. After some major ass kissing to allow me to stay in the competition but in the push/pull category, things did get a little better mentally when I benched as I got my first attempt but my f***ing arch nemesis of 501 got me for the third meet in a row. That all but crushed the remaining positive energy I had for the deadlift.
Trying to lock out but I tore both the left pec and left trap. People in the crowd heard both 'pops.'
3. My ego is my own worst enemy.
I preach to my younger athletes that there is no place for ego in a gym, that everyone is equal under the iron and all ego’s need to be left at the door. For this meet I did not take my own advice. This is a hard pill for me to swallow as I don’t think I have much of an ego to begin with. But as I trained for this meet, I let the vision of setting a state record and getting my first elite total cloud the fact that I should have just kept lifting at in a higher weight class. See, when I look around at other lifters, I try and find someone who is better than me so that I can work on catching and beating them. Once I do catch and beat them, I keep repeating this process. When my totals starting getting higher and higher, I started looking at the record books. The one thing I kept noticing was that I was really close to breaking a lot of state records in the 220 class but still have some work to do in the 242′s. So I got my brain fixated on breaking records. Why? Because I wanted people to take notice of this former fat kid out in Santa Barbara. I wanted people to see that I was doing something special out here, that I was strong and could be a major force in competitive powerlifting. Funny thing is, I don’t need records or the recognition from people to realize all those things. I am a strong lifter and these past 5 years have been special, I just don’t think I fully realized all those things until this competition. One lifter I really look up to and can’t wait to meet at the end of the month at EliteFTS’s LTT Seminar is Jeremy Frey. His lifting and his attitude have been nothing short of inspirational for me. I recently read in his training blog about his first meet back from a major injury. He talked about how he doesn’t give a shit about any records or whom he’s competing against because he is doing it for only one person: himself.
Records and accolades don’t matter in this sport. It’s about you and only you versus a bar full of weight and it doesn’t care about medals or records. It wants to hurt you and you are the only one who can kick its ass. While training for this meet, I totally lost the meaning of why I am doing this and it’s not because of records. It’s because I fucking love lifting weights and competing. LOVE it. The gym is my idea of what heaven should be like. It’s a place where nobody is hated and everyone is loved because we are all in there for the same reason: to get bigger, faster and most definitely stronger.
While I’m sure there are a thousand other things that went wrong on Saturday, those are my big 3. Now I have to try and heal my ego and my pride by the end of the month so I can lift while in Ohio at Elite FTS and try and get better. I’m not sure when my next meet will be. I’m thinking the San Jose Fit Expo in early August or something in late August/early September. I’m also thinking about hiring a new coach to help with my programming but I am shopping around to try and find someone whose training philosophy matches mine.
There are people out there who think of powerlifters as a bunch of meatheads lifting ungodly amounts of weight, sniffing ammonia and blasting death metal so loud it makes their ears bleed. While this maybe true (speaking from experience here) what they don’t realize is how much they can learn from spending some time under the bar. It’s one of the few places on this Earth where you can realize how big your balls really are, and one of the special places that can make you understand how mortal you can be and how much a person can still learn about themselves.”
I really hope you found Bartl’s story as informative and inspirational as I did (especially if you read his background story). I want to thank him so much for being so raw and so real and for letting me share his story with my readers. Thank you Bartl!
If you have any stories to share that you have learned from competing in any sport, please share them below. I truly believe that on the field, on the court, and under the bar you have the opportunity to learn lessons you might miss out on otherwise.
If you read my blog regularly you probably know that I have been working with Mike Robertson of IFAST for the last 2 1/2 years. For the full story on why I went to see him in the first place, check out his interview with me here. Long story short I had to take quite a bit of time off from heavy lifting to fix some major postural issues I was having. It was awful and I hated it at times, but I knew it was what was best for me in the long run. My main goals are to stay health and injury-free, have an aesthetically pleasing physique, and be as strong as a house… that’s not too much to ask, right?
Attempting to Back Squat 275…
While I am interested in competing in Powerlifting again (I have dabbled in it in the past), I am not willing to sacrifice my long-term health and safety for it. Some people are, and that’s fine for them and I admire people who are that dedicated… it’s just not for me. That being said, I want to be as strong as possible while being as safe as possible, which is why Mike is the perfect Coach for me.
A couple of weeks ago, Mike told me that it was about time to test my maxes and I have been ecstatic about it! I held off on testing my Deadlift max this time around because I haven’t deadlifted for 6 weeks due to a weird pulling going on in my lower back. I have seen a PT for it, and she released some stuff in my right glute and it’s feeling 100% back to normal, but I won’t test my DL max until deadlifting has been back in my program on a regular basis.
RAWR! Thinking about the ladies of Girls Gone Strong definitely motivated me hitting PR's!
I haven’t purposefully tested my 1 rep max in any lift since 2009, although I have squatted 245 a couple of times in the last 6 months. The funny thing is, I thought that I was matching a previous PR and when I went back and watched the video I realized I got some help with 245, so I inadvertently sent a PR when I squatted 245 recently.
Anyway, I took last week off as a de-load week (read more about de-loading here) and the first several days of this week I just did some conditioning and a little light lifting. I was PUMPED to go in tonight and smash some weights. I was planning on squatting around 275 and benching around 165. I started taking videos with my Flip Cam and then it pooped out on me… so I can’t access my warm-up videos on squat. Oops. Oh well… the rest is history:
So there you have it. A 20 lb PR on squats and a 15 lb PR on bench press. I was a little disappointed with my squat (hoping I would get 275) but all it has done is motivate me to work harder! I am also including a video of some breathing and bracing drills that my partner Jim Laird and I have been doing with our clients and ourselves. Jim learned them from Bill Hartman (Mike Robertson’s partner in IFAST). It has helped my core stability tremendously and I definitely recommend it. Enjoy!
So what do you think? Have you hit any PR’s lately? On any exercises? 1 rep max PR’s? Rep PR’s? I would love to hear about them! Thanks for reading and please share this blog post if you support what I do! Thank you!
I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked.. ‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90′s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940′s movie.
By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.
There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard
box filled with photos and glassware.
‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.
She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.
She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her.. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.’
‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive
‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly..
‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.
I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued in a soft voice..’The doctor says I don’t have very long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.
‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.
We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.
Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired.Let’s go now’.
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.
Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move.
They must have been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
‘How much do I owe you?’ She asked, reaching into her purse.
‘Nothing,’ I said
‘You have to make a living,’ she answered.
‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug.She held onto me tightly.
‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’
I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut.It was the sound of the closing of a life..
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day,I could hardly talk.What if that woman had gotten an angry driver,or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.
We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.
But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
A Note from Molly: Every day we have the opportunity to practice patience and kindness, to spread hope to the hopeless, to show love to the unwanted, and to positively impact the lives of those around us. It’s very easy to get in a hurry and get wrapped up in our own lives and schedules and not do those things (myself included). Hopefully the lovely story above will serve as a reminder to show kindness to strangers even when you don’t feel like it, and to slow down and cherish each moment, because one day, it will be our turn and we will be willing to give anything to be taken back to the exact moment we are in now…
Are you committed to consistent improvement? You should be…
In the first installment of this series found here, I discussed how important it is to consistently assess and re-assess everything you are doing. This goes for your job performance, your relationship, your nutrition and training program, your friendships, your mindset and attitude… everything! If you’re not doing honest assessments of all areas of your life on a regular basis, how can you possibly pinpoint your weak areas and continue to make progress? I’ll be the first one to admit that this is easier said than done, which is why it’s important to surround yourself with like-minded people who love you enough to let you know what improvements you can make, especially when you can’t see them yourself. In part 1, I discussed two aspects of my training in which I had been slacking a bit. The first being that I hadn’t been putting forth full effort on my warm-up sets and the second being that I hadn’t been doing a good job scheduling my cardio sessions each week to not only ensure that they get done, but also to ensure that they don’t interfere with my weight training sessions. In this installment, I will be discussing 2 other areas in which I struggle: asking too many people for advice and not doing enough long, slow cardio.
3. Quit asking so many people for advice –
As some of you probably know, my business partner Jim Laird was my Trainer/Coach for several years until 2010 when I started training under Mike Robertson. Mike and Jim have gotten to be buddies over the years and Jim and I have both learned a ton from MR over the last few years. Since Mike coaches me from a distance, often times Jim has to “fill in” for him and be my in-person Coach, which Mike is totally cool with, and it’s nice for me to have 2 super knowledgeable Coaches from whom I can get advice and feedback.
So what’s the problem? Wellllll… I will admit I am blessed with the double-edged sword of being surrounded by people who are super-knowledgeable about training. In fact, at any given time I typically have at least 1-2 people at the gym with me who have squatted 600+ raw, benched 450+ raw, and deadlifted 600+ raw and they have all trained under great coaches and many of them are coaches themselves. So anytime I have an issue or something doesn’t look or feel right, I have the tendency to ask them to take a look at what I am doing and see if they can help me pinpoint the problem. In addition to all of the wonderful people at my gym, I have the luxury of going to places like the EliteFTS compound and get help from the likes of world-class lifters like: Brian Carroll, Jo Jordan, Matt Ladewski, Michael Keck and many others. Wah wah wah! I know you’re feeling REALLY sorry for me right now, huh? But seriously… getting advice from all of these super-strong, wonderful coaches can actually lead to what’s called “paralysis by analysis.” They all have great ideas and have had a lot of success with themselves and their clients, but you can’t follow 10 training programs at once and while most of them follow similar principles, their exact approaches can be quite different.
As a Coach I know it would drive me CRAZY to have a client asking other trainers/coaches for advice, and like I said, it’s not because Mike isn’t an amazing Coach, because he IS! It’s just that it’s nice to be coached in person 1-on-1 and with our nutty schedules and the distance between us; I can only get coached by MR in person 2-3 times a year. So what starts as innocently asking someone to watch my squat, usually ends up in a 30 minute discussion about the accessory work I should be doing, and why I am doing XYZ for my main movement, and have I cycled in speed work? And how about bands this and chains that? And have you ever tried such-and-such protocol? (And this doesn’t even begin to touch on all of the unsolicited advice I get!). As any good Coach or Trainer will tell you, listening to more than 1, maybe 2 trusted people and trying to piece together and mish-mash programs will do nothing but leave you confused and frustrated and likely with sub-par results. And while I do a good job of following the programs that Mike writes for me, it does mess with my head at times to have so many people telling me that I should be doing something different. Over the next several months I need to do a better job of staying focused and not getting distracted by too much advice from other people! After all, I am healthy and I am hitting PR’s left and right by doing the program that my Coach has written for me and I can’t ask for much more than that!
4. Doing more long slow cardio -
Yes, yes I know what you’re thinking. “WHAT?! More long, slow cardio? Am I crazy? Won’t long, slow cardio make me slow? And catabolic? And so efficient that I won’t burn any calories? And isn’t it responsible for world hunger and global warming and the extinction of unicorns?!?! How could you possibly think you need to be doing more of this?”
Before you totally write me off and think I’ve gone off the deep end, let me explain. The cardio that I am talking is often referred to as LISS cardio, or low intensity steady state cardio. The cardio that falls under the LISS category would include walking, light bike riding or swimming, light hiking, light bodyweight circuits, etc. Basically it’s any activity that burns a few extra calories, gets your blood pumping, and elevates your heart rate a bit (but still keeps it below 130-ish). This type of cardiovascular exercise is a fantastic addition to any workout regimen and has many benefits that may include but is not limited to:
- Increased work capacity
- Increased recovery ability/decreased recovery time
- Improved mood and focus
- Improved circulation and blood flow, and in turn, nutrient delivery
- Improved GPP (general physical preparedness)
- Improved insulin sensivity
- Improved sleep quality
- Decreased body fat
The beautiful scenery for yesterday's walk…
Again, these are just a few of the positive side effects that can come from adding in a few LISS sessions per week. I know that for me personally, having time to relax, clear my mind, breathe deeply, and enjoy fresh air and sunshine is absolutely priceless. This LISS cardio is as good for my mind and soul as it is for my body. In fact, one of my favorite things to do instead of scheduling lunch or dinner with a friend is to schedule a walk with them. You get to do everything you would do at lunch, except it’s free and it’s great for your health! In fact, I did this yesterday with a client/friend of mine. In no time, 55 minutes had passed and we hadn’t even noticed! I have also noticed that changing my mindset from, “I have to do cardio!” to “I get 30 minutes to relax and clear my mind!” definitely lends itself to having a much more positive attitude and enjoying the LISS cardio more.
And remember, it’s not supposed to be super intense and draining. In fact, this type of cardio should be refreshing and replenishing. Start with a couple of light walks a few days a week lasting 20-30 minutes. If you find that these walks are hindering your recovery from your other training, you are pushing yourself too hard or you REALLY need to improve your conditioning in badly! =)
There you have it. Two more areas of my life and training that can be quickly and easily improved by making small tweaks to my current habits and schedule.
Are any of you making the same mistakes I am currently making? Are you going to change them? Are you making any other mistakes that may be holding you back from reaching your goals? What are they? What do you plan to do about it?