Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Josh is Fat!!

That was my smiling reaction to a post made on my recent Youtube video of my own training sessions. Yeah, my torso does look thick, he does have a point. However, this is pretty typical of strength athletes. For the past three years I was heavily involved in competitive strongman training. A lot of heavy pulling, squatting, and carrying. This does cause hypertrophy of the torso, in fact, strength coach Dan John refers to it as a "squatter's belly".

This isn't to say that being lifting heavy is the only reason that one gets a thicker torso. Many heavy lifters give themselves permission to eat poorly because being heavier does tend to allow many to handle bigger loads. However, I have always been a stickler on nutrition. I have found a profound difference in performance and health with good nutrition. Here are my basic rules:

1. Drink water with the occasional cup of organic tea.
2. Eat very light during the day with small amount of organic proteins.
3. Have broccoli, cabbage, kale, spinach, and other dark greens with your main meals.
4. Eat raw seeds and nuts avoiding typically peanuts.
5. Use a variety of healthy oils such as fish, hemp, flaxseed, and coconut.
6. Utilize celtic sea salts
7. Your other carbs should be from whole real foods such as brown rice, quinoa, and other healthy forms.

Now, outside of my little nutrition bit I will go back to the exercise component. I remember reading an article by Pavel that spoke about the traditional Greek statue. In our current philosophy of health and fitness we think of a "healthy and fit people" we tend to believe the v-shape is the ideal, however, if we really look at our Greek statue we will see something quite different.

You will find an individual not overly developed, but well proportioned. A statue that is more square than v-shaped. Why? In ancient times and in fact up till maybe 75 years ago many people lifted and carried heavy objects. It is only in our recent time of gyms and health clubs, treadmills and ellipticals that we find such a need for "core" training. We need to analyze what are our goals. Remember, the most common definition of being fit is being able to perform a task. I know plenty of people that look cut and ripped but can't perform many of the most basic tasks! Something to think about.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Top Athletes Use The Same Methods

Very cool video from Strength Coach, Kenneth Jay. This is top ranked greco-roman wrestler Mark O. Madsen. Who says sandbags and kettlebells are only for people that don't want to go to the gym. More and more elite athletes are using these tools as well. I only wish my Danish was good, but interesting video none the less!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

6 Degrees of Sandbag Training

Training often happens in more dimensions than we often train in. CST Coach, Adam Steer
( has a great video demonstrating these ideas.

Monday, May 12, 2008

How Functional Are You?

It has been some time since I have been to educational seminars. Lately I have been disappointed with any sort of innovation that coaches have come up with. Often it seems that old ideas are rehashed or new techniques are promoted simply as “circus tricks” rather than well established training methods.

Surprisingly enough even elite coaches have flipped flopped on ideas within short amounts of time. It should not surprise anyone that the general public suffers from a lot of confusion when there is about equal confusion among fitness professionals.

Trust me I understand evolution, in fact, it is something I have been going through lately with my own personal training. There are many components of my training that I feel very strongly in, however, there are others that I feel can make significant improvements.

One aspect is focusing on movement sophistication. Some coaches may say they do this, while others prefer to focus their time on maximal strength. Let’s look a little deeper into these two ideas.

Movement Sophistication:

Some coaches may think of this as functional or multi-planar movement, but it goes much deeper. First, one must attain proper alignment, this may sound simple and very basic. Yet, I find that very few coaches actually teach how to align the body in basic positions. This does not only begin with the focus on how one stands, but where they hold tension and relaxation in the body. This will also include issues of weight distribution and breathing patterns. Even if some coaches teach these fundamentals they do little to reinforce them during the actual movement.

Most coaches focus on training with good exercises and great equipment, but completely ignored this concept. The result of the training program is greatly compromised and the ideal results are never achieved. Why? Because the foundation of movement skill development where ignored. This can often lead to muscle imbalances, incorrect movement patterns, and inefficient movement. Not ideal for increased performance and well-being. Remember, most of us think of our favorite athletes in motion, when they are graceful and efficient typically not them lifting in the weight room.

My idea of functional movement is the ability to maintain perfect alignment during complex movements during high speeds. This is generally when you will see a break down in alignment skills. Additionally, it is crucial to determine the termination of the a drill because you are no longer able to hold these correct postures.

Most people work way beyond this point and only encourage bad habits. Again, the beginning of potential injuries and poor movement skills. In other words, becoming more injury prone along with being weaker and having poor endurance.

I was happy to learn some great ideas on proper alignment training through strength coach, Jon Hinds. Coach Hinds has been working with athletes for over 25 years, along this time he has created a great means to reinforce these concepts. Recently I was able to learn these ideas from Coach Hinds and found them very applicable in instantly producing better results and identifying improper movement habits that have been built in. To learn more I encourage you to visit his great program at

Coach Hinds has a great series of DVDs on movement skills and getting the most out of your training. Most of us have become maximal strength obsessed while ignoring most of the fundamental concepts of athletic development.

Next time we will explore the idea of adding sophistication to those movements that you master alignment with. This truly opens your athletic potential.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Is Speed King?

It appears that interval based strength training has become all the rage. Like most things in the industry, this is not a new technique, just a great one that most of us have forgotten about.

I greatly enjoy this method of training to improve strength-endurance and strength-speed-endurance (the ability to keep producing high levels of power). In fact, some time ago I posted one of my favorite interval programs with kettlebells and sandbags.

However, there are a few misconceptions people have with this form of training.

1. Speed is more important than technique
2. There is no feedback system, you want to go to fatigue

From the outside if I present these ideas most coaches would say, absolutely not! However, time and time again I see these concepts neglected.

Performing interval based strength work you should begin with the following ideas in mind.

1. Select relatively low technique drills at first. Technical mastery will take away from proper execution of this style of training.

2. The work to rest ratio should begin 1:2 as time progresses and proper form can be maintained you can proceed to a 1:1 ratio.

3. Technique lapses dictate the termination of the series. I typically give 2-3 repetitions for someone to correct the form then we are done.

4. These above techniques if you apply them give you instant feedback upon the physical readiness of the individual as well as their true strength-endurance. Postural deviations and technique alterations done to keep performing the series is unacceptable.

These four simple rules may sound like I am a little compulsive. Quite the opposite, however, I do become disappointed when good techniques get butchered because people want to workout instead of train. This is where injuries start to accumulate and negative feelings about a useful style become mainstream.

My biggest key for all training methods is that we are not fatigue seeking, rather result producing. Too many coaches confuse the two and think they can be one in the same. While occasionally this can be true, more often than not the big picture of the overall program needs to stay at the focus and making someone tired is a distant second.

As strength coach, Charles Staley, once said,"I can hit someone with a baseball bat and make them sore, does this mean this is good too?"

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Paint Brush versus the Artist

I could possibly write a post here everyday with the interesting topics that come up working with clients. A great one that creeps its ugly head every once in awhile is the comment, "they say they do the same thing as you." Often this is a comment a client will make when their friends state their coach does the same work we do here at Innovative Fitness Solutions.

I will inquire why they think this, as most clients can't repeat what they performed for the day, and usually it will be a response such as "they do sandbags, kettlebells, bands, medicine balls", etc. This is a perfect opportunity for me to take an opportunity to educate my clients to a greater degree. Recently I came up with an analogy of a paint brush versus an artist.

I can give anyone a paint brush, this doesn't mean they will be able to paint a masterpiece. In fact, sometimes the results could be so ugly and poor you wish you never gave them the paint brush in the first place!

This can be said of training as well. Because a coach or a training team uses a few good training tools does not mean they are using them to their capability. I often tell teams and coaches that you can give me an empty room and I can create and effective training program. The implements are truly secondary to the principles of sound training programs.

I have attended conferences where great tools were used poorly. I have seen video clips of coaches using great tools very badly. Does this mean these implements are bad? Of course not, it means the refinement of the program and technique are important. What usually occurs is an injury because the person didn't understand all the subtle components of the proper technique. The coach doesn't get blamed, rather the implement does.

Have you seen this before? Yep, we all have, here are a list of some of my favorites:

1. Overhead lifting
2. Strongman training
3. Bench press
4. kettlebells

Many coaches have made negative comments about all of the above, often though it is a misunderstanding of these implements and methods that allows for negative perceptions. The cure? If you want to learn kettlebells, go to a specialist in kettlebell training, want to learn Olympic lifting, find an weightlifting coach, want to learn how to improve sprinting mechanics, find a sprinting coach.

We live in an era where our egos get in the way and we try to be everything to everyone. Using components and aspects of various training methods is great, however, you MUST truly understand all the subtle techniques of these sports and methods if you expect to get the results you desire.

Don't worry how many paintbrushes you own, rather how many ways can you become the artist!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Gurus Gone Wild!

One of the most common questions I receive is "what do you think of what (enter guru name) said about this or that?" Let's face it I don't blame people, it can be very overwhelming nowadays. I use to feel overwhelmed 13 years ago when I first started in the industry. When I began I was attending seminars like crazy, this was my passion!! Even during these seminars coaches would say conflicting information and often I would leave confused and having what I call "seminaritis".

What is seminaritis? It is a common disease for most coaches and trainers. Seminaritis is when you enter a seminar with one philosophy and after the seminar COMPLETELY change your thoughts because of what was said. I use to be incredibly guilty of this and have seen it with other coaches soooo many times. Why? I believe in my early stages I wasn't completely confident with how I was working with people. I believed anyone giving a seminar must know more! This was probably a good attitude for a young person, however, as the years progressed I became more engrained in my own philosophy of training.

What else happened? I continued to grow more and more experience working with people. Currently I train people 60 hours a week, yep, you can call my assistant to verify this number. Insane, but true. So, just this year I will log almost 3,000 training hours! If we take this to a greater level, if I say I average 40 hours a week (I can only wish) in five years I will complete almost 10,000 hours of working with people. I can tell you in this day and age of internet coaches, very few will have logged that much experience working hands on with people.

So, when I attend seminars now my attitude is very different. Typically I will use the Bruce Lee idea of taking what is useful and disregarding the rest. I will look for ideas of subtle cueing or training concepts that I can relate to with my clients and their goals.

Here is what I DON'T do:

1. Perform a program because it is hard.
2. Perform an exercise just because it is hard.
3. Judge the success of a training session on the intensity of it.
4. Throw out my philosophy, I know it works I have worked with too many successful clients to say otherwise.
5. Listen to anyone that does not work with people daily.
6. Blindly say a method or technique works or doesn't because a Guru said so, this is foolish as almost anything works for a certain amount of time.

This may sound negative, but really it is a positive. My trying to understand how we can always improve what we are already are doing is evolution. Currently I am at a great program that I am looking forward to implementing some great concepts, but it won't change how I work with people. If you boil down all good systems they generally work with very similar principles.

Becareful of those that espouse that they have all the secrets, something completely doesn't work, and more importantly can't tell you from experience whether some ideas have potential or not. I can speak about a lot of different training methods because we have done most of them in my facility. The keyboard is a powerful tool nowadays for good and bad, you have to be the judge though.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Sandbag isn't just a Sandbag

I always find it amusing how many people often feel limited in the scope of which they view things. What am I talking about? I have been sent many great videos of people using our sandbags and every time I am amazed how creative people are. Then I often find videos of sandbag training on the internet and it is pretty much status quo.

To be honest, if the only thing you could do with a sandbag was zercher squat and carry I wouldn't have taken on such a project like Sandbag Fitness Systems. Sure, those are fine exercises and if that is all you wanetd to do with them I would tell you absolutety DON'T invest in our sandbags, simply not worth it.

It reminds me greatly of the kettlebell dilemma as well. There are some kettlebell knockoffs that you can save some money, but you can perform 2-3 exercises with. Is it really worth the couple of bucks you saved? Versus having a kettlebell that you can come up with literally hundreds of different movements?

Sandbags seem to be facing the same dilemma. Why hasn't it made it mainstream? Simply because most people have a narrow view of the possibility of sandbag training. Recently I had the great opportunity to speak with Pavel Tstasouline about my striving goal of making sandbag training a more comprehensive system of training. When I asked him about the development of his very popular RKC he told me it was very "organic" and what the people brought that trained with kettlebells had just as much to do with its development.

I have begun to see his point. While I have worked very hard to provide many ideas and programs, the fact of the matter is, that many great coaches have other phenomenal ideas that I would have never thought of. This has helped me make the beginnings of Sandbag Fitness Systems grow and the constant revision and evolution of our sandbag as well.

One of my early clients, Body Tribe Fitness in Sacramento has been very innovative in the integration of our sandbags into training. Watch some of their very interesting ideas below and tell me if a sandbag is really just a sandbag.