Monday, June 30, 2008

The Sorinex Experience

As I wrote in my last newsletter we were off to Irmo, South Carolina to attend Sorinex’s Open House. After a horrible start by flight delays and problems we were glad to get in very late Friday night. I have to admit though, I was more than a little excited.

For those of you that may still be unfamiliar, Sorinex was created by strength legend Richard Sorin. His strength accomplishments are numerous, but maybe one of his most famous was being the first man to close the number 3 Ironmind gripper. For those of you that may have ever tried this feat it is nothing short of amazing!! Since then, Richard and his son Bert (who is a former all-american thrower and currently a top level Highland Games competitor) have developed innovative strength equipment for some of the top college and professional teams in the nation.

I knew going to Sorinex would be a lot of fun simply for meeting great strength athletes like Richard and Bert, but I had no idea what we were in store for!! The next day started bright and early, we weren’t sure where exactly to go, but we thought Irmo isn’t very big we could find it. We quickly put our troubles when we saw an not so subtle sign. It was the Sorinex Base Unit and Goergen’s Yoke right out in front in the parking lot. Yep, definitely in the right spot.

As we got out we had to have a little chuckle, right next to this home of very strong people was a tanning salon and “Carolina Girls Fitness and Health Spa”, about as opposite as you could find.

Bert Sorin was out in front with a couple of other strength fanatics and greeted us the most friendly manner. This would quickly set the tone for the whole weekend. Megan and I were excited to test out the Base Unit as we had ordered one for our facility a few weeks ago and couldn’t wait to play with it. After all there seems to be one rule when you visit Sorinex, you can’t simply “look around” you have to try some of the equipments and lifts. Ah, people after my own heart!

The Goergen Yoke was another piece that I had been eyeing for our facility. 385 at the base weight (nothing added), a hefty weight to say the least. However, it didn’t take long before Megan got underneath it and took it for a little ride. My mouth did drop a little as she had never done a yoke walk before and 385 is more than a modest start, especially for a smaller woman. That was simply going to be the beginning of the many feats of strength performed this weekend.

Alright, here is the truth of the matter. Going to Sorinex is like finding Santa’s toy shop except for people interested in strength and fitness. Sorry, no cardio equipment, but every other toy you could think of, including a whole array of grip tools. I gave my best shot at picking up the 152 Thomas Inch replica, but to no avail (almost though;). Yet, the first amazing feat of strength was about to occur. Brad Dunlap took six attempts at jerking the 202 pound circus dumbbell. On his sixth he nailed it!!!! Simply amazing!!! Not to mention on his seventh he knocked out a double.

“Big Tex”, Champion Powerlifter Donnie Thompson’s training partner, absolutely destroyed everything. With one hand Big Tex gripped the end of a 50 pound dumbbell and began easily cleaning and pressing it. No worries though, his best is a 75 pound dumbbell. Big Tex went on to also pick-up a 50 pound blob in one hand and the 152 pound Thomas inch replica in the other, simply sick.

Not to be outdone the Sorinex staff got into a good old fashioned deadlift off. Josh Ortega and Jeff Goergen were ready to settle a bet made earlier in the week. Josh had missed deadlifting 425 earlier in the week. Jeff not missing an opportunity to poke fun made a bet that he could deadlift for 12 repetitions whatever Josh did for a maximal effort. With the challenge on the line Josh simply went ahead and set a 30 pound PR by nailing 455 at a bodyweight of 170-180. Jeff feeling the shame of losing this bet came out armed only with a belt and squeezed out 12 amazing repetitions to win his bet.

The deadlifting wasn’t done there. A gentleman, nickname Leonidas by the Sorinex staff because of his uncanny resemblance of the Spartan King, thrilled all of us by deadlifting 530 at a bodyweight of 173, unbelievable!! Oh by the way, no belt or straps either.

Nothing inspires PRs like being around such a positive and adrenaline to try to set some of my own PRs. My big one was cleaning and jerking a 145 pound kettlebell for a double. However, I also had the pleasure of working stones with Big Tex!

It was also a great opportunity to show people the power of the Ultimate Sandbag. We are excited to be working with the great people of Sorinex and can't wait to go back out next year!

To see the full weekend video click on the video below.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sandbag Innovation

Sometimes I am even surprised by the versatility and options of sandbag training. One of the most innovative coaches I have seen with our sandbags is Chip Conrad of Body Tribe in Sacramento, California. Check out this amazing new video that Chip demonstrates the creativity that makes Body Tribe unique.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

For Women Too!

We often believe we all have very unique needs. Who would blame us, we would like to think of us as individuals needing to find what works exactly for us. However, the truth of the matter is most of us would go a long ways in adhering to principles of training rather than trying to find the "magic" answer for all of our training needs.

Possibly this is seen more in the constant controversy of men versus women's training. Women tend to believe that they will become HUGE if they "train as a man". Time after time I have had to explain to women that this is simply not possible for these reasons.

1. Women have 1/16th the testosterone levels of men. Testosterone is what makes men, men, and causes them to grow muscles bigger. You don't see too many highly muscled 12 year olds even though they are highly active.

2. Women have less muscle mass on their body than men. It is going to be hard to become as big as a man if you don't have the same level of muscle mass to begin with.

3. Most men aren't huge!! I always wonder why women think it is so easy to get big when men are in a constant search to actually get big. Men hunt down that magical secret of increased muscle like women look for information on fat loss. The truth of the matter is that muscle mass is hard to attain. Proper training, nutrition, and recovery are all necessary components that are often not maximized in training for mass.

I think nothing speaks louder than real world application. My good friend Yoana Snideman is a fantastic example of a woman that can be strong, lean, and muscular, but maintain her feminine side. She is also a mother and has come back to reclaim her phenomenal physique. Kettlebells, odd lifts, bodyweight, and our Ultimate Sandbag have all become a part of her arsenal. Check out this wonderful video she put up for Moms wanting to see the fat loss potential of our Ultimate Sandbag.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Dave Schmitz Interview Replay

The interview with resistance band expert, Dave Schmitz was terrific! Don't miss so many of the great tips and ideas that Dave shared with us. Click down below to replay the interview!

Click Here

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

You THINK You Know Bands

Recently I had a martial artist contact me saying he was already in possession of one of my sandbags and a few kettlebells. He had no idea what else to get and he gave me quite an extensive list of other pieces of equipment. I had no hesitation in recommending him, no, really telling him he should get his hands on some resistance bands.

Resistance bands are nothing new, the concept is very old, however we often think of those horrible aerobics classes when we think of bands. Thanks to strength coaches like Louie Simmons, bands are now a part of serious strength and conditioning programs.

However, it seems that many people are still lost at the purpose of using bands for training. It would seem the trendy thing to do, but let me speak about a little of the true power of their use.

The most commonly espoused benefit of band training is their use of accomodating resistance. This means that in most lifts after you hit the hardest part of a lift (the sticking point) the lift becomes significantly easier and the body spends more time decelerating than pushing through. Bands make it so that the body has to keep pushing and turns off the breaks later. Turning off the breaks later typically means more power, speed, and strength. Therefore, many lifters have applied bands to their strength training for lifts such as squats, bench press, and deadlift (although you can use it for many more).

However, the benefits don't stop there. Bands are also amazing for developing reactive strength. The ability to accelerate and decelerate very quickly leading to less injury and and better athleticism. Many people spend a lot of time trying to develop more maximal strength, but fail to realize it is the ability of the person to change direction quickly and safely that leads to better athletic performance.

Bands are also a vital tool for flexibility development. Many people are familiar with using bands to stretch, but using PNF patterns and concepts you can great improve flexibility in a short amount of time. Yet, lately I have also found that bands can help flexibility during training as resisting the "pulling" effect of bands causes dormant muscles to become active and relaxes overactive muscles.

If you like what I have to say, then you are going to love our upcoming teleconference with band expert, Dave Schmitz. If you want to attend and ask your questions go to the link below. I have added some amazing videos of Dave so you can see why is one of the hottest coaches.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Kettlebells or Sandbags

People are trying constantly to compare kettlebells to sandbags. While some of the lifts may look similar they are actually very different implements. The following video goes over why we use the varying implements and when to use each one. As Kettlebell Expert Steve Maxwell has stated that many accomplished kettlebell lifters have struggled with sandbag training. Take on another incredible challenge!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

MMA Under Attack!

I was going to write on another completely
different topic today, but I had a great
discussion with a colleague today. It was
a topic that gets me going, sport-specific

My friend had sent me a link to the training
of a famous UFC fighter. This fighter was doing
a lot of "sport-specific" movements by punching
with heavy hands, bands, and just hitting a
bag over and over again until he was exhausted.
There were some other interesting "sport-specific"
movements that he was performing in a giant
circuit nonstop, you could tell he was exhausted!

I believe MMA is going to go through the same
challenges football, baseball, and basketball
have struggled with for years. These sports
have been dealing with coaches that thought
they were doing "sport-specific" training because
they were replicating movements in the gym.
What a mistake that is!!!

A few years ago I got to hear Dr. Michael Yessis
speak at a conference. For those that don't know,
Dr. Yessis is one of the most well known biomechanist
in this country and has spent considerable time
in the former Soviet Union.

Dr. Yessis spoke at length how in the US sport-specific
training is sorely misunderstood. The Russians
were masters at true sport-specific training. Here
were a few points he brought up that really
reinforce what a disservice many coaches are doing
for their athletes.

1. Athletes need to go through a long period of
general training before they perform specific
exercises for their sport.

2. Coaches need to be aware of muscle actions
occurring, are they eccentric, isometric, concentric,
stretch-shortening cycle, etc. Sporting movement
is far more complicated than just moving through
the motions.

3. Coaches need to determine at what angles these
actions occur as to carefully replicate the sporting
movement. Failure to adhere to this concept can
ruin performance because it creates faulty movement
patterns in the athlete.

Hmmm, makes sense when you think about it. In our
modern age I would say very few athletes need to
get too specific, practicing their sport is often
good enough.

In addition, MMA athletes have the challenge of
not using their strength and conditioning sessions
as fatigue training sessions. Many of these athletes
are beaten up, injured, and trying to recover from
their mat work. The last thing they need to do is
be destroyed in the gym. One needs to pay very close
attention to the recovery and performance of the
athlete both during their sports training and gym

Being a good coach is more than making someone
tired. The same can be said for a trainer working
with people that want to become more fit. I want
to demand more out of our profession and the work
we are doing whether it is with athletes, fitness
enthusiasts, or ourselves!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Shoulder Stability Training

One of the biggest reasons people don't train is pain! Pain will deter a lot of people from training and one of the most problematic areas are the shoulders. The shoulders are a very mobile joint which also makes them very easy to injure. See the video below to view some of the drills we implement to save the shoulders!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Confessions of a Strength Coach

It is impossible to speak about fitness, health, and performance without speaking about the role of nutrition. I am not going to speak about macronutrient ratios, carb intake, blood sugar, nutrient timing, or any of the typical nutrition talk. In fact, I think these aspects are far less critical than the often neglected part of nutrition, the emotional side.

One of the best ways I help my personal training clients is to give them some insight to my own personal struggles. When people can relate and understand you are not perfect, they are far more likely to adhere and listen to what you have to say. In this blog entry I wanted to share something on a very select few of people know (some family members don't even know) which is that I suffer from an eating disorder!

This isn't a trick to get people to buy products or to stir controversy. It is something I felt compelled to share after doing a very motivating interview with Muata Kamdibe. As many of you know at this point, Muata is a professor that lost over 130 pounds. In speaking with Muata it was reinforced to me how big of a role the emotional side of nutrition really is.

When I was 13 I was about 5'10 and pushing 185 very soft pounds. After feeling extremely self-conscious about the weight I decided over the summer break to do something about it. What I decided to do helped shape my coaching today. I began to take very careful stock of everything I ate. In those days, it was high carb, low fat nutrition.

So, I made sure that I didn't eat anything with fat. That wasn't the end of it, I tracked every single calorie that I consumed. If that wasn't bad enough for a 13 year old, I then made sure to burn every calorie I ate in the stationary bike in our basement. I also spent almost every waking moment during the summer doing some sort of physical activity. Guess what? It worked!

I entered school that fall down to 145 pounds! I was very thin and everyone noticed. The attention I received was far more positive. From friends, sports coaches, and girls in my school everyone remarked very positively about my change. For anyone that knows about eating disorders, this is the worst thing to happen as it only encourages the behavior. I was constantly sick to my stomach, tired, unable to concentrate, and many times almost passing out.

My life was probably saved by actually hurting my ankle very severely at the age of 14. This meant I couldn't be as active and began weight training with my older brother. Falling in love with weight training I wanted to know as much as I could. I read all the cheesy muscle magazines that all kids do. I started eating more rationally and developing a lot more muscle.

However, this didn't solve the emotional side of food. To this day, food is a constant struggle. No, I have never seeked help for this problem, but I have begun to develop very strong coping strategies that anyone can adapt to beat the problems of emotional eating.

Let's face it, it isn't as though people don't know vegetables and fruits are good for them. That they should eat healthy unprocessed meats and heck most know fish oils are good for you too. However, it isn't a lack of knowledge, but not addressing the personal issue that is far more challenging. Here are some strategies I found extremely effective.

1. Don't have bad foods in the house. This makes is far less likely that you will eat those foods. Oh, and if you have kids, don't feel bad about not having these foods, your kids don't need them either!

2. Find other foods that are healthy to satisfy cravings. I often will find a blend of different fruits to help sweet cravings. In addition, coconut butter blends are sweet treats and have a ton of nutrition. Also, you can not raw organic honey with some almond butter as a nice treat. All these things are healthy yet are easy to justify for those sweet cravings.

3. Watch for self-destructive friends and family. This sounds horrible, but I try to avoid friends or family that are highly negative and actually promote bad habits.

4. Choose restaurants that have a full selection of healthy foods. Try to avoid bars and other places that encourage bad eating habits.

5. Eat before you attend social events. I find that if I am not starving I am far better at controlling binging or other bad habits. I don't feel compelled to even start eating poorly.

6. Exercise regularly, this may seem obvious, but I find regular exercise encourages other good habits.

7. Surround yourself with positive people whether or the internet, gym, or social groups.

8. Find other coping strategies to stress. One of my favorite sayings is by Steven Covey. Mr. Covey believes that you can not prevent bad things from happening, the only thing we have control over is how we react. Very strong and powerful to me.

My hope is nothing more than a few of you that read this can relate and find some satisfaction in knowing there are more people like you that go through the same struggles. It is a challenge every day, but by applying some of these strategies I hope it becomes a little easier.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Power of Home Gym Training

When I began training I couldn't imagine training at home! Why train at home when you can go to the gym and have hundreds of pieces of equipment at your finger tips. Of course I was only 19 at the time. When you are 19 you have 3 hours to spend at the gym. When you are 19 you have minimal aches and pains. When you are 19 you don't generally have family and career commitments. This is something I learned very quickly when I began working with people with real lives.

This isn't a bad thing though. Quickly you really start to learn what is effective and what you are wasting your time doing. The saying 80% of your results comes from 20% of your work is very true especially when it comes to training. Many of us often try to to do too much and compromise the time we spend on the "big bang" exercises. When we narrow it down, we could spend 30-40 minutes on a few exercises that really impact our training or 3 hours performing a bunch of random exercises where only a handful are actually helpful.

Then comes home gym training. The reason many people drift to in home training is they don't have time to drive to the gym, change, fight the crowds, deal with the meatheads, and then maybe get a good workout while noisy music is blasting. Training at home can be really beneficial and that is how Muata Kamdibe trained to lose an amazing 133 pounds. You can see him training in the video below.

So, if you think home gym training isn't serious business you have another thing coming! If you want to see the first installment of our series of home gym training.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Summer Fat Loss

I don't care who you are, we all would like to be a little leaner. Especially with summer here we want to wear less without feeling self-conscious. Most people that try to lean up quickly jump on the running or "cardio" bandwagon. Don't waste your time!

Research has shown us a few important things:

-Interval Training is Better for Fat Loss

-Muscle Improves Your Metabolism

-Compound Lifts Add more Muscle Than Isolated Exercises

-The "Core" is also the Hips and Low Back

If you want to see a workout that you can do at home, the park, or the gym then check out my new interval program. Within 20 minutes you can smoke the entire body and put it into major fat burning mode!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sandbags are for Wimps!

I love it when I hear simple stereotypes such as;

-sandbags are just for conditioning

-sandbags can build size or strength

-sandbags are for just little guys

-sandbags are good for just a few movements

I recently received an email from a strength coach Nick Nilsson about our sandbags. Nick isn't what you would call your typical coach that is smart, but a little soft when it comes to his own physique. Check out Nick and what he has to say about our Ultimate Sandbags:

"Anybody who thinks 'functional training' means standing on a Bosu ball catching beanbags needs to pay attention to what I say here...go grab one of Josh Henkin's sandbags and start training with it NOW. Because in my experience, the results you'll get with the sandbag are downright AMAZING when it comes to building TRUE functional strength and power. It'll blow that other stuff out of the water any day of the week.

Let me put it this way...I'm known for creating unique exercises and training techniques designed to push your body to the limit. There are very few pieces of equipment that I've come across in my past 17 years of training that combine the honest simplicity and sheer brutal effectiveness of the sandbag.

And the best part is, Josh's sandbags are built to LAST - top-quality material and construction make it a piece of equipment you'll be enjoying (and probably cursing, if you train like me!) for YEARS to come.

Nick Nilsson
Vice-President - BetterU, Inc.

Tell me now if YOU think those stereotypes are true!