quick tips archive

8/21/20 - Power is the foundation of high level athletic performance

To build power you must move quickly, aggressively, and explosively. Exercises like weighted jumps, resisted sprints, power cleans, push presses, kettlebell swings, and other running and jumping variations all help to build power. The key is that every rep must be done as explosively and aggressively as possible. Keep the reps low, keep the rest periods long, and focus on achieving maximal performance with every single rep that you do. Good luck!

8/26/20 - The key to long term leanness is muscle mass

Starving yourself, living in a state of chronic caloric deprivation, or performing excessive amounts of cardio based exercise for the explicit purpose of burning off hordes of calories will ultimately serve only to burn you out, make you weak, slow down your metabolism, and atrophy your muscle tissue. On the contrary, an individual who has spent years building up an enduring base of lean muscle mass will typically have a roaring metabolism and, should they choose to do so, be able to maintain a relative state of leanness all year long without starving themselves or really putting in much additional effort in that regard. The muscle mass is the secret to the leanness, but that takes years of grueling and consistent effort to build.

9/11/20 - Consistency is the most important factor

The man who shows up to work every day for the next 10 years is going to be bigger, stronger, faster, leaner, more muscular, more powerful, and in better shape than 99% of the population. Fuck your genetics and fuck your excuses. Consistency is the most important factor. Show up for every workout, eat enough food, and get some damn sleep. Now do that for the next decade and suddenly your genetics won't look so bad anymore.

9/25/20 - Do weighted hyperextensions!

The plain old hyperextension is probably one of the most underrated pieces of equipment in the gym. This exercise builds a bulletproof lower back, big & strong hamstrings, and rock solid glutes, but most people don't go heavy enough. The trick is to bear hug a dumbbell when you do these and keep yourself in that 10-15 rep range. Banging out reps all day long with body weight only or a light plate held to your chest certainly has its own value, but turning this exercise into a true strength & hypertrophy endeavor requires heavier weights and that is where the REAL magic happens. Just to give you an idea, I do most of my work using 150-175lbs, but I have even experimented with 200+ pounds.

10/2/20 - Move more

This is going to sound really lame to the 20 somethings out there, but just try to move more. One day you're going to wake up and you're going to realize that you aren't quite as spry as you used to be, but the best way to ensure that you keep moving well is to simply keep moving. Try not to sit for too long at any one time, stand up every hour at work and walk around for a few minutes. Don't be afraid of the far end of the parking lot. Go for a walk or a light run every day. Just move more. As basic as it is this is probably the single most important piece of advice that anyone who cares about long term health and quality of life can take to heart.

Athletes are constantly inundated with exercises designed to build explosiveness, some legit and some gimmicky. But you will become much more explosive in the long run if you build some maximal strength first. After 1-2 years of spending the majority of your energy focusing on building strength and muscle then you can shift gears into the realms of strength-speed, power, and speed-strength. The point is that you are building a bridge from strength to speed. Once you've built it you will want to walk back to the other side every now and then to add some reinforcements throughout, but the major groundwork will have already been laid and traversing back and forth at that point will be a much faster process. 

11/2/20 - Training vs Peaking

Peaking is not training and training is not peaking. They have different purposes and end goals and thus require different approaches. I believe it was the oft both maligned and praised Louie Simmons who first said "the wider the base the higher the peak." Well, training is building up your base - improving the minimal amount that you are capable of doing any freaking day of your life, no matter the conditions or circumstances. Peaking, on the other hand, is riding out a wave that you've already caught.

By peaking you are simply realizing strength (or endurance or whatever it is that you've trained for) that is already there. You do this by optimizing the conditions for displaying it, but the physical adaptations have already been made. The house has already been built, it just hasn't yet been prepped for display. Training is what built it though, not peaking. That's not to imply that peaking isn't necessary or useful for competition because it certainly is, but for recreational purposes it is wholly unnecessary and even detrimental as it simply results in an opportunity cost (i.e. productive training time is lost to the peak for no real purpose or gain).

The farmer's walk is the quintessential loaded carry. You pick up something heavy in your hands and you walk with it. Not only is this one of the easiest weight room movements to learn it is also arguably the most functional strength training exercise in existence. I've personally been called on to move shit around more times than I would care to recount, and I assume I'm not the only one! Until we have personal robots to lug around our suitcases, carry our groceries, move our furniture, etc. etc. etc. (hell, I would even argue that shoveling snow falls into this category), it seems that possessing the ability to transport heavy shit from here to there without breaking your back in the process will be a useful skill to possess.

But it goes beyond just the surface level, readily apparent, specific functionality and skill transference of the exercise itself back into real life. It isn't so much just that the loaded carry overloads and mimics an activity that we need to occasionally be prepared to do, and ensures that that capacity does not degrade, so that when we are called upon to occasionally do it we are prepared to do so safely and efficiently with great ease and minimal risk to ourselves in the process. But it's also more so the effect that it has on the body in totality. It's not so much that simply possessing this capacity can save you in a pinch, but more so that the act of performing it, cultivating it, and improving upon it keeps your body healthy, strong, and overall resilient in ways that normal weight training does not...

11/19/20 - Mental Strength

A well designed training program is an indispensable part of reaching your maximum potential, but no training program, no matter how perfectly designed it may be, is going to be capable of driving progress forever. Training programs come and go. There is one constant, however, that is always there, either nudging you forwards or holding you back, every single time you step under the bar: the mind. The thing no one ever mentions when it comes to strength acquisition is mental strength. Mental strength is the precursor to massive physical strength. Without cultivating the former, the mind simply cannot fathom or tolerate the brutally intense work the body requires to obtain the latter. A weak-minded person will not appreciate the fact that every single training session is a battle, each one part of a greater war. Some battles are won and some battles are lost, but, regardless of the outcomes, they must all be hard fought. When the low hanging fruit has all been plucked, the weak-minded lifter will cease to become stronger.

Heavy weight is necessary for building maximal strength, but maximal weight is necessary only for displaying that strength. It took me a long time to fully grasp this concept, but this is a very important distinction that must be noted as removing this part of the equation negates a great deal of the risk that is present during the endeavor and makes it much more user friendly to a much larger population of people. There is no need to display maximal strength (or practice the act of displaying it) unless you are competing in a strength sport that requires you to do so. General strength training and even training for athletics and improvement at traditional sports do not have this requirement and thus all the benefits of strength training can be reaped for these endeavors without ever dipping your toes into that pool of extra risk.

12/9/20 - Everybody wants to blame their genetics. 

"I can't get as big or as strong as that guy because my 'genetics' won't allow for it. I'm just not built to be able to achieve those things."

Well, guess what, if that's how you really feel then that's what's going to come to pass. Inevitably. I believe that's called a self-fulfilling prophecy. Never mind that though, of course genetics play a role in all of this. They play a role in everything that anyone ever sets out to do, but that concept in and of itself should never be allowed to become crutch or a deterrent that prevents you from giving it everything you've got - not if you possess any modicum of passion or drive whatsoever. And it certainly shouldn't cause you to strive for only mere mediocrity. Be realistic, sure, and don't be too disappointed when you miss, but damn, shoot for the fucking moon anyway. What have you got to lose by aiming high? All that happens is you don't get quite as high you dreamed, but ultimately, you end up way higher than you would have if all you ever did was aim low.

There are inherent risks involved with lifting heavy weights and trying to get as strong as humanly possible. It's just a part of the game we have chosen to play and we are simply acknowledging and accepting those risks every time we step under the bar. The problem is not that these risks exist - that just is what it is. The problem is when you unnecessarily compound the dangers of these risks by mixing in stupid things like stubbornness, ego, and carelessness. On the other hand, if you prepare yourself adequately (both physically and mentally) to efficiently execute what you are trying to execute; if you don't make last second changes to important pieces of equipment; and if you give yourself hard rules to live by when you're attempting heavy sets and PR's, where if you're on the verge of breaking one of these rules then you stop, then and there, no questions asked, and you live to fight another day - if you do these things then the risks involved will be minimized to the level of risk that is inherent to the activity without being compounded by your human error, and, to me, that is acceptable. 

There is simply something special about pushing or dragging a heavy sled - something that cannot be replicated with a barbell or dumbbell or any other traditional weight room exercise. It's difficult to articulate just exactly what that something is, and I think that is because the reality of it is that there are multiple unique aspects converging into this one single modality that make it perhaps one of the most effective exercises we can possibly do. In the end, spending an earnest amount of time and effort pushing or dragging heavy sleds is going to make you stronger, more powerful, more muscular, and overall much fitter than you otherwise would have been able to become simply through traditional weight room and cardio modalities alone.

...but it's not really accomplishing the goal or the task itself that even matters. It's what accomplishing those things represents that actually matters: you stuck with it through the difficult times, you showed grit, you showed the ability to persevere and overcome and do the difficult thing that most other people would have quit on or rationalized their way out of by now. That is what matters. 

2/26/21 - Force Absorption

Being able to safely absorb force is just as important as being able to expel it. This is in part why Olympic lift variations and heavy kettlebell swings are so damn beneficial. In the case of the swing you have to eat all of that force before you can turn it around and swing the bell back, and in the case of power cleans and power snatches you have to eat it all instantaneously to be able to halt and catch the falling barbell. If you can't absorb it you can't expel it. The body that can safely absorb the most force is the more resilient, less likely to be injured body.

3/12/21 - Genetic Potential!

You can achieve HIGHLY impressive results as an average natural lifter in the long run. The results ultimately stand out not because they are indicative of some sort of genetic superiority, but because they are indicative of a level of hard work, diligence, and consistency that most people are incapable of following through with. If you want to look impressive and be impressive as a natural lifter then that is the difficult road you have to be prepared to travel. The path has been illuminated for you, my friends, you simply have to walk down it.

4/5/21 - Stop Looking at Injuries Inside a Vacuum

There are all sorts of factors that lead up to an injury like the one Ryan Crowley suffered from occurring, and it's not really information that anybody except the individual in question themselves would necessarily even really be privy to. But it's just important to remember that everything you do in your life impacts what happens in the gym. How had you been training leading up to the point of the injury? How had you been sleeping? How had you been eating? When was the last time you deloaded? Are life stressors that are beyond your control currently at an all time high? Basically what I'm saying is the injury itself is often just the straw that broke the camel's back, but everything else that occurred leading up to that point also needs to be factored as a contributing cause...you cannot view the injury itself in a vacuum.

5/24/21 - Make Your Bad Days BETTER! 

We're all so focused on the peak. What's the best we can do. But the more advanced you get the less of those peaks you're going to see. The harder it becomes to find the ceiling, even just within a damn training session. Ask any elite lifter working up to a heavy squat attempt how much work in that hour goes in to just finding that ceiling. Just getting there. Not even breaking through it, but just touching it.

But you could argue that that metric is meaningless for people who are training to be badass at life. The ceiling is fleeting. The peak is fleeting. It's really hard to stay there, it's risky to stay there, and ultimately it's somewhat meaningless in the grand of scheme of things. Much more meaningful than your best effort under the best conditions, is your WORST effort. What's your floor? What's the worst performance you're going turn in regardless of conditions, regardless of readiness, regardless of anything. Your wife left you, your dog died, your house got ripped up by a fuckin tornado, and you haven't eaten  or slept in 3 weeks. What can you do then? That should be the goal of your training. Raising the floor; making your bad days better; increasing the minimum threshold that your body is capable of achieving under any circumstances. 

6/10/21 - Train MAX Velocity 

Athletes need to train max velocity. It seems ironic, but in most sporting scenarios (aside from track sprinting) max velocity is scarcely ever reached, not in game situations or in practice. Instead you spend nearly all of your time accelerating and decelerating at submaximal velocities. And while these qualities are incredibly important to train and improve upon for optimal success, they do not create a comprehensive speed profile.

Training max velocity by performing flying sprints resolves this dilemma. A flying sprint is performed by gradually accelerating over a distance of about 30-40yds and then focusing on holding top speed for a predetermined "flying" distance (usually 10-20yds). This gives your body the stimulus of max velocity that is missing during sporting practice and competition, and improving one's max velocity (top speed) is known to positively impact the ENTIRE acceleration profile. Therefore, you will not only be able to run faster at top speed but you will also be able to run faster at every single point along the acceleration curve leading up to that as well.

Best of luck, and don't do too much volume! 3-5 sets of flying 20's done twice per week with full recovery in between runs is plenty.

8/16/21 - There are NO contraindicated exercises, there are only contraindicated people

There are NO contraindicated exercises, there are only contraindicated people. We need to stop demonizing entire patterns of human movement and scaring people into thinking that certain positions are inherently dangerous to occupy simply by virtue of their existence. That is simply not true. Nearly any position that can be occupied during the course of weight training can be safely occupied by someone out there somewhere. YOU may not be that person, but then we can't blame the exercise itself for that. We cannot blanketly say that absolutely no one anywhere should do this, or that no one anywhere can benefit from this because that is simply an unequivocally false statement. 

1/31/22 - The body is a system

The body is a system, and it's designed to work as a system! And obsessing over each constituent part when the whole is much, much greater than the sum of said parts is to miss the forest for the trees. It's a duplicitous notion brought about by people to whom the laws of physiology no longer apply and as such it should be promptly ignored, discarded, and forgotten by natural trainees.  

The hybrid athlete is not a master of any single domain, but he is formidable across every single domain. He carries enough mass to be imposing, but not so much that it slows him down. He can run fast enough to get himself out of trouble, and he can sustain it long enough that his conditioning and work capacity are never a problem. He's strong enough to be in the same room as elite strength athletes and not look out of place. He's powerful like an Olympic weightlifter, but also elastic like a track athlete. He can climb a mountain or run a respectable mile time on a whim. He's jacked, he's strong, he's athletic, and he's well conditioned. That is a motherfucking hybrid athlete.

Why would you do jerks if you aren't an Olympic weightlifter? The movement can be complicated and requires practice and precision to pull off well, but it offers some pretty cool benefits for those who take the time to become moderately proficient at it.  Here are 3 key benefits!

1. Builds Leg Explosiveness: every time you do a jerk you are basically executing a max effort loaded jump. This builds power in the legs. Something you can never have too much of.

2. Builds Nervous System Efficiency: maximal intent not only builds power (locally), but it also supercharges the nervous system. Muscles learn to fire harder and faster. The machinery of the body becomes sharper and more efficient. You teach yourself how to become wiry by practicing it.

3. It Ties the Body Together: the movement ties the lower body and upper body together. The weight moves through the upper body with force generated by the lower body. The two must learn how to work as a synchronized unit with no energy leaks through the core on the way there. Another valuable skill to possess.

Am I saying everyone should do this exercise? No, of course not. But if you think it looks cool and you want to learn it then it does offer some very real benefits that will transfer over into every day life. The exercise doesn't just have to be for Olympic lifters and athletes. With a little diligence it can be accessible and beneficial for average Joes as well. Happy jerking! 

What grip should you use to front squat? There are 4 main ways you can grip the bar during a front squat, each slightly different from the other. Click the link above to see the 4 different styles in action!

1. The clean grip is the classic front rack position used to catch heavy cleans. This requires a tremendous degree of thoracic strength and mobility as well as lat and wrist mobility to pull off well. It also builds these qualities.

2. The clean grip with straps requires pretty much the same amount of capacity through the thoracic region as the classic clean grip does, but it reduces the needs for lat and wrist mobility quite substantially.

3. The zombie style removes nearly all the requirements for lat and wrist mobility and reduces the need for thoracic mobility while increasing the strength demands on the thoracic extensors. It simultaneously demands a nearly technically perfect front squat

4. The cross arm grip, aka the bodybuilder style front squat, accomplishes pretty much the same thing as the zombie style front squat but it gives you a little bit more leeway in terms of execution because your hands are still sitting on the bar and keeping it stable on the shoulders.

Each grip provides its own unique benefits! Use the ones that help YOU get the most out of this awesome movement!

According to Mario Rios "if you're not lifting over 275 on deadlift or squat you shouldn't even be getting near a belt."

But this is just an arbitrary guideline based on nothing.

Does this standard apply for 200 pound men the same as it does for 100 pound women? What about 20 year old's vs 70 year old's? So my 68 year old 120 pound mother shouldn't put on a belt until she can squat 275lbs, which means she'll never be "ready" to wear a belt according to Coach Mario.

But a 20 year old 200 pound dude who I could potentially have squatting 275 in a month, will be "ready" to wear a belt basically right away. This makes no sense.

You learn how to brace intrinsically, and then if you want to use a belt to augment your training and bolster your progress then buy one and LEARN how to use it. And that is an important part to note as well, because there IS a learning curve to belt usage. Not everyone will benefit from it right away because it often takes time to figure out how to use the tool to its maximum benefit and really gain large IAP increases from it.

Thanks to the fitness industry's obsession with bodybuilding and bench press numbers we collectively have a chest fetish even though the reality of the situation is that the chest muscles do very little in terms of enhancing overall usefulness, functionality, or athleticism.

In terms of athletics, the pecs are essentially worthless. The glutes, quads, hammies, and lower legs are much, much more important than the size of your chest.

In terms of REAL LIFE the shoulders and the back are simply more important muscle groups. They do more things for you and they allow you to get more things done. The pecs don't really do anything except make you the human version of a peacock.

So stop obsessing over the size of your chest.

3/7/24 - When it comes to strength training remember ABC...

Always be cueing!

We tend to think of lifting technique as a finite process of learning with a vaguely defined "finish line."

"Well, once I've logged enough effective reps I will have mastered the movement and I'll be 'done' with the process of technical learning."

But this is a fallacy. Technique is an ever evolving process, and it's one that is never completed. Instead, what tends to happen is that the overall pattern becomes relatively stable, but small things shift gradually over time, almost imperceptibly. 

Old weaknesses fade and new weaknesses present themselves. What was once a glaring issue will fade in time. With proper diligence even the creakiest of boards can be secured solidly into place.

But then a new creaky board presents itself. There will ALWAYS be a creaky board.

The trick is honing in on whatever board or boards are creakiest at the time and using cues that help you to overcome those specific issues to the greatest extent. Just focus on 1-2 pressing things at a time until they are no longer an issue.

Cue, cue, and cue some more and with proper diligence and effective cueing you will overcome these weaknesses and cement an overall stronger, more efficient, and more resilient motor pattern. 

And then the NEXT creaky board will present itself. So every single time you step under the bar remember: always be cueing. 

By being smart and adapting/evolving your methods accordingly as you get older there is absolutely no reason why anything has to start automatically going downhill just because you have crossed some arbitrary age threshold. 

It has become more and more clear to me over time that physical attributes deteriorate with age not because of the age itself, but more so due to accumulated orthopedic issues that prevent adequate hard training (in dedicated athletes) and shifting priorities (nice way of saying some people just quit as they get older).

But you don't have to become a washed up meathead (if you don't want to) who yammers on incessantly about "well back in my day I could blah blah blah" to anybody who will listen. Personally, my goal is to be as athletic as possible for as long as possible. Maybe my 40s will require another training evolution for me, and my 50s another beyond that, but by and large I think I'm on the right track.