Practicing Strength

Back in July I posted a blog about goal keeping and some pretty big goals that I had set. So I just wanted to give all of you an update and some insights. Back in July I had set the following goals. Do the Beast challenge. 106lb Kettlebell Strict Press, Pullup, and Pistol.  I started this by doing the Dan John 40 day workout focusing on the Deadlift, pistol, weighted pullup, and pressing. Nearly the same workout at submaximal load daily. At the end of it my proficiency with the lifts was noticeable. Did I get stronger, yes. I added 0ver 2o pounds to my pullup and 11 pounds to my press. But more than just gaining strength I started the path to mastering the lifts. thousands and thousands of repetitions are needed to master a lift. Doing the lifts daily is called practice not working out. Since ending the 4o day program I have changed up the programming a bit but stuck to my guns. The overall goal is just getting stronger and progressing each workout as a practice. The workouts are challenging but rarely ever to failure(on accident once). But get whole body strong. At 36 years old I am stronger than I have ever been, and I am not breaking myself any longer. Not Driving myself in to the ground in misery each workouts. Conditioning is incidental from lots of work, and one day I focus on conditioning.  So what have been the results??

July 2011 my personal records were the following

Deadlift 430 x 1, Kettlebell Press 88lb x 2 reps, Front Squat 175 x 5reps, Barbell Strict Military Press 155lbs x 3reps.

October 2011,

Deadlift 430 x 4 reps, Kettlebell press 97lbs x 4 reps, Front Squat 220 x 8, Barbell Strict Military Press 155lbs x 9.

Granted these aren’t world class numbers, but I am stronger than I have ever been and I am not trying to compare to anyone else anyway. I just have to say that training with a purpose has been the biggest gift I have ever learned. Yes my conditioning isn’t as strong as it was, but it is as strong as it needs to be. I am not entering the ring against GSP next week, and the thing I know about conditioning is I can get highly conditioned with 3-4 weeks of intense training. Strength on the other hand takes purpose and planning.

A quote from Pavel Tsatusouline that I really like…”Conditioning, mobility etc.- are all needed. But they have no point without strength. Strength is the master quality. Do not forget it when planning your training.”

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MovNat

MovNat®: Explore Your True Nature™

MovNat will be in Tucson on January 28th. Sure we love kettlebells, barbells and pull-up bars, but getting back to our nature and human movement patterns is essential. I personally know Clifton Harsk, MovNat instructor and I am thrilled to promote this event.  Evolution Fitness or Tucson Kettlebell are not involved with MovNat but we are wanting to promote this event and are working closely with Clifton to get the word out on the event!!

The MovNat philosophy reminds us that like in any other animal, human biology is built upon natural laws that we cannot afford to overlook if we desire true and lasting health.

This is a One Day Event that  will change the way you look at health and fitness. Training outdoors and getting back to the roots of how our body’s are supposed to move. WIth all the talk about core and functional training, Movnat is the real deal.

For more information on MovNat visit www.movnat.com . To Register online Click Here.

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Keeping The Goal the Goal

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about how the weight room, career, and just life in general. It’s amazing how close they correlate. As a beginning trainer over 10 years ago I learned why this is a field of people that “use to be trainers”.  When I was telling people that I was going to be a trainer I heard a half of dozen of people tell me “Oh that is cool,I use to be a trainer, now I am a secretary, a real estate agent, a waiter, yada, yada, yada.” After about 3 months of being a trainer with a whopping 2 clients I realized I was considering being a “used to be a trainer” or a “part time trainer”. Sorry no offense to part time trainers, but IMO it is really hard to do and do it right. I know a couple that are awesome, but they are the exception. I myself have gone through it over the years. I battled with it numerous times. Why? well it is a job of continual progress and learning if you want to be good at it. There is never a point where you have learned enough or need stop putting your energy out there to earn new clients. Competition is constantly around and the ability to differentiate yourself is ongoing. Other things just seem easier some times. Not only are you dealing with people all day(many difficult), but you are marketing yourself, working long days, split shifts, and numerous unpaid hours. And for those that get into training to train the stars or only train elite athletes my advice…. Good luck with that and you are better off choosing any other career.  It isn’t always easy and it takes work to be successful and make a good living at it.

Getting Strong

So what does career and getting strong have to do with each other. Well, here is my observation. Getting strong is challenging. If it wasn’t, everyone out there would be. It is easy to lift weights for awhile and get a little strong, but when it comes to taking it to another level they go the other direction. Why? because it gets too hard. The sad thing is there are some people with natural strength, and with a little bit of training they can be very strong. They have the potential to be world class, but in order to be that they have to work, and work with purpose. Anyone that really gets strength training understands the challenges. I am not talking about going to the gym with the only purpose of looking good naked or to fit into a cute bikini. I am talking about the person that continually progresses to get stronger and push limits. For some its getting their first pull up, for others it is 300lb clean and jerk.  This process is ongoing for those that are on the path. Once a goal is achieved a new one just as challenging takes its place unless that is the goal comes to easy.  It is a mental challenge to continue on the path of strength. There are some days that you feel like you are on top of the world and other days where you feel like the world is on top of you. If you are on the path you realize that it is just part of the journey. An extra rest day or days may be needed or some corrective work to be done, but the movement is alway forward and towards achieving the goal of becoming stronger. Through all of this I have learned that whether I like it or not I learn more lessons from strength training than I would like sometimes. Many times I just want to change my goal because it just gets too challenging at times and its easy to come up with reasons and excuses on why I can’t achieve it now. Hell, It is a whole hell of a lot easier to just change paths and train to get ripped, or more conditioned, or enter a race to mix it up. Those goals are easy, and constantly changing goals to justify lack of commitment  is even easier.

 Yogi Berra said “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” 

That quote says it all. For career, strength, and life. As a gym owner, now getting ready to expand my facility by nearly 5x the gym floor and working towards some of the biggest strength goals of my life that quote really means something. Constantly having goals to work for, is what keeps me going, and when it gets tough to achieve them it is time to put forth the effort, take an extra course to learn something new,  get a little bit of help, and put in the time needed to succeed. All of that depends on knowing where you going and having a defined goal. If it is a 500lb Deadlift or a opening a bigger gym the goal is the goal is the goal.

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Awesomeness

We held the Bi-Annual Tactical Strength Challenge at Evolution Fitness and I am still buzzed from all of the excitement. In my experience The TSC has always been a low-key event. Usually done in a garage gym with a handful of guys lifting. You then post the results on the TSC’s Main site and see how you compare to people all over the world in the Deadlift, Pullup, and Kettlebell Snatch test. I always liked it because it was something to train for and the Deadlift is a great strength test and my favorite lift, the pullup is questionably one of the best tests of body weight strength, and the kettlebell snatch test separates the men from the boys, or the badass ladies from the skinny fat girls that live on ellipticals, that have seemed take over the country.

What I witnessed at this challenge truly made me happy I have chosen to make this field my career. First off, nearly every single person that took part in the challenge has less than 1 year of consistent formal training with the barbell or kettlebell and they put it all out there in front of a room of screaming fans.  They have trained hard and wanted to just go for it. We had 13 participants and over 40 people watching on to cheer them on. My mission when I started this venture was to make “strength” what Evolution Fitness was all about.  I don’t care if it is with a kettlebell, barbell, or body weight. I wanted people to get excited about being strong and it seems to be working. I can’t count the times I had spectators tell me “I can’t wait to do the next one, when can we start training for it.” or participants thanking me for holding this event because it gave them something to focus on and train for.  Purposeful training works. period.

Unfortunately it can be a hard sell sometimes. Constantly I get the….I don’t want to get Bulky. Here are the women that competed in the event. Everyone lifted between 200 and 300pounds without straps and many did strict pullups.

Strong Women At Evolution Fitness. Tucson Kettlebell

 

Jackie Luciano Deadlifting 300 pounds

Aracely Favela Deadlifting 225lbs

Tim Coble Deadlifting 350lbs

David Dolana hitting 28 pullups

Jackie hitting 5 strict (countable pullups and Cely hitting 3 pullups

Courtenay Epperson Deadlifting 210lbs

Janice Deadlifting 275

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Truly Inspired

Over the past decade I have assisted many  clients in achieving results and develop lifelong habits that have impacted their live’s tremendously. It truly is the reason that I became a trainer, and the fact that it provides a living for myself and my family is definitely a huge blessing. The past year has been really amazing. Since starting Evolution Fitness I have been able to design a program without having to worry what other trainers would think or if the higher ups thought if the program was “catchy” enough to market with cute name like the Shapely Butt Program or some other BS. It was my gym and I knew that strength IS the goal.  It took some risk on my part to do this because in todays world of random acts of exercise it is hard to really attract people  to become stronger. This happens for a couple reasons. When you mention strength every one including men(which bugs the hell out of me, seriously they lose man points) say “I don’t want to get bulky.. FML… Seriously it is hard to get bulky, to think you will pick up a weight and instantly put on size is delusional and arrogant. Getting big is hard and it takes lots of work. And the funny thing is most of the people that are afraid of bulking up have so much extra body fat, that extra muscle should be the least of their worry. Honestly a bit of muscle looks a whole hell of a lot better than fat hanging off the body.  Building strength does not mean building size.  The second reason selling strength is really hard is because to the common folk it is boring. Why? well we stick to a game plan. Yes there are variations but really in a 6 week program we are doing similar workouts, and workouts are practice. Yes, Practice. How can you get better at anything if you are always changing it up. I remember my coach running a play, and it didn’t look right, guess what, we ran it again, and again, and again. We had to keep practicing that play till it looked right and ran smoothly. We didn’t change it every time to confuse ourselves. Our goal was to get better.  Well that is the goal at Evolution Fitness. We have practiced and practiced hard and guess what, no one quit because they got too bulky. Strength really is more of the job of the nervous system than it is of the muscular system. By practicing the movements our body’s then become better at doing the movements. Here are some of the results over the past few months of people training at our gym…

Aracely: Deadlift started at 122lbs for 3 reps and she was shaking with the weight. This past week she deadlifted 205lbs for 3reps, and she could have done more. Her press started last year with single bell 18lbs. She now does double 35lb Kettlebells above her head for numerous repetitions. Oh yeah she couldn’t do a pullup and now can rep out strict pullups. One more thing she weighs 125lbs.Aracely Pressing double 35lb Kettlebells at Evolution TucsonCely Deadlifing 205lbs at Evolution Fitness Tucson KEttlebell tucson barbell

Jackie: Deadlifted 230 about 5 months ago for 1 repetition. She now reps out 255 and will probably easily hit 300lbs. Last year she above head pressed the 26lb kettlebell for 1 or 2 reps. She can now press the 53lb bell(which is highly rare for a woman) and do a single legged squat (butt below parallel) with the 53lb bell as well. The list can go on with Jackie. Fact, she is stronger than most men.

Rachel started at 185+pounds of body weight and now has dropped over 40 pounds. Last year she started deadlifting the 53lb kettlebell and now can rep out 205lbs. She can double press 35lb kettlebells, and did double kettlebell squats with 44lbs in each arm for reps. In her weight loss journey said that she really noticed the weight come off when we started heavy deadlifting.Rachel Tineo Presses Double35lb Kettlebells above her head at Evolution Fitness Tucson

Julie AKA the machine can double push press 53lb kettlebells, that is 106lbs above head for repetitions and I witnessed her  dead lift 270lbs the other night with ease.Julie Deadlifting 255lbs for repetitions At Evolution Fitness Tucson

Adriana AKA the Gun Show started with double 13lb kettlebell presses and can now rep out double 26lb kettlebells above head. She may way 110 pounds. And her arms are ripped…

And one of my favorite stories.. My 80 year old client and friend Loraine. Started with me having trouble lifting an 18lb kettlebell from the ground. She can now lift over 70lbs from the ground, and she only weights 105lbs.

80 year old Loraine, Strength Trains with Kettlebells at Evolution Fitness TucsonToo old to Dead lift? Lorain at 80 years old Trains at Evolution Fitness Tucson

 

I know I Just gave you all women as examples, but honestly the women are just impressive to me. I could write on and on about all of the results. Actually many men that come in off the street can’t lift as much weight as the women at our gym and that is a fact. It actually takes a bit of an ego check to come in and train with them.

I am inspired by all of my client’s. No one has complained about being bored of doing the same workouts for 6 weeks.  They are dedicated and committed to strength training. I am inspired by the results and level of commitment all of our client’s have shown. Every time a personal record is set the high fives and cheers in class are just awesome.  The fact that they believe in it and stick to it keep me passionate.  I have had people walk away from an orientation because they were adamant about not wanting to get stronger, and my response was “this probably isn’t the gym for you. ” Sounds harsh, I know, but LA Fitness is more than happy to take their money and promise them to be skinny fat for the rest of their lives doing high rep low weight training. Strength truly is a skill and it should always be practiced and strength truly is a gift and it should be cherished. Those that have lost it, always talk about when they had it and when they could do this and when they could do that. It truly is a memory for most.

 

 

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Progression Towards the Goal

Back in the beginning of July I stated that was going to train for the Beast Tamer Challenge. The challenge consists of doing the following movements with the 48kg Kettlebell:  Strict Clean and Press, A pistol(one legged squat), and a pull-up(throat to bar). Well this is something that I just never thought I was physically able to achieve. I have seen some pretty strong guys try it and fail so I just kind of ruled myself out.  I realized that this was going to take some serious dedication on my part.  Here were my numbers as of beginning of July: 40kg press on right side for 1 or 2 reps(sometimes), 28kg Pullup, and 40kg pistol.  Here is the thing, all other goals are secondary, this is what I am working for and I knew more than ever I had to truly view my workouts as a practice. No more just getting a workout and just do whatever. Some people can get away with that and get stronger, I know I am not one of them. I did it for years and pretty much used the same weight every time is stepped in the gym.

Phase 1: 40 Day Program

I chose to do the Dan John 40 Day Program. I chose the same 5 exercises and did them daily or near daily. Never training to failure or beating myself up. I followed the program 5-6x per week for 40 days. I did kettlebell double presses, Barbell Deadlifts, Pistols or front squats, weighted pullups, and kettlebell swings, day after day after day. I did 5reps some day, heavy singles on another, and other times 5,3,2. But the same movements daily and never pushing to failure…. The Results, my press jumped from the 40kg x1-2 to 42kg x 4 and 44kg x 1. The pullup went from 28kg x1 to 28kg x 5 and 36kg x 1. I didn’t retest the pistol but I can tell you it feels extremely solid. The 40 day program not only made me stronger, it really helped me “own” those movements. Again practice, practice, practice. I know some people may read this and they probably warm up with these weights but for me this is huge. I have never claimed to be a strength god, but I do know that it isn’t to late to try. People kept asking me if I was getting bored, but as fellow RKC and friend Michael Perry put it.. “I never get bored when I am getting stronger”. I can’t agree more.

In our classes at Evolution Fitness we are working on specific strength goals right now as we trek toward the tactical strength challenge on September 24th. Each of our clients keeps a log of training and mark their numbers down each week. Seeing ladies dead lifting above 200 lbs for repetitions is exciting, especially because they have never thought they were capable of achieving it. Each week we cycle in the same workouts and guess what. Not once complaint of being bored because everyone’s numbers are going up. High Fives are dished out after the sets and goals are being met.

Balance?

So the 40 day workout did help me get stronger, but I did notice a bit of downfall on my conditioning, but the reality is that conditioning really isn’t my goal right now. In my experience it is much easier to get conditioned than it is to get strong. Give me a couple weeks focusing on my conditioning and it is like it was at my prime. Strength on the other hand doesn’t come as easy or fast. I forget who said it now but there is a quote that goes something like ” It is easier to make a strong athlete conditioned, than a highly conditioned athlete strong.” I wish I knew who said it but it is true. Now that the 4o days is up my next program is similar with the addition of a few short conditioning days. On two days of the week I do a short 5-10 minutes of intense cardiovascular training after a training session. Then on one day I just do a longer conditioning session, but the 3 days that I train are intense and at heavy loads. And yes I press and do pullups every time I train. Again, practicing these moves with consistency are the only way that the goals I have set are going to come to fruition. I am sure muscle confusion workouts are more fun, but fun isn’t the point right now. When a swimmer wants to become a better swimmer they swim and when a football team wants to practice a new offense, they practice it over and over and over. They don’t start playing basketball to confuse them into learning a new offense. Maybe after I hit the goal I will do some mindless variety training which is fine for just overall conditioning and not wanting to really get better at anything. I actually may need it when the goal is achieved and will probably look forward to it. Until then the goal is the goal is the goal. This goes so much further than strength. If weight loss is your goal everything needs to be about the goal, you daily life needs to practice that goal with nutrition, exercise, and other habits that are going to help with the goal.  I look forward to continuing on this process with dedication and persistence.

 

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So What’s my Beef with Crossfit

I have been getting this question a lot lately due to comments, videos, and articles posted to facebook. First off if you get offended by me, get over it or don’t read my blog or block my posts on facebook. It’s my opinion and there are other important things to worry about than me teasing about the Crossfit games and grown men seeing how far they can throw a softball. If you are such a CF sycophant that you think the softball throw was a good idea, then we live on different planets.  I mean seriously the comments I got and some emails made me laugh. Panties were all bunched up. I poke fun of adults that like Harry Potter and men that still play video games excessively too. There isn’t much that I don’t find humorous. I can start making a list of things that I like to tease about. Leg Press machines, men that use straps to do  200 pound deadlifts and pullups. I also think swinging the kettlebell above your head is silly as well as kipping pullups. I don’t like excessive endurance sports but I respect the endurance athlete, and I think Pilates is silly and cardio kick boxing is the most idiotic thing in the world unless you are actually kicking something. I think Zumba will eventually lead to the destruction of our Planet and Gold’s Gym is the biggest sellout in the history of fitness. Im opinionated and I enjoy it. And I love getting reactions. The funny thing is with everything I have ever posted about anything of the above only CrossFitters get their feelings hurt. A sensitive bunch. God Forbid we say anything about a kipping pullup, Glassman, or the American Swing. With all that said I really admire women that can do pole fitness. No I am not joking, that is some tough shit. I don’t get all hurt when someone makes a crack at the RKC or kettlebells, hell with half the stuff on the internet I don’t blame them. I know what I do works and I stick with it. So why do I poke fun and have a different view than many? Well lets set some background. First, I did CrossFit for a year. I followed the WODS(workouts of the day) and was that guy that couldn’t wait for them to be posted. Either dreading or overly excited what came next. A whole bunch of things came from my Crossfit Experience. Some really good and some really bad. In the end the bad out weighed the good and I walked away. So here is a recap.

The GOOD

I found crossfit and kettlebells about the same time. I was working at a vocational college as a department head of a personal training program and was looking into other ways of training to present to my students and I started my journey. I have been working out and lifting weights for over 20 years and honestly I was bored of the weight room routine. I started to really hate working out. I did it purely because I didn’t want to get fat and didn’t know what else to do. I had done cross training /circuit training extensively pre-CrossFit, but Crossfit was a bit different. First it was intense!  It was cross training on steroids. It was moderate weight, high rep, and fast. Each workout turned into a competition with myself which brought out my old days of football practice. It also used great full body movements that didn’t require machines. Another huge benefit. It really spiced things up and added a spark to my routine I needed. Another huge benefit is that got really lean and my conditioning was great. I could go non-stop and my heart rate recovered in no time. The first couple months were dreamy. Lean, conditioned, fun, and inspired. Can’t really go wrong with that. It really got me back to my roots of lifting with barbells again and thinking outside the box, and for that I am grateful.

What Happened?

After about 3 to 4 months of it I started to notice little things that reminded me of an old back injury I used to have. It would come and go and then one day it flattened me. My back went into such spasm and wouldn’t release for weeks. Now, granted this is my fault for not doing a lot of corrective work and building lots of fitness on top of a dysfunction, but in general that is the culture that CrossFit has created, oops I forgot there is the mobility WOD now but this was before that. I would heal after a about a week or 2 and then get back into the WODs. After about a week or 2 I would just crash again. My body was giving out on me and I didn’t know why. I started going on discussion boards and started seeing this happening a lot in CrossFit, actually more than a lot. There are numerous injury claims and forums that deal with these issues specifically. The NEw York Times Did an article called “Getting Fit Even if it Kills You” all about CrossFit. Just google Crossfit injuries.  I hear people trash talking it and I heard others supporting it.  FEEL FREE TO CLICK ON ALL OF THE HYPERLINKS in the LAST COUPLE SENTENCES. I started doing more corrective work and stretching, but I still couldn’t string together enough consecutive weeks of training without feeling set back and continually losing performance. I was feeling terrible and weak. I was following the recommendations on nutrition of eating strict low carb paleo. Never once did I ever think I was unhealthy or doing something wrong. I just kept blaming old injuries. Now again, I was an adult that should have backed away and said, something is wrong here , but my ego kept pushing, so shame on me. I should have known better. I can’t go on blaming a website with workouts on my injuries. I had a choice in the matter and chose wrong. The biggest problem is that my ego was challenged and I didn’t want to give up. If I didn’t follow the daily WODs I was felt like I fell short. The reality is I needed to take a step back and do more corrective work and just realize that those workouts are not really put together by anyone that has a real brain in exercise science or is really respected in the strength and conditioning world. It is true. Prove to me that Glassman is a genius in program design. Any idiot can put you through a workout that totally exhausts you and slap a girls name on it. There is no challenging that my cardiovascular fitness was great during this time. I  Posted some decent CrossFit workouts times and had fun with it. The funniest thing is that I posted my best Fran(crossfits most popular workout) 8 months after I stopped following the CrossFit WOrkouts.

When it came time to actually test my strength I really struggled though. As an adult male that trained consistently I should have had a much better deadlift and Press. Glassman said that men could get to a 500-750 pound deadlift. Well mine was a whopping 315. Deadlifting a few times a year and doing 95lb thrusters didn’t really have me in elite strength.  Again, people can argue with me on how strong they have become, good for them. I know I didn’t get stronger and it seems to be a trend with many others.  People like looking to the elite crossfit competitors at the Crossfit games, and again, I am pretty sure they didn’t follow the CrossFit Daily Workouts nor did they eat strict Paleo. Yes there are some really strong CrossFitters. I am not going to argue with that, but a lot of them got to Crossfit really strong. CrossFit isn’t the only thing they have ever done nor is it something that they follow religiously as a programming method.

THE BAD

The WOD’s as on the main site is sometimes the most ridiculous thing out there. Here is an excerpt from the Desk Warrior Blog (a pro crossfitter) where he talks about a series of WODS.

Seven rounds for time of:
Run 400 meters (1/4 mile)
135 pound Back squat, 29 reps

This is a brutal WOD.  I’ve done 30 bodyweight Back Squats at 180# for time after a WOD one day and couldn’t walk right for a week.  Not that I’m some elite CrossFitter by any means, but I knew exactly what 203 back squats at 135# would have done to me.

So many people got pissed about this workout.  The forums exploded with haters.  Mainly because the day before had 30 overhead squats at 135#, two days before that we had Barbara (250 air squats), and the day before that was Front Squat 1-10-1-20-1-30 reps.  So many squats everyone complained.  People blamed the programming, blamed CrossFit staff, and cried to anyone who would listen.

Here’s the common sense part.  If your legs are blasted so much that you realize this will push you over the edge, or Heaven forbid, could cause you to get injured, listen carefully now…scale the workout or simply don’t do it.  How many times does Glassman have to say that main site workouts are just one aspect of CrossFit?  If you don’t like it, don’t do it.  That’s the common sense.

I couldn’t have said it better, but scaling is just a part of it, unfortunately I didn’t have common sense at the time. Seriously, many of the workouts make no sense and are irresponsible. there is not a lot of common sense in sprinting a total of close to 2 miles and doing 205 back squats with 135pounds. No professional athlete would train like this and expect to get better or stronger at anything. Name one professional Team that trains like this. Yes that even includes crossfitters that do the CrossFit Games.

Look across the boards at the big names in the world of Strength and Conditioning that train ELITE ATHLETES. Mike Boyle, Dan John, Charles Poliquin, and others have questioned Crossfit as a system for athletes. Many coaches and respectable names that were heavily involved in Crossfit have all walked away. Read Rob Wolf’s blog on his departure. I am not arguing that Crossfit will get some people stronger and everyone more conditioned. I just don’t get the process.

The Truth about Paleo Nutrition

First off I have been a huge fan of Paleo Nutrition and I still am, but Crossfitters have taken this to a new level of a religion.  I saw a facebook post by a CF chick that swore that her child would never have grains touch her lips… Good luck with that and I hope the money you saved on food goes to a great therapist for your kid. but I digress…. I did watch some things on the Crossfit Games this weekend and the funny thing is some of the big competitors don’t eat Paleo. They Eat rice and potatoes, but the crossfit sycophants are still preaching low carb Paleo and 40 minute metcons. Which brings me to my next part. After my stint with Crossfit, even after I changed my training up, I still was in the gutter. I just felt crappy for months. After a visit to my Doc we found out that my Testosterone Levels were in the dump. Yeah, a guy that works out, lifts weights, and eats healthy had the Test Levels of a 65  year old. Well overtraining and eating low carb paleo does wonders to increase the stress hormone cortisol levels in the body, which then do wonders to tank testosterone levels. Once again, shame on me. As a fitness professional with a degree in nutrition I should have known better, but I bought the hype. It was Fun Right??

Another Consistent Observation

In order to become a Crossfit Affiliate Gym you pay $1000 for a certification weekend and you can then become an affiliate to open your own crossfit. They have crossfits opening up across the street from one another. Here is the thing I like the fact that Crossfit has introduced the Olympic lifts to people who may never have tried them before, but Olympic Lifts are the most technical of all lifting and weight training.Period. And that is a fact. I have had the pleasure of working with a couple trainers that specialize in OLY lifts and it is great, but guess what. They don’t dabble in OLY lifting. They  breath it, eat it, and crap it. To have someone take a 2 day certification where they clean Medicine Balls and barely scratch the surface of Olympic Lifting and now this person can open up a gym and be a crossfit coach that now teaches OLY lifts is laughable. And the best part is that they love doing a workout that does Oly LIfts for time ….huh?? Mike Boyle in his well known Strengthcoach podcast talked against the high rep olympic lifting,here is the link. This is a man that works with the highest level athlete out there. NFL, MLB, NHL, etc… He has coached the best.  I know that poor training  happens everywhere.I am not saying that there are not great Crossfit Coaches out there that know Oly Lifts, as well as other great methods of training, I actually know a few that are great at it, but the quality standards are low across the boards at CrossFit and this is consistently a complaint. I would always shake my head when I saw beginners in crossfit classes that are practicing Olympic lifts with PVC pipes and they have never even done a weighted deadlift or squat. Learning high intensity, complex moves without any foundation of strength training is again …laughable at best. CrossFit Headquarters believes that the good coaches and affiliates will survive  and the others won’t.  I know people that got the CF Cert that don’t even workout, but they are  CF Certified. I see ACE and even CSCS certified trainers that don’t know how to lift weights but I am picking on Crossfit now so those articles will come out later. I know I will get emails about some shitty RKC’s out there as well. I am sure it goes on everywhere, but again I see this happen routinely.  The good news is I have made a good amount of money with corrective exercise on Crossfitters so for that I am grateful.  I actually had a sports Med doctor come in my gym the other day and I have worked with some of his patients. He was making a joke about handing out cards at the local crossfits for referrals. Not because I said anything to him, it was because that has been his experience. I don’t make this stuff up.

My Conclusion

If you love CrossFit, and you are getting Stronger with it, are pain free, and enjoying life, than congrats. Whatever I say won’t sway you  and  it shouldn’t. we just have different experiences. We can still be friends I swear! As long as you don’t do kipping pullups or American Swings in my gym:-). If you are consistently dealing with injury, fatigue, or stagnation then maybe it’s time to look for something else. If you are new to training and fitness focus on general strength training first focusing on the fundamentals of the Deadlift, Press, and body weight exercises for a year and then see what you want to do. In general I know numerous people that love CrossFit and it does wonders for them. If you are looking for that challenge and have the common sense that I didn’t then go ahead and give it a shot. I have just seen too much inexperienced Crossfit Coaches out there to really trust the Crossfit System(or lack of). Again this is a generalization as I know a few personally that I like( they may not like me anymore, but I will live). I may do CrossFit workouts from time to time because many of them are really fun and challenging, but doing a challenging workout and using CrossFit as a system are 2 different things.

I have been told numerous times that I can catch more flies with Honey than Vinegar and my response is, Who the F%*K likes Flies?

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Lets Talk About Goals

We had an outpouring of emails and comments on Facebook in regards to asking about what topics should we cover on our radio show “The Path to Strength and Health”. We had some really good suggestions, but one of the topics I felt the need to blog on. Mainly because I have been guilty of faltering in this area. Goal, Goals, Goals.  Here is the problem people don’t get.. There is more than just setting a goal. It is easy to say ” I want to get stronger” or “I want to lose weight”.  There are a couple problems with these goals. They aren’t specific enough. If you have ever taken any type of class on this stuff they break it down to the SMART system.  Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Anchored.

Really quickly here are some examples.  I want to fit into a size 6 jeans in the next 12 weeks, NOT I just want to lose weight.  Or I want to squat 500lbs By August 31st.  Now these two statements are specific, measurable, and time anchored. Now if someone is a size 20 and wants to get into a size 6 is 12 weeks it may not be attainable or realistic. Same for the Squat goal if your current max is 300 and August is next month. So as you can see there are things to think about. But honestly this is the easy part of setting a goal. Pick a specific goal, set a date, and run it by someone that knows if it is realistic or healthy for you and your SMART Goal is set…. So if this is so easy why do so many goals in the world go unfulfilled?? Well it isn’t for lack of trying. It is usually for a lack of knowing how to get there.  Im not just talking about fitness goals here. Business goals, financial goals, you name it. I hear people all the time tell me they want to start a business. They have a dream but they always stay at “one day”.

This is where “process goals” really need to be put in place and this is where the problem lies. The process goals are the steps that need to take place in order for the OUTCOME GOALS AKA the SMART Goals to come to fruition. Process goals can be set daily, weekly, or monthly depending on what process is set. The process goals should be thought of as the road  map to success or the winning recipe. It should be a checklist. If the checklist is complete the outcome should be good.  This is why January and February are slammed at the Big Box Gyms and slow down in April. Jane wants to lose weight so she buys the cute gym out fit, gym membership with towel service and is off to jump on the treadmill with her favorite novel to do cardio. After about 1 week she is no lighter and after a month she may have lost a few pounds but at the end of the day she realizes that this is too frustrating and decides to just stop going and say that she has tried everything and exercise doesn’t work for her.

Lets look at the weight loss goals and some basic process goals to have this happen, assuming that the SMART Goal was set correctly. Now the process goal will be different for different people, even if they have the same outcome goal. Here is a general example of what a daily process goals look like for weight loss.

  • Kept a Diet Journal throughout today in real time (not at night trying to remember what I ate today)
  • Bring Diet Journal in to Trainer or someone else that will hold you accountable.
  • Got 7-8 hours of sleep
  • Avoided junk Food all day
  • Ate breakfast, lunch, and Dinner of only the foods I was supposed to eat today.
  • Did my prescribed daily workout today

Now this list could be a more or less detailed depending on the person and their specific challenges. But the point is this. If the person with this goal can do down this list and say that they accomplished each of these daily goals then that is Awesome. Focusing on the process is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing. Focusing on the scale is probably the worst thing you can do. Same thing goes for trying to become stronger as well. If your goal is to have a big bench press or squat then you should be following a specific program and stick to it instead of having exercise ADD and freaking out and trying to max out every week to see if you are getting stronger. In my experience when the someone becomes obsessed with the outcome, it usually back fires. Focusing on the process list gives an objective approach. If you only successfully completed 3 of the 5 process goals you know exactly why you are not achieving your goals.  As Dan John says, the goal, is the goal, is the goal, and the process is the path.

Currently I am following the Dan John 40 Day program for my Goal of completing the Beast Tamer Challenge by my 37th Birthday. Now I don’t plan on hitting it in 40 days but the 40 day program is the first phase of my training. I do a specific workout nearly daily for 40 days. Simple. Just do it. At the end of 40 days If I stay consistent my guess is I will be much stronger than I was at Day 1.  At the end of day 40 I will then adjust the programming and follow from there. The goal is the goal is the goal.  And each workout is based on the goal. I can’t worry about my 6pack or the mirror right now or try and focus on a million other things.

The same goes for other goals. For years I wanted to start my own gym. I dreamed and dreamed and dreamed and was always frustrated and pissed off because I never seemed to be able to get it all together. Well my process was to get lots of experience. I plan on writing a blog on this or maybe an entire book….

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A Week in to the 40 day Program

I blogged earlier in the week about a pretty big goal that I have set for myself this year.  Dan John has written about a 40 day program and it is something that works. The best thing about it is that it is practice. I get to workout/practice nearly every day. It really makes me view my workouts like a practice.  When I played football we practiced 4days per week, had a game and then watched videos on Saturday morning. 6 days per week dedicated to football. This is no different.  I tried this program about 8 months ago and I definitely saw some strength gains in my bottoms up press. I went from barely being able to bottoms up press a 24kg bell to jumping up to a 32kg bell. That is close to a 20lb increase which is great for a one arm lift. It actually only took me about 20 days to get there. So what is the 40 day program. Well in short, pick 5 lifts and do the same lifts every day or nearly every day for 40 days. You roughly do 2 set so 5 repetitions (there are a couple good variations) and go as heavy as you can for that day. You aren’t to push to failure or miss lifts. This isn’t supposed to be a sniffing ammonium capsules and slap yourself in the face heavy either. The premise is to lift heavy, but not to failure and only do 2 sets per day. This will allow you to train daily without over working your CNS and over training. You are building up volume over time. Simple, right? Well yes it is simple but not easy. The reason it isn’t easy is because it is too simple and many get bored and feel like they need to be doing something else.  It is really important to just engage in the process and let the results come. After my first time around I learned a few things. I could measure the bottoms up press gains since I knew the baseline and I really wanted to improve since my starting point was pretty weak, but the other lifts I chose didn’t really carry over to anything I could measure and I applied some things wrong.  Some of the mistakes I made was doing single legged deadlifts for 40 days. I don’t really know why I chose them except for the fact that I thought it would be cool to do a heavy one, and I really didn’t get there because at the end of the day it really didn’t mean much to me.  The other mistake I made was I didn’t go heavy /intense enough on my pullups.  I can rep out close to 20 strict pullups in a row and I chose to do 2 sets of 5-10 pullups a day. Granted I don’t think it hurt my pullups, but just doing 10-20 pullups a day wasn’t going to really increase my 20 rep max pullups. I really should have done weighted pullups. I was too afraid to go to intense. This time around I have 5 lifts and So far the first week has been the best week of lifting I have had in a very, very long time.

THE GOAL(not at the end of 4o days but the long term goal)

The Beast Tamer Challenge: Do a Pistol, Strict Press, and Pullup with the 48kg (105.5lb)Kettlebell.

The LIFTS for The 40day program

  • Pistols
  • Double Presses
  • Weighted Pullups
  • Deadlifts
  • Ab Roller
  • 1 arm swings

So here are the variations I will be doing. The first time around I did pistols, and after about a week I developed some hip issues and had to back off the pistols so  I will be throwing in heavy front squats once or twice per week. Another modification I am making is I am going to do Double Push Jerks 2x week to allow me to get a heavier load above my head. The deadlifts for the first two weeks will be deficit deadlifts since I usually miss max deadlifts from the floor.

So far this week has been amazing. I worked out 4 days in a row and yes I was a bit sore but my body feels better than it ever has.  I took day 5 off to rest and will hit it again tomorrow. At the end of the 4o days I would like to be able to press and pistol the 44kg kettlebell which would be a huge Personal Record for me. I would also like to be able to deadlift 2.5 x bodyweight. SOunds like a lot but I am so close already and I think the 40 day program will provide the results.


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THE RKC2 Weekend Recap

Many that are reading this post may not have a clue what the RKC or a kettlebells are, and many may not have ever heard of Pavel, the Iron Tamer, or Dan John.  I will say that this past weekend was an a great experience as a professional trainer. I have been a trainer for over a decade and I have attended numerous summits, seminars, and workshops. Most that I attend always leave me underwhelmed at best. I would sit and listen to a professor discuss the statistical r=Value of an experiment that involves the muscle fibers of a rat on a spin wheel or about a study of  of novice lifters and muscle growth using EMG (electrodes that tell if the muscle is working) while working on a leg extension machine. Not to discredit the research of modern science, but in my opinion much of what is researched and presented today is based on securing research grants and doesn’t have tons of carryover into the real world. Much of what we know about strength training and what has worked with lifters and exercise enthusiasts over the years is based on lots of the research by Prof. Yuri Verkhoshansky. If you want to read a research based book just buy Supertraining by Mel Siff and Verkhoshansky. Not that there aren’t other sources of research, but go to any NSCA(National Strength and Conditioning Association) Symposium and every single over weight and de-conditioned professor will stand up and site either Super Training or Verkhoshansky and Siff. So now to the purpose of this article.

Throughout my Journey as a trainer this was my source of continuing education. Seminar after seminar with sitting down listening to research or a hands on approach to effective BOSU ball training as a 45minute workshop at a convention.  It is no wonder I thought about changing careers about 6 years ago. I stumbled upon a kettlebell in 2007-2008 when Chris Falkner, then a student of mine brought a kettlebell to class and showed it to me. I rolled my eyes and figured it was a weird looking dumbbell. I started messing with it and really started to see that my workouts were becoming fun and challenging again and I was seeing results. The funny thing is I was only using a 16kg(35lb) Kettlebell.

About a year later I registered for the Russian Kettlebell Challenge, which was started by Pavel Tsatsouline who brought kettlebell training to the U.S.  This was a life changing and career saving experience. Granted I had trained for months for the certification, I really had no clue what I was in store for. We learned the kettbell swing, squat, clean, press, snatch, and Turkish Get up in 3 days. Yes it took 3 days to learn 6 moves and you still don’t walk away as a master. We learned not only how to do it but also all of the different cues and techniques to teach others. The attention to detail in teaching impressed me but more than that it was the guiding philosophy that really got me sucked in. Many people I know joke about kettlebells as not being a serious tool, though the kettlebell is a great and dynamic tool,it is more about the philosophy that got me hooked.  Pavel and his team talked about the quality of movement over the quantity of movement. I needed to hear this because I had just got done destroying myself after a year of Crossfit Wods following the Philosophy of allowing  20% slop. We learned about managing tension and relaxation for increased strength, not training to failure to increase strength, and training with purpose. They talked about viewing training as practice with purpose, rather than random acts of exercise. We also  worked our asses off for 3 days strait.

Fast Forward to RKC Level 2

I am grateful that I did the CK-FMS certification first. A year prior to RKC 2 I was a mess. So many imbalances and asymmetries I couldn’t go more than 2 months without some sort of injury that had me out for a couple of weeks or more.  It was the nastiest viscous cycle I have ever been a part of. I would set a Personal Record and then crumble miserably.  After nearly a year of preparation,  focusing on shoulder and t-spine mobility, I registered for RKC2 and remained injury free. The standards they lay out to pass level 2 are challenging, but not unfathomable either. I had to Pistol (one leg squat), Single arm press half my body weight above head, and do a pullup(chest to bar) with a 53lb kettlebell hanging off of my foot, as well as pass 100 snatches with the 53lb kettlebell in 5 minutes. I prepared for many months by  practicing for this event, and when the time came I felt like I kicked some ass. It was great being able to train specifically for an event and have the outcome be exactly what I wanted.  It was a challenging weekend, but once again Pavel and his team really went all out to bring training philosophy to the forefront. Whether I am training with body weight, barbells, or kettlebells,  the the tools I learned this past weekend will transfer over. We were on a pullup bar learning about hollowing out the body for a stronger pull and practicing a one legged squat in which you have to try and master a unilateral movement and manage tension  as well as have the requisite flexibility  to perform it. The bottom line is that strength is a skill and I know I have to practice it. With all of the modern day talk of Muscle confusion and random exercise, so much of practicing a skill has been lost and I am glad the RKC stands for it.  We didn’t just sit there and talk shop, we worked our asses off for 3 days, 8-10 hours a day of  practicing the techniques that we are going to teach. We were then critiqued on our form and technique by a Sr. or Master Instructor.

Throughout the past weekend there were a few other things that really stood out to me. First, the women of the RKC are amazing. I was seeing dozens of women doing strict pullups for reps(not ridiculous kipping), weighted pistols, and pressing an unreal amount of weight. I witnessed a female do a 32kg Bent Press and Nikki Schlosser who assisted at the certification did a 40kg Bent Press. Those of you that don’t know what a bent press is, youtube it and if you don’t know how to convert pounds to Kg I will help you. 40kg is 88pounds and a bent press is a one arm movement. I will be honest, I didn’t even attempt an 88lb bent press. And I want to add. These women were not bulky. They are strong and feminine.

Second: Coach Dan John makes the complicated simple and makes the simple challenging. With the days of random acts of exercise and Exercise ADD, he preached making the goal the goal. If you have a desired outcome practice it. Period. The hardest part of this actually sticking to the goal without feeling like you need to change things up constantly.

Third: David Whitely AKA, the Iron Tamer , is not as intimidating as he seems and he makes heavy weight look light and he moves better than men half his size. The Thoracic Spine Mobility Section he lead was a game changer for me. I have never felt so mobile in my life than after his presentation.

Fourth. The RKC community is great. I met friends from all over the world. UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada were all represented. It was like many of us had been friends for years. The other cool thing is that I didn’t see a bunch of egos showing off or trying to compete with one another. It really is an inside job at an RKC. It really is about doing your own personal best, and everyone in my group reached out and was very helpful to one another. Every time I leave an RKC event it is hard to get into the swing of things for a few days because of all of the excitement over the weekend.

Pavel Tsatsouline and Chicken are not a good mix. He Really hates Chicken

Fifth, Pavel really doesn’t like Chicken. He has been known to say, chicken is for sissies and chicken makes you weak. The instructions at the end of every night when he dismisses you is: Don’t Drink tonight, Read your manuals, and don’t eat chicken. We usually laugh it off as a funny Pavelism. Well RKC2 Dale Armstrong decided that it would be funny to order Pavel a chicken appetizer at dinner one night. Well, Pavel had freestyle workout planned the next day and Dale was his Victim. To say the least at the end of the workout he put Dale through there is no question left as to the fact that Pavel Doesn’t like Chicken. It think Dale is still recovering from that workout. I have seen Pavel eat eggs but I don’t dare ask…..

I know I definitely waive the RKC flag and many people may have different views than myself, but at the end of the day the system makes sense to me and it works with myself and my clients. In todays world of fitness and exercise it is great to have a philosophy and system that is based in movement and strength, and they continually strive to improve the system. So that is the recap. I am probably leaving out tons of other great aspects of the weekend but I am sure I could write a small book.

RKC Level 2, Evolution Tucson and Tucson Kettlebell

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