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Taking The Guesswork Out of Fitness and Performance Enhancement
January 13, 2014Posted by on
April 8, 2013Posted by on
Every Monday, thousands of bros descend on their gyms with the fervor of Vikings destroying and pillaging a defenseless village. A huge portion of them head straight to the flat bench, the holiest of strength training equipment, and proceed to knock out set after set, followed by declines, then inclines, and probably a few flyes for good measure. On Wednesday, the throngs of dudes scanning their membership cards have thinned out substantially, and by Friday, only the most committed show up to limp through a half ass workout of curls and pressdowns before checking out for happy hour. Why do gyms set attendance records on Mondays and look like abandoned cities by the end of the week? I’m convinced a lot of it has to do with people just not being excited to train. Their programs are stale, they aren’t seeing results, they are worn down by the stresses of the week, and going in to get a solid training session in is about as appealing to them as syphilis. Here are 3 ways to add some spice back into your training just in time to get you jacked in time for summer.
1. Train Your Full Body Every Time You Hit the Gym
Splitting your training program up into bodyparts makes sense if you’re a bodybuilder when you need to get such a large amount of volume in that your workouts would be 4 hours long if you didn’t. For the rest of us, this isn’t the case. Pick 3 big, compound movements: a push, a pull, and a lower body exercise, and alternate between exercises to get the most bang for your buck. Your program could look something like this:
Day 1: Standing Press, Chin Up, Trap Bar Deadlift
Day 2: 45 degree DB Press, TRX Row, Reverse Lunge
Day 3: Bench Press, Pull Up, Stiff Legged Deadlift
Day 4: Low Incline DB Press, DB Row, Front Squat
Throw a few core exercises or mobility drills into your warm up or between sets and you have a very dense program with lots of quality work without a lot of time or energy-wasting fluff. Besides, if you happen to miss a day for some reason, you still know that you hit your entire body a few times throughout the week, so one part of your body won’t slip.
2. Foam Roll and Do a Dynamic Warm Up
After a tough day of work, sometimes the last thing anyone wants to do is train. You’re tired and stiff, and moving around sounds like torture. By spending some time on the foam roller or lacrosse ball, you’re rewarding yourself with a little massage, and the dynamic warm up will really open up those stiff muscles and joints. 10-15 minutes of this stuff and you’ll be primed to get a good lift in.
3. Use a Finisher for Conditioning
Not only is riding the elliptical while watching TV an inefficient way to burn fat, it’s boring as shit. A finisher is a combination of moves, done for varying reps or time, in a circuit, with a predetermined amount of rest time between rounds. The possibilities are endless when it comes to designing finishers, just keep it simple, and go hard. I like to start each round with something that is going to jack my heart rate up, such as a sprint or sled push, and then choose 2-3 bodyweight or medicine ball exercises to keep it climbing.
As an example, last week I did a finisher that consisted of:
Round 1: 50 foot climb on the VersaClimber, TRX Rows x:20, band resisted pushups x:20
rest 1 minute
Round 2: Heavy Sled Push x:20, Med Ball Slams x:20, Med Ball Side Throws x:20/each side
Rest 1 minute
Round 3: Battle Ropes x:20, Prisoner Lunges x10/ea, Chin Ups x5
I was smoked. My heart rate got up to 88% towards the end of the first round, 92% by the end of the second, and 94% at the end of the 3rd. I got a big time conditioning session in at the end of a lift in less than 10 minutes and didn’t even have to watch a testosterone draining episode of Judge Judy like everyone walking on the treadmill did.
Wrapping It Up
That’s all there is to it, 3 simple ways to upgrade your program to bolster your progress and renew your focus and motivation. Remember, there’s only 8 weeks until you have to shed the jersey at the Memorial Day pool party, so buckle down and crush it!
March 21, 2013Posted by on
There’s not a lot of meals more satisfying than a big ass burger and fries. Problem is, if you go out and allow someone else to make these for you at most restaurant too often, you’re going to become a fat ass with a nice mound of chub covering all those muscles you work so hard to build. Luckily, you can easily make these muscle building bundles of carbs right at home and they are better than the trans fat induced bullshit coming out of your neighborhood joints deep fryer.
What You Need
- sweet potatoes
- sea salt
- olive oil
- garlic powder
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut off the ends. Slice them lengthwise into desired thickness, and lay them out on a flat pan. Drizzle olive oil over them, fairly liberally, then sprinkle on sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Put them in the oven for 12 minutes, then fiip, and cook for another 12 minutes.
Easy as hell. And I think I mentioned that they are awesome. I make them at least once a week, and if I lived alone without female supervision, I would probably house them every night. Give them a shot for dinner tonight. Next week I’ll show you the secret to the best burger you’ve ever made.
March 18, 2013Posted by on
When it comes to designing solid, efficient training programs, pairing exercises is the way to go. By pairing I mean do a set of one exercise, rest, and then do a set of another exercise, rest, and go back to the first exercise again. Whether you pair an upper body exercise with a lower body one, or mix some mobility and/or core work during your rest time between heavy sets of an exercise, alternating exercises is the best way to create density within your training session.
What can sometimes get a little tricky though, is when you have exercises paired up that interfere with each other. For example, both heavy chin ups and deadlifts are incredibly fatiguing on your grip, so pairing them can be difficult as they can take away from the intensity you can have on each exercise. You generally want to put exercises together that don’t utilize the same muscle groups so they don’t compete with each other. What flies in the face of that a little bit though, is something that I’ve really been liking lately, which is pairing an overhead press with TRX (or gymnastics rings) fallouts.
Just be sure to start with the first progression, kneeling, and set the handles at belt height. (I jacked the video from Dan Gabelman, head strength coach at Union College, as I always do. Dan has the best YouTube channel going-he has a million exercises catalogued with a bunch of progressions and performs them all perfectly.) Keep a straight line through your ear, shoulder, hip, and knee, and keep your glutes and core tight so as to not extend at the lower back.
The fallouts are great for allowing the shoulders to move through the overhead motion and getting the rotator cuffs, upper back, and core musculature to fire, which reinforces the overhead postioning for the presses without being so taxing as to take away from the big meat and potatoes lift. It’s a win-win: you’re able to get in some extra core work while you grease the wheels for your heavy pressing exercise.
Give it a whirl and let me know how you like it!
February 10, 2013Posted by on
I am getting really tired of people blaming the president for why they are living a mediocre life, or that eating healthier and exercising a little is too hard, or seeing an athlete just going through the motions and being content with being just another guy on a team. Our society has become so God damn content with being just “ok,” and it’s fucking irritating. Instead of going off on a crazy diatribe, I found this little piece from Edmund Gaudet, which, if it doesn’t motivate the piss out of you, then you need to check for a pulse.
Average Has Become an Epidemic
“Average is what the failures claim to be when their family and friends ask them why they are not more successful?
“Average” is the top of the bottom, the best of the worst, the bottom of the top, the worst of the best. Which of these are you?
“Average” means being run-of-the-mill, mediocre, insignificant, an also-ran, a nonentity.
Being “average” is the lazy person’s cop-out; it’s lacking the guts to take a stand in life; it’s living by default.
Being “average” is to take up space for no purpose; to take the trip through life, but never to pay the fare; to return no interest for God’s investment in you.
Being “average” is to pass one’s life away with time, rather than to pass one’s time away with life; it’s to kill time, rather than to work it to death.
To be “average” is to be forgotten once you pass from this life. The successful are remembered for their contributions; the failures are remembered because they tried; but the “average,” the silent majority, is just forgotten.
To be “average” is to commit the greatest crime one can against one’s self, humanity, and one’s God. The saddest epitaph is this’ “Here lies Mr. and Ms. Average — here lies the remains of what might have been, except for their belief that they were only “average.” –EDMUND GAUDET
Stop the bitching and feeling sorry for yourself, and quit making excuses. It’s your life. Get really fucking good at something and make money doing it. Cultivate healthy relationships. Take responsibility for your weight. Realize that as an athlete you have such a small window of time to do something special, that it’s almost criminal to waste it. Stop pointing the finger at everyone and everything else, look in the mirror, and make the changes necessary to be more than average.
January 30, 2013Posted by on
Sorry for being a bit of a slacker and not posting any new content for the past few weeks. Things are really busy for me right now, with the stretch run before the playoffs for the junior and high school hockey teams I work with ramping up, my personal training schedule returning to normal with clients coming back after holiday vacations, and trying to help the misses with planning our wedding, so writing has taken a bit of a back seat. Excuses suck though, so I’ll just take responsibility and admit that I slacked.
Getting back to business as usual here, I wanted to give a couple quick progressions that I really love for push ups. Like most God fearing, red blooded men who are in pursuit of being as strong and powerful as possible, I love push ups. They are a great way to strengthen the whole body without beating up the joints like some traditional barbell lifts, and if Herschel Walker says they are the cornerstone of his legendary physique, then who am I to argue?
Now, there are a million and one variations of push ups, as I’m sure everyone is well aware of, and sometimes changing them up for the sake of variation is fine, but often times, people struggle with the simple standard version and try to go on to some wild variation prematurely. Since premature anything is pretty well documented as not being good thing, I figured I’d toss out my standard 4 ways to progress and regress push ups.
The first one is something that I picked up from Tony Gentilcore’s blog a while back, who said he got it from my former colleague and current Boston University Grad Assistant Strength Coach Dave Rak, and I dicked around with it a bit and came up with this way to do it. The traditional thing to do when someone struggles with a plain ol’ push up is to elevate the hands to decrease the amount of bodyweight the person has to handle, which sometimes works ok, but in my experience doesn’t translate too quickly back to the normal push up position. Worse than that, though, is that sometimes when the hands are elevated, things go completely haywire and the shoulders, elbows, and hips are all over the place. The solution? Hang a superband from a bar set on a Smith Machine (they have to be used for something right?) or a bar on a regular rack, loop it around the person’s body at about sternum level, and let them go into a normal push up. The band gives more assistance at the bottom position, where they tend to be weaker, and less as the body rises from the floor. This variation has helped more than a few of my clients progress to more challenging variations much faster. Another time this is helpful is for someone who has some beat up shoulders and they experience a little bit of shoulder impingement at the bottom. By using a thinner band, the slight deloading of the bottom position allows them to perform push ups pain free, and I’ve seen it actually get rid of people’s shoulder pain altogether and they are able to ditch the band and move on to regular push ups.
After the normal push up has been dominated, I like to simply elevate the feet. This increases the difficulty, and the higher the feet are elevated, the more difficult it is. Lastly, I’m a huge fan of gymnastics rings for a number of movements, and push ups are no exception. The shoulders are able to move more naturally because the hands aren’t fixed to the floor and there is a huge shoulder stability component introduced.
The variations are really limitless, as you can add external weight, via a weight vest or a few plates or sandbags onto the back, one leg up, 1 arm push ups, etc, but these are my go to’s in order to progress and regress people. Anyone can plug random exercises into a program, but it’s important that the program meets the person where they are at in order to systematically improve. Figure out where you are at, use the variation that fits your current strength level, and work to progress to the next. Getting stronger isn’t that complicated, you just have follow sound progressions and keep getting better.
January 8, 2013Posted by on
Whether you are trying to add muscle or lean out, you’re are a man, woman, or child, one underlying fact remains-if you don’t eat right, you’re not going to thrive. I’d like to think that HOW to eat healthy is common knowledge, but based on the fact that over 35% of the U.S. is obese, clearly it’s not. So as a crash course, regardless of whether you are vegan, Paleo, or part of some other dietary
religion faction, your emphasis should be on eating REAL food.
If you don’t know what real food is, basically just avoid shit that has a barcode on it or can be bought in a drive through and you’ll be off to a solid start.
When it comes to eating healthy, the 2 primary complaints I hear from my clients and athletes are:
- They don’t have time to prepare healthy food,
- They don’t know how to make things that don’t taste like rat piss drained through a dirty sock
These are cop outs, for sure, but the reality is most people aren’t going to go out of their way to learn how to prepare food that they’ll enjoy and they probably won’t budget their time better consistently. That’s why these meathead cooking blogs exist. Use these simple recipes and share them with people that can use them too so we can all be strong, lean, healthy and ready to dominate those mother f’n zombies whenever they decide to rumble.
What is it: Egg Frittata
Ingredients: 3-5 cage free eggs, a shitload of vegetables (I prefer onions, tomatoes, broccoli, and all colors of peppers), any meat and/or cheese you want (if you want any)
- Put a cast iron frying pan on medium heat on the stove, and set the oven to broil.
- While the pan heats up, crack some cage free eggs in a bowl and whisk the yolks as if you were going to make scrambled eggs.
- spray the pan with cooking spray or grease it with a little grass fed butter
- when the pan is heated up, put the eggs in
- throw all the veggies and meat into the eggs, then cover it with some cheese
- when you see the edges of the eggs start are starting to cook, remove the pan from the stove and put it in the oven
- set the timer to 1 minute
- make sure the eggs are cooked through, as all ovens are different but 60-75 seconds seems to be all it takes. Just a few seconds too long burns the shit out of it so keep an eye on it
- Eat your masterpiece
I do this almost every day, usually for a quick lunch when I stop home to let the pup out after my personal training clients and before I head up to train my hockey teams. It literally takes 8 minutes from start to finish, and it’s better than an omelet because the outsides don’t get all crusty and gross. Even the most inept of meatheads can make this, I assure you.
And there you have it, a quick, nutrient dense breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack that doesn’t require a million fancy ingredients or a rocket scientist to prepare. Next time you’re tempted to fuel up on pop tarts or some equally shitty garbage before running out the door, punch yourself in the face, then make this instead. Your physique and performance will thank you, then you can thank me.
January 2, 2013Posted by on
“I can’t wait for the holidays to be over and 2013 to get here. I’m going to get so lean I look like a God damn anatomy chart,” you thought to yourself countless times over the last month in order to ease the guilt while you ate cheesecake by the fistful.
Well now that your New Year’s Day hangover has subsided, it’s finally time to get to work on that little
lie resolution you’ve been swearing to yourself that you were going to keep while you’ve been using your mouth to literally define the term pie hole. It’s time to put your money where you’re mouth is, fat boy, and while it’s not easy, as Dan John likes to say, getting leaner is simple, and I’m going to show you how to construct your conditioning in order to do it.
First of all, if you eat like shit, you’re not going to get lean. I’m not going to rehash the nutritional side of things, as there are a lot of people more qualified than me to do that. I will simply tell you to lay off the booze, eat mostly plants and animals, and get enough sleep. If you want some more reading on simple nutritional guidelines, I’d suggest you check out Brendon Rearick’s article here.
What I want to do with this article is give a simple outline as to how to program your conditioning to get healthier and leaner, without fucking yourself up. With the prevalence of Crossfit and P90X and whatnot, a lot of people seem to think that death circuits until you puke are the only way to a physique like GSP’s.
A lot of these heavy duty, no rhyme or reason, and often unbalanced circuits tend to run most people into the ground and reinforce shitty movement. By having a quick reference chart to draw from, you will be able to put together your own intelligent and progressive conditioning routines that will help you make actual progress in 2013.
Over the last year , I’ve really changed my stance on “finishers,” when it comes to general population trainees. I use to program specific progressions for conditioning so as to not stir up any overuse injuries. When it comes to competitive athletes, I still do in that their conditioning will vary by where they’re at in their training year and is more specific towards their chosen sport, but with the average person who wants to get healthier, leaner, and have a little fun while not allowing themselves to get stale, why not finish up a solid strength workout with 8-10 minutes of varied, hard interval work?
The trick is, these circuits should be repeatable, so you have measurable data to track and show whether you’re making improvements or not. For example, if you set the clock to 10 minutes and put together a 5 exercise circuit, you should be recording how many rounds you complete so that next time, you can try to get more. Another way is to use a heart rate monitor and see how it averages out over the circuit, how fast you recover, etc. Keeping records will help to motivate you, and also to monitor progress. While you won’t always improve in a perfectly linear fashion, you should still try to get better over time.
The chart below, which is by no means all encompassing, is how I tend to design my conditioning circuits. I prefer to start with a full body movement, followed by an upper body pull (before the person gets tired and tries to shrug everything), then a lower body movement, an upper body push, and finish with another full body exercise. (The full body columns at each end encompass the same movements, so you can use the ones from the right column at the beginning and vice versa.) Most of the exercises are bodyweight or use minimal equipment and load. I prefer these types of exercises for circuits as they are much safer as fatigue sets in, and you can get some really good volume of compound exercises in a short amount of time. That’s why your heart feels like it’s going to beat out of your chest and your muscles start blowing up like balloons.
When it comes to the time/reps/rounds/distance prescription, that’s where the fun part comes in. There are an infinite number of possibilities here, so have some fun with it. Maybe 20 seconds on, 40 seconds off, then on to the next exercise, or maybe sets of 10, then 9, and work down to 1. It’s up to you and how you feel that day.
|Full Body *||Upper Pull||Lower||Upper Push||Full Body*|
|KB Swing||Chin Up||Split Squat||Push Up||Agility Ladders|
|MB Slam||TRX Row||Goblet Squat||Feet Elevated Push Up||Sled Drag|
|MB Chest Pass||DB Row||Lunge||Scorpion Push Up||Backwards Sled Drag|
|MB Side Toss||Rope Row||Reverse Lunge||Bench Press||Mountain Climber|
|Battling Ropes||KB Row||Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat||DB Bench Press||Jump Squat|
|Sled Push||Plank Row||Slideboard Lunge||DB, KB, BB Overhead Press||Sprint|
|Airdyne Sprint||Side Plank Row||TRX Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat||DB Curl to Press||Incline Treadmill Run|
*colums are interchangeable
A simple circuit that I like to use is:
- 24 kg KB Swing :15 on/:45 off
- TRX Row :15/:45 off
- Split Squat :15 Left/:15 right/:45 off
- Fee Elevated Pushup :15/:45 off
- Heavy Sled Push x+/-15 yds
- rest 1 minute, then repeat 3-4 times, depending on how I feel.
As you can see, the options are really limitless. It’s just important to use a lot of compound and self limiting exercises. I see a lot of fitness professionals who will tell people to put together circuits where on the 3rd or 4th exercise, it calls for something like 12 chin ups. I know not everyone can do that, as it’s going to be pretty tough to get 12 if that’s the only exercise you’re doing, let alone when your lungs are burning and your grip is about to give out. That’s a quick way to do 1. shitty half chins, or 2. get hurt, or 3. get a half ass workout in because you couldn’t do a portion of it and lost steam. That’s why the chart above works so well-you can adjust according to your abilities, and it’ll always end up balanced. Use the chart above to construct 6-10 minute conditioning circuits and do them after your strength work 3-4 times a week for the next month. You’ll be glad you did.
P.S. Don’t forget to enter your email address in the upper right corner on the home page so you can be notified whenever I post awesome shit.
P.P.S If you enjoyed this piece, and think someone else might be able to benefit from it, feel free to share it on Facebook, Twitter, or just tell someone you know who wants to be more jacked and awesome.
December 18, 2012Posted by on
I love trap bar deadlifts for building total body strength. If a squat and a deadlift had a baby,that illegitimate little bastard would be a TBDL, as it’s really a hybrid of the two. It’s a lift that’s relatively easy to learn and harder to screw up than a conventional deadlift, so it has a significantly lower injury risk. Do I love a big bang for my buck exercise with a decreased risk of injury? Can I make a shoe smell?. That’s why it’s a staple in my programs for myself, my personal training clients, and my athletes.
While a TBDL generally has a lower learning curve than a conventional deadlift, sometimes people will still find a way to f’ it up. The most common mistake I see isn’t the low back rounding typically seen with a shitty conventional deadlift though.
Instead I often see people stop short of fully extending their hips at the top of each rep. Just as you wouldn’t do half a squat and count it as a full rep, you can’t do a half of a TBDL and expect to reap 100% of the rewards. There are 2 common reasons why people do this:
1. Lack of body awareness-See, when you lock out a deadlift with a straight bar, the bar touches the front of the quads, giving a natural endpoint of a rep.
At the top of a TBDL, however, there is space between the front of the body and the trap bar, causing some people to lose track of where they are in space and stop short of full extension, leaving their ass behind:
or to do the opposite and thrust their hips towards the front of the bar, hyperextending and hanging on the low back like a MF’er. This is no good for a bunch of reasons-the increased risk of injury with a hyperextended, loaded spine being the most obvious.
These technical problems can typically be fixed pretty quickly with an easy cue like butt and belly tight when you get to the top so it looks like this:
2. Short and/or jacked up hip flexors-Part of your hip flexor complex attaches on your lower back, so if they don’t have the proper length and/or your tissue quality sucks, they will literally pull your lumbar spine forward towards your hips. Your pelvis get pulled forward (as in the middle picture below) so your glutes aren’t able to extend your hips fully, and again your lower back is taking some serious wear and tear.
Simply put, if you want to get stronger and stay healthy, you’ve gotta take the steps to fix that. The 3 pronged approach that I’ve used with a lot of success with a lot of my hockey players, who have notoriously brutal hip flexors, goes like this:
1. Roll the glutes, the junction where the IT band and quad meet, and into the front of the hips, with some apparatus, whether it’s a foam roller or a baseball.
2. Stretch the hip flexor complex in a way incorporates internally rotating the hip. This allows the psoas, which is the part of the hip flexors that attaches on the lumbar spine, to be stretched. Here’s a box hip flexor stretch, as shown by Coach Kevin Carr of MBSC and Movement as Medicine.
3. Perform a few Cook Hip lifts to work the extend the hips through the new range of motion created. I prefer to do a 3-4 on each side, holding each one for 5-10 sec, and really focusing on squeezing the glute and pushing the hip to the ceiling.
Go back to your TBDL and see how much better your positioning is at the top. A better position means more strength, so stop leaving your ass behind so you can get bigger, stronger, jump higher, run faster, and fill out those goddamn jeans!
And remember, if you haven’t yet subscribed to TrainOutlaw.com yet, please click on the link at the top right corner of the page in order to be notified of new content!
December 12, 2012Posted by on
Last summer, I posted 20 Effortless Ways to Make You Life Awesome-er, and it’s still my most shared blog ever. With New Year’s resolution season approaching, I figured a second installment is in order. Don’t wait for December 31 to make some arbitrary vow that you know you won’t keep, do some of these little things to be more productive, be happier, and feel better all around!
1. Put $20 every week into an account for the next Christmas.
2. Watch youtube videos of awkwardly awesome animal friend relationships more often.
3. Put a few golf balls under your desk and roll out your feet while you work. Throwing in a few ankle mobs and leg swings throughout the day won’t hurt either if it’s possible.
4. Read fewer self help books. Do you really need to spend time and money for someone else to tell you that you need to spend (a little) less time looking at internet porn and more time cultivating relationships with family, friends, and colleagues?
5. Have someone else write your training program for 3 months. You probably spend more time in the gym doing things that you like to do than things you need to do, and your performance and physique will reflect that. Fix it.
6. Grab coffees instead of beers with your buddies once in awhile. You’ll spend more time catching up because nobody will get distracted by chasing skirts at the bar.
7. Hard boil a dozen cage free eggs on Sunday so you won’t have an excuse to slam the snack machine on Tuesday when the midmorning snack attack hits.
8. Turn off your phone, computer, and TV for a whole day and night at least once a week. Check yourself out of the rat race. With the social media driven world we live in, you can actually fall completely off the grid without leaving your home by doing this. Afterwards, you’ll realize that the world will go on without you, and you’ll have gotten some shit done that you’ve been putting off.
9. Call your grandmother once a week if you’re lucky enough to still have her here.
10. Don’t post about how much you hate your job or how tired or fat you are on Facebook or Twitter. Nobody cares, it reinforces your negative feelings, and it takes away from energy you could be using to remedy your situation.
11. Drink a tall glass of water first thing in the morning. First thing. Like before you hit Dunkin’s for coffee.
12. Stay up late on a weekend when you can sleep in a little the next morning doing nothing important. You’ll be itching to be productive the next day.
13. Train for performance. The look will follow.
14. Decide how much money you need to make to be happy. Divide it by 52 and that’s how much you have to make a week. Figure out how to make that much. Don’t spend too much time figuring it out. It’ll get in the way of doing it.
15. Go to a restaurant by yourself and order a beer and a steak at the bar. Eat it and watch a game on TV. It’s empowering as hell and you look like a stud.
16. Donate a toy around the holidays for a charity that helps give kids a Christmas morning. If you have the means, donate more.
17. Buy a kettlebell and do a few sets of 10-20 swings EVERY day.
18. Don’t bask in the glory or wallow in the pity of what you HAVE done. Focus on what you are DOING now.