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Barbell In Another Dimension

When it comes to training strategy it is tough to please everyone. Whether it is a test of beliefs, a test of text and context, or just some good old fashioned argument I have learned that there is a lot of strong opinions on which answer is the best one.

Everyone has their own methods that have worked for them and that is a good thing. I think that it is a good thing we have the ability to share information (most of the time). The consequence however being that it is tough to be able to formulate your own answers when you have so many
"right" answers being thrown at you.

Kind of gives you that feeling of being stuck at a fork in the road and you need to make the decision of whether turning left or right will get you to your destination.

When I train my clients it is a certainty that I am doing what I need to be doing in order to cater to their goals. Whether they are aware of it or not (most of them well aware) however is I have two orders of business that I feel the need to tend to throughout the process. I want them to get stronger and I want them moving well in multiple planes of motion. The questions being of course what tools do I have, what is my environment, and how do I effectively draw from both disciplines.

Then of course I need to remind myself of the idea of text vs context because even after being at this for years I tend to label things.

I begin to think strength and a barbell pops in my head. I think barbell and I think squat, deadlift, clean, press.

I begin to think three dimensional movement and Freemotions, kettlebells, and Vipr's.

Soon these thoughts run through my head.
 

  • Equipment doesn't grow on trees
  • I don't like labels
  • I do however like barbells
  • Strength is very good. Well oiled movement is very good.
  • Use what you have, give what you've got

To put this last statement into perspective, welcome to my second office.

 

 

This is where I spend my time coaching U of C baseball and when it comes to weight room you are looking at it. Thirty five players, three squat cages, three barbells, some plates, bands, and the rest being turf. 

And I dig it.

 

We use barbells a lot and with the intention of both strength and three dimensional movement. There really is no choice in the matter and it has worked well as a result of concept, eliminating labels behind equipment and disciplines and ultimately making the most of what we have.

 

Sometimes when you reach that fork and have to make a decision of left or right it might just be best to hit the gas pedal and drive that vehicle right up the middle.

 

The barbell has become one of those vehicles for me. I love squats, deadlifts, presses, and olympic lifts but my appreciation for the barbell has brought its use to another level.

 

Not Quite That Dimension
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suitcase Deadlift

 

The suitcase has become a favorite of mine for a number of reasons. It's ability to hinge and mobilize the hip laterally has made it a favorite. Not to mention its ability to load the hip, trunk and mid back on a much more unique angle.

 

 

Alternative to: 

  • DB or cable side bends
  • Windmills  

1 Legged Deadlift

A twist on a dumbell variation that I have really come to appreciate. Once again you are providing a rotational hinge on the hip. I prefer the back foot touching down as it allows you to make the most of the working leg rather than just trying to stay upright at the expense of shutting down the glutes. Once again the ability to touch down gives you the perfect opportunity to apply force to the ground with your foot as well as force to the bar by strangling it with your hand. That force production allows you to understand what needs to go to work before you get the bar off of the ground.

 Alternative To

  • DB  1 legged RDL

Landmine Press

Not only a shoulder friendly alternative to vertical presses. The wide reaching landmine press has become one of my favorites in the sense of hip and trunk anti rotation. Force production from the feet is vital to get the most bang for your buck and when you have that dialed in you have a press that will absolutely rock your hips and torso. A staple with my baseball players.

Alternative To:

  • DB overhead pressing
  • Palloff press
  • DB 1 Arm incline chest press
  • Low to high chops

Barbell 1 Arm Bent Over Row

Any pulling patterns that require you to load the hip and I dig it. Kroc rows as well as 1 arm DB bent over rows are two of my favorite back builders so why not apply it to the barbell. I prefer the rotation the shoulder receives with the dumbbell.

But when life gives you lemons, grab the salt and tequilla (and/or a barbell).

Alternative to:

  • Kroc Rows
  • Split stance bent over DB row
  • Standing cable row

Barbell Chop

The trunk and thoracic stability, ground force, the rotation, the potential for explosiveness, and the way you can teach the hip to coil and uncoil the sake of producing and absorbing force. 

All of these characteristics of the barbell chop make this an absolute favorite for me regardless of the long list of toys we now have at our disposal when it comes to rotation.

Alternative to:

  • Cable low to high chops
  • Med ball tosses

Would I consider the barbell to be the pinacle of multi dimensional movement? 

I certainly wouldn't compare it to some of the versatility of some of the latest tools targeted to movement but it certainly has its place. 
 

If the expectation is to get people moving in other dimensions I think that the barbell is still at the top when it comes to producing force and 
developing strength in multiple dimensions. 

Not a new concept by any means but a concept that requires you to think in multiple dimensions.

(Honorable mention to Sorinex for the badass t-shirt)

Mar 8, 2013
UNmobility

I never knew what to think of it at first but it has happened enough now to accept that it happens and will continue to happen for a long time to come.

You know those moments when the light switch in your head goes off and you all of a sudden get slapped in the face by an idea that will forever change the way you think about a particular subject.
The type of slap that leaves a mark.

A mark that will positively affect your thinking moving forward and make you wonder what the hell  was running through your head when thinking back.

Here is one of these moments.

Long story short I was asked to design and instruct a course on mobility for trainers. No problem as it is something that I like talking about. The only stumbling block being what key points on the topic of mobility would I want to express within a set amount of time.

It had then occurred to me that I had made a critical mistake in the way I was going about expressing the topic of mobility.

I was treating it like a topic.

The fact is that even though mobility is unique in its own right it is still a part of a much bigger picture.

It is not just mobility. It is exercise and in order to truly express the topic of mobility by describing the benefits and throw some exercises at trainers does not do it justice.

It puts a label on a list of exercises and by doing that takes away from one very significant point. It's exercise. It is something that needs to be prescribed through continual assessment. It needs to be cued, it needs to be well executed, it needs to be progressive, and it needs to be prescribed to complement the goal that is laid out in front of you.

It goes well beyond just being categorized as mobility. To put it bluntly, if mobility is looked at as mobility and nothing else.....well then mobility isn't all that great.
 

Mobility Work? You're Damn Right It Is

To make mobility effective is to not label it as mobility but to integrate it as exercise intended to produce a desired movement. To do that requires polishing certain skills and thought processes behind your mobility prescription.

You Can't Have One Without The Other

Plain and simple you just can't make the most of mobilizing an area without cooperation from a surrounding area. The mobility/stability grid from the brilliant Mike Boyle lays it all out for you.
(Honorable mention going to the wrist and hand)
 

Joint

Need

Foot

Stability

Ankle

Mobility

Knee

Stability

Hip

Mobility

Lumbar Spine

Stability

Thoracic Spine

Mobility

Scapula

Stability

Gleno-Humeral Joint

Mobility

Elbow

Stability

Wrist

Mobility

Hand

Stability

Hinging has always been my favorite example to back up this chart as a linear hinge pattern certainly addresses a lot of the needs listed above. However when using it for mobilizing I often look to the areas requiring stability to assess any breaks in the chain because any lapse in stability can have profound effects on the mobilizing capability of the hinge.

Reason being if you are to see an inability for someone to create adequate foot stability all of a sudden mobility limitations of the ankle are showcased. Which of course alters the job description of the knee and forces it to work a lot of unnecessary overtime at the expense of it serving its true purpose listed above.

You want an example of it just try a standing body weight good morning with a soft knee as well as a slightly hyper-extended knee. two completely different movements with two completely different striking patterns of the foot.

Stability is something that cannot be overlooked if you are looking to enhance movement as it is one of many factors that you need to be constantly assessing not only in mobility work but all facets of exercise.

Mobility Requires Contact

The most generic answer I give when discussing mobility is that it is an ability to produce a desired movement. To really understand that is to take things well beyond just the quantitative prescription and understand that producing a desired movement requires the production of force. For that reason it is extremely important to understand what needs to happen at your points of contact.

By listening to your points of contact you will have the ability to produce the force required to initiate movement, to feel movement, and for the sake of continual assessment they will provide you with the end range feedback required to understand where limitations present themselves.

The six point squat has proven to be one of my favorites not only for the sake of mobilization and movement prep but also assessment.

Ross here provides a cool example of just that. He is a university level pitcher that came to me with pain in his throwing elbow. I like this movement for him due to its ability to begin mobilizing each shoulder.

Each point of contact has its purpose as he is driving the floor forward with his knees and toes in order to drive his hips back. He is pulling the floor back with his lead hand in order to provide length through his arm line and shoulder. What's great about it is that he is able to wrap his head around what his hips should be doing in a standing squat. On top of that it is his ability to control his hips that will determine what type of bang for the buck that your shoulder gets out of it.

What is also interesting is when he begins to feel length throughout the low back. Interesting because of what its potential effects on the throwing arm may be if he has limitations with his hip control that put him in a situation where he needs to overuse his low back.

All of a sudden the list of answers to the problem starts to grow. Continue mobilizing the hip and shoulder, piece together a resistance program that puts emphasis on redirecting load back into the glutes, trunk, and thoracic spine with the intention of him understanding the differentiation between the lumbar and thoracic region.

Which brings up another important factor.

Breathe

The tight and weak mindset is a way of thinking that has cast a dark shadow over training the anterior chain.

While posterior chain strength is something that I would say we could all use a little more of based on lifestyle decisions the missing link to optimal use of the hip and thoracic spine is our ability to strengthen and control the anterior core region.

Stretching the pec and hip flexors will provide a band-aid solution but when it comes down to successful hip flexion and thoracic extension in a deep squat or the starting point of a deadlift. What it boils down to is how well you can expand your abdomen. For that reason I have integrated a lot of breathing voodoo into my programming in order to bring consciousness into something that we rarely do think about doing.

The effect for the majority of people that I work with? Those who want to get stronger become noticeably stronger. Those with low back pain progressively felt better and better as it restored function through the hip and changed their behavior when it comes to what and how much is being in movement.

Bring awareness to diaphragmatic breathing and integrate it not only in mobility work but resistance work to rethink the purpose of the abdomen as anterior core competence is absolutely vital to produce movement. It is just a matter of training the chain link fence effect of the trunk versus training the rigamortis effect that is commonly associated with core training.

It's All Exercise

I have seen it enough now to know that putting a label on mobility is to treat it as an engagement get out of jail free card. It's ''mobility'' so it has to be good right?

Truthfully its movement and movement is exercise so it needs to be treated like it. It needs to be understood, it needs to be assessed, and it needs to follow the same rules of regression and progression as anything else that is getting done in the gym.

Producing a desired movement requires a clear understanding of what needs to be moving in order to create that so mindfulness and efficiency should be a big part of what you are doing.

Let's not forget either that restoring movement is not just a product of ''mobility''.

Training is all about how well you can derive result. So if someone comes into me hoping to restore motion in their shoulder I am not just thinking mobility. I am seeking out every dirty trick in the book when it comes to all facets of exercise in order to get that bad boy moving and that makes the label of mobility a very small piece of quite a large exercise puzzle.

Feb 7, 2013
Right Brained Training

I don't consider myself to be a veteran of the workforce by any means. I do feel like I got into it at a very interesting time in our history. An interesting time for all the right reasons as purpose and meaning in work is becoming as big a priority as salaries and benefits.

I don't know the numbers but based on observation, training is certainly no exception. I have encountered a lot of people over the years who have walked away from some very impressive backgrounds to a pursue a career in training.

What I consider a huge positive for training also opens my eyes to the fact that there are going to be a lot of trainers out there moving forward.

But who said there was anything wrong with a little competition as it really does push us all to become better. Not to mention I believe that the diversity of education and workplace experience has really changed the game when it comes to acknowledging what better is.

Even in my short history I have noticed some major shifts in what becoming a better trainer really means. No longer is training excellence about becoming a better practitioner. It has evolved into  being a better listener, communicator, thinker, problem solver, educator, and leader.

On top of that, it is the ability to take these characteristics and blend them into your own identity and way of thinking if you are looking to establish individuality within this growing, hyper-competitive field.

Take Goal Setting With A Grain Of Salt

I've become increasingly torn with goal setting. I see its purpose when it comes to getting people motivated to take action. On the flip side I see it as a necessary evil that gets taken out of context and is taken too serious.

The way that I now look at goal setting is that yes it gives me something to direct my attention toward in the sense of exercise selection. One of the biggest mistakes I have ever made is directing too much of my attention to the desired outcome rather than polishing my skills as a coach and educator.

Results are the name of the game but for a lot of people who step into a training experience it is just as important to program to produce the culture of exercise as it is to produce the logistics.

Acknowledge and cater to the ''I want to lose 20lbs'', ''I want to get strong'', ''I want to get jacked'' type of goals that conquer traditional goal setting.

However, where you really prove your worth is your ability to bring success to goals such as ''I want to be consistent'', ''I want to reassess and re program my life outside of the gym'', and ''I want to want to be here''.

Goal setting in fitness is pursuing an end game in a game with no real end.

Listen

I agree with having a plan in place but a plan can get altered fast after engaging in a bit of storytelling.

Narrative programming in my eyes is a real dark horse in program design as it is as personalized as it gets. It is something that polishes your ability to listen, problem solve, as well as efficiently addressing the variability of your programming that could be thrown at you on any given day.

Your ability to prescribe exercise according to storytelling and feedback will improve your efficiency and confidence in your decision making and your ability to listen is certainly something that will be appreciated.

Evolve Your Assessment Strategy

To polish your ability to listen is to polish your vision. Assessment a strategy to establish a starting point as well as a success tracker. To become better and better at it is to understand that it assessment never stops and it is not limited to exercise.

Assessing body language, hand shakes, posture, warm ups, as well as exercise will allow you to see things that would otherwise get overlooked if assessment is not in the back of your mind throughout the process.

Understand The True Meaning Of Style

Style is often the term used to label your way of doing things in the gym. The problem with it is that it does not always tell the whole story.

Style is not established through choosing one methodology over the other. I know that I have been labelled as a ''mobility guy'' or a ''corrective exercise guy'' as of late and I cannot say that I would consider myself to be anything remotely close to that.

The way that I like to train is a result of taking in as much information as I can from as many sources as I can. Applying what I like and then finding common ground between what I like and what I feel is the best fit possible for the person in front of me at any given time. It has been fine tuned a lot in the past and I expect it to be fine tuned a lot in the future so to look at it exclusively as a ''style'' does not always do it justice.

Willpower Is Overrated

I've had some great conversations about this statement over the past few months and my opinion remains. I believe that the will to change is important but if the process is a being fueled only through force, it is only a matter of time before the bubble bursts.

For that reason I think that as trainers there needs to be a shift from being labelled as figures of motivation and accountability.

To me that only tells you part of the story as there is a lot more to transformation than it being a test of will. Great trainers know that change goes well beyond making sacrifices and testing will. They have the ability to drive change through education, coaching and transparency. Rather than success through sacrifice it really becomes about what gets enriched throughout the process.

Much better way of going about your business. 

Jan 21, 2013
From Russia With Love

 

I've been very fortunate to work with and learn from some incredible minds in the fields of fitness, training, and strength and conditioning.

It goes beyond that however as I believe that the message is much more profound than what their title showcases. There are people in this business who live and love what they do. It is work and very hard work at that but rarely is there a day when it feels like it. Their ability to train, educate, and coach is producing change in health, well being, performance, and outlook beyond people's wildest expectations.

Most imporatntly they are re-invigorating a component of wealth that has been overlooked for quite some time. The idea that health, performance, and education are a currency in their own right and that it is something that provides a payout that no investment strategy will ever be able to touch as long as we are on this planet. 

I had the good fortune of being interviewed by one of these people this week. You can get it here.

I've known Sean Guevremont for a number of years and had the pleasure of working with him for a good part of it. 

As exciting as it is to be interviewed by another top notch coach I felt like getting his insights was something that had to be done considering I look at his story as something more interesting than mine.

Sean has been spending the season with the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia as their strength and conditioning coach. A very well respected title in the strength and conditioning community but a position that has required him to pack up and bust his ass in a completely different culture, language, and location. Not to mention spending a substantial amount of time away from his friends, clients, family, and his wife (read her post on his blog and you will see that she is a cool ass wife).

What is really amazing about the whole thing is that he is a part of a coaching staff that is rebuilding from unimaginable tragedy after last year's plane crash that claimed the lives of the entire team and coaching staff. 

For that reason I am extremely humbled that he had asked me to be a part of his website and compelled to share his story. 

So here we go.
 

JA
 

So you're in Russia. How has it been getting used to a new opportunity in a completely new    culture? How are you enjoying things now that you've been there for a while?
 
SG
Where to start, things have been great, the most challenging part was getting here and settled, all the visas, housing, transportation, banking, etc. is a whole lot different than North America and with the language barrier it doesn’t make things any easier. I have to have someone help me with all the translations, so when you are used to getting things done quickly it makes for a tough adjustment.
 
The training has had it challenges as well; you don’t know how much you rely on verbal cues and coaching until it is gone. The time we have available with the player’s in-season, the equipment, and the difficulty to communicate has made me re-think my programming and exercise selection. The upside is that you have to be creative and quick to make adjustments where needed.
 
As for the Russian culture, I am enjoying the new experience, meeting new people, learning new ways of thinking about preparation, sport, and even daily living.
 
JA
How was this unique opportunity presented to you and what advice would you give to anyone seeking out a similar opportunity?
 
SG 
This is actually a long story, so I won’t bore you with all the details and give you the short version.
 
I met a trainer a few years ago named Andy O’Brien out at Edge School in Calgary, he is the trainer to hockey superstar Sydney Crosby amongst many other high profile athletes (Patrick Chan, Dana Torres, and Alex Rodriguez). We chatted a few times, kept in touch but that was about that.
 
Fast forward to last fall/winter, Andy was doing some interesting stuff with concussions and thought it would be something that I would like to learn about, I am always one to take an opportunity to learn something new so we re-connected.
 
This led to more discussion and a possibility to help Andy with some work he was doing in Ontario during the summer. Fortunately it fell through but he promised that another opportunity would come our way not to worry (how he knew that this would happen I will never know?)
 
Another opportunity did come up! In Early June Andy received an email about a Strength and Conditioning Job opening up in hockey that he thought might be a good fit for me (even though it was in Russia and I am newly married), he suggested I apply and so I did and the rest is history.
 
So I guess to answer your question fully, what advice would I give aspiring coaches, work hard, be patient, believe that the right opportunity will present itself and hope for a little luck.
 
JA
What does your average day look like with the Lokomotiv?
 
SG
I have come to realize that there is no such thing as an average day, things change by the second, schedules, priorities, needs of the players, literally everything, you just have to roll with it and adapt.
 
My responsibilities include warm-ups, team training, training injured players, training non-dressers on game day, recovery methods, talking with the coaching staff to understand what direction they are going, talking with the medical staff and integrating the training needs needed for each player, and finally and most importantly communicating with the players as best I can to understand where they are at physically, mentally, and emotional so that they are ready come game day.
 
You're doing a fair bit of travelling as well. Is life on the road all business or do you get a chance to sit back sometimes and say ''this is cool''?
 
I think the M.O of a hockey team is they visit a lot of airports and hotels. Most of the time our schedule is really tight, leaving only enough time to eat, sleep, practice, play, and then off to the next city.
 
I wish I could tell you differently but it’s not as glamorous as it sounds.
 
JA 
What is the craziest KHL city that you have visited and why?
 
SG
All of the Russian and European cities are unique; some have much better living conditions than others. We tend to stay at some of the nicer hotels in each city, some are Hiltons where others are single bed, hotel built in the 1960’s, sheets may have never been changed type hotels.
 
The experiences have been interesting in all the cities, one game player’s are telling you not to take a walk alone after dinner and the next they are saying you should go shopping downtown for some Dolce Gabbana or something like that. The contrast can be somewhat shocking at times.
 
JA
You have solid strength and conditioning experience in both North America and Europe. How does the Russian and European strength and conditioning community stack up against North America?
 
SG 
So different! I mean my background was definitely biased to strength work as the foundation to build upon. I am however working on the proper application and development of athlete’s work capacity and power in regards to their specific sport and can see how that can make a huge impact on true performance.
 
The Russian culture leans more to a heavy volume of low intensity work. Many of the athletes have a lower than expected strength level, their whole lives seemed to have revolved around, aerobic training, circuits, power endurance work, etc… So trying to change their minds when communication means are limited has been a real challenge.
 
We have a few international players that play for our team and I believe that their development is different once again. Technically they are amongst the higher percentile of the team, they are usually fairly conditioned, and display a little more power than the other players.
 
Which is best? I think it all depends on the coaching the players receive as young players. A proper model for long-term development should be applied and revisited yearly and improved upon taking the best practices from all areas. Unfortunately due to ego’s I think that would be almost impossible to accomplish.
 
 
 
JA 
What's next?
 
That’s up to my wife…Lol. No but in all seriousness, I want to continue to focus on the rest of the season, make sure that we do everything we can to reach our goals and then re-evaluate after that.
 
I do however love the sun, so if anyone in California is reading this and has an opportunity I am all ears.
 
JA 
You took on a position within an organization that has experienced tragedy beyond recognition. How is it being part of a fresh start within Yaroslavl and what is the culture like moving forward?
 
SG 
Whenever I am having a bad day I just think about what I am doing and why it is important that I bring my best effort everyday. Yaroslavl and it’s fans live and breathe hockey, the atmosphere in the rink and on the streets on game day is electric, I know that re-building this team is important to each and everyone of them and I am so grateful and humbled to be apart of this. This is something that I will remember forever.
 
Big thanks to Sean for taking some time to answer some questions. You can catch more of him on his website. Not to mention this is a name that I am sure you will be seeing more of in the very near future.
 
Back In The Day

All the best,

Jeff

Dec 1, 2012
The Anatomy Of Completion

Result is a powerful word in training. It is the ability to produce a desired result is ultimately what determines my livelihood so naturally figuring out how to produce the best result possible is something that takes up a lot of attention.

If there is anything that I can say about result is that it is certainly something in fitness that we over think, over complicate, and quite frankly I believe that the general perception of result is over rated.

Not to say that incredible results do not happen nor would I take anything away from anyone currently pursuing or achieving great results from their efforts. I think we just need to re-wire the way that we think about them.

I get the chance to discuss the topic a lot. Fortunately I have some extremely bright people around me day in and day out who are able to weigh in on the subject as well. People who have experienced success through creativity, through their profession, through their personal lives, and through their well being.

The consensus? It all follows the same formula. It is only the factors that vary.

So whether you are looking to make magic, music, money, or muscles the path to getting it done follows a very similar anatomy.

Results Sound Sexy But Process Makes Sexy

I've said it before but I don't enjoy before and after shots. Not to take away from the efforts that are required to get to the after but that's just the point. They just don't showcase the anatomy of a transformation as there is a lot more to it than taking a before shot and showing up in shape three months after.

It really is meant to be a process mindset over a results mindset because that to me is what change is about. Change is meant to last.

You want a truly process minded transformation challenge size up the after photo and the after the after photo photo. If that grammatically makes any sense at all.

Why Do We Have To Fight?

Willpower has its purpose but is it everything? When I think of will I think of fight and I think that is something that we sometimes need but certainly not all the time. Healthy outcomes usually come as a result of peace. A creative individual is at their best when their process is unforced. Your best workouts occur when you are primed to get in the gym.

Will may push you when you absolutely need to be pushed but will needs to evolve into clarity, integration of process, education on process, and eventually enjoyment of process even though it may not always be perfect. Pursue peace before you get tired of fighting.

Too Much Success Gazing And Not Enough Trailblazing

There is absolutely nothing wrong with looking for insight into what has worked for others but eventually it does come down to you. You are your own system and if you're only following the success stories of others at the expense of your own system's requirements it will only get you so far.
 

Information is a great thing but it is meant to be information. For information to work it needs to be acquired, processed, filtered, and independently tailored to fit a desired outcome. Fitness is certainly no exception.

Results Are The End Game. But Is It Ever Really Over?

I interviewed a client a number of months back for a post titled The Body In Flow. To this day it has been one of my favorites because we have a lot in common. Both the same age and both trying to chase our passions. Jarrod was able to release his first solo electronic album this past week and I was able to attend his release party this past weekend. I asked him what the next move for him was and his answer was make more music. Best answer ever.

In fact the one thing that he had commented on was how much releasing a record has sidetracked him from making more music.

If there is anything I can say about results is that what may start out as red carpet expectation for completion is that it is often overshadowed by completing goals before even recognizing they were completed. If anything original goals are either shattered or upgraded throughout nourishing the process. It really doesn't stop and that really isn't a bad thing.

By the way the album kicks ass and I mean it. Nothing coming my way for this plug I just really enjoy it. You can get it Here.

Not to mention I thought the album title is quite fitting for the topic.

I'll finish by saying that the process is meant to be enjoyed. It provides its challenges and it tests patience but it all happens for a reason and I think we need to embrace that.

I am beginning to count down for a Holiday break after going hard for the past few months and have to say that looking back it's been a fun ride. Between being in the gym, the classroom, Dinos Baseball, travelling, and plugging away at this blog when I get the chance it has all been a blast. For those of you who have been a part of it in any way thanks for being a part of my own personal process and for making me better at what I love to do.

All the best

Jeff

Nov 26, 2012
Secret Agent Strength. The Thoracic Spine

It's rare that I develop the urge to step foot into an overused movie theater to take in a new flick but occasionally it happens and it usually happens as a result of a new James Bond Release.

I have been a fan of the James Bond saga for a long time now and have complete admiration for each film that comes out. More important is my admiration for the man himself.

There are the obvious reasons of course as I am certain that I couldn't resist the ability to wear a nice suit, trash a nice car, and entertain the company that he has entertained time in and time out.
 

Yesss...Company

But it goes way beyond that. What I can admire most about agent 007 is that although he is not the most physically or verbally imposing agent, he is still able to kick some ass and get the job done working with what he has.

A valuable lesson that can definitely be carried over to the iron.

Though we may not all be hard wired with the same physical capabilities, the one thing that Mother Nature cannot sell anyone short on is getting where you want to be by making the most of what you have. In other words, in addition to traditional programming there is plenty of concept that can be applied to what you are doing. Whether you're training for strength, muscle, speed, power, whatever keep in mind that in addition to lifts, weight, reps, sets, and rest. Be sure to direct some of those efforts into how it is being done and take the time to consider concept and be amazed by the progress that can be made by integrating every dirty trick in the book.

Secret Agent Style

On with it then. Secret Agents Of The Thoracic Region

The T-Spine is our headquarters of our multidimensional movement of the upper body. Much like the hips, the thoracic region provides the same ability to push, pull, accelerate, decelerate, contract, and expand in multiple movement planes. In lifting, it is the ability to get to know your thoracic region as well as possible that will allow you to bust through big lift plateauing and complement it with the durability needed to keep you lifting the way that you want to lift.

Fortunately there is a growing initiative to understand the thoracic region through mobility and stability drills and exercises. To take it further is to bring that same initiative to your lifts and figure out how much you actually have working for you when it comes to making the most of your thoracic region.

001. Trunk Flu-RigidityTrain your trunk to move while resisted by training both trunk contraction and expansion. A solid thoracic spine requires a rock solid trunk but still requires an element of fluidity that doesn't happen if your core contraction is similar to anticipating a car wreck. This can be trained through drills that require contraction, expansion, rotation, and anti rotation.

 

 

 

 

 

To train the trunk in this way allows the trunk to do its part in providing the freedom required in the shoulder girdle to get the most out of it. It also lays the ground work for 002.

002. Create An Identity Between the Lumbar and Thoracic Spine

While there is nothing wrong with unity when it comes to lifting but when it comes to the lumbar-thoracic region how much goes where?

If you're looking to up your presses and pulls you best be looking at what is going on at the hip and low back. If your hips can't extend, if you experience pain around the SI joint, if your hip flexors are jammed then you're not getting everything out of your thoracic region and your low back is paying the price.

The Solution? Hip and trunk stability, hip extension, abdominal expansion, and of course...

003. Build Yourself Some Glutes

Not much else to say other than hinge, squat, lunge, step, and thrust for a bigger stronger set of glutes. The ability to gain optimal control over the hip is a whole lot easier when your glutes are working for you. Establish optimal performance from the hips and watch mid back magic
happen.

004. Learn To Breathe

Bring some consciousness into a typically subconscious function. Nothing promotes abdominal expansion and thoracic extension like deep diaphragmatic breathing

005. Use Your Hands Dammit!

Force feeds feedback. Ground force is pivotal in making the most of your lower body lifting whether it's strength, hypertrophy, speed, or power. For some reason however the hands are often left out of the equation when really the hand shoulder relationship is as important for the upper body as the foot hip relationship is for the lower.

Whether it is an open or closed chain surface you are working with, the ability to create big contact with that surface will be huge in shoulder function.

Bend the bar.

Agent 006: Deadlift

Because it just makes sense. If your deadlift is efficient everything mentioned above is more than likely working well.

Train to strengthen the above agents and watch an efficient deadlift turn into a badass one.

Agent 007: Be More Like 007

His resourcefulness, his problem solving abilities, his judgement, as well as his independence allow him to get the job done. We need more of that in weight rooms. Apply more critical thinking to what it is that you are doing.

Sweating over whether 6 sets or 8 sets will not get you to where you want to be.

Take some attention away from volume, rest, and exercises and redirect it toward logic, execution, feedback, self preference and get it done on your own terms.

And that's that. The first of hopefully many secret agent sagas.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any ideas for Secret Agent Strength part deux.
All the best

Jeff

Nov 15, 2012
What Rock Icons Can Teach Personal Trainers

 

I had the good fortune of growing up in a family of music. My father plays professionally, my sister is quite musically inclined, and I have an extended family rich with musical talent. As for me? Well I didn't quite cut it as my love for training has become my own expression of art.

However I can say with confidence that music has always been and always will be a big part of me as it is still something that I greatly appreciate, analyze and draw a lot of inspiration from.

As a result of this inspiration I have come across a lot of comparison. Comparisons between the elite both in training as well as in music. After years of listening to records, attending concerts, and hiding away in dusty blues joints I have realized that the path to greatness in both really isn't all that different. 

In fact as trainers, we really do have a lot to learn from our iconic rock' n rollers when it comes to putting on a performance that leaves a lasting impression. Performances that create raving fans, performances that get raving fans talking, and ultimately performing your way to your desired outcome in the training profession.

A Set List Trumps Sheet Music

Good rockers know their content. They know their tracks and know it well enough that if anything has to change they have the solution and things will go on as if nothing happened. 

As trainers I believe that this is a principle worth following and teeaming it with solid programming. However, rather than programming in stone I believe that the set list concept is a much better way of doing things. Rather than programming in stone and being alarmed by spur the moment variables it is a much better way of doing things when you have your list and know it well enough to change on the fly if necessary. 

This allows you to get things done and get them done well due not only to the collaborative nature but because it makes communication much easier when you are not panicking for an alternative when it isn't on your clipboard.

Open Up To Your Audience

You catch a great musical act and more often than not they are great story tellers. Every track has a story and great rockers have a knack for opening up and sharing their stories to their audience.

Why not the same in a training environment? If there is anything that a client can appreciate is the idea that there is validity and reason behind what they are doing in the gym. Downtime within a workout provides you with the opportunity to provide that. Providing explanation behind your exercise selection, explaining where it came from and why you like it gives you ample opportunity to share your own experiences within your craft and on top of that validate what it is that you are prescribing.

Behind The Music

The fantasy behind a rockstar lifestyle tells us that their day consists of playing a gig and that's that. Any dedicated rockers will tell you otherwise as it goes much deeper than money and fame. For the best of the best the work never stops. Behind every great rock production is a constant analysis of performance, practices, rehearsals, appearances, and on top of it all being relentless in writing, creating, and producing music. In other words, the job is never done and behind their success is work, sweat, and drive that does not always get showcased.

Training is extremely similar in my eyes as the whole story never gets showcased. Much like our rocking amigos the behind the scenes work is relentless. Training success is a result of constantly analyzing your performance, polishing your craft, building your business, putting in hours, reading, writing, and doing whatever it takes to evolve your knowledge and skill set.

If you want to train, make sure it is something that you love because the fantasy of being paid well to hang out in the gym is very quickly overshadowed by the reality of the endless workload that is required behind the scenes.

The Encore

A good encore always sticks with me and is often a big conversation piece for me when it comes to talking about a good concert. It is always something that I appreciate because this is the time when a band is off the clock. Their job is done and the only currency backing an encore performance is applause and appreciation. When a band delivers an encore that blows the roof off the place it is talked about.

What can be said about that in training is if you have people who appreciate what you are doing I suggest you reward it in a similar fashion. Whether it is a complimentary session, articles, books, or information it is all good. To exceed expectation and add value on top of that solidifies the statement that you are for real and as a result your fan base will continue to grow.

Go To Your Place

Everyone digs a good face melter. If you are unfamiliar with a face melter refer to the image below.
 

The face melter is often the horrific facial expression associated with beautiful sound. As ugly as they look, they don't care because there is nothing else running through their head other than producing the best sound possible.

While I am highly against adopting these facial expressions in a training environment I am highly for adopting the concept behind them. While you are training you are on stage and you need to find that place where there is nothing else going on other than the task at hand. You talk to a great musician or trainer they will tell you that when it is time to get it done it's all business. Nothing else.
Mentally they go to a place where anything that may be pressing them down is all irrelevant and all that matters is getting the job done and getting it done well.

For that reason I believe that treating a session like a guitar solo is vital. To train with your attention completely undivided is one of the best things that you can do for the development of both craft and client.

Great Rockers Have Multiple Mentors

The Rolling Stones had Muddy Waters. The Black Keys had Junior Kimbrough. I was shocked after watching his documentary but Lemmy had Little Richard.

Great music is a result of creativity fuelled by inspirations and training is no different.

Recognition in training is a result of finding your own individuality and rolling with it. To get to this point is to learn and appreciate the principles of intelligent people. Seek inspiration from your favorite experts, read their content, get out and listen to them speak and make it your own. On top of that be like great bands and seek out multiple sources. It is nice to have multiple unbiased principles to follow because it allows you to filter everything through you own critical thinking process rather than just hearing the ''right'' answers.
 

 

Do It Because You Dig It

Whether its rock or training it is a path of insecurity. There are days where you are on top of things and there are days where things just aren't flowing. When it comes down to it I train because I love to train. There are pleny of rockers who have enough cash and legacy to live a comfortable life but they keep going because that is what they are hard wired to do.

 

The creativity, the self improvement, the idea that your craft improves and changes lives is something that will always overshadow the extrinsic benefits tied to success. It's what keeps rockers rocking, trainers training and what ultimately defines where you take it.

Nov 2, 2012
Deadlifting Concepts For A High Powered Set Of Glutes
When you hang around the fitness industry long enough, you eventually accept the fact that you will be exposed to new concepts and “breakthroughs” in training whether you want to be or not. Some of them may be worth your attention and self-experimentation. Unfortunately a lot of them may leave you scratching your head (or bouncing it off the nearest wall). Then there are those moments where you find these information diamonds in the rough that leave you doing an end zone dance in your head and reassure you that there is hope for humankind after all.
 
I read a lot of different blogs on a lot of different subject matter related to training and it was a statement by the bright mind of Tony Gentilcore that had me thinking end zone dance. It came from a few short words from a very well written post.
 
GLUTES ARE THE NEW BICEPS
 
I have been following strength and glute gurus like Tony and the glute guy himself Bret Contreras because of their quality information on glute and hip development and their new age twists on a timeless subject. It is the insight of great minds like these that have led me to drawing my own conclusions on the subject.
 
    -Most of us if not all of us will have drastic benefits as a result of more glute and hip work.
    -A good butt burn from a big lower body lift is a key indicator of how well that particular lift is being executed.
   -Whether the goal is strength, hypertrophy, fat loss, or endurance. Teach someone the intricacies of glute and hip development and watch magic happen.
  -Whether it is in the gym or Wednesdays at TheChive it is hard not to appreciate a good butt.
    -The best information is information you can draw your own conclusions from.
     -A well calculated deadlift will build a butt with the best of them.
 
The deadlift needs no introduction. If you are on this site then you know that deadlifts are the real deal when it comes to building strength and making muscle.
 
To take it beyond that, the ability to exploit the intricacies of the deadlift will provide you with the tools to blast your glutes based on concepts that we all have within our possession.
 
The Hinge
 
The hip hinge is the foundation of any deadlifting pattern. A high quality hip hinge is what separates a visually and kinetically pleasing deadlift from the ones that just don’t look or feel pretty. Proper hinging requires the ability of the hip to move fluidly from flexion to extension. It is the hip’s ability to move that ultimately controls the load placement of your lift. If the hips are moving well it is placed throughout the hamstrings, glutes, low, and mid back. If this is not happening, the hip dominant characteristics of the deadlift get thrown out the window and more often than not you begin to see knee and low back dominance and that’s where things just don’t look pretty.
 
In order to create a response, you address inefficiency. For that reason, I believe that stepping back a little and integrating hinge patterning into your plan will reignite deadlifting capability. Not to mention this patterning alone will sound the alarm on a comatose set of glutes. Here are some recommendations when it comes to patterning the hinge.
    -Think of it as a tug of war match between your hips and your heal
  -Equal foot placement whether the foot is elevated or grounded
  -Looking for a healthy balance of rigidity and fluidity in the trunk (treat your core like a    
   chain link fence rather than a brick wall)
  -Extension of the hip when standing rather than the knee and low back (should be a whole lot of  
   glute activation here).
 
 
 
 
 
Ground Force Reaction
 
Your feet will tell you exactly what is being used to complete a deadlift movement. It is just a matter of listening. The ability to consciously strike your foot into the ground plays a huge role in contracting the musculature of the lower body to generate force. The ability to cue that has been gold for me when it comes to firing the hips. Strike the heel to fire the glute/hamstring, strike the big toe to stabilize the knees, and let the mid foot create a suction cup like effect on the ground to bring it all together.
 
The ability to cue ground force reaction will help you pattern a lifting behaviour that will make activation second nature.
 
-Make ground force reaction a priority and you will be building butts
-Ankle mobility and knee stability are vital for active glutes
-Create contact with the big toe to stabilize the knee and control the hip
-Drive that heel to fire the glute/hamstring
-Spread the floor in a bi-lateral deadlift stance
-Feel what you need to feel, lift, repeat
 
 
 
 
Multiple Angles
 
When it comes to testing comfort zones, put angles up there with load, volume, and time under tension and let changing your foot position be that literal and figurative step outside of what’s comfortable. The beauty of the hinge is that it is hip dominant which means you have a lot of movement dimensions at your disposal.
 
If you are looking for a unique response, create a unique environment. Changing the angles of your foot strike will completely alter the response of the hip. If the faithful feet hip width apart is beginning to grow old, combine some different foot angles with the hinge and ground force and you have a lot more butt building ammunition in your arsenal.
 
 -Most resistance angles work in opposite. Toes in, lateral hip will fire. Vice versa.
 -Changing the angle of the foot can be quite beneficial for providing a solid foot strike.
 -Angles of resistance will most definitely create a response if it is a step outside of a comfort
 zone.
 
 
 
 
Unilateral Work
 
This is where the going gets tough. One legged deadlifting when done very well has been my go to when it comes to glute activation. However in order to reap the massive benefits of it, a one legged lift needs to follow a certain criteria.
 
To allow the butt to get the most out of one legged lifts it is essential that the knee is solid but just soft enough to mobilize the hip. If it becomes knee dominant you may need to step back a little. Once again the ability to hinge on a dime and apply force to the ground will be the ammunition needed to do just that.
 
-Ensure mobility of the hip and ankle is up to snuff. The more of this you have working for you
the more that butt will fire.
-Balance is a result of your foot being well secured to the floor. Activation is a result of it
being driven into the floor.
-Split stances provide a pre-requisite to full on one legged work that will fry your glutes.
 
 
 
 
Make Mix-A-Lot A happy Man
 
 
 
Let me reiterate by throwing out a big AMEN to Tony’s proclamation. Of all of the progressions in training concepts I have to say that training for glute and hip development is a concept that truly can be applied universally. It has been around for a long time and it will be around for a long time.
 
And while a set of guns will certainly perceive a notion of weight room proficiency it really is a well put together set of glutes that will not only provide the visual but will ultimately showcase what you can bring to the table when it comes to walking the walk.
 
Whether you are a running back in the NFL or you are trying to squash some nagging back pain, glute and hip development will be at the forefront of your progressions. Applying concept to your deadlifting will be able to provide you with a platform to do just that. I believe that no matter what the prescription is when it comes to deadlifting, it will be the ability to conceptualize and cue the deadlift that will ensure that it is doing exactly what it is meant to do.
Oct 27, 2012
A Ballad To Getting It Done

Some Organized Rhyme. Poet and I didn't know it. Here we go..
 

So many questions on what the hell to do
So many answers to confuse and elude you
So many expectations in your desired outcome
Without recognition and knowing where you came from

So I have elected to lay it down in rhyme form
Literary insight for you to grab the bull by the horns
An easier way of learning when shorter words are flowing
So have a read, enjoy it, get off your ass and get going

When it comes to muscle the iron must be explored
Train for speed, power, strength, and not like the Jersey Shore
Find what works and find what you enjoy
Do your homework, dig in and deploy

Train by how you feel and not what's dictated
Get to know your body and success is created
They won't all be perfect with that fact you need peace
When it's time to get after it you TRAIN LIKE A BEAST

Getting going with training is a tough pill to swallow
Train for consistency the lifestyle soon follows
It's not a sacrifice but a chance to do more
A chance to debrief, de-stress, and leave your shit at the door

So get training and stay training for fitness and health
For purpose, for passion, and value of self

Jeff

Oct 16, 2012
Accelerating Training Greatness

 

Any successful trainer who has been at this for a while will be able to provide you with an extensive list of lessons that they have learned over time. What I appreciate about lessons learned in this industry is that these lessons are derived from each trainer's own unique experiences. To take it beyond that, it is often the experiences of the people that we work with that pave the way for some of the biggest lessons that you could possibly learn as a personal trainer.

For me this has been and still is one of my biggest resources when it comes to polishing my own craft and in my eyes is the biggest component responsible for you evolving into either a flourishing career path or having to find a side gig to pay the bills.

To put it simply:
 

  • If you want to enroll a potential client, you need to show someone in a narrow window of time that you are worth it.
  • If you want someone to renew, you need to prove that their experience is worth their long term time and financial investment.
  • If you want referrals, you need to provide your people a personal training experience that was worth talking about.

The strategy behind these three drivers of business is that there is no strategy. For any trainer who is great at what they do they know that providing a positive experience is everything and they have the ability to turn that on for anyone they work with. The question is what constitutes a good experience?

In a few short years it seems that seeking out quality personal training talent has transitioned from the highly educated to seeking out the highly personable. I have to agree with this as I have now seen enough people come and go who were very highly educated in exercise science and they just couldn't cut it. Not because of the masters degree that they possessed but because their personality was comparable to the frame that was showcasing it. On the flip side I believe that personality will only do so much justice in a training environment. You need to know your stuff. Plain and simple.

Truthfully you want to have both for you as this is a career that is only going to become more and more competitive and those who will survive will be the ones who are able to possess both the knowledge as well as the character to back it up. On top of it personal training is the real deal and no longer the novelty it once was. It is a growing profession which means being a professional and true professionals are the people who dissect and strive to improve upon all of the intricacies that propel you from good to renowned.

This doesn't mean scrambling to find your next certification or joining your local Toastmasters to learn how to present yourself (although they will help). There are numerous factors in the personal training profession that you can enhance today that will not only help you build your knowledge base but help you effectively showcase it.

Achieve High Concept Within Your Comfort Zone

Part of training evolution will always be the seeking out new strategy and technique to your game. Discovering new strategy is an integral part of evolving as a trainer. Just make sure that it is not being done at the expense of your clients. This was a mistake of mine from the very beginning and I have a feeling I am not the only one out there. Seeking out new components to your game will definitely enhance your skill set but technical proficiency needs to be learned before it is coached. Achieving high concept with your existing knowledge base will allow you to showcase what you really know rather expose what you are trying to learn and I think that is key. It teaches you how to fine tune on the fly for any considerations that need to be addressed to keep a workout challenging without stepping outside of physical limitation. Not to mention you can achieve a healthy level of communication when you are not having to worry about killing your client.

I work with a lot of Olympic Weightlifters and they are able to do a great job at this. Some are at the point where they coach a lot of people looking to learn the sport. Some are learning and are completely aware that the majority of their people are not at the point of learning the snatch. However they are also aware that hip extension is something that they spend a lot of time perfecting and how many people out there could do a better job at that?

Programming Collaboration Is Way Cooler Than Programming Dictation

Good coaches know that they do not have all of the answers and often converse with their staff and players for insight. Good companies nurture and roll with the creative inspiration that comes from their staff. Training should be no different as when you take on a client, you are stepping into the role of head coach, GM, President and CEO of whatever it is they are looking to get done. For that reason your job does not end at writing down what they need to do and making sure that they do it. Designing and implementing a program in my eyes should be fueled by clear communication of how things are feeling, what can be handled when it comes to volume and load, and what can be brought to the table on any given day.

Getting someone to adhere to a program can be tricky but I think a lot of that can be prevented based solely on the fact that nobody likes being told what to do. There is a job to do of course but it needs to be a collaborative effort and for a trainer that means appreciating feedback, input, and ultimately realizing that just because it's on paper doesn't mean that there may be a better way of doing things.

Not only does collaboration fuel an effective program, it provides a big part of the relationship that is required to get it done and done well.

Get Educated. Get Educated On Getting Educated

Coming from a limited exercise science background and stepping into a competitive training environment opened my eyes to the fact I had a lot to learn. More importantly it made me realize that no matter what qualified you to get into this business you are so far away from knowing everything you need to know it is not even fit.

Continuing education is the part of the ride that defines where you go and what you do with yourself as a trainer.

I am not proclaiming myself as an investment adviser but I strongly believe that it is one of the best things that you could possibly do with your money. In a time of bi polar economic performance it is nice knowing you are in complete control of your return when you invest in your craft.

In The New Economy, Information, Education, And Motivation are Everything.
   -Bill Clinton

A vital factor in your return on your investment is how you process information. For that reason I believe that it is just as important to get educated on getting educated. The take home point being that everything that you learn is a result of the accumulation, filtration, experimentation, and implementation of information that has formulated a success worthy of presenting. Your ROI will be determined by that same factor.
 

Been used a lot lately but it's about as bang on as it gets
 

 

It Doesn't Need To Be Sexy But You Sure Can Make It Look Pretty

 

The glamorization of exercise in today's media has given a lot of people the impression that electrifying leads to result when really today's answers are no different from the ones that have been preached for generations. Still I see people who get caught up in trying to make things to sexy.

The problem with sexy is that it's impractical and inconsistent. And you're trying too hard.

 

There is room for visual beauty in exercise however and it comes in the form of making the essentials look pretty. In a training environment where you are under a very judgemental microscope you want pretty. Pretty signifies a well executed program and it is also a great indicator of limitation and how to adjust for it. When pretty is the pursuit it is the idea that strength, stability, mobility, and awareness potential are being put to the test. It also puts you as a trainer into a role where you are visibly and verbally engaged and your ability to communicate has no choice to become better polished. 

 

It has been the pursuit to beautify the basics that has become a big part of my training identity and being in session has become my biggest client builder as a result of it. 

 

As I mentioned above, training is the real deal. I do believe that I do have some extended family members and social circle who do believe that this is something that I do until I find a ''real job''. But this is it, and I am seeing it evolve into that more and more for people and I love to see it. However, it is a grind and as it becomes more alluring it also becomes more competitive so it really has me thinking non stop on what it takes both as a trainer and as a professional and the truth is that you need both. It may not be 50/50 but if you are packed with technical brilliance but cant get clients I suggest you put your soft skills into consideration. If you have the soft skills but are having trouble taking it to the next level I highly suggest you know your stuff. Like any other strong professional, perfection is never attained but the ones who keep seeking it will be the ones who thrive in this business.

 

All the best,

 

Jeff

Oct 15, 2012