Archive for September, 2010

Olympia Weekend Expo

After telling one of my clients that I was contemplating heading up to Vegas for the weekend to check out the 2010 Olympia Expo, he surprised me on Friday by informing me that he booked me hotel reservations using his free points. I drove up late Friday night and spent around 4-5 hours at the Expo on Saturday day.

If you’ve never been to an Olympia Expo and you are a fan of bodybuilding, I highly recommend it. You get to see a ton of freaky stuff and it only costs $25 to attend. Here are some of the highlights:

Things that Ruled!

1. T-Nationers

Right off the bat I found two fellow T-Nationers who work for T-Nation. I told them I write for T-Nation and wanted to take a picture of them. I don’t know if they believed me considering I ain’t got much muscle!

2. Kevin Levrone

He’s an actor now and isn’t so juiced up.

3. Charles Glass

I had a great conversation about the glutes with Charles Glass. Charles trains a ton of bodybuilders and is a crafty and legendary trainer.

4. Johnny Jackson

5. Jay Cutler

In case you’re wondering, Jay won the Mr. Olympia title for the fourth time!

6. Branch Warren

7. Dorian Yates

8. Dexter Jackson

9. Brandon Curry

10. Alicia-Marie

Holy Sweet Mother of God she’s hot! I made her pose for a booty-pic. She’s really cool too. I chatted with her about the glutes. She assumed she knew more than me on this topic but I had to set her straight. She can be the glute queen, but I’m the glute king! The butt pic doesn’t do her justice…you have to see it to get the full effect. It’s truly a work of art. Alicia-Marie is definitely one of the hotter fitness chicks in the world! Here’s her website.

11. Mark “Jackass” Bell

12. Iris Kyle

Say something and she’ll kick your ass!

13. Lou Ferrigno

14. Rich Franklin

I was about to mess him up until he apologized! All kidding aside, Rich and I have a ton in common…we both are former high school math teachers with master’s degrees and wicked left hooks (okay, maybe only one of us has a wicked left hook).

15. Gunter Shleirkamp

16. Evan Centopani

17. Brent Willis

This dude deadlifted 782 and he’s only 20 years old!

18. Matt “Kroc” Kroczaleski

19. Carmen Electra

I hate to be the one to say it, but somebody has gone downhill…

20. Stan “The Rhino” Efferding

He won the 2010 World’s Strongest Bodybuilder with I believe a 628 bench and 800 deadlift.

21. Gilbert Yvel

Kickboxer and UFC fighter

22. Some hot chick with big knockers!

23. Another sexy chick!

24. Mike O’Hearn

He was Titan on American Gladiators, he’s also an extremely accomplished fitness model.

25. Boxer Game

I tried 2 different times to get onto the leader board to no avail. The best I got was 850. If I just did straight punches the highest I got was 810. Then the guy working the game taught me the secret. He said all the leaders stand to the side and twist their bodies. When I did this I got to 850. There were some weak ass dudes who got in the 400’s. I saw a huge beast of a woman get 800 right before I left the show! My wrist and forearm hurt for the next 24 hours! The shit that guys will do to try to pretend they aren’t over the hill!

26. Free Protein – I got 12 packets of protein powder and 3 protein bars while I was there.

27. Freak Shows

It’s always cool to see a few freaks, and you’ll see tons at the Olympia Expo. I never got a picture of this guy (he was just an attendee) but he embodied all that is bodybuilding. He was most likely from Europe and had long hair, a vest with no shirt on, and tight-ass jean short-shorts with boots. Freaking legend!

28. Deadlift Form

I watched 2 straight hours of deadlifting (with powerlifters, strongmen, and bodybuilders) and analyzed the shit out of everyone’s form and physiques. Some interesting things…most deadlifters have decent glutes and usually good quads but surprisingly the hamstrings aren’t always “all-that.” My EMG tests showed that deadlifts max-out hamstring activation. The hamstrings are known to be “fast-twitch” which respond better to heavy loads so what gives? The hamstrings are a tricky muscle to grow. Every once in a while you’ll see a great deadlifter who has poor glute development. However, they ALL have great upper back development. You’ll see different set-ups, different stances, different upper back curvatures, etc. But whatever spinal curvature they choose, their spines rarely buckle during successful lifts. Erector spinae strength appears to be paramount for deadlifting prowess. Here’s a video of some of the short clips I shot:

Things that Sucked!

1. Jamie Eason

Well, Jamie certainly doesn’t suck. It’s just that I never got to see her. I know she was there because there are tons of pictures of her at the Expo on her Facebook page, but I never ran into her. This is the closest I got.

2. Groupies

These women are so pathetic. I went to the afterhours party at Blush at the Wynn and saw a couple of pretty girls who were all-over some of the bodybuilders. I realize that there are all kinds of fetishes and that some women are extremely attracted to bodybuilders, but whenever I see girls throwing themselves at athletes, rockstars, or celebrities I’m always blown-away. These are the same idiotic girls who complain that “all men are pigs” because they’re too stupid to choose good ones.

There was a pretty girl next to me that was around my age and when Ronnie Coleman or Jay Cutler appeared she’d get all giddy and try her hardest to get someone to take a picture of her with them. I like to think that I’m a decent-looking guy, but I was pretty much invisible to her. Now I’m just sounding like a hater so I’ll stop!

3. Continental Breakfast Phenomenon

I turn into a fat slob when I get free continental breakfasts. It never fails. I ate 2 bowls of Rice Krispies, a bagel with 2 packets of butter and 2 packets of cream cheese, an English muffin with 2 packets of peanut butter and 2 packets of honey, a grapefruit, 2 yogurts, a glass of milk, and a glass of apple juice. I’d love to know how many calories, carbs, fat, and protein were in that meal. Then I went back to my room and crashed out in a carb-induced coma for a couple of hours before heading back home!

4. I Forgot My Freaking Camera!

When I went to the afterhours party, I was one of only a few people who saw Ronnie Coleman busting out some serious dance moves in his dress-clothes. It was hilarious; a giant Silverback gettin’ his groove on! If only I had my camera it would have made for some great pictures.

5. The After-Hours Party

During Jay Cutler’s acceptance speech he asked everyone to go to the after party at Blush at the Wynn. I went, paid my admission, and then found all the bodybuilders cooped up in a private room. I stood outside the room for a few minutes trying to assess the situation, and after I realized how pathetic I was standing outside a room like a stalker I took off. Why in the hell would anyone go to these stupid afterhours parties if they don’t get to mingle with the bodybuilders and bodybuilding-writers? I won’t make that mistake ever again. I did chat with bodybuilding trainer Haney Rambod for a few minutes which made the trip somewhat worth it.

6. Less Talent

This was actually my third or fourth time attending the Expo. A couple of years ago Ronnie Coleman had his own booth, and The Rock, John Cena, Wanderlei Silva, Silvester Stallone, and Forrest Griffin were at the Expo. This year I felt that the talent diminished slightly, which makes sense I guess – everyone’s suffering a little bit in this crappy economy.

So there you have it, that’s a wrap!

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Tons of great stuff this week! The “Internet Whore of the Week” award obviously goes to Eric Cressey – unless you’ve been in hiding in a cave then you know he released his new eBook called “Show and Go.” Somehow Eric conducted dozens of interviews and kicked ass in every one of them. Eric is the real-deal. Smitty from the Diesel Crew created a cool exercise index based off of his numerous Youtube videos. Surprisingly I picked an article off Dr. Mercola’s site as the “Article of the Week.” Here are 126 links for your reading/viewing/listening pleasure.

1. Free eBook consisting of Youtube links to exercises by Smitty from the Diesel Crew (this is really cool)

2. Article of the Week: 12 Myths by Dr. Mercola

3. T-Nation article by Bret Contreras: 10 Manliest Exercises (People really seemed to like this article!)

4. New StrengthCoach Podcast with Eric Cressey

5. Dorian Yates puts Ron Harris through a leg routine

6. Josh Bryant does deficit deadlifts

7. Here’s a potentially cool new website: All about the deadlift!

8. Random stuff by Harold Gibbons

9. It’s great to see women training hard. In this video, Kellie Davis does: 135 lb 5 rep front squat, 90 lb 20 rep walking lunges, 155 lb 20 rep deadlift, 245 lb 5 hip thrust, 60 lb 10 rep back extension, 26 rep ab wheel roll out (I told Kellie to get her arms outside of her legs when she deadlifts and she’ll be even stronger and reduce the load on her low back)

10. Cool article on how to be awesome

11. Building quads by Charles Poliquin

12. New Fitcast episode with Eric Cressey

13. Some ideas behind the joint-by-joint approach by Charlie Weingroff

14. Fourteen fitness fallacies by Eric Moss

15. Hilarious (as usual) random post by Tony G.

16. Since when did hard work become a bad thing by Ben Bruno (I really like this one!)

17. Charlie Weingroff on where to start in regards to barefoot training

18. Charlie Weingroff on the FMS

19. Eric Burraty on being explosive

20. Jeff Cubos on injury

21. Mark Young on Facebook etiquette

22. Charles Poliquin on neglecting overhead pressing

23. Rog Law on “clean vs. unclean” eating

24. Vern Gambetta on the father of interval training

25. Mike Reinhold’s Essential Reading List

26. Explosive Push-Pull by P.J. Striet

27. Vern Gambetta on Simplicity

28. Nick Tumminello on producing, reducing, and transferring force

29. This video is sickening!

30. Charlies Poliquin on the Litinov Workout (love him or hate him, Poliquin is a total stud. I always look forward to his articles)

31. Patrick Ward on sensitivity to light, headaches, and pain around the eyes

32. Ben Bruno’s blog rocks! You definitely need to follow his work. Here’s one on concussions and neck training

33. Dewey Nielsen on timed sets

34. Jason Ferruggia on fat loss

35. Metabolism-Induced Asthma?

36. Charlie Weingroff on compartment syndrome

37. Control Estrogen with DIM

38. 3 Fitness Mistakes by Josh Henkin (this is a good one)

39. Double KB RFESS by Ben Bruno

40. Is it in you by Eric Moss

41. Big booty girl squatting

42. Charlie Weingroff on hip thrusts

43. Five Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Stronger by Eric Cressey (this is a great one)

44. Twitter Etiquette by Mark Young

45. Joe DeFranco trains Brian Cushing

46. Nutrition Basics by Chris Beardsley

47. GPS to study soccer players?

48. Cool new evidence for massages

49. Recap on the Prep, Competition, and Photoshoots by Alli McKee

50. Good Cressey interview by Chad Waterbury

51. Ten signs you need anti-estrogen support by Poliquin (this is pretty funny)

52. Cool interview with a CEO that applies to everything (including fitness)

53. Long Term Athlete Development by Jeff Cubos

54. Great post for those looking to get an RKC certification by Diesel Crew

55. Good Cressey guest blog on Jason Ferrugia’s site

56. Better bladder control and less low back pain through better breathing by Leon Chaitow

57. Is your diet all show by Leigh Peele

58. Alternatives to the Olympic lifts by PJ Striet

59. The Power Clean – exercise of the week at Stack Magazine

60. The Rotational Lift – exercise of the week at Core Performance

61. A brave announcement by Rachel Cosgrove

62. The Triple Jump Encyclopedia by Vern Gambetta

63. Chest crush sled dragging by Diesel Crew

64. This guy belongs in a cage!!! He needs to train with some powerlifters and records will be set

65. Awesome thought-provoking Elitefts article on weighted sled work by Ken Vick

66. Great quick Elitefts read: 9 ways to prevent overtraining by Josh Bryant

67. Recent Mike Boyle StrengthCoach blog

68. Vern Gambetta on being “sprinty”

69. Great Tony Gentilcore blog on blaming deadlifts

70. Brendon Rearick on the joint by joint approach (this blog contains a cool Gray Cook video)

71. When you train hard over the years, you know when I writer comes along and does the same. Ben Bruno is an up and comer who really “gets it” as far as strength is concerned. For any individual training for general strength, Ben’s blog is a huge resource. Every blog he writes I find myself nodding in agreement. Here’s one on “not sweating the small stuff.”

72. Charlie Weingroff interview on Perry Nickelston’s podcast

73. The Physical Exam – A Dying Art? by Craig Liebenson (Craig is a legendary Chiropractor who has a lot of research experience for those of you who don’t know him)

74. Seven Olympic Lift Myths by Ken Vick (Ken is a very wise speed coach for those of you who don’t know him)

75. Q & A with Jen Sinkler

76. On being a female fitness coach by pint-sized badass Neghar Fanooni

77. Franz Snideman breaking down the KB Swing part I

78. Eric Cressey, Chuck Norris, and Yoda by Mark Young…hilarious!

79. Great video of 20-rep squats (these are brutal!)

80. Roger Law opens up

81. Why exercise won’t make you thin

82. This is an AWESOME story off of Steven Bubel’s site. A must read.

83. Great review of Dan John’s “Never Let Go” book by Nick Horton

84. Clean Eating is a Scam! by JCD

85. Coach Dos top TRX exercises

86. Fitness Olympia contestant Tanji Johnson trains like a warrior! I was impressed

87. Jeff Cubos on Shawn Thistle’s Research Review Service

88. Mike Boyle on Evolution of a Strength Coach

89. Chris Beardsley interviews Eric Moss

90. Great interview with Speed Coach Paul Graham on Tim Eagerton’s SprintStrong site!

91. Great new Kelly Baggett article on emphasizing weaknesses (I always love Kelly’s articles…been a huge fan for many years)

92. John Romaniello interviews Eric “The Prodigy” Cressey. How many great interviews can one person do in one week?

93. Another awesome Eric Cressey interview by John Izzo (this Cressey guy is inhuman)

94. Six muscles you can’t ignore (Men’s Health)

95. Airplanes with Mark Young

96. How to Get Better at Training by Tony “The Tiger” Gentilcore

97. Always great to see females training hard and heavy at CP

98. Great interview with Jamie Rodriguez on Robbie Bourke’s site

99. Power bodybuilding for functional fitness by Josh Henkin

100. Fitness isn’t luck!

101. Is three square meals better than six mini-meals?

102. Random stuff by Mark Young. I really like his second thought. It’s always important to keep stuff like this in mind.

103. Upcoming McGill seminar in Toronto

104. Ben Bruno doing weighted vest GHR’s

105. Gray Cook interview on Dr. Perry Nickelston’s podcast (the intro music automatically puts you in a great mood)

106. Brett Jones interviews Gray Cook on the dragondoor site

107. The strength training makes women big and bulky myth with Tony G.

108. Mike Arone interviews Jimmy Smith

109. Great links by Chris Beardsley

110. Calf growth and orthotics by John Izzo

111. The squat on StackTV

112. The lunge on StackTV

113. Antioxidant review on Core Performance site

114. Mike Roussell on insulin resistance

115. Jay Cutler interview right before the Olympia!

116. UFC Fighters training at Joe Dowdell’s Peak Performance facility in NY

117. Charles Poliquin on why the leg extension is still around

118. Martin Rooney shows 3 glute ham raise variations

119. New product – The Core Slider

120. Mike Nelson interviews Will Williams

121. Digestion by Peter Rouse

122. Aaron Schwenzfeier on athletes and alcohol

123. Seven Reasons to buy Show and Go

124. Five Reasons to buy Show and Go

125. Vern Gambetta on Dartfish

126. One Question, Many Answers by Mike Scott

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Random Blog

Here are eleven totally random thoughts for the week. Check back tomorrow for a bunch of “good reads for the week” which will tide you over til next week.

1. Digital Camera for Instant Feedback

One of the most effective things I’ve added to my personal training in the past year is the use of a digital camera. I cannot stress enough to personal trainers and strength coaches how powerful and effective of a tool this is. I film my clients doing squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, etc. and show them their videos so they can learn what they’re doing right and wrong. So often clients aren’t kinaesthetically aware of their movement and they don’t really understand what they’re doing until they see it on video and hear your feedback. I hear the flip video works great for this purpose; I just use my Cannon.


I filmed a video the other day of my garage gym. I saved up over the course of a couple years on a teacher’s salary to purchase this equipment (most of it through Elitefts). This equipment has served me very well over the years! Of course I wish I had more stuff, which will come in time.

3. Mr. Olympia

For those of you who follow bodybuilding, the Mr. Olympia contest is this weekend. If I can get a hotel tomorrow, I may end up driving up for the weekend. I especially love attending the convention.

4. Skorcher

I’ve received a few emails over the past couple of weeks from people asking me how I use the Skorcher. For my clients, I start them off with bodyweight hip thrusts. Over time I move them to band hip thrusts and single leg hip thrusts. For advanced clients and my own training, I might use barbell plus bands, barbell plus chains, or just a heavy barbell. Here is me moving some serious weight on the Skorcher. The Skorcher makes the exercise much more difficult as the hamstrings are put under greater stretch as the hips drop below the feet, and there is no resting point so you have to reverse the eccentric portion straight into the concentric portion. When I had my studio Lifts, I had two other trainers and we’d always train together, so having a couple of extra helpers came in handy. In this video my stepbrothers helped me out.

5. Skorcher Commercial

Speaking of Skorcher, not many people know the story behind my invention. To make a long story short, one day back in 2007 a wealthy investor popped his head into Lifts and asked me if I could create a smaller infomercial-sized model (which I said I could) and if I’d like to partner up. He ended up raising $1.2 million and we created 3 models and used a talented ad-agency to create a bunch of materials. The investors ended up backing out due to the fact that they lost a ton of money over some of their other deals and we never got to do an infomercial. But we did film a short 30 second commercial which I ran across the other day on the internet by chance. Check it out; hilarious!

6. Valgus Collapse

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about valgus collapse. In case you don’t know, valgus collapse simply refers to the knee caving inward (technically hip adduction and internal rotation) when squatting, lunging, climbing steps, etc. Here’s a good example. The other day I was filming my client Karli’s workout. I only filmed her heaviest sets of each exercise. When I had Karli using 65 lbs, 75 lbs, and 85 lbs, her knees stayed out and the knees tracked properly over the feet. However, when I jumped the weight up to 95 lbs, the heavier load in combination with the fatigue induced by prior sets caused her knees to cave in (and her hips to rise faster than her shoulders which is a separate issue also related to going too heavy) during the last 3 reps of her Zercher squats. Check it out:

This was an error on my part as a trainer but if you’ve coached for a while you see this crop up quite often when going heavy. Clearly it’s not a mobility issue if they can demonstrate proficiency with lighter loads. Typically we hear that it’s a problem associated with a weak glute medius. I’ve also heard that it’s associated with a weak biceps femoris. However, if you’ve watched some of the strongest people in the world compete in the sports of powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and strongman, then you’ve probably witnessed valgus collapse in world-class athletes who train hard every day. You know these athletes have “strong glutes,” but are they strong enough? It’s not always a strength issue…often it’s a patterning issue. Sometimes you can clean up this pattern very quickly with proper education. I had assumed that I “fixed” this issue with Karli, as she no longer demonstrates this pattern with full squats, front squats, or box squats. However, Zercher squats (she used a pretty wide stance for such a deep squat) caused this problem to resurface (it wouldn’t be so obvious if she simply rose up and down with her knees caved in slightly…but it’s very apparent in this video because she lowers the weight with her knees out and then moves them inward to raise the weight back up).

The fact of the matter is that the body will always contort itself to its strongest positioning to make a lift. When the weight goes up, some lifters maintain perfect form, while other lifters’ form breaks down considerably. Think of the forward leaning in squats, the round back lifting in deadlifts, etc. In the case of the squat, it seems that you need to make the glute medius and possibly the biceps femoris strong as hell to resist inward collapse as there is some evidence that shows that this inward collapse might actually be an advantageous position for the body as it might increase the moment arm of the glute medius and possibly other muscles such as the quadriceps. This is quite dangerous over time as it can lead to anterior knee pain and possibly ACL injuries (which is debated in the research…some researchers believe that ACL injuries are purely sagittal in nature while others feel that frontal and transverse plane forces can influence ACL injuries).

Heavy weight need not be avoided, just make sure that if your form breaks down, you lighten the load and reinforce good patterns. Practice makes perfect. In Karli’s case, I need to keep reinforcing good mechanics over and over and if her form breaks down in the slightest manner, I should stop the set and lighten the load. Minibands placed around the knees can be used while squatting to strengthen the abductors and external rotators as well. This method should be used with just bodyweight or with lighter squat loads, not with maximal loads. Low load glute activation drills can come in handy for this purpose as well. Finally, single leg exercises such as lunges, Bulgarian squats, step ups, and pistols do a great job of strengthening the hip stabilizers through a full range of motion.

7. Lenses

As a lifter and a writer, I realize the need to write toward different audiences. I believe two things:

1. Training for solely maximum strength is radically different than training for maximum athletic development
2. Personal training is radically different than strength coaching

When I read another author’s work, I try to get into their heads and figure out where they’re coming from. I try to see strength & conditioning through their “lens” and consider the population with whom they work, their role, the equipment to which they have access, their past training and experience, their interests, their philosophy, etc. It helps me better understand their thought-process and in the end helps me learn more.

8. Core Stability

Especially at commercial gyms, I see people engaging in core stability exercises (which would normally be a good thing) but clearly many of them don’t understand the point of the exercises. The point of core stability exercises is to maintain a straight line from the shoulders to the knees and keep the spine in neutral position. I see people doing ab wheel rollouts, planks, and even push ups where their hips sag and their low backs hyperextend. The point of the exercise is to strengthen the core from an isometric standpoint and teach the core to resist motion which in theory should help protect the spine and teach the core to transfer force more efficiently. If you do these exercises incorrectly, you’ll end up damaging spinal structures and possibly suffering low back injury.

9. Hamstring Research

Lately I’ve been reading a ton of hamstring research and will try to write a blog or article in the future that discusses the hamstrings. Even in the past year there have been several amazing journal articles (one of them I referenced in a previous blogpost). I think the strength & conditioning profession can do much better in preventing hamstring injuries.

10. Transfer of Training

If you’re a decent coach or trainer, then you know that strength training can work miracles in terms of improving athletic performance. It’s not uncommon to take a high school male and put several inches on his vertical leap and shave a couple tenths of a second off of his forty yard dash during the first month of training. Dozens if not hundreds of journal studies support the notion that resistance training improves indicators of athletic performance. Transfer of training becomes much more complicated as the athlete improves from beginner to advanced, and even more complicated if the athlete reaches an elite status.

That said, I’m amazed at the paucity of research that looks at transfer of training between different exercises. What I mean is, there doesn’t seem to be much good research where the effects of different types of exercises are compared. I hope that in the future we delve into this area much deeper.

11. Books

One of my blog readers asked me what strength training books I recommend. I won’t get into textbooks or technical books, but I feel that many lifters and coaches don’t have an appreciation for the classics. Here’s a basic list:


-Only the Strongest Shall Survive – Bill Starr
-Brawn – Stuart McRobert
-Beyond Brawn – Stuart McRobert
-Super Squats – Randall Strossen
-Dinosaur Training – Brooks Kubik
-Keys to Progress – John McKallum
-The Steel Tip Newsletter – Dr. Ken (this isn’t a book but if you can get your hands on these they were a great read from back in the day)

-Functional Training for Sports – Mike Boyle
-Core Performance – Mark Verstegen
-Athletic Body in Balance – Gray Cook
-Athletic Development: Art & Science of Functional Sports Conditioning – Vern Gambetta
-Never Let Go – Dan John

-Supertraining – Mel Siff
-The Science and Practice of Strength Training – Zatsiorsky
-Enter the Kettlebell – Pavel Tsatsouline
-The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding – Arnold Schwarzenegger
-The Charlie Francis Training System – Charlie Francis
-The Westside Barbell Book of Methods – Louie Simmons
-Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 2nd Edition – Mark Rippletoe & Lon Kilgore

Definitely Worth Reading

-Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training – Tudor Bompa
-Optimal Muscle Training – Ken Kinakin
-Bigger, Faster, Stronger – Greg Shephard
-Theory and Application of Modern Strength and Power Methods – Christian Thibaudeau
-Muscle Revolution – Chad Waterbury
-Huge in a Hurry – Chad Waterbury
-5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System for Raw Strength – Jim Wendler
-The Vertical Jump Development Bible – Kelly Baggett
-The Ultimate No-Bull Speed Development Manual – Kelly Baggett
-The No-Bull Muscle Building Plan – Kelly Baggett
-The Ultimate Off-Season Strength Training Manual – Eric Cressey
-Maximum Strength: Get Your Strongest Body in 16 Weeks with the Ultimate Weight-Training Program – Eric Cressey
-Designing Strength Training Programs and Facilities – Mike Boyle
-Advances in Functional Training: Training Techniques for Coaches, Personal Trainers and Athletes – Mike Boyle
-Power Training: Performance Based Conditioning for Total Body Strength – Robert Dos Remedios
-High Threshold Muscle Building – Christian Thibaudeau
-The New Rules of Lifting – Alwyn Cosgrove, Lou Shuler
-The Black Book of Training Secrets – Christian Thibaudeau
-The Essence of Program Design – Juan Carlos Santana
-Training for Warriors – Martin Rooney
-Movement – Gray Cook
-Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better – Eric Cressey

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In 2006 Charles Staley and Keats Snideman wrote an article for T-Nation called Pulling Your Chain For Massive Gains! Same But Different, Volume I. This article did a great job of summarizing part of my philosophy of strength training. Here’s an excerpt:

Ever notice how two supposedly inviolate principles of resistance training are basically contradictory?

On the one hand, the Principle of Specificity states that in order to realize a specific adaptation (or response), you need to perform a specific type of training to elicit that response. For example, if you want bigger biceps you’ve gotta do curls. If you want maximal strength, you’ve gotta focus on heavy loads. If you wanna raise your estrogen levels, you’ve gotta watch Oprah every day.

On the other hand, the Principle of Variability predicts that the same type of training, performed week-in and week-out, will lead to habituation, which is just a highbrow term for nervous system boredom. Eventually your body gets so accustomed to the training that you get zero results. Is this phenomenon sounding intimately familiar to any of you?

At Staley Training Systems, we actually think of these two principles as opposite extremes along a single continuum. The most successful trainees are those who manage to find the “sweet spot” in this specificity-variability continuum. The process of finding this sweet spot is the “same but different” concept.

Essentially, it’s all about finding the “best” exercises for your particular objectives, and then finding jillions of different ways to perform these exercises, so that 1) you’re always doing the best movements, but 2) you’re not habituating to your training sessions because every time you do one of your best exercises, you’re doing it in a different manner than last time.

Variations at BCSC aka Bret’s Garage


full squat
goblet squat
front squat
low box squat
high box squat
Zercher squat
parallel squat
safety bar squat
cambered bar squat
manta ray squat
pause squat
speed squat
sumo squat
squat against chains
squat against bands


conventional deadlift
sumo deadlift
trap bar deadlift
deficit deadlift
rack pull
Romanian deadlift
snatch grip deadlift
dumbbell deadlift
negative accentuated RDL
speed deadlift
deadlift against chains
deadlift against bands

We also do tons of:

Single leg work: Bulgarian squat, high step up, walking lunge, reverse lunge, single leg RDL, single leg hip thrust, single leg back extension, pendulum quadruped hip extension, pendulum donkey kick

Bilateral posterior chain work: Hip thrust, barbell glute bridge, Skorcher hip thrust, good morning, back extension, 45 degree hyper, reverse hyper, pull through, glute ham raise, Russian leg curl, gliding leg curl

Then there are explosive lifts, sled work, plyometrics, ballistics, strongmen drills, EQI’s, etc.

Finally, we have upper body and core work!!!

As you can see, it’s quite advantageous to possess a huge arsenal of exercises. It prevents habituation and stagnation and makes lifting more fun! By rotating lifts yet sticking to the same basic movement patterns, we get really strong at what matters while still keeping safety in mind.

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Over the past few weeks I’ve heard the “Magic 30%” number tossed around on two different occasions in terms of the training load that maximizes power production, so I figured it was time to write an article on this topic. The theory is that we should train athletes with explosive movements at 30% of their 1RM because this is the load that shows the highest peak power outputs and therefore this load will maximize the athletes’ power production and athleticism.

This line of reasoning is faulty for several reasons, but first, let’s look at the research. I’ll state up front that the research is very complicated due to the fact that sometimes “mean power” is used, sometimes “peak power” is used, and sometimes just “power” is used. Different equations and methods are also used in determining max power. Calculations sometimes incorporate bodyweight and sometimes they do not. Different types of movements are employed, for example free weight squat jumps versus machine squat jumps. And finally, different types of subjects are used…various ages, genders, training statuses, types of athletes, levels of strength, etc., which complicates matters as well.

That said, it’s still very valuable to analyze the research. Here are some quick findings on a spectrum of different studies.


Optimal loading for peak power output during the hang power clean in professional rugby players

Peak power output – 80% of 1RM for hang power clean, no significant difference from 40-90%.

Optimal loading for the development of peak power output in professional rugby players

Peak power output at 30% of 1RM for ballistic bench throw and 0% (just bodyweight) for squat jump.

Determining the Optimal Load for Maximal Power Output for the Power Clean and Snatch in Collegiate Male Football Players

Peak power at 80% for Power Clean and Snatch.

The Load That Maximizes the Average Mechanical Power Output During Explosive Bench Press Throws in Highly Trained Athletes

Peak power for Bench throws at 55%.

Optimal loading for peak power output during the hang power clean in professional rugby players.

Peak power for hang power clean at 80%, no significant differences from 40-90%.

The load that maximizes the average mechanical power output during jump squats in power-trained athletes

Peak power for jump squat at 55-59%, no significant differences from 47-63%.

Power outputs of a machine squat-jump across a spectrum of loads

Peak power at 21.6% for jump squat.

Leg power in young women: relationship to body composition, strength, and function

Peak power for leg press at 56-78%.

Human muscle power output during upper- and lower-body exercises

Peak power for Squat at 50-70%, peak power for bench press at 40-60%.

Maximal strength and power characteristics in isometric and dynamic actions of the upper and lower extremities in middle-aged and older men

Peak power at 30-45% for bench press, peak power at 60-70% for half squat.

The relationship between maximal jump-squat power and sprint acceleration in athletes.

Peak power at 30-60% for split jump squat, peak power at 50-70% for squat.

The Effect of Heavy- Vs. Light-Load Jump Squats on the Development of Strength, Power, and Speed

Low load explosive training appears better than high load explosive training for power.


Olympic lifting seems better than powerlifting for power.

Velocity specificity, combination training and sport specific tasks.

No difference between strength trained and power trained for netball throw velocity.

Power versus strength-power jump squat training: influence on the load-power relationship.

Combined strength and power training appears better than just power training.

Squat jump training at maximal power loads vs. heavy loads: effect on sprint ability

Power training appears no better than heavy training for sprint speed.

Inter-relationships between machine squat-jump strength, force, power and 10 m sprint times in trained sportsmen

Squat jumps at lighter and heavier loads not well correlated with acceleration.


It appears that each exercise has its own unique range of loading for peak power production, and often the range is pretty broad. The “Magic 30%” figure just doesn’t hold up. Furthermore, individual peak power production can vary considerably from one person to the next, so it’s unwise to generalize and assume that an individual falls in the norm when their anthropometry, physiology, anatomy, etc., could cause them to stray from the norm.

There is mixed and inconclusive evidence on which loads maximize athletic performance indicators (as well as mixed research on what load maximizes peak power for the various lifts). The best load is most likely specific to the individual and could have much to do with the individual’s “weak link.” For example, if they’re weak but pretty elastic perhaps you should try to get them strong, and if they’re strong but not explosive, perhaps you should focus on power and reactive strength.

It’s important to consider the fact that squatting and jump squatting motions aren’t biomechanically similar to sprinting so the correlation with advanced athletes may be relatively weak. Power is just one quality; there’s also speed, agility, endurance, skill, strength, etc. In sports, there are many different force-velocity relationships, so it’s wise to pay attention to different types of strength and loads. It appears that combined training and training with mixed loads is superior to uni-dimensional training and training at a single load. Some lifts lend themselves better to heavy lifting and some lifts lend themselves better to explosive lifting…perhaps it’s best to just train squats and bench press heavy, Olympic lifts relatively heavy (which means explosively), jump squats a little lighter and more explosively, and use sprints, plyos, and ballistics for the primary “rapid stimulus.” This ensures that you hit all the points on the force-velocity curve.

Finally, variety and periodization are important considerations in program design. With the many types of plyometrics, ballistics, sprint drills, towing drills, explosive lifts, and heavy lifts, there’s no reason to stick with solely one load (as a percentage of 1RM) indefinitely.

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This week was pretty crazy; sometimes you submit stuff to people and you have no idea when (or if) they’ll post it on their site. Coincidentally a bunch of stuff of mine came out this week. So the first five in this list are mine; the next twenty three are stuff other people wrote.

1. Fitcast Episode with Bret Contreras (This is a 2-hour episode: I’m on from 1:15 to 1:50…I got a couple of emails from Fitcasters saying that this was the most thought-provoking Fitcast episode they’d ever heard…I credit this to super-genius Jonathan Fass who always makes people sound much smarter than they really are)

2. Directional Load Vectors: A New Paradigm for Describing Movement by Bret Contreras (this is a membership site but I got some really good feedback on this article – if you’re not a member you can sign up for a free 14-day trial for just $1)

3. Weakpoint Fixing: Triceps by Bryan Krahn (includes advice from T-Nation contributors including yours truly)

4. Men’s Health Fitness Tip of the Week (this is a quick 2-minute video of me giving David Jack a tutorial on single leg hip thrust variations

5. One hour Audio With Mike T. Nelson (in this recording we discuss a bunch of general strength-related topics such as periodization, biofeedback, progression, etc.)

6. Form Police by Ben Bruno (I could certainly relate to this one)

7. The Reality of Owning a Business by Dave Tate (a harsh reality but a must read for prospective business owners)

9. Crap Against a Wall by Carson Boddicker (this doesn’t just pertain to endurance programs…it applies to all programs)

10. Get Your Mind Right by Ben Bruno

11. Jeff Cubos on Glute Strengthening

12. Training Footage from Diesel Crew (it’s always great to see people training like badasses!)

13. Interview with Dave Jak by Bryan Grasso on Leadership

14. Good T-Nation article on Olympic lifting pre-requisites

15. Cardiorespiratory stuff by Chris Beardsley

16. Insulin Myths by James Krieger (this son of a bitch is freaky smart! you can click on parts I, II, and III from this link, which is part IV).

17. Plyometric Olympic Lifts by Charles Poliquin


19. Top Training Behaviors by Charles Poliquin

20. DeFranco’s New Gym = Awesome!

21. Arguing for Argument’s Sake by Robbie Bourke (Robbie makes some great points in this one)

22. Train in Groups of Three by Charles Poliquin

23. Mike Young and Colleagues have Started Up a New Track & Field Academy

24. Ben Bruno pistol squats. In the first video he busts out 90 lbs for 15 reps. In the second video he does 209 lbs for 3 reps (he weighs 175 so this means 384 total lbs on one leg!).

25. Children Should Not Have Low Back Pain by Jeff Cubos

26. Counting Calories by PJ Striet

27. Pete Benches 300 by Tony Gentilcore (if I had to train at another facility I would choose Cressey Performance over any other place. The atmosphere there seems really fun. Tony and Eric know how to get people strong and it’s obvious they care very much about their clients)

28. Random Thoughts by Mark Young (this makes it to the “good reads” blogs simply because Mark dug up a picture of me from Halloween 2009, which reminds me that Halloween is coming up soon…time to start thinking up more shirtless costume ideas)

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On yesterday’s blogpost, I provided a link to the best hamstring article I’ve ever read in any journal. The journal article was written by Jurdan Mendigutxia and Matt Brughelli. I was so impressed with the study that I tracked down Jurdan and asked him to conduct an interview. I had to translate a little bit for Jurdan as his English isn’t his strongpoint. Here’s the interview:

1. Hey Jurdan, please introduce yourself to the readers. Where were you born, where do you live, what are your educational and professional backgrounds, and what is your current occupation?

Hello readers! My name is Jurdan Mendigutxia. I’m a 32 year-old Sport Physical Therapist born in Pamplona (Spain), which is next door to where Ernest Hemingway wrote his famous book “Fiesta”. He spent good time here and all the readers are invited to visit us and run ahead the bulls around the streets to improve the quality of their S&C program! I was a soccer player and played a few times for the U18 and U19 Spanish National Team. After University I worked for the Research and Studies in Sports Medicine Center in my city where we give assistance to top level athletes for 6 years. In between I took time to visit in my opinion some of the best scientifically places in the world. PT is my passion and I want to see in action the best. I spent months in the Oslo Sport Trauma Research Center in Oslo, the only place in the world created for prevention issues in sport. Two years later I was with the ACL King, Tim Hewett and his “family “( Kevin Ford, Greg Myer, Jensen Brent) in Cincinnati, who have more than 200 papers published, just learning how a scientific guy has to work and learning all about ACL injury prediction, prevention and rehab. This could be the place that has made me most impact on me because of the scientific nature of their methods.

Just because it was so close I took the opportunity to visit “Spine King” Stuart McGill spent some time with him in Waterloo. Stu always has great ideas. Finally, I had very good luck in my life to meet Matt Brughelli. We have many professional things in common (our passion for the hamstrings!) and a very good relationship. We’ve done some research together and are always discussing new ideas. There are never bad times to discuss our views and many nights have been spent in front of the PC trying to explain mine new ideas or understand his new ideas. My main interest area is prevention of sports injuries . Actually, after being a consultant in terms of prevention and rehab to different professional soccer teams and head of rehab and prevention for Athletic Club Bilbao professional soccer team, I built my own facility called Zentrum. I rehab professional athletes and see difficult cases and still act as a consultant for different professional teams.

I’ll let you in on a secret Bret but don’t get jealous: Some people joking call me “The Ham Guy!” Haha! (Editor’s note: Now we just need an “Adductor Magnus Guy” and we’ll have the primary hip extensors covered!)

2. Jurdan, you know an awful lot about the hamstrings. Tell us some things we don’t know about the hamstring musculature.

I will tell you the latest findings that for me are interesting:

1. Recent research (in press) shows that during sprinting where injury mostly occurs, hams is a more powerful hip extensor (greater than knee flexor) during swing phase than in the stance phase, where the GM is more powerful. This agrees with its moment arms and confirms older biomechanics studies ( Novacheck TF 1998). This means that we might need more than one approach to attack the prevention and/or rehab and confirm that as Novacheck TF shows moments arm at the hip for the hams are double than at the knee. In other words, the hamstrings are twice as powerful as hip extensors than knee flexors during swing phase.

2. The semitendinosus muscle is the unique hamstring muscle that has architectural partitions (Kubota et al 2007). It has an intersectional tendon that divides the ST in proximal and distal portions and it’s been shown that exercise can activate more one or the other. The clinical meaning for me and an idea that I am focused on is that because proximal and distal hams injuries exist maybe we need to categorize and target our exercises for prevention and rehab as proximals and distals. We need to know not only which muscle we want to target but also the location within the muscle! Looking at this, ask yourself if it is enough to do a single exercise to prevent hams injuries? I think not.

3. More related to muscle physiology, the importance of the elastic series component giant protein TITIN during lengthening (binding with actin) contractions and its different adaptations to resistance training has been highlighted. This could be the future to understanding muscle mechanics and injury prevention. To introduce you in this concept here is some basic stuff about it (see Lindstedt S et al. 2001 – that is free).( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11719600)

3. How can we reduce the incidents of hamstring injuries in sports?

Good question! Even though many people think that they have the recipe, looking at the evidence is not easy. In the last decade we’ve seen an explosion of eccentric exercise. This was used for prevent muscle injuries and tendinopathies, but recently a systematic review by prestigious Cochrane database conducted by Goldman and Jones shows that there is no evidence to support that the notion that hams injuries are prevented through eccentric training and that popular hamstring strengthening protocols have contradictory findings with one small study showing benefits and decreasing injuries and 2 bigger studies showing the opposite. This interesting finding was compromised by poor methodology and the use of only one exercise, the Nordic Hamstring exercise, that works the knee flexors eccentrically but with a fixed hip. But, didn’t we say above that the hip extension moment arm was double than the moment arm at the knee? This could be a reason but undoubtedly better studies are needed.

Moreover, if you analyze in soccer the number of hams injuries 28 years ago, you’ll see that they are equal to current data in epidemiological studies. A very nice study conducted by Ekstrand J et al. 2010 analyzing hams injuries in the most prestigious Europe soccer teams (27) and with a follow up of 8 years doesn’t find any hams injury reduction. Well guys, don’t you think that is time for reflection? The hams injuries remains equal!! Looking to scientific evidence literature I find 2 major flaws: first is that almost no single study meets the criteria needed in a prospective study designed to find injury related risk factors. More than 200 subjects and 20 -50 injuries are needed to achieve statistical power. Second and more important is that currently research studies isolate risk factors. In my opinion isolating static variables can’t give you the real picture. You can’t reduce the part and retain the meaning of the whole!! Force, mobility and stability are all interconnected around the body! I think that this could be one of the reasons why hams injuries don’t decrease. We need to assess each individual and address the weaknesses. I promise you that in my career I tested isokinetically hundreds of pro players at the lab and there is no correlation with injuries. This is the reason why I hate general recipes. Each individual is an individual case and remember that hams injuries are multifactorial!

4. Tell us how the gluteus maximus and hamstring musculature can work together to increase pelvic stiffness and how this effects force and mobility.

Just looking for the literature you can observe that both gluteus and hams are connected to the pelvis via sacroutuberous ligaments and both have been shown to participate in SIJ force closure (preventing forward rotation of the sacrum) and therefore affect its stiffness and stability (see Pool Gouzdwaard et al. 1998, Vleeming 1989). So in addition to participating in hip extension and knee flexion the glutes and hams have to stabilize the SIJ. How much force is used for each action and how weakness of hams or gluteus can affect each other is unknown as of yet but it could be a nice research area. For example Cibulka MT et al. 1986 has shown an increase in hams force after SIJ mobilization in people with anterior pelvic tilt and speculated that this could increase hams length and compromise strength.

5. Last question, do you feel that the field of Physical Therapy could stand to be more evidence-based?

Of course! I would like to tell you one thing. When in University I started working in the research center and I was very surprised and frustrated during the first few weeks. There, the strength coaches control and measure many variables like power, RFD…etc, physiologist control the progression of the athletes objectively, the nurses measure everything…and I ask myself: “What are we the Physical Therapists supposed to measure and control objectively?” This is one of my headaches! I need to do things that are evidence based in the literature and know the “why” and need to measure my own processes. How can a professional athlete return to sport without measuring anything? We can’t learn anything if he get injured again. Of course we can observe that sometimes a measure is not valid but at least we know now that this measure could not be valid. If we record and measure systematically we can obtain feedback from our process and improve our system. For example, you can see my last article at Physical Therapist in sport that a hams algorithm rehab is scientifically fundamental. It was only one year ago that I made these changes but this makes my system much better!!

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