Archive for the ‘Random Thoughts’ Category

Well peeps, it’s been a while since I’ve had time to do one of these, and I don’t really have free time right now but I’ll post anyway. Here we go:

1. Muchas Gracias!

Thank you everyone for the kind words regarding my decision to leave to New Zealand in early-February. I received a bunch of Facebook and blog comments and really appreciate it. What’s strange is that I just purchased my ticket and realized that I’d lose a day in the process – leaving Tuesday the 8th and arriving in NZ on Thursday the 10th. They’re 19 hours ahead of Arizona!

2. Bret’s Blog

When I’m in New Zealand, I will definitely continue with my blog. I’ve still managed to write blogs during the past two months and I’ve never been busier, so I don’t see anything changing. Right now I’m working on:

  • Finishing up my journal article with Brad Schoenfeld on lumbar flexion and disc degeneration. I’ve easily put over 100 hours into this review paper and believe it will a very popular article once it gets published. I feel like a creep – I’m fascinated by the human intervertebral discs so I stay up until I start feeling nauseous or start falling asleep at my computer every night, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. I’ve gained so much knowledge during the past two months of intensive-studying that I need to do a presentation. It would blow people away. I know that I’m currently the self-proclaimed “Glute Guy,” but I think I’m now the “Ab Guy” too. When you study the core, you have to study the spine. One could easily study the spine for the rest of his or her life and still not have it all figured out.
  • Acquiring some new EMG data on the glutes. I just rented the Myotrace from Noraxon and have it for the rest of the week. If I can finish this darn paper I may even try to test ten of my friends or so and publish my findings.
  • Writing a new eBook on the glutes. I’ve received so many emails asking me for a more basic glute book. I believe that now is the time for a new one. This eBook will provide different programs and simple explanations and analogies for many of the questions people have pertaining to the glutes. This eBook will also include new information that I’ve gleaned since last eBook. I suspect that people are going to love it.

If I can find time to update my blog while working on all of this other stuff, in addition to doing all my other daily stuff – training myself, training my clients, writing programs for online clients, writing articles, reading, chatting with other coaches, writing a thesis proposal, and selling my house, then I think it’s safe to say that I’ll always have some time to work on my blog. So don’t worry about that!

3. Bye-Bye to Good Reads

I don’t think I’ll be doing the “Good Reads” blogs anymore. But don’t you worry! I’m not going to leave you hanging. I’m handing over the reigns to my buddy Ben Bruno. He’ll be providing you with weekly good-reads blogs so be sure to check his blog out regularly. He may not bust out 100-post links like me, but consider that a good thing!

4. Female Strength Levels

Yesterday I posted a blog about female strength levels and I was intrigued by the response. I received emails, facebook comments, and blog comments from men (mostly fellow strength coaches who train plenty of women) who really liked the chart. However the chart seemed to ruffle some women’s feathers. Some felt that I was too lax and that “elite” should involve much more strength. I’d like to say two quick things about that:

First, I felt that the upper end of the “elite” column is very challenging. Look at the second-set of numbers in the far-right column. Those are pretty impressive!

In fact, I’ve never in my life seen a woman do many of those feats. For example, when I say “back squat” I mean to say “full squat.” I’ve never seen a woman full squat 225 for 10 reps – in person – and I’ve trained at dozens of commercial gyms and trained plenty of athletic women. There are women who can in fact do this, for example here’s Cara Heads busting out 321 lbs for 10 reps.

But this kind of strength is very rare! For my second point, which I alluded to in my original post, many of the women who claim to be at the “elite level” may or may not belong in that category. I’ve trained plenty of strong women and the first thing I have to do with them is cut down the weight and focus on technique. With push ups many let their hips sag, or their hands are too far out in front of them, or they don’t go down all the way. With squats many women use too much anterior weight shift, or they “good morning” the weight up, or their knees collapse inward. With deadlifts many round their low backs, or they create slack in their limbs and “jerk” the initial portion of the lift, or they pull with too much back. With chin ups they don’t go down all they way, they don’t go up all the way, or they jerk the initial portion, or they shrug their shoulders too much up top. The list goes on and on. Many say that they can lift a certain amount, but under my scrutiny it’s not what I call a good lift – which brings me to my next random thought.

5. If it Doesn’t Look Athletic, it’s Probably Not Athletic

I stole this from Mike Boyle and it’s one of my favorite lines. Always keep this in mind when you’re training. The goal is to look fluid, remain stable, and look effortless. Well, maybe not effortless but at least under control. Lifting heavy is safe as long as you have the mobility, stability, and motor control to move properly and prevent energy leaks. It takes time to build up this kind of movement efficiency, but you should always strive to optimize your movement quality. Take a look at how fluid these guys look:

No jerking, buckling, or shifting! That’s how it’s done, son.

6.  Karli  Sumo Deads 225 x 5

Karli’s getting strong!

7.  Steve Hammond Hip Thrusts 495 x 8

Steve is a pitcher (baseball) that I started training around five weeks ago. He’s getting real strong, real fast. I’m no longer the strongest hip thruster at BCSC (aka Bret’s Garage).

With Steve and I both thrusting so heavy, we destroyed my Hampton thick bar pad. This one lasted me several years but I had to trade her in for a new one. The bar was slipping through the cracks so the load would end up on our pelvises mid-set, which was not cool!

8. Box Squat Instructional Video

9. Rack Pull Instructional Video

By the way here are some examples of piss-poor rack pulls. I don’t care if you’re doing 1,000 lbs – it’s not going to transfer much to real deadlifting!

10. Ab Wheel Rollouts – Take it Slow!

Ab wheel rollouts are an amazing ab exercise. The problem with any great exercise is that they sometimes work too well. The ab wheel can create some serious DOMS – probably more than that of any other exercise I’m aware of. I’ve experienced it myself on several occasions – I pushed it too hard on rollouts and had crippled abs the following day. I’ve received emails from several individuals saying that they strained their rectus abdominis by performing these. They can lead to hernias too if not gradually progressed upon.

My advice: Take it slow on ab wheel rollouts. When you start doing them, just do one set. See how you feel the next day. If you feel okay, do two sets on the following workout. Build up slowly and allow your abs to adapt to the loading. I hadn’t done them in a couple of months and I did just one set of ten reps from a kneeling position – which is very easy for me – as I think I can do around twenty kneeling rollouts, and I was still sore the following day! I stopped ten reps shy of failure and only performed one set and was still sore. Thank God I didn’t do a set of twenty, or do 2-3 sets of 10 reps. Take it slow and build up over time and avoid having pointless crippled-abs. Here are some inspiring ab wheel videos:

No music – just a man and his ab wheel

This 71-year old man would whoop your ass! Over 100 kneeling ab wheel rollouts!

That’s all peeps!

Read Full Post »

More Random Thoughts

I’ve got a bunch of these ready to go so I’ll just keep cranking them out several at a time.

1. Vitamin D

As a former math teacher, I like to break things down mathematically. According to most authorities on Vitamin D, you’ll get around 10,000 iu’s of Vitamin D production in around 10 minutes of summer sun exposure if you’re wearing a bathing suit. This breaks down to around 17 iu’s/second, or 1,000 iu’s/minute.

The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies has established the following adequate intake levels of Vitamin D.

  • Birth to 50 years, 5 µg (200 IU)
  • 51–70 years, 10 µg (400 IU)
  • 71+ years, 15 µg (600 IU)

Most nutrition experts believe these levels to be far below the optimal level and recommend around 1,000 to 2,000 iu’s per day. Bottom line, get some sun from time to time! If you’re never in the sun then take some Vitamin D supplements! Vitamin D is extremely important!

2. Don’t Forget About Insulin

Hypocaloric diets are great for fat loss, but taking insulin dynamics into account and manipulating carbohydrate intake accordingly will yield better results according to this study.  Many people are severely insulin resistant because they consume too many carbohydrates or they have poor genetics. We saw from the “Twinkie Diet” that just reducing calories led to considerable weight loss and surprisingly favorable effects on cholesterol. But for optimal health you need to consider things like insulin sensitivity, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols, in addition to caloric intake.  

3. Loadless Training (Flexing)

When I was a teenager, I used to stand in front of the mirror and practice “posing.” I would take my shirt off and flex my muscles in the mirror. I remember finding it very hard to contract certain muscles such as my lats and hamstrings. I probably flexed my muscles in the mirror for around five minutes several days per week. Within a few months I was able to contract all of my major muscle groups really well.

When I get new clients, I’ll often ask them to contract a certain muscle or muscle group and I find that they don’t know how to contract it. Bodybuilders talk about forming an intense “mind-muscle connection.” Strength coaches and physical therapists talk about “activating” dormant muscles. In Supertraining, Mel Siff defined flexing or posing as a viable training method called “loadless training” and postulated that it had certain benefits. I’ll tell you one thing; if more people practiced flexing their muscles we wouldn’t have all of these dormant muscles and we wouldn’t have to coin certain terms such as “gluteal amnesia.”

Bottom line – don’t be afraid to practice flexing your muscles. I still try to do it a few times per week in the mirror for around 60 seconds or so. I’ll roll through several different poses and make sure that I maximally contract all the major muscle groups – the calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes, abs, lats, pecs, delts, bi’s, and tri’s.

4. Text Message from My Client Kellie Davis

A couple of weeks ago I received a text message from one of my online clients. This is what she said:

“I was screwing around (I shouldn’t be) and tried the whole stack on the glute press. Did 170 lbs each side for 6 reps ;)”

Leave it to one of my clients to have stronger glutes than most males! How could I be mad at her for not “sticking with the program?”

5. Chalk One Up for Eccentrics!

Here’s a cool study I stumbled upon that shows the benefits of eccentric training:

Short-term strength training and the expression of myostatin and IGF-I isoforms in rat muscle and tendon: differential effects of specific contraction types

Here’s a quote from the authors:

“In conclusion, we have demonstrated that short-term training increases tendon levels of both IGF-IEa and MGF mRNA, indicating a possible role for these growth factors in the adaptation of tendon to training. Furthermore, we found that eccentric training was more effective in downregulating myostatin expression than other loading types, and in combination with the effect of eccentric loading on IGF-IEa and MGF expression, this may well explain the strong contributions of eccentric actions in resistance training-induced muscle hypertrophy.”

That’s all folks!

Read Full Post »

A Few Random Thoughts

I’ve got fifty random thoughts lined up…been so busy I haven’t been able to post them. I figure I’ll just post a few at a time so I don’t overwhelm people.

1. Here’s a hilarious quote from Dr. Stuart McGill

 As you know, you’re taller when you wake up in the morning than when you go to bed at night. This is because the discs are hydrophilic, that means they suck up water while you sleep and when there are no stresses present.

After rising, hydrostatic stresses of just walking around and using the muscles during the day compress your spine and the fluid is squeezed out, decreasing the anular tensions in the disc. So, when you wake up the extra height in the discs are analogous to a full water balloon ready to burst and if you bend, you build up much higher stresses in the disc. In fact, the stresses are three times higher than when you perform the same bend two or three hours later.

Now I’m not talking about getting up and going for a walk or perhaps a boxer going for a jog first thing in the morning. I’m talking about heavy bending exercises, like for example the good-morning exercise or doing sit-ups. Somehow people thought that this would be a good thing to do in the morning. It’s the worst possible thing you could do for the back first thing in the morning. I personally have a more favorite morning exercise, it’s what I like to call a “great-morning,” but I don’t think my wife would appreciate me talking about it! Full spine bending first thing in the morning is a great way to damage your back—an unwise thing to do.

2. Here’s a thought-provoking quote by Justin Harris

Steak generally has generally higher calories. It has saturated fat which gets converted to cholesterol, which gets converted to androstenediol, which gets converted to testosterone. For some competitors, natural competitors, that’s very important. But the other thing with steak… steak has a slightly lower bioavailability than chicken but the protein ratio is better for raising iron levels. If you can increase the iron level , it increases your hematocrit (the amount of red blood cells in your blood, which) you can increase your blood volume, which can give you a fuller look. You look at your bicep and only about 30% of your bicep is actual contractile tissue, actual actin and myosin. If you dehydrated it out… look at beef jerky. That’s the actual amount of actual tissue in the area. The rest of it is water, glycogen. If you can double the amount of blood vessels and double the amount of blood going through those blood vessels in your bicep, that’s going to add size to your bicep, and that’s something [a benefit] of the iron from steak.

3.  Sitting Does Not Raise Intradiscal Pressure (IDP) Moreso than Standing???

Sitting versus standing: does the intradiscal pressure cause disc degeneration or low back pain?

4. It is Indeed Possible to Isolate the Upper Abdominals from the Lower Abdominals

A study conducted by several researchers including Dr. Stuart McGill on belly-dancers showed that they could isolate one over the other during low-load precise movements. This study provides some pretty conclusive evidence and should silence the naysayers. Not that it really matters…if you want six-pack abs diet down and get lean!

Neuromuscular independence of abdominal wall muscles as demonstrated by middle-eastern style dancers

5. A Better Way to do GHR’s

I know I’ve talked about this before but here’s a good visual. Take a look at how the hamstrings relax at the top of the motion in this video (go to the 2:40 mark):

A better way is to elevated the back side of the glute-ham developer so you keep constant tension on the hammies at the end-range of the movement.

That’s all folks!

Read Full Post »

30 Random Thoughts

I apologize for the really long blogpost – I intended to post a random thoughts blog last week but didn’t get around to it. As time went on I thought of more and more stuff, hence the long post. Anyway, this is definitely the most random post I’ve ever written.

1. If the Blog is Rockin’, Don’t Come Knockin’!

Last Thursday my blog had 5,969 views. I started this blog last November and had 119 total views that month. A year later I’m averaging over 4,000 views per day. As of a few minutes ago I had over 110,000 views for the month of October and there are four days left in the month. I’ve worked very hard on this blog and am very proud that it seems to be one of the most popular blogs in strength & conditioning. Below is a chart that shows the blog’s rise in viewership.

2. Epic Conversation in “Training Women” Blog

Following my “Training Women” blog, I had some amazing dialogue with several people but most notably from my friend Karla. I’m glad she had the guts to call me out as it led to an amazing discussion. I felt like I threw down some serious knowledge in the comments portion so I recommend you read through it if you have time.

3. Raise the Bar for the Glutes!

I don’t want to sound like an asshole, but we really need to raise the bar for the glutes. It’s very important to get clients and athletes moving well with their own bodyweight. Many times I have to regress exercises as far back as possible in order to start them off with an appropriate exercise variation.

Hell, I had a female client several years ago who was very tall, uncoordinated, top-heavy, and weak. It took me an entire year to get her to do a bodyweight full squat. Believe me, I understand the vast range of fitness between sedentary and athletic individuals.

But we need to raise the bar for the glutes and have high-standards if we want to see nice butts, fast runners, and reduced low-back pain. Bodyweight movements just don’t cut it.

Barbell squats, barbell deadlifts, barbell hip thrusts, barbell Bulgarian split squats, etc. are where it’s at for the glutes. Dumbbells, cables, bands, and kettlebells can be used to but we have to progress past bodyweight (unless the client is sprinting, cutting, jumping, etc.).

I think I could do 10 straight minutes of bodyweight glute bridges, low step ups, or clamshells. For me bodyweight glute bridges are like jogging – pure endurance work. Bodyweight glute bridges activate my 20% of glute MVC for me. Conversely, 600 lb barbell glute bridges activate well over 100% of glute MVC (this is possible because MVC is an isometric measurement) for me. I realize that I have strong glutes but every grown man should be able to glute bridge at least 225 lbs.

I bet if we found a frozen Neanderthal and unfroze him he’d lay down and bust out 30 reps with 225 on the glute bridge without even warming up.

In our glute articles we can’t be satisfied with bodyweight movements…we have to keep showing pictures of barbell movements so people know where to aim. Of course we can tell them to master their bodyweight before loading up, but if all we ever show in the articles are pictures of someone doing bodyweight glute bridges, low step ups, and clamshells, then we set the bar way too low and don’t give people something for which to strive. (I hate that I’m not supposed to end a sentence in a preposition – that sounded strange)

4. Barbell 1-Leg SLDL

I have never really pushed the barbell 1-Leg SLDL to see how much I could lift. Last Wednesday I busted out 2 reps with 225 and 1 rep with 275. I felt slightly unbalanced and uncoordinated, but I know if I kept at it I’d quickly be able to use 315 or so.

This is important because it indicates that there may be a considerable bilateral deficit with deadlifting. My max deadlift is around 565 right now. I’m hoping to get it to 600 one of these days (although 585 which is 6 plates per side sound really cool too). Here’s a vid of the bb sl sldl (I don’t really keep the leg straight but I keep the hips high and do down until the bar touches the floor while focusing on sitting back and keeping the chest up).

5. Fat Pets

Whenever I see pet owners with fat pets it diminishes my faith in humanity. Seriously, we’ve gotten pretty damn pathetic. Here’s what I tell people in that situation.

1. Stop feeding Junior table scraps.
2. Stop filling his entire bowl full of food every day.
3. Start out with half a bowl per day and see if he loses weight.
4. Just keep tinkering with the amount until you reach an equilibrium and you’re happy with your dog’s (or other pet) weight.
5. Then just keep it at that level.

If your pet is fat, it’s your fault, not the pet’s! This pisses me off very much. The dog deserves more competent owners.

6. Ultimate Fighter on Spike

I’ve been watching the Ultimate Fighter this year and wanted to say three quick things.

1. Josh Koscheck is just too immature for my liking. I used to really like him (I still think he’s a great and exciting fighter) but now I’m a little annoyed. Cocky fighters need to get humbled.
2. GSP is a class act.
3. I’m very glad that the UFC and MMA trainers in general seems to be improving in their strength & conditioning. It’s not uncommon now to see guys doing trap bar deadlifts, inverted rows, using the battleropes, etc.

7. Back Extension Instructional Video

Here is how I teach back extensions at my garage:

This needs to be watched by everyone! Back extensions are an amazing glute exercise if done correctly.

8. Professor Richard Hinrichs Drops Some Knowledge

A couple of weeks ago I posted a video on ACL Biomechanics. In case you missed it, here was the video:

I showed my professor the video and he dropped some serious knowledge on me. Here was his response:

The first error was a time 3:02. You said that the larger moment arm for the quads (than the hamstrings) allowed the quads to produce more force. The word you wanted was torque here. The same force with a larger moment arm produces a greater moment or torque, not more force. And torque is what is important when trying to extend the knees. The second error you made is at time 4:16. I think you must have misunderstood one point I made when comparing males and females in the timing of the coactivation of the hamstrings and quads in landing. Contrary to what you might expect, females turn on their hamstrings significantly sooner in the landing process (not later) compared to males–as if to recognize that their hamstrings are weak. It is the quads to hamstrings strength ratio that is so much higher in females than males that seems to be the risk factor for ACL injuries.

Rick is a brilliant man and I am very happy to be learning from him. He’s exceptionally knowledgeable about the ACL and swimming biomechanics. I still get an A for effort!

9. The Fuzz

I’m curious as to what my readers will think about this video. Check it out:

10. Creatine on the Nose

I’ve taken creatine for so long that I don’t mix it anymore. I just put the scoop in my mouth and then wash it down with some liquid. The other day I got some on my nose when the scoop touched it. Later that day, about five minutes prior to having to train a client I noticed in the mirror that I had a bunch of white powder on my nose.

I’ve never used cocaine in my entire life but I was thinking about how funny it would have been if my client showed up and saw the white powder on my nose. What else could they possibly assume? Thank God I noticed it!

11. Anthropometry & Attachment Points as it Relates to Big Lifts

I get a lot of questions from people who ask me stuff like, “Why can I deadlift so much more than I can squat?” Actually I should expound upon this in an “ABC: Ask Bret Contreras” post but for people in this situation, know that it’s perfectly normal.

Most women can deadlift much more than they can squat (at least in my experience). The main reason why some men can squat more than they can deadlift is because they aren’t proficient in the deadlift. With practice they almost always deadlift more than they can squat real quickly. Over the years I would say that on average I put 50-80 lbs on a typical guy’s deadlift “instantly” just by teaching them the correct starting position. Most try to deadlift like a squat, and when they learn how to maximize their leverage in their hips they set an instant PR (not because they got stronger, but because they never learned how to deadlift).

I’m talking raw lifting, not geared powerliting. Wearing gear changes things a bit as the squat briefs and suits add some serious spring to the squat…but the deadlift suits don’t do much for the deadlift.

Furthermore, it’s quite common for a taller lifter to be able to deadlift way more than he or she can squat. For example, a 5’8″ female lifter may be full squatting with 65 lbs but deadlifting with 175 lbs. This is not uncommon and has everything to do with human Anatomy. More specifically, it has to do with anthropometry (the relationship between body segment lengths) and the where the tendons attach on the bones.

Leverage is huge for lifting and people don’t quite understand from a biomechanical perspective how critical “leverage” is….just by taking a couple of inches off or putting a couple of inches on a particular bone or moving the tendon insertion a couple of centimeters out can lead to much higher abilities of the muscles to move some serious weight.

Those who are well-versed in Biomechanics are able to create equations using Anatomy, Physics, and Mathematics to solve for muscle forces required to move resistance based on the moment of the resistance arm (resistance times lever distance). All you need to know are bone lengths, tendon attachment points, amount of resistance, and joint angles. Can you see why I freakin’ love Biomechanics?!

12. What’s a G6?

There’s a popular song on right now called “Like a G6” by Far East Movement.

I didn’t know what a G6 was so I had to look it up. It’s a reference to a jet airplane that Gulfstream Aerospace makes called the G650. So technically the song-writer’s are off – there’s no G6, just a G650.

You can read about it here.

13. TC Luoma is the Real-Deal

A few weeks ago I met with TC Luoma, the editor-in-chief of T-Nation. I love writing for T-Nation and I’ve always wanted to meet TC. His Atomic Dog column was a riot and I bought 4 copies of his book back in the day – one for me and one for each of my brothers. My brothers all loved the book so much that when I told them I was meeting with him they acted like I was meeting an A-List Celebrity. We had some good conversation.

Here’s a video of him talking about his book (which is called Atomic Dog – Testosterone Principles).

I believe that every grown man should own this book.

14. Isoholds

Isoholds are a good thing to toss into a workout from time to time. They’re not too CNS demanding, they can increase flexibility and add stability to new mobility gains, and they can increase muscle activation by awakening dormant muscles. Plus, variety is always nice.

Good choices of Isoholds that can all be done with bodyweight are static lunge holds, Bulgarian split squat holds, good morning holds, chin up holds, push up holds, inverted row holds, glute ham raise holds, back extension holds, and reverse hyper holds.

A sixty second Bulgarian squat hold might be the most grueling exercise in the entire world. Sounds easy but it’s not!

Try this variation I learned from Jeremy Frisch! It’s tough!

15. Smart Blog Readers

I want to give a shout-out to my blog-readers. I think I have some of the smartest blog readers on the web. Often there are very good conversations following some of my blogposts. I appreciate all of the comments that my readers leave very much.

16. Weak Point Training

I’m often amazed at how many lifters assume that you can bring up a weak point in a matter of days. For example, I get lots of emails from people asking me whether they can get a great butt by next month.

This leads me to a funny story. A couple years ago at my training studio Lifts, my trainer Jordan and I trained this 19 year old girl (we’ll call her Leslie) and her mother at the same time. Leslie had a great body to begin with and a beautiful face, but she didn’t have much of a butt.

Within six workouts that spanned over the course of two weeks, all of a sudden her butt was amazing. Seriously it was one of the greatest butts imaginable. Round, perky, etc. It went from completely flat to perfect in two weeks!

One day Jordan asked me if I noticed how great Leslie’s butt was looking and I replied to him saying, “Yeah, I don’t want to feel like a pervert or anything but I’ve never seen such rapid results in my entire life as a trainer.”

Later on that day we were training Leslie and her mom and her mom said to us, “Can you believe how great Leslie’s butt is looking? It’s remarkable.”

Both of us looked at each other and replied with something like, “Um, yeah, I guess so. I hadn’t really noticed.” We were both too chicken to tell the mom that we had noticed!

On the other end of the spectrum, I had another client who was a bit frustrated with her lack of positive results in her glute region. I tried everything with her. She got much stronger but didn’t improve much in her glutes. We did plenty of hip stretching, low load glute activation, and glute strengthening from every angle with every major glute exercise, and still it seemed like she was going no where in this regard (well, her body got much better – she lost fat and gained muscle, but her butt didn’t seem to change much).

But she kept training hard, week in and week out. After she’d been with me for a year, I dug up her “before” picture and was blown away. Her butt had improved markedly we just didn’t realize it because the adaptations occurred so slowly.

The moral of the story is that with hard work, everyone can improve the shape of their butt. For some people it takes a few weeks, whereas with others it can take a year or two. But with hard work and consistency you can overcome poor genetics and dramatically improve the shape of a particular body part. Just don’t give up.

There are plenty of bodybuilders who have “reversed” a weak bodypart and turned it into a great bodypart but it often takes them years to do so.

17. Kinematics vs. Kinetics

Most people don’t know the difference between Kinematics and Kinetics.

Kinematics describes motion without considering the forces that cause the motion. Kinematics just describes things like joint angles, range of motion, velocity, vectors, etc.

Kinetics is concerned with the relationship between motion and its causes. Kinetics looks at things like forces and torque.

Kinematic variables (translations, rotations, etc.) are related to their respective kinetic variables (forces, moments/torques, etc.).

18. Getting Stronger by Using Steriods and Gaining a Ton of Weight

This “random thought” is probably going to piss some people off. Years ago I remember scanning through a T-Nation thread by Mark Bell (known as “Jackass” on this thread and in the movie “Bigger, Stronger, Faster” he’s known as “Smelly”). This thread started in 2004 and Jackass looked really good (see below). He looked strong, athletic, and was a great looking guy. Here’s a collage from his early years.

Several years later, the thread was still going (in 2008) and he looked like this:

He looks fat, unathletic, and disgusting. But very strong! As the years went on his strength went up but his looks went down.

Right now I am 6’4″, I weigh 225 lbs, and I am natural. I don’t wear any gear when I train and I don’t take any anabolic steroids. I can full squat 365 lbs, bench press 300 lbs, and sumo deadlift 565 lbs. By powerlifting standards this is laughable.

I remember talking to Dave Tate a while back and I asked him how much I’d need to weight to “balance out my leverages” for powerlifting. At my height, he told me I’d have to weigh 350 to ever amount to anything.

I have no doubt that Mark Bell is a kind dude. I shook hands with him at this year’s Mr. Olympia convention. His brother’s movie was one of the coolest movies I’ve ever watched. Mark is ten times stronger than me, but I try to think of him when I’m fighting the urge to get stronger at the expense of staying lean.

I’ve always wanted to get my bench up to 500 lbs. I’ve always wanted a 500 lb squat. Deadlifting 600 lbs would be awesome too.

I bet if I learned how to squat in briefs and a suit, and learned how to use a bench shirt, and trained specifically for powerlifting while taking anabolic steroids and eating like a horse for 3 years, I would probably get to an 1,800 lb total in powerlifting. Big deal? There are guys totalling 1,000 lbs over that.

It would be really fun to move that kind of weight, but what’s the point? I’m not genetically gifted to set powerlifting records. I’ll never be an elite lifter. And I would end up looking just like Jackass. He has made the choice to go down that route and I respect him for it. Sometimes I think it would be fun to open my own powerlifting gym, hang out and train with huge beasts all day long, and enter competitions several times per year. I know that Mark has his own powerlifting gym in Sacremento (Team Supertraining) and has tons of friends in the sport, and I believe he and his wife started up their own powerlifting magazine called Power. My hat is off to Mark.

But at the end of the day I don’t want to go down that road. I have a decent looking face and I intend to keep it. While Mark chose to let his looks slide in efforts to raise his powerlifting total, I choose to keep my looks and never be that strong. This doesn’t mean that I’m complacent with my strength, as I’m still trying to get stronger and reach my strength goals (especially a 600 lb deadlift). It just means that I have to keep reminding myself that I train for strength and aesthetics and that I want to build solely muscle, not muscle and a ton of fat. To each their own.

19. Joe Kenn Quote

I heard a Joe Kenn quote a couple of weeks ago that I love. He said,


I’ve been using this quote myself. In my humble little garage in Scottsdale I’m doing some good things that I’m very proud of. I know for certain that I’m “ahead of the research.”

By the way, I really enjoyed Joe’s “The Coach’s Strength Training Playbook” and definitely recommend it.

20. The Social Network

For those of you who have not yet seen the movie “Social Media,” go see it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so captivated by a movie in my entire life. It was so intriguing! I’m usually only that impressed by movies like “Braveheart,” “Gladiator,” “The Last Samurai,” “Heat,” “American Gangster,” etc., but this movie was awesome.

21. Conversation with a Drunk Girl – Contreras is Dumber than a Box of Rocks!

Three weekends ago I was at a wedding in San Diego and I was approached by a drunk girl at the reception at the end of the night. She wanted me to go back to her hotel and go skinny dipping with her in the ocean. I was not attracted to her at all, so this was not an option.

She was getting really frisky and started feeling my pecs, then she said, “I’m ready to take my clothes off!” I said, “Why wait for the beach when there’s a fountain right over there?” She wasn’t phased by my comment and then said, “You’re coming home with me, right?” To get her off my back I told her that I had to go to the restroom, and then ran off to find the groom to say goodbye.

Apparently I pissed her off because as I was leaving the reception I overheard her telling her friends about me. She said, “Yeah, he’s totally hot but he’s dumber than a box of rocks.” Hell hath no fury like a woman scorn!

22. Quad Dominance

The other day I was watching a friend’s soccer game and I was able to “see” which athletes effectively used their glutes and which ones relied mostly on their quads. After training people for so many years you develop a s
sense for watching movement on the field. The glutes are hip extensors, hip abductors, and hip external rotators. So important for running, jumping, cutting, throwing, and swinging.

23. Glute Ham Raises Don’t Work Much Glute!

Why do people think the glute ham raise works a ton of glute? Why, why, why? The glute ham raise is primarily a hamstring exercise!

I can hold onto a 30 lb dumbbell and do a glute ham raise and it only gets my mean glute activation up to 18% of MVC. However, it does get my mean hamstring activation up to 82% of MVC.

All the glutes have to do in a glute ham raise is keep the torso erect and hips extended via isometric contraction. It’s not that hard. The hard part of a glute ham raise is controlling the descent which is eccentric knee flexion and then raising the body which is concentric knee flexion.

Here are a couple of different ways to do glute ham raises (also called Russian leans, Russian leg curls, Nordic leg curls, manual glute ham raises, manual leg curls, etc.)

24. Men’s Health: GET FIT RULE

I saw this in Men’s Health and completely agree!

“The best exercise program in the world is the one you enjoy doing.”


25. Soreness

Most people think you need to get sore to see results. I try my hardest to prevent soreness in my clients, as I train them frequently and am always having them strive for PR’s.

I was reading in Muscular Development Magazine the other day that Jay Cutler (current Mr. Olympia) rarely gets sore from his workouts and he said that Ronnie Coleman (former Mr. Olympia) rarely got sore as well.

Some places are a little more prone to soreness than others – like the pecs and quads. The point is that you shouldn’t “try” to get sore. It shouldn’t be a goal of yours. If it happens or doesn’t, so be it. What matters is that you’re consistently going up over time, moving well, and engaging in intelligent training. If Ronnie and Jay aren’t getting sore and they’re annihilating a specific bodypart with 30 sets in a single session, then you don’t need to get sore either for max strength or size gains.

26. Speed & Agility Revolution

A colleague of mine named Jim Kielbaso wrote an amazing book a few years ago that I don’t think many people in Strength & Conditioning have heard of. It’s called “Speed & Agility Revolution” and it’s an amazing book. I don’t think I’ve read another book like it; it breaks down the mechanics involved in speed and agility training and is very comprehensive.

27. Chalk One Up for Personal Trainers!

Personal trainers help people get stronger! Even trained athletes see better results when there’s a coach or trainer motivating them. Check it out here and here.

28. Female Strength Coaches

As many of you know, I’m currently taking a graduate level Biomechanics course at ASU. I think there are 25 guys and 5 girls in the class. I’ve heard many in the S & C field discuss how more women need to get involved in strength & conditioning, but it’s not happening. It’s a male-driven field and men are much more drawn to the profession than women.

There are plenty of women becoming Physical Therapists, Registered Dietitians, and even Personal Trainers, but not many becoming Strength Coaches.

Congratulations to the women out there who are trainers and strength coaches. The world needs you! Men, we need to go out of our way to mentor and empower women who are interested in the profession.

29. Heavy Half Squats for Valgus Collapse

While I believe that valgus collapse is a full-range phenomenon and that individuals need strong hip abductors and external rotators (mainly glute medius strength as it has the best moment arm for this purpose) through the entire range of hip flexion/extension, I’ve been having some success with prescribing heavy half squats and cueing my clients to make sure they keep their knees out.

This strategy, in combination with hip abduction/hip transverse abduction isolation movements and squats with a mini-band around the knees, seems to be helpful in this regard.

30. Conversation with Dr. Carl DeRosa

Last week I drove to Flagstaff to have a discussion with Dr. Carl DeRosa, one of the world’s most intelligent spinal experts. I learned a lot of interesting things from him and found him to be extremely intelligent and surprisingly well-versed in strength training. His two sons were both involved in Olympic lifting, plus he’s a Physical Therapist, Professor, Researcher, Lecturer, Author, and an all-around good guy!

I was in such a good mood on my drive back home that I was rocking out in my car while flipping through the stations. I hadn’t heard Billy Idol’s “Mony Mony” in ages and was singing up a storm while driving home. I felt like Tom Cruise singing to Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” in “Jerry MacGuire.”

If someone had a hidden camera on the drive home they could have blackmailed me for a lot of money.

That’s all for this week. Hope you enjoyed the randomness!

Read Full Post »

Random Thoughts

1. Molest the Glutes

My friend Mark Young likes to make fun of me for finding creative ways to “palpate” my clients’ glutes. The truth of the matter is I don’t just palpate, I molest the bejezus out of their glutes during their first couple of sessions while I’m putting them through different movements. How else are you going to know if their glutes are firing during the various exercises? Seriously, I predicted much of my glute EMG results before I conducted the experiments because of the considerable amount of palpation I practiced while my clients were exercising. I’ve also learned that many women have trouble contracting their glutes in a certain position. It could be prone, quadruped, side lying, supine, squatting, or hip hinging, but many have glutes that work very well in most positions but don’t fire properly in one particular position.

Let’s say that I assume that a client’s glutes fire well during bridging patterns and I load them up with heavy hip thrusts. If they don’t have good glute activation in this pattern, they’ll just compensate with their hamstrings and/or substitute lumbar extension for hip extension by overarching their lower backs. This will not improve matters, it will feed the dysfunction and make matters worse. You have to get the glutes to fire properly with bodyweight before loading a particular pattern, and the only way to know if their glutes are doing their job is to palpate (unless you want to spend a fortune on EMG or MRI technology).

I first ask the client if they mind if I palpate their glutes. Since I’m confident and the clients trust me, I’ve never had a client that minded. They usually welcome the palpation because they realize I’m trying to be thorough. Then I put them through a ton of different movements while palpating the entire gluteus maximus, as well as the erector spinae and hamstrings, to get an accurate picture as to what’s occurring. Since the upper gluteus maximus and lower gluteus maximus fibers function uniquely, I make sure I palpate both regions. I put them on the massage table and roll through prone straight leg and bent leg hip extensions, quadruped straight leg and bent leg hip extensions, side lying clams and abductions, double and single leg glute bridges, and then move off the table and have them do back extensions, front planks, squats, static lunges, and deadlifts. All the while I’m poking and prodding.

Now, when I had Lifts and employed two different trainers, I would not have advised them to utilize this same methodology as I wouldn’t have wanted to assume the liability for sexual harassment claims. However, if you really want to be the best trainer possible, then you need to feel the glutes to make sure they’re contracting properly during movement.

2. Waterfalls in Relation to Back Pain and Performance

I’ve come up with a unique way to explain my philosophy of posterior chain biomechanics during lifting.

Obviously we could get really technical and describe the moment arms for the various hip extensors and discuss all the muscles that come into play during various movements, but I tend to keep it simple and suggest the following analogy.

Let’s say you have a river with three waterfalls in sequence. The three waterfalls represent the erector spinae, the glutes, and the hamstrings. You want an equal amount of water going to each of the waterfalls. A beginner will often have 50% of the water flowing to his or her erectors, 30% flowing to his or her hamstrings, and 20% flowing to his or her glutes.

This sets up the lifter for back pain very quickly. However, if you can redirect some of the water to the hip extensors and particularly the glutes, you’ll spare the spine and set up a much safer motor pattern for safe and effective lifting technique.

By utilizing proper form and focusing on hip dominant movements such as deadlifts, hip thrusts, and back extensions, you’ll re-route the water very quickly in order to see the proper flow – 33% erectors, 33% hamstrings, and 33% glutes.

Now you have proper core stability and shared load-distribution which will prevent back injuries and increase performance.

3. ACL Biomechanics and Split Lines on Articular Cartilage

Here is some stuff I recently learned in my KIN 512 course at ASU on the ACL and Articular Cartilage. Pretty cool!

4. Huge Genetic Component to Tendon and Ligament Injuries

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about tendon and ligament injuries and whether there exists a genetic component to the injuries. It appears that there is! Here are some links to abstracts I recently stumbled upon. Basically, some individuals are predisposed to soft-tissue injuries due to specific genes.

Tendon and ligament injuries: the genetic component

Genetic risk factors for musculoskeletal soft tissue injuries

Type I collagen alpha1 Sp1 polymorphism and the risk of cruciate ligament ruptures or shoulder dislocations

Variants within the MMP3 gene are associated with Achilles tendinopathy: possible interaction with the COL5A1 gene

Genetic aspects of tendinopathy

5. Reverse Hyper and Thoracic Extensors

Have you ever palpated people’s thoracic extensors while they perform reverse hypers? Holy macarole! I’m always amazed at how well the movement targets the extensors musculature. I recommend that you palpate the erector spinae of the thoracic spine so you get an idea as to how hard they contract during this movement. Even with just bodyweight they contract very hard, but loaded reverse hypers cause even harder contractions. I like that in the reverse hyper you grip the handles very hard to get some transfer through the hands, arms, and torso. You’d think that this movement worked primarily upon the hip extensors but this is simply not so. Reverse hypers are excellent erector spinae builders too. I have my clients do reverse hypers from time to time and have found them to be dangerous as long as you stick to certain rules, which are: 1) extension-based back pain clients don’t do them, 2) only do them once every two weeks, 3) make sure you keep lumbar extension in check up top, 4) prevent lumbar flexion at the bottom, 5) mainly use them for variety, don’t focus on progressive overload, and 6) prescribe them for high reps if a client complains of slight back soreness due to exercises that create spinal flexion moments such as squats and deadlifts.

6. Lever Squat

I have a lever squat machine from Tuff-Stuff and I really like having it. I know that machines aren’t popular in training these days but the fact of the matter is machines can be very useful and some machines are better than others. Even when it comes to lever squat machines, some are great and some suck. There was one at my gym that allowed me to load up with 8 plates per side which equals 720 lbs. That was ridiculous. The lever squat I own feels very similar to a regular squat and I love using it with new, weaker clients. Often new clients are too weak and unstable to perform bodyweight full squats but they are able to perform bodyweight box squats and bodyweight parallel free squats. I have these clients squat every session, alternating between box squats, parallel free squats, and lever full squats. The lever machine allows them to go rock bottom and get accustomed to using full range, which creates stability down deep and leads to quicker performance of bodyweight full squats. Yes, a machine can actually be beneficial for free weight training. This may be contrary to what you’ve heard but I’ve had much success using this method.

7. Genetic Component to Flexibility

Lately I’ve also been wondering from a physiological standpoint why some clients (usually females) can sit around for a couple of years and stay mostly sedentary yet upon embarking on a training regimen they demonstrate perfect mobility. Then you have certain athletes (mainly males) who regularly move their joints through considerable ranges of motion yet still demonstrate insufficient mobility. Obviously we could get into the various factors…are their muscles tight and they need more length, are their muscles hypertonic and firing due to protective factors to compensate for poor stability, do they just need to increase their stretch tolerance and get accustomed to various movement patterns, etc. But clearly there is a huge genetic component to flexibility.

I was surprised that I couldn’t find much research on this topic. My guess is that as time goes on, we’ll realize that specific genes responsible for encoding proteins or processing enzymes that influence the production and proportions of collagen, elastin, fibrin, and/or tenacins. We also know that hormones such as estrogen and relaxin can attach to receptors on connective tissue in order to increase flexibility. Obviously we need more research to better understand this topic. Here are a couple of full papers:

Heritability of lumbar flexibility and the role of disc degeneration and bodyweight

The Genetic Epidemiology of Joint Hypermobility

8. Progressions/Regressions

Want to be a great trainer? Then you need to understand progressions and regressions. This is such a critical component to being a successful trainer…definitely one of the most important aspects.

Often it involves common sense. Example: if someone can bench the 45-lb bar 30 times, you add weight. Another example: if someone can perform 20 step ups from a certain height, you increase the height of the step. Often you just add load and/or range of motion. However, sometimes it requires creativity. For example, if someone can’t perform a proper push up you could either 1) have them perform push ups from their knees, or 2) have them perform push ups with their upper body elevated onto a secured bench, table, or bar. The second strategy is wiser because often core-stability is the weakest link in a push up…not shoulder power. If you do push ups from the knees you eliminate most of the core stability component, whereas if you do push ups with the upper body elevated you keep much of the core stability component while still targeting the pecs, front delts, and triceps. Over time you decrease the height of elevation until the person is on the ground and able to perform proper push ups. So you can also change the angle, use implements to provide assistance, etc.

If something is too hard for the client then take responsibility for the mistake and say, “man I’m an idiot, I meant to start you out with this version…” and then regress the exercise (find an easier variation that the client can do well) and compliment them for their effort and technique. This builds self-esteem and encourages clients to enjoy lifting and be consistent.

9. Yoga

I always love when I get clients who have been participating in yoga. These clients are very easy to train because they already have good mobility and core stability. I don’t have to do any “corrective work,” I just have them do the various movement patterns and utilize progressive overload. Yoga provides for an excellent foundation of fundamental movement and involves quite challenging drills in terms of mobility and stability. I will say that their glute activation leaves much room for improvement but this is not difficult especially if hip mobility and core stability is up to par.

10. Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) Tools

I’ve been using my rumbleroller a lot lately and I absolutely love it. One of my newer clients just brought over her gadgets from TPTherapy.com . At this link they sell some really cool products such as the footballer, the quadballer, the massageball, and the grid. I thought that these products were pretty gimmicky but after using them I love them. There’s something to their density and shape that really helps with trigger points.

A basketball is very effective for self-myofascial release as sometimes slick medicine balls cause you to slide off (whereas a basketball has texture), plus you can inflate the basketball to your desired level of compliance. I also like the Tiger Tail massager and a lacrosse ball, as well as the Yamuna products such as the foot saver balls.

11. Personal Trainers are Lucky to Have Clients

Although I love training people (and I know I’d totally miss it if my days were exempt from training others), I prefer reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts, studying, etc. I’m a life-long learner! However, I’m always reminded of how lucky I am to have personal training clients. For one, they keep my communications skills up to par. If I didn’t train people I’d hide out in my cave all day long and forget how to talk to others. They also teach me things…I’m always lucky in that I train some unique people who have certain insights, wisdom, or perspectives. And finally, my clients tend to be positive people who rub off on me as positivity is contagious. Bottom line – it’s cool being a trainer.

12. Training Around Injuries

All lifters get minor tweakages here and there. After around a decade of lifting, a lifter finally “wises-up” and starts listening to his body and training accordingly. If your adductors are sore and feel like they’re going to pull, avoid full squats and opt for narrow stance high box squats. Avoid deadlifts and perform rack pulls. Don’t do any single leg work. The adductors come more into play as hip extensors in deeper ranges of hip flexion so you need to limit the ROM so you can still receive a training effect while “training around the injury.” You can usually find things that don’t hurt, for example often people with various types of shoulder pain can still do neutral grip dumbbell floor press and row variations but not full range bench press and chin ups. The secret is to get some blood-flow into the area but not go too hard to where you make matters worse. If something hurts don’t do it. Stop right there and try again at a later time.

I always ask my clients how they’re feeling and whether or not they have any muscles that are sore prior to their session so I can make proper adjustments if need-be. I’m amazed at how long it took my stubborn ass to fully comprehend this concept but I’m always sure to teach my clients and training partners to not repeat mistakes I made quite often earlier in my lifting career.

13. Check Back Tomorrow for Good Reads

Sorry for not posting a “good-reads for the week” blog last week, I was super-swamped and my computer also lost all the tabs I had saved once again. One of my readers even showed me a way to save my tabs but I’m too much of an idiot to follow through with the advice. Anyway tomorrow I’ll have a post for you that will contain good reads from last week and this week.

I hope you enjoyed the random blog!

Read Full Post »

Random Thoughts

I try to create a “Random Thoughts” blogpost each week. I get emails from people saying that these, along with my “Good Reads” blogposts are their favorite things to read each week. So here you go, fifteen random thoughts:

1. Perfect push up bullshit


This study shows that the perfect push up does not increase muscle activation over the standard push up as it purports to do. I’ve been saying that all along. Some people feel like the perfect push up allows for a smoother, more joint-friendly motion, but I prefer regular push ups. Now, if it caused more people do push ups because they felt compelled to exercise on account of the fact that they purchased the product, then I’m all for it. But I feel that a ton of people were duped.

2. 2010 International Spine Symposium

Props to my good friend Nick Tumminello for going to the 2010 International Spine Symposium and being the only fitness professional there out of 150+ attendees. Had I know about it, I would have attended. Nick and I had a brief conversation about his experience, but from what I can tell it was very insightful.

3. Symmetrical training

If you want to train for symmetry, then it’s not all about unilateral training; it’s about bilateral AND unilateral training. One without the other is inferior. People may think they’re using the same kinematics while lifting unilaterally but they probably utilize slightly different tactics with single limb training. If all you did was single limb training, you’d probably develop slight asymmetries over time. On the same hand, if all you ever did was bilateral training you’d probably develop slight asymmetries over time as well. Bottom line – do both to ensure symmetry.

4. T-Spine extension

If you want to be a strong squatter and especially a strong deadlifter, you better have super strong thoracic extensors. I’m pretty convinced that most lifter’s weak link in deadlifting strength is their t-spine extension strength. In other words, their hip and knee extensors are capable of doing more, but the ability of the t-spine to hold an arch limits what the hips can do. For t-spine extension strength, you can do thoracic extensions, front squat holds, front squats, and all types of deadlifts. Here’s an assistance exercise I do from time to time with a safety bar; it hammers the thoracic extensors!

5. Spinal exercises while driving

When driving to and from Las Vegas last weekend, which is a five hour drive, I’d perform spinal exercises every 20 minutes or so to help stave off tissue creep and get some blood flow into the area. I feel that my strategy worked very well as my back wasn’t sore or fatigued from the driving, which is rare for me! What’s hilarious is that the exercises I thought up were similar to what you’d see Shakira or Beyonce do in one of their videos.

In other words, this was me on my drive home (picture my 230 lb frame busting out these moves you see at the end of the video below while driving. Good stuff!)


6. The first step in trying to re-establish glute imbalance

Some times people have an imbalance in gluteal strength. One glute contracts much harder than the other side. When I encounter this situation, the first step is re-establishing a powerful glute contraction in a static prone position. I have them practice brief maximum isometric holds for the weaker side off and on for several minutes, then I move into the regular workout. I’ve been doing this with my client Karli and we are seeing terrific results.

Basically she had a left side hamstring injury and right side quadratus lumborum pain which is textbook synergystic dominance (compensating) for a weak left glute. She even noticed different kinematics from one side to the next when she runs. Through palpation I was able to confirm her suspicions; one glute contracted way harder than the other. So we stuck to the procedure above for around five workouts and the imbalance is dramatically diminished.

After demonstrating symmetrical contractions in static postures, it’s time to move to dynamic movements of progressing difficulty. I like to move from prone to quadruped to supine, and then finally to standing with side-lying mixed in all the way through.

I’ve found that you can blend a corrective protocol with a conditioning protocol and the two roads converge in time and lead to optimum results.

7. I didn’t know I was a celebrity trainer!

I didn’t realize that I train J-Lo, Kim Kardashian, and Jessica Biel! That’s certainly good to know! Check it out here.

8. Safety and form continuum

I think some coaches take things too far as far as form is concerned. On the other hand, I think that most coaches don’t care enough about form. If perfect form is a ten and horrendous form is a zero, you want nines in my book. If you are so strict that you require tens then your athletes won’t ever be able to move any weight and get stronger. If you aren’t strict at all your athletes will get injured. Tens on warm up sets and the initial reps of working sets, and nines or even eights on the last couple of reps of a top set is ideal in my book. But form should never break down more than 20% or you went too heavy or took the set too far in terms of reps.

9. Davis’s Law

Davis’s Law is one of the most important topics in biomechancis and physical therapy, but most people know nothing about it. As a matter of fact, many Biomechanics professors and Physical Therapists have never heard of the law. I didn’t know much about it until I decided to do a bunch of research on the topic.

Most people have heard of Wolff’s law of bone, which was named after Julius Wolff (1836-1902) and states that bones will adapt to the loads under which they are placed. For example, an athlete who squats heavy will have strong bones to resist axial loading.

Davis’s Law is similar to Wolff’s law except that it applies to soft-tissue and deals more with tissue length than tissue strength (but still deals with tissue strength as well). Soft-tissue such as tendons, ligaments, and fascia will adapt to the loads in which they are placed. If you sit all day long in a hunched position, you are stretching your back the entire time and all the soft-tissue that sits posterior to the center of the discs will be stretched and become lax over time. This is not a good thing. Similarly, the hip flexors will shorten as they are placed in a flexed position while sitting. This too is not a good thing, as it tends to inhibit the gluteals which throws everything out of whack.

Just who in the hell is Davis?

It took me around five hours of searching around but I believe I’ve found the answer. Now, you won’t find this on Wikipedia, nor will you find this in any textbook. Here is a link to a book written in 1867 called “Conservative Surgery” written by Henry Gassett Davis. Look at pages 138 – 139 and you’ll see the beginnings of Davis’ law.

Here is a link to another book, this one written in 1915, and you’ll see on page 157 it contains “Davis’s Law,” the same wording used 38 years earlier by Henry Gassett Davis. I was pretty proud of this discovery!

10. Massage table

My friend Keats Snideman knew I was looking for a massage table so he alerted me when a buddy of his was selling one for only $100! I got a steal on the table and now it’s one of my favorite tools. I’m an assessing machine lately; utilizing things I’ve learned from Keats and Patrick Ward, things I learned off of Bill Hartman, Mike Robertson, and Eric Cressey’s Assess and Correct, and some methods I’ve developed on my own or picked up along the way.

Here’s me modeling the new table! Move over Vanna White!

11. Phone conversations

I’m very lucky to have some great friends in the fitness industry. As a matter of fact, one way I can tell if someone is “for real” and in this industry for the right reasons is if they still like to “talk shop” and discuss various topics in strength training. No one even comes close to knowing it all…not the best professors, researchers, therapists, doctors, trainers, or coaches. Knowledge is so broad that we must specialize which leaves a ton of room for learning from other experts. I am very lucky; in the past week I’ve been privileged to speak to Nick Tumminello, Mark Young, Keats Snideman, Shon Grosse, and Ben Bruno. Each week is different but I try to speak to a couple of coaches each week. I like to speak to like-minded individuals and not-so-like-minded individuals as it’s good to try to learn from people who don’t agree with you about everything.

12. Core stabilization

When people think of “core stabilization,” they think of planks, side planks, Pallof presses, etc. Not many people think of racking weights and performing big lifts as core stabilization but it is. I get a ton of core stability work from carrying two plates at a time when I re-rack plates, racking heavy dumbbells back onto the rack after doing a set, etc. I also get tons of core stability work from chin ups, push ups, squats, deadlifts, military press, and even barbell curls. Think about it! We’re keeping a neutral spine (straight line form shoulders to knees) while moving limbs dynamically.

13. Chalk on chicks

I don’t know why, but I find it very sexy when a pretty girl has chalk all over their bodies from hardcore lifting. Just saying!

14. Glutes – a crazy muscle

Earlier in the blog I discussed a client of mine who had one glute that contracts harder than the other. Well I also have a client who can activate her glutes very well while squatting, lunging, deadlifting, doing good mornings, and hip thrusting.

However, in prone straight leg positions with anteroposterior vectors that have a core stabilization component such as back extensions, push ups, planks, and ab wheel rollouts she cannot fire her glutes at all. This is someone who has great glute development, but she can’t fire them or posteriorly rotate her pelvis in that position. I can regress her to a quadruped position or completely prone position and she does fine, but it will take a few weeks to get her firing all cylinders from this position.

Many clients can activate the glutes well in one position and not another. You have to practice, practice, practice until the client gets it right. You also have to know how to regress or progress a movement. The gluteus maximus is indeed a crazy muscle!

15. The unwritten laws of training like a man

I always enjoy teaching my clients and workout partners gym etiquette and “man laws of training.”

Some of these laws include the following:

I. You have to put plates on a barbell with the smooth edges on the outside and the indented edges facing inward. I tell clients that this “Keeps the Power in.” Lyle McDonald wrote an excellent article about this and it’s something that must be passed on from generation to generation. This alone tells you if a lifter is experienced or not.

II. Clips need to face the proper direction too. I’m always amazed when people can’t figure this out.

III. There’s even a special technique to placing or peeling 45 lb plates onto the bar while it’s on the ground when deadlifting. Idiots try to push the plates in at an angle and can’t figure out why the plates won’t glide over the barbell. This always amazes me too. I am very detailed in that I’ll show proper plate loading technique!

IV. A good lifter should know that a standard barbell can hold three 45-lb plates on one side even when there’s no weight on the other side. Newbies freak the hell out when you take plates off one side of the bar while there’s an uneven number of plates on the other side. They think the bar will tip but it won’t (unless the bar is shifted toward the loaded side in the rack but that’s another story).

V. A good lifter needs to have all the load-schemes committed to memory. A plate on each side is 135 lbs, two plates on each side is 225, then you have 315, 405, 495, and 585. With 25 lb plates in the mix, you have 95, 185, 275, 365, 455, and 545. Male lifters need to know these loads and I’m always grilling newbies so they memorize the combinations.

I could go on and on with these but I’ll end it here. Hope you enjoyed the blogpost!!!

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »