This is holding back your training

Complicated routines are sexy right? Everybody seems to think they are, that’s for sure. The complexity makes you feel like you’re something special – an elite lifter maybe. You’ve probably been training for 10 years and you think an advanced Sheiko cycle is just right for you. Problem is, your best back squat is 125 and you weigh 70 kilo. You’re a beginner. No matter how long you’ve been training for, you’re a beginner.

Now this might bruise your ego a bit, but trust me – everybody I know wants to be a beginner. If you’re squatting 125 at 70 kg getting stronger is sooo easy. You don’t need a cycle lasting several months to put 5kg on your squat. You can increase from week to week.

Same goes for Smolov cycles, GVT, GT10x10 and all those other fancy programs. If you haven’t milked a linear progression program you’d be much better off doing just that. Seriously, you can do all the “super slow eccentric” squats in the world with short rest periods and for tons of reps. But… If you’re doing them with 60kg on the back – you’re not gonna grow much. However if you spend six months getting your strength up to a respectable level, and then do the same workout, you’ll see vastly different results (not that I’d recommend that type of workout to anyone really).

Take a long hard and honest look at your stats. Then consider: would I be able to do a linear progression for maybe 2-3 months? Chances are – the answer is yes.

Invest those couple of months in your future. Get stronger and then use the added strength in your pursuit of hypertrophy or whatever it is you’re chasing.

Have a great weekend.

How to spot a good beginner’s program

When you begin training, it can be a jungle.

Unless you go to the right high school and end up being coached by Dan John, or find yourself close to Wichita Falls Barbell Club (home of Rip) or some other great coach – you’ll most likely end up with a generic machine-based program. This is not a good thing. The sooner you begin lifting real weights the better.

Here are some points to look for in a beginner’s program:

  1. Low to medium reps (3-6ish) on the primary lifts. Why? Because that’s a great range for learning a new skill. Most people will drift and lose focus on a set of 8-10 reps.
  2. Few barbell-based exercises. Squats, deadlifts, presses, bench presses, rows and possibly a few more. Much more than that is TOO MUCH. Focus on learning the basics. Just like a karate student only learns a few basic moves as a white belt.
  3. Progressive overload is essential. The weights should get heavier from workout to workout. Obviously not at the expense of good form.
  4. Frequency should be 2-3 times per week per exercise. That’s how you learn something quickly.

There are many great beginner’s programs available for free on the net. Starting Strength, GSLP, Bill Starr and Stronglifts are some great options. One of these programs will last 6-12 months and will get you from beginner to intermediate. It’s not unusual to see people putting 100kg on their back squat over the first 12 months of training.

Nothing will motivate you to come back like success. That’s another reason beginner programs should focus on increasing the weights from workout to workout.

Oh and unless you’re getting close to squatting double bodyweight, you’d probably still be able to milk a beginner program with linear progression. What’s holding you back?

Stop wasting your time!!

There are so many ways to sex up a program, and with the internet overflowing with information, it’s easy to get carried away. You see Vogelpohl lifting insane amounts of weight and you hear Louie Simmons go on and on about the conjugate method. You see Kai Greene pumping out thousands of reps – you hear about the extreme tempo manipulation of the bodybuilding elite. You’re confused!

Look no further. I’ve tried all of the above and here are my experiences:

The Dynamic Effort Method:

Bands and chains huh? That’s sexy. Speed work? FUCK YEA!

Thing is, just like CAT “invented” by Hatfield, dynamic effort work was created with one very specific group of people in mind. The insanely strong people. The dynamic effort method is a way to train a lift without having to lift enormous amounts of weight. This is a smart move if you’re squatting in the 400kg+ range. You pretty much have to find ways to limit the amount of weight you use if you want to be able to train.

Problem is – you’re not squatting 400kg+.

There’s a distinct difference between 90% of 1RM if 1RM is =430kg and 90% of a 120kg 1RM. Obviously not relative to the lifters strength, but relative to the amount of stress it puts on the bones, the connective tissues, the muscles and even the mind. 90% is not 90%.

speed kills

For a novice lifter it may be fun and sexy to do DE, speed work or CAT. But… It’s a wasted effort. Unless you’re already lifting serious amounts of weight – time is much better spent building base strength. Strength is the foundation for power and just getting stronger will increase your power output. That’s why a 200kg squatter always has a better power clean than a 100kg squatter all others things equal. There’s only so much powertraining will do for a 100kg squatter.

Using the dynamic effort method is very specific to training for maximal performance in the given lifts. There are more benefits than just being able to train without beating the body up quite as much, but the benefits are pretty much all very specific to powerlifting at a high level.

For a normal lifter or even an athlete who’s not already very strong, time is simply much better spent doing heavy squats. It’s not sexy, but it’s true.

The other end of the spectrum:

Slowing down lifts deliberately.

This is really stupid.

It’s important to point out, that I’m not talking about a 430kg squatter who’s applying tempo and pauses to limit the amount of weight lifted. Nor am I talking about any kind of advanced lifter doing it for a real reason.

What’s extremely stupid is when skinny weak guys use slow negs because it “burns” or because it’ll get them sore as hell. As with anything in training, no amount of tempo manipulation will get you jacked if you’re squatting 70kg. Time will be much better spent pushing a handful core lifts up aggressively. THEN when you’re squatting somewhere around 150-170ish you can play with tempos and/or pauses, but up until that point it’s not really worth your time (unless obviously you have specific issues).

Moving weights as fast as possible under control is good, slowing down deliberately is bad. At least for now. As with the speed work, it may be useful at some point in time.

Summing up:

I’ve said it before so many times, but I guess I’ll have to keep saying it as long as I can muster up the strength to do so. If you’re weak, your number one priority should be to get your strength up. No amount of pumping, sculpting, feeling, contact or whatever is gonna do shit if you’re not lifting a decent amount of weight. Best part is – if you’re weak it’s gonna be easy to build strength. Just read Starting Strength and get training!

Pulling progressively – A strategy for improving your deadlift and upper back strength!

So.

I was walking around the other day with my kid listening to a podcast. The podcast featured Marty Gallagher and it inspired me to go home and pick up his phenomenal book Purposeful Primitive. This is truly a unique book – almost 500 pages of absolutely fantastic information and great anecdotes from the golden age of American powerlifting. Marty used to coach Kirk Kaworski, Ed Coan and dousins other elite powerlifters. When Marty speaks, you should listen.

Anyways, I read an essay in the book titled “Progressive Pulls” and it got me thinking. Thinking about something I’ve noticed looking at weightlifters (real weightlifters, not CFers). See in weightlifting, there are basically two lifts. The snatch and the clean. When warming up, it’s normal to perform the “power” versions, since light weights don’t require you to catch them as low.

highpull

Progressive Pulls is a complete back program that consists of the following five exercises: power clean, high/clean pull, deadlift, SLDL and BOR. Sounds like fun eh? Actually it’s really tempting for me since that’s exactly the kind of training I prefer. There’s even a sample periodization routine for 6 weeks. But I’ve got a plan and a setup that’s working very nicely for me at the moment, so I’ll stick with that.

But! I let myself inspire and came up with a nifty little strategy for improving deadlift workouts AND adding some meat to the upper back.

We all know we’re supposed to accelerate all weights maximally, though you can only pull an empty bar so fast when warming up. So goes for the lighter weights. So I figured – why not try something else – something explosive to get the CNS firing?

Here’s what I came up with (and I suggest you try it):

For deadlift warmups (make sure you’re properly warm to begin with):

Bar: 5x RDL->shrug + 5x HPC from knee

Then start doing power cleans with smallish jumps, get in 2-4 sets with good speed and technique.

Switch to high/clean pulls for another 2-3 sets. Pull as a regular deadlift to about knee height, then accelerate the bar and pull as high as you can.

And there you go. If you’ve added a bit of weight (10-20kg) for each set on the way up, you should be ready to hit 1-2 sets of warmup deadlifts at a weight that’s heavy enough to allow you to apply maximal force to the lifts. At this point you should be pulling the bar off the ground with aggression and power, ready to kill some deadlifts.

Then hit your worksets!

Go home and eat a big dinner afterwards. You’ll feel it in the upper back in the morning.

How to be a succesful personal trainer

A personal trainer has to be good at a whole number of things. For some reason though, most people think being succesful as a PT starts with memorizing Starting Strength, Supertraining and some Bompa texts.

While I do think the cornerstone of the personal trainer has to be a sound understanding of anatomy, biomechanics and how the body adapts to stress, there’s a huge dimension that’s very often overlooked:

90% (or more) of the people you’re gonna work with wont need Russian Super Squat Cycles!

For a regular person, it all starts with three things:

  1. Not injuring them.
  2. Motivating them to work hard – consistently over time.
  3. Affecting the hours they’re NOT with you.

Obviously you should continuously work on getting your client in better shape, but think of it – can you make a training program that’ll work if you’re not succesful with the three points mentioned above?

johnny_depp_characters_2

Do you work equally hard on all your roles?

The personal trainer has a handful of different roles, but most people seem to load up on the “trainer” and “programmer” role and go easy on “motivator” and “coach” role. Personally I’ve been doing this for way too long. I have about a billion training books filled with charts, programs and tables. I can recite Siff, Simmons, Rip, Wendler and others in my sleep.

Thing is – most people don’t need that. The way society has become, most people are so out of shape, pretty much anything will help them get in better shape. This is not an excuse to give people shitty training though – not at all and in that respect I’m happy to have taken the route I have. If you start out getting people fired up, but don’t understand when to hold them back and how and where to apply their energy, you’re dangerous.

As a personal trainer, you have three tasks:

  1. Help people feel good
  2. Help people lose fat
  3. Help people build muscle

Notice how none of these said “get them to squat x amount of weight” or apply “hardcore training methods” or even “teach the olympic lifts”.

Keep the goal the goal.

Oh and remember the love. I’ll be away for about a week and will probably not post or even get online much during that week. Stay safe friends.

<3

Training For Warriors (TFW) instructors certification level 2 with Martin Rooney

Image

Finally.

I’d been waiting for this weekend for a long time.

It’s been about six months since I took the level 1 certification, and during that time, I’ve coached a 10-week course based on a template by Rooney. I’ve also had the opportunity to coach some of the top-level fighters training under our roof at BFG. I’ve implemented some of the principles in my training and I’ve applied quite a few of the Rooneyisms to my personal life. It’s been a great six months, no doubt, but as much as I enjoyed the motivational part of the first certification, I felt like I lacked some specific training tools. Here I was telling people to sprint without really knowing or understanding the sprinting myself.

Not good.

The second certification fixed that!

Day one:

As usual, day one contained lots and lots of Rooney’s great little stories. I’m not gonna try to give you a resume of any of them, because they’re his stories.

So what else did we do? Talk about the essences of coaching for one – that one was a biggie. I’ve been guilty of focusing on the wrongs things for sure.

Also, we finally got to the part about the strength training, that I’ve been waiting eagerly for. It was very good and insightful and true to Rooney and his concept. He’s not trying to teach anybody the technicalities of training at these seminars. He will however help you realize how to operationalize the knowledge you already have better and get more from it.

This is actually the entire essence of Rooney’s teaching – getting the most out of what you have (and getting more obviously). Maximizing your talent – becoming a bumblebee for lack of better analogies. Rooney also said directly: this is not about teaching you how to train – I already expect you to know that.

After the seminar, I went along with Rooney, Gunshow, Affe, Dennis, Nikolaj and Jonathan to Albertslund, where we watched Micki and Patrick fight. What a night!

boksning

Got back home at midnight (left home at 8 in the morning) – threw down some eggs and jotted down some quick notes before hitting the sack. What a day.

What. A. Day.

Day 2:

Speeeeeeeed!

Just a short week ago I was talking to a friend of mine who took cert 1. I told him I was hoping the whole weekend to be about sprinting and agility, since I want to know as much as I possbily can if I’m to teach something. My friend was like “how much is there to know about sprinting?” The answer is: a lot! There’s a reason NFL-prepping is a million dollar industry. Sprinting is a sport in and of itself.

Rooney had some very great insights on the basics sprinting, and the group had great energy. It was fun and humbling for me personally to work on some of the agility stuff, but hey – it’s gonna be real easy for me to improve. Remember – Rooney was one of the first guys to prep american athletes for the pro leagues, so he knows A LOT about this stuff. What’s great about him though, is that he keeps it so simple. He’s not going to overload you with shin angles and foot contacts – focus is on the big picture and how to get somebody to 85-90% proficiency. You’re not going to learn how to get Usain Bolt faster in a weekend after all, so I found it great and refreshing that he focuses on what you CAN change and not on theoretical stuff that only applies to one in a million.

More (fantastic) lectures on coaching and of course the test. I got a perfect 100%. Go me. I think Martin said the class was split about 50/50 between people scoring 100% and people scoring 97%.

What a weekend.

I even got to train with Rooney Monday morning and we stayed and talked business for some hours afterwards. Really really eye-opening. I’ve been clinging as much to him as possible for the extended weekend, and have learned a lot. Not just about training.

About life.

Cert 2:

Cert 2 is not at all like cert 1. Where cert 1 will definately FIRE YOU UP, cert 2 will fill out the blanks. After the second certification, I have so many more tools to aid my coaching it’s unbelievable. His books also all of a sudden speak to me much more, as I can literally hear Rooney’s voice come to life when I watch the pictures in either of the books: “elbows in, feet out, core tight”.

To me, the second certification was more valuable and I know it’ll take my coaching to new levels. Not that the first one didn’t, but the difference in their nature is pretty big. One thing to remember though is that the teaching from the first cert has already been ingrained in me, I’ve already put them to good use. Much of that stuff has become second nature now.

cert 2

There is a problem with the second certification. As the recruiting base gets smaller (you must have the first cert to be on it), it’ll be harder to find people for the cert. That means it’s gonna be harder to get to one, and that they’re gonna be spread out more. Martin mentioned that he was working on an online level 2 which I’d recommend to anybody with the first cert. Since you’ve already got the “Martin Rooney experience” on the first cert, you’ll easily recall some of the fire he lit inside of you, just be hearing his voice and seeing his face. In a way, I actually wish I had the seminar online, so I’d constant access to Martin’s coaching (apart from the Dojo that is).

To be honest, you NEED the second certification if you want to work with the system. There are some but’s though:

  • It’s limited how much you can learn in just a weekend. The second certification will make you understand the system as a whole, but it’s not going to take a random person off the street and make them a great sprinting coach. Only experience teaching will do that.
  • If you don’t have solid base of knowledge and understanding of training in general, you’re gonna be dangerous. BUT! This would require you to ignore essential parts of the system – not doing something for nothing, getting people sore not better as well as safety.
  • TFW will simplify and cut out all the white noise. It can make a trainer a coach, but you need to be a trainer already and you need to have ambitions.

So what’s so great about this certification? Let me tell you what it’s NOT:

  • It’s not Rooney’s supreme ability to correct your knee angle at the bottom position of a squat. (Though I’m sure he’d be capable of that – we’ve talked a bit about powerlifting as he’s one strong bugger for sure).
  • It’s not because the system is really revolutionary. (Unless you like me think deconstructing the complexity of strength and conditioning and focusing on the results is revolutionary). 🙂
  • Heck, it’s not even really about Martin Rooney.

The TFW Resistance is about ME! It’s about YOU – it’s also about what WE can do. It’s about what Martin Rooney motivates you to bring out in you. it’s about being a better YOU. Rooney often says: “you know you’re a coach when you care more about the accomplishments of your athletes than your own” – Rooney cares more about elevating people around him, than massaging his own ego. Ironically, that’s lead to him having a huge following. Martin listens. He listens alot (at least he had to listen to my ramblings alot 😀 ).

While I’m excited about the much more concrete training knowledge I got at the second certification, it’s just as much about my professional and personal life for me. Martin is extremely competent as a business man and a very focused man – something most of us can learn from. His insights on coaching and the fitness business as a whole are great as well but most importantly – Martin doesn’t put down others. Instead of making fun of how little this and that person knows about training, he’ll study what they know about making a connection with their clients (or something different) and try to learn a bit from everybody.

I had a basketball coach many years ago who said: “if you can’t learn SOMETHING from a person – it’s not because of them, it’s because of you”.

So what did I learn and what impact will it make on my own training and the way I train people?:

  • Speed is a skill that I need to work on. This means using sprint drills as an extended warmup on sprint days and strength days as well. There’s more to running than putting one foot in front of the other.
  • Speed, agility and “movement” are essential parts of fitness and wellbeing – this might sound weird coming from me, but during the seminar it dawned on me that I’d actually much rather be able to do a perfect tiger crawl than add 2,5 kg to my squat. Why? Moving around on the floor translates really well into the life as a parent, and the mobility and stability gained from it is a great way to simply feel better.
  • Since I stopped playing basketball, my lateral movement and general agility has gone DOWN HILL. I move like a sack of potatoes. Luckily, that means it’ll be easy to get better. 🙂
  • For 99% of the people I’m ever gonna work with, I have PLENTY of training knowledge. What I lack is coaching ability and motivational skills. To paraphrase Martin – I already know broccoli is healthy, but I still haven’t been able to get everybody I work with to eat it. I’m so far from being the coach I want to be. This doesn’t mean I “know everything” about training, but simply that I have other areas that are in dire need of improvement.

I’m a follower without a doubt and while I respect Rooney a great deal, I don’t idolize him or take his word as gospel. I am however eternally grateful for what he brings out in me and I truly appreciate the insights he has after a lifetime of training people. Actually I signed up for his Dojo at 7am on day two, something I expect GREAT things from. If nothing else, I’ll see Rooney’s face and hear his voice on a regular basis. From a couple of days of membership though, I’m already satisfied.

Thank you Martin, you’re a great friend, man and lion!

I hope to see you soon.

Rationality. Be rational!!

Rationality doesn’t exist. There I said it.

hiphop

 

Let me clarify – rationality as some kind of factual an omnipresent truth does not exist. There is no right or wrong way to perceive a situation.

Contextuality is everything and acknowledging this is extremely important.

What does this non-sense mean? How does it apply to training?

Though Rollins famously said “200 lbs is always 200 lbs”, I’ll add something to that: “200 lbs is never gonna feel like 200 lbs”. Every time you pick up a given weight, it’s gonna feel different. Every time you eat a given meal, it’s gonna taste different. Every time you hug your loved one, is gonna feel different.

We’re constantly changing and our emotional states influence our perception of the world to an extreme degree. That’s why we put numbers on weight plates. That way, if you load up 201 lbs, you KNOW it’s heavier than the 200 lbs you lifted yesterday. It might feel lighter, it might feel heavier and it might feel exactly the same.

Martin Rooney said to me: you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Measuring the right things consistently will make a huge difference in your training in as little as four weeks.

Some suggestions that’ll help you establish a good base:

  • Weight on the bar. (this one’s a given for most)
  • Bodyweight (+waist measurement)
  • Heartrate for cardiovascular training
  • Calorie consumption

Don’t rely on your irrational perception of the world. Use numbers – they work. 🙂

Oh and give someone a big warm hug today (but please don’t just randomly hug a stranger).