Reads for the Week

Lessons the Shirt Taught Me


Things got real weird on Friday night training with Ryan. What was scheduled to be a regular heavy bench session turned into my first time putting on a bench shirt. I have helped Ryan with his powerlifting gear many times before, but I've never really experienced first-hand how it feels to be in a squat suit or a bench shirt. Lesson #1: It's Not Comfortable

I learned very quickly that it doesn't feel too awesome being in the shirt. Getting it on was a pain, but I knew that was coming. I was used to being the guy on the other side of the shirt trying to force the shirt onto another human being, so I expected some discomfort. Luckily however, it was Ryan's old single-ply shirt and his enormous gunzzz stretched out the sleeves pretty nicely, making it a relatively smooth process to put it on. By the time we got the shirt on and got the sleeves and seams exactly where we wanted them I already wanted to take it off. It's super tight and forces you into a weird mummy-like position with your arms dangling out in front of you. You can't really do much about this situation until the shirt comes off.

I found myself rushing the rest periods between sets because I was more focused on getting the final set over with so I could take the evil thing off.

Lesson #2 I Couldn't Keep My Arch

The arched back seen in bench pressing is often demonized as being a flaw in technique or disadvantageous when trying to target the pecs. Whatever. I use an arch when benching because it helps to keep me tight on the bench, allows for better leg drive and provides better leverage overall to perform the lift. When benching "raw", I feel pretty confident about my arch, and I can keep it tight during the entirety of the lift. When benching in the shirt, however, I found myself losing my arch midway through the descending portion of the lift. This leads me to lesson #3...

Lesson #3 My Upper Back Is WEAK!

The shirt exposed my deep dark secret that my upper back is not up to par. When bench pressing in gear, the bar will not come down to your chest without a fight. You literally have to PULL the bar down while forcing yourself to maintain a proper arch. This takes some serious upper and mid back strength that I just didn't have. I could feel my arch collapsing and my once tightly packed shoulders becoming... not so tightly packed. Even when benching raw I always remember the cues to "row the bar down with the lats" and "keep the upper back tight," and I felt that I understood. The shirt let me know that what I originally thought was "tight enough" was an epic fail waiting to happen.

Although the shirt made me feel like a total n00b I walked away from the session with a lot to think about and a lot learned about my bench technique. I probably got some pretty good "overload" stimulation from the heavier weights that the shirt enabled me to use as well. Until next time, I'll just keep hammering away at heavy rows and pull-ups.

For your entertainment, here are a couple videos from the Friday night bench party.

Stuff You Should Read 8/31/12: Things I've Learned, The Difference Between Coaching Men vs. Women, and Sport Training for Jumpers and Sprinters

Before I get to the list, I have to show you the greatest thing I stumbled across this past month, thanks to Ryan:

If Bane says you should understand good squatting mechanics, then you should probably understand sound squatting mechanics. Case closed.

Alright, moving on to the list:

10 Things I've Learned: Ramblings From a Mathematically Challenged Fitness Coach - Alwyn Cosgrove

This article holds a special place in my heart as it was the FIRST article I ever read that helped bring me away from the stupid with regards to training people.

At the time of stumbling across the article, I was working as a personal trainer down at Virginia Tech. While yes, I was at least preaching the importance of squatting, progressive overload, and good technique, I was still following a very "Muscle & Fitness" approach to training: You know, attacking all the angles of each muscle group, omitting warm-ups, performing at least 40 total work sets during a session, tons of machine and leg press work, along with other equally useful things such as placing screen doors on submarines.

And no, I had no clue what a foam roller was, and yes, #26 and #28 on the list gave me a particularly well-deserved kick to the pants.

Upon reading this article, I immediately thought to myself, "What the....!!! Where have I been for the past couple years; hiding under a rock? What have I been wasting my time with reading?"

For those of you who haven't read it, I highly encourage you to click the link above.

Coaching Women and Coaching Men: Two Different Planets - Kelsey Reed

If you work in the coaching or training sector, in the weightroom or out on the field, it (hopefully) undoubtedly didn't take long for you to realize that teaching a male a skill versus teaching a female a skill can require particularly different approaches.

I thought Kelsey did an excellent job elucidating a few of the not-so-obvious differences between coaching men vs. women, with a few tips to boot.

Progression and Periodization for Elite Sprinters and Jumpers - Sarah Walls

This is an old(er) post from Sarah that I thought provided some awesome insight into training jumpers and sprinters. Considering that she is the strength & conditioning coach for the George Mason team (a consistently top team in America), this is written from someone who actually "walks the walk" of working with high level track athletes.

For those of you who enjoy a bit more of the "geeky" side of training, this will be right up your alley, as well.

Friday Musings: Butt Jump Roping, Pet Peeves, Star Wars A Cappella, Mentoring, etc.

1. The other day I had programmed some low volume jump roping for one of the girls, Paula, at SAPT. Upon watching her first session, it was quite evident that she was no foreigner to jump roping, so Coach Kelsey looks over at her in passing and and says, "You know, you're pretty good at those." To which Paula responds, "Well, I can also jump rope on my butt. So, using my feet isn't really that big a deal."

Obviously Kelsey and I had to see this stunt for ourselves, and asked her to perform a few reps. Needless to say, she knocked it out of the park, and it was the first time anyone in SAPT ever did anything like this:

2. Chris Romanow once told me, in a joking-but-not-really-joking tone, that the majority of people's goals (moving better, looking better, athletic performance, fat loss, remaining injury free, ruling the world, etc) could be solved by a healthy, regular dose of goblet squats and spidermans.

And the more I coach people and do these things myself, I'm right there with him. My personal contribution to the list would be loaded carries and kettlebell swings.


Do those four movements, multiple times a week and you're set.

3. These need to be posted at every youth sporting event. *Everywhere. I slow clap those that created and posted this sign:

4. A few of my pet peeves, in no particular order:

1. Morning People. More specifically, morning people who insist on talking to you within one hour of your morning awakening.

The morning should be used for three to four things: Enjoying a quality cup of coffee, spending some time on reflection (on what, that is up to you), reading, and perhaps pooping if that's what schedule you're on. Notice that talking is not on the list. Just because you are a morning person doesn't mean that the person that happens to be in the same bedroom/house as you likes to discuss the world's problems first thing in the A.M.

The only exceptions to this rule are A) If you're my wife (I love you, babe), and B) If I wake up past 10AM. People have every right to talk to me if I ever get out of bed that late.

2. When you're (manually) doing dishes and the cup/glass isn't large enough for your hand to reach all the way to the bottom, so you end up standing there, pinching your knuckles and skin into the glass, trying to stretch out your fingers with the sponge to barely reach the bottom.

3. When you're wearing socks and you step in something wet.

4a. People who don't turn right on red. More specifically, when you're driving down a two-lane road, and the person in front of you changes lanes into the right lane before the turn you need to make, but of course the light turns red so they end up blocking you for the next two minutes. Stay in the other lane and be considerate, dang it.

4b. Drivers who don't use their turn signal. I swear you could cut me off in traffic, but if you're using your signal, hey, you're good in my book.

4c. Those who won't get out of the left lane. I don't think I need to explain this any further, do I?

5. Extroverts. Why do you people always need to be around me and talking to me?!? Can't a man get some alone time around here? AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

6. People who squeeze the toothpaste tube in the wrong spot. You know who you are.

7. Overhead kettlebell swings. Wow....just, wow.....please stop.

8. Cracking knuckles. Makes me want to crawl into the fetal position each time I hear it. Never done it, don't plan on it any time soon.

9. When you're at a restaurant, and you finally achieved the perfect water temperate by getting the ice:water ratio just right, and the waiter comes along out of the blue, merrily filling up your glass without asking, completely screwing up everything you've worked so hard for.

10. Country music. 'Nuff said there.

5. I have no idea who this guy is, but can you say awesome? Here he does a a Star Wars themed, four-part a cappella musical tribute set to a few cinematic themes by composer John Williams.

Corey - If you live in the area, I'll give you a free assessment and coaching session for putting this together. Our address is 3831 Pickett Road, Fairfax, Va.

6. Read this article by Jim Wendler:

Mentoring Wendler

Here's a quick preview:

Towards the end of my senior year, I finally asked Darren why he never spoke to me during my first year in the weight room. And it was this lesson that I have taken with me in all areas of my life. His answer:

"Because you hadn't earned it. I've written hundreds of programs and helped so many kids and teachers with their training – and almost all of them quit after the first week. I had to see if you were going to stick with it. I had to see if you were serious. I'm not going to waste my time or my energy."

We all have someone like Darren in our lives. Unfortunately, few people are receptive to it or exhibit the will, heart, and resolve to show them that they deserve their attention.

I know because I see it around me daily. I see kids and lifters that ask questions and think they want to be great and strong, but always fall short of the small amount of commitment it takes to prove themselves. Everyone wants a handout rather than earn it. - Jim Wendler

Such awesome words of truth spoken by Jim Wendler here. I'm not sure if it's just me but it seems that the most recent generation seems to feel, for some odd reason, that they're the center of the universe, and that nothing can ever be their fault. If they didn't accomplish something or if they messed something up, there's an obvious excuse, right?

On top of that, I seem to experience more and more conversations with individuals who do wayyy too much talking, and too little listening.Well spoken, Jim.

7. This article is very cool, and definitely worth scrolling through all the pictures.

21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity

I first learned about "The Bystander Effect" in a sociology course in college, and Tony Gentilcore actually wrote a great, quick piece about it HERE. Learning about such incidents always make my heart drop a bit, and question the general tendency that humans learn toward at times.

Scrolling through the pictures in the linked article definitely helped temper the "cynicism" of humanity that occasionally shrouds my thought processes. Ah, there is hope in the world!

That's all for now, have a great weekend everyone.

*Except for the sporting events of my future kids. **They're obviously the exception and need to open up a big can of you-know-what on their opponents.

**That's a joke***.


Good Fitness Stuff to Read for the Week 4/9/12

Who Does MR Train? - Mike Robertson

If you train a celebrity or professional athlete, does this automatically bump you onto the list of best coaches/trainers in the industry? Are the strength coaches who work primarily with high school athletes worse athletic performance enhancement than those who work with the pros? Here Mike Robertson does an excellent job elucidating this issue, and bringing the topic to the forefront.

A Letter to My Younger Self - Jim Wendler

Here Jim Wendler (auther of the 5/3/1 method, a fantastic program I completed for six months myself, and the one that Sarah is currently doing) puts together a fantastic piece that I wish every high schooler would read. Even if you're not currently in high school, do yourself a favor and click the link above. Outside of the last sentence in the article, I found myself nodding in agreement to nearly everything Jim writes in his letter to his former self.

4 Tips for Learning New Exercises - Ben Bruno

Given that I've been deadlifting every day to improve my technique and performance in the lift, this post really hit home with me. Here Ben shares some excellent points on how to learn a new exercise, ranging from how often to do it, when to do it, and what intensity to do it at.

Stuff to Read 3/29/12

21 Exercises For Injury Free Mass - by Bret Contreras

Here Bret makes a solid case for the fact that not all lifters are created equal, and that their exercise selection should reflect this. Yes, squatting is good for many of us, but what if you're beat up? What could you use in place of it to receive a similar strength, size, and hormonal response?

Don't get me wrong, I'm near dogmatic about the fact that a host of human issues - world hunger being one of them - could be solved with a healthy dose of squatting and deadlifting, but this article really resonated with me as sometimes we tend to "shove square pegs into round holes" in our training, instead of swallowing our pride and training SMART when the time/circumstance calls for it.

It's All About the HIPS: Kettlebell Swings! - by Kelsey Reed

Here Kelsey gives an awesome write-up on one of the most excellent booty-scultpin' exercises out there. She covers everything from learning the swing to how to implement it into your training.

Definitely a must read, as I can't tell you how many people have told me they've hurt their backs as a result of poor kettlebell swinging. Get those HIPS involved yo!!

A Strength and Conditioning Coach’s Take on Social Media - by Ryan Wood

Ryan Wood delivers a guest post on regarding the importance of social media for strength coaches and personal trainers. As Alwyn Cosgrove once told me at one of his small business coaching seminars that I attended, "You coaches and trainers may be great at training people, but suckwhen it comes to the marketing and business side of the equation."

Not to mention, for you strength coaches and trainers in the crowd looking for some advice on how to use social media, to your advantage and to its fullest potential, I HIGHLY recommend you keep up with what Lisa is doing with her new business over at Agility Social Cues. She REALLY knows her stuff when it comes to marketing, and is tossing out tons of free knowledge bombs over at her website on a weekly basis.

Not to mention, she walks the walk of picking up heavy things. Need I say more? Do yourself a favor and head over there.

.....That's it. Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Good Fitness (and Life) Reads for the Week: Do You Hate Mondays? How Can a Woman Do Her First Chinup? Why So Many Youth Pitching Injuries?

Hope everyone is having a great Friday. Let's get right to the list:

Do You Love Mondays? - Martin Rooney

"Do you count the minutes until work is finished on Friday? Do you wish Sunday had 30 hours instead of 24? Is Monday the most difficult day to hear the alarm clock? If you had all the money in the world, what would you do for a living?

Rooney Rule: Successful people love Mondays.

Being successful isn’t about being rich, it is first about untying your “knot” and being happy. Most people measure success in wealth. I believe that you cannot put a price on doing what you love." - Martin Rooney

This post really resonated with me, as I left two career paths deemed "foolproof" by society (first engineering, and second, physical therapy) to pursue doing what I ultimately loved: teaching others how to become stronger, faster, and look and feel better via a career as a strength and conditioning coach.

It wasn't easy, and I faced a lot of questioning by well-intentioned peers and parents, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Did it take some treading in deep waters? Yep. Were there some moments where I wondered, "Is this really going to work out?" Sure. Did I have to (and still do) put in some very long days? Yep. Did it require me to "jump," hoping the net would appear? You bet. Was it worth it? Every moment.

This post hit it spot on: You can't put a price on doing what you love.

Well said here Martin.

Chin-Up Progressions for Women (The One Rep Hump) - Part I, Part II, and Part III - Tony Gentilcore

"If you have the ability to grow a human being inside your body and push it out, you undoubtedly have the ability to bang out a chin-up.  And might I add:  in MUCH less time than nine months." -TG

Here Tony put together a fantastic three-part series on helping females get over that "one-rep hurdle" in the realm of chinups. It wasn't so much the progressions that were the "ah-hah" moment for me (although they're certainly great progressions), but how much he emphasized the attitude most females take toward doing their first pullup/chinup.

If you don't think you can do something, how do you expect to ever actually do it?!?!

I highly recommend you check this out whether you are a trainer, a female trying to do her first chinup, or a male seeking to help his significant other conquer the bodyweight chin (or, heck, even for the males in the crowd who struggle with that one-rep hurdle).

The Real Reason Why There are so Many Youth Pitching Injuries - Mike Reinold

Considering that baseball players make up the majority of our clientele, I felt Mike really hit a home run with this one.

That was a pun, by the way. See what I did there?

Anyway, if you are a youth baseball coach - or father, for that matter - READ THIS.

It becomes very exhausting, as a strength coach, when kids continue to show up at your door with arm/shoulder injuries as a result of their coaches failing to do something as simple as educating themselves.