SAPT strength

How to Get HOOGE!

By far the question that I get asked the most by our male athletes is “how do I get bigger”.  I give them the simplest answer they could ever want yet they still for some reason don’t like what I tell them. My answer is usually along the lines of “eat food… a lot of it, all day…“ The resounding follow up from them goes something like “but I don’t want to get fat”.  At this point, in my mind, I want to just go kick down a door (figuratively speaking of course). [vsw id="q3SFXQfE4kk&" source="youtube" width="425" height="344" autoplay="no"]

I blame society.  For the last 20 years we have been told by media organizations that if we eat food we will get fat and then we are made to idolize people that look like sticks, RIDICULOUS!  Sorry, I’m digressing from the point… What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, gaining weight.

Fellas, the only way to gain muscle mass is to eat A LOT of REAL FOOD and have a sound strength and conditioning program.  Please, I beg you to get rid of the notion that you will get fat because honestly, you won’t.  The guys I get the gaining weight question from are usually 5’6”, 130-140lbs or 6’0” 165-175lbs; the last thing you should ever worry about is getting fat.  I can’t really blame you for thinking this because I was the same way when I was younger.  It wasn’t until college that I started to educate myself on the issue and ignored my ridiculous thoughts about getting fat.  I went from 5’8” 150lbs to around 6 months later weighing in at 177lbs (after trying to gain a little more muscle recently, I weigh in around 187lbs currently).  All that said I’m going to give you a list of some of the foods I ate frequently to help me reach my goals (the foods are in no specific order).

I did not measure out my food when trying to gain weight.  I don’t feel this is necessary because it ends up getting in the way and becomes a huge hassle which leads to giving up.

- 6 eggs (whole eggs, not egg whites) with a handful of cheddar cheese and a WHOLE LOT of vegetables.  Try and find whatever you can, mine consists of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green and red peppers.  I ate this for breakfast and sometimes dinner.  I scrambled it all up with some olive oil.  This was a great way to get in a lot of good nutrients consisting of fats, carbohydrates, and protein.

- Natural peanut butter and jelly on Arnold’s Double Fiber wheat bread and a glass of whole milk.  This was one of my favorites which is why I ate it twice a day; one of those times being after my training session in which case I would substitute a glass of whole milk with chocolate milk/one scoop vanilla why protein. I slabbed on as much peanut butter as I could. Be sure to get natural peanut butter, don’t eat that processed stuff.  If it claims to be natural but lists palm oil as an ingredient then don’t buy it; palm oil acts as a trans-fat.

- Burrito bowl from Chipotle with rice, fajitas, black beans, chicken, pico de gallo, cheese, and guacamole.  This was usually a once a week thing because of cost.  This was a great way to get in a lot of calories on a day where I was slacking or short on time.

- Stir fry diced chicken breast with as many vegetables as you can cram in.  It should consist of tomatoes, green peppers, red peppers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and baby spinach with olive oil and teriyaki sauce.  I usually got 3 to 4 pounds of chicken breast filets and made it all on Sunday so I could have it already prepared for the week. Again, gettin' a lot of calories while satisfying vegetable intake.  I know what you are thinking and yes you have to eat spinach, because it’s awesome and if you want to be strong like Popeye you have to eat like Popeye.

- I loved drinking smoothies because it was an awesome way to get in a boat load of good calories. The fact that it was liquid allowed it to not sit very long which allowed me to eat again quicker.  I had my own recipe but Stevo’s is far superior so I’ll give you that one.  Frozen berries, whole milk, Kefir, brazil nuts, and one scoop vanilla whey protein.  If the blender isn't full by the end… Just add more.

- West Virginia Goulash with a side of 4% milk fat cottage cheese mixed with strawberry jelly.  This is a meal that my dad (from Beaver, West Virginia) has cooked for my family forever.  It’s nothing special really, just 90/10 ground beef cooked in a pan with LITERALLY whatever vegetables you can find.  My dad uses potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, corn, green beans, green peppers, and tomatoes.  As for the cottage cheese, I do like it by itself but after a while the taste takes its toll on you so I added the flare of strawberry jelly. Again, just like the chicken stir fry I would make this at the beginning of the week. If you don’t like this meal then we just can’t be friends.

A Few Things to Note…

- Every week I would rotate between the chicken stir fry and the West Virginia Goulash, a big bowl of either would be my lunch or dinner.  The peanut butter and jelly, cottage cheese with strawberry jelly, the scrambled egg dish and the smoothie would be something I ate every day, every week.  With all this I would end up eating around 5-6 times a day and drinking around 3 liters to 1 gallon of water a day.

- At this time the only supplement I took was cod liver oil because I needed extra Vitamin D due to lack on sun exposure and protein powder.  If you are trying to put on mass for the first time I highly discourage you from taking other supplements such as NO2 products and creatine products.  The reason being is not because they are bad for you (because they are NOT bad for you) it’s more so because they end up being a crutch, especially for teens.  People and again especially teens tend to think supplements are a “magic pill” and make them a staple of their diet rather than what they are; a “supplement” to your diet.  Whey protein is fine; just keep it to one scoop after your training session along with the other post workout food I listed and one scoop for your smoothie.

- If you’re reading this and saying things like “oh man, that’s unhealthy to eat that many eggs”, “I’m going to get fat if I do that”, “his cholesterol and blood pressure must be through the roof!” then I'm sorry to say, you are sorely mistaken.  If you truly believe those things then you probably don’t exercise (lift heavy things and condition) enough, you pay too much attention to bad sources of information, and you just aren’t ready to take on the challenge.  All of the products I ate were natural and either not processed or very minimally processed.  There is nothing “unhealthy” about drinking whole milk, it’s a great source of good fats and is much less processed than skim milk.  Egg yolks are fine, actually its the best part of the egg.  And, I can assure you that my cholesterol and my blood pressure are better than average.

Stop letting society dictate your life.

A Tip on Programming

If you truly want to become stronger it’s very important that you take careful consideration when planning your training program.  One of the biggest factors that comes into play when doing this is understanding your strengths and weaknesses.  Unfortunately when this task is undertaken solo the former rather than the latter becomes the focus of the program. Usually what happens when you write your own training program is that unbeknownst to you, you have programmed everything your good at and absolutely nothing you’re bad at.  Congratulations, you’re going to spend the next 12 weeks not getting any stronger!  So the question becomes, how do we avoid wasting 12 weeks of our life?  Simple, DON’T do your own programming. The best thing to do is to sit down with someone who is qualified and experienced when it comes to programming (do not ask your training partner, chances are they probably have the same problems you have and are just as biased).  Talk to them about your goals, strengths, and problem areas. Based on the information you give them and the programming knowledge they have, they will write you a program that you will absolutely hate!  Why will you hate it?  Because, it’s going to be filled with a bunch of stuff you’re not good at and honestly who wants to work 4-5 days a week on things they are terrible at?  Nobody! But, I promise that you WILL come out 12 weeks later a STRONGER person than when you went in.  Trust me I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else;I would much rather feel like Wolverine in the weight room instead of Howard the Duck.

Don’t believe me?  I’ll show you.  Below you will find two training days from two different programs.  The first was written for me by current strength coach, powerlifter, and friend Gabe Naspinski.  The basis of which can be found by reading Gabe’s article for EliteFTS.  The second is a day that I wrote for myself a while ago.



A1) Conventional DL from Deficit 9X2/60% A1) DE Sumo DL with Chains 8X3 50%+50lbs of Chains
B1) SSB Low Box Squat w/ pause 4X6 B1) Low Box Squat 4X8
B2) Pullups throughout session 40 total C1) Barbell Rollouts 3XAMAP
C1) Band Pull Throughs 3x15 C2) Reverse Hyper 4X10
C2) Static/Dynamic Ab Movement of my choice


I know they don’t seem completely different but let me explain why the day Gabe planned is better for me than the one that I programmed.  First let me give you a little background on myself.  I have been pulling sumo for the last two years because I’m better at it and that’s how I compete.  I am terrible off the floor when deadlifting but pretty good when it comes to locking out at the top.  I am also weak out of the hole of  my squat but again, pretty good at locking them out.  Lastly, I have weak glutes, hamstrings and upper back.  Just with that little bit of information it’s easy to see why Gabe’s training day is superior to the one I programmed.

Let’s look at A1; he has me pulling conventional AND from a deficit (this guy has it out for me).  This allows me to work on almost all of my weaknesses.  Pulling  conventional and from a deficit will allow me to get better out of the bottom due to the increased range of motion and it will work on my hamstring and glute weakness as well as my upper back.  Now is what I programmed bad?  No, but it’s not exposing nor is it helping me work on my weaknesses nearly as much as what Gabe gave me.

We’ll end with talking about the B series.  With this series we have two squat variations, again nothing to different.  The main difference is the type of barbell used and the utilization of the pause.  He has me using a SSB (safety squat bar) which positions the bar higher on my back causing a greater emphasis on back strength as opposed to a straight bar, thus allowing me to work on my upper back weakness.  Again, I’m weak out of the bottom of my squat and my glute strength is sorely lacking so naturally we are going to incorporate a low box, which Gabe and I both did.  There is one glaring difference though between his and mine….the dreaded PAUSE in the bottom.  Now the pause I’m using is only a second long but that one second pause is a dagger (I’m not joking, go try it).  This pause is going to allow me to get stronger out of the bottom while also putting much more emphasis on my glutes.  Lastly in the B series, you’ll notice the 40 pullups throughout session that are in Gabe’s program and not in mine.  Remember that whole weak upper back thing? Interestingly enough Gabe decided to give me upper back work EVERYDAY of my program (I told you this guy has it out for me).  But again, my back weakness has been my downfall and he’s making me face it every day forcing me to get stronger.

As I said at the beginning, it’s important for everyone to know their strengths and weaknesses (especially their weaknesses).  One weakness that we all share when it comes to training is thinking that we are unbiased when it comes to writing our own program.  You might work on SOME of your problem areas if you write your own program but I guarantee it’s not going to be the same as someone else writing it.  Don’t spend weeks on end not getting any better, it’s a waste.

Remember, friends don’t let friends write their own programs.

It All Starts With the Grip


I decided to give my on camera prowess a go today and talk about an awesome squat grip.  It’s a thumbless, pinkyless grip that I’ve seen great results with.  I learned this from a strength coach that I used to work under who currently trains at Tampa Barbell.  I suggest giving this a shot if your shoulder and t-spine mobility is as bad as a T-Rex. Lay off me about my on camera ridiculousness; I felt like Ricky Bobby, wasn’t quite sure what to do with my hands. 

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 On another note, I am preparing for my first geared (single-ply) meet in April.  In all my other competitions I have competed raw and really had no idea how different lifting in gear would be.  I got my bench shirt in the mail the other day and decided to try it out.  Needless to say, it was rough.  And after trying it out I don’t want to ever hear people say using gear is easier, it’s not.  Out of all the things I’ve done in the weight room it was by far the hardest and most taxing.  My bench shirt repeated yelled at me, “I PWN NOOBS”.  Check out the video of my epic fail; couldn’t even get it to my chest.

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10 Rules to Keep Your Man Card

In the short time I’ve been a strength coach I’ve learned a number of lessons from mentors and co-workers.; one of those lessons being how to lose your “man card”.  It’s important for us to understand that our man card is not a right, but a privilege. And trust me, if you’re not careful yours will get snatched away!  Hence the reason for writing this post; follow these simple rules and I promise your man card won’t be going anywhere. Rule 1: Do not wear your clothes so tight that your girlfriend mistakes them for hers.  Guys, there’s no excuse for this, either buy some bigger clothes or get bigger yourself.

Rule 2: Do not comment on how vascular another man is/don’t talk about how vascular you are.  Is this something I really need to explain?  Just don’t do it, it’s weird.

Rule 3: If your 140lbs soaking wet do not talk about wanting to gain mass and then complain about not wanting to lose your “six-pack”.  MAN UP! Start pounding whole milk and peanut butter and start MOVING WEIGHT!

Rule 4: Do not lip sync to your awful music in the mirror at the gym in between sets with an angry look on your face.  When I was in college I saw this entirely too often.  Let’s keep that nonsense to yourself guy in the tiny Affliction t-shirt and Euro Puma shoes.

Rule 5: Bringing this back to the beginning, do not wear skinny jeans so tight that your girlfriend asks if she can borrow them.  Much to my dismay, I feel like this happens more than it ought to.  As a matter of fact just don’t wear skinny jeans.

Rule 6: Do not begin every sentence with the word “Bro”.  Usually the sentence that follows goes something like; “Bro, can I get a spot on these Preacher Curls?”

Rule 7: Do not lift your shirt up to check out your abs in the mirror while at the gym.  Put your shirt down and get back to your Smith Machine quarter squats.

Rule 8: Do not use a foam pad on the barbell when squatting or front squatting.  Again, MAN UP! Get used to the bar, get some bigger shoulders, and get a bigger yoke!

Rule 9: Do not update your status on Facebook to “gettin’ swole at the gym”. Newsflash, no one cares that you’re at the gym.  Unless your status is “attempting a 600lbs deadlift today” we don’t want to hear about your adventures on the elliptical machine.

Rule 10: Do not be the guy five years out of high school at the local gym telling everyone about the glory days and how “strong” you used to be.  This is what I like to call the Uncle Rico syndrome.  It’s over man, move on.  And chances are you weren’t as strong as you thought you were.

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I know what you’re saying to yourself, “Ryan, you’ve never been guilty of any of these things?”  And my answer would be nope, not a one.  Come on, you seriously think I’d admit to any of these things?  Anyway, be sure to follow these rules in order to keep doing those manly things we like to do such as, chopping wood, going on river boat gambling trips, making beef jerky, hunting bears with our bare hands, and wearing flannel.