A Confidence Booster

I read a great article on EliteFTS the other day which you can find here… A Case for Bullying .  I strongly advise you read it as it really struck a chord with me, although judging by the comments section some readers REALLY missed the point of the article.  Anyways, it inspired my post for this week not really because I was bullied but because of what weight training and powerlifting has done for me and what I feel it can do for younger kids and adults alike. Throughout the entire time I was in school I always had a good bit of friends, I was never the kid who felt so pushed away by other people they had to go eat their lunch in the bathroom (although I can empathize with those kids).  However, in elementary school I was a short fat kid who’s nickname amongst friends was Louie because I looked EXACTLY like the kid from the cartoon show Life with Louie.  Again at no point were people outwardly mean to me about it but I was still really self-conscious about the way I looked.

Onto middle school, once I was here I had lost the fat but gained a crazy amount of acne…. It was gross.  Again, I had a good bit of friends and no one really outwardly made fun of me about it (maybe it was my short temper who knows) but again I was really self-conscious about it.

Onto high school, now I’ve lost the fat, lost the acne, and started doing pull-ups, pushups, and bodyweight squats until it burned.  Only problem was I never really hit that growth spurt I was looking for.  I was standing at a whopping 5’7” on a good day (which I still am today).  Again, nothing that I was teased about but I was really self-conscious about being relatively shorter than a lot of the people I hung out with.

My point is not for you to feel bad for me because I don’t want you too that would be ridiculous.  My point is that all kids or adults no matter what circle of life they come from can feel bad about themselves or that they’ll never measure up to other people.  However, there has to be an outlet for these kids to make them feel better about themselves and be able to gain self-confidence and a way for them to be able to say “I honestly don’t care what you think about me”.  I feel like a lot of parents first instinct is sports which is great and works a great deal of the time.  It gives them an outlet for their aggression, makes them feel part of a team, and teaches them that some days you lose and some days you win.  What about the other kids?  The other kids who end up not making the team and ultimately feel even more isolated.  THEY NEED TO WEIGHT TRAIN!

When I got to college I read Arnold, the Education of a Bodybuilder and there it was the epiphany I was looking for my whole life.  I read that book cover to cover in two days, I wrote down what he ate and how he trained and I did it.  Somewhere along the line my confidence went through the roof, I got bigger and stronger and for the first time in my life I was able to truly not care what other people thought of me.  The only thing I cared about was how to get bigger and stronger.  I was no longer concerned with the people who didn’t matter in my life and their opinions of my clothes, hair, personality, job, etc.

Why did weight training work so well for me in that respect?  Because unlike most things, weight training gives you tangible results all the time; every month I saw myself becoming bigger and stronger and I loved it.  I played basketball my whole life and worked hard it but it was very hard for me to see gains because it was so hard to measure it against things.  But, weight training is something I could track each and every week.


I know I’ve kind of rambled a bit but the whole point I’m driving at is more kids should weight train and by kids I’m talking about 10 year olds and up.  Please don’t gasp, if you have a problem with 10 year olds weight training; then I have a bone to pick with you at a later date.  Are you concerned with your kid’s well-being and self-esteem?  For that matter are you concerned with your own well-being and self-esteem?  If you are I STRONGLY suggest you start a resistance training program.  I promise that you will be better off for it.

Since high school I knew that I wanted to work with kids in some fashion.  I had a lot of great coaches and teachers that helped me become a better person.  For me the best way to return the favor was by becoming a strength coach and showing kids how to become stronger.  Part of my job is to help kids become stronger and better for their sport.  Honestly though that is NOT my main priority.  My main priority is to help every kid who walks in our doors to feel better about themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally and to truly not care about what someone says about them or thinks about them.

And in case anyone is wondering what i look like now...

Box Squatting is the Greatest

In efforts to conquer my fear of speaking in front of a camera I decided to make today's entry a video post.  We all need to work on our weaknesses and mine happens to be public speaking and speaking on camera; it’s like kryptonite to being able to organize my thoughts. Anyway, practice makes perfect so the following video is talking about why I prefer to use the box squat (as opposed to a squat to box) as my preferred method when teaching proper back squat mechanics. I hope the audio is loud enough; just in case the two main reasons I go into as to why I prefer box squatting is safety and posterior chain strength development.  Enjoy…

We All Need A Little Inspiration

It’s the times that you don’t want to train that will show your true desire and will to win… How often do you wake up and just do not want to go to the weight room, batting cage, football field, volleyball court?  What do you do in those situations; do you roll over and go back to bed?  Do you make compromises because you just aren’t feeling it today?  Do you say “alright starting Monday I’ll get back after it?” We have all been in these situations but as I said these are the situations that define us.  I’ve talked a lot about being average in past posts and how I refuse to be it and this is one of the ways I “beat” the average out of myself.  I have to train no matter what and no matter how I feel because I know the average person just rolls over and goes back to bed, the average person makes compromises.  I’m not trying to be high and mighty, there have been times when I’ve succumb to the state of averageness, and I absolutely hate it.  So when I feel the average part of me trying to take over I have put things in place to make my better half overcome.  This is usually in the form of watching a video or reading an article that really makes me want to get after it.  I’m not really sure why doing these things work for me.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m seeing someone rise above their own feelings of being average and it makes me realize I need to do the same.  For you it might be something different but it’s up to you to find something to make you conquer those bad days, to rise above your negative thoughts and feelings of inadequacy.  We all have the ability to be great but it is only you that can unlock the potential.  Am I being corny? Maybe, but corny is what we need sometimes to get through those rough days; and I’d rather be corny than average. This was a short and to the point rant, but a rant that was needed.  If you’re like me and get jacked up watching inspirational videos and reading inspirational articles then take a look below at the things I currently look to when I’m having those lazy days.


The Walk On by Jim Wendler

A Letter To My Younger Self by Jim Wendler


[vsw id="V6xLYt265ZM" source="youtube" width="425" height="344" autoplay="no"]

By far my favorite video to get me jacked up to go train

Former SAPT coach Chris Romanow is one of the people who got me interested in powerlifting so seeing him smash heavy weight makes me want to do the same

SAPT client and friend Ron Reed inspires me to achieve goals, his work ethic is second to none

I have no idea who this guy is but he is dedicated

Sports Are Healthy Right? by Tadashi Updegrove

Continuing from my last post about the do’s and don’ts of an intern, SAPT received someone who exemplified pretty much exactly what I felt a good intern should be.  For the past semester Tadashi has made an impact on SAPT through his knowledge, coaching, and ability to learn and apply.  In his brief time here he became a colleague and a good friend. Unfortunately, his time at SAPT has come to an end and he has decided to take his talents to South Beach and by South Beach I mean College Park, Maryland to pursue an internship with the S & C department.  With that said, here is Tadashi’s final task for completing his time at SAPT.... As a Kinesiology major, I was required to enroll in a “Senior Seminar” class this past semester, where we basically got in a big group and discussed health.  Most discussions were centered around the importance of health, how we can inspire others to be healthy, and the future of health in the United States and the world.  As many of my fellow classmates declared their own personal mission statements to become soldiers in the war against obesity, or how to combat the big tobacco companies, I sat quietly in the corner, hoping I didn’t get called on.  Then I got called on:

“Tadashi, why are you so interested in health?”

After stumbling over my words I finally managed to utter something like “err… I, um... I’m not.”  I went on to explain that health was not my primary interest.  What I was interested in was sports and sports performance.  I wanted to understand how the human body adapts so I could understand how to manipulate the applied stimuli to make someone stronger, jump higher, hit harder, and pick up heavier things.

Then I was approached with a follow up question:

“Well, sports are healthy right?”

I don’t know how I feel about that one.  Sure being physically active and exercising is healthy, but after looking through countless research articles it’s hard to ignore the high percentages of participant injury in sports.  Competitive lifting, both powerlifting and weightlifting, ranks at the low end of participant injury with something between 40%-50% (Yup, ½ of participants getting injured apparently is low compared to other sports).  The NFL is under scrutiny right now because of the concussion rates and the violent nature of the game.  I know the NFL is easy to hate on when discussing health and safety because… well it’s football, and the game involves Hulk-Smashing people against their will.

But football players aren’t the only ones getting hurt.  Even the concussion rates in girls’ lacrosse are high enough to raise concerns about helmet requirements.  Take a look at ACL injuries and you’ll find that the overwhelming majority of ACL tears occur because of non-contact situations.  ACLs tend to rupture during a sprint, a jump landing, decelerating, or change-of-direction task.  Athletes in sports that demand a high volume of these tasks are placed at a higher risk of injury.  Think soccer, volleyball, basketball, etc.

During my experience working with the SAPT coaches and athletes, I began to realize more and more that training for performance is training for health. Learning to squat with the knees out and the hips back makes you more of a beast because you get more recruitment of the glutes and your legs are placed in a structurally ideal position to produce force into the ground.  This also happens to be the healthiest position for your knee joint by reducing the load to the medial compartment.  Bracing the midsection during a lift will increase performance because of an improved transfer of force between the upper and lower body.  This ability to create a rigid torso also happens to be the best way to keep your spine from folding in half under load.  Similar performance and health benefits can be said about keeping the scapulae retracted during rows or tucking the elbows during a pushup.

I played lacrosse and ran track in high school, and now compete in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu/submission grappling, and like many athletes in other sports, have come to understand that injuries are just part of the game.  Most athletes can expect to get banged up here and there.  Sometimes, unfortunately, they’ll get hit with a more serious injury that takes them out for a length of time that really puts their patience (and sanity) to the test.  For me it was a back injury that occurred during a grappling session which required surgery last September.  Looking back it’s easy to say I should have done more soft tissue work, anterior core exercises, mobility drills, and gotten more rest but… hindsight’s always 20/20.  What is it going to take for me to get healthy?  Strengthening the right muscles, mobilizing the right joints, and training the neuromuscular system appropriately.  Sounds eerily like training for performance...

I realize now that I am interested in health (specifically musculoskeletal health), because it goes hand in hand in optimizing athletic performance, but I still have to disagree with a blanket statement like “sports are healthy.”

Even a sport like distance running boasts a participant injury rate upwards of 70%!  The next time you watch a baseball or softball game watch the pitcher’s shoulder as he/she pitches.  Try and convince me that they throw this way to improve their health.

However, despite the risk of injury there are many reasons why I believe sports are awesome, and most of these reasons are not necessarily health related.  Growing up my Dad always told me that I would learn more from playing sports than I would learn in the classroom, and I’m pretty sure he was right (but I went to class too…).  I learned what it meant to work hard towards a goal, work with others, and make sacrifices for the benefit of the team.  Not to mention it’s FUN, and I’ve had some of my most memorable moments on a lacrosse field or a grappling mat.

The Do's and Don'ts of Being an Intern

Internships are the bridges that lead into a career in strength and conditioning whether it’s at the collegiate level or the private sector.  If you want to pursue a career in this industry at some point you need to do an internship.  If you don’t then you won’t gain hands on knowledge and you won’t be able to learn from people more experienced and smarter than you.  Internships are almost a rite of passage.  They mean you paid your dues.  If you successfully completed an internship it means you worked hard every day, you cleaned equipment, you organized storage closets, you woke up at 4:00AM to be in the weight room for a 5:00AM team and then worked till 4:00PM, you read endlessly, you watched some of the most knowledgeable people you’ll ever meet coach, you got to ask those coaches questions, you got to listen to those coaches answer your questions, and if you were lucky those coaches threw you to the wolves and told you one morning “hey, I’m going to let you run women’s soccer today to see how you do” then they watched you fail miserably which gave you the opportunity to find out what your made of, then they showed you how to learn from your mistakes and how to do it better the next time!  And you did it all for no money, just for the experience, the knowledge, the pride and to see if you had what it takes.  It was all for the opportunity to gain the ability to help people and athletes become better versions of themselves.  Or at least this is what it should be about; sadly a lot of people just want to get by. You’d be amazed by the amount of people who want to say they put in the work rather than just putting in the work.  People who do the internship because they need the credit to graduate so they try to put in as little effort as possible instead of taking advantage of a great situation in which they can learn.

With all that said here are some do’s and don’ts to follow in order to get the best possible experience out of your internship…

1) Be Quiet

You are there to learn, not socialize.  The coaches don’t care about how “crazy” your weekend was.  Unless your asking questions there is no need for you to talk, until the coach states otherwise.

2) Understand That You Know Nothing/Be Open Minded

It’s important to grasp the concept that unless you have coaching experience your opinion doesn't hold much value. There’s nothing worse than someone who spouts off exercise science trivia but can’t goblet squat to save their life or teach it for that matter.  It doesn’t matter what your training methodology is because it’s over for the time being.  Take this time to step out of your comfort zone and learn something new.  Is your internship somewhere that is Olympic based? Well if it is guess what?  You are going to train the Olympic lifts for the next semester or year.  If you go into the whole thing thinking you know it all then then you’ve demonstrated that you truly know nothing.

3) Do as Your Asked and Do it with a Smile on Your Face

Your job is whatever the strength coach you’re working under deems it to be.  If they want you to go reorganize the whole storage closet then do it and whistle while you work, trust me it helps.  If they want you to observe a training session then you need watch intently and have questions ready to ask them when the session is done.  It’s a privilege that these coaches have taken you under their wing so show gratitude by performing each task no matter how minute it is to the best of your ability

4) Show Initiative

Sadly, this was my biggest problem during my internships.  If someone told me to do something I definitely did it to the best of my ability.  That was the problem though, most of the time I had to be told when to do something.  If you see plates unorganized then go organize them before someone tells you.  Is everything organized in the storage closet by the end of the day?  If not, take it upon yourself to organize it.  If the strength coach is running behind schedule and has a collegiate baseball team getting out of line then put your big boy/girl pants on and go lay down the law.  One of your jobs is to assist the strength coach so they can focus on their job.  If they have to stop what they’re doing in order to tell you what to do all the time then you’re just making things worse.  Taking initiative shows leadership qualities and that you can handle yourself in all different situations.

5) Have Fun

I know that sounds a little hard after all the things I just mentioned BUT I promise you that if you observe the other rules listed number 5 will come naturally.  If you can successfully observe the previous rules then the strength coach you work under will probably make your job a lot more enjoyable.  If you don’t heed the other rules you’re going to have a really angry strength coach as a boss.  Working under Sarah I learned this quick, that’s not a person you want angry at you; I have nightmares to this day…. joking…. But seriously.  In all seriousness though, depending on where you end up for your internship you have been given a great opportunity to change yourself for the better.  It’s important to do everything in your power to seize the opportunity.

Don't Leave Your Assistance Work Out in the Cold!

A house won’t be much of a house without nails, screws, and cement.  I would say the same goes for your training as well.  Consider your main movement of the day (squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press, pull-ups) the building blocks of your house.  With that first lift you have the makings of a giant mansion; now how will you hold it all together?  This is where your “assistance” work or “supplemental” work comes in.  The assistance work of your program act as the nails, screws, and cement that solidify the work you’ve put in with your main movement.  They will provide your house the ability to stay strong and not crumble.

Before I go any further let me explain what qualifies as assistance work.  If your main lift of the day is a squat then your assistance would be a variation thereof.  This can be another bilateral movement or a unilateral movement; but almost always compound in nature and will mimic the movement pattern of your main lift.  Examples of assistance work for a squat would be a box squat, front squat, split squat, BSS, etc. (these lifts can be used as a main movement but in this instance they would be considered assistance work).  Your assistance work can be used for different reasons be it to reinforce the movement pattern of your main lift, bringing up weak points and imbalances, to make the main musculature stronger and bigger, etc.  Regardless of the reason the main point becomes that assistance work will get you stronger and better at the main lifts which in the end will make you stronger overall.  Plus it gives you yet another way to get your Hulk on and smash weight.

I’m not saying go out and work up to a heavy double on safety squat bar good mornings for an assistance lift, that would just be overkill.  I believe you should still be moving some appreciable weight but the volume should be greater than your first lift (as long as your volume for your first lift wasn’t absurdly high).  In order to work on your weaknesses or to get better at the movement pattern you need to practice.  This would be the reason why it’s important to keep the volume higher; it provides a lot of practice.

How much volume are we talking here?  You want to give yourself a rep range that is going to work on your specific goals.  Is maximal strength your goal?  Then I would probably keep the volume low (18-30 reps).  Is hypertrophy your goal?  Then I would probably keep the volume on the higher end (30-50 reps).  Keep in mind I am speaking generally, there are many exceptions to what I just said based on a person’s strength level. One exception would be if you have a relatively young training age then I would stay at the low end and be focused on quality not quantity.  What I like to do is pick a number of reps and flat load it over a few weeks.  For example, if I picked 24 reps for my total volume then my sets/reps would go something like, week 1: 6x4, week 2: 5x5, and week 3: 4x6.  This way I can stay at the same volume while hitting it in different ways each week.  Mark Bell has talked about this before and I think it’s a great way to go about programming your assistance lifts.

The tricky part in all this is to keep from going overboard.  As I stated before I feel you should be using heavy weight but that heavy weight should be appropriate for the volume you are working at.  If your max deadlift is 315 then it’s probably not a good idea to try and do 300lbs RDL’s for 5X6.  You would look awful doing it, if you could even do it at all. Good luck trying to groove a movement pattern using 95% of your deadlift max (yeah I did the math, what of it!). Have you ever read or heard a fitness professional say “just focus on your main movement; don’t worry so much about your assistance work?”  The reason they say that is because if they told you to treat it with the same intensity as your main lift then you would probably load the bar as heavy as possible and the lift would look as ugly as this dog.

The problem with fitness professionals coaching that or writing that is now people seem to just go through the motions when it comes to assistance work; they feel it’s not important.  Well I’m telling you now that it is. Just work hard and make the reps look smooth!

I know it can be challenging for people to get in their training session with their hectic schedule. Your main movement is primary and crucial but your assistance work is a close second.  If you need to cut out anything then cut out your accessory work (accessory work would be something like tricep pushdowns, delt raises, facepulls; most of the time they are single joint movements done at a high volume, 30+ reps near the end of a training session).  You really shouldn’t lose focus on anything while training.  All your movements should be intense and deliberate.  If you can’t devote the effort needed to an exercise then you shouldn’t do it at all.  With that said, it’s time to show your assistance work some love, it has feelings too!