A Few Thoughts On A Tuesday

I hope you all had a good Memorial Day weekend, got a chance to get some rest and are ready to get back at it. 

I haven’t done a random thoughts post for a while, and considering the fact that being a new dad is one of the most tiring things I’ve ever done, and my brain is in a bit of a fog, I think doing something random feels quite appropriate.

Fasten your seat belts, keep your hands inside the car, and please no flash photography.  It scares the bears.  Here we go:

1.  If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I had a goal of deadlifting 405 by January 1 of this year.  You also know that I didn’t complete that goal.  Since then, I’ve been having a bit of a hard time getting back on track with it.  I’ve missed a few PR attempts, and to say the least, I’ve been a bit frustrated.

Thankfully a couple of clients have been reminding me of my goal and pushing me to get back at it.  Well, it’s paid off.  While I still haven’t got 405, I did pull a new PR this last Friday (#385), which is 20 more pounds than my previous PR, and I have a new fire to get after 405.

2.  Food companies will jump on any band wagon they can to sell their products.  I’ve mentioned before my frustration with sugary cereals being labeled as the #1 source of whole grains for breakfast.  This weekend I saw a new one.  I was pouring some salsa on my scrambled eggs when I noticed that the label was claiming the salsa to be “Gluten Free!”.  This may sound great to the casual observer, but here’s the deal-there’s no reason salsa should ever have gluten in it.

Gluten is a protein found in grain products like wheat and barely.  I don’t think I’ve ever had salsa with wheat or barely in it.  However, to the average person who has heard about the negative effects of gluten, this could be a great selling point.  It’s just too bad that the truth is, you probably can’t find any salsa with gluten in it.

3.  I’ve been talking with John “Roman” Romaniello a bit lately, and he’s agreed to do an interview for the site.  If you’re not familiar with Roman, click on the link to the left under my blog roll.  He’s dead sexy, very entertaining to read and crazy smart.  Also, his Alexa rating ( a website popularity ranking system) is 136, 398.  That’s for the whole world.  If you’re in the top 1,000,000 you’re doing well.  So yeah, he’s kind of a big deal.  Be looking for the interview to go up in the next week or two.

4.  Since last October I have been focused very little on my body fat percentage, but rather, focused on muscle and strength gain.  Since then, I’ve put on about 20 pounds, some fat, some muscle.  As well, I’ve seen my strength go through the roof, and my shirts are fitting quite a bit tighter (in a good way).  I’m getting ready to make a run and stripping of the fat and getting pretty lean for the summer.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress, and may even do some before and afters for the site.  As long as you all don’t mind seeing a third nipple.*

I SAID NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY!!!!!!  RUN!!!!!!

*This statement was used purely for entertainment purposes and is in no way indicative of the number of nipples that the author actually has.

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Combating Computer Posture Part 2

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an entry on two easy ways to help fix that nasty computer posture that so many people suffer from.  That post discussed some activation and stretching techniques for the hips, chest and upper back.  Today, I wanted to dive a little bit further into how I help someone regain proper posture.

While the techniques I mentioned a few weeks age are great, they are by no means the end-all-be-all for fixing crappy posture.  Increasing tissue quality, through activation/stretching/mobilization is incredibly important, but to really attack poor posture, the antagonistic (opposing) muscles must be strengthened. 

One of the best ways to help strengthen the upper back (which helps pull the chest and shoulders open) is to do various rowing type movements.  Rows, when done correctly, strengthen the middle and lower trap and rhomboid muscles as well as encourage the scapulae (shoulder blades) to retract and depress (a very good thing).

Here are a few examples of rowing movements:

The important thing with rows is to make sure you are actually pulling with your back.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people use their biceps more than their backs when rowing.  An easy way to make sure you’re using your back is to squeeze your shoulder blades together at the end of each rep.  I tell clients to “pinch” their spines with their shoulder blades.

Due to the fact that almost everyone struggles with at least a degree of poor posture and rounded shoulders, I never have anyone push horizontally (push ups, bench press) more often then they pull horizontally (rows).  I try to keep the ratio of pulling to pushing at least 2:1 or more if needed.

If you’ve been trying out the techniques I mentioned a few weeks ago (and I know some of you have been), start to incorporate rowing movements after them to really get after your poor posture!

Less Time Wasted=Better Results

I think it’s funny that most of the guys in here spend more time playing with their iPods or checking their phones then they do actually working out.

This is a completely unsolicited, unprovoked statement from a client of mine.  We weren’t talking about anything related to this at all.  In fact we were just walking from one part of the gym to the other when she made this observation.

She may not have known this, but she hit the nail smack dab on the head.

When you spend 10-14 hours a day in a gym, you tend to notice some common trends.  And one of the most common is this:

People waste a lot of time

Whether it’s chatting it up at the water fountain, flexing in the mirror between every…single… set, wandering around aimless trying to decide what to do next, or checking your text messages every three minutes, a lot of time gets spent doing things that are completely unproductive.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people complain about the lack of results they’re getting, but then I’ll see them standing around talking to someone for 15 minutes…and I’m not exaggerating.

Some people treat the gym like it’s a social club, or like they’re at home and they just happen to be getting in a few sets between watching Sports Center and making phone calls.  If that’s your goal, fine, but don’t be surprised when your body doesn’t look any different in a year.

However, if you’re one of those people who actually wants to get stronger and leaner, maximizing your time is in your best interest for two main reasons.

First, the less time you waste, the more work you get done, the more calories you burn, the more you sweat, the better you feel, etc.

Second, going into a training session with the mentality that you’re not going to waste any time completely changes your approach to your session.  If you go in planning to make every second of your session purposeful, I guarantee you’ll have a increased intensity and feel like you accomplished a ton more then if you don’t.

I’ll be honest, when I’m training, I don’t want to be interrupted.  In fact, it really kind of ticks me off to be interrupted.  I don’t want to chat. I don’t want to help anyone solve their nutritional issues.  I just want to train.  So I turn my iPod up very loud and try to avoid eye contact.  I’m not doing this to be a jerk or anti-social, but rather to keep myself focused on the task at hand.

So what about you?

Are you maximizing the time you have or are you wasting time in the gym?

Are you less focused then you could or should be?

If so, do what you need to to get focused and to maximize your time.  You’ll feel and look better because of it.

That Was A Great Workout! (Or Was It?)

I don’t know where the notion came from, but people seem to think that if they aren’t crazy sore the day after a training session, then the session wasn’t tough enough.  Conversely, they are convinced that if they have a hard time sitting down for potty time or washing their hair the day after, then they must have had a great workout.

Let me just come right out and say it-neither of these concepts hold any water.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

-A few months ago I had a client have a great session.  She set a deadlift PR, added 8 push ups to her three set total from the week before, and all around crushed everything she touched in the gym that day.

I saw her two days later and commented on the great job she did in our previous session.  With disappointment in her voice she said, “Yeah, but I wasn’t sore at all and I really thought I worked hard.”

That’s when I karate kicked her in the face…metaphorically speaking.


The mere fact that she set a new PR should have made the session great for her, let alone everything else she did.  But just because she wasn’t struggling to move the next day, she was unhappy with her efforts.

-When I first started training, I also worked a few hours at the front desk at the club I train out of, Fit For Life.  I remember designing a logo for a run the club had sponsored, and I had to color in the logo by moving the mouse back and forth like you would color with a crayon.  The whole thing took me about 3 hours, but it was fun, OH LET ME TELL YOU IT WAS FUN!!!! 

The next day, my right triceps hurt like crazy.  By some people’s logic I got a great workout for my triceps.  Forget push, ups, shoulder presses and dips…all I need is a mouse and a logo to color!*

Are you seeing my point?  The logic behind soreness being an indicator of good or bad session doesn’t pan out.

Now don’t hear (or read) me wrong and think that I’m saying if you’re sore you didn’t get a good workout and vice versa.  The problem is when being sore makes or breaks things for an individual. 

Instead, you should focus on what you accomplished.

-Did you get more reps or more weight on the bar? 

-Did you push yourself more than you did the previous week? 

-Did you include all the elements you wanted to (foam rolling, strength training, metabolic work, etc.)?

These are the gauges you should use to measure the efficacy of your sessions, not soreness.

If you can answer yes to any, or all, of those questions, then be happy with your efforts despite whether or not you have to free fall to the toilet the next day.

*This statement has been frosted with low-carb chocolate sarcasm.

Poor Form Fix: Push Ups

If you’re reading this, then I guess you’re one of the poor, unfortunate souls (much like myself) who didn’t get taken up in the rapture last Saturday.  Oh well, I guess we will have to make do.

I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know what a Push Up is.  However, finding someone who performs them correctly is a whole different story.  Of all the clients I’ve worked with in the last few years, maybe 2-3 actually did push ups correctly when they first started training with me.  (Big emphasis on the word “maybe”.)

The problem with this is that a push up done correctly and a push up done incorrectly are two completely different things.  When done correctly, they are great for strengthening the chest, shoulders, and abdominal muscles, as well as good for shoulder health.  When done incorrectly, they’re pretty much a waste of time and can leave you feeling pretty beat up over time.

There can be several things wrong with the way someone is performing push ups, but, for the sake of brevity,  I’m going to focus on just a few today.

PROBLEM #1: YOU LET YOUR ELBOWS FLARE OUT

One of the most common mistakes people make when performing push ups is that they fail to keep their elbows in.  Keeping the elbows tucked in relatively close to the body does several things.  First off, it puts you in a more powerful position.  Think about this, if you were going to shove someone as hard as you can, you would tuck your elbows in right?  This position also is much more shoulder friendly than having your elbows out.

I like to tell my clients to keep their elbow at about 45 degrees from their sides.  This gives them a good position of not too close to the rib cage, while avoiding letting them flare out.  Here are two videos, the first shows what letting the elbows flare out looks like and the second shows the position the elbows should be in.

While it may seem like a subtle difference, it has a profound effect on how the body reacts to push ups.

PROBLEM #2: YOUR BUTT STICKS UP IN THE AIR

It’s not uncommon to see someone doing push ups with their butt sticking way up in the air.  Something like this:

The issue here is usually that the individuals abdominals are not strong enough to maintain proper alignment of the body (keeping the body straight from head to ankle.)  The common fix for this is to have someone drop to their knees to perform push ups.  Although I used to have clients do this, anymore I wholeheartedly do not agree with this.

A critical piece to the push up, and one of the things that makes it such a fantastic movement, is the core stability necessary to maintain proper body alignment.  If you have someone drop to their knees, you virtually cut out any core stability due to the two points of contact with the floor (your hands and knees) being so close together.

A better way to fix this problem, as well as regress the exercise to an appropriate level, is to do a modified push up:

By elevating the upper body, you take a significant amount of weight off of the upper body, without taking out the element of core stabilization.  This makes the push up possible for those who are unable to do them from the floor without cheapening the movement.

If you have been performing push ups wrong, give these fixes a shot and enjoy performing them in a brand new, and more effective, way!

Getting Back At It (and some good reads)

I wrote a brief update on Monday as to what’s been going on with me over the last few days.  If you missed it, my wife delivered our baby girl last Saturday.  This week has been a whirlwind to say the least, and this morning I drug myself away from baby Lila, and I’m back to work-training, writing, etc. 

My wife and I had to stay a few days in the hospital, and to say that the cot I was sleeping on was uncomfortable would be an understatement.  The middle of it sagged down several inches which has made my hips and back feel like a bag of garbage. 

Since I haven’t touched a weight in a week(ish), I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted with my foam roller and lacrosse ball.  I’ll also be getting in some moderately heavy deadlifts and other compound lifts just to get my body feeling better.  (Unless I’m feeling like a champ from the time off, in which case I may just crush a new PR)

I’m planning on getting back to updating the blog 2-4 times a week, but I’m making no promises.  Truth be told, if it comes down to giving you all some nuggets of my awesomeness or laying down with my baby girl in my arms…well, I think you know what choice I’m making.

I did however get some time while in the hospital to read some great new content by others in the industry, so here are some good reads for you to check out (OK, OK, one of them is from me…so what if I’m being a bit shameless.)

-EliteFTS published my article on “How Strength Training Makes You A Better Person” last Friday.  If you haven’t, be sure and check it out and leave a comment letting me know how much you liked it.  (I know you will).

-Kellie Davis, from Mother Fitness, continues to be awesome and is putting out great content.  Here’s a post from her on keeping your focus yourself and not others.  Great stuff.

-Tony Gentilcore wrote up a great article for Livestrong.com.  He discussed a few exercises that you may have never tried before, but definitely have great benefit to the body.  I’ve been a big fan of the Goblet Squats W/ a Pulse for a while.

Happy reading!

A Very Brief Update

For those of you who don’t know, this weekend has been one of the most exciting weekends in my entire life.  Saturday at 2:13pm my wife gave birth to a beautiful 8lb 4oz baby girl.  Lila Elizabeth is totally rocking our world right now, and to say the least, training is a looooong way from my mind.  I don’t know when I’ll be back to blogging, because honestly the idea of doing anything but holding her and marveling over her every little detail seems completely pointless. 

So, to tide you over here is a link to my first article ever to get published.  It’s on EliteFTS.com which is kind of a big deal.  I’m crazy excited about it, but it doesn’t come even close to the excitement of being  a parent.  The article is long enough that you can read it over a few days if you need to…so you don’t miss me too much.  Check it out, it’s good one. 

I’ll be back soon.

Until then, eat well and train hard.