My Amazing Weekend

Last week I had the incredible opportunity of getting to fly to Kansas City (Missouri, not that Kansas-y one) to attend The Fitness Summit.  In short, The Fitness Summit was a weekend of awesome, buttered with some learning and slow roasted in holy-crap-John-“Roman”-Romaniello-is-sharing-my-french-fries.  (Cue schoolgirl squeal).  In hindsight, I should have ordered a shake…with two straws.

Roman and I sharing a moment.

To be more specific, I got to spend the weekend listening to presentations from the top minds in the field, hanging out with said presenters as well as other big-time fitness peeps, and meet a ton of other fitness professionals and enthusiasts.  All in all, I made some great connections and friendships.

Aside from total nutritional debauchery (Kansas City BBQ, a hamburger stuffed with onions and prime rib and Gouda and bacon smothered cheese fries, just for starters) last weekend was something I definitely needed.  I was finding myself in a bit of rut both professionally and personally with training, and was looking forward to getting a much needed jolt of enthusiasm and creativity from being immersed in training talk as well as being around some of the smartest and most successful trainers in the world.

While I learned a great deal this weekend, there are a few moments that hit me like a ton of bricks and brought about either a fresh perspective or served as a slap upside the head.

Here they are in no particular order:


In a late night discussion with Roman, we were discussing how he has risen to such a great level of success, especially as a writer.  It’s no mystery that I love to write (hence the blog and the articles), and would love to make a living doing both training and writing for magazines, websites, etc.  In short, Roman told me that if I want to write, then write…a lot.  Stay up late and write.  Give up anything else I do that wastes time and write.  If you want something bad enough, you’ll do it.  I realized that while I would love to be able to help pay the bills with my writing, I’m doing very little of it.  And, if I really want to be considered a legitimate writer, I’ll write a lot more than I currently am.


I got to spend several hours with Bret Contreras.  I was a fan of his before this weekend, but after getting to hang out with him for a while, I have to say, this guy is legit.  A champion for “the best” in everything, Bret pours over research, does his own EMG tests and is a master critical thinker, simply out of an effort to discover the best exercises, training modalities and approaches for every possible goal in the gym.  What stood out the most to me about him was that he wasn’t dogmatic in what he believed.  He doesn’t try to prove what he believes through research, rather he looks at what science has shown and makes determinations from there.  Beyond that, he holds to those beliefs loosely and is willing to be proven wrong and adapt accordingly.  He is honestly in a pursuit of scientific truth and is willing to abandon what he has championed if he is proven wrong.  If only we were all so interested in seeking truth and not in projecting our own personal biases.

Like I said, Bret is legit and full of humility and integrity.


Nick Tumminello is probably one of the most unique trainers I’ve ever come across.  He doesn’t prescribe to one certain modality or pigeonhole himself.  He takes bits and pieces from everything and has created his own massive arsenal of training approaches that would be near impossible to replicate.  The thing I loved most about Nick was his confidence in what he has experienced.  In short, over a plate of BBQ and coleslaw, Nick told me something along the lines of, “I don’t put too much stock in science.  I keep up on it because it’s important to know if there are more effective ways to train people, but at the same time if something works in the gym, I don’t need a study to prove it to me.”  Or in other words, if it works, it works.


I was incredibly excited to get to meet several of the people who were both presenting and attending the seminar.  I was hoping to have the opportunity to be able to say hi briefly and let them know that they’ve made a huge impact on me, both personally and professionally.  While that alone was awesome, I was overwhelmed by the humility and generosity all of them exhibited.  These are busy people who have built incredible names and reputations for themselves.  These guys know they’re big deals.  People pay them money just to hear them drop some knowledge.  However, they all took time to sit down to dinner with the attendees, ride with us in the vans from the hotel, hang out till 4am in the lobby, walk to get lunch with us, and on and on.

And as big of a fan as I was before last weekend, due to their generosity, I’m even more of a believer.  It’s amazing what simply being generous with your time can do.

Like I said, this past weekend was incredible.  And I will definitely be attending next year.  Who knows, give it 5 or so years, and maybe I’ll be presenting. 😉



Build A Better Back

Last week my brain was feeling incredibly uncreative.  I know, because it told me.  I asked my Facebook friends if they had any thoughts for some possible blog posts, and I got several replies with some really good ideas.  My plan is to tackle them all in the very near future.

One of the suggestions was for some back and or shoulder exercises.

I have to say, I love training my back.  Everyone has strong and weak areas on their body.  Unlike my legs (which are currently about an inch bigger around than my one year old daughters legs are) my back has always been well developed, stays lean no matter how high my body fat gets and is by far the strongest part of my body.  And as we all know, we like to do the things we are good at, hence my affinity for training my back.

Whether or not you enjoy it like I do, your strength, posture and awesome factor benefit tremendously from giving your back some dedicated time in the gym.  Due to the fact that we sit for hours and hours in a slouched position and then go to the gym and sit on machines, our backs are in desperate need of some attention.  On top of that, most of us are guilty of only focusing on the body parts we can see in the mirror.  Are backs are not one of those, which is really too bad, because a jacked back looks awesome:

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

So, to get you started in the gym with some ideas for how to get your back whipped into shape, get it stronger, and increase your awesome points by 17, here are my top 5 favorite back exercises:

Conventional Deadlift:

If you’ve been around the blog long, you know that I have a crush on deadlifting.  Seriously, I’m kind of addicted.  So it’s probably no surprise that this makes the top of my list for exercises that will make you, and your back, awesome.

Aside from providing the potential to move a ton of weight, a properly performed Conventional Deadlift works the entirety of your back (as well as pretty much the rest of your body).  Your lats have to keep the weight against your body, your traps have to hold your shoulder blades in place and your spinal erectors have to keep you from folding in half and looking a scared cat.

Chin Up:

I’ll be the first to admit that Chin Ups (even if band assisted) aren’t for everyone.  Shoulder flexibility/mobility deficits (whether from acute injury, lack of thoracic spine mobility, or other reasons) can certainly make them troublesome.  However, if an individual is able to perform them safely, they most definitely can play an important part in developing a strong and healthy back

Dumbbell Bent Over Row:

While deadlifting is certainly my first love in the gym, heavy rowing is a pretty close second.  While I certainly like seated rows, barbell rows, etc., my favorite row is the DB Bent Over Row.  One of the things I like about it most is that it allows you to train the back unilaterally, giving you an opportunity to shore up any strength imbalances in the body.  Plus you can go heavy, which is always a good time.

(Note: I am soooooo not “going heavy” in that video…just sayin’)

Inverted Row:

While they are another rowing exercise, Inverted Rows are a pretty different animal than other rowing movements.  They are incredibly easy to progress/regress based on an individuals strength levels and allow you to use your own body weight as resistance.

Face Pulls:

Although Face Pulls are not a huge strength builder, they do two things that are incredibly important for a healthy back.  First, they allow for a great “squeeze” between the shoulder blades.  This promotes good scapular retraction, which is critical for heavier rowing movements.  Second, they get some good work done in the rotator cuff, something that is often left out of most peoples training programs.

So there they are, my 5 favorite back exercises.  Did I miss one of your faves?  If so, drop it in the comments below!