Monday, December 18, 2017

Surround Yourself with the Best

One of the key components of CrossFit and the CrossFit methodology is the class environment.  If there is one thing that I see that  in any “elite” gym weather it be CrossFit, powerlifting, weightlifting or any sport for that matter, it’s not the equipment they have or cleanliness of the space but the people that work out at the facility and the environment they create.  
If you follow CrossFit then you know CrossFit Mayhem.  If you power lift you have heard of Westside Barbell.  If you know baseball you know the Yankees.  What do all these organizations have in common?  They have all surrounded themselves with the best people in the world in their sport.  The environment that is created in these organizations is that of dominance.  I hear many people say well they work really hard so if I work hard I could do what they do.  Well it’s a little more than working hard or adding more volume.  I know a lot of people that work hard.  Many people wake up at 4:30 and go to work.  A lot of people stay late in the gym.  Yes these things are an important part of it but it can not be all you do.  Surrounding yourself with people who push you to your absolute limit are what make or break an “elite” athlete.  You have to surround yourself with people who will make you add 5 more pounds to the bar when you don’t feel like you can.  You have to have that person make you go that much harder on the last mile of “Murph”.  I try to make that the standard in my gym.  I don’t want a quiet gym.  I want a loud, emotional, and passionate gym.  Anyone who knows me knows I have a huge respect for Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell.  What I love about the gym is not the constant records they break.  It’s not the equipment they have (though I would love to be able to apply them to my own athletes programs) It’s the fact that I have never seen anyone working out on their own.  Every one of them have 4-5 athletes pushing them on the bar and correcting technique or pushing them to hit that 5# PR.  Never is it quiet.  The music is loud, the people are yelling, and records are hit.  The best athletes in the world are never alone.  They seek out professionals and fellow athletes to make them better.  Let’s take a look at Crossfit Mayhem.  It never fails but around the months of April through July the best CrossFit athletes make the pilgrimage to Cookeville Tennessee to train with Rich Fronning.  Athletes such as Dan Bailey, James Hobart, and most recently Matt Fraser.  In the NBA Lets look at the Golden State Warriors.  Kevin Durant was willing to take a pay cut to surround himself with the best athletes in order to bring the best out off himself.  He could have made a lucrative career and even had a chance to win the NBA finals, yet he chose to be around the best in his conference.  Don’t look only for training partners that you can impress.  Look for partners who will beat you on workouts and push you to your absolute limit.  A facility that creates an environment that makes people push themselves will always create phenomenal athletes.  
So who should you surround yourself with?  There is more to life than better times or numbers on the whiteboard.  For some it is just someone who is going to get them into the gym.  For others it’s someone who will add an extra 5 pounds to their bar when they think they can’t lift anymore.  For others, it is someone to cheer them on to help get them through a workout.  And then there is someone who will just hate the workout with you and gives you someone to vent to but knows that the two of you are making a healthier choice in your life.  Outside the gym it could be someone who helps you choose a healthier eating option other than McDonalds, or someone who helps you study for that final rather than going to the bar.  Finding others around you who push you to be a better person, parent, or athletes critical for us to create better societies.  

This concept can apply to anything not just fitness.  In anything you do, surround yourself with the best in your field.  Don’t be scared to be beat, strive to be the best no matter what you do.  The only way you can possibly see progress is to surround yourself with people that will bring the best out of you! 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Your Limits Lie Between Your Ears

     What if I were to tell you that most of us can hit a new personal record any day of the week following any properly formatted program?  Obviously there are good programs and bad programs out there but any good program will help any athlete hit a new personal record.  So with that said, why is it that you don’t hit a new record?  The answer lies between the ears. 
     One of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs is “Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have happened to me”.  The reason I love this quote and the reason I personally look up to Steve Jobs is he strived for perfection in everything he did and most importantly he thrived on being uncomfortable.  The most successful people of our time thrived most when they were uncomfortable.  When it comes to CrossFit or other forms of fitness the best athletes in the world love the workouts that the rest of us hate.  The ability for these athletes to live in a world where very little makes them uncomfortable is what makes them the best athletes.  It’s well known that our brains will quit long before our bodies do.  Many times I am coaching people and I tell them to just do one rep and I get what I like to call “the look of death”. They look like want to kill me.  It’s times under extreme stress that your goal should be to shut your brain off and push harder than you ever pushed.  That is where gains are made, being able to shut your brain off and just let muscle memory take over.  The best competitors in the world just go on auto pilot.
     Recently I have begun to have my athletes start using Elevation Training Masks.  I have no doubt that these masks do not simulate elevation training. O2 levels don’t change with the mask on, but you are forced to breathe heavier.  I use these masks to teach people to get more comfortable with higher CO2 levels.  After doing a max effort assault bike interval the last thing you want to do is have a restricting mask on your face.  As the athlete struggles to get full breaths, they begin to realize they will not die and they soon are able to control their breathing just fine.  This is very similar to how you react in a Metcon.  You can push harder for that one or two more reps or how about 3-5 reps.  Look at the best marathon runners in the world.  You think in the last 3-5 miles they aren’t hurting like everyone else?  What separates them is they do not let their facial expressions show how uncomfortable they are, if they did the other competitors would smell blood.  I have made it my personal mission in the past several months to address the comfort level of my athletes while they workout- force them to focus on their breathing and bringing their heart rate down.  Living outside your circle of comfort is key to success in anything you do in life.  Over and over again we will find ourselves in uncomfortable situations and only the best will come out on top, again think about Steve Jobs. 

     In many situations, the only thing standing between you and a personal record is your own head.  Stop letting the feeling of being uncomfortable stop you from overcoming the many challenges of our lives.  That is why I love CrossFit, almost every day we are made to breathe hard and lift heavy and the best don’t let that stop them from being the best they can be.  In life, thrive on being uncomfortable and you will achieve anything. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Why Do We Call Ourselves "The Lab"

     Ever since the we opened people have asked me why we call ourselves “The Lab”.  To answer that goes back to my garage gym on Amadeus Drive.  My garage was called the Lab because that is where I began to experiment with different ideas inside the CrossFit community.  I experimented with the 5/3/1 program, 5x5 squats, Olympic lifting and powerlifting, chains and bands, and different metcon philosophies.  Ever since I started CrossFit back in 2008, I have always considered it an experiment.  In fact, the fluid aspect of it is what drew me into it in the first place.  What do I mean by that?
     The definition of CrossFit is “constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity”.  It is a very broad general definition and it is intended to be so.  When it comes to the CrossFit program, anything and everything can be CrossFit.  What we have learned is that there is no one best way to train.  Many great trainers have their own idea of what is the best way to train but there is no one way that will work for all people.  Every person is genetically different therefore you have to use multiple means of training to achieve the goal of broad, general, and inclusive fitness.  The “Lab” name is a symbolic gesture to say that we test these different methodologies.  I consider DCL a human performance laboratory.  We are constantly pushing the boundaries of what makes people fitter human beings.  We work with moms and dads, tactical athletes, Olympic weightlifters, powerlifters, strongman and endurance athletes. By what means is the best way to train all these people from so many different walks of life?  When it comes to the world of strength and conditioning, there are so many out there that claim to have the new and best way to train.  Everyone is a fitness coach these days.  One thing that I feel is important is for people to read and, when they read, to give credit to those who actually did the research.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to training.  Each athlete has their own strengths and weaknesses and it’s the job of the coach to find them.  I always find it funny when I hear a coach tell me how they came up with this system.  No! You created nothing.  You took ideas from great people and use them in your training.  Finding the program that works for your athletes is that challenge.  
      The DCL Program is a mixture of various ideas from geniuses in the world of strength and conditioning.  We are obviously a CrossFit gym so we took the ideas of Greg Glassman.  We follow the principles of Dr. Verkhoshansky, Dr. Kelly Starrett, Dr. Mel Siff, Brian Mckenzie, Vladimir Zatsiorsky, and Louie Simmons.  We have taken the ideas from these great men and mixed and applied them to create the DCL Program.  I call my gym the Lab because how else would I know these ideas work if I didn’t test them myself? Since our opening in 2014 (and arguably several years before we opened) we have athletes set multiple PR’s and set new records continually.  My athletes don’t plateau in their training.  Why? Because I use the principles of geniuses and apply them to my athletes.  I mix and match these ideas and use them to each individual athlete.  It’s easy to get a new athlete to set a record, it’s much more difficult to get even your best athletes to constantly improve.  When a new idea comes out, I must test it! I don’t take it at face value as more and more coaches try to sell things.  Testing these ideas is critical to the DCL program. 
     DCL is a human performance laboratory.  I don’t want to help people excel in only one area as the argument can then be made that I’m only a good “weightlifting coach” or a good “CrossFit Coach”.  I consider myself a “human performance coach” and will always read and test the limits of my athletes to help them excel in any area of life.  The DCL program will constantly evolve and apply new methods to help our athletes reach their highest potential possible. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Programming Accesory Movements and Mobility

This is a follow-up to articles I have written earlier.  The more competitive you get and the stronger you get the more it is necessary to work on accessory movements.  In my opinion, beginner athletes do not need to work on accessory movements as much as advanced athletes. However, they should still know what they can do to build strength in areas where they are lacking in order to prevent injuries.  Compound movements are great but imbalances cause way too many non-impact athletic injuries.  Choosing which accessory movements to use, however, cannot be general.  They must be specific to the athlete. 
So what accessory movements should you be doing?  Well we have to look at your specific weaknesses. Too often I’ll see athletes all doing the same accessory movements.  All athletes have different sticking points.  Why should someone focus on hip strength when it’s the glutes that are weak on his or her deadlift?   Am I saying don’t train your hips? Absolutely not. I am saying that you have to train where you are weak.  Injuries are caused because one muscle group overrides the weaker ones.  I love Mobility WOD and I have nothing against ROMWOD but when you let other people tell you where to mobilize you will neglect the areas where you need attention.  I watch Mobility WOD every day but I use Kelly’s knowledge to make my athletes better by taking his stuff to the bank only when I see an athlete with those specific issues.  General accessory movements are fine but you are missing out on true athletic potential. 
How do I know which specific areas I need to work on?  Study a video (I know most of you video your lifts) and look at where you are getting stuck or slowing down.  If you are squatting and you are stuck at the bottom of your squat you need to work on your hip strength.  If you are getting stuck in the middle you need to get your quad and hamstring strength up. And if you are stuck at the top you need to strengthen your glutes.  If you tend to lean forward when you squat your upper back is weak. Here is the funny thing: as your hamstrings get stronger, your hips and glutes will then become your weakness and you will have to build them up.  It’s a constant battle to keep all your systems working to make you stronger.  When it comes to upper body movements, the main problem area I tend to see is weak triceps.  Your triceps are your “lock out” muscles.  I don’t care how strong your shoulders are, if you have weak triceps you will fail at max weights.  This applies to the bench press, shoulder press, push press, and any variation of your jerk.  If you are a runner the weakest elements tend to be the abdominals and the hip flexors.  You can see this at the end of a 5K or middle of a marathon, and see how many runners tend to lose their posture and start to lean forward.  This collapse of the torso is detrimental to proper breathing mechanics.  Always find your sticking point and work from there.  You are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. 
Accessory movements are vital if you want to become a stronger athlete but that’s not all.  These movements will also prevent you from getting injured.  Light weight high repetition movements will strengthen the ligaments and tendons.  When following a program make sure the accessory movements are dedicated to YOUR weaknesses and not for someone else.  Strengthen your weakest link and watch your progress skyrocket!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

When to Scale and When to Push Yourself to As Prescribed (RX)

     Sitting here watching the CrossFit Games is inspiring and always fun to watch.  I love watching amazing athletes push themselves far beyond what we in the community ever thought was possible five years ago.  I remember watching “Amanda” happen for the first time and seeing how much they struggled with 135# squat snatches, now 135# is a joke for all those athletes.  Though 135# may seem like a joke to Games-level athletes, for some in the community 135# is a struggle. They can do it but not without deliberate effort.  Scaling for many, especially in the DCL community, is not something many want to do.  Mostly because we are “Type A” personalities- but for some they scale too much.          When is it appropriate to scale and when should you grind through? 

     When it comes to scaling a workout there are two crowds: one crowd pushes themselves too far and the other crowd fails to push enough.  Let’s talk about my favorite crowd, those that push themselves too much. I often see athletes debating when to scale and I can always point out those that I’ll have to force to scale a workout.  They are some of the most determined people out there. In the army, these were the people I wanted on my team.  However, when it comes to fitness, scaling is something we all have to do at one point or another.  As the programmer of the workout, I know how long a workout should take.  It is never smart to work out 20 minutes at a time all the time.  Your body is only capable of so many 20-minute workouts in a given time period.  For those that follow the DCL program you will notice our workouts are typically between 10-15 minutes, some less than 5 and others 5-10.  We may go 20 minutes but very rarely.  Why?  If you routinely go over the 20-minute marker your body gets beat down to an extent that you have a much harder time recovering.  Often you take two to three days of rest and by that time you’ve lost the effect of the workout from three days ago.  Achieving the time domain that we program for is critical for your metabolic capacity to grow.  Even strength athletes do not go 100% all the time, they have heavy days and light days.  A good programmer knows when to increase the volume or the intensity to achieve the time domain goals that they are looking for.  A good athlete knows when it’s time to take a step back and lighten the weight or the movement to reach those goals.  An example I always use is “Fran”.  The workout “Fran” is 21-15-9 of Thrusters at a relatively light weight-- 95# for males and 65# for females-- and pull ups.  This workout was designed to be done in sub five minutes but can take as long as eight.  Anything over that time domain fails to reach the workout’s designed goal of high heart rate glycolytic pathway adaptation.  For example, if I took those movements (45 reps of each in total) over an hour to do I will have achieved nothing.  No strength gain and no metabolic pathway gain.  The weights are not heavy enough (and if they are heavy there’s too many reps) to achieve a strength gain.  Once you achieve the workout within its 5-minute time frame then I would challenge your metabolic pathway by increasing weight.  Strength isn't always measured in the amount of weight lifted.  Strength is measured in bar velocities or in our world whatever object you are lifting (body weight/stone/ odd object).  Taking time to step back and being honest with yourself and scaling where appropriate will make you a better athlete and also a fitter person. 

     Now let’s talk about the other side of the fence- those that scale too much.  These people tend to doubt their abilities as an athlete.  I see this on our strength and metcon work when people fail to use the proper percentages for themselves and finish workouts way too fast.  One of the things I like to say is it’s hard to learn a skill when you’re tired but you get better at skills you have already learned training tired. One of my basketball coaches (yes I played basketball so go ahead and insert your short jokes now) would always make us shoot free throws after doing sprints to get better at skills under a metabolic demand.  People routinely ask me to help them get better at double unders or pull ups.  One way I do this is to make them do a number they know they can do for multiple rounds, then scale and on the last round go for as long as your body allows you to.  One thing I typically see from people who don't trust themselves is they are capable of doing pull ups but fear losing so much that they scale the pull ups right away in order to go faster.  Then in a workout that I programmed to be 15-20 minutes they are done in less than 10.  These are the times to push yourself harder.  Trust your coach to help you scale if you need to but also trust your coach if he or she pushes your harder.  We don’t want to see you injure yourself but we definitely want to see you achieve your goals.  I always say I can make you physically strong, that part is easy, but I cannot make you mentally strong.  That piece is all on you!

     Again, scaling is something many of us do not want to do.  Trusting your coach is something that you should do when he or she tells you to scale or is that person pushes you a little harder.  Knowing when and where to scale your workouts will only make you a better and stronger athlete in the long-term journey that we call “fitness”.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

More Volume Doesn't Always Mean Better Results

One of the best books I have ever read, when it comes to strength training, has been “Supertraining” from Mel Siff.   One of the quotes attributed to Dr. Siff  that really stuck out to me is, “You don’t train minimally, you don’t train maximally, you train optimally”.  If you have never read Supertraining, and you are a strength coach, you need to! This is a very detailed and thorough manual on how to best train the human body for physical performance.  One of the most common faults I tend to see from athletes is either overtraining or under training.  This is a common theme and often misunderstood, especially in the CrossFit and military community.   What is the best way to train?  
Lets talk CrossFit for a minute.  As I wrote in a previous article, there is a huge difference in training for competition and training for life.  Often times people get confused and just want to be fit for life and train for competition.  If you do not want to compete then I don’t suggest more than one workout a day.  Here at DCL we always do a strength/skill and a workout and that is more than enough for someone who just wants to be fit for life.  Because of the work we do you are getting more than enough volume in.  If you are training for competition that you have to periodize your training.  Just jumping in to workouts and going as fast as possible and doing three and four metabolic conditioning workouts a day is not the answer.  You have to get a coach and set a date on the calendar.  From that date sit down with your coach and go over the best way to peak at the competition.  Currently in the CrossFit world there are hundreds of competition programs to follow and most are made by very qualified coaches (some not so qualified). The problem with following these programs is they are designed to have you peak around the CrossFit Games season.  Now if you are a beginner competitor and just getting started, yes follow these programs as anything is better than where you were, but as you get more advanced you have to start looking at more specific programs geared around your weaknesses.  Another giant distinction to make is, there is a huge difference in seeing results and training at your optimal potential.  I work with many athletes and try to stick away from generic competition programs as they tend to lack focus on a specific goal.  You have to have goals if you want to train optimally.  Throwing random movements on a white board and going as hard and as fast as possible is fun for some and can be useful in some scenarios but if you are truly trying to be a sport specific athlete you have to think longer and harder about your training objectives.  Do we have a DCL competition program? Of course we do.  The beauty of our program is I constantly monitor everyones times and results so I am able to point out deficiencies in their training.  From there, instead of programming multiple metabolic conditioning workouts I can program specific cash out workouts to make them better.  These can be in the form off EMOM’s (every minute on the minute) or slower body building type workouts.  Whatever they are they have to be well thought out and address your weaknesses to improve your abilities and prevent injuries.  Most injuries, I believe, can be prevented if your training was better thought out.  When it comes to competition CrossFit training, I believe your program should be tailored around you and your competition so as to peak at the proper time for you, not at your coaches convenience.  Remember “Constantly Varied Functional Movements Executed at High Intensity” does not mean and can not be random!
Next lets talk about military training.  This type of training can be no different.  I work with many military officers and they all have well thought out training programs from field training exercises and JRTC or NTC rotations all the way through deployments and i have met some of the best in the world stationed here at Fort Campbell but when it comes to their physical fitness programs, there is no organization what so ever.  In my years in the army, it was mostly the blind leading the blind when it came down to physical fitness.  We wonder why the VA is so backed up, and most injuries are not even combat related.   When you plan your PT calendar, there has to be some sort or periodization.  Plan for strength, plan for conditioning, plan for tactical movement preparation (special physical preparation or SPP).  When it comes to most Physical Training program or PT we tend to see soldiers make their subordinates compete in movements that they are good at so as to look better in front of their subordinates and show their “superiority”.  We tend to see so much volume because if we didn't do 1,000 flutter kicks and push ups and it didn’t take 1 1/2 hours than it wasn't a good workout.  I saw this is the form of mass formation runs for long distances.  Why did we do this?  Because the Sergeant Major or Commander were good at running and they wanted to show us how “in shape” they were.  Problem; most were not in shape they just controlled the pace so that we all had to stay with them and normally the pace was so slow that most feel out because their running gait changed so much that they were forced out of runs because the pain in their knees became too great.  Am I saying that these runs should be completely knocked out?  I hesitantly say “No”.  I say this because I do see how their can be value in camaraderie building in some units, my personal opinion was they just made me a disgruntled soldier rather than a motivated one, but thats just me.  I do say they should be more limited.    Why do professional athletes have strict periodized training programs but when it comes to the greatest military in the world we have yet to figure out that we should plan our physical fitness better.  In most cases its very easy as you know when and to what environment you will deploy to.  We have to think about our physical preparation for deployment as hard as we plan to actually fight the enemy.  
Do not confuse higher volume with higher quality!  When it comes to training for a fight or competition you have to be smart about your training.  Proper planning can and will go a long way in your training.  Know what your weaknesses are and build them up.  A military unit is only as strong as its weakest link and so will your body be.  Take a step back and look at what you are training for and for what purpose.  Once you establish a meaning to your training, then start taking steps to build up your strength then condition your body around your new found strength.  It doesn't have to be complicated but you do have to think about it.  I promise you you will  see better results when you look at things through a process rather than just throwing movements on a board.  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bench Press, The Forgotten CrossFit movement.

     This was an exciting weekend for CrossFit and the central region.  It was amazing to watch the athletes from all around compete and display their athletic abilities.  The unfortunate aspect of this year has been the amount of pectoral injuries we have seen.  We can blame the programming all we want but I do believe it is too early to say why so many have been injured.  I am a firm believer in individual responsibility and maybe it is the fact the most people aren't training or recovering properly.  One movement I feel that is under-utiized-utilized in our sport is the bench press.
     The bench press is definitely not the most important upper body movement in the sports world, like some believe, but it for sure is an important movement non the less.  The longer I have been involved in the sport, the more I see athletes forgetting about the importance of the bench press.  In fact, if you walk into many CrossFit gyms and Weightlifting gyms you fail to even find a bench.  Even if you have no interest in increasing your max bench (which I see as a silly thought) you should still be bench pressing to increase the size of the major muscle groups as well as the stabilizer muscles involved.  Very few movements have the ability to put the pectorals at the extreme end range and strengthen the lockout muscles of the triceps like the bench.  Both of these muscle groups are used in the ring dip, which is where we are seeing these athletes injure their pectorals.  The use of assistance work is also important and small movements can make the difference between excelling and injuring yourself.   As we have recently seen in the CrossFit realm the use of dumb bells have become more and more frequent.  I would use the dumb bells for benching.  This follows right along with Greg Glassman's recommendation that whatever you do with a barbell, you can do with the dumb bells to increase the difficulty.   I would even say that dumb bell benching would be an excellent warm up and skill progression before you jump on the rings as the need for stabilizers is the same.   Small additions to your training regime can make a huge difference.
     Now let me be very clear, I am not saying that I believe these regionals and games level athletes were injured because they were not benching.  All I am stating is that going along with CrossFit's theme of constantly varied movements, the fact that most gyms fail to do the bench press is silly and sets athletes up for injury but leaving a major hole in their fitness.  All athletes should be bench pressing

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Youth Athletes and Training for Sport

Today's blog is going to talk about youth athletes and how they should train for "sport".  Let's talk about what I mean by "sport".  Sport is referring to any specific sport weather that be football, baseball, soccer, etc.  Now let's talk about what I mean by "youth athlete".  When I refer to "youth athletes" I am referring to athletes who have not reached puberty.  At this stage in an young athletes life it is critical to be very careful about how they train.  Young athletes should not be focused on one particular sport when they are this young for various reasons.

You will often see baseball fields and football fields across the country filled with young athletes playing their hearts out.  It makes me proud as a strength and conditioning coach to see this.  The one problem I see with this is many of these athletes do nothing else besides these sports.  This can be dangerous and harmful for ones skill development.  Kids are designed to run and jump and play.  They are not designed to train.  Unfortunately I see a lot of parents get too worked up and focused on making sure their child is the next prodigy.  Prior to puberty kids need to be playing games and sports that develop their genetic potential and work on their coordination and flexibility.  In other words, let your kids have fun.  The stress of sports is high and most kids are very competitive and its our jobs as parents and role modals to stress to kids that sports are fun.  Kids that get worked up over sports too early are the ones that will never stay with the sport.

It is also our job as role models to allow kids to experiment with different sports.  A kid who focuses on one sport too early is more likely to leave that sport.  I've seen many kids who show so much potential to excel in a given sport but because of the pressure put on them by either their parents or their coaches they leave the sport.  It no longer becomes fun.  From experience my father never pushed me to play one particular sport.  I played basketball, baseball, football, soccer and hockey and when I left a sport he never forced me to stay in, in fact all he did was encourage me to try something new.  Probably why I fell in love with CrossFit, I have never been happy with just one sport.  I consistently look for new skills and strengths to master.  Using the CrossFit methodology, "constantly learn and play new sports", is a great way to find what your kids are passionate about.

Never allow your kids to become stagnant in one particular sport.  Never let the stress of "sport" get too high.  Its our job to keep them level headed, its their job to give their all no matter one sport they are playing.  Sports were designed to be fun and at the same time challenge you.  Allow the youth of our country to find a new challenge, accept it, and crush it!!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Minimal Effort; Minimal Results

Why do some athletes achieve high levels of sports results and some do not?  This is a question I am often asked.  “Matt why can’t I do a kipping pull up?”,  “Matt my snatch technique sucks”.  These are comments I often hear from many different athletes.  Why is it that in less than 1 year of lifting can a 15 year old add over 50 pounds to her snatch and some struggle to gain 5 pounds?  The answer is actually very simple, hard work and positive mind.  
When a lift is failed because of muscles, there is one or two things wrong, and thats it.  Those two things are a lacking muscle group or poor technique.  Here at DCL, like many other gyms, we have open gym hours.  What is the point of these hours?  These hours are given to you to work on this technique, they are given to you to work on lagging muscle groups. In the two years that DCL has been open these are the hours that I hoped would be used more often.  During the maximal effort days many athletes come up to me and ask me how to improve their lifts.  Unfortunately this is too late.  The reasons some athletes excel is not because they are specially gifted but because they work harder than most.  There are some athletes that  I just  can’t keep out of the gym.  One athlete in particular, when she is done with her program she asks me what else she can do.  Many times I tell athletes,  “hey if you increase this muscle strength then that lift will be easy.  If you do this your runs will be so much easier”, yet these are the same athletes that leave as soon as class is done.  I understand that everyone has life outside the gym but if you want to get better than you must put in extra work.  On Wednesdays we have gymnastics class with Coach Sara.  Do I know how to do muscle ups? Yes.  Do I know how to walk on my hands? Yes.  But I show up to class because there is always a way to get better.  Even Tom Brady has a coach, remember that!  Now one of the greatest strength and conditioning coaches ever, Mel Siff, stated “you don’t train minimally. You don’t train maximally.  You train optimally!”  What does that mean? Besides technique, you must train the muscle group that is failing you.  There are three major muscle groups that I have noticed in most athletes, hamstrings, back and triceps.  This is the main reason for open gym hours.  Work on accessory movements that will make you better in the long run.  The down side to CrossFit is many get caught up in the mentality that they must do everything for time or for load.  There is a time and place to just slow down and work on  bringing up the small stabilizer muscles to make you a better all around athlete and that includes running technique.  Ask any professional powerlifter or olympic lifter, You can’t just squat to improve your squat or snatch to improve your snatch.  You must do special exercises to improve these lifts.  I am always available to help all my athletes during these open gym hours.  Often times Coach Kristy is asking people to stay and work with her on a movement of their choice.  Coaches are always available to help build strength in these movements.  

The second part of low sports performance is your mental game.  If you come into the gym with a poor attitude, you will have poor performance.  If you come into the gym only 3 times a week and try to stuff a weeks worth of programming into a single session, you will perform poorly.  All too often I see athletes let their outside life affect their gym life.  Again, I am not under the illusion that you do not have a normal life outside the gym.  We all have our problems but we have to leave them at the door and train.  Having a social life is good and it’s important to have a life outside the gym but if you want results, you have to learn to balance your life in and out of the gym.  On maximal effort days I often hear athletes say to me, “I’m not hitting a record today.”  Well of course not but it is not the fault of the program or the coach, it is your fault.  A negative attitude will get you no where, not in the gym or in life.  No one wants to hear a negative person all day and we definitely do not want to hear a negative person when we are trying to hit a PR.  
     Positive thinking and hard work are keys to success in life; whether in the gym or in your everyday life, constantly strive to be the best.  No truly successful person ever succeeded by just doing the minimum amount of work and no one made it far by focusing solely on the negative parts of life.  Put in work and visualize success and let the program do the rest!! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Gear in Weight Training

This is a blog article I have been wanting to write for a long time.  I know I am going to get some push back for this but so be it.  In all the competitions I have been to, it never fails, I see athletes with gym bags full of hundreds of dollars worth of gear, lifting shoes, weight belts, voodoo floss, kinesiology tape, wrist wraps, knee sleeves, etc.  So much money is being spent by athletes on all types of stuff.  So the question is, do you really need any of this? 

Lets start with shoes.  I start here because this is where I will get the most push back.  Let me start by saying I do not get paid, i wish i did, by any specific brand.  When it comes down to shoes the biggest question I get asked is what kind of shoes should i buy?  My typical response is, “what shoes are on your feet right now?  Those will be fine.”  You do not need any special shoes when you first start!  I am a nano guy myself but if you have metcons great, inov-8’s those work too.  The problem is most go all out and buy fancy shoes before they ever worry about technique.  The shoes will not fix your crappy technique.  Louie Simmons says “don’t have $100 pair of shoes and a 10 cent squat”.  I whole heartedly agree with that statement.  Next is what most refer to as “lifters” or weightlifting shoes.  Hear is where I stand on this issue.  Most do not need lifters, f you are just just someone who works out casually.  I think we get so caught up in this world that you need lifters in order to be a better lifter.  Powerlifters have been lifting in converse sneakers for years and have lifted amazing amounts of weight.  Lifters are a luxury item and are not required if you are not a competitive weightlifter.  If you are a weightlifter, lifters should be part of your equipment bag similar to cleats for football players.  CrossFit athletes and recreational lifters should learn to lift and squat in low profile shoes.  I say this because you should be working all ranges of motion of your joints and lifters take away the need to have full dorsiflexion of your ankles.  I can go on for days on this subject but to stress, the shoes don't make a lifter.  Learn skill and get strength first, then worry about new shoes.  

Next let's talk weight belts.  Another popular item I get asked about, should I get a lifting belt?  Again the question I ask is "how serious are you?"  Most athletes should not be concerned about a lifting belts.  I always suggest strengthening your back and abdominals, to include your forgotten obliques, before worrying about belts.  Hell most people don't even know how belts work or how to wear them.  Just because you put a piece of fabric on your waist does not mean your back is supported.  In fact I usually stress lifters don't wear belts because they tend to trick you into thinking you have support and in turn you become lazy and hurt your back because you fail to tighten it before you lift.  Mel Siff writes that belts don't keep your back flat at all but rather work as a placebo and make you aware of proper posture while you are lifting.  Belts are great for the occasional max effort lifts but other than that I teach my athletes to learn proper body awareness rather than wear a belt, and if are going to wear a belt, for the love of burpees, learn how to wear it!

Onto knee sleeves and wraps.  I think these are a good investment, however I feel people rely too heavily on them.  Most people feel the need for compression, they like the way them feel and other have legitimate injuries.  If you had an ACL tear then yes you should be wearing them.  If you are working out for the sake of working out then wear them only when you need them.  In the real world you probably wont have time to run and put on your knee sleeves before you do manual labor.  

Finally, my favorite, kinesiology tape.  It is not uncommon to show up to a competition and see people wrapped head to toe in tape.  There is actually no peer reviewed study showing that the tape does anything for you.  At most it provides a placebo effect for injured tissues.  The tape gives you awareness of where you were injured and to pay attention in that area.  I see so many athletes spending so much time and money on tape applied by un-trained people.  If you are going to put the tape on, at least educate yourself on what you are trying to accomplish.  

Now before I end this let me say that use whatever gear you want if you feel it makes you a better athlete.  I bring up these points and these are far from an exhaustive list of the gear you can purchase.  Always remember gear will not give you the personal record you are chasing, the only true way to set records is to practice moving well and hard work! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Training for SFAS using the CrossFit Methodology

Matthew Biolsi - October 18, 2016

Let me first state that I labeled this blog “Training for SFAS…” but this idea can be used for any assessment type program regardless of military branch.  It doesn't matter what branch of service you choose, Army, Navy, Air Force, of Marines, each branch offers its own opportunity to join the Special Operations Command.  The Army has the US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), the Navy has Naval Special Warfare Command (NSW), Air Force has Air Force Special Operation Command (AFSOC), and the Marines have the Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC).  Inside each of these commands their are various units that make up their commands.  Most, if not all, have their own “selection and assessment" branch and one thing they all have in common is they are all challenging!  When it comes to preparing yourself both mentally and physically for these courses there are many ways to go about training for them.  One mistake I see many tend to make is people fail for follow a plan.  When it comes to looking at these programs you have to look at them from a professional sports idea.  Professional sports athletes follow a program to get them to reach their goals and it amazes me when service members feel they can just “wing it” or not follow a specific program to help them reach their goals.  Is their one program to follow? Absolutely not, but are their better programs to follow then just running and rucking programs? Yes! My hope with this article is to guide, what have become known as, “tactical athletes” to a better program than what they have been lead to believe thus far.  

Where to start
    When you first sign up for your assessment course you must first get a date.  Believe it or not the date of your assessment really affects your program.  The more time you have to get ready the better.  I start all my athletes on a general strength program.  My recommendation is a powerlifting type program to start with, along with a general physical preparation (GPP) program.  Strength is the hardest thing to build, and as a great coach I know always says “a pyramid is only as string as it’s base” so we have to build that first.  One mistake I typically see when athletes try to build strength is they randomly follow a body building program they found in some magazine.  Not to knock body building but what myself and one of my coaches constantly tell people, and what many athletes fail to realize, body building is a sport.  It has a specific goal for aesthetics and not necessarily strength.   When it comes to building strength you have to start with the basics.  Start with basic squats and pressing movements as well as building up the core.   During this time allow your body to recover from these movements.  When i work with y athletes i will do basic strength movements 3-4 times a week and we do light cardio efforts to allow their bodies to recover.  The cardio efforts are kept low volume at first.  A common mistake I see is overtraining early.  Athletes will go for long runs before their bodies are physically ready.  These are the people I see fall out due to injury.  Don’t rush the process.  Now when it comes to building strength, being smart about your training is imperative.  There are many types of strength, absolute strength, strength endurance, explosive strength, etc. You will not show up and have to do a 1 rep max back squat at assessment, so the number of your squat is not important.  This is not to say absolute strength is not important but if we are talking about SPP (special physical preparedness) then we have to look at muscular endurance.  High Volume of training at lower intensity is a great way to build this strength.  When it comes to all types of assessments, one thing is for certain, they will find your breaking point.  All trainees will reach muscle failure.  The key is to train your muscles to go as long as possible without getting injured.  Training with weights at moderate intensity and higher volume will help build muscular endurance, training plyometrics with both upper body and lower body, and doing very light weight movements with ankle weights to build up strength in the ligaments and tendons to protect them from injury.  This type of training will pay dividends when we switch to a more “sport specific” type training.  

Ramp up Training
     As you get your assessment date and you get to about 60 days out, it is now time to start specific training.  Sport specific training for assessment will require you to start ruck marching.  I suggest three days per week of moderate to long distance ruck marching with your standard packing list.  Mixing these up with ruck sprints will also help build up your ability to handle long distances as studies have proven that higher intensity sprints will help your long distance more than long distance will help your sprints.  As much as you should ruck march, another great method to achieve special physical preparation is to start dragging a sled. I alternate weeks of ruck marching a sled dragging so as to constantly change the stimulus on the body.  Now when i see most people drag a sled I see many errors.  For whatever reason people only sprint with sleds.  When the sprint i will often see the athlete completely round over at the back in an effort to run faster.  This is very typical for people who have weak backs.  If you have a weak back this will not load well for you as you try to ruck which requires a lot of back strength.  Another problem with sled dragging is people stick with single weight or distance.  I will routinely have my athletes march with a sled and drag it for long distances with a lighter weight and shorter distances with a  heavier weight.  By mixing the distances and weights the body never accommodates to training.  This will help build the mental toughness required for any school you plan on attending.  This is where the strength cycle that you were on will pay off.  Now is also the time to start working on your body weight and odd object strength and this is where CrossFit comes in very handy.  I will have my athletes do high intensity body weight workouts mixed with strongman style workouts.  Pull ups, sit ups, rope climbs, tire flips, stone carries, axle bar lifting, and truck pulling should all be a apart of your training arsenal.  At any selection you will be given odd objects to carry and move from point “A” to a point “B” and i can almost assure you these will not be even weighted barbells.  Learning the basics of strongman carries will go a long way to learn efficient ways to carry odd objects.  In a typical week, during this cycle, I have my athletes go through 5 days of training and do two or three workouts a day depending on the athletes fitness level.  Not all athletes are capable of training 3-5 times a day and its the coaches job to decide how to train you best.  Don’t feel you need to train as many times a day as another athlete.  If you recover slower than others than you need to lower the volume of your workouts to stay consistent, rather than working out 2 days and then taking the rest of the week off because you are injured.  A typical workout day would consist of a morning of Ruck marching or sled dragging, and a second session later on ion the day of one or two strongman CrossFit workouts, and finally a third session before bed or a recovery protocol.  This recovery protocol is probably the most misunderstood and forgotten about the most.  

Recovery Session
       One of the most forgotten areas of training for any sport is recovery.  When it comes to recovery there are many aspects.  These aspects include, nutrition, mobility, yoga, ice and heat, breathing and sleep.  First and foremost let's talk about nutrition.  You will never recover from strenuous workouts fully if you do not fix your diet.  Often times I will see athletes go from the training room/gym to the bar.  I am just as guilty as the next guy when it comes to this but if you are training to become a "tactical athlete", you must learn first to recover from the training properly and it starts with nutrition.  When it comes to diet there are tons of articles on this subject and it is deserving of its own article to truly delve so we will just stress that diet must be fixed first.  After diet, daily mobility or yoga sessions are critical for recovering after a workout.  Another good recovery technique are congrats baths where one will go from cold water to hot water and back to cold or vice Versa vice, depending on what your goals might be.  There are tons of different recovery methods that we can get into and it would be best to write a whole article on this subject alone but I think you get the point, daily recovery is imperative to getting the most out of your training.  


When it comes to training for elite units, you have to learn how to train like and elite athlete.  Taking your training seriously is the best way to accomplish your goals and understand passing assessment is only step 1.  Constantly re-evaluate your plan and change it up to address your weaknesses.  Have a plan to succeed and remember  "if you don't have a plan; you plan to fail." Happy Training!!!