Monthly Archives: November 2014

Beginners Mind



The idea of an official practice uniform in Japanese Martial Arts is a fairly recent innovation.  The belts were simply something to keep the top closed during practice and they were all white, or at least whiteish.  As a story goes, over time the sweat and blood of the martial artist would stain and therefore darken the belt.

The most dangerous guys in the training hall would be the guys with the darkest belts.

.After even more time, the material would start to wear away, revealing the whiter underside of the belt and renewing the process.

The belt in photograph above is mine. I have been a black belt since 1982.  I was a former national champion in my sport and taught instructor courses in the United States and abroad.  As a Strength and Performance coach I am often tapped by other professionals for help across all sorts of client issues.

Last week I decided it was time to become a white belt again.

I have hired my own kettlebell coach from the StrongFirst school of strength.  My kettlebell techniques according to my teacher are not bad, but can certainly be improved.  I know that through her I further develop as a person and coach.

There is great joy in allowing yourself to have a beginners mind.


Separating Why from And.

Why are you in this gym? Why did you walk in the front door to meet a stranger that you only know by referral or reputation?

It’s a powerful question that despite being somewhat predictable typically surprises people when I ask it.

“I want to lose weight”, “I want to gain muscle” and “I want to feel and move better” are the top three I usually hear.

I currently train several active athletes (2 Fighters, 1 CrossFitter and 1 Fire Fighting Academy candidate) therefore I have people with direct performance goals.

Even my athletes get asked, and reminded “Why are you here?”

Learning the clients “Why” is paramount. If clients Why is strong enough they can accomplish things beyond their, and sometimes the coaches expectations.

The Why serves as a constant motivator the client brings with them everyday.

The coach must be mindful of
the word “and.”

“I want to lose x number of pounds/kgs, build muscle,prepare for a Triathalon next month and look like a bodybuilder.”

Don’t laugh, I’ve been told this personally.

Starting from the end, bodybuilders look like bodybuilders due to a few reasons, with genetics playing a huge role, a highly specific diet and training plan, an unsustainable Bodyfat level as little as 1-2% (For males) and truthfully there are many that resort to methods not involving barbells to improve their physique.

In bodybuilding, a lower Bodyfat and a baseline amount of strength is required to be successful. Bodybuilders may not be the strongest people in the gym, but they do focus on their why just as hard as anyone else.

A full Triathalon takes upwards of a year to prepare for. Furthermore, Triathletes don’t look or train anything like how bodybuilder trains.

Bodyfat is less critical, but conditioning across three sport disciplines must be high and added strength is an advantage.

Building muscle is comparatively simple. In 6 weeks an untrained beginner on a proper diet and programming can see strength gains. Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, General Weight training,Olympic Lifting and Strongman training have all proven as effective means towards this goal.

Weight Loss is largely diet based. This client needs a meal plan. Strength training can occur simultaneously.

A simple general formula to determine the clients “Why ” if they have too many “ands”

If the waist measurement multiplied by two is greater than their height then they are a weight loss client. That is their Why.

If the client fails a functional movement screen due to pain they are a medical referral.

If the client has difficulty getting down to, and off the floor,lacks functional range of movement or requires multiple pillows to sleep they are a mobility/stability client.”

If the non-weight loss client has poor marks in a Bodyweight push up, sit up or squat performance test they are a strength client.”

“The goal,is to keep the goal, the goal.” Dan John

Kids Fitness Programs

In a previous blog I addressed the topic of child obesity. You can find it here:

Today’s blog focuses on fitness programs.

I’ve been asked numerous times by parents and even fellow trainers on how to approach physical fitness for children, specifically those that are overweight or obese. Although I am primarily a strength and performance trainer, I have a long background as a Martial Arts instructor and worked with many children ages 5-17 years old from the barely able to balance themselves on one leg to international class competitors.

The notion that resistance training negatively affects child growth and development still exists and some trainers are of the belief that children should be trained as “little adults.”

Under safe and proper conditions children can engage in resistance training. One of the first acts that a baby attempts is to try and raise its head. Proportionately this is a very heavy weight relative to the size of the child. Later comes crawling, attempts to balance, stand and locomote. We were born to move.

It is my suggestion that children partake in exercise sessions that engage a variety of general physical skills and fundamental movement patterns. Body weight training fits the bill perfectly and programming should be designed to take advantage of fundamental movement patterns: Push,Pull,Hop,Skip,Jump,Run,Climb,Tumble,Carry and Balance.

Circuit formats or Group circle training. A lead coach with 1-2 assistants for safety and encouragement is a good thing.

Children should not be trained or treated as little adults nor should the programming be overly specialized. Children’s programming needs to have an element of fun as it is competing with video games and the internet to capture the kids attention.

Training for Warriors Level 2 Coaches have access to a variety of animal inspire warm-ups that would be fun for youngsters to participate in, but could prove challenging to adults.

Play as the Way is a training system for children that teaches fun movements and skills that transfer to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) skills.

BJJ and Judo are both child safe Martial Arts and a high percentage of Martial Art instructors worldwide have experience teaching children.

While I believe any sport is good for a child, these two are individual sports that involve a variety of physical skills and where weight can be an advantage.

Strength training for Kids.

Great video on ModCom MMA Play as the Way Program

Trainer Education:
National Academy of Sports Medicine – Youth Exercise Specialist

International Youth Conditioning Association

CrossFit Kids

Play as the Way

Warrior 20 Food List

In yesterday’s blog post I gave the formula for losing weight, getting strong and feeling great. You can view the original blog here:

My fellow trainer and friend Liz from requested I share the food list.

The Warrior 20 are foods that help make your diet simpler by limiting you to some of the most nutritious foods. It should serve as no surprise that potato chips and soda did not make the list.

Protein: Whole Eggs, Lean Meats, Poultry & Game, Fatty Fish, Fermented Soy

Legumes: Beans and Lentils.

Fruits & Vegetables: Tomatoes, Spinach, Cruciferous vegetables(broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts), Avocados, Citrus (grapefruit, oranges), Berries.

Starches: Sweet Potatoes/yams, Quinoa, Amaranth.

Good Fats: Nuts (& nut butters), Seeds (Flax, hemp, chia), olive oil.

Liquids: Water, Green Tea.

These foods combined with a sensible training plan will help you build muscle, get and reduce your risks of dietary related illness.

Lose Weight, Get Strong, Feel Great

I am presently taking the Training for Warriors Level 2 certification course and enjoying it greatly. I highly recommend trainers check out Martin Rooney and the Training for Warriors system.

One of the early lectures I sat through listed the TFW formula for success in helping people lose weight,get stronger and simply feel better. I’ve decided to share it with the masses since many of my readers do not have trainers/coaches or are trainers themselves and could bring this formula into their own training sessions.

The formula
4D x 4E
2 ST + 2 SP + 12TP
= Results

Formula Breakdown:
4D means training occurs 4 days per week

4E means forever. Weight loss is not an overnight process, it is a long term war and once the desired weight is achieved there is the matter of weight maintenance.

2ST means two days are reserved for strength training, 2 SP means two days are reserved for speed (metabolic) training.

12TP is the twelve guiding principles of effective training.

1. Education
2. Solid Foundation
3. Continuity
4. Periodization
5. Individualization
6. Progressive Overload
7. Specialization
8. Training Economy
9. Variety
10. Recovery
11. Nutrition
12. Safety

WU means warm up. A proper and targeted warm-up is the cornerstone of a successful workout. Metabolic workouts typically require a longer warm up due to their brief, action fueled nature while strength sessions require shorter warm ups.

PP/LC is the strength training split. Day 1 is Push-Pull exercises, Day 2 is Lower body and Core related exercises.

ADSR stands for Acceleration, Deceleration, Stopping and Reacceleration. These elements are particularly seen in speed training, Kettlebell/Olympic lifting and plyometrics.

W20 is the “Warrior 20” food list. A list of 20 high nutrient performance foods that make dieting and food shopping easier.

8hrs is the recommended amount of sleep you get each night.