Monthly Archives: July 2015

Have Faith in the Process (AKA Chris is down with OPP)

Ed Coan’s Deadlift Program                                                                                                               Dan John/Pavel Easy Strength Program                                                                                           Wendler’s 5-3-1                                                                                                                                Starting Strength Basic Barbell                                                                                                         Jones SFG/RKC Prep                                                                                                                         Gironda 8×8                                                                                                                                       Staley Escalating Density Training                                                                                                   Pavel’s SImple and Sinister…

These are all other peoples programs (OPP) and designed for specific adaptations and skill acquisitions. I am entering my fourth week of Brett Jones SFG/RKC prep and have logged every practice session completed. I have noted performance gains in several techniques and insights greater than during my 30 day Billy Madison program. Many people are keen to try OPP’s, but often fail in one critical area;  They fail to follow the rules.  

Rule 1: Plan the Practice.   Rule 2: Practice the Plan.                                                                   Rule 1 was easy, someone else did the work for you.                                                                     Rule 2 is up to you.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        If you start making drastic changes then it is no longer the original OPP.  Have faith in the process and that the author knew what they were doing before they put the program out. This is the ideal way. After you have ran the program with honest effort you can rerun it to your customized needs.

Fact: Adherence to any program is key.                                                                                       Fact: Plans sometimes don’t survive contact with the enemy.

Suppose the program calls for a weight/rep scheme that you cannot complete.  Typically you can lower the weight and build yourself to the stated standard.  Example: The program calls for 5 bench presses equal to body weight, yet you cannot perform a half-body weight bench press, you’ll simply be starting from a lower weight.

You can adjustment for the stated reps and work your way up to the programs requirement, or you can re-evaluate the program itself, and find a program that you can perform. It is entirely possible you picked a program beyond your level of skill, strength or capacity to recover from.

I recently tested myself using Pavel’s Simple program as a baseline using a 24kg/53lb kettlebell.  I  passed both single hand swing and turkish get up time requirements with time to spare and my next test will either be another 24kg run, or possibly moving up to 28kg/62lb.

What if the program calls for exercises you cannot perform?  Option 1 is not to engage the program at this time, learn the techniques well and then re-consider the program.  Option 2 requires a degree of diverting from the OPP, all techniques belong to a genus, so there are always regressions something you can achieve among the options.


Instruments of Precision (AKA Chris on Fitness Professionals)

I believe that the universe has healing powers.  Furthermore, I believe there are fitness and allied health professionals that serve as the instruments of precision which aid the universe in healing and educating others.

Our job as professionals essentially is to make other people feel, move, think and look better and to become more resilient to whatever life throws at us.  This is not always an easy task and every case, like every human being is unique.  On my end as a strength coach, I get to work with what you bring to me, then add from there.

Unfortunately not every fitness professional you will meet is a instrument of precision.

The path towards becoming an Instrument of Precision…                                                          Philosophy: “The Love of Wisdom”  What is your training philosophy and what do you stand for?                                                                                                                                   Wisdom: The synthesis of knowledge through EXPERIENCE.                                               Knowledge: A collection of facts or ideas.                                                                                        – Theoretical (Unproven)                                                                                                                  – Practical (Tested through experience)                                                                                         Reality: What is happening right now.  Our present is a result of our habitual choices, actions and in-actions.                                                                                                                     Truth:  What works. Not simply “what has worked on me.”                                                         Faith:  Belief in what you are doing. That it is the right thing, for the right reasons for the right person in the right dosage.                                                                                                   Practice: This is different from training.                                                                                         Question: Look for insights within the seemingly simple.                                                              Refine,Sophisticate,Simplify:   Continually grow and deepen your theoretical and practical knowledge.  Improve your ability to communicate your training principles and polish your technique throughout your career.

I ran across a board comment from a personal trainer some months ago where she stated that since she could verbally cue a person through a pull-up, there is no need for her to be able to perform a pull-up.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             As a coach I hold an opposing view of things and I would say the trainers knowledge is limited to being theoretical.  She simply doesn’t know what is going through a persons head when attempting to do pull-ups.                                                                                                       What she knows: What a pull-up looks like, what major muscles are involved, the sequence of events.                                                                                                                                              What she doesn’t know: How miserable it feels to try doing pull-ups and how empowering that first successful one feels like.  What’s going through a persons mind as they engage for that first pull-up.                                                                                                     On the leadership side of things, I cannot bring myself to make someone do something that I myself cannot do with a degree of skill.  I personally cannot deadlift triple my body-weight, but I can execute a respectable lift for my size and have coached others to high levels of relative strength.                                                               

Theoretical knowledge is good and can get you to new places, but I far prefer practical knowledge.  Fact is I could teach the pull-up without even getting up from a chair (I know this because I’ve coached pull-ups while injured before.) Since I’ve a few pull-ups in my day I also know a high amount of the things you can do wrong and how to correct the situation.  My coaching ability is based on my making tons of mistakes, correcting them and passing on my practical knowledge.  

There are of course areas where my knowledge can only be theoretical,for example I have no idea what it is truly like to be 100lbs/44kg overweight and how difficult it can be to lose that amount of weight.

I don’t know what it is like to be 75yrs old, and won’t for quite a few more years.                       I certainly will never know what it is like trying to lose baby weight after giving birth.              

In those situations I have the benefit of having many friends within my trainers network whom I can tap for their expertise in these matters.  

In fairness, the “no pull-ups needed for me” trainer may have legitimate reasons where she is unable to perform a pull-up (I.E. Shoulder dysfunction), but as the saying goes “Ton’s of guys have epic bench press stories, mention squats and all of a sudden they all have knee injuries.”                  






It’s your Job (AKA Chris’s view on training)

Your life depends on your health.  What you do today impacts your tomorrow.  Try viewing your training (or practice) as a profession with life on the line instead of something you do simply to do to post on Facebook, Try viewing things with a long-term vision instead of a 30-90 day standpoint.

  “It doesn’t matter how much work you can do, it matters how much work you can recover from.”

I don’t train everyday,but I believe I could.  My current program calls for 5 days per week with two non-consecutive days off and three of those days have workouts twice in the day. Every morning I perform some mobility and flexibility work after waking up, go on short walks and  generally try to keep moving around.  Even when stuck behind the wheel of my car I am flexing muscles and moving my neck and shoulders and exercise my hands along my drive.  If I were I child you would say I’m fidgety.

On the 4th of July (a Sunday) I completed a self-designed workout as a blowout before starting a new program on 6 July.  Since Monday was a day off I figured I would push extra hard. I paid the price and hit the wall, knowing it was time to stop.

I have made the conscious decision not to post my more brutal workouts publicly and now only share them with others that I know can handle it.  The good news is when Monday came around I had already recovered well enough that I could have done a short workout without issue, so I have gained from the training.

A$$ kicking workouts are needed from time to time, but not every single workout need be crippling.  The objective is to get stronger, not simply sweaty and messy.

The lessons                                                                                                                                      1) Recovery is when the GOOD STUFF happens. Training is hell on the body, your immune system is compromised, inflammation has spread, muscles are damaged and the central nervous system is fried.  Recovery makes you stronger.
2) Recovery therefore, is just as important and practice.
3) Practice and train with focus. This is not the time to think about other things.
4) Listen to your body.  There is a time to attack, a time to stand your ground and a time to retreat.
5) Balance challenge and recoverability.

Throw your Heart over the Bar (AKA Chris’s single rep)


Once upon a time there was a famous trapeze artist passing on his knowledge  to students wanting to learn the art of the flying trapeze.  One day after giving a full explanation and instruction in a skill he told the students to demonstrate their ability.   One student looked up at the small platform where the trapeze artists stand and was suddenly filled with fear.  He froze, already picturing himself falling and couldn’t move a muscle.

The artist came over to the student, put his arm around him and said “You can do it, and I will tell you how.  Throw your heart over the bar, and your body will follow.”

To throw your heart over the bar means to put faith into what you’re about to do, and not to focus on the barrier.  To focus on achievement, not on defeat.

Tamer and Maiden

Recently I watched a video of a friend of mine complete the three feats of strength necessary to become a StrongFirst Beast Tamer.  To put this in perspective, among all current StrongFirst coaches, there are only 25 men and 8 ladies holding the titles of Beast Tamer (Male) or Iron Maiden (Female) in the world. The required strength standards place these people in an entirely different category.  A single leg squat, a one arm overhead press and a pull up to the neck must be performed with a 108lb(48kg) kettlebell for males and a 53lb(24kg) kettlebell for females.

On the gym floor it warms my soul to see my athletes throw their hearts over the bar and accomplish what they thought they couldn’t.  It is a minor irritation as a coach to see someone fail when I know they can achieve something and I often believe this is a case of not being present in the moment and focusing on the direct task at hand.                                                                                                                                                                                             Do not think about the set, or the workout.  Focus solely on that single rep.                                       Throw your heart over the bar, then the next one.

If your coach is mindful and your programming solid, they know you have it.  The task wouldn’t be in front of you if you weren’t physically capable of achieving it.  The day following the posting of this blog I will begin a program designed by someone else to prepare for SFG Level 1 certification.  Up to this point I have relied on my own programming and have earned good progress and insight.  I am throwing my heart over the bar (or kettlebell in this case) and have full faith this program will result in the desired adaptations.

Truth be told, I place major faith in the advice of the StrongFirst coaches that have helped me along the way.  I have taken on-board each of their suggestions and haven’t been steered wrong.