Tag Archives: NSCA

Paper Waivers (AKA Chris on Intellectual Bullies)

I’ve seen ugliness from trainers on both sides of the fence. From the side of the “Bro’s” and from the highly degreed types and those with a lengthy string of letters after their name.

As someone that’s been on both sides, I think I can offer fair view of things from the perspective of an educated Bro.

I’m not out to mock those who purse college or any form of education. College represents the opportunity for a person to begin exploring the world and figuring out who they are in it. Not everyone is afforded this opportunity in life.

Training is not jut about the diploma, certification or credential you attained but what you took away from the experience and how well you can apply what you’ve learned.

Too many times I’ve seen “Certified Trainers” and Exericise Physiology or Exercise Science graduates without a clue of what they should be doing.

Yet those same people are quick to look down on those they consider to be “lesser” trainers ( those that earned CPT from other groups, the uncertified trainers or the certified non-degree holders.)

I am the last person to mock or talk down someone that is working hard to bettering themselves. That said, If you’re using that diploma or certification to mock other people, then I have big issues with your behavior.

To the intellectual bullies I say the following; NOBODY has a monopoly on training,exercise or nutrition science and your insights, while not entirely without value, are not as unique as you might think.

Be kind to those that come to you for help, appreciate the fact they asked in the first place. The world is big and I can assure you that if you can’t enlighten people without being an absolute pompous ass there are numerous others who can, and do a better job of it.

There are gyms across the planet that border on dungeon like conditions filled with members passionate about their iron sports and train to be the best the version of themselves.

That demands a degree of respect and an admiration to live with that intense level of purpose and drive.

The fun and light beach Bootcamp you run with all the bodyweight circuits won’t survive here.

Its likely you wouldn’t either.

Can your MS/BS/CPT help a person improve the lap set up and transition into the log press, add to her long cycle or fix issues in the bench presses mid range two weeks before competition? How about knowing when chains and bands should be brought in, when a de-load or hypertrophy phase is required or how to train using unconventional methods and equipment?

Do you even know how perform any these lifts?

It’s my opinion that whether or not you’re degreed/certified does not mean you are necessarily qualified.

Further, don’t ONLY be degreed/certified, but rather DO what requires getting done in order to qualify as a trainer to others,as opposed to only possessing knowledge.

Honestly, if it boiled down to hiring a trainer who was either well-read and book smart only, or the guy with no formal education with decades of experience and a history of client success I’m going with the latter 100% of the time.

I happen to be certified with multiple credentials along with a degree and have been a trainer pre-dating the formation of one of my certifying bodies. I was an international level athlete and have nearly three decades of experience and perhaps of greatest value learned from making tons mistakes not covered in college or featured on page 123 of the CPT books.

I knock no one whose heart and intentions are sincere,that walk the walk,talk the talk and chalk the chalk.

The difference between the great trainers and merely passable comes down not to some piece of paper but to a single muscle.

That muscle is the Heart.

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What is Exercise, What is Training?

What is Exercise?

This is the type of question I ask myself at the oddest times and I feel it’s both a simple yet complicated question.  When was the last time you tried coming up with your own definition?  I am well aware that I will contradict myself at least once in this blog, but I’m comfortable holding conflicting views in my head if you’re comfortable reading them.

According to Google… Exercise is  an “activity requiring physical effort, carried out especially to sustain or improve health and fitness.”

My own thoughts…Every movement, or prevention of movement we do every day, conscious or not involves some force applied to the body and our body’s subsequent response to that force.  But would we normally define everything we do as exercise?  Probably not, though an argument can be made.

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Left: Dumbbell side bends on a BOSU vs Suitcase Carry with a Kettlebell. While both by definition are exercises, one produces greater adaptations over time has more application to daily life, a different learning curves,load limits and applicability to a potential swath of humanity.  I wouldn’t put a 70yr old on the BOSU but have no problems with the idea of programming loaded carries or static unilateral holds on a stable surface.

Personally I feel the standard definition is vague.  Ultimately it depends on how the individual chooses to look at challenges, exercise and how they wish to define them.  There will always be some room for interpretation and the start point needs to meet you where you are. Ideally, it will measurably take you to where it is you want to go.

I liked Mark Rippetoe’s definition of exercise: “exercise is what happens today”                “After I do these exercises I will be sweaty and out of breath”                                             “After I do these exercises my muscles will feel stretched and my joints mobile”                     “After I do these exercises I will feel a pump”

There is nothing inherently wrong with this.  I personally support the idea of having a less structured session thrown into a weekly training and my current clients that train greater than three days per week with me have one session less structured than others by design.

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I personally believe this has helped keep injury rates extremely low, morale high and functional abilities progressing.  There are a high number of far smarter coaches’ that have written about the value of “play” and they couldn’t all be wrong.

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A problem occurs when this is the only way you are doing things.  You are essentially hammering screws into wood hoping to build a house without a blueprint or having laid a foundation.

What is Training?  Training is about specific intent. Taken broadly, this could be athletic, aesthetic or hygienic. Training therefore is the strategic application of resistance with the goal of eliciting a response, normally in the form of a chronic physiologic adaptation. The exercises that compose the training being of appropriate frequency and stimulus.

“Appropriate” takes the individual into account along with the idea that “one size fits all” doesn’t always apply and that there are more considerations.

“Stimulus” implies both choreography (simple v. sophisticated movement, type of load, range of motion etc) and being something that is manipulable,

“Frequency” implies that in order for favorable adaptation to occur there needs to be a degree of return on stimulus investment, once again this is person dependent.

The Power of Community

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The power of community in the fitness world has shown up throughout the years, from the days of muscle beach to the jogging craze, from Zumba to CrossFit, from Strongman to StrongFirst. In the modern era CrossFit stands as a popular example of community within a given sport/exercise method. The StrongFirst School of Strength (under Pavel) and Training for Warriors (under Martin Rooney) are also headed in this direction and represent international brother and sisterhoods.

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I recall what trainer and coach forums were like 15-20 years ago and see where many are now.  I have made some great friends through these forums, but take issue with board members who’s only purpose it seems is to antagonize or patronize others while contributing nothing of note to the group.  I missed how things used to be and decided that now was the time to begin building a new community.  I established and serve as administer of an online forum of personal trainers, strength coaches and other health and wellness professionals that currently stretches across the United States and multiple countries abroad including the Philippines,Canada and Australia.

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The power of community has shown itself again.  Professionals are asking questions and getting great responses from other dedicated professionals and not a single online fight has started.  As far as I am concerned I am 70x smarter simply by being around these awesome people.

Circus Tricks

I broadly define circus tricks as things I see in the gym that defy logic or experience. Typically circus tricks involve the use of props, but that isn’t always the case.

Two Large Rogue Plyo Boxes set about 2 feet apart
+ 1 heavy rubber band
+ trainer providing resistance to the band.

Client has heavy band around her waist has to hop up onto the first box while being restrained by trainer, then hop off into the small open space, then up onto the 2nd box (again being restrained), hop off and then sprint 20ft (still being restrained by the trainer holding the band) and then repeat.

But the silly stuff doesn’t end there, not when the gym has Battleropes, kettlebells and an Erg Rower!

His kettlebell instruction involves mostly movements that I don’t think any kettle bell coach would recognize.

I know I sure don’t

RKC. StrongFirst or Kettlebell sport have nothing that even remotely looked like these movements.

Neither did the non-Kettlebell centric Training for Warriors, NASM or NSCA.

The “Squat-Two Hand Kettlebell Swing- Broad Jump repeat for 20 feet”move.

The “Tie a kettlebell to a battlerope, run carrying the kettllebell 20 feet, then run back and drag the rope back” move

The “Straddle atop two tall Plyo boxes and Plié Squat with a Kettlebell” move.
What exactly does the elevation do that simply reversing the kettlebell (heavy end up) not do?

The “Dumbbell tricep kickback”. Which is a legit lift….except when you use a small kettlebell to do it…of all the possible tricep exercises this is possibly one of the lesser effective options.

The overhead tricep extension. Again a legit move, except when done with a 10lb kettlebell, while sitting atop a Glute Ham developer.

And there is what happens with other gym equipment….

Using the concept 2 rower seat for abdominal rollouts….instead of the actual ab wheel (or barbell)

Using the seated row machines to perform 12.5lb cable curls…after having done regular dumbbell curls. OK …not a terrible way to hit the biceps, but a neutral grip seated row will not only work the back,abs and shoulders it will also put the bicep brachialis (aka the peak you want ) in the firing line under a far higher amount of weight.

My favorite to date; A wide leg plank with one hand on a Bosu and the free arm working a battle rope. It sounds difficult, but what exactly is it supposed to accomplish?

A case against Sauna Suits

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a young trainer that is currently undergoing internship hours before sitting for her certified personal trainers examination.

Having the opportunity to shadow several different trainers provides insights into a variety of methods,opinions and thought processes from which she can select things that she likes, adapt to her own methods or cause her to re-examine her own methods.

Furthermore, this helps establish a professional network and given the right pairings can set the table for fruitful relationships.

It also exposes the fact that some trainers could be defined as incompetent or even outright potentially dangerous.

During my e-mail exchanges with the young lady I found out that she recently encountered a trainer that has his clients workout in sauna suits under their sweats in order to lose weight and is seemingly proud of this fact.

Somewhere is this mans mind the sauna suit is a good way to lose weight.

While there is information on the potential benefits of hyperthermic training, I would argue that the cost to benefit ratio is too lopsided and that the degree of control and supervision required places too many trainers out of their depth.

The use of sauna suits for weight loss purposes is beneficial for a short duration. Athletes that compete in sports with weight categories (I.E. Boxers, Wrestlers, MMA Fighters), models/performers getting ready for a part and pre-contest bodybuilder/physique competitors cutting the last bits of water are the only particular clients I can fathom having the need to use a sauna suit.

Based on personal experience on both sides of the fence of having (1) succumbed to heat exhaustion and (2) having to recover a person that over-heated in a sauna suit I cannot recommend the use of sauna suits for any purpose OTHER than those stated in the previous paragraph, of which should be critically monitored.

My opinion is well backed by multiple sources. I found a topic that all notable authorities (for now) seem to agree upon. Having reviewed several college sized training manuals I could find no single recommendation advising clients to train in a sauna suit and quite a few that advise against it, if not to proceed with caution.

The Certified Personal Trainer manuals published by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) do not support its use. These are 4/5 of the largest authorities in personal training with the research from NSCA and ACSM serving largely as the basis for nearly all other certification. I believe I can reasonably speculate the International Sports Science Association (ISSA) would say the same thing.

Going a few steps further (because I’m that type of guy) I spent a little quality time with more specialized material. Specifically the NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator (TSAC-F), NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES), Training for Warriors Level 1 (TFW-L1), CrossFit Level 1 Trainer (CF-L1), U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM), U.S. Department of Defense and the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) materials.

NATA, NSCA CSCS and NASM PES are credentials seen in trainers that can train up to professional level athletes.

TFW was born in the world of preparing mixed martial art fighters for fights and has evolved into training athletes of any background.

NSCA TSAC-F was designed to develop fitness programs for first responders (Police, Firefighters,Military.)

Naval Special Warfare Command oversees the training of the U.S. Navy SEALs along with Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Special Warfare combatant craft and Diver programs.

CrossFit is known for causing bodies to hit the floor and many first responders, athletes and military personnel train at CrossFit locations.

None of the above recommend the use of sauna suits.

Arnold Schwarzenegger stated in his massive encyclopedia of modern bodybuilding (which I swear causes me to get bigger just by carrying around) that the suits purpose is solely for short term water cutting.

During a six mile ocean swim Navy SEAL candidates can lose up to 10 pounds of body weight due to fluid and glycogen loss. The loss is not permanent, they re-gain their weight once they start re-hydrating and refueling. Remember, these are SEAL candidates who have far higher than average physical fitness profiles.  They are also highly monitored throughout their training with instructors and advanced medical staff on standby during their training evolutions.

On the training side, there are five physiological mechanism of fatigue that I am concerned with during a session: Depletion of the Energy systems, inadequacy of the circulatory and respiratory systems, body temperature elevation, neurological insufficiency and dehydration. I run tremendous risks if I let things go to far, one failure out of five is more than enough to cause concern.

The sauna suit causes an increase in perspiration during exercise and only marginally increases the total number of calories burned. The increased perspiration leads to faster water and electrolyte loss and decreased work capacity. As work capacity drops, fine motor and gross movement patterns begin to falter which brings a host of problems.

This guy is attempting to bring the client to the fatigue point of all five. This much I know. Unfortunately there is far more that I don’t know…

I don’t know if he is monitoring the clients water loss during training. A loss of 2% of body weight during exercise is cause for action and results in decreased levels of performance.

I don’t if he informed the clients that the water weight loss is temporary or even the fact they are losing water weight, not body fat.

I don’t know if he is advising the re-hydration needs post sauna suit training. The increased amount of perspiration will require replenishment of potassium, zinc,sodium and carbohydrates along with water. We can lose up to 2 liters of water per hour of exercise yet we can only absorb roughly 1 liter per hour. I don’t know if he knows that or is coaching his client to do such.

I don’t know if he knows that certain medications and medical conditions decrease heat and exercise tolerance or alter a clients thermoregulation.

I don’t know if he knows what heat exhaustion or heat stroke looks like, much less the first aid procedures to treat either.

I don’t know if he even asked if the client has had a history of heat exhaustion, which subsequently leads to succumbing to heat exhaustion easier. Additionally, if the client is obese their ability to handle hyperthermia is compromised. Since his purpose for the sauna suit is “weight loss” (which as stated is temporary water loss, not permanent fat loss) and the fact that a high proportion of obese clients are on some form of medication he is taking a huge risk in the misguided attempt to help someone lose weight.

Intermittent Fasting

I have a collection of beliefs that I follow as a professional personal trainer.  These beliefs form the basis of my training philosophy and help guide my career. One of these beliefs is “Know more about the subjects of health and fitness than your athlete.” 

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Fellow trainers please let that run through your head for a few minutes. Take into account that we work in an industry that sees a high degree of fads and numerous trends that spring up all the time.  While it may seem obvious that we as fitness professionals will know more about health, wellness and fitness than nearly any of our clients, we also know this is not always the case and that there are many sources of information competing with us.  A high degree of information out there is outright false yet still clings to peoples memories.  There is also information out there that might totally oppose your views, but may prove valid.  I believe this is highly relevant in the case of diet and weight loss/performance nutrition.

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“I don’t care what Chris said, get your a$$ in the hip abductor machine!”

Over the last few years intermittent fasting has gained a tremendous amount of traction.  Initially it was billed as a great way to lose weight, increase energy and for digestive health.  Numerous religions practice various forms of fasting as part of their practice and human history has demonstrated that we can go without food for extended periods of time. If not, we would have been wiped off the planet many years ago.

For both weight loss clients and sports and performance athletes fasting seems counter intuitive. Further compounding this problem are trainers that have been doling out the same eating advice for years, many with zero idea why they say what they saying.  Most likely they are regurgitating something they read or heard before, or something that worked for them/previous clients.  This doesn’t mean they’re wrong, but doesn’t always make them right either.   Perhaps the most common advisories given are something along the lines of “Eat 5-6 small meals per day” , “Cut Grains/Dairy/Sugar”  or ” Take in 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.”

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I’ve gone more than 1 day without eating, I can safely state that hunger never drove me to cannibalism.

At the 2013 National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) National Conference, John Berardi PhD, CSCS, presented on the topic of Intermittent Fasting and current scientific facts and fiction behind it.  Of particular interest to me was the information Dr. Berardi put forth at the videos 40 minute mark regarding intermittent fasting and its effect on females.  

The presentation can be viewed here:

http://www.nsca.com/Videos/Conference_Lectures/Intermittent_Fasting__Science_or_Fiction/  

 

   

T.G.O.A.T (The Greatest of all time)

Over the past two-weeks I’ve had the chance to catch up on my reading and put everything in place before heading back to work.  I will be the newest rockstar to join the team of Las Vegas Iron House this Friday.  I already have a few athletes itching to get back in the gym and quite frankly I’m ready to do my thing.

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NSCA,ACSM,NASM,ACE,CrossFit,StrongFirst and a ton of others…time for my geekiness to come out of the closet.

Believe it or not, I have a second stash of fitness books in another room of the house plus at least one in every bathroom. Buying a house with two walk-in closets was indeed a good buy.  Yes, I do rock those hot pink shoes and yes, those are the red Nano sneakers from the now famous “Bro Hug of Doom” situation.

Funny Pink Shoe Story: Not long ago I caught an XXL bodybuilder guy staring at my pink shoes, he caught me catching him staring at them and when I asked  “I bet you’re wondering if these babies come in your size?”…..I almost fell over myself when he responded in a rather high pitched lisped voice “Yesss….where did you get them, they’re sooo hotttt.”

OOOOOkkkkk…….

Recently I took part in an online discussion on “The Greatest of all time” exercises (and you thought this blog was going to be about me!) I am pleased to announce that I won the group consensus based on my personal favorites and ability to state my case for each.

Enjoy the awesomeness….

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Technical Point: Note the head/neck position on all three squats.  The head/neck maintain a neutral position on all versions throughout the range of motion.  Many coaches have the athlete look up slightly during the lift, I believe this affects the spinal movement involved in the lift and have my athletes keep their spine in line.  On the low bar squat, I have my athletes initiate the lift from just above their butt when coming up from the bottom position.

1.  The Low Bar Barbell Back Squat.   Athletes: Hopefully this photo illustrates why I am so particular with this lift,  My favored Squat is the low bar back squat, however I’m well aware that this is not a wise option for all athletes.  I will select the Bench Squat, Air Squat, Front Squat, Goblet Squat or Zercher Squat as applicable.  Basically,if I’m your coach and you have legs you’re going to squat.

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Pavel, the Godfather of Kettlebells in the U.S.A.  A common mistake I seen is people attempting to “Squat Swing” the Kettlebell instead of swinging it using a hip snap and driving the lats to retract it.  The CrossFit/American version of the swing brings the Kettlebell overhead, the hardstyle version pictured above is often the scaled version seen in CrossFit.

2. The Hardstyle Kettlebell Swing.   I’m learning the intricacies of the hardstyle swing and more importantly how to coach it to others so that it can join the Turkish Get Up, Press and Goblet Squat that I already coach.  Based on sheer number of calories burnt in a short span and the multitude of benefits the swing is among the top choices.

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On Sprinting, I’m not looking for Usain Bolt times, I’m looking for YOUR best time.

3. Uphill Sprinting.  The Rules of Hill Sprint Club:  1. We loves us some Hill Sprints.  2. We talk about how much we loves us some Hill Sprints.  3. We stop if we need to, not because it’s convenient or because we see some squirrels doing neat things.  4. Any number of people can sprint at a time, it’s you versus you, not you versus them.  5. One best sprint at a time, everytime.  6. Shirts optional, good shoes mandatory…unless you’re into the naturism/ barefoot running thing (local laws apply.)  7. Sprints will get easier the more you do them, the lighter you get or the stronger you are. 8. If this is your first time at Hill Sprint Club, you will sprint like you just committed a crime.

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What is not shown is the poking of the head through the arms.  Technical Points: Athletes new to the Thruster (or Press or Push-Press) will often put the bar either too far behind or in front of themselves.  The bar should have a nearly vertical path with minimal lateral travel and the head pokes through the hole created by the press action.  The athlete must drive through their heels on all reps, after the first rep they can take advantage of the bounce reflex action created at the bottom of the squat.  Regardless of what weight my athletes actually press, we ALWAYS start with just the bar for warm-ups.  Side note (Because I feel like giving technical love tonight) You can press around 33% more in the push press than you can in the regular press due to the momentum created by the partial squat.

4. Thrusters.  Popularized by CrossFit and a mean lady named Fran.  Well covered here on MTC and one of the staple lifts in my programming.  The entire kinetic chain gets the love with this exercise and I feel it pairs well with the Deadlift.

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Technical Points: The diagrams hands appear to be too far ahead and the head should be in a neutral position. I prefer to have the athletes thumb knuckles in line with their nose and their head and neck in line with the spine, with the chin roughly a tennis ball distance from the chest.   For the Push-Up position variant, I line the hands and wrists in line with the shoulders and lock down the lats and shoulders.  The diagram fails to animate the posterior chains contribution to the plank. Coaches: I’ve had good fortune covering the elbow plank before teaching the deadlift and the hardstyle swing.  The feedback the body gives the athlete from a proper plank is the same feedback that it gives in the final positions of the deadlift and the hardstyle swing.  I would add that this feeling is the same in many other standing lifts.

5. The Plank. A very good exercise, but has the limitation that once the athlete can perform it for 60 seconds there will need to be a modification made since it will reap less benefits. My favorite version is a push-up position plank done between two-benches while rowing a heavy dumbbell.

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Nearly every muscle in the body contributes to the deadlift.

Technical notes: There is no need to flip the head back before,during or after the lift. Just look straight ahead and maintain spinal alignment during the entire pull. In the bottom position this means you will be looking downwards at a slight angle.  I coach my athletes to take in a big breath before the pull to maintain abdominal and intra-thoracic pressure and exhale at the top of the pull while squeezing the glutes hard.  The image shows both hands in the Overhand position, some lifters will alternate hands (1 Over, 1 Under) when lifting heavier loads.  I am OK with this but suggest they switch their grips per set.. Lifting over-under alters the load across the joints, tendons and muscles unevenly and can lead to muscle imbalances if both sides are not trained evenly.  Deadlifting is also a key technique in learning the Olympic Lifts.

6. The Deadlift. Humorously covered here: https://mytrainerchris.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/so-a-powerlifter-hugged-me-the-other-day-at-the-box/

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Not shown in the Turkish Get Up image is the use of both hands to pick up and park the Kettlebell while laying down.  Technical Point: One of the more common mistakes I see is athletes doing is extending their shoulder instead of keeping it packed in.  I believe that “re-packing” the shoulder and engaging the lats prior movement should be emphasized.  On a side note, I believe that the images 1-4, or possibly even just 1-3 can help rehabilitate a shoulder.

7. The Turkish Get Up. A full-body exercise that is far more taxing than it looks, but I suppose the same could be said about any of T.G.O.A.T exercises.

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Pictured above is the Farmers Walk Dumbbell Variant.  Barbells, Kettlebells or Odd sized objects can also be used. Note the amount of work the back muscles alone are contributing to the Farmers Walk.  Technical Tip: Go for distance with a given weight. Increase the distance or the weight weekly in a linear progression. The use of straps,lifting hooks or padded gloves is ill advised as (A) Straps and hooks allow for cheating…therefore suck. and (B) Padded Gloves alter your natural grip.

8. The Farmers Walk. A mentor of mine once shared with me his entire strength and conditioning program.  To pay it forward and earn good Karma I shall do the same for you…

1. Pick heavy things up from the ground.

2. Press heavy things over your head.

3. Pick heavy things up and walk with them.

4. Pick heavy things up from the ground, Press it overhead and then walk around with it.

Progression: Pick up heavier things.

My mentor didn’t exactly use the word “things”, but you get the idea.  Fellow Coaches and Trainers: As simplistic as the program is, take a step back and tell me it doesn’t challenge many different fitness domains.  Remember that “heavy” is a relative term depending on the athlete and that strength is a skill that needs to be developed like any other skill.

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Ali jump roped. So can you.  Technical Points.  Can’t jump rope? Put the rope on one side of your body and time your jump with the rope.  Go for time or revolutions.  I keep three different jump ropes on hand, one for speed, which hurts big time if you snap yourself with it, a heavy rope and a mid-weight rope.

9. Jump Roping.  It’s inexpensive, low-tech and takes up minimal space.  It’s a cardio workout that burn more calories than you would think, engages the upper and lower body and can be combined with nearly any training program save for rehabilitation.medical exercise and inclusive fitness.  Jumping Rope has been a staple of fighter training for many years, think for a moment about what fighters are training for and the physical demands of combat sports in general.   I do not program jump roping for athletes with certain medical conditions (such as osteoporosis) or with histories of joint problems.  I have had athletes complain of the “jiggle factor” when jumping rope, but unless the jiggles are in dissimilar directions I don’t care, I view jump roping as a “de-jiggler.”