Fitness Goals: Reasonable versus Marketable

Be mindful of how you frame your New Years fitness goals. You may simply want to lose X pounds (not the greatest goal), complete a 5K run, or be able to perform pull-ups (better). But if you want something other than the typical January gusto and March fizzle, you should probably nudge the goals down by a notch or three.

Try to imagine long-term behavior changes that are helpful in a truly holistic sense. Various facets of life pose a challenge to achieving and maintaining health and fitness. Expect a struggle. Maintaining your priorities in life while changing wasteful habits happens only with careful thought and intent.

Here are a few important considerations.

Minding your diet is necessary.

But don't be unreasonable. Avoid cleanses, detoxes, intermittent fasting, nonintermittant fasting, and other plans that sound like fantastic extraordinary ideas. I often wonder why people resort to such foolishness when they haven't given simple, common sense changes a solid effort. Perhaps there is some psychological trick that extreme type diets provide. But they work against you in the long run when they fail to produce practical lifestyle changes.

Eating healthy does not help your brain, joints, and muscles to function in better posture and alignment. A healthy diet does not make you move with grace and efficiency.
Suppose that you manage to follow through with a highly restrictive diet and overzealous exercise plan. Your likely reward, at best, will be a short time of goal achievement followed by dropping out as "normal life" gets in the way. The body adapts to what it perceives as hard times and adjusts your baseline calorie needs.  You will find yourself tired and eating skimpy salads at every meal in order to avoid getting soft around the middle.

You don't have to be unreasonable with your diet when your physical activity level is somewhat on track.
Exercise is necessary.
But you don’t have to go crazy, especially if your diet is somewhat on track.

Without a proper foundation of flexibility and stability, and minding the details of HOW your body moves, the Insanity DVD, the mind numbing cardio, the epic full throttle heavy weight sessions, the Spartan Training, and competitive WODs, are all likely to cause more harm than good. And it's no fun to brag about Achilles tendonitis or lumbar radiculopathy on Facebook.
You workouts do not
need to look like this.
Suppose that you manage to remain uninjured in the extreme fitness plans. All the time and torture is rarely necessary. They are possibly beneficial for forging more elite fitness when you already possess elite fitness. But the 99% of us who have families, work, houses to maintain, and hobbies other than fitness will do much better with a more reasonable and structured exercise plan.

In the past I've watched TV preachers and wondered how they act in their personal lives. "Does that guy really behave that way as he goes about his day?" Recently I realized that the same critical eye should be applied to the high energy fitness DVD personalities.

Do your family, employer, and friends enjoy the version of you that must eat low carb, organic, etc. etc free every three hours and exercise 6 days per week? Some things are more important than...even deadlifts! Don’t imagine that what's best for a pro athlete or a fit 20 year- old living under their parents roof will be the best training plan for you.

Exercise is not an efficient means of achieving calorie control, a means that most of us legitimately do not have time for. Instead of merely burning calories, exercise to have fun being active with friends and family. Exercise to build strength, balance, and improve how your body moves, so that you feel willing and able to get involved with living away from the screen.


Longevity definitely wins in the health and fitness game. But considering what you will look and feel like in a year doesn't sell nearly as well as the 6 Weeks to Slim program.

Shameless PT PLUG: You may want to take that amount of time to work on your nagging shoulder and irritable lower back before going for it in the gym!
Prioritize your health and don't take it for granted. Be fit, look good, and measure the costs. Sleep well, recover well, and manage the stress in your life. These are the unmarketable and completely relevant components of achieving what you really need out of a diet and fitness plan.


Box Jumps: Training versus Testing

I'm all for box jumps. Fitness gear companies want to sale us on various tubing, hydraulic pistons, vests, and computerized gadgetry that fail to achieve what simple gravity and a small change in elevation can.

Take, for example, the Vertimax Trainer. It costs in the realm of $3000, and is necessary when the force of gravity just isn't enough to pull you into the earth.

But please be careful know what you're getting into. Be aware of the differences between box jumps as a training modality and box jumps as a test and display of awesomeness. The ratio of risk to reward exists on a sliding scale for every person.

If you currently earn a living (or scholarship) by playing a sport, and want to improve in that sport, you should probably be doing box jumps as a training modality while avoiding them as a display of awesomeness. And that includes repeated box jumps for time.

Most serious athletes need only concern themselves with the center of gravity.
They can do this without the cool/risky circus antics.
Why are simple box jumps so great?

A box (or picnic table, etc) demands that you commit to the jump with an explosive effort towards an objective end. The box mitigates landing impact, so it's a great place to learn how to take off and land well. Next you may want to learn how to land well from jumping over a small box (or hurdle). For even more overload and benefit to the central nervous system,  drop off a box and immediately jump back up. You will gradually learn how to decelerate your body mass and quickly attain proper control and position for an even more powerful second jump.

If you do box jumps well, and not too often, and not in a state of high fatigue, the risk is low and the benefit toward the coveted "explosive power" is tremendous.

But again, you need to build up (height, repetition, and impact) very gradually. Do not do them in a state of fatigue! Many feet and knees and Achilles tendons have suffered the wrath of box jumps done too intensely, too soon, and too often.

Mike Boyle Says...

World-renowned strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle recently claimed that box jumps over 30-inches are foolish. He said they're done by those looking to show off and/or get a skin graft, and athletes can achieve a tremendous training effect while saving themselves unnecessary risk by using a far more conservative, unimpressive box. He emphasized landing well in the position that you jumped from (without the extreme tuck). On all of these points I agree.

BUT the other half of the coin...

A high box is an event. I'm not claiming that it's the safest training modality but it sure makes for an awesome test. Jumping on top of something in a flash is a conquering of ... gravity? ...the environment? ...fear? ...it's a conquering of something that non-professional athletes can relish in!  It provides a sense of a accomplishment that most traditional strength and power exercises cannot deliver. Some things are worth the small risk. Avoid metal boxes.

"Do you see how high that thing is? Well now he's standing on it."

Did you ever visualize the world as a series of challenges where every desk, platform, wall, and fence is classified as something that you could or could not leap onto or over? Yeah, neither have I ; ).

Here are a few examples:

A world record attempt. "Can you all move your car?"


The Best Workout Ever

What if you could narrow every greatness that falls under the broad umbrella of strength training down to one 60-minute session? What if you didn't really need 10 or 50 WODS or 5-gym days per week for the "Bro-split" plus the yoga DVD? Could you cover all bases and still build strength or size and leanness? Absolutely.

I've been doing some variation of this exact workout on every Tuesday for longer than I'd like to admit. It does not take a lot of time. It works, and it's not only me.

I could say much about a handful of others who have methodically and intensely applied this series of lifts once per week. They have ran faster, jumped higher, and built themselves up to double bodyweight (conventional) deadlift and bench press 1.5 X their bodyweight for reps.

You are able to do this workout. Find a variation of the movements that works well for you. For example, full range of motion conventional deadlifts are not for everyone. In fact, you could absolutely say that this routine "works" because it demands decent strength, stability, and range of motion to begin with.

If you're looking to gain size and strength, eat a lot. If you're looking to lose fat or whatnot, eat a little less. You need to do this workout. Again, it works. In the process you will have achieved some fairly substantial performance gains (i.e. what you can DO with your body) and by then will tend to care less about nitpicking your appearance.

1. Warm-up.

I usually do a brief but specific series of low-intensity movements that require mobility, stability, and balance. For example, single leg "hinge" reach to floor, to side lunge with overhead reach, to yoga push-up, to a few deep goblet squats.

*Do your top priority movement next. Many gym folks think that should be "bench" or "bicep curls," but it should probably be...

See - told you than ANYBODY can do this workout!
2. Hinge

The bread-and-butter is somewhere in the realm of 2 to 3 warm-up sets then 3 to 4 sets of 3 to 5 reps. Every so often we build to a single rep/PR or do something brutal like the Metallica Test.

Trap bar deadlifts, stiff leg deadlifts, single leg deadlifts, suitcase deadlifts, kettle bell swings and basically any variation of the hinge movement fit the bill. If you're of the persuasion for Olympic lifts (I'm usually not), those would fall here as well.

3. Horizontal press

We typically do the bench press as our horizontal press because it's a rest for the legs between two major lower body movements. Baseball players with finicky shoulders may want to do some unilateral dumbbell presses or "land mine" presses here. Runners and people who sit for the majority of the day would be better served doing push up variations than demand total body core control, rather than bench press. But the goal is to do one or two warm-up sets and then 3 to 4 sets of 3 to 5 reps.

4. Single leg squat

While it's nearly impossible to deadlift and squat heavy within the same session, split leg work is usually not a problem when done after deadlifts for reasons discussed in more detail here.

Do one warm-up set and then three sets of 6 to 12 reps (each leg) on split squats (my favorite), lunge variations, or single leg box squats. Working one leg at a time involves a large percentage of your muscle mass, and when done with intensity, seriously taxes the cardiovascular system. Cardio - check.

5. Abs / loaded carry finisher

Do two to three circuits of two or three movements that involve abs and arms or legs. Here's an example and one that we highly favor:

Chin-ups with controlled leg tuck at the top (no momentum), to ab rollout, to farmers walk. Or if we're rushed for time we'll do some rope climbs or just the loaded carries (farmers walk).

Rotational sport athletes may throw in some rotational work here. Endurance athletes may want to do some high rep step ups or jump rope. Whatever - but make it total body, fairly brief, and intense.

And yet...the intensity may vary based on how hard you pushed yourself in the other lifts of the day. What I've experienced over time is that epic finishers of utter desolation are over-rated. More advanced lifters should be careful not to dip too far into their recovery abilities which absolutely can cut into the ability to progress in the big lifts.

Really, that covers everything. Stay out of the gym for a day or two. Stick with it and work your way toward nearly anything you want to specialize in.

All the WODs and numerous methods and means are fine if you're of the MENTALITY that gets bored and needs a lot of variety. But I don't think they're necessary for the 99.8% of us. Most of us just need only one or two other weight training sessions per week, preferably something that includes a squat, chin-up, and overhead press variation, and you have a SOLID program.

There's beauty in simplicity.


The BEST best strength training exercise

If you had to pick ONE exercise as a cover-all  strengthening exercise for athletes, what would it be? What if you didn't have time to train more than one "big" lift but wanted to get some serious work in? Or, to say it with a more positive spin, what is one exercise that everyone should regularly include in their routine?

Most big-name (well, far more well-known that I) strength coaches will say squats (Mike Robertson and others), dead lifts (trap bar DL ala Cressey), or power cleans. These are all great exercises that I do and prescribe often, and there's plenty of rationale for choosing them as tops.

But I think there's one even better.

Better for strength and power...
Better for stability...
Better for carryover to functional outside-of-the-gym performance...
Better for safety...

And you're probably not doing it.
Drum roll...

The exercise is split squats! They seriously deliver the good.


They are awfully difficult and tiring. By the time you can split squat 6 to 10 reps one each leg, with your body weight on the barbell (or holding dumbbells), you're talking 12 to 20 reps of intense total body strength, balance, and stability effort. One feels like an eternity.

Strength and Size with less risk

Split squats are an exercise that allows you to load up some serious poundage, which is needed for building strength and size. While step-ups and -pure- single leg balancing work (aka single leg box squats, bowler squats, etc) are often worthwhile, they do not allow you to handle heavy loads. But split squats allow sufficient loading to strap some mass to the thighs and hips.
On the other hand, split squats demand less absolute load than conventional squats or deadlifts, thus saving some of the extreme compressive loads on the spine and knees. Along those lines, since proper form in split squats allows for a more upright torso, they demand much less front-to-back shear on the spine as compared to conventional squats and deads.

Also in terms of safety, split squats just don't hold the same ego factor as other traditional strength training movements. You won't see internet heroes bragging about how much they can split squat, and you won't see young men loading up more than they can handle simply for showmanship in the weight room.

Balance and stability in three planes

I stated above that split squats place less sagittal plane stress on the spine. That's good, since plenty of other resistance exercises do and we often have too much of that to begin with. But split squats are unique in that they demand a lot of stability in the other two planes of motion.

Split squats make extreme demands on total body balance and stability. Power cleans, squats and deads are performed on two legs and occur primarily in the sagittal (front to back) plane of motion. But most athletic and everyday life endeavors take place while a person is NOT perfectly squared up on two legs or has one leg on the ground (as in running and hurdle type leaps and bounds).  The forces of everyday life occur across all three planes of motion (including rotational and side-to-side).

Even well trained athletes struggle with split squats when they begin. The evidence of strength, balance, and stability demands shows up as they lose their balance, their torso twists, and hips sway to the side. I hope it goes without saying, that one should start light and progress slowly as they become capable of maintaining form and not spilling over!

How to split squat

Most people should begin with holding a relatively light resistance such as a 5 to 30- pound medicine ball, kettlebell, or dumbbell, in front of their chest. Place a bench or box approximately two or three feet behind you and drape the top of one foot over it. Now, with 80 to 90% of your body weight on the front leg, and the back leg being used for balance, squat down by bending the lead knee and hip. The torso should not drift toward the back foot. But you also don't want the lead knee going out over in front of the lead foot. Also, pushing too hard with the back/balance foot will sooner or later cause knee irritation. Keep the load on the front heel.

Struggle, master the form, up the resistance. Using a barbell on the shoulder rather than resistance front loaded at the chest creates even more challenge to the core and balance. I usually recommend one warm up then three "work" sets of 6 to 10 reps on each leg. It's well worth it.

- - - - -

Thankfully, we're not often limited to one exercise. A typical workout consists of a handful of exercises within a larger framework that is tailored to a specific individual and their goals.

...But what if we had to choose just one workout, one resistance training protocol that was the perfect go-to for the far majority of athletes, when life is busy and you want to cover all your bases well.

The Best Damn Workout, Period.

Coming next...


fast unlike speed

A young man who trains here is a serious athlete. He has delivered consistent effort. He's learning a lot and seeing great progress. The additional size and strength is making him a game-changer on the soccer field.

Image result for fasting

Is this a time to be screwing around with an ancient spiritual exercise such as fasting? Not eating or sleeping well is a great combination for losing your hard-earned gainz. Why bother?

This young man is not trying to lose weight. In fact, that's the last thing that he needs. He's altogether unaware of the typical deceptive and false notions of shedding toxins. Yet his body will be drained when it should be recovering, and frailty is the last thing he needs to gain over a weekend. The unconscious stress and change in routine will increase his chances of getting sick. At best he will be hangry and slumped in prayerful postures. One cannot be optimally mobile and stable with a kyphotic spine like a willow reed flexed by the the wind.

I know well the shallow legalism of fasting, how to spot and mock hypocrisy. But Jesus himself addressed that a few thousand years ago, and it was covered in the book of Isaiah a few hundred years before that.

While fasting does tend to foster resiliency, self discipline and gratitude, these are not the goal. It's not to show holiness or to get anything. Fasting is not a test of self inflicted suffering. Fasting is a paradox, an upside down practice that is never easy. It cannot be formulated and sold in convenient packages. There's never a good time for it (unless you have ulterior motives like prosperity, temporary weight loss or to show off how holy you are).

"The devil doesn't appear in red face and horns. He comes to you disguised as everything you thought you wanted."

Fasting is supposed to be a time to tangibly put away your pride, to intentionally sacrifice some comfort or advantage in order to intimately feel what it means to go without. A time of fasting creates space for giving to others and having communion with God.

The outcome may be favorable, spiritually. But you will never see a call for fasting in the context of sports performance, where the blinders have us focused on training and nutrition. Fasting may make a high level athlete a bit weaker and slower. It's likely to make him or her forget about the competition and keep all idols, including the physical self, at bay. Fasting helps a person to see all of the world from a new angle.

I was going to claim that fasting provides no edge over the competition. But truly, who is to say? 
May that young man's light rise in the darkness...

- - - -

Is this time of fasting a day for a man to put away his pride? Is it for bowing his head like a piece of grass, and to spread ashes and cloth made from hair for his bed? Will you call this time without eating a day that pleases the Lord?

Is this not a time to take off the chains of sin, and to take the heavy load of sin off the neck? Is it not a time to let those who suffer under a sinful power go free, and to break every load from their neck? Is it not a time to share your food with the hungry, and bring the poor man into your house who has no home of his own? Is it not a time to give clothes to the person you see who has no clothes, and a time not to hide yourself from your own family?

Then your light will break out like the early morning...If you take the weight of sin away, and stop putting the blame on others and stop speaking sinful things, 10 and if you give what you have to the hungry, and fill the needs of those who suffer, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your darkness will be like the brightest time of day.  The Lord will always lead you. He will meet the needs of your soul in the dry times and give strength to your body.


You Won't Believe What He Did To Protect His Growth Plates

Sorry for the social media click-bait type headline. But I'd like to put the issue of kids and weighty training to rest.

Image result for growth platesThe conventional thought for training exercising kids less than 14 (or so) years of age is that you provide them with structured callisthenic type bodyweight exercises, variations on running, and fun activities like obstacle courses.

I definitely see the value in keeping it light and fun for this age group. Some of the best "training" for children takes place while they ride a bike and play games of their own creation like wifflebase football in the backyard. Who am I to deny a good obstacle course?

But for the child who loves competition and signs up for related strength training and conditioning, there's on thing missing.

Resistance. "Weights."

Why are we not giving such kids the opportunity to handle some loading while there is guidance and oversight? What kid has not walked into a weight room, stopped at the dumbbell or kettlebell rack, and attempted to lift each item 2 inches from where it sits? Children are curious and WILL test themselves.

"Thirty five pounds? So -THIS- is what 35 lbs feels like."

The kids see their sports heroes lifting weights and talking about lifting weights. They hear a lot about growing up and getting strong. The kids (and their parents) who sign up for training are not average elementary physical education students. The children want to be there, present in a gym environment, and they WANT to lift the weights.

If you're wondering about injuries, you may first and foremost want to consider that "injury risk" is known as "being a kid."  Relative to nearly anything that doesn't involve sitting at a desk or couch, resistance exercise is safe. Take my word for it or you can read the hundred page statements by the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

1. The youth injury rate for supervised resistance exercise is far less than that of traditional sports.

2. Kids are far more prone to accidental drops, hits, and horseplay (inside and outside of the gym) than to muscle strains and joint sprains typically associated with heavy weightlifting.

3. A child's "training readiness" has far less to do with their chronological age and more to do with whether or not they WANT to be there and their ability to follow basic instruction.

4. The idea of injuring growth plates from weight training is an outdated and fairly absurd. Running, jumping, throwing, falling off a chair, and being hit by a ball all provide far more impact forces on their joints and growth plates.

5. Children are suffering from sports-related overuse injuries at an alarming rate. Why would we not encourage them to actively engage in activities (like resistance training) that do not reproduce the repetitive strain associated with any one sport, but provide a stimulus that makes them more resilient to those repetitive demands?

Resistance training is not "okay" for kids. It's GOOD for them. And it's relatively safer than the playing Tag and obstacle courses that conventional wisdom recommends.

Please hear me out. We're not talking about slapping plates on barbells or other intimidating machinery. Think of progressions (making the movement easier or more difficult depending on the status of the child) of push-ups, chin-ups, hip hinge deadlifts and step ups while holding resistance. Think of giving them an idea of what resistance training looks like rather than powerlifting, and educating them regarding proper form and exercise progressions. For those who are still skeptical, here are a few specific examples of resistance training exercises that can be productive and fun learning opportunities.

Can they hold 10 to 20% of their bodyweight in front of the chest and perform a quality squat pattern with heels on the floor, spine neutral, and good control at the knee?

Can they perform a fair hip hinge pattern to lift 30 to 50% of their bodyweight off the ground while keeping their heels on the floor and spine neutral?

Can they carry 25 to 50% of their body weight for 40 yards?
Can they perform a few chin-ups or 30 second controlled hang?

Can they perform various jumps and hops and produce a controlled landing? While holding a light medicine ball?


The Machine

A long time ago, a man gave me a machine. I didn't appreciate the gift at the time, but the thing was an amazing piece of work. The system of interlocking pulleys, levers, and hinges is the best thing that I've ever been given.

It took quite a while to learn how to operate the machine and what to do with it. Thankfully I received a lot of assistance to get the thing started. The machine was light and jerky. It would go like mad and crash hard. But it was too weak, soft and slow to suffer much damage.

Then the machine became less frantic. It operated in constant motion until being forced to settle and reboot. The machine was pliable, elastic, and still quite limited in the ability to effect its environment. But then it experienced a sudden level up, becoming strong and fast and adaptable. The machine was springy and respected few limits in itself and surroundings.

With this longer duration of use and increased potential for drive, greater force and speed, came more potential for strain on the components. Recovery and repair was usually quick and seamless. When given insufficient manner or time for proper repair, the machine quickly adjusted to operate around the damage.

The machine had an amazing system of resiliency and redundancy. If one component suffered trauma or began to fail under stress, the workload was shifted to other components. Where one piece was locked or weakened, another piece grew more mobile or stronger. The machine became even more powerful but with less degrees of freedom.

At present, the machine operates in these altered pathways, until one day those pathways also begin to suffer strain. Interlocking components will begin to fray or wear thin. The Machine will become stiff and slow. In time, gravity overwhelms the stacked segments. Those that angle front-ways will begin to fall forward and those that lean away will buckle backward.

The Machine will eventually accumulate rust, with gnashing together of materials that were not designed to withstand friction and compression. Now days, mechanics attempt to tweak and revise the patterns in which the machine operates. This can provide additional miles and hours of operation, but everything has it's limits. The machine may undergo a process of replacing dysfunctional segments. The new segments move better, but they never work as well as the original pieces. They too eventually wear down, lasting less than a fourth of the duration of the original components.

The Machines CPU usually declines at a slower rate than the mechanical pieces. In time, the machine will be less concerned with speed and strength or changing its environment and more with maintaining independent function. The machine usually falls into more of an advisory role.

It turns out that the CPU and the mechanical pieces rely on each other far more than previously thought. As one wanes, so goes the other. It's always sad to see or experience the decline and eventual cessation of function. But name any other machine with the capacity to last 70 to 100 years.

        ...for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.


It's Okay To Bench!

Well, sometimes...

Image result for olympic bench pressWith the advent of smart, sport specific baseball training and conditioning, some athletes and their parents have taken the message of Eric Cressey et. al out of context.

The bench press has plenty of potential for putting the shoulder at risk. It is also a technically simple and effective way to build upper body size and strength.

Is it okay for baseball players to bench press? I think Cressey himself would tell you that it depends. The best we can do is answer the question in the consideration of a given athlete.
- - - - -

Is the baseball player going to bench press two or three times per week? Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday is National Bench Press Holiday for all the gym bros who love them some bench. This is unnecessary and may lead to development of imbalance and overload to the shoulders.

Is the athlete already bench pressing three hundred pounds for reps? He is already in a place called "strong enough" and as a baseball player, should invest his time elsewhere.

Has the baseball players put in many seasons as a pitcher and developed adaptive changes to the shoulder (like anterior shoulder joint laxity and torsion of the humeral shaft)? Bench pressing is not best for this athlete.

Is the athlete already being paid millions of dollars to pitch? In this case the potential benefits of bench pressing are not worth the risk of injury.

- - - - -

Is the athlete generally free of shoulder issues and sporadically using the bench press as a part of an overall strength training program?

Is the baseball player in desperate need of gaining five or thirty pounds in order to improve overall performance?

Is the athlete going to keep things in perspective, NOT hyperextending his back and using a super wide grip and massive hip drive in order to move 15% more weight on the bar?

- - - - -

Most young baseball position players fall into the latter group of scenarios listed here. They have much to benefit from using the bench press as part of an overall training program. Many collegiate and higher level pitchers will fall into the former group and should likely cool it on the bench.


A few hours with Mike Robertson

Yesterday I had the privilege of getting to know Mike Robertson. We spoke on various topics of performance training and rehabilitation as I observed him apply his process of athlete assessments.

He had me at the "PR Bell."

Mounted on the wall was a brass bell beneath a small plaque reading "PR Bell."

Mike Robertson is one of the top trainers in the US working in one of the top 10 gyms in the US. He is kind and his methods are simple and effective. His communication skills are world-class. His training facility has everything you need and no more. I love it - the number of exercise and entertainment contraptions and machinery that I did not see at his modest sized gym.

It's no secret that Mike is a huge advocate of the methods created by the Postural Restoration Institute. I've not pursued formal training in PRI, and I'm still not sure that I need to. We discussed how his skill set is overlapping in some areas and complimentary in other areas as compared to more traditional rehabilitation providers.

But Mike is obviously doing something VERY right. Chief among the many areas he excels is in helping the athlete to understand how the low intensity, unexciting corrective type work relates to the more glamorous hardcore training and performance qualities that everyone seeks. And then...imagine this! ...He provides a method and facility to do both in a comprehensive program.


We got this!


Zombies hate physical therapy

A case study:

The patient is a 47 year-old female whose chief complaint is right leg weakness and instability which adversely effects her ability to walk. Relevant past medical history includes lumbar disc herniation, fibromyalgia, and being deceased as of October 31 2014. She reports an abrupt onset of symptoms at that time, and describes the mechanism of injury as grabbing, biting and scraping of the right lower leg. She reports that her symptoms have gradually worsened as the leg continues to decay.

The patient has not underwent a recent medical exam or diagnostic imaging.
The patient rates her pain as 0/10.

Significant trauma of the right lower extremity is observable, with weepy goo pockets of mushflesh. The common peroneal nerve is exposed over a gnawed fibular head. The right Achilles tendon is absent and the plantar fascia is not tender to palpation. Pedal pulse is 0 beats/min. Patient is unable to detect 10 g monofilament light touch. The patient ambulates with right foot flat at initial contact phase of gait, with lateral trunk lean to the right and right hip adduction during weight acceptance, and there is no supinatory propulsion during late stance phase. Functional limitation include right leg weakness and instability which creates difficulty with activities of daily unliving. The patient goals include increased strength and stability of the right leg to enable return to stalking humans without complication.

Applicable ICD-10 diagnosis codes include:

M36X221 - bit by a zombie
F329 - zombie
JKLMNOP34 - ataxic confabulations
6789876 - abnormality of gait
S92.1 - stanky leg

Todays treatment included fitting patient with rigid rocker bottom shoes and Arizona Brace to provide external stability to the foot and ankle. Following this, the patient demonstrated improved speed of walking including acceleration and change of direction with minimal energy leak.

The agreed upon goals and treatment plan were discussed with the patient. She will attend physical therapy for two to three visits over the next two weeks to allow for sufficient  help l;dka#$%%d_!@*khhhhhjkljkl


Don't Make This BroScience Training Mistake

Those guys trained hard and often. They had time on their sides, with the relatively low stress college lifestyle and unlimited access to healthy foods. Yet they did not change substantially over two years.

I gained plenty of knowledge in the classroom during my undergraduate years at Slippery Rock University. The lesson I remember the most took place on and around campus.

Image of SRU Barbell Club circa 1998
I survived was perfectly content for four years there without a car, preferring to ride my mountain bike. With 7500 others my age, plus some cool faculty, where else did I need to go? I discovered that my life skills were considerably delayed in some ways. But I could easily make up for it with endurance and discipline and much needed grace from On High.

The Slippery Rock Barbell Club was a learning environment of the highest caliber. The tin warehouse located a stones throw from campus was quite literally JAMMED full of grimy top-notch weight training equipment. You could easily trip on a jug of protein or a 150 lb dumbell. With no set hours, rules (taken seriously), or cardio equipment, it was paradise for hardcore meat heads and anyone who grew weary of the SRU Russell Wright Fitness Center.

I witnessed many extreme feats of strength, machismo, and plain weirdness at the Barbell Club. I quickly realized that I would never fit into the bodybuilding subculture. 
A jumbled mess of powder coated iron.

During my junior and senior years I fell into the habit of training after class in the early afternoon. Many ex athletes did likewise, which resulted in knowing a typical cast of characters. The alphas of the barbell club showed up around 4:00, close to when I was finishing. They were locals, a bit older than any of the students, huge and lean. I only knew them by their nicknames, names like Diange, Big T, and Klip. They did their steroids in a small alley between the loading dock and a row of trees. They yelled a lot and intentionally bloodied their shins during deadlifts.

There was another group of guys, below the alphas, former wrestlers and football players, who would be at the Barbell Club nearly every day that I was there. They were training and talking when I walked in and when I left. I would go to my dorm, clean up and meet some friends at the dining hall when I would see them get in line behind me.

I'm fairly sure that this group trained with the typical Bro-Split that all of us did back in the day. Leg day was Wednesday, after "chest" on Monday and "back" on Tuesday. Squats involved wrapping their knees for 5 minutes, squatting a moderate weight for one, maybe two reps, unwrapping their knees and talking about the previous set for 3 minutes, and repeating the process for 40 minutes before a similar ritual on the leg press, leg extension and leg curl machines.

With the rare combination of access to an all-you-can-eat dining hall, PhD level expertise in bro-science, and twenty year-old gusto, this group of young men put on a fantastically grotesque display of training and eating eating. Walking back to my dorm after dinner, I would see them through the glass windows of the dining hall, sitting proudly beside six or eight plates and bowls stacked on each tray.

You would think that with all that heavy training and eating, these guys would transform into mighty monster of impressiveness. No, actually you wouldn't. They were dead wrong in their approach. Now, don't get me wrong. They were bigger than the average college student. But they were definitely...mmmhhh...unremarkable. In appearance, strength, and power. Unremarkable.

I've reported plenty of my own wheel-spinning mistakes and blunders on this blog. But these guys lived in the gym and dining hall and devoted so much to achieving so little.

While their story is uncertain, I highly suspect that the key consideration they missed was a holistic appreciation of human physiology, especially in regards to RECOVERY.

In their minds the equation to life success and happiness was:
More training + more intensity + more eating = more size, strength, and awesomeness.

In reality, progress looks something like this nonlinear equation:
.5XTraining(recovery) +.25Intensity(recovery) + 1.2 moderate eating(recovery) = Xawesomeness    Where X=your particular version of awesomeness because you really can't have it due to genetic limitation, unless you take steroids.

At some point, more training only serves to tear the body down. The perfect nutritional balance cannot make up for grossly over training. Likewise, a perfect training program cannot atone for missing the mark with the diet.

You don't have to train six days per week and stack bowls and plates in order to look and perform good. For the novice strength athlete, nearly anything works for a while. But very soon, you will need to work hard and smart in order to save much wasted time and effort.

How many days per week should you train in order to realize your desired results?
What exercises and how many sets and reps should take place during each session?
How do you move toward optimal recovery, between too much and too little?
These are all easily answered, but they vary between individuals and the seasons of their life.

Some will figure training out long way, on their own. Others will turn to Youtube or the most convenient personal trainers and bros. Still others will seek the help of the most experienced and qualified professionals who have walked the road before them.



The Founding Fathers of the BLC 

Last week, Ben, Cort, Russ, and I were on hand for the weekly ritual now known throughout all the lands as Plyo Friday. Loc, one of the younger trainees, described it as a gathering of the "Founding Fathers" of the The Bonny Lane Club.

I've written an overview of our small community that we call the BLC here.

The predecessor of the BLC began in 2002 at our old house on Belleview Park. I invited a few basketball players from Harrisburg High School to come see and learn how a middle aged white guy can dunk. They compared my basement to "something less than Rutherford" (elementary school). They learned how to squat and few other things, and stuck around for as long as we lived there.

The BLC officially started a few years later, after we moved to our home in Mechanicsburg. Since then, thousands...no, hundreds...no...TENS (!) of people have passed through the BLC. They come to improve their health or athletic performance, and hope to achieve a few fitness goals. But nearly everyone who has joined the journey has become genuine friends.

The Founding Fathers were first. Some of them are not around as much, with school and work and life and whatnot. To this day I cherish our friendship.

You want to join the anti-gym? You want to learn and contribute to our training knowledge? You want to understand some things about the group and about yourself? You came back to this yard and basement after experiencing a 300 run or a set of 20-rep squats?

"My brother! My sister!"


fantastically miserable free weight challenges

So what's going on at the notworld-famous Bonny Lane Club? Here is the deal.

Heavy dead lifts, chin-ups, 20-rep squats and the like are still standard fare. We also get creative with brutal and effective challenges that are generally consistent with our fitness goals (peak power, strength/endurance with mental and physical resiliency).

We want it to be ridiculous in a few regards, but with an eye on safety. These tests are relatively safe for intermediate to more advance weight trainees.

These are not the kind of things to put yourself through every week or even every month. You do these to see how "in-shape" you are as a strength athlete. A thick, out-of-shape strongman (or woman) will score fairly poorly. Likewise, an aeroboholic or beginner will not likely be able to do even one rep with decent form.

Consider that your disclaimer.

These tests also make for a brief, effective, and brutal workout when you're pressed for time.


This test has been modeled after the 75-foot rope climb of American Ninja Warrior. The goal is to climb a 25 foot rope three times in under 30 seconds. The clock ticks only during the climb. Once the athlete reaches the top of the climb, the time pauses for the descent and 5-second rest interval between climbs, since coming down off the rope *really* taxes the grippers. The scaled division is to complete the test for time using your legs, and the Rx (pronounced "realx") test is to perform the rope climbs without use of the legs.

Most athletes will initially not be able to complete all three climbs with our without use of their legs. But le me know how it goes.


The Battery is dead lifting as many reps as possible within the duration of this old-school Metallica song. Load the bar to bodyweight (scaled) or 1.5 X bodyweight (realx), and alternate getting mentally prepared and nervous during the interlude. Begin the test when the drums and guitar crash in at the 38-second mark, and deadlift until the song is complete. You MUST release the bar and stand fully erect between reps so that each rep is in effect a "single." The standard test is with the conventional deadlift but use whatever you're accustomed to.

Smashing through the boundaries
lunacy has found me
cannot stop the battery.

Why Battery? Well, listen to the lyrics. And the music is like getting punched in the face for 4 minutes. So I think it's fitting. The best scored for scaled is currently 65 reps and realx is 57.

The Devil

For this test, pull a standard flat bench into the squat rack and load the bar to your bodyweight. The scaled and realx division are one! Fret during the 15-second fiddle interlude and begin your reps with Mr. Daniels starts singing. You are to perform squats -box style- with full lock out at the top and -softly- tapping, no bouncing, your butt to the bench to achieve standard depth.

Oh, and every time you rack the weight to rest subtracts five of your precious reps! Hey, I wanted to give extra incentive for keeping the weight up for the duration of the test!

I tried this for the first time today and scored 57 reps. I took the strategy of slow and steady and managed to not rack the weight. Near the end I definitely felt like the 200 lbs was beginning to suffocate me. This test is more difficult than Battery because you have a penalty for resting unless you rest while under load. Which is not really rest.

I'm setting a goal of 70 reps. Surely I can do more if I don't perform other leg work prior to this test. Plus, I'm building my squat legs up after having some time away, and I could pace better. This was my first time so I did not recall the song well and what to expect. Below is an actual photo of me at about 2:44 when you think things are wrapping up and you make a final push then realize the song IS NOT ENDING.
Image result for noooo meme

Strategy may be a factor here. I may try banging out 40 hard and fast reps, resting a minute, then trying to bang out 35 more (that would be a -5 for a total score of 70).

Okay. The line is drawn in the sand. GO and let me know what you think! Side effects of merely trying these include being fit and awesome.