Monday, July 25, 2011

How Far Can You Go?

"You're either getting better, or you're getting worse! There is no staying the same!" - Robert dos Remedios

When I heard that quote from my friend and colleague, Robert dos Remedios, CSCS - Head Strength Coach at College of the Canyons (Santa Clarita, CA) & author of "Cardio Strength Training", it really struck a cord.

As we age & get older, how would we ever expect to get better, or improve in any aspect of our lives if we kept things the same? How would we 'graduate' to the next level without the constant learning of complexity to challenge our mind, body & soul?

I've been in the fitness biz for over 20 years and I must say that I've heard hundreds, if not thousands of EXCUSES as to why people choose to stay as they are - maintenance mode. Keeping things as is.

Do me a favor and re-read the quote above!

Simply put....


Check out this informative and awesome guest blog written by my friend and colleague, Martin Rooney, CSCS - owner & founder of Training for Warriors and Parisi Speed School. Martin shares his view on taking on the things that we've never done before in order to reap the benefits of the experience and the wisdom that comes in doing so.

It's time to take it to the next level!

My father and I were once in a marina and I saw a boat that was the perfect definition of the word irony.”  The boat was up on cinder blocks and looked as though it had been out of the water for years.  The ironic name of the boat was “Momentum.”  This humorous sight was actually an important reminder that you can never gain momentum if you don’t start moving (and the place I discovered Rooney Rule #7).

All too often it is easier to just stay where we are.  Many of us, as surprising as it may sound, are actually holding ourselves back from success!  If you want to gain some momentum toward where you want to go, you have to give up your old ways and dare to do something new.

“The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”  - Charles Dubois

Over the last year, the response about my book, Ultimate Warrior Workouts demonstrated how important my physical and mental warrior challenges are for everyone.  I have been receiving emails from around the world from people that have taken many of these challenges and every correspondence has been positive.  There has been, however, a common theme:  The people didn’t know what they were or were not able to do until they tried.  This proved to me that the single most important way to take on a challenge is to stop worrying about failure and take immediate ACTION.

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”  - T.S. Elliot

When was the last time you got too motivated?  When was the last time that you ate too well?  Have you ever been accused of being too optimistic or had too good of a training session?   Did anyone ever tell you that you are too strong?  If your answer is "never" or "no", then you still have more risks to take to see how great you can become.  My Warrior Challenges are a great vehicle to get you started.  Pick one, see what you can do, and then use that same inspiration to take on another challenge during your day. I promise that once you have tried and felt the soreness from the pushups, dips or chins, some challenge at work or home will be much easier to attack.

“I am always doing that which I can not do in order that I may learn how to do it.” - Pablo Picasso

Too many of us also stop from attempting something new because we state that we don’t know how to do it.  That is the whole point of the challenges in the first place!  The only way to start doing something you don’t know how to do is by starting doing it.  Don’t forget that simple success maxim.

"You have to go out on a limb sometimes, because that is where the fruit is.”  - Will Rodgers

This week my mental challenge is to take what you consider a risk.  Invest in a new book.  Start a new class or add something new to your diet.  If you take some risk this week and achieve new heights, you will feel happy.  If you attempt something new and don’t succeed you will still be wiser for the next attempt.  In any case, you will be a winner with some momentum moving you forward.

Now it is up to you, to see 'how far you can go'….


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Appearance Is a Consequence of Fitness

If you perform "half-assed quality" work, you can expect see "half-assed results"! 

Movement quality should never be sacrificed in order to get a faster workout. In fact, faster workouts should push the boundaries to perfect as many full range of motion (ROM) reps within a specified time period while monitoring and tracking improvements. Partial reps, or "cheating",  isn't going to cut it.

In the health & fitness world, the word 'lazy' is one that I like to categorize with 'complacent' and 'comfortable'. Doing the same things day in, day out, week after week with no change and no challenge. In a quest for constant improvement, we need to break away from the 'comfortable complacency of laziness' that gets ingrained into our minds - which sucks the life out of our good-willed intentions to do more. To do things that require hard work, increased effort, putting some muscle into it, elbow grease, or as I like to say....'intestinal fortitude'!

"Appearance is a Consequence of Fitness" - Mark Twight

This is a quote which has a personal impact and embodies the overall essence of what my training world encompasses. The notion that appearance is the consequence of fitness.

Think about it.

Just think of what someone's appearance would look like by performing "partial reps", better yet someone who doesn't exercise vs. someone who did the opposite and performed high-caliber work at full ROM! Would it be safe to say that one would have increased muscle mass? Lower body fat percentage? How about increased strength & power?

Not too many people will grasp the concept of the quote above. However, it does make sense that a good foundation based on the solid principle of 'true fitness' does lead to good appearance. It's more than just about strength, more muscle mass or low body fat. It's about performance, endurance, power, balance, coordination, speed, agility and quickness.

To obtain 'true fitness', once needs to excel in all of these areas. Not just one! Excelling in all of these areas thus leads to better appearance.

Fitness is not the end result of appearance, but rather, the other way around!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011


This is an awesome guest blog by Mark Twight, founder of Gym Jones, where he trains athletes, military personnel, and others for whom fitness goes beyond appearance. Twight was the man behind the scenes to train the cast & crew for the movie "300".

"You could get through workouts a lot faster if you didn't actually have to do them."

Some "fitness" folks like to quote the Henry Rollins phrase, "two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds." At Gym Jones we say that, to ensure valid measurement, a yardstick must be one yard long and two hundred pounds is only that when moved through a complete range of motion - regardless of the speed at which it moves.

Fresh from quoting the man whose music they probably hate, those same folks mouth off about ideal range of movement and quality of work but unless those ideals manifest as action they're meaningless. No matter how hopeful the words, if the chin does not rise significantly higher than the bar then it's not considered a pull-up - kipping or otherwise - because the weight has not been moved through its maximum possible trajectory; the potential energy has not been fully expressed.

As our training group grew during the last year, we noticed that in the quest for faster times work quality was easily sacrificed. Such may be unconscious behavior, but I like to call it 'cheating'. When movement quality declined, I couldn't use the stopwatch to monitor improvements because other parameters must be fixed for the time to be relevant:

If the load is fixed and the range of motion (ROM) is always the same, then posting a faster or slower time is useful knowledge. If the load is fixed but the ROM is shortened, a second variable has been introduced and knowing the time is no longer useful.

Some argue that movements executed quickly lead to a higher power output and that if ROM is sacrificedalong the way, the trade-off is worth it. Yes, power output will be greater but the athlete who cuts ROM short and finishes faster is not doing the same workout as the athlete who pulls and pushes through complete ROM. If two athletes aren't playing the same game by the same rules, any comparison of the results lacks meaning. And there is no reason NOT to execute movements completely even when doing multiple reps for time. Putting a full kip on the pull-up, still not getting the head above the bar and calling it good is about as lame as it gets.

Understand that I am not arguing against kipping, wiggling or squirming to get 1 rep done. I'm simply stating that in our gym we don't count incomplete reps no matter how good the athlete's intention. Athletes shortcut reps because it's easier to do less than it is to do more and that's cheating....or at best, 'lazy'.

If we accept "chicken necking" instead of a proper pull-up (because it's 90% complete and more reps can be done faster thus increasing the power requirement), the natural conclusion is accepting speedily executed but partial squats. What we allow ourselves to settle for is largely dependent on our goals and the strength of our character.

It's up to the individual to figure out why he/she is doing something and to accept responsibility for those choices and actions.

Figure it out!

By nature mankind is comparative. We like to see where we fit into the scheme of things. If fitness is important, then timed or scored workouts are a lens through which we may see ourselves in a larger context. For this comparison to be meaningful, we all have to be doing the same thing. For example, track events: run a fixed distance. In the realm of gym fitness, rowing on the Concept II fills a similar role - there's no way to cheat it: 5000 meters is 5000 meters no matter how you get there. But when it comes to couplets, triplets, and chippers requiring a variety of movements, the execution of which may be "interpreted" as valid comparison among individuals is contingent on a fixed set of parameters.

At Gym Jones we use the following rules to ensure work quality:
  • Pull-ups: Elbows must pass behind centerline of the body, if this happens the entire head rises above the bar, active shoulder position at bottom (as opposed to full dead hang)
  • Push-ups: Chest touches the floor first, active shoulder and full extension at the top, body held as a solid plank, the hips do not move
  • Squats: Thighs must be parallel to floor (at minimum) in the bottom position, full extension at the top of the movement
  • Lunges: Trailing knee must "kiss" the ground but may not support any weight
  • Push-Press and Thruster: Arms must lock out overhead, hips displace horizontally to the rear to initiate recovery of the weight, Thruster includes all attributes of a proper squat
  • Kettlebell or Dumbell Swing: Weight must be raised higher than the head (arms about 45 degrees)
  • Box Jump: Once established on the box the athlete must stand up completely, whether jumping for reps or max height taking steps to gain momentum is not permitted
  • Ball Slam: Full extension at the top with hips forward, ball must actually be slammed (imagine that), catching it on the bounce is better style, rounded back not permitted during recovery
  • Burpees: Includes a proper push-up, explosive finish (jump), overhead clap, and feet remain together throughout movement to ensure maximum hip displacement
  • Wall Slam: Full squat required, ball must hit target
  • Dips: Upper arm must be parallel to the floor (at minimum) in the bottom position, arms lock out in full extension at the top
When everyone agrees on the rules the outcomes may be compared and relevant conclusions drawn. Strict standards prevent misrepresentation and the speculation that follows.

We train in preparation for sport-specific tests or work-related challenges. We don't train for the sake of it or because conditioning is our sport or hobby. We don't do this because we want to look a certain way or to lose weight (these are consequences).

We suffer during training to improve ourselves physically and psychologically and we measure those improvements on mountains, on frozen waterfalls, in burning buildings, facing cunning adversaries, on the battlefield, on the mat and in the cage. 

Because these tests occur outside the gym, in the real world, we don't compete in the gym. We work hard, and we work together to make the sum greater than its individual parts. Cheating won't help you get where you want to I enforce 'quality' all of the time.

That's my yardstick! How long is yours?


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How to Survive an Ass-Kickin'!

"Run fast! Run away from the man with the machete!" 

Those were the infamous words spoken by my good friend, colleague, elite trainer and strength coach, Luka Hocevar, CSCS - owner of Hocevar Performance, during one of the group orientations for about 15 boot camp newbies.

In subliminal terms, what he was actually saying was "you better amp it up and kick ass in the process....or get your ass kicked!"

And no....I'm not talkin' donkeys either!

Little did these newbies know what they were getting into upon showing up for their first boot camp workout session. A few had somewhat of an idea as they sat there and watched one of our regular boot camp sessions beforehand. People were sweating, screaming, hootin' & hollerin' - the energy was definitely on red alert status and people were feeling awesome!

Everyone was 'kickin' ass'!

I've always been a fan of quick, effective, high-intensity workouts. Notice I didn't say "easy", as in "quick & easy", which really makes no sense if you ask me. Especially if you're looking to elevate your game to the next level. I mean, when was the last time you heard someone say, "Today I'm gonna do some sandbag slams or some heavy rope slams....but I'm going to take it easy! Tomorrow, I'm gonna hit the Prowler....but I plan to take it easy as well."

What the....? How does what work?

What should be said is everything above but instead of "taking it easy", "I'm gonna kick ass doing it!"

Just think of the mental shift that takes place when you say those words! It takes you to a whole new dimension when it comes to training and putting in work - work that elevates your ground game thus resulting in better gains, increases in strength, speed, agility, quickness, power, etc.

Getting your ass-kicked in the process is a rite of passage - just like earning your stripes, which simply means that you do something to prove that you have the skills or ability for a particular job or rank. It doesn't signify fear nor intimidation if used in this context. Rather it says that you've gone through the depths of trials and tribulations to overcome all obstacles that stood in your way!

Many times I've told my myself that I was going to do such & such and kick my own ass! What that really translates to is that my workout would be brutal, it would be tough - but I looked forward to the challenge. A challenge of sorts that would break me down in order to build me up!

Makes sense, right?

Take weight training for example. Ever had a moment when you lifted so much that you were sore for a couple of days? Of course you have! We all have. As the soreness subsided and you started to get more consistent workouts under your belt, chances are you noticed your resistance go up. Not only that, but you were also getting stronger, leaner and your muscle soreness would do away or wouldn't be as persistent as it was when you first started training.

Then you try something new - different movement patterns, increased work loads & time under tension, faster tempo, activation of smaller stabilizer muscles, etc. Before you know it....BAM!!

Muscle soreness!

*Side note - Now, let's be smart about this. If you're sore, you don't just want to sit back and not do anything! That's the worst thing you can do. The trick is to move around - stretch, foam roll, go for a walk, etc.

In the midst of knowing that this soreness was a result from "getting your ass kicked", I'm going to share with you some tips on how to survive an ass-kickin' and live to tell about it!

Some ass-kickin' survival manuals may sound something like this:
  • First - Come to realize that the ass-kickin' you are about to get is not your fault!
  • Second - Get mentally focused on what to expect - or at least try to because chances are the ass-kickin' you'll be getting is something that you won't expect! "Man, I didn't see that coming!" (Yes you did! Don't try & deny it!)
  • Third - Dress for the occasion - it doesn't matter what you really wear because it's all going to get sweaty, smelly & nasty anyway! Just make sure your laces are nice & tight! 
  • Fourth - Put in some work! Remember, ideal work is NOT doing 2-3 partial push-ups and calling it a day. If that's the case, you may as well follow it up with 2-3 partial squats and 2-3 half bicep curls inside the squat rack and call it good!
Don't believe any of the crap mentioned above! 

In all honesty, here's how to really survive an ass-kickin! 
  • Stay consistent
  • Know your limitations
  • Train hard, put forth an all-out effort and don't cheat yourself short
  • Make steady progress as challenges come your way
  • Improve 1% each day - 1 more rep, 1 sec. more, 1 lb. more than the previous load, etc.
  • Always learn something new each day - this not only applies to the gym, but life in general
  • Seek opportunities to improve - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually
  • Remove negativity from your life - things that hold you back or bring you down (yes, this includes people who are always bashing you and are a bad influence - get them out of your life!)
  • Eat right - you can't mess around with your nutrition, especially when it comes to getting kick-ass results!
  • Recovery - this is just as important as training - get 6-8 hours of sleep, get a massage, foam roll, take care of your soft tissue
  • Be good to yourself - reward yourself for a job well done and for doing the things above!
  • Keep kicking ass in all that you do! 
The evolution of an ancient ass-kickin'! Not much has changed!
As long as you follow the steps above, no matter how hard of an ass-kickin' is handed to you on a platter, you will survive and live to tell about it! The key is to stay positive, become consistent with your workouts, constantly challenge yourself and overcome those obstacles when it comes to your training programs, eat right, & get optimal recovery. Do this and I can honestly say that you will improve & get better! 

I guarantee it!

Never fear an ass-kickin'! It could be one of the best things to happen to you!

I know it is for me!