2008 was pretty awesome!!

December 31, 2008

With 2008 going out of style in a little under 12 hours, its the perfect time for one of those oh-so-typical new years posts.

2008 was better than I could’ve envisioned at this time a year ago (which has seemed to be the trend for the last few years for me at least). Over the past year, some very exciting things have happened:

– Getting a personal training cert with an internationally recognized organization (the NSCA)

-Getting to work at SST over the summer! While I was there I had great bosses and co-workers to learn from and help me accomplish my goals I had set out for myself! I beleive this past summer, I learned more than in all my years of university put together. I was also placed in situations outside my comfort which forced me to adapt and grow — and they accelerated my development greatly. I really can’t say enough good things about last summer at SST!

– Changes in mindset. I don’t know when these happened but about three quarters of the way through the year I noticed some chnages in my mindset. One was with regards to money — a) my idea of “a lot of money” changed and b) I realized it is just a thing, without an emotional component.

Another change in mindset stemmed from the advice many successful fitness experts/entrepreneurs give: Successful people view spending money on advancing their careers as investments in themselves and realize the investment will pay for itself when the information is applied. Up until the later part of this year, I just thought spending money was spending money — I couldnt see how the payment would return to me multiple-fold. For some reason, this changed…being in school and not running my own business or anything, I’m not sure why it changed, but it did. Unfortunately I don’t have a better explanation.

– Accomplishing my muscle gaining goal. At the beginning of October I made a goal to reach 165 lbs by the end of this year. At the time my diet wasn’t spot on and I was fluctuating between 153-155. I told pretty much everyone I knew in order to have some accountability…especially since I’m a trainer. Anyways, I weighed myself a few days ago (Dec 27th) and was at 166, so goal accomplished! It was the first time I used this sort (or any sort) of strategy for accomplishing goals, and I feel that by being specific about my goal and telling everyone it gave me a clear and reasonable target to hit.         

– Starting a blog. This was some great advice given to me by Pat while at SST. Basically its given me an opportunity to practice my writing without worry of censorship. On top of that it has allowed me to put my thoughts down concretely which has made me think critically about what I have learned. Finally it has lead me to meet some great people through the comments which I wouldn’t have been able to interact with otherwise.

As I have said before, the discussion stemming from comments makes blogging far more enjoyable :)

What have you really enjoyed about 2008??

Thats all for today…enjoy ringing in the new year!!


So long 2008

So long 2008

High volume or low volume?

High volume or low volume?

Yesterday I spoke about what I’ve learned training here at home with my friend, but I also mentioned that I’ve realized a lot of gains from training while I’ve been on break too. A little expansion on that was promised, so I am delivering!

Looking to add muscle mass?? Training volume is critical right — thats what many of the books say anyways, but is that all??

Sure you have to get enough calories in (hopefully good ones at that), but is more volume the main answer to our muscle building desires??

I’d argue that lack of volume is just as important, if not more so! Now to bring you out of the fog, I’m not simply referring to designing a training phase (with muscle mass as the main goal) with limited volume instead of high volume. I’m just saying that we need both, at the right time.

Basically about a month before I got finished exams, I switched my training program from 4 days a week to 3 days…and with the stress of exams and whatever else, nothing much happened physically. At first I felt re-energized, but quickly I felt overtrained again. After I got home though — still doing a 3 day template from my friend, I started to really make some progress. I noticed a little more muscle mass when standing in front of the mirror (if that doesn’t sound narcisstic…)

This wasn’t the first time this has happened (experiencing noticeable gains in a short span of time), but for some reason the light came on for me. High volume is great for great stimulating growth, while low volume is great for realizing growth (progress).

Now of course this isn’t a be all end all statement; if you don’t switch to low volume will you not make any progress?? – No. At this time, it was just the right thing for my body.

Before I finish, I just want to add something:

One of the first posts I wrote for my blog was about using low volume to build muscle…basically recommending going complete against the book with regards to training for added size. At the time, I was far less “low-volume” than I was about a year and a half ago when I started training properly and bound myself to the low-volume idea, but I was still had a sort of “either/or” mindset.

This “ah-ha” moment I had while on my break is what I probably was acknowledging in the blog post back in May or June, I just didn’t know it. It isn’t a case of one being better than the other, just that each has it own place in a training program. The key is to listen to your body so that you’ll know when to use one over the other.

(Editor’s note: the last line is NOT limited to those training to get jacked)


Need a motivating training partner??

Need a motivating training partner??

Being on winter break and not having to deal with final exams has meant that the past couple weeks have been far more stress-free than the beginning of the month. With less stress everything has been more enjoyable obviously as a result.

Relating back to my own training, the break and my current program has allowed me to:

a) let my body recover enough to realize gains from my training (more on this later in the week)

and b) learn from my training (I talk about learning a lot…I know I’m a nerd…)

What I learned from training with my buddy was the benefit of training with someone stronger than you (if your goal is strength). Now, I’ve read this before but I never really fully believed it. What I DID believe was that as someone in the fitness industry, I should be motivated to challenge myself regardless of my training partner; whether they were bigger, stronger, smaller, or faster.

Training with my friend made me realize that I have pushed myself more than I did when I wasn’t training with him because I wanted to keep up (or be better :) ). Right now with my goal being to really focus on strength, I hope I will be able to continue pushing myself like this when I get back to school. Not only has it been pretty cool to set a lot of PR’s but it also made training a lot more fun as we were motivating each other since my friend didn’t want to look weaker than me!

I’d love to hear your stories with training partners — has someone been more motivating to you?? Or what do you prefer in a training partner??

No more long breaks for a while — I’ll have another piece tomorrow!!


A Time to Break the Rules

December 24, 2008

Training two days in a row: ” check”
Full body sessions each day: “check”
Have I lost it and become a hypocrite: “Possibly” (the hypocrite part is more personal opinion anyway)

I guess the main point I want to get out in this post is just that there are times when breaking some rules are acceptable.

Basically with gyms being closed for the next couple days, training two days in a row will keep me and my training partner on schedule. Plus with gyms being closed there is the opportunity to recover from something that your body might normally find entirely distressful.

Back to the session, it actually felt good and productive, which was surprising to me. I felt yesterday’s was a tough session and that might impact today’s session. The only thing I noticed any decrease in from yesterday was when doing hang cleans today, my CNS was fatigued. First reps were pretty good, but the second, third, and fourth reps definitely didn’t have the same power output as the first rep.

Also, a couple months ago I blogged about my goal of reaching 165 pounds by Dec 31st. Weighing in at the gym today, 162 lbs. Which is exactly where I want to be with Christmas dinner around the corner! (Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm :) )

Anyways, I got to run with family coming over so to everyone celebrating Christmas — Merry Christmas to you and your family!!


What I’m Reading

December 22, 2008

Since I’m home from school during the holiday break, I have an opporunity to get a substantial amount of book reading since I don’t have school texts and research papers to read. Reading books also gives me an opportunity to stop looking at a computer screen where I end up doing the vast majority of my continuing education in fitness.

This break I have two books to get through over these three weeks. Ironically they do not have to do with fitness directly, they’re more business-related.

The books are (drumroll please) ;

1. Influence by Dr. Robert Cialdini  

This is a business audience targeted book that talks about selling. A natural fit since selling and marketing are such a big part of component of the fitnes industry.

2. Buying In by Rob Walker

This book is again essentially about the psychology behind people’s consumer habits. 

So I’ve told you what I’m reading currently, now I want to reciprocate:

What have you been reading lately??

Happy Monday!


I was in the gym the other with my buddy who I played baseball with since I was 12 or so. He’s always been bigger and stronger than me as well as being the better baseball players. From some of my recent posts, you know that I definitely want to get stronger, so I’m finding it to be a real advantage to train with him while we’re both home over the holiday break because he is motivating me to try and push myself by lifting heavier weights.

He also has an interest in training so naturally we discuss it quite a bit, especially since he is still training for baseball. Anyways while we are training together, we agreed to follow his team workouts.

One of the things he says his coach stresses is improvement — which makes sense; improve strength, speed, muscle mass, flexibility, etc should result in improved sport performance.

Nothing wrong with that of course, but should improvement be tops above all else. Should improvement trump training quality — in terms of execution?

Personally I’ve learned to be a technique guy. Sure I want my athletes to improve (or else I need to start looking at my programming if they aren’t), but the improvement is achieved by emphasizing quality over quantity. This goes back to the whole exercise needs to improve performance while minimizing injury risk, both short term (in the exercise session) and long term (injuries occuring in sport).

Just my opinion.


I’ll paint a hypothetical situation to start: artthm

An athlete has squats in their training session on a given day, but the athlete also has a history of knee pain with squatting deep. What can we do to still make sure the athlete is working all the big leg muscles in an integrated way?

Essentially there’s two options now:

  1. Have them perform squats with a limited range of motion (only go as deep as pain-free ROM allows)
  2. Switch the exercise: Full ROM deadlifts require less knee flexion ROM than full squats

    One option -- elevated handles reduce the need for knee flexion

    One option -- elevated handles reduce the need for knee flexion

I guess my question with number 1 is by allowing partial ROM are we a) still getting enough of a benefit and b) not promoting any further imbalance as a result of altering exercise ROM?

You might be able to tell that if given the choice, I would choose option 2. That way we are still ensuring maximum benefit from an exercise. Now this scenario could be drawn out further, but this level of depth will suffice for this post.

Something to think about…

I’d love to hear how other coaches or trainers deal with this situation — especially if anything changes when working with groups of athletes/general population vs. one individual.