Personally, for those of you who care about my personal affairs, I eat, on the main, two meals a day.
I eat a lot of eggs. I eat a lot of bacon. And I watch a lot of Matlock.
The two former keep me fit; the latter happy.
And I think, for those of you who care about what I think—which I hope there to be at least two of you—that with only a handful of exceptions, most people’s remediable health issues could be easily remedied by following a diet that contains no unnecessary meals and by eating meals that contain no unnecessary foods.
To keep this simple, let us say that an unnecessary food is any food that does not promote a healthy gut and a healthy hormonal response. To briefly illustrate this point let us rail against Goldilocks and her imprudent taste for porridge.
Whether the porridge be too hot, too cold, or just right, I don’t give a damn, because porridge is pointless, which is to say that there is nothing worthwhile found in porridge that can’t be found elsewhere for less carbs and less calories.
I will talk more on this some other day, but not today, because I’m frankly just not in the mood to talk about porridge. What I’d like to speak on is feeding frequency, and specifically address the question of “how often should we eat?”
The answer—out of respect for brevity—is not often.
Krampus eats only once a year and seems to be in fine form
I sing the gospel of infrequent feedings and fasting, because eating frequency (how often we eat) dictates whether we age like fine wine or a bin of fruit, and if you are interested, even slightly, in self-preservation, then you ought to generally eat less; and by less I don’t always mean less calories—although that is sometimes the case—what I mean to say is less often
The evidence supports my sermons. Pay attention now to how feeding infrequently slows the aging process and promotes successful aging
. Pay closer attention even to how eating less often, not eating more often, slays body fat
and surges natural human growth hormone
Now, if the business of burning fat and building muscle intrigues you, then promises of surging growth hormone should excite you. So Pat
, you might now ask, how many meals a day is ideal
? I’ll venture the suggestion that three meals a day is serviceable
, but if you want to be like me—which is to say (INSERT YOUR OWN COMPLIMENT HERE)—then eat two. For seven bonus points, mix in a full 24 hour fast in once a week. For twenty three bonus points, follow The Birth of a Hero
Now my critics, who customarily lack any sort of intellectual decency, will cry “blasphemy(!)” from the rooftops when they hear the ringing of this tune—as most fools from the prairies do when they find themselves in over their depth.
These folk are too busy with their forks to practice any sort of intellect, and are left with no other alternative than to subscribe to conventional wisdom, which holds that if you fail to feed every twenty minutes or so, that “your metabolism will slow down.”
There is no more a fatuous delusion than this, and my advice is that the ignoramuses that sing this gospel are best served ignored, as my evidence and experience blasts their buffoonery.
It had to be done. Not sorry.
Aside from chopping fat, food abstinence may also aid in constructing muscle—if you so let it, which is to say that fasting
, even short term fasting, improves insulin sensitivity
and potentiates the muscle building mechanisms, which in itself is to say that fasting makes it possible to gain lean mass more efficiently
What is more, is that fasting and reduced meal frequency seems to encourage the growth of new brain cells
. Is this to say that there is hope yet to elevate the collective IQ of the human race above 16? This I doubt, but fasting may prove to be a useful device to ward off the odds of developing Alzheimer’s or some other form of neurological hiccup down the line.
There is a crowd, and it seems to be a growing one, that bashes fasting, and they are, for the most part, a disorderly bunch of nincompoops. I have found that those who dismiss fasting, for the most part, have done so not because fasting doesn’t work, but because they lack the discipline to make it work.
This is a common theme amongst simpletons who yet again get in over their depth—to declare anything that is beyond their depth to be simply nonsense. Nonsense I tell you.Again, thank you for reading today. I like to talk about this stuff so please drop any questions or comments you have in the comment section
A Few, Brief, but Exciting Announcements
I have some exciting new launches planned for this month, so keep your eyes peeled over the next two weeks.
I have put together a full online 21 day body transformation program (nutrition and programming) for the new year, and thanks to the results of the recent Survey Monkey that you all participated in (you did participate...didn't you?), I have begun to compile a "Best Of" mini-eBook that I plan to launch before or around Xmas.
In honor of the Christmas spirit, I would like to give away one copy of each of my new products.
For a chance to win, just leave some love in the comment section. Or some hate, if you must.
I will choose two winners at random on Sunday evening!
I hope you all enjoy reading this post as much as I did writing it. If so, please be sure to share it with your friends and leave some love and your own suggestions in the comment section below!Oh, and don't forget to check out my new book Fitter, Happier, More Productive!
1. Don't eat sugar (except for some fruits and vegetables). Avoid man-made fructose as if it were the plague.
2. Don't eat any refined carbs. Absolutely no flour of any kind.
3. Don't eat grains. Beware of corn...
5. Enjoy green tea daily.
6. Drink plenty of water.
Not Vitamin Water. Just water.7. Under-eat during the day. Consume some light protein (whey - 20 to 30 grams) every 2 to 3 hours.8. Consume the majority of your food at night
(including your carbs).9. Learn to move and maintain proper posture.10. Workout fasted or have whey (20-30 grams) 30 to 60 minutes pre-workout. For recovery consume whey (another 20-30 grams) 30-60 minutes post workout. * Preferably all nature whey protein concentrate and from grass-fed cows.11. Eat an abundance of green, fibrous veggies.
12. Fast at least 1x a week. (nothing but water for 24 hours)
13. Cycle your carb-intake. Eat mostly very low carb, but 1-2 days a week you may have a "higher-carb" day. Sweet potatoes are cool. And they taste good.
14. Never eat a high-fat AND high-carb meal. That is why so many Americans are fat...
15. Enjoy cinnamon. (Great with black coffee).
16. Eat plenty of naturally high anti-oxidant containing vegetables and some fruits (berries are usually always a winner).
17. Eat nuts. But not peanuts (that's technically a legume).
18. Don't drink beer. Or any alcohol for that matter. And don't do drugs.
19. Go to bed early and get plenty of sleep every night.
20. Find a healthy balance of stress. Eliminating stress entirely is impossible and wouldn't do us any good. We need and thrive off of a certain amount of stress, but not an overwhelming amount. Take time every day to meditate. Chill out and pet a dog or something.
My puppy Lola. She's goofy.
[NOTE: The following is a rant from Pat Flynn. Please do not read if you cry easily, lack any sense of humor, or are downright unable to handle the truth.
However, If you consider yourself an open-minded and seriously awesome individual who wants the truth with no fluff, filler, or BS – then this post is for you!]
I love the freakin’ kettlebell. It is after all, my primary training modality. Is has always served me well – as a loyal and mostly obedient creature.
What I don’t love, and what annoys me to no end – is when folks try to tell me that the “kettlebell is just a tool” – like that actually means anything.
And no, it’s not just “how you use the tool that matters”. That fails to recognize that in some circumstances, certain tools are a hell of a lot better than others. It doesn’t matter how you use a hammer to dig a hole. Because no matter how you hold it or swing it; a hammer still flat out sucks for digging a hole. It sucks even worse for trying to drive a golf ball (especially if you already suck at golf…).
While I have a deep infatuation with the kettlebell, I have no problem admitting that it has it’s limitations, and that in some contexts it may very well be an inferior tool to use. That being said –any tool’s effectiveness is relative to the task you are using it for and the individual performing the task. In some cases one tool may be a lot better than another and vice versa. For now on anyone who says something is “just a tool” - is officially a tool.
The following are just a few of my observations on the effectiveness of the kettlebell for certain tasks (for MOST individuals):
The Kettlebell for Increasing Limit Strength
This all depends on the lift and the individual…
Is the kettlebell the MOST effective tool for increasing your limit strength on the deadlift?
Eh, not really. Especially when compared to a barbell. The swing and other dynamic hip dominant movements with a kettlebell may help to “fill in some of the blanks” and in turn up your deadlift. So in an auxiliary sense the kettlebell may be an effective tool to help increase your deadlift. But as a stand-alone tool, don’t expect to ever be able to pull as much weight off the ground as you would when training appropriately with a barbell.
Is the kettlebell the MOST effective tool for increasing your limit strength on the military press?
Arguably, yes. Not many folks, especially men of a lighter (and often leaner) nature cannot already press two 48kg kettlebells overhead. I’m one of those men. So for me (note: a huge deciding factor as to whether or not a certain tool is most appropriate will depend on YOU and your current abilities), the kettlebell is still an effective tool to use for working on my overhead limit strength – assuming I have a reason that I want to improve my overhead limit strength (but for simplicity’s sake, let’s just say that I do). Furthermore, in most cases, the unilateral nature and offset center of gravity of the kettlebell makes it easier to maintain proper shoulder position when pressing weight overhead than most other training implements. The barbell, in particular, is a nasty little bugger to get overhead without compromising some aspect of your form.
Is the kettlebell the MOST effective tool for increasing your limit strength on the Squat?
Comparing apples to oranges here. The kettlebell front squat, particularly the double kettlebell front squat, is a very different beast than the barbell back squat, and even quite different than a barbell front squat. If your goal is the squat the heaviest possible load – then the barbell will almost always trump the kettlebell. But like I mentioned before with the swing, kettlebell goblet squats and front squats may serve as a useful auxiliary lift to help “fill in some of the blanks” an in turn give a bit of a bump to your back squat numbers. Again, this will depend on the needs of the individual and it’s not to say that you can’t develop a strong squat with double kettlebell front squats. You most certainly can - and for a lot of folks, backsquats may be out of the questions or even entirely inappropriate depending on their goals. Like I said before, everything is contextual. It all comes down to what are you working for and what is most appropriate for YOU.
I could continue this list for any and all lifts – but I’m sure you can see where I’m coming from by now. In terms of being the most effective tool for increasing your limit strength on the big lifts, the kettlebell will typically (not always, but typically) fall short of the barbell. And it really all comes down to the fact that you can load more weight on a barbell then you can fit inside of a kettlebell. But then again, (playing devils advocate with myself) what about for somebody who is just starting out - who doesn't already have a solid strength foundation? Well, in that case, then the kettlebell may very well be the most appropriate tool to use. It always depends on the individual, and what it is that they are trying to achieve...
The Kettlebell For "Strength-Endurance"
I don’t understand why “strength-endurnace” has gotten such a stinky reputation. Yes, increasing limit strength will often spill over and increase your strength endurance and rarely is the reverse true. But, training strength endurance (higher reps) is quite effective for maintaining healthy joints and toughening up your connective tissue and passive structures. Furthermore, training “strength-endurance” leads to increased contractile proteins (myosin and actin) and increased efficiency of contractions (meaning you become more efficient at a movement)!
Don’t let anyone tell you that training strength endurance is “bad”. Bad in the context of freaking what??? If you are working on increasing your limit strength, it may not be the most effective way to train ALL of the time – but even when chasing maximum strength, many times an individual may greatly benefit from some strength endurance work. Everything is contextual. Nothing is ever just “bad” or “good”. Except for the “butterfly pull-up” that they do in Crossfit. That is bad. All the time. I don't care what you are trying to do - nothing is worth destroying your body over. Well, I guess that is just my opinion. But I'm sticking to it!
I mean, just look at it… (Thank’s to Chris Foehl for putting his rotator cuff on the line…)
And yes, the kettlebell is often a fantastic and unrivaled tool when it comes to developing strength endurance. I’m sure you are familiar with the kettlebell swing by now. It’s an effective tool/movement for learning how to generate power from the hips, as well as for training “strength endurance” throughout the posterior chain (the back and health of your spine particularly benefit from strength endurance work). Good luck trying to swing a barbell between your legs, and if you’ve ever tried it, then you know a dumbbell is wholly ineffective as well (especially once you start getting heavy with it).
The Kettebell for Fat Loss
I’m going to sort of reverse this one on you all a little bit. Let’s first start with what type of training is best suited (in most circumstances) for rapid and SUSTAINABLE fat loss – then discuss why the kettlebell lends itself so well to that type of training.
Ceteris Paribus (including “proper” nutrition) - in my experience (and I know more than just a thing or two about fat loss), metabolic conditioning via kettlebell complexes has been hands down the most best training methodology I have ever used for fat loss. It is both highly effective (moves you closer to your fat loss goals than most other methods) and highly efficient (quite economical with regards to how little time is actually required).
Really???Really. CLICK HERE
(and go about 1/6 down the page and watch the video) to learn exactly why metabolic conditioning is so ridiculously effective for fat loss.
: Yes! Another shameless product plug! You don’t have to buy my Birth of a Hero metabolic conditioning eBook. But it’d be sweet if you did – especially if you want to turn heads on the beach this summer, and help me feed my St. Bernard puppy Lola! Or, if you already have it, tell everyone else how much you love (hate, but hopefully in a “good-hate” kind of way) it in the comment section)
The kettlebell lends itself beautifully to metabolic conditioning, due highly in part to compact size of the implement and the fluid nature of the movements – which grants you the ability to seamlessly switch between muscle groups and energy systems. Can you perform complexes with a barbell. Absolutely. Are they as effective for fat? I don’t see why not! Are they as sexy? No.
I mean, look how good Chris Foehl looks as I put him through The Great Destroyer (one of the many harrowing complexes found in the Birth of a Hero
So what you really have to ask yourself is – what am I training for and what is the most effective approach to take or tool to use? You also have to objectively evaluate your current situation. A 575lb backsquat may sound like a sexy way to bulk up your quads (or entire body for that matter) – but are you really cleared and/or able to do a 575lb backsquat? Some say that heavy kettlebell presses with a controlled negative and strong focus on lat engagement will help build you a stronger pull up. I agree, but is it really a more effective approach than actually training pull ups?? I can tell you that the press has certainly helped my press (and to a certain extent my pull up as well - due to the synergy) – but it isn’t pressing that has been the most effective tool for helping me to develop my current goal of obtaining a one arm l-sit. It’s practicing the one-arm L-sit that has been the most effective tool for helping me develop my one arm L-sit. Sometimes it’s that simple. Sometimes it’s not.
Lola likes ice cream... (cheat day of course!)
PPS - Leave some love in the comment section. I may have a few swag bags to give away!
John sportin some COS SWAG
In the dark and nebulous years of my adolescence and training naivety, I would pick the brains of those with more know-how than I, with the intention to get smrt. It started in middle school. I’d hit the gym after school with the boys and love me some bicep curls and bench press. Yes, I too have seen the abyss…
But times have seemingly changed. For the better. I hope. On one such occasion, specifically the first year of my undergrad program, I had the pleasure of training under a professional power lifter. Not naming any names, sorry.
A little background. This power-lifter, around the age of thirty, was returning to school to finish his pre-med degree with the intentions of eventually becoming a surgeon… or maybe it was a sturgeon? I can’t remember. I was a young punk lifter (still am), and we both happened to be enrolled in an exercise physiology class that required us to lift in the athletic weight room 2x a week. I remember picking him out from the crowd during the first lecture, as he was noticeably older and substantially larger than anyone else in the room. After listening to the professor (who also claimed to be a former powerlifter) ramble on about neuromuscular activation (I’m like an elephant, I never forget), we hit the weight room. I kept a close eye on our friend the powerlifter. He crept over to the deadlift platform, and began to warm up… with 315lbs. Hmm. Two sets later he was at 550. Hmmmm. By the end of class he was repping close to 800lbs. The entire class watched in wide-wonder, most of the men feeling wholly emasculated, as he ripped 810lbs off the ground, making a rainbow out of the barbell. Upon completion of this outwardly superhuman feat, I thanked him kindly for putting my warm up weight on the bar. He laughed and we soon became friends.
Throughout the semester I acquired much knowledge from this man, even more so from him then from the actual class. I wish to pass some of the more significant lessons on to you.
In regards to size:
Now I know the stereotype is that most powerlifters are fat. This guy wasn’t fat. He was big, yet he was lean. Naturally I inquired as to how he accumulated such lean mass. Aside from his slew of “special vitamins” in which he confided in me about, his advice was some of the best I’d ever received in regards to the most effective way to put on muscle mass. “I’m bigger because I’m stronger”, is what he said. Brilliant. Beauty is often found in simplicity.
You see, it’s as simple as that. I heard a great analogy a while back; I believe it was from Master RKC Brett Jones, about strength being “the bucket”. Think of it like this. You go into Starbucks to order muscle mass. Now muscle mass itself, is the beverage, for our purposes we will say it’s their orange blossom green tea. Now strength, is the cup. So the question you have to ask yourself now, is which cup will allow me to potentially hold more muscle mass. If you choose tall, then you will be small. With Grande, you’re getting somewhere. Venti? Now we are talking. You see, the stronger you are, the more potential you have to put on size. Strength is the cup, and size is the zesty, smooth, and refreshing orange blossom green tea. The bigger the cup, the more tea you can hold.
So what if you want to get strong but not get big? Well, contrary to popular belief that you can get strong without bulking up, there actually comes a point where if you want to continue getting stronger, that you will have to eventually put on some muscle mass. That does not mean that this muscle mass will be puffy and Pillsbury-doughboy-esque. Rather, the mass you put on from pure strength training alone (emphasizing myofibrillar over sarcoplasmic hypertrophy), will result in hard, dense muscle. I faced this dilemma myself. Since size is not so conducive to my sport, which involves kicking people in the head. Yet, strength, speed, and power, are all conducive to kicking people in the head. Now I have size, and not because I trained for size, but rather it is a consequence of training for strength. So the size I have put on, is functional, and has enhanced my athletic performance, rather than have hindered it. So what I’m telling you, is that if you are in a sport where you feel size may hinder your performance, do not worry about it, so long as you are solely training for strength and power, rather than for a pump, then the size you will put on can only aid you in your athletic endeavors. But if you sport has weight classes, now that’s a different story…
That’s all for today cronies.
Look, I know this is quite a claim.
But have I ever let you guys down before???
The truth is, I think I've finally found the secret weapon of dog training. Seriously, what I have discovered may be the ultimate weapon of mass doggie disobedience destruction. But sh. I think she may be listening in. Let's just say that it rhymes with "Not Frog", if ya catch my drift...
Well if you know me, then you know I always claim that the proof must be in the pudding, so let's see how this works shall we?
I guess that just goes to show that what may sound good in theory, does not always necessarily hold up in practice.But let it be known, I have a plan B ... and just incase she's still listening in, it rhymes with "Hoona Prish".Should you have it in your heart to make a charitable contribution to the "Feed Lola an All Beef Hot-Dog Fund" - Then buy an eBook! Not only is your money going straight to Lola's insatiable appetite, but
chances are you'll get super strong and shredded as well. Not a bad deal huh?
Remember how great life was when you were a youngster? Completely uninformed and happy 99.9% of the time. Whatever happened to those days? Ignorance and bliss accurately are mutually inclusive.
Then somewhere along the line, things changed. You became conscious of your incompetence. In other words, you began to know all of which you don’t know. At this point bliss begins to dissipate, and dispiritedness rears its ugly head. You see, so long as you are unconscious of your incompetence, then you just don’t care. How can you? You don’t even know what it is that you don’t know! Your confidence far exceeds your abilities and you proceed along your merry way, down the trail of delightful unawareness, until finally that trail comes to an end and you eventually recognize all there is that you suck at, and all there is that you don’t know. This is when the game of existence transforms dramatically.
But you see, in order to truly gain knowledge and expertise in any subject matter, consciousness of your incompetence must be the first critical step you take. How can you possibly learn about something that you don’t even know that you don’t know about? I rest my case.
Once consciousness is gained, there are then two paths’ you can take. You can recognize your incompetence, accept it, and choose to remain incompetent, or you can work on becoming consciously competent. A prime example of this is in the realm of health and wellness. And this is exactly why personal trainers have a job. Because there is an enormous market of consciously incompetent people out there that need to be told how to exercise. These people know that they don’t know how to train themselves, accept their incompetence, and hire someone else (who is hopefully competent… eh, er, um….) to do the job for them.
The problem most people face when they accept that they are incompetent is a sudden drop in confidence and a sudden surge of intimidation. Realizing for the first time that there are so many others who are more competent than you, and that your abilities are limited, can be quite detrimental to one’s ego and self-esteem. If they so choose to let it be…
Instead, I encourage you all to seek out your incompetence’s, and rather than allowing your discoveries to put a fender bender in your precious ego, let them fuel the fires of your enthusiasm and amplify your desire to learn. Once you develop this mind set, the desire to continue to learn more and more may become somewhat of an addiction. I assure you this is one habit you will not want to break, and that will pay substantially in the long term.
As you obtain new skills, familiarity, and knowledge of a certain subject matter, you begin to shift from the dominion of conscious incompetence toward conscious competence. This is the stage when you are able to implement these new skills and abilities effectively into practice. You’re confidence will soar and you’re performance becomes increasingly efficient.
With enough practice, one may eventually enter the elusive kingdom of unconscious competence, which is when you don’t even know what it is that you know! Hmm. So what does that mean? Well, it denotes that your skills are now habits and that you are able to perform certain tasks without conscious effort. Take for example a lifelong martial artist, who has spent years and years refining his self-defense techniques. Now let’s say one day he is confronted by a mugger with malicious intent. The mugger sneaks up behind this seemingly innocent kung fu master and puts a gun to his back, but before he is able to pull the hammer, the mugger finds himself disarmed with the weapon now turned on him. The martial artist has spent so much time refining his skills that he needed not even stop to think about the actions he needed to take in order to disarm the mugger, but rather they were simply second nature to him. This is an example of unconscious competence.
Recognizing these “ladders” of consciousness and competence will aid you in your own learning experience, as well as lending to your ability to teach others. Below is the ladder, or sometimes referred to as the matrix, of conscious competence. Until next time, practice your squatting and swinging competence with the workout below.
Unconsciously Competent (You don’t even know what you know)
Consciously Competent (You know what you know)
Consciously Incompetent (you know what you don’t know)
Unconsciously Incompetent (You Don’t even know what you don’t know)
Pick a heavy weight for strength endurance or hypertrophy effort and don’t even think about resting until you are done with the entire sequence or unless you think that you are going to pass out or poo yourself. Because passing out or pooing yourself is no way to demonstrate squatting competence.
5 front squat
5 two hand swings
4 front squat
3 front squats
2 front squats
1 front squat
Go ahead and sit down. It’s time that we have a talk. And I know what you’re thinking…
You’re thinking why, and do we really have to? You think you already know all that there is to know about what it is that we are going to talk about, even before we talk about it. But guess what, you don’t even know what you don’t know that I know you don’t know about what we are going to talk about. Does that make sense? Thought so.
Look, I know you’ve already had this talk with your mom, your middle school teacher, and the Inner Harbor bus driver. But can you really trust the Inner Harbor bus driver? Let alone your own mother?
Hell, you may have even picked up a few neat tricks from one of those magazines that you hide under your bed…
So do you still really think that you know squat?
What about foot position? Did you ever think about how important proper foot position is to a safe, strong, and proper squat? I think about it everyday. All day. What I’m here to tell you is that you should squat with your feet straight ahead. And no, I’m not crazy. I know that most of you like to squat like ducks. But I got news for ya. We aren’t ducks. And I’m not alone in this school of thought. I have drawn my conclusions from influences from the works of Dr. Charlie Weingroff, Mike Boyle, Kelly Starret, and a handful of other really smart and super cool individuals.
So why should you squat with your toes pointed straight ahead? Because instability in the ankle will more times than not lead to an even greater amount of instability in the knees. And when you squat like a dock, with your feet angled out, the subtalar joint of your ankle, which is where that whole inversion and eversion silliness occurs, tends to be a pain in the ass (or ankle) to control, especially when handling a substantial load. What does this mean? It means that in many cases, when people squat like a quacker (ha), they will not maintain subtalar neutrality, but rather will roll their ankle into eversion and suffer that dreaded arch collapse. Not only does this suck for your ankle, but it can suck even worse for your knees…
You see, when that arch collapse occurs, there is a high probability that there will be a consequent valgus collapse (the inward buckling of the knee). Anytime there is a valgus force on the knee, you are unnecessarily straining the passive structures of the knee joint, specifically your medial cruciate ligament(mcl), anterior cruciate ligament(ACL) and your meniscus. If the circumstances are dreaded enough, you may even suffer the triage of “knee unhappiness” and damage all three simultaneously. I just witnessed this happen to a college lacrosse player the other day, when her right knee buckled in when cutting. Don’t wait until your pregnant…er, um, (sorry got my talks mixed up), I mean need reconstructive surgery to start taking this material seriously.
So what you need to consider is working stability form the ground up in the squat, starting specifically at the ankle. First and foremost you always want even weight distribution throughout the foot when squatting. This is for purposes of hitting the proper mechanoreceptors on the bottom of the feet (you know, the ones that send signals to our brain to fire our quads, hamstrings, glutes, etc), balance, and subtalar ankle neutrality.
So feet straight ahead, and stance should be about shoulder width. Now as you descend into the hold, think you are trying to spread/push the earth apart from your hells and push your knees out. You should feel the outside of your glutes engage (your abductors). If this is happening, that is a very special thing, because overtime a lot of people often lose the ability of their abductors (specifically the glute medius) when they squat, or they just don’t fire properly. Engaging those abductors and pushing those knees out will ensure that you maintain ankle neutrality, knee stability, and as Kelly Starret has stated, create torque.
When performing un-weighted squats its cool if you are in flexion. But when you load your squat, be sure to maintain a neutral spine and pack that neck in son. Dr. Charlie Weingroff has emphasized the importance of packing in the neck in regards to any movement that requires an ample amount of core stability. I agree with him in each and every regard.
Alright, enough typographical verbiage. Here’s a video. This is just part one of a series that is to be known as “The Squat Reformation Project”, which is my crusade to get humans to squat like humans, and leave the duck squatting, well to the ducks.
Now aren’t you glad we had this talk?
Let’s beat a dead horse.
The deadlift. Semantics have always prevailed in the past when attempting to define the perfect deadlift. So let’s take this from a dissimilar line of attack shall we?
To avoid paralysis by analysis – I will systematically dissect the deadlift, focusing on what is justly important, and weeding out the immaterial and insignificant nuances.
Let’s get right down to it, by clearing up what I make out to be frequently recurring topics of debate when it comes to the deadlift. 1. Is the deadlift a hinge or a squat?
It took me a while to finally come around and say this, but who the hell cares! There is clearly both a knee dominant and a hip dominant component to the deadlift.
How do YOU define a squat? Personally, I would say any hip hinging and knee flexion movement coupled with an angled tibia
(ankle flexion) is a squat, but that’s just me. There is no accurately defined set of standards as to what is a squat and what is a deadlift. And being a guy who believes there should be a set of clear standards for everything, I have found this to be quite frustrating – but at the end of the day, does the classification really matter? No, execution does. 2. Ok, fair enough. So how low should you set your hips?
Somewhere above your knees but below your shoulders – everyone is an individual (mechanically speaking), therefore everyone’s set up will look slightly different. 3. Shins against the bar?
Not initially. The bar should be set up so that it roughly dissects your foot in half, allowing for an ample amount of dorsiflexion in order for you to “wedge” yourself between the weight. 4. Look up, down, or at the horizon?
No. This is particularly important, and I will tell you why shortly 5. Chest over or behind the bar?
Bar should be under your scapula/shoulder blades – so yes, shoulders/chest may be over the bar.
Those are five, but undoubtedly not all, of the most universally debated topics in regards to the king of primitive movements. If you have any other questions that I don’t directly address in the next section, please post them in the comment section or over at the Colloquium
. Now let’s get down to what really matters when deadlifting… Neck/Head position
– I have talked and worked with deadlifting “experts” since I began lifting my sophomore year of high school, and the only consistent thing about how each of them approached head and neck position in the deadlift was inconsistency. Working with a professional powerlifter during my early undergrad years, there was one and only one acceptable way to set up your head and neck position for the deadlift– and that was to look up and maintain cervical extension in order to take advantage of our extensor reflex. The body follows the head right? Sort of…
Before I get into why that’s “less than optimal”, I then had to reprogram myself to fix my gaze on the horizon when I became an RKC. While I unquestionably felt this helped resolved a lot of low back pain and neck stiffness that I was dealing with, it did not completely alleviate all my symptoms.
Then I met Dr. Charlie Weingroff, who introduced me to the concept of “packing in the neck”. Now before I go on to tell you why this practice is “right”, I’m going to provide you with some soft science as to why the practice of cervical extension is “wrong” (quotation marks for CYA purposes)…
1. What happens in the C-spine, trickles down the rest of the spine. Whereas, cervical extension will lead to excessive extension throughout the rest of your spine – most importantly your lumbar spine (resulting in hyperlordosis). Now why is this a dilemma? Because one of the primary benefits of a good deadlift is the development of authentic lumbar stability – now this is achieved when pulling from, well… a position of authentic stability (neutral spine – maintaining natural lordotic and kyphotic curvature of the spine), rather than a position of structural stability (hyperlordosis/bony approximity). Who would have guessed?
2. As renown PT and strength coach Dr. Charlie Weingroff has stated, hyperlordosis and an anterior pelvic tilt results in bony approximity (bones moving closer together), which in turn inhibits your inner core stabilizers (transverse abdominus, multifidus, diaphram, etc) because your body has the hold up it needs from structural bony support.
3. Cervical extension loads the neck and inhibits deep neck flexors. This was exactly why I was experiencing such an annoying amount of tightness and discomfort in my neck after my heavy deadlift days. When pulling or swinging with cervical extension, the neck is now put under load- which leads to the inhibition of your deep neck flexors (sternocleidomastoid and scalenes). These muscles are designed for rapid changes in head position, not for supporting large amounts of weight. So unless you want weighty masses hanging off your C-4/C-5 region, which from experience I find to be quite discomforting, then cease to lift with C-spine extension.
To learn how to properly pack your neck in, head over to this page
to review Dr. Weingroff’s extensive post on this subject. Foot position –
We started at the head, now let’s take a look at the feet, then work our way up to the middle. And just to clarify, I am talking about the conventional deadlift, not sumo, or any other style.
So, for just about everyone, feet should be placed no wider than shoulder width apart and pointed straight ahead. That’s right, no duck stance. Poor mobility is not an excuse. The deadlift is a lift requiring an ample amount of requisite mobility. If you do not have the requisite mobility, then do not deadlift. Work on your mobility.
Knee issues are often a result of poor hip mobility, specifically internal hip rotation. As you descend into a squat pattern, your femur is designed to internally/medial rotate in order to maintain pelvis position. When lacking internal hip rotation mobility, the compensatory action is often a valgus and/or arch collapse and the (bowing in) destruction of your knee joint. Pulling from a wider stance/external rotation is only avoiding the problem. Work instead to correct/improve your restrictions before proceeding to the deadlift.
Further more, feet pointed straight ahead will help to pre-stretch abductors and get them beautiful gluteals firing a bit more. Back Position –
I would like to confidently assume that the most important aspect in regards to back position for the deadlift is to maintain our natural lordotic and kyphotic curvature of the spine. But you know what they say about those who assume…
Let’s take this one form the T-spine (specifically the scapulo-throacic joint). Aside from alignment neutrality, we want scapular abduction and depression before we initiate our pull. Meaning we want to pull our shoulder blades down and together, and to employ our lats (imagine trying to pinching something between your arm pits. This will assist with the transfer of force and to help prevent the bar from getting away from us as we pull. As a matter of fact, it is not uncommon for one to bloody up their shins when deadlifting. Now I personally think that is taking things a little too far, but you it gives you an idea that you should visualize pulling the bar up and towards you, rather than just up.
Heading down to the lumbar – again we want neutrality. No flexion or hyperlordosis (excessive arching). This is the region where stability is of the utmost significance.
Pelvis – I hate when I sound like a broken record, but the magnitude of this subject matter demands reiteration. Neutral, neutral, neutral. No anterior or posterior pelvic tilt please. Breathing
– Diaphramatic. Requisite Mobility
– As I stated beforehand, the deadlift requires a requisite amount of mobility in order to be performed properly.
1. Ankle Mobility – You need a sufficient amount of dorsiflexion in order to wedge yourself into position. Poor ankle mobility is often inappropriately compensated for by either elevating the heels/leaning forward, or relying too heavily on hip extension.
2. Hip Mobility – This is a biggie. Poor hip mobility leads to some rather tragic compensatory actions, the most dangerous being lumbar flexion. Your body is not stupid, it knows what it needs to do, and it will do what it has to in ordr to get the job done. So if hip mobility (flexion) is restricted, your body will mimic that pattern often times through lumbar flexion. Requisite Stability
– Mobility and stability are two sides of the same coin. Both are required in plentiful amounts in order to perform a safe, strong deadlift.
1. Hip Stability – Yes, your hips need to be stable as well as mobile! Add to my point above about how hip immobility can destroy your knees, hip instability is by the same token just as dangerous. Your hip needs to be able to prevent adduction in order to prevent stress on the knees. If your abductors and external hip rotators are too weak/unstable, then this must be corrected before ever attempting to engage in a heavy deadlift. Spend plenty time strengthening your glute medius. Don’t wait until after reconstructive surgery to pay attention to this…
2. Lumbar Stability – I’m done beating a dead horse… Long. Tall. Spine.
Enough talk. Here’s a video of a “better” deadlift. I know that the title says perfect – but that’s because I like catchy youtube titles. Perfect is just not going to happen. You can only work on being better.
PS – I covered a lot, but not everything. Post your questions below or over at the Colloquium
Chris Foehl Snatch Test
Chris has been prepping for his Philly RKC with me for about 2 months. This is his first attempt at the snatch test.
A few tweaks regarding hip snap and lock out and he's golden, but overall, not too shabby for an old man ;p and I'm incredibly proud of his progress.
( Consider this my thanks to all of those who bought my metcon
book - I can't think of a better way to express my gratitude :p )
Come one, come all, and bear witness to the most ballbreaking, arduous, and punishing kettlebell complex of all time!I assure you ladies and gentlemen that nothing is worse than this! At least not until I invent something worse.
..But without any further ado - I present to you - the MahFahka!
All These Jerks are Going to My Head
I overdose on Jerks. You should too.
When an individual is more receptive to information that reinforces their preconceived notions, regardless of whether or not that information is true, they are said to have a confirmation bias.
To put it more simply, if you suffer from a confirmation bias (which we all do at times), then you are more likely to seek out information that coincides with your beliefs, and cast aside any information that contests those beliefs. In some cases the confirmation bias can be related to sheer stubbornness.
This is a sad truism of human nature, but ultimately one that we must overcome if we wish to develop and prosper. A productive life is measured by one's prosperity. If we are not prospering, growing, and learning, then we are dying. To suffer from a confirmation bias inhibits our potential development.
Let's look at a few examples of how and when a confirmation bias may negatively effect our lives.
We will start in the framework of relationships. I’ll keep this one simple and to the point.
Boy likes girl. Boy wants girl to like boy. Boy has already developed a confirmation bias without even knowing it. Why? Because his emotions have gotten the better of him. He is now much more prone to accept only information that supports a conclusion of girl liking boy, whether or not that information be true or false. He is also now a great deal more likely to reject information that does not maintain the conclusion of girl liking boy. His perception is distorted through his confirmation bias. Girl may not like boy at all (she may downright despise him) and she may exhibit many signs of this that boy refuses to identify. Girl may not be good for boy, she may even be toxic in the long run. But boy is likely to ignore such signs as well, as they do not support the conclusion favored by his emotional confirmation bias. There may be another and much better looking girl living right next door to boy that is also much better suited for boy, yet boy will continue to ignore such facts for as long as his confirmation bias exists.
Relationships are the classical example of the confirmation bias. Many important aspects that are the foundation of a healthy and sustainable relationship may be ignored to a stern degree depending on the severity of one’s confirmation bias. Toxic and abusive relationships are often a result of a failure to overcome a confirmation bias.
But the key to a prolific life is to ultimately rid yourself of all toxicity. In the context of relationships you must recognize which ones to develop and which ones to sever. YES, certain relationships can and SHOULD be severed. I’m sure you can think about a friend, that despite how much you may have cared for him/her, he/she severely brought your down and limited your personal development. A toxic relationship is something that we all will come across at one point or another, but it how we choose to handle that toxicity that determines the end result. If we accept and surround ourselves with toxicity, then we inescapably become toxic ourselves. Unfortunately emotions and biases garble your acuity and often hinder your better judgment. This is where the ability to take an aerial view is such a crucial skill to learn. To overcome a confirmation bias requires that you place upon your head an objective thinking cap.
Moving on to the realms of fitness and nutrition, where I personally have struggled with many a confirmation bias. I recall the first time I was introduced to the ketogenic diet by my mentor Brian Petty. A low carb diet? PREPOSTEROUS! For years I followed a low-fat diet (Again, at this time I was a stubborn high school punk with a strong confirmation bias). For a while, regardless of the amount of information Brian provided me to support his theories behind a low carb lifestyle for optimal well being, I rejected it, simply because it did not support my emotional conclusion that fat was the enemy.
And Jogging isn’t the best way to lose weight he told me. Lifting weights are. I’m calling bs on this one! I’d been jogging for years, and although I was never very strong, I was fairly lean. So ultimately I only favored information that favored me. I wasn’t very good at lifting weights. But I was good at jogging. So I was more receptive to information that promoted jogging and aerobics as the end all be all.
I was stubborn. I was plagued with the confirmation bias, and I was suffering from it. For a while I was not prospering because I was too stubborn to let go of what I believed to be true, even though all the facts were against my beliefs. An unclear perception was my infection.
I was thin, but far from muscular. And what I wanted was the hardened and sinewy look of a Spartan. I took a long look at myself and my belief system one particular night. What I became conscious of is that my inflexibility bred my limitations. My stubbornness gave birth to personal restrictions. I knew I was born to lead a prosperous and fruitful life, yet my biases were so strong that I was failing to live up to my potential.
I came to know that if I were to grow emotionally, physically, and spiritually, then I must overcome my confirmation bias.
Admitting that you could POSSIBLY be wrong is the most difficult step to take. You must audit your belief system and evaluate any potential biases you may have. Uncover why and how you may have developed a confirmation bias, and it will be that much easier to over come it. Do you favor something because you are good at it? Or because it has worked for you before? Perhaps it has to do with your upbringing. The possibilities of how a confirmation bias may develop are endless, but if you are unable to understand why you are biased, then you will be incapable of conquering it.
As a preacher of lifestyle optimization and an exercise specialist, I deal with confirmation biases day in and day out (I still struggle with letting go of some of my own). I am not here to change anyone’s belief systems. That is on you. I am here to present information that you all may use to develop the architecture of an optimal lifestyle. Whether or not you are receptive to that information is your decision.
A Fireside Chat with Dr. Charlie Weingroff
Dr. Charlie Weingroff and I met a few weeks back. I was fortunate enough to have one of the most gifted physical therapists on scene when I suffered my pesky shoulder injury. Thanks in large part to Charlie's advice (which you will hear about in the interview), my shoulder is back to 100%. Realize that I went from not being able to mobilize my shoulder in any manner without excruciating pain, to returning to heavy sets of double clean press and my full strength routine within three weeks - pretty amazing stuff huh?
Anyways if you remember last weeks post about cervical extension, then consider this the answer to that question.
Please pay very close attention to what Charlie has to say ( you may have to take out a dictionary and anatomy chart in order to interpret a lot of it :p), as this information has the ability to alter your training philosophy for the better - should you choose to be receptive to it.
Aside from the topic of cervical extension, Dr. Weingroff and I also discussed:
1. His progressions for aerobic/anaerobic conditioning
2. His approach to improving rotary stability
3. Strength through the practice of movement
And Now For Your Viewing Pleasure
The amount of content I'm putting on this post is simply ludicrous. I could have saved myself a lot of work in the future by diluting much over this over multiple posts, but that wouldn't be as much fun now would it? Also, if you haven't signed up for our newsletter be sure to do that, otherwise you are missing out on a lot of exclusive content!
First up is a neat little upper body strength complex consisting of a vertical push, horizontal push, and horizontal pull coupled with core stability. I call it ... "The Upper Body Kettlebell Strength Complex with Vertical and Horizontal Pushing/Pulling" - less than stellar of a title I know, but the complex itself I assure you is not. Enjoy!
Maybe I do Need Medication...
As soon as I posted this video I received a comment informing me that I should be on some sort of medication - because only an ill fella would ever want to do something like this.
This may be true. But that doesn't mean this isn't a fantastic quadrupedal locomotive movement, especially for stability purposes.
Two New Technique Reference Vids - #Winning
The reception to my short technique reference videos was great, so I will continue to post content like that often. These videos are primarily around to supplement the material found in my kettlebell and barbell strength training eBook
(be sure to get your copy of the 120+ page behemoth).Here are quick tech-ref vids for kettlebell double clean and press and barbell front squat.
And Now for the Finisher!
EDIT: 6/25/2011 - Interview with Dr. Weingroff - Application of the kettlebell swing for conditioning