Archive for the ‘Barbell training’ Category




Lousy/crappy workouts, we have all been plagued by them at one point or another. In fact, sometimes we go to the gym or our workout area feeling good and come out greatly disappointed by our performance in that session. If you have ever had this happen to you, I want you to know that you aren’t the only one and you don’t have to take it personal. I would even dare say that if you workout you have three things guaranteed to you: taxes , death and an occasional sucky training session.



However, there is a way to better prevent this phenomena that leaves questioning your gains and worth as fitness buff, as if all of your awesome previous gains were delusion.

One you have to make sure that you are following some sort of periodized program. Due to our bodies ability to adapt and to prevent overuse of joints, etc. Failure to do so will often lead to the bottom falling out on your results. (More to come on how you can do that soon.)

This post is not about that specific topic but a way to get a glance at your physiology and to know whether or not it is time to kill it, lighten up the load or rest . You may be thinking that you couldn’t afford because it sounds expensive. But thankfully that is not the case, it can cost up to $50 for the accessory and the app can be free. The wonderful thing that I am talking about is heart rate variability or HRV.



As you know, I am a big believer that if you aren’t assessing you are guessing. So before this we used to go back how we feel as to whether we should train or not and it would end up being most of the time because our human physiology is a lot more complex than that. With HRV daily scans, scan get a look a that part of us and see how we ready we are to train and handle stress for each day.

It also can help us better lean our responses to certain foods, our rest needs , issues that are stressful and so-on. This of course will help you improve your health and fitness, due to your eliminating the things that are hindering you without your awareness of them.


Now, just be aware that this is not magic and requires a consistent daily scan and the willingness if necessary to not train hard or at all on a certain day due to what is going on in your autonomic nervous and immune systems.



Let me explain further the readings and what they mean.

It is a well known fact that stress affects us, but what is not a well known fact is that the overload of training is stress also. Which can also affect our health negatively, if we don’t manage  and recover from it.

HRV offers us an objective chance to view how well we are doing in terms of this need. It can show how the stresses of our life can affect our workout performance as well as our food choices (what and how much.) ,sleep quality/ needs  and so-on.



Now in terms of practical application, you take about two minutes in the morning and then you get a read out of green, which will be something like this:

This simply means that you are ok to train and will most likely not have a crappy workout.

There is also yellow:


Yellow as you could imagine can mean that you need to get in some breathing and other activities to balance out your system. Then a not so intense workout.



Finally there is red:

Which simply means that the day in which that reading was given is a day for mobility, breathing and a nice walk maybe a pooch will go with you.
So as you can see, if you tried to train hard on the last two days with not optimal readings you would have had what you would have called a lousy workout. That is why this post is called a simple way to avoid lousy workouts. So get the strap and spend a few bucks to do so, download an HRV app and get scanning each day to get going and to make serious progress in your fitness.



Wanting to fit in is a normal human desire and although it isn’t a bad thing in itself, it can influence you to be less than what you are meant to be. I don’t know how many times in the past, I have let this desire control what I said and did. As a result, I had regret and I may have robbed the other person of a chance to grow and improve. Now, I am not saying to correct everyone of every mistake that you may think that they are making or to do so without getting to know the first, but to do so when the time is appropriate and the need is really there.

There is also the need to hold on to ideas so tightly that no other information whether contradictory or even additional thought that is inline with the person’s current ideology isn’t accepted.

These two mindsets are a great way to get stuck inside of a confined space or inside of a box. You see, thinking inside of a box makes what you can do smaller, whom you can help lessen and makes your own world much tinier than it needs to be.

I am not saying to not have some guiding principles for life or for your training, I am simply saying to let those guidelines continually expand and evolve by learning from your mistakes, tracking each workout to see if what you are doing is working. Also have some sort of assessment to do once a month, that can objectively show you if it is. It can be measurements, inbody testing, movement screens one rep max testings, conditioning circuits that once killed and that you can now beat. Whatever fits your goals and that can help you get to the next level in your training.

Lastly when something new comes along get as much information about it as you can, critically evaluate it and make an informed decision on it even if it means that you must change your view and approach. If you do, you will begin to think outside the box and end up better for it!


Whoa! Before you go any further, take a minute or two to read the first post in this 2 post series. (Click here for it.)



If you have read it, continue on and read this post for some ideas on how to incorporate this fitness quality of control into a practical one; that will help you perform better and hopefully better prevent non-contact injury in sport.

Now before we start to get into how to achieve this benefit, I need to give a quick “science” rant to better help you understand what it is that you will be actually doing. That is using the neural-developmental model to better develop control of your body.

This is simply when a baby is born, they can breathe, grip, poop and eat. Then they begin to control their neck, afterwards they begin to roll from supine to prone (face up and face down.) and prone to supine. Following that is the process of crawling/ rocking. Then kneeling, squatting, assisted walking, then comes walking.  As they human continues to grow they begin to be able to run. Lastly we learn to skip and play sports etc.



As we develop we learn to control our segments in order to move on to the next step in the model and so-on. So in the same way that we learn to develop the first time, we can and should use to learn to learn control when we need to again and as we need to.

Not breathing well can lead to all kinds of restrictions in movement. Especially w moves such as: t-spine rotation, lateral flexion and so-on.
This drill below will help you re-learn how to properly breathe again.



Supine posture:
After you have spent a little time on breathing and have developed some reflexive stability an s a result, you will want to re-learn how to develop stability in this posture. These drills are great to see if you are truly operating on all cylinders or are you using your global (large) muscles for stability. Make sure to maintain breathing as you do all of these drills!





Rolling after supine comes rolling which in my mind is one of the most important drills that tone can do in helping better develop eccentric control and has great transfer over to rotational sports!





Cross pattern drills:
These moves involve crossing the midline of your body in order to develop better stability and control of the hips and shoulders.

Bird dogs:

We are familiar with this exercise form Pilates, yoga and Dr. Stuart McGill’s work. In addition to these awesome benefits of core stability and low back rehab/prehab. These drills also help you reach across mid-line of the body which works both sides of your brain simultaneously.



This movement is a progression into walking for babies, it helps them develop better core stability, strength and control for walking later on. For us it has a huge benefit to help develop better contra-lateral movement (opposite side) , can help with wrist mobility, develop better control of our trunk and so-on.

Watch the video v=below to see my little boy crawling around and don’t feel bad if you can’t do it as well as him yet. He has had a few months of practice!



This posture is the next step in development and multiple drills can be done form this position to better help develop core stability , hip shoulder separation in some moves done in this position ,glute activation and single leg stance improvement.





squats are also part of this process and are best learned as the first time form the bottom up. This drill teach you how to do that once again.



This exercise actually hits just about all of the NDM transitions and can be used to better help develop control if you treat it like it should be a tai-chi like exercise that you’ll need to own all the parts of!


Click here for more information on this exercise.

After all of these steps comes walking and running as well as more advanced things such as the list given below.

Loaded carries:

I wrote a bit about these awhile back click here to get them and to learn more…



Locomotion and control






Single leg arm exercise can have huge transfer over to function and also can help maintain all of the work that you have done in the earlier stages of this renewal of control. Use these as much as you can to help you build strength and further develop control.



Pistol squats





In closing we need to be able to control ourselves in order to have the quality of life that we want as well as to continue to make fitness gains uninhibited by poor movement quality and potential stops due to non-contact injury! So friends regain control once again and even get better!





In both my random and intentional thoughts on fitness, I have been thinking about the need for control a lot lately. As you may be aware, I train a lot of athletes form the age of 8 all the way into their fifties and the one common thread that I have seen in all of these age groups is a lack of control especially (but not limited to…) their lower bodies. They usually lack the ability to control their ankles, hips and knees and or all of the above and as a result may possible be more prone to injury. Now please be aware of the fact, that most of these people are not noobs and some of them have been “working out for their whole lives.”

As then as you can see just training for fitness may not in most cases be enough to help counteract these potential risk factors for injury. What then can we do to improve this needed factor?


To answer this question we have to first understand the role of the brain in this quality. The brain is the control center of the body in that role is the ability to control joints and movement patterns. This works by learning and experience, for example your foot learns how to respond to terrain by walking over it. When you hit a hole it will shift and try to protect your ankle and other parts. But this will only work if have hit a hole before. This is one example in way that the brain learns to control a joint or to stabilize from an outside force that could cause harm if it wasn’t dealt with.

Another example is when a baby stabilizes his or her should when they are picked up by their arm.


So what happens when the brain doesn’t do this important reaction?

Usually it leads to some kind of injury such as when a foot over inverts and ends up “rolling” the person’s ankle or spraining it as a result.  So you see that this type of control is very important for our health and performance, especially over a lifetime of fitness and or sports.

Being aware of this fact and the need for this type of control should lead to the question of how we can improve this neurological quality and to increase our ability to get long-term fitness results.

I will endeavor to briefly answer this question and then follow it up with some practical movements in the next post to help improve this needed control.

Training this quality is not that complicated and pretty much is done in the same way that you: build strength, muscle, power and conditioning. You train with specific moves in mind for quality reps over time to develop this skill.



You go from the floor as means to help you easier learn how to control your extremities. Then to more of a loaded spine position, all the way up to standing and choosing exercises that make you control yourself. In fact you can even do this with one move: The Turkish get-up.


This complex exercise takes you from the supine posture all the way up to standing with the added benefit of strength development, cross patterning, shoulder stabilization and mobility. It however, is not the only way to do so.

Then you will want to continue that process and add in some gait related simple to complex movements such as (but not limited to) marches, skips, hops and jumps.

As you do and focus on quality movement with fewer reps to avoid break down, you will help yourself develop better control of your body and possibly your joint health and freedom as a person.

Come back next week for part two if this post that will give you some videos and explanation how to work this process in you training and for some ideas how to put them in without neglecting your fitness goals!



Fitness in general has become a breeding pot for extreme ideas or so it seems to me. Throughout my 14 year career  I have seen and heard so many thoughts that just aren’t true or have been taken to harmful extremes. Now don’t get me wrong a nice thrashing once in a while will put some hair on your chest. (if you want it!) Also if you are getting ready to compete or do compete in a sport, then you will want to be a bit more extreme depending on what you play and do.


However, If we always get thrashed when we train you will not get to goals or at least be able to maintain the success that you have achieved so far. As a result, I am a big believer in doing the right amount of everything to get the maximum benefit. In spite of how much this reasonable mentality is catching on. most of mainline fitness thinks that one must kill themselves and spend every single free minute at the gym to get results.



I am here to tell you that it is not so, unless you are training for some sort of completion, you can do the bare minimum done well with the right amount of intensity and get amazing results. I have seen nothing good from being too extreme and going overboard. Setting p.r. s all the time, making too big jumps in weight too often, not owning a move for the sake of just trying to do more and so-on. Not only will these mind-sets eventually lead to the law of diminishing returns, but they will also most likely leave you “licking your wounds” on the sidelines while others who trained in a balanced way continue to progress!

I don’t know about you, but I have been there and it is very depressing and discouraging.




There is also the sort of going crazy over an nutrition program and thinking that you must perform absolutelty one hundred percent to see change . When that is not the case, again unless you are competing in a physique event, there is no need need to be an extreme dieter.

In fact the body needs balance and if you seek to continue to live this lifestyle over your whole life, being balanced can help you achieve that goal. So eat some “bad stuff” once in awhile, if you enjoy alcohol, have some and so-on. Just remember not to go crazy and to eat more whole foods than anything else and you will do fine.



Then there is also the extreme no nutrition, no exercise and self indulgent lifestyle and that is also destructive and can lead to major health problems and death. So this post is not saying to live that way either. It is rather exhorting us to find balance in what we do.

Train hard some times, go heavy, hit the conditioning hard. Work on mobility and satbility, eat well and cheat sometimes. Be lazy here and there and spend lots of time with your family. Just remember in everything that you do to seek and learn balance and if you do, you will be so much happier , healthier and get amazing fitness gains!!!!!!

After reading our last post on this subject, you have gained some insight into the why of our rotational program.  If you haven’t read it yet, click here to do so now, because I will be referencing some of those points throughout this post. This week’s post will also be the beginning of a programming to train this movement, especially for mobility and stability work to help improve the technique of human rotation.

As you are aware, the body operates in movement systems and have been imformed of the ones involved specificaly in rotation, commonly refered to as  slings. The one thing that we didn’t cover las time, was that these patterns are connected by a substance called fascia.

This is a web like substance that sits over our muscles and pulls them together throughout the body. So in addition to specific muscles firing to accomplish a task, this fascial pulling also goes on as well. Now this is a great thing and helps our bodies transmit force as well as helping us to stabilize , as we do so and  move in our sports or life.  Yet, it can also limit our performance in the same way that it can help it; in the case of an  individual muscle or muscle in a pattern being underactive.

As a result of the weakness of one muscle, another along the movement chain can become tight and overactive as well as it leading to restrictions in a movement such as rotation in this case.

In light of this fact, it would make sense that individuals with this issue would need to mobilize orrelease their tight muscles in this (or any) pattern and then follow it by strengthening the weak muscles that are causing the problem in the first place.

So the first question that we need to deal with is what needs to be mobilized and what needs to be stabilized and or strengthened?

First of all we cannot say with absolute certainty for every person without anevaluation/assessment like the one that we do here at Escape Medford that could identify the issues that the person may have and then a strategy on how to deal with them.

But this post will endeavor to give you some general ideas to help you improve your rotation and then to pattern it with better technique.

Our first step is to mobilize an area that many people are “locked up” in due to our seated culture. That is our Thoracic spine or mid-back. A lot of the times, we cannot rotate properly and transfer energy the way we should, due to not being able to move through our mid-backs well. As result we usually end up using not so good body parts for this movement pattern. (Elbows as in throwing, lumbar spine, etc.)

Use this drill below to help you begin to utilize your upper back to rotate better and to minimize your low back for this human movement pattern.

Once we have mobilized this area, the next step is to stabilize it; so that the new range of motion is maintained. We like to use the following move to develop this quality, especially for overhead throwers

After developing the mobility and stability needed for the move of rotation, we can begin to pattern it while standing, helping the athlete get better at their sport, whether it be golf, baseball, or any other sport that involves a lot of rotation and or overhead work.

Next week, we will continue this theme and teach you how to begin to use your new found mobility and stability to enhance your performance in your chosen sport and for your health.

One of my clients asked a a very good question the other day regarding training and if one can use volume to get strong. It was a very good question to ask and showed me that she is taking her training seriously and that she is open to learn.


I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you have been training as long as I have been; you would realize that most people have their preconceived notions that they are not willing to think outside of.


Of course they are the losers in this scenario for not being willing to learn and develop in new ways and become even more fit. Anyway that is a post for another time, so let’s get into today’s subject and a few different and useful ways to get stronger and even more conditioned.


2014-07-29 19.02.30

Volume and Intensity a user’s guide

This isn’t the type of volume that will make your neighbors upset, (unless you workout in an upstairs facility! ) but rather a former of accumulative training approach.

This usually involves lifting and utilizing lighter loads, as well as a lot if reps and sets. In this phase as a matter of my own preference, I usually like to use, kettlebells, sandbags, bodyweight, lighter dumbbells relative to the person and other modalities that can help the client be safer as they work out in this type of training. That doesn’t mean that I never use barbells, it just depends on the person’s experience .


During this phase or using this approach to me means that we are going utilize variety much more to prevent an repetitive stress injury as we train.


This is simply doing quite a bit of sets and reps of the movement that you have chosen, taking a not so long break in between sets and not doing very heavy loads as you do.



This approach is great for beginners and for those starting a training cycle due to the fact that it doesn’t beat up your central nervous system as much.



This is simply how heavy of a load that you are lifting and or the difficulty of the movement that you are training.


This approach requires that you do less reps and sets, take a longish break between sets. ( 3 to 5 minutes.) and as you get into really heavy weights (if you choose to) longer rest in between workouts especially with the same move.



The goal of the this type of training is to usually build limit or absolute strength and of course build muscle as you train.


How and when to use them: 

Both of these training approaches should be used in my opinion. One to develop high levels of strength to convert over to fitness qualities such as: speed, power, endurance and so-on.


However, this component will eventually lead to a burned out central nervous system, immune system and possible joint issues. So you will want to use volume sometimes and overall poundage to build strength as well.


This can help your body and brain recover form the stress of intensity while enabling you to keep progressing in your training.

So choose wisely and train both qualities to get the most put of your fitness, protect your joints and get results over a lifetime!


You are all very aware that I am a big believer in the usefulness of kettlebells coupled with good programming to help my friends, clients and followers get real fitness results. I am not saying that they are the only tool that one should use to train because I use multiple tools, such as barbells, sandbags, bodyweight and so-on to give the person the recipe needed to get lasting results.

(Matt. M getting his workout on!)

This week’s workout is a challenging kettlebell complex that will put some hair on your chest, build strength, give your heart a workout and be all kinds of fun. (if you are into that sort of thing!)

It is done by doing the following for as many quality rounds as possible with medium uneven kettlebells:  ( if you use a 16 kg for one side use a 14 for the other.)

5 overhead presses with the other bell in the rack position throughout.
5 squats
10 one arm swings
Then do the same on the other side.
Repeat this for as many quality rounds as possible.

Check it out here  and get going!




  • Do all of your sets and reps with quality form. Crap only produces crap!
  • Breathe by matching your breathing with each pattern
  • Rest as much as you need to and no more.
  • Tough it out while working out ( keep in mind the results)
  • Enjoy the fat blasting effect  and raised metabolism.Just for the holidays I have made my Kettlebell series half off! Click here to get it and swing your way to fat-loss in the new year!

The overhead press is an often feared move in the fitness world as an other move can be depending on the person that is using it or teaching it. As with most other exercises it doesn’t have to be this can be a movement pattern that can and in my opinion should do to develop strength and work capacity as you train for better and higher fitness levels. This doesn’t mean that every single human being alive today will be able to do it without pain even if adequate mobility is present and proper mechanics are used and if that is the case for you, lateral raise, front raises and push-ups are fine to develop strength for you.

The definitely is the exception and not the rule, so the rest of us can follow these progressions and variations for their pressing pleasure! So let’s get going and getting stronger!


Half kneeling/tall kneeling:

Bottom’s up:


Barbell Variations



One arm press:





Sandbag shouldering:


Body weight variations:

Hand stand/ pike progression:


Enjoy these exercise friends and get stronger in the overhead pressing movement!

Perfection is an interesting concept, we all realize that we are not it if you are in touch with yourself and if you do think that you are you are deceived and possibly very insecure. Now the realization that you are imperfect should not leave you feeling powerless and hopeless, in fact it should make you excited for the endless possibilities to learn, grow and improve in all areas of your life from: relationships, career and so-on. I will be the first to acknowledge that learning new stuff isn’t difficult and often painful, but avoiding this truth will lead to you getting nowhere fast and becoming ineffective before you know it. So just to end this rant, seek and pursue perfection. But realize it is out of grasp and even if we did somehow manage to achieve it, how can we really know if it truly is perfection?!

Another idea where people feel that there is a perfect standard is in movement. A lot of times exercise and rehabilitation professional foolishly assume that there is no such thing as perfect movement and try to cram people into their box of ideological fallacy.

This group of people believes that their standard will somehow stop the injuries that happen in people due to poor exercise form and overuse. Yet, their clients are often the most “banged up” and it could be different if they did not assume that everyone should look the same, as well as respecting the law of individual differences.

Now this post is not saying that there are no rules for safety and performance when it comes to training and exercises. It is simply saying that there is safe form not perfect form. The goal of this post is to give you a standard for that form, which is simply, competency as well as some of the consequences of forcing our movement ideals on all. What should be corrected and finally to tie it all together with a bow and send you home being better for it!

As I stated earlier, there is no such thing as perfect movement; however, there is competent and safe movement. Safety comes as a result of not overtaxing a joint in the movement pattern and doing that overtime which could lead to injury in the exerciser. This means that you should have proper mobility and stability in the movement to keep you safe as you do it. The joint by joint concept shown below can help you visualize this as you look at it.

Also here is an example of this concept at work in squatting, the low back should be stable or long, the t-spine needs extension, the hips mobile to get in the best squat for you. You need ankle dorsi-flexion and plantar-flexion to do it well and of course your head shouldn’t bob around like Quagmire!

So in light of the last paragraph, you see the need for things to be move adequately in order to perform this task of loaded or unloaded squatting. If one aspect has an issue, it can lead to overuse in another and an overuse injury somewhere along the chain. If that is the case, our cues are not enough to fix the problem and the problem at hand should be corrected in a way that results in better movement by the individual. E.g. a restricted ankle needs to be mobilized in order to squat better.

In light of those issues that can put the exerciser into a bad position as they train there needs to be allowance for the individuality of the person and their anthropometry as they do any exercise. In fact, there may be things present in the person’s movement patterns that you feel are ugly. But that is how the person is built and just the way it goes and maybe there is a need to switch to different variation of the same move. E.G. dumbbell bench press over barbell.

Now also be aware that there is the possibility that a person may stand a tiny bit uneven in a lower body exercise and also be ok. I would in this case try to correct it, if their movement profile says that they are ok and then be open for feedback from the person as to how they feel while doing the move. If they feel weird or if they have pain there may be a chance that they have two different hip joints (the ball and socket and need to be allowed to be a bit uneven in their stance.

Depth in a move also may vary from person to person and trying to force a person deeper in a move such as a squat may lead to a whole lot of health problems down the road. So have your ideas just recognize that everyone is different and should be treated as such.

In conclusion, I hope that you realize that better is better and not to aim for some false ideal of perfection as you train others if you are a trainer and if you are a fellow no trainer fitness buff, don’t let anyone force you into an uncomfortable or painful position in the name of some outdated philosophy. Be free to do you even if it bothers the anal exercise form person. Take the time to get assessed to see if you have any issues that need correction and practice safe form as you train. Most of all keep on rocking and get fitter as you train to be the very best that you can be!