No Rules Training and No Excuses

Before I say anything let me give you a friendly word of advice, never drink a can of Spike energy drink after 8 p.m.! It’s been a long day and I’m up at 2 a.m. looking like a damn rave junkie that popped an e-pill. At the same time, if you are an entrepreneur it could become your best friend.

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Just Get Strong(er)! Relatively Speaking….

I tend to observe athletes a lot nowadays, whether it is on the court or in the weight room. I have noticed that there are more and more weak athletes. When I talk to them, many tell me that they want to get stronger for a certain sport, yet they seem to use methods reserved for bodybuilding and putting on a lot of mass. Now there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with putting on more muscle but we have to make sure that the muscle is going to be functional and carry over to improvement in prerformance. What many athletes fail to realize that the primary goal should be improving relative strength (in quite a few instances putting on mass is a must also……and they do go hand in hand if you train right). Relative strength is the strength to bodyweight ratio. I will give you an example of two athletes as this will explain things easier:

Athlete A:  weight 250 lbs, 500 lb squat

Athlete B:  weight 175 lbs, 437 lb squat

In this case everyone would say that athlete A is stronger, which is true in a way…….he is absolutely stronger, but he is not relatively stronger. Athlete B can squat 2.5x his own bodyweight while athlete A can squat 2x his bodyweight, which shows that the former has better relative strength. I am pretty sure that athlete A has better performance on the field/court! So how come more athletes (and trainees in general) don’t use more relative strength methodologies? Most of it stems from myths and misconceptions that get passed down from coaches, trainers, even the “huge guy” in the gym, that have always done it a certain way so that is the way everyone should do it.

Olympic Rings

I would say that this is a good example of relative upper body strength. You may bench 400 lbs, but you sure as hell aren’t doing that!

When it comes to these situations I always advise for the athletes to start lifting in the lower rep ranges (heavier weights, 1-5 reps) so that their body can also start making neural adaptations through which they will become stronger and also create more potential for growth (when I mention that I know it should raise the interest for those that were looking at me crooked when I mentioned the lower rep ranges). That does not mean that you will be lifting strictly in the low rep ranges, as it is important to lift through different rep ranges depending on your sport and also the goals you are trying to achieve. That is why I love the conjugate method of periodiazation (Conjugate training means to “couple” - you are combining training methods to develop different abilities simultaneously, for example…..strength, speed, functional hypertrophy).

Another way of improving relative strength is by reducing body fat percentage and putting on some functional muscle which would in essence lead you to around the same bodyweight yet with more horsepower. I was discussing some nutritional strategies for athletes here.

Now I know some of you are thinking why should I put all this focus into improving my relative strength when my sport requires a lot of aerobic or anaerobic endurance, agility and/or power. Where is the catch? The fact is that maximal strength is the foundation for all the other attributes! For this explanation I will use an analogy from Eric Cressey’s (genius) Off Season Training Manual.

Imagine you represent two different athletes with an 8 oz glass (Athlete A) and a 4 oz glass (Athlete B). For the sake of this discussion, the size - capacity - of the glass is our maximal strength. In essence, the more strength we have, the more specific physical attributes (fluid) we can put in our glass. These attributes include power, strength, endurance and agility - all of which can be limited by insufficient strength.

This is a shortened version of the example but I hope that you get the point - improve your maximal/relative strength and stop lifting pink dumbells.

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Nutrition for Athletes

I am bringing up nutrition for athletes because I have been noticing that athletes are eating and looking like crap. I have been keeping track and more than half the athletes I assess have high body fat percentages and don’t really look very athletic at all. After some questioning I find out the one’s that are out of shape, do not know or care about what they put in their bodies. Maybe I should rephrase that, they believe somehow that as long as they play their sport and throw some weights around, it doesn’t matter what they eat. After a short pause, my response is usually ………WHAT?!

After calming down, I ask how serious they are about getting better at what they do and explain how important nutrition is for body composition and performance. You will notice that those two go hand in hand most of the time - especially when we are talking about high level athletics. Some athletes just want to know how to get a “six pack” and some want to take their performance to another level. Either way, whatever will motivate them to eat better and think about what they are putting in their mouth. For the performance oriented I will give this example to make them think about how much of a change lower body fat percentage makes:

Athlete A:  200 lbs, 18% Body Fat ………………. 36 lbs body fat, 164 lbs lean body mass

Athlete B: 200 lbs, 10% Body Fat ………………… 20 lbs body fat, 180 lbs lean body mass

So at the same bodyweight athlete B is carrying 16 lbs less body fat and 16 lbs more muscle. Who do you think is stronger, faster, more conditioned. I would put my money on athlete B, actually I would bet athlete B would CRUSH athlete A on the field/court. On top of that athlete B would look a lot better without his shirt on and have a more successfull summer with the ladies (if he is not a total idiot off course).

                                                       Olympic weightlifter     
                                                          Great performance & bettter love life

I am going to list some of the things I consider fundamentals of proper nutrition for athletes (also anyone that is serious about improving their performance and body composition).

Overweight athlete

How much better could he be with better nutrition?

1. Fuel Your Body for Performance. Eating enough calories to maintain strength, high energy levels and help recover from intense training sessions. If there is a need for fat loss then calories will be somewhat restricted (never below 20% of maintenance or 500 calories) but there will still be an emphasis on nutrient timing so that the body can recover from tough workouts and the athlete can maintain lean body mass.

2. Eating Enough Protein. I can’t emphasize how important this is. You should be eating ample amount of protein whether you are trying to lose body fat or build muscle. Protein has a high TEF (thermic effect), so we burn more calories digesting it as compared to carbs and fats, this is why it is a good reason to eat a higher protein diet when trying to lose fat. And we all know that protein is the building block of muscle so if you want your grandma to ask what happened to you over the summer then you better start eating at least 1 gram of protein per lb of bodyweight (200 lb athletes, min. 200 g of protein). Failure to consume enough protein is really throwing progress out the window. You choose.

3. Consuming Lower GI Complex Carbs. Carbs are also important but they are a little harder to properly implement than protein. Most athletes have a problem with eating too many refined carbs (any refined carbs is too many!), which means they have processed and drained of their nutritional value, the only thing being left over - sugar. When you choose carbohydrates, try to keep them as close to their natural state as possible. Choose foods like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, Flax or 12 grain breads, large flaked Steel Cut Oats, Yams, Sweet Potatoes, and bran cereals. Depending on your goals, amounts of carbs will vary. Let me repeat this again though, processed food will wreck havoc on your performance, feeling and body composition.

4. Up the Fat. Whoever has a smile on their face, this doesn’t mean go and eat fries and cinnabons. I am talking about essential fats, Omega 3-6-9. I would advise everyone to eat fish three times a week or more. Next time you are atthe store get some of these on the list salmon, herring, trout, sea bass and mackerel, as they are all good sources of Omega 3’s. I think that the majority of people should supplement Omega 3’s also just because it will be tough to get enough from regular nutrtion and many fish in stores are farm raised and do not have the nutrients that wild fish have. Omega 9 fats should come from olive oil, avocado’s, nuts and olives.

5. Eat 5-6 meals a day. If you want to put in muscle then you have to eat and eat frequently, so 5-6 meals a day are a must. Thing is, if you want to lose fat then this is also the way to go as more frequent eating will boost the metabolism and avoid the body from going into starvation mode and reduce cravings throughout the day and in the eveining.

6. Drinking enough water. We all know that water is essential to life, so why are we not drinking enough of it? If you put the soda (or fruit juices and coffee) down and replaced it with water you would be on the right path. When I say water I mean water - no substitutes. Water will help you eliminate toxins from the body, prevent many different health conditions, help in cell volumization, and help reduce body fat levels among others.

7. Take a Multivitamin. Micronutrients play a major role in many different functions in the body. These include such things as protein absorption, regulation of your heartbeat, hormone production, regulation of your immune system and much more. The majority of athletes are malnourished when it comes to vitamins and minerals and their performance suffers considerably without them even knowing the cause. Bottom line, take a good multivitamin/mineral formula!

8. Eliminate Junk Food. You didn’t see this one coming did you? This includes fast food, candy bars, potato chips, ice cream, cookies, desserts, pie, fatty cuts of processed meats and enough sugar to put a mountain gorilla into a diabetic coma. These foods have absolutely no nutritional value and it is wrecking your body from the inside out! Having these foods every once in a while is fine if you can control the craving but otherwise don’t keep them around you period.

9. Increase Fiber Intake. Most people are fiber defficient and I have found that athletes are not any better. I don’t want to overwhelm you so how about starting of slow and then icreasing the intake. Just by adding a cup of dried oats to your breakfast a few times a week, adding some vegetables to your meal plan a couple times a day, and throwing in a piece of fruit with your snacks can really make a difference in getting this fiber train started.

10. Use a Protein Supplement. The reality of eating 6 full food meals per day for most is very tough if not near impossible. But at the same time we can’t let our performance go down the drain because of life’s daily chores. One very easy way to get in all your protein requirements is to take in 2-4 protein shakes per day. This way you are still just eating your Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner like the rest of the free world. As I mentioned above, you need to get 1 gram per lb of bodyweight of protein/day, so the protein supplemets will really help you get up to that number (majority of athletes are not even getting half of that!)

11. Eat your Fruits and Vegetables. Your mother already told you that but now I’m telling you and you better step it up. They contain a wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals that are essential for proper body functions as well as performance. They also contain fiber, which if you read above is another thing that athletes are deficient in. Let’s not forget the all-important anti-oxidants that they provide to the athlete. Since most athletes are part of intense training, they need even more anti-oxidant protection then your everyday couch potato. This is because intense training can increase free radical production in the body.

I hope that these fundamentals shed some light on what your nutrition should start to resemble. Throw away your golden arches t-shirt that you got for being a loyal customer, re-read this list everyday and take your performance to another level starting with what you put in that machine - your body.

In the future I will elaborate more on nutrient timing and some more advanced nutritional strategies for the serious athlete.

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Constant NeverEnding Improvement



I need to get some bigger boxes for jumping because I had to resort to this….it’s the only thing that was 60 inches + though. Don’t do this at home kids (or anywhere else for that matter)

I have always strived to be the best that I can be and even surpass my potential. I look to improve everyday, and since I do not have the push from my basketball career anymore, I tend to push the limits of my athletic performance. I find out more and more about myself when doing so and I also become better at helping my clients achieve their results. On top of that I also believe that you have to walk the walk. My wife tells me that I am obsessed, which could also have a little to do with it!

I heard about Constant Never Ending Improvement (CANI) from Tony Robbins, even though I know it stems back centuries, as he stated that constant daily improvements compounded over time will yield incredible results. Think about how many little things you could do every day to improve your life. Remember, success and improvement are not destinations, they are a journey, one that is never ending……

Part of the reason I write this is because even though I have had ups and downs and obstacles, this month I have hit a lot of PR’s (personal records) in the gym. It was a culmination of hard work and consistency over a period of time that brought these results and not just a week or two of hard training. Here are some of the things I hit my personal best in the past month:

1. Trap Bar Deadlift     475 lbs

2. Foam Roll Bench Press  (so much for not having boards)      405 lbs   (that’s a 40 lbs PR!)

3. Bench Press      345 lbs

4. Tire Jump  (shown above in the video)       3   x  5     (60 inches)

5. Box Squat (low)          375 lbs

6. Front Squat          280 lbs  x   3

On top of that I have improved my conditioning significantly and also improved some bodyweight movements I was working on (planche, handstand push ups, etc….). All of these achievements really just make me hungry for more. I have already set my next goals and planned out the next 8 weeks of training. What are your goals? Are you striving for CANI? If not then leave what you are doing and do something that you are passionate about enough to want to improve every single day!

385 lbs board press

On my way to 405 lb PR

Let me leave you with a piece of wisdom from a book called The Creed of the Conquering Chief by Albert Lewis Pelton:

"From now on I vow I will try to act the part of a person TEN TIMES bigger than I am now, for by so doing, I construct greater powers in my own brain which will actually build me into such a leader. I refuse to longer be confined by the shadowy walls which heretofore have cramped me into a narrow sphere. From this day forth the word ‘limit’ is banished from my mind."


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Are You a Winner or a Loser?

There are many things that determine whether you are a winner or loser, attitude and commitment are some of the variables. Also, remember that winners also lose, but it is how they react to the loss that makes them winners.

While reading a book I came across some points about the difference betweeen winners and losers that really stuck with me. I hung this list above my computer and by my bed to remind me about these facts every day.

1. A winner says, "let’s find out"; A loser says, "nobody knows".

2. When a winner makes a mistake, he says, "I was wrong"; When a loser makes a mistake, he says, "It wasn’t my fault".

3. A winner goes through a problem, a loser goes around it and never gets past it.

4. A winner makes commitments and a loser makes promises.

5. A winner says, "I’m good, but not as good as I ought to be"; a loser says, "I’m not as bad as a lot of other people".

6. A winner tries to learn from those that are superior to him/her, a loser tries to tear down those that are superior to him.

7. A winner says, "There ought to be a better way to do it"; The loser says, "That is the way it has always been done".


Be honest and ask yourself who you are. Everything is life is choices and you can always change. Start doing things that winners do and you will become a winner! Now I am going to through another problem, maybe you should too…..

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Energy System Training

Today we did an Energy System Workout to deload from the previous heavier weeks and also to get back from some minor health problems that plagued a couple of the crew from the weekend.

I will outline today’s session in more detail:

Warm Up, Mobility, Activation and Plyo’s

- Y Squats, Overhead Lunges, Side Lunges, Leg Swings, Toy Soldiers, Static Hip Stretches, Inchworms

- Couple of sets of wheelbarrow walks, crab walks and sumo squat position bunny hops

- Got some RFD with countermovement box jumps on a 42” box, 5 sets x 5 reps

Box Jumps

Believe me I know it’s time to get some higher boxes, because this stacking thing ain’t cutting it anymore

Then we proceeded to put 25 minutes on the clock and complete as many rounds of the circuit of exercises, trying to keep rest periods to to a minimum (we ended up completing 5 rounds):

1a). Trap Bar Deadlift  x  6 reps     (315 lbs)

1b). MB Pushups  x  14 reps (alternating hands)

1c). KB Thruster Clean & Press  x   6 reps    (2 x 55 lbs KB)

1d). KB Two Handed Squats   x  10 reps    (72 lbs KB)

1e). Pull Ups  x  10 reps

We pushed the tempo but made sure that form was good even under fatigue. This training will definitely test your conditioning and strength and power endurance!

As if it was not enough we had a 5 minute rest break and followed up with 5 rounds (fast as possible paying attention to crisp form) of:

2a). DB Snatch  x   5/each side       (75 lbs)

2b). Blast Strap Pushup + Rollout    x    10/each

2c). Pistols (alternating)    x   5/each leg

This part took around 14 minutes and we were spent. None the less it felt great and I am feeling like next week we can start another 8 week cycle and keep getting stronger, faster and more unstoppable!

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Baseball Pitchers Shoulder Issues

I train quite a few baseball players and it seems that all pitchers have issues with the shoulder. The one’s that don’t are getting there.  Not many players pay attention to the fact that baseball is an incredibly uni-lateral sport and there is too much pithing volume in practice. Since I can’t change the coaches mind about the pitching, I make sure that each and every pitcher I train (and other overhead athletes as well) are doing these exercises:

- The Sleeper Stretch. Posterior capsule stretching in overhead athletes is a must. Research has demonstrated that glenohumeral  internal rotation deficit (GIRD) has a high correlation with overhead throwing athletes. This stretch should be included daily and you can seriously decrease the instance of injuries.


Sleeper Stretch

Don’t sleep on the "sleeper stretch"

- Soft Tissue Work. Getting work done on the adhesion in the shoulder can signifcantly improve shoulder function. This will come in the form of a foam roller or a lacrosse ball for the majority (most efficient as far as time and money is concerned). In this instance we should focus on getting in on the posterior shoulder girdle with the lacrosse ball and improving the quality of the tissue. If you have a chance I would definitely advise you to see an ART (Active Release Therapy), Graston or Rollfing specialist as they can be the most useful in breaking up the junk in your shoulder.

- Shoulder and Thoracic Spine Mobilizations.The thoracic spine (upper back) indirectly influences the shoulder, since it’s lack of mobility is related to shoulder issues. One of the best things you can do to improve upper back mobility is foam roller segmentals. For shoulder mobility I look to use cross lat mobilizations as they are very good for increasing internal rotation ROM of the shoulder.

foam roller thoracic extensions

 Thoracic Extensions - do them, and you might get more chicks


- The Band Pull Apart. This exercise actively stretches the pec and strengthens the upper back. Most baseball players need more shoulder stability and this is a great exercise. Don’t ask me about too much details - just do it.


band pull aparts

Band Pull
Aparts - If Jim Wendler does them you should do them too!


- Prone Internal Rotations. These are important for subscap function. Considering that our scapula is extremely important in stabilizing the shoulder this is a great exercise to help with injury prevention and shoulder health and improve shoulder flexibility.

If you are serious about keeping your shoulders healthy then you should definitely start implementing the above exercises and techniques into your warm ups and activation. Not only will this keep your shoulders healthier but it will also improve your performance.

There are other issues further down the kinetic chain that influence shoulder problems (we have to look at the body as one integrated machine) and we must learn to look elsewhere when we have injuries. I will touch on some of the other issues in a later post.  


The Shark Theory

The reason that I am writing this is because of a very bad bout of food poisoning this morning. I thought I would have to go to ER and I have been completely paralyzed for the majority of the day. I am thankful that it is much better but I will have to take it real easy for the next couple of days or maybe even the whole week.

This had got me thinking how much I hate not being able to be physicaly active. This is probably one of my biggest fears and I dread sickness and injuries because they prohibit me from doing what I love (a lot of injuries we can work around but that is another post). I feel that in many ways I am like a shark - if I stop moving I will die!  

So many times we take health for granted and it is only when something goes wrong that we say: "If I could, I would take better care of myself". This goes for athletes and people in general. When people have to start taking medications they always complain but it was their lifestyle that caused this situation (in most cases). Just like the athlete that has a season ending injury because he/she did not pay attention to correcting weaknesses and doing the extra things to keep themselves healthy.

So no matter what your situation is right now, you should pay more attention to your health and wellness because you will regret it when it is too late in many cases. So, try to keep the shark theory in mind - if you do not keep moving in a positive direction you will have issues. Take this into consideration with health,business and any other endeavor.


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Chaos Training

And you thought the tire by itself was chaotic!
What is chaos training? Let me first present what was defined as the “Chaos Theory” by Edward Lorenz in 1960. He suggested that when a small random change is introduced into the system, it causes a riple effect that can overwhelm and change long term behavior of the system. Henri Poincare later determined that unless these initial changes could be defined and measured, the outcome or deviation caused by these ripples could never be predicted.
So where soes this fit into sport? Well, sport by nature is dictated moment to moment by randomness and the athletes reaction to it. A small change in play, one step too late, a push from the side can radically change the ongoing sequence of events. The athlete must react with intuition and make decisions in a split second.
 So when it comes down to it the performance of the athlete is determined by how they react to these choatic situations, which is dependent on the adaptations and preparation from strength, skill and cognitive training.
Some of these training protocols may be to advanced for some athletes and there alwayshas to be an assesment that determines what the athletes needs to reach their desired goal. After certain things have been adressed and corrected then we add a chaos component to training. The majority of training means that we use up to this point include movement patterns that are predictable so we add exercises that will stengthen the athlete with random stimuli and bridge the gap between regular strength training adaptations and sports performance.
I have to admit that it was reading Jim Smith’s (one of the most knowledgable and creative coaches in the industry) work on Chaos Training that had me start using even more of the these methods and I have had great results with my athletes. They are improving on field performance and most of all staying injury free.
Above I am training with one of our upcoming football and track stars Armin Basic of Renton High School. We are flipping the 500 lb tire explosively with random resisitance from stretch bands. This is definitely chaotic and it is also great for bracing the core.

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Lift Strong

I would like to take the time out to talk about a cause that I am close to.

In the past five years I have lost both of my uncles to cancer and also many other relatives and colleagues. In both cases there was not much hope when they found out about it as had developed so far. There are many that have survived though, and that is because of the reserch and funding for it, that has brought new technology and ways to fight it.

One of the people that I look up to that has survived two bouts of stage IV cancer is Alwyn Cosgrove. Apart from being one of the top fitness professionals in the world (and he’s Scottish…….more bonus point’s), he is always about paying it forward.

In this case he has got some of the top fitness professionals the world over to write great articles (over 800 pages!) and put it on a CD. Let’s not mention that the information is great and it has a ton of value, but the most important thing is that a 100% of the proceeds go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

With the research being funded maybe there will be a cure or more effective treatments and your loved one’s can have a better chance.

In memory of my uncle Milan and my uncle Joze

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