Saturday, July 31, 2010

Really, Is This A Surprise?

USA Today Online Article: Study: The Longer You Sit, The Shorter Your Life

Is this a surprise at all? Do we really believe that a few hours of working out ("training" if you prefer) per week is enough to undo our sedentary lifestyles? Americans, by some measures, average 28 hours of television viewing per week. On top of this, consider that many Americans spend their working hours sitting.  If we are conservative, let us then figure 30 hours of television and internet, 30 hours of desk work, 10 hours of seated dining, 5 hours of driving time, 2 hours of "bathroom time", and 5 hours of "after hours", that's 82 hours per week of sitting. In other words, of 16 waking hours, nearly 12 hours every day are spent on our butts. No wonder we don't have time to go to the gym, we're too busy sitting!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Maya Garcia of The Ice Chamber

A video tutorial on the one-arm kettlebell push press from Maya Garcia of The Ice Chamber in Richmond, California.  I was lucky enough to meet Maya, her husband Steve, and some of her teammates a couple of years ago at a kettlebell competition - they are certainly serious competitors! She and her teammates keep a kettlebell blog, featuring many interviews and videos about kettlebell sport at

In this video, Maya describes how to properly hold, rack, and push-press a kettlebell. Enjoy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

"SKWAT!" - Works For Deadlifters Too!

David Dellanave recently received his Skwat! t-shirt and, as soon as he put it on, felt strong enough to rip a 20 pound personal record deadlift off the ground!

Actually, David has been making great gains using the Gym Movement protocol with Adam Glass and company. In a nutshell, the Gym Movement Protocol is about using mobility tests as biofeedback to determine what exercise, load, tempo, volume is appropriate for you in a given training session. 
Generally, a training session using the Gym Movement Protocol would look something like this:
*Perform a movement "baseline test" (such as a toe touch) and stop at the point where you begin to feel tension
*Perform a set of an exercise
*Re-administer the initial test and comparing to baseline performance. If mobility improves, then the exercise is a good one for you to do this training session. If mobility deteriorates or stays the same, then you should try a different exercise or variant (and retest)
I've been experimenting with the protocol in my own training. Have I "drunk the Kool-Aid"? Well, I hope everyone knows me well enough by now to know that, aside from time, persistence, and mindful effort, there are few things I have "blind faith" in. I still have questions, but I am enjoying seeing how things play out for myself and others.

For more information:
Grip and Rip Review (April, 2010)

Squatting With "The Pad"

It is dogma. Simply dogma.

Seriously, are you really any more of a man (or woman) if there is nothing between you and the whopping 135lbs of weight bearing down on you? Does the "maxi-pad" (as many internet bad-asses call it) make squatting worthless? A manta-ray, like the one pictured above, is secure to the bar and allows people new to squatting to have one less thing to worry about. 

Squats of all kinds are great - you just have to understand them. A manta-ray squat places the bar in a very high-bar position and thus requires a more upright squatting style. As long as that is understood and accounted for technique-wise, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the manta-ray variant.

Avoid these...

On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of styrofoam tubes with a nylon and velcro covering. I believe that the padding on the bar reduces proprioception - you can't "feel" the weight until it gets pretty heavy, couple that with a slick nylon covering and the possibility of the bar rolling down your back is greater. Not something I'd ever want to risk unnecessarily. A towel is not any better either. If you are in need of some kind of padding (for whatever reason) and you have a choice, go with a manta-ray, or safety-squat bar, or Dave Draper's Top Squat.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Past Performance Does NOT Predict Future Outcome

"The Black Swan" is a very interesting book. Lots of things to think about. You'll hear people getting mileage out of Nassim Nicholas Taleb without  referencing "The Black Swan" directly but (IMHO), if you've read a strength and conditioning blog post about logical fallacies or confirmation bias over the past couple years, it's a pretty good bet they've read this book.

The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable: With a new section: "On Robustness and Fragility"
...the Problem of Induction or Problem of Inductive Knowledge (capitalized for its seriousness) - certainly the mother of all problems in life. How can we logically go from specific instances to reach general conclusions? How do we know what we know? How do we know that what we have observed from given objects and events suffices to enable us to figure out their other properties? There are traps built into any kind of knowledge gained from observation.

Consider a turkey that is fed every day. Every single feeding will firm up the bird's belief that it is the general rule of life to be fed every day by friendly members of the human race "looking out for its best interest," as a politician would say. On the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, something unexpected will happen to the turkey. It will incur a revision of belief.

...Let us go one step further and consider induction's most worrisome aspect: learning backward. Consider that the turkey's experience may have, rather than no value, a negative value. It learned from observation, as we are all advised to do (hey, after all, this is what is believed to be the scientific method). Its confidence increased as the number of friendly feedings grew, and it felt increasingly safe even though the slaughter was more and more imminent. Consider that the feeling of safety reached its maximum when the risk was at the highest! But the problem is even more general than that; it strikes at the nature of empirical knowledge itself. Something has worked in past, until - well, it unexpectedly no longer does, and what we have learned from the past turns out to be at best irrelevant or false, at worst viciously misleading.

- The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable: With a new section: "On Robustness and Fragility" (pp. 40-41) 
Ever heard these?

"I'm going to go back to doing good mornings [or Smolov, etc, etc, etc...], because the last time I did them, my squat numbers skyrocketed."

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

"I don't understand what went wrong. I did EVERYTHING THE SAME AS BEFORE!"

Yeah, me too.
Change is inevitable. All things are impermanent. Even if you want to do the same program to get the same results you got before, you could be disappointed because you are not the same you. This is a tough pill to swallow. We think that past performance is a good predictor of future outcomes, but we know that it's not true because car accidents, the stock market, and drilling rigs tell us it's not true ALL THE TIME. We know that things change. Sometimes, "if it ain't broke" means "it ain't broke... yet".

Monday, July 19, 2010

Experience & Truth (Osho)

Zen: Its History and Teachings and Impact on Humanity (Pillars of Consciousness)

Once a beginner asked a Zen master, "Master, what is the first principle?" Without hesitation, the master replied, "If I were to tell you, it would become the second principle."

The first principle cannot be said. The most important thing cannot be said, and that which can be said will not be the first principle. The moment truth is uttered it becomes a lie; the very utterance is a falsification. ...the truth cannot be contained by any word whatsoever. The truth can only be experienced. The truth can be lived, but there is no way to say it.
The word is a far, faraway echo of the real experience. It is so far away from the real that it is worse than the unreal because it can give you a false confidence. It can give you a false promise. You can believe it, and that is the problem. If you start believing in some dogma, you go on missing the truth. Truth has to be known by experience. No belief can help you on the way; all beliefs are barriers.

...Beliefs are cheap. You can believe and yet remain the same. You can go on believing, and it doesn't require any basic change in your life pattern. It does not require any change in your consciousness, and unless your consciousness changes, the belief is just a toy. You can play with it, you can deceive yourself with it, but it is not going to nourish you.
Visualize a child playing in the garden of his house, playing with imaginary lions, and then suddenly he has to face a real lion who has escaped from the zoo. Now he does not know what to do. He is scared out of his wits. He is paralyzed; he cannot even run. He was perfectly at ease with the imaginary, but with the real he does not know what to do.
That is the situation of all those people who go on playing with beliefs, concepts, philosophies, theologies. They ask questions just to ask questions. The answer is the last thing they are interested in. They don't want the answer. They go on playing with questions, and each answer helps them to create new questions. Each answer is nothing but a jumping board for more question. The truth is not a question. It is a quest! It is not intellectual; it is existential. The inquiry is a gamble, a gamble with your life. It needs tremendous courage. Belief needs no courage. Belief is the way of the coward.

...Truth surrounds you. It is in the air, it is in the fragrance of the flowers, it is in the flow of the river, it is in the green leaves, it is in the stars, it is in the dust, it is in you. Only truth is! But you go on avoiding it and you go on asking questions. How to attain the truth? Where is the map? Which way is it? And even if the map is given to you, the map does not help you in any way. In the first place, the map cannot be given, because the truth goes on changing. It is not a stagnant phenomenon; it is continuously changing. It is alive; it is breathing. It is never the same; it is never the same for two consecutive moments.

- Zen: Its History and Teachings and Impact on Humanity (Pillars of Consciousness) (pp. 86-90)

What does ANY of this have to do with training? Well, occasionally I have to remind people that a key component of mastery is EXPERIENCE (and the time it takes to acquire it). If you want to be good at squatting, for example, I can give you tips and templates; I can answer every question, but nothing, absolutely NOTHING will take the place of time under the bar. You have to put in the reps. "It is a quest! It is not intellectual; it is existential."

It is experiential. There is no way around it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gray Cook's New Book - Highly Recommended

Gray Cook's book Athletic Body In Balance is an amazing piece of work. It's one of those books that the more I read it, the better it gets. If you're a coach or a trainer, it is a must-read. Gray Cook's second book,  Movement: Functional Movement Systems, will be available from later this month and I will be buying it, and I would highly suggest you do the same.
Excerpts from Gray Cook's new book, are up on Dave Draper's IronOnline Strength & Conditioning blog:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blogs Of Note (Part I)

I don't usually plug other people's blogs here and I should because there are some fantastic writers out there. We all know Dan John of course - but, linked on the right hand side of your screen are a handful of S&C people that are worth your time.

Today, I'm presenting three that you could visit, look through the archives and very easily spend an enjoyable hour or two reading. Look to these blogs for inspiration, entertainment, knowledge, and, at times, even confusion and frustration (which can be good medicine too). They are my recommendations because they are never boring and always, always thought-provoking.

Josh Hanagarne, The World Strongest Librarian, keeps a wonderful blog that is filled with book reviews, guest posts, inspiring videos, and the occasional strength and conditioning post. He recently wrote about his Experiences With Russian Kettlebells - although my experiences with kettlebells are a little different, I find his assessments dead-on for the brands I'm familiar with.

Aaron Friday keeps a blog entitled "Aaron's Blob". Aaron just does not mince words. I had lunch with him and his wife in September after an RKC and it was one of the most delightful lunch conversations I've ever had. His blog often turns to economics, handguns, and good music. He recently wrote about Time Control and it is classic Aaron.

Master of Sport, Catherine Imes, doesn't update her blog often enough, but if you have any interest in kettlebells, and especially kettlebell sport, then her blog is a must read. It is entitled "Getting Comfortable With Discomfort". Her most recent entry is Different Roads in which she makes the very convincing case that strength is, indeed, a skill - a lesson that people seem to remember and forget and remember and forget...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Training For 7/13/2010

Tonight, I did some fast paced snatches, "kettlebell thumb presses" (an idea from Tom Corrigan, I believe), and "Twist Yo' Wrist" work. Pretty good despite a tweaky lower back and I'm feeling confident that with some solid training over the next month or so I'll be in decent shape for the IKFF Nationals on September 25th.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

SKWAT! T-Shirts

I apologize for the artificial scarcity I seem to be creating. I swear that is not my intention - I simply prefer to have some control of production so a bunch of crappy t-shirts don't get sent out, and I can only have so big a batch made at one time. Right now, I have enough shirts that, if there's continued demand, I'll try to keep up.

Anywho, if you're interested in a SKWAT! t-shirt or two, they're $20 each. All are Royal blue Gildan 100% cotton. I have sizes S-XXL. Send me an email and we'll arrange payment through Paypal.

Thanks everyone.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Cross Bench Pullover

When I was 15 years old, I was a competitive swimmer who loved to lift weights. I was looking for exercises that could carry over to the pool - the cross bench pullover became one of my go-to exercises in the weight room. Since then, I've noticed that, outside of the super-squats program, it is rarely a recommended exercise.

I never really understood why this exercise fell out of fashion. I suppose that some genius hooked up some sensors to a bodybuilder's chest, realized that it wasn't making the pec swole, wrote a few articles for Flex, and that was that - an exercise that used to be an absolute staple among bodybuilders and pencil-necks alike who wanted to add inches to their chest size was now regulated to the status of "old school odd lift of questionable value".

The cross-bench pullover is a great exercise. Its value lies in the stretch it provides for the lats, the ribcage, the shoulders, and the t-spine. It can be done strictly with less weight, straighter arms, and greater stretch, or it can be done loosely with more weight, more elbow bend, and less range of motion - either way, it's an exercise worth revisiting.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Just Because You Can...

Let me just say that I admire this girl's moxie. BUT, there are many lessons we could extrapolate from this photo. Here are a few:
* Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
* "Don't do that" can be advice that's every bit as useful and constructive as "Do this.."
* Nietzsche was wrong. That which does not kill you does NOT necessarily make you stronger.
* Jump Stretch Bands are awesome and should be in everyone's gym.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thoughts On Diet

Not that long ago, I was talking with a group of people about what I believed an athlete could or should be eating. At the mention of "oatmeal", the crowd grew restless. Later, I realized that "oats" didn't fit in with the neanderthal diet that many of them were following at the time.

I've mentioned this before, but diet isn't something I choose to overthink. But let's ponder this; if one were to simply look at oatmeal from a caloric perspective, is it really so awful? Do these people EVER eat junk food? It's a rhetorical question, because I'm pretty sure they do at least once in a while.
I ate a King-Size Reese's Peanut Butter Cup the other night without even thinking - I'd have to eat about three or four BOWLS of oatmeal to take in the same amount of calories (I'm pretty sure I can't do that without even thinking about it). A can of Coke, for example, has zero protein, 39 GRAMS OF SUGAR, and significantly more calories than a bowl of oatmeal and people are making grains out to be the culprit???

The thing that irritates me the most about the diet-pushers is that, instead of teaching people how to re-love healthy and natural food, they are teaching people to restrict their dietary choices to the point that they will have no choice but to repress urges that, unexamined, will resurface later. As those urges return, so will the weight...

Let's assume an active lifestyle with as little sitting around on our asses as possible (it's a big assumption for many Americans, I know). I believe that...

*a varied diet
*as few highly processed foods as possible
*generous (but not ridiculous) portions
*plenty of vegetables with almost EVERY meal
*very little sugar
*meals four to five times a day
*no or little eating too close to bedtime
*go light on the caffeine
*really, really light on the booze more than enough for most people to be much healthier than the average American. Will you be "ripped"? Maybe not, but I'm guessing that neanderthal man, given any choice in the matter, wasn't ripped either.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"Faster" by James Gleick

I teach a course on cultural perspectives and issues occasionally. One of the items we discuss is how time is viewed by people from various cultures. Americans, in general, have a very fixed view of time - things are either on time, or they are late. There is little "gray" when it comes to time for monochronic Americans. "Can I meet with with on Friday? Well, let me check my schedule and get back to you."In contrast, some other cultures have a more flexible view of time - there is always more time, like the air we breathe. Many of us are familiar with "Spanish time", or "Arab time", or "African time", or "insert culture here time". Polychronic cultures value people over time and this is why they cannot understand Americans insistence to "get down to business" before getting to know one another.

According to one of our guest speakers, the direct translation of an African language word for "wristwatch" is "tic-tock god", which makes absolute sense if you can imagine an African watching a European (or American) look at his watch, show visible anxiety and then scurry off to do the watch's bidding.

It's interesting stuff. What does this have to do with training? Well, maybe nothing, maybe everything. Forcing progress before proper foundations have been laid can be disastrous - we all know that. On the other hand, sometimes life does not give us the luxury of time, regardless of our personal
views on the subject - as I've said before, sometimes slow and steady is just not fast enough.

No conclusions, just thoughts and I'll leave you with some words from James Gleick (author of Chaos: Making a New Science - another good book):

Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything

Sociologists in several countries have found that increasing wealth and increasing education bring a sense of tension about time. We believe that we possess too little of it: that is a myth we now live by. What is true is that we are awash in things; in information, in news, in the old rubble and shiny new toys of our complex civilization, and - strange, perhaps - stuff means speed. The wave patterns of all these facts and choices flow and crash about us at a heightened frequency. We live in the buzz. We wish to live intensely, and we wonder about the consequences...

...marketers and technologists anticipate your desires with fast ovens, quick playback, quick freezing, and fast credit. We bank the extra minutes that flow from these innovations, yet we feel impoverished and we cut back - on breakfast, on lunch, on sleep, on daydreams...

...We humans have chosen speed and we thrive on it - more than we generally admit. Our ability to work fast and play fast gives us power. It thrills us. If we have learned the name of just one hormone, it is adrenaline. No wonder we call sudden exhiliration a rush. "Your life is lived with the kind of excitement that your forebears knew only in battle," observes the writer Mark Helprin.  And, "They, unlike you, were the prisoner of mundane tasks. They wrote with pens, they did addition, they waited endlessly for things that come to you instantaneously, they had far less than you do, and they bowed to necessity, as you do not. You love the pace, the giddy, continual acceleration." Admit it - you do! Still, you have not truly explored the consequences of haste in our culture and in our daily lives...

..."Time is a gentle deity," said Sophocles. Perhaps it was, for him. These days it cracks the whip.

- Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything (pp. 10-13)

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I've been keeping a notebook for years now. Ideas, sketches, meeting notes, quotes, memos, shopping lists, references, recipes; just about everything gets thrown in. Many of the ideas eventually make their way into posts here at Squat Rx, sometimes they are for training myself or others, and sometimes they just sit there waiting.
Clockwise (from top): "decomposing kettlebell", Charlie "the bellhead" Brown, 

Kettlebell in Shadow, Kettlebell Ninja, Mr. Kettlehead

Josh Hanagarne (aka The World's Strongest Librarian) suggested that we "do a coffee table book of our doodles and make our fortunes" - sounds fun but I don't know how much of market there is for kettlebell head Charlie Browns...