Thursday, December 30, 2010

S&C Coach of The Year 2010

In case there was any question, it's Sal Alosi. Congratulations Sal.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Babies And Bath Water - Isolation Exercises

I had a nice conversation the other day with a good friend about the current anti-isolation trend in "functional" training. He mentioned that he was recently TOLD by a gym member that there was no reason to ever do isolation work - that compound movements were all anyone ever needed. ...sigh... As with many of these things, (like stretching, isometrics, partials, eccentrics, etc) we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, because there really is a precious baby in there.

Isolation exercises are extremely "functional" for the following:

When I was 18, I read (I think it was) an Arthur Jones quote that went something like "You want big arms? Train until you can bench 500, rows with 300, and do dips and chins with 100lbs strapped around your waist, and you'll have 'em!" I took that to heart and cranked out the dips and chins, benches and rows. No matter how much I gained in those exercises, it always seemed like the tank-top guy over there cranking out the curls and triceps extensions had better arm development... Bodybuilders get it. Men's Health guy gets it. Why don't the rest of us?

I shouldn't need to expand on this here - it should be obvious. If a person is suffering from injury, isolation work may be key. As a tool to stress and strengthen specific areas without unnecessarily stressing areas that need rest, what else is there? Yes, squats, pulls, and hill running will strengthen the posterior chain from the Achilles tendon to your iliocostalis, but are they your best options for someone regaining ankle and knee kinesthetic awareness, mobility, and strength? Probably NOT.

*Specialized Training
Consider a powerlifter who has just finished doing uber-tons of squats and pulls. If he needs to do some work for his VMO to maintain proper knee health, should he load up the barbell and crank out some close stance front squats, or would he be better off doing some backwards sled dragging, terminal knee extensions, or [EGADS!] some leg extensions? The correct answer would generally NOT be to add front squats unless this powerlifter has a goal of running himself into the ground with auxiliary lifts. Isolation will give the trainee a chance to bring up specific weaknesses with minimal inroads into recovery.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Shake Weight Trainer Certification

If you're looking for a late Christmas gift for yourself, look no further:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Looks like Christmas Day will not be a training day for me this year, but Christmas Eve certainly will be. Do you have any special training plans for the holiday season?

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Do Your Bells Swing High? Do Your Bells Swing Low?

So, on my birthday I was doing a kettlebell complex w. the 24kg that I've been doing off and on for a while - kettlebell cleans, jerks, and overhead squats. It's all done continuously without setting the bell down and pyramiding up as high as you'd ever care to. I did 1 clean, 1 jerk, 1 overhead squat, switch hands, 1 clean, 1 jerk, 1 overhead squat, switch hands, 2 cleans, 2 jerks, 2 overhead squats, switch hands, 3 cleans, ... to 8 cleans, 8 jerks, and 8 overhead squats. It was about 15 minutes of huffing and puffing fun.

I was hoping to get to 10 reps, but the garage was absolutely frigid and my baggy sweatpants were causing me all kinds of grief. I guess it's a generational thing, but I don't know how young people can stand to wear oversized shorts, or low riding sweats when training - I CAN'T STAND THEM. The sagging crotch affects how I hike the bell on cleans, swings, or snatches and so, lo and behold, after my birthday workout my lower back was in pain - it's my fault, yes, but I blame the sweats...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Skwat! T-Shirt Update

I have t-shirts (S, M, L, XL, XXL) - $20 each domestic, $25 each international (shipping included). Please send me an email to check availability and we'll arrange payment through PayPal.

Not to rush anyone or play the "limited availability" game, but after this week I'll take a break from t-shirt sales for a while.

Thanks everybody.

- Boris (

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Birthday Post

The Old Man and The Sea

I have a birthday this week. As I get older, I hope that, like Santiago in The Old Man and The Sea, I learn "many tricks". Not really tricks, but bits of knowledge and wisdom that keep you in the game, keep you grounded, and keep you focused.

Generally, I try to compose complete thoughts rather than throw out aphorisms, but hey, it's my birthday. Hopefully, some of these things will be helpful to someone - I wish I had known some of these things 20 years ago.

In no particular order, the obligatory "things I have learned/reminders to self" post:

1) There are training programs that are enjoyable to do, and training programs that are enjoyable to have done. If you are going to train long-term, you'd better find something enjoyable or, at the very least, something you don't hate.

2) Front-loading your training week is a good way to make sure you get your volume in.

3) Hill sprints are awesome work for... well, A LOT OF THINGS! Walter Payton did a lot of them - need I say more? (hill running at about 2:25)

4) Three really is a magic number. Three weeks is about as long as you really push. Three weeks of doing nothing is about as much as you can allow before your strength and conditioning start to really go down the toilet.

5) No one's entitled - no one.

6) Stretching is a great proprioceptive drill and stress reliever. Most people should be doing it more, not less.

7) Love = Responsibility.  To be responsible; to truly love, you have to be present physically, mentally, and emotionally. There's no such thing as irresponsible love - that's not love, that's immaturity and selfishness. People don't like to hear it, but it's true. Think about it. Choose to be here, right now, over and over again because, good or bad, it's all you got.

8) General a-holishness is one of the first crystal clear signs that I need a break from training. Unfortunately, when I'm in "a-hole mode", I don't listen to anyone including myself.

9) Humans are social beings. The worst thing in the world is to be excluded, or exclude others.

10) Everyone says "Oh, that's just a band-aid. Treating the symptoms won't cure anything" - don't listen to people that say this flippantly. The thing is that symptoms can kill you. Sometimes you have to treat the symptoms first to get to the underlying root causes.

11) Sometimes it's hard to be satisfied with enough, but that's all we really need.

12) I wish I could "eat through a plateau" the way I did when I was younger, but I don't think this is a good long term strength or diet plan...

13) "Recovery doesn't come in a can. Recovery is sleep." (Dan John)

14) Energy drinks are stress in a can.

15) You can't eat a "meal" at Starbucks, and there's no such thing as "gourmet" at a fast-food restaurant.

16) People's driving tends to mellow out with age and experience, so does their training.

17) When my squat was its strongest, I hurt myself slipping on the ice - not falling, mind you, just slipping. My body had lost its "fast gear". Specificity comes at a price. You have to sacrifice balance if you want to push the envelope, but there are very good reasons why sports have seasons - remember that when you want to push "just a few more weeks".

18) Five minutes is enough. Set a timer for five minutes and see how many total sets and reps you can get. It's not a met-con - don't kill yourself, just work steadily. Next time, see if you can increase the volume, or decrease the number of sets. This is called "density training" and it is a boon to the time-challenged.

19) If you travel with weights in the car, especially at highway speeds, please, please, please secure them.

20) Sometimes it's very nice to train in absolute silence. Try it.

21) The best tasting "Get Big Drink" I've ever made consisted of milk, vanilla ice cream, egg substitute, vanilla protein powder, ice, frozen fruit, and maccha thrown into a blender.

22) I've tried pancake mix, oatmeal, chunky peanut butter, brewer's yeast, and dessicated liver tabs in "Get Big Drinks"... I don't recommend them.

23) Chili won't make you popular in elevators, but it's a wonderful "bulk food".

24) Failure is not an option, but mistakes are essential.

25) A competent masseuse - find one, find the money, and find the time if at all possible.

26) My grandfather died of emphysema. Toward the end, getting out of a chair was a met-con workout. Learn to squat properly and then train and maintain your squat as long as you are able.


28) Shoulder carries with a sandbag, farmer's walk, plate curls, and cross-bench pull-overs are great exercises that very few people do.

29) The easiest way to get out of chair is to not sit down in the first place.

30) "In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice: in practice, there is." - Yogi Berra

31) Most of us should be doing more walking.

A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world." - Paul Dudley White, M.D.

32) Kids who tell me "I can't gain weight and I eat A TON!" are usually skipping meals (breakfast) and eating very little real food. Most adults who tell me "I can't lose weight and I eat LIKE A BIRD!" are usually drinking diet sodas, skipping meals, snacking, and binging when they finally sit down to a decent meal. Keeping an honest and comprehensive food log for a week or two would be enlightening for them both.

33) Stop asking me "Is it okay if I do...?". You don't need anyone's permission.

34) Most barbells in commercial gyms are crap - slippery chrome with non-existent knurling, sleeves that don't rotate smoothly, and low grade steel that will be whipping around your neck like Medusa's snake-hair as you step out of the racks with more than 300 pounds.

35) Not all goals are complementary. "I want to get BIG, STRONG and CUT." is not one goal, it is three. Being big is complementary to being strong. On the other hand, getting cut is not complementary in any way to getting big, and, unless you are too fat to get your arms around an atlas stone (for example), losing weight won't help you lift big weights.

36) Pull-ups aren't everything, but if you can't do ONE, then some things probably need to be addressed. Relative strength is sorely lacking. I've known All-American distance swimmers who could not do a single pull-up - they were not shy about saying they didn't feel it was relevant. Sometimes I wonder if they ever came to appreciate the relevance of strength as they got slower and slower every year.

37) Stress will ruin your posture, your breathing, and your mobility. We stress over this and that, and we stress about stress. We lose sleep because of stress and drink "stress in a can" to get us through more stress. Stress will destroy your mind and body. Stress can kill you.  Stress becomes a multi-layered smothering blanket if you can't or won't step away from it.

39) Competence begets Confidence begets Commitment. This is the natural order of things. Why would anyone want confidence without competence? That's overconfidence. It is good thing for both trainers and trainees alike to remind ourselves of this progression.

40) In a decade or two, many (most) of the gyms, certifications, and programs that are popular now will no longer exist. Think about that before you invest your time, sweat, and $$.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On Vomit...

I've worked with a few athletes over the years that have vomited during workouts. Some were caused by late night partying the night before, but often they could be attributed to one or more of the following issues:

*The athlete being pushed too hard, too quickly - the athlete being inadequately conditioned for the given training session
Make no mistake about it - this is a failure on the coach's part and there is nothing good to be gained from pushing a client to the breaking point unless you want to somehow drive home the point that late-night partying or pre-season softness will not be tolerated. Even in those circumstances, I don't agree with or recommend it.

*Poor pre-training eating habits
I think the pre-training meal is largely an individual preference, and what constitutes "proper diet"  can vary largely according to kind of training being undertaken, but there are certainly foods that "sit well" in the stomach, and foods that do not. If athletes are eating heavy foods in the hour immediately prior to intense workouts, that's trouble waiting to happen.

*Poor breathing patterns
Very intense training can cause a trainee's breathing to become spastic. Coupled with a dry mouth and throat, gagging isn't uncommon and if that persists, vomiting isn't far behind. Learning and drilling proper relaxation breathing patterns immediately following such exertions can go a long way toward avoiding "Pukey".

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Skwat! T-Shirts

If anyone would like to get a SKWAT! t-shirt for yourself and/or as a gift, I still have a lot left. I think size L will run out soon however. Shirts are $20 each ($25 each for international orders). If you're interested in one (or two or more), let me know via email ( and I'll get back to you about availability and payment.

Thanks everyone!

EDIT: More L-sized T-shirts are in!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Funny Look At Westside Barbell

I hope everyone around here knows that I am a Westside Barbell fan and have been for at least 10 years. But, the following video is quite funny - enjoy!

Thank you to Shaf for pointing it out!