Thursday, December 22, 2011

Short Days and Long Nights - What I've Been Up To

Things around here have been busy and I'm sorry that writing for the blog has taken a hit. Work is always frantic this time of year, isn't it?

*Minimalist training is always a good idea, but there's can be a tendency when overwhelmed to rationalize "trimming the fat" from our training to the point that we are doing almost nothing. Sometimes, less is not more - sometimes, less is just less. I'll be revisiting some of my thoughts on minimalist programs.

*Easy Strength - It's great! I will give a more complete review soon.

*Gray Cook's FMS: Applying The Model To Real Life Examples (DVD) - Looks amazing. I will be reviewing this soon as well.

*I recorded an audio lecture about squatting for the Drapers. It's a new medium for me so it wasn't as smooth as I would have liked, but I think there's some good content in it. I'll let everyone know when it's available at Dave and Laree Draper's site.

*I have some Skwat! t-shirts in. Quantities are limited, but if you are interested in purchasing one (or more), send me an email or PM. Shirts will be $25 each (shipping included). This time around, I'll be putting profits towards Mile For Mandy, Andrew Read's efforts for The Jodi Lee Foundation, and back into fund-raising for charities that help tsunami victims.

Thanks everyone!

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Squat To Watch

A 320kg squat brought to you by Behdad Salimi, the new world record holder in the snatch.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

No Classes At The Gym

Maxim #33

BARBELLS. DUMBELLS. THE BENCH. THE TREADMILL. That's it. That's the list of authorized gym equipment. No giant rubber bouncy balls that look like they've been stolen from Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. No thigh masters. And above all else, your trip to the gym may not involve a class.
You're not quite sure what happens in those so-called classes, but they seem to include lots of spandex, lots of pink, and lots of women writhing on the floor like they're auditioning for a Christina Aguilera video.
You view these classes with deep suspicion, lumping them in the same category as cricket, ska music, and imported cheese that doesn't need refrigeration. The one thing you know is that each class has only one guy. And it's not you.
Five classes you want no part of:

(1.) Cardio Kickboxing. You like the idea of kicking something... as long as it's to crack a dude's ribs or bust down a door. Granted, if you were in Will Ferrell's truth tree (the one in Old School with the little birds), you'd concede that you've never kicked anyone - much less broken down a door - but you understand, instinctively, that kicks are reserved for violence and bloodshed, not opening up chakras.
(2.) Pilates. No man's exercise should focus on "centering." It shouldn't be about your core. Exercise must involve powerful, brutish, injury-inducing motions that build raw muscle. You might be tempted to infiltrate the women's class so you can be that "sensitive guy." Good idea. Here's a better one: pretend to use the same gynecologist.
(3.) Yoga. (See MAXIM #36.)
(4.) Step Aerobics. Like Rocky, you frown on precise, sophisticated training that can just as easily be performed outdoors. If you want to climb steps, you'll sprint up and down the bleachers, dammit. If it gives you pneumonia or shatters your ankle, so be it. Better to get fat and injured honorably than get trim, healthy, and attractive the wrong way.
(5.) Pole Dancing. No.

It always begins the same way. You're having trouble hitting the gym on a regular ("regular" meaning more than twice a baseball season) and your buddy tells you about this awesome class that toned his abs, dropped his weight, and ripped his delts. You're intrigued. You remember what it was like to have abs, all those many years ago. You're not quite sure where your delts are, but you know they could be a little bigger. So you go for it.
Once you're in, you're in. Soon you're signing up for "Abs boot camp" (boot camp is for the Army, Navy, Marines, and nothing else) and "Jazz Aerobics." You drink wheat-germ shakes. You start matching your workout tops and bottoms. (You've long since stopped calling them shirts and shorts.) And none of this strikes you as weird.

This is a gray area and somewhat controversial, but you are allowed to join a cycling class. True, it's better to do this alone - on a real bike on a real road - but if you absolutely must take a gym class, you may save face in this torture chamber. Why's this different? Because there's nothing patronizing or emasculating or gimmicky about it: the goal is to sweat. And sweat and sweat until you're Ted Striker from Airplane!

From The Maxims of Manhood

Friday, November 25, 2011

Vasily Alexeev RIP

When I was very young, I used to watch Vasily Alexeev lift on ABC's Wide World of Sports. He was the last international weightlifting superstar.

534.5 pounds Clean & Jerk

I wish I spoke Russian - this looks pretty good!

ABC's Wide World of Sports Intro

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Who doesn't like to watch strongman contests? Fun stuff. The cooperative lifts (loading and log) were really interesting in this contest.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Christmas List For 2011

Rudolph, I bought you a brand new squat-rack for Christmas!

The local easy-listening radio station has already started playing Christmas classics, so I've decided to put this year's Christmas shopping suggestions out for everyone a little earlier than usual. As always, I've tried to include items that work with a range of budgets.

Chalk - $12.95 + S&H
This is one of those supplies a lifter could always use more of...

Dan John's "Mass Made Simple" (book) - $19.95 + S&H
I did a review of this product here. If you have someone in your life that, despite their best efforts, can't put on muscle mass, then this book is for them.

Pulling John (DVD) - $24.99 + S&H
Arm wrestling is one of those very primal strength sports that every meathead enjoys doing, or at least watching. John Bryzenk is a arm-wrestling champion for the ages and this video documents his attempt to stave off young bucks trying to dethrone him. The DVD looks fantastic and it's on my personal list for Santa this year.

Easy Strength (book) - $39.95 + S&H
I reviewed an advanced copy of this book by Pavel and Dan John and it was great. Research and anecdotes, and Dan John and Pavel talking shop - what more could you want? I ordered a paperback copy late last week and I can't wait to read the final version.

4' x 6' x 3/4" Rubber Mat - about $50/mat at your local farm supply store
Most of the stuff online seems overpriced, but if you are looking for affordable, durable floor covering for lifting, this is what you need. Put  a layer down on top of concrete and unless you are dropping Olympic medal-level weights from overhead with regular metal plates, your floor is probably safe.

Dragon Door 1.5 Pood (53lbs) Kettlebell - $118.75 + S&H
I have kettlebells from 10lbs to 88lbs, and I still use the 1.5 pood for most things. For me, it's not so heavy that I dread using it, and it's not so light that I need to wonder if I've worked hard enough. Most of the time, it's "just right".

Rouge 2" Axle Bar - $125 + S&H
I bought one of these this year and I've enjoyed it. I generally lift light with it, but friends have loaded it up to 400lbs and put in some reps with it and it's held up just fine.

Dan John's "Intervention" (DVD set) - $129 + S&H
I reviewed this DVD set here. Folks, it really is great. If you are a strength and conditioning coach, or a trainer, it's a "must-have". Yes, I've said that before, but it's more true for this product than any other. Get it if you can. If you can't, borrow it.

Shopping Lists From Previous Years:
Holiday Shopping List 2008

Holiday Shopping List 2009

Holiday Shopping List 2010

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011

RIP Andy Rooney

I was always a huge Andy Rooney fan. When I was a young kid, we'd eat Sunday dinner at my grandparents house and, seated in the living room with our "TV trays", we'd watch Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and Disney. Sandwiched between those two kid-favorites, was 60 Minutes - I didn't watch the news segments, but I loved Walter Cronkite and Andy Rooney as much as the adults.
If Andy Rooney had been a blogger or tweeter, he would have been one of the best. His writing was clear and concise, humorous with a point and a lesson, often moving.
The following is one of those pieces that you read now and think to yourself "This guy's a genius!!!". At least I do. Thank you Andy for all the wonderful wit and wisdom you've given us over the years.

The Andy Rooney Upside-Down Diet
   The biggest sellers in any bookstore are the cookbooks and the diet books. The cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food and the diet books tell you not to eat any of it.
   The quickest way for a writer to get rich is to write a diet book. A cookbook is more difficult. With a diet book all you need is one bad idea and a lot of statistics on what has how many calories. If you want to make the book thicker, you put in a whole series of typical meals that adhere to your idea.
   As someone who's been eating too much all his life, I think I'm as qualified to write a diet book as anyone, and as a writer I'm twice as ready to get rich. Not only that, I have an idea. My book would be called The Andy Rooney Upside-Down Diet Book.
   My theory is based on the idea that the average overweight person has to change his eating habits drastically. The overweight man or woman has fallen into a pattern of eating that is making him or her fat, and the only way that person is going to lose weight is for him to turn his eating habits upside down.
   The appetite itself (I'll say in the Foreword to my book) is a strange mechanism. Our stomach often signals our brain that it's ready to have something sent down when our body doesn't really need anything yet.
   As I understand it - and you don't have to understand things very well to write a diet book - the appetite is depressed as the blood sugar level rises. The trouble is that the blood sugar level rises slowly as your digestive processes start taking apart the food you've consumed, so that you can still feel hungry for quite a while after you've had enough because your blood sugar level hasn't caught up with your stomach.
So much for theory. Here, in brief, is my diet. You'll want to buy the book later, I imagine.
   Basically, what I'm suggesting you do is reverse the order in which you eat things at a meal, and change the habits you have in regard to what you eat for what meal.
   Forget cereal, pancakes or bacon and eggs for breakfast. We're going to start the morning with a bowl of chicken soup. Chicken soup will serve a dual purpose. It's nourishing, not fattening, and because it's a hot drink you won't need coffee. If you don't have coffee, you won't need sugar. No one is going to be tempted to put sugar in chicken soup.
   The beauty of the diet - and I want them to make this clear on the jacket of my book - is that you don't have to deny yourself anything. Eat absolutely anything you feel like eating. The magic of my diet is in making sure you don't feel like eating much.
Before dinner many of us consume what we call appetizers. Don't take appetizers off your diet if you like them, just don't eat them first. In our Upside-Down Diet Book we'll be laying out more than one hundred weight losing model meals. A typical breakfast might consist of half a grape, a bowl of chicken soup and plain butter, no toast.
   Lunch might consist of ketchup, a Fig Newton, two Oreo Creme Sandwiches and lukewarm Ovaltine. In other words, Eat All You Want, but Change What You Want.
   Your main meal will be dinner. Classic cuisine has called for an appetizer first, soup, a fish dish, meat, vegetables and potatoes, followed by cheese and then dessert. We're going to ask you to shake that up if you want to lose weight.
   Each of our Upside-Down Diet meals will start with a bowl of ice cream or a chocolate eclair. Follow this with a small fish dish or oyster, clams or shrimp with a chocolate sauce. This will have the effect of raising your blood sugar level abruptly, and by the time the main course of oatmeal, corn flakes or Fruit Loops with buttermilk comes, you might not want any at all.
   I don't want to be greedy, but after the book is published I have high hopes that it will be made into a movie.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


If you have the time, I highly recommend this video. It is about the test for 8th dan (eighth degree black belt) in Kendo. I have met prefectural champions, national-level competitors, and high-ranking practitioners of Kendo - have the chance to speak with them was always educational and fun. Of all the martial arts in Japan, Kendo and Kyuudo, are among the very few that have managed to maintain their traditional roots with regard to commitment to propriety, respect, and discipline.


"120 Second Battle Of The Spirit"

P.S. - Thank you Gin Master!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Law of Diminishing Returns

Let me be honest and say that, in my first year at college, I didn't learn a whole lot in the classroom. I was too busy with athletics and doing things I shouldn't have been doing to get overly concerned about something like book-learnin'. There were a few moments and lessons, however, that still stand out and I distinctly remember the grad assistant who led our discussion group for Intro to Microecon talking to us about the law of diminishing returns and marginal utility as applied to beer and (chewing) "gums".

Simply put, the law of diminishing returns is this: the more you "consume" the less and less benefit you derive until, eventually, it begins to affect you adversely. For example, if you decide to start lifting weights, initial benefits from a thrice weekly program reap you great rewards of improved appearance, increased vigor, and reduced stress. Excited by this, you start training four times a week, but the benefits do not rise in direct proportion to the added time. You bump up the training frequency and volume until you are training daily (and sometimes twice a day)... training starts to become an addiction; a chore. What were simply occasional minor aches and pains when you were training intelligently, begin to become chronic conditions. While you used to look energized, you now look haggard. What was once a pleasurable and beneficial activity has become a source of pain and stress.

You can get too much of a good thing. Macros, micros, diets, supplements, exercises, routines, exercises, intensity, volume, density, sitting, squatting, standing, walking, running, you name it - you can have too much of it. Yes, there are keystone exercises and we have talked about them a lot here, but change is good, and change is inevitable. It seems to be a paradox to say that you need consistency AND change to improve, but that's exactly right! Planned, purposeful change will introduce chaos to the system and, as it seeks a new homeostasis, it will adapt, grow, and find increased stability.

Related Post: Adaptation Paranoia

Monday, October 10, 2011


I love it when a plan comes together...

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Eagle (sort of)

A demo video of "The Eagle" - I only do two sets, but it demonstrates how it should look:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Time On Task

I believe that the single-most important ingredient to success in any field is time on task. "Outliers", et. al talk about the magic 10,000 hours. The Talent Code calls this "deep practice". Yes, time on task should be focused, but it doesn't always have to be so - sometimes simply putting in your time is enough.

I think I've mentioned this before but, if you are trying to lose weight, for example, one reason to do an hour or more a day of walking is to keep yourself away from the tube and mindless snacking. The time on task walking equals time OFF task eating, and that is time well spent. In addition, walking is readily accessible, and less likely to severely impact recovery - you can do it more often than, say, burpees...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Words Of Wisdom - Thomas Edison

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
 - Thomas Edison

How many opportunities to be better do we miss because they look like work, or difficult, or uncomfortable?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Saw This In A Muscle & Fitness In The 80s...

Forget squatting... My new goal is to lift 7063 and 4/5ths by 2012!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Three Squatting Lessons Courtesy Of YouTube

Learning from the mistakes of others can be informative, and sometimes fun. Here are three lessons from our friends on YouTube:

Lesson #1: Combining gymnastics and powerlifting is not a good idea.

Lesson #2: Squatting on the Smith is (generally) not recommended.

Lesson #3: Squats won't cure stupid.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Never Regret, ALWAYS Reflect

Never regret. Always reflect.

This is one of those mottoes that applies to training, and to life. Regret and self-flagellation don't make a better you - they just make a more broken you. Reflection, on the other hand, in both good times and bad, make a you that's better prepared for future action and reaction.

One of the greatest tools in your toolbox should be your training log. Without a log, any potential reflection on your training is going to be severely limited. Keep a log handy and record sets, reps, weights, exertion, and other notable stressors and restoratives. You don't have to live in it while you're at the gym (I see my share of people who seem to spend more time staring at their notebooks than actually lifting weights), but spend 10 minutes or so to record the sessions numbers and add a few qualitative notes. The reflections will help you make sense of subtle dips and crests that emerge over time. It will also help you make sense of those times when (heaven forbid) you find yourself in plateau-land or on the DL - helping us look at the bigger picture when it's especially hard to step away from the "WHY ME?" mind-set.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

10 Books About "Mastery"

Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment

Mastery is a re-occuring theme here at the blog. I've read a number of books on the subject, but here are a few that leap to mind. Although not all of them are, strictly speaking, about "mastery", they all speak to the importance of passion, practice, and the development of an iron will. I think I've quoted all of them in the blog at least once, and they are all, in my opinion of course, absolutely fantastic reads. If you're looking for reading material, here are 10 suggestions:

Outliers: The Story of Success
Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment
Overachievement: The New Science of Working Less to Accomplish More
The Genius in All of Us: New Insights into Genetics, Talent, and IQ
Body Mind Mastery (Millman, Dan)
The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
On Combat, The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (Vintage)
Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You

Monday, September 12, 2011

Replies To Posts

I appreciate all replies to posts here at the blog both positive and negative. Anything older than a week goes into the "moderation folder". I do this so that the replies don't go unnoticed as I do not generally reread my posts regularly.

Occasionally, Blogger will send a reply to the spam folder without my knowledge - I make an effort to check it from time to time, but I am not very diligent about this.

Tonight, I noticed a long reply (that looked to be a very spirited one disagreeing with me) to the caffeine fasts post in my spam folder. As I moved it out of the spam folder, it was somehow deleted. I was looking forward to reading it and replying to it - I am very sorry to whoever wrote it. I hope that you will re-post it if you can, or send me an email.

Thank you.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Sunday will mark 10 years since the attacks of 9/11, and the sixth month since earthquakes and tsunami ravaged eastern Japan. We're still raising money here for the American Red Cross. Please give when you can.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What Will YOU Try For 30 Days?

I watched this video recently: It's a very short presentation for a TED talk.

Good stuff.

In 30 days, what improvements could you make? What sustainable efforts could you implement? What will YOU try for 30 days?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Training For The Truly Overwhelmed

This week has been "one of those weeks". Except for a few random pockets of 10 minutes here and there, it has been wall to wall activity.Work, family, house, paperwork, and a new puppy have kept me consistently busy from the time I wake up at 5:15am until 9 or 10 at night. I conk out in bed at about 11 pm.  A lot of quality training time is just NOT going to happen during patches like these. The best I can do during a super busy week is to add very short sessions here and there to blow off some steam, feel better, and stave off detraining.

Minimalist training is something I've done a lot of over the years, but watching Dan John's Intervention DVD gave me some fresh ideas for a solid week (or two) of shortened training. Including the basic movement patterns of push, pull, hinge, squat, loaded carries, and Turkish Get-Ups, this week I did the following:

Workout #1 = The Eagle (for 5:00)
Workout #2 = Push-Ups (for 5:00)
Workout #3 = Turkish Get-Ups (for 5:00)
Workout #4 = Chin-Ups/Pull-Ups (for 5:00)
Workout #5 = Axle Romanian Deadlifts (for 5:00)

Should I go longer? As I wrote in my last birthday post and A Quick and (Relatively) Painless Way to Add Training Volume, 5:00 is enough for a lot of things. No, it's NOT a fast-as-you-can-metcon. Just work steadily, and take breaks before form starts to break down appreciably. Of these exercises, "The Eagle" and Turkish-Get-Ups are the only two that I would probably feel a need to go longer on, but you could always just add weight - "The Eagle" for five minutes with a pair of 32kg bells will make time slow in a hurry.

How heavy? As heavy as you want but, if you're getting less than 10-15 reps, you might consider lightening the load or modifying the movement. Dan John recommends 8 sets of 8 for The Eagle - I can get five or six sets of five squats + 20 meters in five minutes w. a pair of 24kg kettlebells. Again, this is working at a steady pace, NOT frenzied.

Can I substitute exercises? Of course. You might decide to do goblet squats + one-arm farmer walks, military press, partial TGUs, bent-over laterals, and kettlebell swings, for example. In my opinion, you should try to include all six of the basic movement patterns, but it may or may not be crucial to your training short-term.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Eagle

A few years ago, I discovered the simple combo called "The Eagle." Our school mascot was the Soaring Eagle, so the name was a natural. It combined the simplest of the Loaded Carries, the patterning movement "Farmer Walks," with the basic grinding Squat, the Double Kettlebell Front Squat. I am going to say "simply" here, but the workload is incredible. Simply, we had the athlete do eight Double Kettlebell Front Squats, then drop the kettlebells to his sides and Farmer Walk for twenty meters, then another eight squats and repeat until you complete eight circuits. That goal is often not met. (From Dan John's The Four Steps blog post)

"The Eagle" is an awesome combo. Really. Try it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011



Kouji Murofushi - World Champ At 36

Kouji Murofushi, 2004 Olympic champion in the hammer throw, just won the event at the World Track and Field Championships for the first time  in South Korea this weekend. I've always been a huge fan and it's great to see him continue to be awesome even as he approaches 40.

Strength, Footwork Propel Murofushi To Hammer Gold

Related Squat Rx Post:
Kouji Murofushi Competes In "Muscle Ranking"

Monday, August 29, 2011

You Can't Build A Reserve If You Constantly Empty The Tank

Yes, it's true that you have to spend money to make money, but you'll never save up a million dollars if you are constantly running into the red.

It's also true that, in training, if you are constantly "emptying the tank" you will run out of gas and likely break yourself.

I know many who think that if you aren't nervous going to the gym, then you aren't training hard enough. Every session must be a battle. The brutal truth is that those people have more testosterone than brains and only some combination of youth, drugs, talent, inexperience, and dumb luck have kept them in the game this long. They are often the same people that believe that there is no such thing as overtraining, only under-recovery (and/or under-eating).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Words Of Wisdom (Satchel Paige)

Never let your head hang down.
Never give up and sit down and grieve.
Find another way.
And don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines.

- Leroy "Satchel" Paige (Neverisms)

Monday, August 22, 2011



Friday, August 19, 2011


(Picture from Mike Fitch's article Resurrecting The Squat)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011



Monday, August 15, 2011



Friday, August 12, 2011

Caffeine Fasts

CAFFEINE IS STRESS IN A CUP. IT IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU. Sure, I like it, and I can get a lot of desk work done when I'm "using", but no amount of research will convince me that daily intake of 500mg or more long term is not harmful to your physical and emotional health. As I've written before, I believe that the American's average intake has (at least) doubled or tripled over the past 20 years. We will eventually link caffeine abuse to many chronic illnesses but, then again, finding such a link would not be profitable so perhaps not...

Americans love choice, but few exercise that power when it comes to diet. Americans love familiarity. Americans very quickly fall into dietary ruts. When it comes to caffeine, "use" can very easily become "ab-use" for me (and many of you too). What starts out as one coffee or soda a day, quickly turns into a half dozen. I like coffee, tea, and sodas too much to give them up completely, so I've taken to implementing periodic "caffeine fasts" of two to four weeks duration. Although it is not much fun for the first week, I find that after that initial week, I sleep MUCH better and am generally a nicer and more mellow person to be around. And, in the weeks following my fasts, I need caffeine less and get a better "response" from caffeine if I do decide to have some before work or training.

If you are a "heavy consumer" and decide to try a fast, I would recommend weaning yourself off incrementally rather than going cold turkey. Substituting decaffeinated coffee, teas, and sodas is a good start. During fasts, I drink a lot of sparkling seltzer water to satisfy my cravings for carbonated beverages. When you crave something sweet, flavored teas or decaffeinated coffee with a little sugar will hit the spot.

Canada Dry Sparkling Seltzer Water (Lemon Lime)

Related Article:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

All She Can

This movie looks promising! Apparently it is in theaters now and will be released on DVD in late September, 2011.



Wednesday, August 10, 2011


CRAP! ;)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

About The Skwat! T-Shirts...

I've been getting quite a few emails from people interested in buying the Skwat! t-shirts. I'm very flattered but, honestly, I don't know if I'll be "selling" them again - they don't make money and I don't like the feeling of thinking I'm somehow "entitled" to make money from them anyway. I made the shirt because I loved squatting and I wanted to share them with friends - once I started selling them, it became "about the money".

Since I've started fund-raising for the Red Cross and Japanese disaster relief, I've been eating the cost of making the shirts and donating proceeds and I'm much happier. I don't know if that makes any sense, but that's where things are right now.

Our raffle raised over $300 for disaster relief in Japan and here at the site and through a drive at school, we've raised well over $2000 total. All proceeds were donated to Red Cross America and Red Cross Japan. I would like to do another raffle sometime in the near future.




Photo by Paul Chinn (online article: Firefighter Stair Climb Helps Burn Victims)

Monday, August 8, 2011



Sunday, August 7, 2011


There are two national high school championships a year in Japan; one in March, the other in August - both are televised nation-wide. Many high school stars become household names and are drafted to the pros soon thereafter. The high school championships are often called simply called "koushien" (the name of the stadium where the championships are held). The field is considered sacred ground and high school players will often fill small bags with dirt from the infield to take home with them after their games have ended. In the U.S., every young ball player dreams of winning the World Series. In Japan, every young ball player dreams of going to the koushien.

If you could imagine your state sending one team and everyone in the state pumped up to see your champion represent your state with respect, and an energy and love for the game that only the young can bring to the field - if you can imagine this, then maybe you can appreciate the passion and pride with which Japanese people relish the games.

This year is an especially emotional koushien, especially for areas hit by the earthquakes and tsunami. It's hard not to be moved to tears watching a high school team play their hearts out, knowing that many of them lost their homes and loved ones less than 6 months ago.

Iwate prefecture's Hanamaki  Higashi lost on the 66th anniversary of the bombing at Hiroshima. 
The team's catcher lost his home and grandparents in the tsunami on March 11th.

The following video is in Japanese. It is a short documentary of the Touhoku High School's run at the spring championships.



Saturday, August 6, 2011



Friday, August 5, 2011



Thursday, August 4, 2011



Monday, August 1, 2011

Some Posts People Seemed To Have Missed...

The Genius In All Of Us (book) - I quote a passage concerning the Kenyan running machine. The book is short and an easy read. If you like books in the "mastery" genre, you will love this one. Lyle McDonald began a series about Why The US Sucks At Olympic Weightlifting (Part I) - I love Lyle and you can never be sure what he's going to say next, but I'm guessing he'll draw the same conclusions that this book does.

Can You Lift A 150kg Ricecake? - There's something very appealing about feats of strength performed by people who don't specialize in them.

Walk It Out! - Does your cool-down consist of crumpling up on the floor in a moaning, sweaty mess? You should rethink that - you really should...

Adaptation Paranoia - I posted this a couple of years ago when I noticed that the old Weider principle of "muscle confusion" seemed to be making a comeback. Adaptation is a GOOD thing. Really!

Friday, July 29, 2011

55 Ways To Cook A Squat

Squat (high bar)
Squat (low bar)
Squat (w. Manta-Ray)
Squat (w. Top Squat)
Squat (goblet)
Squat (Jefferson)
Squat (Hack)
Squat (Zercher)
Squat (trap bar)
Squat (cambered bar)
Squat (safety squat bar)
Squat (thick bar)
Squat (w. hip belt)
Squat (front)
Squat (front + push-press/"thruster"/"long press")
Squat (overhead)
Squat (full)
Squat (half/parallel)
Squat (quarter)
Squat (walk-outs)
Squat (regular stance)
Squat (narrow stance)
Squat (wide stance)
Squat (ultra-wide stance)
Squat (w. chains)
Squat (w. bands)
Squat (w. weight releasers)
Squat (box)
Squat (low box)
Squat (high box)
Squat (pause)
Squat (eccentric-only)
Squat (concentric-only)
Squat (isometric)
Squat (oscillating)
Squat (breathing)
Squat (fast tempo)
Squat (slow tempo)
Squat (varied tempo)
Squat (bodyweight)
Squat (face wall)
Squat (Hindu)
Squat (one-legged)
Squat (pistol)
Squat (Bulgarian split)
Squat (split)
Squat (lunge)
Squat (side-lunge/"Cossacks")
Squat (bearhug w. sandbag)
Squat (shouldered sandbag)
Squat (front w. kettlebells)
Squat (front w. single kettlebell)
Squat (overhead w. kettlebells)
Squat (one-arm overhead)
Squat (drop to overhead)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Training As Escape - When Habit Becomes Addiction

...a book I've never read 
(Does he look like an exercise junky to you?)

The discipline of regular training has always been a time to catch my breath and clear the mind, a "fortress of solitude" so to speak. In this way, time in the gym can be like a steam valve - a healthy outlet for the body and mind to reset.

BUT, for many of the most dedicated gym-rats, training can become more than a healthy habit. You see it a lot in gyms, bootcamps, and affiliates: the training addict. They use physical exercise as a way to escape loneliness and emotional chaos. They use a combination of endorphins and subsequent fatigue to keep their thoughts and emotions in check. Training becomes an obsession in AND out of the gym... marathon gym sessions, conversations on and off-line about exercise, programming, and tools, tools, tools.  And here's the kicker: ALL OF THIS WORKS... for a while... until you need more (and addicts will always need more)... until you can't train... until it doesn't. Believe it or not, the SAID (specific adaptations to imposed demands) principle applies here as well; if you lift weights to forget your problems, you get better at lifting weights to forget your problems. Unfortunately, the problems do not dissappear and your other strategies and means to deal with and eliminate stress may atrophy.

Sadly, all of the training logs, food logs, pedometers, heart monitors, magazines, forums, blogs, journals, and body bugs in the world will not fill the psychic void, nor unroot the underlying anger and sadness. None of these address the core issues and is the equivalent of someone putting a lid that is too small on a garbage can of fermenting thought patterns.

There is no easy solution. Yes, weight training can be just the catalyst to turn your entire life around, but it can just as easily become another avoidance strategy. I've seen a lot of both. When exercise becomes a substitute for dealing with life issues, those issues may simply wait it out and come knocking again when you least expect it and are least able to deal with them. They want and need your attention.

Related Posts:
Redemption Center Diaries (Squat Rx blog post)
Managing Depression With Weightlifting. Or, How You Feel Is A Lie (Nick Horton's blog post)
Doing Nothing (Squat Rx blog post about meditation)

I LOVE The Title Of This Post...

Absolutely! Squatting: An Expression Of Health Well said.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Strength Work and Technique Work Are NOT Mutually Exclusive

I used to get at least a couple of emails every week from someone who wanted to improve their squat numbers and their squatting technique. Usually, the email would read something like this:

Thank you for your Squat Rx videos. I've learned a lot from them. I realize now that I am flexing my lower back as I lower into my squat and I'm not really engaging my glutes or hamstrings at all. My thoracic spine mobility stinks and so does my hamstring flexibility. I have bad posture to boot. I can squat 225lbs x 5 x 5, but I'm going to start squatting only the empty bar until I get my technique right. What do you think? Any advice you could give would be awesome. Thanks.

My canned response would usually be something like this:

Thank you for the kind words about the videos. I'm glad you found them informative.
I think that relying on empty bar work is going to be a mistake if you are hoping to bring up your squat numbers as well as technique. My suggestion would be to back off on the weights a little for a few weeks and strive to make every rep as rock-solid as you can. Concentrate on ONE THING (and only one) to improve on with your squat in a given session and make sure you "git'r done". Good luck and let me know how it goes.

I think there is great value in spending time with the empty bar, or even a broomstick for some movements, but here's the thing: you can easily chew up a few months to a year doing nothing but corrective drills and empty bar work, only to find other issues waiting for you when you finally decide it's okay to add weight. Yes, a lot of people need to "work on technique" (and I define technique broadly to include the bar path, inter/intra-muscular coordination, proprioception, range of motion, tempo, etc), but that must not be exclusive of heavy work if your goals include lifting heavy weights. So, at what point is the weight heavy enough? It depends on the exercise and the individual, of course, but for squats, 60% of your one-rep-max for multiple low rep sets is a good starting point. As a general rule, beginners will have greater tolerance to handle higher percentages and volume, while more advanced lifters may use even lower percentages and at times with additional resistance in the form of bands or chains.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dan John's "Intervention" - DVD Review

Yes, it's great.

The newest DVD from Dan John is his best work to date. In my opinion, it is an absolute must-have for trainers and S&C coaches. I know I've probably said that before about other products and I stand by those, but it is that superb. How does this DVD differ from his others? This one is all about programming - creating an appropriate strength program for you and your clients, whether they are sedentary baby boomers, age groupers, or elite athletes. He runs down just about everything you need, from "assessments", to rep schemes, to exercise selection.

There are three DVDs in the set, each running about an hour. The first disc is good - very "Dan John". The second disc, I thought "Whoa... I need to pay better attention." The third disc had me fumbling for the pause button so that I could grab a pen and crack open a notebook to catch up.

Dan begins with a run down of some basic tools to bring to bear when you first work with a client, then moves to basic human movements, then follows with "patterns", "slow strength", "symmetry", and "the triads" (sounds ominous, I know). The DVD does a great job of split-screen displaying Dan John's notes in a digital format that's easy to read - you'll appreciate it if you have aging eyes like mine! Having said that, I should be clear that Dan John has really done an amazing job of presenting his material in a very slick table/graphic organizer - I rewrote it in my notes and mulled it over for some time with a smile on my face.

In addition to the video content, the DVDs contain a PDF of the lecture transcript and expanded thoughts (which I have not viewed yet), and also an MP3 audio file that you might listen to in the car, or (like me) while working.

It is more expensive than other products from Dan John and the Drapers, but no Dan John fan would feel it wasn't worth it, and any strength and conditioning coach with a clue will reap huge dividends from the purchase. If you are a training novice, then this DVD set will probably be (no offense intended) over your head and you would do better to start with other DVDs that cover exercise execution, such as Dan John: Perfecting Your Kettlebell Form, or Dan John: Olympic Lifting For Beginners.

The real test of whether the product has an impact is whether or not I will be making changes to my own training because of it... YES. Yes, I will. It is just the push I needed at the perfect time (currently a "yellow", but soon to be a "green").  So, a big thanks to Dan John and the Drapers for putting out something very special.

YouTube clips from Intervention:

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Tip For Pressing

One tip I learned from powerlifting was to keep the "elbows tucked" when bench pressing. Another tip, learned from a world-class powerlifter and bench press specialist in Japan (which I saw again in Pavel Tsatsouline's "The Naked Warrior"), was to drive the shoulders toward the feet while pressing. In Squat Rx #22, I gave the tip to "Do The Fonzie".

All of these tips, functionally, serve to externally rotate the arm, and engage the lats and triceps into your press and support the extended arm, and can be simplified to the instruction to bend the bar in an upside-down "U" while pressing. It isn't something that anyone should over-apply - for many, a resultant pressure on the outside of the palms is enough to engage the lats and tris. It works for both bench and overhead presses, and is more easily learned with a barbell than dumbbells or kettlebells.

"Bend The Bar"

Friday, July 8, 2011

No Frills and No Excuses

I spent some time in Japan this summer and, while my in-law's car port is "enough" (2009 blog post), I wanted to be able to return from Japan ready to squat a little heavier than when I was doing the volume binge of one million pounds. So, I managed to find a weightlifting gym. 

I don't think most of these men would know a glute-ham bench from an extra-terrestrial...

There were no frills at this one - an assorted mish-mash of plates, barbells old and worn to the point of having no discernable knurling, an early Universal station that probably predates my birth, a power-rack prototype that doubles as a chinning bar, and a few plate loaded dumbbells that collect dust. There's no music, no air-conditioning, no heating, (when I was there) no women, and (as far as I could tell) no collars. A little better than the pipes and cogs gym perhaps, but nothing extra here.
Gym hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6pm to 9pm. 
Cost: about $100 a year.
Active Members: 20-30.

I never saw less than 60 kilograms on the bar in the squat rack or on the bench. It was as if these blue Uesaka plates were never to be removed.

A high-tech chalk box

So, the question is, how does your gym stack up? If it has everything you need to get strong (and no one needs much really), are you exploiting those resources the best that you can?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Be The Squirrel (Part II)

A few years ago now, I posted about the idea of "mushin" and told readers to "Be The Squirrel". On the same subject, but for clarification, I share with you this video:

Just so it's clear, "being the squirrel" does NOT mean doing what the squirrel does - it is having a "performance mindset", separate and distinct from a "training mindset". The training mindset is reflective, analytical; the performance mindset is not - it is your "go gear". To be successful long-term, you need both.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Huge News - We're Fat Because We Eat Too Much!

I'm glad we have studies like this to tell us the obvious. I mean, really, do we need a longitudinal study to tell us that we are fatter today because we are eating more than we were 30 years ago? The why is irrelevant, but I think it's safe to say that we have more snack foods than ever and, thanks to a lot more computer and desk time, we have more time and access to said snack foods.

I've said this before, but I'll say it again: Sitting more = Eating more. Sitting less = Eating Less.

Often, we eat because we are bored. Channel and web-surfing are boring activities, and we break up the monotony by snacking.

Want to lose weight? Get off your duff!

In the not so distant future, we're going to be like the humans in WALL-E

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Training In Tokyo

Earlier this month, I spent time in Tokyo with RKC Taikei Matsushita. We had a good time, eating, talking shop and training. We took a couple hours to play in Kiba Park with some kettlebells, while tweaking technique and giving a little instruction here and there to his acquaintances.

I don't get to work with a 44kg kettlebell very often... FUN!

"Buddy, your scaps are HERE!"