Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Anatomy Of A Squat

Have you ever seen Kirk Karwowski squat a heavy weight? He eyes the barbell knowing he’s going to own it. He then places his hands on the barbell, and pauses for a moment before he dips his head under the barbell to rack it across his back. 
Driving his chest forward and his head up, he strongly nestles the barbell into place. He settles in his hips, with his feet directly below. With a few quick pants, he looks up, inhales, tightens the core and with a powerful drive, releases gravity’s hold on the 600-1,000 pounds loaded on the barbell. 
From there, watching his footing with as little neck flexion as possible, he takes three short steps and his head comes back up. He takes a few pants, inhales and holds it with the hips and knees flexed as the weight descends into the hole, and then he rises. There’s little shaking. There is no bounce—a place for everything and everything is in its place.  
Bruce Lee, one of the most famous martial arts of all time, said, “The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity. Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch and a kick was no longer a kick. Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just like a punch and a kick is just like a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity—the ability to express the utmost with the minimum.”
To express the utmost with the minimum—This is exactly what you see when you watch someone like Kirk Karwowski or Wade Hooper squat. There’s no wasted movement.
- From "Squat Talk" by Boris Bachmann (podcast available from

Monday, March 26, 2012

Movement Lectures


Laree Draper has put together a top-notch collection of inexpensive audio podcasts (most are around $5), ranging from 15 minutes to three hours in length, from people in the strength and conditioning industry, including Brett Jones, Dan John, Mike Boyle, Gray Cook, and ME (talking squat, of course). Every file comes with a PDF-formatted transcript of the audio recording so, if you prefer to read, you have that option as well!

If you think you might be interested, go to the Facebook page at and click "Like". If you do this by Tuesday night, you'll receive a coupon that you'll be able to use on Wednesday when the site opens - the coupon will be enough that you'll be able to pick up a file for FREE.

My audio file, "SQUAT TALK" by Boris Bachmann, is my first venture into an audio podcast. It was an interesting experience and if people find it informative, we'll do it again. Let me know how you find the site and the lectures.

Hope to hear from you,

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Power Of Habit

Dan John is fond of talking about "free will", the limited pool of volition we have to spur ourselves to action. There's no doubt that reserving as much "free will" as possible to "keep the goal the goal" is critical to success, and habits are KEY to sparing free will for when it matters.

  "I know you've told this story a dozen times," the doctor said to Lisa, "but some of my colleagues have only heard it secondhand. Would you mind describing again how you gave up cigarettes?"
  "Sure," Lisa said. "It started in Cairo." The vacation had been something of a rash decision, she explained. A few months earlier, her husband had come from work and announced that he was leaving her because he was in love with another woman. It took Lisa a while to process the betrayal and absorb the fact that she was actually getting a divorce. There was a period of mourning, then a period of obsessively spying on him, following his new girlfriend around town, calling her after midnight and hanging up. Then there was the evening Lisa showed up at the girlfriend's house, drunk, pounding on her door and screaming that she was going to burn the condo down.
  "It wasn't a great time for me," Lisa said. "I had always wanted to seem the pyramids, and my credit cards weren't maxed out yet, so..."
  On her first morning in Cairo, Lisa woke at dawn to the sound of the call to prayer from a nearby mosque. It was pitch black inside her hotel room. Half blind and jet-lagged, she reached for a cigarette.
  She was so disoriented that she didn't realize - until she smelled burning plastic - that she was trying to light a pen, not a Marlboro. She had spent the past four months crying, binge eating, unable to sleep, and feeling ashamed, helpless, depressed, and angry, all at once. Lying in bed, she broke down. "It was like this wave of sadness," she said. "I felt like everything I had ever wanted had crumbled. I couldn't even smoke right.
  "And then I started thinking about my ex-husband, and how hard it would be to find another job when I got back, and how much I was going to hate it and how unhealthy I felt all the time. I got up and knocked over a water jug and it shattered on the floor, and I started crying even harder. I felt desperate, like I had to change something, at least one thing I could control."
  She showered and left the hotel. As she rode through Cairo's rutted street in a taxi and then onto the dirt roads leading to the Sphinx, the pyramids of Giza, and the vast, endless desert around them, her self-pity, for a brief moment, gave way. She needed a goal in her life, she thought. Something to work toward.
  So she decided, sitting in the taxi, that she would come back to Egypt and trek through the desert.
  It was a crazy idea, Lisa knew. She was out of shape, overweight, with no money in the bank. She didn't know the name of the desert she was looking at or if such a trip was possible. None of that mattered, though. She needed something to focus on. Lisa decided that she would  give herself one year to prepare. And to survive such an expedition, she was certain she would have to make sacrifices.
  In particular, she would need to quit smoking.
  When Lisa finally made her way across the desert eleven months later - in an air-conditioned and motorized tour with a half-dozen other people, mind you - the caravan carried so much water, food, tents, maps, global positioning systems, and two-way radios that throwing in a carton of cigarettes wouldn't have made much of a difference.
  But in the taxi, Lisa didn't know that. And to the scientists at the laboratory, the details of the trek weren't relevant. Because for reasons that they were just beginning to understand, that one small shift in Lisa's perception in Cairo - the conviction that she had to give up smoking to accomplish her goal - had touched off a series of changes that would ultimately radiate out to every part of her life. Over the next six month, she would replace smoking with jogging, and that, in turn, changed how she ate, worked, slept, saved money, scheduled her workdays, planned for the future, and so on. She would start running half-marathons, and then a marathon, go back to school, buy a house, and get engaged. Eventually, she was recruited into the scientists' study, and when researchers began examining images of Lisa's brain, they saw something remarkable: One set of neurological patterns - her old habits - had been overridden by new patterns. They could still see the neural activity of her old behaviors, but those impulses were crowded out by new urges. As Lisa's habits changed, so had her brain.
  It wasn't the trip to Cairo that had caused the shift, scientists were convinced, or the divorce or desert trek. It was that Lisa had focused on changing just one habit - smoking - at first. Everyone in the study had gone through a similar process. By focusing on one pattern - what is known as a "keystone habit" - Lisa had taught herself how to reprogram the other routines in her life, as well.
The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg
We all know people who have started the process of, literally, becoming different human beings by taking control of ONE THING. No, we're not curing cancer or eliminating world hunger, but it's not hyperbole to say that sometimes that single PR, or the confidence we've gained through increased competence in the weight room, can be the spark that lights the fire under us to transform our entire lives.

Related Reading:
Motivation Is Overrated - Squat Rx
Willpower (book discussion thread w. Dan John)
Free Will and Free Weights by Dan John

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Katniss, The Movement Specialist

   The cool water has an invigorating effect on my body, my spirits. I shoot two fish, easy pickings in this slow-moving stream, and go ahead and eat one raw even though I've just had the groosling. The second I'll save for Rue.  
   Gradually, subtly, the ringing in my right ear diminishes until it's gone entirely. I find myself pawing at my left ear periodically, trying to clean away whatever deadens its ability to collect sounds. If there's improvement, it's undetectable. I can't adjust to deafness in the ear. It makes me feel off-balanced and defenseless to my left. Blind even. My head keeps turning to the injured side, as my right ear tries to compensate for the wall of nothingness where yesterday there was a constant flow of information. The more time that passes, the less hopeful I am that this is an injury that will heal.
(The Hunger Games, pp. 228-229, Suzanne Collins)
It's interesting. When I was 15, I blew out my right ear during swim practice. 20 years later, I blew it out the left three weeks into a Smolov cycle. The first was surgically repaired and both times, hearing returned, albeit with a lifelong case of tinnitus. While coaches, trainers, and "movement specialists", often screen t-spine, hip, and hamstring mobility and stability, we often forget that dulled senses and poor breathing can often just as easily and severely impede quality movement. Although I would need some convincing to jump headfirst into any approach  that claimed to hold the keys to movement through improved sensory function and breathing, only a fool would not include these things, at least as a part of incidental training, somewhere within the training cycle. For many sports, you'd find sensory training and breathing focus within the warm-up. For others, you would see the inclusion of special drills and exercises throughout the competitive, pre-, and post seasons.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Exactly One Year Ago... wife were sitting in front of the tube watching live TV Japan via satellite and saw the tsunami batter the northern coast of Japan.

Give if you can.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

HELP! My Client Is A ZOMBIE! - Answers To Common Questions

Since starting the "Certified Zombie Strength and Conditioning Specialist Certification Challenge!" (CZSCSCC, for short), I've gotten a lot of questions from zombie trainers all over the world. Of course, the answer to every question is GET CERTIFIED! However, I understand that because of limited space and a waiting list of two years for our certs, people need some help now. So, I've decided to answer questions here on the blog FOR ABSOLUTELY FREE! Why am I giving away such valuable information FOR FREE? Well, I love zombies. And, I know you love your zombies. So, here we go:

Question: My zombie client is overweight. Would losing some lbs help it catch (and eat) more brain?

Answer: Maybe. For zombies, losing weight is easy - chopping off excess flesh is a simple fix, and it may help your zombie run like Jerry Lewis. Unfortunately for zombies, weight gain is almost impossible and, once it's gone, it's gone forever. They might need the added mass to smash through doors, move an obstacle, or pin a victim. Trim with caution!

Jerry's lack of mass isn't helping here.

Question: My zombie's horrible at pull-ups. Nothing seems to work and I've tried bands, vertical pull-ups, lighting his pants on fire - you name it, I've tried it! Nothing seems to motivate him either!

Answer: Buddy, your client is a zombie. Unless your zombie was Michael Phelps in life, zombies don't swim. Zombies don't box, throw, or kick either. And, in answer to your question, ZOMBIES DON'T CLIMB! A lot of well-intentioned zombie trainers have tried to get their clients to do Fran but, in addition to the pull-ups issue, zombies are notoriously hard to motivate to do pressing exercises. A better exercise combination would be something like an "inclined crawl + reach for the brain on a stick" while wearing a weight vest and Heavy Hands.

That's all for this time. Next time, we'll tackle some really tough questions like "My zombie scored a '1' on its ASLR - what should I do?" and "Is unstable surface training a good idea for my zombie?".

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Eat Asparagus For Strong Finger Extensors!

Although you can buy specialized bands for extensor work, the rubber bands that (around here) come on bunches of asparagus serve well for that purpose.
I've found that a little finger and wrist extensor work goes a long way towards keeping the hands and wrists feeling healthy even when under a lot of stress from training and/or time at the computer.