Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Joel Jamieson interviewing Buddy Morris

Joel Jamieson (8weeksout, author of Ultimate MMA Conditioning) has recently started a series call "The Smartest Coach in the Room." Today his guest is Buddy Morris of the Arizona Cardinals.

The Smartest Coach in the Room: Buddy Morris

It's a short (17 minute) but good conversation covering a few different areas of strength and conditioning.

Best takeaway? It's fluctuating overload, not progressive overload. It's not loading you more than before, it's loading you appropriately for today. Do what you can of what you need to progress.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Evaluate, Achieve, Load

An easy way to sum up the basic process I use with clients is EAL.

Evaluate Movement, then Achieve Good Movement, then Load Good Movement.

The basic cycle works like so:

Evaluate Movement

For any given movement that a client does, evaluate it. Is it good, functional, balance movement? Does it cause pain, reveal imbalances, or otherwise function poorly? An example is a bum knee - is it a bad knee or the symptom of a hip or ankle problem? Is the weight more on one side or the other? Does the person's gait or squatting or pushing or pulling reveal a series of compensation patterns that are eventually going to lead to the former two issues?

Evaluation can be a formal process, but it should be an ongoing process. Watch everything your clients do and ask, is that good movement? If not, what could be causing that? Test and evaluate.

Achieve Good Movement

Once you know what's holding the person back, you have to improve it. Break down movements they can't do into individual bits you can correct. If someone can't squat without rounding at the spine, use your evaluation process to find out why. Then use movements they can do, or ranges of motion they can achieve, to start to correct the issue. Weak rear deltoids causing problems with pulling and pressing? Use direct training on those rear deltoids to bring them up to speed. Knees collapse in because of poor strength in the quadriceps and hips? Band walks, slow static lunges, isometric holds, and squatting with bands might help improve this. And so on.

This stage also involves teaching. It's not always a weakness that drives poor movement - it's just not understanding what proper movement is. If you've been taught that your spine moves like a slinky in a pushup and that's okay, then you may have weakness but you've also been allowed to train in bad movement. Teaching the client occurs here - showing how to move in a way that's more efficient for life and/or sport.

Load Good Movement

You improve strength and musculature with load. But load works counter to good movement. It's a challenge to move well under a heavier load than you moved under previously. That's a normal and expected part of the process. You will hit your limit of your ability to do the movement correctly (aka technical failure) before you hit your limit of your strength to do the movement.

Load gets added once you get someone moving well. It will reveal limitations, and it may reveal poor patterns concealed by overcompensating - bad back position on a deadlift that's okay under low weights because your back can take it but not under heavy ones. Squats that look okay without weight but which collapse under your first significant load. And so on. You can't fix a bad movement by loading it. You fix a bad movement as above - by directly addressing the issues by training the movements and ROMs you can do and improving them, and by imparting proper movement and form. Then you load it.

I call this EAL cycle a cycle because it's iterative. You keep doing it. Evaluate, Achieve, Load, and Evaluate again. When movement goes from "good" to "bad" you apply the cycle again to find your next step.

This is not a very basically worded post, but this is an underlying foundation - a true basis - for how I train clients.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Review: RX Bar - Chocolate Sea Salt

Just a quick review of a product I tried and enjoyed.

RXBar Chocolate Sea Salt
$25.99 for 12

I picked these up on a whim, because I wanted a quick bar that I could grab as a meal replacement or post-workout. I also wanted something sweet - I'm not always in the mood for savory. While I prefer whole foods, schedule changes and accidents of timing sometimes mean I can't get healthy food that fits my preferred eating plan.

I'm impressed.

Ingredients: Dates, egg whites, almonds, cashews, cacao, sea salt, natural chocolate flavor.

Not bad - it's almost purely things I can and would eat.

Taste: The taste is excellent, as long as you like dark chocolate and dates. If either of those bother you - well, it has a pronounced date and dark chocolate taste. The sea salt comes clearly through a few moments later.

Price: For 200 kcals (9g fat, 22g carbohydrate, 12g protein) in a 52g bar, it's about $2.20. That's good for quality ingredients in a portable form.

Overall: All in all, they are excellent. Good taste, good portability, reasonable price, and quality ingredients. I'm going to keep buying these. Again, whole food sources would be my preference for eating, but that doesn't always happen . . . and this makes a great item to keep in my backpack, keep at work, or throw into my post-workout meal kit for when I'm pressed for time.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, and a year of healthy and effective training to you all.

Monday, December 12, 2016

True Nutrition Apple Watch giveaway

TrueNutrition is giving away one Apple Watch a day to anyone who makes a purchase or designs a custom protein mix.

The details are here.

They're a good source for inexpensive custom protein - they're were I get the majority of my protein and BCAAs for my workout shakes and workout drinks.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Workout is Always Worse on the Other Side

When I train myself, or plan my own diet, my mindset is the opposite of when I train under someone.

When I'm training myself, and I look around the gym, I sometimes find myself thinking, "My workout is the hardest workout here. These other people aren't willing or able to do what I'm doing. They may be working harder or longer at what they're doing, but they aren't doing this awesome thing I'm doing."

When I'm training under a coach, and I look around the gym, I think, "Thank goodness I'm not doing that. Everyone's workout is way harder that mine. I better keep quiet and hope my coach doesn't realize this and make mine as hard as theirs." Even if other people come over and say to me, "I'm glad I don't have to do what you're doing" I feel like they're fooling themselves, I've practically got a free ride.

The same goes for diet. If I impose an eating plan on myself, no matter how good or how bad, I tend to think, "This will be hard, but I can do it. It sucks that I need to give up this and that, but it'll be worth it." At the same time, I think, "Well, technically this treat isn't a treat, it does fit into my plan." And in sneaks all sorts of marginal choices. So will seeds of doubt. I will think, "This will work. Probably. The other thing didn't."

When my coach gives me a diet plan, I think, "Okay, is that it? I can do that standing on my head. I'll show you how much compliance I can give you." And at the same time, I think, "Okay, you said I could eat all of this particular food that I want. I'll do that. This other food is off-limits? No problem." No seeds of doubt grow, either. I might think, "Really, that is your plan?" but I'll do it and think, well, it worked for my coach and my coach's clients, so therefore it'll work.

Just a little something I observed in my own mindset the other day at the training facility . . .

Monday, December 5, 2016

Protein Recommendations

Here is a quick list of protein powders I send out to my clients when they're looking for a first protein powder purchase.

Two are milk-based, two are plant-based.


Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Protein

True Nutrition New Zealand Grass-Fed Whey (unflavored, nothing added)


Plant Fusion Complete

Sun Warrior Warrior Blend

This isn't a complete list, and there are pros and cons for all four. But it's a good starting point, they all taste good (or not at all, for the New Zealand whey), and they're fairly easy to get.
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