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Simple and Easy Ways to Progress Your Training Plans - Sat, 02/16/2019 - 10:43

When I write up a training program for a new client, it’s very much a loose template that will likely adjust over the course of the next few weeks. One feature that tends to get adjusted relatively easily is the amount of weight being lifted, but an often overlooked element of progression is the manipulation of volume from week to week.

Imagine if we had a workout that was squat focused and the main working sets were 5 sets of 3 reps at 80% of max, or 3 reps with 1 rep in reserve to borrow from Renaissance Periodization. That’s 15 total reps of volume at a working intensity (ie. not including the build up or warm up sets). Following this we include 12-15 sets of squat accessory work, hypertrophy specific stuff or conditioning to round out a solid outing at the gym.

There’s a few ways we could progress this kind of a workout to produce a progressive overload without smashing the individual into the ground. In the end, the aim of any workout is to eventually do more. Progressive overload does not mean max effort all the time, it means gradual increases in what’s required over time.

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Do you try to maximize your effort and strength outputs in every single workout? You’re probably not doing yourself any favors by doing this if you are. Most adaptations from training occur from gradually adding either more volume or doing the same volume with more weight, where you progressively overload the tissues ability to do work. If you always run at max effort, you don’t get the benefit of recovery phases, accumulation phases, or over reaching phases that can play a huge role in seeing greater strength, hypertrophic, and even body composition improvements. I lay out some simple, effective, and easy to implement systems to progressively add more volume or loading into your workouts to see realistic progressive overload in my presentation “Programming 101: Building an Effective Workout” in the Complete Trainers Toolbox, a new digital continuing education product, on sale for 33% off the regular price until Sunday February 17th at midnight. Click the link in my bio for more info and to get your copy today.

A post shared by Dean somerset (@dsomerset1) on Feb 15, 2019 at 1:54pm PST

So we have 5 sets of 3 for 15 reps of high threshold strength work with 12-15 sets of accessory work. Let’s go through some examples of how to progress volume and do more work.


Example 1: More sets

A simple method would be to just add in additional sets of work in the main strength series. In most realistic schemes, a 10% increase in volume from one week to the next could be a fairly doable, not entirely life-ending way of producing a volume increase.

So for that we could do 2 different options: increase the number of sets on the main strength work or increase the number of sets on the accessory work.

If we were working to increase the main strength work, it would be worthwhile to increase the total number of REPS by 10% versus add in a 6th set of 3. To do that, the 6th set would be for 1 or 2 reps versus 3, which if anyone has ever done challenging weight on their squats, a 6th set is rarely ever going to be a true 3. It’ll be a “2 and that’s probably good enough” kind of set.

That would then be 5 x 3, 1 x 2 for a total of 17 reps, or a 13.3% increase in volume on the main strength set from one week to the next. The following week it could easily be 6 sets of 3 if the person tolerated this workout well.

You could also increase the total number of sets on the accessory work, which could be a bump up from 12-15 sets up to 14-17 sets. Essentially, this would mean moving a couple of series from 3 sets each up to 4 sets each, which should be entirely reasonable for most.


Example 2: More reps

Here, we’re moving from a straight 5 sets of 3 to a bit of variation in reps based on whether the person feels they can squeak out another while still staying in that 1-2 reps in reserve.

Here’s a breakdown of how that could look

Set 1: 3 reps 1 RIR
Set 2: 3 reps 1-2 RIR
Set 3: 3 reps 1-2 RIR
Set 4: 4 reps 1 RIR
Set 5: 4 reps 0-1 RIR

Total work 17 reps, or a 13.3% increase in volume at the same weight.

Now we’re just accomplishing the same volume as the progression example 1 in 5 sets instead of 6, so there’s a bit less rest overall and a higher work density within the session.

For the accessory work, we could just add another 1-2 reps per set

Another way we could work through something like this is to train more for power endurance, using some form of a bar speed sensor such as a PUSH Strength band, Bar Sensei or Tendo unit.

To do this, you work up to something like a 5 rep max, checking bar speed and power output, then using something like 90% of that weight and trying to get as many reps as possible out while maintaining above a specific bar speed. If 2 consecutive reps drop below that bar speed, you end the set. The goal is to get as many reps as possible while maintaining a high bar velocity, using the drop off to indicate fatigue and an inability to consistently generate power.

A workout like this is great for speed development and also increasing work output over time, while also mitigating potential fatigue related technique faults that could potentially lead to injury. They do suck the life out of you once they’re done, so tread carefully.

Here’s an example of mean power outputs over 4 such squat workouts from one of my athletes.

The different coloured lines correspond with individual workouts, and workouts that have more points in them recorded more reps over the span of the workout while maintaining a high bar speed, as represented by the power output on the left side.

You can see the first workout of the year had a relatively low power output (trendline) and a smaller number of overall data points, whereas workouts in the past few weeks have shown a higher overall power output combined with a greater number of data points, meaning this athlete is producing a lot more power, and can sustain that power output over a greater duration of effort, 2 really good things to have for a cyclist.

The interesting thing about these measurements is there were a few missed reps here and there, which you can see by the low points on each line, but looking at the trendlines overall as well as the absolute values of the reps in the middle and top of each line can give an example of how the workouts are progressing, even with some odd data points.

Manipulating some training variables such as volume can help produce a scalable progressive overload, which is a massive impetus for all kinds of GAINZ, including strength, hypertrophy, and improved body composition. I discuss some more specific ways you can lay out programming variables as well as how to tweak them over time to get the specific benefits your after, and also collate the available research on best practices for these manipulations to show I’m not just making stuff up on the fly in “Programming 101: How To Design An Effective Workout” in The Complete Trainers Toolbox.


This is just one of 12 webinar-style presentations in The Complete Trainers Toolbox, which is on sale for $100 off until Sunday February 17th at midnight est. If you want to dig deeper into programming, plus all the other goodies we have in there (including continuing education credits), act quick to save some money.

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Some of the common questions I get all the time from trainers are things like:

Weightlifting Cues and What They Mean | Clean - Sat, 02/16/2019 - 04:19

Improve your clean technique and your communication with your athletes/training partners with these cues from Max Aita.

The post Weightlifting Cues and What They Mean | Clean appeared first on Juggernaut Training Systems.

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The Truth About Late-Night Snacking - Sat, 02/16/2019 - 01:34
A calorie at 7:59 p.m. is the same as a calorie at 8:01 p.m. Whether you’re eating at 7:59 p.m., 8:01 p.m., or in the middle of the night, it really doesn’t matter. Instead, consider each of the 24 hours in a day to be equal in terms of importance... or simply the number of calories you eat in a day.
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WATCH: Table Talk — How Much of Your Workout Should Be Accessory Work? - Sat, 02/16/2019 - 01:03
There are quite a few things to take into account when it comes to accessory training. If you ask Dave Tate and Joe Sullivan, a few of these things include program design and competition distance (measured in time, not miles or kilometers), and more.
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5 Reasons to Consider Purchasing The Complete Trainers’ Toolbox - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 16:21

Admittedly I’m a bit biased since my name is attached to it, but The Complete Trainers’ Toolbox is the shit. Pulitzer Prize worthy in fact.

Okay, I’m really biased.

Here are FIVE quick-n-dirty reasons you should consider purchasing it.

1) I’m Awesome

Lets be real: You didn’t think I’d attach my name to something sub-par did you?

Pffffft, whatever.

I mean, this isn’t season two of Stranger Things or, I don’t know, whomever Carrie ended up dating after she broke up with Aidan.1

But just so that I don’t come across as a total pompous a-hole, every person involved with this project is an established fitness professional with years of experience under his or her’s belt.

In fact, I just counted all the years up and it comes to 1,000.2

Every…single…person has at least 10+ years experience in the health/fitness industry and with that, 10+ years of mistakes, successes, hindsight, things they’d do differently, things they’d do the same, not to mention an absurd number of protein shaker bottles left in their gym bag for a week too long.

The Toolbox came to fruition because we saw an opportunity to help other fitness professionals improve and grow their business; to tackle common industry pitfalls and traps, save time scouring the internet for answers, and foster a scenario where you build a successful career with integrity.

2) There’s a Little Something For Everyone

As can be expected with a resource such as this, The Toolbox goes into the weeds on topics such as program design, assessment, why Tony incessantly posts pictures of his cat online, and breaking down exercise technique.

Sam Spinelli’s presentation on “Everything Squats, Knees, & Hips” is outstanding. And if Luke Worthington’s presentation on assessment doesn’t make you swoon, his British accent will.

However, what I feel makes this resource special is that it includes a little bit of everything. I don’t know about you, but I can only handle so many hours of any one topic before I want to jump through a pane glass window.

The only exception(s) would be 1) breaking down and ranking Jason Bourne fight scenes and 2) bacon.

Here you get 17 hours of content, albeit all bundled up in a hodge-podge of diverse topics – everything mentioned above in addition to presentations on Programming For Pull-Ups, Understanding Flexion & Extension Based Back Pain, How to Write Stellar Fitness Content, Improving Overhead Mobility, Finding Your Ideal Client, and Core & Pelvic Floor Lifting Considerations.

What’s more, Dr. Lisa Lewis’s presentations on Negative Self Talk and How to Increase Motivation are the two wild cards, in my opinion, that provide a ton of value. Like it or not, if you’re a personal trainer or coach, half of what you do entails psych0logy and the “soft” skills of coaching.

3) It Isn’t JUST Dudes Talking

Nine industry experts are involved with this resource.

Four are women.

I’m sorry, but that’s a HUGE deal for me and it’s pretty fuckin cool.


4) Go At Your Own Pace and Earn Continuing Ed Credits

The Trainer’s Toolbox is an online resource that you can view at your own pace. There’s no time requirement to complete it, so whether you want to binge watch everything in two days or watch a little here and a little there…you do you.

Moreover, when complete (and you send in your exam) you can earn 1.7 continuing education credits via the NSCA. This is something you need to stay on top of every two years, and if it’s tough for you to travel to attend workshops and seminars this is a convenient way to meet those requirements.

5) We’re Planning Sequels

I think.

I’m like 90% sure this is the plan.3

But unlike The Matrix sequels these won’t suck donkey balls.

The advantage here is that with each subsequent iteration you get an even further glimpse into what all of us are currently thinking and doing. What will we have changed our stance on? What new things will we have learned?

Will Sarah win Kumite in 2020?

You’ll just have to wait….

6) BONUS: You Can Save $100 OFF the Regular Price

The Complete Trainers’ Toolbox is currently on sale at $100 off the regular price, but it only last through this Sunday (2/17) at midnight.

Only a few more days to take advantage.

—> Go HERE <—

The post 5 Reasons to Consider Purchasing The Complete Trainers’ Toolbox appeared first on Tony Gentilcore.

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3 Things You'll Find in My Mental Health Toolbox - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 09:46
Like any other coach, I love talking about training and programming and being in the weight room while coaching. But like many of you, I’ve neglected the thing between my ears, and I want you to know that it’s all right to feel. If your mental health is a weakness, don’t avoid it.
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Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019 - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 09:12
My life went through a lot of changes and adjustments during 2018, which meant I had to learn and re-learn things. Lesson 1: the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but sometimes it is, so watch your lawn and don’t forget that some grass is better than yours.
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Stuff to Read While You’re Pretending to Work: 2/15/19 - Fri, 02/15/2019 - 08:46

Copyright: wamsler / 123RF Stock Photo

BUT FIRST…CHECK THIS STUFF OUT 1. (Even More) Complete Shoulder & Hip Blueprint – 2019 Locations & Dates

Philadelphia, PA: April 27-28th

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: May 25-26th

Sydney, Australia: July 13-14th

Singapore, Republic of Singapore: July 20-21st

This workshop will piggyback on the material Dean Somerset and I covered in the original Complete Shoulder & Hip Blueprint.

With this iteration, though, we’ll be going a bit deeper into the coaching and programming side of things:

  • How to program around common injuries.
  • How to “connect” the appropriate exercises to the client/athlete.
  • How to squat and deadlift like a boss.

Find out more details HERE.

NOTE: For the Singapore event you’ll need to use THIS link.

2. Coaching Competency Workshop – Raleigh, NC

I’ll be making my first appearance – ever (<— how’s that possible?) – in the wonderful state of North Carolina this coming March to put on my popular Coaching Competency Workshop.

This is a great opportunity for other fitness professionals to gain better insight into my assessment and program design process.

And cat memes.

Can’t forget the cat memes.

Full details (date, location, itinerary, how to register) can be found HERE.

EARLY BIRD rate ($50 off regular price) ends THIS weekend (2/17).


When performing Prone Y’s/Prone Trap Raises, a subtle tweak that’ll make things feel better is to adopt a thumbs up position (bottom vid).This allows for more external rotation and opens up the acromion space.

— Tony Gentilcore (@tonygentilcore1) February 14, 2019



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Here’s a little doozy I made up as part of @lilew13 workout today. . Hanging Psoas March. . Start from a dead hang and then pull your shoulder blades into your back pocket and assume the Hollow Position (feet out in front, not straight down. Why? Because I said so. And because you’re less apt to crank through the lower back this way. And because it promotes more anterior core recruitment, better alignment, and because I said so). . With a band looped around the feet, bring one knee towards the chest in a CONTROLLED manner. Try to eliminate as much swaying as possible. . Perform 5-8 reps per side. . This is a fantastic core exercise, in addition to scapular stability and a psoas strengthening thingamabobber (which is a muscle, despite being short due to people sitting a lot at desks, can also be weak because many people never train above 90 degrees of hip flexion). . Lisa’s pretty badass, so I wouldn’t use this drill with stark beginners. Instead I’d start with them lying on their backs on the floor performing the same marching pattern. . However, if you’re looking for a challenging exercise give this one a test drive.

A post shared by Tony Gentilcore (@tonygentilcore) on Feb 11, 2019 at 10:27am PST

STUFF TO READ WHILE YOU’RE PRETENDING TO WORK The Complete Trainers’ Toolbox – A lot of Smart People

– 9 industry leaders.

– 17 total hours of content (tackling issues that every trainer/coach can commiserate with).

– 1.7 CEUs available.

I’m really proud to be a part of this resource which is designed to help build and improve other fitness professional’s businesses. Whether you’re a commercial gym trainer, a strength coach, physical therapist, a gym owner, an industry veteran, or new, you’re bound to learn something from this resource that will help separate you from the masses.

The launch sale ends THIS WEEKEND (2/17), so you have to hurry if you want to take advantage of  it…HERE

Master Your Kettlebell Swing – Matthew Ibrahim

There are a lot of moving parts to mastering the KB swing.

My boy Matt breaks it down step-by-step to make it less likely everyone’s eyes will bleed when they see you swing….;o)

Heart Rate Variability for Athletes – Zach Long

I’ll admit that HRV is a gap in my coaching repertoire.

This was an interesting and to the point article by Zach.


The post Stuff to Read While You’re Pretending to Work: 2/15/19 appeared first on Tony Gentilcore.

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Greg Everett on the Coaching and Culture of Olympic Weightlifting

Greg Everett is the owner of Catalyst Athletics, head coach of the USA Weightlifting National Champion team Catalyst Athletics, author of the books Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches and Olympic Weightlifting for Sports, director, writer, producer, editor and everything in between of the documentary American Weightlifting, co-host of the Weightlifting Life Podcast, and publisher of The Performance Menu journal.

Greg is also a fifth-place finisher at the USAW National Championships, masters national champion, masters American Open champion, masters American record holder in the clean & jerk, and Olympic Trials coach.

In this show, Greg and I talk about the changes he’s seen in the Olympic lifting culture over the past decade, his thoughts on coaching newbies both online and in-person, and his response when people say that “coaching the lifts takes to much time.”

It was really great catching up with Greg, and I think there’s some awesome back and forth in this show.

This Week on the Physical Preparation Podcast
  • MR Monologue: How do we fix the injury epidemic in youth sports and training?
  • How Greg got his start in the world of physical preparation.
  • His career path, and how he ultimately wound up in Oregon
  • The moment he knew Olympic weightlifting was his jam.
  • How the culture around Olympic lifting has evolved over the past 10 years, especially with so many people now getting into the sport.
  • How he’d reply to someone that said the “Olympic lifts take too long to coach.”
  • The difference between online and offline coaching, and how he works with new athletes in both domains.
  • The BIG Question
  • The lightning round where we talk about Greg’s biggest influences in Olympic lifting, the books he’s reading right now, and what’s next for Greg Everett.


Connect with Greg

Greg on Social Media:

Greg’s “Stuff”: 


The RTS Program Design Mentorship

Are you ready to take your program design game to the next level? Learn what it takes to level up your program design skills with the RTS Program Design Mentorship program!

In this program, you’ll receive an all-access pass to my program design process. Over six months, we’ll cover every topic imaginable on the process of designing stellar programs, including:

  • Selecting the right resets and breathing exercises
  • Creating speed and agility programs
  • Dialing in and tightening the screws on your strength training programs
  • Coaching calls every 4 weeks
  • Weekly check-ins

The RTS Program Design Mentorship program leaves no stone unturned for writing an awesome fitness program. So, are you ready to take your program design skills to the next level?

Apply for the RTS Program Design Mentorship program NOW!

Email with the subject line “Program Design” to request your application. But hurry – this offer expires February 18, 2019!


Subscribe, Rate and Share!

Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of The Physical Preparation Podcast – your one-stop-shop for fitness trainers, coaches, and athletes.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe on iTunesStitcher, and SoundCloud and leave your honest review.

And last but not least, I’d love to connect! Hit me up on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram or visit our website.

The post Greg Everett on the Coaching and Culture of Olympic Weightlifting appeared first on Robertson Training Systems.

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Nutrition is not a belief system. Why wishful thinking won’t get you results, but science might. - Thu, 02/14/2019 - 22:01

Nutrition is often seen as a belief system. In other words, the answer to “What should I eat?” is often based on faith, magical thinking, emotional attachments, and/or what feels “truthy”, rather than on real evidence or the scientific method. Until we fix this, nutrition will get more confusing, not less.


Imagine the Google search by someone who wants to eat better.

They might want to lose weight. Or build muscle. Or stay a little healthier so they can play with their grandkids longer.

So they might look for terms like:

Healthy eating.

Healthy diet.

Good nutrition.

The result? Well…

“Healthy eating” gave me 63.6 million options.

“Healthy diet” gave me 188 million options.

And “Good nutrition” gave me a whopping 213 million options.

When I check out some of these search engine results, I notice something.

Each of these websites has a story to tell: A story about which diet, supplement, food, or nutrition practice someone believes is best.

Many of these stories completely contradict each other.

But they have one thing in common: The authors treat nutrition like it’s a set of beliefs, there for their own picking and choosing.

Unfortunately, “nutrition” is often seen as a belief system.

But beliefs don’t necessarily have anything to do with facts.

When we believe something, we choose to accept that it’s true, which may or may not have anything to do with factual certainty.

This approach of “believing” is frequently applied to nutrition.

As in:

“I believe that sugar is poison.”

“I don’t believe that humans were meant to eat grains.”

“I believe in only eating foods that are natural and organic.”

In other words, the answer to “What should I eat?” is often based on faith, magical thinking, emotional attachments, and/or what feels “truthy”, rather than on science.

Yet nutrition is not a belief system.

Nutrition is a science.

I’m a strength coach and Precision Nutrition Certified nutrition specialist.

(I completed the Level 1 Certification in 2013 and I’m now in the middle of the Level 2 Certification Master Class).

Most of my work is with professional and amateur athletes. And my job is to use nutrition (plus strength and conditioning) to get my clients the results they want.

When your meal strategy can be the difference between getting a multi-million dollar contract and not, there is no room for “hoping” the nutrition will work.

I can’t go on faith alone. My clients’ careers literally depend on me doing my job well. Which is why the scientific method, not beliefs, govern my practice.

For example, my client Ronda Rousey, a mixed martial artists, model, and actress, doesn’t care about what I believe about food. She only cares about what I know about nutrition’s effect on her body and performance.

That’s why I need to ensure that my nutrition recommendations are based on measurable, accurate reality. On science. On the best evidence that we have right now.

And physiology is physiology.

Believing something, or wanting it to be true, or feeling it should be true doesn’t mean it is true.

Physiology (like chemistry, like physics) follows certain known principles.

That’s why we research things like macronutrients, hydration, and/or supplementation. That’s why we try to understand the biochemistry of digestion and metabolism. That’s why we learn about things like osmotic gradients and the physical structures of cells and molecules.

It’s why we ask questions like these:

And we use a particular method for determining the answers.

These are just a few examples, of course. As you can imagine, scientists have thousands of questions about optimal nutrition, and they’ve answered some questions more thoroughly than others.

But, in short, we’re trying to understand as much as possible about the biochemistry of digestion and metabolism, so we nerd out about things like osmotic gradients and the physical structures of cells and molecules.

Knowing the science behind the field allows us to make evidence-based recommendations to create a known physiological effect.

Will honey and cinnamon “rev my metabolism”?

Some people believe this (or want others to believe it).

But nobody knows.

Will creatine monohydrate improve my power output?

Now we’re talking.

We know some things about creatine monohydrate and its effect on the body, because it’s been scientifically studied.

Creatine monohydrate has a known chemical structure.

Creatine monohydrate has a known mechanism of action. It increases the phosphocreatine stores in your muscle. This can then be used to produce more ATP (energy), which is a key source of fuel for power, heavy lifting, and anaerobic events.

We know this because we have carefully experimented and objectively measured what happens. We’ve also reproduced those findings over and over.

See how that played out?

One claim is speculation based on, perhaps (I’m guessing) rumors about blood sugar and metabolism along with a few studies about cinnamon as an antioxidant?

The other is fact based on a documented physiological outcome.

The big problem:
Most people start with the internet.

Wondering what to put in your smoothie? What to eat before you work out? How much bacon you should eat?

There are all sorts of answers on Google, not to mention Facebook and Instagram.

You don’t have to look far to discover a charismatic person with an excellent body and sales pitch offering up their own beliefs as a “protocol” or “system”.

These systems tend to include:

  • A set of certain foods and/or supplements to eat. (Like acai berries hand-picked at sunrise.)
  • A set of certain foods to avoid. (Nothing a caveman wouldn’t eat. Nothing that isn’t “natural”. Nothing that’s been sold, bought or processed.)
  • Rules about how much to eat, when to eat (or not eat), and possibly even where to eat. (No food after 6:30 pm!)

If the belief system (or the person who invented it) is compelling or “truthy” enough, it can be pretty tempting to believe them.

After all, many of these “systems” come with lots of reasons to believe, including:

  • Irresistible promises
  • Clever branding
  • Photos, graphics, and other visual “evidence”
  • Testimonials and/or celebrity endorsements
  • Powerful personal stories (“If this guy did it, I can too!”)
  • Sex appeal
  • Scholarly citations pointing to studies that turn out to be poorly designed, fatally biased, or not yet replicated (a hallmark of — you guessed it — actual scientific fact)

Before you know it, you can’t remember the last time you didn’t put honey and cinnamon in your oatmeal…and yogurt…and tea.

We’re not bad for wishing something were true.

Just like Fox Mulder, sometimes we want to believe.

It’s very human, actually.

Belief systems can bring us comfort. Following a clear set of rules can be a huge relief to those of us that find nutrition confusing or overwhelming.

Belief systems can also make us feel like we’re part of something: A community that shares our values, aspirations, and desires. We may feel a sense of importance, identity, and belonging.

Bonus: We’re closer to our goals… together!

Not to mention, these beliefs usually promise the things we desire the most, whether it’s sparkling clean health, glowing skin, freakishly awesome performance, the body we’ve always wanted, or all of the above.

When we buy into a belief system, we’re looking for help. We want to make a change, or finally find a solution to a problem that’s bothered us for a long time.

That’s completely normal and natural.

The people who start or share a belief system aren’t bad, either. Most of them are good, genuine, positive people just trying to make other people’s lives better.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to believe.

Or wishing some things were true.

The problem happens when we base our own health decisions on emotional bias or the rules of a certain philosophy… and either ignore what science has to say about the facts, or perhaps have no idea whether such facts even exist.

Science is anything but simple.

It would be great if there was a single ingredient to cure cancer, or a single exercise to get you ripped.

But physiology isn’t simple, and neither is science. Especially nutrition science.

You might be able to find a study to support nearly any nutrition-related belief you want. This is especially true if the study was small, or sponsored by a particular interest (like a supplement company).

People who read research understand this. They understand the weight that the particular evidence holds, and where it is placed in the hierarchy of nutritional importance.

But a new trainer in the industry, or a mother looking to get back in shape, or a dude who just got a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, may not know the difference. They may assume that if it was demonstrated in one study, it is a fact.

This isn’t how science works, and it’s not how the truth is discovered.

Did you know that drinking alcohol increases muscle tone?

Don’t believe me?

Well, imagine I’m telling you this while shirtless, smiling shiny white teeth, and sporting a six-pack:

“In 2013, a double-blind clinical trial found that men increased testosterone 17% after a low dose of alcohol. In 1987, another study found similar testosterone-increasing results. Finally, a 2000 study showed that alcohol also increases testosterone levels in women.

Understanding that alcohol increases testosterone, and knowing that as testosterone goes up, so does our muscle mass and strength, I conclude that we should all get drunk to get jacked! (Results may vary.)”

Of course this isn’t true though, right?

Because that would be ignoring:

  • Other data that suggest alcohol actually lowers testosterone, and the two studies that show it has no effect.
  • Data on how alcohol can harm our health and fitness.
  • The fact that alcohol contains 7 kcals per gram, which adds up quickly when you get drinking (especially if you add mixes), and then normally increases appetite shortly afterwards, which leads to further snacking. (Street meat anyone?).
  • The fact that I am always fully clothed when telling clients stuff.
Instead of picking just one study, you have to look at all studies on that topic to see where the overall weight of the evidence lies.

But let’s get real.

People are busy.

Health and fitness clients don’t usually have the time, the experience, nor the interest to pore over research. They have jobs and lives.

So it can be easy to fall into the trap of taking one or two studies as gospel — especially if those results are delivered to you by a charismatic speaker with a great body. Enter my new supplement: Buff Booze!

What’s the harm in believing?

In the Precision Nutrition’s Certification programs, they talk about scope of practice. It’s crucial for health and fitness pros to:

  • Know what they know, and what they don’t know.

In other words, to make appropriate, evidence-based recommendations about nutrition, it’s not enough to simply:

  • Have made a big change to your own body (such as losing weight, or succeeding at a new sport).
  • Follow some blogs.
  • Have a stack of health and fitness magazines on the back of the toilet.

These are a great way to begin. I didn’t know stuff when I was new to the field, either. That’s why we learn and practice… and practice and learn… and then practice and learn some more.

But leaning on those methods of “research” — aka believing instead of knowing — can be dangerous.

There’s an old saying:

You know just enough to be dangerous.

For starters, beliefs without evidence can cause physical harm.

Nutrition can affect the human body’s systems dramatically — that’s the amazing power and opportunity, and it’s why we coaches love this field.

The downside is that doing the wrong things can change our bodies in ways we don’t want.

Back in the mid-to-late 1800s, a man named Wilbur Atwater had a Ph.D. from Yale in agricultural chemistry.

He measured the calories and macronutrients in hundreds of foods to eventually come to the conclusion that the only two elements that humans needed to be concerned with when creating their diet were:

  • protein, and
  • total calories.

He wrote newspaper columns, lectured, and told anyone who would listen about his beliefs. He truly believed that this was the solution to human nutrition and even poverty.

He was a well-respected scientist doing real research in a lab. Yet he didn’t have all the knowledge he needed to make the right recommendations.

Instead, he told everyone to eat fewer vegetables (because they were low calorie and low protein), while eating more fatty pork.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, can’t it?

Atwater’s diet eliminates:

Thanks to research, we now know that all of these play their own unique role in health. Cutting out all of these nutrients is downright dangerous.

Now, this is an extreme example, perhaps.

But some of the most popular belief-based diets today have adherents alter their nutrition choices in strange and/or misguided ways. They:

  • Completely give up grains, beans, and legumes
  • Swear off all fat
  • Eat only raw food
  • Base their intake on a single food (e.g. grapefruit, cabbage)
  • Eschew solid food
  • Only drink “detoxing” juices
  • Hold their daily calorie intake to some “magic” number, like 600
  • Replace all carbs with bacon

These diets either selectively use research (for instance, a study in rats showing that grape juice prevents tumors — time for the magic anti-cancer grape juice diet!) or get stuck on small details while missing the big picture.

Also, beliefs without evidence can prevent the health and fitness industry from making progress.

Most people working as health and fitness pros chose this industry to help people change their lives for the better.

Confusing the crap out of ourselves (and clients) with these weird belief-based “systems” does not support that goal.

When we choose belief over fact, we don’t just hold ourselves, and our clients, back. We hold the entire industry back.

Let’s commit to improving everyone’s nutrition knowledge.

Our collective job as coaches is to create the healthiest and happiest people in the world.

How do we do that?

Treating nutrition as a science, instead of a belief system, is a strong step in the right direction.

As is constantly pushing to improve our own knowledge, and thinking critically about our convictions.

Nutrition science is a big field. We can’t know everything, and certainly not all at once.

But we can commit to putting the beliefs away and embracing a lifelong process of learning, studying, thinking critically, and applying evidence-based analysis to every decision and recommendation we make.

What to do next:
Some tips from Precision Nutrition. 1. Practice having an open yet critical mindset.

“Because it worked for me” is not enough evidence to recommend “it” to another person.

Be curious. Ask questions.

Explore the evidence that supports a given position. Be aware of why nutrition science is so complicated. Ask for scientific references, and then scrutinize those.

And, by all means, experiment on yourself (in Precision Nutrition Coaching, we call this writing your Owner’s Manual).

Try different things. Document the effects.

Over time, that’s as legitimate a way of knowing. (Make sure you’re always tracking and revisiting, though — bodies do change!)

2. Live in the middle ground.

Biology rarely operates in extremes. Only in very specific contexts (for example, actual diagnosed Celiac disease) do “always” and “never” have value.

So be suspicious of “always” or “never” language in nutrition talk.

Instead, try “some people” and “sometimes” and “it depends”.

For example, a coach might insist that everything should be “100% natural” or else it’s bad. But just because something has been processed in some way does always not make it inferior.

In some cases, processing can actually improve the desired effect and/or nutritional profile. For example, in 2011 the Journal of Nutrition published a report showing that without supplements or enriched foods:

  • 100% of Americans would not get enough Vitamin D.
  • 93% not enough Vitamin E.
  • 88% not enough folate.
  • 74% not enough Vitamin A.
  • 51% not enough thiamin.
  • 46% not enough Vitamin C.
  • 22% not enough Vitamin B6.

Sure, maybe there’s some “perfect” diet floating around out there, but for most of us, having a few fortified foods and even synthetic vitamins in the roster is probably a good idea. A diet full of processed, fortified foods and synthetic vitamins, not so good.

3. Notice when words and concepts trigger emotions.

Most belief-based nutrition systems are couched in marketing that purposely gets you worked up, maybe by poking at your traumas, insecurities, or ego (the current “clean eating” craze is a good example).

Recognize when you feel “pulled” by a certain idea.

Ask yourself, am I considering this “system” for the right reasons? Am I looking for an “easy” solution because I feel sad/frustrated/lost/stressed today?

4. Scrutinize claims that are tied to financial gain.

For example:

“Eat as much as you like and still lose weight!”
(A real-life claim aimed at selling a diet book.)

“Ripped abs in 1 minute!”
(Real claim. Workout DVD this time.)

“Control insulin levels, decrease blood sugar, speed metabolism, lower LDL cholesterol, burn belly fat and suppress appetite!”
(Real claims from the makers of a cinnamon supplement. That’s right, cinnamon.)

In my teen years, I spent unthinkable quantities of my hard-earned McDonald’s money on ineffective testosterone boosters and nitric oxide products.

Trust me bro, I was getting “jacked”.

In this marriage between beliefs and profit, science didn’t show up to the ceremony.

5. Be skeptical of one-size-fits-all approaches.

Trying to use the exact same macronutrient ratio (for example) serve every human’s needs and goals is a telltale sign that a coach needs more knowledge and/or has an emotional connection with the plan.

Humans are unique, complex systems. They should be treated as such.

There is no one best diet. Any plan should be a system that’s based on evidence, and truly reflects the client’s unique lifestyle, goals, and needs.

6. Get qualified coaching.

If you don’t feel confident reading research or understanding the science, consider finding a Precision Nutrition Certified coach or enrolling in the Certification yourself.

Knowledge is power.

Passionate about fitness and nutrition?

If so, and you’d like to learn more about it, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. Our next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the industry’s most respected education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools you need to really understand how nutrition influences a person’s health and fitness.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of nutrition and fitness pros in the world.]

Interested? Add your name to the presale list. You’ll save up to 33% and secure your spot 24 hours before everyone else.

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 33% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready to boost your education, and take your nutrition game to the next level, let’s go down the rabbit hole together.

jQuery(document).ready(function(){ jQuery("#references_link").click(function(){ jQuery("#references_holder").show(); jQuery("#references_link").parent().hide(); }); }); References

Click here to view the information sources referenced in this article.

Ahtiainen, J P, et al. “Muscle Hypertrophy, Hormonal Adaptations and Strength Development during Strength Training in Strength-Trained and Untrained Men.” European Journal of Applied Physiology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 7 May 2003

Baliunas, D O, et al. “Alcohol as a Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Diabetes Care., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Nov. 2009

Barnes, M J, et al. “The Effects of Acute Alcohol Consumption on Recovery from a Simulated Rugby Match.” Journal of Sports Sciences., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 15 Dec. 2011

Bhasin, Shalender, et al. “Testosterone Dose-Response Relationships in Healthy Young Men.”American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism, American Physiological Society, 1 Dec. 2001

Bhatty, M, et al. “Alcohol Abuse and Streptococcus Pneumoniae Infections: Consideration of Virulence Factors and Impaired Immune Responses.” Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Sept. 2011

Branch, J D. “Effect of Creatine Supplementation on Body Composition and Performance: a Meta-Analysis.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 13 June 2003.

Koziris, L P, et al. “Effect of Acute Post-exercise Ethanol Intoxication on the Neuroendocrine Response to Resistance Exercise.” Journal of Applied Physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985)., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 2000

Mendelson, J H, et al. “Effects of Acute Alcohol Intake on Pituitary-Gonadal Hormones in Normal Human Males.” The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Sept. 1977

Phipps, W R, et al. “Acute Ethanol Administration Enhances Plasma Testosterone Levels Following Gonadotropin Stimulation in Men.” Psychoneuroendocrinology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2 June 1987

Sarkola, T, and C J Eriksson. “Testosterone Increases in Men after a Low Dose of Alcohol.” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 27 Apr. 2003

Sarkola, T, et al. “Acute Effect of Alcohol on Androgens in Premenopausal Women.” Alcohol and Alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire)., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 22 Jan. 2000

Sierksma, A, et al. “Effect of Moderate Alcohol Consumption on Plasma Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate, Testosterone, and Estradiol Levels in Middle-Aged Men and Postmenopausal Women: A Diet-Controlled Intervention Study.” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 7 Jan. 2004

Sowers, MF., et al. “Testosterone Concentrations in Women Aged 25–50 Years.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Feb. 2001

Turati, F, et al. “Alcohol and Liver Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies.” Annals of Oncology: Official Journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 14 Mar. 2014

Välimäki, M J, et al. “Sex Hormones and Adrenocortical Steroids in Men Acutely Intoxicated with Ethanol.” Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 1984

Ylikahri, R. M. “Low Plasma Testosterone Values in Men during Hangover.” Low Plasma Testosterone Values in Men during Hangover, Journal of Steroid Biochemistry, 12 Dec. 2002

The post Nutrition is not a belief system. Why wishful thinking won’t get you results, but science might. appeared first on Precision Nutrition.

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Equipment Feature — PRIME Fitness Squat Wedges - Thu, 02/14/2019 - 14:35
There is a lot of information about the science behind heel elevation during a squat. For the sake of keeping this article at a digestible length and in a language that's easy for just about every reader to understand, let's highlight a few of the key benefits of incorporating squat wedges into your training.
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Simple Solutions to a Better Squat - Thu, 02/14/2019 - 09:29

Today’s post comes from Dr. Sam Spinelli, a doctor of physical therapy who can also out-lift most everyone else in the gym. Sam is a contributor to the Complete Trainers Toolbox, so definitely check out his squat section when you purchase your copy.


Squatting is a fantastic movement for overall lower body development and makes you a stronger more challenging person to kill. With that said, squatting is one of those movements that you find people are either in love with it, or despise it. Those who love it are often able to drop it like it’s hot and appear to have no difficulty with the movement. In contrast, those who usually aren’t big fans tend to be the ones that also struggle with the movement feeling comfortable, aren’t able to get good depth, and generally skip it as much as possible.


For most people who struggle with squatting there are some easy ways to improve their squat quickly. Using these easy solutions we can take the person from avoiding it, to crushing it with aptitude, becoming a squat advocate. Below are three easy solutions you can add to your training or your client’s training instantly and see them go from squat struggles to squat sultan.


  1. Heel elevation

Image link –

See how happy she is from that heel elevation?


If you’ve ever watched olympic style weightlifting, you probably noticed the athletes wear shoes with a heel elevation. This done with purposefully intent to allow a more upright and deeper receiving position (overhead squat or front squat).


Having the heel elevated helps to bias the ankle and provide pseudo ankle dorsiflexion for the tibia to translate forward – AKA let’s the knee go more forward. As this happens it let’s individuals sit more straight down and stay more upright, something which we are often coaching people to try and do.

Image link –


A small heel lift in the form of a 2.5lbs plate under each heel, a workout wedge, or some lifting shoes will accomplish the task. The wedges and shoes are a better option than the plate for safety.


Some may argue that elevating the heels isn’t functional, but let’s just keep in mind that this is a means to an end for improved performance and enjoyment, which we can progress away from in time.


  1. Anterior load

Image link –


Elevating the heels may not be right for everyone, or it might not be enough for others. Another great option is transitioning your weight anteriorly – such as a goblet squat, front squat, or zercher squat. Each of these variations helps to move the load forward in front of the torso, allowing a greater degree of posterior weight shifting without losing your balance.


The easiest option for most people is a goblet squat to start learning and find instant success. However, for those who start to push themselves and get up in weight, a goblet squat can be very limiting and more of a challenge to the arms/upper body than the legs. That’s where the front squat and zercher squat come in. Assuming you learn how to hold the bar in the front squat, it can be loaded up quite heavy without much discomfort. For the zercher, a good bar pad is clutch and can accommodate some significant loading.


Goblet Squat –

Front Squat –

Zercher Squat –


  1. Tempo

The above options are great, but they require changing the movement and for some people that might not be desirable. That’s where this third tip comes in – adjusting tempo. Utilizing a different scheme for the descent, time in the bottom, ascent, and time at the top can be a phenomenal adjustment.


For example, a lot of people will lower down over a course of half a second to 1 second, hit a challenging spot, then reverse up. If instead we transition that to a tempo of 3:1:3:1 where we lower over the course of three seconds, pause at the bottom, come up slowly over the course of three seconds, and pause momentarily at the top, that person will likely be able to achieve better depth and have more control over the movement.


Generally slowing down the descent, having a pause in the bottom, and having a controlled ascent is a great way to work on the control of the movement and clean up a lot of things quickly. You will need to lower the amount of weight you use, but you’ll get more control on the movement to allow you to lift more weight in the future.

If you want to learn more easy solutions and long term solutions for squat form and so much more on squatting, check out my presentation All Things Squats, Knees, and Hips as a part of the complete trainer’s toolbox. It’s on launch sale pricing for $100 off the regular price until Sunday February 17th at midnight, so act now to get the entire package and save some money.



Click HERE for more info and to get your copy


The post Simple Solutions to a Better Squat appeared first on

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Individualizing Your Squat Stance - Thu, 02/14/2019 - 08:59

I’ve often championed the notion that there’s “no such thing as textbook technique.”

How we’re taught to execute certain exercises in a textbook often won’t translate to the real world because, well, we don’t live in textbooks.

This is a theme that’s hit on several times in The Complete Trainers’ Toolbox. Sam Spinelli, one of the contributors, was kind enough to share a bit of an amuse bouche from his presentation “All Things Squats, Knees, and Hips” with everyone today.

To check out the full presentation, as well as contributions from eight other renowned industry leaders, go HERE for more information.

Copyright: leaf / 123RF Stock Photo

Individualizing Your Squat Stance

Humans are these incredibly awesome, adaptable, and diverse creatures.

Within our awesomeness, over time we have adapted to have a diverse set of unique features in our anatomy that provides for a wide range of movement from person to person. This is something that we did not readily acknowledge for a long time and tried to fit people into square holes.

The squat is a perfect example of this topic.

For such a long time it has been advocated to squat with your toes forward and perfectly hip width apart. The unfortunate thing is that this limits a significant majority of people from being able to squat comfortably – or to an appreciable depth.

While some people may be able to do so with practice and working on range of motion, for a vast majority it is just not realistic due to their bony anatomy.

 As we examine the ankle, knee, and hip, we can see that there is significant variation within the bones forming them and the resulting joints.

For example, at the hip we have an acetabulum that can vary in depth of which will impact how much motion a set sized femoral head can have. This will impact the capacity of motion for hip range between individuals, leading to diverse squat stances already. When we begin to layer on the other ways our anatomy differs, it compounds and leads to a breadth of variations in how people may squat.

How Should I Squat Then?

There isn’t a set stance that will accommodate everyone – some people will do well with a hip width stance and slight toe out, others may do better with a narrower stance and feet directly forward. Finding what works best for you can be a challenge at first and require some experimentation.

To help expedite the process, try out these four methods:

1) Find Your Squat Stance – Standing


2) Find Your Squat Stance – Supported


3) Find Your Squat Stance – Seated


4) Find Your Squat Stance – Kneeling


The goal with each is to start with feet together and progress foot/knee width. You will find that one width generally feels better than the others, that’s the one to stick with for now. Then you can start playing around with foot/knee angle and continue experimenting.

This will get you a great head start on your squat stance and making it unique to you.

Two additional details – you may find your stance more comfortable with your feet not symmetrical and you may find that your stance changes with time. These things are normal for many people.

Did I Just Blow Your Mind?

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of stuff I cover in my presentation “All Things Squats, Knees, and Hips” in the Complete Trainers’ Toolbox, an online resource that became available this week that also features presentations from eight other industry professionals – including Tony Gentilcore, Dean Somerset, Dr. Lisa Lewis, Alex Kraszewski, Kellie Davis, Meghan Callaway, Dr. Sarah Duvall, and Luke Worthington..

It includes 17 total hours of content covering a wide range of topics every health/fitness professional is bound to relate with. It’s on sale this week at a significant discount, but only until Sunday, February 17th at midnight.

Go HERE for more information.

The post Individualizing Your Squat Stance appeared first on Tony Gentilcore.

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A Thank You to My Valentine - Thu, 02/14/2019 - 08:38
Head's up: If you're looking for reps, sets, or percentages, you might want to look elsewhere on this website. Or take the time to make a sweet gesture for your significant other today, just like I'm about to do for my wonderful wife in this article.
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Powerlifting Cues and What They Mean | Bench - Thu, 02/14/2019 - 04:15

These are some of our favorite cues to improve technique and performance in the bench press.

The post Powerlifting Cues and What They Mean | Bench appeared first on Juggernaut Training Systems.

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Exercise of the Week: Glute-Ham Raise with Banded Reach - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 15:26

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of training the posterior chain and also working on getting serratus anterior firing to improve scapular upward rotation. So, you can imagine how excited I am to present to you an exercise of the week video that hits both. Thanks to Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard for the demo: 

        View this post on Instagram                  

Glute-ham raises with banded reach are a great way to train scapular upward rotation while working the posterior chain. Serratus anterior works like an “anti-lat,” so this setup keeps athletes honest: they can’t cheat the concentric by moving through lumbar (low back) extension instead of hip extension. #Mets pitcher @nsyndergaard with the stellar demo.

How to Get In and Stay In - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 09:33
If you think you have what it takes to become a strength coach, you've got to start with an internship. This one's for the future interns who want to get on the field and on the strength and conditioning path. Just know there's little to no money or prestige in the gig.
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Macronutrient Tracking for Fat Loss - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 09:28
Now that I've explained the basics of macronutrient tracking, I want to delve further into using macronutrient tracking for a more specific purpose: fat loss. Admittedly, it's not as simple as you might think; however, there are a couple good options out there. Here the ones I tend to use with my clients.
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Struggling to Excel at Pull-ups? These Commonly Made Mistakes May Be Playing a Role. - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 08:32

If I want to learn more about astrophysics I listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson.

If I want to learn more about how to to be jacked while rocking a bowl cut I listen to He-Man.

Moreover, if I want to learn about or become a legit badass at pull-ups, my go to expert is Meghan Callaway. She’s a straight-up gangster when it comes to pull-ups and pull-up programming. 

With the release of The Complete Trainers’ Toolbox this week, of which Meghan and myself are a part of (along with seven other health/fitness professionals), we felt it important to give people a bit of insight as to what kind of information they can learn from this resource.

Meghan goes into the weeds on anything and everything regarding programming for the pull-up and today she offers a little insight on some commonly made mistakes people make.


ALSO: The Complete Trainers’ Toolbox is on sale this week at $100 off the regular price. 

Copyright: dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo

Are You Committing These Mistakes?

Countless people of all genders have the goal of being able to perform one or many pull-ups. Yet it is no secret that most people struggle to execute a single strict pull-up, and this includes many elite athletes.

Sam Bennett, the number one draft pick in the 2014 NHL draft, made the news when he failed to perform a single pull-up at the NHL draft combine.

So the inability to excel at pull-ups definitely isn’t limited to the general population, or purely beginners. Most people fail to conquer pull-ups, not because they are physically incapable, but because they are making some key mistakes.

I have great news for you.

This can be rectified.

Case in point, shortly after Sam Bennett bombed his pull-ups in the NHL draft combine, with some proper training, he banged out 11 reps.

Note From TG: I actually wrote an article a few years ago on the reaction to people giving Sam Bennett grief about not being able to perform a pull-up initially. You can read it HERE.

In this article I am going to discuss FIVE key mistakes that are preventing an abundance of people from excelling at pull-ups.

Mistake #1: Relying on the Arms to Perform the Movement

When pull-ups are being executed correctly, the shoulder blades, not the arms, should be initiating the movement. Instead of using the muscles in the mid and upper back to perform the bulk of the movement, a myriad of people rely on their arms.

To be clear, while the muscles in the arms will play a role, they should only be assisting the muscles in the back, not performing the majority of the work.

During the initial phase of the movement, and as your body is traveling towards the bar, you want to draw each shoulder blade in towards your spine and down towards your opposite hip (depression, retraction, downward rotation), not pull with your arms.

During the eccentric phase of the movement, rather than keeping your shoulder blades pinned, a mistake that plagues many individuals and can again cause them to rely on their arms to execute the movement, your shoulder blades should perform the reverse movements and should move away from your spine and away from your opposite hip (elevation, protraction, upward rotation).

As you can see, the ability to control the movement of your shoulder blades is a key component of being able to perform pull-ups.


The scapula pull-up is a really useful pull-up specific regression as it teaches you how to initiate the movement with your shoulder blades instead of pulling with your arms. This exercise is also specific to pull-ups as it requires you use the same body positioning, and it helps improve grip strength.

A few key points:

  • Initiate the movement by drawing your shoulder blades in towards your spine and down towards your opposite hip (retraction, depression, downward rotation).
  • In the top position, pause for a brief count.
  • Perform the eccentric component with complete control.
  • During the lowering/eccentric portion of the movement, your shoulder blades should perform the reverse movements as they did during the concentric component, and should move away from your spine and away from your opposite hip (protraction, elevation, upward rotation).
  • For the duration of the movement, your elbows should remain in a fixed position and should not bend at all. All of the movement should occur via the shoulder blades.


Mistake #2: Inability to Maintain the Proper Body Positioning

 This might surprise you, but if you hope to perform pull-ups as efficiently as possible, your entire body must function as a synchronized unit.

Pull-ups are not just an upper body movement.

If you are not able to maintain the proper body positioning, and in order to do so your lumbo-pelvic region and lower body must remain in a relatively fixed position for the duration of the movement, you will struggle.

Your path to the bar will likely be longer and less efficient as you will be more prone to swinging, and you will likely be forced to move unnecessary deadweight to and from the bar. This is not conducive to optimal pull-up performance. Keeping your head, torso, and hips in a stacked position, something I often liken to a canister, is extremely important. Proper breathing, bracing, rib positioning, and glute engagement are crucial. In terms of your lower body, you want to fully extend your knees and contract your quadriceps, cross one foot over the other, and dorsiflex your feet.


The dead bug, and its many variations, is one of my go-to exercises for improving lumbo-pelvic stability.

This exercise, which can accommodate people of most fitness levels and abilities, trains your anterior core muscles to generate the requisite levels of tension needed to perform pull-ups efficiently. This versatile exercise also trains your muscles to resist the extension of the spine, and this is an area where many people labour. When heaps of people perform pull-ups, it is extremely common to see their ribcage flaring and lower back hyperextending. Dead bugs will help resolve these issues.

A few key points:

  • For the duration of the exercise, keep your head, torso and hips in a stacked position. Keep your ribcage down, and do not allow your lower back to hyperextend. In other words, maintain the canister position.
  • As you initiate each rep and lower the opposite arm and leg towards the floor, steadily exhale, and brace your anterior core muscles as hard as you can.
  • Start out with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle and maintain this position for the duration of the movement. Only extend your knees (and perform more advanced variations) once you’ve mastered the movement with your knees bent, not before.

Here is an innovative and extremely effective dead bug variation you can try.


Mistake #3: Lack of Specificity

Are you spending endless hours training yet are still unable to execute one or more pull-ups?

The exercises you are performing might not be specific enough to pull-ups.

With your pull-up training, you need to perform exercises that develop pull-up specific mechanics and pull-up specific body positioning. Pull-up regressions develop these key components, and serve as great stepping stones towards being able to bang out one or many unassisted pull-ups. In terms of body positioning, exercises like hollow body holds, dead bugs, and hanging leg raises help you learn how to develop and also maintain proper pull-up specific body positioning.

Some common culprit exercises that many people believe will help their pull-up performance, yet have a relatively low carryover as they are not specific enough to pull-ups, include lat pull-downs, biceps curls, and machine assisted pull-ups.

These are just a few of many exercises I could list. The fact I named machine assisted pull-ups as one of these exercises might surprise you, so I will discuss this in my next point.

Mistake #4: Relying on Machine Assisted Pull-ups and Band Assisted Pull-ups

In most cases, I am not a fan of machine assisted pull-ups.

At least, I strongly believe there are many better options.

While machine assisted pull-ups do allow you to focus on scapular movement, so this is one benefit of the exercise, due to the fact you are kneeling on a pad, your body is in a completely different position to when you are performing regular pull-ups, and you don’t need to generate and maintain full body tension.

In essence, the need for pull-up specific body positioning and lumbo-pelvic stability are almost entirely removed from the overall equation. When it comes to training for actual pull-ups, there are plenty of other pull-up regressions and accessory exercises that are much more specific to actual pull-ups, and will have a vastly greater carryover to your pull-up performance.

Now when it comes to band assisted pull-ups, if they are implemented and execute correctly, and at an appropriate time in your training program, they can have a positive impact.

However, an abundance of people make the mistake of training for pull-ups by relying purely on band assistance, and they omit performing all of the other extremely important pull-up specific regressions.

With band-assisted pull-ups, the band provides the help in the bottom position of the movement, and this is when most people do not need the most assistance. Another key issue with band assisted pull-ups, the band makes it easy to disregard proper body positioning, and generating the requisite levels of tension around the spine, hips, and lower body.

Due to all of the above, when many people eliminate the band and attempt to perform regular pull-ups, they flounder.

Before you introduce band assisted pull-ups to your training program, you should have already developed the proper pull-up specific technique, the ability to control the movement of your shoulder blades and shoulders, and the ability to generate the requisite levels of tension and pull-up specific body positioning.

In short, when you are utilizing band assistance, it is imperative that your form is identical to when you are performing regular unassisted pull-ups. Also, you want to use as little assistance as needed, but as much as necessary so you can perform 100% of your reps with impeccable form.


Mistake #5: Insufficient Grip Strength

While this kind of goes without saying, if you cannot support your bodyweight from a hanging position, your ability to perform pull-ups will suffer. An insufficient grip plagues many people of all fitness levels and abilities, not just beginners.

Adding some grip specific exercises to your training program will positively impact your overall ability to perform pull-ups.

A few of my favorite exercises for improving grip strength include loaded carries, and bottoms-up kettlebell presses.

Loaded Carries

Key Points: (describing loaded carries with dumbbells by sides)

  • For the duration of the exercise, maintain the canister position. Your head, torso and hips should remain in a stacked position. Do not allow your lower back to hyperextend or ribcage to flare.
  • Keep your arms rigid (all the way down to your hands), and pretend you are trying to crush something in your armpits.
  • For the duration of the exercise, maintain your 360 degree brace, and maintain regular breathing (360 degrees of air around your spine).


Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Presses

Key Points:

  • For the duration of the exercise, maintain the canister position. Your head, torso and hips should remain in a stacked position. Do not allow your lower back to hyperextend or ribcage to flare.
  • Keep the muscles in your forearm engaged, and wrist in a vertical position.
  • Do not keep your shoulder blades pinned. They are supposed to move. This applies to both the concentric and eccentric components of the movement.
  • Before you initiate each press, take a deep breath in, (360 degrees of air around your spine), brace your core (360 degree brace around your spine), tuck your ribs towards your hips, and squeeze your glutes. This will help stabilize your hips and spine.
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The post Struggling to Excel at Pull-ups? These Commonly Made Mistakes May Be Playing a Role. appeared first on Tony Gentilcore.

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Mental Skills for Big Lifts (And small ones too!) - Wed, 02/13/2019 - 06:50

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Lisa Lewis, EdD, CADC-II, Licensed Psychologist, and co-contributor for The Complete Trainer’s Toolbox, which she’s loaded chock full of awesome Jedi Mind Tricks to help take your mental strength to the same level as your deadlift.



Not that long ago, my husband was preparing to attempt a 600lb deadlift. He had been working toward this goal for some time, and as the big day approached, I noticed him expressing mostly anticipation, but also some doubt. Physically, he was prepared. But mentally, there were thoughts and feelings that were getting in the way of his well-earned confidence and excitement.


As a licensed psychologist and performance consultant, I offered my assistance. Although weight training, and exercise overall, is physical, psychological skills and habits strongly influence motivation, persistence, effort, and performance. Whether you are a trainer, coach, or a fitness enthusiast, you know that your thoughts, feelings, and expectations strongly influence how things go in the gym.


The psychological, or mental skillsthat I reviewed with my husband were brief, and focused on the goal of picking 600 pounds up from the ground. These very same techniques can be useful to you, and/or your clients, when doubt, worry, or even anxiety are getting in the way of specific achievements, or fitness progress in general.


Here is a quick summary of three easy approaches to decreasing performance anxiety and practicing mental preparation for big (or even small) lifts:


  1. Review the data:

What have you done to prepare for this goal? Have you completed your sets? Reps? Have you progressed your weight? Performed variations of the deadlift? Gotten in the requisite volume?

(To all of these questions, my husband answered, “Yeah!” He recognized that he had done everything he needed to, in order to pull 600lbs off the ground.)


  1. See the moment:

What will it be like when you pick up 600lbs? What will you do just before? Where will you be? Will anyone be there? Will you film it? What will you be feeling? What will you be wearing? What will be your routine, your process for going to the bar, and picking it up? Walk me through the execution of the lift… What will it feel like after you put the bar back down?

(This narration of the day, it’s circumstances, and the routine helped to visualize success, and work out some of the details, so that perfect execution seemed likely.)


  1. Imagine the worst:

What’s the worst that could happen? And if that happened, what would that mean about you? How would you feel? What would you do after that?

(In the face of anxiety, imagining the worst possible outcome can often remind us that failure isn’t really that terrible, and can often be the next step in the process of success. Walking through the worst-case-scenario with my husband removed the anxiety – and put into perspective the long game – which is to get strong, and stay that way.)


As you’ve probably already guessed, my husband did indeed deadlift 600 lbs. The physical preparation got him there, but the mental preparation relaxed, focused, and energized him, so that he could accomplish what he was ready for. These easy-to-use mental strategies can be useful to all coaches and clients, at all levels of fitness!

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600 lb club, son. It's been a long time coming, but I finally hit my 600 lb DL. I was soooo nervous all morning thinking about today's training session knowing the attempt was on the docket. All told it felt (and looked) pretty darn good. I want to thank @strengthhousegreg for his coaching throughout the process, my wife for the Jedi-like mindset strategies she gave me last night and this morning, and my 12th grade English teacher, Ms. Davie, just because.

A post shared by Tony Gentilcore (@tonygentilcore) on Oct 13, 2017 at 11:08am PDT


Add Psychological Skills to your fitness Toolbox

Your training and physical preparation is central to your goals in the gym, but mental preparation and mental skills enhance your performance, and remove psychological barriers from getting in the way of your achievements.


In the Complete Trainer’s Toolbox, I add mental skills training to the variety of exercises, assessments, and physical skills provided by strength coaches, trainers, and physical therapists. In the Complete Trainer’s Toolbox, I offer a one hour lecture on motivation, covering it’s nature, varieties, and techniques for enhancing and sustaining motivation within yourself and your clients. In a second one hour lecture, I address negative thinking, it’s impact on training and on you, as a fitness professional, and then provide strategies for minimizing, reframing, and changing negative thinking, all in the name of progress in the gym.

Check out the Complete Trainer’s Toolbox to see the variety of other fitness professionals and topics included. You will find a comprehensive source of education that includes applicable, actionable strategies to use in the gym. Thank you, and good luck with your big (and small) lifts!


The Complete Trainers Toolbox is available for a launch sale pricing for $100 off the regular price until Sunday February 17th at midnight. Get Lisa’s presentations, as well as an additional 15+ hours of digital video content, continuing education credits, and a crisp internet high five from yours truly.

Click HERE to for more info and to purchase.


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