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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:

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


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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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The Complete Trainers Toolbox is Available Now!

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 20:47

I’m really excited to release a new product today, The Complete Trainers Toolbox, a collaborative project between myself as well as Tony Gentilcore, Dr. Lisa Lewis, Luke Worthington, Dr. Sam Spinelli, Kellie Davis, Dr. Sarah Ellis Duvall, Meghan Callaway, and Alex Kraszewski.


The basis for why we wanted to produce a product like this is pretty simple: most trainers have awesome skill-sets and knowledge, but may need some advice or help when it comes to specific situations.

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

  • How do I program for that exercise, or for this specific situation?
  • What do I do if a deadlift bothers my clients back?
  • My client can’t squat without knee pain, what do I do?
  • How can I help my clients get their first pullup and then their 5th?
  • My post-natal client has some core and pelvic floor issues, how do I progress them into lifting?
  • How can I get better at assessments?
  • I have clients that always complain and never seem to be motivated to workout, how can I help them?
  • how can I get better at marketing my services to clients and finding better quality leads?
  • I want to get published in different magazines, so how can I get better at writing?

This series covers all of these bases, and more, in convenient home-study webinars. Think of it like a conference you can attend without having to take time off work, pay travel expenses, or make awkward small talk with people at social gatherings.

With 17 hours of digital video content, 9 presenters from 3 countries, including strength coaches, physical therapists, and a psychologist, we cover a ton of bases with expert insights to help give specific actionable information to help you make better choices for your clients and produce better results immediately.

The product is also approved for continuing education credits through the NSCA, which can also be used to petition for credit through other organizations you may be certified through.

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Coming February 2019

A post shared by Dean somerset (@dsomerset1) on Jan 12, 2019 at 6:02pm PST


From now until Sunday, February 17th 2019 at midnight, we’re launching the entire series for $100 off the regular price. You can get the entire series – all 17 hours of content, continuing education credits, and decades of accumulated knowledge – all for only $197 US.


Click HERE for more info and to get your copy today


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Stuff to Check Out: Post Groundhog Day Edition

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 11:01

I still can’t believe we look to small domestic rodents to predict the weather. In Edmonton even if he sees his shadow, it’s a guarantee we have at least another 6 weeks of winter.

So let’s go through some stuff to help keep you warm



The Complete Trainers Toolbox is a collaborative product featuring Tony Gentilcore, Dr. Lisa Lewis, Dr. Sarah Duvall, Luke Worthington, Dr. Sam Spinelli, Alex Kraszewski, Meghan Callaway, Kellie Davis, and yours truly. We’re launching it on Tuesday February 12th, so get ready to have your minds blown.

The product isn’t live yet, so just be patient and we’ll make sure it’s worth the wait.


Workshop Stuff

Even More Complete Shoulder & Hip Blueprint is coming to the following locations in 2019:

Philadelphia, PA April 27-28
Edmonton, Alberta Canada Ma7 25-26
Sydney Australia July 13-14
Singapore, Republic of Singapore July 20-21

Click HERE for more information and to register. Early bird pricing is still available for each location, so register now to save some money.



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1-minute mobility flow If you hate spending time on slow isolation mobility drills, try using something like this flow sequence. It gets your hips moving through flexion, internal & external rotation, extension and even some abduction to boot, plus makes you work on balance, core control, and your ability to keep up with the beat. You’ll also look like a damn ninja when you bust this out, which is always good to see. #mobility #ninja #breakdancefighting #blessed

A post shared by Dean somerset (@dsomerset1) on Feb 1, 2019 at 9:09am PST

I had a client train with me after working through many other trainers. She said she'd work with me forever because of 3 simple things: "You show up, you're on time & you have a plan ready. None of the others were ever able to do all 3 at once." It's a low bar. Hit it every time.

— Dean Somerset (@deansomerset) December 7, 2018



I had the opportunity to appear on a bunch of really great podcasts in the past few weeks:

3 Things Podcast with Casey LeeiTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and Soundcloud

FitnessProfessional Online Podcast with Eric Malzone – Click HERE to listen

The Lifestyle Chase with Chris Liddle – Click HERE for iTunes, and search “Lifestyle Chase” for other podcast hosting sites



For those old-school folks who like to read words written with letters, here’s a few articles to satiate your desires.


What 3 Hybrid Physical Therapist/Strength Coaches Want You To Know About Pain, Exercise and

This was an awesome article with solid overviews of pain science, movement competency, and approaches very knowledgeable and practically skilled professionals use when describing pain or movement issues to their clients and patients.


6 Random Thoughts On Programming for and Coaching Young AthletesMike Robertson

One thing I love about reading Mike’s work is seeing where we agree and where he sheds light on potential blind spots I have in my own approaches. I picked out a lot of blind spots on this piece.


The Big Toe and the SquatTony Gentilcore

One of the first places I look when coaching someone’s squat is at their feet to see what’s happening during their eccentric phase. Tony writes a great outline of why feet on the squat matter, but specifically where that cheeky big toe may wind up in some less than perfect examples of squatting success.


Enjoy the rest of the week and stay warm, fam!

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Do Leg Length Discrepancies Actually Matter?

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 09:25

Over the years I’ve had a lot of clients with various ailments say they have been diagnosed by different medical practitioners as having a leg length discrepancy, where one leg is longer than the other, and that this difference is a causative or contributing factor to their problems.

Image credit:–conditions/limb-length-discrepancy/

In many cases, the leg length isn’t notably different like the pic above. They’re more minor, usually within 10-15 mm, which seems like a pretty small difference to be causing so many issues.

Usually the recommendation to correct this is to use various shoe inserts, from heel pads to insoles, and even custom-made shoes to help relieve some of the difference between the legs.
In today’s post, I wanted to delve into this topic with some specific questions:

  • How accurate are the assessments for leg length?
  • Is there evidence in the research to show this difference actually causes or contributes to mechanical dysfunction?
  • Do shoe inserts actually provide any benefit to treating this condition?

But first, let’s talk about what leg length discrepancies actually are.

True Leg Length Discrepancy: This is where the bones are longer on one side than the other. Some studies have found that up to 90% of the population has a measurable difference in leg length,  with 20% showing a difference in length larger than 9mm, or almost half an inch.

Functional Leg Length Discrepancy: This is when the joint on one side don’t line up in the same way as the other, like with a flat foot, valgus collapse on one knee, torsioned pelvis, etc, which causes the impression of a short leg.

Kamis. J Orthop. 2017 Jun; 14(2): 276–280.


How Accurate are Assessments?

Common approaches to measuring leg length differences are to use wooden blocks to achieve a “neutral” pelvic position, as shown above, as well as tape measurements to measure the length of femurs and tibias on both sides of the body. While these are cost-effective and easy to administer, the accuracy and reliability may be considerably low.

Hanada et al (2001) showed that while tape measurements could be easily reproduced with a high degree of agreement, but only moderate validity compared to radiographic measurements, and only in normal pelvii without gross asymmetry. As I’ve shown previously, you can have a significant difference between left and right hips, within what would be classified as “normal” ranges.

Frieberg et al (Int Disabit Stud. 1988;10(2):49–53) found the error of tape measures was plus/minus 8.4 mm compared to radiologic measurements. They also found the indirect method of using wood blocks to level the pelvis lead to a 53% erroneous measurement rate when leg length differences were greater than 5 mm.

To compound the measurement issues, Gurney showed that clinicians have trouble determining what constitutes a discrepancy requiring intervention, with some citing differences of 5mm or less, and others not worrying until the difference is greater than 20-30mm. With common clinical measurements listed above having relative error rates of 5-10mm, and no specific agreement as to a cut-off point as to when to intervene, it’s tough to say what quantified measured difference is important, especially at lower differences.

Interestingly, few studies compare leg length differences as a factor relative to the individuals’ height, which is strange as a 5 mm difference would be a larger relative difference to someone who is only 5 foot tall compared to someone who is 6’6″.

So to recap:

  • Error in clinical measurements can be anywhere from 5-10 mm plus or minus
  • no established cut off as to what would be significant enough to warrant intervention
  • most measures don’t take into account the individuals height,


Evidence It Contributes To Dysfunction?

The existing body of research has done a rough job at determining if leg length differences are a challenge, how much of a difference is required to affect the individual, what interventions would be most appropriate, and what those interventions success rates actually are.

A metanalysis from Azizan et al showed that while kinematic differences did exist in both gait and balance considerations with increasing leg length differences, there were no discernable differences in those who had symptoms associated with their leg length differences and asymptomatic test subjects, when matched for discrepancy size. The biggest differences came in those with leg length discrepancies following knee and hip replacement surgeries.

Interestingly, the type of approach used for a total hip replacement could affect the size of the post-operative discrepancy, but not very often. Debi et al showed that direct anterior approaches could have a range of discrepancy of -6 to +5mm, lateral approaches had a range of -22 to +14 mm, however the occurrence of a discrepancy greater than 10 mm was only 2.1%

Further in total hip replacement categories, many studies have found that complete reduction of discrepancy realistically can’t happen, even through precise surgical measurements. Some studies have shown there is no correlation to post-operative outcomes and any leg length discrepancies. Others showed that with relatively large differences, patients who were made aware of a leg length difference were less satisfied and required more mobility assistance following their surgery.

in lumbar disc herniation patients (L4-5 and L5S1 predominantly), ten Brinke et al showed pain affecting the short side leg (measured as greater than 1mm. Wait what??) was essentially a coin flip, with 43.8% of men having symptoms into their shorter leg, and 55.9% of women having their shorter leg affected.

Betsch et al simulated difference with various height wood blocks and observed some mild pelvic torsion and repositioning as simulated discrepancies increased, but did not observe any more than minor spinal positional changes with these increasing differences.

So in people going through a total hip replacement, there’s no consensus as to whether a leg length difference is a factor in mobility issues, pain, or other functions, and there’s no clearly defined cut-off as to a difference that would be considered clinically significant.

Even more interesting, comparing trans-femoral amputees with back pain and without back pain, Morgenroth et al found there was no statistical association with limb length and back pain prevalence. Esposito & Russell compared amputees with and without back pain to able-bodied controls, and found pelvic and trunk coordination in amputees with back pain and able-bodied controls with back pain were similar, and the only notable difference between gait patterns of asymptomatic amputees and back pain amputees was in the transverse plane.

So to recap:

  • No specific discrepancy shown to affect symptoms, gait mechanics, etc
  • no agreement following total hip replacement as to whether leg length discrepancy is impactful on quality of life, or even what the size of that discrepancy would be that could affect quality of life
  • no specific difference in back pain prevalence among amputees with various differences in measured and prosthetic-aided leg length discrepancies, and only small differences in gait mechanics in continuous relative phase measurements between asymptomatic amputees and non-pained able-bodied controls


Do Insoles Actually Provide Any Benefit?

The main purpose to using an insole or insert is to minimize the leg length difference, so if it’s an effective treatment for this condition, the research should show that fairly consistently, or at least give some success rates of this application.

There are a number of studies that show use of inserts are very beneficial, however it should be noted these studies showed the greatest outcomes at differences of 10 mm or less, and as mentioned earlier, most clinical assessments have an error rate of 5-10 mm, and many researchers caution against providing treatments for differences of under 10 mm, or less than 1/2 inch.

In distance runners, Gross et al showed inserts were beneficial for reducing or greatly improving symptoms associated with running, of which leg length discrepancy was a factor in the subjects self-reported responses of injuries (13.5% of conditions reported).

A systematic review of all literature by Campbell et al showed there was low quality evidence, but evidence nonetheless, that orthotics could positively affect low back pain. However the author noted that many of the studies with a very broad effect size through studies.

So to recap:

  • inserts used for less than 10 mm discrepancies seem beneficial, but errors in measurement may reduce this benefit to simple placebo.
  • Runners with a higher impact and mileage, who are symptomatic for various lower leg issues, can benefit from inserts, but much of the data for other participants needs to be carried out with higher quality studies.
  • There’s no agreement as to whether inserts relieve symptoms based on the breadth of the available research



In general, there doesn’t seem to be much of a consensus on the role of a leg length issue in injuries, tissue tolerances, stressors through the knees, hips or low back. There’s also significant measurement issues, especially for any diagnosis of discrepancies of less than 10 mm.

Amputees, who could be said to have the most extreme case of leg length discrepancies, don’t show consistency when it comes to symptoms relative to the length and fit of prosthesis, and when compared to able-bodied controls, symptomatic and asymptomatic amputees don’t seem to present differently relative to their impacted leg length discrepancy.

Inserts don’t seem to have definitive success rate when it comes to relieving symptoms believed to be related to leg length discrepancies, other than a possible placebo effect.



So what do you do if you have a leg length discrepancy that you feel is causing you issues? There’s a few options you could go through for conservative treatments and training.

  1. Physio or manual therapy to help with any overworked tissues, retrain joint alignment as much as possible, and improve balance. These seem have big effects on managing symptoms with as much success as anything.
  2. Try inserts if you have a medical plan that will pay for them. If not, they can be a few hundred bucks, so weigh the pro with the cons on that one. Just note that semi-solid or soft inserts will wear out within a couple years, so you’ll have to buy new ones down the road if you do notice a benefit. If you don’t feel a significant benefit within a few weeks, it’s probably not benefitting you much at all. Before you shell out though, go to a drug store and get a cheap set of Dr. Scholls inserts and see if they make any tangible difference. They go for only a couple of dollars.
  3. Do more unilateral leg training to avoid getting stuck in a bilateral stance, especially under loading. Alternatively, if you want to do bilateral stuff like squats or deadlifts, play with your stance to see if an asymmetric stance makes you feel more stable and strong.split squats, single leg deadlifts, and lunges are all awesome variations that should be in your program already.
  4. Walk on varied surfaces as much as possible. We have a huge variability in our bodies and we can adapt to a lot of stuff, so putting your body in a position where it doesn’t have to conform to a constantly flat and level footing can go a long way to avoiding potential movement pattern overload, which may contribute to symptoms associated with leg length issues.
  5. Train in a variety of movements, directions, and loading scenarios. Variety helps break up monotony, and bodies seem to enjoy a little spice on occasion.

One thing that’s also worth noting is that it’s really difficult to connect the dots between a potential biomechanical feature and pain. Pain is a multifactorial concept, and often biomechanics are simply a small part of that. The body is great at compensating to find the least energetically expensive and least painful way of doing things, so if that means the longer leg winds up with a flatter arch, a rotated knee, or slightly asymmetrical stance, it will find a way. This isn’t to say that there isn’t a connection with biomechanics, but that only chasing a treatment of reducing the potential discrepancy likely won’t fix all of the problems that may be contributing to pain, symptoms, or side effects of treatment.


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Snapping Hips on Dead Bugs

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 10:31

I love giving out dead bugs to clients. It’s one of the best core exercises to teach bracing, rib positioning, breathing under tension, and doing it all in a way that doesn’t smash out the spine with a ton of shear force or compression.

However, it’s not all sunshine and puppy snuggles. Occasionally people may experience some anterior hip pain with these, or a sensation of something popping in the front of the hip as they lower a leg. There’s a few potential reasons for this, from the psoas tendon sliding back and forth over a portion of the femoral head, to the tensor fascia latae doing something similar, all the way to an anterior labral tear.

In each case, the movement of the hip through eccentric action puts stress on something in the front of the hip, and makes for an uncomfortable sensation.

In most instances, this is more of an annoyance than a specific injury or a problem. If it doesn’t hurt during the movement, it’s likely a pretty minor thing, but that doesn’t mean you want to continue hating the process while getting your dead bug on.

There are a few things you could do to reduce the possibility of this happening. First, it may come down to changing how you brace your abs, with more of an emphasis on pulling the ribs down and getting more work from the obliques to help provide some stabilization that can take some of the loading off the psoas and reduce the tension in that muscle during the eccentric movement.

Another option could be to reduce the lever arm length and instead of lowering a leg flat to the floor, you lower it with a bent knee and not right to the ground.

This also has the added bonus of not stretching the psoas as far, or creating as much of a stretch to anterior hip structures that may also contribute to the snapping hip sensation. It’s a good regression that seems to help a lot of people still focus on the benefits of the movement without the discomfort.

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Cleaning Up Thoracic Rotation

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 11:08

One of the trickiest movements to get people to go through properly is thoracic rotation. There’s a lot of places that want to take the reins on this movement, like the neck, shoulder blades, low back, hips, big toe, probably left eyeball, who knows.

Part of the challenge is that thoracic vertebrae have relatively small movements from each joint, are somewhat locked down by ribs attaching to the sternum, and the underlying belief that in terms of fitness, more is always better.

So if it’s so tricky to hit up, what are some of the benefits to getting it moving? Well, as the ribs are all anchored to the T-spine (as the kids call it these days), it plays a major role in breathing mechanics. Limited T-spine motion will limit rib motion, which can affect how easy it is to breathe, and also how big of a breath you can take in.

Thoracic extension is also kind of a big deal when it comes to scapular motion too. You need a degree of extension to retract and the scapula, and also to allow for overhead motion, and rotation comes in to play with any kind of gait or throwing motion, so a limit in this areas ability to move can have a ripple effect to a lot of other stuff you may want to do.

So how can you get more movement here without compensating and driving through the other regions mentioned above? There’s a few strategies I’ve found to be effective and will outline here today.


Block the Movement

If you notice that you’re getting a lot of lateral hip sway on a 3 point rotation, you could do something like set up with your hips against a wall to help prevent that movement from happening.

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Block the movement you don’t want.

How to Eat Right and Exercise When You Absolutely Hate to Eat Right and Exercise

Mon, 01/07/2019 - 09:33
I totally get it.

I have days and even weeks where eating vegetables and limiting sweets is more of a challenge than they should be. I have periods of the year where working out is the last thing I want to do, and often gets pushed to the side in favour of other pursuits, such as work, changing lightbulbs, steam cleaning my carpet, or standing in line for a back alley dental appointment.

I have a lot of clients who feel the same way. Some actively avoid eating vegetables in favour of literally eating anything else. Some feel their workouts are a low point of their week in spite of the sparkling conversationalist and witty raconteur they spend an hour or two with each week in yours truly.


Sometimes it can simply be a matter of framing. Instead of saying “I hate vegetables,” enthusiastically screaming inside your own head that “I FUCKING LOVE VEGETABLES!!” can make a massive difference in how you approach them. Maybe look at cooking them differently or having them prepared somewhere new. My wife and I love watching Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain because the focus is on people, cultures, communities and cuisine. It’s amazing how many different ways there are to cook something like a potato, and how much variation rice can have from one region of the world to another. So instead of only steaming broccolli, throw in some eggplant, bake some butternut squash, slap together a Greek salad, or get wild with asparagus.

Did that work for you? Cool.

Oh, it didn’t? You actually still hate vegetables? Well, I feel your pain. If given the choice between a pack of cookies or a salad, I’m going to crush those golden discs of deliciousness 9 times out of 10 over a bowl of my foods food.

That being said, there are a lot of other things that I hate but will still do:

  • paying taxes
  • shovelling snow
  • emptying the dishwasher
  • picking up my dogs’ poop when they go for a walk
  • wearing pants

These things are all terrible and uncomfortable at the best of times, but they still get done. In Ray Dalio’s book Principles, he talks about cause and effect relationships, but specifically first, second and third order effects from our decisions and actions.

The first order effect of paying taxes is I have less money at the moment. The second order effects are I don’t get charged additional interest on missed payments, and the third order is I don’t get collection letters or an affected credit score as a result of missing for a long time.

If I don’t empty the dishwasher, I have fewer clean dishes to make and eat food from later, which will likely make my wife mad, and no one likes when their spouse is angry.

And pants just suck, but being cold sucks a lot more.

So for exercise, I totally get why someone may not enjoy it. You sometimes hurt or have some discomfort from the work, you sweat and likely smell kinda bad during the activity, and then you get DOMS following the workout for a few days. Those are some strong first order effects that makes Netflix and Chill sound way more appealing.

However on the second order benefits, they’re a bit less immediately tangible, such as improved health variables, better body composition, and energy to do other things you may enjoy, such as Netflix and Chill, but with more energy and fitness.

It’s like saving for your retirement when you’re 20, versus wishing you’d saved for your retirement when you’re 60. Sure, a 401k or RRSP sound boring as hell compared to bottle service at the club or a vacation overseas for a month, but like Jay Z said”You know what’s more important than throwin money away at the strip club? Credit.”

There’s a highly scientific term that describes long term planning for benefit down the road versus chasing instant gratification.

dan John had a great concept in a presentation I saw him give in Norway a few years ago where he implored his athletes and clients to “eat like an adult,” by which he meant to prepare food and eat foods that would give second and third order benefits versus just chasing the first order taste satiating benefits.

Now the great thing about eating is that we have multiple chances each day to do it. You could choose to eat more vegetables in one meal, spread them out throughout the day, or whatever you like. You’re not required to eat any specific way or on any specific schedule, but it may help to simply plan things out for a couple of days ahead of time so you’re not scrambling to find something at lunch on Wednesday and only having some form of street meat or pizza available within a 5 block radius. Being hangry tends to lead to poor choices when it comes to food intake.

As for exercise, while you may not quite feel like you’re in the mix of Eric Prydz music video “Call on Me” (Google that for a blast from the past), the idea of better health and function 30-40 years from now may be too obtuse of a concept to justify, especially if you hate every first order benefit.

For this, I try to get clients to think of a performance goal they’d like to train towards, a goal activity they’d like to accomplish, or even just include the odd game or challenge within the mix that doesn’t feel like an “exercise,” but may feel more like playing or just having fun. this can work really well with people who aren’t super analytical and need a specific linear justification for every exercise, and can accept that sometimes things should be done because they’re fun, and the pursuit of fun is reason enough to do it.

Or, when in doubt, exercise like an adult.

Make it a part of your work week, scheduled out like your meeting with Gladys from HR or like how you’re (supposed to) brush your teeth every day. Do you ever get excited to brush? Probably not, unless you’re some extreme weirdo, but who am I to judge with my non-pants lovin ass?

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Stuff to Check Out: New Years 2019 Edition

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 09:51

If you were anything like me, you spent New Years Eve at home and were in bed by 10. The life of a party animal, am I right?

Cool. Let’s dive right into the stuff.


Workshop Stuff

Even More Complete Shoulder & Hip Blueprint

Tony Gentilcore and I are continuing our new content series with dates in Philadelphia PA (April 27-28), Edmonton AB Canada (May 25-26), Sydney Australia (July 13-14), and even better, all events are available for early bird rates and continuing education credits.

Click HERE for more info


Social Media Stuff

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Squatting with your knees past your toes won't make your knees explode.a weak VMO doesn't cause patellar tracking…

Posted by Dean Somerset on Wednesday, December 12, 2018

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I still don’t understand the level of gritting needed to convince people to put oil or butter in their coffee as a means to lose weight. But here we are.

A post shared by Dean somerset (@dsomerset1) on Nov 2, 2018 at 5:53am PDT


Other Stuff

Muscle & Strength Pyramids

This is a really cool resource with a TON of scientific research, real-world applications, and actionable steps any reader can use to get more from their training and nutrition, immediately. Authored by Dr. Eric Helms, Andy Morgan, and Andrea Valdez, this resource should be a must-have on any trainer, nutritionist, or exercise fanatic’s digital bookshelves. You can also select either the training pyramid, the nutrition pyramid, or both.

Click HERE for more info


Pain Free Performance podcast – Landon Poburan

I had the chance to sit down and discuss training, injuries, and life in the frozen tundra of Edmonton with a fellow Edmontonian, Landon Poburan.

Click HERE to listen to more


Evolve Strength Will Kill Your Boring Gym – Xenia Kavoun

This was a pretty interesting read, as it was about the gym I train at, and from the point of view of the consumer, not simply marketing drivel from someone who thinks they know what a consumer would want.

Click HERE to read more


Your Hips Don’t Go Out Of Place – Barbell Rehab

This was an awesome piece that goes into some of the anatomical elements that may or may not contribute to a hip “going out.” It’s sort of like a slipped disc, which is somewhat non-specific, and likely to not ever happen in reality.

Click HERE to read more


Alright you bunch of hooligans, stop curling in the squat rack, spitting in the garbage, and unlace the construction boots you’re wearing into the gym, and give these stuffs a look. Enjoy!

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Possible Trends for 2019

Tue, 01/01/2019 - 11:44

It’s a new year, which means people are making plans to do big things and lead better lives. In the fitness industry, that means ramping up marketing of every possible workout plan, diet, coaching sale, and whatever else people could do to help capitalize on that fresh motivation to get fit and have fun in the gym.

Just like last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.

Today’s post isn’t going to talk about any of that, but stuff that I think will likely happen across the industry, more so from just observing trends and where things seem to be going versus any bold crystal ball type predictions.

I see gainz in your future.


#1: A Social Media ReBoot

This past year saw a big microscope put on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter in terms of how they protect personal information, privacy, and what kind of content they’ll tolerate versus ban. Additionally, there were some algorithm changes on public and business pages on Facebook that throttled content view unless posts were boosted, making it a less effective method of sharing content than others. Instagram included stories and IGTV in an attempt to suffocate other sites like Snapchat and Youtube, the results of which may be mixed.

The big effect from this is that people are changing how they interact on social media. It’s no longer enough to just share a post or web link on Facebook and expect it to reach a broad audience. People will be changing their social preferences, the sites will change their algorithms, and everyone will be left trying to figure out how to reach their audiences.

Instagram seems to be the preferred medium for a lot of people at the moment, which is great, but if they ever change the algorithm or how they promote or share your content over others, it’s going to have a big effect again, and then it’s on to the next site.

A downside to this is that a lot of the amazing content being shared on social media sites isn’t indexed for search functions, meaning if someone goes on to Google and types in a search, they likely won’t find the specific info a trainer is putting out as they index social posts quite low.

This brings me to point number 2.


#2: A Return To Blogging

Blogs and personal/business websites give a couple of very specific and highly valuable benefits over a social media account:

  1. Ability to develop an email list – If someone follows you on social media, the odds of them seeing a post you put up is around 3-5%. If someone signs up for your newsletter, the odds of them seeing your email is close to if not 100%.
  2. You can embed links much easier, and direct traffic away from the posts to other sites with considerably less pushback than from a social network. This makes it easier to produce digital sales, show options for secondary services, and promote similar services to the content you’re producing.
  3. Indexed content – you can do a Google search on my name and any training topic, and if I’ve written about it, you’ll find a result from it. in fact, if you do an image search for “women’s adductor machine,” yours truly is still ranked in the #4 position 5 years later.

I bet you’re proud of your boy, right mom?

I don’t mean that social sites like Instagram will die away, but I just see more people coming back to a proven platform with a higher rate of engagement from their audiences, plus easier marketability and monetization. It would be very beneficial for any person on a social site dedicated to producing great content, infographics, or video content to also put that content on a blog so it can reap the benefits listed above. It may take an additional 5-10 minutes of work to cross-post, but the payoff would be worth the effort.


#3: A Return to In-Person Coaching

In the past 10 years, there’s been a massive rise in a portion of the fitness industry that didn’t even exist a generation ago: online coaching. This is a great option to give trainers access to a global market versus just relying on a local geography, removes them from potential local economic factors, and makes their “office” fairly borderless.

I’ve used online coaching to work with a broad spectrum of people all over the world, and it definitely gives some economic benefits and freedoms, but also comes with a bit of an undiscussed price.

One of the big benefits of coaching people in person is actually socializing and meeting with people, you know, in person. Not through a computer screen, keyboard, or mouse click. There’s no replacement that you could find in online coaching for a heartfelt high five or hands on real-time coaching, so while online coaching provides some very specific benefits, in person coaching provides others.

I’ve seen a trend where people who had very successful online businesses have started either opening their own gyms, returned to working with real life people more regularly, or are in some way doing more face to face training with clients than previously, and I think that’s something we’ll see more commonly in the coming year.

The development of a hybrid training business is likely to be taking a bigger shift than an either/or concept of in person or online exclusively. More trainers will use in-person with online making up a portion of their revenue. The size of that portion depends on them and their business model, but I see it becoming more prevalent.

This can give some really great benefits as the use of online platforms can benefit in-person clients through access to apps, online resources, etc, and give clients who may not be able to work with someone in-person any more (finances, moving, logistics of work, etc) a chance to continue working with their favourite trainer.


#4: More Celebrity BS, Detoxes, and Unsupported Advice. But With More Scrutiny

Wraps, detoxes, cleanses, and unsupported opinions and sales pitches will continue, because snake oil still sells. The good news is there are way more highly educated people pushing back with a combination of facts and charisma to help make a claim against such things. Fighting the war against pseudoscience takes a blend of Albert Einstein and P.T. Barnum, and there are more of these kinds of people out there than at any other time I can remember, which means the pushback against the charlatans of the world is getting louder, more precise, and with a larger population behind them than at any time before. We’ll see more myths busted, learn more about what works, and push back harder against fear and junk science.


#5: More Technology

This could go with online training, but I’ve also seen a big advance in wearable and performance technology in the past few years. As one example, Velocity Based Training used to be exclusively the domain of high end Tendo units, but more options like PUSH bands and Bar Sensei sensors have made the technology easier to afford, and updated apps have made it considerably easier to include in a trainers programming, even in the average fitness enthusiasts own gym bags.

We’ll see a continued expansion on meaningful devices to measure a bunch of metrics that could be valuable to a training program, which will give a lot more depth to the benefits we see and ways we can manipulate the training variables to help produce a specific result, which is awesome.

I could see the next iteration being involving some form of AI to help guide future programming based on the convergence of these data points. A really heavy workout with some great bar speeds and a solid HRV with sleep score could use AI to help populate the next workout. Changes in body composition could automatically adjust a clients dietary outline, order their meals, and set up delivery. Combining this information with digital optical measurements of blood values to ensure the persons weight loss was as easy as possible, while also being as specifically monitored as possible.

These are just thoughts on possibilities, but hey, if you want to start putting these kinds of things into action, I’ll just take a finders fee of only 3% of gross revenues on any sales these ideas may lead to.


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Surviving The Gym During January

Sun, 12/30/2018 - 11:20

We know it’s coming. It’s almost inevitable, you’re probably hearing rumblings of it now, and it’s only going to intensify.

People will complain about the gym being busier than usual in January.

I’ve never understood why people would complain about more people being in a gym. The main goal of the health and fitness industry is to get people to exercise, so if there are more people in the gym, that’s kind of a good thing, right? I mean, more people working out means less people subject to sedentary health issues, more money for gyms and personal trainers, which can help lead to expansions and more space, or more high quality equipment to get your swole on, and a generally better experience at the end of the day, right?

Some of these new members may even be long term members who become your best friends, or just the random person you give a chin nod to when you’re walking in opposite directions by the change room.

So yes, the gym will be a bit busier than usual, and hopefully the influx of people starting up or coming back sticks around for more people, or for a longer time for the people who are there, but in the mean time, you can adjust your workouts slightly to still get jacked and smash PRs, while also being a functioning member of society in general. And because I’m a giver, I’m going to show a few simple ways you can get the most from your workouts during this dark and grey month.


Option #1: Ditch Supersets and Circuits in Favour of Straight Sets

When the gym is busy, equipment is at a bit of a premium, and it can be tough to get a barbell to yourself, let alone a bar, bench, rings, plyo box, band, bosu, monolift, and 3 treamills to replicate the greatest treadmill dance music video ever made, AMRAP.


So instead of getting your conditioning with 15 exercises linked together, try doing some straight sets of a single exercise or using a single piece of equipment, then move on to another one once you’re finished with the first. If you want conditioning, you can easily swing a kettlebell, rock out Rocky style with a jump rope, hit up a spin bike, or just double the volume of the work you’re doing on each set and see if you can smell colours.


Option #2: Find Out When The Peak Hours At Your Gym Are And Avoid Them

If your gym is in a city centre, it’s likely the peak hours will revolve around a 9-5 work schedule, meaning it will be busy between 6-8am, and after 4pm until likely around 7, with the possibility of a busy lunch hour or two. This means if you can avoid those hours, you’ll likely have the place all to your self. If you’re in a suburban region, the hours may be a bit different, and if you work in a specialty facility, it may also be different, but these seem to be the most common peak hours.

If your schedule allows some flexibility to avoid these hours, try to do that. If you clock in and out at regular human hours and have to pick your poison of before or after work, there’s 2 big things to consider.

First, if you’re working out before work, the change room will actually be busier than the gym as people are getting ready to head in to work. This means changing into dress clothes, doing their hair/makeup/shaving/other, and essentially creating a premium for bench and sink space.

In the after-work crowd, fewer people are getting dolled up after their workouts, meaning the change room will be less crowded towards crunch time when everyone has to get out to get to work. What this means is if you have to get ready to head to work, show up a bit early and cut the workout a bit short to have a better chance of not being elbowed out of the change room space.

Option #3: Do More Body Weight or Non-machine based training

It’s tough to get in some squats when everyone’s lining up for curls, so maybe it could be worthwhile to sub out barbell squats for a couple weeks for some higher volume Goblet squats.


Maybe instead of endless sets of bench press, you sub in some band loaded pushups.


Do some single leg work, like split squats, lunges, or single leg deadlifts. You know you need to anyway, so now’s as good a time as any to get them in.


Option #4: Have a Plan A, and Also a Plan B

Having a plan is right up there with having shoes and doing a pre-game in terms of important stuff to consider when getting to the gym. The challenge comes down to looking at your workout, then looking at the gym and seeing everything you had schedule is currently being done by everyone else in the place, making you look like casual-confused guy strolling around and taking stock.

The good thing to consider is that if you have a plan B of your workout, you might be able to still salvage something. Everyone’s benching on a Monday? Cool. Maybe some benches are free over by the dumbbells and you can do a dumbbell press for a few sets until a bench press frees up. You want to push the sled but everyone’s on board the carry wagon, or just doing endless lunges? No prob, maybe hit up some step ups on a bench for a vertical sled push action. All the equipment is being used? Maybe just do calf raises, by which I mean do nothing at all like you usually do for calf training.

Maybe you walked in thinking it was squat day, but instead since every squat rack was full, bench is what’s for dinner. You’re in control, so having back up options can make a massive difference in getting the best quality workout available.

This is a good idea for beginners just showing up to the gym too. Make sure you have a plan of something to do that will help you reach your goals, and that you have a back up in case what you’re trying to do is somehow not easily available.


Option #5: Just Breathe

Come Valentine’s day, you’ll be back to your regularly scheduled grind-fest, so take a breath or two, relax, enjoy the time before the Christmas credit card statement comes in, and know that you’ll survive this very mild inconvenience to your very existence.

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Pushing New Limits When the Weight Isn’t Getting Heavier

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 09:51

Every now and then I’ll have a coaching client (online or in-person) get flustered when they hit a plateau. They try to find out if there’s something special they should be doing, drinking, avoiding, sleeping on/in/with/near to help improve their performance to squeak out some more weight on the bar than last week.

Maybe there’s some magical combination of foam rolling and pre-workout tacos that can automatically guarantee more mass to smash that ass, but I haven’t found it just yet when someone has hit the sickly sweet sundrance of a plateau.

But if pre-workout tacos are magical, it’s likely when they give you an extra scoop of meat, maybe even 2 extra scoops.

First, a plateau isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You spent a lot of time and energy working hard to get to the point where you could now be at a new plateau, so automatically all of your workouts are a bit heavier or with more volume than they were a few months ago before your plateau, so enjoy that progress and live a little while in that new level of excellence.

Second, a plateau in the amount of weight you can put on the bar can give a lot of options for further progressive overload that don’t simply involve sliding another plate or two on the bar. Sure, it would be nice to toss around more plates than a coked out dishwasher at Denny’s working the Friday night shift, but unless your nickname is the Mountain and you live in Iceland, it’s likely not going to happen for you.

Third, a plateau in one variable of your training program does not necessitate plateaus in others.

Say I have a max squat of 200kg for 1 rep, and can do 180 kgs for 3. A realistic workout for this could look something like this:

Set 1: 170 x 3

Set 2: 170 x 3

Set 3: 175 x 3

Set 4: 180 x 3

Set 5: 180 x 1

This would give 5 sets of 13 reps total volume, working between 170-180 kg.

We could do a couple of things with this to produce a different overload. We could include more sets or reps at a heavier weight with subsequent sets. Something like this:

Set 1: 170 x 3

Set 2: 170 x 3

Set 3: 175 x 3

Set 4: 180 x 2

Set 5: 180 x 2

Set 6: 180 x 2

Set 7: 180 x 1

Here, we kept sets 1-3 the same, but expanded the number of total reps used at 180 kg, moving from 4 reps to 7.

Conversely, we could do more work at the lower weight with some back-off sets, like this:

Set 1: 170 x 3

Set 2: 170 x 3

Set 3: 175 x 3

Set 4: 180 x 3

Set 5: 180 x 1

Set 6: 165 x 3

Set 7: 165 x 3

Set 8: 165 x 3

Set 9: cry in the corner

In this example, the total volume went up by 9 reps with a significant load

Adding in some additional volume at a higher load can have a significant impact of producing progressive overload on the working tissues, which can help eventually spur some growth and strength improvements.

A further option could be to use the sub-max loading, but crank out more reps per set before pushing into the heavy sets:

Set 1: 170 x 5

Set 2: 170 x 5

Set 3: 175 x 3

Set 4: 180 x 3

Set 5: 180 x 1

Here, the sub-max build up volume went up from 6 reps to 10, while the top sets stayed the same.

Maybe we could do something where we jump up to an earlier heavy set, then back off with some soul-crushing volume:

Set 1: 170 x 3

Set 2: 180 x 2

Set 3: 190 x 1

Set 4: 175 x 3

Set 5: 175 x 3

Set 6: 170 x 3

Comparing total volume of weight lifted by reps, this scheme delivers 2620 kg over 15 reps for an average load of 174.67 kg per rep, whereas the first scheme delivers 2265 kg over 13 reps, delivering an average load of 174.23 kg per rep. The loading is fairly similar, with a higher volume in the last example.

These are some simple and effective ways to produce a degree of overload on different workout plans. The big element to consider isn’t just the total weight on the bar, but the workload being performed within the workout. Progressive overload doesn’t just have to come with the number on the bar, but by producing a higher volume of work at a given resistance, or a higher total workload at a similar average weight per rep. Play with the numbers, have some fun, and pay the extra for a second scoop on your tacos.

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The Problem with Choice

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 11:19

I remember the first time I ever went to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. It was in Paramus, New Jersey of all places. When we arrived, it was insanely busy being a Saturday, so once we made it to a table we were presented with a phone book for a menu.

There were so many options to choose from it took the group about a half hour to figure out what everyone wanted to eat, and I could only wonder after working in a small kitchen how large their freezers, fridges and prep areas had to be to have so many menu options while seating so many people. That or maybe they just had big freezers and microwaves like most of Gordon Ramsay’s fixer upper restaurants.

The element of choice may seem beneficial in many situations, but it can often lead to inaction and an inability to choose anything compared to a limited set of options.

The classic concept is one of Aesop’s fables, the fox and the cat. A fox and cat are both being chased by hounds. The fox boasts of knowing a hundred ways to escape, whereas the cat knows only one. As the hounds approach, the cat takes it’s one option, scurrying up the tree. The fox is paralyzed trying to choose which of his hundred options would be best, and in the end, waited too long to make a choice at all.

In 2000, Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper set up an experiment comparing sales between a display with 24 different kinds of jams outside of a high end shopping centre in California, compared with a display that had 6. If a customer sampled a jam they were given a coupon, and a “sale” was considered a successful sample and coupon.

The 6 choice display outsold the larger display by 10 to 1.

When faced with a lot of choices, the fear of choosing wrong can often lead to an inability to choose.

There are a lot of parallels to this concept and going to the gym, with seemingly endless options of exercises, goals, workout plans, challenges, and stuff to do. There’s so much going on it’s often overwhelming to many, which may lead to avoidance.

One of the chief responses I get when I ask people why they don’t exercise is they don’t know what they should do. There are so many choices, so many conflicting opinions, and so much mis information out there that they feel paralyzed by choice, so having someone outline a few simple things can take a large weight of their shoulders in terms of the burden of choice.

More is rarely better when it comes to choice

This may be one of the biggest overlooked selling features of personal training in that it eliminates the choice of what to do or not do. The client gets a plan, and only has to follow the plan, eliminating that pain of choice.

If you’re on the fence about starting to workout and feel overwhelmed by the number of exercises out there and the amount of choice, just remember that most exercises are composed of 7 basic patterns:

A Squat


A Lunge


A hip hinge


A Push


A Pull


A carry or gait pattern


And a Rotation


If your workout has a couple of these in it, you’re golden. If you want to put all of them into each workout, great. You don’t have to get too complicated with it, but try to get started versus finding the best option possible. If you keep looking for the best exercises to do, you might wind up choosing none, so keep the options closed and get to into it.

Also, if you want someone to take out the guess work for your own choices, you can get training with me HERE. I’ll take out the choices, you just get the program and follow along.

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Best Exercise In Ever: Panda Flyes plus sweet Cyber Monday Deals

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 09:59

Here’s a sweet new flye variation I saw on Instagram a little while ago from Simeon Panda. I started using it myself and found it was immeasurably easier on my shoulders than a regular flye, and my clients who want to jack their pecs feel the same way.



Give it a shot and let me know what you think.


Also, seeing as how it’s Cyber Monday, I’ve put a few products on sale.



Normally $97, this 12 hour video series comes with continuing education credits from the NSCA. The sale is on until Sunday December 2nd at midnight.


Complete Shoulder & Hip Blueprint V.1.0 – $79

If you’re unable to make it to the new workshop series Tony Gentilcore and I have on the go, you can catch up with the original digital video edition. Regularly priced at $197, this is on for 60% off until Sunday at midnight and comes with continuing education credits as well.

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Categories: Feeds

How to Stop Tracking Your Macros and Still Lose Weight

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 10:43

Today’s guest post comes from Laura Poburan, an exercise physiologist and nutrition coach in Edmonton, who has also just released a new online course, The Happy Way to Hotness to help women take the stress out of weight loss plans.


Hi, my name is Laura and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

Alright, It’s time I come clean and tell you something really embarrassing about my past. I used to be a chronic tracker. I would skip social events because I was scared I wouldn’t know how to track everything properly and that would throw off my perfect tracking streak. I would order the simplest salad and chicken out at restaurants because, again, this I knew I would be able to track with the highest level of certainty. And I would sit on the couch for hours meticulously planning my food so that I came within 5 grams of each of my macronutrients for the day.

I was obsessed with perfection.

What’s worse, I used this as an excuse to hit my calories eating as much shit as I could on the weekends. “Oh, I have an extra 800 calories today? Better eat 4 cups of frozen yogurt just to hit my numbers”. Sound familiar? Yeah, sure it does. Because I think if you have tracked for long enough you have dabbled with this sort of extremism. It’s very hard not to when the culture of today preaches flexibility to the nth degree, so much so that we don’t even know what that really even means any more.

What I CAN tell you, is if you are eating treats just to hit your numbers, girlfriend, you aren’t being flexible. You are obsessed. Just like I was.

Here’s the good news, though. I survived! I came out of that cycle and started treating food like food instead of treating it like a math equation. I started to listen to my body again and I tuned in to my hunger cues for the first time in years (which you may be thinking right now, “whats that?”, cause I know I sure was). I learned what I needed to eat in order to reach my goals, feel great in my body and just fucking chill around what the exact composition of my meals were divided by 12 to the power of 10.

And here’s the even better news. If you’re sick of painting life by numbers I’m going to give you everything you need to know about getting off the app without having a panic attack (been there done that. It ain’t’ pretty) and actually continue to progress towards your goals in a way that you can sustain for the rest of your life.

Sound cool? K let’s jump in.


Why everyone should stop tracking – eventually

Tracking is pretty fun in the beginning. You are told you can eat whatever you want as long as you hit these 4 little numbers. It feels kinda like a game at first, if you’re a perfectionist like me. Drag and drop, plug and play until you get the satisfaction of being bang on perfect. “Uuuuhhhh that feels so good”.

And that should have been my first red flag that told me to stop, you have a problem, put the phone down and slowly back away. But it fired the reward centres in my brain like a pinball machine and I was hooked. Looking back now, I believe that everyone should have it as the goal to stop tracking eventually, and here’s why.

The app is nothing more than a tool to get you to your goal. It is not meant to override your internal hunger and satiety cues (but it does), it’s not meant to make you feel bad about treating yourself (but it does…f*ck the red numbers, amiright?), and it’s not meant to be a lifelong strategy to keeping the weight off (but many people use it as such).

There was literally a glitch in the app just last week where no one was able to log in, and there was PANDAMONIUM. Everyone was freaking out because how on earth were they ever going to eat if they didn’t know what their macros were at?? Okay. If that doesn’t tell you we have a dependency problem I don’t know what will.

So here’s my dead serious honest opinion. I think the app is great – temporarily. For a short period of time for very specific people under the pretence that this is not a life long solution to their poor relationship with food. Ultimately I believe that everyone should learn how to eat without it either before or after their goals are met. At the end of the day, when all the dust settles, if you don’t change your behaviours from the inside it’s just a matter of time before the app no longer has the same sparkle as it once did and you find yourself back where you started.

I realize that many of you are probably thinking right now “NUH UHHH, that is so not me, I’m different”. If that’s the case, read on. You’re not a special snowflake and I want to convince you of why I believe that to be true.


When tracking can be a useful tool, and who should use it

There are certain people who I believe could use an app to track their food with really good success during different seasons in their journey.

  1. You enjoy it. Plain and simple, if you enjoy tracking then I think this is a good tool for you. BUT you must understand that a transition away from the app is crucial once you reach your goals.
  2. You compete. Obviously there are certain sports where the degree of accuracy that tracking provides is required to make weight or achieve a certain level of leanness. Again, there is a season for this and I believe that in the off season non tracking methods should be employed to avoid obsessive tendencies in these already perfectionistic populations.
  3. You have a short timeline to reach your goal. Again in this case, increasing your level of accuracy temporarily is important to improve your chances of actually achieving your desired weight loss goal in the time frame required. It is still important to understand and manage expectations around rates of loss and put a plan in place for the sustainability of these quick losses.
  4. Education. Yep, I think this is a great tool to temporarily educate yourself around what a proper portion size looks like, how quickly snacking can add up, how many calories are in the foods you’re eating, what foods are high in protein, etc. I use tracking sporadically with clients for this purpose and it works really well when perfection is not stressed and the temporary nature of the tool is emphasized. In other words, give yourself a reality check to adjust your behaviour moving forward.


The most important first step you can’t skip

Many of you reading this are possibly currently tracking your macros, and I hope I’m starting to convince you that perhaps maybe you don’t need to be. But before you quit the app cold turkey there is a very important first step that many people skip and then come crying to me saying “SEE, I need to track or I just gain all my weight back!”

Don’t let that be you. Here is a logical sequence you can follow to wean yourself off, you MyFitnessPal junkie.


  • Start by paying attention to your hunger signals while you’re still tracking. When do you feel hungry? How do you know its time to eat your next meal? How do you feel after you finish eating? Are you eating something just because it “fits” or does it actually serve you and your goals?
  • Slowly, over the next 2 to 3 weeks, stop tracking one day at a time. I would start by removing a day that you have good conscious control around – a weekday that is usually pretty regimented. And then move to more difficult days like the weekends where you typically would over-consume, eat foods that you don’t eat through the week or “make foods fit” because you have macros for them. Try to make your weekends resemble your weekdays for now.
  • Continue to practice mindfulness, checking in with yourself before you eat anything and asking yourself how hungry you are, what that meal should consist of, and mindfully challenging yourself to slow down while you eat so you can begin to recognize when you feel satisfied. Be patient with yourself – remember there is a learning curve just like everything else and you wont be perfect the first time you try.



The top 5 ways to continue to lose weight without MyFitnessPal

You have heard this before, but the most important factor when it comes to weight loss is your energy balance for the day. Simple as that, if you eat less calories than you use you will lose weight. Literally it’s that easy, but HOW you achieve that can be different for everyone. Without your little pal to tell you how much you’re eating you’re going to need some strategies to help you in this area.

Remember that if you just came off of a MyFitnessPal bender you probably can’t trust your hunger and satiety cues all that well at the moment. This is a skill you’re going to need to re-learn, so eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full is a sure fire way to…lose nothing. Your body wants to keep you at maintenance – in other words it has a lot of systems firing on all cylinders to make sure you don’t gain or lose anything.

So here are my top 5 ways to override your body and continue to lose weight without tracking:


  1. Pro-Veg Meals – limit yourself to 3 meals per day and ensure you are eating roughly 25-35 grams of protein at each meal and bulking up your food volume by prioritizing vegetables. Feeling full is the number one way to ensure that you can sustain a caloric deficit for long enough to see the weight loss you’re looking for. By focusing on protein and veggies at 3 meals per day you can ensure that you are maximizing your satiety while minimizing the calories you’re consuming.
  • Choose lean protein sources like egg whites, chicken, turkey, lean beef, low fat dairy (greek yogurt and cottage cheese), and white fish.
  • Try making one of your main meals protein-veggie exclusive without any added starch or fat. A large salad, lettuce wraps, frittata or a stir fry would be examples of this.
  • Find veggies you enjoy eating, or try new ones until you do. Vegetables like spaghetti squash, bok choy, and cabbage are all good examples of overlooked veggies that can be eaten in high volume for minimal calories
  • Make these meals larger to allow you to eliminate snacking completely or minimize it down to one snack per day, keeping in mind the purpose of a snack is to get you to your next meal and should not be this size of small meal in and of itself.


  1. Remove Trigger Foods – previously you were able to make a food “fit” if a craving arose. You likely trained your body to crave these foods more and more over time. It is going to take some time to retrain your brain away from craving these foods consistently. In the meantime is it likely a good idea to control your environment and remove triggering foods that you may reach for out of mindless habit. Other ideas to help you when a craving hits:
  • Put sticky notes on your typical trigger foods reminding you to check in with yourself and see if you are actually hungry or not.
  • Have healthy snacking options on hand to reach for if you are, in fact, hungry (cut up veggies, rice cakes, tuna snack packs, yogurt cups, pepperoni sticks, cheese string)
  • Keep a water bottle handy at all times and try using flavor drops to curb a sweet craving
  • Keep mints or hard candies on hand to suck on – these are quite low calories compared to what you would normally be indulging in and can work well to curb a sweet craving(as long as you aren’t triggered to eat the whole bag)
  • Find the pause – take 5 deep breaths and ask yourself why you need to eat “x” before mindlessly and habitually reaching for it. Remind yourself of your goals and take the craving’s power away naming it. What is the emotion you’re feeling right now? Why are you craving this? Are you bored, stressed, anxious, sad, annoyed? Lean in to the discomfort and sit with it for 10 minutes before giving in.


  1. Limit Your Variety – research has shown us that less variety you have in your diet when trying to lose weight, the more full you feel after eating your meals, the less cravings you have and the easier it is for you to control your portion sizes. It’s called taste fatigue.


Think of it this way, if you are constantly being stimulated by new delicious foods, you’re going to always want to eat more of them. But if you limit yourself to more simple foods, you will likely have a better chance of controlling your portion, stopping when satiated and removing any temptation to overindulge.

One easy way to limit your food variety iis to find 1-2 breakfast options you enjoy, 2-3 lunch options you enjoy and 2-3 dinner options you enjoy and then rotate between them week after week. Keep these meal interesting by switching up the spices or cooking methods used, and eat them in different combinations. Keep in mind that this is only a temporary option and that introducing variety back into your diet can occur slowly once your goal is reached.


  1. Intermittent Fasting (IF) – there is nothing inherently magical about this method, in fact many people use this strategy incorrectly by justifying an overconsumption of food during the hours they are allowed to eat. The same rule still applies – energy in must be less than energy out in order to lose weight. What this strategy does really well, however, is it narrows the window of time you are able to access food, inherently restricting your caloric intake for the day if you still follow the same protocols from tip #1. The benefit is that once you adjust to this shortened window of time you may in fact feel more full and energized because you may be able to eat slightly larger meals for the same caloric intake that was previously spread out over a larger time frame. This strategy will also allow you to more easily remove excess snacking, also reducing your daily calorie consumption.
  • The most typical protocol is 16 hours fasting followed by an 8 hour window where you consume your food for the day
  • The thing to realize is that there are no hard and set rules, if you feel better with a 9 hour window of eating, then do that. Whatever allows you to consistently eat in a caloric deficit relatively stress-free is what I would recommend.
  • Note: IF works particularly well for people who don’t enjoy eating breakfast in the morning and would rather fast until lunch.


  1. Food Swaps – and no, I don’t necessarily mean baking a cauliflower pizza crust because it “tastes basically the same”.

Umm no. It doesn’t.

What I mean here is being mindful around where you require additional flexibility in your life, and understand how to make adjustments in your day to allow for that flexibility.


For example, if you want to go out for dinner with friends on Friday night and you know there will be wine (obviously), how can you make that work? I would suggest swapping out higher calorie foods earlier in the day for lower calorie options (swap out the rice for more veg at lunch, toast for more egg whites at breakfast, and remove your snacks that day) to allow for more flexibility at dinner.

I would then suggest deciding what you would enjoy the most at that meal and prioritizing that. Do you really want the fettucini alfredo, or would you rather have a couple glasses of wine? By swapping out foods earlier in the day you opened up a buffer in the evening, but you still must be mindful around how indulgent you are. Removing your piece of toast in the morning alone, for example, does not buy you an extra 800 calories for the cheesecake on top of the fettucini alfredo you just indulged in.

By swapping foods based on their estimated calories and staying mindful around your indulgences you CAN enjoy that which you really want and still lose weight. This strategy, however, challenges your ability to estimate calories, be realistic with yourself and understand that this is not something you can do all the time with good success. Its meant to provide you flexibility when you need it so that you can continue to live your life and feel good about the choices you make without saying “f*ck it” and ordering the entire dessert menu (again, been there)

You can employ this, however, on a more semi-regular basis by making smaller swaps like:

  • Removing your starch at dinner to have a glass of wine
  • Skipping your afternoon snack to enjoy a couple cookies in the evening
  • Eating a smaller portion than normal lunch to allow for a larger portion than normal at dinner


How to prevent the rebound

Making lasting changes with your nutrition is all good and well, but have you ever stopped to consider the real reason why you are where you are in the first place? It’s not that you didn’t have the perfect meal plan, the tracking app didn’t make an appearance in your life until it was too late, or you were force fed chocolate cake as a child, Matilda style.

It comes down to your relationship with yourself. How you feel about YOU, the limiting beliefs you hold around your worthiness to feel great in your body and confident in your life. It comes down to a lack of balance in your life and your inability to make yourself a priority, keep the promises you make to yourself or change the incessant negative talk playing on repeat in your mind. It comes down to not truly understanding what it is you need to feel happy (not skinny, H-A-P-P-Y). Because that really is the ultimate goal isn’t it?

I couldn’t possibly walk you through ALL of these crucial pillars in one blog post, which is why I create a 4 week program called The Happy Way to Hotness, so that you can deep dive into each of these pillars and come out on the other side a non-tracking confident goddess ready to step into her truth and create a life you’re obsessed with.


About the Author

Laura Poburan is a nutrition coach based in Edmonton, Alberta that helps women who crave confidence learn how to put themselves first and live a life where they feel like they have it all. She has developed a unique four pillar Have It All method by which she creates lasting physical and mental change in her clients. Laura also works closely with a handful of other online nutrition coaches in her Have It All Coaching Academy where she teaches them the Have It All method so that she can further increase her reach and the impact she is having on even more women searching for their confidence. Laura is extremely passionate about helping women realize their worth, stand in their truth and create the physical and mental changes necessary to live a life they are obsessed with.

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Stuff to Check Out: Cold November Rain Edition

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 10:05

I’m pretty sure if Axl Rose were to write a song like “November Rain” in Canada, it would just be called “Snow.” The melody would be different and probably have some references to hockey, but I’m pretty sure the main gist of the entire song would be the same.


Workshop Stuff

We’re in Los Angeles THIS COMING WEEKEND and still have a few spots left. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the fires, but should be safe from everything where we are in the middle of West Hollywood.

We just taught a sweet workshop in Slovenia, so hitting up LA will be a bit of a different cultural experience, but we’re down for it.

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This past weekend VigorGround hosted another continuing education event featuring world-class coaches, with Dean…

Posted by VigorGround on Monday, October 22, 2018

We also have upcoming dates in Detroit (Feb 9-10), Philadephia (April 27-28) and Edmonton (May 25-26)

Click HERE for more info on upcoming events

If you’re not planning to come to any of our events, you can check out the first version of the workshop, and funny enough it’s been just over 2 years since we released it to the public.

Click HERE to get the first version


Other Stuff

No, You Can’t Do a Marathon On Your Couch –

This was a very in depth breakdown on a somewhat questionable product, including a quote from yours truly.


Do I Need a Strength and Conditioning Certification as a Physiotherapist? – Eric Bowman

This was a great read, and it’s awesome to see many physiotherapists getting involved in the strength and conditioning world. Hopefully more trainers take initiative to shadow physiotherapists to see where they can assist and how they can work together. This is a great start.

The Inundation of Corrective Exercise in Strength and Conditioning Makes Me Want To Throw My Face Through a Brick Wall – Tony Gentilcore

Impressively, in spite of a 20 word title complete with the word “inundation” it’s not the best part of this article. Tony’s client is the best part.


How Much Should a Personal Trainer Keep Personal? – Hayden Perno via

As you can imagine, I prefer to let who I am come through in my writing, social media, and professional appearances. There’s a few things I don’t discuss openly, but when it comes to personal interests, hobbies, etc there’s way more upside to sharing that kind of stuff than there is a downside. This article delves into the risks and benefits of what you share, plus who you attract with that kind of content.


Social Media Stuff

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Intermittent fasting is a fantastic tool to help someone schedule their food intake to create a caloric deficit, which…

Posted by Dean Somerset on Sunday, November 4, 2018


If you have trouble getting enough sleep each night, here's one of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard:

Don't stay up late to do what you wouldn't wake up early to do.

— Dean Somerset (@deansomerset) October 9, 2018

View this post on Instagram

What’s up with all the Sagittarius rocking that Bernstein diet? You know that’s only for Aries, bruh!! #fitness #diet #macros #zodiackilller

A post shared by Dean somerset (@dsomerset1) on Oct 10, 2018 at 7:51am PDT


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When is it okay to lift with less than perfect form?

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 09:33

Today’s guest post comes from Fayiz Dabdoub after a chance encounter he had with an online form coach who in spite of admitting to not being a coach, decided to critique one of his lifts. Hilarity as well as this post, ensued.


If you’re reading this, then you probably care about getting stronger, building muscle, or both. Well, regardless of your goals, you’ll probably need to lift “heavy”. Heavy is a relative term. For example, a 400lbs bench is heavy for me but it would be a warm-up set for Dan Green.

When we reach a weight that one can lift for a maximum of one repetition, we call that our 1 rep max (1RM). This number can be used to determine how much weight a lifter might lift for his or her working sets during a given workout, assuming the lifter is using a percent-based program. For example, a lifter with a 400lbs bench press 1RM may work up to 320lbs for a top set of 5 reps at 80% of his or her 1RM.

Another way to determine the intensity (weight) of a lifter’s working sets is using a Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale, typically scaled 1-10. For example, if a lifter can squat 450lbs no more than 8 times before failure, an RPE of 7 would mean the lifter did 5 reps with 3 left in reserve.

Now that we have some examples of how to determine what relatively heavy means, let’s talk about how forgetting about form while lifting heavy can HELP you and what brought this topic up.

This topic came up after I posted a video of me squatting 480lbs for reps, when a stranger commented about my form. He went on about how I should widen my stance to reduce knee valgus (spooky!) that I had on the concentric phase of my squat. He proceeded to “help” me by telling me to squat low bar, although he didn’t provide any rationale for this suggestion. As well intentioned as his “advice” may have been, I decided to ignore it. Not because I think my squats are perfect, but because he decided he KNEW what I needed to do for a better squat, even though he admitted he has never coached a lifter before. He doesn’t know what my goals are, what my lifting history is, what previous injuries I may have had, or any pertinent information that a coach would need to know before giving advice to a lifter.

Do I think form/technique is important when lifting weights? Well, yes, to a degree. I mean, if you just go into the gym and start deadlifting heavy without decent technique, you may increase your risk for injury, right?

Well, not exactly. Injuries are caused by many factors and covering all of them is outside of the scope of this article.

My question is: how often do you see a lifter in a meet get injured, regardless of succeeding or failing the lift? Not as often as injuries experienced during training. Some of the more common injuries are due to over-use injuries, not the dreaded “butt-wink” or knee valgus some advanced lifters like Ben Pollack exhibit.

What if I told you what some people consider to be “bad form” is beneficial for the advanced lifter or that maybe the knee caving valgus maneuver helps the squatter lift more weight?

When you’ve been lifting for years and years, you see a few things that catch your eye. For example, the 700lbs squatter that leans forward and has knee valgus, the 800lbs deadlifter that rounds his back and so on.

Why does this happen? Well, advanced lifters have become so adept at using their leverages to help them lift that extremely heavy load; they are able to use these deviations from textbook technique to their advantage. A squatter with extremely strong quadriceps will tend to valgus when the lifter needs that extra bit of boost to push through a specific range of motion (ROM) during the squat that would have been more difficult otherwise. We call this part of the ROM the “sticking point”. The “sticking point” is the joint angle in a ROM of any given lift that is the most difficult and is usually the point at which the lifter fails the lift. A squatter who needs to get deeper to get white lights for a powerlifting meet will exhibit what some think is “butt-wink”, but really isn’t. This advanced lifter is shifting their hips under a tiny bit to achieve this depth. Does this mean they’re going to blow their back out? Of course not! Our muscles are strongest at some joint angles and weaker at other points of the ROM and adjusting their technique to maximize their strengths through a specific joint angle is one adaptation seen in advanced lifters.

“… muscular torque can be affected by changing either (i) the force that the muscle produces, (ii) the angle between the direction of force and the distance from the point of interest (chosen centre of rotation) to the point at which the force is applied, and (iii) the point at which the force is applied.” (1)

So, obviously joint angle changes can affect the load lifted during an exercise. Advanced lifters take advantage of this by adapting their own version of what we would call “correct technique”.

“In particular, McLaughlin et al. examined kinematic characteristics of the squat performed by highly skilled powerlifters, and observed that the sticking point across the studied sample occurred at approximately a thigh angle relative to the ground of 30∘.” (1)

The authors went on to explain that specific torso angles would also affect where in the ROM a lifter might experience the sticking point, pointing out that there is no “correct” technique for everybody doing the squat exercise.

Included, is a video of a meet I competed in from August 2017. This was a PR at 260kg/572lbs and you can see what some would consider to be form break down, when the moving around helped me lift this weight up.

Leverages are HUGE, when it comes to lifting heavy weight and grinding through the sticking point. The advanced lifter gets to the high level they’re lifting at by learning how and when to use these variations in technique. This is done on purpose!

Now, I’m not saying proper technique isn’t important. There are certainly times when focusing on technique is more important than the weight being lifted.


  1. Learning a new exercise:

Beginners or advanced lifters learning new exercises should start with lighter weight to ensure they’re performing the exercise correctly. Not only will this reduce the likelihood of injuries as they progress, but it will help improve specific adaptations the lifter is training for.


Beginners get what is often called “newbie gains”. Basically, the beginner lifter has tremendous strength increases at the beginning due to improved neuromuscular activity. The firing rate increases, synchronization improves, and muscle fiber recruitment becomes more efficient.


  1. Hypertrophy and Strength phases:

Lifters going for muscle hypertrophy and strength should strive to lift weights through their entire range of motion.  Pinto et al. state “The results indicated that elbow flexion 1RM significantly increased (p < 0.05) for the FULL (25.7 ± 9.6%) and PART groups (16.0 ± 6.7%) but not for the CON group (1.7 ± 5.5%). Also, FULL 1RM strength was significantly greater than the PART 1RM after the training period. Average elbow flexor MT significantly increased for both training groups (9.65 ± 4.4% for FULL and 7.83 ± 4.9 for PART). These data suggest that muscle strength and MT can be improved with both FULL and PART resistance training, but FULL may lead to greater strength gains.” (2)


Pinto and his colleagues found that full and partial ROM can increase both strength and hypertrophy but full ROM might lead to greater improvements in these adaptations.


  1. Previous injuries:

Lifters with a history of injuries might need to adjust their technique in order to lift pain free and to prevent injuring the site again.


  1. It is difficult to unlearn bad habits and easy to maintain good habits for lifting.


  1. All lifters have different physiological make-up (joint structure, bone structure, flexibility, etc.)


Bottom line:


  • Techniques may vary from lifter to lifter depending on many factors (i.e. lifter experience, goals, injuries, physiological make-up)
  • Advanced lifters are dialed into their bodies and can deviate from textbook technique when lifting max weight to help them overcome sticking points.
  • Beginners and advanced lifters learning new exercises should start light with sound technique to reduce likelihood of injury.
  • When lifting for strength and hypertrophy, full ROM might be better when the lifter is further out from a powerlifting meet.
  • Lifters with previous injuries will need to adjust their technique to better suit their situation.



  1. Kompf, J., and Arandjelovic, O. (2016). The Sticking Point in the Bench Press, the Squat, and the Deadlift: Similarities and Differences, and Their Significance for Research and Practice. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z.). Retrieved from
  2. Pinto RS., (2012). Effect of range of motion on muscle strength and thickness J Strength Cond Res. Retrieved from


About the Author

Fayiz Dabdoub is an exercise physiologist from Atlanta, Ga that coaches powerlifters and high school football players. He’s been coaching for 6 years now and love helping powerlifters hit new PRs. He competes in USPA federation meets in Georgia, North and South Carolina and Tennessee. If you’d like to contact him for any questions or inquiries just click here

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Your Glutes Probably Aren’t to Blame for Sore Knees, but They Could Still be Stronger

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 10:33

Remember when people used to blame poor patellar tracking on a weak VMO muscle? Even though the VMO has next to zero effect on patellar tracking at all? It’s kind of the same way that people push the glute med under the bus as the lynchpin for all knee valgus issues.

It’s easy to consider the GMed as a target since it’s one of the main non-knee crossing muscles associated with reducing valgus motion in open chain movement of the knee, so sure, let’s strengthen that sucker with every variation of side lying clam, monster walk, cable abduction, and whatever you want. Most studies looking at injury recovery will show decreased peak force and timing issues with glute muscles, so it makes sense to train the hell out of them.

What this may not consider though is lower leg kinematics in similar movements and activities, especially in closed chain movements. Much of the valgus motion of the knee could be considered as connected to rate and angle of foot pronation, which can also contribute to tibial internal rotation and if the person has a really aggressive flat foot and rate of pronation, it seems to supercede any potential contribution from the glutes, and likely inhibits them in some way.

So while training glutes is still massively beneficial across the board for a lot of stuff, it may not be as valuable to knee issues like valgus collapse as training lower leg function and arch control. Since pronation and tibial internal rotation coupling has been statistically cited as a potential biomechanical factor in knee pain issues, it might be worth looking at. In many instances, training foot positioning and posture can rather immediately improve balance and directional aptitudes, which can go a long way to improving knee positioning and increasing hip muscle activity as well.

You can still train glutes until your face explodes, but without involving some level of foot and ankle strengthening, the knees may likely still drop into a valgus collapse. This may mean involving more closed chain movements for the hips versus open chain movements, with an emphasis on balance and foot/ankle control than simply loading it up and repping it out.




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