4 Mental Mistakes Learned Through Strongman Competition

My latest article was picked up by T-Nation.com.  It is about Four Mental Lessons that I have learned During Strongman Competitions and how you can avoid making the same mistakes.  

If you are interested, you can Find the Article HERE   

T-Nation also has a Facebook Page set up for the discussion of the article. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them HERE 

 

Thanks for all of your support guys!  

NEVERsate Athlete John Urban

I am beyond proud to inform you that this weekend, NEVERsate Athlete John Urban took home the Championship for the 195lb weight class at the 29th Annual Hub Cup Wrestling Tournament!  John has been with us for about a year now and has been such a fantastic addition to our team.  His attitude, effort and work ethic is second to none.

I am honored to be associated with this guy and can't wait to see what his future brings!

Awesome job John, I am so proud of you! 

12 Months, 100 Books

At NEVERsate Athletics, we stress a deep seeded desire for constant and never ending improvement.  You should be thankful for what you have accomplished and for the opportunities that have been afforded you, but you should always be striving to become a better version of yourself than you were yesterday.

This does not only apply to the physical realm.  To build an optimized, well-rounded human being, you also have to push your limits mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  With this in mind, my New Year's Resolution for 2015 was to read 100 books.  

That may sound like a lot and people regularly ask me how I found the time to accomplish such a goal.  But my answer is always the same.  You don't FIND the time, you MAKE the time.  

If you actually logged down the number of hours you spend mindlessly in front of a television or browsing the web watching cat videos, you would be astounded.  I know I was.  All I did was simply replace that time with reading.  The result was 100 book in 12 months.  

I have to admit, when I first looked at how many books I would actually have to finish per week/month, it was a bit overwhelming.  But much like eating an elephant, you make small goals and go at it one bite at a time. 

So here is my list.  I added ratings to the end of each - The top rating being a possible "5".  Some of these absolutely blew me away while others were like running through quicksand, but in the end, they all got finished and I'd like to believe I am a better (and more knowledgeable) man for doing so.

My 2015 Read Book List

1. The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin - 3.5/5
2. The Road, Cormac McCarthy - 4.5/5
3. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin - 3/5
4. Jailbird, Kurt Vonnegut - 2/5
5. Dermaphoria, Craig Clevenger - 4.5/5
6. The White Prisoner, Ognian Georgeiev - 2/5
7. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers - 4.5/5
8. Unbeatable Mind, Mark Divine - 2.5/5
9. Infected, Scott Sigler - 2/5
10. Beyond Band of Brothers, Major Dick Winters - 3/5
11. The Contortionist Handbook, Craig Clevenger - 3/5
12. Live as a Man, Die as a Man, Become a Man, Enson Enue - 2/5
13. Manson: The life and Times of Charles Manson, Jeff Guinn - 2/5
14. The Old Man and the Sea, Earnest Hemingway - 4/5
15. Shutter Island, Dennis Lehane - 4/5
16. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien - 4/5
17. The 4 Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss - 3.5/5
18. Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer - 3/5
19. No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy - 3/5
20. Nature Observation and Tracking, Tom Brown - 2/5
21. Into Thin Air, John Krakauer - 3/5
22. Lullaby, Chuck Palahniuk - 3/5
23. Ultra Marathon Man, Dean Karnazes - 4/5
24. Redeployment, Phil Klay - 4/5
25. Dune, Frank Herbert - 3/5
26. The Circle, Dave Eggers - 4/5
27. Suttree, Cormac McCarthy - 3/5
28. The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus - 3/5
29. Burnt Tongues, Chuck Palahniuk - 4/5
30. Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield - 4/5
31. Arnold, Wendy Leigh - 3/5
32. Oedipus the king, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Sophocles - 3/5
33. Deep Survival, Laurence Gonzales - 4/5
34. Meditations on Violence, Rory Miller - 3/5
35. Young Men and Fire, Norman Maclean - 2/5
36. Touching the Void, Joe Simpson - 2/5
37. Leadership By the Book, Ken Blanchard, Bill Hybels, Phil Hodges - 1/5
38. Never Cry Wolf, Farley Mowat - 3/5
39. A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah - 4.5/5
40. Mafia Son, Sandra Harmon - 3/5
41. Pines, Blake Crouch - 3.5/5
42. Sacrifice, Andrew Vachss - 3/5
43. Wayward, Blake Crouch - 3.5/5
44. Arisen, Glynn James - 2/5
45. The Last Town, Blake Crouch - 3.5/5
46. Black Site, Dalton Fury - 4/5
47. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley - 3/5
48. A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson - 3/5
49. The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson - 2/5
50. Beowulf - 4/5
51. Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger - 3.5/5
52. The Warrior Elite, Dick Couch - 4/5
53. Children of the Corn, Stephen King - 3/5
54. When You Are Engulfed in Flames, David Seders - 3/5
55. Inside SEAL team six, Don Mann - 2/5
56. King/Warrior/Magician/Lover, Robert Moore & Douglas Gillette - 2/5
57. Our Fathers, Where are They…Dave Eggers -4.5/5
58. Desert Places, Blake Crouch - 4/5
59. American Sniper, Chris Kyle - 3/5
60. It Worked For Me, Colin Powel - 2/5
61. Created For Significance, Ravi Zacharias - 2/5
62. In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson - 2/5
63. Tier One Wild, Dalton Fury - 3/5
64. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn - 3/5
65. How We Love, Milan & Kay Yerlovich - 3/5
66. Wild, Cheryl Strayed - 3.5/5
67. Please Don’t Say You Need Me, Jan Silvious - 2/5
68. Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - 4/5
69. Natural Born Heroes, Christopher McDougall - 4.5/5
70. The Charge, Brendon Burchard - 4/5
71. The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman - 3/5
72. The One Thing, Gary Keller - 3/5
73. Bold, Peter Diamandis & Steven Kotler - 4/5
74. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand - 5/5
75. :59 Seconds, Richard Wiseman - 3.5/5
76. The Good Soldiers, David Finkel - 3/5
77. Mr. Mercedes, Stephen King - 2/5
78. Meditations, Marcus Aurelius - 4/5
79. The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday - 4.5/5
80. A Clean Kill in Tokyo, Barry Isler - 3.5/5
81. Horns, Joe Hill - 3/5
82. Elite FTS, The Company Story, Dave Tate - 4/5
83. Stiff, Mary Roach - 3/5
84. David & Goliath, Malcom Gladwell - 3.5/5
85. Killing Kennedy, Bill O’ Riley - 3/5
86. Fearless, Eric Blehm - 4/5
87. On Writing, Stephen King - 3.5/5
88. Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink - 4/5
89. Revival, Stephen King - 2,5/5
90. Resilience, Eric Greitens - 4.5/5
91. Daily Rituals, Mason Curry - 2.5/5
92. Don’t Worry - Make Money, Richard Carlson - 3/5
93. Killing Patton, Bill O’ Riley - 3/5
94. The Wave, Susan Casey - 3/5
95. Unleash the Warrior Within - Richard Machowichz - 4.5/5
96. Do The Work! - Steven Pressfield - 4.5/5
97. Difficult Men, Brett Martin - 3/5
98. Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy - 4/5
99. What is the What, Dave Eggers - 4.5/5
100. The Gift Of Fear, Gavin De Becker - 4/5

The only advice I would offer to you is to use the one commodity that we cannot get more of (time) to accomplish something great in 2016. 

Maybe you want to learn a language... - Then ask Santa for a version of rosetta stone.  

Maybe you want to compete in the 2016 Strongman National Championships... - I know a great place for you to come train (hint, hint)

Maybe you want to go back to school... - Then sign up for a class at a local college immediately! 

You only get one shot at this life, invest in yourself and become a better "you" than you were in 2015.  If you don't you will only have yourself to blame.  None of us are getting younger, lets work together to make 2016 the best year of your life. 

Thanksgiving - Reloaded

You will not find the word “NEVERsate” in any dictionary.  It is a conglomerate of the words “Never” (No, I am not going to waste your time defining the word “Never”) and the word “sate” or satiate which means to satisfy (any appetite or desire) fully.  

Not feeling satisfied shouldn’t be confused with unhappy or unfulfilled. The way in which the name is intended implies that you are very thankful for where you are at this moment and for the abilities you have been given; but you will always have a deep seeded desire for constant and never ending improvement.  Feeling comfortable, content and complacent are the antithesis of what NEVERsate stands for.

Since it is Thanksgiving, I would like to address this distinction now

Take one second, close your eyes, and imagine yourself on rep 19 of 30 squats under a horribly overwhelming weight.  Envision yourself grinding out that previous rep and pausing for a moment with that oppressive bar on your back. You have already choked down vomit once and know that you still have 11 more reps to go…Your lungs are heaving , your vision is getting weird and your heart is fighting to burst out of your chest.  That little voice inside your head is rationalizing 100 logical reasons why you should quit…Your legs have turned to magma and every neuron in your brain is screaming at you, saying, “you cannot do this…”

Now -

Imagine yourself living in a wheelchair.  Envision a world where your legs were blown off by a roadside IAD in Afghanistan. Imagine a world where you are paralyzed neck down because of a skiing accident. Embrace a life where you have lost your vision, hearing and balance, one where you cannot even get to the bathroom without aid. Imagine losing your entire family in a car accident and with them went your resolve to live…

Now -

Remember that set of squats from a few moments ago that seemed so horrible?  That set is a gift.  The ability to feel that pain, to have that weight on your back under your own accord and to have the mental wherewithal to CHOOSE to continue is the greatest gift you could ever receive. Too often we get caught up in all of our petty, day-to-day nonsense that we forget just how blessed we truly are and how much we could honestly lose at any second.  Every moment you spend in pain is one you should be overwhelmingly thankful for.  

This Thanksgiving, do yourself a favor: WAKE UP.  Look around at all you DO have, gain some perspective, and realize that you are living a life that other’s could only dream of. There are countless individuals out there who would literally give the remainder of their lives just for one more chance to be on rep 19 of that set of squats.

All suffering is relative and there are countless levels of it in any given lifetime. Your “10” in suffering is someone else’s “2” and your “2” is someone else’s “10”. And never forget that things can always get worse.  Today's “2” could easily turn into tomorrow’s “10”.  But If your will and resolve are strong enough, then literally ANYTHING is bearable and/or possible. 

Perspective will make you or break you in this world, and it is time for a change.

Fortunately for you, I, and everyone else in the world… when life knocks us down, we have the ability to come right back to zero and begin to build again.  We have all had setbacks; some are larger than others, and there will be times in our lives when we have to start all the way back at “Day 1”.  It is heartbreaking and can seem “unfair”…But dwelling on these facts doesn’t change them and can only keep you down longer. 

The mentally tough find the ability to not be “sate” in their present situation. They refuse to accept the hand fate delt them, and immediately begin to drive forward again; no matter how many or how hard the setbacks.  Day 1 could be as amazing as adding 5 pounds to a 1,000 pound deadlift or as basic as learning to lift your index finger under your own control again.  

We all have a challenge sitting in front of us and a choice.  What you do with that choice is up to you.  Be thankful for where you are, consider what you DO have and reignite the fire toward your next goal, no matter how small it seems.  

Now, I can already hear some of you saying, “You don’t know my life! You don’t know how hard it is!”  And to those of you saying that or whom have already written me off, I wish I could feel some empathy for you…But I don’t. You are already feeling sorry enough for yourself and you do not need any more help from me.

Studies have shown that how much you have accomplished, acquired or conquered is not statically significant for your level of happiness and will not change your positive/negative outlook on life.  Conversely, and fortunately for most of us, no matter how far you have fallen or how much you have lost, these events will not drastically change your mindset either. 

As a matter of fact, whether you win that gold medal, buy your dream car or find yourself bed ridden for the next year, studies show that you will have a brief emotional buffer in which you are extremely happy, or very depressed for a short amount of time, then you will return to who you were before the event occurred. 

This is why you see miserable millionaires and paraplegics with amazing attitudes. 

It is an empirical fact that your circumstances don’t really change who you are, but your mindset CAN and WILL. Problems are nothing more than opportunities that need to be picked up, cleaned off and seen from a different angle.

Many people will chalk this up to an optimistic attitude. I believe positive thinking is great, but it is much like a rocking chair.  It may give you something to do, but it won’t really get you anywhere.

Instead, I have tried to adopt “thankful” thinking mixed with a deep seeded desire to become better every single day.  Whenever something negative happens in my life, be it large or seemly inconsequential, I try to take notice of all of the great things about the situation (and my life in it’s entirety) then formulate a plan on how to improve my circumstance.  

Then I act… Immediately… All of the correct mindset in the world will get you nowhere without action.

So this Thanksgiving, no matter where you are, whether you have little or have plenty are in excellent health or have six months to live; be grateful for the opportunities you have been afforded, stop complaining about your circumstances and take advantage of the small gifts life has placed in your hands.  Your family may be crazy (everyone’s is), but at least you get to spend this holiday with them.  There are people all over the world that wish they had that chance…And trust me, you are going to miss them when they are gone… 

You may be at the lowest point in your collective existence right at this moment - but the pain you feel is a reminder that you are still alive.  “Remember tonight, for it is the beginning of always”. Were the words Dante muttered after climbing out of the seventh ring of Hell.

You can choose how amazing or how horrible today is. Be grateful for that choice. Then work diligently to make sure that tomorrow is better than today. Your circumstances may not change overnight, but it only takes a single moment to change your mentality.

Finally, today, if you have the opportunity to, (many don’t) eat your turkey, go crazy with the pie and drink your wine…Pour love on your friends and family because you never know when, or if, you will ever see them again…ENJOY your circumstances every moment this day because you will never get another chance at the same one again.  Be thankful for it and make it great.  

But tomorrow, when it is time to crawl back under that bar…When you feel like there is no oxygen left in the room and your heart is about to explode from your chest…When you are on your 19th squat and your brain starts playing its old negative quitting games, take some control over your life and tell it to shut up. This is your party, your choice, and your opportunity… Smile, choke back that vomit, and get to work because you still have 11 more gifts to unwrap before the set is done. 

That’s what Thanksgiving means to me.

2015 Maryland's Strongest Man - Contest Write-Up and Thoughts

So this past Saturday, I participated in my 6th Strongman Competition and have been involved in the sport for a little over a year now.  I was fortunate enough to win the 231 category of Maryland’s Strongest Man in 2014… so I came into this year’s comp with a little more trepidation knowing what was ahead of me and the fact that a lot of the other competitors recognized who I was this time around. I couldn’t play the dark horse role and that definitely upped my nerves quite a bit.  

The day itself looked like it was going to be awesome!  My team and I showed up around 8AM and it was overcast but unseasonably warm at 60 degrees or so.  All of the events were going to be held outside because of the 110+ competitors and all of us were thankful for the warmth.

Then it started raining.  

Then it rained harder.

Then it kept raining.

Maryland’s Strongest Man is always a tough competition.  Weights are heavier, the best athletes always show up and if you are off your game at all, it is tough to get to the podium.  With the added rain soaking everyone’s clothes as well as spirits, it was going to be a grueling day. But this is Strongman.  Excuses are never accepted and complaining doesn’t go over very well, so we all drove on, suffered in silence and tried to stay as mentally sharp as possible.

The following are my thoughts and event write-up for one of the most brutal competitions I have ever participated in.  

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THE WEIGHT CUT

Having the National Championships just five weeks prior to this competition was both a good and a bad thing for me.  Bad because it is really tough to completely heal and recover in just a few weeks, but good because my weight was already down - making this by far my easiest cut ever.  I stepped on the scale at 228.5 then gorged myself with Gatorade, milk and six double cheese burgers.  Then followed it up with more water, milk and a lot of spaghetti and meatballs.  Oh and cookies.  Lots and lots of cookies.  I was back up into the 240’s within hours and felt totally hydrated and replenished by the start of the comp the next day.         ____________________________________________________________________________

EVENT 1- LAST MAN STANDING 18” DEADLIFT. 50lb jumps.  You get 3 attempts but if you miss a weight you are out.

I knew I had to get on the board with something so that I wouldn’t zero the event.  In training I had hit 765lbs, but that was with a flexible Texas Deadlift bar…We would be using a stiffer Texas power bar in the comp and I probably should have spent more time with it. Win or learn.  I knew that this was going to be my worst event with such a low weight but I didn’t realize just how weak I really was.  

I opened with 675lbs and it was no problem at all. The judges added 50lbs to make the weight 725 and I couldn’t budge it.  The 18” deadlift is a tough event for me.  I can pull almost as much from the floor as I can from this height and I was pretty disappointed with my performance.  The top guys in my class pulled 815lbs and made it look easy!  They are some strong, strong guys!

This started me out in a 6th or 7th place deficit and I knew that my chances at winning the top spot just great diminished.  I know most of the other guys in my class and and a showing like that won’t get it done against them.  I knew I would have to win virtually every other event if I stood a chance at retaining the title.

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EVENT 2 - PRESS MEDLEY:60 Seconds to Clean & Press a 275b Log, Clean & Press a 160lb Circus Dumbbell, and then As Many Reps As Possible on a 250ish pound Viking Press for the remainder of your time. 

I am not going to lie, the rain became an issue in this event.  The implements were pretty soaked and every time you got set with your face to the sky, rain was falling in your eyes.  During warm-ups things were looking pretty dicey.  Nothing felt very good and the weather was getting worse by the minute.  A lot of guys chose to opt out of this event just because the footing was questionable and you don’t want to bite it with a 275lb log over your face.

In all honesty, I was really looking forward to this event.  I knew I had the potential to do pretty well, but also, any time that you have an (As Many Reps As possible in :60 Seconds) type of movement, much of the time the winner is whoever is willing to suffer the most.  Believe me, I am not masochistic at all, but any time you get to really dig deep like that, it changes you.  I am all about constant and never-ending improvement and I knew this was an opportunity to see who I was and how badly I wanted this.

Because i was kind of late signing up for the comp, I went pretty early in my heat.  The judge asked if I was ready then started the clock.  I cleaned the log up easily but it got a little out in front of me and I had to take a step or two to regain my balance.  I locked it out and moved onto the dumbbell.

Now, any of you who follow my training know that the Circus Dumbbell and I do not get along. It is NOT the weight.  I have no problem with the horsepower.  It is the balancing and technique that I lack.  It cost me dearly at Nationals and I was hoping for a little bit of redemption.  

I cleaned the Dumbbell up to my shoulder, got set, and went to press.  In the video you can see the force going backward instead of up (the same issue I was having at Nationals) and I missed my first rep.  I reset and got the second one. No redemption for me that day!

I quickly moved onto the Viking Press and got to work.  I paused at rep ten because I was feeling smoked!  But I just kept thinking about how badly I performed on the deadlift and knew that every press would help my chances.

I was fortunate enough to complete 15 reps before time expired and secured a first place finish for the event.

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EVENT 3 - 50 FOOT YOKE WALK. 750lbs. Fastest Time Wins. 2 Second penalty for sliding the yoke.

The footing was a little iffy because of the rain, but I had trained hard for this event and was pretty confident I could do well.  As I have said in the past, rushing is usually a mistake and makes you do stupid things.  In most of my other competitions, I tend to get ahead of myself on the yoke, do something stupid and end up dropping it sometime during my run. This costs precious time and a second or two can make or break you. My entire goal for this event was to be smooth and steady.    

The judge said, “Go” and I took off.  Things went pretty well for me and I felt fairly stable throughout the run.  When I dropped it past the finish line, I felt like my time was kind of slow but I was happy that I had completed the event cleanly.

I ended up somewhere around 10 seconds and that was good enough for another first place finish.

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EVENT 4: CAR SQUAT.  As Many Reps As Possible in :60 Seconds.  Car + Frame + 450lbs in Plates.

This was the event that kept me up at night.  I had gone to a “practice” day a few weeks prior just to get a feel for what this event was going to be like.  That day I did 3 reps and bailed out. The car didn’t feel terribly heavy so I knew this was going to be one of those events where the suffering was going to be intense and long.  To confirm this, a fellow competitor climbed under the car that day and snapped out 20+ reps quickly and smoothly.  To be honest, I didn’t think I could replicate that, so it turned in my head constantly right up until the moment the event began.  

The mat we were standing on was a little slick and more than one person bit it pretty hard during their time so I chose to not wear shoes in hopes for better purchase with the ground. 

I know this seems overly dramatic, but I feel like all of my years of hard training and mentally pushing myself was going to come down to this one single moment in time.  I knew it was going to be brutal.  I knew I would want to quit.  I knew I had to hit a huge number just to keep up with the other guys in my class.  

The night before the comp, my Dad called me and left me a message.  My Dad doesn’t call people.  He never phones me unless someone died or he needs help moving things. Men don’t usually call other men, it is just how it is.  On his message, he said some things that will stay with me forever.  I don’t want to share them here because they are personal, but after hearing it, I made a decision that I was going to leave it all out there in the next :60 seconds. I didn’t care what happened after this event, I didn’t care if i injured myself, I didn’t care if I passed out with that car on my back…I only cared about doing my job and doing it well.

I climbed under the bar, said, “let’s go boys” to the judges and started repping it out.  I honestly wish I could remember more of what took place.  It was one of the longest minutes of my training career and I kind of went somewhere else for a while.  In the words of some of my fellow competitors, “I went full potato.”  

I remember performing rep 10 and then completely lost count.  A few reps later I asked, “what number?!?” but couldn’t hear anything.  Full auditory exclusion was coming on.  I did a few more reps, stopped and asked, “what number!?!?” again.  This time I heard 17.  Remembering seeing the guy on practice day hit 20+, I knew that wasn’t going to cut it.  So I got back to work.

I NEVER make noise when I lift.  I never cry out, and I never yell because I feel like it makes you weaker by losing air and tightness…But, as you can see... I was screaming like a little girl on those last few reps.  I couldn’t tell you what I said or what language it was in, but something came out.

I can honestly say I learned a lot about myself in those :60 seconds. My well got a little deeper and I am proud with that performance. I entered the event thinking I would need to hit 30 to win and had every intention to... but I was already pretty beat up from the day we had put in and 30 just wasn’t in my tank.  I know I can do better, but it was all I had at that time.  

I collapsed after time expired and my legs seriously would not work.  My brain was telling them what to do but they were having none of it.  

I ended up completing 21 reps and earned another first place finish. ____________________________________________________________________________

EVENT 5: 300lb Stone over a 52” BarAS Many Reps As Possible in :60 Seconds

In Strongman, consistency is key.  You get points for where you place in every category.  Even though I had already won three of the four events, I was still in second place.  The guy ahead of me (a good friend of mine who was having an awesome day in his own right) had been knocking out second place finishes like it is was his job! My poor performance in the deadlift was still following me and it had my points below his.  The way things were adding up, If I stood a chance at retaining the title, it looked as if I would have to win the Stone event as well. 

To say that the Car Squat took a little bit out of all of us would be the understatement of the century…Everyone’s hips were shot and backs were tired.  Normally by event number four, I am a little mentally drained ready to do something else for a while, but in this comp, I still felt focused and ready.

The judge started the clock and I gave all that I had left.  By rep six, I was spent!  I stopped for a second to catch my breath before rep seven and I heard someone incredulously yell, “come on…”  I literally almost yelled back, “I’m sorry but I’m tired!” I pulled it together and finished my seventh rep, securing my final first place finish and winning the title of Maryland’s Strongest Man for another year.

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THANK YOU

Firstly, I want to thank Jon Ward and all of the judges for putting together an amazing contest.  Everything (out of your control) that could have gone wrong did... and yet all of you still performed with the utmost professionalism and kept things positive.  Running 110+ competitors through five brutal events in the pouring down rain takes more than luck.  All of your hard work and dedication is inspiring and did not go unnoticed. In my opinion, Jon Ward is one of the best promoters in the business and I am proud to have him as Maryland’s State Rep.

I would also like to take the time to salute my fellow athletes in the 231 class.  Although everyone that participates in these contests is amazing, the 231’s are always a fun group to watch.  All of you support, encourage and push each other while keeping things extremely competitive.  A special thanks to Gregg Inocencio and Andy Ruse.  You guys just keep getting better and better.  Knowing that you guys are out there training as hard as you do keeps me motivated to be the best me I can be.  You push me to places I didn’t know existed and are both athletes that inspire me.  Now, if you wouldn't mind, you guys can go ahead and take the next 5 years off!

Thank you to my sponsor Dave’s Professional Services for helping me financially, mentally and Spiritually.  I wouldn’t even be in the sport if it weren’t for you!  If you are reading this, please support them with all of your automotive needs!

To my fellow competitor teammates and friends Dave, Emily and Brady.  You guys make me proud beyond measure.  All of you performed amazingly and have very bright futures in the sport!  Coaching you guys is one of the greatest joys of my life and I cannot thank you enough for all that you do!

To my NEVERsate Family.  You guys push me every day to be a better man. I hope all of you know that I am hard on you because I want you to be your best!  Thanks you for all of the love and support! And thanks for braving the elements and taking some great video of the competition!  

To my Mom & Dad.  I don’t even know what to say.  The song that I put on the video was for you guys.  When it says, “All of these things made me who I am” it is speaking about the two of you.  I am the man I am today because of you guys.  NEVER forget that.  I love you.

And finally, to my beautiful wife (Who also competed).  You are my whole world.  Thank you for putting up with me, supporting me and being there when my emotions run crazy.  You are my rock.  You did an amazing job and I am so proud of you!  I love you desperately.

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WHAT'S NEXT?

I am not completely sure.  I know I will compete a few more times this year and make a run at getting my pro-card.  This win secured my spot for next year's National Championships where i will most likely compete.  

For right now, it is back to the grind. It has been a few months since I have been able to follow a normal program, so I am looking forward to that.  

If you are looking for a place to train or want to join the NEVERsate Athletics team, shoot me an email and come out to our gym.  It is a great place where amazing people put in a lot of work.  My goal is to hold onto this title until I train the person who replaces me.  Come visit our facility and see if it is a good fit for you. 

Ending 2015 with a Bang: Next 10 weeks of Programming explained

Well, it is that time of year again.  On the East Coast the temperature is dropping, snow is on its way and the days where the roll-up doors are open at the gym are coming to a close.  Since it s preferable that we don’t run with kegs or flip tires on ice, we will be focusing on more static movements while trying to build extra strength and size that will translate over to greater horsepower come springtime.  I am NOT saying that we won’t still be venturing out into the cold every once in a while for conditioning and strongman events, but you should plan for more barbell movements and extra Accessory work.

This will be a 10 week block of programming filled with conditioning, powerlifting, As Many Reps as Possible (AMRAP) sets and more static strongman movements.  Be sure to put full effort into your conditioning because you won’t be as mobile as once were when it was nicer out. This block will take us right up to the first week in 2016…So this is your opportunity to close out 2015 with a bang and start the new year with greater Personal Records. 

Everything in this 10 Week Cycle will rotate between Heavy days (1-4 Reps @ 80-95% of your 1RM), Repetition Days (6-8 Reps @ 70-80% of your 1RM) and Lighter Speed Days (3 Reps @ 60-70%).  The rotating matrix will be applied to everything, including your Accessory and Strongman work.

Even though your weights will be cycling on all three aspects of the training day (Strength, Accessory & Strongman), you will never be applying the same intensity to any two areas during that session.  Thus, if your strength work is prescribed to be HEAVY for that day, your Accessories may be speed based while your Strongman work will more more repetitive in nature.  This should make for longer, steadier progress and more guaranteed PRs at the end of the 10 Week Cycle. Since there is no overlap, you can really focus on the area you are currently working on and it frees you to give 100% of your effort in all three aspects of your training, every single day.  If your strength work didn’t go as well as you hoped, you can make it up in the skills/speed portion by performing your reps as perfectly as possible. If your body is beat up and your Strongman training is poor, then you have the opportunity to smash your conditioning and shed some body fat…So on and so fourth.   

If it is a speed day for the Strongman aspect of your workout, we will oftentimes be merging it with the conditioning portion by incorporating more implement training. This will allow us to spend more time and effort on the main lifts than if we broke it up into three separate groups.  

Strongman contests are (more or less) in the off season for the next few months, so putting more intention on the main barbell lifts just makes more sense with our limited space and inability to train outside as often. Other times, a Strongman Event will be the main focus of the day and will take up most of our time.  The program will all depend on where the intention and focus for that day fall and what we are trying to accomplish in that particular training session.  

The most important thing to aim for in this 10 week block of training is consistency and sticking to the program & prescribed percentages for each lift.  Don’t jump ahead just because you feel good that day.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  Sometimes a victory today will set you back for weeks in the future.  You have to trust the process.

You will be regularly seeing AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) sets programmed into the last set of your strength work.  What this means is, if you are performing 5 sets of 2 reps - on your last round, you will attempt as many reps as possible BEFORE your form really takes a dive.  If you can only get 2, well, that is great…  That is all you were SUPPOSED to get.  If you get 10, then your 1RM is probably set a little bit too low.  

This is a chance for you to self-regulate your training and to set new Rep PRs regularly…but you have to be smart about it.  Grinding out five ugly reps that sap your CNS for the next workout is not what you are trying to do and is not conducive to making progress.  You are flirting with the edge here, not repelling off of it.  If you are feeling really good that day, you have the opportunity to push yourself a little bit.  If you are feeling rough, then just performing your prescribed reps is completely fine.  Be smart about your training so that you can stay injury free and continue to progress throughout the entire 10 week cycle.  

NUTS & BOLTS
Here is a basic idea of where our focus will be for the STRENGTH portion of the next 10 weeks.  

Monday’s Strength work will be built around the Squat.
Tuesday will be conditioning and Olympic lift based.
Wednesday will be all about Overhead Pressing and its variations.
Thursday’s will be a rest day or a chance to make up any session you may have missed during the week.
Friday will be centered around the Deadlift.
Saturday will be focused on improving your Yoke and Bench Press.
Sunday is another Rest / Make-up day

When I spoke about each section cycling in their intensities, the basic template will look similar to this:

Monday
WAVE 1/WEEK 1/DAY 1
STRENGTH: Squats  (Heavy)
ACCESSORY: Squat Variations (Repetition)
STRONGMAN: (Speed)

Wednesday
WAVE 1/WEEK 1/DAY 3
STRENGTH: Overhead Press (Speed)
ACCESSORY: (Heavy)
STRONGMAN: (Repetition)

Friday
WAVE 1/WEEK 1/DAY 5
STRENGTH: Deadlifts (Repetition)
ACCESSORY: (Speed)
STRONGMAN: (Heavy)

So as you can see, you will never be going heavy on any two individual sections in a given training day.  You will always be cycling within each workout and within each week.  You will only be going heavy on a certain exercise once every three weeks while the other two weeks will be focused on either be speed or repetitions.  

CONCLUSION
Like I mentioned before, this programming will begin on November 2nd and will take us right up to the first week of 2016.  If all goes as planned you will start off the year with higher PR numbers and will be the strongest “YOU” that you have ever been.  

Put everything you have into each of the three training areas (Conditioning, Strength, & Strongman) every single session and it will pay off greatly at the end of the 10 weeks… That I can promise you.  If you stay consistent and stick to the prescribed Sets/Reps & Percentages you WILL beat your PRs come the first week of 2016. 

SHAMELESS PLUG
If you are not a member of NEVERsate Athletics… why not?!?  Come in and give a class a try.  I promise you it is unlike any training experience you have ever had and you will be shocked at how much our positive environment can improve your performance. Most of this game is mental and that is one aspect we excel at.  What do you have to lose? Come in and give it a try.

For those of you who geographically cannot make it out to our training center, but are interested in the above strength programming, you can buy a personalized 10 Week program (Dropdown menu is at the top left corner of the Schedule/Merch Page) that is written specific to your injury limitations, equipment access and personal goals.   

I am really excited about the next 10 weeks and seeing what everyone is capable of.  If you have any questions or concerns, email them to NEVERsate@Gmail.com

Let’s finish off 2015 right and get a start on making 2016 the strongest year of your life. 

2015 NAS Strongman National Championships: Event Write-Up and Thoughts

Well, another NAS Strongman Nationals is in the books.  This is my fifth competition and my second time competing at a National level.  Last year I finished pretty middle of the pack at 44th Place.  This year, I was fortunate enough to make it all the way up to an 18th place finish.  It is a substantial improvement, but I know I can do better and am going to work extremely hard to get to where I want to be.

This competition was filled with many good and bad moments, but I learned a lot and know what I need to do to get better before next year.  The following is an event write-up and my thoughts during the competition.  

Note: I will be writing up a separate article about things I learned during this competition.  There are literally too many to mention, so I am breaking it into 2 different posts.

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THE WEIGHT CUT:

Just like always, I started the cut about 5 weeks out weighing in the 245 range give or take a few pounds.  I clean up my diet substantially and usually lean out to around 235-239lbs before I begin to manipulate my water.  The final week I switch over to distilled, starting out with a gorge and slowly taper my intake as the week goes on.  Wednesday, before I left for Iowa, I was hitting the scale at a FULLY hydrated 242lbs.  

I cut all of my water intake Wednesday morning, bundled up like I was in Antartica and got on the treadmill to sweat out a few more pounds then headed to the airport.  Thursday morning around 10AM I weighed in at 225.2.  It was only about 100 feet from the scale to where we had to register our yoke heights with two stops built in to grab a swag bag and pick up our competition T-Shirts... but in that time I downed 2 32oz gatorades, ate 2 honey buns, 2 pop-tarts and 2 other packs of chocolate/peanut butter bars …The weight was quickly returning!

After that, I certified my yoke height and headed to the hotel restaurant where I ate a disgusting amount of food followed by a disturbing amount of water.  By the time I got back to my room, I was already back up to 237lbs.  The remainder of the day was a lot of laying around mixed with bouts of stuffing myself until I felt sick. This went on until until we had to go to the Athlete Rules Meeting at 6:30 PM.  

It was a pretty easy weight cut and the first obstacle was done and over with.

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CONTEST

DAY 1 - EVENT 1: 275lb Log Clean & Press, as many reps as possible in :60 seconds, clean every rep.

Warm-ups at Nationals are an event in themselves.  There are only a few implements to play with and you need to share them with 200+ competitors…Add in a short time frame and things get crazy pretty quickly.  We were using a Beast Metals Log which I had never touched in my life, so naturally, I wanted to get in a few reps with it.  The problem was that you stood in line for 20 minutes just to touch it, then you needed to quickly move on because there were 100 other guys waiting to do the same exact thing.  Due to this, I only did 3 reps with the empty log before the event started.  

My game plan was to not rush my reps.  275lbs isn’t terribly heavy for me, but it is not very light either.  In practice, I found that if I rushed, I quickly burned myself out and didn’t perform as well... so I just thought I would take my time and be a smooth as possible.  The important thing was to not miss any reps because I didn’t want to clean that monstrosity more than I had to.  

Before I really knew what was going on, I was standing in front of the judges and the announcer was saying, “Athletes ready….set…go!”  I cleaned my first rep and realized that I probably should have taken the time to touch a Beast Metals log sometime before the competition.  It felt like a truck sitting out in front of me and that was a pretty big shock to my body.  

In the video, you can see me figuring out the implement as the minute rolls on.  I would compete a rep, put the log down and then analyze what I had to do to get another.  Unfortunately, there is no room for that kind of nonsense at a National level.  

Before I knew it, the announcer shouted that we had, “10 seconds” left.  I cleaned the log for the 5th and final time and stared my press.  I was 3/4 of the way locked out before I ran out of time, but still, I completed the rep. Sure I was one second short, but what is a second in the big scheme of things!? 

In the video, you can see the anxious look I gave the head judge…as if to say, “come on man, you have to give that to me!”.  He saw my reaction and said, “I can’t give you that one.”  So I decided that I would open the discussion while I held the log in the lockout position.  My final argument (that you can hear on the vid) was, “I’ll keep holding it (until you give me the rep)” but it was more for laughs than anything.  He was smiling at me because he knew what i was trying to do...I knew I was late and you can see me start cracking up as I put the log down.  Everyone laughed about it, I shook the judges hand, and was happy just to have gotten through the event cleanly.  

4 reps put me in the top 1/4 of competitors, but 5 would have helped out a lot!  I think 7 reps won that event.

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EVENT 2: 600lb Zercher Yoke Carry.  As Fast As Possible for 60 feet.  2 second penalty for sliding the implement across the finish line.     

Warm-ups went about the same.  I had the chance to hit a 25 foot run with the empty yoke.

I was in the last heat for the middle weight men, so I had a lot to time to think about what I was going to do.  In all of that time, my stellar brain came up with this game plan: Pick the yoke up and move your feet as fast as you can.  Yep, I am a master planner...

If you have ever had the terrific experience of performing a really heavy Zercher Yoke carry, you will know that it causes some of the most grueling and horrific seconds of your life.  You can’t breathe, it is painful from the first second, your brain starts passing out and all of that happens before you have even gone half the distance to your goal. It is all about how much you are willing to suffer and endure.   

When the announcer said, “Go!”, I picked up the yoke and took off… the world started closing in on me pretty quickly and all I could think about was, “don’t slide it across the finish line!”  When I put the yoke down, I knew that I was moving very fast and had earned a good time…So good in fact that I ALMOST celebrated. (I NEVER celebrate!) - I looked at the judge's face expecting a smile because I had done well, but instead I received a deadpan expression…This quickly killed my desire to celebrate… but all in all, I was still very happy with that one. 

My time was one of the fastest of the day and it was by far the best I have ever performed at a National’s event.  When the points came out, I was in 5th or 6th place overall and was elated.

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EVENT 3: 620lb (310 in each hand) Farmer’s Walk.  60 Feet, As fast as possible.  Only 1 drop allowed.

EVERYONE was talking about these handles.  They were saying how the Beast Metal brand was very hard to hold onto and after watching the first few heats compete, it would appear that the rumors were true.  Almost everyone was dropping them at least once, and if you dropped them twice, you couldn’t continue.  I can honestly say that right before this event was the first time I was really feeling any real nerves in this competition.  

I lined up, got a good hold and took off.  My left foot has been hurt for a while prior to the competition, so I hadn’t really trained the with the Farmer’s Handles much.  You can see in both this video and the previous Yoke one that I keep veering to the left on my carries.  I guess that’s because I was babying it at little… I never actually felt the pain during the events, but when I review the videos, I was surprised to see that I almost ran right out of my lane a few times. Given enough distance, I am sure I would have just run around in counter-clockwise circles!

From the very start, I knew I was going to be trouble.  My left hand didn’t feel like it had a super tight grip on the implement, so my plan was to move my feet as fast as possible and get as far as I could before I dropped them.  My speed was actually very good…If I could have held on, I would have posted a really great time, but it was not to be. Rushing was a mistake.

Apparently moving that fast with 620lbs makes balancing harder.  Who knew?  I started having stabilization issues and in the video you can see my core start to wobble around a lot.  The floor was very smooth, slick concrete and I kind of knew I was going to fall a split second before it happened.  One moment I was moving fast, and the next thing I knew, I was laying on a very uncomfortable mattress of metal pointy things and was in considerable pain.  

Falling made me very, very angry.  I immediately jumped up, re-picked the handles and tried to regain my speed.  I crossed the finish line and gently placed them on the ground.  But by gently, I mean I slammed them on the ground and said some not so nice words under my breath.  I wish I was that angry BEFORE I started because I felt like I could have held onto those things for a year after the fall!  

Apparently I was moving pretty well for the first half of the course because even with the fall, I was still able to post a decent enough time that it only dropped me two places on the leader board...

I ended Day 1 in 7th place and was feeling really good (although pretty beat up from the fall) and was looking forward to having a great Day 2.

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DAY 2 - EVENT 4: Push-Pull Medley: 160lb Circus Dumbbell Clean & Press / 250lb Single Arm Deadlift. As Many Reps as possible in :60 Seconds.

This is where things took a turn for the worse…Here is where I made my biggest mistakes of the entire competition which ended up costing me a lot of places on the leader board.  I had been training with a Slater Circus Dumbbell which is shaped completely different than the Beast Metals version.  I hit a few reps with the empty dumbbell in warm-ups, but really should have spent more time familiarizing myself with the implement.  

I cleaned my first rep and the weight felt amazingly light, i knew it was going to be a good event… I began to press the dumbbell, but instead of traveling up, it moved backward and away from my body.  I was immediately confused.  I easily have the strength to do that weight and when it wasn’t going up, I was dumbfounded.  Panic set in and I was thinking more about my chances of a good finish slipping away more than figuring out how to remedy the problem.  Things just got worse from there.  

I ended up only getting a few reps of each exercise before time ran out.  To say I was disappointed with myself does not do the emotions justice.  I run hot.  My highs are high and my lows are extremely low. I like winning a decent amount, but I LOATHE it when I lose because of not perform up to the standard I hold myself to.  I sat there and watched my plans of a top 10 finish run away because I did not prepare the way I should have.

I blame no one but myself.  The judges were fair and I knew what was going to be expected of me… I simply dropped the ball.  It was a horrendous performance that I am actually embarrassed to share, but you have to take the good with the bad.  I learn twice as much from something like this than I do when I perform well, so in hindsight, this horrible performance was more valuable to me than the rest of the competition combined.  But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it!  I know what I need to fix and take full responsibility for my failure.  

My performance was about average for my class, but in order to stay near the top, I had to excel. Since I didn’t, I fell a few more places in the standings.  This event REALLY made me angry at myself.  A Push/Pull is right in my wheel house and was the one event I felt the most comfortable with, yet performed the worst at. 

Like I always say, Win or learn…and I spent a LOT of time learning on this one. 

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EVENT 5: 220lb, 240lb, 260lb Sandbag Carry.  Each for 60 feet as fast as possible.  

This is another event I did not prepare well for.  in fact, I had never picked up a 240 or 260 pound sandbag in my life.

At Nationals, they change the order of your heat position by your current standings - so that the top guys go last and compete head to head in later events.  I was still sitting fairly high and going pretty late so I knew my competition was going to be tough.

I did my best, but the guys I was going against were AMAZING and much faster on their picks than I was. This ended up costing me precious seconds that I could have used. 

My first two sandbags went fairly well, but then I fumbled picking up the 260lb bag and that took me out of contention.  My finish really wasn’t that bad in retrospect… It still had me in the top half of the competitors, but there is no room for mistakes at Nationals and my position on the leader board fell all of the way down to 18th place.  

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OVERVIEW:

Watching my chances of a top 10 finish slip away because of my lack of preparation and poor performance put me in a funk like I have not been in for almost 20 years.  I was livid with myself and did not want to be around anyone. For hours, I was about the worst person in the world to be next to!

But now, after having time to digest all of my emotions, I am really proud of how I finished up.  18th place at the National Championships is nothing to be ashamed of. I know that if I would have done a few things differently in my preparation and ran the events just a little more cleanly, I would have been right near the top.  I saw that I DO have what it takes to run with some of the top guys in the Nation and with some technique practice, I will be there if I put the work in.

No excuses.  The other guys just did more things right than I did.  Next time, hopefully, they will be saying the same thing about me.   

I learned more during this competition than all of my others combined, had a lot of fun, and got to catch up with some friends that I hadn’t seen since last year’s Nationals.  My performance has re-lit a fire under me to be better than ever and has me motivated to improve every single day.

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THANK YOUs: 

I want to say thank you to Dione for putting on a very professionally run contest and to my fellow competitors for pushing me in ways I didn’t think were possible (there are some absolute MONSTERS that showed up)! 

Thank you to Dan and Ben for being great friends and teaching me so much all weekend long… Also to Gregg for helping me with my technique and for your support all the way from the East Coast!

Thank you to everyone at NEVERsate Athletics for pushing me to be the best I could be and for being the best training partners anyone could ask for.

My heart is so thankful to all of my Family and friends for their love and support and for putting up with me chasing this dream! I love you guys so much!… Also thanks to everyone online who encouraged me from hundreds of miles away.  If well wishes could win an event, I have no doubt that I would have come out on top!  

A very special thanks to my sponsor, Dave’s Professional Services, for all of your financial and emotional support! None of this would have been possible without you!

Thank you to Dave and Emily for all you guys did to help me out on this trip!  You push me up when I do well, and pick me up when I don’t. I apologize greatly for my attitude towards you guys when I mess up. All of the care and support you guys showed me throughout this whole trip means more than you realize. I love you guys deeply. 

And finally, thank you to my beautiful wife.  You made this such a fun trip!  I am so proud of how you performed and I would be nothing without you!  

7 Random Thoughts #1

A lot of the time, I will have ideas for articles that are not fully developed.  They will be snippets about training or life that I would like to write an an entire article about, but for whatever reason, I just have not been able to bring it all together.  

This series is where I will be laying out some of those ideas in hopes that they will bloom into full, well thought out articles .  Some of these concepts may one day expand into complete blog posts, others will disappear forever - either way, here is the first edition of 7 Random Thoughts...  

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NUMBER 1. Leaving yourself an out or working with a safety net may make you good, it may even allow you to become great, but it will never let you reach your full potential.  It is a scary individual who knows EXACTLY where they are going and are willing to sacrifice whatever necessary to get there. 

NUMBER 2. If you are hurt, tired or for any other reason, not at 100% capacity - but choose to try anyway - NEVER use those things as a reason why you didn't perform up to the standard you thought you should achieve.  An excuse is still an excuse. People who rely on this think that  doing so will somehow separate them from their poor performance, but it won't.  All it really does is make you look weak. 

i.e. "I Could've/Should've/Would've won first, but my back has been bothering me."  Cowards blame other people and things for their shortcomings.  Don't be a coward.  Be proud of your performance, learn from it, and do what is necessary to get better.  You got beat because you were not the best competitor that day.  Lying to yourself won't take the sting out of the loss or make you any better of a person. 
 
NUMBER 3. Before you ever claim that someone is a "genetic freak" make sure you are beyond familiar with just how much time that individual has spent honing their craft.  More often than not, that "genetic freak" you just referred to, has an unwavering desire to reach their goals that you do not possess... 

They chose to spend the hours and years working on their craft that you spent watching TV, browsing the internet and playing video games.  Being lazy is an excellent way to build mediocrity.
 
NUMBER 4. Increasing your squat numbers will usually make your deadlift go up automatically.  It doesn't really seem to work the other way around. I cannot explain this magic to you. It just IS.

NUMBER 5. If you love pizza, pasta and ice cream but despise the taste of protein shakes, vegetables and tuna fish, don't worry - you are in the same boat as a lot of people.  But you know what tastes better than anything? Results.

NUMBER 6. Organisms will only grow as big as the environment they are encapsulated by.  It doesn't matter if you are a fish in an aquarium or a human being in a dead-end job.  Being a big fish in a small pond may feel good for a little while, but if you really want to grow, a change of environment and perspective may just be exactly what you need. If you are the strongest individual your gym, then it is time to find a better gym.

NUMBER 7. Remove "if", "can't" and "but" from your language.  Take responsibility for your actions.  Don't say, "I would try that but..." or "I could do that too if ..." - Rather say, "I am unwilling to try." or "I refuse to do that." - In reality, you are probably just too afraid to fail, so you won't even try.  

Save yourself and everyone else around you the time.  If qualifiers and excuses are how you want to live your life, then that is fine.  I wish you the best of luck.  But please realize that people do not have the time to listen to your reasons of why you are unwilling to give something a shot.  Excuses are the bastard product of a weak will and mind.  Either you choose to do something and give it 100% of your effort... or you don't.  

People are interested in the actions you take, not a soliloquy on why it is so terribly hard for you.  Simply say, "no" then get out of the way of people who are taking action.    

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If you see yourself in any of the points made above, don't worry, it is not an attack on you.  I see myself in some of them as well.  The beautiful thing is that you have the power, right now, at this moment to change these things. You have the ability to flip your mindset and revolutionize your world - all it takes is the realization that you are doing these things and then applying the right amount of mental fortitude to reverse them.  The import thing is to start immediately.  Not tomorrow or next week, right now.

If you liked the format of this post and would like to see more like it, please make sure to hit the "like" button at the top left corner of this article. If you feel so inclined, also share it with your friends.  I really appreciate your support and would like to give a special thanks to all of you who regularly read my articles, follow me on Twitter and subscribe to me on youtube! It means more than you could ever know.

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Training Log

The 2nd Annual NEVERsate Athletics Eating Challenge: Beginning October 1st!

The 2nd Annual NEVERsate Athletics Eating Challenge: Beginning October 1st 2015! 

A year ago (15October2014) The members of the NEVERsate Athletics team decided to take on a 30 day eating challenge.  Lots of people dropped body fat, eating habits were changed forever and those who participated now see fueling their bodies in an entirely different way.  Since we have enjoyed a substantial amount of growth in membership over the past 12 months, I thought it would be a good time to run this challenge again so that all of our new athletes could share in the suffering.

 

For those of you who believe working out is enough to change your body, I hate to be a dream crusher, but that is only about 20% of the equation.  If you want to improve how your body performs, lifting weights and carrying yokes is exactly what you want to be doing.  If your goal is to drop body fat while holding on to that hard earned muscle, then you really need to start thinking about controlling what you put in your mouth.  You can’t out-train a bad diet and you would need to perform burpees for the next few hours straight if you want to burn off that large pizza.   

This Challenge will begin October 1st and will run us straight up to weigh-ins for the Maryland’s Strongest Man Contest.  It will help those of you competing make weight and will provide you with plenty of support from the other athletes because everyone will be suffering right along side you.   

A sign up sheet will be provided at the gym.  If you decide to partake in this challenge, you have made a commitment not only to yourself, but to all of your other teammates participating as well.  If you give in, you will not only be letting yourself down on this one. 

This will all be based on the honor system, but if you cheat, you will have to cross your name off the list. We will take before and after photos as well as weigh-ins to track your progress. 

This is 30 days of discipline that can change your life forever… don’t take this challenge lightly.   

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THE RULES

1. Keep your protein intake high.  

Find your lean body mass (Subtract your body fat percentage in pounds from your actual bodyweight). That weight is the number of grams of protein you want to ingest per day.  1g of protein per lb of lean body mass for men. .75g of protein per lb of lean body mass for women.  

     EXAMPLE: 250lb man with 20% body fat (250lbs [bodyweight] x .20 [bodyfat %] = 50lbs of body fat) When you subtract the 50lbs of body fat from the individual’s frame, that leaves us with 200lbs of lean body mass.  This individual should be aiming to get 200g of protein per day.

    140lb female with 35% Bodyfat = 140 x .35 = 49 lbs of fat…  49lbs - 140 = 91lbs of lean body mass.  91lbs x .75 = 69g of protein per day.  

Individuals who are trying to gain muscle during this challenge should up their protein intake to 1.25g per lb of lean body mass (men), 1g per lb of lean body mass (women).

 

2. Get all of your carbohydrates from vegetables and a little bit of fruit.   

Most vegetables are a free-for-all and you can eat as much of them as you want.  When you sit down for a meal, eat your protein first and then consume vegetables until you are full. Stay away from starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, peas and lima beans. 

No one ever got fat from eating apples.  However, a lot of fruit contains high amounts of sugar so you need to be careful when consuming it.  Use fruit as a treat at night when you are craving something sweet, but DO NOT use it as a replacement for your vegetables. They are not interchangeable.    

 

3. No processed food… If it didn’t have a mom or grew out of the ground, don’t eat it.

Before eating something, ask yourself, “where did this come from?” or “what ingredients are in this?”  If you cannot pronounce some of the ingredients, or would have no idea how to make the food yourself, don’t eat it. 

If it comes from a box, a can, a tube or a jar, you probably should stay away from it.  When you are at the grocery store, stick to the parameter where the meat, fruit, vegetables, eggs and dairy are located.  Exceptions would be the frozen vegetable area, the canned fish/meats as well as where the sauces/condiments are sold. 

This means no pasta, no rice, no oatmeal and no cereal…I know, I know.  I’m sorry! I love them too.

 

4. Eat healthy fats as much as possible.

Cook with Extra Virgin olive oil, cocoanut oil and grassed butter.  Eat avocados like it is going out of style.  Add different kinds of nuts into your diet.  Buy grass fed beef and omega-3 Eggs.  Eat wild fish and supplement with Fish Oil, ground flax seeds and Chia seeds. 

Contrary to popular belief, fat is GOOD for you.  It does not lead to high cholesterol, heart disease or cancer.  The sugar from carbs are the real enemy.  I could write an entire other article about this and maybe I will in time.  But in the meanwhile, do the research, stop listening to popular opinion and realize that the studies this “Fat is Bad” dogma is based upon is very misleading and 70 years outdated! 

 

5. No Deserts, chips, cookies, ice cream, or any of the obvious bad choices…

Come on, you knew this already!

If you need to snack, choose unsalted nuts, cheese, vegetables or fruit.  

 

6. Sauces are fair game

If you are overweight, Ketchup is NOT your problem!  If you have already cut starchy carbs out of your diet, feel free to use whatever sauces you need to keep eating your meat and vegetables.  You can always cut sauces/condiments out later if your body fat loss plateaus.  Handle the big issues first.  Things can always get more dialed in.

 

7. No beverages containing calories or “Diet” Drinks.

This leaves you with options such as water, unsweetened tea and black coffee.  If you do not have any intolerances to it, you can add milk in there as well (Yes, it contains calories, but it is also giving you protein and fat).  

People often add hundreds, if not thousands of calories as day through their liquid intake without even realizing it.  This can easily kill your fat loss goals.  

Stay away from Juices, soda, alcohol, sports drinks and energy drinks. Avoid “diet” or “zero calorie” drinks as well.  A good rule of thumb is that, anything that tastes like something but your body does not recognize it as a calorie is doing something harmful to you.  (Just Google aspartame withdraw).  This stuff has not been around long enough for us to really understand the price we are actually paying for consuming it.  

If you don’t believe me on this, leave a pad of margarine outside for a week and see how many bugs flock to it.  None.  It is not food and nether is diet soda, keep them out of your body. If they are not good enough for bugs to accept, then you probably shouldn’t either.

 

8. Consider supplementing with Protein powder, Fish oil, Vitamin D3 and Probiotics. 

9. You can earn a SINGLE cheat meal during this 30 Days.

That means if you find yourself in a situation where there is no other choice than bad food, or you have been sticking to your diet consistently for a few weeks and want a break, Then you can have one cheat MEAL (not day) to eat anything you want.  

If you can make it the entire 30 Days without it, that is preferable.  Just know that this one meal will re-ignite all of those bad cravings that you have suppressed and the diet will feel like you are starting over from day one.


10. Consider keeping a Food Log.

Most people have no idea what they put in their mouths.  They will constantly snack on candy, chew gum, drink soda or cover their food in sauces/dressings absentmindedly throughout the day and wonder why they are not getting the results they are looking for.  

If you are an “eating clean” veteran, then you have a good idea of how many grams of protein are in a normal sized chicken breast or how many carbs are in a glass of milk.  But if you can’t look at the plate in front of you and answer these questions, then it would probably behoove you to write all of your daily intake in a journal until you get the hang of it.  

The process of logging the food you ingest makes you really mindful of what you choose to eat, reminds you of whether you are sticking to the plan or not, helps you understand how much you snack throughout the day and it will let you know if you are actually hitting your macronutrient requirements.  There are plenty of free apps out there that can do this for you, or you can keep it old school and just carry a small notebook with you.  

Having a food log is extremely helpful, because now, if you are not seeing results you want and have been making it to the gym consistently, then your coach can review your log entries and will be able to tell you exactly where you are going wrong (As long as you are honest and ACTUALLY record every single thing you eat!).

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So that is it.  30 days to a healthier, leaner you.  If you are already a member at NEVERsate Athletics, then sign up and weigh-in at the gym.  If you are reading this from 3,000 miles away but still want to be part of the team, email me at NEVERsate@Gmail.com and I will get you set up.

I will try to post some recipes here in the article section as time goes by, but for now I will leave you with a couple of links to past articles that may help you along the way. 

10 Rules for Eating

Ideas for Food Preparation

    

New ATLAS Shirts Available!

New NEVERsate “Atlas” Shirts for Sale!

When I went to the print shop to sign off on the final artwork for this shirt, the owner looked at the design and asked, “Die empty?…Why do you want such a negative phrase associated with your business?”… 

She doesn’t get it… 

95% of people who read that phrase don’t get it…

What most individuals fail to comprehend is that, “Dying Empty” really has nothing to do with death at all.  It is a dare to live fully.  

“Die Empty” is a declaration that stares mediocrity in the face and says, “not today.”  It is the decision that no matter what you choose to pursue in this world, you will do so with 100% of your effort and focus.  It stands for having the courage to love hard, risk hard, win hard and lose hard.  It reminds us that moderation is for cowards and should you ever find yourself among those who “played it safe” or took the easy road…Then you are on the wrong path.  

It is a rebellious scream declaring that you do not believe other people’s definitions of what IS or IS NOT possible and that you won’t accept society’s preconceived glass ceilings or boundaries…It is refusing to submit to the sheep-like, safety and security of a life lived out of harm’s way and never settling for “good enough” when you know you have more to give. 

“Die Empty” is a cry for constant and never-ending improvement as well as a vow that to take the risks, seize the opportunities and fight the battles worth fighting, until there is no fight left in you.

It is the willingness to sacrifice all that you are for everything you will become — always deciding to choose the right thing over the easy thing — and not whining about the sleep you sacrificed in process of solidifying your dreams.

And finally someday… whenever your last breath arrives and fate is at your door — it will mean choosing to meet death head-on,  like a warrior going home -- without complaint, without fear and without regret -- because there will be no doubt that you lived fully… dared greatly... loved completely... and now, have finally earned the right to die... utterly empty.

That is what this shirt is about.  
That is what NEVERsate represents.
This is who we are. 

 

IF YOU ARE USING A MOBILE DEVICE, THE PAYPAL BUTTON HAS A VERY SMALL AREA TO ACTIVATE.  IF YOU MSS THE BUTTON AT ALL, YOU WILL BE RELEGATED RIGHT BACK TO THE HOMEPAGE, WHERE YOU WILL NEED TO START THE PROCESS ALL OVER AGAIN.  THE BUTTON IS NOT BROKEN, IT IS JUST TEMPERAMENTAL.  THIS DOES NOT SEEM TO BE A PROBLEM ON NON-MOBILE DEVICES.

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These shirts are made of a polyester blend, making them softer than our last T-Shirt but still corse enough that a bar won’t slip off your back during a squat PR.  We have Men’s Medium, Large and Extra Large sizes in stock, but have a very limited quantity… so don’t sleep on this. 

If you wish to represent the NEVERsate Athletics’ brand, you can purchase one of these shirts on the “Schedule/Merch” section of the site by clicking the Paypal button at the top left corner of that page. Make sure you choose the correct size and quantity from the drop-down menu and your order will typically ship within 24 Hours. You can pick one up for $22.00 US.

Tax and shipping is already included in the price of the shirt, so what you see in the dropdown menu is what you pay.  

We are going to start offering international delivery and will ship to APO addresses IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS.  Unfortunately, since this process is more expensive on our end, your price may be higher than if we were shipping to an address in the continental US.  

I will be sure to let you all know where those options are available.  We are just still working out the kinks in that process. Thanks for the patience!

And as always, Thank you so much for the support! We couldn’t do the work we do without all of you behind us!

-dieEMPTY-  

Completed Events

Congratulations to all of the NEVERsate Athletes who competed this past weekend at the 2015 RAW Strongman Challenge!  All of you performed amazingly, I am so proud of you!

Thank you to all of the friends and family who came out to support our athletes!  Thanks to Jon Ward and the Colosseum Gym for running a great competition, and a VERY special thank you to David Lee of Dave's Professional Services for all of the sponsorship help!  

I couldn't have asked for a better day from all of you!

A Letter to the Athletes

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Dear NEVERsate Athletes, 

I am so proud of all of you.  

No matter what happens this weekend, all of you have already won a battle and have chosen to taste life in a way that few other adults will ever know. Often times, once we enter an age where our responsibilities outweigh our personal goals, many people acquiesce to the fight, give up their dreams, stop trying to reinvent themselves, and fall into a rut of monotony and apathy - But as you know, the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth. You have risen above the preconceived norms of our society and have made the decision to challenge yourself and become better. That is amazing!

All of you have stuck to your word despite overwhelming feelings of doubt, fear and other people’s opinions.  Following through with your promises is sadly a rare thing these days and I cannot commend you enough for doing so.  

All of you are setting an amazing example for your families, children, friends and co-workers.  You are choosing to lay it all on the line by actually stepping into the arena rather than living vicariously through athletes on a television from the safety of your couch.  You have chosen to live out your adventure instead of just talking about it.  You are people of action…Let it never be said that you asked someone to do something that you yourself were unwilling to endure.    

You saw a spot on the horizon, signed your name to a line, sacrificed the time, left the sweat, did the work, cut the weight and now here you are.  This is a goal achieved.  It doesn't matter if you come in first, third or tenth place…You chose to take the road that all of the critics and cowards in life were too afraid to walk down.  You chose your destiny and took control of your circumstances. No one can ever take that away from you.  You have 100% earned your right to be here, so hold your head up high. No matter what happens during the competition, never think of yourself as a victim or start feeling sorry if things aren’t going your way. Each event is like an arrow.  Once you release it, it is gone.  You can’t celebrate it too much and you can’t get it back either… all you can do is concentrate on making your next shot count.    

We are all on a journey and this competition is not the finish line.  It is simply a unit of measurement to let you know where you stand.  It lets you know exactly where you are and can help you decide where you want to be. This is an opportunity to push yourself in ways you have never imagined and to attempt things you never thought possible.  It is a chance to set some PRs and change your perspective on training entirely.   

For some of you this will be your first contest.  Learn as much as you can, ask fellow competitors for help, make some friends and try to run your events as flawlessly as possible.  Smooth is fast, people - rushing is almost always a mistake.     

If I would have told you one year ago that you would be entered in a Strongman Competition, many of you would have said I was crazy. Take a moment and realize the fact that you are not that same person you were a year ago. Your life choices, the people you have met and the ways you have changed mentally and physically are dramatic.  I know many of you may not see it, but I do.  My heart overflows with pride.
 
All of you have embraced and are living exactly what what the NEVERsate brand is all about…  Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable and having an immeasurable desire for a life dedicated to constant and never ending improvement. 

You must be willing to sacrifice everything you are for everything you could become and this step is invaluable in your growth as an athlete and as a human being.  It has never really been about the weights or getting in better shape.  It is about becoming who you want to be, mentally, physically and emotionally. One day you will look back at this moment and realize it means much more than a piece of tin hung around your neck.  

There are few times in your adult life when you will feel this level of fear, uncertainty and self-doubt. It’s a lot like public speaking in your underwear beneath a weight that is about to break your spine.  As the time to compete grows closer and closer, you will want to run.  You will want to find an excuse to not show up…  What you choose to do at that moment is up to you - But I can promise you this,  you will not forget that choice for the rest of your life. Good or bad, it is a seed that you will never fully digest…  

If you are having second thoughts, remember that there are people out there who are paralyzed…people who have lost limbs…. People who no longer possess the physical or mental capacity to breathe on their own, much less do what you are about to do.  Most of these people would give up 20 years of their life just for one more chance to attempt something like this.  What you are about to take part in is a privilege.  So what if the weights are heavy or the competition is steep?  Be thankful for the opportunity!  You have a healthy, powerful body and a chance to see what it is capable of!  It is such an amazing way to spend a Saturday!  You could be at home vacuuming the rug or cutting the grass…Which day are you just surviving and which day are you truly living?  

In Theodore Roosevelt’s Famous quote below he talks about the arena and how it is a place of reverence, reserved only for those with souls brave enough to lay it all on the line.  Forget about everyone else’s opinion, your performance, or what will be said after the fact.  The only people who have any right to a comment or an opinion are the ones standing next to you on that platform.  Cowards who are too afraid to step up and see what they are worth are usually the loudest and first to have something to say. Screw them…  Their lack of discipline and wealth of apathy will always have them yelling from the sidelines.  They are always going to be the people with excuses for why they cannot do something and will never change - Remember that you are the person showing real courage by bearing your soul and laying it all out there. Be proud of who you have become and of your performance.   

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Finally, I just want to share with you guys something that helps me, personally the day of a competition.  Maybe it will help you, or maybe you will think I am idiot.  Either way, here it is:    

The last thing I do before I leave my house to go to a fight or a competition is take a shower.  It may sound dramatic, but while in there, I visualize myself washing away my old self.  It is the last shower I will ever take as that previous man.  I let my emotions and anxieties overflow and I don’t try to stifle them.  No one is around to see me so I don’t have to put on a strong, stoic face - I can be 100% present with my emotions. I let them run free, acknowledge them and then let them go.  It’s not that they won’t come back, but I don’t feel as bottled up anymore.  

Then, right before I walk out of my front door, I stop and look around the room while trying to take that moment in fully - just like the last time you look around a room before moving out and shutting the door for the final time.  

I do this because I know I will not be the same man when I return.  My life will be different from this moment forward. I intentionally say goodbye to my old life and who I was, making room for the new “me” when I come back through the door.  Again, I know it seems dramatic, but there has never been a big contest in my adult life that hasn’t changed me somehow.  For those of you who were at my last competition, this moment was during that one brutal yoke walk.  I not only still carry physical scars on my back from that one single event, but it changed me mentally.  I learned something about myself… about who I am, and who I want to be.  Without partaking in that competition, I may have never learned that.

Most of you will have at least one moment like this in your competition.  One brief second where your body is going to be screaming at you to stop.  To submit.  To quit.  You will have a choice.  Whichever way you choose to go, it will change you -for better or worse- for the rest of your days. If you don’t learn something about yourself this Saturday, either you were not trying hard enough or you weren’t paying attention - Don’t let either of those be true of you.   

This is an important moment in your life.  Don't blow by it so fast that you miss the opportunity to recognize it. 

Finally, I step out of my door, touch the door knob and say to myself, “You will never walk through his door the same man again.” and I leave. 

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All of you are family to me.  I am so proud of each and every one of you.  Please take the time to realize where you are on this journey and how far you have come. Give every single bit of effort that you have so that when your head hits the pillow Saturday night, you can fall asleep knowing that you left absolutely nothing out there.  That’s what dying empty is all about.   

Now go make your own luck,

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It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. --Theodore Roosevelt 

New Strength Programming for August

For the past 20 Weeks we have been following a strength program based off of percentages (Strength 85-95%, Reps 75-85% and Speed 65-75%).  Every single athlete at our gym has broken numerous personal records and it has been fun journey, but as always, it is time to change it up.

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TRAINING JOURNAL
For the next 14 Weeks we will be running more of a linear progression template with back off sets included.  Because of this, it is imperative to keep an accurate and extensive training journal where you will record all of your reps/sets and perceived rates of exertion. I would encourage you to sit down sometime after the workout and write down a few notes about how you felt during the workout, your predictions for the weights you may choose for the next session and overall feelings about how you thought your training went.  

Fill this “notes” section with other things that went on in your life that may have affected your training - this way when you look back at it, you will have a frame of reference for where you were mentally and physically at that time.  I love going through my old training journals from years ago and am always amazed at how a small detail can immediately take me back to an exact space and time from a decade ago.  Whenever I do this, I find myself shaking my head and stupidly smiling at an old notebook, filled with sweat wrinkled pages and protein shake stains.  Reading a certain entry can teleport me back to a single set from 15 year ago where I can recall making a decision in my head to give in or overcome.  It may sound over-dramatic but I can honestly look back and see how certain entries changed me to become in individual I am today.  

For a lot of you, this daily struggle has become a large part of your life and identity.  You are all growing in many different ways, a lot of which are not just physical.  Keeping a detailed training journal can be like a time capsule filled with snapshots from the past that will help motivate you and improve your performance in the future.  Being disciplined with this one simple task will make you more mindful about the time and effort you put in at the gym and could be just the thing to take you to the next level.  I know without a doubt that it has worked for me.  Give it a try…or don’t…it is your training and your time, spend it in whatever manner you feel is right.  Just remember, anything worth doing is worth doing correctly.  

Now that I have gotten that off my chest, here is what the actual program will look like:

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WEEKS 1-4 (4 Sets of 8 Reps)
This block of training will be focused on a higher, hypertrophy based rep range.  Of course there will be 12-15 minutes of conditioning to prime your central nervous system (the exercise selection will compliment your main strength movement of the day), but then the strength portion will consist of 4 Rounds of Giant Sets where you will be performing 8 reps built around  specific exercises. 

Since we are coming off 20 weeks of programming and just broke some heavy personal records (PRs), this 4 week block will obviously be a little bit lighter (because of the higher rep range). This will give your body a chance to recuperate and heal while still making progress.  Also, since the programing is hypertrophy based it will encourage your muscles to grow.  Bigger muscles can help add horsepower to your engine - the evidence of which will hopefully show up with broken PRs at the end of this 12 week cycle.

WEIGHT SELECTION
The weights you choose to lift will be up to you.  Take as many warm-up sets as needed to get to a good starting working set, then you have 4 Rounds to ramp up the weight and hit an 8 rep PR for a certain exercise.  Every week when this exercise group comes back up, you have the opportunity to break your previous PR.  Just because the reps are higher, does not mean it’s time to slack off.  Your weight choices should be heavy enough that every set you perform should be EXTREMELY challenging.  8 Reps is a long time to stay focused on one single miserable task.  Your brain is going to scream at you to go elsewhere but keeping a “mind /muscle” connection and staying present in the moment are the only ways you are going to see results and stay injury free.  One break in concentration during a set like this could easily lead to biomechanical breakdown and a trip to the hospital. (Most of my injuries have happened during high rep sets) - You will be trying to break your last 8 Rep PR all four weeks, so take every workout seriously. Due to the higher reps and greater time under tension, you can expect to be very winded during and fairly sore after these sessions. 

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WEEKS 5-8 (5 Sets of 5 Reps)
For this next four week block, we will make the drop to 5 sets of 5 reps.  We lower the number up reps but up the weight considerably.  The 5x5 matrix has been used since the first caveman picked up a heavy rock to impress a girl and has proved to be one of the most advantageous programs for building both strength and size.  You really cannot go wrong here - It is one of the only things bodybuilders, powerlifters and Strongmen can all agree upon.  5x5 should be part of EVERYONE’S training programing. 

Just like in the previous 4 week block, after your conditioning, get your warm-up sets completed then get to work on your first working set of the 5x5 giant set.  Your weight choices should be a decent amount heavier than what you were loading for your sets of 8, but you get to perform 3 less reps.  This is mentally more enjoyable and you can add an amount of weight to the bar that isn’t as embarrassing (like my 8 rep weights oftentimes are…).  But just as in the previous block, you are trying to break a 5 rep PR every single workout so your intent and focus should always be 100% in the session.  This block lays the foundation for hitting big numbers in the following four week’s of programming.

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WEEKS 9-12 (10 Sets of 3 Reps)
If you are anything like me, then you couldn’t wait to get through the last two months of programming so you could start playing with some heavy weights again.  The two previous blocks were necessary to prime you to do your absolute best during this month, but they are (in my opinion) not nearly as much fun as this rep scheme.  10 Sets of 3 Reps literally changed my life and the way I look at lifting.  

Just like most people, waaayyyy back at the beginning, my first step on this weight-lifting journey was following a program where I completed 3 sets of 10 reps.  I had to refer to a calculator, but I am fairly certain that multiplying those two numbers together will give me 30 total reps at a pretty modest weight.  

Now that I am all grown up and have some experience, I can choose to complete 10 sets of 3 reps at a MUCH heavier weight.  To this day, I still need to check the calculator, but I am fairly certain that multiplying these two numbers (hmmmm…carry the 1…) will  still equate to me completing 30 total reps - The only difference is, now I am actually using a weight than can finally affect change. Maybe I am just a sentimental guy, but this one simple switch completely changed my body in a matter of weeks, remains a regular staple of mine, and is the scheme that all my favorite workouts are built around. 

10 Sets of 3 is a little bit trickier when choosing your weights though.  You should ramp up to a single, heavy, 3 rep PR set and then back off a little bit to get some more work in.  Personally, I usually hit my top, heaviest weight around set 6 or 7.  Then I will drop back 10-20 pounds and finish the rest of my rounds there.  If I back off too much and a set seems too easy, I will ramp back up a little bit so that each set has the correct amount of intensity.  The important thing is for you to manipulate the weight in a manner in which EVERY single set is extremely challenging.  

Your body won’t change unless you force it to change and you have spent two hard fought months leading up to this point - so take advantage of every single attempt you choose.  You are going to try to break your 3RM (3 Rep Maximum) every single week of this four week block., so intention and intensity are absolutely key.

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WEEKS 13-14 (BREAKING RECORDS)
You just spent three months preparing for these two weeks.  If you put in the correct time time and effort, it will show up here.  If you didn’t…it will show up here.   Block one was recuperating from the last program’s PRs while progressing forward by building strength, size and a mind/muscle connection.

Month two was about upping the intensity and weight.  You should have come into each session mentally and physically ready to hit some heavier numbers while still focused on perfecting your form though repetition of the movements.

In the third block, you should have primed your muscles, joints and tendons to deal with even heavier loads while getting your mind fixed on goal numbers to hit during your two PERSONAL RECORD weeks.  

Finally, in these last two weeks, it all comes together.  Hopefully when you go back and read this article three months from now, you will find yourself bigger, stronger, faster and more mentally forged.  You will be happier, leaner and will be standing on the other side of PRs you didn’t think were possible.  If you took my advice, you will have a workout journal that documents every step of your journey, both physically and mentally, that you took along the way. 

Be disciplined - Eat like a grown-up, pay attention to your mobility, don’t skip the workouts you don’t want to do, don’t skip the exercises you don’t like to perform, guard your sleep as if your life depended on it (as it surely does) and walk into every single training session with an intention, a plan and the mental fortitude to do whatever it takes to get the job done. 

It is not going to be easy, but anything worth doing isn’t.   

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NUTS & BOLTS
Here is a brief overview of the exercises you can expect: of course all of these days are subject to change as my sadistic, meandering mind comes up with the day to day programing…But these are the basic exercises the sessions will be built around.

  
MONDAY
: Lower Body Pull / Upper Body Vertical Pull - Push 
- CONDITIONING (Short)
STRENGTH GIANT SETS
    - Deadlift Variations
    - Pull-Up Variations
    - Overhead Press Variations
    - Ab Varitaions
EVENTS 

TUESDAY
CONDITIONING (Extended)

WEDNESDAY: Lower Body Push / Olympic - Ballistic Movement
CONDITIONING (Short)
STRENGTH GIANT SETS
    - Squat / Front Squat / Overhead Squat Variations
    - Cleans / Snatches / Jerks
    -Oblique Variations
- EVENTS

THURSDAY:
CONDITIONING (Extended)

FRIDAY: Lower Body Pull or Push / Upper Body Horizontal Pull - Push 
CONDITIONING (Short)
STRENGTH GIANT SETS
    - Deadlift or Squat Variations
    - Row Variations
    - Bench Press Variations
    - Ab Variations
EVENTS

SATURDAY
EVENTS & CONDITIONING (extended)

SUNDAY: OFF

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I guess that just about covers it.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding the next few month’s strength programming, please do not hesitate to Contact me at NEVERsate@Gmail.com.  As always, thanks for taking the time to read this and for your continued support!

Strict Overhead Press - Tips and Cues


The standing strict press is the bane of many people’s training careers.  It is the notoriously weak link on many impressive lifting resumes and has cost numerous Strongmen a place on the contest podium.  When asked, it seems that the vast majority of athletes have a really hard time making any substantial progress on this exercise - leading to much frustration and a whole lot of cursing. - I’m right there with you - I don’t claim to have the key that unlocks this mystery, but I have tried… and failed… at this particular movement more than most sane individuals ever will.  It is my hope that after walking you through how I perform the strict press and by sharing some of the mistakes I have made over the years, I can help save the rest of you some time, energy and a cornucopia of swearing.  

The cues and tips below can be applied to a barbell, an axle, a log, a very small horse, your girlfriend, or even a keg.  But for this particular explanation, I will be using a standard olympic barbell.  

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PART I: THE SET-UP

- Before we even get into pressing, we need to discuss how to set-up properly.  Start with the bar at a rack height BELOW your shoulders.  Your strict press starting position should be very similar to that of your front squat.  The height of the bar should be set low enough that you need to squeeze yourself under the bar and unrack it using your legs.  Your arms should play absolutely NO role in separating the bar from the rack. If they do, you are doing it wrong and should continue reading if you want to add pounds to your overhead press.  

- Now that you have acquired a good starting bar height, reach out and grasp the barbell as hard as you can. Literally try to crush your fingerprints into it. Get comfortable with this idea because you should NOT stop forcefully squeezing the bar until the rep is complete.  How wide you set your grip is a personal preference.  Too wide and you are going to give up energy outward that could be applied upward in your press - Too narrow and you are giving up power and stability, much like when performing a close grip bench press.  Think of pillars on a building.  In order to support a maximal amount of weight, pillars are set plumb, at 90 degrees, under the force of gravity and the tonnage they are holding.  In a strict press, your arms are like pillars.  Act accordingly. 

- The next step is to get your body as close to the bar as possible.  To achieve this, ALWAYS move your body to the bar, not the bar to your body!  I use an identical set-up approach for an overhead press as I do for a front squat.  When I set my grip, the horizontal midline of my foot is in a straight line directly under the barbell.  Then I individually dig each arm under the bar in an attempt to get the barbell’s placement BEHIND my anterior delts, and very close to my throat. (The bar is against my throat during a front squat - during a strict press it is SLIGHTLY further away.) In this position, my elbows are pointed more forward than down. 

- Once the bar is positioned on my chest and shoulders where I want it, I then try to spread out and flex my lats, creating a more stable foundation from which to press from.

- Finally, I take in as much air as I possibly can through my diaphragm, filling my belly and obliques.  Then, I brace my abdominal wall outward and down as hard as possible, like I am about to get kicked by a bull.  (If you need more explanation on this, go back and read my article on breathing & bracing) At this point, If I am going for anything between 1-3 reps, this is the one and only breath I will take until all of the reps are complete. If I am going for a higher number of reps, I will attempt to complete as many as I possibly can while still holding onto that single first lungful of air. Then I will re-breathe and re-brace before continuing to press. You are NEVER as tight or solid as you are with that first initial breath, so use it to your advantage!  Do your best to not take additional breaths after you walk the bar out.  Use and hold the one you took prior to unracking. - Taking this air in, holding it, and bearing down are the last things I do before I unrack the barbell.

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PART II: GETTING THE BAR MOVING

Now it is time to separate the bar from the rack.  But before you do, insure that all of the weight is supported by your chest and shoulders…the weight should NOT be sitting in your hands!  As I said earlier, this movement should be very similar to unracking a front squat…  Your legs lift the bar out of the rack, not your arms.  The lighter the bar feels when you unrack it, the more likely you are to complete the lift.  Not only for the psychological reasons, but also because if the bar feels light, then that means the tightness of your upper back and torso are holding the bar in a more correct, powerful pressing position. The more moving parts you have during the unracking process and the less air you have in your belly, the more the bar is going to break you down forward, pulling the bar away from your spine and making the weight feel heavier than it actually is.   

- After you take a few steps backward and are standing with the bar in the front rack position, it is time to re-secure your foundation.  The following should be done as quickly as possible, since you should still be holding that very first big belly breath you took prior to unracking. But don't pass out...I don't want your death on my conscience.  

- From the ground up, you should be externally rotating your feet like you are trying to screw them into the ground; Your glutes should be flexed tight - this will pull the barbell back in line with your spine and prevent forward breakdown; And your upper back should be spread out as wide as possible with your lats contracted.  IF performed correctly, you should feel completely solid and ready to explode the bar upward.

- Since this article is discussing tips & cues for a STRICT overhead press, we will not be getting into leg drive at this time.  Instead, to initiate the press, try to think about ripping the barbell apart while pressing upward as if you were pantomiming the letter “Y” …like an idiot dancing along to the YMCA song. DO NOT disengage your glutes or lats until the rep is complete and NEVER stop squeezing the bar from the moment you come in contact with it.  

- It is around this time that you may find your body’s intense desire to lean backwards. This is fine (for a very brief period) as it will allow you to incorporate more muscle groups into getting the bar initially moving off your chest/shoulders and up to around nose level.  Just know that you cannot step up shop and stay here very long…If you are leaning backward for more than a brief moment, most likely the bar is no longer over the center of your foot and you have given up a superior biomechanical position in a desperate effort to get the press moving. People who arch their back excessively tend to push the bar forward just as much as upward - moving it further and further out of the groove. The bar should stay over the horizontal midline of your foot and as close to your face as possible without requiring any new dental work. 

NOTE: Obviously, with a log, keg or axle you will have to lean further back to create clearance around your head and to keep the implement centered over your the middle of your foot…But the cumbersome nature of the bigger implements makes the movement much less efficient…This is why most people can overhead press more weight with a barbell than they can a log or keg.   

- Just like in a deadlift, once you have broken the inertia of a motionless barbell, it is time to start thinking about bar acceleration.  If you are like most people and have gotten the bar moving off your chest/shoulders, then you will find one sticking point right above your eyes and another right before lockout.  Thinking of bar speed and continual acceleration during the lift is often enough to get people to break into new overhead press PRs. 

- Imagine the bar exploding off your shoulders like a bullet shot out of a gun. Then continually build on that initial momentum, attempting to accelerate the barbell throughout the lift.  ALL of your warm-ups and working sets should be performed with as much bar speed as possible!  The amount of force you apply to the barbell should be the same, no matter if the weight is 50lbs or 400lbs.  The only thing that changes is bar speed because of the added weight… the effort and intention should be the same. If you perform your warm-up sets slowly, you are teaching your body to begin all of your reps slowly, when things get heavy, starting slowly usually doesn’t get the job done. Being “fast” is often more important than being strong when it comes to overhead pressing.

NOTE: If you find yourself able to “heave” the bar off your chest, getting it to around eye level, but then it quickly plummets right back down toward the Earth, it is almost always because you leaned too far back at the beginning of the press… thus, creating too much distance between your face and the bar. You used too much energy pressing the bar “outward” when it could have been directed more “upward”.  You can usually tell if this was the case when you find yourself having to immediately take one or two steps forward to catch your balance during/after your attempt. This is your body trying to catch up to where you threw the barbell so that it could return the load to a more centered position, closer to your midline…If you don’t believe me, set up a camera with a side view of a maximal press. You will see what I am talking about.

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PART III: ENDGAME
Now that you have gotten the bar to right around the crown of your skull, it is time to start trying to get your head through (forward) so you can finish the press.  One of the more helpful cues that I have been told to think of is, “picture yourself placing your hands on a window sill, pushing the window upward/open then sticking your head out of it”….It may sound weird, but the visual works for me… Tell yourself whatever cues you need to, but know that the sooner you push your head through that window and get the bar back over your spine, the sooner you will be able to provide the horsepower needed to complete the rep.

- Some people may find it helpful to cue pushing the bar in more of a backward motion, almost as if driving the bar up directly over your heels.  After about a million practice reps, this will feel less like two separate motions (the initial press off the chest and pushing your head through) and will work together to create one smooth movement. When done correctly, you will be astonished at how quickly the bar moves from shoulder to overhead.
  
- If you are still with me, you should now be in a position with the bar 3/4 of the way locked out with your head pushed through that window, eyes staring straight ahead, and your neck in a neutral position… All that is left is for you to finish the lockout.  If you have gotten the bar this far, you have done a lot right. I commend you.   

Failed lockouts can sometimes be caused by a lack of tricep strength…but I believe, more often than not, most missed lifts can be attributed to the athlete’s lack of focus and tightness as the rep progresses.  Many lifters will give 100% effort for about half a lift, then compromise their intensity or integrity somewhere causing them to fail the rep…  If any air has escaped from your mouth during the press - that is making you weaker.  If your toes are not gripping the floor and your glutes are not completely tight - that is making you weaker.  If you are not squeezing the bar as hard as you can and forcing your arms into a “Y”position - that is making you weaker.  Stop being weaker. Do your job. Follow your cues. Finish the rep.

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So here we are…Hopefully standing proudly under a new personal record.  

Like I said at the beginning of this article, I don’t claim to have the overhead press completely figured out… In fact, I learn new things about it every single time I train it; but hopefully sharing what I have learned will help some of you expedite your progress and keep you from making some of the same mistakes I have. 

As always, thanks for reading, if you found this helpful please click the “like” button and hit me up at NEVERsate@gmail.com with any further questions, comments or complaints!         

Paying Attention to Intention

Paying Attention to Intention

 

This has been a very challenging article for me to write.  I have composed… and deleted three previous versions already.  Even right now, as I sit in front of my computer, I still don’t think I am completely capturing the essence of what I am trying to convey.  For the fourth attempt at tackling this subject, I am going to bullet-point different aspects of the importance of forcing intention into your training and let you, the reader, connect the dots.  I hope some of you will find this article helpful.  

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Let this play out in your mind. 

I decide that I want some new equipment for my gym and I want it in 1 month’s time.  I hand you $10,000 and ask you to buy it for me.  Since you are such a nice person, you agree.  Then I walk away leaving you with no more information.  You stop me and say, “Wait, what should I buy?” I reply, “I don’t know man, I just want the best stuff by this time next month.  Figure it out.” And walk away.

You would have some questions, wouldn’t you?  What exact type of equipment am I looking for? What brand should you buy? Where should you get the equipment from?  Where should it be shipped to? What type of workouts will the equipment be used for? How much storage room is available for the equipment? etc…

Seems overwhelming, right?  Without giving specific expectations for the task I asked of you, it would be almost impossible to read my mind and fulfill the order the way I intended.

 

Now let’s flip this scenario.  Someone walks into my gym and signs a contract.  They are fired up to work as hard as possible.  They hand me money, tell me they want results in four weeks and walk away.  I stop them and ask, “Wait, what are your goals?” They reply, “I don’t know man, I just want to get in better shape. You figure it out…” And walk away. 

Dumbfounded, I am left with a lot of questions and a tall order to fill. Intention is a very, very important thing.

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1. Take some time and really consider the single most important reason why you train.  

To use a metaphor, think of the next 4 months of your training as a road trip.  You are the driver and your coach is the navigator.  If your coach asks you where you want to go, and you say, “West!” —- He will probably just tell you to “turn left” and a year from now, we will see where you end up.  Conversely, if you take the time to explain to your coach, “I want to go to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California….Then you will receive an exact roadmap of the best, most efficient way to get there.  You will know what roads to take, when and where to turn, the correct detours around heavy traffic and construction areas as well as a semi-accurate timeline for how long the trip will take. 

Do you want to lose body fat? Gain muscle? Is there a certain bodyweight you are trying to reach? Is your main focus gaining strength?  Do you train so you can become more competitive in a sport or activity that you are passionate about?  Do you do it to push yourself mentally? Physically? Do you do it to relieve stress?  Are you getting ready for a big life event, like a wedding or reunion? Or do you train for different reasons entirely?   

More than likely, you just answered, “All of the above” or a combination of more than one of the provided options. —There are many great byproducts and secondary takeaways from physically training your body… but remember… you are sitting behind the wheel of a car with your coach next to you as the navigator.  Unless you want to be endlessly wandering for the next 6 months, zero in on one single destination.  When driving coast to coast, you are going to see and do a lot of wonderful things along the way — but all of those side-missions are secondary to arriving at that one primary location. This destination is your training’s main INTENTION.   

Your main training intention should be defined as specifically as possible and should ALWAYS include a deadline. Your goal should not be as vague as, “I want to gain strength.” Instead, commit to numbers you wish to achieve in the squat, bench and deadlift within the next 4 months. If you want to compete, pick a contest a little down the road from now and send in the entry fee.  If you want to lose body fat, write down the actual percentage you want to lose and a timeline in which you plan to do so.

Boiling down your desires to a single intent will help make your training much more efficient and productive.  If you are trying to achieve too many goals at once, the water tends to get muddy and nothing ends up getting done.

This is not to say that your main intention cannot change over time, but you should try to stick to a single goal for at least a few months to give it a fair run.  Don’t be one of those people people with “Training ADD” who change up their program and goals every other week —Those people seem to drive in circles and end up in the exact same place year after year.  

Whatever your main intention for training is, make sure it is a burning desire inside of you.  One that you can return to in the middle of a hard conditioning session or when life starts getting in the way.  Remembering the “why” of what you are enduring can often help push you through a tough set or grueling workout.  

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2. Express your intentions to your coach and/or training partners.

Now that you have specified and committed to an exact intent for the next few month’s worth of training, it is time to make it real by having other people hold you accountable… If you have a serious lifting partner, tell them the goals you are trying to achieve.  If you have a coach or trainer, tell them exactly where you want to be by the end of this trip.

These individuals are an invaluable and irreplaceable asset during your journey, as they will keep you on track when things get tough and will steer you back onto the path if you begin to lose your way.  

Consider how helpful and encouraging you would be if your training partner shared a goal they really wanted to reach in 6 months.  You would know exactly what to say to push them further, what your training should be focused on, and how to motivate them on days when they just don’t have it.    

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3. Assign a specific intention to every single workout.

If you are not doing so already, you should be reviewing every one of your workouts prior to walking into it and choosing specific goals and intentions that you wish to achieve. 

Go through the workout in its entirety - visualize what parts will be challenging and what parts you will excel at.  What do you need to mobilize before your first set? What areas on your body need special attention?  What are the cues for the major lifts you will be doing?  Are you going for a Personal Record that day? If so, what might your weight jumps be?  Is it a rep day with an “As Many Reps As Possible” set at the end?  If so, how many reps do you plan on getting? Create a plan for how to attack the session.  

The single intent for each workout should stand out as the pinnacle of what you are trying to achieve that day.  You could be having the greatest workout of your life, but there should still be one or two things that stand out as more important than everything else. Those highlighted areas would be the workout’s intent.  

Oftentimes, I will assign individual intentions to different sections of the workout.  For instance, during the conditioning portion, my intent may be to reach a certain number of rounds in the given amount of time.  Then my strength intent may be to perform 8 deadlift singles over 600lbs.  Finally, my strongman intent might be to beat a PR or a medley time.  Focusing your mental and physical energy in the gym like this will allow you to put in, and get more out of every single session.

Placing a precise intent on each individual session can also help you get through those days when you are not feeling very inspired or are short on time.  If your intent for the day is 10 sets of 3 squats at 85% of your 1RM and you feel really beat up or got stuck in traffic… then just show up and give ALL of your limited effort to those 30 reps and get out.  You got the important things done, save the conditioning for tomorrow.  You can walk away knowing that you put some good work in and at least you didn’t skip out on the workout entirely.  (NOTE: This does not excuse you from doing that extra work.  You still need to make it up at some point.)  

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3. Are you giving the workout your full attention while you are there?

We all have hectic lives.  There is ALWAYS something coming up, going wrong or a new problem at work.  You may feel all alone in this struggle, but trust me, you are not.  Every single one of us struggles with self-doubt, balancing priorities and anxiety.  It is up to you to make the choice between acquiescing to your issues or overcoming them.  Sometimes the hardest part of a workout is just walking through the front door.

No matter what is going on in your life, it can wait for the one hour you set aside for your workout. Push all other problems/worries from your mind and be 100% present and focused on nothing but your training while you are there.  I promise, the world is not going to collapse over the next hour because you took your attention away from it. You owe it to yourself, your training partners and your coach to give 100% of yourself, physically and mentally.  Afterwards, you will feel more focused, attentive and relaxed when you have to go back to solving the world’s problems.  

If you decide to do something, do it with ALL of your being.  Wherever your mind is focused, your body should be there as well.  If you are thinking of nothing but work while you are at the gym, then you are most likely just wasting your time… and you should probably just head back to the office. If you choose to be somewhere physically, make sure your mind follows your body. No one has ever done anything great by doing it half-way.  

Disciplining your mind to stay present on the task at hand is a huge factor in succeeding at anything you do… but this is not innate and doesn’t happen without training.  Teach yourself to be mindful for every moment you are spending at the gym. Anytime you catch your thoughts wondering to outside sources, stop, re-focus and get back to the work right in front of you.  When you leave your problems… LEAVE them.  Don’t carry them with you or they will taint everything you come in contact with.        

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4. Give each set and rep your full attention while performing it. Consider the following areas that you may be lacking focus.  

  • Mind / Muscle connection.  Are you focused on using the correct muscles during an exercise or are you just trying to get through it?  Do you actually feel your back contract when performing a row or are you just rushing to get the set done?  Are you using your diaphragm to breath during your conditioning work or are you just heaving the oxygen into your chest? — Train correctly by using the muscles you are supposed to use in an exercise.  That is the only way you are going to make any real progress in the world of strength sports.  Don’t mindlessly work through your sets, keep your body and brain connected at all times.  

 

  • You should only be cuing one or two things in your head DURING the performance an exercise.  Don’t clutter your brain with too much information while it is under a heavy load…It isn’t going to be working correctly at that time anyway…  If you performed your warm-up sets mindfully and with the focus we have been talking about, then your routine, form and technique should all be second nature by the time your working sets arrive.  Now you just have to do your job and follow the steps you have cemented into place…  This is the time to choose one or two cues to repeat to yourself during the rep that are the most important for your success.  (Think of this as creating a single intent for each rep).  -----During squats, for instance, after I have gone through my entire set-up and have walked the bar out.  All of my focus is on bracing and keeping my chest high throughout the rep.  I am not thinking about stance, weight distribution or bar position — All that I am thinking is, “Brace hard, chest up…Brace hard, chest up”.  Practice until your technique is perfect, then strip all of it down to a few words you completely focus and cue on during your set.         

 

  • Your rest periods are for assessing how your last set went and for correcting any problems prior to the next round…They are not there for picking up chicks or spewing the latest gossip with your gym buddies.  If you are jumping on your phone to check your text messages and emails or spending the entire rest time complaining to your buddy about work, then your are not being present and not giving the workout the attention it deserves.  At best, this will lead to lackluster results and at worst, will lead to injuries from lack of focus on what you are doing.  Under heavy loads, one moment’s lack of focus could lead to the emergency room and six months of physical therapy …Leave the chit-chat and social media for after the workout. This is one of my biggest pet peeves.   

 

  • Every single set should be treated as the most important set of your life.  You should have a routine that you follow for every exercise, no matter if you have 135lbs or 1000lbs on the bar.  You should not be striving to just “get through” reps, but attempting to make every single rep as technically perfect and as fast as possible. Doing this will increase your rate of progression and keep you injury free.  Every single rep and set you perform is either going to bring you closer to your goals or closer to injury, you choose where you want to end up…   

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Whether you achieve you goals or do not depends more on what is going on inside your head than what you do with your body.  We have all seen countless times when someone has achieved greatly, not because they went about it the smartest or correct way, but because they simply wanted it more than anyone else.  They only saw the end game and focused on nothing but that until their dream became a reality…Conversely, we all know people who seem to do everything right, but cannot make the jump to greatness because they are lacking the mental fortitude and intent. The body will not go where the mind hasn’t been and your mentality and focus will carry you further than any program or supplement. 

Building a stronger mind for the work you call upon your body to perform takes time, but will pay off dividends in the end…Not only in your training sessions but in every avenue to which you aspire.  

Take the time to be mindful about your training and add intention to every moment you are in the gym…  Commit to it for 4 weeks.  In the end, I guarantee your workouts will be more productive, fun, and you will have progressed further than you would have imagined.  

If you are investing the time away from the rest of your life because you have a physical or mental goal which you wish to achieve, then go at it full-heartedly… Mind, Body and soul.  

If you are going to do something…Do it right.   

Interview with Dan Caraway

It was exactly 1 year ago tomorrow (12April2014) that I competed in my first Strongman Competition.  I didn't know what to expect and nervous does not begin to describe how I felt.  It is human nature to look around at the other athletes in the room and size them up... wondering who is going to be strong and who is just there for fun.  When I looked around that morning, there was one guy who stood out as someone who was going to be big trouble.  

For my weight class, (231's) our first event would be a 240b Atlas stone over bar for max reps in :60 seconds. I competed in the middle of my class and was leading the pack with 10 reps.  The guy I was worried about went later in the flight, but I hung around to see just who I was competing against. The guy did not disappoint, crushed the event and easily tied my 10 reps... making us share the top spot on the leaderboard.  

I figured it would be better for me to have this guy as an ally rather than an enemy, so I went up and introduced myself.  His name was Dan  Caraway... He turned out to be an war veteran, one of the best Strongmen in the Nation, and has helped me every step of the way along my Strongman journey.

After the competition, both exhausted, we accidentally left without exchanging contact information; leaving me with the worry that I would never get to talk to him again.  Then, months later at Nationals in Nevada, I saw him standing on the other side of the room at weigh-ins.  

To make a long story short, he helped and encouraged me all the way through Nationals, we celebrated together at the Post-Competition banquet, he was the one who talked me into doing Maryland's Strongest Man, and even kept me in the sport when I didn't think I belonged. 

Now, I won't even compete without an hour long phone conversation with him about technique and a game plan prior and will not have gotten all of the way through a competition before I get a text from him, asking how I did. He is a man of honor, walks the walk, is beyond humble, and is genuinely one of the nicest guys I have ever met. 

Recently there was a competition held on February 8th called Krank'd 7 (video above) where all of the athletes had to show up without knowing any of the events.  For a Strongman, this is suicide.  The entire game is preparing for the events to come and creating a plan of attack.  In a unique way to see who is truly the strongest and most well rounded, the promoter of Krank'd kept all of the events a secret.  Dan entered the competition and crushed it.  

Dan is not only a veteran Strongman athlete, he is a physical therapist who is very, very knowledgable.  Being a great friend of mine and NEVERsate Athletics, I figured we could all learn a lot from his experience and expertise, so I emailed him a few questions and let him roll.  

I personally want to thank Dan from the bottom of my heart for taking the time out of his extremely busy schedule to do this for us as well as the countless hours he has spent helping me over the past year. 

Dan, a year ago, at my first Strongman Competition...
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DAN: I want to start out by saying thanks for choosing me to do an interview with.  It’s an honor to be interviewed by one of the most impressive strength athletes I know.  I hope that those who read this find the information useful. 

BRIAN: Thanks brother, that means a lot coming from you and I know people will find this very informative!


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1. BRIAN: How and why did you get into Strongman training/competition?

DAN: I got into strongman for several reasons.  I always have been infatuated with strength and fitness ever since I was a kid.  I feel that the movements in strongman are more organic in nature than other strength sports.  I feel that it is the best judgment of functional strength out there at this time.  I also really like the conditioning and speed aspects of the sport.

 

2: BRIAN: If you could could go back to the beginning of all this craziness and tell yourself one tip to speed up your progress/avoid mistakes, what would you say? 

DAN: If I could go back to the beginning and give myself one tip it would be to do overhead squats.  I believe this exercise is the best postural exercise there is and is the best display of mobility and stability.  I believe if I had been doing overhead squats when I was a kid instead of tearing up the bench and curls, then I would not have the shoulder issues I have today.  Being limited to 155 degrees of shoulder flexion makes overhead events a challenge. 

 

3: BRIAN: Form people interested in the sport, what gym lifts do you think have the best carry-over to strongman events?

DAN: In general gym lifts, outside of the events themselves, that I feel have the greatest carry over to strongman are:  variations of squats, deadlifts, overhead pressing, and pulling that doesn't include kipping.   

In my opinion squats that have the most amount of carryover from greatest too least are:  1. front squats, 2. high bar squats (barbell/safety squat bar) 3. low bar.  I also think it's good to vary them by:  beltless, paused, paused and breathing, high box with close stance, and with extra top end weight. 

I kind of think that the best form of the deadlift are just regular deads, at least that’s been my experience.  I’m very slow and weak off the floor so I spent a lot of time with:  deficit deads, deficit with a pause on the bottom and snatch grip deads... but I think I’ve only seen improvement when I started focusing on regular deads from the floor.  

Push press probably has the greatest carry over to strongman for overhead events.  If you have the ability to jerk and split jerk without too much time invested, then those are the most efficient ways of moving weight over your head.  If you lack the mobility, like myself, then you’re going to have to do some strict pressing work, such as:  strict presses, close grip shoulder presses, klokov presses and pressing from the crown of your head.  

One thing I believe a lot of strongman lack is strict pulling strength; which I think is essential for stones, picking sandbags, kegs, pulling sleds, and arm over arm pull events.  It is also integral in preventing bicep tears and creating a more well balanced shoulder.  I don’t see many Strongmen who are doing weighted pull-ups or heavy rows.  And I also like to do weighted horizontal pull-ups with a more similar pulling angle to chest supported rows.  I also like one arm eccentric pull-ups. 

 

4: BRIAN: What is your favorite Strongman event and favorite thing in general about competing in Strongman?

DAN: My favorite events in strongman are:  atlas stones, harnessed truck pulls, arm over arm pulls,  tosses-kegs+sandbags, carries-kegs+sandbags , sled/chain drags, long medleys, and incline/flat log bench- although haven’t done in competition yet.    

My favorite thing about competing in strongman is the people.  At the competitions I have done, we were competing against each other, but I feel like we’re all kind of in it together.  Nobody acts like they are better than anybody else.  I feel that these competitors are real people who are genuinely interested in who you are as a person rather than superficial things.  Everybody who competes has the understanding of achieving through work.  You don’t see people who are looking for something out of nothing.  
 
 

5: BRIAN: What advice would you give to someone who is on the fence about doing their first competition?

DAN: For somebody who is on the fence about competing, I would tell them to go to competition and get an idea of what it is all about.  I would also tell them find people who have competed in strongman and train with them if possible.  If you can get access to strongman implements, look up results on nastrongman and compare them to what you can do to see if novice or open is appropriate for you.   

I would also tell them, if they don’t already know, that it is essential to work on your basic barbell movements.  If you don’t have access to strongman implements, but your barbell movements are pretty solid. then say the hell with it and jump in anyways-that’s what I did during my first year and half competing.  

 

6: BRIAN: You have already won your ticket to Nationals, will you be going this year? Any competitions before then?

DAN: I’m on the fence right now about competing in nationals.  Notice my favorite events did not include:  yoke, farmers, car deadlift, and overhead events... I need to and am improving in these areas.  The main thing I need, with Strongman right now, I believe is time.  If I make sufficient improvement in these events by this summer I may do nats, but I also have a lot of other stuff going on.  I certainly want to compete in nats again, but I may hold off a year.  Right now I plan on competing at the Minuteman Muscle challenge here in WV (his home state) in July.  There are some max events and I think it will be a good time to test them out.

 

7. BRIAN: Do you follow any specific training programs?

DAN: I have tried a few programs in the past:  conjugate periodization, cube, and the old fashioned linear periodization, but I’m on my own program now.  I feel that’s what everybody needs to learn how to do eventually, unless you have a very good strength coach who is very in tune with you.  

Although, if you’re looking to improve, then the learning never stops.  There are two variables that I feel are the most important when it comes to programming and those are intensity and work capacity.  If you’re a strength athlete, regardless of what you are doing, it should lead up to a bigger max and being able to handle more volume more frequently without warning signs of injury.  

I’m a Physical Therapist and a family guy with my very active daughter and fiancé of 8 years, so my workouts are limited to no more than 4 days a week and many times, only 3 days.  Currently on Mondays I alternate each week with heavy deads or squats and light deads or squats, then go back to whatever I went heavy on and do a bunch of volume and finish with conditioning-(something light) for a couple minutes straight.  

Wednesdays are my overhead day.  I suck at pressing an axle so that’s what I work at the most.  I like to gradually go heavier with 2-3 sets/2-3 reps for 3 weeks straight then drop the weight to very light on the 4th week.  I press from the crown of my head quite a bit as this is a weak point for me.  On Fridays, I alternate every week as either another squat day with unilateral work or yoke+farmers+squat day.  

Saturday is another light press day and I may do some unilateral work and conditioning as well.  In general this is what I do, but I also modify quite a bit just by feel or by the numbers I am hitting.  Deadlifting every other week doesn’t sound like much too many people, but it’s a pretty big improvement from once a month, which is where I was.  It’s been the hardest exercise for me to figure out how to program.  

 

8. BRIAN: What does your normal diet consist of?

DAN: My diet is something I’ve played around with for a while.  I’m naturally an ectomorph and when I was younger, I always wanted to be stocky and strong looking.  I started out when I was 13 eating anything in the fridge and mixing weight gainer with ice cream.  I ate what my mom had coupons for, which was processed garbage for the most part.  

I started to make my biggest gains when I was in Iraq from 03 to 04 when I had access to all the MRE’s I wanted (fellow soldiers gave me everything they didn’t want) and eventually a chow hall.  After making buddies with some of the cooks, I had 6 large meals and 3 cytogain shakes 50g protein+ 80 grams carbs a day.  This was enough for me to put on some size and get accused of using steroids which was flattering.  

Although as strength went one way conditioning went the other.   Since I became content with my size I eventually wanted to get fit without being a string bean, so I started using HIIT, then eventually Crossfit, which lead me to the Paleo Diet.  

I experimented with the paleo diet at 100% consistency over the next couple of months and at 80% for a few years. I feel it was very good for my health, but not so much for strength... primarily because it lacks carbs.  

In my experience, carbs are directly correlated with muscle and strength for me.  Ideally I’d like to eat about 80% paleo and the other 20% mostly including complex carbs and some simple sugars pre/post workout.  However, 80% Paleo puts me at about 220 lbs, and for me to walk around at 240 to 245 in order to be competitive at 231 I have to increase the junk by quite a bit.  

It’s pretty easy to eat 100 grams of carbs from pizza, but almost impossible from broccoli... and sweet potatoes get old after a while.  What I am not doing here, is giving nutritional advice.  All I am doing is describing my own personal experience with food.  I am not a Dietician.

 

9. BRIAN: Where can people follow your training? Is there anything else you would like to plug?

DAN: I don’t really post a lot of information on my training, as many times I’m by myself and don’t have a camera guy.  When I do, I usually post it on my facebook page:  "Dan Caraway" and I have a few videos on Youtube as well (https://www.youtube.com/user/danwvsukh/videos).  

Although, I’ve been planning on making something to hold my phone for videoing, so once I have that I’ll post more often. 


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Again, I would really like to thank Dan for taking the time to drop this knowledge on all of us and I cannot wait to train/compete with him in the future!  Please support him on Facebook and youtube and if you are in West Virginia, reach out and train with this guy, he is a monster.  

If you find yourself up against him in a competition, bring your "A" game, because if you don't, he will be bringing his.  

I hope everyone found some of what Dan shared helpful.  like I said, he is one of the most helpful, nicest and fiercest competitors on the circuit today.  He has selflessly done a ton to help me along in my journey and I would not be where I am, here a year later, without him.

If you have any other questions for Dan or are looking for a great training partner, look him up on Facebook and get in contact with him that way. 

 

Thanks again, Dan.    

Annndddd, I wanted to close out this article with my personal favorite of all of Dan's videos...

2015 Beast of the East Write-Up and Thoughts

2015 BEAST OF THE EAST EVET WRITE-UP & ...feelings... 

The weight cut for this particular event was a tough one for me. Most of the four weeks that I normally spend getting down to the 231 weight class were spent out of town...to include the three days prior to the contest. I landed at BWI airport Friday afternoon and drove directly to weigh-ins. It could have been all of the travel or maybe the lack of access to the correct foods, but I stepped on the scale and weighted 226.2. This is close to five pounds below where I would have liked to have been, but I figured I would learn from the experience and move forward. 4 Sausage, egg and cheese bagels, a gallon of gatorade, 50 donut holes, 2 servings of spaghetti & meatballs and a gallon of milk later, I was back up to a very uncomfortable 239 pounds. I headed to bed, woke up a few hours later, shoved some more food in my mouth and headed to the contest. 
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FIRST EVENT: Max Effort Conventional Deadlift. Suits/Straps allowed. 3 Attempts, but if you miss a rep, no more attempts will be given. 

I don't really agree with being able to wear suits or using straps on the deadlift in Strongman Competitions (my only exception is using straps when deadlifting a car), so for this event I went without either. My original planned attempts for this portion of the contest were going to be 625, 650 and 675lbs. But, as with most Strongman shows, what you plan is almost never what actually happens. I was amazed at how many people were opening with weights above 600lbs. The judges just kept calling out weights and hardly anyone was stepping up. I had worked up to a 585 single, warming-up off to the side and decided my first attempt would be ten more pounds than I had originally planned and went with 635. This was a weight that I can pull just about any day of the week, so I felt very comfortable there. It went up without any issue and with decent speed. The next attempt I chose was 655, which is just 5 pounds below my current PR, but I was pretty confident that I could pull it that day. It shook a little bit midway through the movement, but it really wasn't as heavy as 655 sometimes feels to me. 

For my third and final attempt, I wanted 675. That is 7 plates per side and it has eluded me for quite a few months now. I set up on the bar and something did't feel right. I can't say what was wrong, I just didn't feel like I was in my best starting position. I had a little moment of panic and rather than resetting I acted like an idiot and just went for it. 

I began pulling and nothing happened for about a second. Gravity was working just fine in that particular area... Then the weight slowly started to break the floor. The bar had almost reached my knees when my bracing gave way, my lower back shot out and I couldn't seem to keep the bar moving. I fought against it for a second, then let it go and was VERY disappointed/angry. We were pulling on a Texas Power Bar for the competition and it was pretty stiff. If it would have been a deadlift bar, I may have gotten the PR, maybe not. If I had been stronger, I am sure I would have gotten the lift also? even if I had another attempt at it, I think it may have gone? It really doesn't matter...any excuse I throw out there is a bad one because I simply didn't get the job done. This one single PR attempt was the main reason why I had signed up for this particular competition and not achieving it definitely messed with my head. After this miss, I wasn't as mentally tough as I should have been for the rest of the show. This is my biggest take away from the entire competition. 

My 655 lift was good enough for a second place finish. Even if I had gotten the 675 I still would have been in second place, as the winner pulled something right around 700. 

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SECOND EVENT: 25 Foot Yoke Walk. Heaviest weight wins. NO DROPS ALLOWED. 3 Attempts, but if you drop at all, no more attempts will be given. 

Unlike the deadlift, I was surprised at how light people's first attempts were for this event. I guess in hindsight it is a smart move considering how many things can go wrong during a max effort yoke walk and one drop is fairly likely and will land you out of contention. 

The yoke used at this competition only has a 2.5-3 inch diameter crossmember which is a good bit smaller than the ones that I have been training on. A smaller crossmember means less purchase on your back which often leads to more slipping. This will become relevant shortly. 

I had very few warm-up runs before we began the event and to be honest, the ones I did take were not looking or feeling spectacular. Despite this, I decided to open at 820lbs. It went really smoothly and I was happy to have it in the books. Most of the other guys in my class had completed this weight or a little lower for their third attempts, but a few guys remained in the mix. The judges were calling 50lb jumps, so for my next run I went with 870lbs. 

I got under the bar and stood up. The crossmember immediately slipped out of position. If you watch the video you will see me hesitate before I start walking. That is because I was trying to decide if putting the yoke back down would count as a drop. I quickly deduced that putting the yoke down was not a valid option, so I started moving forward. I had hit a 900 pound yoke walk for 50 feet just weeks prior to the competition, so I knew I had a little bit of wiggle room with 870. However, what was supposed to be a nice challenging second attempt turned into one of the longest 25 feet of my life. 

With every step the crossmember slipped further and further out of position. By the time I was half way through he course, I was 100% sure I was going to drop it. The bar was so far down my back that I was basically performing a Good Morning while contorting my body into all kinds of weird positions in an attempt to not drop the yoke. I am not going to lie, it felt horrible. I thought every step I took would be my last...I just kept telling myself to endure and stayed focused on nothing but the very next step. 

From all of the shifting and moving under that amount of pressure my back was literally bleeding by the time I put it down. I now have four 2"x 2" hotspots on my back now that are scabbed over. It was a really rough run, but I was fortunate enough to cross the finish line. 

At this point, only myself and one other guy had one attempt left each to go for something big. His second attempt was 820 and mine was 870. So, in order to go for the win, he loaded the yoke with 900. He got a few steps, acquiesced and dropped it. Since my 870 was the heaviest run, I did not have to take a third attempt to secure the win for this event. After the debacle that was my second attempt, I gladly bowed out and took first place as well as the overall top spot on the leader board. 
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THIRD EVENT: Max Effort Log Clean & Press. 3 Attempts, but if you miss a rep, no more attempts will be given. 

By this point in the competition two of the guys in our class had dropped out because of injuries and one was not participating in the log event because of being hurt; but he would continue on to the car deadlift and hold. 

This being the case, our class had shrunk considerably in size for this event and the main competition was between myself and the athlete in second place. 

In Strongman, for the most part, everyone is very encouraging to each other and will try to make each other better. There is a lot of joking, random side competitions and no one ever wants to sneak out a win. They either want to beat you at you best or not at all. For this reason, the second place guy and I decided to kind of just go head to head for this event. 

Accordingly, we both opened with a 270-275 pound log clean and press. We both got it easily, but to be honest, the first two events really had taken their toll on us. Even cleaning the log up felt much heavier than it should have. He had hit a 340 log press in training and I had hit 310, so we both felt that a second attempt at 300 pounds would be a good middle range for us. I was up first. 

I cleaned the log up to front rack position and it was pretty ugly. My upper back was already done for the day and it took a decent amount of energy just to get the log to the starting position. I got my leg drive and pushed the log about 1/4 of the way up before gravity showed me just how weak I really am, and pushed the log right back down. 

The second place guy got it at little bit further than I did, but his back was so shot that he was unable to stabilize the weight overhead and couldn't lock it out. Since we both made and missed the same weights, we tied for first place and I remained in top position on the leaderboard. 
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FOURTH & FINAL EVENT: Max Effort Car Deadlift and Hold. Straps allowed. 

For my weight class we would have a medium sized sedan plus 180lbs added. Thankfully, the promoter set up the implement so that the pick of the car would be high. Thus, making the true test of the event all about the physical and mental endurance under the load. 

I was pretty secure in the top spot overall for the contest and would have had to of bombed pretty badly to come in second at this point, but I still wanted to give this event my best effort. 

None of us had any idea what a good time for a hold under these conditions would be so we all just dove in blindly. The first guy got up and held the car+weight for about 28 seconds. This was an impressive performance in my opinion and I was just hoping that I could match his time. 

I strapped in, deadlifted the car up and tried to go somewhere else in my head. As it turns out, this is challenging to do when you have a car plus 180lbs pulling down on your arms. At 20 seconds, I was still feeling pretty stable and knew that I had beaten at least one guy in my class. 

For some reason I got the idea to turn to my fellow competitors (Who were waiting for their turn) and said, "Man, I wish this was heavier..." and smiled. Many of us have competed against each other in the past and we try to make it fun by messing with each other. 

At about the 30-35 second mark, my biceps - all the way down my forearms and even into my thumbs were screaming at me. It felt like tendons were tearing. I held out for another ten or so seconds before I put the implement down at 44 seconds. 

A few guys went after me, but none were able to beat my time so I ended up with another first place finish and had won the contest. Not a bad end to a brutal day. 
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This is the second John Ward promotion I have been part of and I can say they are the smoothest and best run shows that I have experienced. Judges were great and actual regular competitors and there were tons of fans out there to cheer everyone on. 

This is my second show that I have won in Maryland this year and I am humbled and honored to compete with such awesome athletes. Great day... 
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I would like to extend a special thank you to my friend and Sponsor, David Lee of Dave’s Professional Services for always being there and for the continued support and encouragement with all of my competitive endeavors. 

And finally, a huge thanks to all of the friends and family who came out to support the NEVERsate Athletes.  So, so much love for you guys…

Breathing & Bracing

Breathing & Bracing

Go to a mirror and lift up your shirt until your entire stomach is exposed.  Now take a very deep breath and observe what happens.  

Did your shoulders and chest rise or did your belly expand outward? If you are like 99% of people, your shoulders/chest rose. This basically means that you are only using about half of your lung capacity. That is bad. 

Don’t worry though, it’s an easy fix. That is good.

Next time you have the opportunity, observe a sleeping baby.  Notice that when they inhale, their stomach will expand and contract with every breath while their shoulders will typically stay fairly motionless.  That is because they they are performing what is known as diaphragmatic breathing.  Somehow, right out of the box, innately, humans know how to breathe correctly and use every bit of our lung capacity.  I’m not sure when or why we forgot that this was important, but we did.  Diaphragmatic breathing is what opera singers are trained to use to project their voices into entire amphitheaters without the help of microphones and it also explains the crazy amount of volume an unhappy baby’s lungs can produce.   

Diaphragmatic breathing is also a much more efficient way to oxygenate your blood, which greatly aides in recovery during conditioning workouts, naturally reduces stress levels and blood pressure, heightens mental acuity and is one of the greatest factors when it comes to reaching world record levels of strength.  

Proper breathing should be the cornerstone of every single thing you do in life.  If you think it isn’t important, try sprinting 400 meters while breathing through a drinking straw. If your chest and shoulders are the only things moving when you inhale, you are only operating at a fraction of your lung’s full capacity; which, in reality, is essentially just breathing through a bigger straw.  Becoming great is about improving the basics…and it doesn’t get more basic than breathing. 

Try this:
Prone yourself out, flat on your back and gently place your hands over the lower part of your abdomen.  Through your nose, breathe in as deeply as you can. Make a conscious effort to fill every last inch of your belly with air.  Your hands are resting on your stomach just to help you focus where the oxygen should be going. Now release the air through your mouth.

Do the same thing again, but this time, once you think you have inhaled to your full capacity, attempt to take in a little more air by filling your obliques and all the lower parts on your abdomen down toward your groin area.  Now release it slowly through your mouth.  You were able to take in even more oxygen, weren’t you?

Okay, last time.  Through your nose, fill your stomach, obliques, and lower groin area all with air.  Now, allow your shoulders and chest to rise as you take in even more oxygen.  Hold it for a count of four, and slowly release it through your mouth. It was amazing how much more air you were able to take in, wasn’t it? Compare that to how much oxygen you normally inhale while just allowing your chest and shoulders to rise.

Stay prone on the floor and practice taking a few more of those “full” breaths just so you can remember what it feels like to breath with the entirety of your lungs rather than just part of them. Be careful when standing back up, though. Many people tend to get light headed due to how much oxygen is now in their bloodstream.  

Next time you are feeling stressed or are taking a moment of rest during a hard conditioning session, grab a few of these large, full-lung capacity breaths and see how quickly your heart rate drops back down and your breathing returns to normal.  Also, make a conscious effort to remind yourself throughout the day to pause and “fix” your breathing by cuing your stomach to expand on the inhale until this technique becomes habit.  You will be a much less stressed and healthier person for doing so.  

All of this gets important to meatheads soon. I promise…Okay, moving on. 
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Now that you have a better understanding of how your diaphragm and lungs work, how can you apply this to achieve bigger numbers in the gym?

Go return to the mirror from earlier and pull your shirt back up.  Now flex your abs as hard as you can and observe how your core reacts.  Did your midsection “shrink” a little bit? That is because most people tend to suck in their gut slightly and round their shoulders forward when they flex their abs.  This is one form of bracing.  it is great if you are about to get punched in the stomach or are trying to impress someone while walking down the beach, but will do little to help you stabilize your core with 900 pounds on your back.
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Imagine your torso as a soda can.  A cylinder shape like that is able to withstand a great amount of weight as long as it holds its form.  If you were to place an empty soda can on the ground and put a 45b plate on top of it, it will not collapse. But if you tap the side of the can just hard enough to create a small dent, it will quickly lose its integrity and the can will get crushed.  With a heavy squat bar on your back, if you suck in your gut and round your shoulders at all when bracing, think of it as creating a dent in your can.  Dented cans get crushed.  This is exactly what happens to most athletes when they miss a heavy attempt.  

Try this:
Get back in front of that mirror and fill your stomach with air.  (Just like you would if your were imitating a pregnant woman).  Now, inhale more air and push it “down” until you have filled up your obliques and groin area. (Just like our second breath from the exercise above) Once you feel you are at total capacity, now flex your abs as hard as you can.  Make a concentrated effort not to collapse or compromise your torso at all.  Think of pushing your flexed abs “out and down”. Your shoulders should be back and your chest should be high. 

If you are not making a ridiculous face in the mirror, you are not flexing hard enough. This position is not very flattering and probably shouldn’t be the one you are showing off at the beach, but it is exactly the one you want right before you go for a max effort squat or deadlift. 
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Back to the soda can…  

Now, if you were to hold any of the below in your hand, which would be the hardest to crush? 
A. An empty soda can 
B. A half filled opened can of soda
C. A sealed, factory reject, half filled can of soda
D. A sealed, completely filled, shaken up, fully carbonated can of soda?

Obviously, the correct answer is D.  The last can is so robust and sturdy because the significant stress inside of the container is pushing hard to get out, while the cylinder itself fights back against the pressure to hold its shape. The result is a very durable vehicle on which heavy weights can be supported.  

When bracing, think of the belly breath inhalation as soda filling up your torso (can) and your flexed abs as the hard aluminum outer shell.  The more soda and carbonation (air) you can fit inside the can, the more stable you will become.  As long as the outside of the cylinder holds its integrity (by bearing down and flexing your abs as hard as you are able), the amount of weight which you are capable of safely supporting grows exponentially.  

Hopefully everyone is still with me here…
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Try this:
Grab a broomstick, PVC Pipe or even empty lifting bar and place it across your back in the starting position of a squat. You should be attempting to bend the bar across your shoulders and your butt should be flexed.   This will straighten your torso and bring the bar over the center of your foot. (I previously wrote an entire article on squat set up here: http://www.neversate.com/wrath/2015/1/11/squat-cues   ... if you need help)

Make sure to go through all of your normal cues to ensure that you are in the best starting position possible, because the position you lock-in at the beginning of your squat is going to be the exact same one you are bracing and stabilizing throughout the entire lift. Your upper body position and tightness should not change from start to finish.

Right before you begin your descent, draw as much air as possible into your stomach, obliques and groin area. Then hold it. 

Now flex your abs and bear down as hard as you are able.  You should not have compromised your torso, chest or shoulder position at all when you braced your core. Now your upper body is locked into position.  You are still holding your breath.

Focus on keeping your torso pushed outward and slowly descend into to hole. Nothing about your upper body’s position should have changed other the the angle of your spine.  Think of your upper body and lower body as being independent of each other. The top half  stays locked in place while the legs bend and the hips hinge. 
       
Hit depth, reverse the motion and complete the squat. Again, there should be no folding of your torso, no extra, inefficient movement at all.  Once you get your breath, brace your core and lock your upper body in place, it doesn’t get unlocked or released until the rep is complete. 

Once the rep is complete, exhale through your mouth.  

Complete as many reps of this as needed until it becomes part of your squat setup ritual.  
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If you have never tried bracing like this before, you may find it very uncomfortable and the internal pressure that builds up can seem overwhelming. That is a normal feeling that you will grow accustomed to. 

It may not be much fun but it is very, very  effective.  On movements such as the deadlift or squat where loosing your core tightness can lead to everything from poor results to very serious injury, using a set up like this is not only your safest option, but it is also the most advantageous to moving a lot of weight.  I hope this article has been informative and helped some of your out.


~ If you have any questions or comments, feel free to send them to NEVERsate@Gmail.com 

New Programming for February

Beginning MONDAY, 02FEBRUARY2015 it will be time to switch up our programming. For this 10 Week cycle, we will be going back to giant sets and the self-regulation of intensity.  Each workout will consist of four sections.  A Conditioning portion, a Strength Giant Set, an Accessory Giant Set and of course, Events.  Each workout should last no longer than 75 Minutes (1 Hour & 15 Minutes): if it does, you need to shorten your rest intervals and stop talking so much. 

If you have any mobility issues, they should be addressed PRIOR to the beginning of the workout.  You will not have any time to focus on them during the session.  If you need to warm-up and stretch out - get to the gym a little early and do so. We will be starting every session on time and will be pushing hard until all of the work for the day is done.

You should also keep a workout journal for this cycle of programming. The reason is so that you can review your previous sessions in order to make accurate weight selections and have a plan each time you train. Since all of the weights and intensities you choose will be self-regulated, it is imperative that you set a goal and minimum numbers to be reached each day.  None of the exercises in this cycle are percentage based; Therefore, it will be up to you to decide how hard you want to work.  Show up with a plan…If you do not follow this, you will not make any progress.  There is more about the notations to be kept in your journal later in this article.

***So that you are able to mentally prepare for each day’s training and estimate accurate poundage, I will now be posting the workout the day before the session will occur.  

DIET
First things first.  As all of you have heard me say many times before, “You cannot out-train a bad diet.”  And a lot of you are planning on competing in the next few months.  This means you need to make weight…and more importantly, you need to fuel your body properly so that you can perform well each training day.  If you need guidance, re-read this article http://www.neversate.com/wrath/2014/10/13/neversate-athletics-eating-challenge and get back on track IMMEDIATELY.  

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CONDITIONING
The first of the four segments will consist of pure conditioning.  The exercise selection for this portion of training will be vast and will vary greatly. Everything from animal walks and bodyweight movements to olympic lifts and AMRAP/EMOM sets will be incorporated. This section should be treated as a sprint.  If you are not hating your life, breathing fire and sweating by the time you are finished, then you are doing it wrong. Nothing can last forever and always start your next exercise.set before you are ready.

STRENGTH GIANT SET
The next portion of the workout will be a Giant set built around the main exercises for the day.  You will always have a predetermined number of sets and reps to hit, but the intensity and weights will now be your choice. I would encourage you to pyramid up in weight every round until you hit a top set before backing off a little and finishing the remainder of the work.  If 10 Sets of 3 reps is programmed for the session, your notations may look something like this.  

50lbs x3
60lbs x3
70lbs x3 
80lbs x3
90lbs x3
100lbs x3
90lbs x3
80lbs x3
80lbs x3
80lbs x3

As you can see in the above example, you will ramp up to a top set, then back off the intensity a little and finish off the remainder of your sets/reps. The back off sets should still be very challenging, but the focus should fall more on getting the volume accomplished rather than grinding out more reps.  

As in all Giant sets, you will go from your first exercise, directly into your second without any rest.  Then from your second to your third without rest and so on until the entire Round of exercises is complete.  At the end of each round, you should be taking approximately :90 seconds to breathe, get a sip of water and manipulate (add or subtract) the weights on ALL of your exercises before getting right back to work. 

If you are taking time to talk to someone between sets, then that means you have too much energy and you are doing it wrong. Its called “work”, treat it as such.

ACCESSORY GIANT SET
This will be another group of secondary exercises programmed to bring up the weak points in your main strength movements previously focused on in the earlier giant set.  These may be accessory exercises, but they should be treated with the same intensity as the main movements in your Strength Giant Set. You should be adding weight every round and should be keeping rest to a minimum. The most successful accessory work tends to be performed with heavy weights and closely resembles the exercise it is attempting to aid.   

EVENTS
Since one of our main focuses at NEVERsate Athletics is Strongman training, this is always going to be a staple. The Strongman competitive season is getting ready to kick off and much of our concentration will be on mimicking different medleys and events from upcoming shows in order to prepare our athletes.

SELF-REGULATION
During this cycle, it is imperative for all athletes to keep a workout journal where they note the weights used for all exercises/sets/reps so that accurate intensities can estimated and increased each week.  If you do not do this, you will not get better; That is a promise. Since this block of programming is not percentage based, it is of the utmost importance that you know how much weight you did the previous week. 

What gets measured is what gets done.  I cannot tell you how many times I have looked at my workout journal, just to see a huge number staring back at me…one that I would swear I didn’t complete the previous week.  If I hadn’t written it down, I would have estimated my weights too low and would not have made progress. You will (hopefully) be adding weight every week during this cycle, so don’t trust your memory.  Write it down!  

Also, next to your exercise/set/weight/rep notation, I would encourage you to add an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) number.  This is the basic 1-10 rating scale that everyone is familiar with.  “1” essentially means that the set was extremely easy, increasing up to “10”, which would be consistent with REALLY grinding out a rep. Most of your sets should fall in the “7-9” RPE range.

Using our example from the STRENGTH GIANT SET above, adding the RPE rating number would look something like this:

50lbs x3 (RPE: 5)
60lbs x3 (RPE: 5.5)
70lbs x3 (RPE: 6.5)
80lbs x3 (REP: 7)
90lbs x3 (RPE: 8)
100lbs x3 (RPE: 9) - TOP SET
90lbs x3 (RPE: 8.5)
80lbs x3 (RPE: 7.5)
80lbs x3 (RPE: 8)
80lbs x3

In the above example, I would add (at least) 5lbs-10lbs to each of my sets and start my next workout from there.

So now, when your squat day comes back around next week, you know with what weight you began, at what weight you completed your top set, and how hard you perceived that set to be.  This will be helpful when selecting accurate goals and numbers for your upcoming workout. 
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TEMPLATE
Now that most of the explaining is out of the way, here is a basic idea of what the workouts will look like.  Hopefully this will clear up any questions and confusion.

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Day 1:

CONDITIONING: 12-15 Minutes, with a concentration on the main muscles that will be focus on during the Strength Giant Sets.

STRENGTH GIANT SET: (Sets and Reps), Adding weight every round
1a. Lower Body Pull
1b. Upper Body Pull - Horizontal Plane
1c. Upper Body Push - Horizontal Plane
1d. Ab Variation
Rest :90 Seconds 

ACCESSORY GIANT SET: (Sets and Reps) Adding Weight Every Round
1a. Secondary Lower Body Pull
1b. Secondary Upper Body Push - Horizontal Plane

EVENTS: (Heavy Day) Based on upcoming competitions 

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Day 2:

CONDITIONING: 12-15 Minutes with a concentration on the main muscles that will be focus on during the Giant Sets.

STRENGTH GIANT SET: Sets and Reps, Adding weight every round
1a. Lower Body Push
1b. Upper Body Pull - Vertical Plane
1c. Upper Body Push - Vertical Plane
1d. Ab Variation

ACCESSORY GIANT SET: (Sets and Reps) Adding Weight Every Round
1a. Secondary Lower Body Push
1b. Secondary Upper Body Push - Vertical Plane

EVENTS: (Speed Day) Based on upcoming competitions
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I am personally very excited about this upcoming block of programming and the fact that we are getting back to some self-regulation instead of percentages.  If you have any questions, comments or concerns about the program, please email me at NEVERsate@Gmail.com.

Be ready, I will post Monday's workout tomorrow.  Buy a 99 cent notebook to track your progress, have a plan and an idea of what numbers you plan on hitting.