Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

Although the idea of strength training to support recreational sports and activities is not new, there are still those who buy into several long-standing myths about training with weights.  At the top of the list are endurance athletes.  We work with many marathon runners and triathletes at AST, and have seen our athletes make tremendous improvements in performance with the right program.

Designing a Program

The first step is choosing the right program.  The biggest mistake we see made is taking a program designed for another sport or activity and trying to apply it to endurance work.  For example, taking random routines from fitness magazines that are designed for the masses and trying to apply it to a niche activity is a recipe for disaster.  A good endurance program should be designed to cover the following aspects:

  • developing muscular endurance in the primary muscles used
  • strengthening weak and neglected muscles to maintain structural balance
  • increasing mobility in tight muscles brought on by overuse
  • developing strength endurance through the core and trunk musculature
  • decreasing non-essential bodyweight to improve performance

Training Guidelines

There are, for the most part, two different types of muscles in the body – fast-twitch and slow-twitch.  In simple terms, fast-twitch muscles are very powerful but fatigue very quickly, and are slower to recover, while slow-twitch muscles have greater endurance capabilities and recover more quickly, but have less potential for power and strength.  Knowing which muscles tend to skew toward which type makes it easier to make the right adjustments to your training plan.

Common Fast-Twitch Muscles

  • Lats
  • Triceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Upper calf (gastrocnemius)
  • Surface abdominals (rectus femoris, obliques)

Common Slow-Twitch Muscles

  • Chest
  • Upper back
  • Shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Quads
  • Lower back
  • Deep abdominals (transverse abdominis)

Now, this list is by no means perfect – fiber type can vary based on the individual.  This is just what we have found to be true in the majority of individuals that we work with.

So, what does this information mean?  It gives a better indication of how to train those muscles correctly.  Look at the slow-twitch muscles – those tend to be the areas most heavily involved in most endurance sports – running, swimming, and biking.  The fast-twitch muscles tend to be neglected by endurance athletes and are vulnerable to injury if left unaddressed.

In general, here are some straightforward guidelines for strength training for fiber type:

Fast-twitch – low reps (3-8), longer rest times and a higher number of sets per exercise

Slow-twitch – higher reps (12-30), short rest intervals and a low number of sets

Flexibility, Mobility and Recovery

Another important component is maintaining mobility.  Any muscle that is heavily recruited during a given activity will tend to become short and tight, and the opposing muscles will tend to become weak and lengthened.  For example, a cyclist will develop tight pecs and lats because of the time spent slouched over the bike handles, and the upper back muscles will become weak from being left in a stretched position for long periods of time.  So you would stretch and peform self-myofascial release (or foam rolling) for the tight area before training the weak area.

Here’s a good rule – if you can see it in a mirror, it’s probably tight.  If you can’t, it’s probably weak.  Prioritize your training and mobility programs around that axiom and it’s hard to go wrong.

Training the Core

There are two types of abdominal and core muscles – surface muscles, such as the rectus femoris (abdominal wall) and the obliques, lower back and glutes; and deep muscles, speficically the transverse (deep) abdominis.  It’s appropriate to train both, but not the same way.

Surface muscles can be trained more conventionally – moderately heavy weights through a full range of motion, with the reps and loads varying depending on fiber type (see above).  The transverse abdominis, however, is more of a stabilization muscle and does the job of bracing the trunk while you’re performing other activities, such as running or swimming.  As such, you want to use movements that require you to hold the abs tight isometrically while performing other work.

Good Surface Muscle Exercises

  • Leg raises (lying or hanging from a pullup bar)
  • Crunch variations through a full range of motion (no swinging or flailing)
  • Weighted side bends
  • Back extensions and reverse hyperextensions
  • Glute bridges

All of the above lifts can be trained with a reasonable amount of resistance for lower reps, without sacrificing technique.

Good Deep Core Exercises

  • Front planks
  • Side planks
  • Inverted planks
  • Plank to pushup
  • Palloff press
  • Plank knee-in
  • Twisting plank
  • Ab wheel

All of the above exercises should be performed for high reps or held for as long as possible.  Planks are useful up to about 60 seconds, and side planks about 30 seconds.  Once you can hold that long you should choose more challenging progressions such as the other exercises listed.

Controlling Body Composition

Last, but certainly not least, a good strength training program should prioritize increasing muscle mass and decreasing bodyfat.  After all, would you be faster with 75lbs of bodyfat, or 15lbs of bodyfat?  A male athlete should strive to stay under 10%, and a female under 18%.  Anything else serves no purpose but to slow you down.  And what good will that do?

My Body Transformation Part 5: Days 25-32

For Part 1 of this series, click here.

For Part 2 of this series, click here.

For Part 3 of this series, click here.

For Part 4 of this series, click here.

As I did with the last post, I'll just summarize the changes for the week.

The final week of the insulin protocol was a little challenging, mostly just because of a change in training program – using a type of advanced German Body Composition training from Charles Poliquin also known as "6-12-25," which is essentially 3 movements per bodypart circuited together, the first for 6 reps, the second for 12, and the third for 25. It's a type of lactic acid training, which is great for fat loss (assuming that you're following a paleo diet and know the difference between your mouth and a vacuum). The leg workout in particular is pretty brutal, and was the only time during the entire month that I was craving post-workout carbs of any kind.

I ended up having two cheat meals during the last week – one on Wednesday and one on Saturday. Both felt necessary and not forced, and the numbers reflect that much. I've found that I have a pretty good handle on when I'm in need of a cheat meal and don't worry about staying on a once-in-5-days limit. There are times where I could go 10 days without a cheat, and will, and there are times where I feel like I need them several days apart. For somebody who doesn't have a lot of self-control, however, I still suggest no more often than every fifth day, but more likely every 7th day (the higher the bodyfat %, the less frequently you should be cheating).

BioSignature Results

Scale weight -159.5 to 163.5 (up 4.0lbs)
Bodyfat % -12.3 to 11.8 (down 0.4%)
Lean body mass -140.0 to 144.1 (up 4.1lbs)

So most of the change in BF% the last week came not from loss of bodyfat, but from lean body mass gains. But, either way, it results in a drop in bodyfat %, so I can't complain. Plus, how often do you see guys ADD 6lbs of lean mass in a month during a fat loss program? So I'm quite pleased. And I can notice a substantial visible change in definition as well:

The plan going forward now is to address xenoestrogens (shown in BioSignature as a high hamstring skinfold) and cortisol (shown as abdominal fat). I'll tackle the estrogens first and go from there.

So, I think it's pretty clear that the insulin protocol does in fact work – I lost 4% in about a month and wasn't carrying an exceptionally high level of bodyfat to begin with. Especially for those who are 20% or higher, and have had a history of high carb intake, it can produce even better results.

 

For more information about BioSignature, or to schedule a consultation, click here.

Quick Tip: Avoid Oxidized Cholesterol

 

There are many, many misconceptions out there about dietary cholesterol (quick note: saturated fat from animal protein DOES NOT raise blood cholesterol, and has never been shown to no matter what BS drug is being pushed on you, but that’s a topic for another day).  However, there is one form of cholesterol that should be avoided at all costs, and that is oxidized cholesterol.

Think of it like this – oxidized cholesterol is taking something that should be a liquid, and making it a solid.  It’s usually done to extend shelf life, much like trans fats/hydrogenated oils (and typically they all will come together in the same package).  Here are a few examples:

  • powdered eggs (usually found at most hotel breakfasts)
  • donuts, cookies and pastries
  • soft serve ice cream
  • powdered milk (including some baby formulas)

As for the side effects?  Well, to oxidize essentially means “to rust.”  So if you get out of your body what you put in, you begin to destroy yourself from the inside out, albeit very slowly.  Odixized cholesterol raises LDL, specifically the dense type of LDL shown to increase risk for heart disease.  It can also result in impaired brain function and reduced mental clarity, along with other immune and inflammatory responses.

To avoid cholesterol, eat foods in their original form – fresh, whole eggs, raw, unpasteurized milk (unless you are lactose intolerant) and avoid eating foods that you could buy when you move into your freshman dorm and still be able to eat on your graduation day.

For more information, this is a great resource on oxidized cholesterol and other cholesterol-related issues – http://www.integratedsupplements.com/articles/Newsletter200701.pdf

Quick Tip: Clean Up Your Coffee

Coffee is a staple in many lives, and is actually quite healthy. It has been shown that the average coffee drinker will live 5 years longer than those who don’t drink it. Part of that has to do with the fact that for many people, it’s the only significant source of antioxidants they will get all day.

However, to reap the benefits, you have to do it right. Here are 3 common mistakes people make and how to fix them:

1) Not buying organic. Fixing this one is easy – buy organic. Coffee and butter are at the top of the list of foods that should always be purchased organic, because they are imported from third world countries where there are very few agricultural regulations.

2) Adding milk. Very few people are genetically adapted to consuming lactose, and that includes the milk or half and half added to coffee. A better option is using heavy cream (35% or higher), which is milkfat but no sugar, and therefore lactose-free. It also helps the caffeine digest more slowly and gives a longer source of energy.

3. Using sugar or artificial sweeteners.  Pure sugar should be avoided, especially for those who are insulin-resistant or overweight.  Artificial sweeteners are not much better, as there is scientific evidence that shows they can increase carb cravings and stimulate insulin resistance much in the same way that pure sugar can.  While I’ve read mixed reports on sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Equal) and saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low) are definite no-nos.  I prefer to err on the side of caution and avoid them all together, and instead use other sweeteners like honey, cinnamon or nutmeg.

My Body Transformation Part 4: Days 17-24

For Part 1 of this series, click here.

For Part 2 of this series, click here.

For Part 3 of this series, click here.

I’ll spare the dramatic day-by-day runthrough as there was nothing amazing about this week other than a few changes:

– rotated in Yin-Hance 1.0 as the insulin modulator and took out Insulin Plex 2.0
– was supposed to add in berries as a carb source with breakfast, which I only remembered to do 2-3 days the whole week. I’m so used to going no-carb that it was actually a challenge to put them back in.
– will be starting a new training cycle next week after only 2 weeks on the current program (more on this in a minute)

BioSignature results:

Scale weight – 160.0 to 159.5 (down 0.5lbs)
Bodyfat % – 12.3 to 12.2 (down 0.1%)
Lean body mass – down 140.3 to 140.0 (down 0.3lbs)

Now, I’m not too worried about the change in LBM, as it’s small enough to have been variance from food or water intake from the previous measurement. What I did find to be problematic was:

– Triceps up from 6.7 to 7.1
– Pec up from 4.4 to 5.0

Both of these would indicate overtraining/under-recovery. This would make sense, as the program I had been using for the last 2 weeks was geared toward hypertrophy and not fat loss, and it looks like I just burned out on it a little faster than expected (2 weeks instead of the prescribed 3 weeks). This was confirmed when my last workout (Friday) was absolute trash – all of my weights that had been steadily progressing just crapped out and everything went down. Fortunately it’s easy enough to correct those problems, and they should be back down by next week.

On the bright side, I can see some noticeable changes from where I was 3 weeks ago, with some increased definition through the abs and obliques:

My estimate is that it may take another 4-5 weeks to get under 10%, as my hormonal priority is no longer insulin (which is probably why the insulin supplement protocol I’m using has slowed down its effectiveness) but is now cortisol and xenoestrogens, which can take a few weeks to address.  More on this next time.

My Body Transformation Part 3: Days 9-16

For Part 1 of this series, click here.

For Part 2 of this series, click here.

Progress has continued through the second stage of the diet, helped partly by a change in the training program.

Day 9

The only change nutritionally has been swapping out the Fenuplex in my supplement protocol with Insulin Plex 2.0.  Other than that everything is the same.

Day 10

Noticed that if I go more than a day or two without a significant source of red meat, my appetite goes through the roof and I feel like I’m never full.  I’m making sure that I’m getting at least 16oz of red meat every few days.  I tried bison burgers from Whole Foods for the first time, which were fantastic.  I can see making a semi-regular trip to pick those up.

Day 11

Nothing big – Christine and the boys were out of town all weekend at my parents’ so I spent Sunday doing some busywork for the gym and getting caught up on some reading.

Day 12

Started a new block of training today, which looks like this:

Monday & Thursday

A-1 Cyclists Back Squats 4 sets: 10, 12, 15, 20 reps on 2010 tempo, rest interval 90 seconds
A-2 Glute/ham raises feet inward 4 sets x 6-8 reps on 40X0 tempo, rest interval 75 secondsB-1 Lunges 4 sets: 10, 12, 15, 20 reps on 20X0 tempo, rest interval 90 seconds
B-2 Romanian Deadlifts 4 sets x 10-12 reps on 4020 tempo, rest interval 75 seconds

C-1 Standing Calf Raises 3 sets: 12, 15, 20 reps on 1110 tempo, rest interval 60 seconds
C-2 low Cable Pull-ins 2 x 10-12 reps on 2020 tempo, rest interval 60 seconds

Tuesday & Friday

A-1 Incline Dumbbell Presses 4 sets: 8, 10, 12, 15, on 3010 tempo, rest interval 75 seconds
A-2 Close Grip Chin-ups 4 x 8-10 reps on 4010 tempo, rest interval 75 seconds

B-1 Decline Dumbbell Presses 3 x 10-12 reps on 3010 tempo, rest interval 75 seconds
B-2 One Arm Dumbbell Rows 3 x 8-10 reps on 4010 tempo, rest interval 75 seconds

C-1 Decline Pronating Dumbbell Triceps Extensions 3 x 10-12 reps on 3110 tempo, rest interval 75 seconds
C-2 Seated Off-set Dumbbell Curls 3 x 8-10 reps on 3010 tempo, rest interval 75 seconds

It lasts 3 weeks, so each of those workouts are done 6 times (2x/week).  Initial thoughts are that the leg day is absolutely awful, in a productive sort of way.

Day 13
Some more noticeable visual changes, especially through the legs and calves.

Day 14

Last day of eliminating all carbs but fibrous vegetables. No energy issues, although it was an off day from training.

Day 15

Instead of making the day a full-blown cheat day, I opted to just have a cheat meal with the kids at night – 3 slices of pizza. Not the most ideal cheat – it’s still recommended to avoid things like dairy and gluten with cheat meals because they’re very common food intolerances. A better choice would have been something like Chinese food – high in carbs but low in potential allergens.

I also started adding berries to breakfast on an as-desired basis, and will add in a new carb source every week after my measurements are taken, and as long as the numbers keep dropping, I’ll add in a new source to a new meal the following week. If it doesn’t go down, then I’ll take the carbs back out of that meal and recheck progress. It’s an easy way to figure out roughly how many carbs your body can tolerate without adding bodyfat.

Day 16

Weekly measurements:

Weight – 159.8 to 160.0 (up 0.2lbs)
Lean Body Mass – 138.5 to 140.3 (up 1.8lbs)
Bodyfat % – 13.3 to 12.3 (down 1.0%)

So even though scale weight didn’t change significantly, being up 1.8lbs of lean body mass means I lost about 1.6lbs of fat over the week as well.

Observations

Even though progress is a little slower than the first week, I’m still happy with the changes – being down 3.5% bodyfat in 2 weeks is pretty solid. The hope for next week is to be close to 11%. Based on my new BioSignature results, insulin resistance is no longer a large priority for me, so I won’t stay on the insulin protocol for any longer than the initial 32 day period. If everything stays the same as it is now, the next thing to attack is xenoestrogens in the blood, likely plastics from years of reheating food in Tupperware containers and pre-packaged plastic containers.

Reheating your food in these will make you fat. Unfortunate, but true.

My Body Transformation Part 2: Days 1-8

For Part 1 of this series, click here.

After the first 8 days I’ve made a few small adjustments to the original plan, but nothing major.  Overall I’m pleased with the progress and I think I will be happy with the end result.

Day 1

The first day got off to an interesting start – at about 11:45 in the morning, I got a phone call from my wife that she and my two boys had been in a car accident, and that they had totaled out their car.  Fortunately they were all ok with nobody seriously hurt,  but most of my day was spent helping with the aftermath.  My scheduled workout obviously was postponed, but I still managed to stay on-point with supplements and diet.

Chicken with olive oil, basil, parsley, oregano and thyme... it's been a staple in the diet so far.

Day 2

The low-carb stuff hadn’t been bothering me yet, I actually felt pretty energetic as I was still using coffee and high doses of omega-3 fats throughout the day to keep energy levels up.  My leg workout was very productive and each set actually improved on the week prior, with very little muscle soreness the following day.  I also cut out all of the usual carbs postworkout so my shake was just 40g whey protein, 15g glutamine, and 1tbsp Primal Greens (powdered greens, a “superfood”).

That evening I did have a cheat meal of Domino’s pizza, as Christine’s family was in town to do some wedding coordinating for her sister.  The intent was to have 1 cheat meal every 5-7 days, so I just planned to go at least another 5 days until the next cheat.  I also supplemented the cheat with the supplements outlined in this article to keep insulin levels from getting out of control.

 

Day 3

Trained a few clients Saturday morning and then did an upper body workout, and made some progress from the week prior.  I didn’t notice any negative effects from the cheat meal the night before but the extent of my food intake that day was limited to steak, chicken, several sticks of Ostrim, and various nuts and dark veggies.

Day 4

Probably the hardest day so far, since Sunday is usually spent at home with the family so there’s not much of  a schedule, which can make it more challenging to stay on task if I don’t plan ahead.  It wasn’t too bad though, since we just don’t keep any crap foods in the house so there’s no easy access.  Meal frequency was lower than usual at 4 total meals but meal composition was perfect.

Day 5

By this point I was starting to get used to using healthy fats for energy and was feeling great.  I usually need coffee by about 8-9am to make it through the second rush of clients for the morning, but did just fine on water.  And even though the bulk of my workout was 10 sets of front squats, I wasn’t completely trashed by the end.

Really, not completely trashed.

Day 6

Upper body workout, no dietary deviations.  Smooth sailing.

Day 7

Wednesday was an off day from training and was also a scheduled day for a cheat meal.  Had Christine check my suprailiac (love handle) pinch and it was down from a 15.8 to an 11 (this site is impacted by short-term carb intake).

After work Christine, the boys and I went to Whole Foods to stock up on meat and fish, and got turkey burgers, bison burgers, scallops, swordfish, shrimp skewers, mahi mahi, and a few other things I’m probably forgetting.  After that it was straight to Chipotle for my cheat meal – a burrito bowl with rice, black  beans, shredded pork (double meat), corn salsa and lettuce, plus a side of chips and tomato salsa.  Still “clean” – the idea is to still avoid inflammatory/allergic things like gluten and dairy.  It was just high carb.  (Side note – unless you’re at least under 15% for a male or 20% for a female, you don’t get a cheat meal for the first 14 days on this protocol).

Day 8

Got my measurements and progress pictures taken and am pleased with the results. Some notable results include:

Weight – 164.5 to 159.8 (down 4.7lbs)
Lean Body Mass – 138.5 to 138.5 (no change)
Bodyfat % – 15.8 to 13.3 (down 1.5%)

Observations

One thing that I would change if I were to do this over again would be to eliminate all cheat meals for the entire initial 14 day period.  I won’t be having a cheat meal of any kind until day 15.  Why?  Because it impacts fat storage around the sides very quickly – the afternoon before my cheat on Wednesday my side pinch was 11.0mm, and the following day it was up to 12.8mm.  Still down from 15.8mm where it started, but I wasn’t dying for a cheat meal when I had it, and ended up probably taking 1-2 days of progress away.

Look for Part 3 around Saturday or Sunday.

My Body Transformation Part 1: The Setup

The following is a breakdown of a 32-day protocol I am using to drop my bodyfat by about half to get lean for summer. While I hate the work involved in a diet, I also would rather get it over with. I got a little higher than I like to be while I was training for a powerlifting competition (up to 15.9% just prior to the meet), and should finish at around 8-10% by the time I’m finished.

Here are general run-throughs of the big 3 components of any physical transformation protocol – nutrition, training, and supplementation.

Nutrition
Arguably the most important component in dropping bodyfat, I’m following a strict Paleo diet. That means animal protein, nuts, and vegetables. Fruit is allowed on a conventional Paleo diet (more of a lifestyle change than a diet) but I don’t like to use it for fast fat loss unless somebody really, really needs it. Usually, if your bodyfat percentage is over 10%, you don’t. And yes, I did use the magic word – diet. I want to get this over with so I’m not making adjustments, I’m dieting. I am not, however, restricting calories, only food types. Calories are probably between 2,000 and 2,700 a day at a starting bodyweight of 164lbs. I’ll have one cheat meal every 4-5 days depending on how I feel throughout the 32 days, maybe less if I like how things are going.

Training
Training is focused around hypertrophy, or muscle growth. It is possible to add muscle and lose fat at the same time as long as calories aren’t extremely restricted. I’m using moderate reps (6-12), lots of sets, decent rest, and putting focus on maintaining consistent tempo. I’m about halfway through a 6-week block of training at the start, so training won’t change too much for the first 3 weeks, then I’ll make a few modifications the last 10-12 days. All of the workouts are designed by Charles Poliquin.

 

 

 

 

 

A good training program is part of, but not the only, answer.

 

 

 

Supplementation
While you don’t need supplements to get lean, I’m using them. For two reasons: 1) they help, and 2) I’m a wholesaler and don’t have to spend a ton on them. However, everything I listed below are things that 90% of people should be taking year-round, with the exception of the Insulinomics and Fenuplex.

Here is my daily supplement use (all supplements are from the Poliquin line, but there are other good brands you can substitute):

Breakfast
2 Multi Intense (multi-vitamin)
2 Ultra HCl 4.0 (Betaine HCl to aid in digestion)
1/2 tsp Omega 3 Liquid (liquid fish oil)
2 Insulinomics
2 Fenuplex

Both the Insulinomics and the Fenuplex are used to help increase insulin sensitivity and increase fat metabolism. The Fenuplex will get rotated with other similar products every 8 days.

Morning Snack
2 Ultra HCl 4.0
2 Omega 3 6:1 (fish oil capsules high in EPA to keep inflammation low)

Lunch
Same as breakfast

Afternoon Snack
Same as morning

Dinner
Same as breakfast and lunch plus:
4 Uber Mag Px (magnesium to aid in sleep quality)

Evening Snack
Same as morning and afternoon plus:
4 Uber Mag Px

I will post another update later this week – Day 8 is this Friday so I’ll have bodyfat comparisons and progress pics.

My 2011 Supplement Protocol

I’ve gotten a few inquiries from some of our clients as to what supplements I actually take myself, since I’m the facility Biosignature practitioner and am responsible for designing protocols for all of our clients.  The following is a breakdown of my daily routine:

Breakfast
2 Multi Intense
3 Ultra HCL 4.0
2 Uber Zinc
1 Methylator Plus 3.0
2 Perfect E 3.0
1 Uber C
1 tsp Omega 3 Liquid

Lunch
2 Multi Intense
3 Ultra HCL 4.0
2 Uber Zinc
2 Perfect E 3.0
1 Uber C
1 tsp Omega 3 Liquid

Pre-Workout (about 45 minutes prior)
3 Java Stim
2 Fast Brain 2.0

During Workout
30 BCAA Excellence 2.0

Post-Workout (mixed in 500ml water/500ml fruit juice)
45g Whey Stronger 2.0
150g Quadricarb
10g Creatine Monohydrate
15g Glutamine
5g Glycine
3 Glucose Disposal Px
2 Uber C
2 Taurine
2 Magnesium Glycinate

Dinner
2 Multi Intense
3 Ultra HCL 4.0
2 Uber Zinc
4 Uber Mag Px
2 Perfect E 3.0
1 Uber C
1 tsp Omega 3 Liquid

2x a week I also take 20 D3 Excellence to bring up blood D3 levels.

All of the above supplements are from the Poliquin line, simply because that is what we carry at AST.

A Visit to the Compound

Originally published here: http://articles.elitefts.com/articles/training-articles/a-visit-to-the-compound/

image

I recently got the opportunity to visit Elite Fitness Systems in London, Ohio for the first (and hopefully not the last) Learn to Train seminar, with all proceeds going to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Even though I’ve followed the company and have been a customer for several years, this was my first opportunity to visit their on-site training area (nicknamed Area S4, or The Compound) and meet their sponsored athletes and the owner of EFS, Dave Tate.

The first item on the itinerary for the seminar was technical instruction of the 3 power lifts – squat, bench, and deadlift. After Dave took us all through some technical points on one of his lifters (Ted Toalston, who looks a lot bigger in person than in their videos), he asked the group, “so who thinks their squat sucks?” I had my hand in the air before Dave could even turn around, and was lucky (unlucky?) enough to be torn to shreds by Dave, as well as Todd Brock, a friend of Dave’s and a great powerlifter himself.

While I don’t have the most impressive squat in the world, I always thought it was rather technically sound, especially since I am pretty good at hammering the technical aspects into my training clients. However, it seemed like this was one of those cases of “even trainers need trainers,” because I clearly wasn’t practicing what I had been preaching.

The first thing Dave and Todd noticed was my grip – specifically, that I was completely incapable of fully gripping the bar with my left hand, no matter how hard I tried. I’m not sure if it’s something to be proud of or terrified by that it was actually something neither had seen before, and didn’t quite know how to fix. The answer seemed to be widening my grip out substantially and it seemed to take care of it.

Dave and Todd then spent the next 30 or so minutes making tons and tons of adjustments to my technique. Never in my life has it been so painful to squat an empty barbell before, but by the time they got done with me I had a list of things to fix and a smile on my face.

Then we all broke out into stations and received additional one-on-one coaching from some of the EFS-sponsored lifters. I think everybody got a little overzealous with the squat, because the group was originally allotted 30 minutes to practice, but ended up going for about 2 hours. Although, since I saw several personal records broken among even just the small subset of lifters at my station, I don’t think anybody particularly cared that it ran long.

From there we moved on to the bench press, with Dave giving a relatively short, maybe 15-minute breakdown of the performance and leaving the rest up to the coaches who were handling each station.  I think everybody was pretty gassed out from a few hours of squatting and we wrapped things up in about 30-40 minutes.

Last in the technical part of the seminar was the deadlift.  Again, Dave did some quick review and left the coaches to make the bigger corrections.  Although, I did hear Dave give one of the most logical, yet interesting, ways to get males to set up right for the sumo deadlift, which was, simply, “try to drop your nuts onto the bar.”  The best part was seeing all of the metaphorical light bulbs going off over a good twenty heads after he said it.

Since we were running late from a long squatting session, lunch was already there, so Dave told us to alternate between lifting and eating.  Again, we broke out into groups, and Todd Brock was the coach working my station.  Having helped coach my squat with Dave at the beginning of the seminar, he took one look at my deadlift and said, “well, at least we know you’re good for something!”  Which is good, because the deadlift is the one lift I feel pretty comfortable with so it was nice to have a little affirmation.

After we wrapped up the last of the technical part of the seminar, we moved into program design.  While a lot was covered, I think one of the best takeaways for the day was the concept of making sure your programs fulfill 3 requirements – 1. Is it sufficient?, 2. Is it necessary?, and 3. Is it safe?  The idea is that if you have to answer no to any of those things, the program is flawed.  An example given was somebody who makes 3 attempts at a max weight and misses every one – were those last 2 attempts really necessary for the program to work, or was it just motivated by ego?

Finally, maybe about 40% of the group stuck around for the business discussion, where Dave shared the timeline of Elite Fitness Systems and covered a lot of the mistakes that he made in developing and growing the company.  The thing that really impresses me is that Dave is so incredibly open about where he’s gone wrong and doesn’t sugarcoat anything.  I posed a question during the Q&A about a problem I had been having with one of my coaches not catching on fast enough, and after some back and forth he pretty much said (I can’t recall the exact wording) “you’re the one who’s fucking up by not making it clear enough what you want.”  I know some people wouldn’t be as straight-up in their response, and I appreciated the no-BS answer.

I can absolutely guarantee that if Dave ever holds another one of these seminars, I will be going again and taking my entire staff.  Those of us who got to attend this year are definitely a lucky bunch.  Thanks again to Dave, Todd Brock, Jason Pegg, Ted Toalston,  Steve Diel, and everybody from EFS who helped out.  With any luck I hope to see you all next time!