Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Strength Training and its Effect on a Youth's Physique

Getting it done.
In between sets of back squats with my old history professor yesterday, he mentioned a term to me that I had not previously heard before: Autodidact. Autodidacticism is "self-education or self-directed learning. In a sense, autodidacticism is "learning on your own" or "by yourself", and an autodidact is a person who teaches him or herself something" (Wikipedia).

Now this by itself is not a bad thing, however my professor used it in a way that describes someone who is self-taught without any discipline. Disciplines such as analysis of information, objectivity, and researching case studies for errors, flaws, seeing the physical results, etc...

I think autodidacticism contributes to many of the blatantly incorrect "facts" that we constantly hear in the weight lifting world, usually repeated by those who have no real idea what they are saying. One of the biggest incorrect mantras that is repeated is that strength training is detrimental to a child's growth and development.

The Myth
This myth has its roots in the 1970's. Researchers in Japan studied child laborers and discovered that, among their many misfortunes, the juvenile workers tended to be abnormally short. The researchers concluded that physical labor that involved heavy lifting had stunted the children's growth. Combined with anecdotal stories and myths, many came to believe that all children and adolescents should avoid strength training.

The myth is still very much alive. Parents, coaches, and pediatricians remained convinced (with no real proof or evidence to back up what they are saying) that strength training will cause short stature and cause a lack of strength in later years due to a lack of testosterone.
Someday I will be on his level.
The Truth

A major new review published in Pediatrics offers proof that not only does strength training prove to be safe for young people when in a safe, coached environment, it can be beneficial and even essential to a child's growth. Without exception, their 60 year study of children from 6 to 18 benefited from weight training and grew stronger without a loss of height. Naturally the older they got, the more strength they added. Curiously, the research also showed that while strength gains were linear, they didn't spike wildly after puberty when hormones begin to rage in teenagers' bodies.

Over all, the researchers concluded, “regardless of maturational age, children generally seem to be capable of increasing muscular strength.”

Interestingly enough, young people do not pack on bulk like most adults do when engaging in strength training. This fact was one of the reasons why researchers used to think that children did not get stronger. With adults, they tend to increase their muscle mass while strength training. Children simply lack the testosterone needed to pack on mass. Linear strength gains are still made however, regardless of no visible changes in mass.

Another interesting note is that children who have had strength training tend to have more neurological changes than other children--with their muscles and nervous system interacting more efficiently.  "So, in essence, strength training in children seems to liberate the innate strength of the muscle, to activate the power that has been in abeyance, unused." (NYT)

Many researchers have begun to reverse their old way of thinking, stating that instead of causing injury in children, strength training can actually help reverse it. If a child is sitting in front of a TV or is playing video games all day, that will leave him or her much more susceptible to injury because they don't have the connective tissue strength to withstand injury.

In closing, I am not saying that you should send your toddler down to the basement to work with some 200lb stones. I definitely don't recommend that. I am stating that starting your child on a simple program of pullups, pushups, air squats, medicine ball throws etc., will set them on a path for a healthy life.

The research suggests that magic age seems to be from 7-12, when their nervous systems are most eager to adapt to new growth. It is an ideal time to hard-wire strength training into your child's life. If you make it fun, it won't even seem like strength training at all.

Don't be an autodidact. Do your own research and use your own observations. Don't regurgitate hearsay from someone about a subject you know nothing about, it will just further disperse the myth.


1. New York Times

2. Queensland Weightlifting Association

3. The Mayo Clinic

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Common Mistakes on the Clean & Jerk

The clean & jerk is one of two Olympic lifts, with the other lift being the snatch. These lifts work on strength, power, speed, flexibility and coordination like no other. The Olympic lifts are also notoriously unforgiving of poor form and this inhibits many athletes from progressing very far in these lifts. The following chart will help outline some common, faults, causes, and the suggested corrections you can take to fix your lifts.

The Clean - Faults, Causes and Corrections
Possible Cause
Suggested Correction
  1. Lifter elevates Buttocks before raising bar

  • Insufficient leg strength
  • Insufficient flexibility
  • Weak posture muscles
  • Ankle tightness
  • Standard strength exercises
  • Lifting standing on blocks
  • Incorporate flexibility as a core element of training
  • Introduce core stability exercises as a core element of training
  • Seek professional advice (shoe implants, screening)
  1. Bar ends up being forward
  • Early movement onto toes before the bar reaches the knee
  • Projection of the bar is positioned ahead of the metatarsal-phalangeal joints, with a greater inclination of the shins in the starting position, therefore in lifting the weight the bar has to travel around the knees i.e. the bar turns out to be in front of the lifter.
  • The lifter does not fully straighten the trunk and legs and failing to utilize explosive hip drive
  • Arms bend early at the elbows
  • Elbows are taken back early in the final extension movement
  • The lifter fails to accomplish an upward pelvic rotation at the top of the pull extension
  • Position the bar closer to the ankle joints and ensure the shins at the start have a shallow inclination (Ankle angle should not be less 60-70 degrees.
  • Balance on both feet from start to full extension of the pull
  • Aim for fully extended legs, hips, trunk and shoulders
  • Elbows must move strictly upwards parallel with the trunk throughout the pull
  1. Bar is pulled excessively
  2. Backward
  • Early movement onto heels
  • Arms bend far too soon
  • Shoulders move back ward
  • Head is thrown back viciously
  • Balance on both feet
  • perform pulls standing on blocks
  • Elbows must move strictly upwards parallel with the trunk throughout the pull
  • Pulls and other movements from blocks set at designated heights
  • Perform Cleans from mid-thigh/waist using light weights
  • Increase back and abdominal (core) strength utilizing specific exercises
  1. Bar is lifted far away
  2. from shins in opening phase of Clean
  • Shins are too inclined
  • Angle of the ankle joint is to acute (less than 60 degrees)
  • Bar is positioned too far from the lifter
  • Position bar over metatarsal-phalengeal joint
  1. Bar travels forward
  2. Reacting from the thigh push
  • Lifter thrusts hips through not upward
  • Lifter sufficiently straightens legs but not hips
  • Lifters trunk remains inclined but hips travel forward
  • Ensure correct starting position
  • Keep balance
  • Ensure bar travels in most efficient line
  • Pulls from knee (concentric/eccentric)
  • Shrugs
6. Weak Full Extension

  • Insufficiently strong muscles
  • Too great a weight
  • Lifter fails to place knees under the bar to instigate upward bar trajectory
  • No coordination between extensors of legs, hips and trunk and
flexors of arms and shoulders
  • Build strength
  • Perfect practice = perfect skill application
  • Sub component exercises designed to enhance force application
  • Pulls from varying heights
  1. Bar Racked but not Secured

  • Lifter does not have sufficient time to rotate elbows
  • Collapsed chest
  • Lifter delays drop and looses momentum
  • Lifter drops rather than drives under the bar
  • Lack of flexibility around joint complexes
  • Emphasize drive under the bar
  • Clean drops from full extension
  • Correct breathing technique
  1. Knee Touch
  • Trunk inclined too far forward
  • Elbows not fully rotated
  • Bar not received on clavicles
  • Lethargic descent under the bar
  • Perform properly executed pulling movements
  • Cleans from varying heights
  • Specialized flexibility
  • Perform Bench and Incline Press

The Jerk - Faults, Causes and Corrections
Possible Cause
Suggested Correction
1. Weak Jerk
  • Lifter fails to make the preparatory dip on full feet but on toes
  • Lifter does not balance on two legs
  • Trunk inclines forward
  • Chest drops during dip
  • Hands grip bar too tightly
  • Bar lifts off clavicle during preparatory dip
  • A deep slow dip
  • Slow straightening of the legs
  • Keep the weight of the bar across the clavicles
  • Coordinate muscle and joint action to instigate the necessary force
  • Employ a soft grip to the bar
  • Keep trunk upright
  • Dip on both feet quickly
  • Stop the downward movement sharply
  • Utilize the elasticity of the bar
  • Straighten the legs vigorously
  • Instigate the greatest speed in the upward movement of the bar
  1. Bar turns out to
  2. be forward
  • The lifters does carry the shoulders and hips under the Center of Gravity
  • Preparatory dip is performed on the toes
  • The jerk off proceeds forwards and upwards away from the lifter
  • Feet do not split equally fore and aft
  • Chest drops
  • Weak postural muscles
  • Elbows are too far back
  • Perform preparatory dip on whole feet
  • Hold elbows slightly forward
  • Jerk off should be strictly upwards
  • Pelvis should be locked
  • Only knees displace form the mid-line
  • Include Jerk Balance as a corrective exercise
  1. Lifter drops too much in the Split
  • A slow deep preparatory dip
  • Limited drive from dip
  • Lifter travels very low in split to catch the bar on straight arms
  • Insufficient strength and coordination
  • Increase effort of upward drive
  • Practice Jerk Heaves
  • Half Front Squats
  • Speed
  1. Bar is jerked to straight arms but turns to be far back and holding the weight aloft is impossible
  • The Jerk of the bar is not vertical
  • The Jerk has significant horizontal translocation
  • The lifter moves hips, trunk and shoulders too far forward
  • Strict movement in pure vertical plane
  • Ensure hips, trunk and shoulders are placed exactly under the center of gravity
  • Practice Push Press, Jerk Balance, Jerk Heaves and Jamieson Squat exercises
  1. The bar is correctly jerked upwards to straight arms, but the lifter cannot hold onto the weight on straight arms
  • Poor movement in elbow joints
  • Insufficient mobility in shoulder joints
  • Excessive flexibility in radio-carpal joints >90 degrees
  • Work on exercises designed to develop flexibility in the elbow and shoulder joints
  • Bandage wrists or make use of wrist-band
  • Position bar closer to wrist joint
  • Turn forearms slightly out wards on the dip and drive
  1. Jerking the bar to arms length the lifter moves around the platform with weight aloft
  • Inexact work of the legs (asymmetrical)
  • Center of gravity situated outside of the base
  • Head thrown back and lifter looks upwards at the bar
  • Head is forced forward and shoulders extended
  • Legs cross paths
  • Head pressed into chin
  • Execute aggressive jerk off
  • Essential to split the legs fore and aft evenly and maintain shoulder width distance L-R
  • Hips, trunk and shoulders should be directly under bar
  • Head held straight looking forward

The above matrix relating to the Clean and Jerk mistakes is by no means exhaustive. Moreover, there are many different and subtle mistakes not listed above.
Prevention is better than cure. Technical mistakes need to be nipped as soon as they appear. The correction of mistakes, especially old ones, which are strengthened in the course of training, are very difficult to eradicate. 

On another note: Christina made chocolate chip cookies. Feast mode engage!

Chart taken from "". To read the original article, please visit this link

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Potential Benefits of Creatine Monohydrate

I recently started a cycle of creatine to see if it would affect my lifts in a positive way. I also hosted a CF total last weekend and added 55 pounds since the total in June. I would attribute the added poundage to the increased focus I have put on linear progression squat training, increased mobility and recovery time--not the creatine (since I started the cycle only 2 days prior). However, I know that creatine will eventually aid me in increasing my lifts, so I have decided to delve a little deeper into the subject and shed some light on the history of creatine and dispels some of the myths that surround it.


"Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid (protein building block) that's found in meat and fish, and also made by the human body in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. It is converted into creatine phosphate or phosphocreatine and stored in the muscles, where it is used for energy. During high-intensity, short-duration exercise, such as lifting weights or sprinting, phosphocreatine is converted into ATP, a major source of energy within the human body."

History of creatine

Reasearchers have known since the early 20th century that creatine could be harnessed as an energy source by skeletal muscles. In 1912, Dr. Otto Folin and Dr. Willey Glover Denis, researchers from Harvard University, found proof that an intake of creatine could drastically boost the creatine content of the muscle. Later in the 1920's, scientists used this information to further research the benefits of creatine. They discovered that by ingesting creatine in above average amounts, the intramuscular stores of creatine could be increased. They then discovered creatine phosphate and concluded that creatine is a key player in the metabolism of skeletal muscle. Creatine is naturally formed in all vertebrates.

This means that creatine is about as natural as fish oil--something for the Paleo disciples to think about before accusing creatine of being an unfair sports enhancer. After all, how "natural" is it to take the health benefits of a fish and put it in a pill or bottle of liquid and find it at your neighborhood Costco?
Not very.
The potential benefits of adding creatine to your programming

Since roughly 1992, creatine has been used by athletes in a variety of sports programs. For the sake of time, I am going to stick to the benefits that it can often to those involved in weightlifting.

Although not every single clinical study has agreed, most test conducted on animals and humans have shown that ingesting creatine improves lean muscle mass and strength during high intensity, short-duration exercises, such as weightlifting. This is why creatine does not really offer benefits to those involved in long-duration exercise, like marathons or triathlons.

Going along with the average American mindset that more is better, there is a myth that the more creatine you take, the better. According to scientists at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Male athletes excreted 46% of the creatine they ingested. In another study, scientists confirmed that lower doses of creatine are more effective (the general rule is that 5 grams of creatine a day is all you need).

There is another prevalent myth that creatine harms the kidneys and liver. Unless you have a pre-existing medical condition, creatine should not damage your kidneys or liver. As usual, most of the BS you hear is attributed to your local news station that hears anecdotal reports and portrays it as news. Studies have shown that after 12 weeks, athletes who consumed 10 grams of creatine per day did not suffer any negative consequences in their kidneys or liver.

The time of day does not really matter when it comes to consuming your daily regimen of creatine. Even though we do get some creatine in our daily diet, most of the creatine present in food is destroyed when we cook it. The average creatine intake for a non-vegetarian/vegan is about 1 gram.

A creatine "loading phase" is suggested when first starting a cycle. The loading phase is typically 5 grams of creatine taken 4 times a day on an empty stomach for 5 days. After the 5 days, backing the dosage to 5 grams a day typically delivers the best results.

In closing, a cycle of creatine may be beneficial to you and your lifts. The strength gains you make while taking creatine should continue even after you stop the cycle. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, see a doctor first to make sure that creatine is really in your best interests. For just about everyone else, creatine is a pretty harmless substance that is found in all vertebrates, and is NOT a form of steroids, no matter what FOX news tells you. The athletes who will benefit most from creatine use are those involved in sports that require high intensity bursts of strength and power. Endurance athletes will benefit very little, if at all.

  1. Adhihetty PJ, Beal MF. Creatine and its potential therapeutic value for targeting cellular energy impairment in neurodegenerative diseases. Neuromolecular Med. 2008;10(4):275-90. Epub 2008 Nov 13. Review.
  2. Beck TW, Housh TJ, Johnson GO, Coburn JW, Malek MH, Cramer JT. Effects of a drink containing creatine, amino acids, and protein combined with ten weeks of resistance training on body composition, strength, and anaerobic performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2007;21(1):100-4.
  3. Benzi G. Is there a rationale for the use of creatine either as nutritional supplementation or drug administration in humans participating in a sport? Pharmacol Res. 2000;41(3):255-264.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Real Deal With Saturated Fat

NOT an artery clogger.

With the possible exception of cholesterol, there has never been a more misunderstood facet of nutrition than saturated fat.

You've heard it all a million times: "Don't eat any saturated fat, it will clog up your arteries," or, "It will give you heart disease," and of course, "You'll become grossly obese and be shipped off to audition for the Biggest Loser."

Well, I'm here to tell you that you've been misled, misinformed, and downright manipulated by the media, medical organizations, and "health authorities" alike.

Thankfully for us all, this veil of dietary ignorance is starting to lift. Recently, popular health guru and one time anti-saturated fat zealot Dr. Andrew Weil admitted that he was wrong in his judgment of the effects of saturated fats on health, while also acknowledging the role that excess carb intake, particularly refined carbs, have on degenerative disease in America.
He was convinced, as were many others, in part by an analysis that combined the results of 21 studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition this year. It found that, "Saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke or coronary vascular disease."

There are many reasons — not to mention considerable scientific evidence — why you should consume reasonable amounts of saturated fat, but as a weightlifter, I'm going to share the ones that are most compelling to me.

Now please note, I'm not going to suggest you consume pounds of butter or eat three pounds of fatty ground beef every day. What I am suggesting is that saturated fats are healthy and helpful if included in a balanced, sensible diet.
First, let's talk terminology:

Saturated "Saturated fat" means that all available carbon atoms are occupied by a hydrogen atom. You can see this in the picture on the right. The important thing to take away from this is that unlike unsaturated fats, saturated fats are highly stable, and not likely to turn into free radicals or go rancid when exposed to heat, oxygen, or light.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out what you should be cooking with — yes, saturated fats, like grass-fed butter and virgin coconut oil.

Hydrogenated The term "hydrogenated" literally means they're blasting the chemical structure of the fat with extra hydrogen to bond to the carbon atom. This makes the fat solid at room temperature, and is essentially a man-made way to "create" a saturated fat.
This chemical process wreaks physiological havoc, as trans fats are essentially poisonous to the body. At the cellular level, trans fats replace saturated fat in the cell membrane, and sometimes the essential fatty acids as well. When this occurs, HDL goes down, and Lp(a) goes up, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease.

Margarine, now with extra BS in every bite!

Short, Medium, and Long Chain You should also be aware that there are short, medium, long chain, and very long chain fatty acid versions of fat. You'll hear more about the benefits of each below.
These fats have 4 to 6 carbon atoms and they're always saturated fats. You'll find these types of fats in butterfat from cows and goats, and these fats are excellent. They're antimicrobial, and serve as great sources of energy as they're broken down quite readily. Instead of needing bile salts to emulsify them, they absorb directly from the small intestine to the liver for a quick conversion to energy.
Shown on the right is butyric acid, a short chain fat with 4 carbon atoms. A good source would be butterfat.
These fats have 8 to 12 carbon atoms and are found mostly in tropical oils like coconut oil, and in butterfat. There are numerous benefits associated with regular consumption of these fats as well, as they're anti-viral and anti-microbial. They also serve as a very efficient fuel source, as your body breaks these down very easily in the liver by way of the small intestine as described above.
Shown on the right is lauric acid, a medium chain fat with 12 carbon atoms. Some sources include coconut oil and breastmilk.

These fats have from 14 to 18 carbon atoms. Examples are monounsaturated fats like olive oil, polyunsaturated fats like GLA, and then a saturated fat like stearic acid that's found in beef tallow.
There are reasons to like these saturated fats, too. In Sally Fallon's book, Nourishing Traditions, she talks about how stearic acid and palmitic acid are the preferred foods for the heart, which would explain why the fat that surrounds the heart is so highly saturated to begin with. In times of stress, your heart uses this fat.
Shown on the right is stearic acid, a long chain fat with 18 carbon atoms. Some sources include beef, cocoa butter, and chocolate.
These fats have from 20-24 carbon atoms. Most of these fats are unsaturated like EPA and DHA. Since these are not saturated, we won't discuss this type any further.
So now that we have a basic understanding of the different chemical structure of fats, let's talk more about the benefits, and relate it back to the above versions of saturated fats.

6 Key Benefits of Saturated Fats  

Saturated fats positively affect hormonal function. To be more specific, free Testosterone levels tend to be higher in those who include saturated fats in their diet. Free Testosterone should be a big deal to you, as it helps with muscle growth, tissue repair, immune system strength, and your sexual function.
Low-fat diets also increase Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin levels (SHBG). SHBG is a protein that grabs or binds to Testosterone, effectively making less free Testosterone available for your body. In my experience in working with athletes with low Testosterone levels, diets rich in saturated fats are the best way to deliver increased strength and size by natural means.

• Saturated fats help your tissues retain omega-3 fatty acids better and help convert omega-3 to its final usable form (DHA). We've all heard about the wonderful benefits of omega-3 fatty acids on our cardiovascular system. What if I told you there was a way to retain omega-3 better in your tissues? In her book "Know Your Fats," author Mary Enig describes how to do it.
Enig and others say that EFAs like fish oil are indeed good for you, but that you don't need as much when you eat appreciable amounts of saturated fats in your diet. Though your tissues can retain the valuable omega-3's better when saturated fat levels are up to snuff, it's still a good idea to eat wild-caught sources of salmon, or take high quality fish oil caps like Flameout.
Bottom line, there's no need to go crazy with it like some out there are suggesting.
What about plant forms of omega-3 like flax seed oil? The EPA/DHA Institute says that between 10-15% of the omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) converts to its usable form, DHA. This means that for every gram of fish oil you'd get from say, salmon, you'd need 6 grams from flax seed oil. But here's the good news if you like plant sources like flax: saturated fats help your body perform this conversion better!
One additional note: Research has shown that excess omega-6 will inhibit this conversion — so lay off the corn oil, and other omega 6-laden "dead" oil. It's crap.

Saturated fats strengthen our immune system. Although we're not tiny infants all our lives, we can still learn a lot from breastfeeding mothers out there. What's special about breast milk is that it has a lot of lauric acid in it. Lauric acid is a saturated fat of the medium chain type discussed earlier and is noteworthy for its ability to strengthen the immune system, which is why babies fed breast milk often have stronger immune systems.
Lauric acid is found in large quantities in coconut oil, another largely medium chain saturated fat, and for this reason I advise people use virgin coconut oil in their diets year-round. Be sure to not use a refined product that's been bleached, deodorized, or put through any of the other chemical processes. Get the non-refined virgin type.
The lauric acid that's in coconut oil has repeatedly been shown to exert anti-microbial effects and to reduce inflammatory immune system activity, including the ability to strengthen the immune system for HIV-positive patients. Be sure when buying coconut milk to get the full fat version to realize all the benefits!
Furthermore, those short chain fatty acids described above have excellent antimicrobial properties, meaning they fight bad bacteria in our guts and protect us from viruses. This is another reason why I love grass-fed butter; the butyric acid in it is short chain, and thus possesses these aforementioned benefits. My favorite way to use grass-fed butter is to put it on Ezekiel (sprouted grain) bread, on sweet potatoes, and on veggies.

Saturated fats strengthen the liver. The liver takes a beating every day thanks to all the toxins we eat, drink, and breathe in. There have been many animal studies demonstrating that beef tallow (beef fat) protects against alcohol induced liver injury. Coconut oil also protects the liver, as does palm oil and cocoa butter.
On the other side, diets high in polyunsaturated fat (mostly omega 6-laden oil) has the opposite effect, creating even more stress on the liver.

• Animal fats contain fat-soluble vitamins and allow for their uptake. Those familiar with the types of diets I recommend will know that I'm a huge believer in fat-soluble vitamins.
If you eat a few carrots thinking you're going to get enough Vitamin A, you're wrong. With the exception that this type of Vitamin A is really a carotene that needs to be converted to active Vitamin A, there's no fat to help with its absorption. Now let's say you eat some beef liver: tons of vitamin A, and there's saturated and monounsaturated fat in it to help make it more bio-available.
How about egg yolks? When you throw away the egg yolk, you're throwing away 245 IUs of Vitamin A, 18 IUs of Vitamin D, and the healthy fat to help it absorb properly. So what you're really throwing away is the nutrient density of the food.

• Saturated fats help your cholesterol profile and can help you live longer. If you replace carbs in your diet with saturated fat, you can expect the following:
When you eat carbs, it should serve as workout fuel, or as muscle glycogen replenishment. If you eat an excess of carbs, your liver converts them to fat (triglycerides), and then returns them right into the bloodstream. By keeping carbs lower, you avoid this.
Lower fat diets tend to lower cholesterol, but it comes at a cost. It also lowers the good stuff — HDL — and increases triglycerides, since a larger part of the diet is made up of carbs. Noted nutritional researcher Jeff Volek has many published studies confirming this.
Considerable research supports that the larger particles are not as atherogenic as the smaller pattern "B" particles, the ones that can cause problems down the road.
Research dating back to 1997 has shown that saturated fat can slightly increase LDL, but it also enlarges the particles. Jeff Volek's research demonstrated a 10% reduction in smaller particles, and this was with people increasing their fat consumption and decreasing their carb consumption.
Saturated fats make up at least 50% of cell membranes What you look like on the outside is heavily influenced by what's going on inside, especially at a cellular level. You don't want too much saturated or unsaturated fat; you need a blend to have perfectly functioning cells transmitting messages in and out. Excluding saturated fats from your diet will have an impact on the cell. I'm going to keep this one simple and leave it at that.

Wrapping Up      
A diet that will help get you leaner, help get you healthier, and provide you with much-needed energy to pound through tough workouts? All thanks to healthy amounts of saturated fat in the diet.

1. Volek, JS. Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, Jan, 1999, 82
2. Garg, M L, Federation Of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal, 1988, 2:4, "Meeting Abstracts,"American Oil Chemists Society Proceedings, May 1998, 7, Chicago, Il.
3. Emken EA, Dietary linoleic acid acid influences desaturation and acylation of deuterium-labeled linoleic and linolenic acids in young adult males. Biochemical Biophysical Acta, Aug 4, 1994; 1213 (3) 277-278
4. Kabara, J J, The Pharmacological Effects Of Lipids, The American Oil Chemists Society, Champaign, IL, 1978, 1-14. Cohen, L A, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 1986,  77:43
5. Cha, Y S and D S Sachan, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Aug 1994 13 (4): 338-43, Nanji, A A, Gastroenterology, Aug 1995, 109 (2) 547-54
6. USDA National Database Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Be A Little Different Than The Norm

One of the most interesting things I hear people say is that they don’t have money to work out, eat right, or take good supplements. Sometimes this excuse is valid. Most of the time, it isn’t.

This excuse for younger men and women usually plays out with them saying, “Eating healthy is so expensive.” 

Women say this and then go spend $100 on a haircut, $300 on a designer bag, and $35 weekly on a “mani/pedi.” Men, on the other hand, go out and party like rock stars, spending upward of $100 each time they go out on drinks and food afterward. God forbid these details are ever pointed out to them, though, because they act like self-justifying machines. “But you don’t understand. I want to have a life.” Really? That’s your excuse? Seriously?!

My point is that it’s essential to know what your priorities are and set out to live by them. Everything else that’s non-essential is just that—non-essential. A quote from the movie Fight Club sums it up perfectly—“No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide” (screenplay by Jim Uhls).

It’s in that moment of awareness—of being able to differentiate between what’s important and what isn’t—that separates those who succeed from those who don’t. Many people will pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to keep from feeling insignificant. They’ll drive cars that are out of their price range and pay for bags that could feed a hundred starving kids in Africa for a month, but they won’t take care of the one thing that, if done correctly, will give them the true feeling they’re looking for—their bodies.

They try to gain self-worth through things instead of earning that self-worth through actions and integrity. What they don’t understand is you don’t gain self-worth by having things but by doing meaningful work. This work can be in a career you find satisfying or it can be found in the work it takes to eat differently than others and train hard.

You don’t gain self-worth by taking the easy path that leaves you feeling empty but by taking the path that leads to a larger purpose. Sometimes, if not most of the time, that path towards a larger purpose isn’t the easier one. But that’s what allows you to know that the self-worth is real and true, not because it’s hard or different for the sake of being different but because, at the end of the day, you know you had to earn the results of your life. Although life has a way of occasionally beating all of us down, you know that you can take hold of one or two areas of it. You don’t play the victim or martyr, but instead you become the captain of your life. The expression “you get out of this life what you put in” is so true. What is also true is that in modern day society, one of the best ways to earn your self-worth is to earn your body.

Do I really need a reason to put this picture up? Its amazing.

For most of human civilization, we were made to store energy and make our bodies more efficient at movements. This is why steady state jogging can be such a waste of time when you’re trying to lose fat/weight. We get so efficient at conserving energy while jogging that the results become nil. In the past, we were naturally thinner and skinnier because we naturally ate fewer calories. There wasn’t any refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup that had us eating excessive calories without feeling full from those calories. We naturally moved more because we had to normally take part in earning the food that was eaten. Lastly, the environment was more natural. This means there weren’t any man-made chemicals that interfered with your mitochondria to burn energy or trans fats that literally disrupt fat loss.

Therefore, in modern day society (for most of us), in order to achieve a body worthy of awe, you have to earn it. The best way to gain self-worth (not self-esteem) is by doing the work with a larger purpose in mind. You’re busy creating something that others won’t do. You separate yourself from the crowd and know that you’re doing something that takes hard work, some effort, and some thinking. At the end of the day though, everyone—and I mean everyone—that I’ve ever seen earn a body worthy of awe through exercise and nutrition manipulation has that “edge.”

They feel different about working out and eating right. It isn’t something to be sloughed through but is a point of pride for them. They know that with enough effort, by continuing to utilize smarter methods, they can have control over one part of their lives that most people “can’t” or don’t—their bodies. They don’t need to brag, and they don’t listen to the naysayers. They simply allow themselves to be a little different than the norm. They eat the high protein breakfasts that keep them fuller longer and therefore eat less throughout the day. They “go out for drinks” but only have one.

They wake up a little earlier to go to the gym, or they go to the gym right after work instead of plopping down in front of the television. They strength train more and do less mindless cardio. They have their protein shakes and multi-vitamins with them during the day. They read about fitness and find small ways to get a little extra motivation. They bring healthy lunches with them to work and plan healthy snacks, so they don’t give into temptation. They spend money on things that are important to them such as supplements and equipment instead of on things based on what others think. Basically, they do the work that separates them from the norm but doesn’t ostracize them from those they care about.

Those they care about accept them and know they’re a little different than the “norm,” but it’s all good. What they don’t do is try to appease any stranger who thinks it’s good to give them nutrition advice. In other words, those who don’t matter, they let slide. Often times though, their friends will wonder why they do it. They ask things such as, “Isn’t it hard to stick to your diet or workout everyday?”

For the person who works out every day, the answer is usually “not really.” It has become a habit for them. From the outside looking in, they look a bit “different,” but to that individual, it’s a way of life.
In the end, you should do the same—allow yourself to be a little different than the ‘norm.’ Don’t let those who don’t matter discourage you or tell you what you can or can’t achieve when it comes to your body.

Excerpts taken from

To view the original article, please visit this link

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Myths and Facts About Weight Loss

The best method for NOT losing fat.
Weight loss is easy. Losing fat, without a significant amount of muscle loss, is the hard part. Through this article, I will attempt to shed the light on some myths that surround fat loss and explain why the weight can easily come back on if you get lazy.

In my opinion, one of the greatest misconceptions about fat loss is that it shouldn't be hard. You can partly blame mainstream media and actre... I mean personal trainers (like Jillian Michaels) who are constantly sending messages that fat loss can be achieved by taking a pill or spending 10 minutes with an 8 pound kettlebell. 

Furthering the myth is the media portrayal of the so-called "perfect woman" who in reality look like they would blow away in the wind. Most women get caught subconsciously believing that weight loss should be a simple thing and that they should feel ashamed for their body shape. In other words, weight loss is not easy for the majority of people, especially for those who are obese.
I would prescribe steaks and squats.
Let's go through some of the basic facts:

1. For most individuals, losing weight will be very hard.
It's just a fact that you will have to accept. Think about adjusting your eating habits and keeping your protein intake adequate for activity levels.

2. If you're trying to lose weight, you're going to be hungry sometimes.
Hunger doesn't mean that you are going to starve and die, it just means that you are in control of your body. Don't get me wrong though, there is a breaking point for everyone on their diet. However if you can't move past the initial hunger pangs, don't complain that you "cant lose weight even though you eat all the right foods".

3. You have to work out if you're trying to lose weight and keep it off long term.
This is where a lot of the crap gets spread around concerning fat loss. These are the kinds of people that will shell out money to join something like Weight Watcher's without exercising at all and make sure to tell all of their friends what they did to lose the weight. For some, this is all the social proof they need to be forever confused about weight loss. "Well my friend did Weight Watchers (or the South Beach Diet, or vegetarianism, etc.) and lost weight, so it must work!"

The trick is coming back to these people a year later who are still following the same diet and regained all of the weight they lost. Why? Because contrary to popular belief, your body isn't stupid. Your body will start to slow down thyroid hormones, adjust its metabolism to conserve energy and your leptin levels will drop, making you hungrier. It should be pretty evident that you need to modify your diet and exercise to keep the weight off.

4. When trying to lose fat, you should feel tired from working out.
This doesn't mean that you are unable to move afterwards. However it does mean that you shouldn't be able to do it all again 10 minutes later.
5. Just because a naturally skinny person likes a certain method of exercise, doesn't mean its the best type of exercise.
I am constantly presented with questions from women along the lines of "Well my friend has been doing pilates or spin class and she is really skinny, shouldn't I be doing that?" Here is my answer: Ask your friend if she has lost any actual fat or if she just thinks she looks better.

Her answer for fat loss will probably be "I don't know". This means no. Pilates didn't help her get "toned" and it didn't lengthen her muscles or build them up in any way. Getting into that aerobic pathway will led to muscle tissue breakdown as opposed to shorter, higher intensity exercises. You can easily spot the difference between a sprinter and a marathon runner:

Who looks healthier to you?
My final advice is this: if you really want to lose the fat, modify your eating plan. Start heavy strength training and stop being suckered into fat loss myths that fail every time!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Warrior Dash Recap

Taken from

This past weekend myself, my younger brother and my wife took part in the Warrior Dash in North Bend, WA. The whole event can basically be described as a combination of Woodstock, an insane clown posse concert, and a hipster convention.

It was a 3 1/2 mile foot race that took place mostly in very deep mud and had 10 obstacles spread throughout it. Naturally most of the hipsters said that last years race was a lot better, but since this was my first year I have nothing to compare it to. I thought it was great!

All racers were encouraged to show up with a full beard and outlandish costumes, hence the hipster convention. Here is a photo of my brother painted up like an old Pictish warrior:
Notice the idiot in red staring at my shirt.
I was going to paint myself up too, but I was nursing a Mexican food baby that morning and it just sounded like way too much work. I decided to just wear some short shorts and work on my tan. The going was pretty slow because Christina has some sort of knee problem where she can't run for very long. (If you ask me, the "knee" problem can be attributed to a Mexican pizza and quesadilla the night before. Love you honey!)

This town ain't big enough for the 11 of us.
The obstacles seemed pretty standard fare: there were the usual wall climbs, rope bridges, destroyed cars and obstacles filled with dirty tires. Naturally I had to help Christina through most of them, which is fine with me since I definitely got my money's worth.
You can see that Christina avoided this obstacle altogether.
I am not a huge fan of being covered in dirt (I know, I am ashamed) so as the race was nearing its end I was thinking that I would come out of pretty spic n' span...until I came to the last obstacle which involved crawling through a lake of watery mud and narrowly avoiding a tractor dumping more mud on me. We ended up looking like this:

God, I hate mud.
After the race we made sure to cash in our chips for a free beer from Pyramid Brewery, the Apricot Ale was the best.

Christina can't ever do something really healthy on the weekends without finding a way to counteract it with an epic dessert. Not that I am complaining, who wouldn't want an ice cream sandwich pie?
If you were to set this on a couch, it would resemble the rest of my weekend.
All in all, it was an awesome race. Traffic was terrible and horse crap was everywhere, but the sun actually came out, and it was nice to see some nature and get away from the skyscrapers of Seattle.

I plan on doing Metro Dash later this year, it looks to be a big improvement from last years race!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sticky Balsamic Ribs

You obviously clicked  on this post because you wanted ribs, so I won't tell you a long and pointless story about how I met someone at the grocery store and they inspired me to make these. Let's just get to the meat.

Sticky Balsamic Ribs

Serves 4-5 (Or 1 real man)

8 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar {divided}
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar {divided}
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 racks baby back pork ribs
1 1/2 cups water {divided}

Add the rosemary, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar & the cayenne to a small mixing bowl. Mince the garlic, add 1 teaspoon of salt to it & mash with the side of a chef knife. Add it to the marinade, along with a 1/2 tablespoon of kosher salt & 1/2 teaspoon pepper & mix all the ingredients together.
Rub evenly over the ribs & transfer to a storage container. Marinate, chilled, for 8-24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Arrange the ribs in a large roasting pan & pour a 1/2 cup water into the bottom. Cover tightly with foil & roast the ribs until the meat is very tender, about 1 3/4 hours. Remove from the oven & transfer the ribs to a platter.

Add 1 cup of water to the pan & using a wooden spoon, scrape up all the brown bits. Strain the liquid into a measuring cup, or gravy separator & skim off the fat. Transfer to a skillet & add a 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar & 1/4 cup brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil & simmer gently until reduced to about 1 cup, about 15 minutes.

Heat the grill. Brush some glaze over both sides of the ribs & grill, turning occasionally, until the ribs are hot & grill marks appear, about 6 minutes. Brush the ribs with some more glaze & serve.

  Photos and recipe taken from, To view their page, please visit this link.

We are doing Warrior Dash this weekend. Hopefully the weather clears up because it has looked like February for the past month!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The difference between exercise and training

Look around you and take it all in. America is in a very unhealthy place, despite the fact that you constantly hear a message from health gurus and government officials telling you to "get off your butt", "play for 60 minutes a day" and "start exercising!" 

Yet Americans continue to lead the way for the fattest country on earth.

My advice? Stop exercising! At least stop exercising in the traditional sense. More people than ever are exercising: whether its attending aerobic classes,  buying in-home exercise machines that resemble torture devices or trying new forms of cardio exercise. Yet here we are, still increasing the obesity epidemic every day.  You can go into any modern globo gym and see the same scene played out: lots of people reading or watching TV on the treadmill, talking, socializing around the weight equipment, and some doing exercises on strange machines that definitely don't mimic proper human movement. This kind of undirected exercise isn't doing much of anything to contribute to your fitness.

It appears to me that these people are simply going through the motions, giving exercises the same enthusiasm they give to washing dishes. This lackluster shuffle around the gym is what I would categorize as exercise. This "failure to train with a sufficient level of focus and intensity is the greatest obstacle to developing the results most profess to be seeking" (S. Phillips) 

Here is an example: Driving to the gym so you can walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes.
Case and point.
Though often used interchangeably, training and exercise are vastly different. Exercise is moving without a purpose and just going through the motions. It's what your Grandma does as she walks around the block.

Don't get me wrong, I am all for anything that elevates a heart rate and gets you off of your butt and for some, this is all that they might be capable of at the moment. But one of the biggest differences between training and exercising is that training is not an obligation that requires great discipline; training is powered by a vision. It is something that when you go to sleep, you can't wait to wake up the next morning to increase a PR or work on a weakness.

The few who truly mean business are easy to spot.They are usually in the corner of the gym, where most real free weight sections have been relegated to. They are walking around the gym with their head down, focused, intense with a sense of purpose. They aren't assholes, they are just in the "zone".

My advice? Talk to one of these people (after they are finished with their lifts) and see if they can assist you with your lifts and technique. Then get a training partner who is driven with purpose and get on a program. If you could only have one reason to make strength training part of your fitness life, try this fact on for size: It is the only way to re-shape your body. Attempting to transform a body with cardio alone is a futile gesture. Someone once said "if you’re shaped like a pear and do nothing but cardio training, you might lose some weight. But you’ll just end up looking like a smaller pear."

If you are serious about making a physical transformation and have a real desire to make measurable change, stop wasting time exercising and starting training!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ditching the mirror in your workouts

The Hypothesis
Regular training in front of a mirror will eventually lead to impaired physical performance, with specific decreases in reaction time, rate of force development, and balance. 

Ditch the mirror.

Show Me the Study!
Sorry, but if you require scientific evidence with empirical data, I don't have it.
In the performance world, it's not always necessary to wait for someone in a lab coat to "prove" what your body and experiences have already been telling you. While there may be no scientific evidence confirming my hypothesis, that doesn't mean I've abandoned all reason. My argument is based on logic and backed by years of in-the-trenches experience.
So, let's discuss.

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall

The typical commercial fitness center has every inch of available wall space covered by mirrors. This might be a problem.

Olympic lifting centers, unlike regular gyms, contain very few mirrors. Lifters there will intentionally turn away from the mirror while doing their lifts. Interesting...
Coming from a competitive lifting background where training took place in commercial gyms, I noticed that it would feel weird to squat without a mirror in front of me. So I started blocking the mirror while squatting. I wanted to "feel" the correct depth and not get used to using the mirror to judge.

Then while doing box jumps in front of a mirror one day, I realized that I was seeing myself jump and land instead of feeling the movement. It just didn't seem right to me. I decided to dig deeper.

Eyes vs. Inner Ears
Old people fall a lot more often than younger people. There are several reasons for this, but a leading hypothesis is that as we age, our internal sense of balance – which comes from the inner ear – desensitizes, and we start to rely on vision to maintain balance.
We use our eyes to see how we're aligned. If you start to fall over, things won't appear straight and you'll attempt to correct the problem. This system works, but not as well as relying on the inner ear to provide balance.

Using vision creates a slight delay in the reaction time necessary in correcting a balance problem. Light must travel from the objects around you to your eyes for you to interpret before sending out the signal to correct the loss of balance.

When you rely on your internal sense of balance, it's more sensitive to small changes and can immediately send out a signal to correct the imbalance when it detects it. The visual system is only slightly slower, but that little bit of time can make a difference and keep you on your feet.

A Simple Test
A test to see if you rely primarily on vision for balance is to stand on one foot and maintain balance for about 15 seconds. When you're relaxed and comfortable in that position, close your eyes and see how long you can go.

If you fall over within a second or two of closing your eyes, you're likely relying on vision for balance.

This is very common in older people. Younger people can often maintain their balance with their eyes closed – although I suspect trainees who've been lifting in front of a mirror for the last 10 years might fall over quickly when they close their eyes, even at a young age.

Performance and Balance
Relying on the mirror for feedback can have negative consequences. It could mean a slower reaction time and a slower rate of force development.

Remember that the visual system is slower than the internal system. If you use the mirror, you double the reaction time because you must see yourself move in the mirror, have that image come back to you, and then correct it.

On a slower lift that might not be a big deal, but on a big or explosive lift where strength and power are important, it can be significant.

How to Fix It

First, avoid using mirrors for the majority of lifts. Arranging a few yoga mats to cover up the mirror usually works well without bothering gym management.

In college we used a big bed sheet to cover up the mirror in front of the squat rack. (I worked in the gym, so that helped.)

Another option is to simply look away from the mirror while lifting, either slightly up or down, or even close your eyes while you lift.

You can also turn around and face away from the mirror, although this can be problematic while squatting. In a typical commercial gym you'll wind up staring at another mirror further away or a roomful of members going about their workouts. The added risk of having to walk backwards to re-rack the weight also make this impractical.

The issue isn't just limited to squatting. Deadlifts, military presses, rows, even heavy biceps curls are best performed away from the mirror, not to mention all variations of the Olympic lifts.

Pros and Cons
I prefer looking at all aspects of something rather than saying it's completely good or bad. Mirrors in the gym aren't all bad when used occasionally.

The mirror can provide instant visual feedback on proper form, and it can help teach body awareness. It also allows trainees to see themselves from different angles, which can provide valuable feedback.

It's also good for your confidence to see yourself doing something impressive like lifting a heavy weight. It can be cool to see yourself pumped up in the middle of a workout, too.
Part of my fitness philosophy has roots in bodybuilding, so I appreciate the visual feedback a mirror can provide. If someone hopes to be a competitive bodybuilder, he or she will have to spend a good amount of time learning how to pose, which is best done in front of a mirror.

That said, being a mirror-user in the past, I now believe the negatives outweigh the positives for big lifts.

With the low cost of a decent digital camera, many benefits of the mirror can be derived through filming your lifts. Watch the video immediately after the set. This provides better technique cues and feedback than a mirror, minus the visual distraction.
Additionally, a video of yourself doing something impressive is just as cool as seeing it in the mirror.

The Mirror Effect
The prolonged, repeated use of a mirror during training can result in a negative effect on performance. If you're skeptical, try covering up or avoiding the mirror on the majority of your lifts and see how you respond.

It might be awkward at first, and it will likely take some time to rewrite ingrained motor patterns, but I encourage you to persevere.

Removing the mirror from your workouts could lead to increased reaction time, increased rate of force development, and better balance. And if those things aren't enough to boost your ego, just bring along a camera.

Excerpts taken from