Home Posts tagged "Precision Nutrition" (Page 8)

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 11/7/12

Here's this week's list of recommended reading.  You'll be happy to note that there is absolutely no discussion of the election; I think we're all sick and tired of that by now!

8 Laws of Strength Training - This is a basic, but outstanding post from Bret Contreras.  I'd call this must-read for every beginning strength training enthusiast.

Jaundice or Just Yellow? - This is an excellent post at Precision Nutrition by Spencer Nadolsky.  If you eat a lot of pumpkin, give this a read.

Player Interview with Cubs Prospect John Andreoli - Current CP intern Jay Kolster interviews one of our pro guys on his hitting approach and how he prepares in the batting cage. This is a great read for coaches and players alike, as John is a guy who has worked extremely hard - and smart - to get to where he is.

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10 Ways to Sustain a Training Effect in Your Strength and Conditioning Programs

I'm going to let you in on a little shocker: I really don't train as hard as I used to train.

Blasphemy, I know.  Every strength and conditioning coach is supposed to constantly be pursuing a mythical level of fitness at all times.  Because it's my job to make people healthier and more athletic, I, in turn, am expected to be able to bench press 800, vertical jump 40 inches, complete a marathon in under three hours, and be able to fart lightning at a moment's notice.  While I can make a decent run at the last challenge after a batch of my mom's famous calico beans recipe, I guess I'm just content with not making optimal progress.

Now, don't get me wrong; I haven't let myself turn into a blob, and I'm still training 5-6 days a week.  The goals, however, have shifted since my last powerlifting meet in December of 2007. Nowadays, I get a lot more excited about watching one of our minor league guys get a big league call-up than I do about a ten-pound squat personal record after a 16-week training cycle. I worry more about being a better husband, business partner, boss, and coach than I do about whether I'm 10 or 11% body fat, and whether it'll make my weight class. And, I certainly expect these priorities to change even more when my wife and I decide to have kids.

In short, I think I'm a lot like a solid chunk of the exercising population.  Training hard excites me, but it doesn't define me anymore.

Interestingly, though, I really haven't wasted away like one might expect. In fact, I've gotten stronger while keeping my weight about the same - or slightly lower, right where I want to be.  Just for the heck of it, not too long ago, I staged my own little mock raw powerlifting meet and totaled 1435 at a body weight of 180.6 (1396 is considered an "Elite" total, as a frame of reference).  I used the giant cambered bar for squatting, simply because my shoulder gets cranky when I back squat. Sue me.

A few notes on the mock/impromptu meet:

1. Thanks to the CSP staff and interns for helping with spots, handoffs, and videos - and putting up with my musical selection (which I think, for the record, was an outstanding representative sample of modern training music).

2. I weighed in at 180.6 first thing that morning (about three hours before I lifted).  I didn't have to cut weight.

3. I had a scoop of Athletic Greens, two cups of coffee with vanilla protein powder, and five eggs with spinach, peppers, and onions for breakfast, then drank a bottle of water at the facility before I started.  So, I really didn't carb up for this "meet" (or really prepare for it in any capacity, for that matter). I did have an accidental open mouth kiss with my dog, Tank, while I was foam rolling when he licked my face while I wasn't looking.  I'm not sure if making out with a puggle constitutes ergogenic assistance? 

4. Speaking of Tank, he makes a great cameo during my opening squat.  He's eating air, in case you're wondering.

5. The great thing about squats in powerlifting meets is that they can look like good mornings to parallel and still pass.  Score!

6. I haven't free squatted with a wider, powerlifting style stance in about three years. So, you can say that I was a bit rusty, as evidenced that my stance width was a bit erratic from attempt to attempt (and especially narrow on the third squat).

7. The first squat and last deadlift were exactly 90 minutes apart.  Talk about efficiency!

All that said, I really don't think I could have even come close to this total back in 2007, and according to some research that says strength peaks at age 29, I should be on the downslope, especially if I'm not training as hard. So, what gives?

I suspect it has a little something to do with the fact that I have a pretty good idea of how to sustain a strength training effect. Much of it has to do with my experiences with in-season athletes; some of them waste away if they don't pay attention to detail and stay consistent with their training.  Meanwhile, others come back so strong that you'd think they never left.  Here are some of the factors that have surely helped me (and them) over the years.

1. Very little alcohol consumption.

My first date with my wife was April 22, 2007. She's seen me drink twice in the entire time we've known one another. I'm absolutely not going to stand on a soapbox and say that I don't think other people should drink; they can do what they want, but it just really isn't for me.

That said, if you're concerned with helping your strength training gains along (or simply sustaining them), simply have a look at the research on alcohol's negative effect on effect on endocrine status, sleep quality, neural drive, tissue quality, and recovery from exercise.  People who drink a lot feel and move like crap.  Sorry, I don't make the rules.

2. Early to bed, early to rise.

I find the 6AM world far more entertaining, refreshing, and productive than the 1AM world.  I feel better, train better, recovery better, and am an all-around happier person when I get to bed early and awake early without an alarm.  For me, 10:30PM to 6AM is pretty much the norm.

Now, for those who insist that sleeping 1:30AM to 9AM counts exactly the same, check out some of the research on night shift workers and their health; it's not good.  As a rule of thumb, one hour before midnight is worth two after midnight - and it certainly helps to try to go to bed and wake up at the same times each day. 

3. A foundation of strength and mobility.

In talking with our athletes about the relationship between off- and in-season training, I use the analogy of a bank account.  During the off-season, you make deposits (work hard and acquire a training effect).  When you go in-season, you make withdrawals (play your sport). If the withdrawals exceed the deposits, you're in trouble - and that's why in-season training is so important.

Now, for the general fitness folks, this simply means that if you put a lot of "money in the bank," you'll be prepared for the day when life gets crazy and you miss a few days in the gym.  You have more wiggle room to go on a spending spree.

Mobility works the same way.  Once you've built it, it's hard to lose unless you really go out of your way to avoid moving for an extended period of time.

4. Regular manual therapy.

I'm very fortunate to have an outstanding manual therapist next door to my office.  Chris Howard is a massage therapist and does a tremendous job with more diffuse approaches, recovery modalities, and some focal work with the Fibroblaster tool, plus fascial manipulation. Along with regular self-myofascial release, he has made a big difference in me staying healthy, which leads me to...

5. No missed training sessions.

I'm fortunate to have been very healthy over the years.  Like everyone, I've had minor niggles here and there, but haven't pushed through them and let them get out of hand.  It's better to skip benching one day and do higher rep floor presses than it is to push through some pain and wind up with a torn pec.  If long-term consistency is your goal, you have to be willing to assess risk: reward in your training on a regular basis.

Moreover, training is a part of my life, just like brushing my teeth, feeding the dog, or checking my email.  It's not an option to "squeeze it out" because my calendar gets too full.  I make time instead of finding time.  Of course, it's a lot easier when your office is part of a 15,000+ square-foot gym!

6. Lots of vegetables and quality protein.

Call me crazy, but I'd take grass-fed meatloaf and spinach and onions cooked in coconut oil over a chocolate cake any day of the week.  I'm not making that up; I just don't have much of a sweet tooth.

In Precision Nutrition, Dr. John Berardi talks about the 90% rule: as long as you're good with your nutrition 90% of the time, you can get away with slip-ups or intentional cheat meals for the other 10%.  If you eat five meals a day, that's 31-32 "clean" meals and 3-4 "whoops" meals each week.  When I think about it in that context, I'm probably more like 95-98% adherent, and the other 2-5% is me grabbing a protein bar on the fly while I'm coaching at CSP. I could certainly do a lot worse.

I'm sure Dr. Berardi would agree that if you get closer to 100%, you likely have a little wiggle room with your training program. For example, you might be able to cut back slightly on the amount of conditioning needed to meet your goals.

7. Great training partners.

I've been extremely fortunate to lift in a number of great environments, from my time in the University of Connecticut varsity weight room, to my days at Southside Gym, to Cressey Performance 1.0, 2.0, and now 3.0.  You've always got spotters nearby, and there are always guys to give you feedback on weight selection and technique.  We crack jokes, play loud music, and challenge and encourage each other.  I'm convinced that this factor more than any other can absolutely revolutionize the way many folks train; they need human interaction to get out of their comfort zone and realize what they're capable of accomplishing in the right environment.

8. Planned deloads.

I rarely take a week of training off altogether, but at least once a month, I'll reduce training stress substantially for 5-7 days to recharge.  The secret to avoiding burnout is to understand the difference between overload, overreaching, and overtraining.  The former two are important parts of the training equation, but if you are always seeking them 24/7/365, you can wind up with the latter. I talk about this in great detail in my e-book, The Art of the Deload.

9. Accountability.

In my opinion, one of the main reasons many people struggle to achieve their fitness goals is that they are only accountable to themselves - and that's a slippery slope if you aren't blessed with great willpower and perseverance.  It's one reason why we encourage our clients to tell their friends and family about their fitness goals; they'll constantly be reminded of them in conversation throughout the day.

Being in the fitness industry is a blessing because your peers and your clients/athletes are your accountability.  Fat personal trainers don't have full schedules.  Weak people don't become strength coaches of NFL teams.  And, in my shoes, it's magnified even more because I'm in front of thousands of people every single day through the videos on this website, DVDs that we've produced, and seminars at which I present.  Even if "tapping out" on my training was something that interested me, I have too much at stake.  Think about where you can find that level of accountability in your life to help you reach your goals.

10. Cool implements to keep things fun.

I live really close to our facility, so I often joke that I have the best 15,000 square-foot home gym you'll ever see.  We've got a bunch of specialty bars, bumper plates, slideboards, sleds, tires, sledgehammers, turf, kettlebells, dumbbells, bands, chains, farmer's walk handles, TRX units, medicine balls, a glute-ham, chest-supported row, functional trainers, benches, and a host of other implements that I'm surely forgetting.  There is absolutely no excuse for me to ever get bored with training, as I have an endless source of variety at my fingertips.

Now, I know some of you are thinking, "But Eric, I don't have anything cool at my commercial gym!"  My response to that has five parts:

a. If they didn't have what you needed, why did you give them your money instead of taking your business elsewhere?
b. Have you considered outfitting home gym?
c. They probably have a lot more than you might think, but you just need to be more creative and prepare a bit more.
d. Remember that there are many different ways to add variety to programming beyond just changing exercise selection.  You can tinker with sets, reps, rest intervals, training frequency, tempo, range-of-motion, and a host of other factors.
e. Have you used a strength and conditioning program written by a qualified coach? He or she may see the same equipment through a different lens than you do. 

These are surely just ten of countless factors that one can cite when it comes to sustaining performance over the long haul, and I'm sure that they'll change as I get older.  With that said, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section: what factors have contributed to you making (or sustaining) progress with your strength and conditioning programs?

Looking for a program to take the guesswork out of your programming?  Check out The High Performance Handbook.

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7 Strategies to Get More Vegetables in Your Diet

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach Chris Howard.

As a “nutrition guy” at Cressey Sports Performance, I spend a considerable amount of time looking over three-day food logs from our clients and athletes to help them create healthy food options for their menus. A common dietary trend among our young athletes and even some of our adults is a serious lack of vegetables. As a way to help the world at large consume more vegetables, I have come up with this list of seven strategies to get more vegetables in your diet.

1. Learn to Cook (or at least follow a recipe).

This strategy is a bit different from the other six, but it’s really where getting more vegetables in your diet has to start. Sure, you can eat vegetables raw; in fact, it’s encouraged, but you certainly get more variety from cooking them. Use Google as your friend and search for recipes that include vegetables or just different ways of making something as simple as broccoli. See some of the recommendations below for more information.

2. Include Vegetables in Smoothies.

In this post, Greg Robins talked about eating more pumpkin, and it made me think of a great smoothie recipe to enjoy this time of year. Here it is:

½ cup Canned Pumpkin (make sure it’s the pure pumpkin, NOT the pie filling)
½ cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1 scoop Low Carb Vanilla Protein Powder
¼ cup Walnuts
¼ cup Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
8oz. Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk
4oz. Water (just to thin it out a bit)

Throw all the ingredients in a blender and enjoy!


Of course, adding vegetables to smoothies doesn’t begin and end with pumpkin. Spinach is another smoothie-friendly vegetable common among the CP staff. It works in pretty much any smoothie and will usually be overpowered by the other ingredients so that you won’t even taste it. Still, you may get some weird looks from classmates and colleagues as they wonder what is in the green sludge you are drinking.

3. Make Soup/Chili.

Soup and chili recipes are a great way to hide vegetables. Brian St. Pierre has written extensively about his wife’s chili recipe, which is still one of my favorites. However, I have a new recipe that while technically not chili, looks, feels and tastes pretty darn similar. The recipe comes from Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo website. Be sure to check out her version of the recipe here. To make this recipe easier and quicker to make, I have chosen not to stuff the green peppers with the meat mixture, but to chop up the peppers and include them in the meat mixture, instead, which makes it more like a chili. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

4. Don’t Forget about Stir Fry.

While participating in the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating Coaching Program, I was introduced to Robb Wolf’s Food Matrix. He outlines a simple set of instructions that really hammer home how simple cooking and eating healthy can really be. Try this “recipe” with your next stir-fry:

1. Put oil in a skillet or wok;1-2 tbsp coconut or olive oil will work well.
2. Put some meat on the skillet or wok; think chicken, beef, or whatever you like
3. Let the meat cook for a minute or so.
4. Add a ton of veggies; I tend to use frozen broccoli, cauliflower, or stir-fry mixes.
5. Stir it around a few times.
6. Let it cook for 5-10 minutes, until the veggies and meat are cooked to your liking.
7. Eat and Enjoy! It's as simple as that.

This is not only easy to do, but you can also literally change the recipe every night for variety while still using the same cooking methods. Plus, I think this is something that even high schoolers can manage to do without burning down the house.


5. Add Flavor with Spices/Dressings.

Learning how to use spices on foods can really liven up a dish. Sure, there’s going to be some trial and error here, but it’s definitely worth a shot. Here’s a simple way to make kale, a superfood, taste better in the hopes of becoming a staple at your dinner table:

1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (you can substitute any spice you like here)


1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.
2. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt.
3. Bake on a cookie sheet until the edges brown but are not burnt; it'll be approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

6. Make omelets a regular breakfast selection.

One of the questions I always get is how to get vegetables in at breakfast. I usually suggest either a smoothie with spinach or pumpkin (see above), or - even better - an omelet. Again, from a variety standpoint, the options are really endless with an omelet. Here are some ideas:

a. Peppers
b. Onions
c. Tomatoes (Yes, they're technically fruits, but who cares? They are good for you.)
d. Salsa (best for those who are “easing” their way into vegetables)
e. Spinach
f. Mushrooms
g. Asparagus (if you're feeling bolder)
h. The list goes on and on…


7. Substitute Lettuce for Tortillas on Tacos and Fajitas.

What kid doesn’t love tacos? I know I could eat them every day for the rest of my life and never get sick of them. One way to make them healthier - and maybe a bit messier - is to substitute lettuce for the tortilla. Try experimenting with different types of lettuce to see which you like the best.

Eating vegetables doesn't have to be boring as long as you're willing to put a bit of thought into preparing them.  Give these tips a shot - and by all means, share any additional strategies you may have in the comments section below.

Note from EC: While we're on the topic of healthy nutrition, in case you haven't heard, here's a quick heads-up that Metabolic Cooking - my favorite cookbook of all time - is on sale for just $10 through the end of this week. My wife and I have used the recipes in this resource for years with great results. You can learn more HERE.


About the Author

Christopher Howard received his his Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo. In addition, Chris is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association, a Licensed Massage Therapist in the state of Massachusetts, and a Level 1 Certified Precision Nutrition Coach. Chris has been a strength coach at Cressey Sports Performance since 2010. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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Injury Nutrition and Supplementation: How to Get Back in the Game Sooner

 Today's guest blog comes from nutrition expert, Brian St. Pierre.

About three weeks ago, I broke part of my tibia while playing in a rugby tournament. Fortunately, my break isn’t too bad (though it is rather rare), as I only broke the bottom portion of the tibia, not the entire bone.

I got tackled on the final play of the game, and while we went on to score, giving us a chance to tie. Unfortunately, we missed the kick, and even more unfortunately, my ankle everted excessively. This eversion caused huge strain on my tibiocalcaneal ligament (the white one in the photo below), which is so damn strong that instead of spraining, it simply broke the bone where it attached to my tibia.


The worst part is that 1 in 6 of these breaks require surgery. I am young, fit and healthy, so I am hopefully not the “1,” but I still felt it was in my best interest to do everything I could to decrease the surgery odds.

Injuries are a part of the game; whether that game is rugby, baseball or just being a recreational exerciser – they can happen to all of us. While prevention is always the goal, once injury occurs, what can we do about it? A lot, actually.

You see, the body has a very organized recovery process. First is the coagulation phase which lasts 1-2 days. An inflammation phase follows, lasting up to 5 days post –injury. Third is the migration phase, which lasts from day 4 to 21 days post injury. Finally, the remodeling phase lasts from day 5 up to 2 years post injury.

With this in mind, we can use appropriate nutrition and supplement choices to improve the recovery process. The goal with an injury is to manage inflammation by controlling swelling and pain, and to assist with the remodeling phase to stimulate tissue growth (in my case, bone).

The trick is to not completely eliminate inflammation, as some is necessary for proper recovery, but too much can increase tissue damage and lengthen the recovery time. Here are some strategies for modulating inflammation:

1. Eating appropriate fat-dense foods.

Focusing consumption on plenty of extra virgin olive oil, various nuts, avocados, ground flax, chia seeds and wild fatty fish or fish oil. Fish oil is a must here, with a good goal being 3-9g of total fish oil per day.

In this same vein, it is even more important to minimize inflammatory promoters such as industrial vegetable oils – corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, sunflower, etc and especially trans fats.

2. Including specific foods and supplements.

Curcumin at 1-2g/day.
Bromelain 500-1000mg/day or 1 cup pineapple/day

3. Using NSAIDs appropriately.

NSAIDs do help with managing inflammation, but they also can hinder appropriate healing, in addition to many other possible side effects such as GI distress, bleeding, etc. They are best reserved for the inflammation phase of recovery only.

In addition to managing inflammation, it is also important to note that injuries increase our resting metabolic rates by 15-50%. In my case it is probably closer to 15, in the case of severe burns covering large amounts of the body, then it approaches 50%. As such, we need to consider the extent of the injury when we decide how to plan out nutrition to optimize tissue repair.

While overall calories needs will be higher than your needs if you were not injured, they are not as high as your needs are if you are healthy and training hard. In my case I was still able to lift 4x/wk with some modifications, but I was no longer able to walk the dog everyday for two miles, and my overall movement decreased, so my intake reflected that.

In addition, having some vitamin or mineral deficiencies can also inhibit healing and recovery. These deficiencies include vitamins A, Bs, C, and D, as well as copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc and calcium.

Additionally, some micronutrients may actually speed healing (though some are more specific to wounds than bone): vitamins A and C, copper and zinc are examples.

With all of that in mind, what did I actually do with my nutrition and supplementation to ensure a good recovery?

I actually increased my already substantial fruit and vegetable intake to help ensure adequate vitamin and mineral status, as well as providing anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and compounds.

I will also note that I have been experimenting with a BSP version of intermittent fasting (meaning I am not a slave to it, I do it on days when it fits my schedule, and don’t do it on days when it doesn’t, and I don’t worry if I only fast for 14 hours instead of 16 either).

Wake @ 5:30am – 12oz black coffee

7:00am – 12oz black coffee

7:30-8:30am – train

10:00am – Breakfast
• 5 whole pasture-raised eggs in 1 tsp grass-fed ghee
• ½ cup mixed peppers and onions
• large handful organic spinach
• salt and pepper to taste
• ½ cup old fashioned oats cooked with a little unsweetened vanilla almond milk
• 1 banana, sliced
• 1 tbsp organic milled flax
• cinnamon to taste
• 1 smoothie made of 2oz POM, 1 cup organic whole yogurt, ½ scoop vanilla protein, 5g creatine, bunch of blueberries and strawberries

2:00pm – Lunch
• 1 Ezekiel wrap
• 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil pesto
• large handful or two of organic spinach
• 1 chicken breast
• ½ 100cal pack wholly guacamole
• 12 baby carrots with other half of guac
• 1 organic apple
• (when uninjured I have another cup of yogurt, another half scoop of protein, a few slivered almonds, and some chopped strawberries here, but I intentionally dropped this knowing my needs were less)

6:00pm – Dinner
• 3 cups organic mixed greens
• 4 baby carrots
• ½ cucumber
• ¼ cup black beans
• ½ cup brown and wild rice
• a few croutons
• 2 tbsp expeller pressed canola oil ranch dressing
• 10oz grass-fed lean sirloin
• 1 glass wine or 1 Coors Light
• 3 squares Green & Black’s Organic 85% Cacao chocolate (1/4 serving)
• 1 serving mixed dried fruit

• Innate Response One Daily 2x/d
• 1g Curcumin 2x/d
• 500mg Vitamin C 2x/d
• 2000IU Vitamin D on weekdays
• 3g fish oil 2x/d (total of 3.6g EPA and DHA)
• 1 probiotic daily
• 3 ZMA 4x/wk

In advance, I’ll answer some of the questions I know will come up.:

1. I am only taking vitamin D on weekdays because I get plenty of sun on the weekends, and in fact I was only taking it a few days a week prior to the injury since I was walking the dog each afternoon and it has been a gorgeous summer.

2. I am taking the vitamin C merely because we had some kicking around the house; they were about to expire and I figured it wouldn’t hurt.

3. I don’t normally take ZMA, but I figured I would get a bottle for the extra zinc and magnesium, just for the next 5-6 weeks or until it runs out. I only take it on the nights before I train, as I tend to feel groggy if I take it every night.

4. I will only take the supplements in these amounts for four weeks. After that it returns to multi just once, 500mg curcumin, and 2g fish oil (1.2g EPA/DHA).

5. I will also not that I did take 800mg of ibuprofen 2x/d starting on day 3 of recovery, after the coagulation phase, and then only took for three more days, or until the inflammation phase was complete.


Don’t let an injury come between you and your health and fitness goals. As Eric has written, you can always train around an injury, and there are steps you can take to provide your body with the materials it needs to heal as rapidly and completely as possible.

Have you employed any nutritional or supplementation strategies to assist your recovery from an injury in the past? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments section below.

About the Author

Brian St. Pierre is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He received his degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition with a focus in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Maine, and he is currently pursuing his Master's degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the same institution. He was the Nutritionist and a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA for three years, and is now a coach with Precision Nutrition. Brian authored the Show and Go Nutrition Guide, the accompanying nutrition manual to Eric Cressey’s Show and Go Training System.

With his passion for seeing his clients succeed, Brian is able to use his knowledge, experience, and energy to create highly effective training and nutrition programs for clients of any age and background. For more information, check out his website.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 2/3/12

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading: The Art of Nutrition Coaching - I thought this guest post from Dr. John Berardi at PT on the Net was outstanding.  He highlights a counseling approach called Motivational Interviewing. I'm anxious to look into it myself. Strength Exercise: DB Bulgarian Split Squat from Deficit - Since my "Strength Exercise of the Week" column has been very popular over the past few weeks, I thought I'd highlight an old one that has slipped to the archives. 6 Questions About Tempo Training - Mike Robertson published this at T-Nation recently, and it made me realize this commonly misunderstood strength and conditioning topic has never really gotten the in-depth analysis or explanation it deserves. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!
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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/18/11

It's time to kick off the week with some recommended reading: Meet the Real John Berardi - Dr. John Berardi is a guy I really admire for the way he's built up a successful business (Precision Nutrition) and large following the right way: with fantastic information and and awesome "way" of getting through to people.  As I read this, it makes me appreciate that I could learn a lot from the good doctor on managing my personal time effectively, too! Men's Health: Coffee and Alzheimer's Disease - I stumbled onto this Men's Health blog by accident, but was very intrigued.  My grandfather passed away last fall after a long battle with Alzheimer's, and he absolutely loved coffee.  In the past, I've read stories about how the body seems to know how to self-medicate, and reading this blog about the association between coffee consumption and reduced Alzheimer's symptoms makes me wonder if Gramp knew something we didn't. Two Red Sox Prospects and Former Ivy League Rivals Find Common Ground - This ESPN Boston story features Cressey Performance athlete Matt Kramer, who has made the switch from catching to pitching in the middle of his pro career. Last, but certainly not least, don't miss out on Everything Elbow, the staff in-service I filmed last week. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Why Nobody Except Your Mom Reads Your Fitness Blog

I got an email from Dean Somerset a while back asking if I'd be willing to write up a post for his blog about how I built up a popular fitness blog myself.  I thought it over, and while I like Dean and enjoy reading his blog, I really didn't think I was the right person to write such a piece.  There are folks who are much smarter when it comes to behind-the-scenes stuff that goes in to running a blog - from Wordpress updates, to HTML formatting, to SEO optimization.   And, there are certainly folks out there who have monetized their blog far better than I ever will.

That said, I do feel that there was one incredibly valuable point I should make to the aspiring fitness bloggers out there:

If you don't have good content, your blog won't get consistent traffic.  It's really that simple.

I started this blog in early 2006 with really no idea what I was doing on the technology side of things.  I loved my job and was passionate about teaching - and writing gave me an avenue through which to do it.  Sometimes, I wrote about what I knew well, and sometimes, I wrote about topics where I wanted to improve - and researching them and teaching them to others was the best way to get better in these areas.  Before I ever hired someone to make my site look pretty, I'd built up a solid following of people who knew me purely for my content, enthusiasm, and accessibility to readers.

A trend I see with "rookie" fitness bloggers nowadays is to design a spectacular site from the get-go and devote all their resources to SEO optimization, pop-up ads, Google Adwords, and the like.  Unfortunately, these efforts are sabotaged by these bloggers' poor grammar/spelling and, more significantly, a complete lack of valuable information to offer to readers.

In any industry, you look for commonalities among those who succeed at what we do.  For ease of calculating "success," let's just use Alexa ranking.   You can learn more about it (and download a free toolbar) at www.Alexa.com, but for the sake of brevity, just understand that it is a measure of the popularity of a website.  Get more hits, receive more inbound links from popular sites, and have people spending more time on your site, and your Alexa rank will go down (a lower number is better).  Google is #1, Facebook is #2, Yahoo is #3, and so on.  It’s not a perfect measure by any means, but when you are dealing in the top one million sites or so, it’s generally accepted to be pretty good. I’m lucky to be at around 96,000 right now, and have been as high as 89,000 in the past.

If you’re in the top one million or so, you’re likely doing some very good traffic – and certainly enough to monetize your blog.  My buddy Tim Ferriss’ blog, for instance, currently has an Alexa ranking of 5,953, and he’s an absolute ninja on the entrepreneurial side of things, with two New York Times bestsellers and ownership stakes in the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, and several other companies.  He’s a success, in part, because every single one of his posts (and books) provides outstanding content that readers not only enjoy – but pass along to their friends.

Translating this message to the fitness industry, look at a guy like Charlie Weingroff.  He might be one of the few guys out there who understands technology less than I do, and there is absolutely nothing flashy about his site.  To be candid, it’s pretty basic.  You know what, though?  Charlie is an extremely bright (and strong) dude with a ton to teach, a passion for teaching it, and a knack for relating complex information in a user-friendly manner.  I don’t think his blog has even been out for 18 months, yet he’s ranked around 827,000.  And, he’s used his blog to make his expertise known, build a loyal following, and launch a successful product (which is outstanding, by the way).

There are several other fitness bloggers who’ve become “top one million” success stories purely with content.  John Berardi dominates with Precision Nutrition (54,000), which has been built with science, integrity, and an ultra-personal touch to great content all along.  My business partner, Tony Gentilcore (321,000) kicks out great content and entertains people like crazy.  My good friend Mike Robertson (125,000) is an awesome teacher and genuinely great guy.  Ben Bruno (314,000) innovates like crazy to build a following, and Chad Waterbury (509,000) only recently created his own web presence and has used content to quickly ascend the ranks.  Nate Green (202,000) is an excellent writer who has carved out a great niche for himself and built a great following at a young age because of his unique content.  Mike Reinold (412,000) has built a great following in a smaller internet segment (physical therapists) with consistent content featuring up-to-date research, attention to many different clinical perspectives, and a specific focus on upper extremity dysfunction.  These guys all offer something others don't.

You know who hasn’t built a big following?

  • The random fitness dudes who send Facebook friend requests to my wife because they have mutual friends – and these guys want to build their lists.  I’ve yet to meet a single one who is in the top 2 million.
  • The “fitness business guru” who emailed me four times, called my office twice, and snail-mailed me once (each of which was ignored) to try to get me to promote his product, which he guaranteed would make personal trainers “rich.”  His website ranked at higher than 6.6 million – which essentially means that he has zero traffic other than himself (and he’s probably just checking in to see if he’s gotten his first hit yet).  Instead of focusing on content (and moving out of his parents’ basement), he’s putting the cart in front of the horse and trying to sell a product on a topic (success) that he doesn’t even understand.
  • The random dude who wants to exchange links with me or be added to my blogroll so that he can improve his rankings without doing a thing, much less providing some value to me (or society in general).

The only thing that's worse than sucking at what you do is sucking at what you do and spending time and money to draw attention to it.

I started out thinking that this would be a short, to-the-point, blog, but as I now realize, that one little point was actually a very big one.  Pretty websites and behind-the-scenes tinkering are undoubtedly important components of taking an online presence to the next level, but the truth is that they don’t matter a bit unless the content that accompanies them is useful and entertaining.

If it’s not, then you’ll have a hard time even getting Mom’s attention.

Looking for more information on how to get your name out there in the writing world?  Check out some great information from three guys - Lou Schuler, Sean Hyson, and John Romaniello - who have been there, done that. They collaborated to create a great product, How to Get Published, that focuses heavily on writing success in the fitness industry.

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Success Tips: Find the Common Threads

Jay Bonn is a current Cressey Performance intern, but also a Lean Eating Coach for Precision Nutrition.  He recently pulled together an excellent piece on the commonalities of success in strength training programs, sports nutrition strategies, and strength and conditioning coaching.  I thought you all might like to take a look, as it's a great read: Success Tips: Find the Common Threads Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Lose Fat, Gain Muscle, Get Strong, and Laugh a Little – Installment 3

Reading today's blog post should instantly drop your body fat by about 10% and increase your bench press by 50 pounds.  I can't however, guarantee that you'll laugh at my attempts at humor. 1. I just came across this recently published study: The effects of resistance training on endurance capacity and muscle fiber composition in young top-level cyclists.  Researchers put a group of cyclists through 16 weeks of resistance training alongside their normal endurance training, and assessed muscle fiber composition and a variety of performance measures pre- and post-intervention.  A control group only did the endurance component. When all was said and done, researchers found that the combined group improved maximal muscular strength and rate of force development, a change that wasn't seen with the endurance-only group.  Both groups improved their short-term (5min) endurance capacity, but only the group that strength training improved in a 45- minute test.  So, effectively, you can say that these athletes improved in both endurance measures and strength/power measures simultaneously (probably helped by the fact that cyclists aren't exactly what I'd call "trained" in a strength training context - so they simply filled a void). However, it's a good lesson to be learned for the endurance athletes out there.  The endurance-only group was completely specific in their training; they only did cycling.  One might think that this specificity would allow them to achieve greater short-term results on endurance tests, but the opposite was true; those who did more strength training improved faster on both short and long measures of endurance performance (and without a change of muscle capillarization, an aerobic adaptation important for endurance athletes).  This just goes to show you that you need to exploit your windows of adaptation - even if they aren't things you enjoy doing. As a brief aside, my buddies Mike Westerdal and Elliott Hulse took some heat for talking about a "Type 3" muscle fiber in the weeks leading up to the release of their Lean Hybrid Muscle program.

My impression of what they intended was a type II fiber (presumably a IIa fiber) that could "swing" either way and hold both favorable endurance properties (e.g., capillarization, mitochondrial density) and strength qualities (e.g., maximal strength, rate of force development, and cross-sectional area).  This study tends to substantiate that assertion, as the research has shown (as with this study) that all training leads to a shift toward a slower twitch phenotype - but NOT all training leads to concurrent improvements in both endurance and strength/power measures.  Sure, we didn't have the most highly trained resistance training athletes, but I'd argue that they are more "fit" and "adapted" than a huge majority of the general population who participates in weight training.  Food for thought. 2. It's remarkable how similar the "Sillies" are to the new fitness gadgets that come out each week, huh?

3. That answers this question:

4. This is an old Precision Nutrition article that I just happened to come across, but it is absolutely fantastic (and very enlightening). I'm not a cereal guy, and thanks to this article, I doubt I'll become one anytime soon: All About Breakfast Cereals. Back tomorrow with more madness... Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Stuff You Should Read: 9/27/10

The good news is that I survived my bachelor party on Saturday night, but the bad news is that it pretty much wiped out my productivity this past weekend.  Fortunately, I was planning to throw a few gems from the archives your way, anyway.  Check out the following: 21st Century Nutrition: Talking Shop with Dr. John Berardi - JB is a good friend and a smart dude - and with Precision Nutrition rolling out a nutrition certification this week, it seemed like a great day to give this interview with him some love. The "Don't Squat" Recommendation - We've all heard it - and all wanted to vomit because of it. It's worth a read. Lats: Not Just for Pulldowns - The thing I remember most vividly about this article was that I wrote it faster and easier than any other contribution I've ever made to T-Nation.  It literally rolled off my fingers without hesitation.  I guess that means that I was 100% sure about it. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter:
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