Lunges vs Squats

March 27, 2015 — Leave a comment

Sorry to let you down – this is not another internet article about comparing the benefits of lunges vs squats or saying one is better than the other. Neither are better, they are just different. I think it is embarrassing though if you cannot step in varied directions without falling over because you are uncoordinated, lack balance, or lack single leg strength. Being able to do more stuff is better – unless you make your living by competing, at some point strong is strong enough and you reach a point of diminishing returns, and maybe it is time to sprinkle/layer in some new life skills. Level up suckas!

This article is going to talk about how I’ve come to think a lunge could/should be loaded.


Firstly – a split squat is not a lunge. Squats can be bilateral or with different stances. A lunge is a movement towards or away. I classify lunges in the step category of how I split up movement. fitwall_elements_sticks

A step could be forward, side ways, backwards, down, up, across, behind, or a combination of those things.

So, with a step, you would basically be traveling, but with regards to lunging I don’t mean covering large amounts of distance. This means you have picked up a foot, stepped in some direction, and then had to control your body through space via balance and and what is probably more inherent eccentric loading than is required in squatting.

*For this reason, when you start introducing lunges, they can ruin your next few days if you are not accustomed to much eccentric loading in your workouts (remembering that eccentric loading tends to produce higher levels of soreness). 

A lunge is one step towards something – think of a volleyball traveling quickly to your side – you lunge with one foot to get in position, then come back to your original position. Or it’s like a defender changing direction – they’re backpedaling then have to go forward, they’re side sliding then have to change directions, either way the last step (the direction change) is basically a lunge, or it’s at home when you step forward and bend over to pick something up, then stand up with that thing.

So – a lunge is a direction change. It is a single step with an up and down component, and a traveling to and away component.


Traditionally a lunge is only loaded for the up and down component. I think there is pretty good reason to load the away component as well.

I think I prefer loading a lunge with holding weights vs a barbell, but both work – you get the double whammy of a loaded carry during your set.

*This is not an attempt to be sport specific, or cute with loading. This is an attempt to get stronger with the away component.

Here is an example of a lateral lunge, where the lateral traveling component is resisted instead of the up and down. (yes, if you hold a dumbbell it increases the momentum to the side a little bit – but not like this). You could ALSO hold a weight in your hand – which is my favorite. Here is another way to load a lateral lunge, the traveling component.

Here is an example of a reverse lunge, where the up AND away components are resisted.  This challenges some rotation as well based on the way the shoulder strap is set.

Here is another, that challenges the core a bit more with an overhead position having to resist extension.

*Now, another really good way to train stepping (different than lunging) is to train continual stepping in one direction via drags/pushes. For example, here is loading a crossover step traveling sideways. You could do this traveling forward, laterally, dragging backwards…it’s all good. It is great for loading the away component-and whats nice is it really minimizes the eccentric piece, so you probably won’t get as sore. I like them for recovery workouts. 

What’s nice about all these above is they minimize the amount of spinal (or have zero) loading – so if you have a pissy back, you can still get strong in the legs.



Take a look at this video of an unloaded lateral lunge, and note the rather aggressive forward lean of the torsos. In any lunge (or squat), if you lean forward at the waist vs trying to keep a vertical torso you should engage the hip muscles more than if you try and remain vertical. People try to remain vertical because they confuse flat backs with vertical backs – they aren’t the same. Your chest should drop forward, similar to a deadlift, similar to a swing, aka a hinge.

Looking at a resisted reverse lunge – where the away component is resisted, you’ll see the same type of forward torso lean, as that lean makes for a much more powerful up AND away.

Here is one more way to load the up and away in a reverse lunge, with a barbell and landmine.

I think that it is very important to train this one sided/one legged hinge – as important as training a bilateral hinge. There are tons of people who can hinge nicely in a deadlift or swing, but as soon as they have to move on one foot they’re all up on their toes, asking lots from their knees and quads and not getting as much as they could from their hips. You should be able to tap into the hip hinge movement in a variety of movements – not just the “perfect” one you are looking for.

A completely vertical torso, IMO, is inferior to a forward lean…except if you are purposefully trying to emphasize quad/knee dominance in the movement. Which is fine, if that’s your goal. But for maximal power, lean forward.



I think it’s important to train lunges in many ways, and directions. I don’t think you need to train them super heavy – that’s what deadlifts and maybe squats are for. With lunges I wanna see us develop competency in moving in many ways. Training them in many ways means:

  • improving eccentric loading in many ways – which may/probably is good for injury prevention
  • improving mobility – the ability to express strength/control at larger ranges of motion and in different positions
  • reflexive stabilization and balance control, in relation to stable ground and not a wobble board/foam pad
  • increasing body awareness
  • increasing movement variability
  • How to vary:
    • vary the load: use up and down, to and away, or a combo of both, hold a pallof
    • vary the tempo
    • use slide boards which really challenge the eccentric component in a novel way
    • step in ALL directions. Examples: diagonally and transverse and everything in between!
    • add loaded drivers ps, often times in life we lunge to pick something up – so this is really “functional” (whatever that means)
  • When to use:
    • I like bodyweight or loaded driver lunges as warmups – just don’t over do it. It’s a great mobility drill that’ll also get you firing up the core. Think ten reps total of lateral lunge, reverse lunge, crossover, transverse, forward walking, step ups. That 30 reps/leg.
    • I like loading one lunge up as a strength challenge per workout. Usually I’ll do one type of squat and one type of lunge, a hinge, and a hammy drill.

Thanks, and try playing with your torso position, loading parameters, and increase the number of directions you step in!



February 13, 2014 — 1 Comment

So many people have so many excuses. Please let me help you out with some reality.

I don’t have enough time……..

FALSE. You don’t make time. 30 minutes at home, split into two 15 minute sessions is absolutely doable. Go old school, see how many times you can do the following circuit in 15 minutes. Do it when you wake up before you shower, and at night before you shower. You were just gonna check facebook anyway.

  • 50 jumping jacks
  • 10 pushups
  • 20 lunges
  • 20 bent over stack of books or something sorta heavy rows

Also, many gyms have 30-45 minutes classes. Take Fitwall for example, 40 minute class that’s gonna be fun, motivational, and effective.

it’s too expensive….

FALSE. You don’t budget effectively to support your health. Stop buying so much water, coffee, kombucha, and coconut water. (that’s a note to myself as well btw). Let’s just say you purchased $5 of beverages on average per day….that’d be $150/month that you could apply towards a better fitness program. One where you have support, leadership, motivation help, and get led by people who know what they are doing.

Eat out less often. Like 3 times each month, don’t eat out…and boom, you have money for fitness expertise!

it’s too hard….

FALSE. You just need to adjust your expectations. You can’t go super hard right away. Read this featuring the homies Dick Talens of and Rog Law of

Again, you just have no idea of what to do. I know fitness, when my car needs fixing I go to a mechanic. Think of me, and other fitness professionals, as mechanics for your broken, run down body. Go get some help!

I’m not fit enough….

EXACTLY. This is mind boggling when I hear it, but I get it. You are scared. You feel bad. Fitness professionals will help you. Real life isn’t the biggest loser, we will not berate you. We will encourage, motivate, and help you. Our only goal is to see you get better.

And if none of that works….watch this clip and then ask yourself….”do I really have an excuse that will keep me from getting a little bit better every day?”

what does it take

February 7, 2014 — 1 Comment

I see a very big disconnect from what people expect out of life, work and the universe and what they are willing to do to achieve it.

What I mean is this: you aren’t owed anything. You earn what you earn…continually. Until you can, you can’t just stop grinding, hustling, and earning.  If you aren’t getting what you want, figure out how to make it happen. Maybe it means more hours, maybe it means reading more books. It definitely doesn’t mean “ensuring you have your play time”.


Let me tell you how I see it when we have motivational speakers or tycoons or whomever telling you that you “need to take the time for you and do the things you enjoy” or “do what you love and get rich”. The people telling  selling you that are getting rich doing it, because they are telling you what you want to hear. They started taking time off after they got where they wanted to go, not during.

Here is a quote that has never ever been said by someone telling you what it is they did to get successful “I made sure to only work 40 hours. Take 2 days off each week, take my vacations, and do everything I wanted to do”. NOPE. It is more like “Yes I made sacrifices. I basically slept in my office for 2 years, and that’s how I got to where I am now. I made sacrifices.” 

Increasingly, it seems as though people think they are owed things without putting in the work: be it more money, more time to do fun things, a promotion etc.  I wonder if this is because of all the motivational speakers, infomercials, and other “promisers” telling everyone what they want to hear.

A little balance

Now, I’m not saying there isn’t merit to doing what you want in life. You absolutely have to have some balance. But the expectations seem askew to me. Everyone will have a different ratio of work to leisure time that they need. The people who run shit, seem to have a better ability to withstand a more demanding work schedule. They have better copability in general.  Don’t whine about not getting what you think you are owed if you aren’t doing everything you can to make sure it happens. That’s little kid stuff aka bratty.

You have to take care of your loved ones as well. Often times it is they who are the ones distressed most by long hours and other demands. I get that. But they should understand why you are doing what you are doing-that being hustling and setting up a future. They should be supporting you to succeed instead of guilting you into feeling like you are making bad choices.

Do what you “love”

No. Do what you don’t hate. Do what you are good at. Do what you can handle doing, and provide for yourself and family. If you hate it, then definitely leave. But if you think you are gonna get ahead playing video games, you are likely gonna be broke. If you think you’re going to get rich being a food critic, you are gonna be disappointed. This is a foolish expectation.

Do something that has “meaning”

WTF is meaning? My meaning is providing in such a way that my people and I can eat how we want to, do things when we want to (assuming it doesn’t take away from what we need to do first), and save a little. If you “need” to feel like you are having a positive impact on the world, I guess you could go be a very annoying green peace sign holder in front of Trader Joe’s. And then whine about how you don’t get paid enough or that you’ve been holding a sign for 40 hours these last 4 months and you want to be promoted to the whole foods lot instead of the trader joes lot and it isn’t fair that you have to stay in the trader joe’s lot because you’ve worked so hard.

I love seeing people get fitter and healthier. That’s a goal of mine in fitness. It’s tied with the fact that I’m good at teaching it. And that I happen to really be interested in how the body works.

wow, clif is sure cynical!

maybe. maybe just more realistic. maybe not a whiner. maybe not a sissy ;)

All I am saying here is: nobody owes you anything. If you did a couple good things in the past, put in work in the past, congratulations and good for you. But what are you doing now?

I used to spend 5 hours/week playing basketball, 2-3 nights a week hanging out with friends. I had fun. I saved no money. Those days were good days, and I don’t regret what I did at all. I was in a job where I worked 50 hours a week enthusiastically and would’ve done more if CA allowed it, and I moved up through the ranks really fast. I left that job, and started with another, where I worked everyday and flew around the country for 16 months. Now I’m with Fitwall and I recently took one day off-to get married.  I don’t expect everyone to agree with me in this post. I don’t expect others to work like me, or like the CEOs and successful people work-but I don’t expect to see those others move ahead either.

Now that I’m done with my morning rant, it’s back to work. We have more people out there who need to try Fitwall so we can open in other cities.

Do as much as you can handle. Don’t do more. But understand that if someone can handle more, and produce more-that is the person who is moving forward. I’m not letting anyone work harder than I.  Some will say-you stop being effective after a certain point. I agree. That’s when I rest, go to the gym, watch a movie, or go to bed. And then I get back at it.

I feel like this should end with “stay thirsty my friends” even though it doesn’t really make sense.

stay thirsty my friends”


what is a fad

February 6, 2014 — Leave a comment

Random Thoughts….

So I’ve been pretty dang quiet here, on account of being busy getting married, and helping to open up multiple Fitwall studios. So here are some quasi related things that I’ve been thinking about…

Is Fitwall just a “fad”? I have to answer this question because of the fact that in the fitness industry certain things come and go. Well here are a few reasons that Fitwall is not going to be a “fad”.

  • We are using the most used and advanced training equipment in the history of ever. Your own body!  One of our advisors, Dr. Mantell, says it very well “at Fitwall the only thing that moves is you”.
  • We are primarily a bodyweight movement centered training program. Think: pushups, lunges, squats, hip hinges, rotation, anti rotation, pulling, climbing, crawling. The Fitwall itself is a large tool-the way that a KB, barbell, cable, or pull-up bar is a tool. Each of these tools allows for some specific exercises and benefits.
  • Bodyweight training has been around for, ummm….FOREVER.
    • Now…the Fitwall as a tool allows us challenge the body in some very unique ways, that I don’t see repeatable at other gyms. Namely the large amount of reflexive stability demands required to stabilize and control movement when on the wall. Other bonuses such as working pinch grip, fat grip, and horizontal pulling in large amounts are also great.
    • I don’t believe I can recall many people commenting on how “bodyweight movements, aka calisthenics”  is a “fad”.
      • It’s cute how people see a 3 minute piece on some news outlet about what we are doing and come to conclusions that it is a “fad”, or “gimmicky”. Cute because without trying something or spending any time doing it-one is simply ignorant about what they are commenting on.
    • In fact, bodyweight training is only getting more and more popular, in many programs, because the industry is coming around to the fact that simplification of training the body into body parts, or even into specific qualities of fitness can be an inefficient way to reach their goals. READ: machines are not all that great, and neither is just barbells.
      • To reiterate…the Fitwall is not a machine. It is an opportunity to explore movement of the human body in novel ways.
  • We are using solid, scientifically sound programming and relying on real expertise.
    • This is definitely a dig at most “professionals” out there. If you got your certification in a weekend cert, be it CrossFit, Pilates, Yoga, KB, or anything….it doesn’t mean you are a fitness professional. I don’t believe everyone needs to have a masters, or even a bachelors in Kinesiology in order to understand human movement and be a good coach. But when someone decides to get their weekend cert and “parrots” what they are told without a single critical thought about what they are taught, they are not a professional.
      • Examples: “this bind will help cleanse your spleen” -NO IT WON’T
        • “squats and deadlifts is the only core work you need” -NO IT ISN’T
        • “we are lengthening and toning” -I WANNA SHOOT MYSELF WHEN I HEAR THIS
        • “it really works more core because they cue me to brace my core the whole class” -YEAH…PROBABLY NOT A GOOD THING. THE CORE SHOULD BE ABLE TO RESPOND AND BE REFLEXIVE, NOT JUST TIGHT AT ALL POINTS.
        • “I’m gonna get that yoga butt” -THOSE ARE JUST THE PANTS. GO SQUAT AND HIP HINGE UNDER LOAD PLEASE.
      • Picking movements at random, and doing always high intensity wods, which when you look back seem very very same to each other, is a great way to over do things
      • Looking at the “experts” of a gym where a recent commentator saying Fitwall is likely a fad I noticed something: not one had much of any experience in the fitness industry. They were all people who lost weight doing their exercise, got certified, and decided to open a gym. This is not to say the gym is not good, doesn’t produce results, and can’t yield a great training session. However, I can tell you that our team is going to remain to be the most qualified and experienced group that we can possibly be. As a result of this experience and expertise we will be delivering exceptionally well thought out programming. I will gladly entertain any questions as to what and why we do the things the way we do.

Now…I understand why and where some “fad” criticisms come from…most likely our integration of technology into the training setting. However, if that is why you think it is a fad then you are simply ignoring the increased utilization of technology and monitoring to track and enhance how people train. We are using the tech to enhance and guide a smarter training experience. Here’s how…

  • we track your recovery in one minute blocks following one minute all out efforts of various drills.  We use the historical average of your recovery to track fitness improvements, and also to serve as a measure of when to take it easy. So if your average 1minute recovery after our first sprint is generally 30 beats, and today you only get 22, the system will tell you to make it an easy day. It clearly shows your recovery being compromised, so we treat it as a regeneration day and ask you to only take your HR to no more than 80% during the workout. We use your own personal Fitwall max HR to come up with the %’s because all the estimates and formulas in the world aren’t as exact.
  • we will be counting your reps via accelerometer and comparing it to your past efforts in the same exercise in the same workouts. You do more of something in the same time and you are fitter.
  • We send it all to the cloud where your info is stored, and you can track how awesomely you are improving.
  • We have videos of the movements going while you exercise, not for you to follow and not to be the coach, but to help with form ongoingly rather than people looking side to side at each other.

Oh yeah….also….we have TWO studios and are making this much noise. It’s because people who understand fitness are paying attention. It’s because we do have a big thing that happening. My goal is to make the most delicious fitness gummi vitamin possible. One where it tastes delicious with sweet timed music mixes to the workout, where the vibe is fun and funny, but also where nobody is going to tell you that you will lengthen your muscles and tone and not get bulky.

GOAL: The best group training available. Most principle based. We aren’t just doing things because they are “hard” like a bootcamp generally does. We aren’t just going for the burn. This is real athletic training.

PS….in our private training rooms, we have heavy stuff to pick up, squat, and press. I just don’t think that should be taught in a fast moving group class to people who are generally not experienced enough to be doing heavy weighted movements in a large class environment. But we do have them available because yes, it’s important, and yes, people should do that once they have a certain movement and strength baseline.

Big things poppin

February 5, 2014 — Leave a comment

I generally like to remain humble. Ish. But we are making some pretty big noise here at Fitwall…my follow up post to this article will be as to why we are awesome and not another fitness fad. But for now….here are some press pieces…




Detail’s Magazine



Tech Crunch

Huff Post

Women’s Health-about Fitwall

Women’s Health-Fitwall workout with no wall

aaaand that is just the national press. Our San Diego regional coverage has been great as well. Tomorrow….why this is the case!

Go to and sign up….and get your first class free.

We have amazing coaches…I am picking them! (maniacal laugh)

Why don’t people come to the gym? I know, we as trainers know, that perhaps the biggest reason potential gym goers do not start is that they are scared. Scared of failure perhaps, but more so scared of embarrassment.

I see it all the time, people come in to our Fitwall gym, see our clients exercising doing things like pull-ups, speed skaters, pushups, crawling, etc and the onlooker immediately says “oh that’s too hard for me”.

Bullshit… what I think internally, because I don’t understand the intimidation factor with exercise. But perhaps, I think I know exactly what it feels like….my fiance loves to dance, I however do not. Partially it is because I’ve never actually had any fun dancing without some liquid encouragement, but mostly it is because I don’t wanna make an ass of my self on accident. So I don’t dance. If I substitute workout for dance, I understand exactly what’s going on-only it has much more serious implications on health and self confidence.

Our Fitwall workouts are quite athletic in nature, and people are scared that they will look goofy/silly/uncoordinated/etc, so we try to coddle and nurture and encourage as much as humanly possible without actually having a cry together feel better session during the workout-because the most important thing for someone to feel when starting a new program is safe and successful. Nobody gets their form ‘perfect’ right away, and I don’t think that matters as much as the scare mongering training crowd makes it seem to matter. Nobody gets real results in 2 weeks, despite all the 2 week drop 10lb silliness out there. We make sure to let our clients know that because we have 2 coaches in each group session, they will be safe and they will improve every time they come in.

Take a looksy at this article where brain activity is markedly different between normal body sized people and overweight/obese people. Basically, the gym looks like a fun or good idea to normal/fit people and looks like a scary or waste of time to a fat person. So it is up to us, to be a safe haven or at least as not scary as possible to help them come in to our gyms where we are doing “better” exercise than what they will get at Planet Fitness.  Now, while I think that planet fitness is largely a bullshit excuse for a gym that encourages non impactful training principles and basically is just a predator that wants to grab millions of people at $10/month who actually will never go but will never cancel their $10/month charge and doesn’t actually care at all about the people it is marketing to, they do have a very effective and pretty funny marketing campaign. (each of those words is a link to a really funny video). Seriously, planet fitness is fine if that gets someone working out, and I have lots of posts and every workshop I say “do whatever you enjoy, because that is the only thing you will consistently do long term.”

I personally believe that many many people have no interest in putting forth actual effort in their attempts to lose weight/get fitter. I see lots of people emerge from pilates and yoga studios with zero sweat on them. When they try one of my workouts it is hard by comparison. I believe that many people don’t want to do hard because 1. they are scared if they actually try they may still actually fail 2. they have been lied to that easy can get things done. The $10/month crowd or 1x/week crowd or don’t want to sweat crowd is NOT serious about making changes in their life, generally speaking.

The gym as a scapegoat? My perhaps cynical view is that some people just want to blame their workout. I’ve seen people who sign up for a membership who go 4 times in a month and complain they aren’t getting results. I see people who go 10 times a month but party every weekend and drink wine every night and have bagels and cereal every day (despite attempted food interventions) who complain they aren’t getting results. People often times just want to say that their exercise of choice didn’t work, and take zero ownership for why their own lifestyle choices is what is actually not working. I believe this plays a large role in why many people bounce from method to method-because they get to say “i tried everything”….except not eating like an asshole and getting some sleep! There are lots of success stories that end with “i decided to make a change, and committed to xyz” none say “ i decided to go to the gym a few times each month”. Here is how one of my first time client meetings went last year, and is definitely not the beginning of a success story…

Me “what’s your main goal?”

her “fat loss”

me while looking at self diet report “are you willing to give up Dr. Pepper and reese’s pieces?”

her “no.”

me “then your main goal is dr. pepper and reese’s pieces, not fat loss. I will get you stronger, and fitter, maybe leaner, but I guarantee nothing in terms of fat loss based on your diet”

I can tell you with confidence, she would’ve blamed me for her inability to lose fat if I didn’t say that….because she was blaming her previous trainer. We can be scapegoats. She wasn’t scared of failure, she wanted something to blame for failure other than herself.

furtherly meandering in a hard to follow blog…perhaps another way to decrease the gym intimidation is to focus on making it fun. I talked about it here. And the best example in the USA has gotta be Mark Fisher Fitness.  Make it more fun, it becomes less scary, you get more people, then they do good exercise, and they get better! oh ya

So who’s to blame? The gym staff or the potential clients? Nobody is to blame…some people just don’t want to be different than how they are. For every person who wants to have fun, and make changes, come see me and most coaches out there who really do want to make differences in peoples’ lives.

So what do you think? How do you get more people to come into your gym? How do you break down walls?

*If anyone misconstrues this as fat shaming, calm down. Fat is not meant to be a negative term here, it is a descriptor. also, I apologize how this got jumbled, my 30 minutes of edits somehow got lost, and my frustration with that made me decide to just post it up or else I’d risk going another 6months without a blog post.

I like to think of myself as a realist, and not an idealist. In my reality, not everyone can, and certainly not everyone should, squat ass to grass while exercising. 

I bolded exercising because my argument here is dependent on one caveat, which is this:


EXAMPLE: The lunge as an exercise vs the lunge as a movement.

It’s ridiculous to say that the knee should never go past the foot when lunging into the the bottom back corner of your closet to find that badass tie with skulls on it; sometimes your knee will go past your foot when moving around in life and THAT IS FINE. It’s different when you load it. If I put additional load, or perform a ton of repetitions, or change the pace at which I perform a movement in order to make it challenging and turn it into exercise, I need to make sure that I put my body in the best bio-mechanical positions in order to produce power safely, for the amount of time I am doing it, in order to keep the exercise safe, as many of the “suboptimal” positions for creating power rely on structural support vs muscular support. (think, a lunge where you have your knee pass your front foot relies more on the back of the ankle and on the knee structure for support relative to a lunge position where your front leg is 90 degrees bent) In exercise, if you continue to go to these suboptimal positions the demand on the structural bits of the body will continue to increase because the muscular contribution will lessen as fatigue sets in. This is why when exercising, form which places less relative load on structure, and more on muscular, is a better option.

Back to the squat…

Squatting as a movement and squatting as an exercise are two different things.

  • Butt wink! Beware the dreaded butt wink…it’s the plague of our generation and many strength coaches would have you believe that you shouldn’t have this happening…EVER. Well, the problem is, it is natural for every person at some depth, and even babies have the butt wink! Seriously, look at all the annoying pictures of “perfect” deep squat babies, and you’ll see most of them in a butt wink. But(t) it’s okay! The spine is made to flex, it’s made to allow for this to happen in movement…it only is a problem if you turn it into an exercise-by loading it, by doing it for lots and lots of reps, or by doing it explosively. Unweighted, and assuming no existing bulges or disc issues, a deep squat can be a goal, and can be improved by some smart mobilizations and more often by just practicing getting stronger at available ranges of motion. However, we need to be realistic and understand that sometimes structural, and not muscular limitations is why the butt wink exists, and because of this we shouldn’t spend ages trying to “fix” something that is just natural anyway. Exercise the squat under load, with reps, and explosively in the available ranges of motion where the muscular system is prioritized over the structural system-this means that many, aka most, will not be squatting ass to grass and that is ok. We can work those ranges in different exercises where the hips are taken out of the equation (single leg, split stances). Please watch this video with Stu McGill discussing anatomical reasoning as to why you shouldn’t squat past the butt wink, and then only apply his advice to exercise which is different than unloaded movement! Also check out this article which also discussing structural differences and how they can be the limiting factor for depth/position and that no matter how many lacrosse balls you own, you aren’t changing the shape of your skeleton. Some people are just not going to ever be able to squat ass to grass with feet close, or hip width, or ever. Those that can, will have a butt wink at some point, and probably are safer and better off not doing it under load
  • Bilateral limitations. I don’t think anyone has ever argued with me, maybe anyone, that if someone lacks the mobility to press a barbell over head in good position, that perhaps they should press a dumbbell or kettlebell so that the shoulder girdle/elbow/back doesn’t get jacked up as a result of compensation. Why can’t we understand that a bilateral squat is asking of the ankles/knees/hips/back the same thing, to move in certain ways while the feet are stuck in a certain position on the floor the same as hands on a barbell in an overhead press. Perhaps the answer isn’t to hammer that screw into the ground with a hammer, perhaps the answer is to grab a freaking screwdriver instead. Aka, take Ben Bruno/Mike Boyle/others’ advice and do more single leg stuff and still get really strong. If you aren’t planning competing in bilateral squatting competitions, doing more and more weight in that position grants you no special powers, doesn’t make you taller, and won’t get you laid. So maybe take the safer route with less limitations and just maybe get more athletic as a result by taking stances which allow you to place more stress on muscles and less on structure.
  • Ankles-most people really need soft tissue work on the lower leg, ankles, and feet, and will likely be able to get a little big lower based on this. However, some, will have that ankle impingement issue and they won’t get that better with voodoo floss, the stick, or anything else. Bone into bone..that shit doesn’t change.

Now…you should want to improve your existing mobility, just understand that you can’t all become gumby. We also probably want to increase our structural (tendon/ligament) capacity to resist injury-and that means challenging it. This is why Andreo Spina, Dewey Nielson, Ido Portal and others talk about and teach that we should explore our movement capacities, our ranges of motion-and how it is a journey not a race. Those structural bits take a long ass time to change, and it’s ongoing—truly “use it or lose it”. An example is in high school my 80 year old coach had us walk on the outside of our ankles every single day to strengthen and familiarize our bodies with that potential in the hopes that it would somewhat prepare us for that possibility. I think that this has merit, Gary Gray is another person who champions this type of approach.  Just be smart about how far you take it! Standing up from crossed legged floor sitting position is a great drill to practice challenging the body, but you probably shouldn’t 1RM that drill! In life you will pick stuff up that is a little too far in front of you and you can’t keep your back perfectly neutral-but let’s not train that possibility just because it’s a possibility.

The body is made to be resilient, but it must be challenged to be that way. This creates the opportunity for some truly stupid attempts at preparing the body to be resilient, so be careful while trying new movements and earning new ranges of motion.

My approach is…

  • Do bodyweight stuff as best as you can and in as many ways as you can
  • aggressively load your available and owned ranges of motion.
  • add specific attacks at improving your limitations with foam roller, lacrosse, scientific stretching etc.
  • Do weighted romanian deadlifts and pull overs (aka the RDL of the upper body) because the loaded eccentrics will probably improve your flexibility more than the yoga class your are doing.
  • Be smart

In summary: don’t think you can get everyone to squat ass to grass, don’t think you suck if you can’t, don’t think that it’s a good idea to load limitations, don’t think that bilateral squatting is an exercise that cures cancer, and above all…exercise is not the same as movement! Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean it should be loaded, repeated, or done explosively.

Long time no post…

November 19, 2013 — Leave a comment

Stuff has just been too busy for me to worry about blogging, plus i’m not selling workshops or online training anymore due to the time commitment to Fitwall….but I thought I’d put this up for the couple of people who get auto notices of what little ol’ clifton puts up on the webz. facebook converstaion

  • i had my first basketball game in 3 years last week….only been doing fitwall….felt like i had been playing ball 3-4x each week.  even when i was playing ball, if i took a month off and played again, while running/lifting, I never had such a good carry over from conditioning to the court. I can’t even write about it because it seems too good for me, as the program writer, to write about

  • Clifton Harski
    Clifton Harski

    athlete carryover is enormous

    pumped for you to try it since yo’ve worked with so many athletes

  • Ryan 'Bird' Burgess
    Ryan ‘Bird’ Burgess

    yeah, i just did a presentation today on GPP, SPP, and Dynamic Correspondance

    I’d put myself in the category though of people with low GPP, so just doing it and getting in better shape will def help

  • Clifton Harski
    Clifton Harski

    the conundrum i’m in is that i have to be aware that i’m inherently biased with regards to fitwall, even while trying not to be, that the really good results we see across the board through different sports and activities with people improving in performance, that i gotta be super critical of whether its what we are doing, or if i could’ve had the same results in my bootycamp classes.

  • Clifton Harski
    Clifton Harski

    i’m largely doing the same stuff…push, pull, rotate, hinge, single leg, . but half of the stuff we do is with the wall which really does have some very unique and cool transfer to stability and ‘what the hell effect’ on other movements. it’s a very dynamic and athletic program.

    the answer may be, “who gives a shit.” so long as people are running races faster, feeling stronger in their yoga and lacrosse games, stepping into sporting events and feeling more athletic than they ahve in years…..i guess thats a win enough


    just ask men’s fitness….

    Future of Fitness Feature in December issue of Men's Fitnesss

    Future of Fitness Feature in December issue of Men’s Fitnesss

Fitwall. Say what?

June 17, 2013 — 9 Comments

Want to hear something weird?

I haven’t worked out with kettlebells for 5 weeks.

I haven’t touched a barbell in longer. 

Bootycamp has been canceled. (at least until July)

I am leaner than I had been, my knee is not as pissed as it had been, and my shoulders feel great.

So what the shit am I doing? I have been training myself, and clients in the new studio I’m running: Fitwall.

I was introduced to Fitwall in March-and my first thought and response to it and some of the claims being made about it was: “bullshit. another ridiculously silly fitness contraption. you could super set it with the shake weight and max effort thigh master sets.”

The claims were:

1. Significantly higher amounts of muscular activation throughout the body…which leads to better function, due to reestablishing connections/relationships between muscles.

2. That increased muscular activity leads to better balance of relative muscular effort in movements.

3. That increased muscular activity leads to higher oxygen consumption by the body, and in turn that means burn more calories. Both during and post workout.

4. That the workout itself is decompressive on the body.

5. And finally, efficiency-the workouts are 7-30 minutes in length. And that’s all that is needed.

Sounded pretty infomercially to me.

However, my friends Franz and Yoana of kettlebell glory and fame were super geeked out by it, and so I thought I’d give it a shot. (I also watched some of the movements being performed on it, and being that I like movement, I could see that the wall imposed some very unique demands on the body requiring the practitioner to display simultaneous stability and mobility. We’ve heard that before….hmmm)

So I played on the wall, got my ass kicked a little bit in some very unique ways, did more research on the system, grilled the inventor about some claims, and then became the head coach at the first studio of the new Fitwall brand.

Before I say more, check out the video I have below, and see one of the workouts that I recently did on the wall. The first 11 reps are the 11 essentials of Fitwall training-which when performed as a group in a row as I do, challenge each muscle in the body-and the idea is that between them all, we are helping to activate all of them and have them up and running for the rest of the workout.

So…how did I come around to being stoked enough on this wall thingy to pause my normal training? I put it through the movement book test.

It is a rich sensory environment. It requires simultaneous stability and mobility. The exercises themselves are all self limiting. They are all safe enough to be able to push hard, without risk of hurting one’s self. They require precision of movement, and are not just some isolated drills”

I saw it as this:

enhanced muscular activation claim = reflexive stability. When on the wall, you are basically in some sort of a crawl pattern, just vertical-which places a climbing demand on the body as well. The hands and toes are VERY engaged and the body recognizes that without up regulating muscular (and brain) resources, that it will fall off of the wall. So basically, it’s like DEFCON 5 where all systems are turned on, to be able to deal with this physical danger of falling off. In the video, notice my toes gripping, my hands and fingers gripping, and the active scapular/armpit muscles driving downward on the wall to keep me stable.

better balance claim = less compensation. In the idea that we may have movers trying to act as stabilizers, we may rob ourselves of movement potential. Well, when on the wall, those movers may have to provide stability for a long time, and they don’t do that very well (based on what I’ve seen) and the actual stabilizers get called up and help out (finally). throughout all the moves you have to have at least 3 points of contact, and each time from one hand to opposite or same side hip you very acutely FEEL every muscle along that muscular sling/relationship/line up and working together. Anterior oblique sling? yeah, super engaged – same for posterior.

higher caloric burn claim = This I actually didn’t have a comparison. However, Fitwall hired one of the smarty pants from Polar to run tests on the wall and give out average numbers for what people could expect in terms of caloric burn on each of the main 14 drills. The highest average was 16.4 cals/minute on the targeting (running up and down the wall). That is really damn high. And 5 other drills burn over 14/minute. It’s actually really impressive, even though I’m not the biggest fan of calories in vs calories out….I know that it matters. However, in the sessions we do everything interval based. So we are getting the interval based EPOC in addition to the high caloric demands during the workout. In fact, our researcher in NM is showing that the EPOC from Fitwall workouts is higher than similar interval training in other modalities.

decompressive claim = Better co-contraction around joints, and less compression. We are relying on muscular stabilization around joints vs structural loading and compression. In terms of exercising, it can be a relative term where you just aren’t axial loading onto the spine/hips/knees and instead are challenging the body predominately from muscular loading. In terms of general decompression-it’s very much similar to Pavel’s suggestions to “hang on a pull-up bar a few times after and during workouts”. The inventor also talks about creating extra space in the joints as they are not compressed and how that may improve blood flow to tissues which are not generally very flow-y. And while anecdotal evidence is not always the best-everyone who gets on, just feels “better” and “elongated”. I could punch myself for saying that, but I’m just repeating what I’ve heard hundreds of people say already.

efficiency claim = duh. We know workouts can be short and sweet as long as they are intense. The nice part is, the movements are very very safe without the risk of injury from form degrading as you push yourself hard. (unlike barbell lifts for reps and time, or dumbbell or kettlebell)

 You can also perform really fun burpees.

But back to serious….when looking at the wall, what is it imposing?

1. Serious cooperation between shoulders and hips. AKA a wicked core challenge. My side abs are looking really sweet. But more seriously, I haven’t been specifically training the human flag, and each week I’ll try it a couple times…and it is getting close to happening foreals. Which in my flag tights is quite the awesomeness.

2. Upper body posterior chain pulling in a unique crawling/climbing fashion. Also, from a postural standpoint, I wonder if having to hold the body statically in a good position such as on the wall, is “better” than 3 sets of 10 Is, Ys, and Ts. I said I wonder, not that I know. I do know I am seeing some postures looking better, and people getting noticeably leaner and stronger in upper body pulling.

3. Safer plyometrics. I have had 10 seniors in a class jumping, and performing explosive one leg launches on a step and switching feet in mid air. Now, they aren’t getting Michael Jordan air….but they are certainly training more powerfully than they used to. How? Because they hold on to the wall which helps them decelerate on the landing, making the part they are scared of less scary. They get to work the concentric part they can do well, then gradually improve their ability to decelerate themselves.

4. Grip demands. We are all training crush grip with kb/bb/db…but the wall is pinch grip. And that is radical. Especially for elderly, but also especially for everyone else. Why is it radical? Because grip is soooo important for everything.

5. Movement awareness. When moving up and down on the wall, you have to navigate your limbs without banging them on the stainless steel. This is awesome. It helps create awareness in your movement. The itty-bitty steps help create precision of jumps, steps, and also the movement of hands does the same.

6. Midline crossing allover the damn place.

Then, we come off the wall. And from there you can be sure that we are doing sweet ass stuff. Rotation, anti rotation, unilateral, glute dom etc etc etc. I have had 4 clients so far tell me they were worried about trying exercise because it “looked intense” (due to the efforts being given) but that during the session they were shocked/happy to notice that we were having them do drills that their physical therapists had them doing. (single leg deadlift, glute bridges, side bridges, etc)

 Oh, and strapping someone to resistance and making them crawl almost ensures correct crawling patterns by the way. It’s pretty sweet.

The craziest, and maybe the most interesting part, is what the wall does to your brain. 

Basically, when on the wall, due to the short step and necessity of holding on with hands and feet to stay vertical, the body up regulates not just muscle activity but also brain activity. It’s akin to the fight or flight response, but only physically–meaning there isn’t the corresponding emotional freak out. This has been vindicated by Polar trying to disprove the claim, and in front of a group of people being very confused when in fact, brain activity does sharply increase. What does this mean? Well, we don’t really know. But you maybe will learn stuff more better (like my english), and what we are seeing is people learning movement skills better. For instance, while I was still just testing this stuff out-I would super set handstands with each Fitwall drill, and my handstands got sharply better within 5 sessions (about 10 days). I had been training handstands consistently for a long time with slow gradual improvement-and suddenly I was able to stick them, spread the legs, close the legs, walk….now I’m totally fine with saying maybe just maybe all my work over the past year finally clicked or something-but the timing was just very intriguing, and also it aligned with what the other people training with Fitwalls were noticing. That their sport/activity of choice seems to get easier/better with Fitwall training thrown into the mix.

The “What the Hell” Effect

We all love KB swings because of their what the hell effect. You do swings and you do pull-ups, deadlifts, run, jump, look, and feel better. What the hell?! Well, this is happening with the Fitwall as well.  The body just sorta feels ‘more connected’, and it makes sense once you have tried it. On the wall you feel the connections needed to move correctly and efficiently.  The what the hell effect is massive in training. Because sport specific training is sometimes a laughable situation, we know we want to impose general demands on athletes and people which yield results that improve what they do, without risking injury and/or interfering with their activity/sport. Well, this Fitwall apparatus is doing that…and it’s pretty neat.

Why the what the hell effect happens…

We in the industry are largely all geeking out on crawling and how it improves relationships and movements in the body. Some of the more progressive or fringe trainings are also seeing huge benefits from climbing (Dewey Nielson, Jason Brown, Brandon Hetzler, Charlie Weingroff, Gray Cook, MovNat) but the problem with climbing is that many just can’t climb (rocks, trees, monkey bars…) well enough to drive any type of response. They just fall. Well, the Fitwall allows a version of climbing where the feet are still connected and allows Grandma Betty to be able to do some sort of climbing. And it just happens to be a blend of climbing and crawling together…which is why I think it is giving this What The Hell effect.

I’ll be blogging even less (how is that possible!) as I enter in this exciting startup Fitwall company. So there is your full disclosure, I am running a Fitwall gym. I don’t own anything in Fitwall, but I did give up a lot to work their because of how intriguing the Fitwall is. Stay tuned for more as we continue to grow and see more awesome stuff.

Fun (random) stuff

May 2, 2013 — 1 Comment

I’m not one to brag*, but my new ad is the best ad for a fitness product I’ve seen in a long time.  Image

*I actually like to brag

2. Bros looking to get big, order this pancake mix. The calorie density is amazing. Here is the recipe that I kinda stick to. 2 eggs, 1.5 cups(ish) of super flour, 1 can of pumpkin, cinnamon, vanilla, 2tbsp melted butter, liquid coconut oil (some), salt sprinkle, water until it’s fairly thin. Cook it on medium heat, flip when there are bubbles. Cook it in ample butter, then put on maple syrup. Foreals…this is the awesome. You can substitute apple sauce for the pumpkin, or smushed bananas also. Calorie of this meal = around 2,500-3,000 depending on how much butter and syrup you use. #PAF

3. Krista Scott Dixon is more awesome than those pancakes.Read this article about paleo-ing harder. AKA, why long term low/no carbing is BAD news. She writes like I hope I sound when I talk…smart, sassy, funny.

3.5 Riding the coat tails of the above: I would like to reiterate that going low/no carb is effective for people in a short term weight loss goal, or to perhaps shift fuel sourcing in the body to a more balanced fat/carb mix. I guess I don’t really know if that’s true, but I think so based on what I’ve read. But, as I’ve said before: everything should be cyclic. If you eat low carb for a month or three, then you should start adding back in carbohydrate sometimes. Here’s a crazzzeee idea, match your carb consumption with your workout intensities! Low carb=strength cycle. Higher Carb = higher intensitie stuff. Oh yeah, that means you cycle your training too, which is probably smarter. EVERYTHING CYCLIC. Protein eating should even be cyclic once you have gotten close to the point aesthetic/well being feeling that you wanna be—what I mean is: high protein eating is great for weight loss-protein displaces carbs/fat in your intake, and protein tends to be much harder to store as fat compared to fat or carbs, it also ‘costs’ more to utilize and fills you up longer. However, if you are always high protein, your efficiency at utilizing that high intake is probably diminished, because of the abundance of it in your diet. Soooo, go a period of lower protein (we know that you don’t have to be HIGH protein to conserve or even build muscle mass, and when you are lower protein intakes it seems that your body becomes more protein ‘thrifty’ and utilizes your protein you do eat more efficiently). After you go low(er) protein for a while, doing sporadic super high protein days may prove to be extra beneficial, as your body is now ‘primed’ to utilize more of what you consume.  This of course should have citations attached, but I don’t wanna since I’m not a Peer Journal, and even if tracked down the studies for this ‘theory’ it is unproven. It sorta ties into the idea that having 3 larger protein meals in the day is better than 6 smaller ones, because more spaced out bigger protein intakes seems to be utilized better as there are less free floating amino acids (which may basically tell your ‘utilization’ processes that “it’s cool baby, we got free floating aminos, no need to utilize that protein right now”.  None the less….I’d still recommend everyone first and foremost to focus on food quality, getting protein at each meal-and worry little about other calorie concerns. “we are just eating, so eat fucking food not food stuffs”

4. Stoked to be getting Animal Flow certified next week. That’d be a fun thing to be teaching ;)

5. Trader Joe’s gluten free cookies are delicious. They taste like crunchy butter/chocolate heaven. In fact, next post will be a trip to trader joes, and what amazing foods for my bros and carb backloaders are there that you should be buying and enjoying.

6. I have a couple goals right now: 1 arm chin, 30 fat grip pullups**, 100 unbroken KB beast swings (106lbs), and 100 unbroken pushups.

peace out suckaz

**pullups=strict. obviously, as I’m not a tick ass sucka

7. workshops coming up:

Wednesday June 12, at Fitness on the Run in Alexandria, VA from 630p-830p

Thursday June 13, at CF Silver Spring in Silver Spring, MX from 6p-8p.

Saturday, June 15th at Mark Fisher Fitness (link is coming)

Also, in June, I am teaching a kettlebell Athletics certification in St Louis on June 8/9.

8. Online coaching to badassify your bitch ass.