Archives For May 2012

Sprinting is certainly enjoying some popularity right now. Everyone in the S&C world is recommending sprinting with the following reasons (I’m sarcastically paraphrasing)

  • It’s good for your hormonal responses
  • It’s high intensity and that’s better than ‘chronic’ cardio
  • It’s time efficient

I agree with those things…BUT, I really disagree with telling people to sprint.  In over 60 workshops where I spoke about running and sprinting, I ALWAYS put out warnings that it may be a very BAD idea to starting sprinting for the majority of people.  Why? Because it’s way too intense and demanding for most people to do as is recommended.  I imagine the conversation going like this: Expert advice “You should start sprinting. It’s fast and intense and will get you ripped and explosive.”  Here is what I hear, and italics are read in sarcasm “You should start sprinting. You, who haven’t even run in years, who haven’t lunged in years, who haven’t trained legs at all in years, should start sprinting.”  To me that is irresponsible advice.  Why? Here are some reasons why it’s irresponsible advice in my opinion

  • People suck at running. Form is bad, or terrible.  How do you injure yourself? You add intensity to bad form.
  • People lack the posterior chain strength needed to sprint safely
  • People lack the single leg stability and strength needed to sprint safely
  • Professional sprinters are always hurt. And they are professionals….

Now, when I say people, I generally mean beginners.  And IMO almost everyone is a beginner.  For instance, a fantastic site with great advice is Mark’s Daily Apple, the Primal Blueprint man.  His site has changed TONS of lives for the better.  There are recommendations on that site to sprint each week-and I am uncomfortable with that because lots of people going to that site are out of shape beginners and are not ready for sprinting.**  Now the thing is this…I REALLY like sprinting, and think it IS good for everyone to do……..provided they learn how to sprint correctly and then they work their way up to it!!!

Here are my very basic recommendations to employ if you want to work up to sprinting.

  • Add in multidirectional lunges, forward, backward, crossover, and laterally.
  • Add in single leg deadlifts, hip thrusts, and KB swings.
  • Start sprinting up hill, which is quite safe because it slows you down and shortens the stride length (which means you aren’t ‘pulling’ in a fully stretched position where the hammy ouchies generally take place).  Gradually (slowly. very slowly. if ever) decrease the angle of the hill working towards flat. Read Jason Feruggia article about hill sprints.
  • If you have sand, you can sprint shorter distances on sand because it also slows you down and decreases stride length.
  • If you insist on sprinting, do 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s because you won’t even hit max speed which is safer.

Make no mistake…sprinting will help you to Be Athletic, and seriously increase your levels of BadAssery.  

I would highly recommend going to this Sprinting Instruction workshop with Franz Snideman if you get the chance to.

If you are in San Diego and you want to get some in person instruction, or if you are interested in online coaching, email me

**I believe at Mark’s Daily Apple, there is good advice for people to NOT sprint if they are not ready for it.  This is the type of advice most people don’t follow though, because people aren’t honest with themselves.  This is why visiting and the Primal Speed workshop is so important.

Most of the time less is more-in many aspects of life. This can be especially true in training.  Doing more for the sake of doing more is often times at best useless and at worst harmful.  I agree with this, but I like to think about things instead of just jumping on the bandwagon and regurgitating what is en vogue or fashionable to repeat...and right now it's fashionable to say 'less is more" for everyone.  (I even contributed to a great one of those with the Whole9, but the experts and I picked things like tgu, crawling, power clean and jerk, pull-ups, front squat-so we snuck in exercises which are multi faceted, and include many exercises in one really).

My ‘beef’ with the overwhelming number of recommendations to ‘do less’ stem from 3 main things: fun/interest, the 80/20 rule, and the sources of the initial observation that ‘less is more’.

1. Fun/interest.  You could write the perfect program that gets you big, strong and ripped, a program that only has 2 days a week, with 3 exercises ….. and it’ll be boring as shit.  Some people will counter with “is success boring? Is being ripped boring?” and I answer with “yes”.  I like training.  I like trying new stuff-it’s fun.  I’m not getting paid to compete in anything-so why would I sacrifice my enjoyment for a marginally more effective program-which is so basic that it’s boring. That perfect program from above may be cool for about 2 months, and then I wouldn’t be able to do it anymore.  Call it fitness ADD or fuckarounditis, I call it fun.  If you enjoy training, then make the focus of your workouts and exercise selection those 5 exercises, and then liberally sprinkle in things you want to do.  For instance-if you play rec basketball and want to get bigger and stronger, there are people who would argue that playing ball is counterproductive to your goals…and those people might be right from the very narrowly focused view of being big and ripped-but those people also suck and are boring.  If your only goal is to be big and ripped, I also would like to encourage you to find some more fun in life!

2. The 80/20 rule.  80% is a B-.  Those 20% that people ignore, take you from ‘ok’ to ‘good’.  They are not unimportant.  That’s why while the big bilateral lifts of pull-up, DL, Squat, Press may be enough to satisfy basic movement patterns and support good body comp and strength in those lifts.  But those 4 movements AREN’T enough to support more complicated tasks and athletics….which brings me to the next point.

3. Where did the initial ‘less is more’ observations come from?  They came from high level athletics, namely pros and collegiate strength coaches.  They noticed they got better success with their athletes when they did ‘less’ in the weight room.  And this makes sense, because the athletes are already getting tons of volume and variety of training with single leg, ballistics, agility, and reactivity being integrated in their sporting practice.  Now, ask yourself this: are you a high level athlete with matches/games and multiple practices a week where you are training ‘athletically’? If so, then you should minimize the amount of exercises and volume you add in each week…but if you are like 99.9% of the population, then you are missing the (at least) 20% of training which makes you more rounded, more able, and more athletic.  We need to stop recommending to people to do what works for high level athletes…because people aren’t high level athletes!

So there are 2 populations that should ‘do less’: beginners, and advanced*. Check out my incredibly complex graphical representation of this complex relationship and idea…

*and injured people…they should do less and get healthy.

I just read a quote from Eric Cressey regarding volume: “I’m always surprised at how much volume it takes to attain a level of fitness, but how little volume it takes to maintain that level of fitness.”

I think that most people are better off with more variety, simply because they move poorly to begin with.  If you add strength to just a select few exercises, while moving poorly in every other aspect-you are asking for trouble.  Quoting Gray Cook “Don’t put fitness on top of dysfunction.”

The main point is this: enjoy your training, train to Be Able, to Be Athletic….and once you’ve done that you can train to be Bad Ass.  If your training is hindering your achievement of goals, then it’s not appropriate…but if your goals are to enjoy your training, while getting better…then do that, don’t let people make you think you are doing ‘too much’-because they are prescribing exercise for someone else. The best form of training for you is that which you enjoy-because if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it.


I’d love to see some discussion about this pop up in the comments below, whether you agree, disagree, or

If you’re in San me and I’ll help you to achieve your goals through enjoyable and effective training, if you aren’t in San Diego I’d still love to help you out through my online coaching services.


May 3, 2012 — 9 Comments

Recently, the Whole9 published a 3 part series where they asked 12 fit pros which 5 exercises they would pick if they were only allowed to pick 5, in order to promote long term health and wellness.  I rehashed that article and provided a 7 day workout split that I think would be pretty sweet, utilizing the exercises that the experts provided.

Some people really got their panties in a bunch about the exercise selections (ok, one person), specifically the predominant inclusion of the TGU.  This person was arguing that the OHS was a superior exercise for health and wellness.  I do not believe it is, and clearly the other experts didn’t either, since they didn’t place the OHS ahead of the TGU.  The TGU was picked by 5 out of the 12 experts, and the OHS squat was picked by 2.  I will guarantee that if the blog post had 10 exercises, both numbers would’ve gone up.  I would like to discuss why I believe the TGU is superior to the OHS for health and longevity-in a fairly general manner. (I’m not going to address each specific detail in depth).

But first….gotta throw out some disclaimers and notes to stop silly arguments before they arise (hopefully):

  • I’m not saying the OHS is bad.
  • I’m not saying the TGU is perfect for everyone
  • I won’t entertain arguments such as “the TGU isn’t functional because you never have to hold a weight over head while lying and stand up” because that means you are arguing for the sake of it, and we could make that silly argument for pretty much any exercise.

Let me quote Dan John on each exercise:

TGU-“The Get Up (not the “Turkish Sit Up” as I often note) is a one stop course in the basics of every human movement from rolling and hinging to lunging and locking out.”

OHS-“the overhead squat requires total concentration, total lockout and perfect positions. There is no cheating; one can’t squirm, roll the knees or hips, or let other body parts help kick in. It builds “Dad Strength.” (my note-people CAN cheat, and WILL cheat, especially at lighter loads which are deemed as progressions or termed scaled down by some-poor movement done lightly isn’t scaled down, it’s poor movement)

These two quotes illustrate why for the discussion of TGU vs OHS in health and longevity the TGU is superior.  For building total badassery, I would put them in the same space-with a caveat, you have to be able to do the OHS well!  And that isn’t actually all that easy.

OHS common issues which produce ugly/scary/shitty form

  • ankle mobility
  • hip mobility
  • thoracic/shoulder mobility
  • shoulder stability
  • core stability
  • knee stability

Tell you a secret…..the TGU will help with hip mobility, thoracic/shoulder mobility, shoulder stability, core stability, and knee stability.

You cannot just throw someone into an OHS with less weight and think that the form will   “fix itself”.  You can’t just coach some people to dorsiflex more or stay extended in their posture.  Specific mobilizations, and support drills will need to be used.  This isn’t being lazy or ignorant in coaching, it’s being realistic and thorough.  Getting good at the TGU will help you to be able to OHS squat, and you can have beginners start getting up right off the bat, you just keep the load very light, or even unloaded when needed.  That doesn’t work with the OHS because if they are too tight/weak anywhere, they won’t be able to keep a good position since the bar will be held forward of the head, and as such they’ll be engraining poor movement, which is bad…even if it’s for more reps or more weight (in the short term)!

Lower body mobility is a huge limiter for the OHS, and makes the lift potentially dangerous if you cannot get into proper position, whereas the TGU single leg positions allow people to work around and improve the limited hip mobility (and stability).  Thoracic & shoulder girdle mobility/stability demands are monstrous in the the OHS, and can lead to really shaky movement they are poor.

The TGU allows you to work on each side more specifically, and that is another reason I believe that TGU is better is because it is unilateral.  I understand that you can ultimately load more on bilateral lifts, but more isn’t always better-it’s just more.  Having single shoulder, hip, leg ability is huge!  If you always are doing bilateral lifts, you will not develop unilateral competence.  I believe transference from unilateral and single limb lifts over to bilateral or double limb lifts is greater than the opposite direction.  And, many people hide unilateral stability problems, simply by being strong and competent in bilateral lifts (for instance, two hands overhead spreading the bar is actually using the bar shape to help gain stability, which you cannot do with only one hand. The weight wants to go wherever it wants to go, and the shoulder (not just shoulder) of the arm holding that weight has to really do its job on its own).  IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO BE STRONG UNILATERALLY!

This post is pretty rambly, and that’s fine with me, so I’ll add another point: “core” training.  Both exercises train the core because it must be stable under load and while moving up and down.  However, the TGU also has elements of rotation and anti rotation, and lateral flexion and anti flexion—which is including so many more demands than the OHS.  At heavy weight the OHS core demands ARE huge…true, but even at lower weights the TGU delivers a more comprehensive training stimulus to the “core”.

I’m happy to have a quote here from Dallas of Whole9, I almost included a picture of him here, but didn’t want the dazzling beard to take attention away from the article.

“The “best” exercises (when selecting a very short list) aren’t always the ones that generate the most power. You can’t (at least shouldn’t!) do the TGU “for time”, but you could do light OHS fast if your technique and mobility were solid. But if you’re looking to develop genuine full-body strength and stability, you do so by paying attention to detail, and scaling the load such that you must be acutely engaged in the activity (there are no mindlessly-performed heavy TGU), not simply moving more weight or doing it faster. Quality of movement matters, and the TGU is not only self-correcting at heavier loads, but it is also an elegant way to improve both mobility and full-body, multiplanar strength at the same time.”

I guess summed up: the OHS makes you more badass once you are already decently awesome, until then it may be a poor choice to include due to limitations of the trainee.  The TGU is great for just about everyone to include, and will actually help you get to the point of being able to OHS.