Tag Archives: strength

We All Start Someplace: A Few Strength, Conditioning and Fitness Tips for Beginners

There are plenty of outstanding strength and conditioning coaches in the world who are inherently more qualified than me to discuss weight training, diet, conditioning and fitness topics.  That being said, I have learned a few lessons over my 20 years (holy cow… has it been that long?) years of training.  If there is an area I feel fairly well-versed, it’s in how to help break people into fitness and assist beginners with the earliest stages of their training careers.  I leave the advanced stuff to the aforementioned experts (several of whom I have linked on the left-hand side of my blog).

So without further ado, here is my super swell lists of tips for people who are fairly new to strength, conditioning and fitness or just never got themselves into a good groove for it.

  1. Don’t over think things. I am always amazed in this modern world at the extent to which people get themselves mired in paralysis by analysis for things that really can be approached so much more simply.  While strength training requires good technique, it’s simply not rocket science.  You simply don’t need an elaborately crafted training program with uber-precise training parameters for quite some time.  You need a tried-and-true program that focuses on the basics and doing them very, very well. And by basics, I definitely mean something that involves weight lifting.  Oh and if the program focuses on “Super Shredded Abzzzz!” please avoid it.  I’m begging you.
  2. Make changes in increments. If you finally find yourself a good program (whether for your training or your diet), give it time to see how things work.  For your training, that should be at least 8-12 weeks before you start tinkering with things.  And when you do change things?  Don’t do it wholesale.  The beautiful thing about being a beginner is that you will have tremendous success early on as your body responds to the new training stimulus.  This will eventually diminish over time, but enjoy it  in the early stages.  Same kind of notion with your diet.  Do it for a good chunk of time (maybe around the same 8 weeks) to see how it goes and if things are not progressing as you may like, change one thing at a time.  If you throw out everything all at once, you will never really get an appreciation for what in particular was holding you back.
  3. Supplements are nice… but not necessary. I am a fan of nutritional supplements.  I take a multi-vitamin, fish oil and essential fatty acid capsules and use protein powders.  I find them all incredibly useful for me to be sure I get in all the proper nutrients I need, especially since my life can be a bit hectic.  But if you went without supplements of any kind and just ate well?  You would be totally fine.  In fact, the more exotic a supplement gets, the less I personally trust it.  There are just plenty of companies out there looking to get you to buy their Super Black Nitric Boom for some obscene amount of money… and if you put that same money into putting exercise equipment in your house, you would get FAR greater benefit from it all.
  4. Find one hardcore thing to do. This is something I have come to appreciate more and more over time, especially for someone who might be a little bit newer to training.  You should find one activity or exercise that is off-the-beaten path for you.  Maybe it’s sprints down at your local high school track or car pushes in an empty parking lot or even some really hard interval training.  Heck, it might be for you that you have never done barbell squats and now you are doing them.  Hardcore will be different for everyone.
    The reason you really need to do one hardcore thing is that there is something incredibly empowering for newbies to have something that makes them feel badass.  It builds confidence and lends a little to developing a swagger to your training that will really keep it moving in a positive direction.  Remember – start with one hardcore thing, not seven because then you will not be badass… just sore and overwhelmed.
  5. Eliminate your single crappiest habit. As you might be able to tell from my hints, I’m not really big into taking people new to fitness and putting them into a level of change equivalent to Navy SEAL training.  It’s just not necessary.  It’s far better to leave people wanting juuuuust a little bit more and keeping them interested when they know they can do a little bit better.  So, figure out what the crappiest and least healthy habit you have it and work on eliminating it pronto.  Smoking?  Ditch it.  A habit of mindless snacking on pork rinds dipped in sour cream?  Umm, it’s gotta go.  Insane amounts of regular soda consumption?  Switch to diet.  You get the idea.
  6. Use me as your role model. I am incredibly sexy. And I am also super smart… and humble… but mostly sexy and super smart… and not to be taken seriously very often.

I could probably make a longer list, but in keeping with the general theme above, it’s best not to overwhelm people.  Manageable chunks… and my uber sexiness.  It’s all you need.

Fresh Start Sunday

The super smooth Lionel and his Commodores had a cool, mellow and super-groovy version of Sundays, specifically Sunday mornings.  They were easy. Just listening to the song makes you think of relaxing on the couch with your favorite morning beverage and the newspaper with no particular place to go.

My Sunday will not resemble that, at least not for the span of about 90 minutes.  Oh no, my good friends… tomorrow begins the first wave of my new training plan and I begin with deadlift day.  It’s not a complete change of what I have been doing, but it’s definitely going to be some tweaking on what I’ve been doing.  The goal is to continue to improve strength across the board while incorporating some new movements for explosiveness and keeping my conditioning cranking along.

Strength Training: Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 (which is by far the best training template I have ever used).  Lifting 3 times per week.  The core lifts will be Deadlifts, Bench Press, Cleans (this is new), Squats and Military Presses.  The Cleans will be done on the Squats day and I’ve never done them consistently, so we’ll see how these bad boys go.  The Cleans are mostly to incorporate a new element of explosiveness to my training.  The accessory work to go along with these lifts will be a lot of the basics (dips, pull-ups and all that fun) and I am shooting to complete my lifting sessions a little more quickly.

Conditioning: This is mostly going to be comprised of playing sports.  I play indoor soccer on Thursdays and I will now start playing basketball (for the first time in a really long time) on Wednesdays.  I am going to pick one other day out of the week to push the Prowler around and look to have one full off day per week.  I may (just may) look to do some bikram yoga at some point because I think it would be a huge help to my horribly inflexible behind.  I am also thinking about adding in some “finishers” at the end of my lifting sessions to get in an extra dollop of conditioning.  Yeah that’s right… dollop.  Like sour cream baby!  And yes, I know that makes absolutely no sense.  Work with me, people.

Oh and to all of you hoping to see video of my using the Prowler and puking?  So far I have kept down all my food – HA!

Diet: I have phased out of the formal plan I was on with Shelby and the weight difference was about a 2.5 lb increase which has stayed consistent over the last 2 weeks.  I will be incorporating several of the elements of what I learned from Shelby along the way.  Essentially, it will be working from that carb cycling idea of “earn your carbs” with less carbs on non-lifting days.  Outside of that, I looking to just eat well and very balanced.  If I can eat things that organic or get grass-fed beef/bison, that is what I am looking to do.

That’s the plan and now it’s a matter of execution.  In keeping with the overall theme of the blog (i.e. it’s not just about lifting or ideas or developing your mind and spirit, but the interrelation of all of those things), I am hoping to gain a better appreciation for attacking my plan now that it is set.  The plan is not terribly complicated, nor does it need to be.  What it certainly does need is for me to go after it with full spirit.  I think a lot of people fall into the “paralysis by analysis” trap instead of going after things full bore for a while and then stopping to assess after some practice.  Hopefully, I will avoid that.

Time to SFW.

(And if you do not know what SFW means, feel free to click here. Pardon the language though.)

Do you see it?

When you look at this photo… what do you see?  A basement filled with strength training equipment?  Money that could have been better spent on something else?  Someone’s shrine to an obsession?

This is my home gym and to me, it’s an almost sacred place.  Seriously.  For me, weight training has always been a tremendous outlet and the greatest form of therapy I have ever found for keeping me sane in a nutty, nutty world.  It’s a place where I can use a physical tool to test my mind, heart and spirit.  I decided when I would put together this gym, I would go with the best (that being EliteFTS) because it would be such an important place in my life.

So to me, this photo is really showing the place where I test myself… where I prove myself… where I find out more about who I really am than most other areas of my life.  Will I give up when it gets hard or when it begins to hurt?  Will I be scared to throw on my back hundreds of pounds worth of weight?  What happens if I lift poorly?  Will I just get frustrated and quit or will I dig down deep and go at it again?  And am I taking all these lessons to heart and learning from them?

A strong mind and spirit can help you to have a strong body… but the hard work, effort and discipline used to give you a strong body can yield a strong mind and spirit.

So do me a favor… look again and take your time. It’s a sacred place.

Do you see it?

The value of crazy

Looks comfy, eh?I firmly believe in the value and power of crazy.  Maybe not so much in the wearing hair shirts in public while declaring Fred Savage to be the antichrist kind of bat guano crazy… but more the kind of crazy that causes people to stop and stare a little bit while walking away shaking their heads.  The value really lies in the idea of doing something others either do not want to do or will not do because it looks hard or might be a little embarrassing.

More often than not, I have found these are exactly the kinds of activities that have a more beneficial aspect than not for your life.  Whether it’s dancing in public, acting like a complete idiot in a toy store to make your kids laugh or (in my case) doing some kind of really weird exercise… as shown in the video below.

Before I got this contraption (The Prowler in case you were wondering), I used to go out into this same parking lot and push/pull my SUV for exercise.  It’s an absolutely fantastic way to combine strength and conditioning into one efficient activity… but you need to accept the fact that (a) people will stop and stare at you; (b) people will without fail ask you if your car needs a jump (which is actually a very nice confirmation of the inherent goodness in humanity); or (c) the local police will slowly cruise by and stop to say “Look… just don’t get yourself run over.”  All 3 of these things have happened to me and I love it.

If I let the potential for embarrassment get in the way, I would have missed out on a really great exercise. Now that I have my Prowler, I am still going to get the looks… just no instances of people asking if my car needs a jump.  No police encounters yet, but give it time.  I have only gotten to use it 4 times so far.  Those will come… I just know it.

The same with this blog.  If I was worried about any negative comment someone might write on my posts, I would miss out on doing something I enjoy thoroughly and get a lot out of.  So on I write and keep hoping that each post is better than the last.  And Lord only knows I wouldn’t put up videos like the one in this post on YouTube if I was going to mire myself in what everyone else thinks because I know some people out there like or appreciate it, and that’s good enough for me.

So get out there. Be a little more wild than mild.  I’m trying to do so, although some areas are easier than others.  I feel no hesitation in doing certain athletic things that may cause an occasional raised-eyebrow, but believe me… in other areas?  I’ve got a lot of work.  And anyone who wants to join me for some Prowler pushes in the snow, just let me know…