May 13, 2013

Not too long ago I had the privilege of meeting two fellow coaches and strength fanatics who happened to have the same philosophy that I do when it comes to training.

We of course hit it off right away and have been in close contact ever since working on programming, training together, and throwing out ideas for future endeavors.

You've all met Bryan Tompkins whom I interviewed a little while back after deadlifting 3x his bodyweight during his first powerlifting meet. The other day I got the chance to sit down and chat a little with his super strong girlfriend, Jessica Del Barrio.

Here's how it went:

Jess, can you introduce yourself to the readers and tell them a little bit about what you do?

JDB: My name is Jessica Del Barrio and I'm a mom and a strength coach. I love strength training and helping other women get stronger.

So you train mostly women?

JDB: I train a couple of guys, but yes, I train mostly women and I love it.
May 1, 2013

I've had the privilege of working with some great clients over the years but things didn't always go as planned.

There were injuries, family commitments, sick children, school, work, vacations, and a plethora of other inconveniences that either put training on hold or just plain got in the way.

One thing that remained constant was their motivation.

What Is Motivation?

Motivation is many things to many people. There's no one word or singular definition to describe it.

Some people are motivated by events. Maybe there's a wedding, or a HS reunion, or the all important beach season is on its way.

Some people are motivated by performance. Perhaps they play college ball, or fight MMA, or just want to kick butt during pick-up games on the weekends.
Apr 24, 2013

In the previous article I discussed some easy-to-make, homemade tools you can put together in an afternoon to make training from home even more beneficial than training at one of those commercial gyms. The purpose was to give those with a tight budget some awesome alternatives to buying brand spanking new equipment.

In this post I'll cover some more home gym essentials for those who have the money to deck out a serious training cave.

Again, these are strictly essentials and in no way reflect the only options out there. My intent is to steer you all away from the BS and get you right into training as quickly and effectively as possible.

Option 2: Cha Ching

For those of you who can spend some actual moolah on some kick ass equipment, there are a few things you should keep in mind before deciding to splurge on every cool-looking thing in a store or online.

The first thing to remember is don't worry if it's brand new - sometimes. What I mean is the majority of the equipment I'm going to mention can easily be found on Craigslist and can be picked up nearby. It probably won't be shiny and without wear but it'll get the job done and will be a lot cheaper than
Apr 20, 2013

I often get asked whether or not it's possible to get lean, mean, and brutally strong without having a gym membership?

Well I'm here to tell you it's easily MORE beneficial to train at home than in a fancy shmancy commercial gym.

In fact, in this post I'm going to outline exactly what you need to start your own kick ass garage gym and make the greatest gains in strength, muscle building, and athleticism you ever have in your entire life!!

When setting out to create a workout haven for yourself you need to capitalize on what you'll actually need. That means stop drooling over the shiny equipment that the commercial gyms have and think about what really matters - results. So, our set-up will include nothing but the bare essentials. However, I will provide 2 options: one for those with a tight budget and one for those with a little extra scrilla to spare.

So let's get started ...

Option 1: Tight Budget

Mar 28, 2013

Here we go again. Summer is approaching with the weather getting warmer and people getting their lazy asses back into the gym to try and look good for the beach. How cliche. Had these sheeple only known that if they kept training year-round they wouldn't have to crash diet and kill themselves just to look good for 3 months. The only thing worse than the its-almost-summer-crowd is the way they train. You know who they are: the pumpers, toners, and spot reducers. The ones who do an hour worth of the butt blaster, or eighty different variations of biceps curls, or try to convince you that if they do cardio and triceps extensions they'll lose that jiggly looking thing under their arms. They never get any stronger or build any kind of usable muscle.

This brings me to my point: stop training for aesthetics and start training for performance!!

GSP delivering a head kick to Matt Hughes

Do you think that MMA fighters, wrestlers, pro footballers, or rugby players really care if they have perfectly sculpted physiques? I don't think so. They're more worried about being able to perform at the highest level in their chosen sport. They don't go into the gym and think about how they can take away their love handles or bring up their chesticles. They go into each and every training session with one thing in mind: PERFORMANCE. The cool thing about it is they become more aesthetically appealing in the process. But don't be fooled, they look like they can perform because they actually CAN perform.

Training Like An Athlete

Mar 23, 2013

I've been chasing a new 1RM in my deadlift for some time now. I've created program after program, tweaked popular programs, and tried just about every way humanly possible to peak for an all-out effort just to have a new number to play with. Then I took a step back and asked myself a question: How important is my 1RM?

The answer I came up with kinda stopped me in my tracks ... it's not. I'm not a competitive powerlifter nor do I seriously have plans to compete any time in the near future. So having knowledge of what I can lift for one gut-busting rep really doesn't make much of a difference to my training. Unless it's on a platform during competition it doesn't do me any good other than supporting my ego and having something to brag to my friends about. Lame. Not to mention unneccesary.

I'm pretty sure I will never come across a time in my everday life where I will need to exert a 100% effort in the deadlift (unless some one needs their car moved out of a tight spot like Franco Colombu did in "Pumping Iron"). Plus, the constant chasing has put my CNS on overdrive and left me burnt out. So if I'm not going to be hunting for singles what rep range should I train instead? In my experienced opinion you should ...

Lift Heavy in the 3-5 Rep Range

This will allow you to move a significant amount of weight, will help to build up some high load strength endurance, and will stop you from getting injured under heavy weights with less-than optimal form. We all know things get a little sketchy when you're pushing with all you got. And heavy singles have their place but 3-5 is the bread and butter for the every day strength enthusiast and athletes not competing in strength sports.
Mar 12, 2013

This is a short guest post from my good friend and fellow certified underground strength coach, Laureano Ibarra. Larry currently coaches and heads the strength and conditioning program for some of the nations top and up-and-coming figure skaters in Colorado Springs. Don't let his job title fool you. Larry is anything but a girly man. He grew up in Venezuela, was an accomplished figure skater, and has trained and competed in both Muay Thai and MMA. Not to mention he has more tattoos than a biker bar and is built like a brick sh#t house. He has something to say about the state of affairs of our young "men" in the world today. These are some strong words from a strong dude clearly sick of how the sheeple are acting. Keep reading and be prepared to take notes. Enjoy...

Okay, I'm going to rant a bit ... what the f#ck has happened to men nowadays?! They're nothing but a bunch of whiners and complainers. Every article I read has to do with folks getting their "fee-lings" hurt. I grew up knowing that thick skin saved you from getting a bunch of good ass-whoopings. And even if you did get one, you didn't complain about it. You were thankful for it ... seriously!! We've become uncultured, uneducated, unskilled, weak-minded, rude, disloyal, lazy, and entitled.

Here's my advice:
Mar 4, 2013

I've spoken many times on this site about having a solid training program and have written articles on how to design your own, so that is not what this is about. There are 3 other important factors to keep in mind when trying to dial in your lifestyle to match your training goals.

First and foremost is NUTRITION. You literally are what you eat. Therefore if you're stuffing your face with a bunch of crap you can expect to look and feel like a bunch of crap. My nutritional knowledge isn't the greatest and I am not a certified dietician or any of that mess, but, from experience with myself and with my clients, I can assure you there are a few guidelines that should definitely be adhered to:

  1. Eat more protein. This should really go without saying, especially for females. Protein is your friend. I'm not suggesting that you only eat protein or eat it in surplus amounts, but make sure you're getting in AT LEAST 0.8-1.0 grams per pound of bodyweight. If you're looking to gain some quality weight try anywhere from 1.0-1.25 grams per pound of bodyweight.
  2. Processed foods are the devil. If it came in a plastic package, has a shelf life of a twinkie, or has passed through more machinery than a quart of motor oil, DON'T EAT IT. Stick to real, whole foods like grass-fed lean meats, wild poultry, wild fish, roots, rice, fresh fruits and vegetables.
  3. Water does an amazing thing ... it keeps you alive. Drink it. If you're on any kind of exercise program you need to make sure you're taking in an adequate amount of water. You need to consume more water than usual in order for your body to function properly and keep up with the amount of water that is lost through perspiration. The easiest way to do this is to skip out on the juices and replace them with good 'ole fashioned water.
Feb 21, 2013

Neck training has to be one of the most overlooked and underutilized facets of programming. Strengthening the neck through its ability to stabilize and resist movement is extremely important not just for athletes, but for the everday gym-goer as well.

Why Train Your Neck?

First and foremost, a strong neck will help you to avoid serious injury in a collision. This doesn't mean you should become a bull-necked behemoth and go get yourself into a car accident to test your metal, but in case you were in a car accident, having a strong neck would help you evade some serious damage.

Take a look at sports like football, MMA, and wrestling. Have you seen many pencil-necked lineman, fighters, or D1 wrestlers? I think not. There's a reason for this. In their given sports the amount of collision they get into during gameplay is huge. Lineman get smashed on every play, fighters get punched, kicked, and kneed to the head, and wrestlers get slammed and pinned to the mat. Constant impact on the neck, cervical vertebrae, and the surrounding structures. Having a weak neck in these situations isn't an option, it's a necessity.
Feb 11, 2013

If you haven't read Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3 of this series, I suggest starting there before continuing.

The final installment of this series will include my go-to exercises for explosive power and rate of force development. Like I've said before, being strong is great and something that every single person who trains should be striving for, but strength is only as good as the speed with which you can demonstrate it. Slow strength is not as useful as explosive strength.

As with the others, we will break down our explosive movements into 3 subcategories including:

  • Implement Olympic Lifts
  • Medicine Ball Throws
  • Jumps

I decided to only utilize these 3 subcategories because they are easy to teach and don't require any special equipment that you wouldn't be able to find in an ordinary commercial gym.

Feb 4, 2013

In Part 1 we covered the lower body, Part 2 covered upper body, and the next logical piece of the anatomical puzzle would be the CORE.

I really loathe using that word but technically it's in the middle and it's the direct connection between your upper and lower halves. This is a seriously important thing to remember. All of the power generated by your legs will have to pass through your core in order to reach your upper body. And this will happen in every plane of motion and at every angle possible. So keep in mind that your "core" is a lot more than just that ever-so-elusive 6 pack.

We will break down our core movements into 4 subcategories:

  • Rotation/Anti-rotation
  • Flexion/Anti-extension
  • Lateral Flexion/Anti-lateral Flexion
  • Complete Usage

Jan 27, 2013

This past Saturday I attended my first powerlifting meet at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Newark, NJ. I did not compete but I got a chance to watch my friend and fellow iron addict, Bryan Tompkins, pull 3 times his bodyweight in his first meet ever. Needless to say, I spent the better part of the day in a conference room with a bunch of super strong dudes lifting heavy weight. It was so intense I wanted to either lift something heavy myself or punch some one in the face. I couldn't decide.

Anyway, after filming a few mind-blowing lifts I interviewed Bryan and here is the interview and the highlights:

Franco: Tell us a little bit about yourself, your training philosophy, and where you train.

BT: I just want to start off by thanking you for coming out and supporting me during my first meet. My name is Bryan Tompkins, from East Orange NJ, and I'm a Strength Coach/Kettlebell Coach. I'm am also the co-owner of Full Metal Athletics.

I started training when I was a sophomore in high school with some of my friends and like a lot of people, had no real clue what I was doing. I thought squatting would stunt my growth and had no idea what a deadlift was.
Jan 23, 2013

I'm not really a fan of using support equipment during my training but there are 2 pieces I  recently added that have made a HUGE difference. They are a powerlifting belt and weightlifting shoes. I have great confidence that these 2 implements will help me improve my numbers and get stronger.

Now I'm not suggesting that they will help at all without a solid program, proper nutrition, and a crap ton of drive, but rather that they will enhance my efforts and possibly make my gains come a little faster than they already are.

Weightlifting Shoes

I chose to pick up the Wei Rui weightlifting shoes mostly because of the reviews but also because of the price for the quality. Before I get into the details let me break down why I even chose to buy a shoe I was only going to use for squatting.
Jan 21, 2013

In Part 1 we addressed the lower body and how we would attack its every aspect. In this article I hope to accomplish the same with the almighty upper body.

The upper body is divided into 2 main categories (as we all should know) of PUSH and PULL. We further break these down into subcategories:

  • Horizontal Push (all bench variations and pushups)
  • Vertical Push (all overhead press variations)
  • Horizontal Pull (all row variations)
  • Vertical Pull (all pullup/chinup variations)

Horizontal Push

Jan 14, 2013

Everyone should have a list of go-to exercises to choose from when trying to develop a strength and conditioning program. When I say list, what I really mean is a small pool of the biggest bang for your buck exercises you can just plug and play into your program.

As I love to keep things simple, here are the 4 main categories of movements:

  1. Lower Body Movements
  2. Upper Body Movements
  3. Core (I hate this word as it entails much more than just your midsection, but for argument's sake just think of this as anything that will enhance the connection between your upper and lower body)
  4. Explosive Movements

These basic categories will be broken down further into subcategories and the following will be a short series including the biggest bang for your buck exercises from each.

Lower Body Movements

Jan 7, 2013

Unfortunately I am writing this article out of pure personal experience. I recently was hit with some flu-like symptoms and have been out of commission for the last 3 days. I realize I won't be able to hit a good training session until I get better, so in this article I will outline my own plan of attack to get myself back to where I was before I got sick.

Where Have I Been?

For the last 12 weeks I've been hitting a variation of Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 program. In the program I was training 3 days per week hitting a full body routine all 3 days. This was going really well as I was hitting rep PRs in all of my lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press).

The workload was light and it wasn't until the end of my 2nd cycle and into my 3rd cycle that it started getting pretty heavy (for me at least). I was back squatting 3 days per week in conjunction with whatever else I had to do on those days. Granted I wasn't going for an all-out effort in the squat but one day per week, having a heavy barbell on your back that often starts to wear you down a bit.

Anywho, that's where I was. I was 12 weeks into a solid program and I was ready to readjust my numbers and continue. There were going to be a few tweaks though ...
Jan 3, 2013

Strength is the basis for all other facets in regards to training. The stronger you are, the better. But, what good is being strong if you can't produce that strength quickly?

This is where power training comes into play. The idea behind training for power is to teach your body to generate force quickly, making you more explosive. Being explosive is a MUST for athletes of any sport and can tremendously benefit the average gym-goer as well.

The initial thing that comes to mind when talking about power training and explosive exercise is Olympic lifting. If you've ever seen an O-lifter clean and jerk or snatch you know that they are some of the world's MOST EXPLOSIVE athletes. And don't get me wrong, Olympic lifting is a fantastic way to increase explosiveness and rate of force development, but it requires a lot of technique and hours upon hours of practice and critiquing. Those of us short on time or without a good coach to learn from may find tackling the O-lifts a bit of a hassle, not to mention those coaches who have large groups of athletes that all need individual attention. Trying to get a group of 10 HS athletes to clean properly is a daunting task.

Well never fear, medicine ball throws are here.

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Franco Crincoli
I am a personal trainer, strength coach, and all around iron addict, with a philosophy deeply rooted in old school methods. My training has been influenced by strongmen, powerlifters, Olympic lifters, gymnasts, and the Golden Era bodybuilders. I believe in reaping the greatest rewards the simplest (not easiest) way possible and having fun doing it.
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