Category Archives: Fitness

Why The “Knees Out” Squat Cue Sucks, and What to Do Instead

If you’ve been in the gym long enough you’ve probably seen some terrible knock kneed squats, and most likely heard some well-wishing person emphatically scream “knees out!” in attempts to help correct the person squatting. If the weight was heavy enough, it was too late, and the cue did nothing, and if it was light enough they may have been able to push their knees out, but they didn’t correct the problem, In fact it taught them to disconnect the knees from the ankles and hips and produce less force!

Example of knee cave – knees are inside the hip and foot line, knee caps do not face the end of the toes. Joints are not stacked and muscles won’t work together optimally.

Example of knees out cue in action. The same problems but opposite. Knees outside the foot and hip line, pressure rolled off the inside of the foot, knee cap faces outside the foot line.

Stacked position. Knee caps facing the line of the feet, and knees in line with the ankle and hips. This is the position we’re trying to produce.

So knee cave is bad, so is the knees out cue, so what should you do? First let’s take a look at the real problem.

Why do the knees cave in the first place?

There are many reasons the knees can come towards the body line in a squat, sometimes it’s a mistake, sometimes it’s not! So let’s go over the common reasons this happens and then we’ll get into what to do about it, including cues that work far better than the “knees out” cue commonly spouted. Listed from most common to least common:

  1. Poor motor control and use of full body tension through the feet, ankles, knees and hips – the squatter hasn’t developed the technical ability to track properly under moderate to heavy weights
  2. Lack of mobility at key joints – the two most common are the ankle and the hip
  3. Strength imbalance exposed by heavier loads – the squatter is able to display great form with moderate loads, but the knees begin to cave under heavier and heavier loads
  4. True anatomical inhibition – usually hip sockets that are very deep, or femurs that have aggressive neck angles that cause the hip to impinge bone on bone on the femur, which pushes the squatter forward into the knees. Once they run out of ankle range, bam, knees come in
  5. Advanced athletes who “twitch” coming out of the hole and then quickly come back into line with the ankle and hip line – this doesn’t need to be fixed. This allows the very advanced athlete to recruit the powerful adductors to perform more of a hip extension role, and helps them generate more speed to pass the common sticking point

Poor Motor Control and Lack of Tension

Cues: Grip the floor and crush a bug with your mid-foot, spread the floor, “spread your taint”  (thanks Eddy Coan),

What you’re trying to accomplish: The knee pretty much does what it’s told to do by the hip and the ankle. The muscles that cross the knee joint, but don’t act upon the hip or the ankle produce little to no lateral (side to side) force at the knee joint itself, so instead of worrying about the knee itself, we’re going to take care of the tension produced at the foot/ankle, and the hip, to create a powerful synergy between all three joint complexes.

Grip the floor and crush a bug with your mid-foot: 

First you’re going to spread your toes to increase the surface area and stability, second you’re going press into the floor with even pressure on the base of the big toe, the pinky toe, and your heel, and then create an almost imperceptible rotation through the middle of the foot “crushing a bug” with the centre of your foot, but without moving those three contact points. This creates a spiral tensioning from the muscles of the feet and ankle as well as a co-contraction at the hips/glutes that creates powerful stability and synergy between these three major joints. If you watch closely you can see my knee rotates in line with the foot.

Spread the Floor –

Slightly exaggerated in this video to demonstrate this cue

Here you’re going to imagine you’re standing on iceberg with a crack in it, and you have a foot on either side of the crack, you see a massive diamond on the ledge of one side but you can’t quite get your hand down there, so you need to use your feet to rip the crack in the iceberg a little wider to so you can reach. This action of spreading the floor really acts upon the hips, firing up the lateral stabilizers of the femur and consequentially the knee; however, we don’t want to lose our 3 points of contact that we got with the foot, so we’re only spreading the floor, not simply weighting the outside of the foot.

Spread your taint –

No video here; I’m sure you’re all relieved. This one we got straight from Eddy Coan when he was here, but it’s pure gold. The other two cues are set up cues, meaning you’ve done them before you’ve even started the rep, but the spread the taint cue keeps the position you’ve set strong all the way through the descent. On the way down you have to imagine like you are trying to push the two sides of your hips away from each other by ripping them in half right from the centre of your crotch (great visual huh?).

Lack of Mobility, Lack of Strength in Key Areas Exposed by Heavier Loads, True Anatomical Inhibition

I’m combining these because people often suffer from these issues simultaneously, but they become increasingly more rare.

If you lack mobility at the ankle, when you hit end range and the knee can no longer travel forward, your body has two options to continue moving downwards, shift the hips backwards and use more hip range and a more aggressive torso lean, or to unlock the subtalar joint in the foot, let the tibia shift downwards and fall to the inside of the foot to let the knee track forward – unfortunately to make this happen the knee now tracks the inside line as well. Usually these two things happen in tandem, and then you see one of those frankenstein squats where the knees come in, the torso or hips can’t handle the extra load, and you get the full pancake fall forward. If they recover from it it’s quite the sight, but not exactly the squat we’re going for here.

If you use a wider stance or just have extremely tight adductors/internal rotators, when you descend you will hit a depth where the muscles on the inside of your thigh literally pull the knee towards the midline. Sometimes this doesn’t show up until near max weights because the antagonist muscles are strong enough to win the tug-of-war of your femur, but once those muscles are fully occupied squatting the weight, they don’t have the power to both move max weight and win the tug-of-war. The same can happen at the ankle where the muscles of the foot and ankle cannot stabilize the joint, and the body shuts down end range early with heavier weights. Believe it or not, calf strength is important for squatting! We’ll be going over common mobility issues and how to solve them in our Squat Seminar on Jan 26th at Blacksmith Fitness, including the true anatomical abnormalities that can cause frustration as they don’t respond to standard stretching or mobility methods.

For less than a tub of protein, the coaches at Blacksmith will be running a full seminar on the squat and be doing individual coaching with all those who attend, more info here

Battling Inner Demons: Mental Health and Fitness, Blacksmith Coaches Weigh in

If you read one thing that Blacksmith puts out this year, I hope this is it. The premise was simple. We gave the coaches 4 questions and no further instructions other than we were going to publish them as an article. The questions were:

  1. What has been the biggest mental hurdle you’ve faced with training?
  2. What do you do on days you’re internally struggling?
  3. How do you deal with failure? Have you ever wanted to quit?
  4. How has battling your own mental demons affected your ability to coach others?

So without further adieu, here are their answers

What has been the biggest mental hurdle you’ve faced with training?

Joel McCain: For me personally it was the time during my head and spine injury after I had been told by two different doctors I wouldn’t be able to powerlift again, but the hardest part was attempting to come back several times and failing, and starting to actually believe the doctors were right. I struggled with my identity, my confidence, my future, and what felt like the loss of my lifelong dream. The only way I could stay positive was to simply do something, ANYTHING, no matter how small that felt like moving forward. First it was going for walks at night because the visual stimulus was lower and I wouldn’t get as dizzy as fast as I would in the day time. Then I would work on breathing techniques and muscle relaxation drills to help me sleep. I would research for hours a day on the function of the nervous system, how to control and influence the autonomic portion, diet, different treatments etc. I would search out the best practitioners and research where professional athletes were getting treated etc. If at the end of the day I felt I was one step closer, even if it was a thousand step process, it was enough for me to want to get up the next day and take the next step.

When I was finally medically cleared and started to make my return to training, each session was coming at a pretty staggering cost – every time I would train I would get crippling anxiety, body shakes, and lose the ability to sleep and eat that night as well as the ability to focus/comprehend what I was seeing for a couple hours the next day. Every time I would train I would start to question whether it was worth the cost I was paying. I almost quit, but the only thing the kept me going was the need to physically exert myself. I’m forever wired to need a competitive outlet, so I really had no option but to find ways to push through, manage symptoms, and move forward. I’ll never be 100% but I’m getting better at managing symptoms, adjusting my training, and catching early symptoms before they get out of control.

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Coach Cam Bennett at the PNE FitFest

Cam Bennett: When it comes to training specifically, I think the mental aspect that comes with injuries has got to be the biggest hurdle for me. When I tore my pec last year the injury was healed in roughly 8 weeks but the fear of tearing it again was in my head for months and months after. Every single time I would load the bar up with the weight that was on it when the injury happened I would panic and completely throw technique out the window because I was so fixated on hoping I wouldn’t get hurt again. If I felt any tightness or soreness I would immediately stop and poke and prod around my chest making sure nothing was wrong. All of this mental struggle caused me to stall out on strength for quite some time because before I even got under the bar I had already set myself up for failure by being scared of failing.

Marina Misuric: For me, my biggest mental hurdle is one I still deal with every day. A few years ago, when I was still a student, I started noticing I didn’t feel like myself. I wasn’t doing the things I loved to do and I was having a hard time even getting out of bed to go to school. I have never been the type to wear my emotions, so when it came time to talk about why I was struggling so much, I had a really hard time even admitting to myself I was having problems let alone to someone else. I’m pretty sure it took me three full days of the same conversation just to acknowledge that I was having any issues. I was putting so much pressure on myself to finish my degree quickly, excel at my new sport – powerlifting, and put career paths into place for after university. I created all these expectations I thought people had for me, when really they were just my own. All this pressure caused me to have episodes of depression and anxiety. These episodes would last a few days to a few weeks and were really causing me to struggle academically and personally.

I tried to find medical reasons for feeling like crap and fixing some of those things (iron levels, vitamin D, and low free cortisol) did help lessen the frequency of these episodes. However, it still took me a long time to realize I probably needed to talk through the deeper issues and accept them myself before I could start to feel like myself again. I talked to a few medical professionals about it, but more importantly, I’ve learned to talk to the people closest to me. My mental health isn’t something I can just push aside and ignore anymore, I have to be very aware of how I am feeling and not be afraid to talk about it. Though I still struggle, the depressive and anxiety episodes are much less frequent now. I know that when I start to feel overwhelmed with life or overtrained, the symptoms come back and have to be addressed, but because I am much better at recognizing the signs now, I can catch it before it becomes a full episode. Mental health is a hard thing to struggle with since from an outside perspective, you look completely fine. That’s why it’s so important to have someone you feel comfortable talking to to help you through those times. I find often times, even just preparing what I am going to say to someone during those times helps me organize my thoughts and put a plan in place to help declutter my mind and feel like myself again sooner. My anxiety is my every day fight, but it has made me a stronger lifter, coach, and friend.

Megan Walker: Motivation.

You’ve worked a long day already, and already spent a few hours at the gym with clients and all you want to do is go home and relax. So many people tell me all the time how motivation is their biggest mental hurdle when it comes to just getting your ass into the gym. That’s where having a coach can really help. I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching, I thought that because I am a trainer, I should be able to write my own programs and not ask for help. Writing my own programs it was easy to cheat and get around the motivation by not programming the exercises I’d benefit from the most, even skipping certain exercises because I just didn’t feel like it and wanted to go home.

Recently, I got my shit together and decided to ask for help from the other coaches at Blacksmith. And guess what? I’m starting to feel motivated again. I’ve got a new program that was written by the coaches as a collective, and I’ve figured out a schedule where I can get into the gym on my off days.

For myself, it’s not just motivation to get to the gym I struggle with. It’s motivation to get out of bed in the morning, it’s motivation to try new things, it’s motivation to really want to do much of anything. I’m constantly searching for something to feel passionate about to motivate me to do things, but I’m searching and I can’t find it. It’s a really weird feeling not having things that you’re passionate about and motivate you in life. I look around me and I see people that want to train every single day, that are in school pursuing their dream jobs or already working them, or even just having hobbies they truly love. And here I am; sure I like training, I like playing sports, I like doing certain things, but I don’t have that passion and motivation like I see others have. I feel very lost and alone with this a lot of the time, and I am constantly struggling to try and find my passions and any motivation I can.

I can’t say my motivation is exactly where I want it to be at, but I’ve taken steps in the right direction with my habits at the gym. If you’re struggling with motivation, the biggest takeaway from this is don’t be afraid to ask for help, be it with training or any other aspects of your life. The support system we have at Blacksmith is unreal and even as a coach, it took me far too long to practice what I preach.

Cole Thevenot: In 2016 I ruptured a disc in my lower back while deadlifting. Initially this was thought of as a minor set back as I have encountered several athletes that have had the same injury. Each day began with antagonizing pain and barely being able to put on socks without breaking a sweat from the amount of pain I was experiencing. Over the course of several months, I struggled with sciatica, muscle weakness, and chronic pain. Ultimately I sought out help from different professionals who provided treatment that would give me temporary relief, however, the issue never completely resolved. Fast forward 6 months, I was still limited in terms of exercise selection and had been able to train around the injury. While squatting I felt another pop in my lower back, this time, much more painful. I drove to the hospital and the pain continued to get worse. I was told by a medical professional to take anti-inflammatory drugs and rest. Again, I went through the cycle of therapist to therapist to dig deeper into the issue. I read books and contacted the leading lower back specialist in the nation who referred me to a therapist who was able to get to the root of my pain and gradually remove it. Over months I made progress and eventually came to a point where I could perform daily activities without significant pain. At this point, I had completely removed squatting and deadlifting out of my program out of fear of relapsing. The thought of deadlifting and squatting gave me anxiety and every time I would think about making an attempt to train them again I would find some sort of excuse to avoid it. This cycle lasted for two years before I picked up a barbell from the floor again. To this day I still have recurring thoughts of “what if it happens again.” However, with the help of my training partners and the coaches, I have been able to overcome the fear of re-injury and anxiety surrounding movements that once left me dreading putting on socks in the morning.

What do you do on days when you’re internally struggling?

Cole Thevenot: Training for powerlifting isn’t always sunshine and roses. From overcoming injury to having a bad day, there’s never a point of complete solace. Whenever I have a bad training day, I often make use of retrospective thinking where I tell myself, “so, you’re having a bad day, but was it as bad as when you couldn’t walk without pain?” This brings my self pitying thoughts back to reality and redirects it to more thankful thoughts. More specifically, thankfulness that I am actually able to continue training and live a healthy and active life.

Reminding myself that one bad day out of 10 doesn’t constitute failure or signs of weakness, rather, it’s part of the process and like any goal worth pursuing, nothing comes easily.

Megan Walker: Usually cry. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. I can’t help it. Motivation isn’t the only thing I struggle with. Like many people, there are a lot of other things people don’t see.

What do I do to make it better? I usually take my dog for a walk. After a long walk on the dike with my Wilber by myself or with my best friends, I start to feel this mental clarity. Being outside in the fresh air is one of the best things to clear my mind.

You don’t have to struggle internally, because that means you’re struggling alone. As I said before, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I have a few close friends I can turn to when I’m feeling shitty and can always count on them to be there for me. And of course Mom and Dad are always there for me and checking on me to make sure I’m ok and to help with anything I need.

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Coach Joel McCain Setting up for a squat set in training

Joel McCain: Peaking is a really hard time for me, a lot of the symptoms I dealt with during my original return to training come back full force during periods of high mental and physical stress – which is pretty much the last 6-7 weeks of powerlifting preparation. Sometimes the stress from a squat or deadlift session will bring on anxiety and shakes that leave me with 2-3 hours of broken sleep, but the next day would still be a training day and I’d somehow have to put together another training session when I didn’t even feel like putting two feet on the floor that day. As the weeks went on these nights start stacking on each other where most nights are rough and the symptoms would compound. On these days I would make a deal with myself that all I had to do was show up and start, I didn’t have to finish, I didn’t have to hit my prescribed my numbers, but no matter what I had to show up. I’d break up what seemed like an unsurmountable task at the time into tiny little accomplishable goals and do them one at a time: just show up – check. Do your warm up – check. Start your first exercise, you can stop after if you want to – check. Ok you made it through that, the next exercise is easier right? So just do them – check, and so on and so forth until the work was done.

Marina Misuric: Some days are harder than others, but the main thing for me is taking a step back and checking whether it is my brain or my body holding me back. If it’s my body and something is really hurting or not feeling right and I can’t fix it, I will stop and do some recovery and try again the next day. The much much more common issue is my brain, whether it’s the anxiety, low energy, or I’m feeling unmotivated. If it’s just my brain not letting me perform I will try to find a way through it, either by picking some music that I really like or talking to someone about it for a few minutes in between sets. Some days, these things work and others they don’t. When they don’t work and my brain refuses to get out of its rut and let me train, I will try to silence it by training anyways. Some days it’s just about getting through the work no matter how I feel because I know I would be worse off mentally if I quit on myself.

Cam Bennett: This is by far the hardest question for me. I cannot really pin point any exact things that I do to help myself when I’m having really rough days. To be completely honest there’s been days that were so bad I wouldn’t even get out of bed if I didn’t have to. Training has been such a good outlet for me and has helped me get through so many terrible times. Knowing this, I do whatever I can to inch myself toward getting there. Once I’m there I’ll put my phone away and forget about everything else for that hour or two hour or sometimes even 3-hour training session and always feel at least a little bit better afterward. I know that I will regret it and be mad at myself if I skip a workout, but I’ll never regret going.

How do you deal with failure? Have you ever wanted to quit?

Joel McCain: …Not well, haha. I place extreme pressure and demands upon myself. I expect success no matter what the circumstance, and I’m very slow to forgive myself for delivering anything other than my perceived best performance each and every day. This mindset has served me well and helped me push past some pretty large barriers, but it’s a double edged sword that I’ve certainly felt the edge of when things are going wrong. Have I ever wanted to quit? Yes. Right in front of the other coaches in the middle of a deadlift session. It was about 6-7 months post bicep surgery, I had switched to hook grip so I could start deadlifting earlier, and hopefully reduce the chance of it happening again, and I couldn’t break 606lbs off the ground (this is a weight I should have been able to rep easily). It was right in the middle of peaking and at the worst point of my anxiety/neurologicalsymptoms/sleep issues, I feeling sorry for myself and I actually said it out loud “I’m done, I’m going to have pull out of this meet” but fortunately Cam Bennett caught it right away and just said “I’ve never seen you quit anything, there’s no way you’re quitting now”. I’ve had talks with Marina about whether the price I was paying was worth it; It always seems like it when things are going well, but to pay that price and feel like I was losing the battle anyways, that’s a tough pill to swallow. She always had a way of talking me off the ledge. That really highlights the most important part – I’ve always had good people around me; at Blacksmith the coaches coach and push each other, and I think we can all say we wouldn’t be where we are without the rest of the team’s support.

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Coach Cole benching in training 

Cole Thevenot: If I had a dollar for every time I thought about quitting I would be a millionaire. Hanging it up and seeking other less risky forms of competition has been a thought that crosses my mind every time I have a significant injury that hinders training. Heck, even if I have a rough patch of training where I’m lacking progress or just simply dealing with nagging pain I’ve had that thought cross my mind. It is incredibly frustrating looking back and reminiscing about where I was and comparing it to where I am now, but getting trapped in this mindset is dangerous and breeds thoughts that make me feel like a failure. The important thing is to remember that with every failure there is an opportunity to learn; simply admitting defeat and letting yourself be consumed by a missed rep, injury, or a bad meet doesn’t help – Experience it, accept it, strategize how to do better next time, and move forward.

 Cam Bennett: There has been times in the past, as recently as 2-3 years ago where I was so scared to fail that I wouldn’t even try. This includes a lot of things outside of the gym as well but when it came to training specifically, I was so worried about how embarrassing it would be if I failed that I would actually wait until I knew people in the gym were busy and couldn’t be watching me to do my set. In my opinion, this mindset held me back more than anything else. Over the last couple years, as I’ve become more open about my mental health issues and have stopped caring so much about what other people think, I’ve learned to use failure as motivation to get better. Instead of moping around and being upset about missing lifts or fucking up a set I’ve been able to change my negative mentality into using those experiences as fuel to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s okay to be scared of the weight on the bar but don’t be afraid of failing.

Marina Misuric: When I first started powerlifting I was terrible at handling failure. I had never been good at it in any aspect of my life and I still struggle with it at times. Failure can feel like a personal defeat and it used to make me feel like I was not good enough to succeed. Powerlifting has taught me that failures should be treated as lessons instead and they now make me even more determined and stubborn to reach my goals. The way I deal with failure now, whether it be a missed lift or a bombed career opportunity, is that I allow myself to feel upset for a few minutes, then I distract myself with something completely unrelated to get my head out of the funk. Once my head is clear and the feelings of anger and defeat are no longer affecting my rational thought, I reflect back and take a moment to learn a thing or two about what went wrong and how I can do better next time. I can’t say that I’ve got this down perfectly yet as fear of failure is one of the main triggers for my anxiety still, but I am getting better every day and using this sport to help me get there.

I have absolutely felt like quitting powerlifting, training, and anything associated with the gym at one point in my life. Back in one of my final semesters of university, my brain, my body, and my mental health were all falling apart. I had done way too many semesters in a row, a powerlifting competition or two, and I was burnt out both mentally and physically. I wasn’t enjoying school, training, or my life in general like I used to and I wasn’t taking the time to take care of myself. I had depressive episodes that lasted weeks where I could barely get out of bed due to lack of motivation to start my day. I lost my spark and my energy; all I wanted to do was sleep all day. This low mood and energy obviously made it very difficult to train hard and peak for meets. Sprinkle an injury on top of it all and there was very little keeping me together during my training sessions. When peaking for my third meet, I think I cried through more sessions than not. I have never wanted to quit something more than during that time. Having an absolutely amazing gym family is the only reason I did not quit. They listened to me when I needed to vent, they gave me space when I needed it, and they found the perfect moments to encourage me in a positive, supportive way. They are the only reason I got through that competition and learned to enjoy powerlifting again. I have since had a few brief moments of “why do I do this?” and “this is too hard, I want to quit”, but they are never very serious anymore and I know I have the right team to back me up and motivate me to continue pushing myself to see what I can accomplish.

Megan Walker: I think about quitting all the time. How easy would that be? Just quit everything that is hard in life and live the easiest life ever. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

There’s a difference between thinking something and actually doing it. I think about quitting, but I wouldn’t actually do it. If I quit my job, quit playing sports, quit everything, then I’m not only quitting on myself, but quitting on everyone else.

I hate disappointing people, so quitting isn’t an option just because I failed or because something got hard.

How has battling your own mental demons affected your ability to coach others?

Joel McCain: Hard to answer this one without sounding like a motivational poster, but I wouldn’t be half the coach I am today without all the struggles I have been through. Understanding what it feels like to be down and out, and everything that comes along with it, the depression, the anxiety, the loss of self, watching your body change for the worse and feeling helpless, dealing with extreme physical pain – there are some things you have to go through in life to truly understand, and I think it helps to have someone say “I know how that feels” than just “that must be hard”. I think seeing a piece of my own struggle in someone else makes me that much more passionate to help people succeed no matter what odds face them and that much more rewarding when they do; it really feels like we’re in this together.

Megan Walker: I’m more compassionate and understanding because of it. If you come into the gym with no motivation and don’t want to lift, I’m gonna do my best to get you motivated and doing your best that day. I completely understand that some days are long and you just really don’t want to do anything, but there are always ways to work around it, and I’m determined to find those ways. You’re not going to lift heavy every day, and some days that prowler will not make it across the gym, and I get that. But we’ll find a way to make it work and to make it fun. Hell, once and awhile you might say “fuck it, I’m not feeling it today, I need a night off” and I’m totally ok with that, because sometimes I need a night off too.

So I honestly think my own internal struggles have made me not only a better coach, but just a better, more understanding and compassionate person. I hope I can help my clients and any clients at Blacksmith through any issues they may be going through fitness related or not. Because what a lot of them don’t know is that they’ve helped me so much, so it’s only right I return the favour.

Cam Bennett: This has been both a blessing and curse for me when it comes to coaching. I have been struggling with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember and up until about two years ago the only people that knew were my doctor and my mom. Now that I am much more open about it, I find I am able to relate to clients that may be going through the same or similar things. Being that I’ve gone through the mental struggles myself, it definitely helps me to see the signs of it in someone else and be able to offer help and advice to get them through bad days. The downside of dealing with this while being a coach is always being extremely hard on myself and constantly overthinking. One of the worst things about anxiety is that you always feel like the worst possible thing that could happen in a given situation, will happen. So anytime something isn’t working or a client is skipping days for example, I’ll immediately blame myself and beat myself up in my head about what I might have done wrong. It’s a never ending battle when it comes to mental health but I’m very glad that I’m in a career where I am dealing with such a variety of people every day and have the chance to try and use my own personal experiences to help other people battle their own mental demons.

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Coach Marina Misuric working on breathing and bracing with a client

Marina Misuric: Overall, I think dealing with my own issues has positively impacted my coaching. The hardest part about my own mental health battles has been talking about it and admitting when I’m having a rough time. I know mental health is something a lot of people shy away from talking about. As a coach, I know people tend to want to fight their battles internally, but I try really hard to show my clients that I am there if they ever need someone to hear them. I don’t ever want to pry into issues they don’t want to share, but I know what it feels like to need to talk about what you’re going through (even if sometimes you don’t even know what that is). Sometimes you just need someone there reminding you that they are there for you and are willing to listen. I feel responsible for my clients’ physical health, of course, but also their mental health. I realize that sometimes life throws us obstacles we can’t just brush away and I want to make sure I am doing my part in getting them through that. Sometimes we have to take a detour route to reach our goals, but getting there in healthy, positive ways is worth the delay.

Cole Thevenot: I think it makes me more relatable. Dealing with my own mental demons and listening to those who might have their own history of mental issues brings us down to a human level which is extremely important when coaching PEOPLE. From a bad training day, injury, the end of a relationship, stress at work, financial troubles, etc, we all have issues that batter our mental resiliency. Many people, myself included, often get trapped in the mindset that not expressing their troubles and bottling them up is the right thing to do because “no one truly understands,” “what will they think of me if I tell them what I’m going through,” or “no one cares about my issues.”, but opening up and vocalizing these issues can be a huge relief. It’s not an easy task to open up and express emotions to someone, but it can help explain why we act the way we do and the reasons for the goals we choose to pursue. When a client confides in me and informs me of their woes, I can often pick a scenario that I have been through and recall strategies of how I overcame it. Being a coach and having understanding of the reasons behind someone’s goals helps me make their training truly personal, and when I can relate to the motives behind someone’s ambitions it gives new meaning as to what is it to be a coach.

The Biggest Trap in the Fitness Industry

There’s about a million things we could have taken aim at, slimming belts? fad diets? Worthless supplements? Bad advice from celebrities? Yup, there’s no shortage of things people fall prey to, especially at the turn of the new year where a bunch of people are just starting their fitness journey and haven’t fully developed their BS filter yet; however, as much as I’d love to rant about all those aforementioned things they aren’t the biggest trap in the fitness industry.

The biggest trap in fitness is convincing yourself you’re doing better than you are

Every trainer has heard this sentence before “well I eat pretty well, but I’ve gained a lot of weight since last year” or “I’m working really hard, but I haven’t gotten any stronger or gained any muscle”. If you are eating well and consistently gaining fat over the year, you aren’t eating well, and convincing yourself otherwise is the trap that leads to the type of thinking that makes you susceptible to all the fitness industry’s BS. The shady side of the fitness industry preys upon the people that think they’re doing everything right, and the reason that they can’t lose weight or gain muscle or achieve that toned look is because there’s something wrong with them. It’s this type of thinking that allows you to blame the wrong things “this program isn’t working”, “maybe I can’t lose weight because of my genetics”, “I don’t think fitness training works for me, I must be a non-responder”. In the literally hundreds of people that coaches here at Blacksmith have trained, there’s been a small handful (less than 10) that have had a true medical issue that needed to be addressed before they could truly start making progress towards their goals, everyone else had massive room for positive change!

Results based thinking is the best way to combat this trap. If you aren’t seeing measurable progress towards your goals (the results you’re after), what you’re doing isn’t working, and that’s ok, that means you can start looking for the weak link. Maybe you’re snacking thinking that you’re barely eating anything but it’s adding up to hundreds of calories a day, maybe you’re doing awesome 6 days of the week, but your heroic cheat meal is ruining your caloric deficit, maybe you’re convincing yourself you’re working hard in the gym, but really you need to get comfortable pushing closer to muscular failure – all of these things can be defined and fixed!

True transformations don’t happen overnight, and the ones that last are rarely done the quickest, but instead the most successful people slowly developed their work ethic and their ability to assess their behaviours until more of them are aligned with their goals. You’ll screw up hundreds of times along the way, we all do, even the most successful people have, but the biggest difference between those who get their results and keep them forever is the way they deal with setbacks and missteps. If you’re not getting the results you want, fight tooth and nail against that voice in your head that’s telling you you’re doing great, remember that you’re not a failure if you screw up, and pick the next habit to work on.

 

Are Your Supplements Worthless or Actually Helping Your Performance?

There are a few questions that every single trainer alive has gotten, and one of them that usually comes from the person who has just stepped into the gym for the first time is: what supplements should I be taking? Followed quickly by x person who lost 20lbs was taking x supplement, do you think it’ll work for me?

Chances are probably not.

Sometimes the truth hurts. No one wants to hear that the magic pill they’ve been sold as the miracle cure to everything really just doesn’t hold up to scientific rigour, and as a trainer who has trained people with goals ranging from body transformation, powerlifting, to professional sports I can promise you won’t find the piece of the puzzle you’re missing in a bottle (well, unless you’re a Russian Olympian…)

BUT, that answer usually doesn’t sit well with most people, they still want to know what they should be taking to help them with their goals. The first thing I usually do is tell them about the amazing resource that is examine.com and how you can pretty much check out any single ingredient with effective dosing all free of charge (seriously go check them out if you haven’t already), and the second is to tell them what I use personally. I’ll break it into two categories, Health and performance, and try to keep to very simple descriptions, keep in mind I am strength athlete, and this actually works well for most team sport athletes, but if you’re on the other end of the spectrum leaning towards a pure endurance sport, your list will probably look a little different

Health:

  • Vitamin D: 2000 to 5000IU depending on the time of year and sun exposure, ideally you should get blood levels done, but no one does, and this dose works for most people, I couldn’t possibly list everything vitamin D does, but one of the biggest benefits that flies under the radar is that sufficient blood levels of vitamin D can really help with sleep quality
  • omega 3 Oil: approx 3000 combined EPA/DHA per day – generally the oil is more cost effective than pills for EPA/DHA content. The western diet is pretty high in omega 6’s which kind of work in a tug of war fashion with omega 3’s as far as their effects on inflammation and blood clotting etc, so you most likely don’t need an omega 6 or 9 supplement. Omega 3’s are essential for neural health and many other essential processes
  • Zinc and Magnesium: almost every hard sweating athlete is deficient in these minerals, zinc deficiency runs hand in hand with testosterone deficiency, and magnesium helps keep the nervous system from redlining all the time

Performance:

  • Creatine: 5g per day, any time of the day, some studies suggest that post workout creatine might be absorbed better than pre workout, and ingesting a carbohydrate drink may also increase absorption. Creatine is one of the most researched sport supplements of all time, increases strength, lean mass, and performance in repeated bouts of high intensity exertion. If you are in a sport where your success is determined by strength or the ability to exert bursts of high speed/effort, you should be taking creatine. No need to cycle off
  • Caffeine: sometimes. it takes about 3-6mg per kilo to really affect performance, so to give you an idea a 200lb person needs about 270-540mg of caffeine to improve strength output, which is not something you want to be taking on a regular basis (Christian Thibadeau has a great video out about stimulant use for regular training – spoiler alert, not the greatest idea). As a general rule, train without caffeine, compete with it. Want to have a small red bull or a monster pre training for a bit of hype, go nuts, but this high level of caffeine consumption should probably be saved for your most important sessions or games
  • Vitargo S2 – this is one of the only branded nods I’m going to give, because myself as well as the other coaches at Blacksmith have tried pretty much every carb supplement on the planet from candy, to dextrose powder, gatorade, and pretty much all the major designer carbohydrate brands including pure cluster dextrin, nothing compares to the clean energy or intra-set recovery that you get from vitargo, it’s used by many olympic athletes and one of the few supplements with independent clinical research. The longer you train per session, the more frequently you train per week, the more likely you will benefit from a carb supplement, for most, it will be an unnecessary expense
  • Rhodiola 500mg Standardized at 3% – a herb that helps you continue to adapt to training when under high stress loads. A seriously underrated supplement that allows hard training athletes to push harder for longer and still adapt to the training load. I usually take 250mg on off days and 500mg on training days during the most intense phases of training, or if I’ve pushed myself into overreaching, to recover as quickly as possible to a trainable state again
  • Protein powder: I pretty much use protein powder exclusively for intra and post workout, and hydrolysate is the best form for this. Hydrolysate is full spectrum protein unlike BCAA’s, meaning not only can it trigger protein synthesis (aka muscle building) but it also supplies the building blocks. It is the fastest absorbed version of whey protein, and during/after your workout speed of digestion matters. This is going to follow the same pattern as vitargo, the longer you train, the more volume you do, and the more frequently you train the more likely you will see the benefits from a high speed protein carbohydrate drink, and yes, I mix the two. Pro tip, vanilla tastes pretty good with any fruit flavour of vitargo, kind of like an orange julius type flavour.
  • Electrolyte Powder: I am a right sweaty mess, I’m constantly struggling to stay hydrated, and I drink about 8L of water per day when it gets hot (4-6L normally), this can cause some mineral leaching and loss of electrolytes, so I’ll use an electrolyte powder to help offset some of that loss

That’s it.

I won’t play holier than thou, when I first got into training, I used everything, I read muscle mags and fell for every pitch hook line and sinker. I’m pretty sure my supplement bill got over $500 per month at one point, funny enough, I never put on that 20lbs of promised muscle in 4 weeks; I’m sure you’re all shocked.

When it comes to clients, I’ll often use supplements to troubleshoot specific problems: hyper-cortisol response during training – phosphatidylserine pre-training can do the trick, anxiety from caffeine – combine with L-theanine etc. but for the most part, the supplements that truly have an effect on performance are already on the list above.

Have any questions about your own supplement use? Feel free to comment or message us!

One of the Most Important Things I’ve Learned about Programming for Strength

No one reads these intros right? Let’s get straight to it, and unlike those annoying click bait articles it’s all on one page and you won’t even win 3 million dollars after you enter your credit card info.

The System You Start With is Less Important Than The Decisions You Make Within It

If there was really one best program for everyone, all the record holders would be using it, but that’s not how you see it play out in reality. Don’t get me wrong, there are some stupid programs out there, but “programs” or macro cycle designs are designed to simply give you the general framework, it’s up to you to fill it with the appropriate exercises, to regulate and prescribe your important variables etc. Generally, in program lengths less than 8 weeks, concurrent programming (doing everything at once i.e. all rep ranges represented within the same micro cycle aka week) either ties or shows a small trend for slightly higher results than a periodized program that progresses from high volume low intensity to low volume high intensity; however for program lengths over 12 weeks, the trend favours a periodized approach. All that being said the difference is actually much smaller than most people think, and how you manage key decisions and adapt the framework of your periodization scheme to fit you as an individual will likely be much more important than where you start. First let’s go over some of the more popular periodization schemes and give you some plain english definitions of what they look like in the context of powerlifting:

  • Linear periodization: moves from high reps, lower weights to lower reps and higher weights across a set period of time in an even fashion.
  • Concurrent periodization: doing high volume and high intensity work within the same week with only small fluctuations in training load from week to week and month to month. Most popular system here is the Westside Method (often called the conjugate system, which can be confusing because that is also an entirely different type of periodization used by Soviet athletes)
  • Undulating periodization: moving towards low reps high weight but in uneven step fashion. You could undulate across weeks or months but you’ll use periods of higher, moderate, and lower intensity interspersed across the given time frame before testing or competition. Example Week 1: moderate intensity, moderate volume. Week 2: high intensity, low volume. Week 3: low intensity, high volume

Popular programs usually follow one of those frame works or a combination of the previous, for example Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program is an example of linear periodization, where the 3/5/1 variant would be an example of undulating periodization. Daily undulating periodization, despite it’s name, is actually a combination of concurrent periodization (where intensity and volume are manipulated within the week) and then most commonly progressed in a linear fashion towards a test or competition date; however, it could also be progressed in a weekly, semi-weekly, or monthly undulated fashion towards the same date.

Now at this point you’re probably going, well bloody hell, with so many options, what’s the best program? How do I choose the right one for me? How do I know the other options won’t be better? Could I become an ass kicking ninja faster?

The thing that gets often gets lost is that each style of periodization set out to solve a problem, which is why I recommend you start out on a basic linear progression or concurrent program and start solving problems. Let’s look at 2 different lifters who start on a linear progression program, they decide on 16 week cycle lengths, and move from 4 week blocks of 8 reps, 5 reps, 3 reps, and 1 rep on their main movements. let’s call these People Scott and Alyssa.

At first both Scott and Alyssa make great progress, but after Scott becomes a more skilled and efficient lifter, he finds that he progresses really well in the 8 rep months and still could progress into another week, but finds that he always suffers fatigue and decreased performance in his 3 rep block and it carries into his 1 rep block as well. His first solution is simply to extend the 8 rep block to 5 weeks and shorten his 3 rep block to 3 weeks and stay within the same 16 week linear cycle, but finds that this simply delays his drop in performance into the first week of his 1 rep block, so at this point he decides to go back to 4 week blocks but switch his 3 rep and 5 rep blocks so he now goes 8 reps, 3 reps, 5 reps, 1 rep and is now using a classic monthly undulated periodization scheme.

He makes good progress with this format for a cycle or two but starts to notice that his back is getting thrashed from deadlifts and it’s affecting his performance the next week. He decides to use a weekly high/low system for his deadlift where he only deadlifts heavy every second week, but since he tolerates loading in the squat much better, he adds in a secondary lower intensity squat day on the lower intensity deadlifts to offset the volume loss, he is now using a concurrent periodization for his squat, weekly undulation for his deadlift, all within the framework of a monthly undulated program.

This program will likely continue to adapt and change as Scott faces injuries, gets stronger and faces monumental life changes that affect his ability to train. Your periodization scheme should always change around objective and subjective data you’ve gathered on yourself, and never just because X lifter uses Y periodization scheme and he/she won Z competition. Jumping programs and periodization schemes is sure fire way to make sure you never collect enough data on yourself to optimize your own training.

Now let’s take a look at Alyssa, she starts with the same 8,5,3,1 progression over 16 weeks, and because she tracks her progress and tracks relevant information she finds that she is able to push her strength levels up quite effectively in the 8 rep and 5 rep blocks, but struggles to make her projected or actual maxes move up in the 3 rep and 1 rep blocks, in fact she isn’t even able to single her projected 1 rep from 8 weeks ago based off of her 5 rep, even after she’s adjusted for her personal individual differences when calculating. She faces a unique problem in the fact that she seems to build the most strength in the higher rep ranges, but she still needs to display is as a 1 rep max on the platform, so her solution is to switch to concurrent training in her 3 and 1 rep blocks. So instead of purely 3 rep or 1 rep blocks she now adds in some 8 rep work on her 3 rep block, and some 5 rep work into her 1 rep block.

At first she decides to put the volume work on the same day as the high intensity work, but finds that the top sets cause too much Intra-session fatigue (aka performance drop off) and it affects her ability to accumulate volume, even though she can still recover from the session and train hard the next time (adequate intersession recovery). Her solution to this problem is to use a weekly High/Low system where does her low rep work on one day, and higher rep work on another.

Both these lifters started out on the same style of basic programming, but after a few cycles, ended up with vastly different periodization schemes that were tailored to their own individual differences. They solved problems instead of program hopping and started the framework of their own training systems and ended up with their own custom programs that work for them at this time – one of the most frustrating things is that what works may not work again as you become more advanced and your leverages change, strength levels increase, aches and pains accumulate etc. but, by making small changes and measuring the outcomes, you’ll have developed road maps for when the unexpected occurs.

As always if you have any questions, let us know in the comments!

 

Why the F#$% Can’t I Sleep? The Most Effective Neural Recovery Methods You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

This isn’t another article telling you to darken your room, sleep in cool temperatures, and stay off your electronic devices – although if you’re not doing this already this might be a good place to start. This article is going to give you methods of recovery that start right from the moment you drop the barbell until the time where you go to sleep to optimize your recovery and get the most out of your nervous system so it can be ready to kick ass and chew bubble gum the next time you throw it into high gear.

The Autonomic Nervous System for Dummies

We’re going to ignore the conscious nervous system for the moment and focus entirely on the nervous system that just does it’s job automatically and thanklessly. The autonomic nervous system has two main branches: the sympathetic system and the parasympathetic system. The sympathetic system, also known as the fight or flight system, is the system you need to kick ass in the gym, at your sport, or mud wrestle grizzly bears in the mountains. The sympathetic branch kicks in whenever the body or mind is under significant stress or feels threatened. The other branch is the parasympathetic system, aka the rest and digest system, and is responsible for bringing you back into balance after your sympathetic system has gone bat shit crazy mobilizing energy stores, firing up adrenal hormone output, and redlining your proverbial engine for however long you were stressed for. When it comes to recovery and sleep, the parasympathetic system is the unsung janitor of your body, but in highly stressed people (hard training, Type A personality, athletes) the parasympathetic system is often overpowered by the intense signalling of the sympathetic system, and this is where we need to intervene if we want to be ready for the next session/competition/game.

Methods 

Inversion: Arguably the most powerful of the methods listed here, hanging upside down and taking pressure of the spine (which is a main component of the central nervous system) for about 10 minutes can shift the body out of a sympathetic state and kick start the recovery process. Anecdotally there seems to be an effect at around 5 mins, so even if you’re pressed for time, see if you can make time. Most people do not have access to inversion boots or tables, but most gyms have GHR’s or back raises that allow you to hang upside down from the hips down.

90-90 Breathing: placing your feet up on the wall by making a 90 degree angle at your knees, and a 90 degree angle at your hips (think sitting in an invisible chair but the back of the chair is the ground) and using a specific breathing pattern can also spark recovery and relaxation, and it’s very effective right before bed. you want to breathe into your stomach and avoid taking air high into the chest. Place one hand into the crease of your leg and abdomen, and the other on your chest/collarbone ares, and try to make the bottom hand rise and fall with your breath, while the top hand should remain stationary. Here is an example of 90-90 breathing, albeit without the hands in position to feel the breath.

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Since inhaling is governed by sympathetic activity and exhaling is governed by parasympathetic activity, you want to make sure your exhale is at least twice as long as your inhale. If you have trouble breathing low, try taking your thumbs and placing some light pressure just below your sternum on your abdomen (there are some key pressure sensors here) and you should find the breath becomes easier. Again, the magic number here is about 10mins, I’d recommend putting on a couple relaxing songs and tuning out, and don’t be surprised if you get up yawning and a little light headed. If you do further reading on 90-90 breathing you’ll see applications and activations well beyond the scope of this article, just remember, for the purpose of recovery, you don’t need a fancier set up or pattern of activation beyond what is shown above.

Foam Rolling: But not in the traditional sense of digging into super tight tissues and hammering away, here you’re going to focus on the big muscle groups: the glutes, hamstrings, quads, lats, and pecs, and use long sweeping passes along the entire muscle belly. Try to avoid the temptation of digging into sore spots that you’re bound to find, not only will this help with lymphatic drainage if done post training, but if you stick with it for that magical 10 minutes, the moderate but constant pressure on the neural circuitry down regulates the sympathetic nervous system reflexes, and as a result, the parasympathetic system can kick in the recovery process and start recharging. Passive stretching can also accomplish some of the same effects, but ensure you use long exaggerated exhales while holding your stretches and stay away from aggressive tension.

Walking: or other low threshold aerobic work improves vagal nerve output which is like the master pathway to the parasympathetic system. You need to do this a little longer than the other methods, 20-30mins to really see an effect on the nervous system; however, like foam rolling, this one is also good for muscle recovery, but mainly for the lower limbs. This falls under the “seems too simple to work” category, but it’s powerful, and the increase in work capacity is always nice when your program requires you to bang out an extra set of squats beyond what you’re used to.

Ok Cool, But When Do I Do These?

Your two key times are directly post training and before bed. The faster you can get out of a sympathetic dominant state and recovering the faster you’ll be ready to do it all over again, and sooner you let the parasympathetic system take over at night the better you’ll sleep and the better you’ll recover, gain muscle, lose fat, and adapt to your training program. Since you’ll adapt to anything you repeatedly do, it’s best to rotate methods (arbitrarily around a month and I’ll use a different recovery protocol) or at the very least only consider stacking methods for periods of physical or emotional stress. Below are some examples of how to combine these methods for different periods of training stress.

Low Stress Load:

Post Training: Foam Roll for 10mins

Pre-Bed: 90-90 Breathing or Walking

Medium Stress Load (Start working from active to passive methods)

Post Training: Foam Roll for 10mins then GHR Hang for 5-10mins

Pre-Bed: Walk for 20-30mins, Foam Roll for 10mins with Deep Breaths and Long Exhales

High Stress Load:

Post Training: 20mins Low Threshold Aerobic Work, Foam Roll for 10mins, GHR Hang for 10mins

Pre-Bed: Foam Roll for 10mins, Passive Stretch for 10mins, 90-90 Breathing 10mins (do all this in as dark a room as possible). You can also make time to swing by the gym before bed if really needed to hang off the GHR or back raise, or you can attempt to rig something up at home.

As you may have noticed, all these methods are mechanical in nature, they’re very effective, require very minimal to no equipment, and assuming you already have a gym membership, they’re free. For those who have extreme nervous system imbalances and find they still need extra help recovering, the next time I visit this topic will involve the chemical/hormonal/supplemental side of the equation. Until then, train hard and recover!

 

 

 

 

Why Do You Do This To Yourself?

Right after the question “what the hell are you doing? that usually comes after someone sees me painfully cranking on knee wraps and bruising the back of my legs while putting my feet half to sleep, comes the question “why would you do that?”

I guess I never really step back to think that to the average person wanting to put hundreds of pounds of weight in your hands or on your back might seem a little weird, and maybe it’s as simple as that: I’ve never wanted to be average. There’s no money in powerlifting, you’re not going to become famous from it, aside from people in your close circle who area vaguely aware that you pick things up and put them down, no one cares about what you do. Win a meet, qualify for nationals, set a new record? You’re probably going to get some likes on Facebook, and then get lost in the abyss of baby photos and cat videos.

That being said, I know I that will I be dragged broken and screaming away from the weights that I have given so much to and they have given so much in return. I know I will rage against the dying light of whatever career I have left, but the question remains:

Why the fuck to do you do this?

I sat here stuck looking for the perfect answer, but the more I think about it, it just comes down to who I am. To me, powerlifting is the perfect metaphor for many of the things I value the most in life.

Personal Responsibility

Powerlifting is beautiful in it’s simplicity: it’s you vs the weight, you either lift it or you do not. There’s no teammates, no opponent, no one but you on a platform, there’s no weather or other extraneous conditions to blame a poor performance on. 500lbs will be 500lbs, and it doesn’t give a shit whether you had a bad day, whether you’re nervous, whether you’re feeling sick, partied too much, cheated on your diet or skipped the exercises you don’t like doing. If you don’t make the lift, weaker minded lifters will blame their coach, the bars were too slippery, there was baby powder in the chalk… The strongest lifters will take responsibility for their performance and begin the process of investigating and correcting the error.

Determination, Acceptance of Failure, and the Value of Hard Work

The second you start powerlifting you accept that eventually, given enough time, the weight always wins. There’s a respect among top tier lifters that I believe centres around this very fact. You may have goals and successes along the way, but no matter how strong you are, you’re always after the next 5lbs, and it will never be enough. It’s a relentless search for self improvement that spans beyond just the physical into the mental and emotional realms, and you will be tested in all of them. Stay in the game long enough and you will get injured, you will get scared and lose your confidence, you will miss lifts, you will deal with setbacks and pain that would break many, lifts will go backwards, BUT, through calculation and sheer–I-will-not-be-fucking-broken attitude and determination, you will succeed anyways and you will be better for it.

For me personally the endless pursuit of a goal that is eternally out of reach is the true value that powerlifting provides. To accept that you will never be done, but to devote yourself regardless through whatever trials and tribulations you may face shows not only character, but is the roadmap to success in every worthwhile endeavour in life. Whether you desire to be the best parent to your child, launch a business, or look to make a meaningful change to the world, it requires a process that mirrors the exact same process you will undergo chasing that ever elusive 5lbs more.

Healthy Competition, Perspective, and Community

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be the best at something, to push myself past any measurable marker, and outperform my peers. I’ve been admittedly hyper competitive to a fault and when I first started powerlifting I wanted to be the best lifter in my weight class in BC, and then Canada, and then see where I could fit in the world stage. If I’m being honest, I never fully believed that I could become the best in the world, but as I close in on the second goal making a run at all three Canadian records in July, I realize I no longer care where I sit among others. Don’t get me wrong I am absolutely hell bent on getting those records, but not to be better than anyone else, to be the best version of myself, wherever that sits me on the world scale, I am fine with.

Right now I am no longer the outright strongest person in my own gym, we have Cameron who actually is the strongest lifter in the world in his age and weight class and will likely set the all-time world squat record at 105kg bodyweight and out squats me by 90lbs, we have our coach Cam Bennet who out benches me by 30lbs, and although we have a bet on who can make it to double bodyweight first (a tub of protein for a 2+year bet, we really should have aimed higher here Cam…), but if either of you two are reading this, there’s no way I’m ever letting you out deadlift me. All kidding aside I would be more than ecstatic to see both those men remain stronger than me forever, so long as we’re all still getting working towards our next 5lbs, and of course I’m going to do everything in my power to put them under as much pressure as possible as both a coach and fellow lifter, and guaranteed we’ll all be stronger for it.

Always Improving

Today I am chasing a 700lb deadlift, in the future it will be 705, and today I tried to do everything I could to get better, tomorrow I will add one more thing and improve on the things I missed.

Imagine for a second that you took responsibility for your actions and performance, were ferociously determined but could accept the lessons that failure provides, you knew the value of hard work, embraced healthy competition with a sense of community, had the courage to re-examine your perspective, and always believed you could be a little better – what could possibly stand in your way?

This is why I am so drawn to powerlifting beyond just the joy of getting stronger, every day I get to challenge myself to be a little better. Some days I will win, and some days I will lose and learn, but guaranteed I’ll be getting up the next day and will be standing next to that fucking bar determined to try again, and I genuinely hope some of you reading decide to join me

See you on the platform and in the gym.