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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Three Ways To Over Deliver In a Group Exercise Setting

Re-;post from

Three Ways To Over Deliver In a Group Exercise Setting
by Greg Robins of TPS

Recently I had the privilege of talking to a friend who is just getting started in the fitness industry. She mainly wanted to pick my brain on how I go about teaching classes, and programming for them. The group setting will always be less than ideal in my mind. However, nothing is ideal, and there are ways to deliver an outstanding product in the larger group setting. Here are a few thoughts:

1. Keep It Simple, Keep It Consistent:

I can't stress enough how important it is to have people be good at things. In this case, have them be good at exercises, and movements. A flaw I see in many group classes is that every week there are 15 new exercise variations on the agenda. The week before it was 15 other ones, and next week it will be 15 more exciting ways to accomplish less. You can talk me to death about how people want new things, and want you to keep it fresh. In my mind, by changing the exercises you are taking the absolute easiest way out in order to make those things happen. There are plenty of ways to make it fresh, and just as in a semi - private or individual setting, changing an exercise is only one way to progress.

Have people become incredible at the basics. Have them squat, swing, push up, row, etc. One reason the KB lends itself so well to group classes is because you can only do so much with it. You can squat it, swing it, press it, clean it, snatch it, a get up it. Ya, there are other things, but I don't really put stock into those. If you want to over deliver, make your group members walking examples of beautiful form in everything they do.

2. Have a Set Up Progression / Regression Scheme:

This is a lot easier to do when you keep it simple. In actuality, if you don't keep it simple, you're probably doing a sub par job of this. Doing a sub par job with this isn't going to be good, as it is vital to keeping your members safe. If you have 6 basic movements, each one should have a progression, and regression, often a few in each direction. Here is an example:

TRX Supported Squat - Squat To Box - Goblet Squat - Double KB Front Squat - Offset KB Front Squat

Hands Elevated P-UP - TRX Chest Press - Push Up - Feet Elevated Push Up - Push Up vs. Band

This is mostly for teaching purposes, as an example. The Goblet Squat is generally accessible to most people, and it falls in the middle, with two levels of regression and progression built in.

I'm a big fan of more work up front and easy sailing there out. You might need to take some time to develop your approach, but it will make for a better product and better results thereafter.

3. Have Some Kind Of Quantifiable Results:

If you get the same people every week you can very well do a body fat contest or something like that. I am not talking about that. I am talking more on a performance level. If you keep it consistent, and you progress and regress, you should have people making actual improvements in the exercises. I'd rather send 10 people home after 12 weeks of boot camp who can now press twice as much, swing twice as much and squat twice as much. I don't want to send them home being the same at everything because we never gave them time to improve one skill. These kind of results are actually impressive, and these results will leave you with happy people who see the value in consistency. You won't have to worry about keeping it fresh, improving their numbers will be fresh enough.

Another place you can work the numbers is training density. Instead of giving people 12 new density sets through 12 weeks, change the sets every 4 weeks, and have them improve how much work they get done in that time. As an example:

10m Density Set (complete as many sets as possible in time allotted): 1A. KB Swing 16kg x 10, 1B. Push Ups x 8

Week 1: They completed 8 sets, shoot to see them improve to 9 sets, 10 sets, 11 sets.

Now that is keeping it fresh, simple, consistent and you can regress or progress the exercises easily. Heck you can just use your progression / regression scheme to change the exercises every 3 - 4 weeks and they will still be accomplishing the metabolic effects regardless of their training history.

Just some food for thought!

Avoiding this is a sure fire way to over deliver as well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

An Interview With Jane Stabile. 403lb Squatter, Mother, Grandmother, and All Around Awesome Person!

re-post from

I’m very excited because I have a special post for you all today. I am lucky enough to work with one of the most intelligent, kind and strong women you will ever meet. Instead of a lengthy introduction, I’ll just let the fantastic Jane Stabile tell you a little more about herself!
Let’s get started. Jane, who are you?

I’m a 59-year-old female power lifter, mother of 3 grown daughters, grandmother of a 5-month-old boy, and wife for 36 years of a software architect.  For the last few years I’ve been the business manager of Total Performance Sports.  In my twenties I was a hospital administrator, then I spent a few years as a full-time mother, and after that I was an Enrolled Agent (licensed by the IRS to help people with their tax problems)  for about 20 years.  I grew up in several different locations in the northeast, and Larry and I lived in Wayland for 30 years before moving to a new building inKendall Square, Cambridge.  I went to college atWellesleyand later got an MBA from BU.  For fun I hike, kayak, and bike in Acadia National Park and Cambridge.
That’s awesome, you are one busy lady! Additionally, what a nice variety of different experiences! So how long have you been involved with power lifting?
Seven to ten years, depending on what you call the beginning.  When I was turning 50, I started going to a personal trainer inNatickso I could slim down and get healthy.  Tony noticed that I was very strong.  He taught me the 3 power lifts but he wasn’t a power lifter himself, so I had to find people who could teach me more.  First I trained for a summer inMainewith Mike and Kristy Scott.   They brought me to my first meet (a push-pull inLewiston), and that led me to Murph and TPS.
I always imagined that you had started lifting much earlier, especially with the numbers you have put up. However, it’s great to hear when you picked this up. I know a lot of people who probably think they are too old to do something like power lift, or just lift in general. You’re living proof that they’re not! Sounds like your first trainer did a great job inspiring you to lift, but was there a specific moment when you knew “this is for me!?”
Probably the first time I dead lifted 200 pounds.  It felt great!!  This was before I had ever been to a meet or even met any power lifters.  After being a non-athlete for years and years, I had finally found something athletic that I could do pretty well.  No turning back after that.
That’s a great testament to sticking with things as well. I know you didn’t walk in day one and pull 200 pounds, but had you stopped before that moment, you may have never found this passion. I have met a few people who felt similarly to you. They were never much for team sports, but found their athletic drive in the weight room. That’s another great thing about this sport, there is a sense of competition, but more so a healthy competition against one’s self. As a lifter you are always trying to out do yourself, tell me a little bit about your continued progress, day 1 until now:

At my first meet, Russ Barlow’s  2003 Maine  State Push-Pull, I think I benched about 100 pounds and deadlifted 225.  At my most recent meet, WABDL Worlds last November, I benched 209 and deadlifted 375.  My best squat in a meet was 403.   Here are links to record pages of the APF, AAPF, and AWPC.  Look down near the bottom in the women’s masters section.  I have a lot of the records in the 50-to-54- and 55-to-59 year old classes, in 67.5, 75, and 82.5 kg weight classes. (American records) (American records, drug tested) (World records, drug tested.)
Look at you, that is ridiculous! Strength training among women is making a comeback, and with numbers like these you are definitely one STRONG woman. What a great result of all your hard work. I often try to convey how the lessons learned in the gym transfer into daily life. The journey from trying to get back in shape, to a 403lb squat, must have come with quite a few struggles. What are a few great lessons you have learned through lifting and or your time in the gym?
I learned one life-altering lesson just before I started lifting, and although it sounds kind of dumb now,  I think it’s what allowed me to become a lifter.  I had always thought when you got hot and tired it meant you were totally exhausted and had to stop.  My first trainer, Tony, made me keep slogging away on the treadmill a couple of times until I realized that there was really a lot more gas in the tank, and that you can push yourself rather than just giving in.  I started running; that summer I ran with a half-marathon training group and although I didn’t enter that race I did run 11 miles one day.  I still can’t quite believe that.  I’ve had a lot more growth experiences that carry over into life outside the gym.  For example, after two very good friends separately told me that I was whining, I made a big attitude adjustment so I could accept and appreciate the wonderful training environment we have at TPS. Another lesson I am still learning is how to focus.  
Pushing through physical discomfort teaches us to push through uncomfortable situations in life as well. I’m with you there. People will have good days and bad days, but success, and moving forward through a struggle is the product of hard work, and most of all: not giving up. I like how you mentioned “whining”. Complaining is unproductive. The difference between those who progress, and those who stay stagnant, often comes down to their attitude. Training is challenging, life is challenging, and you can either put your head down and keep going, or stop and complain about it.
Let’s talk a little bit about power lifting as a sport. I find that power lifting can get a negative rep, but I know you don’t agree. What does power lifting mean to you, and what is something you think people should know about this sport?

Honestly, the most important thing I want to share is how much fun it is.  But beyond that, I think the people in the sport tend to be judged as dumb, ill-tempered gorillas. OK, I have met one or two of those, but really this is just plain wrong. When you are a power lifter, you have a real bond with your training partners.  You have to trust your life to the buddies who spot you, and maybe that’s what underlies the brotherhood feeling.  Lifters are always helping each other.  I was surprised to find out what thinkers power lifters are.  The sport requires a lot of reflection about technique, and lifters are always working on new and better ways to train. Beyond that, we don’t have a whole lot in common; I train with people from all different occupations, religions, political preferences (!), and musical tastes.
I have heard you are quite opinionated when it comes to politics, but we won’t get into that! That is a fantastic answer. Some of the most intelligent people I have met are devoted to their strength training. Some like the numbers, some like the technical aspects, and they all value that important mind – body connection. Lifting creates a tough, powerful exterior and it facilitates a tough, powerful mind as well. As you stated the camaraderie is second to none. What a great equalizer between so many different types of people.
Before we leave, we have to talk about women and heavy stuff. Any advice for the ladies who might think power lifting, or just strength training in general, is the furthest thing from what they want to do?
I have never been as healthy as I am now, and I haven’t looked this good since I was a teenager. I know a lot of women are afraid to lift weights because they don’t want to look like the Hulk. I do have pretty good muscle definition, but I don’t look like a bodybuilder at all.   I think the most important thing for a woman who wants to be stronger and healthier is to find a sport that she loves.  It might be power lifting, or it might be tennis, or running.  You need to find something that keeps calling you to get out and do it. If you have kids and other family responsibilities, do the best you can (and remember that your needs are important too.)
Right on! I know some coaches, myself included push the idea of heavier lifting on women. I guess we are just advocates for something we have seen makes a tremendous difference in people’s lives. You are right though, in the end, it has to be something you enjoy doing. That being said, I would like to put things in perspective, you have squatted 403lbs, benched 209lbs, and pulled 375lbs off the ground. You are in fantastic shape, and yet if anyone met you, they wouldn’t automatically think you were capable of such incredible strength. Lifting heavy doesn’t transform women into monsters!
I also like how you mentioned finding a balance between training and life. Your world might not revolve around training, but you should make time for things that are important to you.
You’re one smart lady, Jane!
To wrap up, what is your training like now, and what are your future plans in the gym, and the platform?

I want to get the stupid elite total out of the way this year.  I have been chasing that, and a couple of other benchmarks, for too long.  It’s not really stupid at all.  I want to get to the elite level because the qualifying total is not age-adjusted.  I would need to lift as much as a 25-year-old woman elite lifter. It would make me proud.
Lately I have been focusing on correcting what’s wrong with my lifting rather than on improving my numbers, and that was the right thing to do.  I have fixed some of the problems with my upper back and I’ve really been concentrating on my form on all 3 lifts, as well as getting my overall strength up.  Right now I’m in the middle of a Russian squat training cycle with Murph.  I have two meets coming up this spring, and I’m hoping to do two world championships in November, both in Vegas. No international travel this year.
I saw your first session of the new cycle, it looked pretty grueling! I know you will total elite, and what an accomplishment it will be!
Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us, Jane. You are definitely an inspiring person and have an incredible passion for lifting, and the sport of power lifting. Not to mention, you’re just an awesome person all around, who deserves all the success you have achieved, and will achieve.
Thanks again!

Can you load it?

re-post from

I know this post is going to be controversial. I want to stir the pot, pose a question, and open some discussion. I am not speaking in absolutes, just giving an opinion and a thought on something. Although I am sure it will be viewed differently, I am not trying to displace certain exercises as “bad”.
The fitness industry, from what I’ve seen, can be comical at times. We all know the basics work, but we also know that in order to progress and stay relevant, we need to be innovative. In reality a lot of what you read has been said before, a lot. Coaches and trainers just re-package things, which is fine. Sometimes I find that in order to generate new content, or make some noise, they also come up with exercises, programs, etc. that are definitely different and thought provoking, but often times less productive than their less sexy roots.
I am not sold on exercises that continually make basic movements more complex.
Yesterday we talked about accommodation, and while a relevant concern, it’s definitely exaggerated. I don’t find people accommodate to basic movements as quickly as we seem to think they do. Additionally, exercise selection is only one of many ways to avoid accommodation. Changing a movement is not the only way to progress.
It’s called strength training, which leads me to believe the objective is to get stronger.
So why do we continually make exercises more challenging to load? Why do we add multiple components to a movement, that possibly take away from the main objective of the original movement?
Maybe it’s because squatting, dead lifting, lunging, pressing, and rowing get boring. I don’t think that’s a good enough answer. I mean we seem to tell people who want to lose body fat they need to eat real foods. There are only so many real foods, and while the grocery store offers a bazillion varieties, we tend to say “get over it” if you want to make the most progress.
If I want to get something done with a movement then I want to be able to LOAD it. I can load the squat, I can load the dead lift, I can load a bench press, push up, overhead press, barbell row, dumbell row, pull up, and lunge.
I can assign these movements with a very clear objective of what I am trying to elicit.
I can even take them and slightly change the range of motion, or how I’m loading it. I can easily quantify them, vary the loads, and total work done.
When exercises begin to combine multiple objectives, the point get’s lost on me. I can’t load a single leg overhead good morning. If that even exists, I’m sure it does.
Are the days gone where if you wanted a strong upper body, you pressed? If you wanted strong legs, you squatted?
Have they been replaced by exercises where you kind of get to press and kind of get to squat, at the same time, and never truly get too strong at either?
If you want training efficiency the answer has been around for a long time: Big movements, that you can load. Movements that put you in a great position to handle some weight (safely).
Training efficiency doesn’t equate to movements where you think you are accomplishing a lot because you add bells and whistles all around the root movement. Does it?
Want more activation? Do activation drills where you can focus on just that. Then go lift.
Want to get strong? Use movements that put you in the best position, and allow you to focus solely on moving heavy stuff.
I thought it was better to become a master at one thing, than sort of proficient at many things.
What do you think?

3 Principles of program design

re-posted from gregtrainer.comToday I have a BEAST post by my boy Jamie Smith. I know a lot of people have questions on how to design a program that makes sense. Like so many other things, it comes down to the basics, and a firm understanding of them. Below, Jamie does a fantastic job of laying it out for you. Don’t skim through this, and make sure to download the tables, they are something worth saving to keep as a reference. Additionally, I linked to some past posts on overload, accommodation, and specificity, if you want more information.
Adaptation is a very important concept because without this mechanism “we” (humans) would not exist. We are always adapting to whatever life throws at us. The same holds true to any strength and conditioning program you are implementing. The primary objective of any strength and conditioning program is to elicit a positive systemic response. The Science and Practice of Strength Training (Zatsiorsky and Kraemer) states that Overload, Accommodation, Specificity, and Individualization are the basic concepts of physical training. To obtain your short and long term goals you must follow these basic principles of program design.
Accommodation occurs when there is a constant stimulus placed on a living organism.
This is the reason you haven’t seen any improvements using that same “bodybuilding” program over and over again. To create a positive stimulus one must have some type of overload. Properly organized programs that are sequenced with varying volume, intensity, and density will avoid the negative aspects of accommodation. There are many different ways to plan a program. For the purpose of this article I will not go into great detail about all the different schemes. In short, there are two major schemes, Concurrent and Concentrated. A concurrent approach is when you train all of the different methods at the same time. The concentrated approach focuses on only training a specific method for a length of time. There are many variations of each model, but from my experience the concurrent, with an emphasis approach, is the one of the most efficient ways to train. This style of training will include all of the different methods, but the training load will be determined by that day’s objective.
The first principle of programming is to develop an overload. There are many ways to produce overload. The first step is to determine the training means or exercise selection. When choosing exercises its best to organize them into different movement patterns.
Squat Pattern
Free Squat
Hip Hinge Pattern
Trap Bar DL
Horizontal Push
Horizontal Pull
DB Row
Vertical Push
OH Press
Vertical Pull
Posterior Chain Dominant
Single Leg Movement
Then prioritize the movements that will be dependant on one’s goals. Here are some different examples:
TABLE 1 <– Click Me To Get Table
After you prioritize your different movements, then you can implement a specific method that will help you reach your goals. The methods can be organized in 5 different categories.
Table2(m)<– Click Me To Get Table
The second principle, individualization, is an important concept to understand. Everyone will respond differently to each method because of different life-styles (stressors), weaknesses (muscular imbalances, asymmetries, and sticking points), and psychological state (motivated, lazy, or “work-aholic”). This will go hand and hand with the third principle of program design, which is specificity. When planning and organizing a program you must be as specific as possible. Your program must have a realistic objective and a purpose. If you have an increase in specificity then there will be a high transfer, which will produce better results. The program should use the means and methods that will produce improvement of your specific objectives. There are a lot of misconceptions out there but you must realize that all of the methods are related in one way or another. They all are built around foundational strength development. Depending on your objective/ goals you must realize that the development of basic strength will positively carry-over to all of the different methods. For example, if your goal is fat loss you will benefit much more if you spend a specific duration developing foundational strength levels through the max and sub-maximal effort methods. Then you can implement and wave in the other methods that are specific for fat loss. The reason for focusing on foundational strength is to allow your body to perform more work at a higher level without over-stressing your system. Depending on your focus you can implement all of these methods at once – but must pick and choose which method you want to emphasize. The emphasis approach is manipulated by the amount of volume each method has throughout the program. It is important to note that while improving the foundational strength levels, you can still perform some type of conditioning (work capacity) during that same training session. But if your emphasis is on improving strength you must back off and control the volume of your conditioning. You can’t serve two masters, but over-time with a properly organized program you can reach all of your short and long term goals.
The last piece of the program design puzzle is management. This is the most important aspect when it comes to program design. What I mean by this is after you organize your program, what’s next? It looks great on paper but what if your lifestyle won’t allow you to positively respond to this type of programming. Management is how you handle day-to-day stressors. This includes getting proper sleep, eating healthy, managing relationship situations, and/ or handling work-related stress levels. All of these factors need to play a role in how you manage your program on a daily basis. This will not only play a role for each individual training session but if not managed properly over-time all of the fatigue will accumulate and have a negative impact. When it comes to program design the whole purpose of planning your training is to develop optimal results.
The next time you sit down and organize a program really think about these principles. Make sure you set specific objectives that are attainable. Once you establish the purpose of your training program then you can pick and choose the different means and training loads. After putting all the pieces together you must manage all of the different variables that life will throw at you. There will be good and bad days but please remember no matter how thorough your program design, results are impossible without passion and dedication.
By Jamie Smith 2012
Jamie coaching the press.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Great breakfast recipe

The following is from Katie Yee of

It sounds delicious.

We’re always saying how important breakfast is… and inevitably we hear, “What should I eat?” or “I don’t have time to eat breakfast” So this month we’re featuring a fantastic, fast recipe to get you started off right in the morning.

Mighty Muffins:


6 Egg Whites

1/4 cup oat bran

Vanilla Extract




1/2 cup blueberries

Water (up to ¼ c.)

Part 1: Egg White Muffins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Spray muffin tin with Pam

3. Pour 2 egg whites in a muffin tin.

4. Pour 2 other egg whites in a muffin tin

5. Makes 2 egg white muffins

6.You can add seasoning or diced vegetables to these as you like to jazz them up!

Part 2: Oat Bran Muffins:

1. In a small mixing bowl add 2 egg whites

2. Add in 1/4 cup oat bran

3. Mix in 1/2 cup blueberries (or chopped strawberries etc.)

4. Add in cinnamon, vanilla extract, and stevia to taste

5. Add water as needed to create batter consistency (a few tbsp up to ¼ c.)

6. Pour mixture into muffin tins

Part 3: Baking & Eating:

1. Bake for 15 minutes or until firm

2. Let cool for a few minutes

3. Enjoy!

Don’t have time for the oven or access? No problem. Substitute a Tupperware container for muffin pan. Simply microwave your egg whites and oat bran muffin mixture for 3-5 minutes! Better yet, make them the night before to save yourself a few minutes in the morning!

Want to boost your muffins a bit? Throw in some nut butter for some healthy fat and more protein! (You can also experiment other variations with pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice, banana, other berries or fruit, etc.)

Enjoy your breakfast!

Nutritional Facts:

Calories: 276

(Calories and macros will be higher if you add in nut butter or other items)

Fat: 4.41 g

Protein: 37.48 g

Carbohydrates: 47.78 g