Last Minute Christmas/Holiday Gifts For the Lifter On Your List

By Jordan Feigenbaum MS, Starting Strength Staff, CSCS, HFS, USAW Club Coach

Well folks, it’s that time of year again and though this is a little late, I just want to do right by all my fellow strength and conditioning junkies out there and give the people shopping for them some gift ideas. You know, ones that don’t completely suck. For other gift ideas, check out last year’s posts here, herehere, and here.

First off, some books! I was hoping my book would be done and out by now, but after switching the original plan- an eBook– to a full fledged hard-copy, things got a lot more complicated. I’m still doing some revisions to the initial manuscript, although that has been on the backburner since it’s finals time. In any event, here are some books I think that would make any enthusiast happy to receive this holiday season:

1) Practical Programming 3rd Edition -20.95 +S/H

This book is already out for pre-sale and I honestly can’t wait for this to come out. I had a hand in some of the physiology and nutrition parts while Andy Baker and Matt Reynolds helped out with some of the programming parts. All in all, this book is going to be great and if you pre-order it (see link above), Rip will even sign your book!

2) Science and Practice of Strength training -$60.58

index1Probably one of the best texts written about the actual physiology of strength training, I consider this book to be an important staple in anyone who is serious about the iron game. If your physiology is a little soft, then you’ll want to read Brooks and Fahey’s Exercise Physiology first, however.

3 Muscletown USA 34.95

41xMznmwZLLThis is a really cool book about some of the history of weightlifting and the physical culture in America. Lots of cool stories in this one and definitely off the beaten path for most. Check out all the crazy stuff that went on back in the day at The York Barbell Club.

4 The Strongest Shall Survive -31.00

A classic from Bill Starr that, unfortunately, many have not read.

5) Reactive Training Systems Manual -39.95

Screen shot 2013-12-07 at 11.34.22 PMMike Tuchscherer shares his training philosophy with the masses in this great text. If you’ve ever wondered about auto-regulation, RPE, accumulation of fatigue, or are looking for the training template that’s going to take you to the next level, I think Mike has some of the best stuff out there. Since we’re talking about him…let’s all marvel at how strong this guy is:

What sort of holiday gift list would we have if we didn’t include some stocking stuffers?

American Weightlifting: The Documentary (film) – 19.95

This is a really cool documentary that Greg Everett has been working on the last few years. It’s actually really good and I’d give it two barbells up.

Quest Bars – 24.99 (box of 12)

imagesI’m not really dogmatic about what people shouldn’t eat food quality wise, provided they end up hitting the correct macros and calories day in and day out. That being said, it just tends to go a little smoother with a protein supplement (or two) on hand for when you’re in a pinch or in a rush. Outside of a quality whey protein supplement, I really like these Quest bars. They have 5 ingredients or less, no sugar alcohols, and the protein quality is very high. My current favorite flavor?  Chocolate Peanut Butter. Gainzzz.

Leather Wrist Wraps -22.99

I know I know, you all think I’ve lost my marbles and/or am super into bondage these days. Instead of explaining myself let me introduce exhibit A:

Yong Lu cleaning 205kg (451lbs)

Yong Lu cleaning 205kg (451lbs)

Deadlift Slippers -11.50

If you’re planning on going to a meet, you’re going to need these because you can’t pull in socks at any meet worth doing. Similarly, maybe you’re sick of ruining socks because you don’t have anything covering them. Worse yet, maybe you’re pulling barefoot and getting your nasty feet and DNA all over the gym. C’mon y’all.

Slingshot – 50.00

With a website like, what did you expect other than something that will help you get your bench up? This “device” is a really nice way to add bench press volume that’s overloaded and that won’t beat up your shoulders or elbows. I really like my “standard” version.

Yong Lu cleaning 205kg (451lbs)

Yong Lu cleaning 205kg (451lbs)

slingshotNow what if you have someone on your list who’s literally got everything? They have the belt, a gym bag, lifting shoes, knee sleeves, wrist wraps, bands, books, etc. What the hell do you get them (besides a massage)? Here are a few cool trinkets even I would enjoy:

Mini DL jack – 65.00


This cool little contraption allows you to load your deadlift bar without having to struggle to get each additional plate on or, more importantly, off , after you rip that big PR. WestCary Barbell is a really good place to do business with as well.

Eleiko Calibrated Collars – 139.99

eleiko-collars-h1Probably one of the most annoying things about gyms these days is the lack of quality clamps they have to keep the weights on the damn bar. The spring clamps are useless, as they slide off when the weights get heavy. The lockjaw style plastic clamps might be worse because over time they don’t even stay on the bar hardly. Enter the Eleiko calibrated clamps. These things not only are rugged and keep the plates on the bar, they are exactly 5kg, which means no more worrying about how much the clamps weigh when it comes time to set a PR (you were thinking about that right? RIGHT?)

HookGrip Posters- 20.00

What better way to decorate your man (or woman) cave or home gym than with some sweet posters? I salute Comrade Klokov every morning while I put down breakfast…it’s a motivational deal of sorts. I really dig this new Apti celebration poster.

Alright folks, there you have it. A handful of gifts for any serious strength and conditioning enthusiast. Happy Holidays to everyone. Look out for some posts from my European Tour coming up shortly 🙂






The Ultimate Top 5 List

By Jordan Feigenbaum MS, CSCS, HFS, USAW CC, Starting Strength Staff

I’ve been doing a lot of work with clients, the new website,  and others (see Reddit AMA #1 and #2) and it’s got me thinking: What are the most important things in training that people are doing wrong?


Obviously this also tends to include things like nutrition, lifestyle factors, etc., but I’ve really been seeing a lot of common threads amongst people who need some help. So, without further ado here’s my Ultimate Top 5 List:

  1. Eat More Protein
Mom, where's the protein?

Mom, where’s the protein?

All things being equal, more protein is better from a performance and aesthetic standpoint with the following caveat: if you’re weighing and measuring all your food anyway, this does not apply. Most people eating ad libitumdo not eat enough protein. This also includes people who are specifically looking to increase their protein intake on a daily basis, however, this generally results in 4-5 days of a decent protein intake but 2-3 days of sub optimal protein intake. It’s just not that palatable in and of itself and few people actually crave protein unless they haven’t had some animal flesh in a while.

That being said, I’ve consistently seen better results when it comes to strength increases, better body composition, and compliance on a dietary strategy when it has more protein in it. Don’t get this confused with me telling you that you need 400g a day to make gains, as this is hardly the case. What I’m saying is that most people, male or female, should be between 200-300g of protein/day based on their age (older=more protein), size (bigger=more protein), sex (females=more protein), and training status/frequency (more frequency/harder training= more protein). In addition, if you suffer from compliance issues, i.e. you fall off the wagon frequently, then more protein tends to help this as it is very satiating. Above all else, hit your protein numbers for the day and most other things will take care of themselves.

Lifestyle Hack: Immediately after training drink a protein shake. Repeat again before bed. This get’s you at least halfway there.

2) Do The Correct Conditioning Work

What's better, walking on an incline or this?

What’s better, walking on an incline or this?

Most people undertaking a body recomposition phase in their life immediately start to do some sort of conditioning work concomitantly. Unfortunately, this often tends to be of the low to moderate intensity variety, i.e. walking on a treadmill, jogging, riding the bike, etc. While I applaud people for making healthy-ish changes in their lives, I think they could do a better job MORE EFFICIENTLY with some well structure high intensity interval training (HIIT).

The argument most people make about low intensity cardio being > HIIT is that “it burns more fat calories” and “burns more calories total”. Here’s the rub, low intensity cardio only burns a higher percentage of calories from fat than HIIT does. It does not burn a greater number of fat calories unless the total work done is grossly disproportional, i.e. someone is comparing doing 1 hour of cardio vs. 5 minutes of HIIT. Additionally, I’ll concede that traditional cardio burns more calories during the actual activity, however HIIT burns more calories over the course of the next 16-48 hours (+/- 8 hours) via metabolic increases systemically.

The only really good rationale for incorporating low to moderate intensity cardio in someone’s regimen (who isn’t an endurance athlete) is to just provide a calorie burn without expending the effort of HIIT (it’s much harder so you can’t do it all the time, especially if you’re on a massive deficit), or the person simply cannot muster the requisite effort or drive to push themselves to the limit during the HIIT. The magic is in the intensity. If the intensity isn’t there, then don’t bother.

Lifestyle Hack: On your off days (optimal) or at the end of your training sessions (okay) do the following protocol: 5 minute warm up, then 7 rounds of 30 second sprints followed by 3 minute rest periods. Cool down with 10 minutes easy effort.

3) Train Economically

Most people screw the pooch on this one, thinking they need to hit all sorts of variety and complex training to reach their goals when in fact, some form of either linear progression or rudimentary periodization will work just fine (outside of competitive lifters).

If you’re a beginner/novice, all you need to do is hit the big exercises 2-3 times per week and add weight to the bar each week, BECAUSE YOU CAN. If you can no longer do this, you’re not a novice anymore and thus, should not be on a novice program.

After the novice program ends, you do not need a 4 day split with all sorts of fancy accessory exercises in order to drive progress. What you need is consistent exposure to the movement at various levels of intensity (weight) and volume (reps x sets). Complexity can come later, when you need it.

Lifestyle Hack: Pare down your training template to the bare bones: squat, deadlift, press, bench press, chins, and power cleans. If you’re going to add anything, it better be a curl variation, a triceps exercise, and some abs. Everything else can stay in everyone else’s crappy program.

4) Eat the Right Amount of Energy

Bacon vs. Pasta? Easy. Bacon by unanimous decision

Bacon vs. Pasta? Easy. Bacon by unanimous decision

This should go without saying, but it’s not fat OR carbs that make you fat. It’s too much of either, or more often, too much of both. For the strength or anaerboically inclined athlete, carbohydrate is a much more effective fuel bioenergetically and I’d try to persuade this population to shift to a high protein, moderate to high carb, and low fat style diet. On the other hand, someone who’s not really into strength or is an endurance athlete would benefit from being efficient at using fat as a fuel in addition to carbohydrates, as fat is very important in long endurance efforts. For this population, I’d lean towards a high protein, low to moderate carb, and higher fat style diet. The biggest takeaway from this is that if overall energy is high, i.e. both carbs and fat are high, this will likely lead to unwanted “changes” in the body unless you’ve specifically added small amounts of carbs and fats to the diet incrementally.

Note: both diets are high protein

Of course, all of these recommendations are in relative amounts and not exact. High carb to one person might be low carb to another and vice versa. The important thing is to choose which way you’re going to go and choose appropriately based on what you do and what you can comply with.

Lifestyle Hack: Eat lean proteins and veggies at most meals of the day. Add starch pre and post workout. Add enough fat to suit your needs at meals outside of the periworkout window.
5) Eat Enough Fiber

We’ve heard for so long from the mainstream medical community that we should “Get more fiber in!” Surprisingly, I’m mostly on board with this statement. Here’s why:

The rationale behind having a “fiber goal”  is multifactorial. One, fiber is thermogenic in that it requires lots of energy to move it to the large bowel where the resident bacteria ferment it into a short chain fatty acid. Two, three, and four it tends to be very satiating, all things considered, lowers the glycemic index of meals, and controls for how much junk you can eat and still be compliant, i.e. 200g of carbs is different from 200g of carbs with the caveat you’re getting 35g of fiber/day too. Five, fiber levels have been linked to many healthy outcomes. Whether or not this is correlation, i.e fiber within the diet means you’re eating “healthy”, or causation, e.g. fiber ingestion itself is healthy, is unknown to me but it is what it is. Finally, fiber just eliminates one more variable in macro recs. If fiber intake is changing but carbs stay the same then the two inputs are not exactly equal in effect.

So there you go, the five things you and your friends need to be doing to take your performance and aesthetics to the next level! I’d love to hear from people reading this blog. What do you want to hear about next??