7 Rules to Optimize Protein Intake

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

In general, I am not a fan of rules, dogma, or rigid guidelines. That being said, what follows are what I consider to be the most important variables when it comes to optimizing protein intake for anyone. While there are sure to be inter-individual variability, these “rules” are pretty spot on. Without further ado…..

1) You will eat enough protein each meal. Optimal protein intake per meal will be the amount of protein that yields ~3-4g of leucine, a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA). 3-4g of leucine per meal has been shown to maximize muscle protein synthesis. If it’s maximized, it can’t go any higher with additional protein, right? This is also, of course, assuming that the protein you’re consuming either contains all the essential amino acids (like all animal derived proteins do) or you have eaten a protein rich meal within the past 4-6 hours that had all of the EAA’s present in abundant amounts. Just to give an example, whey protein (the KING of all proteins) has ~3g of leucine per 20g serving whereas brown rice protein has 3g of leucine per 40g serving. While these two doses are equivalent in their potential to drive muscle protein synthesis, they are not equivalent in calories, which may be a consideration you wish to make if you’re calorie restricted. (Note: many protein manufacturers have different leucine/serving ratios but this is a fairly accurate estimate based on most protein supplements).
2) You will optimize meal frequency. Somewhere along the line people started espousing the mantra “eat every two hours to stoke the metabolism” or “so you don’t become catabolic”, with catabolism meaning breaking down– in this case skeletal muscle- to use their constituents elsewhere in the body.  Problem with these recommendations with respect to protein intake is that there is a known refractory period to muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which we can think about on a gross level as muscle growth/recovery/building. Every time a large enough dose of protein is ingested, i.e. one that provides enough leucine and EAA’s to push the MPS reaction over the edge, there’s a 3-5 hour refractory period that must transpire before another dose of protein (at a meal/shake/etc) will yield another bout of MPS. This means that if you ate a protein rich breakfast at 8am, then ate again at 10am, the meal at 10 am would contribute nothing to MPS and then, by definition- it would be stored away as energy -either glycogen or fat depending on other variables. Ultimately, we should be waiting longer between protein dosings to optimize our results. MPS is obviously important for the athlete, but it’s also important for the gen pop- particularly the aging population who is at risk for sarcopenia, decreased work capacity, and thus a host of other comorbidities (e.g. diabetes from decreased skeletal muscle buffering of blood glucose). The literature suggests that the aging population actually sees fantastic results with higher protein intakes and they even use whey protein shakes in many of their interventions.

tl;dr-Eat 3-5x per day tops, spread out 3-5 hours.
3) You will determine optimal protein intake by taking rules 1 and 2 into consideration with total calorie intake, age, and gender. It intuits well, given rules 1 and 2, that the optimal protein intake per day is initially based on how much protein a person needs per meal to maximize MPS multiplied by the number of meals they will have per day. Other factors that are taken into consideration to increase or decrease the protein prescription (new book title?) for an individual includes the following modifiers:
a)Gender- The more male someone becomes, the more sensitive to amino acids they are, in general. This would allow a male to need slightly less protein per pound than a weight and age-matched female. That being said, lean body mass weight also plays a role in the amount of leucine needed per meal to maximize MPS, but this is literally a variation of 0.5-1g tops for a range of bodyweights between 100lbs-300lbs, so we don’t take it into consideration and 3-4g is very safe.

b) Age- In general, the more someone ages the less sensitive they become to protein, so protein levels should go up over time slightly.

c) Dietary Preferences- As the quality of protein increases (based on bioavailability, protein digestibility amino acid corrected score, and amino acid profile) the total protein needed to optimize protein intake goes down. Similarly, the more vegan someone is, the more protein they require, i.e. the more calories from protein they require to get the same effect as their meat-eating, bone crushing, bacon frying counterparts. In short, the lower quality your protein sources are (lentils/rice/veggies/wheat/soy) the more protein you require for the same effect. This is an important consideration for those who are calorie restricted/limited.

4) You will not listen to bro’s who tell you that you only need x gram of protein/day. First off, we’re definitively NOT talking about protein needs here. Protein needs refers to what you NEED to not be deficient- not to optimize performance, aesthetics, or health but merely to survive. So yea, not what we’re talking about. Secondly, the amount of protein you actually need is a fairly complex answer based on everything we’ve discussed above. Do you really think the dude with the cut-off tee who maxes out on bench press every Monday and squats high (or more likely-leg presses) has taken all this into consideration before word vomiting his opinion to you while you foam roll? Doesn’t it make more sense that he noticed your new Lululemon yoga pants (if female) or is admiring your handsome combover (if male)? Seems more likely to me…

5) You will not listen to the bros who tell you that you can only absorb x gram of protein/meal. The poor bro, he can’t catch a break. So this oft-repeated nonsense goes around and around and just will not die…until TODAY. Let me be crystal clear, you absorb and use virtually 100% of everything that enters your gastrointestinal tract from your mouth. If you don’t, you’ll know it because you’ll be having watery diarrhea post-prandial (after a meal) since the undigested and unabsorbed food will act osmotically to draw water into the large intestine and then well, you know what happens after that. Look, we’ve done the tracer studies and know that when you eat any amount of protein at a meal it all gets absorbed. All of it. Actually 110-120% of it. Yep, MORE THAN 100%. That’s because the cells the line the  bowel, the enterocytes, make proteins themselves. These are called endogenous (made within the body) proteins and yep, they’re absorbed too. Yes Virginia, if you eat 100g of protein at a meal you’ll absorb it all. Yes, it will take longer than if you only ate 20g, but you’ll absorb the first 20g of protein from the 100g at the same rate as 20g on it’s own provided they have similar total fat content and fiber content within the entire meal. That being said, the time course to which a meal is absorbed matters little to anyone, unless they compete or train multiple times per day.

6) You will not get lured into buying expensive protein with sub optimal amino acid profile. People, if you’re paying more than ~10 dollars/lb of protein you’re getting duped, as the manufacturer is preying on your ignorance. Whey is the king protein, period. It’s better than the 100 dollar fish protein from a certain manufacturer who is big in the land of shirtless dudes and vibram 5 finger clad women. Why? Because its amino acid profile is better, i.e. it has more BCAAs (leucine/isoleucine/valine) and a higher concentration of essential amino acids. Also, it’s cheaper…so that seems to be a good point in and of itself. Whey trumps casein on satiety, MPS rates, and time that it keeps plasma (blood) amino acid levels elevated. In other words, all the nonsense the bro at GNC regurgitates about casein being a slow digesting protein that is good to take at night because it slowly releases amino acids from the GI tract is BS. Well, to be fair to him (bro) or her (bra?), it [casein] does more slowly release amino acids into the blood stream from the gut, but it’s TOO SLOW to actually raise blood amino acid levels high enough to effectively drive muscle protein synthesis unless you dose it much higher than whey, which is the king of proteins. Also, whey keeps you fuller, longer (satiety) than casein, and it’s CHEAPER. Yep, whey is better than egg protein, beef protein, hemp protein (sucks), rice protein (sucks), pea protein (double sucks), and soy protein (double sucks). Whey protein concentrate, one of the cheapest options out there is where everyone should start for whey supplementation. If it doesn’t upset your GI tract, then stay there and never look back. If it does- and it will in some who are sensitive to an amino acid fraction (beta lactalbumin) – switch to whey protein isolate, which has this fraction removed. Whey protein concentrate (WPC) might actually be superior to whey protein isolate (WPI) because b-lactalbumin is a very concentrated source of leucine- so I prefer WPC in those who can tolerate it. No Virginia, WPI doesn’t always mean better and as you just learned- more expensive is not always better.

7) You will not fall into the trap of megadosing protein, because gainzZz? So far we’ve described why it’s hard to put a firm number on optimal protein intake based on numerous variables. That being said, there is definitely an upper limit- though not for the reason your doctor will try to justify. Most physicians, PA’s, nurses, etc. will all try to recite the urea cycle and scream stuff about ammonia at you whilst telling you that your kidneys and/or liver will fail with high levels of protein intake. I think every time they do this an angel gets its wings because it occurs too frequently and is so far removed from what actually happens in vivo (in the body) that I assume it’s just a religious ritual that all health care providers learn in school and pay homage to periodically. While I do not have time to layout the entire metabolic pathway for ammonia and urea, the two  toxic byproducts of protein metabolism that supposedly build up an will harm your kidney and/or liver, I will briefly state that in a healthy person- there is no upper limit for protein intake, as the excretion (removal) rate of these toxins is massively upregulated in an adaptive way that is not harmful, but is a response to a hormetic stressor, i.e. something that disrupts our homeostasis. There is no evidence of any kidney or liver damage when the excretion pathways upregulate either. Similarly, in end stage renal disease, those who ate a “very low protein diet” had worse outcomes than those who ate either a “moderate protein” or “low protein” (but higher than very low) diet. This indicates, to me at least, that protein and its metabolism is not harmful to the kidney- even if it’s function is reduced. More data continues to accrue exposing other harmful factors to the kidney, namely elevated blood sugar in those patients who don’t deal with glucose very well….perhaps because they haven’t optimized their protein intake yet 🙂

I say all this sort of tongue-in-cheek, as I do think there is an actual upper limit to useful protein intake, i.e. there is an inflection point where increased protein dosing does not yield improvements in performance, muscle protein synthesis, aesthetics, etc. This point is obviously different for many people, but I could make a pretty strong argument to avoid intakes in excess of 300g or so for anyone who is under 350lbs. Think about the 200lb bro- replete with cut off tank- who eats 400g of protein per day. While only a fraction (maybe half- depending on sources, age, etc.) will actually contribute to MPS, the other half is getting burnt (oxidized) or converted to carbohydrates and/or fat for storage. These processes are all controlled by enzymes, who will adapt (of course) to the stress imposed upon them. If/when these enzymes upregulate, i.e. increase in number and activity, the body becomes more efficient at using protein for fuel (oxidation to yield energy) and/or converting it to carbohydrates and fat. Similarly, such a robust protein intake concomitantly decreases intake of other substrates to a degree, i.e. carbohydrate and fat intake will be lower in a person who eats 400g of protein than if that same person only ate 200g of protein. This all sums to create a situation where a person is very good at breaking down protein as fuel and, God forbid, should his protein level ever significantly drop below 400g for an extended period of time- like if he were to spend a week at the Jersey Shore and only consume 100-150g of protein/day- then theoretically protein turnover would continue to be elevated since the body’s enzymatic ability to break down protein is so upregulated. Just some food for thought.


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 howmuchyabench.net, 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 🙂





Rebuttal to “The Truth About Experts”

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


In general, articles on the Internet tend to come in three different flavors: a) chock full of useful information and analysis from a scientific viewpoint by a subject matter expert (self proclaimed or not), b) entertainment-based musings, or c) a blatant hatchet job written for the sole purpose of denigrating someone who’s well known in order to get your readership up. The article we’ll be discussing today falls into the latter category and both the author and publisher over at Juggernaut knew full well what they were doing. In response, I’ll appropriately be combing through this illiterate ignoramus’s article for the entire Internet to see in order to show just how bad it really is, why JTS should have higher standards for publishing, and how to present a counter analysis to another person’s viewpoint.

At this time, Mr. Mash has not responded to my email requesting his agreement to let the article be posted on StartingStrength.com for everyone to view. Additionally, I added if he’d like to discuss the article on the Internet or at our annual Starting Strength Coaches Conference he’s welcome to do so. We’re sincerely hoping Mr. Mash will regale us with his elite analysis of barbell training.

Since I do not own the article I cannot post it here in its entirety, but one of the joys of the Internet is the ability to see deleted pages through cache and I will link to a screenshot of the now-defunct page often as we take this journey through ad-hominem attacks, misinformation, and illogical arguments.

After a lot of self promotion and assertion that Mr. Mash is, indeed, a subject matter expert in the strength and conditioning world we arrive here:

“This long introduction is to explain why I cannot tolerate bogus information. My life is spent informing and helping people, so when I see someone giving out advice that is not only wrong but dangerous, it makes me furious.”

Just to be clear, we’re looking for why the subsequently argued viewpoints are safer and more correct.

“Mark Rippetoe is one such guy. Until recently I had never heard of Coach Rippetoe even though he is a self-proclaimed power-lifter and strength coach. “

So if you’ve competed in the sport of powerlifting at 40+ meets and been a gym-owner and coach for 35 years I think it’s safe to assume you’re not just a “self-proclaimed” powerlifter (1 word Mr. Mash, you elite typist you) or coach, rather actually are.

Also interesting that you say you’ve never heard of him until recently, yet you say in a comment (pic below) that “His book “Starting Strength is awesome.” Interesting.

Screen shot 2013-09-19 at 11.05.52 PMMr. Mash then goes on to say:

“His popularity surged from Crossfit HQ between the years 2006-2009 teaching basic barbell movements. (HQ really needs to be careful who they choose to represent their brand, but that is a topic for another article).

Below is a video of the way the Coach Rippetoe teaches the squat:

And here is a video that is correctly how to teach a squat:

In video 1 you have Rippetoe coaching a novice how to fix their hip drive, depth issues, and other technique issues as they present themselves throughout warm up sets with a lifter in REAL-TIME. There was no staging for this, as it was not a demo on squat technique nor was it a video on “how to teach the squat”, rather it was merely a “how to fix the hip-drive” during the execution of the low bar back squat. If we go through Mr. Mash’s video, we can get some real “pearls” of information:

At 0:18 Mr. Mash says this is how “true champions” squat, although I think Dan Green, Kirk Karwowski, Ed Coan, and Andrey Malanachiev would disagree with this depiction since none of them do the high bar back squat like Mash would insinuate.

From 0:31- 1:10 Mr. Mash insinuates that you “lead with your chest” out of the bottom, although I’m sure he understands that this is merely a cue for a lifter and not what is happening biomechanically, i.e. it is the hamstrings and gluteal muscles that are starting to extend the hip while the quadriceps muscles are extending the knee anteriorly to start the concentric portion of the squat. He continues to say that “you put yourself in a better biomechanical position”, though he does not say compared to what nor does he propose a mechanism or rationalization for how this occurs. We can assume that he means a better biomechanical position compared to a low bar back squat, but then we need Mr. Mash to tell us just exactly what he means, i.e. what joints are now in a more advantageous position for the relevant muscles crossing them to fire, how does this lead to increased loading (to get stronger) than the low bar back squat, and how does this lead to a better training effect. Then he continues to say that “If you’re doing the Olympic lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk, you always want to keep a vertical spine and you only want to have a horizontal back angle during the pull.” Let’s take a look at Dolega’s would-be WR snatch (in training) and note the back angle change out of the recovery.

Let’s pause a second here. While it is increasingly important to keep a vertical torso when recovering from a clean so as not to let the barbell deviate too far forward of the midfoot, which would create an unnecessary moment arm between the weight and the lifter’s center of mass, this is definitively not the case for the recovery from the snatch. When you watch really heavy snatches being recovered from. Notice that we just saw “hip drive” and thus, a more horizontal back angle in a snatch recovery from a “true champion”. Could this be because it’s the most effective way to drive up (extend the hips) out of the bottom in the concentric portion of the squat? Notice also that I’m defining any ambiguity in my terminology so that people can fully understand my argument and position on the matter. Mr. Mash does not do this.

At 1:15, Mr. Mash starts to “teach” the low bar squat. Mr. Mash then cues his lifter to go “back, back, back, back”, to which the lifter properly ignores so his knees can travel forward enough to optimize tension on the quadriceps in addition to engaging the posterior chain to a high degree. Then Mr. Mash cues the lifter to come up out of the bottom and incorrectly states that “See, you lift your chest first” after his lifter actually used his hips to come out of the bottom, which will happen 100% of the time in a heavy squat that’s to depth regardless of what your “guru” tells you.

At 1:45 Mr. Mash says “If you bring your chest first it brings you to almost lock out anyway.” However, what we actually see in video analysis of lifters is that the bar speed craters when the chest gets lifted on the way up when the muscles of the hips (gluteal group, hamstrings, adductors, etc.) could still be actively contributing to hip extension. Lifting the chest or as Louie puts it “shove your hips forward out of the bottom slacks the hamstrings and causes force production to drop. I have seen many reps missed this way and this “phenomenon” has been corroborated by other coaches who know how to analyze a lift. For a rather dramatic example, see Scott Cartright’s Squat where he tries to “lift the chest and shoves his hips forward out of the bottom” (but he actually drives his hips upward) vs. Andrey Malanachiev’s squat. Which one is to better depth? Which one had better bar speed?

From about 1:50-2:00 Mr. Mash is almost incomprehensible as he talks in sentence fragments and does not really make a clear point except for telling us to watch a 2 year old squat because, children and that you shouldn’t lead up with the hips first then the chest, rather it should be one motion. Ironically, THIS IS HOW WE TEACH THE SQUAT AT ALL OUR SEMINARS, which we’ve been doing for years. Strange.

Then it’s time for some Johnnie Candito action, just for good measure because

“Here is another coach agreeing with me”

The focus for the video, as we find out at 0:16 is “Proper hip drive in the squat”. Notice that Candito uses Mark Rippetoe’s name in his video title so that he can get more views because, ya know, Rip actually has a pretty decent following and all. Mr. Candito has unfortunately disabled comments for this video as he was getting called out left and right for all of his misgivings, which we’ll address in order:

At 0:45 Mr. Candito posits that “Mark Rippetoe teaches the hip drive as driving back the hips” out of the bottom of the squat. He continues,

“Here is the problem that is not using your hips at all. What is really happening is knee extension.”

So first things first, we do not teach the hip drive as “driving back the hips” or moving the hips posteriorly out of the bottom of the squat and if Mr. Candito would have read the book by the person he’s trying to use to get views, he’d know this. Additionally, even if someone did move the hips backwards significantly out of the bottom of the squat on their way up, it is virtually impossible to move the hips and the rest of the attached lower limb posteriorly without also moving the damn things upwards, i.e. hip extension during the concentric portion of the squat. Knee extension in absence of hip extension from the bottom of the squat with any significant load is impossible, as the lifter would simply knock themselves over on their ass from the knee extension creating a moment arm between the barbell and the middle of the foot (with the barbell being behind the middle of the foot).

From 0:54-1:10 Mr. Candito regales us with how he likes to teach the squat. He wants you to

initiate the squat by flexing the knee, then actively using your hip flexors on the way down to pull yourself into the bottom of the squat.

During the whole time of course, you should be actively flexing your glutes to “gradually sink back into the squat”. While I’m not sure what in the actual hell “gradually sink back into the squat” means, the preceding anatomy and biomechanics is complete and utter gibberish stemming from ignorance on the relevant topic. The hip flexors do not actively contract in order to flex the hip during the eccentric portion of the squat, just as the lats don’t actively contract in order to bring the bar back down from the press (overhead for the uninitiated). Gravity does a fine job at bringing things down and the only thing these muscles that are shortening do is relax in order to allow the movement to proceed. The only accurate thing mentioned here is the “flexing” of the glutes, as this eccentric braking resists “dive-bombing” the descent and getting out of position.

Next, Mr. Candito continues

“but this is not just simply bending forward, there is a difference between leaning forward and actually using your hip flexors and extensors.”

It’s hard to discern just what exactly Johnny is talking about, but this is nonsense. You lean forward, i.e. your back angle becomes more horizontal relative to the floor, during any variation of squat as the hips and the knees flex. How horizontal your back becomes is dependent on the bar position and segment length of the individual lifter. In the high bar position, the back angle will be more vertical compared to the low bar squat. If we consider the low bar back squat in an individual with a long torso, i.e. a long segment length between the SI joint and the barbell, he or she will have a more vertical torso than a person with a short torso. In any event, none of these squats will have occurred by the “hip flexors actively pulling the lifter downwards”, rather gravity will do that just fine. Similarly, the barbell will stay directly vertical to the middle of the foot and the intervening body segments, i.e. the torso and the femur, will accommodate any number of various configurations to make sure this happens. So what’s the take home? Forward lean is a function of segment length and bar position, the hip flexors don’t pull you down, and Johnny Candito should make less YouTube videos in his school library.

Next (at 1:22), it’s video time with Mr. Candito as he attempts to show us correct utilization of the hips. Mr. Candito says

“By using my hips properly I’m able to sit back, be explosive, while keeping my chest up.”

When watching his video, you can see that Mr. Candito has chosen to use a high bar variation of the squat, which is interesting because he’s claiming to want to show us how to drive the hips properly and hip drive is suboptimal in this variation due to slacking of the hamstrings relative to the low bar version. You’ll also notice, if you click through the video demonstration of his rep, that his hips do indeed move back as they start to go up out of the bottom. He actually writes “notice the knees are stagnate out of the bottom” when they are a) extending and b) moving posteriorly out of the hole. His chest also falls as he drives his hips because he didn’t keep his back locked in place well enough. So in effect, he’s doing exactly the opposite of all the things he told you that you shouldn’t do. Some of which are a misunderstanding of both the Starting Strength model of the squat and some are just form faults.

At 1:52, Mr. Candito says

“You might have noticed that my hips do not thrust forward immediately out of the hole. This is because your quads inevitably will be active throughout the entire movement. So mentally you need to counteract by thrusting the hips forward to remain in a neutral position.”

Typical gibberish. None of this makes sense except for the quads are active throughout the entire movement, which is correct in that they eccentrically lengthen during the descent and they concentrically shorten during the ascent.

At 2:29, Mr. Candito shows a clip of Rip coaching the low bar back squat (LBBS) to a novice lifter, which is the same video Mr. Mash referenced in the beginning of the article. Does the lifter shift his hips posteriorly out of the bottom in this video? Yes he does, as this was done when trying to coach a novice lifter who was not previously using the stretch-shortening cycle during his squat. Sometimes when you coach people, you have to get them to exaggerate the new behavior you’re wanting them to do in order to get the correction you want. This is not what we teach at the Starting Strength Seminars or in the book. We want the hips to drive straight up out of the bottom, as any other movement anterior or posterior is less efficient. Mr. Candito has not read the book, asked a question on the forum, or come to a seminar where he would learn he is mistaken. Rather, he is just running his mouth on the Internet because he can. Then we get a clip of Johnny squatting 500 about an inch high with really terrible hip drive. The hip drive is lost because he is high and he’s not thinking “hips up”.

The rest of the video is Mr. Candito stammering over his misinterpretation of the mechanics involved in the squat, what is actually happening anatomically and biomechanically, and in general, making himself look foolish. The hips do not go forward-optimally out of the bottom of the squat. Rather they go up via hip extension. If you look at heavy squats (including Cartwright who is trying to go “hips forward” out of the bottom) they will ALL come out of the bottom with a hip drive upwards. If you consciously cue “hips forward” after the initial hip drive, the bar speed slows markedly and this can be seen in video analysis of lifters who do this. On the other hand, if you “stay in your hips” (as in you do not exaggerate lifting the chest) all the way up the bar speed is better indicating increased force production and better mechanics.

Anyway, let’s move back to Mr. Mash now. He continues with:

“The problem with Rippetoe’s approach is that he is considering the hamstrings only, which is becoming a big problem in sports medicine in America.”

How in the world could one reasonably come to this conclusion when Rip spends pages talking about why we choose the stance we do in the squat, deadlift and powerclean, i.e. for more external rotator and adductor musculature to be used. Also, how are hamstrings only becoming a big problem in sports medicine in America? A quick review of relevant medical literature sources came up empty for “Subject matter expert only considers the hamstrings.” Maybe my search criteria was wrong or maybe Mr. Mash hasn’t yet defined his argument to anything intelligible. Here’s hoping he gets it together in a few paragraphs. Then, this useless nugget comes in:

“In contrast, Gray Cook, the best Physical Therapist, is changing all of that. Gray teaches movement and how muscles work synergistically. “

Synergy in the musculoskeletal system can be defined as the interaction of multiple muscles together to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects. An example would be to use the low bar back squat with proper hip drive so you can use your hamstrings to a greater degree, whose force production will be added to the force created by the glutes, adductors, etc. Wow, this sounds almost exactly like what we teach at our seminars and what is written in the book that Travis claims is “awesome.”

Mr. Mash continues to provide us with other gems in his article:

“If you want to know how to squat properly, look at a two year old. They sit their butts between their ankles, maintain a vertical back, and they will not lift the butt or hips first.”

This is what’s classically known as an informal fallacy in that the structure of the argument is fine, but the conclusion is bogus. Is Mr. Mash really contending that the most optimal way to squat is the way in which a 2 year old squats? What does he consider optimal? We contend that the most optimal squat is the one that results in training the most amount of muscle mass, uses the most effective range of motion, and results in the highest force production and can subsequently be loaded the heaviest. Mr. Mash’s assertion that the way a 2 year old squats, which he defines as having the “butt between their ankles with a vertical back” results in decreased muscle mass usage, as at this depth the hamstrings are slacked to a much greater degree and cannot contribute to hip extension as effectively and thus, do not receive as potent a training effect. Moreover, because this style of squatting, i.e. ATG “2 year old style”, would undoubtedly lead to less weight on the bar, less force production can be trained and less strength-which is a general adaptation that can apply widely- will be accrued. The counter argument that is sometimes made to this when we go down this rabbit hole is why not use quarter squats then, as you can load them far heavier than a to-depth squat of any variety. We cannot forget about our first criteria for the most optimal form of each exercise, which is to train the most amount of muscle mass possible. A quarter, half, or other partial exercises result in decreased training of the hamstrings and glutes, which has been routinely demonstrated in published scientific literature.

So, Mr. Mash’s initial argument is bogus to begin with and just when you think it couldn’t get any worse:

“Not to mention we all learned in intro level Geometry that two levers are better than one, and Rippetoe teaches to shift all loads onto the hip lever. “

How exactly are two levers better than one and how did Mr. Mash come to the conclusion that Rip and Co. teaches the squat in such a way that “shifts all the loads onto the hip lever”?* If Mr. Mash had read the book, Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training 3rd Edition, he would realize that his statements have no basis in reality. We properly define the levers as they apply to the trunk and lower limb as follows:

-The “trunk” lever- The horizontal distance between the barbell and the hip joint.

-The proximal femur lever- The horizontal distance between where the barbell bisects the femur and the hip joint

-The distal femur lever- The horizontal distance between where the barbell bisects the femur and the knee joint.

All these levers are defined and described in great detail in the book and Mr. Mash is incorrectly coming to the conclusion that because Rip talks about hip drive that he wants no distal femur lever arm and a maximal proximal femur lever. In actuality, these values are pretty much set in stone depending on the length of your femur, trunk, and where you place the bar. The argument that we make is that in the low bar back squat, the proximal femur lever is longer than it would be in the high bar back squat because IT IS. We further argue that we desire this long-er lever arm because the hip joint has more available musculature and soft tissue surrounding it so that it can both absorb the higher force values AND create more force during the concentric portion of the squat. In sum, we seek a long proximal femur lever by choosing the low bar back squat so that more of the stress is absorbed by the hips, which can create more force anyway. We do not actively seek the elimination of the distal femur lever and this does not occur in the version of the squat we teach anyway even with people of weird limb lengths.

In a high bar back squat, the proximal femur lever gets shorter (less force on the hips) and the distal femur lever gets longer (more force on the knees). Since there is a reduced moment arm acting about the proximal femur lever, the muscles acting on the hip cannot generate as much force and less weight is lifted. Concomitantly, the high bar squat also produces increased forces and shear on the knee, which may or may not be a training consideration to make when programming for your stable of lifters.

As for your silly assertion that “two levers are better than one”:

Archimedes said :“Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough, and I shall move the world”, which refers to one lever. He’s probably a “rookie” too, right?

*Bonus points if you think Mr. Mash could correctly define the hip lever.

Next, Mr. Mash attempts to gain credibility by listing high level powerlifters who “know that the technique that Coach Rippetoe teaches is the very technique that we all avoid.” Let’s see who he lists:

“I have watched videos of all the great squatters in history: Ed Coan, Steve Goggins, Dan Green, Chad Wesley Smith, Shane Hammons, and Kirk Karwoski. “

Besides misspelling Shane Hamman’s name, does Mr. Mash realize that all of these lifters use the low bar back squat with hip drive? You know, the exact same technique that Rippetoe coaches and writes about? Does he know that Shane Hamman (fixed that one for ya’ rookie), Kirk Karwoski, and Ed Coan all have interviews on the Starting Strength site- seemingly lending credibility to idea that they agree with the technique advocated on the site.* Rip has even stated publicly that Dan Green’s squat is right in line with the hip drive he teaches, even if it’s not consciously done:

“No one ever said they were consciously thinking about driving their hips up. I’m sure that most of them are not. But they’re doing it anyway, because that’s how you get out of the bottom, and the longer you stay in the hip drive the more powerful the squat. My point is that they should be thinking about it, and that when you do you squat more efficiently. “

*This is me providing an informal fallacy of sorts, though it might actually be true as I haven’t asked them yet.

I’m not so sure that Mr. Mash’s assertion that the following is true at all:

“All great squatters know that the technique that Coach Rippetoe teaches is the very technique that we all avoid. “

Seems to me like they all use it whether they know it or not. A really poorly written article always needs some chest thumping and ad hominem attacks to keep readers interested and Mr. Mash did not disappoint:

“ I know all of these people, and I have talked squat with the best in the business. I have squatted 805lbs raw, 900lbs single ply, and 970lbs multi-ply and all at 220lbs.”

“ The position that he [Rippetoe] preaches is what we all call the “point of no return”, or where we are about to get crushed. At first I couldn’t believe that a power-lifter would preach this form, until I looked up his best numbers: Coach Rippetoe only squatted 611 lbs in a single ply squat suit at 220lbs. Rippetoe just doesn’t know any better. Rookie.”

Travis is a strong dude, no doubt about it. But how is it that having a better squat entitles someone to a better mechanical analysis, which is very cerebral in nature? While I’ll agree that a coach should have a good background in training him or herself, the degree to which these two coaches (Mash and Rippetoe) differ are not due to different “squat mechanics”. Rather the difference seen here, which is often under appreciated in people coaching high level athletes, is that some people are just very blessed in their ability to respond to a training stimulus. I could of course, opine about how Rip’s 611 was in a single ply squat suit from the 80’s which would pass for a singlet in comparison to modern-era equipment, but that’s not the point of showcasing how silly Mr. Mash’s belief is here.

He’s trying to make the case that because he “knows all of these people” and “has squatted 805 raw, 900lbs single ply”, etc. that his evaluation of the mechanics in the musculoskeletal system are better than someone else’s. I’d posit that a person with a PhD in kinesiology or biomechanics could easily analyze the barbell lifts and come up with a very sound analysis even if they have never trained. When you take a good chunk of training and coaching and put that on top of a knowledge base involving physics and human anatomy well, the analysis goes a lot smoother and additional insights will be made even if you never squatted 900. And let’s be real for a split second, while the gap between 611 and 900 is certainly vast, we’re still talking about the top 0.5% of human strength here, which is to say it really doesn’t matter if you squat 300lbs more provided you have actually trained your squat in the first place.

Let’s gear up for a couple more illogical arguments:

“I would like to coach Rippetoe myself, I could teach him how to have a decent squat.

You don’t have to have an elite squat to teach, but if you are going to be the self-proclaimed guru of the squat, then you need to be legit at least, not a rookie. (HQ should have checked him out first.) “

Let’s have a long hard look at this second sentence, shall we? Mr. Mash seems to contradict his earlier sentiments where he denigrated Rip’s 611 squat with the intent to assert himself as the subject matter expert, but then he turns around and says you don’t have to have an elite squat to teach- as long as you’re legit. So, I’m not sure exactly what “legit” is being defined as other than the fact that it’s not necessarily “elite”. I also don’t know how you can call a guy who has been doing this for 35+ years a “rookie”, but that seems to be his go to insult. Let’s see what other useful analysis Mr. Mash can provide:

“Even more infuriating is that this rookie is charging $600 per person to teach them how to squat incorrectly. Hey Crossfit community, stop giving your money to a phony rookie. “

If you’re going to try to bash someone, at least do it correctly. We’re currently charging 795-895 per slot at the seminar. See, if you only charge $125 like Mash does for his Learn to Lift Seminars you just know the info is bogus, right?* CrossFit charges $1000 a head for their weekend seminar where you don’t learn any technical analysis of the lifts, legitimate nutrition or programming information. On the other hand, you do get to see lots of Lululemon and do snatches with a PVC pipe so maybe that’s the real draw.

*Another illogical fallacy. Just keeping you guys awake here. Don’t worry we’re almost through so you can repost this 🙂

Moving along, Mash goes on to say:

“I know a lot of people are going to be upset about the harshness of this article, but this has to be said. If you are going to a seminar, watch some videos of professionals performing the movements. Then if the person teaching the seminar is teaching something completely opposite, leave the room immediately. World record holders and world champions lift weights a certain way for a reason: because it is the best way. There are a lot of seminars out there with great information, so do your research.”

“Here are three questions to consider about the presenters:

  1. What is their background?

  2. What is their education?

  3. Who have they coached?”

Here’s why 1 and 2 are good criteria, but 3 is not really helpful. 1 and 2 tell you how much legwork the coach/presenters have done and what kind of population they’re familiar with and who/what they cater to. Number 3 doesn’t help you because the people that get coached and perform at the highest levels often do well in spite of what they do. In other words, their coach is likely taking credit for their athlete’s awesome achievements even though the coach didn’t really do anything besides keep the athlete healthy. This happens all the time at the college and pro level, so it’s no surprise Mr. Mash feels this way. World record holders lift weights certain ways because they can, not because it’s optimal. There are great pitchers in the MLB who throw side arm, but no one would argue that this is the best way to throw a baseball.

And now, Mr. Mash wants a good ol’ fashioned high bar vs low bar argument:

“If your goal is to improve in Olympic weightlifting or athletic performance, the high bar back squat is best for maximal depth and range of motion. If your goal is maximal weight in powerlifting, then low bar is better for a center of gravity advantage.”

First you’d have to consider why an Olympic lifter is squatting in the first place, right? Hopefully the answer is to “get stronger” and the reason they use the back squat in addition to the front squat is because you can get stronger, faster, with the back squat as it can be loaded heavier than the front squat. The front squat is specific to the clean recovery whereas the back squat is not specific to the clean or the snatch (when high bar mechanics are used). So if we’re trying to use a squat variation that allows for the most efficient increase in strength we should use the LBBS for the following reasons:

-It uses more muscle mass than the HBBS or FS, as the hamstrings and muscles of the back get more training effect, which makes them stronger.

-The LBBS is more specific to the competition lifts than the HBBS. The HBBS does not replicate the receiving and/or recovery positions of the clean or the snatch with respect the angle of the torso. Nor do the torso and joint angles resemble the mechanics of the first pull. The LBBS, on the other hand resembles the snatch recovery position (see the earlier Dolega video) and the angle of the torso of in the competition lifts’ first pull. If specificity is your argument for use of the HBBS in addition to the FS, well…that’s not a very good one as you can see. Yes, the HBBS is more similar to the clean recovery than the LBBS, but the FS is more specific than that and you are training your front squat if you’re an Olympic lifter, right?

-The LBBS allows more weight to be lifted in training. Since the back squat is not a competitive lift or integral portion of either the clean or snatch recovery (unlike the front squat), then the variation of the other squat used in addition to the front squat should be the one that provides the most efficient increases in strength, since, ya know…that shit is important.

-Olympic lifters tend to get overuse injuries in their knees from aggressive receiving positions in the clean, snatch and the jerk. The HBBS puts more stress on the knees, as was discussed earlier and this might be an important training/programming consideration for an athlete, unless you’re a rookie.

Pretty standard argument really. You just need to think more and type less, Mr. Mash. It’s good for you. Let’s see what else we’ve got here:

“Absolutely lift your chest first when coming out of the bottom of a squat.”

Definitely don’t do this unless you want to kill hip drive and miss the rep. Wonder why Coan, Kirk, Mike T, Hamman, et. al don’t do this?

Here is a classic example of someone who has not read the material he is attacking:

“Knees and hips should lock out at approximately the same time; the last place that you want to be is with your hips as high as your shoulders or even close to that position.

When the hips shoot up like Rippetoe teaches, all the weight is shifted to the low back and most of the time the bar pulls the lifter forward, “the point of no return”

[bolded parts added for dramatic effect]

This is not actually what Rip and Co. teaches or writes about. We teach that the hip drive should be consciously focused on in such a way that produces the maximum force production out of the bottom of the squat. This maximal force production would ideally be transferred through a rigid spine so that no power leak occurs and the hips and chest rise together at the same rate. Doing it any other way, i.e. hips up without the chest or “lead with the chest without the hips” would result in suboptimal force production and lifting mechanics.

We do not teach “hips up first”, which you would know if you would’ve read the book, come onto the forums, or done any sort of research at all before you began your intentional character assassination designed to increase you and Chad Wesley Smith’s readership. More on that later, we’ve got more bro to flame here:

“Muscles were designed to work synergistically, and in the squat the quadriceps are attempting to extend the knees while the hamstrings and glutes are extending the hips. The muscles were designed to work together at the same time, maintaining two fulcrums at the knee and hip until completion. They were never designed to work independently.”

Muscles weren’t designed to do anything besides contract. They’ll do so in isolation and they’ll do so as part of a complex movement. They’ll synergistically contract if they share a common function or movement, i.e. the glutes’ force plus the hamstrings’ force in getting out of the bottom of the squat. I’m not sure why you’re under the impression the Rippetoe teaches that muscles should work independently because again, this is not even close to what is written in the book or presented at our seminar.

And to finish, some stuff is so good that I couldn’t even make up if I tried:

“I spent last Monday night Skyping with one of the best Olympic weightlifting coaches in America (I will leave him anonymous to protect him from the fallout of this article). He agreed that this article needed to be written because this Rippetoe thing has gone way too far.

Ah, good, you talked to Glenn Pendlay who undoubtedly gave you the low down. Nevermind the personal feud between them and ignore that Glenn is an Internet troll who has been making up fake aliases and talking to himself online for years in order to bolster his own credibility.* Seems like a good place to get an unbiased opinion from in order to get all your ducks in a row for presenting your carefully thought out argument. Please read this thread to see Glenn trolling and getting caught just a few months ago.

*See, that was what an ad hominem attack looks like.

Wow, look how far we’ve come! I really didn’t want to have to write this article and in truth, I wasn’t going to because after reading the comments on the JTS site on the article it was very apparent that anyone with half a brain saw how poorly this article was written and the fallacies inherent to literally every single one of Mr. Mash’s “points.” It’s rare that you can’t find anything good in an article or video so I’ve got to hand it to Mr. Mash and Mr. Candito for doing a smash up job on their contributions.

In writing this, however, I got to thinking about how it would be possible for such an experienced lifter and coach to actually believe the nonsense he was writing. I mean, he did squat 800 raw, which clearly makes him an expert here, right? I ended up coming to the conclusion that Mr. Mash actually wrote this drivel incorrectly on purpose in order to get more traffic to the JTS site and his own website. Then I started thinking that the only reason CWS would put this up knowing that people aren’t in fact brain dead, is because he knew it would blow up over the Internet and that’s good for business. CWS ended up writing a poorly worded apology after he took the article down and then he had the balls to take the apology down after he started deleting comments criticizing the article or questioning the author. Basically they’re trying to cover the whole thing up, which is a cowardly move if I’ve ever seen one. Listen folks, when you screw up- you screw up, but you have to face the music and take your lumps as you own up to your mistakes. Time to face the music, fellas.


2013 USAPL/IPF Raw Challenge @ The Arnold Report

Calm before the storm.

Calm before the storm!

Hey everyone!! Thanks for all the support and for checking up on me. It was a fun day at the Arnold and although things didn’t go as well as planned I still had a blast and learned a lot. Additionally, I saw some super impressive lifters.

Jennifer Thompson (NC) benches 300 raw at 132lb bodyweight!

Jennifer Thompson (NC) benches 300 raw at 132lb bodyweight!

Here’s how the day went:
Wake Up Call: 530am. Headed to the convention center for the 6 am weigh in. Probably got about 4hours of decent sleep last night, but that was fine. I had to make sure all my gear was legal, i.e. shirt, singlet, shoes, etc. (not kidding). They told me my Brute Strength t-shirt was illegal, but that I could purchase a t-shirt to comply with the rules at their vendor conveniently located in the other room. Strike 1 IPF.

Anyway, I got to weigh in around 645 and was 82.9 kg (182.3 lbs). Slammed my super top secrete shake, 32oz gatorade, BCAAs+ water and was ready to roll.

Squats: Warm ups felt fine, hit my last warm up @365 but then they were screwing around around taking so much time to start my flight, so I hit 315 again to stay warm. Here’s how my attempts went:

190kg: Easy. Got 1 red light because apparently I fidgeted after given the squat command. Idk, they make me feel like I’m hyper extending my knees to get the squat command, so then I intuitively unlock them but this is frowned upon. The judges were super strict, per usual, at this meet and were red lighting people on depth (some people even bombed out of the meet due to this), but luckily in training I always squat deep. This rep was easy and I felt way better mentally after I hit it. Got it and called for 205kg.

On the way up with 425.

On the way up with 425.

205kg (452): Didn’t feel particularly hard or grindy. Just hit depth stood up, and got 3 whites.

452, buried alive!

452, buried alive! Note the knee position. My toes need to be angled out more though.

212.5kg: Either I didn’t have enough chalk on my back or I set up incorrectly because the bar rolled up my back out of the hole. Missed it ~1/3-1/2 way up. I didn’t fight it for too long because I didn’t wanna waste all my energy. I’m confident 210 would have gone, but 212.5 just wasn’t there today. I hit heavier than both (470) in training, but this was also after a full night’s sleep and without any added pressure from being at the Arnold. At this point, I wasn’t bummed at all, but I wish I could have gotten set up better so I could give it a real go without the bar rolling up my back.

Break #1: Took down some sliced turkey, rice cakes, and a bunch of water. Feeling good.

In the warm up room with JD.

In the warm up room with JD.

Bench: My last warm up, 300, felt pretty slow so I backed down my opener from 145 to 142.5 just to make sure I got into the meet. This was a smart move.

Attempt 1: 142.5- this was way slower than it should have been, as the bar went forward (towards my feet) off my chest. The pauses weren’t exceptionally long at all but I just executed this rep wrong. I was pretty pissed at myself since I hit 340 in training and even that didn’t feel this hard. I called for 147.5 for my 2nd.

(If you listen closely you can here the bar actually come to rest on the pins. The safeties were too high turning this into a pin press, essentially).



Attempt 2: I took down an entire gallon (literally) between attempt 1 and attempt 2. This extra hydration and me realizing I pushed the bar forward made this attempt a whole lot smoother. This felt super easy and was a 2.5kg meet PR. I also realized at this attempt that I never was setting my back and chest and my setup was essentially shit for all of these attempts since I failed to correct for them. Also, at the bottom of the rep before the pause, the bar kept hitting the safety pins and this was annoying as hell and distracting. I had them move the safety pins down 2 notches to try and get them out of the way.

Attempt 3 152.5: Drank a bunch more water and felt pretty confident going into this attempt. Unfortunately, I made the same mistake and didn’t set my shoulders on the bench after unracking it (the lift off sucked but that’s not an excuse). I also pushed the bar forward on this attempt too, which is why I missed it. I really though this was gonna be a smoke show but I cannot make technical errors at circa maximal attempts at huge meets and expect to get away with it. Ughhh.

Good handoff? Nope.

Good handoff? Nope.

Break 2: More turkey, more rice cakes, and water. Pull time. At this point I was pretty sure my elite total was out the window, but I still wanted to hit a 585-600lb pull, which would have been 3 PRs and big meet total PR. I was OKAY with this, as I wasn’t executing perfect technique at all, which is unacceptable.

Deadlifts: All warm ups were stupid easy. Very confident going into the pulls.

535 easy.

535 easy.

Attempt 1: 242.5 (535): Total smoke show. Felt like a speed pull, honestly. Something weird happened before this attempt though backstage. I started shivering and shaking violently, like I was soooo cold. I put on my heat gear (thermal shirt , jacket, and stocking cap) and tried to stay warm. When I was pulling this deadlift I also got this strange sensation that my arms were going to rip off, like both biceps were cramping or tearing or something. Totally weird.

Attempt 2: 265 (585 or something): The set up was okay, although my back was not as tight as it should have been, but it came off the floor fast and I thought it was game over until it cleared the knees. The bar moved away ever so slightly and the bar speed cratered. I kept pulling and from what the video shows, I shrugged it back against my legs. I did not feel myself rebend my knees, and the video shows this (will post it when my friends send me both angles) but I know the pull certainly didn’t feel normal. I’ve never hitched in my life so the weird feeling of the top of the pull makes me believe the call was accurate and hitchy, although all the dudes backstage told me it was a good pull. Who knows though. This was an expensive rep, that’s for sure. I called for the same attempt for my 3rd but was still shaking and shivering back stage even in full thermal gear. It was the strangest damn thing.

Swinging for the fences.

Swinging for the fences.


Locked out.

Locked out.

My best blue steel.

My best blue steel.

3rd Attempt: No gas, no chance. There could have been 280kg on the bar and it would have moved the exact same distance, zero inches.

Total: 1313 (or 1312), 9th overall for <93kg men.

Feelings: I’m kinda bummed about the deadlift since I really felt good about my training cycle coming into the meet. In retrospect, I should have called for 260-262.5 or not mess up the pull by being technically proficient in the lifts and just smoked it. If I would have hit 262.5 I think I would have ended up with a better placing in the overall standings. On the other hand, I didn’t come to the Arnold to necessarily put up a big total, but rather I just wanted to go for PRs. I set two meet PRs and missed a 3rd (deadlift).

So I weighed in at 182.3 and before anyone says anything, I was 198 after stepping off the platform for my 3rd deadlift attempt. I have no doubt in my mind as to why my performance wasn’t what I wanted, I plain screwed up on every max effort attempt. No excuses, I just either set up wrong or did the movement incorrectly on my 3rd Squat and Bench (also my 1st one here) and 2nd pull. I cannot expect to get away with compromised technique and set crazy PRs on the biggest stage in powerlifting. I thought the judging was fair and I felt fine all day except for the shivering/shaking thing before deadlifts.

I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I am at the support of the Internet community and my friends for my meet Friday on here, Facebook, and Twitter. It was a really cool meet that was run extraordinarily well, yet I can’t help but be disappointed in the overall outcome due to technical miscues. If I would have missed weights because they’re just too heavy that’d be one thing, but to miss attempts because I did them wrong bums me out.

Going forward, I’m definitely moving up a weight class, adjusting my peaking schedule, and will probably pick a meet to do that’s more low key. I’ve only done one small meet (my first one ever a little less than a year ago) and then the other meets were Raw Nationals, USAPL NE Regionals (huge meet), and the Arnold. I need to work my technique more and fine tune it so I can display my strength better. I have no doubt that the weights I missed today would have fallen on a different day or if I had better technique, but it wasn’t in the cards. I still had a blast competing at the Arnold, although I must say the place is packed full of weirdos. I just changed my flight back to VA to tomorrow instead of Sunday because all the strange folks really put me off to the whole thing. I’ve never seen more steroids, fake tans, makeup (on both genders), and peacocking going on in one place. It was overly stimulating for sure!

Again, thanks for all your support everyone. I’m not down on myself at all. I know I could have easily deadlifted 260 no problem and put up a much bigger total, but that wasn’t the goal for this meet as mentioned before.


Big Things Popping

It’s a big month for FitCoach athletes…Here’s a run down:

1) Chad Crawford and Mark Weishaar : Professional Supercross

I’ve been working with these guys since early December getting them ready for the 2013 250sx East Regional Series. For those of you who aren’t in the know, motocross and it’s flashy brethren, supercross, may just be the hardest sport out there. It certainly requires a super high level of conditioning, skill, and testicular fortitude (or ovarian fortitude) to be successful. They’ll be down in Dallas, TX representing their team, 2 Dudes in a Tundra and St. Louis, MO so here’s a big shout out to these guys. Good luck, focus, and all the training we’ve done together is about to pay off big time!

2) Gillian Mounsey: Raw Unity Meet- Powerlifting

You can view the video below to see Gillian squatting (then me) and read more about what I’m helping her out with here.

Basically, we’re running a short meet prep nutritional protocol that will allow her to drop about 10-15lbs in 2 weeks to improve her chances of winning big at the Raw Unity Meet.

3) Billy Marshall: CrossFit Open

My man, Billy, has been killing it lately. He’s the guy I’m programming for getting him ready for the CrossFit open. You can check the archives for what his training cycles have been looking like.

Billy is a 185lb’er and will most likely PR his clean and jerk at 335, snatch at 280, and improve his conditioning at the same time. He’s all signed up for the open so big shout out to Billy to crush it after the deload.

4) Me: Duh.

The Arnold Sports Festival is about 2.5 weeks away and I’m just getting ready to finish up my final heavy week. I PR’ed my deadlift by about 50lbs (for a gym deadlift) when I hit 590 x 1

I also did my old 1RM squat (440) for a double, so things are looking up! I need to hit a 1396 total for my official elite status so why don’t we just call it even and make it 1400?

At any rate, I’m super proud of all my athletes and I’m looking forward to doing big things this month and next month!


PS: 5) My client Juho from Finland, just killed it on the erg last week by setting new PRs in his events. Look for him to be doing very big things on the international stage very soon.

Meet Recap….Learning Lessons

This past week I competed at the USAPL NE Regionals in Philadelphia, PA and had, by far, my worst performance at a meet ever. The reasons for the performance are multifactorial and I’ll attempt to briefly expound on them so others can learn from my mistakes.

I’d also like to thank all the judges, officials, and meet promoters/sponsors for putting on such a good event. It goes without saying that the judging was strict, yet fair. The overall purpose for this meet, for me, was to go out and break some PR’s. I wasn’t as concerned with posting a high total (because I’m already qualified for the Arnold), which is why my attempts weren’t conservative at all. I ended up going 430/309/530 and ending up 44lbs shy of my best total that I posted at Raw Nationals back in August. Recently, I’ve hit a 345lb paused bench and pulled 545 like it was nothing. I was expecting some big numbers, but alas, they were not to be. I did however, get this sweet pic:


Notice the power of the ‘stache!

Now for my mistakes.

1) Letting my form get away from me.

Most people tell me I’m a “technician” when it comes to form. I’m normally very meticulous with my setup and pay attention to detail, but this all went out the window during my last few weeks of training and at the meet. Squatting, for instance, on none of my attempts did I “set my back” or take a big breath and contract my abs against my belt. Additionally, I don’t remember setting my upper back and lifting my elbows hard. It was essentially a train-wreck. I’ve got to get back to basics and make doing all these things automatic. Here are the steps for successful setup in the squat:

– Take even grip on bar (as narrow as flexibility allows), get under bar and make sure it is placed in the appropriate low-bar position (underneath spine of scapula). Straighten wrists, lift elbows up and stand up to unrack the bar.

-Take as few steps as possible to “walk the weight out”. Step feet outward to appropriate width and turn toes out to correct angle.

-Squeeze chest up (keep elbows up), set low-back into normal extension. Take big “belly” breath and contract abs hard against belt. Tighten EVERYTHING!

-Initiate descent thinking about “KNEES OUT” and “DRIVE HIPS UP”. Hit the bottom hard and drive the hips up all the way to lockout.

-Wait for the rack command, applause, and accolades.

I did precisely none of these things and was off my game for sure. Bench press was more of the same. My grip was off, as was the bar path, eye focus, and tightness. Finally, on the deadlift I failed to set my back and hips at the appropriate angles and the bar moved away from my legs on the way up, forcing me to miss a weight I should have smoked. If I were giving my form a grade, it would be a D. Seriously.

2) Not getting serious about my diet until it was too late.

Yea, Thanksgiving was the week before the meet and I had some serious weight to cut. Cutting carbs, calories, salt, and water at specific times the week before the meet made me just barely squeak by when it came time to weigh-in. This was compounded by the fact that the weigh-ins weren’t until noon the day of the meet. With that kind of weigh-in (and lifting taking place 2 hrs afterwards) it was a dumb idea to cut that much weight and expect a PR performance. It’s definitely possible to cut the weight and then lift, but probably not at a super high level. In short, I should have gotten more serious about 4 weeks out from the meet, making the cut much easier and productive.

3) Aggression

I brought zero intensity to the meet, although I’m not sure why. Maybe the cut took the wind out of my sails, but seriously there was no pep in my step when it came time for PR attempts. That being said, all of my openers still felt stupid easy. This tells me the strength was there, but my focus and aggression to take it to the next level just weren’t there.

4) Warm Up Timing

You’d think that by now I’d have my warm-ups timed appropriately, but somehow if left to my own devices, I still manage to screw the pooch. I was in the 2nd flight and thought I should start warming up right before the first flight went out. I was hoping to take my final warm ups towards the end of their 3rd attempts. What happened, however, was me taking 5-7 minute rest periods between my warm up attempts and then getting cold after my final warm ups as they prepared the platform for my flight. In retrospect, I should have started warming up at the end of their 1st attempts, with all foam rolling and mobility work taking place before that point. Like most, I don’t take much rest between warm up attempts and prefer to take my last warm up within 2-3 minutes of my first heavy attempt. I was about 5-10 minutes early each and every time.

Overall, it was just a bad meet for me. I still got second place and if I would have got my last squat counted and my 2nd bench and DL attempts I would have had a good shot at winning, or at least competing for the win. As it sits, I’m super motivated to start preparing for the Arnold coming up in March. I’ll be moving up a weight class and my overall goal is to be top three, set an elite total (1471), and break all my old PRs. Look out world, this is gonna be epic!