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Christmas Hacks (pt.2): Training + Movement

posted by coach Jay D

Previously, in Part 1 of Christmas Hacks, we talked about the Eating aspect related to staying on track towards your fat-loss and performance goals. In this section, I’ll get right into the Training + Movement aspects to focus on during the next 2 weeks of gluttony, over-indulgence and sloth that come along with the Holidays.

Train the body as one entire organism; one entire unit, rather than its individual segments. In the training world, we call these “compound movements”; Squat, Bench, Overhead Press, Deadlift, Lunge, Carry, Crawl, Climb, Jump, Pull, Push and Drag. Use your whole body whenever possible. Quite simply, More segments used equals more joints equals more muscles/nerves/capillaries involved equals more metabolic effects equals more positive hormonal effects. Phew! That was a run-on sentence of a mouthful, but ultimately, you’ll be a Strong, Lean, Metabolically Active Machine.

Moving fast is in vogue right now, within the training world. I agree – Sprinting or moving weights ballistically and powerfully ‘feels’ good; it feels and is athletic. But it’s not the only way. Yes, it gets our body primed for Power and neural activity, but there’s also merit to moving slow and long.

Aerobic training, which is slow and long over time at low intensities does much for recovery. Whether “recovery” is from the previous day’s “Strength/Power/Resistance/I did weights” programming or “recovery” is from simply being inactive or missing training sessions during the holidays – Moving slow and low does wonders for the body when it has rust to kick off and rids fogginess of the mind. “low and slow” DIRECTLY trains your aerobic capabilities while indirectly enhancing your anaerobic capabilities.

“So what is it, JD? High Intensity or Low Intensity. Make up your mind!”, you might be thinking.
The answer is to do both.
Utilize Work:Rest periods of conditioning, weight training or both to get the best of both worlds. Read about Interval Training, here.

Whether it’s treadmill Hill Sprints interspersed with treadmill walking OR Kettlebell Snatches interspersed with Planks OR Sled Pushes interspersed with walks – I aim to Work and Rest in an Interval Training format no longer than a brief 15 minute session. I’m in, I’m out and I’m feeling refreshed knowing that I not only got the best of both Anaerobic and Aerobic Worlds, but I’m strutting out of the gym knowing that I’m a Caloric furnace, even hours after I’ve left the gym.

What they don’t tell you on youtube or in the cooking/recipe-style fitness books and magazine articles is that you ought to be mindful. Be in the now. Be here. The yoga community centres their movement around this ideal. The traditional martial arts place great weight on FOCUS, so why are we simply meatheads or muscleheads blasting through our lifts without putting any of our it into it?

If it’s one thing I’ve learned from the current and last 4 months of weightlifting under my coach, it’s that focus is everything. You might think that clearing your mind is simply too new age for you, but TRUST ME, a mind is a terrible thing to waste (in the gym).

Focus your mind to complete your lift.
Escape all of the madness in your life through FOCUS.
Focus on your task and lift, leaving it all behind.

BEING MINDFUL, might be a hard concept to swallow, but BEING MINDFUL in the context of your training and especially during the Holiday season is exactly what your mind and body crave.

If you’re not able to do yoga or set aside 10 minutes daily for personal meditation time, then focus on your lifts if you’re a lifter; Visualize.
Focus on your movements if you’re into movement and flow; Visualize.
Focus on breathing from the diaphragm in between sets; Recover + Relax.

You need and owe it to yourself to DECOMPRESS your mind.
Rid your body of anxiety and Holiday stress.
It’s the only way your body will perform at its best.

Face it, socializing, shopping, wrapping, praising/worshipping and even eating/boozing all take a lot of work and drain your body and headspace.
BE MINDFUL and FOCUS. You’ll be a better Human and Athlete for it.

No really, take a hike.
After dinner or before dinner or at lunch, TAKE A HIKE. Fight the urge to nap after a big meal.


Get out of the stuffy restaurant or home of your hosts; tell them you have to take a call or have taken up smoking (Don’t actually do it) or forgot something in the car. Go Walk. You need fresh air and your guts inside of you need to digest, which simply isn’t efficient when you go sit or lay down.
Get some winter air into your lungs and walk and feel as exhilarated as those people who head to the Icy Lake and take a dip during the Canadian Winter Months for fundraising.

Rest. Nap when you can, but otherwise aim for some quality REM sleep.

Your body needs to digest and heal itself, not only from your training, but from your holiday food and drink. Give yourself enough hours after socializing and late night partying to rest properly.

In regards to recovery – as always, tack on some mobility/flexibility and release into your training and day. Enhance your performance by noting that you’ve likely missed training days, modified training days or overtrained when you were able to fit in a training day, as a means of compensation. The end result is rust and really, soreness. Do the things you know you need to do in order to RECOVER.

Remember, the goal is Performance and Fat-loss, Not zero training or mediocrity in training.
Quality trumps Quantity, and this is especially true during the Holidays.
Manage your training and Plan your training accordingly.

These are just a few important Training + Movement Guidelines to Hack Your Programming with amidst the Partying.

Merry Christmas to all and Have and Healthy and Happy 2016.
Make it your Strongest.

Evolve or Die.

Christmas Hacks (pt.1): Eating

posted by coach Jay D

Rounding out 2015, we’ve arrived at what could be the hardest two weeks of the entire year.

Face it, if you’ve been on a strategic meal plan or training regimen, for weeks/months up to now, then NOW is the time when you’re most likely to fall off.

In part 1 of this series here are 5 Eating strategies to implement and execute during the Holidays that’ll keep you on track towards your training and performance goals.

When not heading out for the Christmas party luncheon, dinner or drinks, PLAN your meals accordingly. PLAN what time of day you’ll be eating your own meals prior to the party; PLAN what to bring to the party; PLAN what you will order at the restaurant; PLAN how many servings/rounds you’ll visit the potluck buffet table; PLAN how many ‘adult’ beverages you’ll cap off the night at.

Whether you are hosting the party or coming through as a guest, PREP healthy food choices. The PREP of healthy dishes for a house party keeps you accountable and gives you safe and healthy options.

It also serves as an opportunity to show others that you actually care to share your healthy lifestyle with them. Face it – for a lot of your friends and family, YOU may be the only exposure into the health and fitness world that they have. Be brave and proactive; be the gateway and expose them to the concept and truth that eating well can be delicious and enjoyable, too. Who the hell wants to eat JUST grilled chicken breast on a bed of steamed frozen veg, anways? JUST. EAT. REAL. FOOD.

Try a 24h fast leading up to the party or after the party. Try both. Not extreme enough to live that sort of cruel POW camp lifestyle? Me neither.

Try an intermittent fast for a day or two leading up to the parties and thereafter. Establish a fasting window time frame where the only thing you put through your GI-tract is water. Set this to about 16h. Yes, 16h of no food.

This, of course, can and should be included with your sleep time. The remaining 8h will be called your “feeding” window. Include your party, luncheon/dinner and drinks consumption, here.

I’ve been a true believer and advocate of Fasting for a few years now, even practicing it through different training phases and times of the year. It enhances performance, helps with overall digestion and health; but that’s another entire blog entry to be talked about. Google here, for details and studies.

At the actual party, be plant-based centric. In other words center your plate around colorful veggie-filled dishes, ESPECIALLY if you’re not a vegan/vegetarian.

At minimum, 1/2 of your plate should strive to be stacked with plants of some sort. This will help with digestion, help you obtain all of those healthy minerals and vitamins to be strong like the Hulkster, and balance out the possible refined/pro-inflammatory foods you might ingest (alcohol/carbs/meats)

Also, on the other 1/2 (or less) of your plate, emphasize real sources of protein and lean sources of protein and healthy fats. If you’re vegan/vegetarian, paleo/primal, let’s all agree here towards the fact that real sources of protein and healthy fats are best, while refined/processed are terrible. High protein foods along with stacks of plants on your plate will leave you full, hydrated and well-nourished. Indirectly, it’ll leave little to no room for heavy carbs and desserts.

At the end of the day, don’t go buckwild with the food and drink at parties. There is life the next day and you DO have training goals to achieve. However, ENJOY yourself.

Don’t be a blacksheep and/or feel uncomfortable. Oppositely, don’t be the source of other people feeling discomfort with their choices. Rather, lead by example and stay true to your needs without being dogmatic about food. Holidays are for enjoyment; the term “enjoyment’ as defined by your needs and perception, subjectively.

I know that the holidays can be a hard time when you’re striving towards fat-loss, hitting a new PR in your lifts or simply be healthier, but only if you make it that way.

If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.
Refer here, annually.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.

Evolve or Die.

The History of the Squat

posted by coach Jay D

What’s better?
A Bodyweight Squat?
A Pistol Squat?
Hindu Squats?

Powerlifting Squats?
Olympic Weightlifting; Ass to Grass Squats?

These are all arguments that have been going on forever.

My take: your squat is based on your needs.
If your goal is to move as much weight as possible, utilize leverages and your body type/anthropometry to your advantage, then you might want to study the Powerlifting style; if you are more ballistic and required to get underneath a bar fast, catch it, then stand up, your go-to should be a weightlifting style squat.

Want massive legs and definition?
Read up on how bodybuilders use hypertrophy programming and time under tension when squatting.

We’ve been squatting since we came into this world and nobody taught us how.

But in terms of the lifting aspect of a barbell squat…where did it start? Why did it start?

Featured below is a great piece by John Broz and regarding the history of the Squat.

Always dig and know your ‘WHY’? It will make you more passionate and connected to your lifting.

I love this stuff. Enjoy.

Craft Your Lift.

Top 10 Alternatives to the Barbell Snatch

posted by coach Jay D

My new love is the Snatch. Its variations include, but are not limited to the Power Snatch and even the Snatch High Pull.

Whatever the case, the Snatch is a lift of beauty displaying not only Power, but precision and technique.

That said, here are the top 10 alternatives for any athlete looking to gain the benefits of Power/Speed Strength without having to learn the technical aspects of a Barbell Snatch.

10. The Dumbbell Snatch

9. The Kettlebell Swing or Kettlebell Snatch

8. The Sandbag Clean or
Staggered Snatch

7. Kneeling Jump to Box Jump

6. Broad Jumps

5. Barbell Jump Squats

4. Depth Jumps

3. Weighted Vest Jump Squats

2. Band Deadlifts or Band Rack Pulls

1. Box Jumps

I wouldn’t recommend putting all of the above, let alone more than 3 exercises together in a training session. Oppositely, any of these exercises performed individually within a program over time with gradual progressions and loads will benefit any athlete looking to improve their Power Development (Jumping, Sprinting, Striking, Lifting).

- After foam rolling, mobility and general warm ups, Power Training should be placed first within a training program.
- Work for low volume sets; 5 sets of 3, 6 sets of 2 or Multiple Singles – 10 sets of 1
- Ensure Rest periods are at minimum 90s to 5 minutes long, as to spare the Nervous System and reduce fatigue/burnout
- Goal should be Fast Force Development over an instant of time; Quick Explosive movements
- Loads should be 30% to 65% of 1RM if using external loads/weights
- Ensure you or your athlete has established sound foundations of General Strength and Movement Patterns
- Always remember that Power development has more to do with the Nervous System/Neurological Adaptations, rather than the Muscular/Hypertrophy side of training

Keep these in mind and you’ll be tearing it up on the field, the platform and in life in no time.

Evolve or Die.

Power to the People: The Hookgrip

posted by coach Jay D

Training for a few weeks in the craft of olympic weightlifting has taught me to adapt and change my Set up and approach to lifting in regards to everything from my Squat, Hip Hinge, 1st pull, Overhead Press, Jumping and a slew of other things on my personal checklist.

It’s not so much that I’ve been doing the above mentioned things wrong, it’s just that I’ve been applying different methods in a different context via a different school of thought (Olympic weightlifting vs. kettlebell training, powerlifting etc.).

One thing that’s taking some time and investment in getting used to – is something as simple as my grip. Olympic Weightlifting demands that you handle a bar in most of your training and ALL of your competitions using what’s called a HOOK GRIP.

Below, Powerlifter, Derek Boyer briefly explains the benefit of a hook grip’s security, leverage, anatomical and biomechanical significance. Some food for thought and considerations to add to your personal lifting where it may apply, alongside your double hands over prone grip and your mixed prone/supinated grip.

Here’s another explanation and application of the Hook Grip

Evolve or Die.

Super Meets Supple: Mark Bell x Kelly Starrett on Deadlifting

posted by coach Jay D

I often see questionable deadlifting on social media and even in person.
If it’s in person, I try my best to step in and assist without sounding like a jerk that’s overstepping my boundaries and crushing many-a-fragile ego.
If it’s on instagram or youtube or Facebook or anywhere…there’s only so much I can do.

Here’s a great video between Supertraining’s Mark Bell + Mobility WOD’s Kelly Starrett, as we get to listen on a deadlifting session with the two. Tons of info, in 45 mins, folks. Enjoy.

“It’s not just what’s about on the bar, here.” – Kelly Starrett

Please, Craft your Lifts.

Evolve or Die.

Odd Exercises for Physical Vigor From an Oldtime Strongman

posted by coach Jay D

Although the accessibility of new fitness, exercise and training rituals and programs are faster than they’ve ever been in history via the internet, there’s nothing quite like going back in time and reading about how the Strength Community of yesteryear sought and found their strength.

Thanks to Art of Manliness, here’s a great article showcasing a few odd exercises to increase ‘Physical Vigor’.

A perfect “To-Do” for anyone’s morning – somewhere before your morning run, yet after your ‘Sun Salutation’.
Enjoy the timelessness.

Odd Exercises for Physical Vigor: An Oldtime Strongman’s 15-Minute Routine

Have A Strong Day.

The “2 Minute” and “5 Minute” Rules of Defeating Procrastination

posted by coach Jay D

The 2 and 5 Minute Rules of getting stuff done has been around awhile, apparently.
Unfortunately, I only recently heard about them. I guess someone out there was procrastinating on getting this wisdom and word out to me.
Let me share this with you…

The 2 Minute Rule of Defeating Procrastination (Starting)
One variation of this rule is to simply start a task that you’ve been putting off. In other words, whatever you’ve been pushing to get started on “later”, MUST be started within the next 2 minutes.

This concept is brewed in Newton’s Law of Motion that, “An object in motion will stay in motion.”
You are the object. Now start that damn task and motion and don’t stop.

The 2 minute rule is great because it tackles our laziness by simply starting our dreaded task. That really is often the hardest part – STARTING. Whether it’s training, savings, work or relationship-related, start your task the moment you think of doing in within a 2 minute window.

You’ll be surprised that you’ll probably end up finishing in one shot.

The 5 Minute Rule of Defeating Procrastination (Consistency/Repetition)
The 5 minute rule is usually reserved for larger projects and longer term goals.
The 5 minute rule demands that you dedicate 5 minutes towards working on your task. Once 5 minutes is up, it’s up.
Really. Honestly. After 5 minutes, STOP! Whether finished or not, STOP!!

Thereafter, dedicate 5 minutes here, 5 minutes more there and 5 minutes more later on or even tomorrow.
The beauty of this that you’re being consistent and chipping away at your goal. You’re taking little steps and progressing.

This concept is brewed in Psychology’s Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Being consistent at a thing and working on it slowly in increments eventually leads to a larger picture; a larger goal and ultimately, success.

These 2 rules might seem like little things and overly-simplified, but that’s the beauty of it; It’s DOABLE and you’re already making strides further than you were doing nothing and procrastinating in the first place.

Get Started and Be Consistent.
These are the lessons of the “2 Minute Rule” and the “5 Minute Rule”.

Evolve or Die.

Men Are Babies (When Sick + In Many Other Instances): An Article About Training With A Runny Nose

posted by coach Jay D

I’m Sick. I’ve been sick over the last few days. I’m a big sick baby.
And for those of you who I’ve trained one on one with, I’m sorry if you’re sick because of me. Rather than get made, please appreciate my dedication to you and your journey of movement.
If you’ve joined my lunch classes, all of you MWF’ers, probably didn’t catch how nasal I’ve been since the beginning of the week (MWF’ers being Monday-Wednesday-Friday’ers, btw); the same can be said for my kettlebell classes both at Fuel Fitness and R3 Evolution on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, respectively.

So how do I cope? Do I still train?

Let’s look at the common cold or flu situation…
Your goal is to get rest and get back to optimal health. As discussed before, you don’t have to be healthy to be fit. Athletes are the prime example of this…many athletes put their personal health on the back burner in order to train. A lot of you training for personal pleasure, Movement Pursuits and Strength Seeking, are no exception to the rule, either. Fact is, a lot of you need Movement on a daily basis, sick or not.

But let’s not downplay Health. Let’s not downplay rest. Let’s not downplay proper nutrition, too.

To get healthy from illness, You need to:
Make sure you schedule when you’re gonna put your mobile device down, walk away from the desktop or laptop and just ‘X’ out of Facebook and Twitter. You people on Instagram, this means, you, too. Stop shooting your snotty kleenex.
Log at least 6hrs and 8-10 for optimal rest. Your body needs this ‘sleep’ time to combat those pathogens and foreign invaders, so don’t be stingy with your pillow time.

I usually emphasize plants in my daily diet, but of course, there’s proteins and healthy fats both from animal and plant sources, just the same. You might not realize it, but your body is using a ton of energy to combat your cold or flu. Your body heat is up, therefore you ought to be eating just a few more calories to fuel this process, on top of staying super hydrated with water. I personally, drink a lot of tea, ginger, lemon and honey concoctions and combinations. Chilli peppers and spicy foods are also a nice secret weapon to increase your vitamin C, antioxidants and induce sweating and sinus-clearing/vasodilation. Give me a big bowl of Thai Tom Yum and I’m on my way to 100%. You should be, too. Just not too much juice, k? Reach for the real whole fruit, instead.

As for Training…
Yes, you need to rest, but not necessarily halt Movement and training, all together.
In order to get better and stay on top of your training while sick:

Famous Strength Coach Dan John said, “If it’s important, do it every day”. I believe it. You don’t need to be Squatting or Deadlifting or Snatching your 1 rep max PRs daily, but rather at least “groove” the motion, or as Dragondoor/Pavel heads would tell you – “Grease the Groove”; keep it moving; use it or lose it.
For instance, my current Strength Program is in its 3rd week of 6. It’s very basic and involves: A Back Squat, A Sumo Deadlift, A Bench Press, An Overhead/Military Press and Weighted Pullup all for near max loading for no more than 5 reps/each. Would I then pick up in all my lifts right where I left off on Monday afternoon (considering I train MWFs)?. Hell no, today, at what I hope is the climax of this cold at its worst, I loaded 60% of my max. I was super conservative with my loading and let myself simply “Groove” the motion. Take the time to de-load a bit when sick and groove the motion. There will be future battles, but you can’t be at optimal lifting mode if your health isn’t all there. Be patient, grasshopper.

All the things that you dedicate a mere obligatory 5 minutes towards before you train, should be granted more time. We all know this. Use your sick day as an opportunity to dedicate a bit more time to foam rolling/myofascial release/massage, fancy mobility moves and static/dynamic stretching. Think of this time as training to get back into training once you’re back at 100%. Think of this as accessory and support work. Prehab and Rehab!

You know how you fail to time your rest periods between sets? you know how you go for a walk, grab a drink of water, try and pick up that girl/guy in the gym before attempting your 2nd set a good 10 minutes later?…Well, now’s the time where it’s actually justified. Rather than not train, all together, turn it back a dial on your intensity. Take a longer rest, do your set, then approach again.

I’ve learned, especially over the last two nights, that Moving is pretty damn therapeutic. Moving during illness, whether on my own, doing my own program or coaching a class makes me feel pretty damn good and better.
Now I might not have the exact science to back this up, but here’s my anecdote. Movement is Health. Movement is Strength.

Evolve or Die.

The “Knees Out” Cue (A Crossfit Debate)

posted by coach Jay D

Friend and Athlete Shawn B. put me up on this debate from the Crossfit Channel.
I know I know…and yes, you know…you know…don’t get me started on Crossfit.


Once checked out, however, I realized that two JD Approved + respectable people in the training world – Kelly Starrett of Mobility WOD and “Becoming A Supple Leopard“, along with Lon Kilgore, Co-Author of “Starting Strength“, were on the panel discussing the PRO side of “Knees Out” as a cue for squatting.

It’s a great 30 minute piece for coaches/trainers and especially the layman/laywoman trying to understand all of this madness.

What’s my take, you ask?
I, myself, teach and coach the Squat; bodyweight or Skeleton-loaded (with a bar/sandbag), using cues such as: “knees out” and “Spread the Floor” and “fall between your knees” and “A-B-Duct (Abduct)” cues where necessary.

All panelists bring great points to the table. But ultimately, I feel that “Knees Out” is a great cue for most of the population that tends to lose hip stability and buckle their knees inward during the bottom position of the squat. The problem, obviously with any cue when used as a guideline or gospel in a book, is that there is no coach there with you.

There’s nobody to correct or give you the thumbs up.
Therefore, cues and guidelines are often left open for interpretation by the reader. I mean look at the Bible – people have been debating its messaging and even dying over it since the beginning of time.
What’s right? What’s wrong?

Where does this leave the elite level athlete?
Where does this leave the beginner?

2 very different starting and end points, unfortunately, and that’s the problem with relying on a book or video to teach you.

Will I use, “Knees Out” when necessary and coaching my athletes. YES.
Will it be misinterpreted if read in a book, watched on YouTube, read in a blog post. CERTAINLY.

Should anyone ever rely on a book to teach them Movement?
Sure, but not entirely.
And, Sure, but only after double-checking with a trained eye and coach.
‘Matter of fact, you can contact me and I’ll be free to assess your squat position – FREE OF CHARGE.

I just want you to…
Evolve or Die.

Have a Strong Day.