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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.

*Sigh*

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.

JD Movement Lab: Coach Wall + Coach Stick

posted by coach Jay D

You don’t need me.
I mean you do need me sometimes, but really, you don’t need me all the time.

I hate needy people.
They’re just not funl.

I like self-sufficiency. I really admire and respect it, actually.

I’d like to UN-complicate training as much as I can and whenever possible.
Sure, there are a lot of Gurus of Movement out there who’d like to overcomplicate certain movements, but I beg to differ in a lot of respects. If we over-think and over-complicate an exercise, ESPECIALLY as trainers, we’re not only missing out on some really important execution and performance, we’re flooding our clients’ minds and our own with too much information.

Ever hear me say, “Paralysis through Analysis”?!
That’s the end result of over-complication + too many details and corrective cues.
You can’t learn that way. Nobody can.

As Coaches, let’s distill the info, and get the good word of Strength out there.
Leave the joint angles, anatomy and force production to ourselves, not our clients.

*Cue Coach Wall and Coach Stick***

2 Movements related, but not really, yet often mixed up, and ultimately performed terribly, are the Squat and the Deadlift.

Yes, both look similar but really aren’t all that similar at all; One’s a Push, the other is a Pull.
Yes, both are “lower body” exercises using both Hip and Knee Joints, but are again, completely different, mechanically.

In my opinion, the common denominator that the two Movements/Lifts share not only with each other, but in every damn movement you do during training, is your “core (spine) stability”, (abdominal) “tightness”/”tension” maintained.

I’ve commissioned the help of 2 coaches that we both know to help us learn our “set up” and feel. Yes, feelings are involved and should be involved during training.

_______________

Coach Wall’s Wall Squat
In order to learn how to ‘sit back’, posture up and improve and strengthen our T-Spine/Middle Back when Squatting, while not letting our knees track past our toes and our heels to lift, we have to get up close and personal to a wall. Coach Wall.

(1) Start by stepping 1/2ft away from a straight, flat wall. Curved walls are terrible for this drill.
(2) With toes slightly turned out, assume a wall-facing, head-on stance just wider than your hips
(3) Hands hanging between knee caps, palms facing forward
(4) Squat. Make sure you don’t turn or tilt your beautiful face away from the wall as you keep the weight on your heels.
(5) Stand to Start and Repeat.

You’ll notice that the middle back had to engage;
the butt had to move back;
the knees had no place to move forward and you probably felt your squat in a few more places beyond just your Quads!
Yes, you’re entire body was involved in the fantastic ordeal.

Start there with your Squat and we’ll talk Barbell, Pistol/Single Leg Versions and Variations in the future.
Beginner or Seasoned Vet, you can and should always, always always go back and re-visit Coach Wall and The Wall Squat. You can always refine.
______________

Coach Stick and the Hip Hinge (Deadlift)
The Deadlift is a different animal. Yes, related to the Squat; that is, in the “lower body” and “Hip-Knee” Family, but don’t go calling them the same thing, nor perform them the same way.
You wouldn’t call a Lion a Tiger, nor group a domesticated kitten with the heading would you?

The Hinge is a bit different, because, regardless of our training background, history, strength and mobility, we’re forcing our body to maintain and work through a body position that feels, weak, unnatural and foreign.

Ever lift something off of the ground with a rounded back, simply because rounding a back over felt more energy-econmical than bending at the knees over the object? Ever just throw out all forms of being “ergonomically correct” out the window?
Were all the biomechanics, kinesiology, occupational therapy and chiropractic textbooks wrong?!!

No way.

For years we’ve probably lifted smaller, lighter, objects off of the ground with little to no regard in how tight our core maintained its position.
Books, small children, golf balls, pennies, nickels, dimes – they really never demanded us to be more vigilant. It’s only when we’re trying to be the Strongest versions of ourselves and hammer through our Max Efforts, that this whole “core” and “tightness” thing really makes a whole lot of sense.

This skill however takes time. And what better place to dedicate this time, other than in your fundamentals.
That, my friends, is where your Hip Hinge comes into play.

Here’s how to hinge and maintain that stability:
(1) Obtain, PVC Pipe, broomstick (loot and rob, if necessary)
(2) Hold bar in contact of 3 points: butt, mid-back and skull
(3) DO NOT tilt the skull at any point
(4) Assume Stance Hip-Width; toes-slightly outward pointed with knees soft and slight-bent
(5) Maintain FULL-TIME contact between bar + 3 points while hinging + sitting your butt back
(6) Slowly ascend back up to starting position and repeat

There you have it. The 2 Big Lifts made simple; but simple is not “easy”.
Keep practicing both the Wall Squat and Bar-Hinge mentioned above as part of your warm up before lifting.
Remember, regardless of training history and strength, you can always go back to the basics and refine.

Ego aside, and Refine.
Refine.
Refine.
Refine.

It’s Your Craft.
Evolve or Die.

The Importance of a Warm Up

posted by coach Jay D

The title of this entry might sound almost too elementary, but considering how cold it is this winter, here in Canada and much of North America, I felt it’d be fitting to explain the actual “Importance of a Warm Up” in the context of training…just in case you forgot.

The Warm Up part of your training is, in my opinion, equally, if not MORE important than the actual training, itself.

A Warm Up is and should be performed in order to…well….WARM UP.
But there’s a bit more to it than simply going through a bunch of obligatory movements before training.

TEMPERATURE
As stated above, a warm up, especially if you’re coming in to train from the workplace at lunch, after work or to start your day (minutes out of bed), is to elevate your body’s temperature.

To train or compete cold, places your body and its individual organ systems in a really bad place. Muscles aren’t as pliable as they should be; pains and soreness haven’t been managed through foam rolling release and mobility; the skin and bones, alike, simply aren’t as effective in their operations and functions as they could be when brittle or cold; the heart and nervous system hasn’t gradually built up their contraction rates and firing capacities.

MENTALLY
Warm Ups set you up to throw down. No matter what bullshit you’ve been dealt with prior to your training session/competition – whether that be a bad day, bills, traffic, personal matters, relationships or zombie outbreaks, you can’t and shouldn’t simply jump into your lifting or sport. You’re not mentally there; you’re somewhere else.

Moving, and literally grooving into your activity gradually, will set you into the right frame of mind, whether Rage Against The Machine is playing over the background speakers or not. Moving kickstarts and reinforces your mind to be ready; “Readiness”.

INJURY PREVENTION and PRs
Both of these reasons are the byproducts of the Temperature and Mental Elevations briefly mentioned above.
If you want to hit your PR (Personal Record) on a lift or Score the best you can in your sport, then you better be in the best optimal state that you could be via setting the tone, both mentally and physically.

Competition aside, What about Health?
Don’t wanna break your back on a lift, dislocate a few important joints, have a seizure, asthma or heart attack?
Move slowly and gradually build up your tempo.

At the end of the day, as a Strength Coach, for myself and my athletes, I ultimately use the Warm Up to “Activate”; to elevate you and have you ‘here’ in the moment; in a given point and time.
Yes, it prevents injuries, yes, I need you to perform better than last, but really, I need you to leave all of your troubles behind and be INTO the training – mind and body right now. Here.

You do that, and you WILL perform at your best in the gym and outside in the real world.

It’s a pretty heavy concept that I’ll challenge all of you to explore in your own training for decades to come and I’ll be reflecting on the Warm Up more and more in future posts.

In the meantime, here are a few Movement Snacks/Movement Meditations/Movement Expressions/Warm Ups that I think you should go to as your “Go-To”.

Evolve or Die.

JD BOOKS: “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and The Brain”

posted by coach Jay D


What does a Spark, the brain and Hindu Squats all have in common?…
John J. Ratey. Great M.D., and author of “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain“.

Back in 2012, I personally had a goal of reading 2 books per month. That’s 24 books in a year, that I completed.
Between the training, studying (for my NSCA Strength and Conditioning Coach exam) and planning, plus meetings, and assessments, I MADE time to read.
You can, too.
But that’s not to say that I remember each and everything within the pages of those 24 books.

“Spark”, is one of the books that I’m now taking the time to re-visit and thoroughly read once again.
John investigates and illustrates how exercise in various forms, helps the brain grow and evolve.
It goes way beyond a mere mind and body concept. Exercise actually improves cognition, and socialization to name a few benefits – beyond simply “feeling good”, mentally (although not an aspect to be downplayed at all).

It’s a great book that I encourage all of you to read, whether you have a background in Kinesiology, Medicine, Psychology and Fitness OR not.
The language is easily understandable, and all of the scientific jargon that you’d expect from such a book is minimal, at most.

Anyone can and should read it. Forget that; everyone MUST read it.

Here’s a video of John, himself at a TED talk:

Evolve or Die.
LEARN.

“Warm Marble” The Lethal Physique of Bruce Lee

posted by coach Jay D

In Memory of Bruce Lee’s Birthday Today, I’d like to share a great article by John Little with an Intro by Mike Mentzer, entitled, “Warm Marble”.

Bruce was always concerned with efficiency and effectiveness in the martial arts, strength training and movement, in general. Aside from being well-read into his books regarding philosophy, martial arts and nutrition, Bruce read tons into Kinesiology/Physical Education and Physiology.
The man believed in simplicity. He Simplified. But remember…Simple is not Easy.
He Refined.

Here’s a small slice of Bruce’s training that would be a great template for all Strength Seekers involved in the martial arts, Strength Sports and Bodybuilding and general fitness.

“Warm Marble: The Lethal Physique of Bruce Lee” by John Little; Intro by Mike Mentzer

“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
- Bruce Lee

Walking: The Lost Movement

posted by coach Jay D

On any given day, you can probably catch me walking or hiking, between the hours of 5-630a. Mainly, it’s to start my day off with Movement; to energize; to awaken and really to clear my head and plan.

That particular hour, when the streets are silent, the sun is still down and my mobile, email and social media aren’t shouting my name, I find my own personal space to plan and organize my thoughts, training objectives and entire day, really.

But what about walking as actual “training”; exercise and physical activity?

Sure most of the crowd is either running or marathoning , but then there’s the other school of “cardio” and “conditioning” that entails daily Intervals or work capacity.

However, the misconception and haphazard thought is that if it isn’t nearly making you puke, it’s really not worth doing.

I love and stand behind Interval work a lot, especially for fat loss and body re-composition goals, but whatever your goals – always ask yourself the ‘why’ behind doing your Hill Sprints, Tabata Barbell Thrusters or Burpees. It’s probably because it’s more effiicient for fat loss, it taxes your anerobic energy system and trains and primes your lactate capacities. These are GREAT THINGS TO ACHIEVE and carryover onto the field or real life! Nonetheless, all fancy physiology and textbook jargon aside, this high intensity stuff is really your greatest bang for your buck and actually spares muscle tissue (True Story, Bro).

On the other hand, if you do all of this high intensity stuff merely because you like pushing yourself to sickness or near/actual unconsciousness as your goal, then you’re something else.

Walking, on the other hand, is slow.
It’s actually slower than jogging or running.
It’s actually REALLY slow. A lot slower.
Mall Walkers walk…Seniors…they walk…babies, if beyond crawling…yes, they walk, too!

But does this movement have any value for us Strength Seekers?

Of course it does! It complements all of the high intensity training and rigors that we put our body through on a near daily basis. Don’t forget, friends, these “high intensity” Tabatas, Hill Sprints, Band Runs and WODs beat the crap out of our nervous system. Tons of damaging and stressful, chemicals/hormones are released during these activities, too – some with short term effects, some with long term effects that don’t show up until decades later (Again, True Story, Bro).

Should we stop, then?
HELL NO.

We Manage; we complement.
We find the Ying to our Yang. We Balance.

I, therefore suggest to do like I do…walk.
Go slow. Go early. 5am, even, like me.

I strongly encourage Walking…a lot more actually, than its cousins — The Jog or The Run or the Marathon as your Fitness Pursuit. It’ll be the perfect Movement to complement your High Intensity Work; it’s low intensity. REAL low intensity. No fooling.

For further reading on walking, visit:
- “Get Ripped. Get Walking.
by Tim Henriques

- “Why We Don’t Walk Anymore (Plus a Primal Health Challenge)
by Mark Sisson

Now Get outside….Move Fast…Move Slow…Run or Walk…Lift or Crawl. Whatever you do, just Move.
Evolve or Die.

Movember: Move

posted by coach Jay D

Movember is just around the corner, and if you’ve spotted me at the head of your class, or in a one-on-one setting, just the same, then you’ve caught my face-fur harvesting in progress. This lack of contact with my razor, is all a means of setting the groundwork for Movember, when I’ll be raising funds towards Prostate Cancer Research, as well as doing everything in my power to create an awareness towards men’s health. My moustache, during this time will literally and symbolically, change the face of Men’s Health, while creating awareness and solidarity surrounding the matter.

One of the initiatives in this year’s Movember 2013, is MOVE.

MOVE is pretty much a call to arms for all Mo’Bros and Mo’Sistahs supporting the Movember Movements. It demands that each and every one of us, literally “Move” – in all forms.

In other words, it’s physical activity; it’s MOVEMENT; something that will make all of our lives that much better in quality and hopefully, longer.

I, therefore challenge all of you, men and women Strength Seekers out there to get off your asses at some point for duration of Movember and Move.
Move Daily.
Move Strongly.
Move with Vigor and Passion.

Watch the video below for details + Stay Twuned to all of JD Training’s Social Media for tips and propaganda surrounding this very important Movement next month…

Evolve or Die.

The Chris Fiacco Bench Press Hack

posted by coach Jay D

There was a time when I found a lot of value in Bench Pressing; all sorts.
Flat Bench.
Decline Bench.
Dumbell Bench.
Cable Bench.
Single Armed Dumbbell Bench.
Incline Benches of all breeds: 45 Degree Bench. 46.3 degree Bench. 53.567899877666 degree bench…you get the picture.
It became that specialized!!!!

On the one hand, I admire the dedication, obsession and perfectionist mentality of bodybuilders and how they pay attention to the slightest detail, imbalance and weakness in their physiques. They strive to hit every damn angle of their chest, delt, triceps and quads. Let’s not forget the outer biceps heads, of course! Can’t forget those. I mean rightfully so, it’s an aesthetic sport.

I think I’ve come full circle – from bodybuilding training in my teens – to this whole “functional training” in my twenties and back, now at the ripe age of 31. I now have a greater respect for all who train, because in all honesty, we’re all just trying to move – runner, bodybuilder, sprinter, MMA fighter or Strongman – we’re all simply following our passions. That said, Stop Trolling! I promise, I’ll at least to tune back my own trolling of the running community as much as I can. I Promise.

Getting back to bench pressing – if you’ve spotted me training sporadically over the last few weeks, then you’ve come to realize that I’ve thrown Bench and Dumbbell Pressing back into my own training. No, it’s not a Powerlifting style bench, off my toes, back arched and bar-to-sternum – where I’m trying to engage my entire body for the Strength benefit of it.
I’m using the tool of yesteryear – the bodybuilding/football style Bench Press – The classic. Arnold Style. Why? well, to get my chest bigger. Big muscles for Big Muscles’ sake, I’ve come to appreciate…are O…..K.

It’s been near-absent over the years from my training because I simply felt that the cost-benefit ratio of the movement wasn’t worth all of the shoulder stress it was placing on my body. Fact of the matter is – I had to reboot, re-tweak and ultimately, re-learn my approach to this beneficial Movement that’s essential to any bodybuilding/hypertrophy phase of training.

These modifications included: emphasizing and being more self-aware of engaging and pinning my scapulae to the bench, packing my shoulders full-time into their sockets and experimenting with both hand distancing on the bar and pressing depth.

One important hack that I’ve been given the head’s up by was from a Strength Seeker out of Fuel Fitness, named Chris Fiacco.
He’s ahead of the game, in terms of teens and their training – as every evening they actually ‘Lift’. I’m talking big barbell movements here; the basics.

Bench. Squat. Dead. Some Pulls on The (Chinup) Bar Overhead and of course Military Press.
Streamlined and Straightforward, the way I like it and what took me into my late 20s to realize what was all you really needed for any performance, aesthetic or fat loss program (Kudos to you and your tribe, Chris).

Anyhow, being an avid reader of T-Nation, Chris put me up on a few hacks that he stumbled upon, originally penned by another well-known Chris with the last name “Thibaudeau” (aka Tibs/Thibs). It’s regarding the bench press and placing a 25 pound or 45 pound Weight Plate underneath the foot of your barbell or dumbbell bench while pressing.

Read the original article at: “The Flat Bench Press Screws You Up!“.

This simple hack changes the angle of bench by 1.5 to 1.75 inches – declining you. This slight decline differs from the regular flat bench, because it takes a TON of stress off of your shoulders and emphasizes your Chest in a horizontal pushing motion. Unlike the traditional deep decline bench press, where you’re often hooked into knee pads and heel secures of foam, you’ve been given the added value and luxury of using some leg drive in your bench off the earth, a more secure and strong bench press – borrowing from the pages of Powerlifting theory.

I like it. I use It. It saves my shoulders and builds my pecs.
Give this simple hack a shot and re-visit your Bench today.

Do it for aesthetics-sake. I did. I won’t judge.
Thanks for the share, Chris. Once again, two brains are better than one, especially if one of those brains is my (often) inferior at times, one.

Evolve or Die.

You Have The Getting Ready (To Get Ready) Syndrome

posted by coach Jay D

Like saving money, fitness, health, exercise and eating healthy are all the same.

The problem with our thinking is that we see too much of the hurdles and effort required to achieve all of the above.

In saving money, we believe that we have to save 100s or 1000s of dollars at a time. We feel we have to pay just the same amount of cash, effort and attention towards our debts and loans.

The same can be said for health and fitness-oriented goals in life.

If we’re overfat, seemingly “unfit” or lacking in core strength and range of motion, we view the climb in all of its entirety.

Before even getting started, we mistakingly forecast and waste our time looking at the pitfalls of weekend junk food binge eating, birthdays and cake, late nights spent during overtime at work and lack of time to prepare food, that are ahead. We think of the cost of “healthy groceries” and where that money might better spent towards. We look at the early hours we’ll have to set our alarm clocks to, just in order to get up and reach the gym to actually exercise and train. We then wonder, “what’s the point?…why even bother?…”

Fact of the matter is, this is what I call “Getting Ready (To Get Ready) Symdrome”.
It falls in line with a Self-Defeatist attitude.

We’re taking too long expecting perfect conditions, circumstances and alignment of the stars to start doing what we ought to be doing immediately.

Friends and Strength-Seekers, whether it’s landing your dream career or vacation or having that perfect healthy, fit and capable body, just get started on the path NOW. I mean physially, actively and aggressively — start ACTION now.

It sounds cliche, but Nike had it right with their marketing campaign, commanding you to “Just Do It.”
They never said, “Just Ponder It” or “Just Analyze It” or “Just Wait For It” or even “Just Cost-Benefit Analysis It”, for good reason…it’d never get you actually started in Movement and Training, or better yet, on the path towards your goals.

A dollar a day counts and goes way further than waiting for that perfect time to suddenly find $10,000 in your bank account.

Cutting back just 1/2 of your grains at lunch and dinner, replacing them with whole, natural foods, like fruits and veggies or even quality protein, will have tons more of an effect than trying to buy the most perfect organic, free-range, hormone-free, sustainable groceries, supplements, cooking utensils, books and classes en route to eating “clean” (whatever that Hell that means, nowadays).

Getting your ass up, actually, better yet – Jumping your ass out of bed, into your car and starting your Joint Mobility Work at the gym before your training session will kick start your day. Get FIRED UP.

Refer to this post, constantly.

Believe me.

The Mind and Body work together; synergistically and symbiotically.
Yes, Mind over Matter;
Yes, strive to be mentally tougher than physically tough, but don’t ever discount the body’s ability to literally and figuratively “move” the brain and mind.

Every horse starts wild, before they’re trained to pull a carriage.
Let the horse pull the carriage and let the mind take the reigns once in motion. Both are required for action.

It’s what I promote during your low and high points of training,
and it’s one Hell of a powerful concept.

Stop getting ready to get ready. Stop being paralyzed while wasting time to analyze.
The timing will never be perfect. Ever.

Start Action Now.

Small pieces of the puzzle everyday add up and create the bigger picture, friends.

Evolve or Die.

Were we Really Born to Run?

posted by coach Jay D

Smack dab in the middle of Marathon and Running Season, I thought I’d take a moment to pay respect to Emma van Nostrand, the 18 year old runner who passed away at this weekend’s Goodlife Marathon.

She was very athletic, her parents were runners (her father just completed the Boston weeks ago), she was part of the high school running club and she was very physically active in soccer, basketball and other activities. Emma was exactly what all of today’s youth should be doing — Moving.

It would be great if all of today’s youth followed in Emma’s footsteps and I commend her for her dedication towards physical training and passion towards movement. May she Rest In Peace; her life was taken away far too soon.
—–

Her tragic death has been all over the news during the last few days and brings up questions that I’ll let you think about, just the same:


- Did She have underlying Hearth Problems?
- Was she hydrated and/or suffering an electrolyte imbalance?
- Are the deaths of strong Athletes such as Emmaa, exclusive incidents and freak accidents?
- Is Running really good for us?
- Is Running for everyone? The overweight? The Elderly?
- What are the statistics surrounding Marathon Deaths?
- During what leg of the race do Marathon Deaths tend to occur?
- Can you be Fit, yet not healthy?

I’m through with knocking running. I mean if you’re a runner, and running is your sport, your passion, your journey into movement and pushing the limits of physical performance,
then who am I to stand in your way?

However, when the world starts pushing a running movement where Marathons are the trendy thing to do; and running a run every month is the goal to train towards, daily, that’s where I take up issues.

When the general population starts taking up running as a means for general fitness; as the easiest, cheapest and effective method of fat-loss or strength, as a means to increase bone density, ward off obesity and manage diabetes, then I have a hard time nodding in agreement or better yet, in acceptance with running.

Below is an interesting TED talk that I came across that postulates if we were really “Born To Run”?

Have A Strong Day.