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It’s Not How Much You Lift – It’s About…

Monday, May 16th, 2016

I have a few sayings I’m known for.


One of them is, “It’s not about how much you lift, It’s about how much you LOVE Lifting.”

What that means is, lifting is about being passionate about something and doing it with fire.

Lifting is about setting goals to always be improving.

Lifting is about feeling good, and feeling good about yourself.

So, a couple months ago, or so, when I really took a look at some of my training, I came to realize I wasn’t following my own advice.

The whole idea about that saying is that you should be pushing yourself because you love lifting.

It has nothing to do with pushing yourself so hard that you reach your goals at the expense of everything and everyone else.

But, there I was, trying to reach some goals related to the Barbell Bench Press, and instead of getting closer, I was coming further and further away each session because the exercise was tearing my shoulders up, and leaving me in pain.

It’s now been the better part of this year, that I have quit Benching with the Bar, and moved exclusively to Dumbbell Bench Press. And although my numbers were completely embarrassing at first, I now feel like I’m living more in tune with my beliefs.

And, after a couple months, or however long it’s been, I’m starting to see some good increases, feeling better in the shoulders, and I think even seeing a bit of growth.

I LOVE LIFTING, but I think I was coming severely close to having the majority of my training SHUT DOWN due to the pain I was feeling in my shoulders.

I encourage you to do the same as well – by all means train hard – don’t just go through the motions in the gym.

But, if there’s a movement that is tearing you up inside, don’t feel the need to push through pain and suffer because of it.

Remember…It ain’t about how much you lift. It’s about how much you LOVE lifting.

All the best in your training.


P.S. Along these lines, I want to help you out as much as I can, to get you to your goals. And that means helping you learn to do your goal lifts properly and as safely as possible.

Check Out the the Special Offer I’ve Got Going On This Week:

Get Introduction to Strongman Training AND Stone Lifting Fundamentals TOGETHER and SAVE $20! CLICK HERE or click the images below …

Building a Big Overhead Press – What’s Been Working for Me

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Improving Overhead Press


There’s no question about it, Overhead Lifting is without a doubt my favorite form of lifting to test general body strength. I don’t know why that is, but I just plain enjoy picking something up overhead, whether it’s a barbell, log, axle, or whatever is just lying around!

I’ve been working on hitting a new all-time PR on my Overhead Press – 225lbs for 4 consecutive reps – for the last several months. I’ve done 3 reps a couple different times, but the 4th rep always escapes me.

Last week, I was finally able to hit it. The video below is of 225lbs for 4 consecutive repetitions.

Overhead Press All-Time PR – 225×4

This truly came out of nowhere, as my Press workouts haven’t been too extraordinary lately, but here are a few points that might have had something to do with it.

How I’ve Increased My Press

I’ve really backed down on the volume: For several months, I was hitting my 25-rep “program.” I picked one specific weight and tried to reach 25 total reps as quickly as possible, with the weight varying from 185lbs to 215lbs. That approach worked great for a while, but I think this level of intensity caught up with me and I needed a change, so I dropped it down to either 3 or 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps. One difference was I started focusing on pressing the weight up as fast as possible, no matter what the weight was.

Modified My Ramp-up Approach to Working Set Weights: I normally hit a couple sets of barbell only, then a set of 95lbs, and then a set of 135lbs for my warm-up sets. Then, I would usually go right to my working sets. I found that the jump from 135lbs to 185lbs, or whatever the weight might have been that day, has been too much recently. So I started doing intermediate sets of 3 at 155lbs and 175bs instead. This has made a big difference in reducing missed first-reps on my initial work sets.

I’ve re-incorporated speed work: I’ve been trying to stick with 1 workout every 4 to 6 weeks where I stick with lighter bar weights and press against band tension, very similar to the methods used by powerlifters on lifts such as the Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift. I’m been feeling much more powerful on my presses, especially last week when I got my new PR, since focusing more on speed.

Dead Stop Training: I was finding that I was relying too much on stretch reflex in my press training, so I was really letting the bar crash down hard and then pressing back up. I decided to allow the barbell to settle at the bottom position a bit more the last few weeks, which made my presses harder, but I felt I was developing more pure strength. You can see in the video, that I went from a dead-stop on rep #2. I didn’t mean to do that, but I guess I’m just used to doing it now.

These are just a few changes I’ve made recently to my approach to pressing. They seem to have paid off, as a whole.

I’ll also mention that I took this weekend off from any training (I was away camping), and my left shoulder which has been giving me trouble for several months feels much better. I hope it continues to improve, and maybe I will see 225lbs go up for a set of 5 reps soon!

All the best in your training.


Yoketober is Coming Soon – Will You Be Ready?

New All Time PR on Deadlift – 550lbs

Monday, September 14th, 2015

It’s been since January of 2004 since I set a regular Deadlift PR, when I lifted 545-lbs. 11+ years.

I was 26. I’m almost 37 now, so it’s been a lengthy drought, you might say…

2004 is when I started experiencing routine back injuries that would sideline me for days or even a week at a time.

Unfortunately, my young, idiotic brain, just wanted to keep pushing harder and harder, and that meant the pain I’d experience would get worse and worse.

I’d hobble around for a week after my Strongman contests.

I’d literally limp through the hallway at my old job, after hard weekend workouts involving Deadlifts and Squats.

Finally, in 2008, I think, I had enough.

Since Squats and Deadlifts were so bad for me, I decided I wouldn’t do them anymore.

From 2008 until 2012, I rarely did heavy Deadlifts or Squats.

Of course, I continued to do Axle Deadlifts, because it’s a staple in Grip Sport competition, and I’d dabble every now and again with Squats and Deads, but never got back into them seriously until June of 2013, when I decided I was finally ready health-wise to get back under the bar and pull some weight off the floor.

For Squats, I literally started with the bar, hitting sets of 10. That’s how much I lacked confidence and stability.

For Deadlifts, I decided I’d guard my back by only doing Double Overhand grip (I was afraid of tearing a biceps anyway).

The Coan Philippi Deadlift Program

This Summer, I decided I was ready to finally train the Deadlift with some conviction, and I started a run through the Coan Philippi Deadlift Program.

I gotta say, it was AWESOME to push myself on Deadlifts! It was the first time I’d EVER followed a Deadlift Program in my life.

When you start the Coan Philippi program, it asks you for your starting max and your goal max at the end of 10 weeks, and then it computes everything for you.

I stayed a bit conservative and put in a 500-lb Max to begin with and a 550-lb Max for the end. My partner, Luke Raymond, started out with the same numbers, and it worked out really easy training with him, because we didn’t have to change the weights around at all.

The weights at the beginning of the program were super light, so Luke and I started on week 3 or 4. Everything went smooth until like Week 7. That’s when the volume caught up with me.

I struggled through to Week 9, when I hit 535-lbs, but my body just wouldn’t cooperate with me for Week 10, and I decided against going for a new PR on 3 separate Saturdays, until this past week.

The conditions still weren’t optimal, as I was up at 2AM to take my parents to the airport, and I trained at 5:30AM with my buddy, Brad Martin, but my back felt fully recovered after the 3-week layoff from heavy work, so I went ahead with the Week 10 plan.

And, I’m happy to say I was successful in my 550-lb lift, with potential for probably a few pounds more, although I didn’t push it.

Here’s the video:

Jedd Johnson All-Time PR Deadlift – 550lbs

What an awesome sensation, to FINALLY feel somewhat strong again.

Thankfully, after staying patient, working back slowly, and using my brain instead of my ego, I have been able to break one of my longest standing PR’s.

I must also say, I LOVE the Coan Philippi Program. It made me feel like a monster, and sometime this Fall, I plan on running through it again, once Luke’s schedule evens back out and we get train it together again.

Look for more updates, especially on my YouTube Channel, once I start the program up again.

All the best in your training.


7 Deadly Sins of Strength Training

Friday, February 27th, 2015

I had the amazing opportunity to put together an article for sponsor, Onnit’s magazine, Onnit Academy.

It’s called “The 7 Deadly Sins of Strength Training.”

Here’s a picture of the magazine:


Here’s what you’ll learn from the article…

No matter what your main objective in your training is, it takes a LOT more than just getting your workouts in, to be successful.

There’s other stuff you’ve gotta do to support your training and recovery in order to ensure you see the results you want.

Whether you’re trying to build a massive yoke, excel at strongman, or training to close bigger grippers, when you get these 7 things right, you see better results in your training.

As my sponsors, Onnit has sent me a special link so that my readers can get a copy of this issue, and all you need to do is pay the shipping charges.

Special Onnit Academy Link for my DIESELS

This is a complete STEAL of a price, too.

This is easily the highest quality fitness magazine I’ve ever seen. The cover and pages actually feel more like catalog quality than cheapo magazine stock.

Plus, the information is top notch. This issue alone features contributions from:

    Mark DeGrasse, me, Lance Brazil, Joe Defranco, Jim “Smitty” Smith, Travis Stoetzel, Travis Janeway, Trey Hardee, Doug Fioranelli, Evan Brand, Luke Hocevar, Marcus Martinez, Joe Daniels Ryan Mortensen, Ken Blackburn, and Matt Wichlinski

Plus, I flipped through the thing and found just ONE ADVERTISEMENT in the whole issue.

So you’re not staring and endless supplement ads as you go through it like most magazines that are out there.

Instead, you’re getting solid information.

So, get yourself a copy for as cheap as you possibly can, by just paying shipping:

Onnit Academy Magazine – pay just $4.95 to cover shipping costs

I hope you pick it up and let me know what you think of the article!

Thanks and all the best in your training.


Learn the Basics of Stone Lifting Today:
Stone Lifting Fundamentals

Are You Training Your Athletes to be Explosive the Correct Way?

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Training Athletes for Explosiveness

We can all identify an explosive athlete. Explosiveness is very noticeable, but extremely difficult to train and incorporate into a traditional high school strength program.

As a coach for arguably the most explosive athletes on the planet, track and field throwers, and owner of a gym that specializes in building the most explosive athletes in Rhode Island, I have been able to incorporate explosive movement training in ways that are non-traditional but very successful. In this article, you will learn how to incorporate these methods into your own coaching and training to build incredibly explosive athletes.

The “As _____ As Possible” Mentality

High school and college strength coaches have traditionally been brought up to think of athletic training in terms of maxes. It is what I like to call the “as _____ as possible” mentality.

For example, strength is defined as moving a weight “as heavy as possible” one time. A great example of this is a one rep max in the squat.

Strength endurance is defined as moving a certain weight “as many times as possible.” The 225 pound bench press for reps test at the NFL combine is a perfect example of this.

Straight ahead speed like you see in track and field sprinters is defined as running a certain distance “as fast as possible.”

Endurance is defined as doing a movement “as long as possible.”

It is my finding through years of training young athletes and speaking to strength coaches around the country that we are taking the wrong “as _____ as possible” approach when we try to build explosiveness in athletes.

What Are We Doing Wrong?

More often than not, when a strength coach approaches me and is having trouble getting athletes more explosive, they are incorporating too much maximum weight into the equation.

For example, I recently had a coach email me his training template that consisted of Power Cleans, Hang Cleans, and Box Jumps to build explosiveness. While these are great exercises to build explosiveness in athletes, his approach was totally wrong.

He had his athletes jumping on to a box “as high as possible” 1 time for multiple sets. He has his athletes doing power cleans “as heavy as possible” for sets of 1 without varying the weight. He had his athletes doing hang cleans “as heavy as possible” for sets of 1 without changing the weight.

“Using a maximum weight for multiple sets
or jumping to a super tall box one time
is not building explosiveness,
it is merely testing explosiveness
over and over again.”

The thing to keep in mind when training explosiveness is that an athlete will rarely have a heavy external load on their bodies while competing. Using a maximum weight for multiple sets or jumping to a super tall box one time is not building explosiveness, it is merely testing explosiveness over and over again.

Finding the Correct Formula

With all of this being said, what is the correct formula for building explosiveness? What is the correct “as _____ as possible” approach to ensure your athletes are doing everything they can to become as explosive as they can be. In order to guarantee your athletes are training for explosion, you must make sure they are training certain movements with “as much force as possible.”

I believe this is why strength coaches have such a hard time training explosiveness. Unless you have extremely expensive testing equipment, measuring force is nearly impossible. It is a lot easier to measure the weight on a bar, the height of a box, or the time it takes to run a certain distance. Add to this the fact that athletes are asked to be explosive and produce force over and over again during the course of a game and the training difficulty multiplies.

Force equals mass times acceleration. So the easiest way to measure force, or for a coach to see if an athlete is applying more force, is to watch the speed that he performs a movement with a selected weight through 5 repetitions.

My favorite explosive exercise to do with my throwers is a one arm dumbbell clean and press for 5 reps per arm. It is a full body movement that incorporates massive force with the lower body, transferring that force through the core into the upper body, and applying that force to the dumbbell. Very similar to the way a track and field thrower applies force to a shot put, discus, or javelin.

The application is simple. Give an athlete a dumbbell you know they can easily clean and press multiple times. Have them perform 5 repetitions with each hand, starting with the non-dominant (non-throwing) arm. Watch the speed that the dumbbell moves. Ask yourself, is the dumbbell moving as fast (or almost as fast) on the 5th rep as it did on the 1st rep?

If the answer is yes, the athlete is allowed to increase the weight of the dumbbell by 5 pounds for his second set.

If the answer is no, the athlete should decrease the weight by 5 pounds on his next set.

When dealing with training explosion, the name of the game is speed. Being able to keep the same speed (or have a very slight decrease in speed) over 5 reps will ensure that an athlete is able to produce maximum force and replicate that force time and time again, similar to what they will be asked to do during a competition.

Sneaking Explosive Training into your Current Workouts

While I truly believe that having a separate day 100% dedicated to training speed and explosion is the most effective way of getting an athlete to produce more force, it is not possible in a typical high school setting. Let’s face it, practicing the actual sport is the most important thing a high school student will do and should take up the most amount of practice time.

If an athlete practices 2 hours a day, 5 days a week, they might only be in the weight room 2 days a week for 30-40 minutes at a time. How does a strength coach go about training explosion with a large team in a small weightroom while the athletes are also expected to be getting bigger and stronger at the same time?

Replace Slow Reps with Explosive Reps

One strategy is to combine the strength and explosive movement training into the same exercise. This is something I have done for the past few years and it works very well, especially with large groups. When an athlete is performing a strength based exercise on a typical linear periodization template, they will normally begin with a very light weight and gradually increase each set.

For example, an athlete with a 225 pound bench press will perform 5 sets like this:

  • Set 1 – 95 pounds for 10 slow and steady reps.
  • Set 2 – 135 pounds for 8 slow and steady reps.
  • Set 3 – 155 pounds for 6 good reps.
  • Set 4 – 175 pounds for 4-5 good reps.
  • Set 5 – 195 pounds for 3-4 tough reps to failure.

Instead, why not add one more set, and work the first 3 sets for 6 reps as explosive as possible?

  • Set 1 – 95 pounds for 6 explosive reps (plates should be clanging)
  • Set 2 – 115 pounds for 6 explosive reps (plates rattling, bar speed never decreases)
  • Set 3 – 135 pounds for 6 explosive reps (weight may slow down at the 5th or 6th rep)
  • Set 4 – 155 pounds for 6 good reps
  • Set 5 – 175 pounds for 4-5 good reps
  • Set 6 – 195 pounds for 3-4 tough reps to failure.

The athlete is still doing the same amount of reps for the exercise in both templates. As you can see, the addition of one extra set of 6 reps makes this one exercise become a blend of explosiveness for the first 3 beginning sets, and strength for the last 3 sets.

Instead of moving the lighter weight slow and steady, he is now moving the bar with as much speed as possible. Every week simply increase the weight by 5 or 10 pounds and decrease the reps by 1. After 3 weeks, change the exercise slightly (move to an incline press or a dumbbell press) and follow this same template for another 3 weeks.

This can be done with all of your basic compound lifts like squats and bench press. You will see great increases in speed and explosiveness without a decrease in strength.

Replace a Slow Assistance Movement with a Fast Bodyweight Movement

Another strategy is to replace a standard compound or isolation movement with a similar exercise focusing on explosion. For example, on the days that you have your athletes squatting, you may have them also doing a lunge variation.

Rather than do the lunge in a typical slow and steady manner, why not change the exercise to a jumping lunge?

So rather than doing 3 sets of 10 reps per leg while holding a dumbbell in each hand, do 6 sets of 5 jumps per leg working on getting as high in the air as possible? Or to look at it another way:

  • Walking lunges holding dumbbells – 3 sets of 10 reps – slow pace – focus is hypertrophy.
  • Repeat Jumping Lunges – 6 sets of 5 reps – explosive pace – focus is producing massive force.

(Both are lunges, both very easy to teach, but two separate results).

The same can be done by switching a dumbbell bench press to an explosive push up, or exchanging a leg press or leg extension with a repeat jumping squat.

Superset an Opposite Explosive Exercise Immediately After a Strength Exercise

A third strategy that you can use that works great with larger teams or if you have limited time is to superset an opposite explosive movement immediately after a strength exercise. For example, if you have your athletes doing a typical 5 x 5 strength template and you have 4 athletes sharing one piece of equipment, you are inevitably going to have athletes taking a large amount of rest between each set while the bar is loaded and unloaded.

Instead of having the athlete finish his set and sit down for a few minutes of rest, have him do an explosive movement immediately after his set is complete.

Here is a great example.

Exercise: Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps – increase weight each time
Superset with clapping push ups – 5 sets of 5 reps – perform immediately after squats.

This is a great way to blend a strength based exercise with an explosive exercise. With this strategy, just make sure that the explosive exercise is opposite (uses a different movement pattern) than the strength exercise. So if the main strength exercise is a bench press, superset with an explosive jumping movement.

In my experience, supersetting an explosive movement with a strength movement that is too similar will be counterproductive. The athlete will be too tired to produce the energy necessary to lift heavy and the heavy lifting will prevent them from being explosive. Truly a lose-lose situation. Neither exercise will accomplish what it sets out to do.

Implementing These Strategies Properly

Properly implementing these strategies should be done gradually so you do not throw off whatever progress you have accumulated thus far. Don’t completely revamp your training templates and switch around what your team has been doing. Take one strategy from the three above and implement it for the first 4 or 5 weeks of the season. Test it out with your team (certain sports and athlete body types respond to each strategy differently) and see if the response is favorable when they play their sport. If it is, try to incorporate an additional strategy for the next 4-5 weeks and see how your athletes respond.

If your athletes show an increase of explosion in their sport, you know what you are doing is working.

If your athletes are looking lethargic and are gassing out during their weight room sessions, that is a sign to pull back and decrease the amount of explosive work.

Whatever is done in the weightroom should enhance what is done during competition. You are training athletes. They can’t be bodybuilders in the weightroom and athletes on the field. They can’t be Olympic lifters in the weightroom and athletes on the field. They can’t be powerlifters in the weightroom and athletes on the field. Train them like athletes by blending their strength training, explosive movements, and hypertrophy in the weightroom to compliment what they do in their sport. You will see over time that their explosion increases along with their strength and muscular size.

-Coach Matt Ellis-

DIESELS, Coach Ellis and I worked together on a project last eyar and we are about to release it. It’s called Grip Training for Track and Field Throwers.

You can get on the early bird list for this DVD release by adding your email to the box below. You’ll be the first to know about it when it comes out.

All the best in your training – Grip for Throwers comes out next week!