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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!


The Brutal 5K
2013 Strength Challenge Number 1

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

The Brutal 5K

By Josh McIntyre
Check out Josh on his YouTube Channel


We were seated at a common table with a family we didn’t know. No problem, my wife is pretty social and I can fake interest in just about anything for 30 minutes. It was the German Bier Garten at Epcot, and $13 a beer wasn’t going to stop me from enjoying myself.

As I looked around the large auditorium like seating area, I noticed something troubling. At nearly every table sat a skinny, smug looking d-bag with either a livestrong bracelet or some kind of motivational running t-shirt. What was stranger, none of these “men” even had a beer in front of them.

One man with hair past his ears appeared even to be wearing a beret! As I turned to look at my wife in bewilderment, down sat a young guy in the vacant seat next to me. I watched on in horror as he opened his beardless face and a high, slightly pitchy and annoying voice screeched out. Thus spoke the Beta-male: “I can’t wait for tomorrows 5k!”


I won’t bore the masses with every feminine thing this little neophyte said, but here’s a run down:

  • Running 5k’s are his life
  • 3 days grace is great running music, And…
  • “Eewww, who could drink an entire liter of beer? I can’t stand the way that stuff tastes”

That last one hit my ears as I lowered one of the liter beer mugs from my face only to raise another with my other hand, and it made chills of rage run down my spine.

I turned to look upon the baby deer like runner, my neck creaked as scar tissue broke under the immense weight of my beast fur. My beard twitched as it parted the way like great red drapes for my mouth, reminiscing of Moses when he made the Red Sea into a nature path. Surprise and terror washed over this wuss’s face as I set my cold dead eyes upon his virgin baby blues. With sheer malice, the churning hell pit of my stomach sent forth a metric ton of gas. The terrible cloud left my face at nearly mach 2 and blew the club-friendly-rock fan’s head clear from his shoulders. His own family cried as they thanked me for what I had done. I responded with an aftershock.

Once I cleared out the entire left half of the buffet and broke a third of the dishes due to just how rough I eat, I decided that super lunch (the meal between lunch and 1st dinner) was over. I payed in red whiskers and tipped the waitress with 3 farts, which she graciously accepted.

As we walked out in search of more beer for my face, I couldn’t help wondering:

What if there was a 5k for Alpha males?

It wasn’t until much later when I sat down to release a school of brown trout into Walt Disney’s magical sewer system that it hit me!

A “race” To 5k (5000#)!

I flushed the toilet and immediately contacted Jedd Johnson. This is what I told him:

The 5k challenge will be as follows:

  • Total 5000lbs in ONE day using the FEWEST singles you can
  • Only Squat, Bench and Deadlifts will count
  • One of each must be performed, but may be repeated as needed to reach 5k
  • Lifts must be reasonably close to a good competition style lift (squat depth, paused bench, no hitched dl’s)
  • knee wraps up to 3.5 allowed for raw
  • Film it at your house, in a gym, in a garage, in a parking lot, wherever
  • Gear allowed, just specify in the vid description

(Example: if DL is your best lift then it may look like:
SQ, B, DL, DL, DL, DL, DL, DL, DL, DL = 5000)

Glory is just 3 steps away:

  • 1. Upload your video submissions to youtube
  • 2. Add the title: “Brutal 5K (and the # of lifts it took you)”
  • 3. Post the link to:

The Ladies’ Brutal 3K

This challenge is for the Alpha-females as well! I know not every lady is sitting around the house reading 50 shades of Gray. Some of you She-Ra’s are doing power cleans and front squats with twice the weight that our beta-male could curl in any standard power rack. So Ladies, get your war face on, tie your hair back with some barbed wire and embarrass some of these guys.

The Top 10 Performances (men and women), using as few attempts as possible, will be posted here at

This is a new spin on the 3 classic lifts. Who can do this in 15 lifts? 10? 9? Less!? Give it a try and see where you stack up!


The Light Was My Training Partner

Friday, November 16th, 2012

A few weeks back, I invited my personal training client, Mark, to come train with me on a Saturday. He travels a great deal in his business, so that particular week he was unable to train with me at all, so i thought this would be a good way for him to get some work in.

That day, it was a great workout. We really got a lot of good quality work in, so I told him if he wanted to do that session with me each week, I would not charge him for the session, and he agreed.

This past Thursday morning, we were supposed to train together again, but his flight schedule got changed, so he wasn’t going to make it in. And so he called me on my cell while I was warming up and let me know he wouldn’t make it.

I normally train in the afternoon, so I almost said screw it and went back upstairs to work, but instead I hit the workout solo, and I am glad I did because it was awesome.

See why in the video below.

A little tribute to two of my best friends, Rick Walker and Mike Rinderle. Thanks for always having my back guys! I dedicate this workout to you.


Old Friend, New Training Partner

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Random pic of Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle) never hurt anybody…

I was driving a few weeks ago and decided to give an old friend, Kyle Kintner, a call.

Kyle and I had known one another since at least the 5th grade, went to the same high school and college, and have always kept in touch here and there. He had moved away when he got married though and I had just recently heard that he moved back into the area, so I gave him a ring to see what was up.

We chatted for a few minutes and before hanging up I invited him to come up and lift with me if he ever was in the neighborhood and had the interest. Kyle’s job takes him all over the county and when I described where I lived, he said that he drives by multiple times a week, he just didn’t know where I lived or else he would have stopped in sooner.

I live in a small town and admittedly don’t get out much, nor do I really want to, since I’d rather hang around with my family, but that situation makes it hard to find a training partner. I thought I picked one up last Fall, but the Winter hit and he disappeared just as the Arnold Classic Mighty Mitts was coming up, so I was back to training alone again.

It’s one thing to train alone. It’s something altogether different to start to depend on somebody during a workout and then as the start time for the session approaches the guy is late every time or just plain doesn’t show up.

So, I had made the overture to Kyle, like I have done countless times to friends and people I meet who have a history of training, but wasn’t sure what to expect as far as a follow-up response.

To my surprise, however, Kyle texted me back about training the very next day. He said his rounds were bringing me back by my house and that he’d like to train and try out some of the stuff I was doing.

I was even more pleased that when Kyle showed up he came ready to throw down. Kyle was always an athlete, setting the Pole Vault record in high school and earning a scholarship to college for his track and field prowess, and he brought that same athleticism to the gym – it was an awesome workout right off the bat, and he said he hadn’t used free-weights in a workout for years because he owned a Bowflex, but it was hard to tell by watching him throw the weight around.

In a Grip sense, he was also very impressive, getting partial lifts on 5-Tens-Pinch and 2-35’s-Pinch.

For some reason, I wasn’t smart enough to film our first few lifts together (we’ve been hitting it for about a month now) but I did grab the camera last week and I put together a highlight video.

Some of the stuff we did:

1. Overhead Push Jerks and Presses

Kyle is a naturally powerful athlete. We would train together in college occasionally and he would almost always match me in the Olympic lift variations we would do. To this day he is still able to move the weight fast.

2. Incline Bench

Our previous two workouts, we hit flat bench, so we made sure to switch it up a bit. I don’t have an adjustable bench, so we sat one end of the bench up on a stack of bumper plates. Works great.

3. Grip Training

We did Adjustable Thick Bar and various forms of Plate Pinching. I got a good lift with either hand on 2-45’s-Pinch and Kyle got his first full lifts on film with 5-Tens-Pinch.

3. Biceps and Triceps

This was kind of a De-load Workout, if you can call it that, because we had been killing upper body so hard, but we made sure to stick some Curls and Push-downs in there for good measure. We hit some volume sets, and then I went for the “All important 1-rep maximum bicep curl,” aiming for as strict of form as possible i.e. The Vigeant Curl Challenge, and I matched my best ever mark of 75-lbs with either hand. I must say that this time it felt much better on my elbows, as the last time I had a touch of elbow pain, but my preventive work that I share in Fixing Elbow Pain has been working very well.

I didn’t film the Tricep work because my machine is in the storage room adjacent to the garage and it is scary in there.

Training with Kyle has been great. He is Intense and brings it hard every workout. He gets in my face, picks up on form and technique errors, and even has the balls to mention them, plus the biggest benefit of them all is that Kyle is supportive. You might not hear it in the video, but he gives the little cheers you want to hear before big attempts. That is the kind of thing I have been missing for years in my training.

I will close this post by saying this…

You don’t NEED a partner in order to have a good workout or to get stronger. Since 2008 when I began training alone, I have never had a steady partner for more than a few months.

So if you are using the excuse “I don’t have a partner, so I can’t train,” then that is complete hog wash. Get in there and get some work done, partner or not.

However, I do plan on getting Kyle fully immersed in the Grip Life, and I am hoping to get him to help me try some drills I have been meaning to try for some time with the Inch Dumbbell but haven’t had anyone with me strong enough to do them. It should go well.

Stay tuned for more developments, as I am sure Kyle is going to learn fast and with time progress nicely.

All the best in your training,


P.S. I also plan on getting Kyle involved in some Strongman Training. I will of course work him in slowly.

If you want to introduce Strongman Training to your program, or that of your athletes, make sure to do it the right way with the right technique.

Our DVD, Introduction to Strongman Training will help nicely.