Archive for February, 2011

Reblogging Andy Deas

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Feb 23 2011

“In the past year I have received no fewer than 50 emails (plus numerous texts, facebook messages etc.) from folks asking for career advice. How did you transition to personal training? Do you think you made the right decision? How do I make a career out of my passion for fitness?”

“Overall my job satisfaction is probably a little higher than my previous job, but not near as high as I would have anticipated.”

Read more from “Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze“.

Paleo Diet: With New Unrated Scenes!

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Feb 21 2011

Finding holiday movies when you’re with your parents is tough. For years when I went home for the holidays, we usually tried this but we have a diverse crew. My parents are very conservative, my sister is a hippie, my brother has wide ranging taste, and I’m a cinema snob.

We haven’t gone to a movie in a few years because the last one we saw was “Bad Santa.” I wouldn’t call the sex scenes gratuitous, just weird. The drinking, cursing, and drug use, more of a pop culture re-branding of a slowly dying rock band tour. The casting a dart board selection of pseudo-celebrity.

The lesson for me was: If you try to make a movie that appeals to everybody, you miss pleasing everybody.

Pitching the Paleo Diet can go the same way. If you throw out inane memes like “Eat ‘Heart Healthy’ fish, steamed veggies, olive oil!”, you’re going to try to appeal to that middle part of the diet spectrum. The vegetarians and whole-grainers will get on board because in the headline of that article they saw in the grocery store that made them completely change their diet, there may have been a mention of fish.

The meat and potatoes guys will have a hard time with it, but they’re sick of being able to rest an entire six pack on their stomach.

But are you being true to your artistic integrity? Did you get into directing movies because you wanted to do that commercial for Five-Hour Energy or because of Kurosawa’s Ran.

So I can’t pitch salmon and broccoli.

I might get a wider audience, I might get the nutritional coaching follow-up deal equivalent of an AT&T Commercial or MTV Cribs episode.

But I can’t do it. I want you to eat bacon.

Developing Upperbody Gymnastic Strength: Recon Ron and Volume Training

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Feb 14 2011

Gaining upper body strength is really easy, here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • Stay below your muscle failure threshold
  • Practice often
  • Listen to your joints
  • Track your progress to see what works


The two basic progressions which we’ve seen work really really well are “Recon Ron” and Volume Training.

Recon Ron Pullup Program

We came up with Volume Training based off poor memory and bad research of the Recon Ron Pullup Program (RRPR). RRPR was a technique I was familiar with from my time in the Marine Corps. It is used widely because it takes a very small amount of time, and works well.

RRPR couldn’t be simpler in execution:

  • Pick a level on the progression that is challenging, but not impossible: meaning you are staying below muscle failure.
  • Perform the progression once, 5-7 days per week, allowing yourself 30 seconds to 2 minutes rest between sets.
  • Take a rest day if/when you’re elbows, shoulders, etc, start to get inflamed.


Like everything, test and retest.  Do some shoulder warmup, then crank out one max set.  Stick with RRPR for 4 weeks, be consistent, then retest.  Guaranteed you’ll see big gains.

Use RRPR for anything: Pullups, Pushups, Handstand Pushups, Ring Dips, Muscle Ups.

Volume Training

We’ve found Volume Training an equal tool for improving upper body strength.  Advantages of Volume Training versus RRPR are:

  • Better recovery because of decreased frequency
  • Flexibility of programming, i.e., you can do other movements within your Volume Training
  • Flexibility of modalities, i.e., you can use this for any movement


Volume Training is also an easy way to track your progress. Even if you only get 1-2 more reps every session, at least you’re moving forward. One of the biggest issues we see with athletes and improvement in these movements is psychological. They practice so infrequently, and nearly never do a One Set Max (1SM), so they are easily discouraged by their perceived lack of progress.

Here’s how Volume Training works:

  • Perform a set every minute on the minute, there should be some rest within each minute
  • Perform 10-20 minutes (so that’s 10-20 sets)
  • Ensure that your first set and last set differ by no more than two reps
  • Do not do more than one upper body movement per session.

So a common example of a stand along upper body Volume Training session would be 20 minutes of Handstand Pushups. A typical progression over a few weeks would look like this:

We’ve seen significant progress with 10-15 minute sessions as well, so if you are strapped for time, this is a great way to build upper body strength in a short period of time.  Most athletes can only handle two session of upper body Volume Training per week.  Again, listen to your joints, but practice frequently.

“But I don’t have any Pullups/Handstand Pushups/Ring Dips/etc!”

This is where understanding general strength and conditioning comes into play, namely the role of eccentric and isometric exercises in building concentric strength.

Isometric exercises should be the baseline. Ensure that your athlete:

  • has a handstand
  • can hold the top of a ring dip
  • can hold the top of a pushup
  • can hold a flexed arm hang


If then can do these movements, then they can use them as the basis for their Volume Training.  Simply set a goal time per minute and try to hold that exercise within that goal time by five seconds.

For folks with nearly zero upper body strength, we can assist them with the following exercises, but the principal of goal time per minute, delta no greater than five seconds still apply:

  • Overhead barbell hold
  • Band assisted ring hold
  • Knee pushup or elevated pushup hold
  • Band assisted flexed arm hang


If athletes are capable of the isometric movements, then we can begin work on eccentric movements.  These are commonly called “negatives”.  Start at the top of the movement, and move through the eccentric range of motion taking 3-5 seconds depending on the length of the movement (i.e., a pushup ROM is shorter than a pullup ROM).

Key to the eccentric movements is going beyond the normal ROM whenever we can.  While this is difficult for Pullups and Ring Dips, this is easy for Handstand Pushups and Pushups.

Simply place a raised object (plates, blocks, parallettes, etc) under the athletes hands and have them perform a negative to the floor.


So remember, you are practicing the movements, not trying to puke in your shoes. So stay below muscle failure. These can and should be challenging, but if you burn out too fast, then MISSION FAIL!

Stick to the plan and you’ll be sure to see big progress quickly. Even for top level athletes, this is a great tool. What better way to feel confident going into a HSPU WOD then knowing that you can do 40 unbroken HSPU while the nearest competitor can probably do 20 on a good day.

Note however, that you’ll want to decrease the reps and add a load on many of these movements as you gain mastery. If you are getting to 3-5 reps per minute for 20 minutes, it’s time to decrease the reps and time and add weight. So take it down to 1-2 reps per minute for 10-15 minutes and add some weight: weighted ring dips, weighted pullups, weighted HSPU, weighted Muscle-Ups, etc. Again, listen to your joints, test and retest.

This is a great way to gain proficiency or gain dominance. Good luck!

For more details, check out “Volume Training for Goats” on the Crossfit Journal.

Working Wounded – Part I

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Feb 12 2011

Update: See Volume Training for “Goats” in the Crossfit Journal for additional info.


I’m going to be publishing several articles over the next few weeks with templates that I’ve used for different injured folks in the gym.

In general, we look at injured athletes as a great opportunity to work on oft neglected weaknesses.

A good baseline understanding for this type of training is in Working Wounded by Greg Glassman in the Crossfit Journal.

When I started dealing with injured athletes, I used a hodge podge of methods and didn’t really find anything that was very specific on what to do over a medium to long term.

While Coach Glassman’s article is a good “Big Blue Arrow” as to what direction to take an injured athlete, I wasn’t experienced enough to put it into practice day-to-day.

Luckily, after several failed solo attempts, and with the help of my fellow coaches and athletes, we found some specific modules of training that have done a couple things:

  • Demonstrated measurable progress to the athlete, keeping them motivated and wanting to come back to the gym.
  • Significant progress in common Crossfit “Goats” improving their confidence once they get back to WOD Classes.
  • Easy to follow for coaches, but also easy to improvise and adapt to changing conditions in athlete’s ability as well as space, time, or logistic constraints.

Back Issues

While by no means the most common issue, this is the hardest one to program around. With limitations based on having only a single leg or single arm, you still have a lot of basic movements to work with.

What we’ve come up with for lower back injuries is based on two principles:

  • There is a “Therapeutic” dose of functional movement, and there is a “Challenging” dose of functional movement. We are erring on the side of Therapeutic dose.
  • Volume Training*: Ensuring there is at least a 1:1 rest:work ratio within the workout.

Here is a Working Wounded Back Injury Template:

All the normal scaling techniques need to be employed based on the athletes needs:

  • Can’t Squat under their own power: Use rings or a vertical bar for assistance.
  • Can’t do Toes-to-Bar: Just raise your legs up as high as they’ll go comfortably.

*The Crossfit Journal article on Volume Training should be published on 14 February. For the purposes of this article, Volume Training is simply performing work every minute on the minute. When discussing work:rest ratios, I mean within that minute.

Considerations for Implementation: Programming, Warmups and Cooldowns

To program for individual athletes, take into consideration their recovery ability. The above template does not have to be done Monday through Friday. You can use it as a rotation with as many off days as you see fit to let the athlete heal.

If the athlete is a high level performer that is used to working out at Rxd weights five to six days per week:

  • Frequency: Get them up to five recovery WODs per week quickly.
  • Volume: 10-20 minutes.  Start with less, work up.
  • Work/Rest Ratio: Should be a high work:rest ratio each minute.
  • Loading: Work up slowly, this is where most high level athletes will progress to quickly.
  • Warmups: you should incorporate a functional movements, dynamic stretching, and myofascial release before going into the Volume Training couplets.
  • Cooldowns: Focused PNF stretching on the muscle groups and movements that are causing the injury.

If the athlete is new to the sport or doesn’t recover as quickly:

  • Frequency: doing one to two recovery WODs per week will still do them a ton of good.
  • Volume: 7-15 minutes.  Start slow, work up.
  • Work/Rest Ratio: Should start at 50%:50: and slowly work up to 75%/25%
  • Loading: PVC or 12 lbs barbell works great.  Load them up after this slowly.
  • Warmups: 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching and myofascial is fine, then jump in.
  • Cooldown: 5-10 minutes of gentle stretching.

Tracking Progress

Tracking progress is absolutely vital for you as a coach and psychologically to the athlete. If you look on Tab 2 of the Baseline Working Wounded – Back Injury document, you’ll see a space for reps/weight and scaling notes.

Taking an athlete who can do 2-3 pullups prior to their injury to 8-9 within four weeks is proof positive that their healing and getting stronger: which is what you’re getting paid to do for them and which is going to keep them training.

For an excel version of the Working Wounded – Back Injury Template click here.

Part II – Working Wounded – Single Leg: Coming Soon
Part III – Working Wounded – Single Arm: Coming Soon

Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong?

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Feb 09 2011

[If I had to do a play-by-play of this post, it would start with something like: “Not to be out-pretentious’d by anybody, Brian chose to use Jacquis-Louis David’s ‘Death of Socrates’ to open his post”.]

“One would never imagine that a good pot or shoe could result from intuition alone; why then assume that the more complex task of directing one’s life could be undertaken without any sustained reflection on premises or goals?” -Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy

“What is considered obvious and natural is rarely so.” -Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy

“There’s no existing form of society good enough for the philosophic nature, with the result that it gets warped and altered, like a foreign seed sown in alien soil under whose influence it commonly degenerates into the local growth.” Plato, Republic, Book VI

“The body is a source of endless trouble to us by reason of the mere requirement of food; and is also liable to diseases which overtake and impede us in the search after truth: and by filling us so full of loves, and lusts, and fears, and fancies, and idols, and every sort of folly, prevents our ever having, as people say, so much as a thought.” -Plato, Phaedo

“Learn not to contradict your father in anything; nor by calling him Iapetus, to reproach him with the ills of age, by which you were reared in your infancy.” -Aristophanes, Clouds (a satire aimed at Socrates)

“Absolutely not. Never — and I mean NEVER — try anything that someone in authority, like Me, has not specifically approved in advance. This is not allowed, and is specifically prohibited, because if you do this irresponsible thing — this Trying Things For Yourself — you might learn on your own, and again, this is PROHIBITED.” -“The Collected Wit and Wisdom of Mark Rippetoe