Posts Tagged ‘Coaching’

A Specific Generalized Template

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Nov 02 2011

What many coaches will tell you (and I will too) is:

1) Practice the basic lifts.
2) Keep it simple.
3) And one Marine saying: “In the static defensive position, if you try to be strong everywhere, you’ll be weak everywhere.”

What I’ve tried to do with this template is lay out a basic combination of Olympic and Power lifts with the end goal of being an generally stronger and more powerful athlete, but one that has my inherent strengths and weaknesses.

I’ve cobbled together several programs (Crossfit Football, Bob Takano, Jim Wendler, Prilepin’s Table, and especially Gant Grimes) based on my experience lifting with each of those programs separately and managing athletes on these programs.

To view the template click here.

Template Guidelines:
1) Add 5 lbs to each Oly lift Theoretical 1 RM (T1RM) each 4 week cycle.
2) Add 10 lbs to each lower body Wendler Deadlift T1RM each 4 week cycle.
3) Add 5 lbs to each upper body Wendler Press T1RM each 4 week cycle.
4) Add 5 lbs to each Power lift (linear progression) each 4 week cycle.

You’ll obviously need to copy the spreadsheet and then enter your weights into the yellow blocks, but the spreadsheet will do the work after that.

You’ll need to stick with this for at least 16 weeks to see good progress. Feel free to switch your Power lifts to Wendler once you get a serious sticking point.

I think this would be a great template for anybody that has a decent level of strength and good technique with the lifts. I think this would be a great fit for athletes at PCF who are doing the barbell club (contact for more info).

PS. I get the fact that “Specialized Generalized” are contradictory terms. Also, feel free to go all kinds of honey badger on this if you’ve got some beef.

Communicating Ideas

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Oct 25 2011

“What I call Platonicity, after the ideas (and personality of the philosopher Plato) is our tendency to mistake the map for the territory, to focus on pure and well-defined “forms,” whether objects, like triangles, or social notions, like utopias (societies built according to some blueprint of what “makes sense”), even nationalities. When these ideas and crisp constructs inhabit our minds, we privilege them over other less elegant objects, those with messier and less tractable structures….Platonicity is what makes us think that we understand more than we actually do.” -Nicholas Nassim Taleb, The Black Swan page xxv.

“Dialectic, in fact, is the only procedure which proceeds by the destruction of assumptions to the very first principle, so as to give itself a firm base.” Plato, The Republic 533d, Lee Translation.

You’ll find a lot of this kind of back and forth flipping through NNT and Plato.

What I try to remember in fitness is that you should apply the fundamentals (the “first principles”) relentlessly: hard work, consistency, attitude, team work. But also be flexible and innovative in how you do it. Keep what works, throw out what doesn’t. Also remember, the more you learn the more uncertain you should be about what the “right” answer is.

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.

How To Coach

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Aug 26 2010

“Happiness, therefore, being found to be something final and self-sufficient, is the End at which all actions aim” –Ethics

Whoa! Breaking out the Aristotle. That’s the blogging equivalent wearing an ascot (loud, brash, pretentious, probably an asshole), but it’s where we have to start.

Coaching gives happiness. The most potent form of this is Class #4 of Group Foundations.

I LOVE coming to Class #4. This is heavy Squat/Deadlift day.

Step 1: Pick out the smallest girls in the class.

Step 2: Make them put entirely too much weight on the bar.

Step 3: Make them lift it.

Step 4: Watch as they forget their shitty day job, the fact that they “don’t like their body”, that they spent 10 minutes before the lift telling themselves “I can’t lift that”.

That’s happiness for a coach. That’s happiness for an athlete. Everybody wins there.

The sky’s the limit after that.

“So what does that tell me about how to coach?”

It doesn’t.

It tells you why you should want to coach.

  • Serve your clients: Give them what they need, not what they want.
  • They are the center of attention, not you.
  • Teach them something: why, how, what for.

“What Have You Got Against Christmas Cards?”

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Aug 15 2010

We want to be in a situation under maximum pressure, maximum intensity, and maximum danger. When it’s shared with others, it provides a bond which is stronger than any tie that can exist.

Chances are, you and I have suffered together. Most days that I can get away from the business of business, I do the WODs with a class at PCF. I do this mainly because it’s in the best interest of my fitness. Aaron Moburg-Jones does PCF’s programming, and the guy is a programming genius. If he writes it, I’m going to do it because it’ll make me fitter.

Also, I like training with people that leave it all on the training floor. No cherry picking WODs, no “1..2..21..Time” miscounters, nobody that gets an ouchie and calls it a day.

By the way, I also want to beat you. I want to lift more, I want to go faster. I know this isn’t going to happen most days. But some days I get to beat you and that’s fun.

I’m in the unique position to really enjoy getting beat by you as well. Especially the folks that I introduced to Crossfit and train regularly. It’s a great feeling to see somebody come in that can’t do a pullup beat you in Fran one year later.

Which leads me to Christmas Cards.

There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion. -Gen. William Thornson, U.S. Army

There is something about that shared turmoil, that shared stress that brings people together. At a Crossfit Affiliate, it’s almost more pronounced than in a combat unit because here, you can just stop showing up. There’s no deploying to Iraq for three months and then going “Nah, I’m not going to come back in and I’ll just email billing to let them know.”

So self-selection is in some ways an even more interesting phenomenon than the All-Volunteer Force.

So what happens is a group of people come together, voluntarily. They commit to a certain ideal. They suffer together.

What happens next? They probably get a little trashed together, sometimes quite frequently.

Why is this? In the interest of trying to keep this post like a seminar vice a lecture, I’ll ask:

Is there any other place in modern day life that brings about the same level of stress as the Workout of the Day? And is that level of stress enough to get a look at a person’s real character?

If it is enough, then maybe you just got in one twenty minute AMRAP what it takes most people four or five years to figure out: that the guy/gal next to you is worth sharing a drink with or that they are a douchebag.

For me it’s pretty easy to see that when I’m coaching or when I’m training alongside of an athlete.

And that’s the a priori cause of drinking and carousing. It’s the training first. It’s the suffering. Everything else springs from this.

And you can’t create it, it has to be organic. No dinners, drinks, Facebook sharing, etc, causes exquisitely painful and worthwhile training. It’s got to be the training first. Always. No exceptions.

And even though I love these Christmas Cards, you’re still not getting one.

The wonderful love of a beautiful maid,
The love of a staunch true man,
The love of a baby, unafraid,
Have existed since time began.

But the greatest of loves, The quintessence of loves.
even greater than that of a mother,
Is the tender, passionate, infinite love,
of one drunken Marine for another.

“Semper Fidelis”

General Louis H. Wilson
Commandant of the Marine Corps
Toast given at 203rd Marine Corps Birthday Ball
Camp Lejueune, N.C. 1978

I Don’t Send Christmas Cards

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Aug 08 2010

I don’t read this shit.

I don’t comment on your Facebook status.

I don’t invite you over for dinner because you train with me.

I don’t send you Christmas Cards.

My “product” (Training) and “me” are two separate entities, I don’t want you to confuse the two. You are not paying for my company, you are paying me for results.

How often I retweet you, poke you, “friend” you or “like” something you wrote on your wall has zero bearing on those results.

Now will we build a relationship from training with me? Absolutely. As Coach Glassman has said in the past, this is a relationship business. And as anyone who has gone through stressful situations (Crossfit WOD, Boot Camp, Combat, Divorce, etc), who you really are ONLY comes out when you’re under a lot of stress.

But I want that relationship to be based on an understanding that you pay me to make you a better athlete. Not to buy you drinks, not to buy you dinner, not to send you Christmas Cards, not to tell you you are a unique and beautiful snowflake.

I am here to remind you what you already know: “All great things in every province, in every domain, come to those willing to suffer and endure and sacrifice and commit. It’s blood, sweat, tears and other bodily fluids that make things happen.” – Gregg Glassman

“Men like to work hard. The harder you work, the more you have to rely on others, and they have to rely on you, and this builds unity. Slack people are bad, they ruin morale.” – SgtMaj Ray Gregg, USMC (Ret).

“Don’t be afraid of working the Marines hard. They’ll grumble, but when they’re done, they’ll brag about it. That’s what you want, you want them to feel tough and hard and good.” – James Alban

I’m not going to be your buddy to get you to train with me. Once we’ve trained together for a while, we might find we like to hang out. Doesn’t matter to me, I’ll train you as long as you work hard.

Remember that you had the guts to try something different and you stuck to it, everyday. It was hard, it hurt, you were tired. But you kept working.

If this shit was easy, everybody would do it. If you had already achieved your goals, you would stop training.

You haven’t, neither have I. Let’s get to work.

Some Thoughts Courtesy of Charlie Black

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Aug 02 2010

Charlie Black was a U.S. Marine who served in World War II and Korea. He later became a journalist for the Columbus Ledger Inquirer and spent most of 1965-66 in Vietnam with the 1st Cav, the same unit written about in “We Were Soldiers Once…And Young” .

A great book that was passed to me during The Basic School, “From the Horses Mouth“, has an article by Charlie called, “Fourteen Proverbs Gleaned from a Damp Foxhole”. You’re going to want to read them all, but be sure to check out #14.

1. All military doctrine is intended for level, paved roads on pleasant June days. Other situations demand field expedients.

2. No other military equipment has the perfection of the C-ration can opener.

3. Men can go anywhere despite anything, except opposition by better men willing to go anywhere despite anything.

4. Night belongs to he who claims it. It is a friend to weak armies because strong armies are usually lazy.

5. Given a 15-Minute break, an Eskimo army will build air-conditioned igloos, Indian soldiers a Taj Mahal, American field model pentagons.

6. Infantryman can live through many battles with only average luck if they have a keen curiosity about what the enemy does and why he does it.

7. Scouts have an implied warranty that quick and effective use will be made of information.

8. A small unit in violent contact gives a commander with helicopters two choices, both immediate and with no excuse for delaying decision: 1) He can pile onto the fight, or 2) Accept possible sacrifice of the platoon

9. Complicated plans become simple later from necessity. Start them that way.

10. Every 30 minutes, remember this from Major General-designee Hal Moore, “Ask yourself what you aren’t doing that you should, and what you are doing that you shouldn’t.”

11. The best trick is to help the enemy believe he sees what he wants to see.

12. Adversities are simply a new, normal situation. See them in this light and find an advantage.

13. Plans which work exactly right must be relentlessly investigated.

And most importantly….

14. There are only four kinds of officers:

(1) The clever and energetic who make admirable staff officers.

(2) The clever and lazy who make magnificent generals.

(3) The stupid and lazy who can be used to grand effect by staff officers and generals.

(4) The stupid and energetic who must be executed at the first possible moment in order to check their breed.

Tell Your Kids It Is OK To Fight – by Jeff Martin

Uncategorized | Posted by Brian PCF
Jul 20 2010

Reprinted from Crossfit Kids:

We have been told for years that fighting is morally and ethically wrong. That it is never the answer. This belief has threatened our country’s security and now we see the effects it can have on our children. Fighting is not wrong in the cause of self defense. It is not wrong for our nation to proactively protect itself nor is it wrong on a personal level to respond with physical force when threatened.

When I was young and in school a little boy hit me in front of the teacher. He was reprimanded and sent to detention. On the way out of school he told me he was going to do it again the next day. When I told my parents about the incident, they told me if he tried to hit me again, I was to hit him. Actually, they said hit him hard enough that he will never want to hit you again. I did and he didn’t.

A couple of years ago my wife went to pick up one of our boys at preschool. She found him hiding under a desk. When she asked him why he was hiding he said he was hiding from one of the other boys who had choked him several times that day. When my wife approached the teacher she was told that the boy “was having trouble at home and just acting out.” While I sympathize with the child who was having trouble at home, this was somehow supposed to excuse him attacking my son. That night we taught our son a simple Krav Maga self defense technique. He in turn shared his new knowledge with his teacher. His teacher made it very clear to him that under no circumstances was he to defend himself. He was to get her attention instead ( with a child’s hands wrapped around his throat) and she would take care of the problem. We of course relieved him of that notion.

Think of the different lessons these two stories teach. In the first, my parents taught me not only that I had a right to defend myself but that the responsibility for my safety rested with me. In the second, the opposite lesson was taught. My son was told his safety was someone else’s responsibility and under no circumstances was he to defend himself. If you have been taught the first lesson, you react instantly to someone threatening your safety. If you have learned the second, you look for an authority figure to help you when threatened. If there is no authority figure to stop the attack you waste valuable time deciding what to do and how to react. We are complicit in the victimization of children by predators if we are teaching children to look for an elusive authority figure for help.

A few months ago, we watched in shock, the video of poor Carly Bruscha simply allowing someone she doesn’t know to walk up, grab her arm and pull her away. She looks confused and frightened on the video. It takes only an instant for her abductor to move her out of the cameras eye. What a different video we might be seeing if at the instant she was touched by the man she launched into him biting, kicking and using everything she had to keep him away from her. I heard a retired FBI agent say, that they knew of no case where a child who was fighting back was killed in the course of an abduction. The reverse is not true. If abducted the outcome is almost universally bad.

But to demand that children discard their moral right to protect themselves is a lesson that should not be taught in any school or in our society. Children need to know it is morally and ethically right to fight and defend themselves the instant they are physically threatened. On a news program this morning, they ended the story by saying there is
“evidence the little girl fought her attacker to the end.” The problem is she didn’t fight in the beginning.

Building good character goes hand in hand with a belief in the right to self defense. Your children must know when and where to apply the defensive skills you teach them. That responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders and on theirs. If you build good character, then self defense will be exactly that – defense. It will be a reaction to an act
of violation, and every child has the right to defend himself if violated. Our children need to be given permission to
fight. Yes, they ALSO need to be taught good judgment so they know when fighting might be wrong.