12 Little Secrets I’ve Learned As A Strength Coach

I always loved lists of hints, tips and lessons posted by people far wiser than myself.

I don’t know whether it was just the simplicity that lists like this radiate but I would sit there and try and soak up each tip and lesson finding a way to apply in my training, nutrition, or life in general. Coaches like John Berardi and Eric Cressey would drop knowledge bombs and I couldn’t help but stand in the line of fire.

If I can get at least one of the following lessons I’ve experienced to enrich your life, then my job here is complete.

 1. I was wrong – core work is necessary, sometimes you can’t just squat and deadlift until your abs work

I used to laugh at people who took precious lifting time to work their abs. This year I was like “hell, all these people are doing it so let’s see what all the noise is about”. Started rolling out using the ab wheel while listening to Ludacris and by golly, my overhead press went up, squats went up, and overall I felt like a Greek god.

It doesn’t have to be a million crunches, but a couple sets of rollouts and their variations work damn well.

Ludacris concert at Fort Meade

“If performed while listening to this song, effectiveness of exercises is increased 10 fold.”


2. Lifestyle nutritional changes are more important than any diet.

Diets are temporary. Anyone can drop fat for a couple months but permanent fat loss occurs through changes in lifestyle that are slow, simple and sustainable.

If I told you to eat only carrots for three days, would you lose fat? Sure, the body needs to find energy from somewhere but you’d be one unhappy son of a gun and maintaining that for more than 3 days would be damn near impossible. In addition, you may get mistaken for an oompa loompa or a cast member from the Jersey Shore. Although on a lesser scale, this is what occurs on diets.

Diets generally have multiple rules and force people into a mold that restricts them from enjoying the food they love.

This sends people into feeding frenzies either after the diet finishes or days during the diet. Coaches like John BerardiErik LedinMark Young and others teach people balance in eating, to ensure both physical and mental health for the long run. Keep it simple, keep it sustainable.


3. Squatting really is the king of all exercises

If all you do for 3 days a week was squat, you’ll maintain all your muscle mass and strength on every lift will increase. If you bicep curled 7 times a week, you’d be swole patrol certified, but still be weaker than Richard Simmons. Lesson? Squat.

Another bonus of squatting is you can eat a shit ton of food. Let’s be honest who doesn’t want to eat their face off? Frequent squat sessions force your body into extreme food annihilation mode which totally warrants crushing a tub of ice cream weekly. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.


 “This man knows whats up”


4. Do the basics extremely well – worry about the rest of tools and accessories later

Focus on the main lifts: squats, deadlifts, overhead press and bench press – train these lifts with a proper program outlined with progressions. Pick one or two assistance exercises for your weak areas and finish up.

Bands, chains, fat grips, come second to mastering the essentials. I realize they can add a fresh stimulus to training but if you can continue getting stronger without them, why make things more complicated? Eliminate the unnecessary complexity and focus on the basic exercises giving you the biggest bang for your buck. You’ll save time and maybe even get stronger.


5. Follow a program – Get someone else to program for you

I used to think I could program all my own lifting. I’m a strength coach so obviously I can save some dollar bills and write a training program for myself. Wrong I was.

My best gains have come from following other people’s programs. When you program for yourself, you program what you like, not what you need. Gotta have your ass kicked once and a while and do the stuff you suck at – it makes you better.


6. If you squat with your toes flared – roll the shit out of your adductors

I used to have achy knee pain when I squatted and could never figure out what the issue was. Once I started hammering my adductors on the softball, kabooom it hurt like hell, but knee pain gradually resided.


“This is my worst best friend.”


7. Ask why…

Pretty much a life question which applies to training. Ask yourself why you are doing what you’re doing. I don’t really care about the answer but just have one.

If I ask why do you have deadlifts in your program, what are you going to tell me?

I just like to pick things up.

I need a stronger posterior chain.

I feel like a BAMF.

All are suitable answers because who am I to judge what deadlifting means to you, just don’t say I don’t know or because “they say”. If you don’t have a reason, then maybe you should re-evaluate why you are doing it.


 “I deadlift because I like to look like a giant ass tomato.”


8. PC Chocolate Chunk candy cane ice cream is the shit

Probably the greatest ice cream since Haagen Daz was created. I crushed 4 cartons this year. Yes I have my fat kid moments but I enjoy every second of them.


9. Carbs don’t make you fat – too many carbs make you fat

Carbs raise insulin. Insulin makes you fat. Therefore carbs = fatness right? I used to have strong beliefs in the low carb lifestyle and all the promises of jackedness and shreddedness included in its mantra, but after crushing carbs like nobody’s business on a vegetarian diet and dropping 5 pounds, my beliefs have changed. Carbs don’t make people fat. Too many carbs make people fat.

At the end of the day if I put more water in your cup than it can hold, it’s going to overflow. Same goes with energy and carbs. If you crush 500 carbs in a day but your body only uses 400 carbs/day, that excess has got to go someplace and you fat cells have their doors wide open. This is simplified but the concept stands.



10. From the wise words of Pavel “You can be anything you like, but be strong first”

Being strong makes everything easier. Whether you want to be a linebacker, wrestle grizzly bears or clean the house (hahahhaha), being stronger makes all of this easier; it’s science.


11. Vegetarianism really isn’t that bad

One word: CARBOHYRDRATES. Now I’m not talking about crushing twinkies for breakfast, lunch and dinner cause hey let’s face it, no animal products in them so it’s got be a staple right?! I guess at this point it doesn’t even matter though because they won’t be making them anymore…but my point stands. Keep the refined stuff on the lower end of the spectrum.

With ‘vege’ in the title, this means the majority of your sources should be from vegetables and minimally refined plant based sources; not said twinkies. Once and a while sure, but if 80% of your diet is preserved by plastic wrap, it’s time for a change.

Huge boosts in dietary fiber leading to awesome poops, more carbs for training and ability to eat all day are all pretty fantastic reasons to try out vegetarian style eating.

If you’re not keen on living off plants you could always take the balanced approach and add lean animal meats once or twice a day, ensuring you negate any potential mineral deficiencies and get a few essential amino acids. At this point you wouldn’t necessarily be vegetarian, but you’d probably feel pretty fricken phenomenal.


“The balanced approach; who knew it could be so simple.”


12. Fruit is not created by the fat gods to spawn adipose tissue on everyone.

I don’t know where fruit got the bad rap (probably with the low carb movement), but as of recent I’ve received more and more questions about fruit having too much sugar and people are almost SCARED to eat it.

First off, show me one person who has scarfed down enough fruit to make them fat. Anyone? I thought not.

Second, everybody could probably use a bit more fiber in their diet as there seems to be a lot more Metamucil advertisements these days. Constipation may not be on the level of diabetes or heart disease, but people be suffering.

If you are extremely concerned with sugar in fruit or dieting down to extremely low body fat percentages, choose berries, apples and oranges over fruits like dates, bananas and pineapples. The former contain more fiber and less sugar, while the latter contain a higher amount of sugar. But like I said, show me someone who got fat eating bananas all day.

Pass the fruit please.



Photo Sources: ludacrissquatsoftballdessertvegetarianfruit

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