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ROWS ≠ SCALED MOVEMENT

How many of you out there have a strict pull-up without the use of assistance bands? I would imagine that the majority of you don’t, and that’s ok. Strict pull-ups take time to develop, but during that process, it’s likely that your coach told you that “we are going to scale the pull-up to a ring row or inverted barbell row”, right? This is common practice and a good modification, but it plants the seed that these row variations are scaled modifications and not on the same level as the pull-up.

THIS IS WRONG.

Rows, when done well, are just as valuable (maybe more, actually.) as pull-ups or chin-ups and should be done often regardless of whether you have a beautiful strict pull-up or not.

There are tons of variations of rows. In fact, I am now going to share my best impression of Bubba from Forrest Gump if he were to discuss the plethora of row varients:

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KB Bent-Over Row
DB Bent-Over Row
BB Bent-Over Row
BB Seal Row
DB Seal Row
DB/KB Single-Arm Bent-Over w/Support
Ring Row
Inverted Barbell Row
Seated Band Row
Seated Cable Row
Landmine Bent-Over Row
T-Bar Row
Chinese DB Bent-Over Row
Pendlay Row
AND MORE!

I hope you get the idea because now I am exhausted and need to take a nap before continuing…

Ok, I’m back and reinvigorated.

Now, the entire row family is extremely valuable, but it’s important to mix it up with different variations, and often. Why? If we stick with one version, two things are most likely going to occur:

  1. You’ll become strong in one and only that one movement pattern - to a certain extent before #2 occurs…

  2. Overuse issues will begin to arise due to the monotonous reps on that specific joint and involved muscle(s) and connective tissue.

In fact, it is my opinion that the reason that there are so many variations is due to the fact that old-school iron movers HAD to continue performing row reps to build big, strong backs, but had to find a way to limit the injuries and downtime away from the weights. So, if we go back up to our list of row options, you’ll notice that a lot of these make a ton of sense. Especially the versions that incorporate a de-loaded spine/supported torso position.

Think about it. You have literally thousands of different variations of strength movements, but we KNOW that the big ones are the deadlift, squat and bench press. Of those 3, 2 are extremely demanding on the low back - even when done well. Now, if we are doing those lifts AND a ton of heavy bent-over barbell rows, how long do you think you’ll see returns before something happens to that low back?

This is simple stuff, but is often overlooked by coaches and athletes because we all like to do the big weight and the cool shit, but that’s an immature, unwise choice. Mix it up and watch the strength AND durability of your athletes spike.

And, Coaches, one more thing. We’ve GOT to stop framing the Ring Row or Inverted BB Row in the context of a scaled pull-up. It is soooo much more valuable than a movement we throw at folks that are not strong enough for strict pull-ups. That’s some bullshit.

We provide these versions of row because they have a massive ROI. They take little, to no time, to teach and provide a profound strength stimulus. Start framing these rows as the foundational movements to building a strong back and pull. That’s what it is! Not a scale.

Now go do some rows and enjoy that shit.

LIFT Camp for Girls

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GIRLS-ONLY Summer Camp!

This is BIG, y’all!


Just imagine this:

What if you had started making health, fitness and strength a priority at age 12 instead of age 35? Can you imagine how surrounding yourself with others that value these same things as well as communication, teamwork, confidence and support could have had a massive impact on your life?

I’m sure it’s safe to say that no matter how good you had it, this type of early introduction to an environment like the one described would have only made it better, right?

This is exactly why we would like to invite you to help us spread the word about our upcoming Girls-Only LIFT Summer Camp.

Coach Kevyn will be running a 90 minute fitness camp for girls July 22nd-25th at Travis County Strength. This is for any girls age 10-16 who want to learn the basics of proper technique, build quality movement patterns, improve overall strength and fitness and have a blast doing it with a group of cool chicks.

It is also very likely that participants find a massive boost in confidence and self-esteem through strength training work, making new friends and working together as a team throughout the camp.

All fitness levels and backgrounds are welcome.

WHEN: July 22nd-25th, 1030am to Noon each day.
*Girls need to bring a water bottle and a snack!*

COST: $100

REGISTER HERE

LOG CLEAN MECHANICS: TO HINGE OR SQUAT?

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The Strongman Log seems to be one of the most underutilized pieces of SM equipment out there. I think that there are several reasons for this but mainly, it's un-weildly and intimidating to those that are uninitiated. Often, the athlete that is using the log for the first time will associate it to the barbell or even the KB Swing and end up frustrated when, time after time, the athlete misses reps. The truth is, the log is much more similar to the stone than the bar and should be approached in the same manner.

For those that don't really have much experience with either, let's break it down to some of the fundamental components: the hip hinge and the squat. 

In the video below, you'll learn (and see) the difference between what a log clean looks like when performed with a hip hinge and when it's performed with more of a squat-like action. You'll also hear some other basic cues along the way that will definitely make the learning process much more successful and fun - so pay attention to the details in the set up and demos.   


POSITIONING FOR MORE POWER IN YOUR BENCH PRESS/PUSHUPS

I think we can all agree that the push-up and bench press are both some of the most commonly performed movements in the gym. And, if we're being honest, most people need to spend more time working on their "pushups" and less time worrying about how many plates they load on the bar - but maybe that's just me.

In either case, we all know (at a fundamental level) that you need to be able to properly position your body and activate the appropriate muscle groups to get the most our of each rep. Unfortunately, many people go into auto-pilot and do the same ole' shitty movement for every rep only ingraining poor patterns. Being conscious while performing seemingly simple movements is incredibly important and often neglected.

In an effort to assist y'all in your quest for better movement and bigger numbers, I spent a little bit of time in front of the camera explaining a very simple concept that I think will really help y'all out when performing any type of horizontal press. Check it out below and let me know if you find it valuable. 


COMING SOON: CrossFit Strongman Course

TCS will be hosting and leading the CROSSFIT STRONGMAN COURSE on Saturday, October 21st 2017.

Having the privilege to host and lead these courses is something that we are very thankful for. We absolutely love introducing coaches and athletes to the basics of Strongman and helping them get past any preconceived notions of what Strongman is and who it's for. We also really enjoy helping attendees discover how to appropriately implement this fun and highly effective training method into their programming back home. 

The course is non-stop and action-packed. We do some lecturing and demoing of each movement, but then we provide y'all with more than enough time to practice and get very comfortable with the implements and the movements. We break down each primary movement into fundamental progressions then smooth out the steps until everyone is moving with quality and confidence. It doesn't take long - and really, that's the beauty of Strongman:

Strongman movements are the truest form of "functional training". This stuff is already hardwired in each of us and because, deep down in our genetics, we know this stuff, the learning is actually just remembering.

Now, I may be biased, but these courses are an absolute blast! In fact, one of the most common reviews we get after holding a SM Course is that it was the most fun the attendee has had at a certification. That's what we strive for - a fun, action-packed day of moving heavy stuff(with good technique) with a group of cool, supportive people to bring it all together.

If that sounds like something you or someone you know would enjoy, SIGN UP. If you have questions about the course, contact us. 

We hope to see you there!

STRONGMAN = REAL LIFE

There's no disputing the fact that here at TCS, we fucking love strongman! I'm sure that is abundantly clear at this point, right? 

I've previously written about all the reasons we love this training method, but let's just cover all the bases by restating that strongman provides a massive ROI and is an absolute blast! So if we have this training style that's extremely effective and delivers big on the fun factor, why don't people jump all over it?

Intimidation. 

Strongman gets a bad rap as being "extreme" or "unsafe" because until recently, the only exposure the sport/training method got was from the TV show, World's Strongest Man. And, of course, if someone is sitting on their couch watching a 400lb man pull a fucking jet, they automatically discount it as "not for me". 

Nothing could be further from the truth. The real truth is that Strongman can be for everyone.

What you see on WSM is the very pinnacle of the sport and does not accurately represent what Strongman is on a basic level. Strongman, simply, is movement. Push, pull, drag, squat, carry, throw, etc. It's really that simple. And because Strongman is movement, it then places itself squarely on top of the list of "functional training methods".

Strongman is the shit that you do and encounter in your daily life. 

A sack of groceries in each hand is a farmers carry. Picking up a box of old books is nearly identical to picking up an atlas stone and moving it from A to B. Pushing your lawn mower up the steep hill in your back yard might as well be a heavy sled push.

Get it? You already do Strongman, you just didn't know it. 

Here at TCS, our contention is that if your life is going to demand these things from you, why not get really good at this stuff and have some fun along the way? You'll be amazed at the correlations you'll draw between the lifts and tasks programmed for you in class and the shit real life throws at you. To say that you'll become a more effective and efficient human being is an understatement. 

So, besides being informative(I hope), I guess this is all just a big long invitation for you to come experience Strongman at Travis County Strength. We have a passion for this stuff and love sharing it with people. Your next opportunity to join our Strongman Saturday is 3/25/2017 at 10am. You can reserve your spot today on the Class Calendar.

And, if not, I at least hope that you'll see those correlations we spoke of earlier. 

Hope to see you there!

NOW YOU HAVE A SANDBAG. HERE'S WHAT TO DO WITH IT!

Out of the endless sandbag exercise possibilities, there are three exercises that are crucial for developing your grip strength, mid-line stability as well as providing you with a massive ROI. The sandbag clean, Zercher squat and get-up are those BIG 3.

Once you've read through each of the brief descriptions of these sandbag exercises, check out the video at the bottom to really drive each movement home. We recommend you start putting in to your programming as soon as possible. And, as always, have fun with these exercises! Feel free show us how you performed your sandbag exercises or drop us a line with any questions you may have.


THE BIG 3


1. SB Clean
This exercise teaches the lifter to generate power. It starts just like a Deadlift. Back flat, midline tight, and arms locked out. By quickly extending your hips and driving your feet through the ground, pop the sandbag up and drop into a receiving position to catch the bag.

2. Zercher Squat
This exercise is great for midline control, building leg strength and requires that you maintain proper posture while squatting, which will keep you safe and efficient. Support the sandbag with your arms forming a "basket" in front of you with palms facing up. The sandbag should be placed in the crooks of your elbows as you engage your lats in order to keep the bag close to your body as you perform your reps.

3. Get Up
This exercise can be performed any number of ways, but we encourage that as you start out, that you take it slow, hit each progression with intention and find good positions throughout the entire range of motion. When done in this fashion, the sandbag get-up recruits nearly all major muscle groups with the completion of just one rep. To say that there's a big return on investment with this movement would be an understatement.


HOW TO BUILD A SANDBAG

If you are someone that trains out of your garage, you probably have a limited area for a ton of more traditional equipment. Not to mention, the cost of buying all of that stuff is enough to deter even the most hardcore worker-outers. But don't stress. The answer is very simple and very inexpensive: build a sandbag.

Sandbags have become more mainstream recently due to the growing popularity of strongman, but there are many of you out there that are still missing the boat. Implementing sandbags into your training program has a multitude of advantages, but two big ones are:

1. They are inexpensive and easy to make. Major ROI.

2. They more accurately represent the types of object manipulation we face day-to-day. Let's just simplify this by saying that sandbags provide a more real-life experience than a barbell. Evenly distributed weight on a convenient barbell doesn't really happen in nature....just a thought.

Now, contrary to the name, you don't want to literally fill a bag full of sand and go crush a workout. Trust me, that's a bad idea. You'll find that to be a major pain in the ass to use and clean up after. Just picture coming out of the ocean and rolling around on the beach - that pretty accurately depicts the outcome. 

Instead, watch the video below. Chapa and I walk you through the process of building a solid general purpose sandbag. The video is a long one at 6 minutes, but I think that if you are serious about your training and creating a well-rounded program, it will totally be worth it to you to watch. Then, after you build your bag, we will be sharing another blog covering the 3 sandbag exercises you NEED to be doing to get strong. These exercises provide major bang for your buck - especially when performed with the sandbag, so you'll want to stay tuned for that one. 

Until then, get that bag built!


3 COMMON FAULTS TO AVOID WHEN DOING RDLs

The Romanian Deadlift, commonly known as the RDL, is one exercise you definitely need to incorporate into your training if you're looking to increase posterior chain strength. But like all movements, doing it properly will provide the most bang for your buck and keep you healthy for the long-game.

The  most common faults that occur while performing RDLs are:

  1. Rounding the low back
    This usually occurs because the athlete does not have control of their mid-line position or the athlete is attempting to go lower than there hamstring mobility will allow.
  2. Bar drifts away from body
    This fault can be seen when the athlete is not properly engaging their lats to pull the bar back against the legs in an active position.
  3. Too much knee flexion
    Again, this often occurs when the athlete attempts to go further than their mobility allows. But it can also be related to a poor understanding of pushing the hips back to stretch the hamstrings. 

An overarching concept that you'll find to be helpful is to only go as far down as your body will allow while maintaining proper positioning and activity. Everyone's range of motion and body mechanics are different, so don't get caught up forcing ranges of motion that aren't there yet. This will only lead to injury. Give it time and some solid effort to move as perfectly as possible and the benefits will soon follow.  not there to keep from possible injury.

Be sure to check out the video below. Joey Chapa, TCS's newest intern, breaks down the RDL and the concepts we've talked about above with some of the very best demonstrations ever performed by some dude with a great beard. HA!
 


 

 

 

 

 

 

LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO YOUR MID-LINE.

As a coach, one of the most valuable things we can teach our athletes is how to control their mid-line. All too often, athletes and general fitness enthusiasts are exposed to physically demanding movements and positions without first establishing proper control over the musculature that is responsible for keeping their pelvis, low back and rib cage in safe, solid and efficient positions. Obviously we want this safety and efficiency present when moving our body through space, as well as when we move external objects through various ranges. As you can imagine, not having this control is a recipe for poor, potentially harmful, movement patterns to develop, which will eventually lead to injury. It's just a matter of time.

The good news is that we have ways to turn this trend around and build beneficial movement patterns and habits. It's not too late.

The video below is designed to help you introduce the Dead Bug Extension in a way that will be extremely valuable to both your newbs and seasoned athletes. This is one of those things that will only make you better - as long as you and your athletes pay attention to the details and move with intention. 

Check it out.


INTENTION & THE SWING

The Russian Kettlebell Swing is a seemingly simple movement - much like an air squat or pushup. But, these movements are key to the foundation of any person's ability to perform quality work in the gym and out.

The trouble begins when people think that because it's a basic movement that they can afford to simply go through the motions rather than making each and every rep as effective as possible. I know I'm guilty of this at times, but it's important that, as coaches, we convey a message of intention to our athletes. On the other side of that coin, the responsibility to carry that task out on a consistent basis - each and every rep - lies in the hands of the athlete.

So this video is for everyone. Coaches and athletes, take a few moments to watch the video and then apply these concepts and movement patterns into your reps. You'll find that intention tends to change everything


3 TIPS TO MAKE YOUR TIME ON THE AIRBIKE A LITTLE LESS SHITTY

We all know that any time spent on an airbike(airdyne, assault bike, xebex, airfit, etc.) is probably going to be miserable and end horribly - It's the nature of the beast, but that's why we do it. There's not much out there that can create that type of suck. That being said, there's no reason to make it worse than it has to be!

In the video below, I share a couple quick tips on how to properly set up your bike so that your time in the saddle is a little less shitty. 


GET RIPPED 2017

It's that time again! Get Ripped is kicking off on New Year's Day at noon. At the kickoff all terms will be discussed, and all the questions will be answered. 

This year we will take six weeks to dial in and focus on sleeping, eating, and working out. These all seem so simple, but are extremely difficult to tackle alone. We all know how hard it is to break bad habits and replace with good ones.  You will have access to a group food log, weekend conditioning, and support from me and an amazing group of women who are in it with you. 

GR provides accountability, support, and education to reach goals in and outside of the gym. This program is open to anyone here in Austin, or not! You can easily do this program online.


IMPORTANT DATES:

Registration closes December 31st, midnight.
Kick off- January 1 at NOON. 
First official day- January 2nd
Last official day- February 12th

SIGN UP


A JUMP IS A JUMP, RIGHT?

You see it all the time: a viral video of some absurdly "springy" human that takes off from the floor and somehow floats to the tip top of a stack of bumper plates precariously placed on a tall box. Kinda like this ridiculousness...

There's no doubt that this is an incredible feat. This daring effort surely captures or attention and admiration, but there should also be respect given to lower jumping efforts that accomplish large displacement.

Let me explain...

With massive box jumps like the one above, the effort is comprised of two Important parts:
1. Power production and explosiveness.
2. Mobility

As you can see from the video, there's a tremendous amount of explosive power production as he jumps, but equally impressive is the "catch" position. Pause the video at the moment that he makes initial contact with the top plate. What do you see?. I see one helluva deep squat! This position would not be possible without some serious mobility.

So again, nothing should be taken away from these types of efforts. All I'm saying is that it shouldn't always be about max height. And here's why...


dis·place·ment

disˈplāsmənt/
noun
1. the moving of something from its place or position.


I know it's not nearly as impressive, but watch my video below. I want you to compare the first two box jumps to the second two. What do you notice? HINT: Keep in mind that this entire blog is concerning the concept of displacement. You may also want to establish a focal point, I suggest my hips....they don't lie.

I hope that my hint made this fairly obvious, but if you missed it, the first two jumps had far less overall displacement than the last two jumps. Again, if you were watching my hips you would've seen that the last two efforts showed a much great elevation than my first two attempts. Therefore, it's safe to say that I created more power during those final jumps.

The end result is the same - you end up on top of the box. But now it should be clear that there are two different ways to train the same movement that elicit different responses. I don't think that one is better than the other.  You can perform jumps in a manner that delivers a cardio response, or jump (for displacement) to improve power and explosiveness. Either way, I think that consciously training both styles is important and should implemented in to your training routine.

CLOSING THE GAP: DOMINANT vs. NON-DOMINANT GRIP STRENGTH

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Did you know that as grip strength improves, so does overall strength? The two have a strong correlation, and if you think about it, this makes perfect sense. You can't pick up what you can't grab. That's the way it is and has always been. It's a self-preservation tool that lives deep in our DNA from when we first figured out how to use these limbs of ours. 

It would then be logical for anyone looking to improve their strength to put some serious effort towards building hand strength. More specifically, it would also be beneficial to minimize the difference between the dominant and non-dominant hand. The more balanced we are, the stronger we are. 

In the video below, I share just a couple ways that you can work on creating balance between your dominant and non-dominant hand. As you'll see, these tips are by no means ground-breaking, revolutionary ideas, but rather simple, everyday things you can do to develop that balance between right and left. 

It'll be kind of crazy to realize how much you subconsciously rely on your dominant hand. To break this habit will require awareness, so whenever possible, tap in and challenge yourself to use that other hand. You'll be amazed with the results!


ATLAS STONES: SMOOTH IS FAST


As strongman training methods become more and more popular (YAY!), newbs are being exposed to implements and movements that they've never done before - which is AWESOME! However, just like any new skill, you must understand the concepts and techniques, then apply quality practice - especially when first introduced.

In an effort to help some of you strongman newbs dial in your atlas stone technique, this video is all about performing the stone shoulder smoothly rather than rushing through it with reckless abandon.

In general, it is my opinion that performing any movement with fluidity will increase your overall speed. This is especially true with the atlas stone. Just remember: Smooth is Fast! 


NEED A KICKSTART? START WITH THE BASICS.

Summer is over, kids are back in school, you are at work. But I'm guessing that you probably had some summer cocktails during your vacation(s), which means you probably took some time off from the gym. Is anyone out there feeling a little more puffy and out of shape after this fun summer? You are not alone. Time to get back to basics and clean it up!

Starting on September 18th I (Jen) will lead a three week nutrition program to get everyone back to the basics of eating clean. This program is designed for the nutrition novice, the guru and everyone between. You can be a current TCS client, or just a member of the Austin community ready to make a change with your eating habits. Everyone needs a kickstart sometimes, right? 

this program INCLUDES :

  • TCS SPEED class on Sept.  24th and Oct.8th @ 730am
  • TCS Conditioning Class on Oct. 1 @ 9am
  • Detailed food list to make it easy
  • Measurements
  • Monitored food log
  • One on one time if needed
  • Accountability! 

Benefits:

  • Better mood
  • Better sleep
  • Clothes fit better
  • More energy
  • Clearer skin
  • Actually being hydrated
  • With all of these things your workouts become better as well. You are able to put more effort into it, use more weight, move your ass faster.

Important Dates:

  • Kick off meeting Sunday September 18th at 11am. 
  • Official Start - Monday morning the 19th.
  • Official Finale - Monday October 10th (after final measurements).

SIGN UP HERE

SIT-DOWN: RACHEL LASSETER

Oh Rachel...where do I start. She loves wine, animals, steak, food as a whole, dirty memes, other people's babies, and power cleans. Hates sandbags :) 

Rachel is married to one of Travis's long time clients, Ryan. They were married not long after we opened TCS. After the honeymoon Ryan said "hey my wife might want to start working out so I am sending her up here to you." These are my favorite- I never know if the dude is telling his wife to come, kindly suggesting to start working out, or who knows. But once I met Rachel- I knew for sure Ryan was not telling this chick anything! HA! LIFT was definitely her decision.

Rachel was working out and seeing zero results. Dealing with a long time injury and frustrated she decided it was time to make a move. 

We started out with a month of personal training sessions to get her going and used to the way things work. She is naturally mobile and when I said "squat" she just went ass to grass...and that's when every coach is like YESSSS. She picked up things pretty easily...minus the name of equipment/movements which was pretty entertaining.  Every move we did was new to her. A lot of women would have been pretty intimidated and not come back, but Rachel just kept coming back for more and results came quickly. 

Rachel started off squatting the barbell. That 35lb bar kicked her little ass all over the gym. Today her max is 125 and really that looked a bit easy. She has gotten incredibly strong, and just keeps improving on everything. 

There has only been a couple of workouts where I thought she might punch me. Usually that somehow involves a sandbag. But she has a great internal voice that tells her to keep going and she always finishes. That is a quality that sets her apart from others. 

I love seeing her name on the roster because I know she will be walking up with big sunglasses and a smile soon...and everyone else is happy too because she is a team player in class, and such a great happy person!


SIT-DOWN: KYLE L

Kyle is relatively new to TCS, but has already made a huge impact at the gym with his positive attitude, sense of humor and hard work. Not to mention, he's got some of the best hair in the gym - and he knows it. Hahaha.

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I really can't say enough about Kyle's work ethic. From day one, Kyle has always brought his best effort, regardless of what his shift may have looked like or whether or not their new baby girl, Iona, slept like shit. This consistent effort has obviously resulted in some real progress(#gainZ) for Kyle. He's become stronger and more mentally and physically capable to do hard work. But honestly, the thing I'm most proud of Kyle for is his vastly improved ability to find proper positions while lifting. In the beginning, this was a huge hurdle. We had to essentially start from square one and rebuild his lifting technique, which is very difficult, but he never let ego get in the way and never stopped working at it, which has paid off BIG for him! 

This type of mentality is exactly why Kyle makes TCS a better place. He's here to get better, even if it means slowing down, swallowing his pride, and putting in the time and effort to do it the right way - even it may not be the easy way.