Training

WARM-UPS SUCK, SO DON’T DO THEM

I will be the first one to tell you that warming up is for the birds. Ask anyone that goes to the gym on a regular basis if they take warming up seriously, and I guarantee that 99/100 will say that they don’t. In fact, I can probably describe the typical “warm-up” to you right now with surprising accuracy:

  1. Walk in

  2. Set your shit down

  3. Scan the gym for who’s where and what’s open

  4. Swing your arms in a “wannabe-Michael-Phelps” manner

  5. Pull a foot back to your butt and hold for a fast 3 count, then perform the same movement on the opposite side

  6. Swing your arms again, but this time in circles

  7. Walk to the nearest squat rack or bench and GET TO WORK!

How close was I? Hahaha. That’s what I thought. Some of you are probably reading this and saying, “but I foam roll, too.” Great. Is it a conscious effort to prep your muscles for the work ahead? Or are you using that roller as a back support while you check the Insta for any new likes?

Look, I get it. I don’t like warming up either, but it’s a necessary component to a successful workout and  to staying healthy over time. I know we all know this deep down, but it’s one thing to know something, and another to put it into practice.

So here’s what I’ve found to be helpful when I want to just jump straight into a workout and skip the warm-up.  First, I write up a light workout. The key word there is workout. This is really a trick I play on myself. I still include some of the things that I would do to warm-up along with several movements and exercises that I enjoy. In other words, I build my warm-up into my workout.

For example:
Set the clock for 6-10 minutes. In that time, simply move consistently from task to task without taking a break.

  • 20 High Knees

  • 20 Butt Kicks

  • 10 Air Squats

  • 5 Push-ups

  • 10 Ring Rows

  • 20 Jumping Jacks

  • 20 (sec) Elbow Plank

You see, these are all straightforward movements that will do an excellent job warming up your body’s muscle tissue, joints and gradually ramping up the Central Nervous System (CNS) in preparation for something harder. Not to mention the fact that, if you frame it as a workout in your mind, you are much more likely to actually do it and get the ball rolling for a better workout.

Obviously, the exercises, rep scheme, and duration are all variables that you can play with. In fact, sometimes I just push/pull a sled for 5 minutes straight. Doesn’t get more basic than that.

The point is that it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you do something that accomplishes 3 things:

  1. Your joints, and body as a whole, should move and feel more primed for movement than when you started.

  2. You should have a light sweat going with an elevated heart/breathing rate.

  3. Your lack of motivation to be at the gym should reduce after a decent warmup. With movement often comes motivation. If you’re dragging ass, the best thing you can do is start the clock and just move. By the end, you’ll be glad you did and you’ll have new energy to tackle the rest of your session.  

After you clear the first warm-up hurdle, you can get more specific with the direction of your workout. You can prep for specific movements and gradually load your body so that everything is primed for the real, sexy work. But, as you now know, your workout starts with the warm-up.

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!


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.

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! 


SIT-DOWN: ALLISON

Allison has been with me for years. Hundreds of workouts, happy hours, events, job changes, everything.  Like many of the LIFT girls we see each other more times a week than friends or sometimes family. I notice hair changes, body changes, personality changes, stress, sadness and happiness. Allison and I have seen all of these with each other over the years. 

Recently she came to me after some major life changes wanting to start a new nutrition plan. I always suggest Renaissance Periodization first. If you are willing to count, measure and surrender to the process, RP is for you. After a short chat she was on board and ready to go!

Months later many people in the gym have noticed the changes. She is squatting more, pressing more, and overall a better athlete. Yes, a lot of this is contributed to making the nutrition change. The rest is your attitude, ambition, drive, and determination in the gym. It's all about the implementation. She took all the information and decided it was time to make a change. 

In the past Allison was okay being the smallest and lifting the lightest weights. That's how it went. Then she wanted more, and as a coach I was so excited to see her take this step. She shows up four to five times a week ready to rock. No complaining, just doing. 

Other people in the gym have noticed how strong she has gotten....because she is catching up with them! I could not be more proud of this chick. She decided she wanted to make progress. Goals, plan, workout, nutrition....SUCCESS. How can that be better planned out?


BUILD IT, AND THEY WILL COME.

Gainz. Build it, and they (the gainz) will come. 

I know. This was a stretch, but it's true. If you want an inexpensive, easy to make, highly effective training tool - all you need is a keg.

Kegs can be acquired in a number of ways. Often times, all you need to do is ask that friend of yours that works at the bar for any leftovers that could be purchased for the deposit amount. Another easy way to snag one is from Craigslist, which by the way, is a great place to pick up any equipment on the cheap.

In the video that I'm about to share with you, I go into the details on how to select the correct type of keg, depressurize the keg so that the spike can be safely removed, fill and cap the keg.

Once you've built your keg, you'll have an amazingly effective training implement that can be used in numerous ways to build strength, power and speed! And just in case you're not sure how to use that keg, we will go in to some specific keg movements in future posts, so be on the lookout for those!

For now, watch this video and then go hunting for your keg(s)!


A Sit-Down with Jen Jones

You've probably noticed that there isn't a lot of flare or fancy shit going on around here. We like to keep shit simple and get down to the brass tacks. So in keeping with that, we are starting a new interview series that we're calling Sit-Downs.

In each Sit-Down we ask our athletes, who, by the way, don't know that we are scouting them for this project, why they train here at TCS and what it has provided to them. 

So, without further delay, here's our Sit-Down with TCS athlete and all around badass, Jen Jones.


GUNFIGHTER3 - 2016

 

Every year I have the unique pleasure of working with a group of former Recon Marines that go by the platoon callsign GUNFIGHTER3. This most recent event, held in late April, marks the 4th annual reunion for GF3. The gathering is a chance for these guys to get together, catch up, shoot the shit, and remember those that have passed. And, in that sense, I can't really think of a better day to post this blog, which is why I've been waiting since early April to do so. 

I can honestly say that being a (small) part of this group is a highlight of my year and has been each and every time. Besides that, my involvement is really a small piece of the puzzle - I'm just lucky to be involved.

These are great guys that have given a lot for the other brothers of GF3 and continue to do so. I will say that when these men get together, it's obvious that the bond they have will never fade.  

It's truly an honor to serve those that have served. Thanks, GF3.


WILL YOUR SKILLS SERVE YOU?

Being strong, fast, and explosive are all beneficial attributes. We know that for sure. We also understand that if faced with a life-threatening situation, those attributes will improve the chance of survival. Your training in the gym helps develop these characteristics and will serve you in your day-to-day life and that's really why we train the way we do - to improve our lives. However, relying solely on these characteristics may not be enough when shit really hits the fan and you are forced to protect yourself, your family, etc. 

So what can we do to better prepare ourselves for those rare but inevitable scenarios? We harness those broad, beneficial characteristics (strength, speed, power,etc) and focus them down by learning appropriate skills and drilling them until they become a reaction.

Let's take the Power Clean as an example. How confusing was that movement when you were first introduced to it? I'm sure many of you had no clue what the hell your coach was saying and you just kept trying to end up with the bar in the front rack - somehow, someway. It's totally understandable. Now, think back to the first time you had Power Cleans in a timed workout with intensity. How sloppy was that shit? Did you just default back into your old ways of "I'm just get this fucker from the ground to the shoulders"?

Just like any exercise or movement that you have limited exposure to, when a bad situation gets worse, what is your default? What are your skills that you can fall back on in an instant to protect yourself and/or others. Will it end up being a sloppy, ineffective power clean? Or will you have developed the skills and patterns enough to be brutally effective?

I ask these questions to you, but I also ask them of myself.

Bad shit happens all the time. I often wonder what I would do in those situations and I can't say with 100% certainty that my skills would stand up. But knowing this is the first step. The second is seeking out guidance and quality instruction so that you can be confident in your abilities.

On June 24th, from 6:30-8:30pm, Daniel Jolly will be guiding the men of TCS and the surrounding Austin area through skills and drills designed to teach us how to FIGHT FROM THE DOMINANT POSITION.

This will be the LUMBERJACKED Men's Night for the month of June and will be capped at 10.

We will have more info on this seminar in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

ATLAS STONE TECHNIQUE: Keep Those Biceps Happy & Healthy

The cool thing about strongman movements is that whatever gets the job done is a viable option and should be considered. Of course there are some considerations that need to be made like safety and efficiency, but there isn't really anything that says you MUST lift a stone a specific way.

To follow this up, the type of workout you are performing also dictates how one would optimally move a stone. For example, some workouts are short and are designed to be completed as fast as possible. In this case, a movement with fewer stops and starts/phases would be ideal. On the flip-side, there are other work sessions that are longer in duration and will require more efficiency for the purpose of longevity. You see, performing a large number of reps using a "one-timer" technique or simply just using your biceps more will typically result in some inefficiency later in the workout and possibly even some minor to serious irritation at the elbow. 

In the video below, I breakdown how to tweak your technique so as to save those biceps and utilize the larger muscles of the posterior chain to more efficiently move that stone. Before we get to that video, it should be noted again that this technique is not the ONLY technique. There are situations where some variations of this movement are more desirable than others. Play with what works best for you. This is simply information for you to digest and use at your discretion.


DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE - 2

RabbitHole.jpg

Yet again, an old commencement speech delivers a powerful message. This one was delivered by Admiral William H. McRaven, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. In his speech, McRaven shares the lessons he learned while becoming a Navy SEAL.

This video is 20 minutes long. I know, that's soooooo long! Make it happen! Find the time! You need to hear this!


 

 

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

I often find myself spinning down a rabbit hole on YouTube. Sometimes it is meaningless junk that just jumps out at me for no particular reason. While at other times, something I watch provides a message that seems to be just what I needed to hear in that moment. Funny how that works.

I was watching commencement speeches (weird, I know) and stumbled across Jim Carrey's speech that I'm sure some of you have seen/heard. I watched the entire 26 minutes of it and found myself devouring the information that he was sharing with the graduating class of 2014. 

This entire trip down the rabbit hole got me thinking....

If I find value from these messages and lessons, surely others will too.

So, below you will find the tail end of Jim Carrey's speech. I realize that y'all probably don't have 26 minutes to *hopefully* receive a meaningful message from a YouTube video, but if you can open up to the idea and watch the last 5 minutes provided below, I think you'll get something valuable from it. At least that is my intention with this post.

And if this one doesn't do it for you, maybe the next one will, as I think this may become a regular thing for Sunday mornings. We'll see.


WHAT'S YOUR WHY? - Wendy

In our latest edition of "WHAT'S YOUR WHY?", we sit down with TCS athlete, Wendy Vaughan. Tattoos, stylin' chucks and moving heavy weight are just a snapshot of a much larger picture in regards to Wendy's reason for working hard in the gym and out.  


1 THING YOU SHOULD BE DOING THAT YOU'RE PROBABLY NOT

Rather than leave you in total suspense, I'm going to just let you know that we are talking about band pull-aparts. There. Now you can rest easy and tune in.

It's very common for people who workout to neglect the posterior muscle groups - the ones that you can't see when admiring your sweet, sweet gainz in the mirror. This is unfortunate because the posterior chain is where we *should* be generating the majority of our power production from. Not just when we lift heavy shit in the gym, but when we take on everyday activities as well. So, let's just say those posterior muscles are important.

To compound the issue, most people greatly overdevelop their anterior muscles - namely the pecs and biceps - which cause some serious dysfunction if not attended to. Band pull-aparts are one of the most simplistic, user-friendly exercises that can be performed often to help turn the tides against anterior overdevelopment and build up that critical posterior.

Below is a quick video on HOW-TO properly perform band pull-aparts. Just like any other exercise out there, doing these with shit form will not produce results and can possibly lead to injury. So let's just agree to check this video out rather than assuming you know your shit based off the name of the exercise.

*NOTE: Let me apologize in advance for neglecting to shoot this video in landscape format. It's been a very long time since I've done a movement lecture/demo video using my phone and I totally spaced how ridiculous it looks when viewed in portrait. I'm sorry, and it won't happen again. Ha!

PROTECT YOURSELF

You can lift weights, sprint, and be as fit as you want...but do you know how to use your strength to protect yourself? Hopefully you never have to find out. But what would happen if someone came from behind you? From the front? What would you do? Would you have the skills - and confidence in those skills - needed to defend yourself? 


Statistics from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault:

  • 6.3 million Texans have experienced some form of sexual assault in their lifetime

  • 2 in 5 women in Texas have been sexually assaulted

  • 1 in 5 men in Texas has been sexually assaulted

  • 91% of sexual assault victims did not report to law enforcement

  • Studies confirm the undetected rapist is a serial hunter and serial offender – not the misunderstood drunk guy

  • Over 94% of rapists roam free with only 3% ever spending a day in jail


On April 10th from 9-11am, Daniel Jolly, a professional UFC fighter and Kuk Sool Won instructor, will be leading a SELF DEFENSE SEMINAR at Travis County Strength. This practical, hands-on seminar is open to any women in the Austin area. All ages are encouraged to come learn these vital real-life skills.

It should be clearly stated that this is not a women's self defense class. This seminar will cover scenarios and practical applications that are effective for anyone to use to defend themselves. You will not be learning silly shit like "grab, twist and pull", or to simply "place a brick in your purse". You will learn real skills from a trained professional in a women's-only environment.

SIGN UP NOW

ASHTON KUTCHER IS MY NEW GURU

MAN! It's weird getting back to the keyboard after such a long hiatus, but it needed to happen! I saw a quick video that got me super fired up about working hard and the possibilities that open up when someone is willing to push harder. So while I was knocking out some of the chores around the gym this afternoon, I was attempting to script this post out in some form or fashion so that it would come across as a worthy topic that brings y'all some value.

The logical place to start would be to share with y'all the video that has inspired this post. Boom!

I know what you're probably thinking.....WTF?!? Ashton Kutcher?!?! It's OK, I thought the same thing. Nothing against him, as I really don't know anything about him, but this tiny glimpse shows some pretty impressive qualities that I respect immensely.

All of the points that he hits on are GOLDEN. I don't think there's anyone out there that can deny that the message he's sending has some serious value - especially when you consider who he speaking to in this case. Everyone needs to hear this shit, but young people need it more now than ever, as widespread entitlement has seemingly swept over our population, which, in my opinion, is incredibly dangerous.

What really hit me was his first point of OPPORTUNITY. He states that, "opportunity looks a lot like hard work." 

WHOA! Take that in for a second.

It is way too easy to forget this. No one owes you shit. You are NOT entitled to all the shiny things in this world. You must WORK for everything. That hard work then opens new doors and new opportunities for success and fulfillment. 

Another Kutcher-ism that I really, really like is when he proudly states, "I'VE NEVER HAD A JOB THAT I WAS BETTER THAN." 

That shit is awesome. Period. 

If you think you are "too good" for this or that, you will most likely find yourself waiting for hand-outs wondering why you're in the situation your in. Respect is earned and dues must be paid. These are simple laws of life. Choose to ignore these and life will chew your ass up and leave you wondering WTF happened.

 

 

 

 

WHY TCS DOESN'T SEE A MEMBERSHIP SPIKE

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I've been asked several times since the new year whether we (TCS) have seen a big spike in new members. Each time I explain that we don't see any extraordinary membership growth. I go on to explain that TCS is different in a couple ways:

1. We want our athletes to show up. Gyms that do in fact see spikes around this time of year don't give a shit about you or whether you actually show up. In fact, they've done the research to find that magic number that their "members" will pay and not feel bad about wasting each month when the membership is not used. They bank on you not coming in! Seems backwards, right?

Not here.

2. Our memberships are set at a higher price point and act as a filter for this kind of activity. Only people that see the value of the training they receive at TCS, as well as the sweat equity they put in to their time here are willing to invest in their monthly dues. To put this simply, you get what you pay for AND some!

We don't do half-assed, wishy-washy here. Our athletes see the value and understand there is a real-world benefit to their time at TCS. If prospective athletes are more concerned with paying the lowest price they can find, that's just fine with us. Rest assured, will never dilute our community just to get bodies in the door.