Friday, July 30, 2010

Is your TFL & ITB giving you knee pain?

Something I have come to see more often with athletes who have very poor control of their femur (a valgus collaspe as we all know), is that their TFL and ITB are extremely hypertonic. I begin to think of synergistic dominance. Thank you Shirley Sahrmann, and Leon Chaitow.

In the good old days we would have strengthen the VMO. I know that Charles Poliquin is still a big proponent of strengthen the VMO when he sees a valgus collaspe. To me I can see no sense to this line of thought. How could a muscle that attaches on the femur control the femur?

Then we came to realize that it was the proximal muscles of the hip that actually control this knee valgus. Particularly glute medius. So then glute medius became the bussword in our field. The only thing we now didnt realize was what was the optimal way to train glute medius for its main function (hip stability). In your anatomy textbooks, it will tell you that the glute medius abducts the hip. So with this in mind we thought this is how we needed to train it to get it stronger.

Thank God for Gray Cook. Gray told us that the body has a system of stabilizers and primer movers. In Janda's work and in Chaitows writtings they would call the stabilizers postural muscles and the prime movers phasic muscles. Different terms same thought process.

Gray went on to tell us that when a stabilizer is not firing right (not when it is not strong) that a prime mover will take up the slack and try to do two jobs at once. So now you have a prime mover that thinks it is also a stabilizer. This can lead to a montrol control issue that shows up as a lack of flexibility. This has also be termed stiffness by some.

So how does this all link back to the TFL & ITB giving you knee pain? Again in the good old days we would have told this person with a hypertonic of stiff TFL to try and stretch it. In essence we were banging our heads against the wall. If we just restore the reflexive ability of the glute medius to stabilize the glute medius, the stiffness in the TFL would magically start to decease.

How can we train the glute medius to do its proper (functional if you like) role. For everyone who knows Grays stuff you know the answer. Reactive Neuromuscular Technique (RNT). For those of you who do not know what RNT is, dont worry. I will put a video up next week of a few RNT techniques that I use.

Until then,

Stay Strong,


PS. Another thing to look for with valgus collaspe is excessive foot pronation. Look at the peroneus muscle group for trigger points. Just something else to consider.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Interview with Cedric Unholz

This week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by my good friend and strength coach Cedric Unholz.

In the interview I answer questions on:

- How I got into the field of Strength and Conditioning
- What I think is wrong within our industry
- How I incorporate manual therapy into my training
- My biggest influences as a coach
- And more

Check it out here.

Stay Strong,


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An Interview with Mark Young

1. Mark thank for your time. Could you give my readers your background, and how you came to be a strength and conditioning coach?

Hey Robbie, thanks for inviting me to do this interview!

Basically, I did my undergrad in kinesiology and planned all the way along to get my PhD and become a professor or at least remain in academia. I loved research and exercise physiology so I figured this would be a great way to blend the two together.

In the year between my undergrad and grad school I started doing personal training at a large commercial gym and I began to “battle test” the stuff I learned in school which was a big wake up call for me. Despite having learned all sorts of great stuff, I still got pinned under 135 on the bench press. This is where my “under the bar” learning began and where I started to meld theory with practice.

Shortly after I started grad school I was able to rent space from a colleague at his facility and left the big box gym behind so I was juggling school and a business which was pretty tough. However, about two months out from the completion of my Master’s my father passed away and I was completely devastated.

This was the real turning point for me. I had one of those powerful moments when you reflect on your life and ask yourself if this is what you REALLY want to be doing. In my case, it wasn’t. I couldn’t imagine life without training and helping others so I left school immediately and started training full time. I haven’t looked back ever since.

2. What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem you see within the fitness industry today?

The biggest problem to me is the disgusting nature of the commercial weight loss programs being marketed on every TV station, web page, and Twitter account. Despite their growing numbers, our society is getting more and more obese. But, of course, the internet marketers and “fitness experts” don’t really care to change their practices as their primary interest is the almighty dollar.

The bottom line to me is that policies have to change and there are certainly many other areas that need to be addressed outside of the fitness industry, but we as fitness professionals have a responsibility to stop selling fad fat loss programs and diets to the public. To me, if a plan implies rapid fat loss it is a short term solution and I’d wipe my ass with it before I’d give it to a friend.

Wow...sorry. I get a little fired up about this stuff.

I too would rather wipe my ass with short term solutions!!

3. Who has had the biggest influence on you as a coach?

Every day my wife and daughter inspire me to continue doing what I do. They are the reason I get up every morning.

With regards to knowledge, my grad school advisors Dr. Stuart Phillips and Dr. Martin Gibala taught me to critically read the science behind any training or nutrition plan so I owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude as well. Everything I read or hear goes through the BS filtering system that I learned from them.

With regards to training, I’ve had so many influences over the past 10 years and many of the people I used to look up to have fallen from my list as time has passed. Currently, the people that influence me the most are guys like Mike Robertson, Mike Boyle, Nick Tumminello, John Berardi, Alan Aragon, Lyle McDonald and other up and comers that I get to talk to like Bret Contreras, Patrick Ward, Carson Boddicker, and many I’m probably forgetting. (Sorry guys and gals. You know who you are.)

Shirley Sahrmann and Stuart McGill’s books have possibly shaped the way I train people more than any other single text so I suppose you could consider them major influences too. When dealing with being overweight and obesity, Dr. Arya Sharma is incredible and I think anyone dealing with weight loss should read his blog.

4. Sometimes there seems to be a huge gap between some physical therapists and strength and conditioning coaches. How in your opinion can this gap be bridged?

To be honest, I’m not sure that there really is a large gap in terms of knowledge these days. More and more trainers are learning more about physical therapy and some are getting pretty damn good at it. I think the problem lies with the fact that some coaches are overstepping the perceived scope of their practice and it is leaving some PTs with a bad taste in their mouth.

To bridge the gap I think that coaches and therapists have to come together and have a symbiotic relationship where they benefit from one another instead of competing. Any trainer worth their salt will know when to refer out. The best ones even have a network of people to refer to. I think PTs also need to do the same. I’m sure the best ones do.

5. What are your all-time favourite books in the following areas:

- Strength Training:I have to be honest here and say that I haven’t read a whole lot of books in this area. Most of my learning here comes from journals and experience. If I had to suggest content to read, I’d suggest anything by Dave Tate.

- Physical Therapy Rehabilitation:Shirley Sahrmann’s Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes. Hands down!

- Nutrition:Again, mostly influenced by journals here. I really love all the stuff I’ve read by John Berardi, Lyle McDonald, and Alan Aragon. Martin Berkhan is someone I’m really following too. He’s all about intermittent fasting and wicked smart when it comes to the science behind his methods. The guy is shredded all year.

- Business:The Emyth Revisited by Michael Gerber is the best business book I’ve read. If you are thinking of opening a training studio I highly suggest reading this first and do everything he says.

- Random:I love anything by Malcolm Gladwell. I took me too long to pick up one of his books despite numerous recommendations. Once I did, I was hooked.

Being a complete self improvement geek I also read almost any book in this area.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a must read. I also think everyone in a serious relationship should read and actually do The Love Dare. It has some big time religious underpinnings (don’t say I didn’t warn you), but it is great for any couple looking to further strengthen their relationship whether it is already strong or struggling. My wife and I are rock solid, but we found it fun and interesting to work through.

I also have a bunch of Dr. Phil books. (Yeah...I know. I told you I was a geek.)

6. What do you do to for your continuing education (Seminars attended etc)?

Being that I live in Canada, I don’t do much travelling to the bigger seminars in the US. I do attend some smaller ones here, but I tend to rely more on my contact with others in the fitness industry than on seminars. I feel that I learn more from this type of interaction than seminars.

I’m more of a read (or hear) and test kind of person. I have the good fortune at this point in my career to chat and share resources with a lot of bright people. Once I have the information, I don’t need someone to tell me what works. If it sounds scientifically valid, I try it and measure the outcome. Experience really is the best teacher.

On top of that I read AT LEAST an hour per day and own literally hundreds of training related texts, ebooks, DVDs, etc.

7. What resources that are out there, would you recommend to young up and coming coaches (Podcasts, Websites, Blogs, Products)? is a great place to start. Interaction with other coaches who have been in the trenches for years is priceless. I don’t think there is a time that I’ve logged in and not learned something. You can also connect with so many great people. I hear that Robbie Bourke guy hangs out there too. ;-)

As far as sites go, I read TMuscle, WannaBeBig, and a few others to see what’s hot in the industry and who is coming up.

I have a ton of blogs that I subscribe to and they pop up in my feed reader every time something is posted. I subscribe to Mike Roberston, Eric Cressey, Bret Contreras, Mike Boyle, Patrick Ward, Carson Boddicker, Charlie Weingroff’s just to name a few. I probably subscribe to at least 50.

Products are subject to individual needs, but I suggest everyone entering business read the Emyth Revisited and I’m a big fan of Assess and Correct by Robertson, Cressey, and Hartman as this system is very similar to my own.

8. If you could chose one exercise, and one exercise only, what would it be and why?

If I had to pick one exercise for the North American public it would be tricep table push-aways. Place palms firmly against table and push. Repeat as necessary. For everyone else, it would probably have to be the Turkish Getup.

Ah the old push away exercise. Great for losing body fat!

9. Could you give my readers a basic summary of what your methodology on training is (eg. how do you assess, and design, and periodize programs) ?

How about I fax you a novel? The truth is that I probably couldn’t write down my methodology as fast as it changes in my mind. Yet, the core principles remain the same and rarely change for any population I train.

- Assess
- Set long term goals (1 year or more)
- Break long term goals into short term benchmarks
- Create plan and focus on actions instead of outcomes
- Reassess
- Continue plan or revise based on outcomes in relation to goals
The specifics are where it gets messy and these are all dependent on who I’m dealing with.

10. Last question. What advice would you give to young coaches, like myself getting into the field?

Be passionate

Learn ferociously and never stop

Check your ego and avoid putting down others in the industry - it makes you look bad

Connect with others and learn from them - most are friendly and willing to help you out

Blog - writing stuff down will help you solidify your thoughts

Actually train people – there is no substitute for experience

RB:Mark, thank you so much for your time. Where can my readers find out more about you, and any projects that you may have coming up?

MY: Thanks for having me Robbie! It was a pleasure to do this. Your readers can find me and sign up for my newsletter at

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A better way to Curl & Press?

The Tall Kneeling Curl & Press and its progressions are excellent vertical press exercises, and ones I use with all my athletes who have healthy shoulders.

But the one problem that I see sometimes with some people, is a hyper extension of the lumbar spine when pressing the weight over head. Sometimes this can be due to poor shoulder mobility, which is can be caused by poor t-spine mobility, which in turn leads to poor upward rotation on the scapula, and scapula stability. I think if you have an athlete or client with these limitations, overhead pressing them may not be the best idea.

Other times it can be just a technique thing, or with a lot male athletes, too much weight. When guys try to boost their ego they will try to get the weight up anyway they can. This can lead to guys hyperextending the lumbar.

I have started doing this exercise in a 1/2 kneeling stance with the front foot elevated on a low step. This keeps guys honest with the weight as they cannot the cheat the weight up by hyperextending their lumbar spine, as by having the front foot up on the step with keep the low back from hyperextending.

Check it out here,

Stay Strong,


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mobility Circuit

Another video! Here is a Mobility circuit I use as part of my guys warm up.

Wall Slides x10
Ankle Mobiliy x10
Leg Swings x10
Reaching SLDL x5 Each Leg
Quadruped T-Spine Rotations x10
Spidermans x5 Each Leg
Lunge Martix w/ Medball x5 Each Leg
BW Squat w/ Medball ,or an OH Squat w/ Medball (I did a BW Squat cause my overhead squat sinks! Damn Thoracic Spine Mobility :-( . But Im working on it.)

Anyway heres the video.

Stay Strong,


Monday, July 5, 2010

Psoas Activation

Here a new Psoas Activation drill I have been playing around with. You can also do this drill with your back against a wall to stop lumbar extension.

Psoas Activation

Stay Strong,


Thursday, July 1, 2010

An Interview with Anthony Renna

1. Anthony thank for your time. Could you give my readers your background, and how you came to be a strength and conditioning coach?

I was in the bar/restaurant business for a long time, and as I got older, I got really tired of being in that atmosphere. I grew up playing a lot of different sports, loved being active and worked out with a trainer a little in my early 30’s. I decided that I would get certified as a trainer, just to see how I liked it. I figured that in the very least, I would learn how to workout better. Once I got certified, I was fascinated by what I was learning and I started to go to a bunch of continuing education workshops, anything and everything. I got a job with a big chain that had great in-house education and continued to attend whatever I could. I went to a Gray Cook lecture and he mentioned new books by Mike Boyle (Functional Training for Sports) and Mark Verstegen (Core Performance). I got them and that changed everything for me. Those books shaped the direction I would go with my training.

2. What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem you see within the fitness industry today?

Trainer impatience. I think trainers don’t spend enough time learning and exploring different philosophies and styles because they just want to get into it, train as much as they can and make as much money as they can. Going back to Coach Boyle’s “Should You Stick to the Recipe?” article, trainers are trying to be Chef’s before learning how to cook. It’s a process. Everyone wants take the short cut right to “expert.” We can talk about a central governing body all we want, but we need to hold ourselves accountable as individuals and as an an industry.

3. You recently opened a new facility (congrats by the way). Could you give us a summary of what it is like to run and own a business?

Thank you. Having the facility has been an amazing experience. It’s a lot of hard work and there are a ton of suprises everyday, but it’s very rewarding. I think it has to be in your DNA to have your own place. I’m a little bit of a “know-it-all” so I like being the guy making the decisions. The cool thing is that there are so many resources and opportunities to learn the business part of fitness, from guys like Alwyn Cosgrove, Thomas Plummer, Coach Boyle and Pat Rigsby, that it is becoming easier to make it work. We used to have a saying in the bar and restaurant business. “Just because you know how to cook, doesn’t mean you should open a restaurant.” You need to learn basic business principles. I don’t care if you run a pet store, the fundamentals of business are the same, you have to understand that. Training is the easy part.

4. Who has had the biggest influence on you as a coach?

Mark Verstegen and Gray Cook are up there but definitely Coach Boyle. It actually has nothing to do with his training philosophies and programs, although if you looked at my program design you would know where it came from. It has more to do with who he is as a person and how he handles himself in every aspect of his life. His ability to admit being wrong and change, his willingness to help anyone and everyone out at any time, his commitment to his family and his ablity to separate “disagree from dislike” (which I still struggle with) have all been qualities that I have tried to replicate and have made me a better person and coach.

5. What are you all-time favourite books in the following areas:

- Strength Training: Functional Training for Sports, Core Performance, Advances in Functional Training
- Physical Therapy Rehabilitation: Athletic Body in Balance
- Business: Purple Cow- Seth Godin, 55 Strategies- Alwyn Cosgrove
- Nutrition : Precision Nutrition, Food Rules (Michael Pollan)
- Random: Tipping Point- Gladwell, Blink- Gladwell, On the Road- Kerouac, The Zen of Oz, The Tao of Pooh

6. What do you do to for your continuing education (Seminars attended etc)?

I consider the Perform Better Summit an absolute must. It is the greatest collection of coaches, trainers and therapists and Perform Better runs a great show. It helps being the host of the Strength Coach Podcast because I get to speak to: a) Coach Boyle once every 2 weeks just about training, b) a different college or professional strength and conditioning coach about what they’re doing, c) Alwyn Cosgrove about business and d) Gray Cook about movement! It’s pretty crazy. Doing has been great as well because I get to see 3-4 presentations a month from the worlds top strength pros. The articles and the forum on has been an amazing way to keep up with current info. I consider the forum “the best place to learn from the best strength coaches and therapists you’ve never heard of.”

7. What resources that are out there, would you recommend to young up and coming coaches (Podcasts, Websites, Blogs, Products)?

I think anything that’s free for young coaches is the best place to start. Kevin Larrabee’s “The Fitcast”, Patrick Ward and Keats Snideman’s “Reality Based Fitness”, Mike Robertson’s “In the Trenches” and “The Strength Coach Podcast” are all free. There is no reason to not be able to listen to all of those. There is no excuse not to have every episode in their iPod’s. Same thing with blogs. You can get a ton of info from Coach Boyle, Eric Cressey, Alwyn Cosgrove, Mike Robertson, Jason Feruggia and the list goes on.

8. Could you give my readers a basic summary of what your methodology on training is (eg. how do you assess, and design, and periodize programs)?

I mostly work with golfers so I use a modified version of the Titleist Performance Institute assessment first. I take the results of that assessment and plug in some of the things that I feel the athlete/client needs into my template. Basically, I have everyone working on tissue quality as soon as they walk in, then move to some joint mobility exercises for the ankle, hip, thoracic spine and shoulders. After that I combine more mobility exercises with stability (bridges, planks, quadruped, farmer’s walks, belly press) and activation (standing T’s, mini-band activations, lateral & Monster walks) exercises with the exercise selection based on the assessment. This will take about 20-25 minutes. If they have built a good base of mobility, stability and strength, then go into some plyos for for lower body power and med ball throws and upper body power. (With my clientele, it’s rare that I am using O-lifts). After power, I go onto my strength circuits, basically working 2 quad sets in phase 1 of 1) upper body exercise paired with a 2) lower body exercise, 3) a corrective stretch or movement pattern and 4) a golf pattern drill. I save my ESD work for the last part of the workout, working some intervals in.

9. If you had to pick one exercise, and one exercise only, what would it be and why?

Kind of a combination Turkish Get Up with Waiter’s Carry, (basically an overhead farmer’s walk). When you think bang for your buck, I am not sure if there’s anything better.

10. Last question. What advice would you give to other young coaches, like myself getting into the field?

1) Keep learning. Beg, borrow and steal to go to every workshop or conference you can. Visit other coaches or in the very least call them or email them. Most coaches are cool. Try to network as much as possible and think outside the box by reading all kinds of books- business, self help, biographies, etc.

2) I love what Thomas Plummer says, “Bring It All.” Show some pride and try to be the best you can be.

3) Most of all, be patient. Do your thing, keep your nose to the grindstone and good things will happen. Keep your eyes open for opportunities and they will come. A good example of that in my life is when Coach Boyle switched over from a free forum, to a paid membership site. Everyone was bitching and moaning to him because they didn’t want to pay him a lousy 10 bucks a month. Instead, I saw an opportunity and called him to tell him that he should have a podcast for the site and I could do it for him. It would give him lots of exposure and we could get a sponsor so it wouldn’t cost him anything. He was open minded enough to just go with it even though he had no idea what a podcast was! The podcast has led to so many other opportnities for me that I was able to open a studio because I knew I had additional sreams of revenue to fall back on. I was patient and a jumped on an opportunity that has paid off incredibly.

RB: Anthony, thank you so much for your time. Where can my readers find out more about you?

AR:You can see my studio at, the podcast at, and the online continuing ed resource,