The Importance of A Training Journal by Crystal McCullough

I have always been involved in physical activity and trained with some type of purpose. In high school, I played varsity sports. In college, I played intramural sports. At 25, I joined the Army and trained in order to be in shape for my job and score the highest I could on my PT test. Once I got pregnant and got out of the Army, there was a year or so I didn’t do anything and felt like I had to start over completely. My easy go-to with a small child was running, so I could put him in a stroller and go. This was the first time in my life I needed to find a new goal completely on my own; someone or something else no longer defined my goals. It was up to me to set my own.

I set goals to run 5ks, then 10ks, then to run a half marathon. I kept logs of my runs so that I knew where I was in my training. I set goals for each race that I ran to be better than the previous one. Does this sound familiar?

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In 2010, a friend introduced me to CrossFit. The gym I started at was very big on tracking workouts. I am so thankful they felt that way because it put me in the right mindset from the very beginning. From my first workout, I kept a training log and still do until this day. I still have all those journals and will pull them out on a rainy day. Sometimes, when I ran or did CrossFit, I filled the whole journal before I would start a new one. Now, depending on the meet I’m training for, I sometimes start a new journal after each meet so I can look at the difference between the cycles.

Five Reasons To Keep A Training Journal

  1. It shows you where you’ve been. Sometimes, we feel like we aren’t making any progress. It helps to go back and look at old journals and remind ourselves of how far we’ve come. Writing down workout times and maxes gives you a visual way to track your progress.
  2. It allows you to take control of your fitness. In all likelihood, the coach isn’t going to remember the numbers you hit the previous week. Keeping a record allows accuracy in percentage work.
  3. It provides you with your own accountability. Writing your daily workouts shows you how many days you trained or didn’t train. It keeps you motivated to workout.
  4. It allows you to write down sleep and nutrition habits as well as how you were feeling while you were training.
  5. It helps you to track you goals and set new ones. If you never write anything down, how do you know when you’ve met a goal?

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I realize that it is an extra step, but it is a crucial step to achieving optimal success. Regardless of what sport you are involved in, keeping a training journal can be just as important as the recovery process to keep you motivated and your eyes on the prize. Whether a soccer mom or an elite athlete (see Lisa and Hunter below!), we all have goals, and visually tracking them ultimately leads to greater success.

Spice Up Your Rice by Matt Shiver

Rice is a staple in my diet. I eat it with multiple meals because it is easily digested, carbohydrate dense, and it goes well with every meat. With that, rice can get pretty boring. It does not have much of a taste unless it is paired with salts/spices, sauces, meat juices, etc. Here I will share with you my favorite ways on how I prep my rice.

First, we need to make sure to pick out the best type of rice. You want to find a rice that is easy to cook, digests well, and that has a good nutrient profile. My favorites are Basmati or Jasmine white rice. The first thing that I look for looking for rice is I look that their ingredients list. I want only ONE ingredient on that list. It should read “basamati/jasmine/brown rice”. I DO NOT WANT enriched rice. Enriched rice typically has added iron, niacin, thiamin, and folic acid. I look for a rice that does not have added vitamins and minerals.

I try to stay away from minute rice. Most of the time the nutrient quality is going to be subpar and it will be enriched. I go for the BIG 10-20lb bags of rice because I will only have to buy rice every month or two. If you are tight on time or if you are traveling, the minute rice can be nice. But I would not make it a staple of your diet.

White vs. Brown Rice

Why do I choose white rice over brown rice? That is just a personal choice. I know that I digest white rice better. The only way for you to test is to try different types of rice and see how they feel on your stomach. Eat about a 50g of carbohydrate bolus of one type of rice with NO OTHER FOOD. In 30 minutes how do you feel? Okay how does it feel in an hour? If you feel good and want to eat more, then you found a rice you can digest well!

The fiber content in brown rice is higher but it is still not a great source of fiber. In one cup of brown rice you are only getting 3.5g of fiber. That is about than 10% of your daily value.

Phytic acid is a natural ingredient in brown rice that has been associated with impairing the digestion of the nutrients attached with the brown rice. Whether or not it is true, it doesn’t really matter! Rice is primarily a carbohydrate source. It doesn’t have much nutritional density if it is not paired with meats, vegetables, and spices.

Find a rice that digests well and stick with it.

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Cooking Rice

Once you have your rice, rinse it. It takes 10-30 seconds total. Rinse it out a few times. You will see the cloudy solution/sediment flow out.

Get a rice cooker! These things are so cheap and save so much time and mental energy. There are some that can be programmed so when you get home from work/gym the rice is ready. You don’t have to worry about over or under cooking the rice, you don’t have to worry about burning the kitchen down, and you have your food ready when you want it to be ready!

Now that you have your rice drained and your rice cooker ready, we need to talk about how to enhance the nutrient density and taste of the rice. I have three favorite ways to do that.

Rice Cooker + Steamer

I often use a rice cooker that has a steam basket inside, cooking vegetables at the same time. If you steam your vegetables, you are losing a good amount of the water-soluble vitamins inside the vegetables. BUT if you steam them inside a rice cooker the water-soluble vitamins drip from the vegetables into your rice. You can add all sorts of vegetables with some seasoning salt in your steamer basket and the same water that cooks your rice, cooks your vegetables. You don’t need any extra water. It saves time and adds more flavor/nutrients. Rice cookers with steam basket on Amazon.

Himalayan Salt

This is a great way to spice up your rice. If you like the bland taste of rice but want to add a little salt with a higher nutrient profile, this is where to go! Sea salt can be used as well.

Bone Broth

I saved the best one for last! I have been using bone broth for the last few weeks and I LOVE IT. Bone broth is different than chicken broth or chicken stock. Bone broth is made by stewing bones of an animal for 12-48 hours. All the nutrients that are deep inside the bone are released slowly over time. Chicken broth and stock are often cooked with scraps of meat with a shorter cooking time. Bone broth has been all over the health news with its claimed benefits including improving joints, chronic digestive problems, and autoimmune conditions. Bone broth is the known to be the world’s best source of collagen and gelatin. These two nutrients are often used in the digestive and skin health fields. It also naturally has glucosamine and amino acids like glycine and glutamine. Best of all, it tastes good and it is cheap! It costs less than $3 at the grocery store. The sodium content is not too high either. The sodium content seems to be just enough to add some flavor to the rice and improve the way it is cooked. Typically, when I cook my rice using a bone broth I will do half water and half broth. That seems to make the best rice for me.

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Bulgarian Method Meets Velocity Based Training

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Bulgarian Method. Let me keep it real for you: I am really talking about high frequency training more than the real Bulgarian Method. For those that don’t know, the real Bulgarian Method is maxing out in the snatch, clean and jerk, and front squat three-times per day most days and seven days per week.

It’s a popular thing in America to brag about training “Bulgarian.” Most spouting off about training Bulgarian are training once per day, maxing out in the snatch or clean and jerk, and squatting some days. They are using the word ‘Bulgarian’ to hide the fact that they are just lazy. They aren’t willing to put in the work required to get good at their sport. Maxing out in a lift each day isn’t hardcore. All of us enjoy going heavy. That’s not hard work. That’s being immature.

The truth is that most drug free athletes couldn’t handle a true Bulgarian System style of training if they wanted to. Even for athletes on drugs, training in this style requires exceptional genetics and perfect conditions. In America, most athletes are in school and/or have a job, so they can’t train whenever they want. Obviously, these aren’t perfect circumstances.

This article is going to refer to all high frequency training like powerlifting, strongman, or any strength training regimen. The new craze around the world is ultimate high frequency. For some it’s a good idea, and for some it’s probably not.

Obviously, I am not against high frequency training, since I wrote the eBooks “Squat Every Day” and “Squat Every Day 2”. Well thought out training higher in frequency can work well for two reasons:

  1. Performing repetitions with loads at 90% and above is the easiest way to get stronger. (Prilepin, 1974)
  2. Higher frequency creates better efficiency. Obviously the more you do something, the better you become at that activity!

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Here’s my concern about high frequency training. This is just an observation, but it’s obvious that high frequency training gets people strong quickly. However, I’ve noticed that a lot of people I am friends with get injured more frequently after going high frequency for longer periods of time. It happened to me.

I performed the workout in my book “Squat Every Day” for six months, and my numbers shot through the roof especially for a 40-year old man. However, shortly after I hit that six-month period, my joints started breaking down. So the first thing that I am going to say is consider running higher frequency programs in shorter blocks, like 6-8 weeks.

This article is about some ideas for performing higher frequency programs in a safer and more efficient way. If one were to use velocity tools to measure and track average mean velocities, they could avoid a lot of pitfalls sometimes related to high frequency training. Potentially, you could then get all the benefits while avoiding some of the negative side effects.

Here’s the deal. On a daily basis, one’s 1RM can vary 15% up or down. That’s a 30% swing, and that’s what makes things hard. Some days when you come in the gym, you aren’t going to hit anywhere near your personal record. However, most athletes will come in the gym and try attempt after attempt with a weight that simply isn’t happening that day.

Some would say that those misses are still good training (normally a young male with more testosterone than brains). That’s wrong. When you attempt a 93% weight five times without a make, you end up doing two things:

  1. Teaching your body to miss causing you to become an inconsistent athlete.
  2. Beating up your joints, which over time compounds.

Here’s my recommendation. Use a velocity tool to measure your 80% lift each day. It doesn’t matter which lift. You simply need to know that average speed. Once you’ve established that average, you can make daily decisions that are more conducive to your training.

Here’s the way it could work:

If you are 10% or more below your average velocity, then I recommend a lower intensity day with a focus on movement and volume. Here’s a couple of examples:

  • If an Olympic lift, work up to 85-88% for an EMOM of 6-8 singles.
  • If a powerlift, stay at around 80-85% for 3×3.

If you are right on the average velocity, you could work up to 93-95% for 2×1.

If you are above the average velocity, you could swing for the fences ‘cause today is your day.

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Man, I can’t tell you how much I wish I had used this system my whole life. I probably wouldn’t have a bad hip if I had used this system. A lot of athletes could have avoided injuries, used the proper daily focus matching their capabilities, and improved at a much quicker rate.

There’s something else that I haven’t mentioned. It’s really the elephant in the room. It’s the fact that this sport of ours can drive one crazy. I’m mainly referring to Olympic weightlifting right now due to the difficulty of the movement. I watched this sport break many great athletes. These are athletes most of you will never hear about because the sport drove them away before they could realize their potential.

The problem is that athletes can’t be honest with themselves. I’m talking about me right now as much as I am talking about other athletes. When your daily stress is greater than your ability to recover, your body will start to breakdown. When this occurs, your body isn’t going to perform at an optimal level. You can push as hard as you want, but your body isn’t going to cooperate. I’ve watched one bad day ruin an athlete.

Great athletes are obsessed with the becoming the best. Unfortunately, this becomes their identity. I am not going to get into the psychology of this right now, but it can drive you crazy. One bad day can leave them thinking they have all of a sudden become weak. Their manic behavior can’t think logically.

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I want to leave you all with this: strength sports aren’t linear, there are ups and downs. The body breaks down, and the body repairs. This up and down is the exact way we get better. We beat the body up, and then it repairs stronger than ever. Obviously when it is beat to a pulp, you aren’t going to have a good day.

I want you all to love whatever strength sport you choose. If you can’t think logically on your own, then use velocity based training to keep you honest. Your very soul will thank me, and you will avoid a lot of tears that can come with this sport. If you can avoid those tears or at least survive them, you will find that there is a lot of joy in weightlifting and powerlifting. You simply have to embrace the process.

Stronger Experts with Phil Tremblay – The Barbell Life 199

Phil Tremblay has moved from speed skating to training the Russian Olympic Team to trading knowledge with Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell.

He is the definition of someone who is thirsty for knowledge, and he’s spent years traveling the globe to learn from as many people as possible. Through it all, he’s got some amazing stories to tell and some amazing insight to share.

And that’s what’s led him to start a new platform called Stronger Experts. I’m excited to take part in it, and I’m proud to announce I’m one of almost two dozen experts who will be dropping truth to you and the rest of the world. I mean, I don’t understand how Phil has assembled such an amazing roster. There’s the Jamaican Olympic sprint coach, the strength and conditioning coach for the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team, Sean Waxman, Mike Israetel, Greg Nuckols, Zach Long, and many more great people.

So check out this podcast to learn all about how Phil put these people together – as well as what you can learn from all the years he spent traveling the world and talking with experts.

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  • His 45-minute mobility assessment
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Garage Gym vs. Team Environment by Jacky Bigger

As some of you may already know, I’ve recently started training a bit less at the Mash Compound and a bit more in our awesome new garage gym. I have nothing against training at Mash, I just currently REALLY love our garage gym. I’ve trained in a team environment for my entire weightlifting career, so the change in atmosphere has been awesome for me! Now that I’ve had experience training in both the team environment and training by myself in the garage gym, I’d like to take some time to discuss some of the positive and negatives of both.

Garage Gym Positives

I’ll start off with the positives of training in the garage gym, because for me right now, it’s SUCH a good change. Here are some of the things I like most about it.

  1. You get to create your own environment! If you train in a team environment, I know you’ve had days where you’re over there in the corner trying to work on technique, when everyone else is having fun and maxing out! For me, those were always the toughest days. When training in the garage gym, I get to choose the mood. If I’m working technique, I get to create a calm focused environment. If I’m going heavy and hard, I can create a more intense environment. I love that I’m in control.
  2. You get to choose your own music and don’t have to hear others complain about your music choices. I don’t know anyone else who likes to train to Andy Grammer, Jack Johnson and Michael Buble besides me, but now I can listen to them whenever I want.
  3. It’s easy access. There’s nothing better than being able to open your door and walk right out to the gym. It leaves no room for excuses to skip training since the gym is literally right there! This is especially helpful for those of you with an extremely busy schedule. It takes out the travel time and you can train literally whenever you want. Even if you have to get up at 4:30am, and get your training in before work.

Those are just a few of the great things I’ve discovered about training alone in the garage, now let’s talk about why training with a team is great.

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Team Training Positives

  1. You get coaching and constantly have eyes on you. It’s so important for any weightlifter, but especially those just starting out to get technical coaching. The more bad habits prevented early on, the better you’ll be in the long run. Not to mention, you’re surrounded by other lifters, so you can observe their technique and learn just by watching. I’ve learned SO much from simply watching and being around other great weightlifters.
  2. There’s the social aspect of it. Often times your teammates are your friends, or if they aren’t right away, they quickly become them because you spend so much time together each week. Having a positive community of people with the same goals and values as you do, really goes a long way. It’s so important to have other people around to support and encourage you and help you through the rough times.
  3. The competitive environment and the hype atmosphere. I’ve made lifts that I never thought possible simply by getting in a hype environment and having a little bit of friendly in-house competition. When “battle” is called, you know at least someone in the gym is going to pull out a huge lift that day! Plus, it’s always so much fun to watch a bit of friendly competition even if you’re not involved in it.

As you can see, both environments have their advantages, so what are some of the negatives? Well, some of the positive things that I mentioned above can actually also be negatives. Let’s talk garage gym first.

Garage Gym Negatives

  1. You have to create your own environment. This can be a downfall on those days when you’re not motivated, feeling beat down and really just don’t feel like training. It can be really tough to self-motivate some days and to create an energetic environment when you’re just not feeling so energetic. This is when a team environment is advantageous.
  2. You don’t get immediate coaching and feedback. I coach a lot of people who train by themselves in a garage gym. While remote coaching is AWESOME and you can still make great progress using it if it’s the only thing you have access to, getting in person coaching and immediate feedback really goes a long way.
  3. It’s very easy to get carried away. You’re trying to hit that big lift that you’re SO close to making that you just can’t help but try again. You have no one there to stop you and before you know it, you’ve tried and failed five-plus times, which is never ideal. I’ve already had this happen to me, and I’ve seen it happen to many of my athletes. Or, there may be the days where it’s really just not there, you’re fatigued and you’re not moving well, but you try and push hard anyways. Again, because there’s no one there to tell you that it’s probably best if you just take it easy today.

Now, how can some of the positives of a team environment actually be negatives as well?

Team Training Negatives

  1. The competitive environment. This can definitely be a disadvantage if it gets out of control. You may find yourself competing with your teammates TOO often, which leads to training ineffectively and maxing out way too often. This can eventually lead to fatigue and/ or injury. You can’t compete every day, there have to be days where you take a step back and just get good quality work in. Not to mention, when you’re training in a room filled with other lifters, it can oftentimes be very difficult to stick to your own path and not compare yourself to them, which can also present numerous problems.
  2. The social aspect. It can be very hard to focus on your training some days when training with a group of your friends, because really, sometimes you just want to hang out. Some days, the focus in the gym just isn’t there, and if you’re in the group of chatty Kathy’s it’s great because you’re having a good time. But if you find yourself to be that one person who’s actually trying to focus and get some good training in, it can be very distracting and frustrating.

You’ll see that there are positives and negative of training alone and training with a team. So, which one is actually better? I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other, and I’d encourage you to try both if you have the ability to. If you’ve trained in a garage for your whole career, I suggest doing your best to find a gym you can visit once in a while to get some hands-on coaching and to get around some other lifters. If you’ve trained in a team environment for you whole career, like I have, I suggest training by yourself sometimes, getting to know yourself better and learning to grind on your own.

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Plyometric Training Part 2 By Matt Shiver

This is part two of a two-part plyometric training series. Make sure to check out the previous article to get the basics of plyometric training before reading this!

Programming Plyometrics

Plyometrics should be programmed similar to your power movements (squats, cleans, snatches). I typically don’t program them more than 5 reps in a given set. The goal is to get MAX HEIGHT for a lot of these movements. The more reps you do, the harder it is for you to reach that height.

Linear Progression

If you have a beginner who is just learning how to jump, you probably don’t need to put them on a periodized program. They will be making improvements every session with the power ability. Sometimes putting beginners on a detailed program can limit their progression as an athlete. For these people, I would start them out by keeping their volume the same. Since their ability to generate power will increase the intensity will naturally increase each time. If they just higher, the intensity is higher.

Beginners can start with a simple 3×5 or 5×5 model. I would start them jumping onto a box. Jumping onto a box is actually much easier on the joints and connective tissue than jumping in the air and landing on the ground. By starting on a box, they can learn proper landing mechanics before landing on the ground. As they progress, you can decrease the height of the box or start introducing depth jumps. That’s right I said DECREASE the height.

Decreasing the box height is actually harder for the athlete. The higher the box is, the less eccentric forces that are placed on the connective tissues in the landing. The higher you fall, the higher amount of eccentric forces that are placed on the connective tissues. The lower you fall, the less. This is why depth jumps are more advanced than normal counter movement jumps.

OPEN UP NEW POSSIBILITIES IN STRENGTH

Mash Elite's Guide to Velocity-Based Training

By measuring bar speed (simple to do with your smartphone), you can guarantee each and every training session is as effective and safe as possible.

Periodized Progression

If you have an athlete that is intermediate of above, a periodized approach will be a better to fit their season and allow them to better adapt to the stress. This should be done the same way as strength and power movements are programmed.

Start with a month or two of high volume, short rest between sets. Multiple sets of 4-6 jumps seem to work well with this.

The next month or two give them more time between attempts and drop the number of jumps to 3-5 reps. You can have them do more sets but they should be falling farther with these jumps. The goal is to begin to load the connective tissues more and more each month until you have the athlete begin a peaking phase.

The last month you can really be testing your athletes with deep depth jumps by doing 1-3 reps for multiple sets. Adequate rest must be given for the body to recover. Treat these like max snatch or clean and jerk attempts. You want at least 1-2 minutes of rest between sets/reps.

Options for Progressions

As your athlete improves their ability to jump, it is important to make the movements harder. Again, the height at which one FALLS is what makes plyometric training hard, NOT the height jumped to.

It will be harder on your connective tissue to fall off a box than to jump up to a high box (assuming good mechanics are achieved).

There are plenty of ways to increase the difficulty of the jumps. Here are a few that I recommend:

  • Progress from jumping up to a box to jumping in place with no box. Prisoner jumps or jumping over hurdles are harder than box jumps.
  • Depth jumps. Instead of jumping up to a box, fall off a box and then jump as high as you can or to another small box. The higher the box you fall from, the larger the eccentric force that will be applied to your connective tissues.
  • Decrease the amount of time spent on the ground. Land stiff and get off the ground as fast as possible. If you land softly in a squat position, there will be less forces placed into the connective tissue.
  • Land on a harder surface. If you are used to jumping on a gym mat, if you do jumps on wood or concrete, that will increase the forces put into the connective tissues. This also applied to types of shoes. Soft shoes will be easier than barefoot.
  • Adding a horizontal direction into the mix. Change of directions is another way to load the connective tissues. If you have an athlete that has lots of change of direction, this is strongly recommended.

Plyometric train is fun! It is a way to improve speed, power, and strength. It allows you to keep some load off the spine and still increase lower body function. If you have a strength athlete battling an injury, these are a great alternative. I love throwing these in there as well as sled, prowler work, and hill sprints.

I hope this helps! Enjoy giving some of these principles a go!

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