Barbell Shrugged - Talking Training and Interviews w/ CrossFit Games Athletes

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This week on Barbell Shrugged we are excited to welcome Carl Paoli back to the show. In case you missed our chat from last year, make sure to go back and check out Episode 84 of the podcast. 

 

Carl is always a pleasure to be around. He’s also an inspiring and well-grounded coach that is changing the way that we think about movement. He certainly changed the way I view gymnastics, elevating it from a Crossfit programming curiosity to a training element that I now consider essential to balanced, sustainable strength development. 

 

I’ve spent the majority of the past year doing handstand holds as frequently as possible. I have to thank Carl for that amazing insight. But there’s also one other giant insight that comes to mind when I look back on our conversations - Above everything else, Carl excels at occupying the common ground. That starts with a few realizations. 

 

First, the most important thing is to realize that no one has all of the answers, and no matter how confident a coach might be in their opinion, no one has a flawless approach. The very best accept that fact and use it as a fuel to drive their daily education and a continual refinement in their methods. To that point, Carl’s view serves as a balancing force. 

 

Christopher Sommer’s view of the competitive fitness world is that there’s only one way to do Gymnastics properly…His way (check out Episode 114). That’s fine, because strong voices serve to push the discussion forward. But still, we need to be careful with balance here. To Carl’s point, not every elite method is suitable for all athletes, especially those just embarking on this journey.

 

The second realization has to do with how the coaching itself is dished out. There’s a bias right now in the fitness community towards programming. A ton of value is assigned to the way things are done, and that is very important. However, it’s not the only thing. Far from it. What matters just as much, if not more, is why things are done. Specifically, the very best coaches aren’t necessarily the savviest or most complicated. Rather, they are the ones that can get their clients to understand why it is they’re doing what they’re doing. With that, you can accomplish anything you want in the gym. There’s no need in feeling certain. 

 

Carl, it’s always a pleasure, friend.

 

Cheers, 

Chris Moore

 

For more

 

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This week on Barbell Shrugged we welcome Jackie Perez back to the show. I don’t think you need to be reminded about Jackie, she’s hard to ignore for a number of reasons. But just in case, make sure you go back and check out Episode 124 of the podcast. Trust me, it’s a must see.

 

We learned a lot about Jackie the first time around, but maybe the most surprising thing was that, despite the glossy, well tanned appearance and strong social media presence, this girl works very hard for what she has. Jackie might seek out her fair share of recreation, but most of her time is spent training and coaching clients. 

 

There are quite a few online critics that seem to believe that what they see on Instagram is no more than a lucky roll of the genetic dice. But that’s not all that accurate. As Jackie will tell you, “Those people don’t notice the amount work I have to put in to look this way. You’re damn right I’m going to wear my bikini when I get the chance!”

 

Again, it’s hard not to love Jackie for her fun bite and flair, but she has a damn good point here. Genetically she’s doing just fine, believe me, but there’s a plan at work. Her training is well-thought out, progressive and performance based. Her diet is designed to appropriately fuel her training and her body. She doesn’t punish herself with long, grueling “fat burning” sessions on the treadmill. She doesn’t deprive herself of calories and food selection. Maybe most importantly, she understands that a few cocktails here and there go a long way towards relieving stress and improving recovery. 

Hater’s are going to hate, as they say, but that doesn’t change the fact that you still have to have a great plan in place if you want a result in the gym. Sometimes great bodies are born, that’s true, but more often than that they are built and earned. We can’t forget that.  

 

If you want to get as lean, you can’t turn to tricks, hacks and shortcuts. You plan for it. You take steps towards your goal daily, weekly, and monthly, just like you would if you wanted to increase your squatting strength or drop your Fran time. But that right there is a whole other issue amongst the critics. 

 

“Should someone that’s interested in improving functional fitness and performance even care about looks? Isn’t that a shallow, cosmetic goal for an athlete?” No, not at all. It’s true that looks where the focus for far too long, at the expense of function. But a big swing in the other direction is just as silly. In reality, these goals are intimately linked. Both are important. If you train hard, with a long-term plan, and you eat to perform, then you will feel damn good about the result. You will also start looking better and better, of course, which will likely make you feel damn good. That will really show in the gym when it comes to performance. 

 

Jackie, it was a blast hanging out with you again. Keep up that grind, Darling.  

 

Cheers, 

Chris Moore

 

For more

Direct download: bs142.mp3
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Travis Mash

Direct download: bs141.mp3
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This week on Barbell Shrugged we have the pleasure of chatting with Whitney Miller, “Miss United States” beauty pageant contestant turned MMA Fighter

 

That’s quite a transition, but then again it’s pretty obvious that Whitney is a highly motivated individual. She decided to give Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and boxing a try simply because it was, “The hardest thing I could do.” That’s an extraordinary, uncommon attitude for sure. 

 

If nothing else, Whitney understands better than most that progress comes for those who are willing to push past their current limits and perceived boundaries. You have to get well outside of your comfort zone in order to really improve, even if that means training and sparring against men. You can check out this pic of her applying a rear-naked choke to Joe Rogan. She also tossed an arm triangle on Michael Bledsoe during the filming of this episode, which might have been the first time he’s been choked since his BJJ blue belt ceremony back in 2008. No, this is not a lady you want to mess with. She will make you go unconscious! 

 

Whitney does a lot of training in order to pick up all of these new grappling skills, but she also spends plenty of time in the gym. Barbells have always been in the rotation, even during her pageant days. She preferred feeling powerful and strong. In her words, “I’m never going to be tiny and skinny with big boob’s. So, I’m just going to go out there and be completely who I am.” It’s hard to argue with that strategy for any competition. Whitney also has fun with alternative, functional training methods such asIndian Clubs and steel maces, mostly because these implements are incredibly effective at training the grip. All aspiring fighters should take note. The stronger the grip, the more likely you are to win a fight, any fight. Raise heavy barbells, and swing big clubs. You’ll be very glad you did. 

 

Whitney is doing exactly what she wants to do, which is awesome. That’s a message that sounds familiar.Travis Mash would be proud. But that said, living a life where you do what you want…what you value…is tough. When Whitney told her friends and family that she’d rather fight than compete in pageants, she received a surprisingly large amount of resistance in return. Her Mom couldn’t stop crying, and she said her Father would hardly speak to her. For them the proper, sensible thing to do would be to get a routine 9 to 5 job, or maybe take advantage of the good looks and land a gig in front of a camera at the local news station. Anything but getting punched in the face, right? 

 

For most that’s enough, but for Whitney being happy and feeling fulfilled means going out and doing the unexpected, painful, scary, awkward thing, the most difficult thing. As she says, “This is where you feel most alive. Far, far outside of your comfort zone.” I guess we can all do a better job of challenging ourselves, eh? Maybe we could stand to be uncomfortable a little more often.

 

You can check out more from Whitney on YouTube, including an awesome little feature on her transition from pageants to fighting. Also, make sure to follow her on Instagram and Facebook. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Whitney, best of luck with your training. We look forward to seeing you make your debut in the ring soon. 

 

Cheers, 
Chris Moore

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This week on the Barbell Shrugged podcast we welcome Dr. Steven Platek, Neuroscience Professor, Crossfitter and gym owner, contributor to Power Athlete Radio, and current member of the NPGL’s Miami Surge. Yeah, he’s a busy guy. 

 

Those are impressive credentials, but I actually didn’t know any of it at the start of our interview. I just knew that Steven was a really sharp guy, and yes, he was strong as hell. Earlier that day at the Las Vegas NPGL Combine he absolutely destroyed the deadlift ladder, lifting close to 4,500 pounds in total in less than 60 seconds, and finishing with a lift of 585 pounds. Not bad for a Master’s level Crossfitter, right? Really, it’s amazing. It was no surprise that Miami took him when they had the chance. 

 

There’s a clear niche for Master’s level competitors within this new sport of Grid. No, Steven and most Master’s level athletes simply cannot get away with the super-high training volume that some of his teammates and competitors require in order to make progress. A huge priority has to be placed on recovery, any older competitor who wants to stay in the game and remain strong has to accept that. However, Steven’s vast experience translates to a very high level of skill, especially in strength movements like the deadlift. Other teams in the NPGL should take note, you should have a Master beast on your bench just in case things get really heavy. 

 

Loads of people struggle to make progress in the gym, especially as they age and become more experienced. They have a plan, they work as hard as they can, but at times nothing improves. It’s frustrating, but the answer might be as simple as training less and spending more time on recovery. Just like Steven, back off and consider leveraging your valuable experience instead. Train smarter and more optimally, and you’ll get a superior result. The same thing goes for the manner and mindset with which you lift the barbell. Many lifters assume that you have to be very intense to be very strong. I myself assumed that Steven’s coach had to have been screaming and pushing him from the sidelines during that aforementioned 585 pound deadlift, but actually the opposite was true. His coach’s function was actually to keep Steve more calm and focused as the barbell got heavier and heavier, maintaining an optimal balance between arousal and performance. As Steve explained, this was a classic real world example of theYerkes-Dodson law, which basically states that arousal is a great thing for performance, until there’s too much of it. 

 

If you are an athlete that’s interested in performing optimally, you need to know just how much arousal is necessary for you. Will a little do, or are you a 7-cup of coffee type of person? The very best athletes know just how far to push it, and just how to modulate their sympathetic nervous system response to stress. The result is more fight than flight, you could say. If you find yourself getting far too excited and anxious ahead of training or competition, take note. You are more than likely out of balance. If you can do a better job of controlling that sympathetic response - if you can settle your mind a bit - you’ll perform much better. 

 

If you find that you’re still a little sleepy and groggy after a few cups of coffee, well, maybe you’re Jon North! That guy really loves his stimulants. He also believes 100% in himself, and what he’s capable of lifting, and his purpose. As Steven will also tell you, the mind is unfathomably mysterious and powerful. Your very first step towards success, regardless of what you're training and living for, is to believe in what you’re doing. Call it the placebo effect, call it magic, it doesn’t matter at all. If you can believe 100% in what you’re doing then magical things will happen. Thanks for the reminder, Steve. 

 

You can see hear more from Steven over at Power Athlete Radio. You can also follow him on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook

 

Cheers, 

 

 

Chris

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Several months back the entire Barbell Shrugged crew called into the 50th episode of Power Athlete Radio. We had a blast chatting and bullshitting with the entire Crossfit Football crew, so I knew this interview with John Welbourn was going to be great. But I’ll be honest. I did forget just how big he is. 

 

At 6 ft 5 in and 310 lbs, this man is not your average Crossfit Coach. John reminds me of Tony Robbins’ larger, more athletic, Warrior/Mercenary brother. To borrow a phrase from the fantastic movie Shallow Hal, shaking that mitt of a hand really was like grabbing a bunch of bananas. 

 

Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing people in the sport of fitness. Athlete’s are getting fitter by the day, while also getting strong enough to compete nationally as competitive lifters. That’s extraordinary. But that said, the world of the NFL is a few level’s up, to say the least. Just check out this video of John and his former colleagues warming up before a “WOD.” Your Fran time is awesome, dude, but I don’t think it’s going to be much help if you find yourself on the other side of the line from one of these real-life juggernauts.

 

John was an incredible Football player, but he’s an even more impressive competitor. Did you know that he competed in the 2008 Crossfit Games? It’s True! You can see an old video on John WODing right here. That’s a super-duper impressive feat for a guy that large. “Why didn’t he lose some weight so that he could be more competitive,” you might ask. The answer is that he wasn’t done playing professional football yet! That’s right. He went off to training camp just a few weeks after the Games, which for lack of a better phrase, really takes balls. 

 

I really enjoyed talking with John. It brought back so many memories of my own career, which had many up’s and down’s, but was an amazing time in my life. Just in case you were wondering, no, I was no John Welbourn. Not even close. But I did alright, and I did it with a bitchin’ haircut. But I also wanted to thank him for showcasing the most important strength lesson in his Crossfit Football programming. That’s this, listen closely - If you want to get really strong and maximize your result, you have to train appropriately. 

 

I know,  I know, the strongest people you can name train WestsideSmolov, Sheiko, whatever, so why not you? Why not do as the strong do? Well, because you have only been training a few years, not a decade or two. You don’t have the skill, the foundation, the muscle mass, or the recovery potential to take on such programming, so the only thing you’re going to get is frustrated, tired and hurt. The key to long lasting and enduring strength is to progress up to the intermediate and advanced levels ONLY WHEN IT IS REQUIRED! To be more specific, you should do the simplest possible thing until it stops working for you. Only then should you make things fancier and more complicated. 

 

That fundamental approach is baked right into John’s programming. If you are in need of some strength and power, but you also don’t want to give up an inch of your overall athleticism, you really can’t beat Crossfit Football. Give it a try, just be honest with yourself. Are you an Amateur, Collegiate, or Professional level athlete? You’ll truly know by the results you get. Be honest.

 

For more information on Crossfit Football, make sure to check out their website for ton’s of cool training information and a full list of upcoming seminars. You can also follow all the latest from the Crossfit Football team on InstagramTwitter and Facebook. 

 

Cheers, 

 

 

Chris

Direct download: bs137.mp3
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This week on Barbell Shrugged we are busting training myths with our old college buddy Dr. Andy Galpin, Professor and Researcher at California State University, Fullerton. 

This is Andy’s third appearance on the show. We first got together to chat about muscle physiology way back on episode 19. Most recently, he helped us break down the science of mixed martial arts with the one and only Bas Rutten on episode 91 (this is also the show where Mike get’s kicked in the balls by Bas, a classic moment indeed). Those were both awesome shows, but this latest discussion was probably our best so far. Maybe we have the combination of Glenlivet and the bright California sunshine to thank for that. 

After a bit of catching up we got right into some training myths, starting with a common misconception in the fighting community. These athletes are a lot like Crossfitters, in that they are very driven. They train very hard, and they generally do everything they can to improve performance. Effort isn’t the problem. The real issue is that they don’t really plan for a rest properly, and they don’t understand fatigue and cumulative stress. For them, more is just better. There is one speed - Train as hard as possible no matter what, “or else you’re a pussy!” 

Of course this isn’t true at all. Andy’s currently working closely with MMA athletes to educate, as well as help them to train more effectively and recover more quickly so that they can maximize fight performance and reduce their risk of injury. 

A fairly simple scientific tool that Andy has utilized with these fighters is the force plate. In a highly objective way, Andy can point out the data when an athlete produces force at a less than optimal rate. In other words, he can show the athlete exactly when they are moving, “slower than a middle school girl.” Sure, many of these folks are really strong. They are tough, bulletproof with big lungs, but they are slow and it’s killing their performance. If you only did one thing in the gym, you would try and get faster. Speed kills, in just about every sport. 

All lifters and competitive fitness athletes should take note of Andy’s advice for fixing this problem. “If you’re getting tired during your speed work, then you’re doing it wrong.” Cut the reps and start performing every repetition with the explicit goal of moving absolutely as fast as you can. In many cases this coaching point was good for a 20% improvement in force production, which amounts to a significantly more damaging strike. Write this little pearl down, friends. Before you do anything else, consider doing less, going faster, and training more often. 

Sure, “More is better” and “tired is good” are common misconceptions amongst fighters, but the actual myth busting on this show didn’t really start until we began out chat about nutritional supplements. On the top of that list, as always, is Creatine. Despite huge volumes of research supporting its use, many people still have the wrong idea about it, which is frustrating. First thing’s first, you can think of creatine as if it were the fifth macronutrient right next to carbohydrate, fat, protein and alcohol. Having an abundance of this energy substrate in the muscle does significantly improve performance, there is no doubt about it. Creatine also manages to do that without any known side effects, including the classic fretting over water retention (Myth!).

The simple truth is that you will be a more powerful athlete, for longer, if you take creatine. Also, this is currently one of the most heavily researched supplements for improving overall mental acuity and long term mental health. Just consider the work being done on Parkinson’s disease, which is extraordinary. If you aren’t taking it, you probably should be. Once you start, you probably should;t stop, as cycling on and off is completely unnecessary. Remember, it’s better to think of creatine as a nutrient, not a drug. Nutrients aren’t the sorts of things you cycle off of.

Another classic training myth is the function of lactic acid in muscular fatigue. Andy brought us up to speed with the truth. As it turns out, this particular myth is rooted in a 120 year old hunting journal, where elevated lactate levels were observed in killed, bagged deer stags. The easy observation to make was that these increased levels had to be associated with fatigue. That sounds reasonable, but as Andy will tell you, it’s complete fiction. The truth is that lactate is possibly the single most-preferred fuel source in the human body. It also actively works to hydrate tissue and reduce acidity by capturing and shuttling hydrogen ions down the metabolic pipeline. That’s a very big deal. 

No, lactic acid is not your problem. That much Andy is sure of. Now, when it comes to explaining what does actually cause fatigue? Science has some ideas, but the truth is that we still don’t know. I guess Andy still has some work to do to keep him busy around the laboratory. 

One of the final, big myths we take on in this episode is all about muscle mass and endurance. You’ve no doubt heard those old time, unfounded concerns that athletes who strength train will only end up muscle bound and immobile. We know that this is silly and untrue. Some of the fittest, most mobile human being's alive train with really heavy barbells, just about all of the time, and they are huge! You just have to make room in your training regimen for some structured mobility work, the fix is that simple. Work at it and you’ll improve. Ignore it and you’ll get worse. Who knew? The same thing can be said of muscular endurance. Metabolism occurs in the muscle tissue, so having more of it can only improve one’s endurance potential. In that light, the classic fighting myth that being too muscled only makes you get tired more quickly…Yep, complete bullshit. That is, unless the athlete in question never works on their endurance. Remember, you get back what you put out. 

For more from Dr. Galpin make sure to follow him on Instagram and Twitter. You can also check out his faculty page here if you want to learn more about Andy’s research and academic work. Andy, we’ve got to make this at least a once a year kind of thing, buddy. It was great to see you again.

XOXO, 

Chris

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