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Strength Principles part 2

Hello again,

This is a continuation of a two previous articles,

StrongFirst: Principle Based Strength


Strength Principles part 1

This post is about the last 4 points of the StrongFirst ‘S‘ – Strength Principles:

5.Perfect Technique

6.‘Long’ Rest






5) Perfect Technique

  • every rep, every sets, every time…. technique, technique, technique : when you start a new training program or learn a new skill the first few weeks of improvements is predominantly NEUROLOGICAL, not muscular. Then muscular adaption starts to occur.
  • Similarly once you train yourself past the stage of muscular adaption, almost ALL progress becomes neurological and technique based again.
  • attention to technique while training (and having a coach provide correction/feedback) will fast track your road to strength all the while SAVING YOU FROM INJURY.
  • INJURY PROOF YOURSELF by training with good form. The human body CANNOT perform perfect reps while under a high amount of metabolic fatigue – which brings us nicely to our next point


6) Long Rest

  • proper rest intervals are critical : for any serious strength training think 3-5 minutes rest between lifts
  • I go deeper into this subject in a previous post entitled : ‘Training Considerations: Rest, Set Type and Mental Management’
  • Pavel confirms everything I mention in his article ‘Long Rests: Russian Science to the Rescue’
  • another reason to rest long and to keep the sets short (20-40sec max), is what Al Ciampa says in the above article, namely :

    “If you let the “burn” in the muscle rise too high, you literally destroy the mitochondria, the very thing you tried to build”

  • the last tip I have for you comes from a source I cannot remember but it goes:  “Don’t confuse Strength and Conditioning and Conditioning and more Conditioning”


7) Simple

  • this refers to StrongFirst’s Simple and Sinister Revolution : a strength and endurance program that will prepare you for literally ANYTHING
  • it is simple because you use only a hand full of exercises and you get really good at them. in fact the better you get at them the greater the training effect becomes. But you have to use the specific exercises and a certain protocol – find out detail by clicking here.
  • it is also simple because the exercises themselves are easy enough to learn
    • what about the Sinister part you might ask?  well …..


8) Sinister

  • this refers to the fact that training in this way is HARD
  • yes the individual movements themselves might be ‘simple’ but the combination trying to maintain speed while fatigued and still using heavy weights ‘destroys’ your body in the best of possible ways!

check out the new StrongFirst website concerning this subject:

Kettlebell Simple & Sinister




If you follow these principles you will ensure progress.

Have fun with this information, explore what works best for you. If you get confused or just don’t know where to start or what to do  –  that is when you need to get a coach. These principles are useless unless there is a goal or end product in mind.

Hey, that’s a good topic for a blog post in itself! maybe next time….



That’s all I have for you today folks – All the best on the quest to your goals!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Trainer



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Strength Principles part 1


This is a continuation of a previous article, StrongFirst: Principle Based Strength.

It will explain the first 4 points of the StrongFirst ‘S‘ : Strength Principles


1) Safety First  /  2) Strength has a greater Purpose  /  3) Tension is Strength (Hard Style) /  4) Relaxation is Strength


Strength Principles

Use this visual as a way to organize your thoughts on HOW you work out.

These principles have been stolen off other StrongFirst articles and gathered through personal experience. But there is no need to go look them up because the first 4 principles will be explained here and the rest in the second Part of this article series.

These principles guide my training as well as all of my clients.

If you follow these principles you will ALWAYS progress. This is because you will always have in the back of your head the reason you are training, making motivation a non-issue.

Without further ado, here are the first 4 points of the StrongFirst ‘S‘ : Strength Principles.


1) Safety First

  • This includes personal space, choosing the appropriate weight, location and equipment.
  • It also means not training yourself to a point were the risk of injury becomes greater than the benefit received from the exercise.
  • Pain = NO gain (usually) – I am always reminded at this point of some Paul Chek says : “Train, don’t Drain”


2) Strength has a greater purpose

“Sparta, Rome, the knights of Europe, the samurai… worshiped strength.

— Because it is strength that makes all other values possible.” (Enter the Dragon)

  • Strength is a SKILL; that means it can be TAUGHT, and that you are either GOOD at it or BAD at it – you are either strong, or weak. Being GOOD at something has a ton of intrinsic and extrinsic value, but aspiring to be better, is even better!
  • StrongFirst is not just about swings. We don’t do swings just so we can do swings really well, we do them for other reasons – i.e. We train strength because it carries over into everything else we do : be it physical or mental.


3) Tension is Strength

  • This means HARD STYLE : you must learn how to utilize your bodies tension in order to improve your performance. This is achieved through certain tension techniques.
    • including: 1) make a white knuckle fist 2) drive heels into floor 3) crush a walnut between your Glutes 4) squeeze the Abdominals 5) utilize power breathing
    • the next step is knowing when to use them, that involves some strategy on your part.
  • Without proper abdominal bracing (tension) your risk of injury increases. With proper abdominal bracing you can literally do anything you want (except fly).


4) Relaxation is strength

  • The other side of the coin of strength is relaxation and recovery. This means proper rest between sets and appropriate recovery between workouts.
  • If you CANNOT relax, if you CANNOT exhale with an audible sigh of relief, you need to figure it out. Without Relaxation you will always have elevated cortisol and low testosterone levels (which is harmful over long periods).
  • Relaxation is also a Mobility Principle: along with breathing and patience. If you lack either of these it is now wonder why your strength and mobility goals seem so unattainable no matter how hard you try. Its because you are trying too hard!

In the words of the Omni-Dimensional Creator:

“You gotta chill, man.”


These principles should help construct your notions of how you work out (i.e. hardstyle, long rest) and also guide you to a more holistic way of training/taking care of your self (relaxation/recovery).

I hope these help your training,

and make sure you stay tuned for Part 2!

All the best my friends!

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Workout Organization Principles 1 : Mobility, Reactivity, Skill, Speed



This is a continuation of a previous article, StrongFirst: Principle Based Strength.

It will explain the first 4 points of the StrongFirst ‘S‘ : principles of workout organization


1) Mobility /  2) Reactivity  /  3) Skill  /  4) Speed


Workout Organization 

This topic is important for those who desire efficiency and want to get the most out of their workouts.

You may think that you can just walk into a gym and start benching, or skip from one type of workout class to the next, and some how ‘get in shape’.

The truth is that if you want to get in shape (whatever that means) and not just be good at benching or just OK at every known exercise -you have to plan out, step by step, the path to your goal.

Remember, if you fail to plan you plan to fail.

The majority of people don’t have fitness goes beyond just getting fit.

That is because they have no idea of their physical limitations nor their physical abilities relative to others.

So for the general person I will use the very general goal of getting fit as the end point, so that we can begin with the laying out of the step by step process towards it…. sounds fun….right?

I want to make this aspect of your life easier

If you follow the order laid out by the StrongFirst ‘S‘ you will find yourself on the fast track to fitness success.



  • Soft tissue work first. Do this in order to get the tissue moving in the right way.
  • Foam roll, Band work, Active Stretching
  • Write down a mobility goal, ideally have it relate to an exercise you know you will be doing later i.e. better hip mobility in the deep squat.
  • Some Movement Patterning work for the exercises you know you will be doing later is a good idea.

2) Reactivity

  • Having slow reactivity means you have a slow nervous system, this is an indicator of how much time you have left.
  • you can train reactivity in many ways:
    • vision and balance drills
    • catching and tossing drills
    • pursuit drills
  • It is important to do this prior to lifting, because the effects of this type of training will increase your ability to produce strength later in the workout.
  • Doing this after a workout will reduce the training effect.


  • 5-10 minute period
  • work on one exercise you want to learn
  • or on a part of an exercise you know you need to get better at
  • do this after reactivity drills to increase their training effect; the brain learns best stimulated but not fatigued.
  • do Skill movements super slow motion if possible first
  • gradually increase speed as proficiency increases, if anything, leave the speed for the next section.

4) Speed

  • 10-20 minute period
  • Speed, like skill work, is done prior to any excess fatigue.
  • Speed development means fast twitch muscle fiber development.
  • Metabolic waste is detrimental to speed I.E. no one gets faster as a game progress.
  • This includes jumping, explosive kettlebell movements, Olympic lifting, sprinting, plyometrics and the like.


I hope you enjoyed this, stay tuned for part 2

and other related articles


All the best!

Your Friendly neighborhood Trainer 🙂

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StrongFirst: Principle Based Strength

Hello everyone!

This is an Epic Post about 3 different but interwoven subjects:

  • StrongFirst Principles
  • Tim Ferris Podcast; Pavel Interview
    ( I borrow bits of their ideas and create new monsters out of the pieces)
  • StrongFirst “Best of”‘ Strength Exercises

8 Points of the StrongFirst ‘S’:


Use this Visual to help make your strength practice more efficient .

Use the left half of the table below to help order each of your workouts.

Use the right half of this table as a way to organize your thoughts on HOW you work out.


  1. Mobility
  2. Reactivity
  3. Skill
  4. Speed/strength
  5. Strength/power
  6. Strength
  7. Conditioning
  8. Relaxation/Recovery


  1. Safety First
  2. Strength has a greater Purpose
  3. Tension is Strength (Hard Style)
  4. Relaxation is Strength
  5. Perfect Technique
  6. ‘Long’ Rest
  7. Simple
  8. Sinister



Mobility Principles

relaxation / breathing / patience

use your Strength

create Space

Share the load


In order to increase your mobility, you must be able to RELAX while in uncomfortable positions.

Breathing in a specific fashion will ensure relaxation.

Long term mobility changes take a long time and A LOT of patience.

Mobility involves using your strength to push or pull yourself into more range of motion.

while ‘stretching’ don’t just sit there, wiggle around, flex/relax, rotate etc in order to ‘create space’ within the joints.

Share tension throughout your body. Learn to link muscles from head to toe in order to effectively ‘share the load’ – (this works with Strength as well).

Mel C. Siff – Principles for Progress

“Whichever system….is chosen, the underlying principle to be applied is that of optimal stress and restoration” (Siff, SuperTraining)

  1. Production of adequate muscle tension is central to all muscle training
  2. The maximum training benefits are derived by using muscle tension of no less than %40-%50 of ones 1 rep max
  3. Maximum training effect does not require prolonged muscle tension to the point of fatigue
  4. One single maximal strength effort per day is sufficient to maintain progress


Pavel Love’s Dr. Siff

Most of Pavel’s articles cite Mel Siff at one point or another.

(not) surprisingly,  Pavel / StrongFirst / the HardStyle method  goes quite well with Siff’s Principles.

In a Podcast Tim Ferris Interviews Pavel Statsouline, in which Pavel describes how StrongFirst/hardstyle method is:

“principle based strength …. (so) its applications are many.

In a nut shell, Pavel wants you to be able to create tension – some would say an excessive amount of tension – by squeezing your Grip, your (own) Glutes and your Abs. And then you want to be able to direct that tension/force in any way you so choose.


the TIM / PAVEL Interview at a glance:

  • the height of the soviet weight lifting team was guided by empirical studies of what worked best for their athletes
  • for Strength the Soviets suggested using 1/3rd – 2/3rds of your rep max per set
    • i.e. if you are using 10 rep max weight –  only do 3-6 reps
  • for Hypertrophy do many sets of 5 or 6 reps at %50-60 of max
  • for Slow twitch muscle fiber training – see occlusion
    • Squat for the lower body @ %30-%60 rep max
    • Push Up for upper body @ %10-%40 rep max
    • sets around 30-60second
    • Slow, no lockout (not full range to maintain occlusion)
    • 5-10min of active rest
    • DAY 1 = 4-9 sets  // 3 or 4 days later //  DAY 2 = 1-3 sets


MY personal suggestion

 – > How to organize the above programs so as to maximize progress:

  • High reps before Low reps: ‘functional hypertrophy’ as in; do the same movement that you want to get stronger in – so that the neural pathways get better along side with muscular adaption in just the places that you need in order to get better at that specific movement.
    • use this first phase to accumulate a high volume of repetitions – follow the many sets of 5-6reps advice


  • Work up to Low reps and High intensity: in either a linear or wave like fashion work up from using 1/3rd to 2/3rds of your rep max per set.
    • use this phase to increase the intensity of your workout i.e. increase neural drive and maximal tension


  • Switch is up with Slow twitch muscle fiber training: after low rep / high intensity training phase, your body will adapt best to a complete switch in how you are training.
    • Your high intensity fast twitch muscles will have been taxed from the previous phase – when you switch to training your slow twitch you give your fast twitch a break while maintaining their strength and size.
    • Better slow twitch muscles will assist  power output in strength exercises and sport – follow Pavel’s suggestions.


  • Take some time off


  • Test or Repeat : high rep/accumulation phaselow rep/intensity phaseslow twitch phase


StrongFirst “Best of'” Strength Exercises

The Best Exercises for the upper body and the lower body.

For an exercise to make it to the top of the list it must have a balance of Safety, Carry Over and Benefit.


BB back
BB front
KB front

Hip Hinge

barbell DL
good morning
KB swing


KB press
BB press
handstand press
1 arm push up


Pull Ups


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Maintain the Squat

Hello my friends,


Have you ever heard Gray Cook say; “maintain the squat, train the deadlift”?

why should we listen to this? – keep reading to find out 🙂


The Bottom Position of the Squat

is one of the first positions our bodies learn as babies.

How infants developed physically start with gripping, reaching, rolling, then crawling.

And at some magical point he or she crawls or rocks backwards with their feet flat on the ground until the majority of their weight is over top their feet.

The infant could perhaps stand up with help from an adorably tiny chair, but on their own accord infants at this stage do not have enough strength/stability to stand up.


In the mean time they spend a lot of time just sitting in that position.

Eventually, along with the help of a myriad  different “assistance exercises” (playing with blocks, crawling, pulling mom’s hair) the infant will develop enough strength, coordination and balance to stand up.

What is important to understand is that not everyone gets there in the same way or at the same speed, but we do all end up in the same place.


The main take away of all this is?  –  Why do we pay attention to these evolutionary stages;

  1. Use them to assess at what level or posture movement dysfunction occurs
  2. Have a starting point for a corrective strategy (the best part is that the assessment can also be used as the corrective)
  3. Understand that all human bodies go through evolutionary stages, what differs is in HOW we get there.



The Deadlift :like the lion, is king.

Especially in today’s seated (sedentary) lifestyle.

The very musculature that is warped by our desk jobs, are trained out of their dysfunctions by the execution of good Deadlift .

On average what ever we can squat, we can Deadlift – but this is not true the other way around.

The unique use of the entire musculature and ideal mechanical advantage allows us to Deadlift heavier than we can squat -> For this reason alone, the Deadlift will always produce a greater strengthening effect.

That is to say, as your Deadlift numbers go up, your squat numbers will too.


in the human developmental sequence, what you will see is an infant squat down – get a good grip – then instinctively stick their hips up to effectively Deadlift the object off the floor instead of squat it.

The developmental sequence shows us once again  the truth of Gray’s words.

It appears that humans developed the mobility and stability requirements for the squat first, but instinctively utilize the Deadlift pattern for lifting.

No one is saying don’t Squat, just that you don’t have to use it as a strength exercise all that often. I would suggest using the Squat in a phase after a high volume of Deadlift as a way to keep up general strength without taxing the Deadlift pathway.

Maintain the Squat.

Train the Deadlift.



Squat Maintenance

Remember how I said that infants spent a lot of time just hanging out in the bottom of the squat?

With this in mind it will not surprise you to find out what my suggestion for maintaining the squat is:

How To Maintain Your Squat

> Accumulate a 1 minute bottom position hold

> Work up to a 5 minute bottom position hold

Important Note!

the bottom position must be PERFECT

  • tight pelvic floor
  • hip flexors and glutes engaged
  • chest proud, neck relaxed
  • breathing not labored

How to “Accumulate” a 1 minute bottom hold:

– a spectrum of movements to help you get a better Squat bottom position

  • supine “baby” position
    • lying on back with either your feet on a wall or you are holding your knees. The idea is to isometrically contract as hard as possible for 10s at a time (makes sure you breathe)
  • quadruped rocking
    • hands and knees position. Engage the upper and lower body and connect them with the trunk. push your hips back to your ankles, then pull your hips to your hands. The idea is to keep a flat, neutral spine throughout.
  • crawl
    • kinda obvious; hands and knees, opposite arm and leg moving at the same time.
  • rocking back into bottom position of squat
    • once you can hold a good bottom position do 3 sets of a 20 second hold with some crawls and rocks during the 1 minute of rest. The idea is to crawl/rock into the bottom position (like an infant would) and hold a tight position (remember the infant has to really work hard to stay in that position)
  • Walking squat holds
    • walk around and every 10-20 seconds squat down, hold for 5-10 seconds, squat back up. shake out and keep walking around. Stay loose.


I hope this helps you think if not makes you think.

All the best,

your friendly neighborhood trainer 😉