Monday, July 28, 2008

Following Rocky's Footsteps in Philly...

Greetings from the City of Brotherly Love!

I've been enjoying visiting my old hang outs. It's fun catching up with friends, family and clients and opportunities for great training abound as always. As anyone who's been reading along knows, I've a real penchant for outdoor workouts. I love having the whole world as my gym.

Even when I lived in Philly and owned Maxercise, I spent a lot of time in my own backyard gym. I love the fresh air and sunshine. When it comes to training, I don't really mind even the heat and humidity...much. I love to work myself up into a lather, they say, and I've had plenty of opportunity to do just that with this east coast summer ambiance.

I decided upon an impromptu workout on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. One of the most famous workout scenes of all time is the scene from Rocky where Sylvester Stallone sprints up the stairs and does his jubilant dance while looking over the city. Bus load after bus load of tourists stopped at the base of the stairs as I watched the people unload and chase each other up the steps, each individually re-enacting the famous Hollywood scene. I decided to join them with my own version, doing as many stair sprints as possible in 15 minutes.

These stairs are tricky because they are neither even nor linear, they are broken up into several different lengths. Sprinting in general is fantastic for anaerobic conditioning, power, speed-endurance and HGH production. Because of the selective use of fast-twitch muscle fiber and the post-workout Human Growth Hormone surge (with its accompanying fat-burning and metabolic boost) stair sprints are an excellent anti-aging workout protocol. I regularly include sprint protocols in my own routines.

One of the downsides to stair sprinting is the knee stress on the descent. Running UP stairs is actually easier on your body than running down! For this reason, I take my time and walk back down instead of running.

I don't do stairs without thoroughly warming up. I chose another fantastic form of interval training for this: my trusty Lifeline Weighted Speed Rope. The weighted speed rope is a very deceitful training tool. It's about 1 kg, which is light enough to spin at a fairly fast pace, but the weight is heavy enough to thoroughly engage the upper body musculature so you'll feel the cardio effects throughout the entire body, instead of just the lower body. The hands, wrists, forearms, elbows and shoulders get a heavy, strength-endurance workout along with the feet, ankles, calves and thighs. The cool thing about the heavy speed rope is that it's actually easier for beginners to use than a regular jump rope because of its slower turning speed...but, just because you're going slower than you would on a regular jump rope doesn't mean you're getting any less of a workout. This rope is a total butt-kicker.

People who are used to jumping rope on a regular rope have expressed dismay when I put them on the weighted speed rope. They're shocked at how quickly their heart rate is driven and the level of fatigue they're experiencing. It's kind of like doing a whole-body sprint. Another cool thing about the heavy speed rope? It can be used in a confined space, e.g. indoors, so there's never any excuse not to get your sprint on, even in the inclement weather! With this baby, you can always get an amazing cardio workout--even in your jail cell!

For my Art Museum Workout, I started with:
15 rounds of 30-sec heavy speed rope sprints, with 30-sec recovery

After a 5-min rest I was ready to ascend the stairs, the stairs to heaven, if you will, since sprints produce a certain euphoria by stimulating the release of feel-good neurotransmitters.

Starting from the bottom, I sprinted to the top and then quickly walked back down.
I repeated as many rounds as I could get in 15 minutes. I got about 12 rounds. I lost count somewhere in the middle but who cares? I was...flying high, now!

I imagined the gray-sweat-suit-clad Rocky flying up those stairs.

At the end of the workout, I had that oh-so-pukey-good feeling and chugged my post-workout recovery treat drink.

I then availed myself to the municipal fountain for a post-workout dip--it's the ultimate recovery drink! When you live in a van, you can't be too choosy, though I read in the paper the Philly police will soon be cracking down on this sort of thing...

For you aging boomers out there, work in a set of sprints at least once a week. If you're low-carbing, be sure to replenish glycogen with a post-workout carbohydrate/whey solution.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

12 Reasons to Fire Your Personal Trainer

1. Your trainer is a poor match.
Training is a personality-driven business. More important than credentials, or even knowledge, the trainer's personality must be a good match with yours. The trainer's job is to be upbeat, positive and always in a good mood. Mood management is a hallmark of the true professional. If the two of you fight like a married couple, it's a poor match.

2. You're getting injured.
Even with the best personal trainers, an occasional injury is unavoidable, but when you have constant, nagging, recurrent injuries, your trainer isn't paying attention to proper form and technique.

3. No results or poor results.
Some clients have unrealistic expectations about what they can or cannot do; however, if you feel like you're on that treadmill-to-nowhere, never making progress with your weight loss or strength goals, then it's a good bet your trainer is incompetent. Which leads us to number 4...

4. No record-keeping.
For fat loss in particular, it's very important to document progress with anthropometric measurements and before/after photos. Skin folds and other measures of body composition are generally inaccurate but can sometimes be useful in gauging the general trend of fat loss progress. If your trainer isn't keeping precise records, including recording each workout, then he's simply lazy.

5. Not paying attention to your stated goals and needs.
Goals should be hammered out during the first meeting and everything should be made clear. If the trainer doesn't keep his agreement and starts to veer from the agreed-upon path, then it's time to say adios.

6. You're in a constant state of fatigue from your workouts.
Included here is frequent colds and other illness, constantly aching joints, especially a "heaviness" of the limbs. This means your trainer is driving you into the dreaded overtraining. Working out is meant to enhance your quality of life and make you feel better, not worse. This doesn't mean your goals don't require hard work--they do--but a good trainer knows the difference between under and over training and should be able to figure out the proper dose of exercise for you, if he's any good at all.

7. Using negative reinforcement.
Most people feel bad enough about themselves already and don't need anybody else to make them feel worse. Personal training is to help you feel good about yourself and enforce positive habits and positive self-image. Some clients may seem to respond well to being berating and insulting in a boot camp/drill instructor style, but in my experience, people who like this kind of training have a masochistic disorder, enjoying emotional beat downs. Words are powerful tools and affect the subconscious mind. Using negative techniques does nothing to promote health and healing. As a young trainer, I used to fall into this pattern because I thought it was cool and macho but later I realized it created more harm than good...for them and me.

8. Your trainer complains about his own personal issues on your time.
Your trainer is paid to be there for you. Part of that entails paying all of his attention to the details of your workout and supporting you in your optimal performance. There's no room for sharing personal gossip. If he's a constant complainer, run for the nearest exit! I've also heard trainers engage with their clients in a gab-fest and end up talking more than doing.

9. Your trainer is always late.
This is an indication he has no respect for you or your time. Subconsciously, he's not looking forward to seeing you and doing his job. When people are late for appointments, they're avoiding and procrastinating the meeting because they don't want to be there--this includes taking cell phone calls and texting during the workout. There are times these things are unavoidable, but anymore than very occasional is a waste of your money. Find someone who's in the moment with you.

10. Your trainer is a Don Juan.
There's an old saying, "you don't sh*t where you eat". These relationships rarely work out. There's undeniably sexual attraction when two people meet and it happens in every professional setting. Casual flirtation is harmless. Letting people know you find them attractive can be a great ego boost. But when your trainer is a known player around the gym, you may do better with someone with a better handle on who they really are. Maturity on this level is a good indicator of professional commitment. The energy should be going into your workout, not titillations.

11. He's letting you get away with murder--and you know it.
Sometimes trainers put clients through ridiculously easy workouts (they don't push you, permit sloppy form, stick you on aerobic equipment while they just talk to you) just to make some easy money. They don't progress you or design new programs. Or they switch up your program so frequently there are no meaningful gains made. They don't admonish you for diet infractions or missed workouts or touch on any seemingly unpleasant topics because they're interested only in your money, not you and your progress. A true fitness professional will call you on your bullsh!t because he's about earning the money he's paid.

12. Poor personal health and workout habits.
If your trainer shows up for your appointment looking like he slept in his clothes, sloppy and disheveled, it means he has no personal pride in his profession or appearance. The same goes for fat trainers. If your goal is weight loss, how can you expect someone else's help if they can't discipline their own eating? Another old saying in the coaching business: you can't take someone else where you haven't been.

Fatties in the weight-loss business are something to be avoided like the plague.

Before the flames arrive, let me clarify: I'm not talking about a power lifting coach or someone training strongmen. Being heavy and carrying extra body fat can be an advantage in these types of events. I'm talking about people who work with the general public where weight control and increased health are the primary goals. In my opinion, there's no place for fat trainers. If you're a fat trainer reading this, have some pride in your appearance, follow your own advice and get the weight off, otherwise you're in the wrong profession.

Further, I'd like to state that in over 36 years of working in the personal training business, I have violated many of these rules at one time or another...and I later regretted it. I've lost both clients and income and--worse--people's trust in me. Luckily, I'm a fast learner and corrected these mistakes and became a better trainer for it.

** Model/personal training client Bernadette Buckley puts up with Coach Steve's nonsense for the benefit of all. He was promptly fired.


I think a person who is in such a great shape at your age commands respect. It makes me want to know more about your techniques.
I'm now hesitating between 2 of your DVDs...300 Kettlebell Challenge and Cruel and Unusual 2. What's the difference between the 2 videos? I'm interested in learning some joint mobility movements. Does that mean I should go with 300?
My general goal is to bulk up my upper body a little bit (especially the shoulders) and shed some body fat to get a more ripped look.

A: Between the two DVDs, Cruel & Unusual 2 is is better for your goals...but Ultimate Upper Body Pull-Up Workout is better still.

I want to lose weight and get in peak shape using kettlebells. I have the kettlebells but I want a progressive training program.
Would getting the Cruel & Unusual 2 be the way to go? Are those four workouts progressively tougher or just different?

A: Cruel & Unusual 2 is four different workouts that are all about equally tough.
For training progression and fat loss go with KB300. Your progressions will be decreasing your times in getting through the routine. KB300 is a specific fat-burner as well. Consider my online training services for a personalized program.

Thanks for writing, everyone and thanks for reading!


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Body Weight Trainer's Certification

On Sunday 20 July I presented my first Body Weight Trainer's Certification. Drawing from over 36 years experience, the course content came from many diverse disciplines: wrestling, martial arts, yoga, gymnastics and military training.

This was the first time test-driving the material in a certification format. There was such a vast amount of material to cover that I realize now it takes two days to get through it all. I also see a place for a level 2 certification.

Teaching this course was a BLAST since body weight exercise is one of my favorite ways to work out. Everyone who attended had a great time and said their money was well-spent.

Here's an especially nice email that arrived the next day:

Steve, John and the Maxercise Staff,
Just wanted to a thank you and kudos for a wonderful day filled with
practical and applicable knowledge. It was money well spent. Steve,
you are truly an inspiring human being and reaffirm my faith in a
physical culture. I am sorry I could not stay the extra time!
Those of you who take the time to send me emails, know that I really appreciate them. There's a post-seminar energy crash and getting a thoughtful email is a wonderful balm.

Some subjects covered in the body weight trainer's certification:

* How to teach beginners basic push-ups, pull-ups & body weight squats safely
* Wrist, elbow & shoulder alignment techniques to prevent overuse injuries
* How to balance the shoulder joints to keep them pain-free
* Spinal & core alignment for a healthy back and a stronger, more streamlined mid-section
* Dozens of push-ups, pull-up and squat variations
* Proper handstand technique
* Proprietary Maxercise combinations & complexes
* Ways of using calisthenics as a superior means of cardiovascular exercise
for superior athletic performance and fat loss

My favorite moment? Running everyone through my special push-up board exercises, of course! One in particular: a sprinter-lunge sequence that really had everyone sitting up and taking clip below.

The feedback has been tremendous and we're already planning the next cert. Stay tuned to this site or the Maxbells site if you missed this one. Attendees also receive a video of the cert.

Thanks for reading!
In Strength & Health,

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sweatin' to the Oldies

Hey gang!

I'm back to where it all began: Philadelphia is not only the "city of brotherly love" but is where the United States began. As much as I've been enjoying my old gym and friends and family, the ol' Coach still loves workout out outdoors the most, especially when the weather is less than optimal. This is a unique way to challenge myself. I like going where few dare to tread. When others scurry for the indoor comforts, I seek the mental, physical and spiritual challenges of pitting myself against Mother Nature. The weather has been typical of Philadelphia in July: high 90s with 90% humidity. It definitely reminds me of one of the many reasons I left!

So there I was, in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, just along the picturesque Schuykill River...with a heat index of 110. You people living in hot weather, quit yer bitchin. Get your ass out ther and work out--if I can do it, you can do it!

Today's workout:
* I'm wearing an Iron Wear weight vest . I think it's the best vest for this type of workout , where you're lying upon the ground a lot, because: the weights are very soft and flexible and don't hurt you when you lie on them. The vest also conforms to the body very well without shaking or loosening, it stays nice and snug. If you want to add a weight vest to make your body weight routines more interesting, start with about 10% of your body weight.

I did a circuit training, consisting of 3 rounds of the following exercises:

1) Pull-Ups
2) Power Wheel Roll-Outs
3) Hindu Push-Ups on push-up board
4) Power Wheel Leg Curls
5) Power Wheel Pike Ups
6) Deck Squats

Whatever number you get for your pull-ups sets the numbers for the rest of the exercises,
* Pull-ups and roll-outs = same number of reps
* Double that number for the Hindu push-ups, leg curls and pike ups
* Double that number for the deck squats

The weight vest REALLY made the deck squats hard! Rolling up into the squat position while being so top heavy was a challenge. The routine became quite cardio.

If you notice, there are many yogic conditioning elements in the routines I construct and every routine is geared towards mobility and ROM enhancement, with special emphasis placed on spinal movement.

Living in a van and not being in proximity to a gym, well, showers can be challenging. I joined a bunch of kids romping in a fountain on Benjamin Franklin Parkway and cooled off. Then it was down to Fourth St. Famous Deli for a giant omelette. Tonight, after BJJ training at Maxercise, it's off to see The Dark Knight.

There's still time to join me Sunday for my Body Weight Training Certification, where I'll show you many exercises, like the ones in the following video clips, along with their progressions, to help your clients become all they can be.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rumble at the Underground Gym

Last Saturday, at Zach Even-Esh's Underground Gym, we put on the Gladiator Strength Seminar. Zach and I had been pepping each other up over the phone for weeks, with all the great stuff we planned to unleash for our guests. We couldn't have planned it any better than it turned out. Zach's gym is a wonderful playground with a vast array of functional equipment. There are kettlebells for swingin'; giant tires for flippin'; sledgehammers for poundin'; sand bags for heftin'; sleds for pullin'; prowlers for pushin' rings; ropes chains, for what-have-you; and several tons of weights, in the form of Olympic barbells and dumbbells. All this in a Rocky-esque garage out in New Jersey.

Zach and I pulled out all the stops. We demo'd all our favorite techniques and moves and wowed the attendees. At the end of the day everyone was tired, but happy. The testimonials were all rave reviews. It was very satisfying to know my efforts were appreciated. For those of you unable to attend, great news: Zach and I recorded every golden nugget of information for a DVD which will be available on our respective websites. Now you can have Zach and Steve present a kick-ass seminar right in your own living room! Better yet, put the DVD in your laptop, take it outside and set it up on a picnic table and follow right along with some of the cutting-edge techniques we deliver.

The bad news is my loely assistant, in a single, awful moment, accidentally deleted all the photos of the seminar from the camera's memory card. And they were fantastic, beautiful shots, too. Don't hate!

The good news is Zach stepped up, like he always does, and provided this tasty video clip, a tour of his gym--enjoy it! If you're able, go check it out in person, what a blast the place is.

One of the highlights of the Gladiator Seminar was when I taught my newly revised ab, back and core segment. I've put together a grueling sequence of exercise movements that work synergistically to produce amazing results in abdominal strength and development. It's all based on body weight moves--no equipment required except your living room carpet. It's not the exercises per se, but the sequencing that makes it so effective. It's all balanced out by my special lower back program. At 55, my abdominals have never looked better and my back is strong, healthy and pain-free. For those of you who would have liked to attend, you get a second chance: Sunday 20 July I present my first Body Weight Trainer's Certification. Not only will you learn my unique sequences, but you'll learn how to teach to others, even the de-conditioned. Click here for more info.

Ask Coach!

Q: The Spartan 300 Workout is great! How many times a week should I do the DVD?

A: Thanks!
Do it no more than 3 times a week on non-consecutive days.
It's a brutal workout. If you want to mix in weights, do weights on one of the non-consecutive days.

Q: I was curious about your KB program outlined in the original RKC.
I compete MMA and think this training is perfect for my S+C. But I was curious about the split: I've been doing the circuit Mondays and Fridays and doing the snatch work Wednesdays and Saturdays. Too much or too little?

P.S. ...I was wondering what kind of training you would personally recommend to MMA fighters.

A: I don't know how much MA training you're doing but if you compete it's probably considerable. Doing so much KB work combined with all the MA is a recipe for over training.

Probably cut the KB routines to no more than once per week each routine.
The most valuable training is your skills training.

What kind of training I'd personally recommend?

A. Depends on the event, ie, length of time of the fight
B. Depends on the rules of the event, ie, amateur or pro level
C. Depends upon the weaknesses and strengthes of the fighter, meaning, I'd have to observe him to see what to train

Consider trying out my online training services. My clients, several of whom are MMA fighters, are getting excellent results.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New MaxBells Body Weight Training Certification

Training with your own body weight as the primary source of resistance is quickly re-emerging as a popular training modality. And why not? It's simple and effective, allowing complete autonomy. When you have a thorough understanding of body weight exercise, you'll get phenomenal result-producing workouts anytime and anyplace.

Body weight regimens have been around since...well, the beginning of time and there's no disputing the results. For examples, look at the classic physiques of the ancient Greek warriors right up to the modern Navy SEAL, Army Ranger and U.S. Marine.

Certainly, more people would practice body weight exercises, but in our machine-dependent age people have become confused with the variety of available exercise devices and intimidated by the concept of their mere body as resistance. The modern health club has done a grave disservice to its patrons by over emphasizing weight-machine-type apparatus. People simply don't know how to use their own bodies in an effective, progressive, safe manner--and this goes for most modern-day instructors as well. The typical gym instructor in a chain fitness facility or corporate gym is either too lazy or incompetent to teach people proper technique, alignment and form. Most instructors came through exercise science, exercise physiology or kinesiology curricula which teach little or nothing in the way of practical, down-in-the-trenches workout know-how. Sadly, instructors who do use body weight conditioning exercises generally produce a high level of client injury.

It's not always the instructors fault, they haven't been educated. Many would like to incorporate body weight exercises but find teaching exercises such as the handstand, hanging leg raise, or dip too daunting since their clients are usually too weak or otherwise de-conditioned to endeavor these seemingly simple movements. Those instructors who try can end up with dismal results or worse: injured clients. No one ever showed these instructors these crucial elements:

  1. Proper progression sequences
  2. Joint alignment
  3. Core engagement
  4. How to prevent spinal collapse
  5. How to utilize irradiation technique
  6. Hip, knee, ankle and foot alignment
  7. Proper use of the upper back and lats in protecting the shoulders.

The horrors I've witnessed in the gyms of my far and recent past still haunt me to this day! People performing body weight exercises in the most appalling form imaginable! Necks a-craning; collapsed scapulae and upper backs a-straining; grievous internally-rotated shoulders; oh-so-misaligned wrists, knees a-knockin'; ankles a-rollin'...

One scene in particular still wakes me in the night: a hyper-perky female teen-trainer chirping away before a group of middle-aged, overweight women clients, two of whom are borderline obese, whom this trainer oversees performing advanced, plyometric box jumps. It was obvious to anyone both women were struggling with a form they'd not yet been strengthened enough to carry out.

Now, the box jump is a perfectly useful exercise for athletes with strong feet, ankles and knees, but these sedentary office worker trainees were in no way ready for it. As their form ever-deteriorated into greater misalignment, I watched the pain and discouragement sketch across their faces--and this scenario is typical of what you might see in any-gym, in any town, across this country.
Had our young trainer been schooled in the correct process, she'd have been able to graduate her clients through more appropriate movements until they'd built strength enough to master the box jump. That same day I asked those two women, "How do your knees feel?" and both replied they were in pain, their knees hurting from their workout session. A poor fitness value, indeed.

I've spent more than 36 years in the exercise field, mastering my trade, and making a specialty of body weight conditioning exercise. I've drawn from martial arts, yoga, Pilates, the H├Ębert method, dance, Eastern European gymnastics and Middle Eastern wrestling conditioning.

I've learned at the feet of great exercise masters--because these things need to be learned. People don't just walk into the gym knowing this stuff--even experienced trainers--it takes patience and dedication.

I've put together a systematized approach, empowering you to administer conditioning programs based on body weight resistance to even the most de-conditioned people, the feeble or infirm...but that's not all: at the other end of the fitness spectrum my advanced routines have been used by world-class, elite athletes. There is no fencing around the endless landscape of the body! I have empathy, I know it's easy for an average trainer to become discouraged and continue plopping people on machines, but far nobler to broaden your knowledge base in order to coach such de-conditioned people into acquiring a mastery over their own bodies, thus weaning them off fitness machinery.

I assure anyone taking my body weight certification: Even if you're already expert in body weight exercise, you'll come away with fresh, exciting ideas in teaching progressions, technique and routines.

I've dedicated most of my lifetime in developing my exercise system and I invite anyone to join me at Maxercise, Saturday 20 July for the inaugural Body Weight Training Certification Course. I stand behind my work and offer a 100% money back guarantee to anyone who looks me in the eye and says they didn't get their money's worth.

I look forward to seeing you all there. Right now I've gotta some handstands. Thanks for reading!

In Strength & Health,


P.S. Big surprise tba at the Gladiator Strength Seminar--if you were fortunate enough to get in, you're going to experience something akin to...ecstasy??? Remember, it's unbecoming for a warrior to display smugness, so try to keep it cool...

If you missed out on registering, there is a wait list or possible space at the door. Click here.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

10 Reasons I Use a Push-Up Board

For more than 15 years I've used a push-up board for the majority of my body-weight upper-body pushing exercises. It's a simple, efficient and economical tool that delivers results no other similar device can. Here are ten reasons I use my push-up board:

1. The push-up board is easier on the wrists
As a trainer, one of the major complaints I hear is either push-ups aggravate pre-existing wrist problems or, worse, create them. Not so with a push-up board. Other push-up devices, such as the
Perfect Push-Up, alleviate wrist problems in certain push-up exercises while compounding wrist strain in others.

2. Less strain on the elbows
Because the hands are in a more natural alignment and the board is actually gripped, you can keep the elbows rolled inward (with the pit of the elbow forward and the point of the elbow back) yoga-style, thus they flex in a more natural pattern.

3. Less shoulder strain
Once the wrists and elbows are held in proper alignment, the shoulders are able to engage in a more natural way, alleviating the shoulder pain and injury consequent to most push-up movements. People who do a lot of push-ups usually complain of considerable front-shoulder pain and discomfort. This is not so with the push-up board, leading us to reason #4...

4. Better lat and sub-scapular muscle engagement
Because the push-up board design interconnects the hands (as opposed to two separate push-up handles) you're able to
pull yourself down during the negative/eccentric part of the movement. True, this can be done without the board, but the board makes it MUCH easier to learn this action and follow through. Regular use of the push-up board creates much greater balance in shoulder girdle development. This is mainly due to a specific "cork-screw" action of the hands and elbows (which I teach in my seminars and DVDs) and is difficult, at best, to perform without the board.

5. More muscle fiber recruitment in arms, shoulders and chest
The gripping and squeezing action of the hands upon the board gives rise to a process known as
irradiation. Irradiation, a muscle tension principle (which I also fully explain in my workshops) instantly increases muscular strength, sometimes as much as 15%.

6. Better engagement of core musculature
The board's structure provides a stable platform for a host of full-body push-up movements involving every fiber of the body's core. Here's the money quote: Using the push-up board has
without a doubt enhanced my abdominal development and definition in a way that sit-ups or other abdominal exercises NEVER could.

7. Deeper stretching of the spine and hip flexors
The old-time physical culturists knew that you're only as young--or old--as your spine. One bane of modern civilization is chronic tightness in the hamstrings hip flexors resulting from prolonged sitting in chairs. Most civilized people spend the majority of their time seated either before their desks or within their automobiles--is this you? This posture shortens these critical muscles of movement, additionally promoting an unseemly curvature of the upper spine: the dreaded hyper-kyphotic curve, or dowager hump, prevalent in today's society...and not just among the elderly.

The antidote to these ills? Regularly working up a lather on your trusty push-up board, which unlocks the spine and hip flexors. this directly plays into reason #8...

8. Lengthening of the calves and hamstrings
The all-important hamstrings, because of continual bent-leg positioning, become drastically shortened, along with the musculature of the calves. When the calf muscles are shortened and tight, a veritable cascade of problems occur in the ankles and feet, in turn transferring locomotive impact forces into the knees, hips and lower back. opening, i.e., lengthening the calf muscles is a priority in re-mediating these problems. A time-honored yoga asana, the downward-facing dog, is a thousands year-old counter-action.

The problem with the downward dog pose is it's typically difficult for most people to perform correctly. By slightly elevating the hands on the push-up board, this posture is more accessible to all but the most flexible. The push-up board is the only device of which I'm aware allowing alignment and strengthening work to the lower body structures as well as the upper body structures. Which brings us to #9...

9. The push-up board catalyzes a wide variety of whole-body movements impossible to do on other push-up devices
The push-up board enables strengthening of
every body muscle, including the legs!

10. The push-up board is a two thousand year-old tradition
I am in love with the concept of training as an ancient warrior. The push-up board follows this precept of ancient tools for modern warriors. I hold a deep skepticism of most modern contrivances. in spite of our technological advances, I've witnessed a steady decline in the health and robustness of men everywhere. Modern science hasn't produced solutions to the epidemic of general softening. I say, let us hearken back to a time where men understood how to be men and used the traditional tools that built healthy, functional and beautiful bodies.

There is still time to sign up for the Gladiator Seminar, starring Zach Even-Esh, yours truly...and you! We can squeeze two more guys or girls in. In addition to the incredible experience you'll have, we'll be offering special discounted packages for personalized online training, future seminars, DVDs, push-up boards...and much more. These offers are exclusively available to the Gladiator Seminar participants. Click here.

Registrations for my singular
Body Weight Trainer Certification are going fast. Saturday 20 July at Maxercise in Philadelphia. If you're serious about body weight training, you don't want to miss this. Email or call Maxercise: 215-928-1374 and get yourself signed up.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Monkey Business

Recently I made a cross-country trek in my camper-van with my trusty assistant. Along the way we had many fitness adventures. We stopped at Mark and Lisa Twight's gym, Gym Jones, in Salt Lake City; swung sledgehammers and kettlebells in the prairie dog towns of the vast western plains; hiked up and down the streets of Deadwood SD, right past the saloon where Bill Hickok met his maker; we used the Lifeline Jungle Gym on the banks of the Missouri river and afterwards, took a dip in the river. I did a yoga workout on a dock over the Mississippi river, then pitted my strength against its mighty currents. Finally, we stopped in Madison WI to spend some time with my friend, Jon Hinds, at his Monkey Bar Gymnasium...

Now, the Monkey Bar Gym is my kind of place and Jon Hinds is my kind of people! The gym has no music or mirrors and shoes are discouraged in favor of bare feet and natural body weight movement, utilizing some specifically designed equipment. The entire body gets trained, primarily the pushing and pulling muscles. Ropes, rings, parallel ladders, Jungle Gyms, peg board, suspended chains-with-handles, and a rope ladder, were just some of the amazing pieces of training equipment. Many of the devices were invented by Jon himself. One of my favorite workout challenges was his pipe-and-ropes course, suspended from the ceiling of one of the gym's training rooms. The challenge is to make it the whole way around the room, hanging from the arms while navigating the various obstacles in a single circuit. There's only one guy who's done it, a young athlete with phenomenal gripping power.

I knew I had little chance of making the circuit, but I heard tell of some other well-known trainers who'd visited before me and I simply wanted to best them! Jon tells me I did, so I'm satisfied.

One of Jon's inventions, the insidious Power Wheel, makes Pavel's evil wheel look like child's play. The Power Wheel straps to your feet, allowing you to perform a plethora of body weight exercises emphasizing core, back, hamstrings, and upper body. Jon immediately challenged me to a 100-yard challenge with the Power Wheel. This consists of locomoting on the hands, with the Power Wheel strapped to the feet, for a length of 100-yards.

He took me to the Wisconsin Badger football stadium in Madison to get the job done. Up first, was Jon's girlfriend, Jessica. She made an incredible 80 yards in the outdoor stadium but the rubber-augmented turf had heated to a scorching level in the sunshine and gave her second-degree burns on the palms. Jon and I took that cue and headed for the indoor training area, to spare our tender paws the same grim fate. Jon went first and broke his prior record of 80 yards by traversing the entire length of the field. I was nervous! Here was the device's inventor, who trains with it on a regular basis, and it really kicked his butt. I was fairly confident I'd do well because my Maxwell Strength & Conditioning system of body weight exercise includes a lot of upper body, locomotion-type movements. I was pleased to meet the 100-yard challenge! But man, was it tough, as you'll see in the video clip below.

What an amazing exercise! Every muscle in the core was lit up--plus lats, chest, shoulders and triceps. Surprisingly, my legs were quite fatigued, from holding the rigid plank position required to keep the wheel tracking properly.

The Power Wheel is one piece of equipment I didn't have in my mobile arsenal, and I like this much better than kettlebell Bear Crawls. John gifted me a Power Wheel and I intend to put it to good use!
I'm telling you the next day my abs and core were so sore. Between the rope/pole course and the wheel, a bit of the monkey was knocked out of me! I encourage anyone who desires a superior core-and-hamstring conditioning program to grab a Lifeline Power Wheel. They're brutal fun.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tahiti and Moorea Jiu-Jitsu

While visiting Tahiti, I spent time at the local Brazilian jiu-jitsu academy in Papeete, the Fabrice Girot Jiu-Jitsu Academy. The academy is run by Professor Fabrice Girot and operates out of a rented elementary school classroom. The students are mostly Tahitian, with a few French.

Fabrice is an excellent teacher and treated me and my GF very well. He is a true gentleman warrior. Fabrice and his students were thrilled to host a visiting black belt professor from the outside world and he and his students were so warm, friendly and gracious. Fabrice contacted the local news reporter and we were featured in the following week's sports section. I was so pleased to see a high level of technical jiu-jitsu on this isolated little island! Despite the growing popularity of BJJ, there is still a dearth of qualified instructors in the world. All too often, in schools far and near, you encounter schools run by self-promoted instructors, guys who award themselves black belts who shouldn't even be brown belts; brown belt instructors who shouldn't be purples; and purple belts at a blue belt level. Because of the demand for qualified instructors, unscrupulous people step in and teach out of their range of ability. This happens right here, all over the United States.

Jiu-jitsu is one art where you can't fake it because the truth comes out on the mat. The fake guys resist sparring or entering tournaments and for good reason: when they do, they take a drubbing, rarely getting past the first round. It was wonderful to see the technical proficiency of Fabrice's students. Man, those Tahitian boys are big! They grow them big in the islands, plus the Polynesian people are gifted with a natural athletic aptitude. I was honored to do some teaching at Fabrice's school, sharing the jiu-jitsu I know, and came away with many new friends.

The following week I was scheduled to visit the adjacent island of Moorea. Wondering to myself if I'd be able to find anyone training jiu-jitsu there, I was waiting for the ferry over and I saw a HUGE guy wearing a Gracie jiu-jitsu t-shirt. I immediately introduced myself and struck up a conversation, as I do! His name was Joel and despite a considerable language obstacle, we managed to communicate through the universal grappler's language. I understood that he'd trained eight years on his own, learning BJJ from DVDs and teaching it in turn to his friends. He'd even set up his own mini-underground inter-island tournament. He offered to pick me up the next day to visit his informal dojo. There on the island, most of the guys are surfers and train no-gi submission wrestling. On the way to the dojo, Joel continually apologized for the the shabby, built-by-hand school to which he was taking me but when we arrived, I was absolutely thrilled! It was one of the coolest outdoor structures I'd ever seen! It was built by Joel's friend, Jody, the local physical education teacher, and I thought it was utterly fantastic. It was an outdoor structure, totally open on all sides but for a low perimeter wall, and covered over, to shield from the rain, with a sloping, Tahitian-style roof. It was exactly what I'd visulaized in my dreams of Tahitian BJJ training. The mats, while a little, err, firm, were adequate. Joel asked me to teach a class and I happily obliged. Once again, the guys were HUGE! Some of them looked like they belonged on the cover of Men's Fitness.

Here, on this little island, thousands of miles from anywhere, this hardcore group of about 15 guys have been teaching themselves a fairly high level of no-gi grappling with Joel, a white belt instructor. The next day, I decided to give Joel a blue belt test. He donned his gi and after 1-1/2 hours of testing his proficiency, I was pleased to award him a blue belt.

I enjoyed teaching and training with the Moorea boys for the next week and once again, left Moorea with new, good friends and comrades. It never ceases to amaze me how
truly determined people can excel despite overwhelming odds. I plan to return soon and visit with my new friends. BJJ is alive and well on Tahiti and Moorea.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Natural Movement Exercise

During my recent visit to Moorea, French Polynesia, I met a physical education teacher, Jody Grosma, who taught at the island's agricultural school. We were training no-gi jiu-jitsu together at a cool little outdoor fare (open air structure) dojo he'd built outside his home on the beach. We loved talking training with each other and were pleased to discover our health and exercise philosophies had much in common.

Jody mentioned that while getting his physical education degree in France, he'd studied the "Methode
Hebert" of natural movement exercise. Now, I'm extremely well-read on the subject of old-time training systems and I've always based my own training on pre-1950's systems. This is because of the specter of performance-enhancing drugs. You have to be suspicious of so-called "results-producing" post-1960's protocols because the results of the adherents may be tainted by drug use but as a natural athlete I can completely trust exercise systems of the mighty men of old.

There were some kick-ass dudes way back during the times of our grandparents and great-grandparents who didn't have access to so much as a Flintstone vitamin, yet they produced stunningly, incredible, athletic results, coupled with superior health.

The physiques of these men, and few brave, pioneering women, were more in line with the ancient Greek ideals of body proportion and symmetry. It was health first, in their regimens; performance second, and increased aesthetics were the result of the first two. It seems to be the reverse today: everyone's after the "six-pack look" with little thought for optimal health. Anyway, despite having read volumes of old books, I'd never yet heard of Georges Hebert.

I was greatly intrigued and did some quick internet research...with happy results! I discovered that Georges Hebert, a physical culturist of the late 19th century, was the father of many exercise systems, some still in use to this day. While the French, unfortunately, never took him as seriously as they ought to have, the Germans put his ideas to work and used his methods in molding their elite fighting troops, such as the SS. My own Maxercise exercise system is virtually identical to the Herbert Method. Naturally, I found this pleasing. Great minds think alike!

I've always striven to meet the standard set during the Golden Age of Greece. My version of the natural exercise movement system is based on the same ten movement patterns:

  1. walking
  2. running
  3. jumping
  4. climbing
  5. various crawls upon all fours
  6. wrestling/grappling
  7. lifting heavy objects
  8. balancing
  9. throwing
  10. swimming
Almost all mammals engage in the above activities. My whole life, I've based my exercise routines around these principles. I've blended both Eastern and Western conditioning systems and much of my work incorporates the classic yogic principles. I've always preferred to be out-of-doors in the fresh air and sunlight, either in the woods or near a body of water--the way nature intends it! What I see in most gyms across the country is a major step in the wrong direction: mindless hamsters, utterly divorcing their minds from their bodies, iPods blaring, working isolation movements, all the while pumping and preening in the mirror. In other words, producing little in the way of worthwhile results. Those who do have an ability to produce significant hypertrophy end up all show and no go. Many of these mirror athletes are athletically compromised or incompetent.

There is a growing trend away from this unfortunate norm. On my trek across the United States, I was invited to visit Gym Jones, in Salt Lake City UT, owned and operated by Mark and Lisa Twight. Mark and Lisa trained the cast for the movie 300, and designed the original 300 workout. Mark, a world-class climber, developed an array of amazing apparatus for body weight climbing, pulling and pushing. I've never seen so many different pull-up bars in my life! Lisa is an excellent martial artist and works as a trainer on movie sets. Both Mark and Lisa are both stellar examples of their own philosophy.

Another awesome gym is the Monkey Bar Gym in Madison WI, owned by my good friend, Jon Hinds an inventor extraordinaire of many unique fitness devices, including my beloved Lifeline Jungle Gym. At the Monkey Bar Gym, there are neither music, mirrors nor machines. The single machine permitted is the human body. Their system of exercise is nearly identical to my own. What do I like best? No shoes allowed! The Monkey Bar Gym emphasizes foot and ankle development through barefoot training--nature's way.

Both Gym Jones and the Monkey Bar Gym hearken back to the ancient athletic principles that built men like the Spartans and the gladiators.

If you want to learn more about the Maxercise system, get thee nigh to the Underground Gym in Edison NJ Saturday 12 July for a day of heavy, natural sweat and good times. click here.

If you're a trainer, want to be a trainer--or look like one--I'm presenting a body weight exercise certification at Maxercise, in Philadelphia, 20 July. Contact for more details and get yourself on the list.

I'd be so pleased to show you what I've learned over 36 years as a trainer! Hope to see you there.