Record Setting MLB Dedut

Congratulations to my athlete Matt Harvey. During his MLB debut last night with the NY Mets, his 11 strikeouts set a new franchise record for a rookie debut and was the first pitcher since 1900 to have at least 10 strikeouts and 2 hits in his debut.

I first worked with Matt when he was 16 years old and had a fastball in the mid 80s mph. After 6 months of working together, he was throwing 97 mph. His dedication to becoming the best athlete possible was evident back then and will continue to serve him well for many years.

Here’s part of the training program that took Matt’s fastball from mid 80s mph to over 95 mph.

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Hiring the Right Trainer Part Deux

In the second part of Hiring the Right Trainer, we continue to reveal the insider’s secrets to ensuring you don’t waste your money or time when choosing a personal trainer.


When meeting trainers for the first time, one of the ways I can gauge their knowledge and ability as trainers is to listen to the terminology they use. If they sound like a late night info- mercial and liberally use the terms “muscle tone” or “lengthen muscles,” I know they are absolutely clueless. If a trainer throws these terms at you, know that they are telling you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear.

Lesson One

Muscle tonus- The muscle in a steady partially contracted state caused by the successive flow of nerve impulses.

Even at rest, most of our skeletal muscles are in a constant state of partial contraction called tonus. Tonus is maintained by the activation of a few motor units in the muscle at all times, even in resting muscle. For instance, while you are standing in line at the grocery store, numerous muscles are partially activated to keep you upright and from falling to the floor.

When a trainer uses the term, such as “We are going to improve your muscle tone by performing high reps,” they are either confused, misinformed, or worse, telling you what you want to hear.

In this instance, the trainer is misapplying the word tone. What the trainer really means to say is to reduce your body fat, so that the underlying muscle becomes visible. For instance, we all have abdominal muscles, but not everyone’s are visible because they are hidden beneath a layer of fat.

But this is not to say that tonus is undesirable, as a partially contracted muscle is more visually appealing than a flaccid muscle and performs better. The only way to improve tonus is by performing low reps with heavy weights. For men, this means working in the 1-6 rep range and for women, 1-8 reps.

Lesson Two

My biggest pet peeve is when a trainer tells a client their workout is going to “lengthen their muscles.” The ONLY method for lengthening a muscle requires a surgeon to cut you open, detach the muscle’s tendons at both ends, stretch your muscle apart and re-attach the tendons to the bone. Not what you were expecting? As with tonus, what they mean to say is to lose body fat so your muscle becomes visible.

It may appear as if I’m making mountains out of mole hills, but the implications are important. Either the trainer does not understand the terminology or does understand, but is using “buzz words” to tell you what you want to hear to put more money in their pocket. Which one is worse? A trainer with a limited grasp of his profession or one who practices deceptive techniques? Remember, how you do one thing, is how you do everything. If your trainer uses these phrases, you may want to go elsewhere.



Plyometrics is a type of high-intensity power training in which a muscle is loaded and contracted in rapid sequence. Also known as shock training, plyometrics was developed by Yuri Verkhoshansky with the goal of utilizing elastic energy to jump higher and throw farther. This elastic energy is generated during explosive muscular contractions, such as landing from a jump and then rapidly contracting the muscle by jumping up as high as possible.

Plyometrics, while not dangerous, are an extremely advanced training method, which should not be performed by the casual athlete. While running, your body absorbs a force up to three to four times your body weight. Plyometrics can generate forces up to six times your body weight, placing demands on your joints and tendons they may not be prepared to handle.

So What?

One of the main concerns with plyometrics involves their long term use by people who have not been properly instructed in their use. Plyometrics were designed to be used 2 or 4 times a year, whenever an increase in peak power production was required to improve performance with each phase lasting 3-4 weeks. Compare that to the majority of trainers who use plyometrics with their clients year round. Not only does this increase a client’s risk of injury, but it reduces the effectiveness of the technique over time.

What Your Trainer Doesn’t Know

In addition to knowing how to implement plyometrics, the trainer must make certain to teach the client proper landing mechanics. Improper landing mechanics is one of the most common causes of non-contact ACL injuries in young women.

The heavier you are, the greater the risk of injury. A heavier athlete will generate greater forces upon landing than a lighter athlete. However, there is a difference if you are 225 lbs at 8% body fat instead of 225 lbs at 30% body fat.

In order to ensure the client can properly handle the large forces generated, they need to be able to squat a specific percentage of their bodyweight. If you weigh 225 lbs, but struggle to properly squat with 200 lbs, there is no way you are going to safely handle 6 times your body weight upon landing. Your tendons will disintegrate like month old Olive Garden bread- sticks.

Athletes training with plyometrics during their athletic season are the definition of crazy. Most sports already involve a plyometric component and performing additional work in the weight room is going to decrease your performance on the field.

What To Ask

Ask your potential trainer what criteria they have for determining when and how to implement plyometrics. Remember, plyometrics are usually reserved when an increase in power output is desired, such as before a competitive event. They should not be used just because your trainer ran out of different exercises for you to perform.


As mentioned in the intro, out of 300 training certifications, there is only ONE that requires you to demonstrate an appropriate level of expertise before becoming fully certified, the Poliquin International Certification Program (PICP), designed by Charles Poliquin.

Widely recognized as the most successful strength coach in the world, Charles Poliquin has coached Olympic medalists in 17 different sports and world record holders in 10 sports. The PICP consists of 5 different levels, with each having three parts: a theory, a technical, and a practical component. While most other certifications can be completed in a few days, the PICP has additional criteria beyond the course material that must be met in order to receive full certification. For instance, PICP Level 5, the highest level possible, requires you to meet 4 of the 7 following criteria:

  • Train a medalist at the Olympic Games
  • Train a medalist at the Senior World Championships
  • Participate officially as a coach or athlete at the Olympic Games or World Championships
  • Train a World Record Holder in a recognized discipline
  • Train an athlete who wins a distinguished award in their professional league: i.e. Norris (NHL), Cy Young (MLB)
  • Develop course material for the PICP
  • Work as a National Coach for 5 years

Obviously, the PICP requires their coaches to possess a high level of knowledge and skill, which other certifications cannot match.

The PICP is the only certification I recommend, and the only one you should ask for by name. For more information, visit


As you can see, there are numerous factors to consider when hiring a trainer. Our goal has been to empower you with the best information possible to ensure that you hire a trainer capable of helping you reach your goals.

Strengthology, dedicated for readers like you with the same goal as ours – to be the best.

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Hiring the Right Trainer Part 1

I was hired to write the following information over five years ago, by a gym owner looking to increase revenue.  At the time, the gym owner had a slightly less that 50% closing rate.  This meant, that approximately half of the traffic that toured his facility, actually ended up signing up as clients.  Looking to increase his closing rate, I wrote a manual for him to hand to everyone who left his gym prior to signing on for his services.  The manual was to be handed out, with the following instructions “I know there are several other gyms in the area and it’s important to find  a facility where you feel comfortable.  And to help save you money and time, here’s a list of things to look out for and a list of questions to ask the trainers.”  My goal for the booklet was simple, to create the frame of reference the potential client would use to judge the competence of any potential trainers/facilities they might encounter.  I ensured the potential client was using objective criteria, rather than subjective, in hiring the right trainer…my client.  And it worked.  Within a five week period, my client’s closing rate climbed to 76%, translating to an additional $15,000.

If you’re a gym owner or a trainer, feel free to print out this blog post and hand it to any potential clients.  Doing so will help distinguish you from the masses and establish you as a true professional.  And even if you’re not in the fitness industry, you can still utilize the following information to ensure you don’t waste your hard earned money, or worse, your time. 

Whether you want to look good naked, build your strength or want to ensure that you do not die of a heart attack before the age of forty, hiring a personal trainer can help you get the job done. A personal trainer can provide motivation, and accountability through regularly scheduled appointments. But where do you begin the search for the person that is going to lead you towards the body you have always wanted? The Yellow pages? The Internet? The Penny Saver ads? After all, you are spending your hard earned money, and you want the best you can find right? So, you start searching the internet and find numerous articles on how to find the right trainer. After reading a few, you realize they all contain the same information:

  • Check for certifications
  • Check for liability insurance and CPR certification
  • Check educational background

But, do any of these guarantee that the trainer you are about to hire is the most qualified to make you look good naked, or stronger? The truth is that these articles simply provide a checklist of necessary requirements, which give you no information as to the true effectiveness of the trainer you are about to hire. Let’s take a closer look at each:


Worldwide, there are currently over 300 training certifications. Certifications run the gamut from those requiring a college degree in a related field, such as kinesiology or physiology, while others only require a weekend seminar. Surprisingly, some only require that you pass a simple online exam and possess a valid credit card. I have known people who attended a weekend long certification course, and 2 weeks later, were working for that organization as certification instructors. So much for real world experience.

Out of 700 certifications, there is only ONE that requires you to demonstrate an appropriate level of expertise before becoming fully certified.

Need proof that training certifications do not guarantee competence? Here’s an article written by a certified trainer, in which she reveals one of her weight loss secrets:

Losing Weight Quickly

1. Belly Rubbing

…rub your hands together for 10 seconds to create some heat on them. When you’re rubbing over your stomach fat, this heat goes from your hand and right past the skin and into the fat cells where the heat helps to loosen up these hard deposits. I suggest you do this…2 minutes each time. I suggest you do this a total of 4 minutes a day. The best times are early in the morning and late at night 2 minutes each time.

 Apparently, the answer to the worldwide obesity crisis is to rub your belly for 4 minutes a day, in 2 minute increments. How could the National Institutes of Health overlook this “expert’s” recommendation? Quick, someone contact the Nobel committee!

I hope you detect my sarcasm, but if your sole criteria for hiring a trainer were a certification, then you could possibly end up hiring someone like this person. Remember, you can- not teach common sense.

Insurance and CPR Certification

Liability insurance and CPR certification, while important and necessary from a business perspective, tells you nothing about the trainer’s ability to help you accomplish your goals. It would be like judging the quality of the food at a restaurant by asking the chef if he knows the Heimlich maneuver.


While education is important in any profession, in the fitness field, I do not place a high premium on college degrees. In most instances, the curriculum at universities are outdated by 5-10 years, and primarily focus on the cardiovascular system, with very little time spent on the most efficient means of making one strong and lean. I have seen some of the most horrendous and ineffective training programs designed by trainers with multiple degrees.

In the following pages, I am going to share with you criteria that are essential for any trainer to be successful. Finding a trainer who displays these behaviors will greatly increase your chances of finding a competent, talented, and dedicated trainer, one who will keep you from wasting your time and hard earned money.

1. Rest Periods

Rest periods are the length of time taken between sets and exercises, and is the most neglected aspect of program de- sign among personal trainers. Rest periods help dictate the goals and design of a training program and are just as impor- tant as the exercises, number of repetitions and number of sets performed.

In general, when training for strength, between 1 to 6 reps, rest periods of up to 5 minutes are required. When training with higher reps, rest periods between 30-90 seconds are ad- equate.

Strength training requires considerably longer rest periods because the nervous system takes up to 6 times longer to recover than the muscular system. The longer rest periods prevent excessive fatigue from accumulating, which can affect proper exercise form, thereby reducing the risk of injury.

Trainers and Rest Periods

If rest periods are so important, then why do the majority of personal trainers neglect them? Laziness. Tracking rest periods requires the trainer to be fully engaged with their client.

Is the client struggling excessively before the prescribed numbers of reps are completed?

Did the client stay up all night with a sick child?

Does a client, who normally displays correct exercise form, suddenly perform as if it is their first time doing that particular exercise?

Tracking rest periods also requires the trainer to have a system for tracking and recording their client’s rest periods. Again, most trainers cannot be bothered to retain a $10 watch, and a sheet of paper on behalf of their client.



You might be asking yourself “If trainers do not track rest periods, then how do they gauge the amount of time spent between sets?” They tell you a story. Sometimes the story entails what they did last weekend, which might take 45 seconds, at other times it might take 5 minutes. Either way, it spells money down the drain for you, because inconsistent rest periods, day after day, are going to give you inadequate results, regardless of your goals. Most trainers would prefer to just count reps, hold their clip board, and daydream versus taking an active interest in their client.

To be fair, I must state that in most instances, trainers are unaware of the importance of rest periods because their train- ing certification organization failed to impart their importance. Over the past years, I have read some of the educational train- ing manuals from different certifying agencies. At best, some organizations offer a few paragraphs of information regarding rest periods. At worst, others do not mention rest periods at all.

When I design a training program, I use up to 12 different principles to guide me when designating rest periods.

What To Ask

When meeting with your potential trainer, ask if they record rest periods. If the trainer is not willing to invest in the cost of a wrist watch and a single sheet of paper, should you invest your hard earned money in them?

2. Exercise Machines

In my opinion, one of the most debated and redundant subjects in the field of resistance training is that of exercise machines vs. free weights…which is better? I will settle it once and for all, in 99% of cases, exercise machines suck. Need proof?

One of the biggest concerns with exercise machines is that they force your muscles to work in a manner that is completely different from real-life situations. For instance, when placing a large box overhead onto a shelf, your deltoid muscles are the primary movers, with your rotator cuff muscles acting as stabilizers. This harmonic relationship between your deltoid and rotator cuff muscles is replicated when you lift a barbell or dumbbells over your head. But when you perform this movement on an exercise machine, because of its fixed trajectory, the rotator cuff muscles do not activate. This forces your body to function in a completely unrealistic manner and teaches your body a faulty motor (muscle) recruitment pattern, drasti- cally increasing your chances of injury.

The fact that fewer muscles are exercised with machines should especially concern those looking for favorable body composition changes. The fewer muscles engaged in an ex- ercise, the fewer calories you burn. In the above example, while lifting a box or barbell overhead, your lower body mus- culature is recruited to keep you from losing your equilibrium, which is half your body! But on a machine, where you are in a seated position, your lower body is not recruited, requiring less energy (calories) to be expended.

There are numerous gyms that highlight the fact that they have a “30 minute exercise circuit,” consisting of exercise machines set up in rows. They claim that it is easy, efficient and convenient. They fail to mention that after 3 weeks, your body will become used to performing the same exercises, no longer benefiting from them, and you’ll eventually succumb to tendonitis.

Trainers and Machines

I will let you in on a closely held secret: Most trainers love exercise machines. Trainers use exercise machines for the same reason parents use a leash on their children…it allows them to focus their attention elsewhere while still exercising a measure of safety on the client/child. Again, most trainers would rather daydream and take the path of least effort, than focus on the client. Plus, most trainers lack the ability to prop- erly teach an exercise. It is easier to place a client in the leg press versus teaching them to squat.

Exercise machines are also popular with trainers because they allow the client to use a large amount of weight. Exercise machines do not require the client to stabilize the weight, thus allowing for a greater weight to be used than if a free weight version was performed. For instance, it’s not uncommon for beginners to perform the leg press exercise with over 500 lbs. However, these same people would snap their spine in half if they attempted the same weight with a squat. It is even doubtful if they could squat a third of that weight. But trainers know this and rely on exercise machines to impress their clients. A client notices the huge amount of weight they are lifting, gets really excited, and proceeds to purchase a block of 50 sessions. But in reality, the client is headed down a path which ultimately leads to stagnation, injuries and a false sense of accomplishment. But at least the trainer makes their mortgage payment for the month.

On two separate occasions, I was told by two different female trainers that the reason they use machines is because they did not have the strength to properly “spot” their male clients. Spotting refers to an individual assisting the lifter during a rep when needed. Now, I am not making any statement as to women being weaker than men. I know numerous women who can out lift most men, Liane Blyn for instance. However, I was told by these female trainers that they were not strong enough. If these female trainers were professional and placed the needs of the clients before their own financial gain, they would have referred the male clients to someone else. But in the cut throat world of the fitness business, they were thinking of the money they would have lost, instead of the muscular injuries and imbalances they will ultimately induce on their clients.

What To Ask

Ask your potential trainer to share their philosophy on exercise machines. If their response is similar to what you have read in this eBook, chances are they know what they are talking about.

Ask to see training programs they have designed for other clients. If you notice that in every training session they include 2 or more exercise machines, take your business elsewhere. I have produced countless 12 week training programs without using a single exercise machine.

Ensure the trainer’s strength levels are adequate to spot you when needed.

3. Training Logs

The importance of a training log as an analytical tool should not be underestimated. It allows you to monitor your training objectively and helps maintain motivation. Research has shown that people who have techniques to keep them motivated are 40 percent more likely to stick with their exercise program.

A training log does not have to be fancy, it should be designed with room to record your weights used, rest periods, and reps and sets performed.

If you do not use a training log, but instead rely on memory, you are setting yourself up for failure. After a few training sessions, your memory will fade faster than Lindsay Lohan’s career and you will be lost as to how much weight to use. Using too much weight will not allow you to perform the prescribed number of reps and too little weight will not be a sufficient stimulus to your body. In order to get stronger or leaner, it is vital that you present the same exercises, in the same manner in order for your body to adapt. If not, you are wasting your time and just going through the motions without any benefit.

Trainers and Training Logs

If you want to make most trainers sweat, ask them to show you any client’s training log from three months ago. Again, most trainers follow the path of least effort and throw away training logs as soon as they are done with them. If they use training logs at all.

What most trainers fail to understand is that training logs are a wealth of information, if you know what to look for. When one of my client’s performance in the weight room plateaus, the first thing I do is review all their training logs. I search to find where my client recorded their best performances and compare that training log to their current progress. I look for patterns:

  • Perhaps this client needs to perform more/less sets?
  • Perhaps this client responds to certain exercises better than others?
  • Does this client benefit from taking extra recovery time between workouts?
  • Does this client appear to perform better with more frequent training sessions per week?
  • Does this client respond better to longer rest periods?

 The amount of information that you can cull from training logs is endless.

What To Ask

When meeting with your potential trainer, ask to see train- ing logs from three different clients: teenager, male and fe- male. It would also be extremely helpful to ask to see training logs for clients training for strength and fat loss. Not only will this allow you to see if the trainer does keep training logs long term, but it shows you the trainer’s ability to design training programs. If you notice that all their training programs look the same, this is not the trainer for you. There is no such thing as a single training program that will magically work for all age groups and genders. Different fitness qualities require differ- ent approaches to training.

Additionally, if you notice that all their training logs have a group of exercises pre-printed on them, leave. Again, following the path of least effort, most trainers use these pre-printed training logs with every one of their clients. And even though the training log may list up to 15-20 exercises, this will cost you money. In general, the human body adapts to any training program within 4 weeks. After which, the client will need a totally different training program, including the number of reps, sets and exercises. I have clients that adapt so quickly, that I have to design a new training program every 2 weeks! How effective will your training sessions be if you perform the same group of exercises, week after week, month after month?

When I design a training program, I have a database of over 800 exercises to choose from. For example, with the leg curl, I have over 60 different variations available. My clients can go up to a year without repeating the same exercise.

In the second part of this article, we’ll cover certifications and one of the most abused forms of training, plyometrics.

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Health, Muscle & Mercury – Elimination

By Wolfgang Unsoeld

*Consult with your health practitioner prior to implementing any supplement program*

How Do I Get Rid of It?

Heavy metals get detoxified in two phases:

1. Mobilize the heavy metals from their storage sites.

2. Eliminate them for the body.

The second phase is the most challenging, because there are numerous methods for mobilizing heavy metals, however, only a few for elimination.  Elimination is key, as just mobilizing them, will lead to their redistribution, which may lead to more severe symptoms that before.


Chlorella algae is the chief elimination agent. One reason is  its high chlorophyll content. Chlorophyll is what gives plants their green color and has a high affinity for heavy metals.  Over 80% of heavy metals get eliminated through the intestines and this is where chlorella does the main part of its job.  In the intestines, chlorella binds to toxins, preventing their mobilization to other parts of the body.  Additionally, chlorella cleanses the intestinal wall of other toxins such as mold and unhealthy gut bacteria, allowing healthy gut bacteria to flourish.


Chlorella also recycles metallothionein, a protein made in the liver, that mobilizes heavy metals.

Chlorella is the only plant source rich in methylated B12, which supports methylation and mobilizes heavy metals.

Chlorella contains magnesium malate, which chelates aluminum.

There are two forms of chlorella: pyrenoisdosa and vulgaris.  There are key differences between the two forms and having a skilled and experienced muscle testing practitioner to determine which form you need, is vital.

Chlorella vulgaris has a high affinity for lead, especially if located in the lead hotspots, which are the occipital lobe and liver.

A good starting dosage for chlorella is twenty tabs, three times daily.

Common detoxification side effects include: nausea, headaches and diarrhea.  To decrease the severity of the side effects, increase elimination by increasing the dosage of chlorella.

What Else?

Andrographis is an antiviral/microbial herb which up-regulates metallothionein production.

Homeopathics are inferior as a sole detoxifying agent, since they only mobilize heavy metals.

High levels of various forms of magnesium are required, mainly to support the liver, which is the main filtering system of the body.

Magnesium bisglycinate is preferred by the liver

Magnesium aspartate increases cell membrane health and permeability, which facilitates removal of toxins.

High levels of B vitamins and other methyl donors are required to ensure proper methylation, mobilization and excretion of heavy metals.

Modified citrus pectin (Pectasol is the only brand recommended) is one of the best sources of fiber, especially for the elimination of mercury from the microvilli of the intestines.  Other forms of fiber such as psyllium husk, rice bran, chia seeds also support detoxification.

Vitamin C, should never be taken at the same time as chlorella, as it unbinds mercury form chlorella and increases retoxification.

A high quality multi-vitamin should be taken at all times, ideally, a few weeks prior to beginning a detoxification program, to decrease the severity of side effects.  The product of choice is MuIti Intense from Charles Poliquin.

Multi Intense tablets are coated copper chlorophyllin, a form of chlorophyllin which binds to petroleum based products in the colon.

Fish oil, besides its numerous beneficial health advantages, supports detoxification by increasing microcirculation, promoting cell membrane health.

Yin R-ALA, also from Charles Poliquin, strongly supports detoxification while minimizing side effects.

Optimal extracellular electrolyte content speeds up toxin mobilization.  To achieve optimal, alkaline pH levels, consume PHyto Px, Primal Clear Ph and water with fresh lime juice.  Napping after lunch, will help as well.

A diet high in protein, healthy fats and vegetables is crucial and will minimize side effects suck as nausea, headaches and diarrhea.

Amino acids from the proteins you consume will not only support your immune system and liver, but the sulfur compounds that bind to heavy metals for excretion.

L-glutamine, aloe vera and prebiotics will ensure GI tract integrity, ensuring proper heavy metal excretion into the small and large intestines.

What about Cilantro?

If you’re typed “heavy metal detoxification” into any search engine, chances are you’ve come across numerous sources recommending cilantro.  Unfortunately, cilantro is not a chelation agent.  Its main task, is to open the blood brain barrier.  It utilized incorrectly, it will lead to a redistribution of heavy metals into the brain, increasing the risk of diseases tremendously.

The use of cilantro is recommended once the toxic body burden has been eliminated.

A Case Study

Client: Male, amateur athlete. 28 years old.   Height: 179 cm. Weight: 73.5 kg.  Body fat: 15.8%.

Complaints: Low attention span, trouble concentrating, strength plateau in the gym and poor training recovery.

Supplement protocol:

3 x 25 tablets chlorella pyrenoidosa

3 x 4 tablets Multi Intense Iron Free

8 capsules Ubermag 1E – with dinner

6 capsules Yin R-ALA – with dinner

4 tablets Metallic Detox – with breakfast for the first two weeks

1 tablespoon Omega 3 liquid – breakfast

10 capsules D3 Excellence – twice a week

Client kept his training and food the same as before the detox. He trained four times weekly, for one hour sessions.  Nutrition plan was gluten-free.  Breakfast was meat or eggs.

After eight weeks, client increased bodyweight to 79.9 kg and reduced body fat to 8.4%.

Additionally, his sleep, attention span, mental clarity and energy levels improved tremendously.

Far Infrared Saunas

Far infrared sauna therapy is extremely effective for removing mercury through the skin. It does this through the process of sweating.  Once the blood vessels dilate, allowing blood to flow to the surface of the skin, the sweat flushes toxins from the blood and is excreted through sweat glands.

Far infrared saunas have shown to penetrate skin tissue up to 3 cm.

When utilizing far infrared saunas, wipe your skin frequently to avoid re-uptake of the toxins through the skin and lungs.

Additionally, ensure to always supplement with fiber such as chlorella or Pectasol, to ensure proper excretion of heavy metals that have mobilized into the bloodstream.

Three Reasons Why Heavy Metal detoxification Make You Stronger and Leaner

1. Insulin sensitivity: Insulin receptors are made from amino acids, especially the sulfur containing amino acid cysteine. Imagine the insulin receptor as a crane in a harbor, that loads glucose from the dock – the bloodstream – and unloads it onto a ship – the muscle. Now mercury attaches to that crane and demobilizes. Which means  glucose gets transported into the muscle at a smaller rate. This will translate to difficulty in gaining lean muscle mass and reducing body fat stores, despite adhering to a low carbohydrate diet.

2. Metabolic rate: As a defense mechanism, the body reduces body temperature to reduce or slow down the toxic effect of heavy metals.  This reduction in body temperature leads to a considerable drop in metabolism.  The lower your metabolic rate, the slower your gains in the gym and in the mirror.

3. Muscle recruitment: One of mercury’s main effects of the central nervous system, is the destruction of tubulin, an integral part of the signal transmission of nerves.  In simple terms, the greater the damage mercury has produced to your nervous system, the less ability you will have in recruiting muscle fibers.

Mercury can also reduce levels of acetylcholine, the main neurotransmitter of the central nervous system and necessary for signal transmission at the neuromuscular junction – from nerve fibers to muscle fibers. Which is obviously essential for the recruitment of muscle fibers.

Number One Rule of Toxicology

You have to remove the source of the toxicity

If you have amalgam fillings, consult with a biological dentist, one who is skilled in their proper removal.

What Your Dentist Needs to Know about Heavy Metals

Amalgam fillings consist of 50% mercury

Mercury vapors evaporate daily in small dosages and accumulate in the tissue.

Mercury is the most dangerous neurotoxin known to man.

Improper removal of amalgam fillings will cause acute toxicity and side effects.

When removing amalgam fillings, detoxification remedies must be utilized pre-, intra- and post drilling.

The best agents for dealing with acute toxicity due to improper amalgam filling removal, are chlorella algae, oral DMSA and intravenous vitamin C.

Dental assistants have the highest rate infertility rates of all medical professions.

The mouth is a great mirror for your overall health. In Chinese Medicine there are 4 main areas on the body that mirror every organ and gland – the mouth is one of them. That means you have to get out the toxins of your mouth to get them out of your body.

Three Take Home Points

1. If you have a toxic heavy metal burden, detoxify

2. Every person on the planet is exposed to heavy metal toxins

3. If you have a toxic heavy metal burden, detoxify

Acknowledgments go to Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, who has incorporated mercury detoxification as one of his main treatment modalities in his practice for over 25 years, with an outstanding success rate, for answering my numerous questions.   I would also like to acknowledge Dr. Dominik Nischwitz for contributing to this article.

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Health, Muscle & Mercury – The facts

By Wolfgang Unsoeld

Mercury: The Worst of The Worst

1. Mercury is the most toxic non-radioactive metal on the planet.

2. There is no safe level of mercury in humans.

3. Mercury shuts down your body’s ability to defend itself from heavy metal toxicity, by preventing the elimination of ALL heavy metals.

The Two Main Sources of Mercury Exposure

1. Amalgam fillings: your own and those of your mother’s

2. Vaccines

Amalgam fillings contain about 50% mercury, making it the #1 source of exposure for humans.  The main concern, is the mercury which continuously leeches out of the fillings.  This leaching of mercury vapors gases is accelerated by chewing gum, drinking hot beverages and eating acidic foods.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that mercury from amalgam fillings of pregnant women, has accumulated in the brain, kidneys and liver of their fetuses.  The mercury exposure from the mother continues after birth through breast-feeding.  It is estimated that a fetus absorbs up to 75% of the mother’s toxicity.

Thimerosal, an inorganic mercury compound, is utilized as a preservative in vaccinations and pharmaceutical products.

What About Fish?

While a valid concern, the amount of mercury found in seafood, pales in comparison to the mercury exposure from amalgam fillings.  For example, eight amalgam fillings excrete approximately 14-23 mcg of mercury with a twenty-four hour period.  Whereas a single serving of fish, contains 0.5-1.5 mcg of mercury.

Additionally, it is necessary to consider the bioavailability of the types of mercury from fish vs. amalgam fillings.

The mercury found in fish is mostly absorbed in the intestines, with an absorption rate of 7%.  However, mercury vapors from amalgam fillings has a bioavailability of 78%.

Mercury and Your Body

The human body has an innate ability to protect itself from toxic exposure.  When experiencing a toxic load, the body normally stores toxins, including mercury, in metabolically inactive tissue: body fat stores and fibrous tissue.  But for numerous reasons, such as genetics and developmental factors, toxins can spill over into organs, mainly the brain, kidneys and liver.

Additional Health Concerns:

Mercury destroys the blood brain barrier, a physical and chemical protective barrier, which prevents substances in the blood stream from entering the brain.

Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt MD, one of the leading heavy metal toxicity and detoxification experts, has stated he has yet to encounter a patient diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, or Parkinson’s disease, without possessing a high level of heavy metal toxicity.

One way on which mercury depresses the immune system is by damaging heathy intestinal flora.  This disymbiosis can eventually lead to antibiotic resistance or leaky gut syndrome.

Mercury, known as the “great imitator,” is extremely difficult to diagnose, because it mimics symptoms of every disease known to man.

Mercury alters the methylation cycle, which is the “on/off switch” that enables the human body to adapt and respond to environmental changes. This cycle is the most important pathway for disease prevention.

Mercury, when stored in large quantities in muscle tissue, can leads to the development of trigger points and phantom pain.

Heavy Metal Toxicity Test

Blood, Stool, Urine: poor indicators of toxicity levels because mercury is primarily stored in bodily tissue and therefore cannot be accurately measured by blood, stool or urine testing.

Hair Analysis: a useful tool for determining the efficacy or progress of a heavy metal detoxification.  However, while there currently isn’t any heavy metal test that determine total body toxicity, hair analysis can reveal the amount of heavy metals that have ben circulating in your bloodstream approximately three months prior to testing.  Hair analysis is a valid test for acute toxicity, but not for determining total body burden.

What About the DMPS Challenge Test?

DMPS is the most commonly utilized intravenous chelation agent.  DMPS binds to heavy metals and then aids in their excretion from the body through the kidneys.  However, DMPS does has its setbacks.  Following a DMPS challenge test, the patient’s urine is collected for a twenty-four hour period and is then analyzed to determine heavy metal levels.  Issues arise however, when you realize that urine, is not the body’s preferred pathway of excreting heavy metals.  Additionally, once your kidneys are flooded with a certain level of mercury, they become inflamed, which shuts down the elimination process.  This can result in a false negative test result for heavy metals, despite carrying a toxic load.

While intravenous DMPS is one of the preferred methods of heavy metal detoxification, it mainly chelates mercury from the endothelium. And does not cross the blood brain barrier, making it ineffective for detoxifying the brain.

Mercury and Your Hormones

Your hypothalamus and pituitary glands, with their high fatty acid content, attracts lipophilic heavy metals such as mercury.  Since these organs are the main players in the endocrine system, any disruption in their functioning, will disrupt the production and functioning of all your hormones. Since both glands are located outside the blood barrier brain, they are even more vulnerable to mercury damage.

Mercury and Glutathione 

Glutathione, the “master antioxidant,” is the main antioxidant in the body.  The primary function of glutathione is protecting cells against the destructive effects of free radicals and detoxifying substances such as environmental pollutants.  Mercury, however, disrupts glutathione production, leaving individual cells defenseless, allowing it to enter the cell’s nucleus.  Once mercury enters the nucleus, cellular energy production ceases and the cell dies.

Interesting Facts

Amalgam fillings have been banned in Russia for the past twenty years, but are still utilized in the U.S.

Nigeria, possessing one of the highest rising rates of autism. One major reason is that the vaccinations used have a much higher content of the ethylmercury containing preservative thimerosal due to the climate in africa.

The highest suicide rate among medical professionals belongs to dentists, whose profession requires them to be one of the largest users of inorganic mercury.  Handling amalgam fillings, exposes dentists to mercury vapor, which explains why their mercury toxic levels average at least two times that of controls.

Thyroid issues? Mercury toxicity must be suspected, as it can induce both hyper and hypothyroidism, the difference is in the dosage.  Large dosages hyperthyroidism, while smaller dosages induce hypothyroidism by interfering with the manufacture of T4 and the conversion of T4 to T3.

Electromagnetic fields potentiate mercury toxicity.

Testosterone has a synergistic effect with mercury, helping to explain why  autism averages a 4.3:1 male-to-female ratio.

Zinc has a synergistic and potentiating effect with mercury.  Zinc should never be supplemented while undergoing a heavy metal detoxification.

Aspartame, an artificial sweetener, also potentiates the damage induced by mercury.

The Cat and Dog Story

The quote by Aristotle “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” holds especially true for heavy metal toxicity.  While individual heavy metals will wreak havoc in your body, their negative effects to your health are greatly magnified when combined together.

An excellent metaphor for the synergistic effects of heavy metals comes from Dr. Joachim Mutter from the University of Freiburg:

“Imagine you own a store which sells porcelain goods. One night, before leaving, you decide to leave your dog in the store overnight.  The next morning, when you return, you find your dog broke some items while strolling through the store.  That evening, you decide to borrow your neighbor’s cat and leave it along with your dog in the store overnight again. Guess what’s going to happen?”

The metaphor illustrates the disastrous effect multiple heavy metals, when introduced into the human body, can produce.

One often cited research study demonstrated that when rats were given LD1 (short for lethal dose 1, the dosage where 1 out of 100 rats died) of mercury, along with the LD1 of lead, produced a synergistic effect where all 100 rats died.

Mercury, Taxis, High Blood Pressure and Chronic Fatigue

Imagine a red blood cell was a taxi cab, carrying four passenger oxygen molecules, driving through the congested streets of NYC.  Now, as the oxygen molecules are taking in the tourist sights, mercury begins to invade the city.  Since mercury has a higher affinity for red blood cells than oxygen, mercury kicks the oxygen molecules out of the cab.  And to make matters worse, once mercury has made itself comfortable inside the cab, it will never leave.  Now imagine this occurring on a larger scale, to the point where all the taxis in NYC are carrying around mercury molecules.  Day after day, as oxygen molecules get displaced,  oxygen transport throughout your body diminishes.  Since the human body is an adaptive organism, it begins to  manufacture new cabs/red blood cells, however this will ultimately lead to major traffic jams in the city.  At this point, there are too many taxis on the streets, loaded with mercury passengers.  The longer this continues, the greater the odds there will be signs of chronic fatigue.  To make matters worse, the traffic jams in the streets, leads to elevated blood pressure.

The standard approach to fixing the issues of chronic fatigue and high blood pressure symptoms, is prescription medication.  However, the smart approach, is to lick the mercury molecules out of the taxis and make room for healthy, nourishing oxygen molecules.

Coming on Friday, part 2 of Health, Muscle & Mercury, where Wolfgang reveals a mercury elimination supplement protocol
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Mentoring: Educating the Strength Coaches of Tomorrow

 Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.

John Crosby

 In the business world, mentoring is a huge part of the culture, where it functions as a support system, providing a diverse perspective on academic, career, and personal development. While mentoring programs are typically designed for the benefit of the mentee, mentors also benefit from the relationship by ensuring the continuation of a high level of professionalism for their chosen field, as well as enhancing their own leadership and management skills.

Unfortunately, within the past few decades, mentor/mentee relationships in the strength and conditioning field have diminished significantly.  Due to the considerable ease of disseminating information worldwide through the internet,  experienced strength coaches have resorted to hoarding training information, in a protective effort to maintain their relevancy and financial income.  And unfortunately, this severe compartmentalization of the strength and conditioning community, has made it remarkably easy for charismatic fitness charlatans to prey on an unassuming public.

In the long run, by shunning the time-honored tradition of mentoring, we place at risk the professionalism of future generations of strength coaches.  My own strength training and consultation career has been greatly assisted and shaped by two mentors, each with a background the complete opposite of the other.

Gilbert Fierro 

Everyone has their “list of first” events which they recall fondly: their first girlfriend/boyfriend, their first car, or in Wolfgang’s case, seeing his first Rambo movie.  As for me, the first time I walked into a weight-room, remains one of my fondest memories.  It was 1985, the bodybuilding craze of the 80’s was in full swing and it seemed as if every strip mall in the U.S. had at least one gym.

Body Builder’s Gym was a small gym located in my home town of McAllen, Texas.  Owned by Gilbert Fierro, a firefighter and friend of the family, he ran the gym more as a club house for wayward meatheads, than a business.  The gym itself, was a study of the natural selection process at work.  The lack of air conditioning, combined with summer temperatures easily reaching 100°F/37°C, weeded out the weak and required a high level of testicular fortitude when training between 10:00 am-5:00 pm.  Gilbert’s training ethic mirrored his work ethic, and anyone who didn’t exhibit the same level of dedication and respect, placed their gym membership at risk of cancellation.

The three biggest lessons or rules I learned from Gilbert are still applicable today, as they were over twenty-five years ago.

 The Fierro Rules

 Deadlift before the Squat:  Gilbert believed if your spinal erectors didn’t possess the strength to pull heavy weight from the ground, then there was “no way in hell,” you could support both your bodyweight and a loaded barbell across your back.  Upon joining his gym, I trained the deadlift for three months before being allowed to squat.  And this was his only standing rule for all new members, no squatting until after performing between two and three months of  posterior chain envelopment.

The concept of 8: Gilbert’s most unusual training protocol, was based on an 8 day cycle and was reserved for lifters experiencing strength plateaus. The concept is simple, you perform the same lift for a high number of sets and after four cycles, you retest your 1-RM.

Lift seven days – one day off

Lift six days – two days off

Lift five days – three days off

Lift four days – four days off

Retest 1-RM

Upper Body 2:3 Rotation: Out of everything that I witnessed at Body Builder’s Gym, the one thing that stands out, was the lack of overtraining or injuries.  Despite the large volume of training and the extremely heavy poundage lifted year round, I can only recall one injury occurring at the gym…when someone dropped a 45 lb. dumbbell onto their foot.  I attribute the lack of injuries to Gilbert’ s obsessive insistence at everyone training with barbells for only two weeks, followed by dumbbell training for three weeks, and keeping that rotation indefinitely.  Regardless of the training cycle, everyone was expected to follow the 2:3 framework.

According to Gilbert, the 2:3 rotation:

  • limited the amount of training performed with barbells, which he believed placed greater demands on weaker limbs, leading to injuries
  • relieved boredom due to the frequent change in training implements.
  • Prevented overtraining due to the variations in performance of the exercises between barbells and dumbbells.

While Gilbert possessed the unique capability of applying the appropriate technique when needed by a particular trainee, his true talent, was his ability to extrapolate information from the most meager of sources.  While others might have selected bodybuilding magazines for their training information, Gilbert devoted his time to reading the works of Peary Rader, George Hackenschmidt, and Arthur Saxon.  Additionally, It was his “working man’s, no BS” mentality and ability to remain objective, which I used as the foundation for my own strength training philosophy.

Greg Gardiner

Nearly twenty years later after my first mentor, I was about to meet my second, who would first appear as a client.  As I was soon to find out, Greg Gardiner was not your average training client.  Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he attended Georgetown and Fordham University, earning a Doctorate in Physical Chemistry.  At the time of our meeting, he was in private practice, consulting for numerous pharmaceutical and biotech companies, as well as a partner in a venture capital fund.  But his most interesting position, and the one which provided the basis for numerous lengthy discussions, was his management of Pfizer’s worldwide drug discovery program.  During our training sessions, he shared numerous stories of his worldwide travels, searching  for exotic plant and herb specimens to study for potential medicinal properties.

And while my mentoring relationship with Gilbert provided me with an education beyond the classroom, Greg Gardiner further expanded on my career and education by granting me access to the numerous professional relationships he established over a life time of pharmaceutical research and development.  Case in point, when we first began training together, Greg felt my familiarization with the endocrine system was “lacking,” and at our following session he brought one of his endocrinology text books for me to study.  I had five days in which to study and learn the material before being subjected to an oral exam.  Exactly five days later, Greg called me and asked if I was ready for my exam, I stated I was and then heard another voice on the phone.  Turns out, Greg had set up a conference call and the other voice on the line, was one of the authors of the endocrine textbook I had just studied.   My oral examination was to be conducted not by Greg, but rather by the author of the textbook.  After the oral exam, I was able to ask the author the numerous questions his textbook had raised and in return, was provided with an educational opportunity available to a select few.

I share that anecdote with you, not to impress you, but to impress upon you, that mentoring relationships provide opportunities which might not normally be made available to you.  By being a mentee, you are automatically given access to not only the information and practices your mentor has acquired over his professional career, but to the professional relationships they have developed.  A mentor acts as a catalyst to your academic and professional development and actively guides you on your path to a successful and rewarding career.

What About You?

Are you a mentor?  Why not?  By mentoring the future generation of strength coaches, we ensure a high level of knowledge and professionalism remains in our field long after we’re gone.  Why leave our profession at the mercy of late night infomercial “experts?”  Additionally, a mentoring relationship can reinforce or remind you of techniques you may have long forgotten and even ignite the desire in you to be a better coach.

Have you asked anyone to mentor you?  Why not?  A mentor can save you a significant amount of time, effort and money.  A great mentor, will allow you to look in his “playbook,” showing you what works and helping you avoid what doesn’t.  Don’t be afraid to ask anyone to mentor you, the vast majority of people you could ask, would be extremely flattered.

However, be prepared to have your dedication and sincerity tested.  The first time I was asked to be someone’s mentor, I had the potential mentee meet me at the gym every Saturday morning at 4:00 am. If someone won’t invest their time in pursuit of their goals, why should I?  Another strength coach I know, ask his potential mentee to write him a check for an undisclosed amount of money.  If the trainee ever fails to meet any of the previously agreed upon benchmarks, the mentor donates the check to a charity.

For all you strength coaches reading this, leave the strength and conditioning community in a better state that you found it.

Exploring the questions brings more wisdom, than having the answer.
-A Course in Miracles

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Looking to the Past to Move Forward: Ditillo & Verkhoshansky

If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

Bruce Lee

The dreaded strength plateau, is there anything more frustrating?  Depending on how long you’ve been strength training, you may have experience numerous plateaus, each increasingly irritating than the previous one.

Usually, strength plateaus primarily occur to trainees who train solo.  Those who train in groups, have the added benefit of training under their peer’s watchful eyes, providing additional motivation to keep from being the weakest in the group.  Training under the guidance of a coach, provides you not only with objective feedback, but with someone experienced at making minute changes to training programs, keeping plateaus at bay.

The following training protocols are ones I use when trainees experience strength plateaus.  The concepts are not mine, but have been influenced by the works of Anthony Ditillo and Yuri Verkhoshansky.  The protocols will utilize the bench press for demonstration purposes, but can be utilized for any compound exercise.


Set 1: bench press 90% max, 3 reps

rest 3-4 minutes

Set 2: bench press 95% max, 1 rep

rest 3-4 minutes

Set 3: bench press 97%  max, 1 rep

rest 3-4 minutes

Set 4: bench press 100% max, 1 rep

rest 3-4 minutes

Set 5: bench press 100% max, plus 1-2 kg. (perform only if confident in completing the rep)

Rest 6-8 minutes and repeat three times.

According to Verkhoshansky, “The training effect of this method is directed mainly to the improvement of the central nervous system to generate a powerful flow of motor impulses to the muscles; include a greater number of muscle fibers in the work effort and increase the power of the energy acquisition mechanism for the muscle contraction.”

Additionally, I have found this protocol to help trainees get over their mental hurdle of handling heavy weight.


Anthony Ditillo was a huge advocate of using the power rack for partial range of motion lifts.  In my opinion, his methods of utililizing the power rack for overcoming strength plateaus are some of the most productive protocols available.

A1. Top 1/4 bench press 3 x 4-6 reps 2010 tempo

rest 120 seconds

A2. Pull ups 3 x 5-7 reps 4010 tempo

rest 120 seconds

B1. Top 1/2 bench press 3 x 4-6 reps 3010 tempo

rest 100 seconds

B2. Chin ups 3 sets x 5-7 reps 4010 tempo

rest 100 seconds

C1. Full range bench press 3 x 4-6 reps 4010 tempo

100 seconds

C2. Semi-supinated chin ups 3 x 5-7 reps 4010 tempo

rest 100 seconds

For this protocol, performing the partial range of motion bench presses allows you to utilize considerably heavier weight, and to focus on the most common sticking points .  This heavier weight also serves to recruit a higher number of muscle fibers and stimulate the nervous system for the full range bench press.

For a more thorough explanation of this protocol, read my article “Shattering Your Plateaus In 3 Easy Steps.”

 All Together Now

The following training split is recommended:

Day 1: Verkhoshansky protocol

Day 2: lower body

Day 3: off

Day 4: Ditillo protocol

Day 5: lower body

Day 6: off

Day 7: off


In order to break through your plateaus, you must overload the involved muscle groups in a manner foreign to your regular training program.  Remember, Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”

By utilizing concepts from two of the best minds the strength and conditioning community has ever known, you will ensure your continual success.

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Stretching 101: The Glutes

Lower back pain?  Do you sit at a desk all day?  Speak to any Fascial Stretch Therapist and they’ll be quick to point out that prolonged sitting acts as a physical stressor to the glutes, external rotators and hamstring muscle, causing the body to lay down additional collagen to strengthen and support the areas under stress.

Consider the following excerpt from Ann and Chris Frederick’s excellent book Stretch to Win:

“When you sit or lay down, your body adapts to the surface of the furniture or the floor.  But if you sit or stay in a position too long, your fascial system accumulates stress and strain from the summation of forces on the body…if you do not change position often, as is the case with many who sit at work, then your fascia thickens in the areas that are under prolonged or repetitive stress and strain.”

Collagen fibers, possessing only a slight level of stretch capabilities, can significantly reduce flexibility.

The Figure Four Stretch

While it’s the most prescribed stretch for the glutes and external rotators, it’s also the most poorly executed stretch, possessing a high risk of injury for those with an extremely limited range of motion.

For this stretch, the closer the torso and lower body are brought together, the greater the stretch placed on the glutes and external rotators. Here are the most common errors in its execution:

Flexion of the Cervical Spine

Due to their limited range of motion, some people will “turtle neck” their head towards their lower body, providing the illusion of an increase in their range of motion.

Flexion of the Thoracic Spine & Pulling on the Knee

Mostly executed by those with the least amount of flexibility, this compensation pattern possesses the highest risk of injury due to the pulling of knee to help maintain their seated position.  While the previous compensation pattern concentrated on the cervical spine, in this version, the thoracic spine is flexed and the knee is pulled towards the body, serving as a “handle” for the athlete to maintain their balance.  The pulling of the knee combined with limited external rotation, places a high level of forces on the ligaments of the knee.

There’s a Better Mousetrap

When working on improving a client’s flexibility, there are two classification of stretches we utilize:

  1. Those performed under our instruction
  2. Those performed away from our training facilities
For safe and efficient gains in flexibility, proper form is mandatory.  However, when on their own, athletes will often overlook the smaller details of a stretch position, severely limiting their flexibility gains and increasing their injury potential.  To prevent your client’s from utilizing anything but proper form, it’s essential you employ the use of barriers.


Using floors and/or walls as barriers, provides immediate feedback to your clients about their body mechanics, making it considerably easier to maintain proper form.  Barriers should be utilized by your clients whenever away from your watchful eye.

The Stretch

  • Client lies flat on the ground, legs are straight out against the wall
  • Glutes should be as close to the wall as their hamstrings’ flexibility allows
  • A “soft bend” in the knees should be maintained
  • Once in position, toes should be slowly dorsiflexed
  • Head, back and hips should maintain contact with the floor at all times

  • Slowly lower the knee towards the ground
  • Using both hands, lightly hold the sole of the foot to maintain the stretch
  • The non-stretched leg should maintain its soft bend, if not, slide glutes away from the wall
  • Client should ensure their head, back and hips maintain contact with the floor
  • Maintain the stretched position for 45-75 seconds
  • Perform 2-3 stretches per leg, alternating back and forth between both legs

As coaches, you’re well aware of the numerous benefits of proper stretching; improved performance, decreased injury potential and an increased sense of well-being.  However, by having your clients utilize barriers, they receive vital feedback about their stretching mechanics, allowing them to relax and focus on the stretch.

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Weightlifting 101: How To Use Your Skinfold Calipers

“What’s measured improves.”

Peter F. Drucker

In the business world, if you fail to install a system of measurements, progress stalls.  You need to have a “scorecard” in place to track whether the procedures and tactics you’re utilizing improve the bottom line: profits.  And everything you implement either adds or subtracts from your profitability.

In the strength and conditioning field, having metrics as a means for keeping “score,” allows you to objectively quantify whether your training, nutrition and supplement protocols are appropriate for a specific client.  So what are the best metrics for a strength coach?  A training log and a pair of skinfold calipers.

Training log

A training log is anything you utilize to keep a permanent record of your client’s progress in the weight room.  At a minimum, recording weights lifted and the number of repetitions performed, serves as an objective witness with perfect recall.  Additionally, training logs allow numerous opportunities for mining information pertinent to the future performance of your clients.  Even a casual review of their previous training logs can reflect training variables which produced significant improvements in performance.

Skinfold Calipers

As with training logs, utilizing a pair of calipers for periodic skinfold measurements can provide objective information in regards to a client’s progress in the gym and at the dinner table.  However, unlike training logs, calipers can produce significant inconsistencies in skinfold measurements due to the use of inexpensive skinfold calipers and inconsistent user operation.

Which Calipers?

When it comes to ensuring consistent skinfold measurements, research quality calipers are a must.  The calipers of choice for researchers and strength coaches are the Harpenden Skinfold Calipers.  Designed in 1958, Harpenden calipers exert a constant and repeatable compression force of 10 g/mm2 over its entire jaw measuring range.  Inexpensive caliper models, with their non-constant jaw tension, provide inaccurate skinfold measurements and ultimately, inaccurate body fat percentages.  While Harpenden’s $400 price tag may discourage some, consider the years of service they’re going to provide.  I purchased my first set of Harpenden calipers in 1989 and if not for the dirtbag who broke into my car in 2001, I would still be using that same pair today.

User Operation

The most frequently asked question concerning the use of skinfold calipers pertains to timing.  Once the calipers are applied, at what point do you take the skinfold reading?  Should you wait a predetermined amount of time, or should you wait until the gauge pointer comes to a stop? As you’ll soon read, the difference in timing, will produce substantially different body fat percentages.

The Best Research Study I Ever Found

Many years back, while completing laboratory work for an exercise physiology class, I learned the important lesson of consistent and repeatable measuring.  The assignment, was to record skinfold measurements on ten different laboratory students, male and female.  While my fellow students were taking my skinfold measurements, I noticed that each of them were recording them at different intervals after applying the calipers.  While some were recording the measurements after two seconds, with the gauge needle still moving, other were waiting over thirty seconds until the needle came to a complete stop.  This time difference, I believed, explained the considerable differences in measurements my laboratory mates were recording.

Bringing these different measurements to the attention of the laboratory assistant didn’t provide any answers.  The best explanation the assistant could provide, was “user error.”

That same day, after a two-hour search at the university library (this was pre-internet, when research actually took time), I found the following study:

Becque, M. Daniel, Time Course of Skin-Plus-Fat Compression in Males and Females, Human Biology, 58:1 (1986:Feb.) p33

In the study, researchers wanted to determine how skinfold measurements were affected by the length of time the calipers were applied to skinfolds.  Measurements were taken at the following time intervals: 2, 4, 6, 10, 15, 20, 30, 45 and 60 seconds.  The researcher’s benchmark, was to determine a time period which provided a skinfold measurement free of compression and deformation.

Here are the highlights:

  • “The practice of waiting for the caliper dial to stabilize before recording, results in reduced thickness estimates.”
  • “If the criterion measurement is uncompressed skin-plus-fat then the reading should be made ‘as soon’ as the calipers are applied to the skin, since over 70% of the total compression takes place within 4 seconds.”
  • “The absolute change in the thickness of the skinfold from application of the caliper until the end of the measurement period ranges between 0.3 mm and 4.5 mm…use of the initial or the final skinfold can result in a range of differences in predicted fat from 2-8 fat percentage points (10-50% difference).”
  • “…skinfold compression conforms to a two component exponential curve.  The fast component of the decay curve is representative of the expression of interstitial water from the skin-plus-fat fold.  The slow component of the decay is most likely characteristic of the squeezing of the two thicknesses of skin-plus-fat until parallel. “
  • “…the period of time before the caliper is read should be standardized.  Based on the present data, it is recommended that this time be no longer than 4 seconds in duration”

According to the data, once the caliper’s jaws exert full pressure to the skinfold, subcutaneous water is first displaced followed by compression of the skin and underlying fat.  By the four-second mark, greater than 70% of the compete compression of the skin and fat has occurred.  Therefore, if a true uncompressed measurement is desired, the skinfold reading must be made within two seconds of the calipers being applied.

Worst case scenario: if you utilize measurements from compressed skinfolds, you may be underestimating your client’s body fat percentage by up to 8%.  For instance, instead of being at 8% body fat, they’re actually at 16%.


  • Take two measurements at each skinfold site, averaging the two readings.
  • To prevent skinfold compression, take the readings in rotational order.
  • Take measurements prior to exercise.
  • For accurate skinfold readings, record measurements 2 seconds after applying the calipers.
  • For consistent and accurate results, use the 2 second time frame for every skinfold measurement and for everyone one of your clients.

For the strength coach, employing metrics can reveal the efficacy of training and nutritional programs.  Additionally, they will also give the impression to your clients that you truly care about their progress.  And by utilizing metrics consistently across all clients, you ensure repeatable and predictable results.

What’s rarely measured, is even more rarely achieved.

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The LumberJack: Explosive Strength Done Right

“There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult”

Warren Buffet

If you were to ask one hundred personal trainers which muscle groups receive training priority by the majority of male gym goers, the vast majority of them would answer the “mirror muscles.”  Yeah, you know…chest, biceps and shoulders, muscles they can train while eye-f*cking themselves in the mirror.  Which is unfortunate, because the muscles on the posterior side of the body play an immense role in running and jumping.  Neglect to train your glutes and you’ll be lucky to jump over a puddle without getting your shoes wet.  Neglect your hamstrings and instead of sprinting down the track, you’ll find yourself stuck in a perpetual state of vertical oscillation…like Rush Limbaugh on a pogo stick.

When it comes to training the posterior muscles, one of our favorite devices is the LumberJack.

The LumberJack is the brainchild of Canadian Olympic weightlifting coach extraordinaire Pierre Roy, who devised it for training the posterior muscles in a manner unique from the Olympic lifts.  I was first introduced to the LumberJack in 2003, by Ben Prentiss, who wouldn’t let me leave his gym until I performed a few sets, just to get his point across.  On my two-hour drive home from Ben’s gym, I felt what could best be described as a “tightening” sensation across every one of my posterior muscles.  I bought one as soon as I got home.

The list of coaches who utilize the LumberJack in their training programs, reads like a Who’s Who of the strength and conditioning field:

While the LumberJack exercise has been described as a pull-through/power snatch combination, watch the video to fully appreciation both the simple and effectiveness of the motion.

Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

Art Ross Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Trophy, Stanley Cup, World Cup – 2004

What makes the LumberJack devastatingly effective, is the greater range of motion in which the posterior chain is engaged.  Additionally, due to the simple hip extension movement, some athletes find it easier to incorporate into their training than traditional Olympic lifts.

The following two protocols represent the most commonly utilized used when integrating the LumberJack into training programs.

Contrast Method

The contrast method involves supersetting two exercises: one heavy strength exercise and one light explosive exercise. The goal, is to use the first heavy strength exercise to stimulate a high level of fast twitch muscle fibers, which results in a higher power output during the second, lighter exercise.

Method 1

A1. Bent-Knee Deadlift Snatch Grip   6 sets x 3-5 reps  3-0-X-0 tempo 10 seconds rest

A2. LumberJack   6 sets x 3-5 reps 1-0-X-0 tempo  180 seconds rest

In this protocol, the low rep deadlifts ensure a higher number of muscle fibers are stimulated, in order to maximize the explosive strength levels achieved during the LumberJack exercise.  The LumberJack reps are kept low, to certify they are all executed with a high level of acceleration.

Method 2

A1. LumberJack   8 sets x 2-4 reps  1-0-X-0 tempo  10 seconds rest

A2. 30 m sprints   8 sets x 30 m    120 seconds rest

B. PNF Stretching, Hip Flexors 5 minutes

C. 60 m sprints  4 sets x 60 m 180 seconds rest

In this protocol, the LumberJack is utilized as the muscle fiber/CNS stimulating exercise, to potentiate the athlete’s hip extensor muscles for the 30 m sprints.

In Season Maintenance Program

A. LumberJack  4 sets x 4-6 reps  1-0-X-0 tempo  120 seconds rest

B1. Split Squats, Barbell  4 sets x 6-8 reps  5-0-X-0 tempo  90 seconds rest

B2. Lying Leg Curl 3 positions Dorsiflexed  4 sets x 4-6 reps 5-0-X-0 tempo  90 seconds rest

C1. Chin-ups Lean Away Supinated Grip  4 sets x 4-6 reps  5-0-1-0 tempo  90 seconds rest

C2. Bench Press 30° Incline Barbell Close Grip  4 sets x 6-8 reps  5-0-1-0 tempo  90 seconds rest

For this protocol, the LumberJack is utilized by National level shorttrack speedskaters to maintain strength and conditioning produced in the off-season.


Kettlebell Swings?

The most frequently asked question concerning execution of the LumberJack exercise is “Isn’t that just a kettlebell swing?”  Short answer: NO.

  • The LumberJack exercise is not a “swing,” but a combo move consisting of an explosive pull-through with a snatch towards the end of the concentric range of motion.
  • While a kettlebell swing utilizes a rotatory motion throughout its entire range of motion, the LumberJack employs a sudden drop of the hips towards the end of the concentric portion of the exercise.
  • The V-shaped handle of the LumberJack allows for  a “sternum-up” position, optimizing  shoulder and thoracic spine mechanics.
  • I have utilized loads up to 125 lbs on my LumberJack. Its easy-on, easy-off design, facilitates loading, especially when used with a group of athletes with varying strength levels.

As you can see, the LumberJack can be utilized for numerous protocols.  Along with its ease of use and compact size, the LumberJack challenges the posterior muscles in a manner uniquely its own.  And if the best coaches in the world use it to develop their athlete’s explosive strength, shouldn’t you?

The LumberJack we use, was designed and manufactured by Brady Powers.  Along with the LumberJack, Brady manufactures a great line of weightlifting and Strongman gear.  Visit his website

Order your LumberJack by January 24, and it’s shipped FREE.

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