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Random Thoughts

By January 25, 2011December 29th, 2013Random Thoughts

Greetings blog readers! Below are 25 Random Thoughts. Before I get started I wanted to relay an excellent short email I received last week:

Hey Bret, I’m a huge fan of your blog and articles. I think I’ve learned more from you in the past year than I did from any other source – which includes the major strength training websites. I especially like your random thoughts blogposts. Thank you and keep up the great work. – Dan.

I will definitely do my best to keep up the great work Dan, and thank you for the email. I officially have two weeks left before I leave to New Zealand to get my PhD in Strength & Conditioning at AUT. This brings me to my first point.

1. PhD in Strength & Conditioning

I love that I live in a world where I can get my PhD in Strength & Conditioning! Hallelujah!

2. Hip Mobility and Stability

Hip mobility seems to be all the rage lately, but hip stability is of utmost importance too. Combine superior hip mobility and stability and now you’re carrying a deadly weapon! Here’s a great routine for hip mobility and stability that strengthens the hips through good ranges of motion in hip flexion, extension, and rotation. I’ve been doing this workout several times per week as a pre-strength workout dynamic warm-up and as a separate “special workout.”

The best part about this routine is that it’s great for general lifters like me. I don’t need as comprehensive of a warm-up as an athlete since I’m just a general lifter. However, I still hammer thoracic extension, ankle dorsiflexion, and all the hip motions mentioned above, which are typically the motions that tend to lock-up over time in sedentary folks.

3. Rotary Stability

Many lifters have very poor levels of rotary stability. Have them try a bird dog, a single leg box squat, or single leg hip thrust and they swivel. They’re incredibly weak at cable chops, cable lifts, and Pallof presses. All lifters, regardless of their goals, should be sufficiently strong at rotary exercises and be able to control their hips and spine during basic rotary and anti-rotary exercises. In my experience more women have poor rotary stability than men.

Tony Gentilcore has a bunch of good videos on his Youtube page for rotary stability. Here’s one:

4. Squeezing a Ball Between the Legs While Squatting or Bridging

Just don’t do it. Some trainers and therapists think that it’s useful because they believe it increases VMO activation but research shows that it only increases levels by something like 8% at best, and most research shows that you can’t increase VMO contribution relative to the VL. Here’s a one such study.

You can put a band around the thighs to increase the abduction/external rotation component but I don’t recommend mimicking the Valgus collapse mechanism which has shown to lead to patellofemoral pain and Achilles tendon injury by introducing an adduction/internal rotation component to compound lower body movements. This strategy might be useful if an individual has excessive knee varus during movements such as squatting, but this is rare in my experience.

In general, you want the knees tracking over the toes, and you want to get strong! Let the therapists worry about stability balls and the strength coaches worry about barbells!

5. Beginners

When I train people I don’t really stick to any rules. I probably break every common rule we believe to be true in strength and conditioning. That said, if I had to give a general rule-of-thumb for training beginners, I’d recommend prescribing medium-high rep full-body routines. This is one thing that bodybuilders, powerlifters, strength coaches, and researchers agree on. Full body workouts allow for greater training frequency which leads to more rapid neural and coordinative adaptations, and medium-high rep training leads to greater connective tissue adaptations, less degradation in form, less stress on the spine (assuming they keep a neutral spine), and more protein synthesis.

6. Applied Kinesiology and Quackery

Lately I’ve encountered several individuals who believe in Applied Kinesiology. While my gut instinct screamed “bullshit” at me, I decided to do some research. I stumbled upon this article, which cites several different research articles that confirmed my suspicions. Notice that New Zealander therapists ranked really high on the list in terms of buying into this B.S.? I’m going to have to set the record straight on these folks when I get out there. Hate me all you want, but at the end of the day do you want to be trained by someone who understands science or someone who still believes in the Easter Bunny?

7. Resistance Training Can Increase VO2 Max Better Than Endurance Training

This classic study by Hautala et al. showed that sedentary subjects who had poor muscle conditioning benefited more from strength training than endurance training in terms of VO2 Max improvements. Even endurance athletes need to possess basic levels of strength in order to perform their best. Every athlete should be able to perform some push ups, chin ups, inverted rows, lunges, single leg hip thrusts, planks, and side planks with good form.


Two Sundays ago Steve, my dad, my stepbros, and I moved all of my equipment out of my house to my client Steve’s garage. Steve agreed to keep it at his house for three years until I get back from New Zealand. This is a win-win situation, as he’ll get to use it and I won’t have to pay for storage. I planned on training at the gym right down the street from me but I just couldn’t do it. I’m just too addicted to my equipment. The chalk bin, the deadlift lever, the Texas power bars, etc. For the past week I’ve been driving clear across town to train with Steve out of his garage. Here’s the new facility:

9. Steve Deadlifts 500 lbs!

This was truly auto-regulatory training at it’s best. We deloaded a bit three weeks ago and planned on taking a month to work our way up to heavy singles on the deadlift. However, two weeks in Steve intuitively knew that he had 500 lbs in him. After he did a set with 405 lbs, he said, “I want to go for 500.” Who am I to stop him? Here’s the video:

I think that I was happier than Steve! What’s great is that this happened on Thursday, he had his bachelor party on Saturday, and he got married on Sunday. I bet this made his wife even more proud – marrying a 500 lb deadlifting left-handed pitcher!

10. My Blog Design

When I came out with my new blog design several weeks ago, I got some nasty emails from some of my readers who were unhappy with the flashy appearance. Try to remember, I’m 25% Latino. Despite the fact that all my friends dog on me for wearing Ed Hardy t-shirts (they call me “Bret Hardy”), I still wear them with pride. *I realize that Ed Hardy isn’t Latino but here it seems that we Latinos are drawn to that type of clothing. What can I say, I like flashy things, which is why I’m very happy with my new website. Try to cut me some slack…I think I gave you over 100 free blogposts and articles last year! Comprende?

11. What to Bring to NZ

I’m trying to figure out what to bring to New Zealand with me (I can bring two suitcases and a carry-on), and I only saved two things from my gym: 1) a Hampton thick bar pad, and 2) a monster mini-band.

That’s all that’s left of BCSC!

I’ve got a ton of textbooks, books, classics, and DVD’s too from guys like Mel Siff, Vladmir Zatsiorsky, Stuart McRobert, Brooks Kubik, Bill Starr, Jack McCallum, Mike Boyle, Mark Verstegen, Gray Cook, Nick Tumminello, Charlie Weingroff, Kelly Baggett, Jim Keilbaso, Dan John, and Eric Cressey. It’s hard to let this stuff go…I might try to take it all with me!

12. High Rep Hip Thrusts

For the most part, I believe in doing very low rep squats, deadlifts, and Oly lifts (1-3 reps), medium rep single leg work and hip thrusts (3-8 reps), and high rep posterior chain assistance work (8-20 reps). Yet variety is sometimes good, and lately I’ve been doing some higher rep squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusts.

I mentioned how Steve “raised the bar” for me in terms of hip-thrust strength. Here’s me doing 405 x 10 reps:

This was last week, and I did them again today and found it to be even easier. I could probably get 15 reps if I wanted.

I’ve mentioned this in the past too, but hip thrusts transfer really well to high-rep deadlifting. When I rep out on 405 lb deadlifts, I feel my glutes squeezing together in a similar manner to my hip thrusts. This brings me to my next point.

13. High Rep Deadlifts – The Road to 20 Reps with 405 lbs

In my last “random thoughts” post I posted a video of me doing 405 x 12 reps and mentioned that I could get up to 20 reps within a month or so. I got a nasty cold the following week and could only do 10 reps the week after I recovered from my cold. However, the following week I was able to do 15 reps. Here’s the video:

My erector spinae were sore for four straight days following this set!

I’m shooting for 405 x 20 reps, which I hope to get within the next couple of weeks. I realize that I can’t keep going up linearly, but I’m hoping for 18 reps this week and 20 reps next week. Time will tell.

14. TNation Genetics Article – What Got Left Out

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article for TNation that got a lot of great feedback. In case you missed it, here’s the link. The editors for TNation always do a great job of whittling away at my articles and cutting out all the fluff. However, I thought some of the stuff was worth mentioning, so here are a few excerpts that didn’t make the final cut.

Rumor has it that an infant Austrian by the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger popped out of his mother’s womb, grabbed a hold of his umbilical chord, yanked out the placenta, and started twirling it around overhead. Inspired by this feat, Paul Chek would later develop the tornado ball and write an article on T-Nation discussing its benefits. Okay I made that last one up but you get the point.

Muscle cells, or myofibers, are multinucleated, which means that they contain more than one nucleus. Each myonucleus is responsible for regulating gene transcription and protein synthesis over a finite volume of cytoplasm. As the volume per nucleus, or myonuclear domain, expands, it strains the myonuclei and the myonuclei have difficulty supplying the cell with sufficient gene products.

This expansion drives the demand for more myonuclei, and the myofibers will do their best to acquire additional myonuclei by calling upon satellite cells that are strategically positioned beneath the basil lamina of the myofibers. These satellite cells proceed through three distinct steps: activation to exit their normally quiescent state, proliferation to produce more nuclei, differentiation by fusing with myofibers, thereby donating their nuclei to support muscular growth and regeneration. The activation of this process is signaled by growth factors released as a result of mechanical loading.

When you lift weights, you increase the expression of different signaling molecules such as IGF-I isoform Ea (IGF-IEa) and IGF-IEc (mechanogrowth factor, MGF) , as well as the members of the myogenic transcription factor family, which consists of myogenin, MyoD, myf-5, and myf-6.

Many of these genes are involved in the progression that ultimately leads an increase in the number of myonuclei within the myofibers. Some of the genes that influence satellite cell regulation include the muscle-specific mitogen mechanogrowth factor (MGF or IGF-IEc), myogenin, which   is responsible for late differentiation, and cyclin D1, which promotes G1 to S cell cycle progression.

Furthermore, myofibers contain an abundance of microRNA (miRNA) which play a large role in satellite cell proliferation and differentiation.

In this article, I’ve discussed various genetic mechanisms that affect hypertrophy, adiposity, and athleticism – and I only scratched the surface. Future research will unveil much more detail about our genetic map. Of course, there are plenty of different factors that affect your training results. Here are some of the factors that determine your physique, strength, athleticism, and ability to train hard, each of which contains a strong genetic component:

  • height, BMI, body composition
  • bone structure, anthropometry, leverages, tendon attachment points, somatotype, and muscle belly shape
  • strength, hypertrophy, power, athleticism
  • joint mobility, stability, motor control, kinaesthetic awareness, coordination
  • soft-tissue and spinal disc strength
  • anabolic and catabolic hormones, proteins, cytokines, and growth factors
  • hormone receptor density and sensitivity
  • muscle fiber type proportions
  • sleep quantity and quality and immune system strength
  • appetite and food preferences
  • attitude and coping skills
  • affinity for exercise, determination, and drive
  • ability to get “adrenalized”
  • intelligence, ability to experiment with variables, ability to design effective programs, ability to identify weak links

Then you have to consider environmental factors and epigenetics, which is a complicated process in which the environment affects how and when genes are activated:

  • diet, supplementation, and nutrient timing
  • access to training related information, training-related thoughts
  • advisors, coaches, and training partners
  • exercise equipment, music, and training environment
  • time availability for training and skill practice
  • daily posture and activity
  • income and job satisfaction
  • friends and family

Before I did research for this article I didn’t realize the difference between genetics and genomics. According to this link, genetics is the study of single genes in isolation. Genomics is the study of all the genes in the genome and the interactions among them and their environment(s).

15. Collegiate and Professional Strength Coaches

This may sound a little bit cocky, but I’m not very impressed with what I’ve seen from collegiate and professional strength coaches. Whenever I hear interviews involving strength coaches I’m not entirely impressed with their knowledge of Biomechanics or training principles. Whenever I see training clips I’m not quite satisfied with their athletes’ form or strength levels.

It seems to me that at the professional level it’s all about who you know, not what you know. I realize that personality, ability to work with the coaches, ability to get along with players and motivate them, and work ethic play a large role in who gets hired, but I’m still not very impressed with their programs.

16. Getting Research Before it’s Published and Making Friends With Coaches and Researchers

One thing that I’ve really enjoyed over the past year is making tons of new friends in the industry. There are plenty of coaches who I speak to on a regular basis – guys who love to talk training and have a strong desire to keep learning. Some of the guys I talk to every month are Brad Schoenfeld (my hypertrophy guy), Carl Valle (my sprint guy), Ben Bruno (my exercise progression guy), Joe Dowdell (my biomechanics guy), and Shon Grosse (my physical therapy guy). I love hearing all of these coaches’ thoughts on training. These are some smart individuals who are all experts on various aspects of training.

However, I’ve also made friends with some researchers and professors, and lately I’ve been getting emails from individuals informing me about research that is yet to be published. It’s very exciting, and is one of the perks of being a popular fitness writer!

17.  Body Composition Was Easier to Manage Before I Knew a Lot About Nutrition!

In my late teens and early twenties, I didn’t know that much about nutrition. If I wanted to lean out, I just didn’t eat much, and if I wanted to bulk up I pigged out.

Now I’m much older and wiser and I’ve accumulated a ton of knowledge about nutrition. Ironically, my knowledge has led to some OCD’s which has made it more difficult for me to lean out. I try to up protein slightly when dropping calories and keep fat intake consistent, which requires me to drop carbohydrate intake. It’s hard for me to cut out foods like yogurt and fruit due to their favorable effects on the immune system and longevity. While I don’t go super-low carb or anything like that, I usually end up eating too much dairy or fruit because 1) I’m spoiled, 2) I’m too lazy to measure my food, and 3) At around midnight I transform into a starving wolverine capable of consuming twenty pounds of food in one sitting.

I guess this has more to do with will-power than knowledge, but I end up justifying the extra can of Greek yogurt or the extra apple or pear because I’m now knowledgeable enough to convince my brain why I need it immediately!

18. The Difference Between The Skorcher Hip Thrust and the Bench Hip Thrust

I drew this rudimentary diagram a while back when I was trying to explain to a colleague the difference between a hip thrust off of my Skorcher and a hip thrust off of a bench. While I love the hip thrust off of a bench, take a look at the video above where I perform 405 x 10 reps. You’ll notice that my hamstrings do not contract that hard. You can visually see it. My glutes contract as hard as possible, but not my hammies. Take a look at the drawing below and focus on the knee joint. In the case of the Skorcher hip thrust, your hips sink lower than your feet, which opens the knees up and puts the hamstrings on greater stretch. This activates them to a much higher degree and sort of separates the lift into two halves; the bottom half which is hamstring dominant, and the top half which is glute dominant. A properly performed reverse hyper, back extension, and 45 degree hyper does the same thing.

19. My First Newsletter – Done!

Two weeks ago I finally created a template for my newsletters. I’m going to send them out every week or two so I can update my readers about new content.

20. Strength & Conditioning – Biological Principles and Practical Applications

Since everyone’s been talking about this new book I decided to order it. Should arrive next week. If you’re a strength coach, you need to own this book. Check out the table of contents here (click on the picture of the book after you’ve clicked on the link).

I know that science isn’t that cool these days and that the Tooth Fairy is much more en vogue, but the Rock is here to tell you that you can have it all!

21. How to Be Influential in the Strength & Conditioning Field

 I was recently voted the second-most influential person in strength & conditioning according to this article on SprintStrong.

This got me thinking. I have a lot of respect for many individuals in the strength & conditioning profession, but I don’t think that many of the most popular guys are very “influential.” Many top dogs have vanished in recent years, perhaps moving onto bigger and better things. Of those who are still around, many are not putting out good stuff.

Think about the ten most popular guys in the field – many of them don’t even have Youtube videos demonstrating anything impressive.

My bullshit meter goes through the roof when a coach or trainer doesn’t have a Youtube page, or if I click on their Youtube page and all I see is bodyweight push ups, bodyweight inverted rows, bodyweight lunges, and bodyweight hip thrusts.

The first word in strength coach and strength & conditioning is “strength.”  If you can’t get your athletes strong with good form then I don’t think you’re good at what you do. You might fool the layperson with your fancy talk but the strength coaches who are bulletproofing their athletes and increasing power production know better.

As I’ve already mentioned, many individuals don’t want to take science into account these days, but there’s a large body of literature in support of strength for injury prevention and improved performance purposes.

Here are some more considerations that allowed me to be voted number two on the list:

1) I’m single and I don’t have kids. This allows me to work long hours.

2) I lift weights and am pretty strong. People like to follow those who “walk the walk.”

3) I train clients and get them strong and powerful with good form, and post videos on Youtube for people to see. Many of these videos include innovative exercises, exercise technique tutorials, or impressive demonstrations.

4) I read tons of journal articles and blogposts and am constantly putting out new information in my blogs and articles. When I stay up late researching, I feel like a detective looking through old case files searching for new clues. Many times I strike gold. It’s not enough these days to just coach all day long. You also have to read. For several years all I did was train clients all day long. This does not optimize your efficiency as a coach/trainer. You must make time to study. More importantly, you can’t think that you already know it all – as then you have no drive to keep learning.

5) I give out tons of free information – I wrote over a hundred blogposts and articles last year. If all of your information requires someone to pay money to access it, then you won’t reach nearly as many people and wont’ be as “influential.” My information tends to be informative and humorous at the same time, which isn’t easy. While I’m not Tony Gentilcore in terms of humor, I still try my best.

22. TNation Testosterone T-Shirts

I recently ordered a couple of new Testosterone t-shirts from Biotest. Here I am trying to act really hardcore with “imaginary lat syndrome”. You have to admit they’re pretty badass. Great shirts to train in!

23. Tears Decrease Arousal and Testosterone Levels

According to a brand new study here, women’s tears cause men’s arousal and testosterone levels to plummet.

It’s funny, whenever I’m with a girl and she starts crying, it’s like kryptonite to me. I try to squash it as soon as it strikes. I say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, don’t start crying. It’s not that big of a deal. I’ll change. I swear. If you stop crying I’ll take you on that picnic. I’ll buy you jewelry. I’ll never so much as glance at another woman ever again! Just please stop crying.”

Little did I know that this was my body’s way of preserving its manliness!

24. Two Great Rare Glute Exercises – The Lever Reverse Lunge and Single Leg 45 Degree Hyper

Here are two of my favorite single leg glute exercises that you don’t see on a regular basis:

First, the lever reverse lunge. Since the machine stabilizes the frontal plane component of the lift, the exercise doesn’t lead to much adductor soreness. Notice also that the machine allows you to really sit back and achieve an excellent range of hip flexion. I know that machines aren’t very popular these days but sometimes they let you do things that you can’t do with free weight.

Next is the dumbbell single leg 45 degree hyper. Many single leg hip dominant exercises don’t feel “balanced” and subsequently cause the lifter to feel like he left something in the tank in terms of hip extension force. This is not the case with this exercise – if you do it right it’s well-balanced and allows you to really work the glutes and hammies. I should state up front that I don’t mind a little bit of lumbar extension if it’s not extreme.

 25. Coregasms

Several years ago I was training a female client and she kept squirming. I would always say to her, “Quit squirming! Stay tight.” After a couple of weeks of training her, she opened up to me and informed me that the reason why she squirmed during her sets was because she was having orgasms while she performed certain exercises. What she was experiencing has been coined “coregasms.”

It’s important for strength coaches and personal trainers to understand this phenomenon. Adam Campbell wrote about it several years ago in a Men’s Health blogpost. If you click on the link and read the comments, you’ll see that it’s actually a common occurrence. Coregasms occur most frequently with exercises like hanging leg raises and reverse crunches, but can also happen during dips, chin ups, and back extensions.

My former client stressed to me that she viewed it as a curse, not a blessing, due to the inappropriate timing of the sensations. I’m just glad she didn’t act like this or I would have been very uncomfortable!

*For the record I don’t think that this video shows a “coregasm”, which is created by core muscle contractions. I think the friction of the pole created a genuine orgasm, but you have to admit it’s hilarious!

I think I’ll end things on a high note and stop here! Peace out blogreaders, and have a great week.


  • SLS says:

    That was a really good read and lots of useful info at the same time! On the nutrition bit, if you are experiencing ravenous hunger despite having eaten a meal (your stomach doesn’t feel empty but you just want to eat), then it’s a sign of slight insulin resistance. Leaning out really doesn’t require portion control on low carbs. Eat good quality meat and vegetables to fill. Throw some black/rasp/blueberries in the greek yogurt for fiber and fullness factor. Drop the tropical fruits and apples for tart berries. Tip: if you’re still grazing for food, try reaching for another helping of the protein. If you can’t finish that, then you’re done.

  • Smitty says:

    “When I train people I don’t really stick to any rules. I probably break every common rule we believe to be true in strength and conditioning.”

    Very important practice. Training becomes intuitive, the more you train and the more you train others.

  • Rick says:


    Looking at your post on hip thrust/bridges with a ball between the legs mad me think about doing the opposite as Smitty described in a email a couple of weeks ago. In other words, hip thrust/bridges with the knees abducted and externally rotated. What are your thoughts on that vaiation?

    • Bret says:

      I like Smitty’s ideas. I wanted to measure the EMG (and I actually had rented a unit a couple of weeks ago) but I had issues with my computer and my Vista operating system. I’m quite certain that Smitty’s version does indeed increase glute activation when using bodyweight. With loading, I suspect that my version (actually Ferris’ version) would probably lead to the highest activation due to the extra loading ability.

  • Rhys I says:

    “Let the therapists worry about stability balls and the strength coaches worry about barbells!”

    Yes yes, f-ing yes! I’m all for some corrective stuff but a good STRENGTH programme should get someone strong and moving better. One coach i met kept talking to me about how his athletes could do bodyweight squats on a swiss ball and the splits, i just said thats great because they’ll end up in the splits when my athletes who are squatting double bodyweight smash them on the ground!

    Great post all round Bret. Would love a review of the S&C book when you get it too. I like how much you promote the science these days. There’s so much ‘my body is my research bro’ and ‘i know it works because i’m in the trenches bro’ chat these days. Its almost as if you read the science your a worse coach for it, i happen to think you can do both and be an even better coach in the long run… maybe i’m just not as hardcore as them! lol.

  • Ian says:

    Bret, I completely respect all your work, read your blog daily, and use many of your exercises regularly with my athletes, but I have to stand up for my fellow college strength & conditioning coaches. While training people to be stronger, powerful, and more athletic, is the virtually the same regardless of the setting, I think it’s not entirely fair to compare training at the collegiate strength & conditioning level, to private/small group training (although you weren’t really comparing). It’s one thing to be training several individuals, but to train 30+ people, all at the same time, and who all have special needs (lots of injuries to constantly modify for) and different training backgrounds, is no easy feat. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but when there is only one coach, with one set of eyes, for 30+ athletes, things can be tough. I would love to give my athletes the attention to every single detail that they deserve, and I bust my ass trying to (and I think I represent many other college coaches), but I train 200-300 athletes every single day and it’s a battle I fight and routinely get frustrated with. With that being said, there are definitely some very unqualified coaches, and a coach at a major-conference school, such as the SEC, who only has 3-5 teams, has no excuse to be mediocre. However there are a lot of coaches who are juggling 12-20 teams, where one group rolls in the door as another is leaving, all day long. There are some spectacular coaches in college, unfortunately many are probably overworked and have little time for the internet side of the business. Keep up the great info and best of luck in NZ.

    • Bret says:

      Ian, a couple of coaches emailed me about this issue wondering who I was talking about. I sent them a few Youtube vids and then they understood. If you saw the vids I’m referring to you’d agree. I’m not the most strict “Form Policer” out there…but there’s a line you just don’t cross. Some of the coaches (almost always football coaches) allow way too much slop. And some pro coaches (a baseball coach I’m thinking of) doesn’t understand Biomechanics well enough to realize that general strength is really important, not just specific strength. I used to teach high school math and was an assistant strength coach so I completely understand what it’s like to have tons of students shuffling through. But you can still teach good form and you can get the athletes to help out with coaching good form. I completely agree that there are some amazing coaches out there in the college and pro settings. I found some very impressive videos today when I was sifting through Youtube. If we spoke for a bit I bet we’d realize that we’re on the exact same page. Thanks and keep up the great work too!

  • Juliet says:

    I randomly found a link to your blog somewhere a week or so ago and, let me tell you, I love it. This post was HILARIOUS and informative. I’ve actually never done a hip thrust… I think they’re going to make a debut on Friday for sure.

    • Bret says:

      Thank you Juliet. Don’t stop squatting, deadlifting, and lunging. But definitely add hip thrusts into the mix. They get glute EMG activity up higher than any other exercise and have helped transform plenty of booties within the last few years. Watch this video before you start.

      • Juliet says:

        Hey Bret!

        Don’t you worry, my squats, deadlifts ,and lunges make multiple appearances a week and aren’t going anywhere. I’m just excited to add to the repertoire… I just watched the video and it answered a lot of questions. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • James de Lacey says:

    That beginners training paragraph is too true. I’ve just started training my first clients this week at a park and I’m trying to adapt my own style of how I train beginners. My number one priority is getting them moving well enough to perform a full squat, then eventually progress to loading it.
    But there is a fine line between what you want as a trainer and what your clients want in terms of results so I’m picking up how to balance that out.
    Nice post btw, I really like that hip stability and mobility warm up, could be a good little drill to use on an off day

    • Bret says:

      James – I usually started beginners with 1) bodyweight high box squats 2) bodyweight hip thrusts (off my Skorcher) 3) rack pulls 4) bodyweight low step ups and 5) bodyweight back extensions. These were my “big five” lower body exercises for beginners when I had my studio “Lifts.” I was able to progress individuals very rapidly as those five lifts are synergistic.

  • Applied Kinesiology has always made me laugh. The name itself is an oxymoron.
    By the way, if a guy can’t put something up that’s a little bit flashy and self-congratulatory without criticism, it speaks more to the society that we live in where we punish those who feel good about themselves. Keep on rockin in the free world, Bret!!

  • Howard Gray says:

    Great to see how excited you are about your move to NZ – I know it will be a great experience.
    # 15 – I have to defend the college / pro guys. Training a team in these situations is like night and day from individual clients or small groups. Yes – the same things technically are important – but how it is applied in the situation is very different. It is very challenging to do everything that you may do with a client in the team setting. Not impossible, but challenging.
    That said – there are a lot of not so proficient guys and girls at the pro or college level – but the same can be said of private trainers.

    • Bret says:


      When I was a high school math teacher I taught six classes of 32-38 kids. I helped train the varsity football team. Before I opened up Lifts (my studio) several years back I trained up to 10 people at once.

      I realize that it’s night and day between team vs. one-on-one training, but I don’t agree with you or Ian on this one.

      You can prevent crappy form by:

      1. Teaching, teaching, teaching what good form and what bad form looks like. You can demonstate it to them, show them Youtube clips, use a marker board and draw diagrams, etc. Kids will get it.

      2. Teach them what happens to the body when form breaks down. Explain to them how good form distributes stress and poor form accentuates stress. Show them where stress accumulates in various lifts when form breaks down. Show them the linkage between poor form, injury/pain, decreased performance, and being on the disabled list. Nobody likes being injured!

      3. Have kids help coach the lifts and monitor form. Get them involved and “buying in.”

      4. Allow ample rest time in between sets on big lifts so you can monitor more players.

      5. Organize the sessions so that the more dangerous lifts are always being watched by a coach.

      6. Be extremely consistent and always praise good form and correct poor form. The set stops the second that form starts to break down.

      7. Learn why form is breaking down on various lifts and correct it. Engrain proper patterns, develop good mobility, etc., so that good form is “automatic.”

      8. Have posters or boards up near the stations with diagrams and cues showing/reminding what good form entails and what poor form entails.

      It’s all about organization, planning, and consistency. As a teacher if I worked hard up front it would pave the way for the rest of the year. The same goes with coaching. You have to set up the right culture and environment.

      I agree – there are excellent and crappy coaches, as well as excellent and crappy trainers. I’m not trying to dog on college or pro coaches, but the bar needs to be raised for a good portion of them in my opinion. I think that many coaches are ignorant as to what safe and unsafe form looks like at all the joints during the exercises. Again, I’m not overly strict, and I’m all about strength, but there’s a line you don’t cross.


      • Howard Gray says:

        Bret I didn’t even see Ian’s response above until now. I am in agreement with him when he mentions that the vast majority of coaches at the pro or college level are not putting themselves out there (hence you may well not have come across so many good ones). The majority of good coaches are completely unheralded.

        My argument was not really about technique (I realize how it may have seemed like this). Technique is something that should always be stressed. I said “the same things are technically are important” more meaning the overall planning and evaluation process, along with striving to implement and progress suitable technique, training loads, etc. This is something that is best done with good organization of staff (paid, unpaid, interns, or otherwise), and working your tail off as well as coaching ability and knowledge.

        You mention very good points that all of us coaches need reminding of and I am glad you have been in the team setting – many people in your boat have not.

        I used to work in professional sports, and now work in the college set-up. I am very lucky that I only have one team (men’s soccer) that I work with on a day to day basis. This means I am able to give a lot of time to all areas of sport science. This, however, is quite unique. As I said, I am VERY lucky, hence I feel a lot of the people in the pros and college game deserved defending here on this topic. Generally people in those fields put more time in and are payed less than those in the private field. There is also usually a lot going on in the background that we, the outsider does not see. Coaches and administrators can be difficult to work with, as can the athletes themselves. I know that it is a dream when we get to work with an athlete one on one. Sadly it tends to only happen when they are suffering / recovering from and injury, or are out of the main training group due to other reasons (ineligibility, discipline, redshirts, etc.).
        Keep in mind that athletes that come to a personal trainer or personal strength coach are usually doing it because they want to. MANY athletes in the team situation do not (initially) want to do this. They may well already have got to a good level of athletically ability without ever having a strength coach. Some coaches even feel reluctant to let their players work with an SCC at all. Obviously it is then our job to educate and help buy in – but our approach certainly has to change because of this. 35 people asking questions of your program in the weight room or on the field is very different than one in a private setting.

        • Bret says:

          Howard, great points. Ideally each strength program would have the proper number of strength coaches and assistants, therapists and athletic trainers, sport scientists and coaches, etc. With my client Steve, I’m confident that I’m one of the best strength coaches out there and met this need very well. But since he didn’t have much mula to spend, I found myself doing PNF stretching, ART/massage techniques, analyzing his pitching biomechanics, etc. I’m definitely not the best in the world at this but I’m good at researching, being analytical, and calling upon colleagues for advice. So I did the best I could possibly do, but ideally each athlete would have an entire team of experts at his/her disposal, and ideally they’d all be easy to work with and respectful of eachothers’ knowledge. Good points about the differences between athletes who want to be there vs. ones who have to be there. Thanks Howard!

  • Hector says:

    Hey Bret, I had question. I have been looking for a book like the one you mentioned above but have had trouble deciding on one. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on nutrition/training and most of the books I’ve seen have very basic information. I looked through the contents of the one you posted and it looks like it’s worth buying but are there any other books you’d recommend?

    • Bret says:

      Hector, what are your goals?

      • Hector says:

        I have the same goal as every other guy that does what we do, to get as big and shredded as possible lol I really like reading your blog cause you explain the science on why something is right. You don’t just say squat 4 sets of 10 or etc like most websites/magazines. I like learning about how the body functions, especially when it comes to the effects of weight training.

        • Bret says:

          Hector, the book I mentioned in the blogpost is very advanced. I love it (probably my favorite S&C book so far), but it would be over most people’s heads. You might like “Designing Resistance Training Programs” by Fleck and Kraemer. It’s hard to recommend a book since I don’t where you stand in terms of S&C knowledge. There are a lot of popular books that aren’t very scientific.


  • Hanna says:

    Great post as usual. Alot of LOL’s.

  • Bianca says:

    Hi Bret,

    I thought it would be appropriate to add a random question in the comments’ section of your random thoughts post.
    My random – but very important – question is: how low should you squat in order not to damage your knees? The majority of the videos I see from most trainers show a deep squat, with an acute angle between thigh and calf. Why do certain trainers – like my trainer for example – say that squatting deep can increase the pressure of the knees, thus damaging in the long run the ligaments, joints, etc of the knees? (my trainer says that the majority of biomechanics textbooks prove that you should never squat over 90 degrees, due to the anatomy of the knee and the physics of the knee’s movement).

    I would very much appreciate your opinion about it.


  • Alex says:

    Please write up a post on your note-taking method. I mean, between hundreds of blog posts, books, podcasts, etc, it’s just impossible to retain every snippet of useful info you take in. It’s extremely important for one’s research efforts to have a proper note taking system and I am wondering how you do. I mean there’s a big difference between having a book on your shelf, and having all of it’s info stripped out and recorded in your own personalized format for ease of use. As you seem to be an INTJ just like me, it would stand to reason that you also have a somewhat complex method for taking notes, correct?

    Personally, I have a somewhat arcane system of text files in which I dump snippets, observations and “aha!” moments. Doesn’t guarantee that I actually use all of the stuff I read but at least it’s recorded somewhere so I can get at it later.

    • Bret says:

      Alex, I actually don’t take notes. I have colleagues who take extensive notes, but I don’t at all. I’m spoiled and I always know that I can find online almost whatever I want to know within ten minutes of searching. Sorry to disappoint you! -Bret

  • Brock says:

    Hey Bret, good stuff as usual. A few things I would add are the point about the college strength guys, which you have already discussed a few times. I was lucky enough to learn under a phenomenal strength coach in college, and he was definitely one of those guys who was literally in charge of every team on campus. We had to break up the football team into 3 groups throughout the day due to lack of space in the weight room, and luckily myself and a few other volunteer grad assistants were able to come in and help out, but by and large the SC was doing it by himself. He basically stressed technique and harped on it ALWAYS. And guys still got ridiculously strong, with only 1 or 2 injuries in the weight room that I remember (obviously you strive for 0, but I think that’s pretty good). He was also an assistant with an NFL team before that, and he certainly had some not-so-glowing things to say about the head guy there. It sounded very similar to how you described it – who you know, not what, which is unfortunate. You would think with owners paying millions of dollars to athletes, they would want to get them the best training possible.
    The one other thing I wanted to note was something I picked up from Jason Ferruggia – I like to keep the reps (for the big lifts anyway) low for beginners. Main reason being that they don’t have the muscular endurance to maintain optimal form for 10-12 reps. I just throw in a few extra sets to get the volume. In any case, once again great job, and best of luck in NZ.
    Oh yea – if you’re looking for a place to house those books and such, I’ve got some room! (I’m almost tempted to offer to drive down to your place from Iowa to pick them up).

    • Bret says:

      Thanks Brock! What you described is exactly what I’m talking about. It’s not that hard!!! I don’t think some of the strength coaches know enough about what good form entails on each exercise to even be aware of the fact that many of the lifters are getting too sloppy. If you constantly reinforce the concept day in, day out, you teach them the system and they get it. I think this is one benefit of coming from I teaching background. Of course there are plenty of great coaches out there, but plenty of not-so-great ones too. Thanks again!

  • Brandon says:


    I completely agree with #2. There has to be a balance between mobility and stability, especially from an athletic perspective. Mobility and stability are not the same, and people tend to forget that. In response to the college strength coach bit I am in agreement but in different ways. It seems to me that even in the college arena it is oftentimes based off of who you know and not what you know. Also in many college athletic departments budgets are down, staffs are low, and help seems to be harder to come by; which leads to who someone knows that they can get for cheap versus the best possible canidate. There has also been the shift from athlete to sport specialization which in my experience has greatly decreased the ability to be an ATHLETE! Sport coaches tend to overlook that in many cases and at alot of schools recruit solid “players” but not “athletes”. The difference is huge in the strength and conditiong realm. (This could be a blog on its own.)

  • Jaakko says:

    Hi, Bret!

    Excellent post, as usual!

    Did you know that some of your videos are blocked by Youtube in some countries, for example in Finland?

    “This video contains content from Sony Music Entertainment, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds. “

  • frey says:

    bret – I’m not feeling the “i’m gay” image on #4. Homophobia is a little low class, man.

    • Bret says:

      Sorry Frey,

      I’m definitely not homophobic at all. I was just trying to be funny. My friends and I have definitely adopted an unprofessional lingo and I should step it up. I didn’t anticipate that people would find it offensive.

      I apologize,


  • Alex says:

    I guess Bret hangs out too much on T-Nation where the standard line is “youse caught teh gheys brah” 😀

  • Taylor says:

    While there are certainly some amazing collegiate strength and conditioning coaches out there, I think the recent news of 13 University of Iowa football players getting Rhabdomyolysis after their first day back to a structured S&C program following a 3 week layoff certainly supports the statements that you laid out in #15 of this article. What was their coach thinking by reportedly making them do 100 barbell squats at their bodyweight for time and dragging a weighted sled 100 yards for time as well on their first day back? I’m all for pushing athletes but I also realize that you have to ease them back into the weightroom after a 3 week hiatus and that using exercise as punishment rarely works out well.

    • Bret says:

      Taylor, I think that this was a ridiculous workout. The Hawkeye coach is highly respected in our community, and I just can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. I’ve certainly made plenty of mistakes in my career, and have learned from each one. I hope all coaches learned from this fiasco – if they would have read my “Ten Stupid Things that Coaches Do” article they would have properly progressed the athletes and avoided this situation. Thanks bud!

  • Tony says:

    I agree the gay comment is unnecessary and out of step in 2011.

  • kyla says:

    I have been reading some of your posts here and have learned much thank you. When i sprint my feet turn out slightly at ground contact. I know this when i video myself. Does this make me slower & less efficient? What can i do to stop it?

  • Michael says:

    Hey Bret,
    I read this post earlier and am just getting back from the gym. I cranked out a few sets of hip thrusts, box jumps, and deadlifts, while all of the college students at the UC gym stared in confusion. I guess the hip thrusts caused the bewilderment. Thanks for sharing that secret glute weapon! Anyway, I’m trying to lean out a bit, but I don’t want to lose the backside. I hate when people cut or increase their cardio and get flat in the back. It’s disappointing!

    Anyway, why does every website, except yours and the hill sprint believers, point people only to squats, lunges and if you have it really hard, squeezing at the top? Um… I have major respect for those moves, but they emphasize the entire lower body, and mostly quads for those who don’t have natural donk. Why is everyone saying the same thing, prescribing the same exercises, and yet the gym is filled with people who are not that strong in the rear and hams? But I’ve noticed athletes, in particular track athletes, football players, soccer, bball, hell, anyone that combines power with speed, and they all have impressive cakes. Even the skinny ones have glutes in comparison to the rest of their body.

    Another thing (I think I’ve asked you this before) is why do websites like T-Nation, etc. use only male professional bodybuilders and yet the most attractive female models and NOT female bodybuilders? I feel like the IFBB pro does not represent what I, nor 99% of men want to look like, yet that’s presented. (Ironically, the women are what 99% DO want to look like.) I realize that the male fitness models make hetero guys feel insecure and gay, but why is an oiled up, roided, hormone injected man in posing trunks less gay? Maybe it’s so distorted and unnatural that nobody looks at it like a human. It’s like a terminator machine. On one of your glute articles on that site the female glutes look outright beautiful, yet the male model is so shredded it looks ridiculous! My girl would leave me if my butt looked like a radiator! Ha! OK, I guess I better run off before someone goes on a roid rage and kicks my (big, round and muscular) ass!

  • Kellie says:

    Great post as always. Hey, if Steve lives closer to me than you, you must warn him that I might show up to use your equipment. I’m a little bummed since my gym started hosting crossfit classes 2 times a day and rope off one of the power racks.

    I am a little hurt that you didn’t bequeath any BCSC items unto your favorite client. I am your favorite client, right? 😉

    I knew you had ulterior motives for attending school in NZ, I just couldn’t pinpoint them until the Applied Kinesiology comment. Now I know, now I know.

    Take care if I don’t see you before you go.

  • Jimmy says:

    Yo Bret,

    If you ever get some time off whilst in NZ, you should hop across the Tasman to Australia – would love to have you in the country, man.

  • Reader says:

    Here’s the correct link to the VMO’s activation in squats study:

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