Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Increasing Ground Force Production For Athletic Performance.

I was watching a video of MMA fighter Jon Jones skipping and shuffling on a treadmill the other day and laughed to myself about how over the next month “MMA conditioning experts” will be talking about the latest secret to dominate your opponent in the ring. Prepare for the onslaught of YouTube videos and E-Books, “Fight Training’s Forgotten Secret – THE TREADMILL”!

BJJ brown belt Chris Jones uses heavy deadlifts to build enormous hip, back, torso and grip strength.
While that short video was just a snapshot into Jon’s training and was likely him just warming up for his training session, it did get me thinking about the sport performance training industry. There are so many experts hocking gimmicks and methods everywhere you look. It’s big business. Most of it is just that, a gimmick.

The biggest thing that can help an athlete is increasing ground force production. This will impact all sports. In a recent blog I pointed to two studies that show how increasing ground force production impacted runners, both sprint and distance runners, but this would be a huge benefit to every athlete. Swimmers will be able to get off their blocks faster, fighters will be able to strike harder, grapplers will be able to shoot faster, throwers will be able to throw harder and further and so on.
Every athlete can benefit from building absolute strength, power and speed, even elite swimmers!
The two most effective ways to increase force production are to become stronger and faster. Sorry football players, but dancing through agility ladders may give the illusion that your moving faster but it’s doing squat to improve your ground force production. Speaking of squat, that is a far better choice than skipping through a plastic ladder.

I don’t mean to single out football players, but over the last 20 years I’ve been in the training industry, many of the football players I worked with were surprisingly weak, especially for a sport that is supposed to be dominated by some of the strongest and most powerful athletes out there.

I recently worked with a defensive lineman from a D2 school here in Georgia. I spent the summer training him and noticed from day one his lower back was incredibly weak. Our first training session had him squatting 50% of his max for 10 sets of 2 reps and doing sumo stance rack deadlifts with 50% of his estimated deadlift max (he didn’t know what he could deadlift, go figure) for 10 sets of 2 reps. An additional 25% band tension was used on both of the lifts on top of the barbell weight. By the second set of deadlifts his lower back had locked up and he was on the ground. He struggled to do reverse hypers for 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps with half his squat max as well. 

In comparison, I had a female powerlifter I was training at the time who used the exact same weight on the deadlift workout as this football player. She was twice the age of the football player and had some pretty jacked up knee issues. She could crush that deadlift workout in about 5 minutes and move on to reverse hypers with 50% of her squat max for 4 sets of 20 reps with no issues. I’m sorry, but a female masters division powerlifter should not dominate a collegiate football lineman in the weight room.

How To Increase Ground Force Production.

Get Stronger
Elite BJJ athlete Chris Jones developing strength by doing Zercher squats w/ 205lbs on the bar and 225lbs on the belt squat.
Stick with your basic exercises that lend themselves to heavy loads. Squats, deadlifts, and variations of those lifts rule here. I can hear the sport specific coaches now, “But where are the 1-leg exercises at? Most sports are no bi-lateral and require uni-lateral loading for improved performance.” 

Improving athleticism happens during practice where athletes learn to play their sport. The goal in the weight room should be to make the athlete strong, more explosive, and more resilient. The primary strength exercises should be the multi-joint compound lifts that allow the athlete to handle the greatest loads through joint angles required in the sport. The maximal effort method, lifting weights in the 90% or greater range, should be utilized here. Single leg exercises are great and should be incorporated with the accessory exercises after the main lift.

Get Faster
High school running back Noah Venable developing explosive power doing kneeling power cleans.
Louie Simmons talks extensively about the importance of training all velocities of strength. This was one of the many concepts I learned from him that really made me question how I was training people. I always thought of weights as heavy and light and he said, “No, heavy and light is different for everyone. Weights are fast or slow.” Because of this I follow his recommendations of breaking training up by speed. Regardless of the load used the goal should always be to move the weight as fast as possible.
  •         Power training – jumps, other explosive bodyweight exercises and throws
  •          Dynamic effort training – submaximal weights lifted with maximal acceleration

o   Explosive strength – 30-40% loads plus accommodating resistance
o   Speed strength – 50-60% loads plus accommodating resistance
  •        Maximal effort training – handling loads 90% or greater

Using these methods to improve strength, speed and power will have a very positive effect on an athlete’s performance. I recently started working with an up and coming MMA fighter and after only a couple of weeks using these methods he reported that he is hitting a lot harder without “trying to hit harder”.

I worked with a college football player when he was preparing for his pro-day and in 6 weeks with no running, just working on his maximal strength, speed strength and power his vertical jump went from 29.5” to 39.5”, his 40-yard dash went from 4.85 seconds to 4.60 seconds, and his squat went from 535lbs to 600lbs. In nearly 20 years I’ve seen nothing but exceptional results with all of my other athletes including grapplers, powerlifters, swimmers, tennis players, volleyball players, wrestlers, and many more.

If you want further reading about the importance of increasing ground force production for athletes I strongly recommend picking up Barry Ross’ book Underground Secrets to FasterRunning, it was recommended to me by Louie Simmons and is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

Stay Strong AND Healthy!


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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Keep Your Nutrition Plan on Track with Healthy Snacks.

Due to my crazy work schedule I find myself working through normal meal times. With nearly 20 years in the fitness industry I've discovered there really is no such thing as a "normal time" for anything actually!

Healthy eating is not difficult but does require a little advanced planning. Fortunately I have a refrigerator at my gym that makes it easy for me to keep my favorite healthy snacks ready and available.

Most of the time I only have a few minutes to eat in between my athlete's and client's training sessions, so I need stuff that is healthy and able to be devoured quickly.

I usually keep a lot of fresh fruit in the refrigerator and bags of mixed nuts and trail mix in my office. Fruit is my favorite, it tastes awesome and is very refreshing, especially when training during a hot summer day in Atlanta!

I also rely on nutrition bars as part of my emergency snack kit. Nutrition bars are great because they are not messy and are easily portable. I usually keep a few in my back pack and gym bag. I find them particularly valuable when travelling. There's nothing worse than being a vegan and stuck in the middle of a long road trip with no healthy, plant-based options available, and the junk that is available on most flights? I'll pass.

Even though they are incredibly convenient, the downside is that most nutrition bars are not much healthier than a candy bar. Most are loaded with sugar and processed crap. One of my favorites is the GoMacro bar. These bars are organic, vegan and sustainably sourced. They are not loaded with weird ingredients, contain no refined sugars, and the ingredients are from healthy food sources. They have a chewy texture and taste great - the peanut butter chocolate chip are my favorite!

Click here to check out GoMacro bars!

Snacking on junk is the easiest way to sabotage healthy eating. Be sure to plan ahead and have your emergency snack kit ready for when you are stuck in the office, on the road, or just looking for a healthy option at home!

Stay Strong AND Healthy!

First-Time Marathon Runner? Tips to Make It to the Finish Line. By, Jason Lewis

Thanks to Jason Lewis for being a guest on my Strength & Health blog and sharing this article he wrote for first-time marathon runners. Enjoy!



First-Time Marathon Runner? Tips to Make It to the Finish Line.

Photo By: Pixabay

Over half a million Americans run marathons each year, and that number is steadily rising. With time and preparation, you can put your first marathon under your belt and join the ranks of even the most seasoned marathoner. Check out these tips to put you off to a good start come race day.

Find the Right Plan

The first step on your journey is to find a training plan that meets your needs. A quick Google search of beginner training plans will leave your mind spinning with all the possibilities, variations, and recommendations. One says to always wear a red headband while the other says wear blue. Rather than get lost in all the information, think of training in terms of how it will fit into your current schedule. For example, maybe the kids have soccer practice Thursday afternoon and date night is Tuesday. The best training plan will fall in line with your routine.

Take a look at your current running experience too. If the word run isn’t even in your vocabulary, opt for a program that starts out with walking and gradually builds to running. If you are an experienced runner, look for a plan that is similar to your current runs. For example, if you’re already running three times a week for three to four miles, find a training plan that starts out similar to that to avoid injury and burnout. The key for any runner is to gradually increase your mileage.

It’s Not Just Running

You’ve found the perfect spot for your run, but as crazy as it sounds, preparing for a marathon requires more than just running. Your joints need a break, and increasing your balance, strength, and endurance will be beneficial to you in the long run. Cross-training is a great way to rest between strenuous runs, and according to marathon coach Patrick McCrann, sometimes running is the worst thing for both your body and your running goals, especially if you are nursing an injury.

“Most athletes identify problems simply as hurdles to be overcome, [but] the smart runner recognizes his or her limitations and finds a better way,” McCrann said. Replacing running days with cross-training will not only allow your injuries to heal, but prevent them by giving your muscles and joints time to recover. So, what can you do on your cross-training days? Biking, swimming, rowing, and yoga are just a few of the options. As long as it doesn’t involve actual running, you are golden.

Make a Fashion Statement

The most fashionable runner is a comfortable runner. You might be tempted to wear a brand new pair of shoes on race day, but one of the biggest mistakes you can make is wearing new shoes or clothes. You’ve worked hard to break in your shoes, and you know from experience they don’t pinch or rub. You’d hate to be sidelined halfway through the race because of a raw blister. Wear the same shoes and clothes you trained in so that you know without a doubt there is no risk of chafing or rubbing. If it helps, think of your practice runs as rehearsals. Adjust what doesn’t work and keep what shines.

As you decide which outfit to make your go-to, avoid cotton, as it is the least breathable. Cotton holds sweat in, leaving you feeling damp and bogged down. Opt for lightweight clothing with moisture wicking technology. Don’t forget that you’ll heat up as you run, so although the morning may be a little chilly, your body temperature will rise in no time. A good rule of thumb is to dress 20 degrees warmer than the weather.

By remembering these tips, you’ll pass your first marathon with flying colors. Remember, marathons aren’t all about winning. The best part is knowing that you did it. Even if you finish dead last or have to walk the last few miles, you won’t be able to stop the smile from spreading across your face when you pass through that finish line.

Jason Lewis is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created to share his tips on senior fitness.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Developing the Athlete: Build Strength in the Gym, not Skill.

Every so often I still see comments about “sport specific training”. This whole idea has led to the creation of many products, programs and facilities dedicated to this niche.

I have trained many athletes, of all levels, from a wide variety of sports in the last 20 years and I can say I’ve never met one that had too much strength, too much speed, too much power, or too much endurance.

There are two types of preparation that apply to athletes, general and specific. For simplicity’s sake, we can say that specific preparation is what the athlete does in the practice of the sport and general preparation is everything else. The trick for the athlete is to ensure that the general preparation enhances the specific skill. Due to this the line between general preparation and physical preparation becomes blurred to the point that strength coaches try to mimic specific skills in the weight-room. This is a big mistake.

I believe it is the sole responsibility of the strength coach to focus on the development of all the physical requirements of the athlete, not specific skill development. There are position coaches and skill coaches to fill those roles. To do this effectively it is imperative the coach has a thorough understanding of all the physical skills required by the athlete, and properly assess where the athlete is currently and where they need to be at the start of the competitive season.

The physical skills required of an athlete, and in what concentration vary sport to sport. They include, but are not limited to, strength, speed, power, endurance, mobility, and flexibility.

Usually the topic of debate centers around strength training, and rightfully so. Since force development is critical for sport performance, the development of strength in all velocities is essential for the athlete. Again, I have yet to see an athlete that is too strong for their sport, yet many strength coaches seem to live in fear of this daily. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard an industry professional at a conference or seminar say something to the extent of “we are not training weightlifters or powerlifters, we are training athletes”. This is true but unfortunately it has resulted in athletes that do not come close to their strength potential.

I worked with a D1 football player who, while doing a set of kettlebell swings with a 24kg kettlebell, was hit with a massive back spasm. Here was a college senior who played outside linebacker. He weighed 236lbs, had a 40-yard dash of 4.85 seconds, a vertical jump of 29.5”, and a parallel free squat of 535 lbs. All that and swinging a 53 lb kettlebell made his lower back lock up. This is what a program of front squats, bench presses, power cleans and no direct lower back work resulted in. I see this in virtually every athlete I’ve worked with. Apparently, sumo deadlifts are cheating, wide stance back squats are somehow less athletic than front squats, and direct low back and neck work is to be avoided at all cost. This is also why some of my female powerlifters ran circles around another collegiate football player I worked with recently.

To fix this I switched him to wide stance box squats, sumo deadlifts (both of these exercises are fantastic for developing hip strength) and we attacked his lower back with Louie Simmon’s Reverse Hyper Extension machine for tons of reps, 80-100 per workout with 50% of his squat max were the norm. In addition, we did a ton of glute / ham raises, good mornings, back extensions, and kettlebell swings.

My approach to programming is heavily influenced by the work of Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell Club. We did maximal effort work one day a week where we worked up to a max single in a squat or deadlift variation, or a 3-5 rep max in a good morning followed by the accessory work listed above, reverse hypers plus 2 or 3 more exercises for hamstrings, low back and abs. We did dynamic effort work one day a week where we did box squats with average bands for 10-12 sets of 2 reps with 50-60% of his squat max and speed pulls with 50% of his deadlift max and doubled mini bands for 10 sets of 2 reps followed by the reverse hypers and other accessory work. We did a lot of walking with the sled, heavy weight for shorter distances and lighter weight for longer distances. Jumps and bounding drills were done on the lower body days as well. Two other days of the week were devoted to a maximal effort upper body and dynamic effort upper body training session.

After only 6 weeks of training like this we had raised his parallel squat from 535 lbs to 600 lbs, his body-weight was up from 236 lbs to 247 lbs and he made these official results at his school’s Pro Day scouting event, his 40-yard dash dropped from 4.85 seconds to 4.60 seconds and his vertical went from 29.5” to 39.5”. Strength and power training lead to these results, not running and agility ladders.
Strength and power training improves force production. People love to say in athletics speed kills. You want to get faster? Increase ground contact force. 

A study done by Weyand titled “Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not more rapid leg movements” confirms this. All those ladder drills may make it look like you’re moving fast but if you want real speed you may want to “in out, in out” your way to the deadlift platform and squat rack. Click here for Weyand’s study.

This general approach to strength and power development is not just for power athletes. According to a study by Leena Paavilainen titled “Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power” an experimental group of endurance runners who replaced 32% of their running training with a strength training program showed a statistically significant drop in running times when compared to the control group who did their normal running training only. What’s interesting here was the experimental group showed no improvement in VO2 max and their improvement was attributed to increased ground force production and decreased ground contact time. Click here for Paavilainen's study.

This is about that time when many strength coaches love to reiterate “we’re training ATHLETES, not powerlifters and weightlifters. Train athletes like DAMN ATHLETES!” I get lost on this statement. Since when has lifting barbells been the sole right of powerlifters and weightlifters? Just because strength development is most often sorely lacking in athletes, form youth all the way up to professionals, doesn’t mean other physical qualities should be ignored. All athletes require strength, power, endurance, flexibility, mobility, etc. Some are quick but weak, some are strong but slow, some are hyper-mobile and some are wound tighter than a drum. No athlete can get by on a cookie cutter program and it is responsibility of the strength coach, or I guess physical preparation coach is the cool new term, to determine the individual needs based on the sport, the athlete’s position within the sport, and their current level of readiness. I have worked with climbers, football players, baseball players, volleyball players, combat athletes and strength athletes; to name a few; and none of them train the same way. Ever.

Do not waste time on the fads in the sport specific industry. Athletes need to be as strong as they possibly can while at the same time developing the appropriate energy systems and establishing the appropriate range of motion needed for the sporting form. So yes, train athletes like damn athletes but do not neglect strength and strengthen the muscles that they need. This will likely mean deviating from the typical front squat, bench press, and power clean protocol that is easy to plan for a large group, but that’s ok. As trainers and coaches it is our responsibility to program the most effective, efficient and safest means so the athlete is at their strongest, most resilient, and best conditioned state when we turn them over to their skill development coaches for their specificity work. 

P.S. If you haven't read Barry Ross's book, "Underground Secrets to Faster Running" you should fix that. Click here to check it out on Amazon.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Strength & Health TV - Episode 49: Tips To Improve Your Sumo Deadlift.

In this video I discuss training tips and ideas to improve your sumo deadlift. These are things I've applied, and seen success with, many of my athletes including fighters and combat athletes, powerlifters, football players, volleyball players and more.

In addition I go over a couple of things that can be holding back your sumo deadlift, and look at a couple different ways to properly set up for a big pull.

I hope you enjoy this video and if you have any questions or suggestions for future show topics please leave them in the comments section below.

Stay Strong AND Healthy,


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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Strength & Health TV - Episode 48: Building Your Deadlift With Rack Pulls.

The rack pull gets a bad rap as a deadlift exercise, in fact it's almost as looked down upon as the sumo deadlift. I've found the rack pull to be an effective lower back builder when done correctly.

Louie Simmons told me that when you do rack pulls you need to make sure to eliminate the leg drive you get when pulling from the floor. If you set up for a rack pull like you're pulling off the ground you'll be using a ton of leg drive and lifting a lot more than you can pull. What we've found is by doing them the way he suggests it often allows you to use less than you deadlift from the ground. The only time I've found this not to be the case is with my lifters who pull conventionally and use a ton of back - you've seen them - they basically stiff leg the bar off the ground.

I hope you enjoy this week's episode and if you have any questions or suggestions on future show topics please leave them in the comments section below.

Stay Strong AND Healthy,


Monday, May 15, 2017

Strength & Health TV - Episode 47: Three of my favorite exercises for healthy shoulders.

In this week's episode I look at three of my favorite exercises for shoulder health and strength; the Bandbell bar bench press, the circle lateral raise, and Indian club swings.

These movements are great for promoting healthy shoulders and are excellent for pre-hab exercises and extra workouts. I've found that as I've gotten older extra workouts are crucial for restoration and these three movements are some of the ones that I, as well as the majority of my athletes and clients, prefer.

I hope you enjoyed this video and if you have any questions or suggestions for future episode topics please leave them in the comments section below.

Stay Strong AND Healthy,


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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Can You Add Serious Size on a Vegan Diet? (From Iron Life Magazine)

Iron Life Magazine asked me to write an article about building muscle on a vegan diet. I've always seen endurance athletes talking about the benefits of a vegan diet but more and more I'm seeing strength and power athletes, as well as bodybuilders, switching to a plant-based diet.

I hope you enjoy the article and as always, stay strong and healthy!


From Iron Life Magazine:

Scott Shetler is an NSCA certified coach, the owner of Extreme Performance Training Systems and follows a plant-based diet. He is based in Norcross, Georgia.

We all know that protein is the most important macronutrient when wanting to build muscle. And when most people think of protein they think of steak, or chicken breasts, or tins of tuna. But there are a growing number of athletes competing at the highest level on an entirely plant-based diet, including seven-times Grand Slam winner Venus Williams, former UFC fighter Mac Danzig, and Chicago Bears 300lb (136kg) defensive lineman David Carter.
Around two per cent of Brits and Americans follow a strict vegan diet – void of meat, fish, eggs and dairy products – and a paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that vegan diets are typically higher in dietary fibre, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins C and E, iron, and phytochemicals, but tend to be lower in total calories, saturated fat and cholesterol, essential omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins D and B12, and essential trace elements, such as calcium and zinc.
Whether you are considering eating less meat and dairy, for whatever reason, or just interested in knowing how the body adapts to a vegan diet from a personal or professional personal trainer viewpoint, here are the key points.
What is a strict vegan diet?
It’s following a nutritional plan that is entirely plant-based, so doesn’t include red or white meat, fish, eggs, dairy, or any product that contains any ingredient, compound or substance that has an animal origin or uses such a product in the manufacturing process. A strict vegetarian diet excludes meat and fish, but can allow eggs and dairy; an ovo-vegetarian diet allows eggs, but not dairy; while a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy but not eggs.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Restoration for Health, Longevity and Performance.

Restoration is one of the most overlooked aspects of training, but when implemented properly can have a huge impact on your recovery, health, and for competitive athletes, longevity in your sport.

There are many forms of restoration and it is important to note that you do not need to do all of them all the time. Some forms of restoration include:
  •         Extra workouts – strength, mobility, flexibility, etc.
  •          Ice
  •          Heat
  •          Cold and hot contrast
  •          Massage, chiropractic, and other soft tissue therapy
  •          Low intensity cardiovascular exercise
  •          Yoga, qigong, meditation, etc.
  •          Nutrition

Extra workouts are a very simple form of restoration but it is important not to turn these into max effort sessions. Extra workouts can be anything from light weight high repetition exercises, various types of sled pulling with lighter weights, exercises with resistance bands, body-weight drills, club swinging, or stretching and mobility focused exercise. These workouts should be short, 10 to 30 minutes, and should be very low intensity. The goal should be to increase circulation and blood flow without exhausting the muscles.

Hot and cold therapy can be implemented in a number of ways. A cold compress can be put on the body, you can use an ice bath or cold shower, and you can take advantage of a cryotherapy chamber if you have access to a facility that offers it. For heat a compress may be used, hot tubs or showers can be used, and you can take advantage of dry heat in a sauna or moist heat in a steam room if you have access to such facilities. Hot and cold contrast is a popular method of restoration as well. In contrast methods you generally alternate between extreme cold and extreme heat in intervals for designated times. For instance you may do a shower where you stay under extremely cold water for a period of 30 to 60 seconds followed by extremely hot water for a period of 30 to 60 seconds finishing with a cold rinse.

Body work is great for restoration as well. Having a good therapist is a great idea. Massage therapy, Active Release Technique (ART) therapy, Graston, needling, chiropractic, and other forms of body work are all regularly used by many of my athletes and clients.

Low intensity cardiovascular exercise is great for restoration. Swimming and aquatic exercise, walking, hiking, jogging, cycling, etc. all performed in the appropriate heart rate range (for most people 130 to 150 beats per minute is a good target) for durations of 30-90 minutes can have a very restorative effect on the body. One of my former coaches used to refer to this as “massage for your heart and lungs”.

Adopting a practice like yoga, qigong, meditation or even an internal martial art like Taijiquan is a great way to balance higher intensity training and sport performance. These all encourage a focus on proper breathing and awareness and have a profound effect on stress reduction. Exercises like yoga, qigong and Taiji can be viewed as a form of moving meditation. However they should not replace your seated meditation practice.

Nutrition is often overlooked as a form of restoration, but let’s face it garbage in equals garbage out. I don’t want to turn this into a dissertation on what the best diet is, but I do think it is wise to focus on getting a lot of unprocessed, whole plant-based foods. Focusing on eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds will give you all the protein, carbohydrates and fats you need. Unfortunately due to the overuse of the term “macros” in fitness pop culture, the ever important “micros” are overlooked and underappreciated. A diet focusing on whole plant foods provides micronutrients in spades. Eating a ton of plant-based foods will give you an abundance of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytochemicals / phytonutrients that are essential for good health, energy, and cellular repair. In addition whole plant-based foods provide a ton of fiber. In addition to good food, make sure you are drinking plenty of fresh, clean water daily. Waiting until you are thirsty is poor practice for proper hydration.

Some of these practices should be done on a regular basis. I feel it is imperative to focus on good nutrition and engage in a meditative practice daily. Daily movement and activity is essential. Doing extra workouts on “off days” is much better than doing nothing. A light workout or extra mobility and flexibility work will help you recover from a heavy workout far better than sitting on your ass and doing nothing.

Restoration and recovery practices that are more therapeutic should be used only when needed. I feel that the more you use these methods the less effective they become. Soft tissue work, chiropractic, contrast therapy, etc. are all very effective but do not need to be performed daily.

By implementing the appropriate restoration and recovery methods and exercises into your annual, monthly, weekly and daily programming you will help to reduce the chance of injury and improve health, longevity and performance.

Stay strong and healthy!


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Vegan Protein Myths

Protein is one of the most discussed topics in health and fitness and has been for the two decades that I’ve called this industry my profession. It’s even worse when it is concerning protein for vegans and vegan athletes.

Personally I can’t stand talking about nutrition because I think people overthink it and are usually just looking for “experts” to justify what they think is the correct way to eat.

However after being vegan for nearly five years the whole protein thing rears its ugly head more often than I’d like. I decided to write this blog to put together some of the information that I’ve found beneficial regarding protein considerations for vegans and vegan athletes.

Photo credit: Seth Pajak
First of all, I am not a dietitian, I am not a nutrition science geek, I simply like food and love to eat it. As a result I turn to people far more knowledgeable than myself when I look for nutrition information. Some of the people I have really benefitted from are registered dietitian Matt Ruscigno, Dr. Michael Greger, and Dr. Garth Davis. I love the fact that these three focus on evidence based nutrition when they publish and share information and all do a very good job separating the science from the BS.

Advice from my friend Matt!

One great source of information that cleared up many of the protein myths for me was an article my friend Matt Ruscigno contributed to a book I published. The book, “Know Your Own Strength” was for my Plant-Based Performance project and all book sales go to benefit the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Forgotten Animals Rescue. His article was titled “But Where Do You Get Your Science? Addressing the Supposed Science Deficiency in Nutrition for Athletes” and is full of great information. 

Here are some of the key points I feel are pertinent to this blog:
  •          A complete protein is a food source that contains all nine essential amino acids.
  •          There are food sources that are complete proteins and there are many that are incomplete proteins.
  •          The idea of an incomplete protein is myth based in truth. It assumes we only rely on one food source for protein.
  •          Most people eat a wide variety of foods, most of which contain some protein, which makes it easy to consume all of the essential amino acids the human body needs.
  •          Combining foods is putting different foods together to form a complete protein. For instance rice and beans by themselves are not complete proteins, but when combined they form a complete protein food source.
  •          Combining foods is not necessary. Our bodies pool amino acids and use them as needed regardless of the perceived completeness of the source. Yes eating rice and beans together is great because it tastes awesome (especially with avocado and salsa) but if you eat your rice for lunch and beans for dinner you will get no less of a benefit.
Matt, Jason and I like to combine our Yves pepperoni, seitan bacon, mushrooms, black olives, and Daiya cheese to ensure a complete source of awesome on our pizza!
How much protein do we need?

This is a topic that blows my mind. I’ve heard as little as 50 grams a day, as much as 400 grams a day and everything in between. One thing I do know is generally higher protein recommendations are pushed heavily by protein supplement manufacturers. Here is the information that makes the most sense to me.

According to Dr. Garth Davis, the public CDC website lists average daily requirements of 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. He goes on to say that these numbers came from “nitrogen balance lab studies, epidemiologic studies, randomized clinical trials utilizing biochemical assessments, and animal studies.”

Just writing that out is making my head spin, but it is safe to say that these are the recommendations necessary to prevent protein deficiency, something most Americans are in danger of if you believe a lot of the crap many fitness experts blog about.

Sorry, but if you are eating enough calories to sustain your daily activity you are nowhere near being protein deficient. That being said these requirements are not optimal for athletes or even weekend warriors.

The government RDA for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of lean body-weight. Most people don’t readily know their lean mass to fat mass ratio so often we are just told 0.8 grams per kilogram of body-weight. According to this, at 89kg, I need 71.2 grams of protein a day. I exceed this number easily eating fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.

Is the RDA sufficient for athletes? Most say no, and I agree. However I think people need to seriously assess whether or not they are an athlete or even training near the same level as an athlete. The American College of Sports Medicine along with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has found 1.2g/kg to 1.7g/kg to be an optimal range for hard training endurance and strength athletes. More than the RDA but still much less than the often recommended 1-2 grams per pound of body-weight that you see in most fitness and bodybuilding publications.

I’ll use myself as an example just to examine the difference in these two approaches.
  •          89kg x 1.2 / 1.7 = 106.8 / 151.3 grams per kilogram of body-weight.
  •         196lbs x 1 / 2 = 196 / 392 grams per pound of body-weight.
I am not a big fan of tracking anything, I prefer to eat calories and not count them, but I decided to log my food for a few days to see if I was as protein deficient as everyone told me I’d be after I went vegan. On regular days I was getting between 90 and 110 grams of protein through whole plant based foods. On training days I use a protein supplement around my training session and I was getting 120-140 grams of protein on those days. This easily put me in the 106 – 151 grams per day range without much effort at all. Does it work? I’ve slowly raised my body-weight from 178lbs to 196lbs and am fairly lean. Granted you won’t see my on a bodybuilding stage, ever, but I have visible muscle definition and am far from being overweight.

A little side note, my friend Stic of the hip hop duo Dead Prez, put on 20lbs of mass in just under 3 months when he was training with me. He was eating a very healthy whole food plant based diet, no junk food, no supplements, pills or powders of any kind. As a skinny ectomorph he is proof that you can get all the protein you need through a healthy, whole food vegan diet. His nutrition and training is detailed in our book, "Eat Plants, Lift Iron".

What about the bulk of us who hit the gym hard, are not sedentary but far from being an athlete? I like Dr. Davis’ recommendation of shooting for 1 gram per kilogram of body-weight daily with a protein supplement after training.

Please note that for protein utilization and recovery purposes it is important to consume carbohydrates with the protein. Recommendations vary, but I’ve seen 2-4 grams of carbs to 1 gram of protein being pretty standard. I’d recommend looking up the studies and work done by Dr. John Ivy if you’d like to learn more about nutrient timing as it pertains to training.

Simply put if you are normal and engage in light to moderate activity the RDA of 0.8 g/kg of body-weight is probably sufficient.

If you are the weekend warrior hard training type, Dr. Davis’ recommendation of 1g/kg of body-weight + a post workout protein and carbohydrate drink is probably a good recommendation.

If you are a strength or endurance athlete who is training at a very high level and putting a great deal of stress on your body the 1.2 to 1.7g/kg of body-weight recommendation is probably the way to go.

Don’t forget the more energy you expend the greater your total caloric needs will be and as caloric intake increases so will protein intake by default. If you’re not a big numbers person and don’t want to worry about all the minutia just make sure you’re eating enough calories from whole food sources to fuel your daily activity and needs and you will be fine.

Hopefully this article provided some useful information regarding protein needs for vegans and vegan athletes. If you would like to explore this topic more deeply I strongly suggest following the work of experts like Matt Ruscigno, Dr. Greger and Dr. Davis. They share a lot of information through their social media pages and their respective publications.

Stay Strong and Healthy!



Davis M.D., Garth. Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It. Harper Collins. New York, NY. 2015. pp 245-252.

Ruscigno RDH, Matt. Plant-Based Performance: Know Your Own Strength. Extreme Performance Training Systems. Duluth, GA. 2015. Pp 88-90.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Training Tips for Combat Athletes: Get the most benefit from the least number of exercises.

When dealing with combat athletes, like jiu jitsu players and MMA fighters, it's important to remember that all the stuff you do in the weight room is strictly general physical preparation (GPP). The bulk of their time is usually spent working on the skills needed for their sport.

The goal of the weight-room work should be to get the greatest return for the least amount of time. This does not mean that they should not train hard, it just means that you only have so much time in the gym that is beneficial before it begins taking away from their fight training.

Most of the fighters I work with do 2-3 strength workouts a week and 2-4 extra cardiovascular workouts, that represents about 4 maybe 5 hours a week of non-specific physical training. As a result I look at how we can get more benefit out of individual exercises, while ensuring that we are developing all special strengths including maximal strength, speed strength, strength speed, explosive strength and power.

A couple of the strategies we have found to be beneficial are incorporating torso activation during pressing movements and working the grip during pulling movements.

Here are some of the exercises we've seen some success with:

Alternating band punches on the GHR. Basically on this one you just set up in a sit up position on a glute / ham raise, hold that position statically, and perform alternating explosive presses against mini bands. We generally do 15-25 reps per arm.

Alternating seated kettlebell presses. These are done by sitting on the floor, leaning back slightly to increase pressure on the abdominals and pressing a pair of kettlebells overhead in a see-saw or alternating fashion. We usually do sets of 10-15 per arm.

Low cable pull-in alternating floor press. To do this week hook an average band to a low pulley set up. Lie on the back and pull the knees back toward the chest, this engages the hip flexors and abdominals and will help build torso strength for working in the guard. From here we do alternating floor presses with a pair of kettlebells. We usually do sets of 10-15 per arm.

Gi pull-ups. These are done simply by hanging a gi top over a pull-up bar or power rack. Just grab onto the gi and do pull-ups. This is great for developing insane grip strength while training the lats. We also loop a gi over a barbell to perform a variation of a t-bar row with the gi as well. Generally for pull-ups we super-set multiple sets of 1/2 the athlete's max reps throughout the workout.

These are just a few of the ways we can get more out of the time we spend in the gym. Remember, in the gym you are just trying to make athletes stronger, faster, more explosive and better conditioned. Do not let the GPP interfere with SPP, train general to enhance the specific!

Stay Strong AND Healthy!


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Training Tips for Combat Athletes: Utilize a Variety of Jumps for Power Development.

Typically at EPTS I have our combat athletes in the gym twice a week. This means that every exercise we do has to deliver. In the gym we are trying to build many different physical qualities which is why we use a Conjugate and Concurrent Sequence System of training means. We use unidirectional loading strategies while developing many abilities, such as speed strength, strength speed, power, and endurance on a weekly basis.

For power and explosive strength we utilize a variety of jumps in training. To minimize impact stress on the body and reduce the likelihood of injuries we generally use box jumps. We utilize a lot of variety in the jumps we do to prevent accommodating to any specific protocol.

Some of the jumps we implement are:

  • box jumps with body-weight only
  • box jumps with a weight vest
  • box jumps holding dumbbells or kettlebells
  • box jumps wearing ankle and/or wrist weights
  • kneeling jump to a box jump
For volume we generally do 40 jumps total per workout, twice a week.

We generally do these movements first in the training session, although on occasion we mix in the power movements toward the end of the session after some fatigue has accumulated. By the nature of sport, combative athletes need the ability to produce power while in a fatigued state. There are many other training modalities we incorporate to prepare for this, but working our power movements in the later part of the training session is a very effective approach.

A huge thanks to Louie Simmons and Tom Barry at Westside Barbell as much of what we've learned and utilized in our training plan has come from their work.

Stay Strong AND Healthy!


Scott's interview with VoyageATL.

I was recently interviewed by VoyageATL for their "Inspiring Stories" section where they feature Atlanta area business owners and entrepreneurs.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Scott Shetler.

Scott, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?

I’ve been interested in physical training since high school. After finishing my enlistment in the Navy I went to college to pursue a degree in Health and Physical Education and became certified as a personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). I have been in the health and fitness industry since 1998 and running my own business since 2004. I am currently working out of my private training facility where I train individuals and small groups. My clients range from motivated fitness enthusiasts to athletes of all levels of competition from many different sports, including powerlifting, swimming, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, MMA, football, volleyball, tennis, baseball, and many others. In addition to running my own training center, I consult with people through my online coaching program and have authored nine industry-related books. I have experience competing in heavy athletics, through Kettlebell Sport and Powerlifting specifically. I have been vegetarian since 2010 and vegan since 2012 and am one of the powerlifters on Team Plantbuilt, a team of vegan bodybuilders and strength athletes who raise money and awareness to support animal welfare and vegan outreach programs. In addition, I have been a student of the internal martial art of Taijiquan for over 5 years. Along with my in-person and online training, I share as much content through books, online blogs, and video as I possibly can.

Has it been a smooth road?

For the most part, it has been a smooth road. My biggest struggle was..... click to read the rest of the interview at VoyageATL!


Stay Strong AND Healthy!


Friday, January 20, 2017

Strength & Health TV - Episode 46: Training Considerations for Combat Athletes.

In this video I talk about some of the strength training and conditioning strategies I utilize with combat athletes.

I talk about why we use the conjugate sequence system, why programs suck, and the importance of tailoring the training to the individual's specific needs.

In addition I go over some of the specifics of the training of one of our BJJ athletes, Chris Jones, who I interviewed in episode 44.

I hope you enjoy this episode and if you have any questions or suggestions for future episodes be sure to leave them in the comments section below.

Stay Strong AND Healthy,


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Monday, January 16, 2017

How To Motivate Yourself To Workout: 100+ Experts Reveal Their Top 3 Tips For 2017

Since we are well into the first month of the new year, I thought it would be great to share this awesome blog post from Garage Gym Planner. In addition to myself, they asked over 100 health and fitness experts our top 3 tips to motivate yourself to stay fit. I hope you find this article informative and inspirational, enjoy!

From Garage Gym Planner

How to Motivate Yourself to Work Out?
It's that time of the year when thousands of people sign up for new gym memberships and then a majority of them just give up the very next week or month.
The first question on everyone’s mind is “How to get fit in 2017?” a close second is “How do I motivate myself to stay fit?”

How to Motivate Yourself to Work Out in 2017:

There are no shortcuts to fitness and you have to motivate yourself enough to get out the door and get working out.
A gym is an option to put your fitness plans into action. If you live far away from a gym, then you also have the option to get your own home gym set up with all the equipment that you’d ever want from a gym.
Motivating yourself to working out for some is harder than the workout!
Since this has been a recurring theme in the fitness industry, we’ve decided to go straight to the source and asked fitness experts a simple question:
What Would Be Your 3 Best Fitness Motivation Tips For 2017?
We posed this question to popular fitness experts to see what they had to say about it.
I wanted to see which one would rise to the top...
Here are the best workout motivation tips recommended by 100+ experts.