Saturday, September 5, 2020

Children's Health and Resistance Training


I have posted many times over the years about the health benefits of resistance training for youth. I always support these kind of posts by citing scientific studies and papers. I do this because I want to provide something beyond just an opinion. 

The received "wisdom" of the supposed ill effects of kids lifting weights which include, among other things, growth plate fractures and and stunted growth is still pervasive among parents and pediatricians. Given the amount of study given this topic over the years and the evidence supporting the benefits of lifting weights (for all age groups, by the way) anti-lifters are (this is my opinion) analogous to anti-vaccers. 

This may be another one of those situations where presenting the facts won’t change minds. (Psychology Today, n.d.)  One irony is weight training is orders of magnitude safer than most other sports helicopter parents let their children participate in. (Hamill, 1994)  When you consider the high rates of injury in Youth Soccer, Little League and even Track and Field, you are also looking at a pediatric orthopedic surgeon's bread and butter (median salary: $425,000 a year) A second irony is that most of these injuries could be prevented by postponing sports specialization and including a greater variety of athletic activities including a well designed strength program. If you have a kid who is already committed to a sport, weight training is a great way to prevent injury and improve performance. (Faigenbaum & Myer, 2010)

Oh well. I’ll keep throwing it against the wall and maybe some of it will stick. 

A compelling body of scientific evidence supports participation in appropriately designed youth resistance training programmes that are supervised and instructed by qualified professionals. The current article has added to previous position statements from medical and fitness organisations, and has outlined the health, fitness and performance benefits associated with this training for children and adolescents. In summarising this manuscript, it is proposed that: 

  1. The use of resistance training by children and adolescents is supported on the proviso that qualified professionals design and supervise training programmes that are consistent with the needs, goals and abilities of younger populations.
  2. Parents, teachers, coaches and healthcare providers should recognise the potential health and fitness-related benefits of resistance exercise for all children and adolescents. Youth who do not participate in activities that enhance muscle strength and motor skills early in life may be at increased risk for negative health outcomes later in life.
  3. Appropriately designed resistance training programmes may reduce sports-related injuries, and should be viewed as an essential component of preparatory training programmes for aspiring young athletes.
  4. Regular participation in a variety of physical activities that include resistance training during childhood and adolescence can support and encourage participation in physical activity as an ongoing lifestyle choice later in life.
  5. Resistance training prescription should be based according to training age, motor skill competency, technical proficiency and existing strength levels. Qualified professionals should also consider the biological age and psychosocial maturity level of the child or adolescent.
  6. The focus of youth resistance training should be on develop- ing the technical skill and competency to perform a variety of resistance training exercises at the appropriate intensity and volume, while providing youth with an opportunity to participate in programmes that are safe, effective and enjoyable. (Lloyd et al., 2014)

  1. Faigenbaum, A. D., & Myer, G. D. (2010). Resistance training among young athletes: Safety, efficacy and injury prevention effects. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 44(1), 56–63.
  2. Hamill, B. P. (1994). Relative safety of weightlifting and weight training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 8(1), 53–57.
  3. Lloyd, R. S., Faigenbaum, A. D., Stone, M. H., Oliver, J. L., Jeffreys, I., Moody, J. A., Brewer, C., Pierce, K. C., McCambridge, T. M., Howard, R., Herrington, L., Hainline, B., Micheli, L. J., Jaques, R., Kraemer, W. J., McBride, M. G., Best, T. M., Chu, D. A., Alvar, B. A., & Myer, G. D. (2014). Position statement on youth resistance training: The 2014 International Consensus. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(7), 498–505.
  4. Why people ignore facts. (n.d.). Psychology Today. Retrieved September 4, 2020, from

Friday, September 4, 2020

Basic Stretches

So you've done your mobility screen and you have discovered you have some work to do. Most of us do, by the way, and all of us need to keep up with our flexibility and mobility. 

Below is an old and imperfect guide to basic stretches. These can be done as static stretches (a stretch held for time) or "contract-relax" stretches. Use caution when stretching and ease into the movements. Multiple sessions of tiny changes over time are safer and more permanent than going for big changes in fewer sessions. Easy does it.

For Overhead Squat and Pressing issues try “Shoulder Dislocates” with a towel or stick or light jump stretch band : 1, 2, 3

Also a great shoulder opener are the close grip shoulder stretches: #4 and #5 

“Archer” shoulder stretch: #6 

Misc. Shoulder Stretches: #7-#12 

For Front Squat and Overhead Squat and Press Wrist issues: #14, # 15

Also useful for squatting and pulls mobility: Groin/Hip Abduction: #16

Sometimes, if you can't keep a flat back on deadlifts, it's the hamstrings: #17, #18, #19

Lateral Hips/TFL/IT Band: #20, #21

Quads and Hip Flexors: #24 (#22, #23, #30 use caution, these can be hard on the knees)

Calf stretch: #25, #26

Back stretches: #27, #28, #29, #32  

Thursday, September 3, 2020

A Simple Mobility Screen for the Weightlifting Exercises

 Simple Mobility Screen

This screen is composed of movements similar to those of the weightlifting exercises. If you find you have trouble with, or can't do these movements because of flexibility or joint restrictions or pain you will have to address those issues before attempting the actual exercises under load. For example, if you do not have the mobility to rack the barbell and front squat it, you have no business trying to power clean: you will only hurt yourself.


Overhead Squat: can you deep squat holding a stick or light bar overhead without rounding your back, lifting your heels or falling forward (or backwards)?



Front Squat: do you have the wrist, shoulder and elbow mobility 

to correctly “rack” the barbell for cleans and front squats?


Snatch Grip Deadlift: are you flexible enough to dead lift a bar from the floor with a flat, stable spine?


Press: are your shoulders mobile enough to overhead press without over-arching your low 



Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Why All Athletes Should Lift Weights

Different sports, but all hit the iron. Marathon, mountain running, track and field, weightlifting.

All athletes should participate in a well planned strength program. While practicing one's sport (or sports) will have the biggest impact on your athletic skills development, supplementing sports practice with a regular lifting program has been shown to:

  1. Improve performance
  2. Increase training capacity
  3. Decrease the risk of injury
There is a misconception that in order to get stronger you have to build bigger muscles and gain weight. While many athletes may benefit from gaining muscular bodyweight for their particular sport, weight class sports and endurance sports do not generally want to carry extra bodyweight. A properly designed program will help athletes get stronger and more explosive by teaching them how to recruit their existing muscles more efficiently and faster, even when weight gain is not the goal. 

Discus American Record Holder, Valerie Allman: 230' 2" (70.15 meters) 

Novice and Masters endurance athletes should lift for the same reason: high mileage is neither a safe nor effective way to improve performance for these two groups of athletes. Beginners don't have the years of conditioning to tolerate high mileage without breaking down and the over 35 crowd don't have the recovery abilities of their peak years. Enter lifting weights, which provides many of the neuromuscular benefits that contribute to improved running form and efficiency without the pounding and increased risk of overuse injury posed by high mileage. Lifting teaches your body how to use the slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers in a coordinated and efficient fashion which carries over to your sport practice.

Three time Colorado State Champion and now University of Washington mid distance phenom Marlena Preigh lifted twice a week in and out of season all through her high school career.

Strength training imparts additional benefits besides muscular strength: bone density, tendon, ligament and cartilage all improve from properly implemented and consistent lifting regimen. Endurance bicyclists and swimmers especially should do resistance training if only for bone density reasons. 

Blagrove, R.C., Howe, L. P., Cushion, E. J., Spence A., Howatson, G., Pedlar, C. R., & Hayes, P. R. (2018). Effects of Strength Training on Postpubertal Adolescent Distance Runners. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 50(6).

Swimming and cycling do not cause positive effects on bone mineral density: A systematic review. (2016). Revista Brasileira de Reumatologia (English Edition), 56(4), 345–351.

Johnson, R. E., Quinn, T. J., Kertzer, R., & Vroman, N. B. (1997). Strength Training in Female Distance Runners: Impact on Running Economy. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 11(4), 224–229.

Nichols, J. F., Palmer, J. E., & Levy, S. S. (2003). Low bone mineral density in highly trained male master cyclists.               Osteoporosis International, 14(8), 644–649.

Monday, August 24, 2020

More Power Athletics

 Time to re-rebrand again. 

With the demise of Barbell Strategy, at least in its brick and mortar incarnation, and the Covid-19 lockdowns here in Colorado, I have been thinking a lot about what a come-back (and conversely, a go-away-please) might look like. Sometimes revisiting why we got into what we have chosen as a vocation is a good way to generate new ideas given where we are now. 

With that in mind, above is a screen cap of the cover of a little manual I wrote back in the early 2000s. I called it More Power! because that is the phrase with which one of my favorite weightlifting coaches, Victor Gallego, used to admonish his athletes. I loved it. "Victor, it feels heavy!" "More Power!" (My friend Missy, on the cover of More Power and my friend Haiden on the blog home page, both receiving the bar in the overhead squat position is unintended synchronicity.)

This book was written to supplement a four hour morning course which I designed and produced and was very popular for a couple of years in the Delaware Valley and Jersey Shore with new CrossFit affiliates. I taught hundreds of athletes how to get started with the Olympic Weightlifting movements using this manual. Then CrossFit HQ figured out they could make money with their own weightlifting certification. So, that was that for my little course. C'est la vie. 

Revisiting this time in my career and this little book has inspired me to rewrite it as a series of blog posts. I've grown a lot as coach since I wrote this. It can be much better. And waaaay less wordy. So I bought the domain name which should redirect to this blog, "In and Out of the Chalk Bucket," and now is the time to dig in and start writing. The blog posts/chapters, like the original More Power! will be more about how to apply variations of the weightlifting movements to sports performance training rather than an in depth treatment of the sport of Olympic Weightlifting itself.

I am currently getting set up to train anyone interested at Gym no5 in Boulder. I am also doing remote programming via True Coach. My new email for questions, comments, rants and etc. is

Hope everyone reading this is staying healthy and out of Covid's way! 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Covid-19: Online Resources for Information and Tracking

There are two sites I have been using to kind of keep track of the pandemic.

Worldometers a great resource for by country tracking. Click on USA and you can see state by state tracking.

The second resource is Coronavirus Act Now. It is an interactive site showing the effects of different strategies on flattening the curve.

Finally, for those of you interested in finding out more about the pandemic from an accountable epidemiological point of view, the prestigious London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is offering a totally free 12 hour course at Future Learn on Covid-19.

You even get a Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course. I highly recommend it. It cuts through a lot of the confusion the fast news cycle sets up.

Covid-19: Gyms are Closed, Meets and Races Postponed, The Workouts Go On

To say it has been a rough few weeks for the human race is an understatement. And more to come, so we all need to be patient, stay home as much as possible.

For the athletes I coach, both the recreational and the more seriously competitive, the gym closure has been a really big deal. As for myself, the stay at home order has forced me to search around for a more effective way to communicate and program remotely, so I have been giving TrueCoach a trial run. It's pretty good. If you want me to set up a program for you, email me.  I'll add you to the roster no charge. 

Many of my athletes don't have anything in the way of home exercise gear and for them I have assigned a body-weight exercise program. 

A few have barbells and kettlebells at home but still have to improvise. 

When the circumstances are not ideal, the key is to keep an open mind, a positive attitude and have fun being creative. In times like these, any movement is better than no movement! And remember, the most productive movements are the compound ones. Get in some kind of push, pull and torso stability a few times a week and you will be fine.

Rower and triathlete Katja working on her band resisted ring rows.

Sprinter and Sports Photographer Dave Albo gets "event specific" with  it.

This is how weightlifter Bre is getting her squats, presses, and jerks done.

Master runner Bobby uses water jugs with handles. Box Squats (above) and farmer's carries are part of his program.

Weightlifter, equestrian and martial artist Kait hits the squats Zercher style.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Olympic Weightlifting and Sports Performance and the Chicago Bulls

Here is an article that appeared in a now long defunct relaunch of an even longer defunct classic weightlifting magazine called Strength and Health.

This piece was written about 19 years ago and discusses the weightlifting movements done by the Chicago Bulls basketball team under the direction of coaches Al Vermeil and Mike Gattone.

What many coaches and athletes do not understand is that practicing your sport, whether that is running, cycling, soccer, football, basketball, lacrosse, throwing is insufficient to strengthen the body to exert and direct maximal force. Plyos are not an equivalent.  Most athletes get plenty of plyos from their actual sports: running is hopping from leg to leg, basketball and soccer players, run, jump, sprint and jump some more. All plyometric. Most trainers are too anxious to get to the "wax and shine" exercises without first addressing the engine and the transmission of their athletes. Squats, pulls, presses, cleans and snatches are fundamental to athletic strength training. Single leg squats, split squats and wobble board single leg RDLs are not fundamental to anything and worse may just be a waste of time. It is interesting that teams that do the most unilateral lower body work have more lower body injuries than teams who do mostly bilateral low body work.

Here is a graphic from the link above comparing the stats, length of careers and lifetime earnings of identical twin NBA players Horace Grant and Harvey Grant. Now, association isn't causation, but note that Horace's career was much longer and his earnings nearly triple of his twin. Horace had three championship years with the Bulls and one more with the Lakers at the end of his career.

Horace did the Olympic lifts, Harvey did not.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Book Review: The P:E Diet by Ted Naimann, M.D.

I've been following Ted Naiman off and on for a couple of years now. He has worked hard at refining, simplifying and perfecting his big idea about why we get fat and how to remedy that. His book, the P:E Diet is the culmination of that work. (P:E stands for protein to energy ratio.)

With the holiday binging season reaching its conclusion in a couple of weeks, many of us will be muttering to ourselves about the extra weight we gained and what can be done about it. Ted's book is an excellent brief, but thorough, treatment. I've been incorporating much of Ted's basic ideas for diet for a good chunk of 2019 and I am at my old road running competition weight again, 20 years later: 145lbs.  Like many things that work well, the P:E Diet is simple (as in not complicated) but, it does require a modicum of both discipline and curiosity about what goes into your pie-hole, besides pie.

Ted's big idea is that overweight and its associated ills are caused, from a nutrition standpoint,  by "protein dilution." You want to meet your protein needs without damaging your metabolism and health by over consuming energy. A picture is worth a thousand words, and maybe a couple thousand empty calories.(This is one of Ted's own illustrations which I am using without permission,  maybe go to Amazon and buy the book, or his website, so he doesn't send me a cease and desist.)

 We essentially stay hungry until we satisfy our "nutrient hunger" for protein and minerals. If you are eating lots of carbs and fats with your protein you will tend to consume more energy than you need in an effort to get your protein needs met.

So how do we organize our eating to consume adequate nutrition without overeating? In short, replace most of your carbs and fat with lower fat proteins and watch the extra el-bees melt away.

Here is another graph of Ted's that pretty much explains it all.

Ted goes into much more detail than I am here obviously, but the material is not presented in a dry, pedantic way. It's all very useful information, engagingly written and brief, including discussions on evolution, biology, biochemistry, eating strategies (intermittent fasting, keto, the evils of butter chugging) and a very nice section on cooking (we are, as he points out, also evolved to be cucinivores!) and even a recipes section. 

While I don't buy into all the methods in Ted's exercise recommendations (not a HIIT fan) I do subscribe to his overarching point that it's building mitochondria and associated metabolic machinery we are after for optimizing metabolic health and I also agree with him that we don't have to spend hours and hours at the gym each day to do that. So, do give his exercise methods a try. I'm going to, just to see what happens!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Coach, How You Stay So Fit and Trim?

July Muscle Up A Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Back in the 80s when David Letterman was hitting his stride at NBC, he did a bit in one of his monologues about the content of the tabloid papers in grocery store checkout lines; My Wife Left Me for Bigfoot, Martian Babies Ate My Cat, things like that. The example he cited that stuck with me all these years was, Lose Weight Without Diet or Exercise, which he observed, "Well, that leaves disease."


So the title to this post is a question I actually never get asked. (Probably because I am 62 years old,  thus largely invisible and nobody cares. Just the facts. ma'am.) Regardless I would like to share what I have been doing for a while now. Because I care. Most of the time.

Due to the evil chronic ailments of vasculitis and osteoarthritis, I am somewhat limited in my choices of exercise, so I rely largely on my nutrition to stay lean(er). The vasculitis makes me tired (unpredictably, off and on) and the hip arthritis makes big, compound movements (like walking, running, deadlifting, squatting etc) not only painful but in some cases impossible to do safely. You don't miss that hip hinge until its gone. So I do what I can with what's left.


I don't have a regular exercise program anymore,  but I do try to do a "little something" every day. Over the winter I was getting in on average a half hour a day on the Zero Runner, but it started to tie up my hips, so I've laid off. The last month or so I have taken up Kinstretch at Barbell Strategy and then throughout the week will practice those stretches in the pool and hot tub. The buoyancy helps me get into better, more productive stretching postures. Kinstretch is tough work, but it's good.

Occasionally, when I feel mischievous, I will set up daily goals over a month's time. In the past I've done a minimum of 10 minutes of kettlebell snatches or long cycle clean and jerk everyday without setting the bell down. I mentioned the Zero Runner above, that was a little bit every day (between 20 minutes and 2 hours). Most recently, July, was One Muscle Up Every Day which I was able to pull off for the most part. There were a few days I had to miss because of scheduling, but I did extra muscle ups to make up. So, 31 days and 31 muscle ups. Then I might do some pullups, pushups, evil wheel etc. Maybe I'll do two MUs a day in August. Recently I shortened the stride length on my ElliptiGO and it is less painful to ride now, so maybe hit that on a daily basis now too.

Here is my diet of late (and yes, my medical team is aware and on board):

Breakfast: 2 Cups of Coffee with Heavy Cream

Mid-morning Snack: Coffee, black usually

Lunch (between 11 am and 2 pm): Meat, fish, poultry, organ meats if available, eggs. I eat until I am just a little too full then stop.

Dinner: a glass or two of red wine or a shot or two of tequila

Snack: Before bedtime, if I am super hungry I'll have some chicken breast or boiled shrimp.

Pretty much just carnivore since January. I like the organic avocado mayo and cooking oil, so I use that from time to time. No cheese, no vegetables, no grains, no bread, no cereals etc.  Salt is about the only spice I use. So you could say I am carnivore, keto and intermittent fasting. I am trying to stay between 66 and 68 kgs body weight and this strategy works. (5 years ago I was 91kg)

This is partly an experiment in "lazy" weight management (to go along with our "Lazy Strength" training philosophy at Barbell Strategy) but I am also thinking of the one meal a day side effect-calorie restriction - as a lazy way to create more mitochondria, lower free radical production, increase autophagy and improve cellular stress resistance. Since inflammation of the blood vessels is the hallmark of vascultis, besides being consistent with my medication, I am thinking about my current eating as a way to keep that inflammation tamped down.

So far, so good.

Guest Post: Brandon Hudgins, Exercising and Vasculitis

I met Brandon, if I recall correctly, in the fall of 2011 when he and Addie Bracy, her brother Ian, and Brie Felnagle all came out to Boulder for an altitude training camp stint. They were training "low" in Boulder and sleeping/recovering at higher altitude in Nederland and used the facility I was based in at the time for weight training. We all stayed in touch via Facebook when they went back home.

Which was how, several years later, I learned that Brandon had been dealing with a rare and incurable autoimmune disorder called Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis, formerly known as Wegener's), a form of a larger classification of diseases known as vasculitis. Despite being put through the wringer, (you can buy his book and read about his journey) he has been able to continue training and racing and uses his elite athlete status as a platform to raise awareness as spokesperson for the Vasculitis Foundation.

Ironically, about six months after I donated to Brandon's organization, Victory Over Vasculitis Christmas Day 2017 to be exact, I came down with what I thought was a bad cold, but a few months later the bridge of my nose collapsed and I started losing my hearing. Yep, I had come down with Wegener's. So far, my symptoms have remained localized to upper respiratory issues, my treatments have been conservative and I seem to be responding well and through it all Brandon has been a great source of information, support and encouragement.

Here is a slide presentation Brandon put together on the importance of exercise and its positive effects on folks suffering with this disease. I watched it last night during his Going the Distance Live podcast which he does on Facebook Live most Wednesday evenings. Even a little bit of moving around helps, so do what you can!