Getting after it on safe mode

So my mom has now asked me to write her up something. Obviously I’m going to write the most brutal training program that could ever be devised. After watching all of the Rocky training montages I think I have come up with a solid training program to decimate her as my vengeance for not getting every toy I wanted as a child. This is vengeance.

Just kidding.

In reality my mom is looking to get in to training. She has a job that makes her fly all over the place so this program needs to be fluid and honestly something that she can do in a hotel gym. So with that basic idea and the fact that she does move well for her age, but has some hip and low back issues on occasion we are going to put together a simple three day training program that she can do with light dumbbells or a simple multi station cable gym. The goal is to not need any spotters for the workout and do exercises that have a very low risk to performing them without supervision.

Day 1 2 3
Exercise A1 Goblet squat DB Sumo deadlift Lunges (body weight then DB)
Exercise A2 DB row (knee on bench) DB military press DB incline bench press
Exercise A3 DB Bench press Abs Choice Lat Pulldowns
Exercise B1 DB Romanian deadlift Body weight squats DB deadlifts
Exercise B2 DB Curl DB skull crushers DB curl to press
Exercise B3 DB Kickbacks DB Hammer curls Abs Choice


The warm up each day will be at least 5 minutes of simple cardio (walking, bike, elliptical) followed by ten reps of the following: arm circles forward, arms circle backwards, hip swings front to back, hip swings side to side, trunk twists, leans side to side, fire hydrants, lying hip thrusts, and body weight squats, and then anything else that she wants. I would suggest that she does 30 seconds of hip flexor stretching at the beginning and end of each workout since she has to fly so much and is often stuck in a seated position.

Each exercise is labeled with an “A” or “B” in front of it. This means that she will do one set of each “A” exercise and then go back to the second set of each exercise (doing this as a triset circuit). This will save time and allow for a greater metabolic effect since my mom’s goal is not to get terribly jacked, just to be healthy. So rest periods will be kept to as long as it takes to move from one exercise to another.

The first week she will do just three sets of each exercise, trying to add weight each set and getting in at least 10 reps for each set. After three weeks do 4 sets of each exercise and then at five weeks perform 5 sets of each exercise. Write down the numbers that you do and constantly try to beat your previous top set. Once every month or two months do the same program, but only perform 3 easy sets of the exercise as a way to deload (listen to your body, it is feels beat up then take it easy). Each set stops when technical failure occurs. This means when technique starts to break down she ends the set. We are looking for quality here not quantity.

You can also switch out the exercises for something else that can mimic it (or feels better on your joints). An example of this would be to do machine bench press instead of dumbbell if the hotel gym only has a machine system and no dumbbells. Also you could do more rows instead of the lat pull downs if they aren’t available in the gym you are at.

At the end of each workout stretch out. Just go through all the major joints and take your time. Feel free to do more cardio before stretching out.

The last time that my mom weighed more than me. Also probably the last time my mom could pick me up without obvious concerns for her orthopedic health.

That’s it for this program, pretty simple and straight forward, but it should work well for improving overall health and fitness. If you have any questions feel free to write them in.


What to say when you don’t know what to say

Recently I had a chance to speak with a family member that knew about some hard life events that happened to my wife and I. The family member didn’t want to say the wrong thing, and wasn’t sure what to say in general so they just didn’t say anything at all. I’m not here to pass judgement, but this is essentially what I told them. I got this from reading Dave Grossman’s books On Killing and On Combat. I think both of them should be required reading at some point in your life as a means to at least try and understand what we ask our military, police, and firefighters to do, but that’s aside from the point.

Dave Grossman brings up a simple piece of advice when working with anyone that has gone through a traumatic event (and points this out for folks that are going through PTSD) the two things that you can always say to anyone are simply this:

“I’m sorry for your loss.” (or change that to “I’m sorry to hear about what happened”)


“Is there anything I can do?”

By putting together those two sentences you can cover about any event that might happen to someone and show your support. Some folks might say nothing, some might ask you for help, some might shrug you off, and maybe even some will get angry (not at you, but at what happened, though that’s not how it will feel). But at the end of the day, you have showed them support. Sometimes that’s the only thing we can do for people, just let them know we are there whether they want our help or otherwise. Another concept that Dave Grossman puts forward is that pain shared is pain divided and that joy shared is joy multiplied. Help them divide their pain, if you can only for a moment.

When my wife and I lost our baby due to a partial molar pregnancy (think of the rare stories- my baby gave me cancer!- luckily it was benign for us) in the beginning of this year it was one of the hardest hits that I’ve take in my life. But, that’s what life does to you sometimes. The day it happened I called each one of my groomsmen to talk about it. I sent an email to my coworkers about what happened and for them to not talk to me about it so I could have a piece of “normalcy” in my life. I remember sitting and crying between sets of deadlifts in the gym just trying to beat the rage out of me (I also remember the gym intern hiding in the office when I would do this since it freaked the hell out of him). Life isn’t fair, and it will beat the hell out of us at different times. The key is that we get through those times. That we keep our heads up and don’t become victims of our circumstances, instead we become survivors. Don’t be afraid to go ask for help, and don’t be afraid to at least offer to help someone when they are hurting. We were very lucky that a number of people reached out to help us as we were working through it (and still working through it).

Thanks for reading and I hope that this helps for someone out there.


Putting the Athletic Back in to the Trainer: Program for a student

This semester I’ve been training two days per week with a student that is an athletic training major. For those that aren’t familiar this type of academic program has the students legitimately busy with being at clinical sites from about 9am until when they have class and then again after class working with athletic teams on the high school, collegiate, professional, and private settings. Due to the large number of hours that these students have to work and the challenging nature of their academic programs it can become easy for health and fitness to slide to not just the back burners, but completely off of the stove. So with these limitations it is all about getting in the gym, being very effective while there, and then getting out. So with these limitations here is the basic lifting program that I’ve put together for the student:

Day Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Exercise Squat method that feels the best, use a box and slowly increase ROM DB neutral grip military press Deadlift style that feels the best, feel free to pull from blocks and increase ROM slowly Bench Press Safety squat bar squats DB bench press
Sets x reps 3-5×10 5×10 3-4×10 5-8×5-10 5-8×3-8 3-5×10-20
Intensity/% 55-75% 50% up to a top set of 10 50% up to a top set of 10 Up to 80% of max Up to 80% of max then two or three down sets Work up to a top set where you hit failure in the 10-20 range
Exercise Bulgarian split squats Lat pulldowns or assisted pull ups Hamstring movement like an RDL or GM DB Rows Sumo deadlifts Pulling exercise either rows or pull downs
Sets x reps 2-4×10-15e 5×10 3-4×8-12 5-8×8-12 5×5 ascending weights 5×10-15
Intensity/% 55-75% 50% up to a top set of 10 60-75% 60-80% 50-85% Work up to a top set where you hit failure in the 10-15 range
Exercise Leg raises DB laterals Sit ups Incline bench press Choice of ab exercise Pulling exercise either rows or pull downs
Sets x reps 5×10-20 4-5×10-12 5×10-20 3-5×10 5×10-20 5×10-15
Intensity/% Increase either the load, ROM, or reps each workout Increase load each set to a top set of 10 Increase either the load, ROM, or reps each workout Increase weight each set if possible for a top set of 10 Increase either the load, ROM, or reps each workout Work up to a top set where you hit failure in the 10-15 range
Exercise Hip Thrusts or Back Extensions Band pull aparts Hip ab and adduction machine Chest supported rows Lunges Band pull aparts
Sets x reps 3-5×10-20 100 total reps 3×20-50 3-5×10 3-5×10-12e 100 total reps
Intensity/% Increase the load each set accordingly, always use a large ROM Break up the sets however you need to as you go Super high repetition aim to control the weight Increase weight each set if possible for a top set of 10 Slowly increase the load each set if possible Break up the sets however you need to as you go
Exercise Optional lower Arm work Optional lower Arm work Optional lower Arm work
Sets x reps 4-5×10 4-5×10 4-5×10
Intensity/% Should be corrective in some way Just pump up Should be corrective in some way Just pump up Should be corrective in some way Just pump up

There is a solid amount of volume and different exercises aimed at the fact that he has some issue with hip tightness, wrist issues, and some other problems from living an interesting life. So the goal is to pick exercises that aren’t going to aggravate any previous injuries, but allow him to make progress and slowly increase Range Of Motion (ROM) in exercises with limitations and to thicken up his connective tissue. Since he is just getting back in to training the progression adding weight to the movements is more aggressive than what it would be for the intermediate trainee. Start with the first exercises and work your way down. Superset the first two exercises on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. After you get done with the first group of exercises superset the next pairs so speed up the workout so you can get in and get out. If you run out of time it is better to miss the last parts than the beginning of the workout.

Now not only is the lifting important, but the student also needs to be doing some form of cardiovascular training. This will be more of an open “get it in while you can” plan. So if days rotate so be it. His goal isn’t to be the biggest human being on the planet or the strongest, just to be healthy. So here is the basic three day a week aerobic work that I want him to do:

Day 1 2 3
Exercise Choice Elliptical Running Rower/Bike
Type LSD Tempo LSD
Volume 30 minutes or more 20 minutes 30 minutes or more

The basics are that Long Slow Distance (LSD) will be keeping the same intensity for long periods of time (30 minutes or more). This is about building a solid aerobic base and since this guy is a big dude (over six feet tall and 250+ lbs.(Edit: he was over 260 but now only weighs about 230-235)) this will minimize extra impact on the body. The Tempo day is about going out to a football field or something along those lines and jogging from one end to the other dropping to the ground and then doing a set of pushups then get up and job back to the beginning and do a set of abs of your choice and so on for 20 minutes initially. Feel free to increase this volume with time. Just be sure to stay moving while you are doing this.

Finally, he has that wear and tear from playing sports while younger, so a simple warm up that I want him to hit each day regardless of what he is doing followed by specific extra work that he will do depending on whether it is an upper body or lower body training oriented day. Basics are to do 10 reps of each movement or hold a stretch for 10-30 seconds.

Warm up type General Specific Upper Specific Lower
Exercise 1 Shoulder circles forward and backwards Inchworm with push up Mountain climbers
Exercise 2 Core twists Arm flings (front to back) Roll back to groin stretch
Exercise 3 Side bends Cross over jacks Pigeon pose
Exercise 4 Hips go forward hips go backwards Light db snatch or pull aparts Full squat stretch
Exercise 5 Hip swings front to back Body weight low rows Calf stretch
Exercise 6 Hips swings side to side Squats
Exercise 7 Hip flexor stretch/Bulgarian split squats Lunges
Exercise 8 Roll back to groin stretch

So this is the basic program for the student and we will see how it works out. Depending on how his adherence goes, I’ll try to update this in a few months to let you know what type of progress that he makes. Thanks as always for taking the time to read this and as always let me know if you have any questions or otherwise.

Chris and I training together. No one being held against their will. Also his beard game is far better than mine is right now.

Garage Inc. The Wife’s program

The next program that I’m putting out there is for my wife, who is now getting back in to barbell lifting. The basic idea here is to develop fitness given the equipment that we have in the garage while working with the recovery that she has (she works a lot so recovery is not optimal). The basic idea here is that quality work is performed and weight is added gradually (she doesn’t have an ego to stroke with the weights that she lifts). Now since she has wellness scans that she has to perform on random days during the week which requires her to leave the house at 6am (or a few after) there won’t be a Monday-Sunday organization. Instead it will be about just getting in the three basic days of barbell lifting when the schedule allows for it. Here is the basic three day program:

Day 1 2 3
Main Exercise Squats Military Press Squats
Sets x reps 5×5 5×5 3×10
Supplemental Exercise Bench Press Deadlifts Push ups
Sets x reps 5×5-10 5×5 5×5-10
Supplemental Exercise Body weight low rows with blast straps Pull up negatives Body weight low rows with blast straps
Sets x reps 5×8-15 8-12×1-3 5×8-15
Supplemental Exercise Hanging knee raises Ab Wheel Hanging knee raises
Sets x reps 3-5×10-20 3-5×6-15 3-5×10-20
Supplemental Exercise Band good mornings or Barbell Romanian deadlifts Your Choice Lunges holding a plate to your chest
Sets x reps 3-5×12-20 Your Choice 3-5×10-20 each leg


The goal is to increase your loads of your top set each workout. The increase in load should be the smallest increment that you can use for that progression each time. You can also increase the number of reps you are performing at a given load to the high number on the exercises that give a rep range. Run this program for at least three months before we are going to look in to changing anything up. The sets and reps are not including warm ups which will likely be part of the main exercise (squatting and deadlifting for sure).

So an example squat progression week by week would be:

Week 1 2 3 4
Warm up        
Set 1 45 45 45 45
Set 2 45 50 50 50
Set 3 50 50 50 55
Set 4 50 55 55 60
Set 5 55 55 60 60


For other movements like pushups the goal would be to increase the total amount of (good) reps performed:

Week 1 2 3 4
Warm up        
Set 1 10 10 10 10
Set 2 8 8 9 9
Set 3 6 6 7 7
Set 4 5 6 6 7
Set 5 5 6 6 7
Total reps 34 36 38 40


Before each session here is the warm up:

5-10 minutes of walking or whatever cardio you choose.

Shoulder rolls forward and backward x10e

Arm circles forward and backward x10e

Band pull aparts 5×10-20 (do this between other exercises)

Hips go forward/hips go backwards x10e

Trunk twists x10e

Side bends x10e

Leg swings forward/backward x10e

Leg swings side to side x10e

Jumping jacks x20

Roll backs to stretch x10e

Single leg hip thrusts x10e (hold the top for three seconds)

Mountain climbers for a three count hold of the strength x10e

Bird dogs x5e

Fire hydrant circles x10e

Hip flexor stretch 3×20-30 seconds each leg

Lunges each leg x10e

Squats x10

Hanging leg raises x10


Then with an empty  barbell:

10 RDLs (Romanian deadlifts)

10 military press

20 second full squat stretch

Then start doing your warm up sets of the first exercise you are training that day.

For a cool down the stretching is optional but highly suggested. Another 5-10 minute walk and then stretching specifically on the hip flexors, pecs, hamstrings, and calves due to having to work a job that requires significant amounts of sitting and is making the (low) back less agreeable.

Aim to take one day off between each training session and to feel free to just be active (go run, hike, bike, etc.), and if you wake up sore the next day from it make a game time decision of whether or not you will be able to give your best effort in the gym that day.

The biking option

That’s it for this training program. Relatively straight forward, but a decent building back in to training after a lay off. Goal would be to run this for about three months (more or less depending on how fast you stop making progress on it). If you have anything you are interested in me writing on please just comment below and I will get after that in the future. Thanks as always for reading.