New Years Resolution club: Basics of setting up a diet

With the New Year there will always be folks trying to lose weight. I hope they are successful and this post is aimed at helping them set up the basics of how to change their diet to lose some weight. I could shameless plug the book my friend Jeremy and wrote here, but look it up if you want, otherwise just use this as a primer.

Priority one: Total calories taken in

This is where the battle is won or lost. Figure out how many calories you take in each day (suing something like MyFitnessPal or otherwise can be a good start). A simple way to do this is track your calories for a week and see how your body weight changes (in pounds). Take how much it changes over the week and multiply that number by 500 and that is how many calories you were above or below your needs each day. Your goal with weight loss is to keep yourself in a 250-500 calorie deficit each day. Follow this for two weeks or a month charting your weight loss and when you start to see less weight lost go ahead and decrease your calories again another 100-300 and run it again. If you find the amount of calories you are taking in is less thank your bodyweight (weight in pounds) multiplied by 10 you need to just maintain that weight for a little while and increase your calories to give your metabolism a break. The type of calories you take in here doesn’t matter if you just want to lose weight. You could eat nothing but Oreos and lose weight as long as you don’t take in enough calories and you would lose lean mass like crazy on that plan (don’t do that, it is a horrible decision).

Priority two: total protein taken in (macronutrient ratios)

Once you have the total amount of calories you want to take in each day it is time to figure out how many of those calories are going to come in from protein, carbs, and fats. Your goal for protein should be 1-1.25g of protein per pound of body mass to help preserve muscle mass. Fat should be .3g per pound of body mass, and carbs should be set at least .75 grams per pound of body weight. You should have some discretion calories from this point so you can put them in to the macronutrients however you prefer. You can look at the nutrition facts on foods you eat along with using apps that help you track your macros and just follow that to help you stay on track. Also, if you are trying to gain weight you can drop your protein intake down to .75-1g of protein per pound of body mass each day and increase the carbs and fats accordingly.

Priority three: nutrient composition

Now that you have an idea of the calories you are looking to get in and the macros they are in, we can start to look for higher qualities in those areas. For example animal protein is a better source than getting your protein in through only bread. Eating potatoes are a better source of carbohydrates than jelly beans. Make better choices here and you will likely get better outcomes, use some common sense for this (chicken breast is a better choice than fried chicken).

Priority four: nutrient timing

This is when you take in different nutrients and is relatively simple. Aim to get in protein throughout the day in generally normal boluses. This means take in 20 or more grams of protein with each meal with three meals per day (you can go a higher number here, but that isn’t necessary). Then take in carbohydrates specifically around your workouts (before, during, and after). Finally, take in fats the other points in the day when you are not taking in carbs since it slows down digestion of carbs.

Priority five: supplements (maybe)

If you are looking to help with weight loss you can look in to an ECA stack (ephedrine, caffeine, and aspirin). This might help you lose a bit more weight if everything else is in order, but is not necessary. There are a number of other supplements that might help a bit here, but do your own research and look in to as a good reference here.

Side note: micronutrients

This is not getting in to the importance of different vitamins and minerals for long term health. This is an acute and simple method for setting up a diet to help you lose weight and learn what to track and follow. Make sure you are getting enough of your vitamins and minerals, especially over the long term in your life.


There are a lot of factors that go in to weight loss. Start off with the simple concepts and then work your way in to the minutia. Remember it first starts with caloric balance and then worry about your macronutrients. I hope this helps and if you have any questions please put them in a comment below.


ACSM central states presentation – Body Weight exercises

Recently my graduate student and I were able to give a presentation on performing body weight exercises with fitness groups to help get people in shape and help them have some fun while doing it. We have some videos on line with how to perform the exercises, but I wanted to spend a bit of time writing on it and showing the logic and math of how we program this to have a positive training effect.

Fun with math

Every time you lift your body you lift the weight of what you move (your limbs, torso, etc). This is pretty straight forward. Now in movements like a body weight squat you are moving most of your body so on average each time you do a body weight squat you are lifting about 88% of your bodyweight. This adds up quickly, for example when I do a squat with 225lbs. on my back weighing about 210 each time I do that movement I move about 400 total pounds (bar plus me (aka system mass)). If someone weighs 450lbs. and squats through the same range of motion they are having to produce the about same amount of force to lift the weight as I do. The key difference is I get to set the bar down after the set. For those folks it stays built in. Think about the forces they have to tolerate when doing a lunge or step up.

Exercises like push-ups have you lifting about 65% of your bodyweight with that load increasing if you elevate your feet and decreasing if you do them from your knees or with your hands elevated. This goes on and on for each exercise. This can help with progressing exercises like pull ups (since you are moving 95%+ of your own body weight) where you can know your body weight and add external loads to give you a training max to work off of.

Once you get an idea of the loads that need to be overcome when you are doing bodyweight exercises you can get an idea of how stressful this will be on the person and what you can do to progress them accordingly to the individual. Since you need minimal equipment for bodyweight work this is a great choice for anyone, but we don’t want to make this a maximal effort program where they are consistently only get one rep per set. I have friends that when they work with bariatric individuals they start them off on the leg press since it can be set lighter than their own bodyweight.

How to program

Aim to keep your sets and reps in the strength to conditioning range (5 or more). So if we want to get stronger with the movement we can start with 5 sets of 3-8 reps aiming to add more total reps each training session. If your goal is muscle size looking more in the 3-5 sets of as many reps as you can do with the goal of being between 5-20 reps per set. Finally if you just want to have better endurance look at sets of 15 and above repetitions or simply give yourself a high number of total reps to perform (over 50) divided up however you need to. Now for exercises like box jumps, clapping push-ups or pull ups keeping your reps below 5 each set and aiming for about 10-25 total reps per session will help you keep your quality of work high and net you the changes you are looking for (training power not endurance).


The body is a barbell and some of them are loaded heavier than others. When working with yourself or others keep in mind the load built in that needs to be moved along with the range of motion that it is being moved for. Body weight exercises are a great choice in any training program, and you should conquer your own bodyweight with basic movements before you start adding in external loads (specifically heavy ones). Go find a playground or monkey bars somewhere and progress your bodyweight training like you would any other workout. I’m attaching a link to the slides I presented along with some of the exercises we demoed to give you some ideas of partner based exercises you can do to make a training program more difficult. Thanks as always for reading and if you have any questions please let me know.

The Darryl

Hill sprints have been a long and tumultuous relationship of mine. I enjoy what they do for my health and performance, but the process is often painful and annoying. So getting friends to join you with running hills is always a great way to make this more enjoyable. Finding a way to make a game out of the hills makes them more enjoyable and is an easy way to autopilot how much work you are going to do.  Here is the example of one such workout.

The set up

When I was working on my PhD at Kansas there were a surprising amount of good hills to sprint in the town. Specifically, there was a hill that was only about 100 yards from the building that I worked in that was about 75 yards long with the last 25 being much steeper. One day two of my friends joined me for the hill sprints and we decided we would do these sprints according to the trees dotting the hill. This would work as a pyramid where we would start with the longest sprint walk back to the tree one closer to the hill top and repeat until we did the shortest distance then start working our way back down until we made it to the longest sprint one more time.

campanile hill
Google maps of the hill with the distance reported.

When you do the hill sprints this way the fatigue and recovery ratio stacks to make the first half worse, but the second half due to that previous fatigue does not feel much better. I do like how this counts the number of sprints for you. We did this entire series and turns out Darryl puked and so this method was then named. You can do the same thing on a football field where you start with sprinting 100 yards then walk back 90, sprint 90 and so on.

To this day I sometimes use golf balls or other simple objects to help me count and give me general distances of how many sprints I have done. I even like to use a pitch counter or baseball clicker to count.


Sprinting is always going to be a good form of conditioning for anyone that is able to. The advantage of running hills is it is easier on your joints and muscles than running on flat ground or downhill. The key is to walk back each time and take extra breaks if you need them. Thanks as always for reading and if you have any questions about how to set this up just let me know.

Side bends for love handles

An old student of mine contacted me about leaning up specifically reducing the “love handles” and I thought a quick post on this would be useful. Overall spot reduction is mostly a myth (if it happens it only does so to a very small degree). Wearing waist trimmers or doing endless side bends will not decrease this. What you have here is body fat and losing body fat in general will decrease their size.

However, it is important to understand that directly under that fat you have muscle. These muscles in particular are your internal and external obliques. These aid in core stability, rotation, and leaning side to side. Powerlifters and strongmen/women increase the size and strength of these muscles to help keep them safe and stable when lifting very heavy weights. What this does is increase their size which in turn thickens up your waist (not massively though). So as someone that is training for aesthetics you want to not hypertrophy these muscles, but maintain their function. A great choice here is a simple side plank done for time. Weighted side bends and large volumes of lateral ab exercises will only help hypertrophy these muscles just like occurs with any other type of training.  Think about doing side planks 1-3 times per week for 1-3 max time holds. Also lift up your top foot if this gets to be too easy and push your hips forward towards your toes, not letting them sink backwards so your rectus abdominis (abs on the front) start to take some or most of the work.

Transverse abdominis

Another muscle under all of your abs is the transverse abdominis which functions like a natural weight belt. Practicing “sucking it in” might help improve this muscles function which in turn can decrease your waist size if that muscle is under trained, nut more importantly help with your core stability and health. Do this two to three times per week for 10 total holds of 5-6 seconds after fully exhaling a breath.

Harsh Genetics

Part of your waist size is caused by your genetics, specifically the width of your rib cage and then you hips underneath them. If you have wider hips than your rib cage or both are quite broad you are going to have a larger waist then someone who has narrow hips. The only thing you can do here is pick better parents.


Sadly spot reduction is a myth, but cleaning up your diet and losing body fat will do the work for losing your love handles. Side bends and vacuums might help a bit with your waist size, but are not major effectors here. Thanks as always for reading and if you have any questions please let me know.

Sharing is Caring – Gym Etiquette

Often times these days I find myself training at the student rec center on campus since the athletic weight room is closed or completely filled with the athletes (which is good thing for the coaches in both cases). Since I find myself in a student rec center I now get to share a platform with students. This is not a bad thing, worst case scenario we don’t talk to each other and best case scenario we enjoy a conversation and help each other out. I’ve been lifting for over a decade now and have developed the confidence to train with anyone (well nearly anyone). I often notice students standing around waiting to use one piece of equipment or another. Here is my basic advice for working with others:

Ask to work in

Sounds simple, but lots of people just wait until someone is completely finished. I for one when squatting take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to get through all my sets. Most of that time is spent trying to catch my breath and talking myself in to doing another set of squats. With all of that dead time where the bar is simply resting in the rack, just ask a person if you can work in with them. Now keep in mind changing the height of where the bar is in the rack is not that feasible, but you can still work with someone that is close to the same height as yourself. The people that might snub you because you want to work in are not the people you want to train around anyways. If they say they just have “2 sets left” while sitting around ask someone on another rack if you can join them. If they are occupying the only rack then offer to switch the weights to what you need and then back to their weight while they rest. If that doesn’t work, at least you did something other than stand around and will hopefully encourage them to wrap things up.

Split the platform

This works well if you are on a platform where there is a squat rack on one side and an Olympic lifting platform on the other. You can do a set of squats while someone is deadlifting and vice versa. The key here is simply the spacing between the two and making sure that one person is working while the other is resting (especially if one of you is doing Olympic lifts). You can even have two bars on a platform with different weights you just need to roll them in and out of position for whomever needs the weight for their set.

Start with something else

If you aren’t training directly for a competition of some sort (powerlifting, strongman, Olympic lifting) then you can start with some of your assistance exercises like your lunges, abs work, back extensions etc. and then circle round back to where you wanted to start. This change from the usual can be a stimulus to switch things up for your body on occasion and will save that coveted resources of time that you would otherwise be wasting.

Avoid the rush

If you happen to train at a gym that is just crazy busy at certain points of the day, perhaps it is time to start training in the morning, over your lunch hour, or later at night. Try to figure out which times on which days what equipment is busy. In America there is an unknown holiday amongst the bros that you bench press on Monday. So if you want to avoid the rush, bench press on Tuesday and squat on Monday. Pay attention to what doesn’t have a lot of people trying to use it and try to use that equipment during those times.

Bonus point: weight left on the bar

When in doubt if you see weight left on the bar ask someone adjacent to it if they know if someone is done using it. Often if someone has a few plates on each side of the bar it is there for a purpose: to be lifted by that individual once they return from the bathroom, getting a drink, etc. or that person is a jerk that doesn’t clean up their weights. Better to be safe than sorry here and not run afoul of other people that are equally busy as yourself and are trying to get some work in.


Overall gyms are trying to stay in business. If they built enough platforms and racks so that each person had their own they would either go out of business or training there would become far too expensive. Just be nice, ask to work in or share equipment with other people and you will often find they are human being just like you. Don’t be a jerk about it, but be confident and assertive when asking to join other people. Who knows, at the end you could make a new friend or training partner. Thanks as always for reading and have a nice day.

Cheerleading routines – Why you need to strive for perfection

This is a short post on understanding odds of success. The same logic can be applied to any sport skill and explains why striving for perfection is the goal. This is also why the little things matter on teams and how you must pay attention to the detail.

We are knee deep in national routine practicing and the students compete on Saturday in Disney. Good luck to all the teams that are going down to compete. Right now athletes on different teams throughout the country are working hard to make their stunts, pyramids, baskets, and tumbling all hit to counts. This takes lots of hard work and effort, and when it comes time for nationals; luck. The reason for this is probability. When you throw a routine you are working with the probability that each part will hit.

For example, if everything in the routine has no chance of missing you have a 100% chance of the routine hitting on the nationals mat. If everything in the routine has no chance of missing except for a pyramid which hits 90% of the time you have a 90% chance of the routine hitting on the nationals mat. Once we add in more than one element that misses on occasion the math starts to get interesting. Now let’s say the elite stunts hit 90% of the time and the final pyramid hits 90% of the time and everything else is solid. What do you think your chance of the routine hitting full out will be?

Your chance will be 81% of the time due to the fact that you multiple the probability of each element hitting (being successful). So your odds are much better than subtracting 10% each time, but not much better. Let’s use an example now where each element in a routine has a 99% chance of hitting. You throw 5 elites stunts, 6 intermediate stunts, 6 pyramids, 20 tumbling passes, 20 standing tumbling, and 8 baskets. If each of those elements independently hits 99% of the time your chance of hitting on the nationals mat is: 52 percent. This is why you need to not only keep training hard, but strive for perfection in every element that you throw. If there is even the slightest margin for failure in any element your risk of having a drop in the routine comes up markedly.

Don’t take this information as an excuse for failure, but as another reason to redouble your efforts and try harder to make everything as perfect as you can. You can only control the elements you are in, so exert that control to the highest degree that you can and find ways to make things work, not excuses for why they didn’t. Each time that you practice your skills you decrease your risk of failure. The more you do this, the better the odds get for you and your teammates. Good luck to all of the teams competing at nationals and thanks as always for taking the time to read this.

The Brian

If you ever want to humble yourself no matter how great of condition you are in go out to a track and sprint one full lap as hard as you can. This is a brutal method to train the body with, but it is highly effective. Dan John has written about just doing 4x400m sprints and calling it a full workout (if you are a strength/power athlete). Longer distance sprints (really hard runs) can help build greater lactate tolerance, potentially lactate clearance, and maybe even have a positive effect on aerobic performance. They are an effective method, but brutal one. This is the story of one such workout.

Campanile Hill at the University of Kansas

The most brutal hill sprint workouts at Kansas were sprinting up the campanile hill. This hill is legitimately nearly a quarter mile long that also has likely 50 feet of elevation gain. If I did sprints up it the goal was to do a total of 4 sprints and walk back down each time. Often stopping at the top to breathe for a few minutes and talk myself in to doing another sprint. One time a family member joined me for these sprints and was feeling froggy so they decided to jog back down and then sprint back up. On rep number 3 or 4 they proceed to do the rainbow yawn on the hill side and the name of the workout then became “the Brian”.

mallot hill
Google maps of the hill. Note how small the football fields look next to it.



Long distance sprints will humble and level you if you aren’t careful. Once you think you are up to task start off with maybe just one or two reps then doing more short distance work after. Slowly build up to maybe 4-6 reps in one work out and try to keep in mind what your rest periods are to see if your recovery improves with time. This is not something to jump into quickly, but can be a good test. If you are an aerobic athlete this can be a good change of pace for a speed workout, and you will likely be able to tolerate more of this volume, but still be careful since it can get you. I hope this helps out your training and if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment. As always thanks for reading and have a great day.

Grind Vs. Flow – Short Post  

When performing on a high level people can enter a state of flow. Flow is considered when everything moves well, comes easily, and is perfectly performed. This is where things just happen without extra effort or focus, the ancient Greeks referred to this as Arête (in a way) which was something that everyone should strive to experience. Think about watching a great athlete perform, an amazing musician play, or a speaker truly transform an audience. This is flow. However, when you are learning a skill you experience the opposite. This is the grind. This is where it is uncomfortable and no enjoyable. This is where you can plateau and keep banging your head up against the wall just trying to get a little better. Understand that you are improving your skills when you are grinding away, you are performing them at their highest level in flow. This isn’t what gets posted on social media or highlight films, but this is where champions are truly made. So don’t get discouraged if it only feels like you are grinding things out, instead embrace the process and understand that after you have grinded long and hard enough you will then hone yourself to a smooth edge and be able to flow. Good luck and keep training hard at whatever you do and as always thanks for reading.