Westside for Cheer

After chatting with a few guys on the cheer squad here at Eastern Kentucky University, I realized they would never follow a consistent training plan that is organized around percentages from me. With this knowledge I decided to go back to a Westside barbell training framework and modify it for the sport of cheerleading. Now this is by no means endorsed by Louie and his crew, but this program is heavily inspired by their principles and what I have observed there on the times I was able to visit. This is a challenging program in the sense of attacking heavy weights and changing up stimuli frequently. The goal is to take 3 days between lower body training sessions and the same is true of the upper body training sessions never training both sides of the body on the same day. If the athletes want to get in an extra session of lifting during the week, I suggest just doing assistance work specifically isolation movements. So without further ado, here is the basic set up of each training day along with how each movement is programmed.

More programming for cheerleading.

Max effort upper

ME movement (pick one): close grip bench press, incline bench press, close grip incline bench press, steep incline bench press (also with a close grip as another option), push press, military press, dumbbell military press (double the rep goals for this also seated or standing), push jerk (maybe)

Programming for it: goal is to build up to a maximal set of 5 reps week 1, a maximal set of 3 reps on week 2, and then to beat your previous 3RM on week 3, on week 4 move on to the next movement. Take lots of warm up sets, always start with the empty bar and then add no more than 50lbs (try to add 5-10% of your max to the bar each set) from one set to the next and each warm up set is for 5 reps once you get above 50% of what you think your maximum is. When below 50% feel free to do sets of 10 reps and with the empty bar do one or two sets of more than 10 reps.

Supplemental – DB rows. 4-5 sets of ten or more reps, do as many reps as you can on the last set

Supplemental – high rep DB snatch. 3-4 sets of 10 reps on each hand without setting the dumbbell down to rest and focus on using your back and hips to move this along.

Accessory – triceps. Rotate between skull crushers, French press, Tate presses (elbows out extensions) for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps

Accessory – DB laterals. 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps.

Prehab – face pulls. 5 sets of 15-20 reps, be sure to use a controlled lifting cadence.

Max effort lower

ME movement: back squat (high bar or low bar), front squat, safety bar back squat, trap bar deadlift, straight bar deadlift, or sumo deadlift. All squats can be done to various box heights for more variation. Aim to set the box at parallel or below parallel

Programming for it: goal is to build up to a maximal set of 5 week 1, a maximal set of 3 week 2, and then to beat your previous 3RM on week 3, on week 4 move on to the next movement. Take lots of warm up sets, always start with the empty bar and then add no more than 50lbs. from one set to the next and each warm up set is for 5 reps once you get above 50% of what you think your maximum is. When below 50% feel free to do sets of 10 reps and with the empty bar do one or two sets of more than 10 reps.

Supplemental – back extensions or reverse hyper. 4-5 sets of 10-20 repetitions, use a controlled range of motion and hold the lockout for a second

Supplemental – belt squats or single leg bench squats. 3-5 sets of 12-20 repetitions (each leg if relevant) try and increase these loads each week if possible.

Accessory movement – side bends. 3-5 sets of 10-20 repetitions each side, be sure to do this controlled and through a full range of motion.

Accessory movement – hanging leg raises. 3-5 sets of 10-20 repetitions, be sure to do this controlled and through a full range of motion.

Dynamic effort lower

De movement: safety bar back squat or front squat (can use a parallel or slightly below parallel box for this)

Programming for it: your goal here is to warm up (taking the same smaller jumps from the ME warm ups) and then get to what you believe is 60% of your max for week one and perform 10 sets of 2 repetitions. Perform each set on the minute. Week 2 do this with 65%, week 3 do this with 70%, and week 4 do this with 50% then bump up your training max a bit on this or change from straight weight to using band or chain resistance for the next month. When we say dynamic effort this means that your speed on the concentric (lifting the weight) is as fast and as explosive as you can muster. You want to control the weight down and even do a slight pause in the bottom and then explode all the way up to lockout. This is why the reps for each set is so low, so that you can put maximal power in to each rep.

Supplemental movement – Bulgarian split squats – use dumbbells or a barbell 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps. Use a full range of motion and if you don’t have anything comfortable to put your foot on switch this out for walking lunges or reverse lunges

Supplemental movement – glute ham raise. 4-5 sets of 6-12 reps. Add in external resistance by holding a medicine ball to your chest.

Accessory movement – ab wheel or fallouts. 4-5 sets of 8-20 reps. Try to use the biggest range of motion that you can and crunch through your abs while you do this.

Accessory movement – sled dragging, heavy (holding a medball overhead with two hands or just one hand while doing this). Do 6 trips of at least 40 yards and feel free to build up the distance a little bit each week (add in 5 more yards).

Dynamic effort upper

De movement: close grip incline bench press or military press

Programming for it: your goal here is to warm up (taking the same smaller jumps from the ME warm ups) and then get to what you believe is 60% of your max for week one and perform 8 sets of 3 repetitions. Perform each set on the minute. Week 2 do this with 65%, week 3 do this with 70%, and week 4 do this with 50% then bump up your training max a bit on this or change from straight weight to using band or chain resistance for the next month. When we say dynamic effort this means that your speed on the concentric (lifting the weight) is as fast and as explosive as you can muster. You want to control the weight down and even do a slight pause in the bottom and then explode all the way up to lockout. This is why the reps for each set is so low, so that you can put maximal power in to each rep.

Supplemental movement – overhead lockouts up to a 5RM, rotate these between doing them seated and standing. Also change up the range of motion you are using on this. Do at least 3 heavy sets on this.

Supplemental movement – pike push-ups or handstand push-ups. 3-5 sets of as many repetitions as you can do. Take a few minutes rest between each set. Each week try to add 2 reps to your total from all of the sets.

Accessory – Pull ups. Change the grips each set and week one, do as many reps as you can over 4 sets, after week one add 2 to the total reps performed the week before.

Accessory – Javorek complexes. Do three sets of six repetitions of each of the following exercises in a series without setting the weight down: snatch, upright row, squat to press, lunges, Romanian deadlift, db rows, and snatch. For the first month do this with a barbell and for the second month do this dumbbells and rotate back and forth. These are brutal.

Prehab – band pull-a-parts. 100 total reps divided over at least 5 sets, if you can do it in less sets use a heavier band or use a slower cadence on the exercise.

General notes

On each exercise use the largest range of motion that you can handle. Be sure to use the best technique that you can and stop sets when you hit technical failure, not necessarily true failure. Each week aim to improve on each movement in at least one way; another rep, a heavier weight, less rest time between each set, or a larger range of motion. Keep track of your training program and don’t be afraid to take a deload (light week) every 4-8 weeks. For the box squats never just plop on to the box, control your sit down and explode up from the hole each time. Be sure to take the time to warm up and cool down from each training session. There is nothing wrong with taking longer to warm up be it through other exercises or through extra light sets.


So here is my basic Westside training inspired cheerleading program (really it is for bases). Give it a shot if you are interested and let me know what you think about it. I trained in a conjugate style for years and enjoyed the variety along with performance gains that I achieved from doing it. A final positive effect I had from training this style is it taught me to be aggressive and attack weights which that mentality is useful for more than just barbell lifting. Thanks as always for reading and if you have any questions please just leave a comment below.

What is muscle memory?

A few weeks ago an ex-student of my department stopped by for a body comp scan and then to have a conversation about training. Currently he is doing some very hard training for his job (going to be a police officer) and is losing a bit of muscle mass due to the caloric demands of the training and not having time to do his typical resistance training. When chatting we touched on muscle memory and I think it is important to explain this to the average person, since it comes up frequently.

Muscles do not have memory

What muscles have is not in fact “memory” like a computer or your brain (and there we are talking about neurological circuits that still science doesn’t fully understand), what they have instead is a very interesting property that no other cell in the human body has. This is that they are multinucleated. This means that one muscle cell thanks to satellite cells fusing to it from hard training, damage, or hormonal activation have more than one nucleus in the cell (plural being nuclei). What is important about this fact is that in your nucleus your DNA is stored, basic biology classes teach you this, thanks to the transcription to RNA and then translation in to protein we can build more contractile units (sarcomeres), more enzymes related to energy production, and more proteins important for cellular housekeeping and structural integrity.

Think of each nucleus in the cell as a factory with a variety of blueprints inside. If we can move more factories in to one given cell we are going to be able to create more products in the same period of time. More production means that we can now build and support a larger muscle

Training increases the number of nuclei you have in your cell and (form the mouse model) they seem to stick around in periods of disuse. This is why it is easier to increase your performance after a long layoff to where you were before you stopped than it was to get to that initial level of performance. Steroids also increase your nuclei so technically after someone has doped they shouldn’t be allowed to compete with natural folks ever again.

Motor control

The other part of “muscle memory” that people can confuse is the ability to contract your muscles in an organized pattern to perform complex movements. Like the motor control required for me to type this sentence on a keyboard. As you perform a motor patter over and over again you get better and better at recruiting this pattern along with more efficient with the muscles you are recruiting for it. Once you have established a skill well enough you can take time away from it and come back to find your performance though it may have declined it will come back quickly. (Hence why people make comparisons to riding a bike).

This is actually the effects of training on your neurological system. You improve your ability to contract and relax the important muscles in your brain along with get more rapid feedback from sensors and other important neurological units in the peripheral nervous system.


So that is the basics of muscle memory, or really how that is a farce. Hopefully knowing this mechanism will help you understand the caveats of training and science a bit more in this area. Additionally, this is a point to keep you from losing hope when you are laid out with an injury and have to watch yourself atrophy (get smaller). Thanks as always for reading and if you have any questions please feel free to comment below.

ACSM International Conference 2017 Notes

From May 31st until June 3rd in Denver Colorado was the American College of Sports Medicine international conference. Presentations on a myriad of topics involving health, exercise, nutrition, and more occurred over those four days. It is a great time to see what other researchers throughout the world are doing, to catch up with old friends who are at different institutions, and to present some of the work we are doing in the lab I am working in. Below are the notes that I took during a number of different presentations. Unfortunately, I did a poor job of writing down the name of the presenters, but I think if you are interested you might be able to access this information online. Also, I’m throwing in the notes that I took from various side conversations with friends and colleagues in-between sessions, at meals, and at poster presentations.

Day 1)

Gatorade future of sports nutrition talk: The presenters had interest in how science could better personalize nutrition for the elite athletes. How genetics had their contribution to both health and performance with the interaction that nutrition gives.

The major issue they see is most people get the basics wrong but focus on supplementation too soon. Also the gut microbiome is not going to impact indigestion and other negative GI events that can occur during long duration aerobic events. (Normal to have issues when doing an iron man or tour de France).

Side conversation: I asked a researcher I greatly respect about why he never went in to administration and his comment to me was: the further you get from the students the less impact he feels he has. He enjoys the interaction and wants to keep that alive as long as he can. (awesome)

Day 2)

Exercise and the brain:

The hippocampus has various portions that are related to face recognition, one for area and location memory and so on. These are independently effects during Alzheimer’s disease. Chronic exercise of 4 weeks increased perfusion (blood flow) in this area and improves function. Aerobic exercise in mice with PTSD (yes it can happen to them also) can improve symptoms with them. Also with mice, sleep deprivation decreases short term memory, but exercise moderates this effect. Exercise increase brain derived neutropic factory (BDNF, which grows brain cells) along with seems to mediate chemically induced Alzheimer’s and stops the feed forward mechanism of enzyme concentrations that are related increasing tau accumulation in Alzheimer’s.

Exercise helps block fear learning in rats, which helps with fear extinction along with avoiding possible fear relapses (writing this while flying on a plane and I’m trying to get over my fear of flying (how fitting and slightly meta)). The DRN (structure in the brain which I’m sure I didn’t spell the full name correctly in my notes) interacts with the amygdala ?haberlua? (not sure on the spelling here), which is associated with stress and punishment. Exercise over 6 weeks in rates decreased the activity of this area. This could mean that long periods of time are required to get someone habituated with exercise so that the pain perception decreases.

There seems to be a gender difference in the animal model for how their brains react to chronic training.

Dopamine (a neurotransmitter) is important in prediction error, also reward value for the pathways associated. This is linked in turn to brain plasticity and plays in to the fear network and specifically the D1 receptors require high levels of dopamine to be activated and exercise seems to help this occur.

Brain gets more efficient with time in that high level athletes actually have quieter brains when performing tasks than a novice. This also seems to be why novices make more mistakes when people are watching them than the elite. The noisy brain of the novice can also make you too tight (adding to the errors you make). Training increase stress resilience in the brain and high level athletes have less amygdala activation along with better frontal lobe function (which can help activate the amygdala).

Cognitive reappraisal is important since this allows you to reinterpret what a situation means. For high level athletes it allows them to be optimistic which in turn help performance and mental state. Aim to think about how things are improving with time.

Vertical jump performance – look at an athlete’s testing battery for eccentric Rate of force development (RFD), relative concentric mean force, and relative concentric impulse on takeoff for how balanced an athlete is and what needs to be performed.

Fitness overcomes brain decline with age, even decreases the risk the Apoe4 trait risk for Alzheimer’s to a high degree. The gene for BDNF met carrier has an effect on cognitive performance and exercise mediates this effect.

Hormone replacement therapy, omega 3 fatty acid intake, and physical activity all mediate brain health.

Flow chart of how training influences the brain:

Physical activity (PA) > cell and molecular changes > structure and function changes > psychological and social changes > cognitive changes

Diet can mitigate the positive changes from exercise (you can’t out eat a bad diet).

There might be lean body mass maximum levels that can be obtained in collegiate athletes and this can be important for coaches to understand so that they don’t force an athlete to move up a weight class at the expense of their own health and are simply gaining fat.

Back squat speed seems to follow a second order polynomial relationship (a line with a turn in it) and as the loads increase it tends to change with greater hip recruitment.

Exercise increases the number of neurons in the hippocampus and BDNF increases the connectivity in the brain.

Still not sure what type of exercise, duration, and frequency is optimal for brain functioning and further research in this area must be pursued.

Brain still has plasticity (ability to change) later on in life and exercise truly helps this occur.

Microbiome notes: (microbiome is the bacteria, viruses, and fungi that naturally live on your body but more specifically inside your digestive system) the microbiome is important for survival, where the bacteria are competing for survival, it helps with the development and maturation of the immune system. It is important for detoxification in the body and can be both a source of and cause removal of inflammation in the body.

There are a number of phyla of bacteria in the microbiome. The top three are firmicutes (breakdown more simple sugars), bacteroidetes (breakdown complex carbs). There are many more families and a lot of different species in the GI. They give off a number of metabolites like acetate, propionate, butyrate, and lactate.

Most of your bacteria is in your colon (10^12/g), then small intestine (10^3-7/g), and finally the stomach of about 10^1/g.

Fiber is important for the function of this system.

Butyrate is a 4 carbon fat which decrease inflammation and tumor formation along with increases the barrier in the GI between your cells and the bacteria. This is made naturally by some bacteria in your GI and fiber helps this happen.

There is a difference in energy extraction of food due to the microbiome between obese and normal weight mice.

The mucus layer between epithelial cells and the bacteria in the digestion system. Some bacteria can eat away and this and cause negative health outcomes. Having a diverse bacterial population in the GI will help maintain tight junctions and avoid leaky gut syndrome. If you have a breach this causes lots of inflammation.

Physical activity decreases your risk of colon cancer and gall bladder disease. Also helps with Crohns, Irritable bowel disease, and ulcerative colitis by improving quality of life. Extreme exercise causes GI health issues through leaky gut. Most likely to occur when exercising in the heat. Lipopolysaccharides from gram negative bacteria can be found in the blood after hard training (which is a toxin).

Dexatron sodium sulfate causes colitis in the animal model (real bad). Forced training in animals cause more body weight loss with colitis, but voluntary exercise caused better health outcomes then sedentary. Each of those groups had different microbiomes at the end of the study. There was more butyrate in the exercise groups than in the sedentary groups.

Differences with human GI from mouse, we have more villi but less folds (might have this backwards).

Acetate (2 carbon), proponate (3 carbon), and butyrate all play in to increased energy extraction and cardiovascular health. Naturally lean and obese animals have different microbiomes but training tends to make them quite similar. Lean though still had a greater increase in those metabolites being produced.

After training increased the amount of butyrate taxa. This correlated to changes in lean body mass (very interesting).

Humans that eat a plant based diet had the most diverse microbiome and those that ate a high sugar refined and processed diet had the least.

Concussion information: little is known of what is the true return to play and recovery timeline in athletes or regular people. Concussions are considered an epidemic by the CDC. Some sports have high as a 15.3% incidence rate and the common cause in regular people are falls and car accidents.

Creatine and DHA supplementation for concussions are important. Aim for two grams of DHA per day. When athletes were post concussion the TCU protocol was 9g DHA for 3 days, then 6, 3, and back to 2. Creatine aim for 5 grams per day, it is a cheap, effective, and safe supplement and nearly everyone you meet should be on it. Excess consumption of DHA causes retrograde conversion to EPA (not a bad thing just interesting to me). Magnesium, curcumin, and vitamin D might help with concussion, but more research must be performed. There also is a need for daily brain concussion screening in athletes just like their other performance metrics are tracked. Really needs to be an app for this. Youth concussion is still a major factor, though kids don’t hit each other with as much force the acceleration on the brain is quite similar to that in adults but they tend to not hit each other as hard as frequently (interesting point I was straightened out on)

Training: using a single leg clean pull and then machine based work to look at the bilateral deficit in athletes (how much one limb is used over the other).

Muscle biopsies do not change the firing strategies in the muscle (don’t confuse this with performance).

When sleep is cut to less than six hours there was a 4X increase in risk for an upper respiratory tract infection in the military.

ACSM strength and conditioning is about working with disease populations and most of America is diseased (supposedly 60% of people simply aren’t diagnosed yet).

Day 3)

Regardless of risk factor low fitness people have a 2x risk of cardiovascular mortality.

Walking velocity indicates your health (never want to be walking at less than 2mph).

The most positive effect of cardiovascular training on heart health is probably the antiarrhythmic effects.

Very intense exercise might cause plaque ruptures which in turn cause MI or strokes. Very intense being running a marathon, hence why people die each year doing them.

Well trained individuals have larger coronary arteries. Might be a training effect, might just be genetics.

Very large volumes of training might cause cardiac scaring which starts to take away the cardio protective effects of exercise. This comes out to being more than 7.2 MET hours per day for having the negative effects. There seems to be a j shaped curve here where moderate training really is the best method for long term health.

Lowest risk people tend to train 2-4 times per week (aerobically). Running at 7-7.5 mph might be the optimal speed for long term health. Individuals that did less than 51 minutes, 6miles, or 1-2 times per week had a decrease in health risk factors. So doing something is better than nothing.

Best outcomes in light joggers (1-2.4 hours per week).

If you are obese, sedentary, and old don’t shovel your snow. That shit can kill you especially if you live in Detroit. But seriously, people die from that each year. Also hunters die each year from the major sympathetic nervous system response that occurs when they kill a deer.

There are new exercise screening guidelines that I need to familiarize myself with.

Even healthy people can have a heart attack so know the symptoms especially since this increases when you are training. A warm up avoids negative effects on HR and EKG, not warming up can cause arrhythmias. There should be an AED in every single gym.

Big take home here is the issue in most developed countries isn’t too much exercise, but none at all.

Micro RNAs –  miRNA 122 inhibits hep C when the levels of that miRNA is decreased.

They bind to the a 3’ UTR of the gene of interest. There are 1,200 identified in humans, and they target often multiple mRNA. This is up and coming stuff that is not easy to understand or parse all of the effects that they have on the body. Efforts to map the effects are ongoing.

miR 1 helps with hypertrophy

miR 133a/b building mitochondria in the cell

miR 206 helps with muscle hypertrophy and maintaining the quality of the neuromuscular junction

miR 486 stops muscle wasting

miR 499 expressed in the slow muscle fiber phenotype

Currently, there is only 80 primary articles on miRNA expression in humans, but 40 review articles (lol, killing it in this area).

High vs. low responders to exercise have difference profiles. The expression of these miRNAs seems to be different with age.

pGC-1 alpha, and COX IV

The Harvard athlete initiative tracks a lot of metrics and keeps the training logs on the athletes. They get baseline number and have posttest on the athletes. The Baggish article in the journal of physiology comes up with the miRNA profiles that changed in the Harvard rowers

profile 1: 148 and 22, responded both acute and chronically

profile 2: 21, 221 acute

profile 3: 20z, 328 chronic

profile 4: 210, 328 no response

miR 146a related to inflammation

208a cardiac muscle miRNA

Still not sure how trainable the miRNA are much less what causes the clearance of them in the cell.

29-92% of physical activity behavior related to genetics. miRNAs also seem to be related here.

Crossfit: it seems that pull up speed is the biggest limiting factor in a number of workouts and if an athlete wants to be successful this is where they should start working first. Seems to be some more fun research in this area for how to game it more effectively along with the training effects.


Begin class, assignment, review, student-student interaction, discussion, conclude class.

Check out socrative.com for quizzes, assignments, feedback, and question services for classes.

SWIVL is another app that might work well with video performance review.

Know your style, meet students where they are, make it active, use tech but know your limits, create tech limits with students.

Dynamome, look at hemodynamics of the athletes and how they change with time. Take the resting BP and HR of your athletes so you have the information to start.

Also some learning on HRV and ways to hopefully track it with athletes, and how heat shock protein is related to muscle anabolism/catabolism balance in humans.


So that was just the notes that I wrote down. There was way more going and I probably only attended what would amount to 1% of the total possible sessions. If you have any questions or want the long form of some of the points please let me know. To my students that read this, this is why you always have a pen and notebook or some other method to take notes at conferences. You can always learn something as long as you have your eyes open, ear perked up, and mouth shut (well the last part isn’t necessary, but stay present and interact with the people you meet). Thanks for reading and have a great one.

KySCA notes from the presentations

In April of 2017 the Kentucky State chapter of the National Strength and Conditioning Association had their annual conference at Georgetown college. It was a good conference and the night before it was fun to sit back and chat with a number of the speakers. To protect the innocent I won’t talk about any of the conversations that we had that night, but I will say our speakers and members of the state board are funny human beings. So without further ado, here are my notes from each speaker along with links to the speakers.

Quinn Hennoch

Dr. Quinn Hennoch a physical therapist from Kentucky, but working in California. He was our first speaker on the day. He talked about different progressions with training depending on where people are at with mobility and coming back from injury. So if they can’t barbell back squat, have them safety bar squat, if they can’t do that then front squat, to kettlebell squat, to split squat. Try to progress your clients to the most difficult variation of the movement they can do with pain free full range of motion. Simple stuff, but easy to overlook. He had his progression for Olympic movements also, like doing the snatch balance and overhead squat first and progressing eventually to the true snatch from the floor.

He spoke about programming isometrics as analgesics to get folks able to train. Along with using the bear position then rock back to kettle bell squat stretch. There was some interesting stuff on programming your rehab more frequently if the type of stressor you are applying is very low and then decreasing your rehab frequency (times per week) when the intensity of each session increases. Also when joint health and positions are limiting factors there might be a time and place for doing partial range of motion exercises.

Jason Cholewa

Dr. Cholewa presented on nutrition and athletes. Specifically how improving body composition is useful for nearly every single sport. Leaner athletes typically were faster and more powerful relative to their body mass. He advised taking in a higher protein diet along with making better nutritional decisions. I enjoyed his talks on protein threshold for each meal being about .25g/kg of body mass, along with having a protein refractory period of 3-5 hours to give the body time to clear out ingested protein. Lots of good advice on not bulking for too long since it causes more fat weight gain and less lean mass gain. Other points on how protein post workout is likely more important for hypertrophy than the carbohydrates (though the carbs are important for energy store recovery in some athletes).

John Rusin

Dr. John Rusin is another Physical Therapist who spoke about different types of psychological profiles for trainees which was interesting, along with their methodology for warm ups followed by the workout. I liked his basic set up and it is worth looking up his work since he posts a large amount on the internet on different websites and has his own online program.

I did like his idea of potentiation exercises like doing face pulls before pressing, hamstring and hip activation before squatting, and pull overs before heavy pulling exercises. Other parts he talked about was how to select your supplemental exercises depending on your goals along with how you want to finish workouts which looked like often the active cooldown was simply to go take a walk for five to ten minutes (yeah walking).

A final point that I enjoyed from his presentation was to find the linchpin for the fitness with the people you are working with. What is the one movement, exercise, joint, etc. that when you improve that all other function moves forward. This was also applied to the psychology of the individual you are working with. Do they enjoy different training stimuli (ala crossfitesque)? Do they avoid pain? Do they want to always see some type of reward? Finding out what excites them to train harder is a big carrot to help improve their effort.

Heather Engel and Alex Calder

Coaches Engel and Calder work at the University of Louisville with a variety of division one sports. They spoke about athlete tracking using both expensive GPS methods and then inexpensive methods like ratings of perceived exertion. By tracking the volume of work that your athletes are doing in both the gym and field you can help decrease risk of injury. The goal is to avoid training monotony (meaning nearly the same training volume each day) and avoid increasing the total training load to greatly from one week to the next (not doubling your normal work performed each week or day to day from what the athletes have done before).

The simple method of using the athlete RPE (rating of perceived exertion) for a training session in conjunction with the total length of the training session is an easy way for a coach to help track the difficulty of a training session to make sure that you aren’t over stressing the athlete much less causing them to have monotonous type of training.

Pat Rigsby

Pat Rigsby is a gentlemen who seems to have worn every single hat. He’s been a baseball coach, strength coach, teacher, administrator, and business owner (which he spends most of his time doing now). He spoke about his keys for starting and running an effective business. He’s got a lot of his stuff up on the net that you can check out, but I’m going to put his basic steps down that he gave without the additional notes that I took.

Step 1: What’s the goal?

Step 2: Create the plan

Step 3: Play to your strengths

Step 4: Make it happen

I did enjoy his talk a lot and think there is some good information he added to each point. I’m obviously not much of a businessman, but I did enjoy his ideas and thoughts on how to be successful in this area. Along with you get paid to get things done, not to just start them.

Steve Burba and Tyler Young

These coaches spoke about strongman training and how to use implements like sandbags, stones, and kettlebells for high rep conditioning exercises like practicing loading, carries, and presses as a low skill but high carryover exercise that is approachable for just about anyone to try. The interesting fact is they use this type of training with their clients of all age groups. So they would have grandma loading sandbags (once she showed decent technique with it) for a set period of time. It really is nearly all concentric style work so the amount of stress and damage on the musculature is minimized and I think a good training methodology to be applied on occasion to someone when they are in an off season of potentially in season and just want a simple lower stress training program for a period of time.


So that was the abridged version of the notes that I took from the presentations that each of our speakers gave. Thanks again for all of them coming to the conference. I linked to them where I could in the post so please look up the speakers if you are interested in knowing more or getting some coaching from them. Thanks as always for reading and have a great day.

Basic weight training plan for the cheer team

With the summer in full force not all of you will have a large amount of time to train in the gym, much less have access to a gym. With that basic knowledge here is a program that you can do quickly in a gym or with just your bodyweight. The goal is to do these two training days once each week and separate them by at least one rest day. Be sure that you warm up before doing the circuits and do a very light set or two of each exercise before you start counting your sets.

Exercise performance

Make sure that you always use a full range of motion and the best technique that you can. Increase the load from one set to the next where possible. When you are able to get all of the reps on each of the sets then it is time to increase the load by the smallest increment (2.5-5lbs.). If you are already lifting weights frequently then take and add in these exercises to your program and if you are already doing them, then change nothing. Take a minute or two between each set on the weight training program. On the bodyweight program take as little rest as possible to do all of the exercises and reps of them without letting your technique breakdown.

Weight training program

Day 1 2
Exercise Squat Dead lift
Sets x Reps 5×6 4×5
Exercise Shoulder press (standing) Close Grip Bench Press
Sets x Reps 4×8 4×8
Exercise DB Rows Seated DB shoulder press
Sets x Reps 5×10 3×10
Exercise Back Extensions Bodyweight Low Rows w/ shrug
Sets x Reps 5×15 5×10+
Exercise Hanging Leg Raises Waiters Walks
Sets x Reps 5×10+ 5 trips each arm (25 yards minimum)


Bodyweight circuit

Day 1 2
Exercise x Reps Squat x 20 Squat x 20
Exercise x Reps Pushups x 10 Clapping push up x 10
Exercise x Reps V-ups x10 Sit ups x 20
Exercise x Reps Walking lunges x 20 Reverse Lunges x 20
Exercise x Reps Superman x 20 Hip thrust x 20
Exercise x Reps Side crunches x 20 each side Side plank :30 each side
Exercise x Reps Burpees x 10 Burpees x 10
Exercise x Reps Lateral lunge x 10 each leg Lateral bounds x 10 each leg
Exercise x Reps Diamond Push up x 10 Hand stand pushups x 10 (or hold for :20)
Exercise x Reps Deck squat x20 One legged deck squat x10 each
Rounds of the circuit 2 2

Each week add another round of the circuit until you are doing each circuit for a total of 5 times through.

Exercise selection

It is ok to change the exercises to versions you can do. For example, changing the back squat to the dumbbell goblet squat. But you should not change the exercises to something that is unrelated, an example of this would be to take out squats and add in bench press. You can switch from doing dumbbell presses to kettlebell presses or barbell presses. For bodyweight exercises if you can’t currently do all of the reps on pushups switch over and do pushups from your knees.


This basic program should help you lay down a simple framework of strength that we can further develop in the fall when we get you in to the weight room (one weight room or another). Make sure that you are doing one of the two above programs if you aren’t currently doing any resistance training. If you have questions please comment below and click the links on the exercises that you aren’t familiar with. If you are already doing a program that has these types of movements in them then don’t worry about using this. If your program doesn’t have these exercises in them, then be sure to add them in to your program.

Basic Cardio plan for the EKU Cheer Team

With our conditioning test for the team being able to run an 8 minute mile, here is the basic plan to follow to help train yourself up for hitting a mile run in under the time constraint. The goal is to train for three days per week.

This should be done in conjunction with gym training involving both stunting and tumbling along with weight training. Listen to your body and progress yourself accordingly each week. If you have questions please comment below and we will try and answer it to the best of our abilities. Be sure to warm up a bit before each of these training days and to take some time to stretch out afterwards.

Day 1) Short Repeats

For these you are going to run 200-400 yards as fast as you can then walk to recover for 60 seconds and then perform another run. The goal is to do this at a pace that is faster than an 8 minute mile. If you do this on the track your goal is to run one lap in less than two minutes or half a lap in less than one minute. This is going to help you get used to the speed that you will need to go in order to hit your mile time goal. If you don’t have a track nearby, a football field or basketball court will work. For the basketball court just run a suicide (shuttle run that you can look up easily online) on it instead.

Start off with 800 yards worth of sprinting and then add 200 yards of sprinting each week. IF this is too much for your body to handle then only do 200 as your sprint distance and only do 600 yards worth of volume. If you are out running the program just do 400 yard runs and only build up to 8 repeats at most. Instead focus on just increasing the speed that you run these at.

Day 2) Fartlek Training

Fartlek training is really just a fancy term for going from a jog to a run then to a walk and back to a jog again. Aim for the walk to be at a very fast pace, the jog to be what is comfortable, and the run for you to be pushing yourself regardless how you feel at that time.

You can do this just about anywhere and aim to either hold each speed for a set distance (100 yards of each) or for a set amount of time (15 seconds each). Both methods will work, but pick one and keep up with it. Start off with doing this style of training for one mile worth of work and then increase your total distance by one tenth (.1) miles per week.

Day 3) Long Slow Distance (LSD) training

This is what it sounds like. Either go for a long easy run, or find a piece of cardio equipment and put in at least half an hour of constant work. Your goal is to get your heart rate over 120 beats per minute and keep it there the entire time. IF you are out running don’t worry about this, but if you are doing this on a piece of cardio equipment in a gym then you need to stay on top of this. Focus on putting in the work here and increase your duration by 5 minutes each week.

Other notes on training

Softer surfaces like grass, turf, and rubberized tracks will be easier on your joints than running on concrete or pavement. Having a watch to time yourself with the different training days will be very useful along with making sure that you follow the right recovery and training times. Having a training partner here will also make all of this work a lot easier to do.

You will likely be the sorest after the short repeats day and have the least soreness after the long slow distance day. Try to take a day off between each training day, but if you need to you can go back to back with your training days. Do this training after your do your skill training of weight training for that day or make sure that you separate the sessions by at least four hours.

dragging sleds
Long slow distance with a sled


Follow this basic plan and you should be able to make the eight minute mile test at the end of the summer. Make sure that you start right now then progress slowly. The longer you put this off, the less likely you are going to pass the test when the time comes. Good luck with your training and I hope that this helps.

Nootropics, a primer on supplements for your mind

Supplementation is often used as a means to enhance your physical performance, but another interesting part of supplementation is nootropics. Nootropics are chemicals that you can use to enhance different forms of mental performance. This can be things like reaction time, concentration, and memory. There are a number of different nootropics on the market that have a variety of individual ingredients in them that may or may not have a positive effect on performance. This post is meant to be a basic primer of different major classifications of nootropics that might be worth you money.

Don’t worry about supplementation as a means to enhance your cognitive performance if you are failing to do basic things for brain health like sleeping and eating a healthy diet. Just picking better food sources that have things like omega 3s and avoiding running huge amounts of sugar seems to do you more favors for performance than you would see from using these substances detailed below.

As with all supplements remember there is always individual response, so you might find some are worth you money and others have no effect. Also, if you cycle off and don’t notice any changes keep in mind that some supplements take time to build up effectiveness and have some residual effects, so do your diligence (on research). Furthermore, the placebo effect is a major confounding factor where your own psychology is what gives the supplement its power not the pharmacology. Be careful to not abuse these substances, since high intakes of any compound can cause desensitization on occasion (decreased number of receptors) which in turn will cause you to become dependent on them for just normal function and when you stop you can have a decline in performance.

Another little note on using nootropics is that when you take them you might have an enhancement of your cognition, memory, focus, etc., but they also tend to have a fall out afterwards in that you can simple be cognitively tired (feel like your brain is fried). I have had friends use these compounds and all it gave them was a headache. Others I know that have used these thought they would wait for them to kick in before they started studying so they would clean for a few minutes, and 6 hours later had completely cleaned their entire apartment. So individual effects may vary, read up on the dosages yourself and start conservatively and work your way up. Also some of these agents work well by being “stacked”, this means taking one with another can help bolster the effect of both. I won’t really advise how to stack these compounds, but do your own research here is you think that it might be useful for you.


This is anything that will help you speed up. The most commonly used amphetamine in the world is caffeine. Caffeine not only increases energy, but also improve aerobic performance, decrease perceptions of pain, and potential increase power production. There are other amphetamines like ephedra, Adderall, and cocaine. Now these amphetamines also have their issues like putting stress on your cardiovascular system, can cause anxiety, and have habituation/addictive effects. Keep in mind that you will get used to the effects of caffeine and with time require larger doses in order to have the same effect. The ergogenic effects of caffeine seem to be seen at a dosage of 3-6mg/kg of bodyweight, so for a person that weighs about 155lbs. we are talking about a total dosage of 210-420mg of caffeine. This comes out to a good espresso or two. Things like ephedra have been linked to sudden death in athletes and other more potent ones like DMAA have also been taken off the market for having serious life threatening side effects. Dosage on all of these compounds is incredibly important to follow and should not be used on a frequent basis.


This is a class of chemicals that have a positive effect on cognition and learning. There are a number of variations in the racetam class with the first one to come across would be piracetam. This racetam has been investigated for its positive effect on cognition specifically it seems to be useful with things like potentially decrease the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s and other neuro degenerative diseases. As far as its ability to improve cognition that is relatively mild compared to some other racetams. I’m going to discuss a few of the more popular racetams, but this list is far from comprehensive. Do some personal research on this if you think you might be interested in using one of these supplements.


This is a more potent version of the racetam family that can help with excitatory neurotransmitters along with potentially help with increasing memory. The key here is once again related to their ability to decrease cognitive decline with age. The research in humans to enhance overall performance in young people isn’t quite there (but rats and mice seem to work).


This is another more potent form of piracetam that I have experience with using. This seemed to have a positive effect on my memory retention along with allowing me to visualize structures in biochemistry (felt like having a photographic memory). Overall use in humans has shown it to have effects on association and might have some uses with anxiety and depression. I did like this compound, but it is fat soluble so you need to make sure that you are taking this with some form of fat.


This is the racetam that is illegal in Olympic competition. It conveys benefits by having the same effects as piracetam but is known to be stimulating of the nervous system (hence being illegal in sports) along with enhancing tolerance of cold. This was used by a friend that informed me that it greatly increased his energy to a point that was uncomfortable.


These are compounds that help you calm down. One of the most popular here to look at is theanine. Theanine is an amino acid that you will find in things like green tea. Taking an equivalent dosage of theanine with you caffeine can help with decrease the jitters and anxiety you might get from larger caffeine consumption. There are other compounds like 5-HTP which work as a serotonin precursor which can also help with relaxation of the mind. Phenibut is another one that helps with relaxation and specifically can be used as a sleep aid. I have used this some and found it to work well, but if you don’t sleep enough you will feel like you have a hangover when you wake up in the morning (for me sleep less than eight hours). The research on this is mostly Russian, but it seems to have an effect, be sure to not use this on a daily basis since it seems it can be habit forming.


Choline is a molecule that is an important precursor to neurotransmitters in the brain (such as acetyl choline which causes muscle contraction among other roles) and works to help with membrane integrity and health. Variations on this compound like DMAE can help with avoiding the accumulation of beta amyloid plaques but like to not really enhance cognitive performance. Other versions like Alpha-GPC potentially can improve power output and cognitively decline also, but further research must be done. The nice thing about choline is a good source of it are foods like eggs.


There are a number of mushrooms that are being popularized for their ability to improve cognitive processes. These are not the type of mushrooms that will cause you to trip out, but instead have individual factors that help with cell signaling in the brain specifically to grow more structures. Currently, one popular mushroom for cognitive performance is lion’s main (also known as Yamabushitake mushroom) which does seem to help increase signaling molecules to build neurons (neurological growth factors). The dosage here seems to vary on the study but it might help with anxiety, depression, or cognition in general. Cordyceps is another mushroom that is currently touted to have a positive effect on aerobic performance and health in general, but for now the research in this area is lacking. It is often mixed in with a variety of other compounds for supplements so it is hard to pare down to see if it really had the main effect. One final mushroom to highlight is Chaga, which might have some effects on cognition and being an anti-inflammatory but further research must be performed before any serious conclusions can be made.

Adaptogens are herbs and spices that can have positive effects on the body’s adaptations to stress. Some popular examples of these are rhodalia rosia, ginseng, and ginkgo biloba. Rhodalia is an herb that has been shown to have effects on decreasing fatigue, but hasn’t been shown to have the greatest effect on cognitive performance. It might help with depression and dealing with toxins or stressors on the brain, but more research must be performed. There may also be positive effects on longevity by taking this compound. Ginkgo Biloba is a popular herb that can help with slight improvements in cognition and help avoid cognitive decline. Overall it has a good amount of research backing its effects and it is a plant that is relatively easy to grow.

Ginseng is the most popular herb to take throughout the world as an adaptogen. Ginseng has been shown to have a variety of effects on the brain and body. Overall, it can help with improving mood, decreasing fatigue, and perhaps having other positive effects on performance from improved circulation. There isn’t a huge body of knowledge on this compound (compared to caffeine and creatine) but there is a solid amount which suggests a variety of positive effects on cognition, but nothing too massive.


This is just a quick list of different compounds that may have some positive effect on cognition. Always keep in mind that the dosage of the compounds are important. Taking too little will give no benefits and taking too much can cause some negative health consequences. If you are going to try any of them go read up on them some more (examine.com and peer reviewed research is the place to start). I hope this has been useful for you and if you have any questions of otherwise please leave a comment. Thanks as always for reading.


Used a number of them but below are the big ones to take a look at outside of peer reviewed journals.



1st Principles

“The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Aristotle was the first major philosopher to put forth (at least in recorded history) the idea of working from your first principles. This is the ability to come all the way down to the very basic concepts and build up from there. Now he did make a number of mistakes when it comes to chemistry and biology, but the basic idea of working from first principles is a great thing for each of us to attempt.

Why should I care?

This is the foundation of the entire pyramid. With a strong base you can move forward and build. Take the time with whatever you are working with to find the real base of the problem and move forward from there. Once you have deduced the base you can also make your process more efficient as you only direct your attention at that which will have a great effect.

An Example

When it comes to maximal strength there are three different key components at the base. They are; your technique, your ability, and your psychology. The ability to enhance your strength through ability (muscle size, anthropometrics, etc.) is the hardest to increase and takes months and years to appreciably improve. The ability to perform a movement with optimal technique takes minutes to hours to improve but will let you perform at a higher capacity very efficiently. Finally, if you have a mental block or are not psychologically ready for a heavy load, no amount of ability or technique will allow that load to move. So if you are working with someone trying to enhance their maximal squat first check their technique followed by their psychology and final we start training ability.

Another Example

At the end of the day the biggest component to body weight change is simply the amount of calories that you are taking in relative to the amount of calories you are burning. Ketogenic diets, paleo, vegan, or whatever diet you are on won’t cause you to lose weight if you are in a caloric surplus. The first principle of the human body is simple thermodynamics where if you keep adding energy to a system the body will store that energy (I’m not talking about heat energy, hopefully you catch my drift). From there your macronutrient breakdown will have a large effect on the type of weight you gain or lose (hint: protein helps on all fronts). Things like supplementation and meal timing don’t have that big of an effect, so don’t fall prey to supplement companies touting how their raspberry ketones are going to make you lose weight.


Find the first principle of whatever you are working towards and then move forward. This will feed in to another post I’ll be putting up in a few weeks about thinking about the mechanism of action. I hope this was useful for you and if you have any questions about how to apply this please let me know. Thanks as always for reading.

Something Fishy or Should I take Fish Oil?


On occasion I will have a friend or family member ask me about taking fish oil. Now this is a good supplement to add to your diet in certain situations. However, there are big differences in quality and effectiveness of the fish oil depending on what kind you buy, how it was manufactured, and how you store it. My goal here is to just put together a simple primer on why you might want to take fish oil and what to look for in a good fish oil (hint you pay for quality here like other areas of life).


In the human body and your diet there is a class of fats known as poly unsaturated fatty acids. These fats have multiple double bonds (hence “Poly”) which causes them to bend in certain ways. This bending influences how they are going to function in the body. If you count the carbons (that is what a fatty acid chain is, just carbon linked together) starting from the end that doesn’t have oxygen on it (omega) the first double bound you come to is what type of fatty acid it is. If your first double bond comes up just after the third carbon you have an omega three fatty acid, if your first double bond comes up just after the sixth carbon you have an omega six fatty acid. This goes on and on accordingly. Now aside from where the first double bond shows up you have differences in the length of these fatty acids, some might be chains of 20 carbons in a row others might be only 16 in a row (and many more variations from here).

The ratio of our omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid intake in the body is important for inflammation and overall health (science). The problem here is that most processed foods and grain fed meats are higher in the omega 6 fatty acids (also your vegetable oils). So we want to balance this out by either eating foods that have a higher amount of omega 3 (like wild salmon) or if obviously those higher tier food choices are prohibitively expensive we supplement.

Buying your fish oil

There are a lot of options in the store that you can get. The key is don’t just buy the first fish oil supplement you see or the one on sale. The goal here is to first look at how many omega 3s are in each serving. This is where “double strength” capsules can be useful. Some supplements are less than 10% omega three fatty acids (the rest of the fat is different monos, omega 6s, and even potentially saturated). So look at how many grams or milligrams are in each serving of the supplement you are looking at. Your goal will be to take in at least a gram of omega three fatty acids each day and that amount increases with your size and caloric intake (tend to take in more omega 6s with more calories in the diet).

There isn’t a large difference between buying the liquid or the capsules. Essentially the two will be flavored differently in the liquid form which can make it more palatable for some folks. Emulsified fish oils tend to taste even better but won’t make a big difference on the yield of the fatty acids. Also, higher quality fish oils will pull out the mercury and other “toxins”. Aim to pick fish lower on the food chain when given an option. Finally if the fish oil says that it is processed in nitrogen or an oxygen free environment that is a good thing, since those conditions don’t allow for the fish oil to become rancid when it is being processed.

The next part on the label you will notice is the EPA and DHA servings. These are two very important omega 3 fatty acids that have slightly different effects in the body. Though EPA can convert in to DHA. Look at the total dosages of each of the omega three fatty acids to see which it happens to have more of. Here is a quick breakdown of what the differences are between EPA and DHA:


Eicosapentaenoic acid is the omega three that is important in inflammation signaling, neurological function, and even endothelial function. It seems to help with avoiding the development of plaques in your arteries along with helping for normal cognitive development.


Docosahexaenoic acid is the omega three that is important in the nervous system, specifically being a big part of what makes myelin (the insulation to make your nerves fire faster). By getting in adequate amounts of this you can help your nervous system and there seems to be some evidence that supplementing with it can decrease the risk of concussion and speed the recovery from one.


Another fatty acid that I haven’t brought up yet is ALA (alpha linolenic acid). ALA is the basic omega three fatty acid that your body then converts in to EPA. This is the form you find in plant based omega three fatty acid supplements or foods. This isn’t a bad thing, but doesn’t have the same positive effects and the conversion of ALA in to EPA is not that efficient (also depends on your genetics to a certain extent).

Basics of fish oil supplements

When you buy a fish oil supplement after reading the label you want check a few things. First make sure that the supplement isn’t cloudy. If the fish oil is cloudy that can often mean that it is starting to go rancid (these fats breakdown relatively easily), which in turn causes the supplement to not have the positive effect that it is hoped to have had. You can buy the oil or capsules, but there is really no big differences between the two choices as long as you are buying quality. Finally, if the fish oil smells off it has definitely started to go rancid and you need to throw it out (you can crack a fish oil capsule smell that too to check).

Once you buy fish oil supplements due yourself a favor and store them in the fridge. This tends to keep down the “fish burps” and helps the supplement stay good for longer. You can try to mix this in with shakes and such, but don’t use it for cooking since the heat can cause it to break down and change.

If you live in Alaska and catch fish all the time you don’t need to buy fish oil.


There are a few components to keep in mind when looking at fish oil supplementation. If you are already eating a diet that is high in quality meat sources that have adequate amounts of omega threes don’t worry about supplementation. But if you are on a budget, investing in a decent fish oil can be worth your money especially if you happen to participate in a number of sports and activities that cause inflammation, have a risk for concussion, or just want to have better health in general. This is a supplement that I suggest nearly everyone takes.







Getting paid to walk (short post)

So one of my hobbies I picked up since getting a severe concussion is to go on a nice long walk. I try to do this once each day. It seems to help clear my head and tends to make it so I have less issues with my brain on that day, which is always very nice. I do this in the mornings or evenings, but it either way I get it in. There are a number of reasons that I walk, but mostly I’m doing it for the money.

Making that Paper

When walking I come across a penny, nickel, and occasionally a dime or quarter. In fact I find change when walking at about a rate of one coin per week (did the math). So in about a year of long walks I can figure I make about $3.65 (average coin I find being between nickel and a dime). With good compounding interest and another 50+ years of this I figure I might make a grand total of $500.00. We will see what inflation brings there, since that might eat in to it. As you can tell this is a great part time job for me to have. Ok, so the real uses for all this walking comes in other areas.

walking for money
Woot, making that paper!!!

The gains in health

Turns out walking is a very simple form of exercise where you can get some positive effects on not only cardiovascular health, but mental. It can seemingly have positive effect on cognition, idea generation, and problem solving (science). Exercise in general has a positive effect on cognitive function and low intensity work can have these positive effects without additional risks that higher intensity exercise can have and doesn’t leave you fatigued. Walking enough steps has also been related to improving insulin sensitivity. This is important for avoiding things like type 2 diabetes. It can help lower your blood pressure and your resting heart rate. Overall, walking can help improve a number of different parts of your health


Take a walk. It is a simple and cheap way to get in some light recovery work that will help you not only burn calories, but feel better. It helps improve your heath and helps avoid some chronic diseases of living that can occur. So once again go take a walk and pay yourself with good health. Thank for taking a moment to read this short one, but I wanted to share how I’ve been enjoying this.