Over the Summer I was very fortunate to attend Joe Dowdell and Dr. Mike Roussell’s Peak Performance and Diet Design Seminar and Joe’s facility Peak Performance NYC. The seminar was a blast. It was great to catch up with Dr. Perry Nickelston, Tony Gentilcore, and Joe and meet John Romaniello, Sean Hyson, Jim Smith, Mike Roussell, and a number of the other attendees.

You may recall that I discussed the “expert” panel Q&A that Joe asked me to be a part of here: Become a Great Coach!

Social gatherings aside, the seminar itself was packed with great information. It was the first time I saw either Joe or Dr. Mike speak, so to say it was an eye opener would be an understatement. I’ve referenced back through the binder that all of the attendees received several times since the course and thought it would be a good topic for today’s post. Without further ado, here are 5 things I picked up at the seminar.

5) Citrulline Malate
Dr. Roussell discussed his supplement recommendations, and divided them up into “core”, “performance enhancers”, and “case specific.” This in itself is an important concept as many people are quick to start taking supplements (or following training programs for that matter) based on what others are doing, which completely neglects the importance of individual training and body composition goals and stress tolerance. I was familiar with most of the supplements Dr. Mike spoke about, but one really caught my attention: citrulline malate.


According to Dr. Mike, citrulline malate can help fight fatigue and decrease muscle soreness by preventing lacate build-up and acidosis, as well as clearing ammonium.  CM also increases BCAA utilization during exercise, so it’s a great compliment to BCAA or protein supplementation. Some of these attributes have been described with arginine supplementation (such as one of the main active ingredients in all the garbage NO supplements), but Dr. Mike pointed out that arginine is shuttled to the liver shortly after absorption, making it a less effective option that citrulline malate. For hockey players, this means maintaining high performance through long shifts and physical games. For lifters, this means achieving more work in a training session and an expedited recovery. For everyone, this seems like good news.

4) Comprehensive Periodization
Joe is one of the most thorough planners I’ve ever spoken with. When a pro athlete comes to him, he lays out their schedule for the next several weeks or months (depending on what they know) and varies the stresses of the training based on their sport-specific training/practices, travel, and their competitions. This allows for both optimal progress and facilitate recovery, which in turn feeds optimal progress/performance. To an extent, every strength coach does this, but Joe really takes it to the next level. In the manual, Joe included a 4-phase (~5 months) training program that he used with National Fencing Champion Tim Morehouse and 4-phase energy system development program that he used with MMA fighter Marcos “Loro” Galvao. Looking through these programs spawn a lot of ideas regarding the importance of long-term planning and stress management, options for program periodization, and general options for resistance and energy systems training. You can infer a lot about the quality of a coach from analyzing his/her programs, and the attention to detail Joe builds into his programs explains why his gym is a top 3 gym in the nation.

3) Variety
I’ll be honest, I’m not usually impressed with random exercise variations. I think a lot of people put an excessive emphasis on variety at the expense of actually becoming proficient in the movements and their progress suffers accordingly. I also think that people prioritize effective behind “sexy” in selecting exercises (hence all the crazy BOSU and stability ball exercises that people fell in love with). That said, Joe put together a 23-page list with ~650 different exercise variations, describing the “dominant movement pattern or emphasis” for each and including additional classifications when appropriate. Beginners need to master the basics; that should be clear. But more advanced athletes with longer training backgrounds (5-10+ years depending on the consistency) will benefit both physically and psychologically from a varied stimulus. This is by far the most comprehensive list of categorized exercises I’ve ever come across. I’m impressed.

2) Training Residuals
In the interest of prioritizing different training qualities to help make maximum progress, it’s important to understand how long you can leave a quality alone before it starts to degrade. Joe did an outstanding job of discussing Dr. Issurin’s research in this area. Understand “motor ability” residuals as Dr. Issurin calls them, is extremely important in designing programs for elite level athletes. Joe also discussed the physiological changes that drive these residuals, but the list below will give you an idea of how long qualities last before they start to degrade.

  1. Aerobic Endurance: 30 +/- 5 days
  2. Maximum Strength: 30 +/- 5 days
  3. Anaerobic Glycolytic Endurance: 18 +/-4 days
  4. Strength Endurance: 15 +/- 5 days
  5. Maximum Speed (Alactic): 5 +/-3 days

1) Competing Demands
Related to the point above, it’s important to understand which physical qualities will interfere with the development of other qualities. In other words, you want to design your training so that the primary, secondary, and tertiary (if applicable) emphases of a given training phase compliment each other. Mixing contrasting qualities will limit the development of both. Again, Joe highlighted Dr. Issurin’s work in this area, which is briefly illustrated below:

  1. Aerobic Endurance: Alactic (Sprint) abilities, strength endurance-aerobic, maximum strength-hypertrophy (after)
  2. Anaerobic (Glycolytic) Endurance: Strength endurance-anaerobic, aerobic restorative exercises, aerobic-anaerobic (mixed) endurance
  3. Alactic (Sprint) Abilities: Aerobic endurance, explosive strength, maximum strength-hypertrophy (after), aerobic restoration exercises
  4. Maximum Strength-Hypertrophy: Maximum strength-innervation, flexibility, aerobic restoration
  5. Learning New Technical Elements: Any kind of training modality, but after the dominant tasks

A “Top 5” doesn’t really do the seminar justice. Joe described ALL of the adaptations to various resistance training and energy system development strategies and Dr. Mike gave the most comprehensive talk on nutrition and supplementation that I’ve ever seen. Simply, there wasn’t really any component of designing training programs or diets that they didn’t discuss, in detail (I think that was their intention!).

For those of you that missed the seminar, I know they recorded the entire thing and are in the final stages of putting together a huge package with all of the DVDs and the binder I alluded to earlier with all of the slides and extra bonuses from the presentation. Look out for more information on that in the near future, but in the meantime, Joe Dowdell put together a free webinar for you on the “Top 5 Keys for Success in the Fitness Industry.” If you’re coming from a hockey background, this may not interest you, but if you’re personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach, or fitness enthusiast, I highly recommend you check out the webinar!

Click here to watch >> Top 5 Keys for Success in the Fitness Industry

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A couple weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to attend Joe Dowdell and Mike Roussell’s Peak Training and Diet Design Seminar at Peak Performance NYC. I had planned on doing a recap of the event, but my friend Tony Gentilcore beat me to it. Check out his re-cap here: Learnification: My Weekend at Peak Performance.

Kale: the fuel for Tony’s big brain biceps

He also did a preview to the review, which you can find here: The Preview to the Review of the Peak Training and Diet Program Design Seminar

At the end of the 2-day event, Joe and Mike invited me to sit on their expert panel for a Q&A with the attendees. It was an honor to be up there with guys like Tony, John Romaniello, Jim “Smitty” Smith from the Diesel Crew, and Dr. Perry Nickelston.

Emily always says I have no sense of fashion, but I was the ONLY one that color-coordinated their beard with their shirt.

At one point, someone asked a question about what advice we would give trainers and strength coaches that really want to be successful in the industry. This was a great question, and the responses the other guys gave were outstanding. One of the points I really tried to emphasize is that it’s important to become a good COACH.

If you’ve read any of my stuff in the past, you know that I place a premium on staying current with relevant research and innovative training methods. I also think it’s important to test new things to ensure that we’re constantly finding improved ways to train our athletes and clients. Because of the internet-driven gold rush, there seems to be an ongoing contest of who knows more, and less emphasis is being placed on how to actually coach athletes. This is creating an increasingly large discrepancy between intellectual and inter-personal knowledge. In other words, there are really bright people in the training industry that aren’t great at implementing everything they know. As Mike Boyle always says, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Another trend, one that I doubt will ever disappear, is that strength coaches only want to work with elite athletes. I made a comment during the expert Q&A that from a coaching standpoint I don’t do anything with our elite hockey players. That’s not really true.  Our high level hockey players require a more in-depth focus on assessment and personalized program design. These athletes have put a ton of miles on their body, and tend to have greater compensation patterns and injury-prevention concerns than players competing at lower levels. My point was that elite level athletes are extremely neurologically efficient, and tend to do things pretty well with very little coaching. Many already have a few years of training experience under their belt and have been taught the basics of lifting. There is a lot to be gained from coaching elite level athletes, but it’s certainly not the best way to learn to coach. I recognize there is an assumption that the best training professionals are working in professional sports, and therefore working with high level athletes is an indication of competency. There are, in fact, many extremely bright and able coaches in professional sports. But not EVERY person that works in pro sports is not the best; many networked their way into those positions.

On the other side of the athletic continuum are the motor morons. These are the kids that move like shit, have never been taught anything (at least not correctly), and go blank when you try to cue them on anything. Some of these kids may even have pretty well-developed skill sets in their sport of emphasis, and therefore are successful despite a lack of any foundation of athleticism (which invariably catches up with them in the form of poor performance and/or injury). If a coach can get THESE kids to perform exercises correctly and move properly, THAT is the ultimate sign of competency. It’s the experience you develop working with these kids that teaches you how to use different language to make each individual understand what you’re looking for, and how to look for and correct common movement impairments/abnormalities. In other words, this is how you learn to coach effectively.

Coaching is an art, and one that needs to be refined for different training environments. I tell the coaches on our staff at Endeavor that they should try to think of ways to teach every exercise we do in 10s or less and use language that they can use to cue athletes from across a room. The textbook approach of walking each athlete through every exercise step-by-step would result in 4-hour training sessions. It’s not practical. Give the athlete enough to get started, make sure they understand the postures associated with proper exercise technique that purvey most exercises and let them get started. Not every athlete makes the same mistake and telling every athlete every step of every exercise is excessive. Let them try it, see where they err, and correct accordingly.

Take Home
If you’re a young coach, don’t be in a rush to work with professional athletes; be in a rush to become an outstanding coach. We need more great coaches at the youth level anyway, but this is certainly the best place to refine your coaching ability. If you want to become a good coach, find a strength and conditioning coach that seems to “get it” in terms of understanding proper movement, that works with a high volume of athletes, and ask to intern or volunteer. If you’re looking, I highly recommend getting in touch with people like Tony and Eric Cressey (Cressey Performance in Hudson, MA), Mike Boyle (MBSC in Woburn, MA), Brijesh Patel (Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT), Jeff Oliver (Holy Cross in Worcester, MA), and Robert dos Remedios (College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA).

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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The Endeavor staff just started a new training program last week, and it has been absolutely brutal. David was quoted saying, “this is the last time I let you write our program.”

Volume. My worst enemy.

I was quoted saying, “uh…ah…oh…I hope I don’t throw up on myself.” In brighter news, I have some great info for you today. Before I get to that, I want to let you know about an upcoming event that I’m really excited to attend.

My friend Joe Dowdell is probably the best strength and conditioning coach you’ve never heard of. Unlike the guys that preach, but don’t practice, Joe has been quietly developing his systems over the last 17 years and has built one of the U.S.’s top training facilities in Peak Performance NYC. In fact, Men’s Health voted Peak the “Hottest Gym in America.” Joe and I spoke for an hour on Monday and, in a nutshell, he’s going to start revealing the secrets to his success, both from a training and a business standpoint. He’s kicking it off with a webinar called: The 5 Key Ingredients to Building a Successful Fitness Business & Career.

This may not appeal to all of you depending on your situation, but I grabbed a spot and am really looking forward to it so I wanted to share it with you. Joe is a great guy and his success speaks for itself, so I’m sure we could all pick up on a thing or two to help us do our jobs a little more effectively.  Go to the link below to read more about:

>> The 5 Key Ingredients to Building a Successful Fitness Business & Career <<

Moving on to today’s content…

A lot of times “new” training information will come out and a group of people will start regurgitating it with a sense of evangelical enthusiasm. Unfortunately, it tends to be the people with the least profound comprehension that have the loudest voices (more on this in last week’s post: Internet Hockey Training Experts). The “experts” that don’t actually train people aside, some people just catch wind of something and don’t understand the context in which it’s meant to be interpreted.

One example of this is when a lot of the strength and conditioning world started getting into Stuart McGill’s lower back research. I think it’s fair to credit Mike Boyle with really bringing McGill’s work to the forefront of the training industry. Although McGill’s work is incredibly extensive (if you actually read his research!), the major interpretations that came out of what people interpreted his work to say were:

  1. We shouldn’t flex at the lumbar spine during exercise
  2. We shouldn’t rotate through the lumbar spine

The implications for these messages will differ depending on your setting, but the most important thing to note is that NOTHING IN HUMAN PERFORMANCE IS BLACK OR WHITE!

McGill’s research demonstrated that a certain number of flexion/extension cycles would lead to a lumbar disc herniation. This research was performed on unsupported pig spines.

How will I maintain my six-pack without crunches!

In other words, in this experimental model, there was essentially no ligamentous or muscular support to attenuate (reduce) the force being transmitted through the spinal column. This is an important limitation to the implications of McGill’s findings. This isn’t to say that they should be completely dismissed. In fact, I think McGill’s findings in this area specifically shed a lot of light on the insanity that is the common practice of sitting for 18 hours/day and then rolling onto the floor to bang out a few hundred crunches. That is stupid, and no one should do it. It also highlights the importance of being able to dissociate hip and lumbar movement so that people don’t unnecessarily flex and load through the lumbar spine, when they should be flexing and loading through the hips.

On the other hand, for people that spend the majority of their day in upright positions, have decent posture and generally don’t subject themselves to significant amounts of prolonged spinal flexed postures and the associated tissue creep, using some spinal flexion exercises intermittently probably isn’t the worst thing in the world. The reason you haven’t heard me mention this stance much (if ever) here is because this applies to a very small percentage of the population and therefore shouldn’t be made as a general recommendation. In other words, I recognize the room for misinterpretation in saying “crunches are good” or “crunches are bad” and would rather err on the side of being safer for a larger audience than the alternative.

That said, there is a very fundamental principle that the body abides by-use it or lose it! If you never flex or extend at the lumbar spine, eventually you will lose this range of motion and the neuromuscular control of the ROM, which will have negative implications for your overall health and performance. This isn’t to say that you need to program flexion/extension exercises into your program, only that these movements are available for a reason and that you shouldn’t go out of your way to never move at the lumbar spine. As Charlie Weingroff pointed out in Training = Rehab Rehab = Training, there is a difference between movement and exercise. What is good for a movement isn’t necessarily good to hammer with load or volume in your training programs.

Charlie is a genius.

A similar thing can be said about lumbar rotation. Because of the structure of the lateral processes of the lumbar spine, rotation in this area is EXTREMELY limited (~13 degrees). In contrast, the thoracic spine is more appropriately built for rotary movements (~70 degrees). Again, this information should cause some people to stop doing 300 reps of Russian twists during their “core” work, but it certainly doesn’t mean the lumbar spine shouldn’t rotate at all. Repetitively and forcefully driving loaded lumbar rotation through end range is stupid. Rotating within the lumbar spine’s given rotation range of motion is not.

In fact, telling someone to never rotate through their lumbar spine at all is flat-out dangerous. If you’re rotating through the thoracic spine, you want a clean continuation of the rotation through the spinal column. If you cue someone to consciously stop the rotation at some point along the column (e.g. T12/L1), they’ll lose the rotation ROM below that point. Although the rotation below this point is not very substantial, it’s still quite important. A loss of ROM at any point will cause a compensatory increase in range of motion at some other point in the pathway. In this case, it’s likely to be higher up the spinal column. In other words, the conscious cessation of ANY lumbar rotation ROM will cause a lumbar HYPOmobility (less ROM), which will result in a thoracic HYPERmobility (too much ROM), neither of which are desirable.

WAIT! Do NOT rotate through your lumbar spine! I don’t care how unnatural it feels to stop spinal rotation segmentally.

I can’t emphasize enough that I’m NOT saying to go back to archaic core training methods of doing thousands of crunches, sit-up, leg throwdowns, Russian Twists, etc. We’ve come a long way in our understanding of the true function of the core and going back to these things as a primary training modality would be unacceptably regressive. The point is that every exercise recommendation has a context and you can’t overlook that in making recommendations or judging the recommendations of others. Are lumbar flexion and rotation great exercise choices for the majority of the population? Certainly not. But they are necessary movement capacities that everyone should maintain and learn to control. When people take a completely black or white outlook on movement concepts, people usually end up hurt. It’s important to understand the context in which information is being conveyed before spreading it on a massive scale.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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