Anthony Mychal Hybrid Blueprint

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November 2011

Easy Strength: A Review

There’s a guy that roams about my blog, and I’m thankful he’s here. He goes by the name of Coach Stevo and has a website of his own that’s pretty nifty. After some blog post of mine, he told me that my ideas were similar to what was in Easy Strength, written by Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline, and that I needed to read it. So, I did.

I’m a pretty critical guy when it comes to training materials. When I heard Dan and Pavel were the authors, I prepared for a marmalade of RKC talk. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that [Seinfeld moment].) But when I read about training, I want the madness and not necessarily the methods. I don’t care so much about “programs,” as I do about rationale behind them.

But I have to say that Easy Strength could very well be the best book for a general trainee wondering how to organize their physical preparation for a sport. As usual, Dan John finds a way to incorporate the “easy” into the scientific. Pavel cites many notables through out the book, such as Verkoshansky, Siff, Francis, and other overseas coaches. The book is a bridge between Western coaches and Eastern coaches. Dan John quips from a more anecdotal perspective. Pavel, on the other hand, uses many examples from other athletes and coaches.

Harking back to a series I wrote, How to Prepare Yourself for a Strength and Conditioning Job Without Going to College, this book is a nice fit in stage five. It distinguishes between barbell athletes and non-barbell athletes, and how each of them have different needs. It assures you that there is a “strong enough,” and that barbells don’t create athletes.

As alluded to, however, there is an RKC vibe to it. But if you can comprehend this book, you’re better off than most. That’s not to say that the programs within its pages are the end of all things, but if you keep your mind open and your feelers going, you will be better off after having read this book. With the season of giving right around the corner, consider this for your list.

Look Badass, Play Badass

Earlier this year, Maryland’s football program debuted unique uniforms. Most of the people I follow on Twitter and Facebook hated them.

I loved them.

I’m a fan of unconformity, and I think a lot of Universities—even professional teams—are going to alter their uniforms to make them “cooler,” in hopes of better recruiting. It only makes sense. Youngsters and soft-core sports fans like the teams with cooler uniforms and colors.

Anytime I’m watching a football game with my mom, she asks why people wear “those little bands around their arm.” She doesn’t understand that athletes do things solely for aesthetic appeal. But it’s the same reason people wearing the Maryland uniform have a competitive advantage. The same reason people buy earrings, shoes, and belts to match an outfit. The same reason you don’t often see people wearing a green shirt with red pants.

Style matters.

The better you think you look, the better you feel. And the better you feel, the better you perform. Take advantage of this.

Find your style. It could be special jewelry, knee high socks, or Under Armor. You can borrow it from your idols too. Lacing up Jordan’s prior to a game will have a different feeling as compared to lacing up the generic brand from Wal-Mart.

So if you’re aiming to hit a squat PR, deck yourself out. Sport the high socks, tie the Romaleos, get the Under Armor, and wear the knit beanie toque. If you’re having trouble finding the motivation for your sprint or field work, put on the bicep bands, the nicest pair of athletic shorts you have, and your “special” necklace.

Everyone says, “everything else being equal, the stronger one will win.” Well, everything else being equal, the one that’s wearing clothes that they think they look badass in will win. Silly, but true.

The Holidays – Training Strategies for a Hedonist

I don’t care what anyone says. All of us interested in athletics, health, and fitness have an innate desire to get jacked while retaining a low body fat. The holidays make this challenging. But common coping strategies are cretinous.

Hermitting yourself into social exclusion? Maybe. Becoming a glutton from November until February? Don’t think so. Using moderation? Hell no.

In the interest of being human, I’m all about enjoying the holiday season and embracing hedonism. But there are things we can do to “minimize the damage.” Last year, Martin Berkhan (my favorite nutritional resource) released an article entitled Cheat Day Strategies for a Hedonist. Devour this article. There is none better.

Can you avoid fat gain during cheat days and holiday feasts like Thanksgiving and Christmas? Sure, you can. But if you’re a big eater that loves food, like me, it’s more a question of minimizing fat storage than attempting to avoid it.

-Martin Berkhan

But from my experience, people drastically alter their training the weeks surrounding holidays. And while Cheat Day Strategies for a Hedonist is a great article, it only deals with the nutritional side of the equation. So let’s look at how to train your way through the holidays.


The week before holiday feasts, you get anxious. Forecasting the unfavorable nutritional choices, you adjust your training and diet. You increase your volume and intensity in the weight room, and start eating less than normal. This is your attempt to lean out so that a few days of binging only brings you back to baseline.

The week of the feasts, the trends continue. But the pressure is mounting. You eat even less and increases your training frequency.

When they begin, you indulge beyond comprehension. You’re cashing in on two weeks of preparation. But between the actual feasts and devouring left overs the following days, you realize that your pre-lean out theory didn’t hold up like you had anticipated.

The following week, you keep your training jacked through the roof with the volume, intensity and frequency increased. To compensate for the holiday blunder, you drop your calories lower than they have ever been.


You involuntarily created three intensive weeks of training in an energy and nutrient deprived state. This creates a few problems:

#1: Three Weeks of Wasted Training

Aesthetically, there’s no reason to train if you’re not giving yourself the raw materials needed to support growth. Kelly Baggett tells a story about Larry Scott:

Hell, Larry Scott was one of Vince’s followers and never even bothered to train unless he could take in a pound of milk and egg protein and cream per day in addition to his normal diet. He knew he wouldn’t gain without it so why bother?

#2: Wasting of Adaptation Potential

Training is a stressor that our body adapts to. But when adaptation happens, more stress is needed to expose the body to a new demand. It’s like caffeine sensitivity. One cup of coffee only does the trick for so long. Then you need two cups. A few months later you’re reaching for a third cup.

From a training standpoint, everyone has a ceiling. Jacking up the volume and intensity makes the ceiling higher. It’s like drinking one cup of coffee per day, then suddenly drinking four. It wastes adaptation potential. Since muscular growth isn’t supported on a caloric deficit, the ceiling is being raised with nothing to show for it.

#3: Increasing your risk of injury

Increasing  frequency, volume, and intensity within three weeks time is overload. Especially in a nutrient deprived state.


Jacking up the frequency, intensity, and volume haphazardly won’t get you far. Here are some training strategies to be used in conjunction with Martin Berkhan’s nutritional strategies to help hedonists survive the holiday season.

#1. Don’t Plan Far Ahead

The week before the holiday, keep your regular training and routine in place. Don’t try to “pre-lean out.” You’re going to eat a lot regardless, and you will end up with the same “I ate too much and feel bloated” mentality after it’s over anyway. If anything, planning too far in advanced makes the situation worse because you feel like you need to soak up the glory as much as possible once the feast begins. But keeping your training stable ensures productivity.

#2. Increase the Volume the Week Of

The week of your feasts, jack up the volume by doing 1-5 drop sets of 10-20 for all of your lifts. These need not be overly exhaustive, but get a good pump after your main workouts. This type of training strategy will benefit from the increased carbohydrate and calorie consumption. It gives the body something else to process, especially if you’re not used to doing drop sets. Also, feel free to do as much pump-up isolation work that you want to.

#3. Train the Morning of the Feast

If you’re following Berkhan’s recommendation, you’re going to be pounding down protein. By training in the morning(s) of your feast(s), you’re hoping that whatever nutrients and calories are being consumed can be extracted for use somewhere in the body.

#4. Switch to Total Body Training

If you train the morning of your feast, ideally you want it to consist of the most metabolically exhaustive exercises. Leg based workouts are great, but take it a step further and do a whole-body compound extravaganza. Hit presses, squats, pulls, and chins hard and come back with a non-stop circuit of 1-5 x 10-20 (as discussed in #2). If you celebrate multiple days in a row, then try to duplicate the same workout. If needed, drop 10-20% of your big lifts, but keep the circuit the same. Down some BCAA’s or protein fluff to stave off hunger over and provide some initial sustenance before your holiday meals.

#5. Ditch Exercise for Calories-Sake

Running on the treadmill for an additional 30 minutes isn’t going to do shit. Avoid extra exercise for the sake of “burning calories.” The reason I suggest adding volume (#2) is because it may have some benefit when combined with the high carbohydrate and caloric intake. The idea here is to optimize partitioning, as described by Kelly Baggett:

Partitioning refers to what happens when excess calories are consumed. Are they directed into muscle or fat stores? The worse your partitioning, the more fat you gain when you gain weight. The better your partitioning, the more muscle you gain.

Bottom line here is that you’re going to consume excess calories, no matter how much you jaunt on the treadmill. The goal is to give our bodies some way to use it. So if you’re going to do “extra” work, make sure that it’s something more prone to spur muscular growth (ie: increased volume, bodybuilding pump work, 20 rep breathing squats, etc.)

If you’re OCD and need some kind of metabolic hit, settle for some Front Squat Tabata Intervals as a “finisher” to your workout. I usually never recommend these, but in honor of getting jacked, I’ll let my guard down. They would be a nice fit here.

#5. Deload the Week After

This sounds backwards. Training with a lesser intensity the week after? But that’s when you want to hit the gym hard and undo all of the bad choices you made, right?

Yes, but as explained before, there’s no reason to go to the gym if you aren’t going to nutritionally support it. And, as we know, diet plays a more important role in body composition than training does.

Use the week after your feasts to dial it back in the gym. Reduce overall carbohydrate intake, and let your body come back to a normal state. If you increased the volume and used some of the above training tactics, your body will need time to unwind.

People become frantic after a few days of binging. They think that all of their gains dwindle away in a three day span. But after feasts you feel “fuller” because of bloating, not because an appreciable amount of fat was created. By deloading the week after, you’re giving your body a chance to sort these issues out before assessing the real damage. Bloating settles down once your eating habits return to normal, not training habits. So give yourself a break and reduce your overall volume and workload by half. Don’t strain. Get in, get out, and then eat your vegetables and proteins.

Again, if you have multiple days of holiday eating, start your deload the first day after it ceases. You’ll need it if you trained every morning using a total body scheme with extra volume, and perhaps threw in tabata front squats.


Is The Functional Movement Screening Worthless?

Every year there are new methods, new programs, and new screenings designed to “protect” athletes from injuries. Take the Functional Movement Screening (FMS) for example. It consists of seven mobility screens used to identify incorrect, imbalanced, and compensatory movement patterns throughout the body. The theory being that proficiency in all seven tests lessens your chance for injury. But since when have sports become so predictable?


The video above showcases a group of NFL guys being taken through the FMS. I know they didn’t work with the athletes long enough to develop proficiency in all seven areas. At the least, they were educated about it. But it is interesting to see how the season is panning out for these guys. Here’s the injury list: Steven Jackson (quad), Greg Jennings (hamstring), Jahvid Best (concussion), Jonathan Stewart (possible ankle), Hakeem Nicks (hamstring), Leon Hall (ruptured achilles), and Patrick Chung (foot). Insane, isn’t it? Only three of the athletes featured have yet to have an injury. Two of which aren’t regular players (Dennis Dixon is second stringer, Aaron Curry has been traded).

Maybe—just maybe—the fancy things we do to prevent injuries don’t do a damn thing. Maybe they contribute to the problem. Here’s what Carl Valle of Elite Track has to say:

The Posture Police coach that is overzealous tends to get athletes bracing too much and living in a tight world instead of a balanced relaxation and contraction environment. Interesting to note the increase in hip tears, sports hernias, and lumbar injuries with “Modern Core Training Performance”. Coaches need to guide the trail not blaze it for the athlete.

The “core” transmits force, no doubt. But rotational athletes flirt with fluidity, grace, and relaxation. They can’t always assume a neutral spine.

If I can remember, Dr. Yessis once said something like, “injuries are more likely caused by improper programming, not muscular imbalances.” It all stems back to adaptation. If adapting is necessary for the good of the organism, it will adapt. A martial artist and a baseball pitcher will surely score differently on the FMS. Shouldn’t we expect that?  Shouldn’t we allow individual variances between sports and athletes? Or, should I say, how can’t we allow for variances between sports and athletes?


 Edit: In light of the responses this post has been getting, I posted an informal follow up here.

What Are You Afraid Of?

It’s common for beginner tricksters to be afraid of most tricks. I used to think one handed cartwheel were dangerous. I was terrified of an aerial. Horrified of a backflip.

But even then I didn’t doubt my physical ability to land those tricks. They were easy — or so everyone kept telling me — and I knew with practice they could be done. Truthfully, most reasonably athletic people can learn how to backflip in one day. It doesn’t take crazy vertical jump ability, or insane technique. It just takes guts.

I’m betting most tricksters afraid of single tricks are confident in their ability to perform them. Hang around others long enough and you’ll start to be convinced that backflips and gainers really aren’t difficult. In fact, they are some of the easier tricks from both a technical and physical standpoint. But they are the most mentally taxing for beginners.

So when you do swallow your fear and actually chuck these tricks, what continues to hold you back? Once you do them once, you proved to yourself that you have the kinesthetic awareness to survive an end over end flip. Yet some people continue to fear it. They’ll put flips—or whatever tricks that scare them—last in training sessions, and not give them much focus. But you already proved that you can do them without hurting yourself. So what’s holding you back from mastering them and progressing?

Is it a fear of the trick in question, or is it a fear of what’s to come?

So even though you proved yourself that you can survive a backflip, you’re afraid to get better at them because you know that it never ends. Fear at backflips means fear at flashkicks and fear at gainers. You know that once you can backflip, you’re going to pressure yourself to do even more difficult—and frightening—tricks.

But it’s important to live in the present. Backflips — or any other trick for that matter — may scare you, and from the perspective you have right now it’s future variations scare you even more. But once you prove to yourself you can backflip without consequence, don’t shy away from it. Just because the future seems scary doesn’t mean the present has to be.

For a while I put of flips and their variations because of this. I could backflip easily, but the thought of more advanced flips turned me off. Instead of spending time mastering and getting extremely uncomfortable with the backflip — to the point of doing it anywhere at any time without any psychological arousal — I would practice them here and there without much focus. But I only did this because I feared the future, not the present.

So if you’re putting off the tricks that scare you, even after landing them safely, ask yourself if you’re afraid of the trick, or what’s to come after the trick. If it’s what’s to come, then don’t even worry about it. Live for the “now” and master that tricks that you can do that cause the butterflys to rumble a bit. It will make “what’s to come” seem all the less scary when it’s at your doorstep.

While I’m using tricking examples, this also pertains to every facet of your life. Often times, when confronted with big decisions, people get hung up on what’s to come. But you can only control the present. Don’t let “should,” “would,” and “could” define you. Don’t let unknowns rule your life.

“Never let fear determine where you are. Never let where you come from determine where you are going.”

-Dewey Bozella

One Exercise You HAVE to Be Doing

You’ve seen claims like this before: this is one exercise you HAVE to be doing. There’s a good chance that you actually started doing it too because, well, you have to.

But realistically, there are few exercises that HAVE to be done—especially when dealing with athletics. An olympic weightlifter has to clean & jerk and snatch. A powerlifter has to squat, bench press, and deadlift. But in soccer, the only thing a midfielder has to do is run, control the soccer ball, and kick the soccer ball. There’s nothing in that job description that also says, “must back squat.”

So the next time you hear, “this is one exercise you HAVE to be doing,” put it into context. If we’re talking about an exercise that implies getting jacked or healthy, then it may have some merit. It’s possible that there are some exercises out there better than the rest for getting your biceps to bulge from your arm. From a flexibility standpoint, for instance, the quad-hip flexor combination stretch—seen at the end of this article—is a must (in my opinion).

But when we talk about exercises for athletic purposes, it gets fuzzy. Arguments can start about what exercise is the best overall, let alone good in general. So it goes from “one exercise you HAVE to be doing,” to “this is the BEST exercise, period.”

This is usually where the dogmatic view of training appears, and usually—although not always—the powerlifting and olympic weightlifting methods intermingle with athletic preparation. Where the guy that trains solo reads about all of these special methods on the internet and begins to implement them into his training to take him the next level. So then we have guys that can’t do one pull-up, can’t squat their own body weight, and yet are doing dynamic effort box squats with 50% 1RM, which probably looks like a seizure with two nickels on the bar.

Don’t get me wrong. All exercise techniques and methods, at some point, have uses. (Well, most, I should say to protect myself from this.) But when it comes to a sport that doesn’t involve barbells, there isn’t One Ring to rule them all.

To better understand why, you have to take a look back at this continuum: general | general-specific | specific. James Smith in, Classification of the Means, does a better job explaining this than I ever could, so check out the article here. But James also tends to sound confusing, so let me translate it for you.

First, understand that this classification system is premised around skills. Every skill needs to be classified differently, and every sport is a combination of different skills. Baseball, for example, is a combination of throwing and catching. But since catching is usually developed throughout the life span, I’ll use the example of throwing, specifically with the position of a pitcher.

General exercises are those exercises that indirectly help in the execution of a movement. Nowhere in a pitch does a pitcher squat with a barbell on their back, yet squats can be used to improve leg strength which can then help someone throw harder. Most anything that can be done with a barbell, or in the weight room, for team sport athletes is general training.

General-specific exercises are the mid-ground. They kind of resemble the skill in question but they don’t quite match up enough to be considered directly specific. For a pitcher, these are things like throwing from the knees or rotational medicine ball throws.

Specific exercises are pretty damn close to being the actual movement, but with slight tweaks. For example: pitching with a slightly weighted ball or a session of long toss (throwing farther than you would during the game, pitching from further than 60′ 6″ away from home plate).

In any sport, the best athletes are the ones that have highly developed specific physical preparedness (SPP). Yet, ironically enough, all most of us care about are the general exercises that develop general physical preparedness (GPP). That’s not to say, however, that GPP is useless—because it isn’t—but rather that you need to focus on both for best results. You can’t rely on your general capacity to carry you through a skilled activity.

So the next time someone tells you that there is one exercise you HAVE to be doing in relation to a skill, there’s a good chance it isn’t true. And it’s exactly why we see high level athletes training their general capacities like shit—what James called “abortions”—and yet still somehow prosper. Their SPP is developed enough that it covers for their lack of GPP.


How to Cure Snapping Hip Syndrome

I’m going to preface this post by saying that I don’t quite know what the hell I’m talking about. Of course, I have a semblance of knowledge, but most of this is hypothetical on my part.

But because of my tricking days, I’ve developed a rash of noises—pops, clicks, and snaps—that emanate from my hip. In fact, back when my two friends and I did trick, each of us would have our own signature sounding hip noises. You could tell who was warming up based solely on the depth and uniqueness of them.

The official name for this concerto is snapping hip syndrome, and it is common among tricksters and other athletes that expect their hip to have the range of motion of their shoulder. Luckily, it’s not usually painful.

The general consensus—or Wikipedia explanation—is that snapping hip syndrome is caused by a thickening of the hip tendons, which then makes it easier for them to catch on the hip’s structures. But I think there might be more to it.

And if you’re wondering why I’m throwing these ideas around, it’s because I’m not a huge fan of traditional “just accept how it is” treatment. Common protocols for snapping hip never work. They are ridiculous, actually. How can you tell a gymnast that they need to “stretch” to fix snapping hip?

Usually, people that have it are some of the most flexible athletes in the world in dancers, gymnasts, and martial artists.

Before I spill my ideas, I first have to give a bit of credit to Kelly Baggett and the Mobility WOD. The general idea of this theory was inspired by Kelly Starr and how he harps on getting the hip to sit in its capsule better, but I also borrowed some concepts from Kelly Baggett.

So, with that, as you might have guessed, my theory revolves around getting the hip to sit in its capsule better. Repeated kicking motions, or so I theorize, constantly pull the head of the femur out of its socket. As we already know, tricksters have stronger, more enlarged, hip muscles and, when combined with a femur that doesn’t sit in its socket too well, it makes it more likely to have the tendons and whatnot catch on other structures.

Now, every case of snapping hip is different, so this is shotgun rehab. Nevertheless, here it goes:

Common rehabilitation strategies look directly at the problem. Usually the rectus femoris and IT band are the two tendons that catch on the bones of the pelvis. Therefore, it’s easy to think that they are the cause. But we can’t always zero in on the problem area; we have to consider all of the structures that cross the hip joint.

There are two muscles that often go unnoticed—the psoas major and the iliacus. They originate on the spine and pelvis and insert on the inner thigh.

Since they cross the hip joint, they have some responsibility in holding the hip in its socket (unlike most other muscles on the inside of the leg). The adductor mass doesn’t cross the hip, meaning they don’t play an as important role in hip integrity.

We also know that the deep hip flexors—according to Kelly Baggett—are usually weak in most athletes simply because they rarely do activities in which the knee is flexed above the 90 degree plane.

And while martial artists often kick much higher than that, it’s usually with the help of the body’s momentum. This is the difference between dynamic flexibility and static active flexibility. This means that it’s possible that the deep hip flexors lack the slow strength and fine motor control needed at the hip—specifically holding the femur in the socket.

So we have a few issues that are building up after just looking at the problem from an anatomical standpoint. We can attack these issues separately, but that wouldn’t get us too far because the problem is occurring in the complex kicking movement patterns. So not only do we have to treat each problem individually, but we have to think about how it can be incorporated into our kicking drills.

1) Suck your hip

I don’t know the fancy term for this exercise, but I call them hip sucks simply because to perform it you think about sucking your hip into its socket. Even though we’re mainly activating our midsection on these, we’re subliminally activating the psoas and iliacus which is tugging on the femur, encouraging it back into its socket.

(first exercises shown)

Now, when it comes to tricksters, you have to remember that my whole theory is based on doing tons of kicks with no regard for keeping the hip tight. So what I’m proposing is that all of your leg lifts and kicks need to be done with this “hip suck” implemented in order to activate the psoas and iliacus to keep the hip in its socket, but we’ll go into that a bit later.

2) Take care of the deep hip flexors

There’s a crowd out there that uses the following progression: pattern, grind, ballistic. What this means is that you have to develop endurance in a motor pattern before you can get strong in that motor patter. And once you’re strong in the motor pattern it can then be held during explosive movements.

As far as tricksters are concerned, there’s no shortage of ballistic action, but there’s definitely a shortage of pattern and grind, or, what I like to think of as slow strength. Therefore, we need to develop the slow control at the hip to get the deep hip more involved.

For this, I recommend a drill that is both explained and demonstrated by Kelly Baggett.

“A lot of people won’t be able to lift their knee an inch without squirming around all over the place. You should be able to come up several inches. The further you lean forward the harder the exercise is. I’d say if you lean forward about 45 degrees and can’t get your foot off the ground at all you could probably use some work.

I recommend doing a couple of sets of 8-10 with a 2-3 second hold at top on that exercise 2-3 x per week.”

The purpose of this exercise is to encourage the hip to be the dominant controller of the leg. This means that anytime we kick, we want our hip to drive the movement, which will create less outward tug on the femur.

3) Prevent external rotation, and the inside of the hip from collapsing

This is especially a concern for those that have lived in the front splits their entire lives. Although this demands flexibility, the rotation of the rear leg and the relaxation is the mechanism for our injury we’re trying to avoid.

4) Deal with soft tissue and resetting the hip

I harp on external rotation of the hip being a problem. Unlike other athletes, tricksters have well developed hip external rotators from side kicking, hook kicking, and outside crescent kicking. This mean the piriformis and the other external rotators are strong enough, and potentially tight enough, to be the reason that the front of our hip—psoas and iliacus—has trouble dealing with the external rotation.

Therefore, stealing from the Mobility WOD, here are some videos that pertain to stretching the external rotators and resetting the hip.

5) Stretch the hip flexors right

Just like in tip #3, most people are used to stretching the hip flexors with front split intentions meaning that their rear leg is externally rotated. But we need to avoid that, so here are two solutions to be used during any lunge stretch.

First, internally rotate the rear leg. Second, push the hip to the outside. I dare say that both can be done, but they can. You’ll notice that you feel this stretch much more on the lateral hip and quadriceps, possibly even creeping into your psoas and iliacus.

And the combination hip flexor and quadriceps stretch can be seen at the end of this article of mine on T-Nation. Remember to internally rotate the rear leg and push the hips to the outside.

6) Incorporation of the tips into front-based kicks

7) Incorporation of the tips into side-based kicks

I know all of these tips may actually reduce your performance in some capacity. By not externally rotating your rear leg, you won’t be as flexible as you could be. You might not be able to hit the splits. You might not be able to kick as high.

At some point, however, for a trickster, you have to assess how valuable these things are. Tricking isn’t martial arts so both the splits and incredibly high kicks to the point of form breakdown aren’t absolutely necessary.

If you are a competitive martial arts athlete or gymnast, however, perhaps you will always have to suffer through snapping hip. Perhaps it’s a rigor of the sport. But for tricksters, you have the power to make your own rules. You aren’t bound by tradition. You aren’t being judged. Give these tips a shot and see how your body responds. What do you have to lose?