Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Develop a belt of muscle first!

I have a few belts in my weight room. I keep them in my storage closet and loan them out to anyone who asks. In the past ten years I have probably loaned out 4 belts. Our facility and program is designed around alot of Olympic style lifts and we put a premium on strengthening the "core" musculature both directly and as a result of supporting heavy weights overhead. We teach our athletes the value of developing their own muscular belt rather than strapping one on as a matter of habit. Even so, I do recognize that belts really do have a legitimate place in heavy training. If you watch videos of top Olympic lifters, I would guess that maybe half wear a belt during competition. Always the type that is narrow in front as the skilled lifer pulls the bar very close and a large, thick belt would get in the way. So called Powerlifters on the other hand, almost without exception, wear the heavy, thick belts for all lifts. Many even for the bench press. Some top throwers also wear a belt in competition. It seems that we see belts mainly in the Javelin, but also in the shot, hammer,and sometimes discus.Below is a nice article that appeared on another site about belt use, mainly from a Powerlifting perspective. I generally agree with this approach. Belts are a tool to increase performance and have legitimate uses, but shouldn't become a standard part of the athletes wardrobe.

Benefits and Proper Use of Weightlifting Belts
By Dave Kirschen
Published: May 25, 2011
Here’s the deal on belts…

I tend to think of a belt as a performance enhancer rather than protection. If you are lifting correctly, your midsection should be strong enough to support itself through the vast majority of tasks you put it through. You may be limited in how much weight you can lift, but you are not in any significant danger of injury without it. The belt really comes into play when you need the extra support to get after heavy weights.

Most people assume that a lifting belt supports your back. The truth is that a good belt is designed to increase intra-abdominal pressure, which stabilizes your entire midsection. This is why the design of your belt is very important. The typical gym belts that are skinny up front and wide in the back do not cover enough abdominal surface area to provide the support you need. For lifts that challenge core strength like the squat and deadlift, you need a belt that is wide all the way around and will support your abdominals and obliques.

Types of Belts

There are three basic designs of powerlifting belt. They are the prong, lever and ratchet. I prefer and recommend the prong design because it is far less expensive and cumbersome than the ratchet and more flexible than the lever (If you need to adjust the size of a lever belt, you need to disassemble it with a screwdriver). Powerlifting belts come in two basic thicknesses, 10mm and 13mm. The 13mm is tougher, but the 10mm needs less break-in to feel comfortable. Get a single prong rather than a double prong because it’s easier to tighten. For a great all-purpose belt that will last a lifetime check out the EFS Economy Belt Single Prong.

For tips on breaking-in your new belt, check this out: Virgin Belt Users.

While you can easily use this belt for every lift, there are also special belts for specific purposes. For deadlifting, you can get a thinner belt with no buckle like the Spud Inc Deadlift Belt. The thinner design makes it easier to get down to the bar. Some lifters will wear a standard powerbelt backwards so the buckle does not get in the way. Most just wear it the same.

For bench, you can use a narrower belt, like the Spud Inc. Bench Belt. A narrow belt holds your bench shirt in place (if you use one) without interfering with your ability to arch. Personally I just use my normal belt because I feel it gives me more support.

How to Wear it

The belt should fit around the small of your back, with the buckle covering your lower abdominals. It should be worn fairly low, but should not get jammed in the crease of your hip when squatting or deadlifting. Because you’ll be expanding your abs into the belt during the lift, you’ll want to wear it one notch looser than all the way tight.

Belt Technique

In order to take advantage of your belt, it’s important to use the valsalva maneuver. This means taking a big gulp of air into your belly, than trying to exhale forcefully with a closed glottis (throat). The pressure should push your belly into the belt and increase the pressure around your midsection. This action should also force your lower back into an arch. Again, it’s really important to push your abs out to get the pressure, not tighten the belt as much as possible.

When to use it.

You shouldn’t wear your belt for every exercise because you still want to allow your back and abdominal muscles to function normally. For heavy special exercises, I’d work up without it, than put it on when you need it. For technical lifts like squatting and speed squatting, I would get it earlier because filling the belt up is an important technical cue that you need to practice.

Don’t wear it for assistance work, it shouldn’t be necessary.

If you wear your belt while doing curls, make sure that you’re wearing color coordinated fingerless gloves. Straps are optional for this.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Under Construction

Our site is under some current reconstruction.We will be adding some features to our site and hope to continue to present helpful training information for those that follow us. In the mean time keep checking for new articles and information. Thank you.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Old School?

Below is a very interesting video segment. It is taken from a Polish weight lifting video that is over an hour long. Other segments can be viewed on Youtube. Back in the 80's the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Assoc.) offered this in VHS format. I have a copy and have watched it and used it to teach many times over the years. It just proves that whatever is touted as "new", was undoubtably done somewhere before by someone. It also shows the nearly infinite variety of movements that can be implemented in one's training over time. For throwers, especially, I believe that there is no reason to get into a training rut. While there are certain basics that should be included in a sound program, there are many variations that are limited only by lack of creativity. In this segment pulling exercises from various heights and starting points are illustrated along with eccentrics and many overhead variations as well. I also really like the combination lifts such as clean, front squat, and jerk. These types of combinations are great for conditioning and technique development, especially in the off-season. Good stuff and never "old fashioned".

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Not all champions make it to the medal stand.

My experience has been that when we need a kick in the backside, life provides it. This past weekend our track season ended with the state championships held at Mesa Community College. Our Arizona federation realigned the divisions this year which moved our school from a division in which we were one of the larger schools into a division in which we are one of the smallest. In what they termed a “cost cutting measure” they raised the qualifying standards dropped the medal places from top 8 to top 4. As I drove home with the few kids who qualified this year I was somewhat frustrated that we brought no medals this year. I always tell the athletes that our objective is to achieve a season best mark in the state meet. We can’t control what the competition does, but if we do our best, we’ll let the chips fall where they may and take our chances. This year we did have several “PR” performances, but the chips didn’t fall our way.
Well, Monday morning I got a harsh reminder of what really makes a champion and why athletics is an important part of the total educational process. I got up at 4:20am as is my usual routine, although I was dragging a little. I opened the weight room doors at 5:00am and began to warmup as the usual suspects began to come in. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone on crutches come through the door. As I finished my warmup, I looked over and recognized one of my former student-athletes. I also could see clearly why he was on crutches. He was standing on one leg, the other leg was gone. My heart sank and I got a sick feeling in my gut. The last time I saw him was last Fall around Thanksgiving time. He came in the weight room for a visit. He was on leave from the Marine Corps and looked great. He had not only grown physically, but exhibited a confidence and demeanor that was great to see. He told me that he was soon to deploy to Afghanistan. Now here he was, a few months later, and in my mind I guessed what had happened. In spite of my progress conquering vulgarity, all I could think was damn it. I quickly approached him, trying to hide my shock and appear as normal and positive as possible. “Colby, what happened?” “ I got blown up Coach”. Cowardly bastards was all I could think. Colby was one of my track athletes for 4 years. He came in as a chubby little freshman who really couldn’t do anything else, so he decided to be thrower. I never “cut” anyone if they are willing to stick with it. I remember him throwing about 60’ (Discus) his first year, but showing an understanding of the mechanics and some kinesthetic sense. He returned the next year and improved to about 90’. He was developing some technical proficiency, but was small and weak. I convinced him that he if wanted to throw farther, he had to stronger. He started to come into the weight room regularly, then often. Soon it became a part of his life. While it wasn’t in his genetic plan to get huge, he transformed himself into a strong and fit athlete. His senior year at the state track meet (he qualified by placing 4th in our region, no longer an option under our current organization) he broke the 120’ barrier which may not sound too impressive to you more talented throwers, but it was an accomplishment to be celebrated for us. I couldn’t have been more proud and considered his progress one of my better coaching jobs. Colby didn’t have a lot of options post high school, but with his increased fitness and confidence decided to become one of the few and the proud and joined the Marines. The training agreed with him and he committed himself to it. When we visited last Fall he thanked me for the preparation and seemed to have the world by the tail. As I approached him Monday morning, trying to express my sympathy without bringing him down, he gave me the same smile he always had and said, “I’m alright.” He jumped on the rowing machine and went to work warming up and made his way around the weight room finding ways to continue to strengthen what he had left, not moping about what he had lost. What a reminder that medals do not make champions. I don’t remember if Colby ever won a medal in his 4 year track career. I know he didn’t win many if any. In my 30 years of coaching the great sport of track and field I have come to learn that many of our greatest accomplishments are not in “teaching fish to swim” (working with the most talented and gifted natural athletes) but in working with everyone that shows up and is willing to come back day after day even though they probably know deep down inside that they will never stand on the medal platform. The most important competition is not a contrived national, state, region, or conference championship, but is called Life.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Competing is what makes the year round training and hard work all worth the effort. There is nothing more vindicating and rewarding than entering a competition and coming away feeling victorious and happy with your results. But on the other hand, there is nothing more defeating and discouraging than coming away from a competition knowing you performed below your expectations, especially after all the hard work, effort, and preparation leading up to the event. There are a lot of variables that contribute to success or defeat. Some can be controlled, while others are simply out of our hands. But in order to enhance our chances of success, we need to be prepared for the variables that we can control leading up to both our competition day and the day of the competition.

Here are just some quick thoughts and suggestions to help prepare for an event:

1. Control the Nerves. Nervousness is almost inevitable, even the most experienced and elite athletes come face to face with their nerves. The difference is that an experienced athlete has learned how to control them. While we would all wish for one solution to solving this problem, there never will be in a world with so much diversity. But I will make a few suggestions that may help.

First, learn to have confidence in your abilities and skills. This will be much easier for an experienced athlete than a novice, because an experienced athlete has more technical repetitions and training. But no matter our level of experience, we can all learn to have confidence that what we do on a day to day basis, we can also do in a competition.

Second, learn not to feel the pressure. Most often times we are the culprits of our own demise. Creating expectations and drawing predetermined lines in the sand can often result in un-needed stress. While having goals and expectations for an event is good and even essential, we need to realize that we can only do our best on any given day. Of course, we would hope that our best effort always leads to a personal record, but this is not always the case. We can also often times feel pressure from other sources and people, such as a coach or a parent, etc. But remember that you are the controller of your own destiny; don’t let others set the expectations for you. Just do your best on any given day and be happy with the result.

Third, learn how to relax. It is important to include some mental rehearsal and imaginary in both training and meet preparation. But sometimes it is more important to just not think about it at all. If the event is local, continue to do your normal day routines. If it is in another area away from home, find something to occupy your time and mind. While you don’t want to be on your feet too much, you don’t want to be sitting around a hotel room doing nothing either. Do a little site seeing, watch a movie, etc. Relaxing is especially important the night before an event as you try to control the nerves and adrenaline and prepare to sleep. If you have trouble sleeping before an event, practice clearing your mind of all thoughts. Your body can’t rest when your mind is still traveling ninety miles an hour. Also learn some relaxation and breathing techniques. And then experiment with other things. A magnesium and calcium supplement may work, or even sleeping with ear plugs. Ear plugs will funnel out any outside noise and allow you to hear your body’s natural rhythm. I have found that being able to hear your own breathing can often be relaxing. So do research and find relaxation techniques that work for you.

2. Early to Bed Early to Rise. Our bodies have a natural sleeping cycle, they are made to sleep at night and rise with the sun. I have heard it been said that every hour of sleep before midnight counts as two hours to your body in contrast to going to bed after midnight. So go to bed at a reasonable time and then wake up to meet the sun. To perform optimally, our bodies need at least 8 hours of sleep. Practicing this will guarantee that we will get enough optimal sleep as well as wake up in time to allow our bodies to be prepared to compete. For early competitions and events, you want to allow yourself at least 3-4 hours after waking up before you compete. (Practicing this not only before an event, but everyday I think is best.)

3. Do Something Active the Day Before. For many this would mean having a quick practice session. If this is the case, keep the training light and easy while focusing on technique. For those that don’t train the day before an event, find something to do that will get your heart rate pumping and increase blood flow for a short 15-30 minute session. Also include some kind of stretching routine. This will not only help you feel good the day before the event, but will also help your body to relax and stay loose while expending some energy so you can rest comfortably at night.

4. Eat a Good Dinner the Night Before. A high carbohydrate meal can help boost your glycogen stores. But the mental aspect of a good dinner is important too. Making this a special meal or event is a good way to send a signal to your body and mind that tomorrow is a special day, an important day that we want to be ready for. A good hearty meal can also be a good relaxation technique to help us sleep later that night.

5. Stretch before Breakfast. Or after, either way is fine. Stretching is relaxing, it will help you feel loose, and occupy some time as well as your mind. Having some music playing or watching TV can aid the experience.

6. Eat a Champion Breakfast. What you eat in the morning will often be what carries you through your event later in the day. If it is an evening or night event you may want to eat a Champion Lunch. Either way there is nothing like a good meal to start the day, remember to make good food choices, but enjoy it! A good breakfast can go along ways in helping you relax too, just be sure to not eat anything that may upset your stomach or make your feel groggy later.

7. Have your Equipment Handy. If your event is early the next day it would probably be best to pack all your equipment the night before. If the event is later in the day, it can sometimes be nice to schedule a time to pack your things the next day to occupy some time. This would include packing any food or drinks needed for your event.

8. Arrive Early. Arriving to your event site early can have many bonuses. It allows you to check into your event early, see how the event schedule is progressing (will my event start on time or be delayed), get worked on or stretched by a team trainer, and relieve any stress or feeling of being rushed or hurried in your event preparations.

9. Have a Good Pre-Competition Routine. It is important to feel loose, ready, as well as to signal to your body that it is finally time to compete. A good warm-up routine allows you to do this. There is a little concept known as the Q10 principle. Basically it states that as core temperature increases so does your body’s ability to better perform. A light sweat is a good indicator that your body is ready to perform optimally. If your competing in cold weather you may have to adjust your warm-up routine, it is especially important in cold weather competition to get your core temperature up. Included in your pre-competition routine should be your warm-up throws. Remember that nobody wins anything for having the longest warm-up throw of the competition. Make sure your warm-ups are relaxed, easy, very technical, and don’t take too many. Save your energy for the competition. Remember that you don’t have to see yourself throw far to know you can throw far!

10. Remember your Mental Cues. Every practice and training session you should be developing different mental cues or feelings that help you to remember the right technical positions of your event. These feelings and cues you have developed will be the same when you compete, so remember them and “feel” them.

11. Enjoy the Journey. Be happy, things won’t always go your way but maintain a positive attitude even when the situation may be hard. The preparation and training we put into an event throughout the year can be compared to building a huge tidal wave. When it comes time to compete, learn to just ride the wave and have fun.

Good luck to all competitors this season and those heading to the NCAA regional’s and Nationals in the next few weeks!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

I Admit, I've Had the Urge....

If you want to get picked on at the beach, do most of your workout sitting on a ball.

A strange article appeared in the Arizona Republic, our state newspaper, this morning. While I see alot of crazy and useless things done with "exercise" balls, I do use them for certain back stomach work from time to time. I will admit, however, that when I see someone sitting on a ball pressing 15 lb. dumbells, I have had the urge to puncture a few....

Slasher of exercise balls charged again
DULUTH, Minn. -- A Duluth man with an attraction to slashing exercise balls has again been charged with burglary.

A criminal complaint says Christopher Neil Bjerkness, 33, told police he need to find a bathroom when he crawled through a window at Northwoods Chester Creek Academy Sunday. The complaint says a staff member found him near the exercise balls.

Bjerkness has convictions in 2005, 2006 and 2009 for entering fitness and physical therapy settings where he damaged exercise balls, including the University of Minnesota Duluth's fitness center where he slashed more than 70 exercise balls with a knife.

Bjerkness told the Duluth News Tribune in 2009 that he couldn't explain his urge. He said he suffered from bipolar depression, fetal alcohol syndrome and cerebral palsy, which was confirmed by his adoptive parents.

Maybe he is just a hard core guy that thinks that real workouts happen on platforms with barbells. lol

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lessons I Have Learned: Steve Backley

I read this today for the first time and really loved it. There are a lot of great lessons we can learn from Steve. (the article is best viewed in fullscreen..there is a button on the bottom)
Lessons I Have Learned: Steve Backley

Steve Backley is a retired British athlete who was formerly the world record holder for javelin throwing. During his career, he won four gold medals at the European Championships, three Commonwealth Games gold medals, and two silvers and a bronze at the Olympic Games, and two silvers at the World Championships.

Backley was a firm fixture in the British national athletics team for over fifteen years and is the only British track and field competitor to win medals at three different Olympic Games.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Is In A Name?

One of the most memorable lines that I remember from a political debate was when Dan Quayle compared himself to John F. Kennedy and Phil Bengston said,"I knew John F. Kennedy, and you are no JFK." Some Native Americans are up in arms over the fact that the code name that the U.S. military used for Bin Laden when they took him out was Geronimo.While I can sympathize with the lack of respect, it should be noted that it is mainly "urban indians" that have the biggest problem. Here on the reservation everyone knows that Geronimo was not this great warriors real name anyway. It was the name the U. S. Army gave him. He had a traditional Apache name that he was known by, in fact, in the native tradition, he had several names throughout his life. Apaches and Navajos are descended from common ancestors and speak a similar language, much like Australian english as compared to American english for example. Communication is fairly easy, but the accents sound "funny" to the other. The Navajos refered to this great Apache warrior as Bilii' T'aa Yisil.(The one who holds his horse back) Anyway, Bin Laden is no Geronimo. Following is a brief synopsis of a true warrior...

Geronimo was born of the Bedonkohe Apache tribe in No-doyohn Canon, Arizona, June, 1829, near present day Clifton, Arizona. The fourth in a family of four boys and four girls, he was called Goyathlay (One Who Yawns.) In 1846, when he was seventeen, he was admitted to the Council of the Warriors, which allowed him to marry. Soon, he received permission; married a woman named Alope, and the couple had three children.

In the mid 1850s, the tribe, who was at peace with the Mexican towns and neighboring Indian tribes, traveled into Old Mexico where they could trade. Camping outside a Mexican town they called Kas-ki-yeh, they stayed for several days. Leaving a few warriors to guard the camp, the rest of the men went into town to trade. When they were returning from town, they were met by several women and children who told them that Mexican troops had attacked their camp.

They returned to camp to find their guard warriors killed, and their horses, supplies and arms, gone. Even worse, many of the women and children had been killed as well. Of those that lay dead were Goyathlay’s wife, mother, and three children and as a result, he hated all Mexicans for the rest of his life.

It was the slaughter of his family that turned him from a peaceful Indian into a bold warrior. Soon, he joined a fierce band of Apache known as Chiricahua and with them, took part in numerous raids in northern Mexico and across the border into U.S. territory which are now known as the states of New Mexico and Arizona. It was those Mexican adversaries that gave him the nickname of "Geronimo", the Spanish version of the name "Jerome".
In ever increasing numbers, Geronimo fought against both Mexicans and white settlers as they began to colonize much of the Apache homelands. However, by the early 1870s, Lieutenant Colonel George F. Crook, commander of the Department of Arizona, had succeeded in establishing relative peace in the territory. The management of his successors, however, was disastrous.

In 1876 the U.S. government attempted to move the Chiricahua from their traditional home to the San Carlos Reservation, a barren wasteland in east-central Arizona, described as "Hell's Forty Acres." Deprived of traditional tribal rights, short on rations and homesick, they revolted.
Spurred by Geronimo, hundreds of Apaches left the reservation and fled to Mexico, soon resuming their war against the whites. Geronimo and his followers began ten years of intermittent raids against white settlements, alternating with periods of peaceful farming on the San Carlos reservation.
In 1882, General George Crook was recalled to Arizona to conduct a campaign against the Apache. Geronimo surrendered in January 1884, but, spurred by rumors of impending trials and hangings, took flight from the San Carlos Reservation on May 17, 1885, accompanied by 35 warriors, and 109 other men, women and children.
During this final campaign, at least 5,000 white soldiers and 500 Indian auxiliaries were employed at various times in the capture of Geronimo's small band. Five months and 1,645 miles later, Geronimo was tracked to his camp in Mexico's Sonora Mountains.

Exhausted, and hopelessly out numbered, Geronimo surrendered on March 27, 1886 at CaƱon de Los Embudos in Sonora, Mexico. His band consisted of a handful of warriors, women, and children. Also found was a young white boy named Jimmy "Santiago" McKinn, that the Indians had kidnapped some six months earlier in September. The "rescued" boy had become so assimilated to the Apache lifestyle, he cried when he was forced to return to his parents.
Also traveling with General Crook was the photographer, C.S. Fly of Tombstone fame. After the bands capture, he was able to take some of the most famous photographs in U.S. history.
The soldiers gathered the group and began the trek to Fort Bowie, Arizona. However, near the border, Geronimo, fearing that they would be murdered once they crossed into U.S. territory, bolted with Chief Naiche, 11 warriors, and a few women and boys, who were able to escape back into the Sierra Madra. As a result, Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles replaced Crook as commander on April 2, 1886.

At a conference on September 3, 1886, at Skeleton Canyon in Arizona, General Miles induced Geronimo to surrender once again, promising him that, after an indefinite exile in Florida, he and his followers would be permitted to return to Arizona.

The promise was never kept. Geronimo and his fellow prisoners were shipped by box-car to Florida for imprisonment and put to hard labor.

It was May 1887 before he saw his family. Several years later, in 1894, he was moved to Fort Sill in Oklahoma Territory where he attempted to "fit in.” He farmed and joined the Dutch Reformed Church, which expelled him because of his inability to resist gambling.

As years passed, stories of Geronimo's warrior ferocity made him into a legend that fascinated non-Indians and Indians alike. As a result, he appeared at numerous fairs, selling souvenirs and photographs of himself. In 1905 he was quite the sensation when he appeared in President Theodore Roosevelt's inaugural parade. Geronimo dictated his memoirs, published in 1906.

Never having seen his homeland of Arizona again, Geronimo died of pneumonia on February 17, 1909 and was buried in the Apache cemetery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. To the Apaches, Geronimo embodied the very essence of the Apache values, agressiveness, courage in the face of difficulty.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

Attitude is everything...
Have you ever seen a more beautiful smile than this one?

Anything bugging you today?
Doesn’t seem so bad anymore does it?