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Entries in brian the trainer (33)

Beast Mode: College Kids do QGB

The strength-oriented version of Fight Gone Bad came up last week, a classic known as Quarter Gone Bad. 5 rounds, 15 sec. of work, 45 sec. of rest: thrusters, weighted pull-ups, and burpees.

The 4:30 session consisted of Jay, Jackie, and Bubs; three of our college kids trying to get back in the swing of consistent workouts. Much to my delight, their form looked really good. Check it out.

As a bonus, this workout came up last time in 2008. As luck would have it, Brian and I both did it. Check out our retest numbers:

Quote of the Week vol. 192

VJ's second installment of Thinking Out Loud to be posted tonight at 5 pm.

"If they come to you with bad habits, it's out of your control. If they leave you with bad habits, then it's on you."

- Brian the Trainer

You know Brian used to be able to do handstand push-ups?

Mini-Case Study: Mrs. Carey's Half Cycle

There is no athlete in the history of the Champions Club up to this point that has been more consistent than Mrs. Carey. From September 7, 2010 up until today I cannot for the life of me remember Mrs. Carey taking any kind of extended time off (random days missed and vacations not included). She's our model student in every sense of the phrase!

I remember when Brian and I were training together a while back him mentioning something called a "half-cycle" to me. I looked it up on the CrossFit webs shortly after and found it very interesting. In essence, the program is designed to, over time, exceed the demands of the fittest human beings on earth. Not just meet the demands, but obliterate them. Given that, it is recommended that every 8-12 weeks or so (those numbers may be off, but that's what I remember) of non-stop training the athlete takes a "half-cycle" - meaning the next 3-6 workouts get scaled in half so our bodies can catch up with the workload we have previously put ourselves through.

In our gym I notice this with some of our athletes. In the Summer, for instance, someone might take a vacation for a week and come back expecting to bonk on a workout, only to see them crush a pr or lead the pack with fresh legs. I always keep this in mind when I see you guys work out.

The reason I don't do more half cycles is for two reasons. First, the original recommended frequency of the half-cycle is based from someone following the 3-on-1-off schedule. We don't quite do that; we shade to the side of having an extra rest day in the mix. The second reason is attendance, I do like our gym's overall attendance but with things like sports in the mix it's often that by the time an off-season athlete would be ready for  a half-cycle they'd just be moving to in-season training anyway.

So what I try to do is base it off performance. While movement quality usually stays the same, the whiteboard results will fluctuate. When I think a trend might be coming in the wrong direction it probably means a half-cycle is in order. Mrs. Carey hasn't necessarily been trending down (especially considering she saw some pr's on her recent lifts and workouts), but the more I think about how consistent she's been with her training over the past 6 years(!) I would say she's long overdue for a half-cycle. That's what she's been doing this week; half reps today, 1 round yesterday, and 7 minutes on Tuesday. We might continue it a little bit into next week but we'll just improvise as we go. In the past, I've told athletes like Jacob to wait for that day when he feels like he's "ready and rearing to go" then wait two more days. JZ, Jason, Murley, and Shakes have followed similar guidelines.

Remember these days? Don't they look happy?I think most of you guys are cool without taking the half-cycles frequently because of the limited volume we have overall. But things slip by me. Mrs. Carey could probably use one ever year. If you guys ever feel like the workouts are dragging, try to fix the nutrition/sleep first. If that doesn't do anything then come talk to me about a half-cycle.

As Brian said, "one workout will never make an athlete but one workout could potentially break an athlete." 

Lifts 4 Gifts 2016 Recap + Numbers

I was pleasantly surprised with the turnout at Lifts 4 Gifts today. We had 23 in participation, with another few helping on the sidelines (Jacob and Wendy chief among them). In all we raised $325 plus a good stock of toys for the Madison Heights Goodfellows today. So big ups to everyone who donated.

The final workout numbers can be seen here. I'll come back in tomorrow morning (hopefully) with a more organized spreadsheet and the full picture gallery.

I also think a special shoutout is in order for the anonymous lender of 16 45-lb. plates. That made the deadlift ladder possible and is probably something we will repeat next year. And finally, Brian Hassler played a critical part in making this thing go today. He's a great guy and even though his jokes are of the popsicle stick variety, his presence today did more to keep things running smoothly than many of you can imagine.

.. and trim that scraggly beard

Thanks again big guy, and thanks again to everyone in attendance. I'll check back in tomorrow.

Referenced reading: The 11 Things I Learned from Brian the Trainer

Funnier referenced reading: Once Upon A Time Defenseless in Mid-air

Lifts 4 Gifts 2016 Official UPDATED

It's official. After some last-minute coordination, Lifts 4 Gifts is on for the 6th year in a row. Here's the specifics:

Date: Saturday, December 17

Time: 9 am

Location: Champions Club/CrossFit Athletic Group - 32301 Stephenson Hwy. Madison Heights 48071

Come prepared with: $20 suggested donation (more details below), change of shoes (for weather), and general idea of 1 rep max back squat, strict press, and deadlift numbers.

This year we are going to add in a little wrinkle to the mix - keeping in mind Jarrod's original idea of having some kind of time component but altering the setup. I have consulted with The Brian (aka BTT aka BTAD aka Mr. ILiftOnceAYear) and he helped brainstorm a ladder format for the deadlifts. As of now, here is the layout:

  • General Timecap 1 - Back squat 1 RM
  • General Timecap 2 - Press 1 RM
  • Group 1 - Deadlift ladder
  • Group 2 - Deadlift ladder

If we get enough weights and bars, we should be able to set up the deadlifts where athletes will not have to sacrifice their 1 RM attempt in lieu of the workout. Look for another video from myself and Jarrod (and maybe Brian) later this week. Deadlift ladder details will be included.


But let's make it clear, none of that really matters. What does matter is last year we raised over $700 plus tons of additional toys for The Madison Heights Goodfellows and Steve's Club Detroit. The truth is everybody who read this site is looking forward to some kind of warm, cozy setting on Christmas Day with little cousins running around the Aunts and Uncles in La-Z-Boy chairs while Granny is preparing the giant meat mound for everyone to binge on. This is something most of us have seen every single year for our entire lives; it's natural for us to take that for granted.

Unfortunately there are plenty of families in the area who don't have that to look forward to. Their Christmas Day will be just the same as every other one; what's the next meal going to be?

I can't pretend to know that life, but I do know that 700 bucks would go a very long way into making at least one weekend this year much more pleasant. That's why I enjoying seeing CrossFit BMW and the Champions Club get together every Christmas season for this event. It really shows the perspective of both gyms and their support not only for each other lifting that day, but their community. A suggested donation of $20 is what we have done in the past. If you can't swing that then please do what you are comfortable with, or bring a few toys you think a small family might enjoy.

Lastly, in order for the smoothest possible event, I really need everyone from our gym to post their attendance to these comments and Jarrod's people to start a list on his whiteboard or something. This will especially help establish weights for the deadlift ladder.

If there are any questions be sure to drop a line. Otherwise, hope to see you here!

- Chris

Pass it On

Shannon went to a USA Track & Field coaches clinic about two weeks ago and came back with some rather interesting points. The one that caught my attention the most was how the top track coaches view the youth running community in general. From what Shannon relayed to me, they believe most coaches train their athletes to WIN NOW; win this meet, then win Regionals, then win at States, then win at this dinky off-season indoor thing, and so on.

Instead, a coach's mentality should be to pass their kids on to the next coach.

Now, whether or not the USATF programming is doing such a thing is a different story, but the main idea is something that really clicked for me with how I have coached track in the past, and how I coach you guys at the Champions Club.

Brian and I were really in sync during our time coaching track in the sense that nobody cares about winning the Cabrini dual meet in April, or the Royal Oak Relays. We cared about the Williamston Invitational, Regionals, and States; Williamston was the reality check, Regionals was the benchmark, and States was the fine-tuning. It was not a big deal that our kids didn't run particularly well at the early meets and practices, we had a bigger vision in mind and it paid off literally every single time the athlete bought it.

Due to the success I've had there and in other areas as a coach and athlete, I approach the Champions Club the same way. But instead of passing you on to the next coach, I pass you on to your future self and my future self, and I think this is something that needs a reminder every now and then.

I coach you guys with the mindset of, "A month from now am I going to have to undo the crap I let you get away today?" Or, "two years from now are you going to hit a dead end with this technique I let slide?"

This can be frustrating at times (and seemingly contradictory to the Quote of the Week below) because it often means sacrificing weight or intensity on the day's workout. But understand if that particular day's workout was our end goal, the training would look totally different. Coach T helped me realize we are in the profession of developing lifetime fitness. There are always exceptions (Matt training on a time-crunch for an upcoming race, Benchmark Workouts, Lifts 4 Gifts, etc.) but the priority of a good training program needs to be long-term sustainability. Can you train for today and get away with it? Absolutely. Will it catch up with you? Inevitably; the rate it does just depends on your tolerance and natural gifts. We believe it's best to accept this and use the understanding of movement and programming we have to pass yourself on to yourself. Trust me, you'll be happy you did. And I will not be a cranky elf.

Mrs. Fitz: tire burpees on Monday passing on good landing position

Your Child Is Not a Lineman...

There are certain things that I'm sure jump out at parents when they watch their kids grow up. For me, it was my throwing arm.

When I played intramural baseball as a first grader, I threw a kid out at 1st from left field. In 5th grade, I gunned out my cousin, Josh, twice in one Madison Heights Summer League game from centerfield: once at third and once at home (I never let him or Uncle John hear the end of it.) When I was in 6th grade I could throw a football 40 yards - which lead to 50 yards in 8th grade, then 55 yards in high school, and finally 60 yards in college. My 6th grade track coach asked me to play on his adult Ultimate Frisbee team after watching me throw a frisbee at a track practice.

I was never really taught, I just threw as hard and far as I could. It's something I could always do and my parents, my uncles, my coaches, and even my grandpa noticed it. They always encouraged me to try outfield in baseball and quarterback in football. And even soccer for the throw-ins. But here's one thing nobody has ever said to me:

"Dang Chris, you should really go out for offensive lineman."

To say Brian the Trainer throws like a girl would be disrespectful to girls everywhere in the world. He throws a ball like Murley throws temper tantrums.

But good lord is he strong. Brian Hassler sneezes heavy bars off the ground. He was born on a farm and came out of the womb lifting hay piles and pushing livestock around. He's a big guy (for you) and he also gains weight very easily. I'm guessing nobody has ever watch Brian do athletic things and said, "Dang Brian, you should do something with crazy hand-eye coordination." Nope, more like, "Dude, you need to push people for a living." So what does he do? Play basketball and run track (once.) But that's Brian!

Now those are both extreme examples, but the point is you can usually tell what is going to be a kid's strongsuit and weak spot. The tricky part comes when measuring him or her against other kids with the same strengths and weaknesses. Let's use Dawson for example (but this could go for thousands of high school athletes in the area, or country.)

Dawson Bielski is a gump if we've ever had one. Not particularly fast, nor agile. But he's a big kid - especially for only being a sophomore in high school. The thing is, he's kinda of stuck in no-man's land for football. If he was playing in Division 7 like Foley and Shrine he would dominate, but Mott plays in the toughest Macomb league in Division 1. All the big boys like Dakota, Chippewa Valley, and Romeo are in their league, plus they usually draw Detroit PSL powerhouse Cass Tech in the playoffs. In this scenario, Dawson is not quite big enough to wraastle with the monsters on the line (like Kris Campbell,) but not nearly fast enough to move to linebacker. Parents and coaches see this and understand that he is closer to a lineman than a linebacker, so they push him in that direction and encourage him to gain some weight. 20-40 pounds to be exact. And this is where I think they are wrong.

I believe your body knows what it is doing. I'm naturally a skinny kid; no amount of eating could turn me into a lineman. And Brian is a naturally buff man-kid; no amount of fasting could turn him into a distance runner.

This is Dawson...

...and this will probably never be Dawson without some vitamin-S on the side:

If Dawson wants to compete with these guys, I don't think sizing up is the way to go. If it happens naturally, then that's a bonus. But I believe if you weren't born with it, the natural hogs will always out-size you. What he can control, however, is his conditioning, technique, and strategy. He can make sure his footwork is perfect through hours of repetition, his 4th quarter looks the same as his 1st quarter, and he capitalizes on the tendencies he sees during film study. Size, for Dawson, will come through the waiting game. This year he's probably going to get overpowered by Cass Tech and friends. But through gradual strength training here and with Coach T, and an obsession to perfecting his strengths, by the time he's a senior he should be able to hold his own.


I think it comes down to playing to your body's natural strengths. You can stray away if you want, but you will eventually be punished, as Dr. Romanov would say, both with injury and poor performance. Michigan during the Carr era used to be notrious for bulking their recruits - which would slow them down on the field. Prescott Burgess, Chris Graham, David Underwood, Julius Curry, and the lot turned from speedy recruits (albeit according to Fred Jackson) to clods who could not keep up with the white boys at Purdue. This made my dad very angry. Jacob knows.

On a more relatable note, during the 7 months when JZ trained like a dedicated athlete I had a conversation with his HS baseball coach regarding this. He wanted JZ to gain 20 lbs. or so and encouraged him to take Secret Sauce - which led to this classic post. My argument was JZ's advantage on the field was his speed, and trying to give him more mass might slow him down. JZ going from legit-FAST to kinda fast and scrawny to a little less scrawny would not make for a good baseball player. Instead I persuaded the coach to let him train how he normally would with us and test his strength numbers at the start of the season. He tested the highest on the team in most lifts with good form, and gained about 5 lbs. (if I recall correctly). But most importantly, he did not lose any speed.

But in the end, it comes down to 1) who your competition is and 2) who you are trying to impress. If Carter the Blob decided he wanted to play football for Athens, he could do well gaining some weight - maybe 20-30 lbs. over the next three years. But even the Blobfather would know he would be limited because of the simple fact that he's Carter. I think wraastling could be his thing. If, by chance, Dawson has a stand-out year as a Junior and some college coaches come around asking him to put on some weight, the risks of gaining 30-40 pounds would definitely be worth a free ride. He would just have to get real with himself and know his body is carrying around more that is was designed to.

Here's a general rule of thumb: if you are asking your athlete to gain weight, then your child is not a lineman. He's just the best option the team has. You know who never gets told they have to gain weight? Linemen. Actual linemen. Your goal should be to get stronger, not gain weight.