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Train to hike/Hike to train.

Hiking, and especially backpacking with a loaded pack, is hard work.  It’s tough enough that I often use strenuous hikes as cross training/conditioning for another sport.  Here in Boise, Idaho though, hiking is a way of life.  Here, we squeeze every ounce of fun we can from our mountains.  Some hike for pleasure; others to reach fishing holes, camp sites, or hunting grounds.  Here’s how to get the most out of your time out on the trail:

Whether you’ll be hiking for fun or for conditioning, you might regret setting out before preparing your body.

First-  Build an aerobic base.  Simple, “slow”, cardio training below your anaerobic threshold will allow you to train your heart and lungs before your muscles get too tired to keep up.  Make sure that you’re a little winded, but still able to speak 2-3 words between breaths; this will keep you below that anaerobic threshold.

Second- Build some basic strength.  Try weighted step-ups onto a box or step.  Lateral lunges.  Lots of squats. Back extensions.

Hiking Time-  Start with short, easy hikes.  Then build to longer and steeper ones.  Introduce a loaded backpack now, on your training hikes, if you plan to carry a load for backpacking later.

Post Hike-  Take 15 minutes to stretch.  Focus especially on the glutes/hamstrings, low back, and hip flexors.

Here’s a sample strength training day for backpacking conditioning:

1- Dynamic warm-up

2- Barbell weighted step-ups: 3 x 15

3- Cossack Lunge: 3 x 15

4- Barbell Deadlift: 3 x 5

5A- Reverse Hyperextension 3 x 10

5B- Bird Dog 3 x 60 seconds

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Mental Fitness

Train your brain and your body will follow.  In this video we explore the minds of great world championships.  Are they physically superior?  Or do they just possess more mental strength?  How can we be more like them?

Here at Joe To Pro we believe that anyone can develop the body of an athlete.  You just have to train like one.  Let us show you how.

Strongest Teacher in the World

World’s Strongest Teacher

On my journey as an athlete and strength coach, I’ve always made a point to spend time around inspirational people.  Some folks are impressive for their athletic accomplishments.  Others inspire me with their character or lifestyle.  Only a few can do both.  One local Phys. Ed. Teacher/athlete/coach does it all.

Dani Schwalbe is a world class strength athlete.  She was a two sport athlete at Boise State University before moving onto the sport of Strongman, where she was able to earn her pro card by capturing her division’s 2015 title of Strongest Woman in The World.  Schwalbe is also a pretty great coach.  With a degree in physical education, she teaches high school PE, and has experience coaching at the high school and collegiate levels.  I feel lucky to say that we’ve been good friends since 2011, and I’ve seen how passionate she is about her pupils.  Dani is an even better person than she is a coach or athlete.

I wish I had Ms. Schwalbe for high school gym, too.  Her classroom is filled with cool toys.  She’s got axle bars, yokes, sleds, atlas stones, and more.  She’s even got a DIY contraption outside that’s reminiscent of Conan the Barbarian churning his mill.  She lets her students push and pull her truck for fun.  It’s a pretty wild, fun atmosphere, and the kids respond.  At this alternative school for kids with behavior and learning problems, Ms. Schwalbe is reaching even the kids others have given up on.  She preaches that with hard work and self love everything is possible.  Schwalbe is “that one teacher” who really makes a difference for a lot of kids.

The most important thing I learned from Dani is the power of conviction.  Believing in whatever you’re doing, and having the right motivations, is a powerful tool in accomplishing any goal.  In the never ending quest to find and perfect a recipe for winning, I have learned to only pursue the goals I believe in most.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Responder Fitness

I’ve always admired our country’s public servants.  My father was a police officer, along with 7 total members of our family working Police, Fire, or EMS jobs.  So, I grew up with some understanding of the sacrifices these men and women make.  For the last few years, though, I got to experience that service on a different level with Middleton Fire Department.  There, I served as a POC Reserve Firefighter/EMT, and for one summer I was even paid full-time.  It was all an incredible experience, and I’m grateful for my time there, but eventually I had to rededicate my full time and effort to training and athletics.
I thought I could keep up with a fireman’s schedule and still be a world class strength coach.  I was wrong.  The life of a public servant is demanding, and I appreciate more than ever what these folks do for us.  So, I’ll leave the life saving to those heroes and go back to what I do best.  Though I’ve continued training in the gym, I’ve left this site dormant for almost 4 years while pursuing firefighting opportunities.  I’m excited to get back to sharing to this blog again.  So, here we go:

During my time in Middleton, I was able to help Engineer/Fitness Officer Seth Bergman with his department’s killer fitness program.  We talked a lot about the importance of fitness conditioning in emergency situations, and a lot about proper lifting technique on scene.  Many first responders have their careers cut short due to back injuries sustained while lifting improperly.  Hopefully I was able to share some valuable knowledge with Seth, because I know I learned a lot from him.  He took training seriously, and attended workshops on fitness for firefighting (in addition to the countless other training days all Firefighters log).  I still use some of the stretches he taught us after one specific clinic.
Right now I’m developing a complete training program for first responders.  It will include the most important exercises to keep firefighters, police, and paramedics from getting injured on the job.  You’ll also get tons of exercises to push your performance to the next level when it matters most.
– Correct pelvic tilts to improve safe lifting technique
– Build core strength for heavier SAFE lifting abilities
– Reinforce healthy movement patterns
– Build endurance and conditioning
– Perform your best
– Get home safe.

Here’s one exercise specifically for firefighters.  These Sled pulls will help you advance charged hose lines with more speed, power, and confidence!

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Training Inspiration

Sometimes we over-complicate things.  We get caught up with the latest supplements.  We want to try so many new training techniques that we hop from program to program, and never stick with one plan long enough to get quality results.  Or, we think we’re smart enough to make up our own “new program” by adding elements of three proven plans together.

In many cases, it works best to stick best with what’s proven to work best.  Period.  Don’t get too fancy.  You’re not in the gym to impress anyone with how advanced your training program is, are you?  You’re there to get results.

Conditioning for Sports- Energy Systems 101

By examining your sport’s energy demands, and training in the appropriate energy systems, you can build sport specific conditioning.

First, let’s nail down exactly what an “energy system” is.  Depending on the task, your body can produce energy in a few different ways.  Different chemical reactions within your body create energy for different tasks.  Some are very powerful, but run out of gas quickly.  Some last longer.  Your body uses some combination of each to power you throughout your day. Read More

Stress Management (and Adrenal Fatigue)

Recently, I’ve been dealing with a case of Adrenal Fatigue, and it could have been prevented.  Over the years, I’ve known several athletes and multiple trainers/strength coaches who have experienced the same battle.  If we push too hard and don’t pay enough attention to recovery, sleep, and healthy eating, something’s got to give.  Adrenal Fatigue is a physiological condition in which your body relies too heavily on adrenaline to function on a daily basis.  You may feel more anxious than usual, because of your extended exposure to high levels of adrenaline and insufficient levels of a stress hormone called Cortisol.  You’ll also feel a decrease in motivation, have trouble sleeping even when tired (“tired but wired”), and might experience unusual blood sugar swings.  So how, exactly, does this happen?  More importantly, how can we avoid Adrenal Fatigue or treat it once it has begun? Read More

German Body Comp.: Weight Training for Fat Loss

German Body Comp. is one of my favorite program types when training clients for fat loss.  It focuses on building or maintaining muscle mass, while causing a powerful fat burning effect via your body’s lactic acid and growth hormone response.  I’ve touched on German Body Comp. in the past, but I think it deserves a second mention here.

This time, I’m going to give you the complete recipe to use this program to get shredded for summer; and a sample program to get you started.

* It’s only fair to mention Charles Poliquin, world class strength coach and king of GBC in any article on this subject.  His book German Body Comp. is the ultimate guide to GBC; including several training programs and complete meal plans.

INTENSITY:

GBC requires you to lift semi-heavy weights (the heaviest you can use to safely complete a set), for sets of 8-10 or 10-12 repetitions.  You’ll complete 8-10 reps when training biceps, hamstrings, and back because these muscle groups contain a higher percentage of “fast twitch” muscle fibers.  Because of that, they respond better to lower rep training.  10-12 reps will be used for chest, triceps, shoulders, and quads.

FREQUENCY:

German Body Comp. is a full body training program that can be used to train 3 or 4 days per week with great success.

ORGANIZATION:

You’ll superset each exercise with its appropriate partner.  Chest movements are paired with hamstrings.  Back movements are paired with quadriceps exercises, biceps with triceps, and shoulders with calves.  Abdominal training and rehab/prehab work are paired together at the end of each training session.

REST PERIODS:

Keep rest periods short and precise.  You should be resting for 45 seconds between each movement in your supersets.

TEMPO:

Tempo is very important to effective GBC.  Slow, measured tempos create increased time under tension, and produce the desired Growth Hormone response needed for fat burning.  A 4-0-1-0 tempo is perfect for most movements in your GBC program.

EXERCISE SELECTION:

Whenever possible, focus on compound/multi-joint exercises more than isolating a single muscle at a time.  i.e.: Bench press is better than machine fly’s.  This will increase calories burned, your body’s hormone response, and your opportunity to build muscle.

SAMPLE GBC PROGRAM For BEGINNERS
Day 1
Movement Sets Reps Rest Tempo
A1) Incline Dumbbell Press 4 10 to 12 45 sec. 4010
A2) Romanian Deadlift 4 8 to 10 45 sec. 4010
B1) Seated Row 4 8 to 10 45 sec. 4010
B2) Split Squats 4 10 to 12 each 45 sec. 4010
C1) Dumbbell Hammer Curls 3 10 to 12 each 45 sec. 4010
C2) Dumbbell Skull Crushers 3 10 to 12 45 sec. 4010
D1) Powell Raise (rear delt) 3 10 to 12 each 45 sec. 4010
D2) Standing Calf Raise 3 10 to 12 45 sec. 4010
Day 2
Movement Sets Reps Rest Tempo
A1) Chest Dips 4 10 to 12 45 sec. 4010
A2) Machine Hamstring Curls 4 8 to 10 45 sec. 4010
B1) Pull-ups 4 8 to 10 45 sec. 4010
B2) Quad Squats 4 10 to 12 45 sec. 4010
C1) Barbell Reverse Curls 3 8 to 10 45 sec. 4010
C2) Cable Triceps Push-downs 3 10 to 12 45 sec. 4010
D1) Cable External Rotation 90* 3 8 to 10 45 sec. 4010
D2) Plank 3 60 sec. 45 sec. X
Day 3
Movement Sets Reps Rest Tempo
A1) Front Squat 4 10 to 12 45 sec. 4010
A2) Dumbbell One Arm Row 4 8 to 10 each 45 sec. 4010
B1) Dumbell Unrolling Fly 4 10 to 12 45 sec. 4010
B2) Glute/Ham Raise 4 8 to 10 45 sec. 4010
C1) Barbell Drag Curl 3 8 to 10 45 sec. 4010
C2) Narrow Grip Bench 3 10 to 12 45 sec. 4010
D1) Trap 3 Raise 3 8 to 10 45 sec. 4010
D2) Reverse Plank 3 60 sec. 45 sec. X

 

Q&A: How many reps should I do? Speed Edition

One of the questions I get asked the most is, “How should I lift to get faster?  Lots of repetitions with light weight, or low rep training?”

It’s not as tricky as you think, but before you can understand training for speed and quickness, you have to understand the chart I made (above).  Basically, low rep training develops maximal strength, while higher rep sets lead to hypertrophy and eventually, with even higher reps, muscular endurance.  Of course, this is a simplified depiction of what really goes on, and there is some “overflow” of each quality;  i.e. training for 6 or 8 reps will build strength, while also developing hypertrophy and making your muscles grow.

Great.  Now, what about speed?  Well… strength makes speed.  The stronger you are, the faster you will be able to move a given mass.  So, first you need to get strong with some heavy low repetition training.

“…but won’t grinding out slow, heavy reps, and moving slowly make me slower?”  Yes and no.

You definitely perform the way you train.  So, if all you ever do is super heavy/super slow sets; you will eventually get slower.  However, low rep training is also the most effective at training your body’s “fast twitch” muscle fibers, so stick with the low reps.  Don’t worry about speed right away.

Once you’ve developed a base of strength, you can start to be more concerned with your speed development.  Now it’s time to reduce the weight that you’re training with… but don’t do more repetitions!  Instead, continue with low rep training using a load that is about 60% of your 1 Rep Max.  Move that weight as FAST as possible (known as a ballistic tempo) for each repetition you complete.

Finally, speed is created AFTER your time in the weight room.  Strength training gives your body a head start, but the gains you make in the gym are only truly converted to sport specific speed by practicing your sports.  If you’re a sprinter, sprint as fast as possible.  If you’re a boxer, box as fast as possible.

At the end of the day, the only way to get faster is to move fast.

Good luck!