Good morning guys! I am going to jump right into this post because I am super stoked to share this new blog series with you all! I invite you to follow along over the next six weeks as I attack Las Vegas’s  Camp Rhino  6-Week Challenge.

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I should probably begin by stating my reasons for joining this challenge. You guys know that since being back in the states I have been working out in our home gym with a few random drop-ins around town. Most of all, I wanted to find a place that I could be surrounded by like-minded individuals, and it was a priority to find a gym that offered variety. After scoping out a few different places, I stumbled upon Camp Rhino. Camp Rhino not only offers CrossFit, but has multiple boot-camp locations across town (indoors & outdoors), and to top it off, obstacle training. I read into the 6–week challenge and was convinced to join when I realized I had the potential to earn my money back. To join the challenge costs $300. If you attend a total of 24 classes, meet all nutritional requirements, and strive for daily improvements, you get every penny back. This was an incredible incentive!

I attended the initial athlete’s meeting at the beginning of the week and was accompanied by a room full of eager and motivated individuals. There were people that had previously battled cancer, men that were powerlifters but joined the challenge to support their wives, competitive athletes, and people like me, simply looking for a new gym to call home.

Tuesday morning (day 1),  I woke and logged my stats. This was the first time that I have been on the scale since my initial “summer-shredding” weigh-in. I began my cut (before the challenge) at 143 pounds and dropped to where I currently sit at 137 pounds.
Starting Measurements:
• Weight 137#
• Chest 36″
• Waist 28″
• Hips 33.5″
• Glutes: 39″

Once I established my starting point, I laced up my Nanos and to the gym, I went. This was the first CrossFit class that I have attended since leaving Italy at the end of last year & it felt incredible! Days 1 & 2 complete!!

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Now, fast forward three weeks….This week marks the halfway point and I am feeling great! So what is the challenge providing me that was lacking in my previous training program? This is easy,  more intensity. As I mentioned before, Rhino does offer boot camp, obstacle training, and mobility classes, but my focus has been on CrossFit. I still begin my mornings as I have for months now, with a pilates/yoga/core session at home, and then I head to CrossFit. I try to maintain this routine at a minimum of four days a week, and two days a week I focus strictly on isolation training at home in place of going to CrossFit.

As for my diet, my food choices relatively remain the same all year round; however, since beginning this program I have replaced my weekly “treat meal” with just an increased calorie consumption of the foods I already eat (the camp-rhino program allows for a weekly cheat, this is a personal choice). My top carbohydrate sources are whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, with higher-glycemic foods structured around my workouts. I avoid saturated fat and trans fats as much as possible, and I use olive oil 99% of the time when sautéing veggies. I incorporate nuts and seeds at least 3-4x a week and typically include one small avocado a day. As for protein, I have gradually converted to a plant-based diet with the exception of egg whites and the occasional raw sushi roll (this has been a gradual transition since the beginning of this year for a nutritional study. I will share my reasons behind this decision in a separate post).

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So what about my stats? As of this morning, I have lost 3 pounds and a total of 4 inches, which is awesome considering my primary purpose for this program has been to find a new gym to call home; so, tighter abs and glutes are just an added bonus!

That’s just it, I wish I could stress the importance of a healthy, well-balanced diet! If you adhere to healthy eating habits and couple that with a few days of intensity within your training, you are guaranteed to yield results.

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Now here it is, 6-weeks later and I have completed Camp Rhinos 6-Week Challenge!!!!!
I had my final check-in Wednesday afternoon and earned 100% of my money back! If you recall from my first post introducing the challenge, the total cost of the challenge was $300. To earn back your money one must meet the nutrition recommendations, attend 24 classes, and track and log progress stats for 6-weeks.

I reached my lowest weight of the challenge earlier in the week at 131.8 pounds; I chalk this up to the fact that I failed to meet my water intake and woke up a bit dehydrated.  I weighed myself the morning of my final check-in at 133.5 pounds and that was the final weight logged. Overall, I showed a weight loss of 4-pounds and a total decrease of 6-inches. Most importantly, I found a new gym to call home. I collected my $300 dollars and rolled it over to pay for the following two months.

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My plan is to continue with my cut for a few more weeks until Olympia weekend (look for me at the Gorilla Wear booth!) I did allow for a night out this weekend with some friends and indulged with a few gin and tonics and had a veggie-loaded thin crust pizza on Saturday night, but this morning it was back to the grind.

To understand me is to grasp the understanding of my primary passions- Competition and Coaching. My competitive nature stems from the completion of my very first Triathlon many years ago. AFRAID, TERRIFIED, PANICKED. Like a fish out of water.
These are the emotions that led to or produced, great performance.
These emotions created within me, healthy competition. Understanding that fear was my formula for effectiveness, led me to the obsession and marvel of the human body’s capabilities during competition.
TRIATHLONS, DUATHLONS, MARATHONS, ULTRA-THONS, AND OBSTACLE COURSES… my choice of extreme sports due to the mere fact of being solo performances (the competitive element being proposed by and against one’s self). I am driven by fear. Fear of giving anything less than my personal best. Fear of not making the attempt at all. The fear of not finding my best self has to lead to over 20 incredible racing adventures, in five different countries, on three diverse continents. This fear in return yields self-satisfaction, self-glorification, and above all else, self-respect.
Understanding that my athletic success stems not only from hard work, tedious training, and dedication, but as well as self-determination, leads to hard work and dedication within all other aspects of my life.
However, regardless of the preparation…Nothing could prepare me for my greatest adventure, coaching.
ACCOUNTABILITY, CREDIBILITY, AND LIABILITY…Characteristics that accompany this role. It comes with immediate realization, it is more than just the sport. It is more than teaching someone a clean, a jerk, or a Snatch. It’s more than a conditioning challenge or CrossFit. It’s more than being just a coach…It’s mentoring. It’s being a motivator.
Positivity creates confidence. And to believe that you will succeed tends to silence the voice of self-doubt. This for me as a coach is primitive. To instill self-confidence, which in return yields greatness. Enthusiasm not only for the sport but for each individual athlete is part of my formula for success. Getting an athlete to believe in themselves and the desire to achieve prominence is key!
With 20 years of certifications to display, these pieces of paper are mere printouts in frames, stuck on my wall. While they represent knowledge and know-how, they do not possess the power of pronouncing me as a good coach. But….the coffee mugs that read #1 coach and coaches change lives, well, those sources are a significant offering of thanks for accountability and motivation.
I began coaching to hopefully use it as a platform to inspire, but rather I am the one who is inspired. 

Neuroendocrine refers to interactions between the nervous system and the endocrine system. Muscle growth and strength increase largely depend on the neuroendocrine adaptations and acute responses evoked during exercise.
Unfortunately, one of the critical elements missing from isolation ‘weight-training’ movements (ex. bicep curls) is they invoke essentially no Neuroendocrine response.
A vital hormonal response to athletic development is a substantial testosterone increase, along with an insulin-like growth factor and human growth hormone. Exercising with protocols known to elevate these hormones eerily mimics the hormonal changes sought in exogenous hormonal therapy (steroid use). Training Programs that induce a high neuroendocrine response produce top tier athletes. Increased muscle mass and bone density are just two of many adaptive responses to exercises capable of producing a significant Neuro. response.
A starting point recommended for Weightlifting would be mastering Powerlifting
(the sport of three lifts: the Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift), to be followed later by the more dynamic Clean & Jerk and the Snatch. Being not only demanding of precision and athleticism, but these multi-joint compounds also elicit a profound Neuroendocrine response, emphasizing constant engagement of midline, working core to extremities.
Simply put, in order to maximize neuroendocrine response, focus on working large muscle groups before smaller muscle groups. Use higher volume and moderate to high intensity with shorter rest intervals between sets.
If you are not an avid Olympic Weightlifter, activate a higher Neuro response by programming your smaller muscle groups with your largest muscle groups. (ex. Superset your bicep curls with deadlifts, your tricep extensions with bench press, shoulder laterals with squats). Recruit an even larger response by incorporating Compound movements (ex. a front squat with an overhead press, a sumo deadlift with an upright row, a back squat with a wide grip behind the neck Press).
Maximize your natural growth hormone by recruiting more muscle fibers, more quickly, and more intensely.

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The law of overload is one of the first principles in exercise physiology, and no resistance program is successful without it. 
The key to building massive, powerful muscles is to increase the training weights you use. Overload must be approached using sound scientific training and common sense. Sure, you can do dumbbell curls while you lunge, but don’t con yourself into believing you are providing any sort of serious overload to your legs. Want real overload? Hit the squat rack. When it comes to making gains and adding size, the first and most obvious way is adding more weight. New Trainees should take advantage of this method. Increased increments of weight for new lifters should progress steadily over a period of two to three months before hitting a plateau.  When plateaus are reached, periods of increased loading come into play. Half-pound plates added to a bench press weekly over the course of a year would equal a 52-pound gain, one pound plates would equal a 104-pound gain, so realize that micro-progression is progression to long term success.
This pace is undoubtedly impossible to maintain forever, so this is when you would increase the volume. Volume is increased by performing more sets with weight over 65 percent of a one-rep max. Anything less than is not heavy enough to have a real training effect. There are a number of ways to add volume to your routine. Try adding an extra set to your workout. If you benched 4 sets of 5 with 200 pounds last time, you performed 4000 pounds of volume- if you do 5 sets next week, that becomes 5000 pounds of volume. One extra set has a profound effect on total volume. As long as you don’t sacrifice intensity in the process, you’ll find that higher volume is superior for increasing strength and hypertrophy.

Another alternative in making progression is to take a full range of motion exercise and turn it into an extended range of motion. The range of motion can have a huge impact on a movement. Examples of this would be deficit Deadlifts or snatch grip Deadlifts. A deficit Deadlift is performed while standing on a plate a couple of inches off the ground to increase the range of motion. While performing this movement with only 80 percent of a one-rep max, it is still more difficult than a regular Deadlift at the same weight. With snatch grip Deadlifts, by adding the extended grip, causes an overload in the movement, thus adding an extra level of difficulty.

Another way to catalyze hypertrophy- incorporate prolonged negatives into each repetition to increase muscular tension, while using explosive movements through the beginning of the movement. An example of this would be in curling a Barbell. In the initial movement of the curl, apply explosive force, while in the negative movement, slowly release back to starting position. This is known as the principle of retro-gravity. To add even more intensity, try doing the same amount of work with decreased rest intervals. More volume in less time will add gains to your strength once you have reached a maximum weight. In order to surpass a plateau, hypertrophy must be maintained, therefore shorter rest times are not an excuse for lighter weight!

For powerlifters, Olympic lifters, and anyone else that competes in specified lifts, the core lifts have to remain at the nucleus of the program- But for Bodybuilders or anyone just looking for a shredded set of wheels; front squats, leg extensions, Olympic pause squats, leg press, and many other variations can be incorporated for alternate workouts.

Finally for increased hypertrophy, simply increase your intensity- train more often. Training in squats twice a week overloads your system more than squatting once a week.

Building strength and mastering control of your body is the basis for building proficient lifting techniques. Once you are able to perform a task with greater ability, you can then do so at a faster pace. This defines power. Power can be referred to as strength speed.

Certain lifts, movements, and drills when performed at a faster rate, produce power output, but none of this can be done without first having built a foundation of the ability to perform even the most basic tasks. In explanation, a novice needs to master the ability to properly perform movements such as Deadlifts, Squats, and Overhead Press, before trying to grab a bar to perform Clean and Jerks.

Everyone’s Deadlift is much higher than his or her power clean. What you really need is explosive strength. This shows most obviously when your leg extension goes beyond ninety degrees. The faster you go from ninety to 180 degrees, the more you are going to power clean. Those fibers will have to keep firing all through that portion of the lift…Power.

‘Making the plates rattle A sure-fire way to know that your power is explosive all the way through, to the top of the lift along with significant speed. This is a training tool I use to ensure powerful force in driving upward.

Conclusively- Key mechanism of speed, power, and strength, working in complete correlation are necessary components for successful Olympic Lifts.

If your workout consists of heavy lifting and your pre-workout consists of a 200M run and a couple of air squats, it may be time to adjust your regimen.

As every Weightlifter understands, doing full snatches, clean and jerks, or any heavy lift, requires a high degree of flexibility in every part of the body. All the major muscle groups and corresponding attachments are involved in competitive lifts: shoulder girdle, back, and hips, and legs. A lack of flexibility in the shoulders will prevent the lifter from locking out snatches and jerks. It may also keep one from racking a weight on his shoulders while cleaning. Tightness in the hips will have an adverse effect on getting into a low position for snatches and cleans. Not only preventing the correct execution of a lift, but lack of flexibility in any heavy lift also makes one more susceptible to injury.

Because every part of the body is activated during the execution of Olympic lifts, every joint and muscle group needs to be given some attention before doing any heavy lifting. This is where there is confusion between the two disciplines needed to enhance flexibility: warming up and stretching. While closely related, they are not the same. Merely stretching a muscle or joint isn’t sufficient preparation for a heavy session in the weight room that will be filled with complicated athletic movements.

Warming up and stretching are both vital disciplines for all heavy lifters. Everyone knows a warm muscle is more elastic and reacts better to movement than a cold one, and it’s only common sense to know supple muscles are less prone to injury than tight ones.

In the gym, we like to take you through many variations of warm-ups and movements to prepare you for your workout.  You may be wondering if there is a vital importance in completing a warm-up and movements? The answer you will get from all the trainers in the gym is, “ABSOLUTELY!”  But that doesn’t always answer the question of why it is important that we spend the time to get you properly warmed up and mobilized. After various warm-ups consisting of inch worms, rowing, running, and other movements in order to get your body temperature rising, we like to spend time mobilizing and practicing movements that are associated with the workload for the workout. This type of movement is called Dynamic Stretching. Once you are properly warmed up, we take you through a series of movements that consist of air squats, leg kicks, lunges, and jump squats. This series of dynamic movements would be great for setting you up to do a strength series of squats, deadlifts, or split-squats. Dynamic stretching is an active movement of muscle that brings forth a stretch but is not held in the end position. This is very critical and important. Dynamic stretching will be beneficial to your performance and set you up for the current workload. Why is this critical and important? Here is science. Your body has many mechanisms that need to be activated and stimulated. When you put your body through a series of stretches while in motion, it sends signals from the brain to the muscle fibers and connective tissues in that area to prepare to do work. Your body’s temperature begins to rise and blood is pumped to the working areas of the body. Getting good blood flow to the area of the working muscles is very critical in order to supply the area with the energy needed to do work. Along with getting proper blood flow to the working area, the muscle fibers and connective tissues will gain more flexibility and range of motion. Many studies have shown that dynamic stretching can help increase power, improve flexibility, and increase your range of motion.

In other words, by doing dynamic stretching after your warm-up and before your workout, you are going to feel stronger and work up to a heavier load.  Another point to remember here is that dynamic movements are very sport and movement specific.  We will change the types of movements you do in the warm-up dependent upon what the workload is going to be for that day. Additionally, your range of motion and flexibility will also be greater. Have you ever done air squats at the beginning of a warm-up and felt like it was terrible, but after doing a proper warm-up and working on the movements which mimic and simulate squatting, your actual squat will then feel more natural and will flow much smoother.

Most athletes respond best to a high frequency and high volume of Weightlifting and perform best when not handling maximum poundages at each session.

The Heavy-Light-Medium training system gives the athlete the volume and frequency that they need to drive progress, and ensure ongoing success while allowing enough recovery for one heavy day each week for maximum output. The benefit that this program has for athletes cannot be overstated.  Non-barbell sports athletes must balance training for their sport and training in the weight room. Most sports are demanding of the lower body and many athletes will not have enough reserves in their tank to squat heavy more than once per week. The HLM system allows the athlete to place their heavy squat day on the day of the week that allows them to train in their most recovered state. During the rest of the week, the athletes will have to perform strength workouts in a state of fatigue. The HLM system makes this a little easier to manage. On the light and medium days, the athlete will be focusing on form and technique, and speed.

As a starting point though, start your light day 10-20% lower than your heavy day, and set your medium day 5-10%  less than your heavy day.

I often get asked about weightlifting shoes. Are they really worth the investment? I always reply the same way- Would an avid runner wear shoes that are made for hiking? Probably not. Shoes are designed for specific sports and activities. Running shoes have an inbuilt cushion to absorb impact with each step you take. Although this is great for running, it’s not so great for Weightlifting. Rather than absorb force, you need a shoe that will help you use all the force your body produces to help you move the weight. The more force you can produce, the more weight you can move. This is especially important in Olympic Lifts.

Weightlifting shoes have a raised heel. This is a massive advantage, as it allows you to squat into a deeper position through an increased ankle range of motion. This will help you to improve your overall position too, as you’ll find yourself sitting more upright. A more upright torso means more chance of keeping hold of the barbell in the correct plane and sending it in the right direction-up.

Weightlifting shoes are also extremely stable, not just underfoot, but around your foot. This ensures a strong and consistent base to land on, push through, and push into- exceptional performance and injury prevention.

Weightlifting shoes are more stable than your typical barefoot or minimalist shoe. The concept of these shoes having little or no padding is definitely in the right direction (and I had personally rather wear this type of shoe when performing the Deadlift, ensuring maximal force through the ground), but while performing other major lifts (The Clean and Jerk, Snatch and Squat), I personally think weightlifting shoes are more beneficial.

 

When it comes to training, concentration with a 100 percent focus is crucial to reach greater intensity levels. The first step is to really believe that becoming stronger and faster is possible. In the same way, you can command your body to push further when everything else suggests that you cannot. In the same way, you can mentally coax your body to train harder and with more intensity. Athletes are masters of mind power or at least they should be if they want to be exceptionally focused. 

So how do we get the power of our minds to remove the fear?
Athletes need to focus on winning. Their focus should be on doing everything they can to win. That means tuning out any spectators, any fears, and even their opponent. This is what allows a professional to be successful and what compels so many to stay in the ranks of being an amateur.

So if you’re an athlete get focused on being the master of your sport. Apply the power of your mind to help you stay focused on your competition and your ability. Sure there will be fears and there will be distractions, but when these come up you need to focus your mind and focus on your abilities.