Program Design

How to Create and Youth Athlete Strength and Conditioning Program

As a follow up to my article for STACK Media, I further break down how to construct a beginner Strength and Conditioning program for a new athlete.  Whether you are beginning a strength and conditioning program to enhance your athletics or a parent needing some guidance to help your child out, this video is for you.  Check out the video here:

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Friday, August 26th, 2016 Sports Performance Training, Videos No Comments

What I learned at San Francisco CrossFit

SF Crossfit

Photo courtesy of San Francisco CrossFit

I am pleased to say that after my 14 years of being in the strength and conditioning field I still have the passion inside to search for knowledge to be the best trainer I can be for the people I work with. I have traveled across the United States, taken numerous certifications and attended seminars in search of knowledge not only for myself to ponder but to apply when I train others.

The umbrella of fitness can cover many different factions some of which take up more space than others. The ones that seem to get the most attention, thanks to the instant gratification of the social media world, are aesthetically pleasing physiques and unusual displays of physical prowess. What gets lost in translation is the process or journey that takes someone from point A to the end result we see everyday trolling the internet.

Now I am not immune to admiring someone with a nice physique nor being awe struck by a double bodyweight deadlift, however, as a practitioner of strength and fitness the in-between steps are where I need to constantly study; I need to know the how and why to get my clients to the next level.

Lucky for me there are plenty of mentors close to my gym and one of those people happens to be a pioneer trainer dedicated to helping individuals be the best they can be and construct their training around their goals starting with a strong foundation and building upwards from there to reach a final goal; that person is Kelly Starrett and his team at San Francisco CrossFit. I got to talk to Kelly at a recent seminar and he invited me to come down and train with them to see what they do in person; I did and this is what I learned…

Starting Out of my Comfort Zone

Due to my work schedule my best option to make it down there was during the Gymnastics Skills class. When it comes to CrossFit training I am definitely out of my league because I do not do any Olympic lifting let alone gymnastics, however if I had to pick one of the two to start from scratch I am glad it was the Gymnastic skills class, at least the only weight I would be dropping would be my own bodyweight.

Our coach was Carl Paoli, a very outgoing and accomplished gymnast in his day; he proved to be the perfect instructor for a nervous newbie like myself.

Right away I knew I was in good hands. A sign of a good coach is to find a way to include everyone simultaneously while catering to the needs of the individual skill level; this is not an easy task to accomplish and clients can see this right away if trainers favor making the training too difficult or too remedial for the group.

Before we even began to move we had a quick debrief of the goals for the day and the workout that was going to be the road to take towards those goals. We had our main movements which were going to be handstands, pull-ups and double-unders with the jump rope. We knew our hips, ankles and wrists had to be well mobilized to get the most out of the workout and the general mobility warm up reflected that.

Warm Up

We started with general mobility to get the joints of our prime movers ready, warm and loose. The movements consisted of:

  • Bent over wrist (palms on the floor) and knee extension
  • Feet together squats
  • Bottom position squat with hip shifts
  • Mid-position squat with hip shift
  • Cosshack squats

Each movement we were instructed to move within our own comfortable range of motion (ROM) with the goal of being successful at increasing our ROM as we extended our movement within our own personal range.

Many training enthusiasts would call several sets of different push variations a stand-alone workout, however at the SF CrossFit gymnastic skills class it is only considered a warm up. Again we were brought up to speed as to why we were doing several sets in many different variations and their regression options all to ensure a proper warm up of the muscles and joints of the shoulders and wrists to allow for successful handstand practice.

SF CRossfit 2

Photo courtesy of San Francisco CrossFit

We performed the following push-up variations:

  • Regular hand spacing
  • Narrow
  • Wide
  • Hands forward
  • Fingers turned back
  • Downward dog push-ups with various hand positions
  • Lastly we did some partner assisted stretches to get those hard-to-reach ROMs; they included:
  • Shoulder overhead extension
  • Shoulder behind the back extension

 Workout 1

The first workout was considered a skill builder workout rather than a cardiovascular intensive or a goal oriented workout. Having this seed planted in our minds by Carl, we were able to shift the focus more towards the skill development rather than completing the workout. Shoulder mobility and isometric stability were the two main areas of focus. We split into teams of two and while one of us was performing one exercise the other was doing the second.

One of the exercises was a plate push on the floor approximately 20 yards. On the surface it looks like another agonizing conditioning exercise but Carl had us focus on proper shoulder alignment which carried over perfectly to our wall handstand practice.

Workout 2

The second workout was a biggie and it came with a goal for repetitions within a certain amount of time.   The goal was to get 500 repetitions of double-unders with the jump rope and if you stopped during the double-unders you had to perform strict pull-ups and push-ups in between.

Carl told us it would be challenging and said to start with at least five pull-ups less than our max number of repetitions and at least 10 repetitions less in the push-ups. Each time we stopped our double-unders we did 3-5 pull-ups each round and five push-ups each round; this lead to a strong incentive to do the double-unders for as long as one could. The workout was to be completed in 18 minutes.

I was not good at double-unders at that moment and found myself on the bar and the floor doing more than holding the rope. Though I did not have very high expectation due to my lack of jump rope double-under prowess, I was slightly upset at my performance until our post workout discussion where I found that a few got close, however no-one completed the workout; that sneaky coach Carl gave us a goal that was slightly unattainable for our group but never the less gave us hope that we could complete it one day soon.

Also during the discussion we were able to express our own personal achievements during the workout, why the workout was formulated in such a manner and Q&A about future workouts.


Talk with Kelly

My post workout talk with Kelly further exemplified their method behind their training philosophies. He told me that like most great sport coaches, the focus should be on skill development and only a relatively small amount of time should be spent having their players perform or express their skills through sport; Kelly believes, “Scrimmaging is a privilege and not the primary focus.” He believes that when the focus shifts too much on the sport itself and detracts from the constant development and frequent re-acquaintance of the primary skills needed to perform the sport then that leads us down the rabbit hole of poor foundation development, decreased performance and possible injuries.

The coaches at SF CrossFit live by this credo and bring it with them in every class and it serves as a good foundation for new coaches and a nice reminder for season ones:

  • Focus on a skill
  • Drill it
  • Put it into a sporting situation
  • Reflect and focus on it after

This is how you train the in between and teach others how to progress down the road towards their own personal mastery of the goals they want to achieve.

Check out more information about Kelly Starrett here

Check out more information about SF Crossft here

* Photos courtesy of San Francisco Crossfit

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Thursday, June 25th, 2015 Business 1 Comment

How to Start a Training Program That is Right for You

It’s the beginning of the New Year and with new beginnings brings excitement to try new programs, accomplish goals and rekindle old habits that keep us on track to be the best we can be.

For many of us there is a fitness component tied into our personal renewal process.  Whether it is to make some changes and accomplish new milestones or to get back on the horse and make training part of your daily lifestyle, there are a few ideas to consider in order for making it your most successful year yet.

Kettlebell Swings and Chest Press

Goal Setting

First thing is first; you have to determine your goals.  Is it to get stronger in the weight room? Are you training for a particular event or competition?  Or, do you want to simply make fitness a part of your healthy lifestyle?  Once your main goal is realized and decided upon then you can derive a plan of execution.

A goal works best when it is specific.  Saying you want to get stronger is too general when compared to I want to do 15 pull ups.   Also setting reasonable deadlines is not a bad idea to have.  That way you constantly work to achieve your goals rather than increasing your chance of forgetting about them.

You can have goals that take a year to complete.  I have a few poundage numbers I want to hit this year in a few lifts and it will probably take me the whole year, however, I make sure I keep a log of what I have been doing each workout session so I can determine if I am on track to reach that goal by the time I have set for it.

Having multiple goals is not out of the question but make sure they are not too different if you plan on training for everything at once.  For example, setting goals of adding 100lbs to your deadlift and training for your first marathon are two completely different training protocols that do not complement each other well and can lead to you not making either goal; or even worse injuring yourself in the process.  If you have different goals you have to have them on different timelines.  You can achieve your first goal of strength in the first four months of the year and then focus on your other goal the rest of the year.


After you have set your goals and deadlines you have to do a little homework as to how you are going to get there.

Starting something completely new requires more education than trying to get to the next level of performance.  If you have never performed a barbell deadlift, squat or bench press and want to start incorporating them into your training program then you must learn about how to perform them properly before jumping into the deep end.  There are a few great resources like Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe and some websites and YouTube channels out there to help you.

With adding anything new I always advise seeking out help from a competent trainer.  Do some research and see if there is a reputable gym or trainer in your area that can get you going in the right direction.  It would be in your best interest to get some professional advice in order to make your goals a reality.  I travel four hours round-trip once every two months to a great powerlifting gym to have them clean up my deadlift, squat and bench press technique.  Nothing beats hands-on learning every once in a while from the experts.

D.Bell Military Press

Execution and Mindset

After goal setting and learning, then it is time to have a training plan and execute it. I think it is a good idea to have a few weeks written down and then do your best to follow it.

If you want to get stronger at a particular lift then you have to have to practice the lift frequently and progressively.  Look into different strength training protocols like the 5/3/1 or the Cube Method and slightly tailor them towards your lifting schedule and goals.

Figuring out how much to train and how frequent will take a little trial and error on your part.  Some people like to do long sessions three times a week where I like to do shorter sessions daily.  There are some days that you are feeling on top of the world and some days where the lightest weight feels heavy.  Definitely go by how you feel on that particular day and make the changes in weight and volume accordingly.  If you don’t feel like you can lift heavy on that particular day, back off on the weight and add a few repetitions to the lighter weight.

The mental aspect of anything in life is probably the make or break factor in anything we choose to do.  We can set goals, learn and even execute for a while but over time it is very easy to fall off the wagon.  Busy with work and family, getting injured or experiencing some other setback might be enough to bump us off the road. 

Battle Ropes

You must go into anything with the mentality that you can achieve what you set out to do and there is nothing stopping you.  Don’t feel like you have time? Get up earlier.  Are you injured?  Find ways to work around it while you are healing.  Feel like you are not getting closer to your goals? Look to tweak your program to get you there. 

Write down your goals, educate yourself, start training, and find your daily inspiration and go out there and get what you want.

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Monday, January 28th, 2013 Sports Performance Training No Comments


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