We hit a roadblock to start this phase. Right after completing my second to last workout of the first phase, I got sick. It was the first time I’ve been actual sick in a long time. I called out of work for a day for the first time in three years. I chalked it up to allergies in the beginning, but I was just out of it for close to two weeks.
I didn’t get my last lift of Phase 1 in and wouldn’t touch a weight for 11 days. This was one of those “make or break” moments. I’ll be honest, if this happened in the winter time, the whole program probably gets rearranged because the focus and intensity isn’t there.
Fortunately, I let some time pass to get better and got back on the wagon. The weight went up during my time away, but I weighed 199.6 pounds the morning of my first workout, which is just under two pounds of what I closed Phase 1 at.
For Phase 2, I went slightly off course and am doing the Chest Specialization phase Christian Thibaudeau has on T-Nation. One of the main goals of this program is body composition and chest has always been my weakest area. I wanted to get this phase in now before going deeper into the program.
The way Christian has the phase laid out is with three chest workouts: one focusing on thickness/heavy weight, one on width and one on the upper portion. Then there is a low volume lower body day and a low volume upper body day where you hit back, shoulders, traps and arms.
Because of my schedule, I made some modifications to it. I kept the Heavy Chest Day as is, but added in a shoulder exercise or two. I also kept the Chest Width Day and occasionally did arm work after if I was up for it. For the third chest day, I made it a back/chest day at the gym and was mostly machine based. I also had a lower body day. This was just easier for me to stick with.
This phase didn’t have a good start at all. But, once I was able to get back on the wagon and start training again, the confidence came back. This was important because, two weeks later, things really took off during spring break.
The combination of being off for the week, baseball returning and the weather getting nicer made it feel like summer. I woke up every day looking to attack the day the same way I do over the summer. The recovery was on point, the diet was good and the intensity was there for every training session.
Spring break lasted 10 days and I got nine workouts in. This included two days where I couldn’t train because I was with family. I got back to the things that made me successful by adding in Prowler work and cardio. I also did two “two-a-days”.
I know they say it isn’t ideal to train all the time, and it’s not something I do all year round, but I just feel better when I train. I go by how I feel to. If I honestly am shot and have no energy, I won’t train. But I felt that fire again. Training became mandatory for me, and I mean that in a good way. It was on my to-do list. The two-a-days came before the days where I saw family.
On the days where I had to train, but wasn’t feeling optimal, I just walked in and said let’s see what we can do. I did the bar test after I stretched. When I’m benching, I see how 135 pounds feels in my hand and that determines how the workout will go. Does it feel heavier in my hands? The same? Lighter? Is the knurling killing my hands or is it the same as always? Usually, once I started lifting, everything worked out and I felt great afterwards.
For my weight, I ended Phase 1 at 197.8 and dropped to 193.6 on April 28, which is the morning after I completed Phase 2. There isn’t much to report with the weights I lifted because this phase is just about targeting the chest in a variety of ways. My top set of trap bar deadlifts jumped up to 360 pounds for seven reps. I did this on the second-to-last week and didn’t include the deadlifts in my last week of the phase.
I’m feeling good right now and hoping to make a real big push physique wise and strength wise as we are getting closer to the first checkpoint.
For the first month of training, it’s all about laying the foundation. This phase started on February 28, so it put me exactly four months away from my first checkpoint. The goal here is to develop a consistent routine and get the body prepared for the harder training down the road.
To give you a little background, the HSS-100 program is broken up into four blocks, which are Accumulation, Intensification, High Volume and Max Strength. Each block, or phase, is four weeks long. In between the Accumulation and Intensification phase I’m adding a Chest Specialization phase, which I’ll talk about more next month. Each phase builds off of each other.
The HSS stands for Heavy Exercise, Superset (two exercises put together), a Special exercise and a 100-rep exercise. The superset consists of an isolation exercise and compound exercise and can come either before or after the heavy exercise, depending on the phase.
I’m starting off in the Accumulation Phase. The purpose of this phase is hypertrophy and to prep the tendons. The superset comes before the heavy exercise and the heavy exercise is four-to-five sets of six-to-eight reps. The way I structured my training is a bit different than how I would normally do it. I usually follow more of an upper/lower split, but here I set it up: Back Focus, Chest Focus Day, Lower Body and Arms. There won’t be much cardio here.
This is about doing what works for me. I’m doing a body-part split because it just works for me at the moment with everything going on at work. I’m trying to establish a consistent routine and this gives me more time to recover. By the end of the week, I’m pretty tired and it’s easy to get up for an arm workout than another lower body day or full upper body day. I’m not saying this way is right or wrong, but this is what works for me.
Completing each workout is a victory for the day and I’m all about stacking wins, especially early. It builds confidence and momentum. I make it too hard or focus on “being right”, the plan will fail and I don’t have the time for any set backs.
When I weighed myself on February 28, I was 201.6 pounds. I finished the phase on March 23 and weighed 197.6, so I lost four pounds in the first month. My weight fluctuated from 197-to-203 pounds. Of course, I would have liked to have lost more, but the diet wasn’t 100% dialed in. The main goal of this phase was to complete every workout and get that momentum.
The Back Focus and Lower Body workout took place at the gym and I did the Chest Focus and Arm workout at my home gym. Most of these workouts took place late at night. Fatigue was an issue early on, especially with the back and leg workouts. The muscles just started to give out, especially on my fourth set of chin-ups. That started to go away by Week 3 and that’s when I started feeling better about myself.
Doing the superset before the main lift was both a blessing and a curse. It did take away from my main lift because I was pretty fatigued. However, it was a mental boost knowing that I was almost done with my session after the main lift, as opposed to having the whole rest of the workout to go. This is especially important after deadlifting for sets of eight. I also liked that I felt more warmed up heading into my heavy lift. 315 felt like hell on my first week of deadlifts, but I felt good moving 350 for eight reps in Week 4. I felt myself getting stronger and my body was adapting. For the bench press, 170 for eight was tough in Week 1, but 185 for eight reps in Week 4 on my fifth set felt very good. I felt that I could have done more.
A key consideration for the deadlift is I use the Rogue TB-1 Trap Bar 2.0. This isn’t the regular trap bar you see at the gym. It weighs 60 pounds and has thick handles. You have to grip it the right away because it is unforgiving. Last year, I was deadlifting off of two mats because it’s low to the ground. This year I’m trying it with only one mat, so the numbers will be lower than I’m used to.
The summer has always been the time where my best training takes place. It’s been the only time of the year where I have some down time and can really get after it. I’ve been able to make some good progress the past few summers.
Last year I was up against it, but still managed to lose 20 pounds in a little more than a month. I was happy with the progress, but left the summer with the same questions and thoughts that come into my mind at the end of every summer.
“Imagine if I had another month.”
“What progress could I have made if I came into the summer in better shape?”
“I’d love to see how things would play out if I had a long term plan to go along with this intensity.”
Training wise, the summer is a grind – in a good way. The frequency and intensity are through the roof. The only problem is the summer makes up two months of the year. That’s not enough to sustain any progress. So, what winds up happening is I go through this endless cycle of going from Point A to Point B. I say that I’ll try to maintain and keep things going, but life got in the way.
The past several years were tough. After summer, I was working two jobs, going to grad school at night and writing papers. That didn’t leave much time for training. After I graduated in May 2019, I had to try and secure a full-time teaching position. I worked each year, but with the pandemic, I found myself wondering where I’d be working in September the past three years. Because of all this, my own training got put to the side. I worked out, but the consistency wasn’t there and the intensity was certainly lacking.
The good news is I finally secured a full-time teaching position last September. This gave me stability and one less thing to worry about. After spending a couple of months getting acclimated, I started thinking about my own training. I thought about the conversation I always have with myself at the end of the summer and decided it’s time to take action.
Personally, I need a plan and goals to get into a training program. I can’t just wing it like other people. Of course, I make changes on the fly, but, for the most part, I need most of it mapped out.
That brings me to this post. There’s six months until the end of August and I want to go over what my plans are training wise.
This program is about body composition and increasing strength. I know they say you can’t get stronger while losing weight, but I’ve found that to be not true. There’s very few things I say with authority, but I’ve gone through this process to know that it isn’t true.
For me, my issue has always been losing weight. I’m one of those people who gain weight just by looking at a cookie and cakes. When I weighed myself this morning, I was 207 pounds with a body-fat percentage of 22% . I was out with friends and ate, so I’m going to fast today and that will bring me down to what my real starting weight is.
The weight I’d actually like to be at depends. It really depends on how I look. Personally, I’d like to be at 180-182 pound range by the end of school (June 28) and 175 pounds by the end of August. I feel pretty good and limber when I’m in the low to mid 180’s. I’m using the hand-held body-fat measurement device so I don’t know how accurate it is, but I’d like to be under 15% by June 28 and under 12% by the end of August. Even when I get pretty lean, I still have that little pouch at the bottom of my stomach and just want to get rid of that. So, whatever weight and percentage gets rid of that, I’m good.
Strength wise, my goals have changed. Once I hit a 500-pound deadlift in August of 2017, I haven’t been so concerned about my one-rep max. I’ve switched over to the Rogue TB-1 Trap Bar 2.0 and love it. I’ve been going for more higher-rep goals because I don’t like doing them, but feel good after doing them. My best from last year was 420×10 and I’d like to top that. I’ve never run a 40-yard dash in under five seconds and want to crack that barrier. For my upper body, I’d like to be able to get to 15 pull-ups and beat my previous bench press one-rep max of 275 pounds. I hit 275 in 2019 and haven’t attempted it since.
The program I’ll be running is the HSS-100 by Christian Thibaudeau. I love reading Christian’s work and found out about this program after talking to Justin Kavanaugh. I looked into it and started running it in 2020 and the splits work out perfectly for me during the school year. I’ll be lifting four days per week and modify it as I go along. There’s four phases and I add in his Chest Specialization phase in the second month. This gives me five phases of training, each one being four weeks long. I know this doesn’t add up to six months, but considerations need to be taken for seminar trips, possibly getting sick and weeks where work picks up. I’ll get more into the training when I give my update post each month.
Usually, when I’m trying to lose weight quickly I’ll go with a low-carb approach. However, since I’m starting this while the school year is still going on, I’ll need carbs. I’m going to try and slow cook things a bit by using carb cycling and giving myself one 24-hour fast per week.
This is my first time going through a five-six month plan and wanted to document my progress. This keeps me accountable and lets me see how things play out.
Going to go back a bit to August 2020. Justin Kavanaugh invited me down to Virginia to see what he had going on training wise and, honestly, just to get out of the house. At the time, this was the first normal day I had in a while. It was a hot, humid morning made even warmer by the heat radiating off of the turf. One of those days where you sweat without even moving.
I enjoy the summer heat, so it wasn’t much of an issue and it was just great to be in a positive atmosphere again. Behind me were some high school and college athletes training and to the left of me Kav was going over some things with three NFL hopefuls. My job was to take videos of Nick Mayhugh running his sprints and showing him the footage after each run.
This is how I do things with my athletes. I’ll take some footage and review it with them so they can see what they’re doing right and what they need to work on. Things were different this time because I just took a step back and listened to Nick break down each stride. I’d chime in if I saw something, but didn’t really have to do that more than once or twice. He was so dialed in, rewinding the video and noting any tiny change he had to make.
What’s great about going down to Virginia and working with Kav is pretty much all of his athletes are like this. They are so hyper-focused that they see things that most coaches don’t even see. This is why I always leave there rejuvenated and excited because you see what this higher level of coaching and athletics entails and makes you want to reach it.
Nick’s case is unique though. Nick was getting ready to train for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. He will be running in the 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter and 4×100-meter relay. The prelim heats for the 100-meter begin on Thursday at 10:56 p.m and the events can be seen on NBC, NBCSN, Peacock TV and other supported streaming services.
What makes Nick’s situation unique is that he hasn’t always been a track athlete. You wouldn’t know it if you had watched him train for track and listened to him break down all of the tiny nuances of sprinting. He’s actually an accomplished soccer player who played four years at Radford University and was the 2019 US Soccer Player of the Year with a Disability. He scored eight goals in leading Team USA to its’ first international medal in 7-a-side in 2019.
“It’s been very hard because I had to learn all the small technical things about being a sprinter,” Mayhugh said last year. “I was used to running more of a cross-country style for 90 minutes and only having to sprint for 10-to-20 yards. In soccer, you’re not running 100 meters straight because you’re either cutting or turning.
“I train here everyday with Kav and work with a bunch of athletes who are all at a high level and see that next level of commitment and determination. It’s been a humbling experience to learn about the amount of training it takes and all the things I need to learn.”
Like most successful athletes at that level, Nick is his own hardest critic. He’s so laser-focused on all of the things he needs to improve on to get ready that it’s hard to see how far he’s come. I’ve met Nick before and watched him train a few times. Before August, I was watching him work on his block starts at the Sport and Speed Institute while Kav was also working with his NFL Combine Class.
Even after seeing him a few times, I still had no idea what his disability was. It was undetectable by watching him train. It wasn’t until I finally asked him after his session in August when I found out he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when he was 14. He will have a T37 classification in the Paralympic Games.
He said ever since he could remember he always had a numb feeling on the entire left side of his body. There was a lack of coordination, motor and nerve function in his left side and he couldn’t feel his left foot contract.
“I don’t really have control of the digits in my left hand and I couldn’t really focus on cycling my legs or kicking the ball,” Mayhugh said. “Anything physically, I have a cap on my left side to a certain extent. It was really frustrating when I was younger because I was like ‘why can’t I tie my shoes like everyone else?’ or ‘why can’t I use my left leg in soccer?’ It was always my normal and I always compensated and adjusted so I could play.
“It wasn’t until I accepted and understood my disability that I took a break from putting all of that pressure on myself and doing all these extra workouts and training.”
Nick worked brutally hard to overcome his disability, even at a young age. He described a time where he’d go to practice and the coach put the team into positional drills. There was extra pressure on Nick because the coach said if he used his right foot, the team would have to run. He left every practice devastated because his team had to run because he couldn’t do certain things with his left foot.
“I trained everyday with my brother, Thomas, and he would set up all these cone drills so I could fix it,” Nick said. “I’d cry after practice and then go through all these drills with just my left foot to teach myself the muscle memory and motor function. It was a very frustrating process, but I wouldn’t be the man I am without all of that. I’ve had a chip on my shoulder my entire life.
“I had to work 100 times harder than everybody because of my disability. I didn’t fully understand it when I was younger, but I knew I’d do whatever it took to outwork every athlete I played against.”
“A lot of people and doctors that I tell and have worked with say that to the untrained medical eye you’d never be able to tell that I have a disability,” Nick said. “Up until I was 21 and joined the national team, no one knew. No one knew in college. When the story eventually came out, I was stubborn and didn’t want to talk about it, but I eventually opened up because it’s who I am. I got a lot of emails and texts afterwards from people that couldn’t believe it.”
Nick’s brother, Thomas, has been with him every step of the way. Nick started playing soccer when he was 4 years old and said he did so because he wanted to be like his brother. Thomas was there to run Nick through all of the extra drills to help make him the soccer player he’s become. Thomas, a former soccer player, owner of Mayhugh Athletic and bucket-hat aficionado, has also coached and helped prep Nick for his run in Tokyo.
“Training Nick has been a blessing to be a part of and an invaluable learning experience, thanks to Kav,” Thomas said. “Compartmentalizing being a brother and a coach is something you can’t teach and takes intentional practice. It’s something I may never truly master. But I do feel it has been what he has needed through the past year and to get to where he is. He’s coachable and he gets it and he understands and appreciates the difference between where we are on the track and in the gym versus not. That’s what’s making it work.”
Most guys grow up with the dream of playing professional sports. After everything Nick went through his entire life through college, he finally achieved his dream. Everything he worked for paid off and he had the contract in front of him. All he had to do was sign and he would be a full-time member of Team USA soccer.
But, he decided to pass it up for something he didn’t even know existed. The head director of Team USA Paralympics Track and Field actually reached out to him and said they were interested. He ran well at the time trials in 2019 and saw that this was a real possibility. This decision to put soccer on the back burner was very hard, Mayhugh said, but this opportunity was too good to pass up.
“I didn’t even know the Paralympics were a thing,” Mayhugh said. “I had no idea this world even existed. I’ve gone this far with soccer and was kind of interested in what other sports I could pursue. It was frustrating to turn down that contract because that was my dream. My window to run track is much smaller than my window to play soccer so I wanted to take advantage of that opportunity.
“I know these past three years with the national soccer team we’ve been able to do some incredible things and have unfinished business. But, hopefully I’ll be able to pick back up after Tokyo. It was a very hard, frustrating decision, but that’s what life’s about. Nothing ever comes easy.”
Just take a second to break down this decision. First, he had to put his dream of playing soccer on hold. This was something he worked excruciating hard for his entire life and went through way more obstacles than normal. Now, he had to start from scratch again and learn an entirely new sport.
Nothing has ever come easy in sport for Nick, but that seems to be the way he needs it to be. Another challenge means another opportunity, in his mind. Now, starting Thursday, he will become the first athlete selected to Team USA to complete as both a soccer and track athlete.
Sometimes things don’t always go according to the plan. The timeline for the growth of my home gym accelerated from a multi-year plan to a five-month plan.
When my shipment came from elitefts in March, the plan was to use the basement as a way to get my big three lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift) in with little interruption. Then, since I have little time to train while coaching people at the gym, I would use my down time there and get my accessory work done.
However, the pandemic has changed a lot of things. While watching TV in May, I heard gyms wouldn’t be a part of the Phase 4 opening and wasn’t sure if they would open at all this year. I didn’t know if I would be able to train anybody again this year or even be able to get a legitimate workout in myself.
About a week or two after, Justin Kavanaugh called me and told me he was giving away equipment from his gym. He wound up giving me a 45-degree back extension, a calf raise machine, a pair of kettlebells, some chains and a battling rope. He also gave me a pair of cables that I could attach to my rack to do all sorts of plate loaded exercises to mimic some of the machines. With the small space I had created, I didn’t have enough room for all of this and decided to expand. I always wanted a back extension because it’s one of my favorite pieces of equipment. Once I got it, I decided to go in and start building the home gym of my dreams.
To go about this expansion, there were two questions I had to consider: What would I need to train people the way I want and what would be optimal for my own training? I searched everywhere on the internet from Facebook Marketplace to eBay to Craigslist. My first two hits came from FB Marketplace where I found the Titan Fitness Multi-Grip Bar and Rogue TB-1 Trap Bar 2.0. I loved using the Rogue trap bar at the gym because of its thick handle and it was a lot tougher to use than the traditional trap bars. The numbers I pulled on the Rogue trap bar closely resembled what I would pull with a regular barbell.
Then, I went to Rogue’s website and ordered some mats for added floor protection during deadlifts and a band rack. I got the square mats they use with their deadlift platforms.The place was starting to take shape and I had about 80% of what I wanted. The big thing I was missing was dumbbells. I could workout fine without them, but figured they would be a big piece if I planned on training anyone else. I couldn’t get a whole rack of dumbbells and needed to look into finding PowerBlocks.
Finding a pair of PowerBlocks and getting the right expansion sets was a chore. It didn’t help that I was looking for, perhaps, the hottest commodity during a pandemic where all the gyms were closed. Finding them was easy, the hard part was getting them at a somewhat reasonable price. I saw the PowerBlocks that go up to 24 pounds going for at least $400 and the the ones that go up to 50 pounds were being priced anywhere from $800 to $1,000. I’m desperate, but not that desperate.
Fortunately, I was able to find a pair at a reasonable price in New Jersey and got the PowerBlocks 50 Elite EXP. These go up to 50 pounds and then found the Stage 3 Expansion kit (70-90 pounds) for a good price on eBay. All I needed was the Stage 2 Expansion kit (50-70 pounds). My first attempted at buying the kit off eBay led to me getting the wrong model (which I later sold on FB Marketplace). The Stage 2 kit was nowhere to be found and took a month of searching before I finally found it. This kit I had to spend a bit to get because they were so rare.
In between all this, I added a decline bench press for my own personal use and felt I had about 95% of what I wanted. I had a good enough home gym where I felt I could do almost any exercise I’d do in the gym. I got a little greedy and decided to make the last two purchases to finish the job.
First, I got a bar rack from elitefts to help with the clutter. The only piece I wanted to add was a glute ham raise (GHR), which is probably my favorite lower body exercise. They weren’t hard to find. The issue I had was space and height. My gym was getting a little crowded and my room isn’t tall enough to have people perform the exercise on a standard GHR.
I needed something smaller and the Rogue Echo GHR was sold out. After doing some searching, I found that elitefts made a home model that just came with the main pieces and had wheels. I feel like elitefts has a piece of equipment for every situation. I put in the call to Matt Goodwin and he set me up with my dream piece of equipment, outside of the squat rack.
I’d like to say I’m done, but I’m sure there will be more purchases in the future. But, hypothetically, if I didn’t purchase another piece of equipment for the rest of my life, I’d say I’ve got my version of the ultimate home gym set up. This set up has gone far beyond what I had in mind when I started this all in February.
I couldn’t tell you the last time I had this anxious excitement. I felt like a little kid staring at the presents under the tree on the night before Christmas. I was at a professional development meeting, or a “PD Day” in teacher lingo, and was waiting to get a message from my brother, James, that my delivery came. Periodically, I’d send a text when I had a break to get an update.
“It’s not here yet.”
“No. I’ll let you know when it comes.”
Finally, after seeing all the different variations of “no”, the message I’ve been waiting for came around 1:30 p.m.: “it’s here”. This was the best and worst news I could have gotten. Outside of the obvious reasons, this was great news because I wouldn’t need a second cup of coffee. I was wide awake. The bad news was I couldn’t leave for another hour. I couldn’t stop staring at the clock. You know how they say that holding a plank is the longest minute of your life? Multiply that by 60.
Once it was time, I speed walked to my car and raced home. It doesn’t sound like much, but ask anyone that’s ever been in a car with me. They’d say my definition of racing is to go through a yellow light and go five miles over the limit. However, today was different. For the first time in my life, I drove like a New Yorker.
When I made it home, I took a second to stare at the package in my driveway. There it was, inside the green bubble wrap was something I’ve wanted for 10 years: an eliteFTS power rack. Also included with the delivery was a Collegiate 0-90 degree Incline Bench and a Texas Power Bar. But the crown jewel was the power rack. Not just any power rack, but one custom built by eliteFTS.
To understand why this was so special, you need to understand the backstory. First, we need to go back 10 years. This was before I had any idea of ever becoming a coach. I was still working as a sports writer for the Newark Star-Ledger and needed to get myself back into shape. I let myself go pretty bad. I needed to get back into training and was searching all over the internet for the best program to follow. After scouring through various message boards and Google, I stumbled across two well-known coaches in New Jersey: Joe DeFranco and Jason Ferruggia. While looking through their stuff, I also found Jim “Smitty” Smith.
I started reading everything these guys put out. I’ll get more into that in another post. As I started following their programs, reading their content and watching their videos, I always noticed the eliteFTS equipment they had. The two things that stood out the most were the eliteFTS power rack and the Prowler sled. They all swore by eliteFTS and this was a common thread among many of the other top coaches I read.
Some nights at the office I was there until 2-3 a.m. and would read some of their work to cool off before heading out. As I got more into training, I started thinking about how cool it would be to have my own eliteFTS power rack. I couldn’t just have any rack, it had to be from eliteFTS because that’s what the best coaches were using. If I had that, I’d be all set. At least that’s what I thought at the time.
I was still living at home, so it was only a pipe dream. A couple of years later, I became a trainer and the thought popped into my head again. “Nah, you don’t have the money for it.” Then the thought went away until January of this year.
First, I went over my friend Casey’s house. He had shown me pictures of all the work he had done on the place and to finally see it all complete was pretty cool. I was proud of him. Then, a month later, I helped my friend Matt move into his new house. The place was beautiful. Whenever I go over someone’s house, I always map out where I would put a home gym. After seeing both of their places, I thought to myself, “why don’t I start turning my place into my own.” I’ve had my place for a couple of years, but you would have thought I was a runaway. There was nothing set up. I could leave seamlessly at any time.
At the gym, I was having a rough time getting my lifts in because of time. I had clients and could never get a bench or squat rack because it was overrun with powerlifters and wannabe powerlifters. So, with that, along with the inspiration gathered from seeing my friends’ places, I decided to treat myself.
I’ve talked to Matt Goodwin of eliteFTS at seminars and he always told me to give him a call when I was ready to get my own thing going. I was ready. I called him on my lunch break and, true to his word, he gave me the hook up. You would have thought I was opening a mega gym with the service he provided. Top notch all around and I was always tell everyone to go through him if you’re looking for quality gym equipment. He made sure to get me rack that would fit perfectly in my basement.
The assembly wasn’t too bad and my mom, James and I were able to get it into the house and assembled in a little less than three hours. That isn’t too bad since none of us are really handy. The package happened to come a day before they closed the schools down because of the pandemic.
We lucked out with the timing, but this wasn’t bought because I expected the world to close down. That wasn’t even on my mind when I put in the phone call in February.
This was a dream I’ve had for 10 years. When I look at the eliteFTS logo on what is my power rack, I think back. I think back to when I was working at the paper and this was nothing more than a wild idea that I never expected to happen. This was a result of working and saving up money so I could do purchase this without hesitation. Some people dream of getting an in-ground pool or fancy car. This is my variation of that. This was a major piece in turning a place into my home.
After training people for about a year-and-a-half, I finally decided to attend my first seminar in October 2015. I was still very new in this field and did not know what I did not know. Turns out, the first seminar I attended was THE seminar, the SWIS Symposium. This is where not only the best of the best go to speak, but they go to learn. I was swimming in the deep end of the pool with no float.
At SWIS, the first presentation I sat in on was by Matt Nichol. Little did I know that at 8 a.m. that Saturday morning I was going to learn a lesson from Matt’s presentation that would stick with my to this day. I’ll admit, it’s hard to retain everything you hear at these seminars because of the sheer volume of information you get, especially at a conference like SWIS. SWIS is the equivalent of jamming in 10+ Master’s level classes in one weekend. But, whenever I find myself in tough situation training someone or feeling like I’m not worthy of doing the job, I always go back to what Matt said during this presentation.
Matt talked about not being able to “see the forest through the trees.” He mentioned how there is so much information out there that it can bog you down and not allow you to see the forest through the trees. This was a message I needed to hear because I was already overwhelmed and the event just started.
In training terms, when your athlete is faced with an issue that you need to address, you need to stay in your lane. You need to come up with the best solution based on what you see and what you know. This isn’t the time to start using assessments and exercises that you briefly saw online and heard were good. You shouldn’t be trying to mimic things you’ve seen other top coaches do that you don’t fully understand because you won’t do it properly and it will only complicate things. See what you see and use what you know.
I needed to hear this, especially as I continue to learn more and more from other coaches. I have been guilty in the past of trying something new out that I thought would work because I saw another great coach use it. The problem was that I didn’t fully understand it and wasn’t able to utilize it effectively.
As beneficial as it is to learn from the best, it’s also created doubts in my head. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to be half the coach that some of these coaches are. It can be demoralizing when you see the top coaches showing the tremendous progress they’ve made with an athlete in a short period of time. It led to me questioning myself on whether I can really do this or not. I kept looking all the way to the top of the mountain and it clouded me and stopped me from embracing the small victories. If a client added 5-10 pounds to a PR, I questioned to myself why it wasn’t a 20-30 pound PR instead of just being happy that progress was made. No matter what happened, it wasn’t good enough for me and I felt like I was letting people down.
It used to really eat at me. It still does at times, but not as much. I refer back to what Matt said, “see what you see, use what you know.” Now, when I learn something new that I know will be helpful to my athletes, I don’t incorporate it until I have a solid understanding of it. I don’t completely change the program because I learned something new over the weekend.
I don’t compare myself to other coaches and only focus on becoming the best version of myself. It sounds cliche, but, at the end of the day, I’m not competing with any of these coaches so it doesn’t really matter if I am at their level yet. I just need to keep taking strides forward so I can continue to close the gap. This past year has shown me that sticking to a long-term approach, making the small fixes, sticking to what I know and learned and embracing the small victories will lead to the major improvements in performance that I am seeking.
I had to break up the story of “SBOAT” into two posts. First, I had to get into the back story of how it all came to be. Now, it’s time to actually talk about the program.
First, the name. People have asked what SBOAT actually means and I usually don’t tell them. It stands for “Strongest Bastard of All-Time”. Why? Because Kav is a ball-buster always jokingly called me that because I won the SB911 contest in 2015. He asked me what we should call it, and, since he always had jokes about it, I came up with the acronym.
This sucked. There was nothing enjoyable about this phase. Ask anybody that’s run this program before. It’s brutal. Normally, the first phase of a program is usually a breeze where you get your body acclimated to lifting. Not this phase. I don’t believe in mental toughness training being done in the gym, but you will learn a lot about yourself in these first 12 days. How badly you want to reach your goals will be tested here.
Basically, the first 12 days consists of training for 5 days straight, take a day off and repeat. You do the same exact thing for 5 days. The purpose of this phase is to prepare the tissues, ligaments and joints for the heavy lifting and volume that will come in the later phases. There’s also a hypertrophy element to it. One of my goals was to build up my chest because there really wasn’t much there, so that was a focus.
For each day, I’d do three chest exercises and two leg exercises for two sets of 20 with a 303 tempo, which means three seconds up and three seconds down. In between the chest exercises I’d do a max-rep set of a pull-up variation and in between each set of legs I’d max out 100-pound, one-arm dumbbell rows. There was no tempo for the back exercises.
I hate this phase, but it really taught me a lot about myself and what “one more rep means”. My goal was to get into the best shape of my life and this phase basically makes you prove that you want to reach your goals. I was sore after the first day. By Day 4, my chest, lats and quads were so sore that I didn’t know if I would be able to continue. But, a strange thing happened: Day 5 hit and the soreness was going away. By the last day, I was sore, but nothing crazy. My body actually adapted and I was able to increase all my lifts from the first day.
On Day 1, I could only one-arm row 100 pounds for five reps and do six pull-ups. On Day 10, I rowed 100 pounds for 12 reps and did eight pull-ups.
PHASE 2 – MORE TEMPO WORK
For the next 12 days, you go three days on and one day off. This phase is more hypertrophy focused as you do two body parts per day and about five-to-six exercises. Instead of 2×20, you’re now doing three sets of 20 and the 303 tempo is still around.
This phase isn’t much fun either, but, in a weird way, it was refreshing because I wasn’t doing the same exercises every day and three days off in between body parts.
PHASE 3 – TWO WEEKS AND NO MORE TEMPO WORK
The first 30 days were not much fun, but the genius in the program is that just as my body adjusts to a phase, Kav switches it up. This phase was two weeks long and each week consisted of four days, two upper body and two lower body. There’s still high-volume work on the lower body days, with 20-rep front squats on one day and 20-rep sport back squats on the other lower body day, but it helps going at a regular tempo.
The body was a little beat up, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and knew that the fun stuff would be coming soon. The first couple of upper body lifts were surprisingly tough. The weight felt heavier than normal. I was worried, thinking that I actually got weaker. The good news is that was short lived and I felt I was getting stronger at the tail end of the second week. It’s now time to get strong.
For the first 30 days, I lost six pounds.
PHASE 4 – HIGH VOLUME, HEAVY LIFTING AND FIELD WORK
This phase is everything I thought it would be and where I could see the first 30 days pay off. This is what I was excited about when Kav told me he would be writing me up a program. This phase lasted five weeks.
For the lifting, there were four days, two upper body and two lower body. There would be a heavy day and a lighter day for each. Also included in the lifting would be a primer to help me improve my hang clean. I was very interested in the Olympic lifts at the time and wanted to get better at them. The lifting would be heavy and the volume was high. For the bench press, I’d do five sets and close with a double. The sumo deadlift would also be five sets and end with a heavy single. There was a lot of accessory work.
In addition to the way the lifting was structured, I also liked getting to do some speed training. I never did a real speed program before SBOAT and this program really taught me a lot about how to structure one. There were three speed days in this phase and each had a different focus: acceleration, change of direction and tempo runs. We ran this for four weeks and then Kav added in a day where I ran four 400-meter sprints. They were not fun at all, but helped shave off body fat.
Some days I did the speed work on a different day than the lifting, other times I did two-a-days. For the two-a-days, I’d go to the field earlier in the day and then get the lift done in the evening. At first, I thought my lifts would suffer. It actually turned out to be the opposite. I felt more energized going into the gym and felt my lifts, especially for the lower body, improved. This included days where I would run in 90-plus degree heat.
I lost just three pounds in this phase, but could see I was looking much better.
FINAL PHASE – PR’S AND CUTTING WEIGHT
After all the prep, this is the phase where we let it loose and see how far I’ve come. This phase lasted three weeks, but I went for my PR’s in the second week. For the third week, we focused on cutting weight before my trip and manipulated some things diet wise. I’ll talk about that in a bit.
The volume was reduced a lot in this phase as the focus was on the main lifts and lifting as much as possible. This phase had three lifts, two upper body and one lower body, and I kept the running days in. I knew I was going to reach my deadlift goal when I hit 445 pounds for four reps on my last set of sumo deadlifts in Week 1. It was a weight I was suppose to do for two, but it was just flying on this day. This was a day I sprinted beforehand, too. This blew my mind because my previous one-rep max was 455 pounds for a shaky rep. In Week 1 I also hit 230 pounds for a double on the bench press, which was the first time I did more than one rep with more than 225 pounds.
In Week 2, previous records fell to new ones. One of my main lifting goals was to deadlift 500 pounds and I was finally able to do that. I also increased my bench-press max 10 pounds up to 255 pounds. My previous all-time best was 245, even though I only maxed out at 230 pounds when I tested right before the program.
For the last week, we worked on body composition as I did some lighter tempo work, similar to the first phase. It was the first time I went no carb and learned that it is tough to lift that way. I only did it for a week, but I sympathized with those body builders who are dieting down and lifting hard as they peak before a competition. I lost five more pounds, but put two more on when I went off the diet to finish at 187 pounds. I was thrilled with my progress.
I lost 12 pounds and went from 199 pounds to 187 pounds.
Sumo deadlift one-rep max went from 455 pounds to 500 pounds.
Max-rep set of 100-pound, one-arm dumbbell rows, I went from five reps to 17
Sport back squat increased from 275 pounds for eight reps to 315 pounds for 10 reps. I didn’t use the back squat as my main lower-body lift.
Strict pull-ups increased from 7 to 12.
Bench Press one-rep max increased from 245 pounds to 255 pounds.
I got a tan for the first time in my life.
First, I have to give a big thank you to Kav for writing this program up for me. I learned so much about training and what my own body is capable of doing. This program made me a better coach and I feel so much more comfortable programming, especially with speed.
This program goes against the grain and goes against a lot of what you read from popular coaches on the internet. This program makes you think and question things. If I was to tell these coaches what my goals were, they would have told me they were too extreme. When you know the right people, you learn anything is possible.
This program was a confidence boost to me. I learned I could do so much more than I thought. You really learn what true intensity and training hard is all about. This program is like my ace in the hole for when I need results quick. It’s not easy and it’s not a quick fix, but when you follow all the protocols and bring it every workout, you will get the results.
The idea was planted when I made a call to “The Guru” in March.
The idea turned into a plan a month later when I finally took Kav on his offer.
The result was the best training program I’ve ever been on. SBOAT, a name given because Kav always like to bust my chops, was a program that taught me about some of the considerations needed when programming for an athlete by making me train like one. It also got me into the best shape of my life.
The first trip through SBOAT took place during the Summer of 2017. I was going to originally write this right after I completed the program, but I’m glad I waited. I waited a bit longer than expected, but it gave me time to reflect on the three-and-a-half month journey and what preceded it.
I wanted to make this all one post, but it would be way too long to read. I decided to break this up into two parts. This post is going to deal with the backstory and how it all got started. My next post will be all about the actual program itself.
Joe D. was working on a body transformation of his own and Dr. Tom was providing the nutritional guidance. On the podcasts, they talked a lot about the importance of blood work. They used the blood work to find out what vitamins Joe was deficient in and what food sensitivities he had. Dr. Tom was working with my mom and she was having some success, so I decided to give it a shot. I got my blood work taken care of (I believe the test I got was the MRT 150), went in for my consultation and used the InBody test.
For those wondering, the foods I tested the most sensitive for were chicken, vanilla, pineapple, cucumbers and red meat. Think of food sensitivities like food allergies, they are foods that your body doesn’t react to for whatever reason. Most of the time, in my case, it’s from eating them too frequently. The diet is then put together surrounding foods your body reacts well to. After a break, usually about two weeks, you slowly reintroduce the foods you didn’t test well with to see if your body responds better to them.
I probably should have waiting another month to start the diet because the timing wasn’t well. I was approaching finals for my spring semester of grad school. I wasn’t training or sleeping as much and it made it hard to stick to the plan. Between grad school and working two jobs, I figured it would be best to wait another month until the semester ended.
This is where Kav comes in. Justin Kavanaugh has been great to me and owe the progress I’ve made in coaching to his friendship and mentorship. For months, he was offering to write a program for me to follow. Every time we talked about my own training, he always made a passing comment about writing a plan for me. I always kept putting it off because I felt bad about making him write something up for me. It’s hard to ask someone who’s done so much for you to do another thing, for free.
Well, he kept poking the bear and I finally decided to take him up on it around the middle of April. I had a nutrition plan in place, so I might as well go all-in and follow a program made by one of the best coaches in the world. I’ve seen the work he’s done with athletes of all ages and knew it would be a home run. I told him why I had reservations about taking him up on the offer. He understood, but said I had to make sure I journaled my progress and followed through with the program.
He decided that it would be best to start the program right around Memorial Day weekend when I was done with school. This would also lead into the summer where I would have a lot more time to train with school being out.
Think of this: I was about to start a program where my nutrition and training were covered by SWIS speakers. My confidence in this program was at an all-time high.
Man, there’s so many good thoughts going through my mind after the weekend at CVASP. The hardest part about writing this post is getting them all organized. Fair warning: this is going to be a long post.
The best way I could summarize the trip is this: After driving home five-plus hours in the pouring rain and getting home at 2 a.m. on Saturday, the first thing I wanted to do was look through the three volumes of “The Manual” that I just bought.
Volumes 1, 2 and 3 of “The Manual”.
I was running on such a high after the trip. This was my second time attending the Central Virginia Sports Performance Seminar down at the University of Richmond and each time I’ve come back with this intense motivation to study more. When you see the lineup of speakers Jay DeMayo is able to put together and the complex information being shared along with the caliber of people in attendance, it’s no wonder why this event simply goes by The Seminar.
If you don’t leave there a better coach and wanting to raise your game, then you’re in the wrong profession. Jay does such an awesome job running this event and he’s played a role in my development as a coach, even though he doesn’t know it. Through this event and his podcast, he’s exposed me to many of the top coaches in the field who aren’t internet stars, but know training backwards and forwards. Through both platforms, he’s introduced me to training modalities and concepts that I never knew of before. After being a bit overwhelmed from the event last year, I swore I would study harder so I could better understand and appreciate the knowledge being shared. Last year I left with ideas I needed to explore deeper. This year I left with things I could implement right away.
I might be wrong, but I believe Jay is also a big baseball fan. It was only fitting that on the weekend following the MLB All-Star Game he brought together a cast of speakers that resembled the American League’s starting nine. Dan Pfaff, Chris Korfist, Jeff Moyer, Devan McConnell, Keir Wenham-Flatt, Patrick Ward and Teena Murray all delivered on stage and I will get into that more shortly.
Last year’s event gave me a look into the application of Dr. Michael Yessis 1×20 system through Matt Thome of Michigan Tech’s presentation. I knew there would be some 1×20 practitioners in attendance, so I bought the book and studied the system. With a base understanding of how it worked, I wanted to use the time during the social to dig deeper and make sure I got the chance to meet Yosef Johnson, the owner of Ultimate Athlete Concepts and publisher of pretty much all of the major training books in this industry. I got far more than I ever expected.
Yosef couldn’t have been better. He really took the time to go over the 1×20 system with me and was ready to hook me up with any person could be of help. He treated me like he had known me for 20 years. If you could see inside my head, you’d see my brain trying to latch on and remember every little detail he was sharing. It was hard because in the back of my head I was thinking, “I can’t believe there is one of the best guys in the industry willing to pull me aside and break things down for me.” Every time you hear someone shout him out on a podcast, understand that it’s the truth. He’s has good of a person as everyone says he is.
That would have been enough, but then he calls over Chris McCormick, the head strength and conditioning coach for Olympic sports at Florida Atlantic University. Now I have both of them talking to me and Chris is talking training with me and explaining how he uses the system. Chris then took my email and wound up sending me a boatload of information on 1×20 from power point presentations, notes he’s taken from other coaches along with Excel sheets on how he’s used the program. I was blown away.
I was good to go, then all of a sudden I get to talk to Scott Hobbs, the associate strength and conditioning coach at Army. Scott was just another awesome guy who told me his interesting backstory on how he travels over to the US from London and broke down how the training is at Army. I always love to hear from strength coaches of collegiate and pro teams to hear how they structure training and he was more than willing to answer any question I had. Same could be said of Cristian Plascencia of Onnit. I’ve always had good interactions with the people of Onnit and Cristian continued that trend. He was another stand-up person as he answered a bunch of questions I had about Onnit and discussed what they had going on with the pro and college football players they were training. He also gave me some free samples of my favorite supplement, Shroom Tech Sport, which is always a plus.
Remember, I’m not always the most social at these gatherings because I don’t know if I’m up to par with these coaches, so having all this happen all at once was unbelievable for me. I’ve been snubbed plenty of times. I was starting to lose faith in the industry and just didn’t have that same desire to meet people. There’s coaches who preach growth, helping others and seeking out help, but then are the complete opposite when you meet them. CVASP showed me there’s still plenty of good in the industry if you look in the right places.
Keir Wenham-Flatt going through his training progression matrix.
Now, it’s time to get into the presentations. Keir Wenham-Flatt, an assistant S & C coach at Richmond who’s also been a rugby strength coach all over the world, led it off on Friday discussing his system on getting athletes back after injury. What stood out the most to me was what I call the “CVASP slide”. It’s the one I’ve noticed at CVASP the most where some presenters have this one slide that’s just loaded with information. Keir’s had this entire system broken on how they progress an athlete coming off injury through linear speed, agility, combat, jumps, throws, plyos, ballistic and strength exercises. His “training progression matrix” laid it all out for us and showed how each exercise builds off of the previous one. I just got an athlete come to me after suffering an injury and he Keir delivered a line that stuck with me: “our job is to prepare the tissues and the athlete has to earn the right to use intensive loads. Sadly, none of his entertaining Instagram stories were included.
Patrick Ward of the Seattle Seahawks closed out the first day giving us a look into what sport science really is. I’ve heard plenty of presentations on the new technology being used, but Patrick really focused on the why. He showed that it’s not just about having all of the gadgets, but making sure you have the right tools necessary to measure exactly what you’re looking for. Even though I probably won’t be using any of the new-age tracking tools out there, I loved the part of his talk where he had to tinker with things so he could see the effect of every players movement on the field. I’m not the right person to give his presentation it’s proper due, but hearing his process and finding your “why” behind what technology you use was pretty interesting to hear from someone who works with an NFL team.
Saturday started with a familiar face as I got to hear Devan McConnell, the head hockey performance coach at UMass Lowell, speak again. I heard him speak in December in New York and he was the perfect coach to hear after Ward’s presentation the previous day. Devan explained the why behind all of the tech he uses with his hockey players and showed that you can use technology on a budget. This gave me a little hope that I may be able to get into technology game if I get my own facility. I like how he broke down how he tested the jumps and any questions I thought I would have, he answered throughout his presentation.
Dan Pfaff gave a complete presentation on sprinting at CVASP.
Then, for the first time, I got to hear the legendary Dan Pfaff present. His speed presentation lived up to the hype. There was so much to take away, but I loved how he gave us all of the key performance indicators for acceleration, broke down all of the stages of a sprint and then went through slow-motion video to give us a visual look. When it comes to learning about speed, I need to hear and see what’s happening at the same time to understand it and this presentation did it for me. The presentation stuck with me even more because I got to listen to Justin Kavanaugh talk sprinting with some coaches at the social the night before and he hit on some points that Dan discussed in his presentation. What also made me think was how he discussed teaching athletes to run out of unique positions or recovery positions, since they are rarely in a stationary start during the game. His “mailbox system” for working with groups was also an interesting tidbit I never considered. Just listening to Dan question trends and just easily rattle off all of the factors necessary for being a proficient sprinter was just a great experience. His presentation made me think about what I do, as well as give me things I could change immediately.
Jeff Moyer, of Dynamic Correspondence Sports Training in Pittsburgh, was another coach I was anxious to hear and because of him, I now have a better understanding of sports vision training. Before, I thought it was just about touching things on a screen or hitting light switches, but he showed the why behind it. He discussed how there’s so much more behind it and gave us specific methods to use for different performance issues. He went deep into the muscles of the eye and showed how vision, not just physical skills, could be the missing link for an athlete. As a former baseball player, he showed how certain drills could be implemented to help a hitter. He gave us stuff that was cheap and could be used right away. He was even gracious enough to take the time to give me five drills I could use with one of my players who is struggling with picking up the ball while hitting. I never thought I would be able to include vision work into my athletes program, but am a hell of a lot more confident about it now after Jeff’s talk.
As I said earlier, I love hearing about the dynamics inside a college or pro organization. Teena Murray, the director of sports performance at Louisville, gave us a glimpse through the Louisville High Performance Model. It was interesting to hear about all of the different things Louisville uses to bring all of its groups inside of the department together. I was also intrigued to hear how Louisville is not only trying to model itself similar to how some of the best pro sports teams are, but taking things from some of the best companies in the country. It was eye-opening because these aren’t things you consider while watching these teams play in person or on TV. All you see is what happens on the field and not all of the other components working.
Chris Korfist closed The Seminar with an amazing presentation on the feet and ankles in regards to sprinting. It was only a year ago through a podcast I heard from Jeff Moyer on the drive down to CVASP and through some of the presentations last year where I began to realize the importance of the foot and ankle. Chris explained that the feet, ankle and toes account for 70% of running speed and we need to make sure our programs address that. He then made us take off our shoes and socks and put us through some drills we could use with our athletes to help them address it. The information he shared in his presentation, along with the slow-motion videos he showed, really built upon what I knew about the feet and ankles and gave me a much better understanding of them. This was a great presentation to end the event and I already have athletes with their shoes off and standing on their toes.
As you can see, there was a lot I took away from this event. There was more than the 2,000-plus words I used, but I tried to make it all somewhat digestible. This event had it all for me, from top-to-bottom stellar presentations and a social where I was able to meet and talk with some great people in this industry. Not that he needs my affirmation, but Jay DeMayo is one of the best this industry has to offer. I might not have the experience yet, but I’ve met a lot of people in this industry and I’ve seen through everything Jay puts out that he has the best interests of everyone in the sports performance community’s best interests in mind.
I’m ready to start getting into these books, training up my athletes and preparing for next year’s event because I know it’s going to be another good one.