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The Not-So-Secret Secrets to Reaching Goals

April was a fun month.  

Aside from my beloved New York Yankees currently sitting in first place, I competed in the Tactical Strength Challenge on April 8th. The event is made up of a max deadlift, strict bodyweight pull-ups, and a 5 minute kettlebell snatch test.  Anyone who competes deserves respect and in the immortal words of Ice Cube, "it was a good day."

I was fortunate to hit a new personal record on the deadlift at 556 pounds, but kept some gas in the tank for the other two events. Still, it was good enough for the 8th heaviest deadlift in my division.

A few hours later, I clocked in with 139 kettlebell snatches in 5 minutes - also a personal record.  This performance was even better than my deadlift, as I placed 5th on snatches and #9 overall in the Men's Open.  And in true egalitarian fashion, you don't receive anything for how you perform, just a pat on the back.

But last week, I finally conquered the one goal that's been haunting my dreams (only 50% joking) - I finally pressed The Beast.

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How to NOT Suck: Avoid These 4 Common Fitness Mistakes

I guess you can say I'm feeling nostalgic. And perhaps a bit click-baity.

This is my fifth year in the strength and conditioning industry and it feels like it's flown. But I can't stop thinking back to my naive, younger self, who worked in marketing, and thought he knew everything when it came to exercise.  He made a lot of mistakes and hated reality - because it always slapped him square in the face.

So consider everything below as part memoir and part road map for success.  Enjoy!

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What the Squat?

Last summer, I had a meathead's equivalent of a "come-to-Jesus" moment.  It occurred while back squatting, and I can even tell you the day - July 10, 2016.

I can also tell you the weight and rep scheme (300 lbs for sets of 5) thanks to my meticulous record keeping.  That weight is important, because it's where all my secret compensations started to show.  I reviewed the video of my squats and saw that my butt was winking, my hips were shifting laterally, and my left knee continually caved in as I came out of the hole.  Angry and frustrated, I yelled the title of this post but substituted one specific word (sorry Mom!).

After some introspection, I calmed down. Why was I doing this exercise? Was it helping my goals? Was I seeing gainz? Or was it throwing me deeper into my compensations and developing new ones?

The answers were don't know, no, no, and probably yes.  The only reason I was back squatting was for vanity. It boosted my ego to see myself squatting heavy(ish) weights, and I thought I was more advanced than I was.  I decided I needed to take it down a notch and work on my squat pattern. But a funny thing happened shortly after - I fell in love with the two kettlebell front squat.


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When Theory Meets Reality

According to Google, the most popular post I've ever written was published back in August 2015: Is Exercise a Stress Reliever or Stress Amplifier?  Clearly, every post I've published since has been an exercise in futility.

For those that don't understand my brand of self-deprecating humor, that is what I call a "joke."  Both my understanding of strength and conditioning, as well as my overall writing ability, have greatly increased since that post.  But I often forget that even though the concepts in that post aren't new to me - how certain types of exercise actually compound your stress levels - it's probably new to most people.

One such example came last week, when Bob Harper - yes, trainer Bob from The Biggest Loser - had a heart attack at age 51.  Mainstream media and the interwebz were shocked by the news.  I, however, was not.


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Head Fakes and the Tactical Strength Challenge

I'm a fan of head fakes.  Not in a sleazy way.  Only in a training way.

For example, my quest to deadlift 500 pounds in 2014 may have seemed arbitrary, if not wholly brotastic.  But actually, it was an exercise in conquering persistent back pain and increasing my confidence when lifting heavy things.  And, well, it helped build my "gym cred" too.

My current goal to become a Beast Tamer is more of the same.  It may appear as if I'm trying to join an elite fraternity, but the real goal is to continue learning the skill of strength and being able to accomplish what I've set my mind to. 

So when it comes to training and setting goals for others, it's no surprise that I employ the same strategy.  If someone wants to get leaner or more muscular - and really, that's the heart of most people's goals - I tend to recommend training for the Tactical Strength Challenge.  Its blend of maximal strength (deadlift), relative strength (pull-ups), and conditioning (kettlebell snatches) is a great way to test your physical preparedness.  But really, it's one of the best fat loss and mass building programs I've ever encountered.


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