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State of the Viking Freak Address

Happy November, weirdos. October went by like a flash and we’re now on the holiday road.

The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are changing colors, it’s (apparently) tornado season in East Tennessee and countless desks at the office have bowls of leftover Halloween candy on top of them. That All Hallow’s Eve remnants are an early indicator of what’s to come: fried turkeys, stuffing, pies, cookies and eggnog. The holidays, baby!

Also: Caloric surplus, baby!

There’s a reason meatheads use the winter time as bulking season. We’re adding weights to the bar, layers to the wardrobe and fat to the gut. It’s arguably the best time of the year and I am hyped.

And I figured since we’re so hype — let’s do a good old-fashioned State of the Viking Freak Address, y’all!

What’s Up at TITLE?

TITLE Promos

With that hype comes the excitement that we’re fast-approaching the busy season at the gym. This month we’re doing ZERO enrollment at TITLE Boxing Club Knoxville (a $99 value) and each membership will come with a Power Punch Card that will earn members $25 in merch! We’re saving you $100 just for signing up and offering to give you another $25 just for bringing your friends to us. The only thing you have to lose is fat and poundage. All you have to is come see us!

This is not how we do it …

Maybe News?

With an influx of first-timers there’s going to need to be an influx in help at the club and it appears there’s going to be plenty of it … in Viking form! Without going into a lot of details just yet (because it’s not officially official) my presence at the club is about to be increased in the near future. It’s been a long time coming, if you ask me, but I’m definitely humbled by this opportunity and am ready to help our local club see its potential.

I’ve already started working on some new material for us so keep an eye out on both mine and the Club’s social media presence below:

My PT Business

To say the least, business is booming. When I started this side gig I didn’t think I’d have more than one or two clients at a time but I’m currently at a point where I’m basically fully booked going into the holiday season. I have one client that started out as a pretty poor boxer whose boxing skills and coordination have increased significantly; another who came in with the goal of being able to lift 150 pounds assisted but is currently deadlifting 160 pounds unassisted and for reps; another first-timer whose balance and flexibility has improved considerably in the short time they’ve trained with me; And now I have a new client with a goal of performing three pull-ups. I’m always super excited to help my clients achieve their goals — they’re the ones putting in the work, I’m merely counting their reps.

What About TITLE Classes?

I recently celebrated my third year as a TITLE trainer! I never thought that would be something I’d be into, let alone any good at. My club is well-known for being a franchise that keeps their trainers the longest. But even though we don’t have a lot of turnover, we’ve certainly seen our share of trainers that have come and gone.

Trainers don’t make it for a variety of reasons that include availability and general microphone presence, but I think the biggest reason trainers don’t make it is because they’re unable to grow. We’ll either get established trainers with egos that don’t allow them to change their approach or green trainers that are too afraid to step outside of their comfort zone. Personally, I assess my approach and my overall class structure frequently so I can know what’s working and what’s not. For the longest time, I felt like my core sessions weren’t challenging enough so I spent a lot of time revisiting that. Ultimately, I ended up introducing the concept of circuits into core and several of our trainers are utilizing them now, too. It’s been an easy change up that has helped us improve our core sessions overall and it’s also challenged our members in a fun new way.

I’ve started changing up my Boxing and Kickboxing classes in that they’re more build-up based. I’m a firm believer that long, convoluted combos are not the way to go so I write out shorter, easier-to-follow combos for my classes so they can focus more on their intensity and technique rather than remembering what the next punch is or when to slip or when to roll. We’ll often start with two strikes, then build up from there until we get for a 5-6 strike combination that they can get the rhythm of. My members have responded really well to this approach so I’m going to continue to evolve it.

I was starting to think my MMA classes were getting a little stale because I was often just recycling old classes that we’d already done several times before. I’d change the round format frequently just to keep things interesting but ultimately it was the same moves over and over. With that in mind, I’ve spent a lot of time recently studying more Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques and have started introducing rounds that are a little more drill-based. My last MMA class ended up being so intense that I gave us a half-speed warmup and we only stretched for core. There were no complaints!

What About Non-TITLE Stuff?

CEUs

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about it but lately when I’m not working out myself or other people at the gym … or, you know, working at my full-time job (that still exists) … I’ve been studying. My PT certification is set to expire at the end of January so I’ve started a program to get me a Fitness Nutrition certification through NASM. The program will give me 1.9 of my 2.0 required CEUs (the remaining 0.1 will be earned when I re-certify in CPR) and I thought this would be a good route to take. I’m a big fan of nutrition, making meal plans, etc. But damn … this shit is HARD. I was warned from the beginning that this content was dense but I had no idea how much I had bitten off. Nowadays I spend my entire lunch break reading about carbohydrates, proteins and lipids; digestion, oxidization and enrichment. I’m about halfway through the program and I can’t wait to be finished. Mercy.

New Workout

As I’ve already mentioned, it’s bulking season and I’ve already been putting away the holiday-friendly food. We’ve downed a month’s worth of pumpkin spice this and that — now I’ve got my eyes set on Thanksgiving and the weekend after when I can have my first shot of eggnog. With this in mind, it’s also time to lift HEAVY.

I’ve started a fight-centric program that encourages heavy lifting and explosive moves. I plan on detailing the program in the next couple of weeks but it’s a modification of a workout plan I found online that follows a 5/3/1 routine that hits front squats, deadlifts, incline bench press and shoulder press followed by explosive fight for cardio and flexibility work. So far I’m a pretty big fan and I’m seeing some satisfactory results.

What About This Site?

Okay, so I’ve all but abandoned this site but those days are hopefully over. I have a renewed interested in sharing the information that I’m learning and pairing it with the excitement of getting more into the marketing aspect of my club and a desire to tell my desk job and the yuppies that work there to shove it. With that said, I have plans to redesign this site, revamp the Weekly Thing series, re-launch the FFF series, share my 5/3/1 bulking program I’m currently on and throw in a bunch of other free shit, too, like meal prep how-tos, a holiday gift guide, a new year starter kit and some bomb-ass workout playlists.

Anything Else?

This is equally the best and worst time of year, guys. It all depends on your focus and your goals. If you’re starting your winter bulk, then bulk away and lift heavy. If you’re on a weight-loss journey but are intimidated by the upcoming holiday feasts, just be smart, don’t stress and don’t skip that Black Friday cardio. If you’re doing either — or neither — the main focus is family, friends and enjoying your life. Don’t let your diet or exercise program change that.

Ever onward, Heathen Army!

-JTF

FFF: August 3 — AKA “Just Order Your Damn Burger”

Quick Note Made After Drafting This Post…

Friday is burger day in the Food Network Kitchen at my office. Today’s burger special was Greek style. Going “all the way” on said burger includes grilled red onions, feta cheese, tzatzki, and for a dollar more, bacon. The Burger Day bar line is set up assembly line style so guests are allowed to customize their burgers however they want, no questions asked — it’s beautiful. Excited about a big-ass burger with tzatziki sauce, I headed on down around lunch time. The guy ahead of me wanted to customize his burger because he has self-imposed dietary limitations, presumably he’s “low carbin’ it”.

He made a big deal about the bun the burger was on. When the cook asked him if he wanted a bun, the guy replied “Yeah, I’ll take the bun BUT I’M ONLY EATING HALF OF IT!” He then proceeded to “go all the way” with toppings. The cook asked him if he wanted fries and the gentleman barked “No! No fries and I’m not eating rice either!”

There was no rice, just FYI.

Big fucking deal, dude. Get over yourself. In the words of James Smith, dude was being a fucking nob. If you you follow a Paleo diet, Keto diet, low-carb diet, vegetarian diet or no diet at all — just order your damn burger and move on. Don’t be a nob.

Now we’re getting on with what I originally wanted to tell you guys …


Whaddup, Summer?

I left you guys back in May for a while. The last thing I did was share a series of workouts so I’ll assume you’ve been spending the last couple of months getting all ripped and shit. It’s good to see you again – You look awesome 🙂

To be completely honest, I’ve not been getting all ripped and shit. I’ve been working my ass off both at my day job and at the gym to the point that I’ve driven myself to exhaustion. I’ve been stress eating like a mad freak, I haven’t lifted weights in two weeks and I’ve lost about six pounds.

I don’t like it. Nope, no I don’t.

I’ll be going out of town this weekend and I’m hoping to come back with a new motivation, a new focus and a brand new workout program. I’m not-so-secretly also wishing to be visited by the gods while I’m gone. I’m in need of some clarity, y’all.

One thing I know for sure is that I’ve saved up quite a few links for you guys. Let’s get to ’em.

  • The Reason Victims Never Win by Brendan Beaulieu via Norse Fitness
    This has been open in a tab on my computer for weeks. I’ve read it more times than I can count. It’s a reminder that I need regularly yet something I still haven’t been able to fully apply. Your life may be tough but I can guarantee you one thing — humanity has been through far worse than what you’re experiencing. Once you accept that the road of human progression is and always will be full of obstacles you’ll finally be able to focus your energy on destroying not just the evil festering inside you but also the evil that is so pervasive in this world. That’s A+ wisdom right there, y’all. We can all benefit from ridding our lives of the victim mentality and the evil that resides inside us all.

  • Easy Meals I Make at Home in Under 30 Minutes by Juli Bauer via PaleOMG
    Cooking is awesome. And contrary to seemingly popular belief, cooking healthy meals doesn’t have to break the bank or take all day to accomplish. Before you look at these entrees that includes “fried” plantains, jalapeno bratwurst, roasted Brussels sprouts and “fried” cod, please know that these aren’t full recipes but merely photos of finished entrees with brief descriptions of what’s in the photos. It’s also admittedly a big commercial for ButcherBox, Thrive Market, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. If you’re distracted by this, however, you’re focusing on the wrong part of the story. This is great inspiration for Paleo-friendly meals that can be made in half an hour.

  • Chocolate Fudge Protein Brownies by Anna Sward of Protein Pow via Bodybuilding.com
    Here we have a super sexy brownie recipe. I haven’t made these but I hope to very soon. We’re looking at super-chocolatey brownies made with some of my favorite ingredients — almond butter, pure pumpkin and protein powder. The macros don’t come out to being super protein heavy like you’d imagine, but these are relatively light in comparison to other brownie recipes.

  • Buffalo Chicken Crust Pizza from Ruled.me
    This is a Keto recipe that’s way easier than it should be — also way tastier. It’s just a buffalo chicken pizza where the crust is made of chicken but when you look at the macros for the dish, you’ll see what makes it so special. I used this as part of my meal plan a couple of weeks ago, only where this recipe makes one pie with 8 theoretical servings, I made 3 pies and made them two servings each. The macros broke down thusly: 688 Calories, 51g fat, 4g carbs, 55g protein.

  • Stop Trying to Change Yourself by Mark Manson

    This may get a little too deep for some of y’all. It’s downright philosophical with a heavy dose of hard love. We’ve all heard it (or said it ourselves): people declaring their desire to change something about themselves. This can be anything — their general attitude about life, their exercise habits, their diets, their routines, etc. And while wanting to do something new or different with a goal in mind isn’t wrong, we can start running into problems when we break this down and think about why we’re doing it. So many times we declare change because we’re unhappy with the person we are, but in reality the “person that we are” is bullshit. I get this a lot especially when I tell people about my 5:45 am class. “I’m not a morning person,” they say but that’s shit. It’s not that they’re not morning people, they’re merely people who choose to not get up early. And that’s okay! It has nothing to do with the “kind” of person they are. The kind of person we are is an abstract concept we merely project onto ourselves, and are therefore limited by. As Mark says, …the quickest way to change yourself is to realize that there’s no real self to change. No self; just self-created limits.

  • Great Talks Most People Have Never Heard by James Clear

    Everybody likes a good motivational speech. Some of us, however, grow tired of the same ol’ speeches with the same ol’ format and same ol’ lessons learned. We’ve heard all the popular ones before and have seen bits of them ripped off and put onto memes all over social media. They start to mean nothing after a while. What James has done here is collect an actively growing list of speeches and talks that aren’t as well known but pack just as much motivational-inspirational heat. These will hit on everything from physical well being to spiritual and career building. Speakers include Neil Gaiman, Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling and more.

  • Hogweights: House Collection by Flex Comics
    Y’all, these were released today and I’m seriously considering buying one of each. While I closely align with the ideals and attitudes of the Slythergains house, it’s hard to beat Hufflebuff — I mean for real, that’s brilliant.


Music to Get Motivated By

Lately I’ve been keeping an eye on DyingScene.com to catch up on the punk and ska scenes that I’ve fallen away from since falling so far down the black/doom metal rabbit holes over the last year or two. One of the things I’ve noticed is that modern punk SUCKS. It’s really bumming me out. It’s generic, it’s safe and it’s boring. We’re living in a time when even bands that once had balls (I’m looking at you, NOFX) are suddenly apologizing for being offensive (I’m still looking at you, NOFX). I used to get mad when people would say “punk is dead” but due to the current state of the scene, I’m inclined to believe it. I hate being the old guy that spouts off “Back in my day!” every time a shitty modern punk band fails at their job but that’s who I’ve become.

And then I heard Runny.

Runny is a punk band from Brooklyn with two albums under their belt — 2011’s We’ve Come for Your Women (And Some of Your Men) and 2013’s California Uber Phallus. The band has a new album coming out in October called Back on Gack and they’re promoting the upcoming release with this music video for their short scorcher entitled I Don’t Wanna Listen to Trump — an almost direct cover of Mighty High’s song I Don’t Wanna Listen to Yes. It harkens back to a simpler time when it was okay for punk songs to be made of 2-3 lines repeated over and over again for effect.

And it’s glorious. Dig it and proceed to defy the morbidly obese Cheeto living in the White House.

[Free Workout] JTF “Stronger Things” Arms Day

Are you up to date? Cool. If not, check out …

Alright, so we’ve hit everything. All the things. We’ve pushed, we’ve pulled, we’ve stretched, we’ve fueled and I’m sure we’ve griped about DOMS.

Well, correction — we’ve hit everything but arms.

Since I’ve become a gymrat, I’ve noticed a couple of common themes. Number 1: A lot of guys skip leg day. Number 2: Nobody skips arms day. In fact, I know a lot of guys that hit arms every day.

Every. Day.

I mean, that’s cool and everything, but that’s also kind of … undisciplined? I get it, arms are fun to work out and they look great in a fitted t-shirt but ignoring your larger muscle groups in favor of your “beach muscles” is ill-advised at best. Arms day is necessary but one mustn’t forget the rest of their bodies, and by extension, their overall physique and overall fitness.

And that is precisely why I leave arms day for last. It’s a reward. If I stick with my program through the week, then when I hit the gym on the weekend, I can tear my sleeves off and get my pump on just in time for a weekend date night, arguably the most important reason to pump arms in the first place.

So let’s reward ourselves with an arm-blaster, shall we?

Warm-Up

I don’t warm up on arms day. Not saying you can’t or shouldn’t, but I choose not to because the first workout in this program is a warm up in itself. It’s light weight, high rep and a bit of a burn so your arms will be warm and your hinges will be greased. Let’s jump right on!

Big-Ass Set: EZ Bar Curl(z)

5 sets; 20-30-40-30-20 reps; Rest as needed
Primary:
Biceps

Pur your ego aside for this first crazy set because you’re not going to load the bar with very much weight at all. If any bro comes in and smirks or comments on your light weight exercise, you can (politely) invite them to do it with you. They aren’t going to care much for it, I promise.

This is the only exercise in the entire series where I’m going to specify a weight. If for some reason this is too difficult, you can drop the weight.

You’ll start by loading the EZ-Curl bar with 20 pounds. Our bar weighs 10 so that means I’ll add a 5 to each side and perform a total of 20 full-range curls. After the 20th rep, I’ll set the bar down and exchange the plates for the next set — this is the only rest I take between sets.

Set two will be at 15 pounds (bar + 2.5 pound plates on either side) for 30 reps. Again, set the bar down and remove the plates for the third set.

Set three is 10 pounds (just the bar) and will be 40 reps. This is where it gets freaky because you’re just curling the bar, but this will put you at 90 reps and your arms will be burning pretty bad. You’re not quite finished yet, though.

After your 40th rep, put those 2.5s back on and again perform 30 reps at 15 pounds. You’ll finish this superset by taking the 2.5s off, adding the 5s and finishing another 20 reps back at 20 pounds. You’ve now done 140 curls and we’re just getting started!

Tri-Set (1/3 and 2/3): Reverse-Grip Tricep Pulldowns and Tricep Pushdowns

1 Set; 12 reps; Rest as needed
Primary:
Triceps

Add a straight bar to the upper pulley of a machine and pick a weight you can push/pull down for a total of 24 reps. This WON’T be easy! Fortunately you’re only doing one set here so you can rip through it pretty quickly — relatively speaking, of course.

You’ll begin by positioning your hands under the straight bar with your palms facing up. Bend your arms at the elbows, grip the bar tightly and using your triceps, pull the bar down until your arms are straight. Once you’re in the “down” position, the weight will want to jump out of your hands and pull the bar back up but you must stay in control and slowly return the bar to the starting position. That’s your pulldown.

After your twelfth pulldown, you’ll reverse your hands so your palms are facing down and repeat the same range of motion for another 12 reps. This is your push-down. Get it? Your triceps are probably already burning but you have one more thing to do …

Tri-Set (3/3): Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension

1 Set; 12 reps; Rest as needed
Primary:
Triceps — Secondary: Abs

Start by carefully raising a dumbbell high over your head and positioning it so that it is slightly behind you. You’ll want to cup your hands around the head of the dumbbell like you’re choking it. Now, very similarly to what we did on the machine, you’ll bend at the elbows and slowly lower the weight down behind your head until your arms are fully bent. You’ll finish the rep by extending the arms back out until they’re straight and the weight is directly overhead again. This will burn quickly if you have a challenging weight but only in the best way possible.

Once you finish the twelfth rep here, you can take a short rest and get ready for the next tri-set.

Tri-Set (1/3): Preacher Curls

3 Sets; 8 reps
Primary:
Biceps

Dom said it best in his Most Alpha Bicep Exercises video:

These are harder to do than regular curls … because you can’t really cheat. And as we know, staying faithful is the hardest thing you can do, which is why they’re called Preacher Curls … Because it takes the strength of god not to cheat.

We’ve all done it. We put too much weight on the curl bar and then we rep it out by using our backs, swinging our hips and using momentum. But these are Preacher Curls and you can’t do any of that shit. It’s just you and the weight.

You’ll want to go pretty heavy for this lift as you’re only looking to complete 8 reps per set. Not a lot of technique to speak of here, either. It’s really just a bicep curl at a Preacher Curl station. Once you finish the 8th rep, move on to the next exercise in the tri-set.

Tri-Set (2/3): Tricep Dips

3 Sets; 10 reps
Primary:
Triceps — Secondary: Shoulders

Bodyweight exercise, y’all! As we all know, I love the idea of bodyweight exercises but when they come up in my program, I curse under my breath because they’re always harder than you think they’re going to be. At this point in the program, your arms are already going to be toast and the last thing you’ll want to do with them is support your own bodyweight but here we are.

Find a bench or a chair that’s a couple of feet off the ground and sit on it with your hands over the edge, your hands gripping the edge of the seat. Slowly pull your butt forward until it’s off the seat and extend your legs ahead of you so you’re balancing on your heels, supporting most of your weight with your arms. Here, you’ll simply “dip” your self down until you nearly touch the ground and use your triceps to push you back up into position.

For this exercise, we’re looking to complete 10 reps before moving on to the final exercise in the tri-set.

Tri-Set (3/3): Cable Rope Curl

3 Sets; 12 reps; Rest 60 seconds
Primary:
Biceps — Secondary: Forearms

For this exercise, you’ll want to find the rope attachment near a machine with a low pulley and pick a weight you can complete 12 clean reps with. The range of motion here is almost identical to your basic bicep curl but due to the slack in the rope, your forearms are going to have to get involved for stability. And since you’re using a machine, it’s very important to note that you should be in control of the weight at all times. Since the weight is on a pulley, you’ll feel the weight pulling against you in a different way and it’s up to you to make sure you have control of it all the way down. No slamming, y’all!

You’re going for 12 reps of this exercise. After your final rep, take a minute to breathe and head back to the Preacher Curl station because you’re ripping through this circuit three times total.

Superset (1/2): Skullcrushers

3 Sets; 12 reps
Primary:
Triceps

This is one of my favorite moves on arms day.

You’ll bust out the EZ-Curl bar once again and load it with a weight that’s challenging but will allow you to do 12 clean reps. Lay back on a bench with the weight held out like you’re about to bench press it. Instead of using your shoulders and chest to lower the weight like a bench press, however, keep your upper arms stretched out and only bend at the elbows until the bar is just above your skull. You’ll want the movement to be slow and controlled lest you drop the weight and make the Skullcrusher live up to its name.

Slowly extend the arms again until the weight is back out in front of you and call it a rep. You’ll do 12 of these before moving on to the next exercise.

Superset (2/2): Decline Bench Press

3 Sets; 12 reps; Rest 60 seconds
Primary:
Triceps — Secondary: Chest; Shoulders

For your final exercise in the program, you’ll find either a decline bench station or make your own. You can see in my gif that I’m using the trusty Smith machine and I can’t recommend it enough for this move. Personally, I feel like your arms are going to be shot enough at this point that worrying about stabilization is too burdensome so if you have access to a smith, do it. The decline press is identical to the flat or the incline press in that you’re going to slowly lower the bar down to your chest and press it back up only the angle you’re at forces the triceps to do most of the work and … ya know, it’s arm day.

Not going to lie — this is going to suck. At this point, your arms will be toast and this move isn’t easy. But you can do it, and you will. Just 12 reps and you’ll get a full minute to rest before you repeat the superset for a total of 3 circuits.

Cool Down

You’re going to feel cocky after this workout is finished because you will have obliterated your arms. The proper cooldown here is flexing in the mirror a time or two and maybe tweeting something about the pump you just got. You definitely want to hit that protein shake today because you don’t want to lose any of the gains you just forced. Feel free to stretch your arms out any way you choose to and just be prepared because in the next 20 minutes or so, you’ll lose nearly all use of your upper limbs.


So last week’s back day program wasn’t super exciting but this one definitely is. It’s enough to make the rest of the week worth it and if you aren’t steady seeing the person you’re taking out later after this workout, they’re going to want something long term after seeing the way your arms look in your t-shirt. You can thank me later.

Until then, check out the printable version of this workout I’ve put together for you, and as always, let me know what you like/don’t like.

JTF Strong’s Stronger Things Arms Workout

[Free Workout] JTF “Stronger Things” Back Day

Continuing the Stronger Things series with a bad ass back workout this week. y’all! If you haven’t been keeping up, you can go back and check out Leg Day, Chest Day and Shoulder Day but there’s no real order requirement. Just pick up heavy stuff!

If we’re being honest, back day is one of my least favorite training days. Maybe my full-on least favorite. Ironically, my back is the one part of my body I’m not super thrilled with and have been working on defining over the last few months. I’ve seen quite a bit of progress on this plan, though, so stick with it for a while and I bet you will, too!

Just be aware that I’m not super creative on back day. Which is to say, brace yourself for row and pull-up city. Now, put something loud and heavy in your headphones and get ready to get buff.

Warm-Up

You guys know by now that warm-ups are weird for me. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t and it’s no different here. If you just want to get the blood pumping a little, I’d suggest a short run or 3-5 minutes of skipping rope. If you want to go ahead and start getting your back muscles riled up, maybe superset some push-ups with some bodyweight rows under a barbell. You can also do a little stretching, which I’m always a big fan of. Now, let’s pick something up.

Pull-Ups, Set 1

1 set; x reps; No rest
Primary:
Lats — Secondary: Abs; Biceps; Shoulders; Upper Back

Bet you didn’t see that shit coming right out the gate. We normally “go heavy” on the first exercise and I guess we still are because guess what? Your body is heavier than you realize. One could even argue that true strength can be determined based on how efficiently one can move their own bodyweight around. Also, it’s back day and in my opinion, there aren’t many other moves that work your back like this.

I’ll also openly admit that I’m not great at them. In fact, I’ve only been able to do them for the last year or two. There are so many resources out there about how to start doing pull-ups, how to progress them, etc. While I won’t get into a lot of that in this post, I’ll pass you the progression I used and the program I’m currently using.

First of all, if you can’t do pull-ups, don’t stress out. If you stress out, that’s when you start doing dumb shit and dumb shit isn’t allowed.

  • If you can’t do a pull-up, do Band-Assisted Pull-Ups.
  • If you can’t do band-assisted pull-ups, do Negative Pull-Ups.
  • If you can’t do negative pull-ups, do Inverted Rows.
  • If you can’t do inverted rows, do Dumbbell Rows.
  • If you can’t do dumbbell rows, try a lighter weight.
  • If you can’t do the lighter weight, you’re lying.

I hope to detail the above flow in a post all its own eventually but for now, just know that there’s no reason to skip anything. If you can’t do something, modify it, regress it if necessary, knock that shit out and move on.

Now, you’ll notice above I have listed 1 set of x reps. That’s important and here’s why: I’ve been using a freaky program I found online made by TwentyPullUps.com that’s damn-near infinitely scalable. I follow the program three days a week doing exactly as it asks. If I can’t do it, I repeat the week until I can finish it and move on. The proper program has six weeks of programming with three levels of ability listed. There’s also weeks negative 1 and negative 2, each also having three levels of ability. If you start at absolute zero like I did, that means this program could last you as many as 24 weeks.

I’m currently using Week 2, Level 2 so I’ll illustrate how these pull-up sets fit into the workout with those numbers. You’ll be completing FIVE sets of pull-ups total, just thrown in between exercises. Since this is the first set, according to the sheet for week 2, level 2, you’ll simply perform 5 pull-ups. I take 30-45 seconds to rest and then move on to my first exercise.

Go Heavy: Barbell Rows

4 sets; 8 reps; Rest 90 seconds
Primary:
Upper back — Secondary: abs; biceps; lats; lower back; shoulders

Like all heavy lifts, I start out lifting the bar only then do a set at 50% weight. I use a short Olympic barbell for this (about 35 pounds) but you can use a standard bar. You could even get by using a Smith machine if that’s all you have available to you. For your warm-up sets, go with 10 reps total then load the bar with 50% of your intended working weight for the day and do 10 more reps.

For this lift, you’ll want to start off with your knees slightly bent, your hips back without curling or arching your back. I prefer a reverse grip on the barbell here but you can go overhand if you’d prefer. Starting with the bar just above the knees, contract the muscles in your back as you slowly lift the weight up your quads until it rests against your gut. Your elbows will be back and your shoulder blades will be drawn together. Slowly lower the weight and exhale. That’s one rep.

You’re going to do 8 reps before setting the weight down and taking a 90 second breather. After your 4th working set, we move on. You’ve done 52 rows and you’re just getting started.

Pull-Ups, Set 2

1 set; x reps; No rest

Back to these guys again. If you’re following along on the plan I linked to, set 2 = 4 reps.

Lat Pulls

3 sets; 10 reps; Rest 60 seconds
Primary:
Lats — Secondary: Abs; Biceps; shoulders; upper back

This will require a special machine but chances are your gym will have it. A lot of times you’ll have a bunch of fancy pants attachments you’ll put on a pulley system so you can push and pull in a variety of ways both sitting and standing for desired effect. This bar will look kinda like an EZ Curl Bar.

Ultimately what you’re going to be doing here is a pull-up only instead of pulling your weight up, you’re pulling a different weight down to you. The range of motion in the arms, shoulders and back are almost identical only you’re sitting down for this exercise. Take a wide grip and slowly pull the weight down toward your chest. Due to your arm positioning, the only way to do this non-awkwardly is to let your elbows flare out to the sides and contract the muscles in your back as your shoulder blades once again come together. Then, slowly reverse the motion until the weights on the machine rest. NEVER JUST DROP THE WEIGHTS ON A MACHINE, OTHERWISE YOU’LL RISK DAMAGING THE EQUIPMENT AND BE VIEWED AS A GYM ASSHOLE.

For this exercise, you’ll want to pick a weight you can successfully — though with a bit of effort — complete 10 reps. We’re going for 3 sets total and resting for a minute between each. Once you’re complete, find your way back to the pull-up bar because …

Pull-Ups, Set 3

1 set; x reps; No rest

On the sheet, set 3 = 3 reps.

Dumbbell Rows

3 sets; 10 reps; Rest 60 seconds
Primary:
Upper back — Secondary: Abs; Biceps; Lats; Lower back; Shoulders

That’s right — more rows! Told you creativity was going right out the door with this workout.

Either way, you can’t deny the importance of the trusty single-arm dumbbell row. It’s always a challenge and it’s always good for you.

Find a bench somewhere and bring over a single dumbbell of whatever working weight you’ve chosen. I usually start with my right side, so I put my left knee on the back of the bench, my left hand flat on the head of the bench, thereby making my back parallel with the floor as my right foot is flat on the ground and the dumbbell hands in my dangling right arm.

From this position, you’ll slowly “row” the weight up, basically until the weight grazes your boob. Your elbow will go straight back, your back muscles will contract and your right shoulder blade will move in toward your spine. Knock out 10 reps, then switch everything to the other side for 10 more reps.

A couple of notes on this exercise:

  1. You can definitely do this bilaterally and standing if you want, just be sure to use dumbbells.
  2. I sometimes superset this move with my lat pulls but be sure to get your extra set of pull-ups in before you leave the gym for the day.

Just like the lat pulls, you’re looking for 3 sets, 10 reps with 60 seconds of rest between sets. After your third set, guess where you’re going?

Pull-Ups, Set 4

1 set; x reps; No rest

On the sheet, set 4 = 4 reps.

TRX Rows, 2 Ways

2 sets; 15 reps; Rest 45 seconds
Primary:
Upper back — Secondary: Biceps; Lats

Good god, even more rows. These are kind-of fun, though. I think so, at least.

If your gym doesn’t have TRX bands, I’m certain they have something similar where you can do some kind of suspension exercise. If not, I’d suggest doing simple inverted rows since you’re only using bodyweight for those as well.

The TRX system is awesome because it allows you to do bodyweight exercises on a plane you can’t necessarily get to naturally with the added benefit of balance support. This doesn’t mean the TRX bands are going to take away the need for you to balance — in fact, balance can sometimes be a bitch with them, but that’s why they’re great!

I do these 2 ways just to shake it up and hit my back in a unique way. I start off leaning myself back until my arms are fully stretched out ahead of me, I’d say I’m about 45 degrees from the floor (or try to be, at least). You’ll start your first rep by pulling yourself up with your elbows shooting out at shoulder level, constricting your back muscles and drawing your shoulder blades together. Slowly reverse the motion until you’re back at your starting position. That’s 1 rep.

For the next rep, you’ll keep your elbows tucked in close to your sides and pull yourself up in a motion very similar to the one you used when you were rowing the dumbbell earlier only now it’s billateral and you’re the weight being pulled up. Slowly reverse the motion until you’re back at the starting position. That’s rep 2.

Continue doing every other rep this way until you get to 15. Rest for 30-45 seconds before starting again. In order to get an even number of each of the row variations, don’t start your second set with the same row you started your first set with. This way you can make sure you completed 15 of each row. We don’t want to show anybody any favoritism. Once you’re finished with your last rep…

Pull-Ups, Set 5

1 set; x reps; No rest

On the sheet, set 5 = 5 reps.

When you drop down from that 5th rep, whisper a dirty word under your breath and breathe a sigh of relief because you’re DONE.

Cool Down

I don’t have a proper cool-down to illustrate but I definitely recommend plenty of stretching here. Anything that hits your upper and lower back as well as your shoulders will benefit you. I sometimes supplement my back day with a few core exercises like sit-ups, plants and dragonflags before I leave for the day but since I do about an hour of pure core work every week during my boxing classes, I’ve been leaving it out.

No matter what you do for a cool-down, I know for certain that it works best if you’re sipping on a tasty protein shake while you do it.


I’m sure you’ll agree that back day isn’t the most exciting and I just about guarantee that you have a bigger, better program and a bigger, sexier back than me. And that’s okay. I’m working on it. We’re all working on it. Don’t be a dick, man.

If you think you may be interested in giving this a shot, though, I’ve gone through the trouble of making a one sheet for you guys like I have all the others up until this point:

JTF Strong’s Stronger Things Back Workout

You know the deal. Give it a go and let me know what you think. If you have questions, need modifications, need to be coached, want a pep talk or someone to go shopping with, I’m your man. Just say hey!

[Free Workout] JTF “Stronger Things” Shoulder Day

Alright, guys. We’ve done legs. We’ve done chest. Now we hit shoulders. I used to combine chest and shoulders in the split but then quickly realized that was a horrible idea. Not because it’s a bad idea in general, but because the program I’ve made for myself is … well …

It’s hard.

I’m not playing. Shoulder day is probably my favorite training day, but it’s also the one workout of the week that I’m always unsure if I can finish. For real. It’s hard.

Think you have what it takes? Let’s go!

Warm-Up

By now you all know how I am with warm-ups. If you haven’t been following along, just know that I don’t usually do them. However … On shoulder day, I’ve been known to do a short warm-up just to get the shoulders moving. I usually start with a few arm circles and then a few assisted hand stands with wall walks and push-ups. As usual, it’s optional.

Go Heavy: Barbell Shoulder Press

4 sets; 8 reps; Rest 90 seconds
Primary:
Shoulders — Secondary: Abs; Traps; Triceps

Always starting heavy, you know the deal. Here, I’m using a squat rack with a barbell. If you’re just getting started with these workouts, you can go with dumbbells if you’d like. I’m merely going with barbell just for weight reasons so modify as you see fit.

As with all the other heavy exercises, we’re going to start with a couple of warm-up sets beginning with lifting just the bar. Lift the bar off the rack and hold it at shoulder level, just under the chin. Your feet are going to go about shoulder-width and you’re simply going to press the weight overhead until your arms are straight and your elbows lock. Slowly lower the weight back down. That’s one. Don’t celebrate yet, though. You have a lot more to do. You’re going for 10 reps with the bar.

Rack the bar and add enough weight to equal 50% your working weight for the day keeping in mind the Olympic barbell is 45 pounds. With the 50% weight loaded, you’re looking to knock out 10 more reps. All done? Now we’re working.

If you have a good working weight, this is going to get hard QUICKLY. Lucky for you, you just have to knock out 8 reps. I mean, you still have to do it 4 times, but for real …

After you finish up that last set, rack the weight and take a long break. In a few minutes, we’re hitting a pretty tough superset…

(1/2) Superset: Landmine Single-Arm Shoulder Press

3 sets; 10 reps each arm
Primary:
Shoulders — Secondary: Abs; Traps; Triceps

In the last few months, I’ve grown rather fond of landmine work. I’ve only recently added this move to my shoulder routine and I’m a big fan. You’ll load the bar with a good working weight and raise the bar up to about shoulder level. Start off in a sort-of lunge position with your right leg back and load the entirety of the weight into your right hand. Now you’ll press that weight up until your arm is fully extended and slowly lower it back down to your shoulder. Once you finish the 10th rep on the right side, switch your feet, switch hands and knock out 10 more reps.

Once you finish up the 10th rep on the left side, slowly lower the weight to the ground and immediately switch to the next move in this superset.

(2/2) Superset: Side2Front Raise

3 sets; 10 reps; Rest 60 seconds
Primary:
Shoulders — Secondary: Traps; Upper Back

Lateral raises are cool. Front raises are great. But what if we just do them both? Side2Front Raises are exactly that. You’ll start off with two dumbbells held down to your side. You’re going to start with lateral raises on both sides until your arms are straight out at shoulder level. That’s one raise. From the “up” position, you’ll rotate your shoulders so that the weights are directly in front of you, then slowly lower the weights to the front. That’s a half rep.

To complete the rep, simply reverse the motion starting with a front raise, rotation to lateral position and slowly lowering the weight back to the starting position. Now you’re 1/10th of the way through this killer. After your 10 rep, give yourself 60 seconds and then head back over to the landmine station.

Smith Machine Shrugs

2 sets; 15 reps; Rest 45 seconds
Primary:
Traps — Secondary: Shoulders; Upper Back

Depending on whose program you’re looking at, trap shrugs could fall on either back or shoulder day. Since traps are secondary muscles throughout most of this program, I thought it fit just fine. Here I’m using a Smith but you can use a free barbell, trap bar, dumbbells or even kettlebells.

There’s not a lot to talk about here. You’ll start holding the weight with your arms fully extended down and then … I dunno … You just shrug. Very much like you’re saying “I dunno … You just shrug.”

Two sets and 15 reps later, you’re ready to finish. But let’s be honest. You’re not ready for this.

Finisher: Circlez and Push-Ups

200 Circlez/ 40 Push-Ups
Primary:
shoulders — Secondary: Upper Back; Chest; Abs; Shoulders; Triceps

I like doing shoulder burnouts with my clients. There’s not much that’s as satisfying as handing your client a 2.5 pound plate, seeing them smirk and telling them “Bruh, don’t smile. In 90 seconds you’re going to wish I hadn’t given you that much.” This is one of those exercises.

Start by holding the plates out at arm’s length in front-raise position. You’ll start by doing 50 baby rotations toward the inside, meaning your right side rotates to the left, your left arm rotates to the right. After 50 rotations, drop the plates, hit the ground and immediately do 10 push-ups. After the 10, there are no breaks. You’re back up, arms back out front, this time 50 rotations in the opposite direction. Drop and go 10 more push-ups.

That’s half.

To finish, you’re back on your feet, weights out to your sides in lateral-raise position. 50 rotations toward the front, 10 push-ups. Finally, 50 rotations to the back and 10 more push-ups.

I’m not going to lie. You’re going to have a hard time finishing that. Good luck.

Cool Down

If we’re being honest, the first thing you’re going to want to do after you finish that last exercise is lay down for a long time. If you want to get in just a liiiiiiittle bit more out of those shoulders, sometimes I like to go get in 2-3 minutes on our speed bag. Other times, it’s protein shake and about 15 minutes of stretching with a focus on my shoulders.


If you think you’re tough enough to give this shoulder workout a try, you can use this handy dandy work sheet I made.

JTF Strong’s Stronger Things Shoulder Workout

As always, let me know if you have questions or if you try it out … or if you have a different shoulder day you’d like to share — I’d be way into checking it out!

[Free Workout] JTF “Stronger Things” Chest Day

Last week’s Leg Day post was fairly well-received so I figured we’d keep the train rolling and move on to the next muscle group I train during the week. I should also state here that, updated from last week, I’ve changed my program to a five-day split so the remainder of this series will follow said split.

We hit those legs in last week’s post, so let’s hit chest this week, shall we?

Warm-Up

I don’t usually do a proper warm-up for chest day, but if you want to get the blood pumping, you can’t go wrong with a few minutes of skipping rope. If you want a functional stretch on the muscles we’re about to obliterate, you can do a few sets of push-ups. Again, I typically save all stretching for after the workout is complete.

Go Heavy: Barbell Incline Bench Press

4 sets; 8 reps; Rest 90 seconds
Primary:
Pecs — Secondary: Shoulders; Triceps

Starting heavy again this week. If you notice in the gif, you’ll see that I’m using a Smith Machine but you can use a standard set up for incline press if you so desire. There’s arguments both for and against the Smith, but I choose to do this exercise with it because my focus is on pushing heavy weight. A Smith will allow you to do that without having to stabilize. Don’t worry, though, there are some stabilization exercises coming up.

This is like all other exercises in this series in that when it’s the heavy exercise, we’re going to warm-up to the weight first. The first thing you’re going to do is position your bench and simply press the bar 10 times.

Next, you’ll want to take 50% of your working weight for the day and load the bar with it, keeping in mind Olympic barbells weigh 45 pounds. If you’re using a Smith machine and you’re not sure how much the bar weighs, ask someone at your gym as these vary. If you’ve never done an incline press, you can skip this step and just start by adding weight to the bar little bits at a time until you get to a weight that’s challenging for the allotted sets/reps. With the 50% load, we’re looking to get in 10 more reps.

Now it’s time to work. Load the bar with your working weight for the day and start repping it out. We’re going for 4 sets of 8 reps, resting 90 seconds between sets. Bring the bar down all the way to your chest, keep your breathing even and don’t be afraid to throw another 5 pounds on it if the set seemed easy.

At the end of the exercise, you will have done 52 reps. Rest a couple of minutes and then move on to the following superset.

(1/2) Superset: Dumbbell Bench Press

3 sets; 10 reps
Primary:
Pecs — Secondary: Shoulders; Triceps

Remember when I said we were going to be doing some stabilization exercises? That starts right now with these dumbbell bench presses. Start off with a couple of dumbbells held hammer-style, elbows bent and down by your side as you lay on a flat bench. Take a deep breath and exhale as you press the weights straight up, slightly rotating your wrists so the weights go from vertical to horizontal. Stay in full control here — no need to clank the weights together at the top if you can help it. Inhale as you slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.

You’re looking to complete 3 sets of 10 reps. You may not feel this immediately, but if the reps aren’t challenging by about the halfway point of each set, you should choose a higher weight. Once you complete your 10th rep of each set, take half a breath and immediately move on to the second move in the superset.

(2/2) Superset: Dumbbell Chest Flyes

3 sets; 10 reps; Rest 60 seconds
Primary:
Pecs — Secondary: Shoulders; Triceps

You’ll probably want to get a lighter weight for this exercise as your arms are going to end up pretty far away from your body at the bottom of each rep. You’ll start this move laying flat on the bench with your dumbbells held in a neutral position, arms held straight up as if you’ve just pressed them. Take a big breath, then slowly retract your shoulder blades and unlock your elbows as you lower the weights to your sides. Do not rotate your wrists. From the “bottom” position, simply reverse the move by contracting your pecs to raise the weights back up to the starting position, elbows again locked.

You want to complete 3 sets of 10 reps. Since this is the second of two moves in this superset, you raise up, drop the weights and take a 60 second rest before going back to the top for the next set of dumbbell bench press. After you’ve completed the superset 3 times, you can move on to the next move.

Standing Cable Flyes

2 sets; 15 reps; Rest 45 seconds
Primary:
Pecs — Secondary: Shoulders; Triceps

An important skill for any gym-goer, be you a meathead or otherwise, is to reasonably improvise when a piece of equipment either isn’t available or is occupied. This move can be done with a standard double-ended cable/machine set-up, but since my gym doesn’t have that, I use two identical resistance bands tied to the corners of our Smith machine.

If you’re using a machine with cables, you’ll likely just stand between the two ends of the machine and hold the handles of the cables in each hand with your arms out to your side, elbows bent very much like the bottom portion of the dumbbell flies only you’re vertical at this point. If you’re using bands, take enough steps away from whatever your base is to create a sufficient amount of tension on the bands with your arms out to your side just like the dumbbell flyes.

No matter your set up, start out with your left leg forward, right foot back, both heels flat on the ground. Take a deep breath and exhale as you contract your pecs to bring the handles out in front of you. Slowly breathe in as you retract your shoulders and return to the starting position.

Only 2 sets of this, but you can do a third if you’re having fun. I do 15 reps, take a 45 second break, then get back into position, this time with my RIGHT foot forward. 15 reps later, I’m ready for the final exercise.

Finisher: Push-Up Variations

3 sets; 15 reps (5x5x5); Rest 60 seconds
Primary:
Pecs — Secondary: Abs; Shoulders; Triceps

Find a bench — or a chair — or anything that’s a couple of feet off the ground. You’re going to do 15 push-ups for each set but you’re going to break it down into 3 styles, starting with an incline. Start with your hands at shoulder width (or wider) on a bench, your feet back far enough to allow you to hold a plank in the incline position. From here, complete 5 push-ups with good form (back straight, hips up).

Now we’re going to work our way “down.” Once you finish your 5th rep, immediately put both hands on the ground and bust out 5 more push-ups with proper form. After the 5th (10th total) rep, we’re going to finish at the “bottom” by putting our feet up on the bench and completing 5 decline push-ups with perfect form.

If you can’t finish all 5 push-ups with perfect form in any given set, stop, take a short break and finish the set. Your strength will grow considerably in a short amount of time with this circuit, I promise. You’re also getting a bit of a core workout here by holding your plank position for a total of 45 reps!

Have you finished your 45th rep? Then guess what? YOU’RE DONE!

Cool Down

Mix up a protein shake and feel free to do as much stretching as you need. I typically do the same stretching routine after every workout, but if you want to focus on your chest and shoulders, that would be smart. Don’t neglect the rest of your body, though. Your triceps, back, hips and legs did a lot of work today, too, even if they weren’t the focus of these exercises.


Just like last week, I’ve put together a printable version of this workout that you can use any time. I’ve included blank spaces for you to input your working weight and take a few notes so please take advantage of it.

JTF Strong’s Stronger Things Chest Day Workout

Enjoy and let me know how it treats you. Do you already have a chest day routine? Share it with me! And stick around because with any luck, next Sunday I’ll be publishing Shoulder Day!

 

Friday Fitness Finds 4/20/2018

While it seems like the rest of the world is making weed jokes today, I’m over here polishing off my meal plan for next week and looking forward to an early night. Lately I’ve been playing a lot of Tetris on my Roku because that’s what all 33-year-old single guys do on Friday nights, right? I’m getting weekly high scores so, you know, I’m pretty good.

This weekend is going to be the JTF Show at TITLE Boxing Club Knoxville. Come see me for boxing at 11:00am Saturday or 1:00pm on Sunday. I’m then doing MMA at 4:15. Maybe collect the whole set and come to all three?

Or not. That’s cool, too.

Also cool: This list of rad shit I found this week. Get down on it!

    • Sumo or Conventional? It Honestly, Truly, Doesn’t Even Matter by Dean Somerset
      One thing that I’ll admit was pretty intimidating to me when I got started lifting weights was wondering whether or not I was doing exercises right or if I was doing the right variation. There are so many segmented fragments of the weightlifting/fitness community, it’s easy to lose your shit and be left with a spinning head, having so much information provided to you that you can’t make a decision. Every other day I read articles about how if you’re going to bench press, you’re better off going incline — or close-gripped — or close-gripped incline. If you’re squatting, the “best” way is usually feet shoulder-width, dipping below parallel — or feet wider than shoulders, dipping to parallel. Do you go high weight, low rep? Low weight, high rep? SO MANY QUESTIONS. Dean does a great job here explaining why, when it comes to deadlifting, it really doesn’t matter. Barbell conventional? Barbell sumo? Trap bar? Flat shoes? Bare feet? In the end, the differences aren’t great enough for it to matter. Find your favorite way to hit your biceps femoris muscles and work ’em. You’re training legs so you’re already leaps and bounds above most bros at the gym, no?
    • This Bit of Advice from Good Fucking Design Advice
    • The Chocolate Protein Shake that Actually Tastes Like a Milkshake by Nia Shanks
      As much as I share her stuff, y’all probably think I have some kind of crush on Nia but I promise that isn’t the case. She just writes quality shit and I’m into quality shit. This week she shared this recipe for a protein smoothie that features almond milk, protein powder, cocoa and blueberries … with “optional” peanut butter, which obviously means “Duh, add peanut butter.” I haven’t made this recipe yet, but I’ve shared it with several friends and I think there’s now a race to see who can make it first and confirm its chocolate milkshakiness.
    • Some Stuff About David Bowie…
      While doing some research for tattoo inspiration, I found this photo of David Bowie:Hanging out on stage in boxing gloves during the Diamond Dogs era, I had to learn why he was wearing the gloves — like what was the significance? Turns out, there doesn’t appear to be any video footage of him wearing the gloves but I ended up finding these articles from Vice’s Fightland and Kut 90.5 talking about how Bowie was freaked out about Elvis dying on tour in the late 70s and thought he needed to make some changes lest he succumb to the same fate. What’d he do? He didn’t go on a diet or start running — he found a boxing gym in Texas and developed a passion for pugilism. I had no idea. Reportedly, he kept up a boxing routine to some extent throughout the rest of his career. David Bowie, a god, boxed for fitness. If that doesn’t make it cool, nothing does.
    • 17 Keto Recipes That’ll Make You Forget You’re on a Diet via The Strive
      Man, I swear to god I’m not following a Keto diet but it seems like they’re just killing it on great recipes lately. I’m trying to keep my carbs a little lower and usually have a hard time keeping my fat macro high enough so these Keto recipes are really doing the trick on my weekly meal plans. This is a compiled list made of various recipes from Keto Dash, all of which look amazing. I have my eye on the Mini Chicken Pot Pies, Biscuits and Gravy, Sriracha Crispy Baked Chicken and Garlic Gusto Pancetta Stuffed Chicken Thighs. Also, the Ribeye Steak Salad photo is hilarious.

    Music to Cut to

    First of all, it’s a big deal today that Stoner/Doom metalers SLEEP has released their first record in nine years entitled The Sciences. The record is being released by Third Man Records, which is strange, but the guys aren’t playing trendy Nashville hipster bullshit. This record is HEAVY, y’all, and it’s good, good, good. It’s streaming on Spotify, for sale on iTunes and is made available for order — on green vinyl, of course — on Third Man Records’ website.

    As much as I love Sleep, that’s not who gets the coveted weekly music spot. This week we’re talking about UK metal band Ingested. The guys are bringing their brand of metalcore to your ears for the first time since their last record The Architect of Extinction came out in 2015. This record, The Level Above Human drops next Friday and their single Purveyors of Truth is everything that is good about metalcore and nothing that sucks about the genre. Like, I’m pretty hard into this shit today*. Maybe I’m just in the right mood.

    *Honestly, I’ve been listening to Run the Jewels all afternoon …

    You can order this record as well as their other stuff from Unique Leader Records. They’re also going on an early summer tour with Aborted, Psycroptic, Disentomb, Arkaik and a few others.

    That’s as good as it’s going to get this week, guys. Keep your eyes open for another free workout coming up on Sunday!

[Free Workout] JTF “Stronger Things” Leg Day

So JTF Strong has been a thing since August 2017 and I haven’t shared a workout yet. What. The. Hell.

My current program is a four-day split that I’ve titled “Stronger Things” after I messed up a Stranger Things-esque shirt while trying to cut the sleeves out of it around the time I finished designing this program.

I figure that since I’m building plans fairly regularly now, it wouldn’t hurt to throw you guys a bone every once in a while. Consider this the first free workout bone. It’s my personal leg day. Every Monday. For now, at least.

I’m not going to go into detail about form or technique, though I’ll give you some basics. I’m also not going to specify what weight you need to be using because that’s going to differ from person to person. If you’re just getting started, then use your first workout to get an idea of the weight you can move in the rep range and number of sets I’m asking for.

Sounds easy enough. Let’s get started.

Warm-Up

A lot of websites encourage light warm-ups before lifting that include stretches, etc. I can’t in good conscious ask you to do one because I rarely ever do. However, on leg day I often do 5 minutes of jump rope first just to get warm and to hit my calves a little since there’s nothing here that specifically targets them. I also hold all stretching until the end. We’re going to use warm-up sets to stretch, y’all.

Go Heavy: Barbell Back Squats

4 sets; 8 reps; Rest 90 seconds
Primary: QuadsSecondary: Calves; Glutes; Hamstrings; Lower Back

That’s right. Right out of the gate we’re going heavy. But before we start throwing enormous weights on the bar, we’re going to work our way into it. Our goal is 4 sets of 8 reps so you’ll want to go with a weight you can get through it with using good form, but just barely.

Get prepared for this by being a plate hoarder. If you know how much weight you’ll be working with, get those plates out but don’t load the bar yet. Now calculate 50% of that weight and get the plates needed to build that as well. Keep in mind Olympic barbells weigh 45 pounds when doing your calculations.

We’re going to start by just squatting the bar 10 times. This helps grease the ol’ hinges and loosen up the muscles so they’re ready to start pushing big weight. Don’t worry about looking like a bitch. You’re being smart.

Next, we’re going to load the bar at 50% and crank out another 10 reps. Once you finish your 10th rep, rack the bar, load it at your working weight for the day and rest for about 60 seconds.

Now you do your actual squat. Back straight, feet shoulder-width(ish), eyes straight ahead. Inhale on your way down; exhale on your way up. We’re going for 4 sets, 8 reps. Rest about 90 seconds between sets.

(1/3) Tri-Set Circuit: Walking Dumbbell Lunges

3 sets; 10 reps (5 each leg)
Primary: QuadsSecondary: Abs; Adductors; Calves; Glutes; Hamstrings; Shoulders; Traps; Upper Back

No warm-up set is really needed here unless you just want to. You’ve basically warmed everything up with your squat earlier.

The focus here is on the lunge, not so much the weight you’re carrying around. The weight isn’t really even all that necessary for this move but I like the little bit of fatigue it contributes to in addition to the grip strength and shoulder work. My gif is a poor example, but ideally you want to take a big enough step so that your front knee stays behind your front toe. I’m pretty close here. You get the point.

We’re going for 3 sets of 10 reps; that’s 5 reps per leg. If you’re short on space, you don’t have to “walk.” Once you finish your 10th rep, move on to the next exercise in the circuit, resting only as necessary.

(2/3) Tri-Set Circuit: Landmine Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts

3 sets; 10 reps (5 each leg)
Primary: HamstringsSecondary: forearms; glutes; lats; lower back; upper back

I love RDLs (so much so that I’ve included a second variation of them in this same workout) and this is one of my favorite ways to do them. My balance isn’t great, but this is how you work on it. If you don’t have a landmine set up (I don’t) you can nestle a barbell into a random corner and deadlift away.

Your focus here is primarily don’t fall on your face. Keeping both legs straight, back straight, hinging at the top of each leg. Once you’re standing again, rest the toe on the ground for half a second and slowly lower the weight again. No fooling, this will also torch your forearms.

We’re looking for 3 sets of 10 reps; again, 5 reps per leg. Once you’re finished, move on to the last exercise in the circuit, resting only as necessary.

(3/3) Tri-Set Circuit: TRX-Assisted Pistol Squats

3 sets; 10 reps (5 each leg); Rest 60 seconds
Primary: QuadsSecondary: Calves; Glutes; Hamstrings

Pistols_reduced_1

Like I said earlier, my balance isn’t great. And for that reason, actual pistol squats are still problematic for me but I’m getting better. In the meantime, I like using the TRX bands to assist me in this freaky move, lowering my body slowly and bringing myself up a little quicker.

Your goal here is to burn those quads out but also doing so while using almost all leg strength. It’s very tempting to rely on your upper-body strength to pull yourself up and it’s imperative that you resist that temptation. The bands are only there for balance.

Again, 3 sets of 10 reps; 5 reps per leg. After you finish the last rep, take 60 seconds to breathe and then repeat the whole circuit again … twice.

(1/2) Finisher Superset: Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts

2 sets; 15 reps
Primary: HamstringsSecondary: Glutes; Lower Back

Just like I promised — more RDLs! Working the same lower-body muscles but the range of motion is just slightly different. Here, you’re going to want to hold two dumbbells in your hands, stand straight (but don’t lock your knees), feet about shoulder width and your heels driven into the floor. Keeping your back straight and hinging at the hips, those dumbbells are going to drag themselves down the front of your quads and down to your ankles. You’ll feel a stretch in your hamstrings if you’re doing it right. Slowly push your hips forward as you return to the standing position and repeat until you’re out of reps.

We’re looking for 15 reps so pick a weight you can hang on to for that long. It doesn’t have to be super heavy. Once you finish your last rep, move right on to the next exercise in the superset.

(2/2) Finisher Superset: Kettlebell Swings

2 sets; 15 reps
Primary: QuadsSecondary: Hamstrings; Glutes; Delts; Pecs

Set a kettlebell on the ground between your legs with your feet about shoulder-width apart (you can take them wider). You’ll want to hold the kettlebell by the handle with both hands out in front. This is a “swing” so we’re going to swing but our primary goal is to make this a workout for our legs, so we’ll slightly bend the knees, drop the weight down (while keeping our backs straight and eyes forward), then drive with our legs to push the weight out, being sure to keep our arms straight and ending at about shoulder level. Carefully lower the weight back to the starting position as you, again, drop your hips and slightly bend the knees to load up another explosive movement.

This part will be over quickly. Once you finish your 15th rep, take 60 seconds to breathe then repeat the superset one more time and you’re finished.

Cool Down

While I DO skimp on the warm-up most of the time, I rarely ever skimp on the cool down. Stretching is very important to me since I’m often teaching people how to kick and throw knees. Sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day also wreaks havoc on my hips. Once you’re finished with the workout, mix yourself up a protein shake and spend 10 or 15 minutes just stretching and foam rolling, being sure to specifically target those calves, hamstrings and quads.


I realize this is kinda crazy to reference, so after you get the point, I’ve created a handy-dandy Google doc you can reference/print with open spaces for you to input your working weight and take notes.

JTF Strong’s Stronger Things Leg Day Workout

And there you have it. I’ve finally shared a free workout with you guys. If you give it a shot, let me know how it goes and feel free to pass me any questions you may have.

Friday Fitness Finds 4/13/2018

In the spirit of keeping things moving, we’re going to keep pushing forward with FFF, y’all!

If you’re just joining us, this is where I share links to articles, recipes, essays, etc. that I think are beneficial for your body, fitness journey or just your overall well-being.

I have a surprise ready for you this weekend (well, something for your legs). Something that’s been a long time coming. Hang out for a while and I’ll show you. Like … Sunday morning. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

Until then, here’s this week’s finds:

  • 6 Things People Should Stop Giving So Many Fucks About by Mark Manson
    Back in December I read Mark’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and it was exactly what I needed at the time. The main lesson I took away from the book is that we control very little. We live in a world where shit happens to us and around us that we have very little control over. And while we have little control over what happens to us, we have full control over how we respond to it and it’s up to us to respond in as calculated and efficient of a manner as possible. In the above article, Mark reiterates this by listing six hot topics that currently get the whole world (seemingly) all excited, when in reality said excitement is a waste of our time, effort and attention (…and our finite amount of fucks to give). Fucks are precious, y’all. Don’t waste them on insignificant shit.
  • Recipes from Fit Men Cook
    Earlier this week I linked to a couple of recipes from Fit Men Cook and I can tell you that while they were a little bit of effort to pull off, this has been one of the most pleasant weeks of clean eating I’ve had — and I’ve had a lot of them. I’ll be doing Clean Eatz next week because of weekend travel but I’m already making plans for the following week’s meal plan. I’m hoping to include a couple of new recipes I’ve found on Fit Men Cook including Keto Rolls and (Bison) Sliders, Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Casserole and Bulgogi Quesadillas. I highly recommend this guy’s website for all things meal prep no matter what diet you’re following. He has options for Paleo, Keto, Vegan, Hard Gainer, you name it. Please be aware, however, that his macro count isn’t always accurate — I’ve also found that someone has usually called it out and corrected it in the comments for the recipes. In other words, don’t be afraid of the calorie count in those Keto buns.
  • The Nocebo Effect: Are You (Unknowingly) Thinking Your Way to Failure? by Nia Shanks
    Nia really opened my eyes to this back in February. Yes, I’ve had this link saved since February just so I could share it in the next FFF. I didn’t know it would be mid-April before I’d share it. Anyway, Nia covers what’s referred to as the Nocebo Effect where our minds/bodies react negatively to stimuli that may not necessarily exist, rather, it’s merely perceived to exist. This sounds deep as hell, and I guess it could be but let’s not get that far (yet). Nia illustrates the concept with a story about a woman complaining of the side effects caused by a medication she was recently prescribed. But the medicine she had been taking was merely a placebo and she was merely warned of the non-existant side effects. Knowing what was expected, she experienced them — or at least thought she was — despite not actually taking any medication. The same happens to us when we psyche ourselves out of our routines and I’m guilty of it. Read the article and you’ll get it, but in my instance, it’s the example of not having my preworkout on or not taking it early enough. In my mind, my workout is RUINED despite knowing that I’m the one that puts the work in and I don’t actually need it to get a good workout in. Still, if I don’t have my preworkout, I often feel as if there’s no use for me to even start. That ends now.
  • Resistance Training is Critical for Weight Loss by P.D. Mangan via Rogue Health and Fitness
    As most of you know now, I’m on a cut (read: cutting body fat/losing weight). The first question I’m always asked is So you’re doing more cardio? and the answer to that is yes, I guess, but I’m not — and won’t — sacrifice my strength training. The last thing I want to do is lose the gains I’ve worked hard to get over the last few months by only running and boxing every day. P.D. does a great job of explaining why strength training is important for anyone wanting to lose weight. To put it simply: Weight loss without strength training = loss of fat and muscle. Weight loss with strength training = loss of fat. More muscle mass = higher resting metabolic rate, therefore more fat gets burned. I fail to see how this doesn’t make sense to everyone.
  • The Sweet Spot for Intermittent Fasting by P.D. Mangan via Medium
    I found the above article from Mangan after reading this. Here’s a pretty easily understandable article about how intermittent fasting (supposedly) works. I’m finishing my second week of IF and will assess the effectiveness of it in a couple more weeks, but if you want a high-level explanation for how it works, why it works and the science behind it, this is a great place to start. The primary goal of the article is to explain why the “sweet spot” in IF is the 18-24 hour mark but in my personal journey, I’m doing something a little different. I have no desire to fast longer than 16 hours. Still good information.
  • Short-term Fasting Induces Profound Neuronal Autophagy by a slew of authors via US National Library of Medicine
    If you’re thirsty (hungry?) for more information on IF at a deeper, more scientific level, this article has you covered. Autophagy refers to your body’s natural ability to “cleanse” or clean house. When the body is stressed — say, by fasting — it naturally increases autophagy as a self-defense method, thereby kicking our self-cannibalizing abilities into overdrive. This, in addition to the aforementioned important strength training, ideally leads to a successful cut without sacrificing muscle mass. That’s what we all want, no?
  • Some Keto/Low-Carb Goodness from around the web
    I’ll reiterate that I am NOT following a Keto diet and I don’t really endorse it, but after last week’s super sexy Keto-Friendly Cheesy Cloud Biscuits recipe from Fit Men Cook landed on my radar, in my meal plan and in my tummy, I’ve learned that the Keto community knows how to make some amazing, passable bread! With that in mind, I came across this recipe for Stromboli that includes a low-carb, Keto-friendly dough that can easily be used for pizza and/or breadsticks as well. The Stromboli aspect here is what’s important though, because y’all … look at this shit! Low-Carb Reuben Stromboli — guys, this even comes with a relatively light, sugar-free Russian dressing. At 420 calories, 33g of fat, <7g carbs and 19g protein per serving, I think we have us a winner here! Granted, one serving makes up a little less than half of my daily fat macro, one could easily substitute low-fat Greek yogurt for mayo in the dressing to likely cut it down to a third of that but keep in mind you're also sacrificing flavor.

Music to Cut* to

*That’s cutting body fat, dummy. Not yourself. Or other people. Other things you can cut to this: in line; the cheese; a cake; it out; the acidity of tomato sauce; the grass; butter into flour; sleeves off a shirt … you get the point.

In addition to Fridays being when I try to publish these lists of useful info for you guys, it also just so happens to be new release day and I spend most of my afternoons listening to new metal releases. Most of the time they’re crap, but every once in a while I hear something that I want to add to a playlist.

Today I found that in a band I’ve never heard of — CORPSEHAMMER!

These guys are a pretty brutal black/death metal band from Sweden that has that sweet lo-fi sound that a lot of us love in the genre. They’ve released their new EP entitled Perversión today and Morbid Skull Records is doing a very limited (read: 99) release entirely on silver, gold and black cassette tapes. You can listen to their track Sexo and Muerte below and then head over to their merch page to order the cassette.

If you want to stream these guys, I’m afraid you’re SOL. Typing Corpsehammer in Spotify yields a single result — Triple Corpse Hammerblow by Children of Bodom. Not the same thing, but it’s one of the best metal song titles I’ve heard since Mayhem’s Chainsaw Gutsfuck.

Anyway. That’s all I have this week. Enjoy your weekend, freaks!

The Weekly Thing 4/9

Well look who it is.

After what appears to have been a three-month hiatus we’re back in action. I don’t even know what happened, y’all, for real.

I felt kinda bad about it so I’m going to throw a lot at you at once.

How’d the bulk go?

Mostly good things, I’d say. I sucked at taking measurements but I know for sure I’ve added quite a bit of size to my arms, shoulders, chest and quads. While my waistline didn’t seem to be affected much, I still put on about 15 pounds, half of which I’d say was actually quality weight.

Toward the end of the bulk, I hit my local Nutrishop and got a body analysis done. I plan to highlight this whole process the next time I do it because it’s rad as hell, but according to that analysis, my body fat percentage ballooned up to 18% (the last time I measured I think I was at 14%). I also thought I had gained 20 pounds, putting me at 220 pounds but in reality I was sitting at 215. This is important to remember.

It’s also important to remember that my analysis stated that my arms had 30% higher muscle mass than necessary. I said “You’re damn right!” but I’m now thinking their system needs to be re-calibrated. I’m thinking at least 35%, yeah?

So the bulk program was finished — what do you do now? Good question.

What Are we Doing Now?

Cutting. That’s what we’re doing. I’m not super concerned about my weight, really, but I am definitely wanting to get my body fat down to at least 12% if not maybe lower. I looked back at an old post here and saw I had a goal this year of getting to 199.9 lbs (or lower) so my original goal of 200 pounds is now 199.9. I’m already kind of killing it because I set a goal of “lose 20 pounds” when I thought I weighed 220. After weighing 5 pounds less than I realized, then losing 4 pounds of water weight and 1 pound of fat, I’m currently 210 pounds and halfway to my goal after one week.

That’s the key, y’all. Set your goals based on a weight higher than you currently are and you’ll blaze through that shit.

(Seriously, though. Don’t do that.)

So How are We Doing It?

The same way we bulked and the same way we maintained. Nutrition and exercise. So let’s talk about them both:

Nutrition

I’m doing my cut with a 1,000-calorie deficit and assuming I weigh 220 pounds (this will change next week). My macros currently look like this:

  • Calories: 2,690
  • Protein: 220 grams (880 calories)
  • Fat: 88 grams (792 calories)
  • Carbs: 255 grams (1028 calories)

In addition to trying to hit these macros, I’m experimenting with intermittent fasting where I fast for 16 hours every day and eat for 8. I plan on doing a full-on post about IF when this cut is over and I can give a full report on how it treated me but after a week I can say that it’s not been as hard to follow as I thought it was going to be. It’s only difficult to try to fit in 2,700 calories into an 8-hour window when you factor in gym time, office work and not eating (much) junk food.

This week my meal plan includes:

Two things: 1) Yes, that IS a lot of food to eat in an 8 hour window and 2) No, I’m not following a Keto diet so don’t ask. Those recipes just looked nice and were macro-friendly.

If you want to see how I make my meal plans, you can either ask nicely or hang out for a bit until I detail the process in the blog.

So You’re Cutting — That Means You’re Restricting Calories and Doing All Cardio, Right?

Wrong.

I’m still doing cardio, yeah. A lot of it, in fact. Lately I’ve been putting in 4-5 classes per week at TITLE Boxing Club but I’m also running three days a week. I decided that since I hadn’t ran since September 2017, I would be better off taking it slow and easy by starting with Couch-to-5k again and working my way back up to half-marathon distance so I’ll be ready when a planned race comes around in December. I’m currently a few weeks into it and it’s going really well. Not as hard as I was afraid it was going to be but I can definitely tell I haven’t been running, let’s just say.

And contrary to popular belief, since my focus is body fat and not really weight, I’m lifting MORE than I was. I’m back to doing a four-day split (Legs, Chest/Shoulders, Back/Core, Arms) and it’s pretty intense. I’ll continuously be changing the split but for the next two months I’m sticking with this and seeing where it takes me. My goal is to continue building muscle while using cardio to rip 8% of my body’s fat away.

I’ll detail each day of my split in its own post soon. Hopefully.

So What Does This Week Look Like?

  • Monday (that’s today): 5:45am Boxing at TITLE Boxing Club; Evening Leg Day
  • Tuesday: 6am run — C25K W5, D1; Evening Chest and Shoulders Day
  • Wednesday: 7:00pm Boxing at TITLE Boxing Club
  • Thursday: 6am run — C25K W5, D2; 7:00pm Boxing at TITLE Boxing Club; Evening Back and Core Day
  • Friday: 5:45am Boxing at TITLE Boxing Club; Lunchtime Arms Day
  • Saturday: 6am run — C25K W5, D3
  • Sunday: REST

Anything Else?

Yes.

I hope to accomplish two things with this cut. The first is obvious — cut my body fat. That’s a no-brainer. We’ve already talked about it.

The other, though, goes a little deeper. I joke about how I go sleeveless any chance I get and I sometimes get a little flexy but aesthetics are not my priority*. When I share my goals, my plans and my progress photos, I’m not looking for pats on the back or compliments. I’m not looking for critiques or anything like that, either. Rather, I’m hoping to provide some kind of example to someone out there that needs it. I’m one of millions of voices out here talking about fitness but I’m hoping my voice is able to help one person “figure it out.”

What’s it, exactly? Finding a program, learning nutrition and plugging the fuck away at it. It won’t be perfect. You will mess up. But you fix it and you keep going forward. You also break the rules. Paleo says you can’t do stuff. So does Keto. So does Primal. So does any other trendy diet philosophy. But we don’t diet here. We educate ourselves, find what we like, determine if it helps us achieve our goals and we set out to achieve them.

And we’re not obsessive idiots about it.

Right?

Right.

*Not that there’s anything wrong with aesthetics, really. I’m a big fan of them, they’re just not my focus and they shouldn’t be yours, either. I think if we’re being honest, though, they’re one of the biggest reasons we pursue a healthier version of ourselves. May as well embrace it.

Anyway. Enjoy your week, freaks. Since it’s relevant, here’s a photo of me doing curls that’s just dripping with aesthetics.