Its as simple as carrying weights!


THAT'S a farmer's carry!

Weighted carries have gained substantial popularity in the personal training and strength & conditioning fields the last few years, much via the writings and teachings of coaches like Dan John. Coach John is one of those mentors of the mentors guys in the field who is brilliant at teaching and brilliant at the basics.

Coach Dan John

Weighted carries are one of those basics. They are a total body exercise which trains the muscles to stabilize proper posture during movement (walking), an incredible amount of core work, rotator cuff activation and shoulder stability (which is essential for anyone from asymptomatic fitness enthusiasts to throwing sport athletes to contact sport athletes), and heart rate training (aka “cardio”). So in other words: Do you want to be stronger? Do you want to be more powerful? Do you want more confidence on the field because you’ve worked on preventing injuries common to your sport? (I going to assume to want these things to take your game to the next level.)

A few of my favourite variations to use are the most basic: farmer’s carry, heartbeat walks, bottoms-up waiter carries, suitcase carries, and some hybrids which can be implemented. But in essence, each training session we are after a slightly different stimulus with the carries, and select them based on prioritization of client needs.

For example, if I really want to hit some dynamic rotator cuff and stability stability function, I look at heavy farmer’s carries and bottoms-up walks for decent yardage. Amazingly simple and amazingly effective!

I’ve have a follow-up with some video for how I’ve modified some of these lifts as kettlebells are a commonly prescribed tool. However, many commercial gyms do not have kettlebells except in group exercise areas, and that’s no reason to not try these exercises!

In the meantime, pick some weight up, walk, put it down. Be brilliant at the basics!

Train Hard, Train Smart!


Your T-spine and you


So we’re delving back into T-Spine territory again after sharing a drill I’ve incorporated in my clients’ warm-ups.

Today we’re hitting the basics: “Why is this t-spine stuff so important?”

First, “t-spine” is short for thoracic spine. Please, if you want your body to be a lean, mean, elite athlete machine, learn a bit about it.

Usually its about looking out for your low back or your neck, or your shoulder, or your knee, but never t-spine…at least not yet! It is still important however because it is in between your low back and neck. And since everything in your body is connected, it exists in a functional interplay with these objects. Something out of whack with your low back or neck? You got it, the t-spine will have a resulting shift in stress as well.

Why else is it important?


Computer guy. ‘Nuff said.





Your scapular (shoulder blade) mechanics are altered in this posture since the shoulder blades cannot lie flat against the ribcage,and so they’re in a bit of anterior tilt. Well now your acromion is depressed, and so there is increased likelihood that as you lift your arm up overhead/go into shoulder hyperflexion or abduction, your humerus is smashing up against Mr. acromion, and its a party that could lead to having pain. Pain that affects your training and athletic endeavours.

Or, your t-spine becomes stiff from being in that hunched-seated position and now you pretty much get flexion and extension via your low back and neck. Cool, they need to do that, except your t-spine is stiff remember. So your low back and/or neck have to pick up some slack so you can still move normally. Now you’re hoping that the extra movement at one of these segments doesn’t cause some issues with the discs in the lumbar or cervical spine

Pretty healthy cascade of events right?

But in all seriousness, this isn’t just to get you down about spending too much time on Facebook . The message is simply to take care of your business. If you know you sit at a desk all day at work or school, then do your t-spine and the rest of your body some favours when you train, by giving it the movement it should have but may not get in those societally-influenced environments. Another factoid: We all have some level of dysfunction going on, the key is to keep it from becoming symptomatic i.e. painful. Particularly if you want your body to throw 90 mph fastballs or hit 400-foot bombs. That’s a ton of force to produce through your body…its also a ton of stress on it. Take responsibility and reduce your risk of injury.

Movement-wise what can we take from our beloved computer guy above, and make into good training information?

Well, we can see he’s rounded through the upper back, called kyphosis. If you’re this flexed, you gotta get working on your extension. Grab a foam roller, set it at the base of your ribcage, extend over it a couple times, move the roller a quarter roll up your back, and repeat until you reach your shoulder blades.

Img from Bj Gaddour's

If its also this flexed, rotating it usually isn’t so hot either, so that’s a focus too. The drill from Friday is great for this.

So the typical recipe is mainly extension and rotation. Add these into your warm-up, one set of each, and you’ve helped counter the sitting and hunching over your subjecting your spine to each day. Congrats, that’s an investment in making yourself a bulletproof athlete* (or at least just an athlete who’s managing their injury risk.)

Train Hard, Train Smart!

* – Much like Red Bull does not actually give you wings, doing t-spine drills does not actually make you bulletproof. Don’t try to be a hero.

I use Dr. Craig Liebenson’s T-spine drill


This is Dr. Craig Liebenson’s version of the t-spine (short for thoracic spine) which he is coaching during a presentation here in Toronto last fall. I could not attend, but saw this posted by one of the attendees. Then I tried it out, realized it was tough, liked it, and starting coaching it like this with my clients.

Some things I learned were to get the forearm on the ground further forward, and lifting the head (really demanding extra extension at the tspine) at the top of each rotation. The main cue I use now then is “Rotate up, lift your head up”.

Use it in the warm-up. Most people are stiff through their mid-back so motion is created at the low back or neck. Sort of a path of least resistance scenario. I’m not a chiropractor like Dr. Liebenson, so I haven’t played with the rib mobilizations he discusses in the video, but I feel the t-spine drill is gold. Just do it right.

It will play a part in maintaining as low an injury risk as possible so you can a) keep training without injury related layoffs, and b) keep kicking butt on the field/court/ice! After all, playing (and winning) is the ultimate goal, and you can’t win from the bench!

I almost forgot: do 1 set for 8-12 reps on each side.

Are your rotator cuff exercises working your rotator cuff?


Here’s a line from one of my more popular posts on the blog I kept to record my learning the first couple years in the fitness and sports training industry. The point I’m tying together with this post and the excerpt is the proper way to do the traditional rotator cuff exercises, and when you’ll know you’re doing it correctly and not-so-correctly.

Here’s the excerpt first:

“…I actually think rotator cuff exercises are one of the more abstract exercises to teach in that it isn’t about your arm moving a weight from point A to point B. Its about shoulder rotation, and everything from the elbow down (forearm and weight) ┬ámerely gets to go along for the ride. Unfortunately the former becomes the default plan of execution because the weight is in the hand, and based on our earliest exposures to strength training, we are taught to “lift the weight”.”

Think "rotate"

When doing rotator cuff external rotations — in whatever seated, lying, or standing position — you should feel the muscles get fatigued in the back just next to the armpit.

Focusing on “lifting the weight”? Common responses regarding feel are the shoulder muscles (rear or medial deltoids depending on position) or the biceps.

I tell my clients, “rotate your forearms up towards the ceiling”. Focus on upper arm rotation and the muscles you intend to train will be stressed more than those other larger, more dominant muscles.

These exercises are an effective part of an overall shoulder health program (not the WHOLE program), so keep doing them, just make sure you’re doing them right.

Remember, its about training hard and training smart.So until next time, Train Hard, Train Smart!

“Free-Thinking Renegade-ism”


To start your Tuesday, here is another note courtesy of Brian Grasso.

Yes, this ideology on living your life with courage, no fear, and complete confidence in your ability to create what you want can for sure extend beyond the realm of fitness goals. In other words, I hope it helps you in gaining the mindset to achieve your fitness, body composition, or athletic goals. You may also take more from it than that though. Enjoy!

“FTR” = Freethinking Renegade

The distinction is more simple than you likely realize.

In theory, at least.

It is the uncomplicated idioms that we have been conditioned to repeat through imagery, visualization and self-talk techniques.

In practice however, the line is for more complex.

Because while greatness does exist in all of us, very few opt to ever discover or make it operational.

The ‘paved road’ proves more innocuous.

The ‘lushness of comfort and ease’, far too persuasive.

The ‘bait of convenience’, an oasis within the storm of life.

In practice, what separates them (everyone else) from us (My “FTR Nation”) is a matter of engagement….

Freethinking Renegades, at their deepest, have an aching to see, do and be something extraordinary.

An aching.

Urgency pulsates; consumptive fire brims.

We are the beacons that have been foretold; the great creators of change that were prophesized.

And with grand audacity, we accept the role.

Or do we?

The paved road safety permits the consequence of enjoying the breath of life in this read, but maintaining an existence.

The lushness of comfort and ease allow us to press ‘like’, but carry on our day in muted passivity.

The bait of convenience enables our ability to offer empty commentary of agreement, but not truly adopt the “FTR” way.

It is infinitely more taxing to actually spread the message of Freethinking Renegade-ism by sharing these Notes and becoming a living testament to the cause.

Decisively more difficult to stop chanting the mantras and start creating your legacy.

Vastly more challenging to cease hiding behind the shield of satisfied; instead unleashing the audacious sword of fulfillment.

The visualization and imagery tools are useful.

The self-talk an important raft to begin your sail.

But in the end, Freethinking Renegades audaciously pursue.

To become extraordinary.

To do, see and create extraordinary things.

Be Audacious; Change the World.


Shared: Audacious Tribute to Steve Jobs


Back after the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Whether you were here or elsewhere in the world, I hope your weekend was awesome! Today I am sharing another note from Brian Grasso. Let it reignite that commitment to being unreasonable in pursuing your goals; let’s start the week focused!

Steve Jobs: My Audacious Tribute……

I have watched as so many pay tribute to Steve Jobs this week.

Posting the quotes of this maverick revolutionary.

Casting the image of this icon as their own personal profile pic.

Writing touching “RIP” status updates about this renegade visionary.

But the true weight of his legacy will pass if we do not cease in remembering him merely through passing homage.

Veiled platitudes.

I don’t believe he wanted us to revere his quotations as much as he was asking his to live by them.

So, I say this to you:

Have you altered your own life course because of his remarkable lessons?

Re-set your internal compass to a directional pathway where absolutely nothing is impossible?

Steve Jobs was the Freethinking Renegade.

He wrote the great dissent.

Created the ideas whose time were not yet here.

Envisioned a changed planet while the common sat comfortable in the one we already had.

Innovated and relentlessly pursued.

But who will be next?

Who will fill the shoes of this legendary giant among us?

Decide to be audacious in a world of conventional?

Do the extraordinary and then make it routine?

Push the bar higher and then force us all to acclimate to a new standard of excellence?

Rebel against the cloak of normal; searching not to fit in, but to stand out?

Steve Jobs was not a myth nor was he an exception…..

He was an example.

Of what every Freethinking Renegade could do if they chose to.

My tribute to this fascinating non-conformist is to live with as much eccentricity as he did.

Confound expectations.

Build the FTR Nation into an empire of soulful and purposeful people; working endlessly to exhume the greatness we all have tucked away inside.

And let it be known now.

Let it be said this day.

When I am called and my time here is through, I do not want shallow acknowledgments or trivial gestures…..

I want you to live the way you know you can; and teach others to be equally as extraordinary.

I want you to pursue with purpose; and leave in awe all who dare to watch your journey.

I want you to champion the Freethinking Renegade Manifesto; preaching audacity as the solace our world needs.

Let that be my only legacy.

RIP, Mr. Jobs…… With much audacity, I accept the torch you’ve handed me…….

……. We all need to.

Be Audacious; Change the World.


P.S. – To My FTR Nation…. Pass This On….

Pro Athletes who value their nutrition


Good morning! One for the athletes out there today!

ESPN did a cool article on what SF Giants closer Brian Wilson eats during a gameday. A) Its refreshing to see a pro athlete who cooks his own food and B) Notice the food he has the is pulled out of a box.

The link: ESPN Training Lab


Even if you are not looking to pursue elite sports, the big picture can help or serve as a reminder to you to. Good fresh food, cooked by you. Notice what he says about dining out too (image 5).

Wow, that tuna looks good!