The Power of Music pt. 2 – Foo Fighters at Wrigley Field

It’s an amazing thing, the power of music. I’ve written before about the effects of it on workouts and motivation and how from time to time I like to switch it up and listen to motivational speakers. There is just something ingrained in me that allows me to tap into so many memories during a particular song, to recall smells, tastes, sights and sounds of the past. Certain songs are extremely powerful and last night I had a moment. During the Foo Fighters concert last night at Wrigley Field I had a moment where a wave of emotion just hit me and I remembered…the last time that I was in that stadium it was with my dad. I just stood there and looked at where we were sitting and took it all in. I remember taking him on the Red Line to the game, the seats we were in, the beer and hot dogs and the moment he decided to stand up and walk down to the railing and have me take a picture of him. It was a blast to say the least. We then went across the street and had a few beers before heading home.

Last night I couldn’t hear the music, couldn’t smell the aroma of the “fresh green” coming from a few rows down, I was just stuck in time, floating in my own head. I started to tear up and I just looked down at my girlfriend, Katie, and told her what was happening and she said she remembers me taking him that night. It was a great memory. Now I cant really make this up, but as soon as I snapped out of it, Dave Grohl starts a semi-solo and it builds up a little and then he breaks into one of the Foo Fighters most iconic songs, “My Hero”. I don’t move, I’m frozen stiff as a cold chill runs up my spine and I look at my arms full of goosebumps. I put my arm around Katie and the sniveling starts. I’ve seen this song played live before at Lollapalooza in 2011, but holy shit was that intense last night. 40,000+ people all in perfect unison screaming “There goes my hero…watch him as he goes”. It was beautiful, inspiring, emotional and unforgettable. I love and miss you Jeff Tiesman.

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For Kids, It’s About Education and Empowerment.

Young athletes are very curious, but often times don’t say much. A new atmosphere, a new coach, doing things they aren’t accustomed too, all can be extremely intimidating for them. Unfortunately for a strength coach, this does not provide the ideal situation. We want our athletes to be vocal and have high energy. A good coach will constantly talk with an athlete and ask questions to find out how there feeling that day, even before the workout begins. This can be as simple as asking “how was your day?” or “did you watch that game last night?”. How they respond is generally a limelight into how much attention and effort you will to provide for that one person. However, it can only take just a few seconds to help someone open up and become engaged in what they are about to be doing.

I have found that once you can establish a bond, a developed trust, or just an open line of communication with an athlete, the effort and production will take off. Becoming in tune with your athletes emotions and character will enable me to push them without them really knowing I’m doing so. They will trust and WANT to do the work, not have to be told to put more effort into something. In adding to this, I try to educate and empower them with knowledge of WHY they are doing things and HOW it will affect them. Giving them a clear mindset of how a certain movement such as a lateral hurdle hop to a stability hold helps develop proper angles of acceleration when making cuts and strengthens the posterior chain and core. Little tid-bits go a long way with letting them understand and become more in tuned with the movement, to really FEEL what they are experiencing. It’s the old theory of Mind-Muscle. Putting your thoughts into the muscle, movement, etc. and creating a much higher level of propioception and awareness. No one likes to just be told what to do and to do it with 100% effort without knowing why or what kind of results they should be looking to gain.

Without question I do this with every athlete, but since taking my new position and working with younger athletes, it is always a daily challenge (more psychological than physiological) to find ways to increase their output without them really knowing. I see it time and time again, a new athlete walks in while his mom and dad look on, is very shy and uninterested. After getting them away and opening up some dialogue, I find that they are being forced to come to workouts. This is the challenge that many coaches face and it’s what we do from that point forward that really has a gigantic effect on that athlete for the rest of there lives. How can I make them want to be there, to change there perspective on not only working out, but how strength and conditioning can have larger effects on other areas of there life; discipline, dedication, commitment, confidence and many more. I take on this responsibility and cherish it. Every coach should.

Revelation.

“Your father was a good man. Growing up without him is going be hard. It’s going to hurt. You’ll feel alone, out to sea with no shore in sight. You’ll wonder “Why me?” “Why him?” Remember, you have warrior’s blood in your veins. The code that made your father who he was is the same code that’ll make you a man he would admire, respect. Put your pain in a box. Lock it down. Like those people in the paintings your father liked, we are men made up of boxes: chambers of loss, triumph, of hurt and hope and love. No one is stronger or more dangerous than a man who can harness his emotions, his past. Use it as fuel, as ammunition, as ink to write the most important letter of your life. Before your father died he asked me to give you this poem by Tecumseh. I told him I’d fold it into a paper airplane, and in a way I guess that’s what I’m doing – sailing it from him to you.”

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion
Respect others in their view
And demand that they respect yours
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life
Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend
Even a stranger when in a lonely place
Show respect to all people and grovel to none
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living
If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself
Abuse no one and nothing
For abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision
When it comes your time to die
Be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death
So that when their time comes
They weep and pray for a little more time
To live their lives over again in a different way
Sing your death song
And die like a hero going home

 

I first heard this speech and poem from the film Act of Valor. I didn’t know it then, but it has become one of the most recalled upon piece of comfort and motivation to keep pressing on since my Dad passed away. The day, time, the scene, all of it is permanently engraved into my head and I still remember my brother, Jason sending me this during the night as we stayed up through the wee hours of the morning with our Dad and his nurse. There are certain parts of this that just scream Jeff Tiesman.

“Remember, you have warriors blood in your veins” … There is no truer statement about my father than that he was a F*&#ing Warrior. He did everything that was asked of him. He allowed me to help him workout before his surgery to speed the recovery up. He ended up taking nearly every type of chemotherapy and radiation that the doctors conjured up with a smile on his face. Never once did he get mad at anyone or upset about his situation because he knew it wouldn’t do anyone good. He never complained once…not once. He battled for my Mom, my brothers Mat and Jason, and he battled for me.

This is also a great time to let you know how much of a Warrior my Mom was. I can’t begin to even put myself in her shoes. She battled her own emotions to be strong for him. “Put your pain in a box. Lock it down.” This is as much of a quote for me now as it was for my Mom during this entire journey. She was strong, I mean extraordinarily strong and she still is till this day. She was there day in and day out with my Dad, changing his dressings, putting up with the aches and pains and doing everything she humanly could to make my Dad at ease. She never asked for sympathy from anyone and was relentless in her pursuit to make him better. My mom is one tough SOB and I love her dearly for being there with him when I couldn’t.

“Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend“… He loved his buddies,  Mark, Mike, Randy, Pete, JP, Tommy, Browny, the list goes on. Thursdays and Sundays were his favorite days because he would get to relax with all of them at the golf course and work on his lifelong dream of hitting a straight golf ball. He was courteous not only to his friends but to others as well. My dad followed the golden rule of  “treat those how you would want to be treated.”

The ending of the poem sums up the last few months of my fathers life. He was prepared, my mom made sure of that. He was not scared of dying, but rather the things he would miss. I guess I’m the same way. It’s a process, at least that’s what I’ve been told. A series of “firsts” that we must overcome. Holidays, birthdays, events, and memories or smells that make us think of him are all challenges we as family and friends must face and what I’ve come to realize is that there will be no end to it. To me, that’s a great thing. I never want to stop having “firsts”, that way I’m always constantly reminded of how great my Dad was and is.

“The code that made your father who he was is the same code that’ll make you a man he would admire, respect.”… Sorry this is becoming pretty personal, but it’s a good way for me to get some stuff off my chest. This is my blog after all. People sometimes ask me why I joined the Marine Corps. Most times I tell them that I wanted the challenge and to be part of the best branch of service there is. All of this is true, but not the complete answer. I joined the Marine Corps to make my parents proud and start my life. As you grow up, you stop taking your parents for granted and learn to really appreciate them and the sacrifices they make for you. When I joined, I wanted them to know that it was worth it. That I had done something with myself and made it. I had a phenomenal career in the Marine Corps. I was able to attend multiple advanced courses and was constantly pushing to better myself. Every time I got down, I called my parents and they set me straight. Some days I just wanted to quit, but they picked me up and I just kept pushing on. After getting out the Marine Corps, I went to college and earned my Bachelor’s. During that time is when my Dad got sick. He promised he would be there for my graduation and you bet your ass he was. When the opportunity for me to earn my Master’s degree and move to North Dakota to become an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach came around I was actually a little hesitant in my head. I knew I would be leaving him for at least a year, if not two. I didn’t know what could happen in that time and I thought it was selfish for me to leave him. Of course, in typical fatherly fashion, he kicked me in the ass and said “get a move on.” I did, and I finished my Master’s degree in one year even as it 90% of the time takes two. I wanted to thank him for everything he had done for me so I simply gave him my graduation tassel. A small token of thanks. He smiled, looked me in the eye and gave me a nod of acknowledgement. That was all and all that was needed.

In the final months, I asked my mom to have my Dad write me or do some voice recordings. I just wanted to have his words on paper or hear his voice. I didn’t care what it was or what he talked about. He could’ve talked non-sense for all I cared. I asked my mom later on if he had ever done it and she said that “he just can’t, it’s too hard.” I understood and I wasn’t upset. I can’t imagine and still can’t imagine the things that must’ve been going though his mind. I sit sometimes and just try to put myself in his position and it’s impossible. To say you understand or can relate with someone going through cancer and knowing the outcome in some situations, is impossible unless you have. While visiting one weekend, my girlfriend was looking for some paper and picked up a purple notebook to use. It wasn’t until I got back home that she said I should take a look at it. I opened it and kept skipping blank pages until towards the back I saw his handwriting. It was the beginning of a letter he was trying to write too me. It was only one paragraph and then the beginning of another and that was all, but I understood how hard it must’ve been to write that single paragraph and you know what…it was all I needed.

Thanks for your time everyone, I rambled quite a lot, but I just had to dump a little bit off my chest tonight. Cheers.

Under The Sun

 

An Interview With a Monstaaa!

In this new series, I will be interviewing different types of lifters and people in the Strength and Conditioning Industry. From coaches, olympic lifters, bodybuilders, and powerlifters, I will do my best to highlight individuals who I respect and feel can contribute their knowledge to my blog and to all of you. Hope you enjoy!

The first person I wanted to do an interview with was Brady Popkin. I’ve known Brady since we were kids and have been able to watch him progress with his work in the gym. We grew up together in a small town and played multiple sports together. He is by far one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. I say this with complete honesty…I wish I had 1/10th of this guy’s talents. Brady has his degree in Biology, is a music composer and a warlock on the guitar to just name a few. You can check his YouTube channel (linked below) out if you want to listen to his music or watch him shred on the guitar. He has an internal engine that doesn’t quit and a drive to better himself every time he steps foot inside a weight room. I find his hard work and dedication to his craft admirable and it’s far beyond a normal mortals capacity.

BRADY POPKIN:

Statistics:
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 240
Squat: 585 (wraps)
Squat: 550 (no wraps)
Deadlift: 635
Deadlift: 600 x 2
Bench: 375

CT: Let’s start with the basics. Tell us when you began lifting and what motivated you to start.

BP: I started lifting when I was 21. I remember being amazed at how jacked my lab partner was in college, he was jacked and tan! My initial motivations were surely based solely in vanity. I always felt like a small guy, and I had a lot of insecurities to compensate for.

CT: I remember you a little bit differently at that age because you were always one of the bigger guys in our class growing up. I think a lot of that came from your swimming career and the fact that it helped you develop a frame of having broad shoulders and a slim torso. Would you agree with that assumption?

BP: I would definitely agree. I feel like my physique still looks like a swimmers physique, except that I’ve packed more muscle onto it. Back muscles are paramount in swimming, so I find no coincidence that my back is one of my best and strongest features. Additionally, that muscular endurance has stayed with me after all these years. I think that in the absence of all those grueling years in the pool my frame would look, as well as perform much differently. That’s why I still believe that swimming is the greatest workout.

CT: Fantastic! I completely agree that swimming is an amazing workout. As far as the muscular endurance, I can definitely attest to your capacity. I remember coming back to our home town and working out with you and just being completely astonished at your work capacity. We were doing back that day (coincidence) and we were doing Lat Pull-Downs paired with Chin-Ups and you just kept crushing set after set while I was gassed and could barely pull anything at that point. After how long of lifting did you start packing on the muscle? Did you start out on any particular workout program?

BP: I remember that day too! Great times….I began noticing size gains exactly one year after I started lifting I remember putting on about ten pounds of lean mass in roughly 3 – 4 months, naturally. I think I started making gains because I was discovering what worked for my body. I’m not a big believer in doing 10 reps for building muscle, 15 for definition, 1 – 6 for strength and power etc. Everyone’s body responds differently to the stressors placed upon it. Most of the local guys I looked up to at the time were just going heavy and moving weight, and commanding respect! Haha! As amateur as this seems to me now, I was shrugging weight up to 585 to start my back days. I just started focusing on lifting heavier, while still keeping my volume high with additional sets in between the heavy ones. This took me from 190 to about 200lbs pretty quickly. I’ve never been a big fan of using machines either. Everything was heavy and using free weights…. Best way to grow in my experience. As far as programs, I’ve always been an instinctual lifter. I listen to my body and lift accordingly.

CT: Great point about not conforming to a specific program. There are so many out there and from my experience, any of them will get you gains as long as you commit too it. I believe that many times in this industry people generally try to label what they do as the “go to” in progressive gains for things such as athletic performance, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, etc. and that just isn’t the case. I think that you hit the nail on the head by what you said because it seems that as you progressed, you educated yourself by listening to your body and finding what works for you. There is no specific roadmap to success when it comes to an individuals body. However, most times an individual will stick to what they first do because in the first 4 months you are going to see your largest jumps in strength, power, endurance and body type…much like you did. In reality that is just your bodies initial response to an external stimulus and neural motor programming. It’s the journey and grueling hours that educate you on what works later on.

I know you were still in college at this time so what did your diet look like during that first year from food to supplements? Also, I know you kind of bounced around from wanting to possibly do bodybuilding competitions (as you can tell from your current physique) to powerlifting. What was your mentality during this time and do you classify yourself as one or the other now?

BP: Just to add a little more specific information to that last conversation point, I’m a big believer in “evolution”… psychology, biology, everything. Put your body in a position where it has to change to survive and you will always grow and progress. It’s similar to the diathesis-stress model in clinical psychology. You apply stress to your body, and your specific genetic code will make your body change according to the stressors it’s exposed to.

In this period I had no idea what I was doing in terms of diet. I remember a guy at the gym (Westwood Gym in Sterling, IL) recommended me to try the age old body weight in grams of protein plan. Other than that I just ate very healthy, lots of fruits and vegetables etc. Because I’ve always had more physical jobs I’ve taken in additional calories from shitty foods too, Oreos, cheesecake, anything sugary and calorie dense. Upping my protein made a noticeable difference though, it was great advice to a dedicated beginner.

At this point I would say that I’m a vain powerlifter, haha. There has really been a changing movement in powerlifting in the last 10ish years, with more of the great lifters being aesthetic. When we were young, I thought of powerlifters as fat, hairy dudes in bench shirts. Today, you have greats like Pete Rubish, Stan Efferding, Chris Hickson, Dan Green, etc, killing huge numbers raw and looking good doing it. It’s refreshing and encouraging. I’d like to think that I use a hybrid style to achieve the most I can in both realms. At this point in my life I’m the strongest I’ve ever been, and my physique is the best it has ever been. I don’t plan on changing my lifting style any time soon.

CT: Great response! I completely agree with your ideas on your bodies response to stress. To me I like to utilize and explain it with the “Fight or Flight” response, which refers to a “physiological reaction that occurs in the presence of something that is terrifying, either mentally or physically.” Very similar to what you explained. I was hoping you would make a reference to the stereotypical powerlifter of the past. I also thought and visualized them as fat and hairy haha. The raw power and explosiveness that can be gained from powerlifting is undeniable. What are your thoughts on powerlifting and athletics? Are there elements of powerlifting that could benefit a young athlete or an elite level athlete? Also, Is there a certain type of individual that it takes to be a powerlifter (physically or mentally)?

BP: I think that the core power lifts are great training tools for any sport that requires quick bursts of speed…a running back sprinting down field, a baseball player running to first base after hitting the ball, a track athlete running the 100m.  Squats and deadlifts develop a terrific explosiveness that can’t be achieved with other training tools. As an example, if my 240lb frame could sprint against my 180lb frame, the 240 would win every time. Power lifts have also been shown to elevate testosterone levels as well. These lifts are critical to novice and elite level athletes.

To answer your second question, anyone can perform these power lifts. I do think that certain characteristics of an individual will make them more likely to succeed in a sport like powerlifting. You have to be somewhat of a masochist, a risk taker, an adrenaline junkie. However, all athletes can benefit from these movements in their respective sports. Physically it seems that certain body types are oriented toward specific movements. Individuals with a smaller waste and lanky torso may be better at squatting and deadlifting, compared to someone shorter and barrel chested who may be better at pressing movements. I don’t like to think like that though.

CT: Building off your last point about certain body types possibly being more suitable to excel at certain lifts, many people watching powerlifting will see the thick lifting shirts and trunks and yet many of these lifters barely even touch parallel on squats. After watching your videos on YouTube and your pictures, it seems that you make it a point to emphasize that you get below parallel on your squats. Why is this? What is your opinion or thoughts on the advantages or of squatting below parallel?

BP: I’m so glad that you brought this up, Casey. I think powerlifting today is somewhat plagued by guys testing the limits of legal lifts to try and break world records. I love Mark Bell and his gym, super training, but it seems like their meets let almost any form go at times. I look at this from two different perspectives. First, squatting above parallel and calling it a good lift is like saying you climbed Mt. Everest but only trekking a fraction of the mountain.

A more important way to look at this is from a physiological stand point. What happens when you squat at or below parallel? Explosion from the hole, intense leg drive, a powerful hip drive, large amounts of core activation, use of important stabilizer muscles, using the lower and upper back muscles to keep the body upright… all of these benefits are significantly reduced when squatting above parallel. The body just doesn’t benefit. I see a lot of aspiring body builders today avoiding squats and deadlifts…and it doesn’t surprise me that their core muscles are underdeveloped. The deeper the squat, the more the body benefits.

CT: I absolutely agree and very well said. I think we’ll wrap up there Brady. Thank you so much for spending your time on this and you definitely have a firm grasp on your training and great knowledge that anyone will benefit from. Any last comments or thoughts?

BP: Figure out what works for your body, instead of falling victim to programs or diets that are usually misleading.  Listen to your body, work hard, eat right, and your genetics will do the rest. If anyone is interested, my Instagram is “Mooosecake” and I also have a YouTube channel where I post progress videos. Thanks for allowing me to be a part of your blog, Casey! This was fun!

Check out some of Brady’s videos here!

Squats and Deadlifts w/ Chris Hickson.
Deadlifting 600×3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music vs. Talk Radio…A New Approach

Over the past five months I’ve been down in the dumps pretty regularly. Losing my Dad to his battle with cancer has been pretty tough. It’s little things that I see or experience that remind me of him. Whether it be for the battle and strength he showed us, or just that I miss the hell out of him. I know i’m not the only one who feels down in the dumps at times. It really makes me feel un-motivated to do things and to stay on track with my goals. It’s like hitting a brick wall while driving 80mph.

In relation to my health and fitness goals, when I’m down and in the dumps, it makes me extremely un-motivated and unwilling to put in the effort to stay on course. I usually would turn to music to change my mood. However, in the past couple of months, I have found that listening to motivational speakers, mashed up with music during my workouts has really changed my attitude. It’s like having my own strength and conditioning coach in the background motivating me to go a little harder, a little further, a little heavier in every set and rep. Maybe it’s just relieving for me because that is the role that I take on daily in my career.

I have listened to many different speakers, but the one that I regularly go to is Eric Thomas. If you are a frequent YouTube visitor you may have seen or heard him speaking in many “weight room motivational videos”. He is most famous for his coined phrase “You have to want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe.” Eric has some great speeches on his YouTube channel and has recently put out a book. Give him a listen to when you have some time.

Anyways, I just wanted to share with you the things that are working for me and helping me to keep progressing.

 

Cheers,       Coach T

The Squat: Simple Coaching Cues For Any Level – Pt. 1

The Squat is by far one of the most basic human movements, done daily while at work, sitting on the couch, playing with kids, yet it is one of the most troublesome movements that can have damaging effects on the body and lead to chronic pain if not done properly. Most of the major cues for this movement are for the lower body and generated around the premises of increasing muscular tension and torque to move an external load. I want to discuss three very simple ones for the lower body that I use to give you some food for thought during your next squat session. More will be covered in future posts as this Coaching Cues series continues.

FEET: “Feet straight, Screw your toes outward and split the paper”
The base of this movement is highly variable and is taught differently from coach to coach. Screwing the toes into the ground helps generate torque at the joints and set the ankle and knee into proper alignment. Splitting the paper means to take your feet and literally think about ripping paper in half. This cue helps engage the muscles of external hip rotators (primarily your glute medius and piriformis), your hamstrings, groin muscles and quads. The reciprocal effect is a better creation of lower body tension and stretch reflex at the bottom or “hole” position.

KNEES: Driving the knees outward will help generate external rotation torque in the hip joint if you keep your feet pointed straight ahead. This is greatly demonstrated by Kelly Starrett in his book “Becoming a Supple Leopard”. The caveat to this is that you do need a good amount of hip mobility to be able to do this and reach full depth. With keeping the feet straight, this also helps ensure the knee does not dive into a valgus fault with your ankles collapsing and the knee dropping in.

Kelly Starrett demonstrating outward knee drive

This is a highly debatable area of the squat along with the feet position. Whether to keep the feet angled out slightly, keep them straight ahead, should the knee stay over the foot angle or should it press out as you lower. These debates mostly stem from people analyzing the elite level lifters and there techniques. Many of them are genetic freaks and even there styles differ from person to person. So it comes down to “who do you follow and what do they do” as to what is considered proper. I read a lot of articles and research and in the end it comes down to what do I think works for me and my athletes or clients. If something is not working for someone, I go back, analyze the movement pattern and adjust accordingly.

HIPS: “Sit back in your hips”
Very common cue here. Nothing fancy about it. You want to sit back like your sitting down in a chair almost. This cue has a lot of pitfalls as many people will drop there chest level and “reach” there hips back instead of allowing them to sit back in a natural and smooth lowering pattern.

A good way to learn this is to practice wall squats. Stand close a wall with your toes nearly touching it. Raise your hands above your head and keep them locked out without touching the wall, but as close to as possible. Perform a squat without having your knees or hands touch the wall. If done properly, this exercise will force you to sit back in your hips, keep your chest up and allow you to generate the proper movement pattern.

Proper Overhead Wall Squat

So again, as a disclaimer for this series, these are very basic cues that I utilize for my training programs and coaching. There are numerous ways of cueing individuals, from audible, visual, and tactile. Hopefully this will help some individuals who never have heard of these cues or why they are used and maybe spark some ideas or conversation for some of you seasoned vets. Either way, thanks for stopping by and look for more to come soon.

Cheers,
Coach T