Making Progression Through Strength

Tag: Training

Scapular Mechanics: Lesson 2

Scapular Mechanics: Lesson 2

The last lesson on scapular mechanics was via a Facebook Live video where I discussed scapular mechanics during a horizontal rowing pattern. Here is a great example of both vertical AND horizontal rowing with the plate loaded high-row machine. This is by far one of […]

Two Years of Eating “Too Much Protein”

Two Years of Eating “Too Much Protein”

Being a two-year study subject has its perks. Things like free blood work, free body composition analysis via the Bod Pod & DEXA, and free protein supplements are just a few of those perks! Big thanks to Dr. Jose Antonio, Co-Founder and CEO of the International Society of […]

Locating Integrity in the Fitness & Nutrition Industry

Locating Integrity in the Fitness & Nutrition Industry

In a multi-billion dollar industry with growth on the rise year after year, it seems like everyone wants to get in on all of the potential profits to be made even if it is at the expense of others. From know-it-all trainers that are getting clients injured due to negligence to self-proclaimed nutrition experts selling you supplements that don’t work and may actually be doing more harm to you than good.

There is a lack of integrity in this industry that gives credible professionals a bad name. Here are some signs you should be aware of when dealing with these individuals…

On the Fitness Side…

All too often I hear of horror stories that others have had going to unqualified trainers and coaches. A lot of times these stories involve injuries, unpleasant experiences, and a lack of personal touch to the training experience. People buy trainers, not training. They are in it for the results AND the experience.

When trainers and coaches neglect fundamental concepts such as exercise frequency, volume, intensity, and duration of exercise then it leaves the client exposed to an increased probability of exercise-related injury (1). For example, you’re likely thinking about CrossFit. Truth is that there a lot of GREAT CrossFit coaches that have done their due diligence in studying the fundamentals of exercise prescription and biomechanics. Clients can get injured by negligent trainers anywhere, any time.

As a client, how do you know the person(s) you’re about to hire is well-qualified? I would suggest interviewing that trainer on their education, credentials, years of experience, and what he/she does to continue their education in the field (This is actually funny because I can count on one hand how many people have asked me about my credentials and education since I started training in 2011). Previous client testimonies can sometimes serve as a professional reference on a résumé with proof of the trainer’s work…provided that they are real.

As a trainer, ALWAYS COVER YOUR ASS! Most personal training certifying organizations offer discounts to Professional (malpractice) and General Liability coverage (simple mistakes). Get Insured! Unless you have millions of dollars laying around, get coverage!

It definitely helps if the trainer has a website, has established a social media presence, offers online training, and has YouTube videos (I’m a shill! What can I say?) Long story short, know what you’re getting in to and do your research!

On the Nutrition Side…

This area gets tricky since supplements come in various forms of bullshit. For a long time, there wasn’t much quality information available on the internet unless you went to PubMed or some other peer-review, research-based website and then extrapolated your own conclusions from the studies. Unless you are involved in academia, then that is VERY unlikely.

Some of the most basic and cheapest supplements are the best ones! But supplements like Vitamin D3, fish oil, creatine, whey protein, and multivitamins aren’t sexy. People want the latest and greatest, celebrity endorsed, and overly-hyped supplement.

You’ve got people believing that putting butter in coffee is the greatest thing since sliced bread, that “fat-burners” actually work (Hint: most don’t), and doctors with no formal education in sports nutrition and supplements recommending “miracle cures” such as garcinia cambogia and raspberry ketones. For the record, neither of which are an effective supplement for weight loss in humans according to Hopefully, you’re not someone that bought into the hype. If so, then I can only leave you with THIS.

The best thing you can do is to fully research each individual ingredient on EVERY supplement you plan to purchase to create a full awareness of what it is you’re buying and putting into your body. One important aspect people tend not to take into account is the possible dangerous interactions with prescription drugs you may already be taking. In order for some supplements to work they need to be taken in efficacious dosages, not small amounts in undisclosed proprietary blends. The consumer and said nutrition expert needs to know what is proven to work and what isn’t along with possible precautions.

Supplements aside, be cautious of unqualified professionals that give nutrition advice that is outside of their scope of practice. There are 17 states that are very restrictive on nutritional counseling. For example, even though I am a Certified Sports Nutritionist through the International Society of Sports nutrition (ISSN), I cannot give individualized nutrition counseling without a state license or exemption (this is where Registered/Licensed Dietitians come in). The rules and regulations vary by state so check out to see what is legal and illegal where you practice.

Individual faults aside, large supplement companies also lack integrity as many have inaccurate label claims such as the case with protein spiking. It’s not that the industry is unregulated because Congress, the FDA, FTC, and NAD all oversee the market. It is just insufficiently enforced. Quality control is the main issue in the supplement industry (2).


Not everyone is out to do the right thing so just be aware, do your research, and stay abreast on current topics in health, nutrition, and fitness. Trainers and nutrition experts need to do their part to give our industry a better name. If you don’t have the answers it is completely okay to admit that. I do it all the time. The journey is a learning process so learn along the way and maintain integrity. Doing so will keep you winning in the long-term.






  1. Bibi, Khalid W., and Michael G. Niederpruem. “Chapter 7: Safety, Injury Prevention, and Emergency Care.” ACSM’s Certification Review. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010. 142-43. Print.
  2. Collins, Rick, JD. “Nutrition Law Every Fitness Professional Should Know.” The 12th Annual ISSN Conference. Austin Texas, Austin. 3 Apr. 2016. Lecture.
7 Things Women Should Know About Strength-Training

7 Things Women Should Know About Strength-Training

The following is from an interview I did for a How is strength training good for women specifically? Prevention of osteoporosis would be a great reason women should strength train. Research indicates that long-term weight training can help maintain and even form new bone. […]

Recent Gems Worth Reading or Watching

Recent Gems Worth Reading or Watching

Whoa, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here on the main site. If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or “the Gram” then you know I’ve still been actively posting there. Stay woke on those social media outlets because you might miss something […]

Gains For Everyone

Gains For Everyone

It’s safe to say I’ve reached a pinnacle in my career where my friends and clients confide in my knowledge of fitness and nutrition because they will regularly tag me on Facebook and Instagram about the latest supplement, diet, or fitness-related product. People also send me Snapchats of their meals to validate to me that they eat healthy while using the hashtag #gains or #gainz.

They know I’m about that life. Some even say that’s all I talk about…there is some truth to that. It’s funny considering I’m not the most jacked guy in the gym, though I’m fairly strong for my bodyweight. So yeah I talk about gains, I read about gains, I eat for gains, and daydream about gains…of all kinds.

So allow to me clarify what gains are because they can be had by all.

Muscular Gains

This one is likely the most obvious because, well, gains bro. But in all seriousness, this aspect of achieving gains in the scientific community is known as muscular hypertrophy which can be defined as the muscular enlargement resulting from training, primarily owing to an increase in the cross-sectional area (CSA) of the existing fibers (1). Gains in muscular size can typically be achieved when using repetition range between 65% and 85% of your 1-repetition maximum (RM).

This is what a lot of guys and girls are after when it comes to resistance-training. Somewhere along the way, you were inspired to lift weights because maybe you saw fitness models in magazines, your older brother doing it, thought it would improve your love/social life, or maybe the most athletically talented kid in school. You made the decision that you wanted gains in your muscular definition right then and there. The seed was planted and the rest is history.

So that’s gains in a nutshell. When you see it hash-tagged on the internetz or your friends talking about it, that’s likely what it is.

Lean Gains

Achieving lean gains is likely the hardest for most to carry out because it arguably involves more discipline as your diet becomes the biggest factor here. Although this term was coined by Martin Berkhan, lean gains is more specific as it generally refers to those wanting to maintain their lean body mass (muscle) but drop some body fat. By making steady decreases in your body fat percentage, this is known as lean gains because you’re increasing your level of leanness.

If you’ve read some of my previous articles on dieting, then you know what it takes to get leaner. Sure, you can start by exercising more and may have luck dropping a few pounds at first but your weight loss efforts need to be strategic. I’ve laid out everything you need to know to get started in 5 Reasons You’re Not Lean(er). That should set you on the right path for lean gains.

Another plus to making lean gains is when you’re  successfully losing weight while also making gains in strength AND muscular size. Yes, losing body fat and gaining muscle is entirely possible in certain populations given specific circumstances. Beginner trainees, overweight individuals with limited training experience, and those coming back from an extended layoff would fit into this category of making lean gains. Those that have trained for a while are less likely to experience this type of effect from training and dieting.

Strength Gains

By now you’re likely seeing a trend with these.

Acquiring strength gains requires you to lift heavier loads that only allow 6 reps or less. Strength can be defined as the ability to exert force at any given speed (2). Gains in strength are largely due to neural adaptations because the body learns how to generate more force from muscle fiber recruitment, rate coding frequency of nerve impulses, and synchronization motor units (3).

In order to gain strength, you need to move heavy loads that equate to >85% of your 1-repetition maximum. Strength gains are those you’ve made in an effort to become stronger. Maybe you deadlifted or squatted 5 to 10 lbs heavier than you did the week before. That’s always a great feeling of accomplishment! Obviously you’ve done something right to become stronger with your training and/or nutrition to make these kinds of gains in strength.

Gains Are for Everyone

Long story short, don’t hate on the gains someone is making. Embrace them and congratulate that individual’s effort and willingness to strive towards a better version of themselves. In the end, it’s all bout goal-setting and smashing those goals so you can move on to the next. Push your limits and find out how far you can take it in an effort to make your own individual gains.

Nobody likes taking a loss. If you’re not gaining, you’re losing. If you’re not getting gains, you should probably try hiring a professional : )







1. National Strength and Conditioning Association; Thomas R. EdD Baechle; CSCS (2011-05-01). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (Kindle Locations 3452-3453). Human Kinetics. Kindle Edition.
2. National Strength and Conditioning Association; Thomas R. EdD Baechle; CSCS (2011-05-01). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (Kindle Location 2730). Human Kinetics. Kindle Edition.
3. Schoenfeld, Brad (2012-09-19). The MAX Muscle Plan (Kindle Locations 1800-1801). Human Kinetics. Kindle Edition.


Must-Read Fitness and Nutrition Articles from Feb-April 2015

Must-Read Fitness and Nutrition Articles from Feb-April 2015

The past few months have been BUSY so I’ve been slacking on my personal web content. HOWEVER, it doesn’t mean I haven’t kept up on my regular reading of awesome fitness and nutrition articles & videos. Here are the ones I thought were worthy of […]

Strategies in Addressing Knee Pain: Part 1

Strategies in Addressing Knee Pain: Part 1

Let’s face it: the muscles of the lower body get WORKED on a daily basis. Whether or not you are an elite athlete or an average Joe (or Jane) riding the keyboard, your quads, hamstrings, and glutes are carrying a lot of stress and tension. […]

How to Train and Eat for Optimal Endurance: Interview with Dr. Mike Ormsbee

How to Train and Eat for Optimal Endurance: Interview with Dr. Mike Ormsbee

This past summer, I had the pleasure of  attending the International Society of Sports Nutrition Annual Conference in Clearwater Beach, FL where the brightest minds in Sports Nutrition gathered to display some of their latest research. Out of all of the presentations, one stood out the most to me because it was an area I had little exposure to due to my bias of strength and hypertrophy training. Endurance exercise is not my forte but Dr. Mike Ormsbee’s presentation was VERY fascinating to me and had a lot of applicable take-aways. Grab your note pad and enjoy this interview that Mike took time to contribute to!

Mike, thanks again for your time and agreeing to this interview. Tell us about your educational background, area of study, and your interests outside of work.

My pleasure David. I earned a BS in Exercise Science from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. That was where I conducted my first research looking into caffeine, green tea, and ephedrine on metabolism and blood lipids under the direction of Dr. Paul Arciero. After graduating, I was hired as a Research Associate at Skidmore in Dr. Arciero’s laboratory where we studied the American Heart Association’s Diet and Exercise program and the Body-for-Life program that was very popular at that time. This study looked at body composition and weight, all sorts of hormonal changes, and performance in middle-aged men and women. It was really a great study.

From there, I took a Research Assistantship position to earn my MS in Exercise Physiology (focus in Performance Nutrition) with Dr. Matthew Vukovich at South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD. This was a huge change for a guy who grew up outside of Philadelphia and spent a lot of time in the Northeast. It was a great decision and my training was continued with nutritional manipulation and both endurance and resistance exercise training to focus on hormone changes, body composition, and performance.

After SDSU, I was accepted to Dr. Bob Hickner’s lab at East Carolina University where I earned a PhD in Bioenergetics (basically a combination of exercise science, physiology, and nutritional metabolism). This is where I worked extensively on the impact of resistance training on fat metabolism.

Nowadays, my research focus is in Human Performance and Sports Nutrition at The Florida State University where my lab studies Exercise and Nutritional Interventions and the Impact on Body Composition, Metabolism, Health and Performance. You can learn much more about the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine where I am now the Interim Director and the projects that all of my students are working on here:


Outside of work, I am usually training for triathlon, at the gym, and traveling with my wife. We also run a consulting business called Ormsbee Fitness Consulting ( which gives me a great chance to work with some local, national, and international clients.

You gave a very fascinating presentation this summer at the International Society of Sports Nutrition Annual Conference titled, “Resistance Training and Nutrition Strategies to Maintain Muscle Mass and Perform Optimally in Endurance Sports.” Why would an endurance athlete want to maintain their muscle mass?

There are many reasons. Superficially, one reason is to look good. It is no secret that scrawny, hunched over, poor posture, soft looking endurance athletes abound. But, most endurance athletes end up racing against themselves and really don’t compete on an elite level. So, keeping muscle mass helps you to stay strong, look good, and feel good. I think there is a way to keep a healthy mix of muscle mass while also performing quite well – but probably not at the super elite level.

Another reason is that muscle mass and strength are connected at least to some level and strength is an asset for a lot of triathlon races. Many endurance-minded people don’t realize that muscle mass (in the right proportion) is a huge benefit to endurance. Now, I’m not talking about huge bulky muscles, but muscle mass and strength. But when the muscle mass is too high, it can also impair performance (i.e. extra weight to lug around, cooling mechanisms, etc). It really comes down to what the goal of the individual person. For example, I lost almost 20 pounds for a 70.3 Ironman race but wanted to keep some muscle for aesthetic and performance reasons. Well, it is no secret that losing weight (if you can maintain power/strength) is a benefit to Endurance athletes. But the content of weight lost is another issue. Losing lots and lots of muscle is likely to impair performance or lead to injury. Towards the end of long races, muscular strength is going to help tremendously to get you through the last few miles or, perhaps, to surge past a competitor or go up a hill. Other potential areas of benefit are neuromuscular firing, motor unit recruitment, and functional mobility.

Also, for injury prevention, resistance training is a big deal. Just think about the recommendations that are given by physical therapists– it is never to go do more repetitive endurance exercise.

It seems a lot of endurance athletes do not engage in much strength training or resistance training in fear of gaining muscle. Why should they reconsider?

Just because you are strength training, does not mean you will get big bulky muscles. In fact, what I usually hear is that the athletes are lifting low-to-moderate (loads) for lots of repetitions. This is not the way to go. The research in this area clearly demonstrates that heavy weight with few repetitions (2 to 6) can keep strength high and add very minimal or no muscle mass. Study after study has demonstrated this with all sorts of endurance athletes.

There has been talk in the literature about concurrent strength and endurance training being incompatible. More recent data suggests the opposite. How does strength training enhance both short-term and long-term endurance performance?

Most of the talk about concurrent training being a problem is from the perspective of the strength/power athlete or bodybuilder. In that case, it does seem like endurance training may limit gains or negatively impact strength/power or muscle mass accumulation. However, for an endurance athlete’s perspective, adding strength training is enormously effective for improving performance (see answers above).

We know that repetition ranges between 8 and 12 reps is typically recommended if the goal is to produce gains in muscular size and cross-sectional area. Would it be advised for endurance athletes to minimize the amount of time spent training for hypertrophy with more emphasis on strength work in the 3 to ~8 rep range?

Yes, absolutely. The research and my experience with this clearly shows to limit training in higher rep ranges and focus on heavy weight, compound movements, and a lower rep range.

How many weeks out should an endurance athlete engage in strength training prior to competition day? Also, should the athlete taper the amount of of strength training days per week the closer it gets to race day?

Weight lifting should be periodized for endurance performance. So, in the off-season, lift for strength. Then as the season approaches, move into some strength but more power movements by lowering the weight and lifting more explosively. I would recommend lowering the number of weight workouts as the competition approaches too. For example, you might lift 3 x per week to start the off-season and as the “A” race approaches, you might only be lifting 1X/week. These days also do not need to be 90 minute battles. The lifting can be 30-45 minutes and still show a benefit. The idea is to earn the benefits from lifting but to do it in a way that does not impair endurance training. So, if you are too sore to move and perform your next endurance workout, then you likely did too much on the strength training day. Above all though is to remember that you are an endurance athlete so prioritizing those workouts is key.

I would try to have a weightlifting day scheduled as the second workout of the day or before a rest day or a recovery swim day. This seemed to minimize any soreness hangover.

What would be staple exercises to include in a strength training program for endurance athletes?

Squat (or Front Squat), Deadlift, Push Press, and cleans are essential movements. These movements hit all the needed muscles and the supportive muscles too. If there is a weakness in another area, then address that too. I usually include pullups and a chest press movement of some kind for health and aesthetic reasons.

In your presentation, you mentioned that body fat has more of an impact on total race times than body weight. How should an endurance athlete structure their diet to reduce their body fat? Would a caloric deficit be wise in relation to their total daily energy expenditure (TDEE)?

This question is tough to answer because so many endurance athletes have different shapes, sizes, preferences, allergies, and needs. So, let me answer this a little differently. Some items to be aware of for everyday/normal endurance athletes to keep body fat low are:

1) Lift weights
2) Incorporate high-intensity training (it should not all be slow and long training)
3) Be honest about exercise intensity and the “reward” meal post-workout is probably too calorically dense
4) Be honest about exercise time — was it a 2 hour ride or was it 15 minutes pumping tires, 10 minutes waiting for friends to show up, 10 minutes waiting at stop lights and traffic signals, and only 75 minutes of riding? Keep that in mind so you are aware of all the gels, and sports drinks during exercise and re-think your refueling habits
5) Keep protein intake high to help with repair, recovery, satiation
6) Keep carbohydrates in check (not all rides require huge carb loads) and try to keep the starchy carbs to around the workout time (pre, during, post)
7) Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits
8) Don’t forget good fat choices

After that sort of baseline plan, specifics would be implemented individually.

Should athletes training for an endurance event cycle their carbohydrate intake on days that they perform strength training and days that they do endurance work? What are other macronutrient considerations that are more specific to someone training for endurance?

I would just cycle carbs based on the amount of work done. On heavy training days, increase carb intake. On lighter days or off-days, lower carbohydrate intake. In general, just be aware of the relationship between work completed during training and what is really needed to refuel. Many times I see athletes over-eating, not lifting, and never going fast — this leads to the body comp issues that could be detrimental or just not wanted by age-groupers.

Do high performance athletes change their nutrition at different times in training or do they have a plan developed that is a template for the entire training cycle?

Not sure about this one, David. Each athlete is likely different. I think the question above gets at this though.

What supplements, if any, do you think are the most beneficial to an endurance athlete and are also proven to work?

Just like anyone, supplements can be incorporated into a great nutrition plan if the athlete wants this route or needs added convenience. What I found useful to use in an attempt to perform well and lose body fat were: protein supplements (convenience), multi-vitamin (I like the security blanket), creatine monohydrate (yes- benefits are seen for endurance athletes in strength, performance, and thermoregulation), beta-alanine (for buffering H+ ions during hard intervals), and caffeine (used strategically but not always).

Now, as for “supplements” meaning gels, GU’s and powders for during-exercise workouts or pre/post exercise, there are many choices that come down to how much you want to consume, what macronutrient ratio you want, and other things like electrolyte content, speed of digestion/absorption, etc.

What would you say is the one, most beneficial thing EVERYONE should be doing to improve their endurance performance?

Lift heavy weights with low reps at least 1X per week.

Mike, thanks again for your time and contribution to this interview. Where can the readers go to learn more about your research and any other relevant topics?

Thanks David! You can find much more about my research at and more about Ormsbee Fitness Consulting at




MichaelIMG_9643 J. Ormsbee, PhD, CSCS, FACSM, FISSN is an Assistant Professor at The Florida State University where his research focus is in Human Performance and Sports Nutrition. His lab studies Exercise and Nutritional Interventions and the Impact on Body Composition, Metabolism, Health and Performance. Mike is now the Interim Director at the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine. You can find out much more about the projects Mike and his students are currently conducting here: If you’d like to reach out to Mike, he can be found on Twitter.

Deadlifts > Everything

Deadlifts > Everything

The deadlift is one of the best exercises of all time! As a matter of fact, if I had to choose one exercise to perform for the rest of my life, it would definitely be the barbell deadlift. My job as a strength & conditioning specialist […]