We’re Making Progress

Each workout that we do is a mix of strength work and mobility work, with some anaerobic work thrown in here and there. The primary influences behind the programming are Ido Portal, Martin Berkhan, Mathieu Lalonde, and good old fashioned Crossfit. Since our primary goal is to get more functional strength, I like to mix classic strength movements with classic gymnastics/mobility movements. While we occasionally get some odd looks as we do handstands after heavy deadlifts, so far the outcome has been quite good. This mix has been our approach for awhile now, but it was a recent adjustment that I think has accelerated our gains.

Influenced by Martin Berkhan, I decided to stretch our programming so that a lift would be performed once every 8-10 days, instead of once a week. The primary strength movements that we use are the squat, deadlift, bench, front squat, and power clean. Depending on the day, we follow up the strength movement with mobility work like handstands, headstands, bridge pass-through’s, QDR’s, wrist prep, shoulder prep, and the locomotion series. As I mentioned before, we also do classic met-con work but not everyday. These met-cons give just enough of a stimulus to feel a burn but not enough to crush you for the next four hours. Our goal is to leave the gym feeling good, maybe a little sore, but not destroyed. Just like anything, it has been a work in progress but this mix of programming has led to all of us making consistent gains in our lifts and movements.

On the mobility side, Matt, Kerri, and I continue to get better and better with our handstands. Kerri and Matt can now hold a handstand for 5-10 seconds and Ann can hold a handstand against a wall as she continues to knock down mental barriers and accomplish things that many people never thought they could do, never mind knocking down those walls at 60 years old! Ann just keeps getting younger as her physical capacity increases.

On the strength side, I really enjoy seeing Matt get stronger and keep coming back at it, building up his core strength in the process. Kerri continues to push herself as always and she has progress to show for it. Ann is also getting stronger but what impresses me more is seeing her go way past parallel while squatting almost 150 lbs. And for me, I’ve never been this strong. Not even when I was in the gym everyday back in high school and 30 pounds heavier.

Overall I just wanted to share how proud I am of you guys, you work very hard and I’m very happy that you’re getting the progress that you deserve. Keep coming at it and who knows where we’ll end up.

Wednesday Nights Squats (4/20/11)

Ann gets 4 reps at 145. Love the depth. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6i28VrX158

Kerri gets 2 reps at 190. You’re almost at your goal of 200! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Pelc-h5xDI

Matt gets 3 reps at 240. Your form has never looked better. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-UhreTMME8

I get 2 reps at 405. Pretty happy that I have maintained my strength despite being able to only workout twice a week recently. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkKjaqodT2I

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We dabble…

So on Sunday Kerri will be participating in her first powerlifting meet. She will go for a PR in the deadlift, the bench, and the squat. I see this as a great example of what FFT is all about, being able to be strong while functional. Our training hasn’t changed at all since she signed up, we still lift heavy only once a week. Outside of that, it’s all bodyweight/gymnastic movements. On most weeks we concentrate on the squat and might do some deadlift work afterwards. Anyways, as the meet lies just 4 days away, we thought it would be good to spend some time on the deadlift tonight so that Kerri has a good idea what to shoot for come Sunday morning. After warming up we began some work sets and after Kerri pulled 225 with ease, we decided to go for 245. This was the result:

Now Kerri weighs about 160 lbs, depending on the scale, and doing the math this puts her deadlift at 1.53 times bodyweight. Looking back on some notes from Martin Berkhan’s site, he said that one parameter for an advanced female trainee is a 1.7 times bodyweight deadlift. That would be 272 lbs for Kerri, not too much above where she is now. In the words of Robb Wolf, she’s a good lil’ athlete. Not too bad considering we don’t focus much on heavy lifts outside of the squat. It must be all that bodyweight stuff. Man, Ido Portal really know his stuff.

P.S. I know that Kerri’s form may not be perfect but as she’s going for a PR and she feels no pain/strain in her lower back, I feel comfortable with it. While we usually train with a flat back and back off on the weights to make sure of it, I have trained Kerri long enough to know that she is in a safe position here.

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2nd Annual “Let the Lion Loose” Workout

On the eve of the day when 91% of Americans eat turkey, according to the commentators of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the FFT class crushed the second annual “Let the Lion Loose” workout. The inaugural event happened last year when Matt and Kerri expressed their desire to make that nights class particularly hard to help balance the scales a little bit against the deluge of food to come the next day. Therefore, I had some extra time this year to write up a particularly interesting workout.

As our workouts have been a basic mix of heavy squats, some deadlifts, and lots of gymnastic movements for about the past month, I wanted to largely stick with what we have been doing. So we started off with squats, like we do every Wednesday night.

Prior to every squat session, we do Ido Portal’s Squat Clinic Routine to loosen up the hips and various joints. After prepping the posterior chain, we usually do the classic routine of 5×5 or a reverse-pyramid set but for this workout I wanted to make it a little special and what’s more special than one set of 20 ‘breathing’ squats. If you’re not familiar with what a breathing squat session is, it is one set of 20 squats using your 10 rep max weight. Obviously this should make you ask the question of, “How are you supposed to get 20 reps with a weight that you could previously only do for 10 reps?” This is why they are called ‘breathing squats’.

Reps 1 through 10 are usually pretty typical, reps 11 through 20 is where it starts to get “fun”. As you get closer to 20, you will have to take more deep breaths in between each rep to enable you to do one more. The higher you go, the more breaths you have to take. What makes ‘breathing squats’ special is that they require so much concentration and personal will to get through them. You must go into it with a clear head and only one thought in mind: I will get 20 reps, even if I have to be under that bar for 5 minutes.

Now the cool thing about ‘breathing squats’ is that while they are quite hard, they offer great rewards. Outside of the fact that you ‘only’ have one set of squats to do, they also provoke a great growth stimulus from the body. Due to the work that has to be done to keep the back flat for all 20 reps, the torso gets quite tired along with the legs and hips. After you finish your 20th rep, you won’t have anything left for another set. If you do, you didn’t go heavy enough.

With that introduction, I can’t tell you how proud I was of everyone. Kerri, Ann, and Matt crushed their first encounter with 20 rep breathing squats! They all went into their sets with focus, determination, and got the job done.

Here is the weight that each person used, in pounds:
Ann 100
Kerri 125
Matt 205
Mark 290

After the squats were out of the way, we moved onto the met-con section of the workout. While we haven’t been doing many met-con’s lately, due to our focus on gymnastics and strength movements, they are always fun to throw in here and there.

In writing the met-con, I wanted to use as many movements as possible that require not only physical effort but mental concentration as well. This is what I came up with:

5 rounds of:
Tripod Headstand Hold, 5 seconds
Finger Tip Push-Ups w/ a Hop if possible, 10 reps
Ring Rows or Chin-Ups, 10 reps
One-Legged Squats, 5 reps per leg
Lizard Walk*, up and down the racquetball court
Circular Sprint around the court, one in each direction
Back Bridge Hold, 10 seconds
Standing Hamstring Stretch Hold, 30 seconds
Standing Hip Stretch, one in each direction

We all finished the workout in a little over 30 minutes and were pretty exhausted, mentally and physically. It was the perfect workout to do before heading home and getting Thanksgiving started a little early with my favorite mudslide cookies, thanks hun.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and now I will embark on a four-week period of eating only good food. Stay tuned for a post on the guidelines that I am giving myself, why I am following those guidelines, and what I hope to achieve. At the end of those four weeks, it will be Christmas Eve and I will be ready to celebrate one of my favorite days of the year.

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Ann continues to surprise herself. As the FFT class evolves, we continue to do more complex and skillful movements to challenge our bodies more. As a trainer, I strive to find the movements that offer the best return for time invested. Therefore we have been spending a lot of time on gymnastics movements as I feel that body control is a great example of body strength. Don’t worry, we still do squats too. Anyways, for the past couple of Sundays we have been working on tripod headstands amongst other things. Ann has not been able to make class on the last couple of Sundays but she was able to make it today. While Ann worked on her setup in the first couple of sets, she then decided to take it to the next level on her third set. And given that Ann has not been practicing tripod headstands at all recently, you can understand our excitement when she pushed her limits and pushed towards a full tripod headstand. As I said at the beginning of this post, Ann continues to surprise herself with what she can do now. Don’t hold back and you’ll be amazed with what you can accomplish.

*For some reason I can’t insert the YouTube video here. I should be able to update it when I get access to my PC. In the meantime, check out the video on the YouTube FFT page:

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Class Recap – Sunday Sept. 26, 2010

Sunday was another general work day as we continue to switch between strength days (squat or deadlift) and non-strength days. In the last couple of non-strength sessions, we have been consistently working on the Shoulder Press, the Pendlay Row, and Ring Body Rows. These movements will help out your deadlifts and squats while also improving your pull-up strength. After two rounds to failure on each movement for everyone, we moved on to a met-con that was similar to Saturday’s.

As many rounds as possible in 10 minutes of:
Group 1: Push Press, 10 reps
Plank Knee Drives
Group 2: Run 40 yards and back
Plank Hold

This workout was fun because it was done in teams. Each team had to get 10 reps per person on the push press before they could progress to the second group of movements. If you weren’t the one pressing, you were doing knee drives until it was either your turn to press or it was time to run. In the second part of the workout, both teammates ran 20 yards at which one would drop down into a plank and hold it until their other teammate ran the other 20 yards and back, to where both would run back to the start together. That may sound confusing but it wasn’t too bad once we got going. I like throwing in workouts like this often because working out as part of a team brings a much different dynamic as opposed to working out against just yourself. Everyone still got a bunch of work done, all while encouragement was rampant (doing plank knee drives for a long time gives you a lot of incentive to make sure your teammate gets their presses done ASAP).

Lastly I am in the process of ordering FFT t-shirts! I’m hopeful that they will be here in the next couple of weeks. Thank you for your input and encouragement, it’s truly a cool feeling to know that you guys want to represent FFT. I love training and coaching and it’s really gratifying to see you enjoy class. I’ll do my best to keep it up!

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Class Recap – Saturday Sept. 25, 2010

Saturday was Squat day so after stretching out, we got right to it.

*video of the top sets are up on the FFT page on (YouTube)

In recent sessions I have started to see a slowdown in the strength progression amongst most of our athletes. This is to be expected, don’t worry. There will be bumps in the road but with proper rest and accessory work, you will progress.

After the squats, we went outside to soak up some sun while hitting a quick met-con.

As many rounds as possible in 10 minutes of:
Bumper Plate Complex (Squat Clean, Push Press, and Overhead Squat with a plate), 10 reps
Run 40 yards
10 Push-Ups
Run 40 yards back

The bumper plate complex was harder than most expected but it hit the right areas. It was a good combination of skill work and all-out effort. Good job everyone.

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Class Recap – Wednesday Sept. 22, 2010

Class on Wednesday was used as a day to sit back and figure out why the heck we train. Before our discussion though, we all rotated through and got some good accessory work done.

2 sets to failure of:
Standing Barbell Press
Pendlay Row
Body Row on Rings

Now, coming back to the discussion, I told everyone prior to class to think about the three main goals they have for themselves in regards to fitness and nutrition. I did this for two main reasons:
1. If you know why you are training and what you are training for, it makes your time at the gym and outside of the gym more meaningful rather than just going to the gym because you feel you should or eating real food over processed because it’s probably better for you. By thinking about and then actually talking about your goals, you are forced to realize what motivates you. This is very important.

2. If I know what you are shooting for, then I know how to program class as the workouts for an athlete that wants to go to the Crossfit Games are much different from the athlete that wants to be pull two-times their bodyweight in the deadlift and look good on the beach at the same time. All while managing a full-time job, family obligations, lack of sleep, and oh yeah, eating right.

After everyone had their chance to talk, it became clear that we were all pretty much on the same page. Everyone desired a more toned/lean look while improving some aspect of their performance. Increasing strength was the primary goal of most and multiple athletes also expressed a desire to run a 5/10K or even the Boston Marathon.

From these discussions, I got confirmation of what I was thinking. Most people that I encounter want to be more fit and healthy while actually looking the part as well. Not many express a desire to break records in performance or to get super-lean. A middle of the road approach seems to be the norm and that is pretty much what FFT is all about. Increasing your ability to do whatever it is that you want to do, while maintaining a focus on your health and longevity.

More to come on some of these topics later on. Thank you to everyone that participated, I think we all got something out of it.

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Paleo lunch at Work

Here was my first meal of the day that I had a little after 4:00, yes I IF (intermittent fast) but more on that later. I went down to the cafeteria at work got some streamed vegetables ($1.25) and added some slivered almonds (free). I topped that with a can of Trader Joe’s Wild Alaskan Salmon and some Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Also from the cafe I got some chicken and tomato “soup”, I drained pretty much all the liquid to get more chicken in the medium container ($2.10) so it was more like a thick stew. So that plus some green tea and liquid vitamin-D3 left me with a great Paleo meal with very little prep time. Following Paleo means that you have to be resourceful a lot and that may mean getting made fun of by your co-workers because you eat “cat food”. That’s fine with me.

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Just finished The Paleo Solution

So I just finished Robb Wolf’s book, The Paleo Solution. It was great, simply put. What really makes it a good read is how he presents this Paleo stuff in a fun and engaging manner. While I can read anything when it comes to nutrition, I have ton of diet and nutrition books, I found Robb’s book to be written in a manner for all to enjoy (stay awake while reading). I am going to encourage/push most of my family to read this book as I have found that if it comes from a book, most of the info sinks in more as opposed to me saying over and over, “don’t eat processed foods!”
Seriously though, this book was fun to read and I was sad when I finished it. While nothing was particularly new for me, after all I have followed Robb for awhile (listened to each one of his podcasts at least once, attended two of his all-day lectures, and hounded him with many questions over the years), that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything. As I always say, it’s not about what you know necessarily, it’s how you present the info to others that makes them and yourself understand.

Lastly, the 30-day meal plan looked very good and I can’t wait to try it out as my meals can get very repetitive and boring for most (except my dog who loves people food).


As of writing this, Robb’s book is #20 on Amazon.com’s best seller list! For only $14.58, that is quite an attractive ROI if you follow through with the plan. Please buy and distribute amongst your family and friends because this isn’t about trying to make Robb rich (although he deserves it), it’s about transforming the health of your loved ones. I know that sounds corny but after researching and trying almost every approach to nutrition, I can honestly say that a pure Paleo diet is without a doubt the most fool-proof approach out there.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and please let me know your results if you decide to jump in. Good luck, it’s not the easiest approach out there but the rewards are well worth the efforts.

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Class Recap – Monday Sept. 20, 2010

I was excited all day for today’s workout. Deadlift and a Met-Con, what’s not to love? After a quick stretch, we got right into it.

Athlete-Set 1 weight, 6 reps-Set 2 weight, 4 reps-Set 3 weight, max reps, Set 4 weight, prior set reps +1 if possible





Video’s of these lifts can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/user/FFTraining1#p/u

Kerri had a great performance tonight that came out of nowhere. Ann pulled hard but did not want to let her form fall apart, good decision. Matt worked really hard on staying back on his heels while pushing his hips back. He has come a long way and it won’t be long until he feels just as comfortable in this lift as he does in the squat. I was happy with my performance and I really think that lifting in my Vibram Five Fingers makes a difference. Also a big congratulations goes out to Jenna who worked on her form tonight and completed her first deadlifts! It didn’t take long before her form started to fall into place, even with a higher-heel running shoe on.

After the deadlifts, we went outside for a new met-con that I thought up earlier in the day. Thinking back to my Crossfit Level 1 certification, I came up with this workout.

As many rounds as possible in 10 minutes of:

Air Squat with a 3-second pause at the bottom, 10 reps

Carry Bumper Plate 40 yds, 10#/25#

Sprint 40 yds and back

Carry your plate back to the start

This workout provided the metabolic response that I was looking for, tired but not destroyed. No movement was so taxing that you were left in muscle failure but you still felt it. All in all, a good night.

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