Archives for February 2009

Don’t be that guy.

I am pretty good about shutting myself off in the gym. When you go to a big-box commercial gym you just have to deal with things like bad music, more arm-curl machines than squat racks, having to go on an Indiana Jones like quest for a 25 pound plate, and so on. It sucks but what are you gonna do? That being said, we live in a society right? Can’t we all just get along? Aren’t we in this together? Let’s all gather in a circle and join hands and speak of the things that certain people do that should not be done and we shall make the gym, and therefore the world, a better place.

Rack your weights.

I am not your mother and I am also not impressed that you can do 10 plates on the leg press. Clean up your damn shit or don’t use it to begin with. Don’t make me wait to see if someone is using the bench even though there isn’t anyone near it. I have helped people unrack plates off of bars and machines because the weights were too heavy for them to lift. A nice 60 year old lady shouldn’t feel like she can’t bench press because she can’t unrack your crap. It’s hard enough getting some people to do free weights instead of wasting their time on machines and you go and try to fuck it up for them?! Don’t be that guy!

This is a weight tree not a towel rack.

I am trying to get to a 10 lb. plate and I really don’t want to move your smelly-ass towel to get to it. One thing I love doing to these guys, though, is putting whatever weights I’m racking right on top of their towel. Sometimes it’s the little things in life, you know.

Do not do your set right in front of the dumbell rack.

Are you really so self-absorbed that you don’t realize that doing your shrugs six inches from the rack means that noone else can get to any of the dumbbells on that rack!? You are taking up like seven sets of dumbbells, you ass! Take a step back!
Do not drop your dumbbells.

Do you not realize the danger inherent in dropping a pair of fifty pound dumbbells from three feet up in a crowded gym? Once again, I am not interested in how much weight you can dumbbell bench press and if you wind up breaking my foot I will break that foot off in your ass. If you can’t control the weight on the way down, don’t pick it up to begin with. You’re not Olympic lifting with bumper plates. Don’t act like it.

Get to work or move.

I don’t care if you want to use this place like a social club, but get out of the squat rack if that’s what you’re doing. Doing one half-assed set and then taking a 6 minute rest while talking to your buddy is very fucking irritating. Seeing as this is a 24 Hour Fitness we only have one squat rack, so get moving.

Mitch Rothbardt
(coming soon)

Deep Squat Pride

I started my lovely wife Kristi on a training program a little while ago. I wanted to emphasize the basic compound movements, core work (back and front), posterior chain work and some general mobility work (mainly in the warm-up). When we started I noticed right off that knee dominant exercises were going to be difficult, mainly the squat and the lunge. Her squat was, at best, about a quarter squat. The good news was that her form was good getting there. Her hips moved correctly and she was able to keep her back in alignment, she just couldn’t get very deep. Her lunge was not great, as she had a tough time bending the back knee. We stuck with it, though and she has been getting better and better.

Last night her squat was the best it has ever been. She is almost able to get to top-of-thigh parallel and she is now able to bend the back knee with her lunge. We are still doing both of these as strictly bodyweight exercises, but that’s great right now. I think we aren’t that far away from having a pretty good squat and lunge pattern going. We still really need to do more core work, though. That is something I probably need to emphasize even more. We are doing planks and Pallof presses to emphasize stability which is something she really needs. I need to start trying to incorporate some more side bridges, as well.

All in all, though, she is really doing great and she’s having fun, too. She’s definitely helping me get better as a trainer. I’m really proud of her.

Mitch Rothbardt
(coming soon)

Basics Pt. 4. Go Heavy!

Go Heavy!!!! What does this mean? Well, to Ronnie Coleman, former Mr. Olympia, it might mean an 800 lb. squat. (See below)

To me, it might mean a 350 lb. squat. To you it might mean a bodyweight squat. The point is it doesn’t matter what heavy means to me, or Ronnie Coleman it’s what it means to you that matters. It’s completely relative, but we all can and should go heavy. That’s what challenges our bodies and forces changes. No more sets of 15 or 20. Try to keep everything at about 8 reps. See how that feels. Play with it from there, but don’t go above 12 at the very most. On the big, compound lifts, go down to three or five reps. There are a couple of exceptions to this. If you are a beginner, keep it lighter until you really get your form down. If you have injuries, don’t be stupid. The big thing whoever you are and whatever your experience, of course, is to be sure to keep proper form at all times. Your set is over when your form goes, no matter what.

Going heavy also goes with what we talked about yesterday concerning consistency and working hard. Basically when you are doing a set of an exercise, lifting heavy does many things for us. For those who are looking to lose fat, it has been shown that a shorter, heavier set burns more calories than a longer, lighter set. For those looking to get stronger, lifting heavier gets your muscles and all of your connective tissues used to handling heavier loads. Your body learns to activate more motor units and you get stronger. For those looking to get bigger, lifting heavier gives your muscles a reason to grow and, for those looking to develop improved cardiovascular health, doing heavy sets has been shown to improve that better than lighter sets, as well. Just feel your heart beating during a good set of deadlifts, for example.

Going heavy helps fix muscle imbalances, can improve our posture and, frankly, can really boost our self-esteem. These are all things that doing pink dumbell 20 rep sets can’t do. Also, one more thing: being a man or a woman doesn’t matter. Women are the biggest victims as far as exercise advice goes. For the most part, there really should be no difference between the way men and women train. Most of the advice women get on Oprah or in Marie Claire is WRONG! At best it will get you nowhere, at worst it will get you hurt or starving. Just ask yourself if you ever want to pick up your kid or a bag of groceries. That should give you the answer as to whether you want to follow the “women should never lift more than three pounds” workout style that Oprah was promoting last week.

More soon and Go Heavy!!!

Mitchell Rothbardt
(coming soon)

Basics Pt. 3. Consistency: Breakfast, Seatbelts and Cigarettes

Coach Dan John wrote something about how people are always asking him for the lastest advice. What are the great new exercises? What is the hippest advice on what and when to eat? He would ask them if they ate breakfast, wore their seatbelt or smoked cigarettes. His reasoning was that if you’re not eating breakfast, wearing your seatbelt, or if you smoke, the rest of it kind of doesn’t matter all that much. These things are the basics. These things are what constitutes the foundation of a healthy life. If you don’t do these things you are starting from a deficit. I might be paraphrasing here, but that’s the gist of it.

Too often we are looking for the latest and greatest without realizing that there really isn’t a latest and greatest the vast majority of the time. Most of what works has worked for a very long time with only a few exceptions. Yes, there are exceptions, but even those are usually reserved for very specific situations and goals. Generally speaking there are just a few rules that we all need to follow no matter what our goals are and, if you don’t follow them, the latest and greatest diet/workout/exercise won’t make much difference.
For the next few days I’m going to expound a little on these basic rules, which means, Yes! The long awaited return of the very popular Basics series! You can go here and here for the first two parts. Here we go!
Basically, each workout or meal is just a “drop in the bucket” in the long run, but do this: put a bucket under your bathtub spicket and just let the spicket drip slowly into the bucket. At first you can’t even see each drop of water in the bucket. Come back a couple hours later. What do you see now?
That’s what each drop means. Sure, one drop doesn’t matter all that much, but you can very easily see what the consistency of one steady drop at a time can do.

What does this mean in terms of the gym and nutrition?

It means that every time you go to the gym you give a strong effort. You don’t work real hard on your bench press and then slack on your squats.
It means that you go to the gym on a consistent basis. Don’t go four times one week and only once the next. You can’t make gains that way.
It means that once you commit to a program you stick to it. When gains are made, they usually come so gradually they are hard to notice (like each drop in the bucket). The body isn’t designed to make major changes over short periods of time, despite what you see on The Biggest Loser. Just because you don’t see noticeable gains, doesn’t mean they’re not happening.
It means that you have a good, sustainable diet. Telling yourself that you can never eat pie again probably isn’t sustainable if you really love pie, but telling yourself you can eat some on a Saturday night as a reward for the consistently good meals you’ve eaten the rest of the week is. Again, the one piece of pie is only a drop in the bucket and is fine as long as the rest of the drops are good quality meals.
I hope that you all understand what I mean. In reality all of this isn’t that hard. Consistency will just happen automatically when you make a commitment to yourself to live a healthy lifestyle. You will become someone who eats well, schedules their gym time, and does good work when you get there. Basically, when you truly make the mental shift and start, the rest kind of takes care of itself.
More tomorrow.
Mitchell Rothbardt
(coming soon)
P.S. As always, feel free to comment or drop me an email at with any comments or questions. Also, you can subscribe automatically in the box on the right side of the screen, and please take the latest poll.

Eating When Hungry

I know I’ve said this many, many times, but I am constantly amazed at how much there is to learn and how many different ways there are to learn. As the two or three of you who read this know, I messed up my back pretty good almost two weeks ago. My gym activity for most of that time was very light cardio and some stretching. I realized the other day that I have actually lost three pounds since the day I messed up my back. In thinking about how that happened I realized that, quite simply, I wasn’t eating as much. I knew I wasn’t burning as many calories so I just really cut down on my between meal snacking. Mainly nuts. In doing this I realized that I was probably eating more out of habit than hunger a lot of the time. 

I read a technique, although I don’t remember where I read it. Basically all it consists of is waiting. When you want a snack, wait 10 minutes. If you are still hungry at that point, eat away. That way you aren’t eating strictly out of habit or boredom. Listen to what your body really wants. I know we all try to do that, but I think that a big part of life is learning how to listen to all of the things that our body is telling us.
Also, this morning was my triumphant return to my usual workouts. It was an upper body workout and I felt pretty good. I made it through fine. Tomorrow is lower body, so we’ll see how that goes. I feel much better, but I’m still not 100%. I don’t have to deadlift for two more workouts. Tomorrow’s power move is squats, but there is some other stuff, too. I’m actually more worried about some of that stuff than the squats. I’ll take it easy if I have to. I’ll let you know how it goes. I will not re-injure myself.  
Mitchell Rothbardt
(coming soon)

A Few Things

Hello. Just a quick one today. I was in the gym yesterday with my wife and one of her friends, leading them through a workout and giving them some cues when I found myself repeating something I have been saying for years, “There are a few form notes that can be applied to nearly every exercise.” I know it’s not the catchiest saying, but it is very true and it can take some of the intimidation out of weight training. 

I’ll list a few of them here: 
1. Look up. 
OK. Really you want to look straight ahead, maybe only slightly upward, but what happens, especially with people without a lot of experience is, when they think, “Look straight ahead,” they look down, and when they think, “Look up,” they look straight ahead. This applies to any exercise where you in an upright position. Squats, lat pulldown, overhead press, etc. 
2. Shoulders down and back.
Really, think shoulder blades down and back. When your shoulder blades are down and back it keeps your shoulder in a safe supported position. When they aren’t, they can be very vulnerable when bench pressing as an example. Also, in the case of a lat pulldown, pulling your shoulders down and back brings the bar right to your collarbone where it should be, not down to your belly, like you see so many people do it.
3. Chest up. 
Breathe into your chest and keep it up. This keeps your back in good alignment and prevents you from hunching over. This applies for every exercise under the sun. At least any that I can think of. When you combine this tip with tip number one your back will be in perfect position. 
There’s a few things. I know there are more and as I remember them I’ll write them down and post them. Feel free to send me a few if you come up with any. Send them to or just put them in the comments section.
Also a few other things that are pretty universal:
1. Activate your glutes and move your hips.
We sit all day and  as a result our hips are super tight and our glutes are super dead. Do lying hip extensions and lunges to help.
Here are some videos to help. You don’t need a band around your knees, and the key is to squeeze your butt to raise your hips. Don’t just bring your hips up. When you squeeze, your body will automatically get into the right position. You should be in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.

Anyway, that’ll do it for today. If you have any thoughts or questions, let me know. Also, if you are, or know anyone,who is need of a trainer, drop me a line. Talk to you soon.
Mitchell Rothbardt
(coming soon)