Monday, December 14, 2009

Meet the Natives

Last night I watched a few episodes of the Travel Channel's "Meet the Natives". This is a reality show I can get in to! I found it to be very entertaining and I think we could learn a lot from these natives.

The show is about 5 natives from the south pacific island of Tanna who come to America to spread their message of peace & happiness. As you can see in the picture, these guys are "deep country" natives -- no electricity, no running water, I'm not sure if they even have a written language! Anyway, these native ambassadors stay with a host family in 5 different cities for a week each. Talk about a culture shock! The first episode takes the men to Montana where they experience the life of a "cowboy."

It's interesting to see how these natives react to the ways of a western cattle ranch. (Keep in mind that these guys come from a hunter and gatherer society on an island that is 12 miles wide.) After they get over the vastness of this Montana operation and are explained that it is because of a business as to why these people own 5000 cows, they are quick to ask why the cows are being fed "dead grass". One of the elders tells a ranch hand that the cow will taste better if it is fed grass, and that grass contains vital nutrients which the cow will die without. I suspect these beef herders know this already -- I have no doubt they have heard the terms "free range" and "grass fed." Whether or not they know about the health hazards that the cows face when they are fed "dead food" doesn't matter, because they have antibiotics that they give to the cows regardless if they need it or not. And this also concerns the natives. Sam, the tribes medicine man, asks about the chemical injections that the cows receive and does not hesitate to express his worry that the chemicals will ruin his body if he eats the cow.

This is what I'm talking about when I say we could learn from these guys. It's amazing that they intuitively know these things. How far have we come from this kind of natural knowledge?

In another episode the tribesmen are in Illinois helping to cook Thanksgiving dinner. They are in awe at the size of the turkey -- its the biggest they have ever seen -- that's because the birds on their island are not grown in cages, force fed and given growth inducing hormones. It's all good until their host puts the turkey in a plastic cooking bag. The chief tells her of his concern of the plastic melting and making him sick, but she assures him that it is a special plastic that will not melt. Admittedly, I know nothing about this practice (or cooking turkeys for that matter) but I do know that everything has a melting point and that plastic doesn't need to physically melt to give off carcinogenic properties. Apparently the chief knows this as well. He also knows that the canned sweet potatoes they are serving are a "lifeless food" as he tells his compadre, "we don't know if it has been in the can for a month or for a year."

Fast forward to Orange County California and the natives are immersed in a highly artificial environment. From the landscape to the people, there's a lot of fakes. Nothing personal about the host family, they seem to be genuinely good people, who are genuinely overly concerned about the way they look. Personal grooming is one thing, and the natives seem to enjoy the mud bathes and the pedicures, but when Kuai is asked if he would like to look 10 years younger during his facial, he says, "No, I would like to live longer." And that captures the way they think.

The OC episode concludes with what seems to be the most foreign concept for the natives -- a botox party. The medicine man has many questions for the doctor who comes to smooth out the faces. Did you know botox was a diluted form of e coli? I didn't. Anyway, it was funny to hear the natives talk amongst themselves as the facial injections took place.

"She takes this youth medicine to smooth her face."

"But what about her inside? Does it reverse her life there?"

The men cover their eyes in disbelieve and misunderstanding. I can't say that I feel any differently. The chief draws a useful analogy saying, "The sun will set. You cannot change it. Your blood will know what time it is."

In many ways I envy these men. They are knowledgeable about the bare necessities of life and know little about frivolous luxuries that they can do without. They are not burdened with a media driven public perception, the spoils of vanity or the idea of keeping up with the Jones'. Their food is fresh, clean and full of life. Their culture does not revolve around the root of all evil.

Of course there is no way would I trade my life in America for the life that these guys lead on the island. But I don't need to live in the stone age to take a lesson from the natives. The take home message is this: we should eat and exercise in a manner that closely resembles that of primitive man. This is how we prospered physically for thousands of years and nothing has changed.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Red Nail certification

I certified on bending the red nail today under the witness of Marty Gallagher and company. The bend was done at his home in conjunction with what he called "Deadlift Woodstock." 10 people in a snowy garage in Pennsylvania, training the deadlift and feeding on free range protein and natural cooking. It was a good day!

My official certification was really only a fragment of the awesomeness of my day. It started with Sandy Sommer, RKC picking me up at 8am and us making a quick stop to pick up Dr. Chris Hardy. Much of the conversation revolved around primal eating habits that we have strayed away from since leaving a hunter & gatherer lifestyle -- a topic that I am extremely interested in and believe in the benefits of. Anyway, Dr. Hardy is not only a medical doctor who specializes in nutrition, occupational & musculoskeletal medicine but he is a strength & conditioning specialist, Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy and Chief Resident at Johns Hopkins... yeah... and I got to ride with him and ask him questions. Nice!

Once we arrived at Marty's we promptly went out to the garage and started training the deadlift under his watchful eye. Marty is champion powerlifter and trainer of champions and there is not a more qualified person on this side of North America to learn how to press, squat or deadlift from. I topped out at 470 with more in the tank and left the garage with some significant changes to my technique that I'm going to start working on immediately.

After the workout we headed into the house where I bent the red nail in accordance with the rules taking exactly 17 seconds. Then it was 3 more nails in 52 seconds. I hearted a horseshoe for Marty's wife and rolled a frying pan for the man himself. We talked a little grip amongst the group and then headed into the kitchen where we dined on a meal like no other.

On the menu was grassfed lamb, beef and free range chicken. Everything we ate was was organic, healthy and delicious. I have a new appreciation for natural eating, especially after listening to Dr. Hardy talk. It's not as hippie and tree hugger as I once thought it to be. I've been keen on this ever since I read the Anti-Estrogenic Diet and the author drew comparisons between pollutants in our food and they're estrogenic effects on the body. We've decided to make a dietary overhaul in our own home and go organic... I'll talk more about that later. Let's just say that I haven't had that good of food as I had at Marty's for a long time, and possibly ever.

A good day.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification

In the past two months I have started a new website, tiled my parents bathroom, given 3 speeches at Toastmasters, read 4 books, and my wife and I had a baby. I've been busy. No time to blog. But I wanted to get this out there...

The Hard-Style Kettlebell Certification is coming to Baltimore hosted by yours truly! My friend and Senior RKC Doug Nepodal is coming in from California to teach the core HKC drills next year on September 4, 2010. There has been rave reviews from the first HKC held last month and knowing what Doug can do with a kettlebell and an unsuspecting victim, you can expect a high quality workshop!

Dragon Door's HKC Instructor Workshops- Enter the lucrative world of the certified kettlebell trainer�and attract more clients for a better income. How to master the essentials of kettlebell lifting�and dramatically boost your power. Register Now!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

New Website - Iron Bonsai


Iron Bonsai’s are steel sculptures that resemble a plant or flower. Using no tools, long lengths of steel bars are twisted and bent into place by hand.


Steel scrolling is the art of a strongman.


The name “Iron Bonsai” comes from John Brookfield, grip master and professional strongman. With his blessing, the tradition is carried on here by strength & conditioning specialist Dan Cenidoza.


Each piece takes an hour or two to bend, but it takes years of dedication to grip training and hand strength to be able to bend this kind of steel in the first place.


After the steel is bent into place the scroll is painted and mounted into a decorative pot and the artwork is complete.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

More Pressing Thoughts

I recently wrote about how I have pressing more. On a weekly basis, I have increased the volume of pressing I do by over 800%. For today's workout I pressed 75% of my 1RM (77% to be exact) for 5 ladders of 2, 3, 5 & 8 reps -- 90 total reps in just over 60 minutes. This is by far the most pressing I've ever done in one workout.

During the course of the workout I just happened to reach behind my back and perform the Shoulder Mobility test as described in the Functional Movement Screen. To my surprise, I was able to touch my hands in both directions, something I've never done before! The strange thing is that I have made absolutely no attempts at correcting this problem since I learned of it. The only thing different about my training is the increase in overhead barbell presses.

But wait, won't barbell presses, a symmetrical and bilateral movement, further exaggerate an asymmetry in the shoulders? Wouldn't it be better to use kettlebells or dumbbells and do one arm presses to help 'even out' the shoulders?

Not this time.

I turned in thousands of kettlbell presses, jerks & snatches last year when I was training like a for kettlebell sport and it did nothing for the asymmetry in my shoulders. So what is it about the barbell press that balanced out my shoulders? I think it's the simple fact that the barbell IS balanced.

A common argument for 1 arm lifts is for balance. Perhaps that is true with a strait forward strength imbalance but that wasn't my problem (my best lifts right hand were shared with the left). My problem, as Gray Cook pointed out at the CK-FMS in August 2008, was that my right scapula did not rotate like my left when I reached behind my back. After that he did some kind of physical therapy wizardry, manipulating my shoulder and then all of a sudden it was moving properly. Before turning his attention to someone else, Gray quickly rattled off a few corrective exercises I should do to lock that movement pattern in and I just as quickly dismissed those exercises and never did them again!

Ok, that's not entirely true. I did a few rolls and some stretching but I can't claim that I gave the corrective exercises the time they deserved. What can I say? I am impatient and have limited time to train. When it comes to prehab or pressing in the 60 minutes I have in between clients 9 times out of 10 I am going to press.
But wait a minute! Pressing is one of the SM corrective exercises! Wall sit with shoulder press. Does it matter that it is not a weighted exercise? I guess that's a question for Gray, but my experience tells me that it doesn't matter.
Perhaps I just needed to move both scapulae in the same direction at the same time? That’s something you can do with a barbell press.

I told Dan John the other day that I really felt like I hit a groove with my press. No more wobbling in the lock out. No more wayward travels of the bar. Just smooth, piston-like pressing that I felt super comfortable with; something I have not experienced before. And the SM scores reflect that.
So is the barbell press the cure to everyone's shoulder problems? I doubt it. But this is one instance where that seems to be the case.

More Barefoot Thoughts

Most of my training is now being done in VFF. Running, lifting, farmers walking, skipping rope, everything. For whatever reason, for today's press workout I grabbed my weightlifting shoes. Solid wooden sole, elevated heel, made for weightlifting... though I just couldn't get the feel for them. I've been lifting in these shoes for years, hit many of PR's in them, and until now, they've been the most comfortable lifting shoes I've ever worn.

I decided to switch over to the VFF after the first couple sets and although I can't claim some immediate boost of strength I did notice some subtle changes as I approached the end of my workout. I noticed that my toes started to grip the ground. I am familiar with the phrase "grip the ground" from my yoga practice as well as from Pavel's writings but this was different. There was an engagement from the feet that I had not felt before, specifically from the big toe. It just felt strong as it pressed into the ground.

I mentioned before that I am stronger with stronger feet and I think this is anecdotal evidence to that statement. It felt like I drew strength from my feet (an occurrence that is happening more regularly now). Perhaps this is what martial artists call “rooting.” Regardless what you call it or how you explain it, there's no denying that I had a sturdier base to press from today and it was achieved without the help of sport-specific footwear.

While on the topic of footwear, let me tell you about an interesting observation I have made in the last couple weeks. My regular shoes, dress shoes, work boots, etc, they don’t fit well anymore. I’ve worn size 14 shoes since highschool and for the first time since 9th grade I am wearing a 13 again. Even the rental shoes from the bowling alley (which I am sure are the same ones from 9th grade) are just too big now.

I am simply sharing with you an observation. I am not claiming barefoot training has made my feet shrink (as if I care). I actually measured my feet to the nearest 1/8” to get fitted for the Vibram’s, and when I stretch my foot out it remains the same. But when I just plant my foot and step, I am now measuring a 1/8” less than I was when I sized myself 3 months ago. As crazy as it sounds, I believe I am holding a higher arch now that I have been training barefoot.

This is very loose science right here but I have made an observation and I have a theory. If the podiatrist that fitted me with orthotics 5 years ago still has the molds he took of my feet, perhaps I could test my theory but for now the only evidence to support my claim is a closet full of shoes that don’t fit anymore. It does appear that I have a higher arch now, and there is no question my feet have thickened and toughed up (always a good thing) but other than that, all I have to offer you are a few odd details about my feet.

Why should you care?

Because I am stronger with stronger feet. And I bet you are too.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Steel Bending, VFF, Yoga & Dan John

The following is a report on my current training goals and how I've successfully married the completely unrelated pursuits of steel bending, barefoot running, yoga and strength training minimums as per Dan John.

My first priority training goal right now is steel bending. All sorts of steel; short, long, flat, round, horseshoes, hardware, whatever. I'm about a year into a long and slow process of conditioning my hands to the pressures of bending steel. I just recently bent the Ironmind red nail and although that is considered by many to be an elite level of bending, I feel like I'm only scratching the surface of my potential. Best of all, I'm having a lot of fun in the process!

Because I'm having so much fun, it's difficult to find the right training balance of this potentially dangerous activity. I can't train too often, or too hard, less I get hurt. I have to wait patiently until the tissues adapt to such forces. Even if I can block out the pain involved in bending steel, I must gradually increase the workload... my body demands it!

I'm still figuring out how to progress in this type of conditioning, one that has nothing to do with my muscular or cardiovascular development. I imagine that anyone who has been down this path had to pave their own way. Because steel bending involves trauma to the body, not to mention belief and commitment from the mind, it makes it a highly individual endeavor. Experienced benders can offer only general advice to those who inquire about steel bending programs. Just the sound of a "steel bending program" sounds ridiculous! Each man must find his own way.

Very similar to the desensitization process I'm going through with my hands, I'm going through with my feet via barefoot running (not quite barefoot, but the Vibram Five Fingers is about as close as it gets). The goal here is a multi-faceted one. I want to strengthen my feet, I want to be in good cardiovascular shape and I want to shed a couple pounds of bodyfat; so I run in VFF's. Sometimes I run sprints, sometimes I run miles, sometimes I run while carrying really heavy weights (more on that later) but I do so all in the VFF's and it all goes towards the aforementioned goals.

Barefoot training is not a new concept but it is a new experience for me. I'm about 2 months into training in the VFF's and so far what I have found is that the stronger my feet are, the stronger I am. Pavel wrote about the mechanoreceptors in the hands and feet in his book Power to the People and he explained why you should lose the lifting gloves and soft cushioned shoes (if you haven't read this book, I suggest you do). I can't help but think that desensitizing my feet is somehow helping to desensitize my hands for steel bending. Regardless of any relation there, I can tell you for certain that with stronger feet I am now a better runner. In fact, the last time I checked I had improved my 1.5 mile time by 30 seconds and my 3 mile time by 90 seconds.

The other thing that barefoot training is doing for me is helping my yoga practice -- I can hold poses much longer and much steadier now. I've been practicing yoga on and off for nearly 10 years now. I find that I feel much better, and move much better when I am doing yoga at least a couple times a month. Plus it's always fun for a 225lb steel bending weightlifter to attend a yoga class full of petite women who are into things like organic granola and saving the trees and have them inquire about my training and compliment me on my flexibility. It happens every time. :)

With all of these different pursuits you may wonder where I fit in my strength training and what Dan John has to do with any of this. In order to prioritize steel bending and running, I have cut my strength work back to bare bones minimum. Dan John has helped me to realize what that minimum is for me and not only has he given me a new perspective on what strength training is but he's also been kind enough to provide me with a little guidance on that which ails me, my overhead press.

First let's talk about what strength training is according to DJ:

1. Lifting a weight off the ground
2. Lifting a weight overhead
3. Carrying a weight for distance

I think you really need to understand training to be able to appreciate this perspective. Tell this to your average gym rat and he'll probably ask what you do for your bi's. Huh? Nevermind. These 3 things are the fullest expressions of total body strength! I can see that now.

So in order to meet these facets with the bare minimum I've cut my strength work down to 2 lifts -- the clean & press and the farmers walk. (Interesting to note that the C&P is one of my weakest lifts while the farmers walk is one of my best.)

For the last 3 months I've been pressing almost everyday -- an easy 135 for 2 sets of 5. I got the idea to do this from Dan's book Never Let Go (which reminded me Pavel also suggested this in PTTP). I'm not used to training a lift with this kind of frequency so I figured I would hit Dan up with a few questions about when to progress in weight and how often I should test my max. He was kind enough to answer my questions, my follow up questions and my questions thereafter. I should be paying the man for the advice he's given me but since he didn't ask I'll just buy his products, tell you what a nice guy he is and tell you that you should buy his products too!

After about 8 weeks of pressing 135x5 everyday I started cleaning each rep and mixing 3x8 and 5x5 workouts into the set/rep scheme. A few weeks later and my 1RM is up 5lbs from where it was when I was 20lbs heavier. Dan then suggested I do 2, 3, 5, 10 reps for 3, 5 and 2 ladders, and then test my max again. Problem was the first time I did this workout I hit my max on the 10th rep of the first ladder, second ladder I only got 8. Fine. Dan tells me to do 2, 3, 5, 8.

An interesting thing about ladder workouts is that they seem to confuse the body. I swear the 2 & 3 rep sets seemed to be the most difficult whereas the 5 & 8 rep sets the bar just flew up. This workout better than doubled the volume of pressing I was used to and caused noticeable hypertrophy in my shoulders that lasted long after the pump was gone. I've got another week before I test my max again but I'm feeling confident about adding another 5lbs to the bar. And though it's a little farther off, a bodyweight press is in the future as well.

As for the farmers walks, I know I said DJ was a nice guy but he is really a sinister S.O.B. who "does what [he] can to ruin peoples day" (direct quote). I guarantee you will curse name if you try the following workout...

It was about a month ago when I listened to a podcast that featured Mr. John. In it he suggested a workout in which you farmers carry a pair of 85lb dumbbells "as far away" as you can for 10 minutes. Then carry them back. I first tried this (20 minutes after I had listened to the podcast) with a pair of 70lb kettlebells. To make up for the 15lb difference I (foolishly) went downhill for the first half of the workout leaving the uphill climb for after I was already spent. Long story short, I made it a half mile in 10 minutes, it took me 19 minutes to get back home and then another 10 minutes to lie on the sidewalk and contemplate why I had subjected myself to such a thing. Somehow I think DJ knew this would happen. What a jerk that guy is.

It wasn't more than 2 weeks later (after I recovered) that I tried the workout again using 88lb kettlebells. (I know, glutton for punishment, but I had to at least give it a go with the prescribed weight.) This time I went uphill first and saved the downhill trip for the way back. That was a lesson I learned in about 19 minutes as per the last attempt. I traveled 3/4 of mile all in all, and it only took me 13:30 to get back. To my surprise, I did this workout again exactly one week later and carried the 40kg KB's an entire mile, only this time I did it in 3 laps around the block at my own pace, simply because I needed to periodically check on my daughter. But I digress...

Now is a good time to mention that all of these farmers walks were done in VFF. You think your feet get sore running in Vibrams? Try carrying a couple hundred pounds as far as you can over and over again and see how your feet feel the next day! Do this for a couple weeks and take note of how your feet feel during the workoutS as you progress. I mentioned that I am stronger with stronger feet, see if you don't find the same to be true.

I find it very interesting how all of these seemingly unrelated goals have blended together. I've found complete harmony in several extreme forms of training and I'm making gains on every front. Thanks goes to the following people for helping me on my path: Adam Glass for recommending Dennis Rogers' Oldtime Strongman University. Thanks to mc for securing the RKC discount on VFF's. Thanks to Dan John for all the help with my pressing program (I will let you know how the next max effort goes). And thanks to everyone else who is kicking ass and taking names! From the athletes, to the trainers, to the business gurus and to the ones who are doing it all -- keep up the good work!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Good Morning Maryland

Here is a clip from the ABC2 News "Good Morning Maryland" show where I teach unsuspecting construction workers the trick to tearing phonebooks...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

5/16" drill rod

Bending progress is coming along nicely. Here's my first attempt at red nail sized hardened tool steel...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Red Nail in Ironmind Wraps

This was done exactly 1 week from the first time the red went down.

Up until recently, it wasn't my strength that held me back from big bends but my "toughness". Bending steel hurts. But I've overcome that and it's not so bad anymore. I'm pretty sure I could do this in even thinner wraps now.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hiking in Vibrams

This past weekend we took a family vacation to the Catoctin mountains where I got a chance to do a little bit of hiking in the VFF's. With my recent bending exploits I've been very interested lately in "toughening up" or desensitizing my hands and the feet are no different. Why do I want to desensitize my feet? Why not? I remember a time where I'd wear shoes on the beach! Walking across the street to get the mail... forget about it - I better get my Jordan's!

Well, I don't want to be a tender foot anymore! I don't need to walk across hot coals or anything but I like the idea of not having to depend on Timberland boots to be able to get through some rough terrain.

To be honest, I liked being able to feel the earth under my feet. A while back I read something on reflexology that related early natives and people who didn't wear shoes to receiving what equated to a daily foot massage just from their everyday barefoot travels. I can see how that could be. It felt good walking around the woods in the 'foot gloves' all weekend. Not to mention the balance and control I had climbing rocks and steep hills. I could literally grip the ground!

If you are like I was, hesitant to try VFF because they look funny, do yourself a favor and buy the damn shoes already.

The Red Nail Goes Down

This took about 1 year of training...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Never Let Go by Dan John

I just finished reading Dan John's book Never Let Go and all I can say is I'm sorry I waited this long to read his work. This guy is an incredible author! I've seen his name thrown around on message boards but all I really knew about him was that he was a thrower and coach somewhere out mid-west. I had never read any of his stuff, and for that I was unfortunate.

Better late than never I suppose but reading this book earlier would have saved me a lot of misdirection in my training career. This is one of the best books I've read in a while and I put it up there with other favorites like Dinosaur Training, Power to the People and Rock Iron Steel. It has done me a lot of good to hear how Coach John breaks things down into such simple, simple concepts. One of my favorites parts of the book is right in the preface when he says,
There are three kinds of strength training:
1 - putting a weight overhead
2 - picking it off the ground
3 - carrying it for time or distance
The simplicity in that is beautiful. I think I've told that to everyone I've talked training to since I read it. I am a big fan of this kind of message, summary and presentation of information.

As I read this book, I was constantly reminded of the Bruce Lee quote about "simplicity being the height of cultivation". As someone who reads a lot and knows a lot about strength training, I could see how cultivated Dan John's training philosophies are and I could see that he knows a lot more than I do. And right after I would read something that would totally blow my mind, in the very next paragraph he'll write that he's not telling me anything I don't already know. In many cases he was right, but hearing training concepts distilled to such purity really helps refine ones own philosophy.

My favorite workout that he writes about is the One Lift a Day program. I first did this workout in 2003 in preparation for a strongman contest - this was long before I read anything by Dan John. In that workout I deadlifted 405 for 53 reps in 50 minutes. The last time I did this workout (Thanksgiving 08) I deadlifted 405 for 100 reps in 60 minutes. The One Lift a Day program is a great workout! But I thought I made it up! Apparently not because in June of 1979 Dan John squatted 315x30, 275x30, 225x30. I squatted 225x30 once and I thought I might die. Wait, in June of 1979 I was not even a year old. Hmm. Ok, I guess I didn't make that workout up but it's still one of my favorite workouts that I hate doing.

The subtitle of the book is "A Philosophy of Lifting, Living and Learning" and I find it refreshing to have those things highlighted in a book on training. When training is such a large part of a persons life, and they've spent so long learning about training, and teaching training to others, you can't leave that stuff out in a book on training. This is exactly what I want to read about! I want to train, I want to learn and I want to live.

Dan John will tell you that everything he knows he has stolen from somebody else, in other words, he gives credit. Coach John, I will do the same when I steal from you!

Never Let Go is available at

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Barefoot running PR is a PR

After a deadlift workout last week I ran my normal route of 1.5 miles of neighborhood hills. My best time is 15 minutes and this time I did it in 14 minutes in the Five Fingers!

The crazy part is I actually walked two small stretches after racing up some hills. It was probably less than 40 yds each time but I never walk this route! I've run this route as many as 6 times in one workout and never once walked it.

A couple days later my brother joined me for a workout and we hit a vertical push/pull and a horizontal push/pull (presses, pull ups, push ups and one arm rows). We did two sets each and went on a run.

Same thing - 14 minutes - however, afterwards we ran a couple 100m races. A couple of the neighborhood kids saw us and joined in. Dave and I tied at 2 and 2. It felt good for 228lbs of 31 year old to keep pace (and even beat) kids younger and lighter.

I'm feeling good about the bad shoes!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Two days later and my feet are sore!

Feet, calves, hamstrings and groin. I figured this much but I didn't expect the groin to be sore. I've never experienced soreness in the adductors from running before and I'm not sure how this relates to barefoot training.

I also have a little soreness in the left heel but this feels like a bruise. I'm pretty sure it was that first heel strike when I set off to run as I don't remember stepping on anything that would have caused it. I do remember my stride changing almost immediately from what I am used to (heel striking as with shoes).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Vibram Five Fingers & Barefoot Running

So I finally broke down and bought a pair of the ugly foot glove shoes - the Vibram Five Fingers - . I got the all black ones because they are the least conspicuous and I figured if I wear them at night then maybe nobody will see them:) My wife said they should come with a face shield for when people throw things at you. :)

All joking aside, they are actually pretty damn comfortable and I'm getting used to their funny looks already.

I'm convinced of the reported benefits to training barefoot and I have held that opinion for years. From proprioception, balance, natural gait to running mechanics; it all makes sense - smart shoes make dumb feet.

It wasn't until I read this article - The painful truth about trainers - and until mc (a fellow KB instructor, and barefoot training advocate) scored a 40% discount for RKC's, did I decide to give the foot gloves a try.

My first time out with them consisted of a 1/2 run and four 100m sprints. The first thing I noticed was there was no heel strike in my stride. Much smoother run. The sprints weren't as fast as in running shoes (I normally wear the Nike Free 7.0) but I felt like I could run easier, if that makes sense. I also noticed my feet started to fatigue; they were definitely getting a workout. It'll be interesting to see if I have DOMS tomorrow in my feet, I've got a feeling I will.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Power Plant Live Strongman Show

This past Saturday I did a strongman show for CREATE Everyday Geniuses "Celebrate Your Style" Family Fun Day held at the Power Plant Live in downtown Baltimore. The show went over very well. Check out the pictures by Tony Winthrop of Live TV

They say pictures are worth a thousand words so I won't say anymore.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Horseshoe Bending at Juniata College

Juniata and AOBS weekend

Just got back from an exhausting weekend traveling over 600 miles from Baltimore, to Huntingdon PA, to Newark NJ and then back home to Baltimore. Had the Pennsylvania State Strength & Conditioning clinic this weekend at Juniata College where I gave a presentation on "Team Training with Kettlebells" and a hands-on session on "Kettlebell Sport." This was my fourth year at the clinic and third time presenting. I always look forward to this weekend.

Another weekend I look forward to is the AOBS weekend where a bunch of strongmen gather to honor Iron Game notables. From bodybuilding, to powerlifting, to olympic weightlifting, to strongman performances; it's all covered that weekend.

I've got a lot to digest and a lot of video footage to edit. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Grade 8

I just bent five Grade 8 bolts. I've bent two in the past (on the same day but spaced out about an hour apart) and that was the last time I've even attempted such a tough bend. I've been working on my technique and I think I finally found my groove! My last bending video awarded me some great pointers from many of my steel bending brethren on the net. Thanks to guys on the and everybody who posted comments on my blog! Special thanks to Dennis Rogers, Chris Rider and Aaron McKenzie for working with me and for the encouragement.

Anyway, here's a video of the fifth destroyed bolt. They got easier with each successive bend. The first bend actually dropped me to my knees, I almost passed out. I almost quit. I almost didn't hit a HUGE personal record!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Old Texas Barbell Company

Busy Schedule

I've been very busy lately - which is a good thing - I just don't have much time to update the blog.

I spent last weekend in Lockhart, Texas learning the art of a performing strongman. Dennis Rogers held a mini Oldtime Strongman University seminar in which a few of us got together for for a little bit of mentoring. Exciting weekend. I learned a lot. And that has a lot to do with why I've been so busy recently.

Just a quick note that the Honeygo Run classes are in session right now. [Another reason why I haven't had time to blog.] We've had a slow start with the threat of rain almost everyday but a handful of us still turn in some great workouts.

Thanks to everyone for their kind words and well wishes about the baby! Jess and I are excited!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

It's a boy!

My wife and I just found out that we've got a baby boy on the way! We're pretty excited about having a son! Not that my daughter isn't awesome - she's already lifting mommy's dumbbells and learning to use the leg press (she seems to likes hub lifting, hacky sac and vegetables as well) - but I think having a girl stirs up a little more nervous energy (or, maybe that's just me:).

Anyone want to weigh in on names?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Extreme Kettlebell Juggling

Check out the juggling feats. I've never seen anything so amazing done with a kettlebell!

Friday, April 3, 2009

New Phonebook Feats

Here are some tearing PR's...

This next one took place under less-than-desirable conditions. That is, after 6 hours worth of grip training & feats, and just a few minutes after eating chili...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Training Session

This past weekend I hosted a training session for some good friends and for some of the strongest men alive. Besides Luke and I, everybody was from out of state - Pennsylvania, New York and even one guy from North Carolina. Sometimes you have to go far and wide to find people who share unique and similar interests as you and grip training is no different. There's probably plenty of people around who squeeze grippers and do wrist curls but when your desire for stronger hands takes you to steel bending, card and phonebook tearing, suddenly that circle of friends becomes much smaller.

There's far too much to recount as to what went on this weekend. In addition to the 7 in attendance, there was also 200+ phonebooks, 100's of bits of steel, at least 50 decks of cards, dozens of horseshoes, a bucket full of license plates and more custom made equipment than most of your largest commercial gyms. We bent, tore and otherwise destroyed stuff for nearly 8 hours strait! I have some video and I will be posting random clips over the next week or so.

The cool thing about get togethers like this is the camraderie. The learning and sharing of techniques between experts and people at the top of their game makes a training session like this worth a road trip. I was lucky enough not to have to drive anywhere for this one but I've taken 8 and 16hr round trips just to be a part of special gatherings like the one we had this weekend.

I'd like to thank everyone for coming. Jedd, glad you were finally able to make it down to my place. John E., it was nice meeting you and great to have you. Johnny Steel, always good to see you and the wife. Luke, glad you could make it. Chris, thanks for coming and thanks for the phonebooks. I can't think of a better excuse for you guys being late. (Like I said, if you ever get the chance to bring a guest to the Dungeon, I'll drive :) Mac, thank you again for all the steel. And that horseshoe you bent for me is sick! Really glad you made the trip up from NC.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Card Tearing

I've been tearing cards for many years now. I never thought too much about it other than that it takes strong hands and the right technique. I have no doubt in my mind that the new Diesel Crew Card Tearing ebook is going to help me get STRONGER hands and BETTER technique! Jedd has put together a great manual that covers card tearing in it's entirety. If you want to know how to tear a deck of cards, this manual is all you need. If you are already tearing cards, this manual will take you to the next level.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Senior Fitness

I work part-time as a fitness specialist at a retirement community. Before this job, I had no experience working with geriatrics. Although I had been trained in school with senior fitness, I felt like a fish out of water for the first couple months. I just wasn't used to working with such a delicate and fragile population. But I soon learned that seniors are as diverse as any group of people.

We have an 83 year old who runs marathons, a 72 year old who leg presses 400+, a 90 year old who can lift her foot overhead and as you can imagine, there are also plenty of people who have difficulty standing, walking and doing other simple tasks that many of us take for granted. So there is no shortage of individuality with these folks.

What really hit me by surprise was just how gratifying it is to work with these people. I've worked with athletes from all levels, gradeschool through professional ranks; I've worked with stay at home moms, weekend warriors and gym rats alike; but none have given me the satisfaction that this group does! These people REALLY appreciate what I do - check out some of the testimonies I've received...

(This first one is my favorite. Can you think of a better compliment someone could offer you?)

I am very much interested in the mobility class given here at Oak Crest by Dan Cenidoza. My knees hurt, and I am taking this class for the movement it gives me. The class members are all so interesting and we all enjoy our instructor. Dan has helped to lengthen my life, and helped my mobility. I am 93 years old as of 2/18/09.
-Eleanor Meise, (93 years old)

I really do enjoy and appreciate all of the exercise and strengthening that I’ve been doing with you for almost 2 years. My joints have benefited from the mobility and I also enjoy trying to take on the new procedures, hearing and watching your delightful humor and your regular and on time class attendance. Thank you very much!
- Enid Deutschendorf, (74 years old)

For many months now I have been a regular in Dan’s Joint Mobility class here at Oak Crest Village. I just cannot say enough in praising this hour of therapy.
Next month I turn 87 years of age. My back troubles began something back in the fall of 2007 when I was diagnosed with osteo-arthritis, osteo-porosis and stenosis. Various treatments failed to help. The pain grew worse and I became less active and more depressed. I’ve become convinced that my problems are with me for the long haul. My outlook, however is so much better as I’ve seen my range of motion improve through Dan’s Joint Mobility program. It’s made a big difference in my life and I feel comfortable in “hanging in there.” My doctor here at OCV is aware of Dan’s work and actively encourages my continuing with the class.
- Phyllis Valenziano, (87 years old)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Family Fitness Night

I put on a strongman performance earlier this week at Elmwood Elementary school for their "Family Fitness Night". I bent horseshoes and spikes, and tore telephone books and decks of cards for the parents and children in attendance. The show was a big hit with everyone and hopefully I struck a chord with the kids about how important strength training and exercise is.

Afterwards, I did this...

I've never been able to do this! The last time I even attempted climbing a rope was in elementary school and I couldn't even do it using my legs, much less hands only!

I'm pretty excited about this. I was also able to climb two ropes (one in each hand) and I even got a few pulls in upside down!!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Coach Friday (formerly of the Baltimore Ravens now of was kind enough to post a review on my Dragondoor Instructor page. Check it out here...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spinal Flexibility and Deadlifting

A question regarding flexibility of the spine and its relationship to deadlifting. Notice the slight rounding of my lower back as I begin the pull. This is a new style of deadlifting I am using which has my back flatter than my normal pull. It seems I am unable to keep my back in a locked arch position, although the rounding is actually less than what I am used to and much less than I am capable of.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Jedd Johnson just sent out an email about the Bull Strength training manual written by Joe Hashey. I don't know Joe, but I like his website. Check it out here -

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I did this after a quick grip workout that consisted of pinch bar curls (regular and reverse), beer mug curls with a kettlebell, wrist curls and wrist extension with the Formulator. I immediately went into bending the 60D nails with various grips (overhand, underhand, reverse & slim style). Before my hands recovered I attempted the horseshoe and got stuck with it... just couldn't take it any further. And from there I went back and forth between tearing. I managed my first behind the back card tear, my first notched phonebook (might have done that once before) and that was only the second time I've torn cards vertically. The spike gave me a hard time. My biggest problem with braced bending is not so much the strength but the pain tolerance required to bend things over your leg.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pork Spare Ribs

I always thought it was silly when people blogged their food. And the diet-obsessed fitness crowd is the worst at this! It's bad enough that these people eat the most boring, bland food known to man, but they have to include the time of day and nutritional profile of everything. People don't care about your oatmeal and organic blueberries! Seriously, nobody cares.

Yet still I find myself writing about food.

But the difference between me and the granola munchers is I eat their "cheat meals" everyday, I eat a lot of it and I could care less about calories. If you're one of those lonely few who turn their nose up at a good steak because it's too marbled, you might as well stop reading now. But if you're somebody who likes to eat, and doesn't mind cooking, I've got a mean pork spare rib recipe for you!

First the appetizer...
Vegetable medley: bell peppers, red onion, fresh garlic, squash & asparagus. Stir fry in a wok over medium heat with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and paprika. Add ingredients as listed about 5 minutes apart in order to cook properly. Very important to get the timing right as peppers take a while to cook and you don't want to overcook the squash or asparagus.

Main course...
Drunken Pork Spare Ribs: marinate ribs in 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup bourbon, 1 tbsp of ketchup, 1 tbsp of Dijon mustard. Cook in marinade for 1hr at 250 degrees and turn. Cook for another 60 min and turn. Increase temp to 350 degrees and cook 30 min until done. For light recipe cook ribs for the first 2 hours on roasting pan to allow some of the grease to drain before putting them back in marinade and increasing the oven temp.

The second picture is actually hickory BBQ ribs. I seasoned the meat with a pork rub and used the "light recipe" cooking directions. I transferred the ribs to a baking pan and added the BBQ sauce for the last 30 min. They were equally as delicious.

You can play around with the cooking time/temp to produce a more tender meat but I wouldn't recommend trying to cook ribs in less than 2hrs. From everything I've read, you're looking at closer to 5hrs for a fall-off-the-bone consistency.

And yes, I ate everything shown above. :)

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Warrior Diet

This is a typical meal for me...

Steamed broccoli and cauliflower

Roast beef and squash with egg

More beef, more vegetables and a little bit of rice

Dessert was two tequila martinis and a few microbrews.

I've lost 20lbs eating like this (down to a svelte 225 :) but more importantly, I feel better throughout the day. I've found that breakfast and lunch tend to weigh me down and makes me feel sluggish and lazy throughout the day at a time when I need to be most productive.

"Break-fast" boosting the metabolism, yada, yada, I don't buy it! My energy levels are higher and I am more alert going through my day with little to nothing to eat.

Was this really how "warriors" or ancient civilizations ate? I don't know and I don't care. I've found a diet that not only keeps me lean but makes me feel good too!

Is it healthy to eat this way? When was the last time you ate that much vegetables?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fox 45 Morning News

On Tuesday I will be appearing on "Get Fit with Fox 45 News" to do a kettlebell segment. The production coordinator called this morning to set up the appointment. Nothing like being on live television! Looking forward to it. I'll post more next week.


The Morning Show went very well today! I've received a lot of positive feedback. Unfortunately, the segment was only a couple minutes long but I made some great contacts at the news station with the strongman show I put on in the lobby after my bit. I thought the producer might like to see me perform a few feats... you never know were that kind of stuff will take you. In this case, it lead me to some in depth conversation about grip strength, a few new friends at Fox 45 Baltimore, a gripper sale and hopefully another spot on their show!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


5 months after the CK-FMS workshop and I have finally finished my certification requirements.

All that was required was completion of an online test (for FMS) and a video submission of a movement screen along with discussion of results and corrective strategies (for RKC). Neither of these took more than an hour but learning the material in order to pass the tests is what took time.

I was recently asked "why someone would wait" or put off getting certified but for me it wasn't "putting off" it was "practicing".

The movement screen could be described as a physical therapy test adapted to trainers and coaches. In other words, a physical therapist designed the test. PT's know their stuff. I think a lot of therapists (and sports medicine professionals in general) don't pay much mind to us "lowly" trainers, but I give them the credit they deserve.

The functional movement screen and the step-by-step corrective strategy protocol is a brilliantly designed system! This is not the kind of thing where you attend a weekend workshop and you are certified. (I've never cared much for certifications anyway, I am much more concerned with proficiency rather than a piece of paper that says you are proficient.)

In any case, now I am official. A big thank you goes out to all of my test subjects! Your cooporation was much appreciated!