Bullet Points and a Brew 5/17/17

Bullet Points and a Brew 5/17/17

Hey there. Remember me? I’ve been AWOL due to some busyness and some laziness. Time to get back on track and start putting these out. I was able to get on a rope for the first time this year this past weekend. I was able to sample two different crags for the first time. I’m always amazed at just how much rock is in this area. I’m truly lucky to live in an area that’s covered in sandstone.


The Buffet Wall. Photo: Bob Butters c/o Roots Rated

In terms of performance, I’ve got a long way to go endurance-wise. I’ve been putting in some basic work, and had faint hints of some fitness, but the weekend was a big motivator to really get after it. Speaking of getting after it, let’s get after some bullet points.

The Bullet Points

There’s a reason Dan John considers a loaded carry one of the fundamental human movement patterns. Not sure about that? Read this article, and start carrying stuff. You may learn something.

If you aren’t recovering adequately, you’re not getting stronger. It’s as simple as that. This article had some interesting videos that describe some science behind recovery, and some novel ways to address how you recharge for your next training bout.

This article came out a couple weeks ago and I immediately tagged it as an article for one of these posts. Mark Anderson has been climbing and coaching for a looong time. There’s gold in these here lessons. Go find it.

The Brew


Beer Geek Breakfast, Mikeller

Mikeller is a microbrewery based out of Denmark with a really interesting mode of production: They’re a gypsy brewery. They travel around and make their beers in various breweries. It’s an interesting concept, and apparently doesn’t affect the quality of their beer, as this one of the more highly rated stouts around. I’ve always been on the lookout for this one, and it finally appeared at one of the bottle shops around here.  (Thanks Sigler’s!). It pours an oily black with a finger of tan, thick, bubbly head. A very roasty aroma fills the room almost immediately, lots of malts and coffee. It’s roasty and rich, with a Russian Imperial stout-ish malt character in the taste, with some present but subtle coffee. It’s definitely different than the coffee bomb that is your standard coffee stout. The taste finishes out with a pleasant bitterness. On the palate, it’s as good as it gets for a stout, with a thick, velvety mouthfeel. It’s a delicious beer that lives up to the hype. Coffee and stout fans will enjoy this one immensely.

That’s it for this week.

What’s Happening


Strongfirst Kettlebell User Course

I’m excited to announce that the Strongfirst Kettlebell User course is coming back to Chattanooga! On May 27, Senior SFG Delaine Ross will be at Scenic City Strength and Fitness for an 8 hour workshop breaking down fundamental kettlebell skills. These skills lay the foundation for a lifetime of effective kettlebell training, so this course is not to be missed. You can find more information here.


I deliver efficient and effective programming that gets the job done without demanding too much of your valuable time. I have some open spots for distance coaching, so if you are interested, please apply. You can find more information here.

Mailing List

I’m playing around with a newsletter. It will contain article alerts, special content promotions, and offers exclusive to subscribers. You can sign up here if you’d like. It’s completely free.

I’m teaching two kettlebell classes at Scenic City Strength and Fitness.

An entry-level class that emphasizes the foundations of safe and effective kettlebell training is held Tuesdays at 6:15 pm. It’s only 10 bucks and spots will be limited to ensure a great experience. If you are in the Chattanooga area and have always been curious about trying out kettlebells, it’ll be tough to find a better opportunity.

I also teach a class for folks who are more familiar with kettlebells on Thursdays at the same time. We will dive into some more advanced kettlebell movements and concepts, and push the intensity up a bit more than Tuesday.

You can check out the calendar and register online for any of these classes here. Each class is 10$. Hurry, because the spots fill up fast.

Social Medias

Like what you’ve read? Want to find out more? Like the Facebook Page and share with your friends!

Gettin' all Sciency, Edition 2

Gettin' all Sciency, Edition 2

Not many people know it, but Einstein used to be a crusher. Photoshop Credit: Jordan Haag. IG: @passionhorse

…so  you don’t have to.

The scientific process requires thorough (often tedious) recording of pretty much everything involved in the research process. This allows the next group of researchers to replicate the study, if need be, or continue to progress the line of thinking that spurred the original study. This results in the publishing of informative, but tedious, articles in scholarly journals. They’re tough to read, but if you put the time in, you can come away with helpful information that you can use to get stronger, stay injury free, and crush your goals.

Let’s get to it.

The Study

Shoulder Joint and Muscle Characteristics Among Weight Training Participants With and Without Impingement Syndrome

Kolber et al.  2017

The Background

The study we’re going to look at today took place recently, and examined some characteristics of Shoulder Impingement Syndrome (SIS). SIS is an umbrella-ish term that is used to describe certain instances of shoulder pain. Sometimes, if certain movement or structural characteristics are out of whack, the Rotator cuff tendons or the sac of fluid that separates these tendons from bony structures in the shoulder might get stuck or pinched by these bony structures when reaching overhead. Over time, this can lead to degradation of the Rotator cuff soft tissues and that fluid sac (Subacromial bursa, if you want the scientific term). Persistent shoulder pain is usually the inevitable destination of that road.

The researchers involved in this study wanted to see if there was a trend with certain muscle strength and range of motion characteristics among people with Impingement Syndrome, and were curious if any differences existed for people without Impingement Syndrome.

How They Did It

The researchers selected 55 male adults with ages from 21 to 56. The average age was 27 years old. All subjects had been strength training 2-5 times a week for an average of 9 years, so all subjects were relatively seasoned lifters. They were separated into two groups, those with Shoulder Impingement, and those without.

To determine whether a subject had Impingement or not, two tests were administered. –

-Hawkins-Kennedy Test.


***DON’T just have your friend do this. This is a hands-on test meant for use by a clinician that provokes pain to get a diagnosis. If you don’t have the word “Doctor” in front of your name, you shouldn’t be doing this to someone. End Rant.***

The second test looked for a pain during a shoulder arcArc

If these tests were positive for pain, the subject was placed in the Impingement group. If the tests were negative, and the subject had experienced no pain for the previous 72 hours during training or daily living, they were placed in the Non-impingement group.

There were three areas of testing: Muscle Strength, Muscle Strength Ratios, and Active Range of Motion

Muscle Strength

The first attribute tested was muscle strength. The researchers looked at five muscle group’s strength levels, using a hand digital dynamometer. These muscle groups were the shoulder abductor group, external rotators, internal rotators, and the upper and lower trapezius muscles.

Muscle Strength Ratios

After these values were obtained the ratios of these groups’ strength levels were compared with one another. The relationships examined were:

-Internal Rotator Strength to External Rotator Strength

-Shoulder Abductor strength to External Rotator Strength

-Upper Trapezius Strength to Lower Trapezius Strength

Active Range of Motion

The researches examined each subjects active flexion, abduction, external rotation and internal rotation using a goniometer, a device used to measure joint angles.






External and Internal Rotation


After all the data had been collected, certain trends existed.

-Shoulder External Rotators and the Lower Trapezius muscles were significantly weaker in individuals with Impingement Syndrome compared to individuals without.

-The strength ratio of Internal Rotators vs. External Rotators was significantly skewed towards Internal Rotators (Internal Rotators were way stronger than the external rotators) in individuals with Impingement.

-The strength ratio of Abductors vs. External Rotators was significantly skewed towards the Abductors in individuals with Impingement.

-The strength ratio of Lower Trapezius vs. Upper Trapezius was significantly skewed towards the Upper Traps in individuals with impingement.

-Individuals with Impingement had significantly less Internal AND External Rotation than individuals without impingement.


-One takeaway from this study is the importance of shoulder external rotator and lower trapezius strength. Keeping these muscles and groups of muscles strong help keep the “ball” of the humerus centered in the shoulder socket. The shoulder relies on a relatively large amount of soft tissue to keep the joint centered, so a weakness in certain groups may allow the ball to creep out of the center position. Poor position means a higher chance of running out of room during a movement, and therefore a higher chance of trapping soft tissue and getting impingement. It seems external rotators and lower traps tend to be weaker in individuals with impingement, so it miiight be a good idea to keep them strong. Here are some simple and effective exercises to address that.


-Another takeaway I got from this study was discrepancy in strength that was related to shoulder impingement.

It’s seems as if people can be pulled into internal rotation if they neglect proper form during training, or have certain lifestyle factors, such as sitting at a computer for extended periods of time, drive for extended periods of time, or have poor posture (the standard climber hunchback). All these can lead to an imbalance in which our joint position and muscle strength is skewed towards shoulder internal rotation and lead to a weakness in our external rotators.

Another factor seems to be the imbalance between lower trap and upper trap strength. We’ve gone over a way to work on lower trap weakness, but the upper traps can end up being to “switched on”  by something we do every day:Breathing. When we breathe incorrectly, it’s often by using our accessory muscles which are in our shoulders, upper traps, and neck. Ideally, we want to be using our diaphragm to pull air into our lungs, and crocodile breathing is a great way to reinforce this pattern. Lay on your belly and take relaxed, complete inhales through your nose. Your midsection should rise and expand laterally, and your shoulders should stay relaxed.


Wrapping it Up

Give some thought to how you breathe and what positions you spend the majority of your day in. If there’s some things you can work on, start doing them! The examples I talked about in the videos are just a few of the myriad of ways you can begin to address these issues.

I think these exercise form corrections are crucial to the health of the shoulder joint, as strength training with proper form helps reinforce movement characteristics. You’re either building bad habits and making them harder to break, or you are reinforcing healthy and balanced joint mechanics. You make the choice.

Have questions, comments, rants and raves related to this article? Feel free to reach out to me!

Learn More

Here’s the citation and link to the abstract if you want to read the full study.

Kolber et al. Shoulder Joint and Muscle Characteristics Among Weight Training Participants With and Without Shoulder Impingement Syndrome, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001554

Bullet Points and a Brew 2/28/17

Bullet Points and a Brew 2/28/17

It’s that time again. It’s been a good couple weeks after a bout of traveling. I was able to get out a week or so ago and put down a boulder I’ve been working on for the season. Apparently the deadlifts, swings and hangboard work have been paying off, because this boulder felt easy. That same day, I made some progress on some other blocs in the field, so hopefully I’m going to get back out there soon and continue to get after it. I’m heading to the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas this upcoming weekend for the first time, so it’ll be sweet to check out a new boulderfield!

Let’s get into the bullet points.

The Bullet Points

Last week, I posted an article that morphed from what was going to be a quick write up on some readiness concepts into a glance into my philosophy concerning training. I believe you should be able to get after it and do some moderately strenuous work with little to no warmup. If you can’t, you need to start investing in some time to build your readiness. Here’s how.

I really respect people who approach training with a patient and practical approach. Steve is one of those guys. This was a great piece detailing some of his philosophy behind finger strength training that also contains some actionable information to utilize immediately in your training. That means it’s well worth the read. So do it.

Foam rollers are loved. Foam rollers are hated. They work. They don’t work. Whether you love them or not, they’re here. I personally use foam rollers for some light warmup work and to turn the volume down on some muscle tone, if that’s what I feel needs to happen for a productive session. Some proponents claim foam rollers can do pretty outrageous things. This was a cool article that reviewed research concerning the various claims the foam roller camp makes. Go get ya some science.

A strong overhead press can be a game changer for shoulder health, even for athletes who only pull downwards (ahem…you know who you are). It needs to be done correctly though. This article breaks down some common flaws when pressing and some ways to clean it up. It goes into detail about the tall kneeling position, which I love for a lot of movements. Putting heavy shit over your head is awesome. Make sure you do it right.

The Brew


Raspberry Halo, Cigar City Brewing

When it comes to stouts, Cigar City has some good ones. Marshal Zhukov’s, Hunahpu’s and other stouts they brew are some of the most sought after and well reviewed beers in that style. Because of that, I’m quick to grab any stout of theirs that pops up on the shelves. It pours black with a light brown head. It’s got a nose full of roasted malt and faint raspberry, which becomes more prominent on the back end. Flavor is heavy roasted malt and your standard rich chocolaty big stout flavor. A very subtle raspberry is present if you look for it, and just like the aroma, it becomes more prominent on the back end. It’s kind of nice! A lot of raspberry beers are heavy handed and come off as artificially sweet and not well balanced. This one is subtle and shows a touch of restraint. I dig it.

What’s Happening

Facebook Page

I finally got around to creating an official Facebook page. It’s in its infancy, but hopefully some cool things come out of it. I’d appreciate if you went there and clicked the ole “like” button.

Tactical Strength Challenge

We are hosting the Tactical Strength Challenge again at Scenic City Strength and Fitness! It will be held April 8th all around the world. Six weeks out! The three skills tested are a max powerlifting-style deadlift, strict pull-ups or flexed arm hangs depending on your division, and a 5 minute snatch test. It’s an awesome event and a lot of fun to push your limits and cheer on everyone else. If you’re interested, reach out to me ASAP so we can answer your questions and get your registered! You can register here.

Nutrition, Performance, and Strength Coaching

If you’re interested in coaching, I can help. I offer strength training, Functional Movement Screen consulting, performance training, or some combination of these programs. You can find more information here.

Mailing List

I’m playing around with a newsletter. It will contain article alerts, special content promotions, and offers exclusive to subscribers. You can sign up here if you’d like. It’s completely free.

I’m teaching two kettlebell classes at Scenic City Strength and Fitness.

An entry-level class that emphasizes the foundations of safe and effective kettlebell training is held Tuesdays at 6:15 pm. It’s only 10 bucks and spots will be limited to ensure a great experience. If you are in the Chattanooga area and have always been curious about trying out kettlebells, it’ll be tough to find a better opportunity.

I also teach a class for folks who are more familiar with kettlebells on Thursdays at the same time. We will dive into some more advanced kettlebell movements and concepts, and push the intensity up a bit more than Tuesday.

You can check out the calendar and register online for any of these classes here. Each class is 10$. Hurry, because the spots fill up fast.


3 Ways I'm Changing My Training in 2017

3 Ways I'm Changing My Training in 2017

I’m about to be back in Chattanooga after a vacation, and I’m psyched to get back after it in terms of coaching, climbing, and my own training. I always like to reflect on the past year and see what’s changed in both my training and philosophy concerning physical preparation. I’ve learned a lot the past year, and am taking on some new challenges this coming year. How does MY training plan reflect that? Let’s take a look.

1. An Increased Focus on Finger Strength

I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to climb at a fairly competent level without doing a whole lot of targeted finger strength. The last year or two, I’ve learned that as climbs get harder, holds tend to get smaller (a big surprise, eh?). One of my main dislikes about finger training  was the amount of time I perceived a dedicated block of finger training would take. One of the “big rocks” of my training philosophy is efficiency. I’m not a fan of sitting around and doing only one movement. I (wrongly) thought that this approach was how the majority of hangboard training sessions would go. Enter Integrative Strength Training.

I’ve heard this approach mentioned multiple times by Steve Bechtel over at Climb Strong. It’s a unique way to keep your sessions flowing, and reduce monotony. Most importantly, this method utilizes the endocrine system to  make strength gains. At it’s most basic, this approach combines a heavy strength exercise, a finger strength exercise, and some mobility work. A session involves rotating through these movement categories instead of just hitting straight sets of one movement, then moving on to the next one. The first grouping of movements I will be playing with include deadlifts, fingerboard work, and some upper body T-Spine and Glenohumeral mobility. I’m excited to see how it goes.

I’ve kept my description of this approach extremely broad, because I still have a LOT to learn about it. I learn by doing, so I hope to not only develop strength through this approach, but also gain some knowledge. If you want to learn more about Integrated Strength Training, check out this podcast.


Power Company Podcast: Integrated Strength Training w/ Steve Bechtel

2. Putting Heavy Shit Overhead

I think a heavy shoulder press is one of the best shoulder health movements a person can do. If they do it correctly. Also, someone once told me the secret to happiness is lifting heavy shit over your head. I want to be really happy, so I want to lift something really heavy (for me).

I’m going to be training for my StrongFirst Kettlebell Instructor level 2 Certification in April. It’s about that time to dive even deeper into the world of Kettlebells, applicable strength, and tension. The strength test for this qualification is a 1/2 bodyweight single arm Kettlebell press. I need to press either a 36kg (80lb) or 40kg (88lb) kettlebell depending on how much I weigh come April. I plan on training for the 40 kilo, because why not take the opportunity to get stronger?

My strategy for this goal will involve around the concept of variability. The Soviet weightlifters of the past hold an incredible number of records and competition wins. The training system they used wasn’t as linear as some other schools of thought. When viewed with an EXTREMELY broad brush, one of the golden rules of that system was that one’s training load should vary at least 20% from session to session. That doesn’t mean it always needs to increase. In fact, depending on one’s training experience, the wavier and more varied the load, the better! (within reason).

I personally handle heavier sets with low reps better than higher rep sets, so it looks like I’ll be doing a lot of 1,2, and maybe 3 rep sets (and not in that order) if I’m feeling froggy. Maybe I’ll throw in some fingerboarding and turn it into more Integrative Strength work. Who knows…

3. Sport and Region-specific Conditioning Work

My endurance sucks. Part of it is due to the fact that I boulder 90% of the year. The other part of it is that I rarely spend an adequate amount of time training my aerobic energy system. Looking back, when I’ve tried to develop my endurance, I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time addressing my anaerobic performance and neglected the aerobic energy system. In 2017, I want to balance that out a bit more. It is hard to train a weakness. It’s not fun, and quite humbling. I would really like to climb some hard sport climbing routes in the fall, so I plan on staying disciplined and getting after some of my weak spots.

Some non-specific conditioning protocols I like

-Kettlebell Snatches: 15 seconds on, 45 seconds off, alternating hands each round.

-Loaded Carries: All sorts of variations and intervals, but the goal would be to stay around 4-7 out of 10 intensity wise, and making sure there is adequate recovery.

Deep 6 Complexes: Skill practice, and being able to complete complex techniques when fatigued.


Some climbing-specific things I’ll be doing

-Playing with some low intensity hangboard intervals or repeaters

-4 x 4’s

-Feet on campus board intervals, with a simulated rest

I used these last spring and they really helped with recovery and climbing through a pump. Start on the lowest rung of a campus board, with your feet on the kick board. Slowly climb up and down the board, making sure your feet stay on the kick board. Simulate foot movements if you want. Once your work interval is over, put your feet on the ground, but keep a fraction of your weight hanging from a campus rung. 1/2 of your rest time is spent “shaking out” on the rung. Adjust the weight you’re putting on the rung to ensure you are recovering. The second 1/2 of your rest time is off the board, normally resting. I started with a 1 set of 5 intervals and worked up to 3 sets, with a 5 minute rest in between sets.  

As always, perfect repeats and technique drills will always be part of my training. Skill comes first, all the other details are built on proper technique.

Without a plan, you’re just randomly trying to throw things at a wall and see what sticks. Figure out what you want to address, and figure out what you need to change. Einstein said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of madness.

How are you going to prove your sanity in 2017?


Majoring in the Minor Details:  A Good Thing?

Majoring in the Minor Details: A Good Thing?

That’s “Great White” at Horse Pens 40. One attempt, I was able to stick this unique match move. It was clumsy, I barely held on, and biffed an easier move afterwards. I was cool with it, because I had figured out the hard move, and I would send next go.

I still haven’t done the problem, or even repeated that match move.

Success on a new skill or movement goes so much deeper than sloppy success one time.

“Most people fail in life because they major in the minor things” -Tony Robbins

Years ago, I hear about Tony Robbins in an episode of Family Guy. He eats Peter Griffin in that episode, so clearly it was a serious, thoughtful take on the information Tony Robbins offers. Tim Ferris interviewed Tony in a episode of his podcast, which was significantly more informative. As a self-help guru, businessman, and philanthropist, Mr. Robbins has helped countless people improve their lives. The minor details are annoyances and focusing on those small items can only make your performance worse. But wait..


Sure, stressing about minor details will lead to some issues in life. When you consider skill development and performance, the opposite is true. Pretty early on in your training journey, being mindful of minor details is critical.

Motor Learning

Let’s explore motor learning with a very broad brush

Motor learning is the process in which we acquire skills. These skills include skipping, playing the piano, putting a ball in the hoop, or doing a super sick drop knee to gasto-cling dyno sequence.  Many experts break Motor Learning down into three stages: Cognitive, Associative, and Autonomous

Cognitive Stage

This is the first stage of learning a new movement. The stage requires conscious thought; clumsy performance of movement components, and inefficient energy use to achieve the task. Think about your first attempts at driving a car. Remember the astounding finesse you had stomping pressing the brake pedal? Think about your first attempts clipping a bolt. Anything but smooth, right? This early stage of movement practice isn’t fun, graceful, or confidence-building, but we live in this awkward stage as we develop familiarity with a novel movement.

Associative Stage

“Early, crude success should not be accepted as good enough”-Eric Horst

Often times, it only takes a few attempts to execute a novel move or skill successfully. That does not mean the movement is mastered. We’re usually not even close to “owning” that movement. Thus begins the Associative, or Motor stage of learning, where we start to refine our technique. The basic details of the movement (not letting our feet cut, not letting a car roll into oncoming traffic at an intersection, keeping our back straight during a deadlift) are well known. During practice, our conscious effort goes into refining and eliminating wasted energy to perform efficient, graceful movement. Internal sensations and cues are helpful. A conscious awareness of tension areas, weight placement, and fluidity of movement are common areas of focus in this stage.

Autonomous Stage

The stage of mastery competence. Movements that have reached this stage require little thought, minimal or no feedback, and are completed successfully 100% of the time barring extreme circumstances. Think about your last commute to work. If you’ve had the same job for a while, it’s quite common that it will be hard to remember any specific detail about the drive. Barring a ten car pileup or an unexpected detour, this originally complex set of correct turn selections, speed limits, and traffic laws are now a complete unconscious action. You’ve done it so many times, you know how to get there.

Don’t Rush to the Final Stage

It’s easy to look at the final stage of motor learning and try to get there as fast as possible. The middle, cognitive stage is just a stepping stone, right?

This stage is where some of the most important learning occurs. It’s where we take advantage of both our internal and external sensations. Be patient in this stage. Actively search for the subtle details that enhance performance and efficiency, in any motor skill.

Making Smaller Circles

Josh Waitzkin is a chess prodigy, world champion martial artist, and all around elite learner. His incredible book, The Art of Learning, describes his process of learning that puts a large emphasis on the associative stage of learning. He describes this process as making smaller circles. A big circle consists of the basic components of a proper movement. Each smaller circle lives withing a larger one, becoming more specific and detailed. Think about zooming in on a satellite image. Details present in a close-up are indistinguishable or even invisible in the zoomed out view. Find those details.

How deeply can you magnify a movement? What are the subtle sensations you need to feel? How do you know you’re performing a movement correctly? How do you know you’re performing a movement incorrectly? Dive deep into the sensations, weight shifts, and external cues of a movement.

Training Applications

What minor details am I majoring in when training? It depends on the discipline, so let’s examine strength training, climbing, and Jiu-Jitsu. For everyone out there more experienced in Jiu-Jitsu than I am, feel free to laugh at my ineptitude. I’m very much a white belt, so these may be some basic concepts that are second nature to you. However, that brings up a good point: As we get better at certain activities, minor details magnify or warp into larger concepts, complex sets of movements, or entire disciplines in themselves. We can always get better.

  • Strength Training

Let’s take a look some minor details I’m currently focusing on in movements I have done countless times, but can always improve.

Kettlebell Swing

-Am I “T Rex-ing” my swing?

Turkish Get Up

-Are both my shoulders in the proper alignment, especially during the “Tall Sit” stage?

Barbell Snatch

-Am I getting my hips all the way through on the 2nd pull?

  • Climbing

-Am I being precise with my foot placements and weight distributions on top outs, or am I wedging myself in a crack, clawing through leaves, and ending up on top of the boulder facing outwards and terrified? (This is oddly specific for a reason. I do this a lot)

-Am I grabbing holds correctly the first time, or do I need to readjust and waste energy?

-Am I breathing when I need to, or am I needlessly holding my breath?

  • Jiu-Jitsu

-Am I maintaining posture when I am in someone’s guard?

-When passing someone’s guard or transitioning to a better position, am I utilizing a “placeholder” sequence? Do I make sure never to relinquish a control point without making sure I have a strategy to get back there should I lose position?

-Am I protecting my neck on shots and takedown attempts?

These are just tiny examples of what I personally am conscious of and attempting to polish at this point in time. There are many more items I’m working to improve, and the number of micro facets to your discipline that you can improve is infinite.

What are you working on? How are you sharpening your skills?