Category Archives: Martin Rooney

At the Speed of Martin Rooney: Why You HAVE to Sprint – How to Build Muscle

sprinting2 At the Speed of Martin Rooney: Why You HAVE to SprintHey Renegades, I’ve got a great interview for you today with my colleague, Martin Rooney, the creator of the Training For Warriors system. Check it out…
Jason:  Let’s start with an exercise that both of us share a common love for – sprinting. Why should people be doing it?
Martin:  Thanks Jason.  Funny we start with sprinting because I say that sprinting is the exercise that most people stopped doing a long time ago.  Most trainers aren’t doing any speed work and it’s a shame. Lifting weights and then sitting on the couch is not complete training.  Sprinting, even if you think about gym class, used to be mandatory for a number of reasons.  Not only does sprinting get your nervous system fired up, it also releases endorphins and growth hormone, and activates muscle fibers that would otherwise be dormant. That means triggering muscle growth and burning fat, all while doing something for which your body was built to do.  After all, why have Achilles tendons to store energy if you were made to jog on your heels?
Jason: Those are great points.  So about sprinting: How often? How many sets and for what kind of distance?
Martin:  Well, I usually answer questions like these with two words: It Depends.  Every client is different, starts at a different level and can tolerate a variety of intensities.  I would always suggest a conservative approach.  I know that may not sound like my style, but it is. If you hurt someone, they can’t train.  If they can’t train, they don’t pay.  If they don’t pay, you don’t eat.  So, if you like eating, make sure you use proper training.
For most of my clients, however, I like to use 30-40 yards of distance to start.  6-10 reps of a sprint will be enough as well, but the key is not the sets, it is the intensity.  I have found that there is a breaking point where technique falls apart and your nervous system gets fried.  The key is to find this in your clients and stay just below it.
Jason:  Interesting stuff.  Since I know you use sprinting in your TFW style of training, do you have any theories to support speed work like this over new and popular exercises like the kettlebell, TRX and rope?
Martin:  This is a great question.  Now, don’t get me wrong, all of the tools you mentioned are great for getting people engaged with exercise and can be used to produce results.  I also use all of them in my training on a weekly basis.  In my hierarchy of exercise, however, I choose the sprint.  If you look at an Olympic sprinter, you will see a body most people want.  As I tried to understand how these results were produced I pulled an important lesson from this that I call the The TFW Lock-And-Key Mechanism of Sprinting. Here is how I explain it.
Do you think ingesting 1000 calories of junk food has the same effect on the body as ingesting 1000 calories of fruits and vegetables?  Most people would say “no” and I agree.  A calorie in is not a calorie in.  Your body has a way according to how it was designed and has evolved, to recognize foods differently.  This leads to different effects that are produced on your body, some good and some bad, depending on what you put in the hole under your nose.
Jason:  I would agree with that.
Martin:  Of Course!  And since we all agree on input, I just want people to think about output.  If we all agree there are better foods to achieve optimal health, what about an optimal output mechanism?  Since muscle growth, fat loss and health are what all clients are after, why aren’t we searching for this instead of what’s cool, colorful and new.  Although sprinting isn’t as “sexy,” I still think it is the best.
Jason:  Now what about jogging? The Renegade Nation knows my feelings on that but in your mind,  does that count?
Martin:  I say “no.”  I know that will ruffle some feathers, but jogging as a hobby or for fitness is newer than you think.  Without a “fun run,” which I say is an oxymoron or marathon in your town, you probably wouldn’t do it.  And although jogging looks like sprinting, you are not using your body the way it’s designed to be used.  Jogging is constant breaking that pounds your body, chews up muscle and bangs you up.  Again look at the body style.  No one comes in and tells me they want to look like a marathon runner.  So stick with what the sprint is telling us.
Jason: I guess that is enough said on that.  So where and how then do you use sprinting in your TFW system?
Martin:  In my system, we have strength days and metabolic days called Hurricane Days. On the strength day, I load you up.  On the Hurricane day, I jack you up.   The simple truth I have found over the years: If you want to get fast, you need to train fast!   This training for speed and power can not only be invigorating, it can also help to prevent injury as well.   The impacts on your body with sprint training can help to stimulate muscle growth and protect you from possible problems.
Hurricane Training is one of the most popular forms of TFW.  The template for a Hurricane does not change: one form of a sprint variation, which could be a treadmill, regular sprint, ladder, resisted band run, hills, or stairs followed by two exercises repeated for nine sets.  We do this two workouts a week.  The good news is that you choose the sprint variation according to the client, the exercises and the rest in between.  Just follow the formula and results will be yours.
Jason:  This is great stuff.  I know you share a lot of this information and more in your new Training For Warriors Certification program.  Can you tell us about that?
Martin:  Sure.  Yes, over the last 3 years, I have been presenting certification events around the world.  In addition to sprint and metabolic training, I also cover topics like evaluations, warmups, bodyweight training, coaching and my warrior challenges.  Over 1200 people have been through the course and now there is an online version.  If anyone wants to get a taste of the course and learn more about TFW, they can sign up for my “Free TFW Video Course” HERE.
Jason:  Thanks again Martin for coming on an sharing the information.  This should get people thinking and asking the right questions about their training.
Martin:  My pleasure Jason and I hope this gets everyone thinking a little differently about the sprint

The Mantathlon

Train Like A Man 9

The MantathlonI’m always on the hunt for ways to take the body and mind to a higher level. While researching the London Olympics, I discovered the ancient Pentathlon and couldn’t figure out why it was no longer contested.
In this ultimate test of physical power and mental fortitude, athletes competed in five different events.
First, they’d sprint down a runway and leap into the sky to see who had the best long jump. Then in a footrace, they’d sprint across a stadium amid the roar of the power-appreciative crowd. Next up were tests of full body explosiveness with the javelin and discus throw.
If these four events weren’t enough to drive the collective Testosterone level of the crowd into orbit, the competitors finished with wrestling to demonstrate dominance and supremacy.
Sprinting, throwing, jumping, and competing mono a mono with muscle and bone. A high measure of explosiveness, strength, technique, and guts.
So last summer, as I sat watching synchronized swimming, the badminton scandal, and a 70 year-old man competing in Olympic Horse Dressage, I wondered why the original Pentathlon was no longer on the docket.
The individual events were all popular in the current Olympic games and surely spectator-friendly. Hell, the only way it could get closer to Gladiators in the arena would be having the wrestling end with a fight to the death.
As I looked deeper into the history of the Pentathlon, I discovered that the original version was replaced with a more “modern” one, without the power events.
Modern Pentathlon? Can you even name the events? How about naming a famous competitor in the event since its inception in 1912?
Don’t feel bad, I couldn’t either.
Perhaps that should be the first lesson. Just to let you know, the current events are swimming, air pistol shooting, horse jumping, epee fencing, and a 3-kilometer run.
Modern? With fencing, pellet guns, and horse jumping? Not exactly. Looks like the Greek Warrior standing among his adoring fans on top of his battered foes has been replaced with a decidedly more foppish competitor.
The MantathlonBut who would do such a thing? What kind of man would replace the aggressive white fibers of the sprinter with the calculating red fibers of a swimmer and distance runner?
If you’ve read Train Like a Man: Part 4, then you won’t be surprised to find that once again the libido of the sprint has been castrated by Baron de Coubertin – yes, the same man that arbitrarily read a poem and brought the world the marathon (and chapped nipples and shin splints) also sacked the ancient pentathlon, replacing it with its more mild and “modern” cousin.
Notice how these two events seem designed to drive Testosterone into the toilet? (Hugh Hefner has made a career trying to offset the repercussions of these events. )
I know the Baron brought us back the Games and I thank him for that, but we must also question some events. If we research deep enough, we may also find he had the first prototype for Uggs boots for men, along with skinny jeans for men.
Pistols and horses, hrummphh! Sounds like there needs to be an update! How often does “modern man” spend Monday evening at the horse stables sharpening his epee while worrying about his 3K time? Forget that! He’s benching and doing dips.
On Tuesdays, he isn’t making sure his pistol and swim stroke are clean – he’s hitting back and biceps. Horse jumping and fencing? What percentage of the world participates in that? It sounds so elitist.
Instead of running cross country, most men would love to see beasts bench head to head and then settle it all with who has the best biceps.
Let me offer something even more modern. Let me remove the steel epee and add some iron.
So here’s my solution: at the next IOC meeting, before they add mixed synchronized swimming and new rules concerning cheating in ping pong, let’s look at this event to fire up the world – the Mantathlon.

Rules of the Mantathlon

The Mantathlon

The Events

There are five events performed:

  • Bodyweight Bench Press for Reps
  • Bodyweight Chin-ups for Reps
  • Half-Bodyweight Overhead Press for Reps
  • 1.25 Bodyweight Dips for Reps
  • Half-Bodyweight Barbell Curl for Reps

You get one attempt for maximal reps during the competition.

Stop Watch

Once you start your bench press test the clock begins. You have 20 minutes to complete all the tests. Any repetitions completed after 20 minutes have elapsed won’t count toward your point total.
You must perform the tests in order, but the rest you take between tests is up to you. I suggest 3-4 minutes between each test, but keep an eye on the clock so you don’t run out of time for curls.

Weigh In

Start by weighing yourself on a scale. Guessing won’t cut it, as most people seem to magically lose 10 pounds before the Mantathlon begins. Since the entire event is based on bodyweight, you’ll be reminded that the spare tire you promised to lose on January 1 still needs a change.

Warm Up

Get a good warm-up before testing the bench press. Since each event is different, I’d also suggest doing a few light reps of each exercise during your rest period to alert your body to the next movement. For instance, do 2 single chin-ups and a 4-rep set of overhead presses and dips before going for the real total.


Each test has form requirements for the test to count.
Bench Press: You must touch the bar to the chest and lock out each rep. You can pause at the top, but failing to get a rep or racking the weight ends the exercise.

Chin-up: Use a shoulder width grip or less. You must get the chin over the bar and lower to a complete hang for one second. You can hang longer if you want, but failure to get over the bar or letting go ends the exercise.

Overhead Press: You must lock out the elbows at the top and come to a quick pause at the bottom. Racking the bar or missing a rep ends the exercise.

Dips: You must begin in the top extended position and lower until the elbow has a 90 degree angle or greater. You can pause at the top but touching the feet, releasing the grip, or failure to execute a rep ends the exercise.

Curl: You must raise the barbell to the height of the chin and lower to full extension for 1 second. No swaying or leaning back is allowed at the upper body. Releasing the bar or failure to execute a rep ends the exercise.


A very important point: if you reach 20 repetitions on any exercise, that’s the maximum score. Even if you can do more, 20 signifies the end.
Once you’ve performed all five events or run out of time, add up your total number of reps. A total score of 100 is the ultimate goal for this test.
Below is a rating scale:
0-10 –10-20 –20-30 –30-40 –40-50 –50-60 –60-70 –70-80 –80-90 –90-100 –

So What Does It Mean?

The MantathlonIs this the be-all, end-all of fitness? Hardly. Is it a measure of fitness that’s rarely tested during some of the classic strength and or power tests? You bet.
Before you knock it, try it – after performing the Manathlon, I guarantee you’ll not only be enlightened, but also inspired to improve your score.
You can argue success in this event requires strength endurance, but to rep out with your bodyweight on the bench press, you first have to be really strong.
Speaking of strong, by adding the element of time, my Mantathlon also tests another area of manliness not often challenged during a classic one-rep max test: mental toughness.
You’ll find the ticking clock will create a point during the event where you might mentally give in. There will be reps you don’t get the first time, not because they’re impossible, but because you’re not yet able to access the mental stamina to dig them out.
As your scores improve due to familiarity with the test, so will your mental toughness, which is an added benefit to the strength gains you’ll see as you train to increase your score.

The New Olympics?

Maybe the Baron was misinterpreted? Perhaps he wanted people to carry the horse and the swordfight to the death? We’ll never know. But know this: when you perform the Mantathlon, it will leave you hungry for more!

Train Like a Man 5: The Real Paleo Exercise

Real Paleo Exericise

Whenever I hear that little nugget of cheese-ball inspiration, I want to throw up, because it’s usually said by some sloth that never reached his goals and he’s just trying to make sure you stay in no rush to reach yours.
I don’t know when exactly sprinting through life and achieving one goal after the next became a bad thing, but have no fear, I’ll address humanity’s aversion to sprinting throughout this article.
Our solar system hurtles around the galaxy at 450,000 mph, so our time here on this rock we call Earth (which is circling the sun at 70,000 miles an hour), in comparison to eternity is less than a blink of an eye.
The way I see it, life is an all-out sprint – and we should attack it that way.
So then what’s with the distance approach to cardio? I hear people say all the time that they entered a 10k or a marathon to get “in shape.” Is that so? I’m tempted to have these folks stand in front of a full-length mirror and ask them what shape were they looking for exactly?
If it’s extra slender, pencil-necked, and endomorphic, then I’ll condone the distance work. If they say, however, that the shape they seek is lean, muscular, and mesomorphic, then they’re barking up the wrong tree.
Furthermore, if I have one more distance-junkie proudly brag about the doctor visits, MRIs, or therapy they’re using to recover from their jogging or ultra-marathon, I’ll be forced to buy a big bat and carry it with me.
You’re proud of being injured, huh? So if I smack you in the knees with the bat and produce an injury, are you still proud? Or then are you just a masochist? Maybe such drastic measures are what it takes for you to realize that pain doesn’t equal productivity, and that you’ve been chasing the wrong dog – and way too slowly at that.

Enjoyment Versus Results

Real Paleo Exericise
I understand that (unfortunately) many of us need something to drive us and get us moving besides the ultimate fact that training will help you live longer. And I understand that some people may simply enjoy distance jogging and/or be genetically suited for this style of training. I’m not here to argue either of those things.
The purpose of this article is to argue in favor of the benefits of sprinting. And interestingly enough, whether you like jogging or are naturally skinny or slow, you can still benefit from this all-powerful training medium.
Don’t think we need this argument? Then explain why most people stop sprinting by high school. Explain why most parents tell their children to stop running and slow down.
Plain and simple, besides the Olympic 100-meter final, sprinting gets much less love than distance work. Whether it’s the marketing of jogging gear, the social aspect of distance events, or the fact that “No Pain, No Gain” is imbedded into the average training psyche, you’re sure to see more people walking and jogging at your local track than to see them sprinting short portions of it, resting, and repeating.
In a world slowly being taken over and dominated by brightly colored equipment tools and fancy programming, we’ve forgotten to use the most important piece of equipment we were given, our body. And we’ve definitely forgotten to use it the way it was designed – to sprint.

Why Do We Run Marathons?

Real Paleo Exericise
In Train Like a Man Part 4, I suggested that if Baron Pierre de Coubertin loved American folklore instead of Greek tragedy, perhaps we’d have millions of people lining up to test themselves in the 100 meter instead of 26 miles.
If our hero was a steel drivin’ sprinter, rather than a solitary noncombatant whose chosen pursuit literally ran him – and millions of poor souls centuries later to follow – into the ground, just perhaps the world and its view of fitness would be different.
In all the emails I’ve ever received, I don’t think I’ve ever received anything from a recreational athlete telling me they’re entering a 100-meter dash.
Why? Because it’s not okay to suck in a sprint.
If you jog – especially if you enter a marathon – it’s okay to be mediocre. By contrast, it’s decidedly not okay to suck at sprinting.
Show up to an actual race and take thirty seconds to run 100 meters and you’re absolutely exposed for the world to see. Suck at sprinting in the wild, and you’re somebody’s dinner.
Suck at the marathon, on the other hand, and they’ll hand you a juice box and a medal, even if you come in last.

The Paleo Idea

Real Paleo Exericise
Add speed and power to any movement and the body changes. Look at a sprinting athlete versus a distance athlete. Large, developed muscles are the norm on just about any athlete involved in sprinting.
So why does this happen? You could cite the activation of the larger fast twitch fibers in sprinting or how cutting weight and losing muscle improves distance performance, but what about the “why” behind how sprinters look leaner and more muscular from seemingly much less work?
I have an interesting theory using the popular Paleo concept.
No one thinks twice about applying the Paleo concept to eating, but what about its application to movement? In terms of body development, sprinting is the ultimate Paleo exercise – and perhaps many of the problems we face today as a society are because this movement is no longer used during most peoples’ daily routine.
(Granted, like all Paleo arguments, this is mere speculation. Were we meat eaters or vegetarians? Were we distance runners or sprinters? Until we invent a time machine, we’ll just continue to enjoy the brainstorming and debate, but it’s still interesting to speculate.)

The TFW Lock-And-Key Mechanism of Sprinting

Real Paleo Exericise
When I address groups of people, I ask them if they think ingesting 1000 calories of junk food has the same effect on the body as ingesting 1000 calories of fruits and vegetables.
Without fail, according to the Paleo dogma, every attendee answers the same way – they believe that a calorie isn’t just a calorie. So in terms of energy intake, most people agree that due to the way the human body was designed and has evolved, there are particular foods that can act as keys and unlock specific pathways to either promote health (muscle gain, fat loss, etc.), or allow detrimental effects (diabetes, cancer, heart disease) when those proper pathways aren’t accessed.
Well if we can all agree on energy intake, I’m confused why people rarely discuss caloric output in the same manner? If there’s an optimal input mechanism of calories to achieve optimal health, what about an optimal output mechanism?
If muscle growth, fat loss, and health are what you’re after, I argue that sprinting may be the key that no one’s using – because those thousand calories you’re burning when you jog aren’t nearly the same as when you burn them off at a sprint. Not even close.
That’s because when you jog, you’re not using your body the way it’s designed to be used. That’s what sprinting is for. I mean, why have an Achilles tendon if we’re supposed to run on our heels? Why have huge glutes if we’re supposed to simply jog monotonously and see how long we can last?
Is the reason we have big traps because we’re supposed to act as perpetual motion machines for the better part of five hours at a time? And why the hell are our quads so big if we’re just supposed to pound them with muscle-eating eccentrics from jogging? It makes no sense to me, and it shouldn’t make any to you, either.

Sprinting: The Real Measure Of Fitness

Real Paleo Exericise
Distance jogging makes your lifts go down. Your muscle mass decreases and you have to accept it. On the other hand, sprinting mandates that you get your numbers higher to complement it.
To lower your marathon time, you need to get out and log miles, cut weight (including muscle), and get ready for pain. To lower your time in the 100-meter sprint you need to get strong, pack on muscle, lose fat, and get in some explosive, technical workouts.
So if you want to run faster, you have to do a few things:

  • You have to increase your relative body strength, so you have to get stronger for the amount you weigh. You can accomplish this by adding muscle or losing fat, or both.
  • You have to improve your sprint technique. This will be done through technical work, which will improve coordination. Here you may recognize specific areas in which to improve strength while developing muscular endurance specific to sprinting. And this is where my next article will focus.

So, to review, sprint training involves improvements in speed, strength, diet, endurance, coordination, and flexibility. Sounds a whole lot like fitness to me. To top it off, sprinting will also help any marathon runner. Too bad the opposite isn’t true.
But before you fans of distance running fire off your emails defending your chosen sport, I’m not saying that elite distance athletes aren’t impressive in terms of time Ð I’m saying they’re usually not impressive in terms of physique.
A guy that can run an under 5-minute mile pace for 26 miles is impressive in ability, no doubt, but he’s probably not concerned with having bigger arms or legs, or is even reading T Nation for that matter.
My Train Like a Man articles are for guys concerned about building mass, getting strong, and being able to clean clocks. And if I have to scrap, I’ll choose to battle the jogger over the sprinter every time.
Now that I’ve made a case for sprinting, Train Like a Man 6 will cover one of the muscle groups that will benefit most from this exercise.

Build A Better Body: 4 Weeks To A Stronger Core

By Martin Rooney

Photo Credit Martin Rooney
Photo Credit Martin Rooney

5 Secrets Of How To Stay Young

Throughout history, there have been tales of about a legendary Fountain of Youth that could restore the health and vitality to anyone that drank from its waters. By the 1500’s the Fountain’s legend became so popular that famous Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce De Leon gave up on acquiring treasure and spent his energy searching for these waters of longevity. Even though Ponce De Leon went on to discover Florida as a result of his quest, the Fountain of Youth still alluded him and every man that has sought it since. Today, the secrets of how such a Fountain can deliver youth would be considered priceless. Those priceless secrets, however, are exactly what I offer in this blog today. And surprisingly, they are absolutely free.
When Birds Go To Sleep With Bats, They Wake Up Upside Down
I have been told that if you want something that someone else has, just study the strategies they utilize, implement them and anything can be yours. Since I wanted to investigate youth, I decided that I would study and spend time around the youngest person I knew, my three year old daughter. I have often heard the challenge that you should try to spend a day doing everything that your child does. I took this challenge thinking that it would be time well spent and she would get to learn a Rooney trick or two from her “old man.” Instead, I was reminded of a number of profound secrets to staying young. After only a half day with her, I think she may have been the most valuable “consultant” I have worked with in some time. Too bad Ponce De Leon wasted his time seeking what was probably in front of him all along.
Secret #1 Get A Full Night Of Sleep
My daughter woke up on her own that morning and got me up. Amazingly, she did that without an alarm clock and woke on her own terms. The fact that she properly managed her time by going to bed early gave her a full night’s rest and had her happy, cheerful and wide awake. I was not so lucky. As a result of having been “too busy” the night before, I was up working on a manual much later than I should have been. I was left tired and not as refreshed as I would like to be upon waking.
Secret #2 Eat A Healthy Breakfast
Immediately she marched me downstairs to get her something to eat. I know my daughter is no nutritionist, but she instinctively knew to fill her body with nutrients following the night of fasting and her choice was her usual: some eggs, fresh fruit and juice. Instead of having my usual rushed protein shake, I sat and had the same breakfast as her. It was nice to have a few minutes to eat instead of being “too busy” and hammering down something that probably isn’t really as nutritious as it says it is just to get out the door.
Secret #3 Stay “On Purpose” and Have Fun
After breakfast and dressing, I noticed an interesting trend: the purpose of her day revolved entirely around having fun. If it was fun, she was doing it. If it was not, she did everything in her power to return to being “on purpose” and having fun. She clearly knew her purpose and was lost in activities that fulfilled this mission. Throughout the morning I noticed another trend: she did a lot of laughing. I have read that a 3-4 year old laughs up to 300 times a day. Comparing that to the “too busy” adult that laughs 15, I can see that our purpose is less about having fun than it is to deny fun in order to get the stuff done that is keeping us “too busy.”
Secret #4 Get Daily Exercise
In order to stay on purpose, my daughter demanded a trip to the park. We walked down to the schoolyard and she proceeded to climb, slide, swing, jump and run around the park for over an hour. Instead of acting “too busy” by standing and checking my cell phone while she exercised, I chased her around and got a taste of a three year old workout. After the hour of constant movement, I could see her leading “Park Boot Camp” quite successfully in the near future.
Secret #5 Make Sure To Take Rests
After we returned home, it was another snack of fruit, a yogurt and then she took a nap. I can’t remember the last time I got a solid nap in, but she reminded me that rest is the critical time to recover get stronger from the activities you have performed. I had gotten “too busy” to remember that periodic rest is as important as playing hard. For those that think taking some recovery is not important because you believe “you are doing nothing,” imagine instead that you are doing the most important thing. You are coming back stronger to do more.
Don’t Make Sleep, Exercise, Diet or Humor “Expendable”
As my daughter drifted off for that hour, I realized that many of us have conditioned ourselves that it is acceptable to eat poorly, skip exercise, miss sleep and be too serious to laugh. When I ask most people why they think this has happened, the classic answer is that they just got “too busy.” It is not acceptable to live an expendable life.
Although it is hard to precisely define what “too busy” means, it is easy to conclude that it is unhealthy. I have been told that the excuse of having no time for the important aspects of life is like saying you have no time to pull over for gas because you are too busy driving. In both cases, if you keep them up too long, you will be stopped dead in your tracks.
Perhaps the greatest reminder I can give you is that sleep, exercise, food and laughter are all medicinal. In the right doses these critical elixirs can keep you young, but as soon you begin to develop a deficiency, you will start to get old. The question for each one of us that may be “too busy” is this: Are you making sure you are meeting your daily requirement?
Stay young.

>Train Like a Man!


Train Like a Man!

The Fall of T

America is becoming the poster-child for low testosterone levels. Men today are becoming increasingly more feminine, fussing about their eyebrows, spray tanning, and booking mani-pedis.
There are many potential explanations for the drop in testosterone and subsequent increase in American Idol voters. Skeptics will argue that it’s simply our aging population that’s to blame for our country’s collective low T. Yet that fails to explain the feminine leanings of the younger guys. I believe their shockingly low T scores are due in large part to poor lifestyle choices.
Obesity, stress, prescription meds, staying up late, and poor food choices all affect T to varying degrees, but in a weird way, a low T lifestyle is almost glorified.
The 25 year-old guy with the muffin-top waistline due to the stressful job that keeps him up late is essentially what college prepares most “successful” people for. Follow that lifestyle too long and voila – self-induced castration, a gut you can’t seem to lose, and an iPod chocked full of Kenny G.
But here’s the kicker: castration has infiltrated and infected the one spot you might think immune to low T levels – the gym.

Castration in the Gym?

What do squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, and dips have in common? Answer: They’re all compound exercises that can be loaded to produce extreme amounts of testosterone-building tension.
Sadly, a lot of people answer: “They’re all dangerous exercises that yogagirl127 posted on Facebook can hurt you and should be outlawed!”
Dangerous? To whom exactly? And what isn’t “dangerous?”
Look, I’m not only a trainer, I’m also a physical therapist, and I respect the importance of proper biomechanics and injury prevention, but those basic exercises are not inherently dangerous.
Everything you do in the gym has some potential for injury, as do most things in life. Reading is bad for the eyes, door handles are caked with germs, and pesticides are sprayed on virtually every stitch of produce at the grocery store.
Are you going to stop reading, opening doors, and eating vegetables? Before we outlaw the overhead press, let’s crack down on texting-while-driving and we’ll really start making the world a safer place.
Safety in my training is paramount, but so is common sense – which isn’t always common in the fitness industry. Over the last 20 years, I’ve watched bizarre trends in fitness information dictate the actual training that occurs inside the gym.
After the rise of the internet, articles written by any “expert” that could type had you in a full sweat-suit to stay warm during your dynamic warm-up and pre-habbed on the foam roller before you rehabbed with your corrective exercises.
In short, as information became more plentiful, more had to be written about the minutia. Once the minutia was deeply covered, the only thing left was to write about what everyone was doing wrong and the risks involved with just about every exercise.
Fact is, most stuff I see talked about today is about what we supposedly can’t or shouldn’t do. My goal is to remind us all that life is often better when you take the “t” off your can’t.
This information overload leads us first on a quest for something safer, then moves us to something either more time consuming or boring, then moves us to skipping that new thing all together due to a lack of time or interest. Ultimately, we’re unable to go back to the old exercise that worked and kept us stimulated because we’re now convinced that it’s bad for us!
Knowledge is power? No, knowledge is only power when we put action behind it. Today, I believe knowledge is often paralyzing.
Here are a few examples of “castrating” training trends and exercises.

Kettlebells vs. Dumbbells


Kettlebells are a great tool, but since the explosion of the kettlebell cults, dumbbells have taken a backseat in training. Funny, but no one ever takes a picture with a dumbbell, yet I see more shots every day of people carrying a kettlebell like it was his or her first-born.
I have nothing against kettlebells and use them in my training. I just wonder if the KB explosion would’ve ever happened without the internet? Kettlebell shirts, kettlebell necklaces…
Poor dumbbells, I’ll miss them.

Bands vs. Chin-ups

Bad Chinups
Chin-ups are one of the all-time great upper-body exercises (and I include the abdominal area in that too). But they’re difficult to perform, which turns people off.
So some genius discovered that a band originally designed for stretching also works great to make chin-ups easier by removing all the testosterone-producing tension. Now you have rooms full of guys doing sissy chin-ups thinking they’re Olympic gymnasts.
Dump the bands. Do your chin-ups. And hurry up, because even though they haven’t been outlawed yet, I’m sure someone is already working on an article called “Why Chin-Ups Are Bad For You.”

Glute-Ham Raise vs. 45-Degree Back Extension

Back extensions are a great exercise, especially when you hold as many plates as you can across your chest.
Too bad some “efficiency expert” discovered that by just having a glute-ham raise bench you didn’t need a back extension or a lying leg curl machine because the GHR effectively trains both knee flexion and hip extension. So now, both the back extension and leg curl are falling into exercise obscurity.
Turns out the joke is on them. Glute-ham raises are difficult and about as comfortable as a muay thai kick to the quads, so no one does them. So now, no one does anything, except of course occasionally working the triceps while wiping the dust off the GHR.

Prowler Pushes vs. Suicides

Suicide Sprints

I love the Prowler, but this idea that you need a special piece of equipment for conditioning is bunk.
Unfortunately, we’ve learned to value exercises either by their novelty or their ability to produce soreness or fatigue. I’m not sure there are many sports or activities that you need to prepare for by either passing out or puking in training, but hey, while we’re lowering our testosterone levels, might as well find a way to crush our nervous and immune systems, too.
Want a really new exercise that no one is doing? It’s called sprinting.
The biomechanics of sprinting is essential to our basic mobility, but it’s also very much a “use it or lose it” skill. If you’re 27 and haven’t sprinted since high school, you need to get out to the field and start doing it. It’s slowly leaving you, every day – and that means you’re only racing faster toward the big dirt nap. (Maybe they should call being fat and sedentary a “suicide” instead?)
Notice I said “sprinting” not treadmill running, elliptical training, or texting your friend while you ride the recumbent bike. Each one of those pieces has castrated the thing we all need to make progress: impact. Oddly, biomechanists spend a whole lot of time trying to remove impact from our lives.

Lateral Raises vs. Shoulder Pressing

What’s more functional than pushing something heavy overhead? I’m all for the YMCA dance and whatever else we do with ten-pound dumbbells to activate our lower trap, but there’s nothing scary about a proper overhead press. It’s a fantastic way to challenge significant musculature and load the spine.
Yeah, these can bother you if you have poor mobility, strength, or movement issues, but what wouldn’t bother you in that case?

Pushdowns vs. Dips

Dips ruin the shoulders, right? That’s why I see countless athletes in my facility with fantastic physiques complaining about shoulder problems from performing dips up to one hundred times per week.
Oh wait, that’s right… I don’t. And by the way, some of these athletes are girls I call “gymnasties” that often out-chin and out-dip the guys.
Pushdowns are great, but strap a 100-pound dumbbell around your waist and see if you can replicate the tension at the cable station.

Planks vs. Spinal Flexion

In the last few years, bending forward at the waist has been under siege. The firefight is all over the internet, and although I’ve adopted many anti-rotation, anti-flexion, and anti-everything else exercises to stimulate the core, I admit I still throw in some spinal flexion. Somehow I’ve still produced pretty solid results.
I will agree that a poorly performed sit-up isn’t great for your back or neck, but you know what the absolute worst thing is for your back and neck? Sitting slumped over your desk surfing the internet for the latest plank variation.
Sit-ups aren’t the biggest problem – it’s sit-ting. Let’s figure out how to stop people from doing that before we figure out any more things we shouldn’t do.

Step-ups and Split Squats vs. Squats and Deadlifts

Step-ups and split squats are great exercises, but for building muscle they aren’t in the same league as squats and deadlifts. Tension wise, they don’t even come close. But because they’re less “scary” than the big lifts, they’re making a single-legged run at it.
Here’s the irony: because they’re unilateral, they also take twice as long to do, so people find them boring. So after a few weeks, nobody does anything. And then they sit in their chair and tell you to watch your back if you dare to deadlift?

Active Warm-Up vs. Static Stretching

Static stretching has been beaten down so hard it’s barely breathing. Dynamic flexibility during an active warm-up is a wonderful thing and something I personally use daily, but static stretching definitely has its place in training.
Just about everybody has dropped static stretching in favor of dynamic movement, but here’s the thing: dynamic flexibility during a warm-up is time consuming and sometimes complex, so many trainees simply skip it.
Now people are doing no flexibility training at all, and the result is they no longer have the mobility to squat or deadlift properly. So instead of performing some simple static stretches before performing the dynamic movements, we have immobile guys confined to doing planks on an Airex pad in the squat rack.
Stretch out, then warm-up, and then pick up something heavy!

80/20. Not 20/80.

Getting tension back into your workouts doesn’t mean you have to kill yourself or get injured. It means scaling things back so that most of the time you spend in the gym is doing stuff that’s actually productive.
The 80-20 rule never fails. If 80% of your time is spent straining under good old-fashioned barbells and dumbbells, with 20% spent doing pre-hab, rehab, and “potentiation work” then you’ll probably look more fit and have a handful of calluses.
If that split is more like 20-80, then you likely have a problem that includes veggie hotdogs, waxing, and a dream to someday fit into those damn skinny jeans.
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