Lifting weights is dangerous. And so is Crossfit.

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Lifting weights is dangerous. And so is Crossfit. Crossfit is dangerous.

And you know what’s really dangerous? When weak, deconditioned, imbalanced, or otherwise unhealthy people try to lift weights that are too heavy for them with poor technique, poor programming, and poor recovery, among other things (like these poor saps). That’s really dangerous. Not like stepping in front of a moving train, dangerous, but you might throw your back out and possibly end up in the hospital and/or debilitated for a really long time dangerous. No joke.

How’s that for an inflammatory intro? I can hear the trolls forming ranks in the distance.

But while we’re at it, why not mention martial arts, skiing, and mountain climbing, which are all dangerous fitness activities, too. I mean, obviously, you could get all messed up in the ring or the octagon. I’m not just talking cuts and bruises, but broken bones, concussions, or worse. And hey, one wrong step on a mountain hike or a simple skiing accident and suddenly you’re at risk of dying from exposure. Dying. Death. No mañana.

And don’t even get me started on how dangerous being a runner is. Oh, my GOSH! That’s a ridiculously high risk pastime with 50-90% of runners getting injured depending on which statistics you look at – from running of all things!

And I haven’t even mentioned the so-called extreme sports like rock climbing, hang gliding, bull riding, bungee jumping, and sky diving, among others.

But do you know what’s even more dangerous than all of these things?

Being weak. Being weak is very dangerous. So is being unhealthy, overweight, eating poorly, chronic sleep deprivation or excessive sedentary behavior. Those are all very dangerous things that affect most people – not just a fringe minority like extreme sports enthusiasts.

Now, I didn’t look up the statistics to prove this, but you and I are a heck-of-a-lot more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, or another mostly preventable lifestyle disease than from dropping a barbell on our head’s or experiencing rhabdomyolysis after a tough met-con workout – or some other freak fitness accident.

I’m just saying.

So, while I’ve never been shy to point out the risks of weightlifting, Crossfit, and running, among others, let’s try to keep some perspective here. Because even though I won’t hesitate for a second to inform you that Crossfit-style kipping pull-ups are a high-risk exercise and that I recommend most people avoid them entirely, you’re probably much safer performing them during your workout than pitching a baseball game. Or, I don’t know, going for a long drive in a car.

I mean, you’re probably just as likely to die from being struck by lightning or getting eaten by a shark as you are from lifting weights. And you’re much more likely to die from a driving accident, especially if you’re on a motorcycle, than from a high intensity Crossfit WOD. So, let’s get back to that thing we call perspective again.

Because you know what? Life is dangerous. And that’s a fact. So, I’m going to keep training, albeit properly - with none of that unhealthy, reckless nonsense that gets people hurt like clockwork – but healthy, effective, and sustainable methods that work (regardless of how trendy it is).

Something we need to remember is that both risk and danger can be greatly managed in training, and they should be! Good coaches, trainers, clients, and athletes do this day in and day out. And that’s why they’re good. That’s why they succeed in the short and long term. Now, that doesn’t mean that accidents never happen, but it’s much more rare for the person who trains smart (e.g. like using health-first fitness).

On the flip side, the people who do not manage risk and danger very well – whatever form it takes (e.g. training too heavy, too hard, too often, too long, too fast, too soon, too varied, too specified, too whatever) – they’re the ones who experience nagging pains, constantly have to work around recurring injuries, spend extra time and money on doctors and other medical professionals, take more unexpected trips to the hospital, etc. They’re the ones sitting on the sidelines – waiting for things to change – and being a spectator of their life instead of a go-getter. They’re the ones who in their 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s become the “has-beens” who talk about the “good ol’ days” back when they were fit and healthy. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’m in my 40’s and 50s, I don’t want to just be talking. I want to be training - and properly!

So, that’s what I’m going to keep doing, and it’s what I recommend you do, too – if you’re not already. Because the healthier, stronger, and fitter you are – assuming you’re doing it right – the tougher and harder to kill you become, especially from the most common killers like heart disease, cancer, etc. And you know what? That makes YOU dangerous. Now, I don’t know about you, but I kinda like that.

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Note: Hat tip goes to Bret Contreras who inspired this post when he said, “If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous.” Good one, Bret!

Train Like an Athlete to LOOK Like an Athlete

Note: take a look at some of the athletes in the slideshow below. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Why do we always seem to get this one wrong?

There are a ton of people out there who are living and training for the goal of looking like an athlete (or a bodybuilder, model, you name it). Nothin’ wrong with that. But it might not be the best approach. And just between you and me, I think they’ve got it totally backwards, especially since looks can be deceiving. So, here’s my solution.

Train like an athlete – or better yet, as an athlete - and as a natural side-effect, you’ll start to look like an athlete. You see, it’s a subtle change in how we say it, but it changes everything about how we do it.

So, if you want to look like a boxer, then stop kidding yourself with the bicep curls and bench press and join a boxing club. Go a few times a week and you’ll have a boxer’s physique in no time – and the busted up face to prove it.

But all kidding aside, if you’re training for the sole purpose of looking a certain way, then you might run into trouble. You see, you tend to run into problems whenever you put a physique goal before your health and mobility, among other things. But not only that, in my experience, the desire to look a certain way is not a very effective source of motivation for most people, especially after you’ve achieved your body transformation goal (i.e. you look great, so now what?). To put it bluntly, you’re going to need a more important reason than vanity to make this work over the long term – like being strong and capable for your loved ones, for example. The fact of the matter is that you have to figure out your Powerful Reasons Why you do this stuff (and will KEEP doing it!).

Maybe it’s as simple as you want to be the best ______ you can be (fill in the blank). And in order to do that, you’ll need some sort of catalyst or conduit in the form of physical training to make that happen (makes sense, right?). And if that’s the case, then my advice is to select a training goal that aligns with your interests and then get to work. As long as it’s very important to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen.

But here’s the thing: don’t just hope to look like someone who has already done the work. BE that someone doing the work and the looks will come along for the ride.

In other words, attack your goals directly. Focus on what’s important. Do what works. And then let the results speak for themselves. It’s important to know your end-goal, yes, but the most important thing you can do is to focus on the process of achieving it.

And the good news is that if you’re doing this right, then you won’t have to worry about physique goals ever again. That is, unless you actually are a physique athlete – a bodybuilder, figure competitor, etc. You’ll be so busy building your very own body of beautiful perfection – with all of the so-called imperfections that make you totally and wonderfully you. And you’ll be doing it without even trying – at least, not directly.

Oh, and by the way, in case nobody has told you lately… your value is not based on someone else’s idea of what’s attractive/ideal/beautiful/etc. (or even your idea!). So, please don’t base your self-image on someone else’s OPINION of your looks (or on societies opinion either). You don’t need the six pack abs, yadda yadda yadda. You just don’t. Also, not comparing yourself to professional athletes and never basing your expectations on what you see in advertisements might help, too. But that’s just common sense, right?

Take-home lesson: If you start thinking of yourself in a certain way, you might just start acting a certain way. So, train like an athlete to look like an athlete because you are an athlete. A very good-lookin’ athlete, I might add.

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To Listen to Music or Not While Exercising? That is the WRONG Question.

I was scanning my news reader this morning and noticed that the top two entries had a little something in common…or not.

So, let me get this straight… two popular fitness-themed websites uploaded two different articles that suggest two completely opposite approaches on the question of whether to listen to music while running…within 6 minutes of each other. Oh, the irony.

Now, I didn’t read the articles – no interest whatsoever. And just between you and me, I’m not much of a music listener while I train – sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. But I never listen to it while I run (tried it once, and never again!). And this got me thinking.

In the fitness industry, we’re almost always asking the wrong questions (and the same goes for the health industry, as a whole – and especially in certain sections of it like weight loss, diets, supplements, etc.).

So, let me propose something here. Instead of asking whether or not listening to music is a good idea while running, or worse yet, if it’ll help improve your performance, why not simply ask yourself if you – yes, YOU – actually want to listen to music while you run. And if you do, then go for it. And if not, then don’t. And then forget about it! Of course the experience will be a little different! And of course there will be some advantages and disadvantages to each method. But who cares as long as YOU are happy with your choice?

All of this over-analyzing distracts us from the most important issues – like the fact that we should all be spending more time outdoors exercising – whether running or otherwise – with ear buds or without. That’s what really matters, folks.

So, stop waiting for permission to do what you love – and how you love to do it. Just get going! And hey, if you’re an analytical type and you’re interested in the performance applications and other idiosyncrasies of listening to music while running, then go ahead and look into it. Apparently, there are people out there researching this stuff and sharing their findings with the world. And that’s great! Good for them.

But I think the most important issue here is that we should stop this endless search for MORE information and validation and just get going with what we already know to be true – that exercise is really good for us and that spending time outdoors is REALLY good for us, etc. So, let’s do those things and not worry about the trivial details like whether or not to listen to music. Trust me. There’s more important stuff to worry about.

So, if you want to stop struggling with your fitness regiment, then stop asking the wrong questions. Make sure you’ve got all your big rocks in the jar before you put in the little rocks, the sand, and the water.

Coach Siff, OUT!

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6 Reasons Why You Never Have Time to Exercise

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I just love it when someone tells me…

I can’t believe you have time for all of that. I could never do that. I’m just always so busy.

Translation: Don’t you have a life?

As if I have nothing better to do with myself and have all this free time I can use to exercise and engage in other so-called “lowly pursuits” because I’ve got nothing important going on in my life.

Give me a break!

First of all, I don’t just “have time for all of that.” I MAKE TIME for what’s important to me. I’ve got the same 24 hours a day as everyone else, and somehow, I’ve managed to integrate exercise and other health-improving habits into my schedule, the same as many others do each and every day.

note: that word “integrate” is key!

And get this, I’ve managed to do this for most of my life. Sure, it was easier when I was younger and had less responsibilities, but even as my workload and stress-load has increased in recent years, I’ve managed to keep my actions [mostly] in line with my priorities (ever heard of those?). No, I haven’t gotten everything perfect and I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, but I’ve stayed the course and have kept moving forward despite the challenges and setbacks, among other things.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you, and in particular, why you don’t “have time for all of that.” I’d really like to know.

You see, based on my experience, these are six of the most common reasons why most people supposedly don’t have enough time for exercise. And many of them are not what you’d expect.
Continue reading 6 Reasons Why You Never Have Time to Exercise

Interview with Navy SEAL, Stew Smith, about Pull-up Training

Learn a Navy SEAL’s go-to Methods for Quickly and Efficiently Improving Pull-up Performance for a Physical Fitness Test

Stew Smith Pull-ups

Veteran Navy SEAL Lieutenant, Stew Smith.

Whether you’re in the military, law enforcement, the firefighting community, or another physically-demanding vocation – or you want to be – this interview is chock-full of tips and strategies to help you improve your pull-up performance in preparation for a Physical Fitness Test (PFT).

Maybe you’re just hoping to pass your PT test or perhaps you want to compete with the best of the best in the Navy SEALs. Regardless, if you want to improve your pulling strength and gain the ability to do more pull-ups with ease, you’ll learn some advanced yet simple training strategies from this interview with veteran Navy SEAL, Stew Smith.

Funny story. Stew actually wrote the first fitness program I ever followed. It was his book, Maximum Fitness: The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Cross Training. I used that program back when I was in high school as my primary workout system for about three years, while I was a cadet in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps. This was the first time I had ever stuck with a comprehensive training program over the long term, and I got superb results from it.

I actually went and dug up my old training journal notes (yes, I STILL have them), and here’s how my PT numbers improved after just the first 13 weeks on Stew’s program, which was a calisthenics-focused phase (note: I didn’t have exact figures for my starting points):

-Pull-ups – started at 6-7 sloppy reps, after 3 months…31 reps!
-Pushups – started at 25ish reps, after 3 months…110 reps in 2 minutes!
-Sit-ups – started at 30-40ish reps, after 3 months…120 in 2 minutes!
-Ab Crunches – started at 40-50ish reps, after 3 months…220 in 2 minutes!

Needless to say, a few months on one of Stew’s programs was enough to get me ready to ace my Sea Cadet PFTs!
Continue reading Interview with Navy SEAL, Stew Smith, about Pull-up Training

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