Exercises You Shouldn’t Be Doing: Cleans

Now before everyone starts getting all huffy and puffy over this one, let me start off by being direct…This is for the baseball population. We’re in full swing at BucksFit with the baseball guys and this is a question that I get asked pretty regularly, “Why don’t we do hang/power cleans?” We don’t do them because the juice ain’t worth the squeeze, plain and simple. If you’re a baseball player, or your son/family member is, these guys spend a majority of the year jacking up their shoulders from the large amount of competitive games. The last thing we want to do is take time in the gym jacking those shoulders up even more. Take a look at these and apologies up front for the classy ending…

We performed hang cleans all..the…time when I was playing in college. It’s no wonder I had rotator cuff and labrum surgery!

The only Olympic movements we use for the baseball players are the deadlift and squat. When coming up with a players off-season training program, keep in mind the rigors of the season they’ve just wrapped up. Most high school players play spring, summer, and fall if they are competing for college scholarships. Most college players will play a full spring and summer, along with fall intersquads. Professional players will play anywhere from 142-162 games through the spring, summer, and fall. You get the point, they’re playing a TON of games. It’s our job as strength coaches to correct their imbalances and put them in low risk/high reward situations in the gym during their off-season. To me, cleans are a high risk/low reward exercise. Tell me your thoughts! Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you soon!

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Drive

This is a pretty loaded word. It’s what separates people who are at the top of their field and those who fall underneath them. In the fitness industry, it separates those who are most successful in the field from those who continue make up programs that don’t work and end up hurting people (see picture).

For someone looking to hire a personal trainer/strength coach (YOU!), drive is the only thing you need to bring in order to make your fitness dreams a reality. Take a look at the definition…

Drive – To strive vigorously toward a goal or objective; to work, play, or try wholeheartedly and with determination.

At BucksFit (Primarily High School, College, and Professional Baseball Players) and Alpha Systems (Primarily Weight Loss), my clients bring that drive with them everyday. They are all driven to succeed at whatever goal they are chasing. I’ll be the first to admit, in the beginning, some need to be pushed more than others. In the end though, they have all pushed themselves beyond the limits of what they thought they could accomplish in the gym. Which brings me to you…

What drives you to get back in the gym? Your spouse? Your sport? Your doctor?

Any one of these can be a motivating factor among many, many others. But, at the end of the day, it comes down to you taking it upon yourself to get to the gym and begin your march to better health or becoming a better athlete. It’s the same drive that makes you successful at your job or school work, just applied in a different arena. Let’s take a look at one example…

I’ve worked with a high school athlete for a year and a half. When he came in, he was overweight, out of shape, moved poorly, and had bad grades. I told him from day one, “I don’t mind if you fail in here, but if you quit while you’re in here, don’t come back.” I wanted him to push himself and finish everything he started. We went to work. It was tough out of the gate, starting on shedding body fat while cleaning up movement patterns, but he continued to show up 4 days a week and grind it out. There were nights when the gym was closed and we were still going at it. He came in while during football season after practices and games. To be honest (#TBH), there were times when I had to make him take a week off to let his body rest, THAT’S HOW BAD HE WANTED IT. To this date, he has shed over 30 lbs, 20% body fat, and added 18 mph to his fastball. That’s all well and good, but do you want to know the greatest accomplishment of all? Too bad, I’m telling you! I mentioned that he had bad grades at the beginning of this story (C’s and D’s). Well, one night, we were in the gym and I asked him why he didn’t apply himself in the classroom like he did in the weight room. He looked at me a little crooked, tried to give me the “I’m not smart” bs, and I decided to call him on it. The bottom line was he wasn’t putting the effort needed to be successful in the classroom as he was in the weight room. Once he realized it, he went to work in the classroom. Last year, he finished with all A’s and one B. He’s taking an honors class for the first time of his life this year and killing it.

Somewhere along the line, he had settled for believing that he couldn’t do certain things in life, such as getting good grades or playing baseball, because society had dictated so. Once he got that out of his mind and decided to work relentlessly towards multiple goals, he flew. And so can you. There is nothing in this world we can’t accomplish as individuals. As long as you’re driven, your dreams are yours. It goes the same in the gym. If you want to lose weight, you want to become a better athlete, push all the bull to the side, and get after it. Just drive, baby.

Scapular Retraction and the Deadlift

This is a hot topic right now at BucksFit. With the new baseball players getting settled in for the off-season, we’re constantly coaching the guys to keep their scapular retraction going as they pull from the floor. Let’s dive into this topic and, hopefully, you’ll have a better understanding on how to keep your shoulder blades packed when you perform any deadlift variation.

Number 1: What is scapular retraction? Simply put, scapular retraction is taking your shoulder blades and pulling them back to your midline (spine). We’ll either start off with some scapular retraction/protraction sets (2 x 8) or add that same set in with active rest while the athlete is performing a deadlift. Why, might you ask? Well, if the shoulder blades are not properly retracted, you will get rounding of the upper back. Rounding of the upper back in a deadlift will leave you feeling jacked up and not in the good sense (see video).

See what I’m talking about? I’m pretty sure his spine made it to a complete 90 degree angle…Wheeeeeeew, my back hurts just watching! Below is an example of the proper way to retract those scaps. Now, I will say this is not a perfect deadlift, but it’s pretty damn good, and it was AJ’s first day back in the gym, so without further ado…

Notice the difference in the upper back of both lifters in the videos. Video one was rounded, leaving the lower back no protection. In video two, AJ was able to keep his upper back firm, core tight, and produce the desired result of the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps doing a majority of the work.

If you’re going to deadlift, pay attention to those scaps! It’s one of the most faulty areas I see on a daily basis and if you’re not able to retract your scaps, you shouldn’t be deadlifting. Thanks for stopping by, I’ll see you soon!

Fitness Blogs You Should Read

I read a lot. My girlfriend always busts my stones about it. “Reading good material?” she’s said on numerous occasions, to which I respond “Yes dear, but I don’t mind stopping so that I can fan you while feeding you grapes. What’s that, a foot massage? Sure, you know I’d do anything for you (smile).” Okay, so if she read that, I know she’s rolling her eyes and possibly throwing up a bit in her mouth knowing that the scenario doesn’t quite play out like that on a regular basis. But I digress, back the point. I’ve put together a list of fitness blogs I read on a daily basis. Topics each day range from all ends of the fitness industry. Just pick the ones you prefer and I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Eric Cressey – Eric is my man crush. I mean, not to sound weird, but he’s killing the baseball end of the industry and is so friggin’ smart! If you’re a baseball player/dad, I highly recommend you read his blog.

Tony Gentilcore – Also my man crush (is this getting weird yet?) and fellow Cressey Performance employee. Tony covers a wide range of topics and has a phenomenal writing style. Whether you’re a baseball guy or a middle aged man/woman trying to lose weight and move better in the gym, go see Uncle Tony.

Neghar Fonooni – She kicks ass, plain and simple. She lifts like a man and looks like a woman. Ladies, pay attention! Neghar is showing women that it’s perfectly fine to workout like a man and to not be caught in the media’s idea of how women should lift (i.e not lifting 3 pound dumbbells for 10 million reps).

Nia Shanks – Another woman in the industry showing the ladies that it’s okay to lift heavy weights without looking like a linebacker. Side Note: One exception to the ladies looking like linebackers are the Philadelphia Eagles linebackers, who have looked like ladies all season. DAMN YOU JOE BANNER!!! Sorry, I’m upset, they look terrible. Anyway, Nia will give you the confidence, as well as guidance, to get yourself going in the right direction. Don’t be scared, you’ll be a Beautiful Badass (shameless product plug for Nia) in no time!

Bret Contreras – The glute guy knows his stuff! If you want to firm up those glutes and get rid of that back crack (flat butt = back crack), check out Bret’s work. Even though he’s known as the “glute guy,” Bret has a tireless work ethic and a passion for learning in the fitness industry that, in my mind, is unparalleled. Bret is constantly studying current research to find the best ways to make our bodies as efficient as possible.

http://deansomerset.com/ – Dean’s a smart guy. He also makes me pee my pants laughing at times when I read his stuff, my girlfriend hates it. He’s another guy in the industry bringing you the most up to date and relevant research showing you how to work out more efficiently, eat better, and muddle your way through the BS we see in the fitness industry on a daily basis.

If you’re looking to step up your game in the gym, check some of these sites out. You won’t be disappointed, I promise! To all the Phightin fans that are as fired up as I am for tonight’s game, I’ll leave you with this unforgettable moment in Phillies History…..

If that isn’t Philly, I don’t know what is. LET’S GO PHILS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Exercises For Your Arsenal


Exercise: The Sleeper Stretch

Sets and Reps: 2-3 sets x 3 reps @ 20 second holds each

Why You Should Do It: The pro baseball guys have made their way back to the gym and with the lack of internal rotation showing up in assessments, I figured this would be a good place to start this off-season. After a full season of pitching/throwing, your “brakes” are tight (high school guys will wrap up fall ball in the next two weeks, so all of you, PAY ATTENTION!). As part of your corrective stretching for the following month, you want to get the internal rotation of your throwing shoulder (and non throwing, if tight) back to a healthy Range of Motion (ROM). By performing this stretch over the next month (1x/day if moderately tight, 2x/day if very tight, 3x/day if you’re in a red flag zone), you’ll get yourself back to a healthy ROM and have yourself ready to start your off season throwing program come mid November. At BucksFit, we will be running FREE SHOULDER ASSESSMENTS so you can find out where you’re at to start the off-season. To set up your free assessment, you can contact me at ckurtz4@gmail.com. Thanks for stopping by, I’ll see you soon!

Always Finish

With 2012 Philadelphia Bandits tryouts coming up this Saturday, I wanted to talk a little bit about finishing everything you do today. It may seem a little odd, but bear with me, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Whether it’s in the weight room, on the field, or with your school work, finishing is always the most important thing. It says a lot about a person. Let’s use the weight room as an example. I work with a lot of baseball players (High school, college, and pro) and each one has a different personality. When we get into tougher sets and reps, I’m always watching. I want to see who has the mental toughness to finish each and every rep. I’ve seen guys finish (albeit, struggling, but finishing strong) and I’ve seen guys cut reps and sets. For the guys that cut reps and sets, their only hurting themselves. Think about it…Does it hurt me? Technically, no. But I’ll admit, I get fired up when guys aren’t finishing because I know the good that can come over a 5 month off season of finishing every set and rep. It also says what a person might be like on the field. If it gets down to crunch time on a baseball field, and that person is on the mound (or at the plate, sorry, I’m a pitcher at heart), if he isn’t willing to push himself when it’s tough in the gym, that tells me he probably won’t be able to handle a high pressure situation in big games. Take Michael Jordan for example.

Michael Jordan was one of the most competitive basketball players of all time. I’ve heard stories of how he hated to lose at anything; Golf, Cards, Father/Son softball games. You get the idea. What made him great wasn’t his ability, but his undying passion for competing and finishing games. He’s one of the greatest finishers (if not the best) in the history of professional basketball. In the 1997 NBA Finals, Jordan had the flu. He could have very well bowed out of the game and no one would’ve said a word. But what did Jordan do? He finished. Something inside of him said, “I’ve played an entire season to get to this point, I’m NOT going to sit, even with the flu, I’m going to finish this championship.” And what did he do in game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals?…….

When you go to the gym today, always finish. Be like Mike.

Eat More Vegetables!

Vegetables are what people are missing in their diet the most. I’ve seen grown men and women cringe when I tell him/her to eat more vegetables. It usually looks like this…

Seriously people, what are you so afraid of? Vegetables are a powerful force when it comes to flushing your body of carcinogens, building a healthy immune system (Do you get sick a lot? Eat more vegetables, preferably with all meals), and helping to rebuild strong muscles while fortifying your bones. WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?!?!? Throw them in your eggs at breakfast, on your sandwich at lunch, get two different colored vegetables on your plate for dinner, and you’re off to a great start. That being said, let’s dive into what some of these nutrient packed delights actually contain when you bite into them…LEGGO!
Artichokes – You really want the artichoke hearts, that’s where the value is found in these babies. Artichoke hearts have anywhere between 6-9 grams of fiber, depending on size. They’re also loaded with potassium and folate.

Arugula – My favorite green leaf vegetable. Only 5 calories per cup, while containing a hearty amount of vitamin K and antioxidants.

Asparagus – Loaded with nutrients. Potassium, folate, bitamin B and K, and fiber are the big ones found in asparagus. Only 40 calories per cup, so start eating ’em if you’re looking to drop body fat!

Bok Choy – Looks like cabbage and endive made a babay, now GET IN MAH BELLAY! Bok Choy helps reduce your cancer risk. It’s loaded with calcium, potassium, beta-carotene, and vitamin A. Like most green, stalky vegetables, you want to cook these fairly quickly so that it doesn’t lose it’s crispness and becomes limp.

Broccoli – I’ll put it like this…Broccoli is King, the rest are servants. Broccoli contains Isothicyanates, which are great cancer fighters. These stalky greens are packed full of potasium, caclium, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, beta-carotene, and vitamin A, as well as small amounts of protein and fiber! Game, blouses.

Cabbage – Again, another cancer fighter. Quick side note: If you’ve been reading my last few posts regarding nutrition, have you noticed all of the cancer fighting properties in most fruits and vegetables? Just sayin. Anywho, cabbage also helps fight the war against cardiovascular disease and inflammation. Looking for nutrients? Calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, and beta-carotene are found here.

Carrots – What’s up doc? Bugs Bunny was/is onto something. My man POUNDS carrots. They’re great for your eyes (how do you think he escaped Elmer Fudd all these years?) and contain Vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, and a bit of fiber. Waskewy Wabbit!

Cauliflower – Cauliflower is pretty sweet. Once this broccoli-like enters your system, the sulforaphane found within it goes to work on flushing out carcinoges from your blood cells. Pretty awesome, I know. LIke most veggies, cauliflower is low calorie and contains fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and folate.

Celery – AAAAAnd peanut butter, right? I can deal with it, but try to reach for almond, sunflower, or any other “nut” butter instead of peanut butter. Celery is great for high blood pressure, so if yours is through the roof, get some celery in you on a consistent basis, then go see the doc, he’ll be pumped for you!

Collard Greens – Collard Greens are loaded with calcium, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamins A and K. If you’re struggling with your vision, pound some collard greens, they’re great for your eyesite as well!

Dandelion – Yep, I said dandelion. Why should you eat it? For one, it will help your liver, mood swings, and diabetes, if you fall under any/all 3 of those categories. It also helps with reducing blood pressure and pms.

Eggplant – I hate eggplant, probably because when I tried to cook it, I sucked at it and it tasted like hot garbage. I know, I’m not really enticing you, but you’re probably a better cook than me, let’s be honest. At only 132 calories, it’s got a nice nutritional make-up of fiber and assists in lowering cholesterol and fighting cancer with it’s antioxidant properties.

Endive – 8 calories per 2 CUPS! It’s also loaded with calcium, iron, potassium, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin K. Get on it!

Green Beans – Help moderate blood sugar levels for 1. 2, they reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, and vascular disease. Nutrients? Sure, you have calcium, vitamin A, folate, and potassium.

Jerusalem Artichokes – Ever have Kefir? It’s a morning yogurt smoothie that I recommend everyone drink, but if you can’t, try these. These artichokes are full of healthy bacteria for your intestines that will keep you from getting sick all the time (Erock, eat em!). They also help to fight against cancer while lowering blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol.

Jicama – The only reason I put this in is because of the fiber content. 6 grams per cup. That’s insanity!

Kale – Kale kicks ass, bottom line. Kale has the highest ORAC rating in the fight against cancer. On top of that, kale is loaded with fiber, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, and vitamins A, C, and K.

Mushrooms – These guys help with your immune system, BIG TIME. They’re also a great cancer fighter, like most on this list.

Okra – If you’re reaching for cereal in the morning, you may want to think about okra instead. The fiber content in 1 cup of okra is 4 grams, which blows the previously mentioned Count Chocula out of the water. Okra is full of calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin K, and folic acid.

Onions – I love onions, I’ll put them in anything. My girlfriend hates it which I completely understand. Who wants to be around a guy that smells like onions all the time??? Yeah, I’m the luckiest guy on Earth. On top of smelling great, onions are great for your heart, help with building strong bones, and will assist you with your allergy and asthma problems.

Peppers – Hot or sweet, you should be filling up your plate with these. They’re easy to eat and help to relieve pain and are full of vitamins C and A, folic acid, iron, potassium, fiber, and vitamin K.

Pumpkin – It’s almost that time of year! Pumpkin helps with muscle cramping, reduces your risk of stroke, as well as helping with your eyesite. Along with strong antioxidant properties, pumpkin is loaded up with potassium, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and carotenoids that help reduce the risk of lung cancer.

Spinach – If you haven’t seen my protein shake, check it out HERE. Spinach is so freakin’ sweet. It’s loaded with vitamin K, D, and C. It helps to boost testosterone levels SAFELY, unlike a majority of supplements on the unregulated market today. Spinach also helps keep you sharp while delivering beta-carotene, fiber, iron, carotenoids, and magnesium. POUND SPINACH!

Squash – Will help you in the weight loss department because of it’s high water content. 1 cup of squash will give you 9 grams of fiber along with a high amount of potassium, iron, potassium, vitamin A, and carotenoids.

Swiss Chard – 1 cup delivers 4 grams of fiber and fortifies your system with daily doses of calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. It also contains a great source of vitamin A, alpha/beta-carotene, and carotenoids.

Tomatoes – Guys who eat tomatoes have lower prostate cancers, BOTTOM line. SEE HOW I DID THAT?!?! THAT WAS HILARIOUS!!!! HAHAHAHA…Anyway, not only do tomatoes help prevent prostate cancer, but they also fight against cervical, breast, oral, esophageal, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. Vitamin C is the main nutrient in these bad boys, as well as lycopene, vitamin A and B, potassium, and phosphorus.

Turnips – If you haven’t eaten these, they have a tough taste. I mix them in with kale, onions, scallions, peppers, a little bit of avocado oil, and throw em on the grill (wrapped in tin foil). They have a bit of a kick to them, so be prepared. Turnips have a high water content, so they’ll fill you up if you’re looking for something to hold you over for a bit. They’re loaded with fiber, potasium, vitamin C, and calcium. Turnips are best known for helping maintain bone health.

Watercress – These leafy greens help to wipe out carcinogens. The most staggering thing I found about watercress is that it has 4 TIMES THE AMOUNT OF CALCIUM AS MILK! That’s craaaaaazy! Nutrients found in watercress are citamin C, vitamin K, vitamin C, and carotenoids.

That wraps up vegetables! If you have issues with getting sick all the time, start adding more vegetables to your diet and you’ll be feeling better in no time! Before I go, check out the new Jane’s Addiction song from their upcoming album (October 4th, go get it!). Jane’s Addiction is one of my favorite bands of all time, mainly because of Dave Navarro’s unbelievable skills on the guitar. Have a great Tuesday, I’ll see you soon!!!