High Octane Corrective Exercise and Performance Enhancement | www.RobertsonTrainingSystems.com

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Old-School Article of the Week

From time to time, I'm going to re-post an old article that many of you may be unfamiliar with. Today's article, 10 Tips for Flawless Squattin', is one of my all-time favorites. Enjoy!

10 Tips for Flawless Squattin'

Stay strong

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Training Philosophy

Here's an article that I'd throw up on the blog - I'd throw it up on the site, but I'm having major issues with my desktop.

I hope you enjoy it - and don't forget, the Indy Seminar DVD's are on sale this week only! Check them out here:


As always, thanks for your support over the years - I couldn't do it without you!

Stay strong


My Training Philosophy
Mike Robertson

In the midst of the Internet craze, anyone and everyone can be an expert on training. You can write articles, blog, or just tell everyone on an internet forum how you’re squatting 7 bills for reps. In fact, you’re so jacked that your username is “Squatzilla 5000.” If anyone should dare challenge your thought processes, you’ll quickly flame them into oblivion.

While I enjoy writing, speaking and developing products, the thing I enjoy the most is actually training people. I’m the first to admit that I’m not perfect, but I will always strive to be the best coach or trainer my clients can work with.

I really started focusing on my training philosophy while developing content for my Aussie Seminar Series and my Indianapolis Performance Enhancement Seminar. I asked myself, what are the guiding, big-bang thoughts that constituted how I train people? And not just what I believed in, but why I believed it to be true as well. The same words kept coming up in every presentation, and I soon began to realize how important they are to my philosophy.

Let’s be honest: It’s really easy to sit behind a computer screen, take someone’s words out of context, and talk about how little they know about training. It’s a whole different ball game when it comes down to what you really know and believe in, and being able to explain or defend it to other coaches, trainers and therapists.

Whether you’re a personal trainer, strength coach, physical therapist, or just someone who likes to hit the iron, you’ve to some degree developed your own philosophy with regards to training. What works, what doesn’t, etc. But what are the key components of this philosophy? And how did you come to those conclusions?

Here are four of the key components that I keep coming back to. I hope you enjoy it!

Component #1 – Rationale

Rationale is the basis for your program design. Quite simply, how bulletproof do you believe your programming to be?

Think about it like this; let’s say you’ve written a program for yourself, and I sit down right next to you to look things over. Could you tell me exactly why you chose:

- A specific exercise?
- A specific set/rep scheme?
- A specific time under tension?
- A specific rest period?

To take it a step further, in what instances would you choose a front squat over a back squat? In what cases would 5x5 be superior to 3x8 or 3x10? For which athletes would a 5-10 minute rest between sets be necessary? The point I’m getting at is we need to understand all the variables associated with creating a program, and then understand how manipulating any (or all of) those variables can either improve upon or detract from the quality of the program.

In the case of a powerlifter, a 5x5 program may be ideal to help them build their squat. But if you put them on a 60 or 90 second rest period, you’re going to kill them.

3x8 or 3x10 set/rep schemes may work perfectly in a fat loss setting, but if you allow them 3-5 minutes rest between sets you lose a lot of the training effect.

As you can see from the above examples, you have to think big picture – how all the variables involved influence each other.

As well, far too often we put unnecessary or unneeded “filler” exercises into our programming. Nothing that we do should be arbitrary. If you can’t explain why you do something, why are you doing it?

Component #2 – Progression

Good programming is imperative to long-term success. Progression is one component of good programming.

When starting with a new client or athlete, the first thing we do is assess them. Whether it’s taking their body fat, doing a 1-RM squat, or just watching them play their sport, we have to know where they are starting from first and foremost. As they saying goes, “If you’re not assessing, you’re guessing.”

The assessment is absolutely critical with regards to progression – if you don’t assess them, how do you know where to start? If everyone starts on the same program, it will be just right for some. However, for the vast majority that same programming could be either too easy or too damn hard.

But more importantly, once we know where to start from, the real key is knowing how to get them from where they’re at to where they want to go. Again, whether their goal is to get from 20% body fat to 15% body fat, or to take them from a 275# bench press to 300#, the key is in progression. We all know that what helps you lose the first 20 lbs. won’t help you lose the last 20. Thus, progression is critical.

With that being said, however, I don’t want to imply that the only way to incorporate progression into a training program is to add weight to the bar. Even though I haven’t competed in a while I still have a powerlifters mentality; in more cases than not, more weight on the bar is a good thing. However, they are tons of different variables that we can “progress” upon throughout a training program. Here are a few examples:

- Stability Demands
Beginners generally have poor stability in single-leg stance. We can give them more stability up front (via a split squat) and then progress them into exercises with greater stability demands (reverse lunges, forward lunges, and even walking lunges).

- Exercise Difficulty/Complexity
With the Olympic lifts, it’s much easier to teach the lifts in small chunks or phases versus having someone clean from the floor on their first session. Start with basics like the hang pull or power clean, and then progress in difficulty from there. If even the basic Olympic moves are too difficult, you can regress back to a med ball throw or KB swing to begin the progression.Another example would be to start clients out using a box to learn how to squat; once they’re comfortable with the torso position and “sitting back,” you can progress them to a traditional back squat from there.

- Decreased rest periods
If someone is doing metabolic based resistance training, a “progression” would be to decrease the rest periods between sets.

- Increased repetitions per set
Again, using a metabolic based resistance training program you may keep the weight on the bar the same, but add repetitions to the set.

- Increasing the time under tension (TUT)
A set of squats performed at a 2-0-1 tempo is much different than that same set of squats performed at a 4-0-1 tempo.
- Increasing the density/pressure of a soft-tissue implement
By moving from a white foam roller to a black one, or from a tennis ball to a lacrosse ball, you increase the intensity of the soft-tissue work.

As you can see, there are various methods of progressing or increasing the intensity of a training program without manipulating the weight on the bar. Adding load isn’t a bad thing whatsoever, but I want you start thinking about how you can apply the concept of progression throughout all the components of your workouts.

Component #3 – Efficiency

Efficiency isn’t a word that we use a lot in this industry, and I hope it will change in the future. Quite simply, if we can complete the same athletic task using, A) more energy, or B) less energy, which sounds better to you?

When it comes to efficiency with regards to training/competing, I phrase it like this:

- The right muscle(s)
- Working at the right time
- With an appropriate level of strength

When we have all these things working together, we not only improve our performance but decrease the likelihood of injury. As Bill Hartman has noted numerous time, we shouldn’t look at these as separate and individual outcomes – rather, they should be looked at as one and the same.

Efficiency, however, is one elusive property to get your hands on. In our “Building the Efficient Athlete” DVD Series, Eric often talks about the difference between inefficiencies and pathologies. Inefficiencies are those minor “hiccups” when it comes to our performance. However, enough of these “hiccups” eventually lead to injury, or at the very least sub-maximal performance.

This is where people need to understand the roles of both activation/motor control work and strength work. Intelligent program design will incorporate activation/motor control to get those little muscle groups firing (i.e. low traps, serratus, gluteals, psoas, etc.). However, once you’ve learned how to utilize them, the key is to get them stronger and working within normal movement patterns.

One thing that pisses me off is when people try and say I do “too much” activation work. Look, you can call it activation, motor control, facilitation, whatever. The bottom line is this: If someone can’t recruit a muscle group in isolation, then how in the hell are they going to recruit it in a multi-joint movement pattern?

Answer: It doesn’t happen.

So if your glutes don’t fire in a bridge, you can do pause squats in the hole until your fucking blue in the face and they aren’t going to turn on, either. Sorry.

This is the whole premise behind isolation to integration. Teach them to use the glutes in an isolated setting. Once they’re working, then take them to a “bridge the gap” type exercise like a mini-band resisted squat or RNT based lunge. I discussed these previously in my Hardcore Lunge article. Once you’ve learned to activate the muscle group within an exercise like this, it’s time to re-learn the exercise in its original fashion.

The bottom line is this: I’m all for optimizing training. It may take three sets or none when it comes to activation drills, and the truth it I don’t care. The only thing I’m focused on is the end-result or outcome. Efficiency is a moving target, just like the goals of your clients and athletes. The sooner you release yourself from training dogma and black and white thinking, the better off you’ll be.

Component #4 – Symmetry

The final component of my training philosophy is striving to achieve symmetry. The more symmetrical we are, in my opinion, the less likely we are to get injured.

But “symmetry” is very vague; what exactly are we looking for symmetry in? And no, I’m not talking about balancing your inner thigh “sweep” to your outer thigh bulk, or developing your inner vs. outer pecs.

Instead, I’m looking for symmetry in three regards:

- Mobility/Movement Capacity
- Motor Control
- Strength

Let’s look at each individual factor a little bit more in depth.

We know that mobility is important, but what about symmetry of movement between sides? Doesn’t it make sense that we should have the same amount of ankle mobility from side-to-side if we want a symmetrical squat? What about hip mobility? Or thoracic spine mobility? The things we do in the weight room are generally symmetrical in nature – so why wouldn’t we want symmetry with regards to our mobility and movement capacity?

Next, we have motor control. Quite often, we’ll see asymmetries with regards to someone’s ability to recruit their serratus, low traps, gluteals, etc. Again, knowing that what we do in the gym is inherently bilateral in nature, it only makes sense to have those “right” muscles working for us.

Finally, we come to strength. Guys like Eric Cressey, Michael Boyle and myself have been talking about the need for single-leg work for years. But it goes beyond just single leg work – what about single arm upper extremity work as well? Or core development? Just some things to start thinking about.

One thing I’d like to mention here is this: Sports are inherently asymmetrical. What makes a pitcher really good at throwing, or what makes a basketball player really good at jumping off one leg leads them to built-in asymmetries. If you’re a strength coach or personal trainer, your goal in the weight room (or on the field) is to keep them healthy and at the top of their sport. Rather than subscribing to the dogma that “every athlete must squat” or “every athlete will bench 300 pounds,” do your best to keep their asymmetries under control, while not taking away the natural skills or traits that make them a great athlete. This article is geared more towards the weight-room enthusiast, however, so I’ll step off my soap box now.

Being as “symmetrical” as possible may not take us very far with regards to immediate gratification and adding weight to the bar. It will, however, keep us healthy over the long haul. After all, you can’t push the limits if you’re always injured. By working on asymmetries you allow yourself the possibility of getting stronger, over a longer period of time, than you ever dreamed.

And that, my friends, is pretty darn cool.


Developing your own philosophy is one of the most important things you can do as a trainer, therapist and coach. Do your best to define not just what you believe in, but why as well. And finally, realize that this is an ongoing process.

About the Author

Mike Robertson, M.S., C.S.C.S., U.S.AW., has helped clients and athlete from all walks of life achieve their strength, physique and performance related goals. Mike received his Masters Degree in Sports Biomechanics from the world-renowned Human Performance Lab at Ball State University.

Mike is the president of Robertson Training Systems and the co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I-FAST #3 - Unconventional Fitness

One aspect of training that I feel is going to be unique to I-FAST is our energy system work.

Now I'm a powerlifter at heart, so I hate anything that's remotely related to lactic acid. Add in a stationary bike or treadmill, and I'm on the verge of poking my eyes out.

And unless you just have a want or need to punish yourself, I think there are many alternative ways to skin that cat.

With regards to energy system work at I-FAST, let's put it this way - we don't even have a treadmill. That's not to say we will never own a treadmill, but we don't own one as of right now.

What do we have, you might ask? All kinds of fun stuff...

- Kettlebells
- A Prowler
- An Airdyne bike
- Med balls
- Open space for bodyweight circuits
- We'll soon have a sled, heavy bag, keg(s) and tractor tires

Not to mention countless barbell and dumbbell complexes that we can concoct. Quite simply, there are TONS of different ways to challenge your energy systems without ever stepping on a treadmill. And it's our goal to not only get our clients into kick ass shape, but to hopefully have some fun along the way.

If you're interested in training at I-FAST, check out the website:


Stay strong

BTW, don't forget that the Indy Seminar DVD's are on sale this week ONLY! Be sure to pick up a copy by following the link below.

2008 Indy Seminar DVD's

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

If you're not assessing....

...you're guessing.

I've said it time and again, but I'm constantly shocked at how many trainers STILL don't assess their clients.

Look, if you want to get more out of your clients - giving them better health, longevity, and performance - you need to be assessing them from the get go.

However, just like a program shouldn't be cookie cutter, neither should an assessment. For example, would you use the same assessment to evaluate the following clients?

- An 85 year old woman with low back pain
- A 50 year old corporate executive who wants to lose body fat
- A 22 year old minor league baseball player

In this case, I'm hoping you said no, and this is what Bill Hartman talked about extensively in our 2008 Indy Performance Enhancement seminar.

The key to getting the most out of an assessment is to make it specific. For example golf, tennis and baseball are all rotational sports - but there are a lot of unique qualities to each. One of the best things you can do is to actually watch your client play their sport; you can notice mobility issues, stability issues, and even asymmetries in their performance. From there, you can break it down further into more isolative tests. But the key is specificity.

Here's another example - let's use a powerlifter in this case. He performs an overhead squat, but can't break parallel and there's a small loss of his lordotic curve in the process. Is this a cause for concern?

It depends - is he training this movement under load? And if not, can he squat down below parallel with a bar on his back and NOT lose his lordotic curve?

I hope you see what I'm geting at here. Everything in your assessment should be specific to your client - their needs, goals, sporting activities, etc.

If you want to learn more about developing the ideal assessment, be sure to pick up our 2008 Indy Performance Enhancement Seminar DVD series, on sale for this week only! Click on the link below to find out more.

2008 Indy Performance Enhancement Seminar Series

Stay strong

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Great info from Dave Tate

I'm not sure how many of you read T-Nation, but if you don't you owe it to yourself to check out the two part article series that they've recently posted by Dave Tate.

I've cut/pasted an excerpt here, as it was something I was thinking about myself just the other day.

Here goes...

Do the Stuff You Suck At

You ever wonder where your weak points come from? They're a combination of your strengths overpowering the rest of your skills, and you simply not doing the stuff you hate to do.

Think about it, if your abs and core stability are your weak points, is it because you're training them too hard or too often? Not on your life. Show me a weak point, and I'll show you a movement that isn't being trained because the athlete doesn't like to do it.

Is this something you hate to do? Then do it.

Let me tell you about how I discovered this secret.

It was at the IPA Worlds (a.k.a. the York Barbell Hall of Fame), my first meet after a nine-month hiatus. I had taken some time off to heal up, regroup, and push my bodyweight up higher. I was looking forward to this meet, because my training was going very well, and things seemed to be going my way. My warm-up for the squat attempts felt great, fast, and very explosive. I was definitely getting jacked up about the meet.

I was on deck, next up. My wraps were on, tight as hell, and I was ready. The moments right before I hit the chalk are the best moments of my life. The anticipation, the aggression, the work it took to get to this moment are unmatched.

Finally, over the loudspeaker came the words I'd waited nine months to hear, "Load the bar to 860 pounds for Dave Tate." It was a weight I'd squatted several times before, and it was to be my opening attempt. Full of rage, I began chalking my hands.

This is the moment with every big lift that I "detach" from myself, and go on autopilot. Rarely do I remember anything from the time I leave the chalk box until after the lift.

However, this lift I do remember, because I couldn't get it out of the rack.

I remember trying to stand up with the weight, but I couldn't budge it. It felt welded to the rack. I tried a few times and still nothing. This pissed me off to no end, so I stepped back and increased my rage as high as I could, got back under the rack, and nothing.

My helpers stepped in and pulled me from the rack. Needless to say, this was not a good moment for me. Nine months of training and I couldn't get my damn opener out of the rack.

Just then, I heard Louie Simmons call out, "Dave, you're done. Pull out." I glanced back at him, figuring he was just trying to piss me off. But he looked straight at me and said, "I'm serious, Dave. You're done. Pull out, and we'll talk later. It's not worth what could happen right now."

Now, Louie Simmons is one of the best coaches in the world, and I was part of his team, the Westside Barbell Club. This club is known to be the strongest gym in the world and I was one of Louie's boys. I respect this man and trust him with my life.

So I pulled out, and spent the rest of the meet watching the rest of my team lift well, sitting there eating hot dogs and wondering what the hell my problem was.

On the drive home, I told Louie, "I don't understand what happened today. My training went well. I was strong as hell on everything in the gym."

Just then he stopped me and said something I'll never forget: "That's exactly your problem."

As we turned onto the Interstate, I sat there thinking that Louie was out of his mind. How could being strong in the gym be a bad thing?

How can being strong as hell in the gym be a bad thing?

"You know what you need, Dave?" Louie continued. "You need to do those things you suck at. You're at a point where your weaknesses are killing you, and you're doing nothing to address them. Your legs and upper back can easily squat a grand, but your abs and lower back can't squat 860 pounds. Which do you think you'll squat, 1000 or 860? What you need to be doing is reverse hypers and standing ab work!"

The simple truth hit me like a half-ton of iron. Louie was exactly right. In training, I hated doing reverse hypers and standing ab work. As a matter of fact, I hated alllower back and ab work, so to be honest,I skipped it most of the time.

Once again: your weak points are caused by doing what you hate to do. And this is the difference between competitive athletics and "working out." You can always get into better shape by doing things that you like to do, but to excel at a sport, you have to master doing the things that you hate to do.

So, for the next six months I trained my lower back and abs four days a week: once at the beginning of every session, and at the end of each session. At the Nationals in November, I squatted 900 pounds for the first time. For the next meet, I increased my torso training to six days a week, with three days being very heavy and three days being light.

In July, I went back to the IPA Worlds, the same meet I had to pull out of the year before. I squatted 860 pounds, then 905 pounds, and onto an easy 935 pounds.

While training for the 935 pounds, my main gym lifts that I had bragged were so strong were actually down 15 percent from the previous year, however, my torso strength was the strongest that it had ever been.

Thanks, Louie.

Whether you're a powerlifter, Olympic lifter, strongman, physique competitor or just someone who wants to look and feel better, this is great advice. Quite often, the things we hate doing in training are the very things we need to do the most.

Start training your deficiencies now and you'll see what a difference it can make.

Stay strong and have a great 4th!