Posted by Tony Montgomery under General  Weight Lifting  Training  on Jun 28 2017

Being a coach is more than developing a badass excel spreadsheet and being able to quote this research paper you read to validate your training philosophy. A real coach has to not only have the education from academia but also and more importantly from under the bar. Experience goes a long way in becoming a good coach. Being able to work in person with clients so you can see their mannerisms as they walk through the door and tell if they had a shitty day or not and adjust on the fly. Anyone can write a program these days but very few can actually be a good coach. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I wanted to pass on what I have learned from being in this industry a little over a decade.


In order for your program to be successful, you must first take in a few considerations about the athlete. Things like lifestyle, work conditions, sleep, nutrition, and personality. Beyond that you also have to see how the athlete moves, in person this is easy but being an online coach now and going through video it gets to be a difficult task, so make sure you have a criteria you want the athlete to meet as far as filming goes so you can properly assess the athlete. I know this sounds like a no-brainer but if you are an online coach or an athlete looking for a coach you must evaluate the lifters videos and if you find a coach that doesn’t get your money back immediately. I’ve seen a great lifter recently work with a coach and never once did he ask for a video or provide any type of analysis of weak areas or technique improvements and you know what happened that athlete lost 40 plus pounds on his squat and had a mediocre day on the platform. Please don’t be a lazy coach that relies on just statistics alone to program for you and have some pride in what you do.


As a lot of coaches can attest being a coach is more about being a people analyzer than an actual coach, anyone can write out a program that is the easy part. What if your client is in school and has 4 exams the next week are you going to give that person the hardest or longest workouts of the training cycle, probably not. Getting to know the client and their lifestyle is important and you can’t impose your beliefs or wants on to them. They will do things the way that best suits them and how they live and as a coach, it is your job to work around that and still provide them with a great plan that they progress on. Knowing things like your client works all night as a bouncer on the weekends, so giving them an accessory day on Monday that is not too demanding is a great way to not pile on top of their crappy conditions or even giving them a rest day. You have to figure out what works best for the client's situation and not what works best for your program. That is the difference between a paper coach and a real coach.


If you are working with individuals that work a manual labor job or have a crappy sleep situation which in powerlifting is a very common thing you must know their ability to recover is going to be small. So you won’t be able to overload them with volume upon volume and expect them to be able to recover for the next workout. Sure you can provide them with tips on how to improve sleep and to help with recovery but those things won’t overcome poor programming because you are running them into the ground. Start them off at a low point with volume and each week get feedback on how things are going, find out which days are the hardest and which days you can push a little more and slowly add things in, but be sure you ask the right questions because an athlete will always tell you they are good and ready to go. So make sure you are able to get real feedback like how did warm ups feel? Do you feel like fatigue is hindering you more than strength? Things looked kinda slow this week how was work and sleep? You have to dive deep with questions to get the right answers out of the client so you can write out the following weeks plan so they are able to succeed.


I can not stress nutrition enough, if you have an athlete who’s idea of proper nutrition is McDonald's breakfast you will have some issues with their ability to recover. Sure getting in enough calories, which most powerlifters do, or used to nowadays everyone wants to diet down to a weight class, is of the utmost importance the type of calorie does matter for performance. Mainly thinking of things like digestion, gut health, and peri-workout nutrition can go a very long way in improving body composition which can create better leverages to lift more and it will strongly impact their ability to recover to keep pushing hard every session. Now if you can’t get an athlete to buy in or an athlete who is always dieting this is a huge consideration to their programming. Be sure to understand your client's nutrition and their nutrition goals to make sure it falls in line with their lifting goals. If not briefly explain to them the contradictions and see what route they want to go. Either way, the athlete's nutrition plays a big role in how you set up their training so ask about it.


The last thing I want to cover is dealing with an athlete's personality. Now I know this is not often thought about but getting to know your athlete beyond the training and nutrition is equally as important in order to set up an effective training plan. Finding out their personalities and what/how they enjoy lifting. I’ve noticed a lot of extroverts do better with a more conjugated approach and before you say it doesn’t work for raw lifters please do some research on what conjugated training actually is. I’ve also noticed the opposite for introverts they can do the same thing each week and just put in work more of a grinder mentality. Giving the athlete what they enjoy will create more motivation in the gym for them to train hard and training hard is very critical to maximizing your gains.


I hope after reading this article you will take a bit more time getting to know your athletes and truly doing your job in creating a program. Being an online coach has become a real easy way to rip people off, don’t be that person. Spend time doing video reviews, ask questions about life outside of the gym and build a rapport with your athletes to help them reach their goals.

Posted by Tony Montgomery under General  Diet  Weight Loss  Nutrition  on Jan 26 2017

As a strength athlete we are always chasing performance or at least we should be. Sometimes we get a wild hair up our butts and we chase after aesthetics, thinking that will yield to a better performance on the platform. Although I agree with the notion that leaner more muscled physique will usually produce the best lifter on the platform it does require quite the long term commitment to get there. This quest for both strength and aesthetics is important to understand and has only been pushed to the forefront over the past 6-8 years. in years past we would see a lot of big dudes but with guts and not the greatest physique but man were they strong for that time. Now we see guys like Larry Williams, Dan Green, Kevin Oak, and Steve Gentili pushing the aspect of why not have both and the records have fallen due to it. Is it because the genetics are better, maybe the drugs have improved, or maybe these guys understand the importance of maximizing the most amount of lean tissue to fit into a weight class will yield the best results.


So now comes the question of this article should I try to gain weight or cut down and the answer is it depends. I will say that a lot of people are hurting their true potential by constantly trying to drop a weight class to be more competitive. If you are always in a calorie deficit trying to get to a small weight class when exactly are you taking the time to occur lean body tissue?? The answer is never because in order to add muscle you need to be in a calorie surplus unless you are new to drugs or a complete newbie to training beyond that the likely hood of gaining muscle is slim to none. This is extremely important to note, stop trying to drop a weight class to be more competitive at a local meet!!! You are hindering your ultimate progress and not allowing your body to lay down the groundwork of a solid foundation. 


So should you cut or gain, the answer if you have to ask is you should try to drop excess body fat first, not because you are trying to drop down a weight class, this is only to set yourself up for better growth potential. The more body fat you have the more likely you are to add more body fat while gaining over lean tissue and the reason behind that is your body is not as efficient at utilizing the nutrients when you have excess fat. Typically people who have more fat have higher insulin resistance which means if carbs are high you will be more likely to store more fat and your body doesn’t signal and release hormones like it should. So by dropping some pounds and getting closer to 12% body fat for males and 20% for females you are putting yourself in a better place to grow lean tissue. A good rule of thumb when cutting as a strength athlete is if you are starting to feel like your performance is suffering end the cut and start a slow reverse diet. This also brings me to a good point when it comes to a cut don’t go all out from the get-go. First I would get your diet in order and ride that out as long as you can and once you plateau I would add in a bit of conditioning nothing crazy just 2x a week. The main point is to not go to extremes right away that will shorten your cut and make it not nearly as effective. Approach the cut with the mindset that this is setting you up for a better and stronger physique and to not worry about chasing numbers during this but instead be more focused on just training really hard and using different training modalities.


Gaining weight also needs to adhere to certain guidelines, you don’t want to gain bad weight but keep in mind if you are in a calorie surplus you will get fatter that is inevitable, but the ability to add good quality muscle is a lot and I mean a lot harder than losing fat so we can learn to accept a little fat gain for the gain of lean tissue. You can only gain weight for so long without having some negative side effects. The biggest telltale that your weight gain is coming to an end is when you start to notice the fat to muscle ratio gain is skewing more towards fat and a lot less towards muscle. You will also lose those pumps in the gym and you’ll just start to feel kinda sluggish. This is a sign that you are not partitioning nutrients effectively and that your insulin has lost its sensitivity. The best way to advance the weight gain process is to slowly reverse diet out of a cut and to not go apeshit crazy and gain 20lbs in a week, your lower back will thank me later. At first, when gaining I would look to increase your overall protein intake by 10% give or take, here is an interesting study on a high protein diet

After letting your body adjust to that for 5-7 days I would then increase carbohydrates but only around your workout so looking to increase calories 250-350 cals per 2 weeks is a good approach. Obviously, if you add calories and you are still losing weight keep adding them in but do it in segments of every 5-7 days. This phase sucks and is a bitch to stick to because you will be starving but if you can ride it out for 1-2 months your gaining phase can last 6-8 months instead of 4-5 months. 


If you do get sloppy and can only add weight for 3-4 months before you come to the conclusion that you are just getting fatter, but you are also not near your weight gain goal. I would highly recommend a mini diet for 4-6 weeks and then jumping right back into the smart approach this time of weight gain to learn more about mini cuts check out my article

Posted by Tony Montgomery under General  Weight Lifting  Training  on Dec 20 2016

Mitchell Rothbardt To me, whenever you change something pretty drastically in a program, for example going from 8-12 to 4-6 reps, just the change itself will get you a training effect because the body just isn't used to the new stimulus. For that reason, you just don't have to, and probably can't push the intensity super hard during the first week or two. You just can't handle the weight, to put it simply. Knowing that, if you just approach that week, with the idea of leaving two or three reps in the tank, and the 2nd week leaving maybe a rep or two in the tank with your sets that would act as a sort of deload and a transition all in one.


Paul Oneid Ok, I have two answers for this. I currently don't organize my training in that fashion and I'm more in a "concurrent" type periodization model, But I have in the past, so.... You need to be deloading regularly. Even within a block, there should be deloads. It won't interrupt the training effect what so ever and serves to keep you healthy and fresh. Plus, I can train harder during the working weeks when I know a deload is coming. A deload between dedicated blocks is essential IMO. 2- you will get a large drop in volume with a transition week, so you could argue that would be enough to elicit some recovery. The problem is that intensity is far more stressful than volume. So the spike in intensity may negate the drop in volume, depending on the disparity between the two. It will all depend on what you are used to tolerating. I'm a slow and steady guy now, so deload weeks are fine by be. The cost/ benefit definitely favors their usage. I plan them. IMO if you wait until you feel you need one, it's too late. The deload is there to mitigate a large deficit in recovery. If you always keep the gas tank above half, it takes less time to fill. If you wait until you "need" to deload, your gas tank will take longer to fill and in most cases, especially stronger lifters, this is longer than just one week of reduced training load. I still train hard on my deloads. Typically its just low volume speed/technique work in the 60-65% range for doubles/ singles. It has gone a long way to keeping me healthy.


Casey Williams If you need a "deload" week then it's assumed you feel like shit. Or you know you're body well enough that you're preventing yourself from feeling like shit by going hard that one extra week. 


So to "transition" into a different phase of training to prevent yourself from feeling like shit I would assume you'd have to lighten the intensity regardless of volume. Effectively "deloading." Assuming you transition to a high intensity but drastically lower the volume- would it act as a "deload?" For me, no. For someone else, maybe?


Long story short, for me, it's all about quality over quantity in terms of feeling good and making progress.


I deload intuitively. More so seems to depend on outside stressors at least in the last couple months. 


If it's a relatively younger lifter or young in training years, then I think a moderately higher intensity relative to the previous block is usually the way to go. 


As an experienced lifter or a lifter with a high training age, I don't see a reason for it. Risk vs reward. 


Then again every training session to some degree should be warm up and see how you feel.


Will Kuenzel There are lots of different ways it could go but just as an example, let's assume that the last phase of the hypertrophy block was aggressive (not sure why it wouldn't be but anyway...). It's no secret hypertrophy work is hard. I, speaking personally as a powerlifter, would generally not be using the same exercises for hypertrophy work as I would for strength. So between recovering from the accumulated fatigue and switching exercises a quick shift into a strength block might not be optimal. 


I'd take a week to give my body break but also to transition into the new exercises. I'd do singles or doubles at 50-60% for my main movements, adjusting the accessory work as needed while keeping the reps decently high, but keeping the weight lighter. Let the joints and muscles have a break while finding the muscle pattern to the new exercises. 


From there I'd be more confident to roll into a week of 65-70% while starting to peak over the next couple weeks.


Joe Sullivan, I prefer using a transitional week where you are changing from one focus to another. In the example of volume hypertrophy to strength block, the reps tend to drop, but due to the unfamiliarity of the individual having the amount of weight on their back that may be required for a strength block, I would keep the RPE lower and the volume lower as well. This way, they will begin the process of being accustomed to performing lower reps in an explosive manner, but having this built in "restoration week" where all stimulus has decreased, but they are still beginning the process of changing focus from accumulation to intensity


Jake Hartman, I start each 4 week wave very light in the hypertrophy phase/beginning of strength phase. The volume usually stays moderately high like a 5x5 but I start off light enough to transition straight into it. Other factors would be how long it's been since my last deload and how my body feels. I'd have most of my clients deload intensity and volume for the first week and then ramp back up. Before the deload my training generally 3x12 4x10 5x8 6x6 Reset +10-20lbs then I'll run 5x5 for 4 weeks linear progression. Then I'll cut a rep each week keeping the sets at 5 linear progressions. Then I go top set method with drop sets back to straight sets depending on how far out I'm out. Then I'll do 3 escalating sets the last 4 weeks or so.


Corey Clark For me or anyone I'm helping it comes down to what they need. How fresh or beat up are they. How fresh do they need to be for the next phase? My go to for bench is 3x 6-12 @50-70%. If I'm feeling great I'll do 3x6@70, if I'm ok I'll just do more like 3x10 at 50%, if I'm beat up or need full recovery for what comes next I drop the main lift and just do the accessories. And accessories follow a similar idea. I'll keep them the same or adjust volume and intensity for my needs. Depending on my training I will do more bodybuilding work on my deload sessions. Usually closer to competition I'm resting more days and doing fewer accessory lifts so I use the deload week to directly hit muscles and lifts that have been dropped or neglected during my heavier weeks.

My Perspective I will give you a few scenarios on how I would set up a deload because it really depends on the block set up and if you are transitioning to a different phase of training or into the same phase of training but just a different block. For one, I try not to ever plan a deload I just go by feel unless it is meet week. So if I feel beat up I take a deload if I feel good I extend the block. Pretty simple and intuitive which is important as a lifter to be able to do things based on how you feel that day. This is a whole other article in and of itself. I am in the process of finishing up a hypertrophy block or high volume block and I am transitioning into a strength block. So instead of taking a traditional delaod of something around 3x5 at 50% I will simple transitioning right into my first week of the block. Now if you block is planned correctly the strength block will bring about a different variety of exercise and an extremely lower amount of volume in the first week. So coming from a high volume block the best idea is to reduce the volume not so much the intensity because volume is what builds up fatigue and the point of the deload is to reduce fatigue so transition into a strength block will deload it automatically and with the new variance of exercise selection it will also give you another stimulus to relearn which in itself will lower the intensity. Plus you don't start a strength block off with a high intensity anyways it is something you build up to. So the traditional deload is not needed in this case and instead of feeling like you are taking a week off you are able to get the next phase of your training under way. 

When it comes to going from a strength back to a hypertrophy then you drop the intensity and do a more bodybuilding style transition week where you take the barbell out of your hands and off your back and hit some higher reps. I feel like setting up transition weeks over
deloads will do the same trick but give you a good week of training and not a typical deload. The key to this transition is to rest a bit from the higher intensities and a great way to do that is to eliminate the barbell movements. 

A huge key to consider is that a transition week, if programmed properly, should not be a death by reps week, you have to consider it an intro week and something that will be built upon from week to week, so if you go in and blast this week you will find yourself trying to recover more so than progress.

If you are building
upon blocks with the same purpose you still use the transition period to reset from the work you are doing while still getting in solid work on that week. So, for example, going from a hypertrophy block to another one you would make your transition week more of a speed/technical refinement type week. Get in there and move weight purposefully but for a few sets of 2-3 reps at a submaximal weight of 70-85% depending on how you feel.

You have a lot of different opinions here from so very good lifters, try the one that makes the most sense to you and
don't be afraid to experiment with different things in training.

Posted by Tony Montgomery under General  on Jun 13 2016

As a coach and an athlete we all have goals/missions we want to accomplish, whether it be get an athlete to the Olympics or to increase your bench by 20lbs in 6 months. Some of these goals will build onto bigger goals that will build onto lifetime goals. The thing is that you must have a clear and decisive vision and plan to achieve those goals.


In the Marines when we would go out on missions we drilled and dried and drilled until the task or tasks at hand where so ingrained in us that when shit hit the fan it was our basic instinct to go into those drills. Same thing goes when the leaders would draw up the missions, we had to know all the communication frequencies in order to radio each other, medical evacuation, or for a QRF to come and back us up. Along with that we needed to map out all the different scenarios that could occur and all the different routes that could possibly be taken to evade a situation or possible IED’s. These are all small details that needed to be ingrained in us every time we step out of the FAB and into danger. Yeah it would have been nice to just sleep in and relax before going out on the missions especially if its something we’ve already done, but complacency can get you killed and it was that discipline to get up study and do my job to the best of my ability that allowed me to come home safe.


So how does this relate to the real world and to lifting? Simple really to execute any goal no matter how big or small you have to be meticulous with everything and to have a laser focus on the days task at hand. Focusing on the goal is a key component that in this day an age gets lost. To many distractions like social media can halt focus at the gym. I don’t know how many times i’ve had people come up to me to show some stupid ass video or meme that they thought was hilarious all while I am trying to get ready for my next set. I see it when it comes to dieting as well people get consumed with what others are doing and think thats they way to do it, I saw this person post sour patch kids as an intra workout so I’m going to buy the biggest bag I can so I can be like them. 3 months later you are further away than you’ve ever been, you can’t focus on what others are doing, there goals, DNA, and philosophy can be completely different from what is best for you.


YOU is a huge concept to executing the mission. You have to take responsibility for your goals, your actions, and if they get accomplished or not. You can’t seek out validation from others to accomplish your goals and to chase after your dreams. In the Marines I am surrounded by a team with one vision and one goal and that was key to our success and will be the same for yours. Don’t do it for others but surround yourself with people who actually care about you and want to see you succeed and push you to succeed. Like I said these are your goals but to have others who share the same commonalities around you is a huge help. Once you have your goals, a solid likeminded team around you, the next step in executing the mission is to practice, practice, practice or in other words be consistent in your actions. That means consistency with the gym and the effort you put into it, consistent with sleep 8 hours or more plus naps when you can, and to be consistent with food and food prep. This is the day in and day out practice that we had to endure to make sure the mission was a success and so do you in order to achieve your physical goals this is a must. You can’t be 100% one week and 50% the next and expect to go places and do great things. it needs to be 95% or better each and every day with a focus that is unrelenting. 


You will have a lot of ups and downs along this path and thats why it has to come from within you to succeed because the days you don’t want to wake up are the days that will determine your success. You can sleep in even though you told yourself you were getting up at 5 or you can wake up and face the days challenges with enthusiasm and a drive to get better. It has to come from within no external reward will make you keep pushing, will make you face adversity and drive through it. Walls are put up in your life not so you can go around it or so you can turn back around, but rather it is an opportunity to see how bad you want it and to push through.

Posted by Tony Montgomery under General  Training  Video  on Jun 08 2016

Injuries are inevitable when you are pushing the limits and trying to be great. Its a double edge sword we want to do more and always push, but you definetly need to listen to your body and know when to back down and rest. Injuries occur a lot of the times when there is an imbalance or just bad movement patterns, other things can cause injuries but most injuries occur from those two things. In these 2 videos I go over some of the basics to fix the issues and prevent inuries.

The Alphacast Episode 12

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