Mobility Drill: Banded Hip Flexor Stretch

Why Your Fitness Program Needs Integrated Mobility Work

Are you on a training program that states it will get you the sexy or shredded body you have always wanted?  Does it have nutrition integrated in with it’s programming?  If it doesn’t…drop it like a bad habit!  This is similar to how I feel to fitness training programs that offer to make you fit, stronger, or lean but don’t have integrated mobility work paired with it.  If you want someone to achieve these attributes you are doing them a disservice if you aren’t looking out for them long-term.

They may help you get the results you want short term, but if you want to have a healthy strong body long term and do the things you love pain free, mobility work and stretching is a must!  Let me give you a life example of my own:

I participated in Track and Field from my young adolescent years all the way through college.  I loved it and it seemed to work for me.  I got great results aesthetically from the training we did and decent strength gains when we were hitting the weight room.  But…the biggest issue that I have come to realize now that I am pushing 40 is that we never emphasized stretching or mobility work.  When practice was over and all the hard work was done…you were on your on with no guidance in these areas.

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved all my coaches and they all had an impact on my life growing up.  But I wish they cared a little bit more about what was going to happen to me long term if I didn’t do proper recovery and maintenance work on my body.  I should take responsibility as well because I knew stretching helped to some degree, but didn’t care too much about it if my coaches didn’t.  Go figure, we were all so smart in those days…

Let’s fast forward to the present day.  I have been competing in Spartan and Obstacle Course racing now for almost 4 year.  Prior to that I was doing Crossfit.  My body is an absolute mess and it isn’t all due to the training I have been putting in these past few years for the sport of OCR, it takes time and hard work to beat the hell out of it.  There are many athletes in my age group and older that have healthier bodies and have had similar athletic backgrounds to me.  The main difference I find is that they had coaches in the past that incorporated proper warm ups, cool downs, and stretching for these athletes…and if they didn’t they have excellent genetics on their side…mine must be from the basic gene pool.

On the same token I find as we get older, we get wiser with our training and recovery protocols.  I find that I spend more time working on my recovery and mobility work more than actually working out.  Crazy right?!  Why?  Because of all the tight connective, muscular, and fascia tissue problems I have due to a nonexistent recovery protocol in my past and overtraining in college to stay competitive with the top athletes.  Now pair that with training hardcore in Crossfit and OCR and all while over 30 and bam, you got a train wreck a coming (I’m there now with a bad foot injury still).

In our 20s we bounced back quickly and in are early 30s you can somewhat get away with it unless your basic like me…I had to start working on reversing the damage from the past all while keeping up with the wear and tear I am doing to my body in the present.

How does this relate to the training program that you are on?  It does!  Let’s say the program you are on is getting you excellent strength gains and you look great too.  The problem isn’t short term.  The problems you will deal with training on a program without integrated mobility work will come up maybe a decade or two later, maybe sooner if you are like me and trained hard most of your life with very little to no mobility work. Fortunately for us there is so many programs and gyms out there now that give you the tools and knowledge you need to keep your bodies healthy and hopefully pain free and still have the positive results that we all want.

How do you find these places?  Google gyms, fitness, Crossfit, etc. in your area and look at their websites.  See if they blog or post anything up about what they represent or apply with their clientele.  Do they have Facebook and Instagram pages?  I find that social media is the best way to get a quick glimpse of what each gym is all about and I can make a pretty good guess whether I want to train or send someone there.  When all else fails…try them all out and do a comparison.  In my opinion a gym or fitness program that is nailing it has:  strength and conditioning, mobility, and nutrition fundamentals built into their program.

Now go out there a win!



Are you being honest?!

Are you being honest?!

I find this question super intriguing, especially when talking about fitness.  If I ask most folks if they believe they are honest, I bet most will raise their hand.

But in truth, all of you would be lying to yourself.  We all lie!  There’s no way around it.  Even if you are the holiest of saints, or a kid with his hand in the cookie jar, we all do it.  And the most common lie is to ourselves!  Let me explain…

Let’s take a topic we are extremely familiar with.  RELATIONSHIPS.  We have so many people we care about.  Family, friends, co-workers, etc.  We lie to each of them everyday.  I hate to say this, because I strive to be as honest as I can.

How many times has someone asked you a question about how something looks and you haven’t told them your gut reaction?  Most of us.  We choose to save face and choose to say something that will make them feel good because most of us are genuinely good people.  There is a distinct difference between being a good person and being a honest one.

Let’s get back to the point I was trying to make earlier.  The biggest lie is to ourselves.  I find this happens a lot when someone is starting their fitness journey or trying to get back on the wagon.  They decide, “today is the day I am going to go to the gym! Hell I already got my membership right?!  I’ve made the first step!”  Then comes step two, putting that plan into action. Until BOOM, life happens!  What happens next?  They go to the gym or they do what’s comfortable and push it off another day?  9 times out of 10 it’s the latter.

And it happens day after day after day and what do you know…another year rolls by.  It’s July 2018 right now.  If you are reading this and haven’t committed to your fitness journey, stop making excuses and get your ass to the gym, park, or on a workout program that sets you up for success at home.  Most of us got to get away from “home and life distractions” to accomplish this, unless you know you are extremely motivated individual who doesn’t have those distractions at home.  I find that I need to be around other people who are getting their fitness on as this encourages and motivates me more towards my fitness goals.

So the next time you call yourself a honest person…I challenge you to evaluate yourself.  I fight this internal struggle just like you, EVERYDAY.  Choose to do what you know is right.  Right for you and your body, because you deserve it!  And be as honest as you can.  Tell someone how you really feel.  Go to the gym when you say you are.  These are just a few things you can do to take that step in the right direction with being honest with yourself.  Write it down!  Post it somewhere!  Make someone commit with you!  Sign up for a race or event!  Make yourself accountable!  Get that healthy body you know you deserve!

My latest lie to myself was thinking I would find passion working outside of the health and fitness industry.  You can read all about that experience HERE.  But here I am, back to my commitment to being honest with myself and holding myself accountable by sharing my journey with all of you.

Are you being honest?

P.S.  Please reach out to me at  I would love to help you anyway that I can.  We all have struggles, and it’s better if we don’t deal with them alone.  Accountability is crucial. 





Power Systems and Yancy Culp

IdeaFit 2018, Spartan Strong, and Much More!

I had the opportunity to go to San Diego this weekend, with my girlfriend Hilary, to a big health and fitness event called IdeaFit.  Minus the 7+ hour drive from Monterey to there on Friday night, it was an amazing experience.  Good thing I got my Theragun in the mail before we left!  Definitely enjoyed using that to loosen up those stiff hips and glutes from sitting in the car for that time period.

We only got to spend 1 day at the event, Saturday, but we definitely felt like it was more than enough.  Hilary was there with all of the other Les Mills fanatics taking 3+ workouts a day with their favorite instructors.  I didn’t realize how big Les Mills was till I went to this convention.  Sometimes as coaches we can get stuck in our own little world and methodologies and not realize how many other training platforms are out there that get the job done!  They definitely had the biggest showing of folks there.  Hilary got to watch them do BodyCombat on an aircraft carrier while I found parking at the convention center.

Les Mills

After she finished the BodyCombat class we met up and headed to the upstairs convention area so that I could get prepped for Spartan Strong and she could take BodyPump.  We parted ways and I entered room #25 with probably 50+ others who most likely had no clue what we were getting into.  I have a lot of experience training for Spartan Races and coaching athletes on how to prepare for these, but this was nothing like I had seen before on how to get ready for a race.

As we entered the room Spartan instructors Aimee Nicotera and Alex Isaly were there to greet us as they were setting up for class.  They told us to grab a 10 lb. Spartan pancake (sandbell) as we entered and mentioned that it was going to be the only piece of equipment we were going to be using for the workout.  Where were the buckets, heavy sandbags, walls, ropes, etc?  First thought that went through my mind was that this is going to be a beginning level workout and I better just suck it up buttercup and take it in stride.  What are they going to have us use this light ass sandbell outside of super light carries?

Spartan Strong

Oh man, was I so wrong.  I had no idea that it was going to be hell in a group fitness, music thumping, Spartan Arooing, fun community-based environment.  They did a great job getting us primed for the workout using many of the movements that we would be using throughout the class.  They offered many different variations for all skill levels, so anyone from the beginner to elite level athlete would get a great workout, and best of all, it didn’t slow down the class to go over all of these.  Very streamlined and effective.

Spartan Strong is based of 5 Phases:

  1. Readiness
  2. Stamina
  3. Accountability
  4. Tenacity
  5. Resilience

Each phase symbolizes attributes that a person needs to be Spartan Race ready.  I really loved the idea behind each of the phases and Aimee and Alex did a phenomenal job describing the complexities of each.  There was a warm up and cool down, and they didn’t rush through these which I was really happy with (I have strong opinions about proper warm up and cool down).  My body takes a while to prime and unglue for good mechanical movement.  And spending time stretching at the end is ideal for any class environment.

Another big plus was that we hit a variety of range of motion using most muscles groups in the class hour.  Spartan Strong’s team uses theory and application from various scientific training methodologies:

Spartan Strong Scientific Training Methodologies

Aimee went in further to explain how it related to being out there on the course and handling everyday life.  Our bodies need to respond and react to movement in any direction, which she is 100% right on the money.  We did different variations of lunges, jumps, sandbell pulls, crawls, sandbell holds and swings, partner work, etc. that took us through all these ranges of motion.

They also added different varieties of training through the class!  We changed intensities, speeds, directions, partner drills, time under load, varying rest periods, moving around the room and using the space, and burpees galore (wouldn’t be Spartan without burpees right?!) all while hollering Aroo and giving High Fives all around!

After class ended I was toast.  It was way harder than I expected and the format was all encompassing and engaging draining most of my energy systems.  Not to worry, Hilary was just off BodyPump and we were ready to explore and hit up all the supplement booths downstairs to get our energy levels back up…

After we hit up all the different varieties of nutritional products and supplements, we were back at it again.  This time exploring all the different varieties of gym equipment to styles of training.  I was blown away by how many fun and exciting products there were that I had never seen before (Trueform runner was dope and I didn’t feel my plantar fasciitis or heel spur while running on it).

I was also blown away by how many products were out there that just seemed silly and ridiculous.  For example, there was a bouncy ball product that you sat on and bounced your way into fitness…similar to the little kid ones you put in your backyard.  But…to each their own.  That product isn’t for me.

My favorite booth of the IdeaFit floor was Power Systems.  They had great products that were ideal for most gym and outdoor settings, and best of all the most friendly and engaging crew at the event.  I went there to find OCR Legend Yancy Culp, and he introduced me to the team there.  Yancy even roped Hilary and I into a fun workout with their MostFit Core Hammer and 2-in-1 Flip and Plyo.  That hammer felt great in your hands and loved the fact that when you hit the ground or 2-in-1 there wasn’t much feedback in terms of vibration through your arms and body!

Needless to say we were done by the end of the day.  But before we could leave I had to pick up the Hypervolt by Hyperice so that I could do a comparison with the Theragun!

P.S.  Stay tuned for a review and comparison as I get to play and practice with each.  Until then Get Your Fitness On and Go Win!

Bent Arm Strength

Training Bent Arm Strength to Crush Spartan Obstacles

Let’s talk Spartan Race obstacles.  So many people are failing obstacles like: Multi-Rig, Olympus, Twister, Monkey-Bars, Rope Climb, and the list goes on.  You’ve been training your grip strength like a mofo so that you can crush them in the next race.  Let me tell you…you are only getting one major piece to this puzzle.  Grip strength will only take you so far on obstacle completion, though it’s definitely required.

You need to start incorporating Bent Arm work.  And I don’t just mean bicep curls or the shake weight!

Bent Arm Strength

I mean actually doing movements that force you to hold in a Bent Arm position (though bicep curls will help believe it or not!).  Everyone who is smashing these obstacles has great bent-arm strength.  Keeping your arms straight makes it very difficult to complete these obstacles as you lose your grip very quickly (especially if the obstacles are wet!).

Spartan Race is full of Pulling obstacles.  There is very little push type movements besides the Burpee. (TMX, Tough Mudder, seems to be adding some more thought into their variety with pushing and pulling which is awesome to see!  Really want to try one of their races when I’m healthy).

This requires building strength in the Lats, Biceps, Scapulas, Rhomboids, Flexors, you get the point!  It also requires a bit of mobility work so you can avoid tearing your rotator cuffs when swinging or “pulling” yourself through the obstacles.  I have seen so many strong athletes get hurt on these obstacles due to poor mobility in the shoulder girdle.  So, if you want to stay in the game and keep conquering these obstacles you need healthy shoulders.

Ok.  Now what.  Oh, you want me to tell you what movements to work on.  There are a ton!  But let’s just go with these 3 basics that will help you with dominating these obstacles and you can work on them in most gym settings:

1. Hinge Rows– learned this baby at the Gymnasticbodies seminar a few years back.  I love this movement!  Once you have mastered the Ring Hinge Rows, you can start working on the Bar Hinge Row (stay tuned I will talk about that one in the future).  Hinge Rows are a great movement for building great bent-arm strength.  They also give the added benefits of improving your shoulder and scapular mobility at the same time.

Now this movement can be very tough for many individuals.  I have beginners start by sitting on the ground with their hips under the rings.  I set the ring height to when the athlete finishes the movement at the top that their arms/elbows are at 90 degrees.  Now, this movement can feel like nothing if you are sitting on the ground and pulling yourself into the hinged position…but if you go to a count of 5 on the way up and a count of 5 on the way down for 5-10 reps, even advanced athletes will get fatigued and really feel how to move towards progressing to the hinge row with their legs and hips off the ground.

2. Gunner Carries (flexed-arm carry)– this is an absolute bicep and grip strength killer.  If you really want to get nasty with this one, do a Gunner hold while doing a Wall Sit.  Work the legs and work that bent-arm strength all at once.  I would start really light here!  5-25 lbs if using dumbbells or if using a plate, you can double those numbers depending on how much gunshow power you have!

Bent Arm Strength

If you’re walking…choose a weight that you can hold in the Gunner position (elbows pulled in tight with the angle of the arms just over 90 degrees) for at least 30 seconds.  Same goes for the Wall Sit.  Something you can hold in that position for at least 30 seconds.  Once you get comfortable and stronger you should be shooting for a minute with the same weight!  Don’t go up in weight until you can hold the position for a minute.  Then start over again with heavier weight and build that tolerance up to a minute again.

This video shows a lot of different variations, but the one you are looking for is the second one he demonstrates…looks like Rambo going to town with his machine guns!  Ignore the others.

Bent Arm Strength

3. Pull Ups– Were you hoping for something fancier?  Lo siento…Nothing beats the traditional pull-up for bent-arm strength for dominating obstacles.  There are so many variations of the pull-up…but the one you should be focusing on is hands just outside the shoulders.  This is ideal for engaging the lats, scaps, and biceps and for generating a lot of torque.  If you don’t have a pull-up yet, you got a lot of work to do to get through those obstacles.  Most gyms have a pull-up machine that can assist you if you don’t have pull-ups yet.  Don’t have one of those?  You can do banded assisted pull ups (there is a variety of band strengths you can use to help you through the movement).  If are doing banded pull ups…do not bounce at the bottom position!  You will not build the proper strength out of the bottom phase of the pull by doing this (this phase is super essential for getting your ass over walls, getting into bent arm positions for Olympus, Twister, Multi-Rig, etc.).

This is my favorite walk-through on the pull-up and how to do it correctly (You’ll notice that myself and Mr. Grayson Strange crush the competition when it comes to instructional videos here).

Ok.  Those are 3 movements that will maximize your bent-arm strength game and help you get through many of those demanding upper body obstacles.  Let’s talk volume now.

Volume is super key because you don’t want to over or under train these movements.  You need a good balance.  I like higher volume of these movements as Spartan tends to throw multiple grip/bent-arm strength obstacles one after the other.  This means you are going to need to build up that bent-arm muscular endurance.  But…this also depends on the level of athlete we are talking here.  A lot of coaches and trainers will argue about what the proper volume and weights should be for each person, but I am going to break it down that will work well for most individuals.

I would do these movements twice a week!  1 session focused on high volume and lower intensity (endurance) and the other on less volume but higher intensity (strength).  Give yourself 2-3+ days between sessions to let those muscles recovery properly.

Session 1 (Endurance):

  1. 3×10-15 Hinge Rows (1 minute of rest between sets)
  2. 3×1 minute Gunner Carry (pick a weight you can carry for the full minute without resting, 2 minutes of rest between rounds)
  3. 3xMax Pull Ups (If using band or pull assisted machine no more than 10-15 reps, 1 minute of rest between sets)
  4. Mobilize those lats, rhomboids, shoulders, biceps, scapulas by stretching or using some massage therapy!

Session 2 (Strength):

  1. 3×5 Weighted Pull Ups, 5 Chest to Bar Pull Ups, or 10 Pull Ups (if you can do 10 pull ups switch to Chest to Bar.  if you can do 5 chest to bar switch to weighted pull ups, 2 minutes of rest between rounds)
  2. 3×30 seconds Gunner Hold in Wall Sit Position (go heavier than your endurance session ideally being able to hold the weight correctly for 30 seconds, rest for 1 minute)
  3. 3×8-10 Hinge Rows (Work on accelerating quickly to the bent-arm position with a controlled lower back to the bottom, 1 minute of rest between sets)
  4. Mobilize those lats, rhomboids, shoulders, biceps, scapulas by stretching or using some massage therapy!

Now go try them out and let me know how they go for you.  Looking forward to hearing about how you crush those obstacles in future races!

Death Stretch

Mobility Tip of the Week: Death Stretch

Got tight hips and quads?  Sit a lot?  The Death Stretch is hands down one of my favorites to recommend.  This mobility exercise gets its name from the pain (often associated with death) it has caused others in the past.  Kelly Starrett of MobilityWod calls it the Couch Stretch.

(this is not the couch stretch fyi…)

I was first exposed to this mobility drill in 2009 when I first joined Robb Wolf‘s gym, Crossfit NorCal (if you are into history of Crossfit, this might be an article of interest).

I was green when it came to the term “mobility” then as most folks in 2009 were.  Crossfit and mobility weren’t a household name yet, but they definitely were a growing trend.  I was taking NorCal coach Nicki Violetti’s Olympic Weightlifting classes then, and we had to do this drill a few times during the class session.  I dreaded it!  I was as tight as Scrooge with his money (still a work in progress) and my hips and quads felt like they were going to rip off each time…but she stressed consistency.

Well…I drank the Kool-Aid (no sugar added as the gym was Paleo and the owners had a code to follow…) and kept working on it.

I finally started seeing some progress.  Gosh darn it.  They were right.  I could pull a leg up in a few months in and the stretch actually started to feel good instead of down right painful.  Eventually I was able to sit up tall and get my glutes engaged which allowed me to get my hips forward (this allows you to maximize the stretch in the hips and quads).

Here is a great video of my On Ramp coach Cindy Oji (The O.G.) demonstrating The Death Stretch from NorCal Strength and Conditioning’s extensive library on YouTube:

I first started off with this stretch doing 2 minutes per leg.  Not sure if that is the best strategy if you are tighter than a 2 dollar bill like me.  I would suggest for newbies to hit 1 minute per leg and alternate for a second minute per leg (still hitting 2 minutes a leg, just breaking it up into 2 rounds).

Death Stretch
A great way to start the Death Stretch for Beginners!

That way you aren’t overloading your nervous system too quickly and you can start building up the stimulus and exposure over time to excel with this mobility drill.  In my opinion 2 minutes should be the maximum hold for this stretch, but some will argue to hold for 4 minutes.  If you have the time, then go for it.  I find using this drill and adding a variety of other mobility drills will maximize your time and effectiveness.

Now…go give it a shot and let me know how it goes for you by posting a video or photo on Instagram or Facebook tagging @norcal__spartan and using #norcalspartan so I can see how you are doing.  Got any questions, DM me on Instagram or comment on this post.  Get out there and win people!