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!

Week 2: NorCalSpartanTraining

This past week of training started off really well.  Wrapped up a few maxes from my Bulking Season (Offseason training) and was able to get in a few long runs in for my aerobic base phase work.  I have only been able to get in about 8-10 weeks of solid weight training in since the Off Season for OCR is short.  But, I was really happy with the #gainz that were earned. I hit 245# on Bench Press, barely missing 255# (haven’t done consistent bench in a few years, old PR was around 300#, but that was in my early to mid-twenties…)!  I was almost back to my full strength with deadlifting.  I hit 425# Deadlift (first time being consistent with deadlifts since Spring of 2016, old PR is 445#).

My work schedule got shifted a little bit this past week as I moved my coaching schedule in Marysville from Thursday to Tuesday.  Thursday has been my off day due to traveling out of town, but now it will be shifting to Tuesday.  As I came in to Friday I came down with a nasty cold, so I was unable to train Friday, Saturday, and Sunday…ugghhh!  But, here is what I was able to hit last week:

Monday 1/30:

  • Intermediate Class
    • Strength:
      • Max Bench Press- worked up to 245# and missed 255#
    • Secondary:
    • Conditioning (3 Rounds):
      • 400m Run
      • 30 Wall Balls (20#)
      • 10 V-Ups
        • *I didn’t focus on time for this workout, just moved at a quick tempo that I could maintain*

Tuesday 1/31:

  • Off Day (switched from Thursday due to work in Marysville), Still worked Mobility and CARs


Wednesday 2/1:

  • 50+ Min Run at Bidwell 5 Mile
    • Ran 6.2 miles in 55:16 (8:53 avg. mile pace)
      • *goal was just to go out and run for 50 mins, just working aerobic base, terrain had mix of small hills and some muddy areas*
  • Intermediate Class:


Thursday 2/2:

  • 55+ Min Run at Bidwell 5 Mile
    • Ran 5.8 Miles in 59:28
      • *goal was just to go out and run for 55 mins, just working aerobic base, terrain had mix of small hills and major muddy areas, it would go from light rain to heavy rain*
  • OCR Specific Workout:
    • Strength:
      • 3x150m Bucket Carry @ 75# *goal was not to put the bucket down on each carry*
      • 3xPlank Series-
    • Conditioning  (5 Rounds with 30 sec rest between rounds):
      • 10 Burpees
      • 5 Pull Ups
      • 30 Sec Static Hang in Hollow
        • each round was timed based off how long it took to do the burpees, pull ups, + static hang time
        • Rd 1 = 1:00, Rd 2 = 1:01, Rd 3 = :59, Rd 4 = :59, Rd 5 = :58
          • Barely hung on for the last static hang, was a tough workout

Looking to learn more about Obstacle Course Racing and hate reading to gain information (if you made it this far, chances are you like to read…)? Check out The Obstacle Order Podcast!  They have 102 episodes of great content on OCR and Spartan Racing.

Live in the Northern California Area and need a place to train OCR and Spartan?  NorCal Strength and Conditioning has two locations, Chico and Marysville.  Email me at matt@norcalsc.com for more details and information!

For more things Spartan, OCR, etc. make sure to “Like” Us on Facebook and “Subscribe” to the blog so you don’t miss anything (on the right side bar menu)!

Stay tuned next week for Week 3 of Programming here at NorCalSpartan.com!  Till then, make sure to Get Your Fitness On!



Spartan Race Schedule 2017

This year I decided to finally cough up the dough and buy the Spartan Elite Season Pass…It wasn’t a tough decision this year once I factored in how much I am racing this year compared to previous years.  Racing Elites (toughest Spartan division) depending on the distance of races costs between $150 – $250 per race!  So, it’s easy to see the cost savings at this point if you race more than 6+ times on the Elite Season Pass.

Spartan Season Pass

If you are a person that wants to save money (I am always looking for a bargain, too bad they don’t let you haggle…), you can’t go wrong with the season passes (They run from January – December, a calendar year).  I feel like the Trifecta pass is great place to start to give you a broad spectrum of what Spartan Race has to offer (you get access to each of their basic race offerings:  Sprint, Super, and Beast race).  And if you live in the California area, they have a lot of races coming up that are close by.

Here is my 2017 Spartan Season Line Up (I may add more races depending on how my body is feeling during the season and my budget is doing, traveling isn’t cheap for this sport!):

  1. March 18th Spartan Super Las Vegas (8-10 miles + 24-29 Obstacles)- Competitive Division (Elite was sold out, if a spot opens going to switch)
  2. March 19th Spartan Sprint Las Vegas (3-5 miles + 20-23 Obstacles)- Open Division (getting some extra practice in and running with a few friends for fun)
  3. April 1st Spartan Super San Jose (8-10 miles + 24-29 Obstacles)- Elite Division
  4. * May 6th Spartan Beast Montana* (12-14 miles + 30-35 Obstacles)- Elite Division (this is a big maybe, depending on funds available to travel super interested in going to this one, not registered)
  5. June 3rd Spartan Super Monterey (8-10 miles + 24-29 Obstacles)- Elite Division
  6. August 5th Spartan Ultra Beast Hawaii (26+ miles + 50+ Obstacles)- Elite Division (this is my milestone goal this year, never ran over 16.5 miles before ever!)
  7. September 30th Spartan Beast Tahoe  (14+ miles + 35+ Obstacles, this is the Spartan Race World Championships, typically longer and harder than other Beasts)
  8. *October 28th Spartan Beast SoCal* (12-14 miles + 30-35 Obstacles)- Elite Division (maybe, depending on funds available to travel and how well I’ve recovered from Tahoe Spartan World Championships, not registered)
  9. November 11th Spartan Super Sacramento (8-10 miles + 24-29 Obstacles)- Elite Division
  10. November 18th Spartan Sprint AT&T Park San Francisco (3-5 miles + 20-23 Obstacles)- Elite Division
  11. November 18th Spartan Sprint AT&T Park San Francisco (3-5 miles + 20-23 Obstacles)- Open Division (not registered but want to put a large NorCalSC team together for this one)

*This schedule may change or update as the season progresses.  There are a few other Spartan Races and other OCR Brand Names that I would love to check out (Tough Mudder has a few that I am very interested in checking out and possibly looking into OCR World Championships in Blue Mountain Canada).

Looking to learn more about Obstacle Course Racing and hate reading to gain information? Check out The Obstacle Order Podcast!  They have 102 episodes of great content on OCR and Spartan Racing.

Live in the Northern California Area and need a place to train OCR and Spartan?  NorCal Strength and Conditioning has two locations, Chico and Marysville.  Email me at matt@norcalsc.com for more details and information!

For more things Spartan, OCR, etc. make sure to “Like” Us on Facebook and “Subscribe” to the blog so you don’t miss anything (on the right side bar menu)!

Stay tuned this weekend for my first week of programming and training here at NorCalSpartan.com!  Till then, make sure to Get Your Fitness On!


Week 21 Workout

Week 21 Workout

Hello NorCalSpartan.  To be in line with the new Training Cycles at NorCal Strength and Conditioning, we have changed the “Accumulation” phase into a Strength phase to be in line with the Intermediate Programming.  Here is NorCal Spartan Week 21 Workout of this training cycle.  We would love for you to post your questions and workout time to the comment section below.  You can also message us on our Facebook page or go there for our past workouts.

Week 21 Workout

Now, if you don’t have any of the equipment needed to complete the workout here are great substitutions:

  1. Over/Under Walls- 5 Jumping Pull Ups and 25 Ft Army Crawl
  2. Sled Pull/Push- 5 Pull Ups/10 Push Ups
  3. Rope Climb- 10 Hinge Rows or Bulgarian Rows

You can find videos of many of these movements HERE.

Don’t have a place to train for Spartan or other obstacle course races and you live in the Chico, CA  or Marysville, CA area?  Come train with our friends at NorCal Strength and Conditioning in Chico and NorCal Strength and Conditioning in Marysville.  NorCal Chico has Spartan Training classes on Thursdays at 9 AM and 6:30 PM.  NorCal Marysville has Spartan Training classes on Tuesdays at 9 AM, Thursdays at 5:30 PM and Saturdays at 9 AM.

Head on over to our Products page to see what we recommend for obstacle course training and racing.