There are many old-school techniques for pushing yourself harder when seeking hypertrophy (muscle growth).  Arnold’s Encyclopedia, even if dated, does a great job highlighting various methods – drop sets, assisted reps, rest/pause, etc.  I’ve written about many of these here, here and here (and probably many more past articles).  But it seems common knowledge that you just can’t do drop sets all the time – you’ll burn out.  John Meadows does a great job explaining a fairly simple technique to periodize these methods – you can start following it immediately:     .

Intensity image from t-nation

I’m trying very hard to avoid processed wheat (though not worried about being gluten free) and I recently wrote about a great no-wheat bread recipe.  But what about pizza?  Pizza (plus bacon and protein oatmeal) is one of my favorite foods so I went in search of a wheat-free pizza crust.  After reading several, I tried this one (link below). Result: easy, great texture, excellent appearance, but kinda bland in taste. Secret tip in this recipe is the use of parchment paper: .

Women get such awful fitness advice. I have no idea why, but for decades women’s “return on exercise” (meaning, the benefits they get from the amount of time they put into it) has been low. The keys to what mistakes women make – and what do to about it are in this great article from the Poliquin Group. I’ve shared this with my family (all female except me) though they’ve heard me say all this before. You should share it too:

Any topics you want to hear more about?

Sincerely, Darrin

Continue reading about Intensity waves; Wheat-free pizza; Mistakes women make

Suddenly butter isn’t bad for you anymore. I don’t know how it started but for the past 20 years or so butter was evil and margarine was good; now it’s reversed. Given the process involved in creating butter (pretty basic) and how long butter has been around (very long), I’m siding with the traditional view that butter is good and margarine is evil. Read for yourself this nice summary by Dr. Mercola:  .

There are countless rep schemes lifters can use to get results.  While I think the optimal range varies based on a TON of factors (including your goals, your current fitness level, your joint health, your age, your eating habits, your other non-lifting exercises, etc. and let’s not forget genetics), I think Christian does a great job categorizing these:  .

Do you have tight hamstrings? There’s a really good chance it’s because of weak glutes. I can tell you from personal experience that when I started properly training glutes, most of my hamstring tightness dissipated (including less cramping when running). This great article by Chad Waterbury (on Brett’s site) highlights that there are simple ways to train glutes very frequently. The link on that site is Brett’s affiliate link – prefer to use my affiliate link, just email me and I’ll get it to you.  .

Enjoy!  Darrin

Continue reading about Butter isn’t bad for you; Rep schemes; Glute training

If you haven’t read my previous summary of the Vermont Spartan Beast, it might make sense to do that now.  You can also check out Cameron’s article on the Super Spartan.  In this article, I’ve got photos plus some description of the obstacles for you!

Three notes:

a) many of the photos are NOT of me or my team because we didn’t stop to take our own pics; when it is me, I point that out for you, fyi; scroll to the bottom if you want to see me crossing the finish line!

b) the available photos are expensive, so I’ve just kept the NuVision watermark on them, sorry

c) there were 26 obstacles, and some were repeats of each other (like, there were several wall climbs); I might have the order mixed up a bit but don’t send me emails saying I didn’t list “26″!

spartan firejump
The first obstacle – fire jump

The first obstacle is always a fire jump.  Actually, pretty easy.  For the first one, we tried to not get sprayed with the hose because we didn’t want to spend the whole race soaking wet.

Turns out it didn’t matter.  Within maybe 1 mile, we had to run through water anyway so the entire race was spent in squishy sneakers…

The second obstacle was a series of walls – some to climb over, some to crawl under, and some to crawl through.

Darrin going over a Spartan wall
Darrin going over a Spartan wall

Next, though not really an obstacle, was the physically hardest thing:  heading uphill for about 2 miles.  This was super steep and was not on a real path.  Part of it was in a stream, other parts required hands and knees crawling to get up.  It was miserable.

paths spartan
The “hiking” was not any any real paths!

The course looped back at that point to the bottom (so, down a steep hill) and we had a few obstacles there.  A horizontal rock wall was one, plus more wall climbs.  I was pleased to pass all the obstacles without a problem.

spartan horizontal wall scale
This was like a rock wall that we had to traverse from one end to the other without falling

Then there were a few with ropes where we either had to climb a rope and ring a bell, or use a rope pulley to lift a big rock.  All pretty easy.

Then more hills…

spartan barbed wire
Darrin going under barbed wire
spartan hills
No real paths out there on Killington!

The barbed wire crawl was really painful – it was through a stream of mud but across rocks.  We had to be so low that my chest was scraping the ground.  One of my buddies got scraped on the barbed wire.  And it seemed to last FOREVER! Anyway, it was finally over.

And more hills, walls, and other obstacles…

spartan down hills
Running downhill (steep!) caused several injuries (not for my team though)
spartan monkey bars
Monkey bars turned out to be pretty hard for some people – requires good grip strength, more than anything.
spartan water rope ladder
Rope ladder, after a long swim, then traversing a zip line

Near the end we had to do a long swim – maybe a 1/4 mile – and then climb rope ladders up to a bridge.  While waiting for my turn my legs started cramping (I heard others had the same experience).  Then, once we got to the top, we had to get ourselves across the rest of the lake via a rope line.  A lot of people fell here, which meant they had to swim across (farther) and do burpees.  I was determined not to fall, and succeeded, but got a major rope burn on one leg that later got infected and I’m still dealing with as I write this.  But at least I passed another hurdle, right?!

spartan spear throw
Damn! My spear throw failed (this is not a pic of my spear)! So, this was the only time I had to do burpees.

As we neared the end, after 12 miles, we had another fire jump, and had to battle the Spartans to get to the finish line.

spartan firejump
Another Spartan firejump
battling spartans
Battling Spartans who protected the finish line

And then finally – across the finish line!

spartan finish
Darrin happy to finish!

Wanna join us next year?  Or want to do one in your part of the US?

Continue reading about Vermont Spartan Beast – Photos and Details

Those of you who have been reading for the past couple of months have heard about the Spartan.  Cameron did his Super Spartan in Carolina in early summer and I did the 12-miler Beast with some friends in Vermont last weekend.

spartan beast results

The Vermont Spartan Beast (photo from nuvision)

This article will have 3 sections:

  1. Summary/Highlights
  2. Lessons Learned
  3. Details of the Experience, with Photos


This was a 12-mile race, but like nothing I’ve ever done.  It was almost entirely hills (and I don’t mean normal hills, I mean straight up Killington ski mountain not using a trail but using a narrow woods path).  And it had 26 obstacles, described below.

I did this with 3 friends, and about 1/4 of the way in we split into twos.  We later found out that the leading two stayed just barely ahead right up until the 3rd to final obstacle, so we all finished in a little over 5 hours.

That’s right.  Over five hours.

The elite men winners did it in about 3 hours.  I think, in retrospect, if we trained a little more appropriate for the terrain, and pushed ourselves, we could have done it in 4 hours.  But 3 hours seems insanely fast.

The 26 obstacles involved variations of the following:

  • fire jumps
  • barbed wire crawls
  • wall climbs
  • hills
  • mud pits
  • balance walks
  • horizontal rope lines
  • sandbag carries
  • sled pulls
  • swimming
  • oh, and did I mention hills, some of which were so steep that we were on all fours, grabbing roots and branches to keep from falling backwards?

If you failed any of the obstacles, you had to do 30 burpees.  I’m proud to say that I was successful on all obstacles except one:  the spear throw.  I was SO frustrated when I missed that (you only get one chance).

Some people were clearly not ready for this, as evidenced by (more…)

Continue reading about The Vermont Spartan Beast – Summary and Lessons Learned

Cameron’s Spartan Experience…

Cameron did the Spartan in The Carolina’s the weekend of June 25th.  Here is his first-hand account…

The race was intended to be approx. 8 miles with 15 obstacles.  The fastest times were intended to be around 80 minutes.  It ended up being (after adding the turns) about 10 miles and 19 obstacles (+/- 1, depending on how you count); the fastest time was 106 minutes; only about 1 mile of it total was straight pathway, and about only about 2 miles was flat.  It was so difficult that they added a an extra water station.  This is my account and perspective on the race, and the events leading up to it…

Cameron (left) and Rudy (right) right before the Spartan Race

Friday afternoon was a drive to our hotel.  About 5 miles from Columbia, SC.  It took us about 3 hours with a food stop to arrive at the hotel from Greensboro, NC.  Honestly, I really didn’t want to do this race.  If you haven’t been following the WFN forums then you don’t know, but the only reason I did this race was because a co-worker of mine (further known as “Rudy”) asked me to and wanted some support.  At this point, my goal was just to finish.  Previously, the furthest I had ever run in my life was a 5k, about 9 years ago.  I was dreading going.  However, in the hotel room I said, and I quote myself, “It’s amazing how little I care about running this dumb event, but, watch tomorrow when I get to the course and I get all competitive and try and kill myself to beat everyone else.”, which ended up being pretty much true.



Friday night was a relaxing evening for the 4 of us who came on the trip.  One of the people who came along is a client of mine who had a birthday a few days ago.  We ended up going to a San Jose Mexican restaurant and getting her a birthday treat.  It was a good thing to break the tension for Rudy and myself.


Saturday morning came at about 6:00.  I was trying to stay pretty serene about the whole event.  Grabbed some eggs and toast from the Waffle House next to our hotel for a pre-race snack.  I was warming up at this point to the idea of running the race.  I decided on a new goal, to finish in less than 2 hours.  Our heat time started at 10:30am and wanted to be done by 12:30pm to see the end of the awards ceremony that started at 12:00.  I felt like it was a pretty do-able goal.  By the time I saw the race grounds and took in the atmosphere, put on my music, and changed into my race attire I was totally stoked and ready to go.

spartan 2
Rudy and Cameron waiting like good little boys for their turn to register and receive their time chips.

From here on I am going to explain the race in more detail and break it down into segments to that it was easy to follow.

Our obstacles for this event are as follows:

  • A fire pit jump after the initial hill
  • A small lake with an underwater swim under some floating barrels
  • Over, under, and through 6 different walls
  • Stump run
  • A rope wall
  • Tire carry
  • Barbed wire
  • Monkey bars
  • Cinder blocks
  • Water rope climb
  • 50m swim
  • Over water rope climb
  • Sandbag carry pt. 1
  • Cliff jump
  • Sandbag pt. 2
  • 6 mud pits
  • 2 more wall climbs
  • Another fire pit
  • Javelin throw
  • Rope wall
  • Gladiators



spartan 3

The starting line for our heat.

Spartan Race line-up

By the time we lined-up to start our heat and received a speech I had already signed the “Wall of Valor” and was done warming up.  Mentally, I was totally focused and ready to kill some distance.  Rudy and myself got a good starting spot about 5 feet from the starting line, out of a group of about 100ish people.


The Race is Off

If you were following the WFN forums (if not I recommend going to check it out here) you know that Rudy and myself were doing interval training on a 100 meter hill.  Obviously, looking at the earlier picture, there was a pretty steep hill at the start (at least 45 degrees, and that’s being conservative) followed by a fire jump.  That being said I’m glad we did it.  Even after taking my time going up the hill we were easily ahead of about 1/8th of the pack,somewhere near the top 20.  I then proceeded to run through the fire hose as it was 95 degrees outside and headed for the next obstacle, a man-made pond with a line of barrels floating for us to swim under.  I picked up some more spots here, but ended up waiting for Rudy to catch up so basically broke even.  I will inform you that I decided Friday morning that I would definitely need my music (another thing mentioned on the forums) so I came up with what I thought was a genius idea.  I put my MP3 player in a Ziploc bag in my pocket.  In retrospect it didn’t go so well…


spartan 4

My mp3 player by the time we got done with 5 water obstacles plus 1 mile+ of river treading

The bad times start

About ½ mile into the race my shoe actually split right down the middle.  I really didn’t think much off it at the time.  It made it a little harder, from a balance standpoint, but, nothing too major.  Right afterward we came across 6 walls about 6 feet high.  The first was just a simple pull-up essential.  The second wall was raised with razor wire over the top.  We crawled under a gap of about 12 inches from the ground.  The third had some tires about 3 ½ feet off the the ground in the middle to crawl through.  The last three walls were just repeats.  Again, overall the obstacle wasn’t bad.  At this point I actually started to get what I thought was a rock in my shoe.  This was rough when I had to run across small fence posts cut off to about a foot off the ground.  I had no balance and fell of and did 30 up-downs to move on.


After about a 1 ½ mile trek through the rolling trails we came to a rope wall.  It was basically a giant triangle we had to climb over.  Right afterward was the first water tent.  I quickly asked while grabbing water if they had some athletic tape so that I could tape my shoe.  The told me that they didn’t have any but would order some to show up at the next station for me.  So I moved on.


But wait, we were just warming up

About ½ mile later I realized that I was getting a blister on my foot and that it wasn’t actually a rock.  The blister had split and was hitting rocks on the ground.  The walking started about here sporadically, but I could run on the outside of my foot so I kept going most of the way.  It was about 1 mile until the next obstacle.  The next obstacle was pretty long and took about 5 minutes.  We carried good year race car tires on our shoulders down a twisty hill then back up.  The distance totaled about a ½ mile and we ended up finishing right where we started and just plopping the tire back down.

We then came up to the barbed wire, after another mile or so run of course.  I was limping pretty badly by this time.  The barbed wire was about 100 yards and was about 10 inches off the ground, give or take about 4 inches because they were varying heights.  The average time it took people to get through was probably about 5 minutes.  It took me about a 1 ½ minutes, thank you years and years of football practice and barrel rolls.  They looked at me when I finished like I was a freak of nature.  Right at the exit of the barbed wire was the second water stop.  This was about 4 miles into the race.

That’s TOTAL B.S.

I arrive and ask about the tape.  Of course, they have no idea what I was talking about.  I basically tied my shoe together and tied a torn cup to my foot.  It took about 10 minutes for me to do it though, so Rudy went on ahead, since he could still run.  Most of the trek was walking as this point.  I managed to get a jog going during a few flat places, but only added up to MAYBE ¾ of a mile throughout the rest of the race.  At this point a basically said, “Screw you Spartan Race, I’m going to finish.”


Distance at this point was pretty much a blur, but the next obstacle was a cinder block raise.  Basically some pulleys were hooked up to some cinder blocks and we had to raise and lower them with a rope.  It was a pretty big river run at this point to the next obstacle.  A good mile, easily.


The next one was a ramp into a pool of water.  At the end of the pool was a vertical, muddy, rocky wall.  The wall had 6 ropes hanging over the edge tied to a bulldozer.  We had to climb out of the water (about waist deep) to dry land.  There was no grip and sucked.  I fell once and had to redo it, but from what I heard, two tries was pretty good.  The last water station was right at the exit of this obstacle.  It was all downhill after here… my luck, not the course.


More water and hills

The next obstacle, after a good hike was a 50 meter swim, followed by climbing back over the water on a raised rope going across the water.  The swimming part was what I had an issue with.  Then, not ¼ mile afterward they handed me a 45 lb. Sandbag to throw over my shoulder.  I took the sandbag, hiked down the mountain to a giant cliff.  I set the bag down, walked up the cliff and jumped into the water.  I didn’t have too much of an issue there at least, I’ve done some small cliff jumping into rivers before off of a 45 foot rock, so their 20 foot jump was a break.  I carried myself out of the pond walked to my sandbag, and back up I went to once again, set it down right where I got the dumb thing.

The final stretch

I swear they saved the hard obstacles for the end.  Here I am, limping almost vertical up a ½ mile hill and I get up top and there is 6 mud pits.  Each mud pit had water in it and a hill at the end to climb up.  They were VERY slick, I had one good foot, and each on got taller and steeper than the previous one.  Apparently, even after all the troubles I was only 15 minutes behind Rudy.

spartan 5

The mud pits in the foreground with the hill we just climbed in the back.

At this point, I was pretty much toast, but was able to clear the last two walls with ease, in comparison to the last 6 obstacles.

spartan 6

The smaller of the 2 walls


Then afterward…


spartan 7

The 2 walls followed by the final fire jump

Then I went back down the first hill we went up at the start of the race to the Javelin throw, which I failed miserably.




The last major obstacle was a rope wall.  One attempt and done.  My calf cramped at the end and I couldn’t get it out for about 10 minutes after the race though.  I climbed the wall and pretty much willed myself and limped across the finished line.

final wall

Final Ramp

spartan 10

The Finish Line!

After checking the times I finished in 2:33:32.  Not bad considering I only had one foot essentially, a popped blister the size of a nickel, and had to walk ¾ of the race.  Not to mention that I only finished 5 minutes behind Rudy.

Finally, for all you people who want to see why this race sucked…


spartan 11

And yes, that IS my entire foot and sock coming through my shoe

In retrospect

I think it was a good experience.  I really almost hit my goal and really had the entire universe against me.  I originally said NEVER again, but honestly… maybe if it’s next year.  I figure it’ll give me time to block it all out.  A spartan sprint (3 miler) would be pretty fun though.  Rudy’s wife and my client, Christine, want to try a sprint, so we’ll see.  Overall, I was still pretty proud of my performance mentally, and NOBODY really expected me to finish by the time we found out they didn’t have any tape for me.   I’ll leave you all with these final words from my fortune cookie that I got earlier this week. “Attitude, not aptitude, determines your altitude.”




Continue reading about Cameron’s Spartan Experience


It’s time I come clean.

pic: Sometimes I feel pretty dumb about fitness

Sometimes I feel pretty dumb about fitness

I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to strength and conditioning.

At least, that’s how it felt after I finished a full-day fitness seminar in Boston put on by Perform Better last weekend.  This was an amazing event featuring Todd Durkin (I wrote about meeting him before), Mike Boyle, and Gray Cook.

In case you don’t recognize the names, these are GIANTS in the strength and conditioning world.  We’re talking about the guys who not only train pro sports teams.  These guys train some of the most explosively strong athletes on the planet:  American football, hockey, and more.

The day was broken into morning/afternoon:  lectures/hands-on practical.  So tons of knowledge was dropped before lunch and after lunch we actually were trained, hands-on, by these guys.  Both experiences were amazing.  Here’s what I learned from the day – there are many take-aways you can put to use yourself… (more…)

Continue reading about I Know Nothing

I know you have questions about how to get leaner and/or more muscular, no matter what level you are currently at in your fitness goals.

And you aren’t the only ones with your question.  Most people have the same 10 to 20 questions.  All that differs are the numbers.

Last week I asked you to submit your questions for me – and I got flooded!

I’ve recorded the answers in the audio below – just click the start button and listen.  It’s only about a half hour or so, and I’ve got a surprise at the end.  So enjoy!


Continue reading about Protein Powders, Raw Eggs, and BMI


Everybody and their brother in the fitness world are writing posts about the new year.  And everyone is ripping each other off, generating marginal content, and feeding cliches.  Not to mention the fact that the content for 2010 is exactly what everyone wrote in 2009, which is just like 2008, and 2007… etc.   Here is my send-up to all the lame post topics I’ve seen in the past four weeks…

#6 – “The Top Fitness Things I Learned in 2009″

My answer:  Nothing.  Seriously, there’s very little truly new in fitness.  The core principles have been around for decades and new discovery is very limited.

#5 – “My Fitness Predictions for 2010″

My answer:  Some people will get fatter.  Some people will lose fat.  Some people will gain muscle.  Some will lose muscle, thinking they are losing fat.  Overall, sadly, not much will statistically change in 2010.

#4 – “My New Year’s Resolution Is To Finally Get in Shape in 2010″

My answer:  Resolutions are not goals.  See this.

#3 – “Start Now To Work Off The Holiday Treats You Ate at the End Of 2009″

My answer:  You should have started working BEFORE Thanksgiving, and you should have limited your binge eating to only Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years (3 days, not the 3 weeks many of you took “off”).

#2 – “How To Get Motivated For 2010″

My answer:  If your motivation is only triggered by the calendar year incrementing to 2010, then you need some serious lessons in motivation.

#1 – “How To Make 2010 Your Best Year Ever!”

My answer:  Work hard.  Really hard.  Excellent fitness takes hard work (physically) and hard work (mental discipline).

So, what would YOU add?


Continue reading about Top 6 Lamest Annual Fitness Post Ideas