Tag Archives: Primal

Finding Value in a Gym and a Coach

By far, my least favorite thing about being a gym owner and a coach is “selling myself”.

The truth is, I’m about as straight a shooter as you’re going to get. I don’t sugarcoat things nor am I a “salesman”.

Perhaps that is one of my vulnerabilities. Like I said, I don’t “sell”, but across the fitness industry as a whole, there are tons of salesmen, fakers, and frauds. Hell, I would venture to guess that there are more pretenders than their are legit experts, which is disheartening to say the least.

But the longer I’m in this business, the more I realize that it’s not my fault that lifters fall for the gimmicks and the snake oil salesmen. It’s not my job to “sell you”.

It’s YOUR fault for not recognizing value when you see it.

I get “tire kickers” all of the time at Primal Strength Gym. They will come in, take a look around, ask the usual questions about price, and be on their way.

When I follow up, I’ll hear the typical excuses if they don’t want to join.

“Globo Gym down the street is $20 cheaper.”

“I want to go to a gym that offers more classes.”

“I don’t know how often I’ll actually use the gym to make it worth it.”

“Wish you had a stair stepper.”

I could go on.

My initial reaction is to want to shake them and wake them up.

How can you not see the VALUE in a place like Primal?

  • Primal is home to multiple nationally qualified athletes, which means they continually compete against some of the strongest people in the nation.
  • Primal continually wins competitions. In fact, I can’t name one competition we attended that we didn’t place in the top 3.
  • Primal athletes have set national records.
  • The training environment Primal offers is unrivaled in the area.
  • The diversity and quality of equipment in the gym is second to none.
  • Primal coaching is first class.

I have people that commute in from hours a way, sometimes multiple times a week, just to train at Primal Strength Gym. Now those are the people that see value, far beyond the perspective of monthly membership dues.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a rant. Maybe this whole post rings with a little bit of irony as I tout Primal’s accolades after I open the post saying I’m not a salesman. Perhaps I’m selling you a bit, but more than 90% of my readership reaches far beyond my local market area.

So my main intention is to really just change your perspective and to implore you to examine the hidden value of opportunities in your training future.

Ditch the globo gym and towel service, and pay a bit more for a quality environment and lifting culture.

Train at the places with the most USEFUL equipment, not the shiniest.

Drive the extra 20 minutes to get quality coaching.

Recognize the quality of other lifters in more hardcore gyms, even if it makes you feel weaker initially. And soak up every ounce of knowledge they have.

Train at the place that scares you a little bit. Don’t be the strongest guy in the gym because that is a sure fire way to make you stagnant.

Stop getting hung up on price comparisons and adjust your perception of true value!

Lift on my friends,

— Tank

Primal Nutrition: The Carbs at Night Myth

When I explain to people how I eat, and how I would recommend them to eat, I always get the same response.

“But Tank, doesn’t eating a lot of carbs at night make you fat?”

This cements the fact that fitness and diet myths are deep rooted and it makes my job as a strength coach even more important to help spread some truth.

Calories at night are not bad. Carbs at night are not bad. Eating this way will not make you fat.

But you will get fat by over-eating your carb and caloric needs throughout the course of the entire day.

Stuffing your face all day and then piling a huge dinner on top of that ups your chances of overshooting your caloric needs and packing on the pounds.

This is where it’s important to look at your diet as a whole (24 hour cycle) as opposed to meal by meal.

Primal Man vs Modern Man

Not eating a lot of carbs at night goes completely against Primal instincts and history, and is the complete opposite of our psyche and social patterns.

primal diet

Primal man under-ate throughout the course of the day because he was too busy grazing, hunting, fetching water, running from saber tooth tigers, and hustling his ass off to survive. After he returned home at night, he’d lounge around and feast on his daily conquests replenishing his glycogen stores from a hard day’s work, and sleep deeply with a full stomach. That nightly feast fueled him for the following day’s activity.

Fast forward to modern society. Our DNA has barely changed from Primal man. Our lives are somewhat different as far as our activity and exertion levels, but our routines and instincts are not. Most of us work during the day (albeit it sitting on our asses much more, which is another reason to not eat big during the day). At some point, we lift heavy weights and train. After work, current norms call for happy hours, social dinners, and family feasts where eating big is a natural occurrence. Our natural psychology makes kicking back and eating big at night appealing.

How I Recommend Eating

So why go against the grain of what our minds, bodies, and social patterns tell us? Is there a better way to approach our daily eating routines?

Of course there is.

First off, I’m a huge fan of intermittent fasting and under-eating during the day. And despite the potential backlash I get from the community, I’m not a big breakfast fan either. That’s a whole other story, but if you want the low-down on that, check it out here: Is Breakfast Really That Important?

Fasting allows you to burn body fat at a much higher rate naturally, and minimizes the amount of time you need to spend doing cardio. Under-eating during the day keeps your energy levels up and makes you much more productive.

(Besides, as I alluded to earlier, unless you work a manual labor job, you simply don’t need a lot of caloric intake during the day. An no, you will not go catabolic if you don’t eat every few hours. That’s another myth perpetuated by the fitness/supplement industry).

Then after a day of work and intense training, your body will be in a glycogen depleted state in the evening.

Enter the nightly feast.

Because you under-eat during the day, your body will be primed for calories and carbs, causing carbs to be much more likely stored as glycogen rather than fat. Eating big following the day’s activity will also promote recovery, muscle repair, and help put you in an enhanced anabolic state for growth.

Coinciding with our natural instincts, eating big at night will also promote deeper sleep, critical for protecting your nervous and hormonal systems. And by refueling your glycogen stores in the evening, you will be fueled for upwards of 12 hours, which will carry you well into the next day.

** Because you under-eat during the day, it is critical that you make up your caloric deficit at night and eat enough to put yourself in a caloric surplus if you are trying to gain weight **

Plus, you’ll probably be far happier eating this way and I can almost guarantee that this will be more conducive to your lifestyle and social schedule.

This is precisely how I eat, and how a lot of my clients eat as well. I’ve never strayed above 15% body fat eating this way, and if I need to gain weight, I just up my caloric intake for the day (I gained 20 pounds in 2 months this past summer maintaining this lifestyle to prep for a Strongman competition).

The Bottom Line

Look at your diet as a whole.

Eating carbs at night and increasing the caloric content of your nightly meals is just a way of shifting your eating patterns (which will align much more closely with your psyche, Primal instincts, social schedule, and your goals of fat loss and muscle growth).

This way of eating has been documented by countless studies, and I’ve been eating this way for years. Everyone I’ve ever converted to this style of eating is amazed at how quickly they see results, not only in their body, but in their mindset as well.

Don’t let the “carbs at night” myth mess with your lifestyle. In fact, eat big at night and start reaping the rewards.

— Tank

Imperfection Training

Imperfection training is a big part of what Primal Strength Camp is all about.

I first read about the idea of this type of training in the book “Supertraining” by Yuri Verkhoshansky.  If you’ve never heard of this book and are serious about strength training and muscle building, you need to invest in it.

Consider this statement:

All-round sports training must include the capability of coping with unexpected and sub-optimal conditions. In certain sports where accidents or unexpected situations often occur, such as the martial arts, parachuting and motor racing, participants are taught how to cope with events that can have serious consequences. This type of preparation needs to be adopted far more extensively in all sports so that the athlete is able to anticipate threatening situations, react much more rapidly to unexpected circumstances, take action to avoid or minimise injury, and cope with sub-optimal conditions by practising with imperfectly executed movements.

When I first started training outside with odd-objects for fun as a way to break up the monotony of the gym, I immediately noticed that my gym strength didn’t translate to the real world.

The real world IS a “sub-optimal condition”.  Nothing is ever perfect.  But our bodies get so damn accustomed to moving so rigidly in the gym (almost always in a linear fashion) that we are ill-equipped to handle unexpected movements and uneven loads.  This is why I had trouble lifting kegs and sandbags when I first started.  I was already using imperfection training without even realizing it.

One thing I think we can all relate to is helping somebody move furniture.  You can bench 300 pounds and squat twice your bodyweight, but if you ever try to move some weird shaped couch or get a dresser up some stairs, I bet it kicks your ass.

Anyhow, if you are interested in possessing “real-world strength”, the concept of imperfection training and working it into your routines is a no-brainer.  This especially goes for athletes because nothing you ever do in a game situation is perfect.  Rarely are you moving in a linear fashion like most of your exercises in a gym (they may be dynamic like Olympic lifts or jumps, but are still not chaotic).

“Creating chaos” in an exercise form is not totally accomplishable.  There is only so much you can do and you will never be able to mimic the things you will encounter in real-life situations, but there are things you can do to help bridge the gap.

#1: Lifting Odd-Objects

Kegs, stones, slosh pipes, and sandbags are all good tools to use here.  Cleans, clean and presses, overhead presses, and sandbag shouldering are all examples of movements to perform.  None of these tools have evenly distributed weight, especially in the case of kegs (only partially filled) and sandbags.  The water and sand will continually shift making each and every rep of the movement different.

#2: Uneven Carries

Farmers carries are an awesome exercise, but rarely do you see variations in style.  Uneven carries require different sized loads to be carried in each arm.  For example, two different sized kettlebells.

At Primal, we like to take things a step further and carry two entirely different objects altogether.  In one hand we may have a 50 pound kettlebell, but we will have a 100 pound sandbag in a shouldered position in the other arm.  Or carrying the same sized object in two different carry positions; one at your side and one in a cleaned position is a good example.

Ever used a slosh pipe?  This is an uneven carry extreme and a Primal favorite.  A 10 foot pipe filled only partially with water, the water is constantly changing positions side to side, creating full body tension in an effort to keep the pipe upright and stabilized.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c93mGtzBhJs[/tube]


#3: Outside Sled Work

Most of the time you see sled work, trainers have their people pulling/pushing the sled on turf.  That’s good and all, but it certainly makes it a hell of a lot easier.

We train with our sleds outside in parks, often times in tall, dry grass or patchy fields at best.  It may go from fairly easy to impossible in a split second if you snag it on a dirt pile or high-patch of grass.  Doing it this way, you have to be very focused on keeping your legs churning and burning, similar to how you would see a running back trying to push the pile in a short yardage situation.

#4: Dynamic Throws

Heavy throws are a great way to build strength and total body power and explosiveness.  Aside from normal medicine ball work, kegs and sandbags and even stones are a great tool to use for these.

strength training
Keg tossing will develop some serious explosive power. This will help you off the ground with your other lifts too, like deadlifts and the clean and press.

If you are trying to build some “functionality” behind all of that gym muscle, imperfection training is something you need to consider for your training arsenal.  Use some of these ideas and run with them.  The beauty of this style is it allows you to be creative.  When you get so bogged down in traditional training, throwing a little chaos into your world can be a really rewarding and refreshing thing to do.  Training this way once or twice a week in addition to your normal routine should reap you some benefits.

Just do it responsibly and with some thought behind it, because just like sports, some of these movements can lead to injury.  You should be concentrating and focusing on moving efficiently during this training just like any other gym session.

Evolve!!

— Tank

Train Movements, Not Muscles (Primal Movement Patterns)

Far too often we get overly focused on training our muscles.

Sounds crazy coming from a strength coach right?

Stick with me.

Focusing and planning your training sessions around certain body parts will limit the exercises you can do, limit the amount of muscle you recruit during training, and could lead to muscle imbalances.

Solution?

Train movements, not muscles.

Our bodies were made to be worked, made to move, designed for performance and survival.  Not to sit down on a lat-pulldown machine.

When I first founded Primal Strength Camp I was determined to take people back to the “old school” ways of building muscle.  I built my concept around the “7 Primal Movement Patterns” coined by the world renowned Paul Check.

primal movement patterns

What are the “7 Primal Movement Patterns”?

  • Squat
  • Lunge
  • Push
  • Pull
  • Bend
  • Twist
  • Gait

Back in caveman times, if you couldn’t perform these movements, you were a dead man!

Now, when I watch people in a typical gym setting, I notice these patterns are largely absent from how people train, and I cringe watching people waste their time on junk exercises.

After an hour of training Primal style with a heavy dosage of overhead presses, deadlifts, pull-ups, pushups, and farmers carries, I can still see the same joker sitting on his ass doing the same bicep curl exercises he was doing when I started.

(Now before you think I’m just bashing on people here, rest assured I was that guy once doing curls all day long that I just talked about.  Back in the day before I knew any better, I loved working on the guns and feeling the pump.  Not ashamed to admit it!  But now I am enlightened and make it my mission to not let people make the same mistakes I did!)

Anyway, the guy is so focused on training his biceps that he is spending an entire day on them, when he could be recruiting far more muscle in the same amount of time by training with the Primal Movement Patterns.  More muscle recruitment + higher frequency + heavier loads lead to muscle gain.

By planning your training around muscles, you could be setting yourself up for muscle imbalances as well.  For instance, you may end up training with too much pushing but not enough pulling, or too much squatting but not enough bending.  Training like this will lead to weaknesses and imbalances that will hinder your performance and force you to play catch up by training certain muscles more frequently than others.  Not the biggest setback in the world, we all have them, but why not do your best to avoid them in the first place?

Look back on your training log (if you don’t keep one, you better start) and see how many exercises you are doing where you are sitting down.  If you are going station to station sitting on one piece of equipment after another, you need to start incorporating some of these Primal Patterns.

Strength training is not sitting on your ass doing isolation exercises.  You should be moving!

primal movement patterns

I can guarantee you that you will be bigger, stronger, and more conditioned if you train the movements and not muscles. It forces you to plan better workouts, eliminate the crap and focus on compound lifts, and move in space.  It makes you get back to old school strength training roots and use your body in the way that it was designed for.

With the flood of information out there on training these days, it is easy to be distracted by the “Next Big Thing”, or to complicate things by straying from the methods that have worked since the beginning of man.

Despite our origins dating back over hundreds of thousands of years, our DNA really hasn’t changed that much.  So why should our training?  That’s what Primal Strength Camp is all about!

Evolve!!

— Tank