Training Through Injury

If you do not follow my Instagram account (@joshuasettlage), you have not seen my stories of me training with the high school wrestlers from my alma mater, Roseville High School. Working with these wrestlers has reminded me of my own wrestling training during high school. In those memories are the bitter memories of injuries. In doing jiu jitsu competitively, injuries are present as well. All these inspired me to talk about something I often get asked about: training through injury/what to do if you are injured.

I feel like I should not even have to say this, but before you ask you coach to sit out of wrestling practice, tell him/her you can’t wrestle today, or decide to not show up to your jiu jitsu training, ask yourself if you are hurt or injured. These are both contact sports with extreme levels of physicality and demand on the body. If you want to be competitive, you have to train while you’re hurt. I find it appalling the absence of tenacity, grit and discipline in wrestlers and jiu jitsu players saying they want to be the best, but will use a jammed finger, or sore throat as a reason to skip out on training. I’m not sorry if that sounds harsh. If you find this offensive, it is most likely because no one told you to suck it up and get back to training. So I’m telling you now, if you want to be the best, suck it up and get back to training.

Now that is out of the way, I can move on to what this article is really about. Imagine you just tweaked your knee in training. You were defending a takedown, and your partner reached for your ankle pulling it towards him/her while your hips were unable to move. They pulled it a little too far and you feel and concerning pop in your knee. You shake it off and finish out practice. You go home, ice it, heat it, compress it, etc. in hopes of full recovery by the time you wake up. Next morning it is swollen and completely stiff to the point when you walk, you are swinging your leg out to the side instead of flexing at the knee. Now you have a legitimate injury. What do you do? KEEP TRAINING. Now I do not mean, keep training takedowns and put yourself in the same position that caused the injury, but DO WHAT YOU CAN. Your knee is jacked up? Good. Time to work on pull ups. Your elbow is tweaked from an armbar? Perfect. Now go hit 500 air squats for time. Pulled something in your shoulder? Awesome. Go lunge for 15 minutes straight.

There is always something you can do. Unless you are in the hospital, find a way to keep training. I had a hurt wrist for most of my junior and senior year of high school. Some weeks it only hurt to put direct pressure on it like in a handstand position, other times it would shoot pain through out my forearm when I turned over the ignition in the car. What did I do? I couldn’t lift (I know… it was a dark and sad time), I could only do limited bodyweight exercises and running drills/workouts. That is exactly what I did. Box jumps, pistol squats, air squats, sprint intervals, broad jumps, and long distance runs. I was able to build up my conditioning and sprint faster than ever. I was somewhat more explosive and had improved my squat mobility tenfold. At wrestling practice I could push a high pace in a match, much longer than I ever could before.

The bottom line is that there is always something you can do. Do not waste time, pouting about how you can’t train. You might not be able to do live rolling, or max out on squats for a few weeks, or do any barbell overhead work, but there is still something you can do to get better. Injuries are blessings and curses. As much as you hate not doing what you love, it might be the only time you dedicate time to work on another weakness in your game.

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Submission Pro Tour Open Peak Week

If you have not been following me on Instagram (@joshuasettlage), or been keeping up with my competitive endeavors, I am competing in the Submission Pro Tour Sacramento Fall Open. As of today I am currently sitting at 11 days out from the competition. In this event I will not be cutting any weight, and will be competing at 181lbs in the white belt division. With any competition, the preparation one makes can directly affect the results of the event or contest. I love training. I love rolling, wrestling, grappling, and lifting weights. I also love to program my own training and tailor it specifically to my needs. Going into this tournament, I knew I need to properly “peak” for this event and come in as fresh and strong as can be. At the GrapplingX tournament I competed in May of this year, I had a great prep, easy weight cut, but felt I came in slightly over trained/under recovered. I felt like I could not produce the force in takedowns, or have the capacity to endure grueling matches, even though I spent a lot of time improving my conditioning. Thankfully I only had three matches, with only one going the distance so my gas tank wasn’t fully tested. Going into this tournament, I want to ensure that I am fully recovered and able to perform my best. Here are some of the tactics I will be implementing to ensure proper recovery.

SLEEP:

Sleep is something I am definitely aiming to increase as the contest grows closer. Going into the GrapplingX tournament, I woke up at 4:15am everyday until the Wednesday before where I caught some more Z’s. I love getting up early and training earlier in the morning rather than later, but I came to realize that if I want to perform my best, I need to reevaluate my sleeping habits. Starting three weeks out, I will go from waking up at 3:15-3:30am six days a week to train, to three days a week and the remaining days sleeping in as late as possible to accumulate a total of eight hours of sleep. This also leads into how I will change my weight training…

WEIGHT TRAINING:

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On the days where I will be waking up between 3:15-3:30am, I will conduct my regular weight training workouts, but with much less volume. Instead of working up to a maximum effort squat and then 3-5 drop sets at 75%, I will just perform the max effort squat, and move on to the accessory work. I also changed the volume on my accessory work. Instead of 10-15 sets of accessory work, it is now between 5-6. Keeping high intensity in my workouts allows me to stay sharp and keep my body loose, without the prolonged recovery time of the high volume training I was doing. The days where I get a full eight hours of sleep, I do not perform any weight training, and focus on pushing the pace at jiu jitsu and getting in extra live rounds. Over the course of the three weight training days, I want to hit the big three (squat, bench, & deadlift) for a heavy single. I will keep this up until two weeks out when I will only work up to 70% of my 1RM for deadlift, but keep squat and bench the same. The week of, it will be light sessions of active recovery work.

NUTRITION:

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My nutrition will remain the same until the contest. I found myself stalling in my body weight, and slightly gaining body fat. I adjusted my macros by slightly decreasing my carbohydrate intake. Since I do not have to cut any weight for this tournament, I can still bulk slowly and focus on building muscle. I am currently following a If It Fits Your Macros approach which works great, but I find a decrease in performance when I chose to get some of my macros from foods of lesser quality. So starting a month out, I will be getting all my macros from quality food sources, the best that I can find. I’ll adjust my macros day to day to see how I’m feeling. If I have a lot of live rounds and am completely spent at the end of training, I might add some carbs back in. That is the beauty of not having to cut weight. I get to eat till I’m satisfied and show up to compete with a full belly.

Those are the three things I will be tweaking with my current programming in preparation for this tournament. After this tournament, I will go back to the full Settlage Size & Strength program and will prepare to compete in Cory Gregory’s Turkey Classic online powerlifting meet. More on that later.

If you are looking for personalized strength and conditioning programming, a customized nutrition, or 1-on-1 training, email me at settlagesac@gmail.com. For more content on training, jiu jitsu, and my personal life, follow me on Instagram, @joshuasettlage.

Quick Creatine Breakdown

One of the most popular supplements and most researched, tested, and explored substances is creatine. Creatine comes from most animal products like meat and fish. Like other animals, it is synthesized in our own bodies in the liver and the kidneys. It is then stored in the muscle. About 95% of creatine is stored in skeletal muscle. Creatine is not listed as a banned substance according to the World Anti Doping Agency. Creatine is not a stimulant, or hormone that enhances performance, although it is a staple in most pre workout mixes and can be found at every supplement store on the planet.

Jose Antonio, PhD, a professor at Nova Southeastern University, states that, “Creatine serves as a fuel source for rapid exercise through increased phosphocreatine (PCr) stores.” In aerobic activity like jogging, walking, light biking, the main source of fuel that will be used is glycogen. Glycogen comes from glucose which comes from carbohydrates. Anaerobic activity like sprinting, powerlifting, etc. rely on ATP and phosphocreatine to fuel activity. The more creatine you have available, the more potential energy you have available to be used during exercise. For example, if you can sprint at max capacity for 15 seconds without creatine, supplementation of creatine in your diet will allow you to have more energy for anaerobic activities like sprinting. After you have been supplementing creatine in your diet for several weeks, next time you sprint you might be able to sprint for a total of 18 seconds, because of the extra energy creatine provides in the muscle. It may sound like only a slight improvement, but if you hit these types of workouts once a week for an entire year, that is a total of 156 more seconds of sprint training your body can adapt to.

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Athletes from all types of disciplines take creatine for a wide array of purposes. Research has not only shown for creatine to assist in providing energy in anaerobic sprinting activities, but also in sports like powerlifting and bodybuilding. Research has shown bodybuilders using creatine supplementation to increase muscle mass with limited fat gain, increased strength gains, and hydration in extreme heat conditions. Similar to the example given above, a bodybuilder would use creatine to help him/her to get one or two more reps. One or two more reps provides extra stress on the muscle for it to adapt to. There is a big misconception among athletes just beginning to take creatine supplements that they will feel energized similar to the buzz of caffeine. Many pre workout supplements often mix creatine and caffeine together, and athletes assume it is a one and done supplement. For best results, it is suggested to take creatine separately from pre workout. A small dose of only 5g is sufficient for daily use. The effects of creatine do not present themselves a half hour after consuming like the active ingredients in pre workout blends, but upwards of two weeks.

The research does support the theoretical uses of creatine. Richard B. Kreider states that results of short term creatine supplementation for 5-7 days resulted in an 10-30% increase in total creatine content and increased phosphocreatine content as high as 40% (Kreider, 2003). Kreider also mentions how in another short term creatine study strength gains were analyzed. The subjects of the study experienced as great as a 15% increase in maximal strength and power output.

Maria Lourdes Guerrero-Ontiveros and Theo Wallimann conducted a study looking at the effects of creatine loading in patients. In the abstract of their study, they noted how, “… so far there are no reports of harmful side effects of Cr loading in humans.” (Guerrero-Ontiveros & Willimann, 1998). From a bodybuilding perspective, creatine does tend to hold on to water. Many times bodybuilders will take creatine up until one to two weeks out from the show when they really start to drop water and dry out. This can be potentially dangerous when athletes do not cut water in healthy ways.

There’s a quick breakdown of creatine. I currently take 5g of creatine every morning with a big glass of water. As long as I keep my creatine consumption at 5g or less on a daily basis, I do not get bloated or put on extra water weight.

For more information on diet and supplementation, training programs, and personal training email me at settlagesac@gmail.com! To see what my daily workouts, morning routines, jiu jitsu training, and lifestyle look like, give me a follow on Instagram: @joshuasettlage.

How to NOT Fall Off During Fall

It is with a heavy heart I come to the realization that summer is officially over. I often say, if I had it my way, it would be 90 degrees 360 days out of the year, and 60 degrees the five days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I love the beach, the lake, iced coffee, shorts, outside workouts, BBQ’s and warm evenings. Although, the world does keep on moving in it’s course around the sun leaving us in Fall. Fall is that weird season, where people who are not active on Instagram all of a sudden have 100 pictures about their matching flannels, pumpkin spice everything, and hoodies. Fall is also the season where people begin to fall off the wagon. Huge pun intended.

After the first of the year people flock towards gyms to get in shape. If they even make it into February, they likely don’t get past Valentine’s Day. They start up again in April to get that, “summer bod” that is ready to go to the lake looking j-j-jacked. After the summer BBQ’s, camping trips, beach vacations, and warm evenings are over, people lose motivation to continue training. Labor day weekend is the last hurrah of delicious BBQ food, Halloween is another sugary treat fest served in skimpy outfits. Thanksgiving is the last nail in the coffin. The final straw that lays all remnants of discipline in a grave to be revived again on January 1st.

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We are at the dusk of September and the downhill rush of the holidays is approaching. Here are several tips to stay on track with your nutrition, training program, and discipline throughout not only the fall, but winter also.

Reflect on your goals and progress.

If you started training hard to change your body composition for the summer, look for those initial progress pictures. Reflect back on how far you’ve come after several months of consistent discipline, clean eating, and training. You should be proud of how far you’ve come, but don’t get it twisted. You are far from being done. If you look back and look exactly the same as you did before summer, or are still lifting the same weights you lifted back in April, it’s time to get your act together. Summer is over. No more messing around. Find a routine and get back in the gym. Look back on the goals you wrote down several months ago and get to work. If you don’t know where to start, list two new goals: 1) Physique or body composition goal, 2) performance goal (i.e. strength, endurance, 1RM, etc.). Find a training program to start, and a nutrition plan. Stick to it. Get up early and train hard.

It also goes without saying, you can adjust or change your goals also. If you spent several months leaning out and bringing down your bodyfat percentage, maybe it’s time to focus on building serious muscle and adding some pounds to the barbell. The bottom line is, reflect on the goals you set out to accomplish all those months ago, as use that as motivation and data to attack this next season of training.

Change up the norm.

Recently I posted a picture on my Instagram of me training outside. It was so refreshing and fun! Training in the same gym, same garage, same facility, for months on end can grow stale. Change things up to bring the fun back into training. Take dumb bells outside and chase a crazy arm pump. Make a sled out of a car tire and run sprints up and down the block. Finish the workout with five sets till failure on a certain exercise. It’s okay to add some variety and fun into a training program. That being said, if you’re a powerlifter, changing the norm does not mean go run 20 miles after a heavy squat day. Keep the change all in good taste.

Find a training partner.

Having a training partner who is going to push you and hold you accountable is one of the best things you can do as a lifter, or even someone looking to get healthy. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.” Though this is originally speaking about one’s spiritual life, the same applies for the gym. A training partner helps me get out of bed and into the garage even when I don’t want to. Not only look for a good training partner, but be a good training partner. No one wants to train with someone complains , or talks too much in between sets. If you say that your partner doesn’t talk to much in between sets, it’s because YOU talk too much between sets.

Those are three things that I find I must employ every fall season to stay on track. Staying disciplined is hard. It takes work. It takes commitment and it requires you be uncomfortable. The results of discipline make it worthwhile. Do not get caught in the pumpkin spice latte craze, or the spider sugar cookies. Do NOT lose focus this fall season. Keep getting up early. Stay disciplined. Do not fall off the wagon during this fall season and lose what you have worked so hard to achieve the last several months.

For more information on 1-on-1 training, personalized workout programming for all of your fitness needs, email me at settlagesac@gmail.com. To see some of my daily training and routines, follow me on Instagram, @joshuasettlage.

Lessons in Daily Discipline #1: NEVER STOP LEARNING

If you follow me on Instagram (@joshuasettlage), or know me personally, you will know that Iive by the phrase, “daily discipline”. Not only is it a clever use of alliteration, but also represents the way we should all strive to live our lives. One of my most popular articles, “Why Do I Get Up Early?” gives an in depth look into one aspect of daily discipline. If you haven’t read the article, you can find it here. I decided to start a series of articles that not only allow me to open up about decisions of discipline or lack there of in my own life, but to also help those who need a little extra push to stay disciplined in certain areas.

Last week I began training for the Submission Pro Tour in October. Once I have a date on the calendar, I am 100% focused. Every aspect of my life revolves around peak performance and gaining a competitive edge against the competition. One of the habits I picked up while training for a previous tournament was buying a $2 notebook at WalMart and begin to study jiu jitsu competitions and other practitioners. I took notes on everything. Their sequence of attacks and certain defenses, transitions, most successful submission, etc. I also took notes on the moves and transitions I learned in class, and how I did during the live rolls of class. In beginning the study process for this next tournament, I realized something. Why am I not applying this amount of focus, passion and drive to learn jiu jitsu throughout the entire year? Not only in jiu jitsu, but why have I fallen out of reading daily? What happened to the discipline of making time to learn something new each week?

Like fresh bread, we must never grow stale. We must never grow complacent with our current position or situation. We must always strive for something more. There is something special about aiming to be better, faster, more efficient, at any task, skill, or aspect of our everyday lives. Not only does learning and growing enhance our quality of life, but the lives of those around us. At this last year’s Global Leadership Summit, founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek Church and head of the Summit stated in his opening session, “Everyone wins when a leader gets better.” Isn’t that so true? When a leader in the workplace gets better, employees enjoy their job more, and are able to deliver with excellence on the tasks they’re assigned. The same for coaches. When a coach gets better, most of the time, athletes get better. When a husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend gets better, the relationship gets better.

Constantly learning allows us to grow in fulfilling the purpose God has for us, or the mission we have set out to complete. In fulfilling the purpose God has for us, everyone reaps the benefit. I realized that in order to become a better strength and conditioning coach I needed to stay up to date on what research is coming out about exercise physiology, as well as learn how to run my business more efficiently so I can help more people reach their fitness goals. I in turn bought Lazlo Bock’s NY Times Bestseller, “Work Rules!”. In reading this book I am learning how not only how to transform how I live, but also become a better leader because of it.

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Some of the books and resources I’ve picked up over the years.

Learning does not necessarily mean learning or studying something that is directly related to your sport or your line of work. It is good to stretch yourself and learn something beyond what you’re comfortable with. When I first met my girlfriend, I hated coffee. If you know me now, that might come as a huge shock. Although, through getting to know her family more and being exposed to great coffees from all over the world, I became fascinated with home brewing. Over the last several years I have accumulated several pieces of home brew equipment and thoroughly enjoy finding the perfect ground to water ratio, the perfect temperature to heat the water, and what coffees taste best with a certain brew method. Learning about coffee not only is fun and enjoyable with other coffee lovers, but it allows me to take a break from all the barbells and jiu jitsu. Sometimes it is nice to step out of the realm I am used to thinking in, and be exposed to a whole new world of agriculture and chemistry.

Making a commitment to learn more is not difficult. It just takes discipline. Here are some of the steps I take when wanting to self educate myself further…

  1. Schedule in time specifically dedicated to self education. Write it in big sharpie, put a reminder on your phone, whatever it takes. Do not just think, “Today I am going to spend some time reading.” People are so busy these days and 9/10 just saying you’ll try to do it does not last very long.
  2. Go grab a book. Any book. Any book that seems remotely interesting and READ it. Don’t leave it on the shelf. Use the first step of scheduling time, and read the thing.
  3. Make a list of hobbies and plug one of those hobbies in with “How to…” on YouTube.
  4. Find an interesting podcast to start listening to during your commute to and from work.
  5. Instead of watching TV in the evening, turn on that podcast and go for a walk after dinner.

These are just some of the habits I have used in the past to self educate myself. It is easy to do all these things when you have all the time in the world. Unfortunately, there is never enough time. Like the great Arnold Schwarzenegger always said, “You will never have enough time. You must make the time!” As mentioned at the beginning of this article, it takes discipline. Daily Discipline. Now go out and learn something. Comment below what you are going to learn this week!

For more information of #dailydiscipline, strength and conditioning, and my everyday life, give me a follow on Instagram: @joshuasettlage. If you have questions or inquiries on personalized programming, customized nutrition plans, and/or personal training, email me at settlagesac@gmail.com.

3 Things Wrestlers Should Do In Their Pre-Season

Labor day weekend is now officially behind us, and the heat waves and summer tournaments are over. Now is the calm between being in the off season, and being deep into the weekly dual meets, tournaments, cold winter and all. As a wrestler, you are the only one responsible for your losses the previous season. There is no one else to blame, but you. As a wrestler, you can not claim credit for any of your wins. Each of your wins last season came from the many contributions both your training partners and coaches invested in you. Although, during the off season, what you do to get better is entirely your responsibility. The summer months are what really separate the JV and Varsity line ups, the divisional competitors, and state placers. During the summer, a wrestler makes a conscious choice whether they want to crush the competition next season or not. They make a choice between being a glutton at every backyard BBQ and hardly gets a wink of sleep, and those who focus on getting stronger, refining technique, and keeping their nutrition in check. What YOU decided to do this summer is what has put you in the position you are in now. It is now the week after Labor Day weekend, back in school, and time to start up pre season training. Here are three things every wrestler who is serious about becoming the best wrestler they can be should be doing right now in this precious preseason.

  1. Keep Getting STRONG.

If you are one of those wrestlers who chose to take advantage of the off season, you most likely spent most of the summer training hard to build a firm foundation of strength to take into next season. Now that it is the pre-season, do not stop now! You still have at least three months before your first tournament. That’s 2 months at the very least to keep lifting heavy and getting as strong as can be. You might have to make sacrifices like skipping weekend parties and late nights to be a good student, and lift for wrestling. You can’t stop now, because there is still work to be done. You do not want to throw away that strength you worked so hard for over the summer. With that being said, now is the time to introduce a little conditioning. Finish out your workouts with some sprint intervals on the track, or sled drags and pushes. You do not need to run a marathon, but something short, fast to start building your engine. A future article will discuss different conditioning finishers for pre-season training. Here is one of the simplest finishers: 20 minutes total of 30s all out sprints, followed by 30s of rest. If you have never done this on a rowing machine, give that a try. You will find what you’re made of on that rower.

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If you have not been training this summer to get strong, now is the time to start. Start squatting, deadlifting, and pressing. If you need to know why strength is important to sport and how to perform each lift, refer to last week’s article here. There is a famous saying, “On a hot summer day with no shade, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time to plant a tree is right now.” You should have started doing some sort of structured strength training two weeks after your last match. If you did not, then you better get to the gym and start now.

2) Dial in Your Nutrition:

School has started which means there are no more summer BBQ’s, swim parties, late night hang outs or kickbacks. Now is the time to get your nutrition straight. You want to have your diet locked in BEFORE season starts. Trying to adjust your diet, finding out what foods your body responds well too, and trying to develop new eating habits to make weight in season is very hard. Get your food straight now. It will only make you a better athlete. If you have never seriously eaten clean before. Start with these two simple rules: 1) If it comes from the ground or has a mom, it’s probably good for you. 2) If it has more than three ingredients, it is probably bad for you. Simple as that. Not only will you perform better as an athlete, you will gradually begin to lose excess body fat gained in the summer, thus giving you a better idea of what weight class you can be most competitive in. Learning to properly fuel your body for optimal performance should be done before you begin training for optimal performance.

 

3) TAKE EVERY CHANCE YOU CAN GET.

For some wrestling programs, not all preseason practices are mandatory. You have to chose to show up to practice. If you are in the middle of football season and/or have commitment to another sport that’s a different story. Although, if you are serious wrestler, you better show up. It’s no secret that the wrestlers who have been to more practices, drilled more tilts, taken more shots, and finished more takedowns at practice are going to out perform you every time. Put in extra work every chance you get. If there’s no practice on Saturday, invite a team mate over, move the couch and coffee table and drill tilts for an hour on the carpet. If there is no one who wants to drill for an hour on a Saturday, move the couch and coffee table and drill your stand up escapes. Getting in 100 perfect reps doesn’t take longer than 10 minutes. Instead of laying on the couch watching TV, watch your matches from last season and take notes (I started doing this when I was a sophomore in high school. Hands down one of the best things I did to become a better wrestler. I still do it to this day with all my jiu jitsu matches.)

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I apply this principle in my own jiu jitsu training. All summer I would find someone who would want to show up an hour early to drill transitions and submissions. I usually stay after class to get an extra 30 minutes of live rolls in. When no one wants to get to jiu jitsu early, I go over to my old wrestling team and wrestle with them for an hour before I go to jiu jitsu. On Sundays I drive 30 minutes across town to another jiu jitsu school and get in an hour of live rolling. My game has improved drastically, because of the extra steps I take each week to become better. My next competition is in 46 days and I want to be prepared as I can be. I will take every chance I get to become better. You have 3 months. Get after it.

These are the three things you should be doing right now during this precious preseason. If you are not, start NOW. Not tomorrow, or Monday. TODAY. Begin to build discipline and take advantage of opportunities to become a better wrestler. Next season is a reflection of the work you put in during the offseason and preseason. Get strong, eat clean, and wrestle.

Barbell Training for Sport

Let me just start off by quoting one of the most influential lifters and self made, self proclaimed, meat head millionaires I’ve ever met: Mark Bell. Bell famously signs off his podcast (Mark Bell’s Powercast) with, “Strength is never a weakness.” This could not be more true. Though yes it is a clever play on words, the underlying principle should be considered when training for sport. Strength is a critical component to EVERY sport. I literally mean EVERY sport. Do not get that confused with most important. In a sport like track, speed is universally most important, but strength is a valuable component in even speed oriented sports. You do not need to be the strongest man in the world, or sport a 500lb deadlift, but when two evenly skilled athletes enter in competition, the one who is stronger is most likely to come out on top. Strength is directly correlated to one’s ability to produce force. For example, in the sport of sprinting, a stronger athlete can produce more force with each foot strike, producing a greater stride length. Greater stride length leads to greater distances traveled with each step with less energy used.

Why specifically barbells? Sure dumbbells, kettle bells, sandbags and body weight exercises are also great tools to build strength, but barbells are most commonly recognized as the superior training tool in building the greatest amount of strength. One of the greatest resources for learning about barbell training, Mark Rippetoe’s “Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training”, explains this concept best. Rippetoe states, “Properly performed, full range-of-motion barbell exercises are essentially the functional expression of human and muscular anatomy under load… Barbells allow weight to be moved in exactly the way the body was designed to move it…” (Rippetoe, M., 2013). Using a machine only allows the body to move the way the machine allows you too. If you are looking to strengthen your lower body, you can squat, or you can use the leg press machine. The leg press machine is a great piece of equipment, although it does have it’s flaws. You do not have to balance the weight and recruit all the stabilizing muscles of your trunk, the leg press machine has a backrest which allows you to produce force against a fixed object, thus removing the need for back strength.

Here are three basic barbell exercises that anyone can add to their current sport training. Keep in mind I am not a doctor, nor do I intend to play one on the internet. Be safe, not foolish.

The Squat:

The king of all exercises is the squat, and I believe every athlete from every athletic discipline can benefit from squatting. Correct and technically sound squatting helps strengthen the entire body (a stronger body is a body that is less susceptible to injury and able to produce more force). One of the biggest benefits of the squat is that it is the only exercise to directly train hip drive. Hip drive is the active recruitment of the muscles that create the posterior chain. The posterior chain includes all the muscles running from your mid back, hamstrings and everything in between. The posterior chain is the core of all athletic movements. The posterior chain contributes greatly to jumping, pushing, picking things up, pulling, stabilization, and balance. Employing squatting into an athlete’s strength and conditioning program can assist in the jumping ability of a basketball or volleyball player, develop the power and strength in the legs and hips of a football player, and produce greater leg drive and force in a wrestler. The squat is also a great exercise to strengthen movements that involve hinging at the hips. The hip hinge position is seen in many sports (traditional wrestling stance, football starting line position, starting position of a vertical jump, etc.).

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A big misconception about squatting is the belief that squatting is bad for your knees. Let me clarify that bad squatting is bad for your knees (Ex: Squatting with your knees caving in is bad for your knees). Squatting with proper technique is actually one of the best exercises for your knees. Rippetoe goes on to state, “The squat, when performed correctly, not only is the safest leg exercise for the knees, but also produces more stable knees than any other leg exercise does.” (Rippetoe, M., 2013). In a study conducted by Tony Ciccone, Kyle Davis, Dr. Jimmy Bagley, & Dr. Andy Galpin from Cal State Fullerton on deep squatting and knee health, they found that deep squats do not place greater amounts of stress on the ACL and the PCL than shallow squats. However, their research went on to conclude that deep squats, “… result in greater activation of lower-body musculature compared to shallow squats.” (Bagely, J., Ciccone, T., Davis, K., & Galpin, A., 2015). That being said, DO NOT avoid deep squats. A REAL squat is when you lower the hips to at least parallel with the knees, preferably below. Any squat with hips higher than the knees is a partial squat, and not a REAL squat.

The Deadlift:

If the squat is the best exercise to develop hip drive, the deadlift is the best exercise to develop back strength. Similar to the squat, the deadlift develops stability in the posterior chain, and allows for the lumbar spine to remain rigid in order to transfer power into the trunk. The deadlift is one of the greatest tests of strength. You can either lift it or you can’t. The deadlift requires the athlete learns how to brace the spine properly which transfers over into all athletic movement. Learning to properly brace the spine is crucial to avoiding potential injury and producing power in a more efficient manner. Not everyone needs to do heavy deadlifts. For a marathon runner or a swimmer, heavy deadlifts might not be necessary. Although, lighter deadlifts with an emphasis on proper bracing and hamstring recruitment can greatly assist in injury prevention.20170829_200924962_iOS.jpg

The deadlift is another great exercise that focuses on strengthening the hip hinge position. It develop one’s ability to lift objects of the ground from a hip hinge position, and extend the torso with proper bracing of the spine. Look at the back control position in jiu jitsu shown below. When the athlete in front is bending forward to defend different submission attempts, the athlete in back must use their posterior chain to extend their opponent’s body to create openings for submission attempts, forcing the hips open and forcing their body into a weaker position. The deadlift can directly strengthen one’s ability to extend the body and open the hips.

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The Overhead Press:

The overhead press is one of the greatest upper body barbell exercises one can add to their strength and conditioning program (in this article I am referring to the standing overhead press). The overhead press not only develops the shoulders and all the secondary muscles involved in overhead extension, but teaches an athlete how to brace their spine in a new overhead range of motion. The overhead press is not just an upper body exercise. According to Rippetoe, “… except for powerlifting and swimming, all sports that require the use of upper-body strength transmit that force along a kinetic chain that starts at the ground.” This route that force travels through the body is called the kinetic chain. This chain begins at the feet (base) and ends at the bar (the load being moved) in the hands of the athlete. It goes without saying that some people consider this exercise as dangerous. Let me again state that bad pressing is dangerous. Pressing with poor technique can lead to shoulder impingement. Shoulder impingement refers to the pinching of the tendons between the head of the humerus (upper arm) and the scapula (shoulder blade). When pressing overhead, the athlete should focus on shrugging their shoulders at the lock out point of the lift. This causes the scapula to be positioned in a manner where the arms are strongly supported and impingement is not present.

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Please excuse the poor picture quality. This is a shot of me doing a behind the neck press. Different range of motion than a regular press, makes this a great variation of an overhead press.

In closing, barbell training can greatly enhance someone’s athletic ability and drastically increase performance in their sport. Barbell training is arguably the best way to build strength. By incorporating the squat, the deadlift, and overhead press, an athlete can get stronger, have the ability to produce more force, and become a more complete athlete. There are several ways to program barbell training for sport. This is all dependent on the athlete, the sport, training experience, etc. which I will cover in a future article. Below are some links to some of the best instructional videos on how to squat, deadlift, and press. Give them a watch and try them out.

If you enjoyed this article, share it with a friend. One of my biggest passions is spreading the gospel about the barbell. Barbell training has changed my life and I believe it can change yours too.

For more information of barbell training for sport, questions about current training programs, or inquiries about 1-on-1 training sessions, DM me on Instagram (@joshuasettlage) or email me at settlagesac@gmail.com.

The Squat:

The Deadlift:

The Overhead Press:

 

What I’ve Learned About Bulking

If you are someone who is serious about lifting weights, or someone who is just starting, at some point you have or will think about trying to get stronger. To a certain degree getting stronger comes with getting bigger. Bigger muscles have a greater capacity to be stronger muscles. This is the reasoning for most lifters choosing to go through a “bulking” phase. Bulking is the simplest terms is a phase of training where total calories consumed are increased and the goals of training are to build muscle and get stronger. Although, bulking can mean many different things depending on who you ask, and the different methods of bulking vary even more drastically. Let me first clarify the notion of a “clean” or “dirty” bulk. A clean bulk is a well paced rate of weight gain, and consists of manageable macronutrients obtained from healthy foods. A dirty bulk is an excuse to eat garbage in the name of bulking. If you are serious about getting better as an athlete by putting on size and gaining strength, you better be eating clean and staying disciplined. Do not make excuses for yourself. For the rest of this article, the term bulking refers to a “clean” bulk.

My first phase of bulking was one, giant, six month long, uncontrolled, experiment. After I stopped wrestling my junior year of highschool, I assumed since I would no longer have to make weight anymore I would gain lots of muscle, and become big and strong. I was mistaken. Instead of eating lots of food and lifting heavy, I was still doing hundreds of burpees, running all the time, and only picking exercises I was good at with my lower body weight. In turn, I gained only THREE pounds over a nine month period (139-142). Just before high school graduation, I decided it was time for me to get BIG and STRONG. I researched and studied many articles, podcasts, and webinars from the top minds in strength and conditioning to figure out just how I would execute this bulking phase. After filtering through all the information, this is what I found to be the most common principle’s of bulking.

  • A healthy rate of weight gain is 1-1.5lbs per week.
  • You must increase overall caloric intake to gain weight.
  • You must lift HEAVY. Your program should reflect a focus on strength. You can’t truly get strong if your program is designed for someone to build conditioning.
  • EAT. EAT. EAT.
  • Keep eating.

All of these pieces of advice are very true, and can create a good base for someone who is trying to bulk. I took all these pieces of advice to the extreme. My goal was to weigh 175lbs and add 90lbs to my back squat in six months. Every morning I woke up excited to weigh myself and see how close I was too my goal. When I ate, I stuffed myself full and then ate more to ensure I was getting enough calories. I stopped all conditioning. Literally ALL conditioning. No running, burpees or rowing for a whole year. I conveniently skipped the light conditioning at the end of the week, because I needed to “recover” when really, I didn’t want to breathe hard. I kept eating and lifting heavy and obtained what I considered at that time to be amazing results. In six months time, I had gone from 142lbs to a bigger and stronger 176lbs. If my rate of weight gain was greater than a pound and a half per week, I didn’t care. I was growing and was blindsided by such a quick and large increase in weight. I had only added about 60lbs to my back squat which at the time I was happy with. This all came at a price. As you can see in the photos below, I went from being very lean, with a traditional light weight, wrestler physique, to what my family members called my dimple belly stage. I was simply too large and soft for my very short frame.

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June 2015. Weight: 142lbs
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December 2015. Weight: 176lbs
  • You must EAT. EAT. EAT. to get big, but you can not just consume whatever portions you want even if it is all relatively healthy foods. For the most part I was eating what most would consider healthy food, but my overall caloric intake was off the charts for what my current activity levels were.
  • Conditioning may not be a focus in a bulking phase, but for the benefit of overall health, some conditioning should be in every bulking program. I was shocked when I had a tough time doing sprint intervals on the rower and running just one mile.
  • There is a reason why most experts suggest no more than 1.5lbs gained per week when bulking. I was just getting too big, too fast and gained a substantial amount of fat and not the amount of muscle I was aiming for.
  • Continue to do bodyweight exercises so you can still move your own bodyweight even at a larger weight. It was one big wake up call when I could barely get through 10 grueling pull ups.

The second time I decided to bulk, it was after I had finished the 2016 Tahoe Show bodybuilding event where I competed as a Teen Men’s Physique competitor. At the show I had my best physique to date. Though I had lost some strength during the prep, I loved how I went from the heaviest I had ever been, and in 15 weeks created my best physique ever.

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2016 Tahoe Show Front Pose. Weight: 149.5lbs
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2016 Tahoe Show Back Pose. Weight: 149.5lbs

Going into this second bulk, I knew I could not repeat the process I had done the year before. I knew I needed to take control of my eating habits, pay more attention to how much weight I was gaining from week to week, and not lose all the conditioning I had developed during the prep for the bodybuilding show. In turn, that meant I needed to change up my programming too. I tested out some new training techniques and programming principles centered around gaining strength (5-3-1, Bulgarian method, etc.). My new goal was in four months to gain between 10-15lbs of body weight, add 30lbs to my back squat, and still have visible abs. The results: Weight Gain: Yes, 15lbs. Back Squat 1 Rep Max PR: No. Visible Abs: Yes. I then realized I needed to learn more about programming for strength. I already learned how to put on weight, and from previous training endeavors understood how to train for conditioning and getting better at bodyweight exercises, but I needed to truly learn how to get strong.

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December 2016. Weight: 165lbs

Gaining weight was the easy part, but what good is more bodyweight if you can’t move heavier weights on the barbell. After this second go around at bulking, here are the new takeaways:

  • It is possible to eat very clean and still gain weight.
  • The training program must be tailored to build strength in addition to muscle size.
  • Getting bigger doesn’t not always mean stronger. I for sure got bigger, but still moved the same weight I always had.

After starting up jiu jitsu again and competing in several tournaments with training goals geared toward building conditioning, maintaining strength and cutting weight for competitions, I knew it was time to bulk again. That is where Settlage Size & Strength was born. I wanted to seriously get BIG and be STRONG. To my surprise, I had made some serious strength gains while still cutting weight for jiu jitsu so I knew the new programming techniques and principles I applied were working. Now it was time to construct the best diet for me that allowed me to have enough fuel to train hard with the weights for two hours in the morning, roll hard in jiu jitsu for two hours in the evening, and still build size and strength. I researched many books, videos, articles, and interviews with some of the best coaches in powerlifting. Guys like Mark Bell, Chad Wesley Smith, Matt Wenning, Mike Israetel and Louie Simmons. After spending hours of studying, and creating draft after draft of the new program, I now had a new way of going about bulking. This time I was very specific in how I tracked my macronutrients, conscious of the program and the progressive overload that I followed as well as splitting the total six month program into two phases. The first three months were focused primarily on hypertrophy or muscle size. The last three month phase were all about strength. Here are the new principles of Settlage Size & Strength for my current hypertrophy phase:

Personal Nutrition:

Macros:

  • Carbs: Start with 2g/lb of bodyweight. Once weight gain stalls for two weeks, increase carbs by .25g/lb of bodyweight. If weight gain becomes greater than 1-1.5lbs per week, cut back carbs by .25g/lb of bodyweight per week till proper rate of weight gain is established. I am currently around 2.15g/lb of bodyweight.
  • Protein: 1-1.5g/lb of bodyweight.
  • Fat: Keep majority of fat sources from healthy fat sources like olive oil, coconut oil, grass fed butter, etc.

Personal Training Protocol:

Big 3 Exercises:

  • Squat every day. Each day being a different squat variation.
  • Drop sets for volume on Monday, Wednesday, & Friday.
  • Bench Monday & Thursday.
  • Deadlift Monday & Wednesday.
  • Accessory & bodybuilding exercises reflect the primary exercise for the day.

Of course there are many more intricacies and details to the program as far as rep schemes go and variations in volume from week to week, but this is the foundation of the program. In the 4 months I have been running this program on myself, I have seen amazing results! In the first 12 weeks I gained 10lbs of muscle, and achieved an unexpected 30lb PR on my back squat! I still have some abs and have kept excessive fat gain at bay. I still am able to do my bodyweight exercises and have plenty of conditioning for jiu jitsu. I must address the jiu jitsu though. The hard rounds of jiu jitsu acts as a great source of cardio that others doing this program might not have access to. I believe jiu jitsu has allowed me to gain weight and consume more calories than if I was not competing in jiu jitsu. Due to my higher levels of activity through jiu jitsu, I can afford to consume more calories. Although, this does come at a price. If I have a hard training session at jiu jitsu, sometimes my workout the following morning can suffer. I do my best to recover as optimally as possible, but sometimes it happens.

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May 2017. Weight 155lbs
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August 2017. Weight: 170lbs

 

All that being said, if you are someone who is looking to gain weight and get stronger, I hope this article gave you some insight and new perspectives on gaining weight and building muscle. The last two years of bulking and cutting cycles have taught me so much. I learned a substantial amount about my body and how it responds to different training stimulus and nutrition protocols, as well as much more. My hope is that you can take these tips I found through my several bulking cycles and apply them to your own! Don’t stop there, join the conversation! If you have questions about bulking or building strength for sport or everyday life, DM me on Instagram (@joshuasettlage) or email me at settlagesac@gmail.com! I am here to help, you. If you are interested in signing up for Settlage SIZE & STRENGTH, now is the time to do so! Registration is open till Sept. 3rd! I have seen some crazy results on this program and I am only 4 months in! Let’s put on SIZE & STRENGTH together!

Why Do I Get Up Early?

Since I began posting pictures of the digital alarm clock in my room, many people who follow my social media are curious about it. I often hear, “Aren’t you tired?”, “I don’t know how you do it.”, “Why do you get up so early?” After hearing this almost on a daily basis, I decided to share the main motives behind this daily decision and how you can join me in doing so.

I get up early because there is work to do.

I get up early because everyone else is asleep.

I get up early because it’s a challenge.

I get up early because it takes discipline.

I get up early because chances are, my competition is still asleep.

I get up early because if I wake up two hours before the competition does, that is two hours of extra preparation I have ahead of them.

I get up early because I love it.

Getting up early is not easy. It’s hard. It sucks leaving the warm comfort of your bed to head to the gym where you’ll be in pain and sweaty and tired and gross. In all honesty, I too have times where the most beneficial thing to me and my training is to sleep and recover and I am careful using those strategic rest days. Although, for the most part, I choose to ignore that voice in my head and throw the blankets off, drink a glass of water, go down to the squat rack and warm up. When there is work to be done, one must get up early. Nobody has enough time, so we must make the time. If I hear someone tell me they don’t have time to train, and I see them sleeping in till noon, laying around on the couch for several hours and then deciding to get ready and do something with their day, it frankly makes me sick. I do not have enough time to get done everything I need to. I am busy and have responsibilities like everyone else here on Earth. I do not have enough time, but I do have goals. I do have visions, dreams, aspirations, and plans. In order to accomplish those goals I have to make the time to work towards them. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger said, I must sleep “faster” to add two more hours to my day so I can train. Taking one more step towards making that vision a reality. I want to influence, mentor, lead and encourage young people around me to be more disciplined, to be mentally tough, and to be stronger. Getting up early starts the snowball effect for my day. If I have to discipline to get up at 3:30am, I also have to discipline to not cheat on my diet during competition prep. If I have to discipline to do that, I also have the discipline to work on growing my personal business when I am already a full time student, and continue to learn and develop myself mentally and spiritually just as much as I am physically.

Getting up early is a choice you must make the night before. If you normally wake up at 7:00am, you can not simply just will yourself awake to get out of bed at 5:00am. You have to set your alarm the night before and make a conscious choice and commitment with yourself that you are supposed to get up when you intend to. That leads me into my first tip of getting up early.

  1. SET AN ALARM. This seems like an obvious step, but I can’t tell you enough how many times people tell me they are going to start getting up early and yet never set an alarm! If one alarm is not enough set more. I currently have five alarms set so that there is no way I am not awoken when I should have been.
  2. DO NOT HIT SNOOZE. The first act of #dailydiscipline for me starts with refusing to hit snooze. If I refuse to hit snooze, I am on track to getting after it that morning. The snooze button is one of the worst inventions ever created. It is the button that activates laziness. It is a button that entices you to give up on your commitment to yourself of getting up early. If you do not plan on waking up at 5:00am, do not lie to yourself and set your alarm for 5:00am. If you do plan on getting up at 5:00am, proceed to step three.
  3. GET UP. Physically leave your bed. Undo the covers and go from horizontal to vertical as quickly as you can. You can’t fall back asleep if you are standing up and walking around. When I first began making a commitment to getting up early, I would wake up, but lay in bed staring at my phone and seeing what was going on the night before. Before I knew it was being woken by alarm number two. If you leave your bed the first time, there is no longer a desire to hit snooze, there is no longer a desire to get back under the covers, there is no longer a voice saying to roll over and fall back into a deep slumber. You are already up. Act on the first two acts of discipline that took you here.

These three steps to getting up early probably seem like the most obvious steps for any process imaginable. As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of people who tell me they want to wake up early, but don’t know how, or are not committed enough to do it. It is not complicated by any means, it is just hard. Like anything else it becomes easier as your body adapts to the new circadian rhythm. It’s not impossible, you can do it.

I encourage you to start getting up early. Why? Because it takes discipline. If you can have the discipline and grit to wake up early, you can have the discipline to skip the cookie tray at work. You can have the discipline and most importantly the extra time needed to workout even if it’s just something small. Starting your day with one small step of discipline makes for other bigger steps of discipline easier. Another reason I enjoy getting up early is because it makes my day longer. If you currently do not have time to read and work on personal development, or do not have enough time to workout, or do not have enough time to prep healthy food before you leave for work. Imagine all you can do with one extra hour in the morning. Imagine how much more productive you can be if by 8:00am, your workout is done, you have read a chapter of a new book or listened to a podcast, and are ready to tackle the day with your homemade healthy lunch already assembled? Take it from me, you can do a lot.

Get up early. You do not have to get up at 3:30 like me, but just set your alarm an hour earlier. Instead of waking up at 6:30 and hitting snooze till 7:00, set your alarm for 5:30 and actually get up when it goes off. Take a picture of your alarm clock and tag me on Instagram (@joshuasettlage). Let’s create a culture of #dailydiscipline that does not settle for mediocrity and strives to jump start the day. My life has changed since I began waking up early over a year ago. My hope is that yours will be changed as well. GET UP.

The Importance of Mind Muscle Connection

In the bowels on Instagram and YouTube, if you are viewing any sort of fitness, bodybuilding, or workout content, I am sure you have heard of the phrase, “mind-muscle connection”. Though it may be a simple concept, the challenge is consistent application and correct execution. Mind muscle connection was made popular by those of the Golden Era of Bodybuilding during the late 60’s and 70’s. The Golden Era of bodybuilding produced famous lifters like, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Dave Draper, Serge Nubret, Robby Robinson, and Frank Zane.

During bodybuilding’s early years, athletes chased the pump that they got when lifting seriously. The wonderful feeling of blood flushing through your muscles resulting in your skin feeling tight over the growing and pumped up muscle bellies. The champions of that era though went one level deeper into their training. The “mind-muscle connection”. The mind muscle connection is just that. A connection and extreme focus you place on the muscles at work during a certain exercise. For example, when doing a dumbbell curl, using mind-muscle connection means literally envisioning the bicep contracting and squeezing the weight at the top. Then focusing on how it then lengthens as you let the weight down slowly and the two heads of the bicep drifting away from one another.

This results in a better contraction. When you have a better contraction, you can recruit more muscles fibers to do more work. When more muscle fibers are at play they are able to be subject to training stimulus and thus yield better results after proper recovery. Mind muscle connection can greatly improve your workouts. The mind-muscle connection, like stretching and posing between sets, is one small extra step you can take to shock your muscles even more. Being in complete control of your body is a crucial aspect to training. Your mind is capable of subjecting the body to the specific stimulus necessary to produce the results you want to see.

The mind muscle connection also means you need to stay focused on your workout. It doesn’t mean you are texting between sets, or checking Instagram or talking to a friend at the gym. It means you are focused solely on squeezing your chest together in a fly, or pressing out the bench press with perfection. If you just go to the gym and are going through your workout lackadaisically, you will never tap into your true potential. I consider the gym almost like a church. You should not be texting in church or wondering about what is for lunch afterwards. The gym is no different. You are there to train. Not to socialize, watch other people workout, while you sit on a bench for ten minutes scrolling through Instagram. It is a time that you set aside to TRAIN. Having a mind muscle connection in your workouts means you are training with intent, not just going through the motions.

Though the mind muscle connection as described above is important, it is not necessary for all activity and exercises based on your goals. If you are pulling a heavy deadlift, your focus should shift to staying tight in the midsection, proper bracing of the spine, and keeping the bar in it’s optimal bar path, not on the hamstrings and spinal erectors. Focus, which is greatly involved in mind-muscle connection, is the underlying principle to be learned. Whether you are doing dumbbell lateral raises and you are focusing solely on your deltoids, or running and focusing on your pace and cadence, the focus you bring into the gym is what can elevate your workouts and assist you in seeing better results.