Learnification: My Weekend at Peak Performance

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As promised from earlier this week, I figured I’d share some more insight on the Peak Training and Diet Program Design seminar I attended last weekend in NYC.

Speaking truthfully, I had been looking forward to this seminar for quite some time because A) I hadn’t been to NYC in like three years, and B) Joe Dowdell offered for me to crash at his place, and I wanted to see for myself just how ridiculous his commute is to and from work everyday. Assuming you hit the light just right on the corner of West 21st and 7th, Joe has roughly a 90 second walk from his apartment to the facility.  As someone who drives 45 minutes (both ways) to and from Cressey Performance everyday, I hate him.

I took Bolt Bus for the first time in my life Friday afternoon from South Station (in Boston) to NYC, and I have to say, it was pretty awesome.  Compared to the $200 I would have spent to ride the train, the $42 I spent (round-trip) to take the bus was well worth the 4-5 hour commute.  Besides, there was free WiFi which was clutch – as it allowed me to be somewhat productive with my time.

Speaking of which, for the record:  opening up an email from a random person sending postural pics in nothing but their underwear on a crowded bus = AWWWWWWWWKWARD.  Whoever the guy was that was sitting next to me – sorry about that!

Anyways, I arrived in the Big Apple a little after 4 o’clock and decided to walk the 1.5 miles from Penn Station to Peak Performance……wearing my Red Sox hat no less.  I was fully expecting to have to go all Snake Plissken on  New York’s ass, but thankfully, I survived the walk unscathed, and knife fight free.  WHEW!

I arrived at Peak, got a quick lift in (deadlifts, of course), talked some shop with Joe as well as a few members of his staff – Matt McGorry and Dan Trink – and afterwards headed back with Joe to his apartment to shower up so that we could meet Dr. Mike Roussell for dinner.

Honestly, having the opportunity to sit there and have dinner with both Joe and the Doc would have made the trip worth it in of itself.  I mean, they’re both cool dudes, and I’ve been friends with them for a while now, but to listen to both of them talk about business, the industry, and life in general, was just awesome.

So, from here I’ll save all the particulars (unless you’re actually curious about how much male product Joe keeps in his bathroom.  HINT:  a lot.  Or just how charismatic John Romaniello is in person.  HINT: the love child of Lady Gaga and Elton John (if that were to happen) wouid come a distant second) and just shed some light on the seminar itself.

Knowledge Bombs Dropped By Joe Dowdell

  • As I noted previously, Joe has 17 years of experience in the industry, and he’s literally travelled the world seeking knowledge.  One of the things I respect most about Joe is that he doesn’t necessarily corner himself into one set mantra of how to train people.  He has an insatiable appetite to learn, and he’ll be the first to tell you that he keeps an open mind to just about everything – except for BOSU balls.  Those are just dumb.  He’s not a TRX guy; nor is he a kettlebell guy.  He’s a RESULTS guy, and anyone who walks into Peak Performance immediately understand this because the place is loaded with everything and anything you could ever want.  Olympic platforms, power racks, Prowlers, med balls, ropes, bands, chains, Victoria Secret models – it’s all there.

  • Everything starts and ends with a thorough assessment.  All of Joe’s trainers are FMS certified, but he could care less what system you use, so long as you’re using SOMETHING.
  • Furthermore, Joe couldn’t stress enough that everything is an assessment.  The second someone walks through the door, the assessment begins.  Watch how they carry themselves:  what’s their gait look like?  What’s their posture look like?  While it may seem trivial, all of this valuable information you need to take notice of.
  • Individuality & Variation – don’t be an asshat (my words, not his) and take something out of left field and throw it at your client.  There should absolutely be some sense ot STRUCTURE to your programming, and you should easily be able to explain the rationale for everything you do with your client.
  • Joe’s a big Charles Poliquin guy, and believes wholeheartedly that regardless of the person, the first 2-3 weeks of training should be geared towards structural re-balance (posture, imbalances, weaknesses) and addressing work capacity.
  • Likewise, with beginners or for those coming off a long-term hiatus, utilizing low-learning curve tools with a high benefit are ideal.  In short, using equipment that elicits a good return on training investment is ideal:  Prowler, Airdyne Bike, Battle Ropes, etc.  All are essentially idiot proof, and get people into shape…..fast.

  • Periodization:  General Physical Preparation (GPP), Specific Physical Preparation (SPP), Specific Training Phase (STP), Competition Phase (CP), Transition Phase (TP).  For most trainers and coaches, unless you’re training elite athletes, you’ll rarely (if ever) transition past the SPP phase.
  • SPP – can be broken down into two distinct categories:  Accumulation, where the main stressor is volume (strength endurance, hypertrophy, functional hypertrophy), and Intensification, where the the main stressor is intensity (maximal strength, relative strength, speed-strength, strenght-speed).
  • Outside of beginners and injured clients, Joe’s not a fan of linear periodization.  I agree.
  • Interestingly, regardless of secondary emphasis, Joe noted that you can leave alone and “maintain” certain qualities for “x” number of days with no drop off in performance.  So, for example, if you’re training an MMA fighter and spent the past three weeks building aerobic endurance and then want to switch to a “strength” phase, you don’t have to do a lot of aerobic training to maintain it.  In short, there’s a residual training effect one can maintain.
  • Aerobic Endurance = 30 +/- 5 days (meaning you can maintain training effect for 25-35 days with minimal exposure to that same stimulus).  Maximum Strength = 30 +/- 5 days, Anaerobic Endurance = 18 +/- 4 days, Strength Endurance = 15 +/- 5 days, Maximum Speed  = 5 +/- 3 days.
  • Joe LOVES talking about energy system training and that’s his bread and butter.  I’d do him a disservice if I even attempted to broach the topic.  Needless to say, you’ll have to wait for the dvd set so you can listen for yourself.  How’s that for a teaser?????

Knowledge Bombs Dropped by Dr. Mike Roussell

  • Much like Joe, I’ve been a huge fan of Dr. Roussell for quite some time, and it’s amazing how he can take such complicated information and dumb it down for us minions to comprehend.  Plus, the guy has the will power of an ox.  At dinner the first night, both Joe and I ended with a heaping bowl of gelato.  Dr. Mike?  Didn’t even blink.
  • In a shocking statistic, Dr. Mike laid out the top sources of calories in the U.S. Diet.
  1. Grain-based desserts:  cake, cookies, pie, cobbler, sweet rolls, donuts
  2. Yeast breads:  white bread and rolls, mixed grain breads, bagels
  3. Chicken and chicken mixed dishes: FRIED chicken parts, chicken (breaded) patties, stir fries
  4. Soda/enery/sports drinks
  5. Pizza
  • I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know it was THAT bad.
  • You’re not going to drive to Florida and then fill up the gas tank at the end of the trip, right?  So why, then, do we feel that we can get away with doing the same thing day in and day out with our bodies?  For many, they’ll skip breakfast and eat sparingly throughout the day, only to gorge themselves at dinner.  We need to make certain to provide fuel to the body ALL day.
  • As such, Dr. Mike recommends eating 5-6 meals per day as this seems to equte to better weight loss and weight management
  • When it comes to encouraging people to eat less minimally processed foods (without added sugar), one great saying Doc had was “move from barcodes to bags.”  While arduous due to all the “organic masking” (organic Pop Tarts!!! Yay!!!!) going around, essentially when this means is to buy less foods that have a barcode on the box and more foods that you have to place into a bag.  Doing so automatically cleans up the diet and increases the volume of your food, but not necessarily the calories.
  • While obvious to most reading this blog, reducing calorie containing beverages is rule #1 when trying to lose weight.  In short, caloric calories don’t even register.  Eat your apples, don’t drink them!
  • Also, just as an FYI:  bottled, sweetened tea, you know: the stuff that you’re pounding thinking it’s the bees knees when it comes to staying healthy?  Yeah, well, it’s devoid of ALL anti-oxidants that you would normally get if you drank “real” tea.   Just sayin…..
  • Are you wondering what Dr. Mike’s “Core” list of supplements entail?  It’s easy, protein powder, fish oil, greens supplement, multivitamin, vitamin D, and creatine.  That’s it.
  • In terms of performance enhancers, he adds BCAAs, Beta Alanine, Caffeine (thank god!), and Citrillune Malate to the mix.
  • I could easily keep going.  Dr. Mike also touched on the differences betweem eating for muscle gain and fat loss, and also went into A LOT more detail into his 6 Pillars of Nutrition, but I don’t want to give aay too many secrets.

Honestly, I didn’t even scratch the surface in terms of the amount of material that was covered over the weekend.  In fact, my brain still hurts.  But that could be because Roman, Jim Smith, and Kevin Neeld spent the entire weekend berating me for not having a newsletter on my site.  Point taken fellas!

I hope that gives some idea of how EPIC the weekend was.  For those who attended, it was truely an awesome experience.  For those who didn’t, well, you’ll have to wait for the dvd.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

Comments for This Entry

  • Barath

    I love your blog and have been reading it quite regularly. Now I'll readily accept I am not half the lifter some other guys who comment here are (started lifting about a year ago), but I don't quite get why most people here hate BOSU balls - I don't use them anymore coz I find them rather boring. But when my trainer introduced me to it when I started out, I did some overhead dumbbell presses and found that it was pretty cool - you gotto work your core to balance yourself and all that. Is there a technical reason why you think bosu balls are shitty?

    July 13, 2011 at 9:20 am | Reply to this comment

  • gabe

    @Barath-most people bosu ball work is prescribed to don't even know how to use their core to begin with

    July 13, 2011 at 9:32 am | Reply to this comment

  • Scott

    Great post Tony with some simple nutrition advice to boot! The only problem I have is I purchase my apples in a bag with a bar code!! I guess I will stop eating the bag. I thought it was a good source of fiber.

    July 13, 2011 at 10:46 am | Reply to this comment

  • James

    Tony, You just made me more insanely jealous that I'm not based in the US! The seminar opportunities over there rock!

    July 13, 2011 at 11:45 am | Reply to this comment

  • LDR

    Great synopsis of the event. Sorry I didn't make it this year but I am surely going to set the date aside for next year AS SOON as one is posted. Sounds like these 2 guys know there stuff and have the passion needed to get it across to anyone listening.

    July 13, 2011 at 11:52 am | Reply to this comment

  • andy

    i agree tony you should have a newsletter attached to your site.

    July 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Reply to this comment

  • ChaseM

    Saw a tour of PEAK on strength coach tv, it's awesome. 5 meals a day don't work for me though, intermittent fasting works wonders. I think it's because I have hard time ration each meal, besides it's pain to eat 5 meals a day anyways.

    July 13, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ ChaseM: Dr. Mike touched on intermittent fasting during one of his talks, and had a lot of great things to say about it. Works for some people, doesn't work for others. Much like Joe, the Doc doesn't really pigeon hole himself into any one mindset.

    July 13, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Rozin Abbas

    One could say the human body, along with every animal on planet earth, didn't evolve to require nutrients at regularly and narrowly spaced intervals. ;) Here's a great piece by Alan Aragon and his dissection of ISSN's position on meal frequency: http://www.leangains.com/2011/04/critique-of-issn-position-stand-on-meal.html Meal frequency, in my opinion, is the most overrated aspect of nutrition. The only time I've seem to agree on meal frequency is in the case of Layne Norton, who believes meal frequency is needed for optimal muscle growth. This was more directed at extremely advanced trainees, though, who are nearing muscular potential. Regardless, I liked your summary and I love your blog. Nice work as usual.

    July 13, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jon

    Hey Tony, You mentioned a dvd. How/where can I get it from? Thanks for passing on all the wonderful info. Great post.

    July 13, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Kellie

    Great info, Tony. It's like I was really there. Oh, and sorry about the whole underwear email incident. It was late, I was bored. I had no clue you were riding the bus the next day.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:10 am | Reply to this comment

  • PJ Striet

    Love the barcodes vs. Bags tip.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:30 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Kellie: LOL. @ Rozin: trust me, Dr. Mike didn't hammer that EVERYONE had to eat 5-6 meals every day. But he did feel it could benefit many people. Besides it was ONE aspect he covered in two days worth of lectures.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:40 am | Reply to this comment

  • Goi

    Didn't you just comment a few blog entries back that you prefer a lower meal frequency for fat loss, and that higher meal frequency doesn't increase metabolism? In light of this, why does Dr Roussell recommend 5-6 meals a day for a weight loss diet? Also, what does he think about intermittent fasting?

    July 15, 2011 at 1:27 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kevin Neeld

    Berate is a pretty strong word. I would say tenaciously encouraged is more appropriate. If you don't get on it soon I'm going to buy "www.TheREALTonyGentilcore.com" and start a newsletter for you!

    July 15, 2011 at 5:06 am | Reply to this comment

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