Tony Visits Diesel Strength

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One of the coolest parts about my job – other than all the free t-shirts – is the fact that I have the opportunity to meet a lot of smart and really amazing people in the industry.

As an example, I remember way back in 2006 when I had just started getting my name out there (I had like two or three articles on, I met Dr. John Berardi for the first time in person. He had come to Boston to do a presentation on his G-Flux System, and Eric and I were “hosting” him during his stay.

Having read most of his books and articles up until that point, and looking up to him as someone whom I greatly respected, you could say that I had a little bit of a man-crush on the good doc.

When he arrived at the gym where he was presenting, I felt like a school girl at an N’Sync concert. Weak kneed and with brown paper bag in hand, I feebly approached him and introduced myself.

Me:  Hey John, it’s really great to meet you, I’m Tony Gentilcore.

JB:  Oh, hey Tony!  Nice to finally meet you. I’ve read some of your stuff.

Me (hyperventalating): Uh, I like turtles.

What the what!!?!?!?!  He knew who I was!?!  And, he read some of my stuff! This is amazing!  OMG, do I have something in my teeth??  I’m going to be so embarrassed if I have something on my teeth.  Deep breaths, Tony.  Deep breaths.

Okay, it didn’t really go like that, but suffice it to say, at the time, it was kind of a big deal for me.

That same weekend, coincidentally, I met another dude for the first time, Jim “Smitty” Smith.

Many of you who read this blog on a regular basis will know Smitty very well.  He’s the author of Accelerated Muscular Development, AMPED Warm-Up, has been featured in numerous publications like Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, (to name a few), and he runs a very successful blog himself,

Throughout the years, Smitty and I have exchanged emails and even bumped into one another at various seminars and symposiums, always talking shop and exchanging ideas along the way.  He’s a really bright guy, and unlike me, developed an un-canny ability to look at things from outside of the box.  I swear if there was a strength coach version of MacGyver, Smitty would be it.

This past summer, Smitty and I both attended the Peak Diet and Training Summit, and I came to find out that the gym where he trains is literally like a 45 minute drive from my hometown in central New York. For some reason, in all the years that we’ve known each other, I didn’t realize that.  Then again, I don’t remember what I had last night for dinner, so he could have very well told me several times, but it went through one ear and out the other.

I told him that the next time I’m home visiting family, I’d try to make a cameo appearance to get a lift in.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, while visiting my old stomping grounds during Thanksgiving, Lisa and I took a trip to Horseheads, NY to visit Smitty.  Yes, you read that correctly – Horseheads, NY. Where I’m from, towns have weird names.  For those wondering, it’s about five miles east of Goatsvagina, NY.

The facility (Elmira Fitness Center) is HUGE!!!!  The building itself is a renovated grocery store of some sort, and they took half of it and made it into a gymnastics club – which is where Lisa and I walked in and met Smitty with his crew warming up.

Cue the Wu-Tang, and we were ready to go.  Smitty led the group, taking us through more of a hybrid, fluid-based warm-up – where movements weren’t quit as “robotic,” but instead melded into one another. It was a definitely a nice change of pace and something that I’m going to start incorporating more into my programming (see AMPED Warm-up, above).

Adding onto that, all the jumping, rolling around that was included (on the spring board loaded floor, mind you), and I have to say it was one of the best warm-ups I’ve ever been through.

From here, I’m just going to have the videos do the talking.  All I’ll add is that it was an awesome experience, and Smitty did a superb job of getting me outside of my comfort zone. He coached the shit out of myself and Lisa, and at the end, Lisa looked at me and said, “babe, that was the most fun I’ve had training in a loooooooong time.”

Can’t say that I disagreed with her.  Thanks Smitty for letting us stop by, and for an amazing experience!

Diesel Row

Here, Smitty combined three movements (inverted rows/pull-up/glute activation) into one.

Softball Pull-Ups (AKA: Smitty Ball Pull-Ups)

Here’s a more challenging variation of pull-ups using softballs as handles.  Brutal!

Bamboo Stick Press

To make the stick, Smitty used two PVC pipes.  From there, all you do is attach a kettlebell on each end (or a light weight plate) and press away.  This is a fantastic drill to help build shoulder stabilization and to get the rotator cuff to fire in a more functional manner.  Smitty likes to use this as a pre-cursor to regular benching – oftentimes telling his guys to get “x” number of reps in prior to their bench session.

As you can tell from the video, I kinda sucked at it the first time through – but around the 3rd set I started getting my groove.


Indian clubs have grown in popularity in recent months as a way to build shoulder mobility and core strength.  So of course, Smitty being Smitty, he took it a step (or seventeen) further and decided to attach a f***ing bowling ball at the end of a stick.

Yeah, that sucked!

To end the session, Smitty took me through the Diesel Man Maker – the name says it all. I thought it was going to involve chopping down a tree or something……….but I was wrong.

The video is still uploading on Youtube, so I’ll have to wait to post it later on today.  Check back again when you’re bored.  Until then……….

UPDATE:  see video below

ALSO:  Today is your last chance to purchase Dean Somerset’s Post Rehab Essentials at the discounted $60 off the regular price. Dean went out of his way to provide a really solid product that will undoubtedly help a lot of trainers out there become better at their craft and learn to program around almost any injury they’ll come across in a commercial gym setting.

After midnight, though, the price goes up – so take advantage now while you can!  Tick, tick, tick…….

The Diesel Man-Maker

After watching that again, I still hate my life.

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

  • Michael Gray

    Hahahaha, in that Mason Ball video, at the :40 mark, the girl on the treadmill takes one look at you with the club and turns the other way. I think she thought you were up to no good T!

    December 9, 2011 at 10:24 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jonathan

    I like the softball pullups -- something I might try soon. I did curls from straps yesterday and the extra stabilization mangled me. That bamboo press looks filthy. Slosh pipes are fun too. I had a Sunday morning training crew in the park last summer and built a 15lbs and 30lbs pipe from pvc, water, and water-run stone. Overhead lunges up the hip sucked. Coming back down sucked even more.

    December 9, 2011 at 10:54 am | Reply to this comment

    • Anonymous

      Smitty is actually sending me some softballs (AKA: Smitty Balls from now on), as well as a bamboo stick soon. Dude is hooking me up, and I can't wait. We actually made a slosh pipe last year, but it broke within a few months. We've been meaning to make another one, though..

      December 9, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Mike A.

    You pretty much described the first time I met you...except you didn't know who I was. p.s. I feel like that's the first time we've seen you bench, am I wrong?

    December 9, 2011 at 11:00 am | Reply to this comment

  • John

    Awesome review and love the videos!

    December 9, 2011 at 11:16 am | Reply to this comment

  • Neil

    Hi Tony, What are ways in which a college student athlete could use their training in an effort to bring about a nice change of pace. In other words, aside from the daily practices and lifting sessions, how could he or she utilize their weekends, off-days, holiday breaks, etc. to incorporate new exercises, settings, etc. while still promoting physical and mental benefits?

    December 9, 2011 at 11:32 am | Reply to this comment

    • Anonymous

      Kevin Larrabee wrote a series of articles geared towards college students over on t-nation.con a few years back. I think he offered some suggestions as to how to make your gym more "badass." Outside of that, I don't know really what else to say other than you need to dig deep within yourself and find the attitude. If you can, find someone to carpool with, and find a gym within 45-60 minutes of your campus and go there to train once a week. Sometimes a change of environment can make all the difference in the world.

      December 9, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Reply to this comment

  • John

    Can you give some more detail on the bamboo stick, including how you could use DBs?

    December 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Reply to this comment

  • James C Wise

    Where can I get a Tony Gentilcore knit beanie? As Doctor Who would say "beanies are cool!" I can see a whole line of beanies in pastel colors. sweet!

    December 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Barath

    Here's a fact: Tony derives all his power from the skull-cap. But seriously, the diesel man-maker looks mean.

    December 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Reply to this comment

  • lisa V.

    Just when you think there are no new ideas...very cool stuff. Especially love the Mason Bell and the Man-maker...expect to see those at Cressey soon.

    December 9, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Reply to this comment

  • LC

    Sweet stuff! So does that mean you drove through Utica, NY? The place smack dab in the middle of New York and not even close to the city like most people think! Good Stuff Tony, thanks for insight!

    December 9, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Sean A

    You sure that's not called the puke-maker? Damn!

    December 10, 2011 at 12:07 am | Reply to this comment

  • guest

    Might be a good idea to take the bamboo stick with the KB's and try some squatting and lunging. How does he keep the two PVC pipes together without them breaking?

    December 10, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Harold Gibbons

    Tony, looks like you had a good time in Elmira with Smitty. I have two questions related to that training: How did the Smitty Ball pull-ups compare to pull-ups with the Fat Gripz? Were they equally as sucky, or extra sucky? I love Smitty's ingenuity with exercise equipment and the Maceball looks great. They look similar to Kettlebell Halos; are they close, or is it an entirely different exercise? Also, totally pretty sure I saw you at the PB Summit in RI but thought, "Shit, that's Tony G., I don't have any semi-intelligent deadlift questions to ask, or any witty Star Wars/LOTRs jokes to make." Fail.

    December 13, 2011 at 9:45 am | Reply to this comment

    • Anonymous

      The Smitty balls, were just, well, different. From a grip standpoint, I actually think fat gripz are harder. Weird. Macebells are no where near the same as KB halos. The lever arm makes it waaaaaaaaaaay more challenging. You're an asshole for not saying hi to me. Fail.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Reply to this comment

      • Harold Gibbons

        The Fat Gripz have been humbling, I'll need to McGyver a pair of "Smitty Balls", as well as the Macebell. They both look awesome. I know, I know. Should have more opportunities this year: The AAHPERD National Conference is in Boston in March, and both the Perform Better summit and NSCA national conference are in Providence in June and July!

        December 14, 2011 at 11:04 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kelsey Reed

    That's awesome you both got a chance to visit and get coached! That's how Steve and I felt after working out at CP. :)

    December 14, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Reply to this comment

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