Supreme Strength

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I’m posting this a little later than usual, I know. But for those who aren’t in the loop, I’ve been traveling all day and have officially touched down in Canada, baby!  Lisa and I have been on the go since 4 AM this morning trekking from Boston to Edmonton, and after taking a few moments to manually unclench my butt cheeks – Note to any new readers out there: I absolutely HATE flying – we’re all checked into the hotel and waiting to meet up with my boy Dean Somerset to get our swole on at his facility.

Later on we’ll be getting together with the rest of the Muscle Imbalances Revealed crew – Rick Kaselj and Dr. Jeff Cubos – for dinner and, depending on how crazy things get, dessert too.  It’s vacation, right!?!!

Tomorrow will be game time, and I’m really looking forward to giving my presentation:  Core and Spine Training – From Assessment to Badass (ß best title, ever).   Likewise, I’m also looking forward to listening to all the other presentations, and am fully prepared to get my mind blown into a million pieces.

Speaking of mind blownage, today I have something really cool for all of you. Two coaches I truly admire – Todd Bumgardner and John Gaglione- have recently released their new training manual, Supreme Strength, to the masses and I thought I’d take the opportunity to introduce everyone to it because, well, I’m cool like that.

I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy sent my way not too long ago, and to say I was thoroughly impressed would be an understatement.  I’ve long been an advocate of telling people that if you want to look like an athlete, you need to train like one.  Supreme Strength fits that bill and then some.  Those familiar with programs like Eric Cressey’s Show and Go will LOVE Supreme Strength because it has many of the same components – getting people strong (and lean, if that’s your bag), addressing postural deficits, movement quality issues, and just providing people will an all-encompassing program – but with a flavor that only Todd and John can provide.

You see, both have an uncanny ability to think outside the box and provide a unique training experience that, not only gets results, but actually TEACHES people along the way.

I asked Todd if he’d be willing to sit down and answer a few questions to give everyone a little more insight.  Enjoy!

TG: Hey Todd, thanks for taking time out of your day to answer a few questions. You know the drill, this is the part where you’re supposed to tell me all about yourself. Care to give my readers a Cliff Notes version of who you are, what you’re about, and why I should never, ever, pick a fight with you?

Todd: You deserve the thanks, my friend! I appreciate the opportunity.

Wow, though, what should people know about me? Well, I’m a 6’0” balding ginger, an innovative high-fiver and I have a rib tattoo. I’m also a strength coach based in Central Pennsylvania, a co-founder of Beyond Strength Performance and avid lifter. I train clients at a small, invitation only powerlifting gym in Bellefonte, PA. I can also listen to John Mayer and Lamb of God during the same car ride and I’m completely comfortable with it.

Note from TG:  Well played sir.  Well played.  I can relate because I spend the better part of my days listening to Metallica, Linkin Park, and Rage Against the Machine, but as soon as I get into my car I’ll tone it down with a little Norah Jones action.

* hands in man card *

I started working as a strength coach while I was still in college. I was 21 and green behind the ears. My first gig was with the women’s lacrosse team and they owned me for about three months. Thirty chatty females vs. one unsure gym hermit is a recipe for domination. But I learned some valuable lessons and got hooked on coaching. By the time we were done working together they won a league championship. It was a pretty cool thing to be a part of.

Since then I’ve earned my Master’s in Exercise Science, helped a lot of people get stronger, benched 405 and started dating one of the best female rugby players in the country (oh, shit shout out to Annie Z!).

From a coaching standpoint, though, my main emphases are strength and clean movement. Oh, and proper celebration. If you crush a big weight you have to have celebration go-to’s. I like the jumping top-gun high five.

TG: You and John Gaglione (the other co-creator of Supreme Strength) are well known for thinking outside the box and are constantly coming up with new and innovative exercises and ways to train. Do you two have some sort of secret underground laboratory where you all stroke your evil strength coach beards? What gives?

Todd: Beards, Tony. Beards are the answer. We really just focus on creating beard equity and it seems to carry us along.

Seriously, though. It’s cool to be known for something—especially since I didn’t realize it!

John is just a great coach. The dude can teach anyone to do anything. I’ve seen him turn a mangled squat into a work of art. It’s very impressive. Necessity has given him a great set of innovative tools.

We’ve each also had the opportunity to work under awesome coaches. John and Zach Even-Esh are tight, and James “Smitty” Smith has really taken me under his wing. They are two of the most innovative coaches in the game—it’s tough not to catch their paradigm breaking bug.

I also just think about training all of the time. It rarely leaves my brain, so I think of cool ways to apply basic concepts. So I write stuff down in my journal and try it out when I get to the gym. If it works I’ll apply it where I can.

TG:  What persuaded both you and John to develop Supreme Strength, and how is it different from any other program out there someone can purchase off the internet?

Todd: It all started with a conversation.

I was helping out Smitty and Joe DeFranco at their first AMPED/POWER seminar, John was there—he and I got to talking.

We found out that we do things pretty much the same way—teach movement, preach strength and then practice what we preach. Right after that we fist pumped and decided we needed to create something awesome, something with depth, and something based on what we’ve seen work for a lot of folks.

Most of all we wanted to create a resource, and I think that’s what sets Supreme Strength apart from other internet programs. Rather than just jotting down some sets and reps and sending a chap on his way, we worked hard to create something bigger. We created a strength system. We explain the why and demonstrate the how. You’re also given the means to modify when necessary. It’s more than a program. It’s a great reference.

TG:  First things first:  I also want to give a shout out to Smitty.  The man is, well, the MAN.  Absolutely amazing coach and one of the most humble (and giving) human beings that exist.  He ranks right up there on my man-crush list with Jason Bourne and The Rock.

Back on task: One thing I noticed while looking over the program is the emphasis on the basics.  I absolutely love that approach.  Can you explain to everyone reading why they’re not that special and why they should listen to you?

Todd: It’s simple, man. We know WE aren’t that special.

I know, that may not sound compelling. But, if you think about it for a minute, it makes sense.

I heard a great quote once. It goes something like ‘a person that doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.’ That’s definitely true for the strength and conditioning world.

I’ve been lifting for fourteen years and I still manage to mess something up every day—I’ve never gone through a session and done everything perfectly. I’ve gotten really good at a few things, but I haven’t perfected anything. I’m still busting my ass to achieve basic perfection. I think that’s where people miss the point and they jump ship too soon.

The basics will always work—strive to be great at them. It’s a point that I repeat constantly to myself. I think people miss this fact because they want something sexy. It’s not a bad thing, just a little misguided.

Mainly, I think people hold a misguided view of the basics. A lot of guys and gals think that basic movements can only be applied one way, when, in truth, there are thousands of ways to use basic movements and train to be great at them.

It’s like dance moves. Everyone wants to hit sick hip-hop moves before they get down the basic shuffle steps and they end up doing the Carlton dance. You can live with the shuffle steps for years. It’s how I keep my white boy dance prowess.

TG:  NAILED IT!  Well stated, and couldn’t agree more.

For the hell of it:  what are your top five programming faux pas mistakes that people make while training for strength?

Todd: Ah, the mistakes question. This is like an interview rite of passage. I’m psyched to answer this one! Not necessarily because I like to be negative, but I feel like this is my jump into the club. Here goes!

1.  Dismissing Autoregulation: No one can predict what they are going to feel like three weeks in advance, it’s silly to assume so. Programming so strictly that switching things up for a day implores waves of guilt is counterproductive.

I’ve heard great coaches say that the best programs are those that are sustainable. If an athlete or coach can’t autoregulate, their program is as sustainable as a Kardashian marriage. At the very least use the RPE scale.

2. Not Prioritizing Movement: I see a lot of programs that prescribe lifts but don’t prioritize movement. You want someone to deadlift? Great, but how will they get into the best starting position? How will they train a clean pattern?

I understand that strength is built with big weights, but it’s solidified with clean movement. Every good strength program should start with a movement preparation phase to groove, or re-groove, patterns and prepare for heavy loading.

3. Not Prescribing Active Rest: I know if I’m not told what to do sometimes, I’ll stare at the wall and think about chicken wings. By knowing my own shortcomings, I make sure that I keep my clients moving between sets by using mobility fillers. I learned a lot about fillers from you and Mr. Cressey.

Back to the rest period—I think it’s the most misused variable in training—I don’t see the point in just moving aimlessly about between sets. This is a great time to work on weaknesses, improve movement and prepare to boost performance during subsequent sets.

4. Forgetting Relative Strength:  Unless a person happens to be a super-heavy weight powerlifter or strongman, relative strength is important. Squatting 500 pounds is great and all, but if it you have to put 40 pounds on to do it your performance is going to suffer.

That’s why body weight training is so important. Exercises like pull-ups are a great relative strength barometer. If the big lifts go up, but pull-up performance declines, there’s a good chance a gent is running slower and jumping lower. Even for the 9-to-5er, maintaining athleticism and body composition while gaining strength is important for longevity.

5. Not Teaching Tightness: Ok, so I know this is more of a coaching point than a programming point, but I think it’s too often missed on. Tightness and tension are so important for strength, but so few coaches are harping on it.

Before anyone picks up a bar, they need to be taught what tension feels like. They need to know how to set their grip aggressively, how to use air to create pressure and they need to know how to brace. Unless a trainee is constantly working to master tightness, they aren’t training as safely as they should be and they are missing out big strength gains.

TG:  Thanks Todd!  Awesome interview, and I hope it gives everyone reading a little kick in the pants to check out the manual.  I really do feel it’s top notch and will help a lot of people.  For more information, where can people learn more about you and your products.

Todd:  Thanks TG, always a pleasure to talk some shop.  The best way to reach me is to check out my website HERE, and, of course, check out……….

—–> Supreme Strength <—–

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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.

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