Stuff to Read While You’re Pretending to Work: Sacrifice, Concurrent Training, and a Video You Should Watch

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Just a quick talking point before I get to the stuff you should read.

1.  I definitely plan on writing more on this in the near future (an article perhaps?), but I’d love to get other’s opinion on this.  In the past 1-2 months, I’ve taken roughly 80% of single leg training out of my OWN training program and my knees feel infinitely better.

In it’s place I’ve been squatting upwards of 3-4 times per week – with varying set/rep schemes and intensities each day** – and the only single leg training I perform are exercises using the Prowler (with the occasional reverse lunge or bulgarian split squat thrown in for good measure).

I’m not trying to make this into a functional vs. non-functional/organic vs. non-organic/ninjas vs. zombie debate here. This is solely an N=1 example, and I am NOT against single leg training.  I still use it with my clients and athletes and understand their efficacy, so anyone about to enter Defcon 1 status because they feel I said something absurd like eggs cause cancer, or I don’t know, Wolverine is the greatest X-Men ever, RELAX!!!!!!!!!

No need to send the hate mail.

I’m just trying to see if there are others out in the world who have similar experiences.  I’m in the mentality that everyone is different, and what works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for the other: single leg training included.


Sacrifice and Hard Work in the Fitness Industry – Mike Robertson

Mike reached out to several other coaches and trainers in the industry and asked if we’d be interested in sharing a story or experience for a post he was writing on motivation.  In his own words…..

“I think some people assume that those who are “successful” (however you want to define that) have something inherently special about them.

Maybe they’re smarter, better looking, more well-connected, or they just flat-out got lucky.

Many of us enter the industry for one simple reason:

To change people’s lives via our passion for fitness.

And if you work/live in this industry, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Every single one of us has had one of those times where we feel a little beaten down and question why we do this for a living.”

I was humbled that Mike would include me on such a list, and I thought the end product was pretty cool!

Concurrent Training: Strength and Aerobic Training At The Same Time? – Patrick Ward

You can’t be an elite powerlifter and elite marathoner at the same time.  This isn’t to say, however, that you can’t implement a “system” that allows you train certain fitness qualities simultaneously.  You just have to understand that there’s going to be a “give and take” with regards to expected results.

Here, Patrick sheds some light on a VERY interesting topic and offers some sage advice on how to go about programming for different qualities.  At the end of the day research is cool, but you still need to be able apply it to your athletes.

It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times – Anthony Griffith

I saw that Roger Lawson posted this on his Facebook page, and watched it myself.  All I have to say is…..Wow.

If you have nine minutes to spare, this is nine minutes well spent.  If nothing else, it just makes you feel that maybe your day wasn’t quite as bad as you thought.


** Just to give people an idea of how I’m approaching this squatting experiment, my week has been looking like this:

Monday:  Squat, working up to heavy(ish) triples.

Tuesday:  Squat, 3×5.  Nice and easy reps here.  Nothing remotely strenuous or grinding.

Wednesday: Day off. Cuddle with my cat.

Thursday: Squat, 2-3×8. Higher reps here using 10-12RM

Friday: No squatting.

Saturday: Is just a “get-up-early-and-head-to-the-facility-to-move-around-a-little-bit-before-clients-show-up” day.  I’ll toss in some VERY light Goblet squats in here.

Sunday:  Laundry, grocery shopping, whatever else I’m told to do.

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

  • Mitch

    I'm curious as to how much single leg work you were doing and how much you're doing now. I find single leg work to help my hips out a fair amount but I don't have any knee issues. I do 3-5 sets of something during max effort lower body day and that does the trick for me.

    September 26, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Again, I'm am by no means saying that single leg work is bad or that people shouldn't do it. I think if someone suffers from knee pain and it's a hip issue (usually instability, but not always), single leg work is obviously going to enter the equation. If, however, it's NOT a hip stability issue, and the knees still hurt, it could be soft tissue quality, motor control, so on and so forth. I'm pretty good with my foam rolling and getting soft tissue work when needed. I don't know. I was doing some version of single leg work with every lower body session - to compliment my bilateral stuff - and my knees hurt. I've taken a lot of it out in the past few weeks, INCREASED my squatting, and my knees feel great. I guess it just comes down to everyone's different

      September 28, 2012 at 6:22 am | Reply to this comment

  • daniel silver

    a couple of thoughts, as I have knee problems as well, and have toyed with things like this, but have concluded that single leg training should continue to be a mainstay in my program. 1. I know you love to go heavy, as do I. But I have found that I can reduce the weight on knee dominant type exercises, really hone in on the stability of my knee, and achieve the same RPE while making my knees feel better not worse. 2. having more hip dominant vs knee dominant single leg ex. in the program, as well as making the knee dominant exercises more "knee friendly", like vertical tibia step ups, lunges and split squats. 3. I know that Cressey has written a fair amount about not liking barefoot training for things like lunges and split squats. I may be wrong but usually assume that you guys assume relatively similar stances on training topics like this one. I disagree with his points. I think that weighted lunges/ split stance ex. are one of the most fundamental/functional ex. one can do. To me, while they can be done wrong, as experienced by Eric's examples of metatarsal pain, I feel that for that reason they fall under cooks "self limiting exercise" idea. If you allow the weight to be reduced so that you can truly focus on the mechanics of carrying the load on your front foot while stabilizing and supporting to a lesser degree with the trailing leg, you can feel a more knee friendly exercise with lighter weight, and IMO an enhanced training effect.

    September 26, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Great points Daniel. One thing that not too many coaches and trainers look into is how well someone can attain the tripod foot posture (which is hard to with shoes on). I think there's a lot to be said about the ability to do that and whether or not the knees are cranky. I'm actually fine with doing split squats, etc with no shoes on, but lunging can be problematic and I just think it comes down to one's comfort level.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:26 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jon

    What kind of squatting are you doing? More powerlifting or Olympic? I'm wondering if your knees might be enjoying going through more of a full range of motion. I don't really see many single leg movements taking the knee joint through a full range of motion. Even split squats from a deficit seem to short change the knee just a bit. Do you have an old injury or an actual diagnosis on your knees, or have they just always hurt for as long as you can remember? As far as the frequency of your squatting, doesn't Dan John say "If it is important, do it everyday."

    September 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      I've always been a fairly deep squatter. I don't do box squats all too often. My knees never really bothered me until my late 20s - so it's been going on for a good decade. It's nothing that's ever been too serious where I can't function (or train), but always just a nagging, chronic, soreness. Like old man knees. Lately, though, they feel like a rock star. It's pretty cool.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:28 am | Reply to this comment

  • Rob Brokaw

    I have been working a bulgarian style with alternating front squats and back squats- Nick Horton's nemesis program modified.- My legs and everything feel awesome. basically m- back squat up to a heavy single, then drop 30% of that and do a set of 3, then add 10lbs and do another three, I do this until my form breaks (typically one or two sets) Then I drop the weight to 1/2 of my max for that day and two 2 sets of 5- fast out of the bottom almost jump. T- Same thing on front squat Th- Same thing back F- same thing Front- plus big arm friday I also throw in some upper back work to help maintain form on my squats. Its pretty BA and I feel great. I stopped lunges and single leg stuff and my knees thank me for it everyday I get up- not that it was bad, the pain is just not there. So there is something there, I seen it!!

    September 26, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Mark

    Tony, DEFCON 5 means the lowest state of readiness (so basically calm and zenlike). Your statment should be "...anyone about to enter Defcon 1 status..." in order to make sense.

    September 26, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Garrett

    Tony, long-time fan and follower of your work, never-time poster, so a) thanks for all of the great articles/blogs/products over the years and b) wanted to weigh in as requested on your question. My experience has been similar to yours after about 16 weeks (including deloads) running Rippetoe's Texas Method. Like you, I was squatting 3 days a week (I backsquatted Day 1 and Day 3 and on the lighter load day, front squatted). The program doesn't call for any single leg work although I added in 3-5 light work sets a week and a couple of moves in the warm-up just to keep movement patterns grooved (so basically nothing single-leg). Jon who also posted brought up a good point about type of squat -- my squats are more Olympic than power-lifting in style so definitely get a significant ROM at the knees if that is a factor. It worked great -- seemed to improve my sprinting and seemed to make my knees and hips more resilient. Everything is feeling good and better than usual. Two caveats: First, I don't have any history of significant knee pain or knee problems (lucky me) so what I noticed was just the absence of anything being "cranky" or excessively sore. Second, I've been following MR's, EC's, and your work from the beginning (back when Eric literally looked 12 years old - wait he still does??) and have had a significant single-leg training "base" for years. I was wondering if this could be affecting your results and also mine or whether it doesn't matter at all.

    September 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Hey Garrett, First off, thanks for chiming in (finally!). Secondly, I still think there's room for single leg training for just about everyone. I think where most people go wrong is that they use waaaaay too much weight, or too much volume, or just choose the wrong variations given their needs. Then again, for some, it just depends. It's certainly not the holy grail and if you're getting superb results without including it, then why fix what ain't broken?

      September 28, 2012 at 6:34 am | Reply to this comment

  • RS

    Tony, I've pretty much gone in the opposite direction for much of the last year. My training places a heavy emphasis on SL training. In fact, on lower body days I borrow the CP-athletes model and frequently make A1 a SL lift and B1 a bi-lateral lift. I've used it as a way to ensure I really load up the lower body when, at various points, I've lacked access to SSBs, GCBs and trap bars. I've always thought that the more I focus on SL lifts, the better I move and feel. A heavy lunge, RFESS or SL RDL really crushes me, but (a) It's as close as I can get to being Ben Bruno for the day and (b) the look on folks' faces when I do offset SL RDLs with a 100lb dumbbell is priceless. RS

    September 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Reply to this comment

  • John J Brooks

    First off, Wolverine IS the greatest X-man ever. Second, I prescribe unilateral training with more volume the less stable the hips/pelvis of the trainee is, and more Bilateral training the more cranky their knees are.. these things tend to be on a continuum (but not always). Most of my bjj guys are about 50/50, most of my rowers tend to be 70/30 uni/bi (they even sit on their butt while in competition). That video encapsulates my darkest nightmares.

    September 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Reply to this comment

  • PJ Striet

    Tony: I went for a long period not too long ago where the only things I did in terms of knee dominant work were sled drags, and, while I hate to admit it, after reading a post on Nick T's site, leg extensions (I'm not kidding). I focused all of my effort on posterior chain work, and did a shit ton of anderson good mornings, rack pulls, barbell hip thrust and glute bridge (these were my main or max effort movements), glute hams, various hip extension and shelc variations, etc. My left hip and right knee-both of which reached the point of being downright painful while training-basically healed up and I felt great. The funny thing is my quads got much larger (due to the volume of leg extensions and sled drags. I've reintroduced single leg work and barbell squat variations to a box and my left hip feels like shit. I did 20' box step-ups with 225 for 4x6 the other day and I was damn near crippled with pain the next day. Ditto for reverse lunges. Bi-lateral quad dominant work (squats) isn't quite as bad, but the combination of full rom hip flexion with knee flexion just flat our screws me up. Like you, I'm not saying there is no value in single leg training, but, for me anyway, I do better-and feel better-without it.

    September 26, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks for sharing PJ. Glad to know that I'm not the only coach out there noticing the same thing. I just hope most people reading "get" that we're NOT against single leg training. And that, in the grand scheme of depends.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:37 am | Reply to this comment

  • Drew

    Back when I had just started lifting, a friend of mine who was far more advanced than I (he's actually a trainer at a local high school) got me doing so pistol squats and some Single Leg RDL's. I have no explanation as to why, but the RDL's made by knees feel crazy and terrible. Like my patellar tendon was gonna pop. So I didn't do them for awhile. Now (2 years later) I do bulgarian split squats and Single Leg RDL's and Step Ups and the like ALL THE TIME without problem. Though I do occasionally feel a lessened version of that strangeness in my patellar tendons. No explanation or even an idea as to why, but I do think that there is something to your notion Tony. Can't wait till you solve the riddle. Note, bilateral lifts and running NEVER ever give me knee pain. And the unilateral is just rarely.

    September 26, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Mike A.

    If wolverine isn't the greatest x-man ever, who is? Colossus is close.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:48 am | Reply to this comment

  • Ryan

    I haven't done this in a while, but every year or so I'll go on a stint where I squat 4 to 5 times a week, switching between front and back squats. I ditch SL training b/c I feel I'm getting a lot of work in already. When I only squat twice a week, I keep SL training in the program mainly in the form of BG split squats. Do bodyweight for high reps. Makes my hips feel great and I also feel that SL training is important for strongman. I haven't noticed too much difference with my knees either way.

    September 27, 2012 at 7:26 am | Reply to this comment

    • Ryan

      To add to my post here, the squatting 4 to 5 times/week was to a max (bulgarian/olympic-style) every time.

      September 27, 2012 at 7:28 am | Reply to this comment

      • TonyGentilcore

        Interesting stuff Ryan. Well, I'm NOT working up to a heavy max every day I squat (you're more badass than I am), but I am squatting 4x per week and it feels good. Did some high(er) rep squats yesterday along with sled drags and the knees feel awesome. I also LOVE the idea of doing bodyweight only split squats. I did those as part of a PLP stint not too long ago, and those really made my hips (and knees) feel great.

        September 28, 2012 at 6:42 am | Reply to this comment

  • Sean Norwood

    Hi Tony, As mentioned by Drew below, single leg RDLs bothered my knee/quad which would start to seize up as soon as I got it heavy. I ditched any single leg training and focused on getting my extremely weak box squats up to speed and continued deadlifting. After about 6 months of this my knees feel better than ever and I can now rep pistol squats ass-to-grass on both sides, which I could never do before. Interesting thread, thanks for all your great content!

    September 27, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Awesome! Glad to hear things worked out for you Sean. It IS interesting, though. As much as I like single training and know the importance of it, it's pretty obtuse for any coach to think that EVERY client HAS to do it ALL the time.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:44 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kelsey Reed

    HI Tony, I'm glad I'm not the only one who has removed SL work. If you recall I have a partially-collapsed disc in my spine (thus confining my to ONLY single-leg work until recently; my midsection and glutes are now strong enough to stabilize my spine under bilateral work) I also have torn labrums in both hips which were constantly pissed off and almost causing more pain than my back. I stuck to my rev. lunges, split squats and SLRDLs for almost 2 years. Since the RKC this past MayI, do NO SL work now except prowler pushes and single-arm swing (though that is still bilateral in my head) and I FEEL GREAT. My hips don't yell at me and neither does my back despite straight-bar deadlifting twice a week now (HOORAY!!!) I also swing 3x/week. I've concluded, that for me, 90% of single-leg exercises either aggravate my hips or back or both. (Oddly enough pistol squats don't bother me so I cycle those in and out too). Anyway, sorry for rambling. Steve and I will be up there for the seminar next month and we're super excited to see you and catch up!!

    September 29, 2012 at 11:57 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      That's fantastic to hear Kelsey. It's just a matter of finding out what works FOR YOU. We shouldn't HAVE to be stuck into one mantra because someone says so. See you and Steve in a few weeks! Tony

      October 1, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Five Sites that Give Good Links « Nourish Paleo Foods

    [...] 4) Tony Gentilcore:  This Boston-based strength and conditioning coach writes a darn amusing blog of his own, frequently including laugh-out-loud funny lines, like “One week we’re told that eggs are the most nutritious food known to man, and ten minutes later, a new story comes out detailing how eating an egg will spurn the Mayan Apocalypse.” He links to just a few quality articles each week and explains why he thinks each one is worthwhile.  Plus, he has best name by far for his regular link feature, “Things to Read While You’re Pretending to Work.” [...]

    October 5, 2012 at 1:26 am | Reply to this comment

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