32 Random Thoughts On Training

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A few days ago my good buddy, Mike Robertson, posted an article up on his blog titled 31 Random Training Thoughts. It was fantastic and you should take the time to read it. I liked the idea so figured I’d take some time today to toss my hat into the ring and showcase some of my own random thoughts as well. 32 of them. Because, you know bacon.

Starting with this amazing picture…

1. Agility ladders and foot speed drills work wonders on making people better at doing agility ladders and foot speed drills. They DO NOT (at least rarely) translate to better performance on the court/field/diamond/pitch. It’s crucial to actually coach athletes (young and old) to learn to develop force. These drills, along with anything involving cones (the more elaborate the geometric shape the better), which make parents oooh and ahhh, should not be prioritized. Especially for younger athletes.

2. And since we’re on the topic of developing force…it’s just as crucial to coach our athletes how to ABSORB force or decelerate their bodyweight. What good does it do anyone to have all this horsepower and not have the ability to put on the brakes?

3. Also, force development is vector specific. This is why we utilize ‘Heidens’ in many of our programs for baseball players, particularly pitchers:



4. The whole notion of “muscle confusion” is lame. Most people don’t need as much variety as they think. If you’re not squatting or deadlifting 2x your bodyweight (for reps) I doubt the limiting factor is your lack of use of chains or bands.

5. More than ever I am convinced that the reason many people miss a lift is due to a poor initial set-up.

6. To that point, the lats play a HUGE role in stability and upper back stiffness (which in turn equates to less energy leaks during a set). It’s difficult to be efficient at any of the “Big 3” without:

– Big lats.

– Learning how to better engage them.


7. Still having a hard time getting a “feel” for what it’s like to fire the lats during a deadlift? This drill may help:


8. One-arm dumbbell rows aren’t a great exercise to strengthen your scapular retractors. They are, however, the bomb when it comes to developing the lats. Just sayin….

9. Cuing someone to arch hard on a squat and to sit back is inefficient, especially for natural/un-geared lifters. Think: “belt buckle to chin” (posteriorly tilt pelvis), pull elbows together and forward (pull down on bar), push knees out, sit down (not back).

10. For the record: the above cue to posteriorly tilt the pelvis brings people from a state of excessive extension TO neutral. That’s a major difference compared to taking someone from neutral to more flexion.

11. Warm-ups should start ground based to standing to adding movement (linear or lateral).

12. By that same token they should start proximally (positional breathing, diaphragm) to distally.

13. Is this not the most baller groomsmen photograph ever taken?

14. People hate doing pause squats, but dammit if they don’t make everyone’s squat numbers go up.

15. A common mistake that people make when bench pressing: not letting the bar settle. Meaning, after receiving a handoff don’t immediately descend the bar towards the chest. Rather, let the bar settle by placing your shoulder blades in your back pocket (posteriorly tilt, lats engage) and gather your bearings before you lower.

16. I’ve repeated this quote several times but I love it so much I’m going to repeat it again.

“When you start throwing a baseball with only your arm, then we’ll worry about doing only arm care exercises.”

Eric Schoenberg, PT, owner of Momentum Physical Therapy in Milford, MA

17. Despite popular belief, you can perform a Turkish get-up with a dumbbell.

18. Speaking of get-ups I like to include them as an extended warm-up. Do this:

– 10 KB Goblet Squats

– 10 KB Swings

– 1-2 KB Get-ups/side

Three rounds. Now go em Tiger!

19. Also, if I were you I’d err on the side of QUALITY for your get-ups rather than how hard you can make them. Progression on these isn’t necessarily about how heavy you can go, but how “effortlessly” you can perform them. Dr. Mark Cheng can perform 48 kg Get-ups; he chooses to stick with 24 kg for the bulk of his training.

20. When assessing shoulders don’t only look at anterior/posterior imbalances (traditional upper cross syndrome), it’s equally as important to look at superior/inferior imbalances (scapular upward/downward rotation).

21. Scapular stability is more or less a misnomer. There aren’t any significant bony structures to warrant a ton of stability. Instead, as Sue Falsone notes, a more appropriate term would be controlled scapular mobility.

Here’s a good drill for that: Band Wall Walks


22. Alignment matters. Always.

23. If you stretch in mis-alignment (think: hip flexor stretch when someone stays in excessive APT) you create more instability. If you strengthen in mis-alignment you create more muscular imbalances.

24. Women: if you want to get better at chin-ups/pull-ups you need to train them more than once per week. Follow the lead of Artemis Scantalides of IronBody Studios: train them 4-6x per week.

Monday: Flexed Arm Hangs/Hanging Leg Raises
Tuesday: Chin-ups or Eccentric Chin-Ups (Rule of 10): 3×3, 5×2, 2×5, etc
Wednesday: Band Assisted Chin-Ups
Thursday: Flexed Arm Hangs/Hanging Leg Raises
Friday: Chin-ups or Eccentric Chin-Ups (Rule of 10): 3×3, 5×2, 2×5, etc
Saturday: Band Assisted Chin-Ups

25. Guys, you suck at chin-ups too. I’d listen to Artemis as well if I were you.

26. Don’t be afraid to include some more athletic movements into your training. Jumping, skipping, sprinting will improve your general day-to-day activities. Even if the most athletic thing you do is gardening….;o)

27. To that end, you don’t need to go 100% with your sprints. I like 60-70% effort “tempo repeats” (40-60 yds) for most general fitness clients. Also, if you cranky knees, sprint uphill. You’ll thank me.

28. Instead of embarking on a “fat loss” plan, focus your efforts towards a performance based goal. I find diverting efforts towards something more quantifiable leads to better long-term success. The amount of work and effort it takes to achieve said goal, assuming it’s realistic and attainable1, more often than not results in the aesthetic markers many people covet.

29. Push-ups are a very UNDERrated exercise. Some cues I always use:

– Squeeze glutes, brace abs (both help to posteriorly tilt pelvis which prevents excessive lower back arch).

– Spread fingers as wide apart as possible and think about “cork screwing” the floor apart. This will create more external rotation torque in the shoulders and provide more stability.

– Chest should hit floor first.

30. Not everyone is meant to squat ass-to-grass. We need to respect anatomy. Hip structure is different person to person, and you’re an a-hole if you hold everyone to the same standard. Some people are built to squat deep (and generally will have limited hip extension), while others are meant to deadlift a bulldozer (and might not be able to squat past 90 degrees). Some people can dominate both and we all hate them.

31. Passive Tests = provides information on one’s available/total ROM. Active Tests = provides information on one’s ROM they can use. If someone tests great passively yet as limited active ROM it’s most likely a stability issue. Don’t always assume it’s lack of mobility.

32. Stop doing kipping pull-ups. Seriously, stop.

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.
  1. So, I guess this means overhead pressing a Victoria Secret model is out

Comments for This Entry

  • Chris J

    #28 - Instead of embarking on a “fat loss” plan, focus your efforts towards a performance based goal, is one of the reasons I love Powerlifting. My goal is to stay at the same weight and get as strong as possible while staying healthy and mobile. The same weight and getting stronger are very tangible and easy to track and this really helps me to lose fat. I add in the stay healthy and mobile because I get caught up in chasing numbers and forget about mobility and not doing dumb things

    August 27, 2015 at 12:00 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Shane Mclean

    That's one of the best wedding pictures ever taken......if you love superheros, which I do. I hate paused deads than I do squats. I'd rather watch endless repeats of Rizzoli and Isles than do either.

    August 27, 2015 at 1:36 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Roberto Vázquez

    Like ever, great post. Thanks Tony. I'd like to talk about some thoughts: #2)Deceleration: I've never read anything about this before, but I've seen it recently in many other sites. S.O.S. (Skill Of Strength) blog guys have posted lately about this issue. I encourage to this blog readers to read it ( http://www.skillofstrength.com/why-athletes-need-to-slow-down/ ). Very essential issue. #3)"Heidens": other new thing for me. #6)Lats and stability: I've seen about this in a lot of videos about Dead Lift, from Tony, Cressey, Gray Cook and Brett Jones. I've been doing it lately and I realise that HUGE role :-) #8) Right! #9) Right again! That is one of the problems in people who aren't able to perform squats without "butt wink" or with pinch problems in their hips. This is an important thought ;-) #11-12) I'm going to add these two thought to my warm-ups. I hadn't realised about this before. Very important. #21-22-23) A lot of wisdom in these thoughts! ;-) #25) Ok! I'm sure that Artemis could make us cry like babies with her pull up progressions. #29) Exactly! For this reason, a lot of people who don't perform push ups correctly, think this it's a less efficient exercise as others like bench press. #30) Different anatomy, different kind of movement. #31) Other new thing! :-) #32) In the past, I had done a lot of kipping pull ups (ejem... Crossfit past... Each of us has some thing about our past we aren't pride about it xD), but I realised it's a VERY BAD option (for shoulders mainly). Thanks a lot for all new stuff Tony. I've learnt plenty of new things!!! Keep thinking these kind of thoughts ;-) !! Keep it up!!! P.S. : sorry for my English

    August 28, 2015 at 10:33 am | Reply to this comment

  • Chris

    Thanks for #7, Tony. About #29 – any tips on teaching push-ups to kids? I can’t get mine to stop doing the worm.

    August 28, 2015 at 5:21 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Michael O'Hagan

      Get them to start from the floor at the bottom position, bent kneed if necessary. I find that helps kids keep their core tight.

      August 30, 2015 at 7:00 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Push-Ups: elevate them (hands on pins or bench). Put them in a ROM where they can be successful and work down from there. Another option: band ASSISTED push-ups: http://tonygentilcore.com/2012/10/exercises-you-should-doing-band-assisted-push-up/

      August 31, 2015 at 1:14 pm | Reply to this comment

  • ronellsmith

    One of the best tips posts I've read. But forget that: the image is bananas :)

    August 28, 2015 at 7:06 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks Ronell. FYI: I'm going to be in the Dallas area a few days after Christmas. I'll be doing a 1-day workshop on December 27th at BJ Bliffer's place nearby. You should totally come!

      August 31, 2015 at 1:16 pm | Reply to this comment

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  • Jack

    Haven't posted in awhile, but still a huge fan of your writing. Great post and congrats on your wedding. Jack

    August 30, 2015 at 12:35 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Rachel

    Crazy week = catching up on my favorite blogs on Sunday night. Solid material, as usual. I'm bad at not letting the bar settle when benching. I get anxious that it's out there and want to hurry the lift up. Definitely a mental game for me. What are your favorite exercises for teaching athletes how to absorb force (#2)?

    August 30, 2015 at 8:33 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Muscles and Stuff

    #26 - once I started doing athletic movements like sprints, surprisingly, my lifts went up too. I'm pretty sure it's because performing such athletic movements help build all around muscle which will help increase every lift.

    August 30, 2015 at 9:13 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Nadia Azizan

    For me, sticking to regimens is rough-- I need to find an activity I love, like kickboxing! Kickboxing is an empowering way to build strength, confidence, and to blow off steam! www.ufcgym.com offers amazing kickboxing classes, along with other exciting cardio and martial arts options as well!

    September 3, 2015 at 2:59 pm | Reply to this comment

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