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Unconscious. The flow state. In the zone.These terms describe how we comprehend incredible performances — in athletics, the creative arts, and elsewhere — during which the protagonist transcends the mundane to momentarily enter another dimension.Witnessing the zone in others is powerful; experiencing it ourselves can be literally breathtaking.We have all seen the phenomenon in the sports world: swimmer Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals in one Olympics; runner Joan Benoit Samuelson besting the field to become the first women’s Olympic marathon champion; sprinter Usain Bolt annihilating the competition in both the 100m and 200m at three consecutive Olympics. While these are inspiring examples, the zone or flow state is not limited to the Olympic Games, winning medals, or even the wide world of sports. Instead, one can “flow” in a seemingly unlimited number of realms and disciplines, to include one’s profession as well as one’s passion (which may or may not overlap). The Flow State and the “Best Self” ConceptMihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who first identified the flow principle, described it as follows:“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”Years ago, a friend pursuing an MBA at Harvard University asked me (in the context of a class assignment, the Reflected Best Self exercise) to identify times when his “best self” had emerged. I do not recall the examples I conveyed to him at the time, but this “best self” concept has stuck with me over the years. Specifically, it has caused me to repeatedly reflect upon my own “best self” moments and what I believe has led to them.Only recently did I make the connection between this “best self”...

Goals drive me. When I visualize a dream and begin to believe I can make it a reality, I get excited (my wife might say “obsessed”) and immediately start making plans for how to realize the ambition.In the gym — and specifically in the sport of powerlifting — these goals tend to fall into two main categories: (1) personal records (PRs) in the squat, bench, deadlift, and total; and (2) competition goals, such as placing first in the Master’s (40+) category at a major meet or making a national team to compete in the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF).While having my eyes on a specific prize is immensely motivating to me, over the years I have come to realize that finding “joy in the journey” (a phrase attributed to singer Michael Card) is ultimately more important than achieving the very goals that propel me forward.What do I mean by this? To quote former Philadelphia 76ers guard Tony Wroten, “trust the process” and “just continue to build.” I am a proponent of focusing on what is in my power to change and letting the chips fall where they may. At the same time, I believe in avoiding distractions, including elements that are out of my hands. As shared by a religious leader in 1839 to a community facing adversity, “let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see [our worthy goals come to fruition]” (D&C 123:17).Wroten’s “trust the process” has become a well-worn phrase in the sport of powerlifting, but what does it mean in practice? To me, it means we recognize that anything worth pursuing requires (1) work and (2) time, and therefore (3) patience and (4) persistence. A favorite persistence quote of mine comes from Ralph...

Daniel DeBrocke is the chief content creator for Stacked Strength and is also a contributing writer for Breaking Muscle, T-Nation, EliteFTS, Bar Bend and several other publications. He's a strength and conditioning coach and primarily works with competitive strength athletes. Click here for full bio. Contrary to popular belief, dietary interventions to produce weight loss are quite efficacious. However the rate of recidivism is high at roughly 85%, with research demonstrating a substantial portion of weight lost being regained within just a few years (1). This is not simply a result of lapses in adherence, and in fact has strong genetic, biological, environmental and psychological influences. Given the audience this article will be seen by, the focus will revolve around strategies to optimize body composition both from a muscularity and leanness standpoint. The objective of this article is to understand why weight regain is so prevalent by exploring the various mechanisms (both direct and indirect) involved. From there we can compile a series of recommendations and strategies to bypass or at least minimize negative repercussions associated with dieting and the feared rebound. Although this article is not specifically geared toward bodybuilders or physique competitors, the majority of the information and recommendations still apply. I want to be clear that these are suggestions for individuals who are healthy with no medical conditions. And as always, ensure you seek help from a qualified professional such as a dietician or physician before making any changes based on the recommendations contained in this article. KEY POINTSAs you restrict energy and lose body fat metabolic adaptations occur as a biological response to prevent starvation. Virtually all of the down-regulation in BMR at the end of a diet are due to changes in NEAT. This is a natural process and is not necessarily indicative of any sort...

“In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross […].”  - James E. Faust, April 1979 Training with a purpose is in my DNA. Whether it was my first marathon in 1992, the U.S.A. bodybuilding championships in 2001, or the North American Powerlifting Federation championships in 2019, my eyes were always on the prize as I pushed myself during the preparatory phase.Truth be told, I have never understood the practice of exercising without a specific goal in mind. If I am going to dedicate hours of my life to an athletic endeavor week after week and year after year, I want to know that I am on the path of progress. You may have a different mentality—and that is fine by me—but I relish the heightened focus experienced when each training session is seen as part of a larger whole.Speaking of focus, goal-oriented training in general and resistance training in particular are, in many ways, similar to the metallurgical concept of the refiner’s fire. Metallurgy is the science of producing and purifying metals, and the refiner’s fire refers to the intense heat (and often the associated hammering) needed to shape a finished metal product. Another useful metallurgical term in this context is crucible, which is a metal or ceramic bowl capable of withstanding extremely high temperatures; using a crucible, one is able to “focus” a heat source into a small space in order to render a rigid material temporarily malleable.What do high temperatures and shaping metals have to do with resistance training? From my vantage point, intense training takes us from a world of comfort and throws us squarely into a kind of refiner’s fire. As my training protocol...

Daniel DeBrocke is the chief content creator for Stacked Strength and is also a contributing writer for Breaking Muscle, T-Nation, EliteFTS, Bar Bend and several other publications. He's a strength and conditioning coach and primarily works with competitive strength athletes. Click here for full bio. Recovery and athletic performance is an important topic, and one that gets a fair bit of attention. However, information disseminated about recovery modalities often prioritize cumbersome methods with a poor return on investment. As is often the case the fundamentals take a back seat to elaborate strategies to improve athletic performance. When in reality optimization must start with and always prioritize the fundamentals. The objective of this article is to compile all relevant information on recovery and present a comprehensive analysis on the various strategies. From there we can develop a hierarchical structure to offer pragmatic recommendations for athletes to get the most out of their training and recovery and avoid prioritizing variables that generate a small magnitude of effect.  TABLE OF CONTENTS: The Role Of Sleep In Athletic Performance The Role Of Nutrition In Recovery And Athletic Performance Stress Management, Recovery And Athletic Performance Effective Program Design On Recovery And Athletic Performance The Effect Of NSAID’s On Athletic Performance The Effect Of Massage And Cupping On Recovery And Athletic Performance Effects Of Foam Rolling On Recovery And Athletic Performance Effects Of Heat And Cold Therapy On Recovery And Athletic Performance Effects Of Creatine On Recovery And Athletic Performance Effects Of VitaminSupplementation On Recovery And Athletic Performance Closing Comments References Recovery and athletic performance is an important topic, and one that gets a fair bit of attention. However, information disseminated about recovery modalities often prioritize cumbersome methods with a poor return on investment. As is often the case the fundamentals take a back seat to elaborate strategies to improve athletic performance. When in reality optimization must start with and always...

Daniel DeBrocke is the chief content creator for Stacked Strength and is also a contributing writer for Breaking Muscle, T-Nation, EliteFTS, Bar Bend and several other publications. He's a strength and conditioning coach and primarily works with competitive strength athletes. Click here for full bio. Low back pain (LBP) is a widespread phenomena that is estimated to effect roughly 85% of individuals at some point in their life (1). In fact, globally LBP is the leading cause of disability (2). Considering the prevalence of LBP it’s important to gain a better understanding of the complex mechanisms and potential avenues for successful treatment and prevention. This article is neither diagnostic or a recommendation for treatment protocol. It’s simply here to inform you on the various intricacies of the subject so when you seek out professional help from a qualified physical therapist (which is the course of action I recommend) you are better equipped to be an active participant in your own treatment.Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is defined as pain persisting for twelve weeks or longer (3). CLBP accounts for roughly 20% of LBP instances, but in up to 90% of these cases clinicians are unable to identify the cause, so CLBP is labeled as non-specific CLBP (4). A review conducted by Bart W. Koes and colleagues on the clinical guidelines for the management of non-specific low back pain in primary care found the primary treatment modalities were education, medication, exercise, manipulation, bed rest, and referral to a specialist (5).Treatment protocols were categorized based on country, and as the results demonstrate, prescriptions were rather varied (See Reference Table Here). LBP appears to be more prevalent in woman than men, with a heightened sensitivity to pain documented in women due to biological, psychological and environmental factors (6)(7). CLBP is also influenced by genetics...

Chris Cathcart is a teen powerlifting competitor, Virtual Coaching client, and member/contributor at Kabuki Strength Lab. For every change you see in my body, my mind has gone through ten. When I began the journey that I am on in 2015, I was in one of the worst places I ever been. I was 330 pounds, thirteen years old and had just experienced loss for the first time. My first dog had died and I was trying to make sense of the world. I knew things and people died, I had seen things die, I had killed things before, I had never felt the ache of missing that comes with the loss of someone or something near to your heart.The first time I experienced loss it came with a warning. This will be you, and if you change nothing, that will be sooner than you can imagine. My first dog died of disease related to obesity, something that my entire family, human and pet alike was all too familiar with. This comes to my first point. Set Grand Goals. I didn’t know it at the time but I was setting for myself the ultimate Grand Goal. Become better. I didn’t know where to go from that goal, but I had a why and a what, so the how would only follow naturally.Starting out I tried walking once a day for a quarter mile, eating more fiber, and drinking water (like at all). This alone helped me lose 10 lbs due to the horrible condition my body was in. This brings me to my second point, which is that Grand Goals are important, but I think after you set them you should focus on One Degree of Change at a time. If I had set out for myself a workout regiment and...

Derrington Wright is a strength coach at Kabuki Strength and an elite powerlifter in the USAPL/IPF. He may be reached with comments and questions at [email protected] The Arnold Classic 2018 was the best performance of my lifting career. I ended with an 1829lbs (830kg) total in the 105kg division, I was ecstatic. I even ended up winning a big check for $800 for placing first, literally the peak of my powerlifting journey at the time. Fast forward to March 14th, I wake up, half asleep and I see an email that says, “notification of doping failure”.In short, it said that I tested positive for the SARM Ostarine and unless proven otherwise, that I could be banned for up to 4 years from competing or coaching at any USAPL meet. At this point, I think I’m dreaming so I fall back asleep for another few hours then I wake up again just to see that the email was all too real. I was in such shock and disbelief; I couldn’t imagine how or why my test could’ve come back positive. Confused as to what I should do next, I messaged a friend of mine that I thought would know more about how I should move forward dealing with this, mainly because she’s a stickler for the rules and the person I usually go to if I have any USAPL related questions. So, she told me to email the national office back and ask them what my options are. I know this seems like the obvious course of actions, but I was so in shock that it felt like I couldn’t think straight. In short, I was told that I had 3 options.Accept the ruling- Meaning I would not fight the ruling and be banned from the USAPL for four years. ...

Travis Jewett is a strength coach and chiropractor with a clinic in Cherokee, IA. He is a member of the MobilityWOD staff and teaches seminars and workshops around the world in strength training and human performance. He is also a member of the Kabuki Strength Advisory Board. He works with people of all ages to improve their quality of life through strength and movement. If you have not read the first part, click here to get caught up.Part two is going to start laying down a theoretical framework for why anything is effective at all when helping someone come back from an injury. If you are at all involved in the world of training and/or rehabilitation, you are well aware there are a million ways to spend your money on some kind of device or tool. You will also notice there are a million more ways to work on how you move and even more people you can make an appointment with to work you over and tell you all sorts of things about your current situation (only some of which is likely to be true).What are you supposed to do when you are met with all these options? If you are someone experiencing pain (and even worse if the pain is severe), you are desperately seeking the advice of anyone who can help you experience less pain. This appears to be a reasonable idea. We don’t like to experience pain. It isn’t fun. It can interfere greatly with your everyday life, activities, work, and relationships. Who you decide to seek advice from will also dramatically effect the outcome and your entire future predictions about similar situations and your ability to do or not do things the rest of your life. This is not hyperbole. My apologies if I am scaring...

Travis Jewett is a strength coach and chiropractor with a clinic in Cherokee, IA. He is a member of the MobilityWOD staff and teaches seminars and workshops around the world in strength training and human performance. He is also a member of the Kabuki Strength Advisory Board. He works with people of all ages to improve their quality of life through strength and movement. I recently saw an exchange on Twitter between two professionals in the rehabilitation world. The original tweet mentioned a patient who had started deadlifting because they had a herniated lumbar disc. The first response was from a different professional questioning this course of action. He said something along the lines of, “Hmmmm, was this when he was symptomatic or asymptomatic?” To put this in more context, the person who posted the original tweet is not the person who started the deadlift program. The original person thought it was great this patient had decided to take action into his own hands instead of falling victim to the system. The second person was questioning whether a person with a herniated disc should be deadlifting. I hope you are not confused, because we are going to dive deep into the rabbit hole.I am in the business of helping people who are currently experiencing pain or injury get back to doing the things they need to do and want to do. I have to be able and willing to listen to what a person is telling me and help them work through the possible reasons they have come into my clinic with their current issue. Periodically I get a person who comes to me simply because they want to know if there is anything they can be doing in their training or to take a look at how they move during...