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“The ultimate is not to win, but to reach within the depths of your capabilities and to compete against yourself to the greatest extent possible. When you have that, you have dignity. You have the pride. You can walk about with character and pride no matter in what place you happen to finish. - Billy Mills, 1964 10k Olympic Gold Medalist   Two Races No one predicted that William Mervin Mills would win the gold medal in the 10,000 meter run of the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. A member of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux Tribe) from South Dakota, Billy was a United States Marine who attended the University of Kansas on an athletic scholarship for his considerable running abilities. Billy faced poverty as a youth, was orphaned at age twelve, and experienced repeated racial prejudice that led to suicidal thoughts. On top of it all, Billy had hypoglycemia, which affected his performance on the track. No one predicted Billy would win in Tokyo — no one, that is, but Billy.Given the internal trauma Billy was dealing with due to racism and other life challenges, he later described the 1964 Olympic 10k as two distinct races: “The first was to heal the broken soul. And in the process, I won an Olympic gold medal.” Let this sink in: Mills won the 10k in Tokyo by beating his previous personal best by nearly 50 seconds. In so doing, he set an Olympic record and became the only American to win gold in this discipline, a feat that holds true nearly 60 years later. Mills’ achievement is difficult to comprehend for anyone who has participated in long-distance running. Improving on personal bests by five or ten seconds after many years of high-level competition is a tremendous accomplishment; bettering one’s personal record over 6.2 miles by almost 50 seconds...

Most people who start out in barbell lifting are familiar with conventional deadlifts. It’s typically the style of deadlifting we learn in traditional weightlifting gym setting, P.E., group fitness classes, and even rehabilitation settings to retrain hip hinge patterns. When it comes to sumo deadlifting, it is most commonly seen in the world of powerlifting. The question often gets asked, “should I pull sumo or conventional?” But to simplify this piece, we are actually not going to address that question here. What we want to cover in this piece, are considerations for new lifters to sumo, who have already decided they want to give sumo deadlifting a chance and are experimenting with sumo deadlift technique.To kick off the discussion, the first thing to consider when switching from conventional deadlifts to sumo deadlifts is understanding that there is more to it than just widening your stance and trying to pull. Most people familiar with powerlifting already have this general idea, but a lot of people new to barbell lifting and sumo deadlifting tend to fall into this poor movement pattern, resulting in using the exact same mechanics and strategies to perform the lift as if they were pulling conventional… just with their feet a little wider.Let us paint a picture; the most common technique fault we see with lifters going from conventional to sumo is bringing stance out wide (mostly hip abduction) without giving much thought to foot, knee, and hip angle, and bringing their grip really narrow. This position tends to lead to more upper back flexion requiring more effort to overcome that spinal rounding at the top of the lock out, which also ends up making hip extension difficult. As loads get heavier with this technique fault described, we see people struggling before lock out in an overly flexed,...

It had never been done before. El Capitan — the famous 3,000-foot granite face in Yosemite — once seemed impossible to climb at all, let alone solo and without ropes. But on June 3, 2017, Alex Honnold posed for a National Geographic photo — climbing shoes in hands, wide grin on face — atop the mammoth monolith after 3 hours and 56 minutes of flawless execution that crisp morning. His many years of meticulously detailed practice and planning had culminated in the realization of a dream that, three years after the fact, remains unthinkable to the lion’s share of humanity.Why did he do it? How did he do it? Journalists around the world covered the incredible, death-defying feat, and the Free Solo documentary has netted almost $30M as of this writing. Nathaniel Rich of The Atlantic claimed that what we envy in Honnold is not so much his climbing ability, but rather “his ability to forget about death.”It may seem over-the-top to compare the exploits of competitive lifters to Honnold’s awe-inspiring solo climbs; after all, what percentage of iron game participants transition to Valhalla after a one-rep max attempt? But make no mistake about it: loading more weight than your body has ever handled onto a squat bar and entering that special gauntlet — solo — requires serious commitment and extensive preparation, the lack of which has resulted in countless injuries (or worse). The PrecipiceWhile cliffs, crags, and escarpments lie squarely within the climber’s world, there is a very real precipice that lifters face as part of their iron journey. The fact that this dizzying overhang is more psychological than physical in no way diminishes its power.EliteFTS founder Dave Tate calls this precipice The Void, or what occurs deep inside the lifter during “the moment between the chalk box and the...

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...