Advice to Aspiring Strength Coachs/Trainers

I had decent from at a young age

Some of you out there are interested in a career in the health and fitness industry.  It is really a cool and humbling experience when you come to me for advice, or ask me for help, or want to shadow my classes or be an intern at the gym.  That is all great and I am here to help each and every one of you as much as I can.

But I witnessed something the other day that really bothered me.  I was inside a gym (one of the commercial varieties) and saw a young man working with a personal trainer.  It was clearly his first or one of his very first training sessions he had ever had.  I couldn’t help but hear this trainer pick apart everything this young man was doing wrong, trying to correct every bit of every movement he was doing.  By the time he finished I was praying for this trainer to just say “great job today, way to work I am looking forward to taking more steps in the right direction”.  Instead, he finished by telling the kid he still needed to work on his form.

I was so disgusted I actually made it a point to flag the kid down, tell him not to get discouraged, and to find a different coach.  I didn’t even tell him I was a coach, I wasn’t trying to steal business; I was trying to save a kid from being discouraged to ever work out again.

Here is the down right truth:  Every new client you ever train, or I ever train is going to have pretty bad form when they start out.  Some will learn quickly some will be more of a process to get things right.

Here is a truth some coaches are too scared to say:  It is ok for even intermediate lifters to not have perfect form.  In fact it is ok for them to still be working on their form and still make progress with their weights.

Here is what new Trainers/coaches need to realize:  In almost every situation you come across with someone you are working with, trying to change too many things at once isn’t going to get you anywhere.  The best way to go about things is to fix one issue at a time.

Now I am not saying form is not important.  It is actually probably the most important thing there is when it comes to training.   Without proper form will not be able to make significant progress, you will put yourself at a very high risk of injury, and you won’t get a whole lot out of your training in general.  You will make yourself really sore and your body will ache in places you didn’t’ even think possible, and if you do escape without getting hurt the gains you make are going to be minimal.

There is a huge difference between having perfect form and moving weight in a way that is going to get you hurt.  The best way to fix issues with form is also pretty logical.

1.  If the athlete or client is doing something that is going to cause injury fix it immedietely.  Lower the weight, make them do it without weight, whatever you have to do.  You can never let something like this go on.

2.  Then you want to try and fix all the little things ONE THING AT A TIME.

If the person has minor flaws that is keeping them from progressing; these are the things to start fixing.  It is ok for them to keep up with their training while they are fixing these issues.  The human body is pretty intelligent and as you work to fix certain things the body is going to start catching on all by itself.  It will probably learn the correct way to move the weight even before you brain fully catches up.  It’s a phenomenon called experience.

No matter who you train or who you work with; they are going to be more motivated and work harder when they see results and notice themselves getting stronger/better.  Furthermore, I promise you that they are more excited to hear about the things they are doing right far more than the things they are doing wrong.

I am not telling you to sugar coat everything and lie to them.  Be honest, but be encouraging.  Tell them what they need to fix, show them why certain things need extra attention. But don’t forget to commend their accomplishments, their hard work, and everything they are improving on.

I have shared this story before but it is a good one to show you that no one is above learning more or fixing their form.  At a point in time when I was already ranked as the 6th strongest person in the country, I worked with a fellow expert (Dave Davis) for almost a full year every week on my deadlift.  My issues were minor, but I still had them.  I continued to get stronger while these things got fixed.  Not one time did I get hurt while progressing and fixing things at the same time.

Don’t let people who only want to tell you what you are doing wrong get you down.  Most of the time it is because you have just accomplished something they never have.  Even more common is the advice is coming from someone who has no right to be giving advice on the subject in the first place.  Don’t get discouraged that the things you do may not look pretty.  Just focus on your progress no matter how slow it may be.  remember slow progress is still progress.  If you plan on being a strength coach in the future remember these things.  Don’t be the trainer I mentioned in the beginning of this post.  I know he meant well, and lifting with proper form does make progress, gains, and strength come easier and faster but you can’t fix everything in a day.  Give it time, remember when you started you didn’t have perfect form either.  You can correct the negative and be a postive influence at the same time.

2013 North American Storngman Nationals championships Recap

It has been a crazy and emotional week for me, and things have still not completely settled down.  I have been responding to messages from all you as well as people across the country who I have met and competed with, and most amazingly even people I have never met who watched me down in Texas.

I had been debating as to how much and how much detail I wanted to go into in this recap, as it is still almost not real to me.  The amount of support I have received and messages referring to me as an inspiration, from those both close to me and complete strangers has had my mind in overdrive, and quite emotional.  This is part of the reason I haven’t gotten into a whole lot at the gym.  I will be doing a more detailed write-up on this whole event in the newsletter that will go out later this week/next week.

For this I will keep it simple and give you a breakdown of how things shook out.

Wednesday:  Adam and I flew into Dallas already starving and dehydrating ourselves.  We got to the hotel.  Adam was already basically at weight, but I let the sweat-fest begin.  At arrival at the hotel I was 186.5 lbs, a little heavier than I wanted to be.  I ended up calling it a night when I was 178.6.

Thursday:  I woke up at 8:30 and was only down to 177.6.  I wasn’t able to make weight and weight in till 11:00 A.M., two hours after I had planned.  All in all though the weight cut was smoother than all my others and at no time did I feel that bad or on the verge of passing out/dying.  Immediately I drank a pedialite and headed out for breakfast.  I spent the rest of the day rehydrating and eating a ton of food.  Went to bed at almost 191 lbs and was feeling good.

Friday:  I went to the competition early as Adam was competing before me.  With weather being a factor, and safety reasons competing with wet implements we started a full three hours later than we were suppose too.  This didn’t shake me, I stayed focused got warmed up and I was ready.  This was the biggest 175 lb class in the history of the sport and they would all be bringing their A game.

Event 1:  220 Axle Clean once and Press Away.

I was expecting to put up a 15.  I had hit the number in training and was feeling very strong.  Clean was easy and I got into a nice rhythm.  I hit 11 pretty quickly and relatively easily.  I thought I had #12 locked out but was no-repped (I didn’t get video so I never got to see it on film to see if I agreed or not).  I tried one more rep, but was not close to locking out.  I set the bar down and still had 20-25 seconds left on the clock.  I took a breather and re-cleaned the bar, again the clean felt easy.  I gave two more pushes on the bar, but neither more than 70-75% to lockout.  I settled for 11.  A disappointing number for me but a good placing and ended up tying for 4th in the event.  Most guys numbers seemed to be down, not exactly sure why, nor did I give it more thought.  Just had to stay positive and move along.  Honestly this was the exact placing I expected, even with a number below my expectations.

Event 2:  Wheel Barrow Carry and Load:  150 lb keg 75 feet, 200 lb keg 50 feet, 250 lb keg 25 feet.  All in a wheel barrow with 400 lbs of plates on the handles.  The wheel barrow was easily over 1000 lbs and was estimated at 1375 lbs.

This year’s suicide medley being event #2 was certainly a change of pace, and being much heavier than last years, was sure to make the later events interesting and unpredictable.  I was able to load all three kegs extremely quickly and they felt great.  When it came to moving the wheel barrow the story changed.  It became apparent almost immediately that I was not going to able to walk this wheel barrow the distance without putting it down.  After a couple more picks it became apparent that I likely was not going to finish the medley.  In an event like this every foot counts.  I Fought with it till the end, and came about 15 feet from finishing.  Good enough to win the heat and take 10th place in the event.

Event 3:  Car Deadlift

My former nemesis.  This year the weight of the car was going to be much heavier than last year and they made us all well aware of this weeks before the competition.  This made me happy.  At the rules meeting the day before, they informed us that not only was it going to be heavy but instead of pulling off of three boards, we would be pulling off one board.  This makes pick lower, and makes the lift more difficult, at the time I saw this as an advantage to me.  Since we competed so late on day one I was able to see all the lightweights (200 and 231’s) earlier in the day do their car deadlift, and there were more zeros involved than the last 4 FIFA world cups put together.  This was going to be brutal.  My assumptions were correct as I saw nearly every 175 competitor in front of me unable to lift the car.  A Short conversation with Adam yielding me saying this, “I am picking this up, or this will be the last even of my Nationals.”  When Adam asked me why I said that I said, and for the first time ever I was 100% serious, “Because if I don’t get it I am going to hurt or kill myself trying.”  At the go signal, I pulled with everything I had, it felt like I was pulling every part of my upper body apart from each other, but it moved and it came up with decent speed.  With confidence, I pulled another.  Tightened my straps and pulled two more.  Took a breather and thought I had two more in me.  I was dead wrong, as my last two attempts barely even got the handles to start bending.  4 pulls was my number and I was very happy with that.  It was good enough for 4th place in the event.  On a personal level, huge victory for me for 2 reasons:  1.  The Car Deadlift really hurt me last year and I told myself I would finish in the top 5 this year and 2.  I had more pulls than anyone in the contest who didn’t wear a deadlift suit.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I don’t like suits and don’t like that they are legal in the sport, so being able to say I beat all the other raw deadlifters, was a big personal victory.

Event 4:  600 lb frame carry-Due to time constraints was pushed to Day 2.

I ended Day 1 in third place.  1 pt out of second and 5 pts out of first.

Day 2:

Event 4:  Combination of Original Event 4 and Event 5:  Yoke and Frame Medley

630 lb Yoke and 550 lb frame.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this.  The frame was my worst event going in.  The Yoke is always a strong event for me.  Rules changed for everyone so it was fair and I realized thinking about this was a waste of time, so I said F#^k it.  My start gave me a little advantage.  I was in a lane next to Pat Davidson, the best 175 lb yoke walker on the planet.  He is also excellent on the frame carry.  I figured if I keep up with him, or even stay within a stones throw I would be in good shape.  At the whistle Pat took off like he was running a 100 yard dash (as I expected) and I not only kept up with him, I was much closer than I even thought possible.  On the switch frame pick went smooth and I got off to a good start.  Boom.  I drop it, WTF!  My grip has never failed me on contest before.  I would drop the frame two more times, finishing in 36 seconds.  A respectable time, but just 14th place in the event.  I didn’t lose a whole lot of ground, but after my yoke going as well as it did.  I was disappointed.  My grip was more cashed from day 1 than I expected.  This would end up being a big game changer for me, but lesions learned you can’t PR in everything everyday.

Event 5:  Press Medley:  150 lb Keg, 220 lb Axle Press, 235 lb log, 130 lb Circus DB

If there was an event I went into nationals knowing I had a chance to win it was this one.  It didn’t matter if the weights were 30 lb heavier on each implement, I can move through this event.  I watched even the best pressers post times in high 30’s to low 40’s seconds.  I hadn’t heard a time faster than 35.  Before my heat I asked my judge if I was permitted to press the implements backwards so I would not have to look in the sun.  This was allowed as implements could be pressed in any order.  When it was my time, I told the judge to forget what I said, I would be pressing in counter-clockwise order all on the outside, and I would be moving fast.  I wanted him to know the order so he could be in position faster.  Axle, Dumbbell, Log, Keg went up as smooth as it did the hundreds of times I went through it in my head.  I dropped the keg and knew I just set the bar and set it high.  I didn’t even wait for my time.  The judge actually followed my celebration to show me the stop watch:  25.xx seconds.  Easily a full 6-10 seconds faster than anyone who had gone before me.  I was shocked to see a competitor complete the medley less than a second slower, and I could only applaud as last years World Champion would beat my time.  Still a second place finish, which closed the gap on the leader and with one event to go, I was not only not out of it, I was well within reach.

Event 6:  Stone carry and load.  Carry a 220, 240, and 260 lb stone in that order, fifteen feet each and load them over a 52 inch bar.

52 inch load is a tough one for a competitor my size so I taught and trained myself to carry the stones on my shoulder.  At the whistle I attacked the stones on a mission.  Loaded all three smooth and fast.  23 seconds.  A full 2 seconds faster than anytime I hit in training.  Personal Record.  Couldn’t be happier with the way I finished.  I would have to wait to see if it was fast enough.  After I saw the current leader load his stones, although I didn’t know his time, and nothing would be official for another couple hours, I knew in my heart my time was not quite fast enough.  I finished in 9th place in the event.  Again an improvement from last year as the stones were my 2nd worst event at nationals (besides the car deadlift).

I finished in 2nd place.  I went in knowing I had as good a chance as anyone there to win.  I didn’t disappoint myself.  At no point in time during the contest was I any lower than 4th place.  This group of guys is so strong I can honestly say that the field was even stronger than the World Championships last year.  I left the banquet with my awards, invite to The World Championships for the second straight year, a little prize money, and the confidence that this year I have the ability, skill, focus, and desire to be World Champion in 17 weeks.

My Competition Video (only 4 of 6 events taped):  Quint Zambon 2nd Place 2013 NAS National Championships

Extremely proud of my teammate and friend for also qualifying for the World Championships.

Adam Corra 7th place 200 lb Division:  Adam Corra 2013 National Championships Full Video

Davis Speed Center Continues to Produce Top Notch Results

I have been getting many requests for updates and video from Nationals this past weekend.  I am still waiting on getting copies of my videos and I will have video and a full recap up by the end of the week.

It was an amazing weekend for not only me but my teammate and dear friend Adam Corra.  2013 North American Strongman National Championships was the biggest one in the history of the organization.  It was also one that yielded the most rewards.  They would be taking the top 10 – 175 lb competitors and the top 8 – 200 lb competitors to qualify for the 2nd Annual Strongman Fitness World Championships at the Arnold Fitness Expo and Arnold Classic in Ohio.

I am proud to announce for the second straight year Davis Speed Center will be sending two athletes to the biggest stage there is.  Myself (2nd place at 175) and Adam (7th place in 200 lb weight class) both received invites to represent our country and take on the strongest people all over the world.

Stay tuned this week for all the updates and details.

Now we certainly are not the only DSC athletes making headlines:

Brett Covalt lights it up:

Shane Evans to Northern Illinois:


Annie Fox-Athlete of the Week

Sami Staples for the first time is not making headlines for setting records.  I am posting this article because I am 100% confident she will return from this better than ever.


Big Shane can’t stay out of the paper:

Back to Basics: Deadlift and Athletes in the News

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10 Tips to Increase your Deadlift:

Breaking Plateaus

Hitting a sticking point on the deadlift is something I know a little bit about..  As the deadlift has been my nemesis, my unicorn, my best friend, and really probably a little bit of all three.  I have taken my deadlift from a weakest part of my arsenal, to a respectable level, and finally to an Elite Level and there was many times I got stuck along the way.  Below I will through some tips, advice, and even a few exercises to help you get through your deadlift plateau.


  1. First things First.  Fix your technique, or if it doesn’t need fixing just work on perfecting it.  Without the right technique you are going to get stuck.  The Deadlift is  one thing that you won’t just be able to “muscle up” just using your back muscles.  The rest of these tips will be operating under the fact technique is not an issue, unless otherwise mentioned.
  2. Deadlift  More often:  You don’t need to add a bunch of assistance exercises or worry about adding things to help you posterior chain.  You don’t need to worry about pulling against bands, or chains. All of these things have a place and all of these things do help, but until you get your deadlift to a decent level (Call it 400 lbs for a Male and 225 lbs for a female) don’t over think things.  I also don’t mean to add more sets to your deadlift days or deadlift on a second day in addition to your normal workout.  You just want to make sure you are not skipping your deadlifts in favor of another exercise.
  3. Work on your grip.  I am a believer in not using grip assistance until grip becomes your limiting factor.  Don’t rely on these things.  You have all heard me say that when your grip gets stronger you get stronger in every lift.  This is especially true for an exercise like the deadlift.

Here is a picture of me deadlifting in 1974, right before I met Dave


  1. Pull Faster.  If you use correct technique (and we assume you do since you have gotten down this far) this is not cheating, nor will you get hurt, nor is it bad for your joints.  If you do it correctly and under control, there is nothing wrong with this. The bar is going to slow down the higher it gets, that is fine, just keep as much force on the bar as you can throughout the lift.
  2. Sleep:  Nothing Kills motivation on a deadlift day like getting to the gym sleep deprived.  Sleep also aids in recovery and actually builds strength (topic for another day). No matter what your excuse is for staying up late, it is bad, and neither I nor anyone else believes it.  Be rested and break PR’s.
  3. Don’t Pick Up the Bar; Do Not Pick Up the Bar!!  I never think of this exercise as picking anything up. Have you ever wondered why they call the Deadlift a pull, or when you hear two people discussing their deadlift they ask “What did you pull?”  That is because you are not really ‘picking ‘anything up.  All too often people rely on their grip, arms, and lower back to pick the bar up.  This couldn’t be more wrong.  Take a look at your arms, and then compare their size to the size of your legs. Not easy to see the legs have the size and power in the battle of extremities.  Focus on pushing the Earth away from you and pulling the bar back toward you. This is one thing I have had an issue with for years when the weight gets heavy.  It has been cured, and the way I think of it is this: Drive your Heals into the ground, and push your hips forward.  This will keep your body tight with the bar, and not have any slack, and is also the best way to apply force to the barbell.  If you are ever talking about picking anything up, it better be a heavy stone or a cute girl.

If this is your deadlift set up, it needs to be fixed or you will need surgery


  •  7.  Identify your Weakness and Address it:  Maybe Strength is not the issue?  Add in speed pulls at lighter a weight.  Is your sticking point right off the ground? Try things like deficit deadlifts and snatch grip deads.  Are you losing it mid-range?  pull from a rack at or near your sticking point.   Lockouts your problem?  Train heavy rack lockouts.  There are many other Deadlift Variations for different problems so once the problem is identified, the fix will come easy.
  • 8.  Choose the Correct Assistance lifts:  Again address your weaknesses.  For general purposes my personal favorites to help everyone are:  Heavy Sled Pull Throughs, Reverse Hyper-Extensions, Good Mornings, glute Ham Raises, and BB Hip Raises.
  • 9.  Front  Squats:  I like front squats, they have excellent carry over to my sport of strongman, I recover faster from them, and when I am training heavy yoke walks I enjoy limiting the huge amount of weight on my back as much as I can.  Here is what I know, when my front squat is strong or increasing so is the ease of getting things off the ground:  Stones, Tires, Deadlifts, Etc.
  • 10. Farmer Walks:  The Pick is higher, the weight is at your sides, and you walk. It may not sound much like a deadlift, but they can be a slump buster.  Most of same musculature is trained on the farmers pick and walk as the deadlift. Once you begin Walking, each leg is working unilaterally and the hips and stabilizer muscles in the legs are being trained as well. Your abs and low back have to keep your body tight and walking holding heavy weight will train your grip about as good as it gets. So grab  a couple implements and start moving them.

I hope that all helps and as always don’t hesitate to send me a message if you have any question.

Below are some recent and former DSC Athletes making the News:

Athletes in the News:

Lauren Leverenz and Kassi Dvorachek

Alex Csech, Mike borst, and Ephraim Lee:





Back to Basics: Hang Clean

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Few exercises carryover to sports performance better and to more sports than the hang clean.  It is also famous for being one of the most frustrating lifts to master by means of both weight and technique.

Plateauing in the hang clean is a common issue at any level.  It is also something I have discussed at length with other strength coaches across the country.  Everyone has their own tips, secrets, and ways to try and break through barriers.

I am not, nor do I have time to discuss all of the methods I have heard about, and I am not going to tell you that any of them are wrong.  The best I can do is offer you some advice as well as some things that have worked for me and many of my athletes over the years, to help burst through some barriers.  Results don’t lie.

One thing everyone out there can agree upon is this:  The Hang Clean is a very technical lift.  Even the slightest flaws or adjustments in technique can hurt or help your Hang Clean a great amount.  So working on technique is one thing that can’t be ignored.  Further more the more fluid and technical you are on this movement, the better you will be at it.

Now here are some things that have always helped both myself and my clients:

  1. Just  do them.  Here is something I notice every year:  when it comes to hang cleans, there is a large spectrum of time it takes to get the movement down.  I have had athletes pick it up faster than I ever thought possible, and I have athletes let their frustration win the battle for a very, very long time.  What I have noticed almost universally is this:  the more you do them and try to do them right the faster the movement is going to click with your mind and your body.  Power Cleans are a variation will help as well.  If I had to list my top three supplementary exercises to improve your hang clean, the power clean would make the list.
  2. Squat and Deadlift.  I am convinced that these two exercises can and do fix almost every issue out there.  I once had a heavy deadlift day cure my male pattern baldness.  When I see people get strong in these two movements I see them get stronger in almost all movements across the board.  So keep these two movements in your program at all times and do the heavy variation.  To Expand on this further.  Executing Speed Pulls (Deadlift Variation) is another great movement to improve your hang clean.
  3. Rack Cleans:  See the video below (and these are my first rack cleans in 5 years, literally, so while it may not be perfect it is close enough).  Rack cleans are an awesome way to improve your technique.  So lets briefly talk about technique here.  What does the hang clean train?  Well it trains your body.  I don’t like describing it as a lower body exercise because of how many muscles are actually involved in it, but for the sake of this article it is.  Yes you have heard me say, or if you haven’t I often do say, let your legs do the work.  I say this for 2 reasons:  first it is your legs and hips that will be doing the majority of the work, and secondly people who struggle with this movement try to make it all about their arms and pulling the weight up.  Do not pull the weight up, explode the weight up.  The bar should should float to the top position and at the top position should feel weightless. Rack cleans will force you to jump when cleaning the weight as well as getting a good shrug at the top.  It will help teach you and your body to use your lower body power to move the weight.  Master this and the full hang clean will become much easier.     Video of Rack Clean
  4. TLC.  When you are training, your goal should be to get better in every aspect that will help you achieve your goals.  This is great and when you see progression in everything you feel great and you know things are going well. Everybody at some point or another is going to find a weakness in their training.  Do not avoid this, do the opposite.  Turn your weakness into your strength.  If the hang clean is a weakness make it a priority. This may mean your gains in other areas will suffer temporarily.  In the short team, and to address an area that needs attention, this is ok.  Let it happen, the gains will come back quickly in the areas you already excel at, so give a little extra focus to the hang clean.
  5. Clean up your technique.  Can’t say this enough.  Odds are you are not going to be able to do this working out on your own so come find me and I will fix you up.

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