With the football season approaching, we wanted to congratulate the following athletes for their pre-season honors…
Brennen Fortune, St. John’s (Fisher)
1st Team All-American!
Brennen was the 1st college athlete to enter our summer program this year; and his early arrival paid off! The offensive tackle “graduated” from our summer program with the following stats…
680 lb. trap bar deadlift (overall gym record)
615 lb. box squat
425 lb. bench press
45” box jump (weighing 310 lbs.!)
*Brennen is listed as a 1st team All-American in every major college football publication.
I want to issue a warning to all of the defensive lineman that will be lining up against Brennen this year…although he’s listed at 285 lbs. in every magazine; he “graduated” our program at a lean, athletic 311 lbs.!! (Besides David Diehl of the NY Giants, Brennen is, without question, the most athletic 300 lb. athlete we have EVER had in our program!)
Here’s some footage of Brennen performing “triceps death” with 275 lbs. during his last upper body workout of the summer. FYI, it’s not supposed to look this easy…
Joe Sandberg, University of Pennsylvania
Ivy League Pre-season Player of the Year
Joe Sandberg was literally my first “disciple” when I graduated college and started training athletes; his dad sent him to me when he was an 8th grade, skinny bastard basketball player who hated lifting weights. Now, 10 years later, he is the most feared running back in the Ivy League! (Athlon Sports magazine listed Joe as a front-runner for Ivy League Player of the Year.)
After suffering from some shoulder problems the past 2 seasons, Joe is finally 100% healthy and he had the best off-season of training of his career! For the 1st time ever, Joe weighs over 200 lbs. (212 lbs. to be exact) and he’s the strongest he’s ever been. Even though he was the smallest competitor at this years Strongman Competition, he had an incredible day and placed in the Top 5! Look for Joe to tear sh*t up in the Ivy League this year!
Brian Cushing, University of Southern California
#1 ranked linebacker in his class
Three years ago, I wrote a little article entitled, “Westside for Skinny Bastards”. In that article, I spoke about a 17-year-old kid that went from 213 lbs. to 231 lbs. on my strength training program. Well, that 231-pound kid is now a 250-pound BEAST at the biggest college football program in the world! Brian Cushing has been named the #1 outside linebacker in the nation on the #1 ranked team in the nation! (Nfldraftscout.com has Brian listed as the #1 linebacker prospect in the 2009 NFL Draft Class!)
Even with all of his accolades, Brian has remained very “grounded” and focused. Whenever he’s home in New Jersey, he still trains his ass off, sees his nutritionist & gets treatments from our chiropractor. We wish Brian, and the USC football team, the best of luck this season!
You mention the “Illinois drill” in your Westside for skinny bastards part 2 article. The problem is that I have searched everywhere on the internet & on your site and I cant seem to find it! I want to add it to my running program so can you please describe it to me? Thank you in advance!!
People have been asking me to describe the Illinois Drill since the day I published “Westside for Skinny Bastards, Part II”; unfortunately, it is very difficult to describe that drill through words, so I have been blowing off the question for years (I apologize). But, I am happy to announce that I finally brought my video camera to one of our conditioning workouts so you can finally SEE the drill.
Below I have provided 2 videos of the Illinois Drill being performed at the end of one of our conditioning workouts. I like to throw this drill in at the end of a conditioning workout and see if our athletes can complete it in less than 15 seconds. On this particular day, we had our athletes perform the Illinois Drill 2X with about 2-3 minutes rest between sets at the end of the workout.
The video below shows an athlete completing the drill in 12.75 seconds after we had already conditioned for 45 minutes…
That was the fastest time of the day!
Here’s a 240-pound fullback completing the drill in 13.25 seconds…
Not bad for the end of the workout!!
FYI, the 4 “corner” cones are set up 10 yards apart from each other in this drill. The 4 “center” cones are set up straight down the middle from the corner cones.
This drill is a great “finisher” to a conditioning workout!
Q: Mr. DeFranco – I am a huge fan of yours and I visit your site DAILY. I try to do everything that I see your athletes doing. After reading about this years strongman contest I decided that I have to start incorporating a strongman day into my routine (I have 2 training partners that want to do it with me.) my major problem is that we don’t have a huge tire. Also we would basically have to perform our strongman day inside of our gym. (The owner of the gym is cool – he lets us use chalk – and he has some good equipment in the gym, trap bars, safety bar, buffalo bar, fat bar, dumbbells up to 175pounds.) Is it possible to have a strongman day inside of a gym? I figured if anyone would have any suggestions, it would be you coach!!
Although I feel that strongman training is best performed outside, there is always a way to get the job done! Ironically, we performed our last strongman session with our college football players inside my gym this year. (Our last strongman session was performed the week after our Annual Strongman Contest; we realized that our athletes weren’t going to have the same intensity that they had the previous week, so we decided to change things up a bit and do a strongman workout inside. The workout actually turned out to be a lot more intense than we thought it would be!)
If you have to perform your strongman workout inside, I feel that your 4 main “events” should consist of a deadlift variation, squat variation, full-body conditioning type of movement & some kind of heavy “hold” with an odd object or heavy dumbbells. Obviously, the possibilities are endless, but those 4 categories of “events” pop into my head as the “core exercises” for an indoor strongman workout.
Here are some sample exercises…
Instead of performing deadlifts with a traditional set/rep scheme, I like performing “timed” deadlifts for your strongman workout. For example, pick a weight and try to complete as many reps as possible in one minute. You can choose a heavy weight in which you struggle to complete 6-10 reps in the allotted amount of time; or you can choose a weight in which you can perform over 20 reps. Both variations have a different training effect, but both work well. I also suggest you use a variety of bars/implements to deadlift with - you can use a regular barbell, thick bar, trap bar, dumbbells or farmers walk implements.
Below you will see a video of one of our high school athletes performing deadlifts with our farmers walk implements. The athlete had 1 minute to complete as many reps as possible. By the way, each implement weighs 232 lbs.!! Check it out…
You can perform “timed” squats in the same fashion that I just described the timed deadlifts. But, to be honest, this isn’t my favorite way to squat during a “strongman” workout. The reason is because you really need to have good training partners/spotters at all times. If your body shuts down during a deadlift, you can just drop the weight; the same does NOT hold true for the squat! I’ve witnessed way too many squat accidents in my lifetime at commercial gyms so I’m cautious when I recommend high-rep squatting to people.
For “strongman training” in the gym, I like squatting off of pins or from suspended chains. When I refer to “squatting off of pins”, I’m referring to squatting in the same fashion that someone would perform rack lockouts for the bench press. (This is also referred to as a “concentric squat” because you are only performing the concentric phase of the movement and then basically dropping the weight back onto the safety pins; simply put, you start from the “down” position instead of the “up” position so there is no eccentric phase of the movement.) Basically, you set the barbell on the safety pins and perform a “lockout” for the squat. You can set the pins at various heights and try to lock out the heaviest weight possible. (If you can’t lockout the weight, you are not in any danger so this is a good exercise if you’re training by yourself.)
You can perform these “concentric squats” out of suspended chains as well. In order to do this, you must hang a pair of heavy chains from the top of your squat rack and place the barbell inside of the chains. The length of the chains will determine your range of motion. If you are going to add suspended chain squats to your routine, I suggest attaching your chains to THESE “rack savers”. They only cost 60 bucks and they are a great tool for performing chain suspended work (bench press, squats, deadlifts). The owner of your gym will also thank you because these “rack savers” prevent the chains from scratching the hell out of the squat racks.
Speaking of suspended chain squats, here is a “pyramid” variation of suspended chain box squats that we utilized during our “inside” strongman workout. This is an incredible exercise to add to your strongman training! (Just make sure you have two good training partners to load & unload the weight on each side!) Check it out…
As you can see, we suspended a safety squat bar from 2 chains and we added weight to the bar after each repetition. The chains were set at a specific height; basically, when the athlete was sitting on the box, the chains absorbed most of the weight. This enabled us to load (or unload) the barbell at the bottom of each rep without adding too much stress to the athletes low back. We started with 155 lbs. on the bar (the safety squat bar weighs 65 lbs.) and we added 50 lbs. each repetition until the athlete worked up to 355 lbs. After he hit 355 lbs., we removed 50 lbs. each repetition until he went back down to 155 lbs. This is a great exercise to build starting strength, mental toughness and pack some size on your legs! Give it a try!
“Full body” exercises
The possibilities are endless for this category. Thick bar, kettlebell or sandbag clean & presses are all great choices. If you’re interested in purchasing some new equipment for your indoor strongman training, I highly recommend getting a LOG! We incorporated the log clean & press this year into our training and we loved it.
That’s one strong chick!!
Maybe the most practical (and cheapest) “full body” strongman movement is to make yourself a sandbag. Besides performing clean & presses with the sandbag, you can “load & unload” the sandbag onto a box, table, bench or another piece of equipment. Basically, the goal is to pick up a heavy sandbag off of the ground and place it onto a box (or a sturdy piece of equipment); then, pick the sandbag back up and place it back on the ground; repeat as many times as possible in the prescribed amount of time. (We usually use our reverse hyper for loading & unloading the sandbag; plyo boxes also work well. Obviously, the higher the box/equipment you’re loading the sandbag onto, the harder it is.)
One of the “staples” in any strongman-type of workout has to be grip training. You don’t need to hold anything fancy, either. In your email you mentioned that your gym has a “fat bar”; we usually load a fat barbell with 185 lbs. or 225 lbs. and hold it as long as possible with a pronated (overhand) grip.
You can also keep it really simple and just hold 2 heavy dumbbells as long as possible.
Holding 150 lb. dumbbells will work…
Hopefully I opened your mind to some “indoor” strongman training ideas. Now you have no excuses!
Go get STRONG!
Q: Joe –
I just saw your new video on youtube in which one of your athletes jumps in the air while holding dumbbells, then he drops the dumbbells when he lands and then jumps onto a big box!! Man that was cool. I have never seen anything like that. Can you explain the reasoning behind that exercise? If its to complicated I understand.
We call that exercise a “weighted, reactive box jump”. For those of you who haven’t seen the video, here it is…
This is an exercise that we have been experimenting with on some of our advanced athletes. (If you read my website regularly, you’re probably well aware that we are constantly searching for new ways to make our athletes stronger & more explosive. This exercise is another example of our constant “search”.)
Anyway, the science behind this exercise really isn’t too complicated. First of all, I have stated many times that I feel that the most important part of the vertical jump is how quickly you can descend into the jump. This is because a rapid descent means that your muscles must stretch rapidly; when your muscles stretch rapidly, they will contract equally as fast during the counter-movement (jump). Jumping in the air before performing a box jump helps to accelerate the eccentric landing, which in theory, should help the athlete generate more speed during the concentric phase of the jump onto the box. Taking this theory a step further, if we’re holding light dumbbells during the initial ground contact of our landing, we will descend even faster due to the increased weight upon landing; so we’re accelerating the landing even more by holding the dumbbells, but then we drop the dumbbells and jump onto the box with just our bodyweight! This creates an explosive jump because we have a very quick lowering and then we are able to jump up with less weight than we landed with! This is an incredible way to develop explosive force. Hopefully the above explanation made sense.
We have been incorporating this exercise into our dynamic-effort lower body day. After a thorough warm-up, we perform 8-10 sets of 1 jump with about a minute rest between sets. We follow this with a unilateral exercise and then a posterior chain exercise. I will keep everyone posted on the progress of our athletes after another couple of weeks.
The one thing that I must mention is that this exercise requires a tremendous amount of coordination. It’s definitely not for everyone. But, if you’re an advanced athlete that wants to try a new exercise to improve your explosive power/jumping ability; give it a try!
Q: Coach Defranco, can you please elaborate more on this documentary that you have been mentioning? when will you be done with it? what exactly is it about? are you basically showing real life case studies of your summer clients? if its even half as good as super strength it will be a huge hit!! please fill me in on the details - im dying to see it!!
A: (I apologize that this answer is a little long; but, I've been getting so many emails with questions regarding the documentary that’s being filmed at my gym. I wanted to answer at least one question thoroughly so I can refer all other questions to this answer. If you're not interested in hearing about the documentary, just don't read this answer!! Thanks -Joe D.)
First off, "I" have no say in when the documentary will be done. Remember that this video will be NOTHING like my Combine video or Super Strength video; this thing is a completely different animal! I have nothing to do with the production of this thing. The only thing that I did was give the production company permission to come to my gym and film everything that we do for the entire summer. Once they had my “blessing”; they took over from there.
When the production company first approached me, it sounded like a cool idea…They told me that they wanted to come in and film a couple of training sessions each day and then put together a “behind the scenes” documentary about how some hardcore athletes train. It has now turned into something that NONE OF US (not even the production company) could have ever imagined. Basically, it looks like they are going to make a "movie" out of the footage that they filmed this summer! When I say "movie", I'm not talking about a movie with actors; they are basically calling it a movie like 'PUMPING IRON' was a movie…basically, a reality movie. I will try and explain what has been going on as briefly as possible...
Like I stated above, when this production company first approached me, their original plan was to film at my gym 3-5 days a week during the months of June & July. Basically, it was going to be a documentary/behind the scenes look at how athletes train at a unique warehouse gym. After the first 3 weeks of filming, the producer started to get to know some of our athletes. Instead of just filming their workouts at the gym, he started filming them at home, talking to their coaches, parents, etc. The producer quickly realized that we definitely attract a different breed of person to my gym. Once he got to know the "person" behind each athlete, he started "rooting" for them much harder while they were busting their ass at my gym, playing their sport, etc.
For example, after filming Deon Anderson's 1st workout, the producer was BLOWN AWAY by Deon’s intensity, his strength, and the incredible energy that he brings to the gym. Then, he sat down with Deon after the workout and interviewed him and he was shocked to learn about all the adversity that Deon has overcome; Deon has some family members in prison, he had to live in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country during a tough time in his life, his wife just had their 1st son, etc., etc. When you hear/see all the things that Deon has been through, you will be amazed at what he’s been able to accomplish. When you see where Deon grew up, but then you see the actual phone call from Jerry Jones when he tells Deon that the Dallas Cowboys are drafting him, it will send chills down your spine!!!
The “Robert DeNiro” of our movie
I don't want to give away too much, but the point I'm trying to make is that this is NOT a "workout" video; it is basically going to be a movie about overcoming adversity and succeeding in life. Yes, you are going to see crazy workout footage of Deon squatting 600 lbs. with chains, athletes pushing the Prowler & dragging the sled until they puke, 55" box jumps, etc. But, you're also going to spend time with all of the featured athletes and learn about their lives outside of the gym; you will see the ghetto that Deon Anderson grew up in, you will see two rugby players from England living in New Jersey (without a car) for a month & WALKING to the gym everyday just so they can train with the best; The stories in this movie are going to inspire you; believe me, after the producer filled me in on some of the sacrifices our athletes make just so they can train with us, I was inspired! The thing that makes the stories so inspirational is that every single one of them is REAL!
With all of the above being said, I must admit that I have not seen ANY of the footage yet. I obviously am at the gym everyday when they film, but all of the footage outside of the gym that didn't involve me will be completely new to me as well. The producers of this movie did not tell me anything up until a week ago; they wanted to keep everything as real as possible, so they gave us NO feedback - good or bad. Now, since they are almost done shooting, they let me in on their little "secret"; and their little secret was that this little documentary has the potential to be an award-winning film. (I still can't quite comprehend this myself.)
Anyway, they were supposed to be wrapping up, but we had an unexpected athlete show up at our gym a couple of weeks ago and start training with us; this kid is an amateur boxer that is about to turn pro (and probably win a world title). When the production company watched him train and then interviewed him and his boxing coach, they realized that they had ANOTHER very interesting PERSON that has overcome much adversity in his life. So they are going to film him for another month and then wrap up after his next fight. (They also still need to fly to Dallas to see how Deon is doing at training camp & they are going fly to England to follow up with the rugby players as well.) They did say that by September 1st they will start the editing process which may take 2 months. Once it's edited and it's a real "movie", they haven't let me in on what will happen. It may go straight to DVD and be distributed online; it may be picked up by a network and be shown on TV; or it may be on the big screen (not kidding). Only time will tell.
All I can say is that, although we are all exhausted from an insane summer at the gym, we are extremely excited about this film. I think the world needs to see what some athletes put themselves through "when no one is watching" just so they can excel on the athletic field. It's very easy to sit on your couch and complain about how "lucky" most athletes are; but, after watching this film I think a lot of people are going to realize that maybe it isn't always "luck" which makes athletes succeed...
I will end this week’s update with the following brain teaser…
This guy held our box squat record in our Washed-up Meatheads division…
…Until he was beat by THIS guy!!!
Don’t even try to figure it out…
Have a great weekend!s
Site by Yellow House Design