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How To Make The Best Spaghetti In Existence

Forget marinara sauce. Forget everything you think you know about spaghetti. Today I am going to show you how to make the best spaghetti you’ve ever had, or your money back: Spaghetti Bolognese. This type of spaghetti is light on the tomatoes and heavy on flavors that are brought together from a variety of ingredients you don’t normally see in a spaghetti sauce. In addition to these ingredients, you will find that Bolognese sauce ditches the conventional herbs you usually see in a spaghetti sauce, like basil and oregano. Originating from Bologna, Italy, Spaghetti Bolognese is a meat-based sauce that is great for lifters who need more protein in their life, as well as non-lifters that simply enjoy amazing food. I have spent a lot of time on this recipe figuring out the ratios and cook times of everything (we have eaten it eight times in the last month) and I am content that this is its final form for maximum flavor and  equal consistency. Let’s cook.

Here are the ingredients you need:
2tbsp canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 carrots, finely chopped or grated
5 celery stalks, finely chopped, preferably stalks w/ leaves on them
2.5lbs ground beef (88/12 or 90/10 is best)
10 oz tomato paste
2 cups red wine
32 oz petite diced tomatoes
1lb spaghetti noodles, dry or fresh
Grated Parmesan cheese

First things first, you need to cut your onion, carrots and celery stalks as small as possible. Smaller than normal dicing works best, to allow the vegetables to cook through and keep them from hindering your bites with crunchy chewing. Grating them on a cheese grater also works well, just do your best to not have large, square chunks.  You can use a knife, or if you have a food processor with a slicer, that works as well. I ran mine through a food processor.

Next, heat a large (and I mean, LARGE) saute pan over high heat with the canola oil added. A large Dutch oven will also work, or any pan with high walls that can hold all the ingredients listed above by the end of cooking. Once the oil is hot (shimmering), reduce heat to medium and add your celery, carrots and celery, stirring about once a minute for 7 minutes until they’re softened up and the consistency is even throughout (no clumps of vegetables).

Next, add your ground beef and tomato paste to the pan. Use a wooden spoon if you have one, to break up any clumps of ground beef. You’ll want an even consistency throughout the sauce. It’s important to choose a ground beef mixture that is at least 85% meat and 15% fat, but 88/12 or 90/10 works best. Too much fat will keep the sauce from adhering to the noodles, and nobody wants that. Cook the meat until browned and tomato paste is evenly distributed through the whole pan.

Once the meat is browned, stir in your 2 cups of red wine and bring to a simmering boil over medium, stirring constantly. Any type of red wine will work, including Carlo Rossi or two buck chuck. I used a Malbec for this recipe, because it’s my favorite.

Once the wine has started a slight boil, add your 32oz of petite diced tomatoes and its juices to the pan. Turn the pan to a low heat (for example, I have mine set on 3), and simmer for at least 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The longer you let it simmer, the more the flavors will be able to mingle and get to know each other, and you will have a more uniform consistency. Do not cover with a lid. Season with salt and pepper.

When there is about 20 minutes left on the clock, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and make sure to add a lot of salt. I repeat, a LOT of salt. It should taste like the sea. This will help the noodles absorb more moisture. Don’t worry about the sodium content, as most of will stay in the water. Add your noodles and cook to al dente.

Now, this next step is the most important part. Do NOT strain the noodles after cooking. You will want to make sure they are not completely soft before removing from the water. Rather than straining the noodles, take them directly from the pot of water to your saute pan. While you may think the water on the noodles will water down the consistency of your sauce, the opposite is true. The starch in the water will help to actually thicken your sauce, and help the sauce adhere to the noodles for an evenly distributed coating. Again, this the the most important part. Let the noodles finish cooking while you are mixing them into the sauce. I could obviously use a bigger pan, but this is what I have right now.

Once the sauce and the noodles have mingled for a few minutes and the noodles are coated, serve immediately with some freshly grated Parmesan on top. This recipe makes a large quantity of pasta, so you can either feed a group of people, or have a few day’s of leftovers, like me!

Thanks for checking out the recipe, let me know your thoughts or if you’ve tried it and loved it. Make sure to check out my links below, as well. Bon appetit.
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An Argument Against Home/Garage Gyms

In this video, I make an argument as to why setting up a gym in your home or your garage might not be in your best interest. I realize that this is going to churn the butter for some of you, so I request that you watch the video in its entirety before posting your responses: you may end up agreeing with me. Thanks for watching, and be sure to Like and Share the video with your friends.

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How To Make Your Own Butter

Today, I will show you how to make one of my all-time favorite ingredients: butter!

I use butter in nearly every single meal I make, and I love knowing that the butter in the dish was something I made with my own hands. It couldn’t be easier to make, and gives you a great forearm pump to boot.

All you need is a large Mason jar and 16oz of heavy whipping cream. Once you pour the cream in the jar, simply start shaking with both hands. Pace yourself, but keep the movements high.

I recommend not using more than 16oz at a time for this size of jar, as you need enough empty space in the jar for the cream to collide against, which will be especially important in the later stages.

The first stage of shaking the Mason jar is the easiest, as the cream is in its natural form, like thick water.

The second stage is when it starts getting thicker, and will have a consistency somewhat like whipped cream.

The third stage is where things start getting tougher. The cream will become so thick that you will need to let it settle on one side of the jar, then turn the jar over and “throw” it in a downward motion as hard as you can. Keep your hands on it, of course. The lack of space that is now in the jar means you need to power through this stage, the end is almost here.

The fourth stage begins when you start to be able to see through the bottle again. Once this happens, shake furiously, as you are in the home stretch.

The last stage is where you can see a clear pile of butter in the jar, which has now become yellow after separation, and liquid at the bottom. This liquid is called “buttermilk.” Clever, right? Unlike store-bought buttermilk, which is just milk and vinegar combined, and tastes horrible, your newly-homemade buttermilk tastes sweet and delicious. It won’t last more than a day, though, so make sure to drink it ASAP, or make some biscuits with it.

Once you remove the butter from the jar, put it in a finely-meshed colander, and run ice cold water over it. This will help harden it before forming, as well as wash off any leftover buttermilk. You won’t want any liquid throughout this butter as it can turn it rancid faster.

After running cold water over it, move your colander in a circular motion, as well as up and down, to help shake off all the liquid. Do this for 4-6 minutes to ensure the liquids are removed.

Finally, I like to put the ball of butter in between two paper towels and giving it a soft squeeze, to force any microscopic liquids out.

I store mine in the freezer for a longer shelf life, and I keep it unsalted, to further control the salt contents of my meals. Plus, freezer butter is easier to cut into the amounts you need to use for any given recipe.

Now you know how to make butter, how exciting! Bon appetit.

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How To Render Your Own Beef Tallow

I have always found something special about being able to figure out how to make my own ingredients, instead of just my own meals. It’s easy to make cookies, or pies, or dressings, but how about making the ingredients that go into the recipes themselves? It brings me a warm fuzzy feeling when I drop a slice of homemade butter into a pan instead of butter I bought at the store, or making pasta from noodles that started out as a pile of flour only 30 minutes before.

Today, I will show you how to make another special ingredient: rendered beef tallow. If you don’t know what tallow is, think of it like vegetable shortening, or something that can be turned into a frying oil with a very high smoke point, that will also impart some great flavor into the food. Tallow is what they used to fry your french fries in, before it became an unfairly- attacked cooking ingredient. Rendering is what the process is called when you turn a hard fat into a liquid fat, “cooking” away all the parts of the fat that can’t be reduced to a liquid. The properties in tallow also make for fluffier biscuits and softer cakes than vegetable shortening could ever hope to compete with. Here’s how it’s done.

First, you will need to procure some beef suet. Suet is the white, cloudy fat deposits that are present around the cow’s kidneys. You can make tallow with any fat, but the less contact it has with the meat of the animal, the better, as you will have to spend a lot of time cutting away the meat from the fat before rendering. The great part about suet is that you can get it for about $1.50/lb at the grocery store or butcher shop.

Next, you need to cut your suet into pieces manageable enough for your food processor. It’s best to do this when the suet is right out of the fridge, so it doesn’t get soft on you. We’re looking for the consistency of finely ground beef. Make sure to pick out any big pieces that aren’t fat from the mixture after processing.

Then, put the processed suet into a pan or dutch oven, inside a cast iron. I like to have the cast iron between the direct heat and my suet pot, so I minimize the risk of burning. Turn the burner on to 2, 3 max, and then it’s simply a waiting game. You will want to give it a stir every 30mins or so, and to check for burning.

After that, it’s just a waiting game. You’re looking for 4-6hrs on the stove top, and you will know it’s done when you see a great deal of liquid, and very small bubbles coming up from the bottom.

Remove the pot from the heat, line a pan with waxed paper, and run the suet through a cheesecloth to filter out any undesirable hitchhikers. You can pour it onto the cheesecloth, although I ladled mine because I’m clumsy and didn’t want to spill any.

Let this sit overnight, then simply break into pieces and put in the fridge or freezer. It should last for six months in the fridge, and 12 in the freezer. I will mix mine with a vegetable medley tonight, and stash the rest for future use. Now you know how to make tallow: how exciting!

Cooking is like chemistry, and you will feel like a mad scientist in the kitchen in no time once you start making your own ingredients. Bon appetit.

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Pump Dragon: Return of the Dragon is now live!

Return of the Dragon is the sequel to Pump Dragon: a groundbreaking program designed to give you the biggest pumps of your life, while simultaneously increasing your strength and decreasing body fat.

Purchase your copy of Return of the Dragon here:
Find the original Pump Dragon here:


Pump Dragon is an 8 week strength AND size program designed to fill in your weak links and add some weight to your main lifts while giving you the pump of legend.

Not everyone wants to chase big singles all the time, and that is perfectly fine. Sometimes we need a break from the 1RM chase, to give a little more focus on size, and general feel-good sessions. I have been in that mental state for a few months now, and because of this, I have decided to write another eight-week training manual designed around this approach.

The sessions will still involve compound lifts, but they won’t be the focus of the workout. Think of these workouts as about 35% compound lifts, and 65% pump/accessory work. The compounds will help you maintain your baseline strength, but won’t be such a big part of the workout that it leaves your CNS feeling drained. This program will have a heavy focus on gaining muscle mass, and increasing tendon/ligament thickness by focusing on keeping blood in the targeted area for the duration of the workout. You’ll be looking at 4 days a week for the eight-week duration. Each workout will contain hundreds of reps to completely fatigue the targeted muscle group.

I will make sure to include options for chain gym folks, as well as CF gym/garage gym lifters who don’t have access to machines, but have DBs and resistance bands. I will include photo/video guides for the majority of the movements, and these guides will only be available to those who purchase the manual: they won’t be on my Youtube or Instagram.

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Shoulder Health: Mobility vs. Stability

You Care Too Much About Shoulder Mobility and Not Enough About Stability


“Mobility.” It’s one of everybody’s current favorite fitness buzzwords, right up there with “functional.” Don’t even get me started on that word. Look anywhere in the heath and fitness blogosphere and you’re bound to find articles, products, and videos to improve your mobility. Hell, I’ve even written about it myself. For the most part, this focus on reaching increased ranges of motion and improving movement quality has been a good thing. Athletes who can adequately move through more ranges of motion generally seem to have lower rates of injury and perform better in the long term. However, like most things humans are involved in, we have taken the whole “mobility” thing too far. Color me shocked. With various movements reserved for emaciated and highly skilled yogis, overcomplicated warmup protocols, and torture devices designed smashing and bruising already inflamed muscles, we have placed mobility on a pedestal that most athletes not only can’t achieve, but often injure themselves doing so.


What in Kazmaier’s name is “mobility” anyways? That’s a good question. For the purposes of this discussion, I will define mobility as “the ability to comfortably reach the required range of motion to accomplish a task.” However, in the realm of biomechanics, there isn’t a unifying definition. Ask 20 different “experts” (and I use that term very loosely) in the field and maybe if you’re lucky, two of them will have the same answer. Since physical therapists and exercise physiologists can’t agree on what mobility is, how can any good data be gathered on what kind and how much of it is important? Truthfully, it can’t. The amount of mobility required for a specific movement is going to be dependent on the individual lever lengths, muscle origins and insertions, and joint anatomy of the individual athlete. Not to mention the fact that there isn’t necessarily a direct correlation between increased levels of mobility and sport performance! Provided one can achieve the necessary positioning required for their sport, is any range of motion further than that truly beneficial?


As is the answer to most questions about sports science and medicine, it depends. In this case, it depends on one thing: STABILITY. If one is unstable in any position, they are at greater risk of injury, regardless of how long they spent foam rolling that day (which may not even have any actual benefit, but that is a discussion for another time). Take, for example, the softball pitcher. She has tremendous mobility of the shoulder and elbow and can achieve all the positions required by her sport, but still blows out her elbow out and needs Tommy John’s surgery. What exercises are primarily performed during her rehabilitation protocol? Those that stabilize the elbow joint. Does the improved shoulder mobility of a quarterback over a lineman prevent him from dislocating his shoulder when he gets slammed on the ground? Not likely. These athletes have prioritized mobility over stability, as is required by the demands of their respective sports, but it has left them vulnerable. And vulnerable, unstable joints are not something we want as strength athletes. Even for your run of the mill office worker, stabilization exercises have been shown to reduce shoulder pain, and they don’t put their shoulders through nearly the beating that we do!


To achieve stability, we must first define it. Fortunately, the biomechanics literature actually does this, defining stability as “the ability to resist perturbation.” Get your minds out of the gutter and focus. This means that if a joint is stable, it can resist outside forces that compromise its integrity. Does this sound like something you might want when picking up heavy stuff? You’re damn right it does. Now I know you’ve got your fancy shoulder mobility routine that allows you to twist your arms behind you like a pretzel while standing on your head or some such nonsense, but can those same shoulders support a heavy barbell overhead, especially when you get out of position? GOOD LUCK. You’ve spent so much time trying to get into unnecessary positions that you have mixed up your priorities and are unable to perform what you’re actually training for. Don’t worry; I’ve got you. It’s time to get solid in those positions you’ve worked so hard to achieve.


Since I discussed trunk stabilization at length in Part I , we are going to focus on my favorite (or least favorite? I can’t decide) joint in Part II: the shoulder. We’ll skip the anatomy lesson for today, since I’ve written about shoulder and thoracic anatomy in the past, and just focus on the meat and potatoes of improving your shoulder stability. This is an issue I have worked through personally after having shoulder surgery last year. My labrum was torn in two places along with my supraspinatus, so needless to say, both my mobility and stability were compromised. Lucky for me, my range of motion came back rather quickly during my post-operative physical therapy. However, the pain just wouldn’t go away, and I just didn’t feel comfortable with weight overhead, regardless of how strong I felt and how solid my orthopedic surgeon kept telling me the shoulder was. The basic musculoskeletal literature wasn’t much help, so I started doing some outside reading and contacting providers more well-versed in shoulder rehab than I was at the time. It turned out my scapular kinematics (the movement of the scapula across the ribs in support of the shoulder) were totally out of whack and my shoulder joint was very unstable, despite the fresh hardware  inside of it. It wasn’t until I focused directly on scapular and shoulder stabilization movements that I became pain-free and started putting bigger weights over my head.


Let’s start with the scapula.  The movement of this bone across the ribs and as a part of the shoulder joint is extremely important for both mobility and stability of the shoulder. I won’t delve into the nitty gritty of its functional anatomy and biomechanics, but it attaches to the clavicle, the humerus, and the axial skeleton, essentially serving as the anchor for one’s upper extremity. When this moves improperly or is easily fatigued (poor scapular kinematics a.k.a scapular dyskinesia), it compromises the integrity of the entire shoulder joint. In fact, it can actually decrease rotator cuff strength, meaning that even if your cuff muscles are strong, scapular dyskinesia can result in an unstable shoulder. All the banded external rotations (which I still recommend for rotator cuff strength) in the world won’t save you if you are unable to stabilize your scapula. Since it is likely that your anterior and lateral deltoids, pecs, lats, and traps are already plenty developed, I won’t tell you how to strengthen those. They can help stabilize the scapula, but without the smaller stabilizers, they can actually worsen your scapular kinematics.


Looks like I do have to get into a little anatomy and biomechanics. You don’t like it? Too bad. Go get hurt and have a weak press. Anyways, the smaller muscles of scapular stabilization are designed to prevent scapular winging and scapular malposition, also known as SICK scapula syndrome (SICK stands for Scapular malposition, Inferior medial border prominence, Coracoid pain and malposition, and dysKinesis of scapular movement). You can see in these images that these are clearly not good positions to support heavy weights. The primary muscles implicated in these pathologies are the rhomboids, levator scapulae, serratus anterior, and to some degree the infraspinatus, lower trapezius, and posterior head of the deltoid. As a strength athlete, unless you’ve had a nerve injury, there’s no excuse for these muscles to be underdeveloped. Lucky for you, they aren’t overly complicated to strengthen and hypertrophy. But first, a disclaimer: if you have a shoulder that dislocates or feels significantly unstable, please get it evaluated by a medical professional prior to performing these exercises. You may be doing more harm than good if your joint is already in bad shape.

There are many ways to achieve this, but I am partial to easy stuff that anyone can do with some basic equipment. I’ll first detail some introductory movements before going into more complex and integrated stabilization strategies. Band pull-aparts are one of my favorite movements for developing the rhomboids and levator scapulae, and there are videos all over YouTube on how to perform them properly. They also hit the posterior deltoids to a reasonable degree. I have three major pointers for that exercise, however. One: be sure to let your scapulae fully protract forward and fully retract backwards during the movement. Partial reps aren’t helping anybody. Two: focus on pulling with your mid back; don’t rely on your lats, arms or traps for the movement. Think of drawing your scapulae down and towards your ribs when you pull. And three: do TONS of reps. Light weights and high reps are what will hypertrophy these muscles and make them  resistant to fatigue. I never do pull-aparts for sets of less than 20, and it’s usually more than that. You can use the same band and the same principles for face pulls on top of the pull-aparts. These will hit the traps, lats, and posterior deltoids to a greater degree than pull-aparts, but that’s okay. All of these muscles will need to work in concert for you to be successful.


Another easy exercise that assists in the development of scapular stabilization is the “scap push-up,” which focuses primarily on serratus anterior. To perform these, get into a push-up position, and while maintaining a tight core and completely extended elbows, try to push yourself away from the floor using just your shoulders. This is done by protracting your scapulae. Hold that position for 1-2 seconds, then retract your scapulae to return to your starting position. This does not need to be performed with added weight, but you should feel a solid contraction for at least 10 reps.  Accompanying the scap push-up is the “scap pull-up.” Perform this exercise hanging from a pull-up bar with arms completely extended overhead. Without bending your elbows, pull your body towards the bar by retracting your scapulae together and down towards your feet. Hold this contraction for 1-2 seconds, then return to your starting position of a dead hang; repeat 10 times. This also has the added benefit of stretching the lats and improving your grip strength.


It is appropriate to perform these movements every training session, but not required. They should definitely be worked in at least three times per week, though. Once you have developed strength and endurance in these exercises (at least 3 sets of each without breaking technique), we can move on to more advanced and integrated shoulder stability movements. If you have injuries elsewhere in your body, those may be affected by these movements, so use them carefully and accordingly. As always, safety comes first.


I’ll admit that I stole this next exercise from Chris Duffin (who you should definitely be paying attention to as any variety of strength athlete), but that only makes my recommendation for it even stronger. Using the same light band you had for the pull-aparts and face pulls, wrap it around a power rack or something else sturdy, then put your hands through the loop. Take a few steps away from the rack and extend your arms over your head. Now, this may be limited by inadequate shoulder mobility, so do the best you can at the start and work to improve that alongside your stability. It’s almost like both of those things are important! Make sure your scapulae are pulled back and down in a good position, and squat. Pause for a second at the bottom of each rep and try to keep your torso as upright as possible. In addition to stabilizing the shoulder girdle, these squats will help to open up the hips, shoulders, and thoracic spine. If you’re feeling extra spicy, put a short band or hip circle around your knees to really wake up your glutes as well. 2-4 sets of 15-20 reps before most training sessions is a good range to work with here.


Now we can move on to loaded shoulder stabilization movements. Unlike the prior movements, these can be a little challenging to learn and explain, so watching some videos can be helpful. The loaded movements also take a little more recovery, so they should not be performed every day. The first three can be used a progression, so scale them as needed when using them yourself or introducing them to your athletes. I really like kettlebells for these movements, but if you only have access to dumbbells, that’s okay too.


We will begin with a modified version of the kettlebell armbar. This version adds in protraction and retraction of the scapula in addition to the movement of the armbar and progresses from easier to more difficult positions. While laying supine with your knees and hips flexed and your spine in neutral (think of pushing your lower back into the floor), grab a light kettlebell and extend your arm upwards as if you were performing a floor press. Take a good diaphragmatic breath to stabilize your trunk, and protract your scapula, pushing the kettlebell away from your body (much like you did in the scap pushups). Hold this position for a one-count prior to returning to the starting position. Perform 10 reps per arm, 3 times per week. Once this has become an easy and comfortable movement, you can move onto the next progression, which is performed lying somewhat on your side with your knees and hips flexed in the same fashion as the first movement (think of a slightly less flexed fetal position. Perform 10 reps per side, 3 times per week yet again. Once this is easy, roll completely onto one side, extend the bottom leg, and bring the other leg across (think of how you would get your lower back to pop via the stretch we all learned in PE class). This is the more traditional KB armbar position for those of you familiar with the movement. The same rep scheme should be used for this. If none of that made sense, here’s a good video of a traditional kettlebell armbar, from which you can extrapolate the movements described above. Each of these positions is more difficult than the last, so start conservatively with the weight used. It’s not worth getting cocky and hurting yourself during pre-hab. That’s just dumb.

Once you’ve become comfortable with the armbars, we can transition to a more integrated movement: the Turkish get-up (or TGU). The stabilization principles are the same here, as we focus on the setting of the scapula prior to initiating movement. I won’t go through a complete explanation of how to perform a proper TGU here as there are plenty of places online with certified kettlebell coaches teaching the movement. I’d recommend trying to have someone teach you them in person, however, as the TGU can be a challenging movement to perform properly. When performed properly, though, it really improves movement quality, mobility, and stability of most of your body’s joints, chief among them the shoulder and the trunk. Moves like the TGU are also important from a medical perspective, as falls are such a major contributor to morbidity and mortality in the elderly. Every person, athlete or not, needs to have a good relationship with the ground and know how to pick him or herself off of it. We can probably tweak that to use it as an analogy for life too, but I’ll leave the motivational memes to somebody else. In any case, start conservative with the weight on TGUs too, because they are an incredibly humbling exercise if you have not performed them before. 2-3 sets of 5 reps per side twice per week is a good place to start.


Kettlebell windmills are the movement I would suggest next. They aren’t necessarily more challenging to learn than TGUs, but they can require a little more stability in the shoulder and I’d argue that the positions are easier to get into after you’ve done some TGUs. Start with a light kettlebell over your head and your feet roughly shoulder width apart. Your off arm should be out to your side, and while keeping tight scapulae and a solid core (don’t forget your diaphragmatic breathing), rotate your body down and away from the kettlebell while it remains over your head. Shift your hips to the side of the KB and keep your knees straight (but not locked), touching your off hand to the ground. Then, bring yourself back to the starting position using your obliques. The name of the movement is appropriate; think of moving yourself like the arms of a windmill (sort of). Here’s a video in case that didn’t make sense. 2-4 sets of 5-10 reps is what I’d say you should shoot for.


One important thing to remember when performing all of these loaded exercises: DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THE WEIGHT AT ANY TIME! You will not be the first or last person to lose your balance with the weight and smack yourself in the face. The goal here is to prevent injury, not cause it. This is especially important when you have developed enough grip strength and stability to perform these movements with a bottoms-up KB, which is a great goal to have. Bottoms-up kettlebell training improves shoulder stability even further by providing a significant increase in rotator cuff activation from standard training. If you’ve ever tried to perform a reasonably heavy bottoms-up KB press, this shouldn’t be a surprise.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend overhead carries as an excellent method of improving shoulder and scapular stability. You can perform these with pretty much any implement you like, from kettlebells to dumbbells to logs to stones to sandbags to barbells to your significant other, for all I care. Each one is going to have a different feel and activate your muscles in a slightly different way. These carries can be extremely taxing on your trunk stabilizers and legs as well, so just be careful when performing them. My favorite among the overhead carry variations is the yoke. The way it swings and the sheer size and awkwardness of the implement makes it a challenge even with relatively light weights. Like any of the aforementioned movements, be sure to set your scapulae beforehand and keep them tight throughout.


That brings me to my final point. You can actually improve your overhead stability on your regular training movements without even adding any of this stuff in (you should still work on it, though). It all starts with your setup. By pulling your scapulae slightly down and together during setup, you set yourself with a good base to press, snatch, or overhead squat from. This will also get you in more thoracic extension, make external rotation of the shoulders easier and more comfortable, and open up your chest a bit. Couple this with squeezing the living hell out of the bar, which helps to activate your rotator cuff complex and improves neuromuscular coordination, and you’ve just increased your stability significantly without even performing any fancy new exercises. Add in proper diaphragmatic breathing, and you’re ready to toss some weight into the sky.

I hope this has been helpful to all you mobility freaks out there. None of this is to say that mobility exercises to achieve adequate and proper ranges of motion for your sport is bad. In fact, that is a wonderful idea. An immobile joint isn’t terribly useful either. Just don’t sacrifice your stability for mobility, especially in the shoulder. It can be pretty fragile, so protect it! Now get out there, improve your overhead stabilization, and set some scap-tacular PR’s! Stay strong and healthy!


P.S. Honorable mention integrated core/trunk stability movement (with coordination work as well) is the bear crawl. Try it both forwards and backwards with a short band around your wrists. This can be a conditioning killer as well, especially if you drag a sled or add a weighted vest. You can even reach back during your crawl and do 1 arm sled pulls. Play around with it and have some “functional” fun!

DISCLAIMER: None of this article is intended to be taken as medical advice. If you have any questions or health concerns, please contact your primary care physician. Always consult a physician before starting any diet or exercise program. These statements have been made by a private citizen and do not reflect the views or policies of the United States Navy.

Seth Larsen, DO (aka “Dr. Meathead”) is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and resident physician in family medicine with an area of focus in musculoskeletal and sports medicine. He is also a former NCAA football player who now competes as a nationally-qualified lightweight (<200lb) strongman, elite-level deadlifter, and amateur highland games athlete. In addition to his residency, he is currently in the process of applying for a fellowship in primary care sports medicine and completing his CSCS. He runs, an educational website promoting the integration of all aspects of modern medicine with performance nutrition and strength & conditioning.



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5 Tips For Your First Competition


In today’s video, I outline five things that athletes should keep in mind for their first competition: these things will help ensure that you have a good time, hit all your lifts, and leave the competition with a fire lit under you for your next competition.
1. Don’t worry about your weight class.
2. Generally not going for PRs in your first competition.
3. What to eat the night before a competition.
4. Warming up for attempts.
5. Make your training environment like a competition environment.
6. (Bonus) what to eat during a competition.

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Pump Dragon Is Now Available

Not everyone wants to chase big singles all the time, and that is perfectly fine. Sometimes we need a break from the 1RM chase, to give a little more focus on size, and general feel-good sessions. I have been in that mental state for a few months now, and because of this, I have decided to write another eight-week training manual designed around this approach.

The sessions will still involve compound lifts, but they won’t be the focus of the workout. Think of these workouts as about 35% compound lifts, and 65% pump/accessory work. The compounds will help you maintain your baseline strength, but won’t be such a big part of the workout that it leaves your CNS feeling drained. This program will have a heavy focus on gaining muscle mass, and increasing tendon/ligament thickness by focusing on keeping blood in the targeted area for the duration of the workout. You’ll be looking at 4 days a week for the eight-week duration. Each workout will contain hundreds of reps to completely fatigue the targeted muscle group.

I will make sure to include options for chain gym folks, as well as CF gym/garage gym lifters who don’t have access to machines, but have DBs and resistance bands. I will include photo/video guides for the majority of the movements, and these guides will only be available to those who purchase the manual: they won’t be on my Youtube or Instagram. 

Pump Dragon Training Manual:

Get the shirts here:

Because this is a digital item, there are no refunds on this item for any reason whatsoever.

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A Sample of the Pump Dragon Training Program

For those who inquired, below is the foreword section of the Pump Dragon manual, a description of what the manual will entail, as well as one of the weeks, to give you a better idea of what it will look like. I will put the video demos for the movements in the manual itself, later this week. This program is absolutely for both women and men, as are all my programs. This is LBEB, after all. Thanks for reading.

Pump Dragon available here:

PumpDragon Part 2 available here:

Thank you for choosing to be a part of the Pump Dragon community. Before jumping into the programming, I want to take a few minutes of your time to outline some of the thought process that went into making this program, what led me to implement this training style in my own programming and finally, a short reference guide to some of the words  I will be using throughout this training manual.

When I began training in 2012, I was like many of you who purchased this program: I wanted to consistently train with heavy weights, technique be damned. Instead, it was all about chasing big singles to win competitions and achieve eternal glory. Fast-forward a few years and a couple of injuries, I began to realize something: There is no eternal glory in a sport that forgets about you as soon as your record is broken or you leave the sport. There is no glory in chasing numbers to the point where your body is destroyed, your personal life is in shambles and you are in a dangerous mental state. This is when I began to explore other training options that would allow me to (at the very least) maintain my strength, if not increase it, while also training in a way that left me happy when I left the gym. It’s one thing to have a great training session, but it’s another to be happy when it is over. A good training session can last 2-3 hours a day, but what about the other 21-22 hours left in the day? I had to figure out a way of training that would keep me interested in lifting for the long haul, increasing my strength, improving my physique and maintaining my mental health.

Enter: The Pump Dragon

My previous training style was a pretty standard version of Strongman training: a combination of the standard Strongman competition lifts, with the Powerlifting movements built in, and some accessory/speed work. It was great to train this way because my strength was increasing and I could hit big singles. However, I personally had a hard time wanting to do the high-rep accessory/pump work at the end of the workout because I felt so fatigued both physically and mentally. A great man I used to train with, Jace Derwin, was the first guy I knew personally who spent more time on accessory work than on the competition lifts. He had a strong, athletic physique, he was happy and his strength was increasing. He introduced me to high-rep bodybuilding movements that would help me to not only increase my strength, ligament and tendon thickness, but also improve my mood allowing me to leave the gym in a better mindset than when I arrived. Jace was the first person I heard use the phrase “chasing the Pump Dragon” in reference to heroin users who are constantly chasing the feeling of their first high, while never quite reaching it. I liked the term instantly because that’s how training felt: No matter how great the pump was, you always wanted more. Luckily, we won’t be chasing heroin in this manual: instead we will constantly be chasing a great pump, an elevated sense of well-being and of course, size and strength. Jace and I don’t train together anymore, but I will forever be appreciative of the lessons he taught me.

After I parted ways with my old crew and began training by myself, I continued to explore ways to chase the Pump Dragon, especially in gyms that did not have readily-accessible machines designed to hit specifically-targeted muscle groups. You can see this in my videos: I am always trying to figure out machine and cable movements I can replicate in a garage/Crossfit gym setting, using only equipment that would be available at those locations. I have spent years doing this, and I will be putting that knowledge and tinkering to use in this manual so others can benefit from the experiments as well.


Program Design

Unlike some of my other training manuals, Pump Dragon is not about chasing new 1-Rep Maxes (1RMs). Pump Dragon is about increasing muscle size, definition, tendon and ligament thickness, and mental well-being. Strength should, at the very least, be maintained throughout the course of the program, but is not the main goal here. Compound lifts will still be implemented in the program, but will not be the main focus. For the duration of the program, think of the compound lifts as more of a primer for the pump/accessory work, and a way to help you maintain your strength without completely draining your Central Nervous System (CNS).

Pump Dragon will involve four workouts each week with each workout containing at least 500 reps of all movements combined. Each workout will focus on a specific and different group of muscles. It will also contain compound lifts that will use whatever the muscle group is on any given training day. This is not a half-program, it is a complete program. In layman’s terms: Don’t use this supplement on top of another program you’re doing (for example, Crossfit). I strongly suggest that you do not combine this eight-week program with any other programming, as you will be wasting your time and money, as well as defeating the purpose of implementing a program that is designed to help you reset your training. Some athletes are under the impression that if you combine two programs, you will get twice as good in half the time. In reality, they will be lucky if they get half as good in twice the time.

The program design will be as follows:

Day 1: Legs & Squat Movements w/ Posterior Accessories

Day 2: Chest, Shoulders & Press Movements w/ Tricep Accessories

Day 3: Back & Deadlift Movements w/ Posterior/Bicep Accessories

Day 4: Arm Day w/ Short & Sweet Conditioning Movements


Why Chase The Pump?

Something that I have found lacking in almost every training program I have seen from the Powerlifting and Strongman world is the neglect of high-rep accessory/pump work. This is especially true for new athletes. For some reason, some coaches are so afraid of new athletes being “overtrained”, that they keep the volume low to the point where it looks like you’re following the programming of a veteran Powerlifter who weighs almost 400lbs. New athletes need volume. Lots and lots of volume. You need this volume for three main reasons: Instilling the proper movement patterns, increasing kinesthetic awareness, and keeping the blood in the targeted muscle group long enough to encourage growth. You simply are not going to grow your biceps, calves, hamstrings, and other hard-to-fatigue muscle groups with sets of five deadlifts or pullups or squats. These compound movements utilize the majority of the body. Because of this, hard-to-fatigue muscle groups will never get the fatigue they need in order to grow. Blood must be kept in the targeted area for at least 40 minutes in order for the blood to bring the nutrients necessary for growth. Tendons and ligaments also grow much slower than muscles and DEMAND that concentrated blood to encourage growth. You will get both of those things from Pump Dragon and you will love it.

The Squeeze

You will see me talk about “the squeeze” quite often over the course of this eight-week program. What I am referring to is the flexing of the targeted muscle that you MUST do at the “top” of each of these isolation movements. It’s not about how fast you can do something like a bicep curl. What is more important is that you are isolating the targeted muscle, not wasting the movement by going too heavy too fast and recruiting the wrong muscles to finish the set. Weight does NOT matter for many of these pump movements: targeting does. What I will want you to think about is keeping the targeted muscle under tension and flexing it as hard as possible for at least one second at the top of each rep. This will fatigue the muscle much faster and ensure that you’re targeting it correctly. I will not write specific weights for a great deal of these movements, as pump weights are arbitrary and I have a baseline of information to guide you. As long as you are becoming fatigued and feeling the challenge of the weight while still being able to finish the set, you will do just fine.

Exercise Demonstrations & References

I will include photo and video guides for the majority of the movements within this program. If you train in a gym with cables and machines, you won’t need the guides as much. Instead, you are able to use weights on a guided track that will eliminate the need to jury-rig bands and chains to emulate them. That’s not to say the videos can be neglected: you can still look at how my body is positioned for these movements to ensure that you are set up correctly in order to get the biggest benefit from this manual.



Now that we have the background information out of the way, let’s get to chasing the Pump Dragon.


Week 1:

Day 1:

Work up to heavy set of 5 back squats, then do 4×7 w/ 70% of that number.

4×20 Bodybuilding (BB) squats w/ 35% of the day’s 5RM.

3×15 squats w/ KBs held in front rack (elbow crook position), 60sec rest between sets.

4 supersets of: 20 walking lunges + 20 ass-to-grass air squats, 60sec rest between sets.

10mins of: glute bridges w/ elbows and back on bench + frog pumps on floor. Once you are fatigued from one, switch to the other.

5 supersets of: calf raises w/ toes straight forward, toes angled in, toes angles out. 20 reps per position, squeeze at the top of each rep for 1sec. 60sec rest between superset.

100 situps.

Day 2:

Using moderately heavy for this bench press set, do the following supersets four times: 10 reps w/ wide grip, 10 reps w/ normal grip, 10 reps w/ close grip. Same weight across all sets, 60sec rest between sets. If you fail reps, it’s too heavy.

5×20 close grip bench w/ 30% of your estimated max, 60sec rest between sets.

5 supersets of: DB flyes + DB bench, same weight, squeeze pecs at top of each rep. 60sec rest between sets.

4 supersets of: 10 reps of DB front raises + 10 reps of DB lateral raises, keep glutes squeezed, 60sec rest between sets.

5mins of: using empty barbell, do two strict press in front of head + 2 reps behind head. Don’t lock out at top and don’t let barbell descend below forehead height.

4 supersets of: neutral grip DB bench + pushups w/ hands on bench. 60sec rest between sets.

100 tricep pushdowns w/ cable or resistance band. Turn pinkies out to the sides at the bottom of each rep and squeeze triceps for 1sec on each rep. if you get less than 30 reps before taking a break, you need to reduce the resistance.

Day 3:

Work up to heavy set of 5 conventional deadlifts, then do 4×7 w/ 70% of that number.

4×10 2” deficit deadlifts w/ 55% of the day’s max, 60sec rest between sets, use straps.

5 supersets of: 10 reps banded face pulls + 10 DB shrugs + 10 DB shrugs w/ palms forward.

4 supersets of: 10 DB rows per arm w/ opposite hand and knee on bench + Snatch-grip high shrugs w/ light barbell (barbell comes to nipple height). 60sec rest between sets.

5×20 banded hamstring curls w/ a big squeeze at the top.

6mins of max rep frog pumps on floor w/ big glute squeeze at the top of each rep.

100 reps of leg raises w/ back on bench, grab the bench behind your head, flex abs at the top of each rep.
Day 4:

5 supersets of: 12 single-arm banded curls w/ band attached to pullup bar + 20 reverse-grip barbell curls (both hands).

5 supersets of: 10 close-grip pushups (fingers at 11 & 1) + 20 tricep pushdowns w/ resistance band.

4×12 DB curls while lying your back on an incline bench, 60sec rest between sets.

5×15 skull crushers w/ barbell, swiss bar or football bar. Squeeze triceps hard at the top of each rep.

6mins of max rep cheat curls w/ 45lb bar.

6 mins of max rep overhead press w/ 45lb bar.

8 sets of: max speed 200m row (or 400m stationary cycling) + 12 burpees. 90sec rest between sets.

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Get Ready for Bratsgiving with Johnsonville

This article is sponsored by Johnsonville. 

Johnsonville is making my sausage dreams come true. No, they’re not giving me another dachshund (though I would definitely accept a doxie puppy as payment). Instead, we’re partnering up to celebrate Bratsgiving: the hot doggiest, most delicious day of the Summer.

While the actual Bratsgiving, or National Bratwurst Day, is August 16, Johnsonville is getting the party started early by kicking off the celebration in Seattle on July 29 at the Seattle Seafair. A 2+ week pregame? Now THAT is how you do it.

This weekend, I will be hosting my own Seafair party, featuring a couple of Johnsonville’s meats: one for the pinkies-up crowd, and one for those who need a quick bite before getting back into the festivities. Here’s what I have on the menu:

The first is a delicious pasta dish featuring Johnsonville’s Andouille sausage, clams fresh from Pike Place Market, broken angel hair pasta with a white sauce.


Ingredients needed:

  • 1lb angel hair pasta, cut into 2” pieces
  • One 13.5oz Johnsonville Andouille sausage
  • 5 cups champagne
  • 4tbsp olive oil
  • 5 crush garlic cloves
  • 3tbsp dried parsley
  • 5lbs fresh clams
  • 1 cup white or alfredo sauce
  • Crostini or French baguette
  • Salt and pepper to taste


In large saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil and garlic, stirring until garlic is darkly browned. Discard garlic upon browning. Add champagne and clams to saucepan, and bring to boil over medium heat. Cover with lid and continue cooking for 10mins, stirring occasionally.

While clams are cooking, bring a large pot of water to boiling.

Slice Johnsonville Andouille sauce into 1/3in pieces, and brown in a separate skillet.

Once pot of water has reached boiling, cook noodles to al dente. Discard water and keep 5tbsp of the starched water in the pot with the noodles.

Slowly stir in white sauce to noodles, coating them thoroughly. Then slowly stir in dried parsley, and add the Andouille sausage and clams, 10-12 pieces at a time, until noodles are evenly mixed in.

Serve completed pasta dish with toasted crostini or French baguette slices.


The second will be a Seattle favorite: Street Meat. Seattle Street Meat can be found outside most Seattle bars once the sun goes down, and features a Johnsonville bratwurst with caramelized onions, cream cheese, and barbecue sauce. Forget the ketchup and mustard, let’s make it interesting with some smoky barbecue flavor.

street meat 1

Ingredients needed:

  • Brioche hot dog buns
  • Johnsonville smoked bratwursts
  • Cream cheese
  • Caramelized onions
  • Barbecue sauce


Turn grill or stovetop cast iron pan to high, and grill the Johnsonville bratwursts until the skin is crackled and browned/blackened in spots.
Remove bratwursts from heat, and place each inside a brioche hot dog bun, lined with cream cheese. Top the bratwurst with the caramelized onions and barbecue sauce. Consume immediately.

street meat 2

Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for Carl the Great Bratsgiver when you’re at Seafair this weekend. For those of you who haven’t heard of Carl—here’s the story: Carl is the culmination of the combined brainstorming of 15 Johnsonville employees, and is the official character of the Bratsgiving holiday. He will be leading the pack for the 2017 Torchlight run, and Seafair is working with Johnsonville for a “Where’s Carl?” competition on social media platforms. Fans who announce his whereabouts on social media and challenge others to find him can win Bratsgiving swag and free Seafair tickets.

Don’t let another Summer go by without Bratsgiving. Celebrate in style with Carl and Johnsonville this season at Seattle Seafair! And make sure to tag both LBEB and Johnsonville in your social media posts this weekend.

Stay safe and happy Bratsgiving!



This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Johnsonville. The opinions and text are all mine.