Category Archives: Training

Happy Inauguration Day my Bumpiest of Friends!

For the next few weeks in our #Powerful class we will be focusing our training for the March Push Pull Charity Event. The goal is to improve our technique , strength and confidence in our bigger barbell movements; squat, bench & deadlift. We will then be using smaller movements to build muscle, improve body composition and have some damn fun! 

 

If you’re not interested in the Push Pull event, #Powerful will still be a badass class for you if you’re looking to train with a community, build confidence in the gym, have fun, push each other, and learn old & new exercises.

 

Come on out and join us and let’s crush some weights in 2021 and have some fun!

 

Check out the video on our social media to get a lil inside scoop on today’s training session. 

 

See you soon, 

 

CeJ

How to Get the Most from Your Gym and Your Community

One of the best parts about my job is the people I get to deal with everyday. At times it is the UF employees, and at times it is the members, yet everyday someone brings me a thought I must sit on for a few minutes.

 

Curtis Miller and I had a great talk recently and we began sounding like Grumpy Old Men. Back in my day we didn’t have fancy things like these kids do. OK maybe we didn’t sound that bad yet we were discussing our early years of lifting and how things have changed. From this thought we came up with some things that we felt could help every person who enters our gym.

 

Here is a short list of ways to get better and make a better community.

 

  1. Lose the headphones. We all know that you need the newest Drake single in order to do your set,  yet you can save that song for when you really need it. The rest of the time be a part of the gym, communicate with others, listen to other cues, ask questions and just be present.
  2. Spot someone. Often I see lifters in their own worlds and not noticing others lifting. Ask someone if they need a spot, this is how we used to find training partners.
  3. Work in or share equipment with someone new. I all too often see everyone at thier own station not taking advantage of someone else’s knowledge and experience also share your knowledge and experience.
  4. Ask questions. We are all here to help and serve you. So ask away. Did you know we have coaches at UF with decades of experience? Our coaches have worked with pro athletes from all major sports, competed at the highest level of lifting and spoken at multiple national and international conferences.
  5. Try something new. Everyone these days seems to have an internet coach. Some of this can be good and I’ve learned from some of these coaches. Sometimes this can a huge asset, other times this can prevent you from trying new things. See what someone else is doing, ask about the movement and give it a rip.
  6. When in doubt do something that is very challenging. Enough said.

 

This is our short list and I did not arrive at this on my own. Cody Miller, CeJ and Curtis all had a say in this list. Remember we are stronger than the sum of our parts.

 

Hamer

 

Push/Pull and Summer Strength Project

With the new year here and spring coming right around the corner, we have been hard at work planning our events for the upcoming months. If you have been with us for a period of time, then you are aware of our annual Strength Project event that we host each year. Last year, our Strength Project kicked off in January with the addition of a fund raiser and charity push/pull powerlifting competition. Unfortunately, our plans were sidelined with the onset of the pandemic, and although we did complete our goal for the fund raiser, we were unable to host our push/pull event for our members.

 

Well, that was last year, and this is a new year. With our sights set on providing you with new ideas and events, we are picking back up right where we left off. On Sunday March 21st we will be coming back to finish our Push/pull event as well as another fund raiser to support the Pittsburgh community (more details to come). The event will be free for any member who would like to sign up, along with anyone who had previously signed up for last years event but was unable to compete.

 

Following the conclusion of the push/pull event, we will be kicking off our Summer Strength Project beginning in early April with the goal of getting everyone ready for sunshine and adventures. Our Powerful and Cardio Lab coaches will be working together on the class programming to help you reach all of your goals. At the end of the Summer Strength Project in early June, we will be holding a cookout with food, drinks, and a hands on seminar. 

 

Be sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled for more details to come regarding these events.

 

Happy New Year, We Need the Old You

I have very eclectic taste in music so when I think I tend to go to what song fits the moment. I have realized this habit has rubbed off on my son. We will often be driving and jamming some tunes then Tenzing says, ‘”Dad this is the perfect song for this moment.” With that in mind I can’t write this blog without thinking about a song from the Old 97’s. In the song “The Magican” Rhett Miller sings these words, “Oh, but I wanna be with the real you.” This song has always haunted me as it reminds me that we need to be the real version of us. With this I welcome you to 2021.

 

If you made it this far you may be asking why you are still reading me ramble about a song and band you probably never head of? Because I want to make 2021 the year of the real you. Bring you to the gym, work, and life everyday. Often the date changes and people say it’s time for a new you. It isn’t! Today is a great day to evolve, and with that we must understand that the real you should be you, who is trying to improve daily.

 

Think of this in terms of lifting or training. When you began you never thought you could do what you currently do, until you put the work in. Then afterwards you were still you, just a stronger and more wise version of you. Let us not throw out the past, let us not throw out our mistakes. Bring them with you and let’s all grow, evolve, and make 2021 just another step in the right direction.

 

Now I am asking for you to help me. How can I, and UF help you in 2021. We have never seen a year like 2020, so we are open to new ideas. Share with me your thoughts and if we can, we will do what we can to help you improve the real you.

 

Happy New YEAR!

New Year, New Strength, New Friends

UF and LEG1ON Training are excited to host our first ever combined bootcamp. On January 1st, 2021 UF and LEG1ON will come together on the UF outdoor turf to host a bootcamp that is free to all.

 

We have been trying to reach out and work with other local training facilities to offer Pittsburgh a better fitness and strength community. LEG1ON opened in 2020, and immediately gave us a gym that was open to working with us. Due to this relationship, we will be having more joint offerings in the future. The details of the bootcamp are below.

 

Time and Date: Jan 1st, 2020. 11 AM-Noon.

Location: Union Fitness, 100 South Commons, Pittsburgh PA, 15212

How do I sign up? Sign up on MindBody.

Is there a cost? This class is free to everyone.

What can I expect? You can expect two of the best gyms in Pittsburgh coming together with their best instructors, to give you a great workout to start the new year.

Will it be safe? Our outdoors space at UF is big, and we require masks at all times when on the premises.

 

We hope to see you here on Jan 1st to meet some new friends and have some fun.

 

Todd Hamer

 

Breathing and Bracing for Strong Lifts

Properly breathing and bracing is one of the most misunderstood aspects of a strong lift, but one that can play a major role. We’ve all either done it ourselves or have seen it at one time or another. Someone unracks their squat or sets up for their deadlift, they go to take a big breath to build tension and their chest gets full of air and the bar shrugs up on their shoulders. While this may seem like a great way to get tight, it is actually doing the complete opposite. What we actually want is too pull air deep into our diaphragm while expanding that pressure downward and outward into our abdominal muscles, obliques, and our lower back.

 

To understand this a little better, let’s break it down with a little bit of anatomy. When we take a breath before a lift we want to fill our diaphragm, not our lungs. Our diaphragm is located underneath of our lungs in the bottom portion of our rib cage. When done correctly, filling the diaphragm and keeping it locked in throughout the entirety of the lift can keep you in a strong and proper position and can allow you to lift more weight safely. When the diaphragm is filled and pressurized correctly, it can help connect the major muscle groups of our upper body to our lower half. This will help to build a tremendous amount of tightness and rigidity from head to toe.

 

When it comes to explaining and better understanding this method, I like to use the soda can analogy. Take an empty soda can and place a small dent in the side of it. Now place that soda can on a table and push down on it with your hand. There’s a 100% chance that it collapses with little effort. This is equivalent of breathing high into your chest. Now take another soda can without a dent in it. Place it on the counter and again try to push down on it with your hand. There’s a chance you wont even be able to collapse it this time. You have now successfully filled your diaphragm and braced completely. Which one do you think is better for a big lift?

 

As mentioned in the video, a simple and effective way to practice this technique is with a small micro mini band around your mid section. Be sure to place the band above your belly button as that is where you will get the most expansion from your diaphragm. This is also where you should place the center of your lifting belt if you wear one. Focus on taking a breath and pushing it downward and outward. While practicing this, be sure to look at yourself in a mirror. If your shoulders rise when you take your breath, then you are taking your air up into your lungs and your chest. Revert back to the soda can analogy. Continue to take your time and focus on your breathing and bracing every session and you will notice an immediate and sustained carryover to the quality and performance of your lifts for years to come.

 

Stay strong, friends.

Let’s get scientific today at UF. We can discuss the force-velocity curve all day long and debate the minor details involved in lifting, and I’d love it. Yet, today I would like to give you a quick overview on the force-velocity curve and why it is important to you.

 

The Coach's Guide to Programming and Periodization: Surfing The Force-Velocity  Curve and Changing Seasons / Elite FTS

 

This image came from elitefts.com, if you are not aware of elitefts I would recommend checking them out. I have been fortunate enough to be involved with them for over a decade.

 

Notice on this curve that the top left is maximal strength. This is training when the bar is under .3 meters per second squared. For our purposes the speed at the bottom right of this graph end is at around 2.0 meters per second squared. The reason I said for our purposes is that we are looking at this graph always under load, notice the percents on this chart. What this means in practical terms is that I am not considering high level plyometrics or sprints. These do have their place yet I just want you to begin considering how this matters when dealing with weights.

 

Why is this important to you?

 

If your goal is to get stronger the single most effective thing you can do is train heavy and hard. Remember Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID principle). If you want to move more weight you must train under heavy load. Yet as you can see this curve has a lot of space under it, and we must move the entire curve up and to the right if we wish to perform our best.

 

If you have never considered what I am writing about I would recommend that you begin performing some low levels strength explosive movements. You do not need to change your overall programming in order to do this. Just add this into your warm up. Here are some examples of things you could do.

 

  1. Med Ball Chest Pass 3×10 prior or benching.
  2. Box Jumps 3×5 prior to squat or deadlift.
  3. Med Ball Scoop Throws 3×5-10 prior to squat or deadlift.
  4. Broad Jumps 3×3 prior to squat or deadlift.
  5. KB work, swings push presses, or snatches. I’d do these any day.
  6. Explosive push ups 3×5-10 prior to benching.
  7. Weighted Jumps 3×3 prior to squat or deadlift.
  8. McGill Pull Ups prior to any lift.

 

These are just a few examples,  yet there are many ways to sneak in this extra work without hurting your main lifts (and hopefully helping the main lift). As with any new idea implement this in for a few cycles, test it and see what your results are. Don’t ignore how this makes you feel as well. Maybe your numbers don’t go up but you feel better, there is something to be said for this as well.

 

 

 

 

Top Ten List: Dumb Things Lifters Do

For this Monday’s blog we are taking a humorous look at weird things we all do as lifters.

 

  1. Bug squasher squats. For the last few years I have noticed many lifters who unrack the bar and then do the bug squasher dance. Not sure when this began yet it makes zero sense and is funny to me (special shout out to Daniel McKim for the name).
  2. Slamming warm up sets. We all know that your 135 and 225 warm ups felt light. What we don’t need is a new divot in the deadlift platform because of your slam dunk warm up.
  3. While on deadlifts let’s talk about your set up. Barking at the bar while raising your arms to the heaven will not help you lift the weight. Settle down and lift the weight.
  4. Living on “pre-workout.” We all need a pick me up at times, yet if you cannot lift without one maybe you need more sleep, not more chemicals.
  5. Over-concerning yourself with records. We have all been to a holiday party (well before 2020) and heard, “my cousin’s friend is a world record holder.” Our “sport” has a record for everything so just get a PR and have fun.
  6. Making fun of CrossFit. Yes, it is an easy target yet if you can’t walk a flight of stairs maybe some CrossFit could help your GPP.
  7. Acting like bodybuilders are ego maniacs while we are humble. Sorry, reality check time. We all have egos and began lifting to feed that ego. It’s okay, and we can learn from those guys and gals in their string tank tops.
  8. RPE scales. Too often I see a video when the lifter says “RPE 8.5.” C’mon! First off, do we really need decimals? Secondly, when you miss your second rep the RPE is a 10. All joking aside with this one, be humble. It is fine to say that your set was really much harder than it should have been.
  9. Instafamous. Yes, we all know that you lifted today, and social media is a great way to learn from those around you. If you spend more time editing your videos than you did training then did you train?
  10. Missing life because of lifting. After these last 9 light-hearted comments this one is serious. Lifting is a lot of fun. Take it from a guy who has competed in more than 20 events. I have had some of the best lifers come up and offer to help me without me even asking. I have also seen people helping those who they are competing against. What I am begging of you is to live your life. See your family. If you miss a lift, it will be okay. If you have to shorten a lift to go see friends and family then do it. If 2020 taught us anything it is that none of us are islands. When I get my vaccine I will stop my lift early to buy any and all of you a coffee or beer.

 

Todd Hamer

 

Meet Recap and Reflecting Back

I recently competed in my 15th full powerlifting meet. My goal for this meet was to step on the platform healthy and achieve a 2000lb total. This is a goal that I have been working towards for a very long time, and with the help of a great support system, I was able to do just that. It didn’t go exactly as planned (although it never really does), but I was able to stay focused and under control, and managed to walk away with a 804lb squat, a 430lb bench press, and a 766lb deadlift. As I sit and reflect, I can’t help but think about the journey and how I got to this point.

 

April of 2013 was my first powerlifting meet. I totaled 1310lbs at 190lbs bodyweight. To some, that isn’t a lot. To others it is. To me, it was neither. It was simply a starting point for my journey going forward. Even though the sport of powerlifting is judged off of how much weight you can lift, for me, it has never been just about that. Each time I walked into the gym, my only goal was to be better. Yes, sometimes this meant lifting more weight. Sometimes it meant learning something new about my technique. Other times it meant failing. But even when we fail, we have the ability to grow and become better if we have the right perspective. In my eyes, even a setback or a failure was a victory, because I learned something. I knew that if I kept this mindset and continued to accumulate the small wins, then I was progressing towards my goals and continuing to grow as an individual. Small wins over the period of weeks, months, and years add up into very big victories. 

 

This doesn’t just hold true for me, but for anyone. With the same mindset, any goal is attainable. The important thing to remember is that progress is never linear, whether it’s lifting weights or in life. There will always be setbacks, let downs, failures and achievements, road blocks and detours, but the most important thing is that you never give up. Could we do things more efficiently and be smarter with some of our decisions? Of course. But every single decision we make and experience we have leads us to this point where we are at this very moment. That’s living, and that’s how we grow. 

 

It’s hard to put into words exactly what this meet and this achievement means to me. All I can say is that every time I grab a barbell or walk into a gym, I am extremely grateful to be healthy and to have the opportunity to do something that I love. Having my wife there to experience it with me along with some of my closest friends was legitimately a dream come true and something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Powerlifting has given me more than I could ever give back. It has taught me lessons, helped me grow and mature, and has introduced me to some of the best people I’ve ever known. For that, I am forever grateful. 

Monthly Challenge

For the month of December we are offering all of our members a chance to challenge yourself, as well as us here at UF. There will be 4 different options and scoring sheets are hanging outside of our cardio lab. With these challenges you can complete them in the gym or tag us on instagram and we will put your score up for you. The winner of each challenge will receive a free massage. For those of you who are not ready to come back to the gym we can save your massage for a later date. Here are the challenges.

 

Challenge 1, Erg 2k Challenge.

 

For this challenge the goal is to do as many 2K’s on the Erg (rower) as you can during the month. The rules are simple. Row 2000 meters and that is 1 point. Row 4000 that is 2 points  etc. If you row 3000 today and 3000 tomorrow that is still only 2, 2 k’s. So please be honest as we are on the honor system.

 

Challenge 2, Bike 3 mile Challenge. 

 

For this challenge you just have to ride 3 miles on an airdyne bike. Similar to the first challenge you will just be asked to do the ride, then record it. Also, similar to the first challenge this must be done in 3 mile increments.

 

Challenge 3, Ski Erg 2k Challenge.

 

Read challenge one and do the same thing on a ski erg.

 

Challenge 4 Pull Up Challenge.

 

This is the simplest challenge. The goal is to hit as many pull ups as you can in the month of Dec. These can be done anytime and anywhere. Just record how many you have done.

 

As I stated earlier the scoring sheets are posted in front of the cardio lab. Some of our staff will participate in these challenges as well. If you do any of these challenges at home just tag Union Fitness and we will add your score in for you. If you do anything here just record it on our score sheets.

 

Now let’s get back to training!