Tag Archives: training

The Smallest Changes Make the Biggest Difference

My powerlifting journey started about 3 months ago (something I never thought I’d be saying). I’ve pretty much trained like a body builder ever since I seriously got into weightlifting about 4 years ago. It wasn’t until this year, 4 months ago, that I wasn’t finding joy in my workouts, and I decided something had to change. I decided to start training full body and focus a little more heavily on gaining strength through my main lifts: squat, bench, deadlift (but mainly bench and deadlift because I hate squatting lol). 


As I was writing up a new program for myself, I asked Curtis for his input. As we all know he’s full of knowledge when it comes to powerlifting, technique, and so much more. From there, I asked if he could watch and critique my bench because at the time, I felt like I was having trouble making progress. During this session, he told me to correct one thing and IT LITERALLY CHANGED EVERYTHING. This is what he said, “as you press the bar off your chest, push backward into the bench and act like you’re trying to push your toes out of your socks.” At first I was a little bit confused and as I tried to replicate that in the next couple reps it was a little weird. Then it clicked for me. 


The next couple weeks of training were mind blowing! I remember the week after I was benching and hit 100lbs for 8 reps (something I’ve never come close to). I ran into the office and said, “CURTIS THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!” It’s crazy that all I had to do was use my legs to drive myself back into the bench in the concentric portion of my bench. Like why didn’t I think of that??


For the next month, I focused on that leg drive, worked on pin presses, and really pushed myself to add more weight on the bar during my workouts. I tested my 1 rep max last week and successfully benched 125lbs!! After, I really started to think about how far I’ve come over the past year. A year ago, my one rep max was 75lbs, I never would’ve thought I’d be pressing 50 more pounds a year later. 


Another big win I had last week when testing my maxes was my deadlift. For the most part, I’ve always enjoyed deadlifting, but I also felt like I hit a wall with making progress on them a couple months ago. When I started my new training program, I shortly realized I couldn’t keep doing what I used to if I wanted to add numbers to my deadlift. When I made the switch from body building doing 10,12,15 reps of exercises to powerlifting doing 3,4,5 reps of an exercise it was a lot harder for me to wrap my head around. I saw it as “oh well now I’m not putting in as much work as I was before because I’m doing less reps” and I would completely forget that fact that I was now lifting way heavier and therefore still putting in a substantial amount of effort and work. As soon as I was able to eliminate that voice telling me I wasn’t working hard enough is when I started working harder and pushed myself to lift heavier. I successfully deadlifted 235lbs last week when a year ago my max was probably around 170/180lbs.


Moral of the story is the littlest things can really change your life, and the sooner you can quiet those discouraging voices in your head is when you can push yourself to do things you never thought possible. Apply this to your life or to your training and just watch how far you can get.



Discipline Over Motivation

Today, I want to take a moment to discuss the difference between discipline and motivation when it comes to our training routine and lifestyle. Which one will be the most beneficial for your long term goals. This seems to be an area that is sometimes misunderstood. By definition, the term motivation means “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.” On the other hand, the definition of discipline is “train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.”


If you’ve been training for any decent amount of time, then you have certainly experienced your share of motivation. On the other hand, you have also most likely experienced a lack of motivation. When you were new to training, motivation was something that was much easier to come by. You had this vision in your head of what you wanted to accomplish, and woke up every day just waiting to be able to walk into the gym. Over time, you realized that this is a very challenging journey filled with many ups, downs, and crossroads along the way. At that point, the motivation may have disappeared. Maybe you missed a couple of workouts, or maybe you fell out of your nutrition routine. When the motivation disappears (because it will), discipline MUST be established in order to continue towards your goals. 


Motivation is great for short term progress. Listening to motivational podcasts, seeing great progress within your body and your mind, pre workout and energy drinks, and simply the excitement of a new stimulus will all have short term benefit that will wear off at some point over time. What will continue to propel yourself along the road when all of the motivation fades away will be discipline. The same discipline that wakes us up each morning, brushes our teeth and makes our bed, and takes us to our job so we can support ourselves and live the life that we want. That same mindset MUST be applied to our training if we truly want to accomplish everything that we tell ourselves that we do.


Often times, it’s simply about showing up. Not every day will be a spectacular training session. Not every week will be a new personal record with our lifts. And not every month will we see the change in our body that we want. However, if we keep showing up and putting one foot in front of the other, especially on those days that we just want to give up, then I promise you great things will happen. Discipline yourself to do the hard things. Make them become second nature, just like that bed, those teeth, and that career. Ride the wave of motivation when it’s present, but when times get tough and you aren’t sure what to do, the discipline to succeed will always guide you down the road to your goals.


Curtis Miller

Ham’s Training & Special Guest Lifter

I wrote a blog to start the year about my goals. I started the year with some specific goals, yet life happens and things change. I had an injury to start 2022, and that changed everything. Injuries can be a great opportunity to learn and grow. I have spent most of 2022 recovering and I feel like I am back to somewhat “normal” training. Once you think things are “normal” it’s time for a change.


Arrive the guest lifter.


Today Paul “Canadian Crusher” Oneid has entered America. Paul and I used to work together as strength coaches at Robert Morris. Back then we were both young and dumb, and made too many mistakes to even mention. The problem is Paul was ten years younger than I was, and I was still making the same mistakes that he was making. After RMU, Paul went on to do well in powerlifting and coaching. Today he runs his own business and is training for his first bodybuilding show.


Today Paul and I are going to train together (we haven’t trained together in about a decade). Yes, I am going to do a bodybuilding training session. I am going to get some footage and share some of the training on our story if you have any interest in watching this old man grind. Our training will start today at 2 PM and you are more than welcome to watch and make fun of me and be awe of Paul’s strength.


Seriously, please feel free to ask any questions or just want to see some different things then jump on the gram today and see what we are doing.



Turning Small Wins Into Big Victories

If you follow our Instagram page, then you’ve probably seen our “Takeover Tuesday” stories that we post each week. Sometimes it’s a few helpful tips regarding form or technique. Sometimes it may be our interns giving helpful information. Or sometimes it may be one of us dropping beneficial life knowledge. I would like to think that my recent takeover falls into that category, but I’ll leave that up to you to interpret. My most recent takeover involved the lessons of the barbell and how they can relate to our goals in life.


A few months back, Cody Miller and I were doing a squat session together. We decided to do sets of 20 reps with the SSB bar. If you’ve ever used this bar, you know how challenging it can be. And if you’ve ever done 20 reps on squats, then you know how equally evil that can be. After our second or third set, I racked the bar, looked at Cody, and said “I don’t think I can do another rep.” Cody looks at me and says “Doing reps is like taking steps. You can always take one more step, no matter how bad you feel.”


This resonated with me, as I’m the type of person that always sees the similarities between training and life. If we were to approach each day the same way that we do each rep, of each set, of each workout, then our goals would be much more attainable. In today’s society, we think that we always have to have something right now. If we set a goal, we think that we have to achieve it instantly, or we’ve failed. That’s just not accurate. A better way to think of it is by taking one more step, doing one more rep, checking off one more box each day. If we focus on the smaller victories each day; checking off each box when we wake up, throughout the day, and each night before bed, we will ultimately get to the big goal. But if we only focus on the end result so much that we paralyze ourselves from seeing the smaller wins, then we’re going to have a hard time getting there, and we may even get frustrated before we give ourselves a chance to get to that point.


As I’ve said multiple times, this applies to training as well as to life. They are exactly the same. The best lessons I’ve ever learned are from the barbell and the weights inside of the gym. It taught me how to take these steps, how to progress, how to believe in myself, and how to be patient and hardworking. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it often takes much longer than you would like. But if you continue taking one more step, doing one more rep, and checking off one more box, you will ultimately get to exactly where you want to be.


-Curtis Miller

Five Priorities to Becoming a Complete Lifter

Over the past few months, I have taken the time to study what I believe to be a few of the most valuable aspects of training and becoming a complete individual inside of the gym. Here are 5 priorities I believe everyone should have every time they step foot through the doors.


  1. Treat the light weights like they’re heavy and the heavy weights like they’re light: I see many people getting under an empty bar and just moving it meaninglessly. There’s no focus on technique or intent until the amount of weight gets heavy enough where it forces you to focus. Now you’ve missed out on many repetitions that you could have used to perfect the movement. Just like a basketball player shooting a free-throw. Shooting a free throw isn’t hard for a professional, but if they only waited until they were under pressure to treat it with purpose, then they would never master the trade. So, when the weight is light, treat it as you would with a max lift, and when the weight is heavy, be just as confident as you would be when it’s light.
  2. Have purpose with all exercises: This one goes along with #1. After the heavy work is finished, it becomes easy to go through the motions with the rest of the session. Remember that the main exercise is roughly only 25% of the entire session. The exercises that follow are just as important, and need to be treated as such. Regardless of whether it is dumbbells, cables, machines, or bodyweight movements, make sure you’re focusing on full range of motion, full muscle activation, and intent with each rep and set. Those who consistently achieve their goals always make this a priority.
  3. Train hard & time your rest periods: Training has become very social. This is good in the sense that it has gotten more people involved and has built relationships within the training environment. However, if you aren’t careful, this can cause your training session to get away from you very quickly. The cure is to time your rest periods. If you train alone, use a stop watch or the timer on your phone to stay consistent and focused between sets. If you are training with others, make sure that you have the discussion before your session that you are going to keep the pace high with a quick transition between sets. This will absolutely improve your overall progress.
  4. Be involved with those training around you: I’ve been to many gyms over the years. One thing I often find are people who are completely oblivious to others around them. What makes Union Fitness special is the culture and community that has been built. When you walk through the doors, there is always someone that is looking to help with anything. At the same time, there is always someone who could use a hand, even when nothing is said. My suggestion is to acknowledge those training around you. By no means do you need to be best friends. However, when you see someone accomplish a good set or a PR, congratulate them. If you see someone struggling, help them. This will ultimately build a culture that everyone wants to be a part of and can benefit from.
  5. Be the standard: One of the best lessons that my father taught me was that if I choose to do something, do it right. This means that everything you choose to do should be with full effort and maximum dedication. From your career, to your relationship, to your workouts, to how you carry yourself as a human being. When you are in the gym training, be everything that you believe everyone should be. Even if you don’t think others are holding up their end of the bargain, continue to be the standard that you believe there should be, and carry yourself with it every day. This means helping others and being kind, picking up after yourself when you’re finished with your session, and training hard and being dedicated every time you walk through the doors, just to name a few. 


Apply these 5 priorities to your training and I guarantee you will find yourself becoming a more complete and well rounded individual.

-Curtis Miller

Science Stuff You Should Learn

In the world of health, strength, and fitness there are numerous confusing terms. As one who has spent 20 years in this industry I blame myself, and those in my profession for this confusion. I and we must do a better job communicating science. Today I want to give you some basic terms, acronyms, and phrases that may help you.


  1. EPOC- EPOC stands for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. It’s a very simple concept, that I will try to explain in easy terms. Imagine if I asked you to meet me at the parking garage. If you walked to 300 yards and I sprinted there when you arrived I’ll still be breathing heavy. We would have done the same amount of work (work is defined by displacement, so we both are equal in these terms), yet I am still winded. My body is still trying to overcome the changes in energy systems, yours is chillin. This is EPOC in real terms.
  2. Basil Metabolic Rate- This is how many calories your body burns by just sustaining life. There are a multitude of BMR calculators online. Age, sex, bodyweight, conditioning levels, and many other factors will affect this. Good rule of thumb if you are active then add a zero to the end of your bodyweight, and that’s a decent starting number.
  3. HRV-Heart Rate Variability. With the proliferation of smart watches I have seen a lot more people checking their HRV. In basic terms this is the time consistency of the time between heart beats. Think of it like this a good HRV is if your HR was 60 beats per minute and your heart beaten at 1.00 seconds then 2.00 seconds and continued this way for 60 seconds. Rule of thumb if your HRV is good then you are ready to train hard!
  4. RPE- Rate of Perceived Exertion. RPE was originally developed as a score of 6-20. The idea was 6 meant rest and heart rate would be at 60 BPM, whereas 20 meant full go, h and HR would be closer to 200. Now in lifting this isn’t even close to correct. RPE scale is now an easy 1-10 scale. The idea is 10 being as hard as you can do an activity and 1 being little to no work. The issue as I see it is that RPE is too subjective. IMO it should be looked at in the context of the training as well as using our next phrase, Velocity Based Training.
  5. VBT- Velocity Based Training. VBT is simple as it looks at fatigue as how much velocity drops on a given movement. With VBT There are a ton of rules of thumb as to how to use it. Yet, IMO VBT should be tied to RPE so that lifters can better use both of these ideas in their training.
  6. “Don’t fake the funk on a nasty dunk” Shaq. How does this pertain to strength and fitness? It doesn’t, yet it does. My man Ethan just told me I need to work this phrase into today’s blog, and any chance to use this quote is good for me. I will add that a closer reading of this phrase means, come into your session today with a positive attitude and prepared to not just fake it, but to work HARD.


Happiest of Holidays and a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU!

Todd Hamer



Terms You Should Know

There are many terms in the fitness world and here are 12 exercise terms you should know.



A set refers to how many times you repeat a given number of reps. For example, one set might be 12 reps of push-ups—repeating for three sets means you’ll do that three times through.


Repetitions (Reps)

Repetition is the amount of times you will perform the exercise (push-ups) in a set.


Super Set

Super setting means pairing two exercises and doing them back-to-back with minimal rest. There are many superset pairings to do.



A circuit consists of a series of exercises performed in sequence, with a short rest in between each exercise. A circuit can be timed, where you do as many completions as you can in a given time frame.


1RM (One-Rep Max)

This is the maximum weight that you can lift for one repetition of an exercise.



This acronym stands for “as many reps as possible.”


HIIT (High-intensity interval training)

A HIIT workout consists of several work-rest intervals. During the work interval you exercise as hard as you can. During the rest interval you either rest completely or continue moving at a low intensity, allowing your heart rate to decrease.



This stands for rate of perceived exertion, and refers to intensity. It’s a point of reference used to communicate how hard you should be working since what feels easy or challenging is different for everyone. On the RPE scale a 1 is little effort while a 10 means you couldn’t possibly do another repetition.



DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness, which is the soreness you feel the day or two after a hard workout.


Single, Double, Triple 

This is for my class people and now they know the answer to this one. A single is 1 rep, a double is two reps and a triple is 3 reps. If I were to say “let’s work up to a heavy triple”, what would that mean?



This is what you should be doing before exercise to raise your heart rate and body temperature in preparation for the workout. This helps increase mobility, range of motion and preparation.



This is what you do at the end of your workout. The goal is to gradually bring your body back to a resting state by lowering your heart rate and calming your nervous system.


There are many more terms and more to come. The more you know.




Falling in Love with Training

This past week I had a good conversation with a very close friend of mine regarding some struggles that he had been facing with his training. More specifically, we discussed how some of life’s challenges have had a direct impact on the overall success of his training sessions, as well as his mindset towards training itself. After a few minutes of discussion and throwing around some ideas to help him going forward, he said “ I think one of my biggest issues is that I need to fall in love with training again”. 


This took me back for a second, as I was recently in the same exact situation as he. Before my injury, I found myself going through the motions, with training feeling more like a job than anything else. I was so caught up in the end result that I lost sight of filling each box of daily gratitude and appreciating the fact that I had the opportunity to do something that I love dearly. After my surgery, I took the time to reflect on everything in my life up to that point. I found myself thinking about my life with training in it, as well as my life before I found my love of training. Before I was able to return to training, I often found myself looking through old pictures, videos, and thinking about how and why I first got into lifting. Throughout that process, I was able to come back into training with a clear mind; focusing on making the most of each day and opportunity to train, instead of just looking towards the end goal.


Now don’t get me wrong, when you have very specific goals that involve being the absolute best version of yourself possible, you are going to have very tough days. Not every time you walk into the gym is going to be pure joy, sunshine, and rainbows. The higher the goal that you set, the more challenge and responsibility comes along with it. Everything from your nutrition, sleep, stress management, and even relationships have to be managed precisely in order to fit your goals. Over time, if we do not approach these things with a complete understanding, focus, and care, it can become very easy to lose sight of what attracted us to this journey in the first place, and why we are doing what we are. When we lose sight of this, we may find ourselves doing it for the wrong reasons.


My advice for anyone reading this, from my own personal experience, is to remember to be grateful for each and every opportunity that is placed in front of you. Be grateful for the struggle and every challenge. Be appreciative of the less-than-stelar days, and even more so of the good days. Sit down from time to time and reflect on why you’re doing what you’re doing, and why you began in the first place. Think of how your life would be different without that thing in it. Remember that at the end of the day, you are healthy and strong enough to have the opportunity to do something that many people are unable to do. That is a gift in itself. Finally, please don’t ever let the thought of the end goal distort the joy that comes with the ride.


– Curtis Miller

Forgotten Training Ideas

A few weeks ago I was speaking with one of our new rockstar employees (I won’t use Vickey’s name so she doesn’t get a big head). During this conversation I was reminded how long I have been in the iron game. When I began lifting few people had a “coach,” most people had a crew or training partners. I can’t tell you that one way of training is better than another. I also know that information for anyone training is much more readily available and instagram is great for lifting and lifters, even if at times it can bring out too much ego. Let me step back and return to the point of this blog.


Here is a short list of things that I do not see lifters using anymore and should revisit in their training.

  1. Escalating Density Training (EDT)- EDT is as simple as doing more work in less time. A simple explanation is pull ups. Let’s say you can do 6 strict pull ups. So maybe you can 3×4 for a total volume of 12 reps and this takes you 6 minutes to complete all the sets. Try this Do 12 sets of 1 with 10 seconds rest and you will have completed 12 reps in about 2 1/2 minutes. Now reduced the time until your rest period is 5 seconds. Once you can achieve this move to 6×2 with 10-12 seconds rest and again reduce rest period over time.
  2. Floor Press- Larsen press has seemed to replace floor press for most lifters. I tried the Larsen press and it is a fine lift. Yet, don’t forget about the floor press as an alternative to helping build a big bench.
  3. Timed Sets- Instead of doing 3×10 of an exercise do 3x30seconds and worry about your Time Under Tension (TUT) instead of just the reps.
  4. Generalist Training- When you do not have an upcoming competition just train to be a stronger human. Use some strongman, bodybuilding, and maybe even ideas from our olympic friends. Just become stronger and more resilient.
  5. Overhead Press- Stealing from my last point. Just be stronger.
  6. Going Off the Script- As I said at the beginning everyone used to have a training “crew.” Back then trash talking was the norm. With this trash talking often times we went off script and competed just to compete. There is a certain beauty in having fun with a group of people and trying to crush each other.


Well these are the rants of an old man lifter. As John Meadows would say, “old man cranking.” Keep evolving as a lifter and as a human and we will see what is old is new again… eventually.


Tempo Training; What, When, and How

In my most recent blog, I discussed the importance of performing paused reps and how to incorporate them into your training. Today, I’m going to go one step further and discuss tempo reps, and how you can use them within your training arsenal in order to continue progressing and knocking out your goals. The purpose of incorporating tempo work into your training is to emphasize your time in a particular portion of each lift in order to become more comfortable being in that portion, and therefore becoming stronger and more efficient within that given lift. First, let’s dive into the meaning of tempo in relation to the repetition.


In regards to performing a particular exercise, the tempo is the rate or pace that the exercise is being performed. Therefore, rep tempo is the rate at which you perform reps within a given set.


When written on paper, tempo is typically shown as a 3 digit code that looks something like this: (4-1-3). Each number portrays the amount of time in seconds to perform that specific portion of the exercise. The first digit (4) is always the eccentric (‘lowering’ or ‘negative’) portion of the lift. During a squat, that would consist of the descent into the bottom for a count of 4 seconds. The second digit (1) represents the mid-point of the lift. In the squat, this would be the bottom portion where you would typically transition from the descent to the ascent, except now you would hold for 1 second before ascending, just as we discussed in the last blog on paused reps. The third digit (3) would then be the concentric (‘lifting’ or ‘positive’) portion of the lift. This would be standing up with the bar for a count of 3 seconds.


Keep in mind, you can make the tempo whatever you want depending on where you think each lift needs the most emphasis. Let’s continue to use the squat as an example. If you have a problem with staying under control and in a good stable position on the descent of the squat, then you would want the greatest tempo to be applied to that part of the lift, with 4-5 seconds usually being the sweet spot. If you lose tension in the bottom of the squat, then you would want to add a pause around 1-3 seconds. If you are typically stable on the descent and in the bottom, but lose positioning on the way up, then, you guessed it, would want to add a tempo to the ascent. For this, 3-4 seconds is ideal.


When adding them into your training program, start with around 60% of your one rep max for anywhere from 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps. As you become more familiar, you can slowly increase the weight by 2.5-5% of your one rep max. This can be done weekly, but it doesn’t have to be. If you aren’t feeling ready to progress in weight, then stay at the same as the previous week with the goal of performing each rep more efficiently. Try this for 4-6 weeks and then go back to performing standard tempo repetitions and see the difference.


We are programmed to think that every lift should be performed as fast as possible in order to develop the most amount of force, recruit the most fast twitch muscle fibers, etc. The reality is, if we cannot move efficiently within each lift, then speed becomes irrelevant. So if you find yourself struggling to keep good form and tension within a given lift, or just want to change up your training program with a new challenge, try incorporating tempos and see the benefits for yourself.


– Curtis Miller