Iron Game Chalk Talk with Robert Dos Remedios

Wanted to share another good listen from a series of great interviews by Cincinnati Bengals strength coach Ron McKeefery’s Iron Game Chalk Talk. This time Coach McKeefery sits down with Robert Dos Remedios, Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA. As usual, it is a great listen and I’m sure all strength coaches could learn something new from the interview. Enjoy!

The Wisdom of Dan John

Out of all the strength coaches out there, Dan John has to be one of my favorites. I mean honestly, how can you not love someone that has two first names? Anything Dan writes I read. Whenever he does an interview, I listen. Thankfully, I am not the only one that feels this way and Dan gets plenty of opportunities to speak at conferences and in interviews.

Dan John

One of the biggest reasons I love Dan John is because he keeps everything so simple. Dan definitely lives by the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Beyond that, everything he says and writes is always spot on and hard to argue with. Yes, a lot of his programs and philosophies are simple, but they are also extremely effective and fun – his programs add a little spice to your boring training.

Because of this, I wanted to share with you some of Dan John’s training programs. Like I said, he keeps things so simple but the programs are still effective and challenging. Try them out and see how they work for you, I’m willing to bet you will find them extremely challenging but also fun! Enjoy.

Barbell Complex

One of Dan John’s staples is the barbell complex. The awesome thing about a barbell complex is there are so many ways that you can go with it. What a barbell complex is a series of exercises that you perform with a barbell, one right after another. For example, one of my go-to’s is a deadlift to RDL to hang clean to front squat to overhead press complex. Complete that five times, rest for 60 seconds and repeat for a total of 3-5 rounds. It’ll take 10-15 minutes and you’ll be gassed – it’s a great finisher at the end of a training session.

100 Reps

This program might not be a true Dan John program, but it is something that I have seen him write about. This program is about is simple as it gets: pick an exercise and perform 100 reps in a little amount of sets as possible. For example, you may toss 135lbs on the bar and start benching until you hit 100 reps. Maybe it takes you 5 sets, maybe it takes you 15, who knows. The only real rule is to never hit failure, always leave a rep or two in the tank.

8 X 3 on the Minute

Another really straight forward but fun program. Again, pick an exercise and a moderate to moderately heavy weight. Simply perform a set of 3, on the minute, for 8 minutes. The first few rounds may not be terribly challenging, but it gets tough. I typically like to do this with something like chin ups – for some reason I think it works well.

Cluster Challenge

Now here is a real fun program. A cluster challenge works a little something like this. You pick an exercise and a weight…we’ll stick to the bench press and start at 135 again. You then perform a set of 2, a set of 3, and a set of 5, resting about 15 seconds between sets. Once you complete that, you add weight to the bar and go through the sets again (2,3,5). You then complete this cycle again, adding weight to the bar. Finally you reach the 4th and final cluster, which is the “challenge cluster”. By this point you should be somewhat tired from all the benching (or squatting, or chin ups, or whatever) and at a relatively heavy weight – hence the “challenge cluster”. Enjoy this one.


One of my favorites is a ladder. A ladder is somewhat similar to the cluster challenge with a few differences. Again, pick an exercise and toss a moderate weight on the bar. Perform 1 rep, rest, 2 reps, rest, 3 reps, rest, 4 reps, rest, 5 reps rest and then start back at 1 rep again. Go through the ladder 3 times. You could pick other rep schemes, something like 2-3-5 or 5-7-10 or really anything you would like. Again, effective and much harder than you think, especially if you pick an appropriate weight.

10 Rep Countdown

The final program is really straight forward. Pick an exercise and weight and then perform 10 reps and rest. Then 9, rest. Then 8, rest. So on and so forth until you hit a single rep. Again, not very difficult to understand but a total ass kicker to actually perform!

Got A Deck of Cards?

One thing that I don’t think people do enough is change-up their training. People seem to get on some type of training program, see some positive results, and then stick to it even though the results may begin to slow (or even stop) and they become bored with the same training day in and day out.

On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t feel people do enough conditioning, or more specifically, the right type of conditioning. Most people get on their favorite elliptical or treadmill and get after it for 30-45 minutes and call it ‘conditioning’. Talk about boring.

Thankfully we can cure both issues with a simply deck of cards.

The variety we can get with a deck of cards along with the great conditioning workout we can get is amazing. You can pick push ups from the floor or using a TRX, bodyweight squats, split squats, jump squats, burpees, straight leg sit ups, TRX rows, chin ups, and so on and so on. You can essentially pick any exercise you want, however I would recommend sticking to bodyweight exercises. Picking the exercises is the easy part, actually completing the workout is brutally tough.

Here’s how it works

  • shuffle a deck of cards
  • all face cards (Jack, Queen, King) will have a value of 10
  • Aces will have a value of 12
  • Number cards will be face value (6 of hearts = 6)
  • Jokers can be used or tossed to the side…if you use the Joker you can get creative and make it a 50 rep exercise or a 20 second sprint or whatever you want…point is if you use the Joker make it something different that will really tax you
  • Assign an exercise for each suit of cards (Hearts = Push Up, Diamonds = TRX row, Spade = bodyweight squat, club = straight leg sit up)

Once you have this all done, all you do is work through the deck of cards, performing the exercise for the prescribed reps based on what card you flip over. You can do it for time by using the same exercises and continually trying to beat your previous best time or you could simply change the exercises up each time you perform the deck of cards.

The take home point is this…mix things up and make the workout fun. This will challenge you more than any session on the ellipitcal or treadmill and all your really using is your bodyweight for resistance.

Fun, challenging, and intense. Doesn’t get much better than that.

The Complex From Hell

With the weather changing and the likelihood of being able to go outside and do some sprints on the track or any other form of outdoor conditioning becoming less and less likely as the days pass, I find myself trying new and different things on a weekly basis in order to get some type of conditioning in a handful of times a week (even thought I hate it with a passion). A while back I wrote about the TABATA protocol that I have been performing 1-2 times a week (usually 2), which I love because it’s over in 4 minutes and it kicks my butt.

That being said, recently I have been performing a barbell complex followed by 20-30 seconds on the ropes. It goes a little something like this…

BB Row x 5

RDL x 5

Hang Clean x 5

Front Squat x 5

Overhead (Military) Press x 5

Ropes for speed x 20 seconds

Rest 60-90 seconds

Repeat 3-4 times


You can perform the exercises in a couple of different ways. You could perform everything by itself, doing 5 barbell rows, 5 RDL’s, and so on which I have been doing. You could also combine the movements by performing 5 barbell row’s into 5 RDL’s and then 5 hang clean to front squat to an overhead press, a little something like the following video. Either way works, the key is to never let go of the barbell and move fluently from movement to movement.

For anyone who hasn’t done this before, I know what you’re thinking, and it is so much harder than it looks. A word of advice, pick a weight that you think is going to be too easy because I promise by the time you get to rounds 2-5 you’ll be glad you didn’t pick a heavier weight, you’ll be humbled quickly, AND it’s not really about the weight that you use and more about the nonstop, high intensity aspect of each of the successive movements. I speak from personal experience when I say that the weight can and will humble you very quickly.

Also, if you don’t have access to ropes, which many of you probably don’t, you have a couple of options. You could just stop after the barbell complex because I’m sure once you get through a couple of them you’ll be gassed, you could drop the bar and pump out 5 push up’s, or you could even go jump on the bike/treadmill for a quick 20-30 all out sprint. To be honest, for beginners simply performing the barbell complex will probably be enough.

Finally, the movements I picked are by no means set in stone. I personally use these 5 movements because of the ease/flow from one movement to the next, not because these are some special and/or better than other movements…by all means get creative and make it work for you. Just remember, the goal is to move from movement to movement with no rest between each movement all while never putting the barbell down.


Tips to Increase Fat Loss

A lean, healthy body is something that we all strive for but yet many of us are still chasing. Here are a few ways to get your fat loss furnace running at full speed.

1)      Consistency

One of the biggest reasons people don’t make the progress they want in the gym when it comes to fat loss is their consistency. Too often people go to the gym for a couple of weeks straight and then miss a week. Too often people eat a healthier diet for a couple of weeks and then fall off the wagon for a week. One step forward, two steps backward. By simply being consistent day in and day out you should see some positive changes, especially if you follow some of the other tips to come.

2)      Your Still Performing LISS/LSD

LISS (low intensity steady state) or LSD (long, slow, distance) cardio is the devil for a couple of reasons. One, it’s boring. Getting on the elliptical or the treadmill and spending 45-60 minutes a day gets old and it gets old quick…hence why consistency is such an issue. Get off the treadmill, you’re not a hamster. The second reason is because it’s simply not as effective as HIIT (high intensity interval training) and HIIT can be done in half the time it takes you to do LISS. Next time you head to the gym, try some interval training. An easy example of this would be 15 second all out sprints on the bike followed by 45 seconds of active recovery for 10-12 minutes. For more ideas and alternatives check this out.

3)      Lack of Compound Lifts

Try building your workouts around the big, multi-joint exercises. Lifts like squat variations, deadlift variations, pull ups and chin ups, and bench pressing will burn considerably more calories than the triceps kickbacks and dumbbell curls your trainer has you doing. Chances are with the multi-joint exercises you’ll build a solid pair of arms anyway with all the pushing and pulling you’ll be doing with much heavier weights than you were using with the kickbacks and curls.

4)      Add Some Good Weight

This almost goes hand in hand with using compound lifts. Compound lifts build muscle and strength than the smaller single joint exercises. The more muscle you hold, the faster your metabolism will be. A faster metabolism means more calories burned over the course of the day. Get stronger and add some good mass and get leaner.

Might be time for this guy to get a little stronger

5)       Your Diet is Crap

This might be the most obvious point on the entire list yet it’s something that happens all too often. You need to have some idea of what you’re consuming on a daily basis. I’m not saying you need to count calories, but I am saying you need to have a general idea of how many calories you’re consuming. You can’t try to lose weight when you consume 3500 calories one day, 1800 the next, 2500 the next, and so on. Find a caloric range that’s appropriate for you and try to stay within that range every day. Once you find an appropriate range, you can make the needed changes when weight loss begins to plateau by simply becoming a little more active to burn a few more calories a day or lower your calorie range on a daily basis.

Why Can't I Lose Weight?

6)      You Obsess on the Scale

One of the worst instruments to track progress is the scale. People get on the scale day in and day out and lose their mind when they are up 0.4lbs from one day to the other. Get off the scale and pay more attention to how your clothes feel and how you feel. Focus on what the mirrors telling you. Does it tell you that you look good? Like crap? If you like the way you look, does it matter what the scale says? Stop chasing a number on the scale and start focusing on what your eyes are telling you.

4 Minutes to A Better You

If you’re anything like me, and most of you are, the one thing you hate most about training is conditioning. Not many people enjoy pushing a prowler around, spending a half hour at the track running sprints, or wasting an hour of your time on the elliptical when you could be actually doing something useful. What if I were to tell you that you could get a GREAT conditioning session done in 4 minutes with the same or even better results? Enter Tabata.

Simply put, Tabata is an interval protocol performed on a bike that has been shown to highly improve both aerobic and anaerobic capacity in numerous scientific studies. The Tabata protocol calls for 20 seconds of ALL OUT sprinting followed by 10 seconds of active rest, repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. Pretty straight forward, but difficult to say the least.

I, for example, perform Tabata a couple times a week. I’ll jump on the bike, perform a 1 minute warm up followed by the 4 minute Tabata protocol and then another 1 minute cool down for a total of 6 minutes. Remember, this is after a strength training session so my body is warm and ready to go, therefore the 1 minute warm up is more or less just getting comfortable on the bike and maybe a little bit of a stall tactic.

Do yourself a favor and add 1-2 Tabata sessions a week after your regular strength training like I have. If done right, the protocol is a quick, intense, and mentally challenging interval session that will eat away at those love handles. It’s tough, but it’s will be one of the best fat burning sessions you’ll encounter, and it’s over in only 4 minutes!

Metabolic Finishers

Lets face it, we all hate cardio. I don’t know if I have ever heard a single person excited about their upcoming cardio session. As a result people skip cardio or just coast through it and end up wasting their time. There is good news though, whether you are a newbie gym goer or a lifetime lifter that’s spent hundreds of hours on a gym floor. You can hammer out your cardio session in a matter of minutes, you heard me right, and watch the fat melt off your body and improve your cardiovascular health. Enter metabolic finishers.

Metabolic finisher are a series of exercises that are performed at the end of a workout that will make sure that you’ve completely emptied the gas tank. I warn you though, metabolic finishers are not fun! But trust me, once your done with your metabolic finisher you’ll have a sense of accomplishment and even though they are tough when you are in the midst of them, you’ll feel great when you get back into the locker room and sit down.

Here are a couple of my favorite metabolic finishers. These finishers can be used by anyone, whether your goal is to drop some bodyfat, increase your level of conditioning so you outlast your competition or if your just looking to increase your work capacity. I personally will grab a stopwatch and try to beat my previous time on each of the finishers to constantly improve my conditioning.


1. 100 Yard Gassers

This is one of the finishers that I find myself doing a lot. It’s pretty straight forward, brutal and to the point. Gassers will improve your lower body power, speed your metabolism and increase your level of conditioning.

How to perform Gassers

  • place two cones about 25 yards apart
  • sprint as fast as possible from one cone to another until you’ve sprinted back and forth 4 times for a total of 100 yards (thats 1 Gasser)
  • touch each cone as you approach it
  • rest 45-60 seconds between each Gasser
  • perform a total of 10-12 Gassers depending on current conditioning levels
  • puke
Usain Bolt knows a little something about sprinting

Usain Bolt knows a little something about sprinting


2. Prowler Pushes

In order to perform Prowler pushes you obviously need access to a Prowler. If you do have access to one and you don’t perform Prowler pushes on a regular basis your missing out on some fun. Prowler pushes will increase your lower body and core strength as well as increasing shoulder, chest and arm endurance, not to mention an increase in overall body conditioning.

How to perform Prowler Pushes

  • maintain a straight back as well as straight arms, drive the Prowler with long, deep strides
  • drive the Prowler 20-40 yards depending on your current conditioning level
  • complete 5-10 sets with anywhere between 1-2 minutes of rest depending on desired intensity levels
  • pass out


**Prowler Pushes at Cressey Performance

3. Tabatas

A tabata complex can be done anywhere and at anytime making them ideal. You can do Tabatas at home, at the gym, or in your hotel room while your away on a business trip. Tabatas are also great because of the tremendous amount of variety they allow. If your creative you can literally do hundreds of different Tabata Complexes without ever repeating them. Like previous finishers, Tabatas will help increase overall body conditioning, increase metabolism and increase your functional ability.

How to perform Tabatas

  • pick any number of exercises ranging from 1 to 8 (psuh up, burpee, bodyweight squat, mountain climbers, split squats, chin ups, squats…)
  • perfom an exercise for 20 seconds non stop
  • rest 10 seconds
  • perform an exercise for 20 seconds non stop
  • rest 10 seconds
  • repeat this cycle for a total of 4 minutes (8 20/10 second intervals)
  • rest 2-3 minutes after the full 4 minutes
  • perform a total of 2-3 full Tabata Complexes


4.  Bodyweight Complex (courtesy of Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning and San Jose Sharks Strength Coach Jamie Rodriquez)

The bodyweight burn is another challenging finisher. The bodyweight complex will improve overall body conditioning, boost metabolism, and straight up kick your ass.

How to perform the Bodyweight Complex

  • Chin Ups for 20 seconds
  • Burpees for 20 seconds
  • Split squats for 15 seconds per leg
  • Lateral Crawls for 20 seconds
  • Straight Leg Sit Up for 20 seconds
  • Single Leg Glute Bridge for 15 seconds per leg
  • Push Ups for 20 seconds
  • rest 60-90 seconds
  • repeat 4-5 times depending on your conditioning levels



5. KettleJack Countdown (courtesy of University of New Hampshire Strength Coach Matt Skeffington)

 First and formost, if you aren’t familiar with kettlebells and how to use them you may want to pass on this one. With so many metabolic finisher options there is no need to perform a finisher that could potentially injury you with bad form. That being said, the KettleJack Countdown is tough. Like all other finishers, it will improve overall body conditioning and boost your metabolism. It also adds a little variety to your program by encorporating kettlebells into your training.

How to perform the KettleBell Countdown

  • alternate between kettlebell swings and jumping jacks
  • perform 10 kettlebell swings, ditch the weight and perform 10 jumping jacks
  • immediately perform 9 kettlebell swings followed by 9 jumping jacks
  • repeat without rest until you have reach 0 kettlebell swings and 0 jumping jacks
  • rest 1-2 minutes
  • repeat 2-5 times depending on your current level of conditioning


**Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning and San Jose Sharks Strength Coach Jamie Rodriquez crushing the KettleJack Countdown

Sit back and watch the fat melt off your body. Good luck!

LSD…My Thoughts

With spring and summer approaching and the weather finally becoming better than terrible its time to see people doing everything they can to shed those extra pounds and tighten things up a little bit. In doing so, most people take to the track, the roads, a treadmill, or an elliptical and perform 30, 45, even a full hour of LSD (long slow distance) steady state type cardio. But the question is, does LSD steady state cardio really help you drop those extra pounds and tighten things up, and if it does, is it the most effective way to do so?

To answer the question, I’d say yes and no (I know, sounds like I’m riding the fence on this). Does LSD shed those extra pounds and tighten you up…yes if its coupled with a healthy diet the long 30-60 minute sessions on the treadmill or track will indeed help you to drop some unwanted weight. However, in my opinion, as well as results of current research, LSD steady state is NOT the most effective way to drop those unwanted pounds and tighten up. Enter interval training.

Simply put, interval or HIIT (high intensity interval training) trumps LSD steady state on so many levels with research supporting these claims. Bouts of high intensity (sprinting) followed by bouts of low intensity (walking) at a 1:4 or 1:3 ratio for 10-15 minutes is all you need. Head out to a local football field, track, or even treadmill during the cold winter seasons and sprint, all out, for 15 seconds followed by a 45 second walk or even just waiting for the next interval. After 10-15 minutes, you’ll a) be completely gassed, b) done with any cardio training while everyone else is still humping away, and c) think your heart is going to jump out of your chest.

I do however want to stress that I don’t think LSD cardio is bad or wrong, interval training is just more effective and much less time consuming. Would performing LSD a couple times a week be a bad thing, no. If you decide that after work on a nice spring/summer day you want to go for a jog, do it. It’s not going to hurt you and it gets you up and burning some calories as opposed to sitting and watching tv and stuffing your face. But, if your performing LSD cardio 4-6 days a week, I’d tell you that your wasting your time. If your goal is to live a stronger, healthier life, I just encourage you to add some interval training to your workout to see even greater results both from a cardiovascular/health standpoint and a body compositional standpoint. If LSD is something that you want to continue to do, I would recommend 2 days at most coupled with another 2 days of interval training. I personally perform 1-2 LSD steady state sessions a week for about 20 minutes while performing 2-3 HIIT sessions a week that last anywhere from 10-15 minutes.

In ending, I leave you with this, a little anecdotal evidence for those that are still a little skeptical. Forget any of the research, forget my opinion and let your eyes do the work. Here is a side to side picture of a typical marathon runner who performs primarily LSD steady state cardio and a sprinter who would typically perform primarily interval (HIIT) training workouts.

You tell me…who looks like the stronger, healthier athlete?