Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Quick and Effective* Muscle Building/Fat Loss Workout

What's up kids?!

I'll make it short and quick today. I'm on my way out the door to take care of a few things, but I wanted to leave you with a quick and easy workout that will get your heart rate up, accelerate your metabolism, and light a fire under your ass!

*Note- This workout itself is NOT easy. These sessions are short, brief, and intense. That's what I meant by easy. It requires little to no equipment, will take you literally 20-30 minutes, and have you burning calories all day long! You MUST push yourself on this workout to get maximum benefits. 20-30 minutes of ass kicking!!

"20 Minute Machine Workout" Perform the following circuit for 20-30 minutes. Try to get as many rounds in as you can!Take as little rest as needed between exercise. You'll need to get out to either a park or track (there should be no excuse, there are plenty of these around! Go to your local high school or neighborhood park!)

-Perform a brief 5-10 minute movement prep warm up of jogging, skipping, leg swings, arm circles, hip circles, and light jumps before beginning.

Push Ups x max reps
Sprint x 50 yards
Burpees x 10
Sprint x 50 yards
Walking Lunge x 20 (10 per leg) LONG STEPS

*If it's been a while since you've sprinted, build up to a speed that is around 80% effort (pretty fast but not BALLS OUT. I don't want you pulling a hamstring on me! ;) )
Cooldown with a light/easy 5 minute jog and some easy stretching. Enjoy!

*Thanks to Underground Strength Coach Zach Even-Esh for inspiring the format of this session. Trust me, this one is no joke! Post a comment below and let me know how it goes! This sessions requires NO equipment but your own body and a will to push yourself HARD!

See ya!

-John Cortese, YFS

Sunday, September 6, 2009

New Features at the Blog!! You don't wanna miss this!!

WOW! It's been sometime since I've updated this thing. I've had a very busy summer training athletes and clients to get in the best shape of their lives! I ran a speed camp for local athletes that wanted to get faster, quicker, and more explosive for their sports... The attendance was lower than expected but every athlete that participated improved significantly!!

Big shout outs to Alex, Cara, Julie, and Caitlin. You guys ROCKED this summer!! And of course, can't forget about the international basketball players from 1-Dream that I had the pleasure to work with for 4 weeks. What a transformation they made from day 1 to the last session!!

Q & A column?! YES!!

Anyways, just wanted to let all of you that may read this thing regularly that I'm now going to post a weekly (or monthly, depends on how many questions and response I get) Q & A column. Send me ANY question you may have about training, muscle gain, how to get stronger, faster, jump higher, lose fat, nutritional questions, etc.. Basically ANYTHING that will relate to YOU reaching your goals FASTER than you ever imagined. A couple rules though..

1.) PLEASE be specific in your question. General questions will get general answers.

2.) Please be patient. The best way to get your questions answered is to be specific, leave your name and I will do my absolute best to answer you in a timely manner. If you are rude or demanding, you can be sure that I WON'T answer. Fair enough? =) Of course!

3.) Be aware that not ALL questions will get answered; if I get a boatload of questions that are all very similar, it will for sure get posted to the blog. Just be sure to check back frequently-- trust me, it's worth it!!

4.) If you have a question, you may e-mail me at and in the subject line make sure you put the words "Q and A". Otherwise your email may not be reviewed. Also, your questions MAY be put onto the website. I will keep your first name and last initial only for privacy purposes if it gets posted to the site. This is to help address others that may have similar questions.

OK enough rambling!! Send away.. Let the learning and discussions begin! This will also help me address some common myths, questions, concerns, etc about training. TRUST ME, there are MANY out there. Don't worry though-- I'm here to dispel those once and for all!

See ya guys in a couple days.

Thanks for reading!

John Cortese, YFS

PS- Have you checked out Prograde Nutrition ?!? This is by far one of the BEST, trustworthy, NO BULLSHIT nutritional supplement companies out there that actually cares about YOU. I highly recommend it! John Cortese "Seal of Approval"!! Would I steer you wrong?! NO WAY!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Top 3 Supplements for Acheiving Athletic Excellence, Maximum Fat Loss, and Overall Health!

The internet can be very confusing as you may already know. There is so much information out there that it can get confusing when looking for an answer. One person says one thing, another person says different. Who is right? Who is wrong? Well, I wanted to write this quick, easy to read post for you to explain my TOP 3 supplements that will immediately improve your health, well-being, sports performance, body composition, etc. Not only will I list my top 3, but I will also link you my recommended products. I like to keep things simple and easy, so taking the guesswork out of trying to find a product out there for you makes it even less confusing for you! Since most athletes and the general population have no idea where to look first, I'm giving you my list of the products that are actually PROVEN to work- not gimmicky ploys and scams that are out there just to take your hard earned $$.

Don't Let THIS GUY Scam YOU out of YOUR $$!

**Disclaimer- These are not prescriptions or intended to treat, cure, or prevent diseases. These are supplements, which literally supplement a sound diet and exercise program.

OK, with that being said, here is my NO BS, TOP 3 list of supplements you can utilize in your arsenal that can very well be the missing link to you achieving your goals.

1.) EFA's or Essential Fatty Acids- These have been proven to promote fat loss through stabilizing blood sugar levels, decrease joint pain, improve heart health by decreasing inflammation, and even regulate mood and relief of PMS symptoms. I highly recommend Prograde Nutrition EFA Icon ==> EFA Icon

2.) Post Workout Recovery Drink The post-workout recovery drink is highly effective and one that every person who exercises should be using. Did you know that “A recent 12 week study says that those who failed to consume a post workout meal immediately after their workout suffered a lower metabolism, loss of fat free mass, and had clear indications of muscle loss—while their conterparts (those who consumed a post workout recovery meal) significantly lost more fat, increased lean muscle, improved their metabolism, and increased dynamic strength.” A simple, easy way to achieve this is to consume a drink with the proper 2:1 or 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. I recommend Prograde's Workout Recovery Drink ==> Workout Recovery Drink

3.) Multi-Nutrient Formula Most mutli-vitamin formulas out there contain WAY too much of the recommended daily intake, which results in you literally pissing away your $$ yet again. Also, the absorption rates can be tricky and often times these formulas are filled with every single vitamin and mineral out there that you get an upset stomach, and many of these vitamins won't even be absorbed since they have to compete with the others in the product i.e. zinc and calcium. My preference nowadays is to steer towards more natural food based products, and even further look for a men's formula and women's formula. Some highlights for men ==> Proven to promotes maximum fat burning potential through optimal nutritional foundation, support prostate health, boost digestive system function; and Women can expect ==> support hormone balance, improve sleep quality, increase energy levels, makes nails stronger and hair shinier, etc..

Sounds GREAT doesn't it? You can find these products here ==> VGF 25+ for Women and VGF 25+ For Men. These products are nutrient rich concentrated with 25 whole vegetables, greens, and fruits, so you know you will be covered!

There you go... My top 3 list of very basic, food-based products that are HIGHLY EFFECTIVE AND PROVEN TO WORK. NO BS, NO HASSLE, NO SIDE EFFECTS. Look; if you are content with where you're at now, that's fine. But if you want high quality, research based, safe supplements that WILL help YOU achieve your goals, look no further than what I've listed above. I'll tell you straight up, it's not the cheapest around- they are NOT Magic bullets- you still have to put the work in at the gym and in the kitchen; Look at it as an investment for YOU and you'll be pleased with your results. No matter if you're an athlete or just looking to get fit, these should be the FIRST in everyone's arsenal if they're looking for a supplement to improve sports performance, fat loss, build muscle, etc.

If you have any more questions, as always, contact me and I'd be glad to give you some more tips if needed.

-John Cortese, YFS
Follow me on Twitter! ==> John Cortese on Twitter

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Do you WORK OUT or Do you TRAIN ?!

This could be why your results are lacking!

Please, DO NOT be THIS at the Gym....!!!

-Ever wonder why no matter how much you "work out", how good you think your diet it, how much you've cut back on the sugary shit you've been eating, etc etc etc.. No matter how HARD you think you've been working towards a goal, NOTHING works?! You just are NOT getting results? I have one very simple question for you that may make you take another look at how you are going about the fitness game...

Do you "WORK OUT" or do you "TRAIN"?!

What is the difference?!? Well very clearly.. When I refer to "working out", it's the people that go to the gym.. talk on the cell the newspaper while they are exercising... carrying on a full conversation with the person sitting next to them... watching TV... taking a break to smoke a cigarette (YES I HAVE SEEN THIS!). Basically, you go through the motions for some reason or another. Maybe you feel obligated to be there? Maybe it's peer pressure. Maybe it's the newest "thing to do". Either way, I almost go crazy when I see this type of BS. Why even waste your time if you're going to just take up space for others that actually are going to put it to good use?!

Then what is TRAINING? Ever see the guys who don't say a word when they are in the gym to ANYONE? How about the girls who's shirts are drenched in sweat after an intense 25-45 minutes of HIGH INTENSITY, gut-wrenching work? Think INTENSITY.

It is with my humble opinion that if you are going to step foot in ANY GYM, you best have a purpose. No matter what that purpose is, you are there to take one step FURTHER to your goal. If you're there to socialize, please leave and go to Starbucks. I realize that some commercial gyms can be intimidating for newbies, I understand this. The one's with experience out there should be (and for the most part ARE) willing to help you out if you approach them with respect and actually show you want to LEARN.

"Ever felt like this during a training session?! Try it sometime! Nice work Mr. English!"

I will never turn someone away if they truly want help and are eager to put in the HARD WORK it takes to get to where they want to be. In order to achieve REAL results, you must be willing to break out of your comfort zone. If you don't really know what I'm talking about, Ryan Joiner (owner of Athlon Elite) is offering 2 F-R-E-E Trial sessions at Athlon Elite here in San Luis Obispo, CA. All you have to do is go here Athlon Elite, fill out a quick bit of info about yourself, and you can truly see and feel what it's like to break out of your comfort zone and TRAIN HARD. Not only do you get this, you will also receive: An Introductory Fitness and Nutrition Consultation to assess your goals, a copy of Our FREE Report "The Truth About Fat Loss!", and a subscription to our quarterly newsletter. All this is valued at $175!! And you get it all for F-R-E-E.

So what are you waiting for? Are you willing to take action and take that next step? Either way, no matter what YOU do or where you are, don't be afraid to push yourself a little bit! You'll be glad you did!

-John Cortese, YFS

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Win the Battle against FAT Cells!

How Essential Fatty Acids can help YOU lose fat!

Don't expect any miracles sitting on your butt!

As a fitness expert, you know I'll never promise you a pill is going to be the answer to that "jiggle in your wiggle." If you want six pack abs you're going to have to work for them.


There is some very promising research out there in regards to a dietary supplement you've probably been hearing a lot about.

Yes, I'm talking about Essential Fatty Acids. You probably have heard them called something like Fish Oil pills.

How's this for good news?!

*University of Georgia researchers have found something pretty amazing about Essential Fatty Acid supplements containing DHA. Get this: The actually help STOP the conversion of pre-fat cells into fat cells by causing them to die out before they can mature.

Once a pre-fat cell becomes a fat cell, well, there's no turning back. You've got that fat cell for life. Imagine, actually decreasing the accumulation of fat by taking an Essential Fatty Acid supplement containing DHA!

Now let me do my best infomercial voice for you...

But wait, there's more!

Seriously, that's not the only benefit of Essential Fatty Acid supplements containing DHA.

According to studies** done at the University of South Australia people that combined exercise with Essential Fatty Acid supplements containing DHA saw greater fat loss than the test group that only exercised and did not take the supplement.

How can you not be excited by these research studies??

Now, personally, I don't like Fish Oil pills because they cause you to burp like crazy. If you've ever taken them you know exactly what I mean. And they aren't always the highest quality.

I prefer EFA Icon from Prograde Nutrition because they use Krill Oil. It's been found to be a superior source of Essential Fatty Acids containing DHA. Plus, with EFA Icon there are NO fish burps. And I haven't even mentioned all the amazing health benefits from this dietary supplement.

If you're looking to accelerate your fat loss results than I really recommend you go with Prograde Nutrition's EFA Icon. You can get it here: Prograde Nutrition EFA Icon

Yours in rapid fat loss,

John Cortese, YFS

PS - Remember, EFA Icon is NOT a miracle solution. You will need sound nutrition and exercise. BUT the research is there. It's definitely a supplement with powerful fat loss properties. Prograde Nutrition EFA Icon

* Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 136:2965-2969

** American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 85:1267-1274

Monday, June 1, 2009

How to WRITE like you SPEAK and make MORE $$

Today I'm lucky enough to provide all of you with a guest post from a friend of mine. His name is David Tendrich, founder and owner of Visionary Jammer Guitar School in Atlanta, Georgia. David also happens to be what I consider a GENIUS when it comes to dominating your local craigslist advertising, how to write good sales copy, making unique yet effective ads for your small business or service, etc.. Hell, the guy made over $1,000 in ONE WEEK using his craigslist advertising techniques!! Anyways, I have a great guest post from the man himself below.. Without further a due..

How to write an ad or website as convincing as any sales pitch you’ve ever spoken
Turning how you speak into how you write

By: David Tendrich
Unexpected Ways Creative Design & Marketing Solutions

The man himself, David Tendrich
He knows a thing or two about making creative ads!

Finding your voice

Many of us are great talkers. We think of an idea, and instantly find the right words to tell that idea to others. And as far as business goes – we know exactly what to say to turn a prospect into a client. However ask us to write an argument as compelling as one we spoke, and we freeze up. The words get stuck, and so what comes out is this mangled, gnarled splatter of letters that couldn’t convince a cow to eat grass.

The Trick to Writing Like You Speak

Here’s the trick to writing how you speak… Write how you speak! The most compelling copywriting is the most down to earth copy that you can really connect with and relate to. So pretend you’re speaking – don’t use crazy words or phrases you never would in talking, or suddenly become super formal. Just be yourself.
Here’s a technique that will help you to do just that – to be yourself while you write.

Gary Halbert’s Technique

Gary Halbert is considered by many to be the best copywriter who ever lived. If you haven’t heard of him, check out It’s a collection of hundreds of free articles written by Gary about copywriting and marketing. Brilliant stuff. Anyways, in an interview on this very subject we’re discussing today, Gary offered a solution for people who have trouble writing.

"Mr. Gary Halbert ladies and gentlemen!"

That solution is to carry around a recorder. And whenever you’re talking with a prospect about your business, record the conversation. Do this repeatedly until you forget you’re even wearing a recorder, because that’s when you’ll really be natural and compelling. Then, when you feel you’ve recorded some great material, sit down, and write it out.

And presto! You have yourself copy that’s better than 90% of what’s out there!

The reason that it’s better than 90% of what’s out there is simple: you wrote down what you actually said to another human being. In copywriting, you’re speaking to other human beings. So if you can remember that for every copywriter there are copyreaders, you will sound much more natural and compelling in what you write.
Maybe even take out a recorder and pretend you’re speaking with someone about your business. Or talk out loud as you write. Do whatever you can to tap into your voice, and to get it down on paper. Because the second you start writing copy that really feels natural, that just flows out as easily as spoken words, you have yourself something people will really respond to.

And if you have any questions,
Or if you would like a custom-designed/copywritten Craigslist ad, website, etc. of your own,
Contact David Tendrich at

And thanks again, John, for the opportunity to write a guest post on your blog!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

5 Super Simple Fat Loss Tips

Keeping FAT LOSS Simple!

Fat loss isn't rocket science. I know we love to make our problems seem much bigger than they really are, but when you really look at them they're typically easy to solve. And that's often the case with fat loss.

Fat Loss shouldn't have to be rocket science!

To prove it to you here are five super simple fat loss tips you can easily follow:

1) Stop guzzling liquid sugar. Yes, I mean soft drinks and juices and bottles of iced tea loaded with high fructose corn syrup. For the most part, a 12 oz can of cola is 150 calories of pure sugar. Have a couple of those a day...

2) I've written it a gazillion times and I will continue to - eat breakfast! If you want to make fat loss easy then make sure you start your metabolism off on the right foot.

3) Eat more fruit. Aim for at least 5 servings a day.

Eating More of these can help the fat BURN OFF!!

4) Eat more veggies. Again, aim for at least 5 servings a day.

5) Stop eating so many processed foods. If it comes in a box from your grocery store it's most likely processed. The fresher the foods the better.

**Bonus tip**

You can make tips 3 and 4 a breeze by using a whole foods based multi. Personally, I love Prograde Nutrition's VGF 25+ (VGF 25+ Men OR VGF 25+ Women) because it is made from 25 WHOLE veggies, greens and fruits.

Yours in health,

John Cortese

PS - You know I take my nutrition seriously. And it's why I ONLY recommend Prograde Nutrition's Whole Foods based multi. They have both a men's (VGF 25+ Men) and women's (VGF 25+ Women) formula.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Body Mass Index Debate!

The BMI can lead to some confusing results!

Hi guys and gals-

After a little break from writing posts, I'm finally back! I know you missed me, but don't worry.. My regular posts will start back up with some regularity now.

I really do not like the BMI- (Body Mass Index) as a gauge to how "healthy" one is. Most athletes that I know would test out as "obese".. Hmm. Based on my height and weight I classify in this area. Yet most athletes and people that are training are FAR from this. There are far better ways to gauge your body composition and overall health (calipers, hydrostatic weighing, etc) What's the deal? I have a great post for you about the Body Mass Index and how it can actually discourage your training!

A far more accurate assessment of your body fat done with calipers!

Today's post comes from Coach Charles Staley, a world class strength and performance coach. Check it out, let me know what you think about Coach Staley's article below.. And as always, if you have any questions, feel free to comment or e-mail me! Have a kick ass day!

Prove Me Wrong! Why BMI Could Actually Discourage Training!

By Charles Staley, B.Sc, MSS
Director, Staley Training Systems
Charles Staley's Website

Author’s note: I wrote this when the BMI index began making the news. It struck me that the BMI actually discourages training— see if you agree.

Warning! Exercise Increases Your Risk of Weight-Related Health Problems

The BMI is designed to replace the old height/weight charts created by health insurance companies. But the question remains, what is the accuracy, not to mention, the utility, of the BMI?

First, let's start with a definition. You can calculate your BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. (If you'd prefer to spare yourself the mathematical trauma, just head over to The Department of Health and Human Services at BMI Calculator (they have a BMI calculator which you can use to instantly calculate your supposed level of risk of overweight.)

An Interesting Test Case: Me

I recently did just that, and at 205 pounds and a height of 6'1", I landed a whopping BMI of 28— nearly obese by BMI standards.

According to the NIH, you'll need a BMI of 24 or less in order to qualify as having a "normal" weight. So I kept plugging in lower and lower bodyweights, finally going all the way down to 180 pounds to obtain a BMI of 24.

I wonder, what would the consequences of losing 25 pounds be for me? Of course, a fairly large portion of this weight would be muscle— If I make the assumption that I'm currently 15% bodyfat, that means I only have 30.75 pound of fat on my entire body. So, to lose 25 pounds without losing any muscle, I'd end up with less than 2% bodyfat, which is probably not enough to sustain life.

So, that means that the 25 pounds would be mostly muscle. Since a pound of muscle burns approximately 18 calories a day, my metabolic rate would be lowered by 450 calories a day.

Also, this dramatic loss of muscle would certainly profoundly reduce my strength levels. While I have more than enough strength to get through my daily activities, muscle mass and strength both gradually decline as we age.

So I always look at muscle like "money in the bank:" the more I have now,
the more I'll still have when I'm 60, 70, or 80 years of age. So the bottom line seems to be, if I choose to adhere to NIH's guidelines, my health and functional status will surely decline!


Another very important point to consider are the legions of people who will score very acceptable numbers using the BMI, but who in fact are overfat. Despite what many people think, it’s common to find people who appear to be of normal or even low bodyweight, who in fact are overfat, because they have such low levels of muscle mass.

Consider the research conducted by Dr. William Evans at Tufts University: Evans discovered that the as women age, in many cases their leg girth tended to remain constant, however, upon CAT scan analysis, it was found that the fat mass was increased, while the lean mass had decreased. In other words, their external appearance had not significantly changed, yet their bodyfat percentage had increased.

And Even Further...

Because muscle weighs more than fat, embarking on a rapid, unhealthy weight-loss scheme will reduce your BMI much more effectively than losing weight in a healthy and rational manner (the faster you lose weight, the more muscle you lose). So I would like to venture the proposition that the new BMI will encourage fad weight loss programs and starvation diets.

Is There a Better Alternative?

Yes. Have a reputable fitness professional measure your bodyfat percentage (call the International Sports Sciences Association at (800) 892-ISSA to find such a professional in your area). Over the past several years, there have been important new developments in bodyfat measurement techniques, and today, there are several options available. Various methods have varying degrees of accuracy, but if you always use the same method, you’ll have an accurate standard of reference.

In other words, you may not know your exact percentage of bodyfat, but you’ll know if your percentage is increasing or decreasing.

I don’t know why this is such a hard pill to swallow— it’s bodyfat, NOT bodyweight that determines your health and functional capacity. There will never be a height/weight chart, regardless of what anyone chooses to call it, which can predict optimal bodyweight, because such charts never take a person’s muscle mass into account.

About The Author

Charles strength/performance coach...his colleagues call him an iconoclast, a visionary, a rule-breaker. His clients call him “The Secret Weapon” for his ability to see what other coaches miss. Charles calls himself a “geek” who struggled in Phys Ed throughout school. Whatever you call him, Charles’ methods are ahead of their time and quickly produce serious results.

Click here ==> Charles' website to visit Charles' site and grab your 5 FREE videos that will show you how to literally FORCE your body to build muscle, lose fat and gain strength with "Escalating Density Training," Charles' revolutionary, time-saving approach to lifting that focuses on performance NOT pain.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Never, EVER Give Up

I just watched a short 12 minute video about a man named DJ Gregory. For those of you who have yet to hear about this truly inspirational story, I will link the video towards the end of the blog so you can see something that might change your life forever.

A great story
He achieved his "un-reachable" goal, have you?

We all have goals, dreams, aspirations, etc that we can envision. But, how many of us actually ACT on them? How many times have you felt scared, nervous, anxious, about them? Do we fear the unknown? Do others around you tell you that YOU CAN'T do it? I know that from personal experience, and I'm sure all of you have one time or another, have had someone tell you that your goals are unreachable.

My response to that? FUCK THAT. Sorry for the language, but I get very worked up and emotional when someone tells me that I can't achieve something. We only live once, people. You never, ever will know what could have been if you DO NOT TAKE ACTION. That is one of the key take home messages here, and something I ALWAYS try to get across to the athletes I work with, the clients that come into Athlon Elite, and my friends, family, girlfriend, etc.. You have a goal in mind? DO NOT QUIT. Do you want to lose 20 pounds? Do you want to get stronger, faster? DO NOT QUIT.

Believe me, the last few years of my life have been pretty tough believe it or not with some of the obstacles and challenges I've had to overcome to where I am at now. As the old saying goes, NO RISK, NO REWARD. It's pretty gratifying when you can achieve your goals, check it off your to do list, and get after the next goal. IF YOU CAN SEE IT, YOU CAN ACHIEVE IT. And never, ever, ever give up and let anything or anyone stand in your way if you want it bad enough.

Here is the link I promised. DJ Gregory WALK ON Please take 12-13 minutes out of your night and watch something that is truly amazing. It just reinforces my mindset about some of my personal goals.

We all have something we'd like to achieve in life. What is holding you back? Take a risk, you never know what will happen if you don't! As DJ said in the video, "I'm going to fall. It's going to happen. But I get up every single time. Learn from your mistakes, and don't let it happen again." Maybe not the exact words that he said, but definitely some words of wisdom we can all live by.

Next time your down in the dumps, remember this blog, the video, and challenge yourself.

Until next time..

-John Cortese

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Female Athlete Training Myths

Ladies, it's about time we debunk the myths of weight training once and for all!

Lean, strong, and nothing masculine about this athlete!

Weight training is beneficial for ALL types of people. Not just men! The common myth I hear all too often from women..

"I don't want to get too bulky" "I don't want to look manly!" Sound familiar? I don't blame you! After all, the media portrays a terrible image of strong, fit women and usually only show the female bodybuilders that are so full of the "JUICE" and artificial drugs (anabolic steroids if you haven't caught on), that they start to actually take on male characteristics.

This is NOT the way women were intended to look- testosterone is a male sex hormone and it is plainly obvious to see if a woman if using androgenic drugs. Moving on..

Women do not possess or produce the large amounts of testosterone that men have- this is why men are generally stronger, have more muscle mass per pound of bodyweight, larger frames, deep voice, adam's apple, facial hair, etc. These are all male characteristics. So how is it possible to get too bulky or manly from lifting weights if women do not produce enough testosterone to achieve that look? NO WAY will that happen (unless you using some substances discussed above).

Myth #1- If I lift weights I will bulk up and gain weight.
FALSE! Weight gain is highly contributed to how much you take in. You are either in caloric surplus (you eat more than you burn), caloric defecit (you eat less then you burn), or you are in neutral (your calories burned vs. taken in are about equal). Weight training will give you that look I'm sure you're all after- lean, toned, etc, right?

Myth #2- I will never get strong; I'll just lift the light weights since girls aren't supposed to lift weights anyways. Those heavy weights are for the guys!
FALSE! Women can actually achieve very high relative levels of strength (compared to their own bodyweight). And yes, everyone including female athletes can get strong! As long as you are progressing, you are getting stronger, the numbers will sort themselves out later!

Myth #3 Weight training will make me slow

FALSE! This is actually a very common myth among both men and women. In fact, it's quite the opposite as long as you do it CORRECTLY! Yes if all you do day in day out is lift weights and do NOTHING else, then you may become "tight" or stiff and performance may suffer; however if you stay on top of mobility, flexibility, and keep striving to improve on strength, power, and speed, then the gains will be nothing short of positive! Weight training also has great benefits for preventing injuries- Especially important for women who are 2-3 times more likely to tear an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) then their male counterparts. Not an injury you want to have happen to you unless you want surgery and a 8-12 month rehab!

In my opinion females can train just as hard as males on similar training programs. Women represent half of the training population, so why train differently? The only difference between the two is the hormonal make up! I've seen plenty of women in gyms kick some GUYS asses in workouts.. You'd be surprised!

Take home message? ALL women should be participating in resistance training, ESPECIALLY if you are participating in sports. The more lean muscle tissue you possess the more FAT YOU WILL BURN AT REST as well. As a friend of mine ELLIOTT HULSE over at Strength Camp has said "NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING STRONG!"

Get Some!
-John Cortese

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Having a P-L-A-N

The biggest weapon you can have in your arsenal of training is.......

.....Still with me? Good.. Just checking.

IMO, it is a truly well-designed, pre-planned/outlined program that is structured, well thought out, and makes sense!

I know, anyone out there can make up a training program and have their athletes do it, BUT.. I like to look at many variables..

1.) Does the plan suit the athlete's goals?
2.) Are the exercises appropriate for the experience and level of the athlete?
3.) Is the volume too much or too little?
4.) Are there enough days off in the given training cycle to let them recover?
5.) Are other variables addressed if needed?

There are probably more, but off the top of my head these stick out as the ones I like to focus on when looking at Long Term Athlete Development. Yes I prefer to focus on the long-term, not what an athlete can do in 6 weeks.

One particular training product that is fool-proof, time-tested again and again, PLANNED OUT WEEKS/MONTHS IN ADVANCE, and gets RESULTS is GPP Essentials DVD from world reknown speed training expert Charlie Francis. In it highlights many training means to reach the ends, including weights, speed work, medicine ball training, abdominal training, weekly set ups, periodized weekly set ups, etc. Not only is this is a GREAT addition to any training library, but it will truly change your outlook on proper speed development for athletes. You can modify the plan to suit each individual's needs, but the principles lie within.

Speaking from experience, I have had my best results ever as far as speed enhancement goes in my athletic career while under a properly designed program based on Coach Francis' training methods. The GPP DVD is where I got started and will continue to use in the future.

In short, do yourselves a favor and head over to the Charlie Francis Community, a web forum dedicated to athletic performance and training. Check out the GPP DVD and if you have questions, post away!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wake Up!

Just 5 more minutes...

I just got home from my first lift testing of the week. We are testing our lifts this week- power clean, squat, bench press, broad jump, and possibly vertical jump if we have time.

This morning's lift time was at 10:00 a.m.- I woke up at 9:08 a.m. NOT GOOD. Why?

I have read studies that concluded that the CNS (Central Nervous System) is most efficient 3 hours after waking and/or 11 hours after waking. I have recommended in the past to try and follow this general guideline when weight training. Now I know most people have lives outside of training and can't always follow this rule- BUT, in my case I should have been much smarter and followed this simple principle. Personal experience of mine has shown positive correlation to this as well. Not only do I perform better after being up and moving around for a while, but I get some time to mentally prepare for the lift, eat a quality meal (which I skipped this morning- only had time for a protein shake and a little caffeine. Again not good!), and focus for the task at hand. Every time I skip this step the workout suffers.

In short, I performed poorly in my opinion today since my testing numbers are well below what I know I am capable of.

I power cleaned 105kg (231 pounds, and had 2 close calls at 110kg (242 pounds). I only had 1 legit broad jump mark at 8'8"; scratched my first 2 jumps at 9'2" and 9'1" because my toe went over the start line by about half an inch. Not bad for a body weight of 183 pounds, but I have done much better than this in the past. My personal best power clean is just about 242 pounds, but my best broad jump (standing long jump) is 9'5". Just one of those days!

The Power Clean in sequence- A great lift, but highly technical!

So what is the take home message here? Give yourself time to wake up, get some food in your system, and focus on the task to follow if you are truly serious about what's to come!

-John Cortese

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Speed and Power DOGMA Part II

Please Read Part I of this discussion if you have not yet already!

OK- Earlier in the week I went over the basics and my philosophy on why I feel that team sport athletes should still be structuring their training around speed and power methods.

"He's fast..Really, really fast!"

Again, it is very common to see many coaches in the early months of the off-season performing tons of conditioning work to their athletes. We're talking weeks after the season has ended; the last thing you would want to do after a season has ended if run your players into the ground even more!!

So, now we're left at a crossroads and that is: Where do we go from here?

I firmly believe that if one is to seek their maximum potential, speed work must be practiced year round. Even if that means in the early stages of off-season training performing 1 speed session a week! Running fast is a SKILL and can be learned and taught- BUT, like any skill, it must be practiced with repetition- and here's the kicker- SPEED WORK MUST BE CONDUCTED WITH COMPLETE RECOVERY BETWEEN EFFORTS. Basically, you must ensure that every rep you perform is with quality- form, relaxation, effort, etc. Rest time is variable, but most of the time an athlete that is in a true speed workout will get complete rest to ensure that the next repetition is of equal quality.

Rule #1: Speed Training must ensure QUALITY over QUANTITY.

Now, that principle is in place. So you may be asking yourself.. "OK so if we are going to get faster, how do we structure workouts around speed work, etc?"

IMO, again if speed is your number one priority in the training cycle, then it must precede any other work you are planning to do on that training day. It is common to perform weights and sprints in the same day. So it is simple: perform the speed work first, then head to the weight room and get that done. You kill two birds with one stone in that A.) The athletes were fresh for the speed training B.) The athletes are fairly warm from the speed work- this eliminates substantial warm-up time for weights.

Now, the last topic I will touch upon for today is a basic weekly training plan. I firmly believe in the CFTS- The Charlie Francis Training System CFTS, which basically means placing high intensity training elements together on one day (high intensity elements include speed work, plyometrics/jump training, heavy weight training, etc) and the Low Intensity elements together on a given training day (extensive tempo runs- efforts with incomplete recovery at 75% or less of best time over a given distance, general fitness work, submaximal/light weight training, etc).

I think I may have went off on a bit of a tangent here, but hey I could talk about this stuff all day. Please stay tuned for Part III of this discussion where I will discuss sample training weeks, WHY and WHEN I choose to follow the methods I do, how to structure an entire off-season, and much more.

If you are involved in team sports, I recommend coming back for this final part III!

In the meantime, take a minute and head over to Kelly Baggett's webpage to see excellent articles, and a great product entitled The No Bull Speed Manual. It can be found here No Bull Speed Manual Of all the resources out there, this is one that is very easy to comprehend, lays out training templates, and follows the principles that I discuss here. I have it and highly recommend it as Kelly is one of the smarter coaches in this industry!

Again, take care and please stay tuned for Part III.

See ya in a couple days!

-John Cortese

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Speed and Power DOGMA Part I

How many times have you been through a long grueling practice, only to end with CONDITIONING?
"Use caution, FAST Athletes CROSSING!"

Why, in off-season training, are coaches putting their athletes (involved in speed and power sports) through endless intervals, repeats, "gassers, etc. ? "Come on, If you ain't puking, you ain't trying!!"

Some typical answers:
-"We need to be in shape for the season"
-"It'll make us mentally tough"
-"We gotta build a BASE "

LOOK, I'm all for the occasional training session that will push an athlete to aerobic and anaerobic capacity, but they have their time and place! Not day in, day out, especially in the OFF-SEASON.

*Note: Don't get me wrong, the sessions that absolutely TAX the HELL out of you, can and WILL make you mentally tough, get you in kick ass shape, etc but I feel that the further away one is from the competitive season, the less this type of work should be done.

In my humble opinion, any mature athlete that is in off-season mode should be focusing on:
-SPEED in linear and non-linear planes
-Body composition
-Basic, GENERAL fitness

Now there is more than 1 way to skin a cat here. You can go with basic Linear Periodization, Conjugate periodization, etc etc. The list goes on. BUT THE PRINCIPLES REMAIN. If an athlete is to seek their maximum potential in speed and power gains, what is the answer?

Read Part II of this discussion when I focus on WHY speed should hold priority over conditioning in early preparation, sample weekly set-ups, and the pros and cons of different off-season training methods for TEAM SPORTS that are heavily influenced on SPEED and POWER (hint: most, if not ALL, are!).

As the old adage goes, SPEED KILLS! The faster, stronger, powerful athlete will usually DOMINATE a slower, weaker opponent. Leave that food for thought. Until next time..

-John Cortese

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Reverting back to the basics

As the information of training, bodybuilding, strength training, whatever you may call it continues to grow EVERY DAY- One may ask themselves.. Where do I begin??

One motto I like to go is KISS- Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Okay, that may come off as a little harsh, but you get the idea? Basic movements have been shown time and time again to achieve proven RESULTS! None of this frilly, foo-foo gym equipment; none of this balancing on a stability ball with a 2-lb pink dumbbell in one hand while talking on the cell phone in the other.

Listen, if you are after RESULTS! Then I'm POSITIVE you've come to the right place. Take a moment and read what Zach Even-Esh has to say about training with the basics!

Enjoy! If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below!

Carry Like Crazy! By Zach Even – Esh

The simplest movements can often yield the most powerful results. Is this why I never saw anyone doing farmer walks with the 180 lb dumbbells at some gyms I’ve been to?

Or heavy rack pulls, heavy squats, heavy military presses (standing not seated) or heavy barbell rows?

These movements pack on the real muscle and make you stronger than a Bull! What about farmer walks with the farmer walk bars?

I snagged a great pair of farmer handles from

I used the econo farmer bars and they arrived 2 days later! These long bars make the carries much harder and really hammer the lower body. Normally we used our 130 lb dumbbells or heavy kettlebells but these long bars were different and better for full body work!

You can also perform the other basic carries with dumbbells and sandbags. These movements will develop full body strength and you want to include these HEAVY in your workouts on a regular basis. These are the basics. After the basics you can start getting more advanced by using cross carries or mixed carries. I'm talking about zercher carries and bear hug carries using sandbags or carrying a stone around the backyard in between sets of kettlebell work.

The cross carries can be used with dumbbells, kettlebells and even sandbags. All you need to do is hold them in two different positions. This awkward loading of the body strengthens the muscles and the body from unique angles that don’t get worked through traditional movements.

some more of my favorite are rack walk + overhead carries or overhead and farmer walk mixed together.

Carrying heavy objects of any type are awesome for full body strength development and work capacity.

In addition, the first rep of every set is some form of a power clean and / or deadlift just to get the weight off the ground. Putting the weights down requires control, so no dropping, only squatting / deadlifting the weights down under control.

I’ve met some seriously strong men who never touch free weights, their strength came from manual labor carrying objects, lifting them, throwing them, power cleaning them into truck beds, etc.

The guy who used to pick up our garbage when we were remodeling our house had an old pick up truck, it seriously looked like Steve Justa’s truck!

This guy’s name was Tony. Tony picked up junk for people as a side job, but it was always heavy stuff. Odd objects that makes you stronger than a freight train.

He would pick up all our stuff: toilet bowls, dish washers, heavy contractor bags filled with sheet rock, an old deck and more! I remember talking to him about strength training (as I always did) while we were loading his pick up with 20 + bags of sheet rock. He was holding one bag with a straight arm as he causally spoke with me! I was using two arms and my entire body to heave those bags up and I was starting to sweat bullets.

Tony was used to carrying car parts, scrap metal and other seriously heavy and odd objects. Essentially, all he did was carry junk. But, remember, like I said, when you carry objects, you power clean them up / down as well as deadlift the weight up / down.

It can’t get any simpler than that!

Now it’s time you begin to carry some odd objects!

About the Author
Zach Even - Esh is a Strength & Performance Coach from Edison, NJ and is the owner of The Underground Strength Gym and creator of The Underground Strength Manual. Zach's Underground methods have spanned the globe and have helped men and women of all ages to dramatically improve athletic performance, pack on rugged muscle and develop brute strength. Zach is the Strength & Conditioning advisor for TapOuT Magazine and is also a featured writer for Men's Fitness Magazine. To learn more about Zach and his methods visit