Where they finally spoke in kilos

Even though I’m highly competitive, I don’t enjoy all kinds of competition. I gravitate towards and tend to be better at the kind where I don’t have to work with a team and am only representing myself. After sprinting, strength sports have appealed to me the most in that regard, and the explosive, competitive nature of Olympic weightlifting in particular has fascinated me. 

Weightlifting consists of two lifts – the snatch and the clean and jerk. In the snatch, the lifter has to take the barbell from the floor to overhead in a single movement, and in the clean and jerk, from the floor to the shoulder and then overhead.

Since they’re highly technical, there is a lot that can go wrong from not doing the lifts right, and since I had no interest in spending a whole lot of time in undoing bad technique, I decided not to dabble in it until I had the chance to formally get coached in the lifts. I stuck to watching videos and studying about the lifts, apart from the occasional attempts at figuring them out.
This past weekend, Sandeep and I attended a two-day seminar coached by Kara Doherty and Blake Barnes, both of whom are part of the popular weightlifting gym Catalyst Athletics. A big fan of coach Greg Everett who runs Catalyst, I was really excited about finally getting the chance to properly learn the lifts from experienced coaches. What was perfect about the seminar was that not only did we learn how to do the lifts ourselves, but also how we could teach them to others. 

Kara and Blake were awesome coaches

From being super scared of ever trying a snatch or clean from the floor (I always stuck to the hang version) and receiving it in a proper squat (I only did power cleans and snatches), I finished the weekend with a not-so-heavy-but-pretty-decent snatch and a bodyweight clean. 
When I think about it, more than the fact that I had two awesome coaches working with me, it was due to the emphasis that they laid on progressions and regressions that really enabled me to get comfortable with and understand the lifts. They broke down each move into multiple steps and it always at least took us at least four levels of regressions before even actually attempting the main lift. I’m going to interpret and refer to these lifts as regressions and progressions, while folks from Catalyst prefer considering them as ‘variations’.
I’ve roughly summarised below the progressions that we worked with for the snatch, and why we did each exercise. A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches by Greg Everett is a great place to go to for further reference and regressions to the clean and jerk. An even better idea would be to find a coach who knows what he/she is talking about. 
The Snatch Balance Series:
  • Overhead (OH) squat – A big lesson for me on the OH squat was maintaining a relaxed wrist position on the OH position. When I say relaxed, I don’t necessarily mean loose and dangly. By not keeping the wrists tight, you are able to maintain the bar in a much more stable position (just past the center of the forearm). I was also taught that one doesn’t generally maintain the hook grip in the OH position. 
  • Pressing snatch balance – By keeping the bar on your shoulder like in a back squat, you get under the bar into a squat, while pressing the bar OH. This is a slower, more controlled regression where you gain confidence in getting under the bar.
  • Drop snatch – Add some speed and an aggressive elbow lockout to the snatch balance press for this move. This move teaches you to reinforce speed and maintain technique through transitioning to the bottom of the squat. 
  • Heaving snatch balance – With just a dip, the lifter is forced to get under the bar without moving his/her feet. Their ability to maintain contact with the bar and generate force against it is tested and improved upon in this lift.
  • Snatch balance – Only after multiple goes at this move was I able to consistently hit the same receiving position at the bottom of the squat, without compromising on speed. 
From here, we went on to do multiple progressions to do a snatch from the mid hang position (mid-thigh), progressions to the snatch from the floor and finally the snatch. 
By the time we got to the heaving snatch balance, not only was I super comfortable with each of my positions, but I also knew exactly knew what my issues were. This meant that when I finally did the snatch, I mentally calm and focused, even though I had a mental check list of everything that I needed to focus on, I wasn’t freaking out. 
In all, it took us about 12 steps, multiple callouses, torn shins and an entire day before we even attempted the snatch. And this was because it was a seminar, where the intention was for them to teach us as much as they could in a short amount of time. In a real life training situation, while some folks might skip some or all of these steps, some might spend weeks or even months on just working on these before getting to the main lift. Some others might use them in their warm up.
Lesson learnt – A good way to learn a lift is to do it correctly over and over again. A better way would be to understand its intricacies, break it down accordingly and progress your way up to the lift.   
Dutch Lowy runs BlackBox, the gym that hosted the seminar. He was also in 2 CrossFit Games!

Dutch Lowy runs BlackBox, the gym that hosted the seminar. He was also in 2 CrossFit Games!


Ultimate athleticism with coach Shank

As we landed in San Diego, I thought about how we almost didn’t do this part of our trip. The plan was initially to go straight from San Francisco CrossFit to my sister’s place in Austin, TX. Coach Max Shank was a last minute addition to our epic pilgrimage. Although he’s been around for a long time, he does seem to keep a somewhat low profile on the fitness interwebz. But when his awesome book ‘Ultimate Athleticism’ came out, he seemed to be everywhere. I came across him when I read his guest post on Tony Gentilcore’s blog, and I had this faint feeling that I had seen him somewhere. And then it hit me. He was this guy:


He was that crazy model for the photos in Convict Conditioning. The book was filled with pictures that made me go, ‘No way. Definitely Photoshop!’ in my head, and this was definitely the worst offender. A one-arm handstand push-up.  I’m pretty sure that this is a feat that less than 1% of human beings on the planet are capable of doing.

What made it even more nuts was that coach Shank openly admits that when he was 18, he couldn’t bench 95 lbs or do a single chin up. It made me realise the magnitude of focussed, methodical and intelligent work that had been consistently applied over 10 years. This was no accident. Coach Shank was a seriously smart dude, and we had to visit him.

Visiting him at his gym, Ambition Athletics, in the city of Encinitas near San Diego, we were not disappointed. Coach Shank is.. ahem.. a little smaller than he looks in the photos and videos. But he’s built like a pitbull. He looks like he could crush my chicken neck with his pinky.

The plan was to spend an hour with him personally to learn about his training, programming and how he runs a fitness business, and then jumping in to one of their group classes after so we could experience the magic first hand.

Coach Shank is a big proponent of Bruce Lee’s minimalist teachings, and it shows in everything he says to us. His speech is lucid and he seems to have incredible clarity of thought. We hang on to every single word he says and frantically take notes as he explains to us how he organises the different classes at Ambition Athletics and how he programs for them.

His focus for himself and his clients seems to mostly be skill-strength acquisition. They spend a lot of time in the 1-5 rep range and work at a high levels of relative intensity. This combined with his absolutely genius 80% rule (terminate the set when you need to work at more than 80% effort level), seems to produce an uncommon level of strength that is scale-able to a group class.

Another big part of his programming seems to be the mobility work that he incorporates into almost every aspect of the class. Coach Shank is Functional Movement Screen and Z-Health Performance certified and has come up with/made popular again some really cool mobility drills. His thoracic bridge and medial nerve flossing videos have changed my life and resolved neck and upper back pain that I’ve been suffering with since my computer gaming days.

After the private session with him, we workout with the noon group class folks. Our coach is Holly Mersy, whose journey in the fitness industry sounds real similar to our own. She started off as coach Shank’s first intern and then worked her way up to a coaching position. Although the class is pretty big and consists of folks of very different fitness levels, she handles it really well all by herself. It’s a really fun class and a great training environment.

The brief time that we spent with coach Shank was incredibly educational, and we’re really glad we didn’t miss out on the opportunity.


– Sandeep

‘Starr’struck at SFCF!

Many months ago, when there was no real plan in place, and Sandeep and I were still just talking about going on this trip, coach Arvind Ashok told me that I should definitely visit San Francisco CrossFit and that it was the kind of the gym that I would love to train at. I took him very seriously, and told Sandeep that we HAVE to go, and last week, we did.


It was incredibly coincidental that the first CrossFit Open workout was announced the same week that we were there, and obviously, I HAD to do it for the fun of it.

The workout didn’t sound too intimidating, especially because I had the option of doing the scaled version. This was important for me personally because I suck at doing the kip, and 15 toes to bar over multiple rounds wasn’t particularly encouraging. I ended up doing a partly scaled version, so my workout ended up looking like this:

AMRAP in 9 minutes:

  • 15 knees to elbows
  • 10 deadlifts with 75 pounds
  • 5 snatches with 65 pounds
    (Yes, I used 2 bars)

Followed by:

1 rep max clean and jerk (Time cap – 6 minutes)

But despite the modifications to the original workout, I had no confidence going into it for two reasons. Firstly, it was a new atmosphere with new people and I’m easily intimidated. More importantly and relevant to this situation, I am quite inexperienced with most moves in the workout except the deadlift and maybe the (push) jerk.

I was in wave two of the group doing it with me, so this meant folks who completed the workout first provided various tips – definitely do a “full clean” and remember to switch grip on the deadlifts were the two that came about the most. I didn’t do either – I did hang cleans and ended up using the hook grip on my deadlifts. Like for everyone else, the deadlifts felt like active recovery between the other two moves, and the snatches were what trumped me the most.

I ended up with a total of 6 rounds and a little more and in 15.1a, I managed to clean close to bodyweight (105 pounds), but failed on the jerk. I successfully cleaned and jerked 95 pounds.

Lessons learnt from doing the workout:

  • CrossFit is crazy. I absolutely love it.
  • Technique trumps brute strength
  • I need to wear pants or some sort of shin guards when I deadlift.

To be honest, I learnt a lot more earlier that week when I had the opportunity to take coach Diane Fu‘s Strength and Conditioning class twice. The first workout was fairly straightforward. Seven rounds of 3 hang snatch singles, each from 3 different positions – the hips, above the knees and from the floor. This was to be followed by 3 sets of 10 reps of (2-inch) deficit snatch grip deadlifts.

We were doing the 7 sets of 3 singles so that we could understand how to and get better at being able to maintain consistent positions throughout the movement. This especially helped me because one of the biggest things I’ve been struggling with is ‘jumping’ when the bar crosses the hips on all my lifts, and I have the tendency to jump too soon on most. She also coached us to always look straight ahead at the horizon at an ‘immovable’ object because most of us had the glaring tendency of looking down because “we were thinking about what we wanted to do” with the lift. On the deficit deadlifts, the idea was for us to load our legs for longer than on a regular deadlift.

The second workout we did was 3 front squats followed by a jerk (going into it from the 3rd squat). When we got to a point when we were unable to take the load overhead, we worked up to a heavy set of triples. Immediately after each set, we did 5 box jumps and the goal was to jump as ‘vertically’ as we could. The idea here was to see if we were able to effectively and efficiently generate power after our heavy set of squats.

What was interesting about both workouts for me was how she had programmed it in such a way that she challenged performance and our ability to maintain technique when fatigued.

One of the highlights was definitely us getting generously coached by K-Star. He fixed both mine and Sandeep’s front rack positions. He picked on our compensations and physically moulded us into where he wanted our wrist and elbows to be. Initially, I was quite annoyed at how alien this new rack position felt, but as I did a few sets, I realised that all he had done is reinforce my shoulders to be in an externally rotated position and I ended up feeling a whole lot more stable.


We were initially to do an assessment, spend a whole lot of time and money on introductory sessions since we’ve never done CrossFit before and all that jazz before we could take part in any of the classes. But K-Star took one look at me and waived all that stuff. He did make me a fair deal – I’d have to buy everyone at the gym beers if I ended up moving terribly, and I’d be immediately kicked out of class.

I guess I lost my only potential chance at getting a drink with K-Star.



Disclaimer: This is going to be a long, rant-y post.

Chip Conrad is like a crazy oyster fisherman. He works really hard and spends years hunting and digging for pearls, and when we approach him seeking to learn, he smiles gleefully and says here, you take it. Trying to encapsulate everything he taught us over the last week wouldn’t just be impossible, but would also be somewhat insulting. Like a great teacher, his teachings aren’t just for here and now, but are going to serve as a beacon that we keep coming back to and realising as we continue on our own journey.

The first time I came across coach Chip’s ideas was in his DVD, building a holistic athlete. It blew my mind. He had the courage and audacity to ask a really important question, something that I felt was on the tip of everyone’s tongue (every fitness/movement person I followed at least) but no one would actually spit out – can there be more to this fitness thingy than just the pursuit of purely physical and selfish motives? And from there, he opened up a can of worms and a world of possibilities. Maybe you don’t have to pick between hippy-dippy movement and flow systems and chalk-eating, shin-bleeding bigger-stronger-faster methods. Maybe it’s okay to have fun when training instead of grinding your teeth and visualising slasher flicks in your head before a set. With his trademark infectious enthusiasm, he painted a beautiful picture of what that world could be like.

Out of all the ideas that he spoke to us about, I am only going to speak about one. This idea permeates through everything he says and everything that we learnt and did at Bodytribe Fitness – purpose.

Purpose, put simply, is ‘the why’ of well.. anything. Why do we train? Why do we want to look a certain way? Why are our training sessions set up a certain way? These questions for me opened up a dialogue with myself that, to be honest, I didn’t enjoy very much. There were some harsh truths that I found myself facing. My training was mostly geared towards two things – getting better at working out, and looking good with my shirt off. And funnily enough, neither of them were things that gave me pleasure in the present – I wasn’t really enjoying the process. Basically, one of my goals gave me happiness from an end result of beating myself up and the other from an end result of improving the way other people perceived me. This wasn’t a fun epiphany.

Over the last week with coach Chip, he made me realise something that I had forgotten. ‘Play’ is awesome. We swung from bars, climbed trees, rolled around on mats and did a whole lot of movement flows. Remember how when you were a kid, you climbed this, jumped off of that, crawled under this, rolled under that and just.. moved? If that was the last time you had fun moving, isn’t there something wrong with that? And if that was so awesome, why are most of us trying to do programs that are reverse engineered from bodybuilding, powerlifting or crossfit training methods?

I’m probably never going to compete in any of those sports.. probably. So why would I train like I was?

So here are my new goals:

  • Train to be bulletproof in any environment or context
  • Train to be capable in any situation
  • Play, and train to to be able to play harder

Whether or not an exercise is ‘functional’ or not will be determined by whether or not it supports these goals.

It’s going to take me many, many years to completely understand and decipher the knowledge that coach Chip has passed on to us, but I’m super glad that Prashanti and I met him now. I think it really has given both of us a much-needed focus for our journey.


A big thank you to everyone at Bodytribe! You guys were awesome. Special mention to Hank, Lulu, Scarlet and Doug the pug.


Do you even lift, bro?

Do what’s necessary to get you in the right positions, and then go lift heavy – that’s definitely not what I was expecting to hear someone from Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) say. Based on the information that they put up on the internet in the form of blog posts and YouTube videos, which Sandeep and I have used (both personally and with some of the folks we’ve worked with) and learnt a lot from, we weren’t really expecting to see athletes at CSP to be doing much heavy lifting. Even though we knew that the coaches there lifted heavy, since most of the information that they put up can be classified into the ‘corrective exercise’ or ‘rehab’ categories, we assumed that’s what their trainees were mostly doing.

Clearly, we couldn’t have been more wrong. One of the first things that welcomed us as we entered the gym was the fervid noise of barbells being dropped on the floor set to the background of a playlist that everybody there seemed to know the words to. The trainees were squatting and deadlifting some heavy ass weights and doing all sorts of push ups, pull ups and other difficult-looking movements. (Ever tried an oblique hold with pallof press?)

2015-02-13 22.38.46

Coach Greg Robins watched us do some front squats and with some simple cueing, changed our lives.

It smacks us real hard – there is a lot more to it than what coaches put out there in the form of articles and videos. While the internet is an awesome platform for sharing information, a lot can be lost while trying to interpret what’s put up. We realised that the information that coaches share is usually what they feel might not be easily accessible to others or are things they’ve gained through their own expertise and personal experiences. Something as straightforward, but important, as strength training is not something they need to constantly harp about.

Every move that they were doing at CSP seemed to have purpose. A squat was a squat, sure. But nobody was made to build strength and load up just for the sake of getting stronger. They were using strength training to teach their bodies to get into good positions, and produce force from there. For example, just like how the trainees understood why they were foam rolling or spending time stretching or activating a particular muscle, they also knew that they had to be able to push off the floor and pull a heavy load in order to learn to produce force and transfer it to something like a jump.

Another thing that struck us was how everyone at CSP was crystal clear about the role they play – they are the ‘strength and conditioning guys’. While their average trainee is a specialised athlete, they realise that they aren’t <insert sport> coaches. On the other hand, they are also aware of the fact that they aren’t physical therapists. They are constantly trying to help their trainees move better, but aren’t ‘fixing’ anyone.

CSP intern Eric Temple was awesome!

CSP intern Eric Temple was awesome!

Bottom line – making sure that we put our bodies in the right positions is critical for safety and optimal force production, and strength should never be built over dysfunction, as the popular saying goes. But there is no purpose to constantly working toward getting into better positions and moving better without really getting anywhere on the strength curve. Strength training reinforces good movement patterns and can be ‘corrective’ by itself, if done right.

We understood the massive difference between ‘corrective work’ and good old ‘coach’s eye’.

And since we’re on the topic of folks lifting heavy stuff at CSP, here’s Sandeep hitting a PR of 355 pounds on the deadlift on our first day there! Maybe it had a little something to do with the fact that Tony G was training in the same room as we were!


Lessons from Chad Wesley Smith

Sandeep and I attended an all day powerlifting clinic by Chad Wesley Smith of Juggernaut Training Systems today. Below are some of my notes from his presentation and advice between lifts. Its important to keep in mind that these are points that can easily be taken out of context or misinterpreted, and that the below information is purely my personal interpretation of some of the larger concepts that coach Chad touched upon. There was probably a whole lot more that preceded or followed most points, and the Juggernaut website is a great place to go to if you’re looking to fill in the missing links.

  • Chad does/did a lot of volume work to get his muscles big. Mass moves mass.
  • Determine where you are on the pyramid of strength. The lesser experienced you are, the more you are going to benefit from general training for longer. The more experienced and advanced you are, especially if you compete, the more specific your training needs to be.
  • Build that upper back. Do a lot of pulls – horizontal and vertical. If your scapulae don’t move on the pulling movements, they don’t count.
  • Accessory lifts should be aimed at fixing weaknesses. Don’t try to PR on your accessory lifts. Work at an RPE of 8, and always have one more left in the tank. If you can’t justify why you’re doing a particular accessory move, you shouldn’t be doing it.
  • Make all your lifts. Do submaximal lifts and gain confidence under the bar.
  • When setting up for a lift, think about pushing your obliques out, by breathing through 360 degrees. Setting up for a lift should be uncomfortable. “Your head should pop off or you should poop your pants.”
  • Lesser experienced lifters should train at higher intensities more often. This is because a beginner’s highest intensity is still not high enough in an absolute context and the goal here is to gain more experience with high intensity training. New lifters can also get away with higher intensity training because recovering from a 400 pound lift will always be easier than recovering from a 900-pound lift.
  • Its always better to deload before you know that you need it. Either reduce intensity by 60% and keep volume where it is or vice versa. If you’re feeling too beat up, reduce both by 60%. Do not sit on your ass. Do not introduce any new stimuli (New exercises, for example).
  • Early specialisation of youth athletics is an epidemic and should not be encouraged.
  • Think of the deadlift as a vertical jump. Push off the floor and jump up and back. Maintain lat tension throughout – “protect your armpits”.
  • Good technique allows you to express strength the best.
  • If your deadlifts fail because of poor grip strength, hold every last rep of every set at the top for 10 seconds. Load 50% of 1RM and do timed holds for 20 – 30 seconds.
  • Be process-oriented instead of focusing on long-term goals. Enjoy the process.


Lifts like Jane

Like most 50 something women, she got herself a gym membership so that she could get in better shape, look less flabby and better in a dress. Twelve years later, at 62, Jane Stabile’s intentions haven taken a tangent – “Wanting to be in a lower weight class is a much better motivation to lose some fat rather than looking good in a dress,” says the powerlifter, who has broken several world records.

As we chat at Total Performance Sports, where she currently works as their business manager, Jane explains to me how she’s spent most of her adult life as a non-athlete, with barely any physical activity.

Her first trainer quickly realised that she was one of the stronger trainees that he had worked with, and taught her the squat, deadlift and bench press. “Lifting heavy things appealed to me,” she says casually, “But I can’t catch a ball. I’m not good at other sports.”

Since her trainer wasn’t a powerlifter himself, learn the lifts is all she could do at that point. She then found another gym in Maine where her strength was put to good use – she was trained by two powerlifters and attended her first two powerlifting meets. “It was at my second meet that I heard about Murph, and I’ve been coached by him since,” she says.

Powerlifting is a strength sport, where athletes have three attempts at lifting maximal weight on three big lifts – the squat, bench press and deadlift. In the last 10 plus years that she’s been lifting, Jane has set and broken quite a few world records in the 67.5 kg, 75 and 82.5 kg weight classes in her age category. To put things in perspective, she can squat 402 pounds (182 kgs), deadlift 375 pounds (170 kgs) and bench over 200 pounds.

Recalling her first world record as one of the most exciting memory in her lifting career, Jane talks about her final attempt on the deadlift. “I felt really good and wanted to go up in weight by a little on my last lift.” Her friend pointed out that she was only 5 pounds away from a world record and urged her to add those extra two tiny plates to the bar. After some hesitation, she went at it and a world record of 170 kgs was set, “It came up, and wasn’t even that hard!”

With lifting as much weight as she does at her age, concerns about safety, joint health and what not, are bound to arise. Jane, who has never suffered even a single injury so far, puts it simply, “Powerlifting badly is not safe for your joints. Squatting properly is a lot safer for your knees than not squatting at all.”

But surely she must take some extra precautions when it comes to recovery. Does she go through measures like contrast showers? “I don’t want to suffer!”, she laughs. “I just spend a lot of time in the bath tub.” Take a long bath after a hard deadlift workout is her straightforward advice.

Sandeep and I had the privilege of watching two of Jane’s training sessions – one squat and one bench press – as she preps for a meet later in April. Earlier that day, Jane broke into her new bench press shirt and hit some heavy singles, and finished off her training session with some dumbbell rows and band-assisted pull ups. Clearly a lot more collected about her awesome training session that one would expect, Jane says that the best thing that she likes about powerlifting is that everyone is always cheering for everyone, even competitors. “Its an unusual sport,” she says. While she admits that she always loves seeing her records being broken, her competitive streak kicks in and she is quick to add, “As long as I can keep making the records, the younger ones can come and eat them up.”

Speaking from experience, she says, “Don’t worry about how people perceive you as a woman. Just go out there and lift.”

I’ve always whined about how I started lifting a little too late at 24 and that I missed the opportunity of ever being able to be a competitive lifter and doing well at it. I guess I won’t ever be doing that again.





Home of Boston’s Strongest

Loud death metal blares through the speakers. The air smells of iron. A giant one-eyed bulldog stares at me. The largest people I have ever seen are lifting barbells loaded up with what looks like the weight of a small car or a full grown cow. The entire floor is literally shaking from people on the weightlifting and deadlift platforms. This is Total Performance Sports, the baddest gym I have ever seen with my own eyes.


Despite looking and being as badass as it is, it isn’t intimidating at all. All the coaches are incredibly nice and are very approachable.

The first day, we showed up with no real agenda, hoping to get a fly-on-the-wall experience of a powerlifting gym, but what we got was so much more. We watched the coaches get in their workouts post lunch. It is lower body day.

All preconceptions of ‘heavy’ and ‘hard’ are shattered.

After that, Coach Russ Smith (the nicest man I’ve ever met) spends all afternoon with us. He explains his workout to us and walks us through some of the awesome equipment at TPS. The gym is stocked with top-end equipment from Westside Barbell and EliteFTS. We try out the belt squat machine (best-machine-evarr!), the reverse hyper machine and the sleds.

He also changes my life by cueing me on maintaining a neutral spine. And later that day, he runs their ‘Gutts and Butts’ class for just one person – me. Due to the crazy weather outside, no one else showed up.

The next day, I get to workout with coach Kevin Cann, the only person at TPS who doesn’t seem to weigh over 200 pounds or make the floor tremble as he walks. The workout is power cleans and squats (never say back squats). We finish up with some single leg circuits.  That evening, I get to watch the TPS Method class, a semi-personal training class aimed at regular folks who want to get in awesome shape. The class is pretty packed, and about 20 people show up early and start warming up. The pace of the class is tight, quick and controlled. The culture at TPS is reflected in every aspect of this class. All trainees have their own workout logs, everybody watches everyone else’s sets and while there is enough time to rest, there is no real down time.

The next day is our last day there, and we show up early to sit down with coach Kevin. He patiently answers all our questions about programming, nutrition and the running of a gym like TPS. We then watch the coaches get in their afternoon workout. Later, coach Russ takes the time to coach us again, me on the OH press and Prashanti on the back squat. Coach Russ is an amazing coach and teaches us everything we need to know to adapt these moves to the population that we’re going to work with.

That evening we watch their 5-3-1 group class coached by coaches Russ and Chuck. It’s a packed class, and it’s awesome to see that there are more women than men.

The few days that we spent at TPS have made such an indelible mark on us and have definitely set a tone for this trip. The culture is so thick in the air here that it’s impossible to miss it. From the signs on the walls to the cold, well-used barbells and plates, everything screams purpose and function in the service of strength. If you want to get stronger, TPS will embrace you. This is definitely a big part of what we’re going to take back with us.


And it’s convinced Prashanti to compete in powerlifting when we go back home.

A big thanks to coaches Murph, Russ, Kevin and Phil, Jane (who Prashanti will introduce in the next post), Tarik and Anthony at the front desk and everyone else that we ran into!

– Sandeep



Strength System

Before all the bookings, before all the planning and the emails and scheduling, Prashanti and I had a few hard questions to answer. A trip of this magnitude is no small undertaking. Thirteen cities over two and a half months in a country we weren’t familiar with. We had to know exactly what we were getting into, and more importantly, we had to know exactly what we wanted from it.

MovNat practice

MovNat practice

Figuring out what we were getting into was the easy part. Almost everyone we contacted was extremely nice and so helpful, that figuring out accommodation and logistics was a lot easier than we expected. It took some time, but all things considered, we were pretty happy with how things turned out.

Answering what we wanted was a lot harder. It made us aware of the enormity of the undertaking at hand, and helped bring home the commitment that the task would demand. We knew that figuring this out would give us the conviction that we needed to stand by this decision.

The answer was simple. Kind of.


In the words of renowned strength coach Dan John, “A system.. is a set of parts.. that come together.. to form a whole.” Almost everything that we take for granted, every formal learning process, every organisation, every unit, every family is a system. To coach people, you need a system. And honestly, this is one of the most exciting things about being a teacher. Figuring out your own method. Through learning, researching and experience, you develop your own personal system that is an effective way for you to teach.

I believe that a good system has to be built on strong principles and values. In absence of principles and values, goals and methods mean nothing. They achieve nothing real.

For Prashanti and me, these core values were our starting point. I don’t think either of us are crystal clear about them as yet, but they stem from the same place. Honesty. Personal relationships. Hard work. But we hadn’t the slightest clue how to build around it. And this is what we needed to learn. To see. To feel. We needed to experience other successful systems that were making a change in people’s lives and doing more than just getting people fit. Systems that were truly making a difference.

So hopefully, that’s what we find.

– Sandeep

The gym-hopping circuit

After much back and forth, budgeting, scheduling conflicts and coffee, we now have a final plan that looks more than awesome. While Sandeep and I have a similar outlook when it comes to training, nutrition and education, some of our interests are quite different. With some compromise and careful planning, after ensuring that our dates were planned around the certifications that we wanted to do, we are ready to roll with the itinerary below.

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We leave Chennai on January 30, 2015, in less than a week and land in Boston. Our first stop is at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, where we attend their Certified Functional Strength Coach certification. From there, we spend a week at Cressey Sports Performance, where we will spend all day observing how their classes are coached and understanding their system. For me, its mostly because I get to see Tony Gentilcore and rub it in Chez’s face. If I keep going this way, I realise this could turn out to be a very long post. So below, I’ve categorised some of the other cool stuff we have planned out.


  • Onnit Academy Unconventional Training Certification Level 1 (Prashanti)
  • MovNat Level 1 and Level 2 Certification (Sandeep)
  • Catalyst Athletics Level 1 Weightlifting Coaching Certification (Prashanti)
  • Training for Warriors Level 1 Instructor Course (Sandeep and Prashanti)

Gym time:

Seminars/ Clinics:

  • Powerlifting Clinic with Chad Wesley Smith
  • Perform Better Learn By Doing Seminar (Dan John, Mike Boyle, Martin Rooney and Nick Winkelman will be presenting)
  • Private clinic with David Dellanave, Movement Minneapolis

Sandeep, the fancypants will stop by London for a week on our way back to celebrate his 25th birthday in style. During his week there, he will spend time at the Parkour Generations gym and Dax Moy Personal Training Studios.

It seems like we have a lot planned out for the next two months, and how much we learn from everything we’re going to be doing largely depends on how we manage to capture all the information and knowledge we gather. That is exactly the point of the blog, and we plan to put out everything we’ve learnt out there for not only us to come back and look back at, but also for folks out there who are interested in training.

Now, if Sandeep were to have written this blog post, I am pretty sure he would have liked to thank our parents for not having asked us too many questions through this process and for supporting us. Apart from friends and family who are willing to host us at various legs of the trip, I think we owe quite a bit to Alexander for not only effectively talking us out of renting a car in LA, but also always answering our questions and putting us in touch with a lot of cool people.

 See you all in two months!

– Prashanti