Author: Corey Davis

RPE Info from Cason

Every well written program outlines all parameters including sets, reps, tempo, rest periods, and weights to use. It is easy to write out sets and reps, incorporating fun tempos to increase time under tension, and suggest appropriate rest periods. However, prescribing the appropriate intensity for yourself or client can be a challenging task for several reasons. Who actually knows their 1 rep max on a dumbbell bench? Have you ever done a true 1 rep max test on any exercise? Outside the few powerlifting meets I compete in, I rarely “max out,” so when a program calls for a working set at 85% of my 1 rep max on a given exercise, what do I take that 85% from? Sure, I can google 1 rep max calculators and find out an approximate weight to use but I’ll need to really make sure I stay up on logging everything. But sometimes this still takes valuable time out of my allotted training time flipping through pages to find weights remotely close to my 1 rep max. Outside of the bench, squat, and deadlift I don’t know my max so now it becomes a guessing game to prescribe the needed weight to elicit the desired training effect. I want to eliminate as much guessing as possible. Most people last maxed out their squat or bench years ago during their senior year of high school just before football season or have
never truly maxed out, so how can they safely load an exercise? Percentage based intensities are appropriate and can be effective for someone who knows their max, but very few people know how to do this.

RPE stands for rated perceived exertion and is a scale to gauge how hard something is based on how it felt to YOU. It has been around for years, especially in the clinical setting, and has scientific evidence supporting it as a great tool to prescribe loads and weights on exercises. RPE allows us as coaches and trainers to prescribe intensities and weights without having to use percentages. There are two versions of RPEs out there, but we will use the modified scale that rates difficulty from 1 to 10, which is the same scale you have probably seen before. When you go to the ER, the doctor will likely ask you to rate your pain: 1 if there’s no pain and 10 if it’s unbearable. RPE works the same way except instead of pain, replace it with exertion. 1 means easy and not challenging and 10 means maximal effort. So, in a program that uses RPE, you may see something like 4 sets of 6 reps at RPE 8. This means you should be able to do 2 more reps with the weight you are using for 6 reps. If we prescribe 4 sets of 6 reps at RPE 10 then you shouldn’t be able to do another rep for that set of 6. RPE 10 means no more reps. RPE 9 means you could have done 1 more rep. RPE 8 indicates 2 more reps. RPE 7 means you could have done 3 more reps. RPE is a great way to auto regulate the weight. Life can stress us out and when you add stress, lack of sleep, or lack of proper nutrition, it can affect how weights feel. For instance, 80% of my 1 rep max may feel light and easy one week but the next week after a poor night’s sleep, it may feel like 90% of my 1 rep. This can cause injuries and really fatigue my nervous system, which is not conducive for long term adherence to exercise. RPE is a simple way to prevent that by keeping intensity prescription constant and adaptable to how you feel and how the weights feel. It takes practice and for it to work effectively you must be completely honest with perceived exertion. If you miss it by one RPE value, no worries, note it and make an adjustment the following week. You will become better at being self-aware and how weights feel. -Cason

Tempo Training

Thinking about tempo during a weight training session is a great way to change how it feels. Typically I’ll prescribe different tempos for one of a few different reasons.

  • Reason One: Making light weights feel heavy. Slowing the tempo down on a lift is a very simple way to make an exercise much harder without adding additional reps or adding additional weight. In situations where you have limited equipment, it might be necessary to use a slower tempo to make the weight challenging (this can apply to bodyweight movements too). At a hotel gym that only has 25 pounds? That can be heavy with a 4-2-4-0 tempo (don’t worry I’ll explain those numbers). I also sometimes like to make a light weight heavy as a break for the joints and tendons without letting the muscles get a break.
  • Reason Two: Increased time under tension. Time under tension is one of the main drivers of muscle strength and hypertrophy and by slowing the reps down you increase that time under tension. Adding reps is also effective and is another strategy I like to use, but it’s easy to let form breakdown when going for longer sets of an exercise. With a slow tempo, I find (anecdotally) that people can do a better job of maintaining form.
  • Reason Three: Exercise variation. Trust me, the most tried and true movements you’ve done in the gym will feel drastically different with a little tempo change.
  • Reason Four: Muscle awareness. I hear people talk about “muscle confusion” sometimes. I know what they’re getting at, but there really shouldn’t be any confusion about your muscles. Not sure how to feel your quads in a squat? Not sure how to feel your biceps in a curl? There’s a tempo format that can make you painfully, fully, and completely aware of those muscles working.
  • Reason Five: Performance goals. Need to do a lot of muscle damage (this is good…it’s the precursor to growth), slow down the eccentric. Need to be more explosive in sports? Speed up the concentric. Need to increase strength out of the hole? Add an iso hold.

So what do those numbers mean? They’re not especially complicated. The first number is how long the eccentric, or lowering phase is. The second number is the time at the bottom or the fully stretched position. The third number is the concentric or the raising part of the lift. The fourth number is the time at the top or the flexed position.

Let’s look at how that would be in a squat. Barbell Squat at 4021 tempo. That would be unracking the bar and lowering down to the bottom of the squat in four seconds, no pause at the bottom, spending two seconds coming back up, and pausing at the top for one second. Easy. The only confusing portion is an exercise like a deadlift or a chin up that starts with a concentric. No matter what the exercise is the first number is the eccentric or lowering phase, so don’t get it mixed up on those other movements.

Hope this helps you get stronger and stay healthier.

How to Throw 100 mph

About a month ago I got a text from one of our pro baseball clients letting me know that he successfully threw 100 mph in a game. This is a huge milestone and I was really excited for him. With the announcement last week that he had made his league’s all star game, I thought it was a good time to talk about a few of the things we think about when training baseball players. The following is not a program, nor is it a definitive list of everything we do with baseball players, it’s just a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Lower body strength. To throw hard, athlete’s need lower body strength. I prefer to develop this through front squats, trap bar deadlifts, safety bar squats, lunges and sled drags in a variety of positions. Missing from this list is the traditional deadlift and squat, both removed for the stress they can put on the biceps and shoulder respectively.
  2. Lower body power. Strength alone doesn’t mean you will be able to throw 100 mph, you also need the ability to call on that strength quickly. To help with this, I like to use box jump variations, depth jumps, sprints, med ball tosses and once again a variety of sled drags and sprints.
  3. Appropriate upper body mobility. If a pitcher is too tight, they won’t be able to get into position to generate velocity. If they are too loose, they won’t be able to generate power (picture trying to snap a rubber band that has been overstretched). Finding this balance is HUGE and requires a coach to look at each athlete and make the correct decisions.
  4. Shoulder stability. Your body doesn’t want to hurt itself, so it won’t let you throw harder than it has the ability to safely contain. The shoulder and elbow ‘catch’ a lot of the force from a hard throw, so these joints must be reinforced and strengthened to let the pitcher display all of the strength and power they’ve developed.

These aren’t the only things to do with a pitcher, but generally if a program has these elements covered, I’m going to think it’s a pretty decent program. If you’re trying to train baseball players and need help, reach out! is my email address. I respond to all emails, except for LinkedIn invitations.

Should you Drop Deadlifts or Lower Them Down?

A member of one of our CUT classes asked whether or not they should drop their deadlift from the top or lower it down. I think it can sometimes be intimidating to ask questions in class (and admit that you don’t already know things), so any time someone asks a question I like to assume that we have many other members that have thought it but haven’t asked. That means an answer that was previously just heard by that small group needs to get repeated for everyone else in the gym!

This was a heavy lift…but he still set it down afterwards.

She explained that her previous trainer had told her that lowering a deadlift was unsafe on the low back and that instead one should drop a deadlift at the top. 

I disagree with this and will explain a few reasons why. 

First, I’ll address the safety idea. If it was safe to lift the weight up, it’s safe to put it down. The Eccentric phase (lowering the weight) is the easier part of the deadlift. If it isn’t lifted properly on the way up to the point that the trainer advises ‘just drop the weight’, then something is wrong. The body should follow the same path both up and down during the deadlift, so it should be as safe lowering it as it is lifting it. If you don’t feel comfortable lowering the weight, then I don’t think you’re ready to lift it. 

Second, the Eccentric phase of an exercise is a critical part of the movement.  By dropping the weight from the top, that phase is skipped and with it, many of the benefits of the deadlift. If you recommend the exercise because of its muscle building properties, then you miss out on the primary portion of the movement that builds muscle. If you tout the deadlift for its functionality, then you miss out on the function of the lift, unless the next time you go to lift something in the real world you plan on just dropping it when you’re done. I guess that’s one easy way to not get asked to help your friends move furniture!

This doesn’t mean you can never let go of a bar. By all means, if you are in the middle of a lift and you feel your technique leave you, then dropping the bar is likely the safest way to get out of that lift. However, you definitely should not go into any exercise planning on having bad form.

Will Weights Throw Off My Shot?

I often get a question from parents, athletes, and coaches about whether adding muscle will negatively affect their performance in skill sports. They recognize the value of increased strength, power and explosion for gross movements, but are worried that it’ll mess them up for fine motor performance. A golf swing, a basketball shot, or another throwing motion usually falls into this category. I’m going to address that in my favorite format, the old reliable hypothetical Q and A.

Will weight training mess up my fine motor based sport skill?

That’s an odd way to phrase that question, but no. I assume by fine motor based sport skill you mean something like your QB throwing motion, golf swing, or basketball shot. Something where muscle memory is incredibly important.

Why not?

Well, even though we are going to try our best to get you results at the fastest possible pace, you simply aren’t going to change strength and leverages so quickly that you overrun the skills you’ve practiced. On a day to day basis, the strength changes are going to be so negligible that you won’t notice them while practicing your sport. As long as you continue practicing your sport, you will benefit immensely from increased strength. If you shoot basketballs every week, there won’t be one random week where you come in and are SO much stronger that you accidentally throw it over the backboard. Not an issue.

Well my coach said it could.

I disagree with your coach as does every professional strength coach working today. You will not find a collegiate or professional level strength coach that has his/her athletes avoid weight training due to a fear of altering mechanics.

But could it Corey? Could it?

Fine. I’ll play along. If you spent a very long period of time not practicing your sport, and during that time worked diligently at a strength program, you COULD come back and have altered mechanics due to increased strength, explosion and altered leverages. I think this scenario is unlikely and if you plan to be good at a sport, you shouldn’t stop practicing said sport.

I know some athletes that aren’t that strong but are good at their sport. Doesn’t this prove that strength doesn’t matter?

No. It proves, in most cases, that skill in the sport is THE most important thing. That athlete would likely benefit from increased strength and speed. It is very rarely a disadvantage to be stronger and faster in sports. I think there are situations where the time and effort needed to increase an athlete’s strength is not worth the cost, but this is not the norm.

Don’t worry. He can still throw a football even though he’s jacked.

So what should I do?

You should continue to practice your sport as often as is reasonable. You should train and try to get faster and stronger so that it’ll help you improve your ability in the sport. If you only have time to practice your sport OR work out, practicing your sport would take priority in most cases. But it shouldn’t be a one or the other thing. For best results do both.

Special Offer

Starting May 13th through the end of the month, Corey is extending a special offer to all of our members. Invite a friend to any service that you do and they can have their first week free. I wrote out some hypothetical Q and A’s for it. 

Does it apply to Personal training? They can hop in with you free of charge for a week.

Classes? Of course. 

Small group training? Yes. One week, as a gift from you to them. The gym is better with friends. If they want to sign up afterwards, then we have a special gift to get them started, their first month is half off. 

But what about for me? I’m the valued member that did not get a free half month of training? How does Core Blend show their appreciation to me? You get half off too. However much money they save, you do too. 

Doesn’t that mean you’ll just break even while doing twice the work? Yes. 

Hey Corey, I found some sort of loophole where you’ll actually lose money. That loophole is invalid. I don’t know what sort of loophole there could be, but no, don’t make us lose money. Thank you.

But My Injuries!

A lot of people that have nagging injuries get very nervous about taking group fitness classes. They have legitimate concerns. In most facilities, a group fitness class is the last place I’d want someone to start their training, especially if they have injuries that need to be modified around. However, I own a gym and am not a big fan of taking the status quo as an absolute, so here are three ways we work around that here at Core Blend. If you don’t feel like reading them, I understand that, in that case, just go ahead and sign up for group classes despite your trepidation. You’ll be fine.

  1. Evaluation. Our evaluation process is second to none. When someone comes into our gym with an injury (common since we have a good reputation for working around injuries), we take that responsibility very seriously. Our favorite way to handle that is to schedule a one hour workout where we watch them do the main movements they’ll see in a class. A qualified trainer like myself or Cason works with them for an hour and lets them know what exercises they need to modify and how to do so. Often, just teaching them how to actually perform the lifts is enough to allow people to perform them injury free, but this isn’t always the case, which leads us to point 2.
  2. Equipment. Core Blend is equipped with 18 different types of barbells. We have barbells that make it easier to learn how to deadlift like the trap bar. We have barbells that allow you to squat with your hands in a slightly lower position like the Duffalo Bar, and bars where you don’t need to have your hands on the bar at all to squat like the safety squat bar. We have barbells that are ten pounds lighter, twenty pounds lighter and thirty pounds lighter than a typical bar, allowing you a ton of freedom when it comes to learning an exercise. We have special pieces of equipment that let you squat with weight without putting a bar on your back at all, completely avoiding any axial loading. For cardio, we have bikes, rowing machines, ski machines, and sleds. It’s very easy to modify the exercise simply by changing the equipment used.
  3. Qualified trainers. I would put our training staff up against any in the country. Multiple Masters degrees, tons of graduate degrees, advanced certifications but most importantly experience. There is no injury or issue that you’ll have that we haven’t seen and dealt with in the past. Ask one of your class instructors for a modification for an exercise and they will come up with an alternative exercise. They are fit, they are strong, and they are incredibly knowledgable.

Our facility can work around your injuries like no other. If you’re worried about getting started at Core Blend because you have an injury holding you back, don’t worry about it. You’re in safe hands.

A Blog for Our Members

Corey here. I’m going to answer a series of questions for you about the movie that someone in your life wants you to go see this weekend, Avengers: Endgame. For the vast majority of members here at Core Blend, I am the nerdiest person you know so I have a series of answers to questions you have. You didn’t ask for this, and while I was writing this I could have hypothetically been learning how to be a better trainer. But I didn’t. I’m not the trainer you deserve, but I am who you’re stuck with. 

Why does my (child, significant other, coworker, etc.) care so much about this movie? Why do they want me to go with them?

Great question. Avengers: Endgame is the sequel to last year’s Avengers: Infinity War. It ended on a pretty exciting moment so they want to see what happens next. It is also what about twenty other movies have been building to over the last ten years, so they’ve invested some time in these movies and this is the culminating moment of it all.

What happened in Infinity War?

30 second recap. A bad guy named Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) collected six rocks that made him really strong and he wiped out half the galaxy. Importantly, this half included big names like Spiderman and Black Panther. Also importantly, this didn’t include the ones you’ve heard of like Thor, Captain America, the Hulk and Iron Man. The movie ended with a lot of characters turning into dust.

Oh man that sounds bad!

Yes, but don’t worry they’ve already announced movies for a lot of those characters, so they’ll definitely get brought back in this movie. Probably through those magic rocks or some sort of time travel.

Do I need to see the other movies to understand this?

No, you’ll be fine. If you want to watch another movie to be caught up then Infinity War would be it. It’s on Netflix. If you wanted to watch two, then Captain America: Civil War would also be good as it shows what got the team into the negative spot they were in in Infinity War and introduces most of the characters you’d possibly want to know for this one. If your wife has recently had a child and you’ve had a lot of time sitting on a couch then by all means watch all of them like Morgan and I did.

Periodically, something will happen and other people in the movie will chuckle, but you won’t know why. That’s probably a reference to one of the other twenty movies. Sometimes someone will walk on screen and everyone will gasp. This is a character from another movie that the audience didn’t expect to see. The fact that you don’t recognize them shouldn’t be a big deal.

Who are the main characters and what do they do?

Tony Stark/ Iron Man: Tech genius in a fancy metal suit. The suit is capable of doing whatever the plot demands at any given point. Feels like world safety is his personal responsibility. Played by Robert Downey Jr.

Who are those others?
There are more characters, I’m not explaining them all.

Steve Rogers/ Captain America: World War 2 era soldier, enhanced with magic steroids, then frozen until he woke up in the present era, repeatedly states that they shouldn’t sacrifice someone’s life to save others, but in his own movies was perfectly willing to sacrifice himself to save others. Usually has a shield. Played by Chris Evans.

Thor/ Thor: Literally just the figure from Norse mythology. Has a big hammer that only he can use because he is the only one “worthy” and shoots lightning. Pretty much invulnerable. Someone destroyed his hammer a couple movies ago so now he has a big axe instead. Everyone that he was close to in the previous movies died, so he’s probably feeling pretty bad when this movie starts. Played by Chris Hemsworth.

Bruce Banner/ Hulk: Genius scientist that can transform into a big green monster. The two personalities dislike each other and they don’t work well together. Last movie, the Hulk basically went on strike so if he shows up in this one it’ll be after some sort of agreement is reached between these two parts of the personality. Played by Mark Ruffalo.

Thanos/ Thanos: Big alien with a glove that lets him use the magic rocks. Came from a planet with an over population problem that led to ruin for his planet. Used the glove to destroy half the population of the universe so that the resources wouldn’t run out. Is super strong and durable and smart even without the rocks. Played by Josh Brolin (in a motion capture suit).

Corey, you forgot Superman and Batman.

No, that’s a different company. They won’t be in this movie.

Will any of the big characters die?

They could! They’ve made a big deal in the lead up that this is the last movie that they’ve signed contracts for. Many of the big actors involved have expressed interest in moving on to other projects, so maybe!

How long is this movie?

3 hours.

Corey, are you in this movie?

No, I left work for a couple of days to do stand-in work for Thor. So I know some stuff that happens in this movie with Thor but you won’t see me.

So there you go. You’re ready for this weekend. See you for your next class.

How to Get the Most out of Core Blend Pt 2: Do Your Own Warmup

I’ve never started a class at exactly 5:30, 8:30, or 5:30pm. I do this for two big reasons. One, people often show up a couple of minutes late and I don’t want them to miss their warmup. Two, I want to give people time to do their own warmup prior to our class warmup.

This may sound like a cop-out, but there’s a legitimate reason behind this. Every person that I’ve trained has their own issues and areas they need to address. There is no way I could make a warmup so thorough that it addressed every possible area that someone could need to warmup. When we have a few minutes at the beginning of class, it’s a great time for YOU to warm up the specific areas that bother you.

For example, my ankles are really tight, so before a squat workout it’s an area that I need to give extra attention. In a thorough class warmup, it’s more likely that we would spend most of our time on the hips and knees to get ready to squat. If I was in class, my ankles and shoulders would be two spots that I would give extra attention to before class.

So how do you take advantage of this? Take notice of your body and where you have trouble and ask the trainers. We’ll hand out custom warmups for you to do and movements that we think will address your issues. It might be a specific stretch, a movement, or a myofascial release technique that we think will improve your performance.

These guys look ready.

Finally, whether you’re in group classes or doing one on one work, get here a couple of minutes early. We always do a general warmup, followed by a specific warmup. The general warmup is just something that gets your heart rate up, followed by the specific warmup which is the area where the movements are supposed to prime you for your exercises that day. If you get here a few minutes early and hop on the bike or treadmill you can start your session with the specific warmup, rather than the general warmup! This is convenient for you, your hour of training is spent with things that you get more value from and more convenient for your trainer. Believe me, none of us want to watch you pedal on a bike, but we’d rather watch you do that than get injured because you were cold during your workout.

Confirmation Bias in Exercise “News”

When explaining the concepts of optimism and pessimism to a child, the typical example is of a glass that is partially filled with water. The optimist is said to see it as half full, the pessimist as half empty. As a way to define these two terms, I guess that’s fine, but I think the more interesting concept is that two people can look at the same situation and choose to see what they had already chosen to see.

This is common in life. I won’t bore you with examples, but if you successfully operated a web browser with enough skill to lead you here, then I’m sure you can think of a few examples of confirmation bias in others. Bonus points if you can think of a few examples where you too were guilty of it.

A photo from Dana Linn Bailey’s IG account, showing her time in the hospital.

I bring this up today, because someone sent me an instagram post with their commentary on it. After reading the comments (both from my peer and from the dreaded comment section), I saw a lot of people using this post as proof of what they already thought long before that post happened.

Dana Linn Bailey is a highly accomplished bodybuilder and powerlifter. She is very lean and very strong and by any reasonable standard is an elite athlete. DLB recently did her first CrossFit workout and afterwards developed a serious condition called Rhabdomyolysis. Essentially, so much muscle was broken down by the workout she performed (High rep GHD sit-ups for time) that her kidneys couldn’t process it all. It’s a very dangerous situation and I’m glad someone with her following was able to increase awareness of the possibility of this happening.

The comments had the predictable reactions. There was a large group that already hated CrossFit using this as an example of how dangerous it is. “The instructors are unqualified”. “CrossFit is a bad workout”. There was another side as well. The group that loves CrossFit took home a different message. “Powerlifting and Bodybuilding don’t build true fitness”. “She’s at the top of these other sports but was humbled by a simple workout”. “Here’s proof that CrossFit is harder than any other fitness sport out there”.

Surprise, surprise in this essay about people choosing to see what they want to see, I think both sides are wrong.

CrossFit requires a two day certification. They offer additional certifications but one can be a CrossFit trainer after two days of work and learning. I think this is not enough time learning. However, I don’t feel like ANY certification exists that qualifies you to be a trainer. I have met many trainers that have a ton of letters behind their name (additional certifications) that I wouldn’t let coach a single person in my gym. Teaching a BootCamp in a local park requires no certification, so at least there is SOME requirement of learning and hands on coaching through CrossFit.

To say that CrossFit is a bad workout or a dangerous workout is disingenuous as well. CrossFit is too broad or a training system to be defined like that. There are absolutely some people teaching CrossFit that are doing a terrible job in my opinion. They’re picking workouts randomly, they’re pushing every workout too hard, they’re not thinking about a logical progression for their trainees. But for every example you can find of this, there are wonderfully qualified instructors that are NOT doing that. I’ve found many gyms online and trainers in person that progress their workouts in a logical fashion. Many use a system of conjugate training with cyclical focus where they train all modalities at once but put a higher emphasis on certain areas at certain times. If you’d like to criticize CrossFit trainers (or any other one domain of trainers) then I would gladly take you into any box gym in America and show you a trainer with a certification you do like that’s doing something dumb.

Ray Williams squatting a weight that would crush your favorite CrossFitter. This isn’t a sign that CrossFit is bad.

For those that used it as an opportunity to tout CrossFit’s superiority to other fitness regimes, I’d question that too. Rich Froning is a many time champion CrossFitter. At his peak he was one of the fittest people in the world and while I’m writing this, I’d imagine that he is doing something that mortals can’t dream of doing. That being said, if we asked him to get under a squat that Ray Williams (a champion Powerlifter) can perform routinely, he would get crushed. Literally. This isn’t an indication that CrossFit is a bad program for strength training. It just indicates that people get good at the things they practice and that includes CrossFitters. Although Dana Linn Bailey is very fit for the sports that she practices, she was not ready for the load of her first CrossFit workout.

I think both sides are missing a valuable lesson here. If you are a fitness instructor, you can’t judge someone’s readiness if you haven’t personally seen it. It’s why at Core Blend, regardless of what someone’s claimed workout history is we progress them slowly. On Joe Defranco’s podcast he had the New York Giants Strength Coach on and he made an interesting point about injuries. He asked the question of if the injury was caused by the workout where the injury occurred or if it was caused by the lack of progression towards it. Does two hours in the sun cause a sunburn? Or is it caused by all of the time not spent in the sun building up to it? Tissues can’t handle a load that they haven’t been conditioned to handle. Looking at an athlete like DLB I can COMPLETELY understand why the instructor let her hop in. Any other first time athlete would have been given a modified workout, but LOOKING at her and knowing her resume I’m sure the instructor thought that she would be fine. Knowing how competitive top level athletes are, I’d imagine that she would have WANTED the more difficult workout (I do not know this. I am assuming).

So what’s my takeaway? Real coaching is hard. It’s a lot more than just yelling “keep going”, “ten seconds left”, “you’ve got this” every few seconds. It is sometimes the job of the trainer to push, it is sometimes the job of the trainer to hold back, and it is always to make sure they can vouch for the progression of an athlete. Never make assumptions about the capabilities of someone based on looks or training history. If someone has a problem going through the progressions that you think are safe because they “are ready for it and want to work”, then explain it to them. If they still balk, then let them go train and get hurt somewhere else. This person isn’t interested in a coach, they just want someone to hold a stop watch while they work out. They don’t need you.