Say that 5 times fast.

Over the past month or so, I’ve been really stepping up my game on balancing out my team’s Olympic Lifting training with prehab exercises, functional movements and activation stuff to keep us healthy and prepared to train.  Part of this has been surrounding myself with the right people. Amadeo, the owner of CSP (the gym we share space with) is extremely educated on these movements and I do my best to steal information from him whenever I can.  Additionally, I’ve enlisted the help of a young hot shot who works at the premier athletic PT facility in Sacramento.  It never hurts to ask questions.  And I’m a firm believer that to be successful in the fitness industry, it’s best to stick to what you’re good at.  People don’t come to me to fix hips.  People come to me to fix their snatch, get stronger, faster, more balanced and better looking.  So I’ve been asking more questions and arming myself with more information. When the situation calls for it, I’ll ask others for help or even send my people elsewhere.

This handy little prep exercise is something I’ll throw in the beginning of a team workout or group exercise session.  I’ve been doing it myself for a few weeks now and it’s helped me uncover a gap in my armor.  Obviously this exercise is meant to prepare the glutes for extension (ya’know . . . like in Olympic lifting).  Having the calfs resting on the foam roller helps turn off the hamstring and keeps the exercise focused on the glute only.  If the trainee (in this case, myself) feels the movement work muscles in places BESIDES the glute, this could be a sign of weakness and overcompensation from other muscle groups.

The bottom from is the start position.  The top is the finish.  Have the trainee hold this position for 5 seconds or so until he/she feels the burn in the correct muscle (dat ass).

The bottom from is the start position. The top is the finish. Have the trainee hold this position for 5 seconds or so until he/she feels the burn in the correct muscle (dat ass).

2-3 sets of 5 on each leg is plenty.  You can superset this with other prep exercises in your toolbox that work different muscle groups.  In my case, I noticed that my left glute was actually significantly weaker than my right which may or may not be part of the problem puts me at a higher risk for low back injury.  I actually felt this initially in my right low back when I was trying to work my left glute.  Hold the top position isometrically for about 10 seconds until you feel your correct cheek come to life.  Other problems when doing this exercise is having the foam roller too low on the leg shank.  Put it high up on the calf so your brain doesn’t have such a tough time turning on the correct muscles.  Remember, this is for your ass, not your hamstrings.

Use this to compliment your hip abduction, external rotation and knee flexion prep exercises and your low half should be good to go with a proper dynamic warm-up.

WLforums Interview.

April 6, 2015

Check out this video interview I did with Tony P of  We met at Nationals last year coaching our 75kg girls.  I talk about my experience with the sport, how I became the coach of Midtown Barbell and a little bit of my coaching and programming philosophy.

On the Process.

January 12, 2015

This past year, I began putting more and more emphasis on the development of our process rather than the development of individual weightlifters.  I realized I needed to change the way we were doing things in 2012-2013 and I think this year we finally started picking up steam on the development of a process that is uniquely ours.  Lifters will come and go, but as long as your process remains solid, your team will flourish.

I keep saying “process” and I realize thats a rather nebulous word to use when talking about the development of the weightlifter.  In truth, it’s more of a concept that I think is important rather than finite programming details.  It’s more or less about the values and ideology that you want your team to perpetuate.  I’ve been competing in weightlifting meets for a long time (around 70 meets total) and after all these years I can clearly see who was coached by whom by how they lift, what they value in training and what their strengths are.  When I started to look more closely at US, I began considering what WE value in training, what our process should look like and the overall ideology I want us to personify.  That’s where the whole concept of the “yamdancer” came into play (a story I’ll retell again at some point).  At the end of the day, all we’re doing here is throwing weights above our head for fun.  But whenever you have a group of people come together for a like purpose, certain considerations need to be taken to ensure that the entire group benefits.

Trust in the group.  Trust in yourself.  Trust the process.  #yamdancer

So I’ve pretty much got one more day until I finally get a break and I’ll be able to catch up on stuff.  So in the meantime, here’s a sample workout from the current Yamdancer Olybuilder cycle that the team is doing.  Keep in mind that this is a Tuesday workout and Tuesdays are traditionally shorter “accessory days” to our primary days.


1) Power snatch x1, hang power snatch x1, hang snatch x1: 3 sets at a target weight.  RPE 6/10.  Yes, hang power snatches.

“But Ben, didn’t you write a post saying that you don’t like hang power snatches?”

No.  I wrote a post saying that hang power snatches have a relatively small part in the Olympic weightlifter’s training year (if at all).  They do provide some benefits and force the athlete to keep the loads relatively light.

So if we do them maybe 20 minutes a week a month or two out of the year, how often should the general fitness client/functional fitness athlete do them?  Just food for thought.

2) Jerk from the split: 3×5 at the barbell only or light weight.  Focus should be keeping proper footwork with the torso in a “stacked” position.

3) Push press x3, split jerk x1: 3 sets at a target weight.  RPE 7/10

4) Superset these three movements:  BTN push press x8, Plyo plate push ups x12, db front delt raises x12.  3 sets.

5) Db side bends x12, band tricep extensions x12.  2 sets.

It’s painfully obvious when I see weightlifters or functional fitness folks who’ve had NO experience doing general strength training or bodybuilding.  Athletes of mine (like Emelie) will benefit greatly with a little bit more general strength (and the skill sets that come from training it).  Also, it gives us a month or so where we get to add more variation into our program and take some of the focus away the maximal efforts.

A quick note on my yamdancers.  Everyone coached by me is expected to follow the program or they are not coached by me, not one of my people, etc.  That sounds harsh BUT lets define what being on the program means first.

1) We never have to have a conversation if an athlete wants to do less than what I write.  If Cameron doesn’t fee like he needs the Tues/Thurs workouts, then he doesn’t.  End of story.

2) If an athlete wants to do MORE than what’s expected then we ALWAYS need to have a conversation.  IT’s important for safety and keeping the program measurable.

3) I give personal verbal instructions to athletes who have different needs.

See?  Not that hard to remain a yamdancer.  All you have to do is buy into what we’re doing and buy into the power of the group.

This week, the team is completing the first phase of their mesocycle building towards the American Open.  The way I format my team, we all follow the same schedule as if we’re all competing at national meets.  I e-mail them each a copy of a 4 week lifting block and an 8 week individualized squat cycle.  Actually it’s not a squat cycle.  In general, I’m not a fan of squat cycles.  They play a part in a lifting program as a whole, so I send them “squats within a lifting program” cycles.

Usually these cycles will be a combination of “daily max” and % based work.  For the percentages, I go through the effort of plugging in their actual max and the program will automatically subtract 10% of that for their training max and then all their working weights for the next 8 weeks will automatically fill in.  I’m strict that my trainees stick to their target weights for a number of reasons, but mostly because it makes it easier for me to track progress.  My philosophy is: “you’re welcome to do less if you’re feeling banged up.  But if you want to do more, lets have a conversation about it.”  For this particular cycle, we (I took most of it off) did 3x a week of back squats and no front squats.  I wouldn’t say that’s common and if someone were to ask me, “hey, if I want to get good at weightlifting, should I just back squat only?” I would say no.  But it made sense within the context of our training schedule and I saw fantastic results with the majority of my trainees, both with the lifts and back squats.  I’ll post some video of some recent training PRs made by my athletes when I get some time.  Over the next 8 weeks, we’ll again shift focus, including front squats.  Less back squatting within a program opens up room for other things like more accessory pulling work, so I’ll most likely include more of that.

Here’s the second organized barbell warm-up that I make my weightlifters do every Wednesday before clean and jerks.  I also introduced it to my Midtown S&C classes and my CF technique classes with favorable results.  Remember, if you run organized barbell warm-ups with your groups, keep them concise and bull shit free.  The moment the warm-up begins to interfere with the actual workout is the moment when your coaching style becomes masturbatory rather than helpful.  The world doesn’t need another “insert name” complex, the world needs more people proficient in the snatch and clean and jerk.  Also, remember that no matter what you do as a coach, someone before you has tried it.  I do my best to learn from a large pool of weightlifting coaches, most of whom have opposing views on pretty much everything.  Take what is most helpful to your own training situation and leave the stuff that isn’t applicable.

Rant over.  Here’s the warm up.

Benbata Barbell Warm-up #2.

1) Press from the split 1×8.  Ensure that the trainee has a PERFECT split stance and back angle.

2) Jerk with alternating feet 1×8.  Begin with the non-dominant foot.  I picked up this little trick from Jim Shmitz.  Jerking with your non-dominant foot (in many cases) improves the jerk with the dominant foot because of the extra thought needed to properly jerk with the opposite foot. Savvy?

3) Paused jerk 1×5.  Pause at the bottom of the dip drive to ensure that your rack is in a good position as well as your hips.

4) jerk 1×5.  Just jerk.  After all that, you should be feeling pretty good and ready to clean and jerk some monster weights.

All that should’ve taken 3 minutes at the most, leaving you plenty of time to get your actual workout in.



Phase 3.

April 11, 2014

I suppose I’m a little bit late on this post considering I posted this video over a week ago.

Earlier this year (17 weeks ago), I implemented a more organized way to include squats into our weightlifting program, called simply “The Midtown Squat Cycle.”  I am very pleased with the results not only from my team but myself as well.  I now plan out squats in 8 week blocks that work in conjunction with our 4 week lifting schedule (after all, this isn’t a squat team, it’s a weightlifting team.)  The program itself is nothing fancy.  I incorporated both “daily max” style workouts and percentage based workouts.  Rep PR’s were emphasized just as much as 1RM PR’s.  One important thing to note is that when I wrote the excel spreadsheet, I borrowed an idea from Jim Wendler and automatically subtracted 10% of the lifter’s absolute max to account for ego and bullshit.  My reasoning is that I wasn’t so much concerned about increasing the squat as much as I was concerned with increasing the quality of the lifts.  This also gave me a little more room for error when I chose the rep schemes.  The last 16 weeks have been more back squat and volume biased.  Now we’ll be shifting towards more of a traditional front squat-centric program.  The majority of my team showed improvement, some more than others.  Jean’s front squat went from 155 to 180 and his back squat went from 180 to 206.  Obviously, he’s relatively new to our training process, whereas Cameron, one of my veteran lifters went from 180/195 and 195/205.  My squats went 225/235 and 270/285.  Honestly, my goal for the year was to back squat 280, so I’m mostly just happy that I made it through my BSQ heavy singles injury free.  I doubt I’ll squat that heavy the rest of the year.  We’ll now be entering phase 3 of our squat schedule that I have given the title of “The Ulfberht.”

Welcome to my Office.

February 14, 2014

Here’s a short video I made highlighting our snatch clinic from last weekend.  It was SO MUCH FUN.  A sincere thank you to everyone who came out, I was so stoked to have you in our gym.  Big thanks to my trusty team who volunteered their Sunday to make sure I didn’t look like a fool.  Thank you to Tara, the coolest boss I’ve ever had.

I’m gonna do my little plug now.  If you run a CF gym in Norcal and are interested in having me come to your gym for two and a half hours of technique work, fun times, smiles and Diet Pepsi, get in contact with me.


August 7, 2013

Here’s me trying to hang with the cool kids.  I told everyone who competed at Nationals to throttle back for the next 2 weeks or so.  I want our minds right for the 16 weeks leading up to the American Open.  Go ride a bike.  Swim.  Do a push-up.  I don’t care.  Meanwhile, I’m still working at the gym all day so I decided to hop in with the team ST guys to kill my whole face with some deadlifts.  Honestly, after hurting my back this most recent time, I’ve lost a lot of strength and confidence from the floor.  I never truly got it back even after I got my 180 clean and jerk.  As Mark always says, strength is never a weakness.  Weightlifting coaches can go back and forth all day on the cost vs. benefits of deadlifts but in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with throttling back on the lifts and working on general strength at certain points throughout the year.

My best ever deadlift is 240kg. I got 535lbs here and I hit 505lbs for a double yesterday.  Most importantly, I’m having fun and giving my mind a break from pushing the lifts for a couple weeks.

Snatch Technique Clinic.

July 18, 2013

August 11th.  Mark your Calendars.  I’ll be hosting an Olympic weightlifting clinic focusing on the snatch at my home gym, Midtown Strength and Conditioning.

Here’s a little clip of a technique clinic I did at Crossfit Davis a couple years back. 

Some of the topics that I’ll be covering will include my take on helpful coaching cues and drills that ensure proper technique, sifting through all the bullshit that you will see on the internet and my opinions on what is useful for weightlifting training and what isn’t, program design for the weightlifter and differences between training the lifts for a weightlifter VS. the functional fitness athlete.

As far as the technical portion of the clinic, it will be lecture/practical format.  I’ll have an assistant who will provide demonstrations after which you will break up into small groups and critique each other as you perform the movements.  I have a very simple, yet effective snatch progression, most of which you’ve probably seen online somewhere.  I’ve learned most of what I know about coaching through Paul Doherty and Glenn Pendlay and have taken concepts from both men and implemented in how I coach the lifts.  You will then work up to a single on a snatch before we break and then talk about accessory exercises and other fun stuff.  afterwards, we’ll have some BBQ and beer.

It’s 50 bucks, lasts from 10 till about noon and should be a lot of fun.  Hope to see you there.  E-mail to RSVP.