| | Training and Thinking Outside the Box

Author / John

Be honest. Don’t you sometimes miss those old school days where you would roll up to Average Joe’s Gym, say hi the other regulars, put the earbuds in, and then proceed with your warm up which was the standard 135lb bench for max reps.  I think back with nostalgia on those experiences.  There was always some legit people-watching to be had and certainly, even more justifiable silent judging.  One thing that really stands out amid the memories of sweaty pec decks and gallon jugs of green preworkout was the diversity of movements that could be witnessed at any given time.  It really varied from gym to gym, region to region, or was limited to equipment accessibility, but regardless- I was always amazed and a little inspired by some of the crazy shit that we animals would perform as part of our endless quest for fitness.

One thing we have in common with the hardbodies and gym rats of our past is desire to improve, only our success is measured in wins and losses, not bodyfat percentage and muscle definition.  We are Performance Whores.  It’s a phrase we use a lot at PAHQ.  We’ll do just about anything provided it translates to a win.  *Apologies to any actual whores.  We know and can prove the effectiveness of a lot of the movements and loads that enable accelerated adaptation and because of that  It seems a bit like we’ve gotten away from including new or different exercises into our training.  There is certainly an excellent argument for why we stick with our proven training tools.  But is it possible that there’s still more out there and that training in a “box” has caused us to think in a box as well?

Here are three highly effective exercises you’re likely not doing but absolutely should.  And I’m not talking about banded kettle bell squats on a smith machine.  These are classics and chances are you’re not doing them, are doing them incorrectly, or, maybe you’re doing them correctly but you have no idea why.

Wallpaper - Chuck Norris & Lou Ferrigno

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Single Jointed Movements:  I can already feel the internet crashing because of the sheer volume of emails from functional movement enthusiasts and hardcore CFFB followers.  Maybe even a few “I-told-you-so’s” among the masses.  Hold the hate mail.

I’m not reinventing the wheel here obviously.  Single jointed movements are utilized by plenty of athletes for a wide array of reasons, the biggies being strengthening specific weaknesses and getting a decent party pump on.  As it turns out, single jointed movements aren’t just about vascularity- they are an excellent tool to aid in recovery.  Our hinge and ball-and-socket joints take a daily beating and some days it feels more like a Tyson fight than wrestling with your kids.  For instance, if you were fortunate enough to partake in 14.5 of the CrossFit Open, chances are you are dealing with some considerable tricep trauma.  Sets of 8-10 tricep push downs would be an excellent way to promote some blood flow and get the muscular recovery process going.  Additionally, you’ll be doing your joints a favor in the same way by not only increasing blood flow to a specific area that has just overloaded a movement pattern, but allowing the easy passage of sinovial fluid- our body’s natural joint lubricant.  Take a page from PAHQ’s own Luke Summers – [video_lightbox_vimeo5 video_id=”89053923″ width=”640″ height=”480″ anchor=”Hammer Time”] is, well, whenever he feels like it.


Neck Work:  Contrary to popular belief, neck work isn’t just for MMA fighters.  Just because you’re not getting or giving ass kickings for a living doesn’t mean you’re immune to situations that could potentially injury you at or above the cervical junction.

Plenty of folks tweak their necks in training from ovrextension, lateral movements, or poor posture and position.  If this is you, you are fully aware of the permeating effects that a neck injury can have on the rest of your training and what’s more, these kinds of injuries require notoriously long recovery periods.  If you’re a person training “for anything and everything” then this concept should fall nicely in line with your philosophy.  You never know when you might get rear ended at a stoplight or find yourself at real life reenactment of Night at the Roxbury.  Besides, no one should suffer from skinny-bird-neck syndrome.  Luckily we’ve provided you with some exercises to combat SBN.


Sprinting as Fast as You Can:  I won’t even call it running.  Running does not suffice.  People “go out for run” like they “go out for a beer” – casually and in hopes that someone will drive them home.  Animals sprint. It seems that no matter how often we emphasize the importance of sprinting, athletes still don’t know how to define it.

When we talk about sprinting we are essentially asking you to move as fast as you possibly can.  This speed can be reflected as a value- 4.2 seconds, 6min 40 secs, whatever.  To become a faster runner you must be operating within a very high percentage of that top speed, anything less would be detraining.  This is why “rest as needed” is an implied component to high intensity sprint work.  I want you to rest until you are capable of replicating that same intensity.  It varies from athlete to athlete and rep ranges are going to be dictated by allotted training time as well, but it’s safe to say that the biggest fail point for most athletes is confusing emotional intensity (“this feels hard”) with actual intensity (percentage of top speed).  The run in Helen “feels hard” but does that 400m sprint reflect actual intensity?  Here are a few sprint prep exercises that will improve top speed.

Seated Arm Swing
Staggered Stance Arm Swing
Kneeling Arm Swings

Are these novel concepts to you or has your training incorporated one or all of these?  Let us know!  A comprehensive program it should contain each of these components and if it doesn’t, then consider becoming Field Strong with Power Athlete.

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John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.


  1. Jim Galon on April 7, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Links not working for anyone else by chance?

  2. Luke Summers on April 7, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    @JimGee, Links should be updated… can you confirm?

  3. Ingo B on April 7, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    That bar Chuck Norris is holding? Used to be straight.

  4. Nick Burton on April 7, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    None of the Vimeo links worked for me, but the Youtube link did.

    I also want to give an anecdote for neck training. I had a pretty serious accident yesterday involving major trauma to my head and neck. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve done a lot of dedicated neck training over the years, I’d probably still be in the hospital right now; instead my neck is a little sore and I have a mild concussion.

  5. Denny K on April 7, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    Good one Ingo…and look how small Lou Ferrigno looks standing next to him 🙂

  6. Mark Lyons on April 8, 2014 at 8:48 am

    “*Apologies to any actual whore” – pure gold!

  7. Steve (a.k.a. Booty) Platek on April 11, 2014 at 6:46 am

    this is great stuff; I’ve even taught (read as Brainwashed) my 3 year old that we don’t run in our house, we sprint. Running is for weak people and he wants to be strong like Daddy (read as someone who’s actually strong!)

    @INGOB – you’re hilarious dude. when you’re on the east coast we gotta hang!

  8. Kris on April 26, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    I always focus on improvement with each workout, but it’s really the first time I’ve heard the word “performance whore”. Classic! I may be using that word now from time to time.

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