Friday, July 30, 2010

The Culmination of the Quest

Its over, I did it. I finally dunked a basketball. Last Friday I dunked on one of the outdoor hoops at Redwood High School in Larkspur with my friend and colleague Robert Schleihauf as my witness.

Throughout the process I assumed that I would feel amazing when I finally dunked a basketball, but in reality I was a little bit disappointed. I had been training intelligently and constantly researching different training methodologies for 36 weeks. I thought I might feel a sense of enlightenment followed by an onslaught of training-related epiphanies. Don’t get me wrong, it felt great to finally achieve a goal that I set for myself 6 months ago, but I had so much fun throughout the process that I was reluctant to let the quest end (this was also made evident by the fact that it took me a week to piece together my final blog post).

It reminded me of something that I heard Brett Favre say in a short television documentary of the Green Bay Packers 1996 season in which they won the Super Bowl. After they had won Brett said to himself, “this is it?” Although Brett was overjoyed to win the Super Bowl, he was more disappointed that the season in which he and his teammates performed incredibly well and became very close as a team was over. He realized that the journey was far more important that the end result.

I feel entirely empathetic (accept for the whole winning the Super Bowl thing obviously) towards Brett. I am happy to have finally achieved my goal, but I am a little bit upset that the journey is over, because I enjoyed it so much. Now I just want to continue to perfect my craft as a dunker and work towards bigger and better dunks.

As a side note, I also learned quite a bit about goal setting throughout my quest. Although telling everyone that I wanted to dunk a basketball in 12 weeks through this blog held me accountable it also set me up for an onslaught of criticism. In Dave Tate’s “9 Secrets to Training Success” he writes, “Set your goals high and keep them to yourself. The reason for this is simple: 90% of everyone you meet are negative pricks who will go out of their way to tell you why you can't do something.” I don’t agree with his 90% dictum, but I would absolutely agree with the general premise of Dave Tate’s argument. Over the course of the last 36 weeks numerous friends, clients, and acquaintances told me that I couldn’t do it or that the timetable was too short. Dunking in 12 weeks was obviously an extremely ambitious goal considering that I couldn’t even touch the rim at the beginning, but if I had kept my true goal to myself (per Tate’s recommendation) and simply told everyone that I wanted to jump higher, everyone would be very congratulatory now that I can dunk. At this point I feel almost as if many of the followers of the quest became a bit bored simply because it took so long and I don’t blame them.

What next? The answer is simple: more of the same. Although the quest to dunk is over I am not going to stop striving to increase my vertical leap any time soon. I am going to keep training in a very similar manner and writing performance related articles/posts. This will be my last post on, but it looks like I will be writing a weekly blog post for the CrossFit Marin blog:

This is blogmaster Ben signing off. I am going to leave you all with some amusing quotes about dunking that I just found on

"I'm not a big sports fan, but I love it when they "slam dunk." That's sexy."
Emma Bunton

"I'm not a role model... Just because I dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids."
Charles Barkley

"If I weren't earning $3 million a year to dunk a basketball, most people on the street would run in the other direction if they saw me coming."
Charles Barkley

"It's like all guys want to do is make a dunk, grab their shirt and yell out and scream - they could be down 30 points but that's what they do. Okay, so you made a dunk. Get back down the floor on defense!"
Oscar Robertson

"My first dunk was actually in sixth grade."
Vince Carter

Friday, July 23, 2010

Week 36 Day 5


1. 20 Dunk Attempts

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Technology: Helping Athletes Regress One at a Time

If you have glanced at any of my weekly workouts you will quickly learn that I am not an endurance athlete. Despite the fact that I rarely partake in any continuous athletic endeavor lasting longer than 30 seconds, I have learned quite a bit from some of the best endurance athletes in the world. Here is a picture of a barefoot runner:

Notice that this runner has exquisite running technique (some might call it POSE) and this runner is not so coincidentally barefoot. At this point I have read so many articles that reference the various studies on the numerous benefits of barefoot running (i.e., no heal strike, reduced occurrence of running-related injuries, etc.) that at this point I find them almost as tedious as long runs themselves. If you are interested in learning more about the host of advantages associated with barefoot running check out this website run (pun intended) by the Harvard Skeletal Biology Lab:

All of the assertions in these various studies regarding barefoot running made sense to me right off the bat. Neolithic people started having knee problems because shoe companies began marketing padded running shoes that allow people to get away with heal striking relatively unscathed. Modern people should learn how to run properly instead of purchasing shoes with a massive shock-absorbing heel in order to mitigate the occurrence of “overuse” injuries that have become all too common in the long distance running world.
Now people are slowly assimilating (following the various Harvard studies produced recently the barefoot running revolution. There is even a shoe made to make you feel like you are barefoot ( Why one needs a special shoe to mimic the effects of being barefoot is a concept that I will never understand--but the shoe sells (thanks to the ever increasing popularity of CrossFit and primal fitness), so more power to the Vibram people.

I never thought that these theories regarding barefoot running would be applicable to jumping, basically because I thought that there was too much impact involved in a max vertical leap. It turns out that my initial hypothesis was wrong. Thanks to Joe DeFranco’s article ( which I posted a while back) in which he suggests that an athlete wear snug track waffle shoes when testing his or her vertical. His theory is that normal basketball/ running shoes absorb a great deal of the force that one produces against the ground in order to jump as high as possible. When attempting a max vertical leap the goal is to produce as much force against the ground as possible, consequently wearing shoes that absorb the force that one produces is counterintuitive. This made sense to me, I tried it out during a max box jump workout two weeks ago and I added 3 inches to my previous PR. Lately I have been wearing some tight-fitting, low top Chuck Ts (pretty close to being barefoot) when I jump on outdoor basketball courts. I should probably just sack up and jump without shoes on.

More Vertical Jump Tips From Joe DeFranco

This article lists Joe D's 15 favorite vertical jump exercises and explains how they benefit his athletes.

Week 36 Day 4

Active Rest Day

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Week 36 Day 3

Active Rest Day

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Want to Become Batman?

For anyone interested in actually becoming batman here is a cool book ( by Dr. E. Paul Zehr, a kinesiology professor at the University of Victoria.

Week 36 Day 2

5 Rounds of:

1. 5 Handstand Holds

2. 200 Meter Row

3. 10 Rep Left Arm Shoulder Press

4. 5 Band Front Squats

5. 2 Pullovers

6. 5 Left Leg Pistols

7. 20 Hollow Rocks+ 20 Arch Rocks

Week 36 Day 1

Active Rest Day

Week 35 Day 7

20 mins of:

1. 5 Handstands

2. 10 Reverse Hypers

3. 2 Pullovers

4. 2 P-bar Passes

5. 10 Second False Grip on Rings

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Week 35 Day 6


1. 3x5 Weighted Dips

2. 3x30 Rhythm Squats

3. 5x100 Yard Sprint

4. 5x50 Yard Sprint

5. 20x Dunk Attempts

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Week 35 Day 5


1. 5x1 Clean and Jerk

2. 3x5 Deadlift

3. 6x L-Sit Static

Friday, July 16, 2010

Defining Fitness

I am going to throw two very different definitions of fitness on the table. Greg Glassman the creator of CrossFit, an increasingly popular fitness protocol (often called the sport of fitness), has taken a very good stab at defining fitness. Here is his definition:

"Fitness in 100 Words:

• Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not bodyfat.
• Practice the major lifts: deadlift, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-up, press, handstand, pirouettes, splits, flips, and holds. Bike, run, swim, and row fast and hard.
• Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense.
• Regularly learn to play new sports."

Although I really like many of the elements of this definition of fitness I find it a bit dogmatic. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of spectrum or freedom of choice within Glassman’s definition.

In my humble opinion the definition of fitness is not a one-size-fits-all concept. The definition should be malleable, so that it has the potential to be sculpted to fit one’s own unique definition that is only applicable to that person.

Dan John defines fitness as “being better at what you want to do.” Although this definition is somewhat vague, I think that it is a step in the right direction in contrast to the inflexible CrossFit description.

Here is my own attempt at defining fitness, I call it “Fitness in 15 Words;”

“Actively seek progress as an athlete by setting reasonable athletic goals and continually achieving them.”

This definition is applicable to anyone and everyone. You can set any goal you like as long as it is quantifiable and reasonable. I would wager that 70-90% of the people who are concerned with their physical fitness simply want to look better, which is fine. So set a goal, for example to be able to see your abs, getting below 10% bodyfat, or having a certain sized waist or butt or whatever. Maybe your goals are related to health and longevity, for example reducing your A1Cs (a test that measures a form of hemoglobin used primarily to identify the average plasma glucose concentration over prolonged periods of time; people with high (above 6%) A1Cs may have diabetes, people with good A1Cs (in the 5% and below) live for a very long time on average). This link delineates the importance of the A1C test:

One of my goals right now obviously is to dunk a basketball. Maybe your goal is to impress people with your athleticism, in which case you probably want to be proficient in gymnastics movements like handstands, backflips, planches, etc. The goals don’t really matter, what matters is that they are at least transiently related to athletic endeavors and that they are achievable (within reason). Maybe your first goal is a pull-up, then your next goal is a muscle-up, then your next goal is a backward roll to support on rings, and so on.

Once you achieve your goal there is always another more difficult goal to achieve, consequently the search for fitness is never truly complete. In my opinion one is fit when one feels fit. Fitness is all about perception.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Week 35 Day 4


1. 3x5 Weighted Chin-ups

2. 3x5 DB Bench Press

3. 2x20 Kroc Rows (w/100lbs)

4. 5x 100 Yard Sprint+ 5x 60 Yard Sprint

5. 20x Rim Grabs/ Dunk attempts

Pre-Game Ritual

I have discussed pre-game/WOD/lift rituals in previous posts. Here is big John Henderson's pre-game ritual:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Week 35 Day 3

Active Rest Day

Week 35 Day 2


1. 5x1 Snatch

2. 5x1 Back Squat

3. 3x5 Shoulder Press

4. 5x Straddle-L Rope Climb

5. 3x15 Reverse Hypers

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Olympic Lifts: A Multitude of Misunderstandings Round 2

Lately I have been reading quite a few articles from T-Muscle Magazine ( I know, it sounds like the ultimate thickheaded testosterone- laden publication on the planet and to a certain extent it is, but the weekly issues of this free online magazine are full of incredibly interesting and sometimes revolutionary information regarding all topics related to strength training. If you are not already reading this free mag, I suggest that you start soon. Despite the thickheaded name, I guarantee you will learn more than a thing or two about training, diet, and performance optimization if you simply take the time to virtually leaf through this online publication.

All of this being said, I read an article the other day entitled, “The Russian Approach to Size and Strength” by John Paul Catanzaro. The vast majority of the information in the article was well researched and very interesting, but in one section of the article John wrote, “Please skip the Olympic lifts unless you are already competent at performing them” in a caption underneath a photo of a loaded bar falling on a lifter after his arm had dislocated (

It would be extremely gentle on my part to simply call this asinine statement a misunderstanding. I would categorize it as an oxymoron. The absurd notion that an individual should not perform the Olympic lifts unless he or she is already competent in them is an excellent depiction of the way in which many of the most accredited and respected strength and conditioning practitioners fearfully tiptoe around the Olympic lifts—mainly because they themselves have no experience coaching or performing the lifts and they are afraid to struggle with them.

If an individual is not competent in the Olympic lifts, he should LEARN how to perform them correctly, not avoid them. I learned how to do the Olympic lifts simply by watching online videos of the best Olympic lifters in the world and through practice. At first I was far from competent in the lifts and if I had read this article at that time and taken John Cantanzaro’s advice I would still be incompetent in the realm of Olympic lifting. Instead I decided to spend some time learning how to safely and effectively perform the lifts and implement them into my training regimen. I can honestly say that if I had not found out about the Olympic lifts (about 1 year and a half ago) my vertical leap and overall athleticism would not be anywhere close to where it is today.

Many coaches believe that the costs outweigh the benefits when it comes to the Olympic lifts. I believe that these coaches are lazy and shortsighted.

Week 35 Day 1

Active Rest Day

Sunday, July 11, 2010

New Box Jump PR

I jumped onto a 56 inch box yesterday (a 3 inch PR). Implementing some of Joe DeFranco's vertical jump tricks ( helped me set this new PR.

Week 34 Day 7

Active Rest Day

Week 34 Day 6


1. 5x1 Standing Box Jump

2. 5x1 Stride Box Jump

3. 3x10 Rhythm Squats (w/ bands)

4. 5-3-1 Shoulder Press

5. 5-3-1 Dumbell Bench Press

6. 3x Arms only rope climb

7. 4x Hill Sprint

Friday, July 9, 2010

Week 34 Day 5


1. 5x1 Clean and Jerk

2. 3x3 Snatch Grip Deadlift

3. 4x3+ Weighted Dip

4. 3x15 Reverse Hyper

Week 34 Day 4

Active Rest Day

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Cool Article About Matt Kroc (The Inventor of the Kroc Row)

Week 34 Day 3


1. 4x2 Snatch

2. 3x3 Back Squat

3. 4x3+ Chin-up

4. 3x Arms Only Rope Climb

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Week 34 Day 2

Active Rest Day

Monday, July 5, 2010

Week 34 Day 1

Active Rest Day

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Week 33 Day 7


1. 6x 100 Yard Sprint

2. 4x 50 Yard Sprint

3. 10x rim grab

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Week 33 Day 6

Active Rest Day

Week 33 Day 5


1. 5x1 Clean and Jerk

2. 5/3/1- Deadlift

3. 5x legs free rope climb

4. 3x 8 left arm presses + 5 left leg pistols

5. 10x 6 second L-sit

6. 3x 10 Weighted Reverse Hypers

7. 2x 10 Kroc Row w/ 100lb Dumbell

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Super Freak

Check out this video of a dude with a 54 inch vertical:

He also has a 635lb 5 rep back squat. Maybe there is some validity to the concept that high level relative strength begets high level explosion (i.e leaping ability).

Week 33 Day 4

Active Rest Day