Building Community in a Large Urban Gym

As we think about ways to improve what we’re doing at SLSC, one of the things that keeps coming up is “community.”   I’ve talked about this more than a few times in this newsletter, but this is something that I don’t think we’ve quite figured out.   I’ve also mentioned some of the challenges … Continue reading "Building Community in a Large Urban Gym"

Should you do the Open?

Are you going to do the Open? After the sudden and pretty aggressive changes to the CrossFit Games season, it seems that registration for the Open is down pretty significantly. I’m not sure that this is a bad thing, though. As a coach to people for whom CrossFit is a serious sport and to people … Continue reading "Should you do the Open?"

Professionalizing the Coach

One of our primary objectives for 2019 is to figure out a way to further professionalize our coaches at SLSC. Unfortunately, the business model of operating a CrossFit gym does not facilitate paying salaries at a level commensurate with the expertise needed to be a high quality coach – or at an amount of money … Continue reading "Professionalizing the Coach"

“Great players don’t make great coaches”

One of the most challenging things about coaching is having the metacognition necessary to be able to understand your own through process and impart that upon others. Others who don’t have a lot of experience or understanding of movement, how their body feels, what kind of discomfort is acceptable vs unacceptable, etc. There’s an adage … Continue reading "“Great players don’t make great coaches”"

What to do with your wrists during a ring muscle-up transition

Check out this video of Solly struggling to get through the transition of a muscle-up. View this post on Instagram #Repost ・・・ Having trouble with your transition in muscle-ups? – Lots of cues are focused on adjusting your pull, your kip, or your body angle. And these often need help. – However, if you … Continue reading "What to do with your wrists during a ring muscle-up transition"

Why can’t people row correctly?

At one of our recent coaches meetings, we reviewed some footage Callie had of a member doing some pretty wild rowing. He was basically doing his best impression of Cam Newton’s rowing – check it out here, but don’t click through if you’re weak of stomach. We see this kind of terrible technique regularly from … Continue reading "Why can’t people row correctly?"

Member Surveys: CrossFit Coach Evaluations

Last year, I read “Work Rules!” by Laszlo Bock – which explains a lot of the best practices that Google has developed for building culture and developing employees. One of the main points of the book is the regular usage of surveys. We quickly implemented a feedback survey on our coaching at SLSC, and we’ve … Continue reading "Member Surveys: CrossFit Coach Evaluations"

Evaluation Checklist for a CrossFit Class

Here’s the updated template that I’ve been using to evaluate coaching classes. The goal here is to have a checklist of behaviors that we want to see in every single class so it makes it easy to evaluate whether or not we’re hitting the major, important pieces that ensure our members have not just a … Continue reading "Evaluation Checklist for a CrossFit Class"

How to modify movements for injury

When someone comes with a movement restriction, we can think through a flow chart to come up with modifications that could potentially be helpful for them while still maintaining a similar stimulus in the training. Let’s think about someone with shoulder impingement in overhead pressing. If the training for the day is 3×3 strict press, … Continue reading "How to modify movements for injury"

“Should I be drinking a sports drink or water during my workout?”

A sports drink is a beverage that contains carbohydrate (typically sugar) for fast-digesting energy along with some electrolytes (typically sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium). Depending on the brand, they can also contain other functional ingredients, like caffeine. There are a number of reasons why someone would choose a sports drink over water: To Replace Electrolytes … Continue reading "“Should I be drinking a sports drink or water during my workout?”"

What is gluten and is it actually bad for you?

For such a tiny thing, gluten has gotten a lot of press over the last decade. Gluten is a substance that forms in wheat and other wheat-related grains when specific proteins (gliadins, prolamins) come in contact with water (e.g. the second it hits your mouth or in the preparation process). Gluten is actually a beloved … Continue reading "What is gluten and is it actually bad for you?"

SLSC Podcast #21: Stephan Guyenet, PhD – Author of The Hungry Brain

There’s been a culture war raging for decades – high carbohydrate diets vs high fat diets, paleo diets vs vegan diets, people tracking all of their food in apps while others shout that “calories don’t matter,” and a bunch of people off in the corner sipping exogenous ketones. If you’re familiar with Jonathan Haidt’s book … Continue reading "SLSC Podcast #21: Stephan Guyenet, PhD – Author of The Hungry Brain"

SLSC Podcast #20: Mark Macqueen – #1 Ranked Scottish Powerlifter

Mark is from Glasgow, Scotland. Mark is the current Scottish and British champion in the 120kg class. He was the IPF European silver medalist last year and is currently the #1 ranked powerlifter in Scotland. Mark has personal bests of a 700lb squat, 407lb bench press, 710lb deadlift, and 1,808lb total as a raw/drug-free athlete. … Continue reading "SLSC Podcast #20: Mark Macqueen – #1 Ranked Scottish Powerlifter"

SLSC Podcast #19: Stefanie Rulla – State Champion Powerlifter and Neuroscientist

High schools across America have been pitting nerds against jocks for decades. I’m not sure if the same dichotomy exists in Germany, or if it’s merely the outgrowth of paragons of American culture like Archie, The Breakfast Club, and Friday Night Lights. Either way, that distinction between “brains” and “brawn” has never sat well with … Continue reading "SLSC Podcast #19: Stefanie Rulla – State Champion Powerlifter and Neuroscientist"

South Loop Podcast #18: Peter Rahal, Founder and CEO of RXBAR

I remember Peter Rahal approaching me by the whiteboard at River North CrossFit. If you’ve ever met Peter, he’s kind of a quiet but intense guy. He has a sense of humor, but is also a weird guy with weird ideas, so sometimes you’re not sure if he’s joking or serious. He comes up to … Continue reading "South Loop Podcast #18: Peter Rahal, Founder and CEO of RXBAR"

South Loop Podcast #17: Dr. Shawn Allen of The Gait Guys

Anyone who has ever been to a physical therapist has inevitably been told that they have “weak glutes” and been given Jane Fondas or some other form of band exercise. Does every human being actually have weak glutes? Is the contractile potential of the muscle limited? Do glutes really not “fire correctly”? Can we actually … Continue reading "South Loop Podcast #17: Dr. Shawn Allen of The Gait Guys"

Cutting Through the Hype: Brandon Heavey & Nicole Latimer of Evidence Based Athlete

If you have any interest in the fitness industry – for health, performance, weight loss, or otherwise – you’ve seen some sensational headlines. “I tried the ketogenic diet and lost 15 pounds in three weeks – all while adding 30 pounds to my one rep max deadlift!” “My squats had stalled out for years, until … Continue reading "Cutting Through the Hype: Brandon Heavey & Nicole Latimer of Evidence Based Athlete"

Group Classes vs Training Templates vs Individualized Programming

Everyone has an opinion on programming and training for CrossFit. Quibbles over the best ways to train are nothing new in any sport. Let’s see how many different ways that people can argue over intensity vs volume in training protocols with a few Google searches. “intensity vs volume CrossFit” “intensity vs volume bodybuilding” “intensity vs … Continue reading "Group Classes vs Training Templates vs Individualized Programming"

Ricky Hirsch: The Jerky King of Chicago

  You’d think that having the most successful food-based Kickstarter campaign of all time would be a great start. But, Ricky Hirsch was disappointed in having raised only $57,000. He thought his product was so good that he was going to get millions. Now, there’s something to be said for staying off of the hedonic … Continue reading "Ricky Hirsch: The Jerky King of Chicago"

Dr. Ben Fergus on How Being a Giant Baby Will Improve Your Performance

I've snuck into a lot of physical therapy continuing education courses that I don't belong in over the last few years. I've enjoyed putting myself in situations where I'm the least knowledgable person in the room, and trying to learn in a field peripheral to strength & conditioning has elevated my thinking as a coach … Continue reading "Dr. Ben Fergus on How Being a Giant Baby Will Improve Your Performance"

James FitzGerald on Quitting Coaching

I first started coaching in CrossFit back in 2010, and at some point in 2011, I transitioned into the role of writing programming for the gym that I was working at. In typical information hoarder practice, I began to search out as much as I could find on the principles of program design. I started … Continue reading "James FitzGerald on Quitting Coaching"

Greg Anderson from Southern Lord Records and Sunn O))) on How to Build a Tribe

I've always been kind of a music freak. My first foray into "non-mainstream music" came in seventh grade. I was in some sort of special math program where I was bumped up a grade into the eighth grade advanced math class. At the time, bands like The Offspring and The Mighty Bosstones were popular on … Continue reading "Greg Anderson from Southern Lord Records and Sunn O))) on How to Build a Tribe"

Interview with Joe Heiler of

As a strength & conditioning coach, I've received some of the best continuing education by playing around in areas that I don't belong in. Courses geared more towards physical therapists like DNS, the SFMA, and Sahrmann's courses on Movement System Impairment Syndromes have profoundly impacted how I look at coaching and movement. Joe Heiler has … Continue reading "Interview with Joe Heiler of"

Interview with Todd on

I was on Joe Heiler's site Sports Rehab Expert last year for an interview, which was really cool since the site is focused predominantly on the rehabilitation of athletes looking to maximize their sport performance. Believe it or not, CrossFit has a relatively poor reputation in the rehab community for being a disorganized and dangerous … Continue reading "Interview with Todd on"

Coach Todd on WGN Radio with Matt Bubala

Michael FitzGerald on What Metrics Actually Matter for Performance in CrossFit

Michael Jordan had Phil Jackson and Tim Grover. Muhammad Ali had Angelo Dundee. Michael Jackson worked with Seth Riggs. Many of the greatest performers of all time in sports, business and entertainment got where they are not only from talent and work ethic – but also from their training with a coach who was able … Continue reading "Michael FitzGerald on What Metrics Actually Matter for Performance in CrossFit"

Elisabeth Akinwale on Mental Toughness in Competition and How to Coach like a Social Worker

In addition to being a five times CrossFit Games competitor (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) with two top ten finishes, Elisabeth Akinwale is a mother and a former social worker. Elisabeth is very self-aware and articulate about her experiences competing, coaching (in her new role as head coach at Brick Chicago) and balancing priorities in … Continue reading "Elisabeth Akinwale on Mental Toughness in Competition and How to Coach like a Social Worker"

Why Training Harder Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Training Better

If you start taking a look at fitness celebrities on social media, their timelines are full of inspirational quotes. There's all kinds of stuff out there about pushing harder, never quitting, never backing down, and not making excuses. While having grit and a willingness to endure short-term pain for long-term progress are both essential for … Continue reading "Why Training Harder Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Training Better"

Interview with Mike Kesthely of Dynamic Nutrition

Back in 2013, Mike Kesthely effectively closed Dynamic Nutrition down. He had consulted with several CrossFit Games level athletes on their nutrition and had lead nutrition seminars for OPEX (formerly OPT). However, his full-time job as a firefighter and the pending birth of his second child caused him to reevaluate his priorities. Fast forward a … Continue reading "Interview with Mike Kesthely of Dynamic Nutrition"

Interview with Ben Crookston, CEO of Train Heroic

Starting a business from nothing is brutal. Getting anyone to pay attention to you in the first place, then to part with cash for some product they've never heard of, then to deliver on that product is crushingly difficult. Also, getting anyone to believe in you and work for you or invest money into your … Continue reading "Interview with Ben Crookston, CEO of Train Heroic"


I was recently interviewed on a few podcasts, and I had a really great time running my mouth for the internet. First, I did an interview with Ray Toulany at the Super Strength Show. Ray has a great show with tons of interviews from strength coach legends like Dan John, Kelly Starrett, and Mike Robertson. … Continue reading "COACH TODD ON STRENGTH SYNDICATE AND THE SUPER STRENGTH SHOW"

Why are you training?

In this episode, Todd & Paul discuss the five "whys" of training. At SLSC, we see a lot of people with a lot of different goals. Some are motivated primarily by aesthetics – they want to look good with their shirt off. Others are motivated by long-term health – they got some scary blood results … Continue reading "Why are you training?"

What should I eat?

"What diet should I follow?" is one of the most common questions people ask. And for good reason – most folks at this point have an understanding that you "can't out-train a bad diet." There's also a constant influx of diet related information on magazine covers, on morning news shows, from friends talking about their … Continue reading "What should I eat?"


We train a lot of different people at South Loop Strength & Conditioning. People with different goals, different training ages, different injury histories, different movement patterns, different genders, different schedules, and more. Each of these pieces will affect what will be an "ideal" program for an individual. So the grand answer, as Stuart McGill has … Continue reading "WHAT EXERCISE PROGRAM SHOULD I FOLLOW?"

Liz Yerly of Chicago Recovery Room on Injury Prevention and Recovery for Athletes

This is the first interview that we've done for the South Loop Strength & Conditioning podcast, and our guest is Liz Yerly of The Chicago Recovery Room. Liz has a plethora of letters after her name: MPT (Master of Physical Therapy), ATC (Certified Athletic Trainer), LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist) & CSCS (Certified Strength & Conditioning … Continue reading "Liz Yerly of Chicago Recovery Room on Injury Prevention and Recovery for Athletes"


Being located in downtown Chicago, we get a lot of drop-ins passing through our city looking to train. Similarly, our members often travel as well and are looking to train on the road. Here are some of our recommendations for gyms to drop-in at while traveling. Every gym is going to have their own rules … Continue reading "WHICH CROSSFIT GYM SHOULD I DROP IN AT?"

Designing Training for the CP Battery

At South Loop Strength & Conditioning, we have regular coaches' meetings. During these meetings, in addition to the standard boring business stuff about new protocols and pending equipment orders, we also spend a lot of time on continuing education. The prescriptions that we give our clients and our athletes require a subtle understanding of training … Continue reading "Designing Training for the CP Battery"

Nutrition and Lifesytle for Maximum Energy and Focus – New SLSC Podcast

I recently gave a lecture on eating for improved energy and mental focus at Kent Law School. I put a crappy handheld voice recorder on the desk and figured I'd maybe share the lecture with some folks who had wanted to come but couldn't make it and with the participants in a corporate health program … Continue reading "Nutrition and Lifesytle for Maximum Energy and Focus – New SLSC Podcast"

Training for GRID vs Training for CrossFit

The National Pro Grid League has been turning team fitness into a professional sport. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d highly recommend last year’s playoff match between Phoenix and San Francisco – with the full match available for streaming here. This year, the Grid season is spaced out over a few months with the … Continue reading "Training for GRID vs Training for CrossFit"


I've operated a gym for just over three years now that has been either breaking even or losing money the entire time. South Loop Strength & Conditioning in a hallway with gymnastics mats set up to catch falling bars We've had a lot of challenges with real estate throughout our existence. All of the details … Continue reading "WHY “JUST DO A GREAT JOB AND CLIENTS WILL COME TO YOU” IS HORRIBLE BUSINESS ADVICE"


I recently wrote an article for the Breaking Muscle called "Why Some CrossFit Athletes Dominate the Open and Fail Regionals." The discussions centers around some of the differences in testing between Regionals and the Open, and why some athletes may have the physical tools to excel at one stage but not at another. Check it … Continue reading "“WHY SOME CROSSFIT ATHLETES DOMINATE THE OPEN AND FAIL AT REGIONALS” (ARTICLE AT BREAKING MUSCLE)"


Today's post comes from one of our earliest members at South Loop Strength & Conditioning. Isaam is a man who loves the Wu-Tang Clan, and so am I, so we connected early on with our appreciation for a group of freaks from Staten Island. The Wu-Tang mythology is heavily drawn from Kung fu flicks, which … Continue reading "FIT FU – HOW CROSSFIT IS LIKE AN OLD SCHOOL KUNG FU FLICK"


I recently wrote an article for the Tabata Times called "So, you think you have a mobility problem?" focused on distinguishing between mobility and stability problems in the CrossFit athlete. Check it out here.


We all know the drill sergeant mentality of "no pain, no gain." But, mental toughness in a sport like CrossFit doesn't just mean the ability to endure discomfort – it means the ability to stay present, focus on the feelings in your body, and be gentle on yourself in your training. I got together with … Continue reading "MENTAL TOUGHNESS IN FITNESS = BE GENTLE ON YOURSELF"

Do you need an individualized training program to succeed in CrossFit?

It’s not terribly difficult to find emotionally charged topics when discussing CrossFit on the internet. There have been many wars fought in YouTube comments, forums, and T-Nation posts. And, as much as I’d like to consider myself above a certain type of behavior, I’m about to enter the fray. Who needs an individualized program to … Continue reading "Do you need an individualized training program to succeed in CrossFit?"


CrossFit athletes love metrics. With the Open recently over, I think there's more than a few folks reading this who can relate to poring over the leaderboard – wondering why one athlete crushed the toes-to-bar workout and struggled on the chest-to-bar pull-ups or why one athlete hit twenty pounds over their listed clean and jerk … Continue reading "THE PROBLEM WITH BIOHACKING"


One of the trickiest things about selecting a CrossFit gym is summed up in that old adage: you don't know what you don't know. In order to properly evaluate a gym, you'd have to train there for months, learn about the coaching, learn about the programming, learn about the community – and then switch over … Continue reading "HOW TO FIND THE BEST CROSSFIT GYM IN YOUR CITY (PART 1)"


Since opening South Loop Strength & Conditioning about three years ago, my stress levels have been steadily ratcheting up – occasionally leveling off, then hitting a massive, plateau-busting spike. Kind of like the training process for a lot of athletes, although my own training has definitely suffered massively over the last year and a half … Continue reading "HOW TO BEAT YOUR SMARTPHONE AND PRIORITIZE YOUR TIME"


Many athletes, even at high levels in fitness, complete their snatches and cleans with a sort of "flip" of the bar. Rather than finishing with a powerful pull, the bar kind of floats out in YOUR front and is then "flipped" into position. This may be an unfair generalization, but I often see this with … Continue reading "“FLIPPING” THE BAR IN THE POWER CLEAN – THE DOUBLE KNEE BEND & THE POWER POSITION"


“Overtraining” is term that is regularly thrown around in the fitness industry. The CrossFit and fast fitness movement has helped to boost its popularity. “Training” can be defined as a two-part system of work in the gym and recovery work done outside of the gym. Recovery is what – I like to call “back end” … Continue reading "OVERTRAINING OR UNDER-RECOVERING"


In our community, we have people with a variety of goals. Some have a competitive itch that they can never quite scratch, and they want to maximize their performance and reach their true potential. And, in the process, they wouldn't mind beating a bunch of people as well (in fitness competition, or sport). Other people … Continue reading "OWN YOUR GOALS"


The Goldilocks Mindset When being coached on lifting technique, it's not uncommon to feel like different coaches are giving Czy conflicting cues. How am I supposed to sit back onto my heels while still keeping my chest up in the squat? If both cues aren't happening, which one should I sacrifice? Is it better to … Continue reading "THE GOLDILOCKS MINDSET"