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David Steinberg

David Steinberg is the New York City Editor of PJ Media. Follow his tweets at @DavidSPJM.
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Live Video: Watch PJM Writer Max Steinberg Make His DFS Picks, And Maybe You’ll Win $1,000 Like I Just Did. Yes Really.

Monday, August 17th, 2015 - by David Steinberg

Watch golf? Know anything about golf? I don’t.

But I know PJ Media writer Max Steinberg just made the final table at the World Series of Poker, and I know his co-bloggers at DailyFantasyWinners.com have made hundreds of thousands applying their statistical research skill to playing daily fantasy sports.

So I looked here at their picks for last weekend’s PGA Championship, spent five minutes doing exactly what they recommended, and now I’m off to surprise my wife with something from Saks.

Max is running a livestream with tonight’s picks right now (2:15 p.m EST). You can also start the video from the beginning whenever you want. Watch here:

Watch live video from DailyFantasyWinners on www.twitch.tv

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I Make 82% on my Money with This One Weird Third-String Point Guard!

Monday, December 8th, 2014 - by David Steinberg

A few days before Thanksgiving, I read this NY Post article titled “The Men Who Make 6 Figures  Off Fantasy Football“; I probably clicked on it for the same reason Buzzfeed exists. The piece showcased several dudes looking nouveau-riche, one sharing accounts of all the money he’s earned while posing with stuff he hasn’t bought. Mark Giundi poses in a pinstriped suit with an unlit cigar and a tumbler of whiskey; his caption reads: “Styling by Mindy Saad, Sienna blue stripe suit, $779 at … “, etc.:


“This eyebrow ain’t gonna pluck itself, people.”

The article described the relatively new gambling phenomenon of “Daily Fantasy Sports,” wherein entrants get to pick an entirely new team of fantasy athletes for each day’s slate of games, and to enter and close several bets each day. This contrasts with traditional fantasy sports gambling, which generally involves sticking with a team in a league over an entire season, a more time-intensive and likely less-lucrative commitment.

Daily Fantasy Sports, because of the in-and-out nature, has more of an appeal the way dropping 25 bucks on a game does when you happen to be in a casino for the night. It’s a lot closer to gambling the way most people are comfortable with gambling, rather than the hobby that traditional fantasy sports must be. Personally, I would never consider traditional fantasy sports, but Daily Fantasy Sports sounded like a reasonably fun way to spend an otherwise uneventful evening, just like a night at the craps table.

It is nothing like a casino chance game, however; the better analogy than craps would be poker. Daily Fantasy Sports is a skill competition, not an inevitable loss to the rules of probability. The Feds agree: the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 allows for online fantasy sports. (Though conversely, it does happen to outlaw online poker.)

On Thanksgiving, I put down seven bucks on FanDuel.com, currently the industry leader. I had to pick a quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker, and one team’s entire defense. All the picks had to come from the three Thanksgiving Day games: Detroit vs. Chicago, Dallas vs. Philadelphia, and San Francisco vs. Seattle. The bet allowed for 1277 entries. Winnings would be paid out according to the following formula:

  • 1st : $777.00
  • 2nd : $350.00
  • 3rd : $210.00
  • 4th : $140.00
  • 5th : $105.00
  • 6th : $84.00
  • 7th – 11th : $77.00
  • 12th – 16th : $70.00
  • 17th – 21st : $63.00
  • 22nd – 31st : $56.00
  • 32nd – 41st : $49.00
  • 42nd – 61st : $42.00
  • 62nd – 81st : $35.00
  • 82nd – 101st : $28.00
  • 102nd – 152nd : $21.00
  • 153rd – 212nd : $14.00

Somehow, I spent most of the day in first place; I got knocked down to fourth when San Francisco didn’t manage to score a touchdown the entire game and entrants who had selected Seattle’s defense jumped ahead of me. Still, I was intrigued, as any gambling novice or heroin addict might be when he scores the good stuff the first time out.

I wanted to know the actual returns I was capable of producing over a large-enough sample size. As a skill game, if one obeyed the math, could Daily Fantasy Sports be a more lucrative — or even safer — place for one’s cash than stocks, or that .3% yield you’re getting on a CD thanks to quantitative easing?

Two weeks later, the answer is an unsettling “absolutely.” My calculated expected return seems too good to be true, and my risk of loss improbably small.

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VIDEO: Coach Rippetoe Puts PJ Media on Starting Strength (Part Three)

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 - by David Steinberg

(Click here for Part One, and here for Part Two.)

In this installment, legendary powerlifting coach Mark Rippetoe discusses the benefits of a technique that the fitness industry generally considers to be dangerous, despite such advocates not having presented even a single incident of injury with this technique as causation.

For each rep of the squat, Rippetoe teaches the Valsalva maneuver: take a huge breath, and hold it until you’ve finished the rep. The recommendation to breathe in on the decline and out on the way up, which you’ve likely been taught at some point, has no evidentiary basis. Further, with a few reps of experimentation on your own, you will quickly notice a more rigid, safer back — and more weight being moved — when holding a deep breath.

Rippetoe also finishes up the squat video series with a note about the exercise: the squat is quite a complex exercise when taught properly. But if you want to reach your strength goals, you do need to squat properly — and so you are going to need a visit with a qualified coach:

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VIDEO: Coach Rippetoe Puts PJ Media on Starting Strength (Part Two)

Monday, September 1st, 2014 - by David Steinberg

(Click here for Part One.)

Prior to working with Coach Mark Rippetoe, I’d have recommended the budget route to acquaintances interested in strength training: get all the information you can online, as much of it is excellent quality and all you need to know; then, get yourself to a squat rack.

I will no longer give that advice. I would enthusiastically recommend a number of online educational courses and how-tos for folks interested in a wide range of activities, but for strength training, you simply need to schedule a visit with the most esteemed coach you can find. Taking up a language, or learning calculus? Online options are arguably superior. But I regret the several years of time wasted, lumbar discs damaged, and stalled progress because I didn’t call up Rippetoe sooner. Getting immediate feedback from an expert eye critiquing every rep is worth the expense.

In this installment, recorded during a visit from Rippetoe and two members of his coaching team — John Petrizzo and Nicholas D’Agostino – to my lifting partner’s home gym, Rippetoe shared a tremendous amount of technical knowledge that I simply never noticed via training on my own, even with the use of video. And the results since this visit, which I will report in a future post, have been excellent.

Click to the following page to watch the video “The Squat, Part Two.” Topics covered:

Hand placement: Ideally, you want thumbs on top of the bar, wrists neutral, elbows up. You can progress without this, but it’s the best configuration for keeping the bar where it needs to be without causing wrist strain.

Back angle: As in Part One, Rippetoe explains the primacy of back angle. You need to be more horizontal to get the load on your hips instead of your knees. Think about exiting the hole with your hips first. Everything else taught here is secondary.

Rippetoe points out why the squat is a hips movement — and why it’s safe for your knees — by pointing out the difference in the “moment arm” for each joint. Simply, the hips are much further from your center of gravity.

Knee position: Most people will see their knees slightly ahead of their toes at the bottom of the squat. And the bottom of the squat is hips below knees, otherwise the rear muscle chain doesn’t get fully utilized.

Forget your rack: Want to get stronger? Never give up on a rep because you know you can safely fail by dropping the bar on the pins. You need to figure out what max effort actually feels like, mentally and physically.

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VIDEO: Coach Rippetoe Puts PJ Media on Starting Strength (Part One)

Thursday, July 24th, 2014 - by David Steinberg

After spending a few hours with Mark Rippetoe and two members of his coaching team — John Petrizzo and Nicholas D’Agostino — I’ve learned that online strength training information, though often of high quality, takes a distant second to an in-person session from a top-notch coach. And you simply cannot find one at a corporate gym. Maybe you have found one, or thought you had, but my experience from this project has been that years, dollars, and perhaps time spent recovering from injuries could have been saved had I originally sought out the advice considered to be the best by those who train for a living.

For more detail on that, I asked Petrizzo why he was drawn to Rippetoe’s methods and chose to become an affiliated coach:

All through high school and college I read everything I could get my hands on in regards to training for enhanced strength and athletic performance. Starting Strength stood out. I had never seen a comparable level of analysis applied to the barbell lifts in terms of their application and execution. Prior to SS, everything I had read in regards to lifting technique was merely the author’s opinion. I had never read anything that applied a sound biomechanical rationale for every aspect of the movements included in the program, and why they should be coached and taught in the manner they were presented in the book.
This was sorely lacking in my formal undergraduate education as an Exercise Science major.

Coach Rippetoe has been writing introductory strength training articles for PJ Media this year. I called him to suggest we do a “video coaching” project, wherein I would follow the advice from his Starting Strength, record each training session, and then send him the video to critique. He didn’t like that idea, explaining that top-level coaching needs to occur in-person.

A few weeks later, Rippetoe, two coaches, and a cameraman were in my lifting partner’s basement gym, showing us everything we’ve been doing wrong all these years.

There’s a reason potential Olympians move to Colorado Springs, and why talented youth tennis players move to Florida. Serious improvement comes from a trained eye watching your every move, giving immediate and correct feedback. This doesn’t happen online, and the trained eyes who can do this at the highest level are few. The difference between Rippetoe, his colleagues, and every other trainer I have worked with? They are meticulous: they always noticed flaws immediately, they gave me the proper fix, and I felt an immediate improvement in performance. If you want improve your strength for any reason — the best being long-term well-being — then you should consider a visit with the best.

We’re breaking the video from that training session into five parts, which we will publish over the next few weeks at PJ Lifestyle. On the following page is the first video: “The Squat, Part One.” Topics covered:

Weight gainAs Rippetoe has previously covered here, the big, strong guy is both self-sufficient and healthier than the waif. You need to eat if you want to get consistently stronger on a strength program — sometimes those plateaus occur from an insufficient diet. What kind of weight gain might someone pursuing greater strength expect?

Foot placement: How far apart, and at what angle?

Back angle: Rippetoe displays, with a simple hands-on test, that a less vertical back angle instantly helps you move more weight.

Eyes on the floor: With another simple test, Rippetoe shows that the typical eyes-forward squat taught by corporate gyms represents weaker positioning.

Bar placement: You are probably placing the bar too high on your back, which can lead to that more vertical back angle. Dropping it down — where it doesn’t feel so comfortable at first — shortens the lever and gives you a mechanical advantage over the high bar position.

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Open Thread: Ask Mark Rippetoe Your Questions About Strength Training

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 - by David Steinberg

Mark Rippetoe, the celebrated author of strength training bible Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training and three other classic strength training books — Practical Programming for Strength Training, Strong Enough? Thoughts on Thirty Years of Barbell Training, and Mean Ol’ Mr. Gravity – will be joining us live today to answer any questions you might have on his topics of expertise.

Rip was a competitive powerlifter himself for ten years, and has since coached many lifters and athletes and given seminars to thousands around the country.

Mark will be answering questions live from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST. Ask Mark anything — from beginner to elite level topics — by submitting a comment to this article.

For more background information: Rippetoe has been writing a series of excellently received, introductory-level strength training articles for PJ Media lately. His articles are drawing hundreds of thousands of readers. If you haven’t seen them yet, click on the below links to get yourself up to speed — some of your questions may already have been answered by Mark, either in the articles or the comments:

Strength vs. Endurance: Why You Are Wasting Your Time in the Gym

Squats, Presses, and Deadlifts: Why Gyms Don’t Teach the Only Exercises You Need

The 1 Reason You Aren’t Getting Stronger

Forget What You’ve Heard: 4 Reasons Why Full Squats Save Your Knees

Maybe, You Should Gain Weight

The Deadlift: 3 Reasons Why Just Picking Up Heavy Things Replaces Most of Your Gym

3 Reasons Why You Need to Lift the Barbell Over Your Head

‘Training’ vs. ‘Exercise’: What’s the Difference?

Why You Should Not Be Running

Be sure to check out all of Mark’s Amazon book pages, linked above. And if you’re ready to set up that garage gym, check out the Burgener and Rippetoe Barbell. It’s designed to Mark’s specifications, and is now available at Rogue Fitness.

Now: submit those questions!

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Tell Your Kids About This U.S. Olympian

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 - by David Steinberg

Colorado’s Noah Hoffman competed in the skiathlon event this weekend, a new event consisting of 15K of classic cross-country skiing technique and 15K of freestyle. All told, it’s just over an hour of pain for world-class skiers.

Hoffman looked strong during the classic portion, staying just a few seconds behind the lead pace, until he crashed on a curve — and broke one of his poles. He eventually received a replacement, but he had lost too much time to compete for a medal.

The fall was the last a television viewer would see of Hoffman for about 45 minutes, until a huffing, driving, navy blue Team U.S.A. uniform made the turn for the final 100-meter stretch to the finish. Below, about 15 feet from the line, that blurred figure is Hoffman, giving it everything he’s got to pass one more not-as-driven competitor:



Hoffman pushed himself right to the finish line … so he could finish 35th instead of 36th. No one else in that picture had as much heart in the game as he did.

Hoffman caught them all after skiing part of the race with one pole, for goodness sake, and I can’t even figure how that worked. Maybe he held it with two hands and pushed between his legs, or something.

Coloradoans: when Hoffman gets back home, see to it that he doesn’t pay for his own beer.

Cross-posted from David Steinberg’s new blog Self-Evident

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The Most Useful Fitness Book Ever?

Friday, May 3rd, 2013 - by David Steinberg

The stuff we gravitate towards as our personal means of “getting fit” is often as pointless as rallying around other faulty belief systems — like Scientology, or “the Cubs.” Lost in the fray of strength training, lifestyle coaches, and Zumba! — and essentially lost since the development of agriculture changed our lifestyles — was the obvious regarding fitness: namely, that you are a human. Before you focus on anything extraneous like your golf swing, you should make sure you can do what a human is made to do.

Otherwise, you are a time bomb for injury and preventable surgery, and for difficult golden years.

My three-year-old son loves the Bronx Zoo, but not so much the stroller. So I carry him a lot, either on my shoulders or in my arms. Any parent knows what a day of that can be like — note how many are clutching their lower backs or rubbing their necks after packing up the car to leave, even the ones who are just worn out from a day pushing the stroller.

As a contrast, note that while at the zoo, you never saw, say, a lemur clutching its hammy, or yelling the lemur equivalent of: “F***! Cramp!” while trying to extend his toes.

Kelly Starrett’s Becoming a Supple Leopard – he’s a Northern California dude, the title and tone of the book is best understood if familiar with his video clip site, MobilityWOD.com — fills a huge void in fitness publications. Starrett focuses on the universal need, capability for, and benefit of proper human movement, and provides tips, tests, and benchmarks for reaching your full range of motion, and thus your physical potential.

I’ll call it the most useful fitness book ever written, and endorse it without reservation. (Full disclosure: I once interviewed Starrett for a Men’s Journal piece, and I am otherwise inclined to say nice things about him, since a tip he gave me a couple years ago allowed me to serve a tennis ball again without pain. But that tip is included on page 266 of the book — presumably I’d find it in there if I did not previously know him. And frankly, I’d recommend the book on that tip alone, as it provided instant relief and allowed me to stay on the court.)

This is not a manual written for either beginners or experienced athletes; it should be useful for most everyone, as few at any level of athletic ability have this base of knowledge. As primary as this topic is to general health and wellness, the dearth of information is just as conspicuous. Leopard could improve great-grandma’s quality of life as readily as it could have lessened the chances of Kobe’s Achilles tear, or Derek Rose’s shredded ACL. Further, Kobe might have been jumping a couple inches higher, defending the ball a split-second faster all these years, and as a result of the more efficient movement, might have kept his knees and ankles younger.

The heart of the book — useful to anyone who participates in the activities of walking, standing, or even sitting — is Chapter 2: Midline Stabilization and Organization. Everyone knows “keep your back straight,” and “squeeze your abs,” and commitment to those simple tips will save you a bit of pain and trouble. But you can do significantly better, and you will notice immediate results while doing something no more complicated than not lying down.

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Charlie Martin, Late-Blooming Athlete: Week 4 — Fitness and the Video Revolution

Monday, February 25th, 2013 - by David Steinberg

(See Week One, Week Two, and Week Three. The key passage:

The majority of activities people are accustomed to doing at a gym are neither efficient means of getting fitter nor particularly safe. A typical trainer at a typical gym is now a terrible investment, both for your fitness level and because elite-level training information is freely available online. There is no substitute for an actual qualified trainer at a quality gym, both in instruction and motivation, yet you can do great things for yourself on your own, with a computer. Charlie’s PJ Lifestyle entries strike me as a good opportunity to demonstrate this; he’s agreed to be somewhat of a lab rat.)


In addition to the other contributions that make your daily life more productive, Steve Jobs — and the competitors he dragged with him — inadvertently revolutionized fitness and sports training by jamming a powerful camera into your phone. Those hours you spent as a kid practicing your jumper, your pitching motion, Bobby Brown’s culturally significant dance moves, etc. could have been fantastically more productive had you been able to work with the instant feedback of video.

If familiar with the nascent study of human expertise — most folks aware of it were exposed via Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers; the field is led by scientist K. Anders Ericcson — you may recall the conclusion that an average of “10,000 hours” of “deliberate practice” is generally required to gain such skill in any endeavor. What cheap, available video does: it makes the “immediate feedback” component of deliberate practice profoundly more accessible.

I asked Charlie to send me video of him doing a few reps of what we’ve discussed as the “Core Curriculum” of human movement: the squat, the deadlift, and the press. The point is to see what range of motion he currently has, both in the interest of injury prevention and for discussing the significant advantage that good technique will give you as an athlete. (As taught at a Crossfit Level 1 Trainer Certification, technique equals strength. A correction here and there makes you stronger without additional training.)

Here’s the video. I’ll tell you the basics of what I’m seeing, feel free to weigh in if you notice anything else. Like, say, a cat:

YouTube Preview Image

His deadlift: His lower back is not rounding to compensate for a lack of mobility in the hips, which typically is great — if you are going to get hurt deadlifting, it will probably be from your lower back rounding while under load. But: we can’t quite tell if he does have sufficient hip mobility, because the upper back is compensating quite a bit. Considering Charlie, like everybody, is at a computer all day, he needs to focus on being able to get those shoulder blades back and down so he can get his spine into a strong position. You want that spine nice and straight, tailbone as far as possible from the crown of your head, and you don’t want to lose any of that positioning during the movement.

His (front) squat: Charlie apparently does have pretty limber hips. Any upper body mobility issues aren’t masking anything with this movement. He can get his hips below his knees, which counts as a full squat, without anything horrible happening in his lower back. Also — from the front view, his knees do not buckle inwards towards each other at all, another common fault.

His swing: The swing is pretty close to a deadlift, I would give the same notes as above.

His press: There it is. An efficient press would complete with the arms vertical — Charlie’s arms are leaning forward at the top of the movement. Imagine he’s got 150 pounds up there: he will either start to topple forward, or he will need to work much harder to not do so. When you can’t get your arms vertical, your muscles need to do work that your skeleton is prepared to handle.

To safely and efficiently do the key functional movements of a human body, Charlie should focus his efforts on getting those shoulders freed up. For next week, we’ll look at some strategies for doing that.

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Charlie Martin, Late-Blooming Athlete: Week 3 — Yoga, Without the Yoga

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 - by David Steinberg

(See Week One, and Week Two. The key passage:

The majority of activities people are accustomed to doing at a gym are neither efficient means of getting fitter nor particularly safe. A typical trainer at a typical gym is now a terrible investment, both for your fitness level and because elite-level training information is freely available online. There is no substitute for an actual qualified trainer at a quality gym, both in instruction and motivation, yet you can do great things for yourself on your own, with a computer. Charlie’s PJ Lifestyle entries strike me as a good opportunity to demonstrate this; he’s agreed to be somewhat of a lab rat.)


Last week I preached the Gospel of the Squat, the movement that: a) would save humanity from much lower back and knee dysfunction; b) would be as familiar as running (which most of us do incorrectly as well) without our cultural reliance on butt-sitting; and c) done exclusively as an exercise program, would just about suffice to make you fit without trying any other exercise. This week, I’m moving on to …

Nah, I’m going to talk about squats more.

But different squats: these next two movements are as genetically determined as the Air Squat, but include the added dimension of things, which people are designed to handle. Your frame is built to carry external objects, a necessary survival function. For an opposing example, look at, say, a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Those little arms were vestigial, not intended to do much of anything. You, however, are made to hold stuff.

The Air Squat is how a human raises and lowers his center of gravity. Our new exercises:

1. The Front Squat is how a human raises and lowers his center of gravity while holding an object in front of him, like a slaughtered antelope, or a laundry basket.

2. The Overhead Squat is how a human would do the same with an object overhead. It happens less often, but your shoulder girdle is specifically built to handle weight overhead.

(Also, there is the Back Squat, which most are familiar with. You can handle the most weight with the Back Squat; it is the best movement of the three for building strength. Technique-wise, though, it is essentially the same as the Air Squat, which we’ve already discussed. Also, it is the least likely position that a human would be holding weight, since the arms are mostly out of the picture.)

The benefits of the Front Squat and the Overhead Squat extend far beyond strength. Most fascinating to me: the movements themselves provide elegant, circular answers to questions regarding balance and mobility. (Most use the term “flexibility”. “Mobility” is more accurate as it implies a purpose for having flexibility).

The specific questions which the Front and Overhead Squats answer, by merely existing:

Why should I get more mobility?

How much mobility do I need?

Why do I need to get better balance?

How much balance do I need?

If balance and mobility are important, what is the best way to get there?

Over the past couple decades, yoga — and to a slightly lesser extent, Pilates — gained the upper hand as gold standard exercise activity for gaining balance and mobility. Why? Well, because being good at yoga and Pilates requires lots of balance and mobility, and doing yoga and Pilates will give you better balance and mobility.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that being good at yoga and Pilates essentially means only that: you are good at yoga and Pilates.

As mentioned in Week Two, fitness is — among other things — about being prepared for whatever life throws at a human body, which is why a human body looks like a human body to begin with, and not like a platypus.

You don’t have legs so that they can get into Warrior Three pose. Warrior Three pose is just something you happen to be able to get into.

This is not an indictment of yoga and Pilates — indeed, I could make the same argument regarding throwing a baseball, and I would never imply that throwing a baseball is a pointless activity. (Even thinking that makes me a bit sad.) What I’m implying is that yoga and Pilates and baseball should all be thought of as sports, as part of an active life, and not as activities to get you fit.

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Charlie Martin, Late-Blooming Athlete: Week 2 – ‘Quality of Life’ and ‘The Un-Calloused Butt Mystery’

Friday, February 15th, 2013 - by David Steinberg

(See Week One here. The key passage:

The majority of activities people are accustomed to doing at a gym are neither efficient means of getting fitter nor particularly safe. A typical trainer at a typical gym is now a terrible investment, both for your fitness level and because elite-level training information is freely available online. There is no substitute for an actual qualified trainer at a quality gym, both in instruction and motivation, yet you can do great things for yourself on your own, with a computer. Charlie’s PJ Lifestyle entries strike me as a good opportunity to demonstrate this; he’s agreed to be somewhat of a lab rat.)

In Week One, I asked Charlie to tell me about any old injuries, ailments, etc. that he might have and which could be a detriment requiring a workaround while exercising. Here’s Charlie’s answer — it isn’t so much that he has some nagging pains, but that the first 53 years of his life were an extended prison beating:

The only big joints I haven’t injured somehow are my left ankle and right shoulder. Poorly resolved fractured right ankle, meniscus surgery medial side right knee, plus painful knees (right knee today) consequent to tight IT band syndrome, lower back injury in car wreck, two whiplash injuries in car wrecks, chronic RSI from typing too much, left shoulder separation in martial arts tournament.

Charlie’s medical records also show that in 1983 he took a shiv to the lung from a fellow named “White Power Bill”, but Charlie thought that not relevant to a mobility question.

Physically and psychologically, injuries can become an overwhelming discouragement from participating in a fitness regimen. My worst was a ruptured disc in my lower back that I chose not to treat with anything besides time; I had sciatica pain down my left leg for over a year and still get twinges now. But here’s the thing, and don’t just take it from me (Seriously, as I mentioned in Week One, do not just take it from me. I have a Crossfit Trainer’s Certificate, but it is currently inactive, and my attorney wife does not specialize in liability claims. Take it from this guy, a friend and brilliant Physical Therapy PhD): your body is obviously healthier when it moves. Exercise releases a rush of great stuff that encourages healing. And despite the psychological barrier of not being able to move the way you want to, either temporarily or permanently, if you haven’t — G-d forbid — suffered a catastrophic paralyzing injury, then exercising is still an activity for you.

An example: my wife had surgery to repair a torn ankle ligament about ten days ago. Nine days ago, we went to the gym together. This Monday, in a walking boot, we did this workout together: 5 One-legged squats, 10 pushups (from her knees), 15 situps — as many rounds of that triplet as possible in 15 minutes. She was working harder than anyone else in the gym, without using one leg from the knee down.

Further, that leg, according to the science, is going to improve more rapidly because the rest of her body was being healthy — all the good chemicals a workout releases head to the bum leg, too. (Kelly Starrett, the trainer linked above, cited a study noting a 30% increase in the immobilized limb’s muscle mass due to the rest of the body doing work.)

For a heroic example: here’s a video of paraplegic servicemen working out harder than most of us ever have.

So whatever’s wrong with you, Charlie: do your research, come up with a plan for your body, and get moving. Injuries don’t mean the end of your physical activity. Fight for yourself, which you’ve already been doing.

The plan should start with gaining competence with the basic functional movements, the ones a human is designed to do: raising and lowering your center of gravity (the squat); picking things up (the deadlift); and pushing things (the press). Whether you’re young and pain-free, 95 years old, or recently bludgeoned with a pipe, you should start by figuring out what your body’s “ceiling” for those movements is, and work towards that.

In Week One, I also asked Charlie to make videos of himself from the side of him trying to do a proper air squat, and then of him doing a proper deadlift and a proper shoulder press with no weight besides a broomstick or PVC pipe.

These are the primary functional movements of the body, and should be the core of every human’s fitness program. And yes — there is a proper definition of “functional” exercise.

Perhaps, at your gym, you ran into Trainer Brad from Newark, who had you balance on your knees on a giant bouncy ball while doing dumbbell shoulder raises with one arm, because he said it was “functional”. Brad was incorrect, and possibly a clown fetishist with a closet of discreetly videotaped clients.

People: you are not Cirque du Soleil sea lions. If that stuff is “functional”, than anything can be called “functional”. This would be like some 31-year-old affluent perma-student declaring a “right” to free birth control. (Bad example, I’ll come up with something more plausible.)

Rather than expand on the full, elegant definition of “functional”, I’ll describe the piece of the definition that I’ve noted tends to elicit an “ahhhhh!” from the newbies, and gets them interested in learning more, and this is why I asked Charlie to send the videos. Let’s start with the squat: why is the squat so important, and what does a healthy range of motion for the squat look like?

Again, you are not a sea lion. Your body looks like a human body primarily so you can walk, run, and raise or lower yourself, because that’s what you had to do back then to survive. And you were most definitely not designed to rest by sitting in a chair, you were designed to rest in a deep squat.

Starrett illustrated it to me this way:

If we sit so much, why don’t we get a calloused butt?

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Charlie Martin, Late-Blooming Athlete: Week 1

Monday, February 4th, 2013 - by David Steinberg

Charlie has already done a fairly exceptional job of getting a handle on his life over the past 13 weeks; his documenting it on PJ Lifestyle has been a bit of a traffic hit as well. I wanted to pitch in: first, because I get all torn up from an underdog-coming-through story. (Seriously – I cried during City Slickers when the sporting goods salesman saved the calf from the whitewater rapids. “Stop! You’re a sporting goods salesman!” said Billy Crystal, desperate to keep his friend from danger.

But: “Not today!”, he answered. He dove in.

Not today, bro. Today, Charlie Martin saves baby animals from the rapids.)

Ahem. Second: I’ve kept on top of the developments over the past decade of exercise science, the most notable being that the majority of activities people are accustomed to doing at a gym are neither efficient means of getting fitter nor particularly safe. A typical trainer at a typical gym is now a terrible investment, both for your fitness level and because elite-level training information is freely available online. There is no substitute for an actual qualified trainer at a quality gym, both in instruction and motivation, yet you can do great things for yourself on your own, with a computer. Charlie’s PJ Lifestyle entries strike me as a good opportunity to demonstrate this; he’s agreed to be somewhat of a lab rat. (In terms of expertise, I am certainly not an expert trainer, yet I’ve been certified as a trainer, by Crossfit — the movement behind all of the past decade’s progress — and have been following the regimen for a few years. Crossfit has since added a written test to their certification process; I haven’t taken it yet. I’m just an enthusiast, and I believe a good person for demonstrating just how much great information is available.)

I have a few initial comments and suggestions regarding Charlie’s Week 13 entry. He writes regarding how he plans to document his exercising:

I still haven’t figured out a measure I’m very happy with for exercise. … The best I can think of right now is to measure two things: how compliant I am being, and the amount of work done, in thermodynamic kilocalories, which happen to be the thing we are used to measuring diet in anyway. For the weights part of the plan, I’m going to compute this as product of weight lifted times repetitions, which will give me kilocalories directly, as well as amusing conversions to horsepower, kilotonnes yield, and other perfectly silly conversions.

Far from being perfectly silly, Charlie is on the right track. Power output is absolutely the way to think about designing his workout program, and to measure his progress. Force x Distance / Time. In a nutshell, and I will get more detailed in later posts, Charlie just hit on most of what fitness actually means: work capacity at the various activities life might confront a person with.

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American Pie‘s Jason Biggs Tweets Misogyny Against GOP Women

Friday, August 31st, 2012 - by David Steinberg

In certain lighting and following a reasonably stiff drink, strangers start to inform me that I look like that actor who had erotic relations with an apple pie. This has resulted in a few evenings of fun for me over the years, as when we notice people whispering “is that the guy?” and pointing in dark restaurants, my wife and I pretend to be having an emotional conversation about a wayward friend named “Stifler”.

After last night’s performance, this is not a person I ever wish to be associated with, even mistakenly. He revealed himself to be a classic jerk, a careless, dehumanizing, misogynist bigot pushing the worst sort of Leftist demonization. Twitchy has compiled the filth to read; I’d rather not repost it here. But you should see it, if only for a glimpse at what a Hollywood Leftist feels he can safely get away with if the target is conservatives or Christians.

My guess is even Hollywood will respond negatively to this — but only for the misogyny. Perhaps Biggs will be needing a new agent by this evening. I’ll be at home, dyeing my hair.


Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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PJ Fitness: Slow, Stiff, Old? Kelly Starrett Just Hasn’t Fixed You Yet

Friday, May 25th, 2012 - by David Steinberg

Two summers ago, I joined a local men’s tennis league to go along with my return to suburban living and a continued eternal quest to look cool, even once, in front of my wife. (This also resulted in my trying out for the now-defunct Israel Baseball League, where, incomprehensibly, I managed to strike out the side in order with a sub-70 mph “fastball”. Or, more accurately, “ball”. My children will hear of this several times.)

Serving a tennis ball was the only sporty thing I was ever noticeably good at, even though the rest of my game was in the middling 4.0 level that pretty much every ex-teen player ends up in. So I was actually kinda crushed when I couldn’t do it anymore: Every time I reached the top of my swing, a shooting pain in my shoulder stopped me.

I didn’t get this pain from any other activity, so I didn’t want to bother with the expense of an orthopedist and a likely MRI. But I was aware of Doctor of Physical Therapy Kelly Starrett from Crossfit, and his MobilityWOD (Workout of the Day) blog. He was kind enough to do an article with me that is published in this month’s Outside Magazine. Also, he gave me a ten-minute fix that could have given me two years of tennis — apparently I had limited internal rotation in my shoulders, which causes impingement with overhead movements. He pointed me to this video of his, I did it, and the pain was gone. Yes, really.

Kelly has agreed to tape some videos tailored to PJ Media readers in the coming days, which likely will involve fixing bodies that spend most of the working day with a chair, keyboard, and screen. Give his stuff a real shot — these are ideas you will not find anywhere else, and he can offer a client list of Olympic athletes to back up his success rate.

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Best Men: Which TV Males Do You Want Your Kids Watching?

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 - by David Steinberg

The decline and fall of “guy” in popular culture offends more than just conservatives — I have a liberal friend raised with an absent father, and he has had just about enough of the man-child/feminized portrayals. Hollywood, like these schmucks, has spent at least two decades apologizing for a gender, damning men from birth, either infantilizing or neutering men in service to a can-do female lead or a pacifist guilty conscience.

I’ve noted a few exceptions. Booth, from Bones, is my favorite.

Following several decently produced seasons, Bones no longer has first-tier writing; production seems content to let previously buoyant leads regress to character actor depth is the service of simpler joke-writing (the Homer Simpson phenomenon). Now, Booth isn’t all there. But he was a rare unapologetically masculine character, made more so by the recognition — which most of us possess, being one or having been in the company of men — that masculine doesn’t imply the preening “macho” scapegoat that left culture uses as a measuring stick for self-superiority.

Generally, among the manly men I know, “masculine” means the precise opposite: cultivating toughness in the service of others, not in vanity. Clinical in life-or-death decision-making, yet naked emotional with loved ones; can eat wings and wear a beer-can helmet in the service of inner-child fun and not date-rape.

That’s Booth. Throw in that he served as an elite military sniper and answered an optional request to return to Iraq, and that he would take two bullets for his son before breakfast.

I appreciated last season’s storyline wherein a love interest took advantage of Booth’s black-and-white morality, mistaking it for naivety. She, of course, the one frequently sidetracking her success to feed her “nuanced” self, is what most responsible adults recognize as naivety. Booth understood that, stayed true, had a few fingers of whiskey and moved on.

Good stuff, and a character I’d want influencing my son but for the overwhelming gore the show has always contained – shocking for an 8:00 p.m. slot — and the fading scripts that define the most recent productions.

Sticking to the past decade or so, got any male favorites of your own?

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PJ Fitness: Did Nike Tear Your ACL?

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 - by David Steinberg

Among all the modern fitness conventional wisdom and habit which has been debunked over the past decade – led by Crossfit founder, trainer Greg Glassman, and his novel approach of actually seeing what works before telling his clients to do it – easily the most disheartening is that you’ve probably been screwing up your body before you even leave the house, and you’ve been spending a crapload of money to do it.

If you run regularly and stay abreast of the latest in the sport – or if you read the New York Times Book Review, which for the first time ever has brought some truth to this world (sigh…) — you’re likely aware of the “barefoot” or “minimalist” running movement. To get you up to speed if you aren’t: it’s exactly what it sounds like.

While it inherently presents as yet another “holistic,” “spiritual,” “wellness,” “politically correct narcissist” fad, it isn’t. Evidence — solid, objective evidence, not the “consensus” kind — and common sense are piling up in support of the minimalist shoe movement: cushioned, corrective running shoes have turned running into one of the world’s most predictably injurious activities by creating a biomechanically degenerative stride. They also cost a lot.

Here’s a good link to start with. Once you’re through, peruse anything you can find online about Dr. Nicholas Romanov and POSE running, and take a look at Christopher McDougal’s (NYT bestseller) Born To Run.

Here’s the basic technique (which actually doesn’t need to be taught, as by taking your shoes off and running you will automatically make the necessary corrections. It’s simply too painful to continue running improperly):

  1. Take off your shoes.
  2. Run in place. You will notice that you are landing on the balls of your feet, and not your heels. Because that would hurt.
  3. Now … wait for it! … lean forward.

What is it about cushy shoes that messes all of this up? It’s the strike point of your foot with the ground. Barefoot, you land on your forefoot. With cushy shoes, you come down on your heel. What’s the problem? Consider — how long have humans been:

a) Running with a forefoot strike?

Since approximately 200,000 B.C, late Pleistocene, when “Anatomically Modern Humans” originated in Africa:

b) Running with a heel strike?

Since 1972:

1972 saw the release of the Nike Cortez, the company’s first running shoe. For the first time, runners had a shoe designed with significant cushioning underneath the heel, a development that most athletic shoes you’ve encountered over your lifetime have continued with. Here’s the Cortez:

This shoe cushioned the severe discomfort of running with a heel strike, which — when barefoot — sends approximately three times your bodyweight of force into your heel and up to your knee. Runners lengthened their stride and went with the heel strike, because they didn’t have to worry about landing softly anymore.

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John Locke at the Squat Rack

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 - by David Steinberg

For three decades, the height of scientific inquiry at the gym was whether or not to do “cardio” or “machines” first during a workout. And “cardio” was always 30 minutes, because the sign said to give up the machine after 30 minutes if people were waiting, and “machines” always included four exercises that were kinda sorta the bench press, and three sets of ten reps were the gold standard, according to the laminated anatomy posters bearing weighty titles like: “The Chest.”

A slightly less prevalent topic: the proper timing of the consumption of the protein shake. “As soon as the weights hit the floor” was the consensus answer amongst the meaty, wisdom which cannot be precisely sourced but which is believed to have emanated from “Larry,” a besweatpantsed man known for having the largest protein shake in Orange County.

The Age of Reason has finally exposed itself to fitness. The news is not good: you likely have wasted a significant portion of your life’s exercise time becoming more injury prone, unathletic, unhealthy, and simply being inefficient with your workouts. The most disheartened are likely the endurance athletes, appalled to discover that frequently running ten miles is not necessary training for acquiring the ability to run ten miles. The movement towards evidence-based fitness was started in the ‘90s by trainer named Greg Glassman, who found himself appalled by the profession upon realizing that not a soul within it had ever thought to ask, much less answer, the Locke-approved question:

What is “fitness?”

The answer Glassman discovered has devoured the industry, forcing an overhaul of the training programs employed by our military and first-responders, those most in need of better advice and time-management than that offered by Larry. Here at PJ Lifestyle, I’ll be checking in with the best of the best in the fitness world — who are now accompanied by the evidence and results to prove it — and trying to bring that spirit of classical liberal inquiry to a lifestyle blog.

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