My Source for Nutritional Information

I have generated a new found passion for nutrition knowledge gathering and self-research. My recent self-experiments with calorie intake vs. expenditures, has led me to believe that worrying about calories is now a foolish way view weight loss. For me it has been far more important to significantly limit my carbohydrate intake (almost zero simple sugars (including fructose) and limited complex carbohydrates), and dramatically increase my protein intake. However, I have found that when I consume the majority of my protein through animal sources I feel slightly more sluggish, than when I consume protein through plant sources. I have found that the rough balance for me is 1/3 animal protein vs. 2/3 plant-based. Search for your own correct balance through self-experimentation.

In terms of feeling “full” or satiated, I must admit this diet change has me eating larger quantities and more frequently. For example, it is not uncommon for me to eat entire bags of broccoli or spinach in one meal (including 2 turkey brats or 5 egg yolks – to give an idea of meal size.) Although I’m eating more food, and at higher caloric intake than before, I have still found weight loss to be occurring steadily – roughly 1.5 pounds per week. This has occurred while maintaining a similar workout schedule as before.

One of my favorite sources for nutrition information when I perform these types of self-experimentation is  I have not found a more thorough nutrition site yet. There are multiple video collections on virtually any topic you can imagine. Be forewarned: once you visit this site, you are going to have to allot a fair amount of time, because it is almost certain that you will get addicted.

Functional Strength Lab News!

Functional Strength Lab has just recently received its new logo design that we are very excited to unveil in the coming week.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for our mailing list (the sign up form is on the right side of the page.) We promise not to bombard you with annoying emails, because we hate those as much as you do. Our plan is to email subscribers about once a month with the best supplement, equipment, and fitness app deals that we find in our own searches. Other mailing list content will include exclusive information/videos/news not included on the site.

Don’t forget, all subscribers that sign up before April 1st, will be automatically enrolled to win FSL’s own homemade forearm roller, or in-door frame pull up bar.

Functional Strength Wedding

This past weekend is proof that you never know where workout inspiration may be found.

Upon arriving at a close childhood friend’s wedding reception I found myself sitting near a bunch of close friends from high school and one couple I had never met (a friend of the groom.) It turns out my friend had intentionally sat us together because she knew he liked zoo zitsu (her inability to say jiu jitsu after all these years is quite funny to me.) What was also funny was that this guy not only “liked” jiu jitsu, but he owned an mma gym, managed numerous successful up-and-coming professional fighters, and was a personal trainer of all of the fighters. As an engineer by trade he had a very interesting perspective to training his athletes. The conversation was phenomenal and I look forward to staying in touch.

Interesting take-aways from the conversation:

– Every (“non-heavy”/Olympic style lift) performed by his athletes were performed in a state of imbalance. For example, single legged squats were performed on a Bosu ball, lifts using cables were done on inflatable disks, or roller boards.

– Resistant bands were used extensively in explosive exercises to mimic judo throws, wrestling shots, strikes, etc.

– Cable workouts were modified to mimic functional fighting maneuvers. (Ex., cables are pulled cross body to mimic arm drags, and various pressing movements were done while twisting to engage the core and imitate realistic escape from bottom movements like “shrimping.”)

– Looking at your workouts from an engineering and kinesthetic lens keeps your movements safe, effective, and functional. It may seem a little nerdy at first, but it only takes the inevitable functional strength results to quiet those thoughts.

– There is no need to limit these realistic workout movements to combat sports. Want to lift your three year old with ease – incorporate kettlebells or sand bags into your routine. Want to mow the lawn without feeling like you’re bench pressing your Toro? — start doing push-ups with added band resistance (bands held underneath your hands with the band draped across your back.)



Make Your Own Forearm Workout Machine

I have an incentive to build up my forearm strength. I love Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and a huge part of success in this sport is the ability to grip strongly and for extended periods of time. For whatever reason, I find difficulty in gaining mass in my forearm muscles, but have no issue with increasing the functional strength in this muscle group by using my homemade forearm contraption. My friends and I refer to the forearm machine as the “Marky Mark” machine on account of the huge forearms that Mark Wahlberg seems to have in a lot of his pictures…why are looking at a bunch of Mark Wahlberg pictures…I don’t know. Call it inspiration.

The contraption is effectively the same as the forearm rollers that you’ll sometimes find in your gym (i.e., the handles/pole with the cord hanging from the middle that you twist back to pull a weight up, or twist forward to allow the weight down.) However, the beauty of making your own, is that they are markedly cheaper, and you are able to craft them to whatever diameter you want. We have found that using smaller sized dowel rods (roughly the size of hockey sticks — or by actually using cut down hockey sticks) or extra-large dowel-rods (ex: 3.5 inch diameter PVC pipes) we have found the greatest strength gains. Instead of expensive black cording, we simply use nylon string that you can find in any hardware stores. For weights we either use gallon jugs of water or old weights that we have lying around, and we simply tie them to the end of the string. This way we can incorporate and effective and cheap forearm workout into our day without having to spend time at the gym.

We have enabled our readers the opportunity to purchase a pre-made version of our various forearm machines from our store, but we will also teach anyone how to make one — just email us at


Manual Workouts – Buddy System

One of the biggest plateau busters I’ve found in my lifting cycle is using “manuals” or “partner” lifts. Manuals, or at least that’s what they were called in our high school football workouts, entailed either some or all of the workout being resisted by another person (lifting partner).

For example for preacher curls, a manual lift would be when the lifter’s partner would aid the lifter in the concentric portion of the lift and would pull down as the lifter would resist against the added eccentric portion of the lift. This lift is brutal and care needs to be taken by the partner to not pull down too abruptly as to injure the lifter’s bicep.

For rear delts (the muscle in between the shoulder blades) the “lifter” would lay on the bench face down, while the partner would stand straddling their lats. With their arms hanging below the bench, the lifter would press against the partners pressure being applied (with their hands) against the back of the lifter’s elbows. The return to the starting position would be resisted by the lifter, as the partner would push down against the lifters elbows.

Other variations of these types of lifts can be explored in your next lift with a friend. If you come up with other ideas, please list them in the comments section below.

Invite Yourself to Workout

Another trick that my friends and I have used to stay motivated to workout this past season, was to send Google calendar invites with the proposed workouts for the week. This tactic held us more accountable to working out with eachother, and allowed us to fit in mutually agreeable workout times at the beginning of each week. We didn’t have to memorize the other people’s schedule, we just consulted our calendar.

An added benefit to the the calendar method, is that you set up proscribed times during your week to workout. I’ve found with informal workout times (ex: whenever I get time after work/school) I always schedule over this time when new events pop up throughout the week. Working out should be a high priority in your week — not something that is simply “nice” to do. Working out needs to have equal weight as your work meetings, classes, work, etc. Set these times aside in your week the same as you would for any other event.

The ERG/Rowing Machine: The Most Efficient of Your Workout Time

I must admit that I have been very disgruntled with the (predictable) influx of new gym goers that have shown up post-January 1st. However, this recent swarm has actually resulted in me trying new machines that I typically avoid when I have free range of equipment.

For example, this past week, I had planned on making a short trip to the gym (I had evening plans) for a quick cardio session on the treadmill. When I arrived, I was greeted by a packed gym, and a waiting line for all treadmills and elliptical’s. What to do…what to do? I could leave, I could wait, or I could lift. — OR — I could visit my long-ignored acquaintance, the rowing machine (or the ERG).

I knew from friends that had been rowers in high school and college that this was a phenomenal workout, but feeling much more comfortable on the treadmill, bike, or elliptical I rarely if ever attempted working out on this foreign contraption. What does ERG even mean? (Turns out after a quick visit to Wikipedia, ERG that ERG is short for ergometer, or a measuring device for the amount of work expended.)

My take on the ERG? It’s my new favorite piece of gym equipment. Being a proponent of quick, cheap, and efficient workouts I am utterly embarrassed by my ignorance of this machine. While I am skeptical of the “calories burned” metric on any workout equipment, I was floored to find that after only 17.5 minutes on the ERG (at the highest setting (10)) I had burnt 777 calories!! Even if this metric was radically off (by 30% say) it is still nowhere near the calories burnt through an equivalent amount of time on other equipment. In addition to the “calories burned” stat, I also felt that it very much complied with my struggle for functional strength gains. After stepping off of the ERG, I felt that I had just completed 3+ sets of shrugs, upright rows, and squats on a typical lifting day. Never have I stepped off a piece of cardio equipment and also felt like I had just lifted.The ERG is an amazing piece of cardio equipment, that I will add into my cardio routine from this point forward. I highly recommend that you at least try it in your next cardio day.

I was also surprised to find that an ERG is actually reasonably priced (when compared to standard cardio options) when I looked on Amazon. Maybe when I get out of school (i.e., I am back making money and not spending it) I will grab one of these to add to my future home gym (a dream of my future home owning experience.)

Enjoy your rowing!

Motivation Trick

One trick that I’ve found that helps me stay motivated to go lifting early in the mornings is to have a shaker bottle pre-made by my bedside of a pre-workout supplement.

Examples of pre-workout supplements that I’ve used are:


Because these products have a moderate amount of caffeine (about a fourth of a venti Starbucks coffee) I get the immediate “lift” I need to jumpstart my morning workout, without it negatively impacting me (making me jittery) on an empty stomach.

Full disclosure: I HATE early morning lifts with a passion, but sometimes my schedule only allows for an early workout. This is the only way for me to trick myself into actually going.


Plyometrics For Variety

Recently, I was in the gym and I found the New Year Resolution’ers taking up all of the equipment I planned to use in my leg workout. I decided to reach back to my ACL-rehab days and incorporate more functional, body-weight exercises and plyos. I found my workout ended much quicker than usual, and I ended with a more “athletic” feeling after my lift.

My workout included two- and single-legged squats on the flat portion of the Bosu ball (i.e., the bouncy portion was on the floor); plyo box jumps, and plyo (or jump) squats. In addition to these exercises, I also did walking lunges for roughly 20 feet per rep, and hamstring curls using a Swiss Ball (this entails laying on your back and pulling the ball to your butt with your heels…aka: exhausting.) I also did the inner and outer thigh machine to activate my hip muscles.

After my shower, my legs felt fatigued, but “springy.”  I look forward to including more plyo exercises into my functional workout days.


Modified Pull Ups

Want a quick change up for your average pull up?

I’ve found that draping two towels over the pull up bar and using them to perform your pull up activates your forearms much more effectively than the standard form. The bigger the towels you use, the more difficult the pull up will be to perform.  Oftentimes, I will simply use the towels that are laying around that are used to wipe off the equipment if I don’t bring my own (seeing this written out actually makes me realize how grimy that is…so you will probably just want to bring your own.)

In terms of reps and sets — look to be able to perform far fewer than using your standard grips. I don’t even attempt to fight for a certain number, I just go to grip failure…but feel free to experiment with your own rep/set combos.