Episode 36: Programming With Jason Brown

Episode 36 Jason Brown

This episode is sponsored by Liquid State Design.

Jason Brown is the owner of CrossFit 781 and the brain behind BoxProgramming.com. He also appeared in Episode 27: Meet The Browns with his wife, Dani.

0:00 – Jason’s story and background with football, Westside and CrossFit.

10:00 – Jason talks about incorporating a Conjugate programming style into a CrossFit gym.

15:00 – Jason walks through a typical week of Conjugate programming at his affiliate, CrossFit 781.

19:40 – Missing from most group classes: work:rest ratios.

22:35 – Missing from most boxes: box squats.

25:00 – Jason mentions Louie Simmons’ podcast.

27:55 – We talk about some of Jason’s work for the UpCoach Program (he’s a frequent contributor).

30:15 – Jason talks about using bands for weightlifting (free video below).

32:30 – Missing from most boxes: the floor press.

33:10 – the cognitive bias limiting most programming: “I haven’t done it.”

35:00 – Reverse Hypers and GHRs.

38:50 – What most boxes can cut from their equipment budget.

41:30 – Missing from most boxes: unilateral work.

45:10 – How to get people to show up for repetitive work.

49:50 – How BoxProgramming.com works.

55:00 – Finding the balance between fun and focus in the gym.

You can email jason@boxprogramming.com to set up a free call with him. But if you’re asking yourself, “Is it worth paying someone else to program for my gym?” do this little math problem: calculate how much time you spend on your programming. If we applied that same amount of time every MONTH to growing your business, could you generate more than $199? I bet you could (Two-Brain gyms definitely do.)

Recorded on July 5, 2016.

Announcer: 00:00 – It’s Two-Brain Radio. Every week we’ll deliver top-shelf tactics to help you improve your fitness business and move you closer to wealth. And now here’s your host, the most interesting man in fitness, Chris Cooper.

Chris: 00:17 – This episode is brought to you by Liquid State Design. The real focus of this episode is talking about the value of your time. Is it worth it to outsource your programming? And when I started twobrainbusiness.com, twobraincoaching.com, I built these sites myself from scratch because I wasn’t satisfied with what else was out there. It’s important to know how to build a website yourself. It’s important to know how to change your own oil. It’s important to know how to rotate your own tires, but the value of your time is what’s most important. I’m not a graphic designer, I’m not a website designer, and so I trust Liquid State Design to take care of all this stuff for me. Check them out, talk to Theresa. They do some pretty amazing work and a lot of Two-Brain gyms are already using them to huge advantage in their local market.

Chris: 01:02 – What’s your time really worth? This is one of the key questions of business ownership, is attaching a value to the time that you spend. Then looking at all the different hats that you’re wearing, all the different roles that you’re filling, and asking yourself which roles fall below that dollar-per-hour value. When you find a role that falls below your value, you should move that on to somebody else, a specialist, somebody who likes to think and operate at that certain level, and there are people out there like that. For many of us, programming can fall into that role. I really like programming for my gym, but I also like being an athlete at my gym who doesn’t know what’s coming around the corner. So I pay for somebody else to do the programming now. I’ve been a coach since 1996, that’s 20 years. I’ve gotten fairly OK at programming, but it’s more fun for me to not do it, and it’s more productive for me to do something different with that time instead. So, if I could saw two hours off your week every week and I could give you a homework assignment to do in that time that would grow your business or solidify your foundation or make your staff better or just maybe give you an extra two hours of sleep, would you do it? And what would that time be worth to you? This is the question that led many people to boxprogramming.com. There are other services out there, no doubt, you can read all about other ones on the Two-Brain Business podcast. You can listen to me talk with other people, but Jason Brown is homegrown. Jason has been a Two-Brain client for a long, long time and we’re really invested in his success, so it’s thrilling to me to see how far he’s come, how successful he’s been, and most importantly, how much boxes love his programming.

Chris: 02:48 – Jason and I are going to talk a lot about Westside. We’re going to talk about growing up in a household with a female powerlifter as a mom. You didn’t really see that a lot when we were kids. We’re going to talk about trying to work like a five, three, one or a linear strength progression into CrossFit and how he went back to Conjugate and how he puts all that stuff together. We’re going to talk about some of the myths, some of the dogma in CrossFit, like we don’t do bench presses, we don’t do bicep curls, and why he does include stuff like that. Floor presses, good mornings. Why boxes don’t include that stuff, how he rolls it in himself. This is not a sales pitch for boxprogramming.com, as good as it is. A lot of you still really love programming for your box, but if you’re only doing it because it’s the secret sauce or you’re only doing it because you don’t know the value of your time, this episode is for you. Listen in, you’re going to hear all kinds of really interesting little tidbits about training and programming, but also be thinking about the true value of your time as you listen to Jason Brown.

Jason: 03:48 – Thanks for having me, Chris.

Chris: 03:49 – It’s my pleasure, brother. So, you were featured in a great episode we did with Danielle a few months ago. But for right now, I’d love to hear your story. You know, what started you in training?

Jason: 04:00 – Well, basically when I was probably eight or nine years old, my mother was really heavily involved in powerlifting and she had taken me to the gym that she trained at quite a few times and basically I just kind of hung out and saw a lot of strong people with muscles lift weights. And I think that was kind of the catalyst that got me involved with, you know, being kind of intrigued by that scene and being strong and big and lifting weights and whatnot. And basically from there, I just got involved with sports at a pretty young age and my father was pretty adamant on getting me involved with a strength-and-conditioning coach.

Chris: 04:43 – OK. So, I mean, having a mom that’s a powerlifter, that must’ve been pretty rare. That was before there were 50 different, you know, federations in the states and stuff. What was that like?

Jason: 04:55 – Yeah, it was definitely—it wasn’t very popular. I don’t really remember a whole lot as far as, you know, there being many like official meets. I know there was a couple of the local gyms that had things on a pretty regular basis, but some of them were, were pretty not very mainstream, like kind of like in someone’s basement or someone’s garage. And so it was kind of cool. It was very like old school and rusty weights and you know, there’s a lot of really cool parts to it, but it definitely wasn’t like today where you can basically sign up for a meet whenever you want to go lift weights.

Chris: 05:33 – Yeah, I mean back then, not only were there not a lot of meets, but there wasn’t a lot of knowledge around strength training, right? So why did your dad want you to go meet a strength-and-conditioning coach?

Jason: 05:43 – My father was very adamant on me playing football, and I think because he didn’t have the opportunity to play football when he was a kid, he really loves the game and wanted me to be a football player. And I think for him it just made sense that if I wanted to be really good at something, then you needed to basically practice and train for it. So he set me up with a local legend, really great athlete and super knowledgeable strength coach that had a facility. And I had the opportunity to train with him at a really young age. I think I started with him around eighth grade and it really took my game to the next level. I don’t think I would’ve even had close to the success I had without the training that he was able to provide me with.

Chris: 06:32 – And was he mostly focused on, you know, big compound movements, that kind of stuff?

Jason: 06:37 – Yeah, so we did—I mean we did a lot of you know, basic stuff, you know, kind of linear stuff, you know, we obviously back squatted and you know, we did a lot of upper-body work with a bench and really worked on agility. We did a lot of footwork drills, speed ladder, improving running mechanics. And he was a sprinter and he was a really great football player himself. So he really helped me with the running mechanics and just my overall agility.

Chris: 07:05 – So how did that shape your early philosophy of training?

Jason: 07:11 – Well, I mean, it’s funny, I didn’t really have one. I had a small weight set as a kid and I remember the first time I did squats, I was sore for like two weeks and couldn’t walk downstairs. I’m like, “All right, I don’t want to do those again,” because that wasn’t fun. But I mean for me it was really building the upper body and I, you know, had a weight set I used to kind of take with me on vacation and whatnot, like an easy bar with some iron plates. So I didn’t—you know, back then I didn’t really know a whole lot. I just knew that, you know, I wanted to be bigger and stronger. So it was kind of just a learning experience for me. And then, jeez, I think it was like 2003, 2004, we started using the Conjugate system and we started doing a lot of weird stuff. Box squatting and using different types of bars, weight releasers, using chains. You know, we had a belt squat, we had a reverse hyper, we had glute-ham raise. I mean all that stuff was a staple. And it was during that time that I went from, you know, I think about a 315 back squat as a freshman in college to a 500-pound back squat. And back then they did like rep tests. So if you’re doing a one-rep max, they would basically have you do like a two- or three-rep max and they would calculate what your max is based off of that. And I remember my junior year, I basically blew more than half my team away and I was a running back. So there was no one even close to touching my numbers that I had back then.

Chris: 08:43 – Wow. Where did your coach get all this knowledge about Conjugate?

Jason: 08:48 – So he actually took me to Westside and he just had the DVDs, you know Louie Simmons DVDs, with the dog on the front with the chain and barbell.

Chris: 09:00 – Yeah, I had ’em, too.

Jason: 09:02 – I think a lot of people were starting to come around to what Louie was doing back then, and it was like almost overnight that we were doing Conjugate training. We were just doing a lot of weird stuff and I remember that for me, I was kind of like an ADHD-type kid and having variation like that where it was like every three weeks I got a new program. So having that variation every three weeks just kind of kept me really motivated. And again, it just got me to almost a super-human level of strength that I didn’t even think was possible.

Chris: 09:39 – OK. So you went to meet Louie, you went to Westside, you know, what was your impression there?

Jason: 09:45 – It was kind of scary. It was very intimidating and I mean, I think if I was able to go there now and I actually am going there this September, it’s going to be a very, very different experience this time around because knowing what I know now and having, you know, basically read every piece of writing that Louie has written, listened to everything he’s talked about and you know, as well as going through a bunch of his online seminars, it’s obviously going to be a different experience now but back then it was like, I was just kind of in awe, I mean seeing these guys that you see them on like YouTube videos and they look big. You see them in person, it’s like, holy crap, these guys are huge.

Chris: 10:27 – Yeah. Yeah. OK man. So we’re going to talk a lot about how to tie Conjugate-style training to CrossFit later on. But what brought you to CrossFit?

Jason: 10:40 – I was actually—so the guy that I trained with, I became an intern with him. I worked with him for a while. I learned everything I could learn from him. And, it was basically around 2004 that I decided I wanted to pursue this and take some next level and start training people. So I got my CPT, my certified personal trainer certificate. I worked at a local gym and in that local gym there was a guy there that was like kind of an old-school guy; he was a professional bodybuilder. And he started getting into CrossFit. I had no idea what CrossFit was other than the fact that I’d see him on the ground, like looking like he was going to die and you know, making noises after a workout. So I was like, what are you doing? What could possibly make you be in this much pain? And he basically challenged me and said, “You’re not man enough to do it.” So it’s like, OK, well I’m going to have to, you know, take you up on that. And I think my first workout was the Filthy Fifty. My second workout was Fran. And I think the third one was we took a barbell to a track and did like 400 meters of Curtis P’s. So that was my first exposure to it and was like, “OK, this is very different.” And I wanted to know more. So it got me intrigued, there was definitely a lot of things I liked about it. There were things about it that I didn’t like and didn’t make sense to me as far as coming from the strength-and-conditioning world where you don’t do Olympic lifts for more than five reps. I mean, that was unheard of. And then all of a sudden there’s this movement where you’re doing, you know, Isabel’s 30 reps of the snatch. It’s like, this is different than what I’ve been taught. So that was kind of my first experience to it. And it, like I said, it was a great experience. I loved it. And it was, you know, definitely kept me entertained as far as the variation with the system.

Chris: 12:36 – OK man. So we’re gonna get a lot deeper into that. But you know, let’s continue on with your story. So you go overseas, what were you doing over there?

Jason: 12:45 – I was in the infantry and I was deployed to Afghanistan for a year. Went relatively quick after I got out of training. I also went to military intelligence school. I didn’t really get to use that end of it as much on the mission I went on, but I was over there for a year and it was during that time that I was like, “OK, this is a good opportunity for me to save my money. And when I get home I can open my affiliate.” So basically that’s what happened. I registered for, you know, I went on CrossFit.com and got my steps to put my affiliate in place. So basically when I got home I was ready to go. Only thing I needed to do was find a space. I had money saved. I didn’t really have much of a plan as far as the business goes. I mean that was an afterthought to me. I just wanted to train people. It was going to be more of a hobby than anything else. I didn’t plan on making a career out of it. I actually wanted to go into law enforcement.

Chris: 13:46 – Well we heard that fantastic story and I’m going to link to it in the show notes so that people can hear about how you met your wife, how you opened up your box and all that great stuff now. So let’s talk, I mean, you open up your CrossFit gym, you’ve already discovered that you want to use Conjugate in your own training. From Day One of your programming in your gym, Jay, like what did that look like?

Jason: 14:07 – So it—man. It was Conjugate for the first year and then after that I started experimenting quite a bit. I started doing some linear stuff and programming some strength cycles that, you know, that I had written up. But you know, we did Wendler 5/3/1 like everyone else. For some reason I thought that in my head that there was a different way to go about it because CrossFit, you know, constantly varied movements, I figured that there might be something else better that that fits better with what we’re doing. But that wasn’t the case. And every time I got away from doing the Conjugate method of training, I ended up finding myself back doing it. So I did get away from it for a little bit and then I came back and I said, “OK, this, this makes the most sense.” And I experimented quite a bit with the structure of it. How to lay out a typical week. I mean, the typical week was, you know, you did your max-effort work on Mondays, you did, you know, for lower body. And then max-effort work for upper body on Tuesday and then Thursday, Friday were speed work. And I experimented out, geez, a couple of years and then it was last July I moved it to a 72-hour basis just like Louie Simmons does. And we started seeing a lot more progression. We started seeing people feeling better. There was, we had basically zero lower-back injuries. We had people with the prior system having a little bit more, you know, lower-back disturbances. So just shifting it over that day and building in an extra day of recovery made a world of difference. I wouldn’t have think it would have, but it really did. So that’s when last—it was basically like last July, like I said, it was where we kind of arrived at our final stop as far as the most efficient and optimal way to utilize the system with energy-systems work.

Chris: 16:06 – So let’s take a typical week, Jay. Like if I’m looking at a week of programming from 781, what would I expect to see?

Jason: 16:14 – So, and it goes this way for my affiliate as well as all my affiliates. Mondays we’re going to do some lower-body training and it’s going to be maximal effort. Now maximal effort doesn’t necessarily have to be a one-rep max. We’re not just training for powerlifting like they do at Westside, so we will do some, you know, a little bit higher-volume-type lifting, but typically you’re going to see something between one to five reps. That’s going to be centered around the lower body. These days are very low volume. If you add up the total amount of weight it takes you to get to a one-rep max or a three-rep max of say a back squat, the pounds that it takes you to get there is relatively low in comparison to our dynamic or speed work. So this day is a low-volume day, but it’s high intensity because we’re going to the max. So typically the energy-systems work will coincide with that. You’ll have something that’s more, you know, maybe not aerobic based, but a little bit more on like the glycolytic side of things where, you know, you’re working anywhere from 30 to 70% of max effort. So that’s Monday. Tuesday we typically do some unilateral work, longer conditioning piece, more aerobic-type based workout. Wednesday I rotate between max effort, upper body and dynamic effort upper body and those two sessions, will basically complement with the energy systems work whether it be a high intensity piece or be, you know, kind of what I mentioned before on Monday.

Jason: 17:43 – Thursdays are basically—I don’t call them an active recovery day, but they sort of are, it’s more GPP-based. Sometimes we’ll have a partner workout, a longer conditioning piece. It really kinda depends on what we’re doing for that week. But I take into account that most people at our gym and most gyms, statistically speaking, people train at least three times a week. So if you have people that are on the third or fourth day of training, this day is a good day for them to kind of take it easy with their training, not really worry too much about their score or their times and just, you know, get a good sweat and get some good GPP work in. And then Friday we go to dynamic effort work, which is our speed work for lower body. And these days are our low intensity because the weights are submaximal weights but the volume is very high. So the conditioning work will coincide with that. And then typically we’d finish off Saturday with a longer partner workout, probably three Saturdays out of the month are partner-style workouts, just to keep people engaged in what we’re doing and just really change it up. And then most of my gyms, they have, you know, open gym Sunday or some of them do do a planned workout, but usually this day kind of mirrors what we did Thursday, but with a little bit different focus. So that’s kind of, that’s the shortest way I can put what the week looks like. But it’s a very structured and planned week. There’s not a whole lot of randomness. We know we’re doing in advance and having that structure keeps people progressing, it keeps them away from running into issues with overuse injuries. So that’s really point of a system is having that structure and that foundation that is going to keep people, you know, training optimally.

Chris: 19:31 – So Jay, what’s the difference between constantly varied functional movement and like doing a Conjugate rotation like that?

Jason: 19:41 – Nothing, really. I mean, this system is constantly varied. The only thing that is really different, I mean, the high intensity part, even of CrossFit, you don’t see that much high-intensity work. You really don’t. It’s a lot of the work is more aerobic based. A lot of the workouts you see are workouts that have people not really improving work output. You know, you see workouts like Kelly or the Filthy Fifty, or you can go down the list of all these workouts, but they’re more aerobic base. So the high-intensity part is something that we do, but usually it’s with a work-to-rest-type effort. But as a whole, I mean, the Conjugate system is constantly varied. I mean, as far as the exercise selection goes, so it blends very well with CrossFit.

Chris: 20:31 – Do you think more gyms should be using like a work-to-rest, high-intensity interval instead of just kind of like a point-to-point, do this much work?

Jason: 20:38 – Yes, I do. I think it’s very hard to program the right amount of rest based off of the intent of the conditioning piece because, you know, there are some pieces, you know, like, you know, phosphagen system, it takes 12 to 20 times the amount of work to rest. I mean you really can’t program that for an hour class, but you can make sure that people are improving their work output by having work-to-rest-type workouts in there. So I definitely think there’s a place for that. I don’t do that every day, but I think it should be in there at least once or twice a week.

Chris: 21:14 – You know what’s funny is back in the day, I think CrossFit.com did more of that than they do now.

Jason: 21:19 – Yeah. And I remember seeing a lot more of that. And now, you know, there’s definitely a good amount of variation on there, but I think as a whole, they kinda got away from the high intensity end of it. I mean, you can’t do a 30-minute workout and maintain your intensity, it just doesn’t happen.

Chris: 21:41 – That’s super interesting. So why do we want that high intensity? I mean, you know, CrossFit’s definition is constantly varied functional movements at high intensity. But I definitely see what you’re saying about even a 12-minute AMRAO. You’re not going to be able to maintain much intensity, right?

Jason: 21:59 – Well, I mean, those are slower workouts. I mean, the only way you can do that is by having some work to rest. Usually there are times that I have new affiliates that will start on their program and they’ll say, “Hey, you know, my members said that this is too much rest.” Well, my counter to that is if they think it’s too much rest then they’re not pushing hard enough. I mean, if they push hard enough—this isn’t based on pain, this is based on science—they are going to need that rest to fully recover. Otherwise, you know, they’re missing the boat on what we’re doing. It’s like doing—if you did Fran with 135 versus 95, it’s two entirely different workouts.

Chris: 22:37 – Right. So I’m thinking—there are some workouts, like The Chief, you know, three power cleans, six push-ups, nine air squats, and you do as many as you can—rounds in three minutes and then you take a minute break. Right?

Jason: 22:51 – Yeah. I like that. That’s a nice piece.

Chris: 22:52 – It’s a nice piece, but I’m sure you’d get far fewer rounds if you didn’t have that minute break in there.

Jason: 22:58 – Right. It’s like, how much would you rest if there wasn’t that rest? Cumulatively speaking? How much would you probably rest? I mean, it’s probably—it might even be more for some people. I mean, you know how fast rest goes when you’re resting, you’re like, “OK, I’m only going to rest 10 seconds.” Then you look up and it’s been 30 seconds.

Chris: 23:14 – Yeah, I do love my rest. So, OK, well, I mean there’s a great piece of knowledge right now. I mean that’s one thing every listener can take away from this, is starting to build in rest periods to bring up that intensity piece during metcon. OK. So, let’s talk about box squats, Jay. I mean, I don’t see a lot of box squats in CrossFit, but Louie Simmons’ influence on CrossFit is pretty undeniable, right? So why don’t boxes teach box squats?

Jason: 23:45 – I just—and I think this is exactly what Louie says, that coaches just don’t know. They don’t know that you can’t really develop the posterior chain with a traditional squat. You need to squat wide. If you do a wide squat versus a close squat, the difference is pretty astronomical. I mean, you can really feel what’s happening with it. And wide squats make close squats better. But the inverse isn’t true. I just think a lot of people don’t know that. And I think a lot of the criticisms right now are like, well, you know, they’re geared lifters. That’s true. They are geared lifters and obviously the technique is different, but at the end of the day, we need to make our posterior chain as strong as possible for everything we do for, for our pulls, for our Olympic lifts. And on top of that, I think the box squat is a lot safer. It’s easier to teach. And it really teaches people to engage their posterior chain. You know, we have a lot of endurance athletes that, you know, they rely solely on more of a quad basis. They don’t really know how to engage. You know, when new people start CrossFit, sometimes it’s very difficult to teach that hip hinge. The box squat allows us to teach it in a very easy manner. Anyone can sit back in a chair. I mean, we do it every day. So there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. And we obviously try to teach the right way, with, you know, keeping the shins vertical. And you know, when you sit back on a box, you don’t just let your lumbar go. You make sure you keep your spine engaged. And then coming up, I mean, you’re breaking up that eccentric/concentric chain. So a lot of times with squatting, people use that bounce out of the hole. With this, you’re not allowed to do that. So not only are we developing the posterior chain, we’re developing force production and we’re doing it in a way that is really targeting our hips and hamstrings.

Chris: 25:41 – Do you think that emphasis on the narrower squat is just because of, you know, CrossFit’s overlap with weightlifting?

Jason: 25:49 – Man, I mean, it’s really hard. I mean, Louie’s got a bunch of podcasts on this right now where he’s basically bashing the, you know, the American coaches for not having their weightlifters squat wide, and just talking about how they’re not strong enough to, you know, be really competitive with the Olympic lifts. So I don’t really know, to tell you the truth. I think it’s because people haven’t done it themselves and they’re not comfortable with it. I think once people start doing it and they start seeing the carry over and they see their lifts, you know, their numbers go up, I mean, a lot of my gyms now are starting to see their athletes’ numbers go up without even working on the lifts that are going up. So it’s, you know, people hitting PRs in their power cleans and “Hey, we haven’t done any power cleans, but everyone’s hitting 30, 40 pound PRs. How does that work?” Well, I mean it’s really quite simple where we’ve taken that time and prioritized squatting wide and working on the hips and hamstrings. So the results are great with it. But I don’t really know why more people aren’t doing it. I know Louie is making a huge push right now to make that happen and hopefully it does happen. I think people will really see that it is a great way to develop the posterior chain.

Chris: 27:05 – So would you say that in general then, we should be varying our squat stance? I mean, one of the things that you’re taught in Olympic lifting is you do all your squats the same, right?

Jason: 27:18 – I mean, people make the same—you know, football coaches will say, “We don’t play the sport wide, so why are we squatting wide?” Well, we don’t squat on the football field either. So if I want to make an athlete stronger, their hips and hamstrings stronger, I’m going to have them squat wide. It really focuses on the posterior chain. The posterior chain is moving us forward. Our quads are not moving us forward, our quads are brace—you know, they’re the antagonist muscles, the hips and hamstrings are the agonist muscle groups. So why not focus on those and help people get faster and stronger that way. For me it’s the most efficient way I–we still squat close. We still do traditional squats. We don’t just do box squats, and I know at Westside they only do box squats and obviously their numbers are what they are. But, I mean I think you’d have to have both, but I think there definitely is a place for those wide squats and I think the carryover is a lot bigger.

Chris: 28:20 – I think what a lot of people miss, too, when they’re criticizing Westside lifters for lifting in gear and stuff is that a lot of the Conjugate stuff that Louie first wrote about came from Olympic lifting, right?

Jason: 28:31 – Right, exactly. Yeah. Came from the Russian system.

Chris: 28:35 – Yeah, he took a lot from the Czechs, too. So, let’s move into the next topic then. A lot of people, they associate, like banded lifts, chains, accommodating resistance with powerlifting. But one of the first videos that you ever did for Two-Brain Coaching’s Up Coach program was a banded power clean.

Jason: 28:56 – Right.

Chris: 28:59 – How does that work, Jay, like why do you include accommodating resistance in weight lifting?

Jason: 29:06 – Well, I think for the same reason you include it for or anything else, just the ability to keep people accountable with bar speed. And the thing is is that when you use weights that are 75 to 85% of your one rep max, you can only move with so much speed. But if you use weights that are light enough to move with the right amount of speed, they’re too light. So how do we bridge the gap? Well, Louie Simmons found out that we bridge the gap by using accommodating resistance. And you know, originally it started with chains and then it progressed to bands. Bands are definitely more effective than chains, for a couple of different reasons. But you’re able to work those percentages, the 75 to 85%, but only use 50, 55 and 60% of bar weight. So you’re bridging that gap with the accommodating resistance and allowing you to move those submaximal loads with maximal velocity but still get the resistance you need. Because if you do it just with weight, you’re not going to get the correct resistance and the stimulus will not be the same. So that was his way of figuring out how can we move weights fast enough but still have the correct resistance, and using bands is the way to do that. So with bands, not only are you going to be accountable with bar speed, but it really teaches you to be aggressive. It teaches you to be efficient. And even with the Olympic lifts, it teaches you to be efficient with the bar path, especially with—I’ve seen a lot of success with overhead movements with using the bands for accommodating resistance. It really makes you be efficient with that movement because if you’re not efficient, the bands let you know. So when you do it incorrectly or you’re not as efficient, the bands almost punish you for not doing so. So it’s one of those things that almost you have to adapt to and get better at so you’re not going to get punished by the bands.

Chris: 31:08 – Hmm. So let’s talk about the use of bands. I mean, you’ve done some videos on band set-up, I’ll link to those, but what kind of band are we talking about here? So let’s say that I’ve got a power clean max of 200 lb. Are we still talking about using like a micro mini or something or we like getting up into the heavier bands now?

Jason: 31:28 – So 200 lb., You’re going to need 25% of that, which will be about a mini, an Elite Fitness system mini band, the red band, a single strand. So that’s going to give you, that’s going to give you about 50 pounds at the top. So you know it’s going to be a little bit heavier, but if you had someone that was even lower than that, you could go with a micro band, which is a lighter band. And I would recommend for most people, if they start off with a micro band, they get the feel of it, it’s going to be easy to transition to that next band. But you know, coming out of the gate, I would say you start—if you have a 200-lb. max, so 50 pounds is going to be actually 25%. So use that single strand mini band and you know, using about 40 to 50% on the bar, trying a few sets, you know, few sets of doubles with that and getting the feel for it. I will say though, if you do not have good technique to begin with, it’s probably not the right time for you to try it.

Chris: 32:33 – OK. All right.

Jason: 32:35 – It’s a little bit different with the squatting, with the box squatting and doing, you know, speed-pull deadlifts with a band. People can start off with those and be pretty successful, with obviously having coaching. But if you don’t have much experience with the Olympic lifts, then I definitely wouldn’t recommend it. It’s not going to be good for a beginner.

Chris: 32:58 – OK. So let’s move on to other powerlifting stuff in a CrossFit gym, Jay. Like there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t get used every day, you know, floor press, bench press, good morning. How much of this stuff are you incorporating?

Jason: 33:12 – All of it. Yeah, so I rotate max-effort work on a weekly basis and we do dynamic effort work for three weeks at a time. So floor pressing we do pretty regular. I mean all of my gyms for the most part are not using accommodating resistance. We’re box squatting, we’re doing sumo deadlifts, we’re doing floor press, we’re doing, you know, the number of overhead variations, we’re doing unilateral work, GPP work, and I could go on and on and on. But we’re utilizing the Conjugate system, basically kind of the bare bones of it. We’re not using, for the most part, accommodating resistance. Some of my gyms are, but for the most part people are just using straight weight right now.

Chris: 33:51 – OK. Why do you think so many boxes ignore high-value exercises like good mornings, floor press?

Jason: 34:00 – I just think that they haven’t done them. I mean, I don’t know if I program anything that I haven’t done. If I had never done a floor press, I mean it would be very hard to explain what it should feel like and what it should look like. And I think if you do not have the practical knowledge with different things, you stick to things that you know. So I think that’s one of the things that a lot of my clients tell me is that, you know, they get in their own biases and they start doing things only the way that they’re comfortable doing things. And then in turn it does people a disservice because they’re getting kind of a limited amount of training exposure. So I do think that the practical side of it is probably why a lot of those things don’t come to the forefront. I don’t know, would you agree with that?

Chris: 34:50 – Yeah, I mean there’s definitely a fear, when coaching good mornings for example, but let’s say like—let’s say I’m talking about the floor press here, let’s stick with that. Very high-value exercise that translates directly to handstand push-ups, jerks, But we just don’t do it. So if I wanted to start doing that, Jay, where would I learn it?

Jason: 35:14 – Well, you can go to my YouTube channel, I have a video on the floor press.

Chris: 35:17 – Perfect. OK.

Jason: 35:18 – I have a video on bench press, you know, I mean basically all the things I program I try to make videos for. Floor press is a great way to just develop the top range of your pressing, whether it be overhead or bench. And it’s also a lot of gyms don’t have enough benches to facilitate a class, so it works really well for them, too.

Chris: 35:36 – Yeah. Really something you can do with what you already have. It’s just the floor press.

Jason: 35:42 – Exactly.

Chris: 35:42 – Yeah. OK. Well that’s great stuff. Let’s talk about the real specialty stuff. You know, I’m starting to see glute-ham raises, reverse hypers, this kind of stuff starting to show up in gyms now.

Jason: 35:54 – Yeah, it is, definitely. I think a lot of people have GHDs, prior to CrossFit, those were always to me a glute-ham raise, but they’re more commonly known now as the GHD, you know, glute-ham developer. And I think a lot of people are using it for, you know, GHD sit-ups, which I will say I’m not a fan of. But the glute-ham raise is a great way to really target those hamstrings. And then, yeah, reverse hypers, I’ve been really trying to make a push to get more people to get reverse hypers, I know it’s an expensive piece of equipment, but it’s worth its weight in gold. I mean, there’s nothing that you can do to duplicate a reverse hyper and there’s nothing, in my opinion, that keeps the spine healthier than that piece of equipment does. So, I mean, if it’s going to keep your members healthy and prevent any type of lower-back disorder, which we know 80% of the population has lower-back disorders, then why not have it? Make the investment in the piece of equipment, keep your people healthy and obviously increase or maintain your retention.

Chris: 37:01 – Yeah. So, I mean, a lot of this equipment sounds like it’s quote unquote “specialty” equipment for powerlifting and we’re supposed to stay general, but honestly, like some of these pieces are better for fitness then than a SkiErg would be, you know.

Jason: 37:15 – I agree. We have two reverse hypers.

Chris: 37:19 – Yeah. I’ve got one reverse hyper, but three glute-ham raises, I still call them that too. And why do you think that is? Like if you were telling a bran- new affiliate “here’s how you should open your box,” how would you make the argument to include a reverse hyper instead of, you know, one more rowing machine?

Jason: 37:39 – I think comes back to keeping people healthy and if you could have a piece of equipment that directly affects people’s spinal health tractions their spine—a lot of people come in with lower-back problems to begin with. So this piece of equipment, it’s totally revolutionized, I know Louie’s gym as far as what their numbers are and what they’re able to do with a reverse hyper. So it’ll keep your members healthy and not only keep them healthy, but maybe help people that already have issues, you know, make their issues better, then I don’t know why you wouldn’t get one. I know they are expensive, you’re looking at around 1,000 bucks to get a reverse hyper. So it is an expensive piece of equipment, but if you can help someone or help a group of people and keep more people healthy, then that’s to me how I justify having two of them.

Chris: 38:36 – What would you prioritize a glute-ham raise over? Like if I had to cut $1,000 out of my start-up budget and I only had 20,000 to start with, what would you cut out to get a glute-ham raise in there?

Jason: 38:49 – That’s a tough one. I would maybe cut out a rowing machine.

Chris: 39:00 – OK.

Jason: 39:00 – I think obviously they’re entirely different things. I mean, they’re apples to oranges, but we’re talking about someone starting with nothing?

Chris: 39:10 – Yeah.

Jason: 39:11 – Yeah. I’d probably have to say a rowing machine. Unless of course you don’t have any rowing machines—if you only have one or two rowing machines, you’d be probably just better off getting a reverse hyper cause you’re not going to be able to use those in class to begin with, you know, one or two is just not enough. But if you had, you know, if you were getting five rowing machines and you have the option of getting four versus five and you know, the alternative was all right, I’ll get four ergs and I’ll get I reverse hyper then I would probably opt for the reverse cyber. But there’s really, as far as price-wise goes, there’s really not a whole lot else. I mean, unless you’re talking about making your pull-up rig smaller or something like that, but comparable price-wise, you’re probably looking at getting rid of one rowing machine.

Chris: 39:56 – OK. So I think I would go with an aerobic piece, too, because aerobic work is not specific. You know, you could get away without rowers. You could just jog, you know, but strength training is specific and so I really like that you would put a reverse hyper in there over a rower.

Jason: 40:14 – Yeah. It’s—that was basically the argument I made to Danielle was we had one reverse hyper and it wasn’t getting used a lot. And I said, I think if we had a second they would get used more, and we moved them, we put them in plain view and I really sell the hell out of those reverse hypers; I almost force people to use them. And I have had so many people over the last couple of months tell me their back has never felt better. And I’m one of them. I’ve had back issues for a long time and I use the reverse hyper religiously and there’s nothing that compares to it.

Chris: 40:52 – I think also, you know, looking at the demographic that we’re serving now, it’s a lot of sedentary people, right? They really don’t have glutes, so—

Jason: 41:00 – No, they don’t. And again, that’s where we get back to box squatting. We get back to reverse hypers we get back to doing, you know, special exercises for the glutes and hamstrings and hips and including that unilateral work. And sled pulling, that’s another thing. I mean you could—I think a sled is probably the most underutilized piece of equipment in the CrossFit community and it costs nothing. I mean, 150 bucks, you can get a sled, you could make a sled for close to nothing and you could have people pulling sleds at least once a week and noninvasively strengthen their posterior chain. You don’t even have to load their spines, you know, so if you have people that can’t load their spine because of issues they have, you can have them pull a sled and they get, you know, just as good of a workout in.

Chris: 41:45 – Jay, I got to tell you about my first sled. So I was selling treadmills at this treadmill store. And after work we’d shut down the store and I would train athletes in the back parking lot. And around town you see a lot of shopping carts left in snowbanks because the snowplow will come along and like just push everything into one spot, right? So I got this broken shopping cart and some bolt cutters and cut the top shelf out of it. And that was my first sled.

Jason: 42:12 – Wow. That’s awesome.

Chris: 42:12 – I know, I’ve been a sled lover for a long time. Let’s talk about unilateral work because that’s something else that I see missing from a lot of boxes.

Jason: 42:23 – Yeah. So, because of the structure of the Conjugate training and the way I lay out the template, we have an opportunity at least once or twice a week to get that stuff in. All right. And it’s not going to be like the type of work that people are like beat up from or—a lot of times people are like, “Oh, you know, this isn’t that bad.” You know, doing lunges aren’t that bad, but it’s not as sexy as doing a squat, I agree, I would much rather squat, but it has its place and it definitely has to be prioritized at least once a week for people. And I think a lot of people that are just starting off would actually benefit more from having just a healthy dose of unilateral work in their programming, and doing less with the bilateral counterparts, I think would benefit a lot of people. And I try to do that with my programming. We have unilateral work every week and a lot of times the conditioning pieces, you know, they might contain a higher-skill movement, might be something completely different than unilateral for a newbie.

Chris: 43:33 – Give me an example of that, Jay.

Jason: 43:35 – So I don’t program snatches for newbies. I program dumbbell hang power snatches. And it’s just a very easy way to kind of take the risk that’s associated with doing a snatch out of it by using a dumbbell. Because if they get into a funky situation with it, they’re not putting their rotator cuff at a disadvantage; the dumbbell is over their body as opposed to away from it. So it just takes the risk out of it. And it also teaches them how to use their hips. So you know, it’s obviously it’s different, but it’s similar, too.

Chris: 44:13 – Oh, that’s a great one. Yeah. I’m trying to think of, you know, what are some unilateral exercises we see in CrossFit and it’s like lunge and pistol. But I know I was watching a video of a girl doing your programming last week and she’s doing a crossover lateral sled drag down the road.

Jason: 44:30 – Right.

Chris: 44:31 – So is that typically the kind of stuff that you’re doing?

Jason: 44:37 – Yes. Yeah. I mean, we pull a sled. I mean honestly, I would make everyone pull a sled every week if people didn’t get bored of it and say, “Oh man, we’re doing sleds again,” then I would do it every week. But the only reason I change it up, it’s just to, you know, keep people engaged, and I don’t want people not coming to class cause they don’t want to pull a sled. So I find other ways to trick them into coming to class and doing this stuff. The unilateral work is part of it. And on paper it doesn’t look too bad. But usually when we get into it it’s like, OK this is pretty, you know, this is—I’m feeling what’s happening here, and they get that tactile—a lot of people just kind of want to feel the burn, so to speak, and you get that with uni—I mean, I’m sure everyone can remember the first Open WOD this year, walking overhead lunges. I think people were pretty shocked by that workout. And I know for my gym we weren’t that shocked. We were used to doing lunges on a regular basis. So my people weren’t even sore from that workout.

Chris: 45:35 – No, I love that. But I was sure sore. Yeah, I really like the inclusion of that kind of stuff, too, Jay. So let’s talk about programming a little bit more. Well, maybe first, when you do have something that looks kind of boring to people, how do you get them to show up? I mean, a lot of gyms won’t program a 5-k run for example, because everybody will just say, “Wow, I’ll do that from home today.”

Jason: 46:02 – Yeah. I wouldn’t program a 5-k run either. I would do it a different way. We’ve done a 5-k run, but I feel like there’s a more creative way to do that type of aerobic piece and get people to show up. You could make it more fun. You can add some type of catch to it. I like to use like some type of time domain and then, you know, do a hundred air squats, 100 double-unders in 30 minutes, in the remaining time, row max meters on the erg. I mean, that’s like an easy way to trick people into rowing a 5-k without really saying, “Hey, we’re just rowing a 5-k today.”

Chris: 46:40 – I see. OK. All right, beautiful, man. So you don’t avoid like that longer-stage aerobic work, you just make it a game.

Jason: 46:49 – I make it a game, and I think like adding the partner element, then it becomes a little bit different of a conditioning piece. But any way that I can keep people engaged and it also keeps me on my toes as far as being creative. So a lot of times I’ll experiment with these things on myself and I’ll see how it goes. And sometimes I’ll be like, “That was really great.” Or sometimes I’ll be like, “That was not great and I don’t want to use it.” But a lot of times it works out where I’ll discover something and I’ll give it to them and it usually works out pretty well. We get pretty good attendance.

Chris: 47:23 – OK. So I mean, by this point it’s pretty clear to everybody that you really are a great programmer. So let’s shift gears here for a minute. Let’s talk about the business side of this. A number of Two-Brain boxes are using boxprogramming.com right now. Why did they go outside their own brains for programming, Jay?

Jason: 47:42 – I think just about every person I’ve talked to has said kind of the same thing, that they just don’t have the time. I hear that so many times and I know how hard it is to run an affiliate and I know how time consuming it can be and if you’re spending four or five, six hours on a month of programming, which I think that’s probably a pretty conservative figure. I know personally I could spend a lot more time and I do spend a lot more time on a month of programming. A month of programming is definitely quite a bit of time. That’s easily time that if I’m not great at programming or I’m not comfortable with it or I have, you know, something else that I can be doing that is of higher value, it’s really like almost like no different than me paying someone to clean my gym an extra time a week. I could clean it myself and I’m worth $10 an hour or I could pay someone to do it and then I’m worth a lot more an hour. So I think that’s the overall consensus among just about everyone I talk to; their time could be spent better somewhere else.

Chris: 48:50 – Yeah. I know a lot of guys I’m talking to are—they’re going two to three hours a week and it’s killing their Sunday mornings.

Jason: 48:57 – Yeah. And I think a lot of people, it kind of looms over their head. They’d leave it till Sunday and believe me, I’ve been there, and you get so much on your plate that Sunday rolls around pretty fast and you’re like, man, I still gotta write the programming. And it’s at that point, you’re like, are you really putting your best effort or are you just trying to get it done? And I think that has been, you know, a lot of times that I’ve talked to people, they have said that I’d wait till Sunday and then it’s, “Am I really doing the best job I could possibly do?”

Chris: 49:31 – So I think that the biggest hurdle, and I’ve faced this, too, is there’s always been this perception that like the programming is the special sauce of the box. Right? That’s what gives the box its unique brand. What do you say to people when they ask you that question?

Jason: 49:51 – I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me that question. I think a lot of people have said that they have had a lot of trouble giving it up because it was something that they held very, very important to their culture or their community as far as having their hand in the programming. But I think over time, almost all the people that have told me that have, you know, come back and thanked me for saving their time and basically proving that it’s not as big of a deal as you might think. I think the biggest thing is just having a plan and having systems in place like we do with everything.

Chris: 50:31 – Yeah. So, I think that the real benefit of having somebody else do the programming is you have these unconscious biases. You know, you either program your goats, or you program the stuff that you’re good at without thinking about it. Ok. How does your program work for gyms, Jay?

Jason: 50:49 – So, as far as getting started or the programming itself?

Chris: 50:54 – Well, let’s say that a box is listening to this and they’re like, OK, I’m going to get somebody else to do my programming. I’m going to take Sunday morning off, or I’m just going to use that four hours a week to grow my business instead. Where do they start with you?

Jason: 51:09 – Well, I have some people that start with a call, they can go on my site on boxprogrammingcom and schedule a free call and we can chat and I can get to know you, you can get to know me and we can see that, you know, see if it makes sense before we go forward. I have other gyms that don’t even schedule a call. Maybe they heard about me from someone else and they’ll go on and they’ll purchase their plan on my website. And then basically when I get their plan, I send out a questionnaire to everyone and it’s basic questions just to get some background information on what type of direction I need to go with the programming. As far as the programming itself, it’s systematic across the board. It’s basically the same template for everyone. I use the same template for my gym and every gym gets the same template because it has that advantage of having everything structured into a week in an efficient and optimal way. And then from there, I communicate a lot with my gyms. I take it very serious. You know, programming to me is something, obviously, I hold very important and I want to know if it’s going well. I want to know if it’s not going well. I want to know if you have questions. I try to, you know, create as much content as I can, as many videos as I can and answer questions as quickly as I can for everyone. And I just stay in contact and make sure that they’re comfortable putting out everything that I give them. So usually what I do is I give them the month of programming and we go through it together just to make sure that we’re on the same page. And then obviously if something pops up along the way, we will reconnect. But for the most part, I have a lot of content, I have a reference page I give to everyone that has basically every question that has been asked at this point. So there’s a lot of detail to what I give people. I’m not just giving you a workout and you know, a strength-and-conditioning piece and saying, “Here you go.” I’m giving you the why behind it and giving you the warm-up, the relevant mobility, activation, accessory work, and then training notes so you can explain everything that we’re doing. If someone asks, “Hey Chris, why are we doing box squats all of a sudden? This doesn’t make sense to me. Why are we doing this?” You could say, “Well, we’re doing box squats because you know, the purpose is to develop posterior chain and we’re working on force production coming out of the hole, and you know, the wide stance is to really focus on our hips and hamstrings.”

Chris: 53:33 – Yeah. I think just for that knowledge alone is probably worth getting into a box programming program for a couple of months so that your coaches can actually, you know, explain to your members why they’re doing this stuff. So, Jay, you know, last question: You’re very serious about this. I mean, you are probably the most studied programmer that I’ve met in CrossFit so far.

Jason: 53:56 – I appreciate you saying that.

Chris: 53:56 – Yeah, man. But let’s talk about the role of fun. Like we can agree that novelty is really important to engagement and drawing people to our gyms in the first place. But the actual execution of the training, how important is it that the clients like get a sense of fun out of it?

Jason: 54:21 – Well, I think that anytime that people come into your gym to take a class, you have the opportunity to make things fun. Make them lighthearted, you know, I think a warm-up is the greatest opportunity that we have to break the ice. You know, people come in and they might be new and they might be apprehensive about the whole process and just CrossFit as a whole as you know, has a reputation. It’s pretty intimidating, you see it on TV and you’re like, “Hey, am I going to be doing that stuff?” So I think we have an opportunity to keep the warm-ups fun but effective. I mean we can, you know, keep people moving and doing, you know, you see a lot of games now on the internet. I think getting creative and having games, breaking the ice, making people communicate and interact with one another. That’s something we try to do on a pretty regular basis. It just totally sets the tone for your class. I don’t think it should be like boot camp and I don’t think it should be—I think it should be lighthearted and fun to start things off, get people moving, talk about what you’ve got going and, you know, execute from there. Honestly, the strength and conditioning is serious, but I think that first 10 or 15 minutes of class is an opportunity to build your community.

Chris: 55:33 – OK. And as you say that, I realized the last time I was at Westside, everybody was laughing, you know, there was a lot of fun going on. So what’s that balance between a good gym is fun and a good gym is focused or serious?

Jason: 55:52 – That’s a tough one. I think again, just having that balance between if you’re one way or the other, if you are only serious and it’s quiet and people aren’t interacting, you’re missing out on that opportunity to connect people because so many people meet through CrossFit. I mean we’ve had people get married or we have people that are engaged from meeting at our gym. And I think if we didn’t have an atmosphere that was, what’s the word I’m looking for, was lighthearted and was, you know, you had an opportunity to connect with other people and meet other people and get involved with their training, then you’re missing out on—really I think the best part of CrossFit is the community, and you can’t just have it be super serious when you walk in the door. It’s gotta be fun and the place has got to be lively, we have a rule like, hey, you get to the gym, you know, the coach is opening the gym. The first thing you gotta do is you got to turn the music on. Five in the morning, it’s cold out or it’s dark, turn the music on. All the lights are on. Create an environment that’s lively that looks like, “Hey, you know, we’re having a good time here, but we’re also making gains here.”

Chris: 57:11 – OK. All right, man. That’s great. I think that’s solid advice for any box owner. Jay, thanks so much for giving me an hour and a half of your time today.

Jason: 57:19 – Yeah, no problem, man.

Chris: 57:20 – We’ll talk soon. If people want to get in touch with you, I’ll have a link below, but yeah, thanks very much.

Jason: 57:27 – All right Chris, thank you.

Chris: 57:28 – This week is the Two-Brain Summit in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. This weekend a lot of gym owners will be coming to visit my gym, Catalyst, and our second location, Ignite, in our giant new space. We’ll be getting all kinds of lectures, will be getting hands-on demos and coaching. We’re going to be getting some BrainWOD stuff. We’re going to be having some fantastic meals, a great time. I’m really pumped about it. If you missed out on this one, you can still get into our Calgary seminar in October. You can find out@twobrandbusiness.com/seminars. However, I wasn’t originally planning on going to the Games, but HQ was generous enough to offer me a spot in a suite. So I will be coming out. I will be chatting with a lot of people around. If you want to hit me up and get together and talk over a $12 glass of water or a $15 coffee or a $30 beer, just let me know chris@twobrainbusiness.com. And so over the next two weeks I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with this podcast. What I’m going to be doing is recording snippets of conversations. Instead of a more formal longform interview, I’ll be recording at the Two-Brain Summit and then I’ll be recording at the CrossFit Games. I’ll be talking with affiliate owners at both places. I’ll be talking with professionals and hopefully some HQ staff won’t object to getting recorded either. Following that, we’ll be back. I’m really pumped to have another longform interview coming with Mike Michalowicz, author of “The Pumpkin Plan,” “Profit First,” “Toilet Paper Entrepreneur” and his brand new book, “Surge.” Stay tuned to the podcast. Thanks for listening. Rate us five stars on iTunes; it helps.


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