Wednesday, August 31, 2016

IOC Officially Disqualifies 5 Beijing Weightlifters, Requests Return of Three Medals

Though we’ve known about their provisional suspensions since earlier this summer, earlier today the International Olympic Committee officially announced the disqualification of five weightlifters from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Three of the weightlifters originally won medals in Beijing, and the statement from the IOC specifies that all medals and pins received from the competition must be returned. As per the IOC’s request, the athlete’s national Olympic committee will be responsible for collecting and returning the items.


Tigran G. Martirosyan, photo by Kari Kinnunen

The lifters are:

Nadezhda Evstyukhina, Russia, 75kg. Three time World Champion and originally bronze medalist in Beijing.

Alexandru Dudoglo, Moldova, 69kg. Originally ninth place in Beijing.

Tigran G. Martirosyan, Armenia, 69kg. 2010 World Champion (77kg) and originally third place in Beijing.

Marina Shainova, Russia, 58kg. Four time European Champion (thrice at 58kg, once at 63kg), originally second place in Beijing.

Intigam Zairov, Azerbaijan, 85kg. Originally ninth place in Beijing.

The IOC’s announcement also includes stipulations regarding how prizes must be returned to the IOC and puts responsibility on each athlete’s National Olympic Committee. For example, the following was listed in regard to the return of Evstyukhina’s disqualification.

I. The Athlete, Nadezda EVSTYUKHINA:

i. is found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation pursuant to the IOC Anti-Doping Rules applicable to the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing in 2008 (presence and/or use, of a Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers in an athlete’s bodily specimen),

ii. is disqualified from the Women’s 75kg weightlifting event in which she participated upon the occasion of the Olympic Games Beijing 2008, and

iii. has the medal, the medallist pin and the diploma obtained in the 75kg weightlifting event withdrawn, and is ordered to return these.

II. The IWF is requested to modify the results of the above-mentioned event accordingly and to consider any further action within its own competence.

III. The Russian Olympic Committee shall ensure full implementation of this decision.

IV. The Russian Olympic Committee shall notably secure the return to the IOC, as soon as possible, of the medal, the medallist pin and the diploma awarded in connection with the Women’s 75kg weightlifting event to the Athlete.

V. This decision enters into force immediately.

No statement has yet been made regarding the 15 weightlifters implicated in a second round of doping retests announced earlier this month. If their positive doping results are upheld, though, it’s likely they’ll face the same penalties as the five lifters disqualified today.

Featured image: Tigran G. Martirosyan, photo by Kari Kinnunen, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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How to Mentally & Physically Prep for Your Next Personal Record: The 24-Hour Approach

“Failure to plan is planning to fail.”

Like most feats, setting a personal record takes proper preparation over months of sport-specific training, nutrition, focus, and practice. Often, beginners and intermediate lifters walk into a gym on any given day and miraculously set new personal records.

As one becomes more advanced in their levels of fitness and training, setting and achieving personal records occur less often, sometimes only once every few months. Preparation for that PR started months before, when training regimens, goals, and timelines were set.

In addition to tapering an athlete’s training program properly leading up to their next competition, coaches and athletes can structure the final 24 hours leading up to a PR attempt  to maximize their mental and physical preparedness. By understanding the roles of physiological and psychological factors that affect us all, we can better adapt, set a PR, and evolve.

DeadliftStack (1 of 27)

T-Minus 12-24 Hours

Body: Active rest and recovery will increase systemic blood flow to your muscles and joints. Sound sleep and nutrition will result in big gains. Additionally, be smart about consuming enough water. Although dehydration has the largest effects on endurance exercise and strength training (multiple sets and reps), some research has suggests 3-4% dehydration (of body mass) can decrease muscular strength and power by 2-3%. That could be the difference between hitting a total of 257kg instead of 250kg (over 15lbs!).

Mind: Patience. Start envisioning the day of and mentally prepare for battle. Mark you calendar and understand that what you do now WILL impact your performance to come.

Find time to destress and declutter your thoughts. The extra time you have since you are taking a rest day (or two) should still be you time. Take a bath, read a book in bed, or take a nap. Don’t allow other stresses to steal your focus.

T-Minus 4-12 Hours

Body: After a solid 8 hours of sleep, start your morning off with some light activity. Stay loose and become aware of your body. Listen to what it is saying and archive that information for your warm-up routine.

Mind: Mentally, you cannot have a bad start. You have trained hard and have put yourself in a position for success. Recognizing the ball is in your court will allow your to stay focus at the task at hand.


T-Minus 2-4 Hours

Body: Supply yourself with a steady source of carbohydrates and protein (hyperlink to nutrition article). The carbohydrates will be you main currency for energy during your workout, and the protein will keep the amino pools full.  

Mind: Mentally prepare for your warm up process, how you will mode about prior to the lifts. Have a plan for your final 2-4 hours leading up to the lifts. Visualize yourself in the near future, carrying out your plan.

T-Minus 1-2 Hours

Body: This is your final check-up on how things are feeling physically. Take a moment and get in touch with your body, muscles, and joints. Any lingering aspects will require some dedicated foam rolling (hyperlink foam rolling article) and focus during your warm up.

Mind: The brain functions off of glucose (sugar). At this point, you want to start consuming some faster carbohydrates sources, ones with less fiber and fat to help your body digest and process them much quicker. Throw in some quality H2O, a few cups of black coffee or green tea, and your mind will be alert and ready to go.

T-Minus 30 Minutes Out

Body: Start warming up. Elevate the heart rate, and stick to your normal routine. Sometimes, athletes change certain variables as self-doubt creeps into their minds. This is not the time to change things. The best athletes have practiced how to prepare for a maximal lift, making sure that every warm up set, set up, and rep is executed perfectly.

Mind: Visualize your lift. Visualize your set up, the execution, and what it felt like to have an amazing performance. These techniques have been established in previous studies and have shown to have a positive and significant effect on performance.

T-Minus 1-5 Minutes Out

Body: Breathe. Sit down. Settle the body and connect with your mind. Often, I see people in this window start to get super jacked up, screaming and pacing. While those are effective strategies to get the CNS firing and adrenal glands going, they effect can wear off, leaving your CNS and energy zapped if you have not prepared and/or got hyped at the right moment. Understand your body, and stay calm until it’s go time.

Mind: If you have not prepared for a lift before, the key is to remove all other distractions. Start to visualize your setup, execution, and successful lift. Simplify the movement into your 1-3 movement cues, and start to recite your mantra (see below). The best thing you can do here is simplify everything. Technique is very important, but maximal effort and focus is 100% vital.

T-Minus 1-10 Seconds Out

Body: Take a deep breathe. Bring your tension into the diaphragm, and start to feel the tension throughout your body grow into your legs, feet, arms, and hands. Drop your shoulders and pack the lats. Breathe, squeeze, and attack

Mind: Focus on 1-2 action words or ques. Call them your mantra is you will. Maybe it is “Fast Elbows” or “Stay over Bar” in preparation for a clean, or maybe it is a little more aggressive, such as, my personal favorite from a training partner of mine, Mike Barbot, as he approached a 350lb bottoms up front squat, “Come on Fu&$er, you’re coming with me!”

Go Time

Body: Don’t think, or if you do, it’s only on your mantra and one cue. You have practiced and simulated this moment already in training. The competition should be where you shine.

Mind: There is nothing left to do but to just do it.  

What Now?

Often, after a performance, good or bad, we replay the final moments in our mind over and over again, for what seems to be an eternity. Those key moments should be taken in, both looking back upon the good, bad, and the ugly. Just remember, every experience can provide an opportunity for betterment.

Mike holds a Masters in Exercise Physiology from Columbia University in NYC, USA. He’s Mike is an Assistant Coach of Strength and Conditioning at NYU and the Co-Founder at J2FIT Human Performance in NYC, USA. Mike is the Founder of The Barbell CEO, a lifestyle brand devoted to the strongest coaches, entrepreneurs, and minds.

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Double Edge Fitness: Coaching Is a Career, So Treat Your Trainers Like Professionals

Derek Wellock, co-founder of Double Edge Fitness in Reno, NV has one piece of advice for gym owners struggling to keep their coaches and members happy:

“Don’t 1099 your coaches.”

In an industry built on paying coaches per class or per personal training client, it’s a bold statement from 31 year old Wellock, who in 2014 transformed the 14,000 square foot facility from a sex shop into a state of the art CrossFit gym.

DoubleEdge (1 of 4)

Yes, a sex shop. This is Reno after all. Only in recent years has it shed some of its seedy exterior and gained a sort of Boulder-esque hipster vibe. Before Double Edge moved in, the space was home to an aptly named small business entitled Romantic Sensations that specialized in pre-used lingerie and shoes. (Just let that sentence sink in.)

The gigantic space sat empty for years before one day, Wellock — who was about to quit the fitness industry all together — wandered by, peeped through the window, noticed the brick walls and tall ceilings, and saw potential in what was once run down Reno landmark. After speaking to a few of his personal training clients who were involved with giving downtown Reno a facelift, Wellock and his brother, Jacob, bought the building.

Two years later, the original Double Edge Fitness is still going strong. So strong, in fact, that they recently opened up a second location on the South side of town. According to Wellock, Double Edge’s success is primarily due to treating Double Edge like a big boy business from the very start, not as a side project or a hobby.

DoubleEdge (2 of 4)

At the time of Double Edge’s opening, the landscape of functional fitness in Reno was reminiscent of the CrossFit days of yore — lots of garages, a scrappy class structure, grunge.

“There were a lot of gyms [at the time], but there weren’t any businesses,” Wellock says. “Don’t get me wrong, it was people with the right intentions, but most of them still had other full time jobs.”

For Wellock and his brother, creating and maintaining a successful gym was the only option.  “This pays our bills, and I think that’s the difference, and it’s what a lot of gyms all over the world struggle with. We’re fully vested. We don’t go from here to do something else. It is our job to give you the best experience.”

DoubleEdge1 (4 of 4)

To ensure that members get that experience, Wellock first hones in on his trainers and exclusively hires former members to coach, because he believes that if they can’t fit in with the community as a member, they will not work out as a coach. Given the tenderness of potentially firing a coach who was once a member, Wellock and his staff are extremely picky and deliberate about who they hire.

Once a coach is brought on board, though, Wellock does something nearly unheard of in many gyms across the world: he puts them on salary and treats them like actual employees instead of per-class freelancers. All of his full time coaches get benefits, health insurance, paid vacation, and sick days.

DoubleEdge (3 of 4)

Wellock continues, “I hear about coaches getting paid 1099, full-time coaches getting paid per class…these are professionals. Fitness professionals. They invest their career, their life, and are continually educating themselves. They need to be treated and respected as professionals by their owner, their coaches, and by their environment.”

Unsurprisingly, this mentality makes for happy, engaged employees who aren’t constantly looking for a better offer. Happy coaches make for happy members, and happy members tell their friends and keep coming back.

Of course, no one who works as a coach expects to become a millionaire, but according to Wellock, getting rich isn’t the point when you’re able to live a reasonable life and do what you love. “We don’t make physician income. We know that going in. You do this because you love changing people’s lives, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to support your family. We’ve all made big, grown up moves doing something we love because it’s respected as a career.”

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Report: Romania’s Gabriel Sincraian, Rio 85kg Bronze Medalist, Fails Doping Test

According to Romanian language media outlet, Rio Bronze Medalist Gabriel Sincraian has tested positive for a banned substance and will subsequently lose his medal and award; the exact nature of the substance hasn’t been released, and the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) hasn’t yet announced the positive test via their standard Public Disclosure protocol. The quotes Romanian public broadcast channel TVR as a primary source.

Sincraian originally placed third in the men’s 85kg class at the 2016 Olympic Games behind Iran’s Kianoush Rostami and China’s Tian Tao. Rostami set a new World Record in the Total on his way to gold, while Tao secured silver after only making two of six attempts during the competition.

The 27 year-old Sincraian placed second earlier this year at the European Weightlifting Championships and also competed in the 2012 London Olympic Games. Assuming the report is accurate and Sincraian loses his medal, the bronze will go to Kazakhstan’s Denis Ulanov, who originally placed fourth overall in the weight class.

Sincraian is the second Rio Olympic weightlifting medalist to test positive for banned substances. Just days after the conclusion of the 2016 Games, the IWF announced Kyrgyzstan’s Izzat Artykov had tested positive for strychnine, which can be used as a stimulant. Polish brothers Tomasz and Adrian Zielinski were in Rio but disqualified before competition began after they both tested positive from samples collected earlier this summer.

The report on Sincraian — which, again, has yet to be confirmed by the IWF — comes less than a week after samples from 15 weightlifters at the Beijing Olympics came back positive for banned substances. As a result of those retests and others conducted earlier this summer, several countries are facing year-long bans from international weightlifting, including Kazakhstan, Russia, China, and Belarus.

A video of Sincraian’s performance from the 2015 World Weightlifting Championships in Houston is embedded below.

Featured image: barsophi1‘s YouTube Channel

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Can You (and a Friend) Beat the “TailPipe” World Record?

It’s a deceptively brutal partner workout, but one we can’t not keep trying: TailPipe. The workout originated with the Gym Jones crew nearly a decade ago, and it’s named after the feeling one gets toward the end — “sucking on the end of a tailpipe,” fighting to catch your breath.

If you’ve never tried TailPipe, it doesn’t seem all that impressive or difficult at first glance. Check out the workout description from a recent video on the Gym Jones YouTube channel:

A look into the most classic of all Gym Jones partner style workouts: “TailPipe”. This is the workout we do to kick off each Fundamentals seminar. It is an eye-opener. The workout is a partner workout where one partner rows 250m for time while the other holds two 24kg Kettlebells in Rack position. Once the 250m is done the players switch position. That is one round. This is three rounds for time so by the end each partner will have rowed three times and held three times.

Word to the wise: Get ready to experience some of the roughest breathing of your fitness life.

An additional rule, judging from the videos we’ve seen out of Gym Jones: You can have a third party helping to reset the monitor/computer on your rower and help you strap in your feet, which could save a few precious seconds off the entire workout.

As Bobby Maximus of Gym Jones explains, the workout record is 4:24, and a great time is anywhere below 5 minutes. (The average they see in their Utah facility is between 5:30 and 6 minutes.) Maximus runs some visitors to the gym through the workout, and while they do a great job clocking in under 4:50, it’d be tough to imagine them getting below the 4:24 mark.

Video of their performance is embedded below. Now, the only question that remains is: Who are you going to try this with?

Featured image: Gym Jones’ YouTube Channel

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Can OpenBarbell Start a New Wave of Data-Obsessed Strength Training?

When I last visited S& S Barbell in Williamsburg, what stuck out most weren’t the Oly platforms, power racks, and competition plates stacked and sorted into every crevice; it was the tech. Namely, Squats & Science’s OpenBarbell, a bar velocity tracker the team thinks can make data-oriented training more accessible than ever. Now, after roughly a year of tinkering, machining, and 3D printing (wash, rinse, and repeat that a few times), they’re finally ready to launch OpenBarbell V2: an aluminum-cased velocity tracker that’s open source and has corresponding apps for both iPhone and Android.

To understand why OpenBarbell came about, it helps to understand the ethos behind Squats & Science. At face value, it’s a small chain of barbell gyms with two locations in Florida and one in NYC, each providing a haven for powerliftings and weightlifters who want dedicated space as opposed to a platform in the back of someone else’s “box.”

But there’s a goal beyond just the gyms, and the folks Squats & Science have something much bigger in their sites: Strength tracking, specifically building products and devices that let lifters better understand and record data that will help them train smarter. Their first barbell velocity measuring device was called OpenBarbell, a straightforward device that was housed in plexiglass and had an unmistakable “tinkerer’s” feel. After lots of feedback and refinement, the team now is launching OpenBarbell V2, which has the look, feel, and functionality they hope will expand its appeal beyond the very nerdiest lifters into the strong masses interested in further quantifying their strength.

OpenBarbell V2 is now on sale at Squats & Science’s website. On a recent visit to S&S, I spoke to founder and OpenBarbell inventor Jordan Berke about the future of the device, including their plans for V3. 

Open Barbell

1. How did the original idea for OpenBarbell come about? Why focus on something around velocity training — which even many powerlifters aren’t using today?

We weren’t the first people to think about making a modern ‘activity tracker’ for people who lift weights, in fact some Googling shows there are quite a few independent projects wiring together Raspberry Pi’s, Arduinos, and accelerometers or at least people aspiring to do so. Since we started playing with the concept several companies have popped up with their version of the solution with mixed results. We thought, and still think, a high quality low cost velocity based training tool can have a huge impact on modern strength sports because although it’s existed for quite a while now, it’s always been too limited or too expensive.

We settled on our form factor after thorough deliberation and testing. Wearables are trendy and they’re easier sell to investors, but the tech behind them is so limited that they defeat their entire purpose, which is velocity based autoregulation.

2. How long did it take to develop version 1? How many iterations did you go through before you had something you were comfortable with selling?

We go through countless iterations of our devices. V1 was the end result of three 0.X versions before it. We developed those three versions over the course of about a year, and took three to four months of intensive design, testing and iteration before we were comfortable settling on a baseline for production. Since it was our first device we were learning a lot as we went, and even during manufacturing we found errors and corrected them before they went out to our customers. Not ideal, but it got the job done and we haven’t had a negative customer reaction yet.

3. What was the sales strategy for V1?

Since V1 was our first device we didn’t know what to expect in terms of demand. We made about 100 of them, half of which were spoken for by the guys at Kabuki Strength before our general public launch. From the feedback we received from our potential customers we figured they might go fast, but we had no idea they would all sell in under 10 minutes. We wanted to make sure as many people were aware of OpenBarbells existence as we could, and that they had a fair shot at getting an early device. We did that by documenting our manufacturing process at every step so people could keep track on social media, which you can see on our Instagram from early 2016. We’re just two guys making devices so people can lift better, and we figured people wanted to see that.

Open Barbell Connector

4. How long has V2 been in development, and what are some of the key differences? Why did you go with 3D printing as opposed to plastic injection to make it?

The concept of V2 started during the manufacturing of V1. We learned so much during those two to three weeks that when it came time to sketch up the next version we had the basic framework done in about 30 minutes. We wanted to drastically reduce the number of parts, eliminate costly manufacturing methods (costly as in time, not money) and make the entire assembly more reliable and precise. Not only did 3D printing give us the flexibility to design time saving measures into OpenBarbell V2, but at around 300 units it’s a much more affordable manufacturing process than traditional injection molding. On top of that, we were lucky enough to find a local Brooklyn company called VooDoo manufacturing which has a farm of about 160 3D printers, and makes plastic parts with one of the best combinations of accuracy and cost in the country.

5. You mentioned you’re staying fairly tight lipped about V3, but any hints you can give on how you’re approaching that?

V3 is the second step in our long term plan. Although it will be our third commercial device, it will have more differences with V2 than it will have similarities. V2 will likely be our last OpenBarbell version, but we’re very excited about what’s next.

6. You all embrace a “hacker” mentality and are big on highlighting how OpenBarbell is open source. Is that something you think could change?

We embraced the Open Source mentality with our devices because at the beginning, we were [searching for] other people who made their own home VBT brew solutions. There was a community of people who were solving the problem themselves because no company was willing to make a product for them. When we decided to make OpenBarbell V1 we had those people in mind. Our open source efforts have gathered a great team of developers and data scientists around OpenBarbell that have made our devices better, and we’re very thankful for that.

Going forward, we will always embrace a hacker mentality. Things will always be better when the people who use a product can improve them.

Images courtesy Open Barbell

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Fore! Fitness “Golf” Is the Latest Way to Structure Your WOD

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Watch The Praelium LIVE Courtesy of!

Watch Team Oly Concepts present The Praelium, live on BarBend’s Facebook page!

We’ll also be embedding the live streams of Sunday’s sessions below.

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5 Minute Mobility: This Stretching Routine Is Perfect When You’re Low on Time

Life is short. We are all busy. If you have a few hours a day to train and stretch and get massages, that is awesome! For the rest of us, we are lucky to get 5 minutes a day to improve our bodies.

And whether we’re spending hours a day on our bodies and movement or struggling to get more than five minutes, I believe most humans have a lot of the same orthopedic problems.

If you’re living a busy life but still want to make mobility a priority, here is my ultimate “If I only had 5 minutes everyday!” mobility routine. It’s a routine I perform regularly, especially when traveling or working long, long hours — and it can be done just about anywhere.

Seriously, all it takes is 5 MINUTES to maintain and even improve your mobility. Here it is in four simple movements.

1. Spend 1 minute at the bottom of a squat, PLUS 30 seconds with arms switching reach to the sky




To me, Kelly Starrett which changed the way much of the fitness world looks at “stretching,” and that started with a 10 minute challenge to sit in the bottom of a squat. This is an ultimate expression of opening up our ankle, knee, hip and spine joints; this two-minute variation adds the rotations helps capture our often neglected rotational mobility.

2. 1 minute and 30 seconds thoracic roller under your rib cage (thoracic opener)

Thoracic Roll

I already aim to do this one daily, and I feel much tighter if I miss a day. The rib cage is constantly getting pushed into our modern texting/deskbound posture, which limits our breathing, neck, and shoulder function. For those with very tight shoulders, I would suggest 5 minutes of this one to get the most out of your body — this is powerful medicine to undo all the damage we do to ourselves daily. But 90 seconds is certainly better than not performing it.

3. 1 minute of scorpions


This movement is one you may have seen in other mobility protocols, and it’s certainly powerful. The scorpion stretch addresses our hips being too tight in the front, and it adds in a rotational component our spines are almost never exposed to. I call this one a million dollar stretch because of the magnitude just a little bit gets us. The only problem with this stretch? You have to get on the floor, so make sure it is clean!

4. 1 minute of rolling lacrosse balls under the foot (just :30 per foot)

Foot Mobility

Imagine if you wore gloves all the time, but ones that were super stiff and didn’t allow much wiggle room for your fingers. Your fingers would probably need a good stretch out at the end of the day, and the restriction would also impact you all the way up through your elbow, shoulder, and neck.

I have a bit of news: nell this is happening every time you wear shoes all day! Those tissues at the bottom of the feet hold a lot of tightness that carries all the way up as far as your back. This mobility and soft tissue release in even a short amount of time has huge power to loosen a lot of your lower body tissues.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Behdad Salimi’s Arbitration Application Denied by CAS

In an eight-page decision by an Ad hoc Division assembled at the 2016 Olympics, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has officially denied Behdad Salimi and the National Olympic Committee of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s application regarding an overturned lift from the men’s 105+ session in Rio.

The report — found here in its entirety — concerns 2012 Olympic Champion Salimi’s second clean & jerk, which was originally given three white lights by the judges and then overturned by the Jury.

Salimi’s first clean & jerk was turned down by the judges due to press out, and he missed his third lift in the clean portion; this meant he failed to post a total and did not secure a placing for the competition. This came after the Iranian superheavyweight briefly lost and then retook his own snatch world record, ending with 216kg in that portion of the competition.

The decision recapped the Applicants’ request for relief as:

His record for Clean and Jerk to be registered and he could receive his medal based on the athletes’ ranking.

Had Salimi been credited with a successful 245kg clean & jerk, it would have given him a 461kg total, good for second place behind Olympic Champion and Total World Record holder Lasha Talakhadze.

The Respondent’s (the International Weightlifting Federation) request for relief was also summarized:

The Respondent argued that all of the Rules had been complied with and requested that the appeal be dismissed.

Ultimately, the Court sided with the Respondent, and Salimi and the Iranian Committee’s request was dismissed.

Editor’s Note: For anyone interested in the finer points of international sporting arbitration, the Ad hoc Committee’s report is a document worth delving into.

Featured image: @IWFnet on Instagram

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IWF: 15 More Lifters Test Positive from Beijing Olympics, Including Gold Medalists

Strong, Stable, Lean: Firsthand Advice on Gymnastics for Big Guys

The 2016 US Olympic Men’s Gymnastics team didn’t do so hot this year in Rio. But they’re (almost certainly) better at gymnastics than you. And if you’re anything like me (5’10”, 200 lbs), you probably have struggled with some of the more advanced gymnastics movements programmed at your box. Why is that?

Watching these gymnasts on TV, you might say to yourself, “Man these guys are jacked!” And yes, they are pretty ripped! But if you lined up 5’5″ 150 lb Olympian Jake Dalton next to an average NFL kicker at 6’2″ 190 lbs, he’d look tiny. And if you lined him up next to the shortest average position player in the NFL (running back), he’d still look tiny standing next to a 5’11” 215 lb refrigerator shaped mass of man muscle.

But in the sport where jumping, pushing, pulling, flipping, and propelling one’s body are baseline requirements, size is the enemy. I’m not much of an intellectual, but basic math and logic tell me that moving 150 lbs is easier than moving 200 lbs. So how do big guys like us get good at gymnastics?

Get strong. Get stable. Get lean.

Get Strong

If you’re like me, you LOVE to lift heavy. You eat barbells for breakfast. The squat and deadlift are your best friends. And you jump for joy anytime a 1, 2, or 3RM comes up in your program. But a 400 lb squat and 500 lb deadlift won’t necessarily help you string together strict muscle-ups.

Muscle Up

Pull-ups, ring dips, toes to bar, handstand push-ups, handstand walking, rope climbs, and muscle-ups all require your arms and shoulders to do the majority of the work. Yes, I know you clean & jerk, snatch, and push press on a daily basis. But all of these movements are initiated by your glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

In order to control your body using mainly arms, you need to get strong in strict pressing and pulling movements. Strict overhead press, bench press, bent-over rows, lat pull downs, and seated rows are all great foundations for gymnastic strength. For example, if you can bench press 1.5x your bodyweight, you can probably do ring dips (a chest dominant movement) with relative ease. And if you can rep out your bodyweight on the lat pulldown machine, you can probably do pull-ups. Now you may be thinking, “I can’t even overhead press my bodyweight for one rep… I’ll never be able to do strict handstand push-ups!” Have no fear!

The handstand push-up is a shorter range of motion than the barbell press. Instead of starting at your shoulders, you start the movement at the top of your head. I weigh 200 lbs, my strict press 1RM is 195 lbs, and I can do 20 strict handstand push-ups unbroken. Note: This is probably one of the only instances in life where it’s advantageous to have a large head!

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of science out there (yet) on how load and percentages on these movements translate to gymnastic. And different levers and proportions for athletes will add even more variance here.

…But the stronger you are at pushing and pulling barbells, the stronger I’ve found you get at moving your body. If you’re not already on a strength program for your upper body, start one! Focus on strict overhead press, bench press, and barbell bent-over rows for the heavy portion. And supplement with lighter weight and higher volume on accessory movements like chest flys, seated rows, etc. The 5-3-1 program is a very straightforward and easy one to follow.

Aim to incorporate barbell training into your workouts 2-3 times per week. It’s generally best to do your “heavy lifting” at the beginning of any training session to maximize your potential for moving the most load. Gymnastic movements can be trained after the barbell, but you may find that you fatigue faster after lifting. In an ideal world you would rest after your barbell session and return later in the day for gymnastics. But we don’t all have time for that.

So if you need to do both in one session, try balancing pushes with pulls. For example, do heavy strict barbell overhead presses followed by pull-ups on one day. Bent-over rows followed by ring dips on another day, etc.

Get Stable

Do you like doing planks? I don’t. In fact, I hate doing them. I’d rather do 60 GHD sit-ups than hold a plank for 60 seconds. Even though the former task takes about twice the time to complete, the latter is just so…boring! I like to pick things up and put them down. I like to run hard and fast. I like to move it, move it!

But if you want to get good at gymnastics, you have to slow down and statically hold your body for “long” periods of time. Why?

Let’s go back to our boy Jake Dalton for an example. The Still Rings event doesn’t have a prescribed time, but most gymnasts hang between 60-120 seconds. When’s the last time you just held onto a pull-up bar for 2 minutes? That’s not an easy feat for any guy above 175 lbs. Now imagine holding on for 2 minutes while doing strict toes to bar and muscle-ups. Not gonna happen for most of us! But the principle here is that you need to be able to control your body isometrically to excel at gymnastics.

Think about the muscle-up. A lot of big, strong guys can do pull-ups and ring dips, but for some reason can’t get a single muscle-up. Why is that? Technique is one reason obviously. But what about the catch (the part where you transition from the pull-up to the dip)? The muscle-up catch requires a great deal of isometric control. And for most people who are on the border of getting their first muscle-up (or who are inconsistent in performing the movement), a lack of stability and control is the cause. To master the muscle-up, you need to spend time on the low rings to build stability and isometric strength.

Try this: keeping your elbows as close to your body as possible, lower yourself to the bottom position on the low rings so that your biceps are touching the top of the rings. You should feel your chest and triceps fighting to stay in position. Keep the rest of your body as tight as possible. Hold here for 20 seconds. Rest 1 minute. Then repeat for a total of 4-8 rounds. If this is easy for you, decrease your rest time. If you can do 8 rounds of 20 seconds on, 20 seconds off, your stability and isometric strength are good. If this is hard for you, decrease the working intervals to a time that you can hold (5-10 seconds).

Repeat this process 2-3 times per week and try to add 1 second to your hold time with each passing week until you work your way up to 20 seconds. This may sound easy on paper, but I promise you will feel muscles working in your chest, shoulders, and triceps that you didn’t even know you had!

Muscle Up

Similar strategies can be applied to handstand push-ups. If you can’t do HSPU yet, start by kicking up to the wall and holding yourself in an isometric handstand with elbows locked out for 20-30 seconds. As this becomes easy, increase hold times and decrease rest intervals. Then as this becomes easy, start working on slow eccentric handstand push-ups. Starting in a handstand, slowly lower your head to the floor. Think a slow 3-5 Mississippi count. Strengthening your shoulders and triceps isometrically and eccentrically will help you build the strength for the concentric movement (the actual push-up portion).

Planks, hollow rocks, and static L holds will also help your gymnastics ability. Your arms do most of the heavy lifting in gymnastics, but a strong and stable midline will help control the rest of your body throughout movements. Add these movements into your program 2-3 times per week as a buyout (end of workout). Aim for 30-60 seconds of holds for 4-8 sets.

Get Lean

If I asked you how much Jake Dalton weighed before reading this article, what would you guess? Based on his biceps, shoulders, overall muscular definition, and low camera angles, you might think upwards of 175 lbs. Even though he’s “small” he looks big because the majority of his body is muscle. Elite level male gymnasts generally range from 5-10% body fat. Though his body fat is not publicly listed, I assume Jake is easily within that range based on my experience measuring hundreds of clients’ and athletes’ body fat throughout my career as a trainer.

So excluding bones, blood, internal organs, and skin, a great deal of his body can make muscular contractions to help him lift, flip, pull and press. Compare that to a 200 lb guy with 20% body fat. That guy is lugging around a lot more “excess baggage” that does nothing but make pull-ups harder!

To put things into perspective, most males with visible abs have 10% body fat or lower. For females the equivalent is about 18%. I weigh 200 lbs and I vacillate between 6-8% depending on the time of year. And I attribute a lot of my gymnastic abilities to my body composition. So how do you get lean without losing strength?

I’m sure you’re sick of hearing the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen,” but it’s absolutely true. Throughout my personal training/coaching career I’ve worked with clients and members from a wide range of athletic backgrounds, body compositions, and fitness goals. Regardless of training frequency, the people that have the greatest success in reaching their goals are those who have made a commitment to eating clean.


For example, in my LA Fitness days I trained an obese woman (let’s call her Pam) five times per week. We did a combination of cardio, strength training, and basic bodyweight movements. She lost zero pounds during our first month together. Why? Aside from late cancelling on me 40-60% of the time, she changed nothing about her diet. In fact, she would eat more on days that we trained because she ignorantly thought she “could eat whatever she wanted because she worked out that day.”

Compare Pam to my client (let’s call him Brian) who only trained with me 3-4 times per month. He went from a 205 lbs and 33% body fat to 195 lbs and 16% body fat during our first year together. How? He didn’t do a crazy no carb diet or an overly complicated macronutrient based plan. He ate whole foods (with lots of protein), cut out junk food, controlled his portions, and had one cheat meal per week. In short, he didn’t eat like an asshole. And that’s the biggest piece of advice I give my my clients and athletes. Eat real food (i.e. food that comes from a plant or animal). Drink lots of water. Eat to fuel your workouts and daily activity. And eat until you’re full, not until you’re uncomfortable.

In Summation

Be patient with the process! As you get stronger, more stable, and closer to that lean, mean body composition, the easier it will be to lift, pull, and press your body! Just like weightlifting, most people who have any proficiency at gymnastics have been training in the sport for years — sometimes liftetimes. It can be utterly frustrating at times, but when you can string together more and more muscle-ups than ever before, it will seem worth every second!

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

The post Strong, Stable, Lean: Firsthand Advice on Gymnastics for Big Guys appeared first on BarBend.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Siamand Rahman, World’s Strongest Paralympic Powerlifter, Is Set to Amaze in Rio

The One Question to Ask to Figure Out How to Scale Your WOD

Strongwomen Goes Pro: Four Top Competitors Share Their Secrets and Training Tips

4 Common Strongman Safety Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

In the last decade, the opportunities to compete in Strongman contests and hybrid events (functional fitness-style events, Highland Games, etc.) has increased at a crazy pace. People love the challenge of pushing themselves physically and trying to determine in a multitude of ways just how strong they are. My social media feeds are filled with awesome videos of excited competitors hitting PR’s and winning events. Many of these athlete’s videos are well executed, but there are a few that are cringe worthy. There are three (plus a bonus) mistakes I see more than I should, and they are easily remedied with some forethought and better set up. While competing injury and pain free is rare, you certainly don’t want to be making avoidable mistakes.

1. Deadlift Smarter

I discussed here the deadlift, and that article breaks down the different pulls you can do in a contest. The main difference between the Powerlifter’s pull and that of a Strongman is the use of straps. This advantage to the Strongman is huge. It changes the focus of the event that can be limited by hand strength to an all out back and legs challenge. For the Powerlifter to pull maximum weight, they will use the over under grip on the bar. This has one palm facing the body and the other facing out (supinated) towards the judges. This grip stops the rotation of the bar and increases the amount you can lift over a double overhand pull. The problem with this grip is the increased stress on the biceps tendon of the forward facing palm.


It can be argued that you don’t see many Powerlifters tear biceps this way. That seems to be reasonably true. But the Powerlifter is executing the lift with perfect form and a single repetition on a calibrated bar. This is not the case in Strongman. Most deadlifts are for repetitions, and after pulling full out for 60 seconds, your form is sure to slip.

When you have the advantage of using straps there is no good reason to use the mixed grip. Always strap in double overhand and eliminate a great deal of biceps stress. You will also be stronger in this position and can wrap the strap much tighter. I cringe when I see a mixed grip strapped to the bar. It’s not necessary, and if something were to go wrong it is going to increase the chance or seriousness of a tear due to the release time of the strap.

To strengthen grip in training, just avoid using the straps on the deadlift until you actually need them. If you can pull 500 with a double overhand grip, don’t strap in until your surpass that weight.

A related tip here is to master the use of straps. Being able to wrap them quickly and tightly will help your game immensely. Buy a pair of high quality nylon straps that aren’t too thick. You don’t need a lot of extra bulk in your hand, and cotton straps can wear out and break during a heavy pull.

2. Never, Ever Flip a Wet Tire

Having one palm facing away from you when pulling a heavy object can raise some cause for concern. When flipping a tire, often both palms are in the supine position. This is the nature of the beast, and you must make sure you get as much of your body against the tire to alleviate the stress on the biceps when doing the exercise. There is one caution here that I’ve heard from every experienced strongman and strength coach that I have worked with: never flip a wet tire.

Water on rubber makes the tire a dangerous game. Your hands can easily slip, and the quick jerk can put all the weight on one arm, causing an instant snap of the tendon. Unfortunately I have witnessed it twice. One was a partial tear, but the other was a full snap that derailed a promising career. Losing control of a tire can also cause you to fall and become pinned under it. If you store your tires outside, make certain they are dry prior to use.

3. Pay Attention to Atlas Stone Form

The king of all strength lifts is the Atlas Stone. I review proper technique in this article. When done correctly, the stone is between your feet, close to your center of gravity, and you pick it up from the ground using a technique very similar to the Romanian or stiff leg deadlift. This movement most evenly distributes the weight of the stone across your feet and loads the hips, legs and back in the most efficient way possible.

Stone Loading

I see a few competitors doing a much different pick that has them dropping the entire body closer to the floor and trying to scoop the stone up with their forearms. This has the body off balance, and the stone is far too removed from the center of gravity to be efficient. As it is lifted from the ground, the stone is then pulled back toward the athlete and that creates a massive amount of low back stress in a position where the back is not protected. This event is difficult enough without moving the weight further from your center of gravity. Whenever possible, keep the weight you are moving as close to you as possible.

4. Bonus Pro Tip: Wash Your Sleeves!

Video can’t cover every single base when it comes to safety, and there is one very important bit of information this is often overlooked; wash your neoprene sleeves! They are like sponges soaking up your sweat and become a breeding ground for smells and bacteria. Turn them inside out and soak in cold water, white vinegar, and Woolite for about 15 minutes. Rinse them out and then let air dry for 24 hours in front of a fan. There is no reason to give yourself an infection from dirty gear. Your training group will thank you as well.

Staying healthy is paramount to enjoying your time in Strongman. Just a few corrections to your game can keep it that way. Practice like you play and always strive to do it with perfection.

Mike Gill is a retired 105kg professional strongman and currently a broadcaster for Strongman Corporation. He has a background in all weight disciplines and has competed in Bodybuilding, Powerlifting and Weightlifting. He can be reached at @prostrongman onTwitter, Snapchat, and Instagram.

Featured image: Michele Wozniak, Strongman Corporation

The post 4 Common Strongman Safety Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them) appeared first on BarBend.

Monday, August 22, 2016

IWF Website Hacked After 105+ Session, Warning Issued About Posting Authenticity

Struggling to Manage Athletes with Custom Programming? Try Rent-A-Rig

Weightlifting Throwback: Alexander Varbanov Clean & Jerks 222kg at 75kg Bodyweight

1988 Olympic Silver Medalist Alexander Varbanov had one of that decade’s best weightlifting resumes, and most of his accomplishments came while competing as a 75kg weightlifter for Bulgaria. (If the men’s 75kg category doesn’t sound familiar, that’s because the International Weightlifting Federation restructured the classes twice in the 90s.)

He was also a three-time World Champion, claiming that title in 1983, 1985, and 1986, as well as a four-time European Champion. It’s worth noting that Bulgaria boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, which very well have resulted in another Olympic medal for Varbanov.

And while Varbanov’s competition accomplishments are incredible — he clean & jerked 215.5kg in competition — his training makes are the stuff of legend. That includes a 222kg/~488 pound clean & jerk done at around 75kg bodyweight. The lift was completed in training in 1987, the same year Varbanov earned silver at the Weightlifting World Championships.

It’s the heaviest clean & jerk we’ve seen on video for someone roughly that bodyweight — an astonishing 147 kilograms above bodyweight. It almost (almost!) makes some of Lu Xiaojun’s best training feats seem a little ordinary by comparison.

Varbanov’s performance at the 1988 Seoul Games can be seen in this video of the competition posted by Frank Rothwell. Fellow Bulgarian lifter Borislav Gidikov took first in that competition.

Varbanov’s last major international medal came at the 1989 European Championships in Athens, where he finished with silver.

Alexander now lives and coaches in Ontario, Canada. His son — Nikolay Varbanov — is a young and accomplished weightlifter in his own right. Below is a video of Nikolay competing in the Ontario Championships this spring, setting multiple provincial records in the process. (Nikolay was lifting in the 69kg category.)

Looks like the Varbanov name will stick around elite-level weightlifting for some time to come.

The post Weightlifting Throwback: Alexander Varbanov Clean & Jerks 222kg at 75kg Bodyweight appeared first on BarBend.

Bronze Medalist Alexandr Zaychikov Posts 251 Kilogram Jerk from Training

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Olympic Champion Ruslan Nurudinov Posts 205kg Snatch, 250kg Rack Jerk from Training

What Is Tempo Training, and How Can It Improve Your Strength Gains?

Back Squat: @3010 – 5 x 3 / @XXXlbs

Have you ever seen those four magic numbers in your program? If not, you’re missing out on some major gains! These numbers signify a tempo that controls the speed with which you move throughout an exercise, and how long you stay in the bottom and top positions of the movement. For many resistance movements, utilizing a specific tempo can benefit an athlete by forcing controlled quality reps, getting the correct dose response out of the exercise, and overcoming weak points by spending more time in specific positions.

How to Read a Tempo: 3 3 1 0

  • The first number is the Eccentric portion (descent) of the exercise, which is the load coming down. (ex. Squatting down, lowering of the body in a pull-up, etc.) 
  • The second number is the Pause at the bottom (ex. holding the bottom of a squat, pausing at the chest on a bench press, dead hang on a pull-up bar)
  • The third is the Concentric (ascend) which is the weight moving up. In the some cases, in place of the third number you may see an “X” which means explode up as fast as possible, or an “A” which means assisted up.
  • The fourth number is the Pause at the top. For some movements like the squat,  it is back to the start position, for others like the pull-up it is holding the top position with the chin over the bar.

Note: Tempo numbers are always written in the same order of (E,P,C,P), however not every exercise starts with an eccentric movement. The deadlift, pull-ups, and other similar movements start Concentrically, so when reading the tempo for this movement and others alike make sure you understand what position the movement starts in order to complete the exercise with the correct tempo.


The Benefits of Tempo Training

Teaches Control Through the Movement

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned athlete, one of the best ways to increase strength while avoiding injury is to consistently maintain proper movement mechanics. When rushing a movement such as a squat, you’re less likely to pay attention to several key points like properly hinging from the hips, midline stability, proper tracking of the knees, etc. Disregarding these key points looks a lot like crashing down with a rounded back, harsh flexion of the knees showing little to no control, and the infamous “butt wink.” Using a tempo prescription can help athletes slow down and feel each position from start to finish, while learning to replicate quality movement as the weight increases.

Addresses Positional Weaknesses

Completing reps without awareness and control makes it easy to hit a plateau due to lingering weaknesses. Have you ever had a hard time with a front squat? You may be able to complete the squat, but you can’t seem to maintain an upright position, or you lose the weight forward. Try to go heavier, and the problem magnifies. We can look at your mobility to try to get your elbows up higher, or check your ankle mobility, but when that doesn’t work how much more can you mobilize?

Assuming that you have good squat mechanics, chances are you have a weakness, possibly a lack of midline stability, causing complications getting in or out of positions like the bottom of the squat. Some top powerlifters highly advocate front squats with long pauses at both the bottom and the top. The purpose is to overload the positions you’re weakest or least comfortable in, while practicing proper bracing in your trunk in order to maintain an upright position and rigidity within the entire movement.

According to Travis Mash, a 7 second pause at the bottom, along with the 15 second pause at the top is a “life changing front squat routine.” It will light up your core and make you breathe harder than you have been as you work to stabilize under long periods of time under tension. Working up to a heavy single, doubles, or triples with some down sets for volume is a great way to increase your stability and leg strength in the front squat, hence not only increasing your squat numbers but also your cleans.

I have tried it myself, and in less than 3 months I brought my Front Squat (at the time) from a struggling 285lb with collapsing upper back to an easy 315lb front squat with good form.

Adds Training Variety

Being consistent and going through quality repetitions builds a stronger foundation to add upon. Once advancements are earned, variety starts to play an important role in training. The most common are tweaking the intensity or volume of your workout, and playing with sets and reps. While all of those are great, including varying tempos can make a huge contribution to your arsenal (whether it’s by increasing the eccentric portion for metabolic responses and hypertrophy, or power in explosive concentric contractions). The combinations in tempo are endless and can target the several areas of your specific sport or general strength needs.

TUT: Time Under Tension

Manipulating the “TUT” in an exercise changes the response your body will have. It is common in bodybuilding to increase the time spent in eccentric portion of the exercise, as it promotes lean muscle growth. Knowing how to manipulate tempo for specific responses and exercises are important as you shouldn’t always prescribe the same tempo to every athlete. For example, programming a Marathon runner with high eccentric time in their program can hinder their performance due to the possibility of unnecessary muscle mass gain they may not need for sustainability, just like leaving out explosive tempos for power athletes may slow them down.

Tempo prescriptions affects the reps/sets and rest time needed per exercise, hence why it shouldn’t be an afterthought. However, there are ways to incorrectly prescribe Tempo/Rep pairing.

Tempo Training

An example I once learned was if the prescription is: Bicep Curl @30X0 x 18 reps

This wouldn’t make much sense, as the weight would have to be too light in order to complete that many reps, and will not give enough tension to cause the correct response. You may even lose control on the Concentric portion (X – Explode) as the weight would be so light. Dropping the reps to a lower number will give the athlete a better dose response as the load can now increase due to the lower reps required.

In order to get the proper dose response, you must put into consideration the total amount of time under tension within each set. Finding the total TUT is simply adding the amount of seconds in each part of the Tempo and multiplying it by the amount of reps per set.

Back Squat @ 3310 – 5 reps X 3 sets = 35 seconds of TUT per set

With this example we can see a few things:

1. It will be moderately heavy due to the amount of reps
2. Force the athlete to squat with control
3. Teach stabilization
4. Increasing raw strength/hypertrophy

Reduced Injury Risk

Controlling the movement and increasing quality of the reps alone can keep you away from injuries. Using tempo for novice athletes allows them to focus on technique, while also developing neuromuscular adaptations with safer weights. It’s much easier to put the ego aside, knowing you have to slow down or pause to follow the prescribed tempo and use less weight. Exercises accompanied by Tempo can also relieve stress on the joints due to the extra recruitment of muscle fibers as mentioned earlier. According to CJ Martin of CrossFit Invictus:

“Muscles are far better at adapting to increased loads. Connective tissue typically takes longer to strengthen and adapt to the increasing loads, so by slowing down the tempo you can give your connective tissue some rest while still strengthening the surrounding musculature.”

Measurable Progress

Using a consistent tempo is a great way to measure and retest progress. For example, if you are working up to a 5 rep max on a bench press with good control and a few weeks later you “PR” letting it crash down to your chest, and bouncing it off, was it a true PR? Did you really get stronger? Sure you can move the weight, but were you able to own that weight and move it with the same control and purpose you once did. In order to test something, it must be accurately measurable and repeatable. For example, we can use the same exercise, with different tempo, and it will vastly change the outcome of the movement.

A Bench Press @31X1 – 5 reps is a totally different experience than the same movement @1011- 5 reps, because as reviewed earlier, one has a total TUT of 30sec and the other is 15sec. We can see comparing these directly is not the ideal way to test for strength, as the movement is no longer the same. So while it’s great to vary your tempo for several stress responses, it is best to — at least occasionally — test using the same Tempo to assure validity within the movement and the progress made.

Note: Try not to cheat yourself and count your seconds quickly, even if that means having to go lighter in weight. Putting your ego aside as mentioned earlier and going a little lighter while moving within the prescribed tempo count will be just as hard, if not more challenging than using heavier weight.

As a coach, almost every movement in my clients’ programming has its own tempo for purposes to individualize the dose response of the given movement in order to help them recover from past injuries while increasing their strength to keep them from it. Or, it’s about just getting others bigger and stronger by attacking weaknesses or teach control in order to overcome plateaus. If you are unsure about how to incorporate tempos into your program, find a coach who can provide individualized programming and can use tempos specifically for your needs. Coaches who commonly use tempo movements in their programming include Charles Poliquin, James Fitzgerald, and CJ Martin, and their writing may be a good source of research for your own understanding.

Move with purpose!

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

The post What Is Tempo Training, and How Can It Improve Your Strength Gains? appeared first on BarBend.