Jim "Smitty" Smith Strength and Conditioning Coach

Jim “Smitty” Smith
Full Transcript

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Kelly: [0:00:04] Hey everyone, I’m Dr. Kelly Starrett.

Juliet: [0:00:06] And I’m Juliet Starrett.

Kelly: [0:00:08] And you’re listening to The Ready State Podcast.


Juliet: [0:00:17] This episode of The Ready State Podcast is brought to you by Sleep.me.

Kelly: [0:00:20] I want to talk about the fact that I just took the honesty test.

Juliet: [0:00:24] What is the honesty test?

Kelly: [00:00:25] We’ve been sleeping with the Dock Pro, sleeping at the right temperature, modulating my bed temperature, for a minute now. We’ve been on this thing for a second. We were just traveling and I jumped into a hotel room and I didn’t realize, but my legs were on fire.

Juliet: [00:00:40] Yeah, I mean I don’t know what it is about your body because your upper body doesn’t seem to get that hot but your legs are like 1,000 degrees.

Kelly: [00:00:44] Hot legs. You see people have like, “I have restless leg syndrome.” I have fire leg syndrome.

Juliet: [00:00:48] Yeah, Kelly has hot leg syndrome.

Kelly: [00:00:48] Hot legs. I got so hot and I reminded myself, man, I actually woke up three or four times throwing the sheet off-

Juliet: [00:00:58] And sweating.

Kelly: [00:00:58] In just abject horror. Aagh. What it made me realize is how much it has changed my life, being able to cool the bed surface down. The Dock Pro has changed my life and I sleep so much better because I don’t overheat.

Juliet: [00:01:12] Yeah, I mean I really can’t emphasize this enough, Kelly is maybe the hottest sleeper in the known universe.

Kelly: [00:01:17] Hot.

Juliet: [00:01:17] And ever since we first found the original Chilipad way back in 2015-

Kelly: [00:01:22] Oh man.

Juliet: [00:01:22] It has really transformed Kelly’s sleep and his quality of sleep and just how long and deeply he’s sleeping because he’s not 100,000 degrees every night.

Kelly: [00:01:33] And then here I was again, I’m like, you know what, it’s fine, I’ll be fine without this thing. And then I went to one hotel room, fire legs. Fire legs.

Juliet: [00:01:38] And you were not fine. If you want to sleep cool like Kelly, head over to sleep.me/trs to learn more and save on the purchase of any new Cube or Dock Pro. That is sleep.me/trs to take advantage of our exclusive discount and be more like Kelly every day.

Kelly: [00:01:55] Do not sweat out your pillow.

Juliet: [00:01:57] This episode of The Ready State Podcast is brought to you by our friends at LMNT and one of the things that we love and use LMNT for is to make sure we stay hydrated around our prolific sauna use.

Kelly: [00:02:11] Look, we are lucky. I like to get hot. It’s been a really important practice in terms of hitting the brakes. But as you may or may not know, I am not the greatest at drinking water.

Juliet: [00:02:22] No. It’s not a natural thing.

Kelly: [00:02:23] And subsequently, sometimes I end up missing this opportunity to replace essential electrolytes after I’ve lost five pounds sweating in the sauna.

Juliet: [00:02:31] Yeah, and I mean now we have just trained ourselves to fill up a huge bottle of water with an LMNT in it and take it into the sauna. And I will say I’m someone who suffers from headaches if I don’t hydrate properly when I sauna and so I need to be super mindful of my hydration around my sauna use. And I’ve found that if I just drink a single LMNT while sitting in the sauna, I can avoid headaches and overall dehydration.

Kelly: [00:02:55] Not only that, but cold, cold-

Juliet: [00:02:58] Cold and delicious.

Kelly: [00:02:58] Tasty watermelon LMNT, man. I tell you what, it makes it a lot more pleasurable to suffer.

Juliet: [00:03:04] Right now, if you order through our link, you get a free sample pack with all of LMNT’s flavors. Go to drinklmnt.com/trs.

Juliet: [00:03:14] On this episode of The Ready State Podcast, we are pleased to welcome Jim Smith, aka Smitty.

Kelly: [00:03:20] Smitty is the owner of Diesel Strength and Conditioning. He’s dedicated his life to helping others fall in love with fitness and he is obsessed. He developed the Ageless Athlete protocol and he’s created a solution for all lifters and athletes who want to train pain free and reach their goals in and out of the gym. Smitty also co-created the best hands-on practical certification called the CPPS along with Joe DeFranco. And he’s been working with coaches and trainers and lifters all over the world for ages. He’s highly respected, a world renowned author and strength and conditioning coach, lecturer. He’s been doing this for a long time.

Juliet: [00:03:54] You know, one of the things I enjoyed learning about him so much was just what a lifelong student Smitty is.

Kelly: [00:04:01] Oh, he’s obsessed.

Juliet: [00:04:02] I think he is arguably one of the best coaches in the world with the best pocketful of knowledge. But that doesn’t stop him from always trying to take new certifications and learn from others and keep track of what’s going on. And he just is a sponge of information. And it was really cool to hear about that.

Kelly: [00:04:20] In the strength and conditioning world, he is a fan of coaches and is so ready to just point at excellence, point at what he loves, point at what works. And through that, I mean I think if you ask some of the best coaches in the world about Smitty, everyone just gushes about him. But his iteration and synthesis of what some people are doing and sort of integrating into a cogent whole, it’s really amazing. His new book, Ageless Athlete 5.0, he asked me to write the foreword. And it took me a second to read the whole thing and what I realized is, holy moly, I don’t think we were ready for this book 10 years ago. We weren’t sophisticated enough for it.

Juliet: [00:04:57] Well, hence Ageist Athlete 5.0. Anyway, I think you guys are going to really enjoy our conversation with Smitty. He is the nicest person and really fun to listen to.

Kelly: [00:05:05] And as our friend. Gabby Reece would say he is a G.

Juliet: [00:05:09] Smitty, welcome to The Ready State Podcast. And I’ll just get started by saying what’s the deal with the nickname Smitty? For those of you who don’t know, do you want to share your actual full name?

Smitty: [00:05:18] It’s Jim Smith. Just had the default Smitty nickname since I was a kid so I’ve just been running with it. It’s actually weird when someone calls me Jim because it’s very rare that I hear that.

Juliet: [00:05:31] This is a real departure but I went to law school 20 years ago and they still teach, or did, the full Socratic method, so you just learn everybody’s last name. And so anybody I went to law school with, their first name is their last name to me. I call my best friend Johnson. And there’s actually been a few times when I’ve been ready to introduce him to someone and his actual first name escapes me because his first name is Aaron but I don’t know him as that. So I imagine you have people around you who have no idea what your first name even is.

Kelly: [00:06:02] Smitty Smith.

Juliet: [00:06:03] Yeah, Smitty Smith. Anyway.

Smitty: [00:06:05] Yeah, very few people that do know my first name is Jim. Yes, I can relate.

Kelly: [00:06:12] All right, so Ready State listeners, I want to introduce you to Jim. Jim has been a feature in my life for as long as I’ve been a coach. Your collaboration with Joe DeFranco, your certification, the information you put out, your friendship, ours, goes back over 10 years now. You have been such a component to my development as a coach. Can you tell us where you are and what your day to day job is looking like now before we dive into all the fun stuff you’ve got going on?

Smitty: [00:06:45] Absolutely. I did want to preface everything with saying I do remember the first time I saw Mobility WOD and I actually went back and looked at the actual date so I could speak intelligently about it. But it was August 2010, Episode 1in the backyard.

Kelly: [00:07:06] Whoo. Sorry, everybody. 

Smitty: [00:07:07] A young man with beautiful hair and infectious smile. And I actually wanted to use that as a lesson because you were one of the very, very first and I had been in the industry for probably 11 or so years prior to that, but you were one of the very, very first fitness channels that blew up. And I boil it down to one thing: Not just the information was revolutionary, but it was consistent. The thing that made you different way back in 2010 was every single day there was content. Then again, it was bringing concepts into our daily practice that no one had ever seen before. But it was the consistency of it, I think that really set you apart back then because no one was doing it certainly at that level but also no one was doing it every single day. And that’s what made it stand out for me as a coach because that type of information was typically reserved for a seminar or a DVD or some type of academic book. But I wanted to give you props there. And that was when I first became aware of you. And ever since then, I was on a journey of trying to become your friend and ingratiate myself to you because you made such a big impact in the programs that I use with my athletes. 

But my day to day, like Kelly and Juliet said, I’m Jim Smith, I’ve been a strength coach since the late 1990s. It seems so ancient nowadays. But I transitioned. I typically back in the day were doing small groups of wrestlers in my area, football players, baseball guys and my transition to private online coaching and become more of an entrepreneur, if you will, in the online space as far as informational products. So what I’ve learned over the last 25 years in the industry but almost four decades in the gym have been to use not only my knowledge buy my experience. And I think that’s really where the rubber meets the road as far as what a good coach is. They’re not only relying on what they’ve obtained through books and DVDs and seminars and stuff. But it’s where they’ve applied it in the gym setting, gotten results, adjusted from there, controlled the results base and then moved in and progressed forward. So it’s really a combination of not only knowledge but that experience is what really sets apart the really good coaches. And I tried to bring that innovation of knowledge and experience into all the stuff I do online now.

Juliet: [00:09:58] Thank you for taking note of the consistency of the content back in 2010 because I think nowadays everybody’s posting so much on social media that it seems normal, right? It’s really common for everybody to just be posting, posting, posting. But it was, first of all, it almost broke us as humans.

Kelly: [00:10:17] Juliet at one point was the internet record holder for internet stretching video cinematography.

Juliet: [00:10:18] I was the videographer. Yeah. I was videoing all those. But anyway, thank you for acknowledging that. I had never thought of it in those terms because now you just take for granted that people are popping out content on a daily basis. But I think you’re right, it was super unusual back then, just the accessibility and the consistency. So thank you for that. And then in just describing what you’re doing today, I thought of 25 questions I want to ask you. But before we get there, I would love to just hear sort of the backstory of how you got into strength and conditioning in the first place. I did read that you grew up on a farm so I assume you were an athletic kid and you parlayed that into strength and conditioning. But if you could just give us the backstory of how you got into it in the first place. And also, what did that look like in the late 90s? If you’re a strength and conditioning coach in 1999, I think we can really envision a lot of that today, but it was really a different world back then. That’s sort of a two-part question but if you could answer that part. 

Smitty: [00:11:14] Yeah. Absolutely. Well, unfortunately, I was not athletic and I had absolutely no talent whatsoever. The only thing I have is grit, if you will. I’m very consistent and I’m very hardworking because I did grow up on a farm and I do understand that. I had my first job when I was 14, not only working on our farm but also working down the road at different farms. And then I got a job at a lumber yard. But I thought I was strong. And my journey in fitness is I was a farm kid so I was throwing around 50-pound hay bales, following behind the baler and picking up hay bales, putting them in the truck and taking them over to the bar when I was very young. And I thought I was strong.  And it was one day after high school where the wrestlers were in the hallway and there was no workout area or gym in the high school, they just brought all these pieces of equipment out in the hallway and all the wrestlers were training out there. And I was no talent and the smallest guy on the team, right? So I started wrestling in my freshman year and I was a 98 pounder in ninth grade. And when I graduated high school, I was actually a 125 pounder. So not much progress in four years.

But long story short, again I was the farm kid. I had farm strength. But when I started lifting weights I was super weak. And I got into fitness as part of being a wrestler but also my stepfather was jacked. He had a full barbell set out in the garage. And I remember being a young kid on the wrestling team jump roping to Zeppelin’s Cashmere out in the garage during the winter.

Kelly: [00:12:57] Sick.

Smitty: [00:12:59] During the wrestling season. And I just remember looking up to him and it was always something I wanted to emulate. I just loved training from the very first time I failed at a bench press in the hallway at the high school, I just loved training so much. I just loved training so much, how it made me feel. And I always looked up to my stepfather. When I got into college, I continued on to strength training, and it was right out to college where I actually went and got my first NFCA certification. That was the standard back then. 

And to your question, Juliet, what strength and conditioning looked like back then was tons of Westside Barbell stuff, tons of seminars where you would travel every weekend to go to a seminar or NSCA state clinic. I remember one of my first interactions with a coach that I look up to today, Buddy Morris, was at Pennsylvania State NSCA Clinic where he was talking about bands and chains. And I remember after his talk at this seminar, I went up and I waited in line with everybody else and that’s how it used to be done. And when it was my turn, I was like, “Can you tell me what it means when you use chains on the bar?” And he started explaining very simply accommodating resistance and all this stuff. And I was blown away because I came from a traditional bench squat, dead barbells only, very few dumbbells type situation in this rural Pennsylvania high school. And it just blew me away. And so what did I do? I went home, threw everything out, and put chains on everything I could find in the weight room. 

And I know you probably both remember, but Kelly maybe more, the original Westside website was deepsquatter.net. I don’t know if you remember that but that was one of the original informational sites. And this was right when Dave Tate branched off from Westside and started Elite. And his Q and A section was daily Q and A with some of the best powerlifters in the world. And then Louie had deepsquatter.net. And T-Nation was talking about [inaudible 00:15:01] and all this stuff early on. And that was my education. I remember early on traveling every weekend trying to go to every seminar, patting myself on the back. I’m very personable and I value relationships and I value loyalty. And back then, I was making friends with Dave Tate. I was on their Q and A staff. Alwyn Cosgrove, Jay Farrugia, all these amazing coaches that were really making a change back in the day. Eric Cressey when he came up in the early 2000s and Mike Robertson and all these guys. Kelly Starrett in 2010. Me standing on the shoulders of giants, it’s just been an evolution of my own journey as a coach from that small kid in the high school hallway to where I am today where I’d been through every iteration. 

I’ve done the Olympic weightlifting thing, I’ve done the med ball thing, the powerlifting thing, and the mobility thing, and the kettle bell thing. I did the RKC with Pavel before he left Dragon Door. all these experiences thankfully. I’m so grateful because I have this foundational knowledge and I have this information at my fingertips that I can really provide better value to all my clients and anyone that’s coming to me for help. But that’s my journey as a coach and where we are today on this wonderful podcast. 

Juliet: [00:16:28] I know Kelly has a couple follow up questions, I can tell, but before he gets to that, during this time, and I want to talk more about what you’re doing today and your online platform and podcast and all that. But at that time, in addition to obviously being a sponge to all things strength and conditioning as a human, which it’s obvious that you were and probably still are, but what are you actually doing? Are you coaching at college, at high schools, in gyms? What’s your day job? How are you actually making a living at this time?

Smitty: [00:17:00] Yeah. I transitioned to all online programming. Joe D and I run our certification, which is the CPPS, and I think to our credit, I believe it’s the most practical certification for trainers in the industry. Again, because I’ve done every other certification I know. certification, the amazing contribute The Ready State and Juliet and Kelly have given the industry, what makes The Ready State and the CPPS different is the application. So it’s important to understand the background and have all these fitness facts at your fingertips, but if you can’t apply it, you’re no good to anyone, right? So it’s the application of the information and the way we put it is every single client that comes to you for help is a puzzle and we’re trying to find the right puzzle pieces and we’re trying to find the right answers and we’re putting together this scenario and it’s really a discovery for each client, trying to figure out what they truly need to move better, to feel better, to perform better. And that takes an experienced coach. And that takes someone who knows the knowledge but also has applied it to so many different clients from so many different backgrounds with so many different issues. 

I think that’s why the practicality of our certification is so great. So we do the certification and we really market it to coaches, trainers, and lifters because this information isn’t just for the coaches and trainers to help their clients, it’s also for lifters who love training and they just want to train better and they want to train for longevity, they want to train without getting hurt, they want to get a training effect without harm, and that’s really the goal of any coach. But we also run individualized client programming through the TrainHeroic App. So we have hundreds of people that we transitioned from a membership site. I don’t know how much you want to go into the entrepreneur aspect. But membership sites, while they provide a repository of great information. You can put PDFs in there, you can have libraries of information. We’ve really lost that aspect of daily workouts. So it’s great to put in like a 12 week program into a membership site, but having an app where someone can pull it up, take it to the gym, most people are transitioning away from a physical journal and they prefer to have their workouts on an app. So we had the app thing. 

I do informational products. I have a series that I think kind of why we’re here today is the Ageless Athlete series, which is my pain free, joint friendly, longevity-based programming of where I’ve taken the information and knowledge I’ve gained over the last four decades in the gym of how to train around pain, if you will, or get a training effect when you’re not feeling that great. And I just came out with my latest iteration or edition of that series too. So basically, I’m online, I’m doing informational products, which recently have ranged from downloadable videos, e-books, our online workout app, and now the Ageless Athlete series.

Kelly: [00:20:16] You are so prolific. And one of the things that I appreciate you and your partner in this certification process, Joe D, is that you’ve always been transparent about working with athletes, typically. And one of the things that I think is confusing for modern people trying to get into health, they know they lift a weight, the reason why is often confusing. And sometimes I think CrossFit and some of that functional fitness has muddied the waters a little bit further. Of course, we’re CrossFitters, we’ve gotten people involved. But it’s almost like you only fitness and you train so you can train, so you can train, so you can train. It’s like you’re prepping your house and your deadlift’s never big enough and your engine’s never big enough and there’s little application towards that. 

One of the things that I appreciate about your coaching is that you came initially to strength and conditioning through the lens of, one, you were an athlete and exposed to this. And the reason you bench squatted and deadlifted and did those things was to become a better wrestler. And the old school, I’ll put it in quotation marks, old school, because it’s only the 90s, but that’s still old school, the repositories of that information were either Olympic lifters or power lifters. They were really the experts in barbell training. And they weren’t necessarily the experts in how to train for sports. It was sort of this interpretation of how do we take these powerlifting methods and actually train people whose job is not to powerlift but to play football or basketball. It’s taken us a second to sort that out. And I think one of the issues, and you experienced this, is that you had a really fit, durable kid, you, who could throw around sandbags, who looked crappy under a barbell, who was weak in the traditional terms. And I feel sometimes modern strength and conditioning makes people who are really good athletes, really good at sport, look bad sometimes because we codified and homogenized and we’ve become so precious about the gym. What do you think we’re getting wrong about strength and conditioning for athletes and what can we do better about strength and conditioning for people who are middle aged and want to feel better?

Juliet: [00:22:30] See how he just pointed at me?

Kelly: [00:22:32] I went like this. I went like this.

Juliet: [00:22:32] We’re the exact same age.

Kelly: [00:22:34] You’re older than me, woman.

Smitty: [00:22:36] Couple months, right?

Juliet: [00:22:37] Exactly. Exactly.

Smitty: [00:22:39] My wife is six months older and I never let her forget it.

Juliet: [00:22:43] Yeah, same, exactly the same for Kelly and I.

Smitty: [00:22:44] Yeah, so I’m going to answer your very good question with one word specificity. So training athletes, what most people don’t realize is everything we do in the gym, everything we do on the field is specific to the activity. And Verkhoshanksy has this principle of dynamic correspondence and he brought that out in the early super training texts. And people mostly use super training as a reference. They go in and they look around. I remember when I wrote my first tome, it was The Chaos Manual back in the early 2000’s, it was 500 pages. And I remember going through super training page by page and the principle of dynamic correspondence was revealed to me. And it basically says that just as a side note, Tom Myslinski, I don’t know if you remember him, but he used to work with Buddy Morris, he did a thesis that was made available for free on Elite and he talked about the dynamic correspondence. But basically Verkhoshansky said a movement is not truly functional unless it matches the duration of the movement, the intensity of the movement, it engages the same muscle groups at the same joint angles as the movement that you’re trying to develop. 

And it was just this awakening for me that the things that we do in the gym are truly GPP. They’re just general preparation. We’re building the base of the pyramid. The wider we build the base, the higher we can build the peak. And with athletes, we must understand that functional for them is playing their sport, engaging their practice, running sport specific drills. That’s truly functional. Now functional for a bodybuilder is Smith Machine Bench Press. So functional is specific to the athlete, functional is specific to the client, functional is specific to whatever you’re trying to do. So what Verkhoshansky said in Supertraining for Athletes can be applied to the mom and pop. They’re trying to move better, feel better, take their groceries in, in one trip, lift their kids, all those different things. to what I said before, we’re really on a path of discovery when they come to us to figure out what application of this general training will be functional to bring them to where they want to be. I think I answered that maybe.

Juliet: [00:25:09] No, you completely did. So I don’t know if you spent a lot of time working with kids, but you obviously are a very experienced strength and conditioning coach and when you were talking about general physical preparedness, what I see in youth sports and it’s just on our minds because we’ve got a couple of kid athletes who are in high school, is just this major misunderstanding amongst parents and it seems like a bunch of sport specific coaches about what strength and conditioning means. And I think from my perspective, not being a strength and conditioning coach but at least having been around it and owned a gym for a long time is most kids are, regardless of sport, need to get stronger and learn how to move better and care about their mechanics and practice their balance and stability and agility. There’s some basic things that I would put all under GPP. But where do you think we’ve lost our way, parents and coaches alike, in sports, thinking that, okay, our kids play water polo for example, that their conditioning should be this super squirrel water polo strength and conditioning when Kelly and I take the position, they’re all weak and maybe they should do a little more shoulder stuff because they’re a shoulder specific athlete. But by and large, they just need to get stronger, more agile, more fit, stronger. I don’t know. What’s your take on that and have you done any work with kids or what’s your general feeling?

Smitty: [00:26:30] I have worked with a lot of youth wrestlers and youth football players. I always like to give a shoutout to Ben Anderson, he’s one of our CPPS coaches that does a lot of work with youth athletics. But to your point, Juliet, youth sports unfortunately, I remember way back in the day I was approached by a mom when I was training a bunch of youth athletes, and she said that I want my kids to do the things I see on Instagram. And she was talking about battle ropes and tire flips and farmer’s walks and all these different things. And I look over at your child… I didn’t say that, it was more tactful. But they can’t even do a body weight squat. So to your point, young athletes need stability. They need to understand body awareness. They need more control in their movement. And the way we implement that is I’m going to give another shoutout to Kelly because again, he’s one of my mentors, but he talks about positions and shapes, but if they can’t hold a shape of a squat, how can I ever progress them to a different training means that requires more stability, that has multi planer or multi angle joint specificity or uncontrollable movement or chaotic movement or nonpatterned movement. The pattern and the positions drive stability. And it’s that stability we can work from. 

When we talk about creating midline stability, when we talk about positions, we talk about prone, supine, quadruped, half kneeling, standing, all these different positions because what do they drive? Midline alignment and midline stability. Once we understand that then we can start integrating movements of the extremities, we can challenge it with breathing, we can challenge it with strength training, we can challenge that midline stability with movement. That’s where we move from fundamental positions to fundamental movement because it’s that transition from positional strength, positional isometrics, positional joint integrity to then progressing the movements of the extremities. That’s really strength training, right? So we’re moving from that position to fundamental movement patterns, pushups, lunges, squats, hinging, hinging with neutral posture. 

All those things then progress us as you can see, it’s sort of earn your right to every single step. I earned my right to move from positions to movement. I earned my right to move from movement to strength training. It’s an earn your right progression to begin loading patterns because we all know once we add tension into the body, that’s when we can facilitate greater strength. So that’s a long winded answer to say that young athletes, in my opinion, need more stability. Once we give them that stability, then they could start demonstrating more strength and control and better integrity in their movement and their balance improves, their coordination improves, all that stuff. They don’t need battle ropes and tire flips and all that stuff. They need the basics. And once we progress from the basics, they’re going to demonstrate with their movement their ability to earn the right to the next phase of that pyramid that we’re building.

Juliet: [00:29:54] So just to tack onto that, our water polo daughter was recently described by one of her coaches as noodley.

Kelly: [00:30:02] She’s 14, she’s not 10. She’s working it out.

Juliet: [00:30:03] Kelly basically does a lot of overhead squatting with an empty barbell. I mean it’s just this really basic stuff that he’s just trying to denoodle her. There’s a more technical term as in stability, but exactly. I mean that’s what kids need.

Kelly: [00:30:20] Yeah, the basis is really coordination. Everyone thinks you need to be stronger, but you have to coordinate that, that organization as a child grows. Man, their coordination just gets trashed. I just saw a friend’s boss talk about the impacts of coordination on hypertrophy and that if you get someone too big too fast they don’t have a chance to integrate all those new forces. And the powerlifters out there will listen, if you’ve lost a bunch of weight, your movement changes. You don’t know how to coordinate your bench press all of a sudden. All your angles and leverages are off and your setup and everything’s different. 

Smitty: [00:30:53] You know, I have these awakening moments just from a flippant comment from people that I’ve met over the years. One of my good friends AJ Roberts, I visit him many times out to Westside, I can tell you many stories about me training at Westside. But AJ said this very poignant thing. He said, “Mass moves mass.” And to your point, I never forgot that because he said that when your cross sectional hypertrophy changes, your leverage changed, right? So imagine a powerlifter who’s changing weight classes, his leverage is changing. Not talking even changing out squat suit or whatever, but that’s a very true fact. Mass moves mass. And those bigger guys get bigger because it shortens their leverage, right? You should have the shorter leverage, you’re stronger. You’re moving the bar through a shorter range of motion. 

So all this stuff is interconnected. And that’s why I always say movement is so complex, it’s so complex. And we’re figuring it out. I almost cried the other day. One of my training partners out of the blue—I’m about to cry right now—just because I say this stuff all the time in my training group but we were not bench pressing, we were cable flies for chess. And I said, oh man, this feels really good. And he goes, “If it doesn’t feel good, we change the line of tension.” And I was like, oh my God. I’ve trained with this guy like 10 years and I just remember saying that a thousand times to him, but just for him to repeat that back to me, it was just such a moment because you’re changing people’s lives and I’m very close to him so for him to say that to me, it means he was listening. 

But strength training at its most basic level, and this is where the complexity begins to come in, strength training is all about facilitating lines of tension. And when someone cannot facilitate a line of tension, linking multiple muscle groups across multiple joint segments, then we have energy links. To Kelly’s point, we have positions of inhibition. We have what we call dead spots, right? So imagine we have a client who has real tight hip flexors, we ask them to do a split squat, they can’t go into that degree of hip extension, so there’s a dead spot there you’ll see when they’re doing a split squat, they’ll jump through a two to three inch range of motion because they can’t facilitate that deceleration and that quad contraction because their hip is extended and they don’t have that protentional. So there’s positions of inhibition. But strengths training is about lines of tension. 

And everything that I wrote about in The Ageless Athlete 5.0 book, we have to figure out what line of tension I can facilitate to help you perform this movement pattern without pain. And that’s really what I’ve got at in all the techniques in there, changing the angle of the bench and adding bands in this certain way or biasing a joint in a certain way. But I’m just trying to facilitate lines of tension. There’s been studies about even the smallest degree of inflammation inhibits muscular contraction, right? If you have swollen knees… I mean I know I’m preaching to the choir and you guys know all this, but VooDoo Bands and all these different things to facilitate blood flow and decrease swelling, that facilitates or potentiates greater muscular contraction. So you can cement greater ranges of motion, you can develop control in ranges of motion if you find a line of tension that helps them move with control. 

 Juliet: [0:34:27]  Hey Ready State listeners, if you like what you’re hearing, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes to help others find our show. We just want to take a minute to remind you about something we are super proud of and really looking forward to, which is the launch of our next book, Built to Move, on April 4. So just in a few weeks.

Kelly: [0:34:44] I think you described it best recently as a prequel to everything we’ve ever done, except we had to get through the canon, the trilogy, the epic, before we could even go back and write the prequel. This book solves so many problems for people about what is it I need to do day to day that isn’t training, isn’t some fat burning Keto diet, and it shows people how they can feel better in their bodies even if they don’t do a lot of diet and exercise.

Juliet: [0:35:10] Yeah and this book was really 10 or 15 years in the making and highlights the things that you and I actually do every day, day in and day out consistently, and I think that’s one of the things I’m the most proud of, is it’s a look into what we do every day that actually works for us.

Kelly: [0:35:27] We have created 10 physical and behavioral vital signs that are objective. You know above and below, and you can see how, as we’ve gotten more mature and maybe I dare say a little older, we realize we just don’t have infinite free time. We’ve got to figure out ways to help people engage in better, more healthy, durable behaviors in ways that make sense to them on the day to day.

Juliet: [0:35:48] If you want to learn more about our book, head over to builttomove.com and you can preorder a copy at your local bookstore or any online retailer. 

Kelly: [00:35:59] Ageless Athlete you’ve mentioned a few times. One of the reasons we’re having this talk is you just put out this new book, the most recent edition. What is your intention? What is an Ageless Athlete and who is this book for?

Juliet: [00:36:11] And also, did you say this is Ageless Athlete 5.0?

Smitty: [00:36:14] Yes. Yes ma’am.

Kelly: [00:36:14] Because when you write Ageless Athlete when you’re 25, it means different than when you’re 50.

Smitty: [00:36:21] The whole series started with another mentor. I’m just so fortunate and grateful to have all these great mentors along the way. Steve Maxwell, so Steve Maxwell is the first American black belt in jujitsu under the Gracies. He’s a longevity expert, he’s a mobility expert, he’s just been in the game. I’ve said I’ve been in the industry 25 years. He’s been in the industry 50 years. So he’s 70 years old, mobile, strong. He’s been in martial arts his whole life. He was an old wrestler, some of the things that I really connect with. But the original Ageless Athlete was a video series where Steve and I got together and we filmed our top joint friendly exercises for, again, the strength training movement patterns. Horizontal push, horizontal pull, quad dominant, hip dominant, vertical pull, all the strength training movement patterns. And we filmed this library, this arsenal of joint friendly exercises because our intent was to find a library of exercises that have the greatest potential to allow more people who kind of dinged up, shoulder issues, knee issues, hip issues, allow them to train better and without pain. And that led into Ageless Athlete 2.0. I have that original library of exercises. 

But I started putting structure. To Kelly’s point, I saw an Instagram post where he’s talking about The Supple Leopard and transitioning to Built to Move where he’s putting around the program. Again, the great coaches know that the structure is needed, one, for process, right? And if I have a process and I have structure, then there’s repeatability. It doesn’t matter if Kelly’s putting you through the session, I’m putting you through the session, Juliet’s putting you through the session, there’s structure and it’s a structure and it’s a system, then there’s repeatability. So I knew that I had to put structure around Ageless Athlete so that people could implement it in their own home gyms. 

To your question, Ageless Athlete is for everybody, even 18 year olds, because it’s going to teach you now, how to train the right way. It’s going to give you structure so that when you’re my age, you’re 50, and you’re still training, and you’re still trying to get after it, you know what you’re doing, you haven’t done the stupid mistakes that I have, you don’t have the separated shoulder and herniated lumbar disc that I have. You don’t have to make the same mistakes because you’re training at 18 as if you’re 50, if that makes sense. If you do that, you’re going to be able to train the rest of your life. So the goal of every edition of Ageless Athlete is can you enjoy training and getting after it in the gym for the rest of your life. And if you have structure, you’re on Built to Move, and you understand Kelly and Juliet’s structure and their philosophy and the Ageless Athlete, all these things are just working together because we care about you falling in love with fitness and staying in love with fitness for the rest of your life.

Juliet: [00:39:19] Can I just ask a technical question?

Smitty: [00:39:21] Sure.

Juliet: [00:39:22] The first edition of Ageless Athlete, was it like a VHS video series because if I’m getting the timeline right, it was definitely before the internet. And you said it was all video.

Smitty: [00:39:33] It was in 2006. It was a DVD series and then I-

Juliet: [00:39:36] Can you please send one to us?

Smitty: [00:39:39] Oh, of course. I’ll send you-

Juliet: [00:39:41] I’m just thinking we need it for our library. 

Smitty: [00:39:43] Yeah, absolutely. You would love it. I mean I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of it. But what’s really cool about Steve is he brings a lot of his martial arts training and a lot of things he’s learned globally. He’s been to gyms all over the world. Some of the nuances to how he breathes… One of the biggest things I’ve picked up recently from him, and we talk about breathing in our CPPS, we talk about breathing, I talk about breathing in Ageless Athlete, and I know Kelly does. One of the biggest things he brought to my attention recently was the fact that martial artists never hold their air. They sip their air in and out and they never use their air to create tension in the body. There’s tension there. They’re moving, they’re controlling, and I think you’re speaking specifically of jujitsu, but the air is never held. 

And one of the things that he showed me even way back to 2006, when he did a pullup, he was sipping air all the way up on the pullup, small air in and out, to the top of the pullup and the same thing on the way back. So he never held his air, which could be contraindicated if you’re doing a max effort lift or you go to Westside, Louie says keep your mouth shut. You don’t want to let your mouth open because you’re going to let that air out. But we’re speaking at two different ends of the spectrum here. We’re talking elite powerlifter versus longevity and thoughtfulness to the breathing aspect while you’re under tension, while you’re under duress. So that was one of the eye opening things recently because the breath is, I mean that could be a whole podcast in and of itself because there’s so many complexities to that and there’s so many variations. You have Wim Hof, you have apnea breathing, you have CO2 tolerance training, you have all these different… When you’re playing your sport, it’s the more reflexive, you’re doing powerlifting, you’re holding your air. There’s so many complexities to that that you can get lost in the weeds. But it’s like everything in the weight room and on the field, breathing is specific to what you’re doing.

Kelly: [00:41:43] Let me jump in and say one of I think the hallmarks and I had the great pleasure and honor of writing a foreword trying to explain Ageless Athlete, this version of Ageless Athlete. I can’t wait to see how the next person tries to introduce and explain the next edition of this masterpiece. It’s clear that you are so iterative. My experience with you are you are this open vessel who has this incredible experience but you’re always looking for how do these things relate, what aspect of this system helps me refine my thinking so that I can meet the person in front of me. So much specifically in fitness and training today, we see that people are very, it’s very like a culture war and that this is my kung fu, this is my dance style, this is my dance space. And do you think that young coaches have lost the ability to go… I mean Juliet for a long time was so supportive when I said, “I need to go train with this coach,” or “I need to go learn this,” And she’d be like, “All right, go down, sleep on their couch and work it out.” And the number of coaches that came to our gym over the 17 years, 16 years that we were open was really immense. And we would invite people in because we felt like there is value in all of these styles but the magic is in the synthesis and iteration. Why do you think you have been so good at being so open to so many modalities and not necessarily highly influenced by a certain type?

Smitty: [00:43:18] Well, first I want to say shoutout to Juliet and my wife because it doesn’t matter how many years I’m in the gym, women are infinite times stronger than any man I’ve ever met. So I’m going to throw that out there. So we’re wasting our time in the gym if want to ever catch up with any woman in our lives. So shoutout to you, Juliet, I can imagine-

Juliet: [00:43:39] Thank you, Smitty.

Smitty: [00:43:39] What Kelly has put you through unfortunately these many years. That was a joke.

Juliet: [00:43:45] It’s been a lot. No, again, totally kidding.

Kelly: [00:43:49] You’re not wrong.

Smitty: [00:43:49] So to answer your point, Kelly, it’s frame of reference. These young coaches have five years in. I’m 40 years in the gym, I’m 25 years as a coach. And I was hungry. I don’t even know the word. I was so starving for information because I didn’t come from much and I was always outwardly pushing towards something better. So I didn’t know what that meant. I just knew that I couldn’t stop. I came from being a farm kid so I knew hard work. So regardless of what happened, I knew pushing forward, hard work, keep your head down, always keep looking to the future. That’s been to my detriment because I can’t slow down. I can’t enjoy the moment. Because just because I’m done with Ageless 5 doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about Ageless 6. I can’t settle in because I’m always looking, again, with that mindset of it’s never enough. And that’s my personality, that’s my detriment. 

But me coming from that deficit has built me into someone who always has that white belt mentality. I’m always thinking about who can teach me. So we run the certification course but I learn from every single coach that comes in there because I’m asking them questions. How do you do it? How do you get your athletes better? How do you get your clients better? What are you doing with your clients that’s really working? I’m dying to know knowledge and I want to know because the more valuable information I can get, the more valuable my service is and the more people I can help. It’s just my mission. I’ve got to help more people. See, now I’m going to get emotional again. But it comes from sometimes the hardest workers in the room come from a deficit. And I’ve never been close minded, I’ve always wanted to learn, I wanted to get better. One of the things that I did well was early on I did throw everything out. Remember that story with Buddy Morris, I came in and threw chains on everything. But as I grew as a coach and as I got more confident because that confidence came from knowledge but also experience. The more experience I got, the more I knew my program was good. And I didn’t have to throw out the entire program. I could just tweak it a little bit. I could be a little bit more sophisticated with the warmups. I could have my clients do nasal only warmups, have them be more deliberate with their movements. When we got into the training session, I could put in fillers because I understood the nuances of individualized technique. But the warm up wasn’t quite enough, let’s put a little bit extra in here in between for active recovery so that their technique progressively improves. So those are just examples. 

But the younger coaches nowadays, they believe that the knowledge they have, they’re like what we call a bad coach, they believe that their program is the absolute best. I’m not putting anyone down, I’m just saying their frame of reference is too limited. They haven’t been in the gym for 40 years. So they’re going to tell me that they might have a 40 year old client and they’re forcing them to do a certain thing, I would say to them, experience has shown me many times what I have on the workout sheet for my 40 year old client is 90 percent not what we’re going to do after that client comes in and we begin assessing and watching her warm up because their current state of trainability changes day to day depending on how well they’ve slept, how much nutrition, did they go for a walk in the part with their grandkids, all these different things will feed forward. Because you know fatigue, recovery, all these different things and the things that work against recovery are cumulative. So we can only train as efficiently as we can recover and that’s really important to understand. 

So the young coaches, I hope, hopefully a few listen to this podcast and they understand that me as a coach, I’m still not done. I’m 25 years in learning as a coach and interacting with wonderful people like you and all these industry leaders. I’ve got to tell you, I’ve met all of them and I’m sure that some of them would say that I’m a good guy or whatever. But I know a lot of industry leaders, I’ve been in front of them, I’ve corresponded with them, they’re part of my network. Again, I’m very loyal and I have a good reputation. I hope that they can listen to what I’m saying now and understand that your journey as a coach is lifelong. I’m still learning. I still want to know. So if you’re not in it like that, you’re in the wrong industry. Me saying that I’m doing all my training online, I’m doing informational products, it’s been 25 years for me to get there, I was in the trenches, I was training clients, I was doing small groups, all those different things. You’re trying to go from zero to online. It’s the same way as young athletes trying to go from zero to overhead squats. There’s a progression there, there’s experience, there’s maturity, there’s things, milestones that you have to hit to progress forward until you get there. So I’m grateful for my training. 

Kelly: [00:48:55] Let me jump in and say one of the things that Juliet and I challenge a lot of people about is we always say, hey, you should go experience some other method of training or go take a yoga class or jump into a Pilates class. We even recommend this for our daughters. We’ll be up in the mountains and there was a Pilates class over the break and our girls have never done Pilates. We were like, “You should go do that; see how you do. See how well your software works.” And one of the things that I love about your own experience is you really jump in and be like, well, can I Olympic lift, can I swing kettlebells, can I? And as a coach, we love when coaches go and apply their learning and their own experience in a completely different environment. Can you understand the signposts? Can you understand what the goals are? Can you understand what the intention is? And going and having that experience as being a joiner and trying to understand and figure that out, it’s so valuable to your own ability as a coach. And as an athlete, there is so much to be gained by saying I’m going to test my fitness or my skillset in this kind of corollary piece. I love that.

Juliet: [00:50:01] Well, one of the questions that I had, and I love what an open minded sponge of a coach and human you are, and obviously someone who really values relationships, but it’s interesting to see how both your business and our business have transitioned to largely being online. We actually moved our 101 and 102 courses online before the pandemic so it wasn’t a function of that. We just sort of saw the writing on the wall. But I do remember this time period you were talking about between 2005, early CrossFit, like when I got my CrossFit certification, and then when we moved our courses online, which was like in the 2017 timeframe. This was this magical time I felt like in strength and conditioning where it was so emergent and there were literally seminars every weekend. And it wasn’t just strength and conditioning coaches taking them, it was anybody who was athletically minded and was doing a sport or CrossFit or weightlifting or whatever. And these things would be packed. I mean Kelly and me had a whole team of coaches traveling around the country teaching these seminars that would be sold out every weekend. And then on the off weekends, Kelly as a coach would also go on his own to all of these in person seminars. And I am sure obviously COVID was a big impact, but I actually saw that start to wane long before COVID, like a few years before COVID. And I guess I wanted to see your take on that because my take is it’s a bit of a loss for the community generally and the opportunities I think for young coaches are less because I don’t think there’s as many seminars because not as many people are going. It’s sort of compounding. But I just wanted to get your take on why do you think we contracted in terms of that because it really was a seminar attending heyday. 

Smitty: [00:51:44] So insightful. I think the broader picture would just be to say that the more we’re connected the less we’re connected. Social media has led people to believe that relationships are built online, when fortunately, and I’m grateful for this as well, that I had the opportunity to travel to all of these seminars. I mean to your point, I was traveling and networking and one of the biggest networking tools is the follow up. I think I went down to Virginia to see Kelly at Mobility WOD 101 or 100. It was at-

Kelly: [00:52:22 inaudible]

Smitty: [00:52:24] Yeah. And I followed up with him afterwards. When you meet someone and you’re developing these relationships, basically there’s nothing I could have gave Kelly but I’d just say if you ever need anything let me know and I really appreciate your hard work putting this course together. Those interpersonal relationships are so critical. I’ve seen this so many times. When I meet a coach nowadays, they don’t look you in the eye. Their persona online is this outgoing person where they’re very confident. But when you meet them in person, their head is down, they won’t shake your hand, they’re very quiet and reserved. That one-on-one interpersonal relationship and those connections and building relationships like that has been lost due to social media and due to the pandemic. We’re scared of one another, we’re fearful of one another, when we really should be coming together. That connection really has been lost and more so over the last three years or so. Once the pandemic ended and we started going back out into the world, we’ve lost the ability to connect with one another when it’s essentially the only thing that we have. 

It’s so critical to have these relationships, to let each other know that we’re there for them. There’s so much anxiety brought on by social media. I think about this all the time, with children, when they first get their first phone, it’s usually 10 or 12. It’s like, “Mom, I’m going to so and so’s house for a sleepover and I need a phone because if something happens, I’ve got to call you.” Whatever the transition. That’s how it worked for us. But whatever that transition is when they get their first phone. Then it’s beginning to worry about social media and DMs and all these different things. Especially with girls because I have three girls. It’s really, people think we’re more connected now but we’re less connected because we don’t have that interpersonal relationship. People don’t know how to talk with one another. If you meet someone and you’re trying to make an impression, you’re trying to let them know that you appreciate them, you look them in the eye, you shake their hand and you talk to them. We’ve lost that ability. And I’m not putting anyone down that they can’t do that. I’m just saying that’s a skill that is slowly getting lost because we don’t know how to relate to one another; we’re scared of one another.

Kelly: [00:54:43] Do you think that translates into how people are getting coached online because I’ve talked about this with John Welbourn and even our own program, the limitations of our program is I can’t see the person in front of me and make the small changes. I have to always program to the generalization and then hope that I can support or give them information to make those tweaks themselves. Being in with a person is always best.

Smitty: [00:55:12] Always.

Kelly: [00:55:12] People love to be at home and we think that’s very powerful. But if you can be with another person, you’re going to make the most progress. How do you manage that in teaching coaches, which I know is largely what you’re doing. How do you manage that in your own business, trying to keep that ability to meet the person in front of you in real time?

Smitty: [00:55:32] The best way I’ve found, I mean it’s worked for us, is video. So we have Zoom calls, we have three month check ins as far as technique, just constantly interacting. There’s adherence too. A lot of your higher end clients, it’s harder to scale. For example, we have hundreds of people on the app, so it’s more of a general application like you said. We kind of hedge our bets the best way we can with very comprehensive warmups, good fillers, things that cover 9/10ths of the bases. Looking at Yonda’s upper lower crossing. Most people have tight hip flexors, weak upper backs, tight pecks. We’re trying to go for that 99 percent rule and cover all of our bases. But scaling back, if you have more VIP clients, they’re more attentive, they’re more willing to send you videos, progress reports, physique updates, all those different things. So it’s hard to scale. And I empathize and I understand what you’re saying. But when we do our programming, and this is what sets our programming apart, I’m sure your programming is just as simple but sophisticated and we try to cover our bases and try to make the warmups very comprehensive. We try to talk about breathing aspects. We try to provide not only primary lifts but also joint friendly variations if the primary lift just doesn’t feel right. And we give them the opportunity to regulate and auto adjust according to how well they’re feeling.

Kelly: [00:57:05] Do you think you could have achieved that without having decades of working with people in front of us? Sometimes Juliet and I are like we know what we know because we’re constantly testing what we know with teams, with organizations, we owned a gym for 16 years. That’s tens of thousands of sessions where we get to… Now we can make those decisions, but we see a lot of people developing these programs and I’m like this program isn’t real, this isn’t real life because the person in front of you couldn’t possibly do this.

Smitty: [00:57:36] I see it every day. I see five sets of 20, four sets of… It’s so bad. Everything’s either barbell based, everything’s too much volume. It’s not sustainable. And these cookie cutter programs, to your point, are one of the reasons we are outliers. We have that experience to go along with the knowledge and that’s why, again, the program might seem simple from us but it’s very sophisticated in how we’re thinking about transitioning between exercises, thinking about movements that open up things that are super tight, movements that provide ranges of motion for very limited shoulder issues, hip issues, knee issues, ankle issues. For example, no one programs Cossack squats, but we know how important it is for the adductors to be long and strong, right?

Kelly: [00:58:26] No one does those Cossack squats because they’re terrible. Bulgarians and Cossacks, I tell you what. Bless you for programming those.

Smitty: [00:58:36] Let’s even run with that. So how do we get our guys to Cossack squat because you know and Juliet knows no one can do them right or no one has the potential to do them without blowing their groin out. So we give them band assistants, right? So if we take them outside the cage, we loop a band around the top of the cage or mid cage, we put it around their torso, now we can give them a deload for their own body weight and have them sit in positions. So a Starrett key or a Star is get in that position and move around, get in that position, create tension, because once we know we can create tension, we can own that position a little bit better. We can get into a better upright position while our hip is in deep hip flexion. We give them the ability to adjust it specific to their potential. If that doesn’t work, we can use band assistants and then holding the cage or band assistants holding a bench in front of them. There’s always a way to get it open. And then once we get it open, the idea is going back to the lines of tension, how can I facilitate tension into that joint position so that it’s not as troublesome the next time. And then we work on that consistently because you know and I know that mobility is transient. So my current state of trainability that I’ve unlocked with this amazing warmup and these amazing ranges of motion, movement, that I’ve created during this workout, aren’t going to be available to me tomorrow, okay, because it’s transient. And that’s why consistency is the key.

Kelly: [01:00:11] I don’t understand that. I squatted heavy last week, why do I have to squat heavy this week? It seems like people want to pretend like the body is so complex, and it is, infinitely complex, but the training movements are pretty simple. And regressing and progressing those basic movements are simple. If people want to progress their system, where can they follow you, where can they learn more about the CPPS, how can people start to understand a little bit more about the big brain of Jim Smith?

Smitty: [01:00:43] Very simple. My main site is dieselsc.com. Diesel strength conditioning, dieselsc.com. Or just go to Instagram and look up @smittydiesel. If you look in the link for Instagram, I’m going to put a special gift for The Ready State. It’ll be a follow along mobility routine that you can do at home with no equipment. And it’ll be free for you. Just because of the wonderful podcast today.

Juliet: [01:01:10] When and where can people purchase The Ageless Athlete 5.0?

Smitty: [01:01:14] The book is done, thankfully, and you guys are getting the very first copy. So that’s on the way. But the website, as you know as an online fitness entrepreneur, there’s so many moving pieces. I’m waiting on the website. I’m thinking within the next seven to fourteen days the website will be available. Agelessathletesc.com. So Ageless Athlete Strength Conditioning.com.

Juliet: [01:01:39] Okay, great, we will of course put links to both those things in the show notes and to your Instagram as well so everyone can go check out the mobility video.

Smitty: [01:01:46] Thank you so much.

Juliet: [01:01:47] That’s really generous. Thank you so much.

Kelly: [01:01:49] And before… I mean hopefully next time I’m in PA we can train together.

Smitty: [01:01:54] I mean it would be an honor.

Kelly: [01:01:56] It’s great to see you, my friend, thank you so much for spending time with us. 

Smitty: [01:0158] Thank you both. Juliet, great to meet you and I got to come out and see you guys.

Juliet: [01:02:03] Please. Anytime. Thank you again.

Smitty: [01:02:04] Thank you.


Kelly: [01:02:11] Thank you for listening to The Ready State Podcast. If you like what you’re hearing, check out all our episodes here or at thereadystate.com. And be sure to subscribe or leave a review on iTunes to help others find our show. 

Juliet: [01:02:22] Check us out and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @thereadystate.

Kelly: [01:02:27] Until next time, cheers everyone. 

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