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This episode is brought to you by Tunnel Tony A-L, I'm super excited about this one and I was skeptical of it in the beginning. Total quote, Total is the world's most intelligent home gym and personal trainer, end quote. That's the tagline from their website, folks, to give you the one sentence summary. And this device, it's really a system is perfect for anyone looking to take their home workouts to the next level or someone who just wants to get maximum bang for the buck.


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Optimal at this altitude I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I ask you a personal question now? It seems like to me I'm a cybernetic organism living tissue over middle and go to Paris, so. Hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs, this is Tim Ferriss, and welcome to another episode of the Tim Fair Show, where it is my job to interview an attempt to deconstruct world class performers of all different types from all different fields.


My guest today, Steffi Cohen, Steve Cohen on Instagram at Steffi Cohen. She is a 25 time world record holding power lifter and the first woman in the history of the sport to deadlift four point four times her body weight. We will see. We will give some examples of what that might mean. I weigh around 170 pounds. So that means I have to deadlift, I think, around seven hundred and forty eight pounds. I've got a ways to go, but we're not going to turn this into my therapy session just yet.


Steph is a doctor of physical therapy, author, podcasters and business owner, passionately educating people with her evidence based view on all things training and nutrition. She's the co-owner of Hybrid Performance Method, where hundreds of thousands of strength seekers go monthly to find progressive strength training and nutrition programs, plus tons of free articles and videos. Steph is a creative mind, loves collaborating with the hybrid team and partners to develop powerful, content inspired fashion and both fitness and nutrition tools for a stronger life.


Her new book is Back in Motion, which we will certainly talk about at one point. And you can find her all over the place. Website hybrid performance about the dotcom Instagram. If you want to be both impressed, astonished, maybe feel like you need to put in some more work. You can go to Instagram for Steffi Cohen again. That's STF. You can find her on YouTube easily. She has a podcast, Hybrid Unlimited. Steffy, welcome to the show.


Thank you so much, Tim. Thank you for having me. I'm super excited to be here.


I'm excited to have you on. I've been texting with some mutual friends of ours. I want to give credit where credit is due to Matt Vincent for initially suggesting that this happens. For those who don't know Matt, incredible athlete, Highland Games and beyond. Also an all around wacky, hilarious character who, despite being built like a grizzly bear, can also out mountain bike me over many, many hundreds of miles, which which really broke my spirit.


But that's a separate story. Is that so? That is so I was like, he's got to look like a bear on a tricycle. Definitely. I won't be in last place. He just had knee surgery and then smoked completely. Smoked me. Kelly Starret also. And I have an embarrassment of riches here in terms of questions for you, because I have done my homework, I believe, and there are an infinite number of directions we can go.


I thought we would start and I very rarely start biographically, but I think here could be interesting. At least it's my curiosity. Where were you born and what was your childhood like? I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, to South America. I was born. I'm a Venezuelan Jew, so I was born in a very traditional household. Most of my childhood, I spent playing soccer. I played soccer for the national Venezuelan soccer team, which sounds a lot more impressive than what it actually was like.


There was not a lot of funding from the government for professional sports back home. So we kind of played in dirt fields. We played in a in a field that was located at the military base, which was interesting. Traveling in the inner parts of the country was super eye-opening for me. Given that I come from a more kind of like sheltered family environment. You know, my dream with soccer was always to get into a D1 team or play professional soccer.


I really wanted to play professionally in any capacity. For a long time. I ended up moving to the states looking for a soccer scholarship, moved to San Diego. And I guess I don't know how far you want me to go there, but yeah, well, I that's where I come from. Yeah.


We're going to go pretty far with it. For those who have never been to Venezuela, you're actually the second Venezuelan born guest I've had on the show. The first is Jason Silva, who is definitely, you know, Venezuelan. And I would love to just hear you describe what your experience was like or rather the reasons for leaving Venezuela and at what age.


I don't have many memories of Venezuela as a, you know, peaceful, tranquil, friendly country. When I was already growing up, when I was ten, twelve, the country started getting pretty dangerous. There was a lot of political and economical unrest. There was a lot of divide between social classes. There was a lot of corruption, dictatorship disguised as a socialist government. Growing up there is very differently than anything in any other country, really, like talking about bulletproof cars.


I'm talking about bodyguards, talking about, you know, the fear of constant fear. Any time you get out of your house to either be kidnapped, either be shot, either be armed robbery or be, I don't know, take it into your house and getting everything stolen from you. So. So very kind of high stress, high alert way to live, and I guess when you don't know anything better, that just kind of becomes your norm, right?


When you grow up in an environment that's a certain way, you just grow up to accept that. That's just, I guess, how the world works so very sheltered you. You're always kind of spending time within the same groups with the same people going to and from the same places. Not really like socializing much outside of that you live in and your little kind of crystal ball, essentially. And at the time I think this was in nineteen ninety eight or twenty two.


I can't remember which one of those elections was when there was a civil war. Chavis, the president at that time didn't win the elections and there was this huge civil war. A ton of people died. And my my dad was in this, in the protest. I went to the protest. It was very graphic. It was very interesting. Time to live in very interesting experience as well.


And I guess that's when when that will happen. And I guess Chavez got back into into power somehow, even though he wasn't elected by the people at that time. It was very clear to me and my family that there was just not going to be anything that could save that country. Right. Like the wrong people are in power and the wrong people will seemingly continue to be in power. And there's nothing that anybody can do. So I actually was one of the first of kind of my circle of friends to venture out of the country and make the decision to move out of the country.


It was a time where, you know, people were still a little bit optimistic. There were elections coming up again. There were some things to look forward to. But my mom didn't want to take the risk. And she was actually the one that encouraged me to apply for a scholarship in the US and and to make the decision to move, which was very difficult, especially given that, you know, how I said that when you live in such a sheltered environment, stepping outside of that kind of comfort zone is terrifying.


It makes you feel really vulnerable and even afraid, I guess. So I was 17 when I moved out of Venezuela and it was tough because at that time, like I said, we were still optimistic that things could get better. So it almost felt like I was giving up on my country. I'm very patriotic about my country. So I'm assuming, like a lot of people are, when you grow up in a country, you develop emotions and sentiment towards the place that you grew up that gave you everything.


I felt like I was giving up on my country and felt bad for a little bit. But then the country just continued to trend downwards into what it is today, which is absolutely awful and 20 times worse than what it was when I left 10 years ago. Mm hmm.


Where did you land when you first moved to the U.S.? I landed in Miami is actually a funny story. I was so upset that my mom convinced me to move. And we were in the shuttle at the airport, at the Miami International Airport. And I was just crying hysterically, like, if you didn't know what was happening, you could have sworn that my mom was kidnapping me or something. I was so mad, maybe not mad at my mom, but mad at the situation, mad that I was forced to leave my country, mad that I had it all.


I was a really good soccer player.


I was the team captain of the national team. I had a name for myself there. And I just felt like I was forced out of my country and forced to start over. And it wasn't my decision. It wasn't the route that I really wanted to take. I wanted to stay there with my friends, with my family, with my soccer team. Yeah, come down a lot in Miami. And then I went to San Diego. That's where I wanted to initially.


I got into school.


San Diego, beautiful place. Let's flash forward just to not continue sequentially. So we're going to bounce back and forth. Can you please describe for people some of your records and what body weights those records were achieved?


So I guess I'll speak of the most monumental ones or the most historic ones. So I was the first woman to that lift, I guess, four times my body weight, first at a powerlifting competition. And that was I weighed one hundred and twenty pounds and I get lifted, I guess over four or five hundred. Then I beat that record weighing again. One hundred and twenty, one hundred and twenty three that lifted five hundred and forty five pounds.


You don't really know what your body is capable of until you actually do it. And there's a lot of kind of limitations that are placed upon yourself based on what other people are doing. And so I remember the first time I did the 400 pounds when I said I was going to Detlor. Five hundred pounds. Every one thought I was crazy, that it was impossible, that there's no way I could do it at that body weight. And then, look, magical things happen.


And and I trained really hard, obviously trained intelligently and was able to achieve things that no other woman had ever been capable of doing. And what's interesting to me, and I don't know if maybe there's a name for this phenomenon or something, but after I did that, there were several girls that were able to achieve that. And I found that Lifemark, as soon as people see that there's something that is humanly possible, it's almost like it gives them the strength or the it allows them to be able to chase those same goals.


Yeah, it's like Roger Bannister in the four minute mile. So you say exactly. Same story. Exactly.


And yeah, outside of that, I've I've broken, I guess, twenty five world records in powerlifting and three different weight classes. I've cut down all the way from one hundred and thirty five pounds all the way down to 114 broken squat deadlift and total world records. They're broken off your world records and won twenty three glass and then some in the one thirty two class. I have also the highest deadlift in that class as well.


What are your other lifts. What are some of your other personal bests. Personal records and so bench squat or any other left that you want to mention.


My best squat is five hundred and ten pounds at one hundred and twenty pounds. Body weight and bench to forty to one hundred and twenty as well.


I love it. I've been having this year so I may turn this into like a pro bono consulting session.


I'm forty three I've been having this year where like all of these injuries are cropping up and feeling like. I'm feeling like an older version of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, like dragging one leg behind me like some broken horse. And I love listening to these numbers and I'm like, you know, I'm sitting in a pretty tall building. I should just throw myself off, like, throw myself off the deck right now.


These are just insane numbers. Now, let me tilt the microscope a bit, because I want to ask you, and this might be a way of exploring some of these lifts and explaining what they mean to people. We know quite a few people in common. One of them, you're probably closer to him than I am. But he was in my last book, Trevor Mentors Edcon. Mm hmm. So, Edcon, could you describe for people who Edcon is and what what is most impressive about him to you?


I think this will be a way of then coming back to some of your achievements and approaches.


Man Ed is known as the greatest power lifter of all time. He he has that. He's earned the title. He's been given that title by pretty much everyone within the powerlifting community. And I think what separates him from everyone else is just how consistently he was able to show up and perform at his best throughout the year. So I don't know how many years he competed, maybe 20 years, which is crazy. Anyone who's ever attempted to get stronger, anyone of any person who's listening to this, just try training for more than two years.


When progress starts slowing down, when you start coming into the gym and feeling like crap and not able to perform your best, you start accumulating injuries. And, you know, it takes years for you to see even a five pound increment in any of it lifts just the amount of mental fortitude, mental strength that you have to have in order to just keep showing up and hoping that what you're doing is taking you closer to your goals, are pushing you in the right direction is is unbelievable.


You know, I've spoken to Ed extensively about his mindset and about what some of his training theories are in in his training methods. And he pretty much just said that he I asked him if he ever stopped making progress and he said no. He said any time my progress would slow down, I would go in and and really take a look at what areas of weaknesses I had. And I would tackle them with the same intensity that I tackle my own season or like the seasons where you're preparing for a powerlifting meet.


And he would repeat that over and over and over again. Obviously, look at is not from this world, man like that guy here.


But that is that is that is like the pot calling the kettle black a bit. I should also just say real quickly, no relation. You are Cohen and he is Edcon S.O.S, but he is an alien for sure.


Their resiliency his body has and his ability to just tolerate beating his body down with weights is remarkable. It really is. So he's a specimen.


I recall a few of the things he said to me when we were chatting, and one was that he would he would plan out his entire, I want to say, season or a year in advance, knowing with absolute certainty that he would be able to make every attempt. And I thought that was really thought provoking, considering that the way a lot of people train is they may not even take notes at all, but they go into the gym and decide what they're going to do.


Maybe they have some rough outline, but they don't have that type of programming it out in advance. He had a top down approach to training.


He kind of like reverse engineered his program. So he would say, OK, so if I want to deadlift seven hundred pounds, that means that I have to be able to deadlift seven or six fifty for three, which means that I have to do six twenty five for five. And then he would reverse engineer from there, which I think is really interesting.


So you and he seem to be how should I put this designed for obsessed with specialists in the deadlift. I mean Ed is known for like a camera with a lift was nine or two it to two hundred or 190 or something, something insane. And you have these aren't like. Multiples on your on your lived-in, you're just a human little little human female Venezuelan aunt.


And now there are many people who we should also take a moment just to explain the deadlift for people. So could you explain the deadlift, what that actually means, and then the competition that let's just say and then next, could you tell me what are some of the things that distinguish a person who trains? And I'm just going to leave weight classes out of this for a minute because it'll make it a little complex. But people who say train up to a deadlift, a four or five hundred pounds versus those people who get we could look at it as a multiple of body weight, but like someone who gets up to two X body weight versus someone who gets to three or four times body weight, like what are the differences and how they approach the deadlift, the debt lift?


There's not much to it. There's a bar on the floor and the goal is to pick it up until your legs, your knees and hips are locked out all the way. I think it's one of the most impressive feats of strength. And I think universally speaking, like a lot of people consider that the ultimate test of strength. That's why it's so celebrated. There's two methods of deadlifting. You can either have a conventional style of deadlift, which is with your hands outside of your feet.


And then there's the opposite, which is assuming that deadlift where your hands are inside or within your feet. And that's it as far as what the debt is.


Yeah. So for a visual for people, if you imagine, like you said, there is a loaded bar resting on the ground, so it has plates on either end, you walk up to it. If it's conventional stance then you're going to again, this is oversimplified, but have your feet just say roughly hip distance apart and you're going to almost squat down again. This is very simplified. And grab the bar with your your arms on the outside of your knees and the sumo stance.


Your feet are going to be turned out slightly. They'll be much further apart. And you'll almost look like you're doing a really wide plié from ballet when you go down to to grab the bar between your legs and hands under your shoulders, roughly in both cases. OK, so then we have all these folks doing God knows what, and eventually they muscle their way to maybe, maybe, maybe a two X deadlift. Right. But perhaps they're not approaching in a very organized way.


And then you have people who are able to do significantly more two and a half, three times, and then you get into the rarefied air of doing what you do. How do people make that leap, crossing the chasm to those higher weights? What are the things that are different?


I think the main thing has to do with its physics, with leverage. You know, if you see people, some people are really gifted when it comes to proportions. I think I'm one of them. I think that really makes a difference when it comes to being able to break that two, three, four, five times body weight. Mark, is is your leverage, is your your proportions.


There is a guy, I believe it's in the U.S., Bill, who and he has a really odd in terms of proportions looking body. He has a very short, extremely short torso and he has super long arms. And when he looks out the deadlift, it just seems like the barbell moves just a few inches off the ground.


And I'm pretty sure that guy's done five times body weight. I'm pretty sure you would have to start checking on that. Some people it's genetics, right? Some people can train so hard. Some people can train the exact same way as Edcon, maybe have him as a coach and never achieve half of what what he achieved there. Never, never lift a quarter of how much Ed lifted. And I think a big part of it is, is your proportions.


Your leverage is. And then when we get into genetics as well, muscle fiber type composition, your ability to learn new skills, etc., just to kind of draw a circle around the genetics.


Certainly you have genetics is a huge component, like you mentioned. I mean, you see a lot of championship bench pressors, at least in the men's category with who have a lot of girth. Right. And the distance the bar travels is a real factor. Right. So if you can put in a huge arch and also have a gigantic belly on you, then it can be very, very helpful and lift like the bench press or you have someone like Edcon who is five foot six.


But I've seen photographs of him putting his hand against the hands of NBA players and they have roughly the same sized hands, right? Huge. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So his ability to hold a standard size bar relative to his body weight is just going to give him incredible advantages. But yeah, I was just going to say, well, I want you to continue because I've had too much caffeine, but I, I'd love to I'd love to draw a circle around the genetics and recognize those for being as important as they are.


But then to talk about not the attributes which people can't mimic, like they're not going to get a muscle fiber transplant, but the some of the technologies and approaches and programming and. The methodologies that say you've used, I'd love to talk about, but what were you going to say? Yeah, I think that the more specialized, you know, people what's that saying? Hard work beats down when Thelen doesn't work hard. OK, that's saying I'm really bad at memorizing sayings and quotes, but you know what I mean.


I do. When it comes to powerlifting, you can want it all you want.


You can work as hard as you want. But because it's such a specialized sport, having the right attributes for the sport is even more important. So, for example, so you want to be a, I don't know, a football player. There's many positions within football that might be in line with what your current skills and abilities are. And you might actually be able to outwork your way into a pro team by gaining more speed, by being stronger, by being able to cut sharper by I don't know, you know, you can gain an advantage in so many different areas or categories within the skills that you need to succeed in football, whereas in powerlifting there's really not much.


You know, you either have the capability to get stronger or you don't know. You either have the proportions to be able to move the bar in the most efficient way or you don't.


True fact is kind of star, I would say. But let's. All right. Let me make this even more concrete. So a few years ago, I did a triple four seventy five or so on a Tretbar as a hex bar, depending on on what term people want to apply that at the time, at least training over, say, a six month or year long period doing mostly just pulls to the knees based on a program popularized by a sprint coach named Barry Ross.


That was basically my ceiling and I probably weighed one eighty at the time. So I'm not winning any any multiple awards, but I have very, very small hands. My proportions are not really built. I wouldn't say terribly well for the deadlift, but I also didn't have a coach. I didn't have any real eye to the detail of training for the deadlift. So if I came to you, I show up with like a hobo stick and a little satchel with my lunchbox at your gym and I'm just like, please save me.


Make me a better deadlift here.


How would you start? I would start by looking at your forearm, looking at your technique and seeing if there's anything there that I can improve, you know, things like bringing your feet with and maybe changing your hand position, improving the angle of your torso, maybe looking at your starting position, I would start there. And obviously, like programming is the biggest factor to look at as well. Just how whether or not you're implementing progressive overload into your training, how hard are you training?


Are you going to failure? There's many, many variables that we can look at.


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If you want to get into the training methodology portion of the question that you asked a little bit ago, yeah, let's let's get into it. Let's just start with one factor you threw out there.


Do you train to failure? Do you train to failure or do you train to failure? Often you do.


Yes. So I come from an Olympic weightlifting background. I trained most of my I guess I did Olympic weightlifting for about four years and it was mainly Bulgarian style lifting. I don't know if you're familiar with that, but that just involves daily Maxus is what you call daily Maxus.


So obviously the amount you can lift in a recession is going to vary based on just your nervous system readiness, how tired you are, how well you've recovered from the previous sessions. But ultimately what you're trying to do is lift as much as you can in any one particular session.


Was this started in Venezuela or in the U.S.? It was here.


So my Olympic weightlifting coach is Cuban and their training philosophies come from Eastern Europe as well. Camilo Camillia, Camilo Garcia year. That was kind of my initial introduction into strength training. I kind of like picked up certain things from that and also learned why they might not be the best. Essentially, people in Bulgaria, Russia, the system to find the best athletes is a little bit different than it is here. Basically, you know, they're they're putting a lot of people through extremely rigorous training.


And the people that you see succeed are very few. You know, I'm talking about zero point zero zero zero one percent of all the kids that they put through these training programs make it through. So it's like you either thrive under those conditions or you break.


But you know how we are buds training Navy SEALs. Yes.


So it works, but it's not it's not the best way. And I don't think that I don't think that a lot of people are built to withstand that amount of beating. The way that I kind of modified that, combined my experience with, I guess, my my academic training, which is I have a background in exercise physiology and I have my doctorate in physical therapy. I've been able to implement a little bit from protocol with what the science says.


So in terms of training to failure, there's there's a lot of controversy when it comes to what the minimal effective dose of training is. There's pretty much two separate camps, one that is all about accumulating volume, just doing very low, not very, but low load, high volume style training in hopes of sparing your body your tissues and decreasing your injury risk. And then there's the other one. That's the Bulgarian Russian that goes all the way to the other extreme, which is if your goal is to get stronger, then you have to train in a way that's conducive to the adaptations that you're trying to elicit.


Like if you're trying to get better at your one mile, you're trying to beat your one mile run, you're going to run one mile often. So same principle here. If you're trying to get a better one rimac squat, you got to be squatting to a daily max or a really high intensity often. And where my training philosophies fall is somewhere down the middle. And it's the same way with pretty much everything in my life. I try not to swing in one particular direction.


I try to stay unbiased and I try to kind of learn a little bit from everyone, from every from every camp and then apply it to myself and to the people that I coach. So as far as the way that I train and coach other people, it's a mix.


Can you give us an example of a competition training split for you? And then we can just walk through some of the what some of the workouts look like.


So in preparation for a competition, you essentially break down your training into four blocks.


You have your general, your GP, your general physical preparedness phase, where you're essentially just accumulating volume, improving just your aerobic capacity, your ability to do multiple reps. So this is a high volume phase.


Then you move into more specialized block where you start getting rid of all the fluff in your programs. You start decreasing the amount of cardio you do, the amount of exercise variability, and you start increasing the frequency of the main lifts. So you start squatting, benching and deadlifting more because those are the three lifts that are tested in competition. Then you go into the intensification phase, which is where you start increasing the intensity. So you start getting into the eighty five, ninety, ninety five, one hundred percent of the three main lifts and do nothing else other than that.


Maybe a little bit of core, a little bit of back just because you have to start focusing in hyperspectral, putting more into those three things that you're going to be tested on. Then you go through a two week period where you pretty much cut everything that you've been doing in half by 50 percent. And then you got your competition and it's. Because when you get here competition, it's like you're the strongest you've ever been, you know, after going through that process, but you're also the least human that you've ever been as well.


Like going up a flight of stairs is excruciatingly tiring, you know, because you're so specialized at that.


Yeah. You deconditioned in every other area, like you move like like you're made of tin foil, like you're made out of metal and a seriously awful shit. So there's that. Oh, yeah.


My friend Mark Bell, you may have met before. He's hilarious talking about that, going through his fat and skinny faces. And so when he's big and having trouble tying his shoes, it's really a high degree of specialization.


And then if you look at let's just take you could pick any of those phases. But let's just say maybe the intensification phase. What is a week of training look like? How are things spread out?


Personally, I like squatting two or three times per week, deadlifting one time per week and benching three to four times per week. So in the end, justification face, you're basically staying within nothing more than five reps. So I tend to when I'm squatting five reps. So, OK, let's make it easier. So say Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I'm squatting. I'm doing five reps and three reps, then two reps on those days. And so that reps go down, but the intensity goes up as the week goes by.


If I'm following that split, then I'll likely deadlift closer to my less intense squat day. So I'll likely live within the beginning of the week if I'm going to split it that way so that I'm I'm not so tired by the end of the week and can actually see what I'm capable of doing in the deadlift and then bench. I usually keep it a lot higher volume even during an intensification phase. I think that especially for a woman, because we I don't know what the phenomenon is, I actually want to get into that because I don't have an answer.


But something about the bench press and woman, we just make progress a lot slower. And I think in terms of absolute strength, we we rarely reach it so we can get away with pretty much anything we're doing higher volume, lower volume, more sets, more reps, whatever it is. And it doesn't seem to like impact the way that we recover from these sessions.


If we're looking at the whole picture, you've mentioned longevity in sport in the context of Edcon competing for some ungodly number of years. Twenty years, and how you contend with plateau's or very slow progress injuries. And certainly he's no stranger to injuries. And when you have a leg buckle under 900 pounds or a thousand pounds, I mean, things don't always you don't always just jog away from one of those. How has rehab or rehab been included or thought of as a component of your training and your.


I was athletic life in general.


I'm a little bit adverse to those terms because I think they're oftentimes used out of context and for their wrong purposes, especially by medical professionals, physical therapists, chiropractors. But I think it's like rehab. Rehab are essentially training. So it falls into periodization and falls into how are you organizing your training to make sure you're actually going through the appropriate phases to set you up to be able to withstand so that your tissues essentially can tolerate the amount of load that you're placing on them.


This is something that I actually love talking about is why do injuries happen? You know, most people think that they can prevent injuries through stretching or they can prevent injuries through doing rehab or corrective exercises.


And that's nothing more than someone trying to position themselves in a way that makes them seem like they know something that you don't, positioning themselves as if they're some sort of like I always say this, the Sherlock Holmes of of injuries, like they can pinpoint the exact area of weakness that you have that will lead to an injury. And that type of thinking is overly simplistic and it's outdated. You know, we like to think that we have the answers for everything.


And maybe that happens because humans want to know the exact cause of things. And then maybe health care practitioners feel pressured to have to give this very specific and concrete answers when in reality injuries are multifactorial and more often than not, identifying the exact source of an injury or why it happened or what tissue is injured is very, very difficult. The best way that I can explain this is injuries. Not most times always happen when the load that you're imparting on tissues exceed their tolerance.


So it's the way. I visualize it, it's a two part equation, we have load on one side, you have tolerance in one side. So it becomes about managing external forces and building internal tolerance to those forces. So when I talk about load, it's everything I spoke about how you organize your training, you know, whether you're going through the right faces and you're progressively increasing the amount of weight that you're lifting to allow your tissues to be able to withstand those forces that are on the same topic of load.


Say that you start having an area or a tissue that's that's starting to get irritated. How will you have to think about how are these forces being dispersed within your body? You know, maybe the way that you're lifting save up people have S.I. joint pain, S.I. joint. You just that's sacroiliac joint. Right. So if you just tell people where that is, if they were to locate it on their own bodies.


So you're sacredly a joint is pretty much on your hip. So if you if you were to put your hands on your hip with your thumb facing backwards, it's like essentially where your thumb ends up naturally when you put your hands on your waist, it's a it's a common area that gets hurt when you're lifting weights. But anyway, so what I'm saying is sometimes when that happens, it's also a matter of where are those forces being dispersed within your body and why is that one area taking up most of that load?


So a corrective exercise is essentially figuring out what exercises you can do that would spare the irritated tissue. That's what the corrective exercise is. And then as far as increasing the tolerance, then again, that just goes you got to reduce workload or modify workload so that your tissues can actually have time to repair from your previous training days and be able to continue repairing, healing and then doing it all over again. That is the essence of injuries. And anyone that tells you anything more complex or that tries to tell you that you're multifarious, is irritated or is inflamed or that your whatever, like people just get so, so caught up on just these details that matter very little when it comes to creating a plan of care for a patient.


Let's use let's use a real or hypothetical example. But have you battled with, say, Lobach injury or other injuries that we can use as a case study?


Yeah. Oh, my God. That is that's the that was my inspiration for writing my book.


If you could talk to what you have done following an injury and how it differs from what might be common approaches, I think that would be very helpful for people.


So I'll give you guys a little background on the type of injury I had and then I'll get into some of the things that I did to get out of it.


Essentially, I was in my first year of physical therapy school the first time that I had a seemingly career ending injury.


For some reason, we attach so much emotion to a low back injury. I'm assuming it's mostly cultural and societally based. It's just the fear surrounding back injuries that's been perpetuated by health care professionals and doctors based on many, many things that I actually talk about in my book. The first time I remember it was chronic in nature in the sense that it was just getting increasingly worse every training session and I guess any high level performer athlete would relate to this in the sense that you at the beginning, when you start experiencing aches and pains, you try to ignore them, try to convince yourself that is not as bad as it seems, and you just try to look for ways to continue training.


You think it's part of the game. You know, you think that no pain, no gain. These are all things that are so deeply ingrained in our beliefs as athletes that we have a hard time taking a step back because we're afraid of exposing our weaknesses or we're afraid of quitting, or we afraid of our coach thinking that we don't want it enough.


And so we just tend to ignore the signals that our body is sending us. So that's exactly what I did even. And what's funny is that even though I had a pretty solid understanding about the human body and injuries and how this all works, and even then I was just so it was in such denial of what I was experiencing that I just essentially kept increasing the amount of painkillers that I was taking and didn't change anything else. I kept showing up to training, kept training as hard as I was before.


I just started maybe tying my belt a little bit tighter. You're wearing my belt a little bit sooner and like I said, increasing the amount of painkillers I was taking and it was a recipe for disaster. I spent several months training in excruciating pain to the point where it started affecting my activities of daily living. You know, I was having a hard time putting my socks on and putting my shoes on. I remember waking up in the morning just so stiff, like I looked like I was one hundred and twenty years old.


I could. Barely move, I needed to have assistants doing many things, and what's crazy is that I still thought that it was normal. I'm like, I'm a power lifter. I'm expected to feel this way. And that just led to this one lift. One time I remember I unwrapped the bar. I was going for a three rep max personal best and I ontrack the bar. I felt kind of more wobbly than normal in my lower back.


I lowered the bar down and at the bottom of the lift, I just felt kind of like a like a snap on my back or kind of. Oh, yeah. Just something really wrong. So I tossed the bar onto the pins, fell down onto the floor and laid there for forty five minutes without being able to move, without being able to take my belt off. Nothing. Just completely just paralyzed by pain. And obviously, you know, at that point was I actually know you would think that I would take a step back then.


I actually took I think I took a week off and then went to to San Diego to compete in the biggest powerlifting competition of the year.


I actually stubborn. I know.


I called Ed when that happened and I called Mike Bell, called both of them, and I asked him what they would do. And I asked him if they've competed, injured, and they both said yes. So I was like, man, you know, if if they can do it, I can do it. Like there's I'm a week out of a competition. I got really hurt. But whatever, you know, I'll just I'll suck it up and then I'll rest afterwards kind of thing.


So I did it. I compete. It was the worst competition of my life. I bummed out and on international stage was pretty embarrassing. Bummed out means you did.


You didn't make your attempts. Exactly. Mm hmm.


And that was that was my wake up call, that that was the moment when I was like, OK, like, I, I actually have to do something. I have to do something to to fix this or to to get out of pain. And that's when my quest for figuring out Lobach injuries came in. I had obviously had access to a lot of seemingly great physical therapists, given that I was in a top ten nationwide program for physical therapy.


And I was able to ask for different opinions from a lot of people. And what was surprising to me was that I was constantly getting different answers. They didn't seem to have really anything in common. And it was just so evident to me that no one really knew what they were talking about, really. Like I would just get a different diagnosis every time I would go to talk to a different person. I got no consistency in terms of their responses.


So imagine that, right? Like I'm the patient in this case and I'm going to what I would consider kind of the most powerful figures of authority that I had access to professors that I look up to, professors that are PhDs that are doing research, maybe some that were biomechanics, some that are spine specialists. And still, I was now getting one. I wasn't getting any relief. And two, I wasn't again, I wasn't getting any consistency in their answers.


So that's when I started reading a ton about and obsessing about it to the point where I thought I should write a book to help clear up some of the confusion that not only clinicians are experiencing, but obviously patients. And I think part of that problem lies. And I'm lucky in the sense that I practice physical therapy in the non-traditional sense because I don't see patients. I spend most of my time reading research, which again is one part of of evidence based practice.


I guess I practice on myself and on people that are around me, most clinicians between patients and and paperwork and all the things that they have to do in a day. They don't really have time to dive into the research like I did. You know, this book took two years to write and we pretty much go back five thousand years to understand where our beliefs come from and how science has evolved and how brain science has impacted some of their recommendations and how it's changed over the years so that hopefully we can have a more unified approach when it comes to back rehab, essentially.


Well, I have a million questions and I want to make sure we offer some specifics to folks who may want to get some some tactical advice, realizing that you don't see patients. But I want to take this in a few different directions. So the the first is your experience with this injury, paralytic on the ground in pain. You compete, Bob, out? Certainly, I would say didn't do yourself any favors with the back by doing that.


What were some of the things, insights or training approaches that ended up really making a difference for you, especially with the LAC? Of diagnosis, because I think a lot of people listening or lack of consensus and diagnosis, right. So I'm looking at some notes from your book, which I don't think are verbatim, but they're really important, I think, just to underscore for folks. So there's there's one paragraph that really jumped out at me. And I'm just going to read this here.


Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability. In other words, you know, the ostler maximum three thousand years into an effort to unlock the mystery of pain continues to produce more noise and signal. There's still no discernible cause for back pain in 95 to 99 percent of cases. Yet it continues to be the leading cause of disability worldwide.


So this is a very depressing paragraph for a lot of people. But I want to break it into two pieces.


Number one is that when people say science proofs or studies show, you should always look at the source material because science or I should say more accurately, really good research and studies really just indicate the probability of something being true. And so you have to really understand that you cannot say definitively or you should be very cautious of saying definitively this proves this. You have a an inflamed sartorius muscle and that's referring to your left shoulder, which is causing your right testicle to swell, which is causing your right eye to hurt.


Right. But you hear that kind of shit all the time and it's like, wow, OK. I had no idea that that that cascade was so powerful and there are good Petey's and very good doctors out there.


But you should beware of complicating the profit. Right. Or if a medical professional is aware that you are shopping for a certain diagnosis, eventually you will find someone who is willing to give you the diagnosis that you think you have perceived to be very cautious, but breaking it into. So that's just overview comment on the limitations of what people consider science even when it comes to scientific research.


There's actually studies and I don't have the name of it here, but there's actually studies that prove that more often than not, the results of a study are likely incorrect or non generalizable.


So, yeah, that's the replication crisis. It's the ability to replicate studies and the outcomes of studies is abysmally difficult. Exactly, exactly. That's a whole separate thing.


Like, it's such a bummer. We need more money in funding replication studies, but there's so little career and status incentive for academics to focus their own personal resources on replication that we end up in this really gnarly situation. But let's jump to the second part, which is more personalized for a lot of people listening. That is, there's no discernable cause for back pain in ninety five to ninety nine percent of cases. So a lot of people listening to what you said and hearing that will say, well, fuck, if you can't figure out what's causing it, how can you possibly fix it?


Yeah. So then let's use that as a leaping point to what did you do that helped. What are the things that you ended up fighting really had a valuable bang for the buck.


So let's go back just briefly on our terminology, the words that we were using. So when you say let's do it, like what can we do to fix it? I don't like when people even when people say that because that implies that something's broken.


Yeah, no. Whip my ass into shape. I want you to tell me better words to use because like the words, you know, the limits of our words are the limits of our world.




So, like, strike that from the record. Yeah.


I would just say, how can we decrease your symptoms or how can we decrease your discomfort? There's nothing. OK, especially when it comes to, like I said, ninety five percent of those cases. You know, we're moving further away from the mechanistic views of the sources of back pain. So all this means is we come from a background where when it comes to the neurophysiology of pain, we used to tie the severity of the symptom to the amount of damage in our body and with the evolution of pain science, especially now that it's that it's kind of permeating more into the physical therapy realm and then and fitness and sports.


Now, we understand that pain isn't directly tied to tissue damage. So we essentially we're overly relying on diagnostic tests like the MRI or the x rays, because it's essentially it gives you a really good picture of what's inside, but it completely takes out of the equation the subjectivity of pain. So we know just based on research that based on studies that 37 percent of 20 year olds have asymptomatic degenerative diseases and discrimination's. Those numbers bump all the way up to eighty four point ninety four percent for people over 80 years old.


So it's just that what you see on the inside is a better way to look at it is as just wrinkles on the inside, things that happen naturally from aging. And we just start to detach the emotions that we have with, I guess, those images because they do. Don't really tell you much about what the person is experiencing. That was another line from the notes on your book that I highlighted, which is pain isn't a reliable sign of damage.


Exactly right. Which is very counterintuitive. Right. Because you cut your finger when you're cutting carrots with a knife and you're like, cut her pain cause effect and a story. But it's just not that simple. No, of course.


And like I said, look, there's there's two views. There's a mechanistic and then there's the pain science. So, again, I fall somewhere in the middle. I would never say that. There's no way that that nothing's going on underneath your skin. You know, I'm sure that there's there's some cases where there is an actual structure that's getting irritated that somehow got hurt, and that is the source of pain. But in 95 percent of cases, we really don't know what the source is.


And I don't think that should be discouraging. I think that should be encouraging because, you know, now you can relate your pain experience to most cases.


It's always good when you fall within the lines of the probability and not when you're outside.


That's when you're in trouble because you're a special case. You don't want to be a special case.


Well, you're right. You said you're in the middle. You're like the Goldilocks of powerlifting in pain science. You're always in the middle. So let's get into some specifics.


I think this is this is super fascinating. So we're not going to use Fixx. We're going to talk about decreasing symptoms of pain. Right. I think what you also said is that like, hey, if you're within one standard deviation of the middle, that's actually really good news. If if you're in the group that is 90 to 99 percent of cases having no discernible cause, that's actually not necessarily a bad thing. If you're like three, five sigma out and you're missing ten vertebra, then you really have a major issue going on.


Exactly. Let's talk about some of the actions you took or things you stopped that made a real difference for you in terms of this is an assessment.


It's something that you can do on your own is instead of focusing on what needs fixing or what is the failing structure, you can focus on things that are a lot more actionable in your assessment or your therapist or whoever is doing it for you or yourself and the things that I look at our first directional preference. So essentially what that means is, are you flexion or extension intolerant? So does it hurt when you bend forward or does it hurt when you bend backwards?


That's the first thing that you need to figure out. And you'll know.


And this is for overall back pain or lower back pain. What type of pain are we talking about? How does it present? This is more specific to low back pain, but it directional reference, it would literally apply to any injury. Does it hurt you? Bend your knee or when you extend your knee, does it hurt when you rotate your neck to the right or when you rotate your neck to the left? So it just kind of like your checking in with yourself to see what are the positions that increase your symptoms and where the positions that decrease your symptoms.


That's essentially all that it is. Then within direction.


There's also compression versus shear, especially when it comes to the low back. So compression, you can do an easy test just by sitting on a chair and you put your hands underneath the chair and you push yourself your your buttocks towards the chair, creating compression. So are you intolerant to compression or is it more shear? So bending forward, say, with a with a light object on your hands, farther away from your body, does that increase your pain?


More so just checking in with yourself to gain more understanding about the things that improve your pain or decrease your pain, then what are some of the postures that increase the painful sensations? Is it sitting down? Is it standing up? Is it walking a lot? Is it not walking a lot? Is it running or is it lifting? Is it you know what what are you doing in the day to day that exacerbates your symptoms? And finally figuring out what your current low tolerance is, especially if you're a lifter?


I guess this doesn't apply if you're not lifting, but if you are a lifter, you have to figure out what your margin of error is when it comes to your injury. You know, when or when do your symptoms start appearing? Is it 50 percent? Is it 60 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent? When do they start appearing and during the time where your symptoms seem to be heightened, then that's a good time for you to stay underneath that margin of error and stay underneath that pain threshold so you can essentially teach your body how to get out of pain.


Do you have an opinion of as another point of reference, healing back pain, the mind body connection by John Sarno.


Do you have any opinion of that book? Comes up a lot in conversations about back pain. Do you have any commentary? I actually haven't read it. I'll have to get back to you on that. OK, no problem. It's TBD. I just want to add sort of a small bit of commentary about pain because I, like a lot of people, is very mechanistic for the majority of my life. Something hurts. Something must be broken or torn or strained.


Let me find that problem and fix that problem and pain will disappear, and I had chronic, chronic severe pain in my left mid back and for many years, and I think it was initially caused by, you know, an acute incident, specifically a closet fell off a moving truck. And I caught the closet, which was like, I don't know, 100 plus pounds really large. And it twisted my torso to one side. It was a bad, bad injury.


But that pain then recurred for many, many years. And I did an experiment with and I'm not advising this to people listening, but so that I could speak to the experience intelligently from first hand experience, did a series of five ketamine infusions intravenously at one point. And the intention was not at all to look at chronic pain, but it is used for, in some cases, chronic pain. That didn't mean anything to me at the time because I hadn't done the reading and I came away from my experience past that week.


Overall, not feeling like I could recommend ketamine therapy outside of someone with acute suicidal ideation, where I think it does have real applications. But about a week later, I realized that my mid back pain had completely vanished and it did not come back. This is like a year and a half now and counting. And it just there are theories around ketamine's effects on NMDA receptors and so on that account for this. But it's thought to almost provide a like a hard reset for some of these pain pathways.


And again, I'm using terminology that I perhaps shouldn't, but like you can in some way paste over these ruts that have been created in terms of repetitive circuits that cause these experiences subjectively of pain. But the idea that I could have an infusion a couple of days and then walk away and have this pain just vanish, even though it is in the short term, an anesthetic was so mind blowing to me that there would be durability to that effect. So it's caused me to think about pain completely differently.


Yeah, that is super interesting.


I actually would love to read more about ketamine specifically for persistent pain, but it just goes to show just how powerful our brains are.


Like if you're experiencing persistent pain, our bodies adapt to literally anything. So it would make no sense that you have something broken or something that needs fixing for for two plus years, even for more than six months. It's already a stretch. So it just goes to show how and, you know, in your case, was that an infusion? But anything that breaks the pain cycle is positive in terms of delivering a more positive response to to pain, because essentially you start forming these habits that are tied to your experience with pain.


It's not more of a sensation anymore, is about the perception we have and the experiences that we have that literally alter the way that we feel and think and sense threat from the environment.


So we're talking about your assessment of the general parameters for doing an assessment. And, you know, I'm sitting here with a couple of injuries right now thinking about this, like my wrist and my left hip and all this, you know, sort of like, you know, ate an orange and went to bed and woke up with, like a neck injury kind of thing. I don't know what the hell's going on, but the point is we're talking about an assessment after an injury for people who are thinking to themselves, you know, I would like to make an investment in making my body more resilient so that the likelihood of having a back injury is lower.


Are there any recommendations that you would have for those people, any often neglected types of strengthening or anything really that that come to mind?


I mean, according to the literature, it's not so much strengthening. It's not either a stability thing. That's another whole that we can get into. But I mean, the best way, I guess, to prevent any injury back injuries is endurance.


So there's a bunch of studies done on construction workers and another form form of labor workers. And they determined essentially that the ones with the most basic endurance and they measured this via doing hold back extensions. So how long can you hold that back extension? So it's not necessarily for strength, but more so how long can you hold a certain posture and the duration for a duration? Yeah, so they determined that those with the most basic endurance where the most were the most resilient to back injuries.


And then it goes back to procession's postures and movements that you practice.


So a lot of people, for example, when people want to get into running, running is accessible to everyone. Right. You just put a pair of sneakers on and you go out and run. The thing that happens with that is that you didn't appropriately expose yourself to the mileage that you were going to do or that terrain. And so making sure that there's an appropriate and appropriate progression in what you're doing and you're practicing those specific movements, those are going to be the movements that are safe for you.


So there's also research studies done where you change the way that people lift things.


So, again, this was I think it was construction workers. Again, where have you seen how they lift like they have like their background it and they're picking up super heavy stuff in their form, quote unquote. Looks bad because we have this idea of what good form is versus what bad form is. That is totally arbitrary based on I don't know what who said they say people love to say. They say that's bad form. I don't know who they is.


But essentially, you know, these people have trained those positions, those postures, those movements that way for their entire life. Therefore, those are the positions that they are the strongest in. So when it comes to modifying the way that you left or the way that you pick up things are the way that you pick up your baby or the way you don't need to move like anyone else, you need to move like yourself. Whatever you've been doing for a long time that hasn't given you problems, then that's the way that you should continue moving.


Yeah, just a quick side note on the form of the Illuminati of the Internet who are like, that's bad for I remember. And again, I'm talking out my ass because I'm such a junior varsity tourist when it comes to any type of strength training. But I'm a fan of strength training. I try not to have too strong an opinion about anything. So I'm not qualified. But I remember the first time I saw I may be pronouncing his name incorrectly, but Constantines Konstantinov.


Yes, deadlifting roar with a rounded back set up. How crazy and right. And he has a rounded back set up for anybody. Everybody should look this guy up. He is fucking. I mean he's a superhero. It's unbelievable. No belt, no belt, no belt. And he's, he's just a complete beast and I don't know how much you can deadlift. It's just like four hundred and twenty plus kilos. I mean he's which is, you know, raw with that belt, but he sets up and he rounds his back.


And so you see that and you see him clearly as this like master technician of the deadlift. And they're all these millions of variations that he also uses in training. And you're like, OK, who's going to tell this guy that he's lifting incorrectly? No. Yeah. Because we have this this obsession with not rounding when we bend forward it again, one of those beliefs that have been perpetuated over the years coming from probably someone interpreting a research paper incorrectly, that is a very advanced deadlifting technique that he developed.


He skillfully developed throughout the years in order to make that decision, his strongest position and the least likely position for him to get hurt. Now, the obsession of keeping your back straight when you deadlift is kind of silly, because even when you can't observe that there's rounding in the lower back, your spinal segments are at about 60 to 70 percent inflection. Even when you're not seeing any flexion happening, when your back is in quote unquote neutral, your back is bent, your spinal segments are already they've changed in the angles that they're in there.


They're already flexing. So there's nothing necessarily inherently wrong with that. There's no instability going on because essentially what is stability? That that's funny. That is what got me into this whole topic. People talking about Lobach stability. You got to improve stability, stability, stability of the segments. That was something that was so hammered in our brains and physical therapy school that I had to go back and see what the whole what the fuss was about when it came to that.


But essentially, we need to understand the differences in concepts between stability and robustness when it comes to back pain so that we can understand essentially what the recommendations would be in terms of definitions, robustness. And I like to bring the analogy of comparing an oak tree to a willow tree. So in terms of robustness, is your ability to cope with disturbances in your environment.


So an oak tree will be a lot more robust than a willow tree when wind blows onto it versus stability is just the ability of a system to return to normal after a disturbance. So the notion that. Back pain or people who get hurt, that lifting or doing anything like stability is is unfounded because as biological beings, we have the capability to either up, regulate or down regulate the amount of tension that is in our muscles at any given time in proportion to the task that we are doing.


So the amount of stability that you need to lay on your couch is different than the amount of stability that you need when you're lifting something up. Not to mention it's difficult to measure, like no one knows how much stability you need or anything like that. So we are capable of strengthening and stabilizing any position as long as is the position that we're training. If that makes sense.


Yeah, that makes sense. Let me ask a question I think you're going to hate, if you don't mind, think you're going to be like this, this fucking guy. All right.


So I recall this must've been around twenty eight thousand nine. I was probably. For the sake of simplicity, say the fittest and the certainly the strongest that I've been in the last 10 years or so, and I felt very resilient, very robust in terms of injury prevention. I just did not get injured a lot despite doing a lot of training at the time. And it's so difficult, maybe impossible to say or identify single causes and effects. But nonetheless, I had at the time, I had quite a bit interaction with Gray Cook, who has the functional movement screen and so on.


And I was using Turkish get up single leg that left and chop and lift quite a bit. And so he uses the Turkish get up as a diagnostic tool. He also uses it as a corrective tool. Maybe that's the right way to phrase it. But I found that I found these exercises to be extremely helpful for kind of checking a lot of boxes at once in terms of like time invested and benefits. Are there any exercises or types of training that you would put in that bucket for yourself?


I think part of the reason why you experienced a positive what you had a positive experience with those movements by implementing them into your existing training has to do with movement variability. So what happens when we look at people who are hurt? One of the things that jumps out the most is the lack of movement options that they have, lack of movement variability. So they're more hurt that you are, the less movement options you have. So essentially you're expanding your movement vocabulary by incorporating movements that challenge you in different planes.


You know, your ability to resist forces that are coming different ways, you know, by holding a kettlebell in the overhead position, the chop that's working on the transverse plane, you're working on your your rotators, your spinal stabilizers. So I think the reason why that worked for you is essentially because you increased your movement vocabulary and you were giving your body more options for movement where it felt non-threatening and it felt safe. So almost any movement has the capability to do that.


And that's why I emphasize the importance of having a GPP, a general physical preparedness face to any program. And that's something that really gets lost in all specialized sports like powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting, is that people think they have to be doing squat bench and deadlift all the time and don't find time or don't find or ignore the fact that they have to include all movements in order to maintain their longevity and in order to kind of boost their own tissue tolerance and their ability to remain injury free.


It's true outside of powerlifting, too, right? I mean, if you take someone who has any type of repetitive movement, could be tennis. If you're just a recreational tennis player and sort of amateur, which almost every one is going to be, and you're like hitting in a very comfortable plane of motion with your forehand of backhand. And then you're you're limiting your exercise to that. And then one day of this heated scrimmage with a friend and you get thrown out of that normal plane of motion.


If you're not supplementing that with additional colors on the palette in the form of some type of general physical preparedness, then there's a decent chance you're going to get injured. Beautiful, right? Exactly.


And I say that with confidence because that's, I think, what just happened to me. But then but then that goes to show that that no one, you know, that there's no magic exercise. You know, I love talking about the big three. So for anyone who doesn't know, Stuart McGill is one of the most well known authors when it comes to low back pain and research. And a lot of people kind of put this through exercises on a pedestal and view him as this guru, because somehow the bird dog, the dead bug and the side plank became the best way to cure all back pain.


But and I'm thinking, well, although as I so the bird dog, I know people can look it up. We're not going to get into it. Side plank. I know. What is the what is the dead bug.


That sounds like something I'd be really good at.


So, so literally, I mean how you would encounter a dead bug when they're on their back and they're like flailing their arms in the air. That's what doing that bug looks like.


You just like stick your arms and legs straight up in the air while you're on your back. Yeah.


And so you alternate, you know, right arm back, let your left leg out and then alternate back and forth. OK, OK. Yeah. And that's that's the thing. Right. I like I always like to understand why.


So when I first learn about those movements I'm like, OK, I mean these provide me with relief. But why is it because these are some magical movements or what. What is going on here and that I think the assumption a lot of people make is that that improves core stability because they assume that that's the missing link and that's, again, that's dangerous because it goes back to perpetuating that fear that people have about their spines and it leads to people being extremely overprotective in their strategy.


So what actually happens with these three exercises, a dead bug, the bird dog and the side plank, is that the reason why they decrease pain symptoms is twofold. The first thing is you're essentially providing a positive movement experience.


Again, if you're having an acute bout of back pain or if or if you've been in pain for a while, it's about finding a position that doesn't increase your pain symptoms. And the other one is a very well documented phenomenon called exercise induced analgesia, which is basically, you know, when you're contracting a muscle asymmetrically, there is muscle spindles and kema receptors in within your muscle that send signals to the brain to down regulate the pain signal. So it provides you with a temporary reduction in pain symptoms.


So it's not that they're magical, it's just that they work based on these two mechanisms, not because they're improving stability, not because you're unstable and now you're stable, not because it's magical, but because of these reasons.


So same same with with those three movements that you were doing by Great Cook, you know, any any really good doctor I respect in the large group of doctors I've met, most of which I think are way over their skis in terms of the confidence, the the best doctors and the best scientists also will say something along the lines of 50 percent of what we know is wrong. We just don't know which 50 percent. Right. And that's especially true when trying to.


Identify mechanisms, right, most of the things, including many pharmaceuticals, work not because we understand how they work, but despite the fact that we don't really know how they work. I think that's also true with a lot of these exercises in terms of the effects that they seem to impart. Absolutely. Let me let me let me ask you a totally different question. And this is about visualization or motor imagery. OK, so I read in a muscle and fitness piece your description of visualization.


A lot of people will have heard this term before.


But let me let me just read this paragraph, because I want to zoom in on the second part of this and feel free to fact check this if it isn't accurate. But here's what it says. I'm pretty sure this is attributed to you. Visualization or what's called motor imagery is crucial. So when you're under the bar, you know exactly what to do. The more detail you go into, the better walking or driving to the gym, putting your shoes on the sounds, putting chalk on your hands, grabbing the bar, the smell of the iron, the feeling in your hands, and the successful execution of the lift in detail.


Now, this will sound familiar to a lot of folks, right? If they've ever watched the aerial skiers, the acrobats in the Winter Olympics preparing before a run or divers or really any high level athlete, they will recognize visualization of that type. And so on some level, then we continue to the second part of the quote from you, which is the second part, which I believe to be even more important, is visualizing a negative outcome. We don't want to plan for it, but we need to prepare for it so we know how to react.


Can you keep it together and try again or will you crumble under pressure? I've never read anything like this before.


Could you please elaborate and give an example of that second part, visualizing a negative outcome and how you use that? Yeah, absolutely.


You know, I think part of the way that we react to certain situations is related to how prepared we are for that situation.


And when it comes to negative outcomes, especially as athletes, we're told to always keep a positive attitude. We're always taught to think positively, to not think about anything going wrong. And I think that does a disservice because things are going to go wrong at one point or the other.


It doesn't matter what your winning streak is when you're a boxer and may fight or a power lifter, there's going to be a point where it's not going to go your way. And how you react to that is dependent on how prepared your to deal with that situation.


So I actually started working with a sports psychologist after I bumped out of that meat that we were talking about, because you start doubting yourself, you start doubting your ability to make lifts on a platform. Pressure starts setting in you. You have this all these expectations by other people, by yourself. And it really terrified me to go back on the platform after that happened. I was embarrassed.


I was really embarrassed. And instead of avoiding those thoughts, you know, that the thought of things going wrong was was what was in my mind every single day after that. Well, what if that happens to me again? And then I asked myself the question, well, what if that happens to me again? Like, how am I going to respond? Like, I should probably have a plan of, you know, what I'm going to do if that ever happens again.


So I started visualizing, like I said, negative outcomes. So I go I go through the same beginning of the visual imagery, starting from putting my singlet on, putting my shoes on. They call my name the bars loaded, go onto the platform. I say it's a squat, I squat and I miss OK, what am I going to do? And I just played with different scenarios of how I was going to react to a situation like that.


And what's interesting is that it would be some examples of how you might respond that you would visualize.


So how I've responded in the past was I've cried hysterically, terrified that I wasn't going to make my next attempt. I've been really angry. Assign the blame to someone else. Oh, it's my coach's fault for picking the wrong way or it's the judge's fault. It was actually a good lift. It's their fault for not seeing it.


They don't like me. The person who grabbed my knees. They don't know what they're doing on my left part of my knee was hurting me. I would just assign blame to something external to someone else and subsequently just have, you know, be upset or sad or angry or whatever it might be.


And so when you're visualizing these negative outcomes, are you visualizing those responses or different responses?


So I would practice I would practice going through different scenarios. And and when I arrived at one that I thought would be the best course of action, and that's what I stick to. And what's interesting is that the next time I competed was the same competition just the following year. And I got up there, I was more prepared than I had ever been. I had been doing sports psychology for an entire year. I took time off after my injury.


I was feeling strong. I was making a ton of progress, feeling confident, and I got up to a platform and I missed my first. What attempt, which is something that I could have done that I had done in training for five reps, so it's relatively light, like something that you can do for five reps is like you're eighty eighty five percent.


And I missed it on depth. So the judges from the side didn't think that my hip crease was below my knee. That's how they determine depth. And they gave me red lights. You know, previously I would have reacted to that very upset. I would have blamed them for not seeing the right thing or whatever. And I mean, I just totally brushed it off like I was I felt like I had been there a million times and, you know, and my my fiancee was there.


He's, like all worried about how I'm going to react, because in previous situations, I would have been very upset and it would have thrown me completely off my game. And instead I just kind of laughed it off. And it was like, I've been here before. I know exactly what to do. Don't worry.


What had you rehearsed for that situation that you landed on as far as your choice? Exactly.


That that I know what to do, that I trusted my capabilities, that I was prepared, that I had trained really well, that I was feeling strong.


I just kept repeating that to myself, that it was just a fluke, you know, that I'm going to go back in there, a back up there and and I'm going to crush the second attempt. What's funny is I went up for the second attempt and got related again.


So at that time, I mean, I was pretty much reliving my experience from the previous year, the US Open. And you get three shots. Three shots. Yeah. But same thing, I was totally calm, collected, I just didn't again, I did end my perception of that failure was completely different. I just thought of it as part of the game as something that happens that doesn't mean anything about my strength levels. It doesn't mean anything about my abilities as an athlete.


But what does determine what my abilities as an athlete are? How can I respond to unfortunate situations during training? How how fast can I pivot right? How fast can I adapt to the competition standards? Because judges are different every time, because they're different platforms are different. So the better athlete is the one that can adjust to those changes in competition standards the fastest. And so that's what I did.


So you left us with a cliffhanger. So you got red lights for two attempts. What happened for your third attempt on the squat and what happened for the lift or excuse me, for the meat?


Yeah. So I actually ended up going up in a weight, even though I had missed my first two attempts just because I was that sure that I that I could do it. Like, I just I knew it. I'd been there before in my mind. So I went up in weight and I ended up making it.


Were there any other particular tools or benefits or maybe tools that you brought with you after doing a year or roughly working a year with sports psychologist?


We worked a lot on especially being someone that's so open on social media. I felt like a lot of the pressure that I was feeling was imparted on me by just externally. But it's it's made up in my mind, right? It's like I felt like everyone was expecting something from me. So I guess it was just circling back what my way is. Why am I doing what I'm doing? What am I trying to prove? Is it for myself?


Is it for other people? And just always trying to circle back and remember why I started this journey and what does it mean to me? Yeah. And another thing, I guess was working on staying positive when you encounter bad training days because, you know, a lot of people see your Instagram or your YouTube videos, your training, and they think that you never have bad days, that you have some superhuman willpower and motivation.


The reality is that it's we all experience the same things. You know, we all go through days or weeks or months or years where we are completely unmotivated and we don't want to do certain things. So working on how to stay positive when things don't go your way, when training sucks, when you don't make progress, when you fail reps every session, when you feel like absolute crap, when 50 percent feels like one hundred and ten percent, how do you stay positive?


And how do you how are you able to show up to the gym the next day without, you know, without bringing that baggage from the previous session on to your to your next session? And a story that really resonated with me was and I forgot where I read this what book it was, but it was about a professional golfer that he would literally not admit to himself or the media or anyone that he had lost a game.


He would just totally erase that fact from his memory and just continue on as if nothing happened. And I started doing that. And honestly, my my training started going so much better once I was able to let go of my disappointment on a particular session. And once I stopped generalizing a bad outcome in a session to my entire block where I stopped thinking, overly thinking about what that meant in terms of who I am as an athlete or as a person.


You mentioned books, so I'm going to grab that. Are there any particular books that you've gifted the most to other people or recommended?


The obstacle is the way they are. And holiday holiday. Yeah, he's my neighbor. He's four minutes from where I'm sitting. Forty minutes from where I'm sitting right now that I love that book so much, man.


Yeah, it's excellent. Any others that come to mind. Yeah. Then I have with winning in mind, I've pretty much gifted that one to any high level athlete that I've been able to befriend. So I think it's just such a powerful lesson. I read it a long time ago, but it's a really amazing read.


And then Extreme Ownership by JoCo Chuco Willink and Extreme Ownership. If we go back to the second one, just because I didn't recognize it, what was the second title again with Winning in Mind by Carol Dweck, I believe, or.


No, no, it's not Koldyke.


Don't quote me. I like I said, I, I don't memorize things.


So with winning, with winning in mind the mental management system. Lanny Basham. Lanny, best accents. Yes.


Yeah. What do you like about that book? Carol Dweck is the one from Mindset. Yeah, pretty much the premise of the whole story is, is about how you manage your mind. Within your training, within your journey to. Stay positive and to continue doing what you love doing despite obstacles. That's the premise of the book.


I wouldn't be able to tell you details, but it really changed the way that I approached my training in the way I perceived ups and downs.




Yeah, I'm looking at it here.


It's short, but 162 pages. And I'll give a brief description for folks in the Olympic sport that is most dependent upon effective and precise mental management in parentheses, rifle shooting. Olympic gold medalist Lenny Bassem Abbas HCM proved he was the master. And then it goes on and on. That sounds like one to pick up.


Yeah, and it's short. So you're so most people will read it. Now, you said you don't memorize stuff and yet you have a doctorate in physical therapy.


And now that which, you know, one hand I think is you believed to have been a great investment of time. But my understanding is that you did not take the licensing exam. You didn't do what was expected of you afterwards. So why did you do it? Why do you go through it?


And how did you do it without memorizing?


You must have memorized a hell of a lot, and I forgot it immediately after I started my life. My brain is wired a little bit different than it really is. I'm a lot better at, like, critical thinking. I'm a lot better. I just like understanding a concept as a whole and then giving it my own twist and applying it to like real life situations. So when it comes to like hard core memorization, like, for example, memorizing exact ranges of motion of each joint or developmental stages in children, I'm not good at that.


Like, I couldn't tell you a single thing about any of that.


Makes me think this could be an apocryphal story about Henry Ford. I think it was. And someone asked him if he knew the vice president of blah, blah, blah or something like that, and he couldn't name the person. And this this other guest who had made fun of him was getting up on his high horse. And Ford was like, that's why I have a library. So I don't have to clutter my head with those details on the Internet.


Yeah. So why why did you.


Why did you pursue your deputy so initially I come from a family that values high level education a lot, know a family of lawyers and doctors, and I think that from a very early age, I guess I started associating the word success with a with a high degree, like a high level of education, either going to a medical school or at least at the very least getting a doctorate or a master's or something like that. So part of it, I think, was just pressure from my family initially.


And I guess personally, it's something that I also value, like the prestige of being able to say that you're a graduate from a top school and that you were able to complete a program that only one percent or less of the population gets into. That, to me, sounded amazing. And I love a challenge. So that was part of the reason. And the next part was anything that I get into. I want to make sure that I'm giving it my my best effort.


So if being in fitness, of being in strength and conditioning was my goal, if I wanted to be a trainer or whatever, it was the highest kind of degree or highest level of learning that I could do was was a doctorate degree. Physical therapy seemed like it would give me the tools to be the best trainer, the best coach, the best athlete that I could be. So that was part of the reason. Now, when I was in my first year of grad school, I started my own business.


But the whole time before I go there, so first year of grad school, I had already gone through one of my clinical rotations. And honestly, like, I just was having such I had a not a great experience in grad school.


Mainly because of how mainly because of the system. Right. Like I felt like. Or not, I felt I knew because I was able to prove it, that most of the information that was being thrown at us was extremely outdated. And pretty much the purpose of all of it was one to test to test your your commitment to the profession, like to test how bad you wanted it. Know you're taking, I don't know, something ridiculous, like six to eight classes a semester.


And there's just so much information that I didn't find applicable at all. And it was just so outdated and professors were so resistant to challenges. You know, I'd be that person sitting in the back row raising my hand and challenging, you know, something that the professors said factually or with a lot of confidence. And they wouldn't like that. They don't like when they're being questioned. They don't like when there's a student that doesn't believe what they're saying and and asks things that they don't know how to answer.


So there was a lot of a lot of resistance there, like within school with my professors. And then when it came to practice, when I went on to my first clinical rotation and was inexperienced, a little bit of what the general field of physical therapy is like, it just wasn't what I thought it was going to be. When you're in a big clinic, you're expected to see at least two patients at a time. I didn't feel like patients were receiving the best service or the best care at all because you're so all over the place having to do your notes and all of this.


And I remember this one experience I had with my first evaluation that I ever did. I was in the room. My patient and I do everything by the book. Right. So you have this steps, abcde steps that you have to do when you're taking a history and you're doing your exam, you're doing your evaluation, you're doing your follow up questions, then you do you're doing your special tests and then you give a diagnosis. So I went through all of it perfectly, did my special tests and got something that made no sense.


You know, like I got all positive tests or like three positive, one negative. That didn't make sense with any diagnosis that I had studied in my book. And I excuse myself for a second for the patient. I said, hey, I'll be right back. Go outside. I talked to my instructor, my supervisor, and I say, hey, man, you know, I did all these special tests. Nothing makes sense. I don't know what's wrong with this person's shoulder.


And he just says, well, make something up. Just give me my diagnosis. Any. And I was just so shocked. I was so shocked because I used to look up to him right as he was a mentor, he was a supervisor, he was an instructor.


And the fact that that was his answer and coupled with just the experience I had with my backbone and the lack of consistency and responses, just made it so evident that that school wasn't doing what I was supposed to do for people, that we were going into a practical field with no practical knowledge.


Essentially, we have a bunch of knowledge that is only useful for one thing, and that's to pass the licensure test. So that's why I didn't go that route.


Who are some of the people out there, if any, come to mind, who have a doctorate in physical therapy? Whose insights or work?


You track or admire who you think do good practical. Work, Greg Leaman is the first one that comes to mind. How do you spell that? Greg in Lehman e h m and he. Why do you say that? So he's a yeah, he's I think of the first degree he got was in chiropractic. So he went to school, study, get his chiropractic degree. Then he went on to studying, getting a doctorate in biomechanics, and then he went back to physical therapy school.


So he's done it in terms of breadth of experience and knowledge and different camps of thought. He has it all right. He has the perspective as a kid.


He has a perspective as a scientist, conducts research and biomechanics and understands the physics of the body and then physical therapy, which is more of a science of movement. So, I mean, his lectures are absolutely amazing. He's able to incorporate a little bit of everything into the way that he treats and has a really interesting perspective. I've I've actually had a few sessions with him. They're all they're all done over Zoome. I think he very rarely practices in person, very rarely puts his hands on anyone because he's been his whole thing is how can you deliver or how can you place the power on the patient instead of positioning yourself as a guru as like some someone that people say if you're the savior.




So it's about giving the power to the patient and it should be about patient self-reliance, about them building a sense of autonomy and self efficacy as early as possible instead of having them be overly reliant on you as a therapist. So most of my sessions were an hour, an hour and a half long, and there were long discussions about a lot of things because there's a lot of things that affect your perception of pain like we were saying.


So stress my environment, my coping strategies, perceptions on movements and all of these things like a great example is, for example, if you have a paper cut on your finger you like, how much importance are you going to place on that? You personally, but you probably put a Band-Aid on and move on and not think about it until it heals. And then the Band-Aid falls off and then you're fine. But a violin player gets a paper cut on their finger that they use to press on those strings.


And their response to pain and their association with that injury is going to be completely different to yours, because within the context and within his profession, that means a lot more to that person. So it's important. Going back to Greg, you please a lot of importance on those conversations, like what does an injury mean to you in the context of your life?


And he was smart. Yeah.


And it's just it's it's super, super interesting the way that he treats.


What have you changed your mind on in the last handful of years? Anything stand out there?


I love telling this story. When I was in college and I stopped playing soccer, I was kind of like on this quest to rediscovering myself and finding what the next thing was going to be. Same, same as far as what what profession I wanted to get into. You know, you're thrown in college and you're expected to know what you want to study. That's crazy. I think there's only a handful of people that know with absolute certainty what they want to be when they grow up.


You know, it's like you're plastic surgeons, like those kids were playing with surgical kits when they were three and just know that that's what they love and that's what they're passionate about or have been conditioned to think that that's what they want.


In a way, that was in my case, I had a very vague idea of where I wanted to be. I know I wanted to be a public figure. I knew I wanted to lecture. I wanted I knew I wanted to write a book. I knew I wanted to be a professional athlete. But I wasn't necessarily attached to any one route or any one path.


So for the longest time, I spent a long time in this discovery period or sampling period where I would get into something I would try it for sometimes for a long time, sometimes for a short time. And then I would quit and move on to the next thing. But it was strategic quitting just I didn't know it at the time. And the person I was dating at the time, my my ex boyfriend, he one time he's I remember I got a specialized bike because I wanted to get into triathlons and he criticized that a lot.


He said stuff. Why are you investing so much money into a bike when everything you try, you quit almost immediately, you're a quitter.


And that was shocking to me, especially coming from someone so close to me that he was calling me a quitter. And I just didn't I didn't identify myself as a quitter. I would feel like it was a complete opposite. I you know, I'm resilient. I'm persistent. I'm consistent not I'm not a quitter. But I was right, like within the classical definition of quitting. Yeah, I was I was trying a bunch of different things and quitting a bunch of things.


But like I said, it was more strategic than anything. I was just trying to trying to discover myself and what I'm good at.


And the way I think about it is there's kind of like in my head how I separated is there's three. Kind of components to finding something that you're good at. You have your your skills, your talents and your passions and what you're essentially trying to do is find the best balance of the three you shouldn't hope to. But again, you all of your eggs in one basket. It's not only about what you're passionate about, which is it's part of the worst advice that people can can give you is do what you love.


I couldn't disagree with that more because it's about finding that balance between your skills.


So it's your skills are something that you can work at that you can you see progress when you practice it. Your talents is an inherent ability. So something that you're born with, like, for example, I was born like physiologically to have the capability to get stronger. So that's a talent I have. That's something that you can't really teach. And then a passion is something that you're interested in. The funny thing is that when your skills and talents match up, you can start developing a passion for that because everyone likes to be successful.


So you can start developing a passion or a love for something that you didn't know you're passionate about just because you are you're you're standing out from the crowd.


So for me, that sampling period was so important because I was able to find stuff that I was really, really good at sports that I was really, really good at, in a profession that I was really, really good at, because I was curious, because the way that I think about things was scientific. And I was able to excel in those things because because I sampled. So the notion that winners never quit is just so flawed is such a fallacy.


And it does such a disservice to people because it discourages people from trying new things because they're afraid that they're they're not going to like it or they're going to be bad at it or they're afraid to fail. And the reality is that it's a good thing. It's a good thing, especially when you quit for the right reasons.


So what what are the right reasons to quitting is when you identify that there's like an upper limit for where you can get you know, you identify maybe something within yourself that you that you won't be able to overcome, that you just won't be able to be better than your competition versus quitting for the wrong reasons, which is quitting when you first encounter resistance. You know, that's cowardly because things are going to get tough at some point. You just got to know you just got to be very strategic.


Again, like I said, of when you're quitting and not being afraid to quit for those reasons. And I think I read this on I believe it's the Dip by Seth Godin, the sunk cost fallacy. So it's basically when you've invested some time or money into something, it kind of tricks you into not wanting to leave it because perceptually, you're like, oh, I spent all this time. It's what happened to me in school.


I think that's one of the reasons why I didn't quit was because I had already invested a year of my life in a year of tuition into that. And I was like, you know, I might as well stay. Obviously, there were other reasons for me to stay in and end up ended up being really positive for me. But that's what keeps people in jobs they hate. That's what keeps people from not taking a risk and starting their own business or not switching sports or careers or friendships or partners.


So winners never quit and quitters never win. False starts in the life experience of Steffi Cohen. And by the way, yeah, she's broken. Twenty five world record. So most of you, most of all can just shut the fuck up.


So yeah, although it does take a certain sensitivity and degree of refined perception and self-awareness to identify what you are good at and not trick yourself into thinking that you are just sampling when in fact you are stopping due to pain or discomfort or setbacks or plateaus. Right. So it does require a certain amount of reflection to go through that sampling period and then double down and triple down on a few areas or one area where you truly have an advantage that you can learn to love.


Yeah, it does take some awareness. Absolutely.


And and you make you'll make that poor decision sometimes. For example, I think I made the wrong decision when it came to soccer. The reason why I stopped playing soccer, I think wasn't the right one. If if if there's one thing I could change about my past would have been to to try harder. S soccer. Yeah, let's talk about something that popped up when I was texting with a few people who know you because you prompted me to ask about time management, whether it was all time well invested or not.


You completed your doctorate while training to break twenty five world records and simultaneously creating a successful business, which I think we haven't spent a whole lot of time on. But you have you have built and scaled business very successfully. So you're doing all of those things simultaneously, at least at one point in time. How do you think about time management or what are some of the key components to doing that much simultaneously?


What sacrifices are made or how would you encourage people to think about it?


Because that does seem to be unusual, the capacity to do that. I actually I love this question because I have a very nontraditional answer.


I think a lot of, quote unquote, high achievers or high performers have this seemingly very well constructed and organized weekly monthly yearly schedules where they're at, where everything's planned. They have like, you know, times where they do certain things and times where they don't, times where they whatever. Like, they're very they seem to be very organized. And for a long time, I try to be that way. Read things like the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and the four hour work week.


And I was all, yeah, burn that second one. Terrible advice. And I just felt so frustrated because I didn't feel like I was like everyone else. So to a certain extent I felt like I was an imposter. I'm a lazy, successful person. That's that's how I would feel. I'm pretending that I have all the habits of all these successful people when in reality I'm not like them. I do things very differently. You know, I don't do well with inflexible schedules.


I don't have an agenda that's all color coded and highlighted. I don't have morning a ritual. I really don't. I'm more of like a free spirit. I'm a procrastinator. I am unorganized.


My mind is all over the place. Oh, no. I mean, that having been said, it's not like you're just eating Cheetos and watching reruns of Seinfeld and, you know, smoke smoking out of a bong all day. No. To when you're getting a Deepti and the training and the successful business done at the same time.


So as a free spirit, how the hell does that how how does how does that get done?


Right. So, I mean, for the longest time, I tried to be like other people and I just found that it's just not it wasn't going to work for me. So the way I do things is I focus on the task at hand. So what do I need to do right now to either finish a project or to move in the right direction? And I do that and I site. I used to cycle it based on prioritizing. So for example, when while I was in physical therapy school, I knew that there would come weeks of increased workload when I was doing practicals or when I was doing or there was a thesis or there were midterms or final exams.


I knew those times were high stress and I knew that whether I liked it or not, I was going to have to spend extra time inside studying, which is why I actually built a home gym in my living room when I was in school in a second floor apartment.


It's probably not the smartest thing to do, but your neighbors downstairs loved you. They hated me, thought I was insane. But, yeah, you know, that's that's what I had to do. So when those times would come in, pressure was on with time to study. I would just come to terms with accept that training was going to take the back seat and hybrid in my business, were going to take the back seat for those two weeks while I focus on this one very important thing, which is staying in school, which was more difficult than it sounds because they had a very strict policy where if you got anything less than a seventy five percent on any test, you would get kicked out, which I did.


But so we're going to cut we're going to have to come back to this. OK, continue. So so, yeah, I just focused on the task at hand. If there were tests coming up, I would focus all my energy on that and I would train as much as I could. Whether it was a ten minute workout or a twenty minute workout, it didn't matter. And I didn't feel pressured to spend any more time at the gym because I knew that once, you know, once the midterms or finals were done, I was going to have more time.


And then when that was done, I would double down on my training and on my business. I would skip class. I would spend four or five hours at the gym. I would do double sessions when I had the time. So I just basically played it by ear. I did what I had to do when I had to do it, and somehow everything got done.


It sounds like to me, correct me if I'm wrong, but you're very good at single tasking, right? You're not multitasking. You're not doing seventeen different things at a given day. You are I. Edifying for the next two or four weeks or two months or four months, whatever it might be, what the most important thing is to move forward and then you just basically drop everything else and maybe not drop, but you focus almost all of your energy on that one thing.




You get kicked out of school. This is for getting less than seventy five on a test.


That was a horrific experience, let me tell you. So I've never I've never failed the test in my life, even though in college I wasn't that applied in high school. I was I wasn't that applied. I somehow always passed my test know I'm like a B plus student and somehow I failed this test of the silliest class ever. You know, that class that you think to yourself is such an easy test, I don't even have to study that was that was a type of class.


Yes, and I took my test, I disconnected completely, I went to Canada for Christmas with with Hadyn, with my fiancee, didn't think about school at all.


Then all of a sudden, I get back home two or three weeks later and there's a pile, a pile of letters from the head of the school. It had administrator of the school. And I'm like, oh, my God, it's not good. I open them up. And basically there was a first one that said, hey, you have seven days to submit an appeal. You failed. I think it was evaluation treatments and evaluation class with seventy four.


You have to submit an appeal in seven days, otherwise you're going to be dismissed from the program. And then there was letters like every day after that day saying, you know, we haven't heard from you. We're taking you out of the roster. We're taking you out of the class. We're kicking you out of the program because we didn't hear from you, essentially.


And that was the most terrifying moment of my life. I just felt like such a loser. I felt like I was, you know, getting kicked out of school. That's big. Anyway, you know, I made an appointment to speak with the head of admissions and to speak with the entire Committee of Academic Review. And they ended up giving me an appointment, giving me an opportunity to appeal. Given the circumstances, I didn't really know that they were trying to contact me.


I just kind of disconnected. I didn't expect to fail a test, I guess. And I sat down in a room with with I guess there were fifteen or twenty professors. It was a round table, huge round table. And I'm in the middle and pretty much, you know, I'm just being asked, why do I deserve a second chance? Why they should let me back in, why do I think I failed, why am I going to do different.


But the question or the statement I guess, that stood out to me the most was this one, professor. His name's Dr. Firebird, which, by the way, I love him now. And I think I love him more because he challenged me. I guess that's how I that's how I perform my best when there's a challenge, when people don't believe in me. So he stared at me right in the eye and he goes, Steph, I just think the problem here is that you're not as strong as a student as you think you are.


And I think you're going to have to make the decision between becoming a professional athlete or becoming a professional student. But I don't think you're capable of doing both.


And I just looked at him in the eyes and I said, Professor Fiber, with all due respect, I appreciate your your criticism, but I just I have to disagree with that statement. I think what happened was a fluke. I think I'm more than capable as a student. I think I'm more than capable to do both things. I just wasn't focused on on the right thing. I wish something happened with that test. I didn't focus enough, didn't study enough, but I think I'm capable of doing it.


And they ended up granting me a second chance. But from there on, that was my first second semester of grad school.


And from there on, I just my professors were all up in my ass basically for the until until I graduated because they just thought I was this rebel. I would I would get to school more often than not, late probably from training with a Bible in my hand, because I would train at noon as well.


So I would take the lunch break, the train.


You carried your barbell with my Bible Belt and don't call me a meathead. I'm just carrying my barbell around the class line. There's nothing to see.


Yeah. And meanwhile, my my spine professor would be like, you're going to break your back doing all those deadlifts.


You know, people thought I was crazy, but yeah, I made it. I didn't fail. A single more test for the entire three years was the most honestly the most stressful three years of my life. Just because I felt like getting kicked out was so imminent. I just felt like I was one slip away from being picked up.


I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I made it. But you made it.


You made it. And and much more. So let's let's do a few more questions and then we can we can bring round round one to close. I know we didn't get a chance to talk about diet. You're exceptionally expert in diet. So we have another chance to discuss that. We have a chance to talk about boxing. There's a lot there's a lot we could explore. We're not going have a chance to explore today. But let me ask you two things.


Aside from school and the failing of that test, do you have any favorite failures that you learned a lot from or that set you up for in some way later? Success could be also a dark period, but just any anything particularly challenging that comes to mind that in some way ended up helping you?


Yeah. So actually my favorite quote and this is the only quote I have memories is each fresh crisis is an opportunity in disguise. I can remember when I first read it, but it resonated with me so much because honestly, every single time I've failed at something, it's been the best, worst thing that has ever happened to me. It's opened so many doors and so many new opera. UNITIES, when you look for them, they're there, so I think every single time I've experienced any sort of failure, I've been able to get out of it better than ever.


I guess one of the most biggest ones was getting kicked out of school and just having to reframe how I thought about school and how I studied and my habits and how I organized my study and my training. But aside from that, I mean, there's many moving to the U.S. on my own, you know, starting with like a two point five GPA, not knowing if I was going to be able to stay in school, not understanding the language, having to take multiple steps back and several classes retake classes that led me to discover other passions.


Well, you're bottoming out in that competition probably somewhere. Yeah. Failed relationships, infidelity, issues with partners. That led me to kind of rediscover myself and change my perceptions on relationships and what kind of things I can do better to be a better partner. Friendships ending failed friendships failed. Relationships with my family, with my dad. That all ended up teaching me a ton. You know, I think that society glorifies happiness. Society glorifies, you know, being in a good mood and being happy and being positive and fails to acknowledge the important lessons that happen when you're going through dark periods of time, when you're going through tough times.


And so, I mean, those are so important. Look at the beginning of this year when the pandemic first started, I did my last powerlifting competition of this year in February, and my back pain got exacerbated a lot. I did a massive weight cut. I cut like 20 pounds in a period of two weeks. I broke some world records and then my back was flared up worse than ever. And it's upsetting. It's frustrating, especially after I wrote a book about back pain and I'm having a hard time managing it.


So I fell into this really deep depression because I felt like my identity was being stripped out of me, my identity as an athlete, my identity as a high level top performer, my my identity as an authority in academia when it comes to backflipping, when it comes to injuries, when it comes to strength training.


I felt like I didn't know what I was talking about anymore because I couldn't even figure it out for myself.


And you know, that couple that with with a pandemic, everything closing off, I felt like my life was just kind of spiraling downward out of control. I spent a couple of weeks like that just being feeling pity for myself, feeling really bad about the situation, about the cards that I was dealt about my back, about potentially not being able to lift again. I didn't know about the livelihood of my business. How is how is the pandemic going to impact my my income and all of these other things that just, you know, created an insurmountable amount of anxiety for me.


And I think when that passes, I think it's just it's part of the process to go through those a couple of weeks or a month. I do believe it's important to give yourself a time cap for how long you're going to feel bad for yourself, because otherwise you just end up stuck in that phase for way too long. So I remember just making the conscious decision to stop feeling bad about myself and about my situation and trying to to see the positive and the opportunities that lied within that.


So when it came to sports, I bought a heavy bag and I put it in my garage. And that led to Kareem, my new coach, reaching out to me and wanting to make me a pro fighter. That opened the possibility for me to get into a new sport. And then the pandemic closed the door for networking, for example. That was a big part of how I gained exposure. I traveled for podcasts. I lectured, I appeared on YouTube videos.


That was a big competitions were canceled.


So I initially was really worried about how that was going to impact my my ability to continue growing my business and growing my my social platform and I guess my personal brand.


So I doubled down on other things, like we created a whole series of master classes that were starting to offer created like five courses. We finished our coaches certification for Hybrid where we're writing a manuscript, a full textbook. We invested in our team. We found new software developers. We you know, we did so many good things for the business that I guess we wouldn't have done if everything stayed the same. And it ended up being everything was OK, you know, and I think it's that change of mindset, that change of trying to find the opportunities within what seems like the worst thing that could have ever happened to you.


And they're always there. It's just a matter of changing your attitude, your perception of what failure is and finding ways to see the beauty in that failure and what kind of opportunities present on the other side.


Each fresh crisis is an opportunity in disguise. Good advice. Good maxim for life in general. And fingers crossed for 20, 21. But no matter what transpires. Yeah, always. Always looking for the opportunity hidden in the crisis. Excellent advice stuff. This has been so much fun. People can find you all over the place. Hybrid performance by the dotcom Instagram at Stephy Cohon STF Isco H e and on YouTube you have your podcast Hybrid Unlimited. Is there anything else you would like to say or ask of the audience?


Any closing comments, anything at all that you'd like to share before we bring this first conversation to a close?


I think the only thing that I wasn't able to address because we kept getting sidetracked on on site stories was the summary of recommendations that you were asking me, like, what do you do when you have an injury, like step by step? Let me tell you quickly. Yeah, I'll do just one, two, three, four, five, six. Like the bullet points.


Lightning rod. Yes. So when you're hurt, these are the six things that you should be doing. Any injury, this applies to any injury. The first thing is stop doing what hurts. It seems like commonsensical, but at the same time is something that a lot of people drink themselves into thinking they don't need. That's definitely always the first step. So take a step back and not be afraid of taking some time off. You know, you take one step back to step forward kind of thing.


Don't underestimate isometric exercises or seemingly simple exercises because it's all about delivering positive movement experiences when you're in pain. So it's about finding movements that feel good to you and that don't exacerbate your pain, increasing the amount of aerobic activity that you do. So walking more, moving more. In general, there's a saying in P.T. that's I think overstated. But motion is lotion and that is true. You know, the more that you move, more blood flow goes into your joints, the better it is.


And the more you avoid that deconditioning loop, because what a lot of people tend to do when they're in pain is they stop moving altogether because they think that that's what they need. But bedrest and immobilisation is all outdated. You want to move as much as you can, essentially using pain to optimize your movement. So knowing so the way that I think about it is kind of like a stoplight, sort of three out of 10 of Phénomène go three to six means warning and over six means definitely don't do that.


So use pain to inform your training decisions and the movements that you do. Once you've done all of that, you got to turn off the pain alarm. So for a period of time, it's OK to avoid certain movements, but then you shouldn't be avoiding movements forever. So starting to expose yourself to tolerable ranges of motion, intolerable movements that don't make your pain worse so that you can get back to the movements that you used to do that, bring joy to your life.


And then understanding the final one is understanding that tissue adaptation takes time. So sometimes we're married to this very rigid healing times that we see on the Internet. We're like, OK, how long does it take for an elbow injury to heal? OK, two to four weeks and then four weeks go by and you're still in pain and you think something's wrong with you. But often times nothing's wrong with you. You just have different sensitivities to pain and different ways that we deal with it and different healing times.


And so just don't rush the process and understand that everyone experiences pain and injuries at a different speed.


And that's it.


The new book is Back in Motion Back Conversion. I've been very impressed with a lot of the writing and I can't wait to see what you do next, especially with boxing. I look forward to seeing the environment and I would not want to get punched by you. So I will remain on the sidelines clapping like a fan by. We've mentioned a couple of different options for people to find you. Are there any other places or resources you'd like to mention?


No, that's all covered, AMA. All right.


Well, Steph, thank you so much for taking the time today to be on the show. And to everyone listening, we will have links to all the topics, all the people, all the books, all the exercises and so on that came up today. You'll be able to find those as usual. I tuned up log forward slash podcast and until next time each fresh crisis is an opportunity in disguise. Keep it in mind, enjoy variability.


Pay attention to your GP and thanks for tuning in.


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