A blog by the Next Level  2013 Advancement Team.  

This blog provides the insight, in-jokes and inspiration of a team in action.  Each post is by a team member as their journey continues.  

In The Next Level, an "Advancement Team" is a team built of experienced athletes designed to "advance" the program.  The spring 2013 Advancement Team is comprised of eight men: Tom Keon, Phil Cohen, Stephen Cyr, Seth Carbonneau, Stephen Forgione. Phil Biondo, Yarza Winn and Chris Noonan.  

Each post represents only the views of it's poster, and is not intended as a reflection of the opinions, views or beliefs of any other teammate, the team as a whole or The Next Level.  

Follow these men as they make their marks on a small corner of history.


Maine StrongMan 6: Event #3


Sunday April 30th saw a return of The Beast, when Chris Noonan, Steve Cyr, Ryan Aruck and Tyler Rabin all competed, along with their resource mentor and teammate Seth Carbonneau, at the Maine StrongMan 6 in Augusta, MA.

The guys were flying through their classes and none of them came even close to the time limit.  As always, Seth Carbonneau was in top form with his 500lb. load – so fast we didn't even get all the video!

Chris Noonan was struggling for much of the day until this point, but his stable core not only made up for lost time, but also saved him on a couple potential stumbles under the weight of his 600 lb. yoke.  Proof that keeping a stable midsection allows you to keep the weight up.  The guys were allowed as many drops as possible, but Noonan refused to use the privilege, instead favoring time.

Ryan Aruck has come a long way with the yoke, and getting under 800 lbs. with no drops is proof of his progress over the past year, when he would occasionally destabilize under less weight.

Both Tyler Rabin and Stephen Cyr moved 500 lbs. quickly, both gliding in to a sliding stop which shows how much momentum they were able to create.  The rules state that any part of the yolk can cross the line for the event to be considered "completed," so often competitors take advantage of this privilege by allowing the apparatus to slide forward just as they reach the line – a proven trick to ensure you "made it."

Maine StrongMan 6: Event #2


Sunday April 30th saw a return of The Beast, when Chris Noonan, Steve Cyr, Ryan Aruck and Tyler Rabin all competed, along with their resource mentor and teammate Seth Carbonneau, at the Maine StrongMan 6 in Augusta, MA.

The second event of the day was the descending deadlift during a 60 second time limit.  The bar begins 18" off the ground, and very time the bar is lifted a level is removed, causing the next lift start from a lower level than the previous.  

All the guys simply kicked ass in this event, with some heat firing up between Seth and Tyler, who both had to pull 450 lbs.  

Seth's remarkable form was literally the object lesson of the concept of "retrieval."  His ability to drop a little form and return to it for assistance made his lifts look not only effortless, but even poetic.  (As if the admiration didn't show by how many photos we took!) I'm bummed we couldn't find a video of it – it was the very epitome of skilled heavy lifting.

Ryan is clearly the King of Hitch Form, and pulled his 575 lbs. with all the fire he is known for.

Tyler's own hitch-form skills also came to his assistance as he snuck in one extra lift just before the time ran out.

Noonan and Steve-O both set PR's on this event as well.  Noonan had never lifted 500 lbs. ever in his life – from ANY height – so even if he did not finish this event, he proved that strength is not always about sheer bulk.  Meanwhile, Steve proved that graduated practice makes perfect, as he was finally able to use his hip thrust to his full advantage.  Pulling 450 lbs. for consecutive reps was more weight than he has ever pulled over 60 seconds.  (Way to finally get that gigantic ass DOWN, Steve.)

Maine StrongMan 6: Event #1

Sunday April 30th saw a return of The Beast, when Chris Noonan, Steve Cyr, Ryan Aruck and Tyler Rabin all competed, along with their resource mentor and teammate Seth Carbonneau, at the Maine StrongMan 6 in Augusta, MA.

The first event was the press medley, which consisted of four lifts: an axle bar, a log, a keg and a circus dumbell.  All competitors had to execute two lifts with each implement, but could do them in any order, to allow them to mix and match towards their strongest talents.  As with so many events in StrongMan, they had 60 seconds to attempt completing the event.

Watch the blog for updates as the Advancement Team competes tomorrow!

Watch the Advancement Team's team blog page tomorrow, Saturday the 30th of March 2013, for posts about The Next Level's showing at the annual Maine StrongMan 6 contest.


We have a team of four Next Level athletes competing, along with a few PhysiQademy friends and resources.  We'll try to post here any updates, photos and clips from the event, as close to real time as possible.

Seth Carbonneau (Advancement '13)returns to competition after healing a broken foot.  (He probably got it from kicking so much ass!)  He is the outstanding team leader in StrongMan and we're excited to see how he does.  He enters with a slight cold, but we're sure his performance will be stellar.

Chris Noonan's (The Beast, Advancement '13) second contest of the year, and he is hoping to continue his placing streak.  He has, as always, brushed up on his form and his focus for this event is astounding.

Steve Cyr (The BeastAdvancement '13) is has been prepping for this event since January, and his winter has seen a string of PR's - personal record after personal record fell before him on his way here.  He is playing the numbers game, trying to stay at the top of his novice heat.

Ryan Aruck (The Beast, Advancement '13) is a monster of a man, nearing 300 lbs, and all brute force.  He has been maxing out for several months, in anticipation for the outrageously heavy Heavyweight Class of competitors.  What this man can do is amazing.

Tyler Rabin (The Beast) is already a veteran even though one of the youngest at every competition.  He has already eclipsed his weights for this contest, and is going in as his usual bundle of fire and enthusiasm.

We're excited to share their work successes with you!  Check back often on Saturday March 30th!


The poster for the event. Click here to go to the informational PDF.

The poster for the event.
Click here to go to the informational PDF.

On the last Saturday in March, the 30th, a pack of Next Level athletes and alumni will be in Augusta Maine for the Maine StrongMan 6.  

Seth Carbonneau (Advancement '13), Chris Noonan (The Beast, Advancement '13), Stephen Cyr (The Beast, Advancement '13), Tyler Rabin (The Beast), Phil Biondo (The Beast, Advancement '13), Ryan Aruck (The Beast) and Nick Cambi (Wolfpack) will all be entered in one of the Next Level network's largest presence at a strength event along with other friends and resources.

If you are in the area, take an afternoon in Maine and come see some amazing work! This is the first "big event" of our Next Level competitive season, and we expect it to be a tremendously kick-ass day!

Confidence vs. Cockiness in Strength and Physique Sports

I think everyone who lifts weights has moments when they impress themselves with the way they look in the mirror, or the amount of weight they are moving. When you set a goal and you realize that you're making progress it's a great feeling and we all deserve to have an air of confidence when that happens.

However, too often I observe or interact with people that either elevate this confidence to a point of cockiness, or are overly confident without any evident progress.

I know that everyone reading this can picture the people in the gym whom I am taking about.  Maybe it's that guy spending an entire workout in the squat rack doing curls, staring at his arms in the mirror and grunting to make certain that the entire gym is aware of his presence.  Perhaps it's that guy walking around giving everyone advice like he is an expert – even though he only does partial squats in the Smith Machine.  Maybe it's that woman with a tight body that only does cardio but claims she is getting ready for a figure competition which never seems to arrive.  Or maybe it's the guy using all the space in the gym because he thinks he is entitled to it – like because of his build he is somehow better than everyone else training. While these types exist at just about every gym, they also exist in perhaps greater numbers in competitive strength and physique sports.

When I competed in my first strongman competition three years ago I was impressed by the general attitude of the other competitors. While everyone seemed relatively confident, there were very few people who came across as cocky. Most of the competitors were willing to give advice to each other, as well as cheer each other on during events. At first I was completely taken back by this because I expected that since we compete as individuals it would be every man for himself. I started to realize two things; many of these competitors had been doing this for a while and they wanted to share their knowledge and get new people excited about the sport and also, since they had been competing for a while, they were confident in their abilities because they have been making progress.

Over the last three years I have noticed a steady increase in the number of cocky competitors in strongman. Competitors who feel self-entitled to win and act like they run the show. I have seen my fellow competitors cheer or get excited when their opponent bombs an event, or even if that opponent gets hurt and has to drop out of competition.

I think the influx of cocky competitors comes from the fact that strongman is gaining popularity very quickly as well as the fact that I am becoming one of the guys with more experience. I am very willing to give advice to my competition if they are new to an event or ask questions as long as the advice is appreciated. Yet unfortunately there are several competitors who will act like they are entitled to my advice and have no reciprocal appreciation. I try my best to avoid people like this because it can ruin a competition day – and really piss me off.  

Yet – as much as I don't want to say it – some overly-cocky competitors are also actually very strong competition. This is probably because, while they may have gained their confidence through gradual progress, they now express that confidence in an overtly self-congratulatory and offensive way.  Unfortunately for them, while these competitors do well on their own, they will probably miss out on useful advice from more advanced competitors because no one wants to offer advice to a cocky prick.

One of the things that particularly frustrates me about many cocky lifters is their unwillingness to heed the advice of others when in comes to lifting with correct form. For all movements, there are right and wrong ways to move the weight. The way "wrong" is generally defined in weight-lifting is that you are at increased risk of injury if you lift that way. Examples of this are rounding the back while deadlifting, trying to press something without both arms moving at an even speed, or leaning far forward while squatting. Most people who know better will try to correct the form of someone lifting wrong as a common courtesy.  But cocky lifters either don't want to hear it, or are too confident that they are lifting the correct way.  Look: if you are truly confident, you should be willing to take the advice of other lifters.

Ever since I started lifting I have tried to learn as much as possible from everyone around me because I realized early on that weight-lifting is a complicated sport littered with contradicting information and opinions. The importance of having an open mind and willingness to listen and learn in the field of strength and physique sports cannot be understated. Athletes that are overly confident and thus cocky are not only at risk for making less progress, but they are also at serious risk for injury. If you want to be a serious lifter, you have to heed this advice.

Lifting weights, being strong, or having big muscles doesn't automatically make you better than everyone else. You have to earn your confidence. Once you have earned confidence, don't let it control you.

You have to control your confidence if you want to be successful.

-Posted by Seth Carbonneau

Dynamic Pressing

Posted by Seth Carbonneau

This is called a "band basket" and can be set up on most squat racks. Basket two bands on either side of a bar, and add weight as desired. (But always try it out empty first because it feels completely different than when you're just using weight alone.)

It is important to start with smaller bands. In the video below I am using a mini-band and an extra-mini band. This is a great exercise to build maximal lock-out speed. The trick is to get under the bad as it's moving up as quickly as possible. As soon as the bar is at lockout, bring it down to your chest and press it as as quickly as possible.

Below is a video of the set up:

And this is how you press it, as demonstrated by my training partner, Gina Melnik:

(Yes, she is pregnant. Yes it is okay to lift weights while pregnant if you are experienced and let your doctor know.)

There are many rep-set schemes to try. I like keeping the weight the same and adding reps every week. I started with a weight I could do 8-10 very fast, no rest, reps with (85lbs) and did three sets with about a 2-3min rest between, after a few weeks I am up to 12-14 reps per set. In the past I have also gone a little heavier or used thicker bands and done 10 sets of 3 reps timed--each set should take less than 5 seconds, with a 30 second rest between each rep.

The Early Bird Gets Jacked

I get a lot of flack for training before or as the sun is rising. I don't see a need to defend myself, but I will explain why I subject myself to what seems like a terrible experiment to most. First let me say I haven't always been this way, I used to train after work, but then I met my training partner and decided to switch to mornings for camaraderie (I am glad I did because my training partner rocks). It took me several weeks to adapt to the early morning routine--but I did--and I realized that it has a lot of merit. Here's why:

  1. Avoid schedule and time constraints. It's hard to predict what the afternoon will bring. Sometimes work will keep you longer than expected, things come up, and schedules change throughout the day. Consistency is an important aspect to training, especially if your diet and caloric intake corresponds with certain workouts. If afternoon constraints can be an issue then the morning is a great alternative because chances are you have nothing to do but sleep in the morning (which you could be doing at night).

  2. Beat the crowds. Ever have to wait for a squat rack because someone is doing curls? The morning is the best time to avoid crowds, idiots, and mirror-muscle lifters.

  3. Low stress and higher energy. After a day of work stress can compile and whether you realize it or not it can effect your workout. Also, after you have been awake for at least 8 or more hours your energy level starts to decrease significantly, and energy is key in the gym. In the morning, after eating breakfast and warming up, energy levels are at their highest and stress is at it's lowest.

  4. Optimal hormone levels. Cortisol levels peak mid-day and are on a slope in the afternoon and the morning, so as far as cortisol goes, training time doesn't matter unless you train in the middle of the day. Testosterone levels are a different story. Testosterone peaks early in the morning and slowly drops off during the day, making the morning the best time to train. Glucagon levels are highest and insulin the lowest first thing in the morning after the body has been fasted overnight. Since the body has been deprived of insulin throughout the night, it has the highest response to insulin first thing in the morning. You're medium to high carb pre-workout meal (breakfast) will boost your insulin levels more than any other meal of the day and this will prime you for a great workout.

Like everything, there are drawbacks to training early in the morning. Nutrient timing can become tricky. You have to decide whether to up your carbs the night or day prior to training (which most people are uncomfortable with for fear of fat gain) or the entire day after training. I have personally found that upping carbs the day before is the trick to increasing my strength and endurance in a morning training session. While upping carbs the meal after working out, but not the entire day after working out helps with recovery. Do I gain more fat than the afternoon lifter because I up my carbs at night two or three times a week? Perhaps, but I am not sure. Another major drawback to training in the morning is that for most, it takes a while to wake up, eat, and warm-up at the gym, which subtracts more from your sleep. While going to the gym in the morning helps avoid scheduling constraints that might come up at the end of the day, it's also impossible to predict how well you are going to sleep. When I have a bad night sleep or something keeps me up later than I expected then I have to reschedule my gym day or go into work late (which I do not want to do very often). When it comes to hormone levels and beating crowds, it's hard to argue that there is a better time to go to the gym. Working out early may not be your cup of tea, but remember that the early bird gets jacked.

Posted by Seth Carbonneau

Alcohol before exercise

Someone sent me this article today (go read it then come back) hoping it would answer prayers to make the gym a more bearable place.

So, according to this alcohol reduces your risk of blood clotting while you work out, which is no surprise because it's a blood thinner just like aspirin and garlic.

What they fail to mention is that alcohol will certainly reduce your ability to work out efficiently. You need to have intensity and endurance when you workout and alcohol inhibits both of those processes.

I wish pop-science nutrition articles would discuss entire stories and not just catchy rhetoric. Perhaps you should eat a clove of garlic before the gym rather than going to the pub if your concerned about having a heart attack in the middle of you elliptical workout!

Posted by Seth Carbonneau

(In case the above link doesn't work:

2013: A year of variety?

posted by Seth Carbonneau

For the last three years my main objective in the gym was to increase my overall strength to be a more competitive strongman. I didn't have the luxury of training at a strongman gym on a daily basis, so I had to adapt my template to a "normal" gym. I figured that increasing my strength using a barbell would directly translate to strongman, so I used Jim Wendler's 5-3-1. I started with a strict 4-day-a-week template that looked like this:

Day 1: Bench Press 5-3-1 Incline DB bench 4x10 One-armed DB rows 4x10 Weighted dips 4x10 Conditioning

Day 2: Deadlift 5-3-1 Good mornings 4x10 Unilateral romanian DB deads 4x10 hanging leg raises 3x AMAP Conditioning

Day 3: Military Press 5-3-1 Pull-ups as many sets as needed to get to 50 reps DB clean and press 4x10 Face-pulls 4x10 Conditioning

Day 4: Back squat 5-3-1 Front squat 4x10 reverse lunges 4x10 Leg press 4x10 Conditioning

It took a couple cycles for me to adapt to this routine, then I started adding one strongman training day in at the end of the week for a Day 5. At first I would just train whatever strongman events I felt like training that week and I would always go for maxes and new PRs. It only took one cycle of this to realize that I was not increasing strength in any of my lifts and I felt warn-out all the time; I was overtraining.

With the help of my training partner we decided to modify the routine to make it a 3-day-a-week 5-3-1 template with a fourth day being a strong-man event day. We kept the same four days, but just shifted one of the days to the following week so that one week was Day1, Day2, Day3, strongman then the next week was Day4, Day1, Day2, strongman. This made one week have two upper-body days and one lower, and the other week have two lower-body days and one upper. On the two upper/one lower week I would focus on lower body strongman events, and on the two lower/one upper week I would focus on upper body strongman. The one caveat to this routine is that strongman events are intrinsically full-body so it's hard to separate upper and lower body movements. I attempted to separate them into the two categories as best I could:

Upper body:

Log Press Axil Press Circus or giant DB Press Viking Press DB holds Farmers Walks Tire flips

Lower Body:

Yoke Stones Axil deadlift Tire Deadlift Car Deadlift Sled drags/pulls Conan's Wheel

I chose the events I wanted to focus on based on which events were in up-coming contests, otherwise I just had fun and did the events I felt like doing. The first few weeks of this routine were a little rough and I almost felt like I was overtraining, but I had a deal with myself that I would give it at least two cycles before I changed it. After a few weeks I think my central nervous system started to adapt to some extent, then after I came back from my first de-load week and started cycle two, I felt much better and I could tell the routine was doing just what I had intended it would do--increase strength. Overall, I gained a serious amount of strength doing this routine and most weeks I never felt like a overtrained (the exceptions seemed to be weeks when I deadlifted twice, or did a heavy yoke). Here's a few examples of my PR changes:

Squat: 275 to 365 Deadlift: 340 to 460 Log press: 190 to 230 Farmers walks: 200 for 100ft to 250 for 100ft

I did this routine for about 5 months before I started seeing diminishing returns. Rather than just decrease my 1RM and start the program over again, I decided that it was a rough routine to continue for a long period of time and strongman season was over so I would try something new for a little while. This routine was obviously great for helping me reach my goal of increasing strength, but it lacked variety because it was strict and didn't allow development of other important aspects of strongman. I am currently trying to incorporate plyometrics, isometrics, speed-lifting, and conditioning into my training while still keeping a strict routine. I am finding this task difficult and wonder if having a strict routine is necessary. Since I have always had a strict routine and don't know any better, perhaps I would benefit from a more fluid routine, or no routine at all. They say variety is the spice of life right?