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Strength & Performance Blog

The Yoke & Stone Strength & Performance Blog will help athletes at any level to improve their strength and athletic performance.


Mark Taysom

There is enough research to choke an elephant, discussing the affects/effects of hormones (drugs) on the body within the context of exercise. Most of which will require some higher education above that of a GNC label reader, to understand. Things like: affinity, receptor binding, receptor sensitivity. upstream, downstream, signaling, inhibiting, synergistic, catalyst, serum concentration, gradients, etc.  

Wen I scroll through Instagram or Facebook I see many, many people singing the praises of their training sessions with all sorts of hashtags about "going hard" or "putting in the work", "hardcore" and so forth. Yet they can't seem to find a single note to sing about their pharmacist! As an exercise professional I understand that there are "responders" and "non-responders" to exercise and that results can vary widely among people but I am also no fool when it comes to spotting an "enhanced physique".  To these people I ask "why so shy big guy?" Let me be clear, if you want to pump yourself so full of hormones from Mexico and pills from "that guy at the gym" so that you can be "JACKED", well then GO AHEAD. You are just willing to sacrifice a little more than others for that physique than most. Many will sacrifice their time to go to the gym and you are just willing to sacrifice a little time off your life expectancy to achieve; to me its just a matter of level or line you are willing to cross. I would just like to say that among many I see who take the "juice" or "Vitamin S" as we like to say are doing it to achieve in reality only a decent level of fitness, a level that could be obtained with better training and patience. That is the problem. Steroids isn't "cheating" unless there are rules to a game you are playing. Ask your neighbor if he has ever taken Tylenol, Asprin, or Advil for a headache. When he answers "yes" call him a cheater! Tell him that he is just trying to get rid of his headache so that he can work harder and not take time off; which are the exact same reasons someone takes steroids.

A word of caution, although there is much research in this area as I said before; every physiologist will tell you the Endocrine system (hormones) is the thing we know the LEAST about. So to all you WILD BILL's out there on the "Juice", good luck and let us know what happens to you because you are really just a guinea pig for the rest of us.  Now I will write more in the future more specifically about steroids but let me now speak of a more common and potentially equally dangerous behavior in the realm of fitness.

When you see a youthful participant at "BURNING MAN" out in the desert dancing for 24 hours straight, do you say to yourself "wow that is quite the dedication to dancing I certainly do admire his stamina"! NO, of course not because you know he is on a whole bunch of 'who knows what' that is causing his behavior.  You can walk into any gym, at any time, anywhere and see nearly everyone drinking some mystery potion that they whipped up in the locker room like little witches/wizards. Many of them buy there particular "sauce" for 30+$ and it contains 20+ ingredients that they don't know about. There are countless memes on the internet about what happens when the "PRE-WORKOUT KICKS IN".  Some of these things are wildly dangerous to your immediate health. People talk of having their skin tingle or their pupils so dilated that their eyes look black! To put it bluntly these pre workouts are not necessary and they are drugs. Rest assured your energy and desire to train is actually more attributable to your addiction than it is to your dedication.


If you don't want to go to the gym = DON'T or just talk with your self about it or call a friend (DISCIPLINE)

IF YOU DON"T THINK YOU CAN LIFT HEAVY THAT DAY AND CRUSH THE WEIGHTS = DON'T, work on your mobility or recovery or technique or metabolic stressing with lighter loads, TRUE these aren't as facebook or instagram appealing but they are necessary parts of training. (DISCIPLINE)


BORED WITH YOUR WORKOUT = VARY the training and the exercises, speak with experts to learn new and stimulating methods to add to your training (DISCIPLINE)

I DON"T FEEL CONFIDENT ABOUT WORKING OUT I DON"T WANT TO HAVE TO QUIT 1/2 way through the class = GROW UP YOU CANNOT BE GREAT AT EVERYTHING, exercise doesn't give out trophies to everyone. Humble yourself and bow out if you have to all the while praising those who are able to persist.  (DISCIPLINE)


I NEED TO BE STRONG= If a grizzly bear walked in the room right now, would you need a RED BULL first before you felt like you were ready to run? NO I didn't think so!! What is the difference? Belief and necessity, you believe the bear is dangerous to you and you feel it necessary to run. Apply those same feelings toward your training. You just admitted you could run without a RED BULL but you are unable to train without one??? That is your WEAKNESS that you need to overcome and have leave your body!!  YOUR PRE WORKOUT gives you help, because you are unable to LIFT YOURSELF UP MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY TO ACHIEVE! (MENTAL DISCIPLINE)

THESE products are simply selling "addiction" packaged as "progress"!  

Now for a little bit of science-ey stuff. Pre Workout stuff in some way, shape or form is messing with your fight or flight responses of the body. It is important in a state of physical alarm to not get distracted by pain or fatigue or caution which is why these things are blunted by adrenaline and other such fight or flight chemicals. Remember Forrest Gump who when shot while saving his friend BUBBA exclaimed, "something bit me!" Not realizing that he had been shot! Likewise if we are so jacked up on pre workout we will lose touch with or communication with the happenings of our bodies. Those on pre workout are more susceptible to injury because they will push and not feel the warning signs of Caution, Pain, and Fatigue. Tendonitis and Overtraining syndrome are more common among users of pre workout. Also, because of this blunting response your learning about what does and doesn't work, and what feels and doesn't feel right is diminished.  Often people take pre workout because they don't feel they are progressing. Well progress actually comes a lot slower than T.V. or instagram is going to tell you. Also, as any strength coach can tell you, the program routines that most people follow in these recreational gyms, if they have a program at all, are less than stellar ha ha. So rather than eat some humble pie and ask a professional about their training they believe that they just have to push harder but finding themselves unable to do so naturally turn therefore to stimulants to assist with continual adherence to training mediocrity!   Doing the same thing over and over again albeit with greater vigor and energy is still a form of insanity! 


Specializing too early in our fitness journey is just as detrimental as specializing in our sport too early

Mark Taysom

Specializing in a sport too soon often leads a young athlete to problems and may result in stunting his growth and skill within his chosen sport. In light of this known fact, many people are "specializing" in their training too early (like from day one ha ha) This "specializing" can come from their selection of their fitness "goals". Great and lofty goals like winning a Gold Medal does take an incredible amount of focused/ special training. However, if you are just beginning your training (i.e. under two years of continuous training) your training should be widely varied. I believe that this quite popular idea of "corrective exercises" is directly related to this lack of variation in our training, having become too "specialized" too soon in our development of fitness. You see, the body likes symmetry; just look at your arms for example the right one is just as long as your left one! AMAZING! (Don't tell me about your friend with one leg longer than the other, check his hips). We push the body toward asymmetry / imbalances through our fitness routines.


Really "specializing" in our training may indeed lead to great improvements in our performance....... short term (less than 10 years). Everyone wants a huge squat real fast and they brag about how "fast" they progressed! I will tell you, if you progressed "fast" in your squat or whatever, either you were mentally behind in the first place, or you are a novice, or you are juiced on vitamin S, or you were too focused on your goal and have now developed some asymmetry.


The quicker we rise in our abilities and the more asymmetry we develop, the more risk for injury we encounter. Now, if one gets hurt because of asymmetry he may be out of the game for a while, whilst his counter part "Mr. Slow and Steady" trudges on. Over time the cyclic pattern of rapidly advancing numbers and polarizing asymmetry followed by injury then recovery and repeat, is a poor approach to lifelong fitness.

For example, imagine two runners running around a track for 24 hours (symbolic of ones time on earth). One runner is only allowed to sprint, until he is tired then he must stop or walk slowly. This runner will indeed appear initially to be succeeding and bragging about the distance he has covered in so short a time. The ever increasing distance over the 24 hours represents ever improving performance.

The second runner limits himself to jogging. Indeed this runner's pace will not make him Instagram famous or bring a lot of attention. And when this runner gets tired he too, may stop or walk. By the end of 24 hours the jogger will be so far ahead of the sprinter.


What has happened is, athletes must often find a way to maximize their performance because of seasons or contracts etc. And so they push themselves and specialize, because it is their job to do so!


A non-athlete would do well to vary their training a little more than they presently do. For example, let us take the deadlift.

1. Pull from different heights

2. Pull with different bar lengths

3. Flip tires

4. Pick up stones

5. Pick up sandbags

6. Fat bars

7. Towels

8. Different rep schemes

9. Different sets

10. Different rest intervals

11. Heavy uni-lateral deadlifts

12. Pull into flexion

13. Pull into extension

14. Use a trap bar

15. etc. etc.


Don't be in a hurry to become strong! Careful with putting timelines for your achievements, they often create anxiety/apprehension, depression, thoughts of discouragement or failure, and even overly reinforcing feelings of success which may cement bad behaviors in training. There are Winds Of Change, however nothing rises faster in those Winds than dust and straw! When the wind blows, the big bad wolf knows that the house made of straw crumbles! BUT the house made by Yoke & Stone, although longer to build, is able to withstand the winds that afflict others who were not so wise in their building.

4 LEVELS OF FITNESS i.e. The first assesment before beginning a fitness program

Mark Taysom

There are 4 levels of fitness. Each level requires a certain level of training and by "training" I mean Effort & Sacrifice. Everyone should be pursuing one of the levels. Yes, EVERYONE! The entire human body's physiology operates under the assumption of daily exertion. Most people's (99% of humans) "goals" as they call them are achieved in the first 2 levels. However, marketing and all the attendant pageantry is most "mysterious", "elusive", and "exciting" in the 4th level. Thus the 4th level and its accompanying "Effort and Sacrifice" is what the masses have self-prescribed for themselves. It is not hard to see why most fitness/health self-initiated programs fail.  For an individual who is a novice to undertake a 4th level fitness program is the academic equivalent of undertaking a calculus course with out first passing Algebra!  A total  academic recipe for disaster. Here are the four levels:

1. HEALTH: Just training for your health is EASY.

2. ACTIVE: Training to live an "active" lifestyle like hike and play catch with your kids with an occasional church-league basketball game is simple too.

3. PERFORM: This type of training is for people who have to be at a certain high standard to do their job or task, i.e. Firefighter, Soldier, Lumberjack, etc. Success at this level of training requires guidance from a trained expert.

4. WIN: This kind of training is for those whose job it is to Win, to be the best. This type of training requires extensive amounts of time and accurate effort and serious coaching expertise from a team of Sports Professionals.

How Much Cardio Should You Do Each Week?

Justin Taysom

If you are not a Competitive runner (meaning you get paid), and if you are not a Run Sport athlete (soccer/ lacrosse/ etc), then unweighted conditioning should not occupy more than 10% of your weekly training. "But Mark," some of you will say, "I get out of breath just going up stairs, so I need to work on my cardio." Really?? Did you walk up the stairs with your heart or did you use your legs. More often than not the individual who tells me they need to work on their "cardio" has weak legs. IF YOUR LEGS WERE STRONGER THE STAIRS WOULDN'T BE SO HARD, I PROMISE!