Real World Strength

1133 N Fountain Way
Anaheim, CA 92806, USA
(714) 414-0594

“Functional bodybuilding?” What does that even mean?

I’m glad you asked that question, imaginary person I just made up!

So if you Google “functional bodybuilding,” you’ll find an interesting article on T-Nation
essentially outlining a hypertrophy program for athletes.
It’s “bodybuilding functionally,” so to speak, and that’s cool but it’s not what I’m talking about.
The way I’m looking at it is more like “functional training bodybuildingly.”
And we’re going to pretend that “bodybuildingly” is an actual word.
(“Bodybuildingly: ‘bah-dee-bill-ding-lee’ [adv.] In a manner similar to that of a bodybuilder.”)
Let’s call it FTB.

Confused yet?
Okay, so bodybuilding functionally means your #1 goal is gaining muscle mass
in a way that ultimately benefits sport performance.

FTB means your #1 goal is improving performance in sport and/or life,
in a way that enhances mind-muscle connection and ensures that
movements are being trained in an optimal pattern.
THAT’S what I’m after.
Not that there’s anything wrong with going about it the other way,
of course…it’s just a different mindset and program approach.

First, we need to establish the premise of what an optimal movement pattern is.
For our purposes, it’s loading all joints through a movement’s kinetic chain
in a manner proportionate to their maximum safe capacity.
(Don’t worry, I’ll translate.)

My litmus test for strength movements is this:
The way up should mirror the way down.
If there’s significant deviation from that, compensations are occurring and the movement is suboptimal.
Why, you ask?
In a controlled eccentric contraction – lowering weight – the body defaults to its strongest positions
since muscles can produce more force eccentrically than concentrically
(which makes sense when you think about it).
If the muscles can’t replicate that force through the concentric part,
other less-ideal muscles will jump in to help complete the movement.

For example: Say you’re doing a squat.
The moving joints in that kinetic chain are the hips, knees, and ankles
(in addition to the static loading of the spine), with the ankles and knees especially
going through their maximum available range.

Put into our context of functional bodybuilding, this means the thighs, hips, and calves
do their proportional amount of work without dumping any of the load elsewhere.
The crux of this movement is really the quads, but the calves have to stabilize the ankles too.
If the quads and glutes are too weak to pull the knees and hips out of their deepest range of motion,
the load is shifted to the lower back as the joints open up to a stronger position.
This is why oftentimes when you see someone struggling with a heavy squat
(especially if they’re good at deadlifting), they’ll be leaned over almost like a good morning.
We want to avoid this and keep the loading on the correct musculature – quads & glutes.

Maintaining anatomically optimal positions is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING
when you’re training your muscles for strength and size.
Make sure you’re using the right muscles for the job without compensating during strength training.
Dial the weight back until you get it right.
Start from scratch if you have to.
Lifting the weight “just to lift it” is training only one thing: Your ego.

Bodybuilding and strength training are not contradictory, merely two sides of the same coin.
Regardless of what your ultimate goal is for improving your body,
you will need to incorporate both mentalities to achieve it.

It took me three years of very little progress, plagued by setbacks, to realize and accept this fact.
Please…be smarter than I was.

Here’s another entry in our Weird Stretch Wednesday series!

Want to prep for karaoke night?
This muscle poke & stretch drill will help loosen up the muscles around your vocal cords.
It’ll also help with jaw dysfunction and neck pain.


The CrossFit Open is a worldwide CrossFit competition.
Our goals at Real World Strength: To educate and inspire.
Competition helps with the ‘inspire’ part.
The pressure to perform pushes you to train harder;
the social boost of dozens of your best friends cheering for you will help you reach a higher plane.
Heck, watching your teammates GO is inspiring.
Can we bring that worldwide thrill home?
Can we deliver all the fun of competition without causing any anxiety attacks?
We think so!
Through the Open, we’re going to have three intramural teams competing.
And you’re going to be on one of them.

The three Intramural teams don’t have names yet.
But their Captains have been chosen.
Yep, we chose the FUN bunch to captain.
We want you to sign up this year; are you really going to say no? I don’t think so.

Registration for the Open tournament can be done at the gym using the spreadsheet.
The $40 registration fee will include your entry fee, teams shirt, last weeks Friday night party
and winning teams’ prize.

Coaches and members will be ‘drafted’ onto an Intramural team.
We want to ensure even distribution for all of our athletes.
Once the draft has occurred (names will be drawn from a hat) we will notify the athletes of their team.

+1 Point – Attendance:
Every member of a team that completes an Open workout at RWS each week earns one point.
Maximum one point per athlete per workout. This goes for Rx AND Scaled competitors!

+1 Point – Top 3:
every male AND female member who places among the top 3 at RWS for each workout
gets an extra point for their team.
The top 3 SCALED athlete scores AND the top 3 RX athlete scores will count.

+5 Points (team) – Spirit:
The team with the most noise, pride, and PRESENCE each week will receive 5 bonus points.

+8 Points (team) BONUS – Team Bonding:
If your team gets together socially outside of the gym (ALL of you – pic posted on our FB page as proof)…
you get points. This is a one-time bonus. It can be done at any point during the 5 weeks.

In 2017, athletes competing in the Open will have only four days to complete each workout.
The workouts are released on Thursday nights at 5pm and then we throw down all day on Friday,
starting February 24th. ALL classes will be programmed for this workout.
You can come morning, noon or night.
Friday nights, however, will be the BIG night for teams to gather and have a fun time together.
We will also have Open Gym on Saturdays for those who cannot complete the workout on Friday
or who want to redo the workout.
The first workout will be announced Thursday February 23rd.

The top team will earn a GRAND prize. Details released soon!

Our focus is on FUN.
We want participation because it will make you fitter, and it will get you high-fives
and you’ll be happy and love life more and glow and stuff.

Register at the gym, and let’s start this party!
***IF you want to see how you stack up against the WORLD, you need to go to to register.
Our adaptation was shamelessly taken from these guys.

Have you ever had knee pain that wouldn’t go away no matter how much you smashed your quads?

There’s a good chance it’s coming from the adductor muscle group (inner thighs).

Within that group you have a whole bunch of muscles, including one in particular called the gracilis.
This muscle goes from the hip down to the knee, and is a little tricky to mobilize.
You basically have to grab it just under the skin on the inner-most part of the thigh.

Look for knots anywhere from the inside part of the knee joint all the way up to the hip
(right next to your fun bits).

Happy smashing!

Ever feel like you’re stuck in Batman’s suit, unable to move your head from side to side?

There’s a muscle that connects your shoulder blade to your skull,
called levator scapulae, that can be the culprit here.

You can smash it as shown in the video, with a barbell in a rack,
or with a lacrosse ball on the ground.
Position your implement of choice just above the shoulder blade at the base of the neck,
lean into it, and move your arm around.
Your shoulder position and your neck should free up very quickly.


This is a cheaper, lazy-man’s salad-only version of this
super-delicious (but time-intensive) recipe.


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds

Combine all these in a bowl.
Stir until mixed.
Add to plants.


Okay, so in case you can’t watch the video for whatever reason…

Let’s talk about the piriformis.

It’s one of your most important hip external rotators, and it helps with hip extension as well.

When this muscle gets short/stiff/tight/whatever,
getting into the start position of a deadlift
or the bottom position of a squat becomes more difficult.
Also, it tends to cause sacroiliac joint pain, sciatica, and other not-fun things in the hip region.

So how do we get to it?
Well, you need to know where it is first.
It runs from the front of the sacrum out to the greater trochanter of the femur.

Translation: It runs horizontally right through the middle of your butt cheek,
deep inside the hip, and the innermost part of it is VERY awkward to get to.

You actually have to hook around the butt cheek, like, RIGHT next to your butthole,
to get to the medial attachment of the muscle.
Be careful.

Yeah nobody probably told you that one.
I’d suggest trying it when you’re in the shower, alone, so nobody can judge you.

Anyway, apart from giving yourself the gnarliest wedgie ever,
you can also smash out the rest of piriformis sitting on an owie ball.
It’s not complicated. Just stick the ball right in the middle of your butt cheek,
and find the thick tight bundle of muscle about the size of a cucumber.


A couple weeks ago, I did a video on the masseter – your main chompy muscle –
and I went into the lost art of jaw-stretching.

Well a couple days later it occurred to me:
Individual muscles never act alone (that’s why they’re called muscle “groups”).

Generally for any specific action you have one muscle that’s bigger/has better leverage
doing more of the work, and one or more muscles that are smaller/have poorer leverage
attaching from a different angle to assist the movement and increase precision.

For example, the prime mover when extending the hip is glute max (your butt cheek),
with the hamstring and adductor groups acting as synergists (they help).
Depending on the specifics of a movement you can emphasize one muscle over the other,
but you can’t completely isolate them.

Well, the same thing is going on with the one movable joint in your face – the jaw.
When it comes to closing the jaw, your masseter is like the glute max and the
temporalis (muscle covering the area around your temple) is like the hamstring.

Since the muscles share a function, they share fascia.
(Remember that – it’s a pretty good rule of thumb.)

When temporalis is upset with you, you might get headaches, toothaches, or other
weird jaw pain that doesn’t go away when you poke the muscles you think are responsible for it.

As for how to poke, smash, and stretch the temporalis, watch the video above.
If you didn’t see the video, here’s a link to it.

Poke the masseter (here’s more info on that),
then follow it up towards your temple.
That whole region up the side of your head – from the outside edge of your eyebrow
all the way back to the top of the ear – is covered by the temporalis.

Also, there isn’t any muscle tissue on the top of your dome,
but you do have fascia all around (and an aponeurosis) that’s worth poking.
You may find that releasing fascial kinks under your scalp
frees up other muscles throughout your head and neck.
It’s weird, but try it.
Everything’s connected, after all.

Yes, you may look like you’re in tremendous cranial discomfort,
or attempting to communicate with aliens or something, but it works.
If anyone asks, just say you left your tinfoil hat at home.
(Also, why are you in public?)


Stretching the temporalis starts off just like stretching the masseter.
Tilt your head back, then pull the jaw straight down toward the floor.
Now tilt your head to one side, keeping your jaw where it was at.
We’re stretching a big chain of fascially-connected muscles here –
sternocleidomastoid, masseter, temporalis, and scalene.

Let your jaw hang open, relaxing as much of the face as possible.
You might look a little bit like Rocky Balboa during his fight with Creed, but that’s okay.
Again, be prepared for weird looks if you’re doing this in public.

Make note of any especially-tight spots you noticed, and poke them accordingly.

As Porky Pig says, that’s all folks!


Y’know, it’s funny – Real World Strength is our name,
and I’ve talked at length about how we can use the movements we practice in daily life,
but I’ve never actually delineated the most important exercises to get good at.

This is assuming that you don’t compete in weightlifting or gymnastics, that you’re a regular human
who just wants to look better naked and do more stuff across the board.

Think of this as such:
If you were going to be in a war zone, what low-skill movements would be the most important to practice?

Here goes.

1. Running

Yeah yeah, I know we spend a lot of time lifting heavy things, but let’s be real:
It’s the main reason the human race survived as hunter-gatherers.
You owe it to your ancestors to not suck at running.

Running is one of the best ways to develop cardiovascular conditioning at any duration –
from sprinting to build up explosiveness and kick ass on the field of sport,
all the way up to hoofing it over long distances.
Running is literally the only way to quickly go from point A to point B
(assuming you lack mechanical assistance).

If you aren’t fast, you aren’t fit.

2. Deadlift & farmer carry

Now we get into the lifting.

The deadlift builds strength from head to toe, especially all down your backside.
Farmer carry just means picking up a substantial amount of weight and moving with it.
I’m grouping in the farmer carry with the deadlift because a farmer carry starts with a deadlift.
Put another way, you could look at a deadlift as merely a zero-distance farmer carry.

If you could only do ONE exercise for total-body strength and fitness, make it the farmer carry.
It requires far more core stability and grip endurance than the deadlift alone,
while building more muscle throughout the upper body.

Of course, the deadlift is still worth doing by itself.
It is a better developer of the lower back, increases the upper limit of what you can carry,
and is perfect practice for safe lifting technique (so that when the time comes where
you have to help a buddy move furniture around you won’t throw out your back).

3. Front squat

This is the single most useful version of the squat.
By being upright and requiring shoulder strength to hold weight in place,
we’re building strength in more areas than other iterations of the squat…
along with training the quads and core to absorb and produce force
in the positions most likely to come up in sport and in life.

The front squat is the perfect lower-body complement to the farmer carry.

4. Strict press

Among upper-body exercises, nothing works more muscle through a longer range of motion
with a larger kinetic chain than the strict press.
It teaches you to brace and stabilize your entire body while pressing something overhead.
Any pushing movement gets easier as your strict press gets better.
Training this also improves your shoulder flexibility at the top and the bottom.

5. Pull-up

Like I’m really gonna omit the one exercise I’m actually good at, right?
This is the single-most-useful upper-body bodyweight movement you can do.
Climbing skills and pulling strength both benefit more from pull-ups
than from practically any other exercise.
Also, the line of action in a pull-up mirrors that of a strict press.
For balanced upper-body development, get good at both.

“But what about __________?”

Look, I’m not going to say that other movements aren’t valuable. That’d just be silly.
Plus your goals may dictate that you focus on other things, and that’s fine.
Back squats, push presses, horizontal pushing & pulling, gymnastic skills, direct core and glute work,
Olympic lifts, and mixed-modal conditioning all help round out a good training program.
Omitting these is not optimal by any means.

This is just a handful of basic, universal movements that any human would do well to improve on.
These 5 should be, collectively, the cornerstone of how you track your overall fitness in a practical sense.
Improving capacity on these movements will carry over to basically everything else, but not the other way around.

Have fun!

(Note: I was going to go with “anaconda” instead of “boa constrictor,” but two prominent hip-hop artists have given that word a very different meaning in popular culture over the past 25 years.)

Anyway. This sounds totally random and off-the-wall, right?
Like who’d think of stretching your jaw muscles as being important?

Allow me to enlighten you.

Your masseters (jaw muscles) are thick, powerful, and under constant tension –
they keep your mouth from falling open like a dumbass.
You use your masseters literally every day to chew, talk, and help open your airway to breathe.

Knots and trigger points are very common there and massaging them f*cking HURTS…but you gotta do it.
Masseters are a common cause of headaches, toothaches, TMJ (temporomandibular joint) syndrome,
sinus pain, and that weird crazy itch that feels like there’s a bug inside your ear.
However, as important as it is to smash, poke, and prod your muscles, that’s not all they need.
They also have to be stretched periodically to reset the neuromuscular junction –
your brain’s connection with the muscle.

[Think of stretching as a prolonged eccentric contraction.
The feedback to and from the CNS is important to maintain full range of motion
and to tune up the length-tension relationships between opposing muscles.
When your muscles are overly tight, much-needed stretching can actually cause soreness.
It means that the muscle tissue itself is adapting to a new range of motion…which is a good thing.
But anyway, if anyone ever tells you that stretching is useless, they are objectively wrong.]

Just like stretching the quads lets the hamstrings reset, stretching overly-tight masseters
lets its antagonist muscles (the digastric, located under your jaw) calm down.
This has a ripple effect that relaxes tension through the throat, neck, and base of the skull.

In other words, when your masseters get all pissy it becomes more difficult to breathe or talk,
and can throw off alignment in your cervical vertebrae – similar to the muscles of the neck.
This means nerve transmissions all through the body can get interfered with,
and you feel less energetic and strong…just because you haven’t stretched your jaws.

You’d stretch your calves after a day of running, right?
So why not stretch your jaws after a day of eating?

Yep. Mind blown.

So in case you can’t watch the video up there for whatever reason, here’s how you stretch your jaws.

Step 1: Sit down so that you don’t fall over while doing this (technically this is optional, but encouraged).

Step 2: Tilt your head back all the way, and let your jaw fall open.

Step 3: Grab your chin (on your jawbone) with both hands and pull your jaw all the way down.

Step 4: Hold your jaw down and breathe continuously for at least 15 seconds,
letting your jaw relax in its new position.
Try to pull your jawbone to your throat.

Step 5: Carefully bring your head back to neutral position.

Step 6: Repeat as necessary.

That’s it!

Have fun breathing!