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3 Exercises You Must Have In Your Training Program

I hear questions like this a lot:

What’s the best exercise for X (fill in the blank here- fat loss, conditioning, muscle growth)?

If you could pick one exercise to do forever what would it be?

What’s the best exercise for my _______ (again, fill in the blank- legs, abs, arms, etc)?

The reality is that there are no “best” exercises because it all comes down to your goals. Are you trying to lean out and lose fat? Are you trying to improve your performance? Are you trying to just stay generally fit and feel good?

All of those are valid goals, and most of the people that we work with at Durbrow Performance Training have a nice combination of all of them. That’s what makes training our crew so much fun.

Even if you’re not an “athlete” I truly believe that everyone should train in an athletic manner. This means that there should be some scalable level of:

  • Jumps
  • Throws
  • Sprints
  • Pulling
  • Pushing
  • Lifting heavy things off the floor


The important thing to note is that all of the things I listed above are SCALED. That means a sprint for one person is not a sprint for another, maybe it’s using the agility ladder or going at a slower pace.

Training in an athletic style is more fun, it burns a lot of calories, it uses all the major muscle groups and it can be done typically pretty quickly and efficiently when it comes to time.

There are hundreds of great exercises and I believe that most have their place in some type of program. Variation is important and within every exercise you can change things like repetitions, tempo, weight and balance. These factors can often make it a totally different exercise.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I want to dive into my 3 favorite exercises and why they should always be in your program. This is based on the years of training I’ve done on myself and thousands of clients.

You’re probably thinking I’ll say something like Pull Ups, Dead Lifts and Squats. I mean, you get the most bang for your buck, right?


Yes and no.

Those are all crazy good exercises and I love to program them. However, this post is about the exercises that you should ALWAYS be doing. The three exercises that I’m about to show you are also ones that you can do with a lot of frequency, which is important for consistent improvement.

Lastly, they are very easy to teach, coach, set up and execute. There is a very low risk on each one, they are safe on the joints and they all address areas that 99.9% of people need improvement in.

So without further ado, here are the three MUST-DO exercises:

  1. The Band Pull Apart- this exercise is a staple in my personal program, I do 100 repetitions during each of my strength workouts per week (4 days). I split them up into sets of 20 and perform them before, during and after the session. We also program these into our warm up at Durbrow Performance Training and clients see these as fillers during their training sessions as well.

Why do I love these so much? They are great for improving shoulder mobility, shoulder health, posture and overall upper and mid-back strength. With the type of work that most people do, sitting at a computer or on their phone, the postural corrections are essential and nothing hits it quite like the BPA.

Larger movements like TRX Rows, 1-Arm Rows and Chin Ups are excellent but the BPA is so simple, can be done in higher volumes (and even every day) and targets the smaller muscles in the mid-back that often get neglected because they can’t fire correctly during a larger movement.



How to use the Band Pull Aparts: 3-5 sets of 15-20 per day, at least 3 days per week


2. Bulgarian Split Squats– This is my go-to #1 movement for the lower body. It’s a great exercise to develop strength in the legs and I’m a huge fan of unilateral movements (single sided) because they are much safer and decrease the spinal compression that you might see on a squat or even a dead lift.

The other thing I love about this exercise is the added core and balance development.

The third major thing that makes this a winner is the many ways that you can load this. You can use body weight, chains, dumbbells at your sides, a kettlebell racked in the front, or even bands.

From a beginner who could load this just with their own body weight to an advanced trainee to load this with chains and kettlebells, the movement is just stellar.

Plus if you want to develop strong, lean and totally bad ass legs, this is a MUST for your programming.

How to use the Bulgarian Split Squats: 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps per leg, 1-2 times per week


3. Sled Work- pushing, pulling or dragging a sled is my #3 movement because it’s so safe on the joints and produces virtually zero soreness the next day because there is no eccentric component. That means that you’re not having to “slow down” the weight like if you were lowering yourself down into a squat. That’s the most taxing part of an exercise and there’s none of that when working on the sled.

Other benefits of the sled are increased cardiovascular work, the ability to perform higher volume to build up your stamina, multiple ways to load it (you can go heavy and for short distances, light and short distances for sprints, or moderate weight and longer distances) and you can pull, push or drag in all different directions.

Sleds are great as a stand alone training tool, use them on a conditioning day and just perform multiple sets or you can use them during a circuit. Another great way is at the end of a training session, performing 3-4 sets for 50 to 100 feet or our personal favorite, 5 minutes of team pushing (3-4 people) and see how many sets you can complete in the time.

How to use the Sled: 3-4 sets of 50 to 100 feet, mix up the weights from day to day, 1-3 times per week

Looking great and losing fat is awesome of course, but you want to make sure you’re focusing on your long term health and overall longevity of your body. Create the total package with your body- strong, healthy, mobile, energetic and looking damn good.

All of the exercises I spoke about are ones that require a full range of motion, they don’t beat up your body but they do get results. These are the types of movements we always incorporate into our training at DPT. If you’re struggling to get results and your body just doesn’t feel the way you want it to, check out our risk-free 21 Day Academy Jump Start program:

If you’re in Somerville, click here.

If you’re in Manchester, click here.

What Do Training in Groups, Canadian Geese and Motivation Have in Common?

I heard an interesting story a few weeks ago, about what groups, Canadian Geese and motivation have in common.

This is ironic that I actually liked this story because as some of you know, I hate birds. Yep, I have a strange fear of them (not the little tiny ones but anything bigger than a chicken). They just freak me out, particularly Canadian Geese.

Besides that, this story is really interesting and you’ll see why having group motivation in either training, nutrition or any aspect of your life will help you get to that goal even faster than you imagined.

Check out the video and the story right here:


Don’t Try

Happy Monday to you. I hope your weekend was excellent.
We went to a wedding for one of my favorite people, she has been a friend and a client for several years and it was really an amazing day.
I love March Madness so Sunday after a training session I was really excited to put the games on and just enjoy the spirit and competition of college basketball. Plus my team is still alive, Virginia Cavaliers!
Onto the topic at hand for today. You may have noticed that I’ve been writing more about the psychological and mental side of training and changing your life.
Over the years I’ve noticed the difference between people who REALLY change and people who get some results is what they say out loud and in their own heads.
People are resistant to change. It’s just human nature.
The reasons vary from person to person but usually it’s because getting out of the comfort zone or breaking habits is a scary thing.
When you do something for the first time, of course it’s not going to be perfect.
Think about the first time you tried to do a push up. You may have to think way, way back…
But it was probably shaky, your elbows flopped out like chicken wings and your butt was sticking up in the air.
You did them though. They weren’t perfect or pretty, but you did them.
This is what I want you to think about when you come across a new task, a new exercise or a new way to think about eating or planning your meals.
Obviously I don’t want you to say “I can’t do that” 
That’s a given 🙂
What most people will say is “I will try.”
Nope. Don’t try.
What is trying anyway? It’s a lame, middle of the road, “maybe I’ll fail so I don’t want to go all in” luke-warm, B.S. cop out.
I want you to say “I’ll do that.”
Doesn’t mean you’ll do it great. You’ll probably suck for a few reps of the exercise or a few weeks of the new eating plan.
You’re still doing it.
I’m not asking you to do it perfectly. Just put in the effort, then put in the effort again and again.
Do it.
Have a great week,


Durbrow Performance Training February Client of the Month: Barbara Langone

Congrats to our February Client of the Month, Barbara Langone!

Barbara has been training with the Durbrow Performance family since May of 2013. She came in after winning a month of training at a fundraiser from some of her fellow Constant Contact co-workers. Right off the bat she fit in perfectly, a great mix of being fun and laid back but when it comes to the training sessions, she goes into beast mode.

Every session Barbara is focused and she’s so easy to coach. She is patient with herself but always willing to push and use a bigger kettlebell or just a little bit more weight on the Prowler. She has improved her upper body strength tremendously and in her first 6 weeks alone she lost 8 pounds of body fat and 10 inches.

In the next 10 weeks she lost another 7 pounds of body fat and 4 more inches.

She has overall been one of our most consistent and hard working clients but in the last month this effort really shined through. Tom, Emily and I all agreed that she is one of the easiest clients to coach and we love the effort and attitude.

Congrats again Barbara, you deserve it!

Barbara COM

You Can’t Do That

We have a rule at the gym, saying “I can’t” will earn you 5 burpees.Last week in my email I talked about how you need to reprogram your thinking to try new things and break out of the old ways that may not actually be benefiting you.Why do we have this rule?

When doing something new or uncomfortable, the natural human reaction (or defense mechanism to avoid looking silly or feeling pain or discomfort) is to say “I can’t.”

Sometimes you say it before you even think about what it is you’re trying to do.

I’m not here to tell you that you CAN do everything and you should never give up and give you a load of cheerleading crap.

I just want you to think about your initial reaction to something difficult. Do you automatically throw up the “I can’t” flag without even thinking?

Or do you take a second and let it soak in and then say, I’ll try?

You may not do it perfect. Hell, it may REALLY suck but it’s breaking out of you comfort zone and just giving it a try.

That’s what I want you to focus on this week. When something tough or uncomfortable comes around, whether it’s an exercise at the gym, a suggestion to your eating plan or a task at work, just take a second before you go into defense mode.

Don’t automatically turn to “I can’t.”

Instead think about saying, I’ll give it my best try and I won’t worry about the outcome. Good or bad, I stepped out of my comfort zone and DID IT.


January Client of the Month: Sarah Deschaine

Congratulations to our January 2014 Training Client of the Month, Sarah Deschaine!

Since starting at Durbrow Performance back in 2012 Sarah has become one of our most consistent clients with one of the most amazing transformations.

Sarah came in with some exercise experience, doing mostly classes at her local gym. She started with a 21 day trial and with all intentions to just go back to her regular gym after the three weeks were up.

I guess that didn’t happen 🙂

Sarah has completely transformed her life, from not only exercise and healthy eating but in the mental aspect as well.

She has learned how to push herself past her limits, how to fuel her body with the right foods and how sleep and stress can affect the training sessions (and she’s managing those things even better now).

I could have given the Black T-shirt to Sarah many, many times over the last two years. She is consistent with pretty much perfect attendance, she gives 100% in each session and never just goes through the motions, she brings out the best in herself and in others and I love training with her during our Sunday Strength days because our small group of ladies has really become a great team and it’s awesome to get to interact with them on a deeper level each week.

I could go on and on about how much weight Sarah has lost and how many inches she’s dropped but that’s really just surface stuff. When you truly change your life, that’s major work, and Sarah has done that.

I’m so proud of Sarah’s transformation, congratulations Sarah and thanks for always showing up with a smile, an ass kicking attitude and for always following my directions when I write emails 🙂

Sarah D COM

The Fitness Lesson that No One Talks About

Every week, I write articles and blog posts that teach people how to get healthy and fit and I teach our clients in the gym to train hard and smart and to understand why lifting weights, conditioning and eating healthy are important and vital.

Yes, those lessons that I teach are powerful, and I know that I’m helping a lot of people. However, today, I want to share with you one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned and that most people don’t even talk about: Be kind to yourself.

I have to admit, when I used to see this phrase, I thought it was a weak statement. I’m going to bust my butt in the gym, eat clean and the harder I am on myself, the better results I’ll get.

I’m not weak, and I don’t need a pep talk or a baby sitter. As a former athlete and a leader and coach for many people, I thought that I had to be like superwoman. I wasn’t beating myself up for not getting results or for maybe having an ice cream, but I certainly WAS NOT being very kind to myself.

So, what does this whole “being kind to yourself” mean?

I want you to look at it like this: You can’t just work for the end result.

Rather, you have to enjoy the journey—the day-to-day work that you put in to accomplish a goal.

Continue reading

How to Silence the Food Vampires (and a Paleo Stuffing Recipe)

Food vampires?

WTH is that?

It’s really simple. You know when you go out to lunch with a bunch of co-workers and the majority of people are ordering burgers, coma inducing sandwiches with a side of fries and then you order a salad with chicken on it and dressing on the side.

The record stops. Silence.

She’s ordering a salad?

Then the bread comes and you decline.

Oh come on, just have one piece. It’s not going to kill you.

Why are you ordering a salad? Live a little. 

You know what I’m talking about now….

Does this stress you out a little bit? If you’re human, then yes it’s going to. But here’s the thing. People are simply projecting their own insecurity and their own wishes onto you. They wish they felt better, had the motivation or the goals to eat healthy and for some reason or for that moment, they don’t.

What’s the alternative? Face what they are actually feeling, or peer pressure you and try to make you feel bad about your choices to eat healthy. Most people choose the latter.

That sucks for you but it’s really simple. When you get the pressure or the “why” questions you just answer back that you want to order a healthy meal because you feel better through out the day, you’ve been working out and you want to keep your body healthy.

Continue reading

Curb Your Sugar Cravings with Cinna-Coconut Apples

Sugar cravings. Yep, we have all had them from time to time. Some of us more than others…

I am a total sugar junkie. Bread, pasta, even cheese, I’m all set with that and have no problem cutting it out. But my beloved ice cream, peanut butter cups, those super sweet Jelly Belly flavored jelly beans, that’s my shit right there.

Yeah you know what I’m talking about, that sweet tooth that comes creepin’ up after you eat and you just want a little “something sweet.”

I’ve even had days when I wake up in the morning and my body is craving chocolate. There are several reasons for these creepers…

  • Deficiencies in certain minerals
  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Exhaustion
  • Lack of activity (feeling sluggish)
  • Dehydration

Continue reading

How to Eat Paleo When You Aren’t Always Home to Cook

Paleo is pretty awesome, I’m a big believer in the health benefits and the ease of the lifestyle. If you don’t eat Paleo, that’s cool, as long as you are getting results. I’m not here to go all dogma on you and say that’s the only way to eat but right now it’s working well for me and for a lot of our clients.

One of the struggles I’ve noticed is that people understand the concept but sometimes have trouble applying it to real world situations.

You should eat a diet high in protein, veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, healthy fats and avoid starches and sugars. Pretty simple.

BUT, what do you eat when you’re not prepping your own food?

We all have busy lives. Shuttling from home to work to the gym to other activities, you don’t always have the meat and veggies handy to eat a proper dinner at home at 6pm.

I get it.

My top tips are these.

1. Cook in batches. Make a dish that can last you 2-3 days worth of leftovers. If you are cooking for two or three people, you just have to double it up.

My favorite cook book right now is the Fat Burning Chef. This thing is loaded with Paleo recipes from all the top chefs in the industry. You can check it out here and download a copy.

—>Fat Burning Chef 

2. My second tip is to have a game plan. If you have to eat in a restaurant due to travel, meetings or just because you didn’t plan your meals, then you need to know where you can go and what you can eat.

Let’s be honest. You DO have time to plan your meals, you just have to make the time.

In the meantime, you can find some great options that fit your Paleo and primal lifestyle when you go to a restaurant.

This definitely takes some effort and you have to sometimes be “that person” that adjusts the order a bit, but you have the right to know what’s going in your body and most places are pretty cool about it these days.

Asian Restaurants:

You can choose a meat and veggies option that some places offer. If not, you can doctor it up by choosing a stir fry without the rice or noodles. Make sure you ditch the sauce because that’s a sugar and salt bomb waiting to happen.

Greek or Mediterranean:

You can get a big salad here but make sure to avoid the chick peas and any cheese. Swap out the yogurt based dressings for a simple oil and vinegar mix. Kabobs are always awesome. If they are a meat and vegetable mix, even better. If you have just the meat on the stick (awesomeness) then grab a side salad to hit your veggie intake.

Make sure to skip the hummus as that’s made with legumes.

Mexican Restaurants:

This one takes a little creativity. You can order the fajitas and just skip the actual fajitas and the sour cream and cheese. Load up that plate with meat, veggies, salsa and some guacamole. Pretty damn good.

Also if you are at Chipotle for a quick fix, you can order a burrito bowl, no rice. Just go double meat, veggies, lettuce, salsa and just a scoop of guacamole.

American Restaurants:

These tend to be the easiest options because you can order a steak with a side salad or a burger with a side salad and ditch the bun. Just remember the watch the dressings which are the silent sugar killers. Opt for your oil and vinegar (every place has this).

If you are at a steakhouse and one of the sides is potatoes or rice, just swap that out for veggies and you already have your side salad so you’re good to go.


This is another super easy option. You will actually find a lot of breakfast joints that serve until 2 or 3pm so if you are at lunch, this is a great spot to go for.

You can go with eggs any style, just make sure to skip the cheese. If you do an omelette, load it up with veggies and then do hot sauce or salsa to top it off. Swap out the order of potatoes for extra bacon. Hell yeah.

You can also do a small order of fruit to round out the meal.

My last tip is to simply use good-ole’ Google and search for Paleo restaurants or Paleo menus in your area or the area you are traveling to.

Eating out and eating on the go is not always going to be perfect. The goal of this lifestyle is to have some freedom from the traditional “diet” but that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. There are sacrifices to any solid nutrition plan.

The bottom line is that if you want results, you have to work for it and you have to make sacrifices along the way. Anyone that says you can have an easy-peasy eating plan AND get results is totally lying. It’s hard work. If you want to go out to restaurants and eat shit, you will not get results.

If you want to stick to a solid plan and make a few cut backs on what you eat each day, then you’ll look and feel awesome.

This is not to say that you can never enjoy a meal out. Treat yourself every other week to a nice meal and maybe a dessert. This will keep you on track. The thing to remember is that you’re adopting a lifestyle, not just a short term fix that you’ll abandon after you hit your fat loss goal.

I’d love to hear about any restaurants that you know or have been to that are great options for this eating lifestyle. Leave me a comment below.


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