Friday, June 19, 2009
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
I'd like to give a big thanks to Rob from motogpblog.com for allowing me to cover this past weekend's Gran Premio d’Italia Alice from Mugello, Italy. My coverage can be found at www.motogpblog.com/archives/993
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
If you’ve been working in public relations for more than a few years, especially if you came into the industry as a junior AE in the agency sector, you’ve undoubtedly put in your fair share of hours on the event floor. Although trade shows in some industries are experiencing a rapid decline in both attendees and exhibitors, they can still be a valuable weapon in your marketing arsenal. Although, for the most part, the marketing team proper may see trade shows and other events as tried-and-true lead-generation methods, they’re also one of the best ways to meet new media contacts face to face, strengthen current relationships and, most importantly, land some key media coverage now.
Even though the number of trade exhibitors has begun to dwindle, one thing remains the same: There will still be fierce competition to win the attention of the increasingly smaller corps of overworked, thinly stretched media professionals covering these events. Due to this year’s trade show reports across a range of industries, it is obvious that a large portion of exhibiting companies have cut back on the number of shows they’re attending and reduced their support staff at the shows they do choose to attend. On the same note, media organizations are cutting back on the staff they’re sending to cover the shows. Editors and writers are now finding themselves covering twice the space in half the time. So, in an attempt to make their lives easier and to increase our chances of capturing their fleeting attention, I’ve put together a few suggestions for increasing your chances of gaining positive media coverage in a crowded atmosphere.
Take advantage of the pre-registered media list.
Seems like common sense, right? Well, you’d be surprised at how many PR reps fail to take full of advantage of a show’s media list. You’d be even more surprised at how many PR reps don’t even know it’s available. What you probably won’t be surprised to learn though is how many PR reps go about ineffectively using - or blatantly abusing - the pre-registered media list. Please do not mass email your latest press release to the media list every two weeks in the months leading up to a show. Also, never distribute a pre-show press release with the headline “Company X to Exhibit at So-and-So Trade Show.” Anyone can pick up an exhibitor list and find that information. If you’re going to issue a press release, at least make sure it’s about a newsworthy subject. How about this approach: instead of blasting out a press release to everyone on the list, take the time to craft a nice letter to your key contacts. It doesn’t have to be a release. Include a map to your booth, perhaps. A recap of what your company has been working on. What products you’ll be showing. If you’re hosting a cocktail party or other after-hours event, forgo the email and instead send out some hard-copy invitations. If you’re hosting a press conference, send out invitations early enough so that you’re the first on the schedule.
Schedule a press conference – If your news is press conference worthy.
A new product launch is news, but it’s often not press-conference-worthy news. If you’re considering calling a press conference to announce a new product, now is the time for you to play devil’s advocate. Make sure you’re certain that a press conference is the proper forum for your latest announcement. If you’re not 100%, don’t schedule one. You want to be remembered by your target media, but you don’t want to be remembered as the guy who calls unnecessary press conferences. Doing so will not only guarantee you won’t get any coverage this time, but even the most story-strapped writers will think twice about attending one of your pressers in the future. And remember, free food & booze does not make up for the lack of a story. Make sure you have something new, something big and something worth writing about. If you don’t have the next big thing to announce, but you still want journalists’ undivided attention, there are other ways to host smaller, informal events. Hosting a media tour at your exhibit one hour before the opening bell is a great way to give your top five-10 writers semi-exclusive access to what’s new. It’s an event that’s rarely used by tradeshow exhibitors and I’ve found that this approach often has the tendency to become an impromptu industry brainstorm that can help your company’s strategy as well bring about story ideas.
Don’t make it about you. Make it about them.
OK, we all know about the elevator pitch. We also know how important a journalist’s time is, especially on the tight schedule I mentioned above. Logic and common practice would tell us that we need to sink the shot as soon as an editor approaches our booth. Not so in this case. A trade show-covering journalist gets hundreds of pitches whizzed at him throughout an event weekend. Anyone taking this kind of assault naturally begins to build up defenses. Catch your target off guard. Slow down the pace for once. Now is a great time to build a relationship, especially if you’re one of the few who are attempting such an approach. If you know the journalist, ask about the family or about a shared interest. If you’re not familiar, ask what stories he’s currently working on. Ask about him some of the other interesting products/companies he’s seen at the show so far. Ask HIM what cool things YOU should be checking out instead of simply telling him why he should be interested in your widget. Not only will he feel like he’s found a safe place to catch his breath, but he might also let you in on some industry buzz that you may have missed out on.
Lighten the load – literally.
The days of overstuffed-folder press kits are over. Fortunately for you, a lot of companies have yet to receive that memo. If you need an easy way to identify media professionals at the next trade show you attend, look for the people carrying ever-growing stacks of hard-copy press kits. Don’t be that guy. Consolidate your press kit into an electronic version. CDs are great. Flash drives are even better. Load them up with whatever will fit, and let your editorial contacts take from them what they need. Include text and PDF versions of your press materials, photos, logos and video, and don’t forget to include a links page with your website social media URLs. Arrange everything in an easy-to-use format, and place the flash drive and your business card (with on-site contact information) in a small, custom-sized plastic zipper bag and hand it to the journalists as you’re talking to them. I promise you’ll receive more than a few thanks for your consideration.
Not incessantly. Not with “Have you decided to do a piece on my company/product/etc?” A simple, quick response is all you need to keep your brand top of mind. For extra effect, get out the pen and paper again, and work on your handwriting. “Thank you for taking the time...” “I appreciate your interest...” Write with empathy. “I know you’re busy recovering from the show...” Now isn’t the time to hard pitch, but it is the time to solidify your position as an industry expert and a reliable, understanding resource.
Maintain relationships with customers like you do with your media contacts.
Your relationships with your trade media are similar to but different than your relationships with your consumer media. In general, trade tends to be more of a two-way street. They need the story ideas as much as you’d like to get the information out, but don’t simply settle on that exchange. An honest trade-pitching flack will tell you it’s really no problem getting new product releases printed – nay pasted – in an industry pub, but the key is taking your coverage to the next level. Your press kit and pitching efforts should contain at least three story ideas for every piece of product information, and an easy way to make this happen is to maintain contact with your most evangelical customers. An insider PR guy can do this more easily than a hired agency gun, but these efforts should be clearly included in your marketing plan, even if you’re pitching it to a client. Once you’ve established a network of reliable customers, maintain regular contact to collect story ideas and case studies that you may then relay to your media contacts as needed. For more information on cultivating customer relationships, please check out my previous post, “Making Brand Evangelism Work for You.”
I will be exhibiting with my company, ShopBot, Inc., at the 2009 Bay Area Maker Faire, May 29-31 in
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
On Friday, May 15, Kung Fu Tattoo hosted its first ever Third Friday Durham art exhibition. The event showcased the works of local artists Jason Strutz and Franco. Kung Fu Tattoo was the first stop on the Third Friday route, which winds its way through Downtown Durham and the surrounding vicinity. Third Friday events are free to the public and showcase the Bull City's cultural scene. Kung Fu will host its next Third Friday Durham event on June 19.
Following is a video highlighting Friday's event. More than 50 visitors came and went throughout the evening, enjoying refreshments, the work of some of Durham's talented artists, and many got a chance to speak with the artists themselves to discover where they get their inspiration and learn their thoughts on the blossoming Durham art scene.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
In what turned into a mad rush to prep three songs - yeah three - 96 Rock let us know on Saturday that we had been selected to the 96 Rock Garage Band contest semifinals. They then informed us on Monday (yesterday) that the semis will be held on Wednesday (tomorrow) at the Carolina Ale House in Cary. We were told that there would be three bands performing form 8-11, so we figured we had six songs or so to perform. That would give us enough time to set up, play and set down. Nope. We were then informed that we'd be allowed to perform three songs. That's it. Under normal circumstances, meeting at the studio, loading equipment, driving to a venue, loading in, playing three songs, loading out, driving back to the studio and unloading - all for an unpaid gig - would have been out of the question; however, 96 Rock has provided us with some incentive.
The 96 Rock Garage Band contest asked Triangle-area rock n roll bands to submit demos. From those submissions, nine bands were selected by 96 Rock staff & area music "people" as semifinalists. For each the next three weeks, three bands will perform a three-song set at one of the area Carolina Ale Houses. The three finalists - one from each night - will battle it out for the finals during a show at the Lincoln Theater. One winning band will be chosen that night, and the winners will receive eight hours of studio time at Osceola Music, $125 worth of Carolina Ale House gift certificates, $500 worth of music gear and - best of all - an opening slot at one of this summer's Raleigh Downtown Live shows.
If you have some free time tomorrow night, come check out the show from 8-11 at Cary's Carolina Ale House and show your support for Downfall.
As always, please check out are music and tell your friends - Downfall on MySpace Music.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Well, it’s finally here; the NHL Eastern Conference finals. And, in an exact chain of events, the match up will be between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Carolina Hurricanes. I’m a Pittsburgher - born and raised - and therefore, by definition, an unwavering Penguins fan. As luck would have it, life has me currently residing in the home of the ‘Canes,
I attended the very first Carolina Hurricanes home game. It was October 1997, and the Canes opened their inaugural season at the Greensboro Coliseum against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Stationed at
12 years does a lot for a team, and with the help of a Stanley Cup championship, the Canes have come into their own right as a serious hockey team, and – as a Raleighite for the past two years – I can honestly say their fans have come into their own as well. The handout at the first Canes game – along with the program – was a fold-out chart explaining the basic rules and the refs’ calls. Those first attendees didn’t know the difference between hooking and high-sticking, and explaining icing or – God help me – a two-line pass was an all-evening affair. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a serious Hurricanes fan who can’t give you the stats of the leading goal scorers and assist men, not to mention his opinion on who belongs on whose line and the differences between the ways the Canes play the trap on each of their division rivals.
Tonight begins the NHL Eastern Conference finals (and how proud Mama Staal must be). While I can guarantee that none of my Penguins sweaters will be spending much time in the closet this series, I’ve also accepted the fact that my current circle of friends ensures I won’t be immersed in a
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Kung Fu Tattoo Hosts Its First Third Friday Event
Durham, NC (May 5, 2009) – Kung Fu Tattoo, located at 1003 W. Chapel Hill St. in the heart of Durham, will host its first official Third Friday Durham event. The event is an exhibition of the works of local artists Jason Strutz and Luis Franco and takes place on May 15, 2009 from 7-10pm. Kung Fu Tattoo will be the first stop on the Third Friday route, which winds its way through Downtown Durham and the surrounding vicinity. Third Friday events are free to the public and showcase the Bull City’s cultural scene.
“We’re proud to be a part of this year’s Third Friday series,” said Kung Fu Tattoo owner Tim Lind. “We love the spirit of Durham and feel like hanging works done by local artists is a perfect way to celebrate that spirit.“
About the Artists:
Luis Franco's work is an illustration of American urban realism executed with a digital medium. Much of his work deals with class and race issues. Many of his thought-provoking images center around the iconic fist hair pick symbolizing the ‘70’s theme of peace, love and revolution. For more information, visit www.francoproject.com.
Jason Strutz illustrates stories that do and do not exist. Both memories and nightmares come alive on his canvases. His works are more than art, but adventure by oil and acrylics. For more information, visit www.StrutzIllustration.com.
About Kung Fu Tattoo:
Kung Fu Tattoo is the Triangle’s premier custom tattoo parlor and piercing studio. Kung Fu’s staff are dedicated, professional artists and piercers, committed to providing clients with the best in design, application and care of their tattoos and piercings. Kung Fu Tattoo strives to provide every client with truly one-of-a-kind work in a comfortable, unpretentious atmosphere. For more information, visit www.kungfutattoo.com.
About Third Friday Durham:
Third Friday Durham occurs each third Friday of the month from 6-ish to 9-ish. Art openings, exhibits, concerts, readings, dance, music, happenings- if we consider it culture in the Bull City, it's happening on some Third Friday in the general downtown-ish area. Durham - where "ish" is the rule. For more information, visit www.thirdfridaydurham.com.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Supplement review: MHP Dark Rage/Dark Matter Stack
I’m a serious bodybuilder, as some of you probably know. I know what works and what doesn’t. I’ve waded my way through the BS of the supplement marketing machine, and I think I’ve come out the other side with an effective, streamlined bodybuilding arsenal. But the truth is I always haven’t been like that. Like most other training newbies, I spent the first couple of years wasting a lot of time in the gym. I also spent those couple of years wasting money on ineffective, hyped-up supplements “guaranteed” to get me swoll up like Jay Cutler or Ronnie Coleman. I’ve thrown almost-full bottles of pills and tubs of powder away because it didn’t take me long to realize I’d been had. Now my cash only goes to the tried-and-true core supplements. Obviously, that’s a pretty smart way to approach my bodybuilding nutrition plan, but it’s not that easy. Just as the human body grows accustomed to a training routine and begins to plateau, so it does to the supplements you’re relying on to grow. Most pros and trainers will tell you to switch up your exercise routine every six to eight weeks, but no one ever tells you to switch up your supplement intake.
For the past three years, I’d been relying on Universal Nutrition’s hardcore bodybuilding stack – Animal Pump, Animal Stack and Animal Pack as my pre and post-workout supplements and my multi-vitamin, and they’d been having some killer effects on me. They had always given me the intensity I needed to push that extra bit in the gym. During my last cycle, for the first time in three years, it just wasn’t there. I could tell it was time for a change, so after extensive research and testimonials from other pros, I decided to give MHP’s Dark Rage & Dark Matter a try. I won’t go into the details, ingredients, etc. in the stack, but if you care to see for yourself, click the link at the top of this page. I’m simply going to give you the details of my personal experience during the first few times I take the stack.
Designed to give you intense pumps and energy throughout your workout, this supplement 100% lived up to its name. Mixed with 20oz of water, I downed this drink on the way to the gym. I finished it as I was pulling into the parking lot, 20 minutes after I left the office. OK, first observation: It tastes like crap. I got the Cola Fizz flavor, thinking it would be a good change from the orange, grape or cherry that you usually get from pre-workout drinks. OK, bad idea. I mean, it is a supplement, so you can’t expect it to taste all that great, but I expected a little more. Anyway, before I even pulled into the gym, it started to hit me. It really gets the blood flowing, not necessarily in a good way, but very effective. Once it kicked in, it quickly elevated my heart rate and I could feel mu skin warming up. Once I got changed and began my workout though, it was a completely different story.
Every set was freaking insane. My lifts were stronger and more intense. The downside was I had to sit down after each set out of fear that I might fall over. At first, I thought it was a chemical reaction to the ingredients, but I later realized my light-headedness was simply the result pushing my body so hard. The other effect, either from some reaction or again just because I was working out so hard, is that I was sweating profusely. I’m not a sweater, but I was dripping 15 minutes into my workout. Because of this, I was making a trip to the water fountain after every second set. I didn’t mind though because I definitely needed the rest.
I started my workout today with quads, and although this week is my light week (light being a very relative term), I still had some great pumps. The downside is there’s no pushing for that extra rep. It’s 100% from first rep to last, and that last rep doesn’t end until the muscle has nothing left to give. Shoulders were next. I usually get a really good shoulder pump naturally, and it wasn’t any more intense than usual; however, the pump was still there 45 minutes after I got home.
Overall, I think Dark Rage has to get the highest possible rating from me. Yeah, its effects caught me off guard, but I should be used to them after a few workouts. A lot of bodybuilding supplements say “For serious athletes only,” and – until now – I never took that warning seriously. I will say though, if you’re not ready for this, stay away from it.
My rating: ★★★★★
Dark Matter is a post-workout recovery mix that combines Waxy Maize with protein and BCAAs. Since there’s really not a noticeable physical reaction to taking it, I won’t be able to truly judge its effectiveness for a week or so. Stay tuned for the review.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
During this past year, he has moved to his cottage at the lake full time, and he said it would take him a while to dig those things out and get them to me. He told me that, while he's looking, I better make sure to include this little story in my blog. I definitely don't remember this day, but it's one thing he says he'll never forget...
"Your first experience with motorcycles goes like this: I was in your grandmother's garage on Bluff St. changing the oil in my 64 Sportster. You came in with a brand new pair of cowboy boots on. I told you to sit on the chair next to me and the bike while I changed the oil. I left you alone for less than a minute, and when I returned you had jumped off of the chair and were standing in the pan of oil I had just drained from the bike. I guess ever since then you've had Harley oil in your veins...Love dad."
No matter what it is, you have to get it from somewhere.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Although it sucked that the Ducati tent was missing from Spectator Hill, the positive side was the section above the turn 5 esses normally roped off for Ducati owners was wide open, so there was plenty of room to watch the American Superbike opening race. We grabbed some great seats, and the action was great for the first race of the weekend – well, the action for 2nd-22nd position was great as Mat Mladin took an early lead and opened up a 15+-second gap by the checkered flag. Tommy Hayden, Geoff May, Blake Young and Josh Hayes rounded out the top five.
towards Spectator Hill
We moved back to turn 10 for the SportBike race. It wasn’t a great race, as lap 6-8 were run under a yellow flag and the race was cut short. Robertino Pietri crashed out, and the race ended with Martin Cardenas, Roger Hayden and Danny Eslick on the podium. We made one more sweep through the paddock, grabbed some photos with Ben Bostrom, Jake Holden and Tommy Aquino before heading back to Tequila Sports Grill to meet Bridget (@Bridget_NewGirl), Ange (@mshawley) and Dan (@cspeedphoto) for dinner and a few drinks before heading back to the hotel. Oh yeah, I think there was a GT1 & GT2 race going on at the track for the last two hours of the day. Saturday left me pretty thoroughly sunburned, so although I was itching to get to the track as early as possible for Sunday’s activities, I decided to take it easy for most of the morning and get there before the good stuff happened.
We again watched the Daytona SportBike race from turn 10, and it turned out to be a great vantage point. Lots of passing up and under the Suzuki bridge, and we were treated to some spectacular crashing by Leandro Mercado and some not-so-spectacular gravel work by Robertino Pietri and Tommy Aquino. All three riders were right up after their incidents, although it was Pietri’s second crash in as many races during the weekend. Jake Zemke held off Danny Eslick for the lead until he low-sided on lap 8, and Josh Herrin picked up the battle for the front after that. The race for the second spot was tight as Chris Peris, Jamie Hacking and Taylor Knapp grinded it out behind the two leaders. Herrin’s Yamaha followed Eslick’s Buell across the line, and Peris, Knapp and Hacking followed five seconds later. Roger Hayden and Jason Disalvo also crashed out, and Race 1 winner Martin Cardenas dropped out with engine problems.
2:30pm brought the first rains of the day, and although it wasn’t too bad in turn 10, turn 7 began collecting moisture. Within the first few laps of the 3pm SuperSport race, five of the top 10 riders went down in the rain. The red flag came out long enough to get the track checked, wait for the sun to break through and allow time for the teams to put their bikes back together. But, when the green flag dropped again, a few of the former leaders’ bikes were still on the stands. Leandro Mercado made up for a nasty crash in the SportBike race to take the SuperSport race, followed by Josh Day and Joey Pascarella.
The finale SuperBike race proved, once again, that there is no heir to the other half of the Spies/Mladin battle. Mat took off from the start and had, at one point, acquired a 12.5-second lead on the number two rider. Mat had time to stop for lunch and a haircut and still claimed the top spot by an 8-second gap. Hometown favorite Geoff May worked his way up from a poor start to swap the second-place spot a few times with Blake Young, but he couldn’t hold on as Yoshimura again put two riders on the top of the podium. Josh Hayes - who earlier in the day looked to be in a bit of pain from a Saturday crash - grabbed the 4th-place points. Aaron Yates and Tommy Hayden rounded out the top 6. May, with two third place finishes, holds third place in the points standings – three more than Young. Tommy Hayden is in second, and Mat Mladin – having won all five races this season – sits at the top of the ranks with a 45-point lead over Hayden. Jen and I stuck around for the trophy – or should I say medal – presentation, got thoroughly doused by Blake Young’s champagne and headed out for our drive back to Raleigh. I think Jen’s completely hooked, as I knew she would be after her first race. She has picked out her rider – Josh Hayes (a very good choice in my opinion) and we’re already thinking about the Big Kahuna at VIR in August. We haven’t watched a MotoGP race together, but I think there’s a pretty good chance I won’t have to work too hard to persuade her to make a drive to Indy.
Friday, April 03, 2009
Sometime yesterday afternoon, I was able to talk Jen into leaving for Atlanta on Thursday afternoon instead of Friday morning like originally planned. After all the fun today, I think we're both glad we left last night.
We got on the road - finally - at about 8:30 and drove from Raleigh to Atlanta with only one stop for food and one stop for gas and to pee. We got here before 3am, and crashed out hard at the hotel.
We didn't rush this morning, and crawled out of bed around 9:30. We decided to get ready and grab breakfast at the track. We arrived at the track sometime before 11am, and the woman who gave us our tickets at will-call was the same one as last year who wanted to talk for 10 minutes while I was just ready to get over to the track.
We parked in the infield and immediately headed down to the paddock where we grabbed a couple hot dogs for breakfast. We walked the paddock and I pointed out the teams and the bikes, the best places to watch the trophy ceremony and where to get into the pits.
Almost like clockwork, we came across the Latin contingent - and my biggest fan -Robertino Pietri and Martin Cardenas. Jen completely missed it and I didn't have my Spanish ears on, but as we approached the group, there was apparently some fellatio-related conversation as Robertino was - very realistically - simulating a certain sex act. I've never seen someone's eyes get so big, and Robertino apologized over and over, but Jen had completely missed the whole scenario. They politely switched to English and we talked for a few minutes, grabbed some autographs and Robertino explained to me that his wedding - originally scheduled for May - has been postponed since his dad (former AMA racer Robert Pietri) was unable to secure a visa.
We cruised the paddock for a bit, grabbed an autograph from Josh Hayes, and I pointed out a few more riders. We finally tracked down Geoff May, and I had him sign a photo I had of him and me from his Superstock win last year. He called one of his guys over and asked him to grab me a new #54 T-shirt from the truck (that was pretty cool). We walked the bridge and hung out in the main grandstand for the Superbike and SportBike qualifying.
After qualifying, we hopped a shuttle for Spectator Hill. I wanted to show Jen the spacacle that is the Ducati tent. As we crested the hill, I couldn't see the red flags of the Ducati Mecca, and as we came to the top, Ducati was nowhere to be found - Hopefully, they'll be here tomorrow.
We rode the shuttle back down to the vendor village, grabbed a ribeye sandwich (and a few bottle openers so we wouldn't have to use the seatbelts in the shuttle to open the Carlsberg) and nestled into the corner of Suzuki Bridge to watch Superpole.
P.S. I stand corrected on an earlier tweet - It was Mladin, Hayes and May 1-2-3 for Superbike. Sorry about that.
Jen very easily picked out the different bikes simply by the tone of their engines. She - and I as well - loves the sound of the new Yamaha R1. She definitely now understands the soulful hum of the Ducati, and she thinks the Buell is friggin' annoying.
We saw a few of our (my) favorite - but lesser known - riders like Scott Jensen and Barrett Long, and searched high and low for Johnny Rock Page. I saw Jay Springsteen - who I watched race flat track in my very first motorcycle race EVER - but he was geting ready for Moto GT qualifying.
Finally, we decided we were too hungry (and cold) and decided to head out. We stopped at Tequila Sports Bar and had another drink before we trecked over to the fan party at Cycle Nation.
At Cycle Nation, we ran the Yamaha autograph line and had some great conversation with Ben Bostrom. He told us that Eric was doing well but was itching to get back to racing. I hope he brings some delicious avocados back with him. Larry Pegram was there & says he's still sore from his crash at Fontana, but he's ready to race this weekend, and Barrett Long turned out to be the coolest guy at the autograph sesson (follow on twitter at @paradigmracing).
After the Yamaha guys pulled out, the Suzuki guys sat down for autographs. Mat Mladin was the first in line, and Jen (smart ass) asked if he would sign his autograph "To Jen: DMG is making me sign autographs today." He was a sport about the comment and told us that he really enjoys meeting fans but hates when someone tells him when & where he has to do it. Geoff May was awesome as always, and Aaron Yates had his daughter on his lap for the session. Keving Schwantz was there as well, and it amazed me how many of the people in line had no clue who he was. Blake Young seems like a smug ass, and I still don't like him for running Cardenas off here last year.
We talked to a few regular riders (not racers) about their view on this season, and - for the most part - everyone seems to feel the same way as I do: We love racing, and it doesn't matter what DMG does - or anyone for that matter - we'll keep coming back for the love of the sport.
After the fan party, we headed back to Tequila and had dinner and a couple more drinks. Now we're back a the hotel. Jen is asleep in the hotel bed, and I'm updating you all now. The bed is looking really good right now, so I'm heading there too. If you're going to be at the track tomorrow, send me a DM on Twitter. My updates are off, so that's the only way to reach me.
I'm going to try to give more updates over the weekend, but if I don't, just know I wish you were all here.
This is racing, and this is what I love. No matter what's going on in life, weekends like this are what makes everything OK.
Keep riding. Keep racing. Keep the wrist twisted, and everything will be alright.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Yesterday was chest day. Before I hit the gym, I get myself into a certain mindset – focus on the body part I’m training, visualize the exercise motions, imagine the muscle growth – to better establish the mind-muscle connection so important to advanced bodybuilders. My chest workout today was more explosive, more painful and definitely more effective than it had been for some time. The reason is this: During the past eight years I’ve been training and the past four years I’ve been competing, I’ve been training my chest all wrong. That is until yesterday. If you work out, guess what. You’re training wrong too. In this blog post, I’m going to explain to you why so many people train their chest improperly, and I’m going to tell you exactly what to do – including the exercises – to increase your chest size, symmetry and aesthetics.
The pectoral area in what’s known as a classic physique of 60s and 70s pro bodybuilders is a dense pair of square-shaped masses. It stretches T-shirts and conveys a look of strength more than any other muscle group. The problem is, during the past 30 years or so, the evolution of the chest has lagged far behind every other major muscle group. Take a look at the following photos.
The first photo is of – of course – Arnold Schwarzenegger, six-time Mr. Olympia winner. The second photo is of Dexter Jackson, the 2008 Mr. O. Now, obviously, due to much mechanical and pharmacological advancement in the bodybuilding world, Dexter is much, much larger than
If you spend any amount of time in the gym, you know that the bench press is the most-used piece of (non-cardio) gym equipment (OK, maybe besides the curl bar). Unfortunately, it’s also the most-often improperly used piece of equipment. Guys pound out rep after rep of bench press with horrible form in the hopes of being able to proudly answer the “How much can you bench?” question. The bottom line is, even if performed correctly, the flat bench press is only good for one thing: Allowing you to be able to bench press more weight. Good if you’re a powerlifter. Bad if you’re trying to put on some size to fill out your shirts and impress the ladies. Even worse if you’re a bodybuilder. Now don’t get me wrong, properly executed, heavy bench presses will build mass in your pecs, but the angles of the press prevent you from building the part of the chest that really matters, the upper pecs. Read any bodybuilding or fitness forum and you’re likely to hear the question, “How can I build size in my upper chest?” The most common answer is “Incline bench press.” This myth has been passed around for so long, no one knows where it started. But, here’s a pretty solid theory: Pro bodybuilders. Pro bodybuilders spreading bad information about training methods? “No way,” you say. Well, not pro bodybuilders, but “enhanced” pro bodybuilders. I’ll let you in on a little secret; those guys you see in the pages of Muscle & Fitness don’t get to look that way naturally. Another not-so-well-kept secret is that steroid use really screws up your body, so these guys have had to adjust over time to prevent catastrophic injury. Here’s where the extinction of the chest and the myth of the incline bench press began.
One of the most debilitating injuries in bodybuilding is a shoulder injury. It can end careers, or, at the very least, set your progress back a year or more. In the top ranks of steroid-freak bodybuilding, the risk of that setback in unacceptable. For this reason, the shoulder ligaments and tendons have been protected while sacrificing upper chest development. This is why the incline bench press, the incline dumbbell press and Hammer Strength machines have become so prominent. They keep a safe angle on the shoulders to minimize stress to the connective tissue. If you’re throwing around 160lb dumbbells, you might have to worry about this. For the rest of us, let’s get down to the physiological motor aspects of chest training and start getting some real results.
It’s not that incline bench presses don’t work the upper chest; it’s that the incline bench press at your gym doesn’t work your upper chest. It’s a great front deltoid workout, but the angle is completely wrong for chest training. The incline benches at most gyms have a back pad that sits on a 35-45deg angle from the floor. Again, that’s a great angle for working shoulders, but the upper chest is targeted more directly when sitting at a 20-30deg angle. Raise your arms to a 125-135deg angle from your torso and feel what muscles begin to tighten more – it’s your anterior deltoids (the front of your shoulder). Now, lower your arms to 110-120deg. Your shoulder muscles will loosen and you’ll incorporate more of your upper chest.
STEP #1: Change your incline bench press angle. How to do that? Easy. If your gym happens to have an adjustable incline bench, lower it to 20%. If not, place a weight plate or a block of wood under the lower feet to decrease the angle.
The angle of the press is the first step to more effectively targeting your upper pecs, but there’s more – much more. Next, let’s look at your hand position when you perform bench press or dumbbell press movements. Generally, most people use the pronated, or overhand, position. Basically, this means your palms are facing your feet. Try this: While remaining relaxed, extend your right arm directly in front of your body, palms facing the floor and close your grip. Place your open left hand over your upper right pectorals, no higher than your clavicle. Now, rotate your right hand outward (clockwise) until your palm is facing upwards. What did you feel? You should have felt a contraction in your upper chest even if you weren’t flexing your pecs (If you felt no contraction, you really need to pay attention to this article). Some people give the advice that, while doing pressing movements, we should rotate our hands inwards, like a punching movement. Watch a commercial for The Perfect Pushup, and it will demonstrate this motion repeatedly. The problem is IT’S COMPLETELY BACKWARDS. Rotating your hands inwards brings more shoulder involvement into the motion. In order to better isolate your chest, and especially your upper chest, you should be rotating your hands outwards. You can easily do this with your dumbbell movements on your (20-13deg) incline dumbbell press. This motion is difficult to perform on a regular barbell bench press, but we’ll address that concern later.
STEP #2: Rotate your hands outwards towards the top of your pressing motion (CAUTION: You may have to significantly reduce the amount of weight you use to perform your incline dumbbell presses)
Another problem with regular pressing movements is their inability to provide a complete contraction of the pectoral muscles. Barbell, dumbbell and machine exercises do not allow the elbows to cross the body’s center line and therefore do not completely stimulate the chest. Even cable crossover exercises do not allow for a complete contraction as the contraction of the right pecs limits the range of motion of the left pecs and vice versa. During biceps curls, we’re taught to squeeze at the peak of contraction to further work the muscle group. The same idea should be applied to chest training.
STEP #3: Bring your elbows past the body’s center line for a more complete contraction at the peak. How do you do this? One-arm cable crossovers. Stand in the middle of the crossover apparatus and grasp the handles. The height of the handles should be set so that, when grasping the handles in the relaxed position, your arms are at a 45%angle to your torso and legs. Raise the handles up and across your chest. Be sure to follow that 45deg line of motion provided by the cables, and remember to keep you elbows slightly bent and locked and rotate you hands outward as much as possible as discussed in step #2. Alternate your left and right sides, keeping a tight squeeze at the peak.
The final problem with training your upper chest is that the normal rotation of the shoulder joints doesn’t allow for efficient targeting of the muscle group. During a press motion, the elbows are angled down to allow you to meet the bar with the chest. This motion naturally incorporates more anterior delt than we’d like to.
STEP #4: Angle the elbows upwards to reduce anterior deltoid incorporation.
OK, so, why don’t we simply angle the elbows back up to where they need to be while bench pressing? Well, if we did that, we’d be meeting the bar with our necks. Good angle, very uncomfortable. And not very safe. What can we do to make that movement easier and safer? We step over to the dreaded Smith machine. OMG! No serious bodybuilder would ever go near a Smith machine! Well, in this case, the ends justify the means, so we’ll suck it up, ignore the laughs and go for it. The Smith machine is going to allow us to incorporate steps, 1, 2 & 4, so the next exercise is really going to hit the upper pecs. It’s important to find a Smith machine that extends upwards on a slight angle. Some extend vertically, but that’s not going be as effective. If that’s all your gym has, I guess you’re going to be stuck using that one. OK, to perform the exercise, place a bench in the Smith machine and set it at a 20-30deg angle. The upwards angle of the machine should extend over your head, not towards your feet. Lie on the bench and position it so that when you lower the bar, it meets your body directly above your clavicles. Yes, right on your neck. Remember to keep your head slightly upwards to avoid catching the bar between your neck and chin. START WITH A LIGHT WEIGHT and perform your incline pressing movements as normal except instead of grasping the bar completely, rotate your hands outwards so that the bar is resting on the meat of your thumb & palm and barely touches the pinky finger of your open hands. You’ll probably have to disengage the bar catches before you position your hands. Lower the bar to your neck and extend fully upwards.
STEP #5: Exhaustion. I feel that fully exhausting your muscle groups is the only way to make big gains. This is what works for me. It may not work for you. I always finish my workouts with a light exercise and completely blast whatever group I’m working that day. For chest, it could be pec deck supersets or even pushups, but exhaustion exercises should always be done with the help of a spotter or on a machine/movement that won’t allow you to drop weights on your face. Therefore, I do not suggest barbell bench press as an exhaustion set.
OK, so let’s get this party started. The following workout incorporates all of the steps listed above, and is exactly what I did during my chest workout yesterday.
1. Incline barbell bench press (remember to lower the incline or place a weight plate under the bench feet)
One warm-up set + three working sets of 10. Increase the weight on each set. (I ALWAYS try to reach failure on my last working set off every exercise)
2. Incline dumbbell press. Again, remember the angle of the bench. Rotate the handle outward as you reach full contraction and squeeze for a two count on each rep.
Three working sets of 10. Increase the weight on each set.
3. Incline Smith machine press. Refer to step 4 for instructions.
Three working sets of 10. Increase the weight on each set.
4. Incline cable crossovers. Refer to step 3.
Find a weight you can do for 12 reps and use that weight for three sets until failure.
5. Pec Deck drop sets.
Pick a weight you can do for 10 reps. Perform that set and immediately reduce the weight ands perform another set. Continue as you work your way down the weight stack.
That’s it. 13 sets for chest day. None of these 30-set workouts. Just intense, effective training. You should really feel the pain for the following few days. I know I’m really feeling it today. This workout should not be performed more than once a week. If you’re just beginning your bodybuilding endeavors, you can alternate this workout with a more-general chest workout. If you’re an advanced trainer and you’re looking to bring your out your upper pecs, use this method for 4-6 weeks as it will still work the entire chest, but will focus on bringing the upper pecs more inline with what you’ve already accomplished. As always, I can’t stress enough proper form, intensity, nutrition, recovery and supplementation.
Dave Minella is a WNBF Pro bodybuilder. Any questions about this article or about bodybuilding in general may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the WNBF, please visit http://www.wnbf.net.
For information about the WNBF’s amateur affiliate, the INBF, please visit http://www.inbf.net.
Friday, March 20, 2009
The win - another Crosby/Malkin freakshow - put the Pens one game closer to the Stanley Cup playoffs and puts Evgeni Malkin a few points closer to the Art Ross & Hart trophies.
Although I was in Pittsburgh today, I wasn't lucky enough to go to the game, but I did get to watch with D-Money and re-live some old-school Pittsburgh sports memories.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
You see, if you've been living in a cave, you may not be aware that the economy isn't fairing so well (actually, if you've been living in a cave, you're probably better off than most of the US population). It has hit most parts of American industry, but no industry has been hit as hard as mine - the manufacturing industry. I work for a company that manufactures robotic tools, mostly for the building industry. One of our major markets is cabinet makers. The housing sector is down. building is down. Our sales are down. We restructured in January and repositioned for what we knew was going to be a few slow months, but, unfortunately, our sales hit rock bottom in March. So, last Friday, our company president called a meeting and announced half the company would be on a mandatory two-week unpaid vacation. Hopefully, in two weeks, we'll have a company to go back to. We were completely blindsided by the announcement. We had no time to plan and budget accordingly. We were told, out of the blue, that we wouldn't be receiving a paycheck for the next month. Fuck you. Good luck.
We were surprised, bitter, but what could we do? I left the meeting, called my old man and told him to be expecting company for the next week. I knew what I was going to do, and it didn't make sense for me to sit around my apartment all day looking for a new job when I could take a well deserved trip to the lake and relax, sort things out and dig into the job search. I decided to leave on Monday and come back the following Saturday so I'd have a week when I got back to schedule interviews and also so I wouldn't have to be away from Jen for more than a few days (yeah, I'm a baby that way). I packed a bag and my laptop, and Jen dropped me off at RDU on Monday morning for my trip to Union City, PA via the Buffalo airport and a Dulles layover.
My dad has been retired for a few years now, and after my mom died of cancer in June of 2007 he decided he had to get away from things. This past summer, he sold his house in suburban Pittsburgh and bought a little cottage on the Canadohta Lake in (very) rural Crawford County, PA, about 30 miles southeast of Erie. Now when I say little cabin, I really mean little cottage. Although I didn't grow up in what could be considered a big house by any means, his two-story dwelling is cramped by anyone's standards. It has one bedroom downstairs and a small two-room upstairs with a pair of single beds in one room and Big Dave's office in the other room. He has a well, limited hot water, basic cable and no Verizon reception. The nearest town to Canadohta Lake is Union City, population 3,000, which is about eight miles away. If you've ever seen The Great Outdoors with John Candy, you have an idea what I'm talking about. The lake is beginning to thaw, but there are still ice-fishing huts littering the shoreline, and a sign outside one of the local bars announces "WED SNOWMOBILE NITE." His new girlfriend, Susan, who's actually a friend from a long time ago, has all but abandoned her own cottage down the road to shack up with pops. Susan's an animal lover and she and my dad are surrounded by Tinkerbell, a Maltese former show dog who was rescued from her owner, an elderly woman who affectionately groomed Tink everyday but somehow forgot to feed her for weeks. Then there's Alex, a pug rescued from a puppy mill. (On a side note: Tink, who's a female and is fixed, climbs on Alex, who's a male and is also fixed, licks his ears and relentlessly humps him while he doesn't seem to be paying attention). Outside the cottage live a small pride of cats who occasionally venture inside. There's Sigfreid, Roy, Spot, El Gato and Spare Cat among others. It's very quiet in the winter, as most cottages are summer homes abandoned during the cold months. It's low key, peaceful, and the two of them are happy there, sharing each other's companionship away from the city and the craziness that is the Minella clan.
D-Money (my dad's rapper name) picked me up at the Buffalo airport on Monday afternoon (his place is equidistant from Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Cleveland, so it's easy to find a cheap flight into one of those airports). I spent the day Monday relaxing and catching up since I hadn't been home since Christmas of 2007. On Tuesday, I ate breakfast and spent the next four hours applying for jobs and emailing resumes. [Since then, I've already received some good responses including an email response to fill out a prescreening questionnaire and a phone call about setting up a telephone interview]. This morning, I drove about 10 miles to the "local" gym, had a great workout and waited for my sister and her kids to arrive. My sister has two kids - Angelica (4) and Avery (2) - and is currently going through a divorce. I'm an opponent of divorce - as any good Catholic is - but I'm so happy she's getting out of this one. We all went down to the Sugar & Spice Amish restaurant at the Eagle Hotel in waterford, PA for some comfort food (the most expensive restaurant in town, the bill for four adults and two kids which came to less than $100). Then we headed back to the cottage and tried to figure out where everyone's going to sleep.
So, that's been my week so far. I'm not sure I'll have a job when I get back, and I'm surprisingly OK with that. I've come to realize I have an amazingly supportive family, and for the first time in my life, I feel like I have a girlfriend who stands behind me 100%. I've also realized that I have some pretty desirable skills and, regardless of whether I do have a job in a week & 1/2, it's time to move on career-wise. Wow, this quick blog post has become a novel. It's 11:15, and I have another long day of looking for a job and torturing the living daylights out of a certain four years old and two year old.