Power Cleans

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  • Grasp the barbell just outside of your shins and start from a deadlift position
  • Lift the weight off the ground while maintaining a strict lumbar curve and your weight in your heels
  • Once the weight reaches mid-thigh explosively jump the weight vertically and shrug your shoulders
  • Be sure to let the momentum from your jump and shrug send the weight upwards and your arms do not pull the weight
  • Catch the barbell in a rack position and in a quarter-squat position
  • Stand from the squat with the weight in the rack position and lower the weight slowly to the ground

CONGRATULATIONS to Bonfire Athlete ALICIA GOMES – Qualified for 2012 Crossfit Games

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This is a distance shot of Alicia Gomes on the pull-up bars in Lane 1 (because she’s in first place at this point; she finished second overall) – she was one of only three individual women at Northeast Regional competition who earned a spot at the Crossfit Games in Los Angeles in July. This regional qualifying competition was a fierce battle and indescribable display of strength and endurance. Alicia trains at CrossFit Wicked in Middleton, MA

Here’s Alicia showing the incredible poise and concentration that has led her from once being a national competitive gymnast to now a world competitor for the title “Fittest on Earth” at the 2012 CrossFit Games in Los Angeles this summer.

To give you an idea of how demanding (insane?) the workouts were at the regionals, here’s the last of six workouts over the three-day competition:

Three rounds:

7 Deadlifts (225 lbs)
7 Muscle-ups (arguably one the most difficult exercises there is)

then, three rounds of:

21 Wall Balls (14 lb ball to 10′)
21 Toes-to-bar


100′ Farmer Carry (2 x 70 lb dumbell)
28 Burpee box jumps (20″ box)
100′ Farmer Carry (2 x 70 lb dumbell)
3 Muscle-ups

Alicia did this entire workout in 17:08 (she finished in first place for this event).

And here’s Alicia in Event 3 (four rounds of 10 one arm snatches – 70 lbs); she tied for second in this particular event.




Agricultural Revolution

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In the field of archaeology, there is a term for the practice of living in one place.  It is called sedentism.  Sedentism and the development of agriculture go hand in hand with what is known as the Agricultural Revolution.

The Agricultural Revolution began approximately ten thousand years ago.  It is thought to have begun most prominently in the Middle East, in what is known as the Fertile Crescent.  The first crops grown by man are thought to be wheat and barley.  See this timeline of the events of the Agricultural Revolution here.


Slam Balls

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  • Grasp the slamball on the ground with straight arms and both hands between your legs.
  • Start with your fee shoulder width apart, low back flat, chest up, knees bent in a semi-squat position, and looking straight ahead.
  • Rise up from the starting position and jump the ball up in the air.
  • Guide the ball upwards with your arms until you are holding the ball directly overhead.
  • Forcefully throw the ball downwards in front of your body while dropping your body quickly into the semi-squat position.
  • Catch the ball off of the bounce and repeat.

No Time to Workout? The Magic of Tabata

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“I’m too busy to exercise”

… not if Tabata has anything to say about it!

Tabata is a high-intensity, interval training regimen that can produce remarkable results.  It only takes 4 minutes to do, and it’s incredibly effective!  You will be amazed at how intense the four minutes of exercise will feel.

  • Uses any type of exercise
  • Takes only 4 minutes
  • Engages both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems
  • Builds strength and endurance
  • You can do it anywhere!

Here is How it Works:

  • A Tabata workout is an interval training cycle of 20 seconds of maximum intensity exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest.
  • The intervals are repeated 8 times without pause, so the total time of the Tabata workout is only four minutes.
  • To be clear, this isn’t “eight sets of eight,” although the goal of doing eight reps in each of the 20-second clusters is pretty good.  Instead it’s “as many reps as I can get in” during the twenty seconds, followed by ten seconds rest.
  • IMPORTANT: This isn’t a “four minute workout” – it’s meant to be done when your fully warmed up and possibly even at the end of a workout.

In terms of making your progress measurable, you can keep score by counting how many lifts or movements or distance or whatever you do in each of the 20 second rounds.  You can either add up the total of all your work done or make the round with the smallest number your score.

Here’s a cool Tabata timer:
[to upload to your phone: http://youtu.be/BxFGAyFWNo8]


Credit for this simple and powerful training method belongs to its namesake, Dr. Izumi Tabata, and a team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan.  Their groundbreaking 1996 study, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise provided documented evidence concerning the dramatic physiological benefits of high-intensity intermittent training.  After just 6 weeks of testing, Dr. Tabata noted a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity in his subjects, along with a 14% increase in their ability to consume oxygen (V02Max).  The conclusion was that just four minutes of Tabata interval training could do more to boost aerobic and anaerobic capacity than an hour of endurance exercise.

Although Dr. Tabata used a mechanically braked exercise cycle machine, you can apply this protocol to almost any exercise.  For example, a basic Tabata workout can be performed with pushups.  The greater the range of motion done for each exercise, the better, so make sure your arms are locked out fully at the top and that your chest touches the ground at the bottom.  Perform pushups non-stop for 20-second intervals, followed by 10 seconds of rest.  Repeat for a total of 8 cycles.

Tabata Suggestions: 

  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Running (sprint)
  • Swimming (sprint)
  • Rowing
  • Squats
  • Jump rope
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Pull-ups
  • Thrusters
  • Burpees
  • Lunges

Got it?  Now get moving!

Further reading and references:

Chronic Cardio Vs Short Interval High Intensity Exercise
Short Interval High Intensity Workouts Burn More Calories
Best Way to Improve Your Body Composition

Zieman E, et al. Aerobic and anaerobic changes with high-intensity interval training in active college-aged men. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Apr;25(4):1104-12.

Laursen PB, Jenkins DG  The scientific basis for high-intensity interval training: optimising training programmes and maximising performance in highly trained endurance athletes. Sports Med. 2002;32(1):53-73.



Bonfire Guest Contributor: Mark Divine, former U.S. Navy SEAL Commander

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The Big 4 of Mental Toughness – Part I

By Mark Divine

Imagine showing up at Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL training (BUD/s) on day one. Around you stand 175 swarthy SEAL candidates from all walks of life. Some are monster Adonis types who played linebacker for their college football team. Others are boxers and wrestlers. Others are underwater combat experts (code for water polo). Still others look like they just parked the tractor in the barn and hopped on a bus to Coronado.

Every one of them is about ready to fight three fights, and the 40 or so who can win all three simultaneously while maintaining a great attitude and their health, will call themselves SEALs in 11 months.

If you wonder whether you will be one of them …you won’t.

First, let’s discuss the 3 fights.   As my buddy Tony Blauer likes to point out – in a street fight, you fight 3 battles.

The first fight is inside you. That battle is overcoming your fears, steeling your resolve, maintaining an offensive mind set, developing skills, knowledge and personal power, and not succumbing to the habit of conveying special powers upon your enemy.

The second fight is the actual engagement; the one most would consider the fight. This is often the easiest of the 3, and is certainly the shortest in terms of time invested.

The third fight is between you and the system. This fight is also pretty clear to you. The instructor’s sole job is to determine whether you have what it takes to be on the team. They don’t care about you personally. Whether you or the next guy makes it is completely irrelevant to them. The instructors all have PhD’s in exploiting weakness, finding your opening, crawling inside of you and tearing you apart from the inside out.

Back to wet and cold on the BUD/s grinder. The second fight is clear to you. You must fight each and every one of these guys to earn the right to be standing tall on graduation day. That means that, out of 40 potential finishers, 39 will be your potential teammates, and the other 135 are your enemies. You are locked in a competitive battle with them to lock your position in the 40. You must do so by being crafty, every watchful, exploiting opportunity, being Machiavellian and Aristotelian at the same time. You must be intensely cooperative and forge a winning team, while also being intensely competitive – the stakes are the coveted trident, which some have literally died earning. You will not make it…unless…

You win the first fight first. The first fight is in your mind. You must win in the mind, before stepping foot onto the battleground. This is true for any situation in life. The question, then, becomes how.  Even if ambushed, a SEAL who beats the crud out of an assailant in California will have to answer for why a Navy SEAL with 25 years of martial arts experience could not control the use of force.

This is where the “big 4” come in. I can write volumes about mental toughness, but when it comes to tactics, the big 4 always bubble up to the top. You must master these 4 tactics to win in your mind before you step into the combat-like arenas of life.

Whether you are a SEAL candidate or business professional, the big 4 are your toolkit to mental toughness and success. Stand by for more in the next installment.

Until then, train hard, stay safe and have fun!

The Big 4 of Mental Toughness – Part II

Commander Mark Divine is founder and CEO of US Tactical, inc. which operates SEALFIT, NavySEALs.com and US CrossFit. He started his athletic career as a collegiate swimmer and rower, then competitive tri-athlete and martial artist before joining the Navy in 1990 as an officer. He graduated honor-man of his SEAL training class and served on active duty for nine years. Mark retired as a Commander from the Navy Reserves in 2011.

At U.S. Tactical and SEALFIT, CDR Divine has trained and mentored thousands of Navy SEAL and other Special Ops candidates to succeed in the most demanding military training programs in the world. His success rate with SEALFIT in getting candidates through their SOF programs is near 90%.

Mark’s insights into elite fitness, elite teams, leadership, mental toughness and warrior spirit development were developed over his 20 years as a SEAL and business leader, 25 years as a martial artist and 15 years as yoga practitioner. Mark has developed the first Integral Warrior program through the integration of Western and Eastern training practices – making SEALFIT and the Unbeatable Mind Academy the most effective training programs in the world for warrior athletes, professionals and leaders from all walks of life. SEALFIT trainees are those seeking a higher level of operating, thinking and leading – encompassing the full spectrum of human experience – Body, Mind and Spirit in Self, Team and Organization. Finally, Mark has created Unbeatable Mind Academy for executive and others who are seeking a higher level of mental performance.

Raw Food – Eat to Give your Body Life!

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Tough Love
“Go raw or die young and painfully”. Does that statement rub you the wrong way, or does it sound extreme to you?  Good, because the truth is that if we, as a culture, don’t start eating close to 80% of our plant foods in their raw or natural state, we are doomed to suffer and die from the “modern man” diseases that are now considered “normal” (meaning heart disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune, inflammatory, obesity and obesity-related conditions).  So what do we mean by “raw food?”

Mention raw food to people, and the first thing they will think of is something like trail mix or even more extreme, such as eating raw chicken.  The raw foods we already eat and are familiar with (so we just need to eat more of them, and then add new ones we learn about) are things like salads, fruits, nuts (no, not the monster tub of roasted, salted nuts from Costco), and vegetables.  However, if you scratch below the surface, there’s much, much more to raw food than meets the eye (or the tongue, more appropriately).  There’s a cornucopia of gastronomic delights waiting for you in the raw food world.  The next time you travel to a new city, do a search before you go and find the raw restaurants for the area and go eat at one – it will be an eye-opening, mouth-watering experience.  But, before we go too much further, let’s start with:  why raw food?

Well, let’s start at the beginning:  Our pre-agricultural ancestors (10,000 – 40,000 years ago) and our rural pre-industrial relatives (250 years ago) ate much of their food in its natural or raw state.  It’s no coincidence that people of these eras rarely experienced heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, allergies, asthma, arthritis, constipation, acne, etc.  Furthermore, our genetic make-up is the same as those of our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors; so, if we don’t eat the way we are genetically programmed to, we end up with all the modern man or lifestyle diseases mentioned above.

Wouldn’t it make sense if we desire to not be disease-ridden as so many people of modern society are today, that we look back at the lifestyle and eating habits during these successful times to appreciate, to learn from, and to model?  Fortunately for us, there have been many bright scientists who have already done this work.  These researchers have conclusively shown that in nearly all areas of nutrition, we, as modern yet genetically identical Homo sapiens to those from hunter-gatherer periods, have veered far from the nutritional and lifestyle habits that create and maintain optimal health.

Basic Steps
So here are some basic steps to start getting more fruits, vegetables and nuts into your diet.  Remember, you want to begin any change to your health regimen by adding something positive first; then later, start removing the negative lifestyle habits you may have adopted.

Eat a large salad with lunch and dinner.  This doesn’t mean iceberg lettuce drenched in Ranch dressing.  This means a salad made with green leaf, red leaf, and romaine lettuce, and vegetables such as carrots, celery, cucumber, tomato (I know, tomato is technically a fruit), avocado, radishes, green beans, legume beans (navy, garbanzo, kidney, etc.), miscellaneous greens (kale, chard, mustard, dandelion, etc.), cabbages (napa, savoy, Bok choy – Chinese cabbage), etc.  Make salad the main dish for your meals; the protein, if there is one, should be smaller or secondary.  Minimize how much starch you eat (i.e. pasta, breads, etc.).

Have steamed vegetables every night with dinner.  This is one of the easiest things to add, even while eating out – almost all restaurants will accommodate your request to add or substitute steamed vegetables to your meal instead of rice, fries, or some other starch that typically comes with a dinner.

Snack on carrots, celery, raw nuts, and fruit, etc.  Take the time to cut up some vegetables, put them in Ziplock™ baggies.  In another baggie or Tupperware™ container, put some raw almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts (filberts).  Along with an apple, banana, tangerine, etc., you now have some take-along snacks for work or the car (especially if you’re transporting little people).  Taking these preparatory steps will enable you to avoid succumbing to eating junk food, fast food, etc.

Start eating nutritious breakfasts.  If you’re not eating breakfast, shame on you – it’s the most important meal of the day (I know your mom told you that!).  If you are eating breakfast, what are you eating?  Cereal?  Bagels?  Coffee? (hopefully not with some poisonous, chemical-laced “non-dairy” creamer!) Soda pop? (yes, people actually drink soda pop for breakfast – and we wonder why 55% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese and 1 in 4 Americans will develop diabetes).  Start eating organic eggs, green smoothies (made with spinach, chard and kale), quality proteins, and healthy fats for your breakfasts.  Another great breakfast suggestion:  make a batch of egg-salad (with grated carrots or zucchini, or leftover chopped vegetables from the night before), and eat it straight out of the bowl.  Smoothies made with banana, frozen berries, almond milk, lemon-flavored fish oil, and a raw egg are quick, easy, highly nutritious, and can be taken on the go. Check out Perfect Breakfast – Part 1.

Chiropractic: The Essential Element of Nerve Supply (and being healthy)

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How have chiropractic patients had miraculous recoveries from such diverse conditions as infertility, high blood pressure, hearing loss, and enuresis (bed wetting)?  By freeing the master system of the body – the nervous system – from interference, that’s how.

Chiropractors correct mechanical stress to the spine (called vertebral subluxation) that creates irritation and interference to the flow of information across the complex and sensitive nerve system.  This is the same reason why the healthiest families in the world, not to mention elite atheletes like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Jerry Rice, make regular chiropractic care part of their health regimen.


Brain Plasticity

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No, despite the name of this post, this isn’t about Dr. Paul in the ’70s.

The title of this journal article pretty much says it all: The impact of diet and exercise on brain plasticity and disease. [Pinilla FG, Nutr Health. 2006;18(3):277-84]

“Lifestyle involves our preference to engage in behaviors that can remarkably influence the fitness level of our body and brain. Dietary factors are a powerful means to influence brain function on a daily basis. Equally impressive is the action of exercise on cognitive function as documented by studies showing that exercise enhances learning and memory.”

Brain plasticity refers to the capability of the brain to lay down new neuronal pathways, make new connections – in other words, the brain’s function is improved at every stage of life when a healthy diet and exercise are a not only part of your lifestyle, but they are your lifestyle.

“A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that exercise has a positive impact on human health, including neurological health. Aerobic exercise, which is supposed to enhance cardiovascular functions and metabolism, also induces neurotrophic factors that affect hippocampal neurons, thereby improving spatial learning and memory.” [Cassilhas RC, et al Spatial memory is improved by aerobic and resistance exercise through divergent molecular mechanisms. Neuroscience 2012 Jan 27; 202:309-317]


Additional References:

Gomez-Pinilla F Collaborative effects of diet and exercise on cognitive enhancement. Nutr Health 2011;20(3-4):165-9

Gomez-Pinilla F The combined effects of exercise and foods in preventing neurological and cognitive disorders. Prev Med 2011 Jun1;52 Suppl 1:S75-80. Epub 2011 Jan 31


Fish Oil and its Effect on the Brain:
Wu A, Gomez-Pinilla F Docosahexaenoic acid dietary supplementation enhances the effects of exercise on synaptic plasticity and cognition. Neuroscience 2008 Aug 26;155(3):751-9. Epub 2008 Jun 17


Why Whole Foods?

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Why Whole Foods?
Our first priority is to eat whole, fresh foods.  This is what makes us healthy; it’s also what we have been genetically designed to eat – what is found in nature, not what is created in laboratories or mass food-producing factories utilizing chemicals.  Today, so many of our foods have no resemblance to what one would find out in nature.  These foods are simply a concoction of man-made chemicals and manufacturing processes that are sold as food.  For now, let’s concentrate on whole foods.

A loose definition of “whole foods” is that the food is eaten in the form as close to the way it’s found in nature as possible, with minimal to no processing.  There are obvious variances and limitations to these criteria, depending on the food.  For example, foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds should be eaten in their raw state, which provides the highest level of nutrients (i.e. fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, enzymes, water, etc.).  When those foods are frozen, canned, baked, fried, salted, etc. and/or prepared with other processed foods (e.g. an apple that is made into a “turnover” made with white flour, hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup), they are moving away from the way they are found in nature and in the process, losing the majority if not all of their nutritive value and now have disease-promoting additive chemicals. In the apple turnover, the once naturally-found food, the apple, has now crossed the line from being simply non-nutritious to actually becoming a disease-producing food (the white flour and high fructose corn syrup are major contributors to the development of diabetes; the hydrogenated oil is a known causal agent for heart disease and cancer).

On the contrary, other foods such as olive oil, almond milk, and whole grains can only be eaten after a certain amount or degree of processing.  Then there are differing degrees to that processing.  For example, a cold-pressed virgin (first press) olive oil is a much better food than heat-processed oil; fresh made almond milk versus store bought almond milk differs greatly in their ingredients and nutritional make up.

The Basics
We are all part of the animal kingdom.  Yes, God has made us different from other animals in many ways; but when it comes to how our bodies function physiologically, we are no different than other animals.  Would you feed your pet dog, cat, bird, or rat chips, fries, soda pop, ice cream, cookies, crackers and expect them to be healthy?  (By the way, Dr. Paul’s kids have pet rats – they feed them raw vegetables, nuts, and avocado trimmings/leftovers, etc.).  Why not?  It’s obvious, because the pet would get sick, right?  But you say, “They’re animals!” Well, guess what?  So are we!

It is so important that you understand this concept that we have to eat naturally for our bodies to be healthy.  Our bodies are made up of between 70 – 100 trillion cells – and those cells will function according to the raw materials we provide.  In other words, the health of our cells and therefore the health of our bodies is determined by the food we feed ourselves.  YES, IT’S THAT SIMPLE!  Perhaps no other single factor has contributed to the decline in man’s health than the (self-imposed) changes that have occurred to our food supply over the past 350 years. More