PR Friday – 20 Sept

PR Friday! This week was relatively quiet, but we did have an excellent article from Gina Melnik that was posted, check it out if you missed it.

Some updates on the crew:

Brent and AC were hanging and training together recently:

Chris posted some training footage coming back from his low back injury

Mike’s been hanging out in Cali with Tsypkin, here he exhibits good spotting technique

Justin should have some new articles up in the coming week. In the meantime, check in with the community here in the comments, and post your PR’s


On Pumping Iron and Making Babies

Today’s post is a reader submission from Gina Melnik. You may remember an article from last year where Gina wrote about her strongwoman group, N.E.W.S. Since then, Gina recently had a baby girl, and had a lot of people ask her about training while pregnant. Today she graciously shares her experience and what she learned along the way. Be sure to check out the video at the bottom, where she absolutely crushes her first competition as a mother! 

On Pumping Iron and Making Babies

Contrary to what some would say, you don’t necessarily have to stop lifting weights just because you’re pregnant. If your body is accustomed to it and you’ve already got an established strength training routine, you should be able to continue lifting with some modifications.  First, talk to your midwife or OB and get informed about any guidelines they have for you or limitations applicable to your particular situation.  Then, assuming you’re cleared, go for it!  There’s lots of research showing that exercise is good for pregnant women and their babies.

preggo front double bi

Since I frequently get asked about it, I’d like to share what kinds of modifications I made during my pregnancy.  However, neither me nor anyone else is going to be able to give you precise information about how heavy is too heavy.  It seems reasonable to assume that the appropriate weight is going to depend in part on how much you were lifting before you got pregnant.  But don’t hold your breath for specific guidance based on your current strength level.  (For example, not to lift beyond ___% of your 1RM.)  This kind of research has never been done so you have to listen to your body and use common sense.

With that said, while I was pregnant I:

1.) Tried to avoid getting out of breath.  When you’re pregnant even modest exercise can sometimes make your heart rate shoot up and you get winded much faster.  The rule of thumb that I was given was to not wind myself so much that I couldn’t talk.  I liked this rule because I found it a pretty easy way to check myself.

2.) Took the weight down and focused on doing more reps instead.  Even though my body was used to low rep sets, I knew pregnancy was not the time for that kind of lifting.  However, on some exercises, squats and deadlifts for example, I chose to keep the reps more in a middle range simply because my heart rate could sometimes climb pretty quickly.  On those exercises I generally stopped around 8 reps and just did more sets.

3.) Stopped a set if I got too tired and allowed my form to start to break.  There were  times when I know I could have finished the set or even done a little more but once my form started to slip I saw that as a sign I needed a break.

4.) doing the valsalva maneuver (i.e. holding your breath and creating intra-abdominal pressure when you are about to lift something.)  I was actually told to avoid holding my breath at all.  If I felt like a weight was going to feel awkward to lift without holding my breath then I reduced the weight.

5.) Reminded myself that my center of gravity and balance were going to keep changing – especially as my body got bigger.  I didn’t do exercises that required more balance and coordination than I was comfortable with.  If my balance felt “off” then I went on to something different.

6.) Avoided exercises where I would have to lie flat on my back.  From the 2nd trimester on, it’s generally recommended that you avoid doing this and it was an easy guideline to follow.

7.) Kept up with ab work during most of my pregnancy, e.g. hanging leg raises, side bends, planks).  (Hidden bonus: the amusement of guilting the rest of the gym into not skipping their ab work after watching you do it while pregnant.)

8.) Reminded myself that relaxin, a pregnancy hormone that makes joints more mobile, put me at greater risk of a musculoskeletal injury.  Relaxin levels peak in the 2nd and 3rd trimester but it actually starts rising even fairly early on in the 1st trimester. There’s not a lot to do about this other than keep it in mind and remember to reel yourself in when needed.

9.) Avoided fast, explosive movements and most cardio other than walking.  Why?  Mainly because my body didn’t love it and I…

10.) Listened to my body!!!  And I hope you will do the same.  You really are the ONE person that knows exactly what does or doesn’t feel okay.


preggo squat

17 days before her child was born

A few final thoughts:

Hopefully listening to your body is something you’ve already learned how to do.  (For example, when you need to deload, back off your bad shoulder, or warmup longer.)  If you have learned the skill of “listening to your body,” now is the time to use it.  If you haven’t, consider this practice.  Honing this skill will serve your lifting long past this pregnancy.

Try to get to the gym consistently.  If you are really too exhausted then obviously take the rest and don’t beat yourself up about it.  But if you mostly just don’t feel like it, try to get there anyhow and do what you can, however modest it may be.  As far as I can tell, no one really feels like working out when they are pregnant.

Lastly, consistency can be aided by having a goal for the future.  Even if your goal seems a little bold, if it gets you out of bed and to the gym that’s all that matters.  Don’t be afraid to dream about your comeback.

Video below of the goal that kept me motivated.  I had no idea whether competing so soon after my daughter’s birth would be doable but … turns out it was. :)


Before beginning any exercise program, always discuss the program with your physician and follow your physician’s advice.  This information is not intended to replace a physician’s independent judgment about the appropriateness or risks of engaging in an exercise program. 

Gina Melnik is a psychologist, an ISSA certified personal trainer, co-founder of the New England Women of Strength (N.E.W.S.), and… a new mom.

Office to Octagon followup

A few months back I posted an article from my friend Brendan about training for MMA and leading up to his charity event: a full scale, sanctioned fight night that happened in Boston. Today’s post is a followup to the original article, with a recap of training and the event, and what the future holds for Brendan and O2O

dat mustache

dat mustache

The dust has settled from what was the most exciting and stressful three-month period of my life.

Daily schedules in the weeks leading up to the fight night would require as many as three full screen shots on my IPhone to capture everything.

My close relationships suffered as did my own training, but everyone around me understood that this was something being done for the greater good and that for anything great sacrifice must be part of it.

The fighters who participated made all types of sacrifices, no booze, no weed, no hamburgers, no ice cream, everyone eliminated one of their guilty pleasures.

We all put our social lives on hold, at least the heavy partying, and went to work. We raised over $100K through ticket sales, donations, our fighter date auction, and apparel sales. Lost a combined 300+ pounds and redefined charity.

More than what was raised is what was found. Fighters stumbled upon parts of themselves that they didn’t know existed. It truly was a sink or swim scenario. But this all took place before anyone ever stepped into the cage. Over 50 individuals registered from the thousands who pursued the opportunity. Of the 50 only 16 competed.

The fight night itself was electric. It was like gladiators competing for glory. A broken hand and two separated shoulders later we had made history as being the first sanctioned amateur MMA fight in downtown Boston. Commissioners who have been attending fights for 20+ years said it was by far one of the best events they have ever been to. We brought a class and coolness to the sport that has yet to be seen. Our last fight, Bean VS. Mullin is up for Fight of the Year honors on Mass MMA.

More importantly we brought about awareness of the childhood obesity epidemic in our country. Which if we are not careful with be the downfall of our economy. So even if you aren’t passionate about obesity prevention, I am sure we can all agree on our passion for the well being of our country and maintaining our super power status.

a packed house watching the action

The immediate question after the event was, “When are you doing this again?!”. So today I am announcing that O2O 2 will take place in February of 2014. Contact me at if you or someone you know might be interested in competing.

In the end I lost my fight, but there is no doubt we all won that evening. Nearly three months after the fact I am ready to do it all over again. It is time that we start fighting for something we believe in. Choose your cause, register to fight, and change your life.



Brendan “Bonesaw” McKee is a CPT and CF-L1 trainer, and former NFL Europe athlete. He is currently the owner of, MFD Training, and a contributor. His passion lies in helping underprivileged youths, and sculpting his extraordinary mustache.


Guest Post from Mike’s Brother: “Stay Strong Ricky”

Asking the 70’s Big community and any willing individual for a hand!

And there is a Press challenge for you!

this is alex

this is Alex

Hey guys,

Some of you may remember me from a year or so ago when I competed at the 2012 Arnold Raw Challenge with Mike and Chris. My name is Alex Battaglino and I’m Mike’s younger brother. Back when I was living in Texas with Mike I competed in powerlifting with many of the fan favorites on the site, though I was never was directly involved with posting.

Recently my brother had posted an article and challenge regarding Van Hatfield’s daughter Bre, many of you (including myself) submitted videos and pictures in response, and showed tremendous support for a very worthy cause. Well it seems that the time has come once again to ask for support and assistance to another worthy cause, that directly affects a brother lifter!

To keep a long story somewhat short my lady friend, who also happens to share my name, has had a personal hardship fall upon her family. Her cousin Ricky Fullana was involved in a motor vehicle accident which has left him in very rough shape. Without getting into much detail all involved know that he has a very long road of recovery ahead of him, and is currently in intensive care at a local hospital. Ricky is a strong, athletic, and intelligent young man, he is in need of your support in any way that we may be able to offer it.

this is Ricky

this is Ricky

One thing that I must mention is that Ricky’s father Jimmy is an avid powerlifter. At the age of 50 years young he became seriously involved in training and competing, and embodying everything that 70’s Big stands for. He, like many of us, shares a passion for getting under the bar, blocking out everything else, and getting stronger. As a man with a wife and four children he still finds his way to the gym to train and keep getting stronger.

Today when I was at the hospital visiting his son and family, Jimmy came from his son’s room, strong as a rock and sat down with all of us. Not wanting to dwell on any negative thoughts, he and I began talking about training, lifting, different training modalities, how to get stronger etc. Even in the face of adversity this man continues to have passion and drive for the sport of powerlifting. I think it would be great if the 70’s Big community showed our strength and support for his son, that needs our prayers and well wishes. This site is a community of strong individuals and with our support we can help Ricky, as young man with much to accomplish, overcome a tremendous obstacle. Show support for Ricky here, and let us all share our thoughts and prayers with this young man, and his family.

It wouldn’t be a 70’s Big charitable donation without a bit of challenge, so post a video of you going for a 1RM/3RM/5RM Press (or however many reps you are inclined to do), and be sure to include a sign with the saying “Stay Strong Ricky”.


Mike Interviews Robert Oberst

Robert Oberst is a Professional Strongman that recently represented the U.S. in Sanya, China at the 2013 World’s Strongest Man. Official results are not available, but remember, Google is your friend…


Mike: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Robert: Robert Oberst, 28 years old, 400 lbs, 6’8”, and I was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California.

Mike: Have you always been into strength sports? (you look like you may have played football)

Robert: I got into strength sports a little less than 2 years ago. Before that I played football for what seemed like FOREVER!!

Mike: How did you get into strongman?

Robert: I first got into strongman through my buddy Evan. We were working security at a bar together and it’s all he’d ever talk about so I decided to try it with him one day and LOVED it.

Mike: What kind of training split do you have between gym lifts and strongman events? And what are some of your PR’s?

Robert: My training split is pretty normal. 3 days in a regular gym and one long day of events, but when I was training for worlds I did an extra day of events. As for PR’s, you gotta sweat in a gym with me to get that info.

Mike: Where do you train? Do you train alone, with a steady group of people?

Robert: I train at a local gym in Hanford, CA and do events at my or a buddies house. Just recently my dad retired and is at all my training sessions and I usually have at least one more guy, my buddy Aram.

Mike: What is your diet like?  

Robert: Nathan Payton does my diet and it’s basically a lot of clean protein. I eat 3 1/2 pounds of meat a day. If you wanna know what else I eat you gotta ask Nathan.

Mike: You’ve risen pretty quickly in strongman, what do you attribute that to?

Robert: There are several reasons I’ve risen so fast in the ranks of strongman. Obviously I work my butt off. You’ve gotta earn it cuz it won’t be handed to you. I also have the greatest support anyone could ever ask for. My family is obsessed with my success and always willing to do anything to help including supporting me when nobody else will. My wife has been stronger than I can ever dream to be. She takes care of everything and never slows down for a second. She’s so supportive and involved that she has more nervousness for shows than I do. When a show ends it takes her longer to recover than me!

Mike: Other than winning World’s Strongest Man, what are your goals in the sport?

Robert: I haven’t set super high goals for now. All I want is to be the strongest man who ever walked the earth.

Mike: If you could give any advice to anyone wanting to turn strongman from a hobby into a lifestyle, what would you tell them?

Robert: There’s too much talent now in this sport to half ass it, so if you aren’t sure or you just wanna do enough to look cool online DON’T cuz you’re only in the way.

Mike: What percentage of your power comes from your beard? In a one-on-one fight, would your beard defeat Andrew Palmer’s?

Robert: I’d say whatever power doesn’t come from my family comes from the beard. Easily 40-50%. My beard has been taking Andrews beards lunch money since it was a 5 o’clock shadow!