Smokin’ with Sousa

OG commenter Sousa recently got a new smoker, and has dove into the world of BBQ headfirst. Here’s the first of a potential series from him on smoking various meats. 

Smoking with Sousa – Chicken Halves

Hey there, it’s been a minute since the last 70’s Big post and I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring.  Some of you 70’s Big veterans may recall Gant had a post on smoking brisket some time ago, and that post was one of the early seeds that planted the desire in my heart to begin smoking meat.  Well, it took several years, but I am finally beginning on my journey into the smoke filled world of barbecue and I would like to share some of my adventures with you.

First, let me discuss what I am cooking in.  Stepping foot into the arena of smoke can be daunting as there are numerous options (and of course opinions on those options).  Wood, pellet, charcoal, offset, reverse flow, bullet, drum, enormous green eggs, etc.; so many things to consider you may want to not even bother.  I’m not going to go into all of those things here, but I will walk you through how I decided on my first cooker.

The biggest factor that played into my decision was time.  Right now I have four kids ages 7, 5, 3, and 1.  As a result time, especially sleeping time, is a precious commodity in my life.  While I plan to eventually own a smoker that has more traditional long cook times, the idea of something that can produce good results in less time appealed to me.  Next, I am a total noob with zero guidance beyond reading posts like Gant’s and watching YouTube videos, so something with less of a learning curve seemed like a good thing.  Finally, capacity was important as I wanted to be able to cook a decent amount of food at once.  With all of these combined I was able to start filtering my choices.  I finally came across something that seemed to fit the bill perfectly – the Pit Barrel Cooker (hereon referred to as PBC).

Now before of you experienced smokers start rolling your eyes and dismissing me I am aware that the PBC doesn’t fit the traditional definition of a smoker, and I am sure the results are not as majestic as what you can achieve on stick burners, etc.  But for what it is it still puts out some pretty fantastic smoked meat.  There are Pros and Cons to everything, and here was my list for the PBC:

Pro Con
Easy to use Not as good of a bark as slower cookers
Shorter cook times Doesn’t use wood**
Good capacity for a small footprint Inefficient coal use*
Efficient coal use*  
Relatively inexpensive  
Veteran owned, US made  

*The PBC can cook for about 8 hours on a single basket of coals which is pretty efficient.  However, if you only want to smoke something that takes a couple of hours there is no out-of-the-box way to snuff the coals which means you use a whole basket for a two hour cook.

**The manufacturer basically suggests you only use charcoal, however you can find people on forums, etc. that have done cooks with wood chunks with good results.

I know this is starting to become a PBC infomercial so I’ll stop discussing it’s attributes and get into cooking with it.  I’m going to cover getting the coals lit in case that is helpful to anyone reading.  Have your assistant get the bag of coals; having a good assistant is key.

The first thing I do is fill the coal basket so it is about level with the sides, and then take about 40 pieces from the basket to fill my chimney starter.

I then put the basket into the barrel, and then the grate as well.  Now I take a couple pieces of newspaper and roll them up and then wrap them into circles that will fit into the bottom of the starter.

I do this instead of just crumpling them as I feel it does a better job of not restricting airflow as the paper is burning and heating the coals.  I sit the chimney on the grate in the barrel, light the newspaper, and let it heat up for about 12 minutes before dumping the hot coals back into the basket.

Now that the coals are going I am ready to hang my chicken halves.  Before lighting the coals I prepped the chicken by halving it (cut the spine out completely).  Then I put a generous amount of rub all over both halves making sure to get it under the wings and thighs, as well as on the inside of the bird.

Once the rub has been applied I grab a couple of the hooks that came with the PBC and insert them in the meatiest area of each breast.  That’s all there is to it, and now they can hang.

A couple tools I picked up that have helped me a ton with getting good results are these thermometers.

The black unit with the wired probes allows me to monitor the cooking temp inside the barrel as well as the internal temp in whatever meat I’m cooking.  The red dealy is an instant read thermometer I use to double check the internal temp once the probe tells me it’s where I want it.  Some stuff doesn’t really need a thermometer (i.e. ribs), but other stuff it helps tremendously as you may need to take certain steps like wrapping at specific temperatures (i.e. brisket and pork shoulder).

Once the halves are hung, and I’ve got my thermometer set up, it’s basically time to just let it do its thing for a couple of hours.

I’ve cooked several birds at this point and it’s been very consistent in cook times and results.

In terms of the capacity I mentioned earlier you can fit eight chicken halves in the barrel, and since the coals can easily last 6+ hours you could do three cooks on a single basket of coals.  Twelve smoked chickens in 6 or so hours with minimal effort seems like a good deal for any meal preppers out there.


If this write up didn’t bore the crap out of you, and you’d be interested in future posts (that wouldn’t include the PBC commercial), drop a note in the comments.  Thanks all!


When Paul isn’t busy BBQ’ing, he can be found lifting the train wheels at IronSport with himself, while he & himself also looks on, or helping his wife with her new food blog project. 

A Case for Athleticism

It’s fantastic how quickly the online strength and conditioning community grows. 70’s Big started in 2009, and I’ve been coaching since 2005, but the number of athletes has never been larger. Powerlifters, weightlifters, CrossFitters, and general trainees range from the kid that never exercised growing up to the professional athlete. All of us have something in common: improving performance. Despite our intentions, most of us leave out critical components of athleticism.

CrossFit bills itself as the everything program. Almost ten years ago we talked about it in terms of a General Physical Preparedness (GPP) program. GPP programs have their roots in Russian sport science with respect to periodization. In Supertraining, Mell Siff describes that GPP “is intended to provide balanced physical conditioning in endurance, strength, speed, flexibility, and other basic factors of fitness” (pg 315). GPP was either followed by or performed congruently with Specialized Physical Preparation (SPP). This type of phase was commonly used in younger athletes who had not specified in a particular sport, but it could also be used as an introduction phase after a long off-season. Siff even points out how a hypertrophy (or muscle building) phase can be included with GPP. Historically GPP was used as a phase instead of a training paradigm.

We see trends of using phases in a variety of sport or competitive based events. Smart CrossFit competitors know they can’t train hard all year, and usually when their competitive season is over they’ll reestablish a training base or work on deficiencies in their fitness. Then their training will filter back into preparing for competitive events. This is almost ironic given how we used to consider CrossFit as a GPP program, but a large portion of its annual calendar forces most competitors to shift to a SPP approach in order to adequately prepare for “the open”.

What about those who don’t have an annual training cycle? Or don’t care about CrossFit or specific national events in a sport? It’s almost a negative stigma to not specialize in a type of competition, because not specializing likely means not performing to the utmost ability. For example, a guy recently wrote me asking why I did or didn’t compete in various sports and what my opinion is. And I think he honestly wanted to be blessed off on not specializing in order to dabble in several sports throughout the year.

Within the online strength and conditioning community – which includes the social media concerning CrossFit, powerlifting, weightlifting, etc. – there are general trainees. They want to be strong and fit, but don’t specialize their training because they don’t want to or don’t care to. There’s also the “applied fitness” trainee – a term we used in FIT to describe military, law enforcement, and people with active jobs. Applied fitness trainees often train for a reason and can’t specialize in order to preserve performance for work. In other words, they can’t afford to specialize.

Regardless of their reason for not specializing, it behooves these populations to maintain a broad proficiency. Nearly all exercises in “the big three”, CrossFit, powerlifting, or weightlifting, are linear in nature. A snatch, box jump, or squat require the trainee to face one direction without deviation. Even movements where the trainee’s feet move, like a box jump, Olympic lift, or burpee, do so in one direction. All of these movements are fantastic for building the capacity to be athletic, but doing them does not make someone athletic.

An argument could be made that a muscle up or snatch is an athletic movement – because they aren’t easy – but they are skills that require practice. I don’t want to get into a “Athleticism vs Skill” argument; it doesn’t have a clear delineation. Instead, I want to focus on how training for the big three competitions excludes important elements of athleticism such as reaction, lateral and angular movement, and change of direction.

John Welbourn said in 2013, “Athleticism only really becomes glaring apparent when you force an athlete to move in space as it relates to another competitor, task or obstacle” (Link).  I don’t know if I agree that this is the only time it’s apparent, but I do agree moving in space and reacting to a competitor, task, or obstacle is inherent in athleticism. Reaction is important and differs from an exercise because the conditions are in flux. During a squat or snatch, gravity is the only deterrent, but team sports with an opponent requires a player to react to an opponent or their actions. Moving in space and navigating obstacles is part of the definition of “mobility” we used in FIT. Movement in sport or reality is not simply linear and could be in any direction, often requiring an individual to change their direction. This might be like a juke, or it could be flowing into a room properly to shoot bad guys.

Ultimately, these are components of athleticism that aren’t included in training programs. If a trainee wants to remain or become athletic, these components need to be a part of the program because simply doing CrossFit, weightlifting, or powerlifting isn’t enough.

As with all training variables, new drills or exercises should be very basic. Add in ladder drills, particularly things like the Icky shuffle and two feet in each hole while moving laterally. Use cone drills, like the 5-10-5-meter shuffle, lateral shuffles, the L drill, or the M drill. Things like the M drill allow the trainee to open their hips and move at a 45-degree angle forwards and backwards, which is often neglected in favor of lateral work. A reactionary component could be accomplished with a square of cones, the athlete in the center, and another person calling the number of a cone. The athlete quickly moves to touch the cone and moves back to the center. This could be done for consecutive reps for time, which will satisfy the competitive nature of CrossFit training partners. Another classic reaction drill is the “mirror drill” from basketball or soccer where one athlete mirrors the movement of another. The athlete being mirrored tries to fake out or lose the other.

Drills like the ones above can be implemented as conditioning or before lifting after a general warm-up. Unathletic people can improve their athletic capacity, athletic people can maintain or improve theirs, and, most importantly, all parties involved will improve their soft tissue to prevent injury. For example, if the lifter or CrossFitter plays flag football in which they catch a pass and turn up field to sprint, and they haven’t done any short sprinting and movement drills, it wouldn’t be surprising to tear a hammy. In fact, this dumb ass author did such a thing in 2012. And in 2010 he rolled his ankle at the first CrossFit Football seminar after months of solely lifting. Getting hurt doing something simple definitely makes one feel unathletic.

Most trainees choose to specify their training into a particular sport or competition, but the truth is only a small percentage of dominant competitors need to do so to continue to win. Furthermore, for the applied fitness or sport athlete, they need to focus on building or maintaining athleticism for both the sake of performance and preventing injury. Spending a phase in the training year on performance and/or including drills on a regular basis to maintain or improve athleticism will truly make a trainee capable over broad modal domains. Simply add agility and reaction drills as conditioning or as part of a warm-up, and you can be more than just fit or strong; you can be athletic.

Mealtimes in retirement communities

Mealtimes in retirement communities are one of the most important activities of the day because they allow seniors to socialize and get their proper nutrients. Having our older adults in care settings being able to enjoy their meals every day is an important part of ensuring they are healthy and happy.

10 nutrition myths for seniors | AJP

To ensure a healthy diet, retirement communities must provide well-balanced meals that cater to their residents culinary needs as well as their dietary requirements and preferences through nutritional planning efforts that involves food sensitivity testing on a yearly basis as well having regular meetings with dietitians to ensure everyone’s diet is wholesome and healthy.

Good nutrition is essential at any age. However, seniors are at a much higher risk for life-threatening conditions and diseases. Poor nutrition can lead to weight loss, depression, and immune system deficiencies–making older adults more prone to illnesses like the common cold. With so many factors working against them such as poor mobility or limited finances it can be challenging for a senior to find the right meal for their dietary needs and their budget at the local grocery stores.

For this reason, a senior living community is such a great option to explore further, as it provides various culinary and nutrition services with one goal in mind: improving the quality of life of each resident they serve. If there is a lack of meals or poor food choices being made, the well being of you or your loved one could be in danger. Visit sites like to get an idea of how communities take care of their residents.

On the other hand, if you’re exploring residential options in Woodstock, Georgia, proximity to quality education can be a pivotal factor for families. Woodstock homes near schools offer the perfect blend of convenience and quality education, ensuring that children receive the best possible learning experiences. With a focus on fostering a nurturing environment for both young and old, Woodstock exemplifies the importance of community and connection in every aspect of daily life. Whether enjoying the culinary delights of local eateries or embracing the educational opportunities afforded by nearby schools, Woodstock promises a lifestyle that prioritizes well-being and fulfillment for all its residents.

Getting the right amount of nutrients is important for people of all ages. But for some seniors, this can be a challenge. Important tasks like grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning can be a common struggle for seniors that prevents them from proper dieting and nutrition  and the nutritional plans are created with this in mind! Senior living communities also provide nutritious restaurant-style dining with a menu that has a variety of healthy choices making it easy for residents to get enough Vitamin’s and minerals to meet their daily nutritional needs and preferences while still enjoying delicious meals they’ve come to love over the years at their own dining table.

Holiday E-book Sale

Get two books for the price of one!

Just add both to your cart and apply the discount code below.

The 70’s Big LP and Paleo for Lifters for $29.99


The 70’s Big LP is not your father’s linear progression. Most linear progressions leave you with big thighs, a big belly, and noodly arms. The 70’s Big LP is your guide to build a massive back, thick arms, and press numbers to be proud of. Pair it with the popular Paleo for Lifters and you have a recipe for being jacked. Lower body fat, recover better for lifting, and stop feeling like shit by improving food choices, fixing macronutrient ratios, and do all of it without weighing and measuring like a weirdo.
Add both to your cart and apply the following code: JACKEDGIFT


Both Texas Method books for $34.99


This Texas Method series is well accepted in many a strength training dojo. There’s much more to it than merely doing a 5×5 then a 5RM. Use the same program that builds 600+lbs squats and 700+lbs deadlifts. Between these two books (The Texas Method: Part 1 and The Texas Method: Advanced), there are enough variations to run this template for several years; hitting 350/450/550 (bench, squat, deadlift) is easily attainable for any man with the balls big and hairy enough to tackle The Texas Method.
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How To Make A Training Session

Recently both of my younger brothers asked me to help them with a training program. One of the first “lessons” I gave them was how to organize a training session for a program oriented towards getting stronger, building size, and leaning out. Here is a quick guide on how to do so.

  • Begin with a general warm-up. This can be light calisthenics, walking, jogging, rowing, or biking for 2 to 10 minutes.
  • Do some mobility work. Massage or roll first, then stretch. Rolling the soft tissue helps loosen it up before trying to stretch on it. I’m going to remake a video o this soon, but hit the upper back, lower back, hips, and quads at a minimum. Joint approximation should be done last. The point of mobility before training is to improve range of motion to facilitate good mechanics — especially if the correct ROM of the exercise is limited.
  • Warm-up with the main lift you’re doing that day. That means start with the bar for a set of five and then progressively add weight until you reach the first set. As your warm-up sets go up, titrate the reps down. For example, if my first set was 225×5, I could do warm-ups like this:
    • 45×5
    • 95×5
    • 135×5
    • 185×3
    • 205×2 or 1
    • First set of 225×5
  • Do all of the work sets for the main lift of that day. Bodybuilding programs like to add unnecessary super-sets; to get stronger and bigger, do the compound strength movement first. Do it for 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps.
  • Now it’s time for assistance exercises. Do compound exercises before isolation exercises. Do the strength related exercises first; do the hypertrophy (or muscle building) exercises last. Do them for 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps.
    • Compound assistance exercises include pull-ups, rows, lunges, and dips. You won’t need much more than this.
    • Isolation assistance exercises include curls or triceps extensions. Don’t bother with leg curls or leg extensions.

Werner Gunthor lifted, sprinted, and jumped his way into your heart.

Werner Gunthor lifted, sprinted, and jumped his way into your heart.

  • Finish the session with high intensity conditioning. Conditioning should be something short and hard, just like your pecker. 30 seconds of running fast, 30 seconds of rest on a treadmill. Or 30 second bike sprint and then 30 seconds of easy pace. 50 to 150 burpees for time. 400m sprints. Some of the old benchmark CrossFit workouts like “Cindy” (you can cap the time at 10 minutes) and “Helen” are pretty good. Push a sled. Sprint up a hill. Running has a bad rap because it’s the worst fucking thing ever, but athletes need to sprint. You can’t look like an athlete without training like one. So, sprint.

There’s nothing flashy or sexy about how to organize a training session. Do something that looks like this three or four times a week consistently, sleep eight hours a night, and pay attention to not eating like shit, and any beginner will make progress.

If you’re interested in beginning diet information, read “Garbage In; Garbage Out” or “Improving Diet“.