Fit For Duty

Our next blog post comes from Melissa and features something she is pretty passionate about – strength and conditioning for first responders. We’ve got a ton of first responders at the gym who are trained by or who train alongside Melissa. Melissa has worked in the field for over 15 years, always with a focus on prevention. She’s worn lots of hats in EMS and Fire including Field Supervisor, Consultant to DOH EMS, and Chief of EMS. Since beginning with us she’s gotten fairly strong. She actually PR’d her overhead press at 135 while writing this up for us.

Being at your best for those who are at their worst. Are you fit for duty?

If you ever worked with me then you know that prevention has always had my heart. If we know how to prevent a problem that can cause catastrophe, then why wouldn’t we?

So, I’d love to introduce my friends in public safety to strength training. While training for any public safety career it is made clear to students that there will be calls and days that push your body to the edge of its ability. With one of the leading causes of LODD for Firefighters, according to the NFPA, being sudden cardiac death due to stress and overexertion, are you preparing your body to handle the hard calls now or are you just hoping to make it through them? You owe it to the people you respond with, to and yourself to not become part of the emergency. There will always be unexpected medical emergencies but safety and prevention is your best tool to avoid becoming the patient on a call. There are many risks involved in Firefighting, so why not train in a way that reduces one of the biggest risks and makes your job easier.

Oh how I wish I knew HOW to strength train before I started working the road. My job would have been easier and my days off less filled with the need to recover. I joined a generic gym and like any novice I was able to get a little stronger because I was doing something more than I had before. It was better than nothing but it wasn’t efficient and it didn’t let my body meet its potential. I’d love to go back, knowing what I know now, and run out Linear Progression programming with job specific conditioning mixed in as I got stronger. I’d love to feel things becoming easier –  pulling and loading hoses, climbing stairs in gear with a high rise pack on and carrying patients – because of smart training.

I would eat more protein than whatever was found in cheez-its and I would train intelligently for an increase in general strength. In doing so I would be helping myself, the community I served and my brothers and sisters in the Fire service. My days on the road may be over (I never say never!) but now I ask my friends in Public Safety to consider all that is on the line when you aren’t prepared physically. You can start today… Get stronger starting, stay consistent and be better equipped to respond later. Are you confused about where to start? Ask and I’ll try to send you in the right direction.

How To Get Stronger And Run Faster

We recently featured one of our members, Allison Monheit, who qualified for the Boston Marathon.  She finished first in her age group running a 03:26:54.  This was only her second marathon and it was over 50 minutes faster than her first.  A great accomplishment for any runner but Allison also did something else remarkable leading up to this marathon.  Twelve days before her race she squatted 225 pounds for an easy single, strict pressed 100 pounds above her head, and benched her body weight.  She was a strong runner on race day, certainly stronger than most.

In the days after we featured her back squat and marathon results on our social media we received lots of questions regarding her training.  We thought it would be best for Allison to dig into her training log and write a brief synopsis of exactly how she built and maintained strength while increasing her running mileage, approached her nutrition and what effects these things had on her performance.

Continue reading “How To Get Stronger And Run Faster”

Speed Training or Strength Training for Youth Athletes

The other day we posted about the need for youth athletes to be strong.  That post gave me an idea of what to talk about next. Parents often come to us and ask, “How do I make my son/daughter faster? I read there’s a lot of great speed drills and agility things to do? Why aren’t we doing that?”

Youth Athletes and Strength Training


This is something I know Beau and Eric and I have talked to parents about when they ask why kids who train with us don’t do any “speed” work. The truth is, we’d have to really break this down to take a bigger view of what’s going on when we train for strength and when you train “speed work”.

Continue reading “Speed Training or Strength Training for Youth Athletes”

Week One In The Books (51 To Go)

Two of our newest members finished up their last training session of the week today.  They started on January 1st just like millions of people around the country did. Their first week looked much different than the overwhelming majority of people (and maybe yours) who headed back to the gym to make 2018 the year they finally get in shape.

Their first week didn’t involve a treadmill.  Not one “body pump” class.  They didn’t learn how to use a machine to tone the biceps.  Somehow they escaped this first week without a single plank- GASP!  Neither of them were told they had tight hips.  Or they lacked mobility.  They didn’t learn how to do any lifts with a PVC pipe.  Not a single corrective exercise.  No one yelled at them to go faster.  Weirdly at no point during this week did they think they were going to die.  They didn’t do a single burpee, box jump or wall ball.   They didn’t even learn that carbs are bad and processed food would kill them.  Strangely there wasn’t a mention of “eating clean”.

Continue reading “Week One In The Books (51 To Go)”

Success with Heavy Light Medium

Lets start this off by saying that HLM is not a novice program. No matter how strong you think you are, if you have never ran through a simple linear progression on the basic barbell lifts, you will get stronger much quicker by doing that than anything you will read in this article.


The goal here is to explain what we do with certain people when they finish up a novice LP. A Heavy-Light-Medium (HLM) program provides a pretty good early-intermediate way to design weekly increases. Not all of our members use this template, but it can be very useful if used appropriately. It’s a basic framework that can be applied to athletes, older folks, and everyone in-between.

Continue reading “Success with Heavy Light Medium”

Are You Strong Enough To Run?

This article is especially relevant due to some extremely nice weather we’ve been having here in Maryland lately. It is from our coach Steve Barker and originally appeared on his blog last year at


It’s getting nice out, which means everyone will be (and should be) getting outside more to move around after a long winter of staying indoors, binge eating oreos and checking to see what’s new on Netflix. The first thing everyone thinks to do once it gets nice out is to go for a run, and when the weather here in Maryland got over 60 degrees the first day, the sidewalks and streets were flooded with ipod-wearing runners hitting the pavement for the first time in a long time.  But what happened to those first timers? The streets haven’t been that busy since. Where have they all gone?

I have a few ideas.

Continue reading “Are You Strong Enough To Run?”

February Member Spotlight – Linda Kephart

lindasqOur second monthly spotlight in 2017 goes to Linda Kephart.  Linda has been a steady member of the 6am for a many years.  Day after day, week after week Linda can be found starting her day under a heavy barbell.  It’s safe to say she is an inspiration to the entire gym- coaches included.

Linda was a tough person to convince that more is not always better.  That first year she would train in the morning and run/bike/swim for many miles in the evening.  In her mind training with a barbell with smart short conditioning could not be enough to reach her fitness goals.  As progress became more difficult due to limited recovery we finally convinced her to trust the programming and scale back her time spent on the road.  She hasn’t looked back.

As a masters athlete her strength numbers would be admired by 20 year old college athletes.  The best part?  In her 60s she is stronger this year than she was last year.  After training with a barbell for years she is still getting stronger.  She deadlifts 2x her bodyweight, squats 1.5x her body weight, and presses .75x her body weight.  Absolutely impressive numbers for any for any age.  Add this to the fact she competed in a 5k without ANY running preparation and finished 4th in her age group of 40 other runners.

Linda is the type of athlete every coach wishes to coach.  She trusts the process and plan we give her.  She is consistent, showing up to put in the work day after day, week after week.  She establishes goals and works as hard as possible to reach them.  This county was lucky to have her leading and mentoring the Physical Education program for many years.  I know my children will benefit from her time spent teaching in Carroll County for many years to come.

Linda has competed in a few powerlifting competitions over the years.  Last fall she competed and won the Best Female Masters Lifter in the country at the Starting Strength Fall Classic.  This spring she will attend the Starting Strength Seminar to further expand her 40 years of knowledge in the fitness field.  Always learning and always improving.  Congrats Linda!

Please share a little about yourself. Profession, family, age, background…

I spent 26 years in public education as a physical education teacher followed by 14 years as the county lindapressPhysical Education Supervisor.  Most rewarding has been as mom to 2 beautiful and talented daughters, and now 2 grandsons!  Currently I am an adjunct professor at McDaniel College in the exercise science department.  I don’t know what 63 is supposed to feel like, but I feel pretty good.

What was your exercise history before WSC? 

Growing up I competed in swimming and gymnastics then switched to field hockey and lacrosse in college.  After college, I ran most every day and lifted on machines.  As a physical educator, I always felt it was important to be a fitness role model for my students.  Running was a convenient workout after school so it was 3-5 miles a day for many years. Fitness has been and continues to be an important part of my daily routine.

How did you find out about WSC and what was the catalyst to get you to contact us and come in your first day?

I was looking for some additional challenges in my fitness routine beyond what I was doing on my own: run, bike, lift.  I had heard good things about the program and coaches at WSC so decided to try it.  Since training at WSC for the past 4 years, I run less, bike more efficiently, and am much stronger! 

What are your current personal bests for all the lifts?

Squat – 205 lbs.

Bench Press – 115 lbs.

Dead Lift – 250 lbs.

Press – 90 lbs.

What is your favorite lift and why?

Squat:  Progress has continued at a steady pace.

How long after starting at WSC before you noticed a difference?

Within the first few weeks progress was noticeable.  Documenting daily lifts and WODS enables me to set goals, note progress, adjust training as needed.  All under the guidance of very knowledgeable coaches.

How has strength training impacted your daily life? What is the greatest impact?

Strength training is how I start every day at 6 AM.  Is it strange that most evenings I mentally load the bar for what I have to lift the next morning!  In addition to getting stronger and feeling more empowered, the WSC atmosphere encourages friendship and comradery. Friendship provides emotional strength.  For that, I am very thankful.

How is strength training different than what you did before for exercise?

There is a plan when strength training with a qualified strength coach.  The plan includes both short and long term goals.  Complete the lifts, document progress, and adjust the weight next session. 

lindadlWhat would you say to someone who is unsure about starting a barbell strength training program? How would you convince a friend to get started training?

Anyone at any age can benefit from strength training.  Once the myths of getting too bulky are debunked, the implementation of linear progression training provides safe, strength progress.  As the physical education supervisor, I was able to provide continuous professional development for all our high school and middle school PE teachers with Beau and Angie Bryant, Starting Strength coaches and owners of WSC.  All our high school weight rooms have been redesigned for barbell strength training.  We have more high school girls taking weight training than ever before.  Some of their comments include:  “I feel better about myself”, “I am stronger”, “I am more self-confident”. 

Are YOUR Goals Your Gym’s Priority?

Nutrition and programming are vital to your health and fitness success.  We are all busy with family and our careers.  Finding time to spend in the gym is difficult for us all.  Training and eating optimally to reach your goals will maximize your results and ensure the time you spend in the gym is as productive as possible.

Most CrossFit gyms take a generic “one size fits all” approach to your programming and nutrition.  Group programming and general eating advice can work for some but its far from optimal for everyone. Those 3 to 5 hours you spend in the gym each week should be structured and programmed to gain the maximum amount of results in the least amount of time.  Following the same programming and nutrition advice as everyone else may not be the fastest most efficient way to reach YOUR goals.

At Westminster Strength and Conditioning, we take a different approach.  We customize programming and nutrition to reach your goals efficiently, freeing you up to spend more time doing the things you love outside the gym.

Our nutrition experience goes well beyond a weekend seminar.  We go well beyond telling you to “eat clean” or avoid carbs and sugar. WS&C Starting Strength Coach Angie Bryant not only teaches nutrition at McDaniel College she is a competitive Power Lifter and busy mother of 4 children.  If you are paying a coach or gym membership do not settle for general nutrition advice or group programming.  Make sure what you are doing is the best way to reach YOUR goals.

We can help you establish your daily/weekly caloric needs and set daily protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake to match your goals while you begin your new training program.  We keep you accountable by tracking and adjusting weekly.  WS&C Coach Mallory Sutphin can design customized meal plans with grocery lists and food prep instructions based on your weekly numbers.  She also offers weekly food delivery with delicious meals proportioned exactly to your weekly macronutrient numbers.

We work with clients all over the country.  To get started send us an email at

Calorie and Macronutrient break down.
Calorie and Macronutrient break down.

We communicate with you weekly and make adjustments as needed to continuously ensure you are moving closer to your goals.

Weekly tracking and adjustments to keep you on track.
Weekly tracking and adjustments to keep you on track.

Shopping and food prep lists based off your macronutrients
Shopping and food prep lists based off your macronutrients

Individual meal planning to go with your shopping list.
Individual meal planning to go with your shopping list.

9 Things I’ve Learned While Interning/Training at a Starting Strength Gym

This holiday season, I had the great fortune of interning and training at a Starting Strength gym.  In this environment, I made several observations of what separates Westminster Strength & Conditioning (WSC):  A Starting Strength Gym from other gyms I have either been a member or trained throughout my extensive travels.

Here are the 9 things I learned while interning and training at a Starting Strength Gym:

  1. Community – it takes a village to raise a child, and a Starting Strength village will make you strong.

Where were you when Conor McGregor knocked out Jose Aldo?[1]  I know where I was:  in a room full of foreign people to me – all of whom had one thing in common, WSC.

I flew home to Maryland from California, made a quick trip to Philadelphia to witness Navy’s 14th consecutive drubbing of Army, and then immediately made my way to a UFC 194 viewing party hosted by a close friend back home in Maryland.  Initially, the invite was disclaimed with, “(The party) will be mostly people from (WSC).  That’s who I hang out with these days.”

Little did I know at the time, but the people I met that evening would be the same people I would see training at various times ranging from early morning to the evening.  This level of camaraderie is unique.  Camaraderie is regarded as a staple in the effectiveness of successful organizations – WSC is no exception.

  1. Training Logs –review an athlete’s training log and a story will unfold like reading the box score of last evening’s baseball game.

Remember those classic Mead Composition Books[2] that were mandatory in elementary school?  You know the one – the black and white covered book that was rarely utilized, and, when it was, who really wanted to ‘creatively write?’  Well, they’ve returned and at a WSC their presence is nothing short but noticed.

  1. “Hard.   Effective.” – mastery of fundamentals is a universal principle that does not require innovation – only dedication.

The ‘Novice’ Linear Progression (NLP), detailed in length in Practical Programming, is the foundation of any strength program that is scalable to any athlete of any background.  The program is best summarized in those three words:  Hard.  Simple.  Effective.

Squat.  Press.  Deadlift.  The mastery of these lifts will introduce an acquisition of strength unparalleled.  The development of strength is paramount for the crossover to all athletic modalities.  Given two athletes with equal ‘average’ genetics – the deciding factor in who wins regardless of endeavor is the one with superior strength.

What makes WSC effective at NLP is how it is implemented – through its coaching.

  1. Coaching – not every ‘coach’ or ‘trainer’ can instruct and develop, but a Starting Strength Coach can do both in spades.

A SS Certified Coach’s value to the NLP is immeasurable.  WSC currently has 5 certified SS Coaches with others in the process of being groomed simultaneously.

No matter the time of day in which you train, early/late morning, late afternoon, or evening; there is always a SS Coach available for questions, a spot, or provide sufficient yelling that ensures a quality lift.  “Poor form in the gym is caused by insufficient yelling,” is one of many quotes by Rip and seeing that quote played out in front of my eyes is a huge take away.

“Big Air.”  “Knees.”  “Stay Tight.”  Several cues that many have read or seen in a SS video; however, when these cues are yelled by a legitimate authority, they transcend the rep to higher quality – immediately.  Several times Beau would yell, and before you know it, the athlete would ‘find’ the few remaining inches required to squat below parallel.  Amazing.

  1. Battle of the Sexes – women are superior to men in the weight room.

If you were to tell me this prior to my time at WSC, I would believe you were full of sh*t, and that exact thought process is why women are superior to men in the weight room.  Grinders.  Gracious.  Gratitude.  The 3 G’s which define women who train at WSC.

Ever see an athlete discover and flourish in their pain cave?  I have.  Women have official residency in their pain cave like geriatrics have in Florida.  A level of determination as evident by witnessing several women train through injury and ailments was eye opening.  Conversely, men enter the pain cave by dramatically busting through the door and leaving as quickly as they entered.  The greatest difference – the intensity in which one arrives and the duration in which one stays.
Ego, men have plenty and will tell you they know about it, too.  Women, they have never even heard of the word or the idea.  The measurement of an individual’s ego is correlated to their ability to be coached.  From the novice to the national level power lifter, women trump men in their ability to be coached.

  1. Diversity – the barbell does not discriminate and is an equal opportunity employer.

Just discussed is the subtle difference between the male and female athlete; however, a matter that is universal is the diversity of athletes you will find at a SS gym.

Age.  Sex.  Ethnicity.  Athletic Background.  If you believe the barbell is not for you, I assure you there is someone training at WSC with a similar background as you.  There are many success stories at WSC and these are not success stories about the individuals who are training for national level competitions or those who represent the national team either.  These are people who want to improve their quality of life and just want to do one thing:  become stronger.

Many feel that they must be ‘in shape’ prior to training.  This is a huge, huge misbelief.  These people will spend countless hours mindlessly on the elliptical or treadmill in pursuit of fitness.  WSC has taken many individuals from the couch to the squat and have scaled the barbell and movement to the athlete’s baseline.

Everyone from the local high school athlete who is in his off season to the local college’s president was in WSC – squatting their 5s.

  1. Monthly Dues – an opportunity for results comes at a price but the dividends are unrivaled.

I received a text message inquiry from a friend, “How much does WSC cost?”  I responded with the monthly cost and the individual was immediately turned away.  Their response is that (Insert Name) Gym only costs X dollars.

Recently, NPR Planet Money released a podcast that articulates well why most gyms do not want you to show up to their gym.[3]  In one word, the relationship between the customer and gym is summarized as:  indifferent.  (Insert Name) Gym is indifferent to your results, strength, goals, and frankly, just who you are as a person.

WSC is not (Insert Name) Gym.  The monthly dues include everything aforementioned and more.  The moment you decide to afford the cost is the moment you decide to become strong.

  1. And Squat Again.  –  Friends never let friends skip squat day. Ever.

Mentioned prior in the note about NLP is the core lifts that compose SS (squat, press, and deadlift) – the King of these is the squat.  I have never been to a facility in which everything begins and ends with the squat.  New to the gym – you’re going to squat.  You will squat below parallel with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and toes pointing out while driving out your knees.  Not only are you going to do this, you will do it for 5 reps, too.

When you are introduced to the squat, you will learn HOW to squat.  Low bar.  Looking down.  Hip Drive.[4]  The cues mentioned earlier from coaching could be done in unison with a group of athletes who are all on the same program.  There’s no secret formula, there is no exercising legs, there is only training.  This training at WSC begins and ends with the low-bar back squat.

  1. (Extreme) Ownership – Culture is reflective of leadership and WSC’s culture is reflective of the owner – Beau Bryant.

The greatest influential factor in what makes WSC a superior gym is the owner – Beau Bryant.  Beau’s fingerprint is on EVERYTHING.  Modest by his nature, Beau will disagree with everything I am writing; however, Beau has dramatically improved the quality of life of hundreds of people in the Maryland area.

His commitment to his business, but more importantly the people of WSC is easily transparent.  You’ll find him wearing a Carhartt knit hat[5] in the winter months carrying around a white coffee cup at 5am every morning at WSC.  Watching athletes and through their lifts becoming stronger people is something Beau takes great pride.  Additionally, his athletes have great pride to perform for Beau, too.  There are times rest times are extended for Beau to come watch an individual squat (myself included).

During a hectic holiday season, including the recent delivery of his fourth child (and first girl), Beau presented a nutritional seminar on a Saturday to a packed house.  Again, the owner delivered a nutritional seminar.  Not anyone else.

A recent book on leadership titled, ‘Extreme Ownership’[6] is fitting of Beau and WSC.  A quote from the book, “there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.”  WSC is an exceptional team, community, and gym due to an exceptional leader – Beau Bryant.

Thank you, WSC, for exposing me to such high quality, and remarkable people – who, at this very moment, are squatting with cues from Beau.

About the Author:  Patrick Jones is a Lieutenant in the United States Navy and is currently a student pursuing a Master’s of Science in Electrical Engineering at Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.  He is a graduate from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  Patrick enjoys the constant pursuit of strength, fitness, and human performance.