Why You Aren’t Lifting with the Big Boys (An Interview with Jim “Smitty” Smith)

We have a special interview for you today with Jim “Smitty” Smith of the Diesel Crew. I have known Jimmy for about 5 years now and have always loved his strength training content. A lot of it is outside the box, and all of it is very effective and produces results. If you like to lift heavy shit or want to get leaner, stronger, and faster, this interview is a must read!

Kevin: Smitty, you are working in the trenches getting people stronger and faster every day. I am sure many of these people come to you after previously failing to get results with other programs. So I need to ask, what do you think are the biggest mistakes coaches and trainers are making when developing programs for strength and speed?

Smitty: Probably the biggest issue I see is a program that was designed once and then distributed to all players.   Speed and strength are an individual adaptation.   All athletes are at different points along the strength / speed continuum.   Some athletes require more speed / explosive work and some athletes require more basic strength training.  It really depends on a ton of factors including but not limited to; fiber type ratio, neural efficiency, sport position, training age, anthropometry, optimal mobility, etc.  You cannot write a generic program for the entire team or for multiple athletes across various teams and expect the same outcome.  Programming and training are very individual and unique activities.

Kevin: Much of the AMD 2.0 system focuses on properly warming up and recovering. What is the minimum amount of time should your average Joe lifter budget for warming up and what should they make sure to include?

Smitty: A good warm-up can be done in 10-15 minutes.  Most people say¸ “I don’t have 10-15 minutes extra to devote to warming when I’m at the gym”.  My response is, you better make time.  The warm-up is essential and cannot be missed.  It sets the tone for the entire workout AND how quickly you recover from the training.  The exercises you do in the warm-up should help to progressively, over a period of time, improve your mobility, create muscular balance and help you move and feel better every day.  Even though I’ve been training athletes for many years, it is only recently that I’ve understood the importance of a thorough warm-up.  It has benefited me greatly with a bad knee and bad shoulder to restore my movement and hit big PR’s in the gym.  My athlete’s have noticed a huge difference in their playing and performance as well.   A good warm-up should progress from general movements to more specific movements and should include; SMR, mobility exercises, activation exercises, dynamic and more specific workout prep movements.

Kevin: OK, same question, but instead let’s talk about the ideal situation. What kind of time do you budget for your athletes and clients?

Smitty: Ideally?  That is a great question.  I have been auto-regulating more and more sessions by making the warm-up the workout.   This means no longer do I blindly follow the programs I wrote earlier in the day for the afternoon sessions.   As always, as soon as the athletes come into the gym, the assessment begins.  How are they moving?  How is their mood?  Are they run down?  Are they complaining?  Do they get a good sweat during the warm-up?  Everything is an assessment and if the assessment “shows” me that they aren’t ready for the training session (because of a previous night’s game or they aren’t recovered from their last training session), then we change gears.  The pre-written workout is thrown away. The warm-up now becomes the workout. We extend the warm-up to 20-30 minutes (and sometimes longer) and work on getting a good sweat, hitting some foam roller and killing some mobility drills.  Auto-regulation is the future of training.

Kevin: When reviewing AMD, I noticed you made plenty of time to talk about stress and cortisol. How do you approach this subject with athletes and clients?


Smitty: Talk, talk, talk.  Athletes are notorious for trying to be tough.  There are exceptions though, haha.  They don’t want to show weakness or disappoint you, if you have a good relationship with them.  As stated before, as soon as they walk into the gym, I’m asking questions.  What did you do last night?  How much sleep did you get?  What did you eat yesterday?  this morning?  The answers to these questions, along with how they are performing in the warm-up, will allow you to make general assumptions about their current state of recovery.

Kevin: EDT (Escalated Density Training) was popularized by Charles Staley years back, what did you notice implementing EDT into a strength and conditioning program that made it a staple in AMD?

Smitty: In the new AMD 2.0 system, there are 2 separate 12 week programs.  The muscle building / fat loss 12 week program utilizes EDT.  I love the EDT aspect of this program because of the insane conditioning, muscle building effect, metabolic disruption and time efficiency.  There are so many benefits that it was a perfect choice for this particular AMD path.  The other 12 week path is for the lifter who has been in the gym for a while and has hit a plateau or has a nagging injury that won’t go away.  That is why AMD is a great program because it caters to everything and you can choose the program that is right for you.

Kevin: In the Power Core Manual that is included in AMD you include crunches (GASP!!!). Many coaches say crunches should never be programmed into an effective program. Personally I believe if you have an athlete/client with a strong enough core and no low back issues, crunches have their place for strength and asthetics. What is the reasoning for them being in the AMD program?

(NOT in the Power Core Manual!)

Smitty: For the comprehensiveness of the AMD system, I have included an integrated AMD Power Core manual.   Because core training is an important component of the workout, all of these core exercises fit directly into the AMD workout template.   When writing AMD I wanted to make sure it was comprehensive and applicable to all lifters / athletes at any level.  That is why I sectioned the Power Core manual into;  beginner, intermediate and elite exercises.  The crunch variations of course were included in the beginner section because they are very familiar to everyone.  If special attention is spent to movement of the torso and not hyper-flexing the neck, these exercises can work to build basic static strength of the abdominals.  As strength is developed, the lifter will move from beginner, to intermediate and finally to the elite exercises.  If performed correctly, I don’t see any issue with including crunch variations as long as the ultimate goal is progression.

Kevin: Thanks so much for your time Smitty. Everyone make sure to check out the AMD page and check out the awesome free video’s Smitty is posting:

Click Here to Check Out the AMD 2.0 System and Free Videos

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