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Podcast No. 41: Jordan Shallow, The Muscle Doc

September 25, 2019

On today’s episode, my guest is Dr. Jordan Shallow.

By Will Ahmed

Listen, review, subscribe.

Known as “The Muscle Doc,” Jordan is a chiropractor and strength and conditioning coach who’s worked with some of the world’s best athletes. He’s also a competitive powerlifter who can deadlift 755 pounds. Jordan and I discuss what it’s like behind the scenes in the sport of powerlifting, and how athletes attempt to set new personal bests each time they compete. We also talk about why injuries happen and how the body recovers, as well as the major injuries he’s had and what he’s done to bounce back.

Additionally, we explore his many pieces of training advice, including how WHOOP has helped him understand and manage his breathing to better control the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of his autonomic nervous system.

Jordan has a ton of great ideas and insights into how our bodies function, and I’ll think you’ll find him very entertaining to listen to.

Show Notes:

3:54 – Why Powerlifting? “Happenstance,” Jordan says. “Growing up I was kind of a runt.” He’s been doing it for four years, working with one of the world’s best, “accelerating the learning curve.”

6:49 – How Competitions Work. “The sport of powerlifting is essentially squat, bench and deadlift, you take 3 attempts at each in that order. … It’s like waiting at the DMV for strong people.” You also try to lift an amount in competition you’ve never done before, “you save one-rep maxes for the platform.”

9:30 – Controlled Breathing. “I get so amped up, and have to utilize breathing strategies to get back down. … When there’s 740 pounds on your back, one wrong move and you’re f—ed.”

10:34 – Injuries while Lifting. “If you miss an attempt, if you miss-grove something, applied force greater than tissue tolerance, that’s an injury. … I tore my pec 60% off the bone.”

11:51 – How Powerlifting Differs from Bodybuilding. “You want to actually evenly disperse tension across as many fibers as you can. … It’s integration vs. isolation.”

13:37 – Competition Minds Games. “It’s a mental chess game. … You can almost hand out the trophies in the parking lot [beforehand], but the only thing that makes the difference is guys who get in their own head.”

15:44 – Making Weight is a grueling process. “I ate a piece of cantaloupe on my flight 3 days prior,” to drop from around 270 to 242 for a recent competition. “Once you weigh in [2 hours prior], go for it” and eat a ton.

17:56 – Living on the Road for work with Pre-Script, a company he cofounded. “One of the main arms of the company is education based around optimizing sports performance looking through the lens of injury-risk management. My biggest contracts are private gyms.”

19:55 – Injury Prevention for Athletes. “I think for a lot of people, their blind spot starts with assessment … active range of motion, and end-range stability or strength.”

24:09 – Strength and Stability are Different Adaptations. “Understanding that is base-level. … Strength is exerting force, stability is resisting force.”

26:43 – How to Dislocate a Shoulder. “It takes nothing more than a smile really, if you know the mechanics of the shoulder.”

32:00 – Value of Programming. Jordan quotes a friend of his, “Once you can qualify a stimulus, then you can quantify it.”

33:11 – Learning from Injuries. “Adversarial growth,” is what he calls it. Jordan also describes his recovery after being hit by a car.

36:26 – He’s Never had Surgery, despite rehabbing from several major injuries. “The goal is to always out-function bad structure.”

38:52 – Strength Progressing Beyond Stability. This is something you want to avoid.

41:20 – Flexibility vs. Mobility. “Flexibility is passive, mobility is active.”

42:01 – Stretching. “You don’t want to stretch into the position of the exercise,” but rather you should stretch into positions of instability. … The mechanism of injury is what dictates the mechanism of correction. Tightness is not a structural thing, it’s a neurological thing.”

44:55 – Mind-Muscle Connection. Jordan is skeptical.

47:37 – Focus and Signaling Stimulus. “Your neurological output and input is a finite resource.”

51:42 – Why WHOOP? “What first sparked my interest was going down the HRV route … controlling your breath as a way of controlling your autonomic nervous system.”

52:09 – Breathing as a Gateway. “Any sort of adaptation you’re trying to make, you’re making that change at the level of the nervous system.”

53:38 – Heavy Lifting Lower HRV. “As an athlete, how close to the sun can I fly?”

58:25 – Parasympathetic Days. “It’s about creating a delta. … When I program for my athletes, they don’t have rest days, they have parasympathetic days.”

1:04:28 – Using the Cold. “I really like contrast,” but not right after workouts. He also doesn’t like cold for injury prevention. “I think all you’re doing is potentially masking an issue. … Reducing the inflammation isn’t the answer, it’s a band aid.”

1:08:37 – Low Carb Diets. “If you’re not necessarily worried about performance, I think there’s absolutely a benefit. … What do I need carbs for? I’m lifting one thing once, it’s not a metabolically driven process.”

1:16:07 – Evolving Viewpoints? “Research seems to be driven by primacy and recency–the first research on a topic and the most recent research on a topic seems to be what people like to hang their hat on.”

1:19:14 – Performance, Not Pain. “Performance should always be the objective outcome, it should never be pain. … When you go to the gym next week, do an exercise you can do without any pain, and then let’s try and just improve that.”

1:21:19 – Optimization vs. Adaptation, plus Jordan’s travel tips. “Optimization is great for machines, adaptation is great for animals. … Being able to adapt is a way better skill than being locked into some optimized state. Optimize when you can, but adapt where you have to.”

1:23:12 – People Strive for Homeostasis Instead of Allostasis. “Allostasis is how do you make progress while pushing outside of your physiological normal. … If you want change you have to be able to introduce stress strategically so you can introduce allostasis. You should check my sleep scores, you’ll get a laugh, 4:13 I think has been my average. Strain levels routinely in the 20s.”

1:28:53 – The Warrior in the Garden. “That dog’s gotta hunt.”

1:29:52 – Find him Online @the_muscle_doc on Instagram, and check out

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.