“Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just a punch, a kick was just a kick. After I’d studied the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch, a kick is just a kick.”
This past week saw a proliferation of fantastic strength and conditioning information being offered to the masses — podcasts, articles, you name it — all of it for free, I might add. This kind and quality of information was once only available to upper-end athletes — and when I say “once”, I mean as recently as the early ’90’s. The problem with this plethora of information, of course, is that the vast majority of it is nothing but noise — misinterpreted, misrepresented, manipulated, or just flat-out friggin’ bass-achwards wrong. What to do? How does one go about filtering this low signal to noise ratio for the nuggets of truth (and there are some) that may be out there? My advice is simply this: All truth is simple in concept, complex and difficult in learning and actual real-world application, and finally, a different kind of simple — elegantly simple — in mastery. Consider Bruce Lee’s quote above. Really, this is just he’s saying as well. Filter all that incoming information with that notion in mind.
As an example of this, what if I said that one could build a stunning body (as “stunning” as one’s genetic hand will allow), and, if athletically inclined, propel this individual leaps and bounds ahead of the competition by doing no more than this: Power cleans, heavy carries, sprints, and adherence to a Paleo lifestyle. Now, that’s about as simple as it gets in concept; however, give this “workout” a shot: carry a pair of 150 lb dumbbells — any method, it doesn’t really matter — one round of a 400 meter track. That’s it, you’re free to go home after that — or to the hospital, whichever you feel you need. That’s the difference between a concept that’s simple, and the application thereof that is anything but. Is there any question, though, as to the efficacy of such an endeavor repeated over time? Think you’ll lose fat and muscle-up by adhering to that simple workout everyday, coupled with a sensible diet? You bet your sweet ass you will. This same idea is applicable to the Paleo lifestyle. I can’t think of a more simple “diet” concept — eat protein, good fats, fibrous veggies and a smattering of fruit; have some raw dairy if it’s to your liking. That’s it, that’s my “diet book” in its entirety. Where the rubber meets the road, though, is when you’re confronted with that luscious carrot cake, or bombarded once more with “oh my God, your cholesterol must be…! or, Everyone knows you have to have carbohydrates in your diet!, or the dreaded just one little piece won’t hurt ya.” There’s a world of difference between being an intellectual Paleo, and in being Paleo in action. The concept is simple; application — especially in the initial stages, will test your resolve.
One doesn’t need much in the way of equipment to pull-off what Tanya is doing here. What one does require, though, is an immense amount of intestinal fortitude. Simple in application, difficult in actual application. Nothing fancy here; lunges with a heavy load held at lockout over your head. Simple; and it’ll simply hand you your ass in no time flat. Not much programming involved here, either. And check this out: that very same exercise can be tweeked for strength, power, and yeah, even hypertrophy emphasis with simple manipulations of load, rep speed and total time under load. How much more detail do we really need to be concerned about? About as much workout detail as anyone can realistically juggle in a real-world situation are these few things:
- Modality (strength, hypertrophy, power)
If you delve into much more detail than this in your pre-workout planning, you’re just setting yourself up for frustration. Modalities are best worked in blocks according to what your needs happen to be. Movements should be basic, multi-joint, and functional (unless there is an underlying need for some sort of isolation work). Duration is the energy cycle you intend to target. Rest is simply an avoidance of overtraining. Now the problem with getting into much more detail than that is allowing yourself to bail on an entire program if, for instance, someone happens to be occupying the squat rack (probably doing bicep curls) when your “program” called for heavy front squats. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen have this occurrence blow their entire workout (and their day’s attitude), and, if they happen to be following some “pre-set program”, said program is now deemed, “useless” now, and unworthy of continuing. I say to this what the hell, do deadlifts, Bulgarian splits squats, whatever — just have it be of the same modality, basic movement patern and target duration. Do you think your body really gives a damn? Your body only needs proper and targeted stimulus — it’s your conscious mind that absolutely has to have the particular exercise at the precise percentage of 1RM on this particular day. Adapt, overcome, and bust your ass at whatever you happen to be doing — even if it wasn’t in your plan — and everything else will take care of itself. Hey, don’t get me wrong, it’s fine (and even sometimes, necessary) to have a workout template planned out — I usually operate with one in the background as well — my point is that things can and will go wrong; your shoulder hurts, the car broke down, you had to plow through a 60-hour work week, somebody has the squat rack tied-up with doing bicep curls. Reach that “enlightened” point of a “kick being just a kick”, realize your template is no more than a crutch for your conscious mind, and move on.
An Example of Simple Vs. Easy
Consider my Saturday, July 18th workout (the first of two that I performed in the middle of an intermittent fast); this one rates pretty damn high on the intensity scale and about rock bottom in complexity.
- Overhead lunges (just like Tanya is demonstrating above); two 45lb plates x 25 yards
- Ring flyes (4/2/x tempo)* x 7 or so
- Muscle-ups on a pull-up bar x 2
*four second eccentric, 2 second hold at critical joint angle (bottom-out position), fast-as-humanly-possible concentric.
I lost count after 4 rounds of this beast. I had to stay away from home for a while because the realtor was showing the house, so I just kept hitting set after set. What the hell else was I going to do 🙂 After a while, though, I could only lunge for about 10 yards or so, so I walked the last 15 yards of each round the plates still at full extension over my head. I hit the point where I could only manage 4 flyes at my initial tempo. And muscle-ups? My upper body was so toasted from the overhead caries that I hit the point of only being able to eek out a single, then I digressed to the point of being happy to get my chest to the bar. Simple? You bet. Easy? Try it on for size and get back to me. And the second workout? Interval sprints on my fixed-speed steed, about 2 hours following the workout above.