In an Evolutionary Sense, Why Hypertrophy?

No passion so effectively robs the mind of all of its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.

Edmund Burke

The question of “why should there be a hypertrophy response at all” has puzzled me for some time.  On the surface, inflated muscle mass does seem to be a grossly inefficient answer (in metabolic terms) as to how best to endure repeated-effort bouts of high intensity work.  A massive, power-sucking brain we can surely justify — a huge return on metabolic investment, in an evolutionary sense.  Hypertrophy, though, in my mind, is a bit harder to justify.  Why not more of a hedge, for example, toward improved CNS efficiency?  Or a different type/mix of fiber?  Or an overall shift toward a more power-leaning motor unit makeup.  Of course the various “how to’s” of hypertrophy are, in and of themselves, quite enough to keep the forums and blogosphere rife with speculation, hate-mongering and discontent.  All well and good with the lively, on-going debate on that front; we ought, though, to be asking the deeper questions of just why hypertrophy should be in the first place.  Once we know this, we can better hone-in on how to produce it

Evolution for me is a roadmap that helps answer all questions (save for origin), as to what is most efficient at propagating genes from one generation to the next.  Note that “efficient” does not necessarily imply “optimum”.  Keep in mind that in an evolutionary sense, optimum is not required — what is required is that an organism be more efficient than the competition at passing genes from one generation to the next.  Evolution truly adheres to the wise dictum of not letting perfection stand in the way of the good.  Good enough to git’er done better than the competition is good enough.  Optimum phenotyipical expression is another question entirely.  This is where thinkering, manipulation, and critical thought come into play.  Having a firm grasp on where one is, and where one wishes to be, on the health-performance continuum is critical.

My good friend Ken O’Neill has suggested that hypertrophy can be considered in the same light as the neuroplasticity phenomenon associated with the brain.  In other words (and this plays right into our species’ niche as being extremely adaptive, nimble, and opportunistic), the evolutionary beauty of this response might not lay in it’s uber efficiency, per se, but in it’s extreme adaptability.   A leopard retains its leopard-ness, more-or-less, no matter the environment; humans, on the other hand, morph accordingly.   We are nimble enough to both craft a spear, and powerful enough to then hurl the thing…with enough fine motor control, by the way, to land the spear on target.  Our muscle fiber make-up and CNS “wiring” scream of compromise.

Does this get us any closer to uncovering the “secrets” to hypertrophy?  Probably not.  But if we realize that muscle is both metabolic currency, and that it’s metabolically expensive as all hell to gain and maintain, we begin to see just how much absolute work is required to elicit a hypertrophic response; we begin to see the difference between training for “health” and forcing the body into an all-hands-on-deck, survival response.  We also begin to see why we have such wide-ranging genetic predispositions for certain phenotypical expressions of “fitness” or “performance”.  You can take the lanky kid outta the savanna, but you can only somewhat take the savanna outta the kid, so to speak.

If hypertrophy is our species’ evolutionary answer to surviving an extreme (and hopefully short-term, from the body’s point of view) environmental onslaught, it stands to reason that the onslaught better be pretty damn severe for the body to invest in such a risky metabolic fix.  That this “fix” can also be utilized as a ready fuel source should the onslaught subside is just pure evolutionary genius.

Time, tools, techniques, and tenacity; preach it, brother...

This also implies (in my mind, at least) that an optimized hypertrophy response requires a stimulus from all sections of the force-velocity curve; something Scott Abel has termed “surfing” the force-velocity curve.  In essence, we need to perform work throughout the force-velocity spectrum, from the upper-left absolute strength zone on down to the lower-right land of RFD; it all matters and it’s all essential.

cowabunga, dude...

This then implies that if maximized hypertrophy is what you seek (as opposed to mere superior health), then you’d do well to (1) have  access to a large and varied tool box so as to enable working on various movement patterns from the totality of the force-velocity curve, (2) become a master craftsman (technician) so as to manipulate these tools properly, (3) be possessed of the tenacity — the wherewithal — to soldier through the requisite hard work; reading/writing about this is easy, implementation, however, is a never-ending series of gut-checks, and (4) you better have some expendable time on your hands.  We can effectively trim a lot of excess fat from workouts, but the fact of the matter is that an exorbitant amount time under the bar is a necessary evil.

Pushing the performance/hypertrophy envelope is a Faustian bargain, no doubt — which is why so few choose to pursue this path.  Many more are quite content with superior “health” and/or various degrees of performance leading up to the all-out assault on optimizing one’s phenotype — conquering Mt. “Swole”, as it were.  But isn’t this true in all areas of life?  In all areas of maximized performance?  Why is it that we think human performance should follow rules outside the dictates of of nature?  That there must be some inherent “magic” involved?  Sure, the totality of human performance has always been, and will always be, a mixed bag of inheritable traits, epigenetic factors, and human will — all in varying degrees no less.  We are the opportunistic species; placicity is our evolutionary endowment.  For each athlete who’s made it via brutally hard work, I can show you another who was just “born” phenomenal.  Same with the musician, and with the mathematician.  But there is no one formula, one recipe, for success.  We would not have survived as a species if it were otherwise; each step toward singularity is a step toward extinction.

~^~

So the 21 Convention is now in the rear-view window, and the Ancestral Health Symposium lay ahead.  It’s been a whirlwind last few weeks.  What a great time I had with Anthony Johnson and the rest of the 21 Convention crew.  Fantastic speakers, enthusiastic attendees and an awesome atmosphere.  The unveiling of the ARX Omni was a highlight of the event for me, and I was able to both discuss this tool’s place within the greater toolbox, and allow some of the attendees to give ‘er a test drive.

I also got to spend quite a bit of time with Richard Nikoley, of Free the Animal fame.  We hit it off like long lost pals.  And why not?  We’re both ex navy men, with a hell-bent Paleo leaning.  I can tell you that Richard is just as “take no prisoners” in person as he is in “blog life”.  What a cool cat.  I look forward to spending more time with him out in LA next weekend.  So what’s the TTP pitch going to be in LA?  Well, Skyler and I intend to champion Physical Culture’s rightful place — the “new” Physical Culture, that is; Physical Culture 2.0, if you will — in fixing the damn healthcare quagmire we find ourselves in now.  Since we hail from the epicenter of this integrative holistic medicine/fitness movement — Austin, Texas — it seems fitting.  Stay tuned 😉

In health,

Keith

Efficient Exercise’s Project Transformation — the Preliminary Results

Okay, so it’s not the best picture, to be sure – I thought I could wash-out the glare, but alas… Anyway, here’s Madame Benoit’s rather erudite quote:

“I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with variation.”

Not to beat a dead horse, but again — it is my opinion that the parallels between the culinary arts and the pursuit of optimum Physical Culture are uncanny.  Substitute “program” or “methodology” for recipe, “trainee” or “coach” for cook and you’ll see what I mean.  No dogma here, just results.  This much I know to be true: on-going success in the n=1 pursuit of fine Physical Culture comes down to the ability to pick just the right ingredient, at just the right time.  It’s not at all rocket science really, but it does require a certain degree of devotion, dedication to the craft.  Just as in fine writing, though, one must know the rules inside and out before those same rules can be broken in order to produce an elegantly-honed piece.  We’ve all endured writing that is technically perfect…yet, colorless; lifeless, even.  Consider such writing as the equivalent of linear periodization in resistance training.  And then, every once in a while, we’re lucky enough to come across something breath-taking, like this:

“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”

That’s the last paragraph of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road; and that, my friends, is a true work of art.  Cormac’s writing has a way of inducing epileptic fits among grammar Marms, and yet, what a vivid, sensual picture he paints.   McCarthy undoubtedly knows the rules of grammar just as well as any technician, and yet he’ll trample those same rules in an instant in order to produce a desired result — in this example, a last paragraph that is nothing less than brilliant.

~

And speaking of bending the rules to produce results, remember back in January of this year when I spoke of the launch of Efficient Exercise’s Project Transformation?  In this “project”, we at Efficient Exercise offered some 20-odd “everyday Joes” (and Josephenes!) 10 weeks of free training and dietary counseling, with the intent being to show that anyone can achieve and maintain a fantastic level of health and well-being with a minimum investment of both time and dietary intervention — or, another way of putting it, with a minimum of “headache, heartache and hassle”! Training consisted of two, 30-minute, CZT/ARX -based workouts per week, with “dietary counseling” consisting of  little more than the equivalent of  “hey, follow more-or-less a Paleo diet, and here’s Robb Wolf’s and Dr. Kurt Harris’ web sites“.

I jest here about the diet…but only slightly.  Actually we did offer the dietary counseling/intervention services of Austin’s Merritt Wellness Center for those who had a rough, initial “shaking the carb Jones” transition, or for those who we thought might be struggling with proper nutrient absorption, or other such issues.  The main take-away here is that these people were largely left to their own devices, other than the 2x 30-minutes per week that they saw us for their workouts, and the virtual support network created by our Facebook page.  A health and wellness program that is anything but a fad, mostly self-directed and administered, and that is sustainable for a lifetime.  No involvement from the medical establishment, no insurance hassles, nor dealings with the poly-pharma industry.  No sales pitch or endorsement from a celebrity talking head.  Surely something that simple can’t work, right?

Well, let’s just see about that.

So, after 10 short weeks, how did it go?  Just take a gander, if you will, at these results:

No gloss-over here, no top-performer bias, just the plain, raw, non-manipulated data.  Everybody’s data.

Limitations?  Sure.  I wish we’d done preliminary and follow-up blood work.  I wish that we had access to a more accurate method of measuring body composition (we used the impedance method; access to a university’s water tank/scale would have been nice).  But hey, we’re a gym/fitness studio, not a university lab.  Our aim was to show a trend, not measure absolutes, and in that, I believe we succeeded.

But the key points remain: this is a simple, realistic and sustainable program with a huge return-on-investment — not just in the measurable health and well-being parameters, but in the intangible measures — happiness, self-esteem, productivity.  Our intent here was not to produce better athletes, but better everyday citizens.  Citizens who will not become yet another drain on our country’s limited healthcare resources.  Citizens who can continue, into an advanced age, to contribute to the nation’s GDP, rather than become yet another statistical drain upon that same measure.  And, yeah (and here comes my “woo-woo” side) — citizens who can contribute to the overall “good vibe” of their communities.  Healthy, fit people are happy, courteous, empathetic, loving and caring people.  It is no coincidence that Austin is, at the same time, the epicenter of Physical Culture, and a city renoun for it’s tremendously good vibe.

But hey, enough of me yammering on about this, let’s consider a couple of actual participant testimonials:

 

So, can the nation’s health care crisis be tamed, one citizen at a time?  You bet it can.  One hour per week.  Some rudimentary dietary changes.  A huge return on a very small investment.  Vibrant health is within everyone’s grasp, even the most time-crunched of individuals.

~

Okay, and now for a few workouts from last week:

Tuesday, 3/29/11

(A1) blast strap flyes: 15, 15, 15

(A2) blast strap tri extensions: 10, 10, 10

(A3) CZT/ARX chest press: HR/3, 3, 3

I’m a big fan of pairing blast strap work with the CZT/ARX.  This little sequence here produced a total upper-body beat-down in a very short period of time.

(B1) OHS: 95/10, 12, 15 (box at 2 holes showing).  Shoulders were friggin’ shot to hell at this point, so this movement, as it was programmed in this sequence, was done more of an upper-body finisher, with the added benefit of providing a good lower-body dynamic stretch.

 

Wednesday, 3/30/11

(A1) Nautilus lateral raise: 150/10, 10, 9

(A2) XC seated military: (0 offset)/10, 7+, 7+

 

Thursday, 3/31/11

Ahh, goin’ a little old-school here, with a nice pulls progression!

(A1) power cleans (high catch): 135/10, 165/5, 185/3, 205/2

(B1) high pulls: (to at least belly-button height — higher, if possible), 225/5, 245/3, 275/3

(C1) BOR: 275/6, 295/3

(D1) straight leg DL: 295/6, 315/7

(E1) deadlift: 365/3, 415/2, 435/2

 

Friday, 4/1/11

(A1) high bar Oly squat: 135/15; 225/12, 12, 12, 12

(A2) XC bi curl: (+20)/12; (+30)/12; (+40)/12, 12, 12

The properly performed high-bar Oly squat is a thing of technical beauty.  Here, Russian world Oly lift champion (many times over) Anatoli Piserenko demonstrates a bit of “performance art” perfection.  Wow…

So it’s been a ‘coon’s age since I’ve done high-bar Oly squats myself; a radically different move, of course, from the power-oriented variety.  I performed these barefooted, which adds a tad bit to the level of difficulty in the movement.  What added to the difficulty level even moreso, however, was the fact that I performed these following a good deal of fixie huckin’.  Any form of squatting, though, following a spell of hard saddle time, is always an adventure  🙂  Seriously though — if you’re looking to push top-end weight in this movement, kids, wear your Oly shoes!  Do as I say, not as I do! 😉

In health,

Keith

Honoring Your Genetic Endowment

“Fear paralyzes; curiosity empowers.  Be more interested than afraid.”

– Patricia Alexander

Having spent 17+ years in the pharmaceutical industry leaves me somewhat reluctant to jump wholesale on the bash-the-pharmaceutical-bastards bandwagon.   Drug companies do provide lifesaving drugs for millions, and having been a part of that legacy is something that I can be (and am!) proud of.  There is a darkside, of course, and that darkside has everything to do with the Wall Street mentality of putting corporate profits before public good.  The sad fact of the matter is that from a purely profit-driven standpoint, it makes little sense for the industry to “cure” and even less sense to promote a holistic/natural-remedy approach; forget about promoting resistance training coupled with adequate physical activity.  I dunno, maybe it is poetic justice that the shareholders of these companies are being just as bamboozled by Big Pharma as the rest of  society.  Hell, it’s gotten to the point now where the industry will simply “invent” a new malady, then fund “non-biased” research into the treatment of said malady which inevitably leads to — shock of all shocks — not a cure for the malady in question, but a life-long treatment regimen.  High cholesterol, anyone?  Diabetes?

I wonder what ol’ Vince would think about the wholesale handing over control of your health to “the establishment”, to Big Pharma, to allowing government to run roughshod over your right to seek and obtain unadulterated, un-processed, un-fracked-with, un-“value-added” food. Oh…yeah…probably a little something along these lines   🙂

Heh, tell us how you really feel, Vince  🙂

More on the Physical Culturalists against the machine theme: so if you haven’t yet seen the clip below, be sure to check it out.  Walter Bortz tells it like it is (though not in quite as “direct” a manner as our friend above).  Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex — Here, Bortz highlights what I predict will become known as the Pharma-Medical Research University complex.  Not nearly as catchy, but hey…Of course, it’s your birthright to just opt-out of this ugly scene by taking seriously your own genetic endowment.  Not easy, mind you — but possibleEasy is the path that leads to Big Pharma.

Now if I could just figure out a way to opt out of the economy 😉  Capitalism 2.0 (or 3.0?), here I come  🙂

________

My good buddy (and practically my next door neighbor — in Texas terms), Ken O’Neil, recently had the enviable opportunity to meet and talk with another native Texan, the venerable Tommy Suggs.  Ken was kind enough to send me the following piece in reference to that visit.

A visit with Tommy Suggs

Recently re-discovering Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength website mandated some catching up: it’s loaded with videos now. They include interviews with Tommy Suggs and Dan John along with some Olympic lifting coaching by Suggs. Add to that quite a collection of articles by Suggs, Bill Starr, and others — quite a collection of otherwise impossible to find lifting wisdom all in one place.

Tommy Suggs? Back in the 1950s and 60s, Suggs and Terry Todd were both known to train at the legendary Texas Athletic Club — back when Mike Graham ran operations. Suggs and Todd both graduated from University of Texas, and both ended up working for and training with Bob “The Father of American Weightlifting” Hoffman and his York Barbell Club. From the 1930s well into the 1970s York was The Barbell Capitol of America, and it’s teams were close to being the whole American Olympic team. Hoffman frequently funded overseas competition by American teams from his own pocket. Aside from the weight equipment company, York maintains an impressive museum and archival collection from the Hoffman era.

Todd, then later Suggs, were recruited to work for Hoffman — having roles in production of monthly magazines. In those days all aspects of the iron game were sanctioned by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), which along with the US Olympic Committee upheld strict standards of amateurism — you couldn’t make money from sport, including being paid to train. So Hoffman employed his lifters and bodybuilders for about 20 hours a week, leaving ample time for training at world class level of achievement.

Today Terry Todd, along with wife Jan, are faculty members of UT Austin’s Department of Kinesiology, co-creators of the Todd-McLean Physical Culture archives (over 300,000 items making it the largest such collection in the world) and Terry is Executive Director of the Stark Center.

Suggs was at York for 6 years, during which time he recruited Bill Starr. Starr’s a living legend as probably the first NFL strength coach: his last position was with Johns Hopkins. His book Built to Survive remains the classic work in strength coaching for football. His monthly articles in Iron Man Magazine are just cause for collecting that periodical.

Suggs went on to other professional callings after leaving York, including a stint running a gym in the Houston area as well as a term as strength coach for the Oilers. At 74, he’s retired now, spending time between San Antonio, West Texas and Arkansas. We met up in New Braunfels, Texas, then made a trip to his Central Texas location.

If you watch Tommy’s coaching videos on Rip’s website, what you’ll see is how many of us used to learn to train from mutual coaching. Tommy calls that Factor-X, the energy or element in a robust gym that makes it a community. We didn’t have videos in the 50s and 60s, nor did we have coaches. Books showed only the start and finish of a lift, NOT how to move the weight. York was where the masters met and got better at mastery — and coaching each other. That develops an eye for all the subtleties in making an explosive, in the zone lift that gets three green lights from the judges. What you’ll see Tommy doing is something many of us learned back then. And it’s a lot more precise and powerful than videos because a lot of custom fitting is involved: lifting is being refined for that particular lifter’s unique body.

Factor-X? It exists. Any gym with Factor-X is the best place to train: you feel it the minute you walk in the door. Joe Gold’s original Gold’s in Santa Monica felt that way; so did his World Gym in Venice, as did Bill Pearl’s and Vince Gironda’s. Mike Graham’s Old Texas Barbell Company in Lockhart, Texas has that mystique. Big box chain and franchise gyms don’t — they’re too squeaky clean and have next to no coaching know-how.

Tommy’s opened a new chapter in strength coaching. Every summer he’s out in the Dakotas, running training camps for Native American youth. When he found that teen agers there — like everywhere — are too ‘cool’ to train, he offered it to the younger kids. Summer after summer they came back in growing numbers. When they turned teen, they started asking for special permission to keep on training. Those are kids who won’t have type II diabetes or obesity challenges.

We talked training rhythm. Tommy was one of a handful of pioneers training on the first York power racks. Those racks were real small footprint size in comparison to today’s monster cages. Upright vertical columns were spaced around 8 inches apart, while they were made of heavy duty channel iron or pipe. Strength gains were phenomenal on them.

In the early 1970s, Arthur Jones’ Nautilus machines were heralded as a break through due to their rotary cam design replacing pulleys in earlier machines. Each cam was said to be unique, each based on the strength curve of the individual exercise. Cams were to provide what Jones called omni-directional resistance, meaning the cam kept resistance optimal throughout the range of movement by changing relative resistance in accord with stronger and weaker positions. As we gained experience with Nautilus in the 70s, many of us discovered the fatal flaw in Jones’ design: one size doesn’t fit all. The cams were statistical means — averages, if you will — artificial: they didn’t take varying bone lengths, constellations of bone lengths, length of muscle bellies and insertion points into consideration, much less variations due to height.

The rack harkened back a decade earlier. It, too, aimed at increasing intensity for developing strength and hypertrophy. Like the cam, rack training is based on recognition of relative stronger and weaker power zones within an exercise. With the rack, you’re always going to be working with your unique power zones — not some statistical average.

Rack training divided a lift into three zones: the stronger start of a lift, the difficult mid- or sticking point, and the lockout or completion. In those days we worked out on Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays, with Saturday for lift practice. Taking the press as an example, on Mondays we’d work starting point, Wednesdays sticking point, Fridays just short of lockout. We’d set up pins to rest the bar on for our starting point, then another set of  pins six inches higher: press from low to high for 5-8 reps, last rep being an isometric hold at the top for as long as you can, then resist back to the start. It only took one or two sets of those spread over 6-8 exercises. We spend more time in the gym loading, unloading and setting up the bar than lifting.

Rack training fell out of favor due to confusion, maybe annoyance, and certainly due to drugs. Dr. John Zeigler introduced the rack as well as working with CIBA to develop Dianobol, the first oral anabolic steroid. Some lifters made remarkable progress using both. 50 years ago most everyone thought steroids were a new food supplement! When word got out that some people’s progress included steroids, some ditched the rack in favor of drugs.

What a treat it was visiting Tommy’s garage gym in Central Texas. For the first time ever I got the hands on experience of the York home model power rack. Now I know how to build one! And old fashion York globe style dumbbells. Fifty pound plates all over the place from famous manufacturers long out of business. A mix between a home gym and antique collection!

Tommy showed me how he squats these days: foot up on a tall box between 3-4 feet tall from the ground, he simply stands up. Pretty difficult movement, but all the more amazing when he told me he’d had both knees replaced. I found I bore certain assumptions about knee replacement surgeries based on people I’ve known that had them: loss of mobility, loss of flexibility, a ‘can’t do list’, and complaining.

There’s a new breed of aging people: one’s who ignored the expert warning of coaches about getting muscle bound if you lift weights. Ones who kept on lifting throughout life. Their hair may be gray — for many of us, what’s left of hair — their size somewhat shifted, but that gait remains steady, exuding power, carrying broad shoulders, wide backs and a vice like grip through life.

Talk of training systems. Conclusion? They all work. Sticking to the same routine forever doesn’t work — due to no challenge, boredom, etc.

Nice work, Ken.  I’d also say that the anabolic continuum has much to do with the nature of what works for whom…and when.  Also, check-out master Tommy’s advice on rack work for the Olympic press here.  This kind of coaching is just friggin’ priceless.  And in my opinion, this is the press that ought to be considered in the NFL combine, as I think it is much more indicative of functional pressing strength than the flat bench is.

A few things about Ken; he’s undoubtedly the Godfather of Physical Culture knowledge, and in my opinion ought to be made PC’s honorary historian.  He knows (or knew before they passed) everybody who was/is somebody in the iron game, and has some wonderful, never-heard-before anecdotes, asides and commentary about these characters — and he possesses the most awesome Physical Culture man-cave that I have ever seen in my life!  Jealous?  Hell yeah I am!  An entire ground floor/basement, half the space of which is devoted to a fully-equipped gym (we’re talking power racks and black-iron here, buddy!) and the other half devoted to a full-fledged library of Physical Culture research.  More from Ken in the coming months, I can assure you!  And maybe I can cut a video tour of his most awesome lair of Physical Culture.

And speaking of Physical Culture…many folks have asked me to define just what the term Physical Culture entails, and I must confess to rather clumsy attempts at best to encapsulate just what this idea entails.  But how’s this, from the Stark Center website:

Physical Culture is a term used to describe the various activities people have employed over the centuries to strengthen their bodies, enhance their physiques, increase their endurance, enhance their health, fight against aging, and become better athletes.

Nicely put!

______

On the workout front –

Just a sampling of the workouts I performed over the last week or so:

Wednesday, 1/19/11 –

(A1) Xccentric flat press: +50 lbs x 13 rest-pause singles (80×0 tempo)

(A2) Xccentric flat press: assisted negatives, +90 lbs x 4, 8 second negative singles (rest-pause)

(A3) Nautilus pec dec: 95 x ~12 (40×0 tempo)

(B1) Xccentric dual bicep curl: (0 added weight), 3 sets of 15.  Think regular Oly bar curl here, but with a truly unique range of motion arc.

Thursday, 1/20/11 –

(A1) T-Bar swings: 125 x 25, 25, 25, 25

(A2) weighted pull-ups: 45 x 7, 7, 6, 6

Friday, 1/21/11 –

“Clustered” sets of power cleans and power snatches; approximately 15 seconds between sets and about 15 minutes between the clean round and the snatch round.

PCs: 135 x 10, 155 x 6, 175 x 3, 185 x 2

PSs: 135 x 5, 5, 4, 5

Saturday, 1/21/11 –

(A1) CZT-V neutral-grip deadlift: 5 hyper-reps
(A2) Nautilus Nitro leg press: 420 x 21 reps (to positive failure)
(B1) CZT-V Dips: 5 hyper-reps
(B2) Blast strap flyes: BW x 23 (to positive failure)
(C1) CVT-V Pull Down (fully pronated grip): 5 hyper-reps
(C2) Trap bar Bent over rows: 155 x 13 (to positive failure)

______

And finally: Rest in Peace, Jack LaLanne.  You demonstrated to us all what *is* possible; you defined what the consummate Physical Culturalist ought to be.  Thank you, sir, for your gift.  We at Efficient Exercise will do all that we can to carry the flame.

In health,

Keith

Primal Needs, 21st-Century Constraints

Here at TTP, I tend to focus most of my training-related posts on the athletic betterment end of the optimum health/optimum performance continuum, as that happens to be what really gets my training-related geek-out juices flowing.   It also happens to be that end of the continuum where I target my own training  as well.  More precisely, I attempt to push the envelope of performance, while at the same time being very cognizant of the effects of that training on my overall health, because (and as I’ve said before), optimum performance often begins where superior health ends. The competition and training for competitive athletics takes a helluva toll on a body.  It’s simply the case of too much of a good thing being detrimental on that same system over the long run; you can only red-line a finely tuned engine for so long, and for so many bursts, before something breaks down.

The training techniques, environment, technology, and supportive science (and learned art, let’s not forget) afforded to, and practiced by, high-level competitive athletes does have relevance to the merely health-conscience, though, in the way that space-bound NASA missions have relevance to earth-bound humanity at large.  At-the-fringe science  — like at-the-fringe training methodology — affords trickle-down know-how and useful (practical) by-products to the masses.  Whereas, for instance, the push to space gave us Teflon, the push to build a better athlete more efficiently (i.e., impart the same level of strength/power while saving more time for skills development) give us the roots of High Intensity Training (HIT).  We at Efficient Exercise are in the midst of carrying this idea a step further by demonstrating that, with very little in the way of training time investment and lifestyle alteration, an individual can positively affect his or her health to the point of (1) lessening the collective burden on the (broken) healthcare delivery system, and (2) escaping the personal (and, by extension, family) hell resultant of the ravages of metabolic derangement, and the high cost — both in a financial and quality-of-life sense — of “diseases of civilization”.  We’re not attempting to make athletes here; no, our endeavor is simply to prove that an individual can still live a healthy, happy and highly productive life, even while facing the crushing constraints (time and otherwise) of a 21st-century lifestyle.

Primal needs, modern technology –

For optimum health, our bodies require intermittent doses of high-intensity output, and the safest, most efficient way to realize that level of required intensity is via smartly programmed resistance training.  While few dispute this fact, most agree that finding the time in a busy day to accomplish that task is…well…daunting at best.  Again, we’re not talking about the driven athlete here, we’re talking work-a-day, family-raising Joe and Jane citizen — the same people who ultimately become — even against their best intentions otherwise — part of the collective burden on our healthcare delivery system.   And as I’ve said before, no healthcare delivery system can be created that will not ultimately implode under the weight of a diseased citizenry.  None.  To be sure, the system itself is in need of serious reform otherwise — but let’s face it, the crux of the problem resides squarely with the man, woman and child in the mirror.

So let’s get back to surmounting the time/convenience issue.  For this purpose, we at Efficient Exercise utilize our CZT — think Critical Zone Training — technology.  A whole-body workout in 10 – 15 minutes?  Yes.  And I don’t mean just a workout (yawn….), but a friggin’ workout! Sounds like the stuff of Sunday morning infomercials, right?  Hardly.  Check-out some of the clips over at the Efficient Exercise YouTube page.  How does CZT technology force such an intense dose of work output in such a truncated amount of time? Because it’s an  Instantaneously matched,  accommodating resistance exercise, my friend.  Simply stated, the device matches the trainee’s available force output at the bio-mechanically weakest, and strongest, positions — and everywhere in between for that matter — in both the concentric and eccentric portion of the movement.  The trainee is producing maximum available force at each point along the strength curve for that particular movement.  The loading of any conventional exercise is limited by one’s strength at the bio-mechanically weakest position — otherwise, there would be no movement at all (bro-sistance bench pressing not withstanding  🙂   ).  The bottom line is a heavy-duty dose of high-intensity work in a very short period of time.  In the hands of an athlete, this is another fantastic tool for the for the overall training toolbox.  Not the end-all-be-all, of course — but a great tool nonetheless.  In the hands of Joe and Jane citizen, though, we feel that CZT accommodating resistance technology is the answer to acquiring all the health benefits of resistance training with an absolute minimum time investment.

So I love training the driven and those with single-minded determination, no doubt.  Athletes, and those aspiring for peak performance, are fun as all hell to program and train.  But I decided to come to Efficient Exercise for another, more lofty reason — because I truly believe that the purveyors of Physical Culture in this country (and every country, for that matter) are tasked with leading the general citizenry out of this global healthcare morass, and I wanted to partner with an entity that shared that same vision.  Needless to say, I found just that in Efficient Exercise.

Puttin’ our money where our yap is…

So fixing the nation’s healthcare crisis one person at a time isn’t all just bluster, blather and wishful thinking — we at Efficient Exercise are leading the way in devising a manageable program for Joe and Jane citizen.  Keep tabs on the happenings over at our facebook page; the fun kicks-off with a participant group orientation on Tuesday, 1/18.  Could fixing the healthcare crisis really be as easy as a grassroots push to adopt a Paleo-ish diet and a half-hour a week on CZT equipment?  We at Efficient Exercise certainly think so.

 

 

In health,

Keith

Resistance Training for Quality of Life…Resistance Training for Survival!

A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.
H. L. Mencken

A slight bit of a departure here for me today, as this post is not about striving for that n=1-defined pinnacle of expressed Physical Culture.  No, this is simply about grasping hold of, and maintaining, a decent (deckplate level?) quality of life — this is about simple, day-in-and-day-out, vibrant health.  So here’s the thing: we all know that the current American system of heathcare delivery cannot be sustained.  We, as a nation, cannot continue to live as if cheap medicine and a ready flow of inexpensive pharmaceuticals will scrub clean our individual and collective lifestyles’ dirty laundry.    Governments can’t (or won’t), or are otherwise too hamstrung by special interests to institute any meaningful change for the better, making them increasingly ever irrelevant as a positive force for change in our lives — not only in the healthcare arena, but in an ever-increasing number of policy issues. But before you get the idea that I’m on some kind of back-to-the-stone-age, Libertarian/Luddite rant, let me say this: the advances of western medicine (including the contributions of the pharmaceutical industry, of which I was once a part), over that last half-century have been nothing short of phenomenal — and, too, they’ve been an absolute Godsend for humanity (apart, of course, from the economics of the delivery of said care).  The problem, as I see it, is this: that explosion in advanced medical technique and know-how has been potentiated by an ever-growing, critical mass of of increasingly sick individuals.  Simply put, this exposition in technology is the result of your basic supply and demand theory, and it’s quite the Faustian bargain.  Want to push the limits of your skills as a mechanic or bodywork man?  Try keeping that demolition derby entry on the racetrack.  There’s a reason why the old “Maytag repairman” ads were so popular — there was an underpinning of truthfulness present; a well built machine, properly cared for, needs very little intervention:

Not to beat a half-decent metaphor to friggin’ death, but try to operate that well-built machine as if it were a cement mixer and, well…you get the idea.

And while our government(s) may be hamstrung in promoting lifestyle interventions that will result, ultimately, in less collective reliance upon the medical establishment (tell me again why HSA money cannot be used for personal training and/or gym memberships?), we, as individuals, are certainly still free (and even more empowered now than ever before) to pursue our own, intelligently-driven, n=1 path.  As I’ve said previously, no system can be created that will not ultimately implode under the weight of a diseased citizenry.  And, ultimately, healthcare has to come down to n=1 lifestyle decisions; we can afford nothing less personally, or collectively.  I am encouraged, though, by the fresh, entrepreneurial spirit being brought to the healthcare debate, and I feel that this new philosophical approach to that ever-vexing (and divisive) “insurance/coverage” problem, coupled with even a wee bit of personal responsibility cost-averaged over the nation’s populace, will ultimately constitute “the answer”.

So, both collectively, and in an n=1 sense, we have to begin to re-integrate the intelligence that is carried within each of us when it come to regaining/maintaining health.  Some of us know intuitively of the body’s ability to heal and right-orient itself — others need a little more help in coming to that realization.  I am encouraged with the direction (though maybe not the pace) of progress on this front when I see/hear this kind of disclosure and talk in mainstream media health programming.  That proper, intense exercise (as opposed to mere physical activity) is being promoted by distinguished sectors of the healthcare mainstream as the palliative that those of us immersed in the Physical Culture scene have long known it to be, is — well…refreshing, to say the least.  And that people are now beginning to question the medical community, instead of regarding them as “all-knowing” is refreshing as well.  Medical professionals are educated, yes — but not infallible.  Question “authority”, folks — relentlessly.

Changing subjects just a bit, I ran across an excellent epigenetics primer clip this week.  This particular clip happens to focus on some of the possible epigenetic “whys” behind sexual preference, but in reality, the focus could have just as easily been on the overall body composition of twins, each having been trained in a dissimilar manner.  Genes are, of course, the hand that cocks the hammer of phenotypical pistol; the finger that pulls the trigger, though, is epigenetics.  You have more control of your phenotypical expression than you realize.  The tricky part is living as if you do.

Workouts?  Yeah, I blew through a couple over the course of the week; here’s the run-down:

Tuesday, 12/14 –

(A1) high-catch power cleans: 135 x 7; 155 x 5; 175 x 5; 185 x 3; 195 x 2; 205 x 1, 1, 1

(B1) low pulls from the floor: 235 x 5; 255 x 5, 5, 5, 5

 

Wednesday, 12/15 –

(A1) Nautilus pec dec: 110 x 12, 7, 7 (5010 tempo)

(A2) Xccentric flat press: (0 counter, no added weight) x 15, 7, 7 (5010 tempo)

 

Thursday 12/16 –

(A1) single-arm snatch (Oly bar): 95 x 5; 105 x 5 sets of 2 (each arm)

(A2) *roll-under pull ups: bodyweight x 5 each of the six rounds

 

*semi-supinated grip pull-up to the top position, then tuck and roll so that you’re in a suspended, semi-fetal position with the back parallel to the ground (body maintained as close as possible to the bar).  Lower slowly from this position to full arm extension…kinda like a negative bent-over row…then “un-roll” back into a normal pull-up start position.

 

In health,

Keith

 

Easy Paleo Chow, and Ethics, Reason, and the Erosion of Government Relevance

No more than a single iron skillet and a few minutes of prep time for these two.  Grass-fed eye of chuck, butternut squash and cauliflower mix, free-range pork sausage, roasted free-range chicken quarters and a little sweet potato.  Good meals, and plenty of leftovers to boot.

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By the way, you’ll notice that there’s very little here — content or proportion — recommended by the USDA’s newly updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans report.  *Sigh*…what is there to say about this document?  Selling-out the American people to perpetuate the vicious cycle of lobby-subsidy is not what I consider — how to put this? — ethical? There’s just too much freely available knowledge out there (with experts to explain it) for me to believe that this “guideline” was the end result of a lack of intelligence.  No, this is all about greed at the expense of the nation’s health.

Jimmy Moore has a good summary of the new guidelines, here.  No surprise, really — high carb., low fat, yada, yada, yada…

Now, combine these brain-trust “guidelines” with the reality that is the state of America’s physical readiness, and we have the makings for an immanent, healthcare disaster on our collective hands.  And make no mistake, everyone will suffer the hit — physically, financially, in loss of personal freedom via increased government “interaction”, or a combination of all of the above — you name it.  And, unfortunately, no one will be immune — even the most healthy and knowledgeable among us will feel the sting.

And speaking of America’s (lack of) physical readiness, Mary Collins — author of American Idle (love that title!) — sums-up the topic nicely in the clip below.  Hat tip to University of North Dakota S&C coach Aaron Schwenzfeir for the clip find.

Just makes me shake my head, wondering how we ever sunk into such a mess.  How is it that any entity, government or otherwise, can perpetuate such pseudo-science over a populace?  How does a populace become dumbed-down and weakened (spiritually, and physically) so?  Well, here’s an oldie-but-goodie (yeah, 2-years is old in the internet age, I suppose) from one of my favorite current political “thinkers”, Susan Jacoby.

Ignorance may very well be bliss, but it’s sure as hell costly — in more ways than one.

The thing is, truly intelligent people see through this lobby-subsidy, greed-and-graft inspired smokescreen.  And established organizations — whether it’s the government as a whole, the USDA, or other establishments/organizations (for example, the NSCA) — are becoming increasingly more irrelevant as clearing houses for credible, non-biased, information.  I just want the truth, warts and all, whether it agrees with my preconceived notions or not.  Spun “truth”, filtered “truth” does me no good.  Of what relevance are these organizational filters to me, when I can search out credible information on my own?  The Paleo movement is the poster child for this loosely-grouped, n=1 information sharing.  Who needs these other “official” entities/middle-men when I’m fully sufficient in the art of reason, and plugged into a network of intelligent, n=1 “scientists”, each willing to share their findings for no more the cost than for me to do the same in return?

Small Victory — S.510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, Has Been Modified

You win some, you lose some; small/local farmers and ranches are still locked in the bill’s cross-hairs, though, and much work remains while we still have time.

A quick update on what I wrote about yesterday in reference to this bill; this snippet from the Downsize DC organization:

Word comes that we’ve won another small victory in Congress

Thanks to public pressure, including lots of pressure from DC Downsizers, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510), has been modified!

The new version of the bill now exempts dietary supplements from possible future regulation through the ominous sounding Codex Alimentarius.

The idea was to start making your vitamins comply with international rules. We’ve dodged that bullet, but we can’t yet say that it’s a final victory . . .

* No one knows what will happen when the so-called food safety bill goes to conference committee
* And it’s still possible Senator McCain could revive his original vitamin bill

In addition, the Food Safety Bill itself WILL pass. It simply has too much support from corporate welfare interests, while we have too few members of the Downsize DC Army, and related groups, to fight against it. So, here’s where things are heading . . .

Our government is squeezing small businesses to extinction, by constantly erecting regulatory schemes with which only big companies can afford to comply.

In this case the victims are small family farms, but in other cases, like the recent new lead regulations, the victims were small toy makers, Mom and Pop retailers, and thrift stores. Remember . . .

Mattel was responsible for the scare over lead in toys, but Mattel was also in favor of the new regulations that resulted from Mattel’s mistake. Why? Because Mattel could afford to comply with the regulations, while many, small competing toy makers could not. Thus, thanks to government regulations, Mattel has benefited by thinning-out its competition. It’s wrong to profit from your own screw-up, and it takes a State (coercive, Big Government) to make such a thing happen.

This is increasingly what it means to live in The United States of Corporate Welfare . . .

* Small businesses get regulated out of existence
* The remaining businesses are too big to fail
* Big businesses know that they’re considered too big to fail, and so they feel free to take big risks that often result in big disasters
* The little guy then gets taxed to bail out the big guy, and
* More regulations are created that kill more little guys

Please go to the Downsize DC website, register (it’s free!), and join the fray.  The local farmer and ranchers will appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.  This isn’t the end of the fight.

*August 26, 2010 edit: S.510 has been revised since this the time of post, with the new version being a bit more palatable.  See this for a concise rundown of the revisions.