The Ancestral Health Symposium, 2011

“To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.” – Benjamin Franklin

Excellent! ¬†Always a man ahead of his time; cool Ben, the original proponent of intermittent fasting ūüėČ

The Ancestral Health Symposium, 2011

In a word, just a fabulous, fabulous, 2-day event. ¬†I won’t go into a complete re-tread of of AHS 2011 events here; soon enough, you’ll be able to partake of the entire 2-day extravaganza — at least virtually, via slides and Vimeo — here. ¬†And I really¬†implore¬†you to do so, as all the presentations were top-notch. ¬†But more to the point, so much good coverage (this piece, for one example) has already been written on the event, anything else would simply be rehash. ¬†One suggestion, though: for a really cool perspective of the gathering, how about some Twitter hashtag coverage of AHS11?

Above, the pre-game warm-up:¬† Meesus TTP and I (and Skyler Tanner — blue shirt, over my left shoulder) take in Doug McGuff’s¬†Body By Science presentation, just prior to the Tanner/Norris dog-and-pony show — the unveiling of Physical Culture 2.0, Efficient Exercise style. ¬†Photo by my good friend (and excellent photographer) A. Jolly.

Plenty of great blogosphere coverage of AHS11, yes. ¬†Unfortunately, what you won’t be¬†privy¬†to were all the stimulating, impromptu, cross-disciplinary conversations¬†among¬†presenters, and between presenters and the¬†myriad (600+?) of attendees. ¬†Oh, that and the stunning UCLA campus, and the oh-so-perfect 72-degree, no humidity weather. ¬†Not that I’m weather-jealous or anything… Anyway, what a rich environment for the blending of knowledge and ideas. ¬†It has taken me a full week to decompress, process and¬†synthesize¬†all that I took in during that whirlwind two days. ¬†Wow, is just about all that I can say at the moment. ¬†My pea-little brain is still in overload. ¬†Or maybe it was the 105-degree Texas heat I returned to (again, I’m not LA¬†weather-jealous); sprints, bar work and tire flips being my welcome home to Tejas workout. ¬†Crazy? ¬†Yeah, no doubt — but a Physical Culture 2.0¬†fit¬†kind of crazy — and that makes being crazy, well…kinda¬†okay ūüôā

And speaking of crazy

A *serious* meeting of the minds ūüėČ

Okay, so it wasn’t all¬†furrowed-brow and free of levity ūüėČ ¬†The symposium was, in fact, a seriously fun, extremely social event as well. ¬†As the above picture was being taken by Meesus TTP, John Welbourn (of CrossFit Football) — who was leaned against a table just to my right — was uttering “awk-waaaard”; just too friggin’ funny. ¬†Immediately following this shot, I had the opportunity to chat a while (Chico sockmonkey in-hand) with John about his training experience with Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell crew out in Cleveland, Ohio. ¬†Some fascinating, first-person insight into Louie’s methods (lift heavy some days, lift fast other days. ¬†Bust ass all days; that about sums it up). ¬†The juxtaposition of this picture and that training-related chat I had with John rather epitomized the entire¬†conference¬†for me; fun, frolic and seriousness — all combined into a two-day “Woodstock” of primal-living event. ¬†Kudos to the original epistemocrat, Brent Pottinger, and the ever-hospitable Aaron Blaisdell, and their team of dedicated volunteers for pulling-off such a fantastic event. ¬†I’m already looking forward to AHS 2012.

Physical Culture (PC), 2.0

The philosopher Ken Wilber ‚Äď who I‚Äôve been devouring ever since being introduced to his work via my AHS 2011 co-presenter, Skyler Tanner ‚Äď speaks of evolution as a process of transcendence and inclusion; exactly the process by which PC (Physical Culture) 2.0 will ‚Äúevolve‚ÄĚ from the current, sorry state of affairs (think bloated, cartoonish, professional bodybuilders) into the defining, all-encompassing meme of the Ancestral Fitness movement; the “yang” component to the Paleo diet “yin”. ¬†This healthy, lasting process is not so much anarchistic revolution as it is building upon (‚Äútranscending‚ÄĚ in every sense of the word) that which has come before; even that which we might be quick to label ‚Äúmalicious‚ÄĚ at best ‚ÄĒ for example, the doings of the AMA and Big Pharma, the Prodigal Son-like travels of Physical Culture 1.0. Take beyond/carry forward that which is good and helpful; simply leave behind what is not, with no emotional attachment. This is the way of true progress.

My good friend and tribal elder, Ken O’Neill, has written a wonderful piece related to the emerging Physical Culture 2.0. ¬†It seems to me that this movement is being born even as we ping ideas and methodologies back and forth; as if we are actually midwifing (if that is actually a valid term) the movement into being rather than “inventing” anything per se. ¬†Fiction writers often speak of “chanelling” a work into being rather that actually “creating” anything. ¬†I can certainly attest to that notion, having written a work of fiction myself (The Blood of Samuel), and I have to say that this particular “emergence” process feels much the same as bringing a work of fiction from the “ether” and into the mortal world. ¬†Call it being a conduit between realms, if you will — and if you’re down with that kind of thing.¬† But one thing is for sure: this movement is underway, and it simply won’t be, cannot be, stopped.

Framework vs Fundamentalism

One theme that I was happy to see emerge from the Ancestral Health Symposium was that of basing N=1 experimentation upon an evolutionary framework, as opposed to sheepishly following some lock-step, dogmatic, one-size-fits-all prescription. ¬†Remember, as viewed through the evolutionary¬†lens, “optimum” can only be hinted at; more digging, more critical thinking, more thinkering (hat tip to Brett Pottinger for the term) is required to tease-out the optimum from the merely satisfactory. ¬†That our species can survive to breeding age and successfully reproduce on a completely bankrupt diet is a¬†testament¬†to our supreme adaptability, and speaks nothing to what is¬†optimum¬†for our genotype. ¬†And, too, any step toward singularity is a step toward extinction, be that in a species or in an entity. ¬†My hope is that the healthy debate of ideas remains a¬†integral¬†part of the AHS organization.

On the Workout Front…

I’ve been a bit jammed for time as of late, so what I thought I’d do, in lieu of posting a round-up of all of my between post workouts, is to select a choice few to¬†dissect. ¬† The following is a metcon workout that I completed on Saturday, the 13th. ¬†The clips are in two parts, because I’m an IT-idgit, and couldn’t get Windows Movie Maker to¬†cooperate¬†with me and my Android clips. ¬†Shouldn’t this all be¬†compatible? ¬†Meh…

Part I

…and continuing on with the 4th exercise in the circuit…

Notice that none of the 4 exercises in this circuit are particularly technique-heavy, and are therefore¬†suitable¬†for under-fatigue utilization. ¬†And by this, the 5th round of this doozie, I’ve got some serious fatigue goin’ on; though I’m still pushing the front squats with adequate umph, the explosion in my prowler pushes has pretty much¬†dwindled¬†to nada. ¬†Of course the real ball-busters in this circuit are the front squats and prowler pushes; the dips and curls can almost be thought of as “active recovery”. ¬†And this is how I like to program a weight-centric metcon workout — variations of intensity within the circuit itself, and little to no rest between each round. ¬†Think American football, two-minute drill here. ¬†This type of workout — repeat, short-duration busts of high power output — lands square in the middle of my natural ability wheelhouse; my basecamp, as it were.

And Finally…

Check out this excellent and informative KQED/Sydnie Kohara interview –¬†Sustainable Meat and the Art of Butchery

Charcuterie is near and dear to my heart; a luxury afforded to those of us lucky enough to be alive in this day and age, and another example of enjoying that life under the framework of a stone age existence, but with the benefits extended to modernity.

About the show, from KQED’s Forum website:

In recent years, more chefs and consumers are demanding local, sustainable meats, driving some to raise and butcher their own livestock. We get into the gristle with three butchers and talk all about meat, from what consumers should be asking at the counter to how to cook a whole pig in the back yard.

Grock on.

In health,

Keith

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The Benefit of Less-Extreme Views

True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are united

~ Alexander von Humboldt

George Church (Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School)¬†argues, in this Big Think piece,¬†that the age-old divide between science and religion is solvable. “We can bring them together,” he says, “but it requires less extreme views, or what would benefit from less extreme views.”

And it’s my belief that the same idea holds true for Physical Culture’s role in taming the beast that is the American healthcare crisis.

As it currently stands, there is no credible entity that acts as a non-dogmatic, “non-partisan” ¬†clearing house, of sorts, in which the various tools and techniques of Physical Culture can be explored in relation to the seeker’s desired outcome (along the health-performance continuum) — especially for those who’s desire it is to use a Paleo-like diet, coupled with resistance exercise, as a tools for achieving superior overall health. ¬†My hope is that this summer’s Ancestral Health Symposium¬†(and the symposium’s parent organization, the Ancestral Health Society)¬†will become just that entity. ¬†I am at the same time thrilled — and humbled! — to be one of the presenters at the symposium, where I will discuss resistance training’s role in achieving optimum health, the difference between “superior health” and “superior performance”, and the emergence of the Physical Culturalist (i.e., the new breed of personal trainer) and his role as “swim coach” as opposed to the healthcare professional’s role as “lifeguard”. ¬†Hat tip to Greg Glassman, of CrossFit, for that fine analogy. ¬†As medicine’s role in this new paradigm must change, so must the Physical Culturalist’s.

~

Of Autoregulation and overtraining

TTP reader Jeff Erno asks the following (via Facebook), in reference to EETV, episode 6:

Really enjoyed the episode, thanks for recording. The auto regulation stuff sounds interesting. Is there somewhere I can go to read more about it? Also, my experience is with HIT the last 2+ years and if I only workout once per week I have steadily gained week over week. At twice a week I can have what can look like a stall or retrogression. Do you think it is possible that my situation is more common and most people don’t know it since they never tried backing off? Curious what your take is. Love the episodes, please keep then coming.

And here’s my answer — expanded a bit, from my original Facebook response:

I’ve written about Autoregulation a few times in Theory to Practice, Jeff — see, especially, this post — and actually the subject is in our EETV bucketlist of topics to cover in more detail. ¬†As well (and as I alluded to in this post), I’ll be talking more about the tenants of Autoregulation and it’s practical applications at the Orlando 21 Convention this summer — so stay tuned for that! ūüėČ

As for the second question: a regression/stall at 2x/week is certainly not unheard of *if you are engaged in the same “type” of workout (rep tempo, exercise selection, rep/TUL scheme, etc…), workout to workout*¬† This is one reason why I shift things up in a conjugate-like fashion, both in my own workouts and in those of my clients. ¬†You simply have to give the body a reason to overcompensate, otherwise, homeostasis will rule the day. ¬†I really don’t want to get into a flame war over what I consider to be the (substantial) drawbacks of single-set-to-failure routines for performance enhancement, but let’s just say that it’s my humble opinion that these routines just don’t give the body much (or enough) stimulus to have to fight against. ¬†Why should the body continue to adapt when it is not up against novel angles, cadences, tempos, volumes, intensities, etc.? ¬†Ask any strength and conditioning coach what happens to 40 times when all you have your athletes do for speed/conditioning work is to run repeat 40’s — they digress — and not¬†insubstantially, either. ¬†This is similar to the problem you’re running up against here.

I really wish you could have been in Wimberley, Texas this weekend, at the home of Ken O’Neill, where Dr. Frank Wyatt spoke to us of “the Body Chaotic”, pushing¬†physiological¬†threshold limits, the nature of¬†physiological¬†fatigue/failure, and what it takes to force the body to overcompensate. ¬†I’ll just say this: the early stages of training are relatively easy going, as just about any stimulus will force the body to overcompensate. ¬†The longer one stays in the game, however, the harder it becomes to push up to and beyond the fatigue threshold required to elicit an overcompensation response. ¬†In laymen’s terms, it’s friggin’ hard work. ¬†It’s painful, even. ¬†It requires a mental toughness that most trainees are simply not prepared for, or willing to offer-up, in exchange for results.

Now I’m by all means not an advocate of training unintelligently or in a shotgun, willy-nilly manner. ¬†I do believe, though that doggedness, intensity, and the ability to repeatedly push beyond the brain’s “shut ‘er down” response are crucial for achieving optimal gains (note: striving for optimal health is another issue — related, but certainly not the same). ¬†I do believe, as well, that the body’s ability to recover (another topic discussed by Dr. Wyatt) can be “trained” as well via periodic forays into an overtrained state. ¬†Chronic overtraining ought to be avoided, of course;¬†acute¬†bouts though are, in my opinion, necessary if one’s quest is enhanced performance. ¬†Remember, performance enhancement (which includes the chase for hypertrophy) is an emergent phenomena — akin to the study cloud formation, weather patterns even — not a more easily described, step-by-step process, akin to the operations of a clock, say.

If at all possible, get your hands on Brad Schoenfel’d study “The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training” (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Vol 24, #10; Oct 2010). ¬†The¬†chase¬†for hypertrophy and/or realizing one’s ultimate genetic potential is not nearly as easy as simply tracking linear load/TUL progressions in a handful of exercises.

~

Workouts? ¬†Oh yeah, you know it! ¬†Here we go –

Tuesday, 5/31/11

(A1) Dips: bw/10; 45/10; 55/6; 90/4, 5; 45/11

(A2) ARX neutral-grip pull-down: HR/3, 3, 3

Thursday, 6/2/11

(A1) BTN push-press: 135/10; 155/6; 185/5, 7 (slight spot); 155/6

(A2) chins: bw/12; 45/7; 65/6, 6, bw/whoops!

(A3) RLC: bw/10, each of 4 rounds

then, 2 rounds of :
(B1) ARX negative only chin x 2

(B2) ARX negative only overhead press x 2

Saturday, 6/4

Sprints!  Bars!  Ropes!

Tuesday, 6/7
GVT volume work, 10 rounds

(A1) high bar squats: 165/10

(A2) seated DB clean & press: 40/10

Prior fixie riding made 10 rounds of squats a real bi-atch for sure!

Wednesday, 6/8

(A1) ARX close-grip bench: HR/3, 3, 3

(A2) dips: BW/15, 15, 15

(A3) T-Bar row: 125/10; 200/10; 245/8, 8 (Autoreg)

Friday, 6/10

(A1) Powermax 360 Tabata intervals (30 seconds on, 15 seconds off), 8 different movements.

(B1) long, fast, fixie ride

(C1) ARX RDL: HR x 3; 3 sets

Sunday, 6/12

Sprints and jumps

Return-On-Investment; Time vs Goals

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.

William Shakespeare

Continuing with the Health vs Performance curve theme from last time out, we see that the weekly time investment requirement, relative to increased performance, increases exponentially. ¬†I know, I know — big shocker, right? ¬†But somehow, this basic tenant becomes…I don’t know…watered down? — or, at least, severely downplayed by some camps. And it’s precisely on this point at which I break ranks with traditional HIT proponents. ¬†And I’m no HIT-hater, either; far from it. ¬†I personally use HIT-like methodologies to drastically reduce the amount of time I spend in the gym (per-session, and cumulative over the course of a week), and I employ similar methodologies with my clients. ¬†So there you have it: I’m running out of islands to be¬†banished¬†from. ¬†Tossed from Paleo island for my¬†wanton consumption of raw dairy, and now this:¬†unceremoniously¬†shunned from HIT Inn ūüėČ

Consider how I view this from 30-thousand feet, though. ¬†My thoughts are that resistance training, relative to one’s defined goals (of course), have to be considered on a sliding, n=1 scale. ¬†Ask me if I can maximize a trainee’s overall health in one hour (or considerably less) a week on an Efficient Exercise prescription and I’ll answer in an¬†unabashed¬†affirmative. ¬†Hell, I can even coax some pretty damn impressive performance/body composition results with that 1-hour investment. ¬†What I cannot do within that same time constraint, however, is maximize a trainee’s performance potential — unless that trainee’s performance is defined in terms of ¬†sport-specific technique, or is primarily an endurance-driven event. ¬†Of course, these same trainees will, by necessity, be putting in hours outside of the gym — in the batting cage, for instance, or in the saddle, or on the track. ¬†Strength training for these athletes constitutes a performance edge, a means of sound injury prevention, and little more. ¬†But in reality, when we speak of required “gym time” vs ROI (return on investment), that talk centers (when not focused primarily on power-driven athletics) around body recomposition; fat-burning and, everyone’s favorite topic,¬†hypertrophy.

…and here’s where the HIT-camp hate mail comes pouring in ūüėČ

But if my time in the trenches has shown me nothing else, it has shown me that if a trainee is looking for maximum hypertrophy, that trainee better be willing to devote a serious amount of time to the¬†pursuit¬†— even if predominantly HIT-like protocols are utilized. ¬†And yes, I’m well-versed on what the available science says. ¬†And I know all about Mentzer, Viator and Jones. ¬†Unfortunately, science is ill-equipped to adequately account for the¬†myriad¬†of moving parts that constitute the whole of hypertrophy. ¬†As for¬†Messrs Mentzer, Viator and Jones, I’ll just say that it is my opinion that, just as gravity bends the time-space continuum, so does marketing tend to bend truth.

“But I’m absolutely destroyed after a true, HIT throw-down”, you say? ¬†Yeah, no doubt — so am I. ¬†And that’s where smartly-programmed, higher repetition work comes into play. ¬†And movement splits. ¬†And speed-strength work…and strength-speed…and concentric-only focus…and, well, the list goes on. It’s about Conjugate for the masses, my friends. ¬†Smart and varied programming. ¬†Hypertrophy (and athletic performance as well) is not a simple, linear correlation between short bouts of pin-pointed effort and fiber-type recruitment. ¬†Ahh, if it were only that easy! ¬†There are many, many moving parts¬†involved¬†in this process, each effected/maximized by different rep schemes, intensity, volumes, etc. ¬†Hypertrophy involves an intricately orchestrated — though not fully understood — dance between muscle fibers and satellite cells, growth factors, hormones and the immune system. ¬†Add to this the fact that this process is affected on the individual level by such things as genetic predisposition and epigenetic factors such as diet, sleep, stress levels, and — to fully complete the circle — training practices. ¬†And these are the determinants we know of. ¬†How many others are left to be discovered?

Chasing maximum results? You'll be seeing plenty of this: the Great White Buffalo in the sky. Visions, my friend -- *visions* ūüôā

Kurt Harris uses the “doorman” analogy¬†(and brilliantly so, I might add) to illustrate the flux, as opposed to on-off switch, nature of fat metabolism; a similar analogy could be used when discussing hypertrophy. ¬† One could consider HIT my overall training “insulin”. ¬†But, just as is the case with metabolism, while insulin may in fact be the Godfather hormone, there’s more — much more — to the overall nutrient partitioning/utilization story.

Ultimately though, the question should not be whether HIT and/or single-set-to-failure “works” — it most certainly does — our own Project Transformation proved as much. ¬†The question asked, though, should be whether these protocols work vis-a-vis one’s goals and time investment tolerance. ¬†Looking to maximize health in a safe and super-effective way? ¬†I can think of no better pair of methodologies. ¬†Looking to push beyond point A in the above graph? ¬†Be prepared to saddle-up some fresh horses, my friend.

And this: a note on that magical point B — the point at which both performance and health (and one could extrapolate, longevity) are, in a perfect balancing act, maximized. ¬†My good friend Robb Wolf ¬†has equated this point to the triple-point of water¬†; perfect analogy, I think.

~

So, my friend, what is it you seek?  Is it really truth?  Or is it, rather, to notch yet another win for your particular argument?

“…Reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed by evolution to help us win arguments…”

–¬†Jonathan Haidt¬†

Great Edge article here on what is essentially the essence of epistemic humility.  Keep this in mind as you pursue your own n=1 path, and as you filter outside information.  And as you disseminate/express your own, formed opinions.

~

And, in light of my “raising hell on HIT island” (and Paleo island, for that matter), consider this — pissing-off your friends now and again is a good thing ūüôā

~

Looking for an excellent compare/contrast to Doug McGuff’s fabulous work, Body By Science? ¬†Then check out Doug Miller’s hot-off-the-press work,¬†Biology for Bodybuilders. ¬†The book is concise in areas where Dr. McGuff drills deep (the science of metabolism, for example), and offers a smartly penned, “counterpoint” opinion on the chase for hypertrophy. ¬†Which “ideology” you eventually gravitate toward will depend on many things, but in my opinion, the most limiting (in a real-world sense) will, again, be your tolerance vis-a-vis time investment. ¬†In other words, are you willing to sacrifice an exponentionally increasing amount of time ¬†in hot pursuit of ever-dwindling performance percentile increases? ¬†This is the grand question every trainee must answer for him/herself.

…and now I’ve used the term vis-a-vis twice in a single post. ¬†It is most definitely time to move on ūüôā

~

Workouts?  You bet, here are a few:

First up, check out this workout that I put fellow Efficient Exercise trainer Skyler Tanner through last Thursday — just following the taping of EETV. ¬†Simple in design,¬†excruciating¬†in¬†execution; the epitome of brief, brutal and basic. ¬†Still think I’m not a fan of HIT? ¬†ūüôā

And yes, Skyler did report visions of the Great White Buffalo in the sky following that bit of fun. ¬†Now on to my own, self-inflicted routines…

5/1/11, Sunday

Sprints and such; bar work, rope climbs and tire flips.  Broad jumps into a sand pit.  Hurdle hops.

5/3/11, Tuesday

(A1) dips: 45/10; 90/5, 5, 4 +4 negatives

(A2) chins: bw/10; 45/7, 7, 6+

(B1) bi curl (Oly bar): 135/7, 7, 5 +2

(B2) EZ tri extension: 85/12; 105/10, 8+3

5/4/11, Wednesday

(A1) safety bar squats: +90/10, +180/10, +230/8, +270/4

(A2) Russian leg curls: bw/10, 10, 10, 10

(B1) hip press (H2): 500/25, 25

5/6/11, Friday

(A1) CZT/ARX overhead press: HR x 5, 5
(A2) DB front raise: 25/12, 12

(B1) T-bar row: 190/4 sets of 12

5/9/11, Monday

(A1) safety bar squat: +140/15
(A2) farmers walks: 2 parking lot loops @ bar +90 each hand

5/10/11, Tuesday

A little Autoreg, with vanity work for good measure
(A1) bi curl (Oly bar): 105/12, 105/6, 135/9, 140/7

(A2) EZ tri extension: 65/12, 105/6, 135/5+, 5

(A3) RLC: bw/7 x 4 sets

5/11/11, Wednesday

Another Autoreg example
(A1) XC 45-deg incline press: (midline +0)/12, +50/6, +50 (rear)/9
…go +70/6

(A2) T-bar row: 110/12, 200/6, 245/6, 5

5/13/11, Friday

(A1) dynamic trap bar DL: 245 + black bands, 7 sets of 3

3-hours later…
(B1) incline bench press: 135/20, 20 (rest-pause), 20 (rest-pause)

(B2) blast strap flyes: bw/20, 21 (rest-pause), 17 (rest-pause)

(B3) blast strap rows: bw/25, 25

5/14/11, Saturday

Sprints, jumps, tire flips, bar work and such.  60-yard shuttle sprints and pro-agility sprints to mix things up.  Broad jumps into a sand pit.  Hurdle hops.

5/15/11, Sunday

More of the same — sprints, jumps, tire flips, bar work and what-not.

~

And then a few final things:

First up, some musings from the boys at Efficient Exercise. ¬† As I said in my Facebook post, we could talk about this stuff for days, folks. And come to think of it, these clips are proving exactly that point ūüėČ

And hey, if you happen to be in the ATX next weekend, make sure to drop by our Efficient Exercise 10th Anniversary and grand-opening open house to be held at out brand-spankin’-new Rosedale location at 45th and Burnet (1403 west 45th street). ¬†My cuz-in-law TJ will be puttin’ the hurt on enough brisket, sausage and chicken to feed Sherman’s Paleo army, so come on by and grab a plate — you carnivore you — and talk a little Physical Culture shop. ¬†And while you’re there, you can hop a ride on our ARX equipment, and test these bad boys out for yourself. ¬† Maybe you can hang on longer than Chad Ocho Cinco?

…well alrighty then ūüôā ¬†Can’t blame a man for tryin’…

In health,

Keith

The Hypertrophy Response — Stimulus or Fuel Dependent?

“We do not rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”
– Archilochus

A spot-on observation of human nature, I think.  Even so, within those of us who think more highly of ourselves, that it should be otherwise.  So much so a true observation, in fact, that I use this quote as my email signature, so that I see it daily.

The following is related to a question I fielded recently from a client, and it’s not unlike the multitude of diet-vs-hypertrophy-related¬†questions I field on a regular basis. ¬†The answer to this particular question, of course — like just about every every question related to Physical Culture — is analigous to attempting to tame the ol’ State Fair favorite, the Zipper.

There are just so many moving variables to this question that it’s impossible to give a pat answer here without really taking the time to stop and dismantle each of these whirly-gig cars. ¬†I think this “problem of complexity” is a big reason why the majority of folks fall for fads and easy-outs (in diet and in training) — getting to the right answers takes due¬†diligence¬†and, in most cases, it means letting go of previously-taken-to-be-iron-clad-correct “knowledge” — not exactly a feel-good position for many.

And, too (and as always), we need to know the goals of the individual asking the question. ¬†And, in this case, we need to define what we even mean by “hypertrophy” — because one person’s “lean mass gain” is another’s “bulk”. ¬†Just as an example, look at the difference in Brad Pitt’s physique between his appearance in¬†Fight Club…


and then in¬†Troy…

No doubt Brad is bulkier in Troy¬†— but what of the difference in lean mass between the two appearances? ¬† Hard to say. ¬†And truth be told, few care. ¬†Even if that bulk were 95% intramuscular fat, most (guys, at least) would be more than happy with that.

Now I’m certainly not here to say that intra-muscular fat deposition (bulk) is¬†necessarily¬†a bad thing — I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to defining lean mass hypertrophy vs. all-encompassing bulk.

But back to my client’s actual question; what he wants to know is this:

what, if any, body¬†recomposition changes occur over time if one engages in sound¬†hypertrophy-focused training BUT were to limit the diet to maintenance-level¬†calories? Let’s also assume we are talking about someone who is more toward the ectomorph side of the body-type¬†continuum.

Oy vey! ¬†Where to begin with this one, huh? ¬†Well, first off let’s assume “maintenance calories” to mean “eating to satiation”, because, in ¬†reality, anything else would simply give credence to the now debunked (at least within normal parameters, i.e., between starvation and wanton¬†gluttony) calories-in/calories-out theory. ¬†So, what we’re talking about here is simply eating a decent, Paleo-ish diet, to satiation, and absolutely not obsessing about such things as, oh… maintaining a positive nitrogen balance, or some other such lunacy — i.e., living a real, non-OCD life outside of the gym. ¬†Now, that said, what I’ve observed during my 30+ years in the iron game is this: given proper stimulus (and favorable genetic/hormonal underpinning), hypertrophy “happens” even in an environment of less-than-adequate nutritional support.

The kicker, of course, being proper stimulus. ¬†To put it another way, busting ass in the gym trumps anything that one does, or does not, shove down the ol’ pie-hole. ¬†I would even go further to say that busting ass trumps the use of fine pharmaceuticals, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Taubes gives a great example in Why We Get Fat (though geared toward fat gain — the same applies here) of a teen going through a growth spurt.¬† Assuming decent nutritional support (i.e., no starvation), growth is a function of the hormonal environment within the body, not a function of forced intake of excess calories.¬† In other words, a growing teen eats like he has a friggin’ hollow leg, and/or is (by his parent’s definition), a “lazy”, never-gonna-get-a-job-and-get-out-of-the-frackin’-house bum,¬†*because* he is growing, not so as to¬†*induce* said growth.¬† Hypertrophy is much the same, though on a lesser (caloric requirement wise) scale. ¬†Think of it this way: stimulus drives the hypertrophy train, nutrition simply supports, to a very limited degree, the effort. ¬†And hey, I’m all for adequate support, but let’s just not forget what the real driver is here.

Now, I do concede a certain credence, if you will, to the other side of the argument (of which, this Dr. Lonnie Lowery/Rob “Fortress” Fortney-penned T-Nation article is the best I’ve come across in a long while) — that is to say, that properly administered overeating will establish a more favorable anabolic environment within the body, and therefore promote (better? ¬†Faster?) hypertrophy gains. ¬†What we’re talking about here, though, is a matter of degree — and, again, the difference between bulk and lean-mass hypertrophy must be vetted. ¬†And, too, we’re speaking again of multiple variables. ¬†I don’t think I’ve ever come across and individual who’s gone headlong into a “mass gain” phase, who didn’t also jack his/her gym intensity into the stratusphere concurrent with devouring everything they could get their hands on. ¬†Did they put on mass/bulk? ¬†You bet they did. ¬†But what really drove the train here, the newly-heightened input stimulus or surplus calories? ¬†I’ll put my money on the stimulus side of things, every time.

Another “eat your way big”¬†argument¬†that has some¬†merit¬†(in my observation, at least), is the “improved lever” argument. ¬†That is to say, increased bulk provides for better about-the-joint lever advantages, which allows one to push heavier weights, which promotes additional hypertrophy. ¬†I also believe there’s some¬†merit¬†to the point-of-origin energy supply argument. ¬†All fine and well. ¬†Until, that is, Johnny Bulk-Up decides that he’s now ready to diet-down to reach his original goal of being lean and muscular. ¬†Rut-Ro…

As the¬†Dalia¬†Lama says, many paths lead to the same destination ¬†ūüôā

And I won’t even begin to delve into the fool’s¬†errand¬†of even attempting to second-guess the body’s caloric¬†requirements with any measure of accuracy. ¬†Weigh and measure? Meh. ¬†Let us,¬†instead, focus on the things that¬†are, at least somewhat,¬†within our control. ¬†Things like consuming a proper Paleo diet, a diet of a favorable macro-nutrient¬†disposition dependent¬†upon our own (smartly conducted) n=1 determination. ¬†Things like busting ass in the gym in an intelligently programmed way (which includes being mindful of spinning into the overtraining pit). ¬†Things like eating when you’re truly hungry, getting adequate ZZzzzzz’s, ditching¬†chronic¬†stress where possible — and not stressing about the chronic stresses that you can’t avoid.

Whew!

So does proper diet matter in the hunt for hypertrophy? ¬†Sure it does. ¬†It just pales in comparison, though, to those gut-wrenching gym sessions. ¬†Look at it this way: if eating one’s way big had¬†merit, Arnold’s physique would be the norm. ¬†My take is that time spent obsessing over caloric intake would be much better spent learning meditative/awareness practices that allow one to push past the mind’s “shutdown” threshold. ¬†Become a student of focus, intensity and self awareness, and let the body mind it’s own caloric needs. ¬†It does so brilliantly, thank you very much — and much better than you (your mind, ego) could ever hope to, so long as you provide it access to the proper raw staples.

So there you have it. ¬†Is your goal to attain (in accordance with your genetic limitations)¬†70s Big status, or the raw, lean and muscular look? ¬†The truth of the matter is, my friend, that you can’t have it both ways.

~

A muse for Physical Culture?

My good friend, and uber-talented artist, Jeanne Hospod, has an interesting project going on here:

Let’s just say she’s doin’ the best she can with the block-head muse she has to work with ūüôā ¬†Seriously, though, Jeanne is an exceptional Austin-area artist — and a kind, kind soul to boot. ¬†Check out her work; you’ll be glad you did. ¬†Very cool stuff indeed. ¬†And the process is simply amazing. ¬†I had no idea of the complexity…

~

Want to begin your PhD in Physical Culture? ¬†Start with this lecture from my good friend Ken O’Neill. ¬†Brilliant insights from an¬†erudite¬†champion of Physical Culture. ¬†Pull up a chair, put on a pot of Joe, and dive deep into the very essence of the “new” Physical Culture movement. ¬†Well done, Ken.

~

Workouts for the last couple of weeks. ¬†Now you may have noticed that my blogging has been a bit¬†sporadic since my move here to Austin. ¬†And it’s for good reason — I’m busy as all hell! ¬†Seriously, though, many of the “quick hit” topics I generally now cover over at the Efficient Exercise Facebook page. ¬†Topics I choose to flesh-out a bit more will find their way here. ¬†And so it goes. ¬†Anyway, so friend us up over at our Facebook page, where Skyler, Mark Alexander and I go “around the horn” with many current health, fitness, and all-encompassing topics related to our favorite subject — Physical Culture.

Sunday, 4/3/11

OK, so a couple of short clips are worth a thousand words ūüôā ¬†A little 21st century technology paired with a smattering of old school favorites add up to a total upper-body thrashing. ¬†Sweet!

Tuesday, 4/5/11

(A1) CZT/ARX Leg press: 3, 3, 3, 3

(A2) trap bar DL: (black bands, speed emphasis) – 155/5, 245/5, 5; 295/3

Wednesday, 4/6/11

(A1) Nautilus pec dec: 110/12, 12 (working the later reps…partials, rest-pause, etc.)

(A2) XC incline press: (-90, mid 25)/7, 6 rest-pause

(A3) Nautilus pull-over: stack/13, 12+(3, 2 rest pause)

Thursday, 4/7/11

(A1) power snatch (close grip): 115/5, 5, 5, 135/4

(A2) hanging L-raise: 15, 15, 15, 15

(B1) hip press: (setting @ H2), 200lbs+ 1 grey and 1 black band, 8 sets of 3

Saturday, 4/9/11

(A1) trap bar DL (low grip): 265/7, 355/7, 405/5, 5

(A2) chins: 45/7, 55/5, 5, 4+

(A3) dips: 45/7, 70/5, 6, 7

Here’s a look at how the final round went down…

…dude! ¬†What happened to your hair?? ¬†Yeah, so I went all Duke Nukem. ¬†Summers are friggin’ hot here in the ATX, gimme a break. ¬†And I’m down with the minimalist upkeep. ¬†Metro-sexual man I am not ūüôā ¬†Gimme chalk on my hands, a fixed-speed bike, and a doo I don’t have to f&%# with, thank you very much!

Sunday, 4/10/11

Sprints!  And climbing ropes, parallel bars, a 40-rung, super-wide set of monkey bars, a scaling wall and a waist to chest-high retaining wall for jumps.  Big, big fun!

Tuesday, 4/12/11

2 rounds of the following:
(A1) hip press (H2 setting): 400/12, 500/6, 600/3 (hierarchical sets)
(A2) standing roll-outs: 15

Wednesday, 4/13/11

2 rounds of the following:
 (A1) Naut pec dec: 95/12, 105/6, 115/3 (hierarchical sets)
(A2) XC flat press: (+50) 4, 3+ ( 80X0 tempo; X=fast as possible)

Thursday, 4/14/11

(A1) front squats: 135/7, 185/5, 205/5, 225/3, 245/2, 2, 2, 2

(A2) Power cleans (high catch): 135/8, 155/6, 175/3, 3, 3

Friday, 4/15/11

(A1) BTN push-press: 135/7, 155/7, 175/5, 195/3, 3, 2, 2, 2

And by the way, a big shout-out to Kris, who sent me the most killer “Manimal” T’s — hit me with an email, brother — I’ve lost your addy!

In health,

Keith

Physical Culture as an Entrepreneurship?

“Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable.”

– Voltaire

Physical Culture as an Entrepreneurship? ¬†Yes, you bet.¬† Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be all about making money, though that is the commonly accepted meaning of the term.¬† I rather like to think of it as guiding an emerging idea into being, irrespective of profit margin. ¬†Check out this take on the Entrepreneurial mindset.

And take a look at the list of presenters scheduled for this summer’s Ancestral Health Symposium in Los Angeles; that, my friends, is a distinguished who’s who of Physical Culture’s current¬†entrepreneurial¬†luminaries. ¬†And of the event’s masterminds, Brent Pottenger, and Aaron Blaisdale? ¬†Think of them as the Bill Gates’ of the Ancestral Health movement;¬†entrepreneurs¬†extraordinaire.

You can check-out a great interview with Brent and Aaron about the Symposium on the Whole9 blog.

~

No dogma, only results. ¬†One of the best training articles I’ve read recently comes from the crowd over at Elite Fitness. Titled Methods of Muscle (by Rick Danison), this article discusses the positive benefits of the integration of various tools and methods. ¬†Listen, folks, there are no bad tools, and there are no bad methods — ¬†poorly thought-out combinations of these, to be sure — but the underlying tools and methods in and of themselves simply “are”. ¬†Would anyone think to tell a chef that basil is “bad”, or that braising is a deficient method, without first qualifying that statement? ¬†Yet we do, in essence, the very same thing in the S&C community when we dogmatize (is that a word?? ¬†Well, it is now…) any one training method/modality at the expense of another.

Again, I had another week stock-full of extreme high-intensity “mini” workouts, utilizing a full spectrum of methods and modalities. ¬†I seem to thrive on this type of workout scheme — but is it necessarily an Evolutionary/Ancestral Fitness approach? ¬†Well, maybe. ¬†Just as there was a wide range in the macronutrient content of various HG populations (based, in most part, on their relative proximity to the¬†equator), so too, I believe, there must have been wide variance in HG energy¬†expenditure¬†profiles; amplitude and frequency of intensity bursts must have varied wildly. ¬†The mainstream currently has a puppy-love thing going on with the “human as an endurance athlete” template. ¬†And, indeed, many exhibit this phenotype today in a very natural and healthy way. ¬†More power to ’em. ¬†These mainstream “endurance apologists”, though, seem to¬†ignore¬†the vast array of purely power-leaning phenotypical examples on display all around them. ¬†Have they never observed the sprint/throws portion of the Olympic games? ¬†Gymnastics? ¬†Rugby or American football? ¬†Certain human genetic lines were obviously wired for power expression as well, but for some reason we’re lead to believe that we modern humans all stem from a¬†persistence-hunting only “Adam and Eve”. ¬†Now maybe I don’t have current science on my side, but I do believe it is a serious mistake to use “current science” to blinker one’s self against simple observation.

Chris Johnson as a¬†persistence¬†hunter?? ¬†Yeah, Okay…


Ideally, science and observation/accumulated wisdom should work in unison; too many times, though, these camps are at odds. ¬†A mighty fine edge can be put on the blade of accumulated wisdom by using current and applicable science as a sharpening stone (Tabata-like protocols, anyone?). ¬† But science — or more precisely, those who argue from a scientific point of view, and to the exclusion of “accumulated wisdom” — would do well to acknowledge that science, at least in the realm of Physical Culture (and exercise science in particular), hits up against some serious, serious limitations. ¬†For example, the single-set-to-failure crowd would have me to believe that the Bill Pearl types of this world are…an¬†aberration? ¬†Or that Bill Pearl would have been the same “Bill Pearl” if he’d trained under the one-set-to-failure¬†tenants. ¬†Becoming¬†mired in a¬†premise¬†while ignoring real-world results is no place to be, and this¬†argument¬†simply does not hold-up to my 30+ years of observation; that I have no published “science” to back my claim does not (and should not) blind me to my observations and accumulated wisdom. ¬†Of course it does make me question, and relentlessly so, the “whys” and “hows” — but it certainly does not make me deny “what is”. ¬†The Zen masters put it this way: do not plunder the Mystery with concepts. ¬†That something works by way of some scientifically-yet-to-be-determined mechanism does not obviate the fact that it does, in fact, work. ¬†The best that science can do at that point is to “hone the blade”. ¬†No doubt a welcome and anticipated service, but no reason for me not to employ the particular tool in question now. ¬†We’ve gone from the strop and straight blade to the quad-blade razor cartridge, and at no point has the ol’ straight blade in an experienced hand been made obsolete. ¬†Something tells me the ol’¬†repetition¬†method, properly applied, is here to stay.

Let’s look at some workouts –

Sunday, 2/6/11 –

The six-minute-and-15-second leg dust-up:

Mark Alexander, president of Efficient Exercise, called this the 19th, 20th, and 21st-century workout. ¬†And it truly was, as I utilized CZT technology, Nautilus know-how, and plain ol’ low-tech, grunt-it-out, farmers walks. ¬† Brief, brutal and basic? ¬†Hell yeah. ¬†And we’re beginning to phase-in a few of our Project Transformation participants to this type of more integrated approach as well. ¬†This is the beauty of n=1 integration; finding the right mix for each individual, letting the story reveal itself as each participant travels down his own Physical Culture path. ¬†For some, a CZT-based workout is all they’ll ever need and indeed, want — for others, the CZT is just another (though fantastic!) tool in the Physical Culture toolbox.

Monday, 2/7/11 –

Dynamic trap bar deadlifts – (red and purple bands): 335 x 3 x 10 sets; 15-secs between “sets”

Tuesday, 2/8/11 –

Bodyweight dips: 200 total, in every¬†conceivable¬†rep scheme you can imagine. ¬†The only constant here was the drive to spend as little time on the ground as possible between “sets”.

Thursday, 2/10/11 –

Max Effort bent-over row (Oly bar): 135 x 7; 225 x 6; 275 x 3; 295 x 3; 315 x 2; 325 x 2; 335 x 2; 345 x 1; 355 x 1; 360 x 1; 365 x 1

Followed, approximately 4 hours later by –

(A1) straight bar bicep curl: 95 x 12

(A2) EZ bar triceps extension: 105 x 12

four rounds, very little rest between sets.

Friday, 2/11/11 –

(A1) power cleans: 165 x 5; 190 x 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2 (emphasis speed, crisp form)

(A2) blast strap planks & pikes: 15 each round

Saturday, 2/12/11

(A1) cable “lean-in” bicep curls: 155 x 12, 7; 170 x 4+ ¬†(hierarchical)

(B1) cable incline flye: 155 x 13; 170 x 7; 175 x 3+ (hierarchical)

(B2) CZT-Vertical chest press: 5 hyper-reps

In health,

Keith

Amalgamation; The Workout as a Non-Dogmatic Experience

“In this age of specialization men who thoroughly know one field are often incompetent to discuss another. The great problems of the relations between one and another aspect of human activity have for this reason been discussed less and less in public…”

Richard Feynman

Specialization, though extremely important, inevitably leads, however (unless the specialist remains ever¬†vigilant), to blinkered thought patterns. ¬†We need erudite generalists to connect the dots, to see the inherent co-relations between what look to be, at ground level, completely disparate entities. ¬†Only from the generalist’s 30-thousand¬†foot view can the Venn-like associations be found. Check out the following, from big think: A Universal Cure for Cancer?

~

Amalgamate:

  1. To merge, to combine, to blend, to join.
  2. To make an alloy of a metal and mercury.

I’ve touched on the subject of the problems inherent to the dogmatic approach to Physical Culture many times in the past (most recently, here), but the sentiment bears repeating: no single method, protocol, or modality works for everyone, and no one can continue to make progress continually using the same method, protocol or modality. ¬†Be prepared, my friend, for what has worked brilliantly over the last 6 weeks is, even as this is written, readying to dump your sorry ass without so much as a hastily jotted “Dear John”, or a dry kiss goodbye. ¬†Once the body¬†accommodates¬†to a specific stressor — and it most assuredly will (and with some much faster than with others) — progress¬†will abruptly cease. ¬†This, of course, is the basis which underpins the Conjugate Method — a method many folks mistakenly assume is a powerlifting-only phenomena; wrong answer, my friend. ¬†Yes, Louie Simmons has manipulated this idea and applied it specifically to the field of powerlifting, but the basic underpinnings can be tweaked so as to apply toward any training specificity, or to no specificity at all. ¬†Case in point: I am a fitness generalist who employs the Conjugate Method; now, if I ever decided to specialize in any single event, or train toward a specific sporting goal, I’d simply tweak the parameters (specific exercises, modalities, etc.) of the Conjugate Method to better support those goals. ¬†As Louie Simmons says, There are countless sports and sport-specific¬†pursuits¬†(including, I would add, sporting generalism) ¬†but only three methods of strength training:¬†absolute strength building,¬†hypertrophy¬†work (via the¬†repetition¬†method), and speed-strength training. ¬†And remember this: sport specific technique training is an entirely different animal — even if your sport of choice happens to be Oly or powerlifting itself.

Still a bit fuzzy on what exactly the Conjugate Method is?  Below is an excerpt from a Dave Tate-written, IB Area 51 piece, Debunking the Myths, in which Dave gives a very truncated summary of the Conjugate Method as practiced by the athletes at Westside Barbell:

…The methods we use are explained in many books on training including ‚ÄúSuper training‚ÄĚ (Siff and Verkhoshansky), ‚ÄúScience and Practice of Strength Training‚ÄĚ (Zatsiorsky) and many other textbooks and manuals from the former soviet union. The problem in the country is that people are reading the wrong information. For review, the major methods we use are:

1. The Maximal Effort Method: This method is defined as lifting maximal and supra maximal weights for one to three reps and is considered superior for the increase in both intramuscularly and intermuscular coordination. This is because the central nervous system will only adapt to the load placed upon them. It has also been proven that weights over 90% elicit the greatest gain in strength but will quickly lead to over training state within one to three weeks with the same movement. The is because of the great demand placed on the neuromuscular system with this type of training.

We devote two day of the week for this type of training. One for the Squat and one for the bench press. This schedual is followed all year long. The reason we do not have problems with overtraining with 90% plus weights is because the movement is switched every one to three weeks. The movements we choice are called ‚Äúspecial exercises‚ÄĚ and are designed for maximum strengh output both the squat and dead lift.

2. The Repetition Method: This method can be defined as lifting a non-maximal weight to failure; it is during this fatigue state when the muscles develop the maximal possible force. Because of this it is only the final lifts that are important because of the fatigue state. This type of training has a greater influence on muscle metabolism and hypertrophy when compare to the other methods.

We use this method in a conjugant ‚Äúcoupling fashion‚ÄĚ intermixed in with the other training days. Any supplemental or accessory movement using this method must be changed after three to six workouts using the exercise. This is to avoid the over training state as described above.

3. The Dynamic Effort Method: This method of training involves lifting non maximal weight with the greatest possible speed. This method of training is not used for the development of maximal strength but only to improve the rate of force development and explosive strength. Angel Sassov during his trip to the USA mentioned weights 50 to 70% are best for developing explosive power.

We devote two days a week to this type of training for the bench press and one for the box squat.

All these methods are coupled together ‚Äúconjugated periodisation‚ÄĚ This type of periodisation is different then the western method that is very over practiced in the United States today. As many of you remember the western method consists of a Hypertrophy Phase, Basic Strength Phase. Power Phase, Peak Phase and a Transitional Phase. These phases are all independent of each other meaning that you first complete the Hypertrophy Phase then move on to the Strength Phase and so on. This is the type of periodiastion we do not practice or believe in. We have found it better to maintain all the strength abilities throughout the year. This again is accomplished by the conjugated periodisation method. The other type of periodisation we pratice is cybernetic periodisation. This simply means you have to listen to your body and make adjustment when needed. With the western method if you are programmed to lift 90% for 2 sets of 3 and have a bad day or do not feel well ten you are screwed with no alternative but to miss the workout and try to catch back up the next week or to try the weight and hope for the best. With our style of training on the dynamic method days, bar speed or concentric tempo is what determines the load. If the bar slow down then you reduce the weight. We do use percents as a guide on this day, but he bar speed still is the determining factor. On the max effort days a bad day will only equate to a lower max effort. This really does not matter because it is the straining with maximal loads we are looking for not the actual weight lifted.

 

Now personally, I like to use Autoregulation in¬†conjunction¬†with¬†cybernetic periodization, but that’s really getting down to the splitting of proverbial hairs.

So yes, I utilize all manner of machine, free-weight and bodyweight exercises. ¬†I run sprints and bike sprint as well. ¬†I train at times like a powerlifter, and other times like a track and field thrower and/or sprinter — and yeah, sometimes I even train like a damn (God forbid!!!) bodybuilder (but much to Meesus TTP’s relief, sans the 80s clown pants). ¬† One thing I do not do, however, is combine exercises in a session as if “pulled from a hopper”. ¬†CrossFit does plenty of great things for sure, and is, in my mind, a fantastic overall concept — save for the programming side of things. ¬†Should a well rounded athlete be able to perform well at a series of exercises pulled at random from said hopper? ¬†Most definitely, yes, I think. ¬†That an athlete should train in such a fashion, though, in my mind is just, well…wrong minded. ¬†There is a huge difference between training for an event and training with an event; couple the overall CrossFit concept with smart programming and now you’ve got a winner.

~

And now, on to the workout front…-

Monday, 1/31/11; as brief, brutal and basic as it gets:

Trap bar RDLs: 265 x 10; 355 x 7; 405 x 6; 455 x 4, 3, 3, 3

Lift something very heavy off of the ground — quickly; set it back down under control. ¬†Wash, rinse, repeat…

So, can one get a bad-ass workout in 15 minute’s time? ¬†You bet. ¬†Would I do this all of the time? ¬†Nope; but then again, I don’t follow any protocol or modality “all the time”. ¬†Workouts are indeed like cuisine (see above); variety, within certain limitations (limited to Paleo choices, say) are key. ¬†The anatomy of a 15-minute, quick-HITter workout can be seen in these following four examples:

Tuesday, 2/1/11

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

(A2) weighted dips: 90 x 5, 5, 5, 5

Wednesday, 2/2/11

(A1) Nautilus pec dec: 95 x 10, 10

(A2) Nautilus rear delt: 95 x 10, 10

*both at a 3010 tempo

(B1) Xccentric flat press: (+50): 5 rest-pause reps w/8-count negatives each rep

(C1) Nautilus pull-over: 255 x 10, 2, 2, 1 (one extended cluster set, 40×0 tempo)

(C2) reverse-grip pull-ups: BW x 5, 3, 3 (one extended cluster set, 40×0 tempo)

Thursday, 2/3/11

Dynamic box squats (high box, thighs parallel): 185 x 7 sets of 3  ~ Speed!

2-hour break, then 225 x 7 sets of 3 ~ again, speed, speed, SPEED!

Straight bar bicep curl: 95 x 12, 105 x 6, 115 x 5, 120 x 4 ~ performed as clustered sets, 15-seconds rest between “sets”.

Friday, 2/4/11

clean (from the floor): 135 x 10; 165 x 5, 185 x 5, then 185 x 8 sets of 2, with the 8 x 2 done as a cluster set; approx 30 seconds rest between “sets”.

~

So, what do Efficient Exercise trainers do when they’re just sittin’ around between clients, chillin’ out, recovering from one of those 15-minute “quick-HITter” workouts detailed above? ¬†See the link below. ¬†Yeah, we’re sick like this ¬†ūüôā

http://skylertanner.com/2011/02/01/efficient-exercise-the-super-dynamic-hip-bridge/

Seriously though, this is one bad-ass, dynamic hamstring hit.

~

Discipline? ¬†Really? ¬†Meh, let’s call it love. ¬†The positive¬†physiological¬†effects of¬†reframing¬†your reference. ¬†Yeah, “love of” is most definitely a more effective way to approach any aspect of Physical Culture than is “discipline”. ¬†Discipline might get you through the day, my friend, but love will carry you though a lifetime.

http://chall-train-smart.blogspot.com/2011/02/myth-behind-discipline-why-it-doesnt.html

~

An lastly, I would love to see an analysis here of the elite sprinter’s heel bone, especially in relation to that of the distance runners’. ¬†The problem with much of this research is that all manner of “running”, much like “resistance training”, is lumped together under one, catch-all phrase. ¬†This, of course, is utterly absurd in the same way that classifying all of art under a single umbrella is¬†patently¬†useless. ¬† Help! ¬†Is there a generalist in the house? ūüėČ

An interesting story, though, nonetheless:

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/02/neanderthals-humans-running

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¬†¬† ūüôā

Heh, tell us how you really feel, Vince¬† ūüôā

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 possible.¬† Easy is the path that leads to Big Pharma.

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

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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‚Äôs Starting Strength website mandated some catching up: it‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚ÄúThe Father of American Weightlifting‚ÄĚ Hoffman and his York Barbell Club. From the 1930s well into the 1970s York was The Barbell Capitol of America, and it‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄĒ 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 ‚ÄĒ you couldn‚Äôt 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‚Äôs coaching videos on Rip‚Äôs website, what you‚Äôll 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‚Äôt 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 ‚ÄĒ 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‚Äôll see Tommy doing is something many of us learned back then. And it‚Äôs a lot more precise and powerful than videos because a lot of custom fitting is involved: lifting is being refined for that particular lifter‚Äôs 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‚Äôs original Gold‚Äôs in Santa Monica felt that way; so did his World Gym in Venice, as did Bill Pearl‚Äôs and Vince Gironda‚Äôs. Mike Graham‚Äôs Old Texas Barbell Company in Lockhart, Texas has that mystique. Big box chain and franchise gyms don‚Äôt ‚ÄĒ they‚Äôre too squeaky clean and have next to no coaching know-how.

Tommy‚Äôs opened a new chapter in strength coaching. Every summer he‚Äôs out in the Dakotas, running training camps for Native American youth. When he found that teen agers there ‚ÄĒ like everywhere ‚ÄĒ are too ‚Äėcool‚Äô 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‚Äôt 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‚Äô 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‚Äô design: one size doesn‚Äôt fit all. The cams were statistical means ‚ÄĒ averages, if you will ‚ÄĒ artificial: they didn‚Äôt 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‚Äôre always going to be working with your unique power zones ‚ÄĒ 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‚Äôd had both knees replaced. I found I bore certain assumptions about knee replacement surgeries based on people I‚Äôve known that had them: loss of mobility, loss of flexibility, a ‚Äėcan‚Äôt do list‚Äô, and complaining.

There‚Äôs a new breed of aging people: one‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄĒ for many of us, what‚Äôs left of hair ‚ÄĒ 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‚Äôt work ‚ÄĒ 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!

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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)

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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