Touchstones, Part Duex…and a Blast From the Past

…I feel like a wet seed wild in the hot blind earth…

That’s William Faulkner, whose birthday was Sunday.  And who, together with Cormac McCarthy, have produced all the literature I’ll ever really need.  All else, while nice enough, is simply superfluous.

And speaking of “a hot wild seed in the blind earth”, check out this picture that my good friend, Tico Ramirez, dug up from God-knows-where:

Left to right: Your’s truly, Tico Ramirez, Marty Martinez.  Freshman year; 14 and clueless…

Funny story about that 77 number I’m sporting here.  Seems as if I was on a big Red Grange kick at the time (possibly my first meaningful foray into history?), and figured that if Red could be a stud running back, and sport an oh-so-cool, iconic 77, well then so the hell could I.   I badgered the living crap out of our head coach until he relented and let me wear a number that, due to my being a running back, required me to get a “referee waver” (or some such) prior to each game.  I definitely remember there being a per-game performance clause attached to my wearing that particular number; smart coach.  Properly correlated and applied, incentives give us something to bite into, something to focus upon, and provide just the right nudge when the going gets tough.

Sprint repeats?  Check.  Deadlifts?  Check.  Ring muscle-ups?  Ugh…

Not without help, big guy. Better get to work...

So this past week — and continuing with the touchstones theme that I covered here — I decided to check-in on my deadlift and ring muscle-up performance.  At a body weight of 210 lbs, I cranked-out a crisp 7 reps at 435.  Not bad, for me, at least, on sprint and cycling-weary legs.  Muscle-ups on the rings, though, were another story.  My touchstone here is three, with no jump-assist, and with good, smooth form.  That I required jump assist on every rep indicates that I need to get back on the rings, and that straight bar muscle-ups (which I can fairly well knock out) just don’t compare in level of difficulty.  But, hey — no failures, only feedback, right?  Did it matter that on this particular day I decided to couple power snatches and ring muscle-ups in a super-set format for multiple rounds?  Nah, I don’t think so.  The press-up and lock-out portion of the move was fine — what killed me was the pull-up; felt like I was pulling up through a tub of molasses.  The prescription?  A slow build-up back to full-on ring muscle-ups.  I should be back is the saddle by this November 10th — my 47th birthday 🙂  Incentive?  Like fine wine, I want to continually get better at the finer aspects of fitness.

The Sunday MetCon

Another great day to get out of the gym and onto the track/field.

  • 5 x 30 second all-out sprint for distance (approximately 200 meters).  Full recovery between sprints.  Hit drop-off on the 5th sprint.  Then:
1. tire flip x 10 (8, then 7 on subsequent rounds)
2. 60 yrd sprint
3. 20 ft. rope climb
4. 30 ft parallel bar walk (hand-over)
5.  rebound alternating chins & pulls x 6
6. 30 ft monkey bar
7.  rebound alternating chins & pulls x 6
wash, rinse, repeat for 3 rounds.
In health,
Keith

Pushing Physiological Limits vs Attaining (and Maintaining) Health

Pushing physiological limits, and the study thereof, is indeed an exciting aspect of exercise science.  And, as ABC’s Hungry Beast points out, “…few of us have any idea about what it takes to produce a world-beating result… “.  To that end, check  out this fascinating clip, wherein Kirk Docker deconstructs the machine that is Shane Perkins, Australia’s fastest track cyclist.

Fascinating, yes — but of what relevance does this have to the pursuit of attaining and maintaining optimum health?  Well, the same relevance, I think, that the NASA programs ultimately had on trickle-down technologies (think Teflon) used in everyday life.  What we can glean from studying these superhuman performances can indeed be used — if modified correctly — in the training of mere mortals looking for enhanced quality of life.

If we consider, once more, my health-performance curve, it’s not difficult to ascertain exactly where on the curve that Shane resides; decidedly (and unapologetically so), in the land of C.

And more power to him; he’s exciting as hell to watch and to study.  But to the extent that the general population — those who ought to be concerned with easily-achievable, overall health and well-being — continues to equate “health” with the exploits of the Shane Perkinses of the world, only exacerbates their reluctance to engage in any fitness program whatsoever.  Why do anything, when I sure as hell can’t do that?  Part of conquering the American (and increasingly so, world-wide) health crisis will be the wholesale paradigm shift away from equating “health” to superhuman athletic performance, and the athletes who produce those performances.

~

An Autoregulation example

I’ve fielded quite a few questions as of late regarding the real-life execution of Autoregulation, and I figured that filming an actual utilization episode might help to clear things up.  As I state in the clip, the Autoregulation template can only be considered just that — a basic recipe, and no more.  Watch an expert chef, like Meesus TTP, create an actual gourmet meal by using a recipe as little more than a rough guideline and you’ll know what I’m getting at.  Some things you can only learn from time in the kitchen — or time under the bar.  It has to be — pardon the cliche — a process.

The Autoregulation weight selection template for the 5 to 7 rep range is simple enough:

1. 50% of expected 6-rep max for 10 -12 reps

2. 75% of expected 6-rep max for 6 reps

3. expected 6-rep max for maximum repetitions

4. adjusted load (according to the performance of set #3, with a target of 6 reps), again, for maximum repetitions.

Of course, we have a preliminary warm-up (and/or “feel-out” sets) for most exercises prior to diving into the 50% set.  And most times (as in the example below), my entire workout is built around the Autoregulated exercise.  Sometimes, though, I’ll Autoreg two back-to-back exercises in the same workout.  The beauty of Autoregulation is that it can accommodate this kind of variance quite well; flexibility being the hallmark of this method.  Consider Autoregulation the adjustable wrench in my Physical Culture toolbox.  Come on out to the 21 convention next month in Orlando, and we’ll drill even deeper into this most useful concept.

~

The week’s workouts

Sunday, 6/12

Sprints, jumps, tire flips and rope climbs

Monday, 6/13

Hella fixie ride!  HEAT!

Tuesday, 6/14

(A1) trap bar DL (low grip): 155/12, 245/10, 335/6, 425/5, (3+2)

(A2) ARX overhead press: HR/3, 3, 3, 3

(B1) powermax360 shoulder circles x 30 seconds, reverse circles 2nd round x 30 seconds

(B2) seated DB clean & press: 45/10, 10

Wednesday, 6/15

Volume day; 10 sets  of  10

(A1) high bar back squats: 185, 10 sets of 10
(A2) chins: bw, 10 sets of 10

Thursday, 6/16 (see the clip of this workout above)

(A1) dips: bw/12; 45/10; 70/6; 90/6, 6 (autoregulated)

(A2) snatch-grip high pulls: 155/10; 175/7, 7, 7, 7

(B1) ARX dip negatives x 3

*each set of dips was preceded by approximately 7 to 10, CNS activating push-pulls on the Powermax 360.

Saturday, 6/17

Volume/Metcon: approximately 20 minutes of the following:

30 seconds on, 15 seconds recovery of 6 different powermax360 movements, followed by alternating hi-box step-ups with 135 lbs (about 30 total steps).  Wash, rinse, repeat…

Sunday, 6/19

Sprints: 10 x 100 yards (blast 40, cruise 60 format) + 5 x 120 at a straight 75% effort.  Tire flips, jumps, monkey bar hi-jinks and rope climb shenanigans.

~

Mark Sisson, author of “The Primal Blueprint”, to visit Efficient Exercise 

If you happen to be in the ATX on Friday, June 24th, at 7PM, c’mon out and join us as we welcome Mark Sisson to the “epicenter of Physical Culture”, and more specifically to Efficient Exercise’s 45th and Burnet Rosedale location, for an informal pot-luck dinner.

Mark, of course, maintains the ever-informative “Mark’s Daily Apple” blog, and is the author of  (among other works), The Primal Blueprint.

The event will be hosted by Austin’s own Primal Living Meet-Up Group, so this is a great opportunity not only to meet one of the guiding stars of the Primal Living movement — Mark Sisson — but to also chat-up the local members of this fascinating group of health-minded individuals.

So bring your favorite Primal/Paleo dish, and come join us for some stimulating conversation and warm camaraderie.   Austin’s own Snap Kitchen will be providing some Primal/Paleo-friendly goodies as well, so don’t miss out!

And hey, all of our peeps over at Crossfit Austin, I want you guys to know that y’all are more than welcome as well.  C’mon out and help spread that good, Austin, Physical Culture vibe!

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  🙂

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 🙂  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 🙂  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 🙂  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

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

 

Of Bruce Lee, and the Drive for Perfect Phenotypical Expression

Super Human Radio‘s Carl Lanore devoted a show recently  to the training and philosophy of Bruce Lee.  What can Bruce Lee teach us about striving for phenotypical expression excellence?  Everything, my friend; everything.  Maybe not by way of training specifics (unless, of course, you happen to be a martial artist), but certainly by way of overriding philosophy.  Absorb what is useful from any source, discard what is not from even the most revered of sources.  Emphasis mine.  I can ascribe wholeheartedly to the Bruce Lee theory of attaining the pinnacle of Physical Culture without ever necessarily feeling the need to duplicate a Bruce Lee workout.  Different goals necessitate different methods; the psychology of intensity, though, remains the same.

As an interesting aside, I noticed that in the stack of mail that Meesus TTP brought in Saturday, was my (new) copy of Lee’s The Art of Expressing the Human Body. I say “new” because I had an old and tattered copy of this book that I’d long since given to a friend who was just embarking on this wonderful journey that is Physical Culture.  I can’t wait to re-read the material with the wisdom that I’ve gained over those (10+…wow time flies!!) years since I’d last read it.  And by the way, the book is compiled and edited by none other than John Little, who teamed with Doug McGuff on the two mighty-fine pieces of work Body by Science and The Body by Science Question and Answer Book (information, here).  Tight-knit and intimate group within this wonderful world of Physical Culture.

Below, Lee’s daughter talks about her daddy’s book.

And be sure to check out this wonderful piece, the Warm Marble.  It’s one of those “keep in your back pocket” works (like The Iron, by Henry Rollins) that are good to pull out every now and again to remind yourself of just why it is that we stick to this satisfying — though, at times, arduous — path of Physical Culture.

A need to document reps?  Hell, a need to even count reps?

Let’s face it, for those of us who are are pure Physical Culturalists (as opposed to specialists, i.e., competitive Oly lifters, for example), programming schemes in general, and repetition counts in particular, are little more than a psychological crutch and/or a convenient to convey the fact that, yes, effective weight training is seriously hard work.  What if all we ever did in the gym was to match a given weight to a given movement (or vice-versa) and bust friggin’ ass with it?  Here’s the deal: I’ve got training logs dating back to when the gym-rat clown pants were considered the pinnacle of cool (yikes!), but what the hell do those notes really matter to me now?  Yeah, it’s kinda cool to look back at some of that stuff , in a nostalgic sense; my physical body, though, could give a damn.  I mean, if you ascribe to the 7-year total turnover theory (as I do), then I’m not even the same physical body now as I was then, so of what relevance are those numbers to me now?  What if it was just me…and a weight…and the challenge of pressing (for example) that damn weight overhead, any way possible,  and as many times as I could, within a certain time limit.  What’s the time limit?  I don’t know, pick something that fits with your schedule — 1 minute, 15 minutes…24 hours, whatever.  Just you, a load and a movement; wherewithal and, most importantly, intensity.  Did our ancestors worry about rep counts, tempos, smart programming or energy systems?  Of course not.  They simply had to face-down a life challenge…or die trying…simple as that.

Now I’m certainly not advocating the abolition of smart programming and rational exercise selection in favor of a full-on, out-of-the-hopper approach; what I am saying, though, is that we can swing too far to the other side — the mechanical and all-too predictable side of the continuum — if we’re not careful.  We run the risk of putting “the program” ahead of what really matters, which is how much intensity we bring to the table.

Here’s how this plays out, at least for me, in the real world: a couple of times a week I’ll have a loaded bar that needs to be broken down between clients.  Let’s just make this real easy and say that I’ve got a 135 lb loaded Oly bar nestled nicely in the power rack, and 30-minutes before my next client.  Now I pick a movement I haven’t done in a while; power snatch, say, or RFESS — or hell, even bicep curls, if I want to channel my inner Arnold.  Now, how many reps can I squeeze-in in that half-hour?  Not that I’ll ever write this stuff down, or factor it into my subsequent “normal” workout considerations (I let Autoregulation take care of accounting for that).   This is more play than anything else, and it keeps my body, as well as my mind, fresh.  And just because these “opportunities” aren’t documented, much less tracked, in no way means that my body doesn’t revel in the challenge and respond accordingly.  Like rings within a tree trunk, the body I occupy today is marked with the results of these impromptu sessions; documentation written in flesh and blood.

And now on to a couple of “documented” workouts –

Monday, 11/29 (Rosedale studio)

(A1) trap bar deadlift/bent over row/deadlift combo: 265 x 10/5/10; 315 x 10/3/10 x 3 sets

(A2) floor press: 135 x 10; 185 x 6; 225 x 6, 6

Wednesday, 12/1 (Westlake studio)

(A1) CZT seated overhead press (neutral grip): hyper-rep x 5

(A2) manual resistance front raise: hyper-rep x 3

(B1) negative-only CZT pull-down (neutral grip): hyper-rep x 5

(B2) blast-strap scarecrows: 3 ugly reps

(C1) rear foot elevated (and suspended) split squats: bw x 10, each leg

(C2) CZT leg press: hyper-rep x 3

The above is an example of integrating the ever-versatile CZT equipment into various pre-exhaust methodologies. Video clips of Skyler kickin’ my ass on this one coming soon.

The Austin-area “exercise sommelier” strikes again, here ; a wonderful pairing of Mentzer-inspired HIT, with some good ol’, local Paleo grub  🙂

 

In health,

Keith

Progress? Progress!

A client asked me recently how she would know that she’s making adequate “progress”, with the context, of course, being fitness-related, and more specifically, strength biased.  And I wish I had a ready answer for her; the truth of the matter though, is that “progress” is a tough thing to define, and even tougher to measure — it’s a little like herding cats.  Sure we can say, for instance, that one’s squat has increased 30 lbs over a certain time frame — but what if in gaining that increased squat poundage, we had to sacrifice a tenth of a second off of a 40 time; 20 seconds off of a 5 k?  The fact of the matter is that “progress” can only be measured relative to — and, in fact can only be defined by — our stated goals.  As Dan John is fond of saying, the “goal is to keep the goal, the goal…”  Now, this might sound a bit flippant at first blush, but I can tell you from first-hand experience just how difficult this is in practice.  Dan also likes to base weight room progress on the movements: a deadlift max, maximum number of dead-hang pull-ups and the standing triple jump; you’d be hard-pressed to argue for better weightroom yardsticks and yet, what about the more nebulous indicators —   blood work, say?  Bodyfat levels…overall exuberance for life?  Ever been around a bodybuilder in the final week (or hell, final month) of contest prep?  Exuberance is not exactly a word that comes to mind.  What if we’re looking to be strong, yes — but not at the expense of chipping away at our overall health (this happens to be my goal, by the way)?  In that case, I think Art DeVany’s “metabolic headroom” is a great place to start.  In other words, what’s the separation between your metabolic “idle” and metabolic “redline”?  I’ll have to come up with a working definition here that doesn’t leave my intended audience with their eyes rolling back in their heads.  Any help and/or thoughts on getting this point across to those not geeked-out on diet and fitness is greatly appreciated.

The week’s training — a mixed bag…and I like it like that!

It’s not often that I rumble through three training sessions in a row, but that’s just the way things shook-out this week.  So in true power-law, random-loving fashion, I rolled right on along with life as it hit me.

Tuesday: a quick-hitter supper-set with these two –

barbell muscle-ups (from the high hang): 115 x 8; 135 x 6; 145 x 5, 5, 5

Efficient Exercise exclusive hip press: 400 x 12; 500 x 6; 545 x 4, 4, 4

 

Best in the business; the Pendulum Hip Press

 

I like this pairing for a quick, total body workout.  If I had a bit more time, I would have tossed weighted pull-ups into the mix, and I’ll add those in next time I do this little number.  Also, I’ve got some good 4-6 rep range numbers to work with now so as to employ Autoregulation principles to the exercise loading next time out.

Wednesday: making the most out of ready access to Nautilus equipment –

Nautilus pec dec: 110 x 11 (41×1 tempo), then immediately to

weighted dips: 70#  x 6, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2 rest-pause extended set

and to round things out…

Nautilus pull-over: 230 x 9+ (not quite 10), 50×0 tempo

The extended rest-pause set: think of this as a hybrid between a DeVany-esq Hierarchical set, and the standby classic rest-pause method.  The pec dec serves as a good pre-exhaust movement, here; big rep drop-off between the first and second “set” of dips.  Without the pre-exhaust, we’re looking at an initial rep range of 10 to 12 or so, and an increased loading prior to the initiation of each and every “set” until we reach (about) the 2-rep threshold.  From this point, we’ll bust-out doubles until failure.

Thursday: holy friggin’ HIT, Batman!  Check-out the clip below –

If you weren’t keeping score, here’s what Skyler put me through:

Romanian Deadlift: 5 rest-pause style dynamic/hyper reps (about 5 seconds rest between reps; max effort each rep)
Dip: 5 rest-pause style dynamic/hyper reps (again about 5 seconds rest between reps; max effort each rep)
Pull Down: 5 negative-only reps
Military Press: 5 negative-only reps
Squat: 5 rest-pause style dynamic/hyper reps (same drill, about 5 seconds rest between reps; max effort each rep)
Hey, what is that, a friggin’ mouthpiece shoved in your pie-hole?  Yeah it is, I’m a teeth-gnasher on the “long”, grind-it-out lifts.  I’ve actually bitten clean through a few of these bad boys.  I’d like to keep my teeth around for rippin’ through grass-fed animal protein, thanks, so I’ll keep sportin’ the old mouth vinyl.
So this CZT equipment is, well…it just has to be tested to be appreciated; the intensity that can be generated here is simply phenomenal.  If you’re in the Austin area and you want to take this equipment for a spin, give Skyler or myself a holler; we’d be happy to take you through a round.  Anthony Johnson, of the 21-Convention, did just that when he came through “the ATX” recently.  I gave Anthony a dose of hierarchical rest-pause on the Pendulum Hip Press on one day, then a few days later he followed my own CZT workout with one of his own.  Again, the master of ceremonies here is none other than Dr. HIT-dose himself, Skyler Tanner; check it out:
And checkout Anthony’s notes on his Efficient Exercise and CZT experience, here.

Paleo Simplicity

Really, is it all that complicated?  Yeah, all of us in the Paleo/Evolutionary Fitness community like to geek-out on the minutia of this stuff (and with the workout specifics as well), but when we get down to brass tacks — or (and especially so!) when dealing with the “mainstream”, or potential converts — it’s helpful to remember this: Paleo is, at its roots,  really, really easy.  To wit, check out Robb Wolf’s the Paleo Solution, Quick Start Guide.  In fact, the entire Paleo Solution book is a great Paleo introduction tool.  I won’t go into a full-fledged review just quite yet, as I prefer to fully digest a book (lots of margin scribbles, notes, underlining, etc.) before weighing-in.  I can tell you this much, though; Robb’s book would be a fantastic introduction to anyone contemplating testing the Paleo/Evolutionary Fitness waters.  As opposed to, say, Taubes’ Good Calorie, Bad Calories; a read that I’m particularly fond of, by the way, but that can be, oh…how shall be say…a bit off-putting to the newly initiated?  Hell, even Toban Weibe’s most excellent summary of Taubes’ tome can be much for most initiates.  Not so Robb’s the Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet.  Accessible?  You bet; I’d feel comfortable suggesting it to anyone — and certainly to anyone who is even the least bit skeptical over the whole “Caveman” thing.  Robb does an excellent job of both providing sound, science-backed information, and doing so in a way so as to not come-off as being some kind of a back-to-the-caves whack-job…or worse yet, a dietary dogmatic.  Bottom line?  Get Robb’s book; get it for yourself and for anyone you care enough about to coax into the Paleo fold.

On to a couple of workouts –

Let’s preface things a bit by noting that I spent the greater part of Sunday lifting, toting, and just all-around man-handling heavy things.  And not in a fun way, either — I’m talkin’  moving, folks.  As in, shuttling a shit-pot-ton of household…stuff, from one place to another.  How does one ever acquire so much?  Anyway, thanks to my good friend Robert Remmers for sacrificing his Sunday (and a good deal of sleep!) to help Michelle and I out.  Thanks, my man — we couldn’t have done it without you!

So I split this workout up into an AM/afternoon thing, as that’s just the way things happened to pan out on Monday, between training clients and handling other, more admin-related work.  It was a nice opportunity for me to test how I’d respond to back-to-back (and separated by only a few hours) explosive work, as it’s been a while since I’ve done something like this.  Again, I’m not personally a huge fan of the power clean, as I feel like I can (because of my build/bio-mechanics), get a bit more out of other lifts — however, I do like to keep light and technically flawless PCs in the mix — more so for the dynamics of the catch (as opposed to the pull).  So, power cleans and power snatches in the AM; trap bar jump-ups and feet elevated ring presses in the 2nd of the day’s bouts.

power cleans: 135 x 7, 7; 175 x 3, 3; 185 x 2, 2, 2, 2 (high, rock-solid catch, very little knee bend with an immediate return to the hang position and explosion into the following rep)

power snatch: 135 x 3, 3, 3, 3

…and a few hours later:

trap bar jump-ups: (jump squats with a trap bar): 135 x6, 6, 6, 6

in a superset with –

feet elevated ring presses: bodyweight + 60 lb vest x 8, 7, 7, 7

How much can one cram into 10 minutes?  Quite a bit, actually.  I sandwiched this quick-HITer (heh…) between Wednesday AM and early afternoon fixie sprint sessions:

tru-squat: (115 counter weight) – 115 x 12, 150 x 10 (42×0 tempo)

rdl (X-Ccentric machine): 90 x 12, 140 x 7 (42×0 tempo)

nautilus pec dec: 110 x 8, 7 (4020 tempo)

Amazing what a concentrated slam you can give to your body in such a short period of time.