Back to the Future: the Return of the Clan?

“Every man is the builder of a temple called his body.” – Henry David Thoreau

As a frequent Forum, with Michael Krasny listener, I was pleasantly surprised by the exceptional Ancestral Wellness literacy expressed in this recent show (Are Humans Meant for Monogamy?) by guest Christopher Ryan, psychologist and co-author of “Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality“.   Ancestral Wellness acuity of this level is rarely encountered in the mainstream.  Even mentions of vegetarianism in this show come with the caveat of “know your biological underpinnings and, if you still opt for a vegetarian diet, do so with this knowledge and take the necessary precautions”.  In this way, Ryan compares monogamy with vegetarianism — no moral judgements, just sound precautions if you chose to operate outside of your genetic hard-wiring.   Know thyself, then adjust accordingly so as to support your goals and wishes.

Hmmmm; where have you heard that before?  😉

Now this idea is as easy to parody as Paleo itself; however, Ryan isn’t advocating wanton hedonism, but rather, a need to know your genomic hard-wiring, and the hows-and-whys behind that hard-wiring’s development over our species’ existence.

Social networks and the innate human search for “spiritual meaning” (note: as opposed to religion), in my mind, are the missing — or at least, as yet unexplored — “third and forth rails” of the Ancestral Wellness movement.  Knowing who we are, in terms of diet and exercise, in an evolutionary sense, forms the base upon which those of us within this movement craft a healthier, happier and fitter lifestyle.  What’s missing, of course, is the societal and spiritual element.  Living within the societal structures of our current, modern dictates is as much an anathema to our well-being as subsisting on a Standard American Diet, or negating the positive implications of movement/exercise in our lives.  Neglecting our hard-wired need for “meaning” is just as corrosive.

Christopher Ryan suggests that the current economic situation may in fact drive some forward-thinking people to begin to form nascent “clans” (my word, not his), with both shared responsibility and shared fruits-of-labor.  As necessity is the mother of invention — or in this case, re-discovery — this can only be viewed in a positive light vis-a-vis hunter-gatherer clans and their propensity toward egalitarianism.  It will be interesting to see how governments deal with this scenario.

Ten-thousand-plus years of severe social conditioning, of course, won’t be scrubbed away in a mere generation or two.  But as with all cutting-edge ideas, there will always be forward-thinking, early adopters.  It is, in my mind at least, inevitable that the first “new clans” will emerge from this already egalitarian/libertarian minded Ancestral Wellness “sub-culture”; a sub-culture, by the way, that I am proud to be a member and vehement promoter of.

And hell, let’s go ahead and throw shamanism into the mix of ideas that were squelched/repressed/shamed a result of leaving behind the egalitarian, hunter-gatherer lifestyle as well.  Few non-fiction books have rocked my world the way Graham Hancock’s awesome work, Supernatural, has.  Totally mind-expanding, to say the least, in the way that Peter McWilliams’ work, Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do, skewed my political views (much further) toward practical libertarianism, way back in the day.  Ditto for Peter McAllister’s Manthropology, in shaping my notions of the average Joe’s physical ability and work capacity.

Food, fitness, societal underpinnings and spirituality, taken together and as viewed form an evolutionary prospective, round-out the Ancestral Wellness model.

The return of the clan and the clan shaman are, in my estimation, are a much-anticipated inevitability.  Sign me up for both.

A Weekend Fun and Frolic — on the field, in the parking lot and in the gym

Saturday: speed work –
(1) sprints: 6-seconds, self-timed, all-out and with full-recovery between reps.  Autoregulated by distance, in that when I failed to attain max distance two times in a row, I pulled the plug.  I think I ended-up getting about 10 efforts in, though I wasn’t trying to keep count.  “Full recovery” equated to about two minutes between reps.

(2) dual-leg speed hop; 10 seconds for max distance.  Same autoregulation idea as above.  Again, roughly 10 attempts before reaching drop-off.

(3) dual-leg hop — tractor tire course.  8 tires dispersed randomly, but spaced so that I could hop in, out and between each tire so as to complete the course.  Done fast as possible, but with no “double hops” or misses.  6 rounds, full recovery between rounds.

What’s the difference between speed and speed repeat (or speed endurance) work?  Check out this article from Elite Fitness: What speed training really means.  I can explain it no better than this.  Nice work, Jon.

Sunday: sprint repeat (endurance) work –
Prowler pushes, farmers walks, all manner of sandbag clean & press, snatch variations and other such manifestations of tourture — just a friggin’ free-for-all throwdown with Skyler Tanner and PFX12’s mastermind Kevin Cottrell.  Not a damn bit of it was quantifiable, although I was close to hurling at one point, so I guess that would qualify the session as “pretty intense”  Chalk another one up for the axis-side of the old power-law curve 😉

And let me just say this: you can’t take these two friggin’ animals anywhere — just look at what the hell they did to my prowler during this workout…

Check out that right rear skid.  What you can’t see is that the left rear skid is bent, too.  Does this mean that the Paleo/HIIT crowd is tougher on equipment than those West Side powerlifting behemoths?  Hmmmmm……  🙂

…meanwhile, the ol’ prowler is in ICU.  Damn, just after I got my bike off of the same such life support.  Meh…

In the news…

This is either a boon for health, longevity, and the quality of life — or a major score for the pharmaceutical industry.  Check out this story, from Big Think — The Man Who Was “Cured” of HIV.    Now this certainly can work out to be the essence of Ancestral Wellness — combining the best of modern technology, with an underpinning of smart & solid Physical Culture.  Without that solid underpinning, however, what science is creating is a class of customers beholden to the pharmaceutical industry not just for 75 years, but for 150 years.  Cha-ching!

Eat the rich, my friends…or rather, let the rich eat themselves.

In health,
Keith

Diversity, Species Survival, and Your (N=1) “Base Camp”

I write this as I’m taking a break from putting the finishing touches on my upcoming 21 Convention presentation and, concurrently, reading Rebecca Costa’s The Watchman’s Rattle (heh, who says old-schoolers can’t multitask, huh?).  The Watchman’s Rattle is just a fantastic read; really tough to put down.  Just as Peter McAllister’s Manthropology reaffirmed my contention that any serious foray into pushed-limits Physical Culture must be made from a well-established, rock-solid base of GPP (General Physical Preparedness), and that we as a species are capable of acclimating to and/or developing — and even thriving under — a tremendous work capacity, so does Ms. Costa’s work remind me that any step toward singularity is a step toward extinction.  This is true whether we’re speaking of an eco-system, a species as a whole, or an individual within a species.  Also, being that (1) nature is a hell of a lot smarter than we are, and (2) we are an uber-successful species precisely because of our collective differences, opportunistic abilities, and individual variability, it stands to reason that, for a training program and diet regimen to be successful, it must (1) be n=1 compensated/continually adjusted, and (2) that no individual training program will be successful across a broad spectrum of trainees, nor will a single program/methodology/modality be the single “silver bullet”, be-all, end-all for an individual trainee.  No, not even P90X 😉

Whew…now that was a mouthful!

That said, when we consider the absolute necessity for diversity within a species as an indicator of that species’ potential for success, is it any wonder, then, that we have so many paths to obtaining optimum health and longevity — not to mention performance prowess?

For example, check-out Carl Lanore’s interview (#771) of Brooks Kubic regarding old-time strongman Joe Rollino, who lived to be a vibrant 104 years old and who died, not of disease, but by being run-over by a friggin’ minivan.  Joe was also a devout vegetarian his entire life.  Runs counter to our Paleo sensibilities, huh?  I don’t mention this as a slam to the Paleo lifestyle (which, of course, I adhere to myself, and evangelize about to anyone who will listen), or to kick-up any Vegetarian vs Paleo shit-storm, but more as a call to, above all else, know thyself.

~^~

…and Know Your “Basecamp”

Elemental to establishing one’s self firm-footedly within the Physical Culture scene — not to mention staying in the game for the long run — is knowing just who you are as a unique, total package (physical, mental, spiritual) genotypical and phenotypical expression.  This goes way beyond somatyping, though that is as good a place as any to begin this ongoing journey of self-discovery.

I’ve written about Charles Poliquin’s take on this in a previous post, but the idea needs to be driven home, as it is absolutely essential to on-going success in the Physical Culture game.  The key is to find, then operate, for the most part out of, that “basecamp”.  This is not to say that you should never venture away from that — on the contrary!  You should make frequent forays/”scouting missions” out from camp so as to (1) extend and push yourself and, (2) make yourself stronger via diversification.

Using myself as a quick example, I know that I’m mostly mesomorph in build, and that I thrive under a higher-than-normal intensity/volume/frequency mix.  I also flourish under much variety, and will get vary stale with a lack thereof.  As an athlete, I was neither the fastest of the fast, nor strongest of the strong, but I could perform repeat bursts of near-max intensity forever with very little drop-off in speed and/or strength and power.  What absolutely crushes me, though are powerlifting-like, raw, grind-it-out workouts in the 1-3 rep range.  Move me back down into the middle (power zone) speed-strength and strength-speed portion of the speed/strength continuum, though, and I’m right back in my element — and a happy camper!   This is not to say, though, that I avoid at all costs doing raw strength work — on the contrary, I do — I just know my limitations, and know that I can’t handle too much of it.  On the exact opposite side of the spectrum, I can better handle high volume work — classic GVT or Gironda-like protocols, much better, though still not as good as intense bouts of power-oriented work.  Each individual, though, has to find his own basecamp, and set-up operations accordingly.

More on this at the 21 Convention.

One more thing, though, as it relates to the on-going practice of self-discovery.  It seems to me that many people attack this problem with too much left-brain empasis.  In other words, from a Quant-centered, science-obsessive, numbers-driven prospective.  This has much to do with the Western tendency to poo-poo the creative, intuitive process.  But know this: you cannot be broken down into a simple (or even highly complex) mathematical schema of any sort, and if you’re waiting for science to hand you the best workout and/or diet protocol for your particular situation, you’re going to be waiting for one hellova long time.  From the recent and most excellent Big Think post, You Are Not an Equation:

…Faced with the undeniable global and personal anxieties that characterize our age, we should be deeply skeptical of premature solutions based on science that cannot yet deliver what its sales representatives promise. 

Amen.

~^~

I’ve mentioned my good friend (and Physical Culturalist extraordinaire) Ken O’Neill numerous times in this blog, and now Ken has a blog of his own — Trans-Evolutionary Fitness.  Ken is an erudite elder in the Physical Culture game — more a contemporary of Art DeVany than a young whipper-snapper like me 😉 Just a tremendous resource to have here in central Texas, the epicenter of the new Physical Culture.

Anyway, be sure to check out Ken’s work — as well as the numerous articles he’s written for Iron Man magazine; I can assure you the content of his blog will be deep and thought-provoking.  Here’s an example snippet from his July 15th post:

…Physician Jonas Salk, developer of polio vaccine, held that we should be entering a new stage of evolution – one he called meta-biological evolution – and that the direction of evolution must become survival of the wisest.  Our genius untempered by wisdom has created myriad tools threatening survival of the species, indeed of the living planet. While evolution has created an embodied human mind of incomprehensible potential, we have barely scratched the surface regarding its nature, uses, and directions for development as the humans we might become…

~^~

Let’s look at some workouts from the past week, shall we?

Monday, 7/11

(A1) BTN split jerk (alternate lead foot): 95/6; 135/6; 155/6; 185/4;  205/4; 215/2, 2, 2

(A2) alternating grip pull-ups (trapeze bar): bw/12 each round

Tuesday, 7/12

(A1) Oly curl: 115/10
(A2) EZ tri extension: 105/10

6 rounds

Wednesday, 7/13

*Lots* of saddle time, then:

(A1) Med Ex back extension: 320/10, 10, 8 (6010)
(A^) Nautilus lateral raise: 149/12; 160/10; 180/7+, 5+ (60×0)
(A2) reverse hyper: 95/12, 12, 12

Then even more saddle time immediately following.  Holy smoked legs, Batman 🙂

Thursday, 7/14

(A1) Bent-over row, Oly bar: 135/12; 155/10; 275/6; 305/6, 6

(A2) XC incline press (10×2 tempo): +0/3; +20/3; +40/3; +50/3; +90/5 negatives (8 sec eccentric)

Friday, 7/15

(A1) front squat: 135/6; 185/6; 205/6; 225/4

(A2) landmine single-arm press: 60/10; 85/10; 95/10, 10 (each arm)

Sunday, 7/17

Tire flips, sprints and hops circuit –

(A1) tire flips x 10 (covers about 25 yards), then immediately sprint the long balance of the football field.

(A2) High hurdle hops x 7

(A3) dual-leg hop sprints with interspersed tire hops x 50 yards.

Four rounds of this.  Found that it takes a total of 42 tire flips to cover 100 yards, ergo, the last round consisted of 12 flips.  Thought I was going to heave a lung following 12 flips + a 100 yard sprint  🙂  Followed this with monkey bar and parallel bar work, all in the 100 + degree central Texas heat.  Sane?  I dunno, but it was fun!  Yee-haw!

See you all in Orlando!

In health,

Keith

Bad Science, Shrinking Brains, and Open (Yet Questioning) Minds

“The idea is to try to give all the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another”

Richard Feynman

So when we put all of our eggs in one basket — say, judging a particular question solely by the outcome of the published “science” related to that question, rather than approaching the question from multiple disciplines (intuition, common sense, empirical evidence, etc.) — we severely limit the possibility of finding the essential truth of the matter.  For example, “established science” held firm — and is yet holding firm —  to the notion that weight management is simply an extension of the 2nd law of thermodynamics, namely the “calories-in/calories-out” idea.  Those of us who allow ourselves to think without restraint now realize how ridiculously flawed this reductionist thinking is.  In fact, to the extent that I did, at one time, believe this to be true is…shocking to me.

We currently have battles raging withing the Physical Culture arena — gladiator “absolutists”, if you will — representing various training methods as being the end-all, be-all.  Is it really as easy as finding the lone “correct” answer?  Well, I say that all we need do is take a good look around to see how ridiculous this notion is.  For every Dorian Yates, I can offer a Bill Pearl; for every Mentzer, a Gironda.  The list goes on and on; for every fabulous athlete employing a certain training method, we can find examples of similarly proficient athletes doing something entirely different.  All methods work for some, no method works for all, and the method that currently works wonders for an individual likely won’t produce results in that same individual 6 months from now.  Some see training as purely science, I see it as more analogous to the culinary arts; replete with scientific underpinnings to be sure, but the creation of a great meal is a hell of a lot more complex than the simple co-mingling of those simple, disparate, underpinnings.  Just call me the Alton Brown, then, of Physical Culture.

A slight diversion: now I’m no linguist by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s my understanding that there is no single Sanskrit word for “truth”, but rather a number of words that hint at the truth of  an idea as colored by the strengths and limitations of the approach.  In other words, ideas can have “truths” revealed in a philosophical/emotional sense, a spiritual sense, and, yes, a scientific sense.  We in the west tend to put a premium on the scientific “truth” behind and idea at the exclusion of all else.  This, of course, leads to a dead-end trap of stagnant thought.  Again, quoting Richard Feynman: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” Good words to live by, from a brilliant man.

And so with that “question authority” mindset nicely stoked, let’s reconsider, for example, the vaccine-autism link that was all the rage not so long ago.  Again, my point here is not to imply that all science is shoddy — far from it — my point is simply to maintain a questioning attitude even in the face of supposed scientific “proof”.

_______________________

The notion of a continual decline in humanoid brain volume over the past 20 kyrs or so is not exactly earth-shattering news to those of us who make it a habit to keep up with the musings Art DeVany or John Hawks; it is interesting, though, to reconsider this phenomenon through a more conventional lens.  Was the advent of the agricultural revolution a cause, correlate, or just a simple coincidence to the onset of this pattern?  For me, the evidence clearly indicates causation; always the epistemocrat, though, I remain open-minded to alternative theories.

_______________________

Much thanks to Robb Wolf (and his merry band of pseudo-science co-conspirators) for creation of the all-things-Paleo Forum, which will be a great resource for everyone dedicated to this Paleo/Primal/EvFit/Ancestral Fit journey.  We at Efficient Exercise intend to use this valuable resource as another educational tool (along with the Paleo Solution Quick Start Guide)  for those involved in our 10-week Project Transformation: the Efficient Exercise Solution.  And needless to say, we always recommend The Paleo Solution as the definitive go-to source for clients interested in pursuing the Paleo way.   Between Robb’s wesite, forum, podcasts, blog and book, anyone who has a mind to can accumulate a PhD-level education in the Paleo way from this single, convenient, root source.  Thanks again, guys, for all the free, selflessly-given, information.  Stunningly generous.

By the way, if you’d like to check-in on the happenings with Project Transformation, be sure to “friend us up” over at our Facebook page.  We’ll be kicking the program off on January 18th, with a wide-ranging demographic of “subjects”.

_______________________

My workouts this past week were all of the organic, non-documented type save for yesterday’s (1/8/11) heavy T-bar swing and weighted dip combo.  Ahhhhh, T-bar swings; Tim Ferriss would be proud 🙂

T-bar swings: 100 lbs x 20, 20, 20, 20, 20

weighted dips: bw+90 lbs x 6, 6, 6, 6, 4

Kept the rest between exercises and between rounds to a minimum here.  Just out of curiosity, I checked my pulse immediately following the 2nd round of swings — 165 bpm.  Pushing fairly hard, but certainly not a red-liner by any means.

An all-day squat-fest:

Okay, so here’s an example of an impromptu, situationally-driven “workout”: on Thursday (1/6/11), it occurred to me that I hadn’t performed a bread-and-butter, bilateral back squat in quite some time, as usually, if I’m going to squat at all, I’ll opt for a unilateral version — a RFESS, say — or maybe a front squat.   Anyway, I also saw in the day’s hand the (sweet!) opportunity to get quite a bit of short-burst fixie-huckin in.  What better to mix with that quick-burst leg burn than some good old back squats?  Yeah, I thought so, too — so I repeated this basic set-up time and again throughout the day.  And hey — shouldn’t I get credit as well, for all the plate loading and unloading?

(A1) full ATG squats: 135 x 12, 225 x 6

(A2) thighs parallel to the ground: 315 x 4, 4, 3, 3

(A3) quarter squats to full ankle extension (explosive): 405 x 8, 8, 8

(A4) fixie sprint

This is just an example of one round.  Sometimes I did much less volume between rides (diving right into the quarter squats, for example), and other times I just bounced around with the ATG stuff.  The point is, I did whatever the hell I felt like doing with no “need” to hit a pre-determined number of sets or reps at a calculated load.  The lone constant here was intensity — when I went at it, I friggin’ went at it.  At times there was a full 3 hours between rounds, and other times maybe a half-hour.  Again, no rhyme or reason.   So was this “play”, “physical activity”, a “workout”…or what exactly?  I definitely pushed myself, especially in the later rounds — and I certainly felt the results the next day (soreness, off-the-charts hunger, etc.) — but how would something like this be classified?  More to the point (and from my body’s prospective) does it even need to be classifiable to be productive?  Well, of course not.  The only problem with this scenario, from a “guru”prospective, is that I can’t sell you a cookie-cutter programming guide for this — you’ve got to figure it out for yourself mt friend, n=1 fashion.  Not much of a business model, I know — but hey, what the hell do you expect from a guy who dropped (like a fracking rock, no less!) his only business-related college class (accounting…ugh) after 3 sessions due to total and utter (drooling!) disinterest? 🙂  I mean, why waste time with that nonsense, especially when I had a whole Howard Zinn-inspired Poli Sci department full of courses to choose from?  🙂

_______________________

And last, but certainly not least — introducing the newest arrow to my quiver:

That makes 3 bikes now — and I still have but one ass  (as Meesus TTP has deftly pointed out)   🙂  All you cycling aficionados out there understand, though — I’m sure of it! …right??  🙂

In health,

Keith

_______________________

Psychology, Intensity, and Phenotypical Expression

Kevin Koskella, of the blog and companion podcast Healthy Mind, Fit Body and I recently met in Austin, Texas (the epicenter of Physical Culture) over an awesome cup of joe at my “office”, the fantastic (and thankfully, just down the street from my studio) Thunderbird Coffee.  It’s funny — I’m really a rather reserved, quiet, keep-my-opinions-to-myself kind of person — until, that is, the talk turns to Physical Culture.  At that point, and as I am sure Kevin can now tell you, I can’t be made to shut-up  🙂  At any rate, I really enjoyed our coffee and (one sided?  Heh, sorry, Kevin) conversation, in part because Kevin is a cool and highly intelligent guy, but too because he is really — as I am — heavy into the psychological aspects of training.  Now, in this, the follow-up podcast interview we taped a week or so later, we only touched on the mental side of things (again, I could ramble for hours on this), but just let me reaffirm my opinions here: your psychological leanings, drive, focus and ability to bring intensity into the training theater are everything.  There’s a time to be intelligent, questioning and logical, and a time to let it fly.  When chalked hands finally grasp the bar, my friends, it’s time to go all-out friggin’ primitive.  Make no mistake here: not only are all the commonly assumed training stressors vitally important (load, rep range, tempo, TUL, etc.), but also, too, is the psychological  aspect — do we attack the day’s training with a life-or-death intensity, or with lackluster effort?  Believe me, the body can sense the difference, and will respond accordingly.  Remember, training, to be especially effective, has to be brief, brutal and basic.  And if in fact we are true to those dictates, then training can only be intermittent and fractal in nature, lest we become a frazzled train wreck of disparate CNS, muscular and support structure pieces/parts.  Think this is merely rah-rah psycho-babble?  Think again: the environmental/epigenetic components impart very real, concrete physiological changes (see this piece, for instance) to an organism; this is the stuff of optimized, phenotypical expression.

Quick change of subject here: step back for just a moment and think of all the people you know who agree, in principle at least, that brief, brutal and basic workouts are the way to go, and that a Paleo diet not only makes sense logically, but that the empirical evidence and end results (look, feel and perform) are nothing less than stunning — and yet, these same folks seem mesmerized into believing that they cannot personally make such a change, or that their own physiology is somehow wired different so as to thrive (not just survive, but thrive) on a standard American and/or vegetarian diet.  I can’t tell you how many people I speak to swear up and down that whole wheat does their body good, and that long, arduous and slow is the true way to fitness nirvana.  Yes, my friend, and the heroin addict feels the same for their beloved black tar.  The holiday season is near, and you’ll run across this version of diet-and-health-related cognitive dissonance at an increased frequency.  “I am fat, out-of-shape, and desperately want to turn that around; I will not, however, give up my fresh-from-the refrigerator Snickers bar”.  Well, I’m not sure what to say, here.  Continue on with the tie-off-and-tap-a-vein roller coaster, my friend.  When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  Let’s just hope that metabolic derangement is not the impetus that finally opens the student’s eyes.

Check out this motivational montage from a most unlikely source: Will Smith.  Hat tip to Messus TTP for the find  🙂

No doubt: whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are, sir, absolutely right.

And so that’s the mental side of the game.  And again, let’s not forget, though, the epigenetic factor.  So the question then becomes one of what is a “real” input?  Anything that elicits a change at the cellular level must in fact be considered “real”.  So do your perceptions, attitudes, drives and desires matter in a real sense?  You bet they do.

Two workouts over the past week

Monday, 11/1; a superset of the following:

front squats: 135 x 5; 185 x 5; 225 x 3; 245 x 2; 255 x 2
kneeling DB clean and press: 45 # x 15 for each round

Pogos prior to squats, ballistic push-ups prior to the DB clean and presses, both for a solid CNS prime.

Friday, 11/5; a little Crossfit feel, here — three rounds of the following circuit, completed in 27 minutes.

Pendulum hip press: 400 x 15 (full range of motion)
btn push-press: 185 x 7
RDL: 255 x 7
weighted chins: 70 x 5
Bulgarian split squats: 45# x 10 each leg (below parallel)

Brief, brutal, basic…and intermittent, my friends; this is the way to roll.

In health,
Keith

Intensity: the Real Key to Strength and Conditioning Success

“Basic, brutal, and brief…”

And if I may, to that I’d add intermittent to that as well.  Ok, so I’ve racked my brain and consulted my thesaurus to no avail — anyone know a synonym for “intermittent” that starts with a “b”?

Anyway, the “basic, brutal and brief” statement is just a snippet of the wisdom that long-time Strength & Conditioning coach Mark Asanovich delivers during this recent interview with Dave Durrell, of High Intensity Nation.  Another bit of in-the-trenches wisdom that Mark disseminates is that we as trainers and trainees should remember, first and foremost,  this: that all training boils down to “…physiology, physics and motor learning…”; and to that, I would add “psychology” or, more specifically, the ability to bring intensity to the training protocol.  Because, let’s face it: there’s not a training program that can ever be written that will produce results without the trainee bringing intensity to the table and, conversely, even the most mismatched trainee/protocol combo will work — at least for a while — if the intensity applied to that protocol is of top-notch quality.

Want results?  You gotta lay it on the line, brother — each and every workout.  Now, match super intensity with smart programming and, well…you’ve got the makings of the perfect Physical Culture one-two punch.

…and add a well-adhered-to Paleo diet to the mix, and we’ve got ourselves a perfect combination  🙂

Conjugated HIT, Dynamic and Volume Work

So here’s the thing: it’s not that there is any single workout methodology that is the “best” (or “worst”, for that matter), but that there are aspects of many various methodologies that, when combined in an intelligent, systematic way according to each individual’s n=1 goals and needs, provides for the most advantageous workout stimulus; “advantageous”, of course, being defined by the individual.  That is to say, while one person may be concerned primarily with achieving optimum health, another may have athletic aspirations; and we know, of course, that athletic prowess does not necessarily confer an optimum health profile.  As has been said before, optimum performance often begins where superior health ends. There’s a give-and-take with everything, folks — chasing athletic supremacy is no different.  Where do I fit on this continuum of optimum health to athletic performance?  Well, for the most part, I try to straddle  that razor’s edge between the two; admittedly, though, there are periods where I’ll make a decide push toward improved athleticism at the expense of overall health.  Now, though, is not one of those periods.  There’s just too much going on in my life at the moment — moving cross-country, new job, new house…hell, a whole new existence! — exciting to be sure, but also hella stressful.  I mean, damn, we just recently stumbled across the box that contained our silverware (ah, it’s the small pleasures in life!).  Being that all stress is cumulative, I guess you could say that I’ve temporarily dialed-down a tad bit — not so much on the intensity (I still go at it when I do workout) — but on the overall frequency and volume.

Wednesday’s HIT Parade

Super-Slow Leg Press: (hierarchical rep scheme, 3010 tempo) 12, 6, 6 – then immediately to:

Super-slow ham curl: 180 lbs x 12, approx. 30 secs  rest, 190 x 8 –  4010 tempo

Nautilus Pec Dec: 110 x 8 ( 4020 tempo), then immediately to:

Super-Slow chest press/crunch: 170 x 8 ( 4020 tempo)

Nautilus pull-over: 220 x 9 (4020 tempo), then immediately to:

Reverse grip pull-ups: bodyweight x 8, 6 (40×0 tempo)

Nautilus shoulder lateral raise: 170 x 10 (4020 tempo), then immediately to:

X-Ccentric upright press: (no counter weight, no added weight) x 7 rest-pause singles (40×0 tempo)

Couple of things to note here: although I am utilizing equipment made by the entity “Super Slow” (which, by the way, is great equipment), I’m not, as can seen in my tempo references, utilizing the super-slow tempo/TUL technique.  The hierarchical repetition scheme (hat tip to Art DeVany) is this: choose a weight that will leave you feeling a good burn (but not yet to failure) after 12 reps, take a slight pause to add weight, then hit 6 more reps; pause again, add weight and hit 3 more.  I called the loading a little shy, here, so I was able to eek out six reps on the final blast.

I followed that up with a little explosive work on Thursday, with a superset of behind -the-neck split jerks and blast strap reverse flyes.

btn split jerk: 135 x 5; 175 x 3; 185 x 3; 205 x 3; 225 x 5 resp-pause singles

blast strap reverse flyes: bodyweight x 8, 10, 7, 8 (4010 tempo)

Friday turned out to be a rather extended day in the fixie saddle — approximately 20 miles with a good deal of sprint intervals tossed into the mix.  If you have errands to run, you might as well turn it into a workout, right?  The ol’ legs protested mightily at the onset (heavy split jerks will take more of a toll than one realizes) but wound-up rebounding and responding nicely.

One of the day’s pit stops was at Thomas Repographics of Austin, to pick up these, my new business cards:

I guess this means I’m official now, huh?  🙂

Then it was a stop by Texas Coffee Traders to pick up some fine, roasted gold for my home brewing pleasure.  So many fabulous coffees to choose from!  I settled on a pound of the organic Peru (thanks for you help and expertise, Jessica!), saddled-up, and hucked it on back to the Efficient Exercise Rosedale studio.

Damn the old-school crunch…

So a client of mine who sprinkles-in some “bootcamp” fitness classes into her training mix reported to me that she “tweaked something in her upper back/trap/neck area” while performing hands-clasped-behind-the-head crunches.  Yeah, I know, big surprise, right?  This particular client is an endurance type athlete (sprint tri’s, etc.) who — and wisely so — strength trains for bettered performance and injury prevention.  She’s had lower back issues in the past, and so the vast majority of my exercise selections for her have some element of core strengthening involvement.  We’ve begun to incorporate perfect form deadlifts into her routines (trap, straight bar, etc.) which she is (and rightfully so, as I believe she’s never really been taught proper form) leery of.  Folks, the “core” is primarily a power transfer medium, designed — much like an earthquake resistant structure — to be stiff, flex but not break.  A rock-solid core, which includes a bomb-proof lower back, can’t be built with the old-school crunch.  I’ve linked to this interview with Dr. Stuart McGill before, but I believe it deserves another mention.

And for a bit more on this subject, see this post, from the Efficient Exercise blog.

Also, check-out an interesting read from my Efficient Exercise partner, Skyler Tanner, on the gut-wrenching realization that, sometimes, your publicly-stated n=1 experiments don’t necessarily align with your fitness goals.  In Skyler’s case, mass gain runs completely counter to his immediate (ultimate?) fitness goal of being a better rock climber.  An increased strength and/or power-to-bodyweight ratio is what he really needs, not mass — unless of course that increased mass translates into an increased strength/power-to-bw ratio.  Skyler discusses why a mass gain (in him, at least), likely wouldn’t translate, in the near-term, into an improved strength/power ratio.  Nice call, Skyler.  And yes, there are no failures, only feedback.

A couple of Workouts, and Gut Health

Look at the contrast between these (my latest) two workouts; this is what I consider to be “Conjugate for the masses”.  I do think it’s possible to blend power emphasis work with HIT/strength work and the more MetCon-ish/HIIT sessions as well — all within the same overall plan.  Add a dash of some bodybuilding-like volume work and, well, we’ve got all the bases just about covered.  For most folks, I’d place a premium (and therefore more emphasis) on strength, work which can be effectively and efficiently accomplished using various HIT methods.  Work on these other physical aspects (or “strengths” as Louie Simmons tends to term them) can be feathered-in, though, quite nicely and, in my experience at least, without undo fear of overtraining.

Monday’s workout:  a short and sweet superset here, followed by a little CZT work –

*Gunthor-style clean and jerks: 115 x 10; 135 x 7, 7, 7, 7, 7

rev grip pull-ups: bodyweight x 7; 45# x 7, 6, 6, 5, 5

No rest between sets or between exercises in the above superset.  Then it was on to:

CZT horizontal  chest press: 3 hyper-reps (a max negative followed immediately by a max positive effort; 3 reps in rest-pause fashion)

CZT horozontal leg press: 3 hyper- reps

*Werner Gunthor; Swiss shot puttin’ bad ass from back in the day.  Possessed with the work ethic of a single-minded madman, and with a penchant for hellish training regimens.  Cast from the same mold as  Soviet Hammer-man Sergey Litvinov.  These two exemplify the term “power personified”.   Now, for what I call “Gunthor clean & presses”, check out the man himself demonstrating them at the 1:05 mark in this impressive clip.  The clean and jerk is a great movement, no doubt — however, I like Gunthor’s method a bit better, due to the incorporation of a reactive catch/pressing motion.  The Olys are great, but sometimes a derivative works better for athletic applications apart from the sport of Oly lifting itself.  And yeah, the audio is in French (note to self: I should have paid a little more attention in school) — but damn, do you really need much of a narrative, here?  Look out!  Heavy duty explosive work ahead:

I followed that beauty up with a HIT beat-down on Wednesday at the Efficient Exercise downtown studio.  Bouncing between the various Efficient Exercise studios allows me to pretty much do it all, in a weightlifting sense.  The fact that I now live about 1 mile from Lehman high school (nice outdoor track!), and work in central Austin (with an abundance of parks) allows me to get my sprint on whenever I want…and the fact that I’m now in Austin means that, yes, I am smack-dab in the middle of fixie heaven 🙂  Needless to say, I’m never at a loss for a workout outlet.  Here’s Wednesday’s dates with a HIT session:

Tru squat: (weight – 100, counter weight – 115, wide stance, 3rd pin, 4010 tempo) 15, approx. 15 secs rest, 15 – then immediately to:

Super-slow leg curl: 160 lbs x 10, approx. 15 secs  rest, 12 –  4040 tempo

Nautilus Pec Dec: 110 x 10 ( 4040 tempo), then immediately to:

Nautilus chest press/crunch: 170 x 8 ( 4040 tempo)

Nautilus pull-over: 215 x 9 (4020 tempo), then immediately to:

X-Ccentric pull-downs: (20# midline add), 9 reps @ 5010 tempo

Nautilus shoulder lateral raise: 170 x 9 (2040 tempo), then immediately to:

X-Ccentric upright press: (no counter weight, no added weight) x 7 resp-pause singles (40×0 tempo)

Notice that a pre-exhaust methodology prevailed here.  And yeah, so I preceded and followed that little jewel with a 5-mile, hard fixie jaunt.  Needless to say, I slept well Wednesday night  🙂   …and I’m still feeling it a bit today.

A couple of items to check out:

Gut health, from NPR’s Fresh Air, with Terry Gross.  We in the Paleo community are hip to the idea of maintaining an active an healthy gut flora, and the benefits of a Paleo diet toward that end.  The mainstream is just starting to come around to the healthy gut flora concept, though they’re still years away (or so it seems) from connecting the dots between a Paleo diet and a rockin’, healthy gut.  Can body fat levels be altered simply by altering gut flora?  You bet; check it out.

…and Skyler Tanner waxes poetic on the notion of “easy” results.  Workouts that are short in duration?  You bet; short on intensity, though?  Not on your life.