And Now Let’s Hack Keith’s DEXA Scan…

“Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

– William James 

So I’ve decided to follow the look under the hood with a purview of how the ol’ chassis is holding up, and what better method to do so with than the gold standard body composition test, the DEXA scan.

The big selling point of this technology, of course, lay in it’s ability to accurately and non-invasively measure bone density, and as more and more folks succumb to the horrors of a SAD/non-Paleo-diet-induced osteoporosis, this provides the grain-chomping, brittle-boned (1) a vivid snapshot of their deteriorating scaffolding, and (2) a means by which to be shock-sold the Bisphosphonate class of wonder-drugs (Boniva, Flosamax, etc.).  It’s a beautiful, beautiful, 3-way partnership; feed ’em crap, show ’em the in-your-face results of eating said crap, then sell them a drug that enables them (in one respect, at least) to continue eating that crap.  Win-win…and — cha-ching! — WIN again!  😉

Mostly seen as a side benefit of this technology — yet what those of us in the Physical Culture community would be most interested in — is the DEXA’s ability to accurately measure ALL the constituents of one’s body composition: fat, lean tissue and bone mass.  In other words, it’s the most accurate, all-encompassing picture of one’s body composition that can be had.

Now, as I have the great privilege of living in *the* epicenter of Physical Culture, Austin, Texas, I have ready access to the University of Texas run Fitness Institute of Texas, where Executive Director, Phil Stanforth, and Operations Director, Julie Drake, oversee a grade-A organization of fitness/performance-smart professionals.  In fact, we at Efficient Exercise are now in partnership with the fine folks at FIT, offering DEXA services to our clients at a much-reduced rate.  Not only do clients receive a full report of their scan results (the most of which, of my report, I’ve included below), but also a comprehensive explanation of the results from one of the astute FIT staff.

Note: for those of you making the trip to Austin this spring for what’s quickly shaping-up to be the Burning Man of the Paleo/Primal set, PFX12, we will have have a limited number of slots available to obtain your own DEXA Scan report and comprehensive explanation from the professionals at FIT.  We’ll update PFX12 website as the specifics of this service become available.  Check the PFX12 site for more details as they become available.

So without further ado, here we go.  Ain’t no Photoshoppin’ and/or airbrushin’ this stuff, folks!  And just a side note: airbrushed or not, LL does look mighty (surprisingly even?) hot, here 😉  I dunno, maybe it’s the Marilyn thing…

…I digress…

Anyway, back to the subject at hand.  So below is a visual image of the raw data, produced from approximately 7-minutes worth of actual scan time.  Note the bit of scoliosis in the mid/low back.  Now, I haven’t thought of this one iota since my days of playing college ball, when the team chiropractor pointing out this condition to me.  I remember at the time asking if it was a problem, and his reply being “based on your performance, apparently not.”   My kinda doc.  The question in my mind now is, I wonder how much extra performance *could* be squeezed-out of being perfectly aligned.  I also wonder if this is a genetic thing, or something resultant of my daredevil (read:bone-headed), no-stranger-to-the-ER, youth.

And now, the pertinent portions of the full report.  I realize these are a little tough to read; gotta work within the limitations of the blogging platform, though.

Note the 17.2 % BF in the hips.  What the hell?  Lotta junk in the trunk appearantly, y’all 😉

What would be interesting — and what I’d kill to have — are comparison data from my competitive days, where I was in the peak of my performance/fitness ability (health, of course, being another matter entirely), and played at between 220 and 225.  Aside from the extra amount of muscle I carried in my neck at that time (heh…think prototypical Neanderthal), I wonder what the rest of my composition would have looked like.  If I had to guess, I’d say that my BF% was a little higher, but not by much.

So this is quite interesting.  A 10.6% BF level without purposefully trying to be lean.  If anyone has seen me eat, they know that I do so with reckless abandon.  The key, of course, is the consumption of a Paleo diet — though I do enjoy the occasional corn tortilla, corn chips and salsa, and the much more frequent beer.  I also swill plenty of raw, unpasteurized dairy (usually reserved for post workout).  These are the n=1 tweaks that I’ve found work for me, though these few indiscretions usually have me exiled,  by Paleo dogmatists, to the nutritional equivalent of Lesbos; that’s the topic of another post though, I suppose.  At any rate, if I were a bodybuilder, a 10.6%, off-season BF would be pretty damn good — not far to go to get to stage condition — and a hell of a lot healthier than bloating up only to drop right back down again.

Oh, and one thing that I did not include from the report is that, at a BMI of 30.6, the World Health Organization considered me “obese”.   I suppose it’s time to whittle-down into the single-digit BF so as to rectify that!

~

So what, exactly is “healthy”?  And can “healthy” (as opposed to “performance”) even really be adequately defined?  None of us in this community is particularly satisfied (nor should we be) with the trite “absence of disease” definition, but damn if we don’t keep getting lead back to that point.  Health, of course, is a condition that is in continual flux, a condition defined not only by internal functioning and parameter measures, but also how those parameters react to epigenetic, cultural and societal influence.   Health is a distinct function apart from measures of “fitness” and/”performance”, and yet it is intimately tied to these measures as well.  A simple thought experiment:  how many victims of the 9/11 tragedy sported “perfect” blood labs and DEXA screens, yet perished due to a fitness base incapable of rising to the occasion? An extreme example, yes — and yet…well, it’s at least food for thought.

And with this thought in mind, checkout the fantastic post, Norm and normal: the social construction of health, by Dr. Ricky Fishman.  Good, thought-provoking stuff.

In health (and performance!),

Keith

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Of Sprinting, and Leptin Signaling Mimetics

My good friend Chris Highcock, of Conditioning Research, (and he by way of Andrew Badenoch, of Evolvify) clued me into the recent Journal of Applied Physiology article, Is sprint exercise a leptin signaling mimetic in human skeletal muscle?  

I won’t delve into the interesting details of this paper, as Chris has already done a wonderful job of that here, but I would like to add just a few of my own thoughts about these findings.

What’s more important, vis-a-vis, weight loss — diet or exercise?

I’ll get into this a bit more in a future post, but as a Physical Culture 2.0, new breed fitness educator, I am the interface between geeked-out science, empirical wisdom and a general public searching for accurate and articulate answers, to help them make sense of the never-ending, fire-hydrant-like gusher of (often times) conflicting diet and fitness “truths”.  Two big obstacles that I have to overcome in performing this function, though, are (1) that my answers are predicated upon a base understanding of a movement (Physical Culture 2.0), which itself requires the acceptance of there being no black-and-white answers — that in all instances, the notion of n=1 and “it depends” prevail, and (2) a general public which is too tired/stressed/overwhelmed with day-to-day life to undertake the due-diligence required for such an understanding; a general public who only has time for the ingestion of pat answers.  You see the conundrum here.  And I’ll get to why this matters in relation to this particular study in a moment, but for now let’s take a quick look at an extension of the above-mentioned study’s findings — the performance of fasted-state, High Intensity Interval Training.

Fasted HIIT (or, don’t let lack of scientific underpinnings spoil the empirical results)

Dan John has articulated as much in some of his prior writings, but let’s just say that you’ve followed a Paleo-like diet for 30 days (ala Robb Wolf, or Whole9), coupled that with adhering to a basic 5 x 5 weightlifting scheme and, lo-and-behold, at the end of that trial period you find yourself having dropped 30 lbs of fat and gained 5 lbs of muscle.  Now, did you lose that fat because you physically ingested fewer calories, or did that fat loss come as the result of a favorable hormonal cascade established by the diet and/or workout scheme itself?  Or what it some other combination thereof?  And hey, “everyone” knows that one cannot simultaneously lose fat and gain muscle, but your little experiment just proved the contrary.   And here’s the thing: do you really friggin’ care that you’re treading on shaky scientific ground?  Does lack of scientific confirmation negate your results?  Is the fact that you had to punch three new holes in your belt and that your shirts are now fitting tight across the shoulders (instead of across the gut) somehow now irrelevant?

I don’t bring this up so as to promote a Flat Earth Society mentality when it comes to matters of Physical Culture, but more so as to put some prospective on the weight afforded to the supporting science (or lack thereof, as the case may be) in this area of study.  In other words, empirical evidence means a hell of a lot to me.  Pondering the “whys” behind an empirically-proven methodology’s efficacy —  intellectually invigorating as it may be — ought not get in the way of actually utilizing that methodology in the real world.  I can always go back and tweak a methodology accordingly, depending upon the outcome of follow-on science.  That I cannot articulate precisely and unquestionably (as supported by science) what, at the cellular level, is precisely occurring as a consequence of HIIT training does not prevent me from utilizing this method of training or, more importantly, from reaping the benefits.  We’ve long known, in the strength and conditioning community, that performing HIIT in a fasted state just obliterates body fat even while precipitating lean muscle gain.  Of course, there was the ever-present chorus of “there’s just no relevant science to support that claim” who presumably sat this one out, waiting for scientific conformation one way or the other.  In the training of horses, though, as in the training of athletes, the proof is in the final product.  Can these methods be more finely tuned in light of prevailing science?  You bet.  Wait for the perfect answer, though, and you’ll never get under the bar or put spikes on the field.  In other words, get in the game, and don’t allow the perfect to get in the way of the good.

This sprint/leptin study is a good case-in-point to what I’m attempting to articulate in this post.  We know, empirically, that fasted HIIT works –

*note – I am extrapolating here, as this particular study only considered the performance of a single sprint on the resultant hormonal cascade.

– and now we see, presumably, one important (and no doubt interesting!) pathway in which this scenario plays out.  We also see that being fasted (at least carbohydrate fasted) is an important part of the overall equation, here (if weight loss is a mitigating factor), and so we can now tweak our methods accordingly, and rock on.

So what’s more important in weight management, diet or exercise? 

Asking a badly articulated/constructed question is worse than asking no question at all; the problem is that the person to whom the question is directed will feel an obligation to offer-up an answer, ham-strung as it may be.  Construct a question that legitimates a sound-bite answer and you’ll get exactly that (Poli-Sci/Stats 101).  You’ll also get an answer that only approximates the truth of the matter, if that.  Of what relevance is this to the sprint/leptin study?  Well, let’s consider how best to achieve a long-term fasted state to begin with, and still have the energy required to tackle a HIIT-like training session with adequate intensity.  The short answer here is that we’ll need to first establish an enzymatic and hormonal underpinning resultant of following a Paleo-like diet.   The blood-sugar roller-coaster resultant of a (for instance) Standard American Diet will throw a monkey wrench into the works from the get-go.  I see this play out all-too-frequently in real-world practice.  That far-far-away look in the middle of a HIIT throw-down?  Yeah, that’s blood-sugar crash, up close, ugly and personal, kiddos.  At the same time, though, we know that intense physical exercise potentates the expression of that same desirable enzymatic/hormonal underpinning.  So what we’re really talking about here, of course, is synergy.  Synergy is slippery, though, and not easily accounted for in a standardized-testing, sound-bite-answer world.  The masses want easily-digestible answers (especially if provided by Oz, Oprah, et al) and synergy simply doesn’t play in that house.  Sorry to disappoint, but there it is.  You can no more bust ass in the gym and on the field, eat crap and expect phenotypical perfection than you can eating as a Paleo purist while abstaining from (at least some modicum) of repeated, physical exertion.  And no, computer jockying does not count as “repeated physical exertion”.

Synergy, my friends; diet and exercise — it’s the one-two punch, and the only way I know, to attain phenotypical perfection.

Sunday’s MetCon circuit –

Being under a bit of a time crunch didn’t prevent me from sneaking this one in.  Short, sweet, and to the point.

– 10 second sprint

– 20 ft. rope climb

– 30 ft parallel bar hand-over walk

– 20 yd dual hops

– 5 muscle-ups

– 30 ft hand-over monkey bar traverse

– 7 tire flips (+ 5 extra on the last round)

wash, rinse, repeat x 3.

Trivia for the day – 26 tire flips = 51 yards (football field sideline to sideline) 🙂

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

“Manthropology”, and Preaching the Health-Performance Continuum

“A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.”Ludwig Wittgenstein

Heh; OK, so you thought I’d fallen off the edge of the earth, huh?  Well, not exactly; it’s just that I’ve just been dedicating most of my spare time toward prepping my presentations for this summer’s upcoming 21 Convention in Orlando, and the Ancestral Health Symposium in LA.  What little time I have had for leisure reading as of late has been directed toward (on the recommendation of my good friend Ken O’Neill, of Smart Fit) Peter McAllister‘s Manthropology, and a couple of 1985 editions of  The Coaching Association of Canada’s “Science Periodical On Research and Technology in Sport”; in particular, Strength Training Part I (Classification of Methods), and Part II (Structural Analysis of Motor Strength Qualities and its Application to Training).

For an overview of McAllister’s fine book — and a bit of fascinating follow-on audience Q&A with the author, checkout this fora.tv presentation.  If there were any lingering doubts in your mind as to whether the agricultural revolution has been a complete and utter disaster vis-a-vis mankind’s  robust nature (the male, specifically), this work should once-and-for-all nullify those doubts.  And if any doubts remained as to whether the human genome has suffered as a consequence of (1) a lack of “herd thinning”, and (2) a general and substantial decline in the required day-to-day “honing and hardening” of the genome, this should eliminate those doubts as well.

It has been my long-standing belief that we (trainees) can not only acclimate to — but indeed thrive under — a much greater work capacity than we (society in general; the S&C community in particular) currently give ourselves credit for.  This book goes a long way toward substantiating that notion.  Greek trireme rowers offer a perfect meme for this idea of a robust general citizenry’s work capacity.  A greater work capacity allows a trainee to spend more productive time actually training (general S&C, or sport-specific), simple as that.  Think of work capacity as GPP (general physical preparedness) writ large.

Although I certainly (and highly) respect the work of Art DeVany and Doug McGuff, I do have to respectively disagree with them on the point of hunter-gatherer’s average daily energy expenditure, and hence, modern man’s toleration for (relatively) high-frequency bouts of intense exercise.

A quick interlude is in order here.  I take the point of view that looking to modern hunter-gatherer societies is not a particularly good example of our true genetic potential vis-a-vis inherent work capacity.  Modern HG’s simply do not face the same predatory fears that our more distant relatives faced on a day-to-day basis.  I picture bands of stone age HGs constantly pursuing migrating game while at the same time themselves being pursued by predators.  No time to lounge and eat figs between infrequent hunts for these HGs.  Man as the Hunted-Gatherer is the scenario that makes much more sense to me.  That means bursts of high power output, yes — but those bursts were interspersed within a constant, and continual movement/migration, rather than idleness. 

Art, Doug and myself do, however, agree on the ridiculously small amount of intense exercise required to maintain a person’s general health.  What I’m speaking of here is pushing the performance envelope while ensuring that health remains optimum — in other words, the other side of the health-performance curve.

“Heath” of course, is a multifaceted, ever-evolving concept; one thing we can agree on, though, is that the definition of health as being the mere absence of disease is, well…lame.  We’re smarter than that, and demand more than the “vacuum definition”, pedestrian take.

I’ll flesh this idea out a bit more at the 21 Convention, but essentially “health” is a balance between, one the one hand, maintaining optimum internal parameters (blood profiles, inflammation markers, organ and joint robustness, etc.), and on the other, maximizing one’s ability to both produce, and absorb, force — in other words (and if we introduce a time element here, which we must as we live in the “real world”), the ability to generate and absorb power under various and unpredictable, “real life” scenarios.  The “various and unpredictable, ‘real life’ scenarios” part implies that there is a certain environmental and ontological context which must also be considered.  Ours is a world mostly free of predators and, in general, one that requires less “honing and hardening” in order to survive.  What is considered “healthy” or robust today, however (no matter how spot-on the internal markers might be) would simply not pass muster in Greek society 2,000 years ago.  And although those Greek trireme rowers were undoubtedly GPP standout, power-producing machines, one can only speculate as to the state of their internal bio-markers of health.  Health and performance is, as are most things in life, a delicate balance against a backdrop of the “unknown and unknowable”.

On the bright side, though, if one assumes a 100,000 year timeframe for most gene mutations to take hold (yeah, yeah, I know — I said most), there is hope.  Get your diet squared-away, folks, and bust your ass (intelligently!!) in the gym and in the great outdoors — do your part to put a squelch on this downward slide of man!  Become the phenotypical expression your genetic forefathers would be proud to claim!

And a quick aside: here’s a great post on the subject of overtraining (as opposed to under-recovery) — and yes, there is a big difference between the two.  And just how does one boost recovery ability?  Apart from the obvious (following sound nutritional practices, sleep patterns, and reducing chronic stressors), you’ve got to increase your GPP.  It’s the dirty little secret one one wants to talk about.  Plain and simple, enhanced performance does not come easy — if you want it, you have to work diligently (though, intelligently) for it.  How do I prevent slowdowns due to overuse injury (the tendonitis example in the linked post)?  I conjugate — constantly vary — my workouts.  My body knows no ruts.

As for those cica 1985 documents — wow!  The author is Dr. Dietmar Schmidtbleicher, University of Frankfurt — translated to English by none other than Charles Poliquin.  My initial thought upon reading these was, no wonder the Germans (east and west) were so friggin’ dominant in international competition.  These things read as if they were written in 2011.  Amazing…

~ ^ ~

Presenting the “health/performance continuum” concept to the lay public

The following clip is of me recently addressing a small group of professionals, none of whom (save for one) have anything at all to do with the fitness industry.  The topic is the general public’s misconception of the relatedness of athletic prowess to general health.

So I’m trying to whittle this particular off-the-cuff presentation topic down to a solid, professional, 10 to 15 minute deck-plate spiel.  And remember, this is addressing the lay public here, and my main objective is to get them to reconsider the definition of “healthy”, and the requirements for maintaining health (by way of commitment — as measured, especially so in time expenditure), and their notions of “health” as it relates to athletic prowess.

Suggestions/critique towards that end would be greatly appreciated.  It’s hard for me, sometimes, to think back to a time when I, too, considered extreme athleticism to be analogous to health.  I had to actually travel the path to figure this out on my own; surely this misconception can be nipped in the bud — especially so, in young, aspiring athletes.  But, too, in those who consider the super human exploits of these athletes, and then think to themselves, “well, I can never do that, ergo, I can never be healthy — so why the hell even attempt?”

Changing this paradigm will be one small step toward changing what is now a world-wide health care crisis.  Something I plan on discussing in LA this August.

~ ^ ~

Workouts?  Oh hell yeah!  Here are a few…

Creative uses for the EZ curl bar; Creds (aka, the single-arm snatch)

Tuesday, 6/21

(A1) Powermax 360 flye/reverse flye x 30 seconds

(A2) XC flat press: (+0)/12; (+20)/6; (+40)/5, 5

(B1) ARX flat press: 5 negatives

3 hours later:
Pendulum leg press: (400/15; 500/8; 600/4), (400/25; 500/15, 600/5)

Wednesday, 6/22

This gives me the idea for an Efficient Exercise version of a fixie “poker run“:
I hucked it from Efficient Exercise’s Rosedale location, to the downtown studio, then performed –

(A1) Nautilus pullover: 255/12, 11, 8, 9
(A2) EZ bi curl: 8 sets of 8 @ 85 lbs, 2 sets per round.

Hucked it on back to Rosedale!

For the EE fixie “poker run” workout,  I’ll ride from the Rosedale studio, to the downtown studio, over to the Westlake studio, then back to Rosedale, with selected lifts at each stop.  I’m thinking start and finish with trap bar DLs at Rosedale…yikes!  Or some combo of DLs, farmer’s walks and Prowler work?  Oh yeah 🙂

Friday, 6/24

(A1) speed trap bar DLs: 255 (grey bands) /3; 255 (grey + purple)/3, 3

(A2) Powermax 360 front/reverse circles (front delt/rear delt pre- exhaust): 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off, 30 seconds on

(A3) ARX overhead press: hyper-rep x 3, 3, 3

Saturday, 6/25

(A1) Creds (single-arm power snatch, each arm): 45/7; 60/5; 80/4; 90/2; 95 for 6 singles, each arm.

(B1) Powermax 360 “Tabatas”: 8, 30-second bursts, 15-second recoveries between each burst.

Sunday, 6/26

(A1) 6 x 200m sprints (3 minute recovery between reps)

(A2) 5 x 50m dual leg hop sprints

(A3) parallel and monkey bar work

Tuesday, 6/28

(A1) T-bar row (regular grip): 140/10; 210/6; 255/9; 265/5

(A2) leverage incline press (explosive): +20/3, +30/3, +35/3, +40/3, +45/3, 3, 2+

(A3) Russian leg curl: BW/5 rounds of 10

Wednesday, 6/29

(A1) Bradford press: 65/12; 115/7; 145/6, 5

(A2) clean grip low pull: 225/7; 275/7, 7, 7

(B1) ARX neg overhead press (regular grip): 3 negatives

(B2) strict shrug: 275/10

Saturday, 7/2 and Monday, 7/4

Sprints, tire flips, bar and climbing rope work.

Tuesday, 7/5

Oly bar creds (single-arm power snatch): 65/5, 85/5, 90/3, 95/3, 100/3, 105/1, 1, 1

Two hours later: light “speed cleans”
165/10, 10, 10, 10

Wednesday, 7/6

(A1) bodyweight dips x 12
(A2) Nautilus pec dec: 95/10 + 5 partials

5 rounds of A1, A1, A2…

Thursday, 7/6

(A1) RDL (wide stance): 225/10; 275/6; 295/8; 315/8
(A2) step-ups: 135/12; 155/12; 175/12; 185/10
(B1) ARX leg press: HR/3, 2

Saturday and Sunday, 7/9 and 7/10

Sprints, hurdle hops, hop sprints … and more fixie riding than I could shake a stick at!  😉

In health,

Keith

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 😉

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 😉

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* 🙂

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 🙂

~

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 🙂

~

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?  🙂

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 😉

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 🙂  Can’t blame a man for tryin’…

In health,

Keith

The Great Divide, and Physical Culture as Alchemy

…Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn.  

To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.

Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It’s healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I’ve worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold.

Oh, I’ll accomodate them, I’ll rummage around for something to feed them, for a ‘vegetarian plate’, if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine…

— chef/author Anthony Bourdain, most recently of  The Travel Chanel’s No Reservations

Bourdain is, of course, being incendiary here, as those who have something to promote (books, in this case, and a new television series) are often wont to do.   In my mind, the only thing left to debate in the great diet wars is not what is the healthiest diet for human beings — I  have yet to see a solid health-based argument against the Paleo approach — but the minutia of the Paleo diet itself.  Questions over saturated fat consumption, consumption of raw dairy, to supplement or not to supplement with fish oil — things of that nature.  Animal welfare — that other sentient beings should be (unwillingly!) at our carnivorous beck-and-call is, in my mind, another debate altogether.  And one that, unfortunately, diverts attention from an issue we all find despicable — that being the inhumane treatment of animals.
I think that both the Paleo and vegetarian/vegan camps can agree that CAFOs and their ilk are an abomination.  Very well; we can rage against the machine in our own distinct ways — I choose to “rage” by way of my (albeit very limited 🙂  ) wallet, and by spreading the good word about sustainable and, yes, reverential animal husbandry.  Others chose to “rage” by abstaining from animal products altogether which, in my mind, is fine as well.  To sacrifice one’s own health in protest of abomination, or for a greater good, is nothing new in the course of human events.  If the vegetarians/vegan and Paleo camps could agree on this one concept, it would go a long way toward bridging the divide between these two powerful entities, and better align them against the one common-cause issue near and dear to both — the abolishment of CAFOs.
And yes, once that’s done, we can all get back to arguing over the validity of China Study  🙂
As far as our right to dominate over other sentient beings, my feelings are this: I make no apologies for having (this time around — if you believe in that kind of thing) incarnated in a species that occupies the top of the food chain.  I make no apologies as well, as to how evolution has crafted my dietary needs, and that crafting’s ultimate outcome.  That I will one day become worm nourishment in no way riles my angst against the worm — it is, quite simply, the nature of things; (star) dust to (star) dust, you know.  Now, do I feel that I am obligated to treat each and every sentient being with the utmost respect, as one of God’s creatures?  Absolutely.  That the Comanche relied upon the American bison for their very livelihood and which elicited their reverence for the animal in no way prevented them from dropping the beast as need be — it was simply understood as — again – the nature (or right order) of things.  Reverence ought not divorce one from the natural order, but quite the opposite; the natural order ought to be enhanced by one’s reverence.  Seen in this way, reverence for — and reliance upon — are not mutually exclusive properties but are, in fact, mutually enhancing properties.

~

From Alchemists, ancient and modern,

…serves as a useful reminder to modern scientists that even the most cherished theories need to be treated with constant scepticism. This is because, as the alchemists found out, it can be all too easy to see in your results what you want to see, rather than what is actually there

Emphasis mine.

Or, as Nietzsche might have said, “Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies”.

N=1 Physical Culture is defined as a lifelong journey, a journey in which, to be truly enjoyed, one must continually question one’s own assumptions — every step of the way.  The shifting sands of “unknowing” ought to be embraced, not feared.  Do today with what you know today to be “true”; remain open though, to the notion that tomorrow may present to you truths that run counter to yesterday’s — and that’s okay!  The unencumbered mind is the most nimble of minds.  Treat convictions like cards in a poker hand; with no emotional attachment, enable yourself to “discard” as the current hand requires.

~

In-utero epigenetic signalling — just one piece of a the highly complex, multiple-moving-parts family problems collectively known as metabolic syndrome.  This article, from British Columbia’s Globe and Mail, does a nice job of describing this aspect’s contribution to the world obesity epidemic.  Again, none of the contributing factors to this epidemic should be considered in isolation, but rather as part-and-parcel of a much grander weave of contributing factors.

~

Here are a few sample workouts from last week.  More and more I’ve taken to multiple “micro workouts” scattered throughout the day, as time permits.  These seem to work well for me, and fit nicely into my schedule.  Quite a change from 30 years ago, when 2-hours a day, 6-days a week was my norm.  Those days seem almost quaint, now.  I don’t miss those marathon training sessions so much as I miss the ability, time-wise, to engage in such long sessions. Ah, to have that kind of available time on my hands once again!  🙂

Monday, 2/21/11 –

A Joe Defranco-inspired shoulder routine:

(A1) seated plate front raise: 35/20; 45/15, 15

(A2) seated db lateral raise: 20/15, 15, 15

(A3) seated db Cuban press: 15/15, 15, 15

(A4) red Jump-Stretch band pull-aparts: 15 each round

(B1) High Box step ups: 135/20; 185/16, 16 (alternate legs)

 

Tuesday, 2/22/11 –

(A1) hip press (h2): 400/12, 500/6, 600/3 (hierarchical)

(B1) explosive trap bar vertical jumps: 115/10, 10, 10

…..then, later in the day

XCCentric incline press: (+0)/21 rest-pause, then (+30)/6+ rest-pause

….and then a little later in the same day

Hip press (h2): 500/21, breathing presses

Wednesday, 2/23/11-

(A1) nautilus pec dec: 110/13, 8, 9

(A2) nautilus reverse flye: 110/15, 12, 10

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

(B1) nautilus pull-over: 255/10, 2, 2, 7-singles (rest-pause)

Thursday, 2/24/11 –

(A1) T bar swings: 150/25, 25, 25

(A2) EZ curls: 105/12, 12, 8 + 4 rest-pause

(A3) EZ French curl: 105/10, 10, 10

 

In health –

Keith

What They Want vs What They Need

“…Can’t we at least give one another the benefit of the doubt?  I can be somewhat patient with people who think they have the truth, the problem is those who think they have the whole truth.

It seems to me that too quickly categorizing others as wrong or mistaken is consummate arrogance and is not honoring the mystic’s journey.  The mystic always knows it can’t easily be talked about.  It’s beyond words.  It’s ineffable.  It will always be mystery; and this experience of something that is always mystery and is always bigger than our ability to understand it, is, in fact, what makes one into a mystic.  It allows us to use the old shibboleth, but with a new twist: “Those who really know don’t talk too easily.  Those who talk too easily don’t really know…”

– Fr. Richard Rohr

Okay, so here’s a philosophical question for you; one with a strength and conditioning flavor: in any given situation, and with all other things being equal, is it better to perform the best exercise selection half-heartedly, or a lackluster selection with all-out intensity?

Things that make ya go hmmmmm….

As a coach/personal trainer, I run up against this dilemma on a daily basis.  But here’s the thing — it’s not enough that I know that the trainee ought to concentrate on the bang-for-the-buck lifts — things like deadlifts, dips, pull-ups and sprints — it’s my job to sell them on that fact.  But here’s the rub: if I can’t coax a full-on, Dorian Yates-like intensity from a client on a set of trap-bar deadlifts, am I better off opting for a better buy-in for a flashier move; single-leg RDLs, say?  Some form or fashion of glute bridge?  Yeah, I know the purists out there would scoff at the idea of compromise (God forbid!), but in most cases these “purists” don’t interact where the rubber meets the real-world road.  My take?  I’ll settle for a good dose of intensity in the lackluster vs “going through the motions” on the money moves; I’ll concede the battle and live to fight another day.  The pursuit of optimum Physical Culture is a lifelong chase and, like smoke, it cannot ever be completely grasped, only approached; never be completely known, but only hinted at.  My job is to keep my charges healthy, progressing, and above all, on the path.  This is just another instance of not allowing the perfect to be the detriment of the good.  The fact of the matter is that I do win this battle more times than not, and that’s something I can feel good about.  Is the client progressing overall?  Are their goals being met?  Do I have them in the game, spirited, optimistic and enthusiastic in their pursuit of optimum Physical Culture?  If I can answer yes to all of these, then what’s the harm in doing some vanity curls now and again in lieu of some hard -and-heavy chins?  None that I can see.

~

And speaking of not allowing the perfect to be the detriment of the good, we have a recent episode of  The People’s Pharmacy, Sugar Hazards, featuring Dr. Robbert Lustig.  Now many Paleo camp purists out there will lambaste Dr. Lustig for his speaking of “healthy whole grains”, but for the most part, this is a good interview for mainstream consumption.  Let’s face it, the vast majority will have to be won over to the Paleo/EvFit/Ancestral Fitness movement in a piecemeal fashion — a little here, a little there — and “a little here” is much better in my book than a deaf ear and a “not at all”.

~

Hmmm, does the following sound familiar or what?

“…To neurophysiologists, who research cognitive functions, the emotionally driven appear to suffer from cognitive deficits that mimic certain types of brain injuries. Not just partisan political junkies, but ardent sports fans, the devout, even hobbyists. Anyone with an intense emotional interest in a subject loses the ability to observe it objectively: You selectively perceive events. You ignore data and facts that disagree with your main philosophy. Even your memory works to fool you, as you selectively retain what you believe in, and subtly mask any memories that might conflict.

Studies have shown that we are actually biased in our visual perception – literally, how we see the world – because of our belief systems…”

– Barry Ritholtz, from his recent Washington Post article, “Why politics and investing don’t mix”

I treat the pursuit of optimum Physical Culture the same way that Meesus TTP treats her pursuit of the culinary arts; as just that — an open-ended art — an art which has an underpinning in basic, solid science, yes — but an ever-shifting art nonetheless.  I don’t wish to alienate either camp, but walk and talk effortlessly between each side of the divide.  And there does exist just such a divide — a divide that needs to be bridged for the better of each discipline.  Check out what John Brockman has to say on the subject, from the recent Wired article, Matchmaking with science and art:

What is it that gets you interested in a person or their work?

“…I am interested in people who can take the materials of the culture in the arts, literature and science and put them together in their own way. We live in a mass-produced culture where many people, even many established cultural arbiters, limit themselves to secondhand ideas. Show me people who create their own reality, who don’t accept an ersatz, appropriated reality. Show me the empiricists (and not just in the sciences) who are out there doing it, rather than talking about and analysing the people who are doing it…”

Yes, exactly.  Show me the Physical Culturalists with this mindset; follow these people closely, for here is where the future of Physical Culture is headed.

~

Okay, reader’s letters time.  The first one here is rather long, but I decided to include the whole thing because it demonstrates a thorough self-evaluation; the type of self-evaluation required for accurate n=1 investigation.  My comments/answers will be interspersed here in blue.

Keith,

First and foremost thank you for taking the time to respond to my email.  I’ve been following your blog and Facebook posts since last July and find them both to be very enlightening, well written, informative, and very much in line with my own beliefs and objectives to fitness and health.  I found you via a reference on freetheanimal which I faithfully follow, as well.

I apologize in advance for the length of this email, but I want to provide you with enough information to hopefully leave you with a relatively good understand of my approach and the challenges that I face and would like to overcome.

Here’s just a short summary to begin with details subsequently in the email.  I acknowledging that there are genetic limitations and age factors to consider, I’m just not convinced that I am incapable of making some further progress.

My Story (summary)

I just turned 58.  While, my age may be somewhat of a factor I don’t consider it the reason I have difficulty putting on lean mass.  I couldn’t do it at 25 either, but by my estimation that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep trying.

I’m 5’9″ and presently around 146 pounds.  Extremely small frame and bone structure; most women probably have thicker wrists than I do.  At my present weight I’m still around 13% body fat; most all of it around my lower mid section (navel area).  By my calculations I would still need to drop another 7-9 lbs to get to single digit body fat.  While I could easily do that, I just can’t bring myself to let my weight get that low.  Therefore, I eat…and eat.

Don’t misunderstand.  I can gain weight by eating processed foods and sugar and watch it turn to belly fat.  I just can’t seem to put on lean muscle.

I’ve done resistance training on and off since I was in my mid to late 20’s.  My approach up until about 2 years ago was always the standard multiple set approach 3 to 4 times a week.  I’d plateau after about 3 months end up either hurting myself trying to lift more weight than I could handle, or else just get frustrated at the lack of progress and quit. This would typically go 1-2 years on; 3-4 years off cycles and repeat.

About 2 years ago a little voice inside my head told me to get fit once and for all and find an approach that works for me; since the convention wisdom approach certainly does not.  I went on a quest of such a program.  I stumbled upon Body By Science and began Doug McGuff’s and John LIttle’s program/recommendations which I’m still following today.  I’ve had more success with this approach than anything else I’ve tried, but I’m far from where I’d like to be. They also have some sort of technical issue that will not allow me to post questions to their blog which precludes me from seeking advice via that venue.

My diet is very Paleo’ish.  I began eating that way coincidentally just before reading BBS — not as a result of BBS. Interesting, I discovered both Paleo and BBS about the same time and through different avenues.

My health is good.  I’m on no medications presently and most all my health issues went away almost immediately following the Paleo approach.  My weight dropped considerably at the same time.  I was around 178 lbs when I started Paleo.

Dietary Details

As stated above I am very strict regarding the Paleo approach to food.  I’m reluctant to say Paleo diet, because that implies food restriction, which I do not do.

I’m not dogmatic about what is considered Paleo.  For instance, I do eat potatoes, salt, dairy, but abstain from grains (wheat, rice, oats, bread, pasta, etc.), sugar, vegetable oils and such.  I do not drink milk, but consume a considerable amount of cream, butter and cheese.  I easily go through a pint of cream a week in my coffee and frequently with berries as a dessert.

Meats and eggs are my staples.  I rotate through an assortment of vegetables, maybe not with every meal, but several through out the week.  I go out of my way to add good fats to my diet (read: animal fats, coconut oil, olive oil, etc.).

I travel a lot and eat out most meals through the week.  I’ve found that by being selective on a menu I can usually find something that works.  The downside is you don’t always know what you’re getting when eating out.  On weekends I typically cook for myself.

I eat well and I eat a lot.  Here’s an example:  Wednesday for breakfast I had approximately 1/2 dozen eggs, 5 slices of bacon, 2 sausage and coffee for breakfast.  Lunch was Fajitas (minus the tortillas’) with sour cream and guacamole.  Dinner:  Caesar Salad (no croutons) , A 20 oz bone-in rib eye, baked potato with butter and sour cream.

A couple dozen eggs and 2-3 steaks a week are the norm for me.  I try to go organic when the choice is available.  I work in some fish, but I’m not a huge sea food lover.  Salads when I can’t find anything else on the menu that works, but it has to have meat.  I supplement with cod liver oil to try and balance my Omega 3 a bit.

I am sensitive to most all other supplements, though.  For reasons, I have never understood, vitamin and mineral supplements put me in a complete brain fog.  With the exception of CLA and chromium I’ve never found anything I can tolerate.  The high potency CLO has a similar effect, as well.  I can take the regular Carlson CLO, but not the high potency and never more than one teaspoon per day.  Strange, but true.  Oh, I just bought a container of whey to try.  I seem to tolerate it well.  I cannot do creatine, either

I experimented for 3 weeks over the recent holidays with Intermittent Fasting and my weight started dropping like a rock.  I dropped about 6 lbs with that approach over 3 weeks.  Essentially, I would go 14-16 hours without eating then re-feed for 8.  The easiest approach for me was to just skip breakfast and start my re-feed around noon each day.  No problems with this approach and I certainly leaned out quickly, but I didn’t feel comfortable letting my weight get that low.  I went off this approach the past week and put 3 lbs back on.  I was 146 this morning on the scale.  No visible muscle loss with that approach that I ascertain, though.

This, by the way, is essentially what I do each day as well, though the bulk of my eating is done during an approximate 6-hour window, beginning (again, usually) approximately 1-2 hours post workout.  Ergo, my workouts are nearly always performed in a well-fasted (approximately 15-hours) state.  This has more to do with my work schedule/client load more so than any active/on-going attempt to loose weight (which I’m not trying to do).  This method does keep me fairly ripped, though, year round.

Essentially, high fat and real foods is my approach.  I’ll detail my health improvements later.

Fitness and Exercise

As previously mentioned, I’ve done resistance training off and on for years.  No cardio to speak of.  I hate running and look awful in biker shorts 🙂

On occasion, I’ve tried sprinting.  While I’m not  opposed, I’m not crazy about putting up with the elements preferring my workouts to be indoors. . I’ve read on your blog that this is in your regimen and I’m certainly more than willing to add to mine, if it makes sense to do so.

Sprinting is a fantastic metabolic boost, not to mention a hell of a lower body workout (see my comments on the Metabolic/T-bar swing below).  It also serves to keep one coordinated, streamlined and graceful, i.e. moving naturally, with the fluidity of a cat.   My only lament is that I can’t sprint more often than what I do.

I have had memberships in the past to some good fitness centers (at least from the equipment perspective), but opted several years back to purchase a Bowflex machine and do my resistance training at home. I am still using it.  It seems to suffice and by working out at home I can moan, groan and grunt through my BBS thing without getting strange looks.

It does have its limitations.  I’ve maxed out the amount of resistance I can use for leg presses.  I typically pre-exhaust my legs, or perform a Max Pyramid style requiring less weight (another BBS approach from John Little).

We’ll soon have a home version of our CZT equipment (that will sell under the name of ARX Fit; “ARX” for Accommodating Resistance EXercise) on the market and, in fact, we’ll be putting up some video clips soon of the equipment in action.  The ARX Fit website will be rolling out soon.  Our target demographic here is the Bowflex crowd — Bowflex being, in my opinion a decent piece of home equipment, however, I feel that the CZT home version will be both much more versatile, and one will never run into the problem of “outgrowing”  the equipment.  So keep an eye out for that.  As soon as we’re live with the website, I’ll post about it here at TTP.  I’ll also get those clips up over at the Efficient Exercise YouTube channel as soon as they’re ready.

I presently have access to a reasonably good facility where I’m currently working during the week should we decide I need to go back to free weights, or better equipment.  Or, I’m not opposed to joining a facility to use when I am at home, but would prefer not.

I am going to assume you are familiar with BBS.  I seem to recall some mention of it on your blog.  I’m currently working out once per week with that approach and have for the past 18-24  months.  I believe I do a reasonably well controlled HIT lifts.  I’ve rotated through some split routines, Max Pyramids, Big 3 and Big 5 since beginning BBS.  I’m currently back to Big 5. (Bench Press, Lat pulls, Military Press, Rows, and Leg Press on a once per week schedule.

I’m very familiar with the BBS methodology and, for the most part, I think that it’s spot-on.  As is with any methodology, though, the body will eventually acclimate and cease to progress.  Remember that strength and hypertrophy are metabolically costly, and the body’s imperative is purely survival — that’s it — not “lookin’ good nekkid”, or hoisting supra-natural poundages in arbitrary lifts, nor dropping to sub-7% bodyfat levels.  The body is simply a carrier for your DNA (I’ll leave spiritual issues aside for the moment) and so will only begrudgingly (and in the most metabolically effective way possible) respond to changes in outside stimulus.  The key here is to maintain high intensity in a constantly varied set of exercises, modalities and methodologies.  In other words, the over-arching “system” for your workouts should be conjugate in nature.  Can the BBS protocol be tweaked so as to become a more conjugate system?  Absolutely; but then again, any protocol can thus be tweaked.

After somewhat of a stalemate a few months back I discovered what I thought had been high intensity, was not truly all my best.  After working through a little more pain and discomfort I found that I could really push myself more than I had in the past.  This is my present approach.  I’ve seen my numbers go up considerably over the past few months as it relates to the amount of weight I can move with steady increases almost every week.

I don’t know if you can relate to Bowflex numbers, or not, but here are my current stats.  I’m certain they are much higher numbers than if I were to switch to free weights for the same, or equivalent movement. Here they are never-the-less as of this past week’s workout.

Seated Bench – 230   1X6

Lat pull (palms up shoulder width grip) – 260   1X8

Rows – 290 1X8

Over head military- 160 1X6

Leg Press – 410 (pre-exhausted after holding weight for 1-2 mins in mid position))  1X6

The numbers above probably represent on average a 5 lbs improvement in strength per week over the past 3 months in each movement.  Again, this is once per week routine, one set per movement, and reasonably slow and controlled (more so on the negative side).  I don’t track time under load (TULs) any longer.  I figure it is what it is. I do go to failure on all movements, though.  I don’t move from set to set quite as quickly as BBS recommends, since I have to setup the machine for each.  Also, a bit of a rest between each allows me to move more weight, perhaps a bit of a cardio trade-off I’ve been willing to forego.

Intensity trumps all other considerations.  TUL is a concern in that you want a particular set to terminate before the slow-twitch fibers have a chance to rejuvenate and join back in with the “all hands (fibers) on deck” lifting party.  Again, the body is wired for survival, and will not call upon those fast-twitch fibers until absolutely necessary.

A general observation on my part is that my weakest muscles seem to respond the best.  For instance, if I go back 30 years ago I had very weak triceps and hated to triceps work.  Consequently, I worked triceps infrequently over the years.  Now they are perhaps my most developed area.  Same with deltoids which I never worked at all until recently, but I’m seeing some good results there, as well.  Contrarily, my forearms are reasonably strong, but embarrassingly poorly developed.  Not sure if this makes sense, or not, but a source of confusion to be based upon how I respond to resistance training.

Note that hypertrophy has many genetic factors, the three biggest players being the fiber make-up of the particular muscle, the size of the muscle belly, and the lever make-up at the joint in question.  The longer the muscle, relative to the associated tendon length, the more material is present to “mold”.  Tendon attachment and the resultant lever advantage about a particular joint (s) has much to say about how much load can ultimately be placed upon a particular muscle.  Those who’ve “won the parent lottery” have a higher-than-normal concentration of fast-twitch fibers in a given muscle, a long muscle belly and advantageous lever systems throughout the body.  These are the “mechanical” factors to consider — let’s not forget that the hormonal milieu has much to say about this expression as well.  The good news is that, while you may not be able to do much to alter the scaffolding you’ve been dealt, you can most certainly positively influence the hormonal profile under which “construction” takes place.

General Health

I am most likely a Celiac although that’s a self diagnosis.  What I found by eliminating grains from my diet many life long health issues disappeared — almost immediately.  I didn’t know what a Celiac was until I got into the Paleo world and started reading.  My problems started with a complete intestinal blockage when I was 12 years old and emergency surgery to clean out a blocked intestine.  Doctors then just sent me home and essentially said, “Duh, we don’t know and good luck.”.  I had gastro problems the rest of my life.  Coincidentally, my growth also stopped very shortly thereafter.  I am essentially the same height and weight as I was then.  Up until that time I was always the tallest kid in school; even played center on the Jr. High basketball team.  By high school I was considered short.  There’s a correlation to my present size and weight, but not necessarily a causation that I can prove.

Health and Paleo Successes

GERD is no longer a problem and other gastro problems which I won’t describe are gone.  I was also in chronic pain with tendonitis in both elbows, knees, and, most severely both Achilles’ tendons.  I’d had that affliction since 14 yrs. That is now completely gone.  Allergies – gone. Even my eye sight has improved.  I could go one, but I’m sure you get the point.  The Paleo diet has been a life saver for me and I would never consider any other approach to eating.

Objectives

In two words — lean muscle.  I can’t really gain weight on Paleo, but due to the health benefits described above I wouldn’t consider going off it.  Having said that, I’m tired of people asking me if “I’m ill” and the “Oh, you’re so skinny” remarks.  Truthfully, I’ve never felt better in my life, but people just see thin.

I recognize the genetic and age limitation, but I really feel 10-15 lbs of lean weight over the next 12-18 months should be attainable with the right approach.  I’m not looking, or expecting, a body builder physique.

Lastly, I’m not looking for a free hand-out either.  I know you are in the fitness industry and if consulting fees apply here let me know.  If Austin were just a bit closer I’d drive down to your fitness for personal training advice.

Keith, I sincerely appreciate your assistance and look forward to hearing from you.

Jeff

It sounds like you’ve got all the basics well covered, Jeff.  One thing you didn’t mention though, is your overall stress level and your sleep patterns.  Undue stress and/or lack of quality sleep can really put the kibosh on any meaningful strength or hypertrophy gains.  The propensity toward “spare tire” or belly fat is a sure sign of a jacked cortisol level.  It wouldn’t hurt to look into a good nighttime ZMA or Natural Calm supplement protocol.  Personally, I use Now Foods ZMA (or an equivalent) nightly.  Also, we haven’t looked at nutrient absorption and (especially so, since you’ve had a history of some pretty gnarly gastro-intestinal problems), so my suggestion here would be to look into some digestive enzymatic help via (for instance) Now Foods super enzymes.  Check Robb Wolf’s site for more on this.  Good nutrient intake is only part of the equation — a part that, it seems, you have well under control.  Proper absorption, though, is another issue entirely.  In addition to my “conjugate” suggestion above, you might want to play with a little more volume in your overall protocol — which you can get away with if you feather it in (as I do) within an overarching, conjugate methodology.  Variety is the key to the prevention of overtraining — variety in exercise/movement pattern selection, rep speeds and loading.  And one other sure-fire tip: if you can tolerate raw dairy, I’d suggest downing a good amount post-workout.  Personally, I like to make a 50-50 mix of raw, whole milk and cream — about 12 oz total — and down this after my workout and about an hour or so before I have a “real” meal.  I wait as long as I can post workout to ingest anything, though (so as to maximize the post-workout hormonal cascade), but many times life’s practicalities intervene; still gotta live under real-world constraints, so I don’t beat myself up with timing issues — just strive to do the best you can under the circumstances you’re dealt.

Feel free to hit me up with any follow-on questions.  And by all means come on down to Austin (the epicenter of Physical Culture!) if you get a chance.  I do deal with clients that I only see once per month or so; do give that option some thought.

Hey Keith,

I’m 47 yrs old and trying to get a feel for the direction I want to go relating to exercise.  On the diet front, I’m completely sold on Paleo (at least 90% of the time).  It makes sense logically, scientifically and there is general consensus among the “experts” (at least the ones I consider).  So, I’ve been looking at Body By Science or at least HIT related approach, Starting Strength and Crossfit.  There are some strong opinions out there and I’m hoping with all your real world experience and you analytical edge you can help me weigh it out.

I appreciate any insight.  My wife also appreciates it, since I have promised her I will try like hell to get to look like the guy she married 17 yrs ago.

Thanks and keep up the great work!!

Regards,

Art M

Art, so much of your final direction here will depend upon what you have readily available.  All of these are fine systems, and all can be manipulated in a conjugate-like fashion.  The path toward optimized Physical Culture has much in common with the path toward realized spirituality, in that the “system” is not nearly so as important as is the desire, intensity and ultimate follow-through with the chosen “system”.  As the Dalai Lama says in regards to the “correct spiritual path/religion”: all lead to the same end; pick a spiritual pony and ride.   My advice is to look at what you have ready access to and go, fully invested, in that direction.  The reality is that once the initial newness wears off, the last thing you want is a ready-made excuse for not continuing on down the path.  Is the nearest, most accessible place a CrossFit affiliate, an old-school black-iron gym (you should be so lucky!!), or…well, let’s just hope the closest outfit to you isn’t a Curves…  🙂

~

Dan John waxes poetic on the Metabolic (or T-Bar) Swing in this recent T-Nation article.  I love the swing, and think of them as “indoor sprints”, as each provide for the same metabolic punch and posterior-chain hit.  Swings are a winter/bad weather staple for me.  Low-tech, for sure — but damn effective.  Even better: T-Bar swings to a blaring AC/DC mix 🙂

~

…which leads nicely into the week’s workouts, of which I only have one “documentable” effort to relay.  Throughout the week I hit many, uber-high-intensity “mini” sessions, none of which I documented, however.  Lots of T-bars swings, weighted dips, pull-ups, lunges, you name it.  Here, though, is one that I did document:

Friday, 2/18/11

(A1) dynamic trap bar deadlift (grey bands): 265 x 3; 315 x 7 sets of 3

(A2) front press: 135 x 8; 155 x 6, 6, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4

~

And finally, what do three Physical Culture geeks do when they get together — that is, besides thrash one another in the weight room?  Well, they talk about Physical Culture (and weight room thrashings!) of course!  To whit, checkout episode one of our new Efficient Exercise venture, EETV.  Mark, Skyler and I had a lot of fun with this, and I’m sure we’ll make it a staple (though progressively more refined) offering.  And yeah, this wasn’t a stretch; we really do talk like this normally.  What was our pre-shoot prep?  5 minutes (if that) of kicking around possible topics.  This is off-the-cuff and off the top of the head, folks; Physical Culture performance art, at it’s best  🙂

In health,

Keith