Efficient Exercise’s Project Transformation — the Preliminary Results

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

Well, let’s just see about that.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

~

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

Tuesday, 3/29/11

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, 3/30/11

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

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

 

Thursday, 3/31/11

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, 4/1/11

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

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

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

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

In health,

Keith

Mind, Body, Spirit

Yoga, an ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of humanity.  This evolution includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization.  Yoga means union – the union of body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul.  Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.

~ B.K.S. Iyengar, Astadala Yogamala

…”There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

~ Rumi

So I was listening to Krista Tippett’s On Being last week — Krista’s show being one of my favorite commute podcasts — and was absolutely enthralled by Seane Corn’s description of Yoga as being “body prayer”.  What an awesome analogy.  And not just for Yoga, but, in my mind, for all pursuits of true Physical Culture.  This is one commonality that I’ve observed among those who, regardless of their particular fitness expression of choice, remain in the Physical Culture scene for the long haul — that the expression of choice becomes a vehicle for (or toward) something much greater than becoming better at that particular discipline.  In essence, practice of the particular discipline of choice continually re-establishes that connection between “self” and “other”.  Refined and bettered skills, body composition, what-have-you then become a nice secondary consequence, rather than the focus of the pursuit itself; it’s rather like the old axiom of only finding true love when you’re not actively looking for it, or of finding God only in the silence and stillness.

Of course it wasn’t always this way for me, and I initially came to Physical Culture as a kid who wanted to get “swole”, dominate on the football field and, of course, (and being devoid of any other talent) to gain some kind of an inside with the ladies.  I believe this is the natural course of action for these things.  Great artists, it seems to me — those with real staying power — follow a similar path.  And what is the essence of Physical Culture if not an artistic expression of sorts, or (and to steal a rif from Seane), body prayer?

So give a listen to this particular episode of On Being — you won’t regret it.  Yeah, even the most hard-core, HIIT weight trainers among you will be able to relate.

case in point: just check out how Seane describes her practice of  Vinyasa Flow Yoga, in the clip below.  Does this not sound like an athlete — any athlete — in the zone?

The linking of mind and body; remaining clear and steady, focused and grounded.  I like to associate Yoga (and like practices — for me, that would include hucking the ol’  fixie about town and sprinting.  MovNat-like endeavors?  Yep, that, too) as the “Yin” to HIIT’s “Yang” aspect.  And in both practices, I attempt to engage what Seane is speaking of here — a direct linking of mind, body and spirit.  I have a client who is active in both weight training and ballet; an awesome pairing, I think.  And kudos to her for dismantling preconceived notions both of what it is to be an dancer, as well as what it is to be a hellified strength athlete.

Now, most would consider a high-intensity slam-fest as being anything but a spiritual journey; why, though?  In my mind, it’s just another pathway, another opportunity to “connect”.  Anything that is physically challenging, and that can help razor-focus the mind is an opportunity to help link the spirit to the other — whatever “other” might mean for you.

~

Physical Culture as analogous to the culinary arts –

Have a look at the menu offerings at one of my and Meesus TTP’s favorite Austin-area restaurants, Foreign & Domestic.  Beyond this being high-dining “hog heaven” for the Paleo-minded, I am reminded, once again, of the parallels between the crafting a fine dining experience and expert fitness programming.  Both become works of art in the hands of the skilled practitioner; both, too, can become deconstructed and devalued to the point of being nothing more than a soulless, for-profit-only, vehicle.   Quality, in both disciplines, can be found in the love of, and absolute reverence for, the art.  Industrial fitness, like industrial food, is an anathema to the refined pallet.  And, too, elegance is found in simplicity.  The good need not be complicated and, in fact, to the extent that a food or fitness program is overly complicated is simply an attempt at covering what is lackluster at the onset.

simple ingredients, simple food, high taste

~

On to the workout front –

Sunday, 3/6/11

Sprints at the local high school.  Ropes, bars, and other fun.  Check out some of the new toys!

Climbing ropes in the background. Oh, yeah….

Monday, 3/7/11

(A1) snatch grip high pull: 135/7; 165/7; 185/6; 205/6

(A2) dips: 45/7; 70/7; 80/7; 95/5

(A3) pull-aparts (red band): 15, 15, 15, 15

Tuesday, 3/8/11

(A1) power cleans: 5 sets of 7 (fast cadence), 30 secs between sets

(B1) straight bar DL: 225/5; 315/5; 365/3; 415/1; 435/1, 1, 1, 1, 1 – very little rest between sets.  Leaned toward more of a metabolic hit vs an expression of max strength.

Thursday, 3/10/11

(A1) XCCentric 45-degree incline press: (+50)/21 rest-pause reps

(B1) trap bar BOR: 255/21 rest-pause reps

Friday, 3/11/11 –

AM – Pendulum Hip Press – 145 + 2 black bands, 8 sets of 3.  Speed!

PM – Pendulum Hip Press – 145 + 2 black bands, 8 sets of 3.  Speed!

Immediately following each of these leg press sessions, I hopped on the old fixie and rode — hard, but intermittently so; fast when I did put the hammer down, though and pretty damn far as well!  All-in-all, a nice mix of work.  And in excellent, ATX (spring-like!)  weather.

~

And finally –

The Austin Primal Living Group hosted a pot luck dinner on Saturday, March 12th; among the many attendees was none other than Angelo Coppela, host of the most informative and expertly produced, Latest in Paleo podcast.   Angelo and his friend Tom Sadira (mistahmojo!) were here in the ATX — the epicenter of Physical Culture — to attend the now infamous South by Southwest Film, Interactive and Music festival.  Angelo and Tom were nice enough to take time out of their SXSW partying to drop by our little Austin area Primal Meet-Up shin-dig, even going so far as to bring along some of that rockin’ Paleo beef jerky.   And it’s a tasty recipe, indeed!  Do check it out.

On Sunday, Meesus TTP, Angelo, Tom and I swung by the Efficient Exercise Westlake studio for a CZT/ARX (Accommodating Resistance EXercise) throw-down.  Both of the fellas survived the session (at least long enough to get in a post-workout photo op, and some follow-on Tweeting), but apparently brought Fago de Chao to it’s collective knees in trying to satisfy the guys’ resultant — and rampant — follow-on carnivory 🙂

Me, the lovely Meesus TTP, and Angelo. Hat tip to Tom “mistahmojo” for snapping the pic

Check out the clips of the guys’ CZT/ARX tussle at the Efficient Exercise YouTube page, or at our Facebook page.  Sweet!  But be forewarned – you might want to tone the volume down a bit when watching Tom’s workout, if you think the shrapnel from a little F-bombs might hurt 😉

In health,

Keith

Mindfulness, Pre-Conditioning, and the Psychology of Possibility

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.

– Rumi

What in the hell does a Franciscan Friar (Father Richard Rohr, author of The Naked Now) have in common with Physical Culture (writ large), and with the Paleo/EvFit/Ancestral movement specifically?  Plenty, my friend; plenty.  And that association has everything to do with the dissolution of preconceived biases, culturalization, mental conditioning/imprinting.  Now you’d think this topic would be as far removed from the wheelhouse of anyone with a stiff Catholic (or any religious) underpinning as could be; not so, however, in the case of Father Rohr — the Catholic equivalent to the Protestant emerging  church’s Rob Bell.

The interconnectedness of all things.  The fractal nature of life…and of lives.  The questioning of supposed “authority”, and the removal of blinders.  Again, not the kind of thing you expect to come from the religious community.  The times, though, they are a changn’…albeit slowly…but they are changin’, nonetheless.  All things — including, if this emerging Physical Culture renaissance movement has anything to say about it (and we most assuredly do!) — nothing less than the revamping of the entire thought process related to disease, healthcare, and the nature of health maintenance and the health delivery system.

Not convinced that any theologian — much less a Catholic theologian — can be so progressive?  Check-out this podcast interview of Father Rohr by Tapestry host Mary Hynes; fantastic stuff indeed.  Or, skim the pages of The Naked Now.  Learn to separate the teacher’s message from the teacher’s associations, and your preconceived notions of those associations.  If you can do that, you’ll avail yourself to a multitude of new learning opportunities, and avoid spiraling into that dreaded vortex of dogma .  Then take the added step by applying that openness to your exercise protocol selection.  The only question in your mind should be this: is this the best protocol for me, at this juncture in my life and given my goals.  Don’t allow yourself to be yoked to a tribe, protocol or guru just for the sake of belonging to a certain “community”.  Be a Physical Culture free agent, my friend, and prosper.

Theme of the week – Serendipity:

Funny how face-to-face conversations can, in ways not enabled otherwise, help drop the veil (or illusion) of separateness between entities.  Case in point: I had the pleasure of visiting (coffee at Austin’s own Epoch Coffee — one of my away-from-the-studio offices) and sharing a CZT-based workout with TTP reader Bill Fairchild.  During our conversation, I related how that, as a teen-ager growing up in San Antonio (and lucky enough to live in close proximity to the mecca of the San Antonio Physical Culture scene at the time, Powerhouse Gym), I was exposed first-hand to the dramatic effects of, what was an essentially a Paleo diet, could have on an athlete’s (and bodybuilder’s) physique.  Need to drop fat, really gain and maintain muscularity and athleticism?  Shift from eating crap to eating meat, eggs, and veggies — and lots of ’em.  Why didn’t I make the connection back in the 80s that this type diet was preferable, year-’round (not just for contest/competition prep) to all the high carb/low fat crap that was being perpetuated?  Simply this: I wasn’t ready yet to think on my own, still thought “authority” ascended to the position of authority by virtue of having the “right” answers — in short, my thinking was, for the most part, mainstream; I’d been blinkered, culturalized, imprinted…conditioned.  For as radical as I thought I was at that time, I was really no more than a chick that had just begun to emerge from the shell.  And what I know now is that the shell of self-disillusion is the toughest of all to crack.

Now, of course, I question my own assumptions and “knowledge” relentlessly; Every.  Fracking.  Thing.  What things do I feel as sure of now, at this stage in my life,  that may just be the result of conditioning?  Hopefully, my epistemocratic leanings can save me from that kind of tunnel vision now; constant vigilance, though, is key.

Serendipity, part II:

I found out last week that the most knowledgeable man on the history of Physical Culture, Ken O’Neil, lives in Wimberley Texas, not 15 minutes from me.  Holy wealth-of-go-to-knowledge, batman.  The man is a walking encyclopedia of Physical Culture — past, present…and future!  More, much more, on Ken in the near future.  You’ll see his name here in TTP quite often from here on out I assure you.

In all things, Mindfulness:

Couple of great reads from Harvard magazine here.  Check out The Mindfulness Chronicles: On “the psychology of possibility”, and learn to tap into the possibility (the reality!) of you creating your own reality.  Dramatic changes begin in the mind.  Just as epigenetics can alter gene expression, so too can you significantly “alter” your reality.  There is no try, there is only do. 

And this is cool: Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and nutritionist Lilian Cheung, a lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health, apply ancient Buddhist mindfulness techniques to eating in the modern world. “It is not just what we consume, but how we eat, when we eat, why we eat, and whom we eat with that makes a difference,” says Cheung, who grew up in a Buddhist home in Hong Kong.  And I would add that the same mindfulness applies when lifting a weight, or otherwise engaged in an athletic effort.  Don’t just lift and/or mindlessly, but strive to make that mind-muscle connection.  This is the first step to becoming truly adept in the art of Physical Culture.  Other steps follow, of course — but not before mastery of this.  My own workouts, truthfully, are my meditations.

The workout front:

Monday, 12/27/10 –

A good deal of fixie huckin’ preceded this workout, so the old legs weren’t exactly fresh at the onset of the lifts.  Nothing to be worried over, though, within my grand scheme.  The key is Autoregulation and adequate intensity.

(A1) front squats (hierarchical): 135 x 15; 185 x 6; 235 x 3

(B1) high-catch power cleans: 135 x 10; 155 x 7; 175 x 5; 185 x 3; 195 x 2, 2, 2

(B2) Russian leg curl: x 5 each round (5010 tempo)

Wednesday, 12/29/10 –

(A1) Tru Squat: 160 # (no counter weight) x 7,  3, 3, 3, 3, 3 (rest pause, 30×0 tempo)

(A2) leg press: 400 x 15 (30×0 tempo)

(B1) Nautilus pec dec: 110 x 13, 2, 2, 2, 2 (rest-pause, 40×0 tempo)

(B2) Xccentric seated military: (no counter weight, no added weight) x 6 (at 30×0 tempo), then 12 rest-pause singles at an 80×1 tempo

I followed this up with a (painfully) long stretch in the full ROM flye position, utilizing blast-straps and bodyweight.

Thursday, 12/30/10 –

(A1) kettlebell swings: 45 lbs x 50, 50, 50, 50

(A2) single-arm bent-over row (Oly bar): 95 x 12; 115 x 12, 12, 12,

(A3) Oly bar “shovel”: bar x 15; 65 x 12, 10, 9

(A4) Oly bar bi curl: 95 x 12; 115 x 12, 10, 8

(B1) “ski jump” cable shrugs: 4 sets of 200 x15

The “shovel” is simply an underhand (think bicep curl grip) straight bar front raise.  This hits the front delts in a unique way, and has the added benefit of engaging the lats from a rather unique angle as well.  For “ski jump” shrugs, I load-up a cable pulley (or pair of pulleys, as I have access to a Nautilus Free Trainer cable system), position the hold (either a single bar, or, in my case dual handles) behind my back, take a step or two forward and really lean into the weight such that I’m now at a hard angle away from the machine — a “ski jumper in flight” angle.  Now you can really torch the traps with some higher-rep sets.  And why a single-arm bent-over row with an Oly bar?  Try it, and let me know what kind of core strength is required to pull it off.  That’s why  🙂

Announcements?  Oh Yeah, I got a couple:

Check out what we at Efficient Exercise have on tap beginning this month:

What happens to a relatively untrained body when we combine approximately 30-minutes worth of CZT-based workouts per week with the implementation of a Paleo diet?   Well, beginning later this month, we at Efficient Exercise are going to find out.  If you live in the Austin area, and want to take part in Project Transformation: the Efficient Exercise Solution, give me a shout and I’ll get you on the mailing list.  We’ll be choosing our 20 “subjects” soon, so don’t delay in getting in your request.  And once this “study” gets kicked-off, you’ll be able to follow along on our Facebook page, as our subjects and trainers will be journaling about their experience there.  This will be a fun — and hopefully, enlightening — project to follow.  So “like us up”, and follow along — we’re out to show that a properly designed minimal investment can produce some stunning and healthy results.

…oh, and anybody in the Austin area looking to sell a fixie?  A Bianchi, preferably, 56 -58 cms?  If so, hit me up; I’m looking to add to the quiver  🙂

In health,

Keith

Of Bruce Lee, and the Drive for Perfect Phenotypical Expression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 11/29 (Rosedale studio)

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

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

Wednesday, 12/1 (Westlake studio)

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

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

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

(B2) blast-strap scarecrows: 3 ugly reps

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

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

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

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

 

In health,

Keith

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

A Post-Ride Paleo Meal, a Workout, and a Couple of Thoughts

To diet is to suffer, right? Uh-huh, yeah...right...

So this is what I chowed-down on Sunday evening, following a rather long day spent in the fixie saddle.

What you see here is a 1 lb, applewood smoked ham steak, from my good friends at Greene County North Carolina’s Rainbow Meadow Farms.  You can’t really tell from the photo, but that good-tastin’ bad boy takes up the entire bottom of the plate.  At the 5 o’ clock position there is a little bit of Tropical Tradition’s Atchara (fermented papaya); tasty and highly recommended.  And that’s a stir fry of chopped broccoli, red and green cabbage, carrots, green peppers, radish and celery there on top, obscuring the real size of the ham stake.  I “fried” the steak – actually, I just seared each side, as it was already smoked – prior to tossing in the veggies so that I’d have olive oil and the ham drippings to stir fry with; damn it made those veggies taste fantastic!  And the contrast with the fermented papaya was out of this world.

I also spent quite a bit of time in the saddle on Friday and Saturday as well.  It will be interesting to see how I integrate, after my move to Austin, what I anticipate to be much more of biking and running (sprinting)-centered lifestyle, with my weight training.  Of course, I will have the tremendous advantage of having access to varied and state-of-the-art equipment at Efficient Exercise, so I’ll be able to intensify my workouts, and thereby shorten my actual gym time.

I also plan on finally piecing together a full garage gym.  Anyone in the Austin area looking to unload some bumper plates, Oly bars, and plyo boxes, be sure and look me up  🙂

Ok, so here’s what I did in the gym on Saturday evening, on the tail-end of that day’s extended fixie session:

DB snatch (aka, the Cred) + single-arm split jerk: (reps listed are per-arm) 65 x 3; 75 x 3; 85 x 2; 95 x 1; 100 x 1; 105 x 1, 1, 1.  Missed the left-side jerk on the 1st and 3rd attempt; 2nd attempt wasn’t pretty, but it was a “green lighter”.   Made all three attempts on the right side.  Hopefully once I get resettled I can get some clips of this movement to post.  It’s one of my favorite combination movements but, unfortunately a combination that’s rather difficult to explain; one of those things that’s much better shown than discussed.

following that, I shifted into Mentzer-esk mode with the following –

Atlantis pull-down machine: 350 lbs x ~10 reps (5,0,5,0 tempo) to positive failure, then 3 cheat concentrics + “extended” negatives.  By “extended” I mean that the first round was about 8 secs, roughly 6 or so for the second, and the third was an ugly 3 or 4 second negative.  Holy lat and bicep pummel, Batman.  Total TUL was approximately 135 seconds.

… moved right along then to the following pre-exhaust pairing:

Atlantis pec-deck: 180 lbs x ~ 10 reps (5,0,5,0 tempo) to positive failure + an approximate 8 second static “push”.  ~ 60 seconds TUL

then immediately to:

Atlantis machine flat press: 180 lbs (5,0,5,0 tempo) to positive failure, followed by 3 forced reps + extended negatives.  I lost count of reps, here – but really, though, that doesn’t matter so much, as I know what the total TUL was (approx. 75 seconds).

Again, it’s much, much better to perform this method of training with either a great partner (and one who’s not checkin’ out the babes on the stair-steppers), or a trainer who’s well versed in HIT applications…and who is also not checkin’ out the babes on the stair-steppers.  We do the best we can with the options we have, though.

Depth vs Spin –

I’ve long considered Seth Godin as one of amongst a very small group of individuals (including Rob Bell, and Clay Shirky for example) who totally “get” the new social construct, and Seth’s recent post, How long before you run out of talking points? is another in a long list of the guy’s outta-the-park hits.

Those of us who immerse ourselves in the world of Physical Culture are especially sensitive to all of the “spin” and surface-level (at best) understanding that’s unleashed upon the public on a daily (hourly?) basis.  Just listen to all the “leading authorities” on this subject or that; the total lack of knowledge/understanding displayed is shocking.  And unfortunately, this is the window through which the vast majority of the population “sees” Physical Culture.  Is there any wonder as to why our society in embroiled in the heathcare crisis that it is?  The real wonder is why we’re not actually worse off than what we are.  I guess I should concentrate more on “H8’n the game, not the playuh”, but things such as Shape Ups and the Cookie Diet just ain’t gonna cut the most direct path to to an exemplary expression of Physical Culture, folks.

“When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

As a correlate to “Depth vs Spin” idea – and certainly applicable to the realm of Physical Culture — is the notion of following one’s intuition and intelligence to gather knowledge, and what, for that matter, the true definition of “knowledge” is to begin with.

Seth Roberts recently posted this piece, “A World Suppressing the Uniqueness Inside Each of Us” in which he references this fabulous Valedictorian address purportedly given by Erica Goldson during the graduation ceremony at Coxsackie-Athens High School, on June 25, 2010.  Now whether this was truly a Valedictorian address or not, I can’t be sure of.  What I am sure of, though, is that the message is *spot-friggin’-on*.  And not only is this is the case in “education”, writ large, but the same can be said of diet, health, and fitness writ large — the totality of what I term “Physical Culture”.  Take an n=1 approach toward achieving your own ultimate phenotypical expression.  Keep both eyes on the path; the destination will take care of itself.

4/20/10; A Well Spent Half-Hour with the Iron and, Inspiration – Nike Style

Nothing at all fancy today, just a lot of work jam-packed into a mere 30-minute time frame.

Russian lunge jumps for height: 3 each leg, each round

single-leg high box (approx. 18″) step-ups: 135 x 5, 5; 155 x 4; 165 x 4; 4 (each leg)

ab wheel roll-outs: bodyweight x 10, each round

glute/ham raise (GHR): 40 x 5, 5; 45 x 5; 50 x 5, 5

5 rounds of this, subsequent to a good warm-up.  If you do the math, that’s 20 exercises completed in approximately 20 minutes, with the warm-up and equipment/station set-up requiring another 10 minutes or so.  So plenty of work, with very little rest.  Now, I wouldn’t try to squeeze an exceptionally heavy and/or neurologically demanding workout into a 30-minute bracket, but this kind of “speed-endurance” type work is well-suited for a short overall time investment.

Inspiration, thanks to Nike

Ross Enamait — whose methods I find top-notch, and absolutely kick-ass — posted this fantastic Nike “commercial” on his site recently; tell me you’re not jacked-up after watching it.

Ahhh, brings back that old pre-game, ’bout-to-bust-outta-my-friggin’-skin feeling!   I love it!  And, like Ross, my favorite line here has to be:

“Passion has a funny way of trumping logic.”

Ain’t it the truth!