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

4/10/10; Today’s Workout, and Paleo Chow on the Fly

Actually, let’s back up just a moment and look at last night’s dinner.  Now remember, I absolutely LOVE to eat skillfully prepared, intricate and exquisite meals; thank goodness, then, for Meesus TTP’s kitchen skills, and for the talents of my favorite restaurant’s fine chefs.  Making such meals myself, though?  Meh, I’ve neither the time nor the inclination for that.  I can pull off a pretty good Paleo kitchen improv, though; case in point: after returning from an evening fixie spin, I found I had the following on hand (and not much else, by the way):

1 lb ground sausage
1 lb ground buffalo
1 large sweet onion
2 medium sweet potatoes

Hmmmm, what to do.  OK, so I sliced, seasoned, buttered and roasted roasted the sweet potatoes in the oven, chopped and sauteed the entire onion in a butter/coconut oil mix in a cast iron skillet.  Then, once the onion was done, I added the sausage and buffalo to the skillet mix (along with a sundry of spices…whatever looked like it might work), and cooked that until done.  The result?  A pretty damn good, on the fly meal — even it it wouldn’t win too many creative points.  So, waddaya think?  Am I Iron Chef material?  Heh…

OK, so flash forward to today, and today’s workout:

  • 30 minute intermittent-intensity fixie ride
  • barefooted sprints — 8 x 100 yds @ <13 secs/sprint, approx. 1 minute between runs.
  • 20 minute intermittent-intensity fixie ride

Then it was in the gym for the following:

  • clean grip low pull (out of the rack): 135 x 7; 225 x 5; 315 x 5; 365 x 3, 3, 3, 3, 3,
  • elevated feet ballistic push-ups x 7 — or —
  • elevated feet medicine ball push-up x 6 each arm

So 7 total rounds here.  I alternated between “normal” dual-arm ballistic push-ups, and the medicine ball, single-arm variety.  The single-arm variety was done as explosively as possible while minimizing the contribution from the “off” arm.  Minimized hand-to-ground contact time on both varieties, maximized “air” time.  The bar was set just above the knee for the rack pulls.  Full triple extension (and up to full tip-toe), full shrug, and explosive on each rep.

Pretty good demonstration of med. ball push-ups here.  Now, I performed mine with feet elevated (about 18″), and I performed 6 reps with one arm, then shifted to the other for another 6.  Just another variant of this fine exercise.  One thing to keep in mind is to not let your hips sag while doing any manner of push-up — no saddle-back horse look-alikes aloud!

Another 15 minutes worth of fixie huckin’ to get home.  By this time I’ve been fasted for 18 hours; I won’t eat for another 2.  And when I do eat, it’s this:

Remember last night’s dinner?  Well, here’s part of the left overs —

Me thinks a couple of free-range eggs will go well to top that off; here’s the end product:

Check out those yokes!  By the way, the egg on the right is a duck egg.  This concoction doesn’t look like much, but it sure tasted good!

3/30/10; Another Workout From the “Simple in Design, Brutal in Execution” Grab Bag

Another workout from the “simple in design, brutal in execution” files.  Today I opted for a lower-body push, upper-body pull set-up; tomorrow I’ll switch it up with a lower-body pull, upper-body push.  The volume here is relatively low; the intensity, though, is sky-high.  Tomorrow’s workout will be followed by 5 or 6 days off — quite a long time for me.

rear foot elevated split squats (each leg): 95 x 6; 115 x 6; 135 x 5; 155 x 4, 4, 4

reverse-grip pull-ups:45 x 7; 70 x 5; 80 x 4, 4, 4, 4

The RFESS is a imparts a totally different feel in the legs than does, say pistols, single-leg box squats and such.  Also, the RFESS motion hits the glutes in a different way than does other hip extension work.  And I just can’t give enough positive kudos to single-leg work — both for athleticism and for overall health.

An RFESS example, from Mike Boyle and the boys –

Intermittent Fasting
As readers of TTP are undoubtedly aware, I practice infrequent bouts of prolonged fasting (i.e, roughly 24-hours between feed states), and it is my usual routine to workout in the mornings in an approximately 10-hours fasted state.  Am I worried about this practice affecting my musculature, performance, or level of hypertrophy?  Hardly.   Empirically, I know that combining the Paleo lifestyle with bouts of prolonged fasting and exercising in a mini-fasted state has carved me into a much leaner athlete at roughly the same body weight as I was in my pre-paleo days.  What I lost in retained water and body fat has been made up in lean mass.

For an in-depth discussion of this subject, check out Carl Lanore’s interview of DR. Stuart Phillips in this Super Human Radio Show podcast.  And here’s a link to Dr. Phillips’ study, the subject of much of the interview discussion.  The direction the interview takes is mostly physique-centric; it is interesting, though, and if you’re fairly Paleo adept, you can, at the appropriate moments, fill-in the underlying health benefits yourself.

DeVany, Interviewed on EconTalk –

I really appreciate Art DeVany’s intelligence, and all the wonderful information he’s bequeathed over the years to the “Paleo nation”; sometimes, though…sometimes I just have to ask, WTF?  Sports-enhancing drugs don’t “enhance” sporting performance?  I don’t care how you deconstruct the data, the proof is, as they say, in the puddin’.  Technique?  Sure, that remains unaltered by whatever (name your poison) pixie dust is utilized — and we have to have great athletic talent to begin with, and the positive pay-off leans heavier toward some sports than others (track & field vs baseball, for instance) –but, well, let’s just say I have to respectfully disagree with ADV on this one.  Otherwise, this interview is worth the listen.  No new ground being broken here (a good primer if you’re new to the game, though), but solid stuff none the less.

And thanks goes to Shaun, by the way, for the head’s up on this one.

Uneven Ground, and More on Explosiveness and Elasticity

First off, let me bore you with today’s workout.  Again, we here in eastern NC were blessed with a beautiful spring day, and again I took advantage of it with a good bit of fixie huckin’ about town, and the following workout.  Come Monday, I’ll be back to being sequestered within my sunless, work-a-day “cave”.  Ugh…anyway, here we go:

7-second sprints for distance. Hit my predetermined drop-off (2 misses) on the 14th sprint (i.e., the 13th and 14th sprints were near-misses).  A little bit on drop-offs here.
Followed that up with some slosh tube lunges. About 30 total reps each leg, broken-up in sets of 6 or so.  Kinda hard to quantify these in a “sets” and “reps” way; I did 6 or so, short break, another 6, break, etc.  Kept the pauses to a minimum — just long enough to recoup to the point at which I thought I could get the next 6.  Remember, primal doesn’t ascribe to a fixed sets and reps schemes — be creative!

The field I’m sprinting on now is rather uneven — plenty of rises, falls and divots — and this adds a whole other element to the barefooted sprint; a whole other level of required proprioception.

Then, I went inside for some Creds and straight bar muscle-ups.  More muscle-ups?  Sure, exercise such as this (explosive, limited time-under-tension, low volume) can be done at a much greater frequency without fear over overtraing — either in that particular movement, or in a holistic sense.

3 Creds + 2 single-arm push-presses + 1 single-arm jerk (each arm): 70, 80, 85, 85, 85
straight bar muscle-ups: 3, 3, 3, 3, 3

Performed this workout at 15-hours fasted.  Post workout meal (about 2 hours later, i.e., 17-hours+ fasted) was a grilled rib-eye and some boiled, organic beets.  Poured some Tropical Traditions coconut vinegar over the beets after chilling them.  Fabulous!

More on Explosiveness and Elasticity
A quick dissection of Usain Bolt’s 100 meter gold medal performance reveals some interesting facts vis-a-vis explosiveness and elasticity.

First up, young Mr. Bolt was second to last out of the blocks.  Now this probably has some to do with the fact that he was (at that time) relatively inexperienced at the 100 meter (and shorter distance) start; longer distance starts being more forgiving — but, too, I think this is telling of just how much more explosive his competitors were.  Of course, we’re dealing with relatives here — a comparison of freaks to freaks — and I’m using this solely as a dramatic example, and am in no way implying that Bolt is not an explosive athlete as well.  He’s just not as explosive as those other 10 freaks-of-nature he’s running against.   It is interesting to note here that the first two sprinters out of the blocks — Richard Thomson (Trinidad and Tobago) and Walter Dix (USA) — came in 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in this race.   Also of note here is that on top of a “slow” burst from the blocks, Bolt also drags his trail-leg foot over the track in his initial stride recovery, and it so happens that that shoe is untied.  Could Bolt have done anything more wrong at the start of this race?  Probably not — but hell, it just didn’t matter in the end.

Now, at 2.4 seconds into the race — deep into the “drive” phase — Bolt is in 4th place.  At 4 seconds into the race — now into the “acceleration” phase — Bolt’s superior elasticity (and, to be sure, stride length) begins to showcase.  At 50 meters he has caught up with Thomson; at sixty meters he has clearly pulled away, and beyond that we enter the the realm of super-human.

I’m throwing out rough numbers here, but somewhere close to the 60 meter mark, most elite athletes have reached their full acceleration and top-end speed — the name of the game from here on out is who can decelerate the least.  I believe, though, that Bolt was still accelerating at this point and, having realized that he wasn’t going to be challenged by lane 7’s Asafa Powell (he’d tapped Powell earlier as his only true competition), never reached his full accelerative potential.  Scary.   This coupling of stride length with superior elasticity it truly an amazing thing to behold.

It is commonly known that Olympic-level Oly lifters are as explosive out of the blocks (if not more so) — and, in some cases, exhibit better vertical jumps — than elite sprinters.  What the Oly lifters lack, though, is the elasticity — the ability to absorb, store, and subsequently release energy.  Some discussion on that, here.

We know that explosiveness (instantaneous power production) is a highly neurological dependent function, having little to do with muscle mass.  This is why enlightened athletes don’t train like bodybuilders, but rather, train explosive attributes (speed-strength and strength-speed).

But what is elasticity, exactly?  Essentially (and in the context of sprinting), it’s the ability of the Achilles tendon complex to absorb, store and release energy.  No small thing, either, since any energy lost must be manufactured by the supporting musculature.  Not only that, but the elastic release of energy occurs much more quickly than the same amount of energy that must be produced, and then released. Check out this graphic representation of elasticity from Wired magazine.

Points to ponder: notice how elastic types posses higher/smaller calves (and, therefore, a longer Achilles tendon) than their more explosive, thick-calved brethren?  More later.

Observations
Fresh from the “what a friggin’ great idea” file — TTP reader Beck Anstee has started a Chicago-land sprinter’s meet-up group.  Sprinting is the most primal of fitness activities, and Beck has put social media to work in a way that will enable all you Chicago-land primals out there to get your “sprint on” in the company of like-minded paleo peeps.  Dang, makes me want to transfer to Chicago.  Is it really true that Chicago only has two seasons — winter, and 4th of July?  Hmmm, if only it were a bit warmer….  🙂

You’ll notice that I’ve added Diana Hsieh  Modern Paleo blog to the TTP blogroll.  Objectivist-leaning, Paleo lifestyle — Ayn Rand meets the hunter-gatherer.  Bring your A-intellect to this one, folks — Objectivists don’t suffer fools easily; I for one can appreciate that sentiment.  I’ll be spending quite a bit of time here, to be sure.

In health,
Keith

Peak Performance, and Extremely Low Body Fat levels

“Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Plato

credit: Sgt. Gooch

I know, I know – this is a problem everyone would love to have to deal with, I’m sure 🙂  For the serious, weight-conscious (or weight-class) athlete, though, too-low a body fat level can become a serious detriment to performance.

Mike Young, blogging for Elite Track, recently posted on the topic of how performance can be negatively affected by extremely low body fat levels.  Now for your everyday Paleo/HIT practitioner, this phenomena is of little concern, as eating a simple, Paleo diet (to satiation) and following a sensible fitness program will naturally lead an individual to a 10-ish% (male) to 15-ish% (female) body fat level.  However, this does become an issue for trainees who, for whatever reason, decides to manipulate the body to carry extremely low fat levels.  Weight-class athletes and figure competitors/bodybuilders immediately come to mind here.  Increasingly, however, CrossFit Games competitors and other power-to-bodyweight-ratio (P2BWR) conscious athletes (especially gymnasts, track and field athletes – even team-sport athletes) will attempt to squeeze-out just a little higher P2BWR by stripping off a few additional pounds of fat.  More often than not, however, this attempt backfires.  Not that the stripping away of additional fat stores is all that complicated (more on this in an upcoming post), but that at a certain point, performance (more precisely, force output and endurance) will absolutely plummet.  Quoting, now, from Mike’s post:

“…I’ve noticed that people tend to perform better at slightly higher body fat percentages. Not “big” or “fat” by any means but slightly higher than rock bottom, paper thin-skin body fat values. In fact, other than some rare cases, most athletes don’t seem to perform their best when at their lowest body fat percentages. This seems to be especially true for activities placing a premium on strength or low end power. To throw out some observational estimated figures, I’d say that 7-10% body fat appears to be the sweet spot for performance and better for performance than 4-6% body fat (the lower limits of what is physiologically possible)…”

Now why this should be so leads to some rather interesting conjectures.  Of course, unless we can attached a realistic “fix” to the “why(s)”, we’ve done little to help the athlete.  Again, quoting Mike here:

“…Is this because peak performances usually occur during times when training volumes are lower…which when combined with unmodified caloric intake lends itself to increased body fat values? Or could it be that slightly higher body fat percentages facilitate more efficient neural transmissions? Perhaps it’s because achieving extremely low body fat percentages requires what is essentially a slight starvation that in turn affects performance. I’m not exactly sure but I’ve seen this phenomenon enough times in athletes I’ve worked with to question the usual paradigm that athletes should strive for the lowest possible body fat percentages…” (emphasis mine).

Viewing this through an evolutionary prospective seems to raise as many questions as does it provide possible answers.  I agree with Mike on his observed 7 – 10% “sweet spot’ for peak performance, and if we combine this with my conjecture that following a strict Paleo diet (and eating to satiation) will naturally lead one to a 10-ish% (male) to 15-ish% (female) bodyfat level, we could argue that an ancestral hunter would be “on his game” and at his most lethal at what would be considered a natural body fat level.   Here’s where it gets a little more interesting, though.  Let’s envision a time of ancestral scarcity, and of dwindling fat stores.  Those of you who’ve reached a low body fat percentage and who’ve done any amount of intermittent fasting (IF), can attest to the feeling of “heightened acuity” and increased urgency or energy levels, the seeming lack of need to sleep for extended periods – rather tough to describe, but if you’ve been there, you know what I mean.  Now maybe this is an evolutionary “boost before the decline”, a kind of “hail Mary” pass – the last ditch effort.  But what if the hunt is still not successful, what then?  The body has now hedged its bets, put all the chips on the table.

I don’t have a satisfactory answer for this yet, other than the realization of this scenario’s forcing the body into scavenge mode – the robbing of its own protein (muscle) stores, the forced consumption of poor quality (low energy density) food-stuffs, and the resultant insulin-induced energy storage spike.

We do know, though, that the body rebels against a perceived too-low fat level via reduced energy expenditure (via a slowed metabolic rate).  But I also believe that the myelin sheath within the nervous system begins to degrade at extremely low fat levels, and that this also results in hampered performance – not only physically, but mentally as well.  As Mike says, though:

“…Ultimately it doesn’t matter because repeated real-world performance improvements trump scientific explanation…”

True enough, at least for the athlete/practitioner, who’d be well advised to keep this phenomena in mind when juggling weight-class issues, maximal P2BWR, and ultimate performance.  There are instances where dropping that last bit of fat to hit a lower weight-class/body weight level may actually be more of a performance detriment than an aid.  As always, be fearless but wise in your n=1 experimentation.

A Quick Administrative Note:

Barring any unforeseen contractual meltdowns, it seems as though Meesus TTP and I have finally sold our house; doing our damnedest,by the way, to keep housing prices severely depressed.  Anyway, the result of this is that the next few weeks will be rather frantic around TTP-ville (packing, moving, relocating, etc.), and will probably result in a diminished blogging rate – at least in the short term.  On a positive note, this is where the Paleo/HIT combination shines brightest, and where other diet/lifestyle/exercise “plans” meet their Waterloo.  Just as Paleo/HIT sustained me during the dark period of B’s passing, so it will during this stressful period.

In health,
Keith

The Right Tool for the Job

“The test of a man’s or woman’s breeding is how they behave in a quarrel. Anybody can behave well when things are going smoothly.”

George Bernard Shaw

selecting the right exercise can sometimes seem as bewildering...
selecting the right exercise can sometimes seem as bewildering…

I’ve been inundated by a work tsunami as of late and, as a result, the blog posting has suffered.  Only so many hours in a day, unfortunately.  But just as I keep right on ticking along with my Paleo ways, even in the face of the  crazy-weird hours I’ve kept this past week — a good opportunity for bouts of IF and ultra-short/ultra-intense workouts, by the way — my mind keeps right on juggling the various tangential minutia surrounding the Paleo core.  Just look to right and check out some of my Twitterings of late.

A recurring theme that I’ve noticed though, over the past couple of weeks, is that of combining Oly lifts with MetCon work.  Did Oprah recently endorse this practice or something?  Have I missed a new late-night, get-slim-quick infomercial?  In any event,  I’ve been confronted with the (in my opinion) faulty notion of using Olympic lifts (“Olys”, for short) and their close-cousin derivatives for metabolic conditioning purposes repeatedly as of late.  Maybe there’s just something afoul in the air?

Ironmaven, over at the blog, A Philosophy of Strength,  had a nicely conceived post related to this issue back in September, and I believe the sentiment needs to be re-examined now.  I don’t know what that particular vibe is in the air these days — or what’s brought it on — but I’ve had my sensibilities accosted lately by witnessing some of my fellow gym goers engaged in what looks to be MetCon work with ugly-form Oly derivatives  — bad, bad idea folks.  Seriously bad.  I don’t know that I can add too much more to this discussion than Ironmaven already has in her post, but I’ll throw a couple of ideas/opinions out for discussion nonetheless.

The Intersection of Olys and MetCon — The Crossfit Nation

If you’ve spent much time at this blog, you know that I believe Crossfit to be (in concept at least, if not as actually practiced by many) a fantastic overall conditioning (GPP) program; for more on that theme, check out this older post.  One knock I do have against Crossfit, though, is the philosophy (propensity might be the better word) of using Olys and their close-cousin derivatives for MetCon work — though, to be fair to Crossfit, it does seem as if they’re moving away from this trend.  But truthfully, the question of utilizing Olys within a MetCon-emphasis methodology should be approached from two different prospectives: (1) the nature of, function, and benefits of the Olympic lifts for athletic enhancement, and (2) the “whys” behind even considering Olys for a MetCon methodology to begin with, when so many better options are available; in other words, why use channel locks when the 9/16ths box-end wrench you really need is right there in your back pocket?

This is a theme that I’ll explore over the course of a few additional posts, as I know many folks are curious as to the specifics of why I avoid the Oly/MetCon mix.  At the very root of the issue though, is this: fatigue.  In my opinion, if you’re hitting proper, MetCon-related fatigue levels, you’re sure as hell not in a suitable state to perform a well-executed (and easy on the joints/connective tissue) Oly lift.  That’s not to say, though, that the movement pattern itself is a poor choice — it’s not — and in fact it’s a perfect movement pattern for MetCon work.  Am I contradicting myself, here?  I think not.  Because it’s not at all the movement pattern that’s the problem, it’s the tool of choice — the implement — that’s the real problem, here, and this is where much confusion arises.   What are some good implement choices for weighted Metcon work?  Sandbags of all shapes and sizes are my favorite.  Slosh tubes are great as well, as are dumbbells and kettlebells, just to name a few options.  Consider my workout from yesterday; MetCon, TTP style.  With a pair of 80lb DBs, I blistered through the following:

  • Lunges x 20 yds.
  • DB Snatch (aka, “The Cred”) x 2 + single-arm overhead press (x1), push-press (x1), push-jerk (x1) + 1 additional “cred”; each arm
  • alternating, single-leg explosive deadlifts (see below)
  • Repeat of the “cred” combo

I believe I made it through 4 or 5 rounds of that; I say “believe” because (1) my focus toward the end was blindered on merely completing the next rep of whatever it was that I was dealing with at the time.  Also, I shifted to a mix-and-match of lunges and DLs once I hit the point of not being able to complete a full 20 yds of lunges in one “set” — and this came pretty early on.  In performing the explosive single-leg DLs, I focused on hitting the glutes/hams vice the lower back by initiating the drive from the heel and exploding up to the point of catching a tad bit of air with minimal “toe-off”.  Of course, “minimal” turned to “more and more” once fatigue set in.  My single-arm presses morphed into push-presses, and my push-presses to push-jerks, as my shoulders and triceps fatigued, so that toward the end I had fairly well settled into 3 rather ugly push-jerks (with my right arm) while managing only 2 (even uglier) with my left.  And this, in my opinion, is how MetCon work ought to proceed.  One must expect — embrace, even — a certain, acceptable level of form/technique deterioration, if one is truly engaged in MetCon work.

And therein lay the problem with the utilization of Oly lifts (and their close-cousin derivatives) in a MetCon modality — acceptable form/technique deterioration due to fatigue.  The Cred, for instance — although being of similar movement pattern as both the snatch and power snatch — is much more form/technique forgiving, and is therefore a suitable option for weighted MetCon work.  But let’s quickly look at this from the flip-side.  What if my goal for a particular workout is to work instantaneous power output in this particular movement? Again, I need to choose the right tool for the job and, in this instance, I’d go with the snatch and/or power snatch, as I can chunk much more weight and, with the movement execution time and distance being (practically speaking) identical, maximize my overall power output.  Now, that said, if my goal were to work max instantaneous power production in an unbalanced/unilateral environment, then a heavy Cred would be a fine choice or, if I wanted to focus mainly on the unilateral catch balance aspect of the movement, a single arm snatch might be just the ticket.

More on this subject as time permits…

In health,

Keith 


Re-Thinking the Pre-Game Meal

“I think people don’t place a high enough value on how much they are nurtured by doing whatever it is that totally absorbs them.”

Jean Shinoda Bolen

In case you might have missed it, TTP reader/commenter Dexter had this to say in relation to CNS priming:

“…Could it be that IF is a CNS stimulator? That IF creates an actual threat to the organism? I find that when I exercise at the end of a 36 hr fast, I usually achieve that zone of invincibility…that zone where reps at higher and higher weights come effortlessly…”

Absolutely.  In fact, a Paleo athlete would be much better off going into a competition in the fasted state; 18 to 24 hours fasted, I believe, would be optimal.  Of course, this is just my opinion, and is not substantiated by any evidence whatsoever — outside of my own, that is.  My experiences and results with my own demanding workouts while in a fasted state, are sufficient enough to serve as positive n=1 evidence of this notion’s efficacy.  So much so, in fact, that I’d have no qualms whatsoever in advising a properly adjusted athlete to do the same.  Properly adjusted is key here, though.  The athlete must be fully adapted to the Paleo lifestyle for this method to be effective.  I think we all know what the results would be otherwise.  Bonk city, severe cramping, the shakes/trembles, debilitating weakness, nausea; the list goes on.  Contrast this to the added boost the Paleo athlete would garner from the added CNS stimulation/adrenaline rush, not to mention the added energy available from the body’s not having to deal with digestion issues, and the edge of not having to deal with that “fullness” in the gut.  The team-building ritual should be that of the post-game feast — a nice fatted calf offered up in a “spoils-of-victory” fashion (i.e., the post-hunt feast).  Unfortunately, though, this scenario is a long, long way off.  To wit (from the NAU Football Blog, 10/3/09):

“…The players have their pre-game meal on campus. Today’s menu was rice, stir fry, lasagna, and breadsticks. After this each position will meet and then the game countdown begins…”  (emphasis mine).

I don’t offer this up as a slam against anybody’s program, but simply to illustrate a point.  Eating a pre-game meal of this fashion is the only way possible to survive if an athlete is a sugar burner.  I ate the same manner of pre-game meal myself back in the day(admittedly, this was back in the dark ages).  What I’d love to see, though,  is a few of these kids make the transition to a full-on Paleo lifestyle, and reap all the performance enhancement that comes part-and-parcel with primal eating patterns.  Their success and stellar results from doing so would have the Paleo way spread unabated through the collegiate and professional ranks.  Really, it is just a matter of time before an already successful athlete takes the leap of faith.  That almighty sought-after edge is there to be had; and no anti-doping agency has yet to put the Paleo lifestyle on any banned substance list…yet.

In health,

Keith