Say, That’s a Nice Lookin’ Tail…

All are lunatics, but he who can analyse his delusions is called a philosopher – Ambrose Bierce 

First, a little prospective…

My Efficient Exercise clientele, widely speaking, consists of folks situated smack-dab in the bullseye for being the most susceptible to “diseases of affluence” — those maladies exacerbated (and, arguably, initially brought-on) by poor dietary choices and lack of proper and sufficient activity.  By poor diet, I’m referring, of course, to a non-Paleo/Primal way of eating — a diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, grains, and poor-quality fats.  In the larger Ancestral Health community, we may quibble on some of the finer dietary points within this context (potatoes?!), but broadly speaking (and especially in terms of where “the rubber meets the road”, i.e., in dealing with the general, “not geeked on diet and fitness” public), we offer a united front.  Can there be much argument, for example, that implementing Robb Wolf’s Quick Start Guide is not a great way for John and Jane Q. Public to begin taking charge of their health and wellbeing?

Ahhh, but then we get to the other side of the healthy lifestyle coin — the “activity” side — and here, in my opinion, things begin to degenerate rapidly.  Let’s see if we can put things back into prospective.

First and foremost, ours is a genome that, to steal a riff from from Dr. John Ivy, is hardwired for daily activity.  Now before I kickoff a shitstorm royale here from the HIT crowd, I said daily “activity”, not a daily WOD beat-down, or Bulgarian-style, multiple-times-per-day Oly thrashing.  That some mutants (myself included) can survive frequent sightings of the great-white-buffalo-in-the-sky does not at all imply that it’s necessarily a healthy thing to do.   I’ve pontificated on this before and, more recently, Skyler Tanner has written a superb post examining the relationship between “exercise” and “activity”, and the wide, wide spectrum of “movement” wherein these terms settle.  And let’s hold onto that notion of high-end performance beginning where health begins to degenerate; let that be our guide-star in this discussion.

It's not a workout until the herd appears, brother...

And we are speaking of a full spectrum of movement/activity here, from chasing the great white buffalo, to “play”.  Part of the problem, though, in discussing this subject is (1) there are so many moving (pardon the pun) parts to consider, (2) this is a highly, highly n=1 subjective subject, i.e., due to my strength and work capacity, my “play” may be another’s gut-busting “exercise”, and (3) the language used in discussing this subject is vague at best, and at it’s worst, imprecise; the term “workout” can mean many things to many different people.  Case in point: in discussing my attendance of a recent MovNat workshop here in the epicenter of Physical Culture, the ATX  — an awesome experience, by the way, with Clifton Harski (@cliftonharski) and Brian Tabor paving the way for a most excellent, and challenging, day of fun and frolic — with a client of mine (and emphasizing the “fun and frolic” part), she shook her head and replied “fun?  Sounds like a hard-ass workout to me!”.  Of course, I considered the experience more a day chock-full of rough-and-tumble play, but that’s exactly my point.  Think of strength and work capacity together, as being a workhorse.  The bigger and stronger the horse, the more “stuff” you can pile on it’s back.  A 500 pound load is nothing to a Clydesdale, but might cripple some poor, exhausted, slat-ribbed thing.

Toein' the line, MovNat style

Of fractals and power laws

Art DeVany, of course, has made many constituent, bedrock, contributions to the Paleo/Primal/EvoFit movement — none so more important, though, and in my opinion, as the application of fractals and power law within the totality of life experience.  And more germane to this discussion, fractals and power law as applied to the full spectrum of human activity.  If you haven’t yet read Art’s Essay on Evolutionary Fitness, by all means do so — it’s a gem.

The Long Tail, as in use by the book of Chris ...

Basic power law curve

Now, if we consider, in the context of optimum human activity, the ideas of fractals (repeating patterns), power law distribution (intensity vs frequency distribution), we can see how this dovetails nicely into the work of (the above mentioned) John Ivy,  Frank Booth, and Boyd Eaton (nifty little paper, here).  Add the notion of n=1 individualization, and this generic power law distribution curve then becomes personalized; my long-tail is (to whatever extent) different from your long-tail, as my strength and work capacity are pretty damn high.  The extreme right of my long-tail includes roughly 7 hours per day of training clients (on my feet moving, scampering, climbing, squatting, loading/unloading weights, demonstrating lifts, etc.) and at least some fixie riding and/or walking; this is what I consider a “day off”.  Workout days, of course, ramp-up exponentially from there.

To the extent that we endeavor to make one a more healthy individual (fitness and performance, remember are altogether separate pursuits), we will need to bump this curve up and to the right.  Just how much?  I don’t know exactly, but this is something I’m attempting to quantify.  Although I’m a huge fan of John Ivy’s work in principle, I’m less sold on his concept of figuring one’s “minimum daily allowance” of activity.  You’ll have to checkout his book to see what I mean.

But back to the practicalities of boosting one’s health: in everyday speak, this is simply known as increasing the subject’s strength and work capacity (subject for a later post).  The problem with saying this, though, is that folks automatically relate the terms “strength” and “work capacity” to the high-end performance realm.  What I am speaking of here, though, is that minimum amount of daily (long-tail) activity required to keep an individual healthy, nothing more.  Which, by the way, is not that damn much daily activity.  This, in fact, is the basis of my proposed AHS12 presentation, and and area where, I believe (along with the erudite Ken O’Neill), the Paleo/Primal movement (writ large) has trended off the skids.  For all we attribute to healthy eating, we turn a blind eye to the necessity of honoring the requirements of that long-tail, daily activity level. Let’s make no mistake here, our genome is predicated on daily activity — we are first and foremost obligatory movers, then opportunistic eaters.  Discounted by many in this movement are the positive epigenetic triggers established by this minimum daily, or long-tail zone, activity.  In essence, the community as a whole tends toward too little long-tail activity (classic HIT), or too much (mainsite CrossFit).  We quibble over the make-up of a stone-age vs modern tuber, and totally discount (or grossly under-estimate) the average daily activity level of the stone-age hunter-gatherer.  Hunted-gatherer is a more accurate definition; these poor bastards had to be ever-vigilant and constantly on the move.

Note: Dr. John Ivy’s recognition of “Minimum daily activity levels” as normalizing efficient metabolic pathways (or “circuits”, in his explanation) just might be the brigde between the Calories-in/Calories-out dogmatists and 1st Law of Thermodynamics apologists.  Stay tuned.

Is HIT “Paleo”?  Is CrossFit “Primal”?

My blog, so obviously, my opinions here; take ’em for what they’re worth.  My contention is though, that the traditional (dogmatic?) HIT schema of a single day of blast and 7 (ish) days of full-on sloth fails to meet the minimum daily long-tail activity level, and so falls short of being an optimum total regimen choice.  Of course, at the opposite end of the intensity frequency spectrum (but no doubt equals on the dogmatism scale) lay mainsite CrossFit where, if a little bit of high intensity work is good, a lot more is fo’ sho’ a hellova lot mo’ better.  This scenario sets us up for over-reaching at best, overtraining at worst, and the sacrifice of long-term health for short-term performance gain.  The answer, in my opinion, lay somewhere between these two extremes.  Take a 30k-foot view of my personal exercise proclivities trended over the year and you’ll see that I skew much more toward the mainsite CrossFit end of the spectrum, though I’d like to think that (1) my workout-to-workout programming is a bit more intelligent, and (2) my day-to-day intensity and volume are more sanely regulated, and wind-up graphing pretty damn close to the power law distribution.  And remember, too, that my n=1 given is that of a good deal of strength and a pretty high work capacity — my long-tail activities reflect as much.  I’ll turn 47 this week, and I’m still healthy, fit and somewhat muscular so I think I’m on to something.

In health,

Keith

 

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Touchstones, Part Duex…and a Blast From the Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sunday MetCon

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

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

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

Touchstones

“I’d rather live with a good question than a bad answer.” – Aryeh Frimer

I like to revisit certain performance markers every now and again throughout the ebb and flow of the training season; markers that, over the years, I have been able to correlate, at least within myself, to a well-rounded athleticism.   These are not, mind you, performance maxes or PRs.   In other words, these markers are not the result of a performance driven by a particular dedicated and pin-pointed focus, but rather a performance indicator that, in a well-rounded athletic sense, things are as they should be; that no excessive imbalance exists between speed, strength and sprint repeat endurance.  In fact, I use such touchstones as an indication that any dedicated focus that I might be engaged in has not resulted in the degradation of another, “competing” factor.   For instance, pushing a max squat number at the expense of (in my case, at least), sprinting and/or repeat speed or performance.  Conversely, I know that a nice, snappy, 7 rep 2xBW deadlift, while I’m in the throes of sprinting/saddle-time season, is a good indication that I’m still good-to-go in the weight room.

15 under 15 and in 15

…or, as they were affectionately known back in the day, simply “15’s”

Hard as it is to believe now days, collegiate football players of the early 1980’s actually went back home during the summers and (the Brian Bosworth‘s and SMU‘s of college football notwithstanding) worked legitimate — and in my case, heavy-ass, manual labor — jobs over the summer break.  The coaching staffs at that time sent players home with the parting message that said jocks better (insert filthy string of pejoratives) return “in shape and ready to play”, lest they face some unspecified, but decidedly heinous, form of public castration.  In our case, said punishment would surely be performed in front of a full assembly of cheering Strutters.

Nothing like a little incentive.

And still, few paid the threat any mind.  Oh to be 20 and bullet proof once more 🙂

At any rate, every August, upon returning to camp in preparation for the upcoming season, linebackers, strong safeties*, and tight ends were expected to be able to reel-off 15 100-yrd sprints, all in less than 15 seconds each, with a 45 second recovery before the start of the next sprint.  Nothing superhuman here of course, but pulling this off does reveal a decent, base level of repeat sprint endurance.  Something to work with, something from which to build upon.  And I still use it as a yardstick test today.  Other, more accurate measures of sprint repeat endurance could surely be argued for, but this simple (on paper anyway!) test is at once a great workout in-and-of-itself, and pretty decent measure of fitness.

I’d just like to report that I passed this test with flying colors this past Sunday, just as I did every August during my career.  Yeah, I was one of those  guys, even back then.  One of those middling talent guys who had to “train” their way onto the playing field.

In health,

Keith

*note – that strong safties were considered “small, fast, linebackers” is, in itself, telling of a bygone era; defenses designed for a single purpose — to stop the option.

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