The Benefit of Less-Extreme Views

True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are united

~ Alexander von Humboldt

George Church (Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School) argues, in this Big Think piece, that the age-old divide between science and religion is solvable. “We can bring them together,” he says, “but it requires less extreme views, or what would benefit from less extreme views.”

And it’s my belief that the same idea holds true for Physical Culture’s role in taming the beast that is the American healthcare crisis.

As it currently stands, there is no credible entity that acts as a non-dogmatic, “non-partisan”  clearing house, of sorts, in which the various tools and techniques of Physical Culture can be explored in relation to the seeker’s desired outcome (along the health-performance continuum) — especially for those who’s desire it is to use a Paleo-like diet, coupled with resistance exercise, as a tools for achieving superior overall health.  My hope is that this summer’s Ancestral Health Symposium (and the symposium’s parent organization, the Ancestral Health Society) will become just that entity.  I am at the same time thrilled — and humbled! — to be one of the presenters at the symposium, where I will discuss resistance training’s role in achieving optimum health, the difference between “superior health” and “superior performance”, and the emergence of the Physical Culturalist (i.e., the new breed of personal trainer) and his role as “swim coach” as opposed to the healthcare professional’s role as “lifeguard”.  Hat tip to Greg Glassman, of CrossFit, for that fine analogy.  As medicine’s role in this new paradigm must change, so must the Physical Culturalist’s.

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Of Autoregulation and overtraining

TTP reader Jeff Erno asks the following (via Facebook), in reference to EETV, episode 6:

Really enjoyed the episode, thanks for recording. The auto regulation stuff sounds interesting. Is there somewhere I can go to read more about it? Also, my experience is with HIT the last 2+ years and if I only workout once per week I have steadily gained week over week. At twice a week I can have what can look like a stall or retrogression. Do you think it is possible that my situation is more common and most people don’t know it since they never tried backing off? Curious what your take is. Love the episodes, please keep then coming.

And here’s my answer — expanded a bit, from my original Facebook response:

I’ve written about Autoregulation a few times in Theory to Practice, Jeff — see, especially, this post — and actually the subject is in our EETV bucketlist of topics to cover in more detail.  As well (and as I alluded to in this post), I’ll be talking more about the tenants of Autoregulation and it’s practical applications at the Orlando 21 Convention this summer — so stay tuned for that! 😉

As for the second question: a regression/stall at 2x/week is certainly not unheard of *if you are engaged in the same “type” of workout (rep tempo, exercise selection, rep/TUL scheme, etc…), workout to workout*  This is one reason why I shift things up in a conjugate-like fashion, both in my own workouts and in those of my clients.  You simply have to give the body a reason to overcompensate, otherwise, homeostasis will rule the day.  I really don’t want to get into a flame war over what I consider to be the (substantial) drawbacks of single-set-to-failure routines for performance enhancement, but let’s just say that it’s my humble opinion that these routines just don’t give the body much (or enough) stimulus to have to fight against.  Why should the body continue to adapt when it is not up against novel angles, cadences, tempos, volumes, intensities, etc.?  Ask any strength and conditioning coach what happens to 40 times when all you have your athletes do for speed/conditioning work is to run repeat 40’s — they digress — and not insubstantially, either.  This is similar to the problem you’re running up against here.

I really wish you could have been in Wimberley, Texas this weekend, at the home of Ken O’Neill, where Dr. Frank Wyatt spoke to us of “the Body Chaotic”, pushing physiological threshold limits, the nature of physiological fatigue/failure, and what it takes to force the body to overcompensate.  I’ll just say this: the early stages of training are relatively easy going, as just about any stimulus will force the body to overcompensate.  The longer one stays in the game, however, the harder it becomes to push up to and beyond the fatigue threshold required to elicit an overcompensation response.  In laymen’s terms, it’s friggin’ hard work.  It’s painful, even.  It requires a mental toughness that most trainees are simply not prepared for, or willing to offer-up, in exchange for results.

Now I’m by all means not an advocate of training unintelligently or in a shotgun, willy-nilly manner.  I do believe, though that doggedness, intensity, and the ability to repeatedly push beyond the brain’s “shut ‘er down” response are crucial for achieving optimal gains (note: striving for optimal health is another issue — related, but certainly not the same).  I do believe, as well, that the body’s ability to recover (another topic discussed by Dr. Wyatt) can be “trained” as well via periodic forays into an overtrained state.  Chronic overtraining ought to be avoided, of course; acute bouts though are, in my opinion, necessary if one’s quest is enhanced performance.  Remember, performance enhancement (which includes the chase for hypertrophy) is an emergent phenomena — akin to the study cloud formation, weather patterns even — not a more easily described, step-by-step process, akin to the operations of a clock, say.

If at all possible, get your hands on Brad Schoenfel’d study “The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training” (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Vol 24, #10; Oct 2010).  The chase for hypertrophy and/or realizing one’s ultimate genetic potential is not nearly as easy as simply tracking linear load/TUL progressions in a handful of exercises.

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Workouts?  Oh yeah, you know it!  Here we go –

Tuesday, 5/31/11

(A1) Dips: bw/10; 45/10; 55/6; 90/4, 5; 45/11

(A2) ARX neutral-grip pull-down: HR/3, 3, 3

Thursday, 6/2/11

(A1) BTN push-press: 135/10; 155/6; 185/5, 7 (slight spot); 155/6

(A2) chins: bw/12; 45/7; 65/6, 6, bw/whoops!

(A3) RLC: bw/10, each of 4 rounds

then, 2 rounds of :
(B1) ARX negative only chin x 2

(B2) ARX negative only overhead press x 2

Saturday, 6/4

Sprints!  Bars!  Ropes!

Tuesday, 6/7
GVT volume work, 10 rounds

(A1) high bar squats: 165/10

(A2) seated DB clean & press: 40/10

Prior fixie riding made 10 rounds of squats a real bi-atch for sure!

Wednesday, 6/8

(A1) ARX close-grip bench: HR/3, 3, 3

(A2) dips: BW/15, 15, 15

(A3) T-Bar row: 125/10; 200/10; 245/8, 8 (Autoreg)

Friday, 6/10

(A1) Powermax 360 Tabata intervals (30 seconds on, 15 seconds off), 8 different movements.

(B1) long, fast, fixie ride

(C1) ARX RDL: HR x 3; 3 sets

Sunday, 6/12

Sprints and jumps

Physical Culture as an Emergent Phenomena

Should Physical Culture be studied and understood more like a clock or a cloud?

Borrowing from an analogy put forward by the philosopher Karl Popper, NYT writer David Brooks posits that we tend to think of problems or phenomena as either a “clock” or a “cloud”. Unlike a clock, which can be taken apart and studied as individual, constituent systems/mechanisms, a cloud is a dynamic (or “emergent”) system that can only be studied as a whole.

An emergent system, therefore, is a phenomena/entity that cannot be defined by a straight, lock-step, causal relationship. Instead, it must be understood as a whole, by studying the interplay between its parts.  An interplay that, itself, is continually in flux.

One problem we run into when attempting to deconstruct superior health, athletic performance, or some desired physical attribute (such as hypertrophy), is treating each of these phenomena as if they could be broken-down and studied like the mechanical constituents of a clock.  If A, then B; a very clockwork universe, Newtonian way of thinking.  This is simply wrong-minded (in my humble opinion), and leads to faulty conclusions.

For instance, that true, single-set-to-failure and/or super-slow protocols could be utilized as a sole means of eliciting an individual’s maximum hypertrophy potential is a result of treating hypertrophy as a “clockwork” phenomenon.  That is not to say that there is not a place for these protocols in the larger Physical Culture landscape — far from it — every tool, though, has its appropriate applications and limitations, and these must be thoroughly understood vis-a-vis the cloud-like aspect of (in this case) maximizing the body’s hypertrophy response.

Check out the two following hypertrophy-themed TNation articles, and ask yourself if the study and/or pursuit of maximized muscle growth is a “clock” or “cloud” phenomena.  For now, suspend judgement as to whether the actual pursuit of n=1 maximized hypertrophy is necessarily a “healthy” endeavor, or a good use of one’s allotted time on this earth — focus, instead here, simply on the art and science of gettin’ swole  😉

The Hypertrophy Specialist

Why Bodybuilders are More Jacked Than Powerlifters

And by the way, if you’re looking to delve a little deeper into emergent systems, Raima Larter’s blog, Complexity Simplified, is an excellent read.

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Questions?  Answers!

TTP reader Brendon asks the following:

Keith,

I have begun following your blog and I find your entries informative and helpful.  I have begun to delve into the archives because I am very impressed with the information you provide.  I have switched over to a Paleo/Primal style of eating and do some I.F. on occasion, as well.

However, my question pertains to training not nutrition.  I am soccer goalkeeper playing in college.  I am looking to improve on my performance from a physical aspect during my training this summer.  However, training books and programs from my coaches all seem to tout the mantra of high reps weight training and long distance runs for endurance.  As a goalkeeper, I feel that would be detrimental to my performace since the movements I make in a game involve jumping, diving, and short, quick, and explosive movements in all directions.  The longest run I might make in a game probably won’t exceed 20 yards so I don’t see how a five mile run will help me get any better at those!

So I guess I am asking for advice on how you would approach training a goalkeeper.  I’m certainly not asking for a program since that is what people pay you for!  I was just hoping you could point me in the right direction towards methods you feel would be the most beneficial.  Sorry for the long question and I appreciate any advice you provide!

Thanks,
Brendon

Brendon,

Your gut instinct is spot-on; you ought to focus on training for power, explosiveness and quickness — long/slow runs and higher rep lifting schemes are a poor utilization of your available training time, and will do nothing to improve these aspects of your physicality, not to mention will they do anything  improve the condition/efficiency of your anaerobic energy systems.   Unfortunately, most collegiate strength and conditioning programs are focused on the “money sports” — football and basketball, and to some extent, baseball — which leaves very little time and available effort to put towards the “lesser” (in terms of money-making potential) sports.  This isn’t an indictment of collegiate S&C staffs, it’s just, unfortunately, the economies of scale at work.  It’s just much easier to tell a kid to run for 5 miles and/or hit a higher-rep, bodybuilding-like resistance program, as it involves little in the way of programming and supervision, and the potential for injury is pretty low compared to having these same kids perform unsupervised ballistic/power-intensive work.  Also, I’m quite sure that there is plenty of “old school” training thought permeating the sport of soccer — i.e., to be “in shape”, you gotta log the miles.  The Tabata studies, and subsequent empirical demonstrations of the efficacy of such programs, out to have put that old notion to bed.  Unfortunately, that’s not yet the case.    You’re probably better off cobbling together and implementing your own power/explosiveness-themed S&C plan, if that’s at all possible.  Changing tides and minds takes time that you don’t currently have.  Sporting careers are short-lived.  Endeavor to make yourself better now, and work to change the system later.  You may, in fact, become a role model for the new power-based soccer training paradigm at your school.

~

Efficient Exercise in the media:

Check out Efficient Exercise’s “Philosophers of Physical Culture”, Skyler Tanner and I, talking shop with Jimmy Moore in episode 475 of the Livin’ la Vida Low Carb Show.  Jimmy is a true professional and a master at guiding one through an interview.  A funny aside here is that I had an unexpected, drop-in consultation just prior to the taping, and I could see Skyler through the studio office window giving me the ol’ wrist-tap as Jimmy, on the other end of our Skype connection, waited patiently for me to finish with the would-be client.  So much for any pre-interview prep!  Skyler and I truly worked this one off-the-cuff.  I guess it helps that, like an old married couple, we can finish each others thoughts and sentences 😉

…and speaking of off-the-cuff shop talk, here’s another episode of EETV; Physical Culture performance art, at its best 😉  –

~

Workouts for the past couple of weeks –

You’ll notice that most of my workouts incorporate some form or fashion of Autoregulation.  To the extent that a trainee learns to fully incorporate the tenants of Autoregulation within his own training regimen will go a long way toward determining just how accomplished that trainee will become as a Physical Culturalist.  In fact, this “Autoregulation” theme will be the basis of my talk at this summer’s 21 Convention in Orlando.

Think of written training programs as cookbooks, or maybe the old woodcut plans of your 7th-grade shop class.  A true Physical Culturalist is on par with the acclaimed chef or the master woodworker, and a program, recipe or woodworking instructions written by any of these professionals can only hint at a particular theme — the theme, maybe, of a great marinade, crafting a particular piece of furniture or, in the case of Physical Culture, a training program.  Learning the true essence of each endeavor, though, takes years of trial and error, or — and if you’re extremely lucky — an apprenticeship under a master.  Training programs — like cookbooks — are guides, nothing more.  To make a recipe — or a training regimen — truly your own, you have to breathe life, love and art into it.  In the game of Physical Culture, autoregulation is that life, love and art.

5/16/11, Monday
Autoreg each exercise
(A1) deadlift (Oly bar): 135/10; 225/10; 325/6; 415/6, 5

(A2) seated (floor) barbell front press: 95/15; 135/10; 155/7; 175/4, 4

5/18/11, Wednesday

(A1) BOR, Oly bar: 135/12; 225/6; 275/10; 305/7  (Autoreg)

(A2) LM single-arm press: 75/12; 95/10, 10, 10

(A3) RLC: bw/10, 10, 10, 10

Friday, 5/20/11

(A1) Oly bar creds (single-arm power snatch):
65/7; 85/7; 105/3; 115/4 singles, each arm

– three hours later –

(A1) ARX horizontal chest press: hyper-reps/5, 5
(A2) flat DB flyes: 45 x 15, 15
(A3) feet-elevated push-ups to failure: 25, 15

Tuesday, 5/24/11

(A1) barbell muscle-ups: 95/10; 115/6; 165/5, (4, 2, 2, 3, 2, 3, 3)

(A2) ring pull-ups: bw: 12, 15, 14+

(A3) Russian leg curl: bw/10, 10, 10

Autoreg’d muscle-ups.  After the initial 4 reps of the second 6RM set, I just felt primed to continue into a lower-rep extended set.

Wednesday, 5/25/11

(A1) hip press (H2): 445/15; 545/8 (note: increase 25# on each)

(A2) ARX horizontal leg press: HR/3

(A3) blast strap pike: 15

2 rounds; A1 and A2 paired as a hierarchal set.

Thursday, 5/26/11

(A1) feet-elevated drop, stick, rebound push-ups: bw/7 each of 4 rounds

(A2) 45-degree incline press (leverage piece): ballistic reps; +20/7; +30/6; +35/6, 6.  Curtailed set when bar failed to leave hands.

(A3) T-bar row (underhand grip): 100/10; 145/6; 190/12; 215/8  — autoreg’d

Saturday, 5/28/11

(A1) trap bar deadlifts (low grip): 265/10, 10, 10; 355/6, 445/4, 4; 355/12, 12 — autoreg’d

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

Chasing Performance…at the Expense of Health

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”

– Richard Feynman

Below is the result of a little Sunday morning think-ering (hat tip to Brent Pottenger, of the Healthcare Epistemocrat for coining that clever word) — so what we have here is my sketched interpretation of the health/performance continuum:

First of all, I’d like to point out that the general shape of this health-performance curve/continuum is applicable across the human genome, however, it can still be “bent” on an  individual level, and “stretched” in an applicable, n=1 fashion.  The gist of the idea is, though, that health and performance track quite nicely up to a certain point (point A), at which time further increases in performance — let’s call it “sporting proficiency” at this level — do nothing to make an individual any healthier.  We might say that competitive athletics (or competitive bodybuilding) begins at or near point B — that point at which an individual is willing to forgo a certain degree  of overall health in the pursuit of bettered sporting performance.  Point C inhabits the land where the real juggle begins, and where the bulk of Strength and Conditioning work is practiced.   At this point, the athlete’s health is just another parameter (among a myriad of parameters) that must be tweaked and dialed so as to keep said athlete’s performance red-lined.  Just as in a finely tuned Ferrari though, if a single component wears and fails (as it inevitably will), the whole entity flies apart at the seams.   Performances here tend to swing between moments of absolute and stunning beauty, or gruesome spectacles of crash-and-burn grodiness.  The significance of this area is that health most definitely takes a backseat to performance — it can be no other way.  I won’t deny that the living here is exhilarating (even as it is thoroughly exhausting), but for most — whether by bad luck or genetic weak-link — the ride just doesn’t last long.  The consequences, however, can last a lifetime.

The other major point of significance here is that while 95% of Strength & Conditioning brain-power and know-how is directed unabashedly toward that heady land of peak performance in the C-zone, the vast majority of American citizenry is floundering helplessly somewhere beneath the “point zero” bottom left on this graph.  My contention is that is takes very little in the way of proper training and dietary intervention to move the general populace into that zone between “point zero” and point A.  In fact, we at Efficient Exercise proved this could be done via our recent Project Transformation.  And know this: moving the populace into that “pay-off aisle” will result in the end the of American healthcare crisis as we know it today.  Yeah, Washington, it is that friggin’ easy.

Of course “easy” and “financially beneficial” mean different things to different folks.  I’ll just leave that part of the discussion for another day, though.

Now I’m a little biased here, but I do believe that this health-performance curve ought to be taught at an elementary level, right along with the idea of personal responsibility, basic civics, and the Pledge of Allegiance.  Eat right.  Engage in a little properly programmed exercise each week.  Be a boon to society instead of a drag.  Wanna take a walk on the sporting wild side?  Sure, go for it — just know that there are going to be some trade-offs where your health is concerned, so tread carefully.  What could be more basic, or more easily taught to an elementary-aged kid?  Of course the devil is in the details.  Give this idea to government, and the next thing you know we’re back to dealing with food pyramids, jogging, and Pepsi sponsorships.

But back to the here-and-now: on an individual level, every trainee ought to begin goal setting (or reassessment) by identifying where they want to fall on this graph.  Me?  I push the B-point envelope for the most part, sometimes taking the plunge, for brief periods, into C-land.  I’m a little older (and debatably wiser?) now, so camp-out, I don’t, in the land of C.  Been there, done that, and got a few traumatized body parts as mementos of the fun 🙂  Brief forays, though?  Yeah, I just can’t help my stupid self sometimes.  And so it goes…

In follow-on posts I’ll discuss how I see time investment and protocol selection fitting into this overall picture.  As you might guess, teasing-out increases in upper-end performance requires an inordinate time investment relative to that required to bring one from 0 to 80% of potential peak.  Wanna push the performance envelope?  The first thing you have to ask yourself is this: are you willing to devote the exponential increase in time and effort required to eek-out those final few percentile points?  The next question is, are you willing to play fast and loose with your health?  I’m not here to judge, and I certainly appreciate the focus, dedication, and balls-out intensity of the competitive athlete.  I just think that potential C-land dwellers ought to go in with eyes wide open.

In health,

Keith

What to Eat Prior to a Workout

The Red Wheelbarrow, William Carlos Williams

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

So I’m hit with the “what do I eat prior to working out” question frequently in my training practice, and I think my clients are a bit taken back by the complexity required in answering such a question.  So much, though depends upon what the diet is like to begin with; what’s the initial-conditions hormonal/enzymatic environment?  That I can fast for an extended period of time prior to a workout, suffer no blood sugar drop during the workout, and workout with the added benefit of not being encumbered by a bloated/heavy stomach payload is all predicated upon my having followed a Paleo diet for quite some time now.  I am, to put it succinctly, a fat-burner and not at the mercy of ingested carbohydrates as an immediate go-to fuel.  Do not attempt the fasted workout if you’re still a sugar burner — you will crash and burn, especially when face-to-face with one of my patented HIIT throw-downs.  No judgements here, just the facts of the matter.  If you’re still a sugar-burner, please do eat a little something prior to seeing me.  I’m not so egotistical as to consider that far-away look in your eyes as being the result of your absolute gaga-ness over my programming mastery — it is, however, signalling me that I need to prepare to scrape you off the studio floor here in just a few minutes 😉

~

Why raw dairy?  Why any dairy, for that matter?

A good buddy of mine, Bryan Barksdale, a pillar and founding member of the uber-fast-growing Austin Primal/Paleo/Ancestral Fitness community, asked me at a recent community Meet-Up, if I could quantify — and thereby justify/legitimize — my rather copious consumption of dairy; dairy not being, of course, “Paleo” by standard convention.  Good question.  And my answer, devoid, as it was, of any scientific underpinnings whatsoever (like many of my answers to questions pertaining to Physical Culture in general, and diet and training specifically) I’m sure sounded a bit New-Agey…”woo-woo”, as it were.  Hey, blame it on that evening’s super moon having hyper-sensitized my personal conviction for placing self-knowledge on at least an equal footing as that of scientific knowledge and in seeking “full truth” by way of emotional, spiritual — as well as Scientific — directions 🙂

Ok, so super moon or not, what’s my take on the whole (pardon the pun) dairy issue?  Well, again, it boils down to an n=1 assessment, evaluation and a resultant determination, of enhanced well-being.  More to the point, I relayed to Bryan how the inclusion of raw dairy (specifically here, locally produced, raw & unpasteurized heavy cream and whole milk) seems to significantly improve my workout recovery.  This means that I can train harder, and more often.  Also, I can just “feel” an enhanced well-being with raw dairy included in my diet.  Again, I know this sounds “woo-woo”, and in a “show me the science” day and age, not a very, er….shall we say, “ringing endorsement”.  Such as it is, though, those are my thoughts on the matter.  So it comes down to this: do I wait for hard science to justify what it is that I “know” to be true — at least for myself — already?  Do I need science to do this for me?  And will science ever do this for me?  In my mind, this is akin to waiting for science to acknowledge the legitimacy of my training methods before employing those methods.  And again, I stress that I am absolutely not a scientific Luddite — it’s just that science — and exercise science specifically — is way behind the n=1 curve here, and is currently playing catch-up to many, many years of trail-and-error, n=1 experimentation.  I choose not to turn a blind eye to that solid, empirical knowledge, simply because it was not lab/university produced.  In fact, one of the major downfalls to exercise science is that fact that the test subjects, by and large, aren’t drawn from the black-iron-and-chalk-dust dungeons — the very place where so much quality n=1 empirical “science” has been honed/refined over the years.  Know this: I am, if nothing else, an equal opportunity whore when it comes to matters of ascertaining what works — show me the proven results, that’s what ultimately matters to me.  Whether that comes from the lab/university environment or from the black-iron lab, to me, matters not.

~

On the workout front –

Tuesday, 3/15/11
Negative-only work with Skyler Tanner, with an emphasis on the XCCentric leverage equipment; check it out:


Thursday, 3/17/11 –

(A1) neg only flat press, XC bench: +140/7, 6, 6 (60×0 tempo)
(A2) blast strap flyes, feet elevated: BW/12, 12, 12
(A3) inverted L pull-ups: BW/10, 10, 6

Friday, 3/18/11 –

(A1) seated DB lateral raise: 25/15, 15, 15
(A2) front raise: 45lb plate/12, 12, 12

(A3) band pull-a parts: red/12, 12, 10

(B1) cable tri extension, lunge position: 125/15, 140/15
(B2) XC dual handle bi curl: (+20)/12, 12

Sunday, 3/20/11 –

Field sprints!   And other bodyweight, playground fun.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In health,

Keith

 


What They Want vs What They Need

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

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

– Fr. Richard Rohr

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

Things that make ya go hmmmmm….

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

~

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

~

Hmmm, does the following sound familiar or what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

Keith,

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

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

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

My Story (summary)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dietary Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fitness and Exercise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seated Bench – 230   1X6

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

Rows – 290 1X8

Over head military- 160 1X6

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

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

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

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

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

General Health

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

Health and Paleo Successes

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

Objectives

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

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

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

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

Jeff

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

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

Hey Keith,

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

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

Thanks and keep up the great work!!

Regards,

Art M

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

~

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

~

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

Friday, 2/18/11

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

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

~

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

In health,

Keith

Physical Culture as an Entrepreneurship?

“Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable.”

– Voltaire

Physical Culture as an Entrepreneurship?  Yes, you bet.  Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be all about making money, though that is the commonly accepted meaning of the term.  I rather like to think of it as guiding an emerging idea into being, irrespective of profit margin.  Check out this take on the Entrepreneurial mindset.

And take a look at the list of presenters scheduled for this summer’s Ancestral Health Symposium in Los Angeles; that, my friends, is a distinguished who’s who of Physical Culture’s current entrepreneurial luminaries.  And of the event’s masterminds, Brent Pottenger, and Aaron Blaisdale?  Think of them as the Bill Gates’ of the Ancestral Health movement; entrepreneurs extraordinaire.

You can check-out a great interview with Brent and Aaron about the Symposium on the Whole9 blog.

~

No dogma, only results.  One of the best training articles I’ve read recently comes from the crowd over at Elite Fitness. Titled Methods of Muscle (by Rick Danison), this article discusses the positive benefits of the integration of various tools and methods.  Listen, folks, there are no bad tools, and there are no bad methods —  poorly thought-out combinations of these, to be sure — but the underlying tools and methods in and of themselves simply “are”.  Would anyone think to tell a chef that basil is “bad”, or that braising is a deficient method, without first qualifying that statement?  Yet we do, in essence, the very same thing in the S&C community when we dogmatize (is that a word??  Well, it is now…) any one training method/modality at the expense of another.

Again, I had another week stock-full of extreme high-intensity “mini” workouts, utilizing a full spectrum of methods and modalities.  I seem to thrive on this type of workout scheme — but is it necessarily an Evolutionary/Ancestral Fitness approach?  Well, maybe.  Just as there was a wide range in the macronutrient content of various HG populations (based, in most part, on their relative proximity to the equator), so too, I believe, there must have been wide variance in HG energy expenditure profiles; amplitude and frequency of intensity bursts must have varied wildly.  The mainstream currently has a puppy-love thing going on with the “human as an endurance athlete” template.  And, indeed, many exhibit this phenotype today in a very natural and healthy way.  More power to ’em.  These mainstream “endurance apologists”, though, seem to ignore the vast array of purely power-leaning phenotypical examples on display all around them.  Have they never observed the sprint/throws portion of the Olympic games?  Gymnastics?  Rugby or American football?  Certain human genetic lines were obviously wired for power expression as well, but for some reason we’re lead to believe that we modern humans all stem from a persistence-hunting only “Adam and Eve”.  Now maybe I don’t have current science on my side, but I do believe it is a serious mistake to use “current science” to blinker one’s self against simple observation.

Chris Johnson as a persistence hunter??  Yeah, Okay…


Ideally, science and observation/accumulated wisdom should work in unison; too many times, though, these camps are at odds.  A mighty fine edge can be put on the blade of accumulated wisdom by using current and applicable science as a sharpening stone (Tabata-like protocols, anyone?).   But science — or more precisely, those who argue from a scientific point of view, and to the exclusion of “accumulated wisdom” — would do well to acknowledge that science, at least in the realm of Physical Culture (and exercise science in particular), hits up against some serious, serious limitations.  For example, the single-set-to-failure crowd would have me to believe that the Bill Pearl types of this world are…an aberration?  Or that Bill Pearl would have been the same “Bill Pearl” if he’d trained under the one-set-to-failure tenants.  Becoming mired in a premise while ignoring real-world results is no place to be, and this argument simply does not hold-up to my 30+ years of observation; that I have no published “science” to back my claim does not (and should not) blind me to my observations and accumulated wisdom.  Of course it does make me question, and relentlessly so, the “whys” and “hows” — but it certainly does not make me deny “what is”.  The Zen masters put it this way: do not plunder the Mystery with concepts.  That something works by way of some scientifically-yet-to-be-determined mechanism does not obviate the fact that it does, in fact, work.  The best that science can do at that point is to “hone the blade”.  No doubt a welcome and anticipated service, but no reason for me not to employ the particular tool in question now.  We’ve gone from the strop and straight blade to the quad-blade razor cartridge, and at no point has the ol’ straight blade in an experienced hand been made obsolete.  Something tells me the ol’ repetition method, properly applied, is here to stay.

Let’s look at some workouts –

Sunday, 2/6/11 –

The six-minute-and-15-second leg dust-up:

Mark Alexander, president of Efficient Exercise, called this the 19th, 20th, and 21st-century workout.  And it truly was, as I utilized CZT technology, Nautilus know-how, and plain ol’ low-tech, grunt-it-out, farmers walks.   Brief, brutal and basic?  Hell yeah.  And we’re beginning to phase-in a few of our Project Transformation participants to this type of more integrated approach as well.  This is the beauty of n=1 integration; finding the right mix for each individual, letting the story reveal itself as each participant travels down his own Physical Culture path.  For some, a CZT-based workout is all they’ll ever need and indeed, want — for others, the CZT is just another (though fantastic!) tool in the Physical Culture toolbox.

Monday, 2/7/11 –

Dynamic trap bar deadlifts – (red and purple bands): 335 x 3 x 10 sets; 15-secs between “sets”

Tuesday, 2/8/11 –

Bodyweight dips: 200 total, in every conceivable rep scheme you can imagine.  The only constant here was the drive to spend as little time on the ground as possible between “sets”.

Thursday, 2/10/11 –

Max Effort bent-over row (Oly bar): 135 x 7; 225 x 6; 275 x 3; 295 x 3; 315 x 2; 325 x 2; 335 x 2; 345 x 1; 355 x 1; 360 x 1; 365 x 1

Followed, approximately 4 hours later by –

(A1) straight bar bicep curl: 95 x 12

(A2) EZ bar triceps extension: 105 x 12

four rounds, very little rest between sets.

Friday, 2/11/11 –

(A1) power cleans: 165 x 5; 190 x 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2 (emphasis speed, crisp form)

(A2) blast strap planks & pikes: 15 each round

Saturday, 2/12/11

(A1) cable “lean-in” bicep curls: 155 x 12, 7; 170 x 4+  (hierarchical)

(B1) cable incline flye: 155 x 13; 170 x 7; 175 x 3+ (hierarchical)

(B2) CZT-Vertical chest press: 5 hyper-reps

In health,

Keith

Amalgamation; The Workout as a Non-Dogmatic Experience

“In this age of specialization men who thoroughly know one field are often incompetent to discuss another. The great problems of the relations between one and another aspect of human activity have for this reason been discussed less and less in public…”

Richard Feynman

Specialization, though extremely important, inevitably leads, however (unless the specialist remains ever vigilant), to blinkered thought patterns.  We need erudite generalists to connect the dots, to see the inherent co-relations between what look to be, at ground level, completely disparate entities.  Only from the generalist’s 30-thousand foot view can the Venn-like associations be found. Check out the following, from big think: A Universal Cure for Cancer?

~

Amalgamate:

  1. To merge, to combine, to blend, to join.
  2. To make an alloy of a metal and mercury.

I’ve touched on the subject of the problems inherent to the dogmatic approach to Physical Culture many times in the past (most recently, here), but the sentiment bears repeating: no single method, protocol, or modality works for everyone, and no one can continue to make progress continually using the same method, protocol or modality.  Be prepared, my friend, for what has worked brilliantly over the last 6 weeks is, even as this is written, readying to dump your sorry ass without so much as a hastily jotted “Dear John”, or a dry kiss goodbye.  Once the body accommodates to a specific stressor — and it most assuredly will (and with some much faster than with others) — progress will abruptly cease.  This, of course, is the basis which underpins the Conjugate Method — a method many folks mistakenly assume is a powerlifting-only phenomena; wrong answer, my friend.  Yes, Louie Simmons has manipulated this idea and applied it specifically to the field of powerlifting, but the basic underpinnings can be tweaked so as to apply toward any training specificity, or to no specificity at all.  Case in point: I am a fitness generalist who employs the Conjugate Method; now, if I ever decided to specialize in any single event, or train toward a specific sporting goal, I’d simply tweak the parameters (specific exercises, modalities, etc.) of the Conjugate Method to better support those goals.  As Louie Simmons says, There are countless sports and sport-specific pursuits (including, I would add, sporting generalism)  but only three methods of strength training: absolute strength building, hypertrophy work (via the repetition method), and speed-strength training.  And remember this: sport specific technique training is an entirely different animal — even if your sport of choice happens to be Oly or powerlifting itself.

Still a bit fuzzy on what exactly the Conjugate Method is?  Below is an excerpt from a Dave Tate-written, IB Area 51 piece, Debunking the Myths, in which Dave gives a very truncated summary of the Conjugate Method as practiced by the athletes at Westside Barbell:

…The methods we use are explained in many books on training including “Super training” (Siff and Verkhoshansky), “Science and Practice of Strength Training” (Zatsiorsky) and many other textbooks and manuals from the former soviet union. The problem in the country is that people are reading the wrong information. For review, the major methods we use are:

1. The Maximal Effort Method: This method is defined as lifting maximal and supra maximal weights for one to three reps and is considered superior for the increase in both intramuscularly and intermuscular coordination. This is because the central nervous system will only adapt to the load placed upon them. It has also been proven that weights over 90% elicit the greatest gain in strength but will quickly lead to over training state within one to three weeks with the same movement. The is because of the great demand placed on the neuromuscular system with this type of training.

We devote two day of the week for this type of training. One for the Squat and one for the bench press. This schedual is followed all year long. The reason we do not have problems with overtraining with 90% plus weights is because the movement is switched every one to three weeks. The movements we choice are called “special exercises” and are designed for maximum strengh output both the squat and dead lift.

2. The Repetition Method: This method can be defined as lifting a non-maximal weight to failure; it is during this fatigue state when the muscles develop the maximal possible force. Because of this it is only the final lifts that are important because of the fatigue state. This type of training has a greater influence on muscle metabolism and hypertrophy when compare to the other methods.

We use this method in a conjugant “coupling fashion” intermixed in with the other training days. Any supplemental or accessory movement using this method must be changed after three to six workouts using the exercise. This is to avoid the over training state as described above.

3. The Dynamic Effort Method: This method of training involves lifting non maximal weight with the greatest possible speed. This method of training is not used for the development of maximal strength but only to improve the rate of force development and explosive strength. Angel Sassov during his trip to the USA mentioned weights 50 to 70% are best for developing explosive power.

We devote two days a week to this type of training for the bench press and one for the box squat.

All these methods are coupled together “conjugated periodisation” This type of periodisation is different then the western method that is very over practiced in the United States today. As many of you remember the western method consists of a Hypertrophy Phase, Basic Strength Phase. Power Phase, Peak Phase and a Transitional Phase. These phases are all independent of each other meaning that you first complete the Hypertrophy Phase then move on to the Strength Phase and so on. This is the type of periodiastion we do not practice or believe in. We have found it better to maintain all the strength abilities throughout the year. This again is accomplished by the conjugated periodisation method. The other type of periodisation we pratice is cybernetic periodisation. This simply means you have to listen to your body and make adjustment when needed. With the western method if you are programmed to lift 90% for 2 sets of 3 and have a bad day or do not feel well ten you are screwed with no alternative but to miss the workout and try to catch back up the next week or to try the weight and hope for the best. With our style of training on the dynamic method days, bar speed or concentric tempo is what determines the load. If the bar slow down then you reduce the weight. We do use percents as a guide on this day, but he bar speed still is the determining factor. On the max effort days a bad day will only equate to a lower max effort. This really does not matter because it is the straining with maximal loads we are looking for not the actual weight lifted.

 

Now personally, I like to use Autoregulation in conjunction with cybernetic periodization, but that’s really getting down to the splitting of proverbial hairs.

So yes, I utilize all manner of machine, free-weight and bodyweight exercises.  I run sprints and bike sprint as well.  I train at times like a powerlifter, and other times like a track and field thrower and/or sprinter — and yeah, sometimes I even train like a damn (God forbid!!!) bodybuilder (but much to Meesus TTP’s relief, sans the 80s clown pants).   One thing I do not do, however, is combine exercises in a session as if “pulled from a hopper”.  CrossFit does plenty of great things for sure, and is, in my mind, a fantastic overall concept — save for the programming side of things.  Should a well rounded athlete be able to perform well at a series of exercises pulled at random from said hopper?  Most definitely, yes, I think.  That an athlete should train in such a fashion, though, in my mind is just, well…wrong minded.  There is a huge difference between training for an event and training with an event; couple the overall CrossFit concept with smart programming and now you’ve got a winner.

~

And now, on to the workout front…-

Monday, 1/31/11; as brief, brutal and basic as it gets:

Trap bar RDLs: 265 x 10; 355 x 7; 405 x 6; 455 x 4, 3, 3, 3

Lift something very heavy off of the ground — quickly; set it back down under control.  Wash, rinse, repeat…

So, can one get a bad-ass workout in 15 minute’s time?  You bet.  Would I do this all of the time?  Nope; but then again, I don’t follow any protocol or modality “all the time”.  Workouts are indeed like cuisine (see above); variety, within certain limitations (limited to Paleo choices, say) are key.  The anatomy of a 15-minute, quick-HITter workout can be seen in these following four examples:

Tuesday, 2/1/11

(A1) T-bar swings: 125 x 25, 25, 25, 25

(A2) weighted dips: 90 x 5, 5, 5, 5

Wednesday, 2/2/11

(A1) Nautilus pec dec: 95 x 10, 10

(A2) Nautilus rear delt: 95 x 10, 10

*both at a 3010 tempo

(B1) Xccentric flat press: (+50): 5 rest-pause reps w/8-count negatives each rep

(C1) Nautilus pull-over: 255 x 10, 2, 2, 1 (one extended cluster set, 40×0 tempo)

(C2) reverse-grip pull-ups: BW x 5, 3, 3 (one extended cluster set, 40×0 tempo)

Thursday, 2/3/11

Dynamic box squats (high box, thighs parallel): 185 x 7 sets of 3  ~ Speed!

2-hour break, then 225 x 7 sets of 3 ~ again, speed, speed, SPEED!

Straight bar bicep curl: 95 x 12, 105 x 6, 115 x 5, 120 x 4 ~ performed as clustered sets, 15-seconds rest between “sets”.

Friday, 2/4/11

clean (from the floor): 135 x 10; 165 x 5, 185 x 5, then 185 x 8 sets of 2, with the 8 x 2 done as a cluster set; approx 30 seconds rest between “sets”.

~

So, what do Efficient Exercise trainers do when they’re just sittin’ around between clients, chillin’ out, recovering from one of those 15-minute “quick-HITter” workouts detailed above?  See the link below.  Yeah, we’re sick like this  🙂

http://skylertanner.com/2011/02/01/efficient-exercise-the-super-dynamic-hip-bridge/

Seriously though, this is one bad-ass, dynamic hamstring hit.

~

Discipline?  Really?  Meh, let’s call it love.  The positive physiological effects of reframing your reference.  Yeah, “love of” is most definitely a more effective way to approach any aspect of Physical Culture than is “discipline”.  Discipline might get you through the day, my friend, but love will carry you though a lifetime.

http://chall-train-smart.blogspot.com/2011/02/myth-behind-discipline-why-it-doesnt.html

~

An lastly, I would love to see an analysis here of the elite sprinter’s heel bone, especially in relation to that of the distance runners’.  The problem with much of this research is that all manner of “running”, much like “resistance training”, is lumped together under one, catch-all phrase.  This, of course, is utterly absurd in the same way that classifying all of art under a single umbrella is patently useless.   Help!  Is there a generalist in the house? 😉

An interesting story, though, nonetheless:

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/02/neanderthals-humans-running

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

Bodybuilding, Health and Athletic Development

Three diverse pursuits emanating from a single, overriding endeavor — weight training.  I began dabbling with a Venn diagram to illustrate the association (or, rather, lack thereof) between the above-mentioned individual pursuits themselves, and quickly gave that up; the association being more along the lines of the interaction of blobs within a lava lamp (showing my age here) as opposed to any Venn diagram can accurately portray.

It seems to me that what is lost on most people — even those who are relatively well-steeped in the S&C/iron game — is the fact that weight training (writ large) must be considered the toolbox fabrication shop within which the various tools, techniques, methods and modalities are housed and, indeed, expressed.  The basic tools and techniques of metalsmithing, for example, apply both to the welding of I-beams, and to the creation of fine art; the same mindset, I think, should apply to the art of “phenotypesmithing”.

If your goal is to become a better athlete, it makes little sense to train as if you were (or wanted to be) a bodybuilder.  High-rep/high volume protocols will indeed increase muscular hypertrophy via increased cellular sarcoplasmic fluid volume; a phenomena that, although kinda cool, has little (if any) correlation to betterment of the strength/power-to-bodyweight ratio that athletes ought to be concerned with.  Enter the “look like Tarzan, play like Jane” conundrum.

I don’t want anyone to think that I’m down on bodybuilding and/or body-comp pursuits in general — to each his own, I say (in true libertarian fashion) — I just want folks to realize that goals and methods need to be smartly co-joined.   This is not to say, however, that I can’t cross lines and borrow from the bodybuilder in order to enhance (in a round-about way) my athleticism.  This, my friends, is what a smartly-designed, n=1 programming entails.  With an open mind, absorb what is useful, and with no attachment, let go of what is not.  Be a lava lamp; a lava lamp, though, with n=1 direction and discretion.

OK, so I managed 3 back-to-back lifting sessions over the course of last week; again, not ideal — but, hey, that’s life.  Of course, no single session was quite like the others, so I can, to some extent, mitigate any overtraining issues.  One thing I have dearly missed as of late are my sprinting sessions, and I hope to reintegrate those as soon as my life normalizes out of this transition period (moving cross-country; new house, new gig, etc.).

Monday (Rosedale studio) – a superset of btn jerks (with a slow, controlled negative return to the rack position) and bodyweight pull-ups.  This was attacked as a short and intense metcon burst; very little rest between sets and/or movements.  Rest-pause as necessary on the pull-ups in the later rounds.

btn jerks (left leg lead x reps, then right leg lead x reps): 135 x 5; 185 x 5; 195 x 3, 3

pull-ups: bw x 15 each round

Tuesday (Rosedale studio) – similar idea, a different movement pairing.

power clean: 135 x 5; 155 x 5; 175 x 5, 5, 5

dips: bw x 25 each round

Wednesday (Downtown studio) – with an anticipated 4-day break looming on the horizon, I dived headlong into this one.  Nice contrast, here, with the metcon-dash style of the previous two sessions.

MedX lumbar extension: 300 x 12, 12 (5010 tempo)

tru squat (extended set, rest-pause method): 135 lbs, 0lb counter – 10, 5, 3, 3 (40×0 tempo)

leg press: 420 x 17 (40×0 tempo)

then, a superset of the following two exercises (partial movements following full-range failure on all), each at a 4010 tempo (40×0 on partials):

(A1) Nautilus pec dec: 110 x 10, 7, 7

(A2) Nautilus reverse flye: 110 x 12, 8, 7

Xccentric flat press (no external load, no counter): 12, 11 (70×0 tempo)

Nautilus pullover (extended set, rest-pause method): 255 x 10, 3, 2 (5010 tempo)

Admin note: I will be posting additional workouts — some client examples, some of my own — over at the Efficient Exercise blog.   In doing this, I hope to illuminate the vast array of n=1 approaches taken toward achieving the common goal of  improved “fitness” and bettered health.  Also, I’ll be dissecting some Paleo meals on the Efficient Exercise site and, as the vast majority of Meesus TTP’s and my food is locally (Austin/central Texas) sourced, it only makes sense to cover them in a more localized forum.  Even if you’re nowhere near the “epicenter of Physical Culture”, though, drop on by and check out both the workouts and the good, Paleo grub.

And on a final note – wow, how times have changed.  Now, I’m all for the NFL’s Play 60 initiative, but damn!  When I was a kid (again, showing my age, I suppose)  our neighborhood’s moms fretted aloud as to what to do to get the kids to back the hell off for 60 minutes; 60 minutes of relief from bloodied noses (and other minor, blood producing emergencies), mischief, and all-around neighborhood-wrecking mayhem.  Oh well, times do change.

In health,

Keith