Pushing Physiological Limits vs Attaining (and Maintaining) Health

Pushing physiological limits, and the study thereof, is indeed an exciting aspect of exercise science.  And, as ABC’s Hungry Beast points out, “…few of us have any idea about what it takes to produce a world-beating result… “.  To that end, check  out this fascinating clip, wherein Kirk Docker deconstructs the machine that is Shane Perkins, Australia’s fastest track cyclist.

Fascinating, yes — but of what relevance does this have to the pursuit of attaining and maintaining optimum health?  Well, the same relevance, I think, that the NASA programs ultimately had on trickle-down technologies (think Teflon) used in everyday life.  What we can glean from studying these superhuman performances can indeed be used — if modified correctly — in the training of mere mortals looking for enhanced quality of life.

If we consider, once more, my health-performance curve, it’s not difficult to ascertain exactly where on the curve that Shane resides; decidedly (and unapologetically so), in the land of C.

And more power to him; he’s exciting as hell to watch and to study.  But to the extent that the general population — those who ought to be concerned with easily-achievable, overall health and well-being — continues to equate “health” with the exploits of the Shane Perkinses of the world, only exacerbates their reluctance to engage in any fitness program whatsoever.  Why do anything, when I sure as hell can’t do that?  Part of conquering the American (and increasingly so, world-wide) health crisis will be the wholesale paradigm shift away from equating “health” to superhuman athletic performance, and the athletes who produce those performances.

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An Autoregulation example

I’ve fielded quite a few questions as of late regarding the real-life execution of Autoregulation, and I figured that filming an actual utilization episode might help to clear things up.  As I state in the clip, the Autoregulation template can only be considered just that — a basic recipe, and no more.  Watch an expert chef, like Meesus TTP, create an actual gourmet meal by using a recipe as little more than a rough guideline and you’ll know what I’m getting at.  Some things you can only learn from time in the kitchen — or time under the bar.  It has to be — pardon the cliche — a process.

The Autoregulation weight selection template for the 5 to 7 rep range is simple enough:

1. 50% of expected 6-rep max for 10 -12 reps

2. 75% of expected 6-rep max for 6 reps

3. expected 6-rep max for maximum repetitions

4. adjusted load (according to the performance of set #3, with a target of 6 reps), again, for maximum repetitions.

Of course, we have a preliminary warm-up (and/or “feel-out” sets) for most exercises prior to diving into the 50% set.  And most times (as in the example below), my entire workout is built around the Autoregulated exercise.  Sometimes, though, I’ll Autoreg two back-to-back exercises in the same workout.  The beauty of Autoregulation is that it can accommodate this kind of variance quite well; flexibility being the hallmark of this method.  Consider Autoregulation the adjustable wrench in my Physical Culture toolbox.  Come on out to the 21 convention next month in Orlando, and we’ll drill even deeper into this most useful concept.

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The week’s workouts

Sunday, 6/12

Sprints, jumps, tire flips and rope climbs

Monday, 6/13

Hella fixie ride!  HEAT!

Tuesday, 6/14

(A1) trap bar DL (low grip): 155/12, 245/10, 335/6, 425/5, (3+2)

(A2) ARX overhead press: HR/3, 3, 3, 3

(B1) powermax360 shoulder circles x 30 seconds, reverse circles 2nd round x 30 seconds

(B2) seated DB clean & press: 45/10, 10

Wednesday, 6/15

Volume day; 10 sets  of  10

(A1) high bar back squats: 185, 10 sets of 10
(A2) chins: bw, 10 sets of 10

Thursday, 6/16 (see the clip of this workout above)

(A1) dips: bw/12; 45/10; 70/6; 90/6, 6 (autoregulated)

(A2) snatch-grip high pulls: 155/10; 175/7, 7, 7, 7

(B1) ARX dip negatives x 3

*each set of dips was preceded by approximately 7 to 10, CNS activating push-pulls on the Powermax 360.

Saturday, 6/17

Volume/Metcon: approximately 20 minutes of the following:

30 seconds on, 15 seconds recovery of 6 different powermax360 movements, followed by alternating hi-box step-ups with 135 lbs (about 30 total steps).  Wash, rinse, repeat…

Sunday, 6/19

Sprints: 10 x 100 yards (blast 40, cruise 60 format) + 5 x 120 at a straight 75% effort.  Tire flips, jumps, monkey bar hi-jinks and rope climb shenanigans.

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Mark Sisson, author of “The Primal Blueprint”, to visit Efficient Exercise 

If you happen to be in the ATX on Friday, June 24th, at 7PM, c’mon out and join us as we welcome Mark Sisson to the “epicenter of Physical Culture”, and more specifically to Efficient Exercise’s 45th and Burnet Rosedale location, for an informal pot-luck dinner.

Mark, of course, maintains the ever-informative “Mark’s Daily Apple” blog, and is the author of  (among other works), The Primal Blueprint.

The event will be hosted by Austin’s own Primal Living Meet-Up Group, so this is a great opportunity not only to meet one of the guiding stars of the Primal Living movement — Mark Sisson — but to also chat-up the local members of this fascinating group of health-minded individuals.

So bring your favorite Primal/Paleo dish, and come join us for some stimulating conversation and warm camaraderie.   Austin’s own Snap Kitchen will be providing some Primal/Paleo-friendly goodies as well, so don’t miss out!

And hey, all of our peeps over at Crossfit Austin, I want you guys to know that y’all are more than welcome as well.  C’mon out and help spread that good, Austin, Physical Culture vibe!

In health,

Keith

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.

~

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.

~

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.

~

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 😉  –

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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

The Hypertrophy Response — Stimulus or Fuel Dependent?

“We do not rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”
– Archilochus

A spot-on observation of human nature, I think.  Even so, within those of us who think more highly of ourselves, that it should be otherwise.  So much so a true observation, in fact, that I use this quote as my email signature, so that I see it daily.

The following is related to a question I fielded recently from a client, and it’s not unlike the multitude of diet-vs-hypertrophy-related questions I field on a regular basis.  The answer to this particular question, of course — like just about every every question related to Physical Culture — is analigous to attempting to tame the ol’ State Fair favorite, the Zipper.

There are just so many moving variables to this question that it’s impossible to give a pat answer here without really taking the time to stop and dismantle each of these whirly-gig cars.  I think this “problem of complexity” is a big reason why the majority of folks fall for fads and easy-outs (in diet and in training) — getting to the right answers takes due diligence and, in most cases, it means letting go of previously-taken-to-be-iron-clad-correct “knowledge” — not exactly a feel-good position for many.

And, too (and as always), we need to know the goals of the individual asking the question.  And, in this case, we need to define what we even mean by “hypertrophy” — because one person’s “lean mass gain” is another’s “bulk”.  Just as an example, look at the difference in Brad Pitt’s physique between his appearance in Fight Club…


and then in Troy…

No doubt Brad is bulkier in Troy — but what of the difference in lean mass between the two appearances?   Hard to say.  And truth be told, few care.  Even if that bulk were 95% intramuscular fat, most (guys, at least) would be more than happy with that.

Now I’m certainly not here to say that intra-muscular fat deposition (bulk) is necessarily a bad thing — I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to defining lean mass hypertrophy vs. all-encompassing bulk.

But back to my client’s actual question; what he wants to know is this:

what, if any, body recomposition changes occur over time if one engages in sound hypertrophy-focused training BUT were to limit the diet to maintenance-level calories? Let’s also assume we are talking about someone who is more toward the ectomorph side of the body-type continuum.

Oy vey!  Where to begin with this one, huh?  Well, first off let’s assume “maintenance calories” to mean “eating to satiation”, because, in  reality, anything else would simply give credence to the now debunked (at least within normal parameters, i.e., between starvation and wanton gluttony) calories-in/calories-out theory.  So, what we’re talking about here is simply eating a decent, Paleo-ish diet, to satiation, and absolutely not obsessing about such things as, oh… maintaining a positive nitrogen balance, or some other such lunacy — i.e., living a real, non-OCD life outside of the gym.  Now, that said, what I’ve observed during my 30+ years in the iron game is this: given proper stimulus (and favorable genetic/hormonal underpinning), hypertrophy “happens” even in an environment of less-than-adequate nutritional support.

The kicker, of course, being proper stimulus.  To put it another way, busting ass in the gym trumps anything that one does, or does not, shove down the ol’ pie-hole.  I would even go further to say that busting ass trumps the use of fine pharmaceuticals, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Taubes gives a great example in Why We Get Fat (though geared toward fat gain — the same applies here) of a teen going through a growth spurt.  Assuming decent nutritional support (i.e., no starvation), growth is a function of the hormonal environment within the body, not a function of forced intake of excess calories.  In other words, a growing teen eats like he has a friggin’ hollow leg, and/or is (by his parent’s definition), a “lazy”, never-gonna-get-a-job-and-get-out-of-the-frackin’-house bum, *because* he is growing, not so as to *induce* said growth.  Hypertrophy is much the same, though on a lesser (caloric requirement wise) scale.  Think of it this way: stimulus drives the hypertrophy train, nutrition simply supports, to a very limited degree, the effort.  And hey, I’m all for adequate support, but let’s just not forget what the real driver is here.

Now, I do concede a certain credence, if you will, to the other side of the argument (of which, this Dr. Lonnie Lowery/Rob “Fortress” Fortney-penned T-Nation article is the best I’ve come across in a long while) — that is to say, that properly administered overeating will establish a more favorable anabolic environment within the body, and therefore promote (better?  Faster?) hypertrophy gains.  What we’re talking about here, though, is a matter of degree — and, again, the difference between bulk and lean-mass hypertrophy must be vetted.  And, too, we’re speaking again of multiple variables.  I don’t think I’ve ever come across and individual who’s gone headlong into a “mass gain” phase, who didn’t also jack his/her gym intensity into the stratusphere concurrent with devouring everything they could get their hands on.  Did they put on mass/bulk?  You bet they did.  But what really drove the train here, the newly-heightened input stimulus or surplus calories?  I’ll put my money on the stimulus side of things, every time.

Another “eat your way big” argument that has some merit (in my observation, at least), is the “improved lever” argument.  That is to say, increased bulk provides for better about-the-joint lever advantages, which allows one to push heavier weights, which promotes additional hypertrophy.  I also believe there’s some merit to the point-of-origin energy supply argument.  All fine and well.  Until, that is, Johnny Bulk-Up decides that he’s now ready to diet-down to reach his original goal of being lean and muscular.  Rut-Ro…

As the Dalia Lama says, many paths lead to the same destination  🙂

And I won’t even begin to delve into the fool’s errand of even attempting to second-guess the body’s caloric requirements with any measure of accuracy.  Weigh and measure? Meh.  Let us, instead, focus on the things that are, at least somewhat, within our control.  Things like consuming a proper Paleo diet, a diet of a favorable macro-nutrient disposition dependent upon our own (smartly conducted) n=1 determination.  Things like busting ass in the gym in an intelligently programmed way (which includes being mindful of spinning into the overtraining pit).  Things like eating when you’re truly hungry, getting adequate ZZzzzzz’s, ditching chronic stress where possible — and not stressing about the chronic stresses that you can’t avoid.

Whew!

So does proper diet matter in the hunt for hypertrophy?  Sure it does.  It just pales in comparison, though, to those gut-wrenching gym sessions.  Look at it this way: if eating one’s way big had merit, Arnold’s physique would be the norm.  My take is that time spent obsessing over caloric intake would be much better spent learning meditative/awareness practices that allow one to push past the mind’s “shutdown” threshold.  Become a student of focus, intensity and self awareness, and let the body mind it’s own caloric needs.  It does so brilliantly, thank you very much — and much better than you (your mind, ego) could ever hope to, so long as you provide it access to the proper raw staples.

So there you have it.  Is your goal to attain (in accordance with your genetic limitations) 70s Big status, or the raw, lean and muscular look?  The truth of the matter is, my friend, that you can’t have it both ways.

~

A muse for Physical Culture?

My good friend, and uber-talented artist, Jeanne Hospod, has an interesting project going on here:

Let’s just say she’s doin’ the best she can with the block-head muse she has to work with 🙂  Seriously, though, Jeanne is an exceptional Austin-area artist — and a kind, kind soul to boot.  Check out her work; you’ll be glad you did.  Very cool stuff indeed.  And the process is simply amazing.  I had no idea of the complexity…

~

Want to begin your PhD in Physical Culture?  Start with this lecture from my good friend Ken O’Neill.  Brilliant insights from an erudite champion of Physical Culture.  Pull up a chair, put on a pot of Joe, and dive deep into the very essence of the “new” Physical Culture movement.  Well done, Ken.

~

Workouts for the last couple of weeks.  Now you may have noticed that my blogging has been a bit sporadic since my move here to Austin.  And it’s for good reason — I’m busy as all hell!  Seriously, though, many of the “quick hit” topics I generally now cover over at the Efficient Exercise Facebook page.  Topics I choose to flesh-out a bit more will find their way here.  And so it goes.  Anyway, so friend us up over at our Facebook page, where Skyler, Mark Alexander and I go “around the horn” with many current health, fitness, and all-encompassing topics related to our favorite subject — Physical Culture.

Sunday, 4/3/11

OK, so a couple of short clips are worth a thousand words 🙂  A little 21st century technology paired with a smattering of old school favorites add up to a total upper-body thrashing.  Sweet!

Tuesday, 4/5/11

(A1) CZT/ARX Leg press: 3, 3, 3, 3

(A2) trap bar DL: (black bands, speed emphasis) – 155/5, 245/5, 5; 295/3

Wednesday, 4/6/11

(A1) Nautilus pec dec: 110/12, 12 (working the later reps…partials, rest-pause, etc.)

(A2) XC incline press: (-90, mid 25)/7, 6 rest-pause

(A3) Nautilus pull-over: stack/13, 12+(3, 2 rest pause)

Thursday, 4/7/11

(A1) power snatch (close grip): 115/5, 5, 5, 135/4

(A2) hanging L-raise: 15, 15, 15, 15

(B1) hip press: (setting @ H2), 200lbs+ 1 grey and 1 black band, 8 sets of 3

Saturday, 4/9/11

(A1) trap bar DL (low grip): 265/7, 355/7, 405/5, 5

(A2) chins: 45/7, 55/5, 5, 4+

(A3) dips: 45/7, 70/5, 6, 7

Here’s a look at how the final round went down…

…dude!  What happened to your hair??  Yeah, so I went all Duke Nukem.  Summers are friggin’ hot here in the ATX, gimme a break.  And I’m down with the minimalist upkeep.  Metro-sexual man I am not 🙂  Gimme chalk on my hands, a fixed-speed bike, and a doo I don’t have to f&%# with, thank you very much!

Sunday, 4/10/11

Sprints!  And climbing ropes, parallel bars, a 40-rung, super-wide set of monkey bars, a scaling wall and a waist to chest-high retaining wall for jumps.  Big, big fun!

Tuesday, 4/12/11

2 rounds of the following:
(A1) hip press (H2 setting): 400/12, 500/6, 600/3 (hierarchical sets)
(A2) standing roll-outs: 15

Wednesday, 4/13/11

2 rounds of the following:
 (A1) Naut pec dec: 95/12, 105/6, 115/3 (hierarchical sets)
(A2) XC flat press: (+50) 4, 3+ ( 80X0 tempo; X=fast as possible)

Thursday, 4/14/11

(A1) front squats: 135/7, 185/5, 205/5, 225/3, 245/2, 2, 2, 2

(A2) Power cleans (high catch): 135/8, 155/6, 175/3, 3, 3

Friday, 4/15/11

(A1) BTN push-press: 135/7, 155/7, 175/5, 195/3, 3, 2, 2, 2

And by the way, a big shout-out to Kris, who sent me the most killer “Manimal” T’s — hit me with an email, brother — I’ve lost your addy!

In health,

Keith

Efficient Exercise’s Project Transformation — the Preliminary Results

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

Well, let’s just see about that.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

~

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

Tuesday, 3/29/11

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, 3/30/11

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

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

 

Thursday, 3/31/11

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, 4/1/11

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

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

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

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

In health,

Keith

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.

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In health,

Keith

 


Mind, Body, Spirit

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

~ B.K.S. Iyengar, Astadala Yogamala

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

~ Rumi

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

Physical Culture as analogous to the culinary arts –

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

simple ingredients, simple food, high taste

~

On to the workout front –

Sunday, 3/6/11

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

Climbing ropes in the background. Oh, yeah….

Monday, 3/7/11

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

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

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

Tuesday, 3/8/11

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

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

Thursday, 3/10/11

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

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

Friday, 3/11/11 –

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

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

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

~

And finally –

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

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

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

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

In health,

Keith

The Great Divide, and Physical Culture as Alchemy

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

From Alchemists, ancient and modern,

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

Emphasis mine.

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

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

~

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

~

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

Monday, 2/21/11 –

A Joe Defranco-inspired shoulder routine:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tuesday, 2/22/11 –

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

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

…..then, later in the day

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

….and then a little later in the same day

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

Wednesday, 2/23/11-

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 2/24/11 –

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

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

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

 

In health –

Keith

What They Want vs What They Need

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

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

– Fr. Richard Rohr

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

Things that make ya go hmmmmm….

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

~

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

~

Hmmm, does the following sound familiar or what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

Keith,

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

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

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

My Story (summary)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dietary Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fitness and Exercise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seated Bench – 230   1X6

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

Rows – 290 1X8

Over head military- 160 1X6

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

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

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

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

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

General Health

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

Health and Paleo Successes

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

Objectives

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

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

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

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

Jeff

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

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

Hey Keith,

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

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

Thanks and keep up the great work!!

Regards,

Art M

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

~

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

~

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

Friday, 2/18/11

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

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

~

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

In health,

Keith