Bowflex Killer?

“Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination.”  – Bertrand Russell 

Yeah, the “Bowflex Killer” — that’s what Anthony Johnson, architect and founder of the 21 Convention, has dubbed the ARX Fit Omni.

The Omni is the “home” version of the industrial units we use as part of our overall training package at Efficient Exercise.  We don’t claim this technology to be the only way (though it certainly can be, for those who are time-crunched), but rather a unique addition to an overall and inclusive exercise methodology.

I won’t drone on, as that’s what this clip is for.  So here’s your’s truly dishin’ on the goods at this year’s 21 Convention in Orlando, Florida.  Enjoy!

Adaptive Resistance eXercise — it’s not the only way, but it sure is one hellova way.

In health,



No Definition…

How would one “program” the following workout into a trainee’s overall regimen?  What the hell would you call such a thing?  Other than, “insane”, I suppose.

Touche 🙂

Here was the evenings happenings:

– a three-mile fixie huck, chock-full of starts, stops and sprints.

– a stop at Epoc Coffee, for a redeye and a wade through email purgatory

– on the road again; 6 miles of starts, stops, sprints.  Final destination, Efficient Exercise’s downtown location.

– A mish-mash of Nautilus Pec Dec, Nautilus Pullover, and bodyweight dip work.  All zone/JRep training. Completely by “feel”; no loads recorded, no past journal entries consulted and no journal entry made.  No real rhyme or reason to what zones I hit in each exercise other than what instinct dictated.  All zones were taken to failure, and I pulled the plug when I’d “had enough”.  Rep tempos varied; sometimes I repeated the same zone, other times not.  Why?  Because it felt right.

– a 6-ish mile mad dash down the Juggernaut that is the ATX’s Guadalupe street at 5 PM.

This is what it is to flow, with no regard for definition.

In health,


Say, That’s a Nice Lookin’ Tail…

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

First, a little prospective…

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

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

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

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

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

Toein' the line, MovNat style

Of fractals and power laws

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

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

Basic power law curve

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

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

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

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

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

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

In health,



Death by Soundbite; Rebirth via Deep Immersion

Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.


Soundbites: high fructose corn sugar for the intellect?

I see it as a disease of consequence affecting (infecting?) any and all genres of serious study; the consequence, of course, of living in a “soundbite culture”.   Lack of time (due to playing the winner-take-all game of capitalism — subject for another time) certainly does not help the situation of course, but there is undoubtedly a societal undercurrent that values “first to report” and chippy one-liners over-and-above serious, open-ended, discourse.  Compare and contrast CNN vs the Lehrer Report, for example.  And the truth of the matter is, most folks want, even if blessed with the time for more serious studyregurtitable, definitive answers — not “it depends”, or “from what we currently now know” open-endedness — even if that “answer” is completely devoid of dependable basis.  Our’s is a society that values winning (in this case an argument) over and above a common quest for truth.  (See Rebecca Costa’s fine book, The Watchman’s Rattle for an in-depth discussion of this idea).  Just look to the current state of our government’s ineptitude to see that decisiveness and pig-headed steadfastness (devoid, even, of any modicum of truthful underpinning) trumps intellectually driven indecisiveness or — God-forbid — self questioning.  For sure, some situations call for absolute decisiveness devoid the luxury of due-diligence.  Those particular situations are fight-or-flight survival reactions.  Big, big difference.  Being a sucessful, optimum-phenotype-chasing human of the 21st century, though, requires one to know the diffence, and act accordingly.  As Ken O’Neill has pointed out in this fine post (and as posited by Dr. Jonas Salk):

…meta-biological evolution marks a turning point in the human adventure, one in which the ante is survival of the wisest. In Salk’s vision, we become for the first time active agents in the future direction of our evolution by use of our under-developed embodied brain…

Unfortunately, very few subjects can be pretty-paper and-pretty-ribbons-of-blue (hat tip; Willie Nelson) wrapped like this; meaty subjects, of course, require intellectual rigor, nimble-mindedness, and the courage to juggle oftentimes opposing evidence without loosing one’s proverbial marbles, or worse yet, falling victim to paralysis by analysis.  I’ve explored this prior, for example is this post, where I wrote:

…Asking a badly articulated/constructed question is worse than asking no question at all; the problem is that the person to whom the question is directed will feel an obligation to offer-up an answer, ham-strung as it may be.  Construct a question that legitimates a sound-bite answer and you’ll get exactly that (Poli-Sci/Stats 101)…

So it’s not only that we, as a society are continually shoveled this crap, it’s that we actually clamor for it as well.  How many people will choose to “educate” themselves via  this route, as opposed ever to diving headlong into the work of Wolf, Cordain, Minger, Kresser… well, you get the idea.

And just like HFCS, even though we might not actually guzzle-down the stuff personally, we still feel the repercussions of the societal ingestion of this mind poison.  My health insurance premiums suck, and I find it difficult to have a fulfilling intellectual discussion with just any “average” Joe (much less a blinkered “intellectual).  Does this make me an “elitist”?  Please.  I’m a product of Texas public schooling and more than likely would never have gone straight to college out of high school were it not for athletic scholarship money.  My “silver platter”, as it were, was a rusty, cement-caked shovel.  I guess my point is, I don’t suffer willful ignorance (or willful self-delusion) very well.  I have no desire at all in winning any discussion; my only desire in entering into such rests solely in the search for an underlying truth of the subject at hand.  Even if I am considered the “subject matter expert” in the room, I see any discussion as an opportunity to find holes in my own notions.  Self-serving?  Yeah, I suppose it could be taken that way.  Not, though, if I endeavor to give back what I learn — paying it forward, so to speak.

Preconceived biases?  Sure looks that way

Does a diet high in fruits and vegetables put the kibosh on heart disease?  Even among those who are genetically pre-disposed to the malady?  Could very well be, according to this study (with further treatment and explanation/discussion in this episode of NPR’s most awesome Science Friday).  However (and in keeping with the “soundbite” theme from above), this study really generates more questions than it answers.  Now this isn’t a slam, per-se, on the study itself — in fact, all good science ought to give rise to even more intelligent, deeper-probing questioning — but the fact that these questions weren’t voiced is a bit off-putting to me.  For example, was it the inclusion of veggies and fruits that made the difference here, or the exclusion of other food stuffs?  We see where this is going.  I am, of course, biased toward a Paleo/Evo Fit lifestyle, and this makes me admittedly uber sensitive to outward biases toward “competing” dietary views (in this case, vegetarianism) in mainstream science.  Again, this study is interesting as all hell, and seemingly well put together.  Put this in the hands of the soundbite machine though and, well, standby…

Theory to Practice, personified

Immersion: complete attention; intense mental effort

engrossmentabsorptionconcentration attention – the faculty or power of mental concentration; “keeping track of all the details requires your complete attention”

centeringfocusfocusingfocussingfocal pointdirection – the concentration of attention or energy on something; “the focus of activity shifted to molecular biology”; “he had no direction in his life”

specialism – the concentration of your efforts on a particular field of study or occupation

study – a state of deep mental absorption; “she is in a deep study”

Something to ponder: what, exactly, would a deep immersion into an evolutionary-based practice of Physical Culture look like?  How would one apprentice another in navigation of the modern world from a primal, evolutionary fitness perspective?  How would one be coached in the transition from ancestral wellness theory, to actually putting that knowledge base to work in everyday, common practice?  These are just a few of the “how do we effectively teach this primal wellness stuff to the masses” questions that Meesus TTP (AKA, executive chef for the Austin-based Caveman Cuisine), and my Efficient Exercise peeps have been asking ourselves.    The answer?  Well, let’s offer a deep immersion experience in the acquisition and/or refinement of evolutionary-based life skills, right smack dab in the friggin’ epicenter of Physical Culture, Austin, Texas.

Is there really a calling for this kind of thing you ask?  Yeah, we sure as hell think there is — gauging, at least, from the feedback we get from our clientele.  Remember, we operate not in the intellectual ether, but down in the day-to-day, gritty trenches, where the rubber meets the road (or, as it were, where theory backs-up against everyday practice).  Our interaction is with an overwhelmed public, just doing their best at attempting to be healthy, just trying to make sense of all of the bewildering — and oftentimes, conflicting — health and fitness information.  And doing so in spite of societal norms and surroundings that are anything but healthy.  Our clientele is driven, no doubt — but even for them it’s an uphill battle.  Now consider those who don’t even know where to start on this wellness journey, and you begin to see the enormity of the problem we face in this society.

Think of it this way:  some big game hunters, due to whatever set of circumstances, are simply adept beyond common comprehension at tracking bighorn sheep.  Now maybe they grew up hunting these animals — steeped in the culture — and thus have the advantage of a long-term apprenticeship under masters of the art.  Or maybe they were just passionate and driven enough to, of their own accord, acquire the requisite skills over many, many years.  And undoubtedly, the element of innate talent for this particular art comes into play.  But no matter how they came to the point of mastering the technique, though, the guides who specialize in tracking and bagging this particular big game have both the passion for such, and a demonstrated level of skill in this arena.  The best few, then rise to the top, otherwise they’re forced to find another line of work.  So here’s the crux of the matter: if your aim to to hunt the big horn, you can either go it on your own, or invest in a quality guide.  The truly passionate will probably do a little (or a lot) of each, depending upon the circumstance.  C’est la vie.  My personal thought on the matter is best expressed in the words of Marilyn Vos Savant (and with a hat tip to Erwan and the gang at MovNat) – To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.

And this is exactly why we feel that deep immersion is the best way to learn the art of Physical Culture — or any culture, for that matter.  The military realizes as much, and thus trains its embedded personnel accordingly.  And to this end, Caveman Cuisine, in conjunction with Efficient Exercise, have put together and are now offering a unique Immersion in Physical Culture — an opportunity to learn, practice and implement an evolutionary-based fitness approach by way of a deep immersion process, from those who have successfully traveled this journey before, and in an atmosphere — Austin, Texas — that is the epicenter of Physical Culture.  And hey, you could pick worse places than the always-beautiful ATX to surmount the dreaded carbohydrate jones 😉

So, are you ready to plunge headfirst into “hunting the big game” of Physical Culture?  Want to hire a quality, passionate team to show you the way?  Contact me via the above link for more information.  Let the folks at Efficient Exercise and Caveman Cuisine act as your personal guide is this transformative, life-affirming process.

In health,


Nutrient Timing

A great truth is a truth whose opposite is also a truth.

Thomas Mann

I know, I know; the idea of nutrient timing is not exactly Paleo in the most strict sense of the term, and certainly not part of the DeVany-esq, Evolutionary Fitness schema.  If you’re a performance-driven athlete, however (or just an average Joe/Jane who habituates a frequent red-lining in the ol’ workout arena), adequate and well-timed pre and post-workout nutrition is crucial.  Did Grok worry about all of this?  Of course not — or at least we can argue that it was usually not the case that he attempted to manipulate his performance via nutrition thusly.  However, Grok didn’t spend his nights peacefully slumbering on a comfy mattress either, or perform grueling rounds of power snatch/ring muscle-up supersets, avail himself to bloodwork analysis, hormone therapy, or the awesomeness of Joe Rogan podcasts…you get the idea.  It’s the difference between merely surviving, and optimally thriving, my friends; sufficient as opposed to optimal.  Anthropological evidence provides but one tool (albeit a very important tool) within the total “thriving” workshop.  It’s up to each individual then to flesh-out the remainder of  his/her own workshop’s tool cache, and acquire that craftsman’s collection of n=1-derived methods, techniques and specialty tools to be used in creating a personalized expression of phenotypical excellence.

Drs John Ivy and Robert Portman have put together what I consider to be the classic treatise on optimal nutritional timing in their aptly-titled book, Nutrient Timing.  Hat tip to Ken O’Neill, of Trans-Evolutionary Fitness, for tuning me in to John Ivy’s work.  Now my personal pre and post-workout formulations may vary somewhat from the recommendations put forth by Drs Ivy and Portman — mostly due to my belief (outdated?) that the synergy of whole foods trump the conglomeration of individual, deconstructed constituents — but I do follow the spirit of the nutrient timing argument put forth by the good doctors…

that ismost times 🙂

…and I am more than willing to consider that my gut notion of whole foods’ superiority to “scientifically” reconstituted constituent components is flawed.  It has been my experience, though, that Mother Nature’s intelligence in these matters always prevails.  Of course this simply may be a matter of degree, in which case one must ask if the miniscule gain of constituent recombination is worth the additional hassle and stress.  You can see how this argument can quickly pigtail into the dreaded paralysis-by-analysis vortex.

At any rate, the down-and-dirty on nutrient timing is this: your muscles are uber-primed for nutrient uptake immediately following a bout of strenuous exercise.  The window of opportunity for capitalizing on this phenomena is only open, though, for approximately 2 hours (and more precisely, 45-minutes) post-throwdown.  I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details of why hitting this window is so important from a performance point-of-view (in a nutshell, it has everything to do with optimum recovery), as the book does an excellent job of spelling this out quite precisely.  Also, checkout this, The International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand on nutrient timing.  Long story short, though, what I can tell you is this: throughout my training career I have experimented with various post-workout timing schemes — sometimes of my own doing, and sometimes as a result of circumstances beyond my control.  But in all cases, it has been my experience that hitting the 45-minute post workout window with smartly pinpointed nutrition has resulted in superior recovery results.  And, in my experience, these results have been far superior to the recovery benefits of, for example, post-workout contrast showers/ice baths and the like.  Results, mind you, attained from a practice that is much more practical from a sustainable application standpoint; you might not have the time-luxury, or access to, a post-workout ice soak, sports massage, or what-have-you, but most have the time to put together and down a smartly concocted, post-workout drink.

This needn’t be overly complicated to be effective, either (lowfat chocolate milk anyone?).  And hey, don’t have all the ingredients on-hand every time out?  Don’t sweat it bro, neither do I most times.  I’m notoriously bad about not restocking items until I’m completely out.  Anyway, here’s my simple, post-workout mix:

The T I’m sportin’ here?  Rockin’, huh?  And just one design of many that I have from my friend Kris Murphy’s Manimal Wear.  Check ’em out, here.

Talkin’ Physical Culture with Angelo Coppola, of Latest in Paleo

And hey, if you haven’t already, please checkout my interview with Angelo — who, by the way, is a true professional in every sense of the word.   Some of what we talked about:

  • Diet & fitness
  • getting started with a fitness routine
  • chronic cardio
  • Efficient Exercise and CrossFit; compare and contrast
  • ARX equipment
  • recoverability rates
  • bodyweight exercises
  • athletic supplementation
  • MovNat vs. HIIT

Pre-exhaust Techniques

One of the many techniques that I employ with my clients, and utilize in my own training, involves the use of pre-exhaust methods prior to moving into heavy, compound movements.  Methods of pre-exaust abound of course, but essentially (and for my purposes) fall into two broad categories — use of isolation exercises to target individual muscle(s) and/or the use of zone training techniques (Jreps, partials, ect.) which allow for significant inroading via the use of lighter weights (read, “easy on the joints”).    Here, for example, is one of my lower-body workouts from last week:

(A1) hip press, utilizing a zone training/Jrep scheme

(A2) Russian leg curls; again, utilizing a zone training/Jrep scheme

(B1) front squats , working up in load from what I could handle in the 7 rep range, on down to a 3-rep grind.

I split the hip presses and leg curls into 2 zones each (high and low), and blitzed each zone to failure using Jrep techniques (essentially employing piston-like, “pumping” repetitions with an eye toward achieving maximum pump and burn in the target musculature).   After 2 rounds of that, my legs were essentially toast.  Then, with those already blistered wheels, I dove into the first of what ended-up being a 5-set battle with front squats.  The beauty of this is that my hips, knees, ankles — along with all the soft tissue support in those areas — were already more than warm, blood-nourished, and ready to go — AND the weight necessary to elicit a full-on, ball-busting effort was, as you might well imagine, reduced.  But, surprisingly though, not by all that much (about 30 lbs off of what I would normally handle in the 3-rep range?).  The result was a total friggin’ lower body throwdown fest without, however, the joint ache (and following day stiffness) usually associated with a heavy compound movement session.   Note that this is much, much more than just effectively “warming-up” prior to delving into the heavy stuff — this is achieving significant (and isolated) muscular inroad prior to even beginning the compound (whole-body, synergistic) movement.   Combining this method of pre-exhaust prior to jumping into an ARX movement is also something I like to employ, and for the same reasons stated above.

And finally…

My Efficient Exercise brother-in-arms has written a masterful piece, here, related to the relationship between training and sport specificity, and the sometimes (oftentimes?) inadvertent, inappropriate, confusing/commingling of these two, distinct endeavors.  And this is more than just mere semantics, or word-play slight -of-hand.  For example, CrossFit is the sport of strength and conditioning, just as Olympic weightlifting is the sport side of all those cool Oly-derrivative (i.e., “power”, etc.) moves.  Know your goals, and train (and specify, if need be) as required.  A timely post, especially with this year’s CrossFit games (which I loved, BTW) fresh in everyone’s mind.

In health,


Touchstones, Part Duex…and a Blast From the Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sunday MetCon

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

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

Of Sprinting, and Leptin Signaling Mimetics

My good friend Chris Highcock, of Conditioning Research, (and he by way of Andrew Badenoch, of Evolvify) clued me into the recent Journal of Applied Physiology article, Is sprint exercise a leptin signaling mimetic in human skeletal muscle?  

I won’t delve into the interesting details of this paper, as Chris has already done a wonderful job of that here, but I would like to add just a few of my own thoughts about these findings.

What’s more important, vis-a-vis, weight loss — diet or exercise?

I’ll get into this a bit more in a future post, but as a Physical Culture 2.0, new breed fitness educator, I am the interface between geeked-out science, empirical wisdom and a general public searching for accurate and articulate answers, to help them make sense of the never-ending, fire-hydrant-like gusher of (often times) conflicting diet and fitness “truths”.  Two big obstacles that I have to overcome in performing this function, though, are (1) that my answers are predicated upon a base understanding of a movement (Physical Culture 2.0), which itself requires the acceptance of there being no black-and-white answers — that in all instances, the notion of n=1 and “it depends” prevail, and (2) a general public which is too tired/stressed/overwhelmed with day-to-day life to undertake the due-diligence required for such an understanding; a general public who only has time for the ingestion of pat answers.  You see the conundrum here.  And I’ll get to why this matters in relation to this particular study in a moment, but for now let’s take a quick look at an extension of the above-mentioned study’s findings — the performance of fasted-state, High Intensity Interval Training.

Fasted HIIT (or, don’t let lack of scientific underpinnings spoil the empirical results)

Dan John has articulated as much in some of his prior writings, but let’s just say that you’ve followed a Paleo-like diet for 30 days (ala Robb Wolf, or Whole9), coupled that with adhering to a basic 5 x 5 weightlifting scheme and, lo-and-behold, at the end of that trial period you find yourself having dropped 30 lbs of fat and gained 5 lbs of muscle.  Now, did you lose that fat because you physically ingested fewer calories, or did that fat loss come as the result of a favorable hormonal cascade established by the diet and/or workout scheme itself?  Or what it some other combination thereof?  And hey, “everyone” knows that one cannot simultaneously lose fat and gain muscle, but your little experiment just proved the contrary.   And here’s the thing: do you really friggin’ care that you’re treading on shaky scientific ground?  Does lack of scientific confirmation negate your results?  Is the fact that you had to punch three new holes in your belt and that your shirts are now fitting tight across the shoulders (instead of across the gut) somehow now irrelevant?

I don’t bring this up so as to promote a Flat Earth Society mentality when it comes to matters of Physical Culture, but more so as to put some prospective on the weight afforded to the supporting science (or lack thereof, as the case may be) in this area of study.  In other words, empirical evidence means a hell of a lot to me.  Pondering the “whys” behind an empirically-proven methodology’s efficacy —  intellectually invigorating as it may be — ought not get in the way of actually utilizing that methodology in the real world.  I can always go back and tweak a methodology accordingly, depending upon the outcome of follow-on science.  That I cannot articulate precisely and unquestionably (as supported by science) what, at the cellular level, is precisely occurring as a consequence of HIIT training does not prevent me from utilizing this method of training or, more importantly, from reaping the benefits.  We’ve long known, in the strength and conditioning community, that performing HIIT in a fasted state just obliterates body fat even while precipitating lean muscle gain.  Of course, there was the ever-present chorus of “there’s just no relevant science to support that claim” who presumably sat this one out, waiting for scientific conformation one way or the other.  In the training of horses, though, as in the training of athletes, the proof is in the final product.  Can these methods be more finely tuned in light of prevailing science?  You bet.  Wait for the perfect answer, though, and you’ll never get under the bar or put spikes on the field.  In other words, get in the game, and don’t allow the perfect to get in the way of the good.

This sprint/leptin study is a good case-in-point to what I’m attempting to articulate in this post.  We know, empirically, that fasted HIIT works –

*note – I am extrapolating here, as this particular study only considered the performance of a single sprint on the resultant hormonal cascade.

– and now we see, presumably, one important (and no doubt interesting!) pathway in which this scenario plays out.  We also see that being fasted (at least carbohydrate fasted) is an important part of the overall equation, here (if weight loss is a mitigating factor), and so we can now tweak our methods accordingly, and rock on.

So what’s more important in weight management, diet or exercise? 

Asking a badly articulated/constructed question is worse than asking no question at all; the problem is that the person to whom the question is directed will feel an obligation to offer-up an answer, ham-strung as it may be.  Construct a question that legitimates a sound-bite answer and you’ll get exactly that (Poli-Sci/Stats 101).  You’ll also get an answer that only approximates the truth of the matter, if that.  Of what relevance is this to the sprint/leptin study?  Well, let’s consider how best to achieve a long-term fasted state to begin with, and still have the energy required to tackle a HIIT-like training session with adequate intensity.  The short answer here is that we’ll need to first establish an enzymatic and hormonal underpinning resultant of following a Paleo-like diet.   The blood-sugar roller-coaster resultant of a (for instance) Standard American Diet will throw a monkey wrench into the works from the get-go.  I see this play out all-too-frequently in real-world practice.  That far-far-away look in the middle of a HIIT throw-down?  Yeah, that’s blood-sugar crash, up close, ugly and personal, kiddos.  At the same time, though, we know that intense physical exercise potentates the expression of that same desirable enzymatic/hormonal underpinning.  So what we’re really talking about here, of course, is synergy.  Synergy is slippery, though, and not easily accounted for in a standardized-testing, sound-bite-answer world.  The masses want easily-digestible answers (especially if provided by Oz, Oprah, et al) and synergy simply doesn’t play in that house.  Sorry to disappoint, but there it is.  You can no more bust ass in the gym and on the field, eat crap and expect phenotypical perfection than you can eating as a Paleo purist while abstaining from (at least some modicum) of repeated, physical exertion.  And no, computer jockying does not count as “repeated physical exertion”.

Synergy, my friends; diet and exercise — it’s the one-two punch, and the only way I know, to attain phenotypical perfection.

Sunday’s MetCon circuit –

Being under a bit of a time crunch didn’t prevent me from sneaking this one in.  Short, sweet, and to the point.

– 10 second sprint

– 20 ft. rope climb

– 30 ft parallel bar hand-over walk

– 20 yd dual hops

– 5 muscle-ups

– 30 ft hand-over monkey bar traverse

– 7 tire flips (+ 5 extra on the last round)

wash, rinse, repeat x 3.

Trivia for the day – 26 tire flips = 51 yards (football field sideline to sideline) 🙂

In health,