The University of Texas’ Stark Center, Anchor for PFX12

“The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.” – Bertrand Russell

OK, so it’s been a while since I documented a run of workouts, so what better time to take a snapshot of things than Thanksgiving week?  Actually, this turned out to be a fairly typical workout week for me, with lots of varied modalities and overall session intensity variability tossed into the mix.

A snapshot of last week’s workouts –

Monday –
(A1) Powermax360 work: 30 seconds on, 15 off; 2 rounds
(A2) Eccentric Edge, leverage flat bench: 7 reps, max power output, no grind outs
4 total rounds.

Tuesday –
(first workout) – whip snatch + 3 overhead squats: 10 total sets, working up from 135 to 150 lbs
(second workout, 2 hours later) – thrusters x 3 reps: 5 total sets, working up from 135 to 185 lbs

Wednesday –
Lotsa fixie hucking 🙂

Thursday – Autoregulated lifts, with a decided power emphasis (i.e, reps were kept quick, with no grind-outs); 5 total rounds.
(A1) trap bar DLs: workup to 445 x2

(A2) Dips: workup to 95 x 5

(A3) free bar chins: workup to 95 x 3

Assessment: good day for dips, and so-so for chins.  As for DLs?  Meh…  In defense of a sub-par DL showing though, this was a friggin’ tough-ass combo.

Friday –
Sprint starts (30 yards)  and limited monkey & parallel bar work (really feelin’ Thursday’s DLs — not much spring in the legs)

Saturday –
Sprints (100 yards, 8 x <15 seconds, 45 seconds recoverery) and heavy sandbag work — clean & press, snatch, totes, etc.  (yikes!  *Still* feeling those DLs!).

Sunday –
A rare day completely off — unless you count my wrestle with IKEA furniture assembly 🙂

And now for your viewing pleasure…

How about an up-close-and-personal preview of the venue that will serve as the anchor to this spring’s highly anticipated PFX12 symposium?  Having been lucky enough to have been invited (as a personal guest of Ken “Transevolutionary Fitness” O’Neill) to the reception celebrating the official opening of the Stark Center’s Joe and Betty Weider Museum of Physical Culture, I can tell you that this place is just amazing to a dyed-in-the-wool Physical Culturalist like myself.

Anyway, you can get a feel for the scope and breadth of the facility via the short documentary and blog post, here.  Oh, and as an added bonus, yours truly makes a cameo appearance at about mark 2:00.  So does this mean that, since I’ve now rubbed elbows at such an event with the likes of Arnold, Boyer Coe, Larry Scott, Bill Pearl, Ronnie Coleman and Mark Henry, that my acting career will now skyrocket? 🙂  Heh; I wouldn’t hold your breath if I were you…

In other news, it looks like my man Anthony Johnson has this summer’s 21 Convention talks by Skyler and myself up and available now.  The theme of Skyler’s presentation (link here, via Anthony’s blog) centers on training expectations over a lifetime; in other words, taking a long-range of your training efforts, and purposefully directing those efforts so as to positively affect the entirety of your life.  As always, good stuff from my Efficient Exercise training brother-in-arms.

In my own presentation, I explore (among other various topics) the highly n=1 nature of health vs performance, and the often-times contradictory nature of chasing performance as a means of bolstering health.  I’ll warn you ahead of time: if you’re looking for sound-bite answers, quick-fixes, or a one-size-fits-all template, I’m not your guy, and this won’t be your jam.  The truth is, all I can define are general processes that are applicable to iron game pursuits.  Cooking from a book will never make one a chef any more than will painting by numbers make one an artist.  In the same way, training from a template will never make one a true Physical Culturalist.  One must learn hints from others, then forge their own n=1 path.

The Vampire chronicles…

In an upcoming series of posts, I’ll be documenting my recent bloodwork draw, and what those lab numbers reveal.  Nutritionist Holly L’Italien, from Austin’s Merritt Wellness Center will be doing some TTP guest posting as she hacks away at this kid’s bloodwork.  I can tell you this: intelligent bloodwork analysis is a friggin Rubik’s Cube puzzle.  Many, many mitigating and conflicting factors to consider.  This should be interesting as hell, especially as my numbers are anything but straightforward.  Stay tuned.

In health,

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.


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.


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.


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,


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:


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!



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


Efficient Exercise in the media:

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

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


Workouts for the past couple of weeks –

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

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

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

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

5/18/11, Wednesday

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

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

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

Friday, 5/20/11

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

– three hours later –

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

Tuesday, 5/24/11

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 5/25/11

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

(A2) ARX horizontal leg press: HR/3

(A3) blast strap pike: 15

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

Thursday, 5/26/11

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

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

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

Saturday, 5/28/11

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

In health,


Vindication, “Maps”, and the Athletic Vagabond

I suppose it could be said that serendipity has been the theme for the last couple of days.  I rather enjoy it when findings and properly conducted science validate those things I believe in my gut to be true; and now, if I were a bit more smug, I’d pump my fist and proclaim vindication!, but that’s just not my way.

First off, although we in the Paleo community had long-ago brushed off T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study as, at best, a work of poorly conducted science – and, at worst, intentional data manipulation for the sake profit – we were treated late in the week to an epic dismantling of Campbell’s study (links here) by Denise Minger, of the Raw Foods SOS blog.  Denise has produced an erudite body of work that ought to keep all the Campbell apologists out there busy for a while.  My hope going forward is that solid, smack-down call-outs of the likes that Denise has provided to the “esteemed scientist” Dr. Campbell, will give other like-minded researchers pause before knowingly propagating such poorly-performed (or purposefully “massaged”), pseudo-science.  Be forewarned, researchers: the Paleo-Primal patrol is ever-vigilant, and demonstrates little in the way of mercy when abject fraud is detected.  Finding one’s self, for instance, on the wrong end of a verbal beat-down from Paleo hit-man, Richard Nicoley could be a sever jolt to one’s self-esteem.  Not to mention the fact that it’ll totally blow your cover.  Ah how I love the transparency of the internet!  If free-will is the interaction of DNA and epigenetics, then knowledge truly is unimpeded freedom’s intersection with that free-will.

Next up I was treated to the following study by way of one of my favorite collegiate-level Strength & Conditioning blogs, Zack Dechant’s Sports Performance Training :

The Effect of Autoregulatory Progressive Resistance Exercise vs. Linear Periodization on Strength Improvements in College Athletes.

See Zack’s take on the study, here.

For my part, I’d just like to point-out that I’ve been singing in the autoregulatory choir for quite a while (to wit: here, here, and here are just a few examples) .  There, that’s my attempt at being smug  🙂

In my mind, the overriding reason behind the success of Autoregulatory Progressive Resistance (APRE) stems from the fact that it is simply impossible for any trainee (highly-trained athlete, or otherwise) to adequately account for the total net impact on the body and CNS, at the onset of any particular training session, of all outside stressors.  Nor can adequate (or inadequate, as the case may be) recuperation be effectively accounted for.  Maybe a simpler way of saying this is that one’s readiness at the onset of a particular training session is a direct result of a commingling of disparate “forces”, including but certainly not limited to:

  • Total stressors (physical, mental, CNS-related, etc.)
  • Proper dose/response timing (am I in the super-compensation “crest”, “trough”, or somewhere in between?)
  • Total recuperation (related to the two prior bullets, but let’s include here diet/nutrient absorption, adequate sleep, hydration, electrolyte balance, etc.)

Hell, something as simple as training at one’s particular “peak” time of day vs training when one can “get it in” can make a profound difference.

And it is precisely via the utilization of Autoregulation, by the way, that I can claim – and emphatically so — that an endurance athlete can be trained for much-needed strength without compromising that athlete’s endurance-related training.  Give me a willing endurance athlete and access to an Efficient Exercise – like facility and, by utilizing Autoregulation techniques, I guarantee I can improve that athlete’s performance in his/her chosen endeavor.  Simple as that.

Linear Periodization, in the old-school “command and control” mindset (hat tip to Art DeVany), dismisses the above-mentioned day-to-day (hell, minute-by-minute) variances as something that the athlete will just have to “tough-out”, with the implication being that (1) the athlete cannot be trusted to push himself adequately, and, given the option, will surely slough-off, and (2) that the body is no more than a mechanical machine, impervious to these “petty” perturbations.  Any weakness (i.e., inability to make pre-ordained weights/reps/numbers) can only be attributed, then, to weakness in the trainee’s mind, spirit, or both.  In my mind, this goes beyond simple-minded, and into the realm of being destructive.

Let me give Linear Periodization apologists their due, though.  APRE’s efficacy lay in direct proportion to the trainee’s ability to push him/herself, both mentally and physically.  And, too, there is a certain amount of art involved with this method that lay beyond the grasp of a trainee of a relatively young training age (unless they have access to a knowledgeable coach).  APRE in the toolbox of a non-dedicated trainee is just as useless as any other tool that might be employed.  The key here being, for the S&C coach, is trust.  Trust in the athlete’s – or, for the personal trainer, his client’s – desire for greatness.

More serendipity?  Yep, it’s been flung at me from all sides the past few days.  Within an hour or so of having devoured the APRE study, Skyler Tanner posted the following TED clip on his Facebook wall; Barry Schwartz opines on wisdom:

What the hell does this have to do with Physical Culture, you might ask – and legitimately so.  Well, in my mind, it’s extremely relevant.  One particular part of Barry’s talk that really resonated with me was his reference to the Chicago school system’s reliance upon teaching “scripts”, thereby stymieing the emergence of any creative genius within the system’s teaching force.   While this highly top-down controlled scripting of lesson plans may well, as Mr Schwartz notes, serve as a kind of insurance against disaster (read, “lawsuit”), it also, just as effectively guarantees against the achievement of greatness.  By “working with a net” we resign ourselves to mediocrity.  Linear Periodization, in my humble opinion, is analogous here to a scripted lesson plan, with the difference being that in lieu of “lawsuit”, one might substitute the notion of the athlete/trainee becoming “appreciably weaker”.  In employing Linear Periodization, the S&C coach and/or personal trainer can shield themselves from negative scrutiny, much in the same way that dietitians save themselves negative scrutiny in pushing the food pyramid scam, in that a particular “theory” has been top-down reviewed and deemed “safe” by some governing organization.  Hamstrung by “scripts”, then, mediocrity rules the day.

Real World Implementation –

Above is a picture of my whiteboard workout “map”.  My use of the term “map” here is more in line with how a vagabond might consider the term – i.e., a vague, loosely-adhered-to directional guide – as opposed to, say, a Google Maps, step-by-step procedural on how best to get from point A to B.

What you see represented here is my workout base: elements of Windler’s 5/3/1 program, Conjugate methodology, and HIT/BBS (Body By Science)-like protocols that I’ve morphed into a system that works for me, given my goals, my unique set of particulars, and the equipment that I have at my disposal.  What you don’t see here is a listing of all of my ancillary work – the ballistics, the bike riding, the sprints, the additional repetition method work, the explosive Oly-derivatives and such – all of which I track in my workout journal.  The whole of this “program”, of course, falls under the dictates of Autoregulation.  If the above chart represents my athletic “vagabond’s map”, Autoregulation is my guiding, North Star; my Polaris, if you will.

The scribblings of a madman…it’s a scary place in there!

The core exercises depicted in the chart (in red) are the exercises I’ve chosen to work each one of the particular, corresponding, base human movement patterns, of which (for my purposes) there are five total.  Each base exercise is assigned a 3-week block.  By the end of a 3-week block (usually), it’s time to shift particulars within a movement pattern, as I’ve wrung all I can from the exercise.  Sometimes, though, I’ll ditch an exercise after 2 weeks, at other times, I’ll carry-on with a particular exercise for an addition couple of weeks.  Most times (but again, not always), I’ll also shift the ancillary work that has accompanied the base exercise across the 3-week block, as these, too, will have run their course.

While I acknowledge that all of this vagueness is probably maddening to those who desire a laid-out, top-to-bottom, cookie-cutter program, I assure you that I’m not intentionally attempting to veil my “methods” in some kind of mystic, hoo-doo shroud.  The fact of the matter, though, is that truly effective training is as much art as it is proper application of science.  There is a place for scientific research, to be sure; our society, however, has the tendency to diminish the importance of the intuitive.  “Art” cannot be readily defined, categorized – or more importantly taught in a formal educational setting (apprenticeship is most effective for this, but sadly out of vogue).  The inability to pin-down the intuitive drives profiteers snake-shit, of course, and so we immediately hear the cries of illegitimacy.  If you can’t measure it, stamp a label on it, quantify or certify the action, how can any top-down organization profit from it?

At any rate, there are no truly effective, Physical Culture “scripts”, only helpful signposts, and this chart simply keeps me in the right general coordinates of my choosing.  I give myself the latitude to take detours and prolonged side-trips whenever I feel it is necessary; these ad-libs, of course could never be built into a “script”.  But it is precisely because I subscribe to the theory of Autoregulation that I can continue to make progress in each of the core human movement patterns, even as I routinely take side-expeditions.

A couple of examples –

Friday, 7/9/10 workout

First, a superset of cgfp and bor (see the chart, listed under “Horizontal Upper Push”).  Note: my use of the term “week” is rather nebulous; this might refer to a 4-day span, or 14…it just depends.  Also, each movement pattern is tracked independent of the other patterns; in other words, when I swap-out a particular exercise, I don’t necessarily swap-out every other movement pattern’s exercises.  Each movement pattern operates as its own little, independent entity; I may be on the first week in one movement pattern, and in another, I may have drifted into to 5th week.  All is dependent upon my progress in a given exercise, and mt estimation at future progress.

close-grip barbell floor press: 165 x 3; 190 x 3; 210 x 5 + 5 rest-pause reps

barbell bent-over row: 255 x 5; 280 x 5; 300 x 4

then, an explosive movement, the Cred

65 x 3 (each side); 75 x 3; 85 x 2; 90 x 1; 95 x 1

…which I super-setted with straight-bar muscle-ups (the pull-up variety) x 2 each round.

The Saturday, 7/10/10 workout was a typical “off the chart” day.  A good deal of time spent biking (with plenty of interval sprints), and a long plyometrics session with waist-high box jumps, depth drops, drop/reaction broad jumps, etc.

Then Sunday, 7/11/10, I performed the following:

overhead squats – (done more so as a warm-up, and as a way to loosen-up some rather tight legs): bar x 10; 95 x 6; 115 x 5; 135 x 5

then, a superset of the following; note that the target exercise her is the rev-grip pull-ups.  I consider the barbell muscle-ups as (1) ancillary work, and (2) as a set-up for the pull-ups.

reverse-grip pull-ups: 40 x 8; 65 x 5; 80 x 6, 5

barbell muscle-ups: 95 x8; 105 x 5; 135 x 5, 5

then some Nautilus 4-way neck work – front, side, side: 50 x 15 (rest-pause); back: 60 x 15 (rest-pause)

From this, I can see that 80 lbs is a good 5/6 RM reverse-grip pull-up gauge for the next time I perform the movement.  Now, I have absolutely no clue as to what particulars will surround my next go-round with this exercise – an 80 lb 5/6 RM may be way too high, or way too low an estimate from which to gauge my loading for that particular day.  And that’s exactly when Autoregulation works its magic.  As long as my loading is in the ball park initially, I can adjust, following the first set, and rock on.

So feel free to ask any directed questions you might have.  I’ll do my damnedest to answer them, with the caveat being that any answer I give my have that “hoo-doo” feel to it, as the art of Physical Culture always plays a tremendous part in my workout compositions.  Theory to Practice truly is an n=1 expression.  In order to be great, you must learn to be the captain of your own, n=1 ship.  Or, if you’re lucky, you can apprentice with such a captain and, in time, learn your own, unique version of the art.   The process is ever-evolving, even for me.  After 30+ years of practicing the Physical Culture art, I still learn something new – about myself, and about the craft — every day.  This area of study never grows stale, stagnates, or runs out of “secrets” to reveal.  It is always the student, the practitioner who looses interest, stagnates, or who begins to accept mediocrity.  My challenge to each of you is to rise above that simpleton mentality.  Aspire to greatness, each and every day.  It is truly your birthright to do so.

11/7/09 Workout – Sprints!

9+ hours deep sleep.  Last meal 7:30 PM, workout @ 12 PM – 2 PM.  Post w/o at 4:30 PM


Nothing fancy about this one.  Started off with approximately 40 minutes of interval bursts on the fixie, then on to the ECU soccer field for sprints x9 secs each.  Lost count of total number (15 or so?) – not that the total mattered for what I was targeting.  Ran each 9-sec. sprint to max overall best distance, then continued reps until drop-off of > 1 full stride.

More on drop-offs here, and auto-regulation, here.