Iron, Speed, Paleo…and the Magic of HIIT

I get plenty of questions – and understandably so – one way or another related to my fascination with the fixed-speed (or fixed-gear) bicycle.  Well, one aspect of the fixie experience that I covet — aside from the cycling purist’s love of the unbroken convergence of body, machine and pavement – is the ability to absolutely thrash a high intensity interval training (HIIT) session on each and every fixie ride.  The fixed-speed machine lends itself well to HIIT sessions due to the fact that an all-out effort can be achieved virtually right out of the blocks, and for the fact that this effort can be maintained for the duration of the sprint – whether that sprint lasts 5 seconds, or as long as a full minute – which happens to be the top end of the range, for my particular purposes/goals.  On a fixie machine, if the wheels are spinning, your legs are humping – coasting is not an option – and slowing down requires a direct opposition to the momentum you’ve previously established.  The legs, in other words, are under constant assault.  “Huckin it fixed” imparts a huge overall energy expenditure coupled with a very fast power output/energy ramp-up requirement (if one so chooses to push the ride in this direction) that is unique to a fixed-gear set-up.  By way of analogy, I think you could look at the difference between a fixed-gear ride and a single/multi-speed ride as being the difference between a stadium step sprint session and a long, slow jog.

The spill-over efficacy of HIIT-like training, into the more endurance-ended demands of cycling, have been born out to me time and time again.  I never train for endurance per se, yet when I engage in endurance rides, my conditioning is more than equal to the task.  The link cited above references many of the most informative university studies on the efficacy of HIIT training.  If you’re endurance minded, looking for a conditioning boost (great preparation for the upcoming football season!), or if you simply want to kick-start (or maintain) some serious fat-burning potential, do yourself a favor and don’t overlook this method of training.  Of course sprinting is the easiest way to implement a HIIT-like protocol, but any exercise modality can be modified to work – weight training, biking, rowing – the possibilities are truly endless.

This I can tell you: a short HIIT session – whether that session involves riding, sprinting or weights — will leave your body in metabolic hyper-drive for many, many hours following the session – much, much more so than any prolonged-slog or plodding trudge will ever do.  For instance, on Monday I did a short series of sprints totaling approximately 8 miles and 30 minutes – approximately 4 miles/15 minutes to the coffee shop, 4 miles/15 minutes on the return.  Now, 8 miles is no big deal on a bike – especially since I kick back with a red-eye and a good read for an hour or so in the middle of it all — however, each leg of the trip was marked by a series of hard sprints and easy “spins” (“spins” being at a light, recovery cadence).  What was the sprint-to-spin ratio?  Well, it varied – hey, this is real life! —  the key is that I sprint until I have to stop due to exhaustion or traffic obstacle, and I spin until I recover “adequately”, or until I have another opportunity to sprint.  In this way, the sprint/spin ratio is highly fractal/variable, and that’s the way I like it.  Sometimes I’m fully recovered from the previous sprint before diving into the next, sometimes I’m still heaving like a freight train.  The bottom line is that little bit of work jacks my metabolism for the remainder of the evening and into the night.  The buzz in the legs, the elevated body temperature, the ravenous appetite – yep, those are the signs of a metabolism in high-gear; the same prolonged indicators you’ll never enjoy following a long, slow and excruciating dull session.

Of course, endurance types attempting to better performance in a particular event – or modality, for that matter — can always combine more precise and directed HIIT training together with heart rate monitoring/tracking in order to maximize training effect.  For example, check out Dr. Mike Nichols’ take on heart rate training, here (note: this is part 5 of the series, which is, as of this writing, the final installment on the topic.  Make sure you check out all the installments, though.  Very, very informative stuff indeed!).  It’s a little more than I care to manage at the moment, but hey, there may come a time when I’ll want to train in a more directed manner.  It’s always good to have options, and to understand the science behind those options.

Tuesday’s Iron Works –

Basic? You bet.  Effective?  No friggin’ doubt.  Remember, the mind might require novelty, but the body doesn’t give a damn.  The body’s job is to overcome a stress, and be better prepared to face that stress next time around.  Simple as that.

Beating the coming rain acted as added incentive, both in busting out a fast fixie sprint session heading into the gym, and getting my ass home following.

Kicked things off with the following superset:

front “military” press (strict, no “push”): 115 x 5; 135 x 5; 155 x 3; 165 x 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2

straight bar muscle-up (pull-up variety): bodyweight x 2 reps each round.


good mornings (wide stance, slight knee bend): used red bands on all sets – 135 x 6; 155 x 6, 185 x 4, 4, 4

then a quick superset of –

db triceps roll-out extensions (from floor): 50 x 10, 9

ez bar bicep curl: bar + 80 x 12, 12

then, as a finisher –

Nautilus 4-way neck: front and each side – 50 lbs x 10; back – 65 lbs x 10 (last 4 reps rest-pause)

A cool front is punching its way down south tonight.  Sweet relief  🙂

Iron Works for 5/20/10, and the Easiest (and best!) Roasted Chicken You’ll Ever Make

The Rocky Mount YMCA — hey, it’s the place to be, especially at the ass-crack of dawn!  Today we have another workout from the Iron MetCon bag o’ tricks.  Here’s what went down:

barbell thrusters: 135 x 7, 7; 145 x 6, 6, 5
weighted, regular grip pull-ups: 45 x 7, 7, 7, 7, 6+ (stall)

Done as a superset, with minimum rest between sets.  Each rep completed an explosive a fashion as possible.  Bar returned to a full, legitimate rack position (high elbows, bar secure in the “rack”) prior to front squat descent.


high cable flyes (out of the lunge position): 60# x 10, 10, 8, 8
barbell good mornings: 135 x 10, 10, 10, 10

Again, performed as a superset, with very little rest between exercises.

The cable flye out of the full lunge position is one of the few cable-based exercises I really like.  The lunge position adds more of a full body element to an otherwise rather pedestrian movement.  The hands should travel an upward arc from approximately the level of the hips to the top of the head, with the elbows remaining slightly bent throughout.  For the good mornings: full descent (exaggerated, even — big, big glute/ham stretch), then explosive out of the hole.  Allow the back to round slightly, as we are, in fact, attempting to work the lower back with these as well as the glutes and hams.

Roasted Chicken, the Easy Way (how else would I make it?)

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First things first — get your hands on a good bird.  A good, locally-raised, truly free-range yard bird is a must.  Here’s where I get mine.  The difference in taste between free-range and “conventionally raised” (sad that “conventionally-raised” has come to mean what it has) is beyond description, and that difference alone is enough to make even a kitchen hack like me look like I know what the hell I’m doing with a pan and oven.

So the chicken I used here was approximately 3.5 pounds.  Rinse and dry ‘im off well.  You want the chicken to be thoroughly dry before sliding it in the oven, otherwise it’ll steam instead of roast, and that’ll not make for a nice crispy, brown skin.  Salt & pepper liberally, and stuff the cavity with rosemary and thyme — or whatever else you might choose (citrus of some sort, maybe).  Put it in a 450-degree oven and let it rip for 45 minutes or so.  Whatcha got on your hands after that is pure, chickenly heaven!

I put a small sweet potato in along with the chicken from the get-go, then about halfway though, I added the asparagus.  Both ended up slathered in chicken fat.  Out-of-this-world good!

Of Funky-Bad Weather and a Fixie Mechanical

So Friday night I blew out a spoke on the ol’ fixie; big time bummer.  Now normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal — a slow, careful limp back to the casa, an hour’s-worth of garage triage and repair, and everything is everything.  However the bulk of my tools are sitting in a storage unit in Austin Texas; not of much use to me here in North Carolina.   Bleh.  Ok, then, this calls for a trip to the bike shop to get things right.  Luckily Rocky Mount is blessed to have a bike shop like Moore’s to serve the small cycling community here.  Support your local bike shop!  I don’t know that I’d been able to get in much riding this weekend anyway; and the weather has been intermittently stormy, with high wind gusts — downright tornado-like.  Anyway, the result of all of this is that I hung around the gym for my workouts this weekend.  Fate-imposed chaos and fractal training.  Hey, it’s all good; gotta make the most of the situation, right?

Oh, and did I mention that the thermostat went out on my truck on Friday as well?  Augh.  Lemme get to the workouts, before this turns into a parody of a sad country song.

But before I delve fully into the workouts themselves, though, I’d like to point out that I’ll be throwing some band work into the mix here and there over the following weeks.  It’s been a while since I’ve worked with bands, and in my on-going effort to “keep my body guessing”, and to “better what’s lagging”, I’ve decided to sprinkle some band work into the ol’ “hopper”.  Bands are excellent for helping to accommodate the strength curve for various movements, especially in such things as squats, deadlifts, good mornings, and various presses.  Now, the weights I note here, along with the band set-up, will mean absolutely nothing to anyone other than me.  For those following my workouts, though, the point is not so much the actual weight used, but the nature of the movement itself, and the fact that the bands essentially make the movement increasingly difficult in the portion of the exercise where the movement, because of the more advantageous angle of the prime mover (relative to the load), would normally become easier. In other words, in a normally-weighted good morning, a trainee would actually decelerate at the top of the motion because of the advantageous angle of the prime mover (glutes/hams) relative to the weight — otherwise, you’d just rather comically fling yourself backwards.  Not so, however, when bands are employed.  And be forewarned — bands are taxing in the way that Oly lifts are taxing, maybe more so.  A little bit goes a long way.

Saturday, 4/24/10
low box front squats wide stance (w/black bands, single loop): 135 x 3, 3, 3; 155 x 3, 3, 3, 3, 3

Sunday, 4/25/10
good mornings (w/black bands, single loop): 95 x 3, 3, 3; 115 x 3, 3, 3
Alantis machine jump squat: 210 x 3 for each round

barbell floor press (w/bland bands, double loop): 135 x 5; 165 x 3; 175 x 3, 3; 185 x 3, 3
feet elevated ballistic push-ups: bw x 5, each round

Two separate exercise rounds on Sunday, with an approximate 10 minute break between the “lower” body and “upper” body supersets.

Note: bands should always be adjusted so as to be taught at the bottom of the movement, not slack; i.e., band tension should be present from the get-go.

Overheard in the gym on Sunday:
“Brah, waddaya trainin’ for?”
To which “brah” answered –
“to be 200 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal.”

Heh, good one, brah – rock on  🙂