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,

Keith

 

Return-On-Investment; Time vs Goals

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.

William Shakespeare

Continuing with the Health vs Performance curve theme from last time out, we see that the weekly time investment requirement, relative to increased performance, increases exponentially.  I know, I know — big shocker, right?  But somehow, this basic tenant becomes…I don’t know…watered down? — or, at least, severely downplayed by some camps. And it’s precisely on this point at which I break ranks with traditional HIT proponents.  And I’m no HIT-hater, either; far from it.  I personally use HIT-like methodologies to drastically reduce the amount of time I spend in the gym (per-session, and cumulative over the course of a week), and I employ similar methodologies with my clients.  So there you have it: I’m running out of islands to be banished from.  Tossed from Paleo island for my wanton consumption of raw dairy, and now this: unceremoniously shunned from HIT Inn 😉

Consider how I view this from 30-thousand feet, though.  My thoughts are that resistance training, relative to one’s defined goals (of course), have to be considered on a sliding, n=1 scale.  Ask me if I can maximize a trainee’s overall health in one hour (or considerably less) a week on an Efficient Exercise prescription and I’ll answer in an unabashed affirmative.  Hell, I can even coax some pretty damn impressive performance/body composition results with that 1-hour investment.  What I cannot do within that same time constraint, however, is maximize a trainee’s performance potential — unless that trainee’s performance is defined in terms of  sport-specific technique, or is primarily an endurance-driven event.  Of course, these same trainees will, by necessity, be putting in hours outside of the gym — in the batting cage, for instance, or in the saddle, or on the track.  Strength training for these athletes constitutes a performance edge, a means of sound injury prevention, and little more.  But in reality, when we speak of required “gym time” vs ROI (return on investment), that talk centers (when not focused primarily on power-driven athletics) around body recomposition; fat-burning and, everyone’s favorite topic, hypertrophy.

…and here’s where the HIT-camp hate mail comes pouring in 😉

But if my time in the trenches has shown me nothing else, it has shown me that if a trainee is looking for maximum hypertrophy, that trainee better be willing to devote a serious amount of time to the pursuit — even if predominantly HIT-like protocols are utilized.  And yes, I’m well-versed on what the available science says.  And I know all about Mentzer, Viator and Jones.  Unfortunately, science is ill-equipped to adequately account for the myriad of moving parts that constitute the whole of hypertrophy.  As for Messrs Mentzer, Viator and Jones, I’ll just say that it is my opinion that, just as gravity bends the time-space continuum, so does marketing tend to bend truth.

“But I’m absolutely destroyed after a true, HIT throw-down”, you say?  Yeah, no doubt — so am I.  And that’s where smartly-programmed, higher repetition work comes into play.  And movement splits.  And speed-strength work…and strength-speed…and concentric-only focus…and, well, the list goes on. It’s about Conjugate for the masses, my friends.  Smart and varied programming.  Hypertrophy (and athletic performance as well) is not a simple, linear correlation between short bouts of pin-pointed effort and fiber-type recruitment.  Ahh, if it were only that easy!  There are many, many moving parts involved in this process, each effected/maximized by different rep schemes, intensity, volumes, etc.  Hypertrophy involves an intricately orchestrated — though not fully understood — dance between muscle fibers and satellite cells, growth factors, hormones and the immune system.  Add to this the fact that this process is affected on the individual level by such things as genetic predisposition and epigenetic factors such as diet, sleep, stress levels, and — to fully complete the circle — training practices.  And these are the determinants we know of.  How many others are left to be discovered?

Chasing maximum results? You'll be seeing plenty of this: the Great White Buffalo in the sky. Visions, my friend -- *visions* 🙂

Kurt Harris uses the “doorman” analogy (and brilliantly so, I might add) to illustrate the flux, as opposed to on-off switch, nature of fat metabolism; a similar analogy could be used when discussing hypertrophy.   One could consider HIT my overall training “insulin”.  But, just as is the case with metabolism, while insulin may in fact be the Godfather hormone, there’s more — much more — to the overall nutrient partitioning/utilization story.

Ultimately though, the question should not be whether HIT and/or single-set-to-failure “works” — it most certainly does — our own Project Transformation proved as much.  The question asked, though, should be whether these protocols work vis-a-vis one’s goals and time investment tolerance.  Looking to maximize health in a safe and super-effective way?  I can think of no better pair of methodologies.  Looking to push beyond point A in the above graph?  Be prepared to saddle-up some fresh horses, my friend.

And this: a note on that magical point B — the point at which both performance and health (and one could extrapolate, longevity) are, in a perfect balancing act, maximized.  My good friend Robb Wolf  has equated this point to the triple-point of water ; perfect analogy, I think.

~

So, my friend, what is it you seek?  Is it really truth?  Or is it, rather, to notch yet another win for your particular argument?

“…Reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed by evolution to help us win arguments…”

– Jonathan Haidt 

Great Edge article here on what is essentially the essence of epistemic humility.  Keep this in mind as you pursue your own n=1 path, and as you filter outside information.  And as you disseminate/express your own, formed opinions.

~

And, in light of my “raising hell on HIT island” (and Paleo island, for that matter), consider this — pissing-off your friends now and again is a good thing 🙂

~

Looking for an excellent compare/contrast to Doug McGuff’s fabulous work, Body By Science?  Then check out Doug Miller’s hot-off-the-press work, Biology for Bodybuilders.  The book is concise in areas where Dr. McGuff drills deep (the science of metabolism, for example), and offers a smartly penned, “counterpoint” opinion on the chase for hypertrophy.  Which “ideology” you eventually gravitate toward will depend on many things, but in my opinion, the most limiting (in a real-world sense) will, again, be your tolerance vis-a-vis time investment.  In other words, are you willing to sacrifice an exponentionally increasing amount of time  in hot pursuit of ever-dwindling performance percentile increases?  This is the grand question every trainee must answer for him/herself.

…and now I’ve used the term vis-a-vis twice in a single post.  It is most definitely time to move on 🙂

~

Workouts?  You bet, here are a few:

First up, check out this workout that I put fellow Efficient Exercise trainer Skyler Tanner through last Thursday — just following the taping of EETV.  Simple in design, excruciating in execution; the epitome of brief, brutal and basic.  Still think I’m not a fan of HIT?  🙂

And yes, Skyler did report visions of the Great White Buffalo in the sky following that bit of fun.  Now on to my own, self-inflicted routines…

5/1/11, Sunday

Sprints and such; bar work, rope climbs and tire flips.  Broad jumps into a sand pit.  Hurdle hops.

5/3/11, Tuesday

(A1) dips: 45/10; 90/5, 5, 4 +4 negatives

(A2) chins: bw/10; 45/7, 7, 6+

(B1) bi curl (Oly bar): 135/7, 7, 5 +2

(B2) EZ tri extension: 85/12; 105/10, 8+3

5/4/11, Wednesday

(A1) safety bar squats: +90/10, +180/10, +230/8, +270/4

(A2) Russian leg curls: bw/10, 10, 10, 10

(B1) hip press (H2): 500/25, 25

5/6/11, Friday

(A1) CZT/ARX overhead press: HR x 5, 5
(A2) DB front raise: 25/12, 12

(B1) T-bar row: 190/4 sets of 12

5/9/11, Monday

(A1) safety bar squat: +140/15
(A2) farmers walks: 2 parking lot loops @ bar +90 each hand

5/10/11, Tuesday

A little Autoreg, with vanity work for good measure
(A1) bi curl (Oly bar): 105/12, 105/6, 135/9, 140/7

(A2) EZ tri extension: 65/12, 105/6, 135/5+, 5

(A3) RLC: bw/7 x 4 sets

5/11/11, Wednesday

Another Autoreg example
(A1) XC 45-deg incline press: (midline +0)/12, +50/6, +50 (rear)/9
…go +70/6

(A2) T-bar row: 110/12, 200/6, 245/6, 5

5/13/11, Friday

(A1) dynamic trap bar DL: 245 + black bands, 7 sets of 3

3-hours later…
(B1) incline bench press: 135/20, 20 (rest-pause), 20 (rest-pause)

(B2) blast strap flyes: bw/20, 21 (rest-pause), 17 (rest-pause)

(B3) blast strap rows: bw/25, 25

5/14/11, Saturday

Sprints, jumps, tire flips, bar work and such.  60-yard shuttle sprints and pro-agility sprints to mix things up.  Broad jumps into a sand pit.  Hurdle hops.

5/15/11, Sunday

More of the same — sprints, jumps, tire flips, bar work and what-not.

~

And then a few final things:

First up, some musings from the boys at Efficient Exercise.   As I said in my Facebook post, we could talk about this stuff for days, folks. And come to think of it, these clips are proving exactly that point 😉

And hey, if you happen to be in the ATX next weekend, make sure to drop by our Efficient Exercise 10th Anniversary and grand-opening open house to be held at out brand-spankin’-new Rosedale location at 45th and Burnet (1403 west 45th street).  My cuz-in-law TJ will be puttin’ the hurt on enough brisket, sausage and chicken to feed Sherman’s Paleo army, so come on by and grab a plate — you carnivore you — and talk a little Physical Culture shop.  And while you’re there, you can hop a ride on our ARX equipment, and test these bad boys out for yourself.   Maybe you can hang on longer than Chad Ocho Cinco?

…well alrighty then 🙂  Can’t blame a man for tryin’…

In health,

Keith

Bodybuilding, Health and Athletic Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pull-ups: bw x 15 each round

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

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

dips: bw x 25 each round

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

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

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

leg press: 420 x 17 (40×0 tempo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In health,

Keith

Venison Butchery and Sausage Making; One Hellova Birthday Present

Charcuterie: …from chair ‘flesh’ and cuit ‘cooked’) is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, pâtés, and confit, primarily from pork. Charcuterie is part of the garde manger chef‘s repertoire. Originally intended as a way to preserve meats before the advent of refrigeration, they are prepared today for their flavors derived from the preservation processes…

Can Meesus TTP come up with some outstanding birthday ideas or what?  To celebrate my 46th, the Meesus signed us both up for an absolutely fabulous, 3-hour venison butchery and sausage-making class put on by Austin’s finest charcuterie specialists,  the Kocurek Family Artisanal Charcuterie

The “Dr.” of Charcuterie, Larry Kocurek, weilding an expert blade…

 

The removal of two clean, beautiful backstrap cuts is just moments away…

 

Here’s a cut you’ll never get back as such (a beautiful roast) from your processor; that bad boy is usually turned in to ground meat. Too much trouble for the volume guys to mess with.

 

For more on this fine class, check out my treatment of the subject, here.

 

On the workout front:

Tuesday, 11/16 – a superset of power snatches and ab wheel roll-outs (Rosedale studio) –

power snatch: 115 x 5, 5; 135 x 3; 145 x 3, 3, 3, 3

“dive bomb” ab wheel roll-outs: x10, each round

There was nothing slow about either of these movements; each was performed with a definite speed bias.  “Dive Bomb” ab wheel roll-outs are initiated from a standing position, with a lunge forward (think sprint swim start) into the fully-extended roll-out, followed by a fast-as-humanly-possible snap back into a stand.   Minimized knee-touch on the full extension as much as possible.

 

Wednesday, 11/17 – the TTP brand of Nautilus-based HIT (Downtown Austin studio):

Tru-squat (0 lb counter weight, rest-pause method, 30×0 rep tempo): 135 x 6, 5, 3, 3, 3

super-slow leg press (40×0 rep tempo): 420 x 16

Nautilus pec dec: 110 x 8 + 2, 2, 2 rest-pause forced reps (51×0 tempo)

weighted dips (rest-pause method; 31×0 tempo): 70 x 5, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2

Nautilus pull-over: 255 x 9 + 2, 2 forced reps; (41×0 tempo)

trap bar BOR (rest-pause; 30×0 tempo): 225 x 5, 4, 4

 

 

Thursday, 11/18 – an hour-and-a-half in the fixie saddle; downtown ATX and Zilker park.  Lots of gas in the legs, even following the tough lower-body workout on Wednesday.

 

Friday, 11/19 – HIT meets the higher rep, bodybuilding-like methodology (Rosedale studio):

pendulum hip press (hierarchical/resp-pause method) : 400 x 12; 500 x 6; 600 x 3; then a superset of –

low (45 degree) cable row, vee handle: 200 x 15; 245 x 15, 15

and

incline DB flye: 40 x 15; 45 x 15, 15

…then, a hierarchical pairing for the arms:

straight bar bicep curl: 85 x 15; 95 x 8; 115 x 5

EZ bar nose-breaker (floor): 75 x 15; 105 x 10; 125 x 5; bar to just clear of the top of the head, plates just touch the ground on top-of-range extension.

 

So the first question that might come to mind here is that of overtraining.  My counter to that is, “look at the vast array of variance in methodologies employed”.  Yes, my entire system is stressed to the max from each of these workouts, but in very, very different ways at each dosing.  See my Conjugate for the Masses post for more on this thought.  Intense each time out?  You bet; variance, though, is key.

And there I part ways with the HIT crowd: on the issue of training recovery time.   HIT proponents tend (there are,of course, always exceptions — and I do consider myself to be a HIT aficionado) to view training response simply through the lens of Seyle’s General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).  However, many diverse bodily systems are stressed by intense training (and by intense “life events”, for that matter), and each of these various systems recover at different rates.  Muscle protein synthesis, for example, has been shown to return to baseline within 48 hours, even following “intense training to failure”.  So while the body’s musculature may be ready for another round 2 days following an intense hit, the cns (for example) may still be lagging below baseline.

Now, “intensity” and “failure” are highly, highly n=1 determinative qualities; newbies, for example, are far from their ultimate potentials, and their capabilities are such that they cannot significantly disrupt (inroad) the cns and skeletal connective tissues in an exercise bout and can, in most every case I’ve seen, train again full-bore — and with the same methodology (i.e., no need to Conjugate) — with no more than 2 days between sessions.

The more we advance in the iron game, however, the better we become (i.e., in a cns efficiency sense) at recruiting muscular motor units.  We’ve also become stronger in a purely muscular sense (hypertrophy).  We’re better able to harness and apply adequate intensity (both psychologically and physiologically).   The end result is that we eventually come to the point where we do possess the ability to significantly stress the body’s joints,  connective tissue and the cns in a single, intense bout of exercise.   Now, recovery becomes more of a juggle, as these systems will typically require longer than a couple of days to fully recover so as to allow for the repeated, full demonstration of strength within the same methodology.  Let’s not forget that if the cns and connective tissues (which contain sensory organs charged with the relay of information about joint integrity back to the central nervous system) says you’re not up to recruiting muscle fibers at full force (i.e. maximum rate coding) then it ain’t gonna happen; no way no how.

The generalized HIT answer to this has been for the trainee to simply wait until  (overall bodily) fully recovery has been established, without considering which aspects of the physiology  really require that extra recovery time.  The downfall to this approach is, of course, that muscular recovery (i.e., growth) is actually complete within approximately 48 hours of training; the balance of one’s recovery time is therefore devoted to cns and support structure recovery.  For those interested in doing so, why not go ahead and stimulate the muscles again, though in ways that will spare the cns and support structures, yet tax the musculature in a novel way?

Now, not everyone is all that interested in doing this, of course.  Muscular hypertrophy and/or improved (explosive, power-driven) sporting performance in no way implies “hyper-health”, and it is my contention that all of the health benefits afforded those who strength train can be had by a single, weekly (and properly programmed and administered) 30-minute engagement.   For those who choose to go above and beyond, though — from looking good nekkid to improved sporting performance — multiple, and highly intense (is there any other way to approach training?) — is possible so long as proper programming and recovery methods are adhered to.

And don’t discount the absolute necessity of the “simple” things: adequate sleep, and the consumption of a Paleo diet.

For a great treatment of this subject, check out Chris’ interview of HIT practitioner, and high-level competitive cyclist, Patrick Diver.   Patrick has the n=1 application of a HIT-like protocol for endurance athletes nailed.  Prescribing the proper dosing, frequency and methodology of strength training applicable to each individual’s n=1 needs is the true art of the Strength and Conditioning profession.

In health,

Keith

 

 

 

 


An Evolutionary Fitness Refresher, and the Importance of the Central Nervous System

I’ve been engaged in much less written production this past week in lieu of much more knowledge absorption.  I think this is the natural way of things, especially for an epistemocrat like myself.  New ideas are encountered and vetted according to merits, with established ideas being retained (and possibly bolstered), refined or, as the case may be, jettisoned completely.  In the words of Plato, “complacent ignorance is the most lethal sickness of the soul”.  I do whatever I can to avoid that sickness above all others and, as any wise man (or woman) will tell you, one cannot effectively learn when their gums is a flappin’…or, in this case, when their fingers is a keyboard tappin’.

So one of the items I’ve been “absorbing” over the last week is a borrowed copy (thanks, Skyler!) of Art DeVany’s Evolutionary Fitness Seminar.  Hey, wait!  This material has been out for two-and-a-half years and I’m just getting around to it?  Well, quite frankly I hadn’t intended on ever watching it since I figure I’ve got this stuff already well integrated within my own n=1/m=1 life path; Skyler happened to have it on hand, though and, well, who doesn’t need a refresher (or reaffirmation) now and again?  Hubris not being my thing, I decided to give it a go — and I’m glad I did.  Art does a masterful job disseminating knowledge here — if you can look beyond his…er…decidedly modest personality  🙂  Hey, you earned the right to be as “modest” as you care to be, Art; you are no doubt a roll model for all of us young EvFit whipper-snappers out there  🙂

And speaking of “reaffirmation”, it’s always a good idea to re-read Art’s Essay on Evolutionary Fitness every now and again, if for no other reason than for the “oh yeah, that’s why I do (fill in the blank)” factor.  Just as Ron Paul is said to tote a tiny, bound copy of the Constitution around with him at all times, maybe those of us in the Paleo/EvFit camp out to keep a copy of both Art’s essay and Robb Wolf’s the Paleo Solution Quick Start Guide on our person.  Heh, you just never know when you might be called out to defend “the lifestyle”, right?

And speaking of Art DeVany and all things Evolutionary Fitness, check out this interesting post from Intrepid Insight in reference to Twitter and Power Law.   Dan John has often alluded to the observation (and I wholeheartedly agree with him) that out of a hundred or so workouts, roughly 70% or so may be classified as a run-of-the-mill,  “punch-the-clock” type of a workout — just getting the job done, nothing more, nothing special; some are especially good & you really feel like some progress was made and, conversely, a handful will totally suck — you wonder why you even showed up at all, or maybe you even cashed-out early, licked your wounds and limped home with a tucked tail.  A smattering  of workouts fall in between one of those categories, mostly grouped around — but just shy of, or a little better than — the clock punchers.  Ah, but there’s always that 1-in-100 workout that we live for, that workout in which you feel like you could lift the moon.  Maybe you set a new PR or maybe you were just “in the zone” and everything flowed effortlessly. These are the standout, “I’ve arrived” type of workouts that we relish; the type of workout we strive for but rarely hit.  What’s interesting is that this continuum winds up taking on a Power Law-like distribution. Isn’t it ironic, don’tchya think?

 

Accessing the Type II fibers vs stimulating/training the central nervous system –


So there must be a vibe in the air lately, as the topic of accessing and stimulating the Type II fibers has once again re-emerged into the forefront.  For the most part, I stay out of this fray, as I believe this to be a very complicated and highly n=1 dictated issue, and one that cannot be adequately addressed in sound-bite barbs.  In general, though, my take on the issue remains unchanged.  Can those Type II fibers be accessed, stimulated, and yes fatigued to the point of failure using slow-tempo movements?  Absolutely they can, no doubt in my mind — and that, for the vast majority of folks, is the end of the story; no need for this demographic to push the risk-reward envelope any further.  The health benefits of stimulating these fibers (including hypertrophy) are well-served by (among other possibilities) slow-tempo training.  But for the athlete, though, I think we need to seriously consider adequate central nervous system stimulation, and the all-important ability to produce instantaneous, maximal power.   And for that we have to have a ballistic element factored into the overall training plan.  Backing science?  I have none.  Zilch, nada.  I know what I’ve seen during my many years in the trenches though, and toward that end I’ll keep training those who require an explosive element accordingly.  Again, in my opinion this (along with most every other training question) is n=1 driven.

…and on the workout front –

So the prior week’s three-day-in-a-row blitz — which, by the way, was capped with a classic brief, brutal and basic CZT session — left me in recovery mode until Wednesday the 20th.  That’s a full 5 days off with very little in the way strenuous activity save for a bit of fixie riding/sprinting.  Curious thing here: while I most definitely did not feel up to hitting the weights during this period, I most certainly had the urge  — and had strong legs for — some serious up-tempo biking.  Why?  Well, I’m not quite sure; just another element to ponder along this wonderful n=1/m=1 journey.  At any rate, my workouts again this week were catch-as-catch-can affairs, squeezed into a fairly demanding work, social and home-life schedule (Meesus TTP and I are still trying to get fully settled within our new home); and too, I’ve had to program back-to-back lifting sessions here (which, of course, I’m not a big fan of).  But hey, life happens, right?  Roll on with the fractal nature of things!

Wednesday the 20th; upper body dominant HIT
Nautilus Pec Dec:  110 x 10 (50×1 tempo) to momentary failure.  Short recovery (30 secs?), then rest-pause singles to failure
Feet-elevated (45-degree) push-ups: 12, 8, 8
Nautilus Pull-Over: 235 x 9 (50×1 tempo) to momentary failure, then 255 x 2, 2 rest-pause (same tempo)
Rev-grip pull-ups: 50# deload x 5, 4 (50×0 tempo)
Nautilus lateral raise: 180 x 8 (50×1 tempo) to failure, then 190 rest-pause singles — 5 reps, again to failure
Xccentric jammer: +50lbs, 7 rest-pause singles

Thursday; Alactic work on the Efficient Exercise Pendulum Hip Press
400 x 7
three-minute break
500 x 4, 5 (three-minute break between sets)
three-minute break
600 x 2, 2, 2, 2 (three-minute break between sets)

Both of these workouts were short, sweet and to-the-point, with neither lasting any more than a half-hour.  And scorchers, too, the both of them.

Paleo Simplicity

Really, is it all that complicated?  Yeah, all of us in the Paleo/Evolutionary Fitness community like to geek-out on the minutia of this stuff (and with the workout specifics as well), but when we get down to brass tacks — or (and especially so!) when dealing with the “mainstream”, or potential converts — it’s helpful to remember this: Paleo is, at its roots,  really, really easy.  To wit, check out Robb Wolf’s the Paleo Solution, Quick Start Guide.  In fact, the entire Paleo Solution book is a great Paleo introduction tool.  I won’t go into a full-fledged review just quite yet, as I prefer to fully digest a book (lots of margin scribbles, notes, underlining, etc.) before weighing-in.  I can tell you this much, though; Robb’s book would be a fantastic introduction to anyone contemplating testing the Paleo/Evolutionary Fitness waters.  As opposed to, say, Taubes’ Good Calorie, Bad Calories; a read that I’m particularly fond of, by the way, but that can be, oh…how shall be say…a bit off-putting to the newly initiated?  Hell, even Toban Weibe’s most excellent summary of Taubes’ tome can be much for most initiates.  Not so Robb’s the Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet.  Accessible?  You bet; I’d feel comfortable suggesting it to anyone — and certainly to anyone who is even the least bit skeptical over the whole “Caveman” thing.  Robb does an excellent job of both providing sound, science-backed information, and doing so in a way so as to not come-off as being some kind of a back-to-the-caves whack-job…or worse yet, a dietary dogmatic.  Bottom line?  Get Robb’s book; get it for yourself and for anyone you care enough about to coax into the Paleo fold.

On to a couple of workouts –

Let’s preface things a bit by noting that I spent the greater part of Sunday lifting, toting, and just all-around man-handling heavy things.  And not in a fun way, either — I’m talkin’  moving, folks.  As in, shuttling a shit-pot-ton of household…stuff, from one place to another.  How does one ever acquire so much?  Anyway, thanks to my good friend Robert Remmers for sacrificing his Sunday (and a good deal of sleep!) to help Michelle and I out.  Thanks, my man — we couldn’t have done it without you!

So I split this workout up into an AM/afternoon thing, as that’s just the way things happened to pan out on Monday, between training clients and handling other, more admin-related work.  It was a nice opportunity for me to test how I’d respond to back-to-back (and separated by only a few hours) explosive work, as it’s been a while since I’ve done something like this.  Again, I’m not personally a huge fan of the power clean, as I feel like I can (because of my build/bio-mechanics), get a bit more out of other lifts — however, I do like to keep light and technically flawless PCs in the mix — more so for the dynamics of the catch (as opposed to the pull).  So, power cleans and power snatches in the AM; trap bar jump-ups and feet elevated ring presses in the 2nd of the day’s bouts.

power cleans: 135 x 7, 7; 175 x 3, 3; 185 x 2, 2, 2, 2 (high, rock-solid catch, very little knee bend with an immediate return to the hang position and explosion into the following rep)

power snatch: 135 x 3, 3, 3, 3

…and a few hours later:

trap bar jump-ups: (jump squats with a trap bar): 135 x6, 6, 6, 6

in a superset with –

feet elevated ring presses: bodyweight + 60 lb vest x 8, 7, 7, 7

How much can one cram into 10 minutes?  Quite a bit, actually.  I sandwiched this quick-HITer (heh…) between Wednesday AM and early afternoon fixie sprint sessions:

tru-squat: (115 counter weight) – 115 x 12, 150 x 10 (42×0 tempo)

rdl (X-Ccentric machine): 90 x 12, 140 x 7 (42×0 tempo)

nautilus pec dec: 110 x 8, 7 (4020 tempo)

Amazing what a concentrated slam you can give to your body in such a short period of time.

Conjugated HIT, Dynamic and Volume Work

So here’s the thing: it’s not that there is any single workout methodology that is the “best” (or “worst”, for that matter), but that there are aspects of many various methodologies that, when combined in an intelligent, systematic way according to each individual’s n=1 goals and needs, provides for the most advantageous workout stimulus; “advantageous”, of course, being defined by the individual.  That is to say, while one person may be concerned primarily with achieving optimum health, another may have athletic aspirations; and we know, of course, that athletic prowess does not necessarily confer an optimum health profile.  As has been said before, optimum performance often begins where superior health ends. There’s a give-and-take with everything, folks — chasing athletic supremacy is no different.  Where do I fit on this continuum of optimum health to athletic performance?  Well, for the most part, I try to straddle  that razor’s edge between the two; admittedly, though, there are periods where I’ll make a decide push toward improved athleticism at the expense of overall health.  Now, though, is not one of those periods.  There’s just too much going on in my life at the moment — moving cross-country, new job, new house…hell, a whole new existence! — exciting to be sure, but also hella stressful.  I mean, damn, we just recently stumbled across the box that contained our silverware (ah, it’s the small pleasures in life!).  Being that all stress is cumulative, I guess you could say that I’ve temporarily dialed-down a tad bit — not so much on the intensity (I still go at it when I do workout) — but on the overall frequency and volume.

Wednesday’s HIT Parade

Super-Slow Leg Press: (hierarchical rep scheme, 3010 tempo) 12, 6, 6 – then immediately to:

Super-slow ham curl: 180 lbs x 12, approx. 30 secs  rest, 190 x 8 –  4010 tempo

Nautilus Pec Dec: 110 x 8 ( 4020 tempo), then immediately to:

Super-Slow chest press/crunch: 170 x 8 ( 4020 tempo)

Nautilus pull-over: 220 x 9 (4020 tempo), then immediately to:

Reverse grip pull-ups: bodyweight x 8, 6 (40×0 tempo)

Nautilus shoulder lateral raise: 170 x 10 (4020 tempo), then immediately to:

X-Ccentric upright press: (no counter weight, no added weight) x 7 rest-pause singles (40×0 tempo)

Couple of things to note here: although I am utilizing equipment made by the entity “Super Slow” (which, by the way, is great equipment), I’m not, as can seen in my tempo references, utilizing the super-slow tempo/TUL technique.  The hierarchical repetition scheme (hat tip to Art DeVany) is this: choose a weight that will leave you feeling a good burn (but not yet to failure) after 12 reps, take a slight pause to add weight, then hit 6 more reps; pause again, add weight and hit 3 more.  I called the loading a little shy, here, so I was able to eek out six reps on the final blast.

I followed that up with a little explosive work on Thursday, with a superset of behind -the-neck split jerks and blast strap reverse flyes.

btn split jerk: 135 x 5; 175 x 3; 185 x 3; 205 x 3; 225 x 5 resp-pause singles

blast strap reverse flyes: bodyweight x 8, 10, 7, 8 (4010 tempo)

Friday turned out to be a rather extended day in the fixie saddle — approximately 20 miles with a good deal of sprint intervals tossed into the mix.  If you have errands to run, you might as well turn it into a workout, right?  The ol’ legs protested mightily at the onset (heavy split jerks will take more of a toll than one realizes) but wound-up rebounding and responding nicely.

One of the day’s pit stops was at Thomas Repographics of Austin, to pick up these, my new business cards:

I guess this means I’m official now, huh?  🙂

Then it was a stop by Texas Coffee Traders to pick up some fine, roasted gold for my home brewing pleasure.  So many fabulous coffees to choose from!  I settled on a pound of the organic Peru (thanks for you help and expertise, Jessica!), saddled-up, and hucked it on back to the Efficient Exercise Rosedale studio.

Damn the old-school crunch…

So a client of mine who sprinkles-in some “bootcamp” fitness classes into her training mix reported to me that she “tweaked something in her upper back/trap/neck area” while performing hands-clasped-behind-the-head crunches.  Yeah, I know, big surprise, right?  This particular client is an endurance type athlete (sprint tri’s, etc.) who — and wisely so — strength trains for bettered performance and injury prevention.  She’s had lower back issues in the past, and so the vast majority of my exercise selections for her have some element of core strengthening involvement.  We’ve begun to incorporate perfect form deadlifts into her routines (trap, straight bar, etc.) which she is (and rightfully so, as I believe she’s never really been taught proper form) leery of.  Folks, the “core” is primarily a power transfer medium, designed — much like an earthquake resistant structure — to be stiff, flex but not break.  A rock-solid core, which includes a bomb-proof lower back, can’t be built with the old-school crunch.  I’ve linked to this interview with Dr. Stuart McGill before, but I believe it deserves another mention.

And for a bit more on this subject, see this post, from the Efficient Exercise blog.

Also, check-out an interesting read from my Efficient Exercise partner, Skyler Tanner, on the gut-wrenching realization that, sometimes, your publicly-stated n=1 experiments don’t necessarily align with your fitness goals.  In Skyler’s case, mass gain runs completely counter to his immediate (ultimate?) fitness goal of being a better rock climber.  An increased strength and/or power-to-bodyweight ratio is what he really needs, not mass — unless of course that increased mass translates into an increased strength/power-to-bw ratio.  Skyler discusses why a mass gain (in him, at least), likely wouldn’t translate, in the near-term, into an improved strength/power ratio.  Nice call, Skyler.  And yes, there are no failures, only feedback.