Of Bruce Lee, and the Drive for Perfect Phenotypical Expression

Super Human Radio‘s Carl Lanore devoted a show recently  to the training and philosophy of Bruce Lee.  What can Bruce Lee teach us about striving for phenotypical expression excellence?  Everything, my friend; everything.  Maybe not by way of training specifics (unless, of course, you happen to be a martial artist), but certainly by way of overriding philosophy.  Absorb what is useful from any source, discard what is not from even the most revered of sources.  Emphasis mine.  I can ascribe wholeheartedly to the Bruce Lee theory of attaining the pinnacle of Physical Culture without ever necessarily feeling the need to duplicate a Bruce Lee workout.  Different goals necessitate different methods; the psychology of intensity, though, remains the same.

As an interesting aside, I noticed that in the stack of mail that Meesus TTP brought in Saturday, was my (new) copy of Lee’s The Art of Expressing the Human Body. I say “new” because I had an old and tattered copy of this book that I’d long since given to a friend who was just embarking on this wonderful journey that is Physical Culture.  I can’t wait to re-read the material with the wisdom that I’ve gained over those (10+…wow time flies!!) years since I’d last read it.  And by the way, the book is compiled and edited by none other than John Little, who teamed with Doug McGuff on the two mighty-fine pieces of work Body by Science and The Body by Science Question and Answer Book (information, here).  Tight-knit and intimate group within this wonderful world of Physical Culture.

Below, Lee’s daughter talks about her daddy’s book.

And be sure to check out this wonderful piece, the Warm Marble.  It’s one of those “keep in your back pocket” works (like The Iron, by Henry Rollins) that are good to pull out every now and again to remind yourself of just why it is that we stick to this satisfying — though, at times, arduous — path of Physical Culture.

A need to document reps?  Hell, a need to even count reps?

Let’s face it, for those of us who are are pure Physical Culturalists (as opposed to specialists, i.e., competitive Oly lifters, for example), programming schemes in general, and repetition counts in particular, are little more than a psychological crutch and/or a convenient to convey the fact that, yes, effective weight training is seriously hard work.  What if all we ever did in the gym was to match a given weight to a given movement (or vice-versa) and bust friggin’ ass with it?  Here’s the deal: I’ve got training logs dating back to when the gym-rat clown pants were considered the pinnacle of cool (yikes!), but what the hell do those notes really matter to me now?  Yeah, it’s kinda cool to look back at some of that stuff , in a nostalgic sense; my physical body, though, could give a damn.  I mean, if you ascribe to the 7-year total turnover theory (as I do), then I’m not even the same physical body now as I was then, so of what relevance are those numbers to me now?  What if it was just me…and a weight…and the challenge of pressing (for example) that damn weight overhead, any way possible,  and as many times as I could, within a certain time limit.  What’s the time limit?  I don’t know, pick something that fits with your schedule — 1 minute, 15 minutes…24 hours, whatever.  Just you, a load and a movement; wherewithal and, most importantly, intensity.  Did our ancestors worry about rep counts, tempos, smart programming or energy systems?  Of course not.  They simply had to face-down a life challenge…or die trying…simple as that.

Now I’m certainly not advocating the abolition of smart programming and rational exercise selection in favor of a full-on, out-of-the-hopper approach; what I am saying, though, is that we can swing too far to the other side — the mechanical and all-too predictable side of the continuum — if we’re not careful.  We run the risk of putting “the program” ahead of what really matters, which is how much intensity we bring to the table.

Here’s how this plays out, at least for me, in the real world: a couple of times a week I’ll have a loaded bar that needs to be broken down between clients.  Let’s just make this real easy and say that I’ve got a 135 lb loaded Oly bar nestled nicely in the power rack, and 30-minutes before my next client.  Now I pick a movement I haven’t done in a while; power snatch, say, or RFESS — or hell, even bicep curls, if I want to channel my inner Arnold.  Now, how many reps can I squeeze-in in that half-hour?  Not that I’ll ever write this stuff down, or factor it into my subsequent “normal” workout considerations (I let Autoregulation take care of accounting for that).   This is more play than anything else, and it keeps my body, as well as my mind, fresh.  And just because these “opportunities” aren’t documented, much less tracked, in no way means that my body doesn’t revel in the challenge and respond accordingly.  Like rings within a tree trunk, the body I occupy today is marked with the results of these impromptu sessions; documentation written in flesh and blood.

And now on to a couple of “documented” workouts –

Monday, 11/29 (Rosedale studio)

(A1) trap bar deadlift/bent over row/deadlift combo: 265 x 10/5/10; 315 x 10/3/10 x 3 sets

(A2) floor press: 135 x 10; 185 x 6; 225 x 6, 6

Wednesday, 12/1 (Westlake studio)

(A1) CZT seated overhead press (neutral grip): hyper-rep x 5

(A2) manual resistance front raise: hyper-rep x 3

(B1) negative-only CZT pull-down (neutral grip): hyper-rep x 5

(B2) blast-strap scarecrows: 3 ugly reps

(C1) rear foot elevated (and suspended) split squats: bw x 10, each leg

(C2) CZT leg press: hyper-rep x 3

The above is an example of integrating the ever-versatile CZT equipment into various pre-exhaust methodologies. Video clips of Skyler kickin’ my ass on this one coming soon.

The Austin-area “exercise sommelier” strikes again, here ; a wonderful pairing of Mentzer-inspired HIT, with some good ol’, local Paleo grub  🙂


In health,


4/20/10; A Well Spent Half-Hour with the Iron and, Inspiration – Nike Style

Nothing at all fancy today, just a lot of work jam-packed into a mere 30-minute time frame.

Russian lunge jumps for height: 3 each leg, each round

single-leg high box (approx. 18″) step-ups: 135 x 5, 5; 155 x 4; 165 x 4; 4 (each leg)

ab wheel roll-outs: bodyweight x 10, each round

glute/ham raise (GHR): 40 x 5, 5; 45 x 5; 50 x 5, 5

5 rounds of this, subsequent to a good warm-up.  If you do the math, that’s 20 exercises completed in approximately 20 minutes, with the warm-up and equipment/station set-up requiring another 10 minutes or so.  So plenty of work, with very little rest.  Now, I wouldn’t try to squeeze an exceptionally heavy and/or neurologically demanding workout into a 30-minute bracket, but this kind of “speed-endurance” type work is well-suited for a short overall time investment.

Inspiration, thanks to Nike

Ross Enamait — whose methods I find top-notch, and absolutely kick-ass — posted this fantastic Nike “commercial” on his site recently; tell me you’re not jacked-up after watching it.

Ahhh, brings back that old pre-game, ’bout-to-bust-outta-my-friggin’-skin feeling!   I love it!  And, like Ross, my favorite line here has to be:

“Passion has a funny way of trumping logic.”

Ain’t it the truth!

A Continuing Success Story

“The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War



You may have missed this comment in the Dynamic Warm-up post; as such, I’d like to share it here, as I think it’s so very important, and dare I say, inspirational.  Now the very word inspirational has been so watered down — hackneyed even — that I’m loathe to use it. But really, in this case, I think that it’s justified.  Check it out:

As always, I love your writing and appreciate all you do to keep us motivated.
I wanted to write an update on my continued attempts to put theory to practice as I have just reached 101 pounds lost. Having gone from 356 lbs. to 255 lbs. has given me so much vitality and joy. I can now fit in size 36 jeans and XL shirts, coming from size 48’s and 4XL!
I am still pumped about eating well (paleo with minimal cheats) and exercising (beginning Crossfit). I have survived stressful times without binge eating, which was a major concern.
Also, and most importantly to me, I am showing my children that these things are possible. A side note to this point: I have begun having the occasional ice cream with my kids. I felt that it was important to show good eating habits but also the ability to show restraint with foods that kids like. (Thoughts?)
They have begun to see that junk food need not be “everything” and they don’t ask for candy anymore. Well…at least not from me. :)
In fact, last week my dad even asked me to go over my diet with him. He sees the results and knows I am not eating poorly to lose weight and wants in. Yeah!
Anyway, this is where I am.
Hope you and yours are well. Please keep up your great writing.
Thank you,
Jeremy Palmer

A fantastic testimonial for the efficacy of the Paleo lifestyle.  And remember, this is nothing that I’ve created — this “lifestyle”, and the constituent building blocks thereof, have been around since the dawn of mankind.  This is our collective legacy.  I only endeavor to apply these ancient principles, best I can, within the challenges of a modern (and, let’s face it, nutritionally broken) society.  This is the task, the challenge, that confronts each and every one of us — every hour of every day.  Living this lifestyle requires intelligence, wisdom, a good dose of willpower (at least, initially) and a questioning — un-trusting even — attitude.  I’ve met with and conversed with a wide array of Paleo adherents throughout my own Paleo journey, as well as with many would-be, failed practitioners — from just about every ethnicity and socio-economic background you can imagine — and what I’ve found is this: what separates the adherent from the would-be and failed are two things; intelligence and a highly-skeptical, question-authority mindset.  At this point in the game — and until society as whole makes a drastic, nutritional U-turn (which I don’t see as happening in our lifetimes) — only those equipped with the tools and character to “break free of the Matrix” (red pill or blue pill, Neo?) — like our friend Jeremy, here — will succeed at the Paleo endeavor.  This isn’t a pessimist speaking, but the thoughts of a rationalist.  Think about how this manifests on your own lives.  How many of your own friends, family and associates are willing to cast themselves, without a net, into an intellectual solo-flight, an on-going n=1 experiment?  How many are willing to question heretofore “authoritative”, dietary, proclamations,cast aside what they once considered “truth”?  Red pill or blue pill, Neo?  Really, isn’t this what the Buddha asked as well?  Don’t blindly follow me, he said in essence, but tease these things out for yourself, in the laboratory of your own mind and in your own body.  Keep what works, discard what doesn’t.  Above all, though, question; aggressively and ceaselessly question.

And to quickly add my own 2 cents on the question of raising kids within a Paleo framework:

(1) Living as an example is, in my opinion, the best thing you can do, coupled with an on-going discussion of why (at an age-appropriate level, of course) you’ve made this dietary and lifestyle choice.  Do all you can to develop within them the notion of respectful questioning.  Because, let’s face it, sooner or later you have to let them free in the big, woolly (and woefully mis-informed) world, a world governed by — you guessed it — experts.  And being a mainstream “expert” only means that one has majority backing; that may, or may not, connote any modicum of truth.

(2) High dose fish oil, especially in children, will aide in blunting the effects of a less-than-perfect diet.  They will eat crap, no doubt — and lot’s of it — because society at large encourages it, and at a certain point, the need to fit in (or at the very least, not “fit-out”) will override all else.  More on fish oil in a later post.

(3) Personally, I’m not a believer in half-measures — but that’s just me.  I certainly understand where you’re coming from though, Jeremy.  Kids do need to be taught moderation so as to equip them for navigating the real, un-informed world.  This is a touchy question, and I’m calling out to experienced TTP readers to weigh-in on this one.  The way I approached this with my own was to say I choose not to partake because (insert age-appropriate reasoning).  Ultimately, though, you have to make your own choices about how to treat your own body and your own health.  Now, my kids were much older when I began this journey, and were familiar with this kind of talk, usually, though, centered around political ideals, or fitness/sports training topics, drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.  Of course, if I had young children in my home now, they wouldn’t even have access to “bad” foodstuffs (I can see me being a very unpopular grandpa), and hopefully their very early-established “tastes” would help moderate them through the real-world minefield once it was (inevitably) unleashed upon them.  My gut feeling is though, Jeremy, that you know what’s best for your kids at this particular juncture in their lives.  I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy, and I was an all-or-nothing kid as well.  One thing the years have taught me is that the vast majority of people do not operate that way.  My coaching style works well and is fit for an athletic/sporting environment; in the general public, well…not so much  🙂

I’ll end the day’s pontification there, as I’ve gone on long, long enough.  The real point of this post is to acknowledge a gentleman who has fought the good fight well, and is flying the Paleo flag proudly.  My hope is that Jeremy’s action and success can ignite a desire in others (especially his kids) to do the same.

Here’s to you, Jeremy!  Good work!

In health,


Throwing Heavy Stuff First, Then Sprints

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
Mahatma Gandhi
I hit another sprint and throw workout on Sunday afternoon (in a fasted state), but I decided to change things up a bit by throwing prior to running sprints.  I also added a few rounds of hurdle bounds to the mix.  The hurdle bounds in the linked clip start at 1:22 in, however, check out the other bounds he demonstrates here as well — they’re a great addition (and a fantastic warm-up) to any sprint, jump or throws workout.  Think of them as you would plyometrics, as they’re in the same general family of ballistic exercise movement.  Also take note of the very minimal ground contact time demonstrated between hurdle bounds (think hot coals below!).  This is just fantastic execution.  And yeah, the “fail” at the end of the clip is something we all suffer from time to time; my “fails”, though, usually look more like a circus act gone awry; the epitome, I tell you, of non-graceful.

Here’s how Sunday’s workout shaped-up:

  • Hurdle bounds (5 hurdles, dual-foot, minimum reset between bounds) x 10 rounds
  • Caber Toss with the 45 lb medicine ball x 8 throws (see explanation below)
  • 5-second, fixed-time sprints for distance x 16 sprints (drop-off method)

The hurdle bounds acted as a bit of post activation potentiation (PAP) to set me up for a good series of heavy, all-out throws.  Note that if I were “competing” in the caber toss, I would not have done as many rounds of the hurdle bounds, but would have done only 3 sets or so — just enough to “prime the system”.  Here’s an informative video clip on PAP. Also note that at 3:21 into this particular clip is a fantastic demonstration of the medicine ball overhead throw (i.e., caber toss).  She’s using a much lighter implement here, so as to work on the speed component of this power exercise, whereas I’m using a much heavier ball, and working the strength end of the speed/strength continuum.  The take-away message here is know thy weakness and endeavor to fix said weakness.

Let’s take a look at how the throws shaped-up, and how I used the drop-off method to know when to “pull the plug” on the exercise:
I initially set my distance marker at approximately 30 feet.  I knew this to be an “in the ball park” range from previous (and logged) experience, but again, I could have just as easily thrown first and then set the initial mark.  Here are the throws, results and actions taken:

  1. beat initial mark (reset to new distance)
  2. beat mark (reset to new distance)
  3. beat mark (reset to new distance)
  4. beat mark (reset to new distance.  This wound up being the day’s PR, at approximately 33 feet.  I then figured my drop-off from this point.  For a high threshold, power dominant exercise like this, I like to use about a 6 – 10% drop-off.  This keeps me sufficiently challenged, yet clean of the overtraining abyss.  With a little rounding, fudging, finger and toe counting, I finally settled on a drop-off of approximately 2 feet.  Now I’ll keep on throwing until I fail to reach 31 feet.
  5. equaled mark
  6. slight miss
  7. larger miss (just a shade over 31 feet)
  8. something less than 31 feet.  Drop-off acheived.

One thing to note with using drop-offs is this: It’s a play between numbers and percentages, accurate measurement and “feel” and past experience.  I could have just as easily decided to pull the plug because my technique was faltering (a sure sign of fatigue, especially in sprints and in the high-power weight room exercises).  Also of consideration is the ease of modality measurement.  This kind of distance is both easily standardized and measured, so it lends itself to a more conservative interpretation of the drop-off method.  Short distance sprinting, for example (where the drop-off can be as little as 1%), is a little more fuzzy and, therefore, calls for a little more “feel” input.

After this, I moved on to some 5-second, fixed-time, barefooted sprints, using the same type of drop-off set-up (albeit with a much reduced drop-off goal of approximately 1%, as “guesstimated”, in feet).  I managed 16 sprints (with full recovery) before I finally reached drop-off.

So Why the preference for this kind of a workout?
This is all about fast-twitch muscle fiber activation, central nervous system activation, and prompting a favorable gene expression; it’s all about pushing my body to acheive a higher (and in my opinion,a healthier) peak anaerobic power (PAPw) output.  It’s about fine-tuning a fast-twitch dominant, fat burning machine.  It’s also a hellovalota fun!  Compare this to a bout of mindless jogging — ugh, parish the thought!

…and an abundance of inspiration on hand ~
I really wish I’d have brought my camera to document the inspiration on display Sunday afternoon, at the ECU outdoor track.  Some photojournalist I am, huh?  Way to always be prepared, big guy!  A Bot Scout you’re not.  Anyway, let me see if I can recreate the scene:  At the far end of the track — where the sprint events normally start — was a dreadlocked and wiry college-aged kid, a 60-meter and sprint-hurdles athlete, working with his coach (who I’d spoken with earlier, in between my sets of hurdle bounds) on block-starts and 60-meter acceleration.  A picture of fluid, sprint perfection if there ever was one, blazingly — and I do mean blazinglyfast.  Juxtaposed to this, puttering around the inside lane of the track, was an elderly man in a wheelchair.  Not just any old wheelchair, mind you, this man — who by his limp posture, and the manner and multitude of straps required to keep him secure and upright in the chair, undoubtedly had recently suffered some form of severe paralysis — “pedaled” himself around the track by means of a hand-powered mechanism, attched to the wheelchair, that resembled a bicycle crank.  The device was geared rather low, as the man, though “pedaling” in earnest, only managed a snail’s pace around the track.  This he did, though, for the duration of my extended workout, while his companion (wife?) walked along beside offering small talk and encouragement.  Two “coach-and-athlete” teams; two wildly differing sets of goals.  Individually inspiring scenes in and of themselves; their juxtaposition, though, was a scene — and a lesson in both life,  and fitness “goals” that I won’t soon forget.

It’s back to the gym on Tuesday and Wednesday, then another 5-day, no-gym stretch, with a trip to Atlanta thrown in.

In Health,