Intelligence requires that you don’t defend an assumption ~ David Bohm
Yeesh, I probably still have the cassette somewhere, too...
The setting: a recent Friday, early evening, alone and between clients at Austin’s Efficient Exercise Rosedale studio. Shuffled tracks from Van Halen’s late 70’s/early 80’s stuff (Van Halen II, Fair Warning, Women and Children First, Diver Down…) blasting from the stereo. I’m 8 sets into a power clean — Russian leg curl combo workout, and my thumbs are now completely raw and hook-grip-numb. My posterior chain is just about spent, and my quads — as a result of an ever-lower catch depth — are fading fast. Rep after rep; set after set. To most, this would be the epitome of prolonged drudgery and yet to me, this is just some good damn quality time spent alone. Hardcore iron meditation; in lieu of Gregorian chants, I’ve got the incessant wailing of David Lee Roth‘s voice over an Eddie Van Halen guitar.
It occurs to me that, save for my Addidas Adipure-shod feet, this could just as easily be my 17 year-old self “slaving away” at the Power House Gym, San Antonio, Texas, circa 1982.
What’s kept this love of Physical Culture alive for me for so long, I’m not really sure I can pinpoint. I don’t think it’s any one thing though, but rather a patchwork of things. I think most of us who have remained true to whatever manifestation of Physical Culture we define as our base (HIT, HIIT, Oly or Power lifting, bodybuilding, etc.) can relate to Henry Rollins‘s notion of the iron never lying. When all else in the world my be completely and insanely bat-shit, an evening’s worth of 225 lb power clean repeats remains comfort food for my physical being.
In fact, the very things that defined my exercise base 35 years ago — cleans, dips, chins and sprints — still define my base today. Sure, I utilize a myriadof different training modalities and exercises now, and my workouts run seamlessly, day-to-day, into my play and back again. I’ve refined and compressed my training now, with the two-hour marathon sessions being few and far between. I have access to, and frequently utilize, proprietary ARX Fit equipment — one of the most advanced exercise technologies to come along since the heady Nautilus days; an equipment technology that I know has, in fact, allowed me perform my base-of-preference movements at ever-higher levels — and yet there’s just something about a solid, well-executed, old-school clean, a gut-wrenching dip, the clanging of iron between your knees when grinding-out chins, or that earth-skimming feeling of an all-out sprint.
I’m sure nostalgia plays a big part in this, just as I’m sure I remember myself as being a better athlete than any of my coaches would attest to. Maybe these are the little lies we tell ourselves to make it through this life, I dunno. What I do know is that this type of lifting — and these particular movements — are not only good for my body, but good for my mental state of being as well. In their essence, these are primal moves; the base of the Physical Culture pyramid — heave, press, pull…and haul friggin’ ass. Follow-up one of these sessions with some wanton carnivory and, well, we’ve got two of the four Ancestral Wellness rails covered. Eventually, we’ll get around to addressing community and spiritual life using the same Ancestral template. Ancestral Wellness 3.0 and 4.0? It’s just a matter of time before these issues will force themselves to the forefront, just as the first two phases have done.
A little something to contemplate. Is Physical Culture an art, in the same way that music is an art?
I would argue that it is. Check out this clip from Big Think, and let me know what you think.
There is a huge difference between training from a template, and training intuitively according to your n=1 circumstance. A template can never adjust for your particular set of givens; time, tools, techniques and temperament are unique for each individual, and must be navigated accordingly. To move toward Physical Culture mastery, you must break free of adhering to some one else’s notion of what ought to be done, and cut your own path. You can always learn from what others do under their particular set of circumstances, but blindly copying is a mistake.
“Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”
– William James
So I’ve decided to follow the look under the hood with a purview of how the ol’ chassis is holding up, and what better method to do so with than the gold standard body composition test, the DEXA scan.
The big selling point of this technology, of course, lay in it’s ability to accurately and non-invasively measure bone density, and as more and more folks succumb to the horrors of a SAD/non-Paleo-diet-induced osteoporosis, this provides the grain-chomping, brittle-boned (1) a vivid snapshot of their deteriorating scaffolding, and (2) a means by which to be shock-sold the Bisphosphonate class of wonder-drugs (Boniva, Flosamax, etc.). It’s a beautiful, beautiful, 3-way partnership; feed ’em crap, show ’em the in-your-face results of eating said crap, then sell them a drug that enables them (in one respect, at least) to continue eating that crap. Win-win…and — cha-ching! — WIN again! 😉
Mostly seen as a side benefit of this technology — yet what those of us in the Physical Culture community would be most interested in — is the DEXA’s ability to accurately measure ALL the constituents of one’s body composition: fat, lean tissue and bone mass. In other words, it’s the most accurate, all-encompassing picture of one’s body composition that can be had.
Now, as I have the great privilege of living in *the* epicenter of Physical Culture, Austin, Texas, I have ready access to the University of Texas run Fitness Institute of Texas, where Executive Director, Phil Stanforth, and Operations Director, Julie Drake, oversee a grade-A organization of fitness/performance-smart professionals. In fact, we at Efficient Exercise are now in partnership with the fine folks at FIT, offering DEXA services to our clients at a much-reduced rate. Not only do clients receive a full report of their scan results (the most of which, of my report, I’ve included below), but also a comprehensive explanation of the results from one of the astute FIT staff.
Note: for those of you making the trip to Austin this spring for what’s quickly shaping-up to be the Burning Man of the Paleo/Primal set, PFX12, we will have have a limited number of slots available to obtain your own DEXA Scan report and comprehensive explanation from the professionals at FIT. We’ll update PFX12 website as the specifics of this service become available. Check the PFX12 site for more details as they become available.
So without further ado, here we go. Ain’t no Photoshoppin’ and/or airbrushin’ this stuff, folks! And just a side note: airbrushed or not, LL does look mighty (surprisingly even?) hot, here 😉 I dunno, maybe it’s the Marilyn thing…
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. So below is a visual image of the raw data, produced from approximately 7-minutes worth of actual scan time. Note the bit of scoliosis in the mid/low back. Now, I haven’t thought of this one iota since my days of playing college ball, when the team chiropractor pointing out this condition to me. I remember at the time asking if it was a problem, and his reply being “based on your performance, apparently not.” My kinda doc. The question in my mind now is, I wonder how much extra performance *could* be squeezed-out of being perfectly aligned. I also wonder if this is a genetic thing, or something resultant of my daredevil (read:bone-headed), no-stranger-to-the-ER, youth.
And now, the pertinent portions of the full report. I realize these are a little tough to read; gotta work within the limitations of the blogging platform, though.
Note the 17.2 % BF in the hips. What the hell? Lotta junk in the trunk appearantly, y’all 😉
What would be interesting — and what I’d kill to have — are comparison data from my competitive days, where I was in the peak of my performance/fitness ability (health, of course, being another matter entirely), and played at between 220 and 225. Aside from the extra amount of muscle I carried in my neck at that time (heh…think prototypical Neanderthal), I wonder what the rest of my composition would have looked like. If I had to guess, I’d say that my BF% was a little higher, but not by much.
So this is quite interesting. A 10.6% BF level without purposefully trying to be lean. If anyone has seen me eat, they know that I do so with reckless abandon. The key, of course, is the consumption of a Paleo diet — though I do enjoy the occasional corn tortilla, corn chips and salsa, and the much more frequent beer. I also swill plenty of raw, unpasteurized dairy (usually reserved for post workout). These are the n=1 tweaks that I’ve found work for me, though these few indiscretions usually have me exiled, by Paleo dogmatists, to the nutritional equivalent of Lesbos; that’s the topic of another post though, I suppose. At any rate, if I were a bodybuilder, a 10.6%, off-season BF would be pretty damn good — not far to go to get to stage condition — and a hell of a lot healthier than bloating up only to drop right back down again.
Oh, and one thing that I did not include from the report is that, at a BMI of 30.6, the World Health Organization considered me “obese”. I suppose it’s time to whittle-down into the single-digit BF so as to rectify that!
So what, exactly is “healthy”? And can “healthy” (as opposed to “performance”) even really be adequately defined? None of us in this community is particularly satisfied (nor should we be) with the trite “absence of disease” definition, but damn if we don’t keep getting lead back to that point. Health, of course, is a condition that is in continual flux, a condition defined not only by internal functioning and parameter measures, but also how those parameters react to epigenetic, cultural and societal influence. Health is a distinct function apart from measures of “fitness” and/”performance”, and yet it is intimately tied to these measures as well. A simple thought experiment: how many victims of the 9/11 tragedy sported “perfect” blood labs and DEXA screens, yet perished due to a fitness base incapable of rising to the occasion? An extreme example, yes — and yet…well, it’s at least food for thought.
“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 –
(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.
(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
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.
Sprint starts (30 yards) and limited monkey & parallel bar work (really feelin’ Thursday’s DLs — not much spring in the legs)
Sprints (100 yards, 8 x <15 seconds, 45 seconds recoverery) and heavy sandbag work — clean & press, snatch, totes, etc. (yikes! *Still* feeling those DLs!).
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.
“Every man is the builder of a temple called his body.” – Henry David Thoreau
As a frequent Forum, with Michael Krasny listener, I was pleasantly surprised by the exceptional Ancestral Wellness literacy expressed in this recent show (Are Humans Meant for Monogamy?) by guest Christopher Ryan, psychologist and co-author of “Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality“. Ancestral Wellness acuity of this level is rarely encountered in the mainstream. Even mentions of vegetarianism in this show come with the caveat of “know your biological underpinnings and, if you still opt for a vegetarian diet, do so with this knowledge and take the necessary precautions”. In this way, Ryan compares monogamy with vegetarianism — no moral judgements, just sound precautions if you chose to operate outside of your genetic hard-wiring. Know thyself, then adjust accordingly so as to support your goals and wishes.
Hmmmm; where have you heard that before? 😉
Now this idea is as easy to parody as Paleo itself; however, Ryan isn’t advocating wanton hedonism, but rather, a need to know your genomic hard-wiring, and the hows-and-whys behind that hard-wiring’s development over our species’ existence.
Social networks and the innate human search for “spiritual meaning” (note: as opposed to religion), in my mind, are the missing — or at least, as yet unexplored — “third and forth rails” of the Ancestral Wellness movement. Knowing who we are, in terms of diet and exercise, in an evolutionary sense, forms the base upon which those of us within this movement craft a healthier, happier and fitter lifestyle. What’s missing, of course, is the societal and spiritual element. Living within the societal structures of our current, modern dictates is as much an anathema to our well-being as subsisting on a Standard American Diet, or negating the positive implications of movement/exercise in our lives. Neglecting our hard-wired need for “meaning” is just as corrosive.
Christopher Ryan suggests that the current economic situation may in fact drive some forward-thinking people to begin to form nascent “clans” (my word, not his), with both shared responsibility and shared fruits-of-labor. As necessity is the mother of invention — or in this case, re-discovery — this can only be viewed in a positive light vis-a-vis hunter-gatherer clans and their propensity toward egalitarianism. It will be interesting to see how governments deal with this scenario.
Ten-thousand-plus years of severe social conditioning, of course, won’t be scrubbed away in a mere generation or two. But as with all cutting-edge ideas, there will always be forward-thinking, early adopters. It is, in my mind at least, inevitable that the first “new clans” will emerge from this already egalitarian/libertarian minded Ancestral Wellness “sub-culture”; a sub-culture, by the way, that I am proud to be a member and vehement promoter of.
And hell, let’s go ahead and throw shamanism into the mix of ideas that were squelched/repressed/shamed a result of leaving behind the egalitarian, hunter-gatherer lifestyle as well. Few non-fiction books have rocked my world the way Graham Hancock’s awesome work, Supernatural, has. Totally mind-expanding, to say the least, in the way that Peter McWilliams’ work, Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do, skewed my political views (much further) toward practical libertarianism, way back in the day. Ditto for Peter McAllister’s Manthropology, in shaping my notions of the average Joe’s physical ability and work capacity.
Food, fitness, societal underpinnings and spirituality, taken together and as viewed form an evolutionary prospective, round-out the Ancestral Wellness model.
The return of the clan and the clan shaman are, in my estimation, are a much-anticipated inevitability. Sign me up for both.
A Weekend Fun and Frolic — on the field, in the parking lot and in the gym
Saturday: speed work –
(1) sprints: 6-seconds, self-timed, all-out and with full-recovery between reps. Autoregulated by distance, in that when I failed to attain max distance two times in a row, I pulled the plug. I think I ended-up getting about 10 efforts in, though I wasn’t trying to keep count. “Full recovery” equated to about two minutes between reps.
(2) dual-leg speed hop; 10 seconds for max distance. Same autoregulation idea as above. Again, roughly 10 attempts before reaching drop-off.
(3) dual-leg hop — tractor tire course. 8 tires dispersed randomly, but spaced so that I could hop in, out and between each tire so as to complete the course. Done fast as possible, but with no “double hops” or misses. 6 rounds, full recovery between rounds.
What’s the difference between speed and speed repeat (or speed endurance) work? Check out this article from Elite Fitness: What speed training really means. I can explain it no better than this. Nice work, Jon.
Sunday: sprint repeat (endurance) work –
Prowler pushes, farmers walks, all manner of sandbag clean & press, snatch variations and other such manifestations of tourture — just a friggin’ free-for-all throwdown with Skyler Tanner and PFX12’s mastermind Kevin Cottrell. Not a damn bit of it was quantifiable, although I was close to hurling at one point, so I guess that would qualify the session as “pretty intense” Chalk another one up for the axis-side of the old power-law curve 😉
And let me just say this: you can’t take these two friggin’ animals anywhere — just look at what the hell they did to my prowler during this workout…
Check out that right rear skid. What you can’t see is that the left rear skid is bent, too. Does this mean that the Paleo/HIIT crowd is tougher on equipment than those West Side powerlifting behemoths? Hmmmmm…… 🙂
…meanwhile, the ol’ prowler is in ICU. Damn, just after I got my bike off of the same such life support. Meh…
In the news…
This is either a boon for health, longevity, and the quality of life — or a major score for the pharmaceutical industry. Check out this story, from Big Think — The Man Who Was “Cured” of HIV. Now this certainly can work out to be the essence of Ancestral Wellness — combining the best of modern technology, with an underpinning of smart & solid Physical Culture. Without that solid underpinning, however, what science is creating is a class of customers beholden to the pharmaceutical industry not just for 75 years, but for 150 years. Cha-ching!
Eat the rich, my friends…or rather, let the rich eat themselves.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
True for many aspects in life, but no more so than in the pursuit of a long and successful life in the game of Physical Culture 2.0.
And what exactly *is* Physical Culture 2.0? Well, in essence, it’s the fully integrated pursuit of a healthy and vibrant existence, including (but certainly not limited to) looking to our evolutionary past to construct a scaffolding upon which to layer ever more effective and efficacious “technologies” (both modern and stone-age) so as to produce an exquisite phenotypical expression of one’s self onto the world.
And speaking of Physical Culture 2.0, here’s Skyler Tanner and yours truly speaking truth to power about this emerging paradigm shift from what is currently understood as Physical Culture (or PC 1.0, if you will) at the August 2011 Ancestral Health Symposium:
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the emergence of Physical Culture 2.0 is a healthy, lasting process — less so an anarchistic revolution as it is a phenomenon of transcendence — the building upon (“transcending” in every sense of the word) that which has come before; even that which we might be quick to label “malicious” at best. Carrying forward that which is good and helpful, and simply leaving behind (and with no emotional attachment) that which is not helpful. No failures, only feedback. Learning from previous mistakes; moving forward with no baggage — emotional or otherwise — to drag about.
And while team sports certainly have their role in PC 2.0, for the most part, this is an n=1-driven phenomena; self-mastery, self-betterment…self-knowledge.
The Four T’s
…or one person’s “play” is another person’s metcon…
I’ll speak more to the idea of Exercise vs Activity (or play) in an upcoming post, but for now, let’s just say that activity (or play) to ===> exercise is an n=1-specific continuum, and concentrate here on tools, techniques, time and tenacity; the immutable laws of Physical Culture. As a correlate to the four T’s, consider the speed of light and its position as an immutable law of physics. Just as David Duetsch would say that anything is possible so long as it does not violate the immutable laws of physics, so too is our ability to transform ourselves, in a phynotypical sense, so long as we properly manipulate these four tenants of Physical Culture (diet being the other side of the same coin, of course, and with it’s own set of “immutables”). Now this isn’t so “woo-woo” as it might first appear. Let’s, for the sake of argument, consider my last outdoor metcon outing, which went a little something like this:
Wash, rinse, and repeat x3. I won’t get into a full-on explanation of all the individual elements (I’ll post a video of this in the near future), or hella-bitch about the temperature being a nice one-ohh-whatever-the-fuc! outside during this particular shindig…
Ozzie says, "Texas heat blows, yo!"
…no, actually what I want to do is look at this workout through the tools, techniques, time and tenacity lens.
What’s the take-home message here? Quite simply, this: that Sprint (or High Intensity) Interval Training — even at moderate intensities — can impart some pretty damn impressive physiological adaptations. That’s smart and efficient training, folks; training, by the way, that requires little in the way of tools and, if performed moderately (or “scaled”, if you prefer), only a modicum of tenacity.
Additionally, I’ll tell you this about HIIT/SIT: this manner of training will, in short order, devour an enormous amount of calories, both during — and for many hours following — said exercise bout. And while the metabolism remains jacked for up to 24 hours following a SIT/HIIT bout, there is an even more important shift taking place in the musculature at the fiber-type level: a preferential shift to fast-twitch dominance and a preservation of this fiber type (Bending the Aging Curve, from the above-sited talk and slide presentation). In addition, there will be an up-regulation of anaerobic, ATP, and aerobic enzyme activity. In other words, all energy systems will become more efficient at generating energy and burning calories.
Simply put, training in the anaerobic-glycolytic pathway via proper manipulations of SIT/HIIT methodologies up-regulates all energy pathways (yes, including aerobic oxidation), making them more efficient and, as a result, making you a better conditioned Physical Culturalist. So high-intensity exercise elicits a high output from all metabolic energy systems — however, this does not work both ways. Training for endurance (aerobically, i.e., long and slow) will not lead to equal up-regulation of ATP and CP or anaerobic glycolytic enzyme activity/pathways, simply because aerobic type training does not stress these systems.
Now, let’s shift environments (and available tools), and see if we can produce the same type of metabolic effect using old-school black iron. Check out this workout from earlier in the week. I also ran a few of my more advanced clients through this same, Martin Rooney inspired, black iron circuit, which can, of course, be scaled (or exercises can be swapped) so as to suit any ability level. Remember the emphasis here is on metcon/energy system training, not strength, per se. Since the “rules of the game” are such that I have a 30-minute time limit, and that I’ll need to rely on old-school tools to accomplish the task, I’ll have to select exercises that can be performed safely under some pretty severe fatigue. Uhhh, so yeah — that means Oly lifts/derivatives are out 😉
So here’s what I ended up with:
power sumo DLs x 10
T-bar swings x 20
alternating lead-foot BTN jerks x 10 total
wash, rinse, repeat x3.
Tough? Yeah, you bet your sweet ass it is. But the cool thing is that anyone, in any condition, can perform this basic theme (scaling and/or subbing exercises where necessary) and — as the study sited above demonstrates — derive some fantastic benefits from it. So my “play” might be somebody else’s beat-down, but that’s the beauty of this Physical Culture thing — it’s all about the n=1 experience.
“To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.” – Benjamin Franklin
Excellent! Always a man ahead of his time; cool Ben, the original proponent of intermittent fasting 😉
The Ancestral Health Symposium, 2011
In a word, just a fabulous, fabulous, 2-day event. I won’t go into a complete re-tread of of AHS 2011 events here; soon enough, you’ll be able to partake of the entire 2-day extravaganza — at least virtually, via slides and Vimeo — here. And I really implore you to do so, as all the presentations were top-notch. But more to the point, so much good coverage (this piece, for one example) has already been written on the event, anything else would simply be rehash. One suggestion, though: for a really cool perspective of the gathering, how about some Twitter hashtag coverage of AHS11?
Above, the pre-game warm-up: Meesus TTP and I (and Skyler Tanner — blue shirt, over my left shoulder) take in Doug McGuff’s Body By Science presentation, just prior to the Tanner/Norris dog-and-pony show — the unveiling of Physical Culture 2.0, Efficient Exercise style. Photo by my good friend (and excellent photographer) A. Jolly.
Plenty of great blogosphere coverage of AHS11, yes. Unfortunately, what you won’t be privy to were all the stimulating, impromptu, cross-disciplinary conversations among presenters, and between presenters and the myriad (600+?) of attendees. Oh, that and the stunning UCLA campus, and the oh-so-perfect 72-degree, no humidity weather. Not that I’m weather-jealous or anything… Anyway, what a rich environment for the blending of knowledge and ideas. It has taken me a full week to decompress, process and synthesize all that I took in during that whirlwind two days. Wow, is just about all that I can say at the moment. My pea-little brain is still in overload. Or maybe it was the 105-degree Texas heat I returned to (again, I’m not LA weather-jealous); sprints, bar work and tire flips being my welcome home to Tejas workout. Crazy? Yeah, no doubt — but a Physical Culture 2.0 fit kind of crazy — and that makes being crazy, well…kinda okay 🙂
And speaking of crazy…
A *serious* meeting of the minds 😉
Okay, so it wasn’t all furrowed-brow and free of levity 😉 The symposium was, in fact, a seriously fun, extremely social event as well. As the above picture was being taken by Meesus TTP, John Welbourn (of CrossFit Football) — who was leaned against a table just to my right — was uttering “awk-waaaard”; just too friggin’ funny. Immediately following this shot, I had the opportunity to chat a while (Chico sockmonkey in-hand) with John about his training experience with Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell crew out in Cleveland, Ohio. Some fascinating, first-person insight into Louie’s methods (lift heavy some days, lift fast other days. Bust ass all days; that about sums it up). The juxtaposition of this picture and that training-related chat I had with John rather epitomized the entire conference for me; fun, frolic and seriousness — all combined into a two-day “Woodstock” of primal-living event. Kudos to the original epistemocrat, Brent Pottinger, and the ever-hospitable Aaron Blaisdell, and their team of dedicated volunteers for pulling-off such a fantastic event. I’m already looking forward to AHS 2012.
Physical Culture (PC), 2.0
The philosopher Ken Wilber – who I’ve been devouring ever since being introduced to his work via my AHS 2011 co-presenter, Skyler Tanner – speaks of evolution as a process of transcendence and inclusion; exactly the process by which PC (Physical Culture) 2.0 will “evolve” from the current, sorry state of affairs (think bloated, cartoonish, professional bodybuilders) into the defining, all-encompassing meme of the Ancestral Fitness movement; the “yang” component to the Paleo diet “yin”. This healthy, lasting process is not so much anarchistic revolution as it is building upon (“transcending” in every sense of the word) that which has come before; even that which we might be quick to label “malicious” at best — for example, the doings of the AMA and Big Pharma, the Prodigal Son-like travels of Physical Culture 1.0. Take beyond/carry forward that which is good and helpful; simply leave behind what is not, with no emotional attachment. This is the way of true progress.
My good friend and tribal elder, Ken O’Neill, has written a wonderful piece related to the emerging Physical Culture 2.0. It seems to me that this movement is being born even as we ping ideas and methodologies back and forth; as if we are actually midwifing (if that is actually a valid term) the movement into being rather than “inventing” anything per se. Fiction writers often speak of “chanelling” a work into being rather that actually “creating” anything. I can certainly attest to that notion, having written a work of fiction myself (The Blood of Samuel), and I have to say that this particular “emergence” process feels much the same as bringing a work of fiction from the “ether” and into the mortal world. Call it being a conduit between realms, if you will — and if you’re down with that kind of thing. But one thing is for sure: this movement is underway, and it simply won’t be, cannot be, stopped.
Framework vs Fundamentalism
One theme that I was happy to see emerge from the Ancestral Health Symposium was that of basing N=1 experimentation upon an evolutionary framework, as opposed to sheepishly following some lock-step, dogmatic, one-size-fits-all prescription. Remember, as viewed through the evolutionary lens, “optimum” can only be hinted at; more digging, more critical thinking, more thinkering (hat tip to Brett Pottinger for the term) is required to tease-out the optimum from the merely satisfactory. That our species can survive to breeding age and successfully reproduce on a completely bankrupt diet is a testament to our supreme adaptability, and speaks nothing to what is optimum for our genotype. And, too, any step toward singularity is a step toward extinction, be that in a species or in an entity. My hope is that the healthy debate of ideas remains a integral part of the AHS organization.
On the Workout Front…
I’ve been a bit jammed for time as of late, so what I thought I’d do, in lieu of posting a round-up of all of my between post workouts, is to select a choice few to dissect. The following is a metcon workout that I completed on Saturday, the 13th. The clips are in two parts, because I’m an IT-idgit, and couldn’t get Windows Movie Maker to cooperate with me and my Android clips. Shouldn’t this all be compatible? Meh…
…and continuing on with the 4th exercise in the circuit…
Notice that none of the 4 exercises in this circuit are particularly technique-heavy, and are therefore suitable for under-fatigue utilization. And by this, the 5th round of this doozie, I’ve got some serious fatigue goin’ on; though I’m still pushing the front squats with adequate umph, the explosion in my prowler pushes has pretty much dwindled to nada. Of course the real ball-busters in this circuit are the front squats and prowler pushes; the dips and curls can almost be thought of as “active recovery”. And this is how I like to program a weight-centric metcon workout — variations of intensity within the circuit itself, and little to no rest between each round. Think American football, two-minute drill here. This type of workout — repeat, short-duration busts of high power output — lands square in the middle of my natural ability wheelhouse; my basecamp, as it were.
Charcuterie is near and dear to my heart; a luxury afforded to those of us lucky enough to be alive in this day and age, and another example of enjoying that life under the framework of a stone age existence, but with the benefits extended to modernity.
About the show, from KQED’s Forum website:
In recent years, more chefs and consumers are demanding local, sustainable meats, driving some to raise and butcher their own livestock. We get into the gristle with three butchers and talk all about meat, from what consumers should be asking at the counter to how to cook a whole pig in the back yard.
No passion so effectively robs the mind of all of its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.
The question of “why should there be a hypertrophy responseat all” has puzzled me for some time. On the surface, inflated muscle mass does seem to be a grossly inefficient answer (in metabolic terms) as to how best to endure repeated-effort bouts of high intensity work. A massive, power-sucking brain we can surely justify — a huge return on metabolic investment, in an evolutionary sense. Hypertrophy, though, in my mind, is a bit harder to justify. Why not more of a hedge, for example, toward improved CNS efficiency? Or a different type/mix of fiber? Or an overall shift toward a more power-leaning motor unit makeup. Of course the various “how to’s” of hypertrophy are, in and of themselves, quite enough to keep the forums and blogosphere rife with speculation, hate-mongering and discontent. All well and good with the lively, on-going debate on that front; we ought, though, to be asking the deeper questions of just why hypertrophy should be in the first place. Once we know this, we can better hone-in on how to produce it
Evolution for me is a roadmap that helps answer all questions (save for origin), as to what is most efficient at propagating genes from one generation to the next. Note that “efficient” does not necessarily imply “optimum”. Keep in mind that in an evolutionary sense, optimum is not required — what is required is that an organism be more efficient than the competition at passing genes from one generation to the next. Evolution truly adheres to the wise dictum of not letting perfection stand in the way of the good. Good enough to git’er done better than the competition is good enough. Optimum phenotyipical expression is another question entirely. This is where thinkering, manipulation, and critical thought come into play. Having a firm grasp on where one is, and where one wishes to be, on the health-performance continuum is critical.
My good friend Ken O’Neill has suggested that hypertrophy can be considered in the same light as the neuroplasticity phenomenon associated with the brain. In other words (and this plays right into our species’ niche as being extremely adaptive, nimble, and opportunistic), the evolutionary beauty of this response might not lay in it’s uber efficiency, per se, but in it’s extreme adaptability. A leopard retains its leopard-ness, more-or-less, no matter the environment; humans, on the other hand, morph accordingly. We are nimble enough to both craft a spear, and powerful enough to then hurl the thing…with enough fine motor control, by the way, to land the spear on target. Our muscle fiber make-up and CNS “wiring” scream of compromise.
Does this get us any closer to uncovering the “secrets” to hypertrophy? Probably not. But if we realize that muscle is both metabolic currency, and that it’s metabolically expensive as all hell to gain and maintain, we begin to see just how much absolute work is required to elicit a hypertrophic response; we begin to see the difference between training for “health” and forcing the body into an all-hands-on-deck, survival response. We also begin to see why we have such wide-ranging genetic predispositions for certain phenotypical expressions of “fitness” or “performance”. You can take the lanky kid outta the savanna, but you can only somewhat take the savanna outta the kid, so to speak.
If hypertrophy is our species’ evolutionary answer to surviving an extreme (and hopefully short-term, from the body’s point of view) environmental onslaught, it stands to reason that the onslaught better be pretty damn severe for the body to invest in such a risky metabolic fix. That this “fix” can also be utilized as a ready fuel source should the onslaught subside is just pure evolutionary genius.
Time, tools, techniques, and tenacity; preach it, brother...
This also implies (in my mind, at least) that an optimized hypertrophy response requires a stimulus from all sections of the force-velocity curve; something Scott Abel has termed “surfing” the force-velocity curve. In essence, we need to perform work throughout the force-velocity spectrum, from the upper-left absolute strength zone on down to the lower-right land of RFD; it all matters and it’s all essential.
This then implies that if maximized hypertrophy is what you seek (as opposed to mere superior health), then you’d do well to (1) have access to a large and varied tool box so as to enable working on various movement patterns from the totality of the force-velocity curve, (2) become a master craftsman (technician) so as to manipulate these tools properly, (3) be possessed of the tenacity — the wherewithal — to soldier through the requisite hard work; reading/writing about this is easy, implementation, however, is a never-ending series of gut-checks, and (4) you better have some expendable time on your hands. We can effectively trim a lot of excess fat from workouts, but the fact of the matter is that an exorbitant amount time under the bar is a necessary evil.
Pushing the performance/hypertrophy envelope is a Faustian bargain, no doubt — which is why so few choose to pursue this path. Many more are quite content with superior “health” and/or various degrees of performance leading up to the all-out assault on optimizing one’s phenotype — conquering Mt. “Swole”, as it were. But isn’t this true in all areas of life? In all areas of maximized performance? Why is it that we think human performance should follow rules outside the dictates of of nature? That there must be some inherent “magic” involved? Sure, the totality of human performance has always been, and will always be, a mixed bag of inheritable traits, epigenetic factors, and human will — all in varying degrees no less. We are the opportunistic species; placicity is our evolutionary endowment. For each athlete who’s made it via brutally hard work, I can show you another who was just “born” phenomenal. Same with the musician, and with the mathematician. But there is no one formula, one recipe, for success. We would not have survived as a species if it were otherwise; each step toward singularity is a step toward extinction.
So the 21 Convention is now in the rear-view window, and the Ancestral Health Symposium lay ahead. It’s been a whirlwind last few weeks. What a great time I had with Anthony Johnson and the rest of the 21 Convention crew. Fantastic speakers, enthusiastic attendees and an awesome atmosphere. The unveiling of the ARX Omni was a highlight of the event for me, and I was able to both discuss this tool’s place within the greater toolbox, and allow some of the attendees to give ‘er a test drive.
I also got to spend quite a bit of time with Richard Nikoley, of Free the Animal fame. We hit it off like long lost pals. And why not? We’re both ex navy men, with a hell-bent Paleo leaning. I can tell you that Richard is just as “take no prisoners” in person as he is in “blog life”. What a cool cat. I look forward to spending more time with him out in LA next weekend. So what’s the TTP pitch going to be in LA? Well, Skyler and I intend to champion Physical Culture’s rightful place — the “new” Physical Culture, that is; Physical Culture 2.0, if you will — in fixing the damn healthcare quagmire we find ourselves in now. Since we hail from the epicenter of this integrative holistic medicine/fitness movement — Austin, Texas — it seems fitting. Stay tuned 😉
“We do not rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” – Archilochus
A spot-on observation of human nature, I think. Even so, within those of us who think more highly of ourselves, that it should be otherwise. So much so a true observation, in fact, that I use this quote as my email signature, so that I see it daily.
The following is related to a question I fielded recently from a client, and it’s not unlike the multitude of diet-vs-hypertrophy-related questions I field on a regular basis. The answer to this particular question, of course — like just about every every question related to Physical Culture — is analigous to attempting to tame the ol’ State Fair favorite, the Zipper.
There are just so many moving variables to this question that it’s impossible to give a pat answer here without really taking the time to stop and dismantle each of these whirly-gig cars. I think this “problem of complexity” is a big reason why the majority of folks fall for fads and easy-outs (in diet and in training) — getting to the right answers takes due diligence and, in most cases, it means letting go of previously-taken-to-be-iron-clad-correct “knowledge” — not exactly a feel-good position for many.
And, too (and as always), we need to know the goals of the individual asking the question. And, in this case, we need to define what we even mean by “hypertrophy” — because one person’s “lean mass gain” is another’s “bulk”. Just as an example, look at the difference in Brad Pitt’s physique between his appearance in Fight Club…
and then in Troy…
No doubt Brad is bulkier in Troy — but what of the difference in lean mass between the two appearances? Hard to say. And truth be told, few care. Even if that bulk were 95% intramuscular fat, most (guys, at least) would be more than happy with that.
Now I’m certainly not here to say that intra-muscular fat deposition (bulk) is necessarily a bad thing — I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to defining lean mass hypertrophy vs. all-encompassing bulk.
But back to my client’s actual question; what he wants to know is this:
what, if any, body recomposition changes occur over time if one engages in sound hypertrophy-focused training BUT were to limit the diet to maintenance-level calories?Let’s also assume we are talking about someone who is more toward the ectomorph side of the body-type continuum.
Oy vey! Where to begin with this one, huh? Well, first off let’s assume “maintenance calories” to mean “eating to satiation”, because, in reality, anything else would simply give credence to the now debunked (at least within normal parameters, i.e., between starvation and wanton gluttony) calories-in/calories-out theory. So, what we’re talking about here is simply eating a decent, Paleo-ish diet, to satiation, and absolutely not obsessing about such things as, oh… maintaining a positive nitrogen balance, or some other such lunacy — i.e., living a real, non-OCD life outside of the gym. Now, that said, what I’ve observed during my 30+ years in the iron game is this: given proper stimulus (and favorable genetic/hormonal underpinning), hypertrophy “happens” even in an environment of less-than-adequate nutritional support.
The kicker, of course, being proper stimulus. To put it another way, busting ass in the gym trumps anything that one does, or does not, shove down the ol’ pie-hole. I would even go further to say that busting ass trumps the use of fine pharmaceuticals, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Taubes gives a great example in Why We Get Fat (though geared toward fat gain — the same applies here) of a teen going through a growth spurt. Assuming decent nutritional support (i.e., no starvation), growth is a function of the hormonal environment within the body, not a function of forced intake of excess calories. In other words, a growing teen eats like he has a friggin’ hollow leg, and/or is (by his parent’s definition), a “lazy”, never-gonna-get-a-job-and-get-out-of-the-frackin’-house bum, *because* he is growing, not so as to *induce* said growth. Hypertrophy is much the same, though on a lesser (caloric requirement wise) scale. Think of it this way: stimulus drives the hypertrophy train, nutrition simply supports, to a very limited degree, the effort. And hey, I’m all for adequate support, but let’s just not forget what the real driver is here.
Now, I do concede a certain credence, if you will, to the other side of the argument (of which, this Dr. Lonnie Lowery/Rob “Fortress” Fortney-penned T-Nation article is the best I’ve come across in a long while) — that is to say, that properly administered overeating will establish a more favorable anabolic environment within the body, and therefore promote (better? Faster?) hypertrophy gains. What we’re talking about here, though, is a matter of degree — and, again, the difference between bulk and lean-mass hypertrophy must be vetted. And, too, we’re speaking again of multiple variables. I don’t think I’ve ever come across and individual who’s gone headlong into a “mass gain” phase, who didn’t also jack his/her gym intensity into the stratusphere concurrent with devouring everything they could get their hands on. Did they put on mass/bulk? You bet they did. But what really drove the train here, the newly-heightened input stimulus or surplus calories? I’ll put my money on the stimulus side of things, every time.
Another “eat your way big” argument that has some merit (in my observation, at least), is the “improved lever” argument. That is to say, increased bulk provides for better about-the-joint lever advantages, which allows one to push heavier weights, which promotes additional hypertrophy. I also believe there’s some merit to the point-of-origin energy supply argument. All fine and well. Until, that is, Johnny Bulk-Up decides that he’s now ready to diet-down to reach his original goal of being lean and muscular. Rut-Ro…
As the Dalia Lama says, many paths lead to the same destination 🙂
And I won’t even begin to delve into the fool’s errand of even attempting to second-guess the body’s caloric requirements with any measure of accuracy. Weigh and measure? Meh. Let us, instead, focus on the things that are, at least somewhat, within our control. Things like consuming a proper Paleo diet, a diet of a favorable macro-nutrient disposition dependent upon our own (smartly conducted) n=1 determination. Things like busting ass in the gym in an intelligently programmed way (which includes being mindful of spinning into the overtraining pit). Things like eating when you’re truly hungry, getting adequate ZZzzzzz’s, ditching chronic stress where possible — and not stressing about the chronic stresses that you can’t avoid.
So does proper diet matter in the hunt for hypertrophy? Sure it does. It just pales in comparison, though, to those gut-wrenching gym sessions. Look at it this way: if eating one’s way big had merit, Arnold’s physique would be the norm. My take is that time spent obsessing over caloric intake would be much better spent learning meditative/awareness practices that allow one to push past the mind’s “shutdown” threshold. Become a student of focus, intensity and self awareness, and let the body mind it’s own caloric needs. It does so brilliantly, thank you very much — and much better than you (your mind, ego) could ever hope to, so long as you provide it access to the proper raw staples.
So there you have it. Is your goal to attain (in accordance with your genetic limitations) 70s Big status, or the raw, lean and muscular look? The truth of the matter is, my friend, that you can’t have it both ways.
A muse for Physical Culture?
My good friend, and uber-talented artist, Jeanne Hospod, has an interesting project going on here:
Let’s just say she’s doin’ the best she can with the block-head muse she has to work with 🙂 Seriously, though, Jeanne is an exceptional Austin-area artist — and a kind, kind soul to boot. Check out her work; you’ll be glad you did. Very cool stuff indeed. And the process is simply amazing. I had no idea of the complexity…
Want to begin your PhD in Physical Culture? Start with this lecture from my good friend Ken O’Neill. Brilliant insights from an erudite champion of Physical Culture. Pull up a chair, put on a pot of Joe, and dive deep into the very essence of the “new” Physical Culture movement. Well done, Ken.
Workouts for the last couple of weeks. Now you may have noticed that my blogging has been a bit sporadic since my move here to Austin. And it’s for good reason — I’m busy as all hell! Seriously, though, many of the “quick hit” topics I generally now cover over at the Efficient Exercise Facebook page. Topics I choose to flesh-out a bit more will find their way here. And so it goes. Anyway, so friend us up over at our Facebook page, where Skyler, Mark Alexander and I go “around the horn” with many current health, fitness, and all-encompassing topics related to our favorite subject — Physical Culture.
OK, so a couple of short clips are worth a thousand words 🙂 A little 21st century technology paired with a smattering of old school favorites add up to a total upper-body thrashing. Sweet!
(A1) power snatch (close grip): 115/5, 5, 5, 135/4
(A2) hanging L-raise: 15, 15, 15, 15
(B1) hip press: (setting @ H2), 200lbs+ 1 grey and 1 black band, 8 sets of 3
(A1) trap bar DL (low grip): 265/7, 355/7, 405/5, 5
(A2) chins: 45/7, 55/5, 5, 4+
(A3) dips: 45/7, 70/5, 6, 7
Here’s a look at how the final round went down…
…dude! What happened to your hair?? Yeah, so I went all Duke Nukem. Summers are friggin’ hot here in the ATX, gimme a break. And I’m down with the minimalist upkeep. Metro-sexual man I am not 🙂 Gimme chalk on my hands, a fixed-speed bike, and a doo I don’t have to f&%# with, thank you very much!
Sprints! And climbing ropes, parallel bars, a 40-rung, super-wide set of monkey bars, a scaling wall and a waist to chest-high retaining wall for jumps. Big, big fun!
2 rounds of the following: (A1) hip press (H2 setting): 400/12, 500/6, 600/3 (hierarchical sets) (A2) standing roll-outs: 15
2 rounds of the following: (A1) Naut pec dec: 95/12, 105/6, 115/3 (hierarchical sets) (A2) XC flat press: (+50) 4, 3+ ( 80X0 tempo; X=fast as possible)
Okay, so it’s not the best picture, to be sure – I thought I could wash-out the glare, but alas… Anyway, here’s Madame Benoit’s rather erudite quote:
“I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with variation.”
Not to beat a dead horse, but again — it is my opinion that the parallels between the culinary arts and the pursuit of optimum Physical Culture are uncanny. Substitute “program” or “methodology” for recipe, “trainee” or “coach” for cook and you’ll see what I mean. No dogma here, just results. This much I know to be true: on-going success in the n=1 pursuit of fine Physical Culture comes down to the ability to pick just the right ingredient, at just the right time. It’s not at all rocket science really, but it does require a certain degree of devotion, dedication to the craft. Just as in fine writing, though, one must know the rules inside and out before those same rules can be broken in order to produce an elegantly-honed piece. We’ve all endured writing that is technically perfect…yet, colorless; lifeless, even. Consider such writing as the equivalent of linear periodization in resistance training. And then, every once in a while, we’re lucky enough to come across something breath-taking, like this:
“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”
That’s the last paragraph of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road; and that, my friends, is a true work of art. Cormac’s writing has a way of inducing epileptic fits among grammar Marms, and yet, what a vivid, sensual picture he paints. McCarthy undoubtedly knows the rules of grammar just as well as any technician, and yet he’ll trample those same rules in an instant in order to produce a desired result — in this example, a last paragraph that is nothing less than brilliant.
And speaking of bending the rules to produce results, remember back in January of this year when I spoke of the launch of Efficient Exercise’s Project Transformation? In this “project”, we at Efficient Exercise offered some 20-odd “everyday Joes” (and Josephenes!) 10 weeks of free training and dietary counseling, with the intent being to show that anyone can achieve and maintain a fantastic level of health and well-being with a minimum investment of both time and dietary intervention — or, another way of putting it, with a minimum of “headache, heartache and hassle”! Training consisted of two, 30-minute, CZT/ARX -based workouts per week, with “dietary counseling” consisting of little more than the equivalent of “hey, follow more-or-less a Paleo diet, and here’s Robb Wolf’s and Dr. Kurt Harris’ web sites“.
I jest here about the diet…but only slightly. Actually we did offer the dietary counseling/intervention services of Austin’s Merritt Wellness Center for those who had a rough, initial “shaking the carb Jones” transition, or for those who we thought might be struggling with proper nutrient absorption, or other such issues. The main take-away here is that these people were largely left to their own devices, other than the 2x 30-minutes per week that they saw us for their workouts, and the virtual support network created by our Facebook page. A health and wellness program that is anything but a fad, mostly self-directed and administered, and that is sustainable for a lifetime. No involvement from the medical establishment, no insurance hassles, nor dealings with the poly-pharma industry. No sales pitch or endorsement from a celebrity talking head. Surely something that simple can’t work, right?
Well, let’s just see about that.
So, after 10 short weeks, how did it go? Just take a gander, if you will, at these results:
No gloss-over here, no top-performer bias, just the plain, raw, non-manipulated data. Everybody’s data.
Limitations? Sure. I wish we’d done preliminary and follow-up blood work. I wish that we had access to a more accurate method of measuring body composition (we used the impedance method; access to a university’s water tank/scale would have been nice). But hey, we’re a gym/fitness studio, not a university lab. Our aim was to show a trend, not measure absolutes, and in that, I believe we succeeded.
But the key points remain: this is a simple, realistic and sustainable program with a huge return-on-investment — not just in the measurable health and well-being parameters, but in the intangible measures — happiness, self-esteem, productivity. Our intent here was not to produce better athletes, but better everyday citizens. Citizens who will not become yet another drain on our country’s limited healthcare resources. Citizens who can continue, into an advanced age, to contribute to the nation’s GDP, rather than become yet another statistical drain upon that same measure. And, yeah (and here comes my “woo-woo” side) — citizens who can contribute to the overall “good vibe” of their communities. Healthy, fit people are happy, courteous, empathetic, loving and caring people. It is no coincidence that Austin is, at the same time, the epicenter of Physical Culture, and a city renoun for it’s tremendously good vibe.
But hey, enough of me yammering on about this, let’s consider a couple of actual participant testimonials:
So, can the nation’s health care crisis be tamed, one citizen at a time? You bet it can. One hour per week. Some rudimentary dietary changes. A huge return on a very small investment. Vibrant health is within everyone’s grasp, even the most time-crunched of individuals.
Okay, and now for a few workouts from last week:
(A1) blast strap flyes: 15, 15, 15
(A2) blast strap tri extensions: 10, 10, 10
(A3) CZT/ARX chest press: HR/3, 3, 3
I’m a big fan of pairing blast strap work with the CZT/ARX. This little sequence here produced a total upper-body beat-down in a very short period of time.
(B1) OHS: 95/10, 12, 15 (box at 2 holes showing). Shoulders were friggin’ shot to hell at this point, so this movement, as it was programmed in this sequence, was done more of an upper-body finisher, with the added benefit of providing a good lower-body dynamic stretch.
(A1) Nautilus lateral raise: 150/10, 10, 9
(A2) XC seated military: (0 offset)/10, 7+, 7+
Ahh, goin’ a little old-school here, with a nice pulls progression!
(A1) power cleans (high catch): 135/10, 165/5, 185/3, 205/2
(B1) high pulls: (to at least belly-button height — higher, if possible), 225/5, 245/3, 275/3
(C1) BOR: 275/6, 295/3
(D1) straight leg DL: 295/6, 315/7
(E1) deadlift: 365/3, 415/2, 435/2
(A1) high bar Oly squat: 135/15; 225/12, 12, 12, 12
(A2) XC bi curl: (+20)/12; (+30)/12; (+40)/12, 12, 12
The properly performed high-bar Oly squat is a thing of technical beauty. Here, Russian world Oly lift champion (many times over) Anatoli Piserenko demonstrates a bit of “performance art” perfection. Wow…
So it’s been a ‘coon’s age since I’ve done high-bar Oly squats myself; a radically different move, of course, from the power-oriented variety. I performed these barefooted, which adds a tad bit to the level of difficulty in the movement. What added to the difficulty level even moreso, however, was the fact that I performed these following a good deal of fixie huckin’. Any form of squatting, though, following a spell of hard saddle time, is always an adventure 🙂 Seriously though — if you’re looking to push top-end weight in this movement, kids, wear your Oly shoes! Do as I say, not as I do! 😉
“…Can’t we at least give one another the benefit of the doubt? I can be somewhat patient with people who think they have the truth, the problem is those who think they have the whole truth.
It seems to me that too quickly categorizing others as wrong or mistaken is consummate arrogance and is not honoring the mystic’s journey. The mystic always knows it can’t easily be talked about. It’s beyond words. It’s ineffable. It will always be mystery; and this experience of something that is always mystery and is always bigger than our ability to understand it, is, in fact, what makes one into a mystic. It allows us to use the old shibboleth, but with a new twist: “Those who really know don’t talk too easily. Those who talk too easily don’t really know…”
– Fr. Richard Rohr
Okay, so here’s a philosophical question for you; one with a strength and conditioning flavor: in any given situation, and with all other things being equal, is it better to perform the best exercise selection half-heartedly, or a lackluster selection with all-out intensity?
Things that make ya go hmmmmm….
As a coach/personal trainer, I run up against this dilemma on a daily basis. But here’s the thing — it’s not enough that I know that the trainee ought to concentrate on the bang-for-the-buck lifts — things like deadlifts, dips, pull-ups and sprints — it’s my job to sell them on that fact. But here’s the rub: if I can’t coax a full-on, Dorian Yates-like intensity from a client on a set of trap-bar deadlifts, am I better off opting for a better buy-in for a flashier move; single-leg RDLs, say? Some form or fashion of glute bridge? Yeah, I know the purists out there would scoff at the idea of compromise (God forbid!), but in most cases these “purists” don’t interact where the rubber meets the real-world road. My take? I’ll settle for a good dose of intensity in the lackluster vs “going through the motions” on the money moves; I’ll concede the battle and live to fight another day. The pursuit of optimum Physical Culture is a lifelong chase and, like smoke, it cannot ever be completely grasped, only approached; never be completely known, but only hinted at. My job is to keep my charges healthy, progressing, and above all, on the path. This is just another instance of not allowing the perfect to be the detriment of the good. The fact of the matter is that I do win this battle more times than not, and that’s something I can feel good about. Is the client progressing overall? Are their goals being met? Do I have them in the game, spirited, optimistic and enthusiastic in their pursuit of optimum Physical Culture? If I can answer yes to all of these, then what’s the harm in doing some vanity curls now and again in lieu of some hard -and-heavy chins? None that I can see.
And speaking of not allowing the perfect to be the detriment of the good, we have a recent episode of The People’s Pharmacy, Sugar Hazards, featuring Dr. Robbert Lustig. Now many Paleo camp purists out there will lambaste Dr. Lustig for his speaking of “healthy whole grains”, but for the most part, this is a good interview for mainstream consumption. Let’s face it, the vast majority will have to be won over to the Paleo/EvFit/Ancestral Fitness movement in a piecemeal fashion — a little here, a little there — and “a little here” is much better in my book than a deaf ear and a “not at all”.
Hmmm, does the following sound familiar or what?
“…To neurophysiologists, who research cognitive functions, the emotionally driven appear to suffer from cognitive deficits that mimic certain types of brain injuries. Not just partisan political junkies, but ardent sports fans, the devout, even hobbyists. Anyone with an intense emotional interest in a subject loses the ability to observe it objectively: You selectively perceive events. You ignore data and facts that disagree with your main philosophy. Even your memory works to fool you, as you selectively retain what you believe in, and subtly mask any memories that might conflict.
Studies have shown that we are actually biased in our visual perception – literally, how we see the world – because of our belief systems…”
I treat the pursuit of optimum Physical Culture the same way that Meesus TTP treats her pursuit of the culinary arts; as just that — an open-ended art — an art which has an underpinning in basic, solid science, yes — but an ever-shifting art nonetheless. I don’t wish to alienate either camp, but walk and talk effortlessly between each side of the divide. And there does exist just such a divide — a divide that needs to be bridged for the better of each discipline. Check out what John Brockman has to say on the subject, from the recent Wired article, Matchmaking with science and art:
What is it that gets you interested in a person or their work?
“…I am interested in people who can take the materials of the culture in the arts, literature and science and put them together in their own way. We live in a mass-produced culture where many people, even many established cultural arbiters, limit themselves to secondhand ideas. Show me people who create their own reality, who don’t accept an ersatz, appropriated reality. Show me the empiricists (and not just in the sciences) who are out there doing it, rather than talking about and analysing the people who are doing it…”
Yes, exactly. Show me the Physical Culturalists with this mindset; follow these people closely, for here is where the future of Physical Culture is headed.
Okay, reader’s letters time. The first one here is rather long, but I decided to include the whole thing because it demonstrates a thorough self-evaluation; the type of self-evaluation required for accurate n=1 investigation. My comments/answers will be interspersed here in blue.
First and foremost thank you for taking the time to respond to my email. I’ve been following your blog and Facebook posts since last July and find them both to be very enlightening, well written, informative, and very much in line with my own beliefs and objectives to fitness and health. I found you via a reference on freetheanimal which I faithfully follow, as well.
I apologize in advance for the length of this email, but I want to provide you with enough information to hopefully leave you with a relatively good understand of my approach and the challenges that I face and would like to overcome.
Here’s just a short summary to begin with details subsequently in the email. I acknowledging that there are genetic limitations and age factors to consider, I’m just not convinced that I am incapable of making some further progress.
My Story (summary)
I just turned 58. While, my age may be somewhat of a factor I don’t consider it the reason I have difficulty putting on lean mass. I couldn’t do it at 25 either, but by my estimation that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep trying.
I’m 5’9″ and presently around 146 pounds. Extremely small frame and bone structure; most women probably have thicker wrists than I do. At my present weight I’m still around 13% body fat; most all of it around my lower mid section (navel area). By my calculations I would still need to drop another 7-9 lbs to get to single digit body fat. While I could easily do that, I just can’t bring myself to let my weight get that low. Therefore, I eat…and eat.
Don’t misunderstand. I can gain weight by eating processed foods and sugar and watch it turn to belly fat. I just can’t seem to put on lean muscle.
I’ve done resistance training on and off since I was in my mid to late 20’s. My approach up until about 2 years ago was always the standard multiple set approach 3 to 4 times a week. I’d plateau after about 3 months end up either hurting myself trying to lift more weight than I could handle, or else just get frustrated at the lack of progress and quit. This would typically go 1-2 years on; 3-4 years off cycles and repeat.
About 2 years ago a little voice inside my head told me to get fit once and for all and find an approach that works for me; since the convention wisdom approach certainly does not. I went on a quest of such a program. I stumbled upon Body By Science and began Doug McGuff’s and John LIttle’s program/recommendations which I’m still following today. I’ve had more success with this approach than anything else I’ve tried, but I’m far from where I’d like to be. They also have some sort of technical issue that will not allow me to post questions to their blog which precludes me from seeking advice via that venue.
My diet is very Paleo’ish. I began eating that way coincidentally just before reading BBS — not as a result of BBS. Interesting, I discovered both Paleo and BBS about the same time and through different avenues.
My health is good. I’m on no medications presently and most all my health issues went away almost immediately following the Paleo approach. My weight dropped considerably at the same time. I was around 178 lbs when I started Paleo.
As stated above I am very strict regarding the Paleo approach to food. I’m reluctant to say Paleo diet, because that implies food restriction, which I do not do.
I’m not dogmatic about what is considered Paleo. For instance, I do eat potatoes, salt, dairy, but abstain from grains (wheat, rice, oats, bread, pasta, etc.), sugar, vegetable oils and such. I do not drink milk, but consume a considerable amount of cream, butter and cheese. I easily go through a pint of cream a week in my coffee and frequently with berries as a dessert.
Meats and eggs are my staples. I rotate through an assortment of vegetables, maybe not with every meal, but several through out the week. I go out of my way to add good fats to my diet (read: animal fats, coconut oil, olive oil, etc.).
I travel a lot and eat out most meals through the week. I’ve found that by being selective on a menu I can usually find something that works. The downside is you don’t always know what you’re getting when eating out. On weekends I typically cook for myself.
I eat well and I eat a lot. Here’s an example: Wednesday for breakfast I had approximately 1/2 dozen eggs, 5 slices of bacon, 2 sausage and coffee for breakfast. Lunch was Fajitas (minus the tortillas’) with sour cream and guacamole. Dinner: Caesar Salad (no croutons) , A 20 oz bone-in rib eye, baked potato with butter and sour cream.
A couple dozen eggs and 2-3 steaks a week are the norm for me. I try to go organic when the choice is available. I work in some fish, but I’m not a huge sea food lover. Salads when I can’t find anything else on the menu that works, but it has to have meat. I supplement with cod liver oil to try and balance my Omega 3 a bit.
I am sensitive to most all other supplements, though. For reasons, I have never understood, vitamin and mineral supplements put me in a complete brain fog. With the exception of CLA and chromium I’ve never found anything I can tolerate. The high potency CLO has a similar effect, as well. I can take the regular Carlson CLO, but not the high potency and never more than one teaspoon per day. Strange, but true. Oh, I just bought a container of whey to try. I seem to tolerate it well. I cannot do creatine, either
I experimented for 3 weeks over the recent holidays with Intermittent Fasting and my weight started dropping like a rock. I dropped about 6 lbs with that approach over 3 weeks. Essentially, I would go 14-16 hours without eating then re-feed for 8. The easiest approach for me was to just skip breakfast and start my re-feed around noon each day. No problems with this approach and I certainly leaned out quickly, but I didn’t feel comfortable letting my weight get that low. I went off this approach the past week and put 3 lbs back on. I was 146 this morning on the scale. No visible muscle loss with that approach that I ascertain, though.
This, by the way, is essentially what I do each day as well, though the bulk of my eating is done during an approximate 6-hour window, beginning (again, usually) approximately 1-2 hours post workout. Ergo, my workouts are nearly always performed in a well-fasted (approximately 15-hours) state. This has more to do with my work schedule/client load more so than any active/on-going attempt to loose weight (which I’m not trying to do). This method does keep me fairly ripped, though, year round.
Essentially, high fat and real foods is my approach. I’ll detail my health improvements later.
Fitness and Exercise
As previously mentioned, I’ve done resistance training off and on for years. No cardio to speak of. I hate running and look awful in biker shorts 🙂
On occasion, I’ve tried sprinting. While I’m not opposed, I’m not crazy about putting up with the elements preferring my workouts to be indoors. . I’ve read on your blog that this is in your regimen and I’m certainly more than willing to add to mine, if it makes sense to do so.
Sprinting is a fantastic metabolic boost, not to mention a hell of a lower body workout (see my comments on the Metabolic/T-bar swing below). It also serves to keep one coordinated, streamlined and graceful, i.e. moving naturally, with the fluidity of a cat. My only lament is that I can’t sprint more often than what I do.
I have had memberships in the past to some good fitness centers (at least from the equipment perspective), but opted several years back to purchase a Bowflex machine and do my resistance training at home. I am still using it. It seems to suffice and by working out at home I can moan, groan and grunt through my BBS thing without getting strange looks.
It does have its limitations. I’ve maxed out the amount of resistance I can use for leg presses. I typically pre-exhaust my legs, or perform a Max Pyramid style requiring less weight (another BBS approach from John Little).
We’ll soon have a home version of our CZT equipment (that will sell under the name of ARX Fit; “ARX” for Accommodating Resistance EXercise) on the market and, in fact, we’ll be putting up some video clips soon of the equipment in action. The ARX Fit website will be rolling out soon. Our target demographic here is the Bowflex crowd — Bowflex being, in my opinion a decent piece of home equipment, however, I feel that the CZT home version will be both much more versatile, and one will never run into the problem of “outgrowing” the equipment. So keep an eye out for that. As soon as we’re live with the website, I’ll post about it here at TTP. I’ll also get those clips up over at the Efficient Exercise YouTube channel as soon as they’re ready.
I presently have access to a reasonably good facility where I’m currently working during the week should we decide I need to go back to free weights, or better equipment. Or, I’m not opposed to joining a facility to use when I am at home, but would prefer not.
I am going to assume you are familiar with BBS. I seem to recall some mention of it on your blog. I’m currently working out once per week with that approach and have for the past 18-24 months. I believe I do a reasonably well controlled HIT lifts. I’ve rotated through some split routines, Max Pyramids, Big 3 and Big 5 since beginning BBS. I’m currently back to Big 5. (Bench Press, Lat pulls, Military Press, Rows, and Leg Press on a once per week schedule.
I’m very familiar with the BBS methodology and, for the most part, I think that it’s spot-on. As is with any methodology, though, the body will eventually acclimate and cease to progress. Remember that strength and hypertrophy are metabolically costly, and the body’s imperative is purely survival — that’s it — not “lookin’ good nekkid”, or hoisting supra-natural poundages in arbitrary lifts, nor dropping to sub-7% bodyfat levels. The body is simply a carrier for your DNA (I’ll leave spiritual issues aside for the moment) and so will only begrudgingly (and in the most metabolically effective way possible) respond to changes in outside stimulus. The key here is to maintain high intensity in a constantly varied set of exercises, modalities and methodologies. In other words, the over-arching “system” for your workouts should be conjugate in nature. Can the BBS protocol be tweaked so as to become a more conjugate system? Absolutely; but then again, any protocol can thus be tweaked.
After somewhat of a stalemate a few months back I discovered what I thought had been high intensity, was not truly all my best. After working through a little more pain and discomfort I found that I could really push myself more than I had in the past. This is my present approach. I’ve seen my numbers go up considerably over the past few months as it relates to the amount of weight I can move with steady increases almost every week.
I don’t know if you can relate to Bowflex numbers, or not, but here are my current stats. I’m certain they are much higher numbers than if I were to switch to free weights for the same, or equivalent movement. Here they are never-the-less as of this past week’s workout.
Seated Bench – 230 1X6
Lat pull (palms up shoulder width grip) – 260 1X8
Rows – 290 1X8
Over head military- 160 1X6
Leg Press – 410 (pre-exhausted after holding weight for 1-2 mins in mid position)) 1X6
The numbers above probably represent on average a 5 lbs improvement in strength per week over the past 3 months in each movement. Again, this is once per week routine, one set per movement, and reasonably slow and controlled (more so on the negative side). I don’t track time under load (TULs) any longer. I figure it is what it is. I do go to failure on all movements, though. I don’t move from set to set quite as quickly as BBS recommends, since I have to setup the machine for each. Also, a bit of a rest between each allows me to move more weight, perhaps a bit of a cardio trade-off I’ve been willing to forego.
Intensity trumps all other considerations. TUL is a concern in that you want a particular set to terminate before the slow-twitch fibers have a chance to rejuvenate and join back in with the “all hands (fibers) on deck” lifting party. Again, the body is wired for survival, and will not call upon those fast-twitch fibers until absolutely necessary.
A general observation on my part is that my weakest muscles seem to respond the best. For instance, if I go back 30 years ago I had very weak triceps and hated to triceps work. Consequently, I worked triceps infrequently over the years. Now they are perhaps my most developed area. Same with deltoids which I never worked at all until recently, but I’m seeing some good results there, as well. Contrarily, my forearms are reasonably strong, but embarrassingly poorly developed. Not sure if this makes sense, or not, but a source of confusion to be based upon how I respond to resistance training.
Note that hypertrophy has many genetic factors, the three biggest players being the fiber make-up of the particular muscle, the size of the muscle belly, and the lever make-up at the joint in question. The longer the muscle, relative to the associated tendon length, the more material is present to “mold”. Tendon attachment and the resultant lever advantage about a particular joint (s) has much to say about how much load can ultimately be placed upon a particular muscle. Those who’ve “won the parent lottery” have a higher-than-normal concentration of fast-twitch fibers in a given muscle, a long muscle belly and advantageous lever systems throughout the body. These are the “mechanical” factors to consider — let’s not forget that the hormonal milieu has much to say about this expression as well. The good news is that, while you may not be able to do much to alter the scaffolding you’ve been dealt, you can most certainly positively influence the hormonal profile under which “construction” takes place.
I am most likely a Celiac although that’s a self diagnosis. What I found by eliminating grains from my diet many life long health issues disappeared — almost immediately. I didn’t know what a Celiac was until I got into the Paleo world and started reading. My problems started with a complete intestinal blockage when I was 12 years old and emergency surgery to clean out a blocked intestine. Doctors then just sent me home and essentially said, “Duh, we don’t know and good luck.”. I had gastro problems the rest of my life. Coincidentally, my growth also stopped very shortly thereafter. I am essentially the same height and weight as I was then. Up until that time I was always the tallest kid in school; even played center on the Jr. High basketball team. By high school I was considered short. There’s a correlation to my present size and weight, but not necessarily a causation that I can prove.
Health and Paleo Successes
GERD is no longer a problem and other gastro problems which I won’t describe are gone. I was also in chronic pain with tendonitis in both elbows, knees, and, most severely both Achilles’ tendons. I’d had that affliction since 14 yrs. That is now completely gone. Allergies – gone. Even my eye sight has improved. I could go one, but I’m sure you get the point. The Paleo diet has been a life saver for me and I would never consider any other approach to eating.
In two words — lean muscle. I can’t really gain weight on Paleo, but due to the health benefits described above I wouldn’t consider going off it. Having said that, I’m tired of people asking me if “I’m ill” and the “Oh, you’re so skinny” remarks. Truthfully, I’ve never felt better in my life, but people just see thin.
I recognize the genetic and age limitation, but I really feel 10-15 lbs of lean weight over the next 12-18 months should be attainable with the right approach. I’m not looking, or expecting, a body builder physique.
Lastly, I’m not looking for a free hand-out either. I know you are in the fitness industry and if consulting fees apply here let me know. If Austin were just a bit closer I’d drive down to your fitness for personal training advice.
Keith, I sincerely appreciate your assistance and look forward to hearing from you.
It sounds like you’ve got all the basics well covered, Jeff. One thing you didn’t mention though, is your overall stress level and your sleep patterns. Undue stress and/or lack of quality sleep can really put the kibosh on any meaningful strength or hypertrophy gains. The propensity toward “spare tire” or belly fat is a sure sign of a jacked cortisol level. It wouldn’t hurt to look into a good nighttime ZMA or Natural Calm supplement protocol. Personally, I use Now Foods ZMA (or an equivalent) nightly. Also, we haven’t looked at nutrient absorption and (especially so, since you’ve had a history of some pretty gnarly gastro-intestinal problems), so my suggestion here would be to look into some digestive enzymatic help via (for instance) Now Foods super enzymes. Check Robb Wolf’s site for more on this. Good nutrient intake is only part of the equation — a part that, it seems, you have well under control. Proper absorption, though, is another issue entirely. In addition to my “conjugate” suggestion above, you might want to play with a little more volume in your overall protocol — which you can get away with if you feather it in (as I do) within an overarching, conjugate methodology. Variety is the key to the prevention of overtraining — variety in exercise/movement pattern selection, rep speeds and loading. And one other sure-fire tip: if you can tolerate raw dairy, I’d suggest downing a good amount post-workout. Personally, I like to make a 50-50 mix of raw, whole milk and cream — about 12 oz total — and down this after my workout and about an hour or so before I have a “real” meal. I wait as long as I can post workout to ingest anything, though (so as to maximize the post-workout hormonal cascade), but many times life’s practicalities intervene; still gotta live under real-world constraints, so I don’t beat myself up with timing issues — just strive to do the best you can under the circumstances you’re dealt.
Feel free to hit me up with any follow-on questions. And by all means come on down to Austin (the epicenter of Physical Culture!) if you get a chance. I do deal with clients that I only see once per month or so; do give that option some thought.
I’m 47 yrs old and trying to get a feel for the direction I want to go relating to exercise. On the diet front, I’m completely sold on Paleo (at least 90% of the time). It makes sense logically, scientifically and there is general consensus among the “experts” (at least the ones I consider). So, I’ve been looking at Body By Science or at least HIT related approach, Starting Strength and Crossfit. There are some strong opinions out there and I’m hoping with all your real world experience and you analytical edge you can help me weigh it out.
I appreciate any insight. My wife also appreciates it, since I have promised her I will try like hell to get to look like the guy she married 17 yrs ago.
Thanks and keep up the great work!!
Art, so much of your final direction here will depend upon what you have readily available. All of these are fine systems, and all can be manipulated in a conjugate-like fashion. The path toward optimized Physical Culture has much in common with the path toward realized spirituality, in that the “system” is not nearly so as important as is the desire, intensity and ultimate follow-through with the chosen “system”. As the Dalai Lama says in regards to the “correct spiritual path/religion”: all lead to the same end; pick a spiritual pony and ride. My advice is to look at what you have ready access to and go, fully invested, in that direction. The reality is that once the initial newness wears off, the last thing you want is a ready-made excuse for not continuing on down the path. Is the nearest, most accessible place a CrossFit affiliate, an old-school black-iron gym (you should be so lucky!!), or…well, let’s just hope the closest outfit to you isn’t a Curves… 🙂
Dan John waxes poetic on the Metabolic (or T-Bar) Swing in this recent T-Nation article. I love the swing, and think of them as “indoor sprints”, as each provide for the same metabolic punch and posterior-chain hit. Swings are a winter/bad weather staple for me. Low-tech, for sure — but damn effective. Even better: T-Bar swings to a blaring AC/DC mix 🙂
…which leads nicely into the week’s workouts, of which I only have one “documentable” effort to relay. Throughout the week I hit many, uber-high-intensity “mini” sessions, none of which I documented, however. Lots of T-bars swings, weighted dips, pull-ups, lunges, you name it. Here, though, is one that I did document:
(A1) dynamic trap bar deadlift (grey bands): 265 x 3; 315 x 7 sets of 3
(A2) front press: 135 x 8; 155 x 6, 6, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4
And finally, what do three Physical Culture geeks do when they get together — that is, besides thrash one another in the weight room? Well, they talk about Physical Culture (and weight room thrashings!) of course! To whit, checkout episode one of our new Efficient Exercise venture, EETV. Mark, Skyler and I had a lot of fun with this, and I’m sure we’ll make it a staple (though progressively more refined) offering. And yeah, this wasn’t a stretch; we really do talk like this normally. What was our pre-shoot prep? 5 minutes (if that) of kicking around possible topics. This is off-the-cuff and off the top of the head, folks; Physical Culture performance art, at it’s best 🙂