Paleo Simplicity

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

On to a couple of workouts –

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

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

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

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

…and a few hours later:

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

in a superset with –

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving Daze, and X-Ccentric Equipment

So, just how does one prepare for the rigors of moving day (actually moving days…or even more appropriately, daze)?  Well, if you’re an idgit like me, you do so by cranking-out a couple of tough-ass workouts in the days prior, just to be sure that you’re good & well zorched even before lifting that first dastardly-heavy armoire.  What the hell was I thinking?  Well, to put it simply, I wasn’t.  Even as Meesus TTP and I sat through the signing process at Alamo Title Company, two thoughts ran through my mind.  One was that I actually did have a positive net worth there for a while, during that short time I was out from under my last mortgage; the other was that, yes — quite possibly, ripping-off 12 sets of power snatches was no way to prepare for the following couple of day’s worth of toting around the assorted heavy and cumbersome accumulations of 45 years of wanton consumerism.  My grandfather’s advice to me when I was a young lad (but already knew everything there was to know) — and which I promptly dismissed as the babblings of a madman — was to never own more than you could carry across the river; I’m sure his soul had a good laugh at my expense this weekend.

Wednesday’s session; Mike Mentzer HIT, anyone  🙂  I pulled-off this doozie at the Efficient Exercise downtown location:

Tru squat: (weight – 100, counter weight – 115, wide stance, 3rd pin, 4040 tempo*) 12, approx. 15 secs. rest, 10 – then immediately to:

Super-slow leg curl: 150 lbs x 10, approx. 15 secs. rest, 10 –  4040 tempo

Nautilus Pec Dec: 110 x 7 ( 4040 tempo), then immediately to:

Nautilus chest press/crunch: 150 x 12 ( 4040 tempo)

Nautilus pull-over: 200 x 10 (4020 tempo), then immediately to:

Strict reverse grip pull-ups: bodyweight x 6, 15 secs pause, 4 (5010 tempo)

Nautilus shoulder lateral raise: 160 x 10 (2040 tempo), then immediately to:

*X-Ccentric upright press: (no counter weight, no added weight) x 7 (4020 tempo)

Friday’s between-client power snatch session, Efficient Exercise Rosedale location:

And by the way, this one might not rank very high on the creative scale, but damn if it doesn’t reek of effective work!

power snatch: 115 x 7, 7; 135 x 7 sets of 3.  45-minute break, then: 135 x 5 sets of 3

X-Ccentric Equipment

*This is some of the the coolest, most inventive pieces of equipment (next to its kissing-cousin, the CZT line of equipment) that I’ve run across in all of my years in the iron game.  Part free-weight, part machine — a true hybrid piece of weight training equipment.   With the added bonus being that it looks downright medieval 🙂

The cool thing about this equipment — aside from fantastic leverages, biomechanical suitability and a fabulous strength-curve matching  — is the ability for the trainer to apply precise amounts of positive and/or negative assistance to the trainee.  Check-out the following couple of clips to get a feel for what I mean:

As you can see, there is no limit to to the way this piece of equipment can be utilized.

As is with the CZT, the X-Ccentric line of equipment is a fantastic addition to the weightroom arsenal.

Activity, and the Biochemical/Hormonal Milieu

Just a little something to chew on here, folks; another from the “this I believe, but cannot prove” files.  As always, I’m open to fresh takes and opposing views.  Questions, comments, complaints?  The floor is yours, so by all means let me hear what you think!

Ok, so here’s an interesting bit: now, once again we must keep in mind that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, however, this study (and this supporting NYT article) seem to support the idea of engaging in low-intensity “play” (or such activities as walking, for example) in addition to intermittent, high-intensity workouts as being a positive lifestyle approach.  My (albeit, purely empirical) observations of myself and of others totally align with this notion, and I structure my own lifestyle according to this underpinning.

The ideal, I believe, is not the alternating between two extremes (either red-line/balls-to-the-wall, or complete engine shutdown), but a fractal, long-tail distribution mix of (including, but certainly not limited to) intensity and volume.  We require a good bit of low-idle time, some active “putter about” time as well, to compliment our sporadic bouts of high intensity effort.   What exactly is the proper distribution for you – in other words, what should your “fat-tail” look like?  That’s a question only intelligent n=1 investigation and observation can answer.  However, I would suggest that this is another instance where learning to listen to your body becomes an extremely valuable commodity indeed.

Dr.  Robert Lustig tells of how the obese kids that he treats in his practice — once he manages to normalize their biochemical/hormonal milieu, as a result of proper dietary intervention — “spontaneously” become much more active.  They haven’t yet lost any appreciable weight, yet they suddenly turn from indolent to active.  The moral of the story here is that these kids aren’t obese because they are inactive, they are inactive due the biochemical/hormonal milieu that, in turn, drives their obesity.  And this is not just some fancy, verbal slight-of-hand either.  These kids are, in fact, malnourished; obese, yes – but in fact, starving for adequate nutrition.  Their biochemical/hormonal milieu is FUBAR to the point that their bodies receive the same “signal” as that of a starving man; “we’re in metabolic shutdown here, buddy – park that ass and conserve energy until the storm passes.”

So how does this relate to approximating, via n=1 experimentation, the trainee’s ratio of workout volume and intensity, and with the amount, duration and volume of low-intensity activity?  Well, it’s my belief that not only is this biochemical/hormonal “urge to activity” milieu driven in a positive way by proper nutrition, but that it’s also positively effected by present conditioning level and recuperative abilities and present-case standings (i.e., is the trainee, at this point-in-time, supercompensated, at baseline, or still wallowing around somewhere down in the ol’ “in-road” hole?).  It is also my belief that these two broad categories (present conditioning level and present recuperative standing) form a positive-feedback loop.  In other words, the better one’s conditioning and the better one’s recuperative ability/current standing, the more one is “urged” – in a biochemical and hormonal sense — to activity.  This is the “itch” that healthy, fit people have to “get out and do something”.   Could it also be that these people are simply adrenalin and/or endorphin junkies?  I have no doubt that this is part of the mix as well; if I’ve learned anything in 30+ years of navigating the Physical Culture scene it’s that very little to do with human physiology or psychology can be answered in a simple yes or no.  But then again, I suppose that all of life is this way.

Shifting gears a bit: so I’m packin’-up to leave town (here I come, Austin and Hunt, Texas!) and I’ll be away the better part of next week and rolling right on into the week following.   That said, my plan is to hit two, tough-ass, full-body workouts before I hit the road on Wednesday.  Unfortunately, a Wednesday workout prior to traveling won’t be a viable option (due to work and travel itinerary), so my plan is to hit the first of these two workouts on Sunday, with the follow-up workout to fall on Tuesday.  I’m looking to create some serious in-road with these two workouts – enough, possibly, to blunt any serious “intensity itch” for a week or so.

Here’s Sunday’s full-body blitz:

clean-grip power snatch: 95 x 5; 115 x 3; 135 x 7 singles

Then a superset of the following:

weighted dips: 45 x 6; 70 x 3(3); 80 x 3(3); 90 x 3(3) x 4 sets

clean-grip low pull (from the floor): 185 x 3; 205 x 3; 225 x 3; 250 x 3(3) x 4 sets

*the 3(3) annotation denotes a compound set.  In other words, I performed three reps, paused for approximately 5 seconds, then hit another 3 reps.  No hoo-doo magic implied, just a different flavor of the rest-pause method.

I put a premium on rep speed in the dips and low pulls.  And of course the power snatches were done explosively, though they were light enough to be not too terribly taxing.

Now I know from past experience that no matter the in-road hole that I dig for myself — and my aim is to dig a pretty deep one before I head out – that by Saturday I will be itchy as all hell to do something much more aggressive than, for example, a long, fast-paced walk.  This gets back to what I was discussing earlier – the biochemical/hormonal milieu being optimized via fitness level and health status providing an impetus to “perform”.  Hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity for plenty of physical recreation, and that that will help keep me in check.  I’m notorious (Meesus TTP can testify!) for not handling “itchy” very well at all  🙂

A Quick Q & A, and an Upright Press-Centered Workout

Q & A Time –

TTP reader Tony asks the following questions in reference to my recent Autoregulation post.  A quick disclaimer, though, before we delve in: First off, I am an unabashed generalist athlete; if I were training for a specific event, my work would be much more directed and precise.  As it is, my personal training methods are more along the lines of “free-lance” than the 9-5 type work that is required of a sport-specific athlete.  I use the terms “generally”, “most times”, etc., not to be vague or flippant, but because I may very well change direction – and 180-degrees so – on a dime.  I continually self-evaluate, and may shift gears and enter a “specialized” phase that totally negates all I’ve written here.  The answers below reflect my “holding pattern” training, those times when I seem to be firing on all cylinders; no glaring chinks in the armor, as it were.  That said, here we go with a few quick questions:

“What five base movement patterns do you identify? I’m guessing push, pull, squat, lunge, and….?”

For my purposes, I roll with the following: (1) overhead push/press, (2) overhead pull/pull-up variation, (3) vertical push/dip, (4) pull from the ground/deadlift, and (5) squat variation.

“In what framework within your base patterns do you integrate your ancillary movements? In what way do you seek to compliment the base movements?”

*Most* ancillary work that I do is done under a higher repetition scheme (i.e., the repetition method) with the specific goals being (1) the development of another (of among many) aspect of strength, (2) – and this is especially so far arm work – tendon, ligament (and maybe even fascia) work, and (3) – and related to “other aspects of strength” — as a means to induce more work load without overtraing a movement pattern, via the hypothesis that the same movement pattern can be trained in close proximity, so long as the same modality (i.e., set, rep, tempo, etc. schemes) are not repeated.  See the note below Wednesday’s workout explanation for one example.

For ancillary work, I generally look back to what muscle groups were most recently worked (base-loading wise), and compare this to what I think I might do in the immediate future (i. e., the next immediate workout), then I pick my ancillary work according to what has had the least amount of directed work.  For instance, I rarely do any ancillary leg work, since I engage in so much sprinting, biking and plyos.  Most of my ancillary work is therefore upper body, push and pull centered.  To a lesser extent, I work-in arms as an ancillary-type movement.

“How do you integrate your Metcon/explosive movements within this construct?”

I engage in a good deal of MetCon work in the form of running and biking, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).  I don’t usually post on these sessions (the bulk of which take place on non-lifting days), unless I happen to engage in a dedicated, or out-of-the-ordinary, HIIT-type session that I think people may be able to get some useful information from.  I don’t ever train specifically for endurance work, however, I do engage in extended (hours-long) mountain or fixie rides now and again.  By the way, I can more than hold my own, even at a beef-a-loe hefty weight (for a cyclist), in these endurance outings, even as my conditioning training is specifically geared to mimic that of a sprinter.  That’s a topic for another time, though.

I *usually* try to perform an explosive Oly-derivative to lead-off each weight lifting session, and I’ll feather-in plyometrics work and/or other explosive elements where and when I see fit.   There are phases where I’ll concentrate on Oly work (and/or the derivatives) and/or explosives and plyos and back-off on the “traditional” weight training.  This all depends on what I see in my continual self-assessment – if I notice some lack, I’ll immediately begin to ping on it.  Right now, I seem to be pretty well centered — however, experience has taught me that that “centeredness” won’t last for long.  Maintaining good athletic balance is akin to herding cats — you’d better be on top of your game,  and ready to alter course at a moment’s notice to bring in the strays.  My last glitch was a fairly big discrepancy in single leg strength (both in the press/squat and in the pull).  I managed to clear that up in short order with dedicated unilateral work; during that period, though, my overall training plan resembled little of what my plan looks like today.  Anyway, all is cruising right on along at the moment — something else, though, is bound to crop up soon.  And this isn’t my expression of abject pessimism, it’s simply the nature of physical preparation.

On to Wednesday’s, Upright Press-Centered Workout –

power snatch: 95 x 5; 115 x 5; 135 x 4 sets of 3

~ superset both the power snatches, and then the military presses, with straight-bar muscle-ups (the pull-up variety), bw x 2, each round ~

military front press: 95 x 10; 115 x 6; 155 x 5+, 4+

Then, utilizing the repetition method, the following superset:

standing bicep curl: EZ bar + 50 x 15; bar + 70 x 12; bar + 90 x 12

laying tri extension: EZ bar + 50 x 15; bar + 70 x 12; bar + 90 x 11+

Note: as an example, one option in my next workout, for ancillary upright pressing work, might be high repetition Bradford presses.  Heavy shoulder work today, followed by more work of a differing modality in the next follow-up session.  Note that I performed btn jerks in the previous workout.  So, in very short order, I will have performed btn jerks, military presses and (most likely) Bradford presses – all upright pressing movements, but all requiring different aspects of strength.  This is my nod to Simmons’ Conjugate methodology, and its cycling, within the same training week, of max effort, speed, and repetition work.

2/14/10, Power Snatch & Reverse Grip Pull-Up Combo

Good stuff recently (hey, it’s “recently” for me — I’m still getting back on track 🙂  ) from Matt Metzgar and Marc VanDam (of Feel Good Eating), on the beneficial aspects of randomness in one’s overall workout scheme.  Their thoughts on the matter, I believe, are spot-on.  There’s certainly no harm, of course, in concentrating on a single aspect of your fitness for awhile.  Just don’t let “awhile” become your “rut-routine”, or attempt to shove the proverbial square peg into a round hole.  Anyone remember that show, Square Pegs?  I always had a thing for Jami Gertz.  Lost Boys, anyone?  Anyway…

Usually the natural ebb and flow of life will take care of the randomness aspect for you (don’t I know this all-too-well at the moment!) — simply give-in, and take what life offers.  This is why having a big go-to “tool box” and an in-tune, n=1 attitude is a must.

And right now life ain’t offering-up many opportunities for sprints…or for bustin’ loose on the fixie.  Now I ain’t bitchin’ or anything, I’m jus’ sayin’  🙂

But what life did offer-up today — after a run to the Farmers’ Market and Trader Joe’s — was some Power Snatches and heavy Reverse-grip Pull-ups.  And some “thrusters” to top things off.

My power snatches are done with a grip that’s maybe a palm wider than a clean grip.  Why, you ask?  Because my aim here is not the completion of, or practice for, the completion of a white-light Oly lift, but to derive the most benefit from the explosive pull in a movement that happens to approximate the Olympic version of the similar movement.   Remember, the further the bar travel, the more power must be applied to the bar for a given weight.  One reason (actually, I suppose it’s the only reason?) the Olympic snatch is performed with such and extreme grip is so as to minimize the amount of bar travel.  Less bar travel means a greater load may be “pushed” for a given power output.  Meh…anyway, let’s get to the workout already:

Power Snatch: 95 x 5, 115 x 5, 135 x 3, 140 x 2, 2, 2, (snatch-grip high pull, 185 x 3), 2, (high pull, 185 x 3), 2

Reverse-Grip Pull-Ups:
45 x 5, 80 x 4, 90 x 3, 100 x 2, 115 x 1, 90 x 4, 100 x 3, 115 x 1+ (stalled 3/4 up)

Eight total rounds here.  Where I interjected the high-pulls, I did the high-pull set, then quickly reset the weight and performed the power snatch set — in other words, with as little rest between as possible.

Hack Squat Thrusters:  I don’t think much of the angled hack squat machine — for its intended purpose, anyway.  But I find that it’s positioned wonderfully for front press-out thrusters.  By setting the machine down on its low safety catch, I can position myself (facing the machine — opposite from its intended purpose, so to speak) so that I can place the front of the shoulder pads in my palms (approximating a clean catch position) and in a thighs-parallel-to-the-ground, slightly-forward-leaning, front squat position.  This angle is perfect for a great triple-extension motion into a full, press-out thruster.  You can really load-up the weight without fear of “crashing”.  I actually prefer this angle to that of a straight-up barbell thruster movement.  The loading here of course means nothing as it is total machine and angle dependent.  I only include it because I use this blog for my own personal workout tracking:

180 x 8, 8; 270 x 6, 360 x 4

I’ll probably hit some more of these tomorrow morning.  Finished-up with a half-hour or so of steam room/cold shower contrasts.  Along with the PVC roller, another tool in the poor man’s recovery toolbox.

Paleo Sprint, Heave and Haul Workout — Indoors Version

“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.”  George Bernard Shaw

I decided yesterday morning to perform the “‘indoors version” of one of my favorite outdoor workouts, The Paleo Sprint, Heave and Haul Workout.  The entire workout clocked in at 35 minutes, and whereas a metcon centered workout shades a little more toward the endurance end of things (I would consider the majority of CrossFit WODs to be in this category), this combination of exercises is more of a prolonged, high-intensity, power bout.  This is the “sweet spot” of where I like to train.  All my other workout modalities (speed-strength, strength-speed, raw strength, RFI work, etc.) are designed to support —  and ultimately, to improve — my performance on this type of workout, which is, I believe, indicative of what a well-trained, sprint athlete, ought to be able to excel at (in a GPP sense, technical aspects of the particular sport not withstanding).  Let’s take a look at how it shaped-up (6:30 AM, prior to work, empty stomach):

  1. 3 x 40 yard (approximately), rapid succession,  sprints.  Sprint 40 yards,   1/2 speed for 40 (recovery), sprint 40…
  2. Power Snatch x 3’s
  3. Weighted Split-Squat Scissor Jump x 8’s (4 each leg)

4 rounds of that,  followed by:

  • Snatch-Grip High Pull x 7 singles (rest-pause fashion)

Now, I have the luxury of access to an indoor track (short as it is) that is right off the weight room, and this makes the transition between exercises practicable.  Burpees or mountain climbers could be substituted for the sprints, however — or, if you have a basketball court in the vicinity, you could incorporate horses.  Also, notice my workout construction here, especially the High Pull finisher.  This really drives home the posterior chain triple-extension (hip, knee, ankle) power aspect of the workout.  Sprinting, too (if in proper form), is a posterior chain dominant exercise.  And the Split-Squat Scissor Jumps put quite a bit of stress on the glute/ham complex, if the landing is “stuck” and the subsequent blast-off is initiated, from a position of the hip being below the lead knee.  If you get in the said position you’ll feel the stress migrate (as your hip passes down below the lead knee) from your lead quadriceps to the lead ham/glute.  Of course, the hip flexor of the rear leg is worked in this exercise as well.  By the way, the landing (or “stick”) position of this exercise mirrors what you’d want to hold in the split-squat QEI or LDI.

I even had some time remaining to squeeze in a little steam bath/cold shower contrast therapy.  What a fantastic way to kick-off the week.

My thoughts on a certain find

There is an entire world of exercise-related information out there, so much so that one could easily drift-off into severe analysis paralysis when designing, or altering, a workout plan.  Please keep this in mind, though — whether you mirror my workouts, or craft your own — focus on your own unique goal and design an effective strategy to support the acquisition of that goal.  This strategy does not have to be complicated — in fact, if you cannot defend, in one simple sentence why you are doing a particular exercise at a particular time, and in the particular method (sets, reps scheme, etc.) in which you are performing it, you might need to rethink your strategy.  Remember, the body requires much less in the way of novelty than the mind.  Now, I’m certainly not advocating that you never alter your routine, or experiment with new exercises.  far from it.  What I’m referring to is repeatedly dipping into the grab-bag of novelty exercises at the exclusion of perfecting and bettering your performance on the basics.

Here’s a quirky clip to illustrate my point.  Let’s imagine that a certain someone’s fitness “goal” is increased IPod sales (stick with me here; this will make sense, in a metaphorical way).  How would we construct a workout plan supportive of the acquisition of that goal?  Hopefully, not the Microsoft way, as in this clever example.  Keep it simple, uncluttered, short and, above all, intense.  Hat tip to Daniel Meissler for this find.

In Health,