On the Fly Paleo Chow, No Dip Session is the Same, and Other Weekend Tidbits

No Dip Session is the Same…

…Or, for that matter, is any selected movement within an exercise session ever the same; there are just way too many variables at play — and that, in and of itself, is a good thing, serving to keep the trainee from becoming both mentally and physically stagnant.  It does, however, mean that tracking progress in a particular movement — once beyond the beginner stage — can be a nebulous (and to some, a daunting) thing.  What does it mean, for example, that my dip is “improving”?  Raw strength?  Power?  Strength Endurance?  Yielding strength?  If I “improve” in my Gironda-style dip, will that improvement necessarily carry over to the more conventional version?  And, if it does, does that necessarily portend anything meaningful?  Well, a lot depends on what you consider to be a “conventional” dip.  I happen to be strongest in the more upright version of the movement, where I can fully engage the triceps throughout the full range of motion.  Others choose to lean-in, engaging the pecs to a greater degree, and would therefore — theoretically, anyway — see more of a benefit carry over from the pec-dominant, Gironda version.  A lot depends as well on what the dip movement as seen as a proxy for.  Athletic enhancement?  Aesthetics?  As a means to an end in its own right?  You can see how this can become very convoluted in a flash.

Much, of course, depends upon one’s training goals.  At either extreme end of the spectrum, we have the pure bodybuilder, and at the other, the pure athlete.  One’s concerns revolve solely around physical appearance, the others’ primarily around performance (as defined by the sport).  One’s idea of “improvement”, therefore, can only be understood in light of that individual’s ultimate goal.  I tend much more toward the athletic side of the spectrum, though I have no defined “event” or “season” to shoot for, and my performance markers are haphazard at best (“engaging” with the environment is tough to quantify); in other words, I’m not aiming to peak for a world-record 100 meter, or a particular Oly lift — and hey, let’s face it — on top of it all, I still want to look good nekkid as well  🙂

Friday Night Iron Works –

Kind of unusual for me to delve into a night session — but hey, that’s just the way it came about, so I rolled with it.

I love to tinker with different variations of Istvan Javorek’s barbell and dumbbell complexes.  Mostly this tinkering has to do increasing the intensity (via heavier loading), and busting-up the complex as a whole into many, “mini complexes” with very short rest periods between.  This gives more of an interval feel to the enterprise, and fits my goals a little better that performing the Javorek complexes “as prescribed”.  For instance, I kicked-off Friday night’s session with Javorek’s “Whoop Ass” dumbbell complex.  Now, Javorek uses a lighter weight and rotates through the three exercise for 6 continual rounds, then ends with a few finisher exercises.  Good stuff to be sure, however, I work this energy system a plenty (for my particular needs) with all the biking that I do, SO,  I chose heavier DBs (40’s), and did “broken” rounds consisting of:

  • the first 3 lunge exercises as depicted in the clip, followed by
  • DB squat thrusters x 6
  • DB muscle-ups from the floor x 6

I hit each of 6 rounds as hard and as fast as possible, but rested between each round so as to turn the workout into more of an interval experience.  Tough as all hell, I have to say.

Following that I did this complex:

cable flye (swiss ball, 5/0/x/0 tempo): 70 x 5 sets of 5
reverse cable flye (bent-over position, 5/0/x/0 tempo): 30 x 5 sets of 5
weighted dips (ratchet sets, 1/0/x/0 tempo): 45 x 1, 3; 70 x 1, 3; 80 x 1, 3; 85 x 1, 3; then 7 rest-pause singles @ 90 lbs

5 total rounds of these three, with round 5 of the dips being the extended rest-pause set.  The cable work could be thought of as “pre-exhaust” sets when paired with the weighted dips.  Ratchet sets: the first single allows the body to adjust to the weight and movement, then I can fully engage the 3-rep set.  These were done in an explosive fashion — come down fast, then immediately blast back up.  I cut the sets when I sensed that I was losing speed on the concentric portion of the movement (a drop in power production).  At that point, I moved on to the rest-pause set.  I hit these explosively as well.

Saturday –
I reeled-off approximately 25 miles of tough, tough mountain biking, and was totally zorched by the end of the day.  The temperatures were between 95 and 100 degrees here in NC, and I lost A LOT of fluids.  If I could ever get my crap together, and remember to take along some coconut water, it would make for a nice n=1 recovery study.  Mt theory is that coconut water, combined with a Paleo diet approach, may just be the the one-two punch endurance-leaning athletes are looking for.  If you lean toward endurance activities and have tried coconut water as a replenishment means, please chime in and let me know how it worked for you, how it sat on your stomach and, in general, what you think about its efficacy.

Sunday –
Saturday’s “recreational” ride is a great segue into a quick discussion on the importance of auto-regulation in the weight room.  In the initial stages of a trainee’s weight room career, step-by-step adherence to a linear progression type program (a 5×5 scheme, for example) gets the job done nicely.  And the truth of the matter is, the vast number of trainee’s need not ever progress beyond pushing the limits of this type of modality, OR beyond a HIT/SS/Body by Science type of program.  Unless one is a competitive athlete or, like me, is one whose life hobby involves training akin to a competitive athlete, the benefit to risk ratio is just not there.  The basics of auto-regulation, though — regardless of one’s training experience or training “age” — ought to be known, and the principles practiced.  As in all things, practice might not make for “perfect”, but it at least moves one toward that end.

The weighted dip executed in Friday night’s workout, for example, simply cannot be considered outside of the context in which it was undertaken.   Look at all of the variables that might conspire to alter the rep/loading scheme here at the selected target modality, which, in this case, happened to be the strength-speed aspect of power production.  Auto-regulation is, in essence then, the ability to push one’s self sufficiently to make gains, with an eye towards — but not at all fixated on — external loading parameters and rep schemes.  85 and 90 lbs for me, in this movement and under the strength-speed modality, is not a particularly heavy loading.  However, given the context of, not only this individual workout’s exercise selection and the exercise order as a whole, BUT the way the training week as a whole shook out as well.  This, then, was the most productive loading for that particular moment in time.  This is a huge act of mental jujitsu, however, that many a trainee simply cannot grasp.  How does one quantify improvement, if not by incremental loading and/or rep increases?  You just have to trust yourself, brother — it boils down to that.  Because the fact of the matter is this: when one fixates on external loading, rep numbers, etc. at the expense of becoming adept in the art of auto-regulation, a total crash-and-burn (both mental and physical) is inevitable.

Having become adept at auto-regulation early on has kept me fully engaged in the physical culture game for 30+ years, and it will keep me engaged for the next 30…40…50 years…and beyond.

So, given that I was totally pummeled by Saturday’s mountain biking excursion, then, let’s look at how Sunday’s BTN jerk/Muscle-up combo shook out:

btn jerk: 115 x 3; 135 x 3; 155 x 3; 175 x 3; 185 x 2; 195 x 1

straight bar muscle-ups: bw x 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2

The jerks felt surprisingly light, given the blistering mountain bike outing yesterday.  I’d planned on a short go of it — just a little bit of work to loosen things up.  Just when you think you’ve got this exercise physiology thing figured out, you get pitched a (nice, in this instance) curve like this…

Anyway, once again I rolled with it, and ended up completing a pretty tough gym session.

From the btn jerk/muscle-up combo, I moved on to Bradford presses: 115 lbs for 6, 6, 6, 5 (front-to-back = 1 rep.).  Then, a little repetition work for the bi’s and tri’s, in superset fashion:

cable bicep curl: 60 lbs x 10, 10, 10
cambered bar triceps push-down: 75 x 12, 12, 12

I then finished-off with a round of Nautilus 4-way neck work; 45 lbs x 10 front and side-to-side, 55 lbs x 10 to the rear.

The cable curls were done in an upright position, a cable in each hand, with the pulley of each set at the lowest (ground) level.  The resultant curl motion was then at an approximate 45 degree angle from the bottom-out, arms extended position to fists just under the chin.  No real magic to this particular angle; just one of a million I could have chosen.

Some Good Paleo Grub ~

Cuban Picadillo

Nothing at all wrong with this recipe as it is; just as with Javorek’s work, though, I took the basic idea and molded it to fit my own needs.  In this case, I had some leftovers on hand, a hankering for bacon, and a want not to go out to the store.  Hey, I’m not big on being a slave to the post workout re-feed window, but I do know that post workout hunger will kick-in after about an hour or so.  The solution?  Take the basic recipe, add some creative substitutions, and roll with whatcha got at home.

So, I fried up a few strips of bacon in coconut oil, added a leftover link of beef sausage to the mix, subbed El Pato Mexican style hot tomato sauce for the regular variety, and added in some Gaucho Ranch Chimichurri sauce to the concoction.   I also subbed the dry white wine for an equal amount of coconut vinegar.  Unfortunately, I wolfed this down before I remember to that  a picture of the final product.  It’s easy to make, and definitely a keeper in the rotation, so next time around I’ll (hopefully) remember to take a shot of the final product.

Sunday Brunch

A trip to the farmers market Saturday netted (among other things) some fabulous, massively yoked duck eggs, free-range ham steaks, and North Carolina ruby sweet potatoes.  Nothing like fresh, locally raised food!   Yum-O!

On-the-Fly Paleo Grub, and Time Under Load

Being creative with the ol’ leftovers is another important piece to maintaining Paleo sanctity.  I live by leftovers, and yeah, sometimes the combinations can seem a little odd.   Go figure, as I’m just a little odd as well.  I think everyone would do well, though, to bust free from the old “that food is for breakfast” or “these foods don’t go together” rut.  Just another useful mind-tool, my friends, to keep you all on the Paleo straight-and-narrow.  Again, this ain’t gourmet, but it wasn’t half damn bad.

Since last Saturday’s kick-ass workout at Efficient Exercise of Austin, Texas, I’ve been leaning toward some higher time under load (TUL, or time under tension, TUT, as some term it) workouts.  Of course, being true to my Conjugate sensibilities, this is only a leaning-toward, and not, so to speak, a change in direction.  I’ll still have workouts emphasizing max effort, speed (power), and strength-endurance, however, you’ll see TUL work take a front seat in the near term.  For how long?  That I don’t know; I’ll ride the TUL horse until I sense that I need to saddle-up a fresh steed, or until my priorities change.  This is how it goes; there are no definites.   Also, I’ve been riding — a lot — and as such, I’ve cut back on my quad-dominant work in the gym, just as I would cut back on my posterior chain work if I were hitting (running) sprints hard.  This is the personalization of workout planning.  To do otherwise — to blindly adhere to a cookie-cutter workout without taking into account my lifestyle and recreation choices — would be to invite regional overtraining and, eventually, injury.

Saturday’s iron works –

feet-elevated, ballistic push-ups: bodyweight x 6, 6, 6, 6

flat cable flye (on a Swiss ball): 60 x 10, 7, 7, 6

bent-over reverse cable flye: 30 x 8, 6, 6, 6

Rep tempo is vastly important in any scheme that emphasizes TUL, and I utilized a 40X tempo (eccentric/turn-around/concentric) today in both the flat and reverse cable flyes.  Note that, in reality an “X” (fast as humanly possible) concentric equates to approximately one second.  As a general rule of thumb, I tend to fall into the Charles Poliquin camp when it comes to correlating TUL to hypertrophy work; 30-ish to 70-ish seconds per set seems to be the sweet spot for me.  The next obvious question is, “ok, how many sets and/or exercises per movement pattern, then?”  Personally, I try, in most instances, to do no more than 1 exercise of a similar movement pattern — in most instances.  Nothing is set in stone.  Usually, though, I try to pick a weight that, under my chosen tempo, will totally zorch me in that particular pattern within a per-set TUL of between 30-ish and 70-ish seconds and an overall, cumulative TUL of between 90-ish and 180-ish seconds.  You can see that this leaves much room for variance and plenty of wiggle-room for set/rep manipulation.  And, again, this is for a hypertrophy emphasis — this, of course, would not apply if the emphasis were, say, speed-strength (power) work.

The movements above were done as a 4-round, compound set, with very little rest between movements.  I followed that up with a little Nautilus 4-way neck work:

front, left and right sides: 35 lbs x 10
rear: 45 lbs x 10

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Will mastering TUL make me swole like the cats in that slideshow?  Well, maybe so.  Hercules, and the Greek Pugilist: The Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sport, UT Austin

And a quick look to what’s ahead:

Monday, weather permitting, I plan on taking the ol’ fixie out to huck the Tour De Raleigh, coupling that ride with a trip to the NC state farmers market, and a run to Trader Joe’s for a coffee and Greek Yogurt stock-up.  On Tuesday, look for the write-up on my most excellent workout at the hands of Skyler Tanner, of Efficient Exercise in Austin.  For a preview, you can check-out the video clips posted at the Efficient Exercise Youtube page.  Here’s a compilation of the entire workout, and here’s a clip capturing Skyler’s expertise in coaching me through the leg press portion of the workout.  This level of professional coaching and guidance is priceless, allowing the trainee (me, in this instance) to focus totally on the “doing”, and leaving the manipulation of the many variables, in Skyler’s control.  Much more on this Tuesday.  ‘Til then, have a great holiday weekend!