Bad Science, Shrinking Brains, and Open (Yet Questioning) Minds

“The idea is to try to give all the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another”

Richard Feynman

So when we put all of our eggs in one basket — say, judging a particular question solely by the outcome of the published “science” related to that question, rather than approaching the question from multiple disciplines (intuition, common sense, empirical evidence, etc.) — we severely limit the possibility of finding the essential truth of the matter.  For example, “established science” held firm — and is yet holding firm —  to the notion that weight management is simply an extension of the 2nd law of thermodynamics, namely the “calories-in/calories-out” idea.  Those of us who allow ourselves to think without restraint now realize how ridiculously flawed this reductionist thinking is.  In fact, to the extent that I did, at one time, believe this to be true is…shocking to me.

We currently have battles raging withing the Physical Culture arena — gladiator “absolutists”, if you will — representing various training methods as being the end-all, be-all.  Is it really as easy as finding the lone “correct” answer?  Well, I say that all we need do is take a good look around to see how ridiculous this notion is.  For every Dorian Yates, I can offer a Bill Pearl; for every Mentzer, a Gironda.  The list goes on and on; for every fabulous athlete employing a certain training method, we can find examples of similarly proficient athletes doing something entirely different.  All methods work for some, no method works for all, and the method that currently works wonders for an individual likely won’t produce results in that same individual 6 months from now.  Some see training as purely science, I see it as more analogous to the culinary arts; replete with scientific underpinnings to be sure, but the creation of a great meal is a hell of a lot more complex than the simple co-mingling of those simple, disparate, underpinnings.  Just call me the Alton Brown, then, of Physical Culture.

A slight diversion: now I’m no linguist by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s my understanding that there is no single Sanskrit word for “truth”, but rather a number of words that hint at the truth of  an idea as colored by the strengths and limitations of the approach.  In other words, ideas can have “truths” revealed in a philosophical/emotional sense, a spiritual sense, and, yes, a scientific sense.  We in the west tend to put a premium on the scientific “truth” behind and idea at the exclusion of all else.  This, of course, leads to a dead-end trap of stagnant thought.  Again, quoting Richard Feynman: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” Good words to live by, from a brilliant man.

And so with that “question authority” mindset nicely stoked, let’s reconsider, for example, the vaccine-autism link that was all the rage not so long ago.  Again, my point here is not to imply that all science is shoddy — far from it — my point is simply to maintain a questioning attitude even in the face of supposed scientific “proof”.


The notion of a continual decline in humanoid brain volume over the past 20 kyrs or so is not exactly earth-shattering news to those of us who make it a habit to keep up with the musings Art DeVany or John Hawks; it is interesting, though, to reconsider this phenomenon through a more conventional lens.  Was the advent of the agricultural revolution a cause, correlate, or just a simple coincidence to the onset of this pattern?  For me, the evidence clearly indicates causation; always the epistemocrat, though, I remain open-minded to alternative theories.


Much thanks to Robb Wolf (and his merry band of pseudo-science co-conspirators) for creation of the all-things-Paleo Forum, which will be a great resource for everyone dedicated to this Paleo/Primal/EvFit/Ancestral Fit journey.  We at Efficient Exercise intend to use this valuable resource as another educational tool (along with the Paleo Solution Quick Start Guide)  for those involved in our 10-week Project Transformation: the Efficient Exercise Solution.  And needless to say, we always recommend The Paleo Solution as the definitive go-to source for clients interested in pursuing the Paleo way.   Between Robb’s wesite, forum, podcasts, blog and book, anyone who has a mind to can accumulate a PhD-level education in the Paleo way from this single, convenient, root source.  Thanks again, guys, for all the free, selflessly-given, information.  Stunningly generous.

By the way, if you’d like to check-in on the happenings with Project Transformation, be sure to “friend us up” over at our Facebook page.  We’ll be kicking the program off on January 18th, with a wide-ranging demographic of “subjects”.


My workouts this past week were all of the organic, non-documented type save for yesterday’s (1/8/11) heavy T-bar swing and weighted dip combo.  Ahhhhh, T-bar swings; Tim Ferriss would be proud 🙂

T-bar swings: 100 lbs x 20, 20, 20, 20, 20

weighted dips: bw+90 lbs x 6, 6, 6, 6, 4

Kept the rest between exercises and between rounds to a minimum here.  Just out of curiosity, I checked my pulse immediately following the 2nd round of swings — 165 bpm.  Pushing fairly hard, but certainly not a red-liner by any means.

An all-day squat-fest:

Okay, so here’s an example of an impromptu, situationally-driven “workout”: on Thursday (1/6/11), it occurred to me that I hadn’t performed a bread-and-butter, bilateral back squat in quite some time, as usually, if I’m going to squat at all, I’ll opt for a unilateral version — a RFESS, say — or maybe a front squat.   Anyway, I also saw in the day’s hand the (sweet!) opportunity to get quite a bit of short-burst fixie-huckin in.  What better to mix with that quick-burst leg burn than some good old back squats?  Yeah, I thought so, too — so I repeated this basic set-up time and again throughout the day.  And hey — shouldn’t I get credit as well, for all the plate loading and unloading?

(A1) full ATG squats: 135 x 12, 225 x 6

(A2) thighs parallel to the ground: 315 x 4, 4, 3, 3

(A3) quarter squats to full ankle extension (explosive): 405 x 8, 8, 8

(A4) fixie sprint

This is just an example of one round.  Sometimes I did much less volume between rides (diving right into the quarter squats, for example), and other times I just bounced around with the ATG stuff.  The point is, I did whatever the hell I felt like doing with no “need” to hit a pre-determined number of sets or reps at a calculated load.  The lone constant here was intensity — when I went at it, I friggin’ went at it.  At times there was a full 3 hours between rounds, and other times maybe a half-hour.  Again, no rhyme or reason.   So was this “play”, “physical activity”, a “workout”…or what exactly?  I definitely pushed myself, especially in the later rounds — and I certainly felt the results the next day (soreness, off-the-charts hunger, etc.) — but how would something like this be classified?  More to the point (and from my body’s prospective) does it even need to be classifiable to be productive?  Well, of course not.  The only problem with this scenario, from a “guru”prospective, is that I can’t sell you a cookie-cutter programming guide for this — you’ve got to figure it out for yourself mt friend, n=1 fashion.  Not much of a business model, I know — but hey, what the hell do you expect from a guy who dropped (like a fracking rock, no less!) his only business-related college class (accounting…ugh) after 3 sessions due to total and utter (drooling!) disinterest? 🙂  I mean, why waste time with that nonsense, especially when I had a whole Howard Zinn-inspired Poli Sci department full of courses to choose from?  🙂


And last, but certainly not least — introducing the newest arrow to my quiver:

That makes 3 bikes now — and I still have but one ass  (as Meesus TTP has deftly pointed out)   🙂  All you cycling aficionados out there understand, though — I’m sure of it! …right??  🙂

In health,



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.

A Little Dash of Volume; Stress and Gluten Tolerance

Here are a couple of workouts in which I injected a little more volume than what I normally roll with.  This is all done in an effort to prevent overtraining, while yet maintaining a relatively high training frequency which I both enjoy, and which my recovery ability can handle.  And just to reiterate a point I’ve made before, I rarely train lower-body volume work in the gym, since I do so much biking and sprinting — which is, essentially, volume work taken to an extreme.  My own n=1 experimentation has shown that lower-body volume work in the gym on top of biking and sprinting is counter-productive — too much of a good thing.  That being the case, I’ll stick to hitting the ol’ wheels with dynamic, power and strength work while in the gym.

Friday (Efficient Exercise, Rosedale)

First up, a box squat/cable flye superset –

box squat, top of quads just below parallel (*safety bar): bar + 160 x 7; +180 x 8; +200 x 6, 6, 6

*I have no idea how much this bar weighs.  It’s a locally-fabricated, heavy-duty, beastly thing is all I can say 🙂

cable flye (from a deep lunge position hold): 95 x 15; 110 x 15; 125 x 15, 13, 12

Then, an ab wheel roll-out/btn push-press superset –

ab wheel roll-out (on toes, minimal knee touch, full extension): bodyweight x 8, 8, 10

btn push-press: 135 x 10, 9, 9

Monday (Efficient Exercise, Rosedale)

This following a bit of fixie sprinting about the Rosedale section of Austin (and a much-needed pitstop by Thunderbird coffee)

clean-grip power snatch (from the floor): 115 x 5; 135 x 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

then a “volume” superset of bi’s and tri’s

barbell curls: 115 x 12, 12, 12

close grip bench: 185 x 10, 8, 9

Stress,and the ability to tolerate gluten

Recently, a  client of mine reported that, for a couple of days following her first session with me, she felt particularly “wiped out”.  This client is normally on an every 7th-day session frequency, and I utilize a to-failure HIT-like protocol with her.  After inquiring a bit as to what she meant by “wiped-out”, it occurred to me that she was, more than likely, gluten intolerant; in addition to the normal indications of a particularly challenging workout (lingering muscular fatigue, a little less “pop”, possibly some muscular soreness), she told of some near flu-like symptoms.  I asked if she thought she might have actually had a touch of the flu, and she said she didn’t think so, that the “symptoms” weren’t that extreme.  I asked if she was gluten intolerant, and she indicated that she didn’t think so.

Now I align myself with the Robb Wolf camp in my belief that everyone is in fact, to some degree, gluten intolerant.  In some people (and I believe, in my client’s case) that low-level intolerance — which has persisted undetected since childhood — has essentially become that person’s norm, or baseline feeling of what it is to be relatively “healthy”.  This is somewhat analogous to people who have to live with some manifestation chronic, low-grade pain.  However, when an unusual stressor enters the picture — in this case, a particularly rigorous workout (but it could be any stress; emotional, physical, psychological…), those “intolerance” symptoms manifest — or, more accurately, are brought to the forefront.

I asked this client to consider trying a gluten-free diet for a while (which is particularly easy to do in Austin, even when dining out), knowing that “gluten-free” is essentially “Paleo-lite” — 90% of a Paleo diet, without the wack (by mainstream standards) PR.  She did just that, and subsequent to a following workout reported none of the same “wiped-out” symptoms.

I wonder how many more people out there would be more accepting of (or able to handle) extreme-intensity workouts, if only their diets could first support such endeavors?

Also, check out High Intensity Training and the Career-Oriented Trainee, over at the Efficient Exercise blog.  Career success and fitness/health need not be mutually-exclusive pursuits.

4/8/10; Grabbing a Couple of Workouts on the Fly and, Gettin’ Schooled

I found myself with a bit of spare time yesterday after work, so what better option than to saddle up the ol’ fixie and head for a spin?  I stopped off by the library and returned The 10,000 Year Explosion (a good read, but not quite the ground-breaker I was expecting).

Quick interlude — it is not the Paleo premise (not mine anyway), that humans have ceased to evolve, or have not evolved over the last 10,000 years (since the onset of the agricultural revolution) — lactose tolerance, anyone? — but rather that we have not evolved sufficiently to handle the onslaught of post-agricultural revolution foodstuffs.  Or that the process of excessive fat accumulation is evolution’s attempt at handling this onslaught.  Nothing says that every evolutionary leap is necessarily a “positive” one — non-perfect fixes and dead-ends do crop-up.  There is a continuing interplay, of course, between the evolutionary process and the continually changing environment.

Anyway, I dropped-off the 10k-Year Explosion and picked-up a copy of Lone Survivor.  What a great read so far — content-wise — though I’d hoped for a more compelling writing style.  That said, though, think that life is kicking you around a bit, or that your workouts are beastly?  Heh.  Give this book a read, and imagine being the lone survivor of a SEAL team decimated in Afghanistan.

I stopped-off by the field on the way home and, having my Vibrams on-hand (always the good Boy Scout), swapped footwear and ran 6 x 150 yard sprints.  I followed that up with 50 continuous skip lunges before sliding back into my biking shoes and riding back home.

Dinner consisted of a small portion of flat iron steak and a tossed green salad with olive oil, and coconut vinegar (Tropical Tradition brand — great stuff!).  And a beer or two 🙂   with the evening’s entertainment being the always engaging Andy Deas and Robb Wolf show — otherwise known as The Paleolithic Solution — of which, the latest episode (no. 22) just may be the finest to date.  And no, really, not just because Andy Deas gives a shout-out to Theory to Practice  🙂  Seriously, though, these guys do a hell of a job breaking down and commenting on the nutritional aspects of the Paleo lifestyle.   Now if they’d only get busy and shoot some Paleo rap vids for the Nerdcore for Life folks.  If my man Funky49 can rep Fermilab, then I think Andy and Robb ought to step up to the plate for the “pseudo-science” of Paleo  🙂

After a quick turn-around, I was back at in the gym bright and early this morning, and armed with a simple agenda — an explosive pull of some sort, coupled with some elevated-feet ring flyes.  Here’s how it ended-up:

ballistic push-ups: with 30lb vest x 3, 3, 3, 3, 3
elevated feet ring flyes: bw x 10, 10, 30lb vest x 7, 7, 6
Russian lunge (ballistic, for max height): 30lb vest x 3, 3, 3, 3, 3 (each leg, alternating)
clean-grip low pull (bar above belly button): 135 x 7; 185 x 5; 225 x 3, 3, 3 (emphasis on execution speed)

5 total rounds, with the 1st round being a bridge from the warm-up.  Very little rest between exercises.  ballistic push-ups and lunges were performed as CNS “primers”.  40 total minutes, from the time I walked into the gym, ’til the time I hit the showers.

Post workout meal?  Two soft-boiled, free-range eggs (hella-orange yokes!) and about two tablespoons raw butter; approximately 1 hour post-shower.

Oh and hey, looking for an absolutely knock-down-drag-out dissertation on human metabolism and energy production?  Look now further than this 3-video series brought to you by the folks at CrossFit.  Here’s an explanation of the series, straight from the CrossFit Journal site:

On March 12, 2010, Coach Greg Glassman and a small crew visited Dr. Scott Connelly in the Los Angeles offices of Progenex. The intent was to tap into Dr. Connelly’s vast knowledge of metabolism, particularly as it relates to long-term fitness and health.

The result was over 90 minutes of education about the relationships among glucose, insulin, ATP, protein, body weight and health. This is a dense, fast-moving presentation worthy of multiple viewings. Topics include:

* Why a calorie is not just a calorie.
* How insulin resistance was evolutionarily beneficial.
* How “dieting” can make you fatter.
* What happens when you hit the calcium wall.

Whoa…Fabulous stuff!  Thanks CrossFit.  And hey, what are you waiting for?  Get your subscription to the CrossFit Journal.  You’ll be so glad you did.

3/4/10 The Ins and Outs of an On-the-Fly Workout, and An Additional Thought on the Sous-Vide Method

Are you down with the Robb Wolf and Any Deas Paleolithic Solution Podcasts over at Robb Wolf’s blog?  If not, you really should be, as they’re a great source of Paleo diet information.  Robb is a trained biochemist who was somehow able to shed the prescribed university brainwashing, put two-and two together, and come to the conclusion that the human body was built to motor on a Paleo-like diet.  The Wolf/Deas collaborations — aside from being an enjoyable listen (good chemistry between these two) — are a series of Q & A discussions on all manner of dietary issues — all viewed, of course, through a Paleo-leaning prism.  And Robb’s blog offers a good place for intelligent, post-podcast discussion.  Head on over when you get a chance, listen-in, and join the fray — you’ll be glad you did.

In particular, check out the discussion associated with Episode 17, where I tossed-out the sous-vide/plastics leaching question that I initially brought up in this post.  Paleolithic Solution reader/listener Mathieu Lalonde responded:

“I’m a chemist and I was waiting for someone to bring up this issue. I was personally horrified when I first read about “Sous Vide”, which means “under vacuum” in French. Take food, place it into a plastic bag, place the bag under vacuum, seal it, then heat it. I cannot imagine a better way to leach plasticizers into food. Especially with fatty foods. I would love to see someone study this. The phthalates would be trivial to detect by mass spec. Many plasticizers, including phthalates, are endocrine disrupters. I don’t care how good “sous vide” food tastes, I’m not touching it until the plasticizer issue has been studied and/or resolved.”

I have to agree with Mathieu, here.  This just looks like too much of a plastics-leaching, perfect storm for me to feel comfortable with.  For now, just roll with the ol’ fashion crock pot, and reserve the right to change my opinion on the subject later.

On to today’s workout…

Here’s the combo that I created on the fly this morning:

Jump Squats (3/4 position):

165 x5; 215 x 5; 265 x 5; 305 x 5

BTN Push-Press:
165 x 5; 185 x 4, 5, 5

Step-Ups (reps per each leg):
165 x 5; 185 x 3, 3, 3

Regular-Grip Pull-Ups:
45 x 5; 55 x 5, 6, 6

So, 4 rounds of that combo.  I actually performed 2 additional rounds that were a “bridge” between the end of the warm-up and the meat of the workout (round 1).  Build-ups, feel sets.

So, how did I come up with this beast?  Pretty simple, really. First I identified the movement pattern I wanted to work — not the exercise per se,  but the movement pattern — then I identified the energy system I wanted to utilize while working that particular pattern.  At this point I begin to cobble-together particular exercises.   In this instance, I knew I wanted to work the single-leg step-up — in my gym, that puts me in the power rack.  I know from past exprience that I’ll use approximately 185 lbs for 3 reps each leg (and this rep range corresponds to my target energy system).  185 lbs also looks like a good btn push-press weight for me, so I’ll add that as well.  Now I’ve got a bar loaded-up in the power rack at a height that, for me, is at roughly the 3/4 squat position.  Hmmmmm, load-up the bar a little more, and I’ve got all the makings for some jump squats.  As a bonus, look at the great potentiation potential jump squats offers to the other two exercises.  Cha-ching!  The pull-ups?  They’re a natural push-pull companion to the push-press.

And last but not least, a very interesting read from the Global PolititianDid Lactose Tolerance Trigger the Indo-European Expansion? Highly, highly recommended reading.