The “WOD” From Hell

“The world of politics is always twenty years behind the world of thought.”

John Jay Chapman

So when it was finally over, there was a  28 x 9 x 8 ABF trailer (2016 cu.ft) crammed to the brim with an estimated 13,300 lbs worth of accumulated, “cog in the Capitalist Machine” consumer items harbored in my former driveway.  Filling the beast took the better part of 144 hours; when questioned by friends about the ordeal, I (only half jokingly) compared  it to the Bataan Death March – oh, and did I mention the snow and sleet storm that hit in the middle of it all?  The various “small” extraneous runs to Rocky Mount (to outfit the new apartment), Habitat for Humanity (to off-load sizable portions of the previously referred to, “capitalist-pig consumer items”)?  Okay, okay – so I’m exaggerating a tad; it was a Sisyphean task, though, this move, to say the very least.  Anyway, it’s all over now – thankfully.  And thank goodness, too, for PaleoKits, tinned sardines, eggs, bacon and scoops of raw butter, and the local mom & pop hibachi joint…Starbucks coffee, too! – and for the ability to effortlessly IF (even under prolonged, physically-intense periods) – for seeing me through.  No jittery highs, crashing lows, brain-fog, or running out of gas.  Just hour-upon-hour of steady-state energy on demand for repeated demonstrations of functional strength and strength endurance.

Anyway, I’m more than eager to get back in the workout “saddle” as soon as possible – a few days off though, in relative rest-and-relaxation, is called for.  The kitchen in our new digs is coming together slowly – box by emptying box.  I will be grill-less for the foreseeable future though, and so it’s cast-iron skilletting and broiling, crock-pot and pressure-cooking to take up that slack.  As always, I’m endeavoring to persevere, improvising, and striving to keep the Paleo aspect of physical culture alive and well.

Here’s to the next chapter of a continuing Paleo life…

In health,

1/14/10, Strength-Endurance Emphasis

Today’s was another workout that might better be described more in terms of power-endurance.  Now these small distinctions – although they make for some great armchair discussion (and I’m all for that, too) – amount to nil in the real world.  Going in, I made an educated guess (according to how I felt, how the lead-in priming sets felt, my last similar outing, what my last few workouts entailed, etc…) as to the proper loading for each of these movements, then I loaded-up the bar and pushed that particular weight as fast and as hard, and with as minimum rest between sets as possible.  Was it a perfect bull’s-eye hit?  No.  But the end result is that this was a kick-ass workout that ended-up being skewed a little more toward the power end of the modality spectrum than I’d originally aimed for.  All my body knows is that it better damn well adapt before it gets flogged with the next onslaught.  This is the true nature of the game.  The proper mix of intelligence, planning, single-minded focus and the willingness to bust ass.

Both of these movements were performed under the 21-rep, rest-pause scheme, with every concentric performed as fast as possible.  The snatch-grip low pulls were performed in the rack, with the bar set just a fraction below knee level; bar above navel every rep.

  1. behind-the-neck push press: 135 x 5; 155 x 3; 175 x 2; 195 x 21, rest-pause method, mostly in groups of 2s.  11:20 time to completion.  Compare at 190/14:15 last outing.  I interjected approximately 4 sets of 2, straight bar muscle-ups as “cns prompts” at points during the set where I felt my rep “snap” beginning to faulter.
  2. snatch-grip low pull, out of the rack: 135 x 5; 185 x 3; 225 x 21, rest-pause method, 3s across the board.  7 minutes flat.  Straps on all reps.  Full & fast triple extension on every rep.

The next couple of weeks are likely to be hit-or-miss on the workout (as well as the blogging) front, as much of my limited free time will be swallowed-up in the home sale/moving/transitioning process.  I plan on riding this 21-rep-method pony on through the other side of the transition, at which point I’ll re-assess and change up as indicated by that re-assessment.  So, a little bit of randomness and plenty of unknown is headed my way.

Bring it on.

1/12/10, Strength – Endurance

A little different flavor of pull today, as I opted for a low pull in lieu of the more traditional deadlift that I performed in the workout on 12/29/09.  Much more bar speed in this movement than in the more traditional version; a little less weight on the bar, but the total time to completion was a lot less as well.  If I were one to split hairs, I’d probably label this more of a power-endurance vs a strength-endurance modality, but hey – we’re talking about a whole lot of overlap and gray area here.  It’d be nice to be able to precisely pigeon-hole modalities and workouts – a lot easier to explain, quantify and dose – in the end though, there’s much imprecision, gut feel, art and improvisation to this enterprise.  And thus, the allure; if you attack it right, and stay out of any self-imposed ruts, this “physical culture” thing never gets stale.

Warmed-up with plenty of dynamic stretching and ballistics of all manner, then:

  1. clean-grip low pulls (bar above navel on every rep): 135 x 5, 5; 225 x3,3; 275 x 21, rest-pause (groups of 3s across the board), 7 minutes.  Compare to 16 minutes and change on traditional deads last time out).  Straps on all reps.
  2. weighted dips: bw x 10, 10; 45 x 5, 5; 85 x 21, rest-pause (3s and 2s, singles for the last 3 reps).  3:25 time to completion.  Increased 5# and reduced time 20 seconds over previous outing.

Found myself with a little extra time following this – so did I hit the showers early and head on into work?  Hell no – I hit straight bar muscle-ups in a rest-pause fashion, sets of 2s for about 8 rounds.  Following the dips and low pulls, that was quite enough to polish me off.

By the way, if you haven’t checked this out yet, give it a read (hat tip to Brent Pottenger, aka the epistemocrat, for the find).  It’s classic Nassim Taleb, Black Swan material as related to the importance of variable stressors upon the health of an organism (that’s you and me, kids).  It’s a great read.  Remember, training for sport and training for health are not necessarily the same thing.

1/7/10, Strength-Endurance

Here’s a slightly different variation on the 21-rep, rest-pause, extended set theme today with the floor presses.  I combined a wide-grip floor press, followed immediately with a narrow-grip floor press, while still maintaining the 21-rep theme.  In other words, the individual reps looked something like this: unrack with a wide grip, perform 1 wide-grip floor press, rack, immediately adjust hands to a narrow grip, unrack and perform 1 narrow-grip floor press rep.  Repeat for the Rx number of reps.  I took pauses as necessary with no regard as to whether the pauses were uniform (i.e., I didn’t worry about whether the pause followed a wide-grip rep or a narrow-grip rep).  Notice I pulled the plug at 20 reps on the narrow-grip part of the combo (I didn’t attempt the 21st narrow-grip rep), as I struggled with rep 20.

But Why? Why?  Why?…you hate the bench press, right?

While I’m personally not a big fan of the conventional bench press, I do believe that some variations of the movement are beneficial.  Of course, the bench press is like any other exercise in its usefulness being totally relevant to the individual;  for some trainees (especially those with short arms relative to torso length),  the bench press can be an excellent pectoral and upper-body power development movement.  For most people, though, there just (in my opinion) is not much carry-over value to be derived from the classic, flat bench movement.  Power lifting, of course, is a different animal altogether that requires specific bench press acumen – that’s a sport-specific topic, and not what I’m discussing here, or trying to achieve with this movement.  There are no sacred cows in my exercise toolbox, and I’ll unabashedly tweak any movement to fit my needs.  I modify the floor press to support my needs and goals by, among other things (1) performing dumbbell and barbell versions of the floor press, and (2) bracing myself in a glute-bridge which places me in a more natural, “flat” pressing position.  Notice I said “natural” and not “competition legal”.  Again, two different animals.

In this specific instance, I chose to alternate between both extreme hand positions of the movement, with the wide-grip (index finger a thumb’s width outside the bar’s outer smooth ring) version emphasizing the pectorals/shoulders, and the narrow-grip (index fingers approximately 6″ apart) emphasizing the triceps.  The obvious follow-up question is, why not just perform a regular grip floor press and be done with it? And true enough, I could have.  However, by going to extreme hand positions, I was able to really “isolate”/emphasize the pectorals (wide grip) and triceps (narrow grip); in other words, I am a natural “tricep” bench presser – my chest being the weak link in the movement.  Alternating the hand grips in this way allows me to push my pectorals and triceps both sufficiently and concurrently.  Note: notice the amount of work being performed in each part of the movement.  The bar travel on the wide-grip press is approximately 1/3 that of the narrow-grip press, with the same loading in each portion.  This translates to a significant power differential as well.  Note as well that if I were attempting to increase my bench press overall, I would be more concerned with bettering my weakness (chest), and this would necessitate a totally different angle of attack.  Know your goals, and plan accordingly.

Today’s workout: approximately 15 minutes of rigorous, ballistics and dynamic stretching, then –

  1. wide-grip/narrow-grip floor press combo: 135 x 3, 3; 185 x 3; 205 x 2; 225 x 11 (wide) & 10 (narrow)
  2. GHR: bw x 5, 5 (ballistic sets), 30 x 3; 40 x 3; 45 x 21 rest-pause – mostly grouped in 3s and 2s

1/5/10, Strength-Endurance

Went purposely heavier on the push-presses today (i.e., more of a strength bias, a little less endurance) while extending the total time to completion of the 21 reps.  I actually went a bit heavier than I’d initially shot for, as I’d intended to clock-in at an approximate 12-minute time to completion.  Reps 20 and 21 ended up being a bit slower in execution than I’d otherwise accept, but being that I’d skewed this “set” toward more of a pure strength emphasis anyway, I was ok with that.  Anything slower, though, and I would have pulled the plug on the set early.  Today’s workout:

  1. Behind-the-neck push-press: 135 x 3, 3; 165 x 2; 185 x 2; 190 x 21 (rest-pause) ==> 2s until rep 6, then singles thereafter. 14:15 time to completion.
  2. weighted, reverse-grip pull-ups: bw (ballistic) x 3, 3; 45 x 3; 70 x 21 (rest-pause) ==> 3s and 2s until 15, then singles thereafter.  Straps after rep 12.  4:50 time to completion (compare to same weight at 5:30 last time out).  Increase weight to 75 next time out.

My initial intent was to perform a 21 rep rest-pause round of GHRs.  I think I got plenty of hip work with the heavy push-presses, though.  I also performed tire flips on Sunday and plan to perform low pulls on Thursday.  Don’t want to overdose on hip extension/PC work.

The loading, time-to-completion, and execution of these two exercises today are good, practical examples of the two extremes of the strength-endurance modality, at least in the way I define that particular division of the modality continuum.  Note that in the BTN push-press, the nod was given more toward the expression of strength via a heavier loading, and more rest between reps.  The opposite was true of the round of reverse grip pull-ups, where the emphasis was hedged toward endurance (lighter loading, less between-rep rest).  The actual per-rep execution, in both cases, however (except for the last 2 in the push-press), was fast and crisp.  Not quite as fast as I am capable of in a power-emphasis modality, but still pretty damn fast.  In fact, it would take a fairly astute eye to notice the difference in repetition speed.  The difference in feel is much more noticeable, though.

What I mean by 3s, 2s, and singles is how I managed rep execution within the 21 rep, rest-pause, extended set.  For example, I might hit this frequency within my 21-rep, extended “set”: rep, rep, rep, pause….rep, rep, pause…rep, rep, pause…rep, pause…

Now, the next obvious question here would be what’s the damn difference between a “pause” and in what defines anyone else’s “set”? And that’s a legitimate question for which I really don’t have a definitive answer, other that to say a pause, to me, is “breaking just long enough to enable nailing the next rep”.  A “set” would define a group of reps off-set by a noticeably longer rest period – long enough to ensure nailing the next group of reps.  Or, alternately, breaking to move to another movement.  It’s just one of those things you have to experience in order to understand.  Far off in the distance of my mind’s eye resides the goal of 21, quick-succession, rest-pause reps – and a little further out yet is the time-to-completion goal.  My immediate hurdle, though, while performing the 21 rep rest-pause scheme, is The Next Rep, and only the next rep.  What follows that next rep is anyone’s guess, as far as I’m concerned – I might nail it, miss quit, bottom-out, pull the plug on the exercise, whatever; I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.  And once there, the process begins anew.  Sisyphean in nature.  Mini “Ground Hog Days” is how one of my old training partners aptly put it.

…and speaking of strength…

…check out this post on sprinting speed being the result of net forces acting upon the ground (as apposed to, say, stride length, and other issues).  A nice summary of the “Allyson Felix” topic I covered in this recent post, and some good commentary – as well as a couple of interesting video clips.  Power-to-bodyweight ratio, folks, is what it’s all about.  Interesting stuff to geek-out on – after you’ve done your work in the gym and/or on the track, of course.  First things first 😉

12/31/09, An Early Morning Goodbye to ’09 With Some Strength-Endurance Work

In response to an email question I received, here’s some further clarification on this extended rest-pause (DC training-type variant) strength-endurance method: What is your real objective here?  Strength?  Endurance?  Hypertrophy? And the answer is…Yes.  One must realize, however, that there is a big difference between strength and strength-endurance.  The former is more closely analogous to an endeavor along the lines of powerlifting – a single (or multiples, separated by lengthy breaks) of roughly 2-to-5 seconds in duration (and usually a “grind”); the latter implies strength repeatability – think Sisyphus here, and his bolder – only my aim is to roll that friggin’ rock over the apex of the incline, watch it tumble down the other side.  Taking out a few vegetarians on its travels.  Just kidding…kind of 😉

Hypertrophy?  Well, yeah, to some extent this will put some muscle on you – pure DC-type training even more so.  I consider the added hypertrophy more of a cool side benefit though, not really something I’m striving for.  I think there are better options available if hypertrophy is the main focus of one’s gym efforts.  On the flip side of this, if someone is looking to increase strength without putting on body weight (weight class athletes, for example), there are better rep scheme options available as well (numerous sets of 1-3 reps, lots of rest b/t sets, for example).  Identify the weakness in the context of your goals, formulate a plan, apply, reassess…rinse, wash, and repeat.  I find myself saying this quite a bit lately, but damn if it isn’t true – there is no destination, there is only the journey – a perpetual, perfectly breaking wave.

Following a rather hurried warm-up, I jumped all over this:

  1. front foot elevated reverse lunge (FFERL): 115 x 5 (each leg); 135 x 3; 145 x 21 (mostly 2s and 3s, some singles after ~17).  10:10
  2. weighted dips: bw x 10, 10; 45 x 5; 80 x 21 (mostly 2s, singles after ~15). 3:45
  3. weighted reverse grip pull-ups: bw x 7; 45 x 5; 70 x 21 (2s, singles after 17).  5:30   

The FFERL is an odd choice for this method, no? I prefer to keep the bulk of my squatting movements as single leg endeavors (topic post and follow-on discussion here).  Note that I do lots of sprinting and biking, and I feel that I get much better carryover from a diet of dual leg “pulls” (deadlifts, et al) and single leg “squats”.  Not that I totally exclude squats, just that my emphasis resides with the single leg movements.  Of course, other goals would necessitate other exercise choices.  Note that the FFERL movement is similar to the step-up, however, this movement begins atop the platform and with the initial movement being a single leg step down/reach back – an exaggerated split-squat, if you will.  Haven’t done this exercise in a long time, and it showed.  It’s good to keep the body guessing, though.  Journey on.

Hope everyone has a wonderful and fulfilling 2010.

In health,