OUR BODY, The Universe Within — and — Workin’ Out the Travel Kinks

I’m back, now, from a whirlwind trip to Austin, Texas; it was great to visit with family and friends, and get back, even for a short while, to the great state of Texas.

The Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sport, at the University of Texas, Austin

A couple of the trip’s highlights: taking in OUR BODY, The Universe Within, at the University of Texas’ Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, A trip to my all-time favorite bike shop, Mellow Johnny’s (where I engaged in some serious fixie lust), and an absolutely kick-ass, trainer-guided workout at Efficient Exercise of Austin.  The trainer?  None other than Skyler Tanner.  15 minutes of true HIIT/SS training that thoroughly wiped me out.  I’ll have a write-up on Skyler’s 15 minutes of Keith-pummeling up soon.  This style of training is quite a departure from the manner in which I normally go about business, and I gotta tell ya, the notion of training “what you suck at” was never more apropos.  More — much more — on that eye-opening experience later.

Mellow Johnny's, this cyclist's Nirvana...

So I’m quite possibly the world’s biggest wuss when it comes to traveling.  It takes me days to readjust and “get right” after the experience.  Don’t get me wrong — I love being at my destination — I just don’t tolerate the “getting there” very well.  I am thankful, though, that I was able to get a full-body hammering in during this particular trip, as it made my overall travel re-adjustments — and this workout, as well — go much more smoothly.

Note: my initial intent today was to hit some high-hang Oly bar power snatches.  I subbed for those for Creds, though, at the last minute.  Why?  I just felt like I wanted to introduce a bit more of a unilateral element following my bilateral work this past Saturday.  So here’s what I ended up with this morning:

6 rounds of the following complex, very little rest between movements.

creds (single-arm dumbbell snatch, each arm): 70 x 2; 80 x 2; 90 x 6 sets of 2

feet-elevated (approx 24 inches) ballistic push-ups: 30lb vest x 3

ab wheel roll-outs (on feet, little as possible ground-knee contact): bodyweight x 10

I finished up with some Nautilus 4-way neck work, 30 lbs x 12 (404 tempo) front and each side, 40 lbs x 12 (404 tempo) to the rear.  Funny thing: for whatever reason, I was thinking about what part of my physique has changed the most over the years.  For me, that has to, without a doubt, be my neck.  Nothing builds a bull neck like bangin’ heads with lunatic fullbacks and oversized tight ends.  I miss that.  The big neck, that is — not the brain scramble incurred as a direct result of sculpting that neck  🙂

Explosive Lifting and Epigenetics

Affecting my ultimate phenotypical expression, one day at a time, one moment at a time; this is how I envision my life choices.  Every action — and every non-action, too — carry consequences toward that end.  Are my actions at this moment positive, and life affirming?  If not, can something be done to change that, or at least mitigate the negative consequences?  Blaming a poor genetic “draw” is simply a cop-out; the genetic blueprint is certainly the beginning of the story, but hardly the end of the story.

Here’s a very cool epigenetic primer from the folks at the University of Utah’s Genetics Science Learning Center. Lots of information here,  packed into a tight, little under 5 minute bundle, and well worth the time.  Think of your genetic profile as merely the latticework upon which the sculptor will flesh-out his next work of art; the clay, the hands of the skilled artisan — these are analogous to the epigenetic factors over which you do have control.  Live each moment wisely; create your own masterpiece.  It’s well within your grasp.

Lean, strong and powerful; this is the artisan’s touch that I choose to put on my pre-determined latticework,such as it is.  And to that end, here’s yesterday’s early morning explosive iron session with some DB Creds and single-arm jerks:

DB creds + single-arm jerk: 70 x 5 each arm; 80 x 4 each arm; 90 x 3 each arm; 100 x 1 each arm; attempt 110 (rt arm), missed jerk, 100 x 1 lft. arm; 105 x 1, 1, 1 each arm (missed jerk on last set, lft. arm)

straight bar muscle-ups: bw x 3, each round

That’s a total of 8 rounds, or 24 total straight bar muscle-ups.  The cred + jerk sequence was a single-arm db snatch immediately followed by a single-arm split jerk.

Back in the Gym, Tubers, IF, and “Eating to Gain”

I always feel a tad bit “slow” in my first explosive workout following a lengthy layoff; and yeah, 5 days completely off is, for me, quite a prolonged bit of down-time.  My theory is that keeping the CNS primed (amped, hyped, what have you) for explosive movement is metabolically expensive, and is therefore quickly down-regulated when the body senses that it is not required for “survival”.  And to that end (seeking to “jazz” my CNS a bit prior to each “money” movement), I opted to perform a ballistic, similar-like motion in immediate advance of performing the main movements of choice in today’s workout.  Those two exercises were a DB snatch (cred) + push-press (x2) + jerk combo, and an ab wheel roll-out.

The resulting complex looked like this:

drop + rebound jump: x 5, each round
cred + single-arm push-press x 2 + single-arm jerk x 1 combo: 75 x 5, 5; 85 x 3, 3; 90 x 3
straight bar muscle-up: bodyweight: x 2, each round
ab wheel roll-out: bodyweight: x 7, 7, 10, 10, 10
5 total rounds

drop + rebound jump: step off of a low box (approx 18″ high) and, immediately upon ground contact, spring up and over a subsequent, taller (approx. waist-high) box.  Focus on minimal ground contact time.

cred combo: number of reps indicates number of db snatches performed prior to the presses for that arm; i.e., 5 snatches (at 75 #) with the right arm and, immediately following the 5th snatch, perform the press/jerk portion of the combo with the same arm.  Then switch to the left arm and repeat the process; 5 snatches followed by the presses/jerk.

Why only 2 muscle-ups per round?  Because beyond the second rep I know that (from experience), I shift from a speed-strength/RFD emphasis to more of a strength-speed emphasis.  It’s purely a speed of execution thing.  In this case, I’m simply looking for a CNS stimulus in this particular movement pattern, I’m not looking to work the movement pattern, per se.  There is a difference, albeit subtle.

ab wheel roll-outs: now I am looking to work this particular movement pattern (notice how a full roll-out is a very similar movement pattern to a straight-bar muscle-up).  Full extension, minimal knee/body ground contact.  Lead with the butt on the concentric portion of the movement and don’t allow the hips to sag/sink in the eccentric portion.

Questions?  Answers!

TTP reader Alejandro (noted in italics) writes:

I first want to thank you for putting all this content out there (in your site). Your story is really inspiring and definitely shows amazing results. I started almost a year ago, for health reasons. I was 19 and had digestive issues which all cleared up a couple of months into paleo. Because of the results paleo has had on my health it has been really easy to stick to it (+ the food is amazing anyways). I have also started lifting, and here is where my questions arise.
– Friends at the gym are advising me to eat massive amounts of food. Since I started paleo I have just eaten when I feel hungry, I went from 155lbs to 135lbs (I am 5’6, stabilized at 135lbs). I don’t know my bf% but I can see my upper 4 abs, the only sport I used to do before lifting is racquetball  and I don’t have much muscle on. Should I eat when I am hungry or should I make a conscious effort to eat more. My friends always go through cut/bulk cycles, I would prefer to be fairly lean through out the year. What is your opinion on this?

The old school “eat to gain” idea is, in my opinion, totally misguided/outdated information.  Not that all “old school” guys advocated the notion, either, as Vince Gironda thought the idea was ludicrous; yet another example of the Iron Guru being light-years ahead of the pack.  Given the proper stimulus (weight training), the body will more than adequately adjust appetite to compensate for growth.  You need do no more than what you’re doing now — eat to satiation, and eat when hungry.  The only time I’d advocate (slight) overeating is in the case of someone wanting to gain bulk for unique, sport-specific reasons — an American football, offensive lineman, for instance.

Training-wise, you’ll want to identify if your goals lean more toward aesthetics or sport-specific betterment, as this will determine (in a gross way), how your workouts will be structured.

– I read in one of your posts that you eat tubers. Is this right? I also share the same idea that tubers could be an integral part of the paleo diet. I have tested to see how I react to eating tubers (sweet potatoes, cassava, taro, malanga, etc), they cause me no problem. But how much tuber do you think is proper? Do you try to go for a certain % of carbs in your diet? What is your opinion on the whole tuber issue?

I think tubers — and just about any root food for that matter — are fantastic carbohydrate sources.  Your intake ought to be personalized as to your diet intent (i.e., fat loss, maintenance, etc.), allowing for upswings in times of maintenance, and reductions if weight loss becomes an issue.  I don’t personally count calories, macro-nutrient percentages, meal frequencies, or whatever, nor do I advocate anyone else doing so (there are, though, always unique exceptions).  I simply eat what I feel like eating within the Paleo umbrella, to satiation, and when I’m hungry.  Due to cooking methods/options/recipes, I naturally eat more tubers, roots and such in the winter, and less in the summer.  Do a little n=1 experimentation on yourself and see how you respond to varying amounts in your own diet.

– I was fasting about 1 day a week before starting to lift but stopped after my friends advised me to. Given the benefits of fasting it is something I would like to keep in my lifestyle. Do you think fasting 1 day a week will hinder my gains?

Not at all — in fact IF’ing will serve to enhance your gains in the long run.  At first glance, this may seem counter-intuitive, however, look at things from a metabolic/hormonal/enzymatic optimization point-of-view, and you’ll see the opposite is actually true.  If anything, I’d have you (being still at somewhat of a high BF/low muscle-mass ratio) IF twice per week, 17 — 24-hours a pop.  And, under “every-day” circumstances (and if possible), always workout in a 10 -12 hour fasted state.

Day One:Three-and-a-Half Hours in the Fixie Saddle; Day Two: Explosive Creds

“One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Yesterday, in what amounted to quite a departure from my usual explosive-type workouts, I spent three-and-a-half hours in the fixie saddle, terrorizing the downtown streets and greenway trails in and around Raleigh, NC.  Why the departure?  Well, I don’t know — it just kinda felt like the right thing to do.  A few times a year I’ll get the urge to go super long and super hard — either on the mountain bike, or on the fixie — and I’ll just (pardon the pun), roll with it.  And in a testament to the effectiveness of my manner of MetCon training (numerous intense, short bursts crammed into a curtailed period of time), I wind-up being surprisingly well-adapted to these long, drawn-out grinds.   And, being the Paleo fat-burner that I am, I’m saved from the constant need to replenish my sugar stores every so often to prevent boking.  I just saddle-up and roll hard, with nary a dip in energy.

A serendipitous aside: one of the items I’d loaded on my iPod to listen to on the drive out to Raleigh was this Kathleen Show interview of Christopher McDougall, the author of Born to Run.  Now I don’t necessarily agree with McDougall’s premise that all humans were (are) predisposed for endurance endeavors, but I do agree with the notion that all humans are predisposed to move and interact with their world; I just happen to feel at home with high-intensity, short-duration, explosive movements.  I don’t deny, though, that some genotypes are more naturally inclined toward the expression of an endurance-leaning phenotype.  I say roll with what feels right for you; let n=1 rule the day.  To be sure there are guideposts — and we can certainly influence one’s ultimate phenotypical expression via appropriate stimulus — but the definition of “right” and “wrong” ultimately depends on that individual’s self-knowledge.  And McDougall’s profile of Jenn Shelton is enlightening.  I think we could all learn a little something about “flow” “do what comes natural” from Jenn; maybe with a bit more maturity she’ll be able to more effectively weave chaos and discipline to produce the Buddha-like persona that she envisions running will create.

And by the way, I went into this three-and-a-half hour romp at 17-hours fasted.  And what did I have during the ride?  Nothing of substance — nadda; a few swigs of water, that’s it.  I did however stop for a break at my favorite Raleigh coffee shop, Cup-A-Joe, at about 2 1/2 hours in, for a little red-eye jolt.  My fast ended at about one hour post-ride at a wonderful Raleigh Asian market, with a meal of plump roast duck, and sauteed bok choy.  If you’re ever in the Raleigh area, you’ve got to make a special trip to Grand Asia for their roasted duck — it’s fabulous!

So, why my fixation with the fixie?  Well, I can’t put it any better than the following quotes from this informative, though dated (some of the links are toast), Wired article:

“Learning how to ride a fixie was like drinking decaf your whole life and then suddenly having the real thing,” and, “It’s a Zen thing. Once you get used to traffic, then you can float through the chaos…”

There’s no coasting, no time off; if the wheels are turnin’, your legs are workin’.  It’s a pure, beautiful…and, yeah, very Zen-like, man-machine interface.

So how’s this for keeping the body guessing?

I followed-up Saturday’s long fixie romp with a few rounds of explosive Creds on Sunday.  Why?  Well, I rolled out of bed and felt like it.  Post warm-up,it went a little something like this:

Creds (each arm): 70 x 5; 80 x 3: 90 x 2; 100 x 1; 105 x 7 singles

~ superset with ~

Standing Ab Wheel Roll-Outs (minimal knee touch): 7 reps for all 11 rounds

In health,

2/26/10, An Explosive AM Workout — Creds, Jerks and Muscle-Ups

No better way to kick-off a Friday, and what looks to be (fingers crossed!) a work-free weekend, than with some high-voltage, explosive movements, first thing in the morning.

As a bridge between my dynamic stretching/Oly-like warm-up and the meat of the workout, I did a 200 yard farmer’s “sprint” (ok, it was a fast-as-possible walk) with a pair of 120 lb DBs.  Try these as warm-up finisher sometime, and see if you’re not better primed for the main-attraction portion of your workout.

A quick aside: I stumbled upon what has now become my favorite, at-home coffee — Trader Joe’s Bay Blend. It’s absolutely fabulous.  Now I haven’t yet had a bad (or even lackluster) variety of Trader Joe’s coffee, but this is, in my opinion – and I do consider myself somewhat of a coffee snob/connoisseur – the best “affordable” coffee beans that I’ve come across.  Sure Jamaiccan Blue Mountain is to die for, but who can afford to drink that on a daily basis?  And if you can afford a Blue Mountain habit, hey call me up! – let’s work out a training deal!

Back to the workout: so after the 200 yard farmer’s walk, it was on to the Cred + single-arm jerk/straight bar muscle-up superset.  Just lettin’ ‘er rip this morning, in a semi-unilateral way.

The Cred + Jerk (each arm): 70 x 3; 80 x 3; 90 x 2; 100 x 1, 1, 1, 1, 1

Straight bar Muscle-Up: 2s across the board

I started and finished the 9 rounds with muscle-ups, so actually that worked-out to 10 rounds of M/Us and 9 rounds of Creds/jerks.  Felt jacked and kept the wonderful CNS “buzz” for many hours following.  What more can you ask for from a simple-in-design, early morning workout?

2/17/10, Strength-Speed Work with Dumbbell Snatches (aka The Cred)

The Cred and only The Cred today; approximately 45 minutes worth.  Unfamiliar with the exercise?  Check out this post.  Also, the athlete below (a Mike Boyle disciple) pulls-off a pretty sweet (and technically flawless) version.

Here’s how my rounds with the exercise looked today (all noted reps are per each arm):

60 x 5; 80 x 3; 90 x 3; 95 x 2; 100 x 1; 105 x 7 singles*

*Right arm rep, immediately followed by the left arm rep, with approximately 3-minutes rest between right arm/left arm “sets”.

Multi-rep sets were done all with one arm, then all with left, i.e., with 60 lb set, I did 5 right arm reps immediately followed by 5 left arm reps.

Why the dumbbell version?  Why not man-up and hit it with a barbell?
Couple of reasons for this. First off, I love the barbell power snatch — however, that love is unrequetted, at least when it comes to my shoulders.  I think this has more to do with the lingering effects of life spent trading licks the grid-iron (American football) than anything else.  But whatever the reason, the db version allows for a catch that is in more of a neutral, shoulder-and-hand/wrist-friendly position, therefore eliminating any resultant shoulder pain.  I also like the unbalanced loading the db version offers.  Is it more “real world”?  Meh, maybe so – though I still prefer the barbell version if I’m concentrating solely on the pull (either high or low), simply because I can load-up the bar with more weight.  Every now and again, though, I’ll do a single-arm high pull with a heavy db, just to change things up a bit.  Mostly, though, I pull (heavy) with the barbell version, but I rely on The Cred when I’m looking to do the full version of the movement.

Of Note:
Anyone catch Rob Orlando on the CrossFit Journal, speaking about his Hybrid Winter Challenge creation?  Good stuff, for sure.  And hey, I can count the number of times on one hand that I’ve actually performed a CrossFit WOD as Rx’d, but I still believe that this is the best 25 bucks per year you can drop.  And yeah, they totally f’d-up in what ultimately resulted as the whole Robb Wolf debacle, but that act of lunacy doesn’t negate the fantastic work they do with the Journal.  As with all sources of information (this joint included) take what is useful to you and disregard the rest.   Anyway, I’ve got my own ideas on what I’d like to see comprise a sprinter/power athlete’s decathlon.  Maybe I’ll post it up over the weekend and we can dissect it.

And another note…
I seem to be detecting a bit of strength imbalance/instability, especially in my lower body.  This may be as a result of not being able to sprint as much as I’d like over the last month or so.  In any event, you’ll see me start to work-in some more single-limb exercises over the next few weeks to clear that stuff up.  This is the nature of keen vigilance and constant reassessment.   

1/20/10, Power-Endurance Emphasis

This is the workout equivalent to last night’s crock-pot bison roast.  Nuthin’ fancy here, just a “put-up or shut-up” kind of a deal.  Not much in the way of equipment or space requirements, either; one relatively heavy dumbbell and a pull-up bar.  Some chalk and straps for the later rounds.  Booya!

As the Zen Master says: there is no say, there is only do.  I would add that there is no room for “contemplation” as well.  11 rounds of this in 26:43.  Skewed toward the heavier load/longer rest side of the continuum.  One of the more CrossFit-like workouts that I’ll do.  Call it MetCon, if you like (and I guess you could), though I believe that my “power-endurance” terminology comes closer to identifying the true nature of this workout.  In my opinion, this sprint-interval workout is more along the lines of true MetCon work.  But that’s just splitting so many hairs, and I digress; here’s the day’s fun:

– each of the 11 “rounds” entailed the following:

  • the Cred + single arm press + single arm push-press + single arm split-jerk (right arm, immediate movement to movement transition)
  • same drill with the left arm/side
  • 2 pull-up bar muscle-ups

Bw muscle-ups, 90 lb db for the cred/press combo.

Are you down with “the Cred” (the single-arm db snatch)?  If not, check out this and this.  Transition directly from the overhead finish position of the Cred into the single-arm db press.  Of course, the weak link in this combo is the strict press, and this is the movement to first degenerate.  What I do to compensate, then is to allow for a minimum of “cheat” push as the rounds progress.  Being a stickler on the strict press would of course require that I reduce the weight used overall in the movement, and I’m not willing to do that (i.e., skimp on the cred portion of the combo).  But that’s just how I roll, others may choose otherwise.  As I critique this workout, I see that I should have pushed a bit harder on the muscle-ups (gone 3 or 4 each round -or added 10 lbs or so) or used rings.  I’ll note this and accomodate accordingly next time I do a similar combo.