3/2/10; A Unilateral Combo and, A Couple of Questions Beg a Couple of (Vague) Answers

“Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

William James

Up and at ’em early again this morning.  Pulled-off a quick crock pot shuffle soon after getting up and before I headed out to the gym.  Who says a caveman can’t think ahead?  A whole chicken (free range, of course) from my favorite supplier, Rainbow Meadow Farms, fat back, and a couple of heads of cauliflower.  It’ll wind-up having been “crocking” for approximately 12 hours by the time I get back home in the evening.  And let me tell you, not only is a chicken done in this fashion to die for, but the resultant chicken-drippin’s, fat back and cauliflower “soup” is slap yo’ mama good in its own right.  Which leads to my first question, a compilation of sorts, the essentials of which I’ve taken the liberty to summarize thusly:

“Dude, whassup?  No Sous-vide for you?   What gives?

First off, you can’t begin to imagine how many variations on the spelling of sous-vide I’ve received over the weeks.  My far-and-away favorite was Suess-vide (as in Dr., I suppose??  Cat-in-the-hat?).  It’s all good though, as I side with President Andrew Jackson’s contention that it’s a dull-witted man who can’t think of more than one way to spell a word.

So I’ll cut to the chase, here; I’m worried about plastic leaching into my food.  Now, I know that the food-grade vacuum-seal bags are supposed to be safe/non-leaching — but…hey, what can I say?  I’m just generally a questioning, disbelieving, you-gotta-prove-it-to-me sort.   I also steer clear of Teflon for the same reason; I’m a grill, crock pot and cast iron kind of guy.  But hey, should I really worry about a little (possible) plastic leaching when I suck-down God-only-knows-what in the exhaust fumes I inhale while huckin’ the ol’ fix about town?  Not to mention the possibility of getting flat-out clocked? Well, we all have to manage possible risk in a way that each of us feels comfortable with.   But hey, I’ve heard that food prepared in the sous-vide method is absolutely wonderful, and I have no reason to doubt that it is.  I say that if you’re cool with the possibility (again, this is nothing substantiated) of plastic leaching, then rock on.  Just my opinion, but I’ll stick with the ol’ crock pot.

And then we have a question from TTP reader Guen, who wants to know what he can do to gain some flexibility in his hips.  I feel Guen’s pain — since I’ve become more of a desk jockey at work, I’ve been forced to pay more attention to hip health.  Damn if sitting all day isn’t a God-awful, unnatural act.  Anyway, my go-to movement for hip flexibility is the good ol’ Dan John brainchild, ass-to-grass goblet squat.  I also recommend plenty of overhead squat variations — again, working toward achieving a full, as-to-grass, range of motion.

Which is a nice segue into today’s workout.  Once again, I used whip-snatch-to-OHSs as a warm-up to “meat” of the workout bridge.  3 sets of 3 at 95 lbs, and I “cycled” each rep x 3 in the ATG-to-3/4 position.  Remember, when using lighter weights in the snatch motion, not to get lazy and allow the bar to travel in an outward arc.  We want to concentrate on maintaining a straight bar path from the crook of the hip to the overhead lockout position.  Also remember to maintain the weight directly over the center of gravity for the entire rep.  It’s easy, especially when “cycling” the OHS portion of the movement (and especially with light weights), to “shoulder” the weight in a position forward of center-line. We don’t want to foster any bad habits, or allow bad habits to creep in, when using lighter weights.

Then it was on to this combo:

Feet Elevated Ring Flyes x 10
Straight Bar Muscle-ups x 2
Pistol Squats (ATG) x 6 each leg @ 20 lb DBs
Feet Elevated Ring Flyes x 10
Straight Bar Muscle-ups x 2
Single-Leg Deadlift (Barbell) x 6 each leg @ 115

So three rounds of that.  Notice that this equated to 6 sets of ring flyes and muscle-ups, to 3 sets of Pistols and Deadlifts.  I used small diameter weights (i.e., non-Oly plates) when doing single leg DL or SLDL work with a barbell so as to maximize the range of motion.  Of course you could always stand on a platform.  To each his own.  Also, I completed the full shrug/triple-extension motion at the top of the movement on each rep.  Same cues as in a normal clean — push the floor away with the heels, then transfer late through the toes at the apex of the triple extension.

In health,

2/25/10, MetCon, Unilaterals

Under a work-related time constraint today, so I had to hurry it up a bit.  A very simple two-fer MetCon superset to kick things off, then a single-leg thruster/single-leg deadlift superset to finish-up.  Not very sexy, I know — but effective?  Hell yeah.

Whip Snatch to Overhead Squat: 95 x 6, 6; 115 x 5, 4, 4  (3 ass-to-grass, bottom-of-the-movement “cycle squats*” on each rep)
Ab Wheel Roll-Outs: x 8 each round

5 total rounds.  Want to see just how much your “core” contributes to your ability to “grip it and whip it” and upon your ability to maintain OHS stability?  Try that little superset as an experiment.

*Cycle squats: from the bottom-out position of the squat, come up to the thighs parallel position, then drop right back down to the atg position.  Do that three times, then on the forth “up”, come all the way up to the starting position.  That’s one rep.  Reload, and hit it again.  Evil?  Uh-huh.  Effective?  You bet.

Then it was on to a unilateral superset of single-leg step-ups (on the Atlantis machine) and single-leg dumbbell deadlifts.  I like to think of these single-leg step-ups as “sprinter’s starts” since they so closely approximate the initial step out of the blocks.  Building appreciable strength in this motion is, of course,  an admirable goal.  However, this is a perfect example of a movement that that can be strength-trained to a detriment.   In other words, strength gains, at the expense of like-movement speed, results in a crippling of that like-movement power output.  Of course there’s also the notion of the weak-link in the chain to consider (my right leg’s squat/dl ability), which is what I’m attempting to rectify over the next few weeks.  All part of the Yin-Yang, push-pull nature of things.  Find the weakness and address it.

Single-leg step-ups (Atlantis machine): 90 x 8; 180 x 7, 7
Single-leg DB deadlifts: 80 x 7, 7, 7

3 rounds.  Right leg is feeling better, stronger and more stable every day.

2/22/10, MetCon and Unilateral Work, and a Couple of Interesting Stories Courtesy of NPR

Lead-off this morning’s workout with the following bout of MetCon work:

Barbell Whip Snatch* to full Overhead Squat: 95lbs x 6 reps each round

Reverse-Grip Pull-Ups: 45 x 6; 70 x 6, 6, 6

Weighted Dips: 45 x 7; 70 x 6, 6, 6

Four rounds of that, concentrating on the quality of each exercise’s reps as opposed to attempting to squeeze in everything in minimal time.  Overall time was a distant second concern.  Notice that the rep scheme here for each exercise was such that the time-under-tension fell at approximately 10 seconds.  This was not by accident, as I was targeting work on the anaerobic energy system.  I should have increased the weight a bit on the whip-snatch to OHSs and decreased the reps to 4 or 5, as I ran a little over time-wise here (approximately 12 seconds TUT to complete 6 reps, i.e. approximately 2 seconds per rep).
*Think explosive barbell muscle up, with a little more hip kick.  Or, somewhere between a power snatch and a barbell muscle-up.  Note: googling “whip snatch” or “power snatch” is…er…an interesting experience to say the least, and not necessarily safe for work  🙂

Then it was on to some more unilateral work — and some marked improvement in the function of my right leg’s pistol ability.  Good news!

Single-Leg Deadlift (reaching variation): 25lb plate x 7, 7, 7 (each leg)
Pistol Squats: 25 lb plate for both right and left legs x 7, 7, 7 (each leg)

These two exercises were done in superset fashion.  Nice to see the functionality in my right leg returning so quickly.

And in other news…

My contention has always been that diet success has more to do with one’s ability to adequately manage emotion and situations more than anything else.  Knowledge, combined with emotional maturity, can overcome any obstacle (be it weight issues or otherwise).  And to that end, NPR’s Morning Edition ran a story this morning (Rational or Emotional?  Your Brain on Food), that you might find interesting.

Hmmm, you say — leptin…what’s that hormone all about again?

Stephan, of the wonderful blog Whole Health Source, did a fantastic Leptin / Lectins series a while back (part I, part II, part III) that you might want to revisit after having taken in the NPR stories.  It always comes back to the avoidance of sugar and grains, doesn’t it?  How simple can you get?  Eating a healthful diet doesn’t require advanced intelligence, but it does require a bit of determination — and probably most important, emotional intelligence.

And then we have the follow-up to the Rational / Emotional story, Why We Gain Weight as We Age, with lots of discussion on age-onset muscle loss (sarcopenia).  All that’s required is the proper stimulus, though, coupled with the proper diet, to maintain healthy muscle mass well into one’s later years.  Just ask Art DeVany and his lovely wife, “Wonderwoman” about that.

MetCon for Sprinters, and Some Unilateral Work

This workout actually took place yesterday (2/20/10), but I wound-up not having a chance to post it due to being tied-up with work issues.  The way the day shaped-up created a nice little n=1 study.  A tough workout, performed in a fasted state, followed by very little food – how would I hold-up?  Well, very well as it turns out – and this morning, as I write this, I’m still not all that hungry.  I could eat, sure – but I’m not at the point where I have to eat, if you know what I mean.

First, let’s look at the workout itself.  The following took place at approximately 14 hours fasted:

The “MetCon for Sprinters” portion of the workout –
4 rounds of this, with the only rest resulting in the moving between work stations:

DB snatch + single arm press, push-press and push-jerk – (x number of db snatches with the right arm, followed by the right arm press, push-press, push-jerk complex, immediately followed by the same with the left side).

DB snatch (R) DB Snatch (L) Press Push-Press Push-Jerk
60 lbs        5                            5                                                1                   1                        1
70 lbs        5                            5                                                1                   1                        1
80 lbs        5                            5                                                1                   1                        1
80 lbs        5                            5                                                1                   1                        1

Straight Bar Muscle-Ups –
bodyweight x 3, 3, 2, 2

Ab Wheel Roll-Outs (minimal knee/thigh ground contact) –
7 on each of the four rounds

So four rounds of that got the blood pumping nicely, to say the least.  Then I moved on to some unilateral work, 3 rounds of a single-led deadlift, pistol squat superset complex.  I haven’t done pistols in quite a while, and what I found was rather surprising –  while my left leg pistol was fine (good balance, good strength), my right leg was absolutely pathetic – my movement pattern sucked, balance was off, and, as one might expect from that combination, my strength was non-existent.  On the upside however, at least I now know exactly where the kink in the ol’ armor resides.  I have no idea, though, why this imbalance developed.  The only thing that I can point to is that in the last three years I have been in a working environment that is mostly sedentary.  Maybe that’s it, I don’t know.  I do know, though, that from what I saw in the pistols, I must be essentially one-legging (with scant help from my right leg) all my bilateral, lower-body movements.  At least I’m aware of it now, and I can work on getting that flaw fixed.  Anyway, 3 rounds of single-leg deadlifts (with 70 lb DBs x 7 reps each leg, and same knee-bend angle as in this clip) in a superset with 3 rounds of bodyweight Pistol Squats, 8 reps each leg, each round.   Left leg could have used substantial added weight, and I needed balance help (especially past parallel) on the right leg.  Wow.  Lots of work needed here.  Note that the single-leg deadlift clip depicts a trainee performing a reaching single-leg DL version, though I did mine in the more conventional fashion, i.e arms perpendicular to the floor at the bottom of the movement.

So anyway, after a a couple rounds of steam room/cold shower contrasts, I cleaned-up and ran by the house for some Trader Joe’s brand Greek Yogurt (full fat, of course – and good stuff, by the way), along with a couple of handfuls of a pecan/walnut mix.  I then went on in to work for an engineering evolution that I expected to take about 4-hours; as it happened, the evolution wound-up taking approximately 12 hours.  So much for predictions.  I did have time to wolf-down a large PaleoKit and an avocado in the meantime, but that was it for the day.  No hunger pangs, no light-headedness, no blood sugar crash – none of that.  Just continued, fat-burning, Paleo cruisin’.  I expected that I’d wake up famished today, but that wasn’t to be.  I’ll eat a little later, but right now I’m still cruisin’ right along.

2/18/10, Some Unilateral Work, Getting a Feel for The Weaknesses

Like anyone who loves to red-line things in the gym and on the track (and diet-wise, for that matter), it takes a bit of self-induced psychological slight-of-hand to persuade myself to take a lateral step (I refuse to call it a step back!) in order to clean up imbalances that may be a block to my furthering progress.  I know it needs to be done, and yet…well, let’s face it — I love the feel of flinging heavy weights at maximal speeds — that’s my kind of training!  However, in order to maximize power output in any given movement, we’ve got to ensure that the underlying foundation is rock-solid.  Maintaining (or better yet, improving) basic strength levels is one component of a healthy foundation — another important aspect, though, is unilateral strength and stability.  It is precisely this component — this functionality — that I’ve detected needs some work.  Of course the next logical question, then, is just how did I come to know this? Unfortunately I can’t give you a quantifiable answer, other than to say that I could detect a bit of an imbalance during a round of farmer’s walks last week — a little hitch in my giddy-up, if you will — especially upon setting down and retrieving the DBs (in an alternating, modified, single-leg fashion) at each mid-walk break.  My left leg felt strong and stable; my right, though felt a tad unstable, which subsequently led to a lack of strength (as compared to the left).  Anyway, my short-term goal will be to get this imbalance shored-up.

Just testing things out today, to get a better feel for where I stand.  After a warm-up that included plenty of ballistic stretching and 5 sets of light very light (though explosive) OHSs, I did 4 rounds of a modified single-leg straight-leg deadlift/single-leg thrust superset.

The modified, single-leg deadlift: Looking for an approximate 20-degree knee bend here at the bottom of the movement so as to more thoroughly engage the glutes. I prefer to use DBs for this movement, as this adds an additional element of balance-maintenance to the mix.  4 sets of six here (i.e., 6 right, 6 left), 45s, 50s, 65s, 65s.  Left leg could have handled substantially more, right leg felt a little shaky with the 65s.  No surprise, here.  The only question is, what happened to cause the strength in my right leg to fall off?  Things that make ya go hmmmm…..

The single-leg thrust: On what seems to be my go-to machine as of late.  Of course, I use it in a bastardized manner.  I’m wondering how long it will take before I’m tossed out of this gym  🙂  Anyway, what this winds up being is a 10-degree angled, single-leg step-up; almost a perfect sprinting “drive phase” angle, and it’s the same end-of-movement angle as in the thruster movement I did a few days ago.  4 sets of 7, alternating legs, and supersetted with the single-leg DLs discussed above.  Again the weight is pointless here (since we’re talking about a machine) — only a means for my own personal tracking; 90, 180, 230, 230.  Again, the left leg could have handled plenty more, the right leg felt a bit unstable at 230.  If the past is any indication, things will even-up relatively quickly — in my mind’s eye, though, this will seem to take forever  🙂  I already miss tossing around heavy things.

Other items of note –
Anyone catch the reportage on this interesting little n=1 blood glucose study (hat tip to Seth Roberts for this one)? Very, very interesting stuffespecially that on the topic of coconut oil!  A highly recommended read!

2/19/10 edit: here’s the direct link to the Seth Roberts forum piece – http://boards.sethroberts.net/index.php?topic=7511.msg96502#msg96502

Thanks to Brent (epistemocrat) for the catch!