The Ancestral Health Symposium, 2011

“To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.” – Benjamin Franklin

Excellent! ¬†Always a man ahead of his time; cool Ben, the original proponent of intermittent fasting ūüėČ

The Ancestral Health Symposium, 2011

In a word, just a fabulous, fabulous, 2-day event. ¬†I won’t go into a complete re-tread of of AHS 2011 events here; soon enough, you’ll be able to partake of the entire 2-day extravaganza — at least virtually, via slides and Vimeo — here. ¬†And I really¬†implore¬†you to do so, as all the presentations were top-notch. ¬†But more to the point, so much good coverage (this piece, for one example) has already been written on the event, anything else would simply be rehash. ¬†One suggestion, though: for a really cool perspective of the gathering, how about some Twitter hashtag coverage of AHS11?

Above, the pre-game warm-up:¬† Meesus TTP and I (and Skyler Tanner — blue shirt, over my left shoulder) take in Doug McGuff’s¬†Body By Science presentation, just prior to the Tanner/Norris dog-and-pony show — the unveiling of Physical Culture 2.0, Efficient Exercise style. ¬†Photo by my good friend (and excellent photographer) A. Jolly.

Plenty of great blogosphere coverage of AHS11, yes. ¬†Unfortunately, what you won’t be¬†privy¬†to were all the stimulating, impromptu, cross-disciplinary conversations¬†among¬†presenters, and between presenters and the¬†myriad (600+?) of attendees. ¬†Oh, that and the stunning UCLA campus, and the oh-so-perfect 72-degree, no humidity weather. ¬†Not that I’m weather-jealous or anything… Anyway, what a rich environment for the blending of knowledge and ideas. ¬†It has taken me a full week to decompress, process and¬†synthesize¬†all that I took in during that whirlwind two days. ¬†Wow, is just about all that I can say at the moment. ¬†My pea-little brain is still in overload. ¬†Or maybe it was the 105-degree Texas heat I returned to (again, I’m not LA¬†weather-jealous); sprints, bar work and tire flips being my welcome home to Tejas workout. ¬†Crazy? ¬†Yeah, no doubt — but a Physical Culture 2.0¬†fit¬†kind of crazy — and that makes being crazy, well…kinda¬†okay ūüôā

And speaking of crazy

A *serious* meeting of the minds ūüėČ

Okay, so it wasn’t all¬†furrowed-brow and free of levity ūüėČ ¬†The symposium was, in fact, a seriously fun, extremely social event as well. ¬†As the above picture was being taken by Meesus TTP, John Welbourn (of CrossFit Football) — who was leaned against a table just to my right — was uttering “awk-waaaard”; just too friggin’ funny. ¬†Immediately following this shot, I had the opportunity to chat a while (Chico sockmonkey in-hand) with John about his training experience with Louie Simmons and the Westside Barbell crew out in Cleveland, Ohio. ¬†Some fascinating, first-person insight into Louie’s methods (lift heavy some days, lift fast other days. ¬†Bust ass all days; that about sums it up). ¬†The juxtaposition of this picture and that training-related chat I had with John rather epitomized the entire¬†conference¬†for me; fun, frolic and seriousness — all combined into a two-day “Woodstock” of primal-living event. ¬†Kudos to the original epistemocrat, Brent Pottinger, and the ever-hospitable Aaron Blaisdell, and their team of dedicated volunteers for pulling-off such a fantastic event. ¬†I’m already looking forward to AHS 2012.

Physical Culture (PC), 2.0

The philosopher Ken Wilber ‚Äď who I‚Äôve been devouring ever since being introduced to his work via my AHS 2011 co-presenter, Skyler Tanner ‚Äď speaks of evolution as a process of transcendence and inclusion; exactly the process by which PC (Physical Culture) 2.0 will ‚Äúevolve‚ÄĚ from the current, sorry state of affairs (think bloated, cartoonish, professional bodybuilders) into the defining, all-encompassing meme of the Ancestral Fitness movement; the “yang” component to the Paleo diet “yin”. ¬†This healthy, lasting process is not so much anarchistic revolution as it is building upon (‚Äútranscending‚ÄĚ in every sense of the word) that which has come before; even that which we might be quick to label ‚Äúmalicious‚ÄĚ at best ‚ÄĒ for example, the doings of the AMA and Big Pharma, the Prodigal Son-like travels of Physical Culture 1.0. Take beyond/carry forward that which is good and helpful; simply leave behind what is not, with no emotional attachment. This is the way of true progress.

My good friend and tribal elder, Ken O’Neill, has written a wonderful piece related to the emerging Physical Culture 2.0. ¬†It seems to me that this movement is being born even as we ping ideas and methodologies back and forth; as if we are actually midwifing (if that is actually a valid term) the movement into being rather than “inventing” anything per se. ¬†Fiction writers often speak of “chanelling” a work into being rather that actually “creating” anything. ¬†I can certainly attest to that notion, having written a work of fiction myself (The Blood of Samuel), and I have to say that this particular “emergence” process feels much the same as bringing a work of fiction from the “ether” and into the mortal world. ¬†Call it being a conduit between realms, if you will — and if you’re down with that kind of thing.¬† But one thing is for sure: this movement is underway, and it simply won’t be, cannot be, stopped.

Framework vs Fundamentalism

One theme that I was happy to see emerge from the Ancestral Health Symposium was that of basing N=1 experimentation upon an evolutionary framework, as opposed to sheepishly following some lock-step, dogmatic, one-size-fits-all prescription. ¬†Remember, as viewed through the evolutionary¬†lens, “optimum” can only be hinted at; more digging, more critical thinking, more thinkering (hat tip to Brett Pottinger for the term) is required to tease-out the optimum from the merely satisfactory. ¬†That our species can survive to breeding age and successfully reproduce on a completely bankrupt diet is a¬†testament¬†to our supreme adaptability, and speaks nothing to what is¬†optimum¬†for our genotype. ¬†And, too, any step toward singularity is a step toward extinction, be that in a species or in an entity. ¬†My hope is that the healthy debate of ideas remains a¬†integral¬†part of the AHS organization.

On the Workout Front…

I’ve been a bit jammed for time as of late, so what I thought I’d do, in lieu of posting a round-up of all of my between post workouts, is to select a choice few to¬†dissect. ¬† The following is a metcon workout that I completed on Saturday, the 13th. ¬†The clips are in two parts, because I’m an IT-idgit, and couldn’t get Windows Movie Maker to¬†cooperate¬†with me and my Android clips. ¬†Shouldn’t this all be¬†compatible? ¬†Meh…

Part I

…and continuing on with the 4th exercise in the circuit…

Notice that none of the 4 exercises in this circuit are particularly technique-heavy, and are therefore¬†suitable¬†for under-fatigue utilization. ¬†And by this, the 5th round of this doozie, I’ve got some serious fatigue goin’ on; though I’m still pushing the front squats with adequate umph, the explosion in my prowler pushes has pretty much¬†dwindled¬†to nada. ¬†Of course the real ball-busters in this circuit are the front squats and prowler pushes; the dips and curls can almost be thought of as “active recovery”. ¬†And this is how I like to program a weight-centric metcon workout — variations of intensity within the circuit itself, and little to no rest between each round. ¬†Think American football, two-minute drill here. ¬†This type of workout — repeat, short-duration busts of high power output — lands square in the middle of my natural ability wheelhouse; my basecamp, as it were.

And Finally…

Check out this excellent and informative KQED/Sydnie Kohara interview –¬†Sustainable Meat and the Art of Butchery

Charcuterie is near and dear to my heart; a luxury afforded to those of us lucky enough to be alive in this day and age, and another example of enjoying that life under the framework of a stone age existence, but with the benefits extended to modernity.

About the show, from KQED’s Forum website:

In recent years, more chefs and consumers are demanding local, sustainable meats, driving some to raise and butcher their own livestock. We get into the gristle with three butchers and talk all about meat, from what consumers should be asking at the counter to how to cook a whole pig in the back yard.

Grock on.

In health,


The Benefit of Less-Extreme Views

True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are united

~ Alexander von Humboldt

George Church (Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School)¬†argues, in this Big Think piece,¬†that the age-old divide between science and religion is solvable. “We can bring them together,” he says, “but it requires less extreme views, or what would benefit from less extreme views.”

And it’s my belief that the same idea holds true for Physical Culture’s role in taming the beast that is the American healthcare crisis.

As it currently stands, there is no credible entity that acts as a non-dogmatic, “non-partisan” ¬†clearing house, of sorts, in which the various tools and techniques of Physical Culture can be explored in relation to the seeker’s desired outcome (along the health-performance continuum) — especially for those who’s desire it is to use a Paleo-like diet, coupled with resistance exercise, as a tools for achieving superior overall health. ¬†My hope is that this summer’s Ancestral Health Symposium¬†(and the symposium’s parent organization, the Ancestral Health Society)¬†will become just that entity. ¬†I am at the same time thrilled — and humbled! — to be one of the presenters at the symposium, where I will discuss resistance training’s role in achieving optimum health, the difference between “superior health” and “superior performance”, and the emergence of the Physical Culturalist (i.e., the new breed of personal trainer) and his role as “swim coach” as opposed to the healthcare professional’s role as “lifeguard”. ¬†Hat tip to Greg Glassman, of CrossFit, for that fine analogy. ¬†As medicine’s role in this new paradigm must change, so must the Physical Culturalist’s.


Of Autoregulation and overtraining

TTP reader Jeff Erno asks the following (via Facebook), in reference to EETV, episode 6:

Really enjoyed the episode, thanks for recording. The auto regulation stuff sounds interesting. Is there somewhere I can go to read more about it? Also, my experience is with HIT the last 2+ years and if I only workout once per week I have steadily gained week over week. At twice a week I can have what can look like a stall or retrogression. Do you think it is possible that my situation is more common and most people don’t know it since they never tried backing off? Curious what your take is. Love the episodes, please keep then coming.

And here’s my answer — expanded a bit, from my original Facebook response:

I’ve written about Autoregulation a few times in Theory to Practice, Jeff — see, especially, this post — and actually the subject is in our EETV bucketlist of topics to cover in more detail. ¬†As well (and as I alluded to in this post), I’ll be talking more about the tenants of Autoregulation and it’s practical applications at the Orlando 21 Convention this summer — so stay tuned for that! ūüėČ

As for the second question: a regression/stall at 2x/week is certainly not unheard of *if you are engaged in the same “type” of workout (rep tempo, exercise selection, rep/TUL scheme, etc…), workout to workout*¬† This is one reason why I shift things up in a conjugate-like fashion, both in my own workouts and in those of my clients. ¬†You simply have to give the body a reason to overcompensate, otherwise, homeostasis will rule the day. ¬†I really don’t want to get into a flame war over what I consider to be the (substantial) drawbacks of single-set-to-failure routines for performance enhancement, but let’s just say that it’s my humble opinion that these routines just don’t give the body much (or enough) stimulus to have to fight against. ¬†Why should the body continue to adapt when it is not up against novel angles, cadences, tempos, volumes, intensities, etc.? ¬†Ask any strength and conditioning coach what happens to 40 times when all you have your athletes do for speed/conditioning work is to run repeat 40’s — they digress — and not¬†insubstantially, either. ¬†This is similar to the problem you’re running up against here.

I really wish you could have been in Wimberley, Texas this weekend, at the home of Ken O’Neill, where Dr. Frank Wyatt spoke to us of “the Body Chaotic”, pushing¬†physiological¬†threshold limits, the nature of¬†physiological¬†fatigue/failure, and what it takes to force the body to overcompensate. ¬†I’ll just say this: the early stages of training are relatively easy going, as just about any stimulus will force the body to overcompensate. ¬†The longer one stays in the game, however, the harder it becomes to push up to and beyond the fatigue threshold required to elicit an overcompensation response. ¬†In laymen’s terms, it’s friggin’ hard work. ¬†It’s painful, even. ¬†It requires a mental toughness that most trainees are simply not prepared for, or willing to offer-up, in exchange for results.

Now I’m by all means not an advocate of training unintelligently or in a shotgun, willy-nilly manner. ¬†I do believe, though that doggedness, intensity, and the ability to repeatedly push beyond the brain’s “shut ‘er down” response are crucial for achieving optimal gains (note: striving for optimal health is another issue — related, but certainly not the same). ¬†I do believe, as well, that the body’s ability to recover (another topic discussed by Dr. Wyatt) can be “trained” as well via periodic forays into an overtrained state. ¬†Chronic overtraining ought to be avoided, of course;¬†acute¬†bouts though are, in my opinion, necessary if one’s quest is enhanced performance. ¬†Remember, performance enhancement (which includes the chase for hypertrophy) is an emergent phenomena — akin to the study cloud formation, weather patterns even — not a more easily described, step-by-step process, akin to the operations of a clock, say.

If at all possible, get your hands on Brad Schoenfel’d study “The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training” (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Vol 24, #10; Oct 2010). ¬†The¬†chase¬†for hypertrophy and/or realizing one’s ultimate genetic potential is not nearly as easy as simply tracking linear load/TUL progressions in a handful of exercises.


Workouts? ¬†Oh yeah, you know it! ¬†Here we go –

Tuesday, 5/31/11

(A1) Dips: bw/10; 45/10; 55/6; 90/4, 5; 45/11

(A2) ARX neutral-grip pull-down: HR/3, 3, 3

Thursday, 6/2/11

(A1) BTN push-press: 135/10; 155/6; 185/5, 7 (slight spot); 155/6

(A2) chins: bw/12; 45/7; 65/6, 6, bw/whoops!

(A3) RLC: bw/10, each of 4 rounds

then, 2 rounds of :
(B1) ARX negative only chin x 2

(B2) ARX negative only overhead press x 2

Saturday, 6/4

Sprints!  Bars!  Ropes!

Tuesday, 6/7
GVT volume work, 10 rounds

(A1) high bar squats: 165/10

(A2) seated DB clean & press: 40/10

Prior fixie riding made 10 rounds of squats a real bi-atch for sure!

Wednesday, 6/8

(A1) ARX close-grip bench: HR/3, 3, 3

(A2) dips: BW/15, 15, 15

(A3) T-Bar row: 125/10; 200/10; 245/8, 8 (Autoreg)

Friday, 6/10

(A1) Powermax 360 Tabata intervals (30 seconds on, 15 seconds off), 8 different movements.

(B1) long, fast, fixie ride

(C1) ARX RDL: HR x 3; 3 sets

Sunday, 6/12

Sprints and jumps

Bodybuilding, Health and Athletic Development

Three diverse pursuits emanating from a single, overriding endeavor — weight training.¬† I began dabbling with a Venn diagram to illustrate the association (or, rather, lack thereof) between the above-mentioned individual pursuits themselves, and quickly gave that up; the association being more along the lines of the interaction of blobs within a lava lamp (showing my age here) as opposed to any Venn diagram can accurately portray.

It seems to me that what is lost on most people — even those who are relatively well-steeped in the S&C/iron game — is the fact that weight training (writ large) must be considered the toolbox fabrication shop within which the various tools, techniques, methods and modalities are housed and, indeed, expressed.¬† The basic tools and techniques of metalsmithing, for example, apply both to the welding of I-beams, and to the creation of fine art; the same mindset, I think, should apply to the art of “phenotypesmithing”.

If your goal is to become a better athlete, it makes little sense to train as if you were (or wanted to be) a bodybuilder.¬† High-rep/high volume protocols will indeed increase muscular hypertrophy via increased cellular sarcoplasmic fluid volume; a phenomena that, although kinda cool, has little (if any) correlation to betterment of the strength/power-to-bodyweight ratio that athletes ought to be concerned with.¬† Enter the “look like Tarzan, play like Jane” conundrum.

I don’t want anyone to think that I’m down on bodybuilding and/or body-comp pursuits in general — to each his own, I say (in true libertarian fashion) — I just want folks to realize that goals and methods need to be smartly co-joined. ¬† This is not to say, however, that I can’t cross lines and borrow from the bodybuilder in order to enhance (in a round-about way) my athleticism.¬† This, my friends, is what a smartly-designed, n=1 programming entails.¬† With an open mind, absorb what is useful, and with no attachment, let go of what is not.¬† Be a lava lamp; a lava lamp, though, with n=1 direction and discretion.

OK, so I managed 3 back-to-back lifting sessions over the course of last week; again, not ideal — but, hey, that’s life.¬† Of course, no single session was quite like the others, so I can, to some extent, mitigate any overtraining issues.¬† One thing I have dearly missed as of late are my sprinting sessions, and I hope to reintegrate those as soon as my life normalizes out of this transition period (moving cross-country; new house, new gig, etc.).

Monday (Rosedale studio) Рa superset of btn jerks (with a slow, controlled negative return to the rack position) and bodyweight pull-ups.  This was attacked as a short and intense metcon burst; very little rest between sets and/or movements.  Rest-pause as necessary on the pull-ups in the later rounds.

btn jerks (left leg lead x reps, then right leg lead x reps): 135 x 5; 185 x 5; 195 x 3, 3

pull-ups: bw x 15 each round

Tuesday (Rosedale studio) – similar idea, a different movement pairing.

power clean: 135 x 5; 155 x 5; 175 x 5, 5, 5

dips: bw x 25 each round

Wednesday (Downtown studio) Рwith an anticipated 4-day break looming on the horizon, I dived headlong into this one.  Nice contrast, here, with the metcon-dash style of the previous two sessions.

MedX lumbar extension: 300 x 12, 12 (5010 tempo)

tru squat (extended set, rest-pause method): 135 lbs, 0lb counter – 10, 5, 3, 3 (40×0 tempo)

leg press: 420 x 17 (40×0 tempo)

then, a superset of the following two exercises (partial movements following full-range failure on all), each at a 4010 tempo (40×0 on partials):

(A1) Nautilus pec dec: 110 x 10, 7, 7

(A2) Nautilus reverse flye: 110 x 12, 8, 7

Xccentric flat press (no external load, no counter): 12, 11 (70×0 tempo)

Nautilus pullover (extended set, rest-pause method): 255 x 10, 3, 2 (5010 tempo)

Admin note: I will be posting additional workouts — some client examples, some of my own — over at the Efficient Exercise blog. ¬† In doing this, I hope to illuminate the vast array of n=1 approaches taken toward achieving the common goal of¬† improved “fitness” and bettered health.¬† Also, I’ll be dissecting some Paleo meals on the Efficient Exercise site and, as the vast majority of Meesus TTP’s and my food is locally (Austin/central Texas) sourced, it only makes sense to cover them in a more localized forum.¬† Even if you’re nowhere near the “epicenter of Physical Culture”, though, drop on by and check out both the workouts and the good, Paleo grub.

And on a final note – wow, how times have changed.¬† Now, I’m all for the NFL’s Play 60 initiative, but damn!¬† When I was a kid (again, showing my age, I suppose)¬† our neighborhood’s moms fretted aloud as to what to do to get the kids to back the hell off for 60 minutes; 60 minutes of relief from bloodied noses (and other minor, blood producing emergencies), mischief, and all-around neighborhood-wrecking mayhem.¬† Oh well, times do change.

In health,


Venison Butchery and Sausage Making; One Hellova Birthday Present

Charcuterie: …from chair ‘flesh’ and cuit ‘cooked’) is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, p√Ęt√©s, and confit, primarily from pork. Charcuterie is part of the garde manger chef‘s repertoire. Originally intended as a way to preserve meats before the advent of refrigeration, they are prepared today for their flavors derived from the preservation processes…

Can Meesus TTP come up with some outstanding birthday ideas or what?¬† To celebrate my 46th, the Meesus signed us both up for an absolutely fabulous, 3-hour venison butchery and sausage-making class put on by Austin’s finest charcuterie specialists,¬† the Kocurek Family Artisanal Charcuterie.¬†

The “Dr.” of Charcuterie, Larry Kocurek, weilding an expert blade…


The removal of two clean, beautiful backstrap cuts is just moments away…


Here’s a cut you’ll never get back as such (a beautiful roast) from your processor; that bad boy is usually turned in to ground meat. Too much trouble for the volume guys to mess with.


For more on this fine class, check out my treatment of the subject, here.


On the workout front:

Tuesday, 11/16 – a superset of power snatches and ab wheel roll-outs (Rosedale studio) –

power snatch: 115 x 5, 5; 135 x 3; 145 x 3, 3, 3, 3

“dive bomb” ab wheel roll-outs: x10, each round

There was nothing slow about either of these movements; each was performed with a definite speed bias.¬† “Dive Bomb” ab wheel roll-outs are initiated from a standing position, with a lunge forward (think sprint swim start) into the fully-extended roll-out, followed by a fast-as-humanly-possible snap back into a stand.¬†¬† Minimized knee-touch on the full extension as much as possible.


Wednesday, 11/17 – the TTP brand of Nautilus-based HIT (Downtown Austin studio):

Tru-squat (0 lb counter weight, rest-pause method, 30×0 rep tempo): 135 x 6, 5, 3, 3, 3

super-slow leg press (40×0 rep tempo): 420 x 16

Nautilus pec dec: 110 x 8 + 2, 2, 2 rest-pause forced reps (51×0 tempo)

weighted dips (rest-pause method; 31×0 tempo): 70 x 5, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2

Nautilus pull-over: 255 x 9 + 2, 2 forced reps; (41×0 tempo)

trap bar BOR (rest-pause; 30×0 tempo): 225 x 5, 4, 4



Thursday, 11/18 Рan hour-and-a-half in the fixie saddle; downtown ATX and Zilker park.  Lots of gas in the legs, even following the tough lower-body workout on Wednesday.


Friday, 11/19 – HIT meets the higher rep, bodybuilding-like methodology (Rosedale studio):

pendulum hip press (hierarchical/resp-pause method) : 400 x 12; 500 x 6; 600 x 3; then a superset of –

low (45 degree) cable row, vee handle: 200 x 15; 245 x 15, 15


incline DB flye: 40 x 15; 45 x 15, 15

…then, a hierarchical pairing for the arms:

straight bar bicep curl: 85 x 15; 95 x 8; 115 x 5

EZ bar nose-breaker (floor): 75 x 15; 105 x 10; 125 x 5; bar to just clear of the top of the head, plates just touch the ground on top-of-range extension.


So the first question that might come to mind here is that of overtraining.¬† My counter to that is, “look at the vast array of variance in methodologies employed”.¬† Yes, my entire system is stressed to the max from each of these workouts, but in very, very different ways at each dosing.¬† See my Conjugate for the Masses post for more on this thought.¬† Intense each time out?¬† You bet; variance, though, is key.

And there I part ways with the HIT crowd: on the issue of training recovery time. ¬† HIT proponents tend (there are,of course, always exceptions — and I do consider myself to be a HIT aficionado) to view training response simply through the lens of Seyle’s General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).¬† However, many diverse bodily systems are stressed by intense training (and by intense “life events”, for that matter), and each of these various systems recover at different rates.¬† Muscle protein synthesis, for example, has been shown to return to baseline within 48 hours, even following “intense training to failure”.¬† So while the body’s musculature may be ready for another round 2 days following an intense hit, the cns (for example) may still be lagging below baseline.

Now, “intensity” and “failure” are highly, highly n=1 determinative qualities; newbies, for example, are far from their ultimate potentials, and their capabilities are such that they cannot significantly disrupt (inroad) the cns and skeletal connective tissues in an exercise bout and can, in most every case I’ve seen, train again full-bore — and with the same methodology (i.e., no need to Conjugate) — with no more than 2 days between sessions.

The more we advance in the iron game, however, the better we become (i.e., in a cns efficiency sense) at recruiting muscular motor units.¬† We’ve also become stronger in a purely muscular sense (hypertrophy).¬† We’re better able to harness and apply adequate intensity (both psychologically and physiologically). ¬† The end result is that we eventually come to the point where we do possess the ability to significantly stress the body’s joints,¬† connective tissue and the cns in a single, intense bout of exercise.¬†¬† Now, recovery becomes more of a juggle, as these systems will typically require longer than a couple of days to fully recover so as to allow for the repeated, full demonstration of strength within the same methodology.¬† Let’s not forget that if the cns and connective tissues (which contain sensory organs charged with the relay of information about joint integrity back to the central nervous system) says you’re not up to recruiting muscle fibers at full force (i.e. maximum rate coding) then it ain’t gonna happen; no way no how.

The generalized HIT answer to this has been for the trainee to simply wait until¬† (overall bodily) fully recovery has been established, without considering which aspects of the physiology¬† really require that extra recovery time.¬† The downfall to this approach is, of course, that muscular recovery (i.e., growth) is actually complete within approximately 48 hours of training; the balance of one’s recovery time is therefore devoted to cns and support structure recovery.¬† For those interested in doing so, why not go ahead and stimulate the muscles again, though in ways that will spare the cns and support structures, yet tax the musculature in a novel way?

Now, not everyone is all that interested in doing this, of course.¬† Muscular hypertrophy and/or improved (explosive, power-driven) sporting performance in no way implies “hyper-health”, and it is my contention that all of the health benefits afforded those who strength train can be had by a single, weekly (and properly programmed and administered) 30-minute engagement.¬†¬† For those who choose to go above and beyond, though — from looking good nekkid to improved sporting performance — multiple, and highly intense (is there any other way to approach training?) — is possible so long as proper programming and recovery methods are adhered to.

And don’t discount the absolute necessity of the “simple” things: adequate sleep, and the consumption of a Paleo diet.

For a great treatment of this subject, check out Chris’ interview of HIT practitioner, and high-level competitive cyclist, Patrick Diver. ¬† Patrick has the n=1 application of a HIT-like protocol for endurance athletes nailed.¬† Prescribing the proper dosing, frequency and methodology of strength training applicable to each individual’s n=1 needs is the true art of the Strength and Conditioning profession.

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.

Today’s Workout (1/10/10) and an Interesting Question


Damn, I think it was even colder out this weekend than last.¬† I’m a trooper, though – notice the fixie in the background of the picture¬† ūüôā ¬† I must say, though, that this workout was rather abbreviated.¬† I began with some ballistics, dynamic stretching, sprint starts and approximately 50 shoulder dislocates to get in the groove.¬† Then:

  1. 8 x “flying” 100s.¬† Approximately 2 minutes between sprints.¬† “Flying” = a 10 to 15 yrd. “run in” or “bounding” start – as opposed to a dead or block start.¬† For me, this is a cold weather/muscle pull precaution.

I then went into a sled drag/muscle-up/prime-time combo.¬† I didn’t keep track of reps and such in this combo.¬† I alternated drags and prime-times with muscle-ups in groups of 3s & 5s until I missed, then when back to the drags and prime-times.¬† About 3 rounds or so of that.

For me to explain why I performed the sled drags the way I did – in an upright, straight-legged, marching motion – we need to first consider the sub-components comprising any sprint over, say, 10 meters or so.¬† Now entire careers can be (and, in fact have been) built upon analyzing the sprint, and what I’m going here is simply throwing out the rudimentary core components.¬† Those basic components are:

  • Reaction Time
  • Block Clearance
  • Drive Phase
  • Transition
  • Maximum Velocity
  • Maintenance
  • Negative Acceleration

Now, most folks would assume that sled drags should be done with a hard lean-in, approximating the position of the first few steps out of the blocks (a “prowler” type motion could be substituted here as well) – and, properly prescribed, this can certainly be a good idea.¬† However, the bulk of most sprinting is done in the post-transition phase, i.e., in an upright position, and the inability of an athlete to maintain power production in this position is what ultimately limits the athlete’s sprint time.¬† In fact, I believe this is the most overlooked aspect of bettering sprint performance with athletes not directly involved in track & field.¬† Most strength and conditioning programs fixate on the initial few steps of the sprint – which is no doubt important – however, to fixate on this aspect is to leave lots of potential speed as just that – unrealized potential, left on the table.

I know that some S&C coaches prefer to perform this motion like this, however, I prefer to employ more of an exaggerated, fascist goosestep motion.¬† In other words, I reach out with a nearly locked knee, pulling through and as far back as possible with the heel, toeing-off only at the last possible moment.¬† And I concentrate on one leg at a time – for instance, 10 reps left, followed by 10 reps right. ¬† Again, I apologize for not having video of this…someday, I promise!¬† “Prime-times” are the ballistic, bodyweight version of this motion, done for speed and per-step distance, with the only technique difference being that I remain on the balls of the foot throughout, with no heel strike.

All of this talk brings up an interesting point of discussion.¬† Is developing vertical or horizontal force application (power) more important in bettering one’s sprinting ability?This black/white, either/or argument is rampant among strength and conditioning coaches.¬† The fact of the matter is (my opinion, of course) that both forces are obviously important, and the question as to which which one is “most” important is simply an exercise in minutia quibbling.¬† Improve strength and power in all of the applicable vectors; hell, it’s not all that difficult.¬† Just don’t fixate on one aspect at the expense of another.

For a little more on the topic, see this EliteTrack post.

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 ūüėČ

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,

12/10/09, Speed-Strength Emphasis

There’s a subtle difference between emphasis being place on Speed-Strength as opposed to Strength-Speed.¬† Ideally, the power generation produced by a given exercise/movement performed in each modality would be the same, though.¬† A quick observation of the meatball power equation (really, this is all we need be concerned with) reveals that, assuming the exercise/movement distance remains constant (and we will – the distance of movement in one’s deadlift, for example is, for all practical purposes, always the same), all we have to manipulate is execution speed and external loading.¬† For any given loading, an increase in execution speed results in an increased power output; that’s speed emphasis in a nutshell.¬† Now, increase the loading without realizing a reduction in execution speed and,¬† ah-ha, we’ve further increased power output.¬† Fine tune this with some auto-regulation with an eye toward maximum power generation in your desired rep range.¬† Once execution speed begins to falter, pull the plug on the exercise.

Here’s what went down at 6:15 this morning at the Rocky Mount, NC YMCA:

15 minute, sprint/plyo-intensive warm-up with plenty of dynamic stretching, then –

  • cns prime: sprint starts, 20 meter/20 meter/40 meter/20 meter, approx. 5 sec pause between each start
  • GHR (glute/ham raise): 45 x 5; 60 x 5, 4; 65 x 4, 3
  • Barbell Muscle-up: 115 x 5; 135 x 5; 145 x 4, 4, 3
  • cns prime: reverse grip to regular grip muscle-up combo (pull-up variety) x 2
  • weighted reverse grip pull-ups: 45 x 5; 90 x 3, 3, 3, 2

5 total rounds.  Speed on the concentric portion of every rep was fast as possible.

A couple of questions I hear in person, or field via email:

“Dude, you do a lot of pull-ups…”

I consider pull-ups analogous to sprints for the upper body – the most fundamental of fundamental movements.

“Dude, you do a ton more posterior chain work than you do quad/squat work…”

1. I do a lot of fixie riding, which is mostly quad-intensive work.

2. It is my contention that the body is designed more for “pulling” in this fashion than it is for squatting.¬† I know well the arguments to the contrary, and I agree that every human being squats while taking a dump.¬† However, I don’t know of many cultures that take a dump with 500+ balanced upon their backs.¬† Seriously, though – I personally gauge lower-body performance in terms of sprinting vertical jump ability; in my experience, increasing one’s squat past a certain point (2 x bw is a general rule of thumb) doesn’t do much for an increase in speed or vert height.

The Need for Speed

“Just as the wave cannot exist for itself, but is ever a part of the heaving surface of the ocean, so must I never live my life for itself, but always in the experience which is going on around me. It is an uncomfortable doctrine which the true ethics whisper into my ear. You are happy, they say; therefore you are called upon to give much.”

Albert Schweitzer

photo: Teeny Manolo.  Very nice!Maximal effort is the key to muscle growth, irregardless of repetition configuration, or protocol structure – these are the findings of Sandee Jungblut of Adelphi University’s (Garden City, NY) Human Performance Laboratory (full article, here).¬† Or, as the study’s abstract states:

Many resistance training experts claim that a very heavy resistance is required to produce optimal strength gains. However, the size principle, motor unit activation studies, and the overwhelming majority of resistance training studies refute that claim. In fact, these studies support the premise that a moderate amount of resistance will produce similar strength gains.

Nothing to refute here; Clarence Bass and Matt Metzgar have both done a fine job in follow-up commentary, and in breaking the study down to the usable take-away messages, the most important of which being the notion of maximal effort.¬† Bodybuilers have understood the underlying principals of this study intuitively – in fact, you could say it comes part and parcel in the bodybuilding genome – maybe in some inverse relationship with the myostatin gene?¬† ūüėȬ†¬† Who knows.¬† What we do know is, that the Iron Guru, Vince Gironda, may not have articulated it as such, but his training methods are a real-world manifestation of this study’s findings.¬† Did we need science to prove that Vince was right?¬† Did Vince need science to prove he was right?¬† I wish the old man was still around to offer his biting commentary, as I always envisioned him as a Jack Kerouac with muscle.

The thing is, though – and for those more concerned with athletic performance as opposed to merely lookin’ good nekkid – there’s much more to the story; the collective chapters of which would fall under the heading of Central Nervous System Optimization. ¬† This is the aim of all power-oriented work, in fact.¬† Hang around a gym long enough and you’re sure to run across the prototypical 170-pound string bean who can out-max anyone in the place.¬† How is that?¬† CNS optimization, my friend – either trained, or genetic.

These two “camps”, though, need not be at odds with one another.¬† In fact, what ought to be attempted by each trainee is to consistently fine-tune the “yin-yang-edness” of muscle mass together with cns optimization.¬† This, in my mind, is the missing link that is so often overlooked in the training communities.¬† You’re either a bodybuilder or a performance athlete.¬† Bullshit to that, I say – unless you’re looking to unnecessarily limit yourself – or looking to create added revenue via manufactured conflict.

In health,


11/12/09, Strength-Speed Emphasis

Last meal @ 6:30 PM (egg, spinach, cheese, bacon omelet).  7+ hours sleep.  Up at 6 AM, gym 10 Р11AM (fasted + coffee).  Odd work schedule today.

warm-up: 15 minutes sprint work-ups, bounds, ballistic stretching, burpees, push-ups, pull-ups.

Front Squats: Explode with heels out of the hole with enough speed to end on tip-toes in one fluid motion (full triple extension).  135 x 5, 5  185 x 3, 195 x 3, 205 x 2, 210 x 2, (2, 1, 2, 2).  Last set in rest-pause fashion.

Reverse grip Pull-ups: 45 x 5, 75 x 3, 80 x 3, 85 x 3, 3, 2, 2, 2 (fast as possible concentric, 4 count eccentric)

Clean-Grip low pull from high hang: 135 x 5, 5, 225 x 5 (rest-pause), 245 x 5 (rest-pause).  Feet completely clear of the floor on each rep, land rear of toe-off point.

Front Squat superset with Rev grip pull-ups, then supperset pull-ups with low pulls (i.e., 2 separate, superset pairings with 1 common exercise).¬† Load selected so as to allow for max concentric speed for indicated rep range.¬† CNS prime prior to each set; drop squat “stuck landings” x 3 or Russian lunge for height¬† x 3, rev grip ballistic p/u x 3.