“The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.” – Bertrand Russell
OK, so it’s been a while since I documented a run of workouts, so what better time to take a snapshot of things than Thanksgiving week? Actually, this turned out to be a fairly typical workout week for me, with lots of varied modalities and overall session intensity variability tossed into the mix.
A snapshot of last week’s workouts –
(A1) Powermax360 work: 30 seconds on, 15 off; 2 rounds
(A2) Eccentric Edge, leverage flat bench: 7 reps, max power output, no grind outs
4 total rounds.
(first workout) – whip snatch + 3 overhead squats: 10 total sets, working up from 135 to 150 lbs
(second workout, 2 hours later) – thrusters x 3 reps: 5 total sets, working up from 135 to 185 lbs
Lotsa fixie hucking 🙂
Thursday – Autoregulated lifts, with a decided power emphasis (i.e, reps were kept quick, with no grind-outs); 5 total rounds.
(A1) trap bar DLs: workup to 445 x2
(A2) Dips: workup to 95 x 5
(A3) free bar chins: workup to 95 x 3
Assessment: good day for dips, and so-so for chins. As for DLs? Meh… In defense of a sub-par DL showing though, this was a friggin’ tough-ass combo.
Sprint starts (30 yards) and limited monkey & parallel bar work (really feelin’ Thursday’s DLs — not much spring in the legs)
Sprints (100 yards, 8 x <15 seconds, 45 seconds recoverery) and heavy sandbag work — clean & press, snatch, totes, etc. (yikes! *Still* feeling those DLs!).
A rare day completely off — unless you count my wrestle with IKEA furniture assembly 🙂
And now for your viewing pleasure…
How about an up-close-and-personal preview of the venue that will serve as the anchor to this spring’s highly anticipated PFX12 symposium? Having been lucky enough to have been invited (as a personal guest of Ken “Transevolutionary Fitness” O’Neill) to the reception celebrating the official opening of the Stark Center’s Joe and Betty Weider Museum of Physical Culture, I can tell you that this place is just amazing to a dyed-in-the-wool Physical Culturalist like myself.
Anyway, you can get a feel for the scope and breadth of the facility via the short documentary and blog post, here. Oh, and as an added bonus, yours truly makes a cameo appearance at about mark 2:00. So does this mean that, since I’ve now rubbed elbows at such an event with the likes of Arnold, Boyer Coe, Larry Scott, Bill Pearl, Ronnie Coleman and Mark Henry, that my acting career will now skyrocket? 🙂 Heh; I wouldn’t hold your breath if I were you…
In other news, it looks like my man Anthony Johnson has this summer’s 21 Convention talks by Skyler and myself up and available now. The theme of Skyler’s presentation (link here, via Anthony’s blog) centers on training expectations over a lifetime; in other words, taking a long-range of your training efforts, and purposefully directing those efforts so as to positively affect the entirety of your life. As always, good stuff from my Efficient Exercise training brother-in-arms.
In my own presentation, I explore (among other various topics) the highly n=1 nature of health vs performance, and the often-times contradictory nature of chasing performance as a means of bolstering health. I’ll warn you ahead of time: if you’re looking for sound-bite answers, quick-fixes, or a one-size-fits-all template, I’m not your guy, and this won’t be your jam. The truth is, all I can define are general processes that are applicable to iron game pursuits. Cooking from a book will never make one a chef any more than will painting by numbers make one an artist. In the same way, training from a template will never make one a true Physical Culturalist. One must learn hints from others, then forge their own n=1 path.
The Vampire chronicles…
In an upcoming series of posts, I’ll be documenting my recent bloodwork draw, and what those lab numbers reveal. Nutritionist Holly L’Italien, from Austin’s Merritt Wellness Center will be doing some TTP guest posting as she hacks away at this kid’s bloodwork. I can tell you this: intelligent bloodwork analysis is a friggin Rubik’s Cube puzzle. Many, many mitigating and conflicting factors to consider. This should be interesting as hell, especially as my numbers are anything but straightforward. Stay tuned.
I know, I know; the idea of nutrient timing is not exactly Paleo in the most strict sense of the term, and certainly not part of the DeVany-esq, Evolutionary Fitness schema. If you’re a performance-driven athlete, however (or just an average Joe/Jane who habituates a frequent red-lining in the ol’ workout arena), adequate and well-timed pre and post-workout nutrition is crucial. Did Grok worry about all of this? Of course not — or at least we can argue that it was usually not the case that he attempted to manipulate his performance via nutrition thusly. However, Grok didn’t spend his nights peacefully slumbering on a comfy mattress either, or perform grueling rounds of power snatch/ring muscle-up supersets, avail himself to bloodwork analysis, hormone therapy, or the awesomeness of Joe Rogan podcasts…you get the idea. It’s the difference between merely surviving, and optimally thriving, my friends; sufficient as opposed to optimal. Anthropological evidence provides but one tool (albeit a very important tool) within the total “thriving” workshop. It’s up to each individual then to flesh-out the remainder of his/her own workshop’s tool cache, and acquire that craftsman’s collection of n=1-derived methods, techniques and specialty tools to be used in creating a personalized expression of phenotypical excellence.
Drs John Ivy and Robert Portman have put together what I consider to be the classic treatise on optimal nutritional timing in their aptly-titled book, Nutrient Timing. Hat tip to Ken O’Neill, of Trans-Evolutionary Fitness, for tuning me in to John Ivy’s work. Now my personal pre and post-workout formulations may vary somewhat from the recommendations put forth by Drs Ivy and Portman — mostly due to my belief (outdated?) that the synergy of whole foods trump the conglomeration of individual, deconstructed constituents — but I do follow the spirit of the nutrient timing argument put forth by the good doctors…
…that is, most times 🙂
…and I am more than willing to consider that my gut notion of whole foods’ superiority to “scientifically” reconstituted constituent components is flawed. It has been my experience, though, that Mother Nature’s intelligence in these matters always prevails. Of course this simply may be a matter of degree, in which case one must ask if the miniscule gain of constituent recombination is worth the additional hassle and stress. You can see how this argument can quickly pigtail into the dreaded paralysis-by-analysis vortex.
At any rate, the down-and-dirty on nutrient timing is this: your muscles are uber-primed for nutrient uptake immediately following a bout of strenuous exercise. The window of opportunity for capitalizing on this phenomena is only open, though, for approximately 2 hours (and more precisely, 45-minutes) post-throwdown. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details of why hitting this window is so important from a performance point-of-view (in a nutshell, it has everything to do with optimum recovery), as the book does an excellent job of spelling this out quite precisely. Also, checkout this, The International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand on nutrient timing. Long story short, though, what I can tell you is this: throughout my training career I have experimented with various post-workout timing schemes — sometimes of my own doing, and sometimes as a result of circumstances beyond my control. But in all cases, it has been my experience that hitting the 45-minute post workout window with smartly pinpointed nutrition has resulted in superior recovery results. And, in my experience, these results have been far superior to the recovery benefits of, for example, post-workout contrast showers/ice baths and the like. Results, mind you, attained from a practice that is much more practical from a sustainable application standpoint; you might not have the time-luxury, or access to, a post-workout ice soak, sports massage, or what-have-you, but most have the time to put together and down a smartly concocted, post-workout drink.
This needn’t be overly complicated to be effective, either (lowfat chocolate milk anyone?). And hey, don’t have all the ingredients on-hand every time out? Don’t sweat it bro, neither do I most times. I’m notoriously bad about not restocking items until I’m completely out. Anyway, here’s my simple, post-workout mix:
And hey, if you haven’t already, please checkout my interview with Angelo — who, by the way, is a true professional in every sense of the word. Some of what we talked about:
Diet & fitness
getting started with a fitness routine
Efficient Exercise and CrossFit; compare and contrast
MovNat vs. HIIT
One of the many techniques that I employ with my clients, and utilize in my own training, involves the use of pre-exhaust methods prior to moving into heavy, compound movements. Methods of pre-exaust abound of course, but essentially (and for my purposes) fall into two broad categories — use of isolation exercises to target individual muscle(s) and/or the use of zone training techniques (Jreps, partials, ect.) which allow for significant inroading via the use of lighter weights (read, “easy on the joints”). Here, for example, is one of my lower-body workouts from last week:
(A1) hip press, utilizing a zone training/Jrep scheme
(A2) Russian leg curls; again, utilizing a zone training/Jrep scheme
(B1) front squats , working up in load from what I could handle in the 7 rep range, on down to a 3-rep grind.
I split the hip presses and leg curls into 2 zones each (high and low), and blitzed each zone to failure using Jrep techniques (essentially employing piston-like, “pumping” repetitions with an eye toward achieving maximum pump and burn in the target musculature). After 2 rounds of that, my legs were essentially toast. Then, with those already blistered wheels, I dove into the first of what ended-up being a 5-set battle with front squats. The beauty of this is that my hips, knees, ankles — along with all the soft tissue support in those areas — were already more than warm, blood-nourished, and ready to go — AND the weight necessary to elicit a full-on, ball-busting effort was, as you might well imagine, reduced. But, surprisingly though, not by all that much (about 30 lbs off of what I would normally handle in the 3-rep range?). The result was a total friggin’ lower body throwdown fest without, however, the joint ache (and following day stiffness) usually associated with a heavy compound movement session. Note that this is much, much more than just effectively “warming-up” prior to delving into the heavy stuff — this is achieving significant (and isolated) muscular inroad prior to even beginning the compound (whole-body, synergistic) movement. Combining this method of pre-exhaust prior to jumping into an ARX movement is also something I like to employ, and for the same reasons stated above.
My Efficient Exercise brother-in-arms has written a masterful piece, here, related to the relationship between training and sport specificity, and the sometimes (oftentimes?) inadvertent, inappropriate, confusing/commingling of these two, distinct endeavors. And this is more than just mere semantics, or word-play slight -of-hand. For example, CrossFit is the sport of strength and conditioning, just as Olympic weightlifting is the sport side of all those cool Oly-derrivative (i.e., “power”, etc.) moves. Know your goals, and train (and specify, if need be) as required. A timely post, especially with this year’s CrossFit games (which I loved, BTW) fresh in everyone’s mind.
Since I have no specific athletic or body composition goal in mind — other than chasing the fullest, most well-rounded expression of my phenotype — I’m at liberty to explore, to the widest extent, the speed-strength continuum and the force-velocity curve. In English? I get to dabble with my workouts, mix it up; have fun and do what I feel like doing on a particular day, versus worrying about what I need to accomplish to realize a specific goal. Life is all about balance, and I’ve had plenty of periods in my life where my training, out of the necessity of chasing a specific goal, was much more directed and pin-pointed. Now is not one of those times. Now is a period of — for lack of a more perfect term — loosely controlled chaos.
To illustrate my point, consider this 3-day snapshot of time from last week:
Thursday: power cleans; working up to 7x max singles. The work-ups were performed over an approximate 4-hour period, between client training sessions, with the 7 singles coming in a continuous, 20-minute or so, time block.
Friday: a traditional, bodybuilding-like, arm routine; supersets of bi and tri work — in this case, straight bar bi curls and cable push downs — with each movement range of motion performed in two different “zones” in a basic JRep methodology.
Saturday: a little bit of MetCon fun; 4 rounds of a front squat/farmer’s walk combo. This clip is kinda dark, but you get the idea.
Big hat tip to Meesus TTP for filming this immediately following her own Efficient Exercise-style, total-body dust-up. Way to be a gamer, my darling!
Oh, and be sure to check-out this recent post from Scott Abel, Adhering to Real World Principles: Understanding Max Load Training. There are no bad training methodologies, just bad applications of existing methodologies. Know what it is you’re trying to affect, and choose the appropriate method.
And finally, here are a couple of clips (here and here) of some our Efficient Exercise “trainer training the trainer” series; something we hope to do more of in the near future. These two are an example of some mixed methodology training — in this case, some classic pre-exhaust (using basic some basic zone and JReps concepts, here), followed by a complex movement using ARX Fit technology. ARX equipment allows for some severe envelope-pushing under fatigue, as one need not worry with mishandling the load. Good, good stuff. Of course, there are many ways (and arguments for each) in coupling the exercises in the 2nd clip; I chose to end this particular routine with triceps, though one could easily argue for pre-exhausting the tris prior to delving into the overhead press. The “pick a horse and ride” analogy works well in this case 🙂
“We do not rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” – Archilochus
A spot-on observation of human nature, I think. Even so, within those of us who think more highly of ourselves, that it should be otherwise. So much so a true observation, in fact, that I use this quote as my email signature, so that I see it daily.
The following is related to a question I fielded recently from a client, and it’s not unlike the multitude of diet-vs-hypertrophy-related questions I field on a regular basis. The answer to this particular question, of course — like just about every every question related to Physical Culture — is analigous to attempting to tame the ol’ State Fair favorite, the Zipper.
There are just so many moving variables to this question that it’s impossible to give a pat answer here without really taking the time to stop and dismantle each of these whirly-gig cars. I think this “problem of complexity” is a big reason why the majority of folks fall for fads and easy-outs (in diet and in training) — getting to the right answers takes due diligence and, in most cases, it means letting go of previously-taken-to-be-iron-clad-correct “knowledge” — not exactly a feel-good position for many.
And, too (and as always), we need to know the goals of the individual asking the question. And, in this case, we need to define what we even mean by “hypertrophy” — because one person’s “lean mass gain” is another’s “bulk”. Just as an example, look at the difference in Brad Pitt’s physique between his appearance in Fight Club…
and then in Troy…
No doubt Brad is bulkier in Troy — but what of the difference in lean mass between the two appearances? Hard to say. And truth be told, few care. Even if that bulk were 95% intramuscular fat, most (guys, at least) would be more than happy with that.
Now I’m certainly not here to say that intra-muscular fat deposition (bulk) is necessarily a bad thing — I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to defining lean mass hypertrophy vs. all-encompassing bulk.
But back to my client’s actual question; what he wants to know is this:
what, if any, body recomposition changes occur over time if one engages in sound hypertrophy-focused training BUT were to limit the diet to maintenance-level calories?Let’s also assume we are talking about someone who is more toward the ectomorph side of the body-type continuum.
Oy vey! Where to begin with this one, huh? Well, first off let’s assume “maintenance calories” to mean “eating to satiation”, because, in reality, anything else would simply give credence to the now debunked (at least within normal parameters, i.e., between starvation and wanton gluttony) calories-in/calories-out theory. So, what we’re talking about here is simply eating a decent, Paleo-ish diet, to satiation, and absolutely not obsessing about such things as, oh… maintaining a positive nitrogen balance, or some other such lunacy — i.e., living a real, non-OCD life outside of the gym. Now, that said, what I’ve observed during my 30+ years in the iron game is this: given proper stimulus (and favorable genetic/hormonal underpinning), hypertrophy “happens” even in an environment of less-than-adequate nutritional support.
The kicker, of course, being proper stimulus. To put it another way, busting ass in the gym trumps anything that one does, or does not, shove down the ol’ pie-hole. I would even go further to say that busting ass trumps the use of fine pharmaceuticals, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Taubes gives a great example in Why We Get Fat (though geared toward fat gain — the same applies here) of a teen going through a growth spurt. Assuming decent nutritional support (i.e., no starvation), growth is a function of the hormonal environment within the body, not a function of forced intake of excess calories. In other words, a growing teen eats like he has a friggin’ hollow leg, and/or is (by his parent’s definition), a “lazy”, never-gonna-get-a-job-and-get-out-of-the-frackin’-house bum, *because* he is growing, not so as to *induce* said growth. Hypertrophy is much the same, though on a lesser (caloric requirement wise) scale. Think of it this way: stimulus drives the hypertrophy train, nutrition simply supports, to a very limited degree, the effort. And hey, I’m all for adequate support, but let’s just not forget what the real driver is here.
Now, I do concede a certain credence, if you will, to the other side of the argument (of which, this Dr. Lonnie Lowery/Rob “Fortress” Fortney-penned T-Nation article is the best I’ve come across in a long while) — that is to say, that properly administered overeating will establish a more favorable anabolic environment within the body, and therefore promote (better? Faster?) hypertrophy gains. What we’re talking about here, though, is a matter of degree — and, again, the difference between bulk and lean-mass hypertrophy must be vetted. And, too, we’re speaking again of multiple variables. I don’t think I’ve ever come across and individual who’s gone headlong into a “mass gain” phase, who didn’t also jack his/her gym intensity into the stratusphere concurrent with devouring everything they could get their hands on. Did they put on mass/bulk? You bet they did. But what really drove the train here, the newly-heightened input stimulus or surplus calories? I’ll put my money on the stimulus side of things, every time.
Another “eat your way big” argument that has some merit (in my observation, at least), is the “improved lever” argument. That is to say, increased bulk provides for better about-the-joint lever advantages, which allows one to push heavier weights, which promotes additional hypertrophy. I also believe there’s some merit to the point-of-origin energy supply argument. All fine and well. Until, that is, Johnny Bulk-Up decides that he’s now ready to diet-down to reach his original goal of being lean and muscular. Rut-Ro…
As the Dalia Lama says, many paths lead to the same destination 🙂
And I won’t even begin to delve into the fool’s errand of even attempting to second-guess the body’s caloric requirements with any measure of accuracy. Weigh and measure? Meh. Let us, instead, focus on the things that are, at least somewhat, within our control. Things like consuming a proper Paleo diet, a diet of a favorable macro-nutrient disposition dependent upon our own (smartly conducted) n=1 determination. Things like busting ass in the gym in an intelligently programmed way (which includes being mindful of spinning into the overtraining pit). Things like eating when you’re truly hungry, getting adequate ZZzzzzz’s, ditching chronic stress where possible — and not stressing about the chronic stresses that you can’t avoid.
So does proper diet matter in the hunt for hypertrophy? Sure it does. It just pales in comparison, though, to those gut-wrenching gym sessions. Look at it this way: if eating one’s way big had merit, Arnold’s physique would be the norm. My take is that time spent obsessing over caloric intake would be much better spent learning meditative/awareness practices that allow one to push past the mind’s “shutdown” threshold. Become a student of focus, intensity and self awareness, and let the body mind it’s own caloric needs. It does so brilliantly, thank you very much — and much better than you (your mind, ego) could ever hope to, so long as you provide it access to the proper raw staples.
So there you have it. Is your goal to attain (in accordance with your genetic limitations) 70s Big status, or the raw, lean and muscular look? The truth of the matter is, my friend, that you can’t have it both ways.
A muse for Physical Culture?
My good friend, and uber-talented artist, Jeanne Hospod, has an interesting project going on here:
Let’s just say she’s doin’ the best she can with the block-head muse she has to work with 🙂 Seriously, though, Jeanne is an exceptional Austin-area artist — and a kind, kind soul to boot. Check out her work; you’ll be glad you did. Very cool stuff indeed. And the process is simply amazing. I had no idea of the complexity…
Want to begin your PhD in Physical Culture? Start with this lecture from my good friend Ken O’Neill. Brilliant insights from an erudite champion of Physical Culture. Pull up a chair, put on a pot of Joe, and dive deep into the very essence of the “new” Physical Culture movement. Well done, Ken.
Workouts for the last couple of weeks. Now you may have noticed that my blogging has been a bit sporadic since my move here to Austin. And it’s for good reason — I’m busy as all hell! Seriously, though, many of the “quick hit” topics I generally now cover over at the Efficient Exercise Facebook page. Topics I choose to flesh-out a bit more will find their way here. And so it goes. Anyway, so friend us up over at our Facebook page, where Skyler, Mark Alexander and I go “around the horn” with many current health, fitness, and all-encompassing topics related to our favorite subject — Physical Culture.
OK, so a couple of short clips are worth a thousand words 🙂 A little 21st century technology paired with a smattering of old school favorites add up to a total upper-body thrashing. Sweet!
(A1) power snatch (close grip): 115/5, 5, 5, 135/4
(A2) hanging L-raise: 15, 15, 15, 15
(B1) hip press: (setting @ H2), 200lbs+ 1 grey and 1 black band, 8 sets of 3
(A1) trap bar DL (low grip): 265/7, 355/7, 405/5, 5
(A2) chins: 45/7, 55/5, 5, 4+
(A3) dips: 45/7, 70/5, 6, 7
Here’s a look at how the final round went down…
…dude! What happened to your hair?? Yeah, so I went all Duke Nukem. Summers are friggin’ hot here in the ATX, gimme a break. And I’m down with the minimalist upkeep. Metro-sexual man I am not 🙂 Gimme chalk on my hands, a fixed-speed bike, and a doo I don’t have to f&%# with, thank you very much!
Sprints! And climbing ropes, parallel bars, a 40-rung, super-wide set of monkey bars, a scaling wall and a waist to chest-high retaining wall for jumps. Big, big fun!
2 rounds of the following: (A1) hip press (H2 setting): 400/12, 500/6, 600/3 (hierarchical sets) (A2) standing roll-outs: 15
2 rounds of the following: (A1) Naut pec dec: 95/12, 105/6, 115/3 (hierarchical sets) (A2) XC flat press: (+50) 4, 3+ ( 80X0 tempo; X=fast as possible)
So I’m hit with the “what do I eat prior to working out” question frequently in my training practice, and I think my clients are a bit taken back by the complexity required in answering such a question. So much, though depends upon what the diet is like to begin with; what’s the initial-conditions hormonal/enzymatic environment? That I can fast for an extended period of time prior to a workout, suffer no blood sugar drop during the workout, and workout with the added benefit of not being encumbered by a bloated/heavy stomach payload is all predicated upon my having followed a Paleo diet for quite some time now. I am, to put it succinctly, a fat-burner and not at the mercy of ingested carbohydrates as an immediate go-to fuel. Do not attempt the fasted workout if you’re still a sugar burner — you will crash and burn, especially when face-to-face with one of my patented HIIT throw-downs. No judgements here, just the facts of the matter. If you’re still a sugar-burner, please do eat a little something prior to seeing me. I’m not so egotistical as to consider that far-away look in your eyes as being the result of your absolute gaga-ness over my programming mastery — it is, however, signalling me that I need to prepare to scrape you off the studio floor here in just a few minutes 😉
Why raw dairy? Why any dairy, for that matter?
A good buddy of mine, Bryan Barksdale, a pillar and founding member of the uber-fast-growing Austin Primal/Paleo/Ancestral Fitness community, asked me at a recent community Meet-Up, if I could quantify — and thereby justify/legitimize — my rather copious consumption of dairy; dairy not being, of course, “Paleo” by standard convention. Good question. And my answer, devoid, as it was, of any scientific underpinnings whatsoever (like many of my answers to questions pertaining to Physical Culture in general, and diet and training specifically) I’m sure sounded a bit New-Agey…”woo-woo”, as it were. Hey, blame it on that evening’s super moon having hyper-sensitized my personal conviction for placing self-knowledge on at least an equal footing as that of scientific knowledge and in seeking “full truth” by way of emotional, spiritual — as well as Scientific — directions 🙂
Ok, so super moon or not, what’s my take on the whole (pardon the pun) dairy issue? Well, again, it boils down to an n=1 assessment, evaluation and a resultant determination, of enhanced well-being. More to the point, I relayed to Bryan how the inclusion of raw dairy (specifically here, locally produced, raw & unpasteurized heavy cream and whole milk) seems to significantly improve my workout recovery. This means that I can train harder, and more often. Also, I can just “feel” an enhanced well-being with raw dairy included in my diet. Again, I know this sounds “woo-woo”, and in a “show me the science” day and age, not a very, er….shall we say, “ringing endorsement”. Such as it is, though, those are my thoughts on the matter. So it comes down to this: do I wait for hard science to justify what it is that I “know” to be true — at least for myself — already? Do I need science to do this for me? And will science ever do this for me? In my mind, this is akin to waiting for science to acknowledge the legitimacy of my training methods before employing those methods. And again, I stress that I am absolutely not a scientific Luddite — it’s just that science — and exercise science specifically — is way behind the n=1 curve here, and is currently playing catch-up to many, many years of trail-and-error, n=1 experimentation. I choose not to turn a blind eye to that solid, empirical knowledge, simply because it was not lab/university produced. In fact, one of the major downfalls to exercise science is that fact that the test subjects, by and large, aren’t drawn from the black-iron-and-chalk-dust dungeons — the very place where so much quality n=1 empirical “science” has been honed/refined over the years. Know this: I am, if nothing else, an equal opportunity whore when it comes to matters of ascertaining what works — show me the proven results, that’s what ultimately matters to me. Whether that comes from the lab/university environment or from the black-iron lab, to me, matters not.
On the workout front –
Negative-only work with Skyler Tanner, with an emphasis on the XCCentric leverage equipment; check it out:
“…Can’t we at least give one another the benefit of the doubt? I can be somewhat patient with people who think they have the truth, the problem is those who think they have the whole truth.
It seems to me that too quickly categorizing others as wrong or mistaken is consummate arrogance and is not honoring the mystic’s journey. The mystic always knows it can’t easily be talked about. It’s beyond words. It’s ineffable. It will always be mystery; and this experience of something that is always mystery and is always bigger than our ability to understand it, is, in fact, what makes one into a mystic. It allows us to use the old shibboleth, but with a new twist: “Those who really know don’t talk too easily. Those who talk too easily don’t really know…”
– Fr. Richard Rohr
Okay, so here’s a philosophical question for you; one with a strength and conditioning flavor: in any given situation, and with all other things being equal, is it better to perform the best exercise selection half-heartedly, or a lackluster selection with all-out intensity?
Things that make ya go hmmmmm….
As a coach/personal trainer, I run up against this dilemma on a daily basis. But here’s the thing — it’s not enough that I know that the trainee ought to concentrate on the bang-for-the-buck lifts — things like deadlifts, dips, pull-ups and sprints — it’s my job to sell them on that fact. But here’s the rub: if I can’t coax a full-on, Dorian Yates-like intensity from a client on a set of trap-bar deadlifts, am I better off opting for a better buy-in for a flashier move; single-leg RDLs, say? Some form or fashion of glute bridge? Yeah, I know the purists out there would scoff at the idea of compromise (God forbid!), but in most cases these “purists” don’t interact where the rubber meets the real-world road. My take? I’ll settle for a good dose of intensity in the lackluster vs “going through the motions” on the money moves; I’ll concede the battle and live to fight another day. The pursuit of optimum Physical Culture is a lifelong chase and, like smoke, it cannot ever be completely grasped, only approached; never be completely known, but only hinted at. My job is to keep my charges healthy, progressing, and above all, on the path. This is just another instance of not allowing the perfect to be the detriment of the good. The fact of the matter is that I do win this battle more times than not, and that’s something I can feel good about. Is the client progressing overall? Are their goals being met? Do I have them in the game, spirited, optimistic and enthusiastic in their pursuit of optimum Physical Culture? If I can answer yes to all of these, then what’s the harm in doing some vanity curls now and again in lieu of some hard -and-heavy chins? None that I can see.
And speaking of not allowing the perfect to be the detriment of the good, we have a recent episode of The People’s Pharmacy, Sugar Hazards, featuring Dr. Robbert Lustig. Now many Paleo camp purists out there will lambaste Dr. Lustig for his speaking of “healthy whole grains”, but for the most part, this is a good interview for mainstream consumption. Let’s face it, the vast majority will have to be won over to the Paleo/EvFit/Ancestral Fitness movement in a piecemeal fashion — a little here, a little there — and “a little here” is much better in my book than a deaf ear and a “not at all”.
Hmmm, does the following sound familiar or what?
“…To neurophysiologists, who research cognitive functions, the emotionally driven appear to suffer from cognitive deficits that mimic certain types of brain injuries. Not just partisan political junkies, but ardent sports fans, the devout, even hobbyists. Anyone with an intense emotional interest in a subject loses the ability to observe it objectively: You selectively perceive events. You ignore data and facts that disagree with your main philosophy. Even your memory works to fool you, as you selectively retain what you believe in, and subtly mask any memories that might conflict.
Studies have shown that we are actually biased in our visual perception – literally, how we see the world – because of our belief systems…”
I treat the pursuit of optimum Physical Culture the same way that Meesus TTP treats her pursuit of the culinary arts; as just that — an open-ended art — an art which has an underpinning in basic, solid science, yes — but an ever-shifting art nonetheless. I don’t wish to alienate either camp, but walk and talk effortlessly between each side of the divide. And there does exist just such a divide — a divide that needs to be bridged for the better of each discipline. Check out what John Brockman has to say on the subject, from the recent Wired article, Matchmaking with science and art:
What is it that gets you interested in a person or their work?
“…I am interested in people who can take the materials of the culture in the arts, literature and science and put them together in their own way. We live in a mass-produced culture where many people, even many established cultural arbiters, limit themselves to secondhand ideas. Show me people who create their own reality, who don’t accept an ersatz, appropriated reality. Show me the empiricists (and not just in the sciences) who are out there doing it, rather than talking about and analysing the people who are doing it…”
Yes, exactly. Show me the Physical Culturalists with this mindset; follow these people closely, for here is where the future of Physical Culture is headed.
Okay, reader’s letters time. The first one here is rather long, but I decided to include the whole thing because it demonstrates a thorough self-evaluation; the type of self-evaluation required for accurate n=1 investigation. My comments/answers will be interspersed here in blue.
First and foremost thank you for taking the time to respond to my email. I’ve been following your blog and Facebook posts since last July and find them both to be very enlightening, well written, informative, and very much in line with my own beliefs and objectives to fitness and health. I found you via a reference on freetheanimal which I faithfully follow, as well.
I apologize in advance for the length of this email, but I want to provide you with enough information to hopefully leave you with a relatively good understand of my approach and the challenges that I face and would like to overcome.
Here’s just a short summary to begin with details subsequently in the email. I acknowledging that there are genetic limitations and age factors to consider, I’m just not convinced that I am incapable of making some further progress.
My Story (summary)
I just turned 58. While, my age may be somewhat of a factor I don’t consider it the reason I have difficulty putting on lean mass. I couldn’t do it at 25 either, but by my estimation that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep trying.
I’m 5’9″ and presently around 146 pounds. Extremely small frame and bone structure; most women probably have thicker wrists than I do. At my present weight I’m still around 13% body fat; most all of it around my lower mid section (navel area). By my calculations I would still need to drop another 7-9 lbs to get to single digit body fat. While I could easily do that, I just can’t bring myself to let my weight get that low. Therefore, I eat…and eat.
Don’t misunderstand. I can gain weight by eating processed foods and sugar and watch it turn to belly fat. I just can’t seem to put on lean muscle.
I’ve done resistance training on and off since I was in my mid to late 20’s. My approach up until about 2 years ago was always the standard multiple set approach 3 to 4 times a week. I’d plateau after about 3 months end up either hurting myself trying to lift more weight than I could handle, or else just get frustrated at the lack of progress and quit. This would typically go 1-2 years on; 3-4 years off cycles and repeat.
About 2 years ago a little voice inside my head told me to get fit once and for all and find an approach that works for me; since the convention wisdom approach certainly does not. I went on a quest of such a program. I stumbled upon Body By Science and began Doug McGuff’s and John LIttle’s program/recommendations which I’m still following today. I’ve had more success with this approach than anything else I’ve tried, but I’m far from where I’d like to be. They also have some sort of technical issue that will not allow me to post questions to their blog which precludes me from seeking advice via that venue.
My diet is very Paleo’ish. I began eating that way coincidentally just before reading BBS — not as a result of BBS. Interesting, I discovered both Paleo and BBS about the same time and through different avenues.
My health is good. I’m on no medications presently and most all my health issues went away almost immediately following the Paleo approach. My weight dropped considerably at the same time. I was around 178 lbs when I started Paleo.
As stated above I am very strict regarding the Paleo approach to food. I’m reluctant to say Paleo diet, because that implies food restriction, which I do not do.
I’m not dogmatic about what is considered Paleo. For instance, I do eat potatoes, salt, dairy, but abstain from grains (wheat, rice, oats, bread, pasta, etc.), sugar, vegetable oils and such. I do not drink milk, but consume a considerable amount of cream, butter and cheese. I easily go through a pint of cream a week in my coffee and frequently with berries as a dessert.
Meats and eggs are my staples. I rotate through an assortment of vegetables, maybe not with every meal, but several through out the week. I go out of my way to add good fats to my diet (read: animal fats, coconut oil, olive oil, etc.).
I travel a lot and eat out most meals through the week. I’ve found that by being selective on a menu I can usually find something that works. The downside is you don’t always know what you’re getting when eating out. On weekends I typically cook for myself.
I eat well and I eat a lot. Here’s an example: Wednesday for breakfast I had approximately 1/2 dozen eggs, 5 slices of bacon, 2 sausage and coffee for breakfast. Lunch was Fajitas (minus the tortillas’) with sour cream and guacamole. Dinner: Caesar Salad (no croutons) , A 20 oz bone-in rib eye, baked potato with butter and sour cream.
A couple dozen eggs and 2-3 steaks a week are the norm for me. I try to go organic when the choice is available. I work in some fish, but I’m not a huge sea food lover. Salads when I can’t find anything else on the menu that works, but it has to have meat. I supplement with cod liver oil to try and balance my Omega 3 a bit.
I am sensitive to most all other supplements, though. For reasons, I have never understood, vitamin and mineral supplements put me in a complete brain fog. With the exception of CLA and chromium I’ve never found anything I can tolerate. The high potency CLO has a similar effect, as well. I can take the regular Carlson CLO, but not the high potency and never more than one teaspoon per day. Strange, but true. Oh, I just bought a container of whey to try. I seem to tolerate it well. I cannot do creatine, either
I experimented for 3 weeks over the recent holidays with Intermittent Fasting and my weight started dropping like a rock. I dropped about 6 lbs with that approach over 3 weeks. Essentially, I would go 14-16 hours without eating then re-feed for 8. The easiest approach for me was to just skip breakfast and start my re-feed around noon each day. No problems with this approach and I certainly leaned out quickly, but I didn’t feel comfortable letting my weight get that low. I went off this approach the past week and put 3 lbs back on. I was 146 this morning on the scale. No visible muscle loss with that approach that I ascertain, though.
This, by the way, is essentially what I do each day as well, though the bulk of my eating is done during an approximate 6-hour window, beginning (again, usually) approximately 1-2 hours post workout. Ergo, my workouts are nearly always performed in a well-fasted (approximately 15-hours) state. This has more to do with my work schedule/client load more so than any active/on-going attempt to loose weight (which I’m not trying to do). This method does keep me fairly ripped, though, year round.
Essentially, high fat and real foods is my approach. I’ll detail my health improvements later.
Fitness and Exercise
As previously mentioned, I’ve done resistance training off and on for years. No cardio to speak of. I hate running and look awful in biker shorts 🙂
On occasion, I’ve tried sprinting. While I’m not opposed, I’m not crazy about putting up with the elements preferring my workouts to be indoors. . I’ve read on your blog that this is in your regimen and I’m certainly more than willing to add to mine, if it makes sense to do so.
Sprinting is a fantastic metabolic boost, not to mention a hell of a lower body workout (see my comments on the Metabolic/T-bar swing below). It also serves to keep one coordinated, streamlined and graceful, i.e. moving naturally, with the fluidity of a cat. My only lament is that I can’t sprint more often than what I do.
I have had memberships in the past to some good fitness centers (at least from the equipment perspective), but opted several years back to purchase a Bowflex machine and do my resistance training at home. I am still using it. It seems to suffice and by working out at home I can moan, groan and grunt through my BBS thing without getting strange looks.
It does have its limitations. I’ve maxed out the amount of resistance I can use for leg presses. I typically pre-exhaust my legs, or perform a Max Pyramid style requiring less weight (another BBS approach from John Little).
We’ll soon have a home version of our CZT equipment (that will sell under the name of ARX Fit; “ARX” for Accommodating Resistance EXercise) on the market and, in fact, we’ll be putting up some video clips soon of the equipment in action. The ARX Fit website will be rolling out soon. Our target demographic here is the Bowflex crowd — Bowflex being, in my opinion a decent piece of home equipment, however, I feel that the CZT home version will be both much more versatile, and one will never run into the problem of “outgrowing” the equipment. So keep an eye out for that. As soon as we’re live with the website, I’ll post about it here at TTP. I’ll also get those clips up over at the Efficient Exercise YouTube channel as soon as they’re ready.
I presently have access to a reasonably good facility where I’m currently working during the week should we decide I need to go back to free weights, or better equipment. Or, I’m not opposed to joining a facility to use when I am at home, but would prefer not.
I am going to assume you are familiar with BBS. I seem to recall some mention of it on your blog. I’m currently working out once per week with that approach and have for the past 18-24 months. I believe I do a reasonably well controlled HIT lifts. I’ve rotated through some split routines, Max Pyramids, Big 3 and Big 5 since beginning BBS. I’m currently back to Big 5. (Bench Press, Lat pulls, Military Press, Rows, and Leg Press on a once per week schedule.
I’m very familiar with the BBS methodology and, for the most part, I think that it’s spot-on. As is with any methodology, though, the body will eventually acclimate and cease to progress. Remember that strength and hypertrophy are metabolically costly, and the body’s imperative is purely survival — that’s it — not “lookin’ good nekkid”, or hoisting supra-natural poundages in arbitrary lifts, nor dropping to sub-7% bodyfat levels. The body is simply a carrier for your DNA (I’ll leave spiritual issues aside for the moment) and so will only begrudgingly (and in the most metabolically effective way possible) respond to changes in outside stimulus. The key here is to maintain high intensity in a constantly varied set of exercises, modalities and methodologies. In other words, the over-arching “system” for your workouts should be conjugate in nature. Can the BBS protocol be tweaked so as to become a more conjugate system? Absolutely; but then again, any protocol can thus be tweaked.
After somewhat of a stalemate a few months back I discovered what I thought had been high intensity, was not truly all my best. After working through a little more pain and discomfort I found that I could really push myself more than I had in the past. This is my present approach. I’ve seen my numbers go up considerably over the past few months as it relates to the amount of weight I can move with steady increases almost every week.
I don’t know if you can relate to Bowflex numbers, or not, but here are my current stats. I’m certain they are much higher numbers than if I were to switch to free weights for the same, or equivalent movement. Here they are never-the-less as of this past week’s workout.
Seated Bench – 230 1X6
Lat pull (palms up shoulder width grip) – 260 1X8
Rows – 290 1X8
Over head military- 160 1X6
Leg Press – 410 (pre-exhausted after holding weight for 1-2 mins in mid position)) 1X6
The numbers above probably represent on average a 5 lbs improvement in strength per week over the past 3 months in each movement. Again, this is once per week routine, one set per movement, and reasonably slow and controlled (more so on the negative side). I don’t track time under load (TULs) any longer. I figure it is what it is. I do go to failure on all movements, though. I don’t move from set to set quite as quickly as BBS recommends, since I have to setup the machine for each. Also, a bit of a rest between each allows me to move more weight, perhaps a bit of a cardio trade-off I’ve been willing to forego.
Intensity trumps all other considerations. TUL is a concern in that you want a particular set to terminate before the slow-twitch fibers have a chance to rejuvenate and join back in with the “all hands (fibers) on deck” lifting party. Again, the body is wired for survival, and will not call upon those fast-twitch fibers until absolutely necessary.
A general observation on my part is that my weakest muscles seem to respond the best. For instance, if I go back 30 years ago I had very weak triceps and hated to triceps work. Consequently, I worked triceps infrequently over the years. Now they are perhaps my most developed area. Same with deltoids which I never worked at all until recently, but I’m seeing some good results there, as well. Contrarily, my forearms are reasonably strong, but embarrassingly poorly developed. Not sure if this makes sense, or not, but a source of confusion to be based upon how I respond to resistance training.
Note that hypertrophy has many genetic factors, the three biggest players being the fiber make-up of the particular muscle, the size of the muscle belly, and the lever make-up at the joint in question. The longer the muscle, relative to the associated tendon length, the more material is present to “mold”. Tendon attachment and the resultant lever advantage about a particular joint (s) has much to say about how much load can ultimately be placed upon a particular muscle. Those who’ve “won the parent lottery” have a higher-than-normal concentration of fast-twitch fibers in a given muscle, a long muscle belly and advantageous lever systems throughout the body. These are the “mechanical” factors to consider — let’s not forget that the hormonal milieu has much to say about this expression as well. The good news is that, while you may not be able to do much to alter the scaffolding you’ve been dealt, you can most certainly positively influence the hormonal profile under which “construction” takes place.
I am most likely a Celiac although that’s a self diagnosis. What I found by eliminating grains from my diet many life long health issues disappeared — almost immediately. I didn’t know what a Celiac was until I got into the Paleo world and started reading. My problems started with a complete intestinal blockage when I was 12 years old and emergency surgery to clean out a blocked intestine. Doctors then just sent me home and essentially said, “Duh, we don’t know and good luck.”. I had gastro problems the rest of my life. Coincidentally, my growth also stopped very shortly thereafter. I am essentially the same height and weight as I was then. Up until that time I was always the tallest kid in school; even played center on the Jr. High basketball team. By high school I was considered short. There’s a correlation to my present size and weight, but not necessarily a causation that I can prove.
Health and Paleo Successes
GERD is no longer a problem and other gastro problems which I won’t describe are gone. I was also in chronic pain with tendonitis in both elbows, knees, and, most severely both Achilles’ tendons. I’d had that affliction since 14 yrs. That is now completely gone. Allergies – gone. Even my eye sight has improved. I could go one, but I’m sure you get the point. The Paleo diet has been a life saver for me and I would never consider any other approach to eating.
In two words — lean muscle. I can’t really gain weight on Paleo, but due to the health benefits described above I wouldn’t consider going off it. Having said that, I’m tired of people asking me if “I’m ill” and the “Oh, you’re so skinny” remarks. Truthfully, I’ve never felt better in my life, but people just see thin.
I recognize the genetic and age limitation, but I really feel 10-15 lbs of lean weight over the next 12-18 months should be attainable with the right approach. I’m not looking, or expecting, a body builder physique.
Lastly, I’m not looking for a free hand-out either. I know you are in the fitness industry and if consulting fees apply here let me know. If Austin were just a bit closer I’d drive down to your fitness for personal training advice.
Keith, I sincerely appreciate your assistance and look forward to hearing from you.
It sounds like you’ve got all the basics well covered, Jeff. One thing you didn’t mention though, is your overall stress level and your sleep patterns. Undue stress and/or lack of quality sleep can really put the kibosh on any meaningful strength or hypertrophy gains. The propensity toward “spare tire” or belly fat is a sure sign of a jacked cortisol level. It wouldn’t hurt to look into a good nighttime ZMA or Natural Calm supplement protocol. Personally, I use Now Foods ZMA (or an equivalent) nightly. Also, we haven’t looked at nutrient absorption and (especially so, since you’ve had a history of some pretty gnarly gastro-intestinal problems), so my suggestion here would be to look into some digestive enzymatic help via (for instance) Now Foods super enzymes. Check Robb Wolf’s site for more on this. Good nutrient intake is only part of the equation — a part that, it seems, you have well under control. Proper absorption, though, is another issue entirely. In addition to my “conjugate” suggestion above, you might want to play with a little more volume in your overall protocol — which you can get away with if you feather it in (as I do) within an overarching, conjugate methodology. Variety is the key to the prevention of overtraining — variety in exercise/movement pattern selection, rep speeds and loading. And one other sure-fire tip: if you can tolerate raw dairy, I’d suggest downing a good amount post-workout. Personally, I like to make a 50-50 mix of raw, whole milk and cream — about 12 oz total — and down this after my workout and about an hour or so before I have a “real” meal. I wait as long as I can post workout to ingest anything, though (so as to maximize the post-workout hormonal cascade), but many times life’s practicalities intervene; still gotta live under real-world constraints, so I don’t beat myself up with timing issues — just strive to do the best you can under the circumstances you’re dealt.
Feel free to hit me up with any follow-on questions. And by all means come on down to Austin (the epicenter of Physical Culture!) if you get a chance. I do deal with clients that I only see once per month or so; do give that option some thought.
I’m 47 yrs old and trying to get a feel for the direction I want to go relating to exercise. On the diet front, I’m completely sold on Paleo (at least 90% of the time). It makes sense logically, scientifically and there is general consensus among the “experts” (at least the ones I consider). So, I’ve been looking at Body By Science or at least HIT related approach, Starting Strength and Crossfit. There are some strong opinions out there and I’m hoping with all your real world experience and you analytical edge you can help me weigh it out.
I appreciate any insight. My wife also appreciates it, since I have promised her I will try like hell to get to look like the guy she married 17 yrs ago.
Thanks and keep up the great work!!
Art, so much of your final direction here will depend upon what you have readily available. All of these are fine systems, and all can be manipulated in a conjugate-like fashion. The path toward optimized Physical Culture has much in common with the path toward realized spirituality, in that the “system” is not nearly so as important as is the desire, intensity and ultimate follow-through with the chosen “system”. As the Dalai Lama says in regards to the “correct spiritual path/religion”: all lead to the same end; pick a spiritual pony and ride. My advice is to look at what you have ready access to and go, fully invested, in that direction. The reality is that once the initial newness wears off, the last thing you want is a ready-made excuse for not continuing on down the path. Is the nearest, most accessible place a CrossFit affiliate, an old-school black-iron gym (you should be so lucky!!), or…well, let’s just hope the closest outfit to you isn’t a Curves… 🙂
Dan John waxes poetic on the Metabolic (or T-Bar) Swing in this recent T-Nation article. I love the swing, and think of them as “indoor sprints”, as each provide for the same metabolic punch and posterior-chain hit. Swings are a winter/bad weather staple for me. Low-tech, for sure — but damn effective. Even better: T-Bar swings to a blaring AC/DC mix 🙂
…which leads nicely into the week’s workouts, of which I only have one “documentable” effort to relay. Throughout the week I hit many, uber-high-intensity “mini” sessions, none of which I documented, however. Lots of T-bars swings, weighted dips, pull-ups, lunges, you name it. Here, though, is one that I did document:
(A1) dynamic trap bar deadlift (grey bands): 265 x 3; 315 x 7 sets of 3
(A2) front press: 135 x 8; 155 x 6, 6, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4
And finally, what do three Physical Culture geeks do when they get together — that is, besides thrash one another in the weight room? Well, they talk about Physical Culture (and weight room thrashings!) of course! To whit, checkout episode one of our new Efficient Exercise venture, EETV. Mark, Skyler and I had a lot of fun with this, and I’m sure we’ll make it a staple (though progressively more refined) offering. And yeah, this wasn’t a stretch; we really do talk like this normally. What was our pre-shoot prep? 5 minutes (if that) of kicking around possible topics. This is off-the-cuff and off the top of the head, folks; Physical Culture performance art, at it’s best 🙂
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.
What in the hell does a Franciscan Friar (Father Richard Rohr, author of The Naked Now) have in common with Physical Culture (writ large), and with the Paleo/EvFit/Ancestral movement specifically? Plenty, my friend; plenty. And that association has everything to do with the dissolution of preconceived biases, culturalization, mental conditioning/imprinting. Now you’d think this topic would be as far removed from the wheelhouse of anyone with a stiff Catholic (or any religious) underpinning as could be; not so, however, in the case of Father Rohr — the Catholic equivalent to the Protestant emerging church’s Rob Bell.
The interconnectedness of all things. The fractal nature of life…and of lives. The questioning of supposed “authority”, and the removal of blinders. Again, not the kind of thing you expect to come from the religious community. The times, though, they are a changn’…albeit slowly…but they are changin’, nonetheless. All things — including, if this emerging Physical Culture renaissance movement has anything to say about it (and we most assuredly do!) — nothing less than the revamping of the entire thought process related to disease, healthcare, and the nature of health maintenance and the health delivery system.
Not convinced that any theologian — much less a Catholic theologian — can be so progressive? Check-out this podcast interview of Father Rohr by Tapestry host Mary Hynes; fantastic stuff indeed. Or, skim the pages of The Naked Now. Learn to separate the teacher’s message from the teacher’s associations, and your preconceived notions of those associations. If you can do that, you’ll avail yourself to a multitude of new learning opportunities, and avoid spiraling into that dreaded vortex of dogma . Then take the added step by applying that openness to your exercise protocol selection. The only question in your mind should be this: is this the best protocol for me, at this juncture in my life and given my goals. Don’t allow yourself to be yoked to a tribe, protocol or guru just for the sake of belonging to a certain “community”. Be a Physical Culture free agent, my friend, and prosper.
Theme of the week – Serendipity:
Funny how face-to-face conversations can, in ways not enabled otherwise, help drop the veil (or illusion) of separateness between entities. Case in point: I had the pleasure of visiting (coffee at Austin’s own Epoch Coffee — one of my away-from-the-studio offices) and sharing a CZT-based workout with TTP reader Bill Fairchild. During our conversation, I related how that, as a teen-ager growing up in San Antonio (and lucky enough to live in close proximity to the mecca of the San Antonio Physical Culture scene at the time, Powerhouse Gym), I was exposed first-hand to the dramatic effects of, what was an essentially a Paleo diet, could have on an athlete’s (and bodybuilder’s) physique. Need to drop fat, really gain and maintain muscularity and athleticism? Shift from eating crap to eating meat, eggs, and veggies — and lots of ’em. Why didn’t I make the connection back in the 80s that this type diet was preferable, year-’round (not just for contest/competition prep) to all the high carb/low fat crap that was being perpetuated? Simply this: I wasn’t ready yet to think on my own, still thought “authority” ascended to the position of authority by virtue of having the “right” answers — in short, my thinking was, for the most part, mainstream; I’d been blinkered, culturalized, imprinted…conditioned. For as radical as I thought I was at that time, I was really no more than a chick that had just begun to emerge from the shell. And what I know now is that the shell of self-disillusion is the toughest of all to crack.
Now, of course, I question my own assumptions and “knowledge” relentlessly; Every. Fracking. Thing. What things do I feel as sure of now, at this stage in my life, that may just be the result of conditioning? Hopefully, my epistemocratic leanings can save me from that kind of tunnel vision now; constant vigilance, though, is key.
Serendipity, part II:
I found out last week that the most knowledgeable man on the history of Physical Culture, Ken O’Neil, lives in Wimberley Texas, not 15 minutes from me. Holy wealth-of-go-to-knowledge, batman. The man is a walking encyclopedia of Physical Culture — past, present…and future! More, much more, on Ken in the near future. You’ll see his name here in TTP quite often from here on out I assure you.
In all things, Mindfulness:
Couple of great reads from Harvard magazine here. Check out The Mindfulness Chronicles: On “the psychology of possibility”, and learn to tap into the possibility (the reality!) of you creating your own reality. Dramatic changes begin in the mind. Just as epigenetics can alter gene expression, so too can you significantly “alter” your reality. There is no try, there is only do.
And this is cool: Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and nutritionist Lilian Cheung, a lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health, apply ancient Buddhist mindfulness techniques to eating in the modern world. “It is not just what we consume, but how we eat, when we eat, why we eat, and whom we eat with that makes a difference,” says Cheung, who grew up in a Buddhist home in Hong Kong. And I would add that the same mindfulness applies when lifting a weight, or otherwise engaged in an athletic effort. Don’t just lift and/or mindlessly, but strive to make that mind-muscle connection. This is the first step to becoming truly adept in the art of Physical Culture. Other steps follow, of course — but not before mastery of this. My own workouts, truthfully, are my meditations.
The workout front:
Monday, 12/27/10 –
A good deal of fixie huckin’ preceded this workout, so the old legs weren’t exactly fresh at the onset of the lifts. Nothing to be worried over, though, within my grand scheme. The key is Autoregulation and adequate intensity.
(A1) front squats (hierarchical): 135 x 15; 185 x 6; 235 x 3
(B1) high-catch power cleans: 135 x 10; 155 x 7; 175 x 5; 185 x 3; 195 x 2, 2, 2
(B2) Russian leg curl: x 5 each round (5010 tempo)
Wednesday, 12/29/10 –
(A1) Tru Squat: 160 # (no counter weight) x 7, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3 (rest pause, 30×0 tempo)
(B2) Xccentric seated military: (no counter weight, no added weight) x 6 (at 30×0 tempo), then 12 rest-pause singles at an 80×1 tempo
I followed this up with a (painfully) long stretch in the full ROM flye position, utilizing blast-straps and bodyweight.
Thursday, 12/30/10 –
(A1) kettlebell swings: 45 lbs x 50, 50, 50, 50
(A2) single-arm bent-over row (Oly bar): 95 x 12; 115 x 12, 12, 12,
(A3) Oly bar “shovel”: bar x 15; 65 x 12, 10, 9
(A4) Oly bar bi curl: 95 x 12; 115 x 12, 10, 8
(B1) “ski jump” cable shrugs: 4 sets of 200 x15
The “shovel” is simply an underhand (think bicep curl grip) straight bar front raise. This hits the front delts in a unique way, and has the added benefit of engaging the lats from a rather unique angle as well. For “ski jump” shrugs, I load-up a cable pulley (or pair of pulleys, as I have access to a Nautilus Free Trainer cable system), position the hold (either a single bar, or, in my case dual handles) behind my back, take a step or two forward and really lean into the weight such that I’m now at a hard angle away from the machine — a “ski jumper in flight” angle. Now you can really torch the traps with some higher-rep sets. And why a single-arm bent-over row with an Oly bar? Try it, and let me know what kind of core strength is required to pull it off. That’s why 🙂
What happens to a relatively untrained body when we combine approximately 30-minutes worth of CZT-based workouts per week with the implementation of a Paleo diet? Well, beginning later this month, we at Efficient Exercise are going to find out. If you live in the Austin area, and want to take part in Project Transformation: the Efficient Exercise Solution, give me a shout and I’ll get you on the mailing list. We’ll be choosing our 20 “subjects” soon, so don’t delay in getting in your request. And once this “study” gets kicked-off, you’ll be able to follow along on our Facebook page, as our subjects and trainers will be journaling about their experience there. This will be a fun — and hopefully, enlightening — project to follow. So “like us up”, and follow along — we’re out to show that a properly designed minimal investment can produce some stunning and healthy results.
…oh, and anybody in the Austin area looking to sell a fixie? A Bianchi, preferably, 56 -58 cms? If so, hit me up; I’m looking to add to the quiver 🙂
Super Human Radio‘s Carl Lanore devoted a show recently to the training and philosophy of Bruce Lee. What can Bruce Lee teach us about striving for phenotypical expression excellence? Everything, my friend; everything. Maybe not by way of training specifics (unless, of course, you happen to be a martial artist), but certainly by way of overriding philosophy. Absorb what is useful from any source, discard what is not from even the most revered of sources. Emphasis mine. I can ascribe wholeheartedly to the Bruce Lee theory of attaining the pinnacle of Physical Culture without ever necessarily feeling the need to duplicate a Bruce Lee workout. Different goals necessitate different methods; the psychology of intensity, though, remains the same.
As an interesting aside, I noticed that in the stack of mail that Meesus TTP brought in Saturday, was my (new) copy of Lee’s The Art of Expressing the Human Body. I say “new” because I had an old and tattered copy of this book that I’d long since given to a friend who was just embarking on this wonderful journey that is Physical Culture. I can’t wait to re-read the material with the wisdom that I’ve gained over those (10+…wow time flies!!) years since I’d last read it. And by the way, the book is compiled and edited by none other than John Little, who teamed with Doug McGuff on the two mighty-fine pieces of work Body by Science and The Body by Science Question and Answer Book (information, here). Tight-knit and intimate group within this wonderful world of Physical Culture.
Below, Lee’s daughter talks about her daddy’s book.
And be sure to check out this wonderful piece, the Warm Marble. It’s one of those “keep in your back pocket” works (like The Iron, by Henry Rollins) that are good to pull out every now and again to remind yourself of just why it is that we stick to this satisfying — though, at times, arduous — path of Physical Culture.
A need to document reps? Hell, a need to even count reps?
Let’s face it, for those of us who are are pure Physical Culturalists (as opposed to specialists, i.e., competitive Oly lifters, for example), programming schemes in general, and repetition counts in particular, are little more than a psychological crutch and/or a convenient to convey the fact that, yes, effective weight training is seriously hard work. What if all we ever did in the gym was to match a given weight to a given movement (or vice-versa) and bust friggin’ ass with it? Here’s the deal: I’ve got training logs dating back to when the gym-rat clown pants were considered the pinnacle of cool (yikes!), but what the hell do those notes really matter to me now? Yeah, it’s kinda cool to look back at some of that stuff , in a nostalgic sense; my physical body, though, could give a damn. I mean, if you ascribe to the 7-year total turnover theory (as I do), then I’m not even the same physical body now as I was then, so of what relevance are those numbers to me now? What if it was just me…and a weight…and the challenge of pressing (for example) that damn weight overhead, any way possible, and as many times as I could, within a certain time limit. What’s the time limit? I don’t know, pick something that fits with your schedule — 1 minute, 15 minutes…24 hours, whatever. Just you, a load and a movement; wherewithal and, most importantly, intensity. Did our ancestors worry about rep counts, tempos, smart programming or energy systems? Of course not. They simply had to face-down a life challenge…or die trying…simple as that.
Now I’m certainly not advocating the abolition of smart programming and rational exercise selection in favor of a full-on, out-of-the-hopper approach; what I am saying, though, is that we can swing too far to the other side — the mechanical and all-too predictable side of the continuum — if we’re not careful. We run the risk of putting “the program” ahead of what really matters, which is how much intensity we bring to the table.
Here’s how this plays out, at least for me, in the real world: a couple of times a week I’ll have a loaded bar that needs to be broken down between clients. Let’s just make this real easy and say that I’ve got a 135 lb loaded Oly bar nestled nicely in the power rack, and 30-minutes before my next client. Now I pick a movement I haven’t done in a while; power snatch, say, or RFESS — or hell, even bicep curls, if I want to channel my inner Arnold. Now, how many reps can I squeeze-in in that half-hour? Not that I’ll ever write this stuff down, or factor it into my subsequent “normal” workout considerations (I let Autoregulation take care of accounting for that). This is more play than anything else, and it keeps my body, as well as my mind, fresh. And just because these “opportunities” aren’t documented, much less tracked, in no way means that my body doesn’t revel in the challenge and respond accordingly. Like rings within a tree trunk, the body I occupy today is marked with the results of these impromptu sessions; documentation written in flesh and blood.
I started out on my trusted fixie Saturday, 14-hours into an intermittent fast, with the idea of doing a quick barefooted sprint session at the ECU athletic complex before coming home and setting in to watch Lance defend his 3rd-place position in the TdF. As I approached Dowdy-Ficklen stadium however, I thought I might rather hit some stadium sprints instead.
As luck would have it, the stadium was in fact open; lots of action going on, with football recruits moving in and out of the training complex. August is fast approaching, which means the kick-off of football season is a mere 5 weeks or so away. Damn I miss that game. But anyway, I digress…
I eased on through the gates, circled around through the concourse to the ramps, and had
Decisions, Decisions. In the end, I took the easy way out.
just begun my ascent when I spied a new stash of tractor tires and bumper plates staged for a little outdoor fun for the football recruits. Change number two to the day’s plan came about when I decided that performing overhead lunges up the entire stadium ramp complex, with a 20kg bumper plate,seemed like a fabulous idea.
Now there are 20 ramp segments from the Dowdy-Ficklen concourse to the stadium’s upper deck, and I managed between 11 and 15 lunges per segment…so let’s see, that’s — I dunno, a whole hell of a lot of damn lunges. Performed on a steep incline. And with 20kgs straight-armed overhead.
Madness, right? Well, I did rest approximately 20 seconds between ramp segments; does that count for anything?
Eventually, I stumbled out onto the upper deck, recomposed myself, then hit a few rounds of step sprints while holding the bumper plate in front of me in a position somewhat similar to say, performing curls with an EZ curl bar. On each descent, I again straight-armed the plate overhead.
On the way back down the ramps (walking, not lunging), I did a combination of single-arm presses (as if I were “shot putting” the plate) and straight-arm overhead lockouts.
You’re gonna do what?…Where?
A tad heavier, and more cumbersome, too, than the Travelocity gnome.
Again, the gnome would’ve been more manageable…
Now I’ve had sketchier fixie rides on the way home after a tough workout, but I think this one won the “endeavor to persevere with toasted legs” prize. Not to mention that holding my head up with fried traps took a bit of doing.
So as many of you are undoubtedly aware, a tough workout in the middle of a fast will put the squelch on your appetite for a good while following. I rode this wave for all it was worth (about 4 hours, post workout), and finally ate about 6 PM that evening — eggs, ham, raw milk and a smattering of fruit and berries — purposely holding the carbs to a minimum. I grazed the rest of the evening on raw cheese, salami (a poor choice, I know — it was situational), pork roast and a little bit of sweet potato with raw butter. And I made sure to down plenty of fish oil as well.
Hey, if Lance can dust it up with the youngsters in the TdF, I can give the football recruits at ECU a little something to talk about. “Yo, you see that crazy mo’ fo’ over at the stadium…?
Well, I finally got around to getting these 7 or so new clips posted. Check ’em out, here. This is from the same session that the first 7 came from. Just a little feel for the kinds of things I do outside of the gym.
And in fact I headed out to the playground today for some pull-up bar muscle-ups, ring flyes, reverse ring flyes, ballistic push-ups and (the only thing that I can quantify for the day) 6×100 yard barefooted sprints. I finished-up with some fixie interval sprints around the ECU campus and G-Vegas in general. Made a stealth pass by my son’s new place, a little rental house a few blocks of the main ECU campus. Yup, little boy is growin’ up and out on his “own” now. He’s not out of reach from his old man bombin’ by on the old fix, though. Poor, mentally scarred for life kid 🙂